Maxwell AFB, Ala. - Air Force Chief of Staff Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. addresses students from Air War College and Air Command and Staff College at Air University. (U.S. Air Force photo by Trey Ward/CLEARED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE).
When General Charles Q. Brown, Jr. was named the next Air Force Chief of Staff, it was extraordinary for many reasons. As 2020 comes to a close, we examine this leader who was recently named one of Time’s most influential 100 people.
Brown was formerly the commander of the Pacific Air Forces and also led as Executive Director of the Pacific Air Combat Operations Staff and Deputy Commander of United States Central Command. Brown’s legacy of strong leadership and experience made him a strong candidate for the Air Force’s highest position of authority. As the first Black chief of staff to command a force, it was a historic moment for America. His confirmation was cheered far and wide across the country and the military community.
He was unanimously confirmed by the Senate in a historic 98-0 vote.
After being officially sworn in as the new Air Force Chief of Staff, he talked about the men and women of color who came before him saying, “It is due to their trials and tribulations in breaking barriers that I can address you today as the Air Force Chief of Staff.” Watching in the wings of his swearing in ceremony were the last surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen, the all-Black unit of fighter pilots who served bravely and faithfully during World War II. The Airmen willingly fought for their country despite facing deep racism and ongoing segregation, creating a legacy that still reverberates today.
Despite the tremendous honor of being nominated as the next Chief of Staff for the Air Force, the appointment came with a tremendous weight for Brown. In his acceptance speech he shares that he alone cannot “fix centuries of racial discrimination in our country” and that despite the hope his nomination brought, it also carries a burden for him.
Months before his swearing in, Brown released a raw and direct video on social media in June of 2020 following the death of George Floyd captured on video at the hands of police. It was a event that sent shockwaves across a country already experiencing deep divisiveness on matters of race and the current pandemic. Brown’s decision to make a statement was nothing short of courageous and admirable. In an interview with Dan Lamothe of The Washington Post, Brown shared that his video response to the killing of George Flloyd was promoted by his son Ross. He told Lamothe that he became emotional over their shared experiences as Black men. Despite the looming confirmation hearing and not knowing what current leadership was going to say, he knew what he himself needed to do.
After looking into the camera, he told viewers exactly what was on his mind. “I’m thinking about a history of racial issues and my own experiences that didn’t always sing of liberty and equality.” He also went on to share experiences where, despite wearing the same flight suit as his fellow pilots, he was questioned on whether he was one or not.
The video has now been seen by millions of people. Not long after his response and other military leaders’ similar and united statements, the Air Force announced plans to review racial disparities within the force as it pertained to military justice. It was a step in the right direction.
Since taking the leadership role of the Air Force, he has focused on change and innovation, from the bottom up. In an interview with Stars and Stripes, he encouraged young airmen in particular to focus on creativity and to use their voice without fear of consequences for speaking up. His message of unity and collaboration from the junior enlisted to the ranking highest officer is another reason he has already established himself well among Airmen and the military as a whole.
Seeing Brown’s name among the expected celebrities, athletes presidents and Supreme Court Justices – is an impressive feat in itself. But it is the history and struggles he endured within his story that brings the significance home to so many who are desperate for change. Brown is a symbol of not just courage and strength but also, hope. Hopefully one day soon, we won’t be celebrating firsts anymore. Instead, diversity and inclusion will just be exactly who we are, not just who we promised to be.
The men’s All-Army Rugby Sevens team won their seventh straight U.S. Armed Forces Championship at RugbyTown Sevens in Glendale, Colorado, on Aug. 24, 2019, beating the Air Force 33-5.
“To win seven times in a row means everything,” said Mark Drown, the All-Army Rugby Sevens head coach. “Everything we do is about representing the Army and winning that Armed Forces championship.”
The soldier-athletes beat the Navy, the Marines, the Air Force and the Coast Guard, advancing them to the championship game where they won gold over the Air Force.
The Army outscored their opponents 198-22 in five games, similar to last year, 159-2. They also went on to earn the Plate Championship of RugbyTown Sevens over 20 national and international teams for the second year in a row.
Sgt. Dacoda Worth reaching for the ball during a line out while playing the Air Force at the U.S. Armed Forces Rugby Sevens tournament.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
After sweeping the competition, the soldier-athletes mentally prepared for the finals.
“These are good teams and these services are representing all their men and women, and you can take nothing for granted ever,” said Drown. “We wanted to spread the Air Force, expose their defensive gaps and then exploit them, and that’s exactly what our guys did.”
The team was composed of Soldiers from all over the country including soldier-athletes in the U.S. Army’s World Class Athlete Program.
The championship team receives support from the entire Army because all soldier-athletes must have permission from their command to compete.
“The fact that we have been able to get the people out and away from their commands for seven straight years and have good enough players to win a championship has been amazing,” said Cpt. William Holder, the team’s captain since 2017. “The support we’ve received from the commands is great.”
Sgt. Dacoda Worth during the Army vs Coast Guard game at the U.S. Armed Forces Rugby Sevens tournament.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
A week prior to the tournament, the soldier-athletes meet to train at Camp Williams in Utah.
“We are able to train two-a-days with no distractions of Glendale or any other teams,” said Sgt. Dacoda Worth, an intelligence analyst at Fort Belvoir. “We get to focus on us and rugby.”
Drown, a retired colonel, uses the camp to work toward his two goals: creating a brotherhood-like culture and winning the Armed Forces Championship.
“The first step is for us to become brothers, coach really emphasizes that,” said Worth, a soldier-athlete of the team for three years. “If we can’t become brothers we aren’t going to mesh on the field. We are from all over so we don’t get to practice every day together. Building the team relationship is important.”
Once in Glendale, the team made their annual visit to Children’s Hospital Colorado to spend time with the children.
“It is an amazing experience to see the kids,” said Worth. “For us to go in and share time with them and uplift their spirits is a great time for us.”
Holder said that all of the soldier-athletes directly support Army readiness because of what they bring back to their units after the tournament.
The men’s All-Army Rugby Sevens team won first place at the 2019 U.S. Armed Forces tournament for the seventh time in a row.
(Photo by Brittany Nelson)
“We expect and demand so much from these soldiers,” said Holder. “We hold them to a very high standard. They are able to go back to their units and share what they have learned in the process.”
Holder mentioned that the team meets the Army’s new Chief of Staff’s priorities.
“He has three priorities: winning, which we have showed the past seven years; people, we are constantly looking for the best people; and team, we strive to have the best one,” said Holder.
Holder said the team truly believes in the priorities and appreciates that the team is able to emulate them.
“We have won the Armed Forces championship but we do not want it to stop there,” said Holder, a member of the team since its establishment in 2013. “We have shown that we can compete with the best teams in the world.”
The All-Army Sports program is a part of the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, G9, department of the Installation Management Command. The program is open to soldiers from active duty, Reserve and National Guard to compete in a variety of sports at the highest levels including Armed Forces, USA Nationals and Military World Games.
And the holidays just makes it even more impactful and meaningful, which is why celebrities and talk shows often reach out and give back to troops during this time of year. Ellen is no different — but this “Greatest Night of Giveaways” just got better and better.
I watched the whole thing. With the sound on. I recommend you do the same:
Robert Downey Jr. and Ellen DeGeneres Give USMC’s Roy Gill and His Mom a New Car and House! (Part 2)
The HMS Queen Elizabeth — the largest and most powerful carrier the Royal Navy has ever built — set sail on June 26 for the first time.
With a price tag of about $3.8 billion, it’s also Britain’s most expensive ship ever built. Still, the juice might be worth the squeeze.
“I think there are very few capabilities, by any country, that are as symbolic as a carrier strike capability,” commanding officer Captain Jerry Kyd told reporters on June 26. “These are visible symbols of power and power projection.”
Manned by a crew of 1,000 sailors, the ship is 919-feet long, weighs 65,000 tons, and can hold 40 jets.
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles believed to have been fired by Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen Oct. 9. Both missiles missed the 9,200-ton vessel and landed harmlessly in the waters of the Red Sea.
The latest near miss comes eight days after HSV-2 Swift was attacked and hit by at least two RPGs. The U.S. Navy reported that the Mason used “onboard defensive measures” as soon as the first missile was launched.
The Arleigh Burke Class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted by two missiles fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class J. Alexander Delgado/Released)
While the Mason carries a variety of weapons to address incoming aircraft and missiles — including the RIM-66 SM-2 Standard Missile, the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM), the Mk 45 Mod 4 5-inch gun, and the Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which take out the incoming aerial threats physically, or achieving a “hard kill” — the Navy says the ship used so-called “soft kill” systems to avoid a hit.
Soft kill systems work by fooling the inbound threat and getting it to hit where the targeted vessel isn’t.
The Mason has two such spoofing systems on board, the AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite, and the Mk 36 Super RBOC chaff system. The AN/SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures suite is on virtually every Navy surface ship. The system works by jamming radar seekers of anti-ship missiles, causing them to either pursue phantom targets or by reducing the effective range of the seeker, enabling the ship to evade the missile.
The Mk 36 Super RBOC system usually works with the AN/SLQ-32, and works by firing rockets that dispense chaff (essentially aluminum foil), creating false targets to confuse the seeker of an incoming missile. These “foil packets,” to use Chappy Sinclair’s term from the original Iron Eagle, were first used in World War II to confuse German radar.
Chaff was heavily used by the Royal Navy during the Falklands War. In one incident, a British frigate successfully decoyed a missile using chaff, but the missile then locked on to the Atlantic Conveyor, sinking the merchant vessel, which was carrying helicopters to reinforce the British forces trying to re-take the Falklands from Argentina.
The Mason was one of three vessels sent to assist HSV-2 Swift after the 1 October attack that damaged the vessel and started fires. Houthi rebels, surrogates for the Iranian regime, claimed to have sunk the vessel. Iran has been known to export anti-ship missiles like the Noor (a knock-off of the C-802 anti-ship missile). One exported missile damaged the Israeli corvette Hanit during the 2006 Lebanon War.
Yemen has been a risky place for U.S. vessels in the past. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Cole was damaged while refueling in Aden in October 2000. Despite having a 40×60-foot hole punched in her hull, the Cole returned to active service.
The US Marine Corps is developing a new concept of naval warfare to allow Marines to take South China Sea islands from Beijing in the context of a massive missile fight in the Pacific.
Marine Corps leaders at the Surface Navy Association’s annual national symposium told USNI News that today’s naval protocol wasn’t what the force was looking for to take on China’s Pacific fortress.
China has spent years dredging up the sea floor to build artificial islands in the South China Sea, an international waterway.
Despite promising never to militarize the islands and losing an international arbitration case concluding they did not own the islands, China has enforced de facto control over the vital shipping lane that sees trillions in annual trade.
U.S. Marines assigned to 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion observe the approach of amphibious assault vehicles (AAV) during well deck operations aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25). Somerset is participating in Exercise Dawn Blitz 2015 (DB-15).
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Vladimir Ramos)
Taking Beijing’s islands is central to those plans, US Marine Corps Maj. Gen. David Coffman said, according to USNI News.
Coffman said “integrated naval operations could be needed to take an island somewhere — natural or manmade,” in a likely reference to Beijing’s man-made South China Sea outposts.
“It certainly will be required when a great power competition pits a whale against an elephant, or maybe two elephants — a global maritime power, that’s us, against a regional land power hegemon with home-field advantage,” he continued, again referencing China as an “elephant,” or a land power that the US, a “whale” or maritime power would have to overcome.
“In that long war, maritime superiority is necessary but not sufficient for the whale to beat the elephant,” he said.
In other words, the US Navy and Marines can’t just win the fight with better sea power, they will also need to make landings.
But those landings will have to be made under a massive missile attack.
The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) conducts flight operations near the island of Hawaii, July 30, 2016.
The South China Sea now hosts a vast network of radars that experts say could be used to track and kill US naval aviation, even the stealth kind.
Additionally, a recent study that looked at carrier survivability at the Heritage Foundation revealed that China could likely muster up 600 anti-ship missiles and that a carrier strike group could likely only down 450 of those fires.
As a result, Coffman said the normal three-ship Amphibious Ready Group and the accompanying a Marine Expeditionary Unit on small deck carriers would no longer cut it.
Up gunning the fleet
The solution? Up-gunning the small carriers and including destroyers and cruisers in the battle formation.
“Every ship has to be a warship that can defend itself, have an offensive striking capability and be able to deal with the threats that are coming in, be it a cyber threat – so it needs a good network – or whether it’s a kinetic threat in the form of a missile that’s coming at it,” Lt. Gen. Brian Beaudreault said, according to USNI.
Beaudreault suggested putting vertical lauch cells on new US Marine Corps helicopter and F-35B carriers to handle incoming threats, essentially turning these amphibious flattops into aircraft-carrying destroyers in their own right.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The top US general in Europe told Congress March 5, 2019, that he needs a lot more firepower to counter the threat from Russia.
“I am not comfortable yet with the deterrent posture that we have in Europe,” Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, Stars and Stripes reported.
“While the US maintains a global military superiority over Russia, evolving Russian capabilities threaten to erode our competitive military advantage,” he explained. He told lawmakers there continue to be shortfalls across all warfighting domains.
He requested more troops and warships, as well as more cyber assets and more intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets to confront Russia, which boldly seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and is rapidly modernizing its armed forces to “erode” the US military’s advantage.
Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, head of European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe.
“In light of Russia’s modernizing and increasingly aggressive force posture,” the general explained, “EUCOM recommends augmenting our assigned and rotational forces to enhance our deterrence posture.” He added that he has requested the addition of two more US Navy destroyers to bolster strength of the four ballistic-missile defense capable ships already stationed in Spain.
“I’ve asked for two more destroyers for EUCOM,” he said, according to CNN. “We need greater capacity particularly given the modernization and growth of the … Russian fleets in Europe.” He said that he would like to see carrier and amphibious strike groups rotating through Europe more frequently.
He also encouraged regular naval activities in the Black Sea. “They frankly don’t like us in the Black Sea,” the general said. “It’s international waters and we should sail and fly there.” As is, the US routinely sends destroyers into the waterway, where they are shadowed by Russian vessels.
Russia is in the process of bolstering the strength of its forces on NATO’s doorstep, adding new tank and missile units to its Baltic forces.
Russia argues that its actions are a direct response to NATO’s military build-up. “We are forced to provide an adequate response, carrying out strategic containment events with the plans of stepping up combat capabilities of military formations and units,” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu recently told Russian state media.
Sen. Jim Inhofe, a Republican from Oklahoma and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, argued for greater deterrence capabilities March 5, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes, stating that any “perceived weakness will only provoke further aggression from Putin.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US military advisers are operating inside the city of Raqqa, Daesh’s last major bastion in Syria, a US official said July 12. The troops, many of them Special Operations Forces, are working in an “advise, assist, and accompany” role to support local fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle Daesh, said Col. Ryan Dillon, a military spokesman.
The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in airstrikes and are working closer to the fight than did US forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul.
“They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq,” Dillon said, adding that the numbers of US forces in Raqqa were “not hundreds.”
The operation to capture Raqqa began in November and on June 6 the SDF entered the city. With help from the US-led coalition, the SDF this month breached an ancient wall by Raqqa’s Old City, where die-hard militants are making a last stand.
Dillon said the coalition had seen Daesh increasingly using commercial drones that have been rigged with explosives. The militants employed a similar tactic in Mosul.
“Over the course over the last week or two, it has increased as we’ve continued to push in closer inside of Raqqa city center,” he said.
The US military is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously said about 500 Special Operations fighters are there to train and assist the SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance.
The UN said July 12 it is using newly opened land routes in Syria to expand food deliveries to areas around Raqqa.
The new access has allowed the World Food Program to deliver food to rural areas north of the city for the first time in three years.
More than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within Raqqa province since April 1, according to the UN refugee agency. In the past 48 hours, hundreds of civilians managed to flee areas under Daesh control and cross to territory seized by SDF, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As the map of control changes, so is the access and WFP said it is now delivering food every month to nearly 200,000 people in eight hard-to-reach locations inside Raqqa province as well as other areas in a neighboring province.
Prior to the reopening of the road linking Aleppo in the west to Hassakeh in the east, the WFP relied on airlifts.
“Replacing airlifts with road deliveries will save an estimated $19 million per year, as each truck on the road carries the equivalent of a planeload of food at a significantly lower cost,” said Jakob Kern, the WFP country representative in Syria. “With these cost savings and improved access, we are now reaching more families and people returning to their homes who need our help with regular food deliveries.”
One area that is now reachable is the town of Tabqa, which was taken from Daesh by the US-backed SDF in May. WFP said it was able this month to double the number of people it reaches, delivering monthly food rations to 25,000 people, many of whom have returned to their original homes and are now working to rebuild their lives.
In Homs eastern countryside, meanwhile, a Syrian military source said the army recaptured the Al-Hayl oil field, south of Al-Sukhneh city, from Daesh militants, the state-run news agency SANA reported.
The fight against Daesh is only one facet of the war in Syria, which is now in its seventh year. Six rounds of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva have failed to bring the warring sides closer to a political settlement.
A seventh round is now underway in the Swiss city, but expectations for a breakthrough are almost non-existent.
July 12, the head of the Syrian opposition delegation accused President Bashar Assad’s regime of refusing to engage in political discussions.
Nasr al-Hariri of the High Negotiations Committee also challenged the UN Security Council to “uphold its responsibilities” and maintain pressure on Assad to honor resolutions that the council has passed. He spoke to reporters after emerging from talks with the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in the latest round of indirect peace talks. Hariri cited the “continuous refusing” of Assad’s government to participate in political negotiations.
Security Council Resolution 2254 from December 2015 called on top UN officials to convene the two sides “to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process.”
Also July 12, a human rights group said Syrian-Russian airstrikes and artillery attacks on a town in southern Syria last month killed 10 civilians in and near a school. Human Rights Watch said one of the airstrikes hit the courtyard of a middle school in the town of Tafas in the southern province of Deraa, killing eight people, including a child. It says most of those killed were members of a family who had been displaced from another town. It said two other civilians, including a child, were killed an hour earlier by artillery attacks near the school.
As the Florida sun beat down mercilessly on the adaptive athletes, medically retired Army Sgt. Aaron Stewart competed in cycling and swimming at the 2016 Invictus Games here not for medals, but for a fellow fallen soldier.
Stewart dedicated his athletic performances to Leonard Sear, a fellow soldier who saved his life. Stewart, who is transgender, competed in the female category.
Competing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Stewart earned silver medals in the time trial and criterium in cycling. And in swimming, he earned silver medals in the 50-meter freestyle and the 100-meter freestyle and a bronze medal in the 50-meter backstroke in his disability category.
In the 2014 Invictus Games, before he began hormone treatments, Stewart earned two gold medals in cycling in the time trial and criterium. At the Warrior Games in 2014, he earned seven medals in swimming, air pistol and the air rifle.
Having served in flight operations for eight years, Stewart has injuries to his back, spinal stenosis and sciatica, shoulder issues and also has post-traumatic stress from military sexual trauma. He said he met Sear while they were serving in a wounded warrior transition battalion in 2012.
“They did recovery things there where we got together in groups and did yoga, rock climbing and things like that to help mentally bring us together,” Stewart said. “We were in the same unit. I attempted suicide about six months after we became friends, and he found me and saved my life. And then five months to the day after I attempted suicide, he died, so it’s a huge loss — someone that close to me to be gone.”
Thanks to Sear, support from friends like Army Capt. Kelly Elmlinger, and adaptive sports, Stewart said, he’s still here and doesn’t have suicidal thoughts any more. “”He saved my life, but adaptive sports have kept me alive since.”
Stewart recommends adaptive sports to any disabled service members or veterans who may need help in their recovery.
“When I first got injured, I was extremely depressed. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I knew my military career was over at that point,” he said. “Sports gave me something to look forward to. It gave me an objective and something to focus on. It got me out of that depression. It essentially saved my life. It’s kept me going.”
He said anyone thinking about taking up an adaptive sport should get out there and try it.
“You’re not accomplishing anything sitting where you are,” he said. “You’re not going to feel any worse getting out there. It was a life-changer for me, so I would definitely recommend getting out there and trying it. You gain a whole new family, a huge support group, and it’s a lifesaver, really.”
It’s a new world for military movies, a world where realism is just as important as the story. While movies like Heartbreak Ridge, The Hurt Locker, and Three Kings are memorable and entertaining, they just aren’t grounded in reality. That’s a big problem for a lot of veterans. It’s difficult to be immersed in a story set in your world when everything you see is slightly off in some way.
But the filmmakers behind Tango Down want to do more than produce a film that gets it right; they want to be able to produce other veteran films — with as many veterans working the films as possible. That vision just starts with Tango Down.
That’s where Andrew Dorsett and Rick Swift come in. They are Marine Corps veterans who decided to start writing after leaving the service.
Dorsett was in Marine Corps aviation between 1998 and 2010. After he got out, he became pretty sick of the corporate world and decided to start writing.
“Veterans are the most critical audience you can have,” says Swift. “One chevron out of place and you’ve lost them. And so many feel like Hollywood just doesn’t get it.”
Swift has loved movies his entire life and became a writer as soon as he got out of the Corps (he also writes a review blog called Film Grouch). He soon started working with actress Julia Ling (Chuck, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) on the web series Tactical Girl. Now Ling, Swift, and Dorsett are collaborating on their short film, Tango Down.
“It’s very important to work with veterans when creating stories like this one, because they have the real experience,” says Micah Haughey, a producer on the film.
Where Tactical Girl was a funny, tongue-in-cheek series, Tango Down is a serious film, with a serious subject. It’s a film by veterans, for veterans. Still, don’t assume that’s what Tango Down is about. The team is serious about their work with the veteran community, but Tango Down isn’t about PTSD.
“There will be some levity in it,” says Swift. “It’s geared towards the veteran community, so there’s going to be some inside jokes that only veterans will get with insider things that only veterans will understand.”
The film is about the bonds formed through military service. It’s a film with action – but not so much an action film – that shows how real veterans might overcome significant challenges using the morals and integrity instilled in them through military service. From Afghanistan to the U.S., the film follows the paths of two friends after they leave the military.
If that sounds vague, you’re right. The filmmakers are careful not to give too much away.
“It’s going to be controversial,” says Dorsett. “It’s not about the broken veteran and that’s an important part. But it’s a very positive message. No politics, no criticism of policy. It’s a character study. We aren’t taking ourselves too seriously. We laugh, we crack jokes, but we know when to be serious.”
There are number of veteran-produced movies that made or are currently making the rounds on social media. Most famously was the film Range 15, an entirely crowdfunded effort by a group of prominent veterans to make “the best military movie ever.” Marine Corps veteran Dale Dye is pushing project designed to be as historically accurate as possible. And they all want to include as many veterans as possible.
So does the team making Tango Down. But Dorsett, Swift, and Ling aren’t just trying to make a movie, they’re trying to build a community of veterans who come together to make movies. In their view, a lot of veterans are adrift right now, seeking a voice. They want to show the world that vets have talent and don’t want to be viewed as a faceless mass.
Tango Down wants them to come and rejoin a unit with a mission – the first of hopefully many opportunities, including feature-length films.
“For all of the veterans working on Tango Down, there’s a genuine mission behind it to connect veterans, to create a community where veterans actually can connect with each other,” says Ling. “At the same time, we hope civilians can watch it and say ‘Wow, I appreciate the military a little bit more after watching this film.'”
To learn more about Tango Down or to see how you can be part of the community, visit their website. To help fund the film and the community, donate here.
The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 230,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.
The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran continues to rise as the worst-affected country in the Middle East prepares for scaled-down celebrations of Norouz, the Persian New Year.
“With 149 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,284,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said on state television on March 19.
“Unfortunately, we have had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday,” Raisi added.
Iran has the third-highest number of registered cases after China and Italy.
With the country reeling from the outbreak, officials have recommended that Iranians stay home during the March 20 holiday, a time when hundreds of thousands usually travel to be with friends and relatives.
The government has closed schools at all levels, banned sports and cultural events, and curtailed religious activities to try and slow the spread of the virus.
Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the Health Ministry’s public relations and information center , noted on March 19 that the data on the outbreak means an Iranian dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19, while 50 infections occur each hour of the day.
“With respect to this information, people must make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” he added.
Despite the dire circumstances, many Iranians were angered by the temporary closure of Shi’ite sites, prompting some earlier this week to storm into the courtyards of two major shrines — Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine.
Crowds typically pray there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine. That’s worried health officials, who for weeks ordered Iran’s Shi’ite clergy to close them.
Earlier on March 19, officials announced that the country wouldn’t mark its annual day celebrating its nuclear program because of the outbreak.
The Georgian government has ordered the closure of shops except grocery stores and pharmacies beginning March 20 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The measure, announced on March 19, also exempts gas stations, post offices, and bank branches. The South Caucasus country has so far reported 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and no deaths.
Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on March 19 said he would declare a state of emergency, as many countries in Europe already have, if health authorities advise him to do so.
“As of today, I would like to emphasize that there is no need for this. However, in agreement with the president, we have decided, as soon as that need arises, that we will be able to make this decision within a few hours,” he said.
President Klaus Iohannis has urged Romanians working abroad to refrain from traveling home for the Orthodox Easter amid fears of a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Romania has been under a 30-day state of emergency since March 16.
Iohannis made the appeal in a televised speech on March 19 as thousands of workers returning from Western Europe were slowly crossing into Romania after having clogged Hungary’s borders both to the west and the east for two days in a row.
Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.
The bottlenecks were worsened by Hungary’s decision to close its borders on very short notice from March 17 at midnight — a measure relaxed by Budapest after consultations with the Romanian government.
“Romanians from abroad are dear to us, and we long to be with them for Easter,” Iohannis said. “However, that won’t be possible this year…. We must tell them with sadness but also with sincerity not to come home for the holidays,” he added.
Some 12,500 mostly Romanian travelers had crossed into Romania in 4,600 vehicles as of the morning of March 19, Romanian border police said.
They said 180 people were immediately quarantined, while some 10,000 were ordered into self-isolation once they reached their destinations.
The rest were mostly travelers in transit toward Moldova and Bulgaria, according to the police.
Romania has confirmed 277 coronavirus cases.
One of the patients is in serious condition in intensive care, while 25 people have recovered, according to health authorities.
No deaths have been reported so far.
However, authorities are concerned that the massive number of Romanians returning, mostly from Italy and Spain — the European countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic — will lead to a spike in infections in the run-up to Orthodox Easter on April 19.
The Romanian military has started building an emergency hospital in Bucharest amid fears that the country’s crumbling health-care system will not be able to cope with the outbreak.
Some 900 Ukrainians are embarking on March 19 on a train journey from Prague to Kyiv as part of an evacuation plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The train is set to travel through the Czech Republic and Poland, where it will make a stop at Przemysl, before heading to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and the capital.
Yevhen Perebiynis, the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague, tweeted that more than 3,000 Ukrainians residing in the Czech Republic had asked to be evacuated.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Zhytomyr, Serhiy Sukhomlyn, said the city located 140 kilometers west of Kyiv recorded its first coronavirus infection.
Sukhomlyn said the patient, aged 56, had recently returned from Austria.
As of March 19, there were 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in six regions and the capital, Kyiv, the Health Ministry said.
Meanwhile, Ukraine recorded its third death linked to COVID-19 in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.
An elderly woman died one day after visiting a hospital with severe flu-like symptoms, according to the Health Ministry.
Russian officials have reported the country’s first death connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but quickly backtracked, saying an elderly woman perished due to a detached blood clot.
The Moscow health department said on March 19 that the 79-year-old, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died in a Moscow hospital from pneumonia related to the virus.
Svetlana Krasnova, head doctor at Moscow’s hospital No. 2 for infectious diseases, said in a statement that the woman had been admitted with “a host of chronic diseases,” including type 2 diabetes and heart problems.
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin then confirmed the coronavirus-releated death, saying on Twitter, “Unfortunately, we have the first loss from the coronavirus infection.”
Hours later, however, health officials put out another statement saying an autopsy had confirmed the woman had died of a blood clot.
A subsequent official tally of the number of official coronavirus cases in Russia showed 199 confirmed infections but no deaths.
It was not clear whether the woman’s death would eventually be counted as a result of the virus.
Though President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the situation was “generally under control,” many Russians have shown a distrust for official claims over the virus, and fear the true situation is much worse than they are being told.
Amid a recent rise in the number of cases, officials have temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed restrictions on flights and public gatherings.
The national health watchdog on March 19 tightened restrictions for all travellers from abroad with a decree requiring “all individuals arriving to Russia” to be isolated, either at home or elsewhere.
Serbia has closed its main airport for all passenger flights and said it will shut its borders for all but freight traffic in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.
The government banned commercial flights to and from the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade on March 19.
However, the airport will remain open to humanitarian and cargo flights, according to the Ministry of Construction, Traffic, and Infrastructure.
Later in the day, President Aleksandar Vucic said that as of March 20, Serbia’s border crossings will be closed for all passenger road and rail transport.
“Nothing but trucks will be allowed to enter,” Vucic said. “From noon tomorrow we will also halt commercial passenger transport inside the country.”
The move comes after some 70,000 Serbs working in Western Europe and their families returned to Serbia in the last few days despite appeals by authorities not to do so.
Serbia currently has 103 confirmed coronavirus cases, with no fatalities.
The Balkan country had already imposed a state of emergency, introduced a night curfew for all citizens, and ordered the elderly to stay indoors.
Authorities in Pakistan have closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere while access to museums, archaeological, and tourist sites have been banned as confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.
Two Pakistanis who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became the country’s first victims when they died on March 18 in the northwest.
Schools have already been shut in Pakistan.
Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been placed into quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst affected countries.
Pakistani authorities on March 19 plan to quarantine hundreds more pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for 14 days.
Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s influential son-in-law says police have identified individuals who allegedly published the names of Uzbek nationals who tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Otabek Umarov, who is also the deputy head of the president’s personal security, said on Instagram that officials are now trying to determine the legality of the perpetrators’ actions.
A joint working group set up by the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office has also identified 33 social media accounts involved in “disseminating false information that provokes panic among people,” Umarov wrote.
He called the accounts a “betrayal” of the country and a matter of “national security.”
Umarov’s comments come amid a campaign by the Uzbek government to crack down on information that incites panic and fear among the public amid the coronavirus crisis.
On March 16, the country’s Justice Ministry said that, according to Uzbek law, those involved in preparing materials with the intention of inciting panic — and those storing such materials with the intent to distribute them — will face up to ,400 in fines or up to three years in prison.
Those who spread such information through media and the Internet face up to eight years in prison, the ministry added.
The statement came a day after the Central Asian nation announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, which prompted the government to introduce sweeping measures to contain the outbreak, including closing its borders, suspending international flights, closing schools, and banning public gatherings.
The number of infections had risen to 23 as of the morning of March 19, the Health Ministry said.
The ministry said that the 23 individuals are all Uzbek nationals who had returned home from Europe, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.
The Health Ministry regularly updates its social media accounts with information on the outbreak in Uzbekistan. Posts are frequently accompanied by the hashtag “quarantine without panic” in both Uzbek and Russian.
The Kazakh national currency, the tenge, has continued to weaken sharply as the number of coronavirus cases in the oil-rich Central Asian nation reached 44.
Many exchange points in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the former Soviet republic’s largest city, Almaty, did not sell U.S. dollars or euros on March 19, while some offered 471 tenges for id=”listicle-2645571641″, more than 25 percent weaker than in early March when the rate was around 375 tenges.
The tenge has plunged to all-time lows in recent days following an abrupt fall in oil prices and chaos in the world’s stock markets caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The Kazakh Health Ministry said on March 19 that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country had increased by seven to 44.
In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, three people, who returned home from Saudi Arabia several days ago, tested positive for the virus, which led to three villages being sealed off in the southern Jalal-Abad region.
In two other Central Asian nations, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, no coronavirus cases have been officially recorded to date.
A relative of an Armenian woman blamed for spreading the coronavirus in the South Caucasus country alleges that criminal offenses have been committed against members of their family.
It emerged last week that the woman had traveled from Italy before attending a family gathering with dozens of guests in the city of Echmiadzin, disregarding health warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.
The woman, whose name was not released, later tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized. Dozens of other people who attended the gathering were placed under a 14-day quarantine.
Armenia has reported a total of 122 cases so far, including dozens in Echmiadzin. It has not yet reported any deaths.
Echmiadzin was locked down and a nationwide state of emergency has been announced in a bid to slow the spread of infection in Armenia.
Many on social media in Armenia expressed anger over what they said was irresponsible behavior by the woman.
Some ridiculed the woman and used offensive language against her. A photo of her also was posted online.
The woman’s lawyer, Gohar Hovhannisian, said that one of her relatives who lives abroad filed a complaint with the public prosecutor on March 17.
The complaint alleges that personal information about infected people was illegally obtained and published by the press and social media along with insults and photographs.
“It affects the mental state of a person. Imagine that a person is sick and such language is used against her or him and her or his personal data are published,” Hovhannisian said.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office forwarded the report to police to investigate the case.
Human rights activist Zaruhi Hovhannisian, who is not related to the lawyer, noted that the protection of personal data is enshrined in Armenia’s law. He said that disclosure of personal data in this case made it possible to identify the infected woman.
“Moreover, under the law on medical care and public services it is forbidden to disclose medical secrets, talk about people’s medical examinations and the course of their treatment as well as to pass these data to third parties,” the activist said.
Earlier this week, a shop owner in Yerevan filed a complaint with police alleging that he had been attacked by three relatives of the woman in question for posting a joke about her on Facebook.
Police said they had identified and questioned three people over that complaint. But the authorities did not reveal their identities.
The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, has been sealed off to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the South Caucasus state.
According to a government decision, as of March 19 entrance to Baku, the nearby city of Sumqayit, and the Abseron district has been banned for all cars, except ambulances, cargo trucks, and vehicles carrying rescue teams and road accident brigades. The measure will run until at least March 29.
All railway links between Baku, Sumqayit and the Abseron district, and the rest of the country were also suspended.
Azerbaijan has reported 34 confirmed coronavirus cases, with one fatality.
In neighboring Armenia, where authorities announced a state of emergency until April 16, the number of coronavirus cases is 115.
Elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Georgia, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 40.
The United States is temporarily suspending the movement of new soldiers into Afghanistan as a way of protecting them from the coronavirus outbreak.
U.S. Army General Scott Miller said in a March 19 statement that the move could mean that some of the troops already on the ground in Afghanistan may have their deployments extended to ensure that the NATO-led Resolute Support mission continues.
“To preserve our currently healthy force, Resolute Support is making the necessary adjustments to temporarily pause personnel movement into the theater,” he said.
“We are closely monitoring, continually assessing and adjusting our operations so we can continue to protect the national interests of the NATO allies and partners here in Afghanistan,” he added.
About 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in Afghanistan have been quarantined, Miller said, stressing that this was purely a precautionary measure and “not because they are sick.”
Earlier this month, the United States began reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed in February with the Taliban.
The agreement sees an initial reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 soldiers.
Miller did not mention the agreement in his statement.
So far, 21 U.S. and coalition staff exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care, Miller’s statement said.
As we settle into the new normal of our kids distance learning and all of us staying home as much as possible, it’s important to stay connected to our family members and friends around the world. One great way to stay connected is through the power of shared storytime.
For 30 years, United Through Reading has helped military families stay connected through deployments, drill weekends, TDYs, and irregular work hours. Now with shelter in place orders across the country, their app is a great way to stay connected to extended family members in the military.
With the free United Through Reading App military families are able to record and enjoy storytime on demand and also receive complimentary books!
The app launched in May 2019 and uses TroopID to verify military affiliation.
“By using TroopID, retirees, veterans, service members, and their immediate family members have a United Through Reading story station in their pocket – opening up endless possibilities to connect with their families over storytime,” said Dr. Sally Ann Zoll, CEO of United Through Reading.
CMSgt (Ret) Denise M. Jelinski-Hall reads everyday to her one year old grandchildren Dakota and Hunter, but last year when she found herself traveling away from their home in Colorado, she turned to United Through Reading.
“Reading their favorite stories provides consistency in their little lives. When Grandma can’t physically be there – the recordings are the next best thing. They get to hear Grandma’s voice, see my face and all the silly things they love. The recordings also are available on ‘their time’ as I’m not always available at the right time to read a story but the recordings are always there.”
The babies loved it, crawling right up to the laptop their mom Ashley set up for them to have storytime with Grandma, giggling and following along.
Photo courtesy of CMSgt (Ret) Denise M. Jelinski-Hall
For Caitlin Sommer, United Through Reading helps her kids connect with her brother Jesse who is in the Army. Jesse sent a number of books and recordings to his sisters ahead of a deployment and Caitlin’s two sons watch them two to three times a week.
“The sappy side of me – I want them to know Jesse, their brain spans are goldfish, for me when he comes back they can pick up where they left off,” she said. “As video chat becomes more common, even today with social distancing, it’s a wonderful way to stay in touch with people. Reading is really important to kids; it’s wonderful they have a personalized video from their uncle.”
Whether you want to connect with your niece or nephew, grandchild, or godchild, United Through Reading is a way to stay connected no matter the distance. To learn how to use the app check out this video:
And the best part about the app? You can send a book to the child for free! So start reading along with all of the kids in your life today – for now and future times away from home. Download it today at utr.org/app.