China is fielding a far-reaching reconnaissance system reliant on drones to strengthen its ability to conduct surveillance operations in hard-to-reach areas of the South China Sea, the Ministry of Natural Resources said in a report Sept. 10, 2019.
The system, which relies on drones connected to mobile and fixed command-and-control centers by way of a maritime information and communication network, stands to boost Chinese information, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities over what was previously provided by satellites and regional monitoring stations.
The highly maneuverable drones can purportedly provide high-definition images and videos in real time they fly below the clouds, which have, at times, hindered China’s satellite surveillance efforts.
“It is like giving the dynamic surveillance in the South China Sea an ‘all-seeing eye,'” the MNR’s South China Sea Bureau explained. “The surveillance ability has reached a new level.”
The bureau added that the application of the new surveillance system “has greatly enhanced the dynamic monitoring of the South China Sea and extended the surveillance capability of the South China Sea to the high seas.”
The system is currently being used for marine management services, the MNR said vaguely. While the MNR report does not mention a military application, the ministry has been known to work closely with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and there are certain strategic advantages to increased maritime domain awareness.
Sailors of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, a contested waterway also claimed by a number of countries in the region that have, in some cases with the support of the US and others outside the region, pushed back on Chinese assertions of sovereignty.
China has built outposts across the area and fielded various weapons systems to strengthen its position. At the same time, it has bolstered its surveillance capabilities.
“The drones have obvious use to improve awareness both of what is on the sea and what is in the air,” Peter Dutton, a retired US Navy officer and a professor at the US Naval War College, wrote on Twitter.
Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained that Chinese surveillance upgrades could help China should it decide to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone in the region, something Dutton suggested as well.
China is also developing the Hainan satellite constellation, which will be able to provide real-time monitoring of the South China Sea with the help of two hyperspectral satellites, two radar satellites, and six optical satellites. The constellation should be completed in two years, according to the South China Morning Post.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the US not to “play with fire” in Syria after a massive escalation in violence took place on all sides of the multi-faceted conflict early February 2018.
“The US should stop playing very dangerous games which could lead to the dismemberment of the Syrian state,” Lavrov said at a Middle East conference in Moscow on Feb. 19, 2018, according to Bloomberg.
The US has already announced plans to keep Syria divided until UN-sanctioned elections can take place across Syria, and it’s made it clear it will respond with force when Russian, Iranian, or Syrian forces threaten that goal.
On Feb. 7, 2018, a group of pro-government fighters, who were reportedly majority Russian military contractors, launched what the US called an “unprovoked attack” on one of its positions in eastern Syria. The US responded with airstrikes and shelling killing between 100 and 300, according to a variety of reports.
US not going anywhere as hellish fighting ramps up on all sides
Lavrov also spoke of another front in the Syrian conflict, saying that he and his allies in Iran and Syria “are seeing attempts to exploit the Kurds’ aspirations,” a reference to the US’s support for Kurdish militias in northern Syria, who aspire to a state all their own.
Turkey views the Kurdish militia as part of a terror group and there is strong popular support in the country for an operation to clear the Kurds off its borders. Allegations of human rights abuses and shocking videos depicting violence against captured, unarmed Kurds have come out of the conflict in northern Syria as the US stands by its Kurdish ally, whom they credit for defeating ISIS in the region.
Turkey has announced its intentions to start shelling the Kurdish town of Afrin in the coming days.
Also during mid-February 2018, Israel launched a massive air campaign against Iranian targets in Syria and lost an F-16 to Syrian air defenses. Syria and Russia now stand accused by an opposition figure of launching a “new holocaust” in rebel-held pockets of Syria, where some 98 people, including women and children, were reported killed on Feb. 19, 2018.
“No words will do justice to the children killed, their mothers, their fathers and their loved ones,” UNICEF’s regional director Geert Cappalaere began a release on the Syrian government’s recent bombing campaign. UNICEF left part of the statement blank to express its frustration.
It’s unclear what “fire” Lavrov referenced in Syria, as the country has been in conflict for seven years.
What is clear is that the US has a new foreign policy direction in the country, and it isn’t afraid of fighting Iran, Syria, and Russia to keep Assad and Tehran out of power in the besieged country.
Performance will be the primary factor in the future if the Defense Department has to resort to a civilian reduction in force, DoD officials said today.
The department revamped the rules for the reduction-in-force process as a result of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016.
That law requires the department to establish procedures to provide that, in any reduction in force of civilian positions in the competitive or excepted service, the determination of which employees shall be separated from employment shall be made primarily on basis of performance.
A reduction in force, or RIF, as it is known, is the term used when the government lays off employees. The RIF procedures determine whether an employee keeps his or her present position, whether the employee has a right to a different position or whether the employee must be let go.
In the past, tenure was the primary factor when making RIF calculations. Now, an employee’s performance rating of record will carry the greatest weight followed by tenure group, performance average score, veterans’ preference and DoD service computation date-RIF.
“The DoD civilian workforce is one of the department’s most important assets,” said Julie Blanks, acting assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy. “However, there are times when the department must make difficult decisions that impact our civilians, and in doing so, it is imperative these decisions result in our continued ability to seamlessly execute our national security mission. When circumstances necessitate a RIF, the department must ensure we are retaining our highest performing employees.”
The changes will apply to almost all of DoD’s 750,000 civilian employees. This change in the RIF process only applies to DoD. The government-wide provisions that rank four retention factors by tenure of employment; veterans’ preference; length of service; and performance remain in place for other federal agencies.
Under the new system, if an agency is forced to employ a RIF, employees will be placed on a retention register based on periods of assessed performance of 12 months or more or less than 12 months. The idea is to give an equitable comparison for employees whose performance has been assessed over a comparable period of time.
The first retention factor is rating of record. The rating of record is the average drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four-year period preceding the cutoff date for the RIF.
The second factor is tenure group. There are three tenure groups, with group III being temporary or term employees, these employees will be ranked at the bottom of the retention register below groups I and II.
Tenure group I and II employees are those serving on permanent appointments. Tenure group I includes employees who are not on probation and whose appointments are not career-conditional.
Tenure group II employees are those hired into permanent appointments in a career-conditional or probationary status. In general, tenure group II employees must have three years of creditable service and meet all other stated conditions of their probationary period in order to attain Tenure group I status. Tenure group I will be ranked above employees in tenure group II within each rating of record group.
The third factor is an employee’s average score. In general, an employee’s average score for one performance appraisal is derived by dividing the sum of the employee’s performance element ratings by the number of performance elements. For purposes of RIF, average score is the average of the average scores drawn from the two most recent performance appraisals received by the employee within the four year period preceding the “cutoff date” for the RIF.
Veterans’ preference is the fourth factor. “Veterans are a key part of the civilian workforce, representing a highly skilled, extremely well-qualified cadre of employees,” Blanks said. “The department firmly believes that highly performing veterans in the civilian workforce will not be disadvantaged by the new RIF policy.”
The final factor is the DoD service computation date-RIF, with those serving the longest having the edge.
DoD officials stress that a RIF is always the last resort for the department. They will do everything they can to mitigate the size of reductions, including the use of voluntary early retirement authority or voluntary separation incentive payments. Agencies will also use hiring freezes, termination of temporary appointments, and any other pre-RIF placement options.
The new DoD RIF policy and procedures are consistent with the implementation of the DoD Performance Management and Appraisal Program. This program standardizes the civilian performance appraisal system throughout the department.
Thousands of Soldiers and their families are traveling home for the holidays, including about 44,000 trainees and cadre from initial-entry training centers.
The Soldiers are participating in a two-week Holiday Block Leave beginning Dec. 18, said Michael Brown, a training analyst at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training’s Initial Entry Division.
These Soldiers are in various training sites across the U.S., going through Basic Combat Training, One Station Unit Training, Advanced Individual Training, the Basic Officer Leadership Course, and Warrant Officer Basic Course, he said.
Normally, about 3 to 5 percent of these Soldiers choose to remain at their installation and not travel home, he added. For those who stay behind, units coordinate several Morale, Welfare, and Recreation activities for them, including attending professional sporting events.
Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, commander, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina Dec. 18, granting media interviews about the holiday travel. Around him were thousands of Soldiers trainees awaiting flights.
Holiday Block Leave gives Soldiers a chance to reconnect with their families, he said. About 7,000 Soldier trainees were traveling out of Fort Jackson on Dec. 18, “by trains, planes, and automobiles” and by buses, too, he added.
Planning for this mass exodus is like planning for the D-Day landings, he added, describing the logistical challenges of packing all the Soldiers out, giving them their safety and Army Values briefings, and getting them to their preferred modes of transportation.
Most of those Soldiers will be telling the Army story back home, he said, and some will even have “embellished war stories.”
Most of them are young, as young as 17, he noted, but sprinkled among them are “elder statesmen,” some as old as 39. They are from every state in the Union.
Johnson praised the volunteers at the airport’s USO lounge, who are particularly busy this time of year giving Soldiers a place to relax while awaiting their flights.
Pvt. Seth Akavickas was at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18, waiting for a flight to take him home to Wausau, Wisconsin.
Soldiers in training at Fort Jackson were given personalized assistance getting home by ticket vendors, Akavickas said. His ticket vendor got him discounted round-trip tickets for $480, which was a good deal, he noted.
Feb. 28 is when Akavickas began his Basic Combat Training, so he’s experienced life in the Army for some time now. Currently, he is in Advanced Individual Training and will graduate Feb. 1.
Akavickas said he has mixed feelings about Holiday Block Leave. On the one hand, he’ll be able to spend time with his family over the holidays. But on the other hand, he said he’d kind of like to stay and finish training.
However, he added, the vast majority of Soldiers in training whom he’s spoken with are delighted for the break.
After AIT, Akavickas will return to Wisconsin to work as a human resource specialist in the National Guard. He said he plans to attend college through the ROTC program and then try to get commissioned in four years. He wants to make a career in the Army.
Pfc. Madeline Sallee was also at the Charlotte airport Dec. 18. She was heading home to Minnesota, on leave from Basic Combat Training and very happy to see her friends and family.
Sallee said the rest over break will be very good, particularly after some arduous training that included a 15-kilometer rucksack march and a lot of other physical activity.
The hardest part of training, she said, was spending the night outside when the temperature got down to 16F. “We were all shivering,” she added, despite being used to cold in her home state.
Sallee will graduate Feb. 1 and will become a logistical specialist. She said one of the benefits about basic was making a lot of new friends.
Staff Sgt. Domenic Buscemi, a drill sergeant from Fort Jackson, was also at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18. He said drill sergeants accompany their Soldiers to help facilitate movement through the airport and to ensure standards of discipline are adhered to at all times.
Soldiers in training are required to travel in uniform, which means they are still representing the Army even while they are away, he said.
Buscemi also relayed some of the benefits of Holiday Block Leave. It serves to boost morale and motivation and gives Soldiers a chance to recharge.
It also gives them time to reflect on their experiences and spread their short-but-memorable Army story back in their communities, he said.
When the Soldiers return, Jan. 3, they will have retained about 70 percent of their basic military knowledge, so there will be some re-learning, he said, along with re-establishing their military discipline.
Soldiers don’t get to travel home in the middle of their training cycle during the rest of the year, he noted. On Thanksgiving, they’re given one day off, but that’s not time enough to travel home for most.
Fifteen years ago, Buscemi was a Soldier in training at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was summer and it was hot, he said, much tougher than winter training weather-wise.
Buscemi said he’ll return to Fort Jackson today, take a day of rest, then pile into the car with his wife and drive to her family’s home in Oklahoma where they will spend the holidays.
Brown admitted that the break in the training cycle is tough on drill sergeants, who have to re-teach numerous tasks, including discipline and customs and courtesies, when the Soldiers return from leave.
However, he said “the break is also good for trainees who come back with a little more pride about training to be a Soldier.”
Ron Meyer with Carol Eggert, Senior Vice President, Military and Veteran Affairs at Comcast and Jared Lyon National President and CEO of Student Veterans of America (SVA) at an SVA Event. (Photo courtesy of: NBCUniversal)
From the U.S. Marine Corps to the Hollywood mailroom, becoming one of the founders of CAA to being vice chairman at NBCUniversal, Ron Meyer has experienced a lot since growing up in West L.A.
Annenberg Media: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
Meyer: My mother and father escaped Nazi Germany in 1939. They both immigrated and met in Los Angeles. They were German Jews; my father was a lady’s dress salesman and my mother worked with him until she had me and my sister. We had a very simple life here in west Los Angeles.
Annenberg Media: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
Meyer: They were loving and supportive parents. My father traveled four out of six weeks so he was gone a lot of the time. My mother raised us on a full-time basis. They were great parents and we loved each other unconditionally.
NBCUNIVERSAL EXECUTIVES — Pictured: Ron Meyer, Vice Chairman, NBCUniversal — (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBC)
Annenberg Media: What challenges did you face at school and in the community?
Meyer: I created challenges for myself. We didn’t have money so that wasn’t really an issue as none of us in that neighborhood had money. I worked from the age of about 12-years-old where I delivered and sold newspapers. If I saw a shirt that I liked, I had to work to pay for it. I washed cars at every job you could imagine. I did what I had to do. I was in trouble as a kid but I created most of it, so that definitely made it more challenging for my parents to deal with me. I went to three different junior high and high schools. I spent very little time going to school and I was suspended a lot. I don’t think I ever spent a full day in high school. When I was 16, I legally dropped out. That is what led me to the Marine Corps.
Annenberg Media: What made you want to join the Marines and what was your military occupational specialty (MOS)?
Meyer: I used to box and I was told there was a boxing program in the Marines. There was an active draft back then, so I had a draft card at 17. I thought I was a tough guy and the Marine Corps seemed like a good idea. I found out that there was no boxing program after joining. It was a different kind of Corps; corporal punishment was allowed, and you could fight bare knuckles. They could put hands on you, and you could put hands on them. It was a different kind of world back then.
I was a rifleman, which was my main MOS. I worked in the motor pool and as a radio man. I was a driver as well.
Annenberg Media: What values were stressed at home?
Meyer: My parents were good, honest and hardworking people. I was taught an early lesson when we went to someone’s house for a visit. When I came back home, I had four or five quarters in my pocket. When I told my mother and made up some story, she was not having it. She made me go back down, return the quarters and apologize. My parents never tolerated stealing. They taught me my values that never changed throughout my life.
Annenberg Media: What drew you to film and media while growing up?
Meyer: When I was in the Marine Corps, I got the measles and I was quarantined. I had never read a book in my life at that point. My mother sent me two books: “Amboy Dukes” which was about kids in trouble and a book called, “The Flesh Peddlers” by Steven Longstreet about a young guy in the agency business. I thought when I got out, I didn’t want to be this jerk anymore so I went looking for a job in the agency business. I didn’t have any friends or connections in the business, I just knew about it as a viewer. When a movie came out on a Friday, I thought it was finished on Thursday. I had no concept of the process. It seemed like a good way to make a living. Agents were salesmen and my father was a salesman. I was going to be a salesman of some kind so selling talent seemed like a thing to look into, so I went after it.
Annenberg Media: What was it like starting at the Kohner Agency?
Meyer: It was a great experience and I was lucky to get the job. I was a messenger there for six years. It was a fun time to live in L.A. back then. It was hard work and I worked five days-a-week and then was on call on the weekends for Mr. Kohner. It really was the best time of my life. Hollywood was a lot of fun on the Sunset Strip with all the restaurants and bars. It was just great and looking back on the time it was very Andy Hardy-ish.
Ron Meyer with reporter, Joel Searls at NBCUniversal. (Photo courtesy of: Joel Searls)
Annenberg Media: What leadership lessons in life and from the service have helped you most in your career?
Meyer: The most lasting value comes from what the Marine Corps taught me, teamwork is everything. At CAA it was about teamwork and certainly here at NBCUniversal it is about teamwork. I felt that way at CAA, you were either for us or against us.
We are all in it together. If we succeed, we all succeed and if we fail, we all fail together. You can’t be pointing your finger as a leader. If you trusted the wrong people to do the job, then you must be responsible for it. As a leader you are in it more than anyone else. It is pretty basic: you treat people the way you want to be treated, you tell the best truth you can, you do what you say you are going to do. Once you are a team those are all the fundamentals. You do the best that you can.
Annenberg Media: What are the keywords that you live by?
Meyer: I wish I could say I invented it, but when I was very young, I saw a sign that said, “Assumption is the mother of all f***! ups.” If you assume something you are at risk, I have lived by that forever and I believe that. Don’t assume anyone else is going to take care of the problem or assume you know what someone else is thinking.
Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Tom Hanks and Ron Meyer at the APOLLO 13 premiere. (Photo courtesy of NBCUniversal/Alex Berliner)
Annenberg Media: What are your top three films while you have been at NBCUniversal?
Meyer: The films that I am most proud of being a part of are “Brokeback Mountain,” “United 93” and “Apollo 13.” I am proud of these films and they had a very important significance for me. “Apollo 13” was a perfect movie since we knew how it ended, but you were on the edge of your seat until the very ending. It entertained you and it made you care. “Brokeback Mountain” broke barriers that no one ever imagined before. It was two men falling in love with each other and the beauty of it. I was proud to be part of the studio that made it. “United 93” made you proud to be an American and it told a story of what people are capable of in the worst of circumstances. It was an extraordinary movie and it was the first post 9/11 film. There were no stars in it, and it was what really happened. I saw it with the families of the victims of Flight 93. It deserves to be a classic film and it is important for America. These are the three films that really stand out for me.
The U.S. Air Force announced plans to ramp up its pilot training to produce 1,500 pilots a year by fiscal 2022. Now, Air Education and Training Command (AETC) has divulged preliminary blueprints on how it anticipates accomplishing the task.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said before a Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee hearing Oct. 10, 2018, that the service will increase its current 1,160 pilot training slots to 1,311 in fiscal 2019, aiming for 1,500 every year shortly thereafter.
“AETC has been tasked to produce about 1,500 pilots per year … That number includes active-duty Air Force, Air Force Reserves, Air National Guard and international students,” command spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday told Military.com this in October 2018.
While the undertaking is in its initial stages, the command will use programs such as the experimental Pilot Training Next — paired with Pilot Instructor Training Next — to improve how teachers and incoming students work together.
U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, PTN instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport in Austin.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
AETC is also updating its Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) curriculum to streamline how quickly the Air Force can produce new pilots, Holliday said.
“The final touches to the new Undergraduate Pilot Training syllabi were adjudicated and are now in the initial stages of execution,” she said.
Revising pilot training
The curriculum’s redesign gives squadron commanders the ability to refine training to better meet the needs of individual students, AETC said in a recent release.
Previously, students went back and forth between simulators and the flight line. The new syllabus moves “11 simulators that had been previously spread out over a three- to four-month time frame, into a single block of training prior to the first flight in the aircraft,” Holliday said.
It’s also a blended learning model, she said, that incorporates several best practices from “advanced military flight training and civilian flight training.”
Students will cut their training time from 54 to 49 weeks once the changes are fully implemented.
“We are still in the early phase of executing the syllabus redesign, but initial performance from students indicates increased pilot performance,” Holliday said.
Students will advance at their own pace. Previously, they had to wait until the entire class completed stages or assignments before moving on to the next. AETC will now allow for individual students to complete courses faster or slower as needed, officials said.
Holliday said this will not alter the official course length, but the time a given student spends in the course could change. The first UPT students to use the adjusted curriculum will graduate in spring 2019, she said.
Pilot Training Next
Thirteen students graduated from the first, experimental Pilot Training Next (PTN) class in August 2018 after six months of learning to fly in virtual-reality simulators. The program ran 24 weeks and “included 184 academic hours, with approximately 70 to 80 flight hours in the T-6 Texan II, as well as approximately 80 to 90 hours of formal flight training in the simulator,” Holliday said. Students also trained on their own time in the simulators.
“We want to learn as fast as possible,” said 2nd Lt. Christofer Ahn, a student pilot, in an interview before graduating. “Being able to use the simulators is a huge step in allowing us to accelerate through our training.”
U.S. Air Force students and instructor pilots from the Pilot Training Next program fly a T-6 Texan during a training flight at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
The service recently announced there will be a second class to test Pilot Training Next before the results are briefed to Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who will decide whether the program will be incorporated into formal pilot training. The second class will begin training in January 2019.
Holliday said that lessons learned from PTN have already been incorporated into traditional Undergraduate Pilot Training, as well as Pilot Instructor Training.
Instructors are also refining the ways they connect with students through innovation and simulation training. With a program called Pilot Instructor Next, they are looking for ways to develop what AETC calls the “Mach-21” airman, or the next generation of 21st century pilots.
Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the AETC commander, coined the term to describe what the Air Force wants in its new pilots.
“A Mach-21 Air Force essentially is comprised of airmen who learn faster, adapt faster and strategically out-think the enemy, because they are moving at Mach-21 speed,” he said.
To produce such high-quality and sought-after pilots, instructors need to up their game.
“Through Pilot Instructor Training Next, AETC flying squadrons have been equipped with virtual-reality simulators and 360-degree video headsets to integrate into syllabi,” Holliday said. “Since implemented, there have been measurable benefits from the addition of technology, and 10 instructor pilots are slated to graduate from the PIT Next program each month.”
U.S. Air Force Second Lt. Brett Bultsma, Pilot Training Next student, and Capt. Jeffery Kelley, Pilot Training Next instructor pilot, prepare for a training flight aboard a T-6 Texan at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)
Its biggest advantage, AETC says, is the ability to test students in high-stress environments in the safe space of a simulator.
“Virtually, instructors can put students in any situation to determine if they would recognize the danger and whether or not they take the right course of action,” Holliday said. “Students also have the opportunity to take home mobile-video headsets, which connect to the pilot’s smartphone and allow for on-command and on-demand training, which has also been helpful.”
She added, “Incorporating this level of technology and deep-repetition learning allows these students to see the flight environment so many more times than they would have in the past.”
Aircrew Crisis Task Force
AETC is also coordinating with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force — set up in 2016 by the Pentagon — building on its “holistic plan to ensure the Air Force’s pilot requirements are met through retention of currently trained pilots as well as through the production pipeline.”
At the Oct. 10, 2018 hearing, Wilson said the Air Force is placing an emphasis on addressing the national aircrew shortage by focusing on pilot quality of service and quality-of-life issues.
The task force has looked at ways of giving fighter pilots and aircrew the ability to stay in rotations longer at select commands and bases in an effort to create stability for airmen affected by the service’s growing pilot shortage.
“We continue to work with the Aircrew Crisis Task Force to ensure our pilot production planning encompasses an airman from commissioning through training and then to their operational flying units,” Holliday said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity here has received a Fast Track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the development of Tafenoquine, a potential anti-malaria drug for adults.
“Achieving FDA licensure of Tafenoquine will provide a significant improvement over the current measures of malaria prevention for U.S. forces,” said Dr. Lawrence Lightner, project manager for the Pharmaceutical Systems Project Management Office at USAMMDA. “Tafenoquine is only required to be administered weekly, while current preventive measures are required daily, and it protects against all forms of malaria.”
Developed through a partnership between the U.S. Army and 60 Degrees Pharmaceuticals LLC, Tafenoquine has shown promise in preventing malaria with a convenient weekly dosing regimen. Fast Track approval will allow for an expedited review of Tafenoquine’s application for approval by the FDA, so that, if approved, it can be used to prevent the disease in adults traveling to malaria-prone areas.
Malaria is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito and remains the top infectious disease threat to U.S. Military service members deployed overseas. The malaria parasite has several life cycle stages during infection, including a blood and liver stage, which has made treatment and prevention challenging. Tafenoquine is highly effective in the prevention of malaria, as it acts against multiple stages of the malaria parasite life cycle.
Tafenoquine was first discovered more than three decades ago at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, and the drug eventually progressed into advanced development within the U.S. Army Medical Command. USAMMDA, a subordinate command of the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, initiated a cooperative research and development agreement with 60 Degrees Pharmaceuticals LLC in 2014. Managed by the PSPMO, the effort has yielded successful results over the past three years in pursuit of an effective anti-malaria drug.
As the premier developer of world-class military medical capabilities, USAMMDA is responsible for developing and delivering critical products designed to protect and preserve the lives of U.S. troops across the globe. These products include drugs, vaccines, biologics, devices, and medical support equipment intended to maximize survival of casualties on the battlefield.
“Our mission is to develop and deliver quality medical capabilities to protect, treat, and sustain the health of our service members,” said Col. Ryan Bailey, commander of USAMMDA. “The Tafenoquine new drug application is a great example of how we intend to deliver solutions to protect our service members from the malaria threat. This achievement is the result of significant research work and product development — a true team effort.”
A couple individuals from the enraptured masses soaking in pure ecstasy.
The year is 2016. “Love Yourself” by Justin Beiber echoes through the streets. People are wearing choker necklaces again, for some reason. And millions of people are walking around, neck craned to their screens, trying to catch Pokémon.
The massive 2016 explosion of “Pokémon GO” sparked national hysteria. Multitudes of people took to the streets, surroundings be damned. Videos of novice Pokémon trainers falling prey to otherwise pedestrian obstacles (like the one below) went viral overnight.
According to a 2017 analysis, Pokémon GO usage contributed to 150,000 traffic accidents, 256 deaths, and a -7.3 billion economic price tag in the first six months of its launch.
The hysteria was present across the border of our northern ally, as well. The enraptured masses unsuspectingly wandered through Canadian military installations, in search of the powerful pocket monsters.
The Canadian military responded to this invasion with a geopolitical-move as old as time; they issued a firm warning. “It has been discovered that several locations within DND/CAF establishments are host to game landmarks (PokeStops and Gyms) and its mythical digital creatures (Pokémon).”
The enraptured Pokémon masses pressed forward, iPhones in hand, in spite of the vague threat of consequence, while the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation detailed the entire battle with a full after-action report on the situation.
According to the CBC’s report, the Canadian military brass was dumbfounded by their new enemy.
The enraptured masses.
Maj. Jeff Monaghan issued a base-wide memo at Fort Frontenac, letting his men know that many locations on the military base were being used as “both a Pokémon Gym and Pokèmon Stop.” The CBC contacted Maj. Monaghan to follow up his memo with insider knowledge, “I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.” The war ravaged on.
While an assortment of Canadian stripes dripped sweat over a war table, moving pieces to chokehold Pikachu and his cohorts, security expert David Levenick verbalized his frustration, “We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this.” However, the enemy was resolute in their affiliation.
The base took to the offensive and armed a handful of MPs with iPhones and iPads to conduct an inside look into the enemy’s formation. The offensive move paid off, and the inside information led to the upgrading of an on-base museum from a “Pokéstop” to a “Pokémon Gym.”
In the end, however, the war ended as all things do: with a gradual decay. 45 million in the Poké-army became 20. And then 10. Then 5. Much like the Great Roman Empire, the enraptured masses slowly collapsed inward. Some sought refuge in “8 Ball Pool” some in “Super Mario Run” and a few brave souls transferred to a different battlefield altogether— “Bumble.”
Even the rapid hysteria of Pokémon GO was no match for the great equalizers of entropy and new apps, but the great flag of Canada waves on, swiping left to right through the end of time.
Wojtek endeared himself to members of a Polish army unit in 1942 when he alerted them to the presence of a spy in their camp.
The Polish soldiers, who were released by Russia after the German invasion in 1941, were passing through the Middle East on their way back to Europe. Picking up new members on such a trip wouldn’t be unusual, but Wojtek’s case was a little different, because he was a bear.
Wojtek, whose mother is thought to have been shot by hunters, was bought by Polish soldiers while they were in Iran and eventually joined what would become the Polish II Corps’ 22nd artillery supply company in 1942.
He continued with them through Iraq and into Egypt.
To board a ship to Europe in 1943, Wojtek needed to be a soldier, so the Poles formally enlisted him as a private — with his own pay book and serial number.
Wojtek, who eventually weighed well over 400 pounds, also got double rations.
The badge of the 22nd Artillery Support Company of the 2nd Polish Corps.
“He was like a child, like a small dog. He was given milk from a bottle, like a baby. So therefore he felt that these soldiers are nearly his parents and therefore he trusted in us and was very friendly,” Wojciech Narebski, a Polish soldier who spent three years alongside Wojtek during the war, told the BBC in 2011.
They also shared a name — Wojtek is a diminutive form of the name Wojciech, which means “happy warrior.”
Now Wojtek’s story is being documented in an animation feature by Iain Harvey, an animator and the executive producer of the 1982 adaptation of Raymond Brigg’s children’s story “The Snowman,” which was nominated for an Oscar and is still shown every year at Christmas on British television.
The bear smoked, drank, and wrestled with soldiers
When he was told about Wojtek, Harvey thought the story was “pure fantasy,” he told the Times of London this week. “It’s fantastic to have a piece of magic that’s real.”
Wojtek, who eventually rose to the rank of corporal, became a mascot for his unit.
Soldiers would box and wrestle with the bear, who was also fond of smoking and drinking. “For him one bottle was nothing,” Narebski told the BBC. “He was weighing [440 pounds]. He didn’t get drunk.”
He was trained not to be a threat to people and was “very quiet, very peaceful,” Narebski said. But he didn’t get along with another bear and a monkey that were also adopted by the soldiers.
Wojtek was a source of good cheer for the unit, Narebski told the BBC. “For people who are far from families, far from their home country, from a psychological viewpoint, it was very important.”
But he was more than good company during the fighting in Italy.
A British soldier at the Battle of Monte Cassino said he was surprised to see the six-foot bear hauling artillery shells to resupply Allied forces. The company’s patch also featured Wojtek carrying a shell.
Filmmakers released a documentary about Wojtek in 2011. Harvey’s project, “A Bear Named Wojtek,” has secured funding from Poland, but he is still seeking a British partner, telling The Times that he would contact Channel 4 and the BBC as well as companies like Netflix.
Harvey’s project is being set up for release on the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day on May 8, 2020.
According to The Times, it will take 30 animators roughly a year to produce the 30-minute film, hand-drawing each scene on a tablet.
Narebski last saw Wojtek in April 1945, before the Battle of Bologna in Italy.
Once his unit was demobilized in Scotland, the bear was resettled at the Edinburgh Zoo.
A monument to Wojtek in Krakow.
Former members of his unit often visited him at the zoo, where he lived until his death in 1963 at age 21.
Narebski returned to Poland but had trouble keeping in touch with his former comrades — both human and bear — because of restrictions put in place by the Polish government.
He never forgot about Wojtek, however.
“It was very pleasant for me to think about him,” Narebski told the BBC. “I felt like he was my older brother.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The competition allowed Marines stationed in Japan to test and enhance their shooting abilities.
“The concept of every Marine a rifleman goes back to our basics,” said Sgt. Christian Lee Burdette, an ordinance maintenance chief with Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “We learn basic infantry skills before we learn our military occupational specialty. Every Marine in general has the capabilities to engage any threat with a weapon. With this training, it provides that confidence for a Marine to engage effectively.”
The first day of the competition included a brief morning class to brush the competitors up on their marksmanship knowledge followed by competitors zeroing their rifles. Zeroing is the process of calibrating the rifle combat optic, so the weapon is accurate to where the shooter is aiming. The shooters’ zero is essential, as a faulty zero can disrupt a shooters’ ability to hit their target.
The following week allowed the shooters to practice the various courses of fire. To complete certain courses, the shooters were forced to shoot with their off-hand and eye.
U.S. Marines competing in the Far East Marksmanship Competition engage targets at Range 18 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)
“It puts you into unknown situations, instead of just shooting on a flat range and known distances,” said Sgt. Shane Holum, an emergency service crew chief with MCIPAC. “You have multiple targets and you are shooting and moving. You have to work through problems and malfunctions.”
The final week was for score. All of the shooters’ shots were marked and recorded. Marines were able to compete as an individual, a team, or both. Each shooter had to complete the standard Marine Corps rifle and pistol qualification course along with other courses. The additional courses required shooters to fire and maneuver obstacles, and switch weapons while engaging targets at different distances.
Sixteen teams competed on Dec. 13, 2018, in a rifle and pistol competition. To enter and compete as a team, each team must include four shooters. A team must have an officer and a first time shooter. The first time shooter must be at least a noncommissioned officer.
A U.S. Marine shooter and spotters assess the target in the Team Pistol Match finals at Range 1 on Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan Dec. 13, 2018.
(Photo by Pfc. Brennan Beauton)
“Any command that is stationed on Okinawa or mainland Japan can come out to the competition,” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Ferguson, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “You can bring as large as a team as you want, or bring a single shooter. Either way, you can come out and compete.”
The Marine Corps Base Camp Butler’s team won the team rifle competition. The Communication Strategy and Operations Company on Camp Hansen won the team pistol competition, the same day the unit became officially activated. On Dec. 14, 2018, the MCB rifle team was presented with the Calvin A. Lloyd Memorial Trophy, and the CommStrat pistol team was presented with the Shively Trophy.
“Annual qualification is once a year,” said Sgt. Cameron Patrick, an instructor and competitor for the Marine Corps Shooting Team. “Shooting is a very perishable skill so we want you to not just do the qualification, but to try and get out and practice on your own time. Actually refine your skills by yourself. Don’t wait for that one year to come around.”
The top 10 percent of shooters are invited to participate in the United States Marine Corps Marksmanship Championship Competition in Quantico, Virginia, in April 2019. From there they will be evaluated to see if the individual has the qualities of becoming a member of the Marine Corps Shooting Team, according to Patrick.
The Far East Competition is held annually on Okinawa. Marines that want to participate are encouraged to sign up early as slots fill up quickly.
For U.S. Marines, there are few names that come with as much recognition and admiration than Lt. Gen. Lewis “Chesty” Puller. From a your first day at recruit training to your last day in boots, the ghost of Chesty Puller is a constant source of motivation — as Marines on the pull-up bar do “one more for Chesty!” and commanders on the battlefield and in garrison quote the legendary leader in everything from hip-pocket classes to formal periods of instruction.
Chesty Puller is a part of the very fabric that binds Marines across the ages to one another, and as such, his memory is as much a part of a Marine’s DNA as a bad attitude and mean right hook. It doesn’t matter if you’re a troubled Lance Corporal that can’t seem to earn his second stripe or a squared away Colonel setting the example for your troops, there’s a Chesty story, quote, or axiom that resonates with you.
Puller was born on June 26, 1898, and just in case you aren’t already familiar with this particular breed of Devil Dog, here are some great quotations and facts about the Corps’ most idolized leader.
Chesty Puller was the most decorated Marine in the history of the Corps
For many Marines, their introduction to Chesty Puller comes right from the start of recruit training, with Drill Instructors instilling the names and accomplishments of great Marines as a part of the running and screaming boot camp experience. There’s good reason for such an early introduction. Puller was the only Marine to ever earn the Navy Cross on five separate occasions, and that’s not the end of his incredible tenacity for collecting medals.
Lest you think Puller was an award chaser, his massive ribbon rack was earned through some of the most intense fighting of the Korean and second World Wars. Puller led Marines in Guadalcanal, Peleliu, Inchon, and the Chosin Reservoir, just to name a few. Each of these battles have earned their own places in “Marine Corps knowledge” courses for good reason, and Puller’s leadership throughout played an integral role in each historic event.
“We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies things.” – Chesty Puller
Under the command of (then) Colonel Puller, the 1st Marine Division’s heroic stand at the Chosin Reservoir has become the stuff of legend. Marines operating in North Korea were already facing brutal winter weather when they found themselves squaring off with a Chinese force that vastly outnumbered them. In order to escape the situation with as much man and firepower intact as possible, two options were floated: abandoning heavy weapons and equipment for a rapid withdrawal, or “attacking in another direction” and fighting their way through Chinese forces to the nearest port. Ultimately, the decision was made to do the latter.
Puller’s 1st Marine Division was tasked with fighting in frigid winter weather of -34 degrees Celsius, but despite the overwhelming odds and harrowing conditions, the tactical withdrawal was a success. In terms of territory, the Chinese forces had won the day, but at great cost. Puller’s 1st Marine Division lost 4,385 men to combat and another 7,338 to the harsh cold as they fought their way through hostile territory. Estimates of Chinese forces lost or injured in the fighting, however, range from 40,000 to 80,000 troops. Puller’s legacy, some contend, was already secured at that point.
A bayonet for every flame thrower
Even among other military leaders, Puller had a reputation for preferring direct action over fanciful maneuvers, and according to Major General Oliver P. Smith, Puller was at his best while embroiled in combat. It could be argued that it was Puller’s affinity for close quarters battle that made him so beloved by his troops.
While Marines characterized Puller as a tough guy with a warm heart, it was the tough guy in him that prompted him to ask one simple question when being shown how to use a flamethrower for the first time during World War II:
“Where the hell do you put the bayonet?”
It’s worth noting that the M2 flamethrower used by American troops in World War II could shoot liquid hellfire at targets as far away as 130 feet, but as far as Puller was concerned, you still ought to be able to stab a guy with it for good measure.
No matter where you served in the military, one thing is certain: Veterans have a special bond. These shared experiences draw former service members to careers working with fellow veterans. As you might’ve guessed, VA is a great place to do exactly that.
You still may have a lot of questions about what it’s like to work here. Will it be the right cultural fit? How do the benefits stack up? What support is available day to day?
There are plenty of resources to help you answer these and other questions. Here are six ways you can explore what it’s like to work at VA before you make the choice to apply:
1. Visit the VA Careers website.
The VA Careers site is chock full of information about what it’s like to work at VA, including employee video stories about VA’s workplace culture, an informational deep dive into some of the positions we’re hiring for (think: physicians, nurses and mental health counselors), a summary of benefits we offer employees, and details on how we work with veterans to build rewarding careers.
2. Check out the Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO).
VESO is a wealth of information for veterans seeking employment opportunities. Get details on upcoming veteran hiring events, access free virtual training on how to navigate USAJOBS or write an effective resume, and learn more about the federal hiring process.
3. Attend a VA recruitment event.
Visit the VA Careers event webpage for days and times of recruiting events we’ll be attending all around the country. You’re invited to register for an event and ask recruiters questions about a future career with VA.
4. Participate in a virtual career fair.
If you can’t make it to one of our events, go digital! Through virtual career fairs, VA brings recruiters and job seekers together online so they can exchange information without having to worry about distance or travel. Find out about the next virtual career fair by following the VA Careers blog or visiting the events site.
5. Reach out to a recruiter directly.
Do you have specific questions? Reach out to VA recruiters via email for guidance on finding the opportunity that best matches your skillset, preparing your resume and planning for interviews.
6. Get more information about the transitioning military program.
The Transitioning Military Personnel program aims to raise awareness about civilian careers for former service members at VA. If you’ve served in military healthcare — as a physician, nurse, mental health provider, medic, hospital corpsmen, health service technician, para rescue specialist or another occupation — find an array of VA opportunities across the country where you can put your professional training and skills to work.
After you’ve done your research and fully explored VA careers, think about applying for an opening. Be sure to look into special programs such as Veterans Preference that can help you get hired more quickly.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
This week, Vladimir Shamanov, a former military officer who leads the Defense Committee in Russia’s lower house of parliament, said that by the end of this year ISIS “won’t exist anymore as an organized military structure.”
While ISIS is losing large swaths of its home turf, it still operates in a number of countries. Here are nine places where the fight against ISIS is not slowing down.
The Egyptian government has been fighting Islamist insurgents since the military took power in 2013. Most of the fighting has happened in the Sinai Peninsula, where ISIS proclaimed a province in 2014.
Egypt has been under an official state of emergency since April, after a attack killed dozens of members of Egypt’s minority Christian population.
Hundreds of Egyptian police and military servicemen have been killed in battles with jihadists. In an ISIS attack on an army outpost in Sinai in July 2016, 23 soldiers were killed and at least 26 were wounded.
In late October, at least 54 policemen and conscripts, including several officers, were killed in what appeared to be a well-planned ambush. Though no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities have not ruled out ISIS.
The latest attack took place in the Giza governorate, which means the insurgency is spreading beyond the Sinai Peninsula — a worrisome sign that may have led President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to reorganize his security leadership.
Libya became a safe haven for terrorist groups after Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown in 2011. It currently has three different governments claiming authority over the country, and the lack of a strong central authority and a unified security force has allowed militias to fill the void.
ISIS seized the coastal city of Sirte — Gadhafi’s hometown — in 2015. At its peak, ISIS was thought to have over 5,000 militants in Libya. In addition to causing chaos there, they were aiding jihadist groups in Egypt and other parts of North and West Africa.
Though ISIS lost control of Sirte in December 2016, they still have what officials have described as a “desert army” operating in the regions south of the city. That army has shown signs of trying to gain ground in the country.
The US launched its first airstrike in Libya under President Donald Trump in September, 150 miles south of Sirte, reportedly killing 17 militants.
A major concern among European officials is that as ISIS loses territory in Iraq and Syria, its fighters could relocate to Libya. Among those fighters may be Westerners who could use Libya’s role as a transit point for migrants to return home.
Yemen has long been a battleground in the fight against Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. While the Saudi-led military campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in country has received much of the attention, ISIS’ presence there has gotten the notice of the US.
ISIS created its Yemen branch in 2014, during the chaos that followed the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Since then, its attacks have killed hundreds.
US forces launched more than 100 airstrikes against Al Qaeda in Yemen this year, according to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. October saw the first US airstrikes against ISIS in Yemen. According to US Central Command, the three strikes on ISIS training camps reportedly killed 60 militants.
ISIS’s Afghan affiliate, known as Islamic State in Khorasan, or ISIS-K, was declared in 2014. The group mostly made up of Taliban defectors and new recruits.
Though the group only controls small patches of territory, it has been a main focus for the US military. On April 13, the US dropped its largest nonnuclear bomb on an ISIS-K compound. Estimates of the number killed range between 36 and 96 militants.
Militants affiliated with ISIS and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan have also clashed with each other, resulting in deaths on both sides.
A drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province on October 12 reportedly killed 14 ISIS militants — though an Afghan MP, Shahzada Shaheed, claimed all the casualties were civilians.
The US estimates that there are roughly 600 to 800 ISIS-affiliated militants still in the country, mostly in Nangarhar province in northeast Afghanistan.
5 – 3. Mali, Niger, and Nigeria
West Africa is becoming an increasingly important front in the fight against ISIS. Islamist violence is not new in the region. There was an insurgency that took over northern Mali in 2013, and the jihadist group Boko Haram declared allegiance to ISIS in 2015.But the violence has showed no signs of slowing down.
New groups like the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara — which reportedly carried out the early-October ambush that killed four US soldiers while they were on a mission with local partners in Niger — are being formed, and the number of militants joining these groups seems to be increasing.
On October 23, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford said that ISIS “has aspirations to establish a larger presence” in Africa.
“We’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less,” Dunford said, adding that the US military will be making recommendations to Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and that US forces will remain in the area despite the casualties in Niger.
As in West Africa, Islamist violence is not new to Somalia. For the last decade, the most feared jihadist group in the country has been Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda ally. ISIS unsuccessfully tried to recruit Al Shabab in 2015, and now the two groups fight each other in addition to government forces.
Though smaller than Al Shabab, ISIS’ affiliate in Somalia has made its mark as a deadly terrorist organization. It has routinely conducted bombings and attacks that have killed hundreds. It is also outgaining Al Shabab in terms of foreign volunteers, as most aspiring jihadists want to be part of the ISIS brand.
In October, the largest bombing in the history of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, left at least 300 civilians dead and caused more than 275 injuries.
No group has claimed responsibility, but it is a troubling sign as it could lead to more violent competition between Al Shabab and ISIS, as they try to become the dominant Islamist group in the country.
The Trump administration sent US troops to Somalia in May — the first such deployment in more than 20 years — to aid antiterrorism efforts. On Friday, the US military carried out its first two drone strikes on ISIS targets in Somalia, killing “several terrorists,” according to US Africa Command.
ISIS made its mark in the Philippines in a manner similar to that in Iraq and Syria — suddenly emerging with a large and organized force, seizing large amounts of territory.
Led by Isnilon Hapilon and the Maute Brothers — who formally lead Abu Sayyaf and the Maute Group, respectively — forces that pledged loyalty to ISIS took over the city of Marawi in Lanao del Sur province on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.
The siege that followed resulted in the deaths of 962 ISIS militants, including Hapilon and at least one of the Maute Brothers; 165 Philippine soldiers were killed, and nearly 1.1 million people were displaced.
Though Philippine soldiers liberated the city, ISIS remains a threat in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia as a whole.