Congressman John Lewis lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020. He was an icon for the civil rights movement but more than that, he was a continuous beacon of hope for peace and social justice.
On Lewis’ passing, President Donald Trump ordered flags to be flown half-staff. In a White House proclamation, the president stated, “As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative John Lewis, of Georgia, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions through July 18, 2020. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half‑staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”
Born in 1940 to sharecroppers in rural Alabama, Lewis would go on to become a prominent and iconic figure in the fight for equality. He was one of the speakers at the March on Washington during Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders during this time. He was beaten and arrested multiple times during these nonviolent protests.
Lewis marched with King from Selma to Montgomery, on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis and others were assaulted with nightsticks by Alabama State Troopers while the protestors were kneeling and praying. Lewis’ skull was fractured from the beating. This incident is what pushed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to come to pass. Lewis was a witness when it was signed into law.
Lewis bore the scars from all of these events for the remainder of his life.
After the civil rights movement, Lewis became a congressman and served Georgia for over 30 years. He fought for the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., which took 15 years. President Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for his life’s work.
In December of 2019, he announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He released a statement, saying, “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now…So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.”
Lewis’ passing comes just a year after the U.S. Navy celebrated his legacy by naming one of their newest fleet of ships after him. He was a humble man and in one interview, shared his disbelief that the honor was being bestowed upon him. While attending the ceremony to celebrate one of the new ships Lewis said, “We need great ships, like this one, to carry our men and women in our continued work for peace, because we are one world.”
In those words, hope resonates. Following his passing, the spirit of his legacy will continue to live on and the world will remember this icon by continuing his work for justice – and peace.
The latest “X-Men” movie shows Jean Grey get taken over by a mysterious cosmic force, pitting her against the X-Men for most of the movie.
However, it’s revealed early on that Jean isn’t the only threat the X-Men need to worry about.
This is your last chance to head back before spoilers.
Early in the movie, a group of shapeshifting aliens crash on Earth to take over the planet after their home is destroyed. One of them, who we later learn is named Vuk, takes over the body of a nameless woman played by Jessica Chastain.
Jessica Chastain and Sophie Turner star in “Dark Phoenix.”
(20th Century Fox)
From there, we learn Vuk is the leader of an alien race called the D’Bari. Their planet was destroyed by a cosmic force — the Phoenix — that had demolished everything in its path until it was absorbed by Jean. Once landing on Earth, the group makes a quick decision that they’re taking over Earth, ridding it of every human, and rebuilding it from scratch for themselves.
They just need to acquire the cosmic force from Jean. (Apparently, that’s a thing they can do even though it destroyed their planet and many of their people.)
Both Vuk and the D’Bari’s names are said once in all of “Dark Phoenix” and it’s easy to miss either name-drop in a quick moment. Strangely, the film doesn’t spend much time on them other than to say they’re aliens, they’re bad, and they’re coming to kill us all.
If you’re familiar with the comics, you’ll know that the characters are a part of the “Dark Phoenix” story line at one point. However, they’re not a group who has appeared that much in the Marvel comics. Even if you did catch their name during the movie, you may find yourself doing a quick search for more info on them after the movie because they’re a bit different from the D’Bari you may remember in the comics.
Unlike the aliens we see in “Dark Phoenix,” the D’Bari look like vegetables in the comics.
Who are the D’Bari? They’re not bad guys in the comics.
The group first debuted in the comics in a 1964 issue of “Avengers,” and is labeled as antagonists. But their most significant appearance was in 1980’s “The Uncanny X-Men” No. 135 and they definitely weren’t obsessed with taking over the Earth.
Just like the “Dark Phoenix” movie explains, they’re an alien race who are best known for having their planet destroyed. However, they can’t shapeshift and the circumstances of them losing their planet is much different in the comics. Jean Grey is responsible for killing most of the D’Bari and destroying their planet.
The D’Bari lived on a planet in the D’Bari star system, which was very similar to our own Earth. At this point, Jean Grey already had the power of the Phoenix and had just gone on a rampage against her fellow X-Men.
Power hungry, Jean Grey soars far into space out of our galaxy and into the D’Bari star system where she fuels up by depleting a star of its power. That star, very similar to our sun, gave life to the D’Bari’s home planet and quickly destroyed it. “The Uncanny X-Men” describes the D’Bari as an “ancient, peace-loving civilization.” Jean Grey wiped out five billion of them.
On Earth, Vuk went by the alias Starhammer.
And who’s Vuk?
Vux doesn’t appear in “The Uncanny X-Men” No. 135. In the comics, Vux is actually a male and he wasn’t on his home planet when it was destroyed. As a result, Vuk heads to Earth to, understandably, seek vengeance. He also cannot shape-shift.
Wait. These characters don’t look or sound anything like the ones in “Dark Phoenix.”
Yeah, we know. Other than a similar background story, the D’Bari in the comics and movie only appear to share the same name.
You know who they do sound and look a lot like? The shapeshifting D’Bari in “Dark Phoenix” remind us a lot of the shape-shifting Skrulls in “Captain Marvel.” In the Disney/Marvel movie, which was released in March, the alien race comes to Earth and transforms themselves into any one they come into contact with. Unlike the D’Bari of “Dark Phoenix,” they don’t wish to take over the planet. But their powers and design are somewhat similar.
Here’s how the Skrulls look in “Captain Marvel”:
Here are two of the Skrulls in “Captain Marvel.”
Fox hasn’t released any images of the D’Bari, yet. Chastain, who plays the D’Bari leader, told Yahoo UK at the end of May that her character changed a lot during the making of the movie, suggesting that she may not have been a D’Bari alien to begin with.
“My character changed a lot, which is an interesting thing because I’m not playing someone from the comics,” Chastain said of Vuk. “So it was always everyday trying to figure out ‘Who am I? Who is the mystery that is this character?’ And then understanding with the reshoots ‘Oh, it’s changing again.’ It was a constant evolution…. So yeah, my character changed.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
On a flight line shrouded in a constant haze and tortured by Thailand’s relentless sun, the sounds of jet engines and jungle birds fill the ears of Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief; a best friend to any 35th Fighter Squadron pilot who puts their trust in crew chiefs like Davis every time they fly.
While executing U.S. Indo-Pacific Command objectives and U.S. Pacific Air Forces priorities at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Davis and 114 other maintainers from the 8th Fighter Wing, Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, are operating and will redeploy 12 F-16 Fighting Falcons loaded with full-scale-heavy-weight-munitions supporting exercise Cobra Gold 2019. Cobra Gold is a Thai-U.S. co-sponsored exercise that promotes regional partnerships to advance security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region and is one of the longest-running international exercises.
Behind the Scenes: Air Force Crew Chief Prepping F-16 for Launch
Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, inspects an F-16 brake during exercise Cobra Gold 2019 at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Savannah L. Waters)
Davis and other maintainers quickly adapted to operating in a hot and humid environment alongside their Royal Thai Air Force partners, and as the sun shines, they’re reminded of the winter conditions of home-station.
“I like my job, but there are people who don’t necessarily enjoy it due to extreme cold or hot weather conditions,” Davis said. “Especially when we are busy and breaks are hard to come by, but the mission comes first.”
Davis advises fellow crew chiefs in maintaining, servicing and inspecting the F-16s. His inspector role ensures 8th AMXS Airmen are equipped with the proper tools and skill sets to get the job done as safely and efficiently as possible, while keeping those who fly the jets reassured that they’re sitting in a well taken care of and lethal jet.
“As a crew chief, you need to keep your head on a swivel, and make sure to pay attention to what you’re doing,” Davis said. “You have someone else’s life in your hands, and mistakes can quickly escalate into a life or death situation. We can always replace parts here and there, but we can’t replace a person.”
Staff Sgt. Travis Davis, 8th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, gives the 35th Fighter Squadron’s “Push It Up!” sign during exercise Cobra Gold 2019 at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, Feb. 19, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Savannah L. Waters)
Consistency is very important, Davis said, and a mistake on a crew chief’s part creates the potential for loss, whether it’s a million aircraft or a precious life.
With no U.S. aircraft maintenance support, Davis and other 8th AMXS maintainers learned to operate in conditions that are similar to a bare base during Cobra Gold 19. Weapons, avionics, and other maintenance specialists assisted crew chiefs in launching aircraft by aiding as a “B man,” and egress technicians supplemented crash and recovery teams to build F-16 tires.
Regular maintenance, inspections, refueling, launch and recovery is a lot of work, said Davis, but combining hands-on efforts across the 8th MXG enabled smoother transitions throughout the exercise.
“Cross utilization of maintainers of different (Air Force specialty codes) and roles is a true embodiment of maintainers making the mission happen,” said Capt. Su Johnson, 35th Aircraft Maintenance Unit officer in charge. Without (the) Wolf Pack maintainers’ pride and aggressive attitude to succeed, exercise Cobra Gold would not have been successful.”
Davis has averaged about 50 work hours a week, overseeing maintenance operations and inspections so pilots are able to conduct training without delay or complications.
“I’m thankful for the many opportunities this career has given me the last 10 years,” Davis said. “It makes you really appreciate the job, even on the tougher days. During deployments and exercises such as Cobra Gold, you really get to see the bigger picture, and how your work contributes to and impacts the mission.”
Career advancements will be postponed for more than 159,500 sailors and officers as the Navy cancels selection boards, advancement exams and Reserve drill weekends to try to stem the spread of the dangerous novel coronavirus.
The Navy is suspending all active-duty and Reserve advancement selection boards scheduled to meet on or after March 24, manpower officials announced Thursday. The delays will affect all promotion, advancement, milestone and other selection boards.
The decision was the latest made to “protect the health and safety of our force,” Chief of Naval Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell Jr. said in a service-wide message. The boards are postponed until further notice, he added.
Navy officials announced earlier in the week that Reserve drill weekends and advancement exams would also be temporarily halted. The moves will lead to promotion delays for more than a third of the Navy’s active-duty and Reserve forces.
“COVID-19 mitigation efforts affect the advancement processes of more than 159,500 sailors,” Cmdr. James Stockman, a spokesman for Naval Education and Training Command, told Military.com.
Navy leaders say postponing advancement exams, selection boards and other events is necessary to stop large-group gatherings, cut down on unnecessary travel, and allow personnel to keep safe distances from one another — all of which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say are necessary to reduce the spread of the virus.
Holding selection boards would require members to travel to Millington, Tennessee, where the groups convene, a Navy news release announcing the cancellations states. Once there, sailors could be required to work in large groups.
That was also a factor for advancement exams, Stockman said. While the number of sailors taking the advancement exam in the same room varies by command, in some fleet-concentrated areas, such as San Diego or Norfolk, Virginia, there could be up to 1,000 people testing in the same location, he said.
Delaying advancement exams is an unprecedented move for the Navy. Stockman said the service has never before implemented fleet-wide rescheduling of the tests.
Nowell said he is committed to ensuring no sailors are harmed by the selection board delays. That includes new policies to ensure that retroactive dates of rank can be set and allowances for back pay made, if necessary, the news release states.
Once the coronavirus risk is lowered and boards can proceed, Nowell said the rescheduled dates will generally follow the originally planned order.
All the same rules about who’s eligible for consideration before the original boards will still apply, Nowell added. No additional candidates will be considered.
Some smaller selection boards might meet virtually, the chief of naval personnel added.
While there’s no online version of advancement exams, Stockman said the Navy is aggressively pursuing them.
“A pilot for a high stakes [Navy-Wide Advancement Examination] online exam is being explored for 2021,” he said. “However, an E-4 through E-6 advancement cycle includes 90,000 Sailors, so the venues for online testing would still result in group gatherings.”
The Navy also relaxed grooming standards as a result of the virus to help cut down the number of haircuts needed; delayed fitness tests; and canceled boot camp and Officer Candidate School graduations.
The service had at least eight coronavirus cases as of Wednesday.
The Navy’s top officer strongly advocated robust “engagement” with China to reduce the growing tensions generated by Beijing’s aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, while minimizing the effectiveness of the Asian giant’s highly touted anti-access, area-denial defense capabilities against U.S. naval forces.
During a Sept. 12 appearance at the Center for a New American Security n Washington, D.C., the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson also favorably compared the conduct of People’s Liberation Army – Navy ships during at-sea encounters to the threatening actions by fast-attack craft operated by Iran’s militant Revolutionary Guard in the congested Persian Gulf. And he said US commanders have the freedom to respond to those acts.
In a classic understatement, Richardson described U.S. relations with China as “complicated,” and said “we have to structure our relations with our counterparts, the Peoples Liberation Army – Navy along those lines. First and foremost, we’ve got to continue to engage. I’m an advocate for engagement, thoughtful engagement.”
Noting that “there are areas where we have common interests,” he suggested aligning US efforts to support those common interests.
He suggested that one of those “common interest” was freedom of navigation that would allow all nations to use the maritime domain for commercial reasons, despite the fact that China’s aggressive claims to virtually all of the South China Sea and parts of the East China Sea far from its territorial limits would deny others access to those vital waterways.
Richardson acknowledged that during his recent visit with the head of the Chinese navy, he was “very honest and very frank in terms of those things that would be helpful in moving the relationship forward in mutually beneficial ways and those behaviors that would be completely not helpful in terms of moving that relationship down the road.” That was an effort, he said, toward “minimizing the uncertainty, the miscalculations, by asserting in advance these things that would be very good, those that would be troublesome.”
But the Navy chief insisted that any regional arrangement for security in the Asia-Pacific region had to include China.
Asked about the A2AD capabilities China is developing to keep U.S. forces out of its claim zone of control, Richardson said that was “sort of an aspiration rather than any kind of strategy.”
While acknowledging the technological advances that allow detection and precision targeting at greater distances, “there is a whole sequence of events that have to happen in perfect symphony to execute that mission. There are many ways to deconstruct that chain of events,” he said.
In response to a question about what authority US commanders had to respond to the rash of threatening actions by the Iranian small craft, Richardson said, “there’s really nothing that limits the way they can respond.”
He noted that in those “super dynamic situations,” the commanders must make decisions “in very short periods of time. We try to make sure our commanders have the situational awareness and the capabilities and the rules of engagement that they remain in command of the situation.”
He called that a “a great demonstration of something I advocate for, the need to continue to develop a sort of decentralized approach toward operations. These sort of things happen on a time scale that really doesn’t allow commanders to sort of phone home for permission and then respond.”
“They have to know what their commanders expect, have to be given the freedom to act, to take advantage of opportunities, but also so they can respond to these very quick acting opportunities.”
“Is our Navy prepared to respond? The answer is yes in every respect,” he said.
Richardson said the actions by the Iranian Guard vessels were unlike the meetings with Chinese warships, which under an agreement on encounters at sea, “the vast majority of encounters with the Chinese have been peaceful.”
And, he added, it would be useful to have a similar agreement with Russia to prevent the recent close encounters with Russian ships and aircraft in the Black Sea.
A former Marine Corps drill instructor was “drunk on power” and targeted three Muslim recruits for abuse, prosecutors said at the opening of his court-martial on charges including cruelty and maltreatment.
Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Felix punched, choked, and kicked recruits at the Marine Corps’ training center at Parris Island, South Carolina, prosecutors said Oct. 31, according to multiple news outlets.
“You will learn the accused is drunk on power,” prosecutor Capt. Corey Weilert told the eight-person jury hearing the case at Camp Lejeune, a sprawling Marine Corps base in North Carolina.
After a confrontation in March 2016 when Felix slapped his face, 20-year-old Raheel Siddiqui of Taylor, Michigan, fell three stories to his death, investigators said. Siddiqui’s death was declared suicide, but since then Marine Corps officials have said they uncovered widespread hazing of recruits and young drill instructors and identified up to 20 people possibly tied to misconduct.
A commanding officer at Parris Island who was fired amid allegations of misconduct after Siddiqui’s death also faces a court-martial. Lt. Col. Joshua Kissoon is charged with making false statements, failing to heed an order and other charges. He will face court-martial at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, but no trial date has been set.
Mentions of Siddiqui’s death are being limited by Judge Lt. Col. Michael Libretto to testimony addressing an obstruction charge facing Felix. Prosecutors say Felix told recruits not to talk about the incident outside of the unit, The Island Packet of Hilton Head, South Carolina, reported.
Felix also faces three counts of maltreatment toward Siddiqui and the two other Muslim recruits, as well as nine counts of violating an order, making a false statement, and being drunk and disorderly.
One of the Muslim recruits, 21-year-old Rekan Hawez, who came from Kurdistan to the US as a baby, testified that Felix began hazing him after finding out he was a Kurd, The Island Packet reported.
Hawez, who was other-than-honorably discharged in June 2016, said that Felix routinely called him “Kurdish,” “ISIS” and “terrorist,” The Island Packet reported.
Hawez said that one night Felix made his entire platoon drink multiple glasses of chocolate milk before exercises, and when one recruit vomited, Felix made another recruit drink the vomit, The Island Packet reported.
Hawez also said Felix forced his platoon into a laundry room to perform exercises on a different night, and at one point, forced him to get into an industrial dryer.
“Hey ISIS, get in the dryer,” Felix allegedly told Hawez, The Island Packet reported.
Ameer Bourmeche, now a 23-year-old lance corporal at Camp Pendleton in California, said he was roused awake in the middle of the night in July 2015 by shouts of “Where’s the terrorist?” He said Felix and another drill instructor, Sgt. Michael Eldridge, marched him to the barracks shower room, where Felix elbowed him in the chin. They smelled of alcohol, Bourmeche testified.
Eldridge also was charged, but he is cooperating with the prosecution and is expected to face less-severe punishment, The Washington Post reported.
Bourmeche said Felix and Eldridge ordered him to do push-ups and other exercises in the shower, then told him to climb into an industrial-size clothes dryer. He said they turned on the dryer with him inside three separate times. Each time, the drill instructors asked whether he renounced Islam. The third time, Bourmeche said, he told them he was no longer a Muslim.
Defense counselor Navy Lt. Cmdr. Clay Bridges told jurors that testimony by Bourmeche and other recruits are boot camp stories that have been conflated, are contradictory and “blown out of proportion.”
The United States military is preparing to launch a major military exercise with South Korea in coming days and faces a dangerous balancing act: How do you reassure allies in the region that you are ready for a war with North Korea without provoking an actual conflict in the process?
The annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise is scheduled for 10 days beginning August 21, and will include about 25,000 US troops and tens of thousands of South Koreans. The exercise focuses on defending South Korea against an attack from the North, and each year triggers threats and rebukes from North Korea. But it comes at an especially sensitive time now, following the exchange of a series of threats between President Donald Trump and North Korea.
US Forces Korea, the command that oversees some 28,500 American military personnel on the Korean Peninsula, has no current plans to change the size, format, or messaging for this year’s exercise, said Army Colonel Chad G. Carroll, a military spokesman in South Korea. The mission is planned well in advance, considered defensive in nature, and allows both military forces and civilian officials to strengthen their readiness for a crisis, he said.
“Our job is provide our leadership with viable military options if called upon, and exercises like this hone our ability to do that,” Carroll said.
North Korea this week denounced the exercise, warning that even an accident in the midst of it could trigger a nuclear conflict. But the war game also has drawn scrutiny this year from Russia and China, which have suggested cancelling the operation to alleviate tensions. The US has rejected that option, saying the exercise is needed to deter North Korean aggression as Washington seeks peaceful means to stop Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons development.
“This is why we have military capability that undergirds our diplomatic activities,” said Marine General Joseph F. Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during an appearance August 14 in Seoul. “These threats are serious to us, and thus we have to be prepared.”
On August 15, North Korea appeared to ease up on a threat to shoot missiles toward the US island territory of Guam. A state-run media outlet reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he would watch the US “a little more” rather than responding quickly, but would “make an important decision, as it already declared”, if the “Yankees persist in their extremely dangerous reckless actions on the Korean Peninsula and in its vicinity.” The report came hours after US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis warned that if North Korea hits the US island territory of Guam with a missile, it would be “game on”, meaning war.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined to respond directly to Kim’s decision to pull back from his threat to launch missiles toward Guam, but said the door to talks remains open.
“We continue to be interested in finding a way to get to a dialogue, but that’s up to him,” Tillerson said at the State Department.
Tillerson and Mattis jointly host their Japanese counterparts in Washington August 17, with North Korea at the top of the agenda.
Army Colonel Robert Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said the US and South Korea have “made a lot of progress” in recent years to prepare against any North Korea threat. Ulchi-Freedom Guardian is a big part of that, with two other related exercises, Foal Eagle and Key Resolve.
The US-South Korean military exercises have exacerbated tensions in the past. In March, the beginning of Foal Eagle prompted North Korea to test-fire four ballistic missiles, which in turn prompted the Pentagon to announce that it was assembling a missile defence system known as Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) on the Korean Peninsula with approval of the Government in Seoul.
In 2015, Ulchi-Freedom Guardian came shortly after an August 4 attack in which two South Korean soldiers stepped on landmines in the heavily militarized border region with North Korea, known as the Demilitarized Zone. South Korea vowed to retaliate, and the two Koreas exchanged artillery and rocket fire over the border during Ulchi-Freedom Guardian after South Korea began broadcasting propaganda messages over the border and North Korea responded by turning on its own loudspeakers.
The exercise itself has changed several times, and dates back to 1968, when South Korea and the US created a war game called Focus Lens. That occurred after North Korea hijacked a US Navy intelligence ship, the USS Pueblo, and launched a bloody Special Operations raid on the Blue House, the centre of the South Korean government, with plans to kill South Korean President Park Chung Hee.
The image of the men who fought in Vietnam is usually that of a draftee who didn’t want to be there, likely from a poor family, who were sent to die while they were still teens. But nothing could be further from the truth. Only a third of Vietnam vets were draftees. The average age of U.S. troops in Southeast Asia was 23, and more than 80 percent had a high school diploma, twice as many as the World War II generation. They were more educated, affluent, and older than any assembled American fighting force who came before them.
But even if they were a force of draftees, would that have mattered?
The short answer is “nope.”
While the popular consensus is that the United States lost the war in Vietnam, the U.S. handily won the fighting in Vietnam. The United States didn’t win every single battle, but it won almost every single major engagement, even those massive, infamous surprise attacks of the North Vietnamese, which garnered headlines but little else. The Tet Offensive, arguably the most famous enemy attack of the whole war, was a huge defeat for the Communists. And no American unit ever surrendered to the enemy in Vietnam, either.
For many Vietnam veterans who enlisted to fight in the war, drafted men made good, if not better, soldiers when put to the test. Other volunteers say they saw no difference between drafted Americans and volunteers, and would not have known how they ended up in Vietnam without asking. The only real way you could ID a drafted soldier is by seeing a troop who was much older but wearing a lowly rank. Some volunteer troops even said they respected draftees for answering the forced call to service and fighting without question.
They weren’t all happy about going, of course.
Whether American troops in Vietnam were one-third draftees (as the facts dictate) or they were a force of young, poor, uneducated conscripts (As pop culture would have us believe), what is indisputable is what they accomplished there. The United States was able to win most of the major pitched battles fought there. And while popular history says the United States lost in Vietnam, if the goal of the war was to prevent other countries in the region from falling to Communism (you know, like dominoes), then, the U.S. may have won in the long run.
Some 475 million people in Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines do not currently live in a Communist state. When the United States began to ramp up its efforts to help South Vietnam, it moved masses of military men and materiel into these countries. Those forces bolstered the governments of those countries, who all faced some form of insurgency or Communist upheaval at the beginning of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. By the time the U.S. left South Vietnam, those countries had secured their borders, governments, and way of life against Communist threats.
So maybe we should reconsider the idea that we lost and that draftees somehow weren’t as dedicated to winning.
On Aug. 4, 1972 dozens of naval mines exploded suddenly in the water south of Hai Phong, North Vietnam. The incident was witnessed by U.S. military pilots, and there was no apparent reason why the mines detonated. They had only been there for a few months and there was nothing in the waters around them. The detonations took all of 30 seconds.
For decades, the event remained a mystery – mostly because the U.S. government classified the investigation of the detonation until 1990. Delores Knipp, an Air Force veteran and Colorado University engineering professor began looking into it.
She was speaking to a colleague who was working at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in 1972, when he was visited by a group of Navy officials in uniform. He couldn’t remember what they wanted to talk about exactly, but the visit piqued Knipp’s curiosity.
Knipp began looking into what might have happened around that time frame in 1972. That’s how she came upon the declassified report of mysteriously exploding naval mines in North Vietnam, linked to Operation Pocket Money. The operation was intended to prevent the movement of supplies from the North to the South by sea during the Easter Offensive.
She then began to look into scientific events that might be able to explain the phenomenon. On that day, observatories noted a series of solar flares, one of them “gigantic” that would have an effect on the Earth, one of the largest solar flares ever recorded.
While it normally takes a matter of days for a solar flare to travel the distance to Earth, the 1972 flare reached Earth in 14.6 hours and people noticed, even if they didn’t realize what was happening.
All over the planet, people were bombarded with X-ray emissions, an aurora was visible from the southern coast of England that could be seen from Spain, and Canada’s power grid experienced fluctuations. The flare also damaged the solar panels on orbiting satellites.
It also set off a naval minefield placed in North Vietnamese waters. The mines, the report says, were magnetic sensor mines. The Navy began to look for better ways to prevent an unintended detonation caused by magnetic interference from space.
The Navy also didn’t tell the global scientific community about its conclusions. Since the Navy didn’t address it, neither did most of the scientific community. But Knipp believes the event was much more important than the Navy realized.
Knipp said that the 1972 solar storm was an event on par with the 1859 Carrington Event, one of the largest geospacial storms ever recorded. A coronal mass ejection bombarded earth, displaying strong auroras from the Rocky Mountains to the Caribbean Sea. It was also big enough to disrupt telegraph transmissions all over the world.
If a solar storm like that hit Earth today, it would cause widespread blackouts and damage worldwide electrical grids. The damage it would cause has been estimated to cost as much as $2.6 trillion to repair.
Given the U.S. Navy’s relatively recent experience with solar flares and the lessons learned from the 1972 solar storm, there’s no telling if another Carrington Event would set off magnetic naval mines, but by then, it might be the least of our problems.
U.S. military forces in Iraq are standing by to help evacuate the U.S. consulate in the southern city of Basra after the State Department’s recent decision to temporarily close the facility because of threats made by Iranian forces.
“If American lives are at risk, then the [Defense Department] will take prudent steps to relocate the personnel from harm,” Army Col. Sean Ryan, spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force- Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon on Oct. 2, 2018.
Basra, one of three U.S. diplomatic missions in Iraq, has been plagued by violent protests recently over government corruption and poor public services.
In mid-September 2018, three Katyusha rockets were fired at Basra’s airport, which houses the U.S. consulate, by a Shiite militia after it vowed revenge against Iraq protesters for setting fire to the Iranian consulate, the AP reported.
There were no casualties in the rocket attack, but U.S. Ambassador Douglas Silliman decided not to take chances and temporarily close the consulate.
“Ambassador Silliman is a great leader, and he determined that risk is not worth the reward,” Ryan said. “They are just not willing to put up with that. They are diplomats; they are not warfighters, so that is the route that we are going.”
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Antonio Perez and Pvt. Michael Miller, from 2nd Platoon, Bravo Battery, 1-377 Field Artillery Regiment, attached to the 17th Fires Brigade pull security during a joint foot patrol in Basra, Iraq.
He did not have a timeline for the evacuation or how many U.S. military personnel would be involved. “Like I said, American lives are at risk … when asked, we will definitely support,” he said, adding, “It’s still very early in this process.”
But the rocket attack near the U.S. consulate isn’t the only incident involving Iran that has threatened American lives in the region.
Iran launched several ballistic missiles Oct. 1, 2018, toward eastern Syria, targeting militants it blamed for an attack on a military parade in September 2018, the AP reported. The missiles flew over Iraq and impacted at undisclosed locations inside Syria.
The strike came as a surprise to U.S. and coalition forces conducting operations against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Ryan said.
“These strikes potentially jeopardized the forces on the ground that are actually fighting ISIS and put them in danger,” he said, adding that Iran made no attempt to coordinate or de-conflict with U.S. or coalition forces. “I can tell you that Iran took no such measures, and professional militaries like the coalition and the Russian confederation de-conflict their operations for maximum safety.”
While U.S. forces were not near any of the missile impacts, “anytime anyone just fires missiles through uncoordinated airspace, it’s a threat,” he said.
In the past, Ryan has said that Iran is not known for being accurate with its missile attacks.
“I did say two weeks ago that they have bad aim,” he said. “That hasn’t changed, and that is actually one of the problems with Basra as well. You have folks out there shooting weapons that they may not know how to use.”
The incident is under investigation, he said, stressing that U.S. and coalition forces have no interest in having Iran conduct future strikes for any reason.
“The coalition is not requesting any support,” he said. “We can handle things ourselves; we don’t need anyone else firing into [the] region.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
“Every kid has a dream to be an astronaut,” Air Force veteran Molly Potter said. “But by college, these dreams become less and less important for most. That was not so for me.”
Potter attended Embry-Riddle to major in Space Physics and Space Engineering. While there she tried to start a military career in Army ROTC, but soon found it was not for her. Many of her friends were in Air Force ROTC. She liked the mentality and decided it was the best way to get to where she wanted to be.
“I was a 13-Week Wonder,” Potter says. “I loved it and a quickly did my best to be come a stellar officer.”
She and her then-husband were “poster airmen” at Eglin Air Force Base. He was an AC-130 navigator who deployed all the time; she was a weapons specialist, awarded Company Grade Officer of the Year in her first year. By the time she was promoted to first lieutenant, she had caught SOCOM’s eye.
Going from her desk job to deploying to Southwest Asia with the US Special Operations Command was far from Potter’s comfort zone.
“They gave me a gun and a backpack and basically told me to go,” Potter recalls. “I was essentially a one-person band out there with the Army and Marines. I didn’t realize what I was experiencing.”
And she experienced a lot, even for a munitions specialist.
“Afghanistan was the place I felt most respected on all levels,” Potter says. “The men in JSOC and SOCOM were utmost professionals. They only cared that I did my job, and they needed me to save their asses on occasion. I had the same respect they had for me.”
One night, as the sun went down, a rocket attack knocked Potter out. A cement barrier saved her life, protecting her from the frag.
Like many veterans of recent conflicts, the blast caused her traumatic brain injury. Little was known then about the effects of blasts on the brain, and she was sent home without a diagnosis.
After her deployment, she was assigned as a flight test engineer with test pilots, the next step in her path to becoming what she wanted since childhood. She attempted to numb herself from the emotional turmoil.
Her role was quick-turnaround acquisitions for special operations missions. Watching the munitions she procured from the airplanes or from monitors and how they killed combatants on the ground, even seeing what she calls ‘the Faces of Death,’ coupled with seeing her own life flash before her eyes changed the way she saw her role in the war. Her whole life was dedicated to becoming an astronaut, but here she was engineering ways to make killing more efficient.
“They were supposed to be getting this star officer,” Potter remembers. “Instead, they got a struggling officer, fresh from Afghanistan, who wasn’t sleeping or eating, and whose marriage was falling apart.” She refused to take leave yet struggled with this difficult program, full of the world’s best pilots.
Her memory started to fade, and she couldn’t even get through a day’s work. It hit her one day when she was driving home from after flying military aircraft on military orders, but suddenly couldn’t remember how to get home.
“I realized then I needed help,” Potter says. “But I didn’t want to lose my clearance, my career. But my commanding officers started to notice there was something wrong with me. I wasn’t really there.” It all came crashing down in 2013, when a motorcyclist ran into her car in Las Vegas and Potter suffered a total mental breakdown. Her leadership realized what was happening.
“I was lucky my command realized I had a problem,” Potter says. “Instead of disciplining me, they told me ‘the Air Force broke you and the Air Force is going to put you back together.'” Recovery soon became her full time job.
“I was a high suicide risk,” Potter admits. “Therapy was very tough for me. Halfway through, I started to stall. I was having nightmares. Even with my mom there, things were not going well. I was suppressing all this awful shit and having horrible nightmares. That’s when I got Bella.”
Bella is Potter’s “100 percent American Mutt.” When Potter experienced intense Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and refused to leave the house, it was Bella who forced her to go outside. She had to be walked, after all. Bella also had to be fed, watered, petted, and cleaned. She became Molly Potter’s reason to get out of bed, to get out of the house.
“She slowly started bringing my life back,” Potter says. “I started realizing she was waking me up in the middle of the night when I was having nightmares. She prevented my panic attacks and my night terrors. I started progressing with my therapy and becoming myself again.” Bella’s effect on Potter was so strong, her therapist suggested she train Bella as a service dog, and that’s exactly what she did.
In the meantime, the Air Force began to wonder what to do with Potter. She did lose her clearance and could no longer fly, but she didn’t have disciplinary issues, so her command wanted to work with her to help her find a new Air Force role or help her transition to the civilian world.
In her preparation to leave the service, she started to work at the Airmen and Family Readiness Center at Nellis Air Force Base, to help troubled Airmen and families or help those who were also transitioning. Bella would come with her, to keep her calm and bring her back in case of a panic attack or breakdown. The families visiting the AFRC loved her, but not everyone was a fan of Bella in the workplace.
“I got a lot of pushback for this service dog,” Potter says. “There was no regulation for service dogs and uniformed personnel.”
A potentially troubling situation took a turn for the best one evening, as Potter brought Bella to an Air Force Association Symposium in Washington, DC. She happened to run into Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh and then-Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning.
She told the senior leaders how great her therapy was and how the Air Force PTSD therapy helped her. Then she told them about her concern for regulations regarding service dogs and that one should be written. They both agreed. Now active duty Airmen and Soldiers on PTSD therapy can use working dogs to help them cope as an accepted practice.
“Bella saved my life,” Potter says. “She changed the tide of my therapy and gave me the confidence to be Captain Potter again.”
The CSAF and the SECAF gave their full support and attention to this issue and Potter now uses her story with Bella as a way to help promote getting help while in the military.
“It’s not the only way, but it was my way,” Potter remarked. “I was anorexic, divorced, and suicidal. Five month changed my life. I had horrible experience in Afghanistan, but by the time I left the military, I was happy, sleeping and had a support network to start a new life.”
Potter now lives and works in Austin, Texas. In her spare time, she volunteers with the Air Force Association and works to match service dogs to other veterans facing the struggles she once faced.
“I still think women on the battlefields is a positive thing,” she said. “War isn’t in the trenches anymore and women bring a more creative, sometimes necessary softer tone to the fight. In the future, critical thinking could be crucial to winning and I think women in these roles bring new solutions to the problems surrounding war.”
Veterans of the war in Afghanistan can tell you the country is absolutely riddled with land mines of all kinds. The country has experienced nonstop war and civil strife since the 1979 Soviet Invasion and ever since, land mines have been a constant hazard. But despite being one of the most heavily mined countries on earth, the biggest minefield is far from Afghanistan – it’s in the Sahara Desert.
Sure, there are plenty of war zones where one might expect a minefield, especially in North Africa. The unexploded ordnance from World War II is still a concern for North Africans, as well as the remnants of the French expulsion from Algeria, and the recent Civil War in Libya. But the world’s longest minefield is actually just south of Morocco – and it was placed there by the Moroccans.
Little known outside of Africa is the tiny territory of Western Sahara. It’s not a country, not a recognized one anyway. When Spain left the area in 1975, both Mauritania and Morocco were quick to claim it for themselves. The people who lived in the area, called Saharawis, had other ideas. They wanted their independence along with the rest of Africa, which experienced wave after wave of anti-colonial independence movements in that time frame. Forming a military and political body called the Polisario, they forced Mauritanian troops out but were unable to dislodge neighboring Morocco. Morocco has occupied the area ever since.
But the Moroccan forces weren’t able to subdue the entire country. Instead of allowing a protracted rebellion by allowing the freedom of movement between the occupied territories and the so-called “free zone” run by the Polisario, Morocco constructed a sand berm with a strip of land mines 2,700 kilometers long (that’s 1677-plus miles for non-metric people). That’s some seven million mines along the disputed boundary.
Even after the shooting stopped in 1991, Morocco made no attempt to take out the mines. In fact, it doubled down on its occupation, constructing guard towers, radar posts, and deploying thousands of troops along the berm to keep the Saharawi out of Western Sahara and detect any possible infiltrators. Civilians are constantly being blown up and maimed by the minefield, while almost no other country recognizes the Moroccan claim to Western Sahara.
U.S. President Donald Trump on April 6 ordered the Navy to fire 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles into the airfield in west Syria from where it’s believed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime launched a deadly chemical attack on April 4 that killed and injured hundreds of men, women, and children.
Russia on April 7 condemned the U.S. bombing and said it was abandoning an agreement designed to minimize the risk of in-flight incidents, such as collisions, between Russian and U.S. aircraft flying in Syria. Russian President Vladimir Putin called the strikes a violation of international law.
Russia said the U.S. bombing was carried out to distract from a March airstrike by the U.S.-led international coalition in Mosul, Iraq, where about 150 civilians died.
“The Syrian army has no chemical weapons,” Russia’s presidential press service said in a statement. “Vladimir Putin regards the U.S. strikes on Syria as an attempt to draw public attention away from the numerous civilian casualties in Iraq.”
Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Bolivia called for an immediate meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
“The U.S. opted for a show of force, for military action against a country fighting international terrorism without taking the trouble to get the facts straight,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “It is not the first time that the U.S. chooses an irresponsible approach that aggravates problems the world is facing, and threatens international security. The very presence of military personnel from the U.S. and other countries in Syria without consent from the Syrian government or a U.N. Security Council mandate is an egregious and obvious violation of international law that cannot be justified.”
Syria’s military called the U.S. bombing an “aggression” that undermined the government’s efforts to combat terrorism, which made the U.S. government a “partner” of internationally recognized terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State. The Syrian regime said there would be consequences for “those who would take such a tragic and unfounded action.”
The United States launched the Tomahawk cruise missiles — with around 60,000 pounds of explosives — within 60 seconds, targeting the al-Shayrat airfield near the city of Homs. The sea-launched missiles — which fly close to the ground to avoid radar detection — targeted planes, fuel, and other support infrastructure at the Syrian base.
Two U.S. Navy destroyers — the USS Ross and USS Porter — launched the missiles from the eastern Mediterranean Sea at about 8:40 p.m. EST, or 4:40 a.m. April 6 in Syria, the Pentagon said.
The missile strikes are the first known direct U.S. assault on the Syrian government since the country’s civil war began in 2011.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the Assad regime or Russia carried out its first airstrikes on April 7 in Khan Sheikhoun in the Idlib province — where the alleged chemical attack occurred — after the U.S. bombing that “destroyed” the regime airfield.
Authorities are assessing the chemical attack from April 4 in Syria’s Idlib province, which officials estimate killed more than 70 people and injured another 400. The strike further solidified the United States’ fierce opposition to leaving Assad in power — a leader Obama’s government repeatedly tried to remove through various means.
Syria’s civil war has resulted in the deaths of more than a half-million people. It has been a major source of tension between Washington, D.C., Damascus, and the Russian government, which remains a staunch ally of Assad’s and has provided his regime with military support.
Assad’s regime has previously been accused of carrying out chemical attacks — a claim denied by Assad and Russia.
Russia, Assad’s biggest ally, has provided military air support for Syria’s fight against Islamic State terrorists and rebels for more than a year. A U.S.-led coalition supporting the rebels has led the charge to oust Assad and has brokered multiple unsuccessful cease-fire agreements for that purpose. U.S. military troops, however, have been scarce inside Syria’s borders — as Pentagon strategists have instead chosen to maintain strictly a training and advisory role for the rebel alliance.
Russia said the United States used the allegations of the chemical attack as an excuse to bomb the Syrian regime.
“It is obvious that the cruise missile attack was prepared in advance. Any expert understands that Washington’s decision on air strikes predates the Idlib events, which simply served as a pretext for a show of force,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “There is no doubt that the military action by the U.S. is an attempt to divert attention from the situation in Mosul, where the campaign carried out among others by U.S.-led coalition has resulted in hundreds of civilian casualties and an escalating humanitarian disaster.”
Allen Cone and Doug G. Ware contributed to this report.