The fight between Turkish forces and US-backed SDF fighters in northwest Syria’s Afrin province appears to be in a tailspin.
Turkish forces have reportedly killed more than a hundred civilians, mutilated U.S.-backed SDF fighters, and even indiscriminately shot at displaced civilians attempting to flee into Turkey.
Ankara launched a massive ground and air campaign, code-named “Olive Branch,” against the U.S.-backed SDF forces in Afrin on Jan. 20 2018 in response to the U.S.’s announcement that it would train and maintain a 30,000-strong, predominately Kurdish force in the region.
Turkey views the Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.
But in the last two weeks, Turkish forces have made only limited gains in Afrin, as SDF fighters, including the YPG and all-women YPJ, appear to have put up rather stiff resistance.
At least 20 videos have surfaced showing YPG forces targeting, and in many instances destroying, invading Turkish tanks and armored vehicles with anti-tank guided missile systems. Freelance journalist Aris Roussinos compiled a Twitter thread of those videos here.
On Feb. 03 2018, YPG fighters killed seven Turkish soldiers, including five in one attack on a tank, according to The Guardian.
SDF fighters have also responded with occasional rocket fire across the border into Turkey, according to The Washington Post. One of those attacks killed a teenage girl and wounded another civilian in the Turkish town of Reyhanli.
But these attacks appear to have only incensed Turkish forces.
A number of graphic videos have appeared on social media showing Turkish-backed rebels mutilating dead YPG fighters.
On Feb. 01 2018, videos emerged showing Turkish-backed rebels kicking the dead corpse of a female YPG fighter named Barin Kobani and discussing whether she was attractive after stripping off her clothes and cutting off her breasts.
A YPJ spokeswoman told AFP that Kobani and three other female fighters were battling Turkish-backed forces, refused to withdraw, and “fought until death.”
“I swear to God, we’ll avenge you,” Kobani’s brother, 30-year-old Aref Mustafa Omar, cried out at her funeral, AFP reported.
Another incredibly graphic video appeared on Twitter apparently showing Turkish forces kicking and stepping on the body of a dead male YPG fighter.
These disturbing instances have coincided with a Human Rights Watch report released on Feb. 03 2018 saying that Turkish border guards are indiscriminately shooting at civilians trying to flee Afrin and returning the asylum-seekers.
Turkish border guards are also reportedly beating detained asylum-seekers and refusing them medical care, Human Rights Watch reported. Between Dec. 15 2017 and Jan. 22 2018, more than 247,000 Syrians in Afrin were displaced to the border, according to the UN.
On Feb. 04 2018, thousands of people reportedly gathered in the Afrin town of Kobane and are currently traveling to the city of Afrin in support.
Kurds in other countries around the world, such as Lebanon and Germany, are also protesting Turkey’s operations in Afrin.
Turkey itself has even detained nearly 600 people for social-media posts criticizing the invasion, according to Reuters.
The world is full of unwritten rules. Don’t make eye contact over a urinal wall. Order your usual or cheaper food when a friend is picking up the tab. I before E except after C or when sounded as eh as in neighbor and weigh, or when its the word science and a bunch of other exceptions. (That last one is less useful than others.) Here are seven rules that all soldiers pick up:
Yes. You suddenly outrank most people in the room. Congratulations. Now, please recognize that you don’t know anything yet.
(U.S. Army Spc. Isaiah Laster)
The LT absolutely does not outrank the sergeant major or first sergeant
Sure, on paper, all Army officers outrank all enlisted and warrant officers in the military. But new second lieutenants have zero experience in the Army while chief warrant officers 4 and 5 generally have over a decade and platoon sergeants and above have 10-ish or more experience as well. So none of those seasoned veterans are kowtowing to kids because they happen to have a diploma and commission.
Instead, they mentor the lieutenants, sometimes by explaining that the lieutenant needs to shut up and color.
“Hey, POG! Can I get my paycheck?” “No.”
(U.S. Army Sgt. Elizabeth White)
Finance will get it wrong, but you have to be nice anyways
Every time a group of soldiers goes TDY, deploy, or switch units, it’s pretty much guaranteed that at least a few of them will see screwed up paychecks. Get into an airborne slot and need jump pay? Gonna get screwed up. Per diem from a mission? Gonna get messed up.
You better be nice when you go to finance to get it fixed, though. Sure, they might be the ones who screwed it up. But the people who are rude to finance have a lot more headaches while getting pay fixed. So be polite, be professional, and just dream about beating everyone you meet.
(Caveat: If you’re overpaid, do not spend it. Finance will eventually fix the mistake and garnish your wages.)
Your plane is late. And the pilot is drunk. And the fueler is missing. It’s gonna be a while.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Alexandria Lee)
All timelines get worse with time
The initial mission or travel plans for any Army scheme will likely have time built in for breaks, for maintenance, for error. But as D-Day comes closer and closer, tweaks and changes will yank all of that flex time out of the timeline until every soldier has to spend every moment jumping out of their own butt just to keep up.
Count on it.
If it’s in your bag and kit, you have it. If it’s on the logistics plan, you might have it. If you have to request it in the field, you probably won’t have it.
(U.S. Army Spc. John Lytle)
Don’t rely on it being there unless you ruck it in
All big missions will have logistics plans, and they might be filled with all sorts of support that sounds great. You’ll get a bunch more ammo and water seven hours after the mission starts, or trucks will bring in a bunch of concertina wire and HESCO barriers, or maybe you’re supposed to have more men and weapons.
Always make a plan like nothing else will show up, like you’ll have only the people already there, the weapons already there, the water and food already there. Because, there’s always a chance that the trucks, the helicopters, or the troops will be needed somewhere else or won’t get through.
Dropping uniform tops, driving in all-terrain vehicles, and piling up sandbags are all fine. But pulling an umbrella in that same weather will cause some real heartache.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)
Officers do not carry umbrellas (neither will anyone else)
This one actually comes from a formerly written rule that literally said that male officers couldn’t carry umbrellas. But the sort of weird thing is that the official rule has been withdrawn, but almost no one carries an umbrella in uniform, and you will be struck down by the first sergeant’s lightning bolt if you tried to bring one to formation.
And God help the soldier dumb enough to bring one to the field.
Don’t steal personal items; don’t steal anything from your own unit
Look, no one likes a soldier who jacks gear. But some units like failing hand receipt inspections even less, so there’s often pressure to get the gear needed by hook or by crook. But there are some rules to grabbing gear or property. (Turns out, there is honor among thieves.)
First, you do not steal personal property. If it belongs to an individual soldier, it’s off-limits. And, if it belongs to your own unit, it’s off-limits. You don’t shift gear in your squad, in your platoon, or often in your company. But for some folks, if there are some chock blocks missing from their trucks, and the sister battalion leaves some lying around, that is fair game.
The guy at the front of the formation is a wealth of knowledge, knowledge that most of his students will be told to forget at some point.
(U.S. Army Spc. Tynisha L. Daniel)
Doesn’t matter how your last unit/drill instructor did it
This is possibly the most important. New soldiers go through all sorts of training, and then their first unit does all sorts of finishing work to get them ready for combat.
But that unit doesn’t care how the drill instructors taught anything in training. And other units don’t care how that first unit did business. Every unit has its own tactics, techniques, and procedures. So when you arrive at a new unit, stash everything you learned before that into a corner of your brain to pull out when useful. But fill the rest of the grey matter with the new units techniques.
The Navy admiral who has led the service’s most elite special operators during a string of high-profile scandals will leave his post in September, Military.com has confirmed.
Rear Adm. Collin Green will wrap up his term as head of Naval Special Warfare Command after two years in the position. The move, first reported by The Intercept last weekend, follows several high-profile controversies involving the command that, in part, prompted a full review of U.S. Special Operations Command’s ethics and culture.
A Navy official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the flag officer’s move, said “there is no indication he has been asked to leave early.”
“He’s leaving at the two-year point, which is a normal command tour,” the official said. “It’s premature to say he’s retiring.”
It’s not immediately clear in what position Green would serve next or who would replace him. The Intercept reported that Rear Adm. H. Wyman Howard III, a Naval Academy grad serving as head of Special Operations Command Central, will be nominated to replace Green.
Howard previously served as a commander with SEAL Team 6, which carries out some of the military’s most covert missions. The Intercept reported in 2017 that Howard gave his operators hand-made hatchets and told them ahead of missions and deployments to “bloody the hatchet.”
Green has led the Navy SEALs since September 2017 after assuming command from Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, who spent two years in the position. Of the last four flag officers who led the command, three left after two years.
Szymanski’s predecessor, Rear Adm. Brian Losey, led the command for more than three years.
The Intercept reported that Green’s tour had been set to last three years, but “the stress from his reform efforts, as well as personal issues, have taken a toll.”
Green sent a letter to his commanders in July telling them “we have a problem,” and ordering leaders to help restore discipline in the ranks. The two-star followed it up the next month with a memo to the force announcing a return to routine inspections, discipline trackers, and strict enforcement of all Navy grooming and uniform standards.
The four-page memo said the problems in the command would be met with “urgent, effective and active leadership.”
Some of those incidents caught the attention of President Donald Trump, who at one point ordered Green’s command to “Get back to business!” after the admiral considered stripping a former SEAL of his coveted trident pin.
Finland is facing the possibility that Russia will eventually come for some of its territory like it seized South Ossetia from Georgia and Crimea and sections of Donbass from Ukraine.
To prepare for their own possible conflict, the Finnish armed forces and other agencies are holding exercises to prepare for Putin’s hybrid warfare.
Russia’s forays into Ukraine and, to a lesser extent, Georgia, relied on cyber warfare, special operations forces, and an aggressive information campaign.
But Europe has gotten to see Russia’s playbook in action, and Petri Mäkelä of Medium.com reports that Finland is preparing to counter it with everything from their own special operators to firefighters and airport administrators.
In 14 photos, here’s how Finland is doing it:
1. First, by looking cool as they run through smoke. (Ok, that’s probably not the training objective, but come on, this looks cool.)
2. Finland held three major training events in March, each of which required that federal and local security forces worked together to counter specific threats.
3. For instance, response teams converged on an airport that was under simulated attack, seeking to eliminate the threat as quickly and safely as possible.
4. This allowed security forces to practice operating in the high-stress environment and also allowed administrators to see how they can best set up their operations to keep passengers safe in an attack.
5. The exercises required soldiers and police to fight everything from angry individuals to enemy sniper and machine gun teams.
6. Of course, no training exercise is complete without practicing how to treat the wounded.
7. That’s where the firefighters and paramedics got involved.
8. In field hospitals, medical professionals treated simulated injuries sustained in the fighting.
9. Police forces assisted in re-establishing order and protecting the local populace.
10. But the exercises also allowed the military to practice conventional operations.
11. Finnish forces took on enemy elements in the woods and snow.
12. Helicopters ferried troops to different areas. They also helped move reservists, police, and other first responders when necessary.
13. The conventional exercises included some pretty awesome weaponry.
14. Of course, even with increased conscription, new equipment, and tailored training, Finland would face a tough fight with Russia. The Russian military is one of the largest in the world and it has been training for this and other fights.
2:20 p.m. on February 20, 2020, is not a time Nikki James Zellner will soon forget.
Zellner received an emergency notification from the daycare her two sons, Ronan and Owen, attend in Virginia Beach, where the Navy family is stationed. The facility alerted parents to come pick up their children due to a carbon monoxide leak.
“When we arrived, the children and staff had been evacuated and I was starting to hear stories related to what was going on behind the scenes,” she said. “The one that gave me the biggest pause was that a teacher’s husband had to bring in a detector because the teachers and students were getting sick after hours of symptoms, and there was no detector on site, because there was no Virginia law requiring them to be.”
At that moment, the narrative for Zellner went from “this happened to my child” to “I’m not going to let this happen to anyone else’s child.”
She started by communicating directly with the daycare, asking direct questions, and refusing to jump to conclusions.
“While waiting for their feedback, I got busy researching,” Zellner explained. “I learned that carbon monoxide (CO) detectors weren’t required in Virginia schools, regardless of if they had a source for CO on-site (common sources are fuel-fired sources like furnaces, HVAC systems, kitchen appliances), if the school was built prior to 2015. It wasn’t part of the state code – and in Virginia, it wouldn’t be retrofitted to existing unless legislation was passed to make it apply.”
But Zellner’s research also uncovered a scary reality nationwide.
“Only five states require CO detectors in educational facilities like daycares, public schools, private schools and any place where children are taken care of,” she said. “How many kids and educators aren’t being protected because people just assume carbon monoxide detectors are on site?”
Zellner’s first points of contact were Senators, Representatives and Delegates that represent Virginia and her district. Then, she spoke to the Director of State Building Codes at the Department of Housing and Community Development to make sure she had a firm understanding exactly of the law and when it applied.
“I also started a petition making folks aware of the situation,” she shared. “Within three days, we had 1,000 signatures. Within the week, we had a breaking news story and a commitment from one of the Delegates to work with us on possibly introducing legislation in the 2021 session.”
To date, Zellner’s petition has more than 1,200 signatures, and her determination landed her on the front page of the Sunday edition of Virginia’s leading newspaper.
“There’s this strange feeling that comes over you when you know that you’re the person that’s supposed to do something,” Zellner emphasized. “That you have the means to do something, and you have the unique perspective to tell the story on why something needs to change. I have a background in media relations and content development, I know how to investigate and ask direct questions, I know how to navigate the political landscape after working in a nonprofit and I’m not afraid to put myself in the line of fire and make a ruckus about it. These are our children. These are our educators. It’s too big of a risk. I feel compelled to raise awareness about it – I can’t explain it any other way. All stakeholders are accountable for solving this – hopefully before it upgrades from close call to tragedy.”
What inspires you about the military community?
The most inspiring thing to me about the military community is their ability to problem solve any situation. What’s today’s mission? How can we help each other? What’s our end goal? This isn’t just the service members – these are the wives, the mil-kids, the support givers – it truly is a community of givers. And it’s up to each member of the community to give more than they take – and I think that really sets the military community apart.
What piece of advice would you give to fellow military spouses?
The biggest piece of advice I have for military spouses is to share your stories. Get comfortable talking about the uncomfortable. Humanize your experiences and make those connections. If we as a group want people to understand our lives, we have to share our lives not just inside but outside of the military community.
What is your life motto?
“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re going to stay silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
If you could pick one song as the theme song of your life, what would it be and why?
‘No Hard Feelings’ by The Avett Brothers. The Avett Brothers have some of the most honest music out there – and this one just really hits home for me. For me, it’s really about forgiving and being forgiven – and just being able to distinguish what’s important and what’s not so you can live a meaningful life. I think it’s my theme song because even after some really impossible hardships, I’m still able to take gifts from those moments instead of just pain.
What’s your superpower?
I have a fierce love for my people. I will turn superhuman when it comes to their needs – regardless of how much time I have or what’s going on in my life. If you’re someone I trust and love, I will spring into action for you in the biggest way possible.
Taiwan lost one of its largest diplomatic allies when the Dominican Republic cut ties to officially establish relations with China instead.
Within the communique to create diplomatic relations with China, which was signed by the Dominican foreign minister in Beijing on May 1, 2018, was the declaration that “the Government of the Dominican Republic severs ‘diplomatic relations’ with Taiwan as of this day.”
Taiwan’s foreign minister Joseph Wu said his government is “deeply upset” about the two countries new ties.
Taiwan’s political situation is highly contentious as the democratic island is self-ruled, and a pro-independence party has been in power since 2016.
But Beijing considers Taiwan to be a province of China that will eventually be fully reunified.
As a result, China refuses to have diplomatic relations with nations that deal diplomatically with Taiwan, as that treats the island like an independent country. And if Taiwan’s global recognition increased, that could jeopardize China’s claim to the island.
A statement released by the Dominican Republic confirmed the nation’s changed allegiances.
“The Dominican Republic recognizes that there is only one China in the world, and Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Chinese territory,” the statement read.
Without the Dominican Republic, there are only 19 remaining countries that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, notably Guatemala, Burkino Faso, and Haiti.
Dollar diplomacy may have been a factor
The statement released by Taiwan’s foreign ministry hints at the nation’s growing frustration at China.
While being headlined and initially formatted the same as similar statements in the past, it’s roughly twice the normal length and overtly calls out China’s method of picking off Taiwan’s allies.
“We strongly condemn China’s objectionable decision to use dollar diplomacy to convert Taiwan’s diplomatic allies,” the statement read. “Developing nations should be aware of the danger of falling into a debt trap when engaging with China.”
China has a pattern of picking off Taiwan’s allies when a democratic party is in power, and using what’s commonly called “debt trap diplomacy” to offer aid and loans for infrastructure to poorer countries in an effort to build its global Belt and Road Initiative.
But it appears Beijing may be using the same techniques to now lure countries away from Taiwan, with what the island calls “false promises of investment and aid.”
“This was the result of China’s efforts in offering vast financial incentives for the Dominican Republic to end their 77 years of diplomatic relations with Taiwan. It also follows China’s actions last year in establishing diplomatic relations with Panama.”
Taiwan’s foreign ministry warned that former allies Costa Rica and Sao Tome and Principe have yet to receive more than $1 billion worth of assistance from China.
May 1, 2018, The Australian reported that the Solomon Islands, one of Taiwan’s six allies in the Pacific, is looking to China for investment for an airport, a move that could worry Taipei.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
During the COVID-19 crisis, President Trump has been holding daily briefings from the White House to provide updates on the pandemic. Now, the president is extending an opportunity for service members and their families to listen in on a conference call hosted especially for them, to discuss the status of COVID-19 and how it impacts the military.
The Department of Defense announced the call on social media, requesting that interested parties RSVP via a provided link.
According to the Center for Disease Control, as of March 31, 2020, there were 163,539 total cases of COVID-19 reported in the United States and 2,860 deaths. The military announced they will no longer be releasing numbers of infected service members due to security reasons.
The U.S. military alleges Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL from California-based SEAL Team 7, murdered a teenage ISIS detainee and then posed with the corpse during a re-enlistment ceremony. NCIS investigators are also looking into allegations the SEAL killed civilians with a sniper rifle and threatened to intimidate other SEALs who would testify against him.
Gallagher proclaimed his innocence immediately after his 2017 arrest, one made while he was receiving treatment for traumatic brain injury at Camp Pendleton. Ever since, it is alleged that the SEAL has been held in inhumane conditions at the Navy’s Consolidated Brig Miramar.
Not anymore, by order of the Commander-In-Chief.
Gallagher’s platoon leader, Lt. Jacob X. “Jake” Portier, is also being prosecuted for his role in trying to cover up the alleged incidents. Unlike Gallagher, Portier is not under arrest or otherwise confined. California and federal legislators want Gallagher to also be released while awaiting trial, not languishing in Miramar with “sex offenders, rapists, and pedophiles.” The Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar is located some 10 miles north of San Diego and houses the Navy’s Sex Offender Treatment Program.
“(Gallagher) risked his life serving abroad to protect the rights of all of us here at home,” North Carolina Rep. Ralph Norman, said at a rally. “He had not one deployment, not two deployments, but eight deployments … We urge this be fixed In light of his bravery, his patriotism and his rights as an American citizen.”
Chief Gallagher after his 2017 arrest.
Some 40 members of Congress asked the Navy to “analyze whether a less severe form of restraint would be appropriate” for Gallagher instead of the usual pre-trial confinement. Those members of Congress included former Navy SEALs, Marine Corps veterans, and others from both sides of the political aisle. Representative Norman spoke to President Trump personally about the matter.
“To confine any service member for that duration of time, regardless of the authority to do so, sends a chilling message to those who fight for our freedoms,” the lawmakers said. Gallagher’s family has already publicly thanked President Trump for his intervention.
A United States Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft and a Chinese KJ-200 airborne early warning plane nearly collided over the South China Sea – the first such incident in the presidency of Donald Trump and reminiscent of a similar encounter that occurred in the first months of the George W. Bush administration.
The two planes reportedly came within 1,000 feet of each other. Incidents like this have not been unusual in the region. While not as close as past encounters (some of which had planes come within 50 feet of each other), this is notable because the KJ-200 is based on the Y-8, a Chinese copy of the Russian Antonov An-12 “Cub” transport plane.
Many of the past incidents in recent years involved J-11 Flankers, a Chinese knock-off of the Su-27 Flanker. Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and EP-3E electronic surveillance planes were involved in some of these encounters, which drew sharp protests from the Pentagon. China also carried out the brazen theft of an American unmanned underwater vehicle last December.
Perhaps the most notable incident in the South China Sea was the 2001 EP-3 incident. On April 1, 2001, a Navy EP-3E collided with a People’s Liberation Army Navy Air Force J-8 “Finback” fighter. The EP-3E made an emergency landing on Hainan Island, where the 24 crew were detained for ten days before being released.
Such incidents may be more common. FoxNews.com reported that during his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a hard line on Chinese actions in the South China Sea.
Popular comedic actor and retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Rob Riggle volunteered his time to star in a new public service announcement to help showcase the strengths of military veterans.
The PSA titled “What to Wear” is the third in a series created by Easter Seals Dixon Center, a non-profit changing the conversation about veterans and military families to highlight their potential and create life-changing opportunities.
The majority of the PSA’s production team were made up of veterans, including actor and Air Force veteran Brice Williams, who co-stars with Riggle, and director Jim Fabio, who currently serves as an Air Force Combat Camera Officer (all three are pictured above). Fabio was selected out of more than 50 directors — all military veterans — and was mentored by Hollywood producer-writer Judd Apatow during the process.
Brooks last year on his 110th birthday holding a photo of himself from 1943 (National World War II Museum)
During WWII, African-American soldiers were segregated into black units under the command of white officers. One of these soldiers was Lawrence Brooks, who served with the 91st Engineer Battalion in the Pacific Theater. As an engineer, he and his comrades built vital airstrips, roads, and bridges in places like New Guinea and the Philippines. On September 12, 2020, Brooks, the oldest known living WWII veteran, turned an incredible 111 years old.
Brooks lowers his mask and raises a drink to his guests (National World War II Museum)
For the past six years, the New Orleans native has celebrated his birthday at the National World War II Museum. The tradition was the result of a chance meeting between Brooks and Lee Crean, the father of the museum’s vice president for education and access at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. “I thought, ‘Gee whiz, if he’s a World War II vet who’s that old, we need to do something,'” Crean said.
Because of the coronavirus, Brooks was unable to celebrate his birthday at the museum this year. Instead, the museum arranged for the celebration to be brought to him. The museum’s vice president, Peter Crean, put out a public request for people to mail in birthday cards for Brooks. Though letters were still arriving, museum staff arrived at Brooks’ house on his birthday with a carload of mail. Crean personally hauled another two bins of mail addressed to the WWII vet. As of Brooks’ birthday, a total of 9,768 cards, letters, and packages have arrived from all 50 states, plus Guam, the Virgin Islands, and five other countries.
The festivities also included entertainment. The Victory Belles, a trio of 1940s-themed singers, performed “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B” and “Lift Every Voice and Sing” on the sidewalk in front of Brooks’ home as he danced and sang along on his front porch. Up above, a squadron of four WWII-era aircraft piloted by the Aeroshell Aerobatic Team flew low and in tight formation over Brooks’ home. Brooks’ grandchildren and great-grandchildren also handed out gift bags for guests who drove by the home in the socially-distanced car parade.
Brooks, the Victory Belles, and guests look on as the aerobatic team conducts their flyover (National World War II Museum)
From his front porch, Brooks smiled through his face mask and waved at the guests. “God bless all of you. Every one of you,” he said. Brooks is the father of five children, 13 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren. When asked by National Geographic, Brooks said that his key to a good life is, “Serve God, and be nice to people.”
In combat, logistic resources are arguably the most important assets needed to sustain soldiers. “Beans and Bullets” is a common Army phrase utilized for decades that puts a special emphasis behind the importance of logisticians and their capabilities.
Since arriving into theater soldiers of the 824th Rigger detachment, North Carolina National Guard, and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade have teamed up to tackle the demanding requirements of rigging equipment and air dropping resources to sustain the warfighter.
Aerial resupply operations is a valuable asset to U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. It is the most reliable means of distribution when ground transportation and alternate means have been exhausted. Aerial resupply enable warfighters in austere locations to accomplish their mission and other objectives.
“Aerial delivery is extremely vital and essential to mission success,” said Chief Warrant Officer Two Freddy Reza, an El Paso Texas native, and the senior airdrop systems technician with the 101st RSSB. “Soldiers in austere environments depend on us to get them food, water, and other resources they need to stay in the fight.”
Soldiers of the 824th Quartermaster Company and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade load rigged pallets of supplies on to a C-130 aircraft. Soldiers conduct their final aerial inspection with Air Force loadmasters before delivery.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford)
All airdrop missions require approval authority through an operation order. Once approved, parachute riggers from both units work diligently to get the classes of supplies bundled and rigged on pallets for aerial delivery in under hours 24 hours.
Since arriving to Afghanistan, this team has delivered more than 150,000 pounds of supplies varying from food, water, and construction material. Mission dependent, sometimes the rigger support team is responsible for filling the request of more than three dozen bundles, carefully packing the loads and cautiously inspecting the pallets before pushing them out for delivery.
Aerial delivery operations have substantially contributed to the success of enduring expeditionary advisory packages and aiding the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade while they train, advise, and assist Afghan counterparts.
“This deployment has helped developed me to expand my knowledge as a parachute rigger,” said Spc. Kiera Butler, a Panama City, Florida native and Parachute Rigger with the 824th Quartermaster Company. “This job has a profound impact on military personnel regardless of the branch. I take pride in knowing I’m helping them carry out their mission.”
Item preservation is important; depending on the classes of supply, some items are rigged and prepared in non-conventional locations. Regardless of the location the rigger support team does everything in their power to ensure recipients receive grade “A” quality.
“During the summer months it would sometimes be 107 degrees, with it being so hot we didn’t want the food to spoil so we rigged in the refrigerator. This allowed the supplies to stay cold until it was time to be delivered,” said Butler. “It was a fun experience and we want to do whatever we can to preserve the supplies for the Soldiers receiving it.”
Soldiers of the 824th Quartermaster Company and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade rigged several bundles of food and water at the Bagram, Afghanistan rigger shed. The rigged supplies will be loaded on to an aircraft and delivered to the requesting unit.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford)
The rigger support team continuously strives for efficiency. Through meticulous training, they have been able to execute emergency resupply missions utilizing Information Surveillance Reconnaissance feed. This capability allows the rigger support team to observe the loads being delivered, ensuring it lands in the correct location.
When they are not supplying warfighters with supplies, Reza and his team conduct rodeos to train, advise and assist members of the Afghan National Army logistical cell, and NATO counterparts on how to properly rig and inspect loads for aerial resupply.
“During training we express how important attention to detail is, being meticulous is the best way to ensure the load won’t be compromised when landing,” said Reza. “Overall it was a great opportunity to train and educate our Afghan National Army counterparts on aerial delivery operations.
This training will enable the Afghan National Army logistics cell to provide low cost low altitude — LCLA loads to their counterparts on the ground, utilizing C-208 aircrafts. This training is vital to the progress of the ANA logistics cell as they continue to grow and become more efficient.
After battling night terrors and the pain and anxiety of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for decades, an Air Force veteran found his lifeline at the end of a dog leash.
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager in the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, vividly remembers a few years ago when he would regularly find himself in the depths of fear and despair; reliving troubling images from deployments as a security forces military working dog handler and later as a logistics specialist.
Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said she felt helpless, with no idea how to help him.
“You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them. It’s a terrible feeling watching someone suffer through PTSD,” she said.
Those memories seemed so hopeless at times that Kaono attempted to end his life.
After taking numerous prescription drugs in 2010 in a bid to permanently end his pain, Kaono finally reached out for help and started receiving the support and understanding he needed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
“I had previously attempted (suicide) but this time I actually sought treatment,” Kaono said.
After being hospitalized for his suicide attempt, the veteran began a treatment program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Los Angeles.
“When I was first diagnosed, group therapy didn’t work for me,” the Hawaii-native said, “so I actually left the group and started volunteering at a (German Shepherd) rescue in California.”
Dogs had always played a part in Kaono’s life from when, as a toddler, his family’s old English sheepdog, Winston, picked him up by the diaper to deliver a wandering Ryan back to his front yard.
“I realized (while volunteering at the rescue) that the interaction with the dogs really made me feel better,” he said.
Not content to just help himself, Kaono worked with the VA hospital to help other veterans interact with the rescue dogs and promoted animal therapy.
“The VA does equestrian therapy where they’ll take veterans to horse ranches and they get to ride horses … same premise, animal therapy works wonders,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Kaono, with a wealth of dog training knowledge from his time as a MWD handler, had veterans asking for help to train dogs so they could have their own service animals.
This support was especially important to Kaono since the average wait time for a VA-trained service dog can exceed two to five years.
“By then, we’ve already lost between 9,000 – 20,000 people due to suicide in a five-year period,” he said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
That’s based on a 2013 Department of Veterans Affairs study that showed roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide every day from 1999-2010.
“That’s just way too many,” he said.
During this time, while helping to train dogs for other veterans, Kaono decided to add his name to the list for a VA-issued service dog.
After a two-year wait, he was notified they were ready to pair him with a dog. During the interview process, however, he was denied an animal because he already had a couple of dogs as pets and service dogs can’t be added to a home unless it is pet free.
“I was disheartened,” he said, but he continued to help train animals for other veterans.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is no mandated certification for a service dog and it allows people to train their own animals. So three years ago, when Kaono moved to San Antonio, his wife encouraged him to work on training his own service dog.
“I thought I’d just take one of the dogs we had at our house and train it to be a service dog,” Kaono said, until Alessa pointed out a Chihuahua probably wasn’t the best choice for his particular needs.
He then decided to work with San Antonio’s Quillan Animal Rescue to find a potential service dog. The rescue suggested a Doberman at first but Kaono wasn’t interested in such a large animal. One of the workers then recommended a mixed breed animal named Romeo that was in need of rehabilitation after being hit by a car. The only drawback was Romeo had already been promised to another family in California after his recovery.
“I said yes because that would give me the opportunity to work with a dog again,” Kaono said.
That was February 2016 and by May, he and Romeo were inseparable, Kaono said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
By June, Romeo had recovered and he was sent to California. Kaono said he was heartbroken.
“I secluded myself. I didn’t want to go to work. I took sick leave … I just didn’t want to be around anybody and make connections with people like I did with him and have them shattered,” he said.
“Romeo was kind of a fluke,” he added, because the California family decided they couldn’t keep him so Romeo returned to San Antonio.
When Romeo arrived back in Texas, Kaono had a trainer from Service Dog Express assess him. The local organization works with veterans to train service animals. Romeo passed the evaluation and was accepted as a service dog in training.
Kaono and the trainer then used techniques from Assistance Dogs International, considered the industry standard for dog training, to ready Romeo. Two months later, Romeo took the organization’s public access test, the minimum requirement for service dog training, and “blew the test away,” Kaono said.
He’s been going to work with the AFIMSC employee every day since passing his assessment on Aug. 1, 2016.
For Kaono, Romeo is much more than a four-legged companion. He’s a lifesaver who is trained in various disability mitigating tasks to help the veteran cope with PTSD.
These include deep pressure therapy where Romeo climbs into Kaono’s lap when he can sense anxiousness, agitation or frustration. He then applies direct pressure to the veteran’s body, considered a grounding technique, to bring focus to him instead of what’s causing the anxiety or agitation.
“Before him, I would have to sit there through it until it essentially went away,” Kaono said. “Now within two minutes I’m back to normal. I’m back to being productive again.”
Romeo also applies blocking techniques when the duo are in a group or crowded space to create a buffer between Kaono and those around him.
“People are cognizant of him being there so they give me the space to actually feel comfortable,” Kaono said.
The service dog also fosters personal interaction, Kaono added.
“I don’t make solid relationships with people,” he explained. “I would prefer to be and work alone. Having Romeo actually forces me to interact with people on a regular basis. He causes people to talk about things that aren’t necessarily work related. He’s a calming factor, not just for me.”
Romeo has completely changed Kaono’s life to allow him to better “live” with PTSD, Alessa said.
“I’m sure many people say this about their dog or service dog but Romeo’s truly a godsend,” she said. “He has changed and impacted our lives in so many ways.
“He’s gotten Ryan out more when it comes to crowds,” Alessa said, and Romeo is Kaono’s “sidekick and stress reliever at work.”
When the duo get home, Alessa added, Romeo “is just like any other dog … he loves to play and loves treats, especially ice cream.”