In 1949, six men gathered in Indianapolis for the last meeting of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans organization. At its peak, it boasted 400,000 members with thousands of posts nationwide. By 1949, however, only 16 remained. And only six were able to make the trek to Indianapolis. One of those was 108-year-old James Hard, a veteran of the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville.
In the next four years, all but one of those would have died, and with them, the firsthand memory of Civil War combat.
The battle standard of James Hard’s Civil War infantry unit.
The only one of the six to outlive Hard would be Albert Woolson, the last known member of the Union Army and the last undisputed surviving member on any side of the Civil War. But Woolson never saw action as a member of a heavy artillery unit from Minnesota. Hard was the last surviving Union combat veteran of the Civil War.
Between 1900 and into World War II, the surviving number of American Civil War veterans began to dwindle at an exponential rate, much like what the U.S. is seeing with its World War II veterans today. The Grand Army of the Republic held marches, and a yearly meeting called the Encampment to celebrate those veterans who served and to make sure they held on to their hard-won rights.
A 1912 Grand Army of the Republic parade marching through downtown Los Angeles.
James Hard was born in Rochester, New York around 1843. He lied about his age in 1861 to be able to join the Union Army. He joined the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also known as the Irish Rifles, in May 1861 and his service record verified his claim.
His unit was stationed around Washington, DC until Gen. Irvin McDowell used the 37th as a reserve unit in the battle of First Bull Run. McDowell had never led troops in combat and was soundly beaten. Its biggest loss came at Chancellorsville in 1863 when it lost more than 200 men to night fighting and a surprise attack during a flawed, unorganized retreat. A young James Hard was present for all of it.
The last of America’s Union Army, gathered in an Indianapolis ballroom in 1949.
By the time the First World War came around GAR membership was still very strong, its encampment still bringing in numbers just shy of a half a million or so. By the time the United States entered World War II, however, the Civil War veterans time had passed, and with their memory went so many of their numbers. In 1942, just over 500 Civil War veterans were on the rolls of the Grand Army of the Republic.
At the outset of the Cold War and the Atomic Age, only 16 remained. They were too frail to walk in any parades and had to be accompanied to Indianapolis by their Veterans Administration nurses. They drove through the parade route in vehicles, machines that were a very new invention to them.
The US believes North Korea fired a missile shortly before midnight Japan time, or 11 am EST July 28, a defense official confirmed to Business Insider — and initial estimates indicate it could be the longest-range missile ever tested by the Hermit Kingdom.
“I can confirm that we detected a launch of a ballistic missile from North Korea,” Lt. Col. Christopher Logan told Business Insider. “We assess that this missile was an intercontinental ballistic missile, as had been expected” Capt. Jeff Davis later said in a Pentagon release.
Ankit Panda, a senior editor at the Asia-focused news website The Diplomat, cited a US source as saying that the missile flew for 47 minutes, reaching an altitude of 2,300 miles and traveling 620 miles. Such a long flight time and high crest suggest a tremendous range.
While North Korea had already demonstrated an intercontinental range with the July 4 test of its Hwasong-14 ICBM, the missile launched July 28 appeared capable of reaching New York or Washington, DC. Yet as with the previous launch, it is unclear whether North Korea has developed the technology to accurately deliver a nuclear warhead to the US mainland.
The missile on July 28 may have landed in Japan’s exclusive economic zone, according to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK.
As launching an ICBM at full range could easily be interpreted as an act of war, North Korea lofts its missiles on a steep angle. Therefore a missile that flies only a few hundred miles toward Japan can still demonstrate a range of many thousands of miles.
For weeks, US intelligence monitoring North Korean military sites had predicted another missile test. July 27 marked the Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War, a North Korean holiday celebrating the end of the Korean War on July 27, 1953.
North Korea has a pattern of launching missiles on historically significant dates, like its July 4 debut of an ICBM, but the weather July 27 was poor, possibly preventing a launch.
Typically, North Korea waits until the day after a launch to release photos or video from the event, which researchers analyze for insights into Pyongyang’s shadowy missile program.
Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says he made clear to U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton that Armenia will pursue its national interests and maintain “special relations” with its neighbor Iran.
Addressing the Armenian parliament on Nov. 1, 2018, Pashinian said he told Bolton when he visited Yerevan in October 2018 that Armenia is a landlocked nation that does not have diplomatic relations with either neighboring Turkey or Azerbaijan, so it must retain “special relations” with its other two neighbors — Iran and Georgia — which he said are Armenia’s only “gateways” to the outside world.
“I reaffirm the position that we should have special relations with Iran and Georgia that would be as far outside geopolitical influences as possible. This position was very clearly formulated also during my meeting with Mr. Bolton, and I think that the position of Armenia was clear, comprehensible, and even acceptable to representatives of the U.S. delegation,” the Armenian leader said.
Bolton visited the Caucasus nations of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan in October 2018 in part to push for compliance with the sanctions that the United States is reimposing on Iran’s oil and financial sectors on November 5 after withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in April 2018.
U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Oct. 25, 2018, Bolton said he told Pashinian that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will enforce sanctions against Iran “very vigorously.” For that reason, he said, the Armenian-Iranian border is “going to be a significant issue.”
“Obviously, we don’t want to cause damage to our friends in the process,” Bolton added.
Pashinian told the parliament that his response to Bolton was: “We respect any country’s statement and respect the national interests of any country, but the Republic of Armenia has its own national and state interests, which do not always coincide with the interests and ideas of other countries, any other country.
“Let no one doubt that we are fully building our activities on the basis of Armenia’s national interest – be it in our relations with the United States, Iran, Russia, all countries.”
Pashinian made his remarks in response to a lawmaker’s question about what effect the U.S. sanctions on Iran would have on Armenia.
Days after his talks with Pashinian and other foreign leaders, Bolton conceded that the White House is unlikely to achieve its stated goal of reducing Iran’s oil exports to “zero” under the sanctions.
“We understand, obviously, [that] a number of countries — some immediately surrounding Iran, some of which I just visited last week, others that have been purchasing oil [from Iran] — may not be able to go all the way to zero immediately. So, we want to achieve maximum pressure [on Iran], but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either, and we are working our way through that,” Bolton told the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington on Oct. 31, 2018.
A hard-liner who has pushed for the toughest possible sanctions on Iran, Bolton’s remarks suggested for the first time that the White House may be preparing to grant waivers from the sanctions to some countries like India, Turkey, and South Korea that have requested them.
Still, Bolton insisted that the sanctions already are having a powerful effect on Iran’s economy, in particular helping to cause a collapse in Iran’s currency, the rial, in 2018.
“Already, you see reduction in purchases in countries like China that you would not have expected — countries that are still in the nuclear deal [with Iran]. We have also seen Chinese financial institutions withdrawing from engaging in transactions with Iran. European businesses are fleeing the Iranian market. Most of the big ones are already out,” he said.
“I will not take my own life by my own hand until I talk to my battle buddy first. My mission is to find a mission to help my warfighter family,” reads the Spartan Pledge, a new initiative started by Cutler.
The pledge started between Cutler and his battle buddy Nacho who served in Iraq with him. They lost touch after the military, but were brought together after Nacho’s friend – who was also a veteran – committed suicide.
The Spartan pledge was created after they both admitted to each other of having suicidal thoughts and not talking about it. Realizing the disproportional suicide rate among veterans, Cutler started engaging other war buddies with his pledge starting a viral effect.
According to Boone, the pledge ensures that veterans take care of themselves, take care of their own, and maintain a mission focus.
Here’s Boone’s video. He requests that you please pass it along.
NOW: This disabled veteran describes his scars of war with incredible slam poetry. Watch the video
Super Bowl commercials that honor military veterans aren’t new, and odds are they’re not going anywhere because dammit they’re effective.
The 2017 Hyundai Super Bowl commercial is no exception. Troops stationed in Poland were treated to a surprise when Hyundai gave them a special Super Bowl screening experience. What they didn’t know was that a few of their family members were also getting a treat.
While the service members watched the game in fully immersive, 360-degree live streaming pods, their families joined them via a Super Bowl LI box suite, complete with huggable high-tech teddy bears (wearing the uniform of the day) and cameras that allowed the family members to livestream with their heroes.
Hyundai teamed up with director Peter Berg (Deepwater Horizon, Lone Survivor) to shoot, edit, and broadcast the event.
“I’m honored to have worked on this project with the troops and [Hyundai] for the Super Bowl. Thank you for your service, and thank you for letting me be part of this,” Berg said.
The Trump administration’s plan to bring US troops in Syria back home is being complicated by renewed attacks from the terrorist group ISIS, according to The Wall Street Journal.
ISIS has lost the vast majority of its territory and fighters over the past year or so, but many of the fighters who remained fled to the desert and are using stashed weapons and ammunition to stage attacks in both Iraq and Syria.
Prior to retreating from its strongholds in cities like Raqqa, Syria and Mosul, Iraq, ISIS reportedly dug tunnels and set up sleeper cells in the desert that stretches across Iraq and Syria.
According to the report, this is a sign ISIS was more prepared for a military collapse than the US may have anticipated. It also means US troops in Syria might have to stay longer than the Trump administration previously thought because removing them could create a big window of opportunity for ISIS.
As Defense Secretary James Mattis said in late in June, 2018, “Some of you are questioning whether ISIS was completely taken down. … Just bear with us; there’s still hard fighting ahead.”
Mattis added, “It’s been hard fighting, and again, we win every time our forces go up against them. We’ve lost no terrain to them once it’s been taken.”
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The situation in Iraq and Syria is exceptionally convoluted as an array of players with competing interests, including Russia and Iran in addition to the US, fail to find common ground in terms of what should be prioritized moving forward.
Moreover, the conflicting goals of foreign forces in Iraq in Syria often clash with the priorities of local forces, further compounding the already complex circumstances on the ground.
ISIS has seemingly taken advantage of the confusion by staging attacks on an “array of adversaries,” according to The Journal, including US allies.
In early July, 2018, for example, ISIS staged its first attack in its former de facto capital, Raqqa, since it was driven from the city in October 2017. The group reportedly targeted US-backed Kurdish forces near a mosque in this attack.
Meanwhile, a recent Soufan Center report warned ISIS is looking to make a comeback by targeting Iraqi law enforcement, a tactic it embraced in 2013 before it rose to power and established a caliphate.
The Iraqi government recently executed 12 ISIS members, which was reportedly in response to the “high-profile assassination” of eight Iraqi security personnel.
Accordingly, it seems the roughly 2,000 US troops stationed in Syria will not be leaving anytime soon.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
American special operators are using a new virtual reality trainer to simulate their air insertions before they jump, allowing them to conduct near-perfect rehearsals over and over before the actual mission.
PARASIM incorporates a harness tailor-made to parachute manufacturer’s specifications, a virtual reality headset, and a digital environment using weather simulation and satellite or map imagery. All of this put together allows operators to create custom mission profiles and then practice them.
“If I need to insert a SEAL team in Syria tomorrow night, all I need is a latitude and longitude,” David Landon, president and CEO of Systems Technology Inc., told Defense News. “So by the time they actually make the jump, they’ve already done it. There are no surprises.”
The system can even handle multiple jumpers in a single simulation, allowing a unit to virtually jump as a team and work together to make the proper insertion to the target area.
Every military branch in the Department of Defense has purchased the system, according to Systems Technology Inc.’s website.
U.S. Army veteran Joshua Griffin trained with Rangers and Green Berets and saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan during his 13 years of military service. Then he decided to become an officer, join ROTC, and play college football.
The Staff Sergeant is now the oldest player in the country on a major college football team.
The 33-year-old walk-on is in his second season at Colorado State University and he credits his military service with much of his success.
Army Veteran Becomes Oldest College Football Player | NBC Nightly News
Tom Ehlers, CSU’s director of football ops, was impressed with Griffin from the start.
First of all, Griffin cold-called Ehlers in person. At 5’10” and 208 lbs, Griffin certainly looked the part.
More than that, Ehlers quickly realized that “Griffin’s military background could be useful on a young football team in need of leadership.” The problem was that Griffin didn’t have any footage of himself playing — or even the SAT or ACT scores needed to qualify for college attendance.
Still, he was persistent — another skill courtesy of the United States Army. He was finally invited to the walk-on tryouts.
The term walk-on is used to describe an athlete who earns a place on the team without being recruited or, in the case of college football, awarded an athletic scholarship.
Griffin drilled alone in the weeks before tryouts after watching the team practice.
“I would study what the coaches had them doing during individuals and then after practice I would go to these fields right here and I would do exactly what they would do,” he told ESPN.
He was one of three who made the team.
Griffin was attached to the 10th Special Forces and the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment while on active duty. His wartime experiences included 2½ years of service overseas — and he still carries unseen scars with him, including hypervigilance and trouble sleeping.
But he carries the brotherhood with him, too. The players, most of whom are a decade younger than Griffin, look up to him — a fact noticed by the coaching staff, who made him one of ten accountability leaders for the team.
“He’s a great example of what soldiers are like out there,” said Lt. Col. Troy Thomas, the professor of military science who runs CSU’s Army ROTC program.”…When you support people through their goals, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. We’ve been able to support Josh while he gets an education and plays athletics. I suspect great things for him in the future.”
The F-22A Raptor is a fifth-generation fighter incorporating fourth-generation stealth technology, radical maneuvering capabilities, the ability to fly at supersonic speed without afterburners and unprecedented pilot situational awareness, making it the most dominant and advanced air superiority fighter in the world.
The Raptor’s sophisticated aerodynamic design, advanced flight controls and thrust vectoring allows it to outmaneuver any known aircraft. A combination of sensor capability, integrated avionics, situational awareness and weapons provides F-22 pilots with a first-look, first-shot, first-kill advantage over adversaries.
The F-22 possesses a sophisticated sensor suite allowing the pilot to track, identify, shoot and kill air-to-air threats before being detected. Significant advances in cockpit design and sensor fusion improve the pilot’s situational awareness.
The F-22A Raptor was introduced Dec. 15, 2005, and a total of 187 operational aircraft were built. The last airframe was delivered to the Air Force in 2012.
Development and Design
The Raptor was developed through the Advanced Tactical Fighter program, which was initially requested by the Air Force in the 1970s to produce conceptual designs of an air-to-ground fighter to complement the air-to-air F-15 Eagle.
The Air Force needed the F-22 as a solution to emerging threats of the Soviet Su-27 Flanker, MiG 29 Fulcrum and the Chinese Shenyang J-11 multi-role fighter aircraft, to maintain air superiority after the Cold War and into the future.
Thus, the request was amended with the advancements in stealth technology and the ATF program was then charged with creating a fighter with the capabilities of speed, agility, electronic warfare and signal intelligence into a stealth airframe which could also provide precision long-rage air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry.
The Air Force selected the two proposals of contract teams Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics and Northrop/McDonnell Douglas, to produce prototypes for flight testing, the YF-22 and the YF-23. The Lockheed YF-22 was ultimately selected in 1991 with the first F-22A being delivered for flight testing in 1997.
The Raptor is equipped with two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 afterburning turbofan engines producing 35,000 pounds of thrust each, more than any current fighter. The jet is capable of Mach 1.82 during supercruise, or sustained supersonic flight without afterburners, and able to reach speeds over Mach 2 with afterburners.
In the air-to-air configuration the Raptor carries six AIM-120 AMRAAMs and two AIM-9 Sidewinders. The Raptor also has an internally mounted M61A Vulcan 20 mm-rotary canon embedded inside the right wing.
The Raptor’s ability to collect and share tactical information with legacy aircraft enables U.S. and allied forces to engage targets with unmatched battlespace awareness. With the data processed with the Raptor’s advanced avionics sensors and radars, the aircraft can even designate targets for allies.
During the F-22’s first Operational Readiness Inspection the aircraft was rated excellent in all categories with a 221-0 kill ratio against opposing aircraft.
The F-22 has a significant capability to attack surface targets from high cruise speeds and altitudes. In the air-to-ground configuration the aircraft can carry two 1,000-pound GBU-32 Joint Direct Attack Munitions internally.
The Raptor has the ability to deploy 1,000-pound bombs from 50,000 feet while cruising at Mach 1.5, and can strike a moving target 24 miles away.
Operation and Deployment
Air Force units that operate the F-22 Raptor include:
The 27th Fighter Squadron, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia
The 94th Fighter Squadron, JB Langley-Eustis, Virginia
The 149th Fighter Squadron, Virginia Air National Guard
The 19th Fighter Squadron, JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii
The 199th Fighter Squadron, Hawaii Air National Guard
The 43rd Fighter Squadron, Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida
The 95th Fighter Squadron, Tyndall AFB, Florida
The 301st Fighter Squadron, Tyndall AFB, Florida
The 90th Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
The 302nd Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
The 525th Fighter Squadron, JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska
The 433rd Weapons Squadron, Nellis AFB, Nevada
The first overseas deployment of F-22s was to Kadena Air Base, Japan in February 2007.
F-22s participated in combat sorties for the first time during Operation Inherent Resolve, dropping 1,000-pound GPS-guided bombs on Islamic State of Iraq and Syria targets during the American-led intervention in Syria.
From September 2014 to July 2015, F-22s flew 204 sorties, dropping 270 bombs on 60 different locations.
On June 23, 2015, two F-22s performed the aircraft’s first close air support mission conducting airstrikes protecting friendly forces in Syria.
Did you know?
– The F-22 Raptor has a radar cross-section smaller than a bumblebee, making it nearly undetectable.
– An F-22B two-seat variant was planned in 1996, but cancelled to save development costs.
– The radar on the F-22 changes frequencies over 1,000 times per second to deter detection by enemy forces.
F-22A Raptor Fact Sheet:
Primary function: air dominance, multi-role fighter
Contractor: Lockheed-Martin, Boeing
Power plant: two Pratt Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners and two-dimensional thrust vectoring nozzles.
Thrust: 35,000-pound class (each engine)
Wingspan: 44 feet, 6 inches (13.6 meters)
Length: 62 feet, 1 inch (18.9 meters)
Height: 16 feet, 8 inches (5.1 meters)
Weight: 43,340 pounds (19,700 kilograms)
Maximum takeoff weight: 83,500 pounds (38,000 kilograms)
Payload: same as armament air-to-air or air-to-ground loadouts; with or without two external wing fuel tanks.
Speed: mach two class with supercruise capability
Range: more than 1,850 miles ferry range with two external wing fuel tanks (1,600 nautical miles)
Ceiling: above 50,000 feet (15 kilometers)
Armament: one M61A2 20-millimeter cannon with 480 rounds, internal side weapon bays carriage of two AIM-9 infrared (heat seeking) air-to-air missiles and internal main weapon bays carriage of six AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-air loadout) or two 1,000-pound GBU-32 JDAMs and two AIM-120 radar-guided air-to-air missiles (air-to-ground loadout)
Six-pack abs for the front, traps for the back. If we had to pick one vanity muscle for your back, the trapezius would be it. Long and triangular, this muscle rides from the base of your neck, across your scapula, out to your shoulder tips, then down your spine to your mid-back. Given the real estate it covers, it’s no wonder it can give your upper back awesome definition when properly flexed.
Of course, that’s not the only reason you should give your trapezoid muscles a workout. The traps hold the key to just about every upright functional movement you want to perform, from carrying kids to lugging groceries to changing lightbulbs (seriously). These muscles give your spine and shoulders proper reinforcement and provide the tension that prevents you from slouching over at the end of a long day of work.
If you’ve never found yourself saying, “Hey, let’s make today a traps day!” Then this trap workout is for you. A 15 to 20-minute, 7-move routine, you can add it to the end of arms day, or work it in after a bout of cardio. Do it three times a week to see major changes in about a month.
1. Barbell shrug
Works: Upper traps
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell in front of you, arms extended, using an overhand grip. Keeping your arms straight, shrug your shoulders, raising the barbell several inches as you do. Relax. 8 reps, 2 sets.
Holding a light dumbbell in each hand, bend knees and hinge forward at the waist so your back is flat and parallel to the floor. Raise arms out in front of you in a Y shape, like you’re getting ready to dive into a pool. Hold five counts. Release. Repeat 8 times.
3. Farmer’s carry
Works: Upper, middle, and lower traps
Holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand, arms straight by your sides, walk around the room. Focus on keeping your spine straight and shoulders back. 60-second walks, 3 times.
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, a dumbbell in each hand. Holding weights vertically (north/south orientation), raise your arms out to the sides. Hold for two counts, slowly lower. 10 reps, 2 sets.
5. High pulls
Works: Lower traps
Stand with feet hip-width apart about three feet from the cable pull. Position the pulley at head height. Using the Y-handle, pull the cable directly toward your head, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you do. Hold two counts, release. 10 reps, 2 sets.
6. Overhead carry
Works: Upper, middle, and lower traps
Holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand, raise arms straight over your head, palms facing each other. Press shoulders down and keep your spin straight as you walk around the room. 60-second walk, 3 times.
7. Row machine
Works: Middle and lower traps
Get your cardio done along with your traps toning with 10 minutes on the erg. Focus on fully extending your arms in front of you as you push back with the quads and feet first, then squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the cable to your chest. The speed of your rowing motion will raise your heart rate, but for muscle building, it’s more important to think about good form.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Military Working Dogs, or MWDs, play a huge role in the defense of the United States — and when one of them is injured, the Veterinary Medical Center Europe plays a huge role in getting them back in the fight.
Recently, while on patrol with his handler in Afghanistan, MWD Alex, assigned to the 8th MWD Detachment, 91st Military Police Battalion, Fort Drum, New York, was injured in an attack by a suicide bomber. Following care in Bagram, Afghanistan, Alex was medically evacuated to VMCE for further treatment.
Like many of their human counterparts, when an MWD is injured while deployed, they are often medically evacuated to Germany. Service members are transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for care, and MWDs are transported to VMCE for comprehensive veterinary care.
According to Maj. Renee Krebs, VMCE deputy director and veterinary surgeon, when Alex arrived in Germany, he had a fractured left tibia, shrapnel wounds, and multiple other fractures below and above his shin bone.
On the day he arrived, Krebs performed surgery to stabilize Alex’s leg, “which worked pretty well,” she said. “But his other wound, particularly the one over his ankle, started to get worse and worse every day despite appropriate medical therapy and pain management.”
Maj Renee Krebs, Veterinary Medical Center Europe Deputy Director and Veterinary Surgeon, greets Alex, Military Working Dog from the 91st Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, prior to surgery.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )
Alex’s wound over his ankle was getting so bad that it would likely require up to six months of reconstructive and orthopedic surgery. And because of bone and tissue loss, he was also at a very high risk for infection.
In addition to this, Krebs said that Alex was “not using the limb as well as he had been the first week or so after surgery — it was getting more painful. And he began to develop some behavioral problems, centered on some of the things we had to do when we were treating him.”
Krebs said some of the behavioral problems included aggression and snapping when the team would move him to the table to do treatments.
“I spoke to a behaviorist about it and she thought he was having some post-traumatic stress disorder-type acute episodes,” Krebs said. “So we changed the way we were managing him, but he was still getting worse, so in the interest of allowing him to move on with his life and improve his quality of life, we went with amputation.”
Krebs said that had they not performed the amputation, it was likely that Alex would have still ended up losing his leg if they had gone with the option of three to six months’ of wound management.
“The risk was very high. It was a very guarded prognosis to begin with that he would ever have normal return of function to the leg, and I knew if I amputated his leg he would be functional as a pet or regular dog probably within a week — so it seemed like the best option for him.”
Alex was described as relatively calm by Krebs, and during his time at the VMCE, the staff learned more about him, enabling them to cater to his needs and ensure he was comfortable.
“MWDs run the gamut from very high strung, very nervous and needing to be restrained because they have so much energy and are so anxious, to being very mellow,” Krebs said. “Alex was sort of a strange combination — he was relatively calm, but there were things that you knew if you did them he was going to get angry, like touching his tail.”
At Alex’s home unit, Sgt. First Class David Harrison, kennel master for the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, said Alex always felt like an old soul to him.
“[Alex has] the experience of a career soldier, and always carried himself in a way which always made trainers and handlers just believe he was focused on the mission at hand,” Harrison said. “He carries the ability to simply be a fun-loving dog who values his rapport with his handler as much as he enjoys executing his duties.”
Military Working Dog Alex is recovering well following leg amputation surgery, after suffering extensive wounds in a suicide bomber attack in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Ashley Patoka )
Even while recovering from his injury and going through surgery, Alex was teaching those around him some important lessons.
“It’s tragic what happened,” said Spc. Landon DeFonde, MWD handler with the 8th MWD detachment at Fort Drum, who has been with Alex for his recovery in Germany. “But it just goes to show how selfless and resilient these animals are. For him to go through that blast and still be as strong as he is and kind and gentle towards people, it really amazes me that what they are capable of living through and surviving through. It definitely teaches me resiliency.”
But these lessons don’t just come when an injury happens, as the relationship between MWD and handler is one that both benefit from over the course of their pairing.
“The relationship between handlers and their partners is a relationship I’ve always found difficult to put into words,” Harrison said. “It’s a familial bond, but it almost goes deeper in some ways. The co-dependent nature of the business puts handlers in a position where they have to give more trust to their canine than most put in fellow humans. It’s not always a comfortable or easy process, but once they reach the point where they independently trust each other while working in tandem, the connection the team develops is unparalleled.”
DeFonde, who has been a MWD handler for three years, shares similar sentiments.
“It is truly incredible how selfless one can be and I think it shows the true side and caring side of humans — how much compassion and care we can show another living being — it is really special,” said DeFonde. “It is really amazing how we interact and how we can combine to create such a strong and powerful team.”
Alex will head back to the states at the end of August 2018 where he will continue his recovery. Due to his injury, his home station kennel will submit a medical disposition packet to allow Alex to retire and be adopted.
“I’ve built a bond with Alex—- not as deep as his handler’s,” DeFonde said. “But it is always hard to say goodbye. Dogs do come and go — that is part of the job, but I am just really happy I was able to come over here and help him recover and then get him back to the states and get him to see his handler.
“I’ve always heard the saying, humans don’t deserve dogs because of how kind they are, and I 100 percent agree. You could not ask for a more selfless companion.”
The Pentagon said that after Syrian jets had bombed US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria and ground forces headed their way with artillery and armored vehicles, US jets made a strafing run at the vehicles to stop their advance.
But then a Syrian Su-22 popped up laden with bombs.
“They saw the Su-22 approaching,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on June 21st, as CNN notes. “It again had dirty wings; it was carrying ordnance. They did everything they could to try to warn it away. They did a head-butt maneuver, they launched flares, but ultimately the Su-22 went into a dive and it was observed dropping munitions and was subsequently shot down.”
A US F/A-18E off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Mediterranean then fired an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile at the Syrian jet, but the Su-22 had deployed flares causing the missile to miss. The US jet followed up with an AIM-120 medium range air-to-air missile which struck its target, US officials told CNN.
The pilot ejected over ISIS territory, and Syrian forces declared him missing in action.
The focus of the US’s airpower in recent years has turned to providing air support against insurgencies or forces that do not have fighter jets of their own. Before the Su-22, the US had not shot down a manned enemy aircraft since 1999.
Since the downing of the Syrian jet, Russia has threatened to target US and US-led coalition jets flying over Syria west of the Euphrates river.
Both Syria’s Su-22 and the US’s F/A-18E Super Hornet are updated versions of 1970s aircraft, but Russia and the US both have much more advanced systems to bring to bear. Fortunately, an air war seems unlikely between major powers in Syria.
When your reputation as the greatest warrior in Spain precedes you, the sight of your lifeless corpse armored and atop a warhorse at full gallop can be enough to send the enemy running away in terror. Take the case of Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, for instance.
Díaz de Vivar was born into the Spanish nobility in 1043 and raised in the court of King Ferdinand the Great. He eventually became the standard-bearer of Castile for Ferdinand’s son, Sancho II. He led military campaigns against the younger king’s brothers as well as the Moorish (Muslim) kingdoms in Andalusia was renowned for his military skill and strategy. He never lost a battle and was never beaten in combat.
Rodrigo became legendary in Europe, known by his nickname throughout the Christian and Muslim lands of the Middle Ages. While fighting King Sancho’s brothers, he earned the moniker that would echo through history when the Muslims began referring to him as just El Cid – The Lord.
The battle lines of this time weren’t as easy as Christian vs. Muslim or brother vs. brother. City-states fought one another with Christian and Moorish allies as well as allied city-states. The Iberian “Reconquista” – the series of wars that pushed Muslims out of Spain – was in full swing and the peninsula was full of different tribes, ethnicities, religions, and races, all with different alliances.
El Cid’s future father-in-law slapped around El Cid’s patron – so he took the man’s head and then his daughter.
When King Sancho was assassinated, his brother Alphonso, whom Rodrigo expertly crushed in battle on more than one occasion, came to power in Castile. El Cid suspected Alphonso was responsible and dragged the new king from his bed to the city cathedral. He forced Alphonso to swear he had nothing to do with Sancho’s death. The new king professed his innocence, but never forgot the humiliation.
Regardless of El Cid’s acceptance of Alphonso’s reply, the embarrassing incident didn’t sit well with the new king. Eventually, El Cid found himself exiled and working for the Muslim rulers of Zaragoza. In 10 years serving the Emir of Zaragoza, El Cid built a good life for himself, including owning his own lands. But he was soon called up to serve Spain again.
In 1086, the Almoravids, Muslims from Morocco, invaded Spain and advanced quickly throughout the peninsula. Alphonso was thoroughly beaten while trying to repel the invaders (he wasn’t very good at the whole “war” thing) and begged El Cid to return to meet the Almoravids. El Cid did return, but not for Alphonso – it was time for him to win some glory for himself.
El Cid and his troops struck back, taking the Muslim city of Valencia in 1091 and devastating the Almoravid army. They tried to recapture the city just three years later, but El Cid again sent them packing. Though it took another 400 years of fighting to expel the Muslim invaders from the Iberian Peninsula, they would never advance past Valencia while El Cid was still alive.