COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths

A roundup of the latest news on the coronavirus crisis in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries:


Iran

Iran says the COVID-19 illness has killed 129 more people, a single-day record high for one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

During a televised news conference on March 16, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur appealed to the public to drastically curb outings, especially intercity trips.

“Our plea is that everyone take this virus seriously and in no way attempts to travel to any province,” Jahanpur said.

The deaths bring the overall toll to 853 fatalities since February 19, when the government announced Iran’s first two deaths from the COVID-19 disease sparked by the coronavirus.

Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, a 78-year-old member of the Assembly of Experts, which is empowered with selecting the country’s supreme leader, is the latest of several Iranian officials to have died, local media reported.

Jahanpour also reported 1,053 confirmed new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 14,991.

Iran has the third-most registered cases after China and Italy.

Tehran Province had the highest number of new infections with 200 cases, about 50 fewer than the day before.

The central province of Isfahan followed with 118 cases, with Mazandaran in the north of Tehran coming next with 96.

The holy city of Qom in central Iran, where the virus was first reported, had 19 new cases that took its total to 1,023.

There are suspicions that the outbreak in the Islamic republic — whose government is known for its opaqueness and censorship — is far worse than authorities are admitting.

President Hassan Rohani on March 16 urged Iranians to stay home for the Norouz holiday celebrations on March 20 and to avoid traveling over the festive period.

Police are to begin checking the temperature of drivers, Rohani said, adding to a raft of measures that include the closure of schools, universities, and Iran’s most sacred site.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has canceled his annual Persian New Year’s speech in the city of Mashhad, planned for March 21.

Russia

Russia says it will ban the entry of foreign nationals and stateless people to May 1 in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The government said on March 16 that the ban, starting on March 18, won’t apply to diplomatic representatives and some other categories of people.

Russia has reported 93 cases of the virus so far, but no deaths.

Earlier in the day, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced new measures in the Russian capital, including prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people until April 10, and closing schools and universities from March 21 until April 12.

Sobyanin also asked elderly people to stay home.

A subsidiary of Russian Railways Rail said service between Russia and Ukraine, Moldova, and Latvia would be suspended as of March 17.

Belarus

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized Russia’s “unnecessary” decision to close the border between the two countries in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“There must be no unnecessary moves that might complicate already uneasy relations between the two nations,” he said on March 16 during a meeting with officials in Minsk.

The Russian government said the restrictive measures against Belarus, announced earlier in the day, were “prompted by special circumstances and are absolutely temporary.”

Belarus has reported 36 cases of coronavirus so far, but no deaths. Russian authorities have confirmed 93 cases, and no deaths.

Belarus, heavily reliant on Russia for cheap oil, has been at odds with Moscow over oil prices for months. The dispute is part of wider political discord between the two countries over forming a union state.

Instead of closing the Russian-Belarusian border, Lukashenka said, “our dearly beloved” Russia should help Belarus beef up security against coronavirus at its border with Poland, which he called “our common union-state border.”

The Belarusian leader also said he would talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone soon.

Lukashenka, who has been in power in Belarus for more than 25 years, has faced growing pressure from Moscow in recent years to agree to deeper integration under a 1999 unification agreement, which envisaged close political, economic, and military ties but stopped short of forming a single country.

Serbia

Serbian election authorities have delayed general elections scheduled for April 26 until after the end of a state of emergency imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Republican Election Commission said it decided to “temporarily suspend the elections process during the state of emergency triggered by the coronavirus outbreak,” in a statement on March 16.

Preparations for the elections will be resumed after the state of emergency is revoked, according to commission Chairman Vladimir Dimitrijevic.

The Balkan state has so far recorded 57 coronavirus infections. There have been no fatalities, but two patients are in serious condition, health authorities say.

Serbia declared a state of emergency on March 15 in a bid to prevent the rapid spreading of the epidemic, shutting down schools and universities.

In announcing the decision, President Aleksandar Vucic said in a televised address that from March 16 the military would be guarding state hospitals, while police will be monitoring those quarantined or in self-isolation for 14 or 28 days.

Those who violate quarantine may face jail terms of up to three years, he warned.

Serbia also announced it was closing its borders to foreigners coming from the worst-hit countries.

Vucic, however, said the border-entry ban did not apply to people from China, praising Beijing for helping Serbia amid the COVID-19 crisis.

He criticized the European Union for allegedly failing to provide adequate support.

After Vucic’s address, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told state TV that borders will be open only “for Serbians, foreign diplomats, and foreign nationals with residence permits.”

Uzbekistan/Kazakhstan

Five more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Uzbekistan, bringing the total to six, the government’s Telegram channel dedicated to the disease said on March 16.

Four of the six individuals are members of one Uzbek family returning from France, the government said in a separate statement.

Uzbekistan early on March 15 had reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

The same day, neighboring Kazakhstan declared a state of emergency as authorities announced that three new cases had been recorded, pushing the total number there to nine.

Kazakhstan was thought to have been coronavirus-free until four infections were confirmed on March 13.

The state of emergency announced by presidential decree imposes a nationwide quarantine and will restrict both entry to and departure from the country to all except diplomats and individuals invited by the government.

Kazakhstan had already announced the cancellation of Norouz holiday celebrations and a military parade devoted to the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

Officials there previously said more than 1,000 people were in quarantine and nearly 500 others in self-quarantine at home.

Uzbekistan announced similar sweeping measures on March 15, barring entry for all foreigners and departures by locals.

The Uzbek government also closed schools and universities for three weeks, canceled all public events, and suspended international air and highway connections beginning March 16.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the only Central Asian republics to have officially registered any cases of the new coronavirus at the center of a global pandemic that as of early March 15 had infected more than 156,000 people and killed more than 5,800.

Armenia

The Armenian government has declared a monthlong state of emergency to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Assembly discussed the move for several hours, and none of the three parliamentary factions raised any objections or proposed any amendments.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told lawmakers that Armenia would have to hold its referendum on constitutional reforms, originally planned for April 5, after the state of emergency ends.

“Under Armenian legislation, a referendum cannot take place during a state of emergency. The referendum will take place no sooner than 50 and no later than 65 days after the end of the state of emergency,” he said.

Armenia reported 17 new coronavirus cases on March 16, bringing the total number of cases to 45. One patient is said to have recovered, and more than 300 people remain in quarantine. There have been no recorded deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the country.

Armenia and Russia have agreed to suspend passenger flights between the two countries for two weeks in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Armenian government press service said on March 16.

The decision was made during a phone conversation between Pashinian and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Mishustin.

All Armenian educational institutions in the country are shut, while the borders with Iran – one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak – and Georgia are closed.

Georgia

Georgia will close its borders to foreign nationals for two weeks, starting on March 18.

Irakli Chikovani, the spokesman of the prime minister, said Georgian citizens who wish to return to the country will be able to do so, using Georgian Airways flights.

Georgia has registered 33 cases of the new coronavirus.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan reported five new cases on March 15, bringing the total number of registered cases in the country to 16.

Officials in Kabul said that all of those infected are Afghans who have recently returned from neighboring Iran.

The officials said up to 15,000 Afghan migrants workers and refugees are returning from Iran on a daily basis.

Pakistan

Pakistani President Arif Alvi is on an official visit to China on March 16-17 to hold meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and other top officials, Alvi’s office said in a statement on March 15.

The statement said the visit aims at “further solidifying historic bonds” between the two countries and described China and Pakistan as “the closest friends and staunch partners.”

It also pointed out that the visit comes as China is “engaged in efforts to contain” the spread of the new coronavirus, which has affected 157 countries and territories since it was first recorded in Wuhan, a city in central China.

It’s Alv”s first official visit to China, a strategic partner and major investor to Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan on March 16 announced 41 additional cases of infection with the coronavirus after 41 more cases were confirmed in the Sindh region, bringing the total tally to 94.

Dozens of people quarantined at the Pakistan-Iran border protested what they called the poor hygiene in the camps.

The quarantined include religious pilgrims who are now returning from Iran.

Romania

President Klaus Iohannis has declared a state of emergency for 30 days to fight the spread of the disease.

During the state of emergency, schools will be closed; prices for medicine, fuel, and utilities are frozen; road and air traffic could be banned; and borders may be closed if necessary.

Romania has 158 registered cases.

One Romanian citizen — a woman in her 80s — died last week in Italy from COVID-19, the illness sparked by the virus.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria banned entry on its territory of citizens from 15 countries with large coronavirus outbreaks, including five EU member states, as of March 18, the Health Ministry said.

Exceptions will be made for citizens with permanent or long-term permits to stay in Bulgaria and their family members.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.


MIGHTY MOVIES

Navy SEAL Sniper’s top 10 war movies

Everyone has their own opinion of what makes a good war movie. Unfortunately very few can offer anything of substance.

Yes, I’m talking to you, orange grime Cheeto finger-licking video game player in your momma’s basement. You can kick my ass in Call of Duty but in real life, you’d pee your pants in a kill house live-fire training mission.

So lick the cheese off your fingers and take notes, some man stuff coming at you.


Below is my small contribution to the best war movies of all time. I carefully selected my 10 favorites and put them in no particular order other than my #1 of all time, The Great Escape, at the top.

After serving in the SEAL Teams I find it really hard to sit through most action movies without being overly critical of the tactics. For me sitting through a bad action movie is pure torture. Worse than the Notebook. Worse than ingernails on a chalkboard. And like my old chief would say, fucked up as a football bat.

Top War Movie Pet Peeves

  • Sweeping your own guys with a loaded weapon. Just not cool, and a punishable offense in the SEAL Teams. Find a loud mouth Special Ops guys on social media and chances are he’s not really Special Ops, or worse, was kicked out of the community for a safety violation like this.
  • Representing the military as unprofessional. Some of the most professional people I’ve met in my life are from the military and it’s crazy to see that scene in American Sniper where the instructors are yelling at students on the firing line like boot camp kids. Not realistic, and doesn’t represent the high level of professionalism at the SEAL sniper program.
  • Unlimited bullets. Just doesn’t happen outside of video games folks. That ten-round magazine doesn’t last forever, Johnny.
  • Bad unit tactics. Take your pick… oh yeah, on Zero Dark Thirty the producers had the guys talking on target… not going to happen that way! It’s a squeeze on the shoulder or a hushed communication via inter-squad radio. Just corny…
  • Poor mission planning. Parachuting onto the roof of a target for example. Not going to happen unless you’re Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.
  • The list goes on but you get the idea.

Here’s my top 10.

The Great Escape (1963) Official Trailer – Steve McQueen Movie

www.youtube.com

The Great Escape

What’s not to like about Steve McQueen crushing Nazis?! Plus one of the best motorcycle war chase scenes ever before Red Bull got into extreme sports we had Steve on his bike with no helmet airs!

Apocalypse Now (1979) Official Trailer – Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall Drama Movie HD

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Apocalypse Now

Possibly the best war movie soundtrack as well. The infamous quote from Duvall, “Charlie Don’t Surf!”… I’ll leave at that. Great F’ng movie. A close choice for my #1 with the soundtrack alone!

Platoon Official Trailer #1 – Charlie Sheen, Keith David Movie (1986) HD

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Platoon

If you can get past Charlie Sheen (he hadn’t lost his mind in ’86) this is a great gritty movie about Vietnam. The same kind of movie you can expect to see rebooted with our modern-day Vietnam of Afghanistan. Drugs, stealing cash off-target, war crimes, hookers, this one has it all. I actually wrote a one-page pitch for a similar war movie called, The Reservation, about guys going haywire in Afghanistan post-2004 when it turned into a complete shit show. Stay tuned…

? PREDATOR (1987) | Full Movie Trailer in Full HD | 1080p

www.youtube.com

Predator

Just look at who’s in the movie and enough said. Ex-Special Ops taking on an alien inter-planetary hunter-kill? Fuck me, I’m in! “Head to the chaupper!” Move over Parasite…Que, the Academy award for manliest movie of the year, Predator.

Black Hawk Down (2001) Official Trailer 1 – Ewan McGregor Movie

www.youtube.com

Blackhawk Down

Based on true events. Great movie but like most great war movies, when you peel it back, usually you find the guys on the ground totally let down by the guys at the top. This time, the name rhymes with “Bill Clinton”… Left our boys hanging in the breeze to fend for themselves in another half-baked country intervention. Fortunately for Delta and the Rangers they did an extremely good job at it while Bill was getting a his daily brief from a White House intern. Epic movie, but I was triggered for sure.

The Hunt for Red October Trailer

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The Hunt for Red October

You may ask yourself why a sniper picked this one. Well, before I was a sniper I was an anti-submarine warfare operator and search and rescue swimmer helicopter aircrewman. (Have they now changed it to aircrew person? What the hell is the politically correct version of it? I wrote about this in The Red Circle.) So before I was born again hard in SEAL Training, I geeked out on Russian submarine profiles and harmonic sounds generated by diesel-electric subs. This is a great movie by one of the best military fiction writers ever, Clancy.

The Deer Hunter – Trailer – (1978) – HQ

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The Deer Hunter

Want to know why you shouldn’t ask your military buddy, “How many kills you have bro?” Watch Deer Hunter and then STFU. Great movie. Gives a new meaning to Russian Roulette as well. Look at the cast as well, All Star!

Dirty Dozen (1967) Official Trailer – Lee Marvin, John Cassavetes World War 2 Movie HD

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The Dirty Dozen

Back when it was ok for men to be men and pronouns weren’t weaponized by the hipster elite. The Dirty Dozen. What’s not to like about Americans kicking Nazi ass?! Plus, take a bunch of guys from the brig and put them on a special ops suicide mission and you have the makings of a great war movie. A lot of great actors in this one as well — A list for sure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYID71hYHzg
SAVING PRIVATE RYAN Official Trailer (1998) Tom Hanks HD Movie | TrueMovies Trailer

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Saving Private Ryan

The epic and ultra-realistic D-Day scene won me over from the get-go. Plus some good sniper footage as well. Again, common theme here with allied forces kicking Hitler ass. Doom on you Nazi bastards. Great directing and great acting all around. It kicked off the amazing series, “Band of Brothers” (also a must-watch).

The Hurt Locker (2008) Official Trailer – Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie Movie HD

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The Hurt Locker

Jeremy Renner comes out swinging in this gritty movie that showcases the true toll of war. I have several friends who I lost to similar combat addictions. It’s a real thing and one of the reasons I really liked this movie, because it shows the toll it takes at home.

There you have it. I’d also like to hear from you. What are your top 10? Thanks for listening. Out here. – Brandon

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis: For the first time in 70 years, Pentagon will audit defense spending

The funding process for the U.S. military is back in a healthy place, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said on May 23, 2018, in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The secretary spoke at the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation, and on May 24, 2018, he participated in the U.S. Northern Command/North American Aerospace Defense Command change-of-command ceremony at Peterson Air Force Base, also in Colorado Springs.


Mattis emphasized the ties between the National Defense Strategy and the budget process, and said the budget submission was underpinned by strategy for the first time in 10 years.

DoD funding process

He has urged congressional leaders to provide predictable funding for the department since taking office, and urged Congress to become more involved in its constitutional duty to fund the department. In nine of the last 10 years, the department spent at least some of the time under a continuing resolution.

“What that meant was, if there were evolving threat or a thing we needed to adapt to, number one, we didn’t have a strategic framework within which you’d go, for example, to the Congress and say here’s why we want additional money here,” the secretary said.

And the department couldn’t get additional monies under a continuing resolution. “Without the steady budget, we could not do new starts,” Mattis said. “So things from the Army’s modernization program, to cyber efforts, to outer space efforts were either stillborn or just put in a dormant status.”

This situation caused the American military overmatch to erode over time, and now the department must make up for lost time, the secretary said.

“We are doing that with the bipartisan support of the Congress to pass the two-year authorization bill and … the omnibus bill,” he said.

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis
(Dept. of Defense Photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

Mattis is pleased that Congress is no longer in a spectator role with the budget, “but actually saying where they want money put. There will be arguments … and good arguments, about where the priorities should be. And that’s up to us to make certain we can bring the analysis that we have of defining problems and what solutions we want to bring forward.”

More lethal military

Still, DOD officials must recognize that proposed changes must be tied “to make the military more lethal in outer space and cyberspace, at sea, on land, and in the air,” the secretary said. “And we want to do so as much as possible by strengthening our partners and our allies.”

Finding funding from within is also a major push, and Mattis insists DOD must be a good steward of taxpayer dollars. Congress has given the department new tools to enable the Pentagon to adopt best practices from industry and reform processes inside the department.

“Congress has actually had to step in and reorganize our acquisition, technology and logistics oversight into research and engineering for the future, and then acquisition sustainment,” he said.

Pentagon reform

After years of stops and starts, he said, the Pentagon may actually be able to deliver on sustainable reforms. “I cannot right now, look you in the eye and say that we can tell you that every penny in the past has been spent in a strategically sound and auditable manner,” he said. “And so this year, for the first time in 70 years, the Pentagon will perform an audit.

“We’ll have an audit done of itself and I look forward to every problem we find, because we’re going to fix every one of them,” he continued. “So, I can look you people in the eye and say I’m getting your money and here’s what I’m doing with it.”

New technologies and new uses for older technologies are being studied with research into artificial intelligence, hypersonics, outer space activities, and research in the cyber realm, the secretary said.

“These have all got to be looked at, because as we say in the U.S. Department of Defense, our adversaries get a vote and you have to deal with that if we’re going to keep this this experiment of America alive,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

Military Life

8 normal civilian things that make you weird in the military

The military is its own beast. Many of the things we do while enlisted would seem weird to civilians. Well, the door swings both ways.


The following things seem perfectly normal before you join up, but might net you a few odd looks when you join the service.

Related: 7 military things that somehow get you fired in the civilian world

8. Not embracing the silly

Deployments quickly turn into the movie Groundhog Day. You see the same people, do the same missions, and eat the same chow. You’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to do. As you might imagine, things get real weird real fast.

At about month six, you’ll see things like troops singing Disney songs to each other or guys starting fights with traffic cones as arms. If you don’t join in, you’d better be filming it.

Our deployment videos always kill on YouTube because people think we’re super serious all the time. 

7. Wanting personal space

One unexpected advantage of Big Military cramming as many troops into as small of a space as possible is that we get close to one another. There’s nowhere to go, especially on a deployment, so you might as well get to know everyone who shares your space.

Civilians might be surprised at the level of closeness between troops in a platoon, especially when it’s snowing outside and everyone is wearing summer PTs.

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths
“Here, we see a bunch of soldiers waiting for morning PT…” (Screengrab via BBC’s Planet Earth)

6. Mentioning it’s your birthday

For better or worse, hazing is highly frowned upon in the military. Any type of initiation or harassment directed toward fellow troops is a major offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. No commander would dare allow their troops to partake in any form of hazing — unless it’s someone’s birthday, of course!

If the unit finds out on their own, you’re in for a terrible surprise. If you’re the idiot who brings it up, don’t expect cake and ice cream from the guys.

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths

5. Being gentle

To the normal person, this would contradict the earlier rules of “embrace silliness” and “forget personal space,” but this is different in its own weird way.

We tell ourselves that we’re hardened, ass-kicking, life-taking, warfighting machines. The truth is, we just don’t have the time or desire for little things, like talking about our feelings or establishing emotional safe spaces. If you just really need a hug, you’ll have to either disguise it as a joke or go and see the chaplain — and even they probably won’t give you a hug, wimp.

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths

4. Asking questions

Normal people would try to figure out the little things, like “why are we doing this exact same, mundane task for the ninth time this month?” Troops, on the other hand, just give up hope after a while and do it.

This is so ingrained that when someone does ask a question, it’s treated like a joke.

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths
And don’t you dare ask a question in a group setting. You’ll get death glares. (Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett)

3. Taking care of your body

Troops work out constantly. Once for morning PT and probably again when they go to the gym.

All that effort totally negates all of the coffee, energy drinks, beer, pounds of bacon, burgers, pizza, and cartons of cigarettes that an average troop goes through… right?

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths
It’s the breakfast of champions! (Photo by Sgt. Anthony Ortiz)

2. Turning down a chance to do dumb things

If a troop gets a call and the person on the other end says, “we need you out here quick. Don’t let Sergeant Jones find out about it,” context doesn’t matter. They’re there and are probably three beers in before anyone can explain what’s happening.

Best case scenario: It’s an epic night. Worst case: It ends up being a “no sh*t, there I was…” story.

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths
Don’t worry if you don’t go. Everyone who was there will share the story at least three times that week. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Barbour)

1. Showering without flip-flops on

Only two types of people clean off in a community shower without “shower shoes:” Idiots and people trying to catch gangrene.

You have no idea what the person before you did in that shower nor how often that shower has been cleaned. Why on Earth would you dare put your feet on that same spot?

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths
That and you don’t want to walk between the shower and your hut without them. (Photo by Sgt. Randall Clinton)

popular

These crusader knights answered the call to fight World War I

The country known as Georgia derives its name – “Gurgan,” the land of the wolves – from the Persian word for the “frightening and heroic people of that territory.”


Heroic doesn’t even begin to fully describe the Georgians. This fact was evident at the outset of World War I when a troop of crusader knights – in full Medieval armor – marched right up to the governor’s house in the Georgian capital, then called Tiflis (modern-day Tbilisi).

“Where’s the war?” They asked. “We hear there’s a war.”

In 1914, the Russian Empire declared war on Turkey as part of its alliance with the Triple Entente in Western Europe. The news of the outbreak apparently took some time to filter to the countryside because it took until the spring of 1915 for the Georgian knights to arrive.

In his 1935 book, “Seven League Boots,” the American adventurer Richard Halliburton wrote of the knights.

“In the spring of 1915, some months after Russia’s declaration of war against Turkey, a band of twelfth-century Crusaders, covered from head to foot in rusty chain armour and carrying shields and broad-swords came riding on horseback down the main avenue of Tiflis. People’s eyes almost popped out of their heads. Obviously this was no cinema company going on location. These were Crusaders – or their ghosts.”

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths

 

The Knights were known locally as Khevsurs, a group of fighters allegedly descended from Medieval Crusaders, whose armor bore the motto of the Crusaders, as well as the Crusader Cross (which now adorns the flag of the modern Republic of Georgia). The truth behind the Khevsurs’ Crusader origins is disputed, but what isn’t disputed is that they showed up to fight World War I wearing Crusader armor.

Though the Khevsurs did fight alongside the Russian army on many occasions, not just WWI, it’s unlikely their Russian allies would let them run into battle with broadswords and chain mail armor. Then again, it wouldn’t be the only time the allied powers used strange body armor in brutal trench warfare.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s a 360-degree view of North Korea’s ‘Bizarro World’ capital city

A photographer took a 360-degree aerial video of Pyongyang for the first time.


The video reveals another side of North Korea, as well as many striking scenes and landmarks.

Many outsiders know North Korea only as the scary, totalitarian state where Kim Jong Un rules with an iron fist, but the Singaporean photographer Aram Pam just completed a world first: filming Pyongyang from a microlight plane with a 360-degree camera.

Pam, who provided photos and video to NK News, negotiated strict regulations and bans on photography and media to capture Pyongyang as it had never been seen before.

The aerial view of Pyongyang reveals a strange juxtaposition — brilliant high-rises line major streets like facades, but low, dull buildings hide behind them. North Korea’s tall, modern-looking buildings tower over broad streets with virtually nobody on them. Highways intersect without a traffic light. Gleaming space-age stadiums contrast sharply with other nearby massive structures that seem to rot.

In the video below, see all of North Korea’s great and mysterious structures — like the “Hotel of Doom” and the May Day stadium, one of the largest in the world — and countless waterfront skyscrapers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy promotes first WO1s since rank was discontinued in 1975

A sailor assigned to Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Georgia was selected Dec. 7, 2018, as one of the Navy’s first warrant officer 1s since the rank was discontinued in 1975.

The Navy announced in NAVADMIN 293/18 the selection of Cryptologic Technician (Networks) 1st Class Nicholas T. Drenning and five other petty officers to the newly reestablished rank.

The warrant officer 1 rank was reinstated through the Cyber Warrant Officer In-Service Procurement Selection Board in order to retain cyber-talent and fill leadership roles. The Navy began accepting applications in June 2018 from CTNs in the paygrades of E-5 and E-6 who met Naval Enlisted Classification and time-in-service requirements.


Drenning, who was a second class petty officer when he submitted his package but promoted to petty officer first class in December 2018, applied for the warrant officer program to remain on a technical career path and shape the Navy’s cyber forces. He said he believes a strong technical background and dedication to training others directly contributed to his selection.

“After taking the enlisted advancement exam multiple times, I wanted to prove it to myself and the warrant officer selection board that they chose the right candidate” Drenning said. “Now I am excited to set a new precedent and build on the heritage and traditions that make the Navy unique.”

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths

The Navy’s new W-1s will be worn on their covers instead of the traditional officer badge.

(US Navy)

Drenning currently has nine years of enlisted service and is slated to be appointed to warrant officer 1 in September 2019. He said he looks forward to working with the other warrant officer selectees many of whom he has worked with previously in Maryland and Georgia.

“My personal focus will be fulfilling the intent of the program, which stresses technical expertise,” Drenning said. “Part of shaping our community is going to be building effective relationships with junior-enlisted, the chief’s mess and fellow officers.”

Upon appointment, Drenning said he looks forward to filling many different cyber work roles and mission sets as he helps to shape policy and build an effective cyber force.

NIOC Georgia conducts SIGINT, cyber and information operations for Fleet, Joint and National Commanders. The command supports operational requirements and deployment of Naval forces as directed by combatant and service component commanders.

Since its establishment, FCC/C10F has grown into an operational force composed of more than 14,000 Active and Reserve Sailors and civilians organized into 28 active commands, 40 Cyber Mission Force units, and 26 reserve commands around the globe. FCC serves as the Navy component command to U.S. Strategic Command and U.S. Cyber Command, and the Navy’s Service Cryptologic Component commander under the National Security Agency/Central Security Service. C10F, the operational arm of FCC, executes its mission through a task force structure similar to other warfare commanders. In this role, C10F provides support of Navy and joint missions in cyber/networks, cryptologic/signals intelligence and space.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Here’s why you should know

The opening scenes of Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn introduce viewers to a charismatic and devoted father deep in the joys of parenthood. Crawling on the floor, swimming and blowing out birthday candles with his toddler and infant sons, he is right where he should be. Until the day he isn’t. Through interviews, reports and a thoroughly researched investigation, the filmmaker poses some incriminating questions.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn? Was it the mechanic who told him his helicopter was cleared for flight two hours before it slammed tail-first into the ocean? Was it the manufacturer who produced the faulty wiring blamed for the explosion? Was it the upper ranks of the Navy who disregarded multiple letters of concern purportedly choosing flight hours over safety? How about the Congressional and Executive branches of our government that teamed up with arms manufacturers and focused on new bloated defense contracts instead of investing in the people and machinery already in place?

Van Dorn’s wife, Nicole, living in the shadow of her husband’s unnecessary death, is on a mission to find out. Catalyzed by her and others’ search for answers, this gripping 2018 documentary investigates events leading up to Navy lieutenant J. Wesley Van Dorn’s death one month before his 30th birthday. His untimely demise occurred during a training exercise when an explosion killing three of the five crewmen aboard caused the crash-prone helicopter to fall from the sky into frigid waters below. Van Dorn was not the only one who had expressed concerns about the safety of this aircraft, nor was he the only one to die in it as a result of misguided leadership and mechanical failure.

Written, directed, and narrated by Zachary Stauffer as his first feature documentary, this film offers a sobering look into chronic institutional failings that have resulted in 132 arguably preventable deaths. Diving unforgivably into one family’s agonizing loss, Stauffer invites us to ponder heavy questions while constructing a wall of outrage in his viewers. What is the price of a life? How many lives does it take before change takes place? When will avarice and the “just get ‘er done” attitude stop undermining the American defense establishment?

Built by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, the MH-53E Sea Dragon is the Navy’s nearly identical version of the Marine Corps’ CH-53-E Super Stallion. Since entering service in 1986, it has never succumbed to enemy fire but holds the worst safety record in the Navy’s fleet making it the deadliest aircraft in military history. The 53-E is a powerful machine used by the Navy for dragging heavy equipment through water to sweep for mines while the Marine version is used for transporting people and gear.

Stauffer explains that due to issues with these aircraft that cropped up even in their initial test flights at the manufacturer and in training missions, the Navy tried to get away with using less powerful helicopters and alternate minesweeping tactics but nothing was as effective as the relic Sea Dragon. Since they were fated to be replaced at some point, the higher ranks avoided investing too much into them so funding for spare parts and maintenance was lean. Members of Congress allegedly chose the path of greed and corruption when defense contractors offered them flashy new weaponry and vehicles as well as comfortable retirement packages. The upper echelons flourished while those training, fighting, and dying on the ground, as well as the American taxpayers, suffered needlessly as top-down decision makers claimed their hands were tied.

With fewer and fewer resources, those maintaining the Sea Dragon had to do more with less. They began cutting corners and developing bad habits. When voicing their worries in person or through over a dozen letters and memos to the upper ranks, they were “belittled, humiliated and cut down,” as one pilot explained. More than 30 years before Van Dorn’s crash, Sikorsky recommended replacing the faulty Kapton wires on all Navy aircraft. This was suggested not once, not twice, but three times before the Navy decided to start looking into the issue. Eventually they named Kapton as the highest ranked safety risk in the fleet and devised a long-term plan to replace it in phases but claimed to never have enough funding to refit all the wiring in the 53s. Only months prior to Van Dorn’s crash the Pentagon re-budgeted funding away from this critical project. Thus, problems that had been escalating over decades while the issue was known and actively overlooked perpetuated, yet the birds were still allowed to fly.

By the time Van Dorn signed on the dotted line in 2010, the run-down helicopters that required about 40 hours of maintenance for a single hour of flight time should have been retired. He and his wife made the decision together to request a spot in the squadron flying 53s because others told them it was an ideal position for a family man who wanted to be home for dinner every night.

Van Dorn was one of those who voiced his opinions about the safety of this aircraft. In an ominous voice recording foreshadowing his own death, he stated “If anyone should care about what’s happening on that aircraft, it should be me and the other pilots, I think. It makes sense to me, because I’m the one who’s going to get in it and have something terrible happen if it doesn’t go right.” His wife Nicole later explained that, “He felt that no matter what he said or what he wrote or who he complained to, nothing was changing.”

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On a particularly cold morning in January 2014, Van Dorn’s own portentous sentiments were realized 18 nautical miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. Chafing from a single nylon zip tie exposed naked wiring to a fine spray of fuel causing it to arc, sending a blast of fire into the cockpit. Hours later Nicole lay on her husband’s chest just before they pronounced him dead.

Dylan Boone, a Naval aircrewman and one of two survivors of the wreck declared, “You don’t expect to give up your life for this country because you were given faulty equipment.”

Dynamic cinematography combined with a subtly haunting score by composer William Ryan Fritch creates the backdrop for this solid investigative report. Crisp and flowing visuals paired with thrilling military footage complement the feelings portrayed by those interviewed. These primary sources include Van Dorn’s mother, wife, friends, and fellow airmen as well as a mechanic, pilots, a general, a Pentagon Analyst and a military reporter. Throughout the documentary they and the narrator explain the multifaceted issues connected to Van Dorn’s death and the trouble with the 53s from a variety of angles.

Woven skillfully together, a poignant story is told of decades of negligence that continues to result in tragedy. Wholesome home movies of a young involved father raising two sons with his lovely wife are contrasted with the aching void ripped into the Van Dorn family’s home after his death. Stirring visions of military life ignite the urge to join in viewers who have ever felt compelled to do so, whereas the deep frustration of stifled dreams and a scarred body and soul are almost tangible to someone who has been there before as hard truths are drawn out throughout the film.

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Centering on the death of a handsome, beloved father, husband and seaman who was liked by all humanized an issue that might have otherwise been unrelatable. Utilizing the audience’s heartstrings as a focal point was a powerful way to bring attention to a predicament that could have been swept under the rug. Despite the fact that the C-53 airframes experienced serious accidents more than twice as often as the average aircraft and that internal investigations were performed with alarming results, the Navy continues to risk its servicemembers’ life and limb to keep these helicopters performing their critical mission in the air. With this in mind, this documentary might just put enough pressure on the Navy to make the changes necessary to save an untold number of lives.

Winner of the Audience Award in Active Cinema at the 2018 Mill Valley Film Festival, Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is an intriguing and effective piece of military reporting presented in comprehensible terms for the layman. It is a successful examination of not only the serious failings of a controversial aircraft and the misled priorities keeping it aloft, but also hints toward the fact that anyone who brings up the disturbing issue of safety of these helicopters will be forced out of service. I would recommend this professional-level documentary, especially to anyone with interests in the military or national defense.

The Navy, the Pentagon, Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin declined to participate in this well-researched film. Major funding to make this documentary possible was provided by supporters of the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Investigative Studios.

After viewing this film, you can decide for yourself who killed Lt. Van Dorn. Regardless of the answer, his unwarranted death will not have been completely in vain if it successfully carries out his final mission: righting the deep and longstanding problems with the CH-53 helicopters, thus preventing the death and destruction of countless others just as it ultimately took him.

Who Killed Lt. Van Dorn is available for purchase or streaming through Amazon.


MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea offered to give up this threat to 9 million people

North Korean diplomats talking to South Korean officials in the demilitarized border zone between the two countries reportedly offered to remove the North’s long-range artillery guns, which have been a dagger pointed at Seoul’s throat for decades.

Before North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon, before it even built its first facility to create fissile material, its artillery had established a strong deterrent against South Korea and the US.


North Korea is estimated to have thousands of massive artillery guns hidden in hardened shelters among the hills and mountains of the country’s rugged terrain. Artillery batteries located within range of the South Korean capital of Seoul could kill tens of thousands of people every hour if war were to break out.

Accounts in South Korean media differ over who exactly proposed the latest measure, but it came at a general-level military dialogue, which hadn’t happened for over a decade before.

The two nations, still technically at war after signing an armistice in the 1950s, met under the banner of “practically eliminate the danger of war,” as South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un agreed to do on April 27, 2018, during their historic first summit.

Not nuclear, but not nothing

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un providing guidance on a nuclear weapons program in an undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency in Pyongyang on September 3, 2017.

North Korea’s artillery guns have little to do with its nuclear weapons program, the elimination of which is the stated purpose of all recent North Korean diplomacy.

But the guns represent a substantial part of North Korea’s threat to Seoul, perhaps acting as the main deterrent holding off a US or South Korean invasion during the multidecade military standoff.

Precisely because the artillery is so formidable, expect to see North Korea ask for something in return. Kim could ask for a withdrawal of or a reduction in US forces in South Korea — a longstanding goal in Pyongyang. Roughly 28,000 US troops are stationed in South Korea as a deterrent.

Experts assess that any steps made to wither the US-South Korean alliance could precipitate the decline of the US as a power in Asia and then the world.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Analysis: The Army has a range problem, but it’s not because of the 5.56 round

Back in May, the Army Times ran a piece announcing that the Army was officially looking to replace the M16 family of weapons and the 5.56mm cartridge with a weapon system that is both more reliable, and has greater range.


As the article states, they’re taking a hard look at “intermediate rounds,” or rounds with diameters between 6.5 and 7mm, that have greater range and ballistics than either the 5.56 x 45 or the 7.62 x 51, both of which are old and outdated compared to the crop of rounds that have sprung up in the last decade or so. The thinking is, with these newer rounds, you can easily match the superior stopping power of the 7.62 without sacrificing the magazine capacity afforded by the tiny 5.56 cartridge, while still giving troops better range and accuracy.

Coupled with a more reliable platform, preferably one that doesn’t jam up if you so much as think about sand getting in it, this could potentially be a game changer for the US Army.

Now, me personally, I think this is great. I’ve had a chance to play around with a couple of these intermediate calibers, and I quickly fell in love. I’m not one of those guys who despises the 5.56, because, for what it is, it’s not a bad little round. It’s got decent ballistics out to a decent range, and you can carry a lot of them. But, when you compare it to something like the 6.5 Creedmore, one of the rounds reportedly being considered as a replacement, it’s like comparing a Mazda Miata to a Lamborghini Aventador.

And hey, a new rifle would be pretty great, too. The M16 platform has been around for ages, and while its modular nature means that it’s endlessly adaptable, the direct gas impingement operating system is a right pain in the ass. Advances in firearm technology over the past half century have given us plenty of options, and it’s high time we took a look at them.

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Qujuan Baptiste uses smoke as concealment during a stress shoot at the 2017 Army Materiel Command’s Best Warrior Competition July 18, 2017, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Teddy Wade)

But giving soldiers a more reliable weapon with greater range is kinda pointless if we don’t address one of the Army’s most persistent and glaring faults: its marksmanship program sucks. There’s no one part of the thing we can point to as being problematic. It’s not just the BRM taught at Basic, or the qualification tables. The whole thing, from start to finish, really, really, sucks.

What’s the point of giving soldiers a shiny, new rifle if they can’t hit the broadside of a barn with the one they’ve got?

Now, before you break out the pitchforks and your Expert qualification badges, sit down and think about what I’m saying. Unless your MOS directly involves shooting things in the face, when was the last time you went to the range during the workday for something other than qualification? When was the last time you broke out the rifles for anything other than to qualify, or to clean them for inspection?

For most of you, that answer will be either the last time you deployed, or never. And that’s a huge problem.

Over the last ten-and-a-half years in the North Carolina Army National Guard, I’ve spent more time being told not to kill myself or rape people than how to shoot. I don’t have a problem with qualification myself; I can reliably shoot high sharpshooter to low expert. But I also make a point to shoot recreationally whenever I can. Not everyone has that option, and plenty of folks who do don’t take advantage of it.

For most folks, the entirety of their marksmanship training will consist of three weeks in Basic, the few days out of the year when they go qualify, and maybe a few days or even a week or two of extra training when they mobilize. And that simply isn’t enough.

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Qujuan Baptiste uses a vehicle as a barricade and fires at multiple targets during a stress shoot scenario at the 2017 Army Materiel Command’s Best Warrior Competition July 18, 2017, at Camp Atterbury, Indiana. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Teddy Wade)

Nevermind that the Army’s qualification system is stupid and outdated. Shooting static popup targets at ranges between 50-300 meters is a good start, but to rely on that as the sole measure of a soldier’s ability to engage the enemy is insane. According to the Army Times article linked up at the top, one of the driving forces behind looking for a new round is the fact that something like half of all firefights occurred at ranges greater than 300 meters. Meanwhile, your average soldier doesn’t even bother shooting at the 300 meter targets, because they know they can’t hit the damn things.

If the Army’s quest for a new sidearm is any indication, the search for a new rifle will take at least a decade, untold millions of dollars, a half-dozen Congressional inquiries and investigations, and probably a few lawsuits before they settle on the final product. Which means there’s plenty of time to teach soldiers how to shoot before the new gear ever starts filtering its way through the system.

As a starting point, come up with a comprehensive training plan that utilizes Basic Rifle Marksmanship, then build on that foundation throughout the soldier’s career. Get soldiers to the range more often. Update the qualification tables to more accurately represent the threat they’re expected to face. Enforce qualification standards like PT standards, and offer regular remedial training for folks who fail to meet those standards.

Or just carry on before and put a shiny new rifle in the hands of a kid who barely knows which end goes bang. I watched a guy from out battalion’s Forward Support Company shoot a 6 this year. That’s good enough, right?

Articles

This WWII veteran will be laid to rest after being MIA for 72 years

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Dick Lohry, the nephew of Army Pvt. John P. Sersha, took a moment to touch Sersha’s casket Tuesday after a planeside honors ceremony. (Photo: Aaron Lavinsky – Star Tribune)


The remains of a World War II veteran – who left the U.S. to serve his country 72 years ago – have been exhumed from an anonymous grave at the United States Military Cemetery in Neuville-en-Condroz, in Belgium, and brought back to the family and land that he died to protect.

Army Private John P. Sersha will be buried in his hometown of Eveleth, Minnesota today with full military honors — just in time for Memorial Day.

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Army Pvt. John P. Sersha

A railroad worker, John P. Sersha, was drafted into the military in 1943 and inducted into the Army at Fort Snelling later that year. He received his training in Texas, and then joined the 325th Glider Infantry Regiment, Company F, of the 82nd Airborne Division in Maryland.

On September 23, 1944, he and his company landed in Holland during Operation Market Garden –  the unsuccessful mission where the Allies attempted to capture several strategically important bridges in the Netherlands. He had been entrenched in Kiekberg Forest with his company for just four days when he and two other ‘bazooka men’ were sent on an assault mission behind enemy lines. They were never seen again.

Fields of Honor – a website that gives a face to the names of the U.S. WWII soldiers buried in Belgium and the Netherlands – posted this account in its database:

Private Sersha among its ranks first saw battle when it landed near Nijmegen on 23 September 1944. Operation Market Garden had been launched on the 17th, but it took till the 23rd when the elements of the 325th were sent to Holland to join in the battle. The 325th was inserted in the frontline south east of Nijmegen, in the forest-covered hills and valleys facing the Reichwald. Between 27 and 30 September, the 325th was involved in the Battle for Kiekberg Forest. The area was full of steep hills and valleys. Opposing the 325th was the German 190th “Hammer” Infantry Division. Men of this division had infiltrated the forest and were building up in order to attack towards Nijmegen. Private Sersha was MIA during the fighting in the Kiekberg Forest.

Sersha’s family spent decades looking for closure. Three years after the war ended, the remains of two soldiers were discovered in Keikberg Woods by a local woodsman. One of the bodies was identified – and while the other was thought to be that of Pvt. Sersha, the American Graves Registration Command could not 100 percent confirm this and thus did not inform the surviving family. They laid the body in an anonymous grave marked: X7429, and Sersha’s name was later inscribed – along with 1721 others  – on the Netherlands Wall of the Missing.

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Wall of the Missing at Netherlands American Cemetery.

In the 1980’s Sersha’s brother Paul – now 97 years old – searched for those who could possibly shed light on the last months of his presumably deceased brother’s life.  He was able to track down a paratrooper with whom he served, but no new information came of the connection.

In 2005, Sersha’s nephew Richard Lohry picked up the quest. According to his interview with Fayetteville Observer, he was only 11 months old when his uncle had disappeared behind enemy lines, but still wanted to learn more about his Uncle John.  His grandmother kept a photo of  her son in her home.  “I was drawn to that photo for years and years,” Lohry told the paper.

In an effort to preserve and honor his life, Lohry, a pastor, began collecting whatever he could find on his uncle, which was very little information.  Finally, a couple who attended his church found a photo that had taken in 1994 while visiting the Netherlands American Cemetery. It just so happened to be the exact panel that bore his uncle’s name.  Inspired by that photo of the wall, he gave a sermon that Memorial Day titled: “God Never Forgets”.  Lohry had renewed hope in his search.

Memorial Stone in honor of Pvt. John Sersha placed in Virginia, Minnesota

In 2013, a memorial stone sponsored by Sersha’s family was placed in Virginia, Minnesota near the family home. The installation ceremony caught the media’s attention.  One day later, a family member received a call from Germany. Army sergeant Danny Keay, tracked down the relative from an article he had read online. According to Timberjay.com, Keay had put together information from Sersha’s “Individual Deceased Personnel File” with information from a file of a set of unknown remains.  That bit of information was a big first step in a lengthy, but rewarding process in determining who this unknown soldier was.

Two years later, after completing a slew of paperwork that included matching dental records and solving a height discrepancy – Lohry, with the help of U.S. Representative Rick Nolan, requested that the Secretary of the Army grant permission to exhume the body in grave marked “X7429.” Nine months later, the request was approved.  On December 16, 2015, the body was exhumed and flown to Offutt Air Base. They conducted series of lab tests including matching the DNA of Sersha’s brother Paul and Lohry, his nephew.

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Members of a Minnesota Army National Guard Honor Guard retrieved the casket of John P. Sersha during a planeside honors ceremony on May 24, 2016.

This final step would serve to cross one name off the long list of the missing. The results were clear. The remains of John Sersha  – an uncle, a brother , and a son – that were missing for 72 years could make a final journey home.

On Jan. 4, 2016, that World War II Veteran’s tireless nephew now had the honor of delivering the investigation results. Mesabi Daily News published part of Lohry’s letter. He wrote:

“…. this is great news. My first contact with you was in April of 2013. By then, I had already been working on a history of John’s military services since spring of 2005. And it was not until November of 2013 that we even knew that John’s remains may have been found back n 1948. It’s been a long road indeed, and now I am happy to say:
John: You haven’t been forgotten — we’re coming to bring you home!

On May 24, 2016, members of the Minnesota Army National Guard’s Honor Guard received the flag-draped casket during planeside honors. Members of Sersha’s family, including his 97-year-old brother, Paul was there for the emotional moment.

According to Star Tribune, visitation for John Sersha is scheduled on Friday, May 28th 4 to 7 p.m. Friday at Bauman Family Funeral Home, 516 1st St. S., Virginia, Minnesota with services to follow starting at 11 a.m. Saturday at Holy Spirit Catholic Church, 306 2nd St. S., Virginia, Minnesota.

To share condolences online, please see: www.baumanfuneralhome.com.

Sersha is survived by siblings Paul Sersha, of Virginia, and Julia Trunzo, of nearby Mountain Iron. Three sisters, including Lohry’s mother, Mary Pecher, and a brother are deceased.

Editor’s note: Operation Market Garden is the subject of the 1977 film: A Bridge Too Far with Sean Connery and Michael Cain.

Articles

These new changes to the USMC physical fitness program are effective immediately

The Marine Corps has announced today that revisions have been made to its physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT), and the Body Composition Program (BCP). Changes to BCP will take effect immediately, while PFT and CFT changes will be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2017.


The PFT changes are among the most profound since 1972 and the changes to the CFT standards are the first since its inception in 2009.

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Revisions have been made to the U.S. Marine Corps physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT) and the Body Composition Program (BCP). All final changes to BCP will take effect as of January 2017.

“Last November we began a comprehensive review of physical fitness and body composition standards,” said Gen. Robert B. Neller, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Subsequent efforts focused on developing a physical fitness program that incentivizes behavior toward an end state of a healthy and fit force able to better answer the call in any clime and place.”

Immediate changes to the BCP include an increase in the height and weight standards for females, better equipment for determining height and weight for all Marines and the BCP waiver authority will be passed from the deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs to the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command.

The Marine Corps has taken physical performance into consideration when considering BCP. Marines scoring 285 and higher on both the PFT and CFT will now be exempt from height and weight standards. Marines who score between 250 and 284 will have their maximum body fat percentage increased by one percent.

So for example if a Marine has a maximum body fat percentage [of] 19 percent, with a score between 250 and 284 on both the PFT and CFT, he or she will be allowed to go up to 20 percent body fat.

Changes to the PFT include a pull-up/push-up hybrid for both males and females. This eliminates the option for the flex arm hang for females starting in January.

Although Marines can earn points by doing either of the exercises, the maximum amount of points a Marine can earn doing push-ups is 70 points versus 100 if they chose to do pull-ups. This means the highest PFT score a Marine can earn if they chose to do push-ups is 270. The primary benefits of incorporating the pull-up/push-up option for all Marines is that it incentivizes Marines to improve their pull-ups while ensuring gains of upper body strength across the force.

Marines will also have to complete more crunches for maximum score on their next PFT, with scoring being age and gender normed. There will be a slight adjustment to the three-mile run for Marines in high age brackets, too. The PFT and CFT age brackets will change from four age groups to eight. The new groups are as follows: 17-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, 46-50, and 51+.

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U.S. Marines perform a combat fitness test. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell)

Changes to the CFT will consist of adjusted scoring for all three events to correspond with the eight age brackets. The most drastic change will be with the ammo can lifts (ACL) where male Marines age 31-35 will have to complete 120 ACLs for a perfect score vice 97, and female Marines age 26-30 will have to complete 75 ACLs for a perfect score vice 63.

Another change to the CFT is all Marines will perform five push-ups instead of three push-ups during the maneuver under fire portion of the test.

“The new PFT and CFT standards raise the bar on physical fitness for all Marines,” said Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general, Training and Education Command. “Marines today are stronger, faster, and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate. In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”

Related: Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

TECOM will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure the standards contribute to the effectiveness of the force.

Additional details, including the new PFT/CFT scoring tables, physical fitness training recommendations and BCP adjustments are available at: https://fitness.usmc.mil. Follow-on MARADMINS and instructional products will further address details of the changes and the associated Marine Corps Orders will be updated accordingly.

MIGHTY HISTORY

California once used children to fight a war on squirrels

The year is 1918, and American troops are facing the Germans in deadly trench warfare on the Western Front. That isn’t the only place war has taken hold, the Great War is raging all over the world, and California is no different. There, along the far, far Western front, California state horticulturist George H. Hecke called up California’s most precious natural resource: children.

Their enemy was a pest unlike any other the state had ever seen, and Hecke decided their time had come. The squirrels had to go.


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The new children’s crusade called for a seven-day operation whereby California schoolchildren would attack the vicious squirrel army (often depicted wearing the pointed “Hun” helmet worn by the German army at the time). When the students weren’t creating passive killing fields by spreading rodent poisons where squirrels were known to gather food the kiddos were encouraged to form “a company of soldiers in your class or in your school” to go out and meet the enemy head-on, hitting the furry huns where they lived. “Squirrel Week” was on.

“All the killing devices of modern warfare will be used in the effort to annihilate the squirrel army, including gas,” wrote the Lompoc Journal. “Don’t wait to be drafted.”

The U.S. government made every effort to link the anti-squirrel effort to the war effort, referring to the California Ground Squirrel as “the Kaiser’s aides” while showing the squirrels decked out in enemy uniforms, wearing the Iron Cross. The government even distributed recipes for barley coated with the deadly poison strychnine.

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The state had a point. Otospermophilus Beecheyi, also known as the California Ground Squirrel, was not only a pest to farms and stored food, but was also known to carry certain diseases, such as bubonic plague. More importantly, the rodent ate nearly 0 million in crops and stored food in California (using today’s dollar values), food which could otherwise go to the doughboys fighting the World War raging in Europe. Children were even asked to bring in squirrel tails to school to show off their confirmed kills.

The schoolchildren did not disappoint. In all, More than 104,000 squirrels met their furry maker during Squirrel Week 1918 – but that was just one battle. The war raged on as long as the War in Europe raged on. California children continued killing the squirrels for a long time after Squirrel Week. The effort did not have lasting consequences for the squirrels at large, however. Today the California Ground Squirrel’s conservation status is the lowest at “least concern.”

Least concern, or lulling us into a false sense of security before counter-attacking? You decide.

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