COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

The global death toll from the coronavirus is approaching 230,000 with more than 3.2 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Tajikistan

Tajik authorities said they had registered 15 coronavirus cases in the country, the first such cases after weeks of mounting speculation that officials were suppressing information about the disease.

The confirmation of the cases, made April 30 by the government task force charged with fighting the coronavirus, poses a dangerous challenge for the authoritarian government.

Tajikistan’s health-care system is underfunded and unequipped to deal with a widespread outbreak of cases. The government, under President Emomali Rahmon, has suppressed opposition parties, civil society groups, and independent media for years, leading to a vacuum of information.

The country’s Health Ministry said five coronavirus cases had been recorded in Dushanbe and 10 in the northern city of Khujand.

The ministry did not release any further details such as when the cases were discovered or which hospitals the patients were being treated at.

The state-run Khovar news agency said that the task force ordered that all Tajiks must now wear face coverings when outdoors.

Even as infections skyrocketed in other Central Asian nations, Rahmon flouted warnings from international experts to order social-distancing restrictions or other measures to try to curtail any spread of the disease.

Suspicion has grown amid a spike in respiratory diseases that have been described as pneumonia or tuberculosis.

Even though it had not confirmed any cases at the time, the government last week closed schools for two weeks and suspended the national soccer season over the coronavirus.

Adding to the confusion, the country representative of the World Health Organization, Galina Perfilyeva, has for weeks repeated government insistence that there were no cases in the country.

On April 27, she warned that the country must be ready for the “worst-case scenario.” WHO officials said a team of experts were expected to travel to Tajikistan on April 30.

Turkmenistan now is the only country in Central Asia that has not officially reported any cases of the virus.

Central Asia

Other countries across Central Asia have begun to ease restrictions that were suspended over the coronavirus outbreak.

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev said on April 30 that the resumption of economic activities will take into consideration priorities and proceed in 10-day stages beginning on May 1.

According to Abylgaziev, his cabinet has allocated some million for measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Kyrgyz Interior Minister Kashkar Junushaliev told reporters on April 30 that all checkpoints in Bishkek, the capital, will be removed on May 1 and that police will patrol streets to monitor vehicle movements.

The Health Ministry said on April 30 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country had reached 746, including eight deaths.

Neighboring Uzbekistan has begun to ease restrictions as well, announcing that, as of April 30, citizens could resume using private cars from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The use of private vehicles was temporarily banned in March because of the pandemic.

A day earlier, the Uzbek government extended the suspension of all flights abroad to June 30. International flights, except cargo flights, were suspended initially for one month on March 30.

According to health officials, there were 2,017 coronavirus cases, including nine deaths, in Uzbekistan as of April 30.

The largest number of coronavirus cases in the region has been officially registered in Kazakhstan, where the latest figures on April 30 were 3,273 cases with 25 deaths.

Kazakhstan

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on Kazakhstan to stop harassing journalists covering the coronavirus outbreak in the country, saying they are being subjected to “interrogation, prosecution, and violation of the confidentiality of their sources.”

“On the pretext of avoiding panic, the authorities are harassing journalists and bloggers who stray from the official line on the epidemic,” Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement on April 30.

“This exploitation of the state of emergency is harming press freedom in Kazakhstan. It must stop,” Cavelier added.

The statement cited the case of Zaure Mirzakhodjaeva, a journalist and blogger in the southern city of Shymkent, who was summoned and questioned by the police for seven hours last week over a Facebook post.

It said Mirzakhodjaeva is now being criminally investigated for allegedly spreading false information.

Media in Kazakhstan have been subjected to “judicial harassment” since the Central Asian country declared a state of emergency on March 16, according to RSF.

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog said the authorities are “monitoring social media and media outlets closely for what they regard as excessive criticism of the government’s handling of the health crisis.”

Serbia

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has shortened a three-day weekend curfew to just one day to allow for celebrations of the May 1 holiday amid ongoing public protests over restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“We propose that the curfew begin at 6 p.m. [on April 30] and last until [May 1] at 5 a.m.,” Vucic told state broadcaster RTS on April 29.

An original plan would have imposed a curfew from the evening of April 30 until the morning of May 4 in order to limit gatherings of people in public places. Serbs traditionally celebrate May 1 with large picnics.

Serbia introduced draconian measures last month, including a state of emergency, the closure of borders, a daily curfew from 5 p.m., and total lockdowns all weekend, including all four days of the Orthodox Easter holiday.

Gatherings of more than five people remain banned, Vucic said.

The decision follows three nights of noisy protests by Serb citizens who were stuck at home and resorted to banging tin pans and drums to vent their anger at the government and its tough containment measures against the virus.

The protests are similar to one held in 1996 and 1997 in response to what they saw as electoral fraud attempts by the Socialist Party of Serbia, led by President Slobodan Milosevic, after local elections in 1996.

The coronavirus protests have also provided an outlet for discontent with the policies of Vucic, a former nationalist firebrand and ex-information minister under Milosevic who later adopted pro-European values.

Many Serbs say Vucic, in power since 2012, and his ruling coalition are displaying traits of authoritarianism, employing oppression against political opponents, stifling media freedoms, corruption, cronyism, and ties with organized crime.

Vucic and his allies deny such accusations.

As of April 2, the number of coronavirus infections in Serbia was almost 8,500, with 168 deaths, according to Serbia’s Health Ministry.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Storm clouds are gathering over the Korean Peninsula

“Storm clouds are gathering” over the Korean Peninsula, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declared Dec. 22.


And as diplomats try to resolve the nuclear standoff, he told soldiers that the US military must do its part by being ready for war.

Without forecasting a conflict, Mattis emphasized that diplomacy stands the best chance of preventing a war if America’s words are backed up by strong and prepared armed forces.

“My fine young soldiers, the only way our diplomats can speak with authority and be believed is if you’re ready to go,” Mattis told several dozen soldiers and airmen at the 82nd Airborne Division’s Hall of Heroes, his last stop on a two-day pre-holiday tour of bases to greet troops.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis enters Michie Stadium before the 2017 graduation ceremony at West Point. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart.

The stop came a day after Mattis visited the American Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, becoming the first defense secretary to visit in almost 16 years.

Also read: This video answers the question of the casualty radius of Mattis’ knife hand

Mattis’ comments came as the UN Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea, compelling nations to sharply reduce their sales of oil to the reclusive country and send home all North Korean expatriate workers within two years. Such workers are seen as a key source of revenue for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s cash-strapped government.

President Donald Trump and other top US officials have made repeated threats about US military action. Some officials have described the messaging as twofold in purpose: to pressure North Korea to enter into negotiations on getting rid of its nuclear arsenal, and to motivate key regional powers China and Russia to put more pressure on Pyongyang so a war is averted.

The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this week that the Trump administration had had “dramatically” stepped up preparations for a “bloody nose” attack to send Pyongyang a message.

Also this week, when asked about the US’s stance toward the stand-off with North Korea, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, said the US had “to be prepared if necessary to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime.”

For the military, the focus has been on ensuring soldiers are ready should the call come.

At Fort Bragg, Mattis recommended the troops read T.R. Fehrenbach’s military classic “This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness,” first published in 1963, a decade after the Korean War ended.

“Knowing what went wrong the last time around is as important as knowing your own testing, so that you’re forewarned — you know what I’m driving at here,” he said as soldiers listened in silence. “So you gotta be ready.”

Read More: US considers a ‘limited strike’ to bloody Kim Jong Un’s nose

The US has nearly 28,000 troops permanently stationed in South Korea, but if war came, many thousands more would be needed for a wide range of missions, including ground combat.

The retired Marine Corps general fielded questions on many topics in his meetings with troops at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba and Naval Station Mayport in Florida on Thursday and at Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina on Friday. North Korea seemed uppermost on troops’ minds as they and their families wonder whether war looms.

Asked about recent reports that families of US service members in South Korea might be evacuated, Mattis stressed his belief that diplomacy could still avert a crisis. He said there is no plan now for an evacuation.

“I don’t think it’s at that point yet,” he said, adding that an evacuation of American civilians would hurt the South Korean economy. He said there is a contingency plan that would get US service members’ families out “on very short notice.”

Mattis said he sees little chance of Kim disrupting the Winter Olympics, which begin in South Korea in February.

“I don’t think Kim is stupid enough to take on the whole world by killing their athletes,” he said.

Mattis repeatedly stressed that there is still time to work out a peaceful solution. At one point he said diplomacy is “going positively.” But he also seemed determined to steel US troops against what could be a costly war on the Korean Peninsula.

 

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo visit the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea during a visit to the Joint Security Area in South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. DoD photo by US Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

“There is very little reason for optimism,” he said.

Mattis is not the only senior military official cautioning troops to be ready for conflict.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marines in Norway this week that he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future, cautioning them to remain alert and ready. Neller said he believed the Corps’ focus would soon shift away from operations in the Middle East toward “the Pacific and Russia.”

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller told Marines in Norway according to Military.com.

MIGHTY TRENDING

European component arrives in US for new Orion moon missions

The powerhouse that will help NASA’s Orion spacecraft venture beyond the Moon is stateside. The European-built service module that will propel, power, and cool during Orion flight to the Moon on Exploration Mission-1 arrived from Germany at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Nov. 6, 2018, to begin final outfitting, integration, and testing with the crew module and other Orion elements.

The service module is integral to human missions to the Moon and Mars. After Orion launches on top of the agency’s Space Launch System rocket, the service module will be responsible for in-space maneuvering throughout the mission, including course corrections. The service module will also provide the powerful burns to insert Orion into lunar orbit and again to get out of lunar orbit and return to Earth. It is provided by ESA (European Space Agency) and built by ESA’s prime contractor Airbus of Bremen, Germany. NASA’s prime contractor for Orion, Lockheed Martin, built the crew module and other elements of the spacecraft.


“We have a strong foundation of cooperation with ESA through the International Space Station partnership, and the arrival of the service module signifies that our international collaboration extends to our deep space human exploration efforts as well,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations.

The European-built service module brings together new technology and lightweight materials while taking advantage of spaceflight-proven hardware. It is comprised of more than 20,000 components, including four solar array wings that provide enough electricity to power two three-bedroom homes, as well as an orbital maneuvering system engine, a recently refurbished engine previously used for in-orbit control by the space shuttle. Beginning with Exploration Mission-2, the module also will provide air and water for astronauts flying inside Orion, which will carry people to destinations farther than anyone has travelled before and return them safely to Earth.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

“Our teams have worked together incredibly hard to develop a service module that will make missions to the Moon and beyond a reality,” said Mark Kirasich, NASA’s Orion program manager. “It is quite an accomplishment of ESA and Airbus to have completed the developmental work on the module and have this major delivery milestone behind us.”

Now that the service module is at Kennedy, it will undergo a host of tests and integration work ahead of Exploration Mission-1. Engineers will complete functional checkouts to ensure all elements are working properly before it is connected to the Orion crew module. Teams will weld together fluid lines to route gases and fuel and make electrical wiring connections. The service module and crew module will be mated, and the combined spacecraft will be sent to NASA’s Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio early 2019 where it will undergo 60 days of continuous testing in the world’s largest thermal vacuum chamber to ensure Orion can withstand the harsh environment of deep space. Once that testing is complete, it will return to Kennedy for integration with the SLS rocket in preparation for launch.

NASA is leading the next steps to establish a permanent human presence at the Moon. The first in a series of increasingly complex missions, Exploration Mission-1 is a flight test of an uncrewed Orion spacecraft and SLS rocket that will launch from NASA’s modernized spaceport at Kennedy. The mission will send Orion 40,000 miles beyond the Moon and back and pave the road for future missions with astronauts. Together, NASA and its partners will build the infrastructure needed to explore the Moon for decades to come while laying the groundwork for future missions to Mars.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

According to a US official, South Korea’s military is ‘among the best in the world’

The South Korean military is among the best in the world, and it is the largest part of the force that will “fight, tonight” if North Korea attacks, said a US Forces Korea official speaking on background.


The official spoke to reporters traveling with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Dunford is here to participate in the Military Committee Meeting with his South Korean counterpart Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with South Korea Air Force Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo, chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, for the 42nd Military Committee Meeting at South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff Headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro.

‘Fight, Tonight’

Much of the discussion in the Military Committee Meeting is on the military capabilities and capacities that the United States and South Korea bring to the ability to “fight, tonight.”

By itself, the South Korean military is an excellent force. When it is combined with US forces it is world class, the official said.

North Korea is a dangerous state, the official said, noting the North Korean military gets the lion’s share of resources in the country. And, while North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is working to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them, North Korea’s conventional forces are a worry, as well, he said.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons of the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. USAF photo by Senior Airman Brittany Y. Auld.

The North has much of Seoul — South Korea’s capital city with 25 million people — within range of artillery over the demilitarized zone, the official said. The North has 950,000 service members on active duty and another 600,000 reserve personnel.

South Korean Military

The South Korean military is extremely capable, the official said. The United States and South Korea are strongly tied to one another with US assets aiding the South Koreans and vice versa. The two nations train to the same standards, the official said, and use the same battlefield tactics, techniques, and procedures.

Related: South Korea trained commandos just to kill North Korea’s dictator

“From a person who has worked with a lot of different countries, I put them at the high-end of capability,” the official said of South Korea’s military. “I wouldn’t stretch it to say it is an absolute replacement for a US capability, but combined it is very strong.”

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases
Cadet Huh Choong-bum (left), a third-year cadet at the Korea Military Academy, pulls a guard around his fellow soldiers as they examine the map during the land navigation training at Camp Casey, South Korea, March 27. Photo from DOD.

South Korea has a formidable force of its own with about 625,000 service members on active duty and about 3 million in reserve, he said. South Korea has military conscription.

The South Koreans also have an economy to buy and maintain modern military equipment, the official said.

North Korean Military Capabilities

North Korea’s conventional military capabilities “are in the decline,” the official said, “because of the economy, because of their austerity.”

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases
South Korea’s Gen. Sun Jin Lee, Republic of Korea Army chairman and joint chiefs of staff visits Guam’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, site Nov. 1, 2016, along with Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the combined US forces in South Korea. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel.

North Korea’s aircraft are old, as are its tanks and armored personnel carriers, the official said. North Korea’s navy has a number of submarines, but it is uncertain how capable they are, he added.

Just comparing capabilities, the official said he’d South Korea’s military capability “way above that of the North.”

But the North has the numbers and “quantity has a quality all its own,” the official said.

“I do not dismiss the conventional threat from the North,” he said. “But the [North’s] unconventional threat — the nukes, the missiles, cyber capabilities, special operations forces — are growing.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

What happened when a Coast Guard icebreaker caught fire near Antarctica

During its return from an annual supply run to the McMurdo research station in Antarctica, the US Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, had a fire break out inside its incinerator room as it sailed about 650 miles north of McMurdo Sound.

The incident occurred on Feb. 10, 2019, after the icebreaker had left Antarctica, where it had cut a channel though nearly 17 miles of ice that was 6 to 10 feet thick to allow a container ship to offload 10 million pounds of supplies that will sustain US research stations and field camps in Antarctica.


According to a Coast Guard release, four fire extinguishers failed during the initial response, and it ultimately took two hours for the ship’s fire crews to put out the blaze. While damage from the flames was contained inside the incinerator housing, water used to cool nearby exhaust pipes damaged electrical systems and insulation in the room.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

Smoke from a fire aboard the Coast Guard heavy icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

A fire in the incinerator room of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“It’s always a serious matter whenever a shipboard fire breaks out at sea, and it’s even more concerning when that ship is in one of the most remote places on Earth,” Vice Adm. Linda Fagan, commander of the US Coast Guard’s Pacific Area, said in a release. “The crew of the Polar Star did an outstanding job — their expert response and determination ensured the safety of everyone aboard.”

Point Nemo, the most remote spot on earth, is also in the South Pacific — 1,670 miles from the nearest land, which is Ducie Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands, to the north; Motu Nui, one of the Easter Islands, to the northeast; and Maher Island, part of Antarctica, to the south.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

Coast Guard crew members fight a fire aboard the icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 10, 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

A disabled fishing vessel is towed through sea ice near Antarctica by the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, Feb. 14, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener)

The Polar Star is the Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, capable of smashing through the thick ice that builds up in the Arctic and around Antarctica. As such, it makes the run to McMurdo every year in the winter months and then goes into dry dock for maintenance and repairs in preparation for the next trip.

Having just one working heavy icebreaker has hindered the Coast Guard’s ability to meet request from other government agencies. The service could only do 78% of heavy icebreaking missions between 2010 and 2016, according to a 2017 Government Accountability Office Report.

Retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, who was Coast Guard commandant between mid-2014 and mid-2018, said in December 2018 that he turned down a request to carry out a freedom-of-navigation exercise in the Arctic out of concern the Polar Star would break down and need Russia to rescue it.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

Contractors work on the Polar Star’s hull as the icebreaker undergoes depot-level maintenance at a dry dock in Vallejo, California, in preparation for its future polar-region patrol, April 16, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

US Coast Guard scuba divers work to repair a leak in the shaft seal of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, January 2019.

(US Coast Guard photo)

The Polar Star left its home port in Seattle on Nov. 27, 2018, to make the 11,200-mile trip to Antarctica for the sixth time in as many years. It suffered a number of mechanical problems on the way there, including smoke damage to an electrical switchboard, ship-wide power outages, and a leak in the propeller shaft.

Repairing the propeller-shaft leak required the ship to halt icebreaking operations and deploy divers to fix the shaft seal. The Polar Star also had a number of mechanical issues during its 2018 run to McMurdo.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

The Polar Star sailed into Wellington, New Zealand, on Feb. 18, 2019, for a port call, the first time those aboard had set foot on land in 42 days, according to New Zealand news outlet Stuff. The ship is currently on its way back to Seattle, the Coast Guard said in its release.

Source: Stuff

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

The Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea passing the Polar Star in the ice channel near McMurdo, Antarctica, Jan. 10, 2002.

(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

A seal on the ice in front of the Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star while the ship was hove-to in the Ross Sea near Antarctica, Jan. 30, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Carlos Rodriguez)

The Coast Guard has been pushing to build a new heavy icebreaker for some time, setting up a joint program office with the Navy to oversee the effort. Funding for the new ship had been held up in Congress, but lawmakers recently approved 5 million to start building a new one and another million for materials for a second.

In summer 2018, the Senate approved 5 million for the new icebreaker, but the House of Representatives instead authorized billion to build the US-Mexico border wall sought by President Donald Trump, cutting a number of programs, including that of the icebreaker in the process.

But Congressional staffers told USNI News in February 2019 that the Homeland Security Department’s fiscal year 2019 appropriation would include 5 million for new icebreakers.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

More Sailors Are Reenlisting. Leaders Say It’s Because Navy Culture Is Changing

The Navy is moving away from the “suck it up, buttercup”-style culture of the past to appeal to the millennial generation and beyond — and new retention numbers indicate the approach is likely working.

The service blasted past its 2019 retention goals for enlisted sailors in their first 10 years in uniform. It held onto nearly 65% of Zone A sailors, or those with less than six years in. And 72% of Zone B sailors — those with six to 10 years in — re-upped.


The Navy set out to keep at least 55% of sailors in Zone A and 65% of those in Zone B. When combined with Zone C sailors, those who’ve been in the service for 10 to 14 years, the 2019 reenlistment rate was 74% across the three zones.

Fleet Master Chief Wes Koshoffer, with Navy Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education, told reporters the high re-up rates are a result of an ongoing culture shift in the Navy. Leaders are listening to rank-and-file sailors, he said, and the Navy is focused on developing policies based on what’s easier for the individual and their family.

“When I was a very, very young sailor in the Navy, facing a particularly challenging … family situation, the moniker was, ‘Family didn’t come in your seabag, shipmate. We need you,'” Koshoffer said. “That is no longer our mantra.”

The entire military faces recruiting and retention challenges when it’s up against a booming economy. People have job options outside the service, Koshoffer said. Being an appealing career choice for today’s generation of sailors is crucial as the Navy builds its force back up to 340,500 personnel as it faces more sophisticated threats.

That’s up from a 2012 end-strength low of 318,000 enlisted sailors and naval officers.

“We’re going to need a bigger Navy,” the fleet master chief said. “[We have] a different national strategy, a different military and Navy strategy. … In order to really grow at the pace we want to grow, you have to have these high retention numbers.”

Yeoman 2nd Class Thomas Mahoney and Personnel Specialist 1st Class Holly Tucker say they’ve seen Navy culture change during their time in the service. Mahoney, 26, will soon reenlist for the second time. Tucker, 25, re-upped last year.

Mahoney was on an aircraft carrier when two destroyers in the Pacific suffered separate fatal collisions. When lack of sleep was found to have contributed to the accidents, Mahoney said leaders in 7th Fleet reacted immediately.

More rotational watch schedules were added, and other steps were taken to ensure people were getting good sleep while deployed, he said.

That’s a big shift, Koshoffer said. “Our attitude toward sleep [used to be], ‘You’ll sleep when you’re dead,'” he said. “We’ve changed that.”

Tucker cited the military’s 12-week maternity leave policy as contributing to her decision to stay in the Navy. The service’s maternity leave policy briefly tripled from six weeks to 18 under former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus. In 2016, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced all the services would receive 12 weeks.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

“I think that’s a great incentive for women specifically,” Tucker said, adding that she values her leadership’s support and understanding on family matters.

The millennial generation is also focused on career progression and flexibility, the Navy found. Koshoffer said leaders are shifting the service’s culture to show sailors they’re listening and responding to what they’re looking for in a Navy career.

After years of complaints about the Navy’s career detailing program being too secretive, for example, the service unveiled a new online database called My Navy Assignment. The tool is meant to give sailors more information about requirements they’ll need for their jobs of choice so they can build up their skills well before their detailing window hits.

So far, about 11,000 sailors have used the tool to bookmark 27,000 jobs.

“The reason why we show every job available to the sailors was sailor demand for transparency,” Koshoffer said. “… We heard you, we listened, we made the change.”

Change is what the Navy must do in order to compete for top talent, the fleet master chief added. The service still relies on reenlistment bonuses to entice those in hard-to-fill jobs to stay in uniform. Tucker, for example, was eligible for an extra ,000 when she reenlisted.

But the Navy must also embrace telework, flex hours and job-sharing options, Koshoffer said.

“The nature of work is changing,” he said. “… That would be heresy in some circles that in the Navy, we would allow somebody to telework. Are you kidding me?

“But we recognize that we’ve got to adapt to a modern lifestyle and world out there.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Investigators say crashed Marine KC-130 ‘blew up in mid-air’

 Marine aircraft crashed in Mississippi Monday night and all 16 passengers on board are dead.


Fred Randle, Leflore County emergency management director, confirmed that there were no survivors in the crash and all 16 victims were .

The plane crashed in a soybean field in Leflore County, located about 100 miles north of Jackson, Miss. The debris from the crash scattered throughout a five-mile radius.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases
Scene of the crash in a farmer’s field in Mississippi. (Photo via News Edge)

A Mississippi state trooper told WMC Action News 5 that the plane had a great deal of ammunition on board, making investigation efforts difficult.

“There’s a lot of ammo in the plane. That’s why we are keeping so far back. We just don’t know what it’ll do. It burns a bit then goes out, burns a little more then dies down,” the trooper said.

Investigators also told the news crew that they believe the plane exploded in mid-air.

Articles

This 85-year-old Special Forces legend has one of the most badass military resumes we’ve ever seen

While other senior citizens were enjoying a quiet life in retirement, 71-year-old Billy Waugh was hunting for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and blowing Taliban fighters to smithereens.


As a member of a CIA team sent in shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Waugh battled militants at Tora Bora and helped bring about the collapse of the Taliban. It seemed a pretty good ending to a career that featured combat in Korea and Vietnam, surveilling Libya’s military, tracking international terrorists, and God-only-knows-what-else for the CIA.

Waugh was born in 1929 in Texas and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1948. After completing airborne school he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. But he was eager to get into combat, and he reenlisted in 1951 so he could get to the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in Korea. Then the Korean war ended, and his career veered off into “black ops” territory once he joined the Special Forces in 1954.

His life after that reads like the most badass resume we’ve ever seen: Five tours with Special Forces “A” teams in Vietnam and Laos where he was wounded multiple times, working for the CIA’s Special Activities Division in Libya, preventing the Russians from stealing classified missile secrets on the Kwajalein Atoll, and helping to hunt down the infamous terrorist Carlos “The Jackal,” which he later detailed in a book.

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases
Just the beginning.

In that same book, “Hunting The Jackal,” Waugh also writes of the time he survived a major North Vietnamese Army attack in Vietnam, where he was shot in the head.

“I took another bullet, this time across the right side of my forehead. I don’t know for sure, but I believe the bullet ricocheted off the bamboo before striking me. It sliced in and out of a two-inch section of my forehead, and it immediately started to bleed like an open faucet,” Waugh wrote. “It sounds like the punch line to a bad joke, but you know it’s a bad day when the best thing about it is getting shot in the head.”

The bullet had knocked him unconscious, and the NVA soldiers who later inspected his body thought he was dead. Though the enemy soldiers had taken his gear, clothing, and Rolex watch, he was left alone where he was hit, and his comrades later landed on a helicopter and saved his life.

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Waugh in Vietnam.

“If you were going up there, you were either going to die or get shot all to hell,” Waugh told The Miami New-Times of his team’s work in Vietnam. “Everyone in the outfit was wounded once, twice, three times.”

He officially retired from the Army at the rank of Sergeant Major in 1972, though he had been working for the CIA since 1961 and would continue to work for the agency over the years as an operative or contractor. His military awards include the Silver Star, four Bronze Stars, four Army Commendation medals, and eight Purple Hearts for wounds in combat.

Waugh has often lived in the shadows at the forefront of America’s wars. Long before Osama bin Laden would be known as U.S. public enemy number one, he was tracking the terror mastermind’s every move in Sudan and put forth several plans to take him out.

“I was within 30 meters of him,” Waugh told Air Force journalist Nick Stubbs in 2011. “I could have killed him with a rock.”

In between his time in uniform and paramilitary garb, Waugh earned a Bachelor’s and Masters Degree, and he still lectures young soldiers on the art of surveillance, according to Dangerous Magazine. But it’s apparently not all PowerPoint and boredom for the now-85-year-old.

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Photo: Nick Stubbs/US Air Force

Waugh, who now lives in northwest Florida, still lists himself as a “contractor for my present outfit” on his website. So the next time something bad happens to America’s enemies, he may be part of the reason why.

“If the mind is good and the body is able, you keep on going if you enjoy it,” Waugh told Stubbs. “Once you get used to that [life of adventure], you’re not about to quit. How could you want to do anything else?”

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time MacArthur promised to capture a hill or die on it

During the bloody and costly Argonne Offensive, American forces had to fight for three weeks and suffer 100,000 casualties to reach the objectives that were planned for the first day of fighting. One of those objectives was a large, well-defended hill that Douglas MacArthur was ordered to either capture or spend 5,000 lives in the failure. MacArthur promised his name would be on the list if he failed.


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Brig. Gen. Douglas MacArthur poses in a French castle recaptured from German forces one week before the Meuse-Argonne Offensive began in World War I.

(U.S. Army Lt. Ralph Estep)

MacArthur was a brigadier general at the time, recently passed over for promotion and in command of the 84th Infantry Brigade, and he and his men had already fought viciously from Sep. 26, 1918, to early October. MacArthur had led some of their attacks, including a daring nighttime raid, from the front, earning him nominations for what would become his sixth and seventh Silver Stars.

But the 84th was moved up to a division at Côte de Châtillon. It’s a large hill that dominates the surrounding terrain, and MacArthur assessed that it was the center of German fortifications in the area. He carefully laid his plans for attack and, as he was finishing up, his new corps commander visited him in his tent.

Maj. Gen. Charles P. Summerall and MacArthur were old friends and shared a cup of coffee. When he was done, Summerall stood to leave and told MacArthur, “Give me Châtillon, MacArthur, or turn in a list of 5,000 casualties.”

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American troops fighting in France in World War I. It was America’s first time in fully industrialized combat, and the learning curve was steep.

(Library of Congress)

It was a surprising order, but it highlighted the dire straits the American Expeditionary Force was in. Their first offensive in the Meuse the month before had gone very well, but America still had to prove itself to its allies. And Germany was close to winning the war before America entered it. Russia had fallen out of the war in 1917, and the French people were weary after over four years of fighting on their soil.

France could still fall, Germany could still win, and America would be seen as weak and exploited even if Germany lost the war without a significant American victory. Summerall and the other senior generals were willing to do nearly anything to prove that America was a real power on the world stage and to punish Germany for sinking U.S. ships.

But MacArthur was no slouch either. Remember, in less than a month of fighting before this meeting, he had earned himself nominations for two more Silver Stars. Though he would later be embarrassed by the drama of his response, what he said to Summerall at the time was, “All right, general. We’ll take it, or my name will head the list.”

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Soldiers of Headquarters Company, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division fire a 37mm gun during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, where American Soldiers fought their most difficult battle in World War I.

(U.S. Army)

To paraphrase, “I will come back with that hill or on it.” On October 14, MacArthur began his attack with “my Alabama cotton growers on my left, my Iowa farmers on my right,” as he referred to the National Guard forces under his command. The 83rd Infantry Brigade, made up mostly of New York and Ohio units, fought bravely beside the 84th.

It took three days. As MacArthur later wrote:

…little units of our men crawled and sneaked and side-slipped forward from one bit of cover to another. Death, cold and remorseless, whistled and sang its way through our ranks. But like the arms of a giant pincer my Alabama and Iowa National Guardsmen closed in from both sides. Officers fell and sergeants leaped to command. Companies dwindled to platoons and corporals took over.”

Côte de Châtillon fell to American hands late on October 16, MacArthur had led from the front, and he would later receive the Distinguished Service Cross for his great courage “in rallying broken lines and in reforming attacks, thereby making victory possible.”

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The hill Cote de Chatillon as photographed in 2018. In 1918, this hill was the site of stubborn German defenses which required the sacrifice of 3,000 American casualties to liberate.

(Georgia National Guard Capt. William Carraway)

The Germans counterattacked, ferociously, but MacArthur and his men held on, and the hills nearby quickly fell to American forces. The 42nd Infantry Division, of which the 83rd and 84th were part, would be temporarily relieved from front line duty on October 18. The two brigades had suffered 3,000 casualties taking the hill.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China’s next move in the trade war could threaten US F-35s

China is threatening the US with the possibility that it may withhold rare earth elements critical to the production of a number of different US products, including missiles and stealth fighters.

The US has been turning up the heat on China in the ongoing trade war. Now, Chinese media is warning that China can up the stakes.

“United States, don’t underestimate China’s ability to strike back,” the People’s Daily, the paper of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, wrote May 29, 2019, according to Reuters.

“Will rare earths become a counter weapon for China to hit back against the pressure the United States has put on for no reason at all? The answer is no mystery,” the newspaper explained in a commentary, ominously adding, “Don’t say we didn’t warn you!”


Other Chinese media outlets released similar articles.

Rare earth elements, of which China produces the overwhelming majority, play an important role in the production of defense systems. For example, a US Navy Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine requires 9,200 pounds of rare earth metals, while an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer needs 5,200 pounds.

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The guided-missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke.

(Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class RJ Stratchko)

US defense contractors like Raytheon and Lockheed Martin use rare earth metals to make high-end guidance systems and sensors for missiles and other military platforms, Reuters reported.

An F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, a fifth-generation stealth jet built to give the US an edge over rivals like China, requires 920 pounds of rare earth materials, according to Asia Times, which reported that the US has an almost nonexistent ability to produce rare earth materials.

“The US side wants to use the products made by China’s exported rare earths to counter and suppress China’s development,” the People’s Daily argued May 29, 2019. “The Chinese people will never accept this!”

The paper’s rhetoric suggests that China would intentionally take aim at the US defense sector, which Beijing believes is working to contain China’s rise.

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An F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter.

The US relies on China for as much as 80% of its rare earth materials, according to Bloomberg. “Rare earths are a niche specialty and critical to the Defense Department,” Simon Moores, managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, told the outlet.

“Rare earths are essential to the production, sustainment, and operation of US military equipment,” a 2016 Government Accountability Office report explained, adding that “Reliable access to the necessary material, regardless of the overall level of defense demand, is a bedrock requirement for DOD.”

Were China to pull the plug, it could certainly lead to complications, although there is the possibility that the department could turn to alternative sources given that its requirement is only 1% of the total US demand for rare earth elements.

Beijing has not yet said that it will take this step, but is certainly troubling that Chinese media is threatening this move as a potential response to US actions in the trade war.

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

Articles

This airman just gave her military dog a second chance at life

After nearly a year apart, it was an emotional moment when Air Force Staff Sgt. Amanda Cubbage of the 355th Security Forces Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, and the military working dog she worked with in South Korea were reunited here August 8.


The dog, Rick, was flown in from Osan Air Base, South Korea, after a lengthy adoption process.

“It’s [like] getting part of your heart back,” Cubbage said.

Cubbage and Rick served together at Osan for 11 months. On duty, they conducted exercises, and bomb threat and security checks. Off duty, they were each other’s wingman.

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Photo by Capt. Allie Payne

“Being stationed in Korea unaccompanied, he was my support,” Cubbage said. “He was there for everything I needed. He was there when I was happy, he was there when I was sad. Everything I needed came from him.”

As a military working dog handler, Cubbage has worked with several other dogs. She described parting ways as bittersweet.

“It’s just like having a kid moving off and going to college,” she said. “You still love your kid. It’s just the fact that they’re growing up, they’re going out, and they’re doing other things.”

Rick was different from the other dogs, Cubbage said. He instantly won her over with his headstrong personality.

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US Air Force Staff Sgt. Amanda Cubbage, 355th Security Forces Squadron member, reunites with her recently retired military working dog, Rick, in Tucson, Ariz., August 8, 2017. Cubbage worked with Rick while she served as a MWD handler at Osan Air Base, South Korea. US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Michael X. Beyer.

Rick’s Retirement

After seven years of service, Rick was retired due to his age. Cubbage found out about the opportunity to adopt him from a fellow handler. “And that’s when I reached out to the American Humane Society,” she said. “They said, ‘Absolutely, we’d love to help out.'”

Military working dogs are allowed to be adopted after retirement due to “Robby’s Law,” which was passed by Congress in 2000. The adoption process can be long and drawn out, involving tedious paperwork, immunizations, and, in Rick’s case, crossing the Pacific Ocean.

“You sit there and you wait and wait, and you just count down the days, count down the time, until you’re reunited with him,” Cubbage said.

Now that he is finally reunited with his companion, Rick will live a quiet life in retirement, filled with rest, relaxation, and plenty of treats.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In first DoD-wide audit, every military branch failed

The first-ever audit of the of the $2.7 trillion enterprise that is the Defense Department identified widespread problems in cybersecurity, but found little in the way of savings that could offset potential budget cuts in 2019, according to Pentagon and Congressional officials.

Without going into detail, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in a statement on the report, said the audit identified “multiple material weaknesses” across the department but also provided “invaluable information that will help us target and prioritize corrective actions.”


David Norquist, the Pentagon’s comptroller and prime mover behind the audit, said no glaring instances of fraud were found but the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Special Operations, and the Transportation Command all received failing grades.

“We didn’t pass. That’s the blunt and bottom line. We have issues and we’re going to fix them,” Norquist said.

That was to be expected in a first-time audit, Norquist told defense reporters in a Pentagon news conference shortly before the audit’s release on Nov. 15, 2018.

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David Norquist, the Pentagon’s comptroller and prime mover behind the audit.

(DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“If you’re not fixing it, the auditors will come back in exactly a year and find you didn’t fix it,” Norquist said before the report’s release. “And they’re going to come the next year, and the next year until you fix it, so each year I’ll be able to tell you how many findings we closed.”

Occasionally, the auditors turned up problems that turned out not to be problems, Norquist said, which is what happened when they went looking at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.

The Hill database listed million-worth of missile motors as broken and in need of repair. When the auditors went to look at them, the motors were found to be in working order — it was a problem in labeling, the audit report said.

One of the “material weaknesses,” as Mattis put it, was in the area of cybersecurity throughout the department, Norquist said.

“Our single largest number of findings is IT security around our businesses,” Norquist said, and it “reflects the challenges that the department faces in IT security.”

One area of concern was in security clearances for personnel and “terminating user access when they depart,” Norquist said.

The department also had to do a better job of “monitoring sensitive users, people who have special authorities, making sure there is careful monitoring to that,” Norquist said. “Our single largest number of findings is IT security around our business systems. We thought this was likely.”

Mattis has been pushing DoD managers to find efficiencies and savings on contracts and operations to fund improvements in the lethality and readiness of the force, and also to guard against potential budget cuts in the new Congress.

President Donald Trump has already warned that he could ask for five percent budget cuts in 2019 across all government departments.

In a statement on the audit, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the outgoing chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, urged against using the audit as an excuse to cut military funding.

The audit should be used to make the military “more efficient and agile,” Thornberry said, and “it should not be used as an excuse for arbitrary cuts that reverse the progress we have begun on rebuilding our strength and readiness.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who has called DoD a “.7 trillion enterprise” when all the ships, planes, tanks, missiles, salaries, and buildings are counted on top of the budget, agreed with Norquist that failures uncovered by the audit were to be expected in the first attempt.

“We never thought we were going to pass an audit, right? Everyone was betting against us that we wouldn’t even do the audit,” Shanahan told defense reporters on Nov. 15, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

VA awards $300 million in grants to help end veteran homelessness

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Creative commons


WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) today awarded approximately $300 million more in grants under the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program to help thousands of very low-income Veteran families around the nation who are permanently housed or transitioning to permanent housing. The SSVF grant program provides access to crucial services to prevent homelessness for Veterans and their families.

SSVF funding, which supports outreach, case management and other flexible assistance to prevent Veteran homelessness or rapidly re-house Veterans who become homeless, has been awarded to 275 non-profit organizations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  These grants, key elements of VA’s implementation of the Housing First Strategy, enable vulnerable Veterans to secure or remain in permanent housing.  A list of SSVF grantees is located at www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.

“Since 2010, the Housing First Strategy has helped cut Veteran Homelessness nearly in half,” said VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald.  “Housing First is why 360,000 Veterans and family members have been housed, rehoused or prevented from falling into homelessness over the last five years. SSVF helps homeless Veterans quickly find stable housing and access the supportive services they – and their families – need.”

Grantees will continue to provide eligible Veteran families with outreach, case management, and assistance obtaining VA and other benefits, which may include health care, income support services, financial planning, child care, legal services, transportation, housing counseling, among other services.

Grantees are expected to leverage supportive services grant funds to enhance the housing stability of very low-income Veteran families who are occupying permanent housing.  In doing so, grantees are required to establish relationships with local community resources.

In fiscal year (FY) 2015, SSVF served more than 157,000 participants and is on track to exceed that number in FY 2016.  As a result of these and other efforts, Veteran homelessness is down 47 percent since the launch of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness in 2010.  Also since 2010, more than 360,000 Veterans and their family members have been permanently housed, rapidly re-housed, or prevented from falling into homelessness by VA’s homelessness programs and targeted housing vouchers provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Today’s grant recipients successfully competed for grants under a January 15, 2016, Notice of Fund Availability.  Applications were due February 5, 2016.  The funding will support SSVF services in FY 2017, which starts October 1, 2016, and ends September 30, 2017.

For more information about the SSVF program, visit www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp.