Well guys, the Army’s slogan of “Army Strong” has officially been put on the chopping block. It had a solid run between 2006 and now, but it’s time to close that chapter and move on to the next slogan.
“One of the major responses we get when we survey folks who don’t have experience with military service is strength, so we know the ‘Army Strong’ resonates… but I don’t think it tells the story, the full story of being a soldier,” Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dan Dailey told defense reporters.
(DoD Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. James K. McCann)
The U.S. Army has had a mixed bag of slogans, from the out-freaking-standing, like “Be All You Can Be” and “I Want You,” to that awkward, blue falcon-inspired “Army of One.” Using those guidelines and past experiences, let’s focus in on what makes a good recruiting slogan. For all practical purposes, the slogan should be on par with a commercial product’s brand — after all, both try to entice the public and leave a lasting impression.
First thing to look for is how well it will stick in someone’s head. The idea of any slogan, for recruitment or otherwise, is to build brand recognition. The Navy ran an ill-fated “A Global Force for Good” slogan back in 2009. It sounds polite and it puts the Navy in a positive light, but it’s not turning any heads — it’s simply literal.
Just hearing that, even in context, doesn’t make any random person think, “Oh! I should join the Navy!” Their response to selling America’s Navy better in the eyes of younger potential sailors? Simply, “America’s Navy.” That lasted a whole two years before going to the objectively better “Forged by the Sea.” The Army needs a slogan that is uniquely Army.
(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)
Audiences have been quick to ask, “why not go back to ‘Be All You Can Be?'” The fact is, there’s no way of knowing whether young adults today will share the same connection with it as older Army vets once did. Put bluntly, the new slogan isn’t meant to reenlist retirees, but those who lived by the words should still be proud to say them. So, the goal is to make the slogan resonate with today’s young adults without making something embarrassing years down the line.
Brevity is also the key to a great slogan. The Army isn’t looking for some tired, furniture-salesman jingle. Something short, sweet, and to the point. “Army Strong” was good for this — keeping a two-to-four-word limit is a must. These slogans are easier for audiences to remember. After all, leaving a lasting, positive image of the Army is the goal. Many of the greatest ad campaigns in history have all been short and direct.
A great slogan subconsciously tells people of the benefits of their brand. In the Army’s case, it’s the benefit of being a soldier. At their cores, that’s why “Be All You Can Be” and “Army Strong” worked. They tell potential recruits that enlisting will improve their lives — and just as importantly, that they’re missing out on something if they don’t enlist.
Finally, the slogan should tell the truth of what it means to serve and should apply to all soldiers, from the beastly Special Forces operator to a regular training room clerk in the National Guard. Slogans like, “Be a Bad Mother F*cker” may grab eyeballs, but it isn’t exactly applicable.
Following all of these guidelines, the best slogan for convincing young adults who are thinking of enlisting is something along the lines of, “Become greater than yourself.” Simple, effective, true, and it’s a feeling that all soldiers feel when they serve — regardless of generation.
Only time will tell when the Army will adopt a new slogan. I wouldn’t be worried though. The bar is set at pretty low — just do better than “Army of One.”
Army and industry weapons developers are working with the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency to explore the feasibility of precision-guided rounds for a man-portable, anti-personnel and anti-armor weapon known as the Carl Gustaf, officials said.
Current innovations involve a cutting-edge technology program, called Massive Overmatch Assault Round or MOAR, aimed at exploring the prospect of precision guided rounds for the weapon.
While the shoulder-fired infantry and Special Operations weapon currently uses multiple rounds and advanced targeting technologies, using a precision “guided” round would enable the weapon to better destroy enemy targets on the move by having the technology to re-direct with advanced seeker technology.
“We are exploring different kinds of seekers to pursue precision engagement capabilities,” Malcolm Arvidsson, Product Director, Carl-Gustaf M4, Saab, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The weapon, called the Multi-Role Anti-Armor, Anti-Personnel Weapons System, known as the Carl-Gustaf, was initially used by Special Operations Forces. Several years ago, it was ordered by the Army in response to an Operational Needs Statement from Afghanistan.
These innovations are still in early conceptual, research and testing phases. However, they are being pursued alongside a current Army effort to acquire an upgraded 84mm recoilless shoulder-fired Carl Gustaf weapon able to travel with dismounted infantry and destroy tanks, armored vehicles, groups of enemy fighters and even targets behind walls, Army and industry officials said.
Acquisition efforts for the weapon began when the Army was seeking to procure a direct fire, man-portable, anti-personnel and light structure weapon able, among other things, to respond to insurgent rocket-propelled grenade, or RPG, fire, service officials said.
The Carl Gustaf get its name from the Swedish weapons production factory known as Carl Gustafs Stads Gevärsfaktori (“Rifle Factory of Carl Gustaf’s town”). | US Army photo
Designed to be lighter weight and more infantry-portable that a Javelin anti-tank missile, the Carl Gustaf is built to help maneuvering ground units attack a wide range of targets out to as far as 1,300 meters; its target set includes buildings, armored vehicles and enemy fighters in defilade hiding behind rocks or trees.
Following the weapon’s performance in Afghanistan with soldiers, Army weapons developers moved the weapon into a formal “program of record” and began to pursue an upgrade to the Carl Gustaf to include lighter weight materials such as titanium, Arvidsson said.
The upgraded M4 Carl-Gustaf, introduced in 2014, shortens the length and lowers the weight of the weapon to 15 pounds from the 22-pound previous M3 variant, he said. The first M3 variant of the weapon was introduced in the early 1990s.
“We use a steel that is half the weight and half the density. For the barrel, we have improved the lining pattern and added a more efficient carbon fiber wrapping,” Arvidsson added.
The lighter weight weapon is, in many ways, ideal for counterinsurgency forces on the move on foot or in light vehicles in search of small groups of enemy fighters – one possible reason it was urgently requested for the mountainous Afghanistan where dismounted soldiers often traverse high-altitude, rigorous terrain.
At the same time, the anti-armor function of the weapon would enable infantry brigade combat teams to attack enemy vehicles in a mechanized, force-on-force kind of engagement.
The Carl-Gustaf is engineered with multipurpose rounds that can be used against armored vehicles and soft targets behind the walls. There are also pure anti-structure rounds to go through thick walls to defeat the targets behind a wall, Army and Saab developers explained.
The weapon fires High-Explosive air burst rounds, close combat rounds, and then the general support rounds, like the smoke and battlefield elimination, developers said.
Airburst rounds use programmable fuse to explode in the air at a precise location, thereby maximizing the weapon’s effect against enemy targets hiding, for example, behind a rock, tree or building.
Air burst rounds can detonate in the air or in general proximity to a target. For instance, an airburst round could explode just above an enemy fighter seeking cover behind a rock or wall.
“I want to penetrate the target. I want to kill a light armored vehicle. I want to kill a structure. I want to kill somebody behind the structure. With the gun, soldiers can decide how to affect the targets. Really, that’s what the Carl-Gustaf brings to the battlefield is the ability to decide how they want to affect the battlefield — not call in air support and mark targets,” Wes Walters, Executive Vice President of Business Development, Land Domain, Saab North America, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The Army is evaluating a wide range of new technologies for its newer M4 variant to include electro-optical sights with a thermal imager, magnification sights of durable-optical sights, Saab officials explained.
Sensors and sights on the weapon can use advanced computer algorithms to account for a variety of environmental conditions known to impact the trajectory or flight of a round. These factors include the propellant temperature, atmospheric conditions, biometric pressure and terrain inclination,
“There are a number of parameters that the sight can actually calculate to give you a much harder first round probability of hit,” Walters said.
Some weapons use a laser rangefinder which calculates the distance of an enemy object by computer algorithms combing the speed of light with the length of travel – to determine distance.
As prior and present service members are gathered for the public USS Utah Memorial Sunset Ceremony, there is one thing on everyone’s mind: remembrance. Remembering the bravery of the crew that was lost 78 years ago, remembering the honor possessed by each soul onboard and the legacy they left behind. Fifty-eight members of the USS Utah (BB-31/AG-16) crew were lost that day, but today they are celebrated.
The capsizing of the USS Utah is honored every year on the eve of December 7. The former battleship, that was once used for target and gunnery training, was the first ship to be struck by two torpedoes during the attack on the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941.
As the amber rays of the sunset reflected upon the island of Oahu, USS Utah survivor Warren Upton along with World War II veterans Roy Solt and Burk Waldron were greeted by applause from those attending the ceremony.
Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the National Park Service, gave thanks to those that served and showed gratitude to everyone honoring the fallen ship.
Jacqueline Ashwell, superintendent of the National Park Service, says a speech during the USS Utah Memorial Sunset Ceremony in Pearl Harbor, Dec. 6, 2019.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Allen Michael Amani)
“There’s often a phrase that is associated with the USS Utah,” said Ashwell. “That somehow she is the forgotten ship of Pearl Harbor. It is obvious that the USS Utah is not the forgotten ship. We are all here to remember her and her crew.”
Ashwell recounted the memory of the late U.S. Navy Master Chief Jim Taylor, who served as a full-time volunteer to Navy Region Hawaii Public Affairs Office until his passing earlier this year. He served as a liaison for the survivors of Pearl Harbor and their families.
“He helped lay to rest many Pearl Harbor survivors who chose to come back and have their ashes spread in these waters around the Utah and for those who served on the Utah to be placed within the ship,” said Ashwell.
USS Utah Survivor Warren Upton was embraced by many families in attendance as he shook hands and gave hugs to those that thanked him for his service.
“This ceremony was very good,” said Upton. “I really miss Jim. He was a friend to all of the old Utah sailors.”
The ocean breeze and the water washing up against the memorial site are the only sounds heard as Musician 1st Class Collin Reichow, from Herndon Va., plays “Taps” upon his bugle. Sailors of many different ranks render a salute as the melody flows from his instrument. The ceremony comes to an end as everyone is reminded to never forget USS Utah.
This month is Mental Health Month, so we sat down the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Director of Innovation and Collaboration for the VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Dr. Wendy Tenhula. The good doctor was very outgoing in explaining how to spot trouble signs of mental health issues and answering our podcast listeners’ burning questions about the use of recreational drugs to treat PTSD.
The VA healthcare system is the largest in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the second largest cabinet-level office in the U.S. government — just behind the Pentagon.
Those of us who require the services of the VA healthcare system know that navigating it can be a daunting task. Do you need a psychiatrist or a psychologist? What’s the difference between the two? Which is better for your situation? Do you have to take drugs? Do I even have a choice?
The answer to the last question may surprise you: yes, you do.
But first it’s important to realize if you have a mental health condition. Or perhaps you see problems in a loved one that didn’t exist before their deployment or separation from the military. It’s harder to recognize a mental health condition than it is to recognize a physical condition. Everyone is different and the unique ways in which we internally respond to external problems makes it difficult to categorize ourselves. How do you know when you have a mental health issue and when you’re just having a bad day?
“If it’s getting in the way of your life,” says Dr. Tenhula. “Things like going to school, getting a job, maintaining relationships — then that’s a clue that you may have a mental health condition. It’s not necessarily a bad day.”
If identifying that you have a problem is the first step, where do we go from there?
There are a number of specialized, professional counselors that can help with your specific condition. But where the VA has started truly innovating is through the use of peer specialists — veterans who have had mental health struggles of their own. They know, first-hand, what a returning veteran is going through and they know the system.
Mental health treatments can often take time and some individual sessions can make veterans feel worse than when they came in. Treatment for post-traumatic stress often requires painfully and honestly revisiting traumatic experiences — and that’s hard. The VA’s peer specialists are also there to keep vets from getting discouraged.
(VA photo by Tami Schutter)
There is always more than one treatment option available and veterans have a choice to make — but it takes work, honesty, and a real partnership with your practitioner.
For more about the VA’s renewed push to reach more veterans through Mental Health Month and its Make the Connection campaign, listen to this episode of WATM’s Mandatory Fun podcast. Then, check out the Make the Connection website.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
The future flyoff between the Cold War-era A-10 ground attack aircraft and the F-35 fifth-generation stealth fighter will be “very interesting,” a general said.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is set to go up against the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in a series of weapons tests as early as next year under a stipulation in the latest National Defense Authorization Act, the annual defense policy and spending bill.
The legislation also prohibits retirement of the lumbering, low-flying, snub-nosed aircraft popularly known as the Warthog until the Air Force can prove the F-35’s ability to conduct close air support missions on the battlefield.
“It’ll be a very interesting test,” said Pleus, a former F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot who directs the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program’s integration office for the service.
F-35A (one of the three F-35 variant aircrafts) and its weapons suite. | Lockheed Martin photo
“The A-10 was built to deal with tanks in Europe,” he said. “A low, slow, big cannon on the front of it meant to destroy tanks and assist troops in contacts and do [close-air support]” a mission the aircraft has flown more recently in the Middle East against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS.
The cannon the general referred to is the 30mm, seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger in the nose of the Warthog. The weapon can hold as many as 1,174 rounds and is configured to fire at a fixed rate of fire of 3,900 rounds per minute.
The GAU-22/A, a four-barrel version of the 25mm GAU-12/U Equalizer rotary cannon found on the Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier II jump set, is designed to be internally mounted on the Air Force’s F-35A version of the aircraft and hold 182 rounds. It’s slated to be externally mounted on the Marine Corps’ F-35B jump-jet variant and the Navy’s F-35C aircraft carrier version and hold 220 rounds.
“The A-10 is a great CAS platform in a no-threat environment,” Pleus said, adding it was never meant to be a fast, high-flying aircraft that could maneuver in a contested environment — like in current parts of Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
The test between the A-10 and F-35 will be structured and certified by the Defense Department’s Operational Test and Evaluation Office, Pleus said. “That plan is something they are still developing” for the comparison testing “to start undergoing in 2018,” he said.
Citing his F-16 experience, Pleus said he would bet the A-10 comes out “as the better CAS platform” in a no-threat environment against the F-35, which performs similarly to the Fighting Falcon. But “as you now start to built the threat up, the A-10s won’t even enter the airspace before they get shot down — not even within 20 miles within the target.”
In that case, the F-35 would be the only aircraft left flying — even against more current versions of fighters.
Pleus said the argument isn’t over whether the A-10 has and can still perform close air support missions. The decision for Air Force leadership and lawmakers going forward, however, is how to distribute the resources to platforms that can do the mission, he said.
“Where are you getting your bang for your buck?” he said. “A single-platform A-10 that only does CAS and can’t do anything else and it has to be in an uncontested environment is probably not a realistic place for us to be continuing funding…for the future.”
The general continued, “If I were to develop that plan you have to show that the close air support is not just in a no-threat environment, because CAS is not always in a no-threat environment.
Pleus said, “When we get to the actual testing I think that’s where you’re going to see the differences.”
A military judge at the Guantanamo Bay detention center ruled Nov. 1 that a senior legal official in charge of the defense for terrorism suspects should be held in contempt of court in a dispute that has disrupted court proceedings at the base.
Air Force Col. Vance Spath issued the ruling against Marine Corps Brig. Gen. John Baker at a hearing at the US base in Cuba.
Spath said Baker should be confined to his quarters for 21 days and fined $1,000 for releasing three defense lawyers in a terrorism case without the judge’s authorization. A senior Pentagon legal official known as the convening authority must uphold the ruling before it becomes official and Baker is expected to challenge it.
Baker was led out of the courtroom to the shock of colleagues.
“It’s incredibly outrageous. It’s disgusting,” said Michel Paradis, a lawyer with the Pentagon’s Military Commission Defense Organization. “This Air Force colonel without any legal authority is arresting the chief defense counsel and sending him to the brig over what is, in essence, an administration authority dispute.”
A Pentagon spokesman, Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson, said that the judge acted under rules allowing him to ensure military commission proceedings are “conducted in a fair and orderly manner” and that the convening authority was expected to decide on the sentence in the coming days.
The dispute arose during the pretrial phase in the case of Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi and alleged senior member of al-Qaeda who is accused of planning the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, which killed 17 crew members. He could get the death penalty if convicted.
October 12, 2000, suicide terrorists exploded a small boat alongside the USS Cole—a Navy Destroyer—as it was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden. Photo form FBI.
Baker excused three defense attorneys assigned by the Pentagon to defend al-Nashiri on ethical issues that arose out of what they said was a breach of the attorney-client privilege. Officials have not disclosed the details of the allege breach, saying the information is classified.
The decision by the Marine general disrupted proceedings at the base scheduled for this week because the remaining defense lawyer said he lacked the experience necessary to carry on. Spath had declined to postpone the hearing.
Lawyers for the Military Commission Defense Organization have asked a judge in Washington to issue an emergency order halting the hearing this week until the issue is resolved.
NASA and the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration have successfully demonstrated a new nuclear reactor power system that could enable long-duration crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and destinations beyond.
NASA announced the results of the demonstration, called the Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology experiment, during a news conference May 2, 2018, at its Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The Kilopower experimentwas conducted at the NNSA’s Nevada National Security Site from November 2017 through March 2018.
“Safe, efficient and plentiful energy will be the key to future robotic and human exploration,” said Jim Reuter, NASA’s acting associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) in Washington. “I expect the Kilopower project to be an essential part of lunar and Mars power architectures as they evolve.”
Kilopower is a small, lightweight fission power system capable of providing up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power – enough to run several average households – continuously for at least 10 years. Four Kilopower units would provide enough power to establish an outpost.
(Los Alamos National Laboratory photo)
According to Marc Gibson, lead Kilopower engineer at Glenn, the pioneering power system is ideal for the Moon, where power generation from sunlight is difficult because lunar nights are equivalent to 14 days on Earth.
“Kilopower gives us the ability to do much higher power missions, and to explore the shadowed craters of the Moon,” said Gibson. “When we start sending astronauts for long stays on the Moon and to other planets, that’s going to require a new class of power that we’ve never needed before.”
The prototype power system uses a solid, cast uranium-235 reactor core, about the size of a paper towel roll. Passive sodium heat pipes transfer reactor heat to high-efficiency Stirling engines, which convert the heat to electricity.
According to David Poston, the chief reactor designer at NNSA’s Los Alamos National Laboratory, the purpose of the recent experiment in Nevada was two-fold: to demonstrate that the system can create electricity with fission power, and to show the system is stable and safe no matter what environment it encounters.
“We threw everything we could at this reactor, in terms of nominal and off-normal operating scenarios and KRUSTY passed with flying colors,” said Poston.
The Kilopower team conducted the experiment in four phases. The first two phases, conducted without power, confirmed that each component of the system behaved as expected. During the third phase, the team increased power to heat the core incrementally before moving on to the final phase. The experiment culminated with a 28-hour, full-power test that simulated a mission, including reactor startup, ramp to full power, steady operation and shutdown.
(Los Alamos National Laboratory photo)
Throughout the experiment, the team simulated power reduction, failed engines and failed heat pipes, showing that the system could continue to operate and successfully handle multiple failures.
“We put the system through its paces,” said Gibson. “We understand the reactor very well, and this test proved that the system works the way we designed it to work. No matter what environment we expose it to, the reactor performs very well.”
The Kilopower project is developing mission concepts and performing additional risk reduction activities to prepare for a possible future flight demonstration. The project will remain a part of the STMD’s Game Changing Development program with the goal of transitioning to the Technology Demonstration Mission program in Fiscal Year 2020.
Such a demonstration could pave the way for future Kilopower systems that power human outposts on the Moon and Mars, including missions that rely on In-situ Resource Utilization to produce local propellants and other materials.
The Kilopower project is led by Glenn, in partnership with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama,and NNSA, including its Los Alamos National Laboratory, Nevada National Security Site and Y-12 National Security Complex.
For more information about the Kilopower project, including images and video, visit:
Nothing united Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds like the mortal threat posed by the Islamic State. But with the terrorist group now in full retreat on the battlefield, it didn’t take long for Iraq’s old sectarian animosities to resurface — presenting a major new headache for the Pentagon and the Trump administration.
With Islamic State now driven out of its major bastions in Iraq and Syria and on the verge of being wiped out as a military force in the Middle East, those deep-seated cleavages within the region are re-emerging in fresh rounds of political and sectarian infighting.
Washington’s remarkable feat of uniting lifelong enemies in the region into a military coalition formidable enough to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria appears to be coming apart at the seams. Since September’s referendum by Iraqi Kurds — a vote aimed at charting a path toward an independent Kurdish state — US-backed forces in the fight against Islamic State have quickly turned their guns on one another.
Iraqi government forces, backed by Shiite militias trained and equipped by elite troops from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, rapidly and violently recaptured critical territories in northern Iraq’s Kirkuk and Sinjar governorates this month.
Kurdish peshmerga, who claimed the contested territories after driving out Islamic State fighters in 2014, were quickly outgunned by Baghdad’s troops and the Iranian militias known as Popular Mobilization Units — which only months before had fought alongside the peshmerga in the battle for Islamic State’s Iraqi stronghold of Mosul.
Meanwhile, defense officials in the White House and the Pentagon continue to tout the cohesiveness of the anti-Islamic State coalition, brushing off concerns that the politically, ethnically, and religiously diverse factions will undermine efforts to build a united Iraq.
That rosy assessment, said one former US ambassador to the region, puts the coalition’s entire victory at risk.
“The ISIS fight is over, and the new fight for the region is unwinding now,” former US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey said. With the fall of Mosul in July and the collapse of Islamic State’s self-styled capital of Raqqa this month in Syria, regional players are reverting to their sectarian loyalties in an attempt to secure their holds on power, he said.
“Nobody in Irbil is thinking of the ISIS threat [anymore]. No one in Baghdad is thinking about it,” said Mr. Jeffrey, now a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The US government has not gotten its head around that yet.”
But remarks by Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson seem to indicate that mentality is shifting, at least among the US diplomatic corps. In his harshest rebuke yet of Iranian military influence in the coalition, Mr. Tillerson demanded that Tehran pull back its paramilitary forces from Iraq. “Certainly, Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against Daesh and ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home,” he said alongside Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir during a joint press conference in Doha.
“Any foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their lives with the help of their neighbors,” the top US diplomat said. Pentagon officials reiterated their faith in all members of the coalition days earlier, telling reporters that the US-led coalition remains as robust as it was since the early days of the war.
“The coalition is very strong. And again … I think the relationship is very strong,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White told reporters at the Defense Department on Oct. 20.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.
While underlying ethnic and sectarian tensions were a constant threat to unravel the US-backed coalition, Irbil’s decision to press ahead with its independence referendum vote was the trigger that brought tensions to the fore, Mr. Jeffrey said.
“I do not know what they were doing, but they missed this one,” he said regarding Irbil’s inability or unwillingness to anticipate the regional fallout from the referendum vote, which Iraq, Iran, Turkey and the United States all opposed.
The decision unleashed a new round of violence in northern Iraq over the past several weeks. The result was the Kurdistan Regional Government’s secession of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and handing over Sinjar to the Iranian-backed militias federalized by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during the height of the war against Islamic State.
The referendum vote stirred decades-old conflicts suppressed during the Islamic State fight, a former top Iraqi diplomat said. The referendum vote in Iraqi Kurdistan and ensuing aftermath “is a clear example where the political leadership have not been able to resolve some of the core challenges they have been facing since 2003,” former Iraqi Ambassador to the US Lukman Faily said Oct. 23.
“Even if the government can find some solutions to these new crises, the underlying challenges in relation to political and social harmony requires much more soul searching by all stakeholders who instigated a needless referendum in which [Iraq] will feel its consequences for some time to come,” he said in a statement.
Besides fueling internal strife, the referendum created openings for world powers aside from the US to expand their influence in the country. Baghdad’s reliance on the Shiite militias armed by the IRGC, which the Trump administration placed on the official list of recognized terrorist groups this month, has further cemented Tehran’s sphere of influence in the country.
“The US has been sidelined in this crisis, [and] that is a dangerous precedent,” Jennifer Cafarella, the senior intelligence planner at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, told The Washington Times shortly after the recapture of Kirkuk by Iraqi forces.
“Mr. al-Abadi does get to claim this as a win,” Ms. Cafarella said, but she noted the armed support from Iran undermines the legitimacy of that victory in Kirkuk. “This was not a unilateral operation by Iran” in Kirkuk, but the thinly veiled presence of military advisers from Iran only shows Tehran’s reach into Iraq, she added at the time.
Tehran is not the only US adversary wading into the growing problem of Iraqi Kurdistan. On Oct. 23, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow would maintain economic and diplomatic ties with the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, but urged Irbil to continue dialogue with Baghdad.
“We understand the hopes of the Kurdish people as it concerns their striving to strengthen their identity, their self-awareness,” Mr. Lavrov told reporters during a joint briefing with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari.
“However, we believe it is correct to realize those desires, those hopes exclusively via the Iraqi government and taking fully into account the significance the Kurdish question has on a regional scale, and taking into account the need to avoid additional sources of instability in the region,” he added, according to Reuters.
However, analysts say Russia’s overtures and seeming support for Kurdistan’s referendum effort is Moscow’s attempt to fill the vacuum of support left behind by Washington. Moscow is reportedly attempting a similar effort to persuade US-backed forces in Syria to abandon their American patrons and side with Russia.
Turning support of American proxy fighters in Syria to Russia has always been part of Moscow’s regional strategy for the country, said Christopher Kozak, a research analyst specializing in Syria at the Institute for the Study of War.
“Russia’s role is to co-opt our US-[backed] forces on the ground” once Islamic State is defeated in Syria, Mr. Kozak said in a September interview. “They see the best option is to have some kind of regime rapprochement [with the SDF] and remove the US. That would be the best position from the Russian perspective.”
While it remains unclear what Moscow’s strategy for Iraqi Kurdistan may be, a robust Russian presence in northern Iraq coupled with its already formidable military presence in Syria, would give Moscow the opportunity to press its interests deeper into the Middle East as the US military posture in post-Islamic State Iraq begins to wane.
On Saturday, Arnold Schwarzenegger was going about his business, recording a Snapchat video on the sidelines of the Arnold Classic Africa, when a man emerged from the crowd and attacked the former California governor with a jumping, two-footed drop kick to the back.
While your average 71-year-old would probably suffer a broken hip or worse if they found themselves taking that sort of kick from a random stranger out of the crowd at a public event, for the Terminator, it was hardly a concern.
Schwarzenegger posted this image of him visiting with a friend on Twitter less than a day after the attack, showing it’ll take more than a random crazy person to hurt the Terminator.
(Arnold Schwarzenegger via Twitter)
“Thanks for your concerns, but there is nothing to worry about. I thought I was just jostled by the crowd, which happens a lot,” Schwarzenegger tweeted. “I only realized I was kicked when I saw the video like all of you. I’m just glad the idiot didn’t interrupt my Snapchat.”
Video of the attack clearly shows Schwarzenegger engaging with fans and recording a video with his phone as an unidentified assailant approached from behind and quickly sprung into the double-foot kick. Schwarzenegger was clearly knocked off balance by the kick, but in perhaps the most impressive testament to the man’s continued fitness, the actor kept his feet as he stumbled forward. In the end, the attacker found himself in a pile on the floor, while the seven-time Mr. Olympia quickly regained both his balance and his sense of humor.
And if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight.
By the way… block or charge?pic.twitter.com/TEmFRCZPEA
In a follow-on tweet, Schwarzenegger referenced the popular “block or charge” memes originated by former NBA star Rex Chapman. Chapman was inspired to create the meme when he saw a video of a dolphin diving out of the water and into a stand-up paddle boarder.
“I saw it and thought, ‘that’s a charge,'” Chapman explained earlier this year. “People thought it was really funny, I guess.”
Schwarzenegger was clearly among them, writing “By the way … block or charge?” on Twitter. He went on to call on the thousands of people sharing the video to use versions that don’t include the man shouting in the aftermath of the attack, saying, “if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight.”
It seems that the attacker was shouting, “Help me! I need a Lamborghini!” repeatedly as he was dragged away.
Update: A lot of you have asked, but I’m not pressing charges. I hope this was a wake-up call, and he gets his life on the right track. But I’m moving on and I’d rather focus on the thousands of great athletes I met at @ArnoldSports Africa.
Despite Schwarzenegger’s good spirits following the attack, MMA fighter and Green Beret Tim Kennedy took to Twitter to voice his frustrations with Schwarzenegger’s security detail.
“This is infuriating. I have spent a bit of time with Governor Schwarzenegger. He is an incredible human,” Kennedy wrote on Twitter. “Unforgivable lapse by his protective detail.”
Nonetheless, Schwarzenegger has stated that he has no intentions of pressing charges against that man that he considers a “mischievous fan.” He also made it clear that he doesn’t want the attack to become to focal point of the event.
“We have 90 sports here in South Africa at the @ArnoldSports, and 24,000 athletes of all ages and abilities inspiring all of us to get off the couch. Let’s put this spotlight on them.”
Brandon Friedman wants you to know that just because coffee has the reputation of being the military’s beverage of choice, tea isn’t reserved for Brits in silly hats enjoying crumpets. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, their wars have centered mostly around having tea. After all, foreign fighters and tribal leaders hold court over tea, not coffee. Friedman thought it was strange that tea isn’t more associated with the military experience. He founded Rakkasan Tea Company with that in mind.
Friedman was commissioned as an Army infantry officer in 2000 and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division — known as the “Rakkasans,” the old Japanese word for “parachute.” By March, 2002, he and his unit were in an air assault into Afghanistan’s Shah-e-Kot Valley as part of Operation Anaconda. In 2003, he was part of the initial invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and eventually became part of the force that held Tal Afar and Mosul.
By 2004, he was out of the Army and taking his career in a different direction. His now-business partner in Rakkasan Tea was then-Pfc. Terrence “TK” Kamauf, whom Friedman met in his unit. Kamauf was a machine gunner then, but stayed in long after Friedman left. Kamauf went on to become a Green Beret and was in another six or seven years. Now, the two import tea together.
Friedman’s partner in Rakkasan Tea, Terrence “TK” Kamauf (left), in Iraq.
(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)
But Friedman’s love for the leaf began in Iraq. As many veterans can attest, all business was conducted over tea. It was an introduction to what Friedman calls the “social experience of tea.”
“It’s hard to find that in the U.S. because this is such a coffee country and coffee is really a solitary drink,” He says. “Tea brings people together and we think the U.S. is ready for that. I know we won’t convert everyone, but the veteran community should certainly give tea a serious look.”
Friedman with his platoon of Rakkasans in Iraq.
But where Rakkasan Tea Company gets its tea is central to its ongoing mission. The company imports solely from post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic development.
“As a veteran-owned and veteran-staffed company, we understand what conflict does to communities,” Friedman says. “And we want to get as many veterans into this business as we can. So, we often describe our mission as being one that helps communities recover from war at home AND abroad.”
Rakkasan Tea comes from places like Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Laos. With the exception of Sri Lanka, these are difficult to find on American shelves. The tea imported from Laos is significant because it comes from one of the areas most devastated by American bombing during the Vietnam War — more ordnance was dropped on Laos than in the entirety of Europe during World War II.
One of Rakkasan Tea Company’s Vietnamese tea pickers.
(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)
The latest effort in Laos centers on small farms in the mountainous Xiengkhouang Province and on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Champasak Province. The teas come from some of the oldest trees in the world and you won’t find this quality at Starbucks or Whole Foods.
To Friedman, tea is like wine: its character, flavor, and aroma are all greatly influenced by its environment. That might be why he sells tea both by the type of tea and its place of origin.
“Rainfall, altitude, soil content, processing techniques, and more all factor into the taste and quality,” Friedman says. “So when we say we have premium tea grown in Rwanda’s volcanic soil or tea grown on northern Vietnam’s 400-year-old tea trees, that’s of interest to tea enthusiasts. Because it’s really good.”
He wants you to know how good it is and he wants you to be a repeat customer. He obsesses over the returns from his customers. Their feedback really does have an influence on the direction of the company.
“First, I hope we’re living up to the Rakkasan ideal of honor, justice, and commitment,” he says. “But meeting people who enjoy our product is best part of doing this.”
But a new study of the victims of these mysterious phenomena suggests a new, disconcerting possibility: Some unknown force projected in the direction of the patients could have somehow injured their brains.
“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury from a directional exposure of undetermined etiology,” the study’s authors wrote.
The saga began in late 2016 when American diplomatic staff (and some Canadians) that had been in Cuba began to report odd physical and mental symptoms. Some could no longer remember words, while others had hearing loss, speech problems, balance issues, nervous-system damage, headaches, ringing in the ears, and nausea.
Some even showed signs of brain swelling or concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries.
Many of the victims remember strange occurrences before the symptoms appeared, though others didn’t hear or feel anything. One diplomat reported a “blaring, grinding noise” that woke him from his bed in a Havana hotel, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported that some heard a “loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas” in short bursts at night, while others said they could walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises that were audible only in certain spots.
The US State Department eventually determined that the incidents were “specific attacks” and moved to cut its Cuban embassy staff by 60%.
But despite that determination, no one understands those “specific attacks” or is even sure they’re responsible for everything that’s happened. According to ProPublica, the FBI hasn’t even been able to rule out the possibility that some of the patients were never attacked in the first place.
Studying the victims
Most of the victims were first examined in Miami, but a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair were selected to help further evaluate and treat at least 21 patients, whose cases are described in the new study.
By studying those 11 women and 10 men, the researchers were able to establish a significant amount of common ground among the patients. More than 80% reported hearing a sound that had a “directional” source — it seemed to come from somewhere. After three months, 81% still had cognitive issues, 71% had balance problems, 86% had vision issues, and about 70% still reported hearing problems and headaches.
The fact that a number of these symptoms could be subjective has raised questions about the possibility that this group of people is suffering from some sort of collective delusion, according to the study authors. But they say that mass delusion is unlikely, since affected individuals were all highly motivated and of a broad age distribution, factors that don’t normally correspond with mass psychogenic illness. Plus, objective tests of ears and eye motion all revealed real clinical abnormalities.
All these symptoms seem consistent with some form of mild brain trauma, according to the researchers. But these symptoms persisted far longer than most concussion symptoms do, and were not associated with blunt head trauma.
“These individuals appeared to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks without an associated history of head trauma,” the study authors wrote.
Mysterious weapons — or something else?
Despite having identified common symptoms and clinical evidence of some sort of injury, researchers are still at a loss about the cause.
If there is some kind of weapon involved, no one knows what kind it was or who would have used it. The Cuban government has denied any connection and investigators haven’t found any link to Russia, which intelligence analysts had speculated might have the means and motivation to carry out an attack.
The reported presence of strange audio and of the feeling of changes in air pressure have led to speculation about some kind of sonic or audio-based weapon. But even though sonic weapons exist, they’re very visible and easy to avoid, according to Seth Horowitz, a neuroscientist who wrote the book “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. Plus, the specific symptoms make that unlikely.
“There isn’t an acoustic phenomenon in the world that would cause those type of symptoms,” said Horowitz.
He speculated that perhaps some sort of mysterious pathogen or other phenomenon could have caused the symptoms, but the authors of the new study report that no signs infection (like fever) were identified. They determined it was unlikely a chemical agent would have caused these effects without damaging other organs.
In an editorial published alongside the new study, two doctors wrote that without more information and more data on the patients before they reported feeling ill, we can’t be certain what went wrong.
“At this point, a unifying explanation for the symptoms experienced by the US government officials described in this case series remains elusive and the effect of possible exposure to audible phenomena is unclear,” the editorial’s authors wrote. “Going forward, it would be helpful for government employees traveling to Cuba to undergo baseline testing prior to deployment to allow for a more informed interpretation of abnormalities that might later be detected after a potential exposure.”
Born of national duress in 1942, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro became a mission critical base on the West Coast of the United States. It served as a launch point for three major wars. It was often the final destination for Marines killed in Vietnam. In the 1990s, it was designated for closure, and its runways went silent for good in 1999. Since then, most of the grounds have been transformed into Orange County Great Park, a massive system of trails, sports fields and recreation. Land surrounding the base has been developed into luxury homes. While most of the base has been demolished, some buildings remain. These haunting images were made over several months, beginning Fall 2019. History still lives here, along with the ghosts of leathernecks spanning six decades of service and sacrifice. Shot on location from September 2019 through June 2020.
The Make the Connection team is looking for Veterans who want to share their stories about seeking support for mental health challenges and take part in a national mental health campaign.
The same obstacles that may at first seem insurmountable to an individual are much less daunting when faced by a team. More than 500 Veterans and military family members have already stepped up to be that team for their brothers and sisters by sharing their stories in videos on MakeTheConnection.net, a mental health website from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Make the Connection helps Veterans and their loved ones realize that reaching out for support and seeking mental health treatment is a sign of strength, and thousands of Veterans have found help to overcome their challenges.
The Make the Connection team will be conducting more on-camera interviews in Tucson, Arizona on Friday, April 20 and Saturday, April 21 and is looking for Veterans who want to share their stories about seeking help and overcoming mental health and other challenges. Veterans who participate in the video shoot will receive a stipend to offset their expenses for time and travel. When the videos are posted on the Make the Connection website, only the first names of participants are used.
Since its launch six years ago, the Make the Connection campaign has spread positive stories about Veteran mental health via Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Veterans featured on the website and in social media have served in every branch of the armed forces and in every U.S. conflict since WWII through today’s current military engagements. They also represent the full diversity of the military community. Each Veteran has coped with conditions such as addiction, anxiety, depression, serious mental illness, PTSD, and the effects of military sexual trauma and traumatic brain injury.
Veterans who want to tell their stories to help fellow Veterans should email their name, phone number, and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org or call our outreach team directly at 1-520-222-7518 by Friday, April 13th in order to be considered.