After watching this beat down compilation, it’s easy to see why a military veteran is the last person you want to mess with.
The US Army in Europe has made a number of changes in recent months as part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to prepare for a potential fight against an adversary with advanced military capabilities, like Russia or China.
The latest move came on November 28, when the Army activated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in a ceremony at Shipton Barracks in Ansbach, near the city of Nuremberg in southern Germany.
The battalion has a long history, serving in artillery and antiaircraft artillery roles in the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. It was deactivated in the late 1990s, after the US military withdrew from the Cold War.
Lt. Col. Todd Daniels, commander of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uncovers the battalion colors during the activation and assumption of command ceremony at Shipton Kaserne, Germany, on November 28, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)
Its return brings new and important short-range-air-defense, or SHORAD, capabilities, according to Col. David Shank, the head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the new unit is part.”Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here. It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise,” Shank said at the ceremony.
The battalion will be composed of five battery-level units equipped with FIM-92 Stinger missiles, according to Stars and Stripes.
Three of those batteries will be certified before the end of the summer, Shank said, adding that battalion personnel would also “build and sustain a strong Army family-support program, and become the subject-matter experts in Europe for short-range-air-defense to not just the Army, but our allies.”
Those troops “will have a hard road in from of them,” Shank said.
Stinger missiles are fired from the Avenger Air Defense System.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Air Defense Artillery units were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service started divesting itself of those units in the early 2000s, as military planners believed the Air Force could maintain air superiority and mitigate threats posed by enemy aircraft.
But in 2016, after finding a gap in its SHORAD capabilities, the Army started trying to address the shortfall.
In January, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe began training with Stinger missiles, a light antiaircraft weapon that can be fired from shoulder- and vehicle-mounted launchers.
Lightweight, short-range antiaircraft missiles are mainly meant to defend against ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, that target infantry and armored vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles — used by both sides in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine — are also a source concern.
A 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade member loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
US Army Europe has been relying on Avengers defense systems and Stinger missiles from Army National Guard units rotating through the continent as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in 2014 as a way to reassure allies in Europe of the US commitment to their defense.
Guard units rotating through Europe have been training with the Stinger for months, but the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, will be the only one stationed in Europe that fields the Avenger, a short-range-air-defense system that can be mounted on a Humvee and fires Stinger missiles.
The Army has also been pulling Avenger systems that had been mothballed in order to supply active units until a new weapon system is available, according to Defense News, which said earlier this year that Army Materiel Command was overhauling Avengers that had been sitting in a Pennsylvania field waiting to be scrapped.
A U.S. Army Avenger team during qualification in South Korea, October 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Marion Jo Nederhoed)
The Army has also fast-tracked its Interim Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program to provide air- and missile-defense for Stryker and Armored Brigade Combat Teams in Europe.
The Army plans to develop IM-SHORAD systems around the Stryker, equipping the vehicle with an unmanned turret developed by defense firm Leonardo DRS. The system includes Stinger and Hellfire missiles and an automatic 30 mm cannon, as well as the M230 chain gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. It will also be equipped with electronic-warfare and radar systems.
Final prototypes of that package are expected in the last quarter of 2019, according to Defense News, with the Army aiming to have the first battery by the fourth quarter of 2020.
The activation of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, is part of a broader troop increase the Army announced earlier this year, saying that the increase in forces stationed in Europe permanently would come from activating new units rather than relocating them from elsewhere.
The new units would bring 1,500 soldiers and their families back to Europe. (Some 300,000 US troops were stationed on the continent during the Cold War, but that number has dwindled to about 30,000 now.)
A member of the Florida National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 265 Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uses a touchscreen from the driver’s seat of an Army Avenger.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
In addition to the short-range-air-defense battalion and supporting units at Ansbach, the new units will include a field-artillery brigade headquarters and two multiple-launch-rocket-system battalions and supporting units in Grafenwoehr Training Area, and other supporting units at Hohenfels Training Area and the garrison in Baumholder.
The activations were scheduled to begin this year and should be finished by September 2020, the Army said in a statement.
“The addition of these forces increases US Army readiness in Europe and ensures we are better able to respond to any crisis,” the Army said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The day my dad left for deployment brought me hard feelings – feelings that were hard for me to process. The thought of him being in harms way made me afraid. Knowing how much I would miss him made be unbelievably sad. All that I knew for sure is that I did not want to take him to the drop off point.
I wanted him to stay.
Once we arrived at the squadron, I tried to convince myself to hold everything together, hiding how I was feeling and I put on a brave face. I certainly did not want to lose control of my emotions in front of a room full of strangers. But when I heard the loud slam of the van door closing and I realized that my Daddy was about to drive away, I stopped caring about who was around.
I sprinted toward the vehicle, wildly yanking at the door handle. “I just want you to stay. Please. Please stay.” I started to cry. The feeling of dread loomed over me. He opened the door and gave me one last hug. My Dad held me close and promised that everything would be okay.
But it wasn’t okay.
Living without my Dad was harder than I thought. I wanted to talk to him -to tell him about all the things I was learning and fun things I was doing. He missed a lot. He missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. It was awful. Christmas was not the same. I was glad we could open presents over video chat, but all I wanted for Christmas was to have him home.
Everything about life without him stressed me out and I began to be overly anxious. There were several times where my head felt like it was spinning. I was overwhelmed with worry. Many nights, I wouldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. Living life without my dad home just made me feel blue.
Nothing felt normal. When Dad is home, he takes me out to dinner and spends time with me. I can tell him all about what is happening and how I feel. I really missed these nights. We could really only talk for a few minutes because there was a seven-hour time difference. Night time was the worst. I feel safer when he is here.
It wasn’t all bad. We went on a few family vacations and even went to Great Wolf Lodge. I mean, we only went to Great Wolf because of the eight million delays for dad’s homecoming- making Dad miss my brother’s birthday. But it was fun.
If I had to do all over again (which I hope won’t be for a while), I would do a few things differently. Maybe, if you are a kid in the middle of a deployment -or getting ready for one – here are a few things I learned.
You can’t control everything. Don’t try. Stop trying to make everything perfect. You can’t. Recognize the things that you can control, like yourself or how clean your room is, and control what you can. I organized my books, made slime, and did things that made me feel comfortable.
Be patient with your family. Everyone is sad or stressed. Emotions are running hot and even the littlest things feel more annoying. Do your best to give people a break and stay calm. When I got overwhelmed, I would retreat to my room and count backwards from sixty. I would count colors or patterns in my room. Also, I bout “Pinch Me” dough, which smelled like the beach. Find something that brings you joy and peace.
Have lots of comfort food. (Oreos are always a good choice.) Nothing beats a snack. Snacks are wonderful, and sharing them with a friend is even better. When I was feeling sad or frustrated, I would invite my next-door neighbor over for a snack and a chat. It always made me feel better.
Lastly, call your friends. The beauty of military life is that you have friends everywhere. When I needed to, I would call my best friends, Talia and Aurea. They would cheer me up, help me think through what I feel, and give me encouragement. They know what this is like. Both of them, like me, are military kids.
Deployment seasons might not always be “okay,” but they are only temporary. They don’t last forever. I know that my dad does hard things, like being away, because he wants to serve our country. I can do hard things, too. He believes in freedom and he tells me that I can do my part too. I’m strong because he is strong. I love you, Daddy. Thank you for all you do.
Every four years, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make our voices heard. While elections are always important, this year feels particularly critical. A global pandemic. Heightened racial tensions. Upholding or repealing Supreme Court decisions. New and old military adversaries. Economic impact… the list goes on. While military families are concerned with the macro issues facing the country, they’re also incredibly concerned about the “micro -” those issues that many Americans can’t understand because they don’t live it – things like military spouse employment, PCSing and base housing. In just a few weeks, Americans will determine our next commander in chief.
To better understand the issues paramount to our military families, WATM spoke with Military Family Advisory Network’s Executive Director, Shannon Razsadin, to talk about the results of MFAN’s 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey.
Here are 6 of the top issues facing military families this election:
Have questions about voting? Please visit Iwillvote.com or text ACCESS to 43367
Mental Health CareThe need for and reliance on mental health care was a common thread throughout the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey. However, the greatest obstacle to accessing mental health care was the ability to get appointments. Those who left military service within the past 10 years were more likely to have accessed mental health care for themselves or members of their families. The more recently they left service, the more likely they were to have accessed mental health care. About 14.6% of respondents said they had accessed mental health crisis resources for themselves or their families. They expressed a need for emergency mental health care for the following reasons: specific mental health diagnoses; suicidal ideations and attempts; and feelings of stress, grief, and hopelessness. They also described difficulty receiving care, such as long wait times and less attentive medical personnel. When asked if participants themselves had thoughts of suicide in the past two years, one in eight respondents to this question responded affirmatively.
Most respondents, 77%, said they have debt. The amount of emergency savings varied significantly depending on demographics: 27.4% of currently serving military family respondents said they have less than 0 in emergency savings, while 49.2% of veteran family respondents (those without a military pension) and 22.2% of military retiree family respondents (those with a military pension) reported having less than 0. Nearly a quarter (23.5%) said they do not have a practical or viable plan for seeking assistance in a financial emergency.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas/Released)
Moves are expensive for military families, and they are causing long-term financial strain for some. On average, families are losing about ,000 per move in out-of-pocket costs and losses and damage to their household goods. The average unreimbursed out-of-pocket expense during a move was id=”listicle-2648395695″,913, and the average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was ,920. The majority of respondents, 68.2%, said they experienced loss or damage during their most recent moves. Respondents said the moving support they need the most is financial.
Choosing a place to live is an essential process during a move, and the choice can affect families’ lives for the course of their tours. Exploring military families’ housing choices and experiences has been a perennial topic in MFAN’s support programming surveys. Between the 2017 survey and the 2019 survey, MFAN fielded a study on the state of privatized housing that was a catalyst to an overhaul of the system, a budget increase, and the Tenant Bill of Rights. The current research showed that concerns about privatized housing still linger, making it the number one reason families choose to live on the economy. Those who choose military housing do so for financial reasons and because of base amenities. Among the respondents living in military housing, those in lower enlisted ranks were more likely to have negative satisfaction rates, and the least satisfied respondents were those ranked E4 to E6. There was a very clearly statistically significant relationship with those ranked E4 to E6—they were more likely than any other group to rate their experiences as very negative across all areas of satisfaction rates measured.
Employment and Entrepreneurship
MFAN has explored military family employment needs and transition experiences in every support programming survey. Many of the responses have not changed. For example, in 2013, military spouses said they needed more assistance, specifically for spouses trying to build and maintain careers. In 2017, respondents said their job search experiences were generally negative, and they said they had difficulties with employer bias, location obstacles, child care, and unsuccessful searching. These themes emerged again this year.
Active duty military spouses are still struggling to find employment. Respondents said that the demands of military life, being the primary caretaker to children and needing flexible schedules, are obstacles to finding gainful employment. They are looking for remote and portable work that will help them build lasting careers. They were more likely than any other demographic group to have given up trying to find work. Meanwhile, those who had transitioned from service told a very different story. Veterans and retirees said their greatest obstacle is an employer who is willing to hire them. They would like assistance preparing for interviews and marketing themselves effectively with polished resumes.
Both groups placed a priority on assistance that would help them find open positions, and they have not been able to receive support. Nearly one-third of respondents said they can’t find effective support, and an additional 22.8% said they needed more information about available resources. 05 Active duty military spouses were statistically more likely than other demographics to consider entrepreneurship. Of those who do not currently have a business, 33% said they would consider starting one. However, entrepreneurial spouses of active duty service members reported low earnings, with 70.5% earning ,000 or less and 53.2% making ,000 or less. The most common reasons entrepreneurs chose for building their own businesses were flexible hours and to balance work and family life.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Austen Adriaens/Released)
Child care and education
Child care and school-related support are the top two supports that military families with children wish they had. Child care priorities change based on the age of children; however, respondents with children ages 0 to 12 agreed that hourly care, both in-home and outside of the home, was a top priority. Those with children younger than 5 years old prioritized full-time child care, while after-school care was a priority for those with children between the ages of 6 to 12.
In alignment with their top priority for care they seek, almost two-thirds (64.1%) of actively serving military family respondents said they had to forego a medical appointment due to lack of child care in the past two years. When asked to identify helpful educational support programming for military children, 40.5% of respondents could not think of any that they were aware of or used. The top missing educational supports included special needs support; learning support, such as tutoring and personalized support to fill learning gaps; and transition support to aid military-related adjustment.
In the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, military families shared with us the issues that are the greatest challenges to them. They told us that they have difficulty accessing health care appointments. That they need additional assistance as caregivers. That mental health care is critical, but difficult to access. They shared that many of them experience food insecurity. And that many feel lonely and disconnected from their communities. They disclosed that military moves are expensive and cause long-term financial strain. And that putting aside emergency savings is difficult. They talked to us about difficulties finding child care. And how hard it can be to secure (and keep) employment.
In many different areas, military families trusted us with their struggles and shared what makes military life difficult sometimes. And MFAN is committed to moving the needle on those critical areas they’ve identified. But Election Day is an opportunity for all military families to directly use their voices to address the issues that are most important to them. To speak up about what matters to them. And to vote so their voices are counted.
The people and issues military families vote for are up to them. That military families vote means our election results reflect the beautiful diversity of our force.
To learn more about President Trump’s stance on military issues, visit: https://veterans.donaldjtrump.com/issues
To learn more about Vice President Biden’s stance on military issues, visit: https://joebiden.com/militaryfamilies/#
Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations has accused the U.S.-led coalition in Syria of trying to partition the country by setting up local governing bodies in areas seized from the Islamic State extremist group, Russian news agencies reported.
Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council on November 29 complained that the coalition of Kurdish and Arab fighters that recently liberated Raqqa from IS was discussing setting up governing bodies and restoring the economy without the involvement of Russia’s ally, the Syrian government, Russia’s Interfax and RIA news agencies reported.
“We are receiving news that the coalition is directly involved in the creation of some local authorities in the areas freed from ISIL, with which they are discussing economic reconstruction measures,” Nebenzya was quoted as saying by Interfax.
“What the coalition is doing amounts to concrete steps to partition the country,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax and RIA Novosti.
Russia raised its complaint as representatives from Syria’s government and rebel groups gathered in Geneva for an eighth round of talks after more than six years of civil war.
Russia and Syria at the Geneva negotiations have trumpeted their recent success at reasserting government control over about 55 percent of Syrian territory, particularly by pushing IS out of some last remaining strongholds along with Syrian-Iraq border.
The key northern city of Raqqa, which was IS’s self-proclaimed capital and biggest bastion in Syria, fell to forces allied with the United States, however, not those allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of mostly Kurdish as well as Sunni Arab fighters, has declared it wants to establish self-governing in the region it liberated. The Pentagon has tacitly backed that goal and has left U.S. forces in the area to support the coalition.
With Syria now trying to consolidate its recent military successes and regain control over lost territory, Nebenzya told the UN council on Nov. 29 that Russia will no longer accept the delivery of UN humanitarian aid across borders and conflict lines because he said that “undermines the sovereignty of Syria.”
Nebenzya said the UN council’s previous authorization of cross-border aid convoys, which expires next month, “was an emergency measure which presently needs to be reassessed.”
Nebenzya said Russia is pushing for the change in aid delivery because “there needs to be order in the distribution of humanitarian assistance, for it not to fall into the hands of terrorists and for it not to then be resold to the Syrian people at higher prices.”
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock pressed the council to renew the aid deliveries, however, which he said are “essential to save lives.”
In the first 10 months of 2017, he said, “over 750,000 people on average each month were reached through UN cross-border activities.”
U.S. Deputy UN Ambassador Michele Sison said the aid program must be renewed.
“The consequences of this mandate are enormous,” she said. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that renewing this mandate is a life or death question.”
The brain cancer that killed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Maj. Beau Biden, might have been caused by burn pit exposure in Kosovo and Iraq, Biden said in a recent interview.
“Science has recognized there are certain carcinogens when people are exposed to them. Depending on the quantities and the amount in the water and the air, [they] can have a carcinogenic impact on the body,” he said in a PBS NewsHour interview early this month.
Beau Biden, a judge advocate general (JAG) officer in the Delaware National Guard, died from brain cancer in 2015. He had been deployed to Iraq in 2009, and worked as a civilian lawyer with the U.S. attorney’s office in Kosovo.
A book published last year, The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers, by former Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Hickman, includes a chapter on Beau Biden’s cancer and its possible links to burn pit exposure.
In the interview, Joe Biden said he had been unaware of any potential link before reading that book.
“There’s a whole chapter on my son Beau in there, and that stunned me. I didn’t know that,” he said in the interview.
Burn pits were routinely used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste. Although government officials have declined to establish a firm link between burn pits and veterans’ health problems, including rare forms of cancer and respiratory diseases, the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014 established a registry for veterans to log their exposure and complaints.
More than 120,000 veterans have logged themselves in the registry. An estimated three million are eligible to join, according to the VA.
A federal judge last year dismissed a major lawsuit by veterans, contractors and their families against KBR, a defense contractor, for operating burn pits they claimed caused deadly respiratory diseases and cancer.
But the judge dismissed the suit, saying that KBR cannot be held liable for a Pentagon decision to use burn pits for waste disposal.
Coolio, LL Cool J, and Sir Ben Kingsley are just some of the notables interviewed by host Weston Scott at the 2015 Guy’s Choice Awards.
Get ready to smile.
On June 24, Practices will hold Day of Service, offering free dental work to veterans nationwide. Nearly 450 practices across 35 states will participate as part of the Healthy Mouth Movement, Aspen sites in Bluefield and Beckley in West Virginia included.
During the appointments, dentists and their teams will focus on treating the most urgent needs of the veterans by providing fillings, extractions and basic denture repair to help relieve any pain.
This marks the fourth annual event for and is the largest single-day oral health initiative targeted at veterans. Last year, dentists and their teams offered services totaling almost $2.1 million dollars, helping over 4,000 veterans receive dental care.
Of 21 million veterans, less than 10 million are enrolled for the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health benefits. For many, this includes dental care benefits and more than 1.2 million lack health insurance altogether.
Veterans who are interested in having dental work should call 844-ASPEN-HMM to make an appointment. Beckley is 304-362-5862. Advanced appointments are required.
For a lot of years I’ve listened to my friends and the people I served with talk about their trips back to Vietnam. It was interesting to hear, but I was never prepared to spend the time or effort to do so myself. Most importantly, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to go back.
Then I met Jason in 2015 and we began what has become an interesting and lasting friendship. One of my early questions to him was, “so you make rucksacks, shirts and pants – but what about the most important thing for rucking – the boots?” His answer was, “we’re in the process, how about you getting involved?” That set the hook and the rest is history. Jason established a strong team to design and oversee the making of the boots – Paul (who is the ultimate shoedog), Andy (the marketer and A-1 video guy), Jason himself (a rucker with SF credentials), and to my honor included me (an earlier generation SF guy).
The factory that builds the boots is in Saigon, Vietnam and in February of 2017 Jason asked me if I would accompany the team on its first trip to Vietnam to visit the factory and “wherever else I wanted to go.” I wasn’t sure what to expect and after some thought I accepted his offer. I was very interested in seeing what had happened in Vietnam since my departure 45 years before.
I’ve had a coping mechanism for all of the traumatic events in my past – I simply put them in a large wooden box with iron straps around it in my head, and I take them out at my leisure – to deal with as I see fit. Now I was going to have to face them head on. Luckily, the team I mentioned above was there every step as we moved to several locations I had been to previously, each one triggering memories of a time past. It all began at Tan Son Nhat Airport seeing the customs officials dressed in what I knew as North Vietnamese Army uniforms, an increase in heart rate and minor flashback; the official war museum, where victors always get to tell the story their way; the shoe factory in Long Thanh, where I attended the Recon Team Leaders Course and heard the first shots I had ever heard fired in combat; Ban Me Thuot, my original base camp and a beautiful location in the Central Highlands filled then and now with butterflies; Dalat, a stately resort city for both sides during the war where a helicopter I was in had to make an emergency landing; and lastly the Caravelle Hotel, where I stayed when I went to Saigon to be debriefed after some missions. It had a gorgeous rooftop bar where you could watch mortar attacks on the outskirts of the city while enjoying drinks – a bit surreal. It’s still there by the way.
I was really glad that I hadn’t come alone and the team I was with were all true professionals in their own right – it was, and continues to be, a privilege to be associated with them.
As I mentioned, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this trip – but what developed was surprising – it helped me honor those who had fallen, closed a loop for me that had been open for years and gave me peace.
One can never be sure about the outcome of anything in this world, but I have come to realize that education, by any means (formal or informal), will always stand you in good stead. So by sharing my humble story perhaps I can help bring a small piece of history into clearer focus.
Over the past few days, you’ve been collecting exit signatures for your check-out sheet, and low and behold, you’re almost home. The process has been relatively straightforward up until this point.
The last item you need to get signed off is from the Central Issue Facility, or supply, where you need to check in all of your gear. Supply is one of the last stops a service member makes before obtaining their official DD-214.
Sounds easy enough, right?
Wrong. If one aspect of your gear is not check-in ready, integrating back into civilian population will be delayed.
So check out our list of what it typically takes to check in your gear and move on with your life.
(This is based on many true stories)
1. What it looks like when you’re on your way to the central issue on a Friday afternoon.
Oh, come on. (Images via Giphy)
2.When you walk inside and all you see are other troops waiting in a long a** line.
There’s too many to count. (Images via Giphy)
3. To add insult to injury, everyone who works there looks slow and grumpy.
Why do I hate life? (Images via Giphy)
4. After waiting what felt like an eternity, you finally haul your heavy gear over to the counter and begin the checkout process.
So heavy. (Images via Giphy)
5. You make it to the counter, and just as your morale has been boosted, you realized you’re at the slowest worker’s section.
Please, hurry the f*ck up! (Images via Giphy)
6. The clerk starts to review all your gear, pulling everything out piece-by-piece — most of which you never used.
And we mean most things. (Images via Giphy)
7. After completing the inventory, the clerk finds an issue with your almost squared away paperwork. All of your gear is clean enough to pass, but there’s a missing signature.
No way freakin’ way. (Images via Giphy)
8. Your superior officer’s signature is missing for an expensive piece of gear which got destroyed while you were deployed. The clerk informs you that you can either pay for it yourself or get the signature before you can get out of the military.
You can’t believe what you’re hearing.
I ain’t paying for sh*t. (Images via Giphy)
9. You speed back to your company HQ to find your CO.
Pedal to the metal. (Images via Giphy)
10. You dash into the HQ in search of the man or woman who can set you free.
Where are they? (Images via Giphy)
11. You find your superior, he or she signs the paperwork and then your emotions take over.
This may be wrong but it feels right. (Images via Giphy)
12. Now that you got your signature, it’s time to head back to central issue.
Almost to the finish line. (Images via Giphy)
13. You get back the central issue building and attempt to eyeball the person who helped you earlier to avoid waiting in line again.
Look at me. (Images via Giphy)
15. It worked. The clerk spots you and waves you over. You hand her the signed paperwork, she looks it over and now you wait.
The anticipation grows. (Images via Giphy)
16. The clerk slowly stamps your paperwork. You’re clear.
You want to get mad, but you can’t at this point. (Images via Giphy)
17. You did it! Now go get your DD-214 and move on with your life.
Five years of college here I come. (Images via Giphy)
The global death toll from the coronavirus has neared 27,000 with more than 591,000 infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.
Ukraine says it has confirmed 92 new coronavirus cases as the country begins to impose new restrictions at its borders in the battle to contain the effects of the global pandemic.
The Health Ministry’s Center for Public Health said that with the new infections, there were 310 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 respiratory illness as of the end of March 27.
Since the crisis began, five deaths have been attributed to COVID-19, with patients’ ages ranging from 33 to 71 years.
The jump in new cases comes on the eve of new measures ordered by the government.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in an online video address to the nation explained the country’s decision to shut cross-border travel after March 27, including for Ukrainian nationals.
Previously, the cabinet had issued a nationwide directive limiting passengers in all public transportation. All above-ground transportation such as, minibuses, buses, trolleybuses, and trams should only ride up to half capacity.
The Kremlin says a member of President Vladimir Putin’s administration has been infected with the coronavirus, but the person had not been in direct contact with Russia’s leader.
The announcement came as the government widened restrictions aimed at fighting the disease, ordering all restaurants and cafes to close, beginning March 28.
As of March 27, the country’s total number of confirmed cases was 1,036, up 196 from a day earlier. Another reported death on March 27 increased the total to four.
According to Moscow’s coronavirus-response headquarters, the 56-year-old woman who died on March 27 was also suffering from cancer and had one lung removed during an earlier operation.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that a man working in the presidential administration had been infected with the coronavirus.
“Indeed, a coronavirus case has been identified in the presidential administration,” Peskov was quoted as saying.
“All necessary sanitary and epidemiological measures are being taken to prevent the virus from spreading further. The sick man did not come into contact with the president,” he added, saying this was the only known case at the Kremlin.
He gave no further details.
As Russia’s confirmed cases have climbed, the government has steadily increased the restrictions and other measures seeking to curtail the disease’s spread.
Putin has called for a weeklong work holiday, ordering all nonessential businesses to close down for a week, beginning March 28.
In the order released by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin’s government on March 27, regional authorities across the country were instructed to “halt the activities of public food service organizations.” The restrictions will take effect on March 28.
The government has also ordered all vacation and health resorts closed until June. Other restrictions included the cancellation of all international flights.
In Russia’s capital and largest city, Moscow, city authorities have encouraged people to stay home and placed restrictions on public transit.
The majority of confirmed cases are in Moscow.
The Russian media regulator, meanwhile, said the social messaging network Twitter has deleted a post that it said contained false information about a pending curfew.
Roskomnadzor said it filed a request with the U.S. company on March 26, asking for the post to be taken down.
According to the regulator, the post made mention of a pending order by the Defense Ministry that a curfew was to be imposed in Moscow. That information is false, Roskomnadzor said in a statement on March 27.
Twitter had no immediate comment on the statement by Roskomnadzor.
The Prosecutor-General’s Office, meanwhile, said officials had made similar requests about allegedly false information circulating on other social media outlets, including Facebook and VK.
Facebook “removed the incorrect, socially significant information concerning the number of coronavirus cases,” Roskomnadzor said.
Iran reported 144 new coronavirus deaths as authorities continued to struggle to contain the outbreak, with the number of confirmed cases jumping by nearly 2,400.
The new tally, announced on March 27 by Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, pushed Iran’s total confirmed cases to at least 32,332.
Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the world, along with China, Italy, Spain, and now the United States.
Earlier this week, authorities enacted a new travel ban after fears that many Iranians had ignored previous advice to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.
On March 25, government spokesman Ali Rabiei warned about the danger of ignoring the travel guidelines.
“This could cause a second wave of the coronavirus,” Rabiei said.
State TV, meanwhile, reported that the military has set up a 2,000-bed hospital in an exhibition center in the capital, Tehran, to shore up the local health-care system.
President Hassan Rohani has pledged that authorities will contain the spread of the coronavirus within two weeks. However, the continued rise in numbers, along with fears that the country’s health-care system is incapable of dealing with the surge of infections, have raised doubts about meeting that goal.
Earlier this week, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refused U.S. aid and seized on a conspiracy theory that the United States had created the virus, something for which there is no scientific evidence.
Om March 27, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the United States to release Iranians held in U.S. jails on sanctions-related issues due to fears about the coronavirus epidemic.
“Release our men,” Zarif said on Twitter.
The minister referred to a report by the Guardian newspaper about an Iranian science professor who it said remained jailed by U.S. immigration authorities after being acquitted in November 2019 on charges of stealing trade secrets related to his academic work.
The professor, Sirous Asgari, complained that conditions in detention were “filthy and overcrowded” and that officials were “doing little” to prevent the coronavirus outbreak, according to The Guardian.
Iranian authorities have arrested dozens of foreigners and dual citizens over recent years, mostly on espionage charges.
Rights activists have accused Iranian authorities of arresting them to try to win concessions from other countries — a charge dismissed by Tehran.
Three people in Serbia have been sentenced to jail for violating a self-isolation order aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
The two- to three-year sentences were handed down during a video court session, a first in the Balkan country. The session was conducted remotely to protect employees and defendants from potential exposure to the coronavirus.
One of the defendants was sentenced to three years in prison — the maximum — in the eastern town Dimitrovgrad, a Serbian justice source confirmed to RFE/RL. The others were sentenced at a court in the city of Pozarevac to two and 2 1/2 years.
Dragana Jevremovic-Todorovic, a judge and spokeswoman for the court in Pozarevac, told RFE/RL that the two people convicted there had been charged with a criminal offense of noncompliance with health regulations.
“They violated the measure of self-isolation when they came from abroad. One arrived in Serbia on March 14, the other on March 17, both from the Hungarian border crossing,” she said.
“They were informed that they had been given a measure of self-isolation and a restraining order, which they did not respect. The measure was to last 14 days, and they violated it before the deadline,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.
“By violating self-isolation, they have created a danger to human health, as this can spread the infectious disease,” Jevremovic-Todorovic said.
The Ministry of Justice on March 26 sent a memo to courts that conduct proceedings against people who violate self-isolation measures, allowing them to hold trials remotely using Internet-enabled computers, cameras, and microphones.
The judiciary noted that the first-time video judgments were not final, but the defendants remain in custody while they await trial.
According to the Justice Ministry’s Criminal Sanctions Directorate, 111 people are in custody at detention facilities in three Serbian cities – Pirot, Vrsac, and Pozarevac — on suspicion of violating the emergency public-health order.
Serbia has recorded 528 coronavirus cases and eight deaths. Restrictive measures introduced by Belgrade include a ban on people over age 65 leaving their homes and a 12-hour overnight curfew enforced by police.
Meanwhile, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic pledged on March 27 to donate 1 million euros (id=”listicle-2645588735″.1 million) to buy ventilators and other medical equipment for health workers in Serbia.
“Unfortunately, more and more people are getting infected every day,” Djokovic told Serbian media.
The world men’s No. 1 player, who was in top form before the pandemic interrupted the current season, thanked medical staff around the world for their efforts.
Georgia’s government has canceled a id=”listicle-2645588735″.2 million contract to buy thousands of rapid-result coronavirus tests from a Chinese company.
The cancellation is the latest controversy for Bioeasy, whose test kits have been deemed faulty in Spain and returned.
Georgia’s order for 215,000 rapid-result tests also will be returned to Bioeasy, based in the Shenzhen region, near Hong Kong.
Health Minister Ekaterine Tikaradze told reporters on March 27 that Bioeasy had agreed to take them back.
Rapid-result tests, which can be used for diseases like influenza as well as coronavirus, are known for providing quick results, though with less accuracy.
In Spain, which is one of the countries worst-hit by the coronavirus, health officials found the tests were far less accurate than needed, and ordered the tests returned.
Tikaradze said Georgians should not be afraid of being misdiagnosed.
She said new diagnostic tests were being examined at Tbilisi’s Lugar Center for Public Health Research, a medical research facility funded mostly by the U.S. government.
“I want to reassure our population,” she said. “Any new tests coming into the territory of Georgia are being tested at the Lugar Center and hence we are testing the reliability of the tests and then using them for widespread use.”
Georgia has 81 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, and no deaths, as of March 27.
Azerbaijan has tightened its quarantine rules from March 29 in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.
The movement of vehicles between regions and cities across the country will be banned, with some exceptions, including ambulances, social services, and agricultural vehicles, the government said on March 27.
Baku’s subway system will operate only five hours a day.
Restaurants, cafes, tea houses, and shops — except supermarkets, grocery stores, and pharmacies — will remain closed.
Access to parks, boulevards, and other recreation areas will be restricted.
The South Caucasus country has reported 165 coronavirus cases, with three deaths. Officials say 15 patients have recovered.
In addition, more than 3,000 people remain in quarantine.
On March 26, Azerbaijani authorities extended holidays related to Persian New Year celebrations until April 4, from a previous end date of March 29.
Hungary’s prime minister has ordered new restrictions to try and curtail the spread of the coronavirus, calling for Hungarians to remain at home for two weeks.
In a March 27 announcement on state radio, Viktor Orban said people would only be allowed to travel to work and make essential trips to buy food or medicine or take children to daycare until April 11.
He also proposed special shopping hours at food stores for people 65 and over, and called on people to observe “social distancing” — staying about 2 meters away from other people to prevent the spread of infection.
Hungary currently has 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, though Orban has said the actual number of cases is likely much higher.
Ten infected people have died.
Orban has increasingly tightened his grip on power during his decade in office. Opposition leaders and critics have accused him of moving the country towards an autocracy.
Kazakhstan’s government has widened restrictions in the country’s two largest cities, ordering most companies to suspend operations next week as part of efforts to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
The restrictions, announced March 27, came as the number of confirmed cases announced by the government reached 120. Most of the cases are in the capital, Nur-Sultan, and Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city.
A day earlier, as the country reported its first death from COVID-19, the government barred residents of Nur-Sultan and Almaty from leaving their homes except for work or to buy food or medicines, starting from March 28.
The closure of most businesses in the two cities also takes effect March 28.
Authorities have also closed all intercity transport terminals and public spaces in Shymkent, Kazakhstan’s third-largest city, in order to curb the spread of coronavirus, the government said.
In neighboring Uzbekistan, officials announced the country’s first death from coronavirus: a 72-year-old man in the city of Namangan who had suffered from other ailments.
As of early March 27, Uzbekistan — Central Asia’s most populous nation — has confirmed 75 cases of infection.
Earlier, municipal authorities announced restrictions in Samarkand and the Ferghana valley cities Namangan and Andijon on March 26.
All vehicle traffic in and out of the cities has been restricted, with the exception of cargo transport, or security and government officials.
Tashkent has been closed to the entry and exit of all passenger transport since March 24.
Another Central Asian country, Kyrgyzstan, announced 14 new cases on March 27, bringing the country’s total to 58.
Earlier this week, authorities declared a state of emergency in the capital, Bishkek, and several other cities and regions.
Two other Central Asian countries, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan, have not reported any confirmed infections yet.
The commencement of the 2021 spring semester marked a first in US Naval Academy history. Sydney Barber was elected to be the midshipmen’s brigade commander, making her the first Black female in the academy’s 175-year history to hold the position. This billet places Barber as the highest-ranking midshipman in a student body of more than 4,500 students.
Barber is the 16th female midshipman to be elected as the brigade commander since women were first allowed to attend the academy in 1976. When asked how she views the historic appointment, Barber told NavyAthletics, “As much as I don’t like the attention, it’s important that this story circulates. It’s not just about me.”
Barber did not always plan on following in her father’s footsteps by attending the prestigious United States Naval Academy, but a sense of purpose developed on the athletic field changed all that. A self-described “oddball” as a child, Barber did not come into her own until she uncovered her love for competitive sports. It was through 12 years of playing soccer in her hometown of Lake Forest, Illinois, that Barber became inspired to pursue more ambitious goals. In her final year at Lake Forest High School, Barber joined the track team and was encouraged to seek a nomination to the Naval Academy.
Barber received her congressional nomination and headed to Plebe Summer in 2017. Along with the rest of her class, Barber memorized her Reef Points, received marksmanship and boxing instruction, and completed a series of obstacle courses and physical tests designed to transform the plebes from civilians into midshipmen. Following seven weeks of rigorous training, Barber took her oath of office and officially joined the ranks of active-duty midshipmen. She was a walk-on athlete but managed to earn varsity letters during all three years that she competed. While running for the Naval Academy’s track team, Barber set a school record for the 400-meter relay. She excelled in the Naval Academy’s competitive Division One athletic program, but her notoriety on the athletic field was just the beginning of her achievements.
Off the track field, Barber recognized the value in combining hard work with opportunity. She became the co-president of the Navy Fellowship of Christian Athletes Club and the secretary for the National Society of Black Engineers. In an effort to help others access similar opportunities, she pioneered a STEM program designed to mentor Black female middle school students in science, technology, engineering and math.
In a NavyAthletic’s spotlight, Barber explained, “My purpose here is to put more into the world than I take out.” With that same attitude toward selfless service, Barber has shattered one of the Naval Academy’s final barriers.
Barber will graduate in May with the class of 2021. Despite having accumulated a long list of accolades, her ambitions extend far beyond the yard. Barber has worked tirelessly to meet her goal of being assigned to a career in Marine ground, an opportunity only about 6% of her class will receive. Service assignments are highly competitive, and Marine ground is one of the most sought after paths, along with SEALs and aviation. In a USNA press release, Barber described her naval career’s impressive beginning as a responsibility rather than an achievement:
“We are the architects of our future, and every day we earn the right to carry the torch that was once lit by the heroes, pioneers, and giants who came before us. I owe everything to every person who paved the way for me, so I now pour my heart and soul into blazing the trail for the generations to come.”
The Taliban are seizing new territory, civilian casualties and US military deaths are once more on the rise, and insider attacks on American and Afghan forces have more than doubled this year. That’s the grim reckoning of a US inspector general’s report released Oct. 26 even as the Pentagon and allied forces seek to implement President Trump’s strategy for the 16-year-old conflict.
The central government in Kabul has ceded more territory to the Taliban since the early days of the Afghanistan War, with the terrorist group now in full or partial control of 54 of the country’s districts, according to the latest quarterly survey to Congress from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The report contains sobering findings for Mr. Trump and his generals, even as the parallel war against Islamic State and other radical terrorist movements in Syria and Iraq has made significant gains this year.
The Taliban, which are mainly concentrated within the eastern and southern segments of the country, claimed control of nine districts previously held by government forces over the past six months. As a result, more than 3.7 million Afghans, or just over 11 percent of the country’s entire population, now live under the radical Islamist movement’s control, the SIGAR inspectors found.
Those gains come despite a marked uptick in US combat operations in Afghanistan, where American and allied forces executed more airstrikes against Taliban and Islamic State strongholds in the country than in any year since 2014. US and NATO forces carried out 2,400 airstrikes during an eight-month period this year against insurgent targets tied to the Taliban and forces loyal to Islamic State’s Afghan cell.
American and allied forces executed over 700 airstrikes against insurgent targets in Afghanistan in September alone, in line with the hard-line wartime strategy for Afghanistan that Mr. Trump outlined in August.
“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” said SIGAR head John F. Sopko. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”
The downbeat SIGAR findings — its 37th quarterly survey of the war — come amid reports that the US military has begun to restrict the information flow on the war as the conflict grinds on. The New York Times reported this week that the Pentagon has stopped providing figures on the size of the Afghan security and police forces, the state of their equipment, and Afghan casualty figures.
The Pentagon told the newspaper that the information was being withheld at the request of the Afghan government, but even the SIGAR report released this week revealed that the Afghan army and the national police force had a net loss of manpower in the most recent reporting period.
Roughly 3,900 more US troops are being funneled into Afghanistan to support the 8,400 soldiers, sailors, and Marines already there, with a majority supporting the NATO-led adviser mission dubbed Operation Resolute Support. Other American troops, mostly special operations units, are conducting counter-terrorism missions against the Taliban and Islamic State under a separate mission.
Mr. Trump’s blueprint abandons the timeline-based approach to the American mission in Afghanistan in favor of a “conditions based” strategy. Administration critics claim the decision will effectively restart US-led combat operations in Afghanistan, which officially ended in late 2014 under President Obama and draw the US into an open-ended conflict.
While officials in the Pentagon and their counterparts in the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani claim the shift will provide much-needed reassurance to the Afghan Security Forces, the situation on the ground shows that fight will likely be much tougher than anticipated.
Despite the uptick in US action, the Taliban continue to carry out high-profile attacks, including some in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital.
Roughly 90 people were killed and over 400 wounded, including 11 American contractors, in a brazen suicide attack on the German Embassy in Kabul in May. The attack was one of the worst to hit the capital since US and NATO forces ended combat operations in the country in 2014.
On Oct. 31, four people were killed and 13 wounded in a suicide attack inside the “green zone” — the heavily fortified sector in central Kabul that is home to the US Embassy and the Afghan presidential palace. Members of ISIS-K carried out the Oct. 31 attack, according to reports from Amaq news agency, the main social media propaganda network for Islamic State.
When the US ended combat operations three years ago, the Ghani government held roughly 60 percent of the country, according to government-led analysis, as well as reviews by private-sector analysts.
But those gains appear to be slipping from Kabul’s grasp, and the Taliban’s gains in the country over the past six months have taken a toll on the country’s military.
Battlefield casualties continue to increase among the ranks of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, while Kabul continues to combat high levels of attrition among the country’s armed forces. The Afghan army’s ranks have dropped by 4,000 troops and the national police lost 5,000 people, according to SIGAR’s latest findings.
By contrast, the Taliban continue to show signs of strength within their traditional base in the southern and eastern parts of the country, but also in northern and western Afghanistan, where they had not had significant sway in the past.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters amassed in the western Afghanistan’s Farah province during a show of force in October. The gathering, posted as part of the group’s propaganda videos, showed the Afghan jihadis assembling in broad daylight without fear of being targeted by Afghan and coalition forces, according to analysis by the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
In a rare interview with The Guardian, senior Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Saeed said Washington’s new aggressive approach would not be enough to turn the tide against the group.
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Since “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us,” the 4,000 troops Mr. Trump has authorized “will not change the morale of our mujahedeen,” Mullah Saeed said. “The Americans were walking in our villages, and we pushed them out.”
He said the Taliban would consider a peace deal, but only on the condition that the “foreigners must leave, and the constitution must be changed to [Islamic] Shariah law.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.
Peace talks, possibly including the Taliban, have also been a key part in the White House’s Afghanistan strategy. On Nov. 1, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson reiterated that the administration was open to peace talks with the Taliban, though not with Islamic State elements in Afghanistan.
“There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever,” Mr. Tillerson said during his unannounced visit to Kabul.
“We are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government,” the top US diplomat added.
Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to hold peace talks with the Taliban in 2013, coinciding with the Taliban’s unprecedented move to open a political office in Doha that year. At the time, officials in the Obama administration saw the potential talks as a vehicle to help accelerate the withdrawal of US forces from the country by 2014. But Pakistan’s decision to withdraw from the talks eventually scuttled any effort to reach a deal with the terrorist group.
Featured Image: 1st Sgt. David W. Christopher and Army Staff Sgt. Gordon M. Campbell stand by after setting fire to a Taliban shelter along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. (Army photo by Spc. Matthew Leary)