DOD & VA to hold 'closed door' conference on burn pits - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs officials are meeting in March 2019 in Arlington, Virginia, for a two-day symposium on burn pits and airborne pollutants but, as with previous Joint VA/DoD Airborne Hazard Symposia, the meeting is closed to the public and press.

The symposium’s purpose, according to documents from the first meeting in 2012, is to “provide an opportunity to discuss what we know, what we need to know and what can be done to study and improve care” for veterans and troops who “might have suffered adverse health effects related to exposure to airborne hazards, including burn pit smoke and other pollutants.”


Attendance is tightly controlled, with Pentagon and VA officials convening to discuss topics such as a joint action plan to address potential health conditions related to exposure, the VA’s Airborne Hazards and Burn Pit Registry, monitoring deployment environments and the impact of exposures on the Veterans Benefits Administration, according to a copy of the first day’s agenda obtained by Military.com.

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

A soldier pushing a bulldozer into the flames of a burn pit at Balad, Iraq

(US Army photo)

Members of several veterans service organizations and advocacy groups have been invited to speak, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, Burn Pits 360 and the Sgt. Sullivan Circle.

But those veterans’ representatives are allowed to attend only a handful of sessions on the first day, March 14, 2019, including opening remarks and segments on outreach and education, as well as a brown-bag lunch during which they can discuss concerns and issues.

All events scheduled for March 15, 2019, remain unpublished.

Neither the VA nor the DoD responded to requests for information on the event. Veterans advocates also declined to discuss the meeting or their participation, with some expressing concern that they would be prevented from receiving future invites.

Thousands of troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere were exposed to airborne pollutants while working and living near burn pits used to dispose of trash, medical waste and other types of refuse at area military bases.

Some have developed a chronic lung disease, constrictive bronchiolitis, while others have developed skin rashes, autoimmune disorders and various types of cancer, including glioblastoma, a brain cancer rarely seen in young adults, that they believe are related to burn pit exposure.

Veterans and advocates have pressed the VA for years to recognize these illnesses as related to burn pit exposure and want them to be considered “presumptive” conditions, a designation that would automatically qualify them for disability compensation and health services.

The VA says it lacks the scientific evidence to directly tie burn pit exposure to certain diseases but has granted service connection for several conditions associated with burn pits, deciding each claim on a case-by-case basis.

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine reviewed all available studies, reports and monitoring data on burn pit utilization and combustibles exposure and concluded that there was not enough evidence or data to draw conclusions about the long-term consequences of exposure.

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

A service member tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit

(DoD photo)

More than 140,000 veterans have enrolled in the VA Burn Pit and Airborne Hazards Registry.

From June 2007 through Nov. 30, 2018, the VA received 11,581 claims applications for disability compensation with at least one condition related to burn pit exposure. Of those, 2,318 had a burn pit-related condition granted, according to VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour.

During the same time frame, the VA processed nearly 13.5 million claims; burn pit-related claims made up less than a tenth of a percent of those claims.

“VA encourages all veterans who feel their military service has affected their health to submit a claim, which will be adjudicated using the latest scientific and medical evidence available,” Cashour said.

The Pentagon and VA are developing a way to track environmental exposures in service members starting with the day they enlist. The Individual Longitudinal Exposure Record, or ILER, will record potential and known exposures throughout a service member’s time on active duty. A pilot program is set to begin Sept. 30, 2019.

But those who have suffered exposures in the past 30 years will need to rely on Congress to pass legislation to assist them, the Defense Department to continue researching the issues, and the VA to approve their claims.

Veterans of Foreign Wars, Vietnam Veterans of America, Wounded Warrior Project, IAVA, Disabled American Veterans, the Fleet Reserve Association, the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Military Officers Association of America all have made burn pit and toxic exposure issues a top legislative priority this year.

Several lawmakers, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, have introduced legislation that would require the DoD and VA to share information on troops’ exposure to airborne chemicals and provide periodic health assessments for those who were exposed.

The meeting is to take place at the Veterans Health Administration National Conference Center in Crystal City, Virginia.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Bulgarian just bought an attack helicopter to personally fight terrorism

According to The Daily Mail and The Sun, a Bulgarian “migrant hunter”, Dinko Valev, has somehow managed to get his hands on an ex-Bulgarian Air Force Mil Mi-24 Hind hybrid gunship/light troop carrier, and has added it to his small arsenal of military gear, which also includes a pair of armored personnel carriers (APCs). Valev, a former semi-professional wrestler, made headlines in Europe for forming small posses of Bulgarian locals to chase down illegal immigrants and, who he calls, potential terrorists from Turkey. The Bulgarian government allegedly helped him acquire the two APCs just last year, while ISIS put a bounty on his head for $50,000 USD.


There aren’t any indications that point towards Valev’s new Hind’s operational status, and there’s nothing to suggest that the aircraft is even flightworthy at all. However pictures of the aircraft show the Hind’s chin turret still equipped with the barrels of a Yak-B 12.7mm 4-barrel Gatling cannon, though those barrels could possibly be plugged and the internal mechanisms removed or disabled. Also noticeable in the picture are two empty UB-32 rocket launcher pods, attached to the port wing of the aircraft. The short video also took a look inside the Hind’s surprisingly clean front cockpit, though the rear cockpit, where the main flight control systems are, wasn’t shown. Valev indicates that he’ll use this Hind to continue his “jihadi-hunting” activities to an even greater magnitude than before. How he’ll actually get the Hind working, armed or even up in the air at all is an entirely different question altogether.

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits
A left side view of a Soviet-made Mi-24 Hind-D assault helicopter in-flight.

It actually isn’t all that difficult to get your hands on old Soviet-era military hardware, and a buyer’s options list ranges anywhere from worn-out utility trucks to fighter jets, and everything in between. Just last year, the Albanian government put up a number of retired yet still flightworthy fighter aircraft for sale as part of a massive downsizing of their military. Bids for the aircraft, which included an assortment of MiG-15, -17 and -19 fighters, began at a whopping $8,600 USD… meaning that just about anybody could have actually entered the bidding process to pick up an aircraft! That, of course, doesn’t include certification, operations, parts and maintenance costs, but that’s still a relative steal!

As for helicopters, you can even find yourself a Mil Mi-24 Hind via a number of websites online, set up by small enterprises which got a hold of a considerable chunk of Soviet-manufactured military gear around and after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. When it became unsustainable for the Russian military to continue to operate the large numbers of aircraft, tanks, armored vehicles, etc. it had amassed during the Cold War, entire regiments and brigade-sized elements were retired, their hardware either left to rust and rot on abandoned airfield, sold off at cut rates to other countries, or pawned off (sometimes illegally) to individual buyers. In 2015, everybody’s favorite online auctioneer, eBay, actually put up a Mi-24 for sale, retailing at $4,000,000 USD. Apparently, everything about this particular Hind was operational, save for its weapons, which were removed.

Also Read: Take a closer look at the cinematic villain helicopter of the 1980s: The Mi-24 Hind

Organizations like Russian Military, based out of the United Kingdom, are another option for folks looking to get their hands on old Soviet planes, tanks and other military vehicles. They too offered a Mil Mi-24 Hind at one point, though without a price listed on their official website. This particular helo was de-militarized, possibly used as a prop in a few movies, and left in a state of disassembly, though it was apparently fully capable of being reassembled and flown. It’s unclear whether or not it sold.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this crazy double-barreled bolt action rifle

In 1989, Joseph Szecsei was charged by three elephants at the same time. He survived, but afterward, he decided the usual weapons for defense against giant animal attacks just weren’t sufficient. Szecsei sought out to make the perfect large-game animal stopper: The Szecsei & Fuchs “Mokume” bolt action double rifle.


DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

Of course, Szecsei had a lot of firearm types and designs to choose from in creating the show-stopper. He could have chosen a larger round to shoot from a regular bolt action rifle. He could have created a semi-automatic rifle. There were a few factors (other than how to kill a large animal running at him at full speed) to consider.

First, he couldn’t create a semi-automatic weapon because they’re actually illegal in many of the places in which one might safari or otherwise hunt. Africa isn’t a completely lawless land of civil wars and corruption, no matter what television and movies would have you believe. Secondly, he needed a weapon that wouldn’t jam up at the crucial moment. Defense is the entire reason for the weapon, after all. So a bolt-action was necessary, but Szecsei still wanted the extra oomph of another shot.

Another shot of a round that could stop a charging elephant, that is. And large-caliber rounds just aren’t something a semi-automatic can do for a civilian. Taking a .50-cal out on safari might be frowned upon by the locals, so Szecsei returned to the idea of a large-caliber double-barrel bolt action rifle. And the Szecsei Fuchs “Mokume” rifle was born out of that idea.

The weapon is made of titanium to keep the weight down, along with titanium for its unique double magazine. The weapon fires anything from a .470-caliber round to the U.S. 30.06 – a rifle you can buy for whatever animal might be ready to gore down on your guts. It has two triggers, one for each barrel. With just one movement of the bolt, both rounds are expelled, and new ones are loaded into the chamber.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and the next three elephants to come for Joseph Szecsei are in for a huge surprise. Please don’t hunt the most dangerous game with this rifle.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force B-52 bombers drop laser-guided bombs for first time in a decade

Laser-Guided Bomb Units, commonly referred to as LGB’s, were dropped from the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress for the first time in nearly a decade during an operational test performed by the 49th Test and Evaluation Squadron Aug. 28, 2019.

The munitions used to be dropped from the bomb bay of the jet using a cluster bomb rack system, but the method raised safety concerns and the practice was eliminated.

“We’ve still been able to utilize LGB’s underneath the wings of the B-52, but they don’t do very well when carried externally because they are susceptible to icing and other weather conditions,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Little, 49th TES commander.


According to Little, the seeker head of the LGB can be adversely affected by the elements, potentially reducing its effectiveness.

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

US Air Force Senior Airman Endina Tinoco wires a GBU-12 laser guided bomb after it was loaded onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

The advent of the Conventional Rotary Launcher, a bomb bay weapons platform made available to the B-52 fleet in 2017, provides an alternative to the cluster bomb rack system and may once again allow LGB’s to be dropped from inside the jet.

Doing so would keep the weapons protected from the elements, reducing the effects of weather. It also has the potential to increase the jet’s lethality.

“It’s another arrow in the quiver, it gives us the ability to carry more LGB’s on the aircraft or give more variation on a conventional load,” said Little. “It adds capability and is another thing you can bring to the fight.”

Little explained the CRL was not originally designed for gravity-type bombs like the LGB, but recent software upgrades to the system now allow for such munitions.

Getting to the point of operational testing required a team effort between the 49th TES and Reserve Citizen Airmen of the 307th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. The 307th AMXS took the lead in configuring the CRL to accept the LGB’s.

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

US Air Force Staff Sgt. Skyler McCloyn and Staff Sgt. Nathan Ehardt load a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb onto a Conventional Rotary Launcher in the bomb bay of a B-52 Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Aug. 20, 2019.

(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Gregory Steele)

SSgt. Skyler McCloyn, 307th AMXS aircraft armament systems mechanic, served as the loading team chief for the event.

“It was very cool mission,” said McCloyn. “It is exciting to know you are a part of something that could have a long-term impact.”

The experience of the Reserve Citizen Airmen contributed greatly to the success of the effort, according to McCloyn.

“When you are doing something for the first time there will always, be kinks,” said McCloyn. ” But the expertise we have from working with so many type of munitions allowed us to adjust and work through those issues without much trouble .”

Little appreciated having the breadth and depth of experience offered by the unit.

“The 307th AMXS is on the leading edge of weapons loading and giving the rest of the B-52 maintenance community the data they need for unique scenarios like this,” he said.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Russia might have turned its back on Iran in Syria

Russia on May 11, 2018, reportedly declined to export its advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria despite a high tempo of international and Israeli airstrikes peppering the country over the last few months, in the latest sign that Moscow has turned its back on Iran in the country.

Russia is Syria’s ally. The US, UK, and France launched airstrikes on Syria in April 2018. Israel launched airstrikes on Syria in May 2018, and likely many others in April, March, and February 2018.


Israel maintains it will strike Iranian targets in Syria as long as they ally with Hezbollah and Hamas, both anti-Israel US-designated terror organizations that operate near Israel’s borders.

Despite the near constant stream of powerful countries bombing targets in Syria, and Syria’s weak attempts to defend against the attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide in charge of foreign military assistance said Syria had “everything it needs.”

On May 9, 2018, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Putin in Moscow. That same night, Israeli airstrikes reportedly wiped out the majority of Syrian air defenses in the southern part of the country. Russian-owned and operated air defenses in Syria, which include the S-300, did nothing to stop the attack.

Israel has long wanted Russia to withhold its more powerful defenses from Syria.

Israel is in charge now

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits
Video of an Israeli missile taking out a Russian-made air defense system.

Israel stomped on Russian-made Syrian air defenses on May 9, 2018, in the largest Israeli Air Force attack in Syria since the two countries went to war in 1973. The massive battle saw Syria’s older Russian-made air defenses outmatched — and obliterated.

Israel has carried out strikes with the express purpose of beating down Iranian forces in southern Syria. By all accounts, the attacks succeeded in taking out command posts, infrastructure, and munitions. Israel won’t tolerate a buildup of Iranian forces along its borders in Syria as Iran explicitly seeks to destroy Israel.

Though Israel has engaged in more than 100 airstrikes in Syria since 2012, mostly against Iranian-linked forces, it has treaded softly and attempted to avoid a larger war.

Without new reinforcements like Russia’s S-300, and with the former defenses laying in ruin, Iranian forces in Syria will be greatly exposed to Israeli air power.

Russia may continue to trade with Tehran after the US imposed sanctions following its withdraw from the Iran deal, and continue to be Iran’s ally on paper. But Russia, by denying Syria air defenses, looks to have turned its back on supporting the regional ambitions of Ayatollah Khamenei.

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

Articles

Watch this WWII commando veteran explain how to spot a sniper

“You always get enemy snipers,” says Roy Cadman, a WWII veteran of Britain’s No. 3 Commando, talking about fighting the Nazis in Europe. “… And they’re a bloody nuisance.”


Cadman is a 93-year-old Chelsea pensioner, a resident at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, which is a nursing care facility for veterans of the British Army of an advanced age.

In the video below, he explains that you hear the crack of the bullets before the discharge of the sniper’s rifle in the distance. The distance between the two sounds helps determine how far you are from the sniper shooting at you.

“You can work out the distance,” Cadman continues, “but you can’t work out the angle of where he is. You have to look out at that distance from your right. If you were him, where would you go?”

The idea is to find a place where a sniper would hide himself in a European battle, things like bushes, houses or roofs. Cadman explains that it’s a skill the Tommies learned and honed over time, learning exactly where to look.

In other interviews, the old, bold commando also told the Army Museum about his landing at Sword Beach on D-Day, how he joined the British Army at age 17, and how to scale cliffs, build bridges, and span rivers with a simple length of rope.

He notably returned to Normandy in June 2016 to spread the ashes of his departed No. 3 Commando comrade Fred Walker.

The video is one of many from the U.K. National Army Museum’s “The Old and the Bold” series, where veterans of World War II and the Korean War share their stories and experiences from the battlefield.

Articles

The Navy has just ordered its fleet to suspend all operations in wake of McCain collision

The day after a collision between the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain (DDG 56) and a tanker in the Strait of Malacca east of Singapore, the Navy is ordering an operational pause.


Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson announced the order on a Facebook video as search-and-rescue efforts for 10 missing sailors have been hampered by a storm.

According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the collision is the third since the beginning of May. That month, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) was struck by a South Korean fishing boat. On June 17 of this year, the McCain’s sister ship, USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), collided with a container ship off Japan, killing seven sailors.

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits
Damage to the portside is visible as the Guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) steers towards Changi Naval Base, Republic of Singapore, following a collision with the merchant vessel Alnic MC while underway east of the Straits of Malacca and Singapore on Aug. 21.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua Fulton/Released)

“I want our fleet commanders to get together with their leaders and their commands to ensure that we are taking all appropriate immediate actions to ensure safe and effective operations around the world,” Richardson said, during his video announcement.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis is supporting the investigation, noting that it will address “all factors, not just the immediate ones” surrounding the collisions. Senator John S. McCain of Arizona, the son and grandson of the Navy admirals for whom USS John S. McCain is named, stated that he expects “full transparency and accountability from the Navy” regarding the reviews and investigations.

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits
Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) man the rails while pulling into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during a Naval Engagement Activity with the people of Vietnam, Oct. 2.(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Allen Michael McNair)

The John S. McCain has been notable for taking part in “freedom of navigation” exercises in the South China Sea this past November. Ironically, the ship suffered the collision with the tanker near an island that is the subject of a dispute between Singapore and Malaysia. A Singaporean helicopter airlifted four casualties off the McCain.

The Strait of Malacca is a notable maritime chokepoint, through which substantial merchant traffic travels, including oil imports for countries like China, Japan, and South Korea. Singapore served as a base for British forces for many years, enabling them to control that chokepoint, much as Gibraltar helps control the western entrance into the Mediterranean Sea.

 

MIGHTY HISTORY

A secret Cold War unit was the basis for today’s special operations

If there was one single place that could be called the front lines of the clandestine Cold War, Berlin was it. The city, like the rest of Germany, was divided. It was a bastion, deep inside the heart of the Eastern Bloc, where Westerners could roam relatively freely within their sector by day and sneak into enemy territory under the cover of darkness.

A divided Berlin was the setting for so many stories, many of which are just now coming to light. And many of those stories are about Detachment-A, a Special Forces unit so secret, many in Special Forces couldn’t even know about it.

If World War III broke out, their mission was not to win — they were 110 miles behind enemy lines and couldn’t possibly win a pitched battle. Their mission was to just buy time for NATO. Along the way, their training helped develop the units and tactics used by American special operations the world over.


Retired Special Forces soldier and former CIA agent James Stejskal was among among the members of Detachment A. He served in it for nine years and just wrote a book on the recently-declassified unit, called Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the U.S. Army’s Elite, 1956-90. Working behind enemy lines in an unconventional conflict is one of the foundational duties of the U.S. Army’s Special Forces, but Detachment A had no misconceptions about what would happen in a war with the Soviet Union. They would operate as small teams inside and outside of Berlin, tripping up the Red Army in any way they could.

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits
The veterans of Detachment A today.

“We were going to, basically, break out of the city. Two of the six teams would stay behind and cause trouble inside the city. Four of the teams would go outside the city,” James Stejskal told WATM. “A railway network, basically called the Berliner Ring, would carry the majority of the Russian forces from east to west. Our mission was to report on and sabotage the railway, communications… to cause as much havoc as possible.”

Stejskal grew up with the military. His father was drafted for World War II in 1941, before Pearl Harbor. He would earn a commission during the war as a combat engineer in Patton’s XII Corps. His father even went to Germany during the Korean War. The younger Stejskal was always interested in intelligence, commando, and what he calls the “darker arts.” He read about the British Special Operations Executive and the Office of Strategic Services during WWII and it captivated him. So when it came time for him to join the Army, the Green Beret called to him. He joined with Special Forces on his mind. But Det A was so secret, he didn’t know it existed even after he earned his place among the elite.

“I only found out about it on one of my exercises in Germany,” he recalls. “We jumped into it, into Southern Germany for our annual winter warmer exercise and one of the guys on the ground that met us was a civilian-clothes guy, speaking German. Only later on in the exercise did he start to speak in English to us and, before too long, I figured out that he was actually American. He told us he’s from a unit Berlin and he couldn’t really talk about it.”
DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

(Courtesy Photo)

That piqued Stejskal’s interest. He continued to dig into it and, as one thing led to another, he found himself in Berlin. Detachment A was the closest unit to the old OSS that a soldier could get in to. Speaking German, the men of Det A wore their hair long, civilian clothes, and worked with soldiers from other countries. Their commander was a Czech officer and their Sergeant Major was a German who was in the Bundeswehr, both veterans of World War II.

“It’s a strange feeling. We were 110 miles behind the East German border, with about 12,000 allied troops inside West Berlin surrounded by close to a million Russian and Warsaw Pact soldiers,” He says. “Oddly enough, I think most of us were very energized to be where we were.”
DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

This would be an Emmy-winning TV show today. Mad Men, eat your heart out.

During peacetime, they performed protection duties for VIPs and – most importantly – they trained. Detachment A trained with the British Special Air Service, who taught them to watch how the Germans and Israelis performed anti-terror operations, like clearing a hijacked aircraft. They soon became the U.S. Army’s first counter-terrorism team, long before Delta Force or SEAL Team Six. Charlie Beckwith, Delta’s first commander, came to Berlin to see Detachment A for himself.

“He came over to Berlin to see how we were doing things and took a lot of our training techniques and tactics and exported them back to Fort Bragg, about 1980,” Stejskal says. “The commander of SEAL Team Six, Marcinko, he also came over and observed. We did our operability training with Delta Force later on in the 1980s. We also trained a lot of the SEALs in the city.”

Aside from forming the foundations of modern Special Forces and SEAL Team operations, veterans of Detachment A also took their knowledge back home, joining police departments as local SWAT teams popped up around the United States. They trained law enforcement and military alike in building assault tactics, urban combat, and clearing buildings. But if war broke out, these soldiers had no illusions about their fate.

“I never thought about it being certain death, but it could have,” says Stejskal. “I think we would’ve been hard-pressed to survive more than 72 hours, but you never can tell. You’re anticipating you’re going in to a very bad situation, but you got the best tools, the best cover, and everything else. You have a confidence level that you can do it, but you, there’s always that element of uncertainty that you don’t have everything under control, so that’s part of the energy that fuels you when you’re there.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon: Taliban keeps ‘close ties’ with Al-Qaeda affiliate

Al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate in Afghanistan maintains “close ties” to the Taliban and has an “enduring interest” in attacking U.S. troops, the Pentagon says in a new report.

Under a February deal between the Taliban and the United States, the insurgents agreed to stop terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a safe haven to plot attacks.


But in a report published on July 1, the Department of Defense said Taliban militants have continued to work with Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).

AQIS “routinely supports and works with low-level Taliban members in its efforts to undermine the Afghan government, and maintains an enduring interest in attacking US forces and Western targets in the region,” the department said in a semiannual security assessment compiled for Congress.

Citing Al-Qaeda statements, the report said the group’s regional affiliate also “assists local Taliban in some attacks.”

The Pentagon report, titled Enhancing Security And Stability In Afghanistan, said that despite “recent progress” in the peace process in Afghanistan, AQIS “maintains close ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan, likely for protection and training.”

It said that any “core” Al-Qaeda members still in Afghanistan are focused mainly on survival, and have delegated regional leadership to AQIS.

“AQIS’s interest in attacking US forces and other Western targets in Afghanistan and the region persists, but continuing coalition [counterterrorism] pressure has reduced AQIS’s ability to conduct operations in Afghanistan without the support of the Taliban,” according to the report, which covers events during the period between December 1, 2019, to May 31 this year.

It comes after a United Nations report released a month ago said that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban “remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy, and intermarriage.”

The UN report added that the Taliban “regularly consulted” with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and “offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties.”

However, U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad downplayed the findings, saying the report largely covered a period before the U.S.-Taliban agreement.

The deal is at a critical stage at a time violence in Afghanistan has continued since a three-day cease-fire at the end of May. The Afghan National Security Council said June 30 that, since February, the Taliban had on average staged 44 attacks per day on Afghan security forces.

Under the accord, the United States agreed to reduce its forces in Afghanistan from 12,000 troops to 8,600 by mid July. If the rest of the deal goes through, all U.S. and other foreign troops will exit Afghanistan by mid-2021.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy medical targets ‘platinum 10 minutes’ in future conflicts

Leaders from Navy Medicine spoke about the impact of research and development and highlighted specific research initiatives during a Navy breakout session at the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium (MHSRS), Aug. 21, 2018.

MHSRS is a scientific meeting focused on the unique medical research needs of the U.S. armed forces and their families. Scientists from across the Department of Defense (DoD) and their partners from across industry and academia share information about current and future research initiatives designed to improve the health, readiness, and survivability of warfighters, on and off the battlefield.


Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, director, medical resources, plans and policy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke to Navy Medicine researchers about the importance of finding solutions to the challenges sailors, Marines, soldiers, and airmen face today and in battle spaces of the future.

“The next fight is going to be very different from what we’ve faced in past conflicts,” said Gillingham. “We need to look beyond the golden hour to the platinum ten minutes. What are we doing to stop the bleeding? What are we doing to ensure our hospital corpsmen have the training they need? I know you are all working on these and other fundamental issues our warfighters face. There’s a tremendous energy and enthusiasm in this room and it’s good to know people of your caliber are tackling these problems.”

Gillingham also challenged the researchers to look to alignment — with the needs of operational forces and each other. He encouraged everyone to do all they could to take advantage of the opportunity MHSRS provides to meet scientists and partners they can work with.

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, director, medical resources, plans and policy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and other senior leaders speak at the general officer round-table discussion during the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium.

“Innovation occurs through the collision and exchange of ideas,” he added. “Are we bumping into the people we can work with at this meeting?”

Echoing that sentiment was Capt. Adam Armstrong, commander, Naval Medical Research Center, whom has oversight of eight research labs located around the globe, who also spoke to the scientists gathered at the Navy breakout session.

“What I like about this meeting is that we can start conversations,” Armstrong said. “We can discuss different aspects of research and we can keep talking and exchanging thoughts. We can take advantage of the synergy in this room and bring it back to our labs and our research.”

In addition to comments from Gillingham and Armstrong, a panel of researchers highlighted a few of Navy Medicine’s current science and technology initiatives, including the use of bacteriophages for the treatment of multidrug-resistant infections, medical evacuations and en route care for injured warfighters, and treatments for motion sickness. These topics will also be presented by Navy Medicine researchers during regular breakout sessions throughout the symposium. Other topics that will be presented Navy scientists include:

  • TBI rehabilitation
  • Telehealth for increasing access to behavioral health care
  • Human performance and survivability in extreme environments
  • Precision medicine in critical care for the injured warfighter
  • Mitigating physiologic episodes in aviation
  • The health and readiness of military families (a new session topic this year, proposed by one of our Navy Medicine researchers)

Looking to the future and the Navy’s Indo-Pacific area of responsibility, military medical research, and development will play an important role in finding solutions to the unique challenges the Navy and Marine Corps team may face in the maritime operational setting and disaggregated operations at sea and ashore.

Navy Medicine West leads (NMW) Navy Medicine’s Western Pacific health care system and global research and development enterprise. Throughout the region, NMW provides medical care to nearly 700,000 beneficiaries across 10 naval hospitals, two dental battalions, and 51 branch clinics located throughout the West Coast of the U.S., Asia, and the Pacific. Globally, NMW also has oversight of eight research laboratories across the U.S. and overseas that deliver high-value, high-impact research products to support and protect the health and readiness of service members.

Featured image: Rear Adm. Bruce Gillingham, director, medical resources, plans and policy, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, and other senior leaders speak at the general officer round-table discussion during the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium.

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

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This is everything you ever wanted to know about US desert uniforms

Thanks to the generosity of military members who literally gave up the uniforms they wore on their backs, Alexander Barnes and Kevin Born have successfully authored a new book that is educating readers on the nuances of desert uniforms.


After more than two years, their 344-page hardcover reference book “Desert Uniforms, Patches and Insignia of the U.S. Armed Forces” was published in late 2016. It features more than 1,000 mostly color photos with detailed descriptions of a variety of uniforms, different unit patches and insignia and more. They had lots of willing help tracking these down – locally and around the globe.

To handle the massive project, they set up a small studio in Born’s house and spend nights and weekends photographing and scanning several hundred donated and loaned uniforms, patches and insignia worn by U.S. Armed Forces.

Barnes, a former Marine and National Guardsman, and Kevin Born, chief of the Collective Training Development Division in theCASCOM G-3/5/7, and retired Army major, often just needed to walk around CASCOM for help.

“Working in a building with so many military veterans,” said Born “one is bound to run into some who had served during the desert period. Retired Col. Charles (Charlie) Brown, director of the Battle Lab, gave me his 6-colored uniform from Desert Storm and 3-colored Desert Combat Uniform from Afghanistan. And on the day he retired, he loaned me his Army Combat Uniform off his back, which is in the book illustrating the transition to the ACU uniform.”

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits
This Coast Guard Desert Combat Uniform represents a Chief Petty Officer assigned to the 307th Port Security in Clearwater, Fla. The uniform is among the hardest to find since only a few few thousand Coast Guardsmen deployed. This unit saw deployments to Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. (Photo: U.S. Military)

Born said, “In another example, one day I walked out of my office in the CASCOM G-3 area and 10 feet away in Jason Aleo’s cubicle was hanging a rare desert Close Combat Uniform from his service as a field artillery captain with a Stryker Brigade Combat Team. I asked to borrow it as well as photos of him wearing it in Northern Iraq. It’s included on two pages in the book.

Barnes, who retired as a CASCOM logistics management supervisor in 2015, has similar accounts of those assisting with the book.

“I sent an email to Lt. Gen. (Mitchell) Stevenson (in England), a former CASCOM commander, and asked if he could share a photo of his service. He replied a day later, ‘What do you need, and how soon?'” said Barnes. “He was in a civilian job, but he stepped forward and sent us a great picture of him in the desert.”

Born continued, “I walked by Chaplain (Maj.) Stanton Trotter’s office one day, and saw a set of framed photos from his service with the 10th Mountain Division very early in Afghanistan in 2001. He kindly loaned several for us to scan. These appear in the book with Trotter praying next to a Soldier.”

Barnes and Born together have more than 50 years of military service and share a long history and avid passion for military collecting. Barnes has a master’s in anthropology, grew up in a military family and has co-authored three other books on military history as well as writing many articles on the subject.

Born has a bachelor’s in history and education and has authored numerous articles on military insignia collecting, an area he has focused on for more than 40 years. While they worked at CASCOM for a number of years, they did not know each other until the August 2011 earthquake in Central Virginia.

”Al and I are both members of the U.S. Militaria Forum and he commented about the earthquake on the forum that night,” said Born. “I saw his post and realized there was another military collector one floor above me. I reached out to him through the forum.”

Barnes said, “the earthquake was the catalyst.”

They soon discovered like-minded military collectors on Fort Lee who included Richard Killblane, the Transportation School historian, and then Lt. Col. (now Col.) Robert Nay, the former deputy installation chaplain.

“We met periodically at lunch to talk about our collecting interests,” Born said. “The seeds for the book came out of these discussions.”

They also collaborated on several articles in Military Trader Magazine that allowed them to get used to each other’s writing styles and served as practice for writing the book.

However, there were no plans yet for a book.

Barnes continued, “We started having lunches with others who had the same interest. After several, we decided to have a military swap meet at Fort Lee.”

Three annual gatherings took place and there was a huge interest, Barnes said.

“After one of these, we said, ‘We need to do something about all these desert uniforms. If we don’t, it will be hard to do it in 20 years.'”

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits
A soldier enjoys breakfast in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm in 1990 wearing the so-called “chocolate chip” desert camo uniform. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Cisneros via Flickr)

The two were unsure of any interest in a book about desert uniforms. “It was such a short period of military history,” noted Barnes. Others at Lee changed their minds.

“It was one of these serendipity things,” said Barnes as they began asking veterans about their desert tours. “So, you were there too. I’ll be darned. Would you have any pictures? And they would say ‘sure.'”

Barnes added, “most were surprised anyone cared. ‘You’re kidding. You really want pictures of me in Iraq. Sure – anything I have, you can have.'”

The original project was smaller in scale. “We thought it would be kind of an Army patch book – showing the variations of these with a couple pictures of uniforms,” said Barnes. “But it kept growing as we felt it important to add all services.”

Schiffer Publishing – the publisher of three other books by Barnes – quickly gave the go-ahead. Both were surprised to get a positive response. They were given nearly a year to pull it together – write the chapters and captions, gather the content, take photos and more.

After 10 months of gathering content and expanding the book, they submitted their package in August 2015. In December, they began receiving sections of the book from Schiffer. After receiving proofs, both saw areas where more details were needed, and they started a Facebook page to help in this process.

“We got more interest from around the world,” said Barnes.

In preparation for the book, they accumulated more than 1,000 government and theater-made desert patches and over 300 uniforms. A large number are in it. These came from numerous veterans and collectors.

Others at Fort Lee (some retired or at other bases now) who were helpful include retired Chief Warrant Officer 5 Jeffie Moore, formerly with the CASCOM Proponency office; Maj Mike Bethea, an Enterprise Systems Directorate officer in CASCOM; Dr. Milt Smith, a dentist at Bull clinic; and Capt. (now Maj.) Vance Zemke, a former instructor at ALU.

Born added, “I found out two weeks before Maj. Zemke was to PCS to Fort Leavenworth, Kan., that he had a huge collection of theater-made patches acquired in his deployments. He kindly loaned them to me with the provision I get them back in a few days’ time for him to pack them up for the movers. I spent day-and-night scanning them. They can be found throughout the book.”

The book foreword is by retired Maj. Gen. Ken Bowra, a former Special Forces officer, a friend of Barnes and Born.

“He not only wrote the foreword, but he allowed us to take pictures of his personal uniforms and shared many photographs as well,” said Barnes. “He served in the entire desert uniform period, wore these uniforms and patches in Desert Storm/Somalia/Operation Enduring Freedom and many other places. Most importantly, he always had a great respect for all the men and women who served during this era.”

Bowra also is a military history writer and author of two Osprey Vietnam-era books.

There were some hard-to-get uniforms and patches, notably CASCOM patches.

“Most collectors do not have these,” noted Born. “These units are not normally in the desert environment, and fewer people were deployed from the schools. I only had a loose copy of the patch. But Al beat the bushes with all of his contacts to find a photograph of one being worn in theater, which are both in the book.”

They completed their final review in August 2016 and were pleased to receive finished copies in late December.

Born said, “writing the book was about two things for us – recognizing the service and sacrifice of the men and women of the armed forces who wore the desert uniform as well as advancing this area of military collecting. Whenever a reference like this is published, there is an increased interest among collectors.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea finally agrees to talk about denuclearization, peace

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is ready to talk to the US about abandoning his country’s nuclear arms and pursuing peace with South Korea, according to the South Korean president’s office, the Blue House.


After a historic meeting between South Korean diplomats and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea is apparently open to denuclearizing, with Kim himself reportedly expressing a willingness to talk to the US about the touchy subject — something unthinkable mere months ago.

North Korea also said it would suspend provocations like nuclear and missile tests during negotiations, the Blue House said March 6, 2018.

Also read: This is why you can’t trust North Korea’s new charm offensive

“Chairman Kim said that even denuclearization could be among the agenda items for talks between North Korea and the US,” a Blue House spokesman said, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap. “What drew our attention, in particular, is that he made clear that achieving denuclearization is his father’s dying wish and that it has not been changed at all.”

“Kim also didn’t specify anything special from South Korea or other countries in return for the North coming to dialogue but expressed an intent to be treated seriously as a counterpart for talks,” he added.

Under Kim, North Korea wrote the possession of nuclear weapons into its constitution, and it has bitterly opposed any efforts to rid the country of its weapons. The US has maintained that it will denuclearize North Korea whether by force or by diplomacy, making the subject of denuclearization the major roadblock toward peace on the Korean Peninsula since 1994.

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits
North Korea prepares for a test launch of a mobile nuclear ballistic missile. (Photo from KCNA)

“The North side clearly affirmed its commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and said it would have no reason to possess nuclear weapons should the safety of its regime be guaranteed and military threats against North Korea removed,” Chung Eui-yong, the director of South Korea’s National Security Office, who attended the latest meetings, said, according to Yonhap.

“In addition, the North promised not to use not only nuclear weapons but also conventional weapons against the South,” he added.

Related: North Korea warns that it’s ready for both war and diplomacy

The news follows a year packed with white-hot nuclear threats and increasingly provocative nuclear and missile tests carried out by North Korea. The US put together the harshest sanctions package ever against the country and increased its military posture, with President Donald Trump making some overt threats.

But even as the US has applied what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” approach, South Korea, under the new leadership of a more engagement-minded liberal political party, extended olive branches to Pyongyang by including the North in the Pyeongchang Olympics and holding talks that thawed relations.

North Korea reverses course

DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits
Kim meeting with South Korean officials in Pyongyang, North Korea. (Photo from KCNA)

North Korea appears to have changed its tone after repeatedly declaring its nuclear arsenal nonnegotiable and reserving the right to attack US forces stationed in South Korea.

North Korea has talked about denuclearization before, but promises fell through before implementation. South Korean and US officials have repeatedly said verifiable denuclearization would need to take place before larger discussions over peace or reunification of the Koreas could happen.

More: Why North Korea suddenly stopped its aggression

Yonhap reports that the groundwork has now been laid for Kim to meet South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in what would be Kim’s first meeting with another head of state.

North Korean media reported on March 5, 2018 that Kim wanted to “write a new history of national reunification” and would “rapidly take practical steps” toward creating peace between the two countries, which have technically been at war since 1950.

North Korea had previously refused to engage with the US as long as international sanctions and the US military in the region applied pressure to Kim’s government.

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This Marine vet went streaking for the most veteran reason possible

If you’re a fan of the Houston Astros, Friday, July 27, was a miserable night. The Astros suffered a humiliating 11-2 defeat on their home field, Minute Maid Park, at the hands of their same-state rivals, the Texas Rangers. But by the game’s end, nobody was talking about the 9-run deficit. Instead, they were talking about a Marine Corps veteran — and true American hero — dropped trow and ran across the field at the game’s conclusion, wearing only a pair of Ol’ Glory silkies and shoes.

Chris White, a Houston native and president of Freedom Hard, took to the field in front of 42,592 baseball fans in a display that would bring a tear of joy to any red, white, and blue-blooded American. He made it all the way across the outfield, dodging security guards who were no match for his skill. White eventually put his hands up, surrendering after earning the love and admiration of the country.


In case you’ve missed this beautiful display of patriotism, here’s the video:

All joking aside, Chris White’s Freedom Hard is a veteran owned and operated company that uses humor (like the now-infamous streak) to raise awareness of issues within the veteran community. When he was interviewed by Houston’s KPRC 2, he opened up about his motivations.

The streaking, as hilarious as it was, gave him a soap box to briefly stand on and speak to the world about a deadly serious issue that affects many veterans: suicide.

“If I can make you laugh for at least five minutes, then you’re not thinking about that dark space you could potentially be in,” he said. “If I can gear it toward patriotism, to me, I consider that the Holy Grail.”
DOD & VA to hold ‘closed door’ conference on burn pits

You bring credit upon the Corps, the military community, and the United States of America.

(Freedom Hard)

A GoFundMe campaign was started in his honor (to post his bail) and it quickly raised 0.00. Instead of using cash, he donated every last cent to Camp4Heroes, a North Carolina resort that provides a tranquil environment for struggling veterans to enjoy nature.

Every aspect of Freedom Hard is geared towards giving back to the veteran community. A dollar of every sale is directly donated to the buyer’s choice of a non-profit organization supporting veterans.

We salute you, Chris White.