A Marine veteran believed so strongly in the war against the Islamic State group that he secretly traveled to Syria, where he was killed this month while fighting for a Kurdish militia group.
David Taylor, a 25-year-old former Florida resident, had kept his plans to join the Kurdish group a secret from his family and only told a high school friend, who he swore to secrecy. Taylor’s father said July 25 that he didn’t even know of his son’s plans until after he had arrived in Syria last spring and was training with the group known as YPG.
“I got an email and he said, ‘Pops, don’t worry. I’m with the YPG,'” David Taylor Sr. told The Associated Press from his West Virginia home. “He said, ‘I’m doing the right thing. It’s for their freedom.'”
Taylor Sr. said when his son set his mind on something, he did it.
“There was no middle ground. He wasn’t wishy-washy,” the father said.
A Kurdish militia group released a video saying Taylor was “martyred fighting ISIS’ barbarism” on July 16.
The US State Department said in a statement that it was aware of reports of a US citizen being killed while fighting in Syria but offered no further comment. Taylor’s dad said the family was told about the death last weekend by a US consular official.
Taylor’s high school friend emailed the father after he learned of the death. The friend said Taylor told him during a visit to St. Petersburg Beach, Florida, last February that he believed the Islamic State group needed to be stopped.
“One night he got drunk and told me of the atrocities he had witnessed in the Middle East during his time in the Marine Corps,” the friend, Alex Cintron, wrote in an email to Taylor’s parents.
“He said to the effect that ‘Isis was the bane of modern existence and needed to be stopped before they destroy any more lives and priceless works of human achievement,'” Cintron said in the email.
Taylor’s father shared the email with AP on July 25. Cintron didn’t respond to a message for comment sent via social media.
Cintron said in the email that Taylor died from an improvised explosive device. The YPG video offered no details on how Taylor died.
Taylor grew up in Ocala, Florida, located about 80 miles northwest of Orlando. He attended college in Florida and West Virginia before joining the Marines. He was deployed in Afghanistan, Japan, South Korea, and spent time in Jordan before he was discharged last year, said David Taylor Sr.
After his discharge, he came to the United States and visited family and friends in West Virginia, Philadelphia, and Florida.
Last spring, he asked his father to drive him to the airport because he had decided to visit Ireland, where his family has ancestral ties.
Taylor Sr. received periodic updates from his son about his travels in Europe until there was a period of silence for several weeks. Soon afterward, the elder Taylor received an email from his son, saying he had joined the Kurdish militia group.
The consular official told Taylor Sr. that the YPG is paying to transport Taylor’s body back to the United States.
“He loved his country. He loved democracy,” the father said. “He had a mission, to go over there and advance democracy and freedom like we have it over here. It came at a horrible price.”
“It’s a total system replacement — new gun, new ammo, new holster, everything,” Daryl Easlick, a project officer with the Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga., told Military.com in July.
A request for proposal to manufacturers goes out in January, and Smith Wesson, General Dynamics — and yes, even Beretta — have announced their intent to compete for the contract. Making its Army debut in 1985, the 9mm Beretta replaced the the .45 caliber the Army had used since 1911.
So what’s next? There are plenty of options, but according to Military.com, the competition will assess higher caliber pistols that shoot .357 Sig, .40 SW and .45 ACP.
Although we don’t yet know specifics of gun design proposals, we do have some idea of what’s to come. According to UPI, Smith Wesson and General Dynamics have already teamed up to build a new pistol based off Smith Wesson’s MP platform.
Looking back at the contract war in the 1980s that Beretta eventually won, there may be some of the same players giving it another try. Back then, Sig Sauer pitched what would later become the P226, while Walther submitted its P88, according to Defense One.
Another option might come from Glock in the form of its Glock 21 or some other variant. The polymer-based pistol has become a staple of police departments across the U.S., so it’s quite possible the company may throw its hat in the ring.
My vote however, for the best sidearm, would be the chainsaw. But that’s just me.
The Coast Guard is getting very serious about fielding highly capable icebreakers — and not just for getting through the frozen oceans in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. They’re also looking to prepare these vessels for a fight. A report by the Washington Times revealed that the Coast Guard wants their next six icebreakers to pack some serious firepower, able to send cruise missiles at a hostile target on land or sea.
Contrary to what some might think, heavily armed icebreakers are not a new phenomenon. In fact, a number of countries are currently operating powerful, combat-ready icebreakers.
HDMS Knud Rasmussen outside Akureyri Harbour in Iceland. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Adaahh)
The Danish Knud Rasmussen-class icebreakers, for instance, are armed with a 76mm gun, two twin 324mm torpedo tubes for the MU-90 Impact, and a Mk 56 vertical launch system for the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. Norway’s lone Svalbard-class icebreaker is equipped with a single 57mm gun, similar to those used on the Freedom- and Independence-class littoral combat ships. Russia, of course, is arming its icebreakers as well. The Ivan Susanin-class icebreakers, in service since the 1970s, are armed with a twin 76.2mm gun and two 30mm Gatling guns.
Even Canada’s getting in on the action. Their planned Harry Dewolf-class icebreakers are to be equipped with a 25mm Bushmaster chain gun and two M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns.
The current icebreaker classes in the United States Coast Guard, the Healy and the Polar Star, are each equipped with a pair of M2 .50-caliber heavy machine guns.
“We’ve been able to find offsets to drive the cost down … [and] reserve the space weight and power necessary to fully weaponize these and make these a capable platform offensively in the event this world changes in the next five, 10, even 15 years from now,” Adm. Paul Zukunft, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, said during an address at a symposium hosted by the Surface Navy Association.
Sure, there’s no combat to be done in the Arctic today, but as always, having weapons ready is often the best way to prevent a fight. With so many armed adversaries, we think putting more guns on new icebreakers is a great move.
Good news for U.S. Air Force retirees: The service has expanded plans to not only welcome back retired pilots into active-duty staff positions, but also combat system officers and air battle managers.
To help alleviate its manning shortage, the service is encouraging retirees from the 11X, 12X and 13B Air Force Specialty Codes to apply for the Voluntary Retired Return to Active Duty Program, it announced May 23, 2018.
It could take in as many as 1,000 former airmen.
“Officers who return to active duty under VRRAD will fill rated staff and active flying staff, test, training and operational positions where rated officer expertise is required,” said VRRAD Rated Liaison Maj. Elizabeth Jarding of the Air Force’s Personnel Center.
“We can match VRRAD participants to stateside or overseas requirements where they’ll fill critical billets that would otherwise remain vacant due to the shortage of rated officers,” Jarding said in a service release.
Airmen who are currently in rated positions in those specialties but have already put in their retirement orders will also be welcome to extend their service in the VRRAD program, the release said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brett Clashman)
The program expansion comes as the Air Force faces a growing deficit of 2,000 pilots, or roughly 10 percent of the total pilot force.
Previously, the VRRAD program — one of many efforts the service is making to ease the shortage — accepted only the 11X career field and remained limited in scope, said Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson.
“The program was limited by law to a maximum of 25 participants and for a maximum 12-month tour, which limited officers to serving in non-flying staff positions,” Dickerson told Military.com on May 23, 2018.
Active-duty tour lengths have now increased to a minimum of 24 months and a maximum of 48 months, he said. VRRAD participants will deploy only if they volunteer, unless they are assigned to a combat-coded unit, the release said.
“Many who inquired expressed interest in the stability afforded by a longer tour. In addition, longer tours also afforded the potential to utilize these officers in flying as well as non-flying positions, providing more time to requalify and be effectively utilized in various airframes,” Dickerson said in an email.
To date, the 2017 VRRAD program has approved 10 officers, and five have returned to active duty, he said.
“We anticipate that will continue with the expanded authorities,” Dickerson said, adding the officers currently in the program could expand their tour lengths.
Some of the criteria for the expanded VRRAD program have changed: Eligibility applies to rated officers who received an active-duty retirement within the last five years or those in the window to retire within 12 months of their VRRAD date of application, the personnel center said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel King Jr.)
Airmen must have previously served in the ranks of captain, major or lieutenant colonel, and must be under age 50. Those who are 50 and older may be considered on a case-by-case basis. Previously, the criteria applied to those age 60 and younger in those ranks.
“Applicants must be medically qualified for active duty and have served in a rated staff position within 15 years or been qualified in an Air Force aircraft within 10 years of application for flying positions,” the release said.
Officers who retired for physical disability reasons are not eligible to apply.
The personnel center will accept applications for VRRAD until Dec. 31, 2018, or until all openings are filled, the release said. Those who return to active duty will not be eligible for the service’s aviation bonus nor promotion consideration.
In 2017, the Air Force asked for expanded authorities for its retention shortfalls. As a result, in October 2018, President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13223, which allowed the service to recall up to 1,000 former pilots.
US senators have been advised not to use videoconferencing platform Zoom over security concerns, the Financial Times reports.
According to three people briefed on the matter, the Senate sergeant-at-arms — whose job it is to run law enforcement and security on the Capitol — told senators to find alternative methods for remote working, although he did not implement an outright ban.
With the coronavirus outbreak forcing millions to work from home, Zoom has seen a 1,900% increase in use between December and March to 200 million daily users. This has been accompanied by a string of bad press about its security and privacy practices, to the point where CEO Eric Yuan was forced to publicly apologize last week.
This week the company admitted to “mistakenly” routing data through China in a bid to secure more server space to deal with skyrocketing demand. “We failed to fully implement our usual geo-fencing best practices. As a result, it is possible certain meetings were allowed to connect to systems in China, where they should not have been able to connect,” Yuan said.
The news sparked outrage among some senators, and Senate Democrat Richard Blumenthal called for the FTC to launch an investigation into the company.
“As Zoom becomes embedded in Americans’ daily lives, we urgently need a full transparent investigation of its privacy and security,” the senator tweeted.
While the Senate has told its members to stay away from Zoom, the Pentagon told the FT that it would continue to allow its staff to use the platform. A memo sent to top cybersecurity officials from the Department of Homeland Security said that the company was being responsive when questioned about concerns over the security of its software, Reuters reported.
Marines don’t take kindly to being told something is impossible. Thomas Fitzpatrick was that kind of Marine. He landed a single-engine plane right outside of a New York City bar after making a bar bet with another patron.
In fact, the Police Aviation Bureau called it next to impossible, estimating the odds of success at “100,000-to-1.” Shortly before 3 a.m. on Sept. 30, 1956, the “twenty-something” Fitzpatrick hopped in a single-engine plane at New Jersey’s Teterboro School of Aeronautics and took off without lights or a radio.
“Supposedly, he planned on landing on the field at George Washington High School but it wasn’t lit up at night, so he had to land on St. Nicholas instead,” said Jim Clarke in an interview with the New York Times’ Corey Kilgannon. Clarke was a local resident at the time and remembers seeing the plane in the middle of the street.
According to the New York Times, locals called the first landing “a feat of aeronautics.” The owner of the plane did not press charges. Fitzpatrick was given a $100 fine (almost $900 when adjusted for inflation) for violating a city law which forbids landing airplanes on New York City streets. He also lost his pilot’s license. And that was that.
Until Fitzpatrick did it again, two years later.
This time, the Marine veteran stole the plane at 1 a.m. from Teterboro School and landed it at Amsterdam and 187th Street. He stole the second plane because someone at the bar didn’t believe that he stole a plane the first time around.
For the second theft, the judge threw the book at Fitzpatrick, sentencing him to six months confinement.
“Landing on a street with lampposts and cars parked on both sides is a miracle,” said Fred Hartling, whose family was close to Fitzpatrick. “It was a wonder – you had to be a great flier to put that thing down so close to everything.”
Aside from his two skillful drunken landings, Tommy Fitz was also a Purple Heart recipient and earned a Silver Star in Korea.
During a strategic withdrawal, Corporal Fitzpatrick noticed a wounded officer, about 100 yards forward of his position. In attempting a rescue, he and a companion were seriously wounded. Cpl. Fitzpatrick despite severe pain and loss of blood made it back to safety, directed a second successful rescue party, organized and provided covering fire to support the rescue. For this action, he was awarded the Silver Star.
Thomas Fitzpatrick died in 2009 at age 79, survived by his wife of 51 years. As of 2013, the Washington Heights neighborhood still had a drink named for ol’ Tommy Fitz: the Late Night Flight.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper visited the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019, praising the crew for maintaining “readiness and lethality,” even though the Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarine completed its most recent deployment in 2015.
The Boise has been in limbo, awaiting repairs amid a Navy-wide backlog that has sent subs, including the Boise, to private docks for repair, driving up costs.
The Boise is currently at Naval Station Norfolk, according to the Daily Press, and awaiting repair at Newport News Shipbuilders.
Read on to learn more about Esper’s visit to the Boise.
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper at the USS Boise.
(Department of Defense)
Esper came to Virginia to discuss the problem of Navy suicides.
Esper visited the Boise during a trip to Norfolk, where three Navy sailors assigned to the USS George H.W. Bush have died by suicide in the past two weeks.
“I wish I could tell you we have an answer to prevent future further suicides in the armed services,” Esper told sailors. “We don’t.”
This year, suicides in the armed services have garnered significant attention, with the Air Force calling a one-day operational stand-down in August 2019 to address the number of suicides in its ranks.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper tours the USS Boise, Sept. 25, 2019.
(Department of Defense)
While at Norfolk, Esper took a tour of the USS Boise.
The submarine Esper praised for its readiness has been out of action for four years and lost its certification to perform unrestricted operations in June 2016 as it awaited repairs, according to Navy spokesperson Cdr. Jodie Cornell.
“The Boise has been waiting for repairs since its last deployment ended in 2015, and become the poster child for problems w/ Navy maintenance,” journalist Paul McLeary tweeted Sept. 25, 2019.
The Boise and two other Los Angeles-class submarines have long awaited repairs that the Navy doesn’t have the capacity to perform, so the service has contracted the labor to private shipyards.
Cornell told Insider that the Boise could go into repairs in spring 2020, but the contract for the private shipbuilder to perform the repair was still in negotiations.
Esper aboard the USS Boise on Sept. 25, 2019.
(US Department of Defense)
The Boise maintains a full crew, despite being stuck at Naval Base Norfolk.
Cornell told Insider that while there is indeed a full crew aboard the Boise, “the command has been executing an aggressive plan to send crew members to other submarines to both support the other ships, including deployments, and to gain Boise crewmembers valuable operational experience.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated in 2018 that attack submarines have spent 10,363 days in “idle time” — when they can’t operate and are unable to get repairs — since 2008.
During that time, the Navy also spent an estimated id=”listicle-2640620235″.5 billion to maintain attack subs that weren’t operational.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An Afghan soldier has opened fire on American troops, wounding at least seven of them, before being shot dead in a military base in northern Afghanistan, officials said, in the second so-called “insider attack” in the past week.
Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the US military, said on June 17th that the attack took place at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-i-Sharif. Araam added that the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.
General Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, also confirmed the incident.
The Resolute Support, the international training mission to Afghanistan, announced on its Twitter feed that seven US service members were wounded, adding that there were no US fatalities.
Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, said NATO soldiers were training their Afghan counterparts at the base where the attack took place.
“A source told Al Jazeera that the attack happened at the end of a training exercise,” he said.
“We understand that the soldiers were getting back into their vehicle when a soldier from the Afghan national army picked up what is said to be a rocket-propelled grenade and fired it at the group of soldiers, and that is how these injuries have happened.”
Another insider attack
Three US soldiers were killed and a fourth was wounded on June 11 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.
Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the armed group, said at the time that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army “just to attack foreign forces.”
On June 17th, Mujahid praised the Camp Shaheen attack in a statement sent to the media, but did not claim Taliban responsibility.
In April, scores of Afghan soldiers were killed when fighters breached security at the camp, detonating explosives and shooting hundreds at a mosque and dining hall on the base. The attackers were disguised in Afghan army uniforms.
In the gym at VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System, Joe Curran encourages R.J. Garcia with the intensity of a football coach. “C’mon, you’ve got this!” Curran barks as Garcia struggles to finish his last rep on the leg press machine. Garcia pushes through gritted teeth as he lowers the weight, balancing it between his good leg and his prosthetic. “There you go!” says Curran.
The two Army veterans are members of the Ass Kickers, an amputee exercise and support group that meets every Friday.
“They took on the name because they are known for making a lot of noise,” says Jessica Blackwell, a VA kinesiotherapist who founded the group in 2017 as a way for amputee veterans to stay active and meet others in the same situation. “They’re a great group of guys, but we mean business. They’ve come to work hard, and that’s how they got the name.”
Kinesiotherapy is therapeutic exercise to help rehabilitate people with functional limitations, including amputations.
“Joe is our ringleader,” Blackwell says. “He’s our loudest one, but he takes care of the other guys, making sure that they have the resources they need. He’s actually helping himself in the process.”
Veteran R.J. Garcia and kinesiotherapist Jessica Blackwell at the gym.
Pushing veterans “out of respect”
Curran relishes his role. “What I do is put a little fire under their butts. These guys in wheelchairs, they won’t get out unless I start pushing them. And I only do it to motivate them, out of respect.”
The motivation works, says Blackwell. “I’ve really seen a great turnaround with my guys since we started this group. Their health, their psyche, their mood—I’ve seen a lot of improvements.”
One reason Curran is so successful is that he literally walks the walk. After he lost both legs to complications he attributes to Agent Orange exposure, VA specialists helped him get going again. “First they taught me how to walk on one foot with a walker, how to hobble along. Now I can just walk with a cane. I try to stay out of the chair as much as possible.”
Curran’s grit is contagious. The group has expanded from two veterans at the start to more than 25. Besides their Friday gym session, they often meet for bowling, golf and other events.
Joe Curran lights a fire under his fellow Veterans.
A sense of community
“Before this was created, our guys didn’t really have a reason to put their leg on and go outside,” says Blackwell. “They told me that they would stay at home and sit in their wheelchairs. This has really given them motivation and a sense of community.”
“I’ve got a theory,” Curran adds. “The average American veteran in a wheelchair is 200 pounds overweight. They’re homebound and often depressed. They’ll live longer if I can get them out of that chair. So that’s my plan: get the veteran off his butt and move!”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
From fighting pirates in the First Barbary War of 1801 to seizing the Kandahar International Airport in 2001 and beyond, Marine Corps infantrymen have been fighting and winning our nation’s battles for more than 200 years.
Known as “grunts,” infantrymen receive specialized training in weapons, tactics, and communications that make them effective in combat. And while many things have changed for grunts over time, they continue to carry on the legacy that was forged from the “small wars” to the “Frozen Chosin” to the jungles of Vietnam.
After more than a decade of war following the 9/11 attacks, many grunts have deployed to combat …
… In Iraq, where they earned their place in history at Nasiriyah, Najaf, and Fallujah (shown here), and many others.
While others deployed to Afghanistan, into the deadly Korengal Valley …
… Or more recently to Marjah, in Helmand Province.
But before infantrymen join their units, they need to complete initial training. For enlisted Marines, that means going to the School of Infantry, either at Camp Pendleton, California or Camp Geiger, North Carolina.
For officers, their training at Infantry Officer Course in Quantico, Va. involves both tactics and weapons, along with a more intense focus on how to lead an infantry platoon.
While most enlisted grunts become 0311 riflemen, others receive more specialized training, like 0331 machine-gunners, which learn the M240 machine gun (shown here), the MK19 grenade launcher, and the M2 .50 cal.
0341 Mortarmen learn how to operate the 60 mm (shown below) and 81 mm mortar systems, which help riflemen with indirect fire support when they need a little bit more firepower.
0351 Assaultmen learn basic demolitions, breaching, and become experts in destroying bad guys with the SMAW rocket system. The Shoulder-launched Multipurpose Assault Weapon (SMAW) is shown below.
Packing even more punch that’s usually vehicle-mounted, 0352 Anti-tank missilemen learn their primary M41 SABER (below) heavy anti-tank weapon and the Javelin, a medium anti-tank weapon.
Some more experienced infantrymen go into specialized fields, such as Reconnaissance or snipers (below).
Always present is a focus on mission accomplishment, and to “keep their honor clean” — to preserve the legacy of the Corps …
… That grunts are proud of. Always remembering heroics from the Chosin Reservoir Marines in Korea …
… To those who fought in Vietnam jungles, or the storied battles of Hue and Khe Sanh.
Since Vietnam, grunts have been repeatedly been called upon for minor and major engagements, such as Operation Desert Storm in 1991 and Operation United Shield in Somalia in 1995 (below).
Just before midnight on Feb. 27, 1943, a team of 10 Norwegian commandos crouched in the snow on a mountain plateau and stared at a seemingly unassailable target. It was a power plant and factory being used by the Nazis to create heavy water, a key component for Germany’s plans of developing nuclear reactors and a nuclear bomb.
The Norsk Hydro plant was surrounded by a ravine 656 feet deep with only one heavily-guarded bridge crossing it. Just past the ravine were two fences and the whole area was expected to be mined. On the factory grounds, German soldiers lived in barracks and walked patrols at all hours.
As a bonus, the whole area was covered by a thick layer of snow and the men were facing two causes of exhaustion. Six of the men were worn out from five days of marching through snow storms after they were dropped 18 miles from their planned drop zone. The other four men were survivors of an earlier, failed mission against the plant. They had survived for months in the mountains on only lichen and a single reindeer.
Still, to keep the Germans from developing the atom bomb, they attacked the plant on Feb. 28. The radio operator stayed on the plateau while the other nine climbed down the ravine, crossed an icy river, and climbed the far side soaking wet.
Once at the fence, a covering party of four men kept watch as the five members of the demolition party breached the first and then second fence lines with bolt cutters. The men — wearing British Army uniforms and carrying Tommy guns and chloroform-soaked rags — arrived at the target building.
Unfortunately, a door that was supposed to be left open by an inside man was closed. The team would later learn that the man had been too sick to go to work that day. Plan B was finding a narrow cable shaft and shimmying through it with bags of explosives. The covering party provided security while the demolition team split into two pairs, each searching for the entrance.
Lt. Joachim Ronneberg and Sgt. Frederik Kayser were the first to find the shaft. When they couldn’t immediately find the other pair in the darkness, they proceeded down the shaft alone and pushed their explosives ahead of them.
A historical display showing the Norwegian saboteurs planting explosives on the water cylinders. The mannequin in the back represents the night watchman. (Photo: Wikipedia/Hallvard Straume)
They dropped into the basement of the factory and rushed the night watchman. Kayser covered the man with his gun and Ronneberg placed the explosives on the cylinders that held the heavy water produced in the plant.
Suddenly, a window shattered inward. Kayser swung his weapon to cover the opening but was pleased to find it was only the other demolition pair, Lt. Kasper Idland and Sgt. Birger Stromsheim. They had been unable to find the shaft and were unaware that the others were inside. To ensure the mission succeeded, they had risked the noise of the breaking window to get at the cylinders.
Idland pulled watch outside while Ronneberg and Stromsheim rushed to finish placing the explosives. Worried that German guards may have heard the noise, they cut the two-minute fuses down to thirty seconds.
Just before they lit the fuses, the saboteurs were interrupted by the night watchman. He asked for his glasses, saying that they would be very challenging to replace due to wartime rationing. The commandos searched the desk, found the spectacles, and handed them to the man. As Ronneberg again went to light the fuses, footsteps approached from the hall.
Luckily, it wasn’t a guard. Another Norwegian civilian walked in but then nearly fell out of the room when he saw the commandos in their British Army fatigues.
Kayser covered the two civilians with his weapon and Ronneberg finally lit the 30-second fuses. Kayser released the men after 10 seconds and the commandos rushed out behind them. Soon after they cleared the cellar door, the explosives detonated.
Jens Poulsson, a saboteur on the mission, later said, “It sounded like two or three cars crashing in Piccadilly Circus,” according to a PBS article.
The cylinders were successfully destroyed, emptying months worth of heavy water production onto the floors and down drains where it would be irrecoverable.
The teams tried to escape the factory but a German guard approached them while investigating the noise. He was moving slowly in the direction of a Norwegian’s hiding spot, his flashlight missing one of the escaping men by only a few inches. Luckily, a heavy wind covered the noise of the Norwegian’s breathing and dispersed the clouds of his breath. The guard turned back to his hut without catching sight of anyone.
The team left the plant and began a treacherous, 250-mile escape on skis into Sweden, slipping through Nazi search parties the entire way.
Germany did repair the facility within a few months and resumed heavy water production. After increased attacks from Allied bombers, the Germans attempted to move this new heavy water back to Germany but a team of Norwegian saboteurs successfully sunk the ferry it was transported in. One man, Knut Haukelid, participated in both the factory and the ferry sabotage missions.
The SF Hydro, a ferry that was destroyed by saboteurs when the Nazis attempted to move heavy water with it. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
Phil Ruddock had trouble adjusting when he returned home to rural Louisiana, disabled by a traumatic brain injury he received during an Air Force tour of duty during Desert Storm. He had all the classic symptoms of PTSD: “I drank all the time, I couldn’t get along with anyone, I kept checking every room in the house to make sure it was clear every time I came home, I got up and checked the locks on the doors and windows too many times to count, I was always depressed and pissed at the world, and I never slept. I drove my family so crazy that they wanted to leave,” he says with a country twang. “I still do some of those things,” he adds, “but it’s getting better.”
Sit. Stay. Lie down. They’re the words that helped him through his recovery.
Ruddock’s now assisting other veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan the same way he survived his night terrors and flashbacks — with service dogs. His nonprofit Brothers and Sisters in Arms is a boot camp of sorts based out of central Louisiana, where he’s teaching veterans to train their own service dogs, all adopted from shelters. The repetitive learning of commands works like physical therapy for disabled vets and gives them something to work towards. Once they’ve completed the program, they gain a loyal companion and a sense of accomplishment, “a pride that you can’t imagine,” Ruddock says.
“When a soldier is deployed or on base, they feel secure because they have all the other soldiers there watching their back. But when they are out of the military, when their spouse goes to work, their kids go to school and they’re left alone, they have nobody watching their back,” Ruddock says. “It makes them very anxious, paranoid. A dog turns out to be their battle buddy and watches their back. It never leaves them, it never judges them, it never asks questions that they don’t want to answer. It gives them unconditional love,” Ruddock explains.
A program connecting veterans and rescue dogs may sound cutesy, almost saccharine, but for Ruddock, it’s serious — vital even. He asks the veterans to list Brothers and Sisters in Arms as the primary contact associated with the animal’s microchip, rather than the owner’s home phone. “The suicide rate for veterans is 22 per day,” Ruddock says, about 8,000 every year. “If that dog would show up at a shelter and they ran the microchip, chances are that veteran is not going to answer his phone.”
Ruddock started the nonprofit in November 2012 after his personal experience with an abandoned pit bull. Following a nervous breakdown, he lost his job as lead clerk at the local VA outpatient clinic. His spent his days walled alone up on his remote property, until a friend arrived with a pit bull for him to train. “She was as beat up and as messed up as I was,” he remembers of his white-faced, brown-eared dog, Mia. “She kind of rescued me.” The dog sat in the passenger seat of his truck on rides into a nearby village and eventually gave him confidence to travel farther.
Within the past couple months, Ruddock logged more than 20,000 miles in his sojourns across the Sugar State, from Slidell, a town across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans that butts up against Mississippi, all the way out west to Fort Polk, an Army installation near the Texas border. Last year, he certified 31 service dogs, which are specially licensed after 120 hours in public, and 15 companion dogs.
At the pound, Ruddock seeks out the calmest dogs. “We look for dogs with a good disposition. We don’t want the ones that jump and bark and get with the other dogs,” he says. He generally avoids puppies — too much added stress — and certain breeds like German shepherds that can become overprotective if they’re not socialized regularly, but otherwise he’ll take every breed from a 20-pound Jack Russell terrier to a 200-pound mastiff.
Training sessions run one hour a week for roughly eight weeks, though he’s come to expect a few absences. “A veteran may have problems one day. Some demons may come up and he may not be able to show up. It may take a little longer,” he says.
Besides the essentials — what Ruddock calls good citizenship for canines (think: table manners for children) — the service dogs learn three main commands that are unique for handlers who still carry wounds from the battlefield. The dog learns to “block,” inserting itself into the space between the owner and somebody else so that a person keeps their distance. “Cover” sends the pup to its owner’s back or side, facing away as a kind of lookout that allows a vet to relax at, say, a counter or cash register. The last is “grounded.” If the soldier faints or has a nightmare, the dog lays on top of the owner and licks his face, prompting a welcome (if wet) return to reality.
Brothers and Sisters in Arms is different from many other groups that provide service dogs. For one, Ruddock doesn’t charge for his services or the animal. His operation is funded entirely by donations; the bill from other groups can run as high as $25,000. (“These guys get out of the military, and they’re just above poverty level. They can’t afford that,” he says.) His classes are all one-on-one, making it easier for vets who can be skittish around crowds, nervous about competition and failure. And every instructor is a former soldier, because, as Ruddock says, “There’s no better therapy than a veteran talking to another veteran.”
Ruddock wants to see the program expand across Louisiana. He’s already processing five to 10 applications a week, and he’s starting to get referrals from VA psychiatrists who can’t officially recommend a service dog but still send warriors his way. “It’s not about the fame or fortune. It’s about that feeling you get when you help somebody. The warm fuzzies, the goosebumps, whatever you want to call it,” he says of his motivations. “It’s about doing what’s right.”
It’s for the men and women, his brothers and sisters, that Ruddock keeps trekking across the bayous, working with soldiers, like the young man he met last month. “You can tell he’s had it rough,” Ruddock says. “He couldn’t even stand the sound of a loud car going by. He kept moving around and shaking. He couldn’t look you in the eye. He constantly looked down, and if he did catch your eye, it was a white stare like he could see right through you.” The man expressed no emotion, until Ruddock brought out a puppy. As if he was emerging from a daze, the man started petting the dog. He smiled, and Ruddock knew another soldier was safe.
Ognjen Gajic, a lung expert and critical care specialist at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota, was interviewed by Ajla Obradovic, a correspondent with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, about the coronavirus and the disease’s symptoms and treatment.
RFE/RL: How fast does a person’s health worsen after becoming infected? It seems that patients diagnosed with the coronavirus die rather quickly but recover more slowly compared to other diseases? Or is that an incorrect impression?
Ognjen Gajic: Critical illness [in people with the coronavirus] occurs on average after seven days of mild symptoms. From the moment one starts experiencing shortness of breath, [a patient’s condition can worsen] rapidly, sometimes within a few hours, and then intensive monitoring in a hospital intensive care unit is critical.
RFE/RL: How are COVID-19 patients treated? Is there a standard procedure?
Gajic: Most patients have mild symptoms and there is no specific treatment thus far other than controlling the symptoms — paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) for fever, weakness, and the like. Untested forms of treatment can be dangerous due to side effects and should not be used until research shows they are efficient.
I deal with the treatment of the critically ill, so I can say more about [those patients]. In many of them, the [COVID-19] disease progresses to severe bilateral pneumonia characterized by shortness of breath and hypoxia (that means oxygen deprivation in body tissue).
These patients should be immediately taken to the hospital for oxygen treatment and their condition should be constantly monitored so it is possible to respond in time [to these problems] with intense respiratory support, including respirators. Sophisticated intensive care with control and support of all organs is successful in about 50 percent of the most severely ill cases, although some patients may be on a respirator for several weeks before recovering or dying.
So far there is no proven specific treatment [for COVID-19] and untested experimental drugs should not be prescribed without the proper research [being conducted]. We are working with colleagues around the world on a day-to-day basis on research projects for new treatments and prevention.
RFE/RL: Is there any data so far on the underlying diseases that are, in some way, more pernicious in combination with the coronavirus?
Gajic: Rather than specific diseases, more important is [someone’s] physiological condition as far as their lungs and [general fitness]; elderly patients who are not fit and those with severe forms of chronic lung or heart disease have little reserve and little chance of successfully enduring intensive respiratory treatment.
RFE/RL: How much more infectious is the coronavirus than other communicable diseases and what is the best way for people to protect themselves? In the Czech Republic, for example, they require everyone to wear masks in public, while the World Health Organization has not cited this as essential for people who are not infected. Can you give some specific tips on protection?
Gajic: Masks should be left to health-care professionals. A thorough hand washing with soap and water is by far the most important tip and, at this point, isolation from all but essential contacts — especially groups — must be respected. Also, before coming to a health-care facility, first make contact by phone, since it is safer to stay home for home treatment if one is showing mild symptoms.
RFE/RL: I understand you worked with your colleagues from Wuhan. What is it that other countries can learn from them and apply in their response to the pandemic?
Gajic: Several colleagues from Wuhan hospitals have been at the Mayo Clinic in recent years and we have been doing joint research. At the beginning of the epidemic in Wuhan, we sent support in terms of treatment guidelines and [medical] staff protection. Now they are helping us. After some initial setbacks, our colleagues in Wuhan, with rigorous isolation measures, adequate equipment, and training, were able to prevent their health-care professionals from becoming sick despite working with critically ill patients.
RFE/RL: The latest information shows that the United States now has the largest number of infected people. Did the U.S. response to the epidemic come too late?
Gajic: I’m not an epidemiologist so I can’t comment on that. When it comes to the critically ill, U.S. hospitals provide fantastic care in these difficult conditions.