Researchers at Harvard Business School are conducting a study designed to help veterans with disabilities transition into the civilian workforce — and they need more veterans.
Leading practitioners in veteran support and world-class researchers are teaming up with the Ivy League school to better understand the post-separation progress of American veterans. To be eligible for the study, a veteran must meet a few simple criteria:
• Enlisted member within three months of their end of active service, either pre- or post-separation
• Honorably discharged (or anticipate an honorable discharge)
• Have an anticipated VA disability rating between 30-90 percent
• Under the age of 45
The project is being run by Ross Dickman, an Army veteran with 12 years of service as an AH-64D Apache Longbow Pilot who deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Participating vets can earn up to $1,370 to be a part of the study. On top of that, participants can receive life planning education, career guidance, training opportunities, and even further funding toward reemployment.
Joining the five-year study will help some of our nation’s top academics take on the task of helping members of our community reintegrate into civilian life. Harvard emphasizes that being a part of the study will not affect disabled veterans’ employment, education, or other life choices and you can be part of the study no matter where you live.
Personal data collected during the study will be stored in a secure database at Harvard Business School. Identifiable information will not be made available to any external agencies, including the media and any government agencies or employers including the VA and/or the DoD.
To inquire about the study, contact Eugene Soltes at Harvard Business School at 617.495.6622 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A former Army officer will spend his Independence Day Tuesday by competing in the renowned Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
“Buffalo” Jim Reeves was one of 20 other competitors to earn a spot on the nationally televised gastronomic event. He made the cut by eating 23 hot dogs.
“There’s no big secret to competitive eating,” Reeves told the Army Times. “You try your hardest and you’re either good or you’re not. I happened to be good.”
Reeves turned from soldier to competitive eater in 2002 by competing in the National Buffalo Wing Festival, where he finished as a finalist. He joined the Army in 1990 after completing reserve officers’ training corps at Clarkson University. He later attended the Engineer Officers’ Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Reeves served as a a platoon leader, acting company commander, battalion personnel officer and civil engineering officer before leaving the Army in 1998. He now makes a living as a math and computer science teacher in New York.
The former engineering officer’s technique is simple: he downs two hot dogs at a time by separating the hot dogs from the buns and dipping the buns in water to help facilitate swallowing.
Reeves may be good, but he will have to be at his all-time best if he stands a chance at winning Tuesday’s contest. The world-famous Joey Chestnut won last year’s contest by consuming 70 hot dogs, setting a new world record. Odds makers put Chestnut at a distinct advantage to defend his title, known as “The Mustard Belt.” The winner is expected to consume 67.5 dogs, meaning that Reeves will have to triple his qualifying number to have a shot at victory.
Recently, four skydivers from FullMag decided to step up their game by jumping out of the bomb bay doors of a World War II B-17 bomber using wingsuits.
The skydivers are all equipped with go-pros, parachutes, and the American flag.
The B-17 Flying Fortress has lived up to its name. Primarily, it saw combat during WWII for allied bombing runs in Europe. Originally developed for the U.S. Army Air Corps, this behemoth had as many as 13 machine guns attached.
But what its known for is the devastating 9,600-pound bomb load that it could bring into battle.
The 14 men of the ‘Memphis Belle’ were among the most famous B-17 Bomber crews. It was one of the first bombers to complete 25 combat missions and bring all of her men back.
The tales of this beauty have been made into a documentary in 1944 and a feature film in 1990. In May 2018, the aircraft will be restored and placed in the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This will be done in celebration of the 75th anniversary of it’s final combat mission.
Still no news about Kim Jong Un – even after TMZ reported (yet didn’t confirm) his death on April 25 and everyone outside the Intelligence community has been coming up with their own theories, whether he died during a botched heart surgery to whatever because he missed two major holiday appearances.
I don’t know. The logical side of my brain says that he’s probably smart enough to know that being a dictator of the country with rampant malnutrition, horrid living conditions and legalized crystal meth is doing far worse when their only trading partner is the epicenter of a deadly pandemic. He’s probably been self-isolating like everyone else in the world (except his countrymen).
But I’m still hoping the methed-out cardiothoracic surgeon did him in. Anyways, here are some memes…
Military representatives from Morocco and the United States held an opening ceremony Feb. 27 for the Flintlock 2017 exercise at the Tifnit training base [in Morocco], marking another milestone in a relationship between their nations that began in the 1700s.
More than 2,000 military personnel from 24 African and Western nations are participating in the 10th annual iteration of the exercise, which continues until March 16 across seven African host nations.
The exercise, sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, strengthens security institutions, promotes multilateral sharing of information and develops interoperability among counterterrorism partners from across Africa’s Sahara region.
Deep U.S.-Morocco Roots
African partner special operations forces and U.S. Special Operations Command Africa jointly plan and execute the exercise, highlighting the sense of shared purpose across the continent as partners strengthen themselves and their regional network against violent extremists. For Morocco and the United States, the roots run deep in this partnership.
Morocco formally recognized the United States by signing a treaty of peace and friendship in 1786 between U.S. Minister Thomas Barclay and the Sultan of Morocco, Sidi Muhammad, in Marrakesh, according to the U.S. State Department website. The relationship matured with the naming of James Simpson as the first American consul in 1797 in Tangier.
Sultan Mawlay Suleiman gifted the consulate a building and grounds to use, marking the first property owned by the U.S. government on foreign shores.
In all of American history, no other country has maintained its treaty relationship with America for as long as Morocco.
Flintlock 2017 is the most recent in a long line of actions and expressions of solidarity between the two nations.
“Morocco plays a key leadership role in Africa and we are honored by the continued partnership and friendship between our two countries. We look forward to working with you over the next few weeks,” Morocco’s special operations command exercise instructor said.
‘A Golden Opportunity’
Brig. Gen. Mohammed Benlouali, operations commander for Morocco’s Southern Zone, delivered remarks on behalf of the Moroccan Royal Armed Forces.
“These types of activities, as well as other joint combined Moroccan-American exercises, are a golden opportunity to further enhance the ties of military cooperation between our two countries,” he said. “We will stand ready and willing to take maximum benefit from this period of training to further promote our knowledge and know-how in the field of special forces,” he said.
Marines from Marine Corps Forces, Special Operations Command are training alongside their Moroccan peers, refining tactics, techniques, and procedures across multiple full-mission profiles. The two forces specifically are training on small-unit special operations forces tactics, weapons training and fire support, lifesaving first aid and trauma care, command and control, and force protection.
The shared training experiences will develop the two partners’ ability to plan, coordinate, and operate as an integrated team and will strengthen the bond between the two countries. The Moroccan Royal Armed Forces have contributed to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world and provide a center of stability and security across the Sahel region.
Countering the threat posed by violent extremist organizations around the world demands proficiency, coordination and enhanced interoperability. While regional security is the main focus of Flintlock 2017, the lessons learned and investments in relationships will allow participants to share the burdens of managing conflicts and improve their ability to provide security solutions that meet threats at their origin, exercise officials said.
From the time the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, infantry Marines are out on the range or catching some much-needed shut-eye — usually in an uncomfortable place.
While on active duty, they’ll lament their decision-making history while hauling heavy combat loads across the rough and unforgiving terrain or missing important events back home or, you know, taking fire from terrorists.
But at the end of the day, ask any Marine and they’ll tell you: all that blood and sweat they shed was worth it. Not only that, their shared hardships become the foundation of some epic memories.
Life after the military can be a challenging and confusing time as many veterans attempt to find themselves. For the Marine-turned-rapper known as Fitzy Mess, using his passion for music to help tell the stories of his unique experiences is a way of easing the transition.
“To tell the truth its fun as hell for me, puking up booze while my platoon sergeant yells at me,” Fitzy Mess raps.
We’ve all been there, Fitzy Mess. We’ve all been there…
Operation Supply Drop (OSD) is the kind of organization that sounds very simple at first. They collect donated video games, console systems, and cash to send gaming care packages to troops overseas and here in the United States. The nonprofit calls these care packages “supply drops.”
As anyone who’s been deployed can attest, the periods of excitement and fear are interspersed with long periods of monotony. OSD began in a garage with an Iraq War vet boxing up donations to help his peers enjoy the same hobby he loved: gaming.
From those humble roots, OSD has now grown into a charity that does a lot more. While they still generate care packages for deployed service members, they’ve expanded into creating unique experiences for veterans, fighting veteran joblessness, and other causes which affect warriors.
The expansion had some growing pains. The founder publicly split and created his own new organization. But the CEO, Glen Banton, is excited for all the ways OSD’s expanded mission has let them serve veterans.
“We’re in the business of helping veterans,” he said in an interview with WATM. “Unfortunately, the video game thing sometimes overshadows the other things we do. But essentially, it needs to be about putting veterans first. How can we keep supporting as many vets as possible. That’s while you’re deployed and need something to spend your time with, or when you get home and have other needs.”
OSD began by enlarging the supply drop program, and then adding on new programs.
“The supply drops increased in size and scope. We started going to bases themselves, rec centers, mess halls, day rooms, hospitals, events, Halloween and Christmas parties… Anywhere we can impact a lot of troops per day and have fun.”
In a recent supply drop at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, OSD worked with Army occupational therapist Maj. Eric Johnson who has used video games to help wounded warriors progress in their therapy. But the center had just an old Nintendo Wii with which to work.
Johnson gave a wish list to OSD who was able to get the medical center six new video game consoles and almost 100 games plus peripherals like steering wheels. It was OSD’s largest supply drop yet.
“Glen and his team, they came with OSD last week and, blew me away,” Johnson said. “Way more than I had asked for, way more than I anticipated.”
Wounded warriors play video games at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas after a the Operation Supply Drops largest drop. Photo: Courtesy Operation Supply Drop
Then there are “Thank You Deployments,” where a veteran or a small group of veterans get to participate in a special event or outing, usually by working with corporate or non-profit partners.
“There are VIP outings, genuinely relevant to the veteran,” Banton said. “So, we might take them to a gaming conference or on a trip to a studio. But there might be other stuff.
“We’ve had race car experiences. We met a driver who worked for Forza and is a vet. He helps get them full access, a ride in the pace car, access to the lounge. It’s really amazing.
“And as the community grows, it continues to get broader and broader. It doesn’t take us away from gaming. It takes us to people who are gamers and do other stuff.”
OSD also has a “Teams” program. The teams encourage people to get locally connected with active duty service members and veterans so everyone can engage at the local level on big issues like veteran suicide, depression, homelessness, and unemployment.
“The Teams Program is the action arm of OSD,” Banton said. “They’re local chapters with veteran and civilian members who address things like veteran suicide or homelessness. Really, what we look at with the teams is, how do we create within Seattle, L.A., Muncie, Indiana, how do we engage in a way that helps?”
While it may seem like this is OSD straying from their roots as a gamer-veteran focused charity, Banton and his team don’t see it that way.
Glenn explained, “If someone asks, ‘Hey, OSD, I need some help and don’t know where to go. I think I can get this job but I don’t have the clothes,’ or ‘I don’t have the home base to do the interview,’ we can help with that.
“So we can, for a thousand dollars, get them housed for six months and get them help through this community, then they become a big part of the community.
“That individual doesn’t have space to enjoy an XBox if he wanted to. to us, it’s very clear and it’s easy. We know exactly what we’re supposed to be doing: Inspiring veterans and other civilian supporters to give back to those around them.”
For those interested in getting involved helping veterans through OSD, head to “The Teams” page, make a donation, or learn about the 8-bit Salute where gamers can play to raise money for future supply drops and other events.
Recent investigations show that the Department of Defense has issued thousands of other-than-honorable discharges to veterans with mental health and behavioral health diagnoses.
U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and seven other senators introduced legislation to change that.
On April 3, Murphy, veterans, and advocates for veterans held a press conference in Connecticut and called upon Congress to take action.
“I can’t stand the idea of a veteran risking her or his life for this country, suffering the wounds of battle, and then being kicked to the curb as a result of those wounds,” Murphy said. “But that is exactly what has happened to tens of thousands of men and women who have fought and bled for our country.”
“This is common sense,” Murphy added. “We are breaking our promise to those who served.”
Murphy said there is also a stigma that comes with an other-than-honorable discharge that is a heavy burden for veterans to live with. “A lot of these so-called offenses are very minor,” Murphy said.
The legislation Murphy helped introduce would require the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide mental health and behavioral health services to diagnosed former combat veterans who have been other-than-honorably discharged. The bill would also ensure that veterans receive a decision in a timely manner and requires the VA to justify to Congress any denial of benefits that they issue to a veteran.
Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Murphy said, denied it had the legal authority to provide any care to former combat veterans who received OTH or Bad Paper discharges.
The VA has reversed course on the matter, Murphy said, adding that now it’s time for Congress to act to ensure mental health and behavioral health services are provided to these veterans.
Since January 2009, the Army has “separated” at least 22,000 soldiers for misconduct after they came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, said Murphy.
“These soldiers who fought for our country suffered serious mental health problems or traumatic brain injury as a cost of their service. And we turned our back on them,” Murphy said, adding that they also return home from combat with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
But instead of being directed to the care and treatment they need, they’re being given other-than-honorable discharges or so-called “bad paper discharges,” disqualifying them from VA care, especially the mental and behavioral health services many of them desperately need, said the senator.
Murphy’s strong support for the bill was echoed by Blumenthal, who is a sponsor but was not at Monday’s press conference.
“This bill will make crystal clear that all combat veterans should have access to the full array of mental and behavioral health care they need and deserve,” Blumenthal said. “We cannot wait for a crisis to provide essential mental health to veterans suffering from the terrible invisible wounds of war.”
He said 20 veterans per day are lost to suicide.
One of those in attendance at the press conference Monday was Conley Monk, a Vietnam veteran from New Haven who developed PTSD as a result of his military service.
In 2014, Monk and four other plaintiffs brought a class action lawsuit because they were issued OTH discharges. They won the suit, which was brought on their behalf by the Veterans Legal Services Clinic at Yale Law School and the Pentagon agreed to upgrade their discharges to honorable.
Another veteran to speak Monday was was Tom Burke, president of the Yale Student Veterans Council and a U.S. Marine corps veteran.
In 2009, Burke was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan.
It was when he was in the Helmand Province that he witnessed deaths of many young children who were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade. One of Burke’s responsibilities was to cart away the dismembered bodies.
“I began smoking hash,” Burke said, adding that in a matter of weeks he was charged for misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines.
Burke said he “tried to commit suicide a few times.”
He said he was later locked in a psychiatric hospital and subsequently given an OTH discharge later in 2009.
In 2014, Burke said he applied for an honorable discharge, but was denied.
Burke tells his story often, these days, not to elicit empathy for his own case, but to try and draw attention to the bigger issue of the thousands like him who are being denied benefits.
“Veterans are dying,” Burke said. “These aren’t men and women who are trying to take advantage of the system.”
Margaret Middleton, executive director of the Connecticut Veterans Legal Center, said veterans need relief.
Under the current system, a veteran trying to get an honorable discharge often “requires the expertise and cost of an attorney and lengthy research,” something that veterans returning from combat shouldn’t be forced to endure, she said.
Murphy concluded: “Our veterans made a commitment to our country when they signed up. I introduced this legislation to make sure that the VA keeps its commitment to help veterans with mental and behavioral health issues. I won’t stop fighting until they get the care and benefits they deserve.”
The commander of the destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the executive officer have been permanently detached from the ship and face non-judicial punishment over the deadly collision in June with a container ship, the Navy announced August 17.
Cmdr. Bryce Benson, commander of the Fitzgerald, and Cmdr. Sean Babbitt, the executive officer, are “being detached for cause,” meaning that the Navy “has lost trust and confidence in their ability to lead,” Adm. Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, said during a press conference.
Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, commander of the 7th Fleet, has also decided that the top enlisted sailor aboard the Fitzgerald and several other sailors on the watch crew at the time of the collision on June 17 will also face non-judicial punishment, Moran said.
Aucoin ruled that “serious mistakes were made by the crew,” Moran said.
The Fitzgerald was hit nearly broadside by the ACX Crystal cargo ship in the early morning hours of June 17 in Japanese waters. Seven sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Fitzgerald were killed.
The service members, whose bodies were found in flooded berthing compartments, on August 17 were posthumously promoted.
The top enlisted sailor on the Fitzgerald was later identified as Chief Petty Officer Brice Baldwin. He, Benson, and Babbitt were all in their berths when the collision occurred.
However, Aucoin found that all three bore chief responsibility for the watch crew on the bridge losing “situational awareness” as the destroyer was proceeding at about 20 knots on a clear moonlit night in relatively calm seas, Moran said.
When asked if the non-judicial punishment against Benson, Babbitt, and Baldwin would be career-ending, Moran said: “Look at what happened here — it’s going to be pretty hard to recover from this.” Moran said investigations were continuing but he declined to speculate on whether courts martial might be pursued against any of the Fitzgerald’s crew.
Since the accident occurred, naval experts have pondered how a fast and agile destroyer carrying some of the world’s most advanced radars and proceeding on a clear moonlit night in calm seas could have been hit nearly broadside by a slow and plodding cargo ship.
The speculation has centered on whether the bridge watch crew was either poorly trained or simply not alert. Moran said only that collisions should not happen in the US Navy — “We got it wrong.”
A “line of duty” investigation released by the Navy earlier August 17 on actions following the collision gave evidence of the enormous damage inflicted on the Fitzgerald and the heroic actions of the crew in saving the ship and their fellow sailors.
Berthing Area 2, two decks below the main deck where 35 sailors were sleeping in three-decker buns, was exposed to the open sea, the investigation said. The bulbous nose of the ACX Crystal had ripped a 13×17 foot hole into the side of the Fitzgerald.
“As a result, nothing separated Berthing 2 from the onrushing sea, allowing a great volume of water to enter Berthing 2 very quickly,” the investigation said. The seven sailors killed in the collision were all in Berthing 2. They were “directly in the path of the onrushing water,” the investigation said.
The force of the collision knocked the Fitzgerald into a 14-degree list to port before the ship rocked back violently into a seven-degree list to starboard. “One sailor saw another knocked out of his rack by water,” the investigation said.
“Others began waking up shipmates who had slept through the initial impact. At least one sailor had to be pulled from his rack and into the water before he woke up,” the investigation said.
The sailors were in water up to their necks as they scrambled to reach a ladder to safety. The last rescued sailor had been in the bathroom at the time of the crash. Other sailors “pulled him from the water, red-faced and with bloodshot eyes. He reported he was taking his final breath before being saved,” the investigation said.
When deployed troops buy whatever they need, if they pay in cash, they won’t be given pennies, nickels, dimes, or quarters as change. Instead, they’ll be given cardboard coins (colloquially called “pogs,” like the 90s toys). And, now, coin collectors are going crazy for them.
Depending on where in Iraq or Afghanistan troops are stationed, they may have easy access to an AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) store. Bigger airfields have larger stores that sell all an airman could want — meanwhile, outlying FOBs are just happy that their AAFES truck didn’t blow up this month.
Giving cardboard in return for cash isn’t some complex scheme to screw troops out of their 85 cents. Logistically speaking, transporting a bunch of quarters to and from a deployed area is, to put it bluntly, a heavy waste of time. While a pocket full of quarters may not seem like much, having to stock every single cash register would be a headache. So AAFES, the only commercial service available to troops, decided in November 2001 to forgo actual coins in favor of cardboard credit.
The AAFES coins aren’t legal tender. They are, essentially, gift certificates valid only at AAFES establishments. If troops can manage to hold on to their cardboard coin collection throughout a deployment, they can exchange the coins for actual money at any non-deployed AAFES customer service desk. Occasionally, AAFES runs promotions that gave double-value to troops returning their pogs — but troops who decline to cash in might be getting the best value in the end.
The weirdest thing about the AAFES pogs is the collectors’ community that has grown from it. Coin collectors everywhere have been going crazy for our AAFES pogs. On eBay, you can typically find a set of mint-condition paper coins going for ridiculous prices. Of course, like every collector’s item, complete sets and the older coins go for much more.
The Navy is completing a host of sweeping modernization upgrades to its fleet of 14 Patrol Coastal (PC) boats by integrating new laser-guided weapons, communications technology, drone sensors, and navigation systems to enable the ships to respond to newly emerging littoral and coastal area enemy attack possibilities.
“This modernization consists of numerous upgrades that support coastal patrol and interdiction surveillance, which are important aspects of littoral operations outlined in the Navy’s maritime strategy,” Colleen O’Rourke, spokeswoman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Warrior Maven.
The sweeping PC Boat modernization overhaul is intended to extend the service life of the 1990s-era PC boat fleet into the mid-2020s and beyond. The expected service life of a PC is roughly 30-years, O’Rourke said.
Of greater importance than simple service life extension, quite possibly, is that the upgrades are aimed at enabling PCs to keep pace with fast-changing surface threats in areas such as piracy, mines, small boat attacks, and potential long-range enemy attacks made possible by drones or modern sensors.
In recent years, the Navy has been arming its fleet of PCs with Raytheon-built Griffin B surface-launched, laser-guided missiles able to hit targets at ranges up to 4 kilometers. The idea is to give the 179-foot long, shallow-water PCs the ability to destroy targets at ranges farther than their onboard guns can reach.
Extended range offensive firepower is intended to give the PCs enhanced surface warfare technology to position the craft for modern surface and shallow water threats. Laser-guided Griffin missiles, reaching what Raytheon developers describe as “beyond gun range,” give the boats an ability to strike threats such as swarming small boats at greater standoff distances. The attack capability enhancements, fortified by advanced sensors, better enable PCs to address multiple threats simultaneously or respond to approaching enemy fire more quickly. The Griffin can provide 360-degree coverage for the ship.
The weapons adjustments are particularly well suited for the Navy’s 5th Fleet area of operations which covers much of the Middle East including flashpoint areas such as the Straits of Hormuz; tensions with Iranian small boats have at times emerged in some shallower waters near the Iran border which offer an important commercial and military passageway from the Persian Gulf to the open ocean.
The Navy upgrades also include unmanned aerial surveillance systems for 5th Fleet PCs, O’rourke added. This brings the prospect of networking ISR assets with targeting sensors and weapons to improve attack possibilities by relaying targeting information across longer distances. Navy PC boat Mk 52 7.62mm and MK 38 25mm guns are also being upgraded.
(U.S. Navy | YouTube)The Griffin employs a dual-mode navigational technology using semi-active laser technology and a GPS-aided Inertial Navigation System, according to Raytheon developers.
The weapons upgrade process begins with the installation of the launcher and weapons control system, Forward Looking Infra-Red Systems’ BRITE Star II sensor/laser designator, and Raytheon’s Griffin B (Block II) missile, Navy officials said.
The 25-foot wide PCs have an eight-foot draft and can reach speeds up to 35 knots. With a crew of 28, the ships are equipped to stay at sea for periods up to 10 days. Many PCs stationed at 5th fleet headquarters in Bahrain are equipped with enhanced communication suites, improved navigation systems, and an improved diesel engine control system. They also have two stabilized, electro-optic 25mm gun mounts, Navy officials added.
Turkish forces decimated the Syrian army in a series of drone, artillery and bomber attacks this weekend, leaving Syria’s top ally Russia weighing how much it should intervene to stop the offensive.
Turkey turned its total air superiority — via a fleet of cheap drones and high-tech F-16s — into an operation that claimed at least two Syrian jet fighters, eight helicopters, 135 tanks, and 77 other armored vehicles, with as many as 2,500 Syrian troops killed, according to the Turkish defense ministry.
It’s left the Syrian military unable to protect its frontline armor and artillery units, which have been methodically targeted by cheap but highly accurate missiles.
And with Russia thus far unwilling to directly confront the Turkish military, Bashar al-Assad’s army could continue to suffer, paving the way for Turkey to achieve its goal of pushing regime forces out of Idlib.
Turkey’s defense ministry has been tweeting footage from the attacks:
Turkey’s aggressive push into Idlib ramped up late last week after a suspected Russian airstrike killed at least 33 Turkish soldiers last Thursday night, and Turkey and Syria moved into direct military confrontation.
Turkey poured at least 7,000 regular army forces into the rebel-held Syrian pocket of Idlib, whose collapse after a monthslong offensive from the regime threatened to send almost a million Syrian refugees over a border into Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week had warned that the Syrian offensive into Idlib — which is backed by heavy Russian air support — must end to prevent hundreds of thousands of new refugees from joining more than 3 million Syrian refugees already in Turkey.
But when Syrian troops ignored these demands, Ankara approved a military operation that immediately began the systematic destruction of Syrian regime units in the area.
On Sunday the Turkish defense ministry officially announced “Operation Spring Shield,” a campaign to push against the Syrian advance in Idlib, though the attacks had already begun days earlier.
On Monday, Russian air units were supporting Syrian military units attempting to recapture the strategic crossroads of Saraqeb from the rebels, but they appeared to only be targeting Syrian rebels backed by Turkey, rather than Turkish forces directly.
Control of Saraqeb could determine much of the final outcome for Idlib as it controls a highway junction that links Damascus, the Syrian capital, to Aleppo, the country’s largest city.
Turkey is believed to only seek security for the Idlib pocket to prevent a further influx of refugees fleeing the regime advance.
So far, it’s unclear how far Moscow is willing to go to help its Syrian allies retake the entirety of the country after a nearly ten-year-old civil war that’s killed half a million people and displaced nearly a third of the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan have scheduled a meeting in Moscow on Thursday to discuss the situation.