Iran’s parliament has voted to slash four zeros from the national currency, the rial, to fight hyperinflation caused by crippling U.S. sanctions and the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers also decided on May 4 that the rial, which has been Iran’s national currency since 1925, wiil be replaced by the toman, which will be equal to 10,000 rials, according to the IRNA and ISNA news agencies.
President Donald Trump in May 2018 withdrew the United States from a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers under which Tehran pledged to curb its nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief.
Washington then reimposed most sanctions on Iran, dealing a hard blow to the Islamic republic’s economy.
In recent months, the rial has shed more than 60 percent of its value, with hyperinflation also accelerated by the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak. Iran is one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic.
The law must be ratified by the Guardians Council, a powerful hard-line constitutional watchdog.
State television said Iran’s Central Bank will have two years to “pave the ground to change the currency to the toman.”
The Iranian currency was trading at about 156,000 rials per dollar on the unofficial market on May 4, according to foreign-exchange websites.
If you’re familiar with the phrase “rock or something,” then you’ve probably used a Flameless Ration Heater to warm up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat.
To this day, the phrase remains part of a pictogram on the package of the heater, known as the FRH, which was developed at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013. It refers to directions that advise warfighters to place the FRH at an angle when heating up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly known as an MRE.
“The term ‘rock or something’ has now reached cult status,” said Lauren Oleksyk, team leader of the Food Processing, Engineering and Technology Team at Combat Feeding. “It’s just taken on a life of its own.”
Oleksyk was there at the beginning with colleagues Bob Trottier and now-retired Don Pickard when the FRH and that memorable phrase were born in 1993.
“We were designing the FRH directions and wanted to show an object to rest the heater on,” Oleksyk recalled. “(Don) said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s make it a rock or something. So we wrote ‘rock or something’ on the object, kind of as a joke.”
The joke has legs. As Oleksyk pointed out, there now are T-shirts and other items for sale that bear those words. “Rock or something” even has its own Facebook page.
Introduced to the heater years ago, famed chef Julia Child insisted on following the package directions and activating it by herself. With no rock handy, she decided to employ a wine glass stem.
(Photo by David Kamm)
“Which is so classic Julia,” Oleksyk said, laughing. “So there have been many things other than the rock or something that have been used. There are many, many Soldiers over the years that have their own personal joke about what they might use in place of a rock.”
The FRH is no joke, however. Adding an ounce and a half of water to the magnesium-iron alloy and sodium in the heater will raise the temperature of an eight-ounce MRE entrée by 100 degrees in about 10 minutes.
“Some of the challenges were keeping it lightweight and low volume, and not requiring a lot to activate it,” Oleksyk said.
The heater’s arrival gave warfighters the option of a hot meal wherever they went and whenever they wanted.
“I’ve heard more feedback on this item than any other item I’ve ever worked on in my career here,” said Oleksyk, who has been at Natick nearly 30 years. “They’re so grateful to have this heater in the MRE. It’s almost always used whenever they have 10 minutes to sit down for lunch.”
Prior to the FRH, warfighters used Trioxane fuel bars with canteen cups and cup stands to heat their MRE entrees. As Oleksyk pointed out, the fuel bars couldn’t be packed alongside food in the MRE package.
“So if the fuel bar and the MRE didn’t marry up in the field,” said Oleksyk, “they really had no way to have a hot meal.”
The FRH has remained essentially the same over the past two decades because, as Oleksyk put it, “it’s tough to find a better chemistry that’s lighter in weight, lower in volume and that heats as well.” A larger version has been developed, however.
“We’ve expanded it to a group ration,” Oleksyk said. “So now we have a larger heater that is used to heat the Unitized Group Ration-Express. We call that ration a ‘kitchen in a carton.’ It serves 18 Soldiers.”
The next-generation MRE heater is being tested now, and it will eliminate the need to use one of the most precious commodities in the field.
“The next version of this is a waterless version,” Oleksyk said. “It’s an air-activated heater, so you wouldn’t have to add any water to activate it at all, but that’s still in development and will have to perform better than the FRH overall if it’s ever to replace it.”
Oleksyk remembered sitting on a mountain summit one time during a weekend hike with friends. Suddenly, she heard laughter behind her.
“I hear a guy — sure enough, he says, ‘Yeah, I need a rock or something,'” said Oleksyk, who turned to see him wearing fatigues, holding a Flameless Ration Heater, and telling his buddies how great it was.
“So it’s far reaching,” Oleksyk said. “It really had an impact on the warfighter.”
HERAT, Afghanistan — Officials in Afghanistan’s western province of Herat are bracing for a rise in coronavirus infections, as thousands of Afghans return from neighboring Iran every day.
The provincial Public Health Department told RFE/RL on March 12 that nearly 10,000 Afghans had entered Herat from Iran the previous day alone.
That’s a twofold increase from March 9, when local officials said about 4,800 Afghans had crossed the border from Iran in one day.
Afghanistan has so far reported only seven cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
But provincial Governor Abdul Qayum Rahimi said the situation was certain to worsen soon, creating new challenges for the war-torn country. “Increasingly high numbers of people are crossing the border from Iran and we are seriously concerned that [some of them] will bring more coronavirus to Afghanistan,” Rahimi told RFE/RL on March 10.
Tehran reported more than 1,000 new cases on March 12, raising the official number of infections in Iran to more than 10,000. But many Iranians say they distrust the figures released by the authorities and believe the Iranian government is grossly underreporting the extent of the outbreak there.
Iran is home to more than 3 million Afghans — including migrant workers and refugees as well as university and religious students.
Five of Afghanistan’s confirmed COVID-19 patients are from Herat. The other two are from the northern province of Samangan. All of the confirmed cases are Afghans who had recently returned from Iran, local officials say.
Bracing For Worse
Afghanistan has deployed small teams of medics who have been screening Afghans who cross the border from Iran into Herat Province. The medics are checking temperatures of returnees and asking if they’ve had any potential COVID-19 symptoms.
They also are asking returnees whether they’ve been exposed to an infected person, said Abdul Hakim Tamanna, the head of Heart Province’s Public Health Department. Those with high fever or other symptoms are transferred to a special ward at a hospital in the provincial capital.
“We’ve allocated a special ward with 80 beds for COVID-19 patients, both for the suspected and confirmed cases in isolated sections. But this is not enough,” said Muhammad Ibrahim Basem, who oversees the special ward. “The situation is extremely fluid and requires that at least 1,000 beds are ready,” Basem told RFE/RL on March 12.
Similar concerns are being voiced in Samangan Province, where two people tested positive earlier this week. “We’ve been prepared in advance. A hospital ward with 20 beds was prepared for potential COVID-19 patients,” Abdul Khalil Musaddiq, head of Samangan Public Health Department, said on March 10.
But Musaddiq warned that Samangan Province did not have the resources to handle an outbreak beyond the hospital’s capacity.
Health officials in Herat are calling for Afghanistan’s central government to provide equipment for laboratories in provincial regions so that more people can be tested.
Afghanistan, a country of 35 million people, currently has only one laboratory that is able to test for coronavirus. Authorities outside of the Afghan capital must send samples from suspected cases to the laboratory in Kabul for testing.
The Afghan government has allocated million to combat the outbreak. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz said another million “is in a state of reserve if the unwanted incidents escalate and get out of control.
Low Public Awareness
Provincial authorities in Herat declared an emergency when the first COVID-19 case was confirmed there on February 24. Schools, restaurants, wedding halls, and public baths have been closed and large gatherings are banned.
Officials from Herat’s provincial government told RFE/RL on March 12 that the public spaces were unlikely to reopen in the foreseeable future.
Buses and minibuses that carry a large number of passengers have also been banned as part of Herat’s effort to contain the virus.
Mosques remain open. But RFE/RL’s correspondent in Herat reports that the number of the worshipers has dwindled in recent days.
The war-ravaged country’s poor health-care services, as well as low public awareness about health and hygiene, are adding to difficulties in the battle against coronavirus.
One patient last week briefly escaped from the quarantine ward of Herat hospital, sparking concerns that he could contaminate many more people. Hospital officials said the patient was apprehended and isolated. They said those who came in contact with him have been told to take tests and exercise precautions.
Authorities also have launched an extensive coronavirus-awareness campaign through media in recent weeks.
The Education Ministry, meanwhile, has set up a special working group along with public-health authorities to assess the situation in other high-risk regions and decide whether to suspend schools.
Western leaders have joined Queen Elizabeth II in southern England to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the largest military landing operation in history that speeded up the end of World War II.
U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel were among leaders of 16 countries attending the June 5, 2019 ceremony in the port city of Portsmouth, one of the key embarkation points on D-Day.
As the leaders paid tribute to the “sacrifice” of those who died in the 1944 operation on the French coast of Normandy before more than 300 veterans, Russia’s Foreign Ministry argued that the landings did not have a “decisive” influence on the outcome of the war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who attended commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings five years ago, was not invited to the events in Portsmouth.
The Soviet Union was not involved in the D-Day landings but was instrumental in defeating Nazi Germany.
Watch live: Trump attends ceremony to commemorate 75th anniversary of D-Day
More than 150,000 Allied troops set off from Portsmouth and the surrounding area on June 6, 1944, to begin the air, sea, and land attack on Normandy that ultimately led to the liberation of Western Europe from the Nazis.
The invasion, code-named Operation Overlord, was commanded by U.S. General Dwight Eisenhower. It remains the largest amphibious assault in history and involved almost 7,000 ships and landing craft along an 80-kilometer stretch of the Normandy coast divided into five sectors code-named Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword.
Thousands were killed on both sides.
In Portsmouth, Queen Elizabeth paid tribute to the “heroism, courage, and sacrifice” of those who died in the landings, while Trump, who was on the last day of his three-day state visit to Britain, said D-Day “may have been the greatest battle ever.”
The commemoration was attended by leaders from every country that fought on D-Day, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Greece, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, and Slovakia.
In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova offered a tribute to those who died on the Western Front and said the Allies’ contribution to the victory was “clear.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
“It should of course not be exaggerated,” she added, noting the Soviet Union’s “titanic efforts, without which this victory simply would not have happened.”
Zakharova continued, telling reporters that the landings in Normandy “did not have a decisive impact” on the outcome of the war.
“It had already been predetermined as a result of the Red Army’s victories, she added, citing the battles of Stalingrad in 1942 and Kursk in 1943.
Russia has accused the West in the past of failing to acknowledge the Soviet Union’s contribution to the 1945 victory over the Nazis and the human losses — estimated at 26 million deaths — it suffered during the conflict.
The countries represented at the Portsmouth commemorations agreed a proclamation pledging to “ensure that the unimaginable horror of these years is never repeated” and commit to working together to “resolve international tensions peacefully.”
Further memorial services are planned in Britain and France on June 6, 2019.
FBI Director Chris Wray says the top U.S. law enforcement agency will never give up on “finding out what happened” to former agent Robert Levinson, who the U.S. government believes died while in Iranian custody.
In an e-mail to FBI staff seen by the Associated Press on March 26, Wray said he had met with the family of Robert Levinson and “we explained that the most credible evidence we have collected over the past 13 years points to the likelihood that Bob died in captivity.”
“It pained me to deliver that news, but I believe that we owed Bob’s family a thorough and candid presentation of the information that we’ve collected,” Wray wrote.
Wray did not provide details on the “credible evidence” he said the family had received.
“We’re going to keep working doggedly to determine the circumstances surrounding Bob’s abduction and his time in captivity, to find the answers we all want and that the Levinsons deserve,” Wray said.
Levinson, who was born in March 1948, disappeared when he traveled to the Iranian resort island of Kish in March 2007. He was working for the CIA as a contractor at the time.
The United States has repeatedly called on Iran to help locate Levinson and bring him home, but Iranian officials said they had no information about his fate.
However, when he disappeared, an Iranian government-linked media outlet broadcast a story saying he was “in the hands of Iranian security forces.”
Tehran on March 26 said in a statement that Levinson left Iran “long ago” and that Iranian authorities don’t know where he is, rejecting the claim that he died in Iranian custody.
“Based on credible evidence, [Levinson] left Iran years ago for an unknown destination,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mosavi said in the statement.
When Air Force Staff Sgt. John Cox, an air transportation specialist assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing, deployed to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Oct. 9, he assumed he would be helping Puerto Ricans recover from Hurricane Maria; he did not expect to bring home a four-legged addition to his family.
Cox said he had just returned from a six-month deployment in Kuwait when he volunteered to go to Puerto Rico, where he worked with heavy machinery loading and unloading cargo from aircraft.
“We were placed close to the airport in tents in an open field so we could hear the aircraft when they landed,” he said.
Their main job was helping Defense Department personnel transfer water and Meals Ready to Eat from large aircraft onto vehicles and small aircraft for distribution to the people hard-hit by the hurricane, Cox said.
Beef Jerky Wins Hearts
While he was performing a security check of the area, Cox said he came across an abandoned building. Inside, he discovered a scared, emaciated, light-brown dog.
“I brought the dog some beef jerky from an MRE and some water every day, and pretty soon she started following me back to my tent and waiting outside,” Cox said.
When the dog started following him to work every day Cox worried he would get into trouble and decided he should talk to the officer in charge.
Once he introduced the dog, which he’d named Maria, to his leaders, he was given a thumbs-up to having her by his side.
“That’s when I realized I couldn’t leave this dog in Puerto Rico when my deployment ended,” Cox said.
“I drove over an hour to a veterinary clinic and had the dog completely checked and vaccinated, which was a condition I was given to keep her with me,” he said.
Cox said the next hurdle was to find a way to get Maria home — a task that would not prove to be easy because he couldn’t just put her on an aircraft without authorization.
“I researched all the regulations I could find and felt like I hit a wall until I found a local adoption agency that specialized in rescuing pit bulls,” Cox said. “They were able to get her home.”
“I not only made a positive impact on the people of Puerto Rico, but I was able to save an animal,” he said. “I saw her go from near-death to super healthy in a matter of months.”
Cox said he is looking forward to hiking the high peaks with his new hiking buddy once the weather is better.
“My advice to someone who plans on adopting a dog is to prepare to have your hands and your heart full,” he said. “Having a dog is sometimes like having a child, but all the effort will be worth it when you see them waiting for you at the end of the day.”
“We must act decisively to fully understand both the nature of these attacks and how to prevent further loss of vital military information,” he added.
Although the secretary did not mention China specifically, evidence indicates that Beijing is responsible for what is considered a debilitating cyber campaign against the US.
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer.
In 2018, Chinese government hackers stole important data on US Navy undersea-warfare programs from an unidentified contractor. Among the stolen information were plans for a new supersonic anti-ship missile, The Washington Post, citing US officials, reported in June 2018.
China has been striving to boost its naval warfighting capabilities, and there is evidence that it is relying on stolen technology to do so.
And it’s not just the US Navy. Adm. Philip Davidson, the head of US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2018 that Beijing is “stealing technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage.”
China is believed to have been behind multiple cybersecurity breaches that facilitated the theft of significant amounts of data on the F-22 and the F-35, among other aircraft. That information is suspected to have played a role in the development of China’s new fifth-generation stealth fighters.
Beijing denies that it engages in any form of cyberespionage.
A senior US intelligence official warned Dec. 11, 2018, that concerning Chinese cyberactivity in the US is clearly on the rise, and there is evidence that China is targeting critical infrastructure to lay the groundwork for disruptive attacks, Reuters reported.
National Security Agency official Rob Joyce, a former White House cyber advisor for President Donald Trump.
And US officials say Chinese state hackers are responsible for a data breach at Marriott that affected 500 million customers, according to recent reports. The Trump administration has repeatedly criticized Beijing for the alleged theft of US intellectual property that’s worth several hundred billion dollars a year, one of several sticking points in the ongoing trade spat.
The breaching of US defense contractor networks is particularly problematic as China modernizes its force, building a military capable to challenge the US.
“It’s extremely hard for the Defense Department to secure its own systems,” Tom Bossert, the former homeland security adviser in the Trump administration, told The Journal. “It’s a matter of trust and hope to secure the systems of their contractors and subcontractors.”
Contractors and subcontractors across the entire military lack the desired cybersecurity capabilities and regularly suffer serious breaches, an intelligence official said.
The most active Chinese hackers are reportedly a group known as Temp.Periscope or Leviathan, which is focused on maritime interests but also hits other targets.
One defense official told The Journal that China was targeting America’s “weak underbelly,” calling cybersecurity breaches “an asymmetric way to engage the United States without ever having to fire a round.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It started out as an average Sunday. He was at the gym in his North Kansas City apartment building working out with his girlfriend. His headphones were in, he had just finished lifting weights and was getting ready to start his cardio workout on the treadmill next to her. The music was playing and the sweat was running.
He looked up as he heard somebody yell something and saw his girlfriend and the three people working out suddenly stop in their tracks and look at the man who just ran into the gym. Pulling out his headphones, he looked around curiously as nervous apprehension filled the room. Everyone stood rooted to the spot, listening intently as the man told them that somebody out front had just been shot.
The first thing that went through his mind was “he’s probably overreacting.” Somebody probably got hurt out in the parking lot or in the grocery store nearby.
“There’s probably nobody in the area who can immediately help someone who’s hurt,” he thought to himself. “Even though I’m not an EMT or a combat medic I can evaluate a casualty and provide immediate care.”
He decided to check it out.
Maj. Karl D. Buckingham, a Command and General Staff Officer’s Course student.
(Photo by Dan Neal)
“I immediately left the gym, with my girlfriend following close behind me, and when I turned the corner into the lobby I noticed the broken glass and the obvious bullet holes in the glass entrance,” he said.
“I realized then that this was a bad situation.”
He turned around and urged his girlfriend to go upstairs to the apartment.
Time seemed to slow down and as he made his way closer he saw a man outside near the entrance at the top of the stairs holding a small compact pistol kneeling over a second man lying face down in a spreading pool of blood. A third man, the alleged shooter, lay on the ground at the bottom of the stairs with his hands spread and a pistol nearby.
The situation was tense.
At that time, a fourth individual with a weapon joined the scene. An older man with a holstered pistol. He had been waiting in his car in the parking lot while his wife shopped in the grocery store and had decided to step in to help. He urged everyone to stay calm and was instrumental in defusing the tense situation.
“I thought at this point that there were way too many people out here with guns,” he said.
The bleeding man was probably dead but when he saw the man’s back rise and fall he knew he was still alive and trying to breathe.
He saw the older man kick the pistol away from near the alleged shooter’s hand and decided to run to his truck for his Individual First Aid Kit, which had a tourniquet, an Israeli bandage (a first-aid device used to stop blood flow from traumatic wounds), chest seals, gauze and plastic gloves.
He had put the kit together and kept it in his truck just in case something happened … and something just had.
On that cold and overcast Sunday afternoon on Feb. 24, 2019, Maj. Karl D. Buckingham, 35, a Command and General Staff Officer’s Course student, found himself in an unusual situation. A stressful situation that was not completely unfamiliar to a veteran of five combat deployments to the Middle East. He found himself providing first aid to a gunshot victim.
Buckingham, a Civil Affairs officer, rushed back to the wounded man and made every effort to keep the airway open and stop the bleeding.
According to Buckingham, a native of Camdenton, Missouri, the basics of evaluating a casualty kicked in. Check the airway. Is he bleeding and where from? What can be done to treat the problems as they’re found? The training was there. After 18 years in the Army it was almost instinctual, he knew what to grab, what to look for, and how to react to what he was seeing.
“I went to roll the individual over and noticed an exit wound in his back but it looked like a lot of the bleeding was coming from the front,” he said. “When I pulled his shirt up I realized he had three bullet wounds, two in the abdomen and one in the upper chest.”
In an attempt to stop the bleeding, he bandaged the wounds with gauze and used the Israeli bandage.
Once the police decided the scene was safe, an officer helped Buckingham determine the man also had a sucking chest wound, a hole in the chest that makes a pathway for air to travel into the chest cavity.
Buckingham continued to provide first aid, making every attempt to treat the wounded man until an emergency medical team arrived on scene and took over life-saving efforts.
Buckingham, who graduated from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Political Science in 2007 and is currently working on a Master of Science degree in Administration from Central Michigan University, said his father is a retired soldier and there’s one thing he always told him “never skimp out on first aid training because there’s always something more to learn.”
Central Michigan University.
Though he did not speak of a specific situation, Buckingham said he had experience with gunshot wounds in the course of his five combat deployments. It was not something new, he had dealt with wounded soldiers before.
However, he admitted that this situation was different.
“When you’re deployed, whether on patrol or at the [Forward Operating Base], there’s always a sense that something can happen, you’re in a hyper vigilant state, everything seems like it’s dangerous to you and you’re ready to respond at a moment’s notice,” Buckingham explained. “What was different here is that I didn’t wake up that Sunday morning expecting to be treating gunshot wounds in the afternoon right outside my apartment building.”
He said that at one point the switch did flip and then it was time to act.
“I’ve been here before. I’ve seen this. I’ve trained on this. Let me get after this,” he said.
His training as a soldier helped him act confidently and decisively in an unusually tense circumstance.
“In a situation like this, I don’t think being an officer or enlisted makes any difference, it was my first aid training as a soldier that counted,” Buckingham said. “I would hope that anyone who comes into a similar situation can keep a cool level head, evaluate the situation, make appropriate decisions and act on them.”
Buckingham said he went through an emotional rollercoaster after it was all over. He experienced what he called an “adrenaline dump” and did not sleep at all that night. He kept thinking about what he could have done differently.
“Knowing the individual didn’t survive, a lot of things went through my mind. Should I have moved faster? Should I have sealed the front wound instead of the back wound?” he said. “At the end of the day I can honestly say that I did the best that I could. I like to hope that I gave him a better chance of survival.”
Buckingham has words of advice for fellow soldiers.
“The number one point I have for my fellow soldiers is to be prepared. Something as little as having a first aid kit in your car can make a difference,” he said.
Pay attention to TCCC, tactical combat casualty care, the Army’s name for first aid. You’ll never know when you’ll need it, he continued.
“I never once thought that I would ever be treating gunshot wounds on the front steps to my apartment complex but I did pack my [Individual First Aid Kit] in my truck just in case I came up on an accident, at least I would have something to help out with first aid,” Buckingham said.
Buckingham also said that it is not a sign of weakness to admit that a difficult situation shook you up or that you need someone to talk to about your experience.
“We tell ourselves, ‘I’m okay.’ ‘I can tough this out,'” he said. “There’s really no need for that. It’s okay to ask for help. Let’s not turn a blind eye, there are a lot of veteran suicides, there’s no reason you can’t come up and admit that you’re shook up or having a bad time because you think you’re tough and can handle it. As soldiers we tend to put a stigma on ourselves.”
Buckingham was recommended for a soldier’s Medal for his actions on that cold Sunday afternoon.
It may have started out as an average Sunday, but it didn’t end that way.
Often as the direct memories of events fade, our ability to place them into context and understand their meaning only increases. It only makes sense, then, that some of the best writing about the Civil War, the World Wars, and Vietnam is happening now.
As you prepare your reading lists for holiday travel or look for items to give to family and friends, we present our choices for this year’s best books on Military History.
5. Grant By Ron Chernow
Ron Chernow is an exceptional writer. Among his achievements have been an exceptional biography of Alexander Hamilton that served as the foundation of the Broadway show. His portrait of the Ohio general is equally beautiful. Chernow delves into the relationships and temperament that made Grant a terrific leader as well as his lifelong belief in emancipation.
Grant was a quiet, even shy man, who had concern even for animals, yet was called a “butcher” during the War. It was tacitly assumed that Robert E. Lee was the great General of the Civil War for years and that Grant was merely lucky to have been on the right side of history. The facts do not perfectly align with that viewpoint. Lee may have been a very good strategist, but several skilled men before Grant tried and failed to do what he did. Chernow’s biography gives wonderful insights into what made Grant different.
4. Hue 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam by Mark Bowden
In the early part of 1968, the 400,000 strong armies of the North Vietnamese and Vietcong launched a general offensive against South Vietnamese and American troops, which, at the time, numbered 1.3 million. The American strategy had been to win a war of attrition in which the enemy reached a point where the number of soldiers being killed exceeded the number of new recruits, making clear the hopelessness of continuing the struggle. With that mindset, the American military elite, politicians, and journalists were shocked by the aggressiveness of the offensive. After the initial shock, the South and the United States regained control of the situation and 60,000 Communist troops died by the end of the year.
Of all the targets of the Tet offensive, the assault on the city of Hue was the most consequential. Hue was the third largest city in Vietnam and at a key logistical point in the country. While the fighting that began with the Tet offensive was generally over within a week, the battle for Hue lasted six weeks and the urban bloodbath changed the war.
Bowden does a wonderful job telling this story from the perspective of the ordinary soldier who fought for his life while being burdened with poor leadership.
3. Stalin: Waiting for Hitler, 1929-1941 by Stephen Kotkin
A brilliant recounting of the disastrous period of 1929 and 1941 in the Soviet Union, in which Stalin maintained his absolute grip on power, but whose purging of the military and terrible economic policies almost cost the Soviet Union the war with Germany that started in 1941. What is remarkable is how Kotkin is able to tell the tale from the viewpoint of a monster like Stalin and never loses his readers’ attention.
2. Alone by Michael Korda
Alone follows one of the heroes of history, Winston Churchill, as he rallies a country and averts disaster at Dunkirk before getting help from the previously neutral countries of the Soviet Union and the United States.
1. Sons and Soldiers by Bruce Henderson
An incredible story that few had heard before its recounting by Bruce Henderson, author of And the Sea Will Tell. After escaping Hitler’s clutch, about 2,000 Jews trained at Camp Ritchie in Maryland were deployed in Europe as a key intelligence asset during the War. This is their story.
The morning starts early with an alert about four hours before takeoff. Members of the 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron begin several mandatory tasks before boarding the aircraft. Nurses go over mission details, as medical technicians pack more than a thousand pounds of equipment on a flatbed that is ready to load onto the plane. They must take all their usual gear, including bandages, intravenous fluid, regulators, defibrillators, suction units, and various other pieces of medical equipment. They take these supplies partially as a precaution, as they don’t know what they may need to keep patients stable in the air above the Middle East.
These teams, the aircrew, and aircraft are flying ambulances for the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility.
The 379th EAES, deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, is one of the only two aeromedical evacuation squadrons in the AOR available to pull wounded warriors off of the battlefield and make sure they get the care they need.
According to Lt. Col. Julia Moretti, 379th EAES commander, their job is to transport wounded warriors to a higher echelon of care.
“We take them from the battlefield all the way home,” Moretti said.
If military personnel get injured or sick on the battlefield, the wounded initially receive first aid buddy care. If life-saving surgery is needed, the patients are flown to the nearest hospital abroad.
That is where 379th EAES comes in. They bring the injured service member back to Al Udeid AB. If they require more intensive care, they will then be transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, and if they can’t be fully treated overseas, they will return to the U.S.
“The goal is to keep them at the lowest level of care, rehab them, and then get them back into the fight quickly as possible,” said Senior Master Sgt. Matthew Ausfeld, 379th EAES first sergeant.
In addition to the AE teams, the squadron also has Critical Care Air Transport Teams, which are specialized medical teams comprised of one doctor, an intensive care nurse, and a respiratory therapist. If AE teams are the flying ambulance, CCATT is the ICU.
If patients can be treated and return to work while deployed, they will stay in the AOR. However, if they have a more severe condition and can’t physically manage doing office work as they recover, they will return home.
As the war has progressed, the severity, type, and amount of injuries have decreased significantly. In the early 2000s, the teams would care for 20-30 patients that would require transporting on a litter.
“Now that is the exception, and we’re glad to see we aren’t having that many now,” Moretti said.
Aeromedical evacuation teams are made up of two nurses and three medical technicians. All members of AE are considered flight crew and, on top of all the medical expertise they must know and practice, they also need to know all about the aircraft they are flying on. They have to know how to put together seats, install stanchions to hold patient litters and how the electricity works for their machines aboard the aircraft, among many other details.
AE teams are also required to have the knowledge to perform their duties on a wide variety of aircraft, such as the KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster III, C-5 Galaxy, and C-21.
The AE teams here exemplify total force integration in that active duty, Reserve, and Air National Guard members combine to create the medical teams. In fact, only a small percentage of the teams are made up of active duty Airmen.
“The Guard and Reserve components are a key part in the Aeromedical Evacuation world,” Moretti said. “Around 88 percent of AE is Guard and Reserve augmenting active duty. It’s a team effort with all the components to transport and care for our Wounded Warriors.”
According to Moretti and Ausfeld, the job of an AE Airman is a rewarding one.
“It’s a great feeling helping our wounded warriors,” Moretti said. “Taking care of our own that were injured or became sick while protecting us, it’s a small way to give back. We pamper the patients and give them the best tender, loving care we can.”
“I’ve moved wounded warriors around the world, some with severe battle injuries,” Ausfeld said. “They’ll look you in the eyes and thank you for what you’re doing for them. It can catch you off guard and it can be hard to respond to. Because these warriors, these sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters, have sacrificed their body and soul. We’re just making sure they get home.”
In 1783, a Welsh immigrant named Evan Williams founded Kentucky’s first commercial distillery and began producing Bourbon whiskey. Today, Evan Williams Bourbon continues his legacy, and remains synonymous with smooth taste, strong character, and American pride.
That’s why Evan Williams started their American-Made Heroes Program, which celebrates military heroes by sharing veterans’ stories of service to their country and community. After reviewing thousands of entries, Evan Williams selected six new American-Made Heroes.
U.S. Army Ranger Tyler Crane led platoons on multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, before an IED blast cut his military career short. Forced to reconsider his path, he made it his mission to improve the lives of fellow veterans in and around Port Charlotte, Florida.
Tyler started the non-profit organization Veteran Excursions To Sea (V.E.T.S.), which works with military families and a dedicated group of local guides to promote “healing through reeling.”
He takes veterans and their families on fishing charters to encourage camaraderie, fun, and relaxation. “It’s just good therapy,” Tyler says. “There’s nothing like spending a day on the water.”
Dr. Archie Cook Jr. graduated from the Dental program at the University of North Carolina with help from the Air Force ROTC. After completion of service, he opened his own private practice. At his clinic, Archie offers medical discounts to members of the military and provides free and low-cost dental care to struggling veterans.
Archie also packs and distributes lunches to the homeless and volunteers with Veterans Empowering Veterans: an organization that provides basic services to help disenfranchised veterans get back on their feet. “If you’ve dedicated part of your life to serving our country,” he says, “you should at least have a hot meal and a roof over your head.”
Christopher Baity specialized as a Military Working Dog Handler and Kennel Master during his time with the U.S. Marine Corps. He completed three tours in Iraq, canvassing combat zones with his canine team to detect enemy explosives. After completion of service, Chris and his wife Amanda founded Semper K9 Assistance Dogs, a non-profit organization that turns rescue dogs into service dogs.
Chris trains each animal to provide companionship and emotional support to military veterans and their families, addressing a range of physical and psychiatric needs including PTSD and mobility challenges. “I continually try to learn the techniques and options being offered to disabled veterans,” he says. Since 2014, Chris has graduated over thirty dog teams.
Amanda Runyon learned the value of community service early on while volunteering at local health clinics. Raised in a family with a proud military tradition, she became the first woman in her family to enlist. As a Hospital Corpsman, Amanda provided medical care to Sailors and Marines. She was assigned to intensive care overseas, treating American service men and women suffering from combat injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan.
After nine years of active duty, Amanda returned to her hometown of Spring Hill, Florida, where she continues to serve as a Registered Nurse in the school district. She also volunteers her time to activities in the surrounding community.
Chief Hospital Corpsman (Ret.) Michael “Doc” Stinson deployed several times as a combat medic with the Marine Corps. After 23 years of service, Michael retired and became a police officer with the Harbor Patrol in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Michael is an active member of the American Legion and serves as Treasurer of the Nam Knights Tundra Chapter: a motorcycle club honoring the sacrifices of military veterans and police officers. They raise funds and awareness for local causes and organizations, including HighGround Memorial Park in Neillsville, Wisconsin, that pays tribute to the heroism of all American veterans.
Sergeant Major (Ret.) Michael Siegel enlisted in the US Army at 17 and served for the next 25 years. Then and now, his mission in life is to lead soldiers, teach soldiers, and guide soldiers to be the best they can be.
Since his retirement, Michael continues to serve his community. He leads by example, volunteering with several youth organizations and fundraising for local charities. Today, he is the Director of Columbia College at Fort Leonard Wood, where he helps educate and position soldiers for successful careers after their military service.
Learn more about each of these incredible veterans and the work they’re doing in their communities at American-MadeHeroes.com.
At the end of August, 2017, India and China backed away from a 73-day standoff on the Doklam Plateau, high in the eastern Himalayas.
In the year since, both sides have sought to mend ties, especially after a summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan in April, 2018.
The two countries are engaged in a kind of “recalibration” of their relationship, even though deeper-rooted issues that divide them persist, according to Faisel Pervaiz, a South Asia analyst at geopolitical-intelligence firm Stratfor.
The appointment of Vijay Gokhale, who was ambassador to China during the Doklam crisis and helped resolve the dispute, to foreign secretary was “an indication that India wants to take … a less confrontational posture,” Pervaiz said.
China, too, has come to believe it needs “a bit more calm” with its neighbors, including India, in part because of contentious relations with the US, Pervaiz added, though he stressed that Beijing’s change in thinking was likely temporary. China has also made overtures to India about a potential partnership in trade disputes with the US.
In October 2018, New Delhi and Beijing launched a joint program to train Afghan diplomats, and China’s ambassador to the country predicted more cooperation there in the future. In late October 2018, they are to sign a long-discussed internal-security agreement expected to cover cooperation on intelligence sharing, disaster mitigation, and other issues.
Despite the apparent rapprochement, the two countries are keeping a close eye on each other.
While India has largely pulled back from positions it took during the Doklam standoff, imagery reviewed by Stratfor in January 2018 showed that in late 2017 and early 2018, Delhi increased its deployments of combat aircraft to bases near the disputed area.
Those images showed even more activity around Chinese bases in Tibet, north of the disputed area, including airfield upgrades and a large aircraft presence. (China puts more assets at those bases because it does not have bases closer to the border area.)
In October 2018, officials told Hindustan Times that Delhi was concerned about construction at the Chinese air base in Lhasa, which included bomb-proof bunkers for aircraft and expanded surface-to-air missile batteries.
“You need blast- or bomb-proof hangars for fighters only if there is a possibility of hostilities,” one official said.
Any activity with military hardware or other assets that could have military applications around the eastern end of India and China’s shared border was likely to attract scrutiny, Pervaiz said.”
If you are India or China and you are seeing any sort of moves that either military is making, you view that almost through the lens of paranoia — that if you’re making that move, how can that be used against us in a potential conflict?” he told Business Insider.
The Doklam Plateau
The Doklam Plateau sits at the southern edge of the Himalayan mountain range, where the elevation is on average close to 15,000 feet. High altitudes and rough terrain put considerable limitations on military operations.
While the higher elevation gives China an advantage in surveillance and physiological acclimatization, lower air density hinders jet aircraft engines and limits the weaponry and fuel that aircraft can carry. China’s air force is larger than India’s, but it only has five air bases in Tibet — though upgrades at the Lhasa base described by Hindustan Times include special helicopter bases that allow them to take off and land with full payloads.
India’s air power in the region would offer it some advantages. Indian air bases, including those that received more aircraft in 2018, are closer to the area in question than China’s bases. India counts 20 air bases within range of the Line of Actual Control, which separates Indian- and Chinese-claimed territory.
India has also also practiced with transport planes at forward landing areas in the region.
But China’s air defenses are more effective and reliable than India’s. And China has more artillery that can fire farther and is more mobile.
Thin air at higher elevations hinders traditional rocket propulsion, but Chinese officials claimed in August 2018 they were progressing on a type of electromagnetic propulsion that would give rocket artillery longer range and more accuracy.
Both countries can be expected to use land-attack cruise missiles — the Indian Su-30MKI jets deployed to the area are capable of firing India’s Brahmos missile. But China has a larger inventory of them, and the paucity of Chinese targets in the area north of the border would likely mean Beijing would have the edge.
Much of the fighting in a conflict around Doklam would likely be done on the ground, even though the terrain would limit quick strikes and mass movement of troops.
Indian fought its last war, with Pakistan, in 1999 and has been involved in sporatic clashes with Pakistan, as well as counterterror and counter-insurgency operations for years. (Delhi was developing a special Mountain Strike Corps for the northern border, but it was shelved in summer 2018.)
An Indian Air Force Su-30 MKI
China fought its last war in 1979 — a three-week incursion into Vietnam that ended with China’s withdrawal, though both sides claimed victory. Xi has ordered China’s military to increase readiness and launched reforms to the force.
Along the Line of Actual Control, however, China may gain an edge through superior command, control, and communications and through its unified command structure in the region, whereas India divides the region among three combatant commands.
India is aware that it would likely lose a military confrontation with China, Pervaiz said, as it did in 1962. (Mao later said China invaded essentially to teach India a lesson.)
A conflict now is not in the interest of either country, he added, but “they both are going to continue to sharpen their capabilities in the event that there ever is a conflict [in order] to be able to fight and execute on that conflict, no doubt about it.”
Since the end of the Doklam standoff, China has kept the assets it deployed there — tents, bunkers, and vehicles, Pervaiz said — in place, even as Indian forces withdrew.
Questioned about that change in parliament in 2018, the Indian Defense Ministry tacitly admitted “China has actually altered those facts on the ground” and India had to accept the change, Pervaiz said.
India too has pursued a longer-term shift in its strategy toward the disputed border.
Delhi tried to minimize the number of roads in the border area after the 1962 war in order to deprive future enemies of transportation routes.
Indian Army Soldiers of the Madras Regiment (left) and Chinese People’s Liberation Army during the Moscow Victory Day Parade (right)
Since the 1990s, however, India has switched to what Pervaiz called “an offensive-defense posture, meaning that we’re not just going to deny the Chinese access to roads in our region. We’re actually going to start building more roads and infrastructure so that our military can be better positioned.”
Amid the recalibration, the broader strategic issues driving tensions between India and China — the border dispute or China’s partnership with India’s rival, Pakistan — have not dissipated, suggesting the current period is one in which both sides are trying to manage their disputes, which Pervaiz analogized to treating a chronic illness.
“It may be that the physician says that you’re not going to get rid of this,” he said. “This is something you’re going to have to live with for the rest of your life, but we can manage it … and then the symptoms can stay under control.”
Even though neither side sees conflict as in their interest, deep-seated disputes that persist raise the chances one may occur.
“In the long run, because the strategic drivers are still there, and they’re building up their assets, the roads, the bunkers,” Pervaiz said, “that that does mean in the future, there’s actually a heightened probability there’s going to be some sort of confrontation, even if it’s a small one.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Extremist organizations like the Islamic State and al-Qaida could use the coronavirus outbreak as a chance to ramp up attacks across the globe, the Associated Press reported.
While the group previously advised its fighters not to travel and carry out attacks in areas afflicted by the coronavirus outbreak, it appears the group and those like it are using the opportunity to plan and launch merciless attacks.
According to the International Crisis Group, ISIS has acknowledged security forces that normally work against the group will be overloaded dealing with COVID-19, and fighters should take “maximum advantage” of that distraction.
The International Crisis Group has previously warned that such attacks could take place in light of the pandemic, especially in countries that are terribly afflicted by the outbreak or already dealing with insurgencies.
The AP reported that while analysts say it’s too early to tell which attacks are the result of fighters taking advantage of the outbreak, some examples of deadly attacks have already taken place.
“Never in our history have we lost so many men at one time,” Chad’s President Idriss Deby said, according to the AP.
The group killed 50 Nigerian soldiers in another attack the next day.
The main concern, however, is that military forces from the United States and the United Kingdom will withdraw or be significantly cut in places like Iraq, Syria, and parts of Africa, leaving room for extremist groups to expand and carry out attacks.
Politico reported that the US military is worried that ISIS could expand in northeast Syria. The worry is that if the conditions get worse due to a coronavirus outbreak, the region does not have the necessary supplies to help those who fall sick. ISIS could use that as a rallying cry for riots and recruiting others.
The international coalition to defeat the militant group started sending the Syrian Democratic Forces, which guard thousands of extremist prisoners, basic medical equipment, and other supplies to limit the group from resurging, according to Politico.
According to the AP, while the UK is sending its soldiers who were stationed on a mission in Kenya to give counter-terrorism training back home to the UK, France will keep its troops in West Africa’s Sahel region. Four French soldiers have already tested positive for COVID-19.
While the French troops will continue their work, other African units that are “already stretched thin and under attack” may take additional measures to protect their troops, the AP reported. For example, the Nigerian military is looking to stop most of its activities, especially large gatherings, and training to limit the spread of the virus.
According to the AP, a leaked memo showed that some military vehicles might instead be used to transfer coronavirus patients to hospitals or for mass burials. But the Nigerian military has already been struggling to contain Boko Haram.
Clionadh Raleigh, executive director of the Armed Conflict Location Event Data Project, which tracks extremists’ activities worldwide, told the AP: “Any state that was interested in pulling back in Africa will take the opportunity to do so. That will be unbelievably bad.”