New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran's metals sector - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector

The United States has unveiled new sanctions against the Iranian metallurgical sector, blacklisting several companies, including domestic and foreign subsidiaries of the country’s main steel producer.

The Treasury Department said on June 25 that the sanctioned entities included four manufacturing companies and four sales agents as part of a crackdown on entities believed to fund Iran’s “destabilizing behavior” worldwide.


The United States “remains committed to isolating key sectors of the Iranian economy until the revenues from such sectors are refocused toward the welfare of the Iranian people,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The sanctions freeze any U.S. assets held by the companies and generally prohibit Americans from dealing with them.

The move is part of U.S. effort to slash Iranian revenues since President Donald Trump withdrew in May 2018 from a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.

The new U.S. sanctions target one domestic and four foreign subsidiaries — operating in either Germany or the United Arab Emirates — of Iran’s Mobarakeh Steel Company, which Treasury said accounts for about 1 percent of Iran’s gross domestic product.

Mobarakeh Steel Company was blacklisted in 2018 for allegedly providing millions of dollars annually to an entity with close ties to Iran’s paramilitary Basij force, which is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

Also targeted were three aluminum, steel, and iron producers in Iran, which Treasury said contributed to billions of dollars in sales and exports of Iranian metals every year.

A company which the Treasury said had addresses in China and Hong Kong was also sanctioned for allegedly transferring graphite to a blacklisted Iranian entity in 2019.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US sends in the A-10s against a resurgent Taliban

The Taliban launched a coordinated attack on the Afghan capital of Farah province on May 15, 2018, forcing the US to send in A-10 Warthogs in a show of force, according to numerous media reports and a spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.

The Taliban, equipped with HUMVEEs and Afghan police pickup trucks, attacked multiple Farah City checkpoints and took over an intelligence headquarters, according to Long War Journal.


“There is fighting still going on in the city of Farah,” Lt. Col. Martin L. O’Donnell, a spokesman for Resolute Support, told Business Insider over the phone, which “despite rumors to the contrary, remains on the outskirts of the city, three kilometers to the north and west.”

“You’ve got Army, police, commandos, and Afghan air force involved in the fight,” O’Donnell said. “Both Afghan A-29s and Mi-17s have conducted multiple air strikes, and US forces have conducted one drone strike. We’ve also conducted a show of force with A-10s.”

Dozens of Taliban fighters have been killed, and Afghan forces have suffered an unknown number of casualties, O’Donnell said, adding that he was unsure of any civilian casualties.

The Afghan governor of Farah province, Basir Salangi, fled the city of 50,000 people when the attack began at about 2 a.m., but he remains in the province, according to The New York Times.

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
(U.S. Air Force Photo)

O’Donnell said the Afghan government remains in control of the city, but ATN News reported that “at least three parts of the city came under the control of Taliban,” Long War Journal reported.

The “rebels had captured the 3rd police district and stormed the intelligence department,” Long War Journal reported, citing Pajhwok Afghan News. Taliban fighters have also attacked the city’s hospital, where they killed two wounded Afghan police officers. They may even be moving on the prison.

O’Donnell said that the fighting is expected to last through May 17, 2018, and that US advisers are on the ground, but not involved in the fighting to his knowledge.

“The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, commander of Resolute Support in Afghanistan, said in February 2018. “There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group. … We continue to strike them wherever we find them. We continue to hunt them across the country.”

The US announced in November 2017, that it would begin targeting the Taliban’s revenue sources, much of which is opium and heroin, with airstrikes. Some analysts have criticized it as a game of “whack-a-mole” since the Taliban can reportedly rebuild the labs in just a matter of days.

The US has been quietly ramping up the longest-running war in US history, going on 17 years, which the Pentagon says costs about $45 billion per year.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

New Army program certifies soldiers as firefighters

Soldiers leaving military service have a lot to prepare for as they transition from active duty to the civilian workforce. Thanks to the Soldier for Life-Transition Assistance Program, this transition can set soldiers up for success through the sometimes tricky process of translating military service and military occupational specialties to civilian workforce skills, resume writing and opportunities to participate in vocational certificate programs.

One program available at Fort Jackson offers service members a chance to trade their Army Combat Uniform for fire retardant bunker gear, equipment regularly used by firefighters to protect them from the intense heat from fires. The program is called Troops to Firefighters, and one Fort Jackson soldier has taken full advantage of what the program has to offer.


“Going through the Soldier for Life program here at Fort Jackson, I had a leader who was looking for information for his wife and he said ‘Hey man, they have a firefighter program here and they pay for it,'” said Staff Sgt. James Hall, Company A, 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment. “So I did it.”

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector

Chief Curtis Maffett, vice president of Training Troops to Firefighters speaks to the class during the 911 dispatch operators program, designed to assist veterans, transitioning service members, and family members in becoming nationally certified firefighters and 911 emergency dispatch operators.

(Photo by Ms. LaTrice Langston)

Hall has served on active duty for more than 20 years and is set to retire in August 2019. He, like all separating soldiers, attended a mandatory separation brief where he learned about the Troops to Firefighter program. He said he never thought about becoming a firefighter before the briefing, but he submitted a packet to enroll in the program, and a few weeks later he received the news that he had been accepted.

“I’d been leaning towards becoming an electrician; that’s what my Family business is,” Hall said. “But I really fell in love with firefighting after going to the fire academy.”

With the support of his unit’s chain of command, Hall was placed on permissive temporary duty to attend the South Carolina Fire Academy. After a grueling eight weeks, Hall graduated and returned to his regular duties with his company.

“I thought it was definitely physically challenging,” Hall said. “It’s not the easiest job, but it’s very rewarding.”

Hall said his military training as an infantryman helped prepared him for the physical demands a firefighter faces daily. The weight of the bunker gear is similar to the combat load of body armor and ammunition. He also explained how military structure is equally similar to a firehouse, including the camaraderie and style of training found within most military units.

“I think James is a very good fit to go into the fire service,” said Pete Hines, assistant chief of the Fort Jackson Fire Department. “He is intelligent. He can think. I wish he could stay [here at Fort Jackson].”

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector

Members of the Fort Jackson Fire Department pose in front of two of their fire engines.

(Photo by Ms. Elyssa Vondra)

Hall graduated the fire academy in March 2019 but remains on active duty until he starts his terminal leave at the end of May 2019. With the support of his commander and Hines, Hall was able to keep his newly acquired skills sharp by spending a few days out of the week working for the Fort Jackson Fire Department. There, Hall’s duty day is like the other firefighters. He helps to maintain his personal protective equipment, the fire vehicles, the firehouse and respond to fire calls. Hall was also afforded opportunities to attend additional fire training classes to expand his firefighting certifications that will make him more attractive to prospective fire departments in Texas when Hall moves his Family back home in May 2019.

Hall’s successful completion of the program and his volunteer service with the fire department will allow him to begin seeking employment with a local fire department as soon as he is settled in Texas. Hall said he believes the transition will be a smooth one thanks to the program, support from his Family and support from his chain of command.

“I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the Fort Jackson Fire Department, (the program) and my unit,” Hall said. “Any of these programs that are available, I say take advantage of them while they are here.”

The Troops to Firefighter program is one of many offered to transitioning soldiers. Other programs include lineman, trucking, piping, solar energy and more. To find more information about these programs, contact the Soldier For Life – Transition Assistance Program office at www.sfl-tap.army.mil or 1-800-325-4715.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman of the Year earns Silver Star for heroism in Afghanistan

A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation’s third highest award for valor for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.

Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, 2019, the service announced Nov. 18, 2019.

AFSOC spokeswoman 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo said the award is for his total service during a 2018 deployment alongside an Army special forces team in support of the Resolute Support mission and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.


Smith was also named the “2019 Airman of the Year” by Air Force Times. As part of the award, the paper interviewed Smith and detailed his actions.

Serving as the sole joint terminal attack controller, or JTAC, during a two-week long mission, Smith and the joint Army and Afghan teams were sent out to disperse Taliban forces that had created a stronghold in the Maymana village in northwest Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2018.

TSgt Cody Smith: Air Force Times Airman of the Year

www.youtube.com

En route to the area, the forces, which included Green Berets, lacked aerial cover due to poor weather conditions, but pressed on despite roadblocks and dozens of improvised explosive devices hidden within rubble along the path to slow their progress, according to Air Force Times.

The groups were immediately met with machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades when they got to the village.

Smith called in nearby AH-64 Apache helicopters, as well as F-16 Fighting Falcons that dropped “multiple precision guided 500-pound bombs engaging as close as 90 meters away,” Air Force officials said.

The firefight went on for nearly 10 hours.

Exactly one week later, pushing forward to Shirin Tagab just due north of Maymana, Smith and the teams were met by an overwhelming force — nearly 600 Taliban fighters amassing on the village’s southern flank. The fighters once again set up roadblocks and IEDs to slow the U.S. troops’ convoy before another fierce battle broke out — this time with mortars.

Smith told Air Force Times the scene turned to chaos as dozens of civilians ran up to the troops for help to save their children wounded in the firefight.

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith.

(Air Force photo)

Smith tried to get medical aid all while protecting the convoy. First hit in his body armor, Smith kept firing.

Mortars rained down, and one exploded two meters away from his position, resulting in a severe concussion. When Smith awoke, he declined medical attention and fought for five more hours, Air Force Times reported, before an RPG hit his vehicle.

For a second time, he turned medics away to keep fighting, the paper said.

Smith called in 11 danger-close strikes amid the pandemonium during that Oct. 14 mission, resulting in 195 enemy fighters killed and 18 fighting positions destroyed. He aided in saving American and Afghan lives, and even helped medevac a wounded team member, Air Force Times said.

“[He] remained with his team for the 14-hour vehicle movement back to friendly lines to ensure their safety,” the Air Force said Monday.

The service has awarded 11 Air Force Crosses and 48 Silver Star Medals to Special Tactics airmen. Last year, President Donald Trump posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, also a combat controller, and promoted Chapman to master sergeant.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

France may make the first official state visit of the Trump Presidency

Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron’s relationship looks set to get even closer, with reports indicating that the French president will be the first world leader to make a full state visit to Washington, DC.


According to the AFP news agency, Macron plans to visit the U.S. capital in late April, and will be the first foreign leader to be given the full pomp of a state occasion, which includes a meal in the White House’s State Dining Room.

Similar reports, apparently originating from the White House, were made a few weeks ago.

Other leaders, including British Prime Minister Theresa May and Chinese President Xi Jinping have visited before, but their trips were not given the full state-visit status.

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
French National Day Parade, July 14, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

Last summer, Trump visited Paris around Bastille Day, and was given a lavish welcome, devoid of major protests.

The two presidents and their wives emptied the Eiffel Tower for an evening and had a lobster dinner looking over Paris.

Trump was also a guest of honor at the Bastille Day military parade, which reportedly inspired him to pursue a similar display in Washington, DC involving U.S. armed forces.

The apparently warm relations between Trump and Macron is a contrast to the strained relationship between Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May.

May was the first world leader to visit Trump after his inauguration, but images of the two holding hands just before Trump embarked on his controversial travel ban were political kryptonite in Britain.

Also Read: The new UK defense secretary wants to kill every Brit who fights for terrorists

An invitation from Queen Elizabeth for Trump to make a state visit to Britain was accepted, but has been repeatedly delayed, while British activists have prepared large-scale street protests for when the final date is set.

Trump and Macron differ on policy significantly, including their stance on the European Union, the Iran deal, and U.S. participation in the Paris climate change agreement.

Their initial meeting appeared tense and was dominated by an awkward, combative, white-knuckle handshake. But since then the men seem to have got on fine, with the reported state visit seeming to be further evidence.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why South Korea could pull its troops back from the DMZ

South Korea is reportedly considering withdrawing some of its military forces and equipment from guard posts on the border with North Korea on a “trial basis,” according to a Yonhap News report published on July 23, 2018.

It’s part of an effort to promote friendlier ties between the two countries, South Korea’s defense ministry outlined a plan to transform the [Demilitarized Zone] into a “peace zone,” the defense ministry said, referring to the buffer between North and South Korea.


“As stated in the Panmunjom Declaration, [the ministry] is seeking a plan to expand the [withdrawal] program in stages after pulling out troops and equipment from the guard posts within the DMZ,” the defense ministry said.

The ministry said it would also plan on designating a de facto maritime boundary as a “peace sea” to allow fishermen from both countries to operate.

The Panmunjom Declaration was the culmination of months-long dialogue between the two countries after a year of fiery threats in 2017. The diplomatic detente was signed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their summit in April 2018, paving the way for a “a new era of peace,” on the Korean Peninsula.

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Mooon Jae-in.

South Korea has already made some changes on the border that reflect friendlier relations. In spring 2018, it dismantled loudspeakers that blasted news and Korean pop music towards North Korea. The loudspeakers, which were set up in 2016, could be heard for miles inside the North.

However, for many North Korea observers, the declaration’s broad language and the absence of a specific plan tempered expectations of an immediate solution to the nuclear threat North Korea poses. Despite dismantling some key facilities related to its intercontinental ballistic missile program, some experts believe the gesture may not be very meaningful in the aggregate.

Featured image: A South Korean checkpoint at the Civilian Control Line, located outside of the DMZ.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon to the operationally unready: shape up or get out

This week, the Pentagon made good on a policy it’s been developing to guarantee the operational readiness of the US military’s 2.1 million service members. The new message, aimed at personnel listed as non-deployable for 12 months or more, is simple: either get ready or get out.


Since the closing months of 2017, as the current administration has struggled to create a working budget and to fund the government through a series of congressional stop-gap agreements, Defense Secretary James Mattis has been fighting a singular crusade: to make the U.S. military “more lethal.”

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
Soldiers with Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment, prepare to fire an AT4 rocket launcher at an insurgent position during a firefight in Baghdad’s Adhamiyah neighborhood. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mike Pryor, 2nd BCT, 82nd Airborne Division Public Affairs)

Having succeeded in securing $700 billion for the DoD in 2018 — a 4.5% increase over President Trump’s proposed $668 billion defense budget — the Pentagon is now turning its attention to increasing operational readiness across all branches.

That includes the much-anticipated policy, released Feb. 14 in a DoD memo, that will begin assessments of and, in many cases, separation procedures for service members who have been non-deployable for the last 12 months or more.

According to Robert Wilke, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, “about 13 to 14 percent of the force is medically unable to deploy” at any given time. That comes out to about 286,000 of the 2.1 million personnel serving across all branches of the military — active duty, reserves, and National Guard. Some of that number, an estimated 20,000, is sidelined due to pregnancy and over 100,000 are recovering from injury or addressing illness.

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Christopher Robbins, of the Provincial Reconstruction Team from forward operating base Kalagush, conducts a patrol through the village of Kowtalay in the Nuristan province of Afghanistan June 12, 2007.  (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Bracken)

But 34 percent of those medically unavailable, some 99,000 personnel are currently non-deployable for administrative reasons, like failing to stay up to date with immunizations or falling delinquent with required medical exams. And that subset of the force is now officially on notice from the Pentagon that they can get ready for deployment or get ready to discharge.

Waivers will be made available on a case-by-case basis, but the DoD seems to expect swift implementation. In the official language of the memo,

Military Services will have until October 1, 2018, to begin mandatory processing of non-deployable Service members for administrative or disability separation under this policy, but they may begin such processing immediately.
Articles

US military examines whether Russia aided in Syrian chemical attacks

Senior U.S. military officials said April 7 that they were looking into whether Russia aided Syrian forces in this week’s deadly chemical attack on civilians in Idlib province.


“We think we have a good picture of who supported them as well,” one senior military official told reporters at the Pentagon, adding that the Pentagon was “carefully assessing any information that would implicate the Russians knew or assisted with this Syrian capability.”

The officials said that at a minimum, the Russians failed to rein in the Syrian regime activity that has killed innocent Syrian civilians. They said Russia also failed to fulfill its 2013 guarantee that Syria’s chemical weapons would be eliminated.

The U.S. military officials noted that they had not seen evidence of Russian involvement in the chemical attack. However, the officials said the Russians had an aviation unit based at the airfield where the attack originated and have “chemical expertise in country.”

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
The U.S. commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria says a Russian air strike in northern Syria accidentally struck U.S.-backed Syrian Arab forces who are part of the fight against so-called Islamic State (IS) militants. (YouTube screenshot: Kurdistan24.net)

U.S. military officials have shown reporters the Syrian aircraft flight path that was taken April 4 from al-Shayrat airfield to the town of Khan Sheikhoun, where more than 80 people were killed in the attack that local doctors said involved sarin nerve gas.

On April 7, U.S. military officials said that after the attack, they watched a small drone, also called a UAV, flying over the hospital in Khan Sheikoun where victims of the chemical attack were being treated.

“About five hours later, the UAV returned, and the hospital was struck by additional munitions,” one official said.

The senior military official said the U.S. did not know why the hospital was struck or who carried out the strike, but had determined that it was potentially done “to hide the evidence of a chemical attack.”

Meanwhile, senior military officials said the United States and Russia would maintain a line of communication aimed at preventing midair collisions of their warplanes in Syrian airspace. That contradicted Moscow’s earlier assertion that it had suspended those communications in protest against the Tomahawk cruise missile strike on al-Shayrat airfield.

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
In early 2017, a Russian plane buzzed a U.S. destroyer. (Dept. of Defense image)

The communication line is primarily used to ensure that Russian and U.S. planes conducting combat missions in Syria do not get into unintentional confrontations. The U.S. is using the airspace to conduct strikes against Islamic State terrorists.

The U.S. used the line to inform the Russians of the intent to strike in order to warn any Russians who were at the base, officials said.

The April 6 U.S. strike used 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles to hit targets on the Syrian airfield, including about 20 aircraft, aircraft storage facilities, ammunition supply bunkers, and radars, officials said.

A U.S. military official told Voice of America there was an area on the airfield known to have been used as a chemical weapons depot. The source said that the U.S. military did not know whether chemical weapons were still in that area, but out of an abundance of caution to avoid potential casualties, the missiles did not strike that area.

Other U.S. military officials told Voice of America the strikes did not target the airfield runways so as to not threaten Russians, adding that the Tomahawk type used was for “precision strikes, not cratering.”

One military official deemed the strikes as “appropriate, proportionate, precise, and effective.”

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams

The office of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad described the strikes in a statement on April 7 as “reckless” and “irresponsible.” The statement added that the attacks were “shortsighted” and a continuation of a U.S. policy of “subjugating people.”

Russia, which is providing troops and air support to the Assad government, condemned the U.S. military action, calling it “aggression against a sovereign state,” and said it was suspending a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. for flight safety over Syria.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said on April 7 that the United States “took a very measured step last night.” She added, “We are prepared to do more, but we hope that will not be necessary.”

VOA’s Margaret Besheer contributed to this report.

Articles

This huge Navy shipyard allegedly funded an illegal security militia for years

The Navy’s largest shipyard maintained a private, off-the-books, and illegal security force for more than a decade after the 9/11 terror attacks, costing taxpayers $21 million, the Navy inspector general reports.


The Norfolk ship yard in Portsmouth, VA established an unsanctioned security force with a glut of funding in the early 2000s, then purchased millions of dollars of high-tech security equipment and hid it from the Navy authorities for years, the IG said.

“These folks are not law enforcement, but they wanted to be, and all of their actions were done to become a law enforcement organization,” Peter Lintner, deputy director of investigations at Naval Sea Systems Command, told Federal News Radio. “The stunning thing is that this happened over the course of seven commanding officers, and not a single one of them put a stop to it or really even had any visibility on it. Everybody just thought, ‘Well, they’re the good guys. They’re the security department. They’re not going to do anything wrong.’ In actuality, they were doing everything wrong, and they knew it.”

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
A Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team crew, temporarily deployed from San Francisco, provides an escort for the USS Cole as the Navy destroyer returns to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. US Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Weydert.

The IG conducted the the investigation in 2014 after following a tip to the NAVSEA whistleblower hotline, but the report was only recently made available.

The security force acquired surplus equipment — including Berettas, ammunition, scopes, patrol boats, and vehicles — from the Defense Logistics Agency. Government Accountability Office investigators were able to purchase surplus military equipment for a fake law enforcement agency recently, proving that the process for purchasing military equipment is not very rigorous.

The IG estimates that the Navy spent $10.6 million on labor and payroll for the unsanctioned security force, and $10.4 million on the excess equipment.

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tyrell K. Morris

The Norfolk security crews went to extreme lengths to keep their stockpile of equipment a secret. They created fake license plates for their vehicles, and would move their cache of weapons and tech off-base whenever the Navy’s asset manager came around to take inventory.

“They drove all the vehicles out, loaded everything on the flatbed and stashed it in one of the back parking lots on the local naval base,” Lintner said. “When the asset manager got there, it was literally an empty warehouse, but the day before it had been packed full of tools, vehicles, all types of material.”

When investigators confronted those in charge, “they admitted they hid it deliberately,” Lintner said. “That’s what they said every time: ‘If anybody found out what we had, they would have taken it away from us and we wanted to be ready for any contingency.’  Their motto was, ‘It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.'”

Articles

Miami VA uses virtual reality to treat PTSD

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
VAntage Point Contributor


The invisible scars of combat can make reintegration to civilian life a challenging transition for some combat Veterans, especially for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For South Florida Veterans, a new technology combined with traditional treatments may hold the secret for a successful post-military life.

Mental health providers at the Miami VA Healthcare System are now offering a virtual reality (VR) treatment option for Veterans with PTSD. Combining VR with traditional treatments, such as prolonged exposure therapy, providers can help Veterans change how they perceive and respond to the symptoms of PTSD, which typically cause depression, isolation and anxiety.

“Avoidance, hyper vigilance and re-experiencing are symptoms of PTSD that result from memories of trauma,” said Dr. Pamela Slone-Fama, Miami VA posttraumatic stress clinical team staff psychologist. “By using a recovery model approach, prolonged exposure therapy and virtual reality, most of our patients who complete this treatment don’t experience the same level of stress and intensity when faced with painful memories. Prolonged exposure therapy is what makes this approach to PTSD recovery so effective.”

In conventional prolonged exposure therapy, patients are gradually exposed to events they avoid because of trauma, and providers directly control the stimuli – which can be adjusted based on patients’ responses and individual needs. One of the benefits of using VR in PTSD treatment is providers can control the virtual combat landscapes, sounds and even smells.

What happens during PTSD VR sessions?

Before the first VR session, providers talk with their patients about the benefits of using exposure therapy and VR to treat PTSD. If patients choose to participate, VR sessions begin during the third visit. Before beginning the session, patients are connected to the VR machine – which consists of a headset with video goggles, plastic M-4 rifle, remote to control a virtual humvee and a chair.

“Patients begin the session by recounting their traumatic memories in the present tense, while we document responses, anxiety levels and memories,” Dr. Slone-Fama said. “As patients are recounting, we can see what they are seeing on our screens and try to simulate the landscapes, sounds and smells they are describing.”

While repeatedly recounting their memories, patients also describe how they are feeling. Depending on how far along a patient is in his/her treatment, sessions can run anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes. Even though the VR session is an important piece of the therapy, the post session also has an important role in the recovery process.

“After VR sessions, we work with the patient on processing what just happened,” Dr. Slone-Fama said. “This part of the therapy helps patients understand the events that happened to them and allows them to process the entire memory. VR sessions can be intense, so before wrapping up we always make sure the patients are ok to leave. Safety is always important.”

Common Misconceptions about PTSD

While PTSD can be a serious condition, its symptoms are what cause Veterans to develop low self-esteem and unhealthy, unrealistic beliefs about themselves, according to Dr. Camille Gonzalez, Miami VA posttraumatic stress clinical team staff psychologist. She said Veterans living with PTSD frequently blame themselves for the trauma and feel hopeless.

“It’s common for Veterans with PTSD to feel as though they are permanently damaged,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “We try to help Veterans understand it’s not their fault they experienced these events. Once they realize PTSD is a result of something that happened to them, the recovery process can begin. Even though Veterans will always remember what happened to them, therapy can help them decrease the negative impacts of those memories.”

How to get help

Veterans living with PTSD don’t have to suffer alone. Veterans with PTSD can find help and support through the National Center for PTSD and their local VA health care facility.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How dead civilians were listed as ‘ISIS fighters’ in Iraq

An 18-month investigation by The New York Times revealed that the US-led coalition fighting ISIS repeatedly recorded civilian deaths as enemy casualties.


The Times’ journalists scanned the locations of nearly 150 coalition airstrikes across northern Iraq and found the rate of civilian deaths to be more than 31 times that acknowledged by the coalition.

Such negligence — a combination of simply flawed and outdated intelligence — amounted to what the Times noted “may be the least transparent war in recent American history.”

Maj. Shane Huff, a spokesman for the Department of Defense agency overseeing the US-led coalition, said “US and coalition forces work very hard to be precise in airstrikes.” He told the Times that the US has been “conducting one of the most precise air campaigns in military history.”

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
US-led Coalition successfully executes a large scale, multinational strike on a weapons facility. DoD photo from Staff Sgt. Charles Rivezzo.

The reality on the ground reportedly tells a much different story.

More: This is the sad story behind the Great Buddhas of Afghanistan

Data from coalition forces reported Iraqi civilian deaths have resulted in about one of every 157 airstrikes. The Times found that civilians were killed in one out of every five.

Basim Razzo was almost one of the victims, according to the Times. In September 2015, Razzo was sleeping in his bed in Mosul — then under ISIS control — when a US coalition airstrike reduced much of his home to a heap of rubble. He awoke drenched in blood. The roof of his house had been torn apart. Worst of all, he didn’t know if his family had been hurt. He soon discovered his wife, daughter, brother, and nephew had been killed.

Later that day, the US coalition uploaded a video to YouTube entitled, “Coalition Airstrike Destroys Daesh VBIED Facility Near Mosul Iraq 20 Sept 2015.” The military claimed it had successfully demolished an ISIS car-bomb factory, but it now appears they actually struck the homes of Razzo and his brother, killing four innocent civilians in the process.

Human rights concerns

In July, the Iraqi Army liberated Mosul from ISIS forces, but people like Razzo couldn’t move on. Many still live with the fear of being misidentified as ISIS sympathizers, and the tragedy of losing innocent loved ones.

“We’re not happy with it, and we’re never going to be happy with it,” Col. John Thomas, a spokesman for the Central Command, told the Times regarding civilian casualties. “But we’re pretty confident we do the best we can to try to limit these things.”

Read Also: Civilian death toll in 16-year Afghanistan war is staggering

That’s not enough for human rights organizations, who often criticize coalition forces for poor reporting procedures that leave dozens, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of dead civilians unaccounted for. Human Rights Watch also called on President Donald Trump to do more to protect civilians abroad as news surfaced that he was modifying US military rules of engagement with suspected terrorists.

“Trump’s reported changes for targeting terrorism suspects will result in more civilian deaths with less oversight and greater secrecy,” Letta Tayler, a HRW researcher, said earlier this month. “The US should be increasing civilian protections off the battlefield, not dismantling them.”

Articles

A terrorist blew himself up in Afghanistan over this piece of paper

A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up outside of a US military base in Afghanistan on Sept. 6 in retaliation for the US dropping leaflets that were offensive to Islam the day before, according to the Los Angeles Times.


Three US soldiers were wounded and an Afghan interpreter was killed, the Washington Examiner reported Sept. 7, in the blast that occurred at an enemy-control point outside of Bagram Air Force base, the LA Times and Reuters reported.

Three Afghan troops were also wounded, the Examiner reported.

Taliban spokesman Zabihulla Mujahid tweeted Sept. 6 that the bombing was to “avenge” the insulting leaflets.

 

The leaflets the US dropped from a plane on Sept. 5 in Parwan province pictured a lion, symbolizing the US-led coalition, chasing a dog, which symbolized the Taliban.

Dogs are considered an unclean and dangerous animal by many Afghans, according to The Washington Post, and the one depicted on the leaflet had part of the Taliban flag superimposed on it along with a common Islamic creed.

“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet,” the creed, known as the Shahada, reads.

“Get your freedom from these terrorist dogs” was also written on the leaflet above the two animals, the LA Times said. “Help the coalition forces find these terrorists and eliminate them.”

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
The offensive leaflet dropped by the US on Sept. 5. Photo from Twitter user Dan Murphy.

The Taliban also released a statement on Sept. 6 that the leaflets showed the US’s “utter animosity with Islam,” The Post reported.

Maj. Gen. James Linder released a statement on Sept. 6 saying that the “design of the leaflets mistakenly contained an image highly offensive to both Muslims and the religion of Islam. I sincerely apologize.”

“We have the deepest respect for Islam and our Muslim partners worldwide. There is no excuse for this mistake,” he said. “I am reviewing our procedures to determine the cause of this incident and to hold the responsible party accountable. Furthermore, I will make appropriate changes so this never happens again.”

Many Afghan civilians were also irate with the leaflets.

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector
US Army Maj. Gen. James B. Linder. Photo by Staff Sgt. Ken Scar.

“It is a very serious violation. The people are very angry. It is a major abuse against Islam,” the Parwan province police chief, Mohammad Zaman Mamozai, told The Post.

“Why they do not understand or know our culture, our religion, and history?”

“The foreign forces don’t have any idea of what are the values of the Afghan people,” Ahmad Shaheer, an analyst living in Kabul, told the LA Times. “They’ve hired some interpreters and advisors who only know how to speak English, make money, and gain trust, but really are strangers to the real values of the local people.”

The US has been at war in Afghanistan for almost 16 years, and President Donald Trump recently announced he would be deploying more American forces — about 4,000 by most estimates — to the war-torn country.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The most important organization for vets you may not even know about

Veterans can train for certificates and industry credentials before they leave the military – for free through the Institute for Veterans and Military Families. The Mission Continues is able to fund veteran empowerment projects and its community outreach programs. Hire Heroes USA is able to confirm it helped some 35,000 veterans get jobs. There’s one organization behind all of it: The Schultz Family Foundation.


If you’re unfamiliar with Howard Schultz, he is the billionaire former CEO and Chairman of Starbucks Coffee, among other entities, and he and his family are on a mission to unlock the potential of every single American – especially veterans. So they’ve taken it upon themselves to fund some of the most powerful, potent veterans programs in the country.

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector

Remember the rumor that Starbucks hated vets and the military from a couple years ago? That was false. In a big way.

The Schultz Family Foundation believes Post-9/11 veterans are returning to civilian life with an enormous store of untapped potential and a reservoir of diverse skills sets that could be the future of the country. Part of its mission is to ensure that every separating service member and their spouse can find a job if they want one. The Schultz Family Foundation makes investments in returning troops in every step of the transition process, from before they ever leave the uniform all the way to navigating post-service benefits.

Once out of uniform, the foundation supports programs and organizations that not only promote finding a job based on skills or learning new skills to get a new career, but also programs that are not typical of a post-military career. These careers include community development, supporting fellow veterans, and of course, entrepreneurship.

New U.S. sanctions hit firms linked to Iran’s metals sector

Nick Sullivan is an eight-year Army veteran who works with the Schultz Family through the Mission Continues.

Whether working for or donating to causes that directly help veterans or ones that support vets in other ways, The Schultz Family Foundation has likely touched the lives of most Post-9/11 veterans who have separated from the military in the past ten years. Whether through Hire Heroes USA, the Mission Continues, Blue Star Families or Onward to Opportunity, the Schultz Family has been there for vets. Now the Schultz Family Foundation is supporting the Military Influencer Conference.

If you’re interested in starting your own business and don’t know where to begin, the Military Influencer Conferences are the perfect place to start. There, you can network with other veteran entrepreneurs while listening to the best speakers and panels the military-veteran community of entrepreneurs can muster. Visit the Military Influencer Conference website for more information.

Maybe starting your own business isn’t your thing. Veterans looking for support can visit the Schultz Family Foundation website for veterans and click on the “get help” button to join a community of thousands who did the same – and are happy they did.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information