Iran is negotiating a controversial 25-year agreement with China that has led to accusations that parts of Iran are being sold to Beijing.
Some critics — including the U.S. State Department — are comparing the proposed deal to the 1828 Treaty of Turkmenchay between Persia and tsarist Russia, under which the Persians ceded control of territory in the South Caucasus.
Iranian officials have dismissed the criticism as baseless while promising to make the text of the agreement public once it is finalized.
What Do We Know About The Agreement?
The pact was proposed in a January 2016 trip to Iran by Chinese President Xi Jinping during which the two sides agreed to establish their ties based on a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, while announcing discussions would begin aimed at concluding a 25-year bilateral pact.
The announcement received the support of Iran’s highest authority, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who was quoted by Iranian media as saying that the agreement reached between the two sides was “wise.”
The text of the agreement, which will need to be approved by parliament, has not been released. But in recent days an 18-page document has been making the rounds on social media that outlines future cooperation between the countries, including Chinese investment in Iran’s energy sector as well as in the country’s free-trade zones.
RFE/RL cannot verify the authenticity of the document, which has been cited by some Iranian and Western media as a leaked version of the planned pact between Iran and China.
Analysts note the agreement being circulated is very light on details and appears to be the framework of a potential deal.
According to the text, which is labeled “final edit” on its front page and dated the Iranian month of Khordad — which starts May 21 and ends June 19 — the two sides will also increase military and security cooperation while working on joint-projects in third countries.
Iran has in recent months increasingly reached out to China in the face of growing U.S. pressure to isolate Tehran. China remains Iran’s main trading partner but trade between the two sides has dropped due to U.S. pressure in recent years.
Analysts say China is not ready to give Tehran the support it seeks while also suggesting that some of the cooperation envisaged in the pact may never materialize.
Ariane Tabatabai, a Middle East fellow at the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said, given its importance, the U.S. will always trump Iran for China.
“Iran is a small, risky market, sanctions have severely impeded business [there], and the regime is isolated,” she told RFE/RL. “Meanwhile, China has major economic interests in the U.S. and the trade war is still an important concern for China, which will inevitably shape its relationship with Iran.”
“If we look into what we know about the document and make some educated guesses, we see that the agreement is little more than a comprehensive road map based on the 2016 framework, which does not resolve the main issue of the China-Iran partnership — its implementation,” Jacopo Scita, an Al-Sabah doctoral fellow at Durham University, told RFE/RL.
Why Is The Treaty Controversial?
The pact is being discussed at a time when Iran is under intense pressure due to harsh U.S. sanctions that have crippled the economy and a deadly coronavirus pandemic that has worsened the economic situation.
The timing as well as the scope and duration of the agreement has led to increased concerns that Tehran is negotiating with China from a position of weakness while giving Beijing access to Iran’s natural resources for many years to come.
A distrust in the Iranian authorities that intensified after a deadly November crackdown on antiestablishment protests and the downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet — which was initially seen as a coverup — has also contributed to the criticism of the proposed deal.
A lack of trust in China, as well as rising anti-China sentiments due to the coronavirus pandemic, has also contributed to the controversy surrounding the pact.
Tabatabai, the co-author of a book on Iranian ties with Russia and China, says the relationship between Tehran and Beijing has long been perceived as benefiting China far more than Iran.
“The perception isn’t fully inaccurate,” she said. “From the elite’s perspective, China makes big promises and delivers little. And from the population’s perspective, China has been benefiting from the sanctions on Iran, it’s flooded the Iranian market, pushed out Iranian businesses, and has delivered products that are subpar.”
She added: “Many Iranians feel like this deal will cement this unbalanced relationship.”
What Are The Critics Saying?
Criticism of the planned pact appears to have increased following comments by former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who warned in a speech in late June that a 25-year agreement with “a foreign country” was being discussed “away from the eyes of the Iranian nation.”
Others have since joined the criticism, including former conservative lawmaker Ali Motahari, who appeared to suggest on Twitter that before signing the pact Iran should raise the fate of Muslims who are reportedly being persecuted in China.
Scita, who closely follows Iranian-Chinese relations, says some of the hype and anger surrounding the agreement were boosted by public figures with political agendas, including Ahmadinejad, who is said to be eying the 2021 presidential election.
The exiled son of the shah of Iran, the country’s last monarch who was ousted following the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has also criticized the pact.
Reza Pahlavi, who’s taken an increasingly active role against the Islamic republic, blasted the “shameful, 25-year treaty with China that plunders our natural resources and places foreign soldiers on our soil.” He also called on his supporters to oppose the treaty.
The Persian account of the U.S. State Department referred to the planned agreement as a “second Turkmenchay” and said that Tehran is afraid to share the details of the pact because “no part of it is beneficial to the Iranian people.”
What Are Iranian Officials Saying?
Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif confirmed that Tehran was negotiating an agreement with China “with confidence and conviction,” while insisting there was nothing secret about it.
Since then, officials have defended the deal while dismissing claims that Iran will sell discounted oil to China or give Kish Island to Beijing.
President Hassan Rohani’s chief of staff, Mahmud Vaezi, said over the weekend that the framework of the agreement has been defined, adding that the negotiations are likely to be finalized by March 21.
Vaezi also said the agreement does not include foreign control over any Iranian islands or the deployment of Chinese military forces in the country.
An Army Ranger veteran who plays Santa was called for an emergency visit to a dying child in Tennessee, arriving just in time to present the boy with a present and hold him as he passed away.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a 60-year-old engineer and the president of Packing Seals Engineering, according to Fox News. He carefully cultivates Saint Nicholas’s appearance and performs at approximately 80 events throughout each year.
A nurse contacted him from a hospital near his home in Tennessee to ask that he rush over and comfort a dying child. According to the BBC, he was given a PAW Patrol toy by the child’s mother.
“She’d bought a toy from [the TV show] ‘PAW Patrol’ and wanted me to give it to him,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.’ ”
Schmitt-Matzen told the sick boy that he was Santa’s “Number One Elf” and that no matter where the boy went next, that title would get him in. Schmitt-Matzen gave the boy the gift and the child asked, “Santa, can you help me?”
“I wrapped my arms around him,” Schmitt-Matzen said, according to the Independent. “Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”
The Ranger veteran left the hospital in tears that any soldier could easily understand. Rangers Lead The Way.
Belgium’s Federal Public Service announced that the cat’s owner contracted the disease after a trip to Northern Italy, one of the most infected regions in the world. About a week after the onset of their human’s symptoms, the cat followed suit, with diarrhea, vomiting, and respiratory issues. Poor kitty.
Tests conducted at a veterinary school in Liège on vomit and feces samples from the cat confirmed the vet’s suspicions: High levels of the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus were found. Blood tests will be conducted once the feline exits quarantine and antibodies specific to the virus are expected to be found.
When COVID-19 first hit our shores, many media outlets (ahem, New York Times) were quick to jump on the fact that the virus was not yet shown to infect dogs. This has proven untrue — two dogs in Hong Kong were infected — and is beside the point. Dogs are not a primary vector for the disease, but if their owner is infected, they can certainly pass on the virus. This is why experts advise steering clear of strange dogs when you’re on solitary walks no matter how friendly they are.
Still, the experts don’t seem too panicked about this development.
“We think the cat is a side victim of the ongoing epidemic in humans and does not play a significant role in the propagation of the virus,” Steven Van Gucht, virologist and federal spokesperson for the coronavirus epidemic in Belgium, told Live Science.
That’s good news for the humans of the earth, especially the cat people. The good news for the felines of the earth is that the cat in question recovered from the virus after just nine days with all nine of its lives intact.
A 60-day stop-movement order from the Pentagon in late March, meant to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, threw the lives of many US military personnel into uncertainty, keeping them from leaving for or returning from deployment or from traveling to new duty stations.
But the military remains a vital to the US government’s response to the pandemic, of which its mobility element, the air component in particular, has been a major part.
“There are critical missions that cannot stop,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, the service’s top uniformed officer, said last week. “I don’t believe that we’re going to get any relief, nor should we expect any relief, on the global mobility [mission].”
Transportation Command, which manages that mobility mission, has seen “a reduction in movements” because of that order, Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, head of Transcom, told reporters on March 31. “But we are also seeing a necessity to continue to operate for mission-essential tasks and operations.”
Transcom is focused on protecting the force against the outbreak, maintaining mission readiness, and remaining ready to support the FEMA and other interagency efforts to counter the outbreak, Lyons said.
Operations by Air Mobility Command, Transcom’s air component, are “consistent” with the those priorities, Lt. Gen. Jon Thomas, AMC’s deputy commander, told reporters on April 3.
Below, you can see what Transcom and AMC are doing to safeguard their aircrews as they carry out that response.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, deputy commander of Air Mobility Command, briefs the media via telephone at the Pentagon, April 3, 2020.
The Air Force has given local commanders authority to act to stay ahead of the threat and is encouraging airmen to follow CDC guidelines, Thomas said.
“We’ve implemented staggered shifts, exercised telework options, and employed Health Protection Condition Charlie measures at all our installations to promote physical distancing” to help limit the spread of the coronavirus, Thomas said.
87th Medical Group members screen patients outside as a preventative measure to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, March 30, 2020.
To maintain operational capability, Thomas said, “we’re doing things like medical screening, temperature checks, and other measures for aircrew and passengers transiting areas of COVID-19 risk.”
“As necessary, for certain locations, we’re also taking measures to ensure that AMC forces that are moving globally from one location to another do not pose undue risk for the host units as we transit those locations,” Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon.
1st Lt. Bryan Burns and 1st Lt. James Conlan shut down their C-17 at the Memphis Air National Guard Base after delivering COVID-19 test kits from Aviano, Italy, April 2, 2020.
“Obviously when you’re in the cockpit, there’s no way to get 6 foot apart,” Lyons said when asked about social distancing in aircraft. “The way that we’re managing our flight crews is unique in many ways, and we’re trying to create an isolated system of systems, if you would, even in motion.”
“Where we billet them is controlled. Where they eat from, their food is delivered. So we’re trying to create a very concerted cocoon, if you would, over our entire flight crew apparatus,” Lyons told reporters at the Pentagon.
“And knock on wood, that seems to be working to date. It allows us to continue mission and protect the force at the same time,” Lyons said. But “you can’t telework and fly a plane,” he added, “so there are exceptions that we’re working through.”
437th Maintenance Group instructors teach squadron flying crew chiefs how to disinfect the interior of a C-17 at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, April 2, 2020.
Lyons said Transcom was working to keep aircrews “very, very isolated” to avoid picking up the disease. “You might characterize it as isolation in motion.”
Those crews go “straight from the aircraft into billets” upon arriving in another country, Lyons said. “They don’t go out for food. They don’t leave the billet until their next mission, and it’s a very, very controlled environment.
“That’s how we mitigate moving from a country that might be a level-three country,” a designation that covers much of Europe, Lyons added. “They never actually leave that base. And even inside that base, they’re very, very controlled.”
US Air Force aircrew unload COVID-19 testing swabs at the Memphis Air National Guard Base, March 19, 2020.
Transcom and AMC continue to support the coronavirus response by moving supplies and equipment across the country and around the world.
Air Mobility Command C-130s have moved equipment and personnel to help set up Army field hospitals in New York and Washington state, Thomas said.
“We’ve got Air Mobility liaison officers that are helping to coordinate those movements as well as commercial air movements totaling nine missions, transporting 7.8 tons of cargo and hundreds of personnel to those locations,” Thomas added.
Since mid-March, Air Force C-17s have also delivered 3.5 million swabs for coronavirus test kits from Italy to Memphis, Tennessee, for distribution in the US.
The seventh shipment arrived on April 2, when a C-17 landed in Memphis with about 972,000 swabs, Thomas said on April 3, adding that the eighth mission was to arrive that day and the ninth was scheduled to arrive this week.
A 437th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flying crew chief prepares to simulate disinfecting a C-17 at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, April 2, 2020.
Transcom and AMC have also moved COVID-19 patients, which poses a different set of challenges.
“We did move a COVID-positive patient this past weekend AFRICOM, specifically from Djibouti, up to Landstuhl in Germany to get the level of support that particular patient needed,” Lyons said March 31.
“We are also working, candidly, to increase our capacity to be able to meet these kind of requirements because we know they’re increasing.”
A US Air Force C-17 is prepped to transport a Transportation Isolation System during a training exercise, March 6, 2019.
“Our approach to patient movement for COVID, particularly for highly contagious patients, is to move them in an isolation system,” either via air ambulance or with the Transportation Isolation System developed during the Ebola crisis, Lyons said.
“We’re working with scientists around the Air Force and Defense Threat Reduction and NASA and some others to really study the aircraft circulation flow and implications of the movement of those particulates and potential impacts on crews, so that we can indeed move COVID-positive patients and passengers without an isolation unit adequately protecting the crew,” Lyons added.
Flight nurses and critical-care air-transport team members prepare a Transport Isolation System for simulated Ebola patients during an exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, October 23, 2019.
The TIS allows in-flight treatment of infected patients without exposing the aircraft’s crew. Thomas said Friday that his command hadn’t gotten specific requests to move a patient in that system and that AMC had “not conducted any evacuations of a COVID-19-infected patient to date.”
“But the combination of transporting large volumes of patients with a highly infectious disease — the transmission of which we still don’t completely understand — on a pressurized aircraft within which the air constantly circulates, and potentially making these movements from remote and austere locations over intercontinental distance, all while protecting the flight and medical crew from infection so that they remain available for future missions is a challenging task even for the Air Mobility Command,” Thomas said.
An airman picks up lunch at the Patterson Dining Facility at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, March 30, 2020. The tables in front of the counter are meant to help enforce social distancing and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
AMC has interim COVID patient movement capability on alert in several places around the planet, Thomas said, adding that “in the event increased volume of patient flow is required, AMC will be prepared to increase throughput using other means.”
Asked about coronavirus outbreaks within AMC, Thomas avoided specifics, saying there had been “manifestations of COVID-19 on our military installations” but no manifestation “on our installations that would suggest that we’ll have any difficulty executing our missions at this point.”
“The extent of it, I don’t think I want to get into a significant amount of detail on,” Thomas said. “It is something that we have to be cognizant [of] and constantly watching.”
A C-17 on the flight line during an Air Mobility Command exercise at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, August 16, 2016.
Lyons also declined to discuss specifics when asked how many Transcom personnel had tested positive for COVID-19. But he said his command’s positive rates were “very, very low — single digits across the entire mobility enterprise.”
“That will change over time. I acknowledge that,” Lyons added. “Every day we’re making a concerted effort to understand how do we protect the force and maintain a level of resiliency to operate this global mobility enterprise for the department.”
Pigeons are one of the most annoying and disgusting parts of living in a city these days. But did you know that those winged rats were once well-decorated war heroes?
The World Wars had dramatically increased the pace of technological advancement and gave rise to early forms quick communication, such as radio and telephone. But radio was easily intercepted and telephone wires were obvious to the enemy. Pigeons, on the other hand, had a surprising 95 percent efficiency and could carry longer-form messages than those sent by telegraph.
Communications between squads and battalions were typically delivered by a runner — a troop that moved across the battlefield carrying a message. For higher level communications, signal troops would write messages on tiny pieces of paper that would then be rolled up and attached to pigeons. Pigeons have natural magnetoreceptors and an instinct to return home, both of which they use to send a message on its way.
These birds can travel great distances in a (relatively) short amount of time. Princess the Pigeon, for example, managed a 500-mile flight during World War II when she carried vital information about the British troops fighting in Crete to RAF in Alexandria, Egypt.
(Imperial War Museum)
Pigeons weren’t just sent as messengers. As early as World War I, innovators attached cameras to the birds who would then fly about the battlefield as the camera automatically snapped photographs.
As you’d expect, most photos came out terribly but, on occasion, you’d get a photo that would prove the idea wasn’t as terrible as it sounds.
(Imperial War Museum)
The most well-known story of the war pigeons is that of Cher Ami (which translates to “dear friend” from French). On Oct. 3, 1918, 195 American troops of the Lost Battalion were trapped behind enemy lines. Their position was surrounded on every side by German forces. To make matters worse, American artillery had started raining down on their position. Maj. Whittlesey affixed a message to Cher Ami and let her lose.
The message read, “We are along the road parallel to 276.4. Our own artillery is dropping a barrage directly on us. For heaven’s sake, stop it.”
Cher Ami was spotted by the Germans and shot down. Despite her wounds, she managed to take flight again and complete her 25-mile journey in just 25 minutes. She did this after taking a bullet to the chest, being blinded in one eye, and nearly losing the leg to which her crucial message was attached. Thanks to Cher Ami, all 195 men survived.
She was patched up and sent back home to the U.S. by Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing himself.
More than 500 service members from Joint Region Marianas and other units from within Indo-Pacific Command assigned to Task Force-West (TF-W) are providing Department of Defense support to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands’ (CNMI) civil and local officials as part of the FEMA-supported Super Typhoon Yutu recovery efforts, which began Oct. 25, 2018, immediately following the storm.
“We are working alongside the people of CNMI to help recover and ensure people get the assistance they need,” said Navy Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, commander of TF-W. “I am extremely proud of the hard work and dedication I’ve seen from my team, both on Saipan and Tinian, and I know they will continue to put forth their best effort until contributions from the DoD are no longer needed.”
Super Typhoon Yutu was the strongest typhoon to hit a U.S. territory and was the second-strongest system to hit U.S. soil in recorded history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Category 5 super typhoon had sustained winds of 178 mph, which devastated much of Saipan and Tinian.
A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier embraces a resident standing in line at a Point of Distribution in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Nov. 3, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. JT May III)
“Ensuring the health and safety of our family following the storm is our top priority,” said Governor Ralph DLG. Torres. “This is the worst storm anyone in the CNMI has ever seen, and we must ensure we take care of each other. We are grateful for the partnership we have with FEMA and our military partners on island to help us during this difficult time. To our federal and military partners, Si Yu’us Ma’ase for your continued support; thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Sailors assigned to Landing Craft Utility 1634, attached to Naval Beach Unit 7 forward-deployed to Sasebo, Japan, embarked aboard amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland, direct a solider assigned to the Guam Army National Guard as she drives to pick up supplies for Super Typhoon Yutu recovery effort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kory Alsberry)
More than 50,000 residents on Saipan and Tinian are coming together with outside entities to recover from the destruction caused by Super Typhoon Yutu.
“The CNMI government, American Red Cross, FEMA and the DoD are prioritizing life-saving and life-sustaining missions throughout the designated islands of CNMI,” said Bern Ruiz, FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer for FEMA, the U.S. government’s domestic emergency response agency. “We are focused on restoring community lifelines and working to ensure food, water, medical, and critical supplies are available in sufficient quantity.”
Guam Army National Guard soldiers land on Saipan via C-130 to provide support operations for those affected by Super Typhoon Yutu, Nov. 5, 2018.
During Defense Support to Civil Authorities (DSCA) operations, the U.S. military provides essential support to American citizens affected by declared natural disasters. With FEMA as the lead Federal agency, TF-W continues to partner with civil and local agencies to perform debris clearance on public lands and assist with distribution of water and food to people in need.
U.S. airmen offload a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle from a C-130 transport plane so it can be used to move supplies to the citizens of Saipan after Super Typhoon Yutu, Nov. 4, 2018.
“To the people of CNMI: we stand here with you during this time of crisis,” said Chatfield. “Your military is here to help. We are Marianas Strong.”
TF-W is a joint task force. It is divided into Task Group Saipan and Task Group Tinian, and is comprised of active duty, reserve, and Guam National Guard service members from more than 20 different units across every branch of service. Service members traveled from Japan, Guam, Hawaii, and parts of the continental U.S. as part of TF-W’s DSCA mission. TF-W is providing DoD support to the CNMI civil and local officials as part of the FEMA-supported Typhoon Yutu recovery efforts.
Russia says that it will turn its new drone, which is about to make its maiden flight, into a sixth-generation aircraft, according to TASS, a Russian state-owned media outlet.
“Okhotnik will become a prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,” a Russian defense industry official told TASS, adding that the sixth generation fighter “has not yet taken full shape, [but] it’s main features are known.”
The single-engine Okhotnik (“Hunter” in Russian) drone has a top speed of 621 mph, and might make its maiden flight in 2018, according to Popular Mechanics, citing TASS.
Popular Mechanics also published a supposed picture above of the Okhotnik, which was posted on a Russian aviation forum called paralay.iboards.ru.
Russia “may use [the Okhotnik] as a platform to develop technologies for an ‘autonomous’ or more likely pilotless drone,” Michael Kaufman, a research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.
Possible picture of the Okhotnik drone.
(Screenshot / paralay.iboards.ru)
But Kaufman added that the claims are rather questionable since TASS sourced a Russian defense industry official.
“Any technological advances from the Okhotnik development could be carried into future aircraft or drone design,” Sim Tack, the chief military analyst at Force Analysis and a global fellow at Stratfor, told Business Insider, “and this [TASS] source may be a proponent of that route.”
“As far as I see it, this is a large drone similar to X-47B, with sizable payload,” Kaufman said. Popular Mechanic’s Kyle Mizokami likened the Okhotnik to the American RQ-170 Sentinel drone.
Still, it’s unclear exactly what the Okhotnik’s capabilities are now, and what they would be if turned into a sixth-generation fighter — a concept that is still not fully realized.
The Okhotnik drone in its current capacity has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection, Popular Mechanics reported.
Most soldiers do not think much about what happens to improvised explosive devices once they are found and disarmed by friendly forces. Some may believe that IEDs are taken somewhere in a controlled environment to be safely detonated or disposed of properly.
Sometimes properly disposing of IEDs is the only thing to do.
However, most times, IEDs are sent to specialized laboratories where they can be analyzed and researched to help counter enemy forces.
The Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command here is one of the many facilities where enemy weapons such as IEDs are analyzed by highly trained and educated professionals in various disciplines of forensic science.
Denise Myers, a DNA analyst assigned to the Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command, labels containers that hold samples recovered from an item that will generate a DNA profile for a person of interest at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Aug. 9, 2018. The capabilities of the FXL-C provide critical intelligence to combat forces on ground.
(Army photo by Sgt. Carlos J. Garcia)
“The great thing within our laboratory is that everyone is really passionate about the work we do,” said Roman Aranda, the supervisory chemist and laboratory manager for the FXL-C.
“The laboratory takes the anonymity away from the adversary,” he added.
Removing anonymity from enemy forces is a crucial advantage for any combatant commander in any area of responsibility. “The lab is a culminating point for everything that comes off the battlefield in order for the intelligence community to get those products and information distributed out to those that are on the ground,” said Army Maj. Allen Spence, the officer in charge of the laboratory operations, assigned to U.S. Army Central and attached to the FXL-C.
A forensic lab can adapt and move more quickly compared to stateside and other federal laboratories, Aranda said. The FXL-C networks with explosive ordinance device units, Special Forces and often with partner nations to protect and support U.S. forces.
They work closely with the Army Criminal Investigative Division and the Terrorism and Criminal Investigation Unit, Spence said. They also work with the FBI and the International Criminal Police Organization, more commonly known as Interpol, to push out information to 192 countries.
So far in 2018, the FXL-C has closed more than 440 cases, processed more than 45,000 exhibits, documented almost 650 latent prints and found more than 70 biometric matches.
The FXL-C’s accomplishments have come through modernization and research efforts that help support its four core principles: firearms and tool marks, DNA, chemistry, and electronics exploitation.
Timothy Kesterson, a latent print examiner assigned to the Forensic Exploitation Laboratory Central Command, inspects a recovered piece of metal used as a pressure plate in an improvised explosive device uncovered in Centcom’s area of responsibility at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Aug. 9, 2018.
(Army photo by Sgt. Carlos J. Garcia)
Being deployed and closer to the battleground is an additional capability the FXL-C provides to ground forces.
“Working directly with the submitters, we can provide them what they need to know as fast as we can,” said Mark Chapman, an electrical engineer assigned to the FXL-C.
“This mission is critical to the Army, and it’s the focal point where everything meets,” Spence said.
“Our main goal is to find the smart guy that is developing these tools such as IEDs and unmanned aerial vehicles,” Chapman said. “Not so much that guy that is using them — they are still a target — but if we can find that smart guy and eliminate him, that’s the main challenge.”
The men and women of the FXL-C deployed to these forward laboratories put in long work days and sometimes nights. They also work every day of the week during their six-month tour, because they recognize the contribution it makes on the battlefield by exposing enemy forces new and old tactics.
“If it’s a new device that’s come out, we will find it and figure out how it works and we will get that information back out to the [intelligence] community,” Spence said.
It’s been nearly three years since I officially ended my Active Duty service. The first six months of my transition were rough. After speaking to a lot of fellow former service members, I realize that my experience is not an outlier, but rather, it’s the norm.
Hardest part about the military… logging into sites that don’t take a CAC card.
In the Marine Corps, I was trained to deal with all sorts of tactical stresses. But civilian stresses? Not so much. When it came to work, insurance, or liberty, I could blame Uncle Sam for everything:
“Sorry, can’t make that baptism/wedding/ graduation/ (insert family event here). I have to move to Japan for work.”
“Yeah, the healthcare system is fugged; I’m on Tricare though, watch anything good on Netflix lately?”
“I put my name on a list to live off base, but if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just be put in the tower, end of story.”
“I PCS in June. I’ll either go to Camp LeJeune or get sucked into the vortex that is the Pentagon. Not much I can do.”
In the military, every moment of my life was planned out for me, until suddenly… it wasn’t. When I “got out,” all I had was choice, and I didn’t always make the right ones. In fact, it sometimes seemed like there were no right choices–just varying degrees of wrong.
There wasn’t a big picture for me anymore.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Robert Knapp/Released)
I lost my sense of purpose.
I was actually embarrassed about these realizations for a long time. I was a Marine Corps Officer. I did alpha stuff for a living. There are literally thousands of movies made about my old job.
How could I fess up to being lost and stressed? It felt like I would be admitting defeat to an enemy that hundreds of millions of Americans deal with every single day. That’s not very alpha.
On top of the stress and state of general lostness, my sense of purpose was gone. I felt that my time in uniform had been helping the greater cause. I was helping people. At the very least, I was impacting my Marines’ lives and helping them become better every day.
It’s a lot harder to become excited about sending emails and filing TPS reports in the civilian world when it seems that the only people that are being helped are the company owners or stockholders. That’s not really a mission statement I can get behind.
I had spent the most testosterone-packed years of my life under the government’s thumb. I signed up at 17. For a decade, I was expected to be: sober, on time, awake at 0600, on-call 24/7, and never take more than 96 hours of liberty/leave.
As soon as I was let off the leash, I had some catching up to do. I slept when the sun was up and spent all night howling at the moon for months. It took a toll on my body; I gained weight, I lost energy, and I got sick a lot.
My cornerstone was gone.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels)
Worst of all, I stopped training.
Staying up late and spending all day stressing about “coulda, shoulda, wouldas” made me lose sight of the one thing I actually had control over. Me. More specifically, my training and diet.
This was the hardest-hitting of all my issues because it made everything else worse. It’s a lot harder to stay healthy if all you’re putting into your body is junk food and not moving.
Exercise is a natural stress reliever. Without it, I was living in a state of chronic stress.
I had the all too common reaction to physical training that I’ve seen dozens of times first hand. No more PFT…no more PT for me. The overwhelming majority of us do it. It’s like the military induces some traumatic memory of what exercise is supposed to make us feel like as well as how much we should hate ourselves for not working out.
It becomes a physical punishment when we train and a mental punishment when we don’t train.
Recognizing that it doesn’t have to be either one of those punishments was the key to me getting back in the gym.
I knew I had to make changes. I wasn’t in the position to come up with some grand overarching ethos that would cure all my woes. I needed something simple.
I started by making my training mandatory. I knew it made me feel better. Having stress hormones pumping through my veins 24/7 was the literal reason I felt like I was failing. Training hard helps relieve some of that cortisol and frees up the body to actually repair itself. That was the state I needed to get into regularly if I ever wanted to think clearly enough to actually turn my business into a success.
I started losing some of the extra fat I had put on, I got stronger, my performance increased, but the most important benefit of training hard was that I didn’t hate myself anymore.
My military service was a high-point in my life, but it isn’t the summit I need to plant my flag on. That’s much higher, and I have a lot more work to do. I was great then, but I’m greater every day that I decide to train and sink my teeth into another bite-sized piece of life.
The Marine Corps made it easy to feel like I was part of something bigger and helping people. Military service isn’t the only option in life to help other people though. By taking care of myself first, getting my training in line, and staying healthy, I’m able to take all the skills and discipline I gained from my service and directly apply them to my current mission.
I know that objectively my life looked fine, but internally, I felt like I was crumbling. Plenty of us live our whole lives with that feeling. I’m lucky that I managed to shift my perception after only six months of the vicious cycle.
Maybe it took you years.
Maybe you’re still in it.
Maybe you never served in the military, but you experienced a different transition that made you feel helpless, alone, and chronically stressed.
It doesn’t matter. Our perception is our reality. If your reality isn’t great, the only thing you can do is change your perception.
The best perception shifter I know of is…training hard.
If you aren’t training, start training.
If this resonates with you at all, I’d love to hear your story no matter what stage of the process you’re currently in. This link will take you to a survey that will allow you to do just that.
As the coronavirus spreads in the US, “tens of thousands” of National Guard troops could be called up to assist efforts to combat the disease, the National Guard chief said Thursday.
There are more than 2,000 National Guard members on state active duty in 27 states, but the number is expected to increase. As of last Friday, only 400 Guard members were active in just six states.
“We anticipate that number going up relatively quickly, in fact doubling by this weekend,” Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau, said at a Pentagon press briefing.
“It’s hard to tell what the exact requirement will be, but I’m expecting tens of thousands to be used inside the states as this grows,” he told reporters, adding that “this could blossom in the next couple of weeks as governors and states determine their needs.”
The National Guard has a long history of responding to disasters, including public-health emergencies such as disease outbreaks.
“We are involved in a multitude of mission sets,” Lengyel said. “The National Guard is providing medical testing, assessments, facilities, ground transportation, logistics, command and control, planners, liaison officers, and we will continue to adapt as this unfolds.”
As of Tuesday in New York, which has over 3,000 coronavirus cases, there were 900 New York National Guard troops on duty assisting at drive-thru test stations, cleaning public spaces, and distributing food, the Guard said in a statement.
“Going forward, we expect the role of the National Guard will continue to grow and evolve to meet the country’s needs during this historic pandemic,” Lengyel told reporters.
The Guard is having to implement certain force protection measures, however, as six Guard members have already tested positive for the coronavirus.
“My No. 1 priority is taking care of our National Guard soldiers, airmen and their families,” the chief said in a recent statement. “The readiness of our force will be critical to the success of this nation’s COVID-19 response efforts.”
Terrorism-related deaths around the world are down for the second straight year, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace’s annual Global Terrorism Index.
“There was a 22% decrease to 25,673 deaths [in 2016] compared to the peak of terror activity in 2014 when over 32,500 people were killed,” the IEP said in a statement.
Still, as the total number of terrorism-related deaths has decreased in the last two years, the number of countries experiencing terrorism-related deaths increased in 2016.
More countries experienced at least one terrorism-related death in 2016 than in any other year since 2001, with 77 countries affected — 11 more than in 2015.
94% of all terrorism-related deaths happened in the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia.
Four of the five countries most affected by terrorism — Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria — recorded an improvement. Nigeria saw an 80% reduction in terrorism-related deaths, as Boko Haram has been hit hard by the Multinational Joint Task Force.
Iraq was the only country of the five most affected by terrorism to record an increase in deaths, as ISIS increased suicide attacks to make up for lost territory.
The past year also had more terrorism-related deaths in OECD countries than in any other year since 1988.
Conversely, Central America and the Caribbean experienced only 12 deaths — less than 0.4% of the total number.
There may be a reason for the low number in those regions — 99% of all terrorism-related deaths in the past 17 years have happened in countries that have an ongoing conflict or high levels of political terror.
“Although these gains are encouraging, there are still serious areas of concern. The future stability of Syria and Iraq will play a critical role in determining the impact of terrorism in the years ahead,” Steve Killelea, executive chairman of the IEP, said in the statement.
The residents of Bishopville, a small South Carolina town, filled the streets, Aug. 29, for a special celebration honoring their hometown hero. The motto “Heritage, History, Home,” proudly painted on the Main Street mural perfectly embodied the town’s spirit as everyone gathered for the return of retired Major James “Jim” Capers Jr.
Maj. Capers, described by his comrades as the “utmost Marine”, is the recipient of a Silver Star, two Bronze Stars with “V” for valor, and three Purple Hearts. Most notably for his time in Vietnam, he is one of the most decorated Marines in Force Reconnaissance history. He became the first African American to command a Marine Reconnaissance company and to receive a battlefield commission.
“This is what you call a great moment in America. What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.” retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command
The townspeople cheered and waved small American flags as the celebration began with the “Parade of Heroes.” Led by the recently turned 83-year-old Capers, veterans and active duty, from near and far, marched proudly in uniform, veteran’s attire, old unit gear, or simply an American flag T-shirt.
Followed by speeches from the Bishopville mayor, South Carolina state senators and representative, retired Maj. Gen. Mastin Robeson, a letter written by the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue read by his council, and the presentation of the highest civilian award in the state, every speech or letter addressed Maj. Capers’ service beyond the battlefield.
“This is what you call a great moment in America,” former commander, Marine Forces Special Operations Command and friend of Capers since 2009. “What’s most amazing about Jim is not necessarily his combat career. . . .The greatest thing about Jim is who he is, it’s him as a man, him as a person. . . . He never asked anyone to do something he wasn’t willing to do. He always led by personal example and always led from the front.”
When asked to describe Maj. Capers in one word, common choices included hero, brave, brother, patriot, family, strong, inspiration and American. After retiring from the Marine Corps, he continued his life of service by working closely with those with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and always lending a helping hand to anyone in need. After losing his wife and son, those who consider him family are those he “adopted” along the way.
The crowd stood in awe, followed shortly by an eruption of applause as an elaborate plaque titled “The Place, The Legend, The Man” was unveiled in the town’s Memorial Park. The Place, showing North and South Vietnam; The Legend, a textured recreation Maj. Capers’ iconic Marine Corps recruitment campaign poster with the text “Ask a Marine;” and The Man, his story from the beginning in Bishopville.
Capers addressed the crowd stating he was overwhelmed with emotion. “All of the awards that were bestowed upon me this morning, I don’t deserve any of this,” said Capers. “It really doesn’t belong to me, I’m just a caretaker.”
Family and friends standing teary eyed close by, he continued to address all the service members who never had a parade held for them, the ones who weren’t taken care of when they came home, and the ones who never returned.
The celebration concluded with a gathering at the Veterans Museum, where the man who proudly became the face of the Marine Corps when he could barely stand after being wounded 19 times, the man who devoted his life to a country who continued to judge him based on the color of his skin, the man who turned strangers into family, stood in astonishment at the number of people willing to come see him on a Saturday morning.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
With the third installment of the John Wick franchise continuing to see solid returns at the box office and a fourth installment already announced, it seems clear that the Keanu Reeves’ action vehicle is bringing something to the moviegoing audience that they’ve lacked in this era of high-budget blockbusters and CGI-infused epics. I’ve gone on record in the past saying that I believe the secret to Wick’s success is in its approach to violence; melding realism with whimsy in a uniquely American fashion and producing this nation’s first legitimate response to the Brit’s premiere assassin franchise, James Bond.
What makes Reeves’ Wick Bond-like where other successful American franchises have fallen short (culturally speaking) isn’t in its similarities to the spy-franchise, but rather in its willingness to depart so openly from it. While American heroes like Jason Bourne, Jack Ryan, and even Ethan Hunt seem to emulate Bond’s style and approach to varying degrees, Wick diverges from the expected and leans hard into a stylized alternate reality where firefights require grappling skills and the homeless man you gave your change to might actually be a trained assassin hiding his Rolex from your view.
Trained combatants masquerading as homeless men is a common urban legend that may have legitimate roots in some British SAS operations.
This departure from what we’ve come to expect could have been enough to make the Wick-flicks into a Matrix-like fantasy franchise, but it’s where and how these films choose to anchor themselves in reality that makes Wick’s fight scenes so jarring. Every time you start to think you’re watching another superhero movie, the Wick series brings you back to earth with a powerful thud, grounding its over-the-top violence in reality, even when the circumstances are anything but realistic.
One scene in “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” perfectly captures this combination of gritty realism and seemingly surreal violence in a brief but dramatic fight between the titular Wick and one of the countless assassins he’s forced to dispatch along the path to redemption. As the two wrestle with one another, they fall into an indoor pool, creating separation and offering each an opportunity to level their weapons at one another.
About as effective as this.
(Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Levi Schultz)
With both Wick and his opponent still submerged under the water, the goon opens fire, releasing three rounds into the pool that, in any other film, would have hit Wick square in the chest. Instead, however, the rounds immediately begin to flutter off course, reacting to the dense water separating the two men in what is perhaps the most realistic example of water’s effect on traveling rounds I’ve ever seen depicted in film.
Wick then closes the distance between the two of them, pressing the muzzle of his weapon right into the neck of his opponent and firing, killing the bad guy and allowing Wick a precious moment to regroup.
John Wick Chapter 3 Underwater Gun Fight | John Wick Chapter 3
While movies may show bullets whizzing through the water (often with the hero dodging them as he swims away), the truth is, water is about 800 times denser than air and has a huge effect on the trajectory and energy of a round. As the bullet strikes the water, its kinetic energy immediately begins to dissipate against the resistance of the thicker medium, allowing that drag to send it fluttering off course, and usually, rendering the bullet near enough to inert to make it no threat to any nearby assassins.
“John Wick: Chapter 3” is the first movie I’ve ever seen so clearly demonstrate water’s effect on a bullet’s path without taking the time to handhold the audience to explain the physics behind it. Instead, Wick simply shows the action as it would unfold and moves on, respecting the viewer enough to assume that you’ll get it–even if it’s something you’ve never seen on screen before.
Fires weapon under water – with his own life on the line
As demonstrated by Mythbusters in an episode called “Bulletproof Water” that aired in July of 2005, just about anything you shoot at the water short of a .50 caliber round or a 12 gauge slug will disintegrate in less than three feet when fired into water. If you trust your math enough, you can even devise a rig that lets you shoot 5.56mm rounds at yourself like physicist Andreas Wahl did to prove the point, but I’m inclined to take Wick’s word for it on this one.