Iran just unveiled a new short-range ballistic missile on Aug. 13, 2018, just a few days after test firing a variant of the missile over the Strait of Hormuz.
The Fateh-e Mobin missile is an “agile, radar-evading and tactical missile with pinpoint accuracy,” said Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami, according to Defense News, citing the Iranian Tasnim News Agency.
“The more intense are sanctions, pressures, smear campaigns, and psychological warfare against the great nation of Iran, the greater will become our will to enhance our defensive power in all areas,” Hatami said, according to Press TV, an Iranian news outlet.
The Fateh-e Mobin, which means “Bright Conqueror,” has a range of about 483 to 805 miles, Defense News reported.
The unveiling of Bright Conqueror came just a few days after the Iranian military test-fired a Fateh-100 Mod 3 ballistic missile from an Iranian Revolutionary Guard base in Bandar-e-Jask, according to Fox News.
The anti-ship Fateh-100 Mod 3 ballistic missile flew about 100 miles over the Strait of Hormuz, landing at an Iranian test range northwest of the base, Fox News reported.
It was the first time Iran test fired a ballistic missile since March 2017, Fox News reported, but it’s unclear if the missile hit its target, Defense News reported.
The National Security Agency, the US’s largest and most secretive intelligence agency, has been deeply infiltrated by anonymous hackers, as detailed in a New York Times exposé published Nov. 12.
The NSA, which compiles massive troves of data on American citizens and organizes cyber-offensives against the U.S.’s enemies, was deeply compromised by a group known as the Shadow Brokers, which has made headlines in the past year in connection to the breach, whose source remains unclear.
The group now posts cryptic, mocking messages pointed toward the NSA as it sells the cyber-weapons, created at huge cost to US taxpayers, to any and all buyers, including US adversaries like North Korea and Russia.
“It’s a disaster on multiple levels,” Jake Williams, a cybersecurity expert who formerly worked on the NSA’s hacking group, told The Times. “It’s embarrassing that the people responsible for this have not been brought to justice.”
“These leaks have been incredibly damaging to our intelligence and cyber-capabilities,” Leon Panetta, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told The Times. “The fundamental purpose of intelligence is to be able to effectively penetrate our adversaries in order to gather vital intelligence. By its very nature, that only works if secrecy is maintained and our codes are protected.”
Furthermore, a wave of cyber-crime has been linked to the release of the NSA’s leaked cyber-weapons.
Another NSA source who spoke with The Times described the attack as being at least, in part, the NSA’s fault. The NSA has long prioritized cyber-offense over securing its own systems, the source said. As a result, the US now essentially has to start over on cyber-initiatives, Panetta said.
The leaders of the US Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees warned Turkey on April 9, 2019, that it risked tough sanctions if it pursued plans to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems, and they threatened further legislative action.
“By the end of the year, Turkey will have either F-35 advanced fighter aircraft on its soil or a Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense system. It will not have both,” Republican Sens. Jim Risch and Jim Inhofe and Democratic Sens. Bob Menendez and Jack Reed said in a New York Times opinion column.
Risch is chairman of Foreign Relations and Menendez is ranking Democrat. Inhofe chairs Armed Services, where Reed is ranking Democrat.
President Donald Trump with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the UN General Assembly in New York, Sept. 21, 2017.
(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
As committee leaders, the senators have powers such as placing “holds” on major foreign weapons sales and major roles in writing legislation, which could include punishing Turkey if it goes ahead with the S-400 deal.
The senators said Turkey would be sanctioned, as required under US law, if it goes ahead with the S-400 purchase.
“Sanctions will hit Turkey’s economy hard — rattling international markets, scaring away foreign direct investment and crippling Turkey’s aerospace and defense industry,” they said.
Turkey is a member of the F-35 development program and produces between 6% and 7% of the jet’s components, including parts of the fuselage and cockpit displays. Turkey had planned to buy 100 of the advanced fighters; it has already received two of them.
The US and fellow NATO member Turkey have been at loggerheads over Ankara’s decision to purchase the S-400s, which are not compatible with NATO systems. Washington also says Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s would compromise the security of F-35 fighter jets, which are built by Lockheed Martin and use stealth technology.
A US Air force F-35 on display at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
At the end of March 2019, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation that would block the transfer of F-35 technology to Turkey “until [the US] certifies that Turkey will not accept deliver of Russia’s S-400 air-defense system.”
Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen, one of that bill’s cosponsors, questioned Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the issue on April 9, 2019.
“The clear and resolute position of the administration is if Turkey gets delivery of the S-400s, it will not get delivery of the F-35s. Is that correct?” Van Hollen asked Pompeo during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.
“I have communicated that to them privately, and I will do so again publicly right here,” Pompeo replied.
Van Hollen then asked if the .5 billion purchase of the S-400 would trigger action under the “significant transactions” clause of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, or CAATSA.
Pompeo said he would not make a legal conclusion but acknowledged such a purchase would be “a very significant transaction.”
However the bill includes a waiver that could be applied to some countries. India, which the US has worked more closely with in recent years, has thus far avoided sanctions for its planned purchase of the S-400 system.
Turkish officials have responded to the controversy by doubling down on their plans to buy the S-400.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on April 9, 2019, that Ankara may consider buying more units of the Russian-made air-defense system if it can buy the US’s Patriot missile system, which the US has previously offered to sell Turkey.
Cavusoglu also said that if the F-35s weren’t delivered, then he “would be placed in a position to buy the planes I need elsewhere.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reportedly said that Ankara could acquire the S-400s earlier than planned.
“The delivery of the S-400 missile-defense system was to be in July. Maybe it can be brought forward,” Turkish media quoted him as saying on April 10, 2019, after a trip to Russia.
Reporting for Reuters by Patricia Zengerle; editing by David Gregorio
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
China protested Friday the Trump administration’s $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan as a violation of its sovereignty and demanded that the deal be cancelled.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Lu Kang said the sale ran counter to China’s vital security interests and would be a gross violation of the stated commitment by the U.S. to a “one China” policy.
“We stress that nobody could sway our determination to uphold our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Lu said at a regular daily briefing. “We oppose any external interference in our internal affairs.”
Lu’s remarks were aimed at the $1.42 billion sale of arms to Taiwan announced Thursday by the U.S. State Department.
The package reportedly included technical support for early warning radar, anti-radiation missiles, torpedoes and components for SM-2 (Standard Missile-2) missiles, one of the U.S. Navy’s primary anti-air weapons. The sales also included AGM-154 Joint Standoff air-to-surface missiles.
In announcing the deal, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the sale did not violate the Taiwan Relations Act that governs U.S. contacts with the island off China’s coast formerly known as Formosa.
“It shows, we believe, our support for Taiwan’s ability to maintain a sufficient self-defense policy,” Nauert said, adding that “There’s no change, I should point out, to our ‘one-China policy.'”
The last U.S. arms sale to Taiwan, approved during the Obama administration in December 2015, was worth $1.8 billion and included two de-commissioned U.S. Navy frigates, minesweepers, Stinger missiles, and anti-armor and anti-tank missiles.
The State Department and the Pentagon had approved another $1 billion arms sale in December of 2016 similar to the one signed Thursday, but President Barack Obama held off on final approval to allow the incoming Trump administration make the decision.
China considers Taiwan to be part of its territory and has long opposed any arms sales to the self-governing island. China has a policy of eventual reunification, and has not ruled out force to achieve it.
The arms sale announcement came at an awkward time for Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was visiting Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of British rule.
Taiwan was also rattled by the presence in nearby waters of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning, the only carrier in China’s growing fleet.
China announced Monday that the Liaoning, accompanied by two destroyers and a frigate, had left its homeport in Qingdao to join the Hong Kong events on a course that would take it through the Taiwan Straits.
U.S. relations with China — and the severing of formal diplomatic ties to Taiwan — were the outgrowth of President Richard Nixon’s “opening to China” in the 1970s. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter established formal relations with China.
Also in 1979, the U.S. Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act guaranteeing U.S. support for Taiwan and aid in its self-defense. The unofficial U.S. presence in Taiwan is maintained via the American Institute in Taiwan, a private corporation which carries out informal diplomatic activities.
Turkey’s defense minister said Ankara was preparing for potential U.S. sanctions over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defense systems, but also spoke of what he called a growing “rapprochement” with Washington over the issue.
The United States has demanded that Ankara call off the deal to purchase the Russian system, and NATO allies have also expressed concerns about the potential threat to U.S.-made F-35 fighter jets.
Washington has warned Ankara that it could invoke the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and impose financial penalties should Turkey go ahead with the deal.
An F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.
(U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin by Michael Jackson)
Speaking to reporters late on May 21, 2019, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that during recent talks with Washington, Ankara had seen a “general easing and rapprochement” on the issue.
But he said Turkey was “making preparations” and “considering all options” against possible U.S. sanctions over the purchase.
Akar also said Turkish military personnel were receiving training to operate the S-400 missile defense system.
S-400 missile defense system.
(Flickr photo by Dmitriy Fomin)
Washington has said it could withdraw an offer to sell Ankara the U.S. equivalent — the Patriot anti-missile system — and warned that Turkey risks being ejected from the F-35 fighter-jet program.
Turkey is a member of the consortium involved in the production of the jet and a buyer.
The admiral commanding America’s Pacific naval fleet says he will retire.
Admiral Scott Swift made the shocking announcement in a statement released late Sept. 25.
In the statement, Swift revealed he had been informed that he would not rise to become Commander of United States Pacific Command, a usual advancement for Navy admirals who commanded the Pacific Fleet.
“I have been informed by the Chief of Naval Operations that I will not be his nominee to replace Adm. [Harry] Harris as the Commander, U.S. Pacific Command,” he said. “In keeping with tradition and in loyalty to the Navy, I have submitted my request to retire.”
Admiral Swift’s career included service with Attack Squadrons 94 and 97, flying the LTV A-7 Corsair. He saw combat during Operation Preying Mantis, and commander Air Wing 14 and Carrier Strike Group 9. His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, and Air Medal with Combat V.
In recent months, the Pacific Fleet as rocked by the collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) that killed a total of 17 sailors and seriously damaged both vessels, which were forward-based as part of Destroyer Squadron 15.
A number of other officers have been relieved of duty in the wake of those collisions, including Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet, and the commanders of Destroyer Squadron 15 and Task Force 70.
When President Donald Trump threatened to send missiles at Syria — despite Russia’s promises to counterattack— all eyes turned toward the US Navy’s sole destroyer in the region. But that may have been a trick.
Pundits openly scoffed at Trump’s announcement early April 2018, of the US’s intention to strike, especially considering his criticism of President Barack Obama for similarly telegraphing US military plans, but the actual strike appeared successful.
In April 2017, two US Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean steamed into the region, let off 59 cruise missiles in response to gas attacks by the Syrian government, and left unpunished and unpursued.
But this time, with the US considering its response to another attack against civilians blamed on the Syrian government, Russian officials threatened to shoot down US missiles, and potentially the ships that launched them, if they attacked Syria. A retired Russian admiral spoke candidly about sinking the USS Donald Cook, the only destroyer in the region.
When the strike happened April 14, 2018, local time, the Cook didn’t fire a shot, and a source told Bloomberg News it was a trick.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Edward Guttierrez III)
Instead, a US submarine, the USS John Warner, fired missiles while submerged in the eastern Mediterranean, presenting a much more difficult target than a destroyer on the surface. Elsewhere, a French frigate let off three missiles.
But the bulk of the firing came from somewhere else entirely: the Red Sea.
Near Egypt, the USS Monterey, a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, fired 30 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the USS Laboon, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, shot seven, accounting for about a third of the 105 missiles the US said were fired.
Combined with an air assault from a US B-1B Lancer bomber and UK and French fighter jets, the attack ended up looking considerably different from 2017’s punitive strike.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Peter Reft)
Photos from the morning of the attack show Syrian air defenses firing missile interceptors on unguided trajectories, suggesting they did not target or intercept incoming missiles.
“No Syrian weapon had any effect on anything we did,” Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told reporters of the strike on April 14, 2018, calling the strike “precise, overwhelming, and effective.”
Syria said it shot down 71 missiles, but no evidence has surfaced to back up that claim. The US previously acknowledged that one of the Tomahawks used in last year’s attack failed to reach its target because of an error with the missile.
Among the stolen intel were 110,000 documents, videos, and photographs that Netanyahu claimed showed Iran lied about its nuclear ambitions and deceived powers involved in the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA.
Netanyahu said that stash was made up of 55,000 pages of documents and another 55,000 files stored on 183 CDs. He said the haul collectively weighed half a ton.
Netanyahu didn’t confirm how Mossad, known for its stealthy missions, obtained the material, but did say they had been stored in “a dilapidated warehouse.”
“Few Iranians knew where it was — very few,” Netanyahu said.
And now more details on the Iran mission have since emerged. A senior Israeli official told The New York Times that Mossad first discovered the unnamed warehouse in Tehran in February 2016, and began its surveillance from there.
The official also claimed that Mossad agents broke into the building one night in January 2018, took the 110,000 documents, and returned them to Israel that same night.
Iranian media has remained quiet on the raid, likely embarrassed that the spy agency stole an incredible number of documents under the cover of night.
But the value of the stolen documents that have so far been made public is up for debate.
While the White House said Netanyahu’s presentation provided “new and compelling details” about Iran’s past behaviours, some experts disagreed.
“Everything he said was already known to the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] and published,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, tweeted.
“There is literally nothing new here and nothing that changes the wisdom of the JCPOA.”
JCPOA stands for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and is the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Six Soldiers belonging to C Troop, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) received the Soldier’s Medal during a ceremony last month for a daring rescue.
On Nov. 28, Staff Sgt. Beau Corder, Staff Sgt. Richard Weaver, Staff Sgt. Engel Becker, Sgt. Damon Seals, Spc. Christopher White and Pfc. Ryan Brisson were recognized by Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff, for their heroic actions following a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crash, Jan. 31, on Fort Campbell.
“I’m very humbled to be a part of this,” said Milley. “I’ve been in the Army for 40 years and I’ve only seen a few Soldier’s Medals. It’s a very rare thing. What you (Soldiers) did took tremendous courage; you knew it was very likely you would be hurt yourself, but you did it anyway. You make anyone who has been associated with the 101st enormously proud.”
The aircraft, flown by four crew members from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), crashed into a forest on the installation shortly after takeoff. According to eyewitness accounts, the location of the crash, and the fact that the aircraft suffered major fuselage damage and was inverted, created a complex scene.
“The way it landed upside down in the ravine made it very difficult to access the crew. It also began to catch fire very quickly,” said 1st Sgt. Adolfo Dominguez, C Troop, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment senior enlisted leader. “The whole experience opened our eyes that these emergencies can happen. But it was amazing to see the Soldiers’ mentality of ‘I will do anything I have to do’ in order to save these pilots’ lives.”
A post-crash fire soon engulfed the aircraft wreckage in heavy smoke and flames. The responding Soldiers used water, fire extinguishers and soil to control the fire, allowing them to remove and treat three of the injured crewmembers. They then performed multiple immediate and inventive actions to remove the fourth trapped crew chief, ultimately freeing him from the still-burning wreckage. All of their actions were taken with full understanding of the significant risk to their own safety, and contributed directly to saving the lives of their fellow Soldiers that day.
“What this unit did, from the time the incident happened, was pure agility and pure instinct,” said Lt. Col. Adisa King, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment commander. “It is what they do on a daily basis. When you know that your brother is down, nothing is going to stop you. We talk about leaving no Soldier behind, and they proved that. It didn’t matter what it took to get that crew and those pilots out, these Soldiers were going to do it.”
The Soldier’s Medal is the Army’s highest peacetime award for valor. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22, the directive that outlines military awards and decorations, the performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.
Col. Derek Thomson, 1st Brigade Combat Team commander, described the rarity of the Soldier’s Medal and described the actions taken by the Soldiers that day in January.
“It is given for bravery and valor in a non-combat situation; this award was created for exactly the kind of act these Soldiers performed,” said Thomson. “Very few are awarded each year. This is a remarkable recognition. These Soldiers knew they had only seconds to react as the aircraft became engulfed in flames. The fact that these six individuals stuck with it no matter what, putting the lives of others ahead of their own, is extremely special.”
The Soldiers recognized were happy to receive this notable commendation, but at the time of the incident it was the furthest thing from their mind.
“At first, none of us really thought about it. We were just happy that everyone survived,” said Corder. “We were just doing our job, we wanted to save them.”
Although six individual Soldiers received the medal, the entire unit responded to the crash. Some commented that they were just a member of a great team.
“I’m happy to be receiving it, but it was a combined effort of everybody,” said White. “I don’t think I’m any more special than anyone else that was out there.”
In attendance at the ceremony were friends, families and fellow Soldiers of the awardees. But one individual had an extremely close connection to the incident. Spc. Grant Long, 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade crew chief, was on-board the helicopter and injured in the incident. In a touching moment, Milley invited Long to help him pin the medals on the Soldiers who saved his life.
U.S. and coalition forces have increased airstrikes and artillery fire against Islamic State fighters in support of Operation Roundup, a new offensive aimed at defeating the terrorist group in eastern Syria.
Syrian Democratic Forces have resumed offensive ground operations against the remaining concentrations of terrorist fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on the eastern side of the Euphrates River, British Army Maj. Gen. Felix Gedney, deputy commander of strategy and support for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, told reporters at the Pentagon on May 8, 2018.
In the first phase of the operation, the SDF is securing the southeast portion of the Syrian-Iraqi border, “eliminating ISIS resistance and establishing defensive positions” in coordination with the Iraqi Security Forces, operating on Iraq’s side of the border, Gedney said.
Since May 1, 2018, U.S. and coalition forces have carried out 40 strikes against ISIS targets, he said.
“Coalition forces are supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces maneuver by conducting air, artillery and mortar strikes against ISIS targets,” Gedney said, describing how the increase in strikes have destroyed “eight ISIS-held buildings, six logistical assets, two explosive factories and two weapons caches.”
Gedney said it is difficult to estimate how many ISIS fighters hold ground in eastern Syria, but said it is “too many.” He also could not estimate how long Operation Roundup would take to complete.
“It is absolutely clear that those final areas are going to be a difficult fight,” he said, adding that “we are going to continue our aggressive pace of operations in our own strikes” until the areas are cleared.
There are signs that the new offensive is already having a “devastating effect on ISIS,” Gedney said.
“Observations from eastern Syria suggest that morale among ISIS fighters is sinking,” he said. “Frictions are mounting between native and foreign-born ISIS fighters as ISIS’ privileged leadership continues to flee the area, leaving fighters with dwindling resources and low morale.”
Despite the progress that has been made east of the Euphrates, coalition officials are concerned that ISIS fighters seem to have more freedom of movement on the western side of the river, which is under the control of pro-Syrian regime forces, Gedney said.
“We remained concerned about ISIS’ freedom west of the river Euphrates; it seems they have some freedom of action still because they have not been properly defeated by the pro-regime forces,” he said.
Gedney stressed, however, that the “coalition will relentlessly pursue ISIS, wherever they are, until they are defeated.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
The U.S. military is famous for several things. The food in the DFACs, early morning PT and extreme grooming standards, just to name a few. One of the most underrated things about the military though is the sense of humor amongst troops in the field.
One gun crew from the 1st Armored Division certainly lived up to that legacy of laughs this week after a picture was posted on the division’s website showing that soldiers had named their M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer “Coronavirus.”
We’re taking preventative measures in the field as we continue to train and protect the safety of our Soldiers and Leaders.
As a force we must stay alert as we train to be lethal in combat.
#IronSoldiers #BulldogBrigade #COVIDー19 #IIICorpsCOVID19pic.twitter.com/V79CftGvf1
Yes, the virus currently circling its way around the globe and through the media has made its way into the psyche of a few soldiers.
But these 13Bs are hardly the first to christen their weapons with names. Earlier this year, an M1 Abrams belonging to the 3rd Infantry Division, was spotted sporting the name “Baby Yoda.” Other colorful names include “Change of Regime,” “Bull Dog II”, and “New Testament.”
The traditional isn’t limited to U.S. soldiers either.
In fact, soldiers have been naming their weapons since at least medieval times, when knights gave names to their trebuchets. And today, visitors to historic battlefields like Gettysburg can still make out the names etched on the back of a few artillery pieces.
As for the coronavirus, of COVID 19 as it is officially called, at press time, there are currently 11,500 cases in the U.S., according to a report from the Washington Post.
The U.S. military is on the frontlines of the country’s pandemic response. In addition to the thousands of National Guardsmen currently activated, President Donald Trump recently tasked the U.S. Navy to deploy both of its hospital ships to treat COVID 19 patients, reports Reuters.
The Navy operates two hospital ships, the U.S.N.S. Comfort and the U.S.N.S. Mercy. Although the ships belong to the Navy, the deck crew is usually manned by civilian members of Military Sealift Command, while the health care staff is comprised of military personnel.
The two ships, which were converted to floating hospitals from oil tankers in the 1970s, are the military’s only such vessels, with one covering the Atlantic and the other the Pacific.
After battling night terrors and the pain and anxiety of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for decades, an Air Force veteran found his lifeline at the end of a dog leash.
Ryan Kaono, a support agreement manager in the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, vividly remembers a few years ago when he would regularly find himself in the depths of fear and despair; reliving troubling images from deployments as a security forces military working dog handler and later as a logistics specialist.
Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said she felt helpless, with no idea how to help him.
“You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them. It’s a terrible feeling watching someone suffer through PTSD,” she said.
Those memories seemed so hopeless at times that Kaono attempted to end his life.
After taking numerous prescription drugs in 2010 in a bid to permanently end his pain, Kaono finally reached out for help and started receiving the support and understanding he needed.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
“I had previously attempted (suicide) but this time I actually sought treatment,” Kaono said.
After being hospitalized for his suicide attempt, the veteran began a treatment program at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Los Angeles.
“When I was first diagnosed, group therapy didn’t work for me,” the Hawaii-native said, “so I actually left the group and started volunteering at a (German Shepherd) rescue in California.”
Dogs had always played a part in Kaono’s life from when, as a toddler, his family’s old English sheepdog, Winston, picked him up by the diaper to deliver a wandering Ryan back to his front yard.
“I realized (while volunteering at the rescue) that the interaction with the dogs really made me feel better,” he said.
Not content to just help himself, Kaono worked with the VA hospital to help other veterans interact with the rescue dogs and promoted animal therapy.
“The VA does equestrian therapy where they’ll take veterans to horse ranches and they get to ride horses … same premise, animal therapy works wonders,” he said.
It wasn’t long before Kaono, with a wealth of dog training knowledge from his time as a MWD handler, had veterans asking for help to train dogs so they could have their own service animals.
This support was especially important to Kaono since the average wait time for a VA-trained service dog can exceed two to five years.
“By then, we’ve already lost between 9,000 – 20,000 people due to suicide in a five-year period,” he said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
That’s based on a 2013 Department of Veterans Affairs study that showed roughly 22 veterans were dying by suicide every day from 1999-2010.
“That’s just way too many,” he said.
During this time, while helping to train dogs for other veterans, Kaono decided to add his name to the list for a VA-issued service dog.
After a two-year wait, he was notified they were ready to pair him with a dog. During the interview process, however, he was denied an animal because he already had a couple of dogs as pets and service dogs can’t be added to a home unless it is pet free.
“I was disheartened,” he said, but he continued to help train animals for other veterans.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, there is no mandated certification for a service dog and it allows people to train their own animals. So three years ago, when Kaono moved to San Antonio, his wife encouraged him to work on training his own service dog.
“I thought I’d just take one of the dogs we had at our house and train it to be a service dog,” Kaono said, until Alessa pointed out a Chihuahua probably wasn’t the best choice for his particular needs.
He then decided to work with San Antonio’s Quillan Animal Rescue to find a potential service dog. The rescue suggested a Doberman at first but Kaono wasn’t interested in such a large animal. One of the workers then recommended a mixed breed animal named Romeo that was in need of rehabilitation after being hit by a car. The only drawback was Romeo had already been promised to another family in California after his recovery.
“I said yes because that would give me the opportunity to work with a dog again,” Kaono said.
That was February 2016 and by May, he and Romeo were inseparable, Kaono said.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
By June, Romeo had recovered and he was sent to California. Kaono said he was heartbroken.
“I secluded myself. I didn’t want to go to work. I took sick leave … I just didn’t want to be around anybody and make connections with people like I did with him and have them shattered,” he said.
“Romeo was kind of a fluke,” he added, because the California family decided they couldn’t keep him so Romeo returned to San Antonio.
When Romeo arrived back in Texas, Kaono had a trainer from Service Dog Express assess him. The local organization works with veterans to train service animals. Romeo passed the evaluation and was accepted as a service dog in training.
Kaono and the trainer then used techniques from Assistance Dogs International, considered the industry standard for dog training, to ready Romeo. Two months later, Romeo took the organization’s public access test, the minimum requirement for service dog training, and “blew the test away,” Kaono said.
He’s been going to work with the AFIMSC employee every day since passing his assessment on Aug. 1, 2016.
For Kaono, Romeo is much more than a four-legged companion. He’s a lifesaver who is trained in various disability mitigating tasks to help the veteran cope with PTSD.
These include deep pressure therapy where Romeo climbs into Kaono’s lap when he can sense anxiousness, agitation or frustration. He then applies direct pressure to the veteran’s body, considered a grounding technique, to bring focus to him instead of what’s causing the anxiety or agitation.
“Before him, I would have to sit there through it until it essentially went away,” Kaono said. “Now within two minutes I’m back to normal. I’m back to being productive again.”
Romeo also applies blocking techniques when the duo are in a group or crowded space to create a buffer between Kaono and those around him.
“People are cognizant of him being there so they give me the space to actually feel comfortable,” Kaono said.
The service dog also fosters personal interaction, Kaono added.
“I don’t make solid relationships with people,” he explained. “I would prefer to be and work alone. Having Romeo actually forces me to interact with people on a regular basis. He causes people to talk about things that aren’t necessarily work related. He’s a calming factor, not just for me.”
Romeo has completely changed Kaono’s life to allow him to better “live” with PTSD, Alessa said.
“I’m sure many people say this about their dog or service dog but Romeo’s truly a godsend,” she said. “He has changed and impacted our lives in so many ways.
“He’s gotten Ryan out more when it comes to crowds,” Alessa said, and Romeo is Kaono’s “sidekick and stress reliever at work.”
When the duo get home, Alessa added, Romeo “is just like any other dog … he loves to play and loves treats, especially ice cream.”