Syrian state media is blaming explosions hitting the capital city of Damascus on Israeli missile strikes as the Israel Defense Forces sound the alarm in the northern part of the country — the part that borders Syria and Lebanon.
SANA, Syria’s government mouthpiece, says the strikes hit Syrian government forces in Kisweh, a city to the south of Damascus. The attack came just an hour after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the end of American participation in the Iranian nuclear deal. SANA also reports the Syrian military was able to shoot two more incoming missiles down.
The Times of Israel reported a statement from Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who said the target of the strike was an arms and ammunition depot for Iranian-backed militias, namely Hezbollah. Kisweh was also the site of a permanent Iranian base, struck by Israel in the December 2, 2017, attack.
The base is just 31 miles from the Israeli border. On Sunday, Iranian Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said Iran would retaliate for the December strikes and any new strikes when deemed suitable.
“If the enemy casts a covetous eye on our interests or conducts [even] a slight act of aggression, the Islamic Republic will give an appropriate response at an appropriate time,” Bagheri said according to Press TV, media associated with the Iranian regime.
In a statement, Trump cited the reason for pulling out of the Iranian nuclear agreement — signed in 2015 — was Iranian influence in the region, calling the regime an exporter of terrorism. The BBC reports the President calling the deal “decaying and rotten… an embarrassment.”
As for restarting production on enriching uranium, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said he would consult with other signatories to the deal, including France and Germany who vowed to remain committed to the agreement, before moving forward. In the meantime, he ordered preparations to begin.
“I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels,” he said in response to the American withdrawal.
Russian lawmakers have approved a bill banning the armed forces from carrying smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets capable of recording and keeping information while on duty.
According to the bill, approved in its third and final reading in the lower house on Feb. 19, 2019, only regular phones with no cameras and without an Internet connection are now allowed in the Russian armed forces.
The bill also bans military personnel from sharing information online about their military units, missions, services, colleagues, former colleagues, and their relatives.
The bill says that “information placed on the Internet or mass media by military personnel is … in some cases used to shape a biased assessment of the Russian Federation’s state policies.”
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
The bill was approved by 408 lawmakers with no vote against.
The legislation was necessary because military personnel were of “particular interest for the intelligence services of foreign governments, for terrorists, and extremist organizations,” the Duma said.
In recent years, photos and video footage inadvertently posted online via smartphones by members of the Russian military have revealed information about the location and movements of its troops and equipment.
Human rights activists were also sometimes able to obtain from the Internet video and photographic proof of the hazing of young recruits in the Russian military.
For the longest time, the GI Bill was one of the most effective recruiting incentives. Even for recruits who had no intention of using some of the many perks, the ability to pass it on to their spouses or children was a huge factor in deciding whether or not to enlist. For some U.S. troops, that benefit is at an end.
A new policy reported by Military Times shows that the Pentagon sees the transferability benefit as a recruiting tool and that those military members with more than 16 years of service are closer to retirement than they are to being a recruit. As a result, the Department of Defense will place a cap on transferring those benefits, clearly believing the possibility of retirement at 20 years is a much better retention incentive than giving a free education to military children.
The current policy states that any member with six years’ time in service can transfer their GI Bill benefits to their spouse or children as long as they serve another four years. That will not change. Members with 10 years of service also received transferability benefits even if they were unable to extend their service for any reason. That provision will also go away – unless the member was forced out due to force-shaping policies.
“The fact that nobody was consulted about this is alarming,” Paul Frost, a retired Navy captain who serves as MOAA’s program director for financial and benefits education, told Stars & Stripes. “What else is being discussed on the changes of this bill, which is one of the key benefits that a service member gets?”
Current service members will have until that year to decide their course of action. The new Forever GI Bill does not affect this new policy and all transfer requests must still be made while the service member is on active duty.
“As a matter of principle, The American Legion is against the curtailment of veterans’ earned benefits,” said American Legion spokesperson Joe Plenzler. “We understand the minimum time-in-service for transferability eligibility, and that makes sense from a retention perspective, but the 16-year transfer or lose rule makes no sense to us as DOD has articulated it and disadvantages the veteran when it comes to the full use of this earned benefit.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the event occurred on a test vessel, not aboard the Ford as previously stated.
The Navy recently got a step closer to getting the first ship in its new class of aircraft carriers ready for combat missions with a live-fire test off the coast of California.
A drone was taken out by Raytheon’s latest integrated combat system that’s being developed for the supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, Raytheon announced Feb. 5, 2019. The event took place on a test vessel off the coast of California, said Ian Davis, a Raytheon spokesman.
The system the Navy used to take down the drone is called the Ship Self-Defense System. It integrates a myriad of equipment that will be used aboard the Navy’s first Ford-class carrier, such as sensors, missiles and radars.
Raytheon program manager Mike Fabel said in a release that the new system allowed for “seamless integration” when its sensors and missiles were put to the test.
Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)
“This first-of-its-kind test [proves] the ability of the system to defend our sailors,” Fabel said. “This integrated combat system success brings Ford [herself] one step closer to operational testing and deployment.”
At least five of the integrated-combat system’s capabilities, which are also used on amphibious assault ships, were used during the live-fire event, according to the release detailing the test.
That included a radar that searched for, tracked and illuminated the target; the Ship Self-Defense System, which processed the data and passed launch commands to the missile; and missiles that took out the targeted drone.
The Ford, which is the first in its class of next-generation carriers, is expected to deploy in 2022.
The first in the new generation of carriers, the flattop has faced a series of mechanical and technological setbacks. That has left lawmakers and the commander in chief pressing Navy officials to explain the issues, including those with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and advanced weapons elevators.
On Saturday, December 12, 2020, Santa and his elf could be seen driving around central Oahu waving and handing out candy canes to delighted children waving from their driveways as holiday music rang through the air. But this wasn’t an event sponsored by the city or county, or even a military spouses’ group. It was one couple trying to bring the spirit of Christmas to their community.
“It’s been such a hard year for the kids,” PJ Byers told We Are The Mighty. “We wanted to bring an element of Christmas magic to them.”
When PJ and Jenny Byers realized their son Declan, 3, wasn’t going to be able to see Santa in a traditional way this year, they knew they wouldn’t be the only parents feeling a little “bah humbug.”
“It was actually our neighbor’s son who is battling leukemia that got me thinking about other people’s situations,” Jenny Byers shared. “It got me thinking outside the box of my own life. It reminded me that there were other people facing different scenarios and everyone’s circumstance is different in this pandemic.”
Armed with inspiration, the Byers decided to take matters into their own hands. In early fall, the couple ordered costumes from the internet with the intention to create a magical Santa ‘drive through’ experience.
“When we first tossed around the idea for our neighborhood, we didn’t know what December was going to look like,” PJ, a U.S. Naval officer stationed at Pearl Harbor, said. “The closer it got to the holiday season, we decided we wanted to go ahead with the idea so that no matter what your circumstance was – whether you feel comfortable going to the mall with plexiglass or not – every child in our surrounding community would have the chance to see Santa.”
As the holidays neared, the Byers posted their plan in their Facebook community group to ensure neighbors felt comfortable with them driving around in costume and tossing out candy canes.
“I was shocked by the response,” Jenny said. “So many people were so excited and thankful we were offering that they started offering to help. We were just planning on doing it all ourselves. Everyone started pitching in and we got a speaker from a neighbor down the street. We got a Christmas tree donated to put in the back of the truck and several neighbors donated candy canes for us to toss out to the kids.”
Within the Facebook page, the Byers set a date and time for the Santa spectacular.
“We also posted a route so that people could gauge when we would drive by their house,” Jenny explained. “We tried to hit every street in our neighborhood and we set a specific route so that people didn’t gather. Our goal was to hit every house and not have people group together into a big crowd.”
On the day of the event, the couple festooned their truck, suited up for the big event, and began making their way through the neighborhood.
“The kids were so happy,” Jenny shared, adding that local community members had donated more than 1,000 candy canes. “They were so excited to see Santa. We followed COVID guidelines and all candy canes were pre-wrapped. Santa was wearing gloves and there was no contact. It was so sweet to see so many kids so excited and happy.”
The couple’s son, Declan, waved from a neighbor’s driveway as Santa drove by, none the wiser his dad was the man in red.
The Byers shared that beyond something fun for kids, it was a gratifying opportunity for them to contribute to the community.
“I was honored to do it honestly,” PJ shared. “So much has been taken away from the kids this year, it felt like the least we could do to make the Christmas season feel a little bit more normal for them.”
Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey’s promotion to two-star has been denied by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, the Washington Post reports. This action will effectively end the admiral’s career. The decision comes after Congress pressured the SECNAV by threatening to hold up the confirmations of other Navy officials.
Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, delivers remarks during the Naval Special Warfare Group (NSWG) 1 change of command ceremony at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John R. Fischer)
Losey, an Air Force Academy graduate and Navy SEAL, has been due for promotion since October 2015, about the time he was accused of illegally punishing three people under his command in a witchhunt for anonymous whistleblowers who reported him for a travel policy infraction. The inspector general’s investigations upheld three of the five accusations that Losey had retaliated against the whistleblowers.
Losey is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Panama, Bosnia, and Somalia. He once commanded SEAL Team 6 and served as military aide at the White House.
“The failure to promote does not diminish the achievements of a lifetime of service,” a Navy representative said in a statement. “While the full scope of his service may never be known, his brilliant leadership of special operators in the world’s most challenging operational environments…reflected his incredible talent, energy, and devotion to mission. There are few in this country whose contributions to national security have been more significant.”
Despite Congressional pressure, a board of admirals recommended Losey for promotion anyway, a recommendation rejected by Mabus. The Navy told The Washington Post that Losey’s time at the helm of the Special Warfare Command would soon end and that he would soon be putting in for retirement.
The autonomous drone would quietly travel to “great depths,” move faster than a submarine or boat, “have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit,” and “carry massive nuclear ordnance,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin translation of his remarks (PDF).
“It is really fantastic. […] There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them,” he said, claiming Russia tested a nuclear-powered engine for the drones in December 2017. “Unmanned underwater vehicles can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, which enables them to engage various targets, including aircraft groups, coastal fortifications and infrastructure.
“Putin did not refer to the device by name in his speech, but it appears to be the “oceanic multi-purpose Status-6 system” — also known as Kanyon or “Putin’s doomsday machine.”
Nuclear physicists say such a weapon could cause a large local tsunami, though they question its purpose and effectiveness, given the far-more-terrible destruction that nukes can inflict when detonated above-ground.
Why Putin’s ‘doomsday machine’ could be terrifying
A nuclear weapon detonated below the ocean’s surface can cause great devastation.
These underwater fireballs were roughly as energetic as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki in August 1945. In the tests, they burst through the surface, ejecting pillars of seawater more than a mile high while rippling out powerful shockwaves.
Some warships staged near the explosions were vaporized. Others were tossed like toys in a bathtub and sank, or sustained cracked hulls, crippled engines, and other damage. Notably, the explosions roughly doubled the height of waves to nearby islands, flooding inland areas.
“A well-placed nuclear weapon of yield in the range 20 MT to 50 MT near a seacoast could certainly couple enough energy to equal the 2011 tsunami, and perhaps much more,” Rex Richardson, a physicist and nuclear-weapons researcher, told Business Insider. The 2011 event he’s referring to is the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people in Japan.
“Taking advantage of the rising-sea-floor amplification effect, tsunami waves reaching 100 meters [328 feet] in height are possible,” Richardson said.
Richardson and other experts have also pointed out that a near-shore blast from this type of weapon could suck up tons of ocean sediment, irradiate it, and rain it upon nearby areas — generating catastrophic radioactive fallout.
“Los Angeles or San Diego would be particularly vulnerable to fallout due to the prevailing on-shore winds,” Richardson wrote, adding that he lives in San Diego.
The problem with blowing up nukes underwater
Greg Spriggs, a nuclear-weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, acknowledges that a 50-megaton weapon “could possibly induce a tsunami” and hit a shoreline with the energy equivalent to a 650-kiloton blast.
But he thinks “it would be a stupid waste of a perfectly good nuclear weapon.”
That’s because Sprigg believes it’s unlikely that even the most powerful nuclear bombs could unleash a significant tsunami after being detonated underwater.
“The energy in a large nuclear weapon is but a drop in the bucket compared to the energy of a [naturally] occurring tsunami,” Spriggs previously told Business Insider. “So, any tsunami created by a nuclear weapon couldn’t be very large.”
For example, the 2011 tsunami in Japan released about 9,320,000 megatons (MT) of TNT energy. That’s hundreds of millions of times more than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, and roughly 163,000 times greater than the Soviet Union’s test of Tsar Bomba on October 30, 1961.
Plus, Spriggs added, the energy of a blast wouldn’t all be directed toward shore — it’d radiate outward in all directions, so most of it “would be wasted going back out to sea.”
A detonation several miles from a coastline would deposit only about 1% of its energy as waves hitting the shore. That scenario may be more likely than an attack closer to the shore, assuming a US weapons-detection systems could detect an incoming Status-6 torpedo.
But even on the doorstep of a coastal city or base, Spriggs questions the purpose.
“This would produce a fraction of the damage the same 50 MT weapon could do if it were detonated above a large city,” Spriggs said. “If there is some country out there that is angry enough at the United States to use a nuclear weapon against us, why would they opt to reduce the amount of damage they impose in an attack?”
Is the Doomsday weapon real?
Putin fell short of confirming that Status-6 exists, though he did say the December 2017 tests of its power unit “enabled us to begin developing a new type of strategic weapon” to carry a huge nuclear bomb.
In a 2015 article in Foreign Policy, Jeffrey Lewis — a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies — dubbed the weapon “Putin’s doomsday machine.”
He wrote that in part because of speculation that the underwater weapon might be “salted,” or surrounded with metals like cobalt. That would dramatically extend fatal radiation levels from fallout (possibly for years or even decades), since the burst of neutrons emitted in a nuclear blast could transform those metals into long-lived, highly radioactive chemicals that sprinkle all around.
Russia and neighboring Belarus have begun a joint military exercise near NATO’s eastern flank that has fanned already deep tensions between Moscow and the West.
Moscow and Minsk say the Zapad (meaning, “West”) 2017 exercise, scheduled from Sept. 14 to 20 in Belarus and parts of western Russia, is officially set to involve 12,700 troops.
But Western officials have said the maneuvers could include some 100,000 personnel in what they call a Russian show of power amid the ongoing standoff with the West over Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was among those who voiced alarm about Zapad 2017, saying the military exercises are a sign that Russia is preparing for a serious conflict with NATO.
“We are anxious about this drill…It is an open preparation for war with the West,” she told reporters.
“This is designed to provoke us, it’s designed to test our defenses, and that’s why we have to be strong,” British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon told the BBC on Sept. 10.
Russia, meanwhile, has pushed back against what it portrays as Western alarmism over the drills, the first to be held in close proximity to NATO member states since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Moscow insists that the size of the exercise will not cross the 13,000-troop threshold that, under Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe rules known as the Vienna Document, would require it to notify other countries and open the maneuvers to observers.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused the West on Sept. 14 of “whipping up hysteria” over its military exercises.
“We reject complaints of these exercises not being transparent,” Peskov told a conference call with reporters. “We believe that whipping up hysteria around these exercises is a provocation.”
Colonel General Andrei Kartapolov, commander of Russia’s Western Military District, said in an interview published by the Russian military’s official Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper on Sept. 13 that the number of troops and hardware used in the drills “will fully comply with the Vienna Document.”
The Zapad exercise is held every four years in rotation with drills in other parts of Russia.
Western governments have responded to Russia’s 2014 seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine with several waves of economic and other sanctions targeting Moscow.
NATO has also bolstered its presence in its easternmost member states that were dominated by Moscow during the Cold War and remain concerned about the Kremlin’s intentions in the region.
Belarus, where part of the Zapad 2017 exercise is being held, borders Ukraine as well as NATO members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. The drills are also being staged in Russia’s western exclave of Kaliningrad, which lies between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Sea.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Estonia last week that the military alliance would send three observers.
“But these invitations fall short from the transparency required by the OSCE: briefings on the exercise scenario and progress, opportunities to talk to individual soldiers, and overflights of the exercise,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Sept. 6 during his visit to a NATO contingent in Tapa, Estonia.
“We will monitor the [Zapad 2017] activity closely, and we are vigilant but also calm, because we don’t see any imminent threat against any NATO ally,” Stoltenberg added.
In an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s foreign policy adviser Kostiantyn Yeliseyev said on Sept. 14 that Zapad 2017 is “very dangerous since they are taking place just near the border with Ukraine.”
Yeliseyev added that the exercises’ purpose is to “destabilize the military situation close to the border with NATO member states” and to “keep as long as possible Russian military troops and weaponry near the [Ukrainian] border and then to use them as a platform for a possible future offensive operation.”
Russia, which has repeatedly accused NATO of stoking regional tensions through enlargement after the fall of the Iron Curtain and deployments in Eastern Europe in the aftermath of the Ukraine crisis, has called Western concerns about the Zapad drills baseless, saying the exercise is “purely defensive.”
Kartapolov told Krasnaya Zvezda that in addition to the stated 12,700 troops — around 7,200 from Russia and 5,500 from Belarus — Zapad 2017 included about 70 aircraft and up to 680 pieces of military hardware, including tanks, artillery units, and ships,
During the drills, the joint Russian-Belarus operations are targeting a theoretical adversary attempting to undermine the government in Minsk and establish a separatist stronghold in western Belarus.
This scenario echoes Russian concerns over what Moscow calls Western-orchestrated political revolutions in its backyard, most notably in Georgia in 2003 and in Ukraine, where President Viktor Yanukovych, a Kremlin ally, was ousted in early 2014.
The United States and the European Union have repeatedly rejected such allegations, calling those events the result of grassroots anger against corrupt regimes in the former Soviet republics.
Watch Russia kick off the Zapad ’17 exercises in video below.
The flat hats were made from dark blue wool and commonly featured an embroidered headband of the ship name the sailor belonged to on the front of the brim. Reportedly, that feature ended in January 1941 to make it harder for adversaries to learn the what U.S. ships were in port. The ship’s names were replaced with a U.S. Navy embroidery instead.
In 1866, a white sennet straw hat was authorized to be worn during the summer months to help shield the hardworking sailors from the bright sunlight.
But it wasn’t until 1886 where a high-domed, low rolled brim made of wedge-shaped pieces of canvas was written into uniform regulation.
Eventually, the canvas material was replaced by a cheaper, more comfortable cotton. This option became popular with the sailors who wore them as they could bend the cover to reflect their individual personality — and still be within regs.
It’s unclear exactly when the term “dixie cup” was coined, but since the popular paper product made its public debut in the early 1900s, it’s likely that’s when the term was coined.
Dozens of US states have reported mysterious seeds showing up in packages from China and are warning citizens not to plant them because they could be an invasive species.
The US Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was investigating the unsolicited packages of seeds reported by at least 27 states and urged anyone who receives them to contact local agricultural officials.
“Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a press release. “Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”
The agency also said the packages were likely a “brushing scam,” in which consumers are sent packages and a company then forges positive reviews of the products.
But they could also quickly become an ecological disaster.
“An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture,” Sid Miller, Texas’ agriculture commissioner, said in a press release.
And scientists agree — that’s why the USDA has such strict rules on importing plants and other organic materials.
“The reason that people are concerned is — especially if the seed is the seed of a similar crop that is grown for income and food, or food for animals — that there may be plant pathogens or insects that are harbored in the seed,” Carolee Bull, a professor with Penn State’s Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology program, told The New York Times.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff laid out the process for military support to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during a discussion with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy Nov. 5, 2018.
The U.S. military has stepped out smartly to support DHS, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said. There are now 5,200 active-duty personnel helping Customs and Border Protection on the Southwest border.
The chairman spoke of the process solely from a military perspective. The Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection agency have the mission of securing the borders. DHS officials have said that they are worried that caravans of Central American asylum-seekers pushing up from the south may overwhelm CBP personnel. DOD was tasked to provide logistical and medical support.
Homeland Security told DOD in writing what capabilities they needed, Dunford said. DOD officials studied the request and proposed what is being deployed now. This includes logistical support, specifically to harden points of entry.
“There are soldiers on the border putting up concertina wire and reinforcing the points of entry,” the chairman said.
DOD personnel are also helping with movement and providing trucks and helicopters. DOD is also providing some medical support.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discusses the U.S. military’s support to Customs and Border Protection with students in Duke University’s Program in American Grand Strategy in Durham, N.C., Nov. 5, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“There is no plan for U.S. military forces to be involved in the actual mission of denying people entry into the United States,” Dunford said. “There is no plan for soldiers to come in contact with immigrants or reinforce the Department of Homeland Security as they are conducting their mission. We are providing enabling capabilities.”
The military is following an order from President Donald J. Trump to support the Department of Homeland Security, the chairman said.
From a military standpoint, he said, he asked a number of questions. The first was, “Do we have unambiguous directions on what the soldiers … have to do?”
The answer is yes, Dunford said, and what’s more, the soldiers understand what is expected of them.
“Number 2: ‘Is this legal?’ And the answer is, yes,” Dunford said. “And three, do they have the capability, the wherewithal to perform the task we’ve asked them to accomplish?”
The service members on the border “know exactly what they are doing, they know why they are doing it and they have the proper training and equipment to do it,” he said.
On October 6, legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer. The death of the rocker shocked not just his legions of fans but people around the globe. As a tribute to the late great, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the internet to play through his grief and offer one of the most fitting tributes to the musician.
West knew what many of us inherently understand – music unites us, both in times of hope and in times of grief. Of course, West wasn’t the only person who took to the internet to offer their tributes, but his was definitely the best.
The three-minute video of West has been viewed more than a million times. West, who is a recruiter based in Watertown, New York, instantly became a viral sensation, not just because of West’s stellar guitar skills but also because it’s so very clear that his tribute to the late rocker is so heartfelt.
West successfully manages to play half a dozen of Van Halen’s best-known guitar riffs, including “You Really Got Me,” “Panama” and “Eruption.” The Army musician reportedly told Stars and Stripes that he feels connected to both his guitar and the late musical legend.
The 26-guitar player first picked up an ax after listening to an AC/DC cassette. He was hooked and immediately wanted to learn how to play. Then, he saw Van Halen live in 2008, and that sealed the deal. He’s been playing for 13 years now, and he once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.
That tribute was never rehearsed and played flawlessly, West said, so it’s no surprise that his Van Halen tribute has had so many views and rings so true.
In an interview with the Watertown CBS affiliate WWNY, West said that even his earliest attempts at learning Van Halen’s music made him feel like a “rock god,” and that’s one of the many reasons he kept practicing.
During his Army career, West has worked as both a signal soldier and then held a post as a guitarist for the US Army Bank.
A soldier spotlight video for the US Army Recruiting Command, released in February, features West. In the video, he says that getting out of bed every morning is easier knowing he’s going to help someone, “whether it be in recruiting and helping change someone’s life and hearing their success stories or going out and playing in front of all these beautiful people.”
The Van Halen tribute video isn’t the first time that West’s guitar playing has reached countless fans. Back in 2015, he performed in a tour with the US Army Soldier Show. The Soldier Show is an annual production that visits installations around the country to feature the musical and theater talents of service members and to help raise awareness that creative positions in the Army exist. During West’s participation in 2015, the Soldier Show stopped at 74 installations.
In a time of increasing social isolation, music is one of the few shared creative outlets that can exist across all communities. Uniting through music, no matter if it’s Van Halen or Mozart, can help bring people together in a way that other media can’t. West’s touching tribute proves that viral videos don’t need to be over the top or extreme to be shared, liked, and appreciated by people all around the country. Music is all around us and helps provide us the foundation to share our stories, which is exactly what West has been able to do with his tribute to Eddie Van Halen. As a universal language, it helps unit us across cultures and can comfort people in times of need, grief, or sadness – emotions all felt when the world learned of Van Halen’s untimely death.
Once his recruiting billet is complete, West will be joining the Army pop-rock group, As You Were, for a three-year assignment.