U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

Three members of the U.S.-Russian crew have returned to Earth after spending several months at the International Space Station (ISS).

Russia’s Roskosmos space agency said the Soyuz MS-15 capsule carrying the crew chief, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, and NASA Flight Engineers Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan landed safely on April 17 in Kazakhstan.

Skripochka and Meir spent 205 days in orbit, while Morgan’s time in space lasted 272 days.


U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

Expedition 62 crew portrait with NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan, Roscosmos cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronaut Jessica Meir.

NASA

The crew was replaced by U.S. astronaut Christopher Cassidy and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, who docked with the ISS on April 10.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, instead of being brought to the city of Qaraghandy in central Kazakhstan for traditional welcome ceremonies, the crew members were taken straight to the Baikonur space complex near the city of Qyzylorda.

The U.S. astronauts will fly aboard a NASA plane directly from Qyzylorda to Houston, while the crew’s commander Skripochka will fly back to Russia.

The ISS, which orbits about 400 kilometers above Earth, is tasked with conducting scientific experiments.

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

Articles

There’s a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan (again)

The U.S. military is getting out of the nation-building business and is now focusing on killing terrorists. That is among the policy changes announced by President Donald Trump in a speech delivered at Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia, Aug. 21.


“From now on, victory will have a clear definition: attacking our enemies, obliterating ISIS, crushing Al Qaeda, preventing the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan, and stopping mass terror attacks against America,” he said, while also explicitly refusing to set a timetable or to reveal how many more troops will be deployed.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
A Special Forces soldier takes a rest during a patrol in Afghanistan. (Photo from US Army Special Operations Command)

Trump has already shown an inclination to not micro-manage and to give local commanders authority to make operational and tactical decisions. In April, the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb made its combat debut in Afghanistan when it was used to hit a tunnel complex used by the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

The president’s refusal to set a timetable is in marked contrast to the way Barack Obama handled Afghanistan. In announcing a troop surge in 2009, he also promised to start pulling them out after a year and a half. Obama also did not send the full number of troops that then-Afghanistan commander Stanley McChrystal requested.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
The GBU-43 moments before detonation in a March 11, 2003 test. (USAF photo)

President Trump, while not mentioning Obama by name, also criticized the abrupt withdrawal of American troops from Iraq in 2011, saying that the removal of troops created a vacuum and allowed ISIS to rise and take control of a number of cities in Iraq.

President Trump also had harsh words for Pakistan over the existence of safe havens for groups like the Taliban. Perhaps the most notable terrorist provided safe haven in that country was Osama bin Laden, who was killed at a hideout in Abbottabad — a city a little over 30 miles from the capital in Islamabad.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
Commandos from the 7th Special Operation Kandak prepare for the unitís first independent helicopter assault mission, March 10, 2014, in Washir district, Helmand province, Afghanistan The mission was conducted to disrupt insurgent activity. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard B. Lower/Released)

You can see President Trump’s speech below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Here’s how the Marine Corps Is fielding its new 40mm grenade launchers

The Marine Corps recently fielded its new M320A1 grenade launcher to Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, bringing the service closer to its goal of equipping all infantry units with the side-loading 40mm weapon in fiscal 2021.


The Heckler & Koch-designed M320A1 is set to replace all the Corps’ Vietnam-era M203-series grenade launchers by the fourth quarter of fiscal 2024, according to a recent news release from Marine Corps Systems Command.

Weapons officials recently trained members of II Marine Expeditionary Force at Lejeune on the new launcher.

“Reloading it and unloading it are easy compared to other systems we’ve had in the past,” Gunnery Sgt. Jason Wattle, squad adviser for the Infantry Small Unit Leader course, said in the release.

Marines learned how to assemble, dissemble and troubleshoot the weapon, before participating in live-fire exercises.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

The U.S. Army first began fielding the M320 in 2009 and later upgraded to the M320A1, which is designed to be mounted under the M4 carbine. Colorado company Capco, Inc. first received a million contract in 2015 to manufacture the weapons.

Grenadiers load and unload the M320A1 from the side of the weapon rather than from underneath it, compared to the M203A2, a “major advantage because the breach of the weapon is clearly visible and the shooter can more easily load while in the prone [position],” Capt. Nick Berger, MCSC project officer for the M320A1, said in the release.

“Additionally, if the Marine experiences a misfire and the round must be removed from the barrel, it is safer to have the barrel release from the side and retain the ammunition than to have it release and potentially fall to the ground,” Berger said.

The M320A1 has a maximum effective range of 150 meters on a point target such as a window and a 350-meter max effective range on an area target, according to the Army’s technical manual for 40mm grenade launchers.

Unloaded, the M320 series weighs about 3.4 pounds in the mounted configuration and about 6.4 pounds in the stand-alone configuration.

MCSC worked with its Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell (AMOC) to speed up the fielding process, according to the release.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

media.defense.gov

The AMOC is equipped with 3D printers, which helped quickly manufacture the special hammer strut tools needed for removing the launcher’s trigger assembly, it added.

The manufacturer is still required to produce the parts, but the program office chose to expedite this process with a 3D-printable version of the tool to field the system ahead of schedule, according to the release.

“Without AMOC’s assistance, Marines couldn’t have maintained the system if it broke and [the Program Manager for Infantry Weapons] would have had to limit the number of weapons we put in the hands of fleet Marines,” Berger said in the release. “Thanks to AMOC, more than a dozen infantry battalions, [School of Infantry East], [School of Infantry West] and The Basic School will all receive M320A1s this fiscal year.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Pentagon worries that China may have guts to use new weapons

China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” a new US defense intelligence assessment warns, but that’s not what has officials most concerned.

China has been investing billions of dollars, possibly as much as $200 billion in 2018, into its military, which Chinese leadership is putting through a massive overhaul in hopes of building a modern, world-class fighting force capable of waging and winning wars.


“Indeed, China is building a robust, lethal force with capabilities spanning the air, maritime, space, and information domains which will enable China to impose its will in the region,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley asserted in the preface to the report, noting that Beijing will likely become more insistent as its confidence grows.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

It is China’s growing self-confidence that has US officials most alarmed, not the development of various weapons platforms, be it unmatched anti-satellite capabilities, precision strike tools, or hypersonic weapons. There is a serious concern that China is moving closer to the point where it might be willing to use military force to achieve its ambitions.

“The biggest concern is that they are going to get to a point where the [Chinese military] leadership may actually tell [Chinese President] Xi Jinping that they are confident in their capabilities,” a senior defense intelligence official said on Jan. 15, 2019, just before the release of the DIA assessment, according to Defense News.

“As these technologies mature, as their reorganization of their military comes into effect, as they become more proficient with these capabilities, our concern is we’ll reach a point where internally, within their decision-making, they will decide that using military force for a regional conflict is something that is more imminent,” the senior official said.

That’s bad news for Taiwan, an autonomous, democratic territory that Beijing views as a rogue province.

The island is a top priority for Chinese leadership, according to the report on Chinese military power, the first-ever unclassified DIA assessment of China’s military might.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

Chinese President Xi Jinping.


Senior Chinese military leadership made that point very clear in a recent meeting with US military leaders. “If anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Gen. Li Zuocheng argued in a recent meeting with Adm. John Richardson, the South China Morning Post reported.

Chinese President Xi Jinping recently made clear that military action remains on the table as a possible reunification tool. Other potential flash points include the East and South China Seas.

Despite fears within the military intelligence community about the use of force by the Chinese military, it seems that there is also a consensus that China may not yet be there. “I think in a lot of ways, they have a lot that they need to do,” an official said Jan. 15, 2019, according to Stars and Stripes.

“We don’t have a real strong grasp on when they will think that they are confident in that capability,” the official added, referring to an assault on Taiwan. “They could order them to go today, but I don’t think they are particularly confident in that capability.”

China called the DIA report “unprofessional,” criticizing its findings.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard thinks it can only stop 25 percent of cocaine

During fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, 2018, the US Coast Guard intercepted just over 458,000 pounds of cocaine. That was the second most in a year on record, behind fiscal year 2017, when 493,000 pounds were seized, which topped the previous record of 443,000 pounds in fiscal year 2016.

“The Coast Guard has interdicted more than … 1.3 million pounds of illicit cocaine in the last three years, and that rolls up to be about $18 billion of wholesale value on American streets,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said Nov. 15, 2018, aboard the cutter James, which was offloading nearly 38,000 pounds of cocaine seized in the eastern Pacific Ocean.


The pursuit of traffickers on the high seas, working with other US agencies and international partners, was part of what Schultz described as a “push-out-the-border strategy” to target the smuggling process at the point when the loads were the largest and most vulnerable.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

US Coast Guardsmen board a narco sub as part of a drug seizure in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“We’re pushing our land border 1,500 miles deep into the ocean here a little bit, and that’s where we find the success taking large loads of cocaine down at sea,” Shultz said aboard the James, which seized more than 19,000 pounds of the cocaine offloaded on Nov. 15, 2018.

“When we take down drugs at sea it reduces the violence. It maximizes the impact. When these loads land in Mexico, in Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, they get distributed into very small loads, very hard to detect, and there’s associated violence,” he added.

But the Coast Guard can see much more than it can catch.

In the eastern Pacific Ocean, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, “We have visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz said. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that,” he added.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

A suspected smuggler, who jumped from his burning vessel, is pulled aboard an interceptor boat from the USS Zephyr by members of the US Coast Guard and Navy in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean on April 7, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

Schultz is not the first Coast Guard official to note the gap between what the service can see and what it can stop.

In September 2017, Adm. Charles Ray told senators that the service has “good intelligence on between 80% and 90% of these movements,” referring to trafficking in the eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean.

But “we only have the capacity to get after about 30% of those” shipments, added Ray, who is now the Coast Guard’s vice commandant.

The eastern Pacific Ocean from the west coast of South America to the Galapagos Islands and up to waters off western Mexico and the southwest US is an area about the size of the continental US, Ray said.

“On any given day we’ll have between six to 10 Coast Guard cutters down here,” he added. “If you imagine placing that on [an area the size of] the United States … it’s a capacity challenge.”

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Adam Isacson / US Southern Command)

Schultz’s predecessor, now-retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, noted a similar gap.

The Coast Guard provides the “biggest bang for the buck,” Zukunft told The New York Times in summer 2017. “But our resources are limited.”

“As a result, we can’t catch all the drug smuggling we know about,” Zukunft added. “Just last year we had intelligence on nearly 580 possible shipments but couldn’t go intercept them because we didn’t have the ships or planes to go after them.”

Schultz acknowledged that with more resources the Coast Guard could stop more, but said the service was getting the most out of its assets and its partners — including the Defense and Homeland Security departments and other countries in the region.

“We have DoD support, we have partner-nation contributions … so it’s that team sport, but there is a conversation about capacity,” Schultz said. “More Coast Guard capability, more enablers like long-range surveillance airplanes and … we’d take more drugs off the water.”

“What I’m proud about is we’re putting every ounce of energy we’ve got into this fight.”

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

The Coast Guard cutter James interdicts a low-profile vessel in the eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 22, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

A ‘resurgence’

Booming cocaine production in Colombia has kept a steady flow of drugs heading north. Smugglers use a variety of vessels, from simple outboard boats to commercial fishing vessels. The more frequent appearance of low-profile vessels, often called narco subs, points to traffickers’ increasing sophistication.

The Coast Guard has said it caught a record six narco subs in fiscal year 2016, which ended in September 2016. In September 2017, the service said it had seen a “resurgence” of such vessels, catching seven of them since June that year.

“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Schultz told Business Insider in 2018.

Narco subs can cost id=”listicle-2620799501″ million to million but can carry multiton loads of cocaine worth tens of millions of dollars in the US.

Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, estimated Colombian traffickers were building 100 narco subs a year and said the DEA believed at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on those vessels, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of them.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

A Coast Guard Cutter Stratton boarding team investigates a self-propelled semi-submersible interdicted in international waters off the coast of Central America, July 19, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)

The Coast Guard’s own estimate indicates that it can block only a sliver of the narcotics coming to the US by sea.

Asked what was needed to address the flow of narcotics, Ray in late 2017 pointed to the offshore-patrol-cutter program, which the Coast Guard has said will bridge the gap between national-security cutters like the James, which patrol open ocean, and fast-response cutters, which patrol closer to shore.

The first offshore-patrol cutter isn’t scheduled to be delivered until 2021.

Coast Guard officials have touted the capabilities of national-security cutters, like the James, which were introduced in 2008 and of which six are in service.

But the other cutters that seized drugs offloaded by the James on Nov. 15, 2018, were, on average, 41 years old, “and are increasingly more difficult to maintain and more costly to operate” Claire Grady, the Homeland Security Department’s chief of management, said on Nov. 15, 2018.

“For the Coast Guard to remain always ready to combat transnational crime and conduct its 10 other statutory missions,” Grady added, “it’s imperative to recapitalize its aging fleet.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of June 8

So, I finally got around to binge-watching Netflix’s Space Force recently. It’s nowhere near as bad as critics are making it out to be. The writers knew enough about military culture to poke fun at our soon-to-be real sister branch while simultaneously giving it a solid storyline to keep me invested. And, uh. Yeah. That’s about it. Pretty solid and I enjoyed it. I hope it gets a second season, but I hope it can flesh out some of its side characters a bit more.

If you can’t tell, my normal schtick of riffing on military news in the opener of these memes pieces is going to be a lose/lose situation this time for fairly obvious reasons. There are many more voices out there that could probably articulate the proper words for this situation far better than I could. I don’t want to take anything away from those conversations. I curate memes and practice a stand-up routine that will probably never get me to a late-night writer gig. I think I’m funny, but I’m probably not.


But that’s why we love memes, isn’t’ it? It’s a brief distraction from the sh*tstorm of daily life and outside is currently a Cat-5 Sh*ticane. It’s the slight exhale of breath at a mildly funny meme followed by a, “Heh. That sucks. I remember doing that sh*t.” That gets us through whatever we’re doing. Memes won’t undo whatever it is that’s going on around us, but it’s a good quick break from it all.

So just sit back. Relax. And remember what Bill and Ted taught us… Just be excellent to each other. Anyways, here’s some memes.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via US Army WTF Moments Memes)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via Not CID)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via I Am an American Soldier)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(meme via The Enlisted Club)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via Private News Network)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via US Space Force WTF Moments)

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the story of the last AC-130 lost in combat

Spirit 03 is a revered name in the AFSOC community, often spoken of in hushed and pained tones. It was the call sign of the last AC-130 gunship shot down in combat.

The story of Spirit 03, whilst sad, was also one of heroism — the kind you’d find in the US Air Force Special Operations Command community. It was a story of American airmen putting the lives of their brothers in arms engaged in grueling ground combat above their own.


U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
The city of Khafji before the battle (Photograph by Charles G Crow)

 

On January 29, 1991, over 2000 Iraqi troops under the direction of Saddam Hussein streamed into the Saudi Arabian city of Khafji in an attempt to draw American, British, and Saudi forces into a costly urban battle which would tie up Coalition troops until the Iraqi military had time to reorganize and get themselves back in the fight.

Just days before Khafji fell, American surveillance jets had detected large columns of mechanized Iraqi units pouring through Kuwait’s border in a mad dash towards the city. Though the warning was passed on, Coalition commanders were far more focused on the aerial campaign, which had seen the virtual annihilation of the Iraqi Air Force.

Thus, Khafji fell… but it wouldn’t be long until Saudi forces scrambled to action, barreling towards their seized city to drive the occupiers out. American and British aerial units were soon called into the fight, and in record time, engines were turning and burning at airbases within reach of Khafji while ground crew rushed around arming jets for the impending fight.

Among the aerial order of battle was a group of US Air Force AC-130H Spectre gunships — converted C-130 tactical transport aircraft that were armed to the teeth with a pair of 20 mm M61Vulcan rotary cannons, an L60 Bofors 40 mm cannon, and a 105 mm M102 howitzer. These Spectres, based out of Florida, were eager to be turned loose, planning on adding any Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles they caught around Khafji to their kill tallies.

On the 29th, Iraqi mechanized units moved towards the city under the cover of night, repeatedly engaging Saudi elements set up to screen inbound enemy ground forces coming in from Kuwait. The Spectres were already in the air, racing towards the fight and running through checklists in preparation for the destruction they were about to dish out on Saddam’s armored column.

Within minutes of appearing on station, the AC-130s leapt into action, tearing into the Iraqi column with impunity. What the enemy forces had failed to realize was that Spectres — living up to their name — operated exclusively at night so that they were harder to visually identify and track, and the gunners aboard these aircraft were incredibly comfortable with that. Spectres began flying race track patterns in the sky, banking their left wing tip towards the ground as their cannons opened up.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
An AC-130H Spectre in-flight with its guns visible towards the right side of the picture (US Air Force photograph by TSgt. Lee Schading)

 

Despite the AC-130s inflicting casualty after casualty, the resilient Iraqi invasion force continued to advance to Khafji and managed to briefly take over and lay claim to the city. American and Saudi ground combat units, including Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, and Marine artillery and infantry elements responded in kind, and launched a blistering offensive against the Iraqis as night turned to day and the AC-130s returned to base to rearm, refuel and wait for nightfall to resume hunting.

On January 30th, Spirit 03, one of the AC-130s, was loaded for bear and launched with the intent of providing Marine forces with heavy-duty close air support. Spirit 03 arrived on station and started hacking away at targets. In the hours around dawn on the 31st, the AC-130s were recalled to base when radios lit up with numerous calls for fire support from the beleaguered Marines on the ground.

An Iraqi rocket battery needed to be dealt with quickly.

The crew of Spirit 03 took charge of the situation immediately, judging that they had enough fuel and ammunition left for a few more passes. Not quite out of the combat zone, the aircraft turned around and pointed its nose towards its new target. It was then that all hell broke loose. A lone shoulder-fired, surface-to-air missile arced towards the AC-130, detonated and brought down the aircraft.

There were no survivors.

In the months and years that followed, the loss of Spirit 03 was investigated and then quickly hushed up. Some indicated that the official report blamed the crew for knowingly putting themselves in danger by continuing to fly in daylight, allowing themselves to be targeted.

Others knew that the story was vastly different—that the 14 men aboard the AC-130 knew that they were the only ones in the area able to provide the kind of fire support the Marines needed, and so paid the ultimate sacrifice while trying to aid their brothers in arms.

Articles

Air Force fighter crashes near D.C.

An Air Force F-16C jet has crashed just outside of Washington, D.C.


The aircraft went down in Clinton, Maryland, on Wednesday at about 9:15 a.m. after the pilot was seen ejecting, WJLA reported.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon flies over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve April 5, 2016. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Corey Hook)

Officials said the pilot ejected safely and sustained non-life threatening injuries.

The jet was from the 113th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard out of Joint Base Andrews, according to Military.com.

It was flying a routine training mission when it went down roughly six miles from Andrews.

This story is developing and will be updated.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Congress introduces new veteran medical marijuana bills

Less than a month into the 116th Congress, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate have introduced four bills that, if signed into law, would require the VA to conduct research on medical marijuana.

Tennessee Republican Rep. Phil Roe, a medical doctor and ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, introduced legislation Jan. 24, 2019, that would require VA to conduct research on medicinal cannabis, to include marijuana and cannabidiol — a component extract of marijuana — for post-traumatic stress disorder, pain and other conditions. The bill, H.R. 747, is similar to one introduced Jan. 23, 2019, by Rep. Lou Correa, D-California, H.R. 601.


In the Senate, Sens. Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, introduced a bill, S. 179, on Jan. 17, 2019, directing the VA to carry out clinical trials on the effects of medical marijuana for certain health conditions.

And on Jan. 16, 2019, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, introduced legislation that would create a pathway for VA to obtain the marijuana needed for research. Gaetz’s bill, H.R. 601, would increase the number of manufacturers registered under the Controlled Substances Act to grow cannabis for research purposes. It also would authorize VA health care providers to provide information to veterans on any federally approved clinical trials.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

(Flickr photo by Herba Connect)

“For too long, Congress has faced a dilemma with cannabis-related legislation: we cannot reform cannabis law without researching its safety, its efficacy, and its medical uses — but we cannot perform this critical research without first reforming cannabis law,” Gaetz said in a statement.

“The VA needs to listen to the growing number of veterans who have already found success in medicinal cannabis in easing their pain and other symptoms,” said Tester, ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, in introducing his bill.

Lawmakers have tried for years to influence the debate on medical marijuana, offering numerous proposals on veterans’ access to marijuana and its derivatives. Marijuana remains classified as a Schedule 1 drug under federal legislation, meaning they have a high potential for addiction and “no currently accepted medical use.”

In 2018, bills were introduced that would have required the VA to conduct research on medical marijuana, allowed VA providers to complete the paperwork patients need to obtain medical marijuana in states where it has been legalized and decriminalized the drug for veterans regardless of where they live.

None made it into law.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space


In August 2018, Tester, Roe, Sullivan and former Democrat Rep. Tim Walz, now governor of Minnesota, wrote VA Secretary Robert Wilkie urging him to support “rigorous clinical trials” on medical marijuana. They pointed out that VA is currently conducting two small-scale studies, adding that veterans “deserve to have full knowledge of the potential benefits and side effects of this alternative therapy.”

“The pervasive lack of research makes [providers’] jobs even more difficult, leaving VA clinicians flying blind without concrete recommendations to veterans,” they wrote.

To date, 33 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have made marijuana legal for medical purposes.

Roe said that, as a doctor, he believes medical research is needed to determine whether treatments are safe and effective.

“While data remains limited, surveys have shown that some veterans already use medicinal cannabis as a means to help with PTSD. … I would never prescribe to my patients a substance unless I was confident in its proven efficacy and safety and we need to hold medicinal cannabis to the same standards … if research on the usage of medicinal cannabis is favorable, I am confident that it could become another option to help improve the lives of veterans and other Americans,” he said.

In 2017, the American Legion, the largest veterans organization with nearly 2 million members, urged the federal government for marijuana to be removed from the list of controlled substances. The organization also adopted a resolution urging passage of laws that would allow VA doctors to recommend medical marijuana.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

This US Army soldier amputated his own leg to help save his comrades

Army Spc. Ezra Maes and two other soldiers fell asleep in their tank last year after a weeklong training exercise in Europe. When he woke up, the vehicle was speeding down a hill.

“I called out to the driver, ‘Step on the brakes!'” the armor crewman recalled in an Army news release. But the parking brake had failed. And when the crew tried to use emergency braking procedures, the vehicle kept moving.

The 65-ton M1A2 Abrams tank had a hydraulic leak. The operational systems weren’t responding, and the tank was speeding down the hill at about 90 mph.


“We realized there was nothing else we could do and just held on,” Maes said in the release.

The tank slammed into an embankment, throwing Maes across the vehicle. His leg caught in the turret gear, and he thought it was broken.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

Army Spc. Ezra Maes undergoes physical rehabilitation at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center’s cutting-edge rehabilitation center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Oct. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Corey Toye)

Sgt. Aechere Crump, the gunner, was bleeding badly from a cut on her thigh, and Pfc. Victor Alamo, the driver, suffered a broken back. He was pinned down, the release states.

Determined to get to the other soldiers to assist with their injuries, Maes said he began tugging his leg to free it.

“But when I moved away, my leg was completely gone,” he said.

He was losing blood fast, but said he pushed his pain and panic aside. He headed to the back of the tank to find the medical kit. Lightheaded, he knew his body was going into shock. But all he could think about was that no one knew they were down there, he said.

“Either I step up or we all die,” Maes said.

The soldier began shock procedures on himself, according to the release, forcing himself to remain calm, keep his heart rate down and elevate his lower body. He used his own belt to form a makeshift tourniquet.

Crump, the gunner with the bad cut on her thigh, did the same. Her other leg was broken.

They tried to radio for help, but the system wasn’t working. Then, Maes’ cell phone rang. It was the only phone that survived the crash, and it was picking up service.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

Candace Pellock, physical therapy assistant, guides Army Spc. Ezra Maes at the Center for the Intrepid, Brooke Army Medical Center’s rehabilitation center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Oct. 2, 2019.

(U.S. Army photo by Corey Toye)

Crump was able to reach the phone and pass it to Maes, who fired off a text message. The crew had spent the week in Slovakia, which borders Poland and Ukraine, during Exercise Atlantic Resolve.

The last thing Maes remembers from the crash site was his sergeant major running up the hill with his leg on his shoulder. They tried to save it, but it was too damaged.

The specialist was flown by helicopter to a local hospital. From there, he went to Landstuhl, Germany.

He’s now undergoing physical and occupational therapy at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. He’s awaiting surgery to receive a new type of prosthetic leg that will be directly attached to his remaining limb.

Despite the devastating injury, the 21-year-old said he and his crew “feel super lucky.”

“So many things could have gone wrong,” he said in the release. “Besides my leg, we all walked away pretty much unscathed.”

The soldier now hopes to become a prosthetist to help other people who’ve lost their limbs.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Baseball Hall of Famer and Army vet Tommy Lasorda passes away at 93

If you’re a Dodgers fan, you know the name Tommy Lasorda. An icon of the team, Lasorda coached the Dodgers from 1973 to 1976 when he took over as manager. He managed the Dodgers from 1976 to 1996 and was still a regular sight at Dodger Stadium from then on. He served as their Vice-President, interim General Manager, Senior Vice-President, and Special Advisor to the Chairman. Lasorda was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a manager in 1997. On January 7, 2021, he died of a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest.

Hailing from Norristown, Pennsylvania, Lasorda graduated high school in 1944. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Philadelphia Phillies the next year and began his professional career with the Concord Weavers in the Class D North Carolina State League. However, he put his baseball career on pause to serve in the military. He served on active duty in the Army from October 1945 to the spring of 1947. During his time in the service, Lasorda was stationed at Ft. Meade, Maryland. As a result, he missed out on the 1946 and 1947 seasons.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
Lasorda shows President George H. W. Bush around Dodgers Stadium (George H. W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum)

Following his Army service, Lasorda returned to baseball. He played for teams like the Schenectady Blue Jays, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Montreal Royals, the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees. He closed out his playing career in 1960 as the winningest pitcher in the history of the Royals with a record of 107-57. For this, he was inducted into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006.

In 1960, Lasorda was hired as a scout for the Dodgers. He went on to manage in their rookie and minor leagues until 1973. It was then that he was called up to become the third-base coach on the staff of Hall of Fame manager Walter Alston. Though Lasorda was offered several major league managing jobs with other teams, he turned them all down to remain with the Dodgers. In 1976, following Alston’s retirement, Lasorda took up the torch and became the Dodgers manager. During his tenure, he compiled a 1,599-1,439 record as manager, won two World Series championships, four National League pennants, and eight division titles.

Despite officially retiring in 1996, Lasorda managed the U.S. national team at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney and led them to gold. He also coached the 2001 All-Star Game as third-base coach. Lasorda remained active with baseball and the Dodgers scouting, evaluating, and teaching minor league players, advising the Dodgers’ international affiliations, and representing the team in public appearances and speaking engagements. He also visited troops at over 40 military installations around the world and took part in the 2009 USO Goodwill tour for troops in Iraq. “I bleed Dodger blue,” Lasorda famously said, “and when I die, I’m going to the big Dodger in the sky.”

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Congress passes Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act

Almost 42 years after the Vietnam War officially ended, veterans of that unpopular campaign in Southeast Asia will finally get some official recognition.


Thanks to the efforts of Republican Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey and his colleague, Indiana Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly, Congress recently passed the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, and it is expected to be signed into law by President Donald Trump soon.

On March 26, Toomey hosted a conference call with reporters to discuss his legislation.

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Retired Air Force Gen. Charles Horner was awarded a Silver Star for his service as a combat pilot flying F-105s in Vietnam. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

The Toomey-Donnelly bill also designates March 29 as “National Vietnam War Veterans Day.” March 29 marks the anniversary of the day that combat and combat support units withdrew from South Vietnam.

The Senate approved the bipartisan bill Feb. 8, and it was approved by the House on March 21. It’s now been on President Trump’s desk since March 23 awaiting his signature.

“In many cases, Vietnam veterans did not receive the warm welcome they deserved when they came home,” Toomey said. “It’s time we put a heartfelt thank you to Vietnam veterans into law.”

He added that all Americans should be grateful to those who served in Vietnam.

Related: How to honor Vietnam War Veterans

Toomey was joined on the call with Harold Redding, a Vietnam veteran from York who came up with the idea for the legislation, and John Biedrzycki, a Vietnam veteran of McKees Rocks and past national commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Redding said he worked on getting the legislation passed for 27 months. He thanked Toomey for his efforts in seeing it through.

“I can’t tell you what this means to me and all Vietnam veterans,” Redding said.

Biedrzycki said the legislation was long overdue.

“Every day is Veterans Day,” he noted.

Toomey said he would like to see more public recognition for Vietnam veterans, such as at civic events. Those veterans should be emphasized in our classroom as well, he believes.

“Teachers should teach about the Vietnam War,” the senator explained. “These were difficult times in our history.”

In a news release issued by Toomey’s office after the Senate approved the measure, Donnelly said, “This bipartisan bill would help our country honor this generation of veterans who taught us about love of country and service and who deserve to be honored for their selflessness and sacrifice.”

Here’s what other veterans groups had to say about the legislation:

— Steven Ryersbach, past state Commander/AMVETS Department of Pennsylvania: “It’s outstanding that Sen. Toomey is working to support and honor our Vietnam vets. Sen. Toomey’s overall work on behalf of veterans is commendable and we thank Sen. Toomey for all his efforts.”

— Tom Haberkorn, president of Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America: ” The Pennsylvania State Council of Vietnam Veterans of America supports the Vietnam War Veterans Recognition Act, which recognizes the service and sacrifice of those who answered our country’s call and served, with honor, in Southeast Asia.”

— Thomas A. Brown., Pennsylvania VFW State Commander: “All Vietnam War veterans deserve high honor and respect that many of them did not get when they returned home from war. Designating March 29 of each year to say ‘welcome home’ and ‘thank you’ to our Vietnam War veterans is a strong signal that America appreciates the service of these special patriots of freedom.”

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How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

After North Korea tested a salvo of ballistic missiles designed to defeat US and allied missile defenses in the Pacific, speculation has risen about a possible US decapitation strike on North Korea.


With the help of Stratfor‘s Sim Tack, Business Insider detailed how such a strike would likely play out, but in the interest of keeping the article focused, we omitted a major player — China.

Here’s how China would respond if the US were to attack the Hermit Kingdom.

China has interests in preserving the North Korean state, but not enough to start World War III over.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
DoD photo

China may not endorse North Korea’s nuclear threats towards the US, South Korea, and Japan, or its abysmal human rights practices, but Beijing does have a vested interest in preventing reunification on the Korean peninsula.

Related: China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

Still, China’s proximity to North Korea means that the US would likely alert Chinese forces of an attack — whether they gave 30 minutes or 30 days notice, the Chinese response would likely be to preclude — not thwart — such an attack.

China sees a united Korea as a potential threat.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
U.S. Soldiers move a casualty toward a designated casualty collection point (CCP) with their Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Soldier counterparts during a platoon live fire training blank iteration on Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, near the DMZ, Republic of Korea. | U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock

“A united Korea is potentially very powerful, country right on China’s border,” with a functioning democracy, booming tech sector, and a Western bent, which represents “a problem they’d rather not deal with,” according to Tack.

The US has more than 25,000 troops permanently stationed in South Korea, but no US asset has crossed the 38th parallel in decades. China would like to keep it that way.

And without North Korea, China would find itself exposed.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
A Korean Ship sails in formation during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2006, the world’s largest biennial maritime exercise. RIMPAC brings together military forces from Australia, Canada, Chile, Peru, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rebecca J. Moat

For China, the North Korean state acts as a “physical buffer against US allies and forces,” said Tack.

If the US could base forces in North Korea, they’d be right on China’s border, and thereby better situated to contain China as it continues to rise as a world power.

Tack said that China would “definitely react to and try to prevent” US action that could lead to a reunified Korea, but the idea that Chinese ground forces would flood into North Korea and fight against the West is “not particularly likely at all.”

Overtly backing North Korea against the West would be political suicide for China.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
Kim Jong-Un on the summit of Mt. Paektu. Photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 19, 2015

For China to come to the aide of the Kim regime — an international pariah with concentration camps and ambitions to nuke the US — just to protect a buffer state “would literally mean that China would engage in a third world war,” said Tack.

So while China would certainly try to mitigate the fall of North Korea, it’s extremely unlikely they’d do so with direct force against the West, like it did in the Korean War.

Any response from China would likely start with diplomacy.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Currently, the US has an aircraft carrier, nuclear submarines, F-22s, and F-35s in the Pacific. Many of the US’s biggest guns shipped out to the Pacific for Foal Eagle, the annual military exercise between the US and South Korea.

But according to Tack, the real deliberations on North Korea’s fate aren’t going on between military planners, but between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Chinese diplomats he’ll be meeting with.

Even after decades of failed diplomacy, there’s still hope for a non-military solution.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. | Via Flickr.

“There’s still a lot of diplomatic means to use up before the US has no other options but to go with a military option,” said Tack. “But even if they decide the military option is going to be the way to go — it’s still going to be costly. It’s not something that you would take lightly.”

While no side in a potential conflict would resort to using force without exhausting all diplomatic avenues, each side has a plan to move first.

According to Tack, if China thought the US was going to move against North Korea, they’d try to use force to pressure Pyongyang to negotiate, lest they be forced to deal with the consequences of a Western-imposed order in what would eventually be a reunified Korea.

“China could bring forces into North Korea to act as a tripwire,” said Tack.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
Soldiers with the People’s Liberation Army at Shenyang training base in China, March 24, 2007. | 
DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, U.S. Air Force.

“The overt presence of Chinese forces would dissuade the US from going into that territory because they would run the risk of inviting that larger conflict themselves.”

For the same reason that the US stations troops in South Korea, or Poland, China may look to put some of its forces on the line to stop the US from striking.

Related: Chinese troops are reportedly patrolling in Afghanistan

With Chinese soldiers in Pyongyang and around North Korea’s main nuclear infrastructure, the US would have to think long and hard about bombing these critical targets.

It’s pretty likely that China would try to force the “infallible” ruler’s hand.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space

Even China, a country often indifferent to international opinion that has strict prohibitions on free speech internally, wouldn’t want to stand up and back the murderous Kim regime.

Chinese forces in North Korea would “be in a position to force a coup or force Kim’s hand” to disarm, said Tack.

“To make sure North Korea still exists and serves Chinese interests while it stops acting as a massive bullseye to the US,” he added.

That would be an ideal result for China, and would most certainly preclude a direct US strike.

But even if China does potentially save the day, it could still be perceived as the bad guy.

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
President Donald J. Trump speaks with Sailors in the hangar bay aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard

Chinese leaders wants to avoid a strong, US-aligned Korea on its borders. They want to prevent a massive refugee outflow from a crushed North Korean state. And they want to defuse the Korean peninsula’s nuclear tensions — but in doing so, they’d expose an ugly truth.

US President Donald Trump has accused China of refusing to help with North Korea.

If China unilaterally denuclearized North Korea to head off a US strike, this would only vindicate that claim, and raise questions as to why China allowed North Korea to develop and export dangerous technologies and commit heinous human rights abuses.

So what happens in the end?

U.S.-Russian crew lands safely In Kazakhstan after more than 200 days in space
Chinese and US sailors observe a gun exercise aboard the Chinese Navy frigate Hengshui during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Chinese Navy Lt. Cmdr. Zeng Xingjian)

For China, it’s “not even about saving” the approximately 25 million living under a brutal dictatorship in North Korea, but rather maintaining its buffer state, according to Tack.

China would likely seek to install an alternative government to the Kim regime but one that still opposes the West and does not cooperate with the US.

According to Tack, China needs a North Korean state that says “we oppose Western interests and we own this plot of land.”

If China doesn’t exert its influence soon, it may be too late.

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