A Japanese warship, using a US ship-based anti-missile system, successfully intercepted and destroyed an incoming ballistic missile over the Pacific Ocean on Sept. 11, 2018, the Missile Defense Agency revealed in an official statement.
An upgraded Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Atago-class guided-missile destroyer detected and tracked a simple, separating ballistic missile launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii. Responding to the threat, the ship’s onboard Aegis Weapon System tracked it and launched a Standard Missile-3 Block IB Threat Upgrade missile that intercepted it mid-flight.
“This success provides confidence in the future capability for Japan to defeat the developing threats in the region,” Lt. Gen. Sam Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said in a statement apparently referencing Beijing’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and Pyongyang’s program, which the regime suspended after the Trump-Kim talks and which has involved test-firing ballistic missiles over Japan.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force “is developing and testing several new variants of missiles and developing methods to counter ballistic missile defenses,” the Pentagon explained in its 2018 report on Chinese military power.
U.S. President Donald Trump met with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un on June 12, 2018, in Singapore.
“We are committed to assisting the government of Japan in upgrading its national missile defense capability against emerging threats,” Greaves said, according to Reuters.
The latest intercept will enhance the overall capabilities of Japan’s Atago-class destroyers, which have been limited to air defense while the Kongo-class guided-missile destroyers have employed ballistic missile defense systems, Tom Karako, a missile defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote on Twitter after news of the successful test.
The US and Japan are jointly developing another interceptor missile — the SM-3 Block IIA, but testing has been a little hit or miss lately. The system has been tested three times since the start of 2017, and it has only had one successful intercept.
The Missile Defense Agency called Sept. 10, 2018’s test a “significant milestone in the growing cooperation between Japan and the U.S. in the area of missile defense.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The first African-American to earn aviator wings in the Marine Corps and the first one to receive a brigadier general star in the Corps has been honored as the namesake of the Navy’s upcoming DDG 121, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen, Jr. joined the Navy in 1950 and was commissioned as a Marine officer in 1952. He served in Korea and Vietnam before retiring in 1988. Before his retirement, he was the senior-most aviator in the Marine Corps and the Department of the Navy.
During his time in Korea and Vietnam, Petersen flew over 350 combat missions. He flew more than 4,000 hours during his career and was shot down over Vietnam in 1968. His awards include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
“The courage and perseverance of Lt. Gen. Petersen throughout his distinguished and ground-breaking career make him especially deserving of this honor,” Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said. “Those who serve aboard DDG 121 will, for decades, carry on the storied legacy of this Marine Corps hero.”
“Jerry Stiller’s comedy will live forever,” shared Jerry Seinfeld of the late Gerald Isaac “Jerry” Stiller, who was perhaps best known for his Emmy-nominated role of George Costanza on the iconic television sitcom Seinfeld.
Stiller’s son, actor Ben Stiller, tweeted the news of his father’s passing early on Monday May 11, 2020, writing that his father had died of natural causes.
I’m sad to say that my father, Jerry Stiller, passed away from natural causes. He was a great dad and grandfather, and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. He will be greatly missed. Love you Dad.pic.twitter.com/KyoNsJIBz5
“He was a great dad and grandfather, and the most dedicated husband to Anne for about 62 years. He will be greatly missed,” the actor wrote.
Stiller was born in Brooklyn on June 8, 1927 to Bella and William Stiller. Long before he would play the quick-tempered father of Festivus Frank Costanza, Stiller served in the Army during World War II.
After the war, Stiller utilized the G.I. Bill to attend Syracuse University, graduating with a degree in speech and drama in 1950. Shortly after, he returned to New York City where, in 1953, he met his future wife, Anne Meara.
“I really knew this was the man I would marry,” Meara told People in 2000. “I knew he would never leave me.”
She was right. The couple tied the knot in 1954. Stiller and Meara would go on to become a successful comedy team starring in everything from television variety programs to radio commercials to the 1986 television sitcom The Stiller and Meara Show. They were married for over 60 years, until her death on May 23, 2015. They had two children together, Ben and actress Amy Stiller.
For his role of Frank Castanza, Stiller was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series in 1997 and garnered an American Comedy Award for Funniest Male Guest Appearance in a TV Series in 1998.
Jerry Stiller on being cast on Seinfeld – TelevisionAcademy.com/Interviews
Stiller nearly turned his Seinfeld role down. In the entertaining video above for the Television Academy, Stiller shared how he won the iconic role — and turned it into one of the most memorable parts in TV history.
Though he had reportedly intended to retire after Seinfeld, Stiller joined the cast of The King of Queens in order to play the cranky father figure Arthur Spooner from 1998 until 2007.
“This was an opportunity for me, for the first time, to test myself as an actor because I never saw myself as more than just a decent actor,” said Stiller of the role.
Stiller’s robust career expanded beyond television, from Broadway to the big screen to a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which he also shared with his wife, Anne. After his passing, those who knew him took to social media to share fond memories of their time together.
The rest of us will always remember him as a man who could make us laugh. Rest in peace, Soldier.
The truth is that this happened all the time with Jerry Stiller. He was so funny and such a dear human being. We loved him. RIP Jerry Stiller.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2LdHH0hmHY …
Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.
In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.
“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.
The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.
“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”
The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.
“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.
“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.
The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.
The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.
In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.
The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.
“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”
As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.
In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.
In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”
In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.
Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Russian Aerospace Forces have conducted the first successful test firing of the air-launched Kinzhal (Dagger) hypersonic missile according to state sponsored media outlets.
The missile, supposedly named Kh-47M2 and referred to as the “Kinzhal,” was fired from a modified MiG-31BM (NATO reporting name “Foxhound”) over Southwest Russia. A report published on Facebook by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said the “unique” MiG-31 that fired the missile had been “modernized.” Rogozin did not specify what modifications or “modernized” meant.
In video and still photos, portions of the weapon seen in the test launch are obscured by imaging software, presumably for security purposes.
The official news release from the Russian Aerospace Forces read in part, “MiG-31 jet of the Russian Aerospace Forces conducted a test launch of hypersonic aviation and missile system Kinzhal in a set district. The launch was successful, the hypersonic missile hit the designated target at the field.”
Kinzhal is claimed to be a strategic air-to-surface strike missile. The missile is claimed to have maneuverable flight characteristics not typically seen in hypersonic, solid fuel missiles. Observers of Russian missile programs have voiced skepticism about Russia’ performance claims, however. According to Russians and reference sources, the Kinzhal missile has a top speed of Mach 10 and maintains some ability to maneuver throughout its performance envelope, including at hypersonic speed. If accurate, these capabilities could make the Kinzhal difficult to intercept by anti-missile systems. The missile is reported to have a range of 1,200 miles (approximately 2,000 kilometers). This, added to the reported 1,860-mile unrefueled range of the MiG-31BM long range, supersonic interceptor, gives the Kinzhal potentially intercontinental strike capability. The missile is also reported to be nuclear-capable and able to hit ground as well as naval targets.
Writer and analyst Kelsey T. Atherton wrote in Popular Mechanics, “Don’t believe the hype about Russia’s hypersonic missile” back in June 2017 when discussing Russia’s Zircon missile, a sea launched hypersonic missile. The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway compared the new Kinzhal with Russia’s existing Iskander short-range ballistic missile in his analysis.
This first Russian Kinzhal test comes several months after the Indian Brahmos-A hypersonic missile test from November 22, 2017. The reported performance of the Indian Brahmos was a top speed of Mach 7 and a range of 290 kilometers. The Indian hypersonic missile was launched from a modified Sukhoi Su-30MKI. The Indian hypersonic missile project was completed in close cooperation with the Russians.
Hypersonic cruise missiles have the capability to defeat or degrade the effectiveness of most current surveillance and anti-missile systems because of their speed (and, in the case of this new Kinzhal, claimed capability to maneuver). The choice of the aging MiG-31, that would probably launch the Kinzhal from +60,000 feet at supersonic speed, is aimed at giving the tactical ballistic missile much more reach than it would have if launched from the ground: indeed, during the Cold War, the long-range high-altitude interceptor was supposed to be used as launch platform for anti-satellite weapons that could destroy targets in near space. Able to carry up to four long-range R-33 missiles and four short-range R-77 missiles, not only was the MiG-31BM expected to carry a weapon able to shoot down space satellites; it was also intended to be used as a “cruise missile interceptor”: the Foxhounds have been involved in tests to intercept cruise missiles, previously Kh-55 and more recently Kh-101, for years.
While the Kinzhal appears to be an air-to-ground missile, the pairing of this nuclear-capable, hypersonic missile recalls the much older AIR-2 Genie nuclear-armed, air-to-air missile with a 1.5 kiloton warhead. The AIR-2 Genie and earlier versions of the same missile were deployed by the U.S. Air Force from 1957-1962.
In remarks from an earlier state of the nation address at the beginning of March, Russian President Vladimir Putin told media that the Kinzhal has been “operational” prior to this test launch. Russian media also said there had been “250 test flights” to validate the operational status of the Kinzhal prior to this test launch. There was no mention if the missile or any more of the modified MiG-31s are operationally deployed yet.
According to defense journalist Babak Taghvaee, six MiG-31BM interceptors have already been turned into launch platforms and they are based at Akhtubinsk:
By the end of 2018, #RuAF#Russia|n Air Force will form an Aviation Squadron with 10-12 MiG-31BMs especially modified for carrying the Dragger Hypersonic Missile in one of its Fighter Regiments. For now six MiG-31BMs are modified to carry the missile. They are now in Akhtubinsk. https://t.co/KKsex2FCKj
In contrast with the Russian claims, while traveling to Oman, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that nothing Russia demonstrated changed the Pentagon’s perspective.
“I saw no change to the Russian military capability and each of these systems that he’s talking about are still years away, I do not see them changing the military balance. They do not impact any need on our side for a change in our deterrence posture.” Indeed, the missile seems to fuel the propaganda machine more than it actually changes the strategic balance. However, it’s a development worth following, especially if we consider the maritime strike capability that an air-launched ballistic anti-ship missile brings in the game.
Russia’s firing of the Kinzhal joins not only the Indian hypersonic missile tests from last year but also the Chinese DF-17 hypersonic glide missile tests and the U.S. tests of hypersonics being conducted by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA and the U.S. Air Force.
Intense humidity, leeches, and snakes were just a few of the dangers our Vietnam Veterans faced while in the jungle — besides getting shot by bad guys. In all, 2.7 million Americans suited up for The Nam, and the average age of an infantryman was just 19-years-old.
And every single one of them at one time or another claimed the title of “f*cking new guy,” or “FNG.”
Patton, Schwarzkopf, and Mattis didn’t start out on day one of their military careers by making all the right decisions, they had to learn from their mistakes time and time again, adapting to them before ultimately succeeding.
Like every story, every man whose served has a beginning — a seed.
“I didn’t know squat, I wasn’t prepared for this,” Larry “Doc” Speed, a Combat Medic from 173rd Delta Company, explains in an interview about his first few days in the bush.
Entering the grunt world as an “FNG” is a stressful time in every new infantryman’s life.
Having to prove your worth from the moment you step onto the battlefield was just as difficult as shaking off those first dramatic moments of being pinned down by accurate enemy gunfire. Until you prove yourself, you’re just another blood bag with a name stenciled on a uniform.
“It’s a different world when you’re brand new, you’re just scared,” Jesse Salcedo, an M60 machine gunner admits. “It took three or four firefights before I could function before I could see the enemy.”
The military doesn’t always get things straight and sometimes it takes a little nudge to right a wrong. In Daniel Crowley’s case, the military took 76 years to get his records straight. And the nudge was thanks to the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society (ADBC-MS). But the 98-year old Connecticut citizen was there to be finally recognized.
On Monday, January 4, 2021, Crowley was awarded his long-overdue sergeant’s chevrons, his Combat Infantryman’s Badge (CIB), and his Prisoner of War Medal.
The ceremony was held at the Bradley International Airport/Air National Guard hanger in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, which is home to the Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing. Gregory Slavonic, the acting undersecretary of the Navy presided over the ceremony. He was assisted by his Executive Assistant G. J. Leland, a former commanding officer of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). The two worked with the secretary of the Army to research and confirm all the awards and promotions that Mr. Crowley had earned during World War II, including his promotion to sergeant which he was never made aware of.
Crowley enlisted in the Army Air Corps in October 1940. He said that he was hoping to see the world at the government’s expense. In March 1941, he was assigned to Nichols Field, in Manila in the Philippines. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, they bombed the Americans in the Philippines as well, destroying the airfield and the aircraft stationed there. The Americans were shuttled over to the Bataan Peninsula.
Crowley served on Bataan, during the Japanese invasion of the Philippines in December 1941, as a member of the Army Air Corps. When those units were turned into the Provisional Army Air Corps Infantry Regiment on Bataan, he fought there until the Americans, out of food, ammunition, and medicine, surrendered to the Japanese on April 9, 1942.
But Crowley wasn’t done fighting. He and several other troops refused to surrender. They hid among the rocks along the shore, and by doing so, missed the horrific Bataan Death March. At night, they swam the treacherous, shark-infested waters for three miles over to the Corregidor bastion that was still fighting the Japanese. There, he fought with the 4th Marines against the Japanese until they too surrendered about a month later. Read Next: New Leaders, New Direction: Reinvented MIA Agency Impresses
The Japanese brought the prisoners back to Manila and forced them to march through the streets in what was characterized as the walk of shame. Then they were shuttled off to Camp Cabanatuan. Conditions at Cabanatuan were horrific. To escape that, Crowley and others volunteered to work to help build a Japanese airfield on Palawan Island. There, they build an airstrip using only hand tools.
Coincidentally, the remaining POWs in Cabanatuan were rescued in one of the most daring and successful Special Operations raids in our history. In January 1945, before the Japanese could execute the POWs, members of the 6th Ranger Battalion under the command of Henry Mucci raided the camp and rescued them.
In March 1944, after Crowley and the other soldiers had finished working on the airstrip, they were shipped off to Japan to provide slave labor in a copper mine.
Crowley was released from hellish captivity on September 4, 1945. He returned to his Connecticut home and family. In April 1946, he was honorably discharged from the Army at Ft. Devens, MA.
The ADBC-MS is the leading voice for Pacific War veterans and their families. It promotes education and scholarship about the POW experience in the Pacific. It supports programs of reconciliation and understanding and advocates for a Congressional Gold Medal for the POWs of Japan.
Of the 26,000 American POWs who were prisoners of the Japanese, more than 11,000 (over 40 percent), died or were murdered in captivity. By comparison, only 1.5 percent of the POWs captured by the Germans died in captivity.
In honor of Mr. Crowley and the other POWs, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has proclaimed January 4, Pacific War Heroes Day.
We would like to thank Mindy Kolter from ADBC-MS, who furnished SOFREP with the details of Mr. Crowley’s story. You can watch a video on Mr. Crowley below.
The E-6 Mercury is arguably the deadliest aircraft in the arsenal of the United States Navy. Its lethality is extreme, even though it doesn’t carry any weapons. Sounds odd? Well, when you look at what the E-6 does, then seeing it as the Navy’s deadliest plane isn’t a stretch.
According to a Navy fact sheet, the E-6 is a “communications relay and strategic airborne command post aircraft” that is tasked with providing “survivable, reliable, and endurable airborne command, control, and communications between the National Command Authority (NCA) and U.S. strategic and non-strategic forces.” The nickname they have is TACAMO – or TAke Charge And Move Out.
When the plane first entered service in 1989 as the E-6A, it was designed solely for the communications replay role. This meant it passed on messages from the President and Secretary of Defense to the force of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The 14 Ohio-class submarines can each carry 24 UGM-133 Trident II missiles – and each of those have the ability to carry up to 14 warheads, either a 100-kiloton W76 or a 475-kiloton W88.
That said, in the 1990s, the DOD was dealing with a cold, hard fact: Their force of EC-135C Looking Glass airborne command posts were getting old. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the “peace dividend,” new airframes were out of the question.
The E-6As soon were upgraded to add the “Looking Glass” mission to their TACAMO role, and were re-designated as E-6Bs. This now made them capable of running America’s strategic nuclear deterrence in the event of Doomsday. The Navy has two squadrons with this plane VQ-3 and VQ-4, both of which are based at Tinker Air Force Base.
So that is why the E-6B Mercury, a plane with no weapons of its own, and which may never leave American airspace, is the deadliest plane in the Navy’s arsenal.
As an Afghan-American linguist, Sgt. Zabi Abraham strives to help the two countries he loves.
Originally from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province near the border of Pakistan, Abraham first served as a contractor to support U.S. Special Forces units.
Before and during operations, Abraham, now 35, would translate for the soldiers and share knowledge about his country’s customs and traditions.
“They respected me a lot,” he recalled, “and also gave me the chance to explain every situation to them.”
The soldiers also taught him about America, and he became interested in the opportunities it offered.
Years later, those opportunities led him on a path to U.S. citizenship. He also had the chance to return to Afghanistan, where he now serves as an advisor for one of the U.S. Army’s newest units, the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, interprets a conversation between Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, right, the battalion commander, and an Afghan National Army officer during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
In Afghanistan, about a quarter of the labor force is unemployed and more than half of the population lives below the national poverty line, according to the most recent data provided by The World Bank.
Determined to have a better life, Abraham’s hard work as a contractor helped him be recommended for a special immigration visa. In 2013, he was approved and moved his family to the United States to start a new journey.
His first taste of America left him amazed when he and his family first stepped foot onto U.S. soil while switching planes in Chicago.
Sgt. Zabi Abraham, center, an advisor with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, speaks with Afghan soldiers during an Afghan-led operation near Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 16, 2018.
(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)
“We saw everything was very nice and very fresh. We said that this is the life,” he said, smiling.
His family chose to live in Missouri and, at first, it took some time to adapt to the American way of life.
The endless choices at megastores, a variety of pay systems (Afghanistan mainly relies on cash), and the other differences in American culture presented some challenges.
“At the beginning, it was little bit hard,” he said. “Everything was very new for us.”
Abraham and his wife also wanted to be a dual-income family, so both obtained learner’s permits so they could drive themselves around.
Although it is legal for women to drive in Afghanistan, many families restrict them from doing so due to safety concerns.
Abraham and his wife studied for the driver’s test and frequently practiced behind the wheel. Once the test came, they both passed.
“It was such a big experience and a good day for us,” he said.
Joining the Army
While things went well in his new home, his heart still longed for Afghanistan and he searched how he could help rebuild the war-torn country.
In 2015, he walked into an Army recruiter’s office and told them he once served as a linguist with U.S. soldiers. Impressed, a recruiter suggested he become an active-duty interpreter.
“My main reason was to come back and use my skill,” said Abraham, who speaks Dari and Pashto, the two most widely spoken Afghan languages.
In traditional Afghan attire, Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, in 2013.
At basic training, Abraham, still an Afghan citizen, was issued sets of the Army combat uniform along with the other trainees. When the time came to wear the uniform, he could not help but share the moment with his family.
“I was very proud and took some pictures and sent them to my family,” he said. “They were proud of me, too.”
Abraham eventually earned his citizenship and was stationed at Fort Irwin, California, where he and other interpreters helped rotational units at the National Training Center prepare for deployments.
Speaking in his native tongue, Abraham and others role-played as peaceful villagers, insurgents and even detainees to gauge how soldiers responded.
News then spread across the training base about a new unit designed to bolster the train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan.
The more he heard about the 1st SFAB and its experienced soldiers, many of whom have been deployed to Afghanistan, the more it appealed to him.
“I wanted to be involved with such professional people,” he said.
Now based at the New Kabul Compound in the middle of the country’s capital city, Abraham is one of the most impactful advisors within the brigade’s 5th Battalion.
Often, he is at the battalion commander’s side, translating conversations between him and senior Afghan leaders.
His respectful demeanor and extensive knowledge of Afghan traditions make him a popular soldier to almost every Afghan he meets.
Zabi Abraham, right, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, prepares to do the Oath of Enlistment while at a military entrance processing station.
“They see him as serving us, but also as serving them,” said Lt. Col. Zachary Miller, the 5th Battalion commander.
During important discussions, Abraham is sort of Miller’s key advisor to ensure things are not lost in translation or to pick up on cultural cues.
“It’s the word choice they are choosing. It may be the way they did or did not answer a certain question,” Miller said. “So, if you got a really quality cultural advisor and interpreter, like we do with Sgt. Abraham, he will stop you from asking a question that is not the right time to ask.”
When the time is right, Abraham will ask those sensitive questions in private to support the mission.
“Even if you get trained on the Dari language,” Miller said, “you’ll never be able to pick up on those things if you’re not a native speaker.”
Wearing the same combat gear as every American soldier over here, Abraham also surprises Afghans when he speaks in their language.
“They don’t realize because I’m in full kit, but after I speak with them they realize I am Afghan,” he said, laughing. “I tell them about the service I provided when I was a linguist with them and right now how I support both countries.
Zabi Abraham, now a sergeant with the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade’s 5th Battalion, poses for a photo with his wife and two children during a trip to San Diego.
“They are appreciative of my service.”
With his unit’s deployment ending this month, Abraham recently spoke of where his career may go next.
If his family approves — most importantly his wife and two young children — he would like to retire as a soldier.
“Without their support, I could not do anything and achieve my goal here in Afghanistan,” he said. “They are part of my heart.”
Another part of his heart belongs to Afghanistan.
Abraham is in the process of completing his bachelor’s degree and raising his test scores to perhaps re-class to 35P, a cryptologic linguist. That job deals with identifying foreign communications using signals equipment.
Even if he does switch careers, Abraham aspires to be halfway across the world again helping his native country.
“My hope is that one day there is peace in this country,” he said.
The 2019 Blue Star Families lifestyle survey just dropped, and according to the results, most of us shouldn’t be shocked. With numbers well into 40 or 50 percent feeling the effects of displacement and isolation across several categories, you’re not the only one thinking there’s no one to ask a favor of. Why are we staying silent with our struggles? What is stopping us from living this life to the fullest?
Examining the “why” behind the results is what we’re after here. Lighting the path forward, one foot in front of the other is how change takes place. Whether you have something to give, or in the season of receiving, this is a fight you can help win.
Of over 11,000 survey participants, 40 percent feel they don’t belong within the local community, and 47 percent feel the local community lacks in understanding, support, respect or appreciation. Let’s take these connected issues one layer at a time.
Where do military families “belong?” Examining the physical geography of our “where” is one indicator as to why a separation of town and base is palpable. Life within guarded gates has a purpose, but it’s vital that we all absorb the mindset of becoming the area’s “newest locals” seriously. When the community participates exclusively in life inside the gates, our cultures, our talents, and our connections fail to dissipate into the local community. We become invisible citizens.
Everything from work to happy childhoods to wringing every drop of opportunity a nomadic life has to offer hinges on our ability to acclimate and do it well. When we become less determined to replicate the same life repeatedly, and more open to new experiences or chapters, it becomes much easier to find a place to be.
“I jump right into a routine, it’s awkward at first, but is a must for my sanity, this is the brave part of living this life,” says Laurie Boarts, Army spouse laying roots even with a short 14-month assignment.
39 percent of participants feel as if they have no one to talk to.
The military world is incredibly connected-virtually. Face to face connection is dying a slow death in all generations following the “boomers” making this issue something civilians and military have in common.
Making new friends (as an adult), trying new things, and putting yourself out there are all high-ranking fears for anyone. Yet, they are all critical components of a successful military life.
“I don’t expect the local community to understand the nuances of military life, I just focus on being myself and communicating openly,” says Boarts, who utilizes her busy schedule as a mom to find common ground in the crowd.
Is your calendar full of new local groups to try out? Have you walked into your kid’s first hockey practice openly admitting you have no idea where all those pads go and laughingly asked for help? The results of this survey gave us something to rely on- the person next to you is likely looking for a friend…so say hello. If collectively, every military community member decided they were fed up with not knowing their “neighbor,” we’d all be better for it.
63 percent within this community are experiencing stress due to finances.
Life is expensive, and with over 77 percent of spouses stating they are underemployed in salary, hours or employment in general, it’s no wonder why we feel the squeeze. There is, however, one perk that a free work calendar does allow for- participating in the community.
Did we just go full circle? Yes, we did. Tired of cooking meals but don’t have the budget for a restaurant? Invite your neighbors, or those lonely eyed acquaintances from library storytime over for a potluck barbeque on Saturday. Not only is a fruit platter less than a steak dinner, but it’s also real-life humans to talk to, to check in with and bond over the results of this survey with.
For nearly four decades, Al Ungerleider dedicated his life to serving his country. He was an infantry officer who saw active combat in World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, rising to the rank of brigadier general.
Ungerleider experienced a lot during his years in the military, including a landing amid the chaos on Omaha Beach on June 6, 1944. But nothing stirred his emotions like what crossed before his eyes in the waning days of World War II. At the time, U.S., Soviet and British forces were liberating Nazi concentration camps in Europe as Germany was close to surrendering, bringing to life the horrors of Adolph Hitler’s “Final Solution” to exterminate the Jewish people. The liberators saw emaciated corpses piled on top of each other and skeletal camp survivors, and they could smell the stench of death.
Al Ungerleider (second row, farthest left, kneeling) landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day commanding Company L of the Third Battalion of the 115th Regiment of the 29th Division. This photo shows other commanders in the Third Battalion.
Army 1st Lt. Ungerleider, who died in 2011 at age 89, commanded Company I of the Third Battalion of the 115th Regiment, which separated into advance parties to scout routes and bivouac areas in central Germany. Ungerleider’s party came upon the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp, the center of a vast network of forced labor camps in the Harz Mountain region. Prisoners at Dora-Mittlebau constructed large factories for the V-2 missile program and other experimental weapons.
Upon entering the camp 75 years ago on April 11, 1945, Ungerleider witnessed a level of cruelty that is “burned into my brain and my soul like nothing else in my life,” he said in a 1993 interview. “My men and I smashed through the gates and witnessed the site of dead bodies, of human beings in the worst state of degradation. There was absolute horror in what we saw. Then we asked, `What can we do to help?'”
`Literally starving to death’
Ungerleider, who was Jewish, spoke Yiddish to the survivors in the camp and grouped them together to recite the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer to mourn the dead. Prior to the liberation, the Nazis had evacuated most of the prisoners at Dora-Mittlebau to the Bergen-Belsen camp in northern Germany to hide them from allied forces. Thus, only a few hundred prisoners remained at the camp, which once held as many as 12,000 by the time the Americans arrived.
“He and his unit were totally unprepared for what they found because they had no knowledge of the concentration camps,” said Ungerleider’s son, Neil Ungerleider. “The survivors were literally starving to death.”
Neil Ungerleider explained that his father spoke with German citizens who lived in the nearby towns and villages and who claimed ignorance of the atrocities. He said to them, `Go back and bring these people food,'” Neil Ungerleider said. “He threatened to imprison them if they didn’t do it, but they did. They brought them food.”
The Americans appeared to encounter minimal resistance as they scoured the camp. At one point, Al Ungerleider and Army Pfc. Billy Melander went to a building and found 10 crematorium ovens with the doors closed. Edward Burke, the captain of a tank destroyer battalion that accompanied Ungerleider’s unit in the assault on the camp, provided an account of what happened next:
Ungerleider told Billy to bring his M1 Rifle ready to fire as he opened the doors,” Burke once said. “Doors one, two, three and four were empty. Ungerleider said as he approached door five he felt a tingle all through his body. As he opened the door, there was a German trooper with a Luger pistol aimed at them. Fortunately, Billy was faster on the trigger, and he pumped eight shots into the German as fast as he could pull the trigger.”
Nightmares from what he witnessed
Like Al Ungerleider and his unit, many Americans were unaware of the German atrocities toward the Jews. Nearly 6 million Jewish people were murdered in Nazi concentration camps from 1939 to 1945 in what is known as the Holocaust.
Neil Ungerleider said his father experienced nightmares as a result of what he witnessed at Dora-Mittlebau. “This one traumatic event stuck with him for the rest of his life. He was able to cope very well with his war experiences, except for this one thing.”
Nearly a year before liberating the camp, Al Ungerleider led 50 men from the 115th Regiment ashore at Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6, 1944. They were in the second wave of U.S. troops who hit the beach in the Normandy invasion along the northern coast of France. The invasion changed the course of the war by leading to the Allied liberation of Western Europe from Germany’s control. “Being in the second wave, he didn’t experience the kind of slaughter that those who went in first did,” Neil Ungerleider said, “which doesn’t make it any less dangerous or any less heroic in terms of what he and his men did. But he did have close calls during the war.”
Al Ungerleider earned three Bronze Stars for his military service.
`He was a patriot’
Al Ungerleider was not wounded during the landing. But he suffered injuries not long after from shrapnel in France. The first wound to his arm wasn’t that serious. He was treated at a hospital in France before returning to combat. A wound to the leg was more serious. He was evacuated to England for treatment and returned to battle.
On June 6, 1994, the 50th anniversary of the Normandy invasion, Ungerleider was chosen to escort President Clinton for a wreath laying at the iconic site. Ten years later, he was one of 100 American Veterans who returned to Omaha Beach for the 60th anniversary. They received the French Legion of Honor, the oldest and highest honor in France.
In his distinguished military career, Ungerleider also commanded military bases in Korea and Vietnam. He was a three-time recipient of the Bronze Star, which is awarded to members of the military for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement or meritorious service in a combat zone.
Over the years, Ungerleider remained modest about his recognition and service to his country. “He was a patriot who loved his country and did his duty,” Neil Ungerleider said. “After Pearl Harbor, my father enlisted because, as he put it, `We were all going. No one ever thought not to go.’ In his mind, he was doing nothing beyond what everyone else was doing. He never thought of himself as unique or special. The value he instilled in his children was this: Work hard, do your best and be modest about what you achieve. I cannot think of a better description of how he lived his life.”
US military advisers are operating inside the city of Raqqa, Daesh’s last major bastion in Syria, a US official said July 12. The troops, many of them Special Operations Forces, are working in an “advise, assist, and accompany” role to support local fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces as they battle Daesh, said Col. Ryan Dillon, a military spokesman.
The troops are not in a direct combat role but are calling in airstrikes and are working closer to the fight than did US forces supporting the Iraqi military in Mosul.
“They are much more exposed to enemy contact than those in Iraq,” Dillon said, adding that the numbers of US forces in Raqqa were “not hundreds.”
The operation to capture Raqqa began in November and on June 6 the SDF entered the city. With help from the US-led coalition, the SDF this month breached an ancient wall by Raqqa’s Old City, where die-hard militants are making a last stand.
Dillon said the coalition had seen Daesh increasingly using commercial drones that have been rigged with explosives. The militants employed a similar tactic in Mosul.
“Over the course over the last week or two, it has increased as we’ve continued to push in closer inside of Raqqa city center,” he said.
The US military is secretive about exactly how big its footprint is in Syria, but has previously said about 500 Special Operations fighters are there to train and assist the SDF, an Arab-Kurdish alliance.
The UN said July 12 it is using newly opened land routes in Syria to expand food deliveries to areas around Raqqa.
The new access has allowed the World Food Program to deliver food to rural areas north of the city for the first time in three years.
More than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within Raqqa province since April 1, according to the UN refugee agency. In the past 48 hours, hundreds of civilians managed to flee areas under Daesh control and cross to territory seized by SDF, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. As the map of control changes, so is the access and WFP said it is now delivering food every month to nearly 200,000 people in eight hard-to-reach locations inside Raqqa province as well as other areas in a neighboring province.
Prior to the reopening of the road linking Aleppo in the west to Hassakeh in the east, the WFP relied on airlifts.
“Replacing airlifts with road deliveries will save an estimated $19 million per year, as each truck on the road carries the equivalent of a planeload of food at a significantly lower cost,” said Jakob Kern, the WFP country representative in Syria. “With these cost savings and improved access, we are now reaching more families and people returning to their homes who need our help with regular food deliveries.”
One area that is now reachable is the town of Tabqa, which was taken from Daesh by the US-backed SDF in May. WFP said it was able this month to double the number of people it reaches, delivering monthly food rations to 25,000 people, many of whom have returned to their original homes and are now working to rebuild their lives.
In Homs eastern countryside, meanwhile, a Syrian military source said the army recaptured the Al-Hayl oil field, south of Al-Sukhneh city, from Daesh militants, the state-run news agency SANA reported.
The fight against Daesh is only one facet of the war in Syria, which is now in its seventh year. Six rounds of UN-brokered peace talks in Geneva have failed to bring the warring sides closer to a political settlement.
A seventh round is now underway in the Swiss city, but expectations for a breakthrough are almost non-existent.
July 12, the head of the Syrian opposition delegation accused President Bashar Assad’s regime of refusing to engage in political discussions.
Nasr al-Hariri of the High Negotiations Committee also challenged the UN Security Council to “uphold its responsibilities” and maintain pressure on Assad to honor resolutions that the council has passed. He spoke to reporters after emerging from talks with the UN envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, in the latest round of indirect peace talks. Hariri cited the “continuous refusing” of Assad’s government to participate in political negotiations.
Security Council Resolution 2254 from December 2015 called on top UN officials to convene the two sides “to engage in formal negotiations on a political transition process.”
Also July 12, a human rights group said Syrian-Russian airstrikes and artillery attacks on a town in southern Syria last month killed 10 civilians in and near a school. Human Rights Watch said one of the airstrikes hit the courtyard of a middle school in the town of Tafas in the southern province of Deraa, killing eight people, including a child. It says most of those killed were members of a family who had been displaced from another town. It said two other civilians, including a child, were killed an hour earlier by artillery attacks near the school.
Chuck Schumer of New York said Mark Green, a Republican state senator from Tennessee, is opposed to gay marriage and has sponsored legislation that would make it easier for businesses to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
“A man who was the lead sponsor of legislation to make it easier for businesses to discriminate against the LGBTQ community; opposes gay marriage, which is the law of the land; believes being transgender is a ‘disease;’ supports constricting access to legal contraception; and makes deeply troubling comments about Muslims is the wrong choice to lead America’s Army,” Schumer said in a statement.
Trump last month selected Green for the Army’s top civilian post. Green, 52, is a West Point graduate and former Army physician who has featured his military background in his political campaigns.
Trump’s selection of Green is a jarring contrast to President Barack Obama’s choice of Eric Fanning for the post. Fanning was the first openly gay leader of one of the military branches.
While Schumer urged his colleagues to oppose Green’s nomination, Republican control of the Senate makes it unlikely his nomination will be defeated.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said May 3 he’s concerned by “a broad variety of statements” that have been attributed to Green. McCain said Green will have the opportunity during his confirmation hearing to respond to explain the comments he’s made.
“That’s why we have hearings,” McCain said. “We ask questions and we let them defend themselves.”
Green last year supported legislation that lets therapists decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles. Critics said the law allows for discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Green argued during the state Senate debate that counselors should be given the same latitude as he is as a doctor.
“I am allowed to refer that patient to another provider and not prescribe the morning-after pill based on my religious beliefs,” Green said.
Schumer said Green also has made derogatory comments about Latinos and Muslims. Schumer’s office cited a YouTube video of a speech before a tea party group in which Green is asked what could account for a rise in the number of Latinos registered to vote in Tennessee.
He suggested they “were being bused here probably.”
Green also referred to the “Muslim horde” that invaded Constantinople hundreds of years ago and agreed that a stand must be taken against “the indoctrination of Islam in our public schools.”
Earlier on May 3, several House Republicans told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R- Ky., that Green is a “dedicated public servant” who has the full support of Defense Secretary James Mattis.
“Any attempt to politicize personal statements or views that have been expressed by Mark at any point throughout his career must not be allowed to supersede his qualifications or be conflated to create needless uncertainty with his nomination,” according to a letter from Reps. Duncan Hunter of California, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and nine other GOP members.