6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

I was both excited and anxious the day I got my orders to Minot Air Force Base. I requested to be sent to a nuclear missile base because of the challenges and opportunities the mission presented. Every day, Airmen at Minot and its sister nuclear missile bases operate, maintain, and secure weapons that have an immediate and direct impact on US strategic policy. The thought of leading those Airmen was awesome but also daunting. In the weeks leading up to my first day in Minot, I was concerned with whether I had what it took to be the right leader in my unit. Unsure of what to do, I simply decided that I would approach everything with optimism and enthusiasm.


In time, I found (miraculously) my plan to simply throw my energy and passion into the job actually worked. I had a great relationship with my commander, my airmen appreciated my effort (or at least found their lieutenant’s attitudes novel/humorous), and I worked well with my peers to accomplish the mission. As a reward for my efforts, I was given an extremely unique opportunity that was the highlight of my time at Minot; the nuclear weapons convoy mission.

It was a major change of pace for me. I had my own unique vehicle fleet, command and control systems, specialized weapons, and an entire flight of hand-picked airmen. I also had to take responsibility for my own mission tasking and planning, work independently, and ensure the dozens of different agencies involved in every convoy were working in harmony with each other. But by far the biggest change for me was that I suddenly found myself with a significant degree of authority and responsibility to accomplish a mission that had very real consequences on US strategic policy.

What I humbly share here are the lessons I learned from long, cold days on the road, ensuring the safe and secure transport of the world’s most destructive weapons. They were hard-won lessons delivered to me in the form of long nights, strange situations, and a desire to do right by the most talented and motivated airmen in the Air Force. I hope these lessons help the next round of lieutenant’s taking up the watch in the great, wide north.

1-Calm Down

Perhaps my biggest lesson, which was taught to me time after time, was the most important thing I could do in any sort of situation was remain calm. Your troops will reflect your attitude. If you panic, they will panic and start making poor decisions. Their panic will be mirrored and then amplified down the chain. But if you remain cool and calm, your troops will try to emulate your attitude even if they are upset internally. When you talk over the radio, speak clearly and calmly. When you give orders, act naturally and with confidence.

Low emotional neuroticism is what you should seek within yourself. This trait does not mean that you have to be an unfeeling robot as that would be just as bad as being an emotionally reactive person. You should figure out what your “trigger moments” are and then seek to balance your emotions in front of your troops. Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff.

2-Learn to Let Go of Control

Many will find this ironic, but one of the keys to successfully moving a nuclear weapon is to actually let go of control. Not control of the weapon of course, but rather control of the programs and processes that surround the mission. I quickly discovered a nuclear weapons convoy had way too many moving pieces to effectively manage on my own. As a result, I had to rely heavily on my NCOs to manage these moving pieces on my behalf. I did this by providing a clear, guiding intent for their programs and squads, and then giving them as much freedom and power as I could to let them achieve that intent.

While it seems like common sense leadership advice to trust your NCOs, it is still very hard to let go of things that you know you will have to answer for if they go wrong. But trust me, it will work out. We have the most talented airmen in the world and they will find great solutions to the unit’s problems, even if it is not the solution you envisioned.

3-Don’t Let Yourself Get Tribal

As stated before, moving a nuclear weapon across North Dakota requires the coordination of dozens of different units and agencies. It is truly a whole-base effort and a fantastic example of the bigger Air Force in action. This kind of mission requires that the various participants act selflessly to become a “team of teams.”

While unit morale and espirit-de-corps are must haves in any military unit, it should never come at the expense of cooperation with other friendly forces or devolve into petty rivalries. Unfortunately, too often leaders tend to destroy the larger picture under the delusion that we they looking out for our tribe. I had an obligation to build relationships with partner units, learn their processes, and make the whole-base effort happen in order for the nuclear convoy mission to succeed. If you always think in terms of “them” versus “us”, you will find it’s only “us” in the fight and no “them” will be coming to save you.

4-Give Your Leadership the Information They Need

Because of the nature of the position, I frequently found myself in meetings and discussions that other lieutenants were not normally allowed to participate in. I was also the subject matter expert for a very high visibility mission, and thus officers and commanders who were much more senior to me looked to me for my honest opinions on issues that affected the convoy. When questions about the risks involved in a particular mission came up, the heads in the room would turn to me to help determine the outcome (a feeling that I never got used to).

When you do find yourself in a situation where senior leaders want your viewpoint, be respectful and honest. It is your responsibility to provide your leadership with truthful answers and to do so in a way that is not antagonistic. At the same time, you must also be willing to accept your leadership’s decisions based on the information you provide. Trust goes both ways. My leadership trusted me to lead the convoy mission and I trusted them to make decisions on those missions that would keep me and my Airmen safe.

5-Embrace Failure and Avoid Fear

I once read in a history class that a popular saying in the old Strategic Air Command was “to err is human, to forgive is not SAC policy.” While that may sound clever and certainly carries the bravado of General Curtis LeMay with it (the founder of SAC and the modern nuclear Air Force), I can tell you that zero forgiveness makes for an abysmal unit culture.

If you refuse to accept failure while learning from it, you will create a unit culture where members are afraid to come forward, speak up, or sound the alarm to major problems. Your troops will hide things from you, and that type of behavior is what gets people hurt or killed. Show your airmen, through both action and words, honest mistakes are forgiven and embraced as a learning opportunity.

6-Have Fun

During my entire time at Minot, I made it a point to find the bright side of things and enjoy my job. Like any duty station or mission series, Minot had its fair share of challenges. There is no way to sugarcoat the experience of having to walk out into sub-freezing temperatures and still get the work done. Yet when these situations happened, I looked to others to keep a good attitude and make the best of the situation. I was always able to find a reason to laugh or smile(even if icicles started to gather on my face).

You too can find success with something as simple as finding a reason to smile more often or to laugh at stupid, silly things. Staying calm in front of your airmen can have a similar effect to having a happy attitude and can be contagious in a unit.

I am grateful to the proud Defenders of the 91st Missile Security Operations Squadron who were patient with me as I worked to develop the mission, the airmen, and myself. In the face of -20 degree temperatures and a demanding nuclear mission, they chose to follow me in giving their all towards building a lethal, combat-ready team.

Andrew is an Air Force Security Forces officer currently assigned to Buckley Garrison, US Space Force, Colorado. He oversees base security operations for the installation. He loves taking road trips with his wife and dog, snowboarding beautiful mountains, and enjoying great Colorado beer.

Articles

Afghan soldier opens fire on US troops, wounds seven

An Afghan soldier has opened fire on American troops, wounding at least seven of them, before being shot dead in a military base in northern Afghanistan, officials said, in the second so-called “insider attack” in the past week.


Abdul Qahar Araam, spokesman for the US military, said on June 17th that the attack took place at Camp Shaheen in Mazar-i-Sharif. Araam added that the soldiers returned fire and killed the attacker.

General Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, also confirmed the incident.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
Presentation of the Resolute Support colors. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Resolute Support, the international training mission to Afghanistan, announced on its Twitter feed that seven US service members were wounded, adding that there were no US fatalities.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, said NATO soldiers were training their Afghan counterparts at the base where the attack took place.

“A source told Al Jazeera that the attack happened at the end of a training exercise,” he said.

“We understand that the soldiers were getting back into their vehicle when a soldier from the Afghan national army picked up what is said to be a rocket-propelled grenade and fired it at the group of soldiers, and that is how these injuries have happened.”

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
A helicopter flies over Mazar-i-Sharif. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Another insider attack

Three US soldiers were killed and a fourth was wounded on June 11 when an Afghan soldier opened fire on them at a base in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

Taliban claimed responsibility for that attack. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the armed group, said at the time that a Taliban loyalist had infiltrated the Afghan army “just to attack foreign forces.”

On June 17th, Mujahid praised the Camp Shaheen attack in a statement sent to the media, but did not claim Taliban responsibility.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
The Taliban Flag. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

In April, scores of Afghan soldiers were killed when fighters breached security at the camp, detonating explosives and shooting hundreds at a mosque and dining hall on the base. The attackers were disguised in Afghan army uniforms.

Coalition countries, led by the US, are considering sending thousands more troops to Afghanistan to help advise and assist Afghan forces struggling against Taliban and the ISIS.

On June 19th, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said he would present options on Afghanistan to President Donald Trump “very soon.”

MIGHTY MONEY

18 million veterans now have a new benefit

Some 18.5 million honorably discharged veterans now have a lifetime benefit enabling them to shop online at ShopMyExchange.com, marking the first expansion of military exchange privileges since 1990.


“The Exchange is honored to open its virtual doors to millions of deserving veterans,” said Tom Shull, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service‘s director and CEO, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
You still need to go get your hair fixed in person, though.

“There are many generations of service members who have not been properly recognized,” he added. “This new benefit acknowledges their service and welcomes them home. This is something veterans can enjoy the rest of their lives.”

Purchases Improve Quality of Military Life

Every purchase veterans make online will help to improve the quality of life for those who wear the uniform today, Shull noted, as exchange earnings support programs such as combat uniforms below cost, fitness centers, child development centers and youth programs on Army garrisons, Air Force outdoor recreation programs, school lunches for warfighters’ children overseas and more.

“This is a virtuous cycle,” he said. “As a veteran myself, it is an honor to pay forward support to active-duty service members and their families.”

Also Read: New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Excitement for the new benefit has been building for months, AAFES officials said, thanks to social media shout-outs from Mark Wahlberg and Marcus Luttrell, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Richard Rawlings and other celebrities. As a result, they said, more than 255,000 veterans verified their eligibility for the benefit before its official Nov. 11 launch.

To verify eligibility and begin shopping, Veterans can visit ShopMyExchange.com.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Marines are getting a new light armored vehicle

The Marines are trading in their old Light Armored Vehicle for a new model – and it’s about time. In an age of stealth tanks and lasers, the Marines are still driving around in the 1983 model. But you’d never know it. The Corps’ LAV-25 has seen action from Panama to Afghanistan and everywhere in between, and few would complain about her performance.

But times are changing, and even the Marines are going to change with them. Within the next decade, for sure.


6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

Staff Sgt. Heighnbaugh, a platoon sgt. with the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Platoon (reinforced), Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, fires a M240G medium machinegun on a light armored vehicle at the Su Song Ri Range, South Korea.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kamran Sadaghiani)

The modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle will likely show up “in the next decade,” according to the Marine Corps. It will be highly mobile, networked, transportable, protected and lethal while the new technology allows it to take on the roles normally used by more heavily armored vehicles.

“The ARV will be an advanced combat vehicle system, capable of fighting for information that balances competing capability demands to sense, shoot, move, communicate and remain transportable as part of the naval expeditionary force,” said John “Steve” Myers, program manager for MCSC’s LAV portfolio.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

A LAV-25 patrolling the area near the Panama Canal during Operation Just Cause.

The Marine Corps didn’t list any specific roles or technologies they would look at integrating into the new modern Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle but the Office of Naval Research “has begun researching advanced technologies to inform requirements, technology readiness assessments, and competitive prototyping efforts for the next-generation ARV.”

“The Marine Corps is examining different threats,” said Kimberly Bowen, deputy program manager of Light Armored Vehicles. “The ARV helps the Corps maintain an overmatched peer-to-peer capability.”

The Corps wants the new vehicle to equip the Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalions inside Marine divisions with a solution for combined arms, all-weather, sustained reconnaissance, and security missions by the mid-2020s.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Navy’s oldest nuclear-powered attack sub arrives in port one last time

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia (SSN 717) arrived at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton to commence the inactivation and decommissioning process on Oct. 29, 2019.

Under the command of Cmdr. Benjamin Selph, the submarine departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a final homeport change.

“We are happy to bring Olympia back to Washington, so that we can continue to build and foster the relationships that have been around since her commissioning,” said Selph. “The city loves the ship and the ship loves the city, I am glad we have such amazing support as we bid this incredible submarine farewell.”

Olympia completed a seven-month around-the-world deployment, in support of operations vital to national security on Sept. 8, 2019.


6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, after completing its latest deployment, Nov. 9, 2017.

(US Navy Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Shaun Griffin)

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

Sailors assigned to Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Olympia load a Mark 48 torpedo from the pier in Souda Bay, Greece, July 10, 2019.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kelly M. Agee)

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

Machinist’s Mate (Weapons) 3rd Class Raul E. Bonilla, assigned to fast-attack sub USS Olympia, prepares to load a Mark 48 torpedo for a sinking exercise during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, July 12, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 2nd Class Michael H. Lee)

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Olympia transits the Puget Sound, arriving to Bremerton, Washington, where it’s scheduled to begin the inactivation and decommissioning process at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, October 29, 2019.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm Specialist 3rd Class Victoria Foley)

The boat’s mission is to seek out and destroy enemy ships and submarines and to protect US national interests. At 360 feet long and 6,900 tons, it can be armed with sophisticated MK48 advanced capability torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Tips and tricks to become a master PCS-er

As the spring showers fade, summer creeps in. You’ll know it’s here by the sights and smells before you. Things like classic backyard BBQs, the smells of sunblock, and fresh cut grass. But as a military family, summer looks a little different. That’s because every two to three years this season brings moving trucks, item stickers, and road trips.

Every summer between 420K and 450K military families PCS. That’s a whole lot of stickers. While many will stress themselves out over the process of moving, it doesn’t have to be that way. Don’t approach this season with dread. Instead, live your best PCS season ever. Here’s how:


The internet can be your friend

Once you get your official orders, it’s time to dive into researching. Find the military Facebook groups for your new base and start asking your burning questions. Here you should discover the best schools, areas, and all the other things you want to know about your new home. If you are moving on base, your next step is to have your service member contact the housing office. From there you can also check out Military One Source where you can type in the name of your new base and get all of the information you need for base resources.

If you are moving onto the economy, you’ll find yourself utilizing that Facebook information you gleaned to settle on an area to rent or buy in. Once you’ve settled on your new home, take a deep breath – this will hopefully be the hardest part.

Organization is vital

There are so many amazing ways to stay organized for your upcoming move. Although Murphy’s Law will always find a way into your beautifully-crafted move, organizing it from the start will reduce your stress. Step one is always to make at least 10 copies of your official orders and create a moving binder. In it should be all of your family’s vitally important information like medical, social security cards, passports, etc. This will be where you start your moving bible, and from there you need an epic checklist.

  • Military One Source has a great Plan My Move webpage that actually creates a custom checklist for you based on the information you provide. This is a great interactive tool to utilize during your PCS planning.
  • My Ultimate PCS App is an amazing and free tool for your big move. It was created by two military spouses who have been there and done that.
  • Are you a fan of Pinterest? Check out their endless PCS checklists created by seasoned spouses who know all the tips and tricks for a smooth move.

Time to pack out

The day has come! Your moving company has already done their inventory and they are arriving to box up your life. Here are some tips and tricks for an easy pack out:

  • Pick a closet or bathroom where you can put all of the things you don’t want the movers to pack. This area should house all of your must-have PCS items like cleaning tools for after the pack out and what you’ll need to get to your new home. Things like your clothes/items for traveling, your moving binder, air mattresses, and coffee maker (don’t judge) all go in here. Anything that is priceless to you should really go with you on your move and therefore in this area too. When we say they will pack everything, we aren’t kidding. Stories of trash getting packed are a reality, cats too.
  • Keep your animals caged or at a kennel to prevent them from getting lost or put on the moving truck. If you can lean on a friend to keep them during the pack up and out, even better.
  • Do buy the movers a box of water bottles and lunch every day. They will be very appreciative and probably treat your stuff like gold because of your kindness.

If you find yourself struggling with the stress of moving, reach out to your support groups. Talk to people if you are feeling overwhelmed, we’ve all been there. Military One Source has 24/7 free and confidential counseling if you are a DOD spouse and CG SUPRT offers the same if you are a Coast Guard spouse. In the end, you’ve got this. The key things to remember are to lean on your community, be organized, and utilize all of your resources

Before you know it, you will be a master PCS-er.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

This is how the 1/9 Marines became ‘The Walking Dead’

In the annals of Marine Corps history there are many famous units and numerous famous men. There are tales of valor and loss.


But one unit truly exemplifies these traditions through its actions and its enduring nickname: the Walking Dead.

Through nearly four years of combat in Vietnam, the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines earned its place in Marine Corps history.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
Lance Cpl. Spencer Cohen, rifleman with 1st platoon, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, traverses a path for his team through rocky terrain during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa, March 29. (Photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda)

The 1st Battalion first arrived in Vietnam in June 1965 as part of the troop increase and escalation that year as U.S. forces took over most combat operations from the South Vietnamese. By August they were involved in offensive combat operations as part of Operation Blastout — a search and clear mission.

More missions continued throughout 1965 and into 1966. In their first year in Vietnam the Marines of 1/9 would conduct hundreds of company-sized or larger missions. The Marines of the 1st battalion, as part of a greater effort by the 9th Marine Regiment, also developed the SPARROW HAWK concept. This was essentially a heliborne quick reaction force that could be called in to help win a fight in which Marines on patrol had found themselves. The 1st Battalion, 9th Marines then rotated out of Vietnam for a few brief months beginning in October 1966.

When the unit returned in December 1966 the operations tempo greatly increased. The 1st battalion Marines started 1967 with the anti-climactic Operation Deckhouse V. From there operations picked up in the 9th Marines tactical area of responsibility. This area just south of the Demilitarized Zone became known as “Leatherneck Square” for the high number of Marine casualties. The Marines there swore the wind, rather than blowing, made a sucking sound. It was in this area that the 1st Battalion 9th Marines became the legendary Walking Dead.

The battalion participated in three phases of Operation Prairie within Leatherneck Square. Casualties were heavy as the Marines conducted search-and-destroy missions. In less than a month through mid-1967, Marine casualties during Prairie IV were 167 killed, and over 1,200 wounded.

In July, 1/9 participated in Operation Buffalo, a clearing mission up Highway 561. On the first day of the operation, July 2, the Marines of A and B companies encountered strong NVA resistance. The fighting was bitter. The NVA used flamethrowers to burn the vegetation and force the Marines into the open. An NVA artillery round wiped out the entire company headquarters for B company.

Soon the commander of 1/9 sent in C and D companies to relieve the battered Marines. With significant support they were finally able to force the NVA to break contact. The battalion suffered 84 Marines killed and 190 wounded. The next day only 27 Marines from B company and 90 from A company were fit for duty.

A combination of the remnants of Companies A and C several days later was able to get some payback on the NVA, inflicting 154 enemy killed. By the middle of July Operation Buffalo came to an end. Almost immediately the men of the 9th Marines were back in action as part of Operation Kingfisher in the Western portion of Leatherneck Square. This operation drug on until the end of October 1967. The sporadic but intense combat saw another 340 Marines killed and over 1,400 wounded in Leatherneck Square.

January 1968 found the battalion reinforcing the infamous Khe Sanh Combat Base just south of the Demilitarized Zone and west of Leatherneck Square. The Marines at Khe Sanh not only held the base but also fought in the hills surrounding it. Just over a week before the Tet Offensive began on January 30, 1968, the North Vietnamese began laying siege to Khe Sanh. Some 6,000 Marines, including 1/9, would endure daily shelling and close-combat for 77 days before being relieved. In all, 205 Americans were killed and over 1,600 wounded defending Khe Sanh. A further 200 Marines died in the bloody fighting in the hills surrounding Khe Sanh.

The lifting of the siege was hardly the end for the Walking Dead though. Immediately upon relief of duty from the defense of Khe Sanh they began Operation Scotland II to clear the area nearby. Following the conclusion of Scotland II, the Marines of 1/9 returned to the Con Thien area and took part in Operation Kentucky. This action would last until near the end of 1968.

In early 1969, the 1st battalion, as part of the larger 9th Marine Regiment, launched Operation Dewey Canyon, the last major Marine Corps operation in Vietnam. During this time the Marines swept through the NVA controlled A Shau valley and other areas near the DMZ. In a heroic action on February 22, 1968, then-Lt. Wesley Fox earned the Medal of Honor. The Marines suffered over 1,000 casualties during the operation. The entire regiment was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for their extraordinary heroism during Operation Dewey Canyon.

The Walking Dead — along with the rest of the 9th Marines — redeployed from Vietnam in the summer of 1969 to Okinawa.

The name “the Walking Dead” was originally used by Ho Chi Minh talking about the Marines in the A Shau valley. Later, after the 1st Battalion suffered extraordinarily high casualty rates, they used the term to describe themselves. Of a standard battalion strength of 800 Marines, the battalion had 747 killed in action with many times that number wounded. They also were in sustained combat operations for just short of four years. Both of these are Marine Corps records.

The unit was disbanded in mid-2000, reactivated for Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, then was disbanded again in 2015.

Articles

One of America’s top enemies in the Iraq War just won big in Iraqi elections

For five years, Muqtada al-Sadr’s personal insurgent army fought American troops during the Iraq War and commited heinous crimes against Iraq Sunni minorities. Now, a decade later, the Shia cleric’s Sairoon Alliance is leading Iraq’s parliamentary elections. His populist candidacy upset the U.S. favorite, incumbent Haider al-Abadi, and al-Sadr is set to be the kingmaker in Iraq.


In the years following his two uprisings against American forces, the “radical cleric” (as he was often called in Western media) continued his fight against the Baghdad government and against Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. He eventually withdrew from public life until 2012, when he made a comeback, rebranding himself as a leader intent on bringing Sunnis and Shia together.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
For most of the Iraq War, however, he was intent on blowing Sunnis apart.

With the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, al-Sadr also rebranded his Mahdi Army, forming the “Peace Companies,” intended to protect Shia believers from the strict form of Sunni Islam and personal violence inflicted upon Iraqis by ISIS. He continued his rebranding to become an anti-poverty, anti-corruption populist who rejects the outside influence of both Iran and the United States.

Al-Sadr’s stated purpose for Sairoon was clearing corruption, rejecting the sectarian quotas, and putting skilled thought leaders (aka technocrats) in key ministerial positions.

“The ascendancy of the list sponsored by al-Sadr shows that anti-establishment sentiment and anti-corruption have driven the choice of most voters,” said Rend al-Rahim, a former Iraqi ambassador to the United States. “None of the lists had an electoral program that outlined priorities and a plan of action. All used vague terms to lure voters. Many of the lists also used populist and demagogic tactics that played on the emotions of voters.”

Some American veterans of the 2003-2011 Iraq War are not happy with his 53-seat win.

Understandably, no one who fought the Mahdi Army or lost a friend in Sadr City wants him to wield legitimate political power in Iraq. But Al-Sadr didn’t launch a revolt in Iraq. He didn’t put a gun to Haider al-Abadi’s head to force him to step down. The cleric’s bloc was elected in a legitimate Iraqi election by the people of Iraq, none of whom were punished for not voting for Sairoon. The democracy we fought to establish in Iraq is functioning.

Sometimes the candidate you want to win doesn’t win, no matter who they might be running against.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
Ask Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Al Gore, Bob Dole, Etc.

The peaceful transfer of power is another hallmark of democracy, and we should credit Prime Minister al-Abadi when he implored the people of Iraq to accept this change.

“I call on Iraqis to respect the results of the elections,” he said.

Iraq has bigger things to worry about than the United States’ opinion on their domestic politics. This was the first election held since ISIS was pushed out of Iraq — after decimating Iraqi infrastructure. The country also faces rampant unemployment, one of the main triggers of domestic terrorism in the region.

American veterans of the Iraq War should see this as a major victory. In the first post-Saddam election of 2005, with the start of the Mahdi Army’s rise to power, did we ever believe we would see the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr with purple ink on his finger?

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
And yet, here we are.

The biggest issue for the anti-Iran cleric will be integrating Iraq’s militia’s into its official armed forces and security structure — especially since most of those are backed by Iran. Iran has publicly stated it will not allow al-Sadr’s coalition to lead the government. Al-Sadr has made moves to align himself with the king of Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional adversary, to push back against the Islamic Republic.

Al-Sadr’s fight for power is far from over. Despite having ties to Iran, the Islamic Republic is no fan of the cleric, who has resisted Iranian influence in Iraq since the days of the Iraq War. And al-Sadr will no longer be able to criticize the government from the sidelines. Instead, it will be on him and his Sairoon bloc to guide Iraq to the future he promised to desperate Iraqi voters.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran arrests editor, journalist over cartoon mocking Khamenei

The editor in chief and a social-media administrator of Iran’s semiofficial ILNA news agency were detained last week over a cartoon deemed insulting to the country’s leadership.

The cartoon, which appeared to mock Iran’s highest authority, was reportedly removed from ILNA’s Telegram channel shortly after being posted.

ILNA’s editor in chief, Masud Heydari, has been released on bail but the news agency’s Telegram administrator Hamid Haghjoo remains in detention. It is not clear if the two have been charged.


Tehran’s Prosecutor Ali Alghasi Mehr said on April 27 that an investigation has been launched into the affair.

“Immediately after the publishing of the insulting image, it was ordered to be removed from the channel,” Alghasi Mehr was quoted as saying by Iranian media.

“The [person in charge] of ILNA and the administrator of the Telegram channel were both arrested on the evening of [April 23],” he added.

ILNA has denied any affiliation with the “disrespectful” cartoon while accusing its opponents of having faked the news agency’s logo and falsely accused it of publishing the cartoon.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

gdb.rferl.org

The cartoon mocks those promoting fake treatments to ward off the coronavirus, including drinking camel urine and inserting violet oil in the anus, under the guise of Islamic medicine.

It appeared to suggest that Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is supportive of such measures, depicting him as a nurse who is calling for silence.

Hard Hit By Coronavirus

Iran has been one of the hardest hit countries in the Middle East by the coronavirus pandemic. It has officially recorded more than 91,000 confirmed cases and just over 5,800 deaths, though critics believe those numbers may be far higher given the lack of transparency and media freedom in the country.

A man who had posted online a video of himself drinking a glass of camel urine was detained last week after the video went viral and many Iranians mocked him on social media.

The New York-based Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) said Iranian authorities should immediately drop their investigations into Heydari and Haghjoo and let them work freely.

“At a time when prisons are petri dishes for the COVID-19 virus, Iranian authorities should cease locking up journalists for trivial offenses like allegedly sharing a cartoon,” CPJ Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator Sherif Mansour said in an April 27 statement.

“Hamid Haghjoo should be released immediately, and authorities should drop any investigation into him, Masud Heydari, and all other journalists at the Iranian Labor News Agency [ILNA],” he added.

Criticism of Khamenei is a red line in the Islamic republic where the Iranian leader has the last say in all state matters.

Iranian leaders have called on citizens to follow health protocols and social-distancing measures aimed at containing the deadly outbreak that has killed over 5,800 and infected more than 91,000 Iranians, according to official figures. Real numbers are believed to be significantly higher.

Iran ranks 170th on Reporters Without Borders 2020 Press Freedom Index.

A number of journalists and cartoonists have been arrested in past years and charged with security crimes that are often brought against intellectuals and dissidents.

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

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The US plan to survive a Soviet nuke was absolutely bonkers

A sudden flash. A mushroom cloud. A sudden expanding pressure wave. In the event of a thermonuclear attack, seeing these things means its probably too late to survive. So the U.S. developed warning systems to give Americans a heads up before the bombs landed. But that begs the question: What do you do if you have just an hour or so until your city blows up?


Coordinating protection and relief for civilians in war falls to civil defense workers, and America’s civil defense program underwent an overhaul after World War II. Many of the funding and legislative changes were focused on responding to atomic and nuclear threats.

But hearings in 1955 revealed that civil defense was, uh, let’s say, far from robust. How far?

Well, Administrator Val Peterson told Congress that Americans should learn to dig holes in the ground and curl up in them to escape nuclear fallout. But he did also offer that the government could dig trenches next to highways for about .25 per mile and then cover the trenches with boards and soil for additional protection. In some areas, the boards and dirt could be replaced with tar paper.

Even at the time, the public realized a huge shortcoming of this plan: Ditches don’t last. They have to be dug for a specific attack, and the diggers would need at least a few days notice to provide shelter for a significant portion of a city.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
(Seattle Municipal Archives)

 

And people in the 1950s were also familiar with pissing and pooping. These trenches would have no sanitation, water, or food, and people would have to stay in them for days. At the time, it was believed that a few days might be enough time for the radioactivity to fall to safe-ish levels. We now know it’s a year or more for the longer-lasting radioactive isotopes to get anywhere near safe.

But meanwhile, even a few days in trenches is problematic. For the first few hours, radiation is at peak strength, and any dust that makes its way from the surface into the trench is going to have levels of radiation high enough to threaten imminent death. This dust needs to be washed off as quickly as possible, something that can’t happen in a trench surrounded by more radioactive dust with no water.

Oh, and, btw, canned food and bottled water will become irradiated if not shielded when the bomb goes off.

But there was another plan that, um, had many of the same problems. This called for laying long stretches of concrete pipe and then burying it in a few feet of dirt. Same sanitation and supply problems, worst claustrophobia. But at least less irradiated dust would make it into the civilians huddling inside.

Duck And Cover (1951) Bert The Turtle

 

Most of this information was learned by the public in 1955 during those public hearings. Though, obviously, portions of the hearings were classified, and so the public wouldn’t learn about them for decades. One of the items that came out in closed session was that the irradiated zone from a hydrogen bomb would easily stretch for 145 miles with the right winds. A serious problem for the farmers who thought they were safe 40 miles from the city.

Things did get better as the Cold War continued, though. Government agencies, especially the Federal Civil Defense Administration, encouraged the construction of hospitals and other key infrastructure on the perimeters of cities where it would be more likely to survive the blast of a bomb (though it still would have certainly been irradiated if downwind of the epicenter).

Educational videos gave people some idea of what they should do after a bomb drop, though, like digging trenches next to highways, most of the actions an individual could take were marginal at best. Those old “Duck and Cover” cartoons from 1951? Yup, ducking and covering will help, but not enough to save most people at most distances from the bomb.

What you really need to do is find a nice, recently dug trench.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Australia’s spies to be allowed to use more force

The government is moving to give Australia’s overseas spies extra powers to protect themselves and their operations by the use of force.

Legislation to be introduced on Nov. 29, 2018, will allow a staff member or agent of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) to be able to use “reasonable force” in the course of their work.

It also will enable the Foreign Minister to specify extra people, such as a hostage, who may be protected by an ASIS staffer or agent.


It is understood the changes have been discussed with the opposition and are likely to receive its support.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne says in a statement that ASIS officers often work in dangerous areas including under warlike conditions. “As the world becomes more complex, the overseas operating environment for ASIS also becomes more complex”, she says.

The provisions covering the use of force by ASIS have not undergone significant change since 2004.

“Currently, ASIS officers are only able to use weapons for self-protection, or the protection of other staff members or agents cooperating with ASIS.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

R. G. Casey House houses the headquarters of the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

(Photo by Adam Carr)

“The changes will mean officers are able to protect a broader range of people and use reasonable force if someone poses a risk to an operation”, Payne says.

“Like the existing ability to use weapons for self-defense, these amendments will be an exception to the standing prohibitions against the use of violence or use of weapons by ASIS.”

There are presently legal grey areas in relation to using force, especially the use of reasonable and limited force to restrain, detain or move a person who might pose a risk to an operation or to an ASIS staff member.

Under the amendment the use of force would only apply where there was a significant risk to the safety of a person, or a threat to security or a risk to the operational security of ASIS. Any use of force would have to be proportionate.

The government instances as an example the keeping safe of an uncooperative person from a source of immediate danger during an ASIS operation, including by removing them from the danger.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

Lists

6 things CIF wants back that make no sense

When you first enlist and are given loads of new gear, it’s a pretty great feeling — until you realize that you’ll have to return most of it eventually. Not all of it, but most. Obviously, you keep your well-worn and dirty uniforms and plenty of small, inconsequential things, like IR beacons.

Although each Central Issuing Facility of each branch at each duty station as their own standard operating procedures, in general, they all follow a guideline of “if it’s touched a troop’s skin or it’s basically worthless, then the troop keeps it.” But if you stop and think about it, what doesn’t get dirty and worn just from regular use?


With that in mind, here’s a rundown of things that would be better off left in a troop’s hands as they head into the civilian world — or to their next duty station.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

I mean, you guys really want it THAT bad…

(Photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck)

Sleeping bag sets

Here’s a fact: The only way to get comfortable in one of these sleeping systems is to strip butt-naked so your body heat is evenly distributed. Still want it back?

These things get nasty after they’ve soaked in so much body odor and sweat that it’s like CIF asking for your field socks back.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

No one wants to put their mouth on the Camelback that some nervous private was chewing on…

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Michel Sauret)

Camelback, canteens, and water systems

As you can imagine, these directly touch your mouth. If you’re required to return it, that means others returned it before you. Now, we’re sure it’s been cleaned time and time again, but we still can’t help but wonder about what kind of nasty germs have lived on it.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

“Those would look so great as civilian attire!” said no veteran ever.

(Photo by Rob Schuette)

Outdated uniforms

It seems like every branch swaps out their service uniform faster than you can blink. Generally speaking, the military wants their old uniforms back before you can get a new set.

Just to toss salt on the already pointless wound, they’ll raise hell if the old uniform you’re turning in isn’t perfectly clean.. you know, for the next troop who definitely won’t be wearing it.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

Even if you don’t spray paint it, it’ll still get worn the hell out.

(Photo by Spc. Brianna Saville)

Duffel bags with your name stenciled on

Duffel bags are cheap. They’re just a bit of canvas made into a bag. Everyone in the military has the exact same O.D. green bag, so units ask troops to spray paint their name, last 4, and unit onto the bottom.

Here’s the problem: that paint isn’t coming off any time soon. Good luck trying to find another “Milzarski” in that that exact same unit after I leave.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

What’s worse is when the CIF clerk gets hostile with you and questions you why parts are missing. Because, you know, we needed to save a life?

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Ciara Wymbs)

First-aid kits

Instead of asking troops to turn in a partly-used first-aid kit, why not let them keep it and stash it in their vehicle in case of emergencies? Sure, it puts the military out a whole (according to Amazon), but wouldn’t it be nice to have a bunch of medical supplies out there in the hands of people trained to use them?

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota

It’s really not uncommon for troops to just buy a cheapo woobie off-post at some surplus store…

(Photo by Spc. Kristina Truluck)

The poncho liner

There’s one item that every troop holds dear above the rest — their poncho liner, affectionately called a “woobie.”

Troops sleep with it, it’s fairly cheap, the camo pattern is quickly outdated, and they’re perfect for emergency situations. Long after troops get out, if they managed to sneak one past supply, they’ll cuddle up with it on the couch and fondly recall their service.

Articles

Rapper 2 Chainz supports disabled veteran with rent and furniture

The rapper 2 Chainz and the Tru Foundation, a non-profit focused on helping the Southside of Atlanta and the surrounding areas, visited the home of Dierdre Plater, a disabled veteran living in Palmetto, Georgia.


6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
(CBS 46 Atlanta)

He was there to spread Christmas cheer and surprise Plater, a single mother, with new furniture and her rent for an entire year.

2 Chainz used proceeds from his recent line of “Dabbing Santa” ugly Christmas sweaters. The rapper plans to extend the giving to other families in need during the Christmas season.

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
Santa Claus doing some dabbing (photo via 2 Chainz Shop)

“It’s hard to keep gas in the car, food in the house, and do everything by myself being a single parent,” Dierdre​ Plater told CBS 46, the local CBS affiliate.”I love to see stuff like this happen for other people, but I never thought it would happen to me.”

6 lessons I learned moving nuclear weapons through North Dakota
(CBS 46 Atlanta)

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