As government and health officials scramble to contain the spread of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, events around the country are being shut down or modified. Officials, after seeing the spike in cases (and fatalities) in Italy and the subsequent shutdown, are now implementing the same measures to major events in the U.S., whether it be canceling, postponing or barring fans.
This is major news in that sports, entertainment and travel are very important keys to the national economy. The loss of revenue to the teams, leagues, television partners and corporate partners will be big but there are many others too that will have a rough couple of months.
Hotels, airlines, arena workers, concession workers, arena security , front office employees, merchandise vendors, food and beverage companies, Uber and Lyft drivers and local establishments all canceled events….The list goes on.
We Are The Mighty will continue to update this list, but here are major national (and some international for fans) events that so far have been affected by the coronavirus.
A full list of all sports events that have been canceled can be found here. This list is mostly international but gives an idea of the scope of event cancellations.
A coronavirus conference in New York was canceled because of the coronavirus.
MLB operations suspended indefinitely
NHL season suspended
NBA season suspended
MLS season suspended
NCAA Tournament canceled
NCAA Women’s Tournament canceled
Big Ten Tournament
Pac 12 Tournament
Big 12 Tournament
Conference USA Tournament
American Conference Tournament
UEFA Champions League (Tuesday matches postponed)
Serie A (Italian soccer)
La Liga (Spanish soccer)
Formula 1 has had the McLaren team withdraw from the Australian Grand Prix this week. Next week the Bahrain Grand Prix is due to be raced with no fans.
U.S. Women’s and Men’s friendly matches canceled
Coachella postponed until October
Stagecoach postponed until October
E3 video game concert
Pearl Jam tour postponed
Adam Sandler tour postponed
Indian Wells 2020
Universities have been either moving classes online, telling students to move out of dormitories and postponing spring classes and canceling classes outright in some instances.
There’s a reason sit-ups top the list of exercises to get your spare tire under control. They work the major rectus abdominis muscle. They are challenging to do but elementary to understand. They involve no machines or special devices.
And yet… there’s no way around it. Sit-ups are boring. Up, down, up, down — the exercise gets really old, really fast. They are also good but not perfect: All that rounding of the spine places stress on the lower back which can cause injury over time. More over, the exercise works your abdominals in two planes of motion, but does not engage your obliques or transversus abdominus, limiting the true amount of core strength you can build.
Not to worry, flat abs were not built by sit-ups alone. There are plenty of other moves out there that can give you the muscle tone you want without the monotony you dread. Here are 10 ab exercises to try instead of sit-ups.
The cousin of full sit-ups, crunches involve lying on your back, feet either flat on the floor or elevated in the air with knees bent. Perform small contractions of your abdominal muscles to raise and lower your torso a few inches. You can do these with hands by your sides or behind your head for support. Aim for 100 crunches.
A key part of core strength is balance. In this exercise, start sitting with your knees bent, feet flat on floor. Place one hand behind each knee. Slowly lean back, lifting your feet off the floor so that the hover a few inches off the ground. When you find the sweet spot where you are balanced between your raised legs and backward-leaning torso, stop. Try to extend your legs into a straight position, so that your body forms a V shape. Hold for 10 counts.
3. Bicycle Crunches
An oldie but goodie, the bicycle move is great because it engages your oblique muscles as you twist your torso from side to side. Start by lying on your back, knees bent, feet in the air. Bend elbows and place your hands behind your head. Start circling legs in a bicycle-like motion, bringing opposite elbow to knee. Do this for one minute.
4. Inverted Hinges
Start in an extended push-up position, legs and arms straight. From here, hike your hips toward the ceiling, keeping your back flat and legs straight. Keep going until your body forms an inverted V shape, with your butt as the apex. Hold here for five counts, then slowly stretch back out in a controlled manner. Do 10 inverted hinges.
From an extended push-up position, drop down so that your weight is supported by your elbows, which should rest beneath your shoulders. Hold this position, back straight, for one minute.
(Photo by Sam Owoyemi)
6. Side Plank
From the front plank position, shift your weight so that you are resting on your right arm. Twist your entire body so that your left shoulder points toward the ceiling and your legs are stacked on one of top of the other with your left side on top. Maintain a straight line from your shoulders to your feet. Hold for one minute, then rotate to the other side and repeat.
Start sitting on the floor, knees bent, feet tucked under a sofa or chair base for support. Stretch your arms in front of you and slowly lean your torso back until your upper body creates a wide V shape with your legs. Stop in this position and begin to make small pulsations back and forward with your upper body. Do this for one minute.
Begin this move in the same wide V shape as above. Instead of pulsing up and down, swing both arms over to your right side and twist your torso to follow. Begin to “pulse” in this position, making small twists to the right and back to center (as opposed to up and down). Do 10 times, then rotate arms and torso to the left side and repeat.
9. Windshield Wipers
Start lying on your back, feet in the air, legs straight. Place arms out to either side of support. In a controlled manner, drop both legs over to the right, reaching for the floor. Keep hips still and facing up toward the ceiling. Bring legs back to the centerline, then drop them over to the left side. Repeat this side-to-side motion (like a set of windshield wipers) 10 times.
10. Leg Raises
Lie on your back, legs straight. Tuck hands under the small of your back for support. Keeping your legs straight and together, raise feet off the floor toward the ceiling. In a controlled manner, lower legs back to the floor without arching your back. Do 10 times.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
Scott Burch has been Acting Superintendent of Pearl Harbor National Memorial since August, 2020. In this role, Burch oversees the stewardship of the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial and other historic resources associated with the history of World War II in the Pacific from the events leading to the December 7, 1941 attack on Oah’u, to peace and reconciliation.
Before arriving at Pearl Harbor National Memorial Burch had been serving as the Superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa since 2015, where he led a diverse staff of 50. Previously, he served at Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Some projects and programs he has worked on in parks include expansion of the visitor center and drawing indigenous villages together on conservation issues in American Samoa and working with local tribes on water rights in the American West. He has spent much of his life working to improve diversity and including as many voices as possible on a wide variety of issues.
WATM: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. As we approach this national day of remembrance for the lives lost during the second world war, tourists are wondering if you’re open on the anniversary and if so, what precautions is the museum taking against the pandemic?
Thank you for having me today, we are open on the anniversary. It’s going to be a little different this year and most of that is based on the pandemic. We’re delaying our opening time to allow for the safety of our veterans that we will be hosting on the morning of December 7th. Our plan is to have a virtual event that will be live streamed.
It will be very much like the usual ceremony with a ship passing in review, we’ll have a missing man fly over, echo taps, and great speakers. The only people on site will be the speakers themselves as they’re being filmed and live streamed on our social media page. We’re not even going to invite the veterans this year because of concern of that high-risk population. So, what we’ve offered them is the opportunity to take their families out on the memorial that morning on their own personal tour of the memorial.
Five of them have taken us up on that offer. So, we’ll run one group at a time to keep them separate and then once we’re finished with that, we plan on opening the park itself to the public at about 1230. =
WATM: Safeguarding our nation’s history is an immense privilege and commitment. When did you realize your passion for the Pearl Harbor National Memorial needed to be turned into action?
For me personally, the Arizona memorial has been important to me my entire life. I grew up here just up the hill. My first experience in life is the shrine room in the memorial. So this place has a very special place in my heart. As I’ve gone down the path of life, I feel lucky that it has led me back here to home, where I literally feel like I belong.
I’ve known that my passion needed action from my very first days and my very first memories. It was just a matter of time to be able to finally come back and give back what it has given me my whole life.
WATM: What is something about the history of the battle that most people don’t know?
I’m glad you’ve asked that question, Ruddy. Our real focus for our ceremony and the events we’re having is to try to share a very diverse story about what we serve and protect — to include as many stories as we can. One of the interesting things that I think is not well known, the attack on December 7th, 1941 which is very well known and changed the world forever after World War II, one of the sad stories is that that battle lead a series of events that lead to the mass incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese in the United States. Including over 2,000 in Hawaii based solely on their race.
As wisemen say ‘if you don’t learn from history, you’re likely going to make the same mistakes again.’
I think it is a better place because we’ve learned from things like that. I think it’s important to share and celebrate our success in coming so far from those things. Not only as a nation with our world international relations but as humans.
WATM: Americans love to conserve the heritage that has shaped our way of life. How can people who cannot travel to Hawaii support the mission of the Pearl Harbor National Memorial?
The best way to support our mission, preserving and protecting this special place, is to learn more about it. That is one of the big reasons the National Park Service is so happy to be involved in preserving and protecting the Pearl Harbor National Memorial.
There are the usual ways to learn about this place: our website, social media, and lots of ways to engage even though you cannot get to Hawaii. This weekend, starting tomorrow, is a real special opportunity.
We have a virtual program called Beyond Pearl Harbor: Untold Stories of WWII.
It will kick off at 1600 HST December 7th, 2020 for the duration of the weekend.
When I arrived in this job one big personal goal, I had was to make Pearl Harbor National Memorial more relevant to more people. This program is part of that work. On one level its designed to be a jump start to our virtual Dec 7th event, but it has developed a life of its own. Pacific Historic Parks is hosting it on their website and have been instrumental in helping us work on the new messages we hope to share this year.
The Philippine Navy has successfully test-fired its first ever ship-borne missile, making it a much more capable force in tense regional waters.
Navy personnel aboard a multipurpose attack craft, or MPAC, operating in waters off Lamao Point in Bataan launched a Spike Extended Range missile at a target six kilometers away, the Inquirer, a local outlet, reported Aug. 9, 2018, citing an announcement by the Philippine Navy.
“The target was hit dead center even if the sea state condition was moderately rough with a wave of at least one meter high but within the normal firing conditions of the missile,” Navy public affairs chief Commander Jonathan Zata told reporters.
The test was part of a Sea Acceptance Test for the missile system first acquired in early 2018.
The Philippines purchased the Spike ER missile system, which launches short-range surface-to-surface missiles, from Israel in late April 2018 for .6 million. The systems are expected to be installed on three fast MPAC gunboats, while its warships will be armed with longer-range missiles.
“It will be a deterrent because, this time, we have a credible armament that can strike a punch whether the target is a small or large ship,” a Philippine commander told Reuters in early May 2018.
The Philippines faces threats ranging from China’s militarization of the South China Sea to pirates in its southern waters. The country is preparing to spend .41 billion over the next five years to obtain warships, drones, fighter jets, radar systems, helicopters, and surveillance planes to bolster its capabilities.
The test-firing of the Spike ER missile system comes just a few weeks after Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to “defend our interest” in the South China Sea. China has expanded its military presence there, despite an international arbitration ruling two years ago that discredited China’s vast claims to the highly contested waterway.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Satellite images taken just after the collapse of February 2019’s summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un show North Korea rebuilding a long-range-missile test site it pledged to dismantle, experts say.
The photographs are from March 2, 2019, two days after Trump’s meeting with Kim ended without agreement on the nuclear disarmament of North Korea.
Previously, the Tongchang-ri facility had been used for satellite launches using missile technology North Korea is banned from using by the UN, the analysts said.
(CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019)
A South Korean lawmaker who was present at a closed-door briefing by South Korean intelligence March 5, 2019, told the Associated Press that the structures being restored at the site included roofs and building doors.
The lawmaker said the National Intelligence Service director, Suh Hoon, told them that North Korea could be preparing to restart tests of long-range missiles if talks with Washington conclusively collapsed.
He suggested that another possibility was that the site could be dramatically blown up in a display of commitment to denuclearization if talks with the US resulted in a deal.
North Korea had begun to dismantle the facility following an agreement reached at June 2018’s Singapore summit between Trump and Kim, and it had been dormant since August 2018, experts say.
According to the monitoring website 38 North, efforts to rebuild structures at the site began between Feb. 16 and March 2, 2019. Trump’s summit with Kim began Feb. 27, 2019.
Its experts say the images show the rail-mounted processing building, where launch vehicles are worked on before being moved to the launch pad, are being rebuilt.
They also identified support cranes, new roofs, and an engine support structure being developed at the test stand.
Researchers of Beyond Parallel, a CSIS project, describe this image of the Sohae Satellite Launching Station launch pad as showing the partially rebuilt rail-mounted rocket transfer structure in a commercial satellite image taken over Tongchang-ri, North Korea.
(CSIS/Beyond Parallel/DigitalGlobe 2019)
In a Fox News interview March 5, 2019, the White House national security adviser, John Bolton, warned that new sanctions could be imposed on North Korea if the country did not further commit to denuclearization.
“If they’re not willing to do it, then I think President Trump has been very clear,” he said.
“They’re not going to get relief from the crushing economic sanctions that have been imposed on them, and we’ll look at ramping those sanctions up in fact.”
Military spouses get a bad rap. One need only mention that he or she is a military spouse and the dependa accusations start to flow, especially on social media. But that oft-maligned stereotype is far from the full picture. For every walking caricature, there are hundreds of hard-working, goal getters – pushing past those PCSes, deployments, and solo parenting struggles to blaze their own trails and grab those brass rings. Here are five butt-kicking milspouses who make us all proud.
Brianna Keilar is a CNN anchor, a senior political analyst … and the wife of Army LTC Fernando Lujan. They met when Lujan was working on the National Security Council at the White House and Keilar was CNN’s Senior Washington Correspondent. Though Keilar is better known, by far, for her very public day job, she’s hardly a closeted milspouse. She hosted events for Blue Star Families in 2018 and 2019 and wrote this essay about covering the news with a husband deployed.
Cadets in SS394: Financial Statements Analysis learned from Cracker Barrel Old Country Store CEO Sandy Cochran and Dollar General Chairman of the Board Mike Calbert.
(Image via West Point SOSH Facebook page)
2. The CEO
Sandy Cochran is pretty much who we all want to be when we grow up. The former Army brat doesn’t know how to fail. She was a member of the National Honor Society, the tennis team, captain of the cheerleading squad, and president of her class at Stuttgart American High School. She went to college on an ROTC scholarship and was honor grad of her Ordnance Officer Basic Course. She qualified as a paratrooper and served in the 9th Infantry Division first as a Missile Maintenance Officer in the 1st Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery, and then on the Division Staff, while attending night school to earn her MBA.
Cochran left the Army in 1985 (but not the Army lifestyle) and began working her way up the corporate ladder, while married to Donald Cochran, who served in the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and in Army Special Forces as a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachute team leader. Fast forward through a couple of decades’ worth of both of the Cochrans’ amazing accomplishments (Seriously. They. Have. Done. So. Much.) and in 2009, Sandy was hired as the CFO of Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc. Two years later, she moved into the CEO job, where she has spent nearly a decade successfully leading the company and its 73,000 employees.
It’s a tale as old as time…Pattie Millett already had an impressive legal career when she met and fell in love with a sailor. Like so many other military spouses, Pattie decided to figure out a way to make it work. She and her husband Bob got married, had two children, and when he deployed, Pattie did the job of two parents raising their children … while also managing her heavy caseload as a lawyer in the United States Solicitor General’s office.
And this is where her story is a tad different.
She argued a case before the Supreme Court and briefed five more while her husband was deployed. Then, in August 2013, Pattie became Judge Millett when she was confirmed by Congress to serve as a United States Circuit Judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to the seat vacated by Judge (ahem, now Justice) John Roberts, who was elevated to the United States Supreme Court — where our Pattie had already argued 32 cases. In fact, Pattie’s name even made it on the shortlist for a SCOTUS nomination — and we wouldn’t be surprised if she gets considered for that auspicious position again.
Oh, and did we mention that Pattie also has a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do? She earned it during all her free time.
(Image via Facebook)
4. The Olympian
When she’s all dressed up for her organization’s annual gala, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Sally Roberts for a fairy tale princess. But looks can be deceiving. Sally is hardly the type to sit around waiting to be rescued.
Not only is she a two-time Olympic Bronze Medal-winning wrestler and three-time National Women’s Wrestling Champion, she’s the founder and executive director of Wrestle Like a Girl, a national non-profit organization that is largely responsible for making girls’ wrestling a sanctioned high school sport in a growing number of states, bringing women’s wrestling into the NCAA, and for girls’ wrestling currently being the fastest growing sport in the nation.
Sally, an Army Special Operations veteran and the wife of a recently retired Army Special Forces soldier, started the organization not only to introduce more girls to the sport, but also to show girls that they can do anything.
We can’t imagine a better example of that than Sally.
Anna Chlumsky’s character Amy Brookheimer on the television series “Veep” is unflappable, the kind of woman who can handle absolutely anything. The actor, however, admits that being a military spouse can make her a little … flappable.
Anna and her husband, Shaun So, met when they were both college students at the University of Chicago. He enlisted in the Army Reserves and deployed to Afghanistan while they were dating. Anna wrote about her experiences for Glamour magazine, saying, “Being a family member … of a serviceman or -woman is a lonely experience. Every military spouse or loved one has, at one time or another, felt as if no one understands what they’re going through.”
She said her friends were supportive, but they didn’t always understand. “The concept of war was so foreign in our cosmopolitan world,” Chlumsky wrote. “Either people didn’t pay attention at all, or they read too much. I’d meet strangers who, upon discovering my boyfriend was in the Army, would look at me like I was living out some eighties romantic comedy, dating a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.”
President Donald J. Trump today announced his intention to nominate Philip Bilden as the 76th secretary of the Navy.
If confirmed by the Senate, Bilden will replace Ray Mabus, who was the longest serving Navy secretary since World War I.
The announcement follows the president’s nomination of Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary and Vinnie Viola as Army secretary.
“All three of these nominees have my utmost confidence,” Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement following the announcement. “They will provide strong civilian leadership to strengthen military readiness, gain full value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense, and support our service members, civilians, and their families. I appreciate the willingness of these three proven leaders to serve our country. They had my full support during the selection process, and they will have my full support during the Senate confirmation process.”
Bilden is a business leader, former military intelligence officer and Naval War College cybersecurity leader who served on the board of directors for the United States Naval Academy Foundation and the board of trustees of the Naval War College Foundation.
He was commissioned in 1986 in the Army Reserve as a military intelligence officer and served for 10 years, achieving the rank of captain. Bilden’s family includes four consecutive generations of Navy and Army officers, including his two sons, who presently serve in the Navy.
“As secretary of the Navy, Philip Bilden will apply his terrific judgement and top-notch management skills to the task of rebuilding our unparalleled Navy,” Trump said. “Our number of ships is at the lowest point that it has been in decades. Philip Bilden is the right choice to help us expand and modernize our fleet, including surface ships, submarines and aircraft, and ensure America’s naval supremacy for decades to come. I am proud of the men and women of our armed forces. The people who serve in our military are our American heroes, and we honor their service every day.”
“I am deeply humbled and honored to serve as secretary of the Navy,” Bilden said. “Maintaining the strength, readiness, and capabilities of our maritime force is critical to our national security. If confirmed, I will ensure that our sailors and Marines have the resources they need to defend our interests around the globe and support our allies with commitment and capability.”
Mortars used to be considered artillery weapons because they lob hot metal shells, sometimes filled with explosives, down on the enemy’s heads.
But the mortar migrated to the infantry branch, and the frontline soldiers who crew the weapon maneuver into close ranges with the enemy and then rain hell down upon them. Here’s what makes the mortarman so lethal:
1. Mortarmen can emplace their system and fire it quickly
2. Mortars can maintain a relatively high rate of fire
3. The mortar crew is located near the front, so it can observe and direct its own fire
4. Mortars are often in direct communication with battlefield leaders, allowing them to quickly react to changes in the combat situation
5. Mortars can be equipped with different fuzes, allowing the weapon’s effects to be tailored to different situations
6. Most mortars are relatively light, allowing them to be jumped, driven, or even rucked into combat
7. This mobility allows them to “shoot and scoot” and to stay at the front as the battle lines shift
8. Mortarmen are still infantry, and they can put their rifles into operation at any point
Social isolation and feelings of loneliness are associated with suicidal thoughts. Consequently, the more people feel disconnected from their friends, peers and colleagues, the more isolated they become.
One antidote for social isolation is social connectedness. That is, people coming together and interacting. But there’s been little research on suicide prevention programs that target social connectedness.
Dr. Jason Chen of the VA Portland Health Care System is leading a study to establish a stronger sense of social connectedness for Veterans at high risk of suicide. He’s doing this by increasing their participation in community activities.
Chen and his team have been identifying the community engagement needs and preferences of Veterans who have been hospitalized and evaluated for psychiatric conditions. Specifically, the team interviewed participants within a week of their discharge from an inpatient psychiatric unit. They discovered Veterans analyzed for psychiatric conditions, such as PTSD, are at much greater risk than other cohorts of taking their own lives within three months after leaving the hospital.
Social connection could decrease suicidal thoughts
“When working with Veterans, I noticed that many didn’t have social connections,” Chen says. “We know that feeling connected to others can be a form of protection against suicide. So I thought to myself, if the Veterans I work with don’t have many connections, perhaps we could help them create new connections through community activities. My hope is that by helping Veterans increase their engagement in community activities, they’ll feel a stronger sense of social connection that will, in turn, decrease their level of suicidal thoughts.
“The first part of our study was to learn more from Veterans about what gets in the way of connecting. For example, we interviewed 30 Veterans to learn about their past experiences connecting to the community and their thoughts about what would get in the way in the future. Our Veteran sample varied in age from their 20s through their 70s. The average age was 48. We wanted to understand a broad range of experiences across different eras of conflict and generations.”
Suicide prevention is VA’s top clinical priority
Eventually, Chen and his colleagues plan to create clinical toolkits for VA and community figures. The toolkits will focus on increasing social connectedness for Veterans in this vulnerable population.
VA considers suicide prevention its top clinical priority. The most updated analysis of Veteran suicide rates, issued in 2016, notes Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This compares with 22% in 2010.
Chen and his team have identified patterns of Veterans’ needs and preferences for social connectedness.
“Veterans appear to be interested in a broad range of activities,” he says. “However, they noted having difficulty knowing how to access these activities and how to make new social connections. Within our sample, Veterans have discussed needing more hands-on support for engaging in community activities. They generally value and believe these activities are important for their wellness and recovery. But they could use extra support for navigating logistics and interactions with new people. We plan for this support to come from a Veteran peer support specialist. That is a Veteran who has undergone his or her own mental health recovery and is now helping support other Veterans with their experiences.”
Working with communities
Researchers are partnering with communities to provide a broad range of activities tailored to the interests of Veterans who are at high risk for suicide. These activities include engaging with Veterans or non-Veterans in the Chinese martial art tai chi or outdoor activities, such as fly fishing or playing music.
“We do not have good evidence that any one type of activity is more protective than another,” Chen says. “They’re worthwhile as long as folks develop a sense of belonging and feel like they’re giving back to others.”
Don’t get me wrong, Pathfinder was a tough course, and I proudly wore the winged torch for much of my career. But the only reason I went to the school was for the badge, and if most people are honest with themselves, that’s why they went, too. After all, the course is often derisively referred to as “Badgefinder.”
I learned some useful skills in Pathfinder School, but I probably didn’t need to go to a dedicated school to learn them. The hardest part about Pathfinder was memorizing the capabilities, tables, and charts necessary to calculate things like forward throw, HLZ and DZ sizes, and cargo capacity. Those are important things to know how to do, but (like for Air Assault School), you will rely on hard copy versions of that information, not your memory, if you need to do it for real.
Additionally, most of the people who attend Pathfinder end up never being in a Pathfinder unit, much less use those skills operationally.
Pathfinder has a long and proud history, but it has outlived its utility. It’s time to furl the school’s colors, retire the badge, and put those resources to better use.
The largest buyer of America’s most expensive weapons program just declared it ready for war.
“I am proud to announce this powerful new weapons system has achieved initial combat capability,” US Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said on a call with reporters.
“The F-35A will be the most dominant aircraft in our inventory because it can go where our legacy aircraft cannot and provide the capabilities our commanders need on the modern battlefield,” Carlisle said.
Of the sister-service branches, the Air Force has been the most bullish on Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II’s combat capabilities.
The 15 Air Force F-35A jets, and 21 combat-mission-ready pilots from Hill Air Force Base’s 34th Fighter Squadron, represent a significant breakthrough for the weapons program, which began development 15 years ago and has been offset by design flaws, cost overruns, and technical challenges.
Lt. Gen. Chris Bogdan, the F-35 program’s executive officer, said that the Air Force’s decision to declare the F-35A’s initial operational capability (IOC) “sends a simple and powerful message to America’s friends and foes alike, the F-35 can do its mission.”
“The roads leading to IOC for both services were not easy and these accomplishments are tangible testaments to the positive change happening in the F-35 program,” Bogdan said.
As the Air Force is buying nearly 70% of the fifth-generation jets being made domestically — 1,763 of 2,443 aircraft — the Air Force sets the economies of scale for the tri-service fighter, with each plane costing a cool $100 million.
Lockheed Martin, considered a bellwether for the US defense sector, is expected to generate nearly a fifth of its $50 billion in 2016 sales solely from the F-35 program.
In the company’s latest quarter, the defense giant posted net sales in its aeronautics business up 6%, or $244 million — compared to the same period in 2015.
The Pentagon’s top weapons supplier is also building the “jack of all trades” aircraft for the UK, Turkey, Australia, Italy, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, Israel, Japan, and South Korea.
Even though the Air Force is operating the oldest fleet in its history, it’s not the first of the sister-service branches to declare its variant combat-ready.
“There were a lot of people out here in the press that said, ‘Hey, the Marines are just going to declare IOC because it would be politically untenable not to do that,” Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for aviation, said during a discussion at the American Enterprise Institute on the readiness and future trajectory of Marine aviation.
“IOC in the Marine Corps means we will deploy that airplane in combat. That’s not a decision I was gonna take lightly, nor Gen. Dunford,” Davis said, referring to Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman.
The US Navy variant, the F-35C, is scheduled to reach IOC by February 2019.
Rights groups are calling for the release of an Afghan man with a special visa given to those who assist the United States military overseas who has been held by immigration authorities for nearly three weeks.
Abdul, whose full name is not being revealed for security reasons, arrived at the Newark, New Jersey airport on March 13 as part of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Afghans who are in life-threatening danger are eligible for this status.
“Border agents coerced him into signing away his fundamental rights, even though the federal government understood his life was in danger in Afghanistan because of his service to the United States,” Jeanne LoCicero, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
The man and his family had previously been attacked by the Taliban armed group. U.S. immigration authorities are trying to deport him.
Abdul, who holds a sponsorship letter from a retired U.S. Army sergeant, worked as a cashier for five years at a cafeteria next to the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul until February, shortly before he departed for the United States.
Instead of a warm welcome, Abdul was detained on arrival.
“If they had stamped his passport, he would be a lawful U.S. resident,” Jason Scott Camilo, an immigration lawyer representing Abdul, told Al Jazeera.
Camilo said the Afghan was initially interrogated for 28 hours by agents from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs (ICE) agencies.
The lawyer said Abdul was without legal counsel for more than a day. He was held in “a big waiting room. There’s a couple of jail-like cells without beds…he couldn’t sleep,” Camilo said.
Shortly before his scheduled deportation, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) filed a case on Abdul’s behalf, which was denied. It then filed an emergency appeal and a court placed a temporary stay on his deportation pending a review of his case.
Abdul has since passed an initial interview for refugee status and is awaiting a court review in mid-April. However, he remains locked up in the Elizabeth Detention Center, a private facility contracted by ICE.
Betsy Fisher, IRAP’s policy director, said Abdul’s detention is part of a larger clampdown on the Special Immigrant Visa program.
In December 2016, then-president Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which only allocated 1,500 more SIV visas. With so few visas available, Fisher explained, interviews for applicants at the U.S. embassy in Kabul ended on March 1.
“There are roughly 10,000 people still waiting for SIVs,” Fisher told Al Jazeera. “The fact that applicants are now in indefinite limbo because Congress has failed to provide the number of visas we knew were needed is a disgrace and abandonment of our allies.”
Abdul is the second Afghan SIV recipient to be detained in March. On March 4, a family of five that had been granted approval to move to the U.S. because of their father’s work was detained in Los Angeles.
Al Jazeera contacted ICE and CBP for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.