Typically, an amputation ends a military career. For a long time, most any level of amputation was considered to make a service member unfit for combat. As of last summer, only 57 amputees had returned to conflict zones and most of those stayed at a desk.
These three men wanted to get back into the fight.
1. The Ranger who swore he’d still be a squad leader
Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Kapacziewski was in an armored vehicle when insurgents threw a grenade into it. Kapacziewski survived the blast with serious injuries. After months of surgeries and casts, he attempted to walk on his right leg again and heard the pins holding it together snap. Soon after, he asked doctors to remove it.
Over the months and years that followed, Kapacziewski (a.k.a. “Joe Kap”) relearned how to do the basic tasks required of Rangers . He ran, rucked, parachuted, and completed Army drills with his prosthetic leg. Since his amputation, he has conducted four combat deployments and even earned an Army Commendation Medal for pulling an injured soldier 75 yards during a firefight.
2. The paratrooper who led an airborne platoon with a prosthetic
1st Lt. Josh Pitcher finished relieving himself on the side of the road, closed his fly, and heard the loud pop of a small roadside bomb. Two days later, he was in a hospital in Germany, promising to return to combat despite losing his left leg beneath the knee. Before he could even try and return to active duty, Pitcher had to kick a pill and drinking habit he got trying to deal with the pain after his surgeries. But, he learned how to do his old job with his new leg. Less than two years after his injury, he returned with his unit, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, to Afghanistan. A few months later, he took over a 21-man platoon and led them for the rest of the deployment, most of it trudging through the mountains in the northern regions of the country .
3. The captain who calmly reported his own double amputation
When then-1st Lt. Daniel Luckett’s vehicle was hit by an IED in Iraq in 2008, a squad leader called up to ask if everything was all right. Luckett calmly responded, “Negative. My feet are gone.” Two years later, Capt. Luckett was with the 101st Airborne Division again; this time in Afghanistan. He uses a small prosthetic to assist what remains of his right leg. A much larger one serves as his left. His second day with his first prosthetic, he attempted to walk away with the leg. Doctors tried to get it back, but Luckett convinced them to let him keep it. He would go on to earn the Expert Infantry Badge during his efforts to prove he was still an asset. After successfully earning the award, the soldier was promoted to captain and allowed to deploy with his unit as part of the Afghan surge.
To shed light on the epidemic of veteran suicide, BraveHearts — the nation’s leading equine rehabilitation program for veterans — started its first of three Trail to Zero rides Sept. 7, 2019 in northern Virginia.
The 20-mile ride in each city commemorates the number of veterans lives lost on average each day. The ride educates people on equine-assisted services benefits and healing effects.
Army veteran Tim Detert was one of the Trail to Zero riders. Detert served from 2005-2010 with the 82nd Airborne, deploying to Iraq twice for 18-month and 13-month tours. Following his service, Detert said he started suffering from depression and anxiety, turning to alcohol and opiates. Four friends ended their lives. After a suicidal spell, a friend recommended equine therapy to him.
“It’s completely turned around my life,” said Detert, who has been sober two years. “It’s given me a lot of hope and joy. I was so depressed and down before I came to this program. I was just looking for something and I hadn’t found it until I started working with the horses.”
Army Veteran Mitchell Hedlund, one of the Trail to Zero riders, served in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and now uses equine therapy.
The BraveHearts president and chief operating officer said she’s seen veterans greatly improve their well being through equine therapy.
“I can’t even tell you now how many times I’ve heard veterans tell me personally that they wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the horses,” said Meggan Hill-McQueeney. “They find peace with the horses, they find hope with the horses, and they find purpose with the horses. Alternative therapies like equine therapies are tremendous opportunities.”
Currently, 64 VA medical centers across the country participate in therapeutic riding programs. These programs use equine assisted therapeutic activities recreationally to promote healing and rehabilitation of veterans for a variety of physical disabilities and medical conditions, said Recreation Therapy Service National Program Director Dave Otto. These include traumatic brain injury/polytrauma, blind rehabilitation, other physical impairments, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health disorders.
Children on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall talk to a BraveHearts rider Sept. 7, 2019, during the Trail to Zero ride.
Additionally, VA awards adaptive sports grants annually for organizations and groups that provide adaptive sports opportunities for veterans with disabilities, Otto said. These grant recipients also partner with VA facilities within their region to coordinate such adaptive sports opportunities for Veterans. During fiscal year 2018, VA awarded nearly id=”listicle-2640279831″ million to 12 grant recipients providing equine assisted therapy to Veterans with mental health issues. VA will award up to id=”listicle-2640279831″.5 million of these grants in fiscal year 2019.
BraveHearts is the largest Professional Association for Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) program in the country and serves veterans at no cost to veterans. The program offers equine services to provide emotional, cognitive, social and physical benefits. Veterans at BraveHearts have reported increased self-esteem, self-worth, trust for others, community integration, and decreased depression, anxiety, post traumatic disorder symptoms and self-inflicting thoughts.
In addition to the Sept. 7, 2019 ride, Trail to Zero plans rides for Sept. 14, 2019, in New York City and Sept. 28, 2019, in Chicago.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marine, former LAPD officer and novelist, Joseph Wambaugh, sat down with the Marine Corps Entertainment Media Liaison Office and discussed how his service gave him the values needed to pave the way for two successful careers, Aug. 9 2020.
Joseph Wambaugh is well known in the entertainment industry for his best-selling police novels and contributions to several television shows and feature films. Though much of his inspiration came from a long and distinguished career as a police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, he attributes his work ethic and core values to another period in his life. Joseph Wambaugh is one of the few and the proud, the Marines. One whose service to America began in the mid-1950s.
In the second iteration of a series of dialogues with successful Marine veterans we found Wambaugh to be insightful, interesting, and able to provide key nuggets of wisdom to pass along to any Marine, veteran and citizen alike.
Wambaugh has written many prevalent novels to include “The New Centurions”, “The Choirboys”, “The Onion Field” and “Hollywood Station” to name a few. Twenty-one books in all, 13 fiction and eight non-fiction. Like many former Marines, he credits the Marine Corps with teaching him the value of an honest days’ work and, most importantly, for helping him mature.
“I was born in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania … an only child in a blue-collar family and lived there until I was 14 years old,” said Wambaugh. “It was about that time when my parents and I came to Ontario, California to bury a relative. Sunny California looked nothing like gritty, grimy Pittsburgh so we ended up staying. My father supported us as a washing machine repairman. I was a lazy student, almost always the youngest in my class. I graduated from Chaffey High School when I was nearly 17 and a half, too young to get a real job and with no college ambition. I talked my mother into signing for me and along with my best friend, joined the Marine Corps July 7, 1954. The Marine Corps made me grow up and realize the value and necessity of hard work.”
Wambaugh’s time in the Corps included service on both coasts of the United States. Early during his time as a Marine, he was assigned a few different occupations. However, it was his final assignment that foreshadowed his future successes.
“After boot camp in San Diego, I was sent to Jacksonville for training as an airplane mechanic but had no mechanical dexterity,” said Wambaugh. “I was then transferred to Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. My MOS [Military Occupational Specialty] was 0141, also known then as ‘office pinkie’, after my sergeant major discovered that I did learn one thing in high school – I could type. I spent the last 18 months of my enlistment at Camp Pendleton as a company clerk.”
Wambaugh married his high school sweetheart Dee while in the service and they have been married nearly 65 years. He took several college courses while off duty and by the time he was discharged he had accumulated some credits to put toward an undergraduate degree. He decided to use the Montgomery GI Bill along with the California Veteran’s Bill to finance a degree in English. He initially wanted to become a schoolteacher, however he learned the LAPD had openings and paid fairly well. Now mature, educated and with life experience as a Marine, he easily completed the requirements “To Protect and Serve” as a police officer. He was sworn in May 5, 1960.
Reflecting on his childhood and his service as a Marine and police officer, Wambaugh recalled always finding inspiration through reading. “Being an avid reader gave me an ability to express myself on paper,” Wambaugh said. “As a young boy I found Jack London’s works in the public library and read “The Call of the Wild” three times.”
It wasn’t only classics that inspired him. Like many children from his era, he also found joy reading comic books and watching movies.
“As an only child I got a generous one-dollar allowance each week and would buy five comic books every Saturday, then go to the movies and buy penny pretzels and a popsicle,” said Wambaugh. “That pretty much took care of the allowance.”
When asked about how he got started as a writer, Wambaugh remembered it being somewhat challenging but rewarding nonetheless. “I was a cop for nearly a decade before I began experimenting with short stories. I would send them to cheap magazines and they would write back with swift rejections,” recalled Wambaugh. “I finally decided to try for a famous magazine…”Playboy.” My short story was rejected but I couldn’t believe that someone actually had read it so I sent it to them a second time. This time my rejection said, ‘It’s no better this time than it was last time, schmuck,'” Wambaugh said smiling. “Many years later, when I was a bestselling author, “Playboy” asked me to write a story. I never got around to it and looked everywhere for the ‘Dear Schmuck letter’ to send back but couldn’t find it.”
Wambaugh’s first break came when his best-selling novel, “The New Centurions,” was optioned into a motion picture where it was adapted for the screen by an Oscar-winning screenwriter and starred an Oscar-winning actor. George C. Scott, another former Marine, played the leading role. This was an exciting time for Wambaugh.
Wambaugh remembered George C. Scott was known for his onset antics, mercurialness and being, at times, somewhat scary.
“For one of the few times I saw him on location or on set, George Scott played a not-so-funny prank on the production team.” Wambaugh said. “The prank included a prop revolver and blank cartridges and I’ll leave it at that. As we all settled down, George was suddenly buoyant and pumped. He had just done something very dangerous and he loved it. He was a peculiar fellow, but a truly great actor.”
From humble beginnings to entertainment celebrity, Wambaugh recalled being flattered that his work was so popular and how it led to the start of some great relationships.
“Of course, it was heady stuff, finding myself a casual acquaintance of so many celebrities,” said Wambaugh. “Director Harold Becker, who directed “The Onion Field” and “The Black Marble” from scripts I had adapted from my books, became a dear friend. He created the TV show ‘Police Story’, which was a big hit in the 1970s. He was ahead of his time and commonly told stories of female police officers, as he believed them more detailed in their storytelling.
Service as a police officer became increasingly difficult for Wambaugh as his celebrity grew. He eventually had to decide between his artistic work and his service as a police officer.
“Eventually it was becoming impossible for me to do police work,” Wambaugh said. “People I arrested were asking me to cast them in ‘Police Story.’ Others came to my station hoping I would read their manuscripts. My celebrity wiped out my ability to do police work and I reluctantly left the LAPD after 14 great years.”
When asked about what advice he had for Marines seeking a career in entertainment, Wambaugh offered a few insightful tips.
“I’m rather proud of my willpower when it comes to working day or night without letup until the job is done,” said Wambaugh. “I never lost that intensity until a book or script was finished. I think that growing up from the age of 17 until the age of 20 as a young Marine taught me to embrace and value hard work. There are all sorts of tangible and intangible rewards that come from knowing we have done our best and never backed off until the job was done.”
His advice for storytelling in the industry was very direct. Wambaugh offered, “Keep your audience broad so it appeals to the most possible people because cynically but truthfully, Hollywood is motivated by money. Action and violence should probably be tempered.”
The Headquarters Marine Corps Communication Directorate Los Angeles Office, assists directors, producers, and writers in the entertainment industry by providing Department of Defense support for major motion pictures, television shows, video games, and documentaries. The office aids in informing and educating the public on the roles and missions, history, operations, and training of the United States Marine Corps.
This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDShub on Twitter.
A deafening explosion followed the commands as a 155mm artillery round exited the tube of an M777A2 during Operation Swift, Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
Troopers from the Field Artillery Squadron “Steel,” 3rd Cavalry Regiment “Brave Rifles,” conducted a gun raid to provide supporting fires for Operation Swift — a series of artillery and airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Makhmour Mountains.
Operation Swift was the first artillery raid conducted in support of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, and demonstrated the Coalition’s capability to provide dynamic fires in support of the Iraqi Security Forces.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment execute nighttime fire missions with an M777A2 howitzer during a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“Doing the first artillery raid, having never air assaulted a howitzer in theater, was a great experience,” said 1st Lt. Aaron Palumbo, platoon leader. “It taught us just how light we could personally pack and helped us identify the feasibility of transporting a Howitzer with rotary-wing assets,” said Palumbo.
High explosive charges echoed across Camp Swift night and day as the fire direction center meticulously choreographed the fire missions with airstrikes on multiple ISIS weapons caches and hiding spots throughout the mountains.
“It felt as if we were moving mountains before the mission,” said Palumbo. “Now, we have identified friction points and know how to execute future missions with increased lethality.”
The barrages of artillery fire were intended to destroy resources of ISIS fighters and send a message that no enemy location was safe from the lethality of the entire coalition force.
U.S. Army Soldiers from the 3rd Cavalry Regiment load and elevate an M777A2 howitzer during nighttime fire missions for a gun raid mission with Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in Iraq, Dec. 22, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“It was interesting being part of the first artillery raid, and doing an artillery mission in combat like we would during home station training,” said Spc. Deavon Shafer, ammunition team chief.
During the onset of Operation Swift, Steel troopers both observed coalition aircraft dropping ordnance on known ISIS positions, and reinforced those fires with their own M777A2 howitzer that was air assaulted into position.
The artillery raid was a proof of concept to pass onto future artillery units in theater and a demonstration of the partnership between the ISF and Brave Rifles Troopers in the fight to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS in Iraq.
When not firing, they trained with the 3rd Federal Police Division soldiers at Camp Swift on the unique weapons systems of both units and conducted artillery training with soldiers of the 12th Brigade, 3rd Iraqi FEDPOL Artillery Battalion.
A trooper with the Field Artillery Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, connects a sling leg from an M777A2 howitzer to a CH-47 Chinook before executing a gun raid mission with Ira-qi Security Forces in Iraq, Dec. 16, 2018.
(Photo by Sgt. Edward Bates)
“The training felt the same as training we do internally — we learned something new,” said Spc. Kevin Mahan, M777A2 gunner.
Operation Swift was the first of its kind in theater and will not be the last.
“Task Force Steel executed the artillery raid in conjunction with fixed wing airstrikes to mass joint fires in the Makhmour Mountains and continue the physical and psychological degradation of ISIS,” said Maj. Simon Welte, squadron executive officer. “Our operational tempo remains high against ISIS and this raid serves as another example to our ISF and Kurdish Security Force partners that we are committed to the lasting defeat of ISIS in Iraq.”
Brave Rifles Troopers are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, working by, with and through the Iraqi Security Forces and Coalition partners to bring about the lasting defeat of ISIS. Brave Rifles Troopers will eventually be replaced by soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team “Bastogne,” 101st Airborne Division, and the Steel Sqdn. has paved the way for future missions.
Bastogne soldiers will continue to provide support to the ISF and deliver massed fires utilizing a variety of firepower to defeat ISIS’s combat power and ideology.
For centuries, many civilizations have tried (for one reason or another) to subdue or kill the Russian Bear.
Most of them failed.
To successfully plant their flag atop the Kremlin, an invader must consider a few things that’ll certainly affect the outcome before mobilizing forces and gassing up the fleet.
1. The Russian Winter.
Pro Tip: Pack your woobie.
In 2014, Vice’s Oscar Rickett askedIHS Jane’s military expert Konrad Muzkya just what it would take to conquer Russia and just how a nation might go about it. His first question is one that sticks in the minds of any student of military history: How does anyone beat the Russian winter?
With Napoleon and Hitler waiting with bated breath in the next world, Muzkya replies with his belief that guided munitions, nuclear weapons, and modern power projection capabilities nullify this historical advantage.
“Any potential conflict with the West would most likely be fought in the air, space, and sea,” he told Vice. “Any use of land forces would be limited to capturing strategically important facilities — bridges, airfields, and the like.”
2. The size of Russia.
To give the failed invaders a little credit, the Russia conquered by the Mongols was a fraction of the size it was during the 19th and 20th centuries. But a little secret to the Mongols success might be preparation. The Khans took 17 years to finish off the Russians.
It wasn’t a lack of manpower, either. At the time of the French Invasion, Napoleon’s Grande Armée numbered 680,000 troops.
To give some perspective, that’s like deploying half of all the active U.S. military troops as riflemen. Which is a terrible idea.
Trying to conquer Russia is the equivalent of invading the U.S. twice, in terms of land mass. Just moving from St. Petersburg to Moscow is 400 miles. It took the Allies more than two months to reach Paris from the Normandy — which is just 167 miles away.
Russia is 6.6 million square miles of cold, cold, cold, nothing. Which presents another problem entirely.
3. There’s nothing there.
Everything after Moscow is flyover country. An invading country can’t just not go into the steppe. Once the Russian people figured out the occupiers won’t go into the wilderness, that’s exactly where the insurgency will take root.
Even getting to all the nothing will take a Herculean effort. The Russian Army mans an estimated 280,000 effective fighting soldiers. When the going gets tough, it has to be assumed they will use the same human wave-style tactics used against the Nazis in WWII.
What was a problem in the past for armies who had to forage for food or move supplies by train is not a problem for a global power like the U.S. military. All the same, after Moscow, there isn’t much in the way of infrastructure for things like tanks or places suitable for airfields — all things insurgent partisans in the area will have a field day targeting.
4. One thing at a time.
Anyone who wants to invade Russia should probably clear their schedule. The Mongols drove through the country because it was on the way to where they were going anyway. The Nazis were still fighting in North Africa and preparing for the invasion of Britain when Hitler launched Barbarossa. Napoleon was fighting an insurgency of his own in Spain.
The United States and NATO, if they were to invade Russia, should probably withdraw from all the other conflicts they have around the world and concentrate on the problem at hand. Once there, keeping a unified front would be of the utmost importance.
An invader shouldn’t expect to actually conquer anything. In almost every invasion of their motherland, the Russian people have resorted to scorched-earth tactics — burning or otherwise destroying everything that might be of use to an enemy. As Muzkya notes in the Vice article, the Russians still move troops using trains. That hasn’t changed since WWII. It’s likely not much else has either.
5. Bring some friends … and an Air Force.
Muzkya cites an estimate of a half-million troops being necessary to properly subdue Afghanistan. He also notes that Russia is 26 times the size of Afghanistan and has a population of 143 million. Afghanistan has just 30 million. Even the Chinese military with its massive available manpower would have a difficult time creating a sustainable drive across Russia.
But a military campaign is more than just people these days. The Russian Navy can’t project power in the same way the U.S. can – or anyone else, really. The country has only one aircraft carrier, and that deploys with a tugboat in case it breaks down.
The Russian air force, however, is still on the relative cutting edge, even if that edge isn’t as sharp as it once was. It has a fighter that can compete with the Air Force’s F-22 Raptor. Russia’s bomber force isn’t relevant in a defensive war because it’s more likely they’d use a nuclear attack before a conventional bombing campaign on their own soil.
6. Be prepared to die.
As for the use of nuclear weapons, Muzkya says that Russia has the right to use them to defend itself and any invader needs to be prepared for that.
“Russia possesses second-strike capability,” he says. “And unless you’re ready to take a nuclear hit from Russia — which no one can — you need to embrace the notion of a total annihilation of your country.”
He predicts that Russia – all 6.6 million square miles of it – would be turned into a nuclear wasteland in the event of an invasion from China or the West, so talking about who wins is irrelevant.
The Air Force is to ditch a nearly a half-billion dollar contract issued to a Chicago-based company to make bunker-buster bombs after complaints by lawmakers about the company’s ties to a Russian oligarch.
The Air Force awarded a contract worth $419.6 million to A. Finkl & Sons Co. to produce bomb bodies for the 2,000-pound BLU-137 penetrator warhead, which is meant to replace the BLU-109.
Finkl’s contract was slightly smaller than the $467.9 million award given to Ohio-based Superior Forge and Steel Corp to make 300 bomb bodies in the first year with the potential for as many as 3,500 more over four years.
However, according to Bloomberg Government, a group of lawmakers protested the decision, saying Finkl was not eligible for the award because of its foreign parent company, Swiss steel-maker Schmolz + Bickenbach, which is partially owned by Viktor Vekselberg, a Russian billionaire and aluminium magnate who has been hit by US sanctions.
By awarding the contract to Finkl, Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Mark Kelly told Bloomberg, the Air Force had “turned their back” on Ellwood National Forge, a longtime bomb-maker that employs 2,000 people and is based in Pennsylvania. Ellwood had worked on every previous generation of the bunker-buster warhead.
Vekselberg, born in Ukraine and based in Switzerland, is worth more than billion and holds an 11.34% stake and 1.25% stake in Schmolz + Bickenbach through two holding companies, both of which have been hit by US sanctions against Russia over that country’s actions in Crimea and Ukraine. (His stakes in Schomlz + Bickenbach were not large enough to draw sanctions on that company.)
Early 2018 the US imposed sanctions on Russian individuals and entities over Moscow’s suspected meddling in the 2016 US election — including assets worth between id=”listicle-2602523867″.5 billion and billion belonging to Vekselberg and one of the holding companies in question.
Kelly and nine other Republican members of Pennsylvania congressional delegation protested the decision in a July 27, 2018 letter, saying they were “so surprised” Ellwood has missed out on the contract “despite submitting the lowest cost bid and possessing far more experience than either of the companies that won a contract.”
“Perhaps more troubling is that one of the companies that was awarded a contract is the subsidiary of a foreign-owned conglomerate, even though the request for proposal explicitly barred foreign owned, controlled or influenced companies from applying to this contract,” the letter said.
In an Aug. 30, 2018 letter seen by Bloomberg Government, the Air Force appeared to concur, saying Finkl should have been ineligible because of foreign ownership and that it had sent “a notice of termination” to the Chicago-based firm. The Air Force’s letter did not mention Vekselberg.
Munitions maintainers assemble BLU-109 munitions during the Combat Ammunitions Production Exercise at Osan Air Base in South Korea, May 25, 2010.
(US Air Force photo photo by Staff Sgt. Stephenie Wade)
Ellwood also filed a protest of the contract award, on which the Government Accountability Office has yet to rule. It is not clear whether the Air Force will reassign the contract or open it to a new round of bidding.
US sanctions on Russia over alleged meddling in the 2016 election have created other headaches for the Pentagon and lawmakers.
Under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, which President Donald Trump signed into law in August 2017, the US can put secondary sanctions on entities and individuals doing business with the Russian intelligence or defense sectors.
The latest defense authorization bill contains a waiver process for US partners that buy Russian weapons, but the Pentagon has said allies aren’t certain to be spared “from any fallout” from Russia sanctions.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s included in that giant bucket of information dumped on you in briefing after briefing right before deployment:
Exactly what will happen if your service member or another member of his unit is killed? What should you expect? What happens if they are injured?
We get a lot of questions about this at SpouseBuzz. Readers want to know what to expect from the notification process, can’t remember what was said in those briefings or maybe never made it to one. They want to know who will show-up at their door, what they will say and when they will arrive. They want to be empowered with information.
We understand the predeployment mental block on this stuff. While it may be the most important part of any predeployment briefing, it’s probably the part you most want to forget. Who wants to dwell on the possibility that their service member may not come home before he even walks out the door?
But it is so important. And whether this is your first or fifteenth deployment, a refresher from the casualty affairs folks is probably a good idea.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)
But we’re not PowerPoint people here. So instead of making you sit through an acronym riddled briefing the next time we see you, we’ve gone straight to the source at the Pentagon to get you as cut and dry a run down here as we can.
Look at this as a point of reference. Forward it to other members of your unit or include it in your FRG newsletter. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get you the official answer and get back to you.
But first, a caveat: The policies and information we’ll talk about below are the Pentagon’s military-wide standard, straight from Deborah Skillman, the program director for casualty, mortuary and military funeral honors at the Defense Department. However, like almost everything else in the military, each service has the ability to change things at their discretion. We’ll note where that is most likely to happen. In a perfect world, though, the below is how things are supposed to be done.
What to expect if your service member is killed:
Two uniformed service members will come to your door to tell you or, in military speak, “notify you.” One of them will actually give you the news, the other one will be a chaplain. Sometimes a chaplain may not be available and so, instead, the second person will be another “mature” service member, Skillman said. If you live far away from a military base there is a chance the chaplain may be a local emergency force chaplain and not a member of the military, she said.
These people will come to your door sometime between 5 a.m. and midnight. This is one of those instances where the different services may change the rule in limited instances. Showing up outside this window is a decision made by some very high ranking people. If it happens it’s because it’s absolutely necessary.
You are supposed to learn about your spouse’s death before anyone else. A different team of notification folks will deliver the news to your in-laws – but only after you’ve been told. Same thing goes for any children your spouse has living elsewhere or anyone else he’s asked be told if something happens.
The news is supposed to reach you within 12 hours of his death. The services use that time to get their notification team together, find your address and send someone to your home. If you live near the base and have all your contact information up to date with your unit, they’ll arrive at your home very quickly. If you’ve moved and live far away from any base, it may take the full 12 hours. If you live in a very remote location (for example our past unit had to send a team to notify in the Philippines) it could take more than 12 hours.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada)
You’re supposed to hear the news first from the notification team. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not just because it’s solemn and respectful. Telling you in person makes sure you are in a safe place to hear such life changing news. And it makes sure that the information they are giving you is accurate, not just a rumor. After they notify you, the team will stay with you until you can call a friend or family member to be with you or until the next official person – the casualty assistance officer – can arrive.
If you hear the news first from someone else, the notification team will still come. In that case instead of delivering notification they will deliver their condolences, Skillman said. Even though the unit goes into a communications blackout after someone dies or gets seriously injured, sometimes word sneaks out anyway through a well meaning soldier or wife who doesn’t know the rules. The team, however, will still come and do their duty.
What happens after notification? You will be assigned a casualty assistance officer who will walk you through all the next steps, including the benefits you receive as a widow. You can read all about those here. That service member has been specially trained for this duty. His or her job is to make sure you get everything you need from the military.
What if your service member is wounded?
The notification process for a injured service member is different but the result is still the same — you are supposed to learn the news before anyone else (other than his unit) stateside. Here’s how it works:
You’ll receive a phone call. If at all possible, Skillman said, the phone call will be from your service member himself. If that’s not possible a military official will call you with as many details as he has and then give you regular updates by phone until they are no longer necessary. If they cannot reach you (let’s say you dropped your iPhone in the toilet again) they will contact your unit to try to reach you through whatever means necessary.
If your service member is severely wounded and will not be transferred stateside quickly, you may be able to join him wherever he is being treated outside the combat zone, often Germany. The official will let you know whether or not this is an option.
You’ll be regularly updated with how and when you will be able to see him. If he is transferred to a treatment facility stateside far away from you, the military will help you arrange travel to wherever he is being sent.
What if someone else in your unit is injured or killed?
Some of the hardest moments you’ll have as a military spouse will be spent wondering if your service member is the one who has been injured or killed. Because the unit downrange goes on blackout until all the notifications stateside are made, you may be able to pretty well guess when something has happened based on a sudden lack of communication. Will it be you? Will the knock be on your door this time?
That can be very a scary time. In my experience, the best thing to do is to choose to not live in fear. When our unit lost 20 soldiers in four months, it became very easy to predict when something had happened and sit in dread in our homes alone — just waiting, watching and praying. However we knew that wasn’t healthy. So instead, a small group of us purposefully spent time together instead.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis)
Specifically what happens in the unit when a service member is injured or killed probably differs from unit to unit and base to base. But most of the processes look something like this:
The unit goes on blackout. That means that all communication from downrange to families is supposed to abruptly and without warning stop. That blackout will likely last until notification to the families has been made.
You will receive a phone call or an email from your unit that someone has been killed or injured. After all the family has been notified, the unit will let you know who has been killed or injured by either email or phone. If it has been less than 24 hours since the last family member was notified, the message will only tell you that someone was killed or injured — not who. If you are told about it via a phone call, the person making the call — possibly a point of contact from your family group — will likely read you a preset script. An email could look like the below, one of the many our unit received during our 2009-2010 deployment:
Families and Friends of 1-17 IN,
On Sept. 26, 2009, 1-17 IN was involved in an incident that resulted in 1 soldier who was Killed in Action. The soldier’s primary and secondary next of kin have already been notified.
On behalf of the soldiers of 1-17 IN, I send my condolences to the soldier’s Family. We will hold a Memorial Ceremony for this soldier at a time and place to be determined.
Please remember to keep the soldiers of 1-17 IN and all other deployed soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continuous support.
The Defense Department will release the name of the person killed no less than 24 hours after the family has been notified. That buffer gives the family some private time. However, you may learn who it was before that. The family may choose to tell people. If blackout is lifted downrange, your servicemember might tell you. The most important thing during this time is to respect the family’s privacy. If you do happen to know who was killed before the family or the DoD has released the name, for the love of Pete don’t go blasting it all over town.
You will receive details from your family readiness group on how you can help support the family and when the military memorial will be. Above all us, respect the family’s privacy and needs. Attending the military memorial can be a great way to show that you care without being intrusive.
1st Lt. Jessica Pauley became the Idaho Army National Guard’s first female infantry officer in 2019. She is now assigned to the 116th Cavalry Regiment’s C Company, 2nd Battalion, as its first female platoon leader. (U.S. Army/ Crystal Farris)
The U.S. Army announced recently that female soldiers will be integrated into all of its infantry and armor brigade combat teams (BCTs) by the end of the year.
Currently, 601 women are in the process of entering the infantry career field and 568 are joining the armor career field, according to a recent Army news release.
“Every year, though, the number of women in combat arms increases,” Maj. Melissa Comiskey, chief of command policy for Army G-1, said in the release. “We’ve had women in the infantry and armor occupations now for three years. It’s not as different as it was three years ago when the Army first implemented the integration plan.”
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta started the process by lifting the ban on women serving in combat roles in 2013. The Army then launched a historic effort in 2015 to open the previously male-only Ranger School to female applicants.
The plan is to integrate female soldiers into the final nine of the Army’s 31 infantry and armor BCTs this year, according to the release. The service did not say how many female soldiers are currently serving in the other 22 BCTs.
At first, the gender integration plan, under the “leaders first” approach, required that two female officers or noncommissioned officers of the same military occupational specialty be assigned to each company that accepted women straight from initial-entry training.
Now, the rule has been changed to require only one female officer or NCO to be in companies that accept junior enlisted women, according to the release.
Comiskey said it’s still important to have female leaders in units receiving junior enlisted female infantry and armor soldiers, to help ease the culture change of historically all-male organizations.
“Quite frankly, it’s generally going to be an NCO leader that young soldiers will turn to for questions,” she said. “The inventory of infantry and armor women leaders is not as high as we have junior soldiers. … It takes a little bit longer to grow the leaders.”
Our military does an incredible job of protecting our global interests, but they don’t do it alone. They’ve got a bunch of very good doggies that help them out.
Case in point: President Donald Trump announced in October 2019 that a military dog named Conan played a role in the raid against ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in northwest Syria, but he’s far from the first dog to help out the military.
Dogs have been working as bomb sniffers, message carriers, and guards for US military branches since at least World War I, when a stray Boston bull terrier wandered on to an Army training field and went on to become a unit’s mascot as they traveled to Europe.
In the decades following, trained dogs traveled across the world as they worked with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. And their natural skills and instincts are honed in training, making these dogs become the perfect working companions for the troops.
Some of the dogs even became military heroes, sniffing out the enemy, and attacking when needed.
Here are some of the good dogs who have helped the US military over the years.
1. Stubby, a Boston bull terrier, is the most famous US military mascot from World War I.
Before Stubby became the famed dog he is today, he was just a stray pooch who wandered his way on to an Army training center in New Haven, Connecticut.
While on the training grounds in 1917, Private First Class Robert Conroy took him in and Stubby ended up on the front lines of World War I as the mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division of the United States Army.
According to The Purple Heart Foundation, Stubby took part in 17 battles, detected traces of gas to warn soldiers, located wounded men on battlefields, and learned drills and bugle calls, and how to decipher English from German.
Following his efforts, Stubby participated in parades, met three presidents, and received dozens of awards, including a Purple Heart.
Rags with Sergeant George E. Hickman, 16th Infantry, 26th Division.
(US Army Signal Corps)
2. Rags was a message carrier for troops in Europe during World War I.
Rags, a stray terrier in Paris during World War I, became a war hero after befriending US Army Private James Donovan in 1918, according to K9 History.
The dog soon became a carrier for Donovan’s unit, carrying messages from the 26th Infantry Regiment to the supporting 7th Field Artillery Brigade.
Rags lost an eye and Donovan was injured by poisonous gas during the Meuse-Argonne Campaign, a major battle in France in 1918. Donovan later died of his injuries.
Rags, meanwhile, lived out his life in Maryland, and died in 1936.
3. Chips is the most famous dog of World War II — and he once single-handedly attacked a hidden German gun nest.
After the US entered World War II, thousands of people donated their dogs to be trained for guard and patrol duty, and Chips was one of them.
The German shepherd-collie-husky mix took part in Allied campaigns in North Africa, Italy, France, and elsewhere in Europe, and was able to take down a hidden German gun nest during the 1943 invasion of Sicily, according to Inside Edition.
He later went on to guard a conference between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and US President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Lee’s family ended up adopting Lex when he took an early retirement.
“We knew that’s what Dustin would have wanted out of this,” Jerome Lee, the slain Marine’s father, told the Associated Press at the time. “He knew that we would take care of Lex and love him, just like our own.”
Lex died in 2012.
A United States Air Force Belgian Malinois.
6. Cairo, a Belgian Malinois, was part of the SEAL team that took down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden in 2011.
Cairo was part of the SEAL Team 6 that helped take down al-Qaida’s longtime leader, Osama bin Laden, in a 2011 raid in Pakistan.
Though there are no available photos of Cairo, his story should be known.
Her handler, Cpl. Juan Rodriguez, ran past a known IED to apply a tourniquet and carry her back to safety.
Lucca then retired to California to live with Gunnery Sgt. Christopher Willingham.
“She is the only reason I made it home to my family and I am fortunate to have served with her,” Willingham said at the time. “In addition to her incredible detection capabilities, Lucca was instrumental in increasing morale for the troops we supported.”
She received a Dickin Medal in London in 2016, the highest valor award for animals in the UK.
Wonderful dog, Conan.
(White House photo)
8. Conan was injured while taking down Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State terrorist group.
A Belgian Malinois named Conan helped take down Islamic State terrorist group leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2019.
President Donald Trump published a photo of the Conan on Twitter, after announcing he had “declassified a picture of the wonderful dog” after the Pentagon had declined to reveal any information about the dog.
The FM-2 Wildcat safely tucked away in the hangar bay. The Stearman Model 75 can be seen the back (Commemorative Air Force)
The amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) is an integral part of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force as a forward operating platform. Essex is capable of carrying up to 1,771 Marines as well as the landing craft to get them ashore.
Her aircraft suite includes AV-8B Harrier II attack aircraft, F-35B Lightning II stealth strike-fighters, AH-1W/Z Super Cobra/Viper attack helicopters, MV-22B Osprey assault support tiltrotors, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters, UH-1Y Venom utility helicopters, and SH-60F/HH-60H anti-submarine warfare helicopters.
However, rather than her usual wing of modern jets and helicopters, USS Essex is currently carrying 14 WWII-era trainer, bomber and fighter aircraft.
USS Essex usually carries Marine aircraft like these Ospreys (US Navy)
The 844-foot-long ship is on her way to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to participate in RIMPAC 2020, the world’s largest international maritime exercise. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Pentagon made the decision to cancel RIMPAC’s air exercises.
In January, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper called for a number of WWII-era aircraft to assemble in Hawaii to participate in a commemoration of the end of the war in the Pacific. Known as V-J Day for “Victory over Japan”, the event is most commonly celebrated on August 15. On August 15, 1945, (which was August 14 in America due to the time change), Emperor Hirohito announced his decree to accept the Potsdam Declaration and surrender over the radio.
Since the Marines had to leave their aircraft behind, USS Essex had plenty of room for the WWII-era aircraft since the vintage planes were unable to make the flight to Hawaii. The planes will include five AT-6/SNJ advanced trainers, two PBY Catalina flying boats, a B-25 Mitchell bomber, an FM-2 Wildcat fighter, an F8F Bearcat fighter, a Stearman Model 75 biplane, a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber and a T-28 Trojan.
The FM-2 Wildcat is lowered to the hangar deck (Commemorative Air Force)
The planes will conduct flyovers over Hawaii from August 29, the day U.S. troops began the occupation of Japan, to September 2, the day that the formal Japanese surrender was made aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.
Before embarking on the trip to Hawaii, the pilots, maintainers and ground crews accompanying the planes were required to spend two weeks in quarantine at Naval Base San Diego to prevent anyone with COVID-19 from boarding the ship.
The 14 planes headed to Hawaii aboard the USS Essex will return to San Diego with the ship following the conclusion of the V-J Day Commemoration and RIMPAC.
Militaries and private companies around the world are developing new technologies that turn war fighters into supersoldiers. Jet-powered suits that allow the wearer to hop between boats moving at 20 knots and flying hoverboards are just the start of it.
The Russian military is developing motorized body armor that looks like it belongs on Boba Fett from “Star Wars.” And the hoverboard isn’t just something from “Back to the Future,” it’s a real invention that France’s Franky Zapata successfully used to cross the English Channel.
The Russian military, as well as the US, France, and Great Britain, are all developing futuristic technologies that seem like something straight out of a Marvel blockbuster. But these technologies aren’t far off in the future; many are already in testing phases — or in use on the battlefield.
Read on to see some of the most wild futuristic military tech out there.
Jet-powered flyboard steals the show at Bastille Day celebrations
1. The French inventor Franky Zapata’s high-flying hoverboard made it all the way to France’s Bastille Day celebrations this year. French President Emmanuel Macron was so enamored that he tweeted a video of it, suggesting that the French military might use them in combat one day.
“Proud of our army, modern and innovative,” Macron tweeted during the Bastille Day festivities.
Zapata’s Flyboard Air can fly at speeds up to 190 kph (118 mph), according to The Guardian.
2. The US Army is in the final testing stage for its Enhanced Night Vision Goggles-Binocular (ENVG-B), which will allow soldiers to accurately shoot from the hip and around corners. They also provide improved situational awareness, thermal imaging, and better depth perception.
The new goggles have dramatically improved marksmanship, Lt. Gen. James Richardson, deputy commander of Army Futures Command, recently told Congress.
The goggles can display the weapon’s aim point and can be linked to see video or virtual feeds from other positions, allowing troops to accurately shoot around corners without exposing their heads.
An armored brigade combat team deploying to South Korea will be the first to use the new goggles, according to Army Times.
3. The FLIR Black Hornet III is a pocket-sized drone that will perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions in combat. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, already has the drones, which come in a pair — one for daytime and one enabling night vision. The drones are about 6 inches long and can fit on a soldier’s utility belt. The Army hopes to equip every soldier with the drones in the future.
Paratroopers of the 83rd Airborne Brigade preparing for jump drills in 2017.
4. According to Russian state media, the Russian military is developing the D-14 Shelest parachute system, which will allow soldiers to access their weapons and begin firing immediately after they jump out of a plane.
Russia’s Tass news agency reported the parachute system would allow paratroopers to have small arms strapped to their chests and that the new technology would be tested at the Research Institute of Parachute-Making soon.
5. Russia’s infantry could soon be wearing the Ratnik-3 armor that reportedly allows soldiers to fire a machine gun with one hand. It has integrated electric motors — an improvement over the Ratnik-2 version, which was not motorized. It’s in testing.
The US had a similar suit in development, the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS. However, we’re not likely to see the TALOS in combat anytime soon, Task Purpose reported earlier this year.
6. The inventor and former Royal Marine Richard Browning tested his jet suit over the English Channel, using the five-turbine suit to move back and forth with ease between Royal Navy boats.
7. “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s Rocket Man! Inventor, pilot and former Royal Marines Reservist Richard Browning, along side HMS Dasher, tested his jet-powered body suit over the water of the Solent for the very first time,” the Royal Navy tweeted on Tuesday.
7. The Army is developing a 50 kilowatt laser cannon, the Multi-Mission High Energy Laser (MMHEL), to be mounted on Stryker combat vehicles. It’s designed to shoot drones and explosives out of the sky, and the Army plans to roll it out in the next four years.
The Army accelerated the development and deployment of the MMHEL. “The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield,” Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, the director of hypersonics, directed energy, space, and rapid acquisition, said in a statement.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller using a HoloLens.
(US Marine photo by Lance Corporal Tayler P. Schwamb)
8. The Army is testing goggles that employ facial recognition, as well as technology that translates written words like road signs. The goggles may even be able to project visual data from drones right in front of soldiers’ eyes. The Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) is a modified Microsoft HoloLens technology and is expected to go into wide use in the mid-2020s.
“We’re going to demonstrate very, very soon, the ability, on body — if there are persons of interest that you want to look for and you’re walking around, it will identify those very quickly,” Col. Chris Schneider, a project manager for IVAS, said at a demonstration of the technology recently.
The big news from Turkmenistan in the last few weeks has been that the country’s mercurial president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, has been absent from the news for large periods of time.
That’s unusual because he normally dominates the state-run broadcasts.
And the few times Berdymukhammedov has been on television since going on vacation nearly one month ago, his appearances have raised more doubts than offered evidence of his well-being.
While officially on vacation, that has never stopped Turkmen state media from following Berdymukhammedov around in previous years.
But his absence from nightly Turkmen television newscasts and daily reports in state print media have some people seriously considering rumors that Berdymukhammedov is in poor health or possibly even dead.
Berdymukhammedov had already been officially on vacation for almost one week when Aslan Rubaev, identified as the director of the Center for Monitoring Eurasian Problems, told the Russian radio station and Internet news site Govoritmoskva.ru that Berdymukhammedov had died of acute renal failure on July 20, 2019.
There was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why the president chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.
The news spread like wildfire across Russian-language media and it was only after a few hours later that the Turkmen embassies in Russia and Kyrgyzstanissued statements rejecting stories that the Turkmen president had died.
Before the end of the day, Rubaev was making a public apology for his remarks, saying they were unfounded.
But Berdymukhammedov had still not been seen and the rumors persisted.
Finally, on July 24, 2019, there were reports Berdymukhammedov had spoken by telephone with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev to wish him a happy birthday.
Later that evening, Turkmen television news aired footage of Berdymukhammedov inspecting plans for a new district in the capital, Ashgabat, without explaining why the president had decided to break away from his vacation to look at drawings of new bus stops.
And then Berdymukhammedov vanished from local news again.
His next appearance in state media was not until Aug. 4, 2019, when state television showed a series of clips of Berdymukhammedov riding a bicycle, exercising, firing a rifle, bowling, riding a horse, working on a new book, composing a new song, and driving an SUV through the desert to the Gates of Hell — a perpetually burning crater that resulted from an attempt to flare gas there in the early 1970s.
He also appeared on state television on Aug. 5, 2019, holding a video conference call with officials.
On Aug. 3, 2019, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s office released a statement about Medvedev’s impending trip to Turkmenistan to attend the Caspian Economic Forum in the Turkmen Caspian resort of Avaza, adding that he planned to meet there with Berdymukhammedov.
That is the proof that has been offered to show Berdymukhammedov is alive and well.
But there are still many reasons to think that something is wrong with him.
Berdymukhammedov’s appearances on state television on July 24 and Aug. 4-5, 2019, were not entirely convincing.
As mentioned, there was no explanation in the July 24, 2019 report as to why Berdymukhammedov chose to suspend his vacation for one day to occupy himself with the mundane matter of urban renewal plans in Ashgabat.
And RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk, noted that Berdymukhammedov was wearing exactly the same suit and tie as he wore in a May 10 broadcast on state television, which is strange because he never wears the same suit — or even the same clothes — twice in his television appearances.
Berdymukhammedov did not speak in the footage aired on July 24, 2019, for example, to say he had just spoken with the Uzbek president, as was reported.
The Turkmen president also did not speak in the Aug. 4, 2019 footage aired on Turkmen TV, and the clips seem to be a compilation of his usual bizarre antics that are regularly shown on the evening news, and of which there is almost certainly an abundance of archive material from the cutting-room floor.
His hair is gray in the recent appearances, but that only narrows down the time frame to anytime during the last year or so, when he stopped dying it black.
The headlines of the reports seemed aimed at quieting rumors of ill health or worse.
Turkmenistan Aug. 6, 2019’s headline said, “Turkmenistan’s President Dedicates His Vacation To A Creative And Active Life,” and the Golden Age website’s headline read “The Turkmen Leader’s Vacation: Active Leisure, Literary And Musical Creativity.”
The Aug. 5, 2019 footage showed Berdymukhammedov discussing the country’s economic performance, agriculture, preparations for the Aug. 11-12, 2019 Caspian Economic Forum and the Muslim holiday Kurban Bayramy.
Image of Berdimuhamedow, on display outside the national horse-racing ground in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.
But again, Berdymukhammedov did not refer to any recent event that would have proven the footage was from sometime during the last two or three weeks. The conversations could have taken place several weeks or months ago.
Absent from the video conference was any criticism of officials’ work, or reprimands for shortcomings, which are typical of these video conferences. It was also unclear why he again interrupted his vacation to hold the video conference.
Similarly, state print media had an unusual gap in reports featuring Berdymukhammedov.
News about the Turkmen president has always dominated state media coverage, going back to the early days of first Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov.
A July 25, 2019 report about Berdymukhammedov congratulating new British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the last news about Berdymukhammedov for more than one week on the Altyn Asyr (Golden Age) state website until a report appeared on Aug. 4, 2019, about the footage shown on state television. The same was true on state website Turkmenistan Today.
The last reports featuring Berdymukhammedov on the Russian-based pro-government website Turkmenistan.ru are from July 25, 2019; one congratulating Johnson and another about birthday wishes for Mirziyoev.
Even stranger, Turkmenistan.ru on Aug. 1, 2019 reported about the CEO of the Malaysian company Petronas, Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, visiting Avaza and meeting with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov and gas-and-oil-sector chief Yashigeldy Kakaev.
Berdymukhammedov’s name is not even mentioned in the report.
Petronas has been doing business in Turkmenistan since 1996. Petronas developed and is still working Block 1 in Turkmenistan’s sector of the Caspian Sea, “the first PSA to be awarded by the government of Turkmenistan.”
Petronas has invested more than billion in Turkmenistan and was a sponsor of the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games that Turkmenistan hosted. When Berdymukhammedov visited Malaysia in November 2016, he made a point of meeting with Ariffin, as he had met with previous Petronas head Dato Shamsul Azhar in Kuala Lumpur in December 2011. Berdymukhammedov also met with Azhar’s predecessor, Hassan Marican, in Ashgabat in May 2009.
Despite the history of close ties to the heads of Petronas, Berdymukhammedov could not find even a few minutes to meet with Ariffin at a resort area in Turkmenistan.
On July 25, 2019, Afghanistan completed the Aqina-Andkhoi segment of a railway line that is to link Turkmenistan to Tajikistan via northern Afghanistan.
Turkmenistan has been facing hard economic times since 2015 and this should have been good news for the country. Turkmenistan sent a delegation to a ceremony launching the new line that was reported on by Turkmen media. But there was not a word attributed to Berdymukhammedov about the accomplishment and what it could mean for Turkmenistan.
Where is he?
The immediate denials of Berdymukhammedov’s death came, as mentioned, from Turkmenistan’s embassies in Moscow and Bishkek.
But how would they know? Both embassies reacted rather quickly, almost automatically, rejecting reports of bad news about Turkmenistan as they usually do.
The Turkmen Foreign Ministry has not issued any statements denying the rumors Berdymukhammedov is ill or dead. In fact, while Berdymukhammedov has been on vacation it is not clear who exactly is running the country, though it does appear Foreign Minister Meredov is acting as the host to visitors.
And even Berdymukhammedov’s vacation is unusual this year.
Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov cut the ribbon to open an exhibition.
As the Hronika Turkmenistana website pointed out, he usually only takes two weeks of summer vacation. This year, his vacation is from July 15 to August 15.
Berdymukhammedov has in the past often taken his ministers, or many of them, along with him on vacation. Some of the ministers were at Avaza playing various sports at the end of July, but Berdymukhammedov was never shown among them, which is very unusual, as he customarily is on TV instructing his ministers how to exercise properly.
Again, the media is not following Berdymukhammedov around and showing footage of him frolicking on the Caspian shores or inspecting Turkmenistan’s naval vessels or merchant fleet.
There was some footage at the very start of his vacation of him playing with his grandchildren and some kittens.
Turkmenistan has always been a unique, some would say bizarre, place, but in the last few weeks there is a feeling that things are not right. Established patterns of behavior are being ruptured without any credible explanation as to why.
It seems Berdymukhammedov has suffered some sort of problem, otherwise it would have been easy enough for him to appear on state television and say something — anything — about current events. On the other hand, Turkmen media is now devoting a great deal of effort to convince people that their president of the last 12 years is alive and healthy.
Although the first Caspian Economic Forum should be the focus of attention when it opens in Avaza on August 11, everyone will now be concentrating on whether Berdymukhammedov will make an appearance and, if he does, if he shows any signs of having suffered some illness or physical setback.