'We've got the energy:' Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

Military medical staff are departing underused Navy hospital ships and field medical centers to relieve overburdened civilian doctors in New York City’s hard-hit hospitals as the coronavirus crisis wears on.

“We’re a fresh face, we’ve got the energy and enthusiasm,” said Air Force Col. Jennifer Ratcliff, who has brought medical teams to Lincoln Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.


The staff there “are tired and have been working very, very long days and weeks,” said Ratcliff, commander of the 927th Aerospace Medical Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida.

The Navy’s 1,000-bed hospital ship Comfort was sent to the city, arriving at Pier 90 in Manhattan on March 30, to take on the expected overflow of trauma patients from city hospitals as local doctors treated COVID-19 cases. But the patient flow has not materialized, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday.

“The strategy has changed,” he said. “We’re moving off the Comfort our doctors, a portion of our doctors, and putting them into New York City hospitals to provide relief.”

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

The USNS Comfort in New York.

Wikimedia Commons

He did not give the number of doctors being reassigned from the Comfort, but said a total of 2,100 military physicians, nurses and medical aides are now in the city and will be augmented soon by additional medical teams coming from the Army.

Ratcliff said the military reinforcements have been well-received.

“You can walk around the hospital and just see that the attendings and the residents are really happy to have us,” she added.

“We’re onboarding hospitals pretty much since we arrived,” Navy Capt. Joe Kochan said of the 1,100 volunteer doctors, nurses and medical aides from the reserves who deployed to the city last week.

“As it stands right now, we’re really pushing out into the hospitals to support their needs,” said Kochan, executive officer of the Operational Health Support Unit based at Portsmouth, Virginia.

When he announced the deployment of medical personnel into the city on April 5, Esper said about 300 would go to 11 city hospitals. It was unclear Tuesday whether that number had increased.

Kochan and Ratcliff joined Army Lt. Col. Leslie Curtis, chief nurse at the 9th Field Hospital out of Fort Hood, Texas, in a telephone conference from New York City to the Pentagon to stress the ongoing needs of the city despite the converted Javits Center and the Comfort being underused thus far.

In addition to the 1,100 medical personnel already deployed, the Army announced plans Monday to send more teams to the city.

Fifteen Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces will be deployed nationwide to assist cities in the fight against coronavirus, and four of those task forces, each consisting of 85 personnel, will be sent to New York City, the Army said.

The military has sought to adjust its efforts in New York City to the shifting requests coming from city and state authorities.

The original intent was to have the Comfort and a field medical facility at the Javits Convention Center treat non-COVID-19 patients to ease some of the burden on overcrowded local hospitals. But the demand to treat non-COVID patients did not emerge in a city on lockdown.

The city then asked that the Comfort and the Javits Center be used only for COVID-19 patients, and the military agreed, but bureaucratic and logistical problems hindered the transfer of patients.

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Military doctors conducting infectious diseases training in Panama in 2018.

Military Health System

COVID-19 patients first had to be taken to local hospitals to be screened, but the agreement now is to have ambulances take patients directly to the Javits Center or the Comfort.

As of Monday, about 320 patients were at the 1,500-bed capacity Javits Center. The last report Friday from the Pentagon on the Comfort said that there were more than 50 patients aboard the 1,000-bed ship.

Curtis, who has been working at the Javits Center, acknowledged the delays in bringing in patients. “First, we had to determine what the needs were,” she said. Then, the focus turned to “streamlining the bureaucracy, which everyone wants to do at every level.”

“Every day, we’re finding more ways,” she said. “I think this is moving in the right direction.

“We do want to do this. We have the ability to scale up to whatever the demands are, based on the needs of the city or any particular mission that is required,” Curtis added.

There has been speculation that the Comfort might be pulled out of New York City and sent elsewhere, but Ratcliff said she had seen no signs that the military’s efforts in the city would slacken.

“The city, I believe, still needs our assets,” she said. “I don’t think there’s talk of scaling that back but, again, we’ll do whatever the government of New York needs.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday described a city still in need of support despite continuing signs that new coronavirus cases had hit a plateau.

“We’re reducing the rate of infection,” he said. But another 778 deaths from coronavirus were recorded in the city Monday.

“That is terrible, terrible, terrible news,” he said.

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

Articles

This defense contractor wants to ‘grow’ drones in high-tech liquid ooze

A new initiative from BAE Defense Systems wants to create a system for “growing” drones in vats in a next-generation version of 3-D printing.


The process would be very quick, allowing military planners to manufacture new drones only weeks after a design is approved. That would allow custom aircraft to be grown for many major operations.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals
GIF: YouTube/BAE Systems

If the Air Force needed to get bombers past next-generation Russian air defenses, they could print drones specifically designed to trick or destroy the new sensors. If a group of troops was cut off in World War III’s version of the Battle of the Bulge, the Army could resupply them with custom-designed drones carrying fuel, batteries, ammo, and more. Different designs could even be grown for each payload.

The drones would grow their own electronics and airframes, though key parts may need to be manufactured the old fashioned way and plugged into new drone designs. BAE’s video shows a freshly grown aircraft receiving a final part, possibly a power source or sensor payload, on an assembly line after the craft leaves its vat and dries.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals
GIF: YouTube/BAE Systems

The 3-D printer that would be used, dubbed the “Chemputer” and trademarked by BAE, could potentially even recycle some of its waste and use environmentally friendly materials.

Since each aircraft is being custom built for specific missions or niche mission types, they can be highly specialized. One vat could print an aircraft optimized for speed that needs to outrun enemy missiles while the one next to it needs to act as a radio relay and has been optimized for loiter time.

The project is headed by University of Glasgow Regius Professor Lee Cronin. Cronin acknowledges that roadblocks exist to getting the Chemputer up and running, but thinks his team is ready to overcome them.

“This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry,” Cronin said. “We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems.”

For more information, check out BAE’s video above or read their article on the program here.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The most ‘Murican moments of every presidency, part one

Politics in the United States can be an incredibly divisive topic of conversation, if recent news is any indication. Still, no matter how you feel (or felt) about any Commander-In-Chief, there’s one thing we can agree on for all of them: each loved this country and cared about doing a good job. No one wants to be remembered as the the “worst president of all time” — and no matter whether you hate or love the current president or the last, I can guarantee you that neither will hold that title.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

But even the now-reviled James Buchanan didn’t set out to become the worst President ever. Even the Pierce Administration thought it was doing what was right for the United States. And, in Warren G. Harding’s defense, things were going really well in America during the 1920s. Let’s take a moment to forget party divisions and just remember the good times.


(And if you’re wondering, President Trump isn’t on here because his term isn’t over yet — his most ‘Murica moment might be yet to come)

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

George Washington accepting Lord Cornwallis’ sword at Yorktown in 1781.

George Washington

What was George Washington’s most “‘Murica” moment? Making everything about this country happen. The original Commander-In-Chief trapped the British Army under Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown with the help of the French Fleet. With nowhere else to go, Cornwallis surrendered, breaking the will of the British to keep fighting in North America.

The United States was born two years later and George Washington set the standard for how every democratically-elected President should act in office. It was his will that set these precedents and allowed the American experiment to continue. We would not have our democratic traditions were it not for how Washington conducted himself during and after his time in office.

He even warned us about political parties. Just saying.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

“The Directory is a stupid name for a ruling body. France is dumb.” — John Adams, probably.

John Adams

In many ways, the way John Adams conduct in office was as important as George Washington’s. Adams’ continuation of precedents set by Washington meant that successive Presidents would do the same. But that wasn’t Adams’ most patriotic moment.

That came when Revolutionary France demanded a bribe from the United States in order to accept diplomatic envoys. Rather than quietly pay up, Adams read the letter to Congress — who promptly printed it. Adams also commissioned ships for the U.S. Navy and raised a provisional army as reports of armed actions from France mounted. Instead of going to war, the French relented when American ships started clearing sea lanes and accepted American diplomats.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

This is a face that says, “I’m sick of your sh*t.”

Thomas Jefferson

Jefferson’s finest American hour came when he launched the nascent United States’ first war on terror. For decades, countries paid the North African Barbary States for the right to not get attacked by pirates in the Mediterranean. Corsairs from Tripoli and Algiers would raid foreign shipping and enslave entire crews, often even if the ransom was paid.

When Thomas Jefferson took office in 1801, the Barbary States got no more money from the United States. What they got instead was Stephen Decatur stealing their ships and burning their harbors as United States Marines under Lt. Presley O’Bannon captured their cities from the rear. When they Barbary Pirates tried the same stuff again a few years later, Decatur returned and this time, Algiers paid the U.S. to stop.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

James Madison

James Madison is one of our more overlooked Founding Fathers, and it’s probably because the war his administration oversaw ended in a stalemate — and the burning of Washington, D.C. But what was Madison supposed to do? Sit there and let Britain steal American sailors and tell the United States with whom who it could and couldn’t conduct trade just because they were the world’s dominant power? If your answer is ‘hell no,’ then you know why Madison took America to war, despite having very little to fight with.

It was the first time the United States declared a war against anyone and declared to the world that we were here to stay.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

“Back. The Hell. Up.” – James Monroe (paraphrasing)

James Monroe

For almost the entire lifespan of the United States, our policy in the Western Hemisphere was that any European meddling in the affairs of states in North and South America would be seen as “the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States” and be dealt with accordingly — this became known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” Recolonization of the Western Hemisphere was not gonna fly.

Basically, he told the world that the West was an American Hemisphere and if you f*ck with free and independent Latin America, you’re f*cking with the United States. And they all listened.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

That is what a game face looks like.

John Quincy Adams

Adams wasn’t just the progeny in the first Father-Son Presidential legacy, he was also the first “America First” President, opting to maintain good relations with Europe but focus any military and economic might right here in the Western Hemisphere. Under John Quincy’s administration, infrastructure projects created a marvelous system of roads and canals across state lines.

Unfortunately, while this was good for the young country’s development in the long term, the short term effect caused Adams to lose after his first administration, being accused of “public plunder” and federal overreach by his detractors.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

“The Era of Good Feelings is over. Daddy’s home.”

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson came into office like a wrecking ball — literally. His inauguration party nearly destroyed the White House. But as Jackson pledged his respect for the right of the states’ self-governance, he also had a deep respect for the law of the land. So, when uppity U.S. states thought they could nullify federal laws they just didn’t like, President Jackson had to remind them that the the Constitution of the United States was in charge.

Even lowering the so-called “Tariff of Abomination” didn’t placate the South. So, Jackson sent the U.S. Navy into Charleston Harbor and threatened to hang anyone who even said the word “nullification.” He considered states defying federal law to be in full rebellion. And secession — another word Jackson hated — was not something he would tolerate either. You might say Andrew Jackson’s fury at Southern intransigence held the Union together for another decade.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

He was also the first President born in the United States.

Martin Van Buren

This one… this one was a tough one. There’s no doubt President Van Buren did what he thought was right, even if it meant disagreeing with his political patron and idol, Andrew Jackson. But Martin Van Buren’s greatest accomplishment seems to be keeping the United States out of wars at a time when it couldn’t really pay the debt a war would cause — and it cost Van Buren the office of President.

It’s not as if there weren’t reasons to go to war. The newly-freed Republic of Texas was clamoring to be annexed by the United States, but it would lead to a war with Mexico. Canadian freedom fighters begged for help from the Van Buren Administration in liberating our northern neighbor from British rule. The British were even close to invading Maine. But after the Panic of 1837, the finances of the U.S. were weak and a war, though good for his approval rating, was not something they could afford.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

He came from a time when a popped collar meant something.

William Henry Harrison

Harrison, the General and hero of Tippecanoe and the War of 1812, was propelled to the Presidency by popular demand. Everything about Harrison was America. Sadly, he famously died in office after 30 days and a long bout with pneumonia. As the oldest President ever elected at that time (only Reagan and Trump were older at their elections), it’s a surprise no one saw that coming.

On a cold, wet day in March, he delivered the longest inaugural address in history and he got there riding a horse without a coat and hat. The guy was practically begging for pneumonia. But the most American thing about Harrison was his dedication to bipartisanship — every time someone tried to force him to do something unethical, he reminded them that William Henry Harrison was the President of the United States and he’ll do what he damn well wants.

A full, four-year Harrison Administration would have been quite the sight.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

If ever there was a face that said, “I didn’t ask for this, leave me alone,” it was John Tyler’s.

John Tyler

Tyler took over for Harrison after his death, assuming office amidst a number of terrible crises for the still-young United States. Tyler’s most American moments just might be weathering all of these crises in line with the Constitution, as he believed the Founders would have intended.

Known as “His Accidency” for being the first unelected President of the United States after Harrison died, Tyler moved into the White House and assumed the duties of President. At the time, Presidential succession was not outlined in the Constitution as it is today. He was the first President to have a veto overridden by Congress, the first President against whom the House of Representatives began impeachment proceedings, and the first President to be expelled from his own party. He took all of it in stride and when the time to step down came, he did.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

The first Presidential Mullet says, “Manifest Destiny, b*tches.”

James K. Polk

After three very lackluster Presidencies, there’s no doubt the people were excited to have a President like Polk. James Polk promised he’d only serve one term and he kept that promise — but not before achieving every single goal he said was a priority for his administration.

James Polk’s most American moment came when he pretty much created or settled the borders of the mainland United States as we know it today. With the exception of a strip of New Mexico and Arizona purchased from Mexico in 1853, Polk annexed Texas for the United States, negotiated with Britain for what is now Oregon and Washington, and sent the Army and Navy to a war with Mexico, securing the Rio Grande as the southern border and acquiring what is today California, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Arizona and Colorado — exactly what he said he was going to do in his inauguration address.

The list continues in part two.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Sailors receive awards for brave actions after USS Cole attack

On a cold January day in Virginia, men and women of the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook’s (DDG 75) engineering department stood at attention both somber and quiet. The bitter cold chills of the wind broke the silence of their awards-at-quarters on the ship’s flight deck. While most service members eagerly await receiving awards, this was certainly not true for Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class John Chavez-Sanchez. This was the day he did not anticipate — being awarded for his bravery and assistance in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on USS Cole (DDG 67) on Oct. 12, 2000.

“You figure my first NAM [Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal] is that one that I am most excited for, but I didn’t smile,” said Chief Electrician’s Mate John Chavez-Sanchez, from Bay Shore, New York, now assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) engineering department. “Nobody smiled. Nobody clapped. Myself and the crew from the Cook didn’t want any type of praise. We played a key role, but we didn’t want to take any credit.”


On that fateful day, Cole pulled pierside in Aden, Yemen to begin refueling. It was mid-day when two suicide bombers pulled a small boat along Cole’s port side and detonated explosives leaving a 40 foot-by-60 foot hole at the waterline of the ship. Seventeen sailors died and another 39 were injured.

While on its maiden voyage, a mere two nautical miles away, USS Donald Cook got word on the events that had took place.

“We got sent to GQ [general quarters] and no one knew why at first,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I was going through my checklist as the repair locker electrician when the CO [commanding officer] came on the 1MC and announced that the Cole was attacked. He told us, ‘This is what we train for. Get ready for war’.”

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

Chief Electrician’s Mate John Chavez sanches and Electrician’s Mate 3rd Class Bradley Mcbrayer, assigned to USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78), tests the weapons elevator’s diagnostic server during a routine equipment check.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kristopher Ruiz)

Chavez-Sanchez said a quick prayer. Shortly after, the CO announced Cook’s air-wing was going to provide air support. A few more hours passed, now he and the engineering department were to muster on that same flight deck in which he was awarded his first NAM.

“We were asked to volunteer to be a part of the first group to help assist with damage control efforts,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “Everyone raised their hand. Everyone wanted to help. It was the single most example of camaraderie I had ever seen.”

Ten hours after the attack Chavez-Sanchez was on the first rigid-hull inflatable boat to be sent to aid the vulnerable Cole.

“The waters were clear; there was no debris,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “You couldn’t tell an attack just happened until we passed right by the hole. I could see clear into the ship. That’s when I smelled it — the rotting, decaying, foul smell of death.”

Aboard Cole, Chavez-Sanchez and his group were asked if they could handle the situation. Again, everyone raised their hands in agreement. Some grabbed a flash light or a radio, but all of them applied a small amount of vapor rub right under their noses to combat the smell.

“We were making our way around to assess what we needed for the damages,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “The only light or ventilation in the ship came through that hole where the blast happened. We knew we were by the galley; it looked like crumpled up aluminum foil. Then I saw bodies, that’s when everything hit me.”

At that sight, the 21-year-old Chavez-Sanchez realized the magnitude of the situation. He responded with a sense of duty by volunteering for anything he could do — fighting fires, dewatering flooded spaces, standing shoring watch, and security watch. However, his primary mission as an electrician’s mate was to bring up the generators and restore power to the ship.

“Throughout the day and night, there was constant flooding,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “We were getting woken up to combat the flooding. It was hard to sleep most nights.”

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

The guided-missile destroyer USS Cole prepares to moor in Faslane, Scotland.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Lacordrick Wilson)

Chavez-Sanchez and the many who volunteered from the Cook began a watch rotation of 48-hours on, 48-hours off, serving time and standing watch on both missile-guided destroyers.

A week into his new watch rotation, Chavez-Sanchez and his engineering team restored power and ventilation aboard Cole. Two more weeks passed and Chavez-Sanchez and his Cook team finished their damage control efforts and headed back to the Cook permanently.

The Norwegian semi-submersible dry-dock ship Blue Marlin came to transport the Cole back to the United States after the on-site repairs. Alongside the Blue Marlin, Cook was again tasked to aid the ship — this time escorting Cole back to the U.S.

“The day we heard ‘USS Cole, underway’ was emotional for our crew,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “We all celebrated because we knew we did our job for the ship to be ready to make her way back to the states.”

Once the Cole was home she began her intensive repairs and eventually became deployable again.

“After 18 years, I still remember that day, that time period,” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I carry that story with me. It became a motivation to stay in the Navy and I continue to train everyone around me. ‘Train how you fight’ became personal to me.”

Within the same year of the 18-year anniversary, Chavez-Sanchez’s story came full circle.

“While in Norfolk, the Cole was moored on the same pier [as the Ford],” said Chavez-Sanchez. “I froze for about two minutes. In that time everything rushed back — the memories, the emotions. I saw it and I prayed. I didn’t want to tell my story because I didn’t want the recognition, so I had to keep moving.”

While Chavez-Sanchez may never forget, he is now ready to share his story so that it may inspire his newest shipmates on the Ford with the camaraderie and brotherhood he formed with his former shipmates in the wake of the Cole tragedy.

This article originally appeared on the United States Navy. Follow @USNavy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump just pardoned a soldier who killed an Iraqi prisoner

Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna was convicted of killing an al-Qaeda suspect in a combat zone during a 2008 deployment to Iraq. A military court sentenced the officer to 25 years in prison, though an appellate court noted his argument of self-defense. The former lieutenant was paroled in 2014, but won’t be going back to prison. On May 6, 2019, President Donald Trump signed a full pardon for the soldier.


‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

Behenna led a platoon in Iraq while working counterinsurgency operations in Salahuddin province. One day in April 2008, a convoy led by Behenna was returning to base with two captured suspects when it was hit by an IED. Two soldiers were killed, many more were wounded, and the convoy lost two vehicles. The next month, his unit received intelligence that the man responsible for that attack was named Ali Mansur Mohamed. They also learned where Mohamed lived.

The suspect’s house was immediately raided by Behenna and his men, who found an RPK heavy machine gun, Syrian passports, and a cache of ammunition. The Army took Ali Mansur Mohamed into custody and turned him over to intelligence agencies.

But the suspect was released less than two weeks later. Behenna would be in charge of returning him to his home.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

Behenna after his 2014 parole.

It was on the way back to Ali Mansur Mohamed’s home that things started to go south. Behenna and his convoy stopped outside of the town of Baiji, where Behenna, a sergeant under his command, and an Iraqi interpreter began to question Mansur. They removed his clothes, cut his handcuffs and ordered him to sit before questioning him about the April attack on the Behenna’s convoy.

After some time and questioning, Lt. Behenna finally pulled the trigger and fired the shot that killed the suspected insurgent. They covered up the corpse with a grenade. Behenna was charged with murder in July 2008. In 2010 a jury found Behenna guilty of unpremeditated murder and sentenced him to 25 years. That was later reduced to 15, of which he served fewer than five.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

The Northern Iraqi oil town would later be captured by ISIS.

But none of that matters now, as the President’s executive order of clemency is a full pardon for the onetime military officer. Behenna admitted to the killing at his trial, saying Mansur moved to try and take his sidearm from him. A government witness found Mansur’s wounds corroborated the self-defense story, but the evidence was not presented in his court-martial.

The Oklahoma native has been working as a farmhand since his release from the Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Garbage collection in Syria is crucial to fighting ISIS

Just a few years ago, I was a diplomat working on the Turkish-Syrian border. My job was managing the U.S. government team responsible for delivering aid to Syrian towns and cities loyal to the Syrian opposition.

These were towns that had turned against President Bashar al-Assad when the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East and Assad ordered his army to shoot peaceful civilians protesting against him.


Now I’m retired from the Foreign Service and teaching international relations at the University of Washington in Seattle, where my students struggle to understand why the U.S. never seems to learn from past mistakes in the conduct of our foreign affairs.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

University of Washington in Seattle.

Given recent decisions and announcements by President Trump about withdrawing much of our aid and our troops from northern Syria while the civil war continues and the Islamic State Group, or “IS,” still threatens, it’s a timely question.

Stability and local services

To understand what’s at stake in Syria, it’s helpful to look at Iraq.

More than 15 years after the U.S. invaded Iraq and eight years after the U.S. said it was leaving the country, Iraq is unstable. Five thousand U.S. soldiers remain in Iraq today, tasked with shoring up the still struggling Iraqi armed forces.

One of the reasons for the instability is the U.S. decision in 2003 to dismiss nearly all leaders of the Iraqi civil service when it toppled dictator Saddam Hussein because they were members of Hussein’s Baath Party.

With much of the civil service gone, local services like water and electricity fell apart and essential public employees fled. That left a perfect vacuum for extremist groups like IS to exploit by taking control of essentially ungoverned territory. The U.S. continues to pay the price for this avoidable decision today.

If the U.S. cuts off support for communities inside Syria that oppose Bashar al-Assad and fly the Syrian Opposition flag, and withdraws American troops from the fight against IS – as President Trump has announced – we will be making the same mistake again. We’ll be creating a vacuum our enemies can exploit.

Keeping local officials on the job

The U.S. has supported these communities since 2012. I directed the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. government aid from 2012 until 2016, as head of the team known as the Syria Transition Assistance Response Team.

Syrian refugees will never go back home if their towns can’t offer the basic services they enjoyed before the war.

Our simple strategy was that when peace returns to Syria, key local officials would still be on the job, ready to reconnect their communities to the national systems that provided services before the war.

Thus would begin the long, difficult process of reuniting Syria.

The money and supplies my team and I delivered helped keep important local officials on the job so they wouldn’t give up and flee their country to seek refuge in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, like millions of others before them. These were experienced civilians who could keep the water and power on, manage the sewers and clean the streets.

We helped them with small stipends – a portion of their former salary – because the Syrian government had stopped paying them. And we provided equipment they needed to do their jobs: garbage trucks, generators, water tanks and fire trucks. We helped teachers, doctors and local police with small stipends, supplies and equipment, too.

Nothing was more satisfying for me than seeing videos of a new garbage truck that we sent from Turkey removing piles of garbage from the streets of Saraqib or one of the new ambulances we provided tending to innocent civilians injured in the latest barrel bombing in Aleppo.

‘We’ve got the energy:’ Military doctors relieve worn-out staff in NYC hospitals

International aid paid for the rehabilitation of an unreliable electricity grid in a town near Aleppo, Syria in 2015.

(Syria Recovery Trust Fund, Author provided)

It’s in everyone’s interest to keep civil service workers on the job, paid something and equipped. That will help put Syria back together again someday and deny ungoverned space for IS and other extremist groups. The last thing the U.S. and countries in the region need is for Syria to disintegrate into warring regions, like Iraq and Libya today.

International aid

Other countries joined the effort to rebuild Syria, notably the U.K., the Netherlands and Denmark. Still more countries are contributing to an international fund based in Jordan that helps the same communities; my team cooperated closely with this effort.

Stopping this funding means jeopardizing Syria’s future at the worst possible time, just as the conflict appears to be coming to an end. I believe that reuniting the country should be the priority now.

Syria’s neighbors, especially Turkey, long supported the U.S. approach because it kept Syrians in Syria, diminishing the flood of refugees to Turkey.

Of course, the Syrian government and its supporters, Russia and Iran, opposed our aid. The assistance we gave sustained communities that the government and its allies continue to bomb into submission and surrender, particularly in Idlib province.

But the aid President Trump cut, sometimes called stabilization assistance, goes to local civilian officials, working to help the sick and wounded and keep children in school.

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Larry Bartlett, senior adviser for the Syria Transition Assistance Response Team meets with members of the Civil Administration of Manbij, Syria, in August 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Izabella Sullivan)

An opening for IS

Similarly, withdrawing U.S. troops sent to Syria to eliminate IS – when our own count suggests at least 1,000 IS fighters remain there – may serve short term political ends, but will likely come back to haunt the U.S. and Syria’s neighbors.

President Trump may worry about the price tag for rebuilding Syria, once the war ends. He is right to be concerned. The cost will be enormous and arguably the U.S. should not spend a dime.

The old adage – you broke it, you fix it – applies to the Syria conflict. I believe we should let Syria, Russia and Iran pay the billions it will take to fix what they broke – the infrastructure of bombed-out cities and towns.

The modest U.S. investment in local communities that the White House cut off – 0 million, not billions – could have helped prevent the collapse of communities in the future.

So, what do I tell my students in Seattle?

I remind them that they are our future leaders. I tell them that if we are not to repeat the mistakes of my generation, they should study and learn from history, and avoid short-term fixes to disentangle the U.S. from future foreign interventions.

“Silver bullets” don’t work – and usually force us to return later, at a greater cost.

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

Articles

Bombs for bases — Russia establishes permanent naval port in Syria

With Russia’s announcement of a new permanent naval base in Tartus, Syria – long a port used by Russian (and prior to 1991, Soviet) forces, Moscow’s expansion into that war torn country continues even as the Assad regime is wracked by civil war.


But Russia has had a long history in the Med.

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The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov. (Photo from Wikimedia)

Tartus Naval Base has been used by the Russians since 1971. In those 45 years, it served as a forward operating location for the Fifth Eskadra (5th Operational Squadron). This unit was intended to counter the presence of the U.S. Sixth Fleet in the Med. The base had not been able to permanently support major vessels like the Kuznetov-class carrier; the Kirov-class battlecruisers; the Slava-class cruisers; or even modern destroyers and frigates in Russian service. The new construction at the base is intended to make it a permanent base for carriers and larger vessels as opposed to just a place to park.

The Fifth Eskadra was formed in 1967 after the Egypt-Israel Six Day War. The Soviets had been unable to find a way to inflict damage on the Sixth Fleet in the event of a war with the United States. This was not a solid strategic position from its perspective, and Russian naval legend Sergei Gorshkov pestered his superiors until the unit was formed.

The unit usually consisted of as many as 80 vessels, including two guided-missile cruisers and a number of smaller escorts like the Mod Kashin-class destroyer or Krivak-class frigate, ten diesel-electric submarines, and a host of auxiliary vessels. The Sixth Fleet usually had half that total, but much of its strength would be concentrated in a carrier battle group which could make life exciting (not to mention short) for the Soviet vessels.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russians disbanded the Fifth Eskadra at the end of 1992 — a little over 25 years after the squadron was formed. Two decades later, in 2013, the Russians re-formed the squadron as the Syrian civil war heated up.

Now with about 10 vessels, it is a shadow of the force that faced off with the Sixth Fleet. Still, it is a sign that Russia is reasserting itself in the region.

Articles

This Navy SEAL’s intense boot camp prepares actors for movie combat

The reviews for “Suicide Squad” are in, and they’re a mixed bag, to put it politely. The film disappointed critics, but fans were more forgiving. What’s not in question, however, are military skills on display in the movie. That success is owed to Kevin Vance (of Vance Brown Consulting), a former Navy SEAL and professional military advisor for the film industry.


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“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback there,” says Vance. “In terms of the gear we brought in, we had so much support. SS Precision, Vickers Tactical — the list goes on and on.”

He doesn’t judge what’s “good” and “bad.” That’s not his job. He can, however, understand the decisions made by the studios. Vance believes they tried to make a movie for the fans of the comic, like filmmaker Kevin Smith (who called it “dope“).

“I just know David Ayer and the film he wants to make,” the Navy veteran says. “He’s made so many great films over the years and has such a unique perspective. If he sucker-punches you while he tells his story, so be it. He’s not going to do it simply for effect. He’s going to do it to kind of smack you and wake you up”

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David Ayer on set. (Vance Brown photo)

Filmmaker David Ayer is a Navy veteran who hired Kevin Vance to train the cast of a previous film, 2014’s “Fury.” That film was about a U.S. Army tank crew in World War II. In the film, the experienced crew looses their bow gunner and gets a reluctant replacement.

“What was fascinating to me was Wardaddy’s (Brad Pitt) job was to really dismantle this young man’s sense of decency,” says Vance. “The resistance to becoming a functioning soldier was going to get everyone killed. The sense of decency is what he to break apart.”

Vance put the entire cast – Brad Pitt, Shia LeBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Peña, and Jon Bernthal – through a rigorous WWII-style basic training, complete with canvas tents, cots, and lanterns to protect from the cold, North Atlantic winds in the open countryside.

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“I wasn’t there to train those guys to be soldiers,” the former SEAL recalls. “I was there to put them in a state of mind. I was there to make them fatigued, miserable, cold, hungry, pissed-off. I broke them down physically and mentally to build them back up. They suffered together to create a functioning group inside that tank.”

They did learn to work as a team in a real Sherman tank, Brad Pitt commanding.

“They’re tight because of it now,” Vance says. “They all still talk to one another; they do dinners together. I’m not saying that’s just because of me. That’s guys bonding.”

military advisor (Flag) and Will Smith (“Deadshot”) in 2016’s “Suicide Squad.”

“Suicide Squad” was a much different animal in terms of mechanics, actor training, and weapons training. The film was about individuals being individual characters working together. Vance and his fellow military veterans had two weeks and $50,000 in blank ammo to drill the stuntmen and actors to move like operators.

“I was there to get these guys functioning on a level that the audience can truly appreciate, that our peers will appreciate, and then create scenarios where other movies have not performed,” Vance says. “We build this foundation of physical skills then move into this other space which the actor truly needs to perform well – and that’s that mental space.”

To Kevin Vance, that means combat mindset, leadership, and the emotional, psychological, or physical scars a character would have. Vance and his colleagues provide the actors with historical examples and personal examples from their real-world warfighting colleagues so they can take what they want and need for their character.

“Will Smith’s character [Deadshot] is very different from, say Flag [Joel Kinnaman] or Lt. Edwards [Scott Eastwood],” Vance says. “We’re all looking of that life-test. We’re looking to truly challenge ourselves. I didn’t know what that was. I just got very, very lucky when an old book landed on my lap in college when I was 19.”

That book was about scouts and raiders during World War II. It piqued Vance’s interest so much, he read more and more, eventually coming across books about Navy SEALs. One day he met a Vietnam veteran who inspired and educated him. One thing led to another, and Kevin Vance joined the Navy and served as a SEAL from 1994 to 2003. The frustrations of bureaucracy and war led Vance into entertainment.

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“We used to have we called the ‘vent book,'” he recalls. “Guys can work out and vent. Guys can use conversation these different ways. So we created this book which turned into, something turned it into something really funny. It’s like how would you fight the war if you were Dirty Harry?”

The SEALs on Vance’s team got really creative with the vent book. Vance know some video game producers with the blessing of his team, decided to pitch the book to see where it led. That turned into Vance and his fellow Team guys writing a “Medal of Honor” game for Electronic Arts.

When I asked Kevin Vance for advice he could give separating military members on working in Hollywood, he was quick to remind me that his case is unique, he’s a “lucky guy,” and that he just came from a 48-hour shift at the local firehouse.

“If you’re getting out of the military, first thing first is to have a plan,” he says. “Don’t make Hollywood your plan A. Hollywood is not a structured environment like the military is, like a fire department is. You’re left to your own devices in a world that is unpredictable and unreliable.”

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Vance says success in the film industry is also hinged highly on people skills and mission focus. The military from the garrison to the battlefield is one and the same with movies from set to screen. Veterans could use that same decisive skills set to engage, inform, and aid their own communities.

“I think people are hungry for a challenge,” he says. “Look at things like Mud-Runs, challenges you can pay to get.  We ask 19-year-olds, men and women, to be soldiers, to be ambassadors, and spend a significant period of their adult years overseas. The people in our country need help. They need true leaders. We need people who can inspire other people and motivate other people. That’s what this generation of veterans has to offer.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy will offer some sailors $100,000 to stay in the Navy

Not sure about whether to stay in or get out as your enlistment nears its end within the next six months? Well, depending on your rating, the United States Navy could have as many as 100,000 reasons for you to stick around.


According to a NAVADMIN released February 2018 that was signed by Vice Admiral Robert P. Burke, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education, the Navy has revised Selective Reenlistment Bonus levels for 39 skills across 24 ratings to encourage enlisted sailors to sign up for another hitch. The highest of these bonuses is $100,000, being offered to those sailors who ratings include explosive ordnance personnel, special operators (SEALs), and electrician’s mates with nuclear qualifications, depending on their Navy Enlistment Classification, or NEC.

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Vice Admiral Robert P. Burke, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education. (U.S. Navy photo)

Military.com notes that these bonuses vary given the needs of the service. Usually, half the bonus is paid out immediately, the other half will be given out in annual installments over the course of the re-enlistment. A servicemember can receive a maximum of two SRBs, totaling no more than $200,000.

Those who are eligible to receive the SRBs are sailors who hold the ranks of Seaman (or Airman, Hospitalman, or Constructionman), Petty Officer Third Class, Petty Officer Second Class, or Petty Officer First Class. Those selected for Chief Petty Officer are not eligible to receive the SRB.

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SWCC crewmen, like this sailor, could get a $100,000 Selective Reenlistment Bonus. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Kathryn Whittenberger)

The Navy Personnel Command website notes that to receive the SRB, the request must be made no less than 35 days before and no more than 120 days before the re-enlistment date. Sailors should contact their command career counselor for more information about possible eligibility for the SRB. They should do so quickly because the Navy “will continue to assess retention behavior and adjust SRB award levels accordingly,” according to the NAVADMIN.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is the history for each branch’s battle cry

It’s a general call to action. The formation snaps to attention and the unit shouts out their branch’s battle cry. It gets used as a general stand-in for regular words and the listener can often pick up context clues to infer what the word replaces. Soldiers can respond to most things with a simple “hooah” and their leader can assume they’re saying either “yes,” “no,” “I don’t really want to, but whatever,” or “screw you,” all from a single, guttural grunt.

Though each branch’s battle cry sounds similar, they different meanings and vastly different origins. Because there are no official records of the exact moment a word was first uttered, many of these have multiple origins. What follows are the most agreed upon.


Before we dive in, you’ll probably notice that the Air Force doesn’t really have one. Some civilian sites say that airmen use the Army’s “Hooah” and most vets will joke that it’s actually something silly like, “hip-hip-hooray!” To be honest, for all intents and purposes, the Air Force doesn’t really need one. Besides, they’ve always been the ones to side-step military tradition in favor of modelling themselves after the civilian workforce.

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And now it’s the name of an energy bar…

​(Photo by Beatrice Murch)

“Hooah” — U.S. Army

There are many conflicting accounts of the origins of “Hooah.” Some say that it originates from the Second Seminole War in 1841 when the peace agreement was made between the 2nd Dragoons and the Seminole Chief. The chief, who spoke little English, offered them a toast and said “Hough” — which was misinterpreted to mean “How d’ye do.”

The term also has roots in the jump just before D-Day when General Cota, the 29th Division’s commander, asked a 2nd Bat. Ranger where their commanding officer was. In response, the confused ranger shouted, “Who? Us?” The general could only hear “Hooah” through all the loud wind buzzing past them. Cota thought it was some cool Ranger saying and it kind of stuck.

But the most accepted origin is that it’s simply the acronym for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged.”

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The term was solidified when the late, great Gunny Ermey used it and it became a pop culture staple of the Marine Corps.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

“Oorah” — U.S. Marine Corps

Again, people offer all kinds of origin stories for the word, “oorah.” Some say it’s a butchering of the 16th century German word for “hurry.” Other say it’s an adaptation of the Turkish word for “kill.” Others say it comes from WWII, when injured Marines were treated in northern Australia. There, they’d spend a lot of time around the locals as they healed. That part of Australia used, “Ohh, rah.” as slang for “goodbye.”

However, according to Marine Corps lore, it is credited to Former Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps John Massaro who imitated a submarine’s dive siren of “Aarugha.” He later became a drill instructor and used it with his recruits who then passed it on to the rest of the Corps.

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Even today, it’s only really Naval officers who unabashedly use it.

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lenny LaCrosse)

“Hooyah” — U.S. Navy

The Navy’s “hooyah” is the onomatopoeia for a siren going off. It’s that loud, obnoxious “gaHooyuh” that sailors would hear before manning battle stations.

As much as conventional sailors have tried to hijack the saying in the 90s, it actually belonged to the SEALs, Navy EOD, and deep-sea divers at first — but mostly the SEALs. This still leads to some awkwardness from regular sailors who aren’t sure if they’re allowed to shout it or not.

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“Hoorah” really is filled more symbolism befitting the seabees’ and corpsmen’s role to the Marine Corps.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Owen Kimbrel)

“Hoorah” — U.S. Navy Corpsman, Master-at-Arms, Seabees (and, occasionally, Marines)

Despite how most soldiers, airmen, and the occasional Marine think, “Hoorah” is more of a green-side Navy thing and not exactly a Marine thing — note the distinctive lack of an “H,” as found in the standard Marines’ version.

It’s a mix of the Marine’s “Oorah” and the sailor’s “Hooyah” all rolled into one. It’s a fitting battle cry seeing as how Seabees and Corpsman spend most of their time working side-by-side with Marines, but are still sailors. Some say it’s an acronym for “heard, understood, recognized, and acknowledged,” but this could also be a backronym, modeled after the Army’s version.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This B-21 bomber patch just appeared on Ebay

At least officially, there are no existing prototypes of the B-21 Raider, the U.S. Air Force’s next stealth bomber built by Northrop Grumman and destined to replace the B-1 and B-2 fleets.

In 2016, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James revealed the first artist rendering of the Long Range Strike Bomber designated the B-21, at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, that showed a concept quite similar to the B-2’s flying wing design; then, more recently, on Mar. 3, 2018, Brigadier General Carl Schaefer, Commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, publicly announced that the aircraft will be tested at Edwards: “the B-21 is coming to Edwards and we will be testing it here in the near future,” he said in his address at the Antelope Valley Board of Trade and Business Outlook Conference.


The fact that the aircraft will be tested “in the near future” seems to suggest that a prototype of the new platform has already been built or is about to be readied for testing.

Meanwhile something interesting, that might confirm the B-21 is something more than a concept, popped up on eBay: journalist and photographer Steve Douglass, has just found a B-21 Combined Test Force patch.

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B-21 Combined Test Force patch.

Flying units under the 412nd Operations Group of the 412nd TW are called flight test squadrons (FTS) and the squadron commander also usually fulfills the role of Combined Test Force, or CTF, Director.

“The CTF is an organizational construct that brings together the government developmental test and evaluation personnel (i.e., military personnel and government civilians and support contractors), the operational testers or representatives of the warfighters who will eventually employ the aerospace system in combat, and the contractors who develop and test the aerospace system.

Members of the CTF formulate the test program, develop the criteria for flight test missions, execute flight test missions, analyze data from the test flights and report on the results. The CTF military personnel, government civilians, and contractors all work together as a team. This concept enables a cheaper, faster, and more effective test program and produces a more effective aerospace system for the warfighter.”

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Ebay screenshot ofu00a0B-21 Combined Test Force patch.

For instance, the 411th Flight Test Squadron acts as the F-22 Raptor CFT whereas the 419th FTS acts as the Strategic Systems (B-52, B-1, B-2) CFT. Provided it is genuine, the new patch may suggest the existence of a B-21 CTF dedicated to the new bomber.

Interestingly, the patch features the text “Praenuntius” that means “Harbinger” and the Roman numerals XVII (17) with the latters [speculation on] possibly pointing to a squadron: the 417th FTS, officially inactivated on Feb. 14, 2012, formerly part of the 412th OG at Edwards AFB….

The seller has explained that organizations, personnel and infrastructure at Edwards AFB are all beginning to stand up in preparation for the testing and he purchased the patch there from personnel who are standing up the testing of the new aircraft. We don’t have many details about the aircraft but collectors can get the patch ahead of the unveiling.

By the way, at the time of writing the patch costs $31 (6 bids) but it is probably going to become more expensive…

Articles

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is calling on Russia to re-evaluate its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, leaving open the possibility of additional U.S. military action against Syria.


In his first televised interview, H.R. McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Assad from power.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was making the Trump administration’s first official trip this week to Russia, McMaster said Russia will have to decide whether it wanted to continue backing a “murderous regime.” Trump is weighing next steps after ordering airstrikes on April 6.

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The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves [why they are] supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?”

He said Russia should also be asked how it didn’t know that Syria was planning a chemical attack since it had advisers at the Syrian airfield.

“Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem,” McMaster said.

After the chemical attack in Syria on April 4, Trump said his attitude toward Assad “has changed very much” and Tillerson said “steps are underway” to organize a coalition to remove him from power.

But as lawmakers called on Trump to consult with Congress, Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on the scope of future U.S. involvement.

While Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a U.S. priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that the April 6 American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn’t really changed U.S. priorities toward ousting Assad.

Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and ousting Syria’s president were somewhat “simultaneous” and that the objective of the missile strike was to send a “strong political message to Assad” to stop using chemical weapons.

He did not rule out additional strikes if Assad continued to engage in atrocities against rebel forces with either chemical or conventional weapons.

“We are prepared to do more,” he said. “The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interest of the American people.”

Reluctant to put significant troops on the ground in Syria, the U.S. for years has struggled to prevent Assad from strengthening his hold on power.

U.S.-backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more U.S. intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group. So Trump’s decision to launch the strikes — an action President Barack Obama declined to take after a 2013 chemical attack — has raised optimism among rebels that Trump will more directly confront Assad.

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ISIS militants in Syria (Photo: Flickr)

Several lawmakers said on April 9 that decision shouldn’t entirely be up to Trump.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, praised Trump’s initial missile strike for sending a message to Assad, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that “there’s a new administration in charge.” But he said Trump now needed to work with Congress to set a future course.

“Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria,” he said. “We haven’t had one for six years during the Obama administration, and 400,000 civilians have died and millions of people have been displaced internally and externally in Europe and elsewhere.”

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed.

“What we saw was a reaction to the use of chemical weapons, something I think many of us supported,” he said. “But what we did not see is a coherent policy on how we’re going to deal with the civil war and also deal with ISIS.”

Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said he believed that Trump didn’t need to consult with Congress.

“I think the president has authorization to use force,” he said. “Assad signed the chemical weapons treaty ban. There’s an agreement with him not to use chemical weapons.”

Their comments came as Tillerson planned to meet with Russian officials. Russia had its own military personnel at the Syrian military airport that the U.S. struck with cruise missiles. But in interviews broadcast April 9, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Moscow because Russia wasn’t targeted.

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Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike against the Shayrat Airfield in Syria using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield. (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

“We do not have any information that suggests that Russia was part of the military attack undertaken using the chemical weapons,” Tillerson said. Earlier, U.S. military officials had said they were looking into whether Russia participated, possibly by using a drone to help eliminate evidence afterward.

Tillerson said defeating the Islamic State group remains the top focus. Once that threat “has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions” between the Assad government and various rebel groups, he said.

Haley said “getting Assad out is not the only priority” and that countering Iran’s influence in Syria was another. Still, Haley said the U.S. didn’t see a peaceful future for Syria with Assad in power.

McMaster, Cornyn, and Cardin spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Haley and Graham were on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Haley also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

popular

Reminder that the Nazis made a top general kill himself

Erwin Rommel entered France in 1940 in command of a panzer division, moving around the Maginot Line with the bulk of German attackers and slamming into the French defenses from behind. He would go on to lead troops in North Africa as Hitler’s favored general.

But the bloom was off the rose in 1944 when Hitler made Rommel kill himself.


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Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and senior officers in France.

(German Bundesarchiv Bild)

The Desert Fox made his legend in France, and then fought in the African desert in 1941. His troops there loved him, and he fought tooth and nail to hold the oil fields and ports in that part of the world. With limited numbers and supplies, he bloodied the nose of British forces and their French and American allies over and over again.

The British tried to kidnap him. They tried to kill him. But mostly, they tried to beat him. And, eventually, with the crushing weight of American armor at their back, they did.

Rommel evacuated north with his surviving forces, and he was put in command of the Atlantic Wall, the bulwark of Fortress Europe. He was brilliant in the role, predicting that the Allies would try to land somewhere other than a deepwater port, and suspecting portions of Normandy beaches in particular. He pushed his men to build defenses, and he pushed the government to send him more supplies.

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Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and his staff in North Africa.

(German Bundesarchiv Bild)

But all the while, from North Africa to the Atlantic Coast, he was lamenting the clear resource advantage that America had given the Allies. He worried that the war was lost and that further fighting would just cost German blood and weaken its place at the bargaining table.

In 1943, while preparing those defenses in Normandy, he began to see signs that the anti-war movement was right, that Germany was conducting heinous acts besides just prosecuting the war. He could stomach battles, but he was unsettled when he ran into evidence of the rumored death camps, especially when was given an apartment that had, until that very morning, been the property of a Jewish family.

And so he whispered more and more about how Hitler wasn’t to be trusted, about how the war was bad for Germany, and about how the Third Reich couldn’t possibly survive what was coming. When the Allies hit the beaches in June 1944, Rommel’s pessimism became too much to bear.

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Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s command tank in World War II.

(German Bundesarchiv Bild)

And so, when an attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944 failed, it didn’t matter that there was no strong evidence linking him to the plot. The perpetrators had all been senior military officers, so it was easy to pin a little blame on Rommel, especially since both his chief of staff and his commanding officer were implicated and executed.

Rommel was popular, though. So, he couldn’t just be dragged out back and shot like many of the Valkyrie plotters. Instead, Third Reich officers were sent to Rommel’s home on October 14, 1944. He was there, healing from wounds sustained in a July 17 attack by a British aircraft.

As his son remembered it, his father knew that two other German generals were coming to visit him.

‘At twelve o’clock to-day two Generals are coming to discuss my future employment,’ my father started the conversation. ‘So today will decide what is planned for me; whether a People’s Court or a new command in the East.’
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Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

(German Bundesarchiv Bild)

Despite Rommel’s worries about Germany’s aggression, he believed that a Soviet conquest of Europe would be devastating for all the rest of Europe, worse than any outcome under Germany. And so he told his son that he would take a command in the Eastern Front, if it was offered.

But that was not what the officers were coming to offer him. And they were not going to put him in front of the People’s Courts either. Instead, after Rommel met with the men for a short time, he went upstairs, and Manfred Rommel, his 15-year-old son, followed him upstairs.

‘I have just had to tell your mother,’ he began slowly, ‘that I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour.’ He was calm as he continued: ‘To die by the hand of one’s own people is hard. But the house is surrounded and Hitler is charging me with high treason. ‘ “In view of my services in Africa,” ‘ he quoted sarcastically, ‘I am to have the chance of dying by poison. The two generals have brought it with them. It’s fatal in three seconds. If I accept, none of the usual steps will be taken against my family, that is against you. They will also leave my staff alone.’

And so that was the deal that Rommel accepted. His family would be made safe. His staff would be made safe. But he would have to drink a fast-acting poison. Manfred briefly pitched the idea of fighting free, but his father was certain they lacked the numbers or ammunition to be successful.

So Rommel left. He carried his field marshal’s baton to the car, shook the hands of his son and his aide, and got in the car of the two generals. They drove a few hundred yards into an open space in the woods and Rommel drank.

He was given a state funeral just four days later. Hitler would follow him into death the following May. But where Rommel committed suicide to save his family, Hitler did it to escape judgment for that and thousand of other actions.

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