Just like many memers, I woke up to nothing exciting this morning. Not a single person out of the millions who clicked “going” on the “Storm Area 51, The Can’t Stop All of Us” raid did a damn thing. I expected nothing and yet I’m still disappointed.
No one Naruto ran onto the compound. No one got to test their new alien weaponry. And no alien cheeks were clapped. The music festival that was supposed to take its place didn’t even go anywhere because no one thought to do even the slightest amount of logistics.
Well. I think we all kind of saw this coming. Anyways, here are some memes.
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)
(Meme via The Army’s Fckups)
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)
(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
Anyone else notice that kids these days have much cooler toys than we did, but all they’ll ever do is just play on the iPad their parents gave them?
I feel rather insulted that we just got the dinky ass Nerf guns and a handful of Legos and they don’t even appreciate this bad boy.
Dressed in civilian clothes with long hair, the men looked like any other on the streets of East Berlin.
Their German accents didn’t give away their true identities as American Special Forces soldiers, part of a clandestine military unit operating during the Cold War.
Berlin, a divided city located 100 miles behind the Iron Curtain, was a focal point in the tensions that developed between NATO forces and the Soviet Union after World War II.
With a literal line drawn between the forces — American troops and their allies in West Berlin and Soviet troops and their supporters in East Berlin — the city became the “Grand Central Station of East-West espionage” and a “playground for all sorts of secret agents,” according to Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant and former Green Beret.
It was there that, for nearly 30 years, an elite Special Forces unit operated. Today, those veterans are decades removed from their secretive mission, but are only now receiving recognition for their efforts.
The little-known unit, called Detachment A, held various missions during its short-lived history, but the longest-standing was the “stay behind” mission.
In the event of World War III — with Soviet forces expected to come pouring across the Berlin Wall — members of the detachment, who never numbered more than 100 men, were expected to blend into the city and make life difficult for the much larger Communist force.
Teams were assigned sabotage missions, ready to destroy key transportation lines, military equipment, and other targets. They also would be expected to train and lead guerrilla forces that would then be tasked with harassing the Soviet troops from behind enemy lines, buying important time to allow NATO forces to mount a counterattack.
Charest, twice a member of Detachment A, recalled one of his team’s forays across the Berlin Wall recently during a visit to Fort Bragg.
Despite the soldiers’ efforts to go unnoticed, it was not unusual for the men to realize they were being followed, Charest said.
When that happened, the soldiers were trained to evade the extra attention and disappear into the city. Failure was not an option.
“You’re a spy,” Charest said, decades after having served in the city. “You didn’t have any dog tags. You weren’t there, officially.”
“If they caught you, they would either kill you or put you in jail,” he said.
Despite the high stakes, Charest said, the men were highly trained and able to stay calm under pressure.
Part of that training involved how to surveil targets amid the busy city and, if needed, lose the enemy when under unwanted scrutiny.
“We knew we were being watched,” Charest said.
Luckily, the men also knew their way around the city. Unlike other American troops in Berlin, these soldiers were trained to blend into Berlin. They had to immerse themselves in the city, becoming as knowledgeable on its nooks and crannies as the locals.
As the team led their tail through the city, Charest said, the soldiers made their way to a train station, part of the city’s subway, or U-Bahn, network.
Instead of stepping onto a train, the men let the first one pull out of the station. A second train arrived and the men were seemingly set to let that one pass, too.
But at the last moment, just before the doors closed, Charest said, the soldiers stepped onto the train.
He turned just in time to lock eyes with the man who had been following them. Charest is unsure who he worked for. It could have been the East German Secret Police, known as the Stasi, or the Soviet KGB.
As the train pulled out of the station, Charest looked at the man. Then he smiled, and as he pulled out of sight, Charest waved goodbye.
For most of its history, Detachment A — sometimes known simply as “the detachment” or “Det ‘A'” — was as elusive as the men who served in the unit.
When it was formed in 1956 with the cover story of a “security platoon” assigned to another US Army unit in Berlin, only about 10 officers knew the true makeup of the unit, according to James Stejskal, a Special Forces veteran who spent two tours of duty in Berlin and later served with the CIA.
Stejskal, a retired chief warrant officer 4 who now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, has written what might be the only definitive history of Detachment A.
His book, “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956-1990,” was published this year by Casemate Publishers, following a two-and-a-half-year effort to research and write the book and another year-long review by the Department of Defense.
Stejskal was one of dozens of Detachment A veterans who gathered on Fort Bragg earlier this month.
Once covered in shadows — to the point that even the US Army has little official documentation on the unit — the veterans of Detachment A are becoming increasingly vocal, with the hopes of bringing the unit the recognition it deserves before all of its former members are gone.
Charest, who now lives in Campobello, South Carolina, has been a key part of those efforts.
Since Detachment A was first publicly acknowledged in early 2014, he has worked to tell the unit’s untold story.
Previously recognized by veterans of the unit as “The Man Who Brought Detachment A In From the Cold,” Charest is the group’s webmaster, maintaining a website — detachment-a.org — along with his wife, Linda. He’s also become their organizer, facilitating annual reunions.
The most recent gathering was at Fort Bragg, the same place where veterans of the unit unveiled a monument stone honoring Detachment A outside of U.S. Army Special Operations Command in early 2014.
Detachment A has long been a small, elite group. Over its nearly 30-year history, an estimated 800 men served among its ranks or with the Physical Security Support Element-Berlin, a similar unit that replaced the detachment from 1984 to 1990.
Charest said the annual gatherings, which once attracted more than 100 veterans, are starting to dwindle. Detachment veterans are growing older. They’re dying, he said. Or they don’t travel as well as they used to.
“We’re starting to slow down,” Charest said. “I can see the handwriting on the wall.”
That makes his mission to spread the word about the unit even more important.
“We’re getting the recognition we didn’t have,” he said.
In the years after the Cold War, the Army declassified many of Detachment A’s secrets. But its veterans were largely unaware that they were now free to speak about their experiences.
The breaking point came in 2014, Charest said. The ceremony outside the USASOC headquarters was a first for Detachment A.
In addition to unveiling the monument stone, the veterans also took the symbolic step of casing the unit’s colors, a flag used to identify the detachment, for the first time.
“No force of its size has contributed more to peace, stability, and freedom,” Army Special Operations Command officials said during the ceremony.
Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, then-commander of USASOC, said the men operated amid untold risk, fraught with uncertainty.
“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” he said.
The next day, a story about the ceremony was on the front page of The Fayetteville Observer.
Charest said it was the first public exposure for the unit, whose existence and missions had been highly classified secrets. It began a flurry of queries from veterans of the detachment, some of whom had never even told their families about the unit.
“We were out of the cold,” Charest said. “This unit — nobody knows about it. Nobody knew we ever existed.”
Stejskal, who interviewed 65 veterans of Detachment A for his book and dug through what little information was available from official sources, said it was long past due for the unit to receive its recognition.
“No one became famous because of his exploits in Berlin; they were classified,” he said. “The Army has no history on us. They know of it, but they don’t know anything about it.”
Stejskal said that when he visited the Army’s Center for Military History to research his book, the organization had six pages of documents and little information. Most of the unit’s actual documents have been lost or destroyed.
“After 25 years, I figured it was about time,” Stejskal said of his decision to put together a history of the unit. “We’re on the verge of dying out and losing it all, all that historical knowledge.”
Detachment A, also known by its classified name — the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment — was formed in August 1956 from carefully screened and selected members of the 10th Special Forces Group based in Bad Toelz, Germany. The unit was first housed at McNair Barracks and later, at Andrews Barracks in West Berlin.
Over the years, the men assigned to Detachment A remained a select group. They were highly trained, often with experience in World War II or, later, in Vietnam.
Members of the unit had to be Special Forces qualified. They needed to have a top-secret clearance. And they needed to be able to speak fluent German or another Eastern European language.
In the early days, nearly half of the unit came from soldiers who joined the Army under the Lodge Act — often refugees from Europe whose families remained under Soviet rule. Those immigrants provided important knowledge to the detachment members, who needed to appear to be German.
Charest, who served with the clandestine unit from 1969 to 1972 and again from 1973 to 1978, said the slightest mistake could blow a soldier’s cover.
“The Germans handle a knife and fork different than we do,” he said. “They count with their fingers different.”
Detachment members had to study the habits of locals, Charest said. They needed to dress like a local, wear their hair like a local, and talk like a local.
They carried paperwork provided by German authorities or passports from Eastern European nations that supported their cover stories. Even their ranks were classified, Charest said. Instead, members usually referred to each other by their first names.
Even within the Special Forces community, Charest said, the detachment was largely an unknown.
Some soldiers were assigned to the unit assuming it was a conventional support unit. They wouldn’t learn the truth until they were in Berlin being debriefed by leaders.
“They knew it existed, but nobody knew what they did,” Charest said.
At first, Detachment A had about 40 soldiers, but it would grow to about 90 troops for most of its history. Most soldiers stayed in Berlin for three years.
Amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the detachment would have been little more than a speed bump against Soviet forces in a conventional fight.
But Charest said the detachment never intended to “fight fair.”
With Berlin more than 100 miles behind enemy lines, encircled by what could have become the front lines of a war, those allied forces stood little chance at stopping the Soviet forces.
Stejskal wrote that the city would likely have become the world’s largest prisoner-of-war camp. He compared the hypothetical plight of the detachment to the 300 Spartans who faced a superior Persian force at the legendary Battle of Thermopylae.
“If the Russians decided to roll across the wall, that would have been World War III,” Charest said. “It was a suicide mission.”
“The odds were against us,” he added. “But that’s part of the game.”
The most the detachment could hope for, Charest said, was slowing the Soviet juggernaut.
Stejskal described the detachment mission as a “Hail Mary plan.”
He said the soldiers were there to buy time and disrupt the enemy, much like World War II’s famed Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the modern CIA.
Charest said the soldiers were constantly “poking and prodding” German and Soviet defenses. Sometimes, that would mean sneaking into East Germany via canals and tunnels.
“We were constantly trying,” he said. “If you heard the stories, you wouldn’t believe them.”
As the Cold War stayed cold, the detachment would see its missions expand.
It was tasked with probing and testing allied security vulnerabilities across Europe.
At the same time, it would become more of a counterterrorism force, training to respond to hijacked airplanes and participating in the famed Operation Eagle Claw — the failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980.
Detachment soldiers were tasked with rescuing three diplomats being held by Iran, and two detachment members were stationed in Tehran, providing information on the target buildings and preparing to receiving the rescue force.
When the mission was scrapped and disaster struck a staging site — resulting in the deaths of several troops — the detachment members in Iran were left to escape the country on their own.
Retired Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, who commanded Detachment A from 1970 to 1974 and later commanded all American forces in Berlin, said the city was full of spies and the Soviet KGB had known about the detachment since the late 1960s.
But, Shachnow said, the Soviets greatly overestimated the size of the unit, assuming it was about 500 men instead of less than 100.
“They knew our capabilities but did not know what our targets were,” he said.
Shachnow is a Holocaust survivor who was born in Lithuania and spent three years imprisoned in a Germany concentration camp as a young boy. He moved to the United States in 1950 and became a legend in the Special Forces community.
He said he had the privilege of deactivating the Special Forces presence in Berlin.
“It was a sad ceremony in an empty room with only about 12 guest spectators seated in folding chairs,” he said. “I awarded some medals, made some short remarks, and the ceremony was over in a matter of minutes.”
“Det A was a small, covert unit staffed with incredibly talented people willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Shachnow said on Fort Bragg earlier this month. “They served on the front lines of the Cold War and never fired a shot in anger. No force of its size in history has contributed more to peace, stability, and freedom.”
Dozens of people, many of them children, were killed in Saudi-led coalition air strikes on Aug 9 in Yemen’s Saada province, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and local medical sources said.
The ICRC said one strike targeted a bus driving children in Dahyan market, in northern Saada. Hospitals in the area received dozens of dead and wounded, the ICRC said.
The Western-backed coalition, which is fighting Iranian-backed Huthi rebels in Yemen, said in a statement that it targeted missile launchers used to attack the southern Saudi industrial city of Jizan, and accused the Huthis of using children as human shields.
“Today’s attack in Saada was a legitimate military operation… and was carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law,” the Arabic-language statement said.
It was unclear how many children were killed and how many air strikes were carried out in the area, in northern Yemen, near the border with Saudi Arabia.
The Huthi rebels’ health ministry said at least 43 people were killed, and 61 were wounded. The ICRC said most of the victims were under 10 years old.
“Scores killed, even more injured, most under the age of 10,” Johannes Bruwer, head of delegation for the ICRC in Yemen, said in a twitter post.
Saudi Arabia and Sunni Muslim allies have been fighting in Yemen for more than three years against the Huthis, who control much of north Yemen including the capital Sanaa and drove the government into exile in 2014.
Almost 10,000 people — a vast majority of them civilians – have been killed since the Huthis took control of the north in 2014, when they forced President Abd-Rabbu Mansur Hadi into exile in neighboring Saudi Arabia.
Ben Affleck will direct and star in “Ghost Army,” a movie about the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops who tricked the Nazis in the weeks leading up to D-Day in 1944.
The film features a screenplay by “True Detective” creator Nic Pizzolatto, and it’s based on “The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery,”the outstanding 2015 book by Rick Beyer & Elizabeth Sayles. The script is also based on the PBS documentary “The Ghost Army.”
The “Ghost Army” used military “special effects” to mislead Germany into deploying its troops in the wrong locations to fight non-existent armies. The unit included future fashion designer Bill Blass, fine art painter Ellsworth Kelly, wildlife artist Arthur Singer, photographer Art Kane and designer Jack Masey. It’s a fascinating group of soldiers who went on to become some of the most influential artists and designers of the 20th century.
Remembering The Ghost Army that Saved US Lives in WW II
The unit is credited with saving thousands of lives during the war, and their story seems tailor-made for the kind of free-wheeling, all-star, upbeat WWII movie that we haven’t seen much lately.
Affleck’s most recent movie is Netflix’s special ops heist thriller “Triple Frontier.” He won an Oscar for producing the 2012 CIA Iran hostage thriller “Argo” (which he also directed and starred in) and another for writing the 1997 drama “Good Will Hunting.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Each week during the season, Army West Point Football players wear a decal on the back of their helmet honoring an Army division the current cadets may one day serve with.
During Aug. 30, 2019’s season opener against Rice, the team honored the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division with the red, white, and blue AA decal proudly displayed on the back of their helmets along with the American flag.
The commanding general and command sergeant major of the 82nd Airborne Division attended the game, the division’s chorus performed before the review parade and has become the norm over the last couple years soldiers from the division who are eligible to attend the U.S. Military Academy were invited to visit for the game.
This season marks the third year of the Soldier Visit Program where five to 10 West Point eligible soldiers from the honored division for home games are invited to attend the game and learn more about West Point.
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division pose for a photo with their host cadets from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point after the Army vs. Rice football game at Michie Stadium Aug. 30, 2019, at West Point, N.Y.
(Photo by Cadet Samuel Wehrli)
The visits are structured much in the same way as an official visit for an athlete being recruited by one of West Point’s corps squad teams. The soldiers arrive the Thursday before the game and are paired with a prior-service cadet currently attending West Point who hosts them for the weekend. The soldiers stay in the barracks with their host cadet, attend classes and eat in the cadet mess hall.
They are also given a tour of both West Point and the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School and the chance to meet with leadership from both West Point and USMAPS.
They then attend the football game with the corps of cadets and are honored along with division leadership on the field during a break in the game.
The goal of the program is to introduce eligible soldiers, meaning those who are under 23 years old, unmarried and have no dependents, to the possibility of applying to attend West Point.
“I go out to the Army a lot and I’ll talk to command sergeant majors or sergeant first classes who are senior noncommissioned officers and they’ll be like, ‘I had no idea that West Point was an option as a soldier.’ It blows my mind,” Capt. David Mason, the soldiers regional commander and founder of the Soldier Visit Program, said.
As part of each year’s incoming class, West Point has available slots for 85 current active duty soldiers and 85 Reserve/National Guard soldiers. Typically, the full allotment of Reserve/National Guard soldiers are admitted, but less than 50 of the spots for active duty soldiers are filled, Mason said. There are also additional spots available for soldiers to attend the prep school for a year.
According to Capt. Brian Gaudette, an officer in the West Point Directorate of Admissions, on average 53% of prior service applicants are admitted to the academy, a much higher percentage than applicants coming directly from high school.
“They see it as more attainable,” Mason said of the soldiers’ reactions after visiting for a football game. “They learn more about USMAPS because people have this pie in the sky view of what a West Point cadet is, and that it is the all-star captain of the football team, and they’re on all-state and they do all these things. They don’t see themselves as that mold. I think it definitely opens their eyes.”
Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division talk to Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, West Point senior enlisted leader during their visit before the Army vs. Rice football game Aug. 30, 2019, at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.
(Photo by Robert Luna)
Once the soldiers return to their division, even if they don’t end up applying to West Point, the academy still gains a benefit from them telling their friends about the program and spreading the word that West Point is an option for soldiers on active duty.
Pfc. Abdiel Leon was one of 10 soldiers from the 82nd airborne Division to visit for the Rice game. Prior to being invited on the trip, he said he had heard of the prior-service program at West Point but knew next to nothing about it. In the month since being invited, and even before arriving at West Point for the visit, he’d done enough research to compel him to go ahead and apply to the academy.
“So far, after seeing all the things that I saw and all the good opportunities and the things I could do here, I’m definitely going to go through and finish that application,” Leon said. “I never even thought about West Point. I never even thought that I would be given the opportunity. So, now that I was given the opportunity just to even come here, it has definitely changed my mind a lot.”
During the trip, the 82nd Airborne Division soldiers had the chance to spend time with prior-service cadets, meet with Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love, the senior enlisted Leader at West Point, and attend a spirit dinner in the cadet mess hall along with going to the season opener for the Black Knights.
“I plan on staying in the Army for 20 years, and there’s no better place to try to stay in than USMA,” Sgt. Levi Aslani said of why he is interested in West Point. “The connections you make here, the opportunities you make, or are given to you, no other place compares.”
Aslani applied to West Point for the Class of 2023 and after not getting in on his first try he is taking this year to improve his application with the hope of being accepted to the prep school for the next academic year. After visiting West Point for the first time, he said his desire to attend West Point has only increased.
“I paired up with a prior service E-5 as well,” Aslani said. “He was in the boat of either staying enlisted or being an officer and he chose the officer route and he’s really reaping the benefits from it.”
The visits are a chance for the soldiers to meet with current cadets who have taken the same path as them and ask questions they couldn’t get answered elsewhere. After being invited to take part in the visit, Pfc. Mackenzie Hochstetler said she talked with officers who are West Point graduates to learn more about the academy. But it was not until she arrived at the academy that she has come to realize why it is special.
“It’s definitely a place that you see a lot of competitiveness,” Hochstetler said. “A lot of times, you don’t really see that in the regular Army, but everyone wants to be the best. I think that’s a really cool atmosphere. I think that’s really important, especially being at West Point and that reputation of being a West Point grad, I kind of understand it now. Because it’s a pretty big deal. It’s pretty prestigious.”
Britain is charging two Russian men over the poisoning of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, England, early 2018.
Prosecutors said they had sufficient evidence to charge two men, identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, with attempted murder over the attack.
Prime Minister Theresa May on Sept. 5, 2018, added that the two men were officers from the Russian intelligence services, also known as the GRU.
“Security and intelligence agencies have carried out their own investigations,” May told Parliament on Sept. 5, 2018. “I can today tell the House … that the government has concluded that the two individuals named are officers from the Russian intelligence services.”
Surveillance footage shows the two suspects leaving London for Moscow at Heathrow Airport hours after Skripal collapsed on March 4, 2018.
May said authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from the senior levels of the Russian government. She added that she would push for more European Union sanctions against Russia over the poisoning.
The two men are now believed to be in Russia. Authorities plan to formally request via Interpol that the Russian police arrest them.
The British police also released a detailed description of the suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the attack as well as a series of images taken from surveillance footage of the two men in London and Salisbury.
Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, England, on the day the Skripals were poisoned.
(London Metropolitan Police)
Neil Basu, a senior officer with the London Metropolitan Police’s counterterrorism unit, said that the two men most likely traveled under aliases and that Petrov and Boshirov might not be their real names. Both suspects are estimated to be 40 years old.
Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, collapsed in Salisbury in March 2018 after being exposed to Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent that was developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The poison had been applied on Skripal’s front door, police said.
Both father and daughter were eventually discharged from the hospital.
Poison in a perfume bottle
A British couple in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury, was exposed to the poison after coming into contact with a perfume bottle containing it in late June 2018.
Rowley told the police he found a box he thought contained perfume in a charity bin in late June 2018, more than three months after the Skripals collapsed.
The box contained a bottle, purported to be from the designer brand Nina Ricci, and an applicator, and Rowley got some of the poison on himself when he tried to put the two parts together at home.
Tests run by the Ministry of Defense found that the bottle contained a “significant amount” of Novichok, the police said.
“The manner in which the bottle was modified leaves no doubt it was a cover for smuggling the weapon into the country, and for the delivery method for the attack against the Skripals’ front door,” May said.
The police on Sept. 4, 2018, said they thought the two incidents were linked.
Authorities said they believed the couple were not deliberately targeted but “became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of.”
Surveillance camera footage of Petrov and Boshirov at a Salisbury train station the day before Skripal collapsed.
(London Metropolitan Police)
The suspects’ whereabouts
The police believe the two suspects were in the UK for just three days to carry out the attack. On Sept. 5, 2018, the force outlined the two suspects’ whereabouts in the run-up to the Skripals’ poisoning in March 2018:
March 2, 3 p.m.: The suspects arrive at London’s Gatwick Airport after flying from Moscow on Aeroflot Flight SU2588.
5 p.m. (approx): They travel by train into Victoria station, central London. They then travel on London public transport.
6 p.m. to 7 p.m.: They spend about an hour in Waterloo before going on to the City Stay Hotel in Bow Road, east London, where they stay for the next two nights.
March 3, 11:45 a.m.: They arrive at Waterloo station from their hotel, where they take a train to Salisbury, where Skripal lives.
2:25 p.m.: They arrive at Salisbury. The police believe this trip was for a reconnaissance of the area and do not believe they posed a risk to the public at this point.
4:10 p.m.: They leave Salisbury and arrive at their hotel four hours later.
March 4, 8:05 a.m.: The two men arrive at Waterloo station again to go to Salisbury.
4:45 p.m.: They return to London from Salisbury.
10:30 p.m.: They leave London for Moscow from Heathrow Airport on Aeroflot Flight SU2585.
Skripal and his daughter collapsed on a bench at a Salisbury shopping center at about 4:15 p.m. on March 4, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Warplanes carried out a suspected toxic gas attack that killed at least 35 people including several children in a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria on April 4, opposition groups and a monitoring group said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said those killed in the town of Khan Sheikhun, in Idlib province, had died from the effects of the gas, adding that dozens more suffered respiratory problems and other symptoms.
The Britain-based monitoring group was unable to confirm the nature of the substance, and said it was unclear if the planes involved in the attack were Syrian or those of government ally Russia.
The reported gas attack comes at the start of a two-day conference on Syria’s future hosted in Brussels by the European Union and the United Nations.
The Observatory said medical sources in the town reported symptoms among the affected including fainting, vomiting, and foaming at the mouth.
The victims were mostly civilians, it said, and included at least nine children.
The pro-opposition Edlib Media Centre (EMC) posted a large number of photographs of people receiving treatment, as well as images showing what appeared to be the bodies of at least seven children in the back of a pick-up truck.
Photographs circulated by activists showed members of the volunteer White Helmets rescue group using hoses to wash down the injured, as well as at least two men with white foam around their mouths.
The Syrian National Coalition, an alliance of opposition groups whose leaders live in exile, accused President Bashar al-Assad‘s government of carrying out the gas attack and demanded a UN investigation.
“The National Coalition demands the Security Council convene an emergency session… to open an immediate investigation and take the necessary measures to ensure the officials, perpetrators, and supporters are held accountable,” the body said in a statement.
Idlib province is largely controlled by an alliance of rebels including the Fateh al- Sham Front, a former al Qaeda affiliate previously known as the al- Nusra Front.
It is regularly targeted in strikes by the regime, as well as Russian warplanes, and has also been hit by the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, usually targeting jihadists.
Syria’s government officially joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and turned over its chemical arsenal in 2013, as part of a deal to avert U.S. military action.
But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use by the government since then, with a UN-led investigation pointing the finger at the regime for at least three chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015.
The government denies the use of chemical weapons and has in turn accused rebels of using banned weapons.
The attack on April 4 comes only days after forces loyal to Assad were accused of using chemical weapons in a counter-offensive in neighboring Hama province.
U.S. Army Soldiers clean the outside of a CH-47 Chinook during detail aircraft decontamination training near Erbil, Iraq, Mar. 1, 2017. This training is part of the overall Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve building partner capacity by training and improving the capability of partnered forces fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Josephine Carlson)
On March 30, air strikes on several areas in the north of Hama province left around 50 people suffering respiratory problems, according to the Observatory, which could not confirm the cause of the symptoms.
The monitor relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information, and says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns, and munitions used.
More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.
The April 4 gathering in Brussels has been billed as a follow-up to a donors’ conference last year in London, which raised about $11 billion for humanitarian aid programs in the devastated country.
The holidays can feel awfully lonely when you’re hundreds of miles from your hometown, and your spouse is deployed. Traveling solo with kids is overwhelming, sure, but a holiday season with no adult interaction is even more depressing. Here’s what you need to know to travel while solo parenting, whether on the road or in the skies.
Don’t forget the gifts
If you’re planning to visit relatives over Christmas, take advantage of online shopping, and have your children’s gifts and gifts for others shipped directly to your destination—no one wants to schlep a Barbie Dream House through DFW. But, speaking of that Dream House, don’t forget that you’re going to have to take all of this stuff back home with you! Don’t buy anything big for your kids and remind your relatives not to give big gifts, either.
Pro Tip: Cram a large duffle bag into one of your suitcases so you can use it to pack and check gifts for your flight home.
Traveling alone with kids means your days of throwing some clothes into a bag and heading out are long gone. This is going to require thought and planning. Start packing at least a week in advance. Chances are good that the stuff you all wear all the time, is also the stuff you’ll want to bring, so put your empty suitcases next to the washer and dryer and toss the clothes in as you fold them. Only bring enough diapers, wipes, and formula for two or three days. You can buy more at your destination.
Whether flying or driving, it’s a good idea to use your biggest suitcase and try to consolidate multiple bags into one. Unless you’ve got a teenager to help carry bags, you’re going to be handling them all yourself, and one big bag is easier to manage than three small ones.
Pro Tip: If you’re driving a long distance, it’s a good idea to pack an overnight bag with stuff for each of you. Put that small bag into the car last so it’s easily accessible. If you have to stop for the night along your route, you’re not going to want to drag all your big suitcases into the room.
Just pack PJs, comfy traveling clothes, toiletries, diapers and wipes, and whatever woobies or special stuffies you all can’t sleep without, and a few snacks for the room. A snack bag will absolutely save you when the late-night hunger hits, and your hotel doesn’t even have a vending machine. You might want to throw in some herbal tea bags (or a single serving wine box) for yourself.
No two kids are exactly the same, and you know yours better than anyone. Some can’t handle more than an hour of uninterrupted driving, others can go 15 hours so long as their bellies are full of chicken nuggets. Don’t fool yourself that a child who hates driving will miraculously be great for a 17-hour slog, or that you’ll be able to drive all that distance without getting tired. If you need to stop for the night, do so. A motel room is much cheaper than a wreck.
Be sure to plan your route ahead of time. GPS navigation is great and all, and by all means use it, but it’s no substitute for actually knowing where you’re going. The roads will likely be crowded, you may encounter closures, accidents, and detours, and we’ve all had navigation lead us astray. RoadTrippers.com is a great resource for planning.
iExit tells you how far the next Interstate exit is and what amenities you’ll find there, like the always-important bathrooms, gas, and food.
Flush Toilet Finder uses your location to show you nearby toilets on a map, which is absolutely essential information when you’re traveling with preschoolers. Bonus: it works offline and can integrate with Google Maps to provide directions.
And if you’re not in a big rush and want to break up your drive with some Americana oddities, the Roadside America app will tell you about all sorts of weird stops along your way, like Foamhenge.
The Priceline app is also great for road trips because it lets you bid on rooms that are nearby, meaning you don’t have to know in advance where you’ll be when you want to pull off and sleep.
ProTip: Wait until after 3 p.m. to start bidding. By afternoon check-in time, many hotels are willing to accept a lower bid than they would have taken earlier in the day.
Parenting Pro Tip: Try to book a hotel with an indoor pool and free breakfast. A day strapped into a car seat will leave any kid antsy, with oodles of energy to burn. An evening splash in the pool will mean that your children actually fall asleep when you turn the lights out. Complimentary breakfast means you can get back on the road without stopping to eat, saving time and money.
And another one: If your children are too small to help with bags at the hotel, grab a luggage cart. You can easily set an infant carrier on the cart, and toddlers and preschoolers can climb on and catch a ride. They’ll love it! Most importantly, you’ll be able to manage all your bags and people in one trip.
It should go without saying, but arrive early, at least 30 minutes earlier than what you think being early means. Flying is stressful. Flying with children is even more stressful. Flying solo with children when you’re running late is agony.
Pro Tip: If at all possible, book a morning flight, especially if you have to make a connection. Why? Because if your flight gets cancelled or delayed, you’re more likely to get on another flight if you start early in the day. You do not want to be stuck overnight in an airport with children.
If your kids are too big for a stroller but too small to turn loose, look into buying a fun ride-on suitcase, like this one. All of a sudden, the tedium of the airport will look more like a playground, at least to your child. Speaking of playgrounds, here’s a list of some of the family-friendly amenities available in U.S. airports.
Don’t forget about the lounges and the USO. If you have the American Express Platinum Card (And you should, the annual fee is waived for active duty, plus you get all these perks) you and your children can access the Delta Sky Club Lounges and the Centurion Lounges … and all the free food, drinks, and WiFi in them. Some even have a family room.
But even if you don’t have the AMEX, your military family status allows you to use the USO lounges, which means you get access to free snacks, comfy chairs, and the nicest people in America. Many of the volunteers are grandparent-aged and love to play with kids. Stop in, grab a snack (the USO in Charlotte, NC’s airport often has free Cinnabon), kick back in a recliner and let other people soak up the adorableness that you stopped noticing somewhere over Des Moines, when your toddler kicked the seat in front of her for the 18th time.
Speaking of, while you’re on the plane, just accept that your normal nutrition and screen time rules are on hold. Bring your own junk food and whatever device your child likes to play— with headphones, please!— and then let them play and eat as much as they want. Bring old fashioned coloring and activity books, too. Kids love having your undivided attention, and a game of Hangman or Tic-Tac-Toe on a seatback tray will burn up some time. You will be exhausted by the end of the flight. It’s just going to happen. Accept it and expect it.
You don’t have to spend the holidays marinating in loneliness and exhaustion. With a little planning, a lot of patience, some managed expectations, and a few apps, you can travel with children to celebrate the season, without losing your sanity.
Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army spouse, a mother of three, a professional writer and an obsessive traveler. Once, during a deployment, she took all three kids on a 6-week-long roadtrip from Florida to Maine— and back!—stopping to see every long lost military friend and roadside attraction along the way.
Benjamin C. Bradlee was a legendary newsman who led The Washington Post through the Pentagon Papers Affair and the Watergate Scandal, stories that cemented the publication’s world-class status. He set the standard for excellence in journalism and organizational leadership. He also had a legendary sense of humor.
He studied at Harvard, where he was a member of the university’s Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps detachment. Shortly after graduating in 1942, he was sent to the Pacific Theater as a newly-minted ensign. At 20 years old, he was made officer of the deck. At 21, he was, as he put it, “driving a ship around the Pacific Ocean.” He chose the Navy for a reason.
“That was such a “good war,” he told the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History magazine. “And serving in the Navy was such a guarantee of action. You weren’t going out to the Pacific Ocean in a destroyer or cruiser without being in the middle of it all.” He was onboard the USS Philip, a destroyer in the Solomon Islands campaign.
In that same 1995 interview, he recalled a time when a reader questioned his patriotism, loyalty, and integrity.
“A guy once wrote a letter to me that started off, ‘Dear Communist,'” Bradlee said. “He impugned my patriotism and certainly impugned my war. I promptly wrote back, ‘Dear A-hole. This is what I did during the war, so don’t give me any sh-t.’ It turned out that he had been in the Marine Corps during the war. We had taken his division to Bougainville and then to Saipan. We had been in some of the same battles. He wrote back, saying I wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and we started a great correspondence.”
His obituary, written by the 50-year veteran Post reporter, Robert G. Kaiser also remembered Bradlee’s patriotism in the same vein:
“Mr. Bradlee’s wartime experience left him an unabashed patriot who bristled whenever critics of the newspaper accused it of helping America’s enemies. He sometimes agreed to keep stories out of the paper when government officials convinced him that they might cause serious harm.”
He became the leader of The Washington Post newsroom in 1965, transforming it in what his Washington Post obituary describes as “combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines… charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.”
He was almost awarded a Purple Heart for taking a piece of Japanese shrapnel in rear — his rear, not the ship’s — a piece he kept for most of his life.
“It must have hit the deck first or maybe even the stack, then the deck, and then bounced up and hit me in the ass. It was hot when I picked it up. I had it here on my desk, but one of the kids took it to school for show-and-tell and never brought it back.”
For his life’s work, Bradlee was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the United States can give a civilian, in 2013. He died the next year at age 93.
Somewhere in an Estonian Forest, causal hikers will come across a sea of red star-adorned metallic strips jutting out of the ground. Like some giant shark jaw, the 9,000-foot area is next to a wooded area, covered with what are actually aircraft tail fins, which are really grave markings of Soviet airmen.
Which are all really creepy.
These days, what was once a Warsaw Pact airstrip is now near a NATO-run military installation in Estonia, a former Warsaw Pact signatory. The base, Ämari Air Base, had the name Suurküla under the Soviet Union until 1991. The fins bear the names, and some even bear the likenesses of the pilots, many of whom were probably at the controls of the plane their eternal tail fin came from.
Suurküla was the home of several Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer medium bomber squadrons, from which many of the tail fins originated in some form. Now it’s the home of Estonian and NATO Air Forces whose mission is to monitor activity on the nearby Baltic Sea, as well as a fleet of F-16s from Denmark.
Just because these pilots happen to be buried below the aircraft that likely killed them, don’t think for a minute the Soviet Union’s air forces were nothing to write home about. For a time, the Soviets possessed superior technology and boasted the world’s largest air force. The Baltic States’ air force posture could actually cover much of the country in case of a NATO invasion.
This Estonian air base and the men stationed here contributed a large part to the defense of their countries, the men buried here gave their lives for it. If you ever visit Ämari Air Base, be sure to pour out a sip of vodka for these comrades.
In the distant future, teams of soldiers equipped with high-powered exoskeletons disembark a series of autonomous personnel carriers outside the enemy’s position. Overhead, a small fleet of drones scans the engagement area, giving each soldier a real-time view of the battlefield through their heads-up display.
As each team moves into position, they hear a series of explosions on the other side of the enemy base. From over 2,000 meters away, the Army’s high-energy precision fires systems have just disabled the enemy’s anti-access and area-denial capabilities.
At the same time, teams of soldiers use their exoskeleton suits to leap over the perimeter wall to engage the enemy and secure the compound.
This is one scenario of a future operating environment. In reality, it is nearly impossible to predict how the Army will operate and fight in a distant future, said Matt Santaspirt, an Army Futures Command intelligence representative.
To guide the Army in the right direction, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Mad Scientist team functions like a scout on the battlefield, always looking ahead and evaluating ideas to help build the force, he said.
Nested within both Army Futures and Training and Doctrine Commands, the MadSci initiative was created to address opportunities and challenges in the Army’s near-, mid-, and far-term future, said Allison Winer, the team’s deputy director of engagement.
(courtesy of Mad Scientist Initiative)
The goal is to maximize the Army’s limited resources and help soldiers fight and win in a futuristic operational environment, she added.
“The Army only knows what it knows; and [the Army] always talks to itself,” Santaspirt said. “We want to break out of that echo chamber.”
“We are harnessing the intellect of the nation to describe the art of the possible,” he added. “We know that you can’t predict the future, but we’re trying to say, ‘Here is a range of possibilities.’ [The goal] is to be less wrong than our adversary.”
To accomplish this goal, the MadSci team compiles information from a wide range of sources, in support of Army senior leaders’ priorities, Santaspirt said.
These sources include traditional mediums: academia, industry, think tanks, labs, reports, and white papers; to the more nontraditional platforms: crowdsourcing, social media, science fiction, and cinema, to name a few.
Beyond the collection of materials, the MadSci team often organizes themed conferences, bringing communities together to address key Army topics. For example, the team recently conducted the Mad Scientist Disruption and the Future Operational Environment Conference in Austin, Texas.
During the conference, presenters addressed robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomy, the future of space, planetary habitability, and the legal and ethical dilemmas surrounding how these disruptive technologies will impact the future of warfare, specifically in the land and space domains, according to MadSci officials.
“We had somebody come in and talk about robotics and how we can use them in an austere environment,” Santaspirt said, adding there were specific examples of robotics used in Fukushima, Japan.
“The approach is to bring together experts … so we can refine those key ideas, and disrupt [the Army’s] assumptions,” he said.
(courtesy of Mad Scientist Initiative)
A week after the event, the team posted some key takeaways from the conference on the Mad Scientist Blog. The MadSci blog and other social media platforms are often used as a crowdsourcing tool to help poll an audience or generate conversation about key Army topics, Winer said.
Some of the conference findings included: a need to set left and right boundaries for artificial intelligence and autonomy, increased crowding of assets in space will cause operational challenges, and fake news coupled with hyper-connectivity is changing the nature of information warfare.
Additionally, the MadSci team organizes science fiction writing competitions to help determine possible futures for crucial Army programs, Winer said. For years, science fiction has depicted worlds that are both logically possible, but functionally different than current society.
“Science fiction is used as a kind of forecasting to see what possible futures might look like,” she said. “Aside from being just plain-on cool, it gives the Army a way to use storytelling, historical analysis, and outsourcing to write about the realm of the possible. And it is an effective tool for a lot of businesses and other leaders in industry to try.”
Through their research and continual online engagements, the MadSci team creates a range of possibilities, then later presents their findings to Army senior leaders and key decision makers, Santaspirt said.
“It is a different way of thinking,” Santaspirt said. “If [the Army] can get that out there and start meeting the right people, make certain decisions or investments, or get people thinking in a different way … you might see what we’ve discovered — as it comes to light down the road.”
The Apache helicopter was a maligned weapon system in early 1991 as low readiness rates, and worse than expected performance in small conflicts made people wonder if the aircraft’s huge costs were worth it. But the system excelled in the tough environment of the Persian Gulf War, chewing up Iraqi armor, bunkers, and ground troops.
In fact, one Apache crew even accepted the surrender of an Iraqi officer and his driver after the men decided they couldn’t escape the helicopter in their vehicle.
Soldiers receive an escort from AH-64 Apache helicopters in 2004.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Kimberly Snow)
Warrant Officer John Ely was one of the pilots on the attack helicopter, and he would later describe the Iraqis’ actions as a seemingly obvious decision. Ely had been part of a team hunting targets in the desert, and they had already erased a few enemy positions.
Ely had his eye on a Toyota when the driver suddenly stopped the vehicle and hopped out. He opened the door for “a fat Iraqi officer” who exited the vehicle with his hands up and a briefcase raised.
Now, even with the man attempting to surrender, this was a tricky situation. Typically, surrenders are given to “maneuver” forces like infantry or cavalry on the ground, but engineers, artillery, and plenty of other ground troops are quite capable of accepting an enemy surrender.
But Apache crews have a severe weakness in this area. While the helicopter’s lethality is a great reason for enemy troops to throw their hands in the air, how does a four-man team in two helicopters; a common battlefield deployment for the attack helicopters, take custody of prisoners?
How do they search them for intel and weapons? How do they transport them back to a base? Apaches have good armor and redundant systems, but they’re vulnerable if they land. And they have no real passenger space even if they landed.
Look, [if you`re an Iraqi and] you see a guy in this machine hovering 200 feet in front of you, with a gun turret that moves with the nodding and turn of my head . . . I point south, they move south. They`ve just seen their buddies blown away. What would you do?
Another event took place in Iraq after Apaches took out artillery positions. The insurgents manning the weapons went to the middle of the field and held their hands up while the Apaches took out the large weapons, and then ground troops moved in to take possession of the prisoners.
But, tragically, that’s not always an option. The 227th Aviation Regiment’s 1st Battalion saw those flags of surrender from Iraqi tankers on the Highway of Death and didn’t engage them, allowing U.S. ground troops to accept the Iraqi surrender in 1991. But in 2007, two Iraqi men jumped out of their truck and attempted to surrender to a 1-227th Apache crew.
The crew held off on attacking, but wasn’t sure what to do. The Iraqis had been firing mortars from the truck, so the unit asked an undisclosed military lawyer for a legal review. His advice was that the Apache crew could not effectively receive the surrender, and so the mortar crew was still a legal target. (This advice has proved controversial since then.)
Meanwhile, the mortar crew jumped back into the truck and drove off with its mortar tube. So it was no longer clear whether they still wanted to surrender. The Apaches re-engaged, but failed to destroy the truck in the next attack. The men abandoned the truck and took shelter in a nearby shack, and the Apaches killed them there with a 30mm gun run.
So, if you ever find yourself trying to surrender to an Apache crew, maybe look around and see if you can find some ground troops to surrender to instead.
Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.
RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.
The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.
As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.
An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.
(U.S. Army photo)
The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.
“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.
During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.
Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.
“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.