Ah yeah, ladies and gentlemen. Veteran’s Day weekend is upon us! You know what that means! It’s time for some long ass safety briefs, plans you made weeks out that you’re going to sleep through on Saturday, Sunday drinking if you’re a Marine or Sunday drinking if you’re just bored, and an entire day of free pancakes/Chipotle burritos/chicken wings!
I know this is usually our plan every year but this year is special. I know, some of you might know but it’s also the 100th anniversary of Veteran’s Day this weekend. And I think that’s kind of a cool milestone.
So take that time to celebrate. You earned it! Just, for the love of Uncle Sam, don’t do anything stupid this weekend. Save that for a regular pay-day weekend. Anyways, here are some memes.
After becoming exasperated with evidence of low discipline and sloppy appearances, a two-star general overseeing most East Coast-based ground combat Marines has fired off a policy letter mandating when troops must wake up, clean, and eat each day.
The April 16 policy letter, signed by Maj. Gen. David Furness, commanding general of 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, expresses concern that the Marines within the division have let their standards slide.
“In my travels with the Sergeant Major and Command Master Chief throughout the Division spaces, I have noticed a significant decline in the basic discipline of our warriors,” Furness wrote. “Because the 2nd Marine Division has the majority of personnel assigned to Camp Lejeune, we will take ownership of this problem and FIX IT immediately.”
Staff Sgt. Christian Fuentes motivates recruits with Company F, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, as he moves down the rows during the senior drill instructor inspection at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Aug. 23, 2013.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Benjamin E. Woodle)
2nd Marine Division is one of three active-duty Marine divisions worldwide and is made up of some 20,000 troops.
The division public affairs office confirmed that a policy letter had been disseminated.
Furness wrote that he has seen Marines and sailors with 2nd Marine Division walking around with long hair, “nonexistent or poor shaves,” worn-out boots and inappropriate civilian attire.
“There are weeds growing around our buildings and work spaces and trash everywhere but the dumpsters where it belongs,” he wrote. “These are just a few examples of the lack of discipline seen across the board that will not be tolerated in this Division any longer.”
Recruits of India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, conduct pull-ups during a physical training event at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, Dec. 28.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Angelica I. Annastas)
He detailed a 24-hour “basic daily routine” that he said he expects every single Marine and sailor in the division to follow, beginning with division-wide reveille every morning at 5:30 a.m.
From 5:35 to 6 a.m., troops are expected to conduct hygiene activities and room clean-up, leaving “blinds half-mast,” according to the order. Physical training and barracks common area clean-up will follow from 6 to 8 a.m. Mandatory platoon or company formations and inspections will happen from 8 to 8:15 before the workday begins. Troops are allowed an hour to eat from noon to 1 p.m. and then must wrap up the day with another formation, from 4:30 to 4:45 p.m.
Furness appealed to the troops’ identity as Marines in asking them to embrace the regimented schedule.
Marines with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, wait to march onto Peatross Parade Deck during a graduation ceremony aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., April 13, 2012. The graduation ceremony consisted of five platoons from India Company.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Aneshea Yee)
“Part of what makes us different from our sister services and American society is the regimentation of our daily lives,” he wrote. “Adherence to orders and standards helps foster mutual trust in one another and produces the attention to detail required to be effective when called upon to fight as our nation’s 911 Force.”
First Lt. Thomas Kleiber, a division spokesman, said the letter essentially reinforces practices that are already in place.
“Obviously, the letter is an internal document and commanders reserve the right to direct their units as they see fit,” Kleiber told Military.com. “Commanders have the authority and responsibility to direct their units in the way that it feels appropriate and promotes mission accomplishment. I don’t think this order is unusual in its attempt to accomplish that.”
It’s not immediately clear how the daily routine will apply to Marines who live off-base or outside the barracks, although Furness does note that unit leaders will be able to modify the routine based on obligations. It’s also not fully clear whether the routine applies only to weekdays, although it appears to. What is clear is that there are stiff consequences for Marines who don’t fall in line.
Marines with Marine Rotational Force – Darwin form up around Brig. Gen. John Frewen, 1st Brigade commanding general and senior Australian Defence Force officer for Robertson Barracks, to listen to him speak about expectations with the rotation, April 11.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Scott Reel/Released)
“Any dissenters can answer to myself, the Division [sergeant major] or the [command master chief] and will be dealt with accordingly. Can each of you live up to the mantra of ‘If I was accused of being a Marine/Sailor today, would there be enough evidence to convict me?'” Furness wrote. “At this time across our force I believe the answer for many is no, and it needs to be corrected immediately.”
While it’s fairly uncommon for a senior military official to get involved in the minutia of troops’ daily routines, it’s not without precedent.
In 2013, Army Command Sgt. Major Dale Perez, the senior enlisted soldier at the Army National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, fired off a sharply worded Facebook post aimed at troops and family members on base, particularly those who shopped at the commissary, demanding they clean up after themselves.
“Take your garbage and shop off post if you can’t pick up after yourself,” he wrote.
Furness, who took command of 2nd Marine Division last August, is a career infantry officer who joined the Marine Corps in 1987 after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute. He has led Marines on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and his awards include two Bronze Stars with combat distinguishing device, according to his official military biography.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comment from 2nd Marine Division.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Damascus and Moscow have denied they were behind the attack. Russia’s Defense Ministry said the toxic agents were released when a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, an account Britain dismissed at an emergency U.N. session called in response to the attack.
British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the U.K. had seen nothing that would suggest rebels “have the sort of chemical weapons that are consistent with the symptoms that we saw yesterday.”
Russia said it would submit information from its Defense Ministry to the Security Council debate.
A resolution drafted by Britain, France, and the U.S. stresses the Syrian government’s obligation to provide information about its air operations, including the names of those in command of any helicopter squadrons on the day of the attack.
Diplomats were also meeting in Brussels for a major donors’ conference on the future of Syria and the region. Representatives from 70 countries were present.
The attack on Khan Sheikhoun killed dozens of people on April 4, leaving residents gasping for breath and convulsing in the streets. Videos from the scene showed volunteer medics using fire hoses to wash the chemicals from victims’ bodies.
Haunting images of lifeless children piled in heaps reflected the magnitude of the attack, which was reminiscent of a 2013 chemical assault that left hundreds dead and was the worst in the country’s six-year conflict.
The Turkish Health Ministry said three victims of the attack died while being treated in Turkey, and that 29 people wounded in the attack were still being cared for in hospitals in the country. Syrian opposition groups had previously reported 72 dead.
Turkey set up a decontamination center at a border crossing in the province of Hatay following the attack, where the victims are initially treated before being moved to hospitals.
Syrian doctors said a combination of toxic gases is suspected to have been released during the airstrikes, causing the high death toll and severe symptoms.
The World Health Organization and the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders said victims of the attack appear to show symptoms consistent with exposure to a nerve agent.
In a statement, the agency said “the likelihood of exposure to a chemical attack is amplified by an apparent lack of external injuries reported in cases showing a rapid onset of similar symptoms, including acute respiratory distress as the main cause of death.”
Pope Francis said during his general audience that he was “watching with horror at the latest events in Syria,” and that he “strongly deplored the unacceptable massacre.”
Earlier, President Donald Trump denounced the attack as a “heinous” act that “cannot be ignored by the civilized world.” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on Russia to endorse a planned Security Councilresolution condemning the attack.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said “all the evidence” he had seen so far in the latest chemical weapons attack in Syria “suggests this was the Assad regime … (that) did it in the full knowledge that they were using illegal weapons in a barbaric attack on their own people.”
Syria’s government denied it carried out any chemical attack. But early on April 4, Russia, a major ally of the Syrian government, alleged a Syrian airstrike hit a rebel arsenal, releasing the toxic agents.
The Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, said in a statement that Russian military assets registered the strike on a weapons depot and ammunition factory on the town’s eastern outskirts. Konashenkov said the factory produced chemical weapons that were used in Iraq.
Renewed airstrikes on April 5 hit near the location of the suspected chemical attack, said Ahmed al-Sheikho, of the Idlib Civil Defense team. He said the strikes did not cause any casualties because the area had been evacuated following the April 4 attack.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 20 children and 17 women were among those killed. Abu Hamdu, a senior member of the Syrian Civil Defense in Khan Sheikoun, said his group has recorded 70 deaths.
He said his team of rescuers was still finding survivors, including two women and a boy hiding in an underground shelter beneath their home.
Israeli defense officials said on April 4 that military intelligence officers believed government forces were behind the attack.
The officials said Israel believes Assad has tons of chemical weapons currently in his arsenal. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on April 5 as they are not allowed to brief media. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also blamed the Syrian government for the attack.
A top Syrian rebel representative said he held U.N. mediator Staffan De Mistura “personally responsible” for the attack.
Mohammad Alloush, the rebels’ chief negotiator at U.N.-mediated talks with the Syrian government, said the envoy must begin labeling the Syrian government as responsible for killing civilians. He said the U.N.’s silence “legitimizes” the strategy.
“The true solution for Syria is to put Bashar Assad, the chemical weapons user, in court, and not at the negotiations table,” said Alloush, who is an official in the Islam Army rebel faction.
Syria’s rebels, and the Islam Army in particular, are also accused of killing civilians in Syria, but rights watchdogs attribute the overwhelming portion of civilian causalities over the course of the six-year-war to the actions of government forces and their allies.
Associated Press writers Philip Issa in Beirut, Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
The promise of this seemingly futuristic weapon system is no longer a thing of mystery, speculation, or sci-fi movies, but rather something nearing operational use in combat. The weapon brings such force, power, and range that it can hold enemies at risk from greater distances and attack targets with a fire and kinetic energy force equivalent to a multi-ton vehicle moving at 160 miles per hour, developers have said.
The Office of Naval Research is now bringing the electromagnetic railgun out of the laboratory and into field demonstrations at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s new railgun Rep-Rate Test Site at Terminal Range.
“Initial rep-rate fires of multi-shot salvos already have been successfully conducted at low muzzle energy. The next test sequence calls for safely increasing launch energy, firing rates, and salvo size,” a statement from ONR says.
Railgun rep-rate testing will be at 20 megajoules by the end of the summer and at 32 megajoules by next year. To put this in perspective; one megajoule is the equivalent of a one-ton vehicle moving at 160 miles per hour, ONR information states.
“Railguns and other directed-energy weapons are the future of maritime superiority,” Dr. Thomas Beutner, head of ONR’s Naval Air Warfare and Weapons Department, said in a statement. “The US Navy must be the first to field this leap-ahead technology and maintain the advantage over our adversaries.”
The weapon works when electrical power charges up a pulse-forming network. That pulse-forming network is made up of capacitors able to release very large amounts of energy in a very short period of time.
The weapon releases a current on the order of 3 to 5 million amps — that’s 1,200 volts released in a ten millisecond timeframe, experts have said. That is enough to accelerate a mass of approximately 45 pounds from zero to five thousand miles per hour in one one-hundredth of a second, Navy officials said.
Due to its ability to reach speeds of up to 5,600 miles per hour, the hypervelocity projectile is engineered as a kinetic energy warhead, meaning no explosives are necessary. The hyper velocity projectile can travel at speeds up to 2,000 meters per second, a speed which is about three times that of most existing weapons. The rate of fire is 10-rounds per minute, developers explained.
A kinetic energy hypervelocity warhead also lowers the cost and the logistics burden of the weapon, they explained.
Although it has the ability to intercept cruise missiles, the hypervelocity projectile can be stored in large numbers on ships. Unlike other larger missile systems designed for similar missions, the hypervelocity projectile costs only $25,000 per round.
The railgun can draw its power from an on-board electrical system or large battery, Navy officials said. The system consists of five parts, including a launcher, energy storage system, a pulse-forming network, hypervelocity projectile, and gun mount.
While the weapon is currently configured to guide the projectile against fixed or static targets using GPS technology, it is possible that in the future the railgun could be configured to destroy moving targets as well, Navy officials have explained over the years.
The Navy, DoD and even the Army are also experimenting with integrating the railgun hypervelocity projectile with existing weapons platforms such as the Navy’s 5-inch guns or Army Howitzer.
Possible Railgun Deployment on Navy Destroyers
Also, the Navy is evaluating whether to mount its new electromagnetic railgun weapon to the high-tech DDG 1000 destroyer by the mid-2020s, service officials said.
The DDG 1000’s Integrated Power System provides a large amount of on-board electricity sufficient to accommodate the weapon, Navy developers have explained.
Navy leaders believe the DDG 1000 is the right ship to house the railgun, but that additional study was necessary to examine the risks.
Also, with a displacement of 15,482 tons, the DDG 1000 is 65-percent larger than existing 9,500-ton Aegis cruisers and destroyers.
The DDG 1,000 integrated power system, which includes its electric propulsion, helps generate more than 70 megawatts of on-board electrical power, something seen as key to the future when it comes to the possibility of firing a railgun.
It is also possible that the weapon could someday be configured to fire from DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Something of that size is necessary, given the technological requirements of the weapon.
For example, the electromagnetic gun would most likely not work as a weapon for the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship.
A soldier with the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) died Tuesday from injuries he sustained during a live-fire training exercise at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
The Army is not releasing many details until the soldier’s family has been notified, unit spokesman Master Sgt. Kevin Doheny said in a May 11 press release.
Soldiers and emergency services personnel responded to the incident and transported the soldier to Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital on Fort Polk, where he was later pronounced dead, according to the release.
It wasn’t clear if the soldier was shot during the live-fire exercise.
Seaman James “Derek” Lovelace was pulled out of the pool Friday after showing signs he was having difficulty while treading in a camouflage uniform and a dive mask, Naval Special Warfare Center spokesman Lt. Trevor Davids said.
Lovelace lost consciousness after being pulled out of the pool and was taken to a civilian hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Davids said. He was in his first week of SEAL training after joining the Navy about six months ago, Davids said.
Defense officials at the highest levels of South Korea’s government told Yonhap News on Wednesday that the US would deploy “strategic assets” to the peninsula amid tensions with North Korea.
“The US has pledged to expand the rotational deployment of its strategic assets near the Korean Peninsula,” Chung Eui-young, the chief of the National Security Office said according to Yonhap.
While “strategic assets” can refer to nuclear weapons, it can also mean nuclear-powered submarines, aircraft carriers, or stealth aircraft. Chung said the deployment could happen as early as the end of 2017.
Another South Korean publication, Chosun, reported on Tuesday that a government source said the US may send an aircraft carrier, B-2 stealth bombers, and the world’s stealthiest and most lethal combat plane, the F-22 Raptor.
The talk of increased US firepower in South Korea comes after North Korea interpreted some of President Donald Trump’s tweets as a declaration of war, and announced it would try to shoot down US bombers flying anywhere near its airspace.
As it stands, the US has B-1B Lancer bombers stationed in Guam that frequently respond to North Korean missile or nuclear tests by doing flybys near its borders accompanied by advanced US, Japanese, or South Korean jets.
But the B-1B isn’t nuclear capable, nor is it stealth. The B-2, however, has both.
Although the US already has F-22 and F-35 stealth aircraft stationed nearby in Japan, placing them on the Korean Peninsula could spur further escalation of an already-tense situation.
The B-2 can carry 16 nuclear warheads as well as massive ordnance penetrators — bunker-busting bombs that would be the US’s best bet for hunting North Korea’s leadership as they hide in underground caves.
NK News recently reported that the US had to tell North Korea about the last flight of the B-1 near its borders, because Pyongyang couldn’t really track the supersonic bomber jet. If North Korea struggled with the non-stealth B-1, then it has little hope of spotting a B-2 and virtually no chance of spotting the F-22 on its radar screens.
Still, the move could backfire and destabilize the situation in North Korea, as the US’ asymmetrical advantage over North Korea’s aging forces could cause an uneasy Kim Jong Un to think he has no choice but to strike first.
“Often times when we think we’re sending very clear signals, we can’t be sure they’re being interpreted that way,” Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute, told Business Insider of the US’s attempts to show its strength towards North Korea.
“In South Korea they’ve talked about trying to scare North Korea into changing their behavior,” Town said, referring to the deployment of US military assets to South Korea. But, “the way they change their behavior is not necessarily the way we want them to.”
There are going to be a lot of significant 50-year anniversaries in 2018. This is because 1968 was probably the most tumultuous year in American history since the Civil War. To this day, we still haven’t fully recovered as a country.
The tumult began immediately. Americans were buffeted by watching the Prague Spring roll over Czechoslovakia with the election of reformist Alexander Dubcek on January 5th. He instituted many meaningful reforms that spelled the end of Communism in the country. But the hopes of a peaceful collapse of the Iron Curtain were crushed by August, when Soviet and Eastern Bloc tanks rolled over the same ground.
That was only the beginning. Americans orbited the moon for the first time, Star Trek aired the first interracial kiss, and African-American athletes in the Mexico City Summer Olympics made the most political statement in the history of the games.
The captured crew of the Pueblo.
1. The USS Pueblo is captured by North Korea
The Pueblo was a Navy Signals Intelligence ship. On January 23rd, she was attacked and boarded by North Koreans in international waters. But Pueblo’s crew didn’t go down without a fight. As the ship attempted to evade capture and destroy captured intel, it took two North Korean subchasers, four torpedo boats, and two MiG fighters to stop Pueblo. One U.S. sailor was killed and 83 others were captured and held for the next 355 days. They were beaten and used as propaganda tools the entire time.
South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police, shoots Vietcong officer Nguyen Van Lem, also known as Bay Lop, on a Saigon street on Feb. 1, 1968.
(Photo by Eddie Adams)
2. The Tet Offensive begins in Vietnam
The U.S. was fully engaged in the Vietnam War by 1968 and, although there was evidence of a coming attack, it was not really suspected to come during the Tet holiday. At midnight on January 30th, Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces assaulted some 100 towns and cities, catching American and South Vietnamese troops completely by surprise. The next day, they hit the U.S. embassy in Saigon. Although most losses were quickly recaptured, the ancient capital of Hué was held for a full month.
The Tet Offensive, while a technically a battlefield failure, shook much faith in the Americans’ ability to win the war, including reporter and “Most Trusted Man in America,” Walter Cronkite. In February, the execution of Viet Cong Nguyễn Văn Lém by Nguyễn Ngọc Loan, a South Vietnamese police chief, as captured by famed photographer Eddie Adams, further turned the U.S. against the war.
Johnson soundly beat Eugene McCarthy’s anti-war candidacy in the 1968 Democratic primary in New Hampshire. But just a few days later, Senator Robert F. Kennedy announced his candidacy and the Democrats were split between pro-war and anti-war Democrats, along with segregationist Democrats from the South. Johnson, unable to unite the party and concerned he wouldn’t survive another term, announced he would not seek another term as president on March 31st.
The president was right about uniting the party. Divided Democrats did not rally to their candidate Hubert Humphrey’s cause and Richard Nixon won the election.
President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room, 1966
4. Martin Luther King, Jr. is shot and killed
The famed Southern preacher and civil rights leader was killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4th. Riots erupted in major American cities, some lasting for days. His assassin, James Earl Ray, was a fugitive from justice who escaped the Missouri State Penitentiary. Ray was apprehended at London’s Heathrow Airport on June 8th.
During the ensuing riots, President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, The Fair Housing Act, into law.
(Photo by Boris Yaro for the Los Angeles Times)
5. Robert F. Kennedy is shot at the Ambassador Hotel
Kennedy, fresh from his win in the June 4th California primary election, just finished addressing supporters at Los Angeles’ Ambassador Hotel. As he walked through the hotel’s kitchen, he was shaking hands with staff members and other supporters when Sirhan Sirhan rushed in and repeatedly shot him with a .22-caliber pistol. He died of his wounds the next day. Sirhan’s motive was Kennedy’s pro-Israel views.
Police and demonstrators clash near the Conrad Hilton Hotel during the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
(Bettmann Archive – Getty Images)
6. Democratic Convention protests become a battle with police
From August 22-30, Democrats met to nominate Hubert Humphrey as their candidate for president. Outside, some 10,000 protestors descended upon Chicago’s streets. Mayor Richard Daley met them with 23,000 policemen in riot gear and National Guardsmen. At 3:30pm, police moved to arrest a man who lowered the American flag in Grant Park and began to beat him. The crowd responded by throwing rocks, concrete, and food at them. Violence spread throughout the area and America decided to vote for Richard Nixon.
The man who would construct American armored units in France in World War I and lead combined arms units, with armor at the forefront, in World War II got his start leading cavalrymen and cars in Mexico. In fact, he probably led the first American motor-vehicle attack.
Pancho Villa, 5, Gen. John J. Pershing, 7, and Lt. George S. Patton Jr., 8, at a border conference in Texas in 1914.
He attended West Point, became an Army officer, designed a saber for enlisted cavalrymen, and pursued battlefield command. When Gen. John “Black Jack” Pershing was sent to Mexico to capture raiders under Pancho Villa, Patton came along.
Patton was on staff, so his chances of frontline service were a bit limited in the short term. But he made his own opportunities. And in Mexico, he did so in May 1916.
U.S. Army soldiers on the Punitive Expedition in 1916.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
Patton led a foraging expedition of about a dozen men in three Dodge Touring Cars. Their job was just to buy food for the American soldiers, but one of the interpreters, himself a former bandit, recognized a man at one of the stops. Patton knew that a senior member of Villa’s gang was supposed to be hiding nearby, and so he began a search of nearby farms.
At San Miguelito, the men noticed someone running inside a home and Patton ordered six to cover the front of the house and sent two against the southern wall. Three riders tried to escape, and they rode right at Patton who shot two of their horses as the third attempted to flee. Several soldiers took shots at him and managed to knock him off his horse.
An Associated Press report from the 1916 engagement. Historians are fairly certain that this initial report got the date and total number of U.S. participants wrong, believing the engagement actually took place on May 14 and involved 10 Americans.
(Newspapers.com, public domain)
It was a small, short engagement, but it boded well for the young cavalry officer. He had made a name for himself with Pershing, America’s greatest military mind at the time. He had also gotten into newspapers across the U.S. He was his typical, brash self when he wrote to his wife about the incident:
You are probably wondering if my conscience hurts me for killing a man [at home in front of his family]. It does not.
Patton’s bold leadership in Mexico set the stage for even greater responsibility a few short years later.
Lt. col. George S. Patton Jr., standing in front of a French Renault tank in the summer of 1918, just two years after he led a motor-vehicle charge in Mexico against bandits.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps)
When America joined World War I, Pershing was placed in command of the American Expeditionary Force.
Patton, interested in France and Britain’s new tanks, wrote a letter to Pershing asking to have his name considered for a slot if America stood up its own tank corps. He pointed out that he had cavalry experience, experience leading machine gunners, and, you know, was the only American officer known to have led a motorized car attack.
Pershing agreed, and on Nov. 10, 1917, Patton became the first American soldier assigned to tank warfare. He stood up the light tank school for the AEF and eventually led America’s first tank units into combat.
When Alonso Flores started a serious cycling routine about two years ago, he was totally on his own. Rousting himself out of bed at 0-dark-thirty to get into his gear and hit the road was a chore. And try telling your young family that you’re dragging at the end of the day because you got up to ride a bike at 4 in the morning.
It wasn’t easy.
But during a family cycling event sponsored by his home town of Yuma, Arizona, Flores met some riders that would change his life — and give him a sense a purpose he hadn’t had riding on his own.
“Now I feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself,” Flores said.
It was during that get together that Flores bumped into two other riders who were part of the veteran outreach group Team Red, White Blue, a national non-profit whose mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity.
Team RWB is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. And that’s how Flores, a 41-year-old heavy machine repair technician and civilian, got involved.
Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.
So Flores teamed up with his newly-minted cycling friends at Team RWB and started biking with them three times per week — waking at 4 AM, meeting at a coffee shop, riding 20 or so miles and chilling over a hot cup of mocha when the ride is done.
“Team RWB brings great teamwork. Before I met them I was riding by myself 20 miles a day,” Flores said. “Now I’m doing the same thing, but I feel like I have a purpose.”
For the third year in a row, Team RWB has sponsored its so-called “Old Glory Relay” — a cross country run-and-bike relay carrying an American flag from Seattle, Washington, to Tampa, Florida. Organizers say it’s intended to connect the Team RWB chapters and its veterans and friends with the communities they live in.
So when Team RWB was coming through Yuma for this year’s Old Glory Relay, Flores jumped at the chance to help. He and a couple other teammates helped carry the flag on the non-running parts of the trip between Yuma and Gilabend, Arizona — over 100 miles — in one day.
And while Flores didn’t carry the flag the entire 116 miles of his relay leg, the 47 miles he rode with the Stars and Stripes on his bike gave him a lasting impression of the country he’s come to love and those who’ve served to keep him free.
“I came here from Mexico when I was 11 years,” Flores said. “People always ask me if I miss Mexico and I tell them that I don’t know any other country than this one. And carrying the flag in the Old Glory Relay put an exclamation point on that.”
In fact, Team RWB has become a big part of Flores family’s life as well. He’s started bringing his 10-year-old daughter and wife along on Wednesday evening fun runs where other kids and parents do a little PT and come together later for dinner and companionship. And even though Flores didn’t have any military experience, that hasn’t stopped his new vet friends from counting him as one of their own.
“It’s just a great organization. I see that Team RWB shirt and I know what it’s all about,” Flores said. “Even if I don’t know the person, I know what Team RWB means and that I’m part of something bigger.”
After months of fighting, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have conquered Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate and its last major stronghold in the Middle East.
But the victory by no means indicates that ISIS is defeated, and enormous ethnic challenges still lie ahead for the embattled country.
Here’s how the Raqqa campaign was won, and what lies on the horizon for Syria:
The campaign to retake Raqqa from ISIS (which seized the ancient Syrian city in early 2014) officially began in November 2016, several weeks after the campaign to retake Mosul, the group’s stronghold in Iraq, was announced.
As per Sello’s description, the SDF advanced south from their territory in northern Syria, capturing ISIS-held villages east and west of Raqqa all while buoyed by American airstrikes. In addition, a key target was the Tabqa Dam on the Euphrates River, which the SDF also seized in May.
Although the Syrian Democratic Front is dominated by Syrian Kurds, the units deployed to fight in the Raqqa campaign were 70% Arab, according to the SDF. This was done to foster ethnic solidarity between soldiers and the majority-Arab city and environs of Raqqa.
The Syrian Democratic Forces that led the Raqqa campaign is a coalition of various militias, however it has always been led by the Kurds.
The undisputed leaders of the SDF are the Popular Defense Units, or the YPG, a Kurdish militia with ties to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) in Turkey, along with their all-female companion force, the YPJ. The YPG first gained US support during the Battle of Kobane in 2014, when the group handed ISIS its first battlefield defeat while defending the Kurdish town on the border between Syria and Turkey.
The SDF was created in order to bring non-Kurdish groups that live in northern Syria, including Assyrian Christians and especially Sunni Arabs, into cooperation with the Kurds to create a single, moderate coalition to defeat ISIS. Yet inter-ethnic problems remain.
Despite SDF’s secular, democratic nature and US backing, the group has been accused of war crimes. Although the YPG has denied such allegations, The Nation has reported that the group has expelled Arabs from conquered villages at gunpoint. The United Nations also disputes these claims, saying that these expulsions were for civilians’ safety and did not constitute ethnic cleansing.
In July, the SDF began the most arduous part of the Raqqa campaign — conquering the city itself. A combined ground and air assault began on Raqqa, and with it came vicious urban warfare and hundreds of civilian casualties.
Because Raqqa is an ancient city, fighting ISIS amidst its small, winding streets proved difficult for both the SDF and their American air support. ISIS used urban guerilla tactics as it had in other places like Mosul, Iraq, making the SDF’s campaign to clear the city from fighters a long, frustrating task.
The presence of civilians made airstrikes and troop movements even more difficult — despite precautions, Amnesty International has reported that “hundreds” of civilians had been killed by US airstrikes in Raqqa, which had begun before SDF ground troops were able to move in. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has reported that 789 people have been killed by US bombardment in Raqqa between June and August alone. Two hundred of them were children.
Worst of all, however, not only was ISIS using civilians as human shields and moving through underground tunnels, but they also murdered anyone in the city trying to escape through sniper fire and mortar bombardments.
After months of brutal urban warfare and heavy resistance from ISIS fighters, the SDF declared victory in Raqqa on October 17 after seizing the national hospital and the city stadium, where the last ISIS fighters were stationed.
Amid the celebrations, though, the SDF is still in the process of clearing landmines and other explosives from the area, and although it warns that there may still be 100 ISIS militants hiding amid the city’s rubble, nearly 6,000 fighters surrendered as the group’s resistance was in its final hours.
Nevertheless, Arabs in Raqqa were the main celebrants after ISIS’s defeat.
The SDF’s victory in Raqqa diminishes ISIS’s presence in Iraq and Syria to only a few border territories in the desert. The Islamist group no longer has access to the large cities they conquered when they rose to international prominence in 2014.
However, there remains much work to be done in Raqqa. With a large displaced population and reconstruction costs mounting, the SDF is now faced with the task of dealing with the Raqqa campaign’s fallout.
From the prelude to the battle of Raqqa in June to its conclusion this week, a group of Syrian activist journalists known as Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently has documented more than 3,829 airstrikes, 1,873 civilian deaths, and 450,000 displaced people in the city.
In addition, RBSS estimates that 90% of the city has been destroyed by the months of fighting.
Reuters reports that the SDF has set up the Raqqa Civil Council in order to oversee security and reconstruction efforts in the city, however funding from the US and other sources has so far been insufficient.
“We gave our city as a sacrifice for the sake of defeating terrorism,” Ibrahim Hassan, who heads reconstruction for the RCC, told Reuters. “It’s the world’s duty to help us.”
In addition to logistical concerns about the future of Raqqa, socio-political ones remain as well.
It is unclear how the Syrian government, which is also conducting campaigns against ISIS in northeastern Syria, will react to the SDF’s vast zone of control. The group, along with the Kurdish-dominated Federation of Northern Syria, hopes to establish its own country in the area, a move that would surely be met with hostility from Damascus.
Kurdish moves toward independence in neighboring Iraq after the fall of ISIS there were met with exactly this kind of aggressive resistance from the government in Baghdad.
Now that ISIS’s territorial control has been shattered, Syrians in Raqqa say it is critical that the resumption of basic services, reconstruction, and social integration are pursued quickly so as to prevent a local insurgency from taking shape as it did in Iraq following the 2003 US invasion.
As the dust settles in the battle against ISIS in Syria, the next phase of the conflict will undoubtedly be about who will control what as zones of power begin to be established for a post-war Syria.
It’s included in that giant bucket of information dumped on you in briefing after briefing right before deployment:
Exactly what will happen if your service member or another member of his unit is killed? What should you expect? What happens if they are injured?
We get a lot of questions about this at SpouseBuzz. Readers want to know what to expect from the notification process, can’t remember what was said in those briefings or maybe never made it to one. They want to know who will show-up at their door, what they will say and when they will arrive. They want to be empowered with information.
We understand the predeployment mental block on this stuff. While it may be the most important part of any predeployment briefing, it’s probably the part you most want to forget. Who wants to dwell on the possibility that their service member may not come home before he even walks out the door?
But it is so important. And whether this is your first or fifteenth deployment, a refresher from the casualty affairs folks is probably a good idea.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)
But we’re not PowerPoint people here. So instead of making you sit through an acronym riddled briefing the next time we see you, we’ve gone straight to the source at the Pentagon to get you as cut and dry a run down here as we can.
Look at this as a point of reference. Forward it to other members of your unit or include it in your FRG newsletter. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get you the official answer and get back to you.
But first, a caveat: The policies and information we’ll talk about below are the Pentagon’s military-wide standard, straight from Deborah Skillman, the program director for casualty, mortuary and military funeral honors at the Defense Department. However, like almost everything else in the military, each service has the ability to change things at their discretion. We’ll note where that is most likely to happen. In a perfect world, though, the below is how things are supposed to be done.
What to expect if your service member is killed:
Two uniformed service members will come to your door to tell you or, in military speak, “notify you.” One of them will actually give you the news, the other one will be a chaplain. Sometimes a chaplain may not be available and so, instead, the second person will be another “mature” service member, Skillman said. If you live far away from a military base there is a chance the chaplain may be a local emergency force chaplain and not a member of the military, she said.
These people will come to your door sometime between 5 a.m. and midnight. This is one of those instances where the different services may change the rule in limited instances. Showing up outside this window is a decision made by some very high ranking people. If it happens it’s because it’s absolutely necessary.
You are supposed to learn about your spouse’s death before anyone else. A different team of notification folks will deliver the news to your in-laws – but only after you’ve been told. Same thing goes for any children your spouse has living elsewhere or anyone else he’s asked be told if something happens.
The news is supposed to reach you within 12 hours of his death. The services use that time to get their notification team together, find your address and send someone to your home. If you live near the base and have all your contact information up to date with your unit, they’ll arrive at your home very quickly. If you’ve moved and live far away from any base, it may take the full 12 hours. If you live in a very remote location (for example our past unit had to send a team to notify in the Philippines) it could take more than 12 hours.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada)
You’re supposed to hear the news first from the notification team. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not just because it’s solemn and respectful. Telling you in person makes sure you are in a safe place to hear such life changing news. And it makes sure that the information they are giving you is accurate, not just a rumor. After they notify you, the team will stay with you until you can call a friend or family member to be with you or until the next official person – the casualty assistance officer – can arrive.
If you hear the news first from someone else, the notification team will still come. In that case instead of delivering notification they will deliver their condolences, Skillman said. Even though the unit goes into a communications blackout after someone dies or gets seriously injured, sometimes word sneaks out anyway through a well meaning soldier or wife who doesn’t know the rules. The team, however, will still come and do their duty.
What happens after notification? You will be assigned a casualty assistance officer who will walk you through all the next steps, including the benefits you receive as a widow. You can read all about those here. That service member has been specially trained for this duty. His or her job is to make sure you get everything you need from the military.
What if your service member is wounded?
The notification process for a injured service member is different but the result is still the same — you are supposed to learn the news before anyone else (other than his unit) stateside. Here’s how it works:
You’ll receive a phone call. If at all possible, Skillman said, the phone call will be from your service member himself. If that’s not possible a military official will call you with as many details as he has and then give you regular updates by phone until they are no longer necessary. If they cannot reach you (let’s say you dropped your iPhone in the toilet again) they will contact your unit to try to reach you through whatever means necessary.
If your service member is severely wounded and will not be transferred stateside quickly, you may be able to join him wherever he is being treated outside the combat zone, often Germany. The official will let you know whether or not this is an option.
You’ll be regularly updated with how and when you will be able to see him. If he is transferred to a treatment facility stateside far away from you, the military will help you arrange travel to wherever he is being sent.
What if someone else in your unit is injured or killed?
Some of the hardest moments you’ll have as a military spouse will be spent wondering if your service member is the one who has been injured or killed. Because the unit downrange goes on blackout until all the notifications stateside are made, you may be able to pretty well guess when something has happened based on a sudden lack of communication. Will it be you? Will the knock be on your door this time?
That can be very a scary time. In my experience, the best thing to do is to choose to not live in fear. When our unit lost 20 soldiers in four months, it became very easy to predict when something had happened and sit in dread in our homes alone — just waiting, watching and praying. However we knew that wasn’t healthy. So instead, a small group of us purposefully spent time together instead.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis)
Specifically what happens in the unit when a service member is injured or killed probably differs from unit to unit and base to base. But most of the processes look something like this:
The unit goes on blackout. That means that all communication from downrange to families is supposed to abruptly and without warning stop. That blackout will likely last until notification to the families has been made.
You will receive a phone call or an email from your unit that someone has been killed or injured. After all the family has been notified, the unit will let you know who has been killed or injured by either email or phone. If it has been less than 24 hours since the last family member was notified, the message will only tell you that someone was killed or injured — not who. If you are told about it via a phone call, the person making the call — possibly a point of contact from your family group — will likely read you a preset script. An email could look like the below, one of the many our unit received during our 2009-2010 deployment:
Families and Friends of 1-17 IN,
On Sept. 26, 2009, 1-17 IN was involved in an incident that resulted in 1 soldier who was Killed in Action. The soldier’s primary and secondary next of kin have already been notified.
On behalf of the soldiers of 1-17 IN, I send my condolences to the soldier’s Family. We will hold a Memorial Ceremony for this soldier at a time and place to be determined.
Please remember to keep the soldiers of 1-17 IN and all other deployed soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continuous support.
The Defense Department will release the name of the person killed no less than 24 hours after the family has been notified. That buffer gives the family some private time. However, you may learn who it was before that. The family may choose to tell people. If blackout is lifted downrange, your servicemember might tell you. The most important thing during this time is to respect the family’s privacy. If you do happen to know who was killed before the family or the DoD has released the name, for the love of Pete don’t go blasting it all over town.
You will receive details from your family readiness group on how you can help support the family and when the military memorial will be. Above all us, respect the family’s privacy and needs. Attending the military memorial can be a great way to show that you care without being intrusive.
The United States Marine Corps has, arguably, the best heavy-lift transport helicopter in the world in the Sikorsky CH-53E Super Stallion. However, the chopper, which entered service in 1981, is getting kind of old. So, the Marines and Sikorsky have teamed up to put the Super Stallion on a regimen of aeronautical steroids.
Here’s what they did:
The cabin of the new CH-53K King Stallion is almost 18 inches wider than that of the CH-53E. Marines are trained to make the most out of what they have, which means that extra 1.5 feet will go a long way. The most obvious effect of this latest round of upgrades to the CH-53 is the amount of cargo it can haul: 39,903 pounds, according to Lockheed handout. This adds almost 4,000lbs of lift capability to the aircraft.
Three external cargo hooks help the CH-53K haul almost 40,000 pounds of gear.
The CH-53K is also faster. It has a top speed of at least 170 knots, a significant upgrade to the 150 knots of the CH-53E. But how is this possible? The CH-53K is built primarily out of composites metals, which are much lighter than the materials used in previous iterations of the chopper. By weighing less, the CH-53K doesn’t have to work as hard to haul itself around, allowing it to distributed more lift. The CH-53K also replaces the three T64 engines of the CH-53E with T408 engines. The result is about 22,000 horsepower for the new King Stallion, as opposed to the 13,200 of the CH-53E.
In addition, the CH-53K also features numerous other improvements, including fly-by-wire flight controls, composite rotor blades with swept anhedral tips, a low-maintenance rotorhead, an improved external cargo handling system (with three hooks), and a “glass” cockpit (replacing dials and gauges with multi-function displays). The chopper can still carry as many as 55 troops.
A head-on view of the CH-53K in flight – it comes in about 18 inches wider than the CH-53E, but a little space can mean a lot.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Molly Hampton)
The CH-53K is also in contention to replace Luftwaffe CH-53s currently in service. Israeli Defense Forces are also looking into this heavy-lift helicopter. Believe it or not, this bigger Stallion will still fit inside a C-17 Globemaster III transport plane, but can also self-deploy to operating locations and operate off ships.
Currently, the plans are for this helicopter to reach initial operating capability in 2019. When it does, it’ll certainly give the Marines a huge boost.