Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans

The Department of Defense announced on Aug. 13, 2018, it will extend eligibility for Military OneSource benefits from the current 180 days to 365 days after separation or retirement from military service to ensure all service members and families have access to comprehensive support as they transition to civilian life. This change goes into effect Aug. 13, 2018, in accordance with the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2019.

Military OneSource provides information, resources and support for active-duty, National Guard and reserve service members, their families and survivors. Provided at no cost, Military OneSource gives exclusive access to programs, tools, and benefits designed to help ensure service members and their families are mission-ready and able to thrive in both their military and post-military lives.


“Each person is unique, and so is each military-to-civilian transition,” said. A.T. Johnston, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. “We want all of Military OneSource’s resources to be there when someone needs them — whether it is a day, a week or many months after their transition to civilian life.”

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans

(U.S. Army photo by Edward N. Johnson)

As a DOD program, Military OneSource offers a wide range of services designed exclusively for the military community. Services include help with relocation, tax support, financial planning, health and wellness coaching, as well as confidential non-medical counseling and specialty consultations for spouse employment, education, adoption, elder care, special needs, and much more.

“Military OneSource is powered by people with extensive knowledge and training in meeting the needs of our military community, many of whom have also served or lived in military families,” explained Lee Kelley, program director of the Non-medical Counseling Program Office within military community and family policy. “We’re dedicated to providing expert, proven, and practical support and information to our service members and their families to help them achieve their goals and live their best military life.”

Military OneSource services are accessible 24/7, service members and family members can call Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or go to www.militaryonesource.mil. To explore additional benefits that may be available through the Department of Veterans Affairs, go to https://explore.va.gov/.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un never leaves home without his own toilet

The leaders of North Korea and South Korea are scheduled to meet face-to-face for the first time on April 27, 2018, in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone.

It will be the first leadership summit between the countries in more than a decade. It’s a first for a North Korean leader to agree to visit South Korea since the Korean War in the 1950s. And the South Korean government, led by President Moon Jae-in, has pledged to create an environment conducive to diplomacy.


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to bring several high-ranking officials and guards from his Escort Command. Ri Sol Ju, Kim’s wife, and Kim Yo Jong, his sister, may make appearances.

Kim Jong Un will also most likely bring a toilet.

Whenever he travels, the North Korean leader is said to always bring his own toilet. And not just one — he has numerous toilets in different vehicles in his motorcade.

Daily NK, a South Korean website focusing on North Korea news, reported in 2015 that “the restrooms are not only in Kim Jong Un’s personal train but whatever small or midsize cars he is traveling with and even in special vehicles that are designed for mountainous terrain or snow.”

The publication quoted an unnamed source as saying, “It is unthinkable in a Suryeong-based society for him to have to use a public restroom just because he travels around the country,” using a Korean term meaning “supreme leader.”

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans
Kim Jong Un

Kim is also said to have a chamber pot in his Mercedes to use if he doesn’t have time to stop to hop out and jump into one of the purpose-built traveling toilets.

Aside from Kim’s apparent dislike of public restrooms, there’s an important reason for the portable conveniences.

Lee Yun-keol, who worked in a North Korean Guard Command unit before coming to South Korea in 2005, told The Washington Post that “the leader’s excretions contain information about his health status so they can’t be left behind.”

Kim’s urine and fecal matter are routinely tested to check for illnesses and other health indicators, according to Daily NK.

But his personal preference might be his undoing.

Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on North Korea, has jokingly suggested that the US should strike Kim’s personal toilet to demonstrate its precision.

“Destroying the port-a-potty will deny Kim Jong Un a highly valued creature comfort, while also demonstrating the incredible accuracy of US precision munitions to hold Kim and his minions at risk,” Lewis wrote in the Daily Beast.

“It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army secretary commits to changes at Fort Hood

Vowing to have “very hard conversations,” Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy met with soldiers this week at Fort Hood, where at least eight service members have been found dead since March.

Most questions directed at McCarthy during a 24-minute news conference Thursday regarded Spc. Vanessa Guillen, whose remains were identified in early July. Guillen had been missing since late April.


Her family, who met with President Trump last week, has alleged Guillen was sexually harassed at Fort Hood. The case has drawn international media attention and inspired other women to recount their experiences with sexual harassment on social media.

“We must honor her memory by creating enduring change,” McCarthy said.

An independent command climate review will begin at Fort Hood at the end of August, McCarthy said. He also touted Project Inclusion, a recently announced initiative addressing sexual harassment and sexual assault, a lack of diversity, discrimination and suicide in the Army.

Depending on investigators’ findings, McCarthy said changes in leadership at Fort Hood could occur.

“If the conclusions are such that point to leaders or individuals in particular, of course, we would take the appropriate accountability,” McCarthy said.

McCarthy said he held nine sessions with soldiers of various ranks during his two-day visit to Fort Hood. His arrival came less than a week after Spc. Francisco Gilberto Hernandezvargas’ body was recovered Sunday.

Besides Guillen, other Fort Hood soldiers who have died in the past several months include Pvt. 2nd Class Gregory Morales, Pvt. Mejhor Morta, Pfc. Brandon Rosecrans, Spc. Freddy Delacruz Jr., Spc. Christopher Sawyer and Spc. Shelby Jones.

Spc. Aaron Robinson served in the same regiment as Guillen, 20, and killed her, investigators said. Robinson killed himself as law enforcement officials closed in on him. Cecily Aguilar, who allegedly helped Robinson dispose of Guillen’s body, has pleaded not guilty to three charges of tampering with evidence. Aguilar is being held without bond.

“These are very difficult things,” McCarthy said. “We’re the Army. We’re a reflection of the country, and at times, some people infiltrate our ranks. We’ve got to find them. We’ve got to root them out.”

Although McCarthy conceded sexual harassment is an issue, investigators have found no evidence so far that Guillen faced such abuse. While admitting that Fort Hood has the most cases of murder and sexual assault of any Army base, he said closing it is not under consideration.

“The anger and frustration in a case like Vanessa is necessary,” McCarthy said. “I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m disappointed. We’re heartbroken, but there’s still amazing contributions from men and women at this installation.”

McCarthy’s comments came on the same day that Mayra Guillen posted on Twitter that she received her sister’s belongings. “I don’t even want to open them … find things or clothes that we shared,” she tweeted.

Supporters came together Wednesday in Houston, Guillen’s hometown, to urge Congress to pass the #IamVanessaGuillen bill, which would make it easier for military members to report sexual harassment and assault.

Guillen’s family reportedly intends to be at Fort Hood on Friday afternoon. McCarthy planned to return to the Pentagon on Thursday night but said he would see whether he could adjust his schedule to meet the family. He said he has expressed his condolences in public and shared those thoughts in a letter to the family, but he has yet to meet Guillen’s relatives in person.

McCarthy referred to Guillen’s case as a “tipping point.”

“We are incredibly disappointed that we let Vanessa down and we let their family down,” McCarthy said. “We vow for the rest of our time in service in our life to prevent these types of acts.”

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy’s first-ever F-35 carrier just deployed in the Pacific

The US Navy made history on March 5, 2018, by putting to sea, for the first time ever, an aircraft carrier with F-35B jets.


And by deploying them in the Pacific, it’s a message China and North Korea are sure to hear loud and clear.

The US Marine Corps’s Fighter Attack Squadron 121 deployed aboard the USS Wasp, a smaller-deck aircraft carrier that used to operate harrier jump jets and helicopters before getting special modifications to field the F-35.

Also read: Mattis wants the F-35 to be part of the US nuclear triad

“This is a historic deployment,” said Col. Tye R. Wallace, 31st MEU Commanding Officer in a US Navy press release. “The F-35B is the most capable aircraft ever to support a Marine rifleman on the ground.”

The deployment marks the culmination of years of planning. Since its inception, the F-35 has been designed with the idea of accommodating short takeoff, vertical landing variants. Initially, the design compromises forced by the massive tail fan and unique capabilities caused complications, compromises, and long and expensive delays.

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans
F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 13, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Becky Calhoun)

But the US has still beaten China, Russia, and the entire world to the punch with a navalized stealth fighter that can fight for air superiority, pull off precision strikes, penetrate enemy airspaces, and coordinate with the two US Navy guided-missile destroyers to guide ship-fired missiles to targets ashore.

The squadron aboard the Wasp has also trained heavily on a new set of tactics meant to keep the US dominant in the Pacific region. Leveraging the short-takeoff, vertical landing ability of the F-35B, the pilots and maintainers drilled on setting up improvised refuel and reloading points, and how to quickly restock the jet for battle, much like mechanics performing pit stops during NASCAR races.

More: Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

Additionally, the F-35B has the option of equipping a gun and opening it up as a close-air-support platform to support Marines making a beach landing.

The result is a stealth fighter/bomber/reconnaissance jet well-suited to the Asia-Pacific region, which US adversaries, like China and North Korea, will be sure to recognize.

US competition in the region and around the world put on notice

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans
Four F-35B Lightning II aircraft perform a flyover above the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) during the Lightning Carrier Proof of Concept Demonstration. (US Navy photo by Andy Wolfe)

“You’re about to put, for the first time ever, fifth-generation fighters on a ship at sea and put it into a highly contested area that is fraught with geopolitical risk and controversy and tensions,” retired US Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Berke, a former F-35B squadron commander, previously told Business Insider.

“The implications of a fifth-generation airplane being in [the Pacific] is impossible to overstate,” he added. “They’re going to provide capability that nobody knows exists yet.”

Related: Japan now has F-35s to challenge Chinese aggression

As Beijing pushes on with its massive land grab in the South China Sea by militarizing artificial islands, intruding in territorial waters of its neighbors, and performing increasingly aggressive fighter jet drills around the Pacific, the F-35B deployment gives the US an advantage in terms of air power at sea.

China has struggled to field its own stealth jets that many see as an answer to US air power in the region.

North Korea, not a powerful nation in terms of air power, will now feel the added pressure of stealth jets it cannot track sitting near its shores in Okinawa or on deployment around the region.

Here’s a video of the F-35B landing vertically on the Wasp at sea:

MIGHTY GAMING

6 times video games were mistaken for combat footage

It’s amazing how often the media gets worked up about amazing combat actions caught on camera only to find that the incredible “footage” is actually from a video game.


Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans
Pictured: Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense intercepting Hamas rockets near Tel Aviv.

Video games are pretty advanced these days and they, admittedly, look very realistic, but they aren’t that realistic. And the things soldiers do “caught on camera” in the “combat footage” is definitely not realistic.

It’s really astoundingly dumb how often this happens.

1. Russia’s Veterans Day.

Probably the worst time to f*ck this up. When Russian President Vladimir Putin was describing the heroism of Senior Lieutenant Alexander Prokhorenko, Russia’s state media made the worst edit possible. Prokhorenko was calling in airstrikes on ISIS positions near Palmyra, Syria in 2016. When surrounded with no way out, he called the fire onto himself, killing the oncoming ISIS fighters.

Russian state-owned news Channel 1 edited in a clip from a video game combat simulator, called ArmA. The bit is at 2:35 in the video below.

What happened here? There isn’t enough combat footage in Syria so we have to make it up now?

2. Russia “catches” extremist fighters with chemical weapons.

They caught us red-handed giving “extremist” troops truckloads of chemical ammunition — or so they thought. When Russia’s UK embassy tweeted this “damning evidence,” they were quickly outed. They stood by the tweet, though. It’s still up.

The video game here, as quickly pointed out, is Command and Conquer. It’s not even from the game, they got it from the game’s Wikipedia entry. It doesn’t get much lazier than that.

3. Russia’s Ministry of Defense accuses the U.S. of supplying ISIS.

This time, the Russians were trying to be a bit sneakier by intercutting the video game, AC-130 Gunship Simulator, with old footage of the Iraqi Air Force hitting a vehicle convoy.

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans
Tricky.

I’ll stop harping on Russian media using video game footage when they stop using video game footage.

4. Russia Today’s report on child soldiers in Sudan.

Dammit Russia, you are making this easy. As one former child soldier gives his story about fighting in the country’s civil war, the camera does an entirely unnecessary pan across an image from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

(RT | YouTube)

(It’s not as if there isn’t enough footage of African child soldiers. On RT’s YouTube page, they completely acknowledge it, so why keep it up? Or even use it in the first place?

5. UK news magazine tries to link the IRA to Muammar Gaddafi.

The United Kingdom’s ITV ran a documentary in September 2011, called Gaddafi and the IRA, which the British TV regulator Ofcom later found to be “materially misleading” and “a significant breach of audience trust.” What sparked the Ofcom investigation was footage of a helicopter being shot down by weapons supplied to the Libyan dictator.

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans
Damn, you Gadaffi.

What the film labels “IRA film 1988” is actually ArmA 2, a sequel to the game Russia tried to pass off as real in the first item on this list. Nice work, Bohemia Interactive.

6. UN Security Council or UN Space Command?

Admittedly, this isn’t from combat, but it’s really hilarious (and just downright lazy). As the BBC was airing a report on Amnesty International’s real-life criticism of the UN Security Council, the logo of the UN Space Command from the super popular Halo series was used instead of the real UNSC’s logo.

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans
Sorry, Amnesty International.

You should know the real UNSC’s logo looks nothing like this… but if you do a Google image search for “UNSC Logo,” you see how some intern got fired in 2012.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US aircraft carrier, bombers and fighters flex their muscles near Iran

The US Navy carrier strike group and US Air Force bombers deployed to the Middle East to counter Iran conducted simulated strike drills near Iran as tensions between Washington and Tehran remain high.

The US began deploying numerous troops and military assets to the US Central Command area of responsibility May 2019 in response to intelligence indicating that Iran was plotting attacks on US interests in the region.

The exact nature of the threat posed by Iran and its proxies is unclear, although Vice Adm. Michael Gilday recently told reporters at the Pentagon that the Iranian leadership has repeatedly made threats backed up by changes in their force posture.

Furthermore, there have been a string of attacks in recent weeks — including attacks on tankers in UAE waters, a drone strike on a Saudi pipeline, and a rocket attack in the Green Zone in Iraq — that have reinforced the US military’s view that Iran is involved in or plotting nefarious activities.


Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans

A bomber with fighter escorts fly above the USS Abraham Lincoln.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans

B-52H Stratofortress bomber escorted by F/A-18E Super Hornets.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans

Bombers and fighters supported by an early warning aircraft fly above the USS Abraham Lincoln.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley)

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans

Fighters and bombers fly over the Arabian Sea during combined arms exercises.

(US Navy photo by Lt. Brad Kerr)

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans

F/A-18E Super Hornet on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.

(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matt Herbst)

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Coast Guard Seized Over $411 Million Worth of Drugs During Recent Deployment

The US Coast Guard and its allies announced the seizure of approximately 23,000 pounds of cocaine and 8,800 pounds of marijuana before offloading the illegal drugs at Port Everglades, Florida, during a press conference on Wednesday. 

“The outstanding Coast Guard women and men on this ship are the very best. Their professionalism, teamwork, and dedication produced multiple interdictions through often harrowing and arduous conditions,” said Capt. Todd Vance, commanding officer of the Coast Guard cutter James. “With absolute certainty, we know that each interdiction saves lives and helps to protect others from violence, extortion, and instability; byproducts of the illegal drug trade in the Western Hemisphere.”

Over the course of approximately three months, the combined task force conducted 20 separate interdictions with eight American and United Kingdom ships, dealing a heavy strike against the drug trafficking organizations responsible for the illegal narcotics. The seized narcotics are estimated to have a street value of $411.3 million.  

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans
Crew members aboard the Coast Guard cutter James stand next to approximately 23,000 pounds of cocaine and 8,800 pounds of marijuana Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, at Port Everglades Cruise Port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Coast Guard seized the drugs with an estimated $411.3 million wholesale value. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Villa Rodriguez/US Coast Guard, courtesy of DVIDS.

The operation was successful despite one of the task force’s ships being forced to make an early return to port because of a surge of COVID-19 infections. The USCG cutter Stratton returned to port Nov. 18, 2020, after crew members tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Out of the 133 crew members, 11 had tested positive by the time the Stratton returned to its homeport at Coast Guard Island in Alameda, California. 

The USCG cutter James’ most recent deployment was part of the efforts of the Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF) to combat illegal trafficking of all types in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean Sea. The task force, located at Naval Station Key West, Florida, conducts detection and monitoring operations in the Joint Operating Area in order to maintain security in the US and her allied countries. 

The US Coast Guard, Navy, Customs and Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, along with allied and international partner agencies, including the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands, all played a role in the recent counterdrug operations.

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans
The HNLMS Groningen’s crew interdicts a suspected drug boat in the Caribbean Sea, Sept. 27, 2020. HNLMS Groningen is a Holland-class offshore patrol vessel operated by the Royal Netherlands Navy and was part of the recent countertrafficking operation. Royal Netherlands Navy photo, courtesy of DVIDS.

The USCG 7th District Southeast said in a press release, “The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in districts across the nation.”

Capt. Vance gave an example during the press conference of one of the task force’s recent interdictions. He said that USCG and Dutch Caribbean surveillance aircraft located a drug smuggling vessel somewhere in the Caribbean Sea. The UK launched an aircraft from its Royal Fleet auxiliary ship Argus, with a USCG law enforcement group of eight to 10 personnel attached. The group completed a successful interdiction of the drug smuggling vessel, with the interdiction and boarding led and conducted by the USCG.

“If that’s not joint international collaboration, I’m not sure what it better looks like. A coordination like this happens every day in this theater of the world,” said Vance. He continued to recognize the various US and foreign ally partnerships, who “work together to stop the drugs from poisoning our communities. Who work together to reduce the influence and corruption of transnational criminal organizations and their corrupt influence on regional leaders. They work together to enhance safety, security, and regional security here in the Western Hemisphere.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Korean War vet honored at Steelers football game

Korean War veteran Ed Portka, 90, was honored along with his stepson as the Pittsburgh Steelers hosted the Cincinnati Bengals on national television.

Former Maj. David Reeser, who commanded an Army diving company in Europe 28 years ago, accompanied his stepfather, a former first lieutenant, onto the field for the Steelers’ “Salute Our Heroes” recognition during a short break following the third quarter of the game.

“I’m excited about it,” Portka said about his upcoming recognition, just before the game, offering that he was “looking forward to it,” but a little hesitant.


Portka served as a platoon leader in an engineer unit under the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea. He was responsible for breaching minefields and other obstacles during offensive operations and installing minefields to protect U.S. defensive positions.

“We did a lot of dirty work,” Portka said. “It was specialized work.”

He said every chance they got, they detonated mines by firing their M-1 rifles at them rather than risking lives.

Military expands OneSource benefits to separated veterans

Second Lt. Ed Portka, prior to deploying to Korea with an engineering unit under the 1st Cavalry Division, where he was responsible for breaching minefields.

(U.S. Army photo)

Portka served in Korea from 1952-53. One of his memories was of meeting Gen. Matthew Ridgway, 8th Army commander, during a battlefield circulation, just after Portka’s platoon finished clearing a minefield near Pusan, Korea.

“He was down-to-earth,” Portka said of Ridgway.

The Korean War armistice agreement was signed on Portka’s 24th birthday, July 27, 1953, just before he redeployed home. He said it was quite a birthday present.

After the war, Portka was an architectural draftsman with George M. Ewing Company in Washington, D.C. He later managed the firm’s Philadelphia office and was the project manager for the design of Veterans Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Reeser was stationed in Europe in the early 1990s, where he served as a platoon Leader and then as commander of a diving detachment. After leaving the military, he founded an engineering firm, Infrastructure Engineers, that performs underwater bridge inspections.

Reeser now lives in Florida and his stepfather in Atlanta, but said he returns to Pittsburgh every chance he gets to take his stepfather to Steeler games.

At the end of their recognition on the field, both veterans aggressively waved Pittsburgh Steeler “terrible towels.” The Steelers beat the Bengals 27-3.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: One Iranian ‘dying every 10 minutes’; Romania urges expats to stay away

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 230,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Iran

The death toll from the coronavirus in Iran continues to rise as the worst-affected country in the Middle East prepares for scaled-down celebrations of Norouz, the Persian New Year.

“With 149 new fatalities in the past 24 hours, the death toll from the virus has reached 1,284,” Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raisi said on state television on March 19.

“Unfortunately, we have had 1,046 new cases of infection since yesterday,” Raisi added.

Iran has the third-highest number of registered cases after China and Italy.

With the country reeling from the outbreak, officials have recommended that Iranians stay home during the March 20 holiday, a time when hundreds of thousands usually travel to be with friends and relatives.

The government has closed schools at all levels, banned sports and cultural events, and curtailed religious activities to try and slow the spread of the virus.

Kianoush Jahanpour, the head of the Health Ministry’s public relations and information center , noted on March 19 that the data on the outbreak means an Iranian dies every 10 minutes from COVID-19, while 50 infections occur each hour of the day.

“With respect to this information, people must make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” he added.

Despite the dire circumstances, many Iranians were angered by the temporary closure of Shi’ite sites, prompting some earlier this week to storm into the courtyards of two major shrines — Mashhad’s Imam Reza shrine and Qom’s Fatima Masumeh shrine.

Crowds typically pray there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, touching and kissing the shrine. That’s worried health officials, who for weeks ordered Iran’s Shi’ite clergy to close them.

Earlier on March 19, officials announced that the country wouldn’t mark its annual day celebrating its nuclear program because of the outbreak.

Georgia

The Georgian government has ordered the closure of shops except grocery stores and pharmacies beginning March 20 to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The measure, announced on March 19, also exempts gas stations, post offices, and bank branches. The South Caucasus country has so far reported 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, and no deaths.

Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia on March 19 said he would declare a state of emergency, as many countries in Europe already have, if health authorities advise him to do so.

“As of today, I would like to emphasize that there is no need for this. However, in agreement with the president, we have decided, as soon as that need arises, that we will be able to make this decision within a few hours,” he said.

Romania

President Klaus Iohannis has urged Romanians working abroad to refrain from traveling home for the Orthodox Easter amid fears of a worsening of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Romania has been under a 30-day state of emergency since March 16.

Iohannis made the appeal in a televised speech on March 19 as thousands of workers returning from Western Europe were slowly crossing into Romania after having clogged Hungary’s borders both to the west and the east for two days in a row.

Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.

The bottlenecks were worsened by Hungary’s decision to close its borders on very short notice from March 17 at midnight — a measure relaxed by Budapest after consultations with the Romanian government.

“Romanians from abroad are dear to us, and we long to be with them for Easter,” Iohannis said. “However, that won’t be possible this year…. We must tell them with sadness but also with sincerity not to come home for the holidays,” he added.

Some 12,500 mostly Romanian travelers had crossed into Romania in 4,600 vehicles as of the morning of March 19, Romanian border police said.

They said 180 people were immediately quarantined, while some 10,000 were ordered into self-isolation once they reached their destinations.

The rest were mostly travelers in transit toward Moldova and Bulgaria, according to the police.

Romania has confirmed 277 coronavirus cases.

One of the patients is in serious condition in intensive care, while 25 people have recovered, according to health authorities.

No deaths have been reported so far.

However, authorities are concerned that the massive number of Romanians returning, mostly from Italy and Spain — the European countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic — will lead to a spike in infections in the run-up to Orthodox Easter on April 19.

The Romanian military has started building an emergency hospital in Bucharest amid fears that the country’s crumbling health-care system will not be able to cope with the outbreak.

Ukraine

Some 900 Ukrainians are embarking on March 19 on a train journey from Prague to Kyiv as part of an evacuation plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The train is set to travel through the Czech Republic and Poland, where it will make a stop at Przemysl, before heading to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and the capital.

Yevhen Perebiynis, the Ukrainian ambassador to Prague, tweeted that more than 3,000 Ukrainians residing in the Czech Republic had asked to be evacuated.

Meanwhile, the mayor of Zhytomyr, Serhiy Sukhomlyn, said the city located 140 kilometers west of Kyiv recorded its first coronavirus infection.

Sukhomlyn said the patient, aged 56, had recently returned from Austria.

As of March 19, there were 21 confirmed cases of the respiratory illness in six regions and the capital, Kyiv, the Health Ministry said.

Meanwhile, Ukraine recorded its third death linked to COVID-19 in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region.

An elderly woman died one day after visiting a hospital with severe flu-like symptoms, according to the Health Ministry.

Russia

Russian officials have reported the country’s first death connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but quickly backtracked, saying an elderly woman perished due to a detached blood clot.

The Moscow health department said on March 19 that the 79-year-old, who had tested positive for COVID-19, died in a Moscow hospital from pneumonia related to the virus.

Svetlana Krasnova, head doctor at Moscow’s hospital No. 2 for infectious diseases, said in a statement that the woman had been admitted with “a host of chronic diseases,” including type 2 diabetes and heart problems.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin then confirmed the coronavirus-releated death, saying on Twitter, “Unfortunately, we have the first loss from the coronavirus infection.”

Hours later, however, health officials put out another statement saying an autopsy had confirmed the woman had died of a blood clot.

A subsequent official tally of the number of official coronavirus cases in Russia showed 199 confirmed infections but no deaths.

It was not clear whether the woman’s death would eventually be counted as a result of the virus.

Though President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that the situation was “generally under control,” many Russians have shown a distrust for official claims over the virus, and fear the true situation is much worse than they are being told.

Amid a recent rise in the number of cases, officials have temporarily barred entry to foreigners and imposed restrictions on flights and public gatherings.

The national health watchdog on March 19 tightened restrictions for all travellers from abroad with a decree requiring “all individuals arriving to Russia” to be isolated, either at home or elsewhere.

Serbia

Serbia has closed its main airport for all passenger flights and said it will shut its borders for all but freight traffic in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

The government banned commercial flights to and from the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade on March 19.

However, the airport will remain open to humanitarian and cargo flights, according to the Ministry of Construction, Traffic, and Infrastructure.

Later in the day, President Aleksandar Vucic said that as of March 20, Serbia’s border crossings will be closed for all passenger road and rail transport.

“Nothing but trucks will be allowed to enter,” Vucic said. “From noon tomorrow we will also halt commercial passenger transport inside the country.”

The move comes after some 70,000 Serbs working in Western Europe and their families returned to Serbia in the last few days despite appeals by authorities not to do so.

Serbia currently has 103 confirmed coronavirus cases, with no fatalities.

The Balkan country had already imposed a state of emergency, introduced a night curfew for all citizens, and ordered the elderly to stay indoors.

Pakistan

Authorities in Pakistan have closed shrines of Sufi saints in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere while access to museums, archaeological, and tourist sites have been banned as confirmed coronavirus cases jumped to 301, mostly in pilgrims returning from Iran.

Two Pakistanis who had returned from Saudi Arabia and Dubai became the country’s first victims when they died on March 18 in the northwest.

Schools have already been shut in Pakistan.

Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been placed into quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in the country’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst affected countries.

Pakistani authorities on March 19 plan to quarantine hundreds more pilgrims who returned from Iran. These pilgrims will be kept at isolated buildings in central Pakistan for 14 days.

Uzbekistan

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev’s influential son-in-law says police have identified individuals who allegedly published the names of Uzbek nationals who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Otabek Umarov, who is also the deputy head of the president’s personal security, said on Instagram that officials are now trying to determine the legality of the perpetrators’ actions.

A joint working group set up by the Interior Ministry and the Prosecutor-General’s Office has also identified 33 social media accounts involved in “disseminating false information that provokes panic among people,” Umarov wrote.

He called the accounts a “betrayal” of the country and a matter of “national security.”

Umarov’s comments come amid a campaign by the Uzbek government to crack down on information that incites panic and fear among the public amid the coronavirus crisis.

On March 16, the country’s Justice Ministry said that, according to Uzbek law, those involved in preparing materials with the intention of inciting panic — and those storing such materials with the intent to distribute them — will face up to ,400 in fines or up to three years in prison.

Those who spread such information through media and the Internet face up to eight years in prison, the ministry added.

The statement came a day after the Central Asian nation announced its first confirmed coronavirus infection, which prompted the government to introduce sweeping measures to contain the outbreak, including closing its borders, suspending international flights, closing schools, and banning public gatherings.

The number of infections had risen to 23 as of the morning of March 19, the Health Ministry said.

The ministry said that the 23 individuals are all Uzbek nationals who had returned home from Europe, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Health Ministry regularly updates its social media accounts with information on the outbreak in Uzbekistan. Posts are frequently accompanied by the hashtag “quarantine without panic” in both Uzbek and Russian.

Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan

The Kazakh national currency, the tenge, has continued to weaken sharply as the number of coronavirus cases in the oil-rich Central Asian nation reached 44.

Many exchange points in Nur-Sultan, the capital, and the former Soviet republic’s largest city, Almaty, did not sell U.S. dollars or euros on March 19, while some offered 471 tenges for id=”listicle-2645571641″, more than 25 percent weaker than in early March when the rate was around 375 tenges.

The tenge has plunged to all-time lows in recent days following an abrupt fall in oil prices and chaos in the world’s stock markets caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Kazakh Health Ministry said on March 19 that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country had increased by seven to 44.

In neighboring Kyrgyzstan, three people, who returned home from Saudi Arabia several days ago, tested positive for the virus, which led to three villages being sealed off in the southern Jalal-Abad region.

In two other Central Asian nations, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, no coronavirus cases have been officially recorded to date.

Armenia

A relative of an Armenian woman blamed for spreading the coronavirus in the South Caucasus country alleges that criminal offenses have been committed against members of their family.

It emerged last week that the woman had traveled from Italy before attending a family gathering with dozens of guests in the city of Echmiadzin, disregarding health warnings about the coronavirus pandemic.

The woman, whose name was not released, later tested positive for the virus and was hospitalized. Dozens of other people who attended the gathering were placed under a 14-day quarantine.

Armenia has reported a total of 122 cases so far, including dozens in Echmiadzin. It has not yet reported any deaths.

Echmiadzin was locked down and a nationwide state of emergency has been announced in a bid to slow the spread of infection in Armenia.

Many on social media in Armenia expressed anger over what they said was irresponsible behavior by the woman.

Some ridiculed the woman and used offensive language against her. A photo of her also was posted online.

The woman’s lawyer, Gohar Hovhannisian, said that one of her relatives who lives abroad filed a complaint with the public prosecutor on March 17.

The complaint alleges that personal information about infected people was illegally obtained and published by the press and social media along with insults and photographs.

“It affects the mental state of a person. Imagine that a person is sick and such language is used against her or him and her or his personal data are published,” Hovhannisian said.

The Prosecutor-General’s Office forwarded the report to police to investigate the case.

Human rights activist Zaruhi Hovhannisian, who is not related to the lawyer, noted that the protection of personal data is enshrined in Armenia’s law. He said that disclosure of personal data in this case made it possible to identify the infected woman.

“Moreover, under the law on medical care and public services it is forbidden to disclose medical secrets, talk about people’s medical examinations and the course of their treatment as well as to pass these data to third parties,” the activist said.

Earlier this week, a shop owner in Yerevan filed a complaint with police alleging that he had been attacked by three relatives of the woman in question for posting a joke about her on Facebook.

Police said they had identified and questioned three people over that complaint. But the authorities did not reveal their identities.

Azerbaijan

The Azerbaijani capital, Baku, has been sealed off to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the South Caucasus state.

According to a government decision, as of March 19 entrance to Baku, the nearby city of Sumqayit, and the Abseron district has been banned for all cars, except ambulances, cargo trucks, and vehicles carrying rescue teams and road accident brigades. The measure will run until at least March 29.

All railway links between Baku, Sumqayit and the Abseron district, and the rest of the country were also suspended.

Azerbaijan has reported 34 confirmed coronavirus cases, with one fatality.

In neighboring Armenia, where authorities announced a state of emergency until April 16, the number of coronavirus cases is 115.

Elsewhere in the South Caucasus, Georgia, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases reached 40.

Afghanistan

The United States is temporarily suspending the movement of new soldiers into Afghanistan as a way of protecting them from the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. Army General Scott Miller said in a March 19 statement that the move could mean that some of the troops already on the ground in Afghanistan may have their deployments extended to ensure that the NATO-led Resolute Support mission continues.

“To preserve our currently healthy force, Resolute Support is making the necessary adjustments to temporarily pause personnel movement into the theater,” he said.

“We are closely monitoring, continually assessing and adjusting our operations so we can continue to protect the national interests of the NATO allies and partners here in Afghanistan,” he added.

About 1,500 troops and civilians who recently arrived in Afghanistan have been quarantined, Miller said, stressing that this was purely a precautionary measure and “not because they are sick.”

Earlier this month, the United States began reducing its troop presence in Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed in February with the Taliban.

The agreement sees an initial reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from about 13,000 to 8,600 soldiers.

Miller did not mention the agreement in his statement.

So far, 21 U.S. and coalition staff exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care, Miller’s statement said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.


Articles

US aircraft carrier operations are already changing

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Ships from the George Washington and Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Groups and aircraft from the Air Force and Marine Corps operate in formation at the conclusion of Valiant Shield 2014. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Trevor Welsh


Between September 12 and 23rd, the USS Ronald Reagan, nine surface ships, and the Bonhomme Richard amphibious ready group, which includes three amphibious vessels, are taking part in the US-only naval exercise Valiant Shield.

Unlike multi-national drills that often focus on disaster relief, this exercise will focus on hard warfighting capabilities.

Ships will work together on anti-submarine warfare, amphibious assaults, defensive counter-air operations and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance with an important twist:

“Guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur will be assigned to the ESG [expeditionary strike group] to increase the strike group’s capabilities to conduct a range of surface, subsurface and air defense missions, to include naval gunfire support,” a Navy statement reads.

Basically, the US Navy will operate outside of its normal format of carrier strike groups, with surface combatants defending the valuable aircraft carrier and an amphibious ready group, with helicopter carriers and landing craft, being supported by destroyers.

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USS Carney (DDG-64) commanding officer Cmdr. Ken Pickard watches the approach to the Military Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO-198) and USS Wasp (LHD 1) during a replenishment-at-sea in the Mediterranean Sea on Aug. 6, 2016. | US Navy photo

On the other side of the world, the US Navy has already implemented this bold new strategy in its operations with the USS Wasp, a helicopter carrier currently taking the fight to ISIS in Libya.

Instead of the full suite of landing craft and support vessels, the Wasp is holding its own off the coast of Libya with the USS Carney.

“The USS Wasp with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked, and the USS Carney, which replaced the USS The Sullivans, have been supporting US precision airstrikes at the request of [Libya’s Government of National Accord] since Aug. 1. As such, Harriers and Cobras assigned to the USS Wasp have been used to conduct strikes, with the USS Carney providing over watch support,” US Africa Command spokeswoman Robyn Mack told USNI News.

Not only does the destroyer protect the Wasp, an extremely valuable asset, it also assists in its mission by firing illumination rounds from its guns on deck, which light the way for US and allied forces. The other helicopter carriers in the region don’t have these deck guns.

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Illumination shells from the Carney can light the way for US and allied forces in Libya. | Public Domain

Meanwhile, the single destroyer protecting the Wasp frees up the other amphibious ready group’s ships to sail in other regions with other fleets.

For the specific mission of carrying out airstrikes in Libya, the Wasp has no plans to stage a landing or take a beach. Therefore it’s a careful allocation of resources that allows the US Navy to be more flexible.

The Chief of Naval Operations, John Richardson, recently testified to Congress that the demand for US aircraft carriers is way up. Smaller helicopter carriers doing the work of more massive Nimitz class carriers helps to free up those machines and crews, and as new technologies, like the F-35B and C hit the field, the US can maintain its advantage of having a floating, mobile air base anywhere in the world in a few days notice.

At a time when the US Navy has fewer ships than US naval planners would like, the clever and evolving deployment of assets makes all the difference.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines get a tank-killer upgrade just in time for Christmas

Let’s face it, when the Army bought the Stryker, in one sense, they were really just catching up with the Marines, who were making an 8×8 wheeled, armored vehicle work for quite a while. Now, though, the Marines are getting a new system for one variant of their Light Armored Vehicles, the LAV-AT, which will make them even deadlier and easier to maintain.


According to a release by Marine Corps Systems Command, the LAV-ATM project gives this version of the LAV a new turret. The LAV will still be firing the BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided missile.

Don’t be surprised that the TOW is still around – the BGM-71’s latest versions could be lethal against Russia’s Armata main battle tank.

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A Light Armored Vehicle Anti-Tank Modernization A2 model sits under an awning at Production Plant Barstow, Marine Depot Maintenance Command, aboard the Yermo Annex of Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow, Calif., June 15. The turret atop the LAV-ATM is a Modified Target Acquisition System, MTAS, containing a state of the art rocket launcher designed to be more quickly deployed on target with fewer mechanical parts. The MTAS replaces the more than 30 year old Emerson 901 turret. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

“Compared to the legacy version, the new turret is unmanned, it fires both wire-guided and radio frequency TOW missiles, and it can acquire targets while on-the-move with an improved thermal sight,” said Jim Forkin, Program Manager’s Office LAV-ATM team lead.

“The turret is important because it protects Marines and gives them an enhanced capability that they didn’t have before,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Michael S. Lovell, Ordinance Vehicle Maintenance officer, PM LAV team, explained.

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A Marine tests the enhanced vision capability—part of an upgrade to the Light Armored Vehicle’s Anti-Tank Weapon System—during new equipment training Sept. 18-29, at Camp Pendleton, Calif. Marine Corps Systems Command completed its first fielding of four upgraded ATWS in September. (United States Marine Corps photo)

The new LAV also makes maintenance easier with an on-board trouble-shooting system that allows operators and maintenance personnel conduct checks on the systems involved with the vehicle and turret. Learning how to use the new turret takes about one week each for operators and maintainers. The Marines have also acquired 3D computer technology to enhance the training on the new LAV-AT.

But the real benefit of the turret is that “Marines who serve as anti-tank gunners will be able to do their job better,” according to Chief Warrant Officer Lovell. “We’re providing a product that gives Marines an enhanced anti-tank capability improving their forward reconnaissance and combined arms fire power on the battlefield.”

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3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion Marines operate a Light-Armored Vehicle equipped with a new Anti-Tank weapons system to their next objective during testing at range 500 aboard the Combat Center, Feb. 16, 2015. The testing of the new system began Feb. 9 and is scheduled to end March 8. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Medina Ayala-Lo)

Enemy tanks will hopefully be unavailable for comment on these enhancements.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Yes, Big Brother IS watching: Russian schools getting surveillance systems called ‘Orwell’

MOSCOW — You might think governments seeking digital oversight of their citizens would avoid invoking the author who coined the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” and implanted the nightmare of total state surveillance in the imaginations of millions of readers.

Think again, because Russian officials appear to disagree.

According to the business daily Vedomosti, contracts exceeding 2 billion rubles ($29 million) have been signed for the procurement and installation in schools across Russia of surveillance cameras linked to a system that has facial-recognition capability and is called Orwell, after the British author of dystopian novels 1984 and Animal Farm.


The company tasked with executing the project on behalf of regional governments is the National Center of Informatization (NCI), a subsidiary of state defense and technology conglomerate Rostec, Vedomosti reported on June 15.

The video surveillance systems have been delivered to 1,608 schools across Russia, an unnamed representative of the company told the newspaper, adding that the equipment was intended to keep tabs on students’ comings and goings and identify strangers who attempt to enter school grounds, among other things.

Elvis-Neotech, a subsidiary of state nanotechnology company Rosnano, is responsible for preparing the systems for sale, according to Yevgeny Lapshev, a representative of that company. Lapshev told Vedomosti that the Orwell system will become a security feature in all of Russia’s schools in the coming years — more than 43,000 in all.

On June 16, the media outlet RBK cited an anonymous NCI representative who disputed aspects of the Vedomosti report, saying that the company had not signed contracts for the delivery of video equipment to 43,000 schools.

The representative told RBK that NCI had taken part in a pilot program to equip 1,600 Russian schools with video surveillance systems that were not equipped with facial recognition, and that a decision on expanding the program to all Russian schools was yet to be made.

‘Total Surveillance’

The reported plans come after a rise in recent years in violent incidents at Russian schools, including a spate of stabbings in late 2017 and early 2018 that prompted renewed calls from lawmakers for increased security measures and strict monitoring of visitors.

“The requirements for training and certifying employees of private security organizations, especially those guarding schools and kindergartens, must be as strict as possible,” Vasily Piskarev, chairman of parliament’s Committee on Security and Corruption Control, said after a knife incident in October 2019.

But amid the push to expand monitoring capabilities and beef up security at schools, rights activists in Russia are warning that facial recognition and other surveillance technologies are being used much more widely and with minimal oversight, leading to a curtailment of freedom of speech and movement and ultimately toward a loss of data privacy.

Since March, when Russia’s coronavirus epidemic began, the authorities have used facial-recognition technology to identify and fine quarantine violators, deploying — in Moscow alone — a network of over 100,000 cameras that link to a central database accessible to thousands of law enforcement officials at any time.

In addition, a range of smartphone apps and digital passes unveiled since March — some of which remain mandatory for people with COVID-19 symptoms despite the lifting on June 9 of many lockdown restrictions — have prompted fears among data-privacy campaigners that those and other new digital tools may integrate into a ratcheted-up, post-pandemic surveillance apparatus.

Alyona Popova, an activist who launched a lawsuit in October 2019 against Moscow’s use of facial-recognition cameras, warned that “under the guise of fighting the coronavirus,” officials are working to implement “total surveillance.”

Last fall, Russia’s Education Ministry clarified the criteria under which facial recognition could be used in schools. All parties, including school employees and the parents of students, would have to give permission, the newspaper Izvestia quoted an official as saying.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

This Russian video shows takedown of ISIS bigwig and some cool gear

A video of the Dec. 3 raid released on YouTube by the Russian Republic of Dagestan shows some highlights of the mission that resulted in the death of the commander of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s Russian affiliate.


But of you look carefully, there’s also some seldom seen gear being used by the Russian shock troops.

The two-minute video released on YouTube showed personnel from a paramilitary arm of the Federal Security Bureau — one of the successor agencies to the Soviet KGB — during the operation that killed Rustan Aselderov.

Aselderov had been responsible for a number of attacks, including two in two days in Volgograd that left 34 people dead. According to a report by Russia Today, no Russian forces were killed or wounded in the operation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x5enps1XDXc

The video also featured some interesting Russian gear.

FSB personnel used a late-model BTR (either a BTR-80A, BTR-82 or BTR-90) with a 30mm autocannon, the 2A42, that is also used on the BMP-2 and BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles. According to GlobalSecurity.org, late-model BTRs can carry an infantry section of seven or eight soldiers, and are also equipped with a 7.62 mm machine gun mounted coaxially to their main gun.

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Past versions of the BTR had only been equipped with the KPV, a 14.5mm machine gun that was also used on the BRDM scout vehicle and on the ZPU series of anti-aircraft guns.

Most notable, though, was a miniature robot used to provide some suppressive fire (shown at around the 1:37 mark of the video) using what appears to be a general-purpose machine gun. The most common type of this weapon in Russian service is the PKM, which fires the 7.62x54mm Russian round also used in the Mosin-Nagant rifles and the SVD sniper rifle.

According to the website world.guns.ru, the PKM also can fire up to 650 rounds per minute. A burst of at least three seconds is shown being fired into the building occupied by Aselderov.

The robot also featured a pair of apparent RPG-22 rocket launchers, which are similar to the M72 Light Anti-tank Weapons in service with the United States and many of its allies.

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According the United States Army’s OPFOR World Equipment Guide, the RPG-22 has a range of over 250 yards and can penetrate almost 400 millimeters of armor.

The Russian personnel carrying out the mission were carrying Kalashnikov-style assault rifles. While the AK-74 is the standard-issue assault rifle of the Russian military, there are variants chambered for other rounds, like the AK-101 (chambered for the 5.56mm NATO round) and the AK-103 (chambered for the 7.62x39mm round used in the AK-47).

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The FSB personnel wore fatigues with a MultiCam-esque camouflage pattern, which according to Camopedia.org, has been in use since 2008.

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