The US Navy has its first Black female tactical fighter pilot in its history, according to a Thursday tweet from the Chief of Naval Air Training announcing Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle will receive her “wings of gold” later in July.
“BZ to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle on completing the Tactical Air (Strike) aviator syllabus,” read the tweet. “Swegle is the @USNavy’s first known Black female TACAIR pilot and will receive her Wings of Gold later this month. HOOYAH!”
Swegle is a native of Burke, Virginia, and graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2017, Stars and Stripes first reported. She is assigned to the Redhawks of Training Squadron 21 in Kingsville, Texas, according to the report.
Swegle will earn her wings at a ceremony on July 31, The Navy Times reported. The US Navy shared the news, tweeting “MAKING HISTORY!”
The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq says a U.S. service member has died in northern Syria.
A statement released May 26th says the serviceman died of injuries sustained “during a vehicle roll-over.” It was not immediately clear whether the incident was related to a combat situation. No further details were made available.
Last year, a U.S. service member died from wounds sustained in an improvised explosive device blast in the vicinity of Ayn Issa in northern Syria while another soldier died from suspected natural causes in March this year.
Ognjen Gajic, a lung expert and critical care specialist at the prestigious Mayo Clinic in the northern U.S. state of Minnesota, was interviewed by Ajla Obradovic, a correspondent with RFE/RL’s Balkan Service, about the coronavirus and the disease’s symptoms and treatment.
RFE/RL: How fast does a person’s health worsen after becoming infected? It seems that patients diagnosed with the coronavirus die rather quickly but recover more slowly compared to other diseases? Or is that an incorrect impression?
Ognjen Gajic: Critical illness [in people with the coronavirus] occurs on average after seven days of mild symptoms. From the moment one starts experiencing shortness of breath, [a patient’s condition can worsen] rapidly, sometimes within a few hours, and then intensive monitoring in a hospital intensive care unit is critical.
RFE/RL: How are COVID-19 patients treated? Is there a standard procedure?
Gajic: Most patients have mild symptoms and there is no specific treatment thus far other than controlling the symptoms — paracetamol (aka acetaminophen) for fever, weakness, and the like. Untested forms of treatment can be dangerous due to side effects and should not be used until research shows they are efficient.
I deal with the treatment of the critically ill, so I can say more about [those patients]. In many of them, the [COVID-19] disease progresses to severe bilateral pneumonia characterized by shortness of breath and hypoxia (that means oxygen deprivation in body tissue).
These patients should be immediately taken to the hospital for oxygen treatment and their condition should be constantly monitored so it is possible to respond in time [to these problems] with intense respiratory support, including respirators. Sophisticated intensive care with control and support of all organs is successful in about 50 percent of the most severely ill cases, although some patients may be on a respirator for several weeks before recovering or dying.
So far there is no proven specific treatment [for COVID-19] and untested experimental drugs should not be prescribed without the proper research [being conducted]. We are working with colleagues around the world on a day-to-day basis on research projects for new treatments and prevention.
RFE/RL: Is there any data so far on the underlying diseases that are, in some way, more pernicious in combination with the coronavirus?
Gajic: Rather than specific diseases, more important is [someone’s] physiological condition as far as their lungs and [general fitness]; elderly patients who are not fit and those with severe forms of chronic lung or heart disease have little reserve and little chance of successfully enduring intensive respiratory treatment.
RFE/RL: How much more infectious is the coronavirus than other communicable diseases and what is the best way for people to protect themselves? In the Czech Republic, for example, they require everyone to wear masks in public, while the World Health Organization has not cited this as essential for people who are not infected. Can you give some specific tips on protection?
Gajic: Masks should be left to health-care professionals. A thorough hand washing with soap and water is by far the most important tip and, at this point, isolation from all but essential contacts — especially groups — must be respected. Also, before coming to a health-care facility, first make contact by phone, since it is safer to stay home for home treatment if one is showing mild symptoms.
RFE/RL: I understand you worked with your colleagues from Wuhan. What is it that other countries can learn from them and apply in their response to the pandemic?
Gajic: Several colleagues from Wuhan hospitals have been at the Mayo Clinic in recent years and we have been doing joint research. At the beginning of the epidemic in Wuhan, we sent support in terms of treatment guidelines and [medical] staff protection. Now they are helping us. After some initial setbacks, our colleagues in Wuhan, with rigorous isolation measures, adequate equipment, and training, were able to prevent their health-care professionals from becoming sick despite working with critically ill patients.
RFE/RL: The latest information shows that the United States now has the largest number of infected people. Did the U.S. response to the epidemic come too late?
Gajic: I’m not an epidemiologist so I can’t comment on that. When it comes to the critically ill, U.S. hospitals provide fantastic care in these difficult conditions.
In 1999, a U.S. Army World War II veteran applied for his Social Security pension. There would have been nothing out of the ordinary for any other vet down on his luck. He knew that any veteran of WWII was able to apply at the Social Security office for special benefits for Army vets during that war. Later that year, 1999, he received a notification by mail, with just one line:
“We are writing to tell you that you do not qualify for retirement benefits.”
The veteran applying for that bit of extra cash every month applied from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. His name was George Koval, and just 50 years prior, he was giving the Soviet Union the information it needed (and couldn’t produce itself) to build an atomic bomb.
What a tool.
The American-born Koval actually moved to Russia in his early years with his family. It was there he was recruited by Soviet intelligence to return to the United States and work as a spy. He came back to the mainland U.S. by way of San Fransisco, moved to New York, and became an electrical engineer for a company subcontracting to General Electric. Except this company was a front company owned by Soviet spies. Koval soon became the head of his own GRU-led cell.
Then, he was drafted to fight in World War II. But instead of fighting in the Infantry, he was sent to the City Colleges of New York to study more and prepare for his real assignment – the Manhattan Project.
George Koval (middle row, first from the right) and classmates at CCNY.
Koval was transferred to Oak Ridge, Tenn. where he became the projects public safety officer. He had unfettered access to everything in the Manhattan Project, especially the radioactive elements necessary to trigger the fission that would create the world’s largest explosions. He sent everything back to the Soviet Union, including production processes for plutonium, uranium, and polonium. The coup de gras, however, was the polonium initiators that triggered the fission reaction. The Soviets got those designs too.
Agent DELMAR, Kovals code name, was given unrestricted access to all the top sites of the Project. He freely walked around the halls of the Dayton, Ohio facility where polonium triggers were manufactured. He had free access to the Los Alamos National Laboratory where the triggers were integrated into the greater design. Koval was basically able to guide Soviet scientists through the process, step-by-step. He sent information back to the Soviets for three years, between 1943 and 1946.
Koval, later in life.
Eventually, the heat started getting to Koval, so he decided to apply for a passport. He told friends and colleagues he was going to Europe or Israel, but he left one day and never returned. Koval escaped to the USSR, where he was discharged from the Soviet military as an unskilled rifleman and given the appropriate pension… which probably wasn’t much. That’s likely the first step in what led him to apply for special benefits at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that day in 1999. The United States never suspected his involvement until the mid-1950s. By 1999, he was an FBI legend.
Koval lived until 2006 when President Vladimir Putin posthumously declared him a Hero of Russia for being the only spy to ever get into the Manhattan Project – much too late to get that pension.
Both sides have used it as an opportunity to keep tabs on each other, studying their adversary’s capabilities and tactics.
A Russian attack submarine left the Baltic Sea in early May, heading to the eastern Mediterranean, according to The Wall Street Journal.
It was tracked along the way by NATO ships, including by a Dutch frigate that took a photo of the sub in the North Sea.
By the end of the month, it had arrived on station, and the Russian Defense Ministry announced the cruise missiles it fired hit ISIS targets near Palmyra in Syria.
A few days later, the USS George H.W. Bush sailed through the Suez Canal, meant to support US-backed rebels in Syria.
For sailors and pilots from the Bush, with little formal training in anti-sub operations, their duties now included monitoring the Krasnodar.
“It is an indication of the changing dynamic in the world that a skill set, maybe we didn’t spend a lot of time on in the last 15 years, is coming back,” Capt. Jim McCall, commander of the air wing on the USS Bush, told The Journal.
The cat-and-mouse game continued in the eastern Mediterranean throughout the summer.
US helicopters ran numerous operations in search of the sub. Flight trackers also picked up US aircraft doing what seemed to be anti-submarine patrols off the Syrian coast and south of Cyprus. In mid-June, the Krasnodar fired more cruise missiles at ISIS targets in Syria, in response to the US downing a Syrian fighter jet near Raqqa.
In Syria, an increasingly complex battlefield situation has sometimes set the US and Russian at odds. Russia has offered few details about its operations, and the US-led coalition has had to keep a closer eye on Russian subs in the eastern Mediterranean.
The Krasnodar didn’t threaten the Bush during these operations. But subs are generally hard to detect, and one like the Krasnodar attracts special attention. Its noise-reducing abilities have earned it the nickname “The Black Hole.”
“One small submarine has the ability to threaten a large capital asset like an aircraft carrier,” US Navy Capt. Bill Ellis, commander of US anti-sub planes in Europe, told The Journal.
Russia has beefed up its naval forces considerably since 2000, seeking to reverse the decline of the 1990s.
The Krasnodar marked an advancement in Russian submarines, and more a new class of subs — designed to sink aircraft carriers — is now being built, according to The Journal.
While Russia has gotten better at disguising its subs, the US and Western countries have kept pace with enhanced tracking abilities.
“We are much better at it than we were 20 years ago,” Cmdr. Edward Fossati, who oversees the Bush’s anti-sub helicopters, told The Journal.
But the Krasnodar’s Mediterranean maneuvers appeared to meet Moscow’s goals, striking in Syria while avoiding Western warships.
Moscow’s naval activity around Europe now exceeds what was seen during the Cold War, a NATO official said this spring, and NATO and Russian ships sometimes operate in close quarters around the continent.
When the UK sent its new aircraft carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth, to sea trials in June, navy officials said they expected Russian submarines to spy on it. During US-UK naval exercises — in which the Bush participated — off the coast of Scotland in August, a Russian submarine was spotted shadowing the drills.
They used to call him “The Giant” – they being The Taliban. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva is still a giant, he’s just not fighting in Afghanistan anymore. His new fight is the ten-yard fight and the erstwhile U.S. Army second lieutenant’s new job is protecting the back of Steelers QB, Ben Roethlisberger. And judging by the team’s performance against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 8, 2018, he must be pretty good at it.
Before the game kicked off, Fox Sports caught a glimpse of Villanueva jogging over to the sidelines to greet some active duty and reserve troops. That’s when you can really understand why the Taliban gave him that nickname.
Villanueva is a West Point graduate and played collegiate football on the offensive line for the Army Black Knights. When photographed with other NFL players — who are all large human beings — his size doesn’t seem all that remarkable. It’s when he goes to the sidelines to visit U.S. troops that you can see just how huge he is compared to the men and women of the Armed Forces of the United States – who are no strangers to working out themselves.
And that’s probably why the Steelers have him watching Big Ben’s back.
One of these two is nicknamed “Big,” the other one is Alejandro Villanueva.
On the field, Roethlisberger looks like he lives up to the nickname “Big Ben.” The Steelers QB is 6’5″ and 240 pounds, cutting a unique outline on the playing field. In comparison, Villanueva is 6’9″ and 320 pounds.
Villanueva is still dedicated to the traditions held dear by most military veterans. During the 2017-2018 season, he created a row by leaving the locker room for the national anthem, leaving the rest of his team inside, a decision he later regretted. When sales of his jersey spiked in response to that action, it became the most popular jersey in the league. The former Army Ranger donated the proceeds of jersey sales to the USO and veteran-related nonprofits in AFC North cities, as he always has.
That consistency defines Alejandro Villanueva. He wasn’t just visiting troops before the Steelers-Panthers game because of the NFL’s “Salute to Service” month or any special event. He always goes to shake hands with visiting troops before every game, home or away.
Just for fun, watch Villanueva manhandle legendary Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is 6’3″ and 265 pounds and is number 19 on the all-time QB sack records. Villanueva chops him down like he’s made of balsa wood.
On September 11, 2020, 19 years to the day of the horrible attacks on America, President Donald Trump will present the Medal of Honor to Sergeant Major Thomas “Patrick” Payne for his actions in Iraq during the rescue operation that freed 70 hostages from imminent execution at the hands of the Islamic State.
Payne will be the first living member of 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, also known as Delta Force or Combat Applications Group to receive the Medal of Honor and the first since two Delta Force Operators received them posthumously in the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993.
That’s right, we can see how the rescue mission unfolded that night as Payne, his fellow Delta commandos and the Kurds went in and saved the lives of the hostages.
On October 22, 2015 Payne, then a Sergeant First Class, took off with his team and partner units and made their way toward Hawija, located outside of Kirkuk in northern Iraq. They had intelligence passed on to them that numerous hostages were being kept there in two houses. The Kurds were convinced that the hostages were captured Peshmerga fighters and were eager to get them freed. The teams had practiced for over a week to get their mission down but had to move fast. Freshly dug graves had been spotted outside of the enemy compound and it was feared the hostages would meet a grisly end soon.
Flying in on CH-47s, the rescue mission experienced a brown out upon landing and came under immediate fire from enemy forces. As they made their way toward the compound, the Kurdish troops froze under fire. One of Payne’s teammates looked at them and yelled, “Follow me”. The team moved toward the compound and made their way over the walls.
There were two buildings and the rescue mission involved two groups assaulting each building at the same time. As Payne’s team got to their target, a radio call came over saying that one of the men in the other group was hit. The medic with Payne took off through fire toward the downed man.
The rest of the team entered their objective where they met light resistance. They saw an iron door with a lock on it and cut the lock. Upon opening the door, they saw the excited faces of the hostages. As they rounded up the hostages, another call came over the radio. The second objective wasn’t as easy as the first and the rescue team had met fierce resistance.
Without missing a beat, Payne looked toward his men and said, “Hey, let’s get into the fight. Let’s go.”
If there was ever a mission that Payne and his team was ready for, it was this. It was the reason their unit was created in the first place. The Army won’t admit it, but Payne and the rest of his team belong to a unit informally known as Delta Force.
Known as the best of the best of the United States military, Delta got its start in the late 1970s thanks to LtCol Charlie Beckwith. Beckwith had long pushed for the United States military to have a commando unit that was on par with the British SAS. The spate of terrorist kidnappings that took place in the 70s by Islamic extremists and Far Left European terrorist groups. Beckwith organized and formed the unit and placed an emphasis on counter terrorism. The team relentlessly practiced drills involving hostage rescue. As the years passed, Delta Force became the leaders in clandestine operations and asymmetrical warfare. The standards to get in are high and only the best of the best make it.
Sergeant Major Payne was about to show why he belongs in that group.
Payne led his men toward the second building and made their way to the roof, while taking small arms fire the entire time. Once on top of the building, they took fire from west of the building and from inside it. The enemy was right below them. Payne and his men returned fire and dropped grenades through holes in the roof. They took fire and hear several explosions as ISIS fighters started detonating suicide vests. Realizing they needed another way in, they maneuvered down the steps and set up shop right outside the building. At this point, the structure was on fire with enemy combatants still inside. Even more pressing was that the remaining hostages were locked inside as well.
Payne and his team first tried to breach the windows but couldn’t. They then looked through a door and saw the same type of iron door as the first building. They found the hostages. Payne grabbed a pair of bolt cutters and made his way into the building, only to take on enemy fire. Ignoring the bullets and smoke from the burning building he struggled to get the bolts cut. When the smoke and fire got too thick he had to leave after cutting the first one. A Kurdish soldier ran in to cut the second one but couldn’t because of the gunfire and smoke. Payne then grabbed the cutters and ran back in again.
He managed to get the bolt cut this time. The door swung open and the remaining hostages were in sight. The rest of the team rushed in to engage the enemy, but as they neutralized them another calamity was occurring. The building was starting to collapse. They had to get the hostages out while they were still engaged in a firefight. Payne led the way. Waving them on, he guided them out the room and to safety. When one of the hostages froze, Payne pushed him along and got everyone moving.
By this point the building had gotten so bad, that there was a call to evacuate the structure. The team and the hostages made their way out, with Delta and the Kurds laying down fire as the hostages ran. But Payne didn’t go just yet. He had to make sure they had done their job.
He ran back into the building once more and saw a hostage that had been lying on the floor. He grabbed him off the floor and dragged him to safety. Once out, he went back in one last time.
He had to make sure no one was left behind.
Only after visually making sure that his men, the Kurds and the hostages were all out, did Payne leave. The teams and hostages boarded the helos and took off toward safety. They had done it. They had freed the hostages, but there was a cost.
Master Sergeant Joshua Wheeler was the operator that was hit early in the mission. The teams learned only then that he had died. His last words to his men as he led them into the fray was, “On me!”
70 hostages owe their life to Payne and the rest of the rescue team. How close were they to death? They told their rescuers that they were told they would be executed the next day after morning prayers….
A&W restaurants are again giving away their famous Root Beer Floats on National Root Beer Float Day, Monday, August 6. The celebration is a way to say “thank you” to guests and to raise money for Disabled American Veterans. From 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., participating restaurants will serve free small Root Beer Floats, no purchase necessary. Guests will be encouraged to make a donation to DAV.
There are more than 630 A&W Restaurants in the U.S. and this is A&W’s sixth annual National Root Beer Float Day celebration — the second it has partnered with DAV.
AW and DAV hope to raise 0,000 for the organization, which serves more than one million veterans annually. Donations also can be made online at www.rootbeerfloatday.com. The 0,000 AW raised for DAV in 2017 provided an estimated ,000,000 in direct benefits to veterans.
“AW has a longstanding relationship with America’s Armed Services,” said AW CEO Kevin Bazner, who noted that AW Root Beer was introduced at a parade honoring returning World War I veterans in 1919. “The needs of our veterans continue to grow, which is why it is so important that we use a fun event like National Root Beer Float Day to also raise funds for DAV and to call attention to veterans’ issues.”
Since it started to celebrate National Root Beer Float Day, AW has raised more than 0,000 for veterans groups. “We are grateful to AW for supporting our ill and injured veterans through National Root Beer Float Day, donating 0,000 last year to DAV,” said Marc Burgess, DAV National Adjutant and CEO. “As both AW and DAV approach their centennial anniversaries, we are proud to join together again this year to support our true American heroes for their decades of service and sacrifices to keep us free.”
U.S.-backed forces in northern Syria paused military operations near a dam held by the Islamic State group on March 27 to allow engineers to fix any problems after conflicting reports about its stability.
The decision by the Syrian Democratic Forces came a day after conflicting reports over whether civilians had begun evacuating the nearby city of Raqqa — the extremists’ de facto capital — due to concerns about the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates River.
Some activist groups opposed to IS have said residents are seeking higher ground, fearing that the collapse of the dam could cause severe flooding, while others said people were remaining in place. Conflicting reports are common in areas controlled by IS, which bans independent media.
The SDF, a U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led force, has been fighting IS in the area since Friday in an attempt to capture the dam, one of the main sources of electricity in northern Syria.
The SDF said in a statement that the cease-fire expired at 5 p.m. local time, after their engineers inspected the structure and found no faults. Photos credited to an embedded freelance journalist indicated they had just inspected the dam’s spillway, which is on SDF-controlled territory. The main dam structure and the gates lie 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) away and are still held by IS militants.
The SDF said the request for a cease-fire was made by the dam’s administrators, without specifying whether they were part of the Syrian government or IS, which operates a quasi-state in the areas under its control.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said technicians inside IS-held Tabqa did not reach the dam during the cease-fire, to reactivate its main power controls. There was no explanation given.
The engineer Ahmad Farhat, who oversaw the mechanical administration of the dam, said that it is “equipped with the necessary precautions for its own protection,” but there needs to be technical personnel on site to engage them. He spoke with The Associated Press from the rebel-held northwestern Syrian province of Idlib.
Engineer Aboud al Haj Aboud who was the head of the electricity division of the dam said on social media that if indeed the control room is busted and the gates of the dam cannot be opened, it will still take at least a month for the waters being held back by the dam to overflow the top of the structure.
The U.S.-led coalition said it is taking every precaution to ensure the integrity of the dam. “To our knowledge, the dam has not been structurally damaged,” it said on its Twitter account.
SDF fighters on Sunday captured a strategically important air base from IS in Raqqa province, marking their first major victory since the United States airlifted hundreds of forces, as well as American advisers and artillery, behind enemy lines last week.
The SDF announced they had captured the Tabqa air base, 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of Raqqa.
On Monday, IS fighters detonated a car bomb on the southern edge of the air base, but it was not clear if it inflicted casualties among SDF fighters, the activist collective Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and the Observatory reported.
Fighting is ongoing in areas near the air base, both activist groups said. The SDF said in another statement that its fighters captured two villages north of Tabqa on Monday.
Elsewhere in Syria, authorities resumed the evacuation of the last opposition-held neighborhood in the central city of Homs in an agreement to surrender the district to the government.
Opposition activists have criticized the agreement, saying it aims to displace 12,000 al-Waer residents, including 2,500 fighters. The Observatory has called the evacuees “internally displaced” people.
The government has rejected allegations that the Homs deal and similar agreements in other besieged areas amount to the forced displacement of civilians.
On Monday, 667 militants, along with their families, for a total of 2,009 residents, were taken by bus in the direction of the rebel-held city of Jarablus, near the Turkish border, according to an official in the Homs Governorate administration.
The official requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Syrian state TV had forecast that some 700 people would leave, far fewer than the final tally.
The evacuation was planned to take place on Saturday, but no reason was given for the delay.
Opposition fighters agreed to leave al-Waer after years of siege and bombardment at the hands of pro-government forces. They were guaranteed safe passage to rebel-held parts of northern Syria.
The evacuations are expected to last weeks, after which the government will be able to claim control over the entire city for the first time in years.
Associated Press writers Albert Aji in Damascus, Syria, and Philip Issa in Beirut contributed to this report.
The upcoming Army-Navy game is one that temporarily divides our usually-united U.S. military, if only for a few hours. The rivalry is 118 years old, is attended by sitting Presidents, and is older than the Air Force itself. But for the men who compete for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy, it can be even more daunting to head west and face the Air Force Academy Falcons.
There’s no way the Air Force will ever get as legendary a rivalry as the Army-Navy game. It’s one of the biggest games in sports. Even if it doesn’t change the rankings on any given year, it’s still got a huge fan base. The Air Force, despite being the better playing team for much of the past few decades, can’t compare to that kind of legacy.
What they can do, however, is spoil the parties at West Point and Annapolis.
Air Force’s 2014 starting QB Kale Pearson.
The trash talk
The Army-Navy game, while known for its mascot thefts and funny spirit videos, is also known for being overly polite. Not so at Navy-Air Force. Midshipmen hold a Falcon Roast pep rally during the week before the Air Force game, burning a wooden falcon in effigy.
As for an interesting game, everyone knows the service academies aren’t playing for the BCS National Championship, so the winner doesn’t get more than bragging rights and the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy. But for fans watching a game, scoring is important. No one wants to sit through a Navy 0-7 win over Army, even Midshipmen. Moreover, there’s no better ending to a game than a squeaker.
The average margin of victory in an Army-Navy Game over the last 15 years is almost 16 and a half points. For Air Force vs. Navy, that number drops to a two score game. And despite Army’s recent uptick in the quality of their game, Air Force and Navy always field much more impressive and more explosive teams.
Despite all of these facts, the Air Force Academy Falcons will never quite measure up to the ancient rivalry that is the Army-Navy Game. The Air Force-Navy game happens on the first Saturday in October, followed by the Army-Air Force game on the first Saturday in November.
The 2018 Army-Navy Game will be on Dec. 8, 2018 at noon Eastern, presented by USAA, and live from Philadelphia.
There are all sorts of great bits of military lingo and slang that eventually fall by the wayside. While FUBAR has survived through to modern day, SNAFU and TARFU have been mostly forgotten — even though all three were popular slang and had characters in WWII-era GI cartoons named after them. Snafu was even voiced by Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny.
“Dog robbers” is the U.S. Army equivalent of the British slang term, “batman,” which refers to an officer’s personal valet or orderly, one step removed from the butler. So, while the aides-de-camp were assisting the general with the actual task of conducting battles and campaigns, the batmen and, later, dog robbers, were cleaning uniforms, running errands, and scrounging for any personal items their officer might need.
Think Woodhouse right before the massacre in the German trenches.
French Foreign Legion Capt. John Hasey was hit by a burst of machine gun fire in his face and had to be nursed back to health. In his biography, Yankee Fighter, he gave credit to his “dog robber” for keeping him fed before the ambush and helping him reach aid after.
My own platoon was there, with Blashiek, my faithful batman — or dog-robber, as he is known in the United States Army; and when I say “faithful,” I mean exactly that. For six months that tough Polish soldier had cared for me as carefully as any Southern mammy, fed me fresh mule meat when I was starved, and tactfully neglected to let me know what it was. He helped carry me back to a First Aid station outside Damascus when my jaw was shot away and my chest and arms were sprayed with machine-gun fire. It was upon him that I leaned when my legs began to wobble.
These were usually enlisted troops, and their assignments weren’t limited to general officers. Lieutenants could have a batman, especially if they were from a rich family and hired a civilian to work for them, but the practice was most common with captains and above.
This makes it obvious why the term began to fall out of use in the U.S. With the country’s generally dim view of aristrocracy, assigning enlisted soldiers to provide hygiene and personal support to officers feels a little against the country’s values. As this position largely disappeared from the military, the term lost popularity.
This is a photo from when King George V visited the New York National Guard. Guess if the king was visiting, I might want a valet, too.
(New York National Guard)
But it did survive. How? It evolved to encompass more of the staff members around the general, especially the aide. And, it reverted back to its original meaning.
See, the U.S. Army didn’t come up with the term. It started to become popular in the military in the Civil War for an officer’s servant, but its first documented use was actually in 1832 to describe a scrounger.
As the servants disappeared, scroungers got the title again instead. James Garner, a famous actor and veteran, actually played a dog robber in the 1964 movie The Americanization of Emily and later told Playboy Magazine that he had been a dog robber (the scrounger type) in the Korean War.
And James Garner’s character got to have sex with Mary Poppins. And that was after he admitted to being a dog robber and a coward — not bad.
According to Garner, he had served in an Army post office and bartered for the materials to make a bar, a theater, a baseball diamond, and a swimming pool.
That would make him a dog robber on the level of Milo Minderbinder (for all you Catch-22 fans out there).
Following their meeting in Helsinki, Donald Trump hailed Vladimir Putin as a potential partner in Syria, who can provide humanitarian relief and preserve Israeli security. But if the United States hopes to deny Iran “open season to the Mediterranean,” as the President previously said, Russia is anything but an ally. Putin has no interest in pushing out the Iranian forces that defend the Assad regime by taking heavy casualties on the ground while Russia fights mainly from the air. Rather, the most recent offensive by pro-regime forces — a sprint towards the Israeli and Jordanian borders — demonstrates that Russia enables Iranian operations in Syria.
In late June 2018, Russia began to unleash hundreds of airstrikes on Deraa, a flagrant violation of the U.S.-Russian ceasefire agreement that Trump and Putin personally endorsed November 2017. While Russia struck from the air, forces nominally under the control of Damascus conducted a major ground offensive.
Closer examination shows that the dividing line between Assad’s military and Iranian-aligned forces has become ever blurrier. Before the offensive began, Lebanese Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias staged apparent withdrawals from the region, only to return after donning regime uniforms and hiding their banners and insignia. Tehran is also directly involved. On July 2, 2018, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) died in Deir al-Adas, a village in northern Deraa province along the strategic M5 highway. Persian sources describe him as the commander for Deraa province.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps tank in 2012 in Tehran.
Two Iranian-aligned militant groups comprised of Iraqi Shias, Liwa Abu al Fadl al Abbas (LAFA) and Liwa Zulfiqar, have also participated in the offensive. LAFA was one of the original foreign Shia militias to deploy to Syria in 2012, ostensibly to defend the Sayyida Zainab mosque in Damascus, a major Shiite religious site. Since then, however, the group has integrated into the Syrian Republican Guard, even to the point where it openly identifies as a Republican Guard unit. LAFA’s trajectory illustrates how forces nominally under the control of Damascus are permeated with troops that are at least as close to Tehran.
Since the current offensive began, LAFA has posted numerous photos and videos on its Facebook page showing its men alongside regime troops in Deraa. Its leader, Abu Ajeeb, has also been pictured with Syrian military officers in several of the photos. Opposition sources report that a LAFA commander met with Russian military officers in Deraa.
Liwa Zulfiqar has also confirmed its involvement in the offensive, as well as its integration into the regime’s military. The militia, which has been fighting alongside Syrian regime troops since 2013, posted several photos from the town of Busra al Harir in which it asserted it was participating in the offensive. The militia’s leader, Haidar al Jabouri, appeared in a video shot inside the Syrian 4th Division’s military operations command room, demonstrating Zulfiqar’s integration into the Syrian command structure.
Reports have also suggested that other militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have been taking part in the offensive, sometimes disguised as Syrian troops. In late June 2018, the Washington Postbriefly noted Hezbollah’s participation. Quoting an official in Damascus, Reuters reported that “Hezbollah is a fundamental participant in planning and directing this battle.” Another pro-regime source reportedly confirmed the use of Syrian military uniforms by Hezbollah and other militias to the wire service.
Hizbollah flag in Syria.
It’s also becoming clear that Russian aircraft are supporting the efforts of Iranian-backed units nominally under the control of Damascus. On June 24, 2018, Russian warplanes conducted at least twenty strikes on Busra al Harir, spurring on a stalled regime offensive. Within two days, Liwa Zulfiqar announced its participation in operations there. On July 4, 2018, Russia hit Saida and Tafas, supporting offensives involving Zulfiqar and LAFA, respectively. Russia has also now deployed military police to hold terrain captured by Iranian-aligned forces, demonstrating a level of coordination as well as Russia’s unwillingness to use its forces for more dangerous offensive operations. These terrain-holding forces free up Iran-aligned actors to continue undertaking offensives toward the Golan.
Reported meetings between militia commanders and Russian officers suggest these operations are coordinated. But even without formal coordination, Russian air cover and Iranian ground offensives are mutually dependent and reinforcing. Iran can’t be in the sky, and Russia refuses to put significant forces on the ground, lest too many return home in body bags. Thus, Putin requires Iran’s forces on the ground to secure his ambitions in Syria.
Trump should remain highly skeptical of Putin’s interest and ability to serve as a partner in Syria. The humanitarian relief Putin proposes is designed to fortify the regime, not rehabilitate children brutalized by Assad. Putin also has limited interest in curtailing Iran’s deployment. Russia itself admits that Iran’s withdrawal is “absolutely unrealistic.” Trump should not concede American positions, notably the strategic base at Tanf which blocks Iran’s path to the Mediterranean, for empty promises from Russia. Putin can afford to lie to America, but he can’t afford to control Syria without Iranian support.