Nearly 4 million veterans and caregivers who were granted privileges to shop at commissaries and exchanges Jan. 1 can finally enjoy access to online features, a Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) news release said Friday.
However, the new patrons’ access to American Forces Travel (AFT), the official Morale, Welfare and Recreation travel site, is still spotty, according to the latest AFT Facebook post.
Purple Heart recipients, former prisoners of war, veterans with any service-connected disability, and caregivers registered with the VA’s Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers program became eligible to shop at commissaries, exchanges and MWR facilities beginning Jan. 1.
Since then, these new shoppers have experienced issues, including not being able to bring guests on base and trouble accessing MyCommissary and AFT online portals.
DeCA officials said they had to work with Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), which is used to confirm shopping privileges, to let new patrons register their Commissary Rewards cards online to access coupons and to use, as available, the Click2Go curbside service.
“In the event a new shopper is still receiving an error message when trying to create an account, they should check with the [Department of Veterans Affairs] to ensure their information and privileges are correctly entered into the system,” DeCA system engineer Clayton Nobles said in a statement. “For those receiving a new Veterans Health Identification Card (VHIC), there may be a delay between when the veteran receives the card and when the system allows them access. This delay can take up to 30 days.”
Eligible veterans must have a VHIC to access bases for shopping or MWR use.
Customers who had access before Jan. 1, such as retired service members, Medal of Honor recipients and veterans with a service-related disability rating of 100%, are not affected.
Meanwhile, AFT is still updating its customer database of “millions of records.”
“We have sent examples to DMDC and they were able to see why some patrons are having issues,” AFT said on Facebook, the only place it is providing updates on the issue. “We will let you know when that resolve has been made and then ask you to try logging on again. Records are being updated every hour.”
But some veterans are getting tired of waiting.
“No luck today. Last week they said it would be fixed this week,” one Facebook user wrote. “The week before, it was going to be fixed last week. I sent a private message this afternoon and got an automated response to call the DMDC help desk at 1-800-727-3677. That number is for the Commissary. After 35 minutes, someone answered the phone and said they could not help me to get verified.”
As Russia’s government pulled out all the stops on May 9, 2018, to celebrate the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany and to remember the estimated 25 million Soviets who died during the war, historian Konstantin Bogoslavsky was working to shed light on the fate of Soviet POWs “abandoned” by their own government.
The savagery of Hitler’s war on the Soviet Union is widely documented, but many details remain elusive about the plight of Red Army prisoners.
Their exact number will never be known for sure, but estimates of Soviet Red Army soldiers taken prisoner during World War II range from 4 million to 6 million. About two-thirds of those captured by the Germans — more than 3 million troops — had died by the time their comrades captured Berlin in May 1945.
The archives of the Soviet People’s Commissariat of Foreign Affairs were recently digitized, and Bogoslavsky has been studying the wartime correspondence between the Soviet government and the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Geneva-based international organization that tried to aid prisoners, the wounded, and refugees during the war.
“Already on June 23, 1941, the Red Cross sent a telegram to [Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav] Molotov offering its assistance to the Soviet Union during the war,” Bogoslavsky told RFE/RL. “Molotov confirmed his interest.”
In the first weeks of the conflict, Germany and the Soviet Union both confirmed they would adhere to international conventions on the treatment of prisoners. However, it quickly became clear that neither side intended to keep its commitment.
In the first six months of the war, as the Germans raced across the Soviet Union to the outskirts of Moscow, more than 3 million Red Army soldiers were taken prisoner, often as a result of encirclement as Soviet officials refused to allow them to retreat or failed even to issue orders.
According to the archival materials, Bogoslavsky said, the Axis powers offered to exchange lists of prisoners with the Soviets in December 1941. Molotov’s deputy, Andrei Vyshinsky, wrote to his boss that a list of German prisoners had been compiled and advised that it be released to prevent harm to the Soviet Union’s reputation.
“But Molotov wrote on the message, ‘…don’t send the lists (the Germans are violating legal and other norms),'” Bogoslavsky said. “After that, almost all the letters and telegrams received from the Red Cross…were marked by Molotov as ‘Do Not Respond.'”
The Soviet government adopted this policy as a result of a cold-blooded calculus.
“By the end of 1941, more than 3 million people had been taken prisoner, and one of the Soviet leadership’s goals was to control this avalanche,” Bogoslavsky said. “A Soviet soldier had to understand that if he was captured, he wouldn’t be getting any food parcels from the Red Cross and he wouldn’t be sending any postcards to his loved ones. He had to know that the only thing awaiting him there was inevitable death.”
One Soviet document issued under Stalin’s signature, the historian noted, asserted that “the panic-monger, the coward, and the deserter are worse than the enemy.”
In addition, the Soviet government refused to allow any Red Cross representatives into its own notorious prison camps, where they might stumble on secrets of Stalin’s prewar repressions.
“The distribution of food and medicine to prisoners was carried out by representatives of the Red Cross, and that would have meant allowing them access to camps in the Soviet Union,” Bogoslavsky said. “The Soviet leadership was categorically opposed to that. Despite numerous requests, Red Cross representatives were never given visas to travel to the Soviet Union.”
“Of course, the entire responsibility for the mass deaths of Soviet prisoners must fall on the leadership of the Third Reich,” he added. “But Stalin’s government, in my opinion, was guilty of not giving moral support or material assistance to its own soldiers, who were simply abandoned.”
In March 1943, Molotov wrote a letter to U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union William Standley, who had forwarded an offer from the Vatican to facilitate an exchange of information about Soviet prisoners being held by the Germans.
“I have the honor of reporting that at the present time this matter does not interest the Soviet government,” Molotov wrote. “Conveying to the government of the United States our gratitude for its attention to Soviet prisoners, I ask you to accept my assurances of my most profound respect for you, Mr. Ambassador.”
During the course of the war, the Soviet government also refused to cooperate with the governments of German allies Finland and Romania on the prisoners issue. Soviet prisoners in Finland did receive Red Cross packages that were organized by a charity in Switzerland and distributed in Finland on a unilateral basis.
In 1942, Romania offered to release 1,018 of the worst-off Soviet prisoners in exchange for a list of Romanians being held by the Soviet Union.
“The Soviet leadership simply ignored that offer,” Bogoslavsky said.
“The Soviet Union was the only country that refused to cooperate with the Red Cross and did not even allow Red Cross delegations onto its territory,” he added. “Germany did not work with the Red Cross in connection with Soviet prisoners, but it did cooperate concerning those of its Western enemies — the Americans, the British, and the French.”
The misfortunes of many Soviet POWs did not end when the guns fell silent.
“It is a myth that all those who returned from POW camps were sent to the gulag,” Bogoslavsky said. “The NKVD (Soviet secret police) set up special camps for checking and filtering returning prisoners. According to historian [Viktor] Zemskov, about 1.5 million former prisoners passed through the filtration process. Of them, about 245,000 were repressed.”
These games – in which players are positioned behind a gun – have turned a generation of kids into digital warriors who fight terrorists and battle alien invaders. Many play first-person shooters for pure, innocent enjoyment. Some like achieving objectives and being a part of a team. And, for others, it simply feels good to eliminate an enemy – especially someone who’s trying to harm them.
The games allow soldiers to take their combat roles home with them and blur their on-duty responsibilities with their off-duty, noncombat routines and lives.
But what effect have these video games had on U.S. soldiers? How accurately do they depict military life? And do they actually help recruit, train and retain troops?
The games in the Arma series strive to simulate combat. In this sequence from Arma 2, a helicopter insertion goes wrong as troops try to take a contested airfield.
From battle screen to battlefield
As part of a study, we interviewed 15 current and former members of the U.S. military who were between 24 and 35 years old to understand the role violent first-person shooter games played in their recruitment and training.
The majority of interviewees told us it was important to stay in the mindset of a soldier even when not on duty. To them, first-person shooters were the perfect vehicle for doing this.
Game preferences varied among the soldiers we interviewed, but popular titles included “Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2” and “ARMA 2,” which a current member of the Army said was “one of the most hardcore assault experiences in gaming.”
In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, players fight a campaign across the world and in space during a war between the U.S. and Russia.
Meanwhile, an Iraq War veteran described “Call of Duty: Black Ops 2” and “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare” as “the ultimate first-person shooter experiences ever” and “intensive and highly realistic approaches to tactical combat. The choice of attacking with stealth or unleashing an all-out frontal assault full of mayhem is yours. It’s violent, it’s chaotic, it’s beautiful.”
But it’s tough to make the case that games accurately simulate what a soldier’s life is really like. First, military tours of duty are not solely made up of hard-charging, chaotic battles, like those in first-person shooters. The majority of soldiers won’t participate in any full-frontal combat operations.
Second – and, most importantly – in the digital world there are no legal and ethical considerations. When things go wrong, when innocent people are killed, there are no ramifications. If anything, the games warp these real-world consequences in the minds of players; in 2012, psychologists Brock Bastian, Jolanda Jetten and Helena R.M. Radke were able to use brain scans to show that playing violent video games had the potential to desensitize players to real-life violence and the suffering of others.
In a 2010 article for the Brookings Institution, political scientist Peter Singer quoted a Special Forces soldier who was involved in the production of “America’s Army 360,” a video game developed to recruit and train enlistees.
An American city burns in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
“You lose an avatar; just reboot the game,” the soldier said. “In real life, you lose your guy; you’ve lost your guy. And then you’ve got to bury him, and then you’ve got to call his wife.”
Indeed, journalist Evan Wright wrote in his book “Generation Kill” that solders were on “intimate terms with the culture of video games, reality TV shows and internet porn.”
Real-life combat, however, was something entirely different.
“What I saw was a lot of them discovered levels of innocence that they probably didn’t think they had,” Wright wrote. “When they actually shot people, especially innocent people, and were confronted with this, I saw guys break down. The violence in games hadn’t prepared them for this.”
Thus video games might suck soldiers in – offering a tantalizing taste of the glory and excitement of battle. But they do little to prepare them for the types of threats that actually exist on the battlefield.
“When I really think of the government seeing that as training, I laugh,” one of our interviewees told us. “But I also feel a bit uneasy.”
Militarizing legions of gamers
Regardless of their effectiveness as training tools, violent video games can certainly act as a valuable tool for connecting the military with potential recruits. In addition to influencing the decisions of gamers to pursue military service, they can also be used to promote the geopolitical goals of the military.
Journalist Hamza Shaban, in a 2013 article for The Atlantic, described just how deep the Army’s relationship had become with the commercial gaming industry, creating what he dubbed a “military-entertainment complex.” According to Shaban, the games that emerged from this relationship – an exciting, simplified, easy-to-play version of warfare – encouraged gamers to consider a career in the military.
Frontlines: Fuel of War attempts to simulate what World War 3 in the near future would look like.
(YouTube/Best War Games Channel)
Meanwhile, games such as “UrbanSim,” “Tactical Iraqi” and “Frontlines: Fuel of War” teach players and potential recruits about the discourse of modern-day warfare. Missions include battling Islamic militants, winning over potentially hostile populations and establishing pro-Western, pro-democratic societies. They engage with the fundamentals of insurgency and counterinsurgency, present the dangers of improvised explosive devices and highlight the military usefulness of weaponized drones.
However, to some of the soldiers and ex-soldiers we spoke to, the value of playing first-person shooters amounted to little more than propaganda.
“The idea of us training using these games is a bit of a [disaster],” one said. “What the U.S. seeks to achieve through the use of these games is not entirely within their control. It might be a cheap way of getting us involved … but it’s hardly ‘training.'”
Another called first-person shooters “more like brainwashing than anything.”
“But you have to be pretty stupid to buy into all this,” he added.
That chorus grew louder following news that Russia sent masks and medical equipment to the hard-hit United States on April 1.
Russia is not alone in sending aid abroad. The United States, Germany, and France have also sent supplies despite dealing with their own domestic outbreaks. And China — where the outbreak originated — has sought to reverse the negative fallout by providing expertise and equipment to other countries, although the delivery of faulty equipment and questionable data has been criticized.
But for Russia, such missions prove a belabored point. Since its relations with the West soured amid the Ukraine crisis in 2014, and Moscow was placed under economic sanctions by much of the world, President Vladimir Putin’s government has lobbied for the world to see it as a force for good, with a crucial role to play in the international arena.
It has not been an easy sell.
Aid … But With Strings?
While a convoy of whitewashed military vehicles containing clothes and medicine that the Kremlin sent to eastern Ukraine in 2014 was shown on loop on state TV, others saw the purported humanitarian effort as a way of secretly supplying weapons to the Moscow-backed separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces.
And Russia’s military operation in Syria, launched in 2015 with the declared aim of driving out the Islamic State extremist group from the region, was presented by federal channels as a peace mission to liberate the war-ravaged Middle Eastern state. But while Russian soldiers were shown handing out food packages to Syrian children, critics accused Russia of bombing hospitals and targeting rebel forces fighting against Syria’s Kremlin-backed President Bashar al-Assad.
For some, Russia’s latest missions have also led to questions.
The La Stampa newspaper on March 25 cited unnamed officials in Rome saying that 80 percent of Russia’s aid package was “totally useless.” Moscow was in an uproar about the claims, which were shared widely. “The aid given to Italy is selfless,” Russia’s ambassador to Italy Sergei Razov told the RIA news agency. “Not subject to a trade-off, a settling of bills or anything of the kind.”
Then there was that video of the Russian anthem being played on an Italian street. The video originated as a post to the Telegram messenger app by a Russian journalist working for the Daily Storm outlet. “Who would have thought that our Russian hymn will play on the streets of Italy?” wrote Alyona Sivkova on March 25, in a caption to the video.
The following day, after the video had been featured in various Russian reports as evidence of ordinary Italians’ gratitude to Russia, Sivkova posted an angry Telegram post alleging that Russian state media had “stolen” the video — which was recorded by the Italy-based mother of a Russian colleague — for their own purposes.
Ilya Shepelin, who leads a program debunking fake news on independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, told the BBC that Italians who have publicly praised Russia’s aid to their country are mostly people with close business ties to Russia.
“We’re not dealing here with a pure fabrication, but manipulation,” he said of the Russian TV reports. “Hybrid lies, or hybrid truth.”
All military personnel talk on deployment. It helps pass the time. You’ll find yourself chatting with your peers for days, which turn into weeks, and then months, and before you know it, you’re back in the arms of your loved ones.
The topics of these conversations vary greatly. They range from the absurd, such as buying a Lamborghini up returning home, to the downright crazy, like debating if “nothing” is considered “something.” Some topics that arise while on deployment are even downright criminal, like how to pull off a successful bank heist worthy of a motion picture.
But there is one topic that reigns supreme when on deployment: The “zombie apocalypse.”
When talking about this horrific nightmare scenario, Marines discuss the three different possible routes to take, and each has its own consequences — and each one definitely has a Marine mentality behind it.
1. The hunter-killer team
The first path is the hunter-killer team. Marines train in the art of war. They study it, breathe it, and live it. And yet, for many Marines, it’s not the first option when discussing the hypothetical end of the world.
This team sets out to hunts down the zombie menace. All of them.
These Marines stop at towns or settlements along the way, lending a helping hand in exchange for food and currency. After dingo a circuit in their area, they go to the nearest military base for ammo and fuel (if they have vehicles).
2. The endurant
Other Marines think of survival — how to outlast the apocalypse. These Marines get very intellectual about it, too, considering all angles. The first idea they come up with is that zombies can’t swim. Knowing this, they decide to head towards a Naval station. From there, they want to commandeer a floating city – a Navy aircraft carrier. They think using this will keep their family safe and out of harm’s way.
They wait until the plague is gone and then return to help rebuild. The major flaw here is that it’s not so easy to get to an aircraft carrier. But hey, Marines dream big.
3. The outlanders
Finally, we’ve got the Marines that say they’d go and live a life of solitude in the middle of nowhere — usually a mountaintop. They’ll stock up on food and water to last them through the plague and live far removed from the zombie threat. But this approach has some major logistical problems: Running out of supplies is the foremost issue. Depending on the duration of the plague, post-apocalyptic Marines would need to go out a few times to restock. With that comes the off-chance that zombies discover the mountaintop getaway. Now, they must fight off the horde to make it through.
This topic is easily one of the most discussed topics while on a deployment. This is because a deployment can feel like a survival-horror flick, where Marines must band together take on their own deadly enemy horde that lies in wait outside the gates.
Jalil Zandi’s Air Force legend almost never made it off the ground. He joined the Iranian Air Force when it was still the Imperial Iranian Air Force, under Shah Reza Pahlavi. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Zandi stayed blue – a risky move at a time when Iranian military officers were being executed for doing their duty to one’s country.
But fighter pilots need to be bold and take risks. Zandi did spend some time in a prison cell, sentenced to 10 years for… whatever. Does it matter? In September 1980 – less than a year after the revolution in Iran – Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi troops invaded Iran whose military was woefully undermanned.
So, Zandi was back in the pilot’s seat within six months.
Zandi survived the brutal eight-year-long war, and according to the U.S. Air Force’s intelligence assessments, he took down 11 Iraqi aircraft – four MiG-23s, two Su-22s, two MiG-21s, and three Mirage F-1s. His last engagement of the war saw him go up against eight enemy Mirage F1s over Iraq in 1988. He scored two unconfirmed kills but was badly shot up in the dogfight and had to break off. He was able to fly back to his base in Iran and the war ended that very same year.
He received the Order of Fath 2nd Class for his time in the skies over enemy territory. The Fath Medal is one of the highest awards an Iranian military member can receive and is personally presented by the Supreme Leader. Jalil Zandi’s 11 kills in the F-14 make him the highest-scoring Tomcat pilot ever. Zandi died in a car accident near Tehran in 2001, having reached the rank of Brigadier General.
The F-14 was retired from the U.S. military arsenal in 2006 but is still in use in Iran.
After 21 years in an Army, mostly as a recruiter, Curtez Riggs promised himself one thing. Once he left the military, he would not accept a job that felt too much like work, left him uninspired or unfulfilled.
Riggs founded the Military Influencer Conference, which links veterans, active-duty service members and their spouses with entrepreneurs, industry leaders and other creative minds. Now Riggs’ company is taking the next step with Honor2Lead, an inaugural event that will originate in Atlanta and be livestreamed on leaderpass.com from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
“I want [the military] to learn how to lead, thrive and grow in these crazy times that we’re all experiencing,” Riggs said. “We understand how our country currently is politically. You see the impact that COVID is having on nonprofits and also businesses. This should be an event that people come to, and they’re rejuvenated. They’re understanding how to pivot what they’re doing in order to grow and thrive.”
WWE star Lacey Evans served in the Marine Corps. Courtesy photo.
The speakers lined up for Honor2Lead, which will occur one day before Veterans Day and on the anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps in 1775, all have military ties. Daymond John of ABC’s “Shark Tank” and WWE wrestler Lacey Evans are scheduled to participate, as are actor Alexander Ludwig, Fox News host Harris Faulkner and VFW Commander-in-Chief Hal Roesch II. The list of 24 speakers also includes Phyllis Newhouse, the Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year; Elena Cardona, an investor and author; and Jake Wood, the CEO of Team Rubicon.
Riggs expects Honor2Lead to attract at least 10,000 registrants. Early-bird pricing is available for tickets now, at . To register, go to Honor2Lead’s website.
“What excites me most is the number of people that we have the potential to reach,” said Riggs, who retired as a first sergeant. “Our desire [is] to reach as many people as we possibly can to educate them and to help them change what they currently see in front of them.”
After the livestream, Riggs said Honor2Lead will be available through On Demand. This event continues his company’s vision of creating content to empower the military community. It began with the Military Influencer Conference, and debuting in 2021, Riggs’ company plans to announce a venture with the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to help military women access financial resources to start their own businesses.
Military Influencer Magazine, which was inspired by the Military Influencer Conference, made its debut in September.
“Create your own results,” Riggs said. “We have a ton of skill sets that we’ve been taught that we can rely on to do some great things. A lot of us, we just don’t have faith in ourselves. The people that come to the event, they’re seeing people just like themselves. They’re seeing retirees. They’re seeing young service members that have separated, and they’ve started something and put them on a new trajectory to success.”
The Military Influencer Conference was postponed this year and rescheduled for May of 2021. In the meantime, Riggs is eager to see how Honor2Lead impacts the military community.
“When you leave the military, you don’t necessarily have to leave the military and get a job doing something that you’re not happy with,” Riggs said.
Whether you’re about to live it or are wondering if it’s a viable personal move (as well as a great professional move), there are many questions surrounding drill life. Known as being “on the trail,” drill sergeants and their families deal with a schedule and a lifestyle that differs from the rest of the military world. (And the rest of training units for that matter.)
Here are 5 truths of what it’s like to live on the trail, and what you can expect as a military spouse or dependent of an incoming drill.
It’s not like “regular” military life
If you’re a milspouse, you think “been there, done that,” right? Perhaps your spouse has been deployed, you’ve experienced several TDYs apart, and more. So if going drill is on the table you might be thinking, NBD. But the truth is, the life of a drill family greatly differs from the rest of the military.
Training units in general are a whole new world, but add in trainees that – at least for a portion of time – have to be supervised at all hours, and you’re looking at a schedule that’s spotty at best, and an unequal balance of parenting and household responsibilities. Be ready to pick up the slack; life on the trail is by far a family effort.
The hours are long
Military spouses are often left to handle things at home for days on end. Middle of the night calls when they have to go into work? Check. Last-minute overnights? Also a yep. Because trainees are involved, planning days ahead doesn’t always work. Everything could be listed out in excruciating detail, then something goes incredibly wrong, and drill sergeants have to return to work. Is that always the case? Of course not. Units do their best to keep hours low, but it’s always a possibility.
Experience depends on unit
Drill schedules take this to a new level. For instance, each MOS has its own timeline for basic and AIT scheduling. Each also comes with various rules on if/when weekends are non-work days, how many drills have to be present at each time, etc. But even furthermore, each individual company has its own rundown for days off, long weekends, especially in OSUT scenarios. (BCT and AIT in one location.)
If you have orders, the best source of information will be those who have been there first.
Stephen Colbert learns how “mean” drill instructors can be.
They’re loud, but not “in-the-movies” mean
When the “brown round” goes on, the voice escalates. Privates are talked down to, they’re encouraged to learn respect, and quickly. Being a drill means your spouse will have to, from time to time, be mean. But don’t freak out, either; it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Yes, drill school teaches how to break and build incoming soldiers, but personality plays into this, too. Each drill will have their owner leadership style, their own way of being heard. Donning the same headgear as Smokey the Bear won’t suddenly make your spouse a screaming, demanding individual.
Drills don’t like being gone either
It won’t take long for most military spouses to wish they had more time with their always-working spouse. But while they’re gone for hours, sometimes days, remember that they don’t like the schedule, either. They are likely getting little sleep and training round-the-clock.
Being married to a drill is definitely a grind, but with a solid effort, it’s also a great way to fast-track a military career.
Keep in mind that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, and incredible honor involved with life on the trail. It’s a great way for families to become tight-knit and rely on one another, even with crazy schedules.
More than 400 Navajo Americans joined the military during World War II to transmit coded messages in their native language. The Japanese, even if they could break American codes, couldn’t decipher the Navajo tongue.
They were called Navajo Code Talkers, and one of the last few remaining code talkers – Joe Hosteen Kellwood – died Aug. 5. He was 95.
Kellwood joined the Marine Corps at 21 after he learned about their exploits during the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was sent to the 1st Marine Division as a Code Talker. But like most other servicemembers at the time, didn’t even know the program existed – it was still Top Secret.
In a 1999 interview with the Arizona Republic’s Betty Reid, he said he told his sister “Da’ahijigaagoo deya,” or, “I’m going to war.” He was one of 540 Navajo men that would become Marines during the war and one of around 400 that would become Code Talkers. Kellwood saw combat on Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and Okinawa.
The Native American Marines were trained to transmit messages on the battlefields of the Pacific using Morse Code, radios, and Navajo codes. What’s unique about the Navajo language is that it uses syntax and tonal qualities that are nearly impossible for a non-Navajo to learn. The language also had no written form, and many of its letters and sounds did not have equivalents in other languages.
The Code Talkers created messages by first translating Navajo words into English, then using the first letter of each English word to decipher the meaning.
According to his obituary, Kellwood’s awards include the Congressional Silver Medal; a Presidential Unit Citation; Combat Action Ribbon; a Naval Unit Commendation; Good Conduct; the American Campaign Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal and (of course) the WWII Victory Medal.
With an abundance of data points on COVID-19 — the news, your friend from high school who has turned into a respiratory and infectious disease expert on social media despite never going to med school, your family, your neighbors, that group text — it’s difficult to discern what is relevant and what is truthful.
Finally, here’s one source that absolutely nails it. Three-year-old toddler “Dr. Big Sister” Hannah Curtis delivers a spot on briefing from her very own White House.
Israeli pop star Noa Kirel made a controversial television commercial just after she was drafted. (YouTube screenshot)
Imagine a world where 18-year-old music sensation Billie Eilish, fresh off her six Grammy wins in February, had to report to boot camp at Fort Benning, Georgia, in March. How would the Army handle the media glare, and how would her fellow recruits react?
That’s the situation in Israel right now. Noa Kirel has been famous since age 14 for her YouTube videos that led to stardom on reality television, teen dramas and TV commercials. She recently signed a multimillion-dollar recording contract with Atlantic Records.
The Washington Post reports that Kirel, now 19, has been drafted into the Israeli Army to fulfill her required service under the country’s mandatory conscription law. Noa will serve at least two years before she can return to her career full time.
Some of our readers are old enough to remember Elvis Presley’s Army service 60 years ago. A lot has changed since then, and the Army didn’t have to deal with a pack of paparazzi and a bottomless appetite for gossip on social media at that time.
Things in Israel have not gotten off to a great start. Kirel pissed off the brass by making a commercial for Israeli streaming service Yes+ that has her playacting in American fatigues in a fake boot camp. She’s singing “Let the Sunshine In” from “Hair,” a show that even Israelis remember for its anti-war sentiments.
“Wonder Woman” actress Gal Gadot also did her Israeli military service, but she had yet to launch her acting career at that point. Still, she was already famous as the winner of the Miss Israel pageant, but local media insist that Kirel’s current fame dwarfs Gadot’s at that time.
Kirel may be causing chaos, but she chose to fulfill her obligation even though she could have opted out because she’s got only one kidney. Her commitment to serve no matter what counts for a lot in Israeli society.
“I felt that, because I was famous, I had to serve to set an example to others,” Kirel said. “I know people abroad will probably not understand this, not understand why I have put everything on hold, but it was clear to me that I had to do this.”
Kirel represents the first wave of a new problem facing the Israeli military. The modern definition of fame is changing, and there are dozens of Israeli youths becoming popular solely through their social media profiles on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.
Making an exception for one big star might be a challenge that the Israeli Army is prepared to meet, but what happens when you’ve got a whole platoon of teenage celebrities reporting to boot camp?
That’s not a problem we’re likely to face anytime soon. It’s not likely the USA will have compulsory national service in the near future. We can’t even convince people to wear a mask over here.
But the worst, most embarrassing incident occurred in January 2016, when Iran’s navy seized two US Navy riverine boats and the 10 sailors on board after the ship wandered into Iranian waters due to mechanical issues. They broadcast footage of the sailors, crying, in detention, on television across the country. Iran later announced plans to build a monument commemorating the event.
In September of that same year, Trump addressed Iran while on the campaign trail. “When they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water,” Trump said.
Shortly after Trump’s election, the incidents noticeably stopped, despite Trump’s open hostility towards Iran, compared to Obama’s attempts to appease them.
The US Navy “openly acknowledged there was a shift that happened roughly around the time we had our political transition,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “There was a status quo and the status quo changed.”
According to Schanzer, the Trump administration gave no official warning to Iran over the naval incidents, but instead, “the unpredictability of Trump has made Iran more reticent to test American red lines.”
Compared to the US Navy, the best on earth, Iran’s navy just treads water. Iranians, even the hardliners, must know their small attack craft can’t pose a meaningful threat to US ships, and even if they could, US retaliation would devastate the forces.
Instead, rushing US ships and putting them on the defensive, as well as capturing sailors, works mainly for propaganda purposes for Iran, whose authoritarian regime controls the media and pushes a heavily anti-US agenda.
With Trump similarly focused on optics and pledging to revitalize the US military, Iran may have pivoted towards quietly pursuing its foreign policy goals, rather than making a scene that Trump could react to violently.
“There’s another side of this,” said Schanzer. “They understood that there was a change in the rules of the risk/reward calculus, but they also seem to understand that there was less of a policy with regard to their regional activity from Yemen to Iraq to Syria.”
So while Iran has dropped the very visible, US-centric naval run-ins, it’s picked up on recruiting militias, deploying its armed forces to Syria, and supplying anti-US and anti-Israel militant groups.
“They realize if they want to actually achieve their objectives across the Middle East, they needed to dial back on the harassment that would needlessly provoke the US,” Schanzer said.
The Department of Homeland Security as well as the FBI are investigating what is being called possibly the largest scale cyber-attack ever, according to Aljazeera.
On the morning of Oct. 21 the first wave of the cyber-attack began on infrastructure company Dyn, based in New Hampshire. The company is responsible for connecting individual internet users to websites by routing them through a series of unique Internet Protocol numbers. CNN reported that the company monitors more than 150 websites.
Friday’s cyber-attack used botnets — or devices connected to the internet that have been infected with malware — to launch a distributed denial of service attack that impacted companies like CNN, the New York Times, Twitter, PayPal, and others, Aljazeera reported.
USA Today explained that denial of service attacks turn unsuspecting devices into weapons by downloading malware to unprotected devices that allows them to be controlled by hackers. Hackers then use these weaponized botnets to overload the traffic to websites by sending hundreds of thousands of requests through the IP address, giving a false signal that the website is too busy to accept normal requests for access to the site.
While the cyber-attack was mostly annoying for internet users, it ultimately impacted the U.S. on a much larger scale, denying the 77 companies affected by the attack up to $110 million in revenue, according to Dyn CEO John Van Siclen.
The greater security concern is the access to individual devices that is granted because the devices were left with their default password intact, according to The Guardian. The devices used in Friday’s cyber-attack were all traced back to one company, the Chinese tech company XiongMai Technologies, which makes, ironically, security cameras.
The cyber-attack was felt as far away as Europe, and across the U.S. Wikileaks suggested in a tweet late Oct. 21 that its supporters were responsible for the breach, sending out a picture of the most affected areas in the U.S.
Military members can help protect their devices from being used as weapons by following their training on cyber awareness. Consistently changing passwords, logging out of accounts when on public computers, and protecting personally identifying information are recommended.