The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

U.S. military nutrition experts hope to start testing a new assault ration, known as the Close Combat Assault Ration, that is drastically lighter than existing field rations by 2020.

Ten years ago, the Defense Department’s Combat Feeding Directorate began fielding the First Strike Ration, which was designed to give combat troops the equivalent of three Meals, Ready to Eat a day in a compact, lightweight package.


At about two pounds, the FSR is about half the weight and size of three MREs.

Prototypes of the Close Combat Assault Ration weigh about as much as one MRE and take up about 75 percent less room as an equivalent number of individual meals inside a pack, according to Jeremy Whitsitt, deputy director of the CFD.

“It’s designed for those guys like Army Rangers, special ops guys, light infantry — guys that would potentially be in a mission scenario that would require them to carry multiple days of food, ammunition, water, other supplies, without the potential of being resupplied,” he told Military.com.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Russell Lee Klika)

The idea of having a combat ration tailored to the needs of ground troops has been bounced around before. In 2016, Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command, told industry professionals at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, that he was interested in developing an MRE specially designed for Marine grunts, who need the most nutrition at the lightest weight possible.

While the CCAR is still in prototype stage, it weighs about 1.5 pounds, Whitsitt said, explaining a process of vacuum microwave drying that shrinks the food by about 50 percent.

A sample CCAR menu contains a tart cherry nut bar, cheddar cheese bar, mocha dessert bar, vacuum-dried strawberries, trail mix of nuts and fruit, Korean barbeque stir fry packet, spinach quiche packet with four small quiches, French toast packet, and a banana that was vacuum microwave dried to about one-third of its original size, according to a recent Army press release.

The goal is to begin testing the CCAR in 2020 and fielding it to replace the FSR in 2023, Whitsitt said, adding that the CCAR will not replace the MRE, which will remain the primary field ration.

On a five-day mission, rather than “field-stripping 15 MREs and taking things that are easy to carry, they can take five of these Close Combat Assault Rations and still get 3,000 calories a day but have more room in their pack for more ammunition, more medical supplies, more water — things that will keep them in the fight longer,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

95 year old veteran passes hours after achieving dream to visit WWII Memorial

A 95-year-old World War II veteran died during a so-called Honor Flight carrying him home from a weekend in Washington, DC.

Frank Manchel was returning home to San Diego, California, after an all-expenses-paid trip to DC honoring WWII veterans when he died on May 5, 2019, the non-profit Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement.

The American Airlines flight was about an hour from landing in San Diego when Manchel collapsed, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego, told the Union-Tribune that Manchel’s death was “almost instantaneous.”

“He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed,” he said.


Manchel, who served as an Army technical sergeant in WWII, had flown to DC with 82 other veterans, family members, and volunteers, to visit historic landmarks in the country’s capital.

The group visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Navy Yard’s museum, and the military electronics museum.

Manchel’s sons, Bruce and Howard, as well as his 93-year-old brother, Jerome, and nephew, David, joined him on the trip.

Bruce Manchel said in a statement on May 6, 2019 seen by INSIDER that his father died after “the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends.”

“We thank all of you — Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International Airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together.”

Following Manchel’s death, an American Flag was draped over his body, and two chaplains on board the flight said prayers.

When the plane landed in San Diego, veterans saluted as they passed by his body.

Honor Flight San Diego told INSIDER that American Airlines offered to take Manchel’s remains and relatives to Detroit, Michigan, at no charge ahead of May 9, 2019’s funeral. Honor Flight San Diego’s founder will be in attendance.

This is the seventh death to happen during an Honor Flight Network flight, the Associated Press reported. Honor Flight San Diego requires veterans and their guardians to complete medical questionnaires before flying.

In 2018, fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics cited by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The B-52H is finally getting new radar-system upgrades

Top defense contractors are competing to give America’s longest-serving bomber a big-time upgrade to its onboard sensors to improve the aircraft’s lethality in combat.

The radars on US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers are old and haven’t been updated since the 1980s.

To keep these decades-old aircraft fighting into the foreseeable future, the Air Force is pursuing new advanced radar systems that can unlock the full fighting capabilities of the older bombers, allowing them to eliminate ground targets, as well as take on non-traditional combat roles, such as taking out ships at sea and engaging in aerial combat.


Northrop Grumman, a major US defense contractor, is currently pushing to replace the B-52 bomber’s outdated AN/APQ-166 radars with its AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) as part of the B-52 Radar Modernization Program, Inside Defense reported Feb. 26, 2019.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

A B-52 Stratofortress.

(Photo by Airman 1st Class Victor J. Caputo)

The SABR system pitched for the B-52 is the same as that being installed on Air Force F-16s. Northrop Grumman has an enhanced SABR variant for the B-1B Lancer as well.

Also in the running to provide improved radar systems for the B-52, Raytheon is pulling radar capabilities from the F-15’s APG-63(v)3 and APG-82 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars and the APG-79 on the Super Hornets and Growlers, according to an earlier statement from the company.

The US Air Force is determined to see the 60-year-old bombers wage war for at least a century, so the heavy, long-range bombers are receiving a variety of upgrades to extend their length of service. Improvements include an upgraded weapons rack for smart munitions, new engines, and a new radar system, among other things.

Northrop Grumman submitted a proposal this week to Boeing, which is handling source selection for the radar upgrades for the Air Force.

The company states its SABR system “leverages [the] proven, fifth-generation Active Electronically Scanned Array radar capabilities of the AN/APG-77 on the F-22 Raptor and the AN/APG-81 on the F-35 Lightning II.”

Incorporating AESA radar capabilities into the B-52’s sensor suite would be a big deal, The War Zone’s Tyler Rogoway explains, noting that an advanced radar system like Northrop Grumman’s SABR could improve targeting, surveillance, and situational awareness.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

A B-52 taking off from Tinker AFB.

The upgrade would allow the bomber’s six-man crew to simultaneously engage ground and naval targets in all weather conditions and at greater distances, target enemies using advanced electronic attack capabilities, and even engage in air-to-air combat if necessary.

With these enhanced capabilities and the B-52’s ability to carry a large arsenal of weaponry into battle, the aircraft will be better prepared to fight in contested anti-access zones and defend friendly forces.

China and Russia, both of which are locked in military competition with the US, have been pursuing standoff capabilities to create anti-access/area-denial environments, and the US military is working hard to counter emerging challenges to American operations by developing its own standoff capabilities.

For instance, during 2018’s Valiant Shield exercises, B-52 bombers practiced dropping new 2,000-pound derivatives of the Quickstrike-ER (extended range) naval mine. The bombers can lay devastating mine fields from 50 miles away.

Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are also competing to replace the AN/APG-73 radar systems on older-model F/A-18 Hornets, with Northrop offering the SABR system and Raytheon offering its APG-79, according to Inside Defense.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This airman discovered the ecstasy of choriso while stationed in Guam

Navy veteran and Food Network Allstar, August Dannehl cooks a four course meal for his fellow vets based on stories from their service. A braised pork belly inspired by the MRE’s feared dehydrated pork product, Chicken Tagine inspired by a training mission in Morocco – these elements provide the backdrop for a holiday celebration between veterans.


Christopher Allen’s time in the Air Force eventually brought him to the beautiful and isolated island of Guam for a stint as an Air Traffic Controller. It was in this exotic local that he was served chorizo for the first time, and it changed his life forever.

Yukon Chorizo Hash w/ Quail Egg and Yuzu Vinaigrette

Inspired by Chris’ service in Guam

Ingredients

Hash

2 lbs yukon gold potatoes (washed and peeled)

2 lbs fresh Mexican chorizo

1 jalapeno (seeded, stemmed and diced)

3 cloves garlic (minced)

1 lg. spanish onion (diced)

4 quail eggs

Yuzu Vinaigrette

3 tb yuzu juice

zest from 1 lemon

Also need

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

parsley (chopped) for garnish

Prepare

Add potatoes to a large pot, fill until covered with cold, liberally salted water and bring to boil. Once boiling, par-cook potatoes until almost fork tender (about 15 mins).

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbs of olive oil on medium heat – add onion, garlic and jalapeño. Meanwhile, squeeze chorizo out of their casings and set aside. Once onion is translucent(about 5 mins) add chorizo and sauté (should look like ground beef).

Once potatoes are par-boiled, remove, cool (but don’t rinse), chop into same size and shape as onion and add to the chorizo mixture. Cook through, adding salt and pepper to taste and letting potatoes and aromatics incorporate flavors from the chorizo spices.

Prepare the vinaigrette by adding yuzu and lemon zest to a boil and adding 4-6 tbs of olive oil while whisking vigorously. Add salt and pepper to taste.

When ready to serve, fry quail egg in olive oil over medium low heat for 2 mins, take off heat, cover and serve over chorizo mixture in a ramekin. Garnish with parsley and top with yuzu vinaigrette.

Music courtesy of Jingle Punks
Dramatic Classical Hip Hop – Trent Williamson

Madridista-JP – The Beards

MIGHTY FIT

Here’s who will face the new Marine Corps PFT rules first

Marines will soon get the option to swap crunches on their physical fitness test with a plank. Officer candidates reporting to training in January 2020 will be the first to see the change.

The Marine Corps updated its graduation requirements Nov. 8, 2019, for candidates reporting to Officer Candidates School in 2020. Members of Officer Candidate Course No. 233 will be the first to have the option to perform a plank on their PFT.

Candidates will have to hold a plank for at least a minute and three seconds to get the minimum score required on that portion of the PFT to be admitted to and graduate from OCS.


The requirement is the same for men and women, regardless of age. Marine recruits who ship to boot camp after Jan. 1, 2020, will also have the options of doing a plank in place of crunches.

Marine officials announced in June 2019 that a plank would be allowed on the abdominal strength section of the PFT. The exercise must be held for four minutes and 20 seconds to receive the full 100 points.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson)

In September 2019, the Force Fitness Division and Force Fitness Readiness Center put out a video detailing the proper form. Marines must be in a push-up position with feet hip-width apart, with arms bent at a 90-degree angle at the elbow so the forearms rest flat on the ground. The Marine’s hips must be raised off the floor, and hands must touch the ground either lying flat or in fists.

Officer candidates can opt for the plank in place of completing 70 crunches within two minutes.

All candidates need at least a 220 on their PFT to be accepted into OCS and then a 235 or higher to graduate.

The new rules will apply not only to candidates reporting to OCS in January 2020, but all future classes, according to a Marine Corps administrative message announcing the new requirements.

Sailors will replace sit-ups with a plank on the Navy Readiness Test sometime this year. That service is currently gathering data from about 600 sailors before setting new scoring requirements.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

Japan to practice missile defense at US bases

Japan’s military will practice deploying anti-missile batteries at three US bases in Japan as concern grows about the North Korean missile threat.


The exercises will take place August 29 at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in western Japan. They will be repeated on September 7 at Misawa Air Base in northern Japan.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts
A PATRIOT Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement advanced missile defense system launches during a recent ballistic missile target test. Photo form US Army.

The US military says the drills will test the ability of Japanese and US forces to work together and assess firing locations at the bases. They will also allow Japan to practice rapid deployment of its PAC-3 anti-missile system.

North Korea has conducted a series of test launches to develop its missile capability and recently threatened to send missiles over western Japan and into waters near the US territory of Guam.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 reasons why 24-hour duty isn’t as bad as troops make it out to be

A sense of dread washes over the company as the most recent version of the duty roster gets posted in the common area. The troops shuffle toward the single piece of paper while crossing their fingers, hoping that their name hasn’t been called. But alas, a poor, unfortunate soul gets stuck with duty next Tuesday and, upon learning that, their day is cast to ruin.

Sound familiar? Troops tend to over-dramatize the “horrors” of getting stuck on staff duty every single time the duty roster goes up. But why? Seriously? You’re being put at a desk for 24-hours and told to maintain the area. Once that timer is done, the next shift comes in to replace you and you’re done for the day.

I guess it can feel like you have all eyes on you if you’re at Battalion or higher, but barracks CQ is the most skate job ever. Your only real job is to not fall asleep — and yet, for some odd reason, everyone has sympathy for you.


Here’s why it’s not as bad as everyone makes it sound:

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

​You might have to deal with one or two people coming in, but that’s about it.

(U.S. Army)

1. You don’t really do anything

The officer handles the occasional phone calls, the NCO walks about the area once or twice, and the lower enlisted mops the hallways. That’s about the extent of a normal staff duty shift.

Yes, there’s the off-chance that a situation arises. If it does? You, as the staff duty, are just going to log it and let the chain of command handle the ramifications.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

And you’re not going to be doing any major cleaning. That police call is done by everyone else.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Lee Hyokang)

2. You clean once and it stays clean until it’s the next guy’s problem

Officers and NCOs don’t complain about staff duty as much. They’ve either realized how sweet of a gig it actually is or they’re holding it together for professionalism’s sake. The ones who moan the loudest are the lower enlisted — but as we mentioned earlier, they just have to clean up a bit and… that’s it.

The good thing about cleaning is that it’s almost always expected to be done at night when there’s little chance that anyone will come in and disrupt the cleanliness. So, you just sweep and mop the floors and probably take the trash out. How terrible.

The best thing about cleaning is that it only has to be done once, and then it usually stays clean until it becomes the next guy’s problem. It’s not like your entire 24-hour shift is spent cleaning.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

They may have to pretend if someone signs out on leave, but don’t take it personally.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace)

3. Your duty officer or NCO will become human again

At about 0200, when no one else is around, the normally-salty leaders drop their tough-guy act for a little while and relax with the lower enlisted.

When they’ve got nothing better to do, they’ll open up about when they were a young, dumb private or share stories about when they were deployed. Enjoy it. The moment the commander checks in early, the stoic facade is back in full swing.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

Even the big wigs have to sleep. But when they’re awake… You might want to look busy.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andrew Jones)

4. You can study… or play video games, or read, or watch tv, or…

Everyone is asleep after midnight. You might run into someone trying to sign out on leave, but there’s not a single soul to check up on you. So, do whatever you want — as long as you stay in the area.

I’ve seen people bring entire gaming setups to barracks CQ and without anyone batting an eye. You can’t leave, but if you give a heads up to the NCO or officer with you, you can probably get away with a trip to the gas station or something.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

Meanwhile, they’ve probably learned to sleep with their eyes open.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. John L. Carkeet IV, U.S. Army Japan)

5. You might be able to swing a nap between 0100 and 0530. 

The most daunting thing about staff duty is that you’re expected to remain awake the entire time. It’s problem up to around midnight but the, like a normal person, the drowsiness settles in big-time at about 0200.

Remember the part above about how probably nobody will check in on you between 0100 and the time the commander shows up? Let the officer or NCO you’re with know that you’re about to rack out for a quick nap and, if they’re cool with you, they’ll probably come up with some excuse as to why you’re not currently present if necessary.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

“Give this to those poor, hardworking troops on Staff Duty. They’re working their asses off trying not to sleep…”

(U.S. Navy photo by Lieutenant junior grade Rob Kunzig)

6. You aren’t even really screwed on Holidays

The worst time to get stuck on staff duty is over a holiday, especially when it would have otherwise been a day off for you. But there’s a silver lining here: Everyone takes extreme pity on you. If your chain of command likes you, they might even swing an extra comp day your way to make it up to you.

Remember the story about when Secretary of Defense Mattis was still in the Corps and he relieved from young Marine for Christmas staff duty? That happens more often than you’d think. I, personally, have been screwed out of leave packets and ended up on four consecutive Independence Day duties. Each time, the Colonel came in with something to relieve “the pain” of staff duty.

It’s a nice change of pace.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

“It’s time to get back to what’s important in life… Doing nothing…”

(U.S. Army photo)

7. You get that sweet, sweet comp day

When the next guy shows up, you’re free for an entire 24 hours. It’s expected that you’ll be catching up on sleep, but nobody wants to screw up their circadian rhythm, so you’ll probably just take it easy.

If you’re truly a part of the E-4 Mafia or Lance Cpl. Underground, you’ll try to sweet-talk someone into giving you their Thursday duty, which means you have a free three-day weekend. Not so bad for a couple hours of cleaning, right?

Articles

US cruiser collides with South Korean fishing boat

A U.S. naval vessel collided with a South Korean fishing boat but no injuries were reported following the accident.


The USS Lake Champlain was taking part in joint naval exercises off the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula when the collision occurred, Yonhap news agency reported Tuesday.

The Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser hit the South Korean fishing vessel at around 11:50 a.m., local time.

South Korea’s coast guard said the accident occurred about 70 miles east of Gangguhang Port, a large harbor in Yeongdeok city, in South Gyeongsang Province.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) transit the Philippine Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers/Released)

“At the time of the collision there were no injuries, the front of the fishing boat was damaged, as was a part of the U.S. naval vessel,” the coast guard said.

The coast guard also said an accident at sea involving a U.S. naval boat and a Korean fishing boat was “unprecedented.”

The U.S. Navy and the South Korea coast guard continue to investigate the accident.

The USS Lake Champlain measures more than 560 feet in length, significantly larger than the South Korean boat measuring about 60 to 70 feet.

The South Korean fishing boat returned to Pohang port in the evening.

The accident occurred as the Lake Champlain was conducting exercises at sea with the USS Carl Vinson, the USS Wayne E. Meyer, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, and the USS Michael Murphy, the 62nd ship of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

Humor

6 crazy things some troops get away with living in the barracks

Unless you’re married, you better plan on living in the barracks — or prepare to be homeless. Although the idea of sharing a room with two or three other people sounds sh*tty, you can get away with some pretty interesting things if no one hates on you.


Many troops will try and bend the rules as far as they can, just to see what they can get away with.

Related: 7 ways barracks parties prepare you for college life

1. Having an unauthorized roommate.

Since staying in the barracks is like living in a cramped studio apartment, some service members occasionally invite a special someone to stay with them for various periods of time. Although it’s against the rules to allow a civilian to live in the barracks temporarily, you won’t get in trouble for it if they stay hidden in the closet while you’re off at work.

Unless you have plenty of haters around, you can manage to keep your civilian roommate a secret for a while.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

2. Collecting BAH.

The barracks are usually run by what we call, “Barrack Sergeants.” If you’re cool with this guy or gal, you might be able to get yourself a free room, even though you’re collecting BAH.

3. Throwing loud parties.

How well someone can get away with throwing loud parties boils down to the number of people who like the person hosting the bash. If the barracks duty is a friend of yours, you can party all freakin’ night long.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts
Best barracks party ever!

4. Running a side-hustle business.

Contrary to popular belief, young enlisted troops can operate a business out of their barracks room. Since nobody pays rent, running a business requires little overhead. Although it sounds like a good idea to make some extra cash, the practice is highly frowned upon.

5. Using unauthorized appliances.

There are a few things you’re not allowed to have in your barracks room, like stoves, candles, and pets. However, some people get away with having appliances that aren’t on that list — if you’re cool.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts
He’s pushing it.

Also read: 5 things only medics can get away with

6. Getting a private room.

This is one of the hardest things to pull off in the barracks. Getting your own room is mostly a product of luck or a lot of a**kissing. Someone has to really like you out there — or your command has extra cash to afford private berthing quarters.

Articles

This Vietnam vet describes what it was like to dodge machine gun fire to save his buddies

Tony Nadal is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who spent his whole life with the military in some way. Nadal was born on Fort Benning, Georgia, and his father was also an Army officer.


The younger Nadal only ever wanted to go to West Point and be an Army officer. That’s exactly what he did.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts


His first duty station after airborne school and Ranger school took him to Munich, Germany. After three years of European service, Nadal got wind of Special Forces operations in Laos. He decided to move toward the sound of the guns.

After a Special Forces deployment in Laos, he returns to the U.S. to lead soldiers in an Air Mobile Division. On July 28, 1965, his Air Mobile Division was sent to Vietnam. His battalion was the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry, under the command of Lt. Col. Hal Moore. By November, they were responding to intelligence about an NVA position in the Chu Pong Mountains.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts
Nadal in Vietnam (AARP)

Moore led his battalion to an area called Ia Drang, landing at a place the Army dubbed LZ X-Ray. The battalion’s eight Huey helicopters could only carry six men each, so they had to bring the entire battalion in 48 men at a time. By the time the 7th Cavalry landed 124 men, intelligence from a captured North Vietnamese soldier informed the Americans they were outnumbered 19-to-1.

“I can forget a lot of things about life but I won’t forget the feel, the sense, the smell of LZ-XRAY,” Nadal said in a video interview. “Colonel Moore immediately realized it was going to be a battle for survival.”

Over three days, 3,500 U.S., South, and North Vietnamese soldiers fought for a contested victory, leaving 308 Americans and 660 NVA dead, with 544 U.S. and 670 NVA wounded. It was the first major battle between the U.S. Army and the North Vietnamese Army.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts
Combat operations at Ia Drang Valley, Vietnam, November 1965. Major Bruce P. Crandall’s UH-1D helicopter climbs skyward after discharging a load of infantrymen on a search and destroy mission. (U.S. Army photo)

Then-Capt. Tony Nadal lost 15 of his men in the first two days of fighting. Sleepless and battered, his command was ordered out before the Air Force cleared the area out.

The video below was produced by AARP Studios for the American Heroes Channel. Tony Nadal describes how he feels as he pushes himself into the machine gun and grenade fire to retrieve the bodies of some of his soldiers.

“I feel the loss of all my soldiers,” Nadal said. “When you get through all of the bravado, what you’re left with is anguish. They fought for a cause… there was the expectation that when your country calls, you go.”

The legendary battle was depicted in the book “We Were Soldiers Once… and Young” and the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

COVID-19: Tajikistan officially confirms first cases

The global death toll from the coronavirus is approaching 230,000 with more than 3.2 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.

Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.



Tajikistan

Tajik authorities said they had registered 15 coronavirus cases in the country, the first such cases after weeks of mounting speculation that officials were suppressing information about the disease.

The confirmation of the cases, made April 30 by the government task force charged with fighting the coronavirus, poses a dangerous challenge for the authoritarian government.

Tajikistan’s health-care system is underfunded and unequipped to deal with a widespread outbreak of cases. The government, under President Emomali Rahmon, has suppressed opposition parties, civil society groups, and independent media for years, leading to a vacuum of information.

The country’s Health Ministry said five coronavirus cases had been recorded in Dushanbe and 10 in the northern city of Khujand.

The ministry did not release any further details such as when the cases were discovered or which hospitals the patients were being treated at.

The state-run Khovar news agency said that the task force ordered that all Tajiks must now wear face coverings when outdoors.

Even as infections skyrocketed in other Central Asian nations, Rahmon flouted warnings from international experts to order social-distancing restrictions or other measures to try to curtail any spread of the disease.

Suspicion has grown amid a spike in respiratory diseases that have been described as pneumonia or tuberculosis.

Even though it had not confirmed any cases at the time, the government last week closed schools for two weeks and suspended the national soccer season over the coronavirus.

Adding to the confusion, the country representative of the World Health Organization, Galina Perfilyeva, has for weeks repeated government insistence that there were no cases in the country.

On April 27, she warned that the country must be ready for the “worst-case scenario.” WHO officials said a team of experts were expected to travel to Tajikistan on April 30.

Turkmenistan now is the only country in Central Asia that has not officially reported any cases of the virus.

Central Asia

Other countries across Central Asia have begun to ease restrictions that were suspended over the coronavirus outbreak.

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev said on April 30 that the resumption of economic activities will take into consideration priorities and proceed in 10-day stages beginning on May 1.

According to Abylgaziev, his cabinet has allocated some million for measures to slow the spread of the virus.

Kyrgyz Interior Minister Kashkar Junushaliev told reporters on April 30 that all checkpoints in Bishkek, the capital, will be removed on May 1 and that police will patrol streets to monitor vehicle movements.

The Health Ministry said on April 30 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country had reached 746, including eight deaths.

Neighboring Uzbekistan has begun to ease restrictions as well, announcing that, as of April 30, citizens could resume using private cars from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The use of private vehicles was temporarily banned in March because of the pandemic.

A day earlier, the Uzbek government extended the suspension of all flights abroad to June 30. International flights, except cargo flights, were suspended initially for one month on March 30.

According to health officials, there were 2,017 coronavirus cases, including nine deaths, in Uzbekistan as of April 30.

The largest number of coronavirus cases in the region has been officially registered in Kazakhstan, where the latest figures on April 30 were 3,273 cases with 25 deaths.

Kazakhstan

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on Kazakhstan to stop harassing journalists covering the coronavirus outbreak in the country, saying they are being subjected to “interrogation, prosecution, and violation of the confidentiality of their sources.”

“On the pretext of avoiding panic, the authorities are harassing journalists and bloggers who stray from the official line on the epidemic,” Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement on April 30.

“This exploitation of the state of emergency is harming press freedom in Kazakhstan. It must stop,” Cavelier added.

The statement cited the case of Zaure Mirzakhodjaeva, a journalist and blogger in the southern city of Shymkent, who was summoned and questioned by the police for seven hours last week over a Facebook post.

It said Mirzakhodjaeva is now being criminally investigated for allegedly spreading false information.

Media in Kazakhstan have been subjected to “judicial harassment” since the Central Asian country declared a state of emergency on March 16, according to RSF.

The Paris-based media freedom watchdog said the authorities are “monitoring social media and media outlets closely for what they regard as excessive criticism of the government’s handling of the health crisis.”

Serbia

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has shortened a three-day weekend curfew to just one day to allow for celebrations of the May 1 holiday amid ongoing public protests over restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

“We propose that the curfew begin at 6 p.m. [on April 30] and last until [May 1] at 5 a.m.,” Vucic told state broadcaster RTS on April 29.

An original plan would have imposed a curfew from the evening of April 30 until the morning of May 4 in order to limit gatherings of people in public places. Serbs traditionally celebrate May 1 with large picnics.

Serbia introduced draconian measures last month, including a state of emergency, the closure of borders, a daily curfew from 5 p.m., and total lockdowns all weekend, including all four days of the Orthodox Easter holiday.

Gatherings of more than five people remain banned, Vucic said.

The decision follows three nights of noisy protests by Serb citizens who were stuck at home and resorted to banging tin pans and drums to vent their anger at the government and its tough containment measures against the virus.

The protests are similar to one held in 1996 and 1997 in response to what they saw as electoral fraud attempts by the Socialist Party of Serbia, led by President Slobodan Milosevic, after local elections in 1996.

The coronavirus protests have also provided an outlet for discontent with the policies of Vucic, a former nationalist firebrand and ex-information minister under Milosevic who later adopted pro-European values.

Many Serbs say Vucic, in power since 2012, and his ruling coalition are displaying traits of authoritarianism, employing oppression against political opponents, stifling media freedoms, corruption, cronyism, and ties with organized crime.

Vucic and his allies deny such accusations.

As of April 2, the number of coronavirus infections in Serbia was almost 8,500, with 168 deaths, according to Serbia’s Health Ministry.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

Meet the first enlisted soldier to max out the ACFT

The new Army Combat Fitness Test is scheduled to replace the current Army Physical Fitness Test by October of 2020, but units across the Army are preparing for it now. Out of all formations the Army has across the world, only one can claim an enlisted soldier who has maxed the test: 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), the “Frozen Chosin.”


All Army units have that “one” soldier. The PT-master. Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1-32IN takes physical fitness very seriously. He regularly maxes out the APFT (a score of 300), and recently maxed out the ACFT (a score of 600), making him the second soldier in the Army to achieve such a goal.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), poses for a photo at the 1-32IN 24-hour gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

“It all started in high school where I wrestled and weight-lifted. Then I got into power lifting for a few years and cross-fit where I competed a lot.” Gonzalez said. “Then I drifted off into solely Olympic lifting and went to Nationals where I placed in the top 20. After that I joined the Army.”

Like many soldiers who joined the Army later in life, Gonzalez has seen his share of life outside of a military career, and saw joining as a way to straighten out and get on track.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a kettle bell lap at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

“It’s been the story of my life. I never felt like I had a career. I’m very athletic and competitive, but a little old to be trying out for the Olympic team at 29. I went to college a few times, but the structure the Army offered has helped me stick to things and get them done.”

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), prepares to perform T-pushups at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

Like his Army career, Gonzalez has a habit of finding a path to success and running it to ground with tenacity. When he found out just how much the ACFT incorporated into what he already knew about cross-fit, he made it his mission be on top and help others get there with him.

“I’m looking at getting to Ranger school soon, and going Special Forces would be awesome. I want to be the best I can be. Me and a lot of other soldiers are in the gym countless nights, working on strength and speed. It feels good,” Gonzalez said.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a ball toss at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

When the ACFT hits Army Ranks in 2020, it will be the first time all soldiers, male and female, will be held to the same standard of fitness and accomplishment. It levels the playing field dramatically by introducing events specifically designed to test fitness levels and push soldiers to the edge of burnout.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts

Spc. Juan Gonzalez, a scout with Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (LI), performs a leg tuck at the Atkins Functional Fitness 24-hour Gym where Gonzalez trained hard enough to become the 1st enlisted Soldier to max out the new Army Combat Fitness Test with a score of 600.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Avery)

It will be difficult. It will be stressful. But it’s meant to be. Thankfully, with soldiers like Spc. Gonzalez in our formations, motivating and supporting the troops, we can all aspire to be the tip of the spear.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

China issued a warning to its citizens traveling to the US

The Chinese Embassy in Washington issued a notice on June 30, 2018, telling its citizens to take caution when traveling to the US over summer.

“First, the United States medical expenses are expensive,” the notice said, encouraging its citizens to organize health cover in advance of travel.

The notice also warned that “US law and order is not good, and shootings, robberies, and theft are frequent.” Gun violence is a leading cause of death in the US.


“You should be on alert to suspicious people around you and avoid going out alone at night,” the notice also said.

China has issued warnings against the high rate of gun violence in the US in the past.

In 2017, the Chinese consulate in Los Angeles published a guide for citizens on how to respond to an active-shooter situation. And in April, 2018, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued an advisory on popular messaging platform WeChat urging citizens to “be careful and prepare for the possibility that gun crimes may occur at workplaces, schools, at home and at tourist sites,” the New York Times reported.

The Pentagon is designing rations just for grunts
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China headquarters.

The embassy notice issued on June 30, 2018, also discussed US border policy, and notified tourists that border patrol have the right to inspect travelers and to check their nationality and purpose of entry without a search warrant. But it also advised citizens to be vigilant.

“If the parties involved believe that the law enforcement officers have engaged in improper law enforcement or discriminatory practices, please keep the relevant evidence and ask to make a complaint to their superiors in person,” it said. “Sparking controversy with on-site law enforcement personnel is not helpful for resolving the obstruction of entry, and may even lead to a deterioration of the situation.”

The US has come under international scrutiny over the Trump administration’s tightened border security measures, including its “zero-tolerance” policy, which has seen more than 2,300 migrant families separated. Several videos have also surfaced showing border agents patrolling bus stations and asking travelers for identification.

In 2017, the US saw a drop in foreign tourism, which some dubbed the “Trump Slump.” According to Travel + Leisure, the US welcomed 72.9 million foreign visitors in 2017, down from the previous year’s 75.9 million, though the decline was only about 4%.

Under the Obama administration, the US saw record high numbers in 2015 with 77.5 million foreign visitors, Travel + Leisure added.

In 2016, nearly 3 million Chinese tourists visited the US and spent $33 billion, more than tourists from any other country.

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