On December 4, 2020, President Trump signed a bill that waives a federal law requiring that requires a Medal of Honor to be awarded within five years of the actions for which the award is recommended. The bill, H.R. 8276, was introduced by Representatives Michael Waltz (R-FL), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), and Dan Crenshaw (R-TX). By signing the bipartisan bill into law, President Trump has authorized U.S. Army Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor.
On October 17, 2005, Sfc. Cashe was part of a route clearance mission in Daliaya, Iraq. He served as the platoon sergeant of 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division. Previously, the experienced NCO infantryman served in the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. During the route clearance, Cashe was in the lead M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle when it struck an IED.
The explosion ruptured the vehicle’s fuel cell which covered Cashe in fuel, and caused the vehicle to burst into flames. Initially slightly injured, Cashe exited the Bradley, helped the driver out, and extinguished the flames on his clothes. Six of Cashe’s soldiers and their interpreter remained in the Bradley which had been consumed by the flames. Cashe moved the the rear of the vehicle and reached through the flames to rescue his men, his fuel-soaked uniform burning. He rescued six soldiers and refused medical attention until the others were evacuated. Sadly, the interpreter was killed in action. 10 soldiers from the Bradley were wounded, 7 of them severely. Cashe suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 72% of his body. He succumbed to his wounds on November 8, 2005.
For his heroic actions, Cashe was awarded the Silver Star. Since then, Cashe’s family has led the effort to upgrade his award to the medal of honor. Recently, however, Cashe’s valor and his family’s campaign have gained public attention. Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, Cashe’s battalion commander at the time, said that he was not aware of the extent of Cashe’s injuries when he nominated Cashe for the Silver Star. The general since has submitted additional statements to the Army to justify upgrading Cashe’s Silver Star to the Medal of Honor.
On October 17, 2019, 14 years after Cashe rescued his men from the burning Bradley, Reps. Waltz, Murphy, and Crenshaw wrote to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy formally requesting Cashe’s award be upgraded to the Medal of Honor. On August 24, 2020, Secretary Esper agreed that Cashe’s actions merited the upgrade. The following month, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 8276 to waive the five-year statute of limitations. The same month, Pittsburgh Steelers left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, brought public attention to the campaign by taping Cashe’s name on the back of his helmet.
On November 10, 2020, the Senate also unanimously passed the bill and cleared the way for Cashe to posthumously receive the Medal of Honor. With President Trump’s signing of the bill, the last hurdle to recognize Cashe with the nation’s highest military honor is cleared. “I applaud President Trump for signing our bill into law, recognizing Sergeant First Class Alwyn Cashe for his bravery in risking his own life to save his fellow soldiers,” said Crenshaw. “He is deserving of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest military award for bravery on the battlefield, and now he is finally receiving proper recognition for his bravery and sacrifice.”
Once the President receives endorsement from the new acting Secretary of Defense, Christopher Miller, he will be able to award the Medal of Honor to Cashe. This would make Cashe the first African-American to receive the award for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. On July 23, 2020, Cashe’s son, Andrew, followed in his father’s footsteps and graduated as an infantryman at Fort Benning, Georgia.
A senior Marine Corps drill instructor forced a recruit to give up his Facebook password so he could hit on the recruit’s sisters and made others complete his college homework, witnesses said in an Article 32 investigative hearing at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, on Thursday.
Staff Sgt. Antonio Burke, whose identity was publicly revealed at the hearing for the first time, may face trial on charges including two counts of cruelty and maltreatment; two count of failure to obey an order or regulation; one count each of false official statement, wrongful appropriation, and insubordination; and five counts of general misconduct. Thursday’s hearing will determine whether he will go to court-martial or face a lesser form of adjudication.
Four former recruits from Kilo Company, Platoon 3044, at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina, testified that Burke, an administrative Marine by trade with nearly 10 years of service, frequently called them names including “stupid” and “f—-t,” among other unprintable expletives, and allowed other drill instructors to do the same.
Multiple recruits testified that the drill instructors would bring members of the platoon into “the dungeon”– an unoccupied building with an abandoned squad bay in disrepair and filled with a fine yellow dust. When the recruits were made to conduct incentive training, or strenuous physical exercise designed for correction, they would cough and struggle to breathe as the dust swirled, they said. These sessions, recruits testified, would last from 10 to 20 minutes at a time.
To demonstrate the hazards of the dungeon, military prosecutor Maj. Gregg Curley presented Col. James Bartolotto, the preliminary hearing officer, with a large jar containing a sample of the dust, shaking it to show how easily it became a thick cloud.
Witnesses also testified that Burke recruited self-identified “smart” recruits to come into the drill instructor hut to help him complete his college homework, a non-authorized activity for recruits, as Burke believed he was falling behind.
Appropriate levels of training and stress are very strictly designed by military education personnel. (Photo: U.S. Marine Corps)
The allegations against Burke came to light as part of a wide-ranging series of investigations regarding alleged mistreatment of recruits at Parris Island — a pattern that was found to include abuse that prompted one recruit, Raheel Siddiqui, to take his own life last March.
The alleged misconduct of Burke and a number of other drill instructors in Platoon 3044 was revealed after an anonymous letter from “Concerned loved ones of innocent recruits in Kilo Company” was sent to President Barack Obama in April 2016. In all, 56 recruits and three family members were interviewed as a result of the investigation.
After the investigation was launched, all of the platoon’s drill instructors were relieved of their duties and replaced by new ones last summer.
Also accused were Staff Sgts. Matthew Bacchus and Jose Lucena-Martinez, and Sgt. Riley Gress, all of whom face similar charges and are set to be arraigned Friday.
Lance Cpl. Kelvin Cabrera, a reservist with 4th Civil Affairs Group, out of Hialeah, Florida, testified that Burke would force recruits to show him photographs they received from home, sometimes keeping them for himself. After being forced to turn over a family photograph against his will, Cabrera said, he was summoned to the drill instructor hut in April 2016 and told Burke found one of his sisters attractive and wanted him to log onto Facebook so Burke could send messages to her.
When Cabrera refused, he was made to perform burpees, or squat thrusts, until he complied, he said. Bacchus, he said, was also present. After logging on to his Facebook account on Burke’s smartphone, Cabrera said the drill instructor expressed interest in another one of his sisters and forced him to call her. Then, Cabrera said, Burke grabbed the phone and tried to ask her out.
“I couldn’t explain [to my sister] what was happening,” he said. “She told me not to do that again, to call her and give the phone to a random man.”
While Burke did not testify in his defense, he said in a recording played for the court that his habit of forcing the recruits to show him their photos was an “inside joke” and he never kept them.
Zachary Mosier, a former recruit who was medically separated from Platoon 3044 as a result of an irregular heartbeat after passing out on three separate occasions during intensive physical training, testified that he had received inconsistent levels of medical attention on these occasions, and, under Burke’s oversight, had not been seen by a corpsman or medical professionals on the second occasion.
Another former recruit who left the Marine Corps shortly after boot camp due to injury, Evan Murdoch, said Burke had tried to cover up the first incident in which Mosier passed out, falling flat on his rifle during push-ups in what Murdoch described as “excessive” incentive training, lasting longer than the 15 minutes that is allowed.
“He said, ‘Look, that didn’t happen today, did it,’ hinting that no one should say anything,” Murdoch testified.
The commander of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, is expected to make a decision this month on whether to send Burke’s case to court-martial.
Winter sucks everywhere. Sure, the bugs have finally frozen over and you can finally break out that coat you like, but it’s cold, you’re always late because your car won’t defrost in time, and no one seems to remember to tap their brakes when stopping at intersections.
But, as any optimist might tell you, things can always get worse! While it sucks for us up here in the middle of December, it’s actually the nicest time to be in Antarctica — nice by Antarctic standards anyway.
It doesn’t last, though, as the winters there begin in mid-February and don’t let up until mid-November. And don’t forget, we have brothers and sisters in the U.S. Armed Forces down there embracing the suck of the coldest temperatures on Earth.
McMurdo Station is by far the most populated location on the entire continent with a population of 250 in the winter.
(Photo by Sarah E. Marshall)
To ensure that no hostilities occur on the frozen continent, the Antarctica Treaty lists it as “the common heritage of mankind.” As such, only scientific expeditions are allowed down there. Since airmen, sailors, and coast guardsmen have the capabilities to assist in this respect, they routinely travel to scientific research facilities to help out. Their mission is, simply, keep the scientists alive and let them focus on doing their jobs.
During the winter, which, as we’d mentioned, lasts for ten months, most scientists head to more hospitable climates. Most. Not all. It’s up to the troops to help keep those who remain safe and well. Thankfully, there are only three spots on the entire barren continent that they need to keep tabs on: McMurdo Station, Palmer Station, and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
The ports and airstrips at Palmer Station remain active year round. In case of any emergencies, the Air Force and Navy can quickly send supplies into Palmer to have it distributed out further. At McMurdo Station, the winters are a little more intense, so the ports and airstrip are strictly for emergency use — but they manage.
Then there’re the troops with the scientists at the South Pole Station. They’re almost entirely frozen in. Thankfully, it doesn’t snow that much at the South Pole, but the wind combined with near-permanent darkness make it feel close to -100 Fahrenheit. The only real thing to do then is to bunker inside at the one bar located at the South Pole and wait for ten months inside.
To see what the winters actually look like in Antarctica, check out the video below.
No doubt you knew homework was involved in the school process, but the amount and the frequency might just surprise you.
No way you expected Mrs. Robinson to assign an essay the first day of basket-weaving class…
6. Think high school drama stays in high school? Nope
The drama that you left behind to serve Uncle Sam and this great nation didn’t go anywhere while you were gone.
It is waiting right where you left it, ready to infuriate your overly mature sensibilities.
5. Lack of structure
College does have structure, obviously, but it can’t begin to compete with the structure we grew accustomed to in the military.
Sure, you’re an adult with lots of life experience and you’re fully capable of completing tasks without supervision, but having the structure suddenly go missing is jarring for many of us.
4. Irritability… also a thing
By being in the military, you to get used to dealing with competent individuals. This is because, typically, an incompetent individual doesn’t make it very long — if at all.
Furthermore, if individuals begin to show incompetence, especially if you outrank them, it is perfectly fine and expected that you correct them. That type of behavior is frowned upon in most collegiate settings. It’s something that takes some getting used to.
The adjustment curve is typically worse for those with more time in service.
3. Yes, you’re the old guy/gal
This is a just a fact of life. The armed forces, as a whole, only make up about a half of one percent of the total population. This means that most of your classmates are civilians who probably came right from high school.
Truth be told, there’s a good chance that you’re older than at least one of your professors.
2. Your military experience may or may not apply
Depending on how different your scholastic endeavor is from your military service, what you did in uniform may or may not matter. This is a bitter pill to swallow for many of us, as we are extremely proud of our service and accomplishments.
This leaves us with a decision. We can become that guy/girl that always brings up their service, or try to find a new place to fit in. Good news though, a lot of schools will take your service and give you scholastic credit for it.
This is a bit different than just being older. Even if you went to school while in service, those studies often mirror your military duty. Breaking away from that causes you to have to learn and relearn the basics of whatever you’re studying.
This makes you Billy.
Not only are you older, but the subject matter is super entry-level.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford reiterated on Nov. 17, 2018, that reconciliation is the only way forward in Afghanistan and that political, economic, religious, and military pressure must be maintained on the group.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized to Yalda Hakim, a foreign correspondent of BBC World News, that there is no military solution in Afghanistan and that the struggle in that country will require all aspects of government.
The chairman was participating in a Halifax Chat as part of the 10th annual International Security Forum here.
“Success in Afghanistan is an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process,” Dunford said. “That requires us to have political pressure, social pressure and military pressure. In the military dimension, our task is to make sure the Taliban realize that they cannot win on the battlefield.”
NATO and partner nations are working closely with Afghan national security forces to keep the pressure on the Taliban. At the same time, other agencies are working to improve economic conditions in the country. In addition, Islamic organizations are working to encourage the Taliban to talk with and ultimately join the Afghan government. Religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan have issued fatwas calling on the Taliban to lay down their weapons and talk peace, Dunford said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is interviewed by BBC World News correspondent Yalda Hakim in Canada during the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada, Nov. 17, 2018.
(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
Part of the pressure was the recent elections in Afghanistan. “The elections that just took place, [were] largely successful and less violent, certainly, than people predicted,” he said. “And I think political transition in 2019 will also be critical in putting pressure on the Taliban.”
All this will combine to convince Taliban leaders that their future lies with reconciliation, the general said.
“But the key to success is to combine all of that pressure to incentivize the Taliban for, again, that Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process,” he said.
Undergirding everything in Afghanistan is the South Asia Strategy. A key provision in that is its conditions-based approach. The Afghan government and Afghan people know that the world is with them in trying to move through this constant state of war. “And I would also say that the decision by NATO and partner nations to support the Afghan national defense security forces through 2024 absolutely affects the Taliban’s calculus,” Dunford said.
This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.
Earlier this month, police in Argentina raided the home of an art collector and found a door leading to a room full of Nazi knives, sculptures, medical devices, magnifying glasses, and a large bust portrait of Adolf Hitler.
“There are no precedents for a find like this,” Nestor Roncaglia, the head of Argentina’s federal police, told The Associated Press. “Pieces are stolen or are imitations. But this is original, and we have to get to the bottom of it.”
Patricia Bullrich, Argentina’s security minister, told the AP: “There are objects to measure heads that was the logic of the Aryan race.”
Investigators are trying to figure out how such an extensive collection of Nazi memorabilia made it into the South American country, where several Nazi officials fled at the end of World War II.
After finding some illicit paintings at an art gallery, Argentinian police raided a Buenos Aires art collector’s home and found close to 75 items of old Nazi memorabilia that the man kept hidden by a bookcase that led to his secret shrine.
Members of the federal police carry a Nazi statue at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge)
A Hitler photo negative, Nazi sculptures, knives, head-measuring medical devices, and children’s toys with swastikas on them were among some of the items found.
A knife with Nazi markings was found in the man’s home. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).
This device was used to measure the size of a person’s head.
A World War II German army mortar aiming device, right, is shown at the Interpol headquarters in Buenos Aires. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge)
The police handed over the items to investigators and historians, who are trying to figure out how such a large collection made it into the home of one South American man.
A box with swastikas containing harmonicas for children. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).
After World War II, many high-ranking Nazi leaders fled to Argentina to escape trial. “Finding 75 original pieces is historic and could offer irrefutable proof of the presence of top leaders who escaped from Nazi Germany,” Ariel Cohen Sabban, the president of a political umbrella for Argentina’s Jewish institutes, told the AP.
An hourglass with Nazi markings. Photo by Natacha Pisarenko (Associated Press via News Edge).
As the last ISIS stronghold in Syria crumbles, it’s clear that the leadership of the terrorist organization had no intention of fighting to the death with their devoted fighters. The whereabouts of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have been unknown for some time, and those in his inner circle have been just as absent, from either the battlefields or the media.
Until now, that is.
“Guys, we’re totally coming to help you. Just keep fighting. We’ll be there in, like, two days. Pinky swear.”
It’s been six months since the world last heard from Abu Hassan al-Muhajir, the Islamic State’s official spokesperson. But on Mar. 18, 2019, the terrorist group released a 44-minute audio recording in the wake of the mosque shootings in New Zealand.
That shooting killed some 50 muslim worshippers while they were at prayer in the New Zealand city of Christchurch. The perpetrator was a white nationalist extremist from Australia, who broadcast the event all over social media. ISIS is trying to rebrand it as part of the Islamic State’s global struggle against the West.
“Here is Baghuz in Syria, where Muslims are burned to death and are bombed by all known and unknown weapons of mass destruction,” he said.
We’re pretty sure he meant to say “There is Baghuz…” because he is definitely somewhere else.
ISIS Is implying that muslims are being killed indiscriminately in Syria because of their religion. The truth of the matter is Baghuz is under attack from the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, who are fighting to take the town because it’s full of only ISIS fighters and their families. Those same ISIS fighters attempted a genocide against several Iraqi minorities at the peak of their power.
Despite what ISIS would have anyone believe, the global community of muslims has little to do with ISIS or its worldview.
Imam Alabi Zirullah warned his worshippers before the gunman could open fire on the group.
Alabi Lateef Zirullah is an imam at the Linwood mosque. He saw the gunman enter the mosque and warned the crowd to take cover. Linwood was one of two Mosques targeted and where seven people died.
“The heroes are those people who passed away, not me,” Zirullah said. “But I thank God Almighty for using me to save the few lives that I could.” The imam also had words for the attacker who stormed the mosque – words very different from ISIS’ message.
“I don’t hate him. He may have gone through a lot of bad experiences in his life. But that is no excuse to kill. We must overcome what has happened and be strong for the families of those who died. Hate cannot be the victor.”
My grandparents valued our nation’s history, and they did everything they could to ensure they passed down their knowledge and understanding of that history to the next generation. So, each summer from 5th Grade through my freshman year of high school, they took my cousins and I on road trips across the United States. Every trip ranged from two weeks to a month, traveling everywhere from the old Civil War battlefields in North Carolina to the cobblestone roads of River Street in Savannah, Georgia.
Even though we were just kids, we soaked up every bit of information we could about our nation’s convoluted and conflicted history. We learned to value our past, and the men and women who made our nation what it is today. For me, those trips laid a foundation I wouldn’t come to fully appreciate until years later … riding shotgun through Afghanistan.
My Grandfather was born in September 1939, too young for World War II or Korea, and too old for Vietnam by the time it came around. Grandpa was a model American though, at least as far as I was concerned. He worked a 30-year career with the phone company, raised three beautiful children, and married his high school sweetheart. He was eventually diagnosed with throat cancer; within a few years of diagnosis they removed all the cancer cells as well as his voice box.
But that didn’t stop him from doing what he thought was right.
Speaking with a mechanized voice box, he told his kids — including my mom — that he wanted to take the grandkids on a road trip to travel and explore our nation that summer. That led to many days and late nights in the passenger seat of my grandparents’ motorhome holding a Rand McNally road atlas while listening to my grandpa speak about his family’s legacy of military service with genuine admiration.
Grandpa told us about his oldest brother — they called him C.F. — who was an Infantryman that stormed Normandy’s beaches on D-Day. His brother Byron drove a tank through Italy, France, and Germany before almost being sent to Okinawa after the war in Europe had ended.
Against all odds, they somehow stumbled across each other during the war. Bryon was sitting on his tank as C.F. walked by with his unit; they were shocked at the sight of each other and took a moment to shower each other with questions before saying their good-byes and good lucks. That story stayed with me for a long time.
And then there was grandpa’s brother-in-law, Curtis. He rode on horseback behind enemy lines to establish communication lines in France during the war.
My grandpa spoke briefly but highly of his father-in-law — my great-grandfather, saying he served in World War I as an artilleryman. He struggled with shell shock; we call that PTSD these days. He’s standing next to an artillery cannon in France in the only picture we have of him.
My mind was doused in imagination; these men … these giants were the igniter. I had known them as kind, old southern gentlemen my entire childhood; my grandfather’s stories forced me to re-envision them as gigantic, unstoppable figures who changed the course of the world. These men were my heroes.
I still cherish every moment we spent together on the road discussing how our robust nation came to fruition, how our 16th President is revered as one of the best Presidents given the circumstances, and how FDR handled one of the greatest conflicts the world has ever experienced. My grandfather spent the waning years of his life passing down this historical knowledge to my cousins and me, and for that he will always be my hero.
From a very young age, I understood that our nation and livelihood was only attainable and sustained because of men like my relatives. Whether it was the moment Japan bombed Pearl Harbor or when Wilson brought us into WW1, these men answered the call willingly and selflessly. They understood what needed to be done to keep our nation’s virtues safe and guarded.
I was born in 1989, so a world-changing event like Pearl Harbor wouldn’t come into my life until a fall morning in 2001. I was in my 7th grade social studies class. Our teacher frantically rolled in the television and turned on the news. We sat as a class and watched one of the two towers burn in front of our eyes. A second plane came into frame, flying directly into the second tower. The gasps and cries in the room that day have never left my mind.
After about thirty minutes, the principal came over the intercom and cancelled classes for the day. I rushed to my bicycle, unlocked it, and pedaled home as fast as I could while images of the second plane crashing into the building devoured my thoughts. The front door of my house didn’t stand a chance; I unlocked it faster than I unlocked my bike, turned on the news and didn’t leave the living room until my mother got home from work.
She asked me if I’d been watching the tragic news all day. “Of course,” I told her. “If whatever happens is still happening when I turn eighteen, then I’m going to go and fight.” It was 2001 and 18 (the minimum age to go to war) was so far off in the distance that my mother didn’t argue. She knew I had a passionate love for this nation and respected the military tradition that our nation, and our family had cultivated.
Time went by. Days became months, months became years, and 2001 became 2005. My grandparents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at the same time my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On October 31, 2007, Julean Hatcher, my beloved grandmother who was the rock for all of us, passed away.
My life had not amounted to anything by that point. I wasn’t actively trying to pursue college … or anything to better myself for that matter. I finally held myself accountable for the oath I made to my mother as a 7th grader in 2001 and signed a contract with the Marine Corps. On Mother’s Day 2008, I left for Parris Island, South Carolina to begin my journey toward becoming a U.S. Marine.
Over the course of recruit training we were told numerous times we weren’t going to go anywhere, that we would go to Iraq if we were lucky. Would I follow in Grandpa’s footsteps and miss the war?
The war in Iraq was nearing its end (or so we thought), but what no one saw coming was President Obama taking office and ordering 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. That changed my life and the course of hundreds of thousands of lives. From my great-uncles to my great-grandfather, to every single man and woman that ever served this nation prior to this moment, I could feel our history was about to be written.
In January 2010, I was sent to Afghanistan as a combat replacement to Route Clearance Platoon 2. I spent the next four months operating in and out of Marjah, Afghanistan looking for and disposing of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Department of Defense
In April 2011, we deployed again to Helmand Province. But this time we were pushing into the now-infamous Sangin Valley, where we met heavy resistance. I spent so many days covered in a salt stained F.R.O.G. top wondering if my lineage would be proud of what we were doing, if they would be proud of the men and women who came after them to fight the good fight. I guess I’ll never truly know, but I’m confident they would be proud of every single one of us who raised our hands, recited that oath, and waved goodbye to family members as we loaded busses headed for war — just like they did.
I spent many days and late nights in the vehicle commander’s seat of a 4X4 MRAP truck building overlays on my map, marking the IED hits, SAF locations, and crater positions for hours on end. I sat there, navigating our platoon all throughout our area of operations, while reflecting on the times I spent with my grandfather learning about C.F. running through a curtain of steel while fighting his way up the Norman beaches. Thinking about Byron maneuvering his tank in just the right way to survive in the throes of battle. Imagining Curtis on horseback, evading the Nazis while setting up communications.
And my great-grandfather in France fighting against some of the worst evil the world had seen.
I couldn’t help but draw inspiration, motivation, and reasoning from my family’s history while fighting my generation’s war. They pushed me to excel and pursue becoming the type of American that might be somewhere … anywhere near the caliber of men they were.
I will always admire my grandfather for teaching me and captivating me with these stories of giant men and women who made a real impact on the world with their actions, all while leaving an impact that resonated to my core, shaped my thought process, and guided me to where I am today. We stand on the shoulders of giants, becoming giants for our children and their children to climb.
Team Rubicon, a non-government organization made up of military veterans and first responders, rapidly deploys skilled personnel to emergency areas after disasters. After the earthquake in Nepal, Team Rubicon sent folks who have made a difference on the ground executing what they’ve called OperationTenzing Nepal.
The team members have deployed to very remote areas, so knowing what to put in the pack-up is crucial.
Veterans with the appropriate skills set up medical aid stations to help those affected by the quake. After major disasters, the spread of disease can be accelerated due to contaminated water and a loss of basic services.
Keeping track of care can be a challenge in the chaotic, high patient volume environment that follows a disaster.
Many patients have multiple injuries, each of which requires treatment and follow-up. Teams stationed in a village do their best to make sure injuries don’t become worse.
Team Rubicon works with local and foreign governments while conducting their operations. And since many members are veterans, they are able to interact with militaries more easily than some NGOs.
Reconnaissance in remote areas can be challenging, especially after existing infrastructure is damaged by an earthquake. Drones allow foreign responders like Team Rubicon, as well as local forces, to respond more efficiently.
Team Rubicon is collecting donations to support of Operation Tenzing Nepal on their website. Also, military veterans or civilians with skills as first responders can volunteer with Team Rubicon for future operations. Teams serve one of 10 regional areas in the United States or deploy internationally.
Hollywood came to the Pentagon on Oct. 15, 2018, as actor Gerard Butler spoke to Pentagon reporters about his collaboration with the U.S. Navy in making “Hunter-Killer,” a submarine movie due out in October 2018.
The Pentagon press briefing studio was filled to capacity as Butler — who plays the commander of the fictional attack sub USS Arkansas in the movie – answered questions about the experience.
The movie posits an operation aimed at averting war with Russia. Butler said it is a chance to bring the submarine genre into the 21st century. “Hunter-Killer” is a chance to take viewers into submarines and let them see the culture, “and really see how these people think, work, their courage, their intelligence, basically their brilliance,” the actor said.
The plot alternates between the submarine, a special operations team inserted in Russia, and the Pentagon.
The Navy supported the effort even as the service remained “laser-focused” on warfighting in today’s era of great power competition. “But we’re also competing for talent, and in this dynamic economy, it’s more important than ever that we find ways to inspire the next generation of warfighters to consider serving our country in the Navy,” Roegge said.
Actor Gerard Butler and Navy Vice Adm. Fritz Roegge, current president of the National Defense University, speak about the movie “Hunter-Killer” during a Pentagon news conference, Oct. 15, 2018.
(DOD photo by Jim Garamone)
Only a small fraction of young Americans qualify to serve in the military. An even smaller number are aware of the opportunities the services offer. “Although the Navy benefits from technology that gives us the world’s most capable platforms and equipment, it is our people who are truly our greatest strength,” Roegge said. “In the words of another great Scotsman – John Paul Jones – ‘Men mean more than guns in the rating of a ship.’ So we will only remain the world’s greatest Navy by attracting the best talent from across our nation.”
Connecting with young Americans
Movies are a good way to reach young Americans and they are also a good vehicle to expose all Americans to their Navy, Roegge said. All Americans need to understand “they know their Navy: who we are, what we do, and why it matters.”
Butler was immersed in the submarine culture sailing aboard the USS Houston from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Being aboard the submarine was like being in another world, he said. “I felt like I could spend a year just in sonar. But I was shipped from sonar to the bridge, to navigation to the engine room to the torpedo room because I had a very quick-minded sub commander who wanted to show me every working living part of the submarine — even how to compress trash.”
Butler added, “What I really took out of it was the brilliance and the humility of the sailors I worked with. Not that I didn’t have that appreciation before – I certainly did – but having spent time with them to realize how their minds work and how agile and how creative they have to be. And they are constantly being tested to prove themselves to think logically, to think intuitively, and in all different matters.”
And it was real for Butler. “You can do it in a movie, but when you are actually on a sub, you realize the dangers that are there,” he said. “You are a thousand feet underwater and you go, ‘Okay. What are the different ways things can go wrong?’ You have a greater appreciation of what these people do every day unsung and unseen and their courage and valor.”
DOD officials approved the request in December 2014, and the Navy provided access and technical support to the filmmakers.
Officials stressed that support to “Hunter-Killer” or any other movie is done at zero cost to the American taxpayer.
The US military is supporting research focused on genetically-engineering marine life for the purpose of tracking enemy submarines.
Research supported by the Naval Research Laboratory indicates that the genetic makeup of a relatively common sea organism could be modified to react in a detectable way to certain non-natural substances, such as metal or fuel, left behind by passing submarines, Defense One reports.
If the reaction involves the loss of an electron, “you can create an electrical signal when the bacteria encounters some molecule in their environment,” Sarah Glaven, an NRL researcher, said at a November 2018 event hosted by the John Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, reportedly noting that the aim is to use this biotechnology to detect and track submarines.
“The reason we think we can accomplish this is because we have this vast database of info we’ve collected from growing these natural systems,” she further articulated. “So after experiments where we look at switching gene potential, gene expression, regulatory networks, we are finding these sensors.”
She said that hard evidence that this sort of biotechnology breakthrough is possible and capable of being used to serve the military is about a year away.
In 2018, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research and development arm of the Pentagon, revealed a desire to harness marine organisms for the monitoring of strategic waterways.
(US Navy photo)
“The US Navy’s current approach to detecting and monitoring underwater vehicles is hardware-centric and resource intensive. As a result, the capability is mostly used at the tactical level to protect high-value assets like aircraft carriers, and less so at the broader strategic level,” Lori Adornato, manager for the Persistent Aquatic Living Sensors (PALS) program, said in a statement.
“If we can tap into the innate sensing capabilities of living organisms that are ubiquitous in the oceans, we can extend our ability to track adversary activity and do so discreetly, on a persistent basis, and with enough precision to characterize the size and type of adversary vehicles.”
As is, there is already a million tri-service effort among Army, Navy, and Air Force researchers to use synthetic biology to advance US defense capabilities. “Our team is looking at ways we can reprogram cells that already exist in the environment to create environmentally friendly platforms for generating molecules and materials beneficial for defense needs,” Dr. Claretta Sullivan, a research scientist at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, explained in a statement.
There are apparently similar programs going on across the branches looking at everything from undewater sensing to living camouflage.
The US is once again in an age of great power competition, according to the 2018 National Defense Strategy. It faces new threats from adversarial powers like China and Russia beneath the waves. “In the undersea domain, the margins to victory are razor thin,” Adm. James G. Foggo III, the commander of US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, told Pentagon reporters in October 2018.
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Victor Bondarev, head of the Russian Parliament’s Upper House Committee on Defense and Security, on June 19, 2018, said, “If the United States withdraws from the 1967 treaty banning nuclear weapons in outer space, then, of course, not only ours, but also other states, will follow with a tough response aimed at ensuring world security.”
Bondarev was seemingly referring to the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
According to the US State Department, the treaty “contains an undertaking not to place in orbit around the Earth, install on the moon or any other celestial body, or otherwise station in outer space, nuclear or any other weapons of mass destruction.”
Bondarev also said the militarization of outer space is a “path to disaster,” adding that he hopes “the American political elite still have the remnants of reason and common sense.”
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova also expressed concern regarding Trump’s announcement of the creation of a US space force.
“A military buildup in space, in particular, after the deployment of weapons there, would have destabilizing effects on strategic stability and international security,” Zakharova said. She also defended the fact Russia already has a space force, contending it’s a “purely defensive” entity.
Trump on June 18, 2018, directed the Pentagon to establish the space force, which he said would create more jobs and be great for the country’s “psyche.”
“Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security,” Trump said at the White House. “When it comes to defending America it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.”
In order for a sixth military branch to be created — joining the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard — Congress has to get involved. Some members of Congress have already expressed opposition to Trump’s space force and Defense Secretary James Mattis has also exhibited skepticism on the subject.
“At a time when we are trying to integrate the department’s joint war-fighting functions, I do not wish to add a separate service that would likely present a narrower and even parochial approach to space operations,” Mattis wrote in a letter to Republican Rep. Mike Turner of Ohio in 2017.
Mattis has shifted on this somewhat more recently and in May 2018 said, “But to look now at the problem, means we have to look afresh at it, and where are the specific problems, break them down, and if an organizational construct has to change, then I’m wide open to it.”
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But a new study of the victims of these mysterious phenomena suggests a new, disconcerting possibility: Some unknown force projected in the direction of the patients could have somehow injured their brains.
“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury from a directional exposure of undetermined etiology,” the study’s authors wrote.
The saga began in late 2016 when American diplomatic staff (and some Canadians) that had been in Cuba began to report odd physical and mental symptoms. Some could no longer remember words, while others had hearing loss, speech problems, balance issues, nervous-system damage, headaches, ringing in the ears, and nausea.
Some even showed signs of brain swelling or concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries.
Many of the victims remember strange occurrences before the symptoms appeared, though others didn’t hear or feel anything. One diplomat reported a “blaring, grinding noise” that woke him from his bed in a Havana hotel, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported that some heard a “loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas” in short bursts at night, while others said they could walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises that were audible only in certain spots.
The US State Department eventually determined that the incidents were “specific attacks” and moved to cut its Cuban embassy staff by 60%.
But despite that determination, no one understands those “specific attacks” or is even sure they’re responsible for everything that’s happened. According to ProPublica, the FBI hasn’t even been able to rule out the possibility that some of the patients were never attacked in the first place.
Studying the victims
Most of the victims were first examined in Miami, but a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair were selected to help further evaluate and treat at least 21 patients, whose cases are described in the new study.
By studying those 11 women and 10 men, the researchers were able to establish a significant amount of common ground among the patients. More than 80% reported hearing a sound that had a “directional” source — it seemed to come from somewhere. After three months, 81% still had cognitive issues, 71% had balance problems, 86% had vision issues, and about 70% still reported hearing problems and headaches.
The fact that a number of these symptoms could be subjective has raised questions about the possibility that this group of people is suffering from some sort of collective delusion, according to the study authors. But they say that mass delusion is unlikely, since affected individuals were all highly motivated and of a broad age distribution, factors that don’t normally correspond with mass psychogenic illness. Plus, objective tests of ears and eye motion all revealed real clinical abnormalities.
All these symptoms seem consistent with some form of mild brain trauma, according to the researchers. But these symptoms persisted far longer than most concussion symptoms do, and were not associated with blunt head trauma.
“These individuals appeared to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks without an associated history of head trauma,” the study authors wrote.
Mysterious weapons — or something else?
Despite having identified common symptoms and clinical evidence of some sort of injury, researchers are still at a loss about the cause.
If there is some kind of weapon involved, no one knows what kind it was or who would have used it. The Cuban government has denied any connection and investigators haven’t found any link to Russia, which intelligence analysts had speculated might have the means and motivation to carry out an attack.
The reported presence of strange audio and of the feeling of changes in air pressure have led to speculation about some kind of sonic or audio-based weapon. But even though sonic weapons exist, they’re very visible and easy to avoid, according to Seth Horowitz, a neuroscientist who wrote the book “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. Plus, the specific symptoms make that unlikely.
“There isn’t an acoustic phenomenon in the world that would cause those type of symptoms,” said Horowitz.
He speculated that perhaps some sort of mysterious pathogen or other phenomenon could have caused the symptoms, but the authors of the new study report that no signs infection (like fever) were identified. They determined it was unlikely a chemical agent would have caused these effects without damaging other organs.
In an editorial published alongside the new study, two doctors wrote that without more information and more data on the patients before they reported feeling ill, we can’t be certain what went wrong.
“At this point, a unifying explanation for the symptoms experienced by the US government officials described in this case series remains elusive and the effect of possible exposure to audible phenomena is unclear,” the editorial’s authors wrote. “Going forward, it would be helpful for government employees traveling to Cuba to undergo baseline testing prior to deployment to allow for a more informed interpretation of abnormalities that might later be detected after a potential exposure.”