Russia is preparing to mount what could be one of its biggest military exercises since the Cold War, a display of power that will be watched warily by NATO against a backdrop of east-west tensions.
Western officials and analysts estimate up to 100,000 military personnel and logistical support troops could participate in the Zapad (West) 17 exercise, which will take place next month in Belarus, Kaliningrad, and Russia itself. Moscow puts the number significantly lower.
The exercise, to be held from Sept. 14-20, comes against a backdrop of strained relations between Russia and the US. Congress recently imposed a fresh round of sanctions on Moscow in response to allegations of interference in the 2016 US election.
The first of the Russian troops are scheduled to arrive in Belarus in mid-August.
Moscow has portrayed Zapad 17 as a regular exercise, held every four years, planned long ago and not a reaction to the latest round of sanctions.
NATO headquarters in Brussels said it had no plans to respond to the maneuvers by deploying more troops along the Russian border.
A NATO official said: “NATO will closely monitor exercise Zapad 17, but we are not planning any large exercises during Zapad 17. Our exercises are planned long in advance and are not related to the Russian exercise.”
The US vice-president, Mike Pence, discussed Zapad 17 during a visit to Estonia in July and raised the possibility of deploying the US Patriot missile defense system in the country. The US may deploy extra troops to eastern Europe during the course of the exercise and delay the planned rotation of others.
The commander of US Army Europe, Lt Gen Ben Hodges, told a press conference in Hungary in July: “Everybody that lives close to the western military district is a little bit worried because they hear about the size of the exercise.”
The Russian armed forces have undergone rapid modernisation over the last decade and Zapad offers them a chance to train en masse.
Moscow blames growing west-east tensions on the expansion of NATO eastwards and in recent years the deployment of more NATO forces in countries bordering Russia. NATO says the increased deployments are in response to the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2013.
Russia has not said how many troops will participate in Zapad 17, but the Russian ambassador to NATO , Aleksander Grushko, said it was not envisioned that any of the maneuvers would involve more than 13,000 troops, the limit at which Russia – under an international agreement – would be obliged to allow military from other countries to observe the exercise.
Russia could, theoretically, divide the exercise into separate parts in order to keep below the 13,000 limit. Western analysts said the last Zapad exercise in 2013 involved an estimated 70,000 military and support personnel, even though Russia informed NATO in the run-up it would not exceed 13,000.
Igor Sutyagin, co-author of Russia’s New Ground Forces, to be officially published on September 20 said, “unfortunately, you can’t trust what the Russians say.” He said, “one hundred thousand is probably exaggerated, but 18,000 is absolutely realistic.”
He did not envisage an attack on the Baltic states, given they are members of NATO . “Well, there are easier ways to commit suicide,” he said. But Putin is a master at doing the unexpected, he said, and Russia could take action elsewhere, such as taking more land in Georgia.
In a joint paper published in May, Col Tomasz Kowalik, a former special assistant to the chairman of NATO’s military committee and a director at the Polish ministry of national defense, and Dominik Jankowski, a senior official at the Polish ministry of foreign affairs, wrote that Russia had ordered 4,000 rail cars to transport its troops to Belarus and estimated that could amount to 30,000 military personnel.
Adding in troops already in place in Belarus and the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad as well as troops arriving by air, it might be the largest Russian exercise since 1991.
NATO said its biggest exercise this year, Trident Javelin 17, running from Nov. 8-17, would involve only 3,000 troops. Trident Javelin 17 is to prepare for next year’s bigger exercise, Trident Juncture 2018, which will involve an estimated 35,000 troops.
The NATO official added: “We have increased our military presence in the eastern part of the alliance in response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its military buildup in the region. We have four multinational NATO battle-groups in place in the Baltic states and Poland, a concrete reminder that an attack on one ally is an an attack on all. However, NATO’s force posture is not in reaction to Zapad 17.”
During the Cold War, Zapad was the biggest training exercise of the Soviet Union and involved an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 personnel. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was resurrected in 1999 and has been held every four years since.
This is a letter to the military spouse that started the journey to parenthood, with hope and excitement. The one thinking this would be so easy because that’s what society has led you to believe, only to still be trying one, two, three or however many heartbreaking years later. The one who has watched countless friends bring home children during this time that feels more and more discouraged.
This is a letter to the military spouse walking down the family planning aisle looking for a pregnancy test with your fingers crossed, full of anticipation, thinking this is the month that your dreams come true and you will cross the line into motherhood. For the one looking at ovulation test kits instead of pregnancy tests thinking maybe this is what will make the difference this month in your journey. You are beginning to wonder if anything can help you. Kicking yourself each month for not just buying the 50 count test kits on Amazon because you have likely spent hundreds of dollars on tests already. But still, you buy them because you still have hope that you can be a parent one day.
To the military spouse digging through the trashcan in the hopes that the positive line appeared late because it just needed more time. Maybe it was too faint for you to see the line, or the lighting was bad when you tested so you missed it. To the one that tests again, and again. Noticing every little symptom, feeling that this time it must have happened, but the test still gives you that same soul-crushing negative.
To the military spouse that ugly cries on the toilet when your period starts yet again. You really thought this was the month that it had finally happened because Aunt Flo was late. Only she showed up with a vengeance and all you want to do is crawl into bed and hide from the world. Each agonizing cramp and trip to the bathroom is a constant reminder that this cycle was a total bust.
To the military spouse that can’t listen to one more person ask, “So when are you two having kids?” or the subtle hints from family members. Each question or comment cuts you deep down inside and makes you feel even more broken. You feel like a failure because you can’t do the one thing that seems to define womanhood. The boiling anger, resentment and jealousy you feel when you see someone that wasn’t even trying or that accidentally got pregnant. That feeling that takes over that you can’t seem to define.
To the military spouse that is at another doctor’s appointment trying to find answers. Desperately looking and waiting for them to determine the cause, the reason. Answers to why this isn’t happening as it should. Praying that there is some reason and that you aren’t left without answers. Hoping that you can pop a few pills and that will do the trick. Maybe you’re moving to plan B, C or D and you are praying that this is the right combination of medications or treatments this cycle.
To the military spouse facing postponements or cancelations in treatment cycles because of deployments, PCSes or COVID-19. Wondering if you are missing your last chance. Wondering if this is the last egg you have left. Full of questions and uncertainties. Waiting for however long with anxiety and fear. Hoping with every ounce in your body that this doesn’t ruin your chances once this delay is all over. For the one that dreads having to start all over again once you are able.
To the military spouse worrying over the financial realities that come with infertility. Worrying if Tricare will cover testing. Stressing over the cost of medications that the insurance doesn’t cover. Trying to find thousands of dollars to pay for the chance at having your own family. You have a deep biological desire to carry and give birth to a child of your own. Making the hard decisions of which treatment route to go, and how many cycle attempts you make before there is no more money left in the pot. For the ones exhausted from searching for grants, loans, any program that could possibly help with the financial burden of infertility.
To the military spouse avoiding social media because it is flooded with the gut-wrenching reminder that you are childless. That each pregnancy announcement, gender reveal and newborn photoshoot you scroll past is a stab at your empty womb. Maybe you have resorted to unfollowing or even unfriending friends and family because it hurts too much to see their posts. While deep down you truly are happy for them, your feelings of jealousy, sadness and rage take over and it’s easier to not be reminded.
To the military spouse attending a baby shower that is politely smiling and limiting conversation because on the inside you are struggling. Struggling to fight back the flood of tears and overwhelming sadness. Wondering if you will ever get to experience this for yourself or if you will always be barren. Looking for the quickest route to the door or bathroom in case the flood of tears starts to stream and the last thing you want is to cause a scene.
To the military spouse that got her positive test after all the struggles and heartache to have it all ripped away. For the ones that saw a heartbeat and thought they were in the clear this time. Or you thought this time it would be different, that this time you wouldn’t miscarry, but then everything came crashing down around you. Maybe you only know the devastating realities of pregnancy loss and long to be the one that experiences the joys of bringing home a child.
To the military spouse that feels alone, broken, weary, or even depressed: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. For the one that feels all these and more month after month, or year after year. To the one that has days where getting out of bed feels impossible. For the one that can’t face the world or function for days at a time. Let me say it again: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. One in 8 couples face the same problems with infertility.
To the military spouse facing infertility: This does not define you. This is not who you are. This is not your fault. Your worth is not any less, nor does it make you any less of a woman. This is not a measure of your success. You are not broken or damaged. You are strong. The pain you feel is real and it is okay to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. And it is okay for you to talk about it. Be a voice and share your story so others can see that they are not alone. You get to decide on your journey, just know that there is a whole military spouse community right here with you to support and encourage you because you are not alone and it is okay to talk about it.
April is Infertility Awareness Month and this is National Infertility Awareness Week. For resources about infertility, please visit: https://infertilityawareness.org/. And from our hearts to yours: You are not alone.
Capt. Judith Epstein, clinical director, Naval Medical Research Center (NMRC) Malaria Department, presented findings on the malaria candidate vaccine, PfSPZ Vaccine, at the 2018 Military Health System Research Symposium (MHSRS), Aug. 22, 2018.
During the breakout session called “What’s New in Infectious Disease Research in the Tropics,” Epstein gave an update on NMRC’s work with PfSPZ Vaccine, a whole organism vaccine comprised of aseptic, purified, radiation-attenuated, non-replicating, cryopreserved sporozoites. Sporozoites (SPZ) are one of the stages of the malaria parasite, which find their way to the liver after inoculation.
According to Epstein, the parasites induce a protective immune response without making copies of themselves. In other words, the weakened parasites do not replicate or get into the bloodstream, and thus do not lead to infection or disease.
“The studies on PfSPZ Vaccine are important because they bring us closer to having a malaria vaccine to prevent infection and disease in military personnel deployed to malaria-endemic regions as well as vulnerable populations residing in malaria-endemic regions,” said Epstein. “Malaria has consistently been ranked as the number one infectious disease threat facing the military, and the burden of malaria remains incredibly high worldwide.”
Epstein was the NMRC principal investigator (PI) on two PfSPZ Vaccine trials, published in Sciencein 2011 and the Journal of Clinical Investigation in 2017, respectively. The former trial was conducted in collaboration with the Center for Vaccine Development (CVD) at the University of Maryland in Baltimore (UMB); both trials were conducted in collaboration with Sanaria Inc. and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR).
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Harold Sylvester, assigned to Naval Medical Research Center Asia (NMRCA), sets and baits mosquito traps in Singapore. NMRCA is conducting research project to study the different populations of mosquitos in Singapore and their ability to transmit diseases.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jay C. Pugh)
In mid-2017, Epstein also became the PI for the “Warfighter 2 Trial”, conducted between 2016 and 2017. The trial was conducted at NMRC and CVD-UMB. Thirty subjects were immunized at each site. The participants had their screening visits, immunizations, and follow-up appointments at the NMRC Clinical Trials Center (CTC) in Bethesda, Maryland. Subjects were immunized with PfSPZ Vaccine and then, along with control subjects, underwent controlled human malaria infection by exposure to five bites from malaria-infected mosquitoes. Subjects were then followed closely to determine whether or not they developed malaria through the evaluation of blood smears and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Infection was treated immediately with anti-malarial medication.
“In all trials, the vaccine has been demonstrated to have a very good safety and tolerability profile and has also been easy to administer,” Epstein said. “Our focus now is to enhance the efficacy and practical use of the vaccine.” Two of the most important parameters for malaria vaccine development are duration of protection and protection against non-vaccine strains.
In the “Warfighter 2” trial, NMRC researchers were able to demonstrate vaccine efficacy of 40 percent against a non-vaccine strain of malaria when assessed 12 weeks after the final injection, a marked improvement from the previous trials.
As the DoD’s premier scientific meeting, MHSRS helps to facilitate the exchange of information between almost 3,000 attendees from around the world on health care topics relevant to the warfighter. This year’s meeting was held at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, Aug. 20 – 23, 2018, Kissimmee, Florida, and focused on medical innovation as a key factor in operational and mission readiness.
NMRC’s eight laboratories are engaged in a broad spectrum of activity from basic science in the laboratory to field studies at sites in austere and remote areas of the world to operational environments. In support of the Navy, Marine Corps, and joint U.S. warfighters, researchers study infectious diseases; biological warfare detection and defense; combat casualty care; environmental health concerns; aerospace and undersea medicine; medical modeling, simulation and operational mission support; and epidemiology and behavioral sciences.
NMRC and the laboratories deliver high-value, high-impact research products to support and protect today’s deployed warfighters. At the same time researchers are focused on the readiness and well-being of future forces.
The U.S. military has for the third time raised the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran’s missile strike on an Iraqi air base earlier this month, AP reported citing a Pentagon spokesman.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell said on January 28 that 16 more service members were now diagnosed with brain injuries, bringing the total to 50.
Thirty-one of the 50 were treated and had returned to duty, Campbell added.
In its previous update last week, the Pentagon said that 34 U.S. service members had suffered injuries.
Initially, President Donald Trump claimed that no Americans were harmed in Iran’s January 8 attack on the Ain Al-Asad air base in western Iraq.
Concussions can cause headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light, and nausea.
Two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut are set to join the crew aboard the International Space Station on Thursday, March 14, 2019. The trio’s arrival will return the orbiting laboratory’s population to six, including three NASA astronauts. This launch will also mark the fourth Expedition crew with two female astronauts. Live coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin of Roscosmos, are set to launch aboard the Soyuz MS-12 spacecraft at 3:14 p.m. EDT (12:14 a.m. March 15 Kazakhstan time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on a six-hour journey to the station.
The new crew members will dock to the Rassvet module at 9:07 p.m. Expedition 59 will begin officially at the time of docking.
About two hours later, hatches between the Soyuz and the station will open and the new residents will be greeted by NASA astronaut Anne McClain, station commander Oleg Kononenko of Roscosmos, and David Saint-Jacques of the Canadian Space Agency. The current three-person crew just welcomed the first American commercial crew vehicle as it docked to the station on March 3, 2019, amidst a busy schedule of scientific research and operations since arriving in December 2018.
NASA astronaut Anne C. McClain.
Coverage of the Expedition 59 crew’s launch and docking activities are as follows (all times EDT):
The crew members of Expeditions 59 and 60 will continue work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science aboard the humanity’s only permanently occupied microgravity laboratory.
McClain, Saint-Jacques, Hague and Koch also are all scheduled for the first spacewalks of their careers to continue upgrades to the orbital laboratory. McClain and Hague are scheduled to begin work to upgrade the power system March 22, 2019, and McClain and Koch will complete the upgrades to two station power channels during a March 29, 2019 spacewalk. This will be the first-ever spacewalk with all-female spacewalkers. Hague and Saint-Jacques will install hardware for a future science platform during an April 8, 2019 spacewalk.
Hague and Ovchinin are completing a journey that was cut short Oct. 11, 2019, when a booster separation problem with their Soyuz rocket’s first stage triggered a launch abort two minutes into the flight. They landed safely a few minutes later, after reaching the fringes of space, and were reassigned to fly again after McClain, Kononenko and Saint-Jacques launched in early December 2018. This will be Ovchinin’s third flight into space, the second for Hague and the first for Koch. Hague, Koch, and McClain are from NASA’s 2013 astronaut class, half of which were women — the highest percentage of female astronaut candidates ever selected for a class.
Rights groups are calling for the release of an Afghan man with a special visa given to those who assist the United States military overseas who has been held by immigration authorities for nearly three weeks.
Abdul, whose full name is not being revealed for security reasons, arrived at the Newark, New Jersey airport on March 13 as part of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Afghans who are in life-threatening danger are eligible for this status.
“Border agents coerced him into signing away his fundamental rights, even though the federal government understood his life was in danger in Afghanistan because of his service to the United States,” Jeanne LoCicero, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement.
The man and his family had previously been attacked by the Taliban armed group. U.S. immigration authorities are trying to deport him.
Abdul, who holds a sponsorship letter from a retired U.S. Army sergeant, worked as a cashier for five years at a cafeteria next to the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul until February, shortly before he departed for the United States.
Instead of a warm welcome, Abdul was detained on arrival.
“If they had stamped his passport, he would be a lawful U.S. resident,” Jason Scott Camilo, an immigration lawyer representing Abdul, told Al Jazeera.
Camilo said the Afghan was initially interrogated for 28 hours by agents from the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs (ICE) agencies.
The lawyer said Abdul was without legal counsel for more than a day. He was held in “a big waiting room. There’s a couple of jail-like cells without beds…he couldn’t sleep,” Camilo said.
Shortly before his scheduled deportation, the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) filed a case on Abdul’s behalf, which was denied. It then filed an emergency appeal and a court placed a temporary stay on his deportation pending a review of his case.
Abdul has since passed an initial interview for refugee status and is awaiting a court review in mid-April. However, he remains locked up in the Elizabeth Detention Center, a private facility contracted by ICE.
Betsy Fisher, IRAP’s policy director, said Abdul’s detention is part of a larger clampdown on the Special Immigrant Visa program.
In December 2016, then-president Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which only allocated 1,500 more SIV visas. With so few visas available, Fisher explained, interviews for applicants at the U.S. embassy in Kabul ended on March 1.
“There are roughly 10,000 people still waiting for SIVs,” Fisher told Al Jazeera. “The fact that applicants are now in indefinite limbo because Congress has failed to provide the number of visas we knew were needed is a disgrace and abandonment of our allies.”
Abdul is the second Afghan SIV recipient to be detained in March. On March 4, a family of five that had been granted approval to move to the U.S. because of their father’s work was detained in Los Angeles.
Al Jazeera contacted ICE and CBP for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
In an action that has been long overdue, Congress has approved the award of the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the famed Merrill’s Marauders of World War II. The House passed the resolution last week after the Senate had approved it last fall. It is expected that President Donald Trump will sign it shortly.
Only one Congressional Gold Medal is awarded each year to a person or institution. It is deemed, “the highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions” according to the award’s official website.
Merrill’s Marauders were named after General Frank Merrill. The 3,000-strong unit was officially the 5307th Composite Unit. It was trained to work behind Japanese lines during the Burma campaign of World War II.
Marauders move under fire against Japanese positions.
Unfortunately, combat, disease, and time have taken their toll. Today there are only eight surviving members of the famed unit. When the push for awarding the medal began in 2016, there were still 28 Marauders still alive.
“I feel like I’m floating on air,” Robert Passanisi, a 96-year-old veteran of the unit, who is also the spokesman for the surviving members and a historian, said when hearing the news.
“It has been a long journey, and we’ve had to struggle through three congressional sessions to obtain this great honor,” Passanisi said. “My one regret is that only eight of us are alive to enjoy this historic honor.”
Some individual members of the unit, including Japanese-American interpreters as well as OSS troops who fought with the Merrill’s Marauders in Burma, had already been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.
The House passed the bill one day after the 77th anniversary of 2,000 volunteers boarding the SS Lurline on Sept. 21, 1943, in San Francisco to ship out to New Caledonia. There, another 1,000 veterans from the South Pacific front joined them.
After the U.S. troops had been driven out of Burma by the Japanese in 1943, the Americans decided that they needed a “Long Range Penetration” mission behind Japanese lines. The plan was to disrupt and destroy the enemy’s supply lines and communications, to attack him from behind, and to try to regain the Burma Road.
General Joseph “Vinegar Joe” Stilwell grimly summarized the campaign: “I claim we got a hell-of-a-beating. We got run out of Burma, and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back, and retake [Burma].”
The call went out for volunteers for “A Dangerous and Hazardous Mission.” Over 3,000 men answered that call, some from far-flung bases in Panama and Trinidad; others were veterans from New Guinea, Guadalcanal, and elsewhere. Thus the 5307th Composite Unit (Provisional) was born.
Merrill (holding the map) with members of his staff.
The unit got its nickname from Time correspondent James R. Shepley. Reporters sent to cover the fighting in Burma were looking for a hook to capture the imagination of the American public back home. Nicknaming the unit served that purpose.
Frank Merrill didn’t look like a man whose job it was to lead a Special Operations Task Force behind enemy lines. Although he was a powerfully built man, he was plagued with a bad heart and poor eyesight. He had graying hair and smoked his pipe non-stop. He had little experience commanding troops but was a brilliant and unshakable leader.
During training and operations, Merrill drove himself even harder than his men; because of that, they loved, respected, and believed in him. The Chinese troops, part of General “Vinegar Joe” Stillwell’s command, loved him nearly as much as General Chenault, the commander of the “Flying Tigers.”
Merrill was born in the small town of Hopkinton, Mass. (the starting point for the Boston Marathon.) He tried unsuccessfully to get into West Point before joining the Army as a private. Working his way up to Staff Sergeant, he was finally accepted to the U.S. Military Academy on his sixth application. He graduated and was commissioned as a cavalry officer.
Merrill spent time in Japan as an assistant military attaché and learned Japanese while stationed there. Just prior to Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to the Chinese-Burma Theater and was with Stillwell on his long march out of Burma.
He trained his unit hard, working them for three months with Orde Wingate’s Chindits, the British unit that had already carved a name for themselves in the theater.
The Marauders were divided into three battalions and formed into six combat teams (400 per team), color-coded Red, White, Blue, Green, Orange, and Khaki. There were two teams to a battalion. The rest of the men formed the H.Q. and Air Transport Commands.
During the next four months, Merrill’s Marauders would take part in five major and 30 minor engagements with the Japanese veteran 18th Division which had taken both Singapore and Malaya.
In their first action against the Japanese 18th Division, they moved to set up blocking positions at Walawbum 10 miles behind the Japanese lines. General Tanaka, who commanded the Japanese forces, fearing that Stillwell was trying to encircle his forces, promptly attacked the Marauders.
The Americans beat back several bayonet attacks and caused significant casualties. The Japanese had 650 dead and as many wounded. The Americans had just seven killed and 36 wounded.
In the south, Wingate’s Chindits were hitting Tanaka hard cutting the railway lines and forcing him to withdraw northward. After two months of near-constant fighting, the Marauders were reeling; many of them were already sick with malaria. But their biggest mission lay ahead.
Less than a year after its creation, the unit was tasked with conducting a long and dangerous mission over the mountains. They had to trek across nearly 1,100 miles over the mountainous, nearly impenetrable jungle, in the foothills of the Himalayas, with no tanks or heavy artillery, to attack the Japanese. Their goal was to capture the important Japanese airfield at Myitkyina. The Operation would be known as “End Run.”
Capturing the airfield would benefit the supply aircraft since it would no longer have to fly over “the Hump” to ferry supplies to Kunming, China. It would also allow the Allies to construct the Ledo Road through which supplies could also travel to Kumming.
Augmenting the Marauders, who were down to about 50 percent strength due to casualties and tropical diseases, were two Chinese regiments and 300 Kachin tribesmen who were led by the OSS.
Merrill, having just returned to duty after his second heart attack, was beside the men and encouraging them all the way. The trek was so steep, muddy, and treacherous. Merrill’s men would lose half of their pack animals, along with their necessary equipment. And nearly half of the men became sick with amoebic dysentery after drinking water from streams that the Chinese were using the streams as a latrine.
After wiping out a small Japanese garrison at Ripong, 149 of the men came down with typhus. Several of the men died including Colonel Henry Kinnison, one of the team leaders. The Marauders arrived at their target location on the night of May 16.
The next morning they began their assault which was led by Lt. Colonel Charles Hunter. The Marauders and two Chinese regiments snuck past the Japanese undetected and attacked the airfield from the north, south, and west. They took the Japanese completely by surprise.
Not only did they seize the airfield but the Chinese troops also took a ferry landing on the Irrawaddy River. By 1530 hrs on the 17th of May, Merrill had radioed the code words “Merchant of Venice” which meant that the airstrip was already set for taking in C-47 transport aircraft.
Lord Mountbatten sent Stillwell the following message:
“By the boldness of your leadership, backed by the courage and endurance of your American and Chinese troops, you have taken the enemy completely by surprise and achieved a most outstanding success by seizing the Myitkyina airfield.”
The airfield seizure was considered a brilliant military move. Yet the Americans had lost a major opportunity in not capturing the town of Myitkyina. The town was only defended by about 700 Japanese troops but Hunter had been given no orders to take it.
Additionally, a fresh division, the British 36th, could have easily joined the Americans but Stillwell wanted no part of the British in this operation. This was a big mistake. Stillwell then sent anti-aircraft crews and engineers to fix an airstrip that was already totally operational, instead of securing badly needed arms and ammunition. By the time Merrill’s Marauders’ 2nd Battalion attacked the town, the Japanese had been reinforced and now had 3,500 well dug-in troops. The Marauders’ attacks failed.
Merrill and Stillwell in Burma.
Diseases, typhus, malaria, and dysentery, kept reducing the Marauders’ numbers until only 200 effective riflemen were left. In response, Stillwell scraped together more engineers and support troops; yet these men were totally green.
The Japanese managed to hold onto the town of Myitkyina until late summer. By then, the Marauders were no longer an effective fighting outfit. They were pulled out of the line finally in June and disbanded by August.
But by the excellent efforts of both the Marauders and the Chindits, the airfield at Myitkyina saved the transports from flying over the dangerous “Hump” into China. And with the Ledo Road complete, the 1,100-mile supply route to Kunming was now open.
Merrill was promoted to Major General and was transferred to the Pacific Theater. He was the Chief of Staff of the 10th Army under General Buckner during the Okinawa campaign. Later he held the same position for the Sixth Army in the Philippines. He was present on the battleship Missouri for the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.
After the war, he was briefly the Deputy Chief for the Military Advisory for the Philippines but a third heart attack forced him into retirement. He returned to his native New England and retired in New Hampshire where he was given the job of State Highway Commissioner by the governor. Merrill died of a heart attack in Fernandina Beach, Florida on December 11, 1955. He was only 52 years old. He was buried at West Point next to General Stillwell per his wishes.
On August 10, 1944, the surviving Merrill’s Marauders were consolidated into the 475th Infantry, which continued service in northern Burma until February 1945. In June of 1954, the 475th Infantry was redesignated as the 75th Infantry. Thereby, the men of Merrill’s Marauders became the parents of the 75th Infantry Regiment, from which descended the 75th Ranger Regiment of today. This is why the six colors that represented the Marauders’ combat teams are now worn on the beret flash of the Ranger Regiment.
Merrill was inducted into the Ranger Hall of Fame in 1992. In his honor, Camp Frank D. Merrill in Dahlonega, Georgia, is home to the 5th Ranger Training Battalion and the mountain phase of the U.S. Army Ranger School.
Sociological examination of veterans confirms higher rates of voting, volunteering, and civic engagement
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The veteran empowerment campaign Got Your 6 today unveiled the latest findings of its annual Veterans Civic Health Index, a major study that confirms significant and positive trends in levels of civic engagement among veterans. As the nation approaches Election Day, Got Your 6’s findings provide tangible evidence that veterans volunteer, engage with local governments and community organizations, vote, and help neighbors, all at rates higher than their non-veteran counterparts.
Findings from the report were highlighted this morning at an event titled “Veterans: America’s Greatest Assets” at SiriusXM’s Washington, D.C. studios. The event featured panels moderated by SiriusXM POTUS Channel 124 host Jared Rizzi and included Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald, co-chairs of the Congressional Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), and Got Your 6 Executive Director Bill Rausch, among others.
Among other data points, the 2016 Veterans Civic Health Index found:
Voting – 73.8 percent of veterans always or sometimes vote in local elections, versus 57 percent of non-veterans.
Service – Veteran volunteers serve an average of 169 hours annually – more than four full work weeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25 percent fewer hours annually.
Civic Involvement – 11 percent of veterans attended a public meeting in the last year, versus 8.2 percent of non-veterans.
Community Engagement – 10.7 percent of veterans worked with their neighbors to fix community problems, compared to 7.6 percent of non-veterans.
“This report shows that by investing in our country’s veterans we’re really investing in our communities,” said Rausch. “The Veterans Civic Health Index continues to be shared as a tool to increase understanding, eliminate misconceptions, and empower veterans as they return home. Now, as our nation prepares to vote in November, this report serves as an indispensable annual metric for evaluating the veteran empowerment movement.”
“I’m thankful to Got Your 6 for putting this study together which proves what many of us inherently know to be true: that veterans are engaged members of their communities. To them, service does not end when the uniform comes off; it often means being a leader in their community, a dutiful employee, a coveted neighbor and a civic asset,” said Sec. McDonald. “A sense of purpose lasts a lifetime. Our nation is stronger because of its veterans.”
“Contrary to the misguided stereotype that veterans have difficulty coping when they re-enter civilian life, this report confirms what many veterans already know: veterans continue to impact their communities in positive and significant ways after leaving the military. Veterans are not a population that requires services, but a population that continues to serve our nation,” said Rep. Perry, co-chair of the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus.
“This report underscores what so many of us see and experience every day: when our veterans return to civilian life, their mission of service doesn’t end. Whether it’s running for local office, volunteering in their communities, exercising their right and responsibility to vote, and so much more, our veterans continue to give back and serve our communities long after they leave the military. With roughly 500 veterans reentering civilian life every day, this report highlights the many ways our veterans continue to serve, and the responsibility we have to support and empower them,” said Rep. Gabbard, co-chair of the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus.
“It is important to recognize how civic health is entwined with many of the social and political issues that are top of mind for Americans today,” said VCHI author and Got Your 6 Director of Strategy Julia Tivald. “As the VCHI reports, civic engagement is vital for strong communities, and veterans – through their consistently high engagement – are strengthening communities at higher rates than their non-veteran peers. As we search for solutions to some of our country’s most pressing issues, we should look to veterans who are continuing to lead in their communities, and also follow their example by engaging alongside them.”
Listen to “Veterans: America’s Greatest Assets” on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124 Friday, Sept. 30 at 2pm ET and Saturday, Oct. 1 at 1pm and 9pm ET.
The report also features a detailed examination of the city of Baltimore, Md., demonstrating that local veterans volunteer more than local nonveterans (30.7 percent versus 27.2 percent), participate in civic organizations (20.7 percent versus 7.3 percent), and vote at higher rates in local elections (75.8 percent v 61.2 percent).
China is developing a lot of new and advanced weaponry, but a recent state media report suggests the Chinese military may not be entirely sure what to do with these new combat systems.
During a mock battle held in 2018, an “elite combined arms brigade” of the 81st Group Army of the People’s Liberation Army was defeated, despite being armed with superior weapons, specifically China’s new main battle tank, the Type 099A, the Global Times reported Jan. 20, 2019, citing a report last week from China’s state broadcaster CCTV.
China is “on the verge of fielding some of the most modern weapon systems in the world,” Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Lt. Gen. Robert Ashley explained in a recent assessment of China’s military power.
“In some areas, it already leads the world,” he added.
While the DIA assessment called attention to China’s advancements in anti-satellite capabilities, precision strike tools, or hypersonic weapons, China appears particularly proud of achievements like the Type 099A battle tank, the J-20 stealth fighter, and the Type 055 guided-missile destroyer, arms which advance the warfighting capabilities of China’s army, air force, and navy respectively.
The J-20 stealth fighter.
But the Chinese military is apparently still trying to figure out what these developments mean for modern warfare.
In the interview with CCTV, two senior officers reflected on why Chinese troops armed with the new tanks lost in 2018’s simulated battle. “We rushed with the Type 099A too close to the frontline, which did not optimize the use of the tank’s combat capability,” Xu Chengbiao, a battalion commander, explained. “We only studied the capabilities of older tanks, but have not completely understood new ones,” Zhao Jianxin, a second battalion commander, reportedly told CCTV.
A Beijing-based military expert told the Global Times that weapons alone cannot win wars.
David Axe, a defense editor at The National Interest, argued that the Chinese media report indicates that China struggles with “inadequate” military doctrine due to the country’s lack of combat experience. The Chinese military has not fought a war since the late 1970s.
China is focusing more on the navy, air force, rocket force, and strategic support force than it is on the army, which his experienced a major reduction in personnel. This shift, according to some analysts, highlights an interest in power projection over home defense.
As the warfighting capabilities of the Chinese military grow, it will presumably need to adapt its military doctrine to emerging technologies to maximize capability, but that process may take some time.
The Chinese military is undergoing a massive modernization overhaul in hopes of achieving Chinese President Xi Jinping’s stated goal of building a world-class military that can fight and win wars by the middle of this century.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship will be armed and operational with deck-launched HELLFIRE missiles by 2020, a key step in a sweeping strategic move to expand the attack envelope across the entire fleet of surface ships, senior service officials said.
Current HELLFIRE LCS testing and development, described as an integral part of the ship’s Surface-to-Surface Missile Module, has resulted in 20 successful hits out of 24 total attempted missile shots, Capt. Ted Zobel, Program Manager, PEO LCS, said recently at the Surface Navy Association symposium.
Testing and integration, which embarked upon LCS 5 in August of 2017, is slated to continue this year as a lead into to formal production; The complete procurement of SSMMs will complete in 2023, Zobel said.
Integrating the HELLFIRE onto the LCS is a significant strategic and tactical step for the Navy as it accelerates its combat posture transition toward the prospect of near-peer warfare.
This kind of confrontation, naturally could span a wide envelope of mission requirements for the LCS, calling upon littoral, coastal patrol, surveillance and countermine mission technologies as well as anti-submarine operations and a fortified ability to wage “blue” or open water maritime warfare with longer-range strike weapons.
While not quite the scope of the now-in-development over-the-horizon missile currently being fast-tracked for the emerging Frigate and, quite possibly, the LCS – a HELLFIRE offers a much wider offensive attack range to include enemy aircraft, helicopters, drones, small boats and even some surface ships.
Furthermore, the HELLFIRE, drawing upon Army-Navy collaboration, is engineered with different variants to widen potential attack methods. These range from blast-frag warheads to high-explosive rounds or even missiles with an augmented metal sleeve for extra fragmentation.
While the LCS does not have Vertical Launch Systems, Navy officials tell Warrior Maven that the HELLFIRE fires from canisters beneath the surface of the ship.
Often fired from helicopters, drones and even ground-based Army Multi-Mission Launchers, the Longbow HELLFIRE can use Fire-and-Forget millimeter wave radar with inertial guidance; millimeter wave seeker technology enables adverse weather targeting. Many HELLFIREs also use semi-active laser homing targeting.
It is accurate to call it a short-to-medium-range weapon which can reach relevant combat distances beyond the most close-in threats – while stopping short of being an over-the-horizon weapon.
Its targeting options open up various airborne interoperability options, meaning an MH-60R ship-based helicopter – or even a drone – could function as a laser designator for the weapon should it seek to target enemy ships on-the-move.
The Navy has made particular efforts, in fact, to integrate HELLFIRE technology, sensors and fire control with other assets woven into the LCS. Not only could an MH-60R offer a laser spot for the ship launched weapon, but the helicopter can of course fire the HELLFIRE itself.
A ship launched variant, however, would need to further integrate with ship-based layered defense technologies to optimize its attack options against enemy aircraft and ships, particularly in a maritime combat environment potentially more difficult for helicopters to operate in.
LCS-launched HELLFIREs are engineered to operate as part of a broader ship-wide technical system connecting things like variable-depth sonar, deck guns, vertical take-off drones such as the Fire Scout and small boat mission capabilities such
as 11-meter Rigid Inflatable Boats, or RIBs.
As part of this, the LCS is equipped with a 57mm gun, .50-cal Machine Guns and a defensive interceptor missile called SeaRAM.
Arming the LCS to a much greater extent is also likely to bear upon the longstanding discussion regarding the ship’s survivability. While many advocates for the LCS champion its 40-knot speed and technical attributes such as its integrated mission packages, adding more substantial weapons clearly impacts the debate by massively increasing the ship’s survivability and combat capability.
The anti-submarine mission package includes an MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopter, light weight towed torpedo decoy system, Multi-Function Towed Array and several kinds of submarine-hunting sonar. The LCS utilizes waterjet propulsion and a combined diesel and gas turbine engine.
Some of the features and technologies now being developed for the Navy’s new Frigate could be back-fitted onto the existing LCS fleet as well; these include an over-the-horizon offensive missile as well as a survivability-enhancing technique called “space armor,” which better allows the ship to function if it is hit by enemy firepower.
A strengthened LCS, as well as the new Frigate of course, offer a key component of the Navy’s widely discussed “distributed lethality” strategy, which aims to better arm the fleet with offensive firepower and position the force to be able to defeat technologically-advanced near-peer adversaries.
This includes an emphasis upon open or “blue” water combat and a shift from some of the key mission areas engaged in during
the last decade of ground wars such as Visit Board Search and Seizure, counter-piracy and counter-terrorism.
Many LCS are already in service, and the platform is cherished by the Navy for its 40-knot speed, maneuverability and technological versatility.
Sgt. Trey Troney credits training he received from his unit’s medics for helping him save a man’s life after an accident on Interstate 20 near Sweetwater, Texas, Dec. 22, 2018.
Troney, 20, was on his way home to Raleigh, Mississippi, a small town about 1,085 miles east of Fort Bliss, for Christmas when he saw the accident at about 2 p.m. and pulled over.
Seeing Jeff Udger, of Longview, Texas, slumped over the steering wheel of his truck, Troney asked two other men to help him pry open the door. Udger had a bad gash on his head, and Troney took off his brand new “Salute to Service” New Orleans Saints hoodie and wrapped it around Udger’s head to help stop the bleeding.
At this point, Udger was still conscious enough to make a joke about it, Troney said.
“Well, this is Cowboy country, so I don’t know how I feel about you wrapping me up in a Saints hoodie,” Udger told Troney.
Soon after, however, Troney noticed that the left side of Udger’s chest wasn’t moving, and he realized Udger had a collapsed lung. Troney ran back to his Jeep, hoping he still had some first aid supplies left from the brigade’s recent rotation at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. Sure enough, he had a Needle Chest Compression, or NCD, and an Individual First Aid Kit, or IFAK, so he grabbed them and ran back to Udger.
The scene of the accident on Interstate 20 near Sweetwater, Texas.
While his training made the use of the NCD second nature for Troney, he had to think fast after the NCD needle was too small to reach into Udger’s collapsed lung and relieve pressure.
Finding a ballpoint pen, he had an idea. He tore off the ends of the pen and took out the ink so it was just a hollow tube.
“I took the NCD and put it right in the hole and kind of wiggled (the pen) in with my hand in between the ribs and you just started to see the bubbles come out of the tip, and I was like, ‘OK, we’re good,'” said Troney.
The state trooper who had just arrived asked, “Did you just put an ink pen between his ribs?”
“I was like, ‘I did,'” Troney said. “And [the state trooper] was like, ‘he’s on no pain meds,’ and I said, ‘oh, he felt it, but he’s unconscious. He lost consciousness as I was running back to my Jeep because he had lost a lot of blood.'”
When the ambulance arrived about 10 minutes later, the paramedics credited Troney with saving Udger’s life, and the state trooper bought him food at the truck stop up the road. Still, Troney said he was afraid Udger might try to seek legal action if he had made any mistakes. To the contrary, Udger, as soon as he recovered enough to respond, has been contacting government officials, the media and Troney’s chain of command — all the way up to his brigade commander, Col. Michael Trotter — and telling them how thankful he is for Troney’s actions.
“In an urgent situation [Troney] showed amazing patience and continuous care,” said Udger in an email. “He kept talking to me and acted as if the situation was no pressure at all.”
In a phone interview, Udger said he is glad Troney left behind his email address so he could contact him, and he has offered to replace Troney’s hoodie. Troney said the loss of the hoodie means nothing to him and there is no need for Udger to replace it.
Doctors expect him to make a full recovery, said Udger.
Troney, a field artillery cannon crewmember assigned to Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, said the medics made sure soldiers knew the basics of combat medicine, and often reinforced and extended that training in between Howitzer fires in the field. Also, in El Paso’s 100-degree heat in the field, they would trade coveted DripDrop hydration packets for demonstrated knowledge of combat medicine.
Soldier Uses Ballpoint Pen, Football Sweatshirt To Save Man’s Life After Car Accident
“We train over and over; it’s like muscle memory. Not to sound biased, but at 2-3 … they’re some of the best combat medics that I’ve ever met,” said Troney.
Capt. Angel Alegre, commander, Btry. C, 2nd Bn., 3rd FA Regt., 1st SBCT, 1st AD, said he has worked with Troney for about a year and recently became his battery commander. Knowing Troney, his actions at the accident scene do not surprise him, he said.
“Put simply, he is a man of action and excels in times of adversity. It’s what he does best,” Alegre said. “Sgt. Troney is very attentive and places great emphasis on all Army training. To be available when needed as a Combat Lifesaver [Course] qualified [noncommissioned officer], and especially to have the IFAK readily available sitting in his vehicle, many could say is nothing short of a miracle.”
Troney has set the example and represented the battery, the battalion and the brigade very well, Alegre said.
“I will speak for all when I say we are very proud of one of our own, one of our best and brightest, being ready and able to answer when called upon to help someone in need,” Alegre said.
Troney said he has been in the Army for about three years and the incident taught him how his training can help others outside the Army.
“I was in a pair of jogging pants and a T-shirt on the side of a highway and somebody’s life depended on me slightly knowing a little bit [about emergency medical care],” Troney said. “It wasn’t anything crazy [that I knew], but to [Udger], it was his world.”
Troney said one of the things Udger told him in an email will always mean a lot to him: “Young man, you will always be my hero. Continue to give back to this world and the people in it. You truly will never know when you will make a life-changing impact to someone.”
Troney said he learned from the incident that you never know what a person might need.
“You’re just there and you might have what they need,” said Troney. “He needed an ink pen to the ribs. Luckily I had an ink pen.”
President Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, infuriated North Korea with a strange and threatening comment about denuclearization in May 2018, and now he seems excluded from the countries’ talks.
The reason most likely goes back to Bolton’s comment in May 2018, that the US was looking at a “Libya model” for denuclearizing North Korea.
The Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was killed by rebels in 2011 during a conflict in which the US intervened a few years after Libya dismantled its nuclear program. Bolton’s comment was widely understood to imply that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un too would soon meet his end.
Afghan officials are carrying out at least two tracks of talks with the Taliban, The Associated Press has learned, even after a month of brutal bombings and attacks by the militants that killed nearly 200 and despite President Donald Trump’s angry rejection of any negotiations for now.
The persistence of the back-channel contacts reflects the desire to keep a door open for reconciliation even as the Afghan government and its top ally, the United States, fumble for a strategy to end the protracted war, now entering its 17th year. Rifts within the Afghan government have grown vast, even as the Taliban gain territory and wage increasingly ruthless tactics.
The United States has unleashed heavier air power against the Taliban and other militants. After the string of Taliban attacks in recent weeks, Trump angrily condemned the group. “We don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” he said. “There may be a time but it’s going to be a long time.”
Still, Afghanistan’s intelligence chief Masoom Stanikzai and its National Security Chief Mohammed Hanif Atmar continue to each talk separately to the Taliban, say those familiar with the backdoor negotiations. The problem, however, is that neither is talking to the other or to the High Peace Council, which was created by the government to talk peace with the Taliban, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the contacts.
Hakim Mujahid, a member of the High Peace Council, confirmed that Stanikzai still has regular contacts with the Taliban’s point man for peace talks, Mullah Abbas Stanikzai. The two are not related.
Mujahid — who was the Taliban’s representative to the United Nations during the group’s five-year rule of Afghanistan that ended in 2001 — said the group would not respond well to Trump’s tough talk. “The language of power, the language of threat will not convince Afghans to surrender,” he said.
Andrew Wilder, vice president of the Asia Program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said multiple players in Kabul have contacts with the Taliban. “But this isn’t being done in a coordinated manner to achieve clearly defined objectives,” he said.
Late February 2018, representatives from dozens of countries are to meet for a second time in the Afghan capital for the so-called Kabul process aimed at forging a path to peace. The first round was held in June 2017.
Still, the latest spate of violence has limited options for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is also fending off a mini-revolt within his own government, feuding with the vice president as well as a powerful northern governor.
Meanwhile, the former No. 2 of the Taliban, Aga Jan Motasim, who still counts the radical religious movement’s leader Mullah Habaitullah Akhunzada among his friends, warned that Trump’s strategy of using the military to force a more compliant Taliban to the negotiation table could lead to more suicide attacks.
From within his fortress style house in Kabul, protected by steel gates and gunmen, Motasim said he wants to be a bridge between the government and Taliban.
Motasim was a senior member of the Taliban leadership shura, or council, until 2010 when he was shot 12 times after advocating peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Blame for the shooting has been directed at both elements within the Taliban who opposed peace talks and Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, often seen as the force behind the Taliban.
Motasim now travels in a bullet-proof car and even his friends have to be announced by men with weapons before they are allowed to enter. He spends his time between Kabul, where he talks to the government, and in Turkey, from where he can contact his former Taliban colleagues.
The 2010 shooting of Motasim in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi reflects the deadly conundrum that confounds efforts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s war.
Pakistan is accused of giving sanctuary to the Taliban to assert influence in Afghanistan and to counter what it sees as growing influence of India in Afghanistan. Pakistan flatly denies the allegation, but Taliban who have advocated peace talks that threaten to sideline Pakistan have often ended up arrested, dead or forced to live elsewhere.
Pakistan has its own complaints about Afghanistan, saying it allows its territory to be used by anti-Pakistan militants who have staged horrific attacks in Pakistan. It also charges that Afghanistan is being used by hostile India to destabilize its troubled border regions.
The United States has suspended military aid to Pakistan to press it into kicking out Taliban. But Washington also says it sees Pakistan as key to bringing a peaceful end to the Afghan war.
Increasingly, the Taliban have gained control of areas inside Afghanistan. Even Washington’s own Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, says more than half of Afghanistan is either under direct Taliban control or under their influence. Other estimates put the figure as high as 70 percent.
Washington’s reaction to the news of Taliban territorial gains has been to prevent SIGAR from releasing estimates of territory gained or lost by the government, the special inspector general’s office reported last month. Washington has also classified information regarding the strength and performance of Afghanistan’s security forces.
In a report SIGAR said $72 billion of the $120 billion spent in Afghanistan since the war began went to the country’s security.
“Clearly, the time is ripe to ask why an undertaking begun in 2002 and costing $70 billion has — so far — not yielded bigger dividends,” the report said.