When Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the studios of state-owned media outlet Russia Today in 2013, he reportedly instructed them to break “the Anglo-Saxon monopoly on global information streams.”
It appears he has not forgotten that goal.
Politico reported on Monday that Russian hackers have been posing as attractive women and friending US troops on Facebook to gather intelligence about the military.
These actions are part of a larger Russian strategy aimed at manipulating and extracting intelligence from the US military.
The U.S. military’s online behavior campaign is used to highlight the importance of appropriate conduct online and social media behavior to help eradicate bullying, exploitation and degradation of fellow service members. (Graphic Illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kegan E. Kay/Released)
Russia seems to be infiltrating the social media accounts of US troops for at least two reasons, according to Politico.
One, it allows Russia to better glean the activities of the US military through what its troops post online. “Spies understand that a great deal can be discerned about what militaries are up to based on the unclassified behavior of soldiers,” John Bambenek, of Fidelis Cybersecurity, told Politico.
Two, it gives them the chance to make US troops sympathize with Russia by inserting propaganda into their news feeds.
For example, former military contractor Serena Moring told Politico she noticed US service members sharing a link about a Russian soldier who heroically died while fighting ISIS in Syria.
According to the Pravda report, the Russian soldier supposedly called in an airstrike on himself while surrounded by ISIS militants, telling his command, “I don’t want them to take me and parade me, conduct the airstrike, they will make a mockery of me and this uniform. I want to die with dignity and take all these bastards with me.”
While the veracity of the story is unknown, Moring told Politico that US soldiers were sharing it with admiration.
“All of the response from the military guys was like, ‘That is awesome. That’s an epic way to die,'” she told Politico. “It was a very soldier-to-soldier bond that was created through social media.”
Russia is employing these hybrid warfare tactics against many Baltic states as well.
According to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, hybrid warfare are “activities conducted to enable a resistance movement or insurgency to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a government or occupying power by operating through or with an underground, auxiliary, or guerrilla force in a denied area.”
In fact, Kyiv recently outlawed Russian social media sites, which Ukrainian officials said were being used to spread propaganda. Human Rights Watch, however, accused Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of trying to curb freedom of expression.
A North Carolina mom of three and Army veteran has flown to Iraq and is training with the Kurdish Peshmerga to fight ISIS, according to reports.
Samantha Johnston felt the U.S. wasn’t doing enough to stop ISIS, so the former Army geospatial engineer left her kids with a caregiver and joined the fight. Now, she’s training as part of a Kurdish quick reaction force, conducting daily drills and anticipating an attack by ISIS.
The young mom knew she needed to do more to help.
“These children here who are homeless, orphaned; mothers and sisters have been raped and sold, fathers who have been killed,” Johnston told the Daily Mail. “They are suffering, and I knew that I couldn’t just sit and do nothing. I couldn’t look my children in the eyes and say, ‘I didn’t do anything to help.'”
While the determined mom hasn’t fought directly against ISIS yet, but called the current training period “the calm before the storm,” according to a report on Fox46 Charlotte. ISIS has captured much of Iraq and recently captured over 100 tanks, artillery pieces, and wheeled vehicles after the fall of Ramadi.
To see more of Samantha Johnston, check out the article and photo gallery in the Daily Mail.
The Taliban are seizing new territory, civilian casualties and US military deaths are once more on the rise, and insider attacks on American and Afghan forces have more than doubled this year. That’s the grim reckoning of a US inspector general’s report released Oct. 26 even as the Pentagon and allied forces seek to implement President Trump’s strategy for the 16-year-old conflict.
The central government in Kabul has ceded more territory to the Taliban since the early days of the Afghanistan War, with the terrorist group now in full or partial control of 54 of the country’s districts, according to the latest quarterly survey to Congress from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The report contains sobering findings for Mr. Trump and his generals, even as the parallel war against Islamic State and other radical terrorist movements in Syria and Iraq has made significant gains this year.
The Taliban, which are mainly concentrated within the eastern and southern segments of the country, claimed control of nine districts previously held by government forces over the past six months. As a result, more than 3.7 million Afghans, or just over 11 percent of the country’s entire population, now live under the radical Islamist movement’s control, the SIGAR inspectors found.
Those gains come despite a marked uptick in US combat operations in Afghanistan, where American and allied forces executed more airstrikes against Taliban and Islamic State strongholds in the country than in any year since 2014. US and NATO forces carried out 2,400 airstrikes during an eight-month period this year against insurgent targets tied to the Taliban and forces loyal to Islamic State’s Afghan cell.
American and allied forces executed over 700 airstrikes against insurgent targets in Afghanistan in September alone, in line with the hard-line wartime strategy for Afghanistan that Mr. Trump outlined in August.
“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” said SIGAR head John F. Sopko. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”
The downbeat SIGAR findings — its 37th quarterly survey of the war — come amid reports that the US military has begun to restrict the information flow on the war as the conflict grinds on. The New York Times reported this week that the Pentagon has stopped providing figures on the size of the Afghan security and police forces, the state of their equipment, and Afghan casualty figures.
The Pentagon told the newspaper that the information was being withheld at the request of the Afghan government, but even the SIGAR report released this week revealed that the Afghan army and the national police force had a net loss of manpower in the most recent reporting period.
Roughly 3,900 more US troops are being funneled into Afghanistan to support the 8,400 soldiers, sailors, and Marines already there, with a majority supporting the NATO-led adviser mission dubbed Operation Resolute Support. Other American troops, mostly special operations units, are conducting counter-terrorism missions against the Taliban and Islamic State under a separate mission.
Mr. Trump’s blueprint abandons the timeline-based approach to the American mission in Afghanistan in favor of a “conditions based” strategy. Administration critics claim the decision will effectively restart US-led combat operations in Afghanistan, which officially ended in late 2014 under President Obama and draw the US into an open-ended conflict.
While officials in the Pentagon and their counterparts in the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani claim the shift will provide much-needed reassurance to the Afghan Security Forces, the situation on the ground shows that fight will likely be much tougher than anticipated.
Despite the uptick in US action, the Taliban continue to carry out high-profile attacks, including some in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital.
Roughly 90 people were killed and over 400 wounded, including 11 American contractors, in a brazen suicide attack on the German Embassy in Kabul in May. The attack was one of the worst to hit the capital since US and NATO forces ended combat operations in the country in 2014.
On Oct. 31, four people were killed and 13 wounded in a suicide attack inside the “green zone” — the heavily fortified sector in central Kabul that is home to the US Embassy and the Afghan presidential palace. Members of ISIS-K carried out the Oct. 31 attack, according to reports from Amaq news agency, the main social media propaganda network for Islamic State.
When the US ended combat operations three years ago, the Ghani government held roughly 60 percent of the country, according to government-led analysis, as well as reviews by private-sector analysts.
But those gains appear to be slipping from Kabul’s grasp, and the Taliban’s gains in the country over the past six months have taken a toll on the country’s military.
Battlefield casualties continue to increase among the ranks of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, while Kabul continues to combat high levels of attrition among the country’s armed forces. The Afghan army’s ranks have dropped by 4,000 troops and the national police lost 5,000 people, according to SIGAR’s latest findings.
By contrast, the Taliban continue to show signs of strength within their traditional base in the southern and eastern parts of the country, but also in northern and western Afghanistan, where they had not had significant sway in the past.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters amassed in the western Afghanistan’s Farah province during a show of force in October. The gathering, posted as part of the group’s propaganda videos, showed the Afghan jihadis assembling in broad daylight without fear of being targeted by Afghan and coalition forces, according to analysis by the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
In a rare interview with The Guardian, senior Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Saeed said Washington’s new aggressive approach would not be enough to turn the tide against the group.
Since “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us,” the 4,000 troops Mr. Trump has authorized “will not change the morale of our mujahedeen,” Mullah Saeed said. “The Americans were walking in our villages, and we pushed them out.”
He said the Taliban would consider a peace deal, but only on the condition that the “foreigners must leave, and the constitution must be changed to [Islamic] Shariah law.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.
Peace talks, possibly including the Taliban, have also been a key part in the White House’s Afghanistan strategy. On Nov. 1, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson reiterated that the administration was open to peace talks with the Taliban, though not with Islamic State elements in Afghanistan.
“There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever,” Mr. Tillerson said during his unannounced visit to Kabul.
“We are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government,” the top US diplomat added.
Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to hold peace talks with the Taliban in 2013, coinciding with the Taliban’s unprecedented move to open a political office in Doha that year. At the time, officials in the Obama administration saw the potential talks as a vehicle to help accelerate the withdrawal of US forces from the country by 2014. But Pakistan’s decision to withdraw from the talks eventually scuttled any effort to reach a deal with the terrorist group.
Featured Image: 1st Sgt. David W. Christopher and Army Staff Sgt. Gordon M. Campbell stand by after setting fire to a Taliban shelter along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. (Army photo by Spc. Matthew Leary)
The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of two Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs), the future USS Sioux City (LCS 11) and USS Wichita (LCS 13), during a ceremony at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard on Aug. 22, 2018.
Sioux City and Wichita, respectively, are the 14th and 15th Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) to be delivered to the Navy and the sixth and seventh of the Freedom variant to join the fleet. These deliveries mark the official transfer of the ships from the shipbuilder, part of a Lockheed Martin-led team, to the U.S. Navy. It is the final milestone prior to commissioning. Both ships will be commissioned in late 2018, Sioux City in Annapolis, Maryland, and Wichita in Jacksonville, Florida.
Regarding the LCS deliveries, Captain Mike Taylor, LCS program manager, said, “The future USS Sioux City is a remarkable ship which will bring tremendous capability to the Fleet. I am excited to join with her crew and celebrate her upcoming commissioning at the home of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.”
“Today also marks a significant milestone in the life of the future USS Wichita, an exceptional ship which will conduct operations around the globe,” he said. “I look forward to seeing Wichita join her sister ships this winter.”
Capt. Shawn Johnston, commander, LCS Squadron Two, welcomed the ships to the fleet, saying, “The future USS Sioux City is a welcome addition to the East Coast Surface Warfare Division. Both her Blue and Gold crews are ready to put this ship though her paces and prepare the ship to deploy.
An artist rendering of the littoral combat ship USS Sioux City (LCS11).
(U.S. Navy photo illustration by Stan Bailey)
“The future USS Wichita is the first East Coast Mine Warfare Division ship,” he said. “She will have a chance to test some of the latest and greatest mine warfare systems after she completes her remaining combat systems trials.”
Several additional Freedom variant ships are under construction at Fincantieri Marinette Marine. The future USS Billings (LCS 15) is preparing for trials in spring 2019. The future USS Indianapolis (LCS 17) was christened/launched in April 2018. The future USS St. Louis (LCS 19) is scheduled for christening and launch in the fall. The future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS 21) is preparing for launch and christening in spring of 2019, while the future USS Cooperstown (LCS 23)’s keel was laid in early August 2018 and is undergoing construction in the shipyard’s erection bays. The future USS Marinette (LCS 25) started fabrication in February 2018, while the future USS Nantucket (LCS 27) is scheduled to begin fabrication in the fall.
LCS is a modular, reconfigurable ship designed to meet validated fleet requirements for surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures missions in the littoral region. An interchangeable mission package is embarked on each LCS and provides the primary mission systems in one of these warfare areas. Using an open architecture design, modular weapons, sensor systems and a variety of manned and unmanned vehicles to gain, sustain and exploit littoral maritime supremacy, LCS provides U.S. joint force access to critical theaters.
The LCS class consists of the Freedom variant and Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin (for the odd-numbered hulls, e.g., LCS 1). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA (for LCS 6 and follow-on even-numbered hulls). Twenty-nine LCSs have been awarded to date, with 15 delivered to the Navy, 11 in various stages of construction and three in pre-production states.
Program Executive Office for Unmanned and Small Combatants is responsible for delivering and sustaining littoral mission capabilities to the fleet. Delivering high-quality warfighting assets while balancing affordability and capability is key to supporting the nation’s maritime strategy.
The Washington Post reports a nurse at the VA Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was allegedly intoxicated during a late-night emergency appendectomy.
A probable cause affidavit filed in the local court says Richard Pieri was drunk on call after a night at the nearby Mohegan Sun Casino. Pieri is charged with reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, and public drunkenness.
“Pieri admitted that he knew he was not supposed to be a part of a surgery while he was intoxicated,” the affidavit says. But he “claimed he had forgotten he was on call and did not want to have someone else come in.” The nurse carried his on-call pager to the casino, and whatdaya know, he got the call around 11:30 PM, after he consumed what he claimed were “four or five beers.”
The hospital’s security camera footage shows the nurse stumbling through the parking lot, almost falling at one point. Once in surgery, he had trouble logging into his computer. A physician’s assistant told investigators Pieri smelled like alcohol. He struggled through his duties and then assisted with the surgery.
Medical staff at the hospital allowed that “taking part in a surgery with impaired cognitive ability can create a substantial risk to the safety of the patient.” The surgery went well, but the unnamed patient in question later returned to the hospital with stomach issues.
Pieri still has a job at the Wilkes-Barre VA but has been relieved of his direct patient care duties.
In 2019, retired Army Colonel Claude Schmid founded the nonprofit Veteran’s Last Patrol. Its mission is to forge vital connections and support for hospice veterans in their last days on earth, honoring them as they complete one last patrol.
“My last assignment on active duty I was the Chief of the Wounded Warrior Flight Program, which was an operation where we brought back our casualties from overseas. I recognized that when someone is in great adversity, they, more than ever, need friendship and companionship,” Schmid said. He explained that when he retired, he remembered his mother spending time visiting patients in hospice. It was there that he decided to devote his time to honoring veterans in their last days.
Schmid recognized that many nursing home and hospice care residents were deeply lonely and struggling. Knowing that veterans who served this country at great personal sacrifice were experiencing that didn’t sit well with him. “We decided we’d put teams together nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s nationally to bring friendships to veterans in hospice care… When you go into end of life, it’s one final fight and their last patrol,” he explained.
This is where active duty members and retired military can lend their support, one last time. “The veterans’ community is particularly bonded because of the special work and abilities we have. When veterans move away and fall out of those connections they may be hurting more than most because they are used to that teamwork and support network,” Schmid explained. “Our focus is this mission, the goal of bringing them friendships,” Schmid said.
The core of this nonprofit is to promote volunteerism and provide financial assistance to veterans in need. Veteran’s Last Patrol partners with medical providers to connect volunteers with veterans in hospice care. With many of these volunteers being veterans themselves, it opens the door to sharing stories of the patrols of the past, one last time.
“The national media covers the stories of veterans that have passed away and no one knew they served until they are in the mortuary. The question was, ‘What about before they passed away?'” Schmid said.
Veteran’s Last Patrol also does formal honor ceremonies for the veterans and their families. “There’s been a number of times where within days of that ceremony, the veteran passed away. The family will tell us that they never had a better day than that day in the latter part of their life,” Schmid shared.
“Veterans are about service. We’ve served each other and our nation and this is one way you can continue to serve. I think it can instill future military service for the younger generation, too. As they see this kind of care throughout the life of the veteran and that deep commitment, they might be inspired by that,” Schmid said.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, Veteran’s Last Patrol has an easy call to action for every American to immediately and truly thank these veterans for their service. Operation Holiday Salute is a program to collect cards and letters for veterans in hospice for Christmas. By taking five minutes to write a message to a veteran, you could be making the world of difference. “It’s all about bringing holiday cheer – their last holiday cheer that these veterans will receive in their lives,” Schmid explained. Last year, Veteran’s Last Patrol sent over 4,000 letters to veterans in hospice care.
This year the goal is 10,000.
With the pandemic still impacting things like volunteering in person, writing a letter is a simple and an accessible act of intentional kindness. GivingTuesday is on December 1, 2020, and this is the perfect way to give back to a population that dedicated their lives willingly for our freedoms.
Although its headquarters is located in South Carolina, Veteran’s Last Patrol has teams in 14 states. Anyone can raise their hand and pledge to do this in their own communities by simply contacting Veteran’s Last Patrol through their website. Schmid hopes that one day they’ll cover the country, serving veterans everywhere in their last days.
Veteran’s Last Patrol is dedicated to ensuring that the lives and sacrifices of America’s veterans are never forgotten, especially in their last days. There is no better way to truly say, “Thank you for your service,” than by giving your time to honor a veteran in hospice. Listen to their stories and breathe in their devotion to this country before they are gone, forever. What are you waiting for?
Mail your card or letter for Operation Holiday Salute to: Veteran’s Last Patrol 140B Venture Blvd Spartanburg, SC, 29306
The vehicle taken during the attack in Tongo Tongo, Niger was found on the Malian side of the border in the desert, said Fahad Ag Al Mahmoud, secretary-general of the rebel group known by its French acronym, GATIA.
“Our men are in the middle of digging out the vehicle to get it back in working order,” he said.
He said it was not immediately possible to send a photo to confirm they had retrieved the vehicle, because of the lack of internet in the remote border area.
A coalition of armed Tuareg rebels has been operating against jihadist groups active in the area between Mali and Niger for several weeks.
Four U.S. forces and four Nigerien troops were killed Oct. 4, 2017, about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, Niger’s capital, when they were attacked by as many as 100 Islamic State-linked extremists traveling by vehicle and carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Two other American soldiers and eight Nigerien forces were wounded.
A U.S. military investigation into the Niger attack concluded that the team didn’t get required senior command approval for a risky mission to capture a high-level Islamic State militant, though it did not point to that failure as a cause of the deadly ambush, several U.S. officials familiar with the report said.
The investigation found no single point of failure leading to the attack. It also drew no conclusion about whether villagers in Tongo Tongo, where the team stopped for water and supplies, alerted extremists to American forces in the area.
You’re 11 years old, standing in the middle of the school lunchroom with your meal tray. As you gaze over top of your sandwich, anemic vegetables, and cookie snack pack, you anxiously wonder who will make room for you at their table.
Whether we’re 11, 27, or 80, our human bodies read social anxiety like a physical threat. Will you be able to find and keep food? Experience physical safety? Find meaning in work and life? Throughout history, all of these things have been made exponentially more difficult without a tribe or group.
Stress hormones surge when you’re feeling lonely or rejected, and when they’re elevated too long, you may begin to have difficulty communicating, displaying empathy, or engaging in high-level thinking. This makes connecting with others even more challenging, and your isolation can easily become self-perpetuating.
The good news is, you can increase your health and performance at work and home by finding or building a tribe.
The strange but true fact is that there’s nothing more important to your physical health than community. This is true even if you’re an introvert. It’s true even if your tribe embraces unhealthy behaviors like smoking, high rates of divorce, alcohol abuse and more.
In the military, your tribe is easy to identify. Your tribe may be your branch of service, unit, platoon, or even fireteam. From the first day of training, you and other members of your tribe are working to overcome challenges together. Camaraderie continues as you train, deploy, and socialize together in the coming years.
In Gates of Fire, his epic novel about the Spartan 300, Steven Pressfield writes:
“War, and preparation for war, call forth all that is noble and honorable in a man. It unites him with his brothers and binds them in selfless love…There in the holy mill of murder the meanest of men may seek and find that part of himself, concealed beneath the corrupt, which shines forth brilliant and virtuous, worthy of honor before the gods.“
For many, military service offers the kind of community they’ve never experienced. In this community, we may find purpose, self-knowledge, identity, and so much more. Challenged by our tribe, we grow stronger, faster, and ideally into better leaders.
However, when we inevitably leave the military, we may find ourselves unmoored – adrift in a sea of isolation and alienation that threatens to sink us into depression, stress, and declining performance at work and home.
Crossing the Chasm
In the age of an all-volunteer military, we often hear about the military-civilian divide. It’s not just a divide, though – it’s a chasm.
If you’re a male veteran, only about 12 percent of peers in your age group have served in the military. If you’re a woman who served, that number drops to 3 percent.
When you leave the military you’ll likely struggle to find people who have a deep understanding of your service, experiences, and the unique culture and traditions of military life. Data shows us that alienation – or feeling out of place – is strongly correlated with PTSD and other stress injuries. Finding or building a tribe is critical to good physical, relational, and mental health.
When you’re part of a group and have a deep sense of belonging, a relaxation response takes place in your body and brain. In fact, every system of your body works better when your relaxation response firing. For example, when you’re relaxed and eating a salad, your body absorbs 17 percent more iron than when you’re stressed and eating a salad. Being part of a community results in a positive cycle.
So how do I find a tribe?
As you begin your search for a tribe, one of the most important things you can do is stay humble. Don’t let your veteran status, and all the good things that come with it, become a limiting factor as you build new relationships. Build relationships with veterans and civilians alike.
On the veteran front, give yourself permission to be around people who understand what you’ve just lived through. A great starting place is any post-9/11 veteran organization – they’ll get you connected with veterans who are in a healthy place.
Team Red White and Blue’s entire mission is to build social community at the local level – to bring people together. Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues can help you discover purpose through service.
Purpose is also key. Ask yourself what your passion, ideal volunteer work, or dream venture looks like, then get to work. You may find your civilian tribe doing volunteer work, as part of a faith group, or while living your purpose-driven life.
Finding your tribe may feel tough at first, but like most things it gets easier with practice.
CHECK OUT THESE TRIBES
Volunteer with Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response nonprofit, to rebuild communities around the nation after natural disasters.
Meet up with civilians and fellow veterans for a hike, run, or yoga class with Team Red White Blue.
Put your unique skills to use for a local non-profit, and get paid doing it, as part of The Mission Continues.
Check out a faith community of your choosing
Sign up for a local sports league or class
About the Author
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.
China has landed on the far side of the moon, according to state media, in a giant step for humankind — and a step towards China’s desire to match the United States and Russia in space exploration. The unmanned Chang’e 4 probe reportedly touched down on the moon at 10:26 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2019, according to China Central Television.
The probe was launched by a Long March-3B carrier rocket on Dec. 8, 2018, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, and its sister relay satellite has been in orbit since May 2018.
China’s National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that the Chang’e 4 probe entered a planned elliptical orbit some 9 miles from the surface on Dec. 30, 2018, in preparation for a soft landing on the the South Pole-Aitken basin.
The Chang’e 4 mission is to shed light on the dark side. This will include surveying terrain, mineral composition, and shallow lunar surface structure, along with other scientific observations, according to David.
The Chang’e 4 mission totes six kinds of scientific payloads, David says: “On the lander, it carries the Landing Camera (LCAM), the Terrain Camera (TCAM), and the Low Frequency Spectrometer (LFS). There are three kinds of payloads on the rover, the Panoramic Camera (PCAM), the Lunar Penetrating Radar (LPR), and the Visible and Near-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (VNIS).”
China’s space ambitions
President Xi Jinping wants to make China a space powerhouse within the next decade. Conquering the moon’s mysteries has been an early and critical first goal of China’s ambitious space program.
The US made its own incredible firsts this week. On New Year’s Day 2019, NASA’s New Horizons probe flew past the most distant place ever explored by humankind — a frozen rock at the edge of the solar system.
North Korea publicly unveiled a special operations unit for the first time during a military parade marking the Day of the Sun, the anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung, reports Yonhap News Agency.
The soldiers were armed with grenade launchers and presented with night-vision goggles on their helmets.
“Once Supreme Commander Kim Jong-un issues the order, they will charge with resolve to thrust a sword through the enemy’s heart like lighting,” a North Korean broadcaster said.
The North Korean special operations forces marched across Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang behind the Navy, Air Force, and other strategic forces. The new unit is believed to be led by North Korean Col. Gen. Kim Yong-bok.
North Korea’s special operations forces could be used to counter allied pre-emptive strike plans. Special operations troops recently drilled in preparation for a possible strike on an enemy missile base, the Korean Central News Agency reported. The force also practiced combating enemy commandos.
U.S. and South Korean reports have suggested that allied war plans include the possibility of “decapitation strikes” designed to eliminate the North Korean leadership. South Korea reported that this year’s Key Resolve and Foal Eagle drills included exercises focused on “incapacitating North Korean leadership.”
“The KPA will deal deadly blows without prior warning any time as long as the operation means and troops of the U.S. and South Korean puppet forces involved in the ‘special operation’ and ‘preemptive attack’ targeting the [Democratic Republic of Korea] remain deployed in and around South Korea,” the North Korean military warned in late March.
The North also unveiled several new missiles, intercontinental ballistic missile models, during the parade.
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“This uniform is still in the minds of many Americans. This nation came together during World War II and fought and won a great war,” Sergeant Major of the Army Daniel Dailey said in a briefing with reporters at the Pentagon. “That’s what the secretary and [Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley] wanted to do, is capitalize on the greatest generation because there is another great generation that is serving today, and that is the soldiers serving in the United States Army.”
Soldiers currently serving in the active duty, National Guard and Reserves will be able to purchase the new uniform in summer 2020, but they do not have to buy it until 2028, Army officials have said. The current blue Army Service Uniform (ASU) will become the service’s optional dress uniform.
“I know it seems like a long time,” Dailey said, explaining that the extended phase-in period is designed to give enlisted soldiers time to save up their annual clothing allowance to pay for the new uniform. “We’ve got to give the soldier ample time to be paid for those uniform items prior to it being required for them to wear it.”
He said it would be “premature” to release the estimated cost of the new uniform.
Soldier Models of the proposed Pink and Green daily service uniform display the outfits overcoat, as they render the hand salute during the National Anthem at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania during the Army-Navy Game Dec. 9, 2017.
“We have an estimated cost,” he said. “We are not done with any contracting at this point, so it would be premature to give you any of those costs. What we do know is that, because of the measures we are taking, it is going to be cost neutral to the taxpayer and the soldier in the long run.”
Dailey justified the cost of the new, more-expensive Army Greens uniform by saying it will last longer than the current-issue ASU.
“The estimated cost of the new [Army] Greens uniform is higher than that of the current service blue uniform … because it is a higher-quality uniform,” he said. “We could easily make it the same cost, but that’s not the intent here. The intent here is to increase the quality of the uniform, and that is why we extended the life of the uniform.”
The new Greens jacket will be made of a 55-percent/45-percent “poly-wool elastique.” The pants will feature a gabardine weave made of a 55/45 poly-wool combination as well. The shirt will be made of a 75-percent/25-percent cotton-poly blend, said Army officials, explaining that service life of the Army Greens is six years compared to the ASU’s four years.
“We went for a higher-quality fabric. The uniform costs more as a result … but we intended to do that because one of the chief of staff of the Army’s directives to us was build a higher-quality uniform, which inherently costs more,” Dailey said. “And the way you offset that is you capitalize on the life of that uniform based upon its higher quality.”
Despite the recent adoption announcement, the Army Greens design is not yet finalized.
“There were some design changes all the way up until the week before the secretary made the decision,” Dailey said.
The uniform prototype Dailey wore recently at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in October 2018 featured a jacket belt with a gold buckle, he said, adding that the final design will be more subdued.
“The chief of staff has made a slight change on the length of the collar on the male jacket,” Dailey said. “From a design perspective, it’s the right decision the chief made.”
The jacket buttons will also feature an antique finish instead of a brass color, Army officials said.
“The next set of photographs we want to get out to the media, we want them to be accurate” to show the final design, Dailey said.
Before the Army starts issuing the redesigned uniform to the force, the service intends to field 200 sets of Army Greens for a final evaluation.
“We are in the process of being able to produce about 200 uniforms that we want to issue out to designated forward-facing units … and when I say ‘forward-facing units,’ I’m really talking recruiters,” said Col. Stephen Thomas, head of Project Manager Soldier Protection Individual Equipment. “Then, what we will do is get feedback from those soldiers on how to better refine the uniform so that when we go to final production … we have a comprehensive uniform design that soldiers like.”
Officials from Program Executive Office Soldier said the process should be complete by summer 2019.
“This is a great day to be a solder,” Dailey said. “As I go around and have talked to soldiers in the last few days … they are very excited about it, and the overwhelming majority are just truly excited about the new uniform.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Over 29 days in spring 2018, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity documented this 360-degree panorama from multiple images taken at what would become its final resting spot in Perseverance Valley. Located on the inner slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, Perseverance Valley is a system of shallow troughs descending eastward about the length of two football fields from the crest of Endeavour’s rim to its floor.
“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” said Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance. Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close. And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.”
The trailblazing mission ended after nearly 15 years of exploring the surface of Mars, but its legacy will live on. Opportunity’s scientific discoveries contributed to our unprecedented understanding of the planet’s geology and environment, laying the groundwork for future robotic and human missions to the Red Planet.
This image is an edited version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Pancam from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The version of the scene is presented in approximate true color.
This image is a cropped version of the last 360-degree panorama taken by the Opportunity rover’s Pancam from May 13 through June 10, 2018. The panorama appears in 3D when seen through blue-red glasses with the red lens on the left.
The panorama is composed of 354 individual images provided by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111. This view combines images taken through three different Pancam filters. The filters admit light centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet).
A few frames remain black and white, as the solar-powered rover did not have the time to record those locations using the green and violet filters before a severe Mars-wide dust storm swept in on June 2018.
Taken on June 10, 2018 (the 5,111th Martian day, or sol, of the mission) this “noisy,” incomplete image was the last data NASA’s Opportunity rover sent back from Mars. Click here for full image and caption.
The gallery includes the last images Opportunity obtained during its mission (black-and-white thumbnail images from the Pancam that were used to determine how opaque the sky was on its last day) and also the last piece of data the rover transmitted (a “noisy,” incomplete full-frame image of a darkened sky).
These two thumbnail images, with the ghostly dot of a faint Sun near the middle of each, are the last images NASA’s Opportunity rover took on Mars. Click here for full image and caption.
After eight months of effort and sending more than a thousand commands in an attempt to restore contact with the rover, NASA declared Opportunity’s mission complete on Feb. 13, 2019.
JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, managed the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.