At some point during the Trump administration, Russia told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a war in Europe — a warning that led Mattis to regard Moscow as major threat to the US.
According to “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s recently released book about turmoil in the White House, Moscow’s warning was in regard to a potential conflict in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
The Baltics were part of the Soviet Union and have deep ties to Russia, which has sought to reassert influence there since the end of the Cold War. Those countries have tried to move closer to the West, including NATO membership.
According to Woodward’s account, the warning from Russia came some time during or before summer 2017, when the Trump administration was haggling over the future of the Iran nuclear deal.
At the time, President Donald Trump wanted to withdraw from the deal, claiming Iran had violated the terms.
Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, and Mattis didn’t disagree with Tillerson, Woodward writes, but they responded to the president’s assertions more tactfully.
Mattis, long regarded as a hawk on Iran, had mellowed, according to Woodward, preferring other actions — “Push them back, screw with them, drive a wedge between the Russians and Iranians” — to war.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
(Photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Russia, Woodward then notes,”had privately warned Mattis that if there was a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO.”
“Mattis, with agreement from Dunford, began saying that Russia was an existential threat to the United States,” Woodward adds, referring to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Woodward offers no additional context for the warning, nor is it totally clear why that detail is included where it is in the book.
Most nuclear-armed countries have policies that would allow their first-use in a conflict.
Imagery released early 2018 indicated ongoing renovations at what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, south of Lithuania.
“Features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” a Federation of American Scientists report on the imagery said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”
‘Tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler’
Tactical nuclear weapons typically have smaller yields and are generally meant for limited uses on the battlefield. Strategic nuclear weapons usually have higher yields and are used over longer ranges.
Some experts prefer the term “non-strategic nuclear weapons,” as the use of nuclear weapons would have both tactical and strategic implications. Mattis himself has said there is no such thing as a “tactical” nuclear weapon, as “any nuclear weapon used at any time is a strategic game-changer.”
Russia and the US have more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, though Russia’s arsenal is slightly larger. Pentagon officials have said Russia wants to add to that arsenal, violating current arms-control treaties.
During the Cold War, the Soviets expected Western countries to use nuclear weapons first and had plans to use nuclear weapons against NATO targets in the event of war, using larger-yield devices against targets like cities and smaller-yield ones — “tactical” nukes — against NATO command posts, military facilities, and weapons sites.
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Aug. 2, 2017.
(US Air Force photo)
The size of Russia’s current stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons is not known, though it’s believed to be much smaller than that of the Soviet Union.
It’s not totally clear how Russia would use “tactical” nuclear weapons — the Congressional Research Service has said Russia appears to view them as defense in nature — but they are seen as compensating for Russia’s conventional military shortcomings. (US interest in “low-yield” nuclear weapons as a deterrent has also grown, though critics say they would raise the chance of US first-use.)
Russia has fewer “strategic” nuclear weapons than the US, and “tactical” nuclear weapons may be more handy for Moscow’s shorter-range, regional focus, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told The National Interest in late 2017.
“Russia’s conventional forces are incapable of defending Russian territory in a long war,” Kristensen said. “It would lose, and as a result of that, they have placed more emphasis on more usage of tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
In a report released earlier this summer, the Department of Defense Inspector General has determined that the Army’s finances are a world-class mess. Reportedly, the service made $2.8 trillion in adjustments to make their books balance just in one quarter of 2015 in spite of the fact that the entire defense budget for that fiscal year was $585 billion.
According to Reuters, the Army’s books are so jumbled that they may be impossible to audit – and the Army is facing a September 30, 2017 deadline to be ready for one. The harsh IG report concluded the Army “materially misstated” its financial statements for 2015.
Making the task of squaring the Army’s books harder is the fact that over 16,000 documents have vanished from the Army’s computer system. The Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS), the Pentagon’s primary agency responsible for accounting services, routinely changed numbers without justification at the end of the year, something employees of that agency referred to as the “grand plug.”
“Where is the money going? Nobody knows,” DOD critic and retired analyst Franklin Spinney told Reuters.
The Army has taken issue with the IG report, claiming that the total discrepancies total just under $62.5 billion. An Army spokesman said, “Though there is a high number of adjustments, we believe the financial statement information is more accurate than implied in this report,” that and that the Army “remains committed to asserting audit readiness” and that steps are being taken to root out the problems.
For the first time in American history, a female Soldier has completed U.S. Army Special Forces training and has earned the right to don the legendary Green Beret.
Despite how often people get the moniker wrong, Special Forces is only a title that applies to the U.S. Army’s elite special operations Green Berets. SEALs, Rangers, Marine Raiders and others all fall under the broader term of “Special Operations,” but only the Green Berets are rightfully called Special Forces.
“Good for her! It was only a matter of time and I would guess it will become more and more common over the next few years, across USSOF.” -Former Navy SEAL/CIA Officer Frumentarius
Special Forces Assessment and Selection (US Army)
In 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the formal ban on women serving in combat roles, and in 2016 all military occupational specialties were opened up to female service members, including those in elite special operations fields.
“There will be no exceptions,” former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said in 2015. “They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men.”
The identity of the woman that fought her way through all six phases of Special Forces training has not been revealed, citing privacy concerns for the Army’s newest Green Beret, but the impact of her accomplishment remains.
“We don’t need to know her name or see her to be inspired by her, just knowing that there is a female green beret can motivate any Soldier to do better or to reach for their goals.” -Specialist Hannah Johnson, Utah National Guard
What we do know about this history-making Soldier is that she was among only a handful of females that made it through the initial 24-day assessment that serves as a screening to eliminate those who may not have the mental or physical capacity to complete the training. Now, even with Special Forces training behind the America’s female Green Beret, her days of training are far from over. Once you earn a spot in a Special Operations unit, training is continuous to ensure special operators are well prepared for any challenges they may face.
Special Forces Green Beret soldiers from each of the Army’s seven Special Forces Groups stand silent watch during the wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of President John F. Kennedy (U.S. Army Photo)
Former Green Beret NCO and Warrant Officer Steve Balestrieri used to oversee portions of the selection process, and earlier this year wrote an article for Sandboxx News entitled, “Women Passing Special Forces Selection? Yes you can,” in which he outlines the challenges all aspiring Green Berets must face, as well as some that are specific to females serving in that capacity. We asked Balestrieri how he feels about seeing this historic event unfold.
“I think that (from what I heard from those who know), this woman had no corners cut for her, and not only met but exceeded the standards. For her, now the journey really begins. I truly wish her all the best.” -Former Green Beret Steve Balestrieri
As Balestrieri writes in his piece, some members of the Special Operations community may well harbor some outdated beliefs when it comes to women serving in these elite roles, but as he points out (and our discussions with other Special Operations veterans seem to further prove), many of America’s elite warfighters are happy to see their female peers work their way into their elite company.
“I wish her all the best, I hope she crushes it. There are a lot of outside opinions that ultimately don’t matter so long as she does her job and does it well.” “At the end of the day, SOF is a place where politics don’t really matter as long as you can do your job to standard.” -Luke Ryan, Former Army Ranger
A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier with the National Guard shares best practices to U.S. and Chile counterparts. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Osvaldo Equite/Released)
Green Berets are tasked with a number of difficult mission sets in combat environments, from direct action operations to training foreign military forces to provide their own defense. Alongside their peers in the Special Operations community, Green Berets have served as part of the backbone of America’s presence in Global War on Terror operations the world over.
Earning the right to wear the Green Beret is an incredible feat for any Soldier, but becoming the first female to earn one is not only historic, it’s an important message to Soldiers of all types across the force: Being a man is not a prerequisite to becoming one of America’s most elite war fighters. Because the history-making Soldier serves in the National Guard, it also shines a valuable light on the opportunities service members of both genders have in both active and reserve capacities.
“I mean it’s a major win for females everywhere, it’s bigger than just the Army, especially the National Guard. It’s proof that women are capable and that institutions are capable of change. She’ll be able to bring her own strengths and capabilities to that community, which will make it better. “ -Specialist Hannah Johnson, Utah National Guard
In 1981, a female Soldier named Capt. Kathleen Wilder was failed as she very nearly completed Special Forces training. After an investigation into her dismissal, it was found that she had “been wrongly denied graduation.” Now, nearly four decades later, significant challenges remain for women in military service, but this momentous occasion is a step in the right direction.
Comedian Rob Riggle accepted a commission in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1990 with the intent of earning a pilot’s Wings of Gold, but once he got to flight school in Pensacola it hit him that the lengthy commitment was going to keep him from realizing his dream of doing stand up.
“If I had continued flying I didn’t see how I would be able to take my shot at comedy,” Riggle says. “I left flight school and became a public affairs officer.”
After nine years on active duty that included stateside tours at Cherry Point, Camp Lejeune, and Corpus Christi and overseas tours in Liberia and Albania (where he helped build refugee camps for those displaced by the fighting in Kosovo), Riggle transferred to the Marine Corps Reserve. He moved to New York City to pursue his comedy career and drilled with Marine Training Unit 17 — the only reserve unit in Manhattan.
And then 9/11 happened.
“I got a call from my CO and was ordered to report to One Police Plaza first thing in the morning on Sept. 12,” Riggle says. “I worked on the bucket brigades moving rubble by hand.”
For a week he worked 12-on-12-off, clearing the twisted wreckage that was piled six stories high around where the twin towers of the World Trade Center had proudly stood just days before. On the seventh day, the operation was changed from search-and-rescue to search-and-recovery. With all hope gone that more victims might be found alive among the concrete and steel and with the danger of more collapses gone, the heavy machinery was brought in to remove the rest.
Riggle was exhausted and emotionally spent. He’d seen enough.
“Like most Americans, I was pissed off,” he says. “But as a Marine captain, I could do something about it. I put my hand in the air and told my commanding officer, ‘put me in this thing.’ And so he did.”
Now watch Rob Riggle fly with the Blue Angels:
Riggle received orders on Nov. 10 — the Marine Corps birthday — and a week later he reported to CENTCOM in Tampa for training and two weeks after that he was on his way to the war.
“About 20 days from the time I got my orders I was on my way to Afghanistan,” Riggle recalls. “That’s why you have reserves.”
He did two rotations into Afghanistan during his year back on active duty, working out of the Joint Operations Center because he had top secret security clearance. He was part of Operation Anaconda — the first major offensive using a large number of conventional troops — and other major campaigns during that time.
“When my year was up I moved back to New York City and ran the marathon,” he recalls.
The year after that he was added to the cast of “Saturday Night Live.” And the rest is American comedy history.
“I earned the title Marine, no one gave it to me,” Riggle says when asked to sum up his military career. “I’ll be proud of that as long as I’m alive.”
“Our working dogs are selfless in everything they do simply to please their handlers and those who work with them,” said Sergeant Major (retired) Jeremy Knabenshue, a veteran who worked as a K9 handler in the U.S. Army. “They give everything they have — to include their lives — without question to protect their pack.”
During a recent interview with Coffee or Die, Knabenshue spoke about his relationship with Weblo, his Military Working Dog (MWD). After a stint as an MP, Knabenshue became a K9 handler for a Special Missions Unit working alongside some of the most elite operators in the world. His work there, particularly his relationship with Weblo, had a profound impact on him. He served with that unit until retirement.
“When I was first assigned Weblo, he was a beatdown dog from Holland that flinched at every sudden move,” Knabenshue said. “I spent every single day for a year going to work to spend time with him and build our relationship until we deployed.”
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
On Knabenshue’s first deployment, Weblo was shot. They were working with a squad from 3rd Ranger Battalion, and Knabenshue credits the dog’s actions for saving his life. He treated Weblo, and “that night of saving one another’s lives solidified our bond to one another.”
“Personality-wise he was one of the guys.” Knabenshue said. “He was more than just a dog or a tool. He lived with us and was part of the team.” That relationship extended onto the battlefield as well — they had reached such a strong point of mutual understanding that few words had to be spoken. They moved together, fought together, and hit objectives together — all as one.
One night in Afghanistan, Knabenshue, Weblo, and an assault force of American operators boarded a helicopter and flew toward an enemy position. They expected to make their way to the target building when they landed, but chaos erupted as soon as the wheels touched the ground. People were running erratically, weapons were being fired, and they had to fight just to get to the objective — which should have been a simple 10 minute walk.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
As they made it to the target compound, they began to move along one of the exterior walls. The next step would have been to hit the front door and assault the compound as usual; Knabenshue sent Weblo up front to check for booby traps before breaching.
When Weblo turned left instead of right, Knabenshue said that his first instinct was to become frustrated — now instead of breaching, he had to grab another assaulter and go get this dog who appeared to be distracted or disobedient. However, when they discovered Weblo, his jaws were clenched on a man clutching an AK47, who was lying in wait for an unsuspecting soldier to enter the breach.
This man had not been spotted by anyone on the assault force nor by the air assets circling in the sky — but he was spotted by Weblo.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
This was how it went for six deployments — two to Iraq and four to Afghanistan. When they weren’t in a combat zone, training took them deep into the jungle, over rigorous mountain terrain, and helocasting into the water.
When Weblo came to the end of his military service, he went to live with Knabenshue. No longer under threat of death or permanent injury, their friendship continued to grow. And then Weblo was diagnosed with cancer.
As the dog’s health steadily declined, Knabenshue knew it was time to have him put down comfortably. He contacted a trusted veterinarian to set the date. But one day he took special notice of the airfield near his house, and an idea came to him. Knabenshue knew a truck wouldn’t suffice for Weblo’s last ride — he deserved more.
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy Knabenshue.)
On March 8, 2016, everything fell into place. When Weblo and Knabenshue stepped onto the airfield and heard the thundering of the helicopter rotors, the dog’s chest swelled. Knabenshue swears that, for a moment, Weblo once again looked like a young working dog barreling across the Afghan countryside.
Also on the helicopter was the veterinarian. As they circled in the sky, Weblo felt the wind in his fur as he had so many times before among his fellow warriors. Following a painless injection, Weblo quietly, comfortably passed on.
After they landed, Knabenshue carried Weblo back to his truck to say goodbye.
“There will never be another Weblo for me,” Knabenshue later wrote on his blog. “I miss him daily and wish that somehow he could still be here. His death hit me far harder than any of the deaths of friends I’ve lost over the years. He was more than a pet or partner, he was an extension of myself as I was a part of him. His ashes are now placed on a shelf over my bar so that he can still look over and protect us.”
The global death toll from the coronavirus is approaching 230,000 with more than 3.2 million infections confirmed, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.
Here’s a roundup of COVID-19 developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast regions.
Tajik authorities said they had registered 15 coronavirus cases in the country, the first such cases after weeks of mounting speculation that officials were suppressing information about the disease.
The confirmation of the cases, made April 30 by the government task force charged with fighting the coronavirus, poses a dangerous challenge for the authoritarian government.
Tajikistan’s health-care system is underfunded and unequipped to deal with a widespread outbreak of cases. The government, under President Emomali Rahmon, has suppressed opposition parties, civil society groups, and independent media for years, leading to a vacuum of information.
The ministry did not release any further details such as when the cases were discovered or which hospitals the patients were being treated at.
The state-run Khovar news agency said that the task force ordered that all Tajiks must now wear face coverings when outdoors.
Even as infections skyrocketed in other Central Asian nations, Rahmon flouted warnings from international experts to order social-distancing restrictions or other measures to try to curtail any spread of the disease.
Suspicion has grown amid a spike in respiratory diseases that have been described as pneumonia or tuberculosis.
Even though it had not confirmed any cases at the time, the government last week closed schools for two weeks and suspended the national soccer season over the coronavirus.
Adding to the confusion, the country representative of the World Health Organization, Galina Perfilyeva, has for weeks repeated government insistence that there were no cases in the country.
On April 27, she warned that the country must be ready for the “worst-case scenario.” WHO officials said a team of experts were expected to travel to Tajikistan on April 30.
Turkmenistan now is the only country in Central Asia that has not officially reported any cases of the virus.
Other countries across Central Asia have begun to ease restrictions that were suspended over the coronavirus outbreak.
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev said on April 30 that the resumption of economic activities will take into consideration priorities and proceed in 10-day stages beginning on May 1.
According to Abylgaziev, his cabinet has allocated some million for measures to slow the spread of the virus.
Kyrgyz Interior Minister Kashkar Junushaliev told reporters on April 30 that all checkpoints in Bishkek, the capital, will be removed on May 1 and that police will patrol streets to monitor vehicle movements.
The Health Ministry said on April 30 that the number of coronavirus cases in the country had reached 746, including eight deaths.
Neighboring Uzbekistan has begun to ease restrictions as well, announcing that, as of April 30, citizens could resume using private cars from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The use of private vehicles was temporarily banned in March because of the pandemic.
A day earlier, the Uzbek government extended the suspension of all flights abroad to June 30. International flights, except cargo flights, were suspended initially for one month on March 30.
According to health officials, there were 2,017 coronavirus cases, including nine deaths, in Uzbekistan as of April 30.
The largest number of coronavirus cases in the region has been officially registered in Kazakhstan, where the latest figures on April 30 were 3,273 cases with 25 deaths.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on Kazakhstan to stop harassing journalists covering the coronavirus outbreak in the country, saying they are being subjected to “interrogation, prosecution, and violation of the confidentiality of their sources.”
“On the pretext of avoiding panic, the authorities are harassing journalists and bloggers who stray from the official line on the epidemic,” Jeanne Cavelier, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement on April 30.
“This exploitation of the state of emergency is harming press freedom in Kazakhstan. It must stop,” Cavelier added.
The statement cited the case of Zaure Mirzakhodjaeva, a journalist and blogger in the southern city of Shymkent, who was summoned and questioned by the police for seven hours last week over a Facebook post.
It said Mirzakhodjaeva is now being criminally investigated for allegedly spreading false information.
Media in Kazakhstan have been subjected to “judicial harassment” since the Central Asian country declared a state of emergency on March 16, according to RSF.
The Paris-based media freedom watchdog said the authorities are “monitoring social media and media outlets closely for what they regard as excessive criticism of the government’s handling of the health crisis.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has shortened a three-day weekend curfew to just one day to allow for celebrations of the May 1 holiday amid ongoing public protests over restrictions imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“We propose that the curfew begin at 6 p.m. [on April 30] and last until [May 1] at 5 a.m.,” Vucic told state broadcaster RTS on April 29.
An original plan would have imposed a curfew from the evening of April 30 until the morning of May 4 in order to limit gatherings of people in public places. Serbs traditionally celebrate May 1 with large picnics.
Serbia introduced draconian measures last month, including a state of emergency, the closure of borders, a daily curfew from 5 p.m., and total lockdowns all weekend, including all four days of the Orthodox Easter holiday.
Gatherings of more than five people remain banned, Vucic said.
The decision follows three nights of noisy protests by Serb citizens who were stuck at home and resorted to banging tin pans and drums to vent their anger at the government and its tough containment measures against the virus.
The protests are similar to one held in 1996 and 1997 in response to what they saw as electoral fraud attempts by the Socialist Party of Serbia, led by President Slobodan Milosevic, after local elections in 1996.
The coronavirus protests have also provided an outlet for discontent with the policies of Vucic, a former nationalist firebrand and ex-information minister under Milosevic who later adopted pro-European values.
Many Serbs say Vucic, in power since 2012, and his ruling coalition are displaying traits of authoritarianism, employing oppression against political opponents, stifling media freedoms, corruption, cronyism, and ties with organized crime.
Vucic and his allies deny such accusations.
As of April 2, the number of coronavirus infections in Serbia was almost 8,500, with 168 deaths, according to Serbia’s Health Ministry.
Operation Deep Freeze is one the largest but lesser-known peacetime operations that the U.S. military conducts.
Every year, from August to March, the Air Force, Navy, AND Coast Guard conduct hundreds of sorties to Antarctica and the South Pole, transporting materiel, supplies, and people to the U.S. bases there.
During the 2020-2021 season, C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft shouldered the majority of the load for Operation Deep Freeze.
More specifically, C-17 IIIs from the 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings delivered more than three million pounds of supplies and materiel, conducted two emergency aeromedical evacuations, and transported more than 1,000 people. Impressively, there was not even a single accident despite the hundreds of sorties. Indeed, Operation Deep Freeze is traditionally accident-free, with an ongoing 21-year streak without any major mishaps.
“I’ll certainly miss working with the staff and crew, and the Kiwi folks that work so hard in support of the Antarctic mission. Of course, flying over the continent of Antarctica never gets old. I won’t miss the cold though,” Chief Master Sergeant Ty Brooks, a loadmaster from the 313th Airlift Squadron, said in a press release.
“With all the changes and difficulties that had to be endured for COVID-19 operations this last ODF season, everyone involved was ready and willing to do what was asked of them for total mission success.”
Chief Master Sergeant Brooks knows a thing or two about Operation Deep Freeze. An Air Force Reserve troop, he has been participating in the exercise for almost 18 years.
The 446th and 62nd Airlift Wings are based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
Operation Deep Freeze is an annual, recurrent operation that supports U.S. forces stationed in Antarctica and South Pole. Besides the US military footprint there, the National Science Foundation (NSF) also has a significant presence and is supported by Operation Deep Freeze.
“The difference this year was COVID-19. We had to send each rotation into New Zealand two-weeks early in order to do a two-week isolation. Once we were released from isolation and started flying the missions to Antarctica, we had to ensure anytime we were next to cargo or passengers that we had masks and gloves on. The United States Antarctic Program (USAP) and NSF did not want to take any chances on letting the virus enter Antarctica,” Senior Master Sergeant Thomas Emmert, the superintendent for Operation Deep Freeze from the 446th Operations Group, said.
Operation Deep Freeze has been going on since 1955. It is considered one of the toughest peacetime operations that the US military undertakes, mainly because of the treacherous environment.
I was made aware of the stunning video below by my son Lorenzo, who’s a big LEGO fan. The footage has just been posted by the “Beyond the Brick” Youtube channel and shows the crazy cool MCAS Marine Corps Air Station that Paul Thomas put on display at Bricks by the Bay 2019, an annual gathering of LEGO builders, enthusiasts and fans held in Santa Clara in mid-July.
The LEGO diorama was inspired by Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms but it’s (obviously) not a replica: it is a fictional representation of a U.S. Marine Corps base with aircraft and vehicles that you could find at an MCAS. Thomas created the 10 x 7.5 feet diorama in modules (since his garage could not accommodate it all) in about 6 months.
Another view of the Marine Corps Air Station by Paul Thomas.
(Screenshot from Beyond the Brick’s YT video)
Along with F-35B Lightning II jets, there are MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, CH-53E Super Stallion and AH-1Z Viper helicopters as well as a rotating radar, a security checkpoint at the gate of the base, hangars used for inspection and maintenance activities, various vehicles and much more.
Pretty impressive, isn’t it?
US Marines Air Base in LEGO | Bricks by the Bay 2019
Fernando Trujillo grew out his hair, like many sailors do when they retire. About six years later, he finally cut it — about 28 inches of dark, graying hair — and donated it to make wigs for cancer patients.
“I just decided to let it grow — one less expense,” Trujillo, 49, said in an Armynews release. “In the military, I pretty much had to get my hair cut every two weeks to stay within regulations.”
The 24-year Navy veteran decided to part with his waist-length hair Jan. 18 so he could participate in his younger brother’s upcoming New Mexico National Guard promotion ceremony. But Trujillo, who was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer in 2012, didn’t just want to throw his locks away.
“I’ve lost some friends and family over the years and also had some acquaintances that have had battles with cancer who lost their hair going through radiation,” he said in the release. “I figured my hair would be something that someone could benefit from.”
Currently a contractor at Fort Detrick in Maryland, Trujillo’s been in remission since an operation removed a 10-millimeter tumor from the roof of his mouth. While the treatment was fast, he said the initial cancer diagnosis scared him.
“Your heart just kind of drops and you have that bad feeling, like ‘Damn, how bad is it?'” he said in the release. “The first thing the doctor did was try to calm me down and let me know that everything should be fine. It was just a matter of how much they were going to have to cut out.”
Trujillo lost about 20 pounds after the surgery because the only thing he could eat was pumpkin soup and protein drinks.
Other than some tenderness around the surgical spot in his mouth, he said his life has pretty much returned to normal, which is something cancer patients long for and wigs can help.
“Hopefully, that little bit will be able to help them retain a little dignity out of the whole situation they are facing,” Trujillo said in the release about his donation to Hair We Share. “It’s more about not drawing attention from people who constantly ask questions and feel sorry for you.”
The Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb — known colloquially as the MOAB, or “Mother of All Bombs” — was born and raised at Eglin Air Force Base.
On April 6, the enormous weapon was used for the first time in combat, dropped in Afghanistan by an MC-130 from the Air Force Special Operations Command headquartered at Hurlburt Field. While the Air Force would not confirm if the aircraft was connected to Hurlburt, the bomb’s local roots run deep.
On March 11, 2003, the Air Research Laboratory at Eglin performed the first test detonation of a 21,000-pound MOAB over Range B-70 north of Wynnhaven Beach, Florida. Residents reported feeling shock waves and hearing loud noises miles away from the drop site.
“My dog shook for 15 minutes,” Santa Rosa County resident Stephanie McBride told the Daily News at the time. “The house, a little bit.”
With tensions with Iraq at a fever pitch (the United States would invade that country just nine days later) the military-friendly Emerald Coast embraced the concept — and the name — of the nation’s largest non-nuclear bomb.
The day of the blast, Nancy Benaquis and Greg Haymore at MannaTee’s Castle in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., designed a MOAB T-shirt complete with a mushroom cloud and the words, “We tested the big one!” At $9.98 each, the shirts sold briskly.
“We sold one to a man who told us he worked on the bomb,” Haymore told the Daily News in May 2003.
In 2005, local chef Chris Shrunk created a different kind of MOAB — the “Mother of All Burgers” — and in 2011 local gamers were excited to see the MOAB featured in that year’s version of the “Call of Duty” video game.
Eglin’s Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate developed the massive bomb in less than three months. The Prototype Munition Fabrication Facility produced the precision guided munitions, and the base’s 46th Test Wing tested them.
“What makes Eglin particularly valuable is that it can do research, development, and testing all in one place,” local economist David Goetsch said. “The base was able to turn around that bomb in a very short time frame because they had all three capabilities.”
On May 20, 2004, the 14th (and final) MOAB to be produced was put on display at the Air Force Armament Museum. On April 13, mere hours after the bomb detonated, visitors to the museum gathered around the exhibit to take photos and selfies in front of the famous weapon.
“Bombs, and the scientists and researchers who produce them, are an important part of our community’s economy,” Goetsch added. “Air Force leaders have a bias toward aircraft, but they’re just fancy airliners if they don’t have weapons.”
“At Eglin, we make weapons.”
U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz weighed in on April 13 on the decision to use the MOAB.
“President Trump’s decision to drop the GBU-43 shows his deep commitment to eradicating ISIS worldwide,” said Gaetz, whose congressional district includes Eglin.
“This message was part of his campaign, and eliminating ISIS is critical to the long-term security of the United States. The president’s actions also send a clear message that we will no longer tolerate attacks on our troops — and that those who do so can expect a swift and strong response.”
“As Northwest Floridians, we are proud to train the most lethal warfighters and to test the most advanced weaponry in the world,” Gaetz added. “The president’s decision highlights our military’s need for expanded testing facilities — in particular, the Gulf Test Range south of Eglin Air Force Base.”
You’ve done the crafts, you’ve read the entire internet and you’ve finished Netflix. All there’s left to do is cry, eat and laugh. We’ll help you out with the last one. Hope you and yours are staying safe, healthy and somewhat sane.
These are your top 50 memes and tweets for the week of April 20:
1. Everything is fine
At least he’s maintaining social distancing.
2. The word of the mom
3. Conference calls
Zoom backgrounds make it better.
4. Laughter IS the best medicine
Oh Dad. So smart.
5. Happy little tree
I want peopleeeeeee.
6. Atta boy
Nothing to see here, nothing to see.
7. True transformation
I’m not proud of how hard I laughed at that one!!
8. The boombox
We’ve trained our whole life for this.
9. So loud
What are you eating, BONES?
10. M.J. knew
Now if we could just heal the world…
11. More vodka, please!
These are good life skills.
12. Reality tv
No wonder my kids like to watch other kids playing with toys on YouTube. We do the same thing with HGTV.
13. No pants
I can’t imagine having to wear shoes to a meeting again…
14. Hand washing
So many temptations to touch your face.
15. Catch me outside
How bout dat?
16. Shady pines
Might have to binge watch Golden Girls.
17. So much truth
If you having tortilla chips for breakfast means I don’t have to cook…
18. Iguana private office
Something about you getting on the phone screams, “COME TALK TO ME.”
19. SPF 15
At least you’re getting your vitamin D.
20. Dreams do come true
You bought it “for the pandemic.”
21. Pro tip
It’s like working out, but easier.
The sun is not impressed.
Every parent ever.
The sweatshirt is a nice touch. I bet her Barbie dream house is covered in crafts and regret.
25. Jax beach
26. What happens in Vegas…
Quarantine needs to stay in April 2020.
27. SO much truth
And most of them look tired.
28. Pajama shorts
Trick question. You don’t have to wear pants.
29. Good PR
Mmm ice cream.
30. Singing in the rain
31. Sick car
Taped together and barely holding on — a working title of everyone’s 2020 memoir.
32. Get it girl
No but seriously, why did I eat all my snacks?
33. Dun-dun. Dun-dun. Dun-dun.
To be fair, everyone didn’t die.
34. Lightning speed
Well played, fastest man in the world.
35. All by myself
We feel you, Ernie.
The isolation has turned to boredom.
We heard there’s a DUI checkpoint in the hallway though, so be careful.
38. Last nerves
Every. Little. Thing.
39. Grooming at home
All of our DIY haircuts and grooming.
40. Apologies, ya’ll
Lots of self-awareness happening.
It does, Kermie. It does.
42. Mind over matter
Beware my special powers.
43. Dogs know the truth
Stop judging me.
44. You can’t have both
This is why we can’t have nice days.
Deep thoughts by Dad.
46. Zoom stand in
I think people would pay for this.
47. You did it!
At least you didn’t quit.
48. Pinky promise
Just boxed wine. Not the ‘rona.
49. You know that’s right
Maybe you’ll get a “spa day” in the bathroom by yourself.
In the realm of medicine, what you don’t know can indeed kill you.
Six months have passed since China reported the first coronavirus cases to the World Health Organization. But even now, what experts are still trying to understand sometimes seems to outweigh what they can say for certain.
That is little surprise to any infectious-disease researcher: Highly contagious diseases can move through communities much more quickly than the methodical pace of science can produce vital answers.
What we do know is that the coronavirus seems to have emerged in China as early as mid-November and has now reached 188 countries, infected more than 10.4 million people, and killed around 510,000. Population-level studies using new testing could boost case numbers about 10-fold in the US and perhaps elsewhere as well.
Here are 11 of the biggest questions surrounding the coronavirus and COVID-19, and why answering each one is critically important.
How did the new coronavirus get into people?
The first coronavirus infections was thought to have emerged in a wet market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province. But newer research suggests the market may simply have been a major spreading site.
Researchers are fairly certain that the virus — a spiky ball roughly the size of a smoke particle — developed in bats. Lab tests show that it shares roughly 80% of its 30,000-letter genome with SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), a virus that also came from bats and triggered an epidemic in 2002 and 2003. It also shares about 96% of its genome with other coronaviruses in bats.
Still, researchers still aren’t sure how the coronavirus made the jump from bats to humans. In the case of SARS, the weasel-like civet became an intermediate animal host. Researchers have suggested that civets, pigs, snakes, or possibly pangolins — scaly nocturnal mammals often poached for the keratin in their scales — were an intermediary host for the new coronavirus. But it could also be that the virus jumped straight from bats to humans.
A May study suggested that SARS-CoV-2 (the virus’ clinical name) may be a hybrid of bat and pangolin viruses.
Global tallies of cases, deaths, recoveries, and active infections reflect only the confirmed numbers — researchers suspect the actual number of cases is far, far larger.
For every person who tests positive for the novel coronavirus, there may be about 10 undetected cases. This is because testing capacity lags behind the pace of the disease, and many governments, including in the US, failed to implement widespread testing early on.
New estimates from MIT suggest the world had already seen 249 million coronavirus cases and 1.75 million deaths by June 18. That would make the global case total 12 times higher than official reports, and the global death toll 1.5 times higher.
Other similar research estimated that the US alone may have seen 8.7 million coronavirus cases from March 8 to 28. US researchers also suggested in May that the nation’s official death count may “substantially understate” the actual number of coronavirus fatalities.
Why it matters: An accurate assessment is critical in helping researchers better understand the coronavirus’ spread, COVID-19’s mortality rate, the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers, and other factors. It would also give scientists a more accurate picture of the effects of social distancing, lockdowns, contact tracing, and quarantining.
What makes the coronavirus so good at spreading?
Viruses are small, streamlined particles that have evolved to make many, many copies of themselves by hijacking living cells of a host.
The measurement of a virus’ ability to spread from one person to another is called R0, or R-naught. The higher the value, the greater the contagiousness — though it varies by region and setting. The novel coronavirus’ average R0 is roughly 2.2, meaning one infected person, on average, spreads it to 2.2 people. But it had a whopping R0 of 5.7 in some densely populated regions early in the pandemic.
A person’s ability to transmit the virus depends partly on their viral load: the amount of virus particles they release into the environment. Coronavirus patients tend to have high viral loads in the throat, nasal cavity, and upper respiratory tract, which makes the virus highly contagious. Research indicates that there’s little difference in the viral loads between coronavirus patients who show symptoms and those who don’t.
Coughing — a signature symptom of COVID-19 — helps spread viruses in tiny droplets, especially in confined spaces. But the virus can also spread through singing, normal breathing, or even loud conversation.
Why it matters: Knowing how a virus gets around can help everyone better prevent its spread. Getting a handle on its behavior may also spur governments to act sooner to contain future outbreaks of this or other similar diseases.
What drives mortality in people infected by the coronavirus?
First, the virus’ spiky proteins latch onto cell receptors in the lungs called ACE2. Our immune system then senses a threat and responds by activating white blood cells. Among patients who develop severe outcomes, immune systems can overreact by producing a “cytokine storm” — a release of chemical signals that instruct the body to attack its own cells.
The reaction may cause milder coronavirus symptoms like fever, fatigue, muscle aches, or swollen toes. But it can also lead to severe symptoms including blood clots, excessive leaking in the blood vessels, fluid in the lungs, depleted oxygen in the blood, and low blood pressure.
Doctors have linked blood clots to the increased prevalence of strokes among coronavirus patients. An aggressive immune response can also damage the heart, kidneys, intestines, and liver. But most coronavirus deaths are due to respiratory failure, meaning the lungs aren’t supplying enough oxygen to the blood.
Why it matters: Understanding how the coronavirus does so much harm could lead to more effective treatments in hospitals and make for promising drug targets.
What percent of people infected by the coronavirus die?
Death rates for COVID-19 are not one-size-fits-all. Many factors are at work.
Age is a big one. Older people are more likely to die as a result of lung failure, strokes, heart attacks, and other problems triggered by coronavirus infections, while younger individuals are much less likely to do so. However, people of all ages, including children, have experienced severe symptoms and sometimes death.
One hypothesis is that the answer lies in an individual’s genetic code. People whose genes tell their bodies to make more ACE2 receptors — which the coronavirus uses to invade our cells — could get hit harder.
Why it matters: Variations in death rates help researchers expose flaws in government responses, supply chains, patient care, and more, ideally leading to fixes. Being able to identify the people at higher risk of severe symptoms and treati them accordingly could also lower death rates. However, the early data is clear enough: The coronavirus has the capacity to kill millions of people in a relatively short time.
Why do young people face the least risk of dying?
On a per-capita basis, young people are the most resilient to the coronavirus. But they do get infected and suffer from it. Even blood clots and strokes have emerged among some younger patients.
Typically, young kids and older people are in the same risk category for diseases like the flu. But it’s not so with COVID-19: About 70% of US deaths have been people 70 and older. Children, meanwhile, represent less than 2% of confirmed coronavirus infections in China, Spain, Korea, Italy, and the US.
It’s not clear yet whether kids are less likely to contract the virus in the first place, or whether many of their cases are simply being missed because they are often mild or asymptomatic.
Out of more than 2,500 pediatric cases in the CDC study, only three patients died. The study concluded that “most COVID-19 cases in children are not severe.”
One reason for this could be that children have less mature ACE2 receptors — the enzymes that serve as ports of entry for the coronavirus — which could make it more difficult for the virus to infect a child’s cells.
Why it matters: Understanding why kids don’t often show signs of the disease — either because they’re not as prone to infection or because they more often experience very mild, cold-like symptoms — could have huge ramifications for vaccine development and understanding how the disease spreads.
Can you get reinfected?
The body almost certainly develops short-term immunity in the form of antibodies, and immune-system researchers are reasonably confident that the body will recognize and fight the coronavirus in the future.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah in March that he’d be “willing to bet anything that people who recover are really protected against reinfection.”
There have been a small number of cases in which people tested positive for the coronavirus, were later found to be free of the virus, then tested positive again after that. But these cases are mostly the result of false positives and misinterpretations of test results, since some diagnostic tests can detect leftover pieces of dead virus in the body.
Still, no one is certain about the prospects for long-term immunity. For other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS, antibodies seemed to peak within months of an infection and last for a year or more. But a June study found that SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may only last two to three months after infection. Asymptomatic individuals also demonstrated a weaker immune response to the virus, meaning they could be less likely to test positive for antibodies.
Researchers also don’t know the specific levels of antibodies required for a person to be fully immune.
A May study from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York showed that most people with confirmed coronavirus cases tested positive for antibodies — but longer or more severe cases didn’t necessarily produce more antibodies than mild ones. Instead, the amount of antibodies a person produces may be related to innate differences in people’s immune responses.
Why it matters: Understanding whether long-term immunity is the norm would have major ramifications for controlling the pandemic and could enable officials to lift social-distancing restrictions for people who have already gotten sick.
How seasonal is the coronavirus?
Warmer temperatures and lower humidity may hinder the virus’ spread, according to research published in June. That could explain why New York City had a higher growth rate of new infections compared to Singapore in March, though other factors like testing and contact tracing likely played a role as well.
An April study found a similar link between the virus’ lifespan and the surrounding temperature. At 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), the coronavirus lasted up to two weeks in a test tube. When the temperature was turned up to 37 degrees Celsius (99 degrees Fahrenheit), that lifespan dropped to one day.
But warmer temperatures haven’t done much to quell the US outbreak. The nation’s surge in new daily cases has surpassed its prior peak in April.
Why it matters: Knowing how much — if at all — the coronavirus is affected by changing seasons would help governments around the world better deploy resources to stop its spread.
Are there any safe and effective drugs to treat COVID-19?
There is, as of yet, no slam-dunk treatment for the coronavirus or its symptoms. However, 17 leading treatments are being tested.
Clinical trials have also shown that dexamethasone, a common, cheap, steroid, can reduce deaths in severely ill COVID-19 patients.
Why it matters: Having tools to slow infections or perhaps even stop the coronavirus from harming people could curtail its spread, reduce suffering, ease the burdens on healthcare systems, and save lives.
Will there be a vaccine for the coronavirus, and when?
Arguably the most promising vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine developed by biotech company Moderna. The company was the first to publish early results in humans after starting its first trial on March 16. It aims to start a late-stage efficacy trial with 30,000 people in July.
Other promising candidates include “vector vaccines” — which use live viruses to teach the immune system how to fight off pathogens — developed by the University of Oxford and Johnson Johnson. The Oxford vaccine is spearheaded by British pharma company AstraZeneca, which will start its own efficacy trial in August. Johnson Johnson aims to enroll more than 1,000 healthy volunteers in a clinical trial in July.
The US government hopes to have hundreds of millions doses of a vaccine ready by January 2021 — a record timeline. But some vaccinologists and industry analysts doubt a vaccine will be ready before 2022 or 2023.
Why it matters: Developing a vaccine would help the world put an end to the pandemic.
What are the long-term consequences for those who survive COVID-19?
It’s not yet clear what the long-term consequences of weathering a severe bout of COVID-19 might be. In severe cases, the virus may cause permanent damage to the lungs and other organs, resulting in chronic, lifelong issues.
Patients who experience blood clots also face a risk of longer-term damage, pain, and loss of function, especially in organs.
While some people’s symptoms seem to clear up after two weeks, even those with milder cases have reported symptoms lasting for several months — including fatigue, chest pain, difficulty breathing, and loss of taste and smell. These symptoms may be the result of lingering inflammation rather than an active infection.
“The symptoms are probably coming from an immune reaction,” Dr. Ramzi Asfour, an infectious-disease doctor in the San Francisco Bay Area, told Business Insider.
“You have to separate the damage from the disease,” he added. “It’s going to be difficult to tell for now what subset is active, ongoing infection and what subset is really just pure immune dysfunction.”
Why it matters: Knowing the extent of lasting damage due to the coronavirus can help governments prepare for long-term strain on healthcare systems, impacts to the workforce, and slower economic recoveries. Governments can also push for more research into the underlying causes of lingering symptoms and effective treatments for them.