Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

In the parking lot of the National Guard armory, a soldier reaches into his glove box and carefully unfolds a letter safeguarded in the confines of his car for five months. Sitting on the edge of his passenger seat, in the late afternoon sun, he begins to read the pages once again. At first, he reads silently as if wanting to keep the special message private. Then, in little more than a whisper, he reads out loud the sentiments of a woman he has never met but whose life he would be responsible for saving. Occasionally, he looks up to explain a bit more about the woman behind the precious missive. While he reads, the front of the envelope can be seen addressed to ‘My Donor.’ One glance at the top of the first page, clearly written in very large print is an emphatic, ‘Thank you.


A member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin, a 23-year-old from Houston, says he is no hero, “I am just doing what is right.” The journey to the right thing started nearly five years ago when he was an 18-year-old freshman at Central Texas College. Martin recalls, “I really didn’t think about it, we were going to lunch one day and they [Be The Match] were having a drive, giving away pizza and I signed up, they took a mouth swab and that was the last time I heard anything.” Shaking his head he continues, “then last year… I got a call from Be The Match saying that I had been matched with a person with leukemia and asking would I like to donate for them.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

Martin could have said no, but that is not in his character. “Because I signed up for it, just like any other commitment you make, you did the paperwork you said you were gonna do it, so…” Martin leaves the statement hanging as if the conclusion is obvious: you do what you say and say what you do; no more discussion needed. This attitude serves him well in both his military and civilian careers.

Martin has been a firefighter for two years with the South Montgomery County Fire Department. In the Texas Army National Guard, he is a chaplain’s assistant deployed to the southwest border for Joint Task Force Guardian Support with El Paso-based, 3rd Battalion, 133rd Field Artillery Regiment. As the chaplain’s assistant he gets many opportunities to counsel service members and help on an emotional level. “These Guardsmen have lives going on back home, and life happens every day. I am just glad I can help,” Martin says.

The letter

Just before deploying, Martin received the letter. “I keep the letter in my car, it was really touching. I guess I was waiting to meet her,” he says. “I got the letter and then I came on mission a couple of weeks later. I didn’t get a chance to write her back.”

When LaShonda Goines, a cancer nurse from Houston, Texas, wrote that letter four months after being diagnosed with two different forms of cancer, she knew for certain only two things; there was a perfect ten-out-of-ten match, and without a doubt, everything was going to be okay. “I never asked for the odds of survival, I would not accept them anyways. I just knew that God was going to bring me out of this. I knew I was going to beat it,” said Goines.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

In her letter to Martin, Goines wrote, “I rejoice in the fact that God did not break the mold after he made me because he knew you were needed to help with repairs to my body. He created you to be a perfect match to repair my malfunctions. In this journey, I have learned to appreciate life, I want to take trips and do things once my body is strong enough. I am a very religious person. Your cells are going to a good and generous person.” After reading the letter once again, Martin points to his heart and with an awkward giggle says, “this letter really hits you in the feels,” while he takes a little extra time refolding the letter. Goines conveys a similar sentiment when she learns Martin has kept the letter all these months. She responds with a voice full of emotion. “That’s got me in tears. Yes, I am surprised. I know my son would be like, ‘I don’t know where that letter is.’ I did not know that letter was that precious to him.”

Goines closed the letter with a hope and a prayer, “I want to meet you one day. Hug you one day, whenever we can, if you like. Be blessed my friend, my life-sharing brother.” Little did she know all that she dreamed would come to fruition, in less than a year.

The good news came over the phone just 30 days after receiving Martin’s stem cells. “I am cancer free. Hearing those words was awesome. I mean I ran through the church. I gave my testimony. It was something, absolutely unbelievable, especially being a cancer nurse. Listening to the other patients in the holding area waiting to be seen, you hear their stories, how some of them had tried transplant and it didn’t work for them and this is maybe their second go around. But for me, this was a one-shot deal and now, I am cancer free,” Goines’ smile can be heard through the phone.

Donor meets recipient

Martin and Goines were invited to meet for the first time in Minnesota at the annual Be The Match council meeting. Their first time meeting each other would be onstage in front of more than two thousand people.

“I can’t even describe how amazing that moment was, it was so precious,” says Martin. He attempts to describe the event, seemingly at a loss for words, shrugging his shoulders and says, “I was really anxious and super excited. I was just really happy to get to that point. Just seeing her and being able to say that we got to that point because she made it, she was a fighter, it was something really special.”

Goines was anxious to finally meet the young man who saved her life. “The event was awesome. They had us separated through the entire meeting until Saturday night, even when they played the video of both of us. They called me to the stage first, and they would not tell me where he was in the room. And so, to see him walk up to the stage with his mother, he just has this heroic walk. It was awesome. He has a very heroic and humble walk, he never bolstered or anything. He’s an amazing fellow.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Member of the Texas Army National Guard, Spc. Akeem Martin.

(Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Suzanne Ringle)

When asked if they attributed the success of the transplant endeavor to just science or God, they had similar, but not identical, responses. Both have careers in the medical field and strong religious beliefs. Martin holds out his hands out as if making a scale for demonstration, “I have my religious background and I work in the medical field too. I feel like there is science and there is God, and they both work together.”

Goines praises God’s intervention, “God, this was nothing but divine intervention, divine intervention from God. Sitting in the room for 30-days doing my transplant I was crying out to God and this just shows me that God had his ear inclined to my cries.” Continuing she describes how special and lucky she felt, “I felt like I touched the hem of God’s garment and I was made whole again.”

Donor saves life

Few people can say they saved a life, but for Martin, saving lives is a reality, as a fireman and now as a stem cell donor. He says there is a uniquely strong bond between him and Goines, compared to other lives he has saved as a fireman. “I guess because we have such a bond now, when I met her it was like I’d known her my whole life, it was really weird. I met her sons as well and it was like we’ve been brothers forever. It was really something amazing.”

The special bond forged between the two gives each a bigger family. Without hesitation or searching for the words she would say to Martin, Goines exclaimed, “I got a new son out of this process. I want to tell him I love him and he’s an awesome human being and he needs to keep doing what he’s doing because God has bigger and better plans for him.”

The effects of this profound, life-changing match are clear, nearly 800 miles away, across the state of Texas, with one look at Martin’s cubicle inside the armory. The cubicle appears to be much like anyone’s cubicle. There are pictures of his family and another one of his fire truck, along with a cross and some obligatory notices and guidelines. There are two items quite unique and conspicuous amid the varying drab tones of tan, hanging proudly both inside and outside his partitions: two capes, one green the other blue, both emblazoned with the ‘Be The Match’ logo. Martin explains everyone gets the blue cape, but the green one is special for those donor-recipient matches that ended in saving a life.

Martin believes to care for others, you have to take yourself out of the equation. “When it comes down to saving a life, you should not think about yourself, there’s gonna be pain, you know everything good comes with a little pain. That little bit of pain goes a long way because there is someone whose life is really counting on you. Putting in a little work and a little pain will go a long way,” he says.

Goines went from a double cancer diagnosis to being cancer free in seven months because Martin decided to be a difference and saw it through. She says, “Sign up for Be The Match. It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Hispanic, just sign up.”

Martin says his firsthand experience doesn’t make him a hero, but did make him want to share his story. “It is really important to educate people on the ‘Be the Match’ program or any marrow donor program because it does save lives. It does make a difference,” he says.

Be The Match is a nonprofit international organization that matches stem cell and bone marrow donors with recipients inflicted with certain cancers. The matches are based, partly, on ethnicity, and more often than not the match will come from outside one’s family. To find out more visit bethematch.org.

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

This swoll soldier will compete at the CrossFit Games

After placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team has stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games starting Thursday in Madison, Wisconsin.

During the four-day competition, Capt. Chandler Smith said he looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.

“My goals at the CrossFit Games are reflective of my Army career goals as a whole,” Smith said. “My efforts there could potentially [bring in] a Soldier that will help educate my [future] son or daughter when they decide to join the Army.


Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Capt. Chandler Smith stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games Aug. 1-4, 2019, in Madison, Wisc., after placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. Smith, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army Recruiting Command)

“I want to do something at the games that [helps] the Army, and the world, become a better place,” he added. “If someone sees my positivity and chooses to reflect that in their daily life — that is a win.”

Smith was born in Gainesville, Florida. His father, Cedric, was a former NFL fullback and currently works as a strength and conditioning coach in the league. As an aspiring young athlete, Smith had ample opportunity to interact with many players and coaches, which taught him to remain humble, he said.

During high school, Smith decided to get into wrestling. His coach, Nage Damas, was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and a three-year letter winner on its wrestling team. Through their interaction, Smith decided to enroll in the academy.

“I am the person who is big on discipline,” Smith said. “West Point presented the hardest road … and presented the biggest challenge in comparison to the other academies.”

At the time the Army was highly involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smith believed the Army provided the best opportunity for applied leadership.

“Those were conflicts I saw myself in. As an aspiring leader, you want to place yourself at points of friction,” he said.

As both a cadet and wrestler, Smith worked hard to exceed West Point’s academic, physical and military performance standards, he said. He strived to be a positive example for all of his teammates and peers.

“I have been given some gifts in the physical realm,” Smith said. “It is something that the Army has helped me foster by putting me around similarly-minded [people].

“I’m big on putting a focused effort toward whatever it is that I am in charge of doing,” he added. “Anything less than my best would be to sacrifice my gift — that’s how I see it.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

The Army goes to great lengths to support competitive athletes. Here, Capt. Brian Harris completes the half Murph on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.

(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)

A NEW PATH

Smith’s respect for CrossFit started long before his time at West Point, he said.

“I wanted to do all the cool guy stuff that you see on TV. [CrossFit] helped me out with wrestling during high school and college,” he said.

After Smith graduated in 2015, CrossFit presented the most natural transition to help “stoke that competitive fire,” he added. In between his duties as a new lieutenant, Smith would spend hours in the gym. He was determined to make the CrossFit Games by 2020.

However, Smith’s fitness career almost derailed in February 2016. During an Army exercise, Smith sustained an injury, which broke his left ring finger in two places and sliced off the tip.

The injury happened a day before the CrossFit Open, the first qualifying stage for the CrossFit Games. The year prior, Smith placed 174th overall out of 273,000 total participants, according to CrossFit officials.

Smith took some time to recover and had to learn to operate with his new hand. He took a step back and started to reevaluate his ability to compete.

I didn’t realize that grip strength is a weakness of mine until I had something that affected my ability to grip. I began to specialize in the type of fitness my musculature can naturally support,” he said. “It ended up being a case of traumatic growth as this setback led to greater results.”

Through it all, Smith continued to move up in the ranks. He placed 128th overall in 2018 in the CrossFit standings. Coming into this year’s CrossFit Games, he is ranked 40th overall, according to program officials.

“I’ve gotten a chance to work out with [Smith],” said Master Sgt. Glenn Grabs, the first sergeant of the Army Recruiting Command’s outreach and recruiting company. “He speeds up as the workout gets longer, which makes him such a great competitor. Even though he’s maybe suffering inside, he’s just so positive and never backs down.”

As an overall athlete, Smith is relentless and the true embodiment of the warrior spirit, Grabs added.

“Captain Chandler Smith is not only a great Soldier, but he is a great person,” he said. “When I see him interact with people at competitions or in public, he goes the extra step to connect with people. That’s just who he is as a person and what makes him so remarkable.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

Army Strong: Capt. Kasandra “Kaci” Clark completing the half Murch on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.

(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)

ALL IN

As a Soldier, Smith looks forward to more milestones he hopes to accomplish in his career. He was recently selected to lead an infantry platoon as an armor officer, which ended up being one of his crowning achievements thus far, he said.

“That’s not something that happens too often. We went over to Bulgaria for nine months as part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve,” he said. “Knowing that my command trusted me enough to take on a role that I wasn’t necessarily trained for — it empowered me a lot.”

For the most part, Smith has not experienced a lot of difficulties while balancing his fitness goals and Army career, he said. However, anything that falls outside those two priorities is sometimes pushed aside.

“I think I am overly focused on doing my nine to five at work. I also take my fitness hobby very seriously. It doesn’t leave much time for anything else,” he said. “I haven’t done too much vacationing or maybe spent as much time with my family as I would have liked to.”

These sacrifices were necessary to keep him relevant in the Army and fitness community, he said.

“[Making the CrossFit Games] is a goal that I’ve had in mind since 2012, and I’ve been in the Army the whole time,” he said. “So figuring out a way to do this all while balancing my Army requirements was going to be a challenge, but I wouldn’t have it in any other way.

“I’m super happy that it has paid off with a trip to the games this year.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Green Berets remember first mission in Afghanistan after 9/11 (Part I)

The movie 12 Strong arrives in theaters Jan. 19 and tells the harrowing story of the first U.S. Special Forces mission in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The following recounts the events of the Green Berets’ first mission in Afghanistan, as they sought to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaeda sanctuary in that country.


The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania sent shockwaves throughout the world. While the tragedy prompted responses of love and comfort, it also inspired a sense of resolve and retribution. In fact, the sun hadn’t even set on the smoldering ruins of the World Trade Center when the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. military, and U.S. Army Special Operations Command began planning a response. They would rain fire on the terrorists who had claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Americans, and on the brutal regime in Afghanistan that had sheltered them.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Now-Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers poses with Afghan fighters and warlords who opposed the Taliban. Fowers served on one of the first Special Forces detachments from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) to arrive in Afghanistan following 9-11. Their mission was to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan. They scouted bomb targets and teamed with local resistance groups. (Photo courtesy of Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers)

Task Force Dagger

It was soon clear that the initial operation, named Task Force Dagger, would involve bomb drops and small teams of special operators who would link up with local warlords and resistance fighters known collectively as the Northern Alliance. The task force would train and supply the Afghans, coordinating between the U.S. and the various ethnic groups — many of which were historic enemies of one another.

The Army’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) eagerly took on the mission, despite little available intelligence on Afghanistan, and despite the fact that few Soldiers could speak Dari or Pashtun. The task force picked up a few phrases pretty quickly and worked using three-way translations with other languages they already knew, such as Arabic, Farsi, and Russian.

“You had all of the emotions going on from 9-11,” remembered Chief Warrant Officer 2 Brad Fowers, then a junior weapons sergeant on Operational Detachment A 574. It would be his first combat deployment, and his team wound up escorting future President Hamid Karzai into the country. “There was a lot of emotions, excitement, amazement. It was an extreme honor. Looking back on it now, it’s humbling. … It was a very privileged moment in our history to see how things unfolded and what so many are capable of doing.”

Also Read: ’12 Strong’ showcases the best of America’s fighting spirit

“We went carrying what we believed to be the hopes of the American people with us,” added Lt. Gen. John F. Mulholland, former USASOC commander, in a speech. In September 2001, he served as the 5th Special Forces Group (A) commander. “If there was any fear that we had, it was that we would be worthy of the American people … the people of New York, the people of Washington, the people of Pennsylvania, the people of our great country and all those … who lost people that day. So that was with us constantly, the fear that we would not be worthy of the American people.”

Knuckle-whitening flight

After almost two weeks of bombings, which kicked off Oct. 7, 2001, the first insertion was set for mid-October. As with any covert, nighttime flying operation, the dangerous mission was assigned to the Night Stalkers of the 160th Special Operations Regiment (Airborne), “the finest aviators in the world, bar none” according to Mulholland.

But the mission to insert the Green Berets into Afghanistan, flying from Uzbekistan over the Hindu Kush mountains — which could reach up to 20,000 feet and caused altitude sickness — was something else. The weather, sandstorms, and a black cloud of rain, hail, snow, and ice was so bad it delayed the first insertion by two days until Oct. 19 — an eternity for men who pledge to always arrive at their destination on time, plus or minus 30 seconds. The weather could change from one mile to the next, from elevation to elevation, and continuously caused problems throughout Task Force Dagger.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Baker of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) poses in front of De Oppresso Liber, or the Horse Soldier, a 16-foot bronze statue honoring the work of Special Forces Soldiers in Afghanistan at the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom in the last months of 2001. As a flight engineer on a 160th SOAR MH-47 Chinook, Baker helped transport the first Special Forces teams into Afghanistan through horrible weather and in some of the most challenging flying conditions in history. (U.S. Army Special Operations Command photo by Cheryle Rivas)

“Just imagine flying when you can’t see three feet in front of you for a couple of hours, landing or hoping the weather would clear so you could refuel, and then flying through the mountains all the while getting shot at and hoping our (landing zone) was clear,” recalled Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Baker, now of the SOAR’s Special Operations Training Battalion. Fifteen years ago, he was a young, brand-new flight engineer on his first combat mission.

I was proud and scared. … There was a lot of stuff going on. There was bad weather. A lot of people compared those first missions to Lt. Col. (James) Doolittle in World War II because we were doing stuff no one had ever done before. … We had a mission to make sure these Soldiers got in. … It was my first time ever getting shot at. That’s a pretty vivid memory. … It was war. I don’t think I’ve ever been any closer to my fellow brothers-in-arms than I was then. All we had was each other.
Humor

A vet pranked his entire family at his own funeral

Members of the military and veterans the world over have a dark sense of humor. Given the nature of our lives, we can either think about the gravest consequences of what we do or we can choose to laugh about it. We spend so much time joking about dark things, it bleeds into the rest of our lives. For one Irish veteran, it carried on into his death.


Shay Bradley died on Oct. 8, 2019, of a long illness, one “bravely borne” in Dublin, Ireland. Bradley was a veteran of the Irish Defense Forces, the all-volunteer military forces of the Republic of Ireland. He was laid to rest just four days later in a beautiful funeral that would have been at the same time solemn and sad. That’s when someone started knocking on the casket door.

From the inside.

“Hello? Hello. Hello? Let me out!” the funeralgoers heard. “”Where the f*ck am I? … Let me out, it’s f*cking dark in here. … Is that the priest I can hear? … This is Shay, I’m in the box. No, in f*cking front of you. I’m dead.”

Bradley wanted his wife to leave the funeral laughing instead of crying. According to his daughter Andrea, Shay recorded the audio about a year before his passing, knowing full well how his illness would end. No one knew about the recording that would be played at the funeral except Shay’s son Jonathan and his grandson, Ben. Jonathan let the cat out of the bag two days before the funeral, though, telling the immediate family about the recording.

It was Shay’s dying wish to play the prank at his own funeral. His wife was laughing as she left the cemetery, just as Shay had hoped.

“[It was his] way of saying not only goodbye, but to also say, ‘OK the sadness is over now here is a laugh so you can go and celebrate my life with a smile on your face.'”Bradley’s daughter told the Huffington Post. “This prank was one in a million, just like my dad.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines save airman’s life in Okinawa

Seven United States Marines played a vital role in saving the life of a U.S. Airman with 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron in Okinawa, Japan Dec. 31, 2018.

The airman, whose name is being withheld out of respect for the family’s privacy, was involved in a motor cycle accident along Japan National Route 331. A group of Marines witnessed the accident and rushed to the scene as first responders.


Marine Sgt. David Lam, an assistant warehouse chief with 3rd Transportation Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group and San Jose, Calif., native was one of the first Marines on the scene, ordered the group of Marines to call emergency services and directed traffic along the busy road to allow ambulances to arrive.

“I never would have imagined myself being that close to an accident. It was an oh-snap moment,” Lam said. “I couldn’t fathom how quickly everything was moving.”

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

United States Marine Corps Cpl. Devan Duranwernet, a training non-commissioned officer with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion pictured here aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, was one of seven Marines who acted quickly to save an U.S. Airman’s life following a recent motorcycle accident Dec. 31, 2018. Duranwert, a native of Charleston, S.C., started to support the injured airman’s body by stabilizing their head to ensure they didn’t move from being in major shock.

Assisting Lam were 1st Lt. Sterling Elliot with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment; 1st Lt. Jose Diaz with 9th Engineer Support Battalion; Gunnery Sgt. Memora Tan with 1st Bn., 4th Marines and Cpls. Devan Duranwernet, Joseph Thouvenot and Gerardo Lujan with 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion. Each Marine played a vital role in saving the airman’s life.

“Their quick actions and willingness to get involved are commendable and exactly the type of actions you would expect from all military members that may find themselves in this sort of situation,” said Air Force Maj. James Harris, the Squadron Commander with 353rd Special Operations Maintenance Squadron.

Diaz, from Orlando, Fla., rushed to the injured to begin cutting off layers of clothing, which helped identify the airman’s wounds. He then ran to the neighboring areas to find large pieces of wood for splints to support any broken bones.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

United States Marine Corps 1st Lt. Jose Diaz, the motor transportation platoon commander with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, pictured here aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, was one of seven Marines who acted quickly to save a U.S. Airman’s life following a recent motorcycle accident Dec. 31, 2018. Diaz, a native of Orlando, Fla., ran to the neighboring areas to find large pieces of wood to create splints to support the airman’s broken bones and started cutting off the layers of the injured airman clothes to see all the wounds.

“I saw bones sticking out of the airman’s body and knew I would need some kind of splint to support the injuries until emergency services arrived,” Diaz said. “We took action and worked together [relaying on] past training and knowing we needed to help.”

Duranwernet, a Charleston, S.C. native, stabilized the injured airman’s neck and spine while providing comfort through the shock.

Emergency services loaded the airman on to a helicopter with assistance from Tan, a native of Orange County, Calif. Elliot, from Katy, TX, used the airman’s cell phone to call their command and accompanied the airmen to U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

United States Marine Corps 1st Lt. Sterling Elliot, the Operations Officer with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, pictured here aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Hansen in Okinawa, Japan, was one of seven Marines who acted quickly to save an U.S. Airman’s life following a recent motorcycle accident Dec. 31, 2018. Elliot, a native of Katy, Texas, stayed with the injured airman providing body support stabilization, he also flew back with the injured airman on the helicopter to the U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa as an escort.

“I rode in the helicopter to give the airman a friendly face, to be there with them, to let them know everything was going to be okay,” Elliot explained.

The airman was given emergency medical treatment to stabilize their condition then transported to another location for follow-on treatment and recovery. According to 353rd Special Operations Squadron leadership, the airman is expected to make a full recovery.

Harris said the Marines were the only reason the airman was still alive. He explained that “if the Marines didn’t respond when they did or how they did the airman could have lost his arm or worse.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

New Invictus competitors enjoy the international competition

The 2018 Invictus Games started Oct. 20, 2018, and competitors, staff members, family and friends are excited for the fourth iteration of this international competition. With a record 18 allied nations participating, the Invictus Games has grown immensely in popularity and stature since its inaugural event in London in 2014. It has become the pinnacle event for many wounded, ill and injured service members around the world who compete in adaptive sports.

“Being here in Sydney and at the Invictus Games is such a different level,” said retired Maj. Christina Truesdale, who is among those competing at the Invictus Games for the first time this year. “The human connection is unreal. Everyone is so friendly and it’s all hugs, love and respect for each other.”


Truesdale discovered adaptive sports in the fall of 2017 while recovering from a tethered spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Benning, Georgia. She has since made huge strides in her adaptive sports journey. After competing at the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado and in multiple cycling races, this will be Truesdale’s first taste of international competition.

“I’ve trained with expectations and I hope I win a medal, but I have to remember, I’m here in Sydney at the Invictus Games with so many other awesome athletes. It’s a great experience and it’s important to live in and enjoy the moment,” she added.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

U.S. Army Maj. Christina Truesdale pushes through the second of three grueling laps on the cycling course before gutting out a bronze medal in her upright classification during the cycling event June 6, 2018, at the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games. She is competing in the Invictus Games, happening Oct. 20-27, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Robert Whetstone)

Another first time Invictus Games participant is U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Altermese Kendrick, who recovered at the Warrior Transition Battalion, Fort Hood, Texas after suffering a hip labrum tear and back injuries. She competed at both the 2017 and 2018 DOD Warrior Games and is also excited to have reached the next level, achieving her goal of representing Team USA and checking a visit to Australia off her bucket list.

“It’s an honor and privilege to represent my country and compete alongside the different services [instead of against them at Warrior Games],” Kendrick said. “Competing at the Invictus Games is a way for me to show what I’ve learned and showcase what the coaches have taught me and what I’ve worked so hard to achieve.”

One of the most exciting elements of the Invictus Games, according to both women and many other competitors, is getting to know wounded, ill and injured service members from other countries. “I’ve been making it a point to meet people from the other teams and learn about them, hear about their countries, experiences, and build bonds with others across the world,” Kendrick said.

Truesdale added, “It’s interesting to interact with others you know are on a similar journey as you. They may not speak the same language, but we all identify with each other because we’ve all served and been through something.”

For the 500-plus athletes competing in the games, each of them is ready for their opportunity to show the world their unconquered spirit — but for Kendrick, just having that chance is what it is all about.

“I’m going to love every microsecond of the Invictus Games experience. I’ve worked hard to get here and whether I win a medal or not, it’s already mission accomplished.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why South Korea could pull its troops back from the DMZ

South Korea is reportedly considering withdrawing some of its military forces and equipment from guard posts on the border with North Korea on a “trial basis,” according to a Yonhap News report published on July 23, 2018.

It’s part of an effort to promote friendlier ties between the two countries, South Korea’s defense ministry outlined a plan to transform the [Demilitarized Zone] into a “peace zone,” the defense ministry said, referring to the buffer between North and South Korea.


“As stated in the Panmunjom Declaration, [the ministry] is seeking a plan to expand the [withdrawal] program in stages after pulling out troops and equipment from the guard posts within the DMZ,” the defense ministry said.

The ministry said it would also plan on designating a de facto maritime boundary as a “peace sea” to allow fishermen from both countries to operate.

The Panmunjom Declaration was the culmination of months-long dialogue between the two countries after a year of fiery threats in 2017. The diplomatic detente was signed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their summit in April 2018, paving the way for a “a new era of peace,” on the Korean Peninsula.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Mooon Jae-in.

South Korea has already made some changes on the border that reflect friendlier relations. In spring 2018, it dismantled loudspeakers that blasted news and Korean pop music towards North Korea. The loudspeakers, which were set up in 2016, could be heard for miles inside the North.

However, for many North Korea observers, the declaration’s broad language and the absence of a specific plan tempered expectations of an immediate solution to the nuclear threat North Korea poses. Despite dismantling some key facilities related to its intercontinental ballistic missile program, some experts believe the gesture may not be very meaningful in the aggregate.

Featured image: A South Korean checkpoint at the Civilian Control Line, located outside of the DMZ.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The troublesome history of Zimbabwe’s dead dictator

If you were surprised to see some of the tearful farewells from those worst affected by the lifelong policies of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, you aren’t alone. Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years after helping free the country from British colonial rule. Mugabe was very much the central figure in then-Rhodesia’s struggle for freedom.

The African world rejoiced at his success, and then watched him plunge the country into every economic and human rights disaster there is.


At the end of the 1970s, African colonialism was taking its dying breaths. Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, was one of the last remnants of the African colonial era, where the minority white population ruled over the majority black population with an iron fist. The struggle to correct this resulted in the 15-year Rhodesian Bush War that saw thousands of Zimbabweans die at the hands of Rhodesian armed forces. The central figure to emerge from that struggle was Robert Mugabe, a charismatic freedom fighter and former college professor who idolized Mohandas Gandhi who started his firebrand career giving speeches in his home country.

After spending years in prison for sedition in Rhodesia, he left for neighboring Mozambique to join the militant wing of the struggle for freedom, the Zimbabwe African National Union. After the leaders of ZANU were assassinated by the Rhodesian government, Mugabe quickly rose to the top of its ranks. Rhodesia soon realized the writing on the wall, as Mugabe and other groups sent more insurgents into Rhodesia faster than the Rhodesians could kill or capture them. In the election that followed the political stalemate, Mugabe was victorious and became Prime Minister in 1980.

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Mugabe with Joshua Nkomo at the Constitutional Conference on the future of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia at Lancaster House in London.

He renamed the country Zimbabwe and the capital Harare. He also expanded educational opportunities to most of the population. In 1987, he and his ZANU-PF party amended the Zimbabwean constitution and installed himself as Executive President, a new position he made for himself while his one-party dominated the Parliament. Mugabe became just one more African strongman. Mugabe betrayed his own revolution.

Although he was an educated man, he was not fit to rule an entire country on his own. After sending military forces into the countryside to root out dissent, Zimbabwe found itself deeply in debt and a mineral sector in virtual collapse. The value of its currency began to drop, and Mugabe began to exploit the ethnic differences in his country to stay in power, a textbook dictatorship move. The wealthy and educated began to flee the country, and by 2000 the economy was in freefall. Hyperinflation became synonymous with the Zimbabwean dollar. He created a repressive police state in order to stay in power, while stripping the rights of everyone, not just white farmers.

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Mugabe died in Singapore on Sept. 6, 2019. He was 95. He will still be buried in the country he fought to loot for 37 years.

Even after the total collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, widespread corruption, and Mugabe’s brutal suppression of all opposition, Mugabe remained in power. He and his inner circle of cronies stole the revenues from the country’s mineral wealth while stealing elections and killing the opposition. Finally, after 30-plus years of brutality, Western powers slapped sanctions on him, the country, and anyone caught doing business with Zimbabwe. Yet only after he began to groom his second wife, Grace, to take his position after he died, did Zimbabweans organize his ouster. When he died, he was still working to undermine the government in Harare that had succeeded him.

So while Robert Mugabe was an undisputed liberating force for so many black Rhodesians-turned-Zimbabweans, along with those affected by the subsequent anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements that came after his success, he was also responsible for 37 years of pillaging the country he fought to liberate.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Corps has close eye on first integrated training company

The all-female platoon currently undergoing recruit training in a previously all-male battalion at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., may not be the last, according to the Marine Corps’ most senior enlisted leader.

Speaking Jan. 10, 2019, at a forum on maritime priorities in Washington, D.C., Sgt. Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green said the service doesn’t “do things as a one-time deal” and is assessing the integration of an all-female platoon within one of the battalion’s companies to determine whether it is a model the Corps should continue, rather than training female recruits in a single battalion, as is current protocol.


“The assessment is to see how we can more closely align integration,” Green said.

But completely integrating platoons, with men training side-by-side with women, is not likely to occur anytime soon, he added.

“What we ask individuals to do at recruit training is a lot more physical and challenging than any other service. We all know that. Who we recruit, we must take them and transform them into Marines. We want to give every individual the greatest opportunity for success,” Green said at a forum hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute at the Center for International and Strategic Studies.

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U.S. Marines with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, and Oscar Company, 4th Battalion, Recruit Training Regiment, take part in Tug-of-War during the Field Meet at 4th Recruit Training Battalion physical training field on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., April 21, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Sarah Stegall)

A platoon of 50 female Marine recruits began training Jan. 5, 2019, in 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, marking the first time women have trained outside the all-female 4th Recruit Training Battalion.

The service decided to integrate the women as a single platoon in a traditionally male company rather than make them wait until later in the year, when there would be enough women to activate 4th Recruit Training Battalion.

Women now make up 8.9 percent of Marine recruits, Green said. Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller has said he’d like to grow the Marine Corps to 10 percent female.

Marine officials say they are increasing outreach to potential female recruits. But Green said Jan. 10, 2019, that a challenge to recruiting both men and women has been high schools nationwide that block military recruiters from approaching students.

The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act required public high schools to give military recruiters as much access to campuses as is given to any other recruiter. But some school districts have blocked access to military personnel, Green said.

“It’s difficult to get into some schools. I’d like to see a more open-door process but, in some schools, there’s no entry point. We are protecting the people in these high schools, and there are people in these high schools who want to serve. The door shouldn’t be slammed shut and closed,” he said.

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

Articles

How the US military used social media to help hurricane victims in Texas and Florida

As victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pleaded to be rescued on popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the National Guard altered its response accordingly.


“It’s been a very dynamic and evolving environment,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel recently told Military.com. “This has certainly evolved how we do it.”

Lengyel spoke with Military.com at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, KY.

While social media isn’t the primary communications tool between the Guard and those at risk, it’s starting to play a larger role.

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USAF Lt. Gen. Joseph Lengyel testifies before the US Senate Committee on Armed Services at a confirmation hearing for his appointment to the grade of general and to be chief of the National Guard Bureau on June 21, 2016. US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez.

The Washington Post reported that during Harvey, a Guard Humvee vanished in Katy, Texas. With no other way to reach the driver, soldiers finally were able communicate with him using SnapChat, a messaging app that can capture a photo or video, which is then relayed to the recipient briefly before it disappears.

Similar situations can happen when there is a communications capability gap in a disaster area, Lengyel said.

“Whenever you go into particular environments, communications is always difficult when you first start. Because the infrastructure [isn’t] there. It has to evolve,” he said.

For example, the Guard got the call to drive to Beaumont, Texas, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or first responders could set up hub stations to house communications equipment.

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US Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard arrive in Houston Aug. 27, 2017, to aid citizens in heavily flooded areas from the storms of Hurricane Harvey. US Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.

Coordinating Efforts

The military has crews that monitor response efforts as they happen in real-time.

For example, its only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC,” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, keeps track of relief no matter where it’s needed in the US.

Military.com visited the 601st AOC in March. It evaluates domestic operations, or DomOps, for Air Forces Northern, monitoring the airwaves — and social media sites — for events with potential military ties.

Lengyel said he was impressed with efforts as ongoing training rotations across the globe have not stopped despite the massive hurricane relief effort. Part of the Texas Guard deployed to the Horn of Africa even as Harvey laid waste to the Houston area and Hurricane Irma loomed.

Thousands of National Guard troops remain on the ground in Texas for relief efforts, and the Pentagon mobilized nearly 30,000 military personnel for Irma recovery.

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Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard rescue Houston residents as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, Monday, August 28, 2017. More than 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard have been called out to support local authorities in response to the storm. US Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West.

That’s all thanks to planning.

“Every state creates and drafts an all-hazards response plan … and a lot of it comes together from various federal agencies,” Lengyel said of the constant training and push to get ahead of the next big disaster, which could vary from an earthquake to a terrorist attack.

Everybody has a plan. And we coordinate … and we think about it before it happens, and we’ve gotten much better about this over the years,” he said.

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Emergency supplies are removed from a pallet and stacked by members of the US Coast Guard, Marines, Army, and Air Force at Cyril E. King Airport in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Sept. 14, 2017. US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier.

Special Mission Unit Milestone

This year’s relief efforts — from Harvey and Irma to wildfires in the West — created another milestone for the US military this year.

For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Air Force Reserve, all three special mission units — weather reconnaissance, firefighting, and aerial spray — were called to action simultaneously, the service said this week.

Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — better known as the Hurricane Hunters — out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, “have been flying weather reconnaissance missions nonstop” since Aug. 17, the Air Force said in a release.

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A US flag mounted to a Texas Army National Guard vehicle waves in the breeze during Hurricane Harvey rescue operations in Katy, Texas August 29, 2017. US Army Photo by Sgt. Steve Johnson.

The 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is assisting the National Interagency Fire Center by providing a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130H Hercules, aircraft and aircrew to support ongoing aerial firefighting efforts in the western U.S.

And the 910th Airlift Wing, out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, is providing its aerial spray capability to repel mosquitos and other pests in eastern Texas following Harvey.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US is bombing Afghanistan more than ever in 2018

The 591 weapons released over Afghanistan in May 2018 were the most in a month so far, according to new statistics released by the Air Force.

Those 591 topped the previous high, which was 562 in April 2018 — a count that includes bombs, missiles and ground-attacks. The record for a month is the 653 weapons released in October 2017 — that month, August 2017, and April and May 2018 are the only months to exceed 500 weapons released.

Overall, the US aircraft conducted 726 sorties as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in May 2018, 73 of which included the release of at least one weapon.

The total weapons deployed by manned and remotely piloted aircraft through May 2018 is 2,339, more than were dropped in both 2016 and 2015 and close to the 12-month totals for 2013 and 2014 — 2,758 and 2,365, respectively.

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A U.S. Army soldier from Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 24th Infantry.u00a0Qalat, Afghanistan, Aug. 13, 2011.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

The 2,339 weapons used through May 2018 puts the US on pace to release 5,613 weapons this year, which would well exceed the 4,361 used in 2017.

President Donald Trump said in 2017 that the US would increase its troop presence in Afghanistan to combat the resurgent Taliban as well as the growing presence of a local offshoot of ISIS called Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

Since then, a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolt ground-attack aircraft have been stationed in Afghanistan, as have MQ-9 Reapers used for intelligence-gathering and reconnaissance. F-16 Falcon fighter jets and EC-130H Compass Call electronic-warfare aircraft, among others, are also in the country.


Trump also delegated more authority to the Pentagon and commanders on the ground.

“We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing,” Trump said in April 2017, after the Massive Ordnance Air Blast weapon was dropped on an ISIS-K targetin northwest Afghanistan — the first battlefield use of that weapon.

In recent months, the US has stepped up its targeting of the Taliban’s drug labs and other revenue-generating infrastructure, using advanced aircraft like the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter to bomb rudimentary buildings around Afghanistan.

The Taliban has deepened its involvement in the drug trade, and many of its labs are easily rebuilt.

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ISIS-K fighting positions targeted by airstrikes in Momand Valley, Achin District, Nangahar Province, Afghanistan, Oct.u00a019, 2017.
(U.S. Army photo)

“US air operations in May put tremendous pressure on every branch of the Taliban’s network,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian, combined force air-component commander, said in a release. “We struck Taliban leadership with precision strikes, and consistently pummeled their revenue-producing facilities, weapons caches, and staging facilities.”

The May 2018 airstrike data was released as Army Lt. Gen. Austin Scott Miller went before lawmakers as the nominee to be the commander of US Forces Afghanistan. He would be the ninth US general to take command since the invasion in late 2001 and the first appointed by Trump.

Miller acknowledged that the 17 years the US has spent in Afghanistan “is a very long time” but said he “cannot guarantee you a timeline or an end date” for the deployment of the 16,000 US troops now in the country.

The Pentagon believes that the Taliban controls or is contesting control of about one-third of Afghanistan, while the Afghan government controls the rest.

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U.S. Army Pfc. Richard Mills, Security Forces rifleman attached to Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul, secures his eyes and ears as Afghan National Army soldiers conduct a controlled detonation of a Taliban-planted Improvised Explosive Device found on a road in Shinkai, Afghanistan, Oct. 8, 2011.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Grovert Fuentes-Contreras)

“I’ve learned a lot in the last 17 years,” Miller, who currently oversees Joint Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’ve learned there are groups that want nothing more than to harm Americans.”

“I’ve learned these groups thrive in ungoverned spaces,” he added. “I’ve also learned that when we maintain pressure on them abroad, they struggle to organize and build the necessary means to attack us.”

When pressed by senators, Miller admitted the Pentagon needed to be considering pulling out of Afghanistan in the coming years but stressed that a “precipitous and disorderly withdrawal” would lead to “negative effects on US national security.”

Miller, who deployed to Afghanistan as a lieutenant colonel in 2001, underscored the generational nature of the war by gesturing to his son, a second lieutenant in the Army, during the hearing.

“This young guy sitting behind me,” Miller said. “I never anticipated that his cohort would be in a position to deploy [to Afghanistan] as I sat there in 2001 and looked at this.”

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

MIGHTY MONEY

6 things you should know about the GI Bill

1. Be strategic about your degree

Choose a degree that leads to a career and a school that can help build a career network. I know it looks tempting to get the BAH, and take random classes. Don’t take that temptation. If you have to, go to a community college for two years to get a taste for school, and then choose a direction.


Read More: GI Bill gets huge boost with this new law

2. Research schools

Choose a school that lets you go to school year-round. If you can take 6 classes per semester, do it. If four is better for your school-life balance, do that. Remember, it may be more economical to take more classes. If your school charges the same for 12 credits as 18, take 18 credits. It might be hard, but you will be pushing through more effectively. Again though, you want to succeed, so only take a course load that helps you succeed.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Life hack: bend your young, naïve classmates to your war-hardened will.

3. Plan it out

Plan your classes down to the day. Look at the schedule for each semester. The GI Bill is prorated down to the day. If you have even one-day left, you will qualify for the entire semester including BAH. By planning this, you’ll be able to get more from your GI Bill. Also, the BAH is lower for an online program, but if the degree gives you something of benefit, it might be worth it to take a lower BAH rate. Focus on the long-term plan.

4. Choose a school based on the professors and the network they offer you

This is not GI Bill specific, but your professors and fellow-students will be your network in the future. Look at alumni. Look at the research by your professors. Look at who works for the school in a consulting or a part-time capacity. These relationships are super important towards shaping your future. Utilize them.

Read More: 4 schools the GI Bill pays for other than traditional college

5. Don’t be afraid to change direction and re-plan everything

I did this in my first semester of undergrad. I had a plan that wasn’t smart. My professors pushed me toward a degree that would get me to my goals. That being said, my last semester of Graduate School, I changed my mind on what I wanted to do with my life. It happens. I am creating my own peacebuilding business instead of going to work for the UN. I have all the skills for this from my two degrees, and it fits my interests better.

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You’re never too old to mess with the bell curve.

6. Be active in planning, preparing, and choosing all aspects of your degree path

This is part of planning your schedule, but it’s also about taking classes that will help you in your career. Don’t take a math class that you don’t need. Don’t take gym just to take it. Take classes that teach you things that you will use. If you do this, you’ll get more than your money’s worth from the GI-Bill.

This is how I’ve used the GI-Bill with purpose, and how I think you can do the same.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. wants the Pakistani military to increase counterterrorism

US leaders are now asking Pakistan to increase its counterterrorism activity and further collaborate with the Dept. of Defense when it comes to attacking Jihadists in their country and advance prospects for increased peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford recently met with Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Bajwa in Islamabad to discuss heightened cooperation between their two countries.

“Secretary Pompeo emphasized the important role Pakistan could play in bringing about a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, and conveyed the need for Pakistan to take sustained and decisive measures against terrorists and militants threatening regional peace,” State Dept. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a written statement.


The meeting takes place within a broader context of ambiguity characterizing US-Pakistani relations, a connection which encompasses both tensions and successful military-to-military counter-jihadist cooperation.

Within Pakistan, there appears to be two interwoven, yet distinct trajectories; US officials and Pakistani security experts say that the Pakistani military has had substantial success attacking jihadists within their borders. At the same time, many US officials continue to raise some measure of question regarding the level of Pakistani resolve when it comes to counter-jihadist initiatives. Further, some are also raising questions about the actual depth of Pakistan’s alliance with the United States, particularly given the country’s interest in addressing the India-Pakistan conflicts regarding the contested Kashmir region.

Pompeo and Dunford, being aware of President Trump’s stated concern that Pakistan might harbor jihadists, both cited increased military-to-military relationships as central to future progress in the region.

“On the surface, they say they want to cooperate…. So what we are looking for is the actions to back that up ,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staft Gen. Joe Dunford, according to a Pentagon report.

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U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo meets with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sept. 5, 2018.

Former Secretary of State spokesman Jamie Rubin is among those raising concerns about the actual extent of Pakistan’s allegiance to the US-backed counterterrorism operations. In particular, he has posed the question as to whether the newly arriving Pakistani administration, led by recently elected Prime Minister Imran Khan, will pursue pro-American policies.

Multiple counterterrorism and security experts familiar with operations in the region have said that part of the ambiguity or apparent contradictory sensibilities within Pakistan emerges, in large measure, from Pakistani entities operating separately from a military-led government infrastructure.

Rubin made the argument that instances wherein Pakistani entities appear to be sustaining some degree of alliance with Afghan and Pakistani jihadists are due to the country’s highly-prioritized anti-India stance.

Specifically, Pakistani jihadists are, according to many expert estimates, believed to be involved in various counter-Indian initiatives. Also, Rubin maintained that some portion of Pakistanis seek to maintain an ability to have safe harbor in Afghanistan in the event that their country is overrun by Indian forces.

Citing the currently incoming new Pakistani administration, Rubin raised the question as to whether there were enough “pro-Americans” within Pakistani government. He wondered whether there was instability and tension separating Pakistani military leadership and other political ambitions held by some in the country.

Pakistani security officials involved in maintaining counterterrorism support and security within the country say an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis, including government officials, are what he called “moderates.”

“The rhetoric in Pakistan is moderate and not one of an extremist Pakistan. That is in everyone’s interests,” said Ikram Sehgal, Chairman of an international security firm called the Pathfinder Group.

At the same time, Sehgal also cited the importance of Pakistan’s relationship with Iran and other regional neighbors, adding “our best stance is to be neutral and not take sides.”

Meanwhile, US military officials emphasize that the current Trump administration is deeply invested in improving US-Pakistani military and diplomatic cooperation with a particular dual-pronged approach of both seeking peace in Afghanistan and stepping up Pakistani military counterinsurgency attacks against jihadists.

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U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo arrives in Islamabad, Pakistan on Sept. 5, 2018.

Also, operating beneath the shadow of a widely-discussed war in Afghanistan, the Pakistani military has quietly been aggressively attacking jihadi terrorists, Taliban forces and other enemies in the mountainous tri-border region spanning Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, according to Sehgal.

Pakistani military missions, which have for quite some time been existing below the radar of greater international consciousness and focus, have by no means been uncomplicated. Many successes have been met with challenges and an ebb-and-flow often associated with complex counterinsurgency operations against a mix of enemy forces.

Nonetheless, despite the overwhelmingly circulated narrative that jihadist enemies continue to find safe-harbor in Pakistan, jihadi insurgent forces have consistently been attacked and removed from the area by the Pakistani military, Sehgal said.

Operating with weapons, intelligence assistance, and training support from the US military, Pakistani military activity has lowered the number of jihadi fighters in the country from more than 100,000 years ago to roughly 2,000 today.

Along with many Pakistani experts and observers of the tri-border region, Sehgal does acknowledge that the situation in Pakistan is not without some ambiguities and complexities. However, despite an at times fragmented approach and periodic hesitations, Pakistani forces have steadily made substantial progress over the course of the last decade, he claimed.

Pakistani military operations have included raids, door-to-door searches of tribal areas and large-force attacks on jihadi facilities such as underground bunkers and command and control facilities; the attacks have massively reduced the amount of enemy jihadi fighters in the region, Sehgal said.

Sehgal added that, not long ago, Pakistani military forces attacked and destroyed a jihadist facility in the tribal areas previously known to harbor large amounts of insurgents.

“Pakistanis have been carrying out ops on their side of the border. We have not had an easy time as successful as we’ve been. We successfully carried out military operations against jihadi military facilities,” he said. “We have not had a single failure when we attack them directly.”

Also, the Pakistanis are currently fencing the tri-border area to stop the flow of enemy fighters coming in from Afghanistan. Sehgal said the fence will be finished several months from now.

Featured image: Pakistani Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Bajwa.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.