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.

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Iraqi security forces step up aggression against ISIS

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation


The Iraqi Security Forces are now much less likely to quit fighting and becoming much more aggressive and consistent in their ongoing combat against ISIS, Pentagon and U.S. Coalition officials said.

Responding to questions about numerous reports citing large desertions of Iraqi troops not wanting to fight, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that circumstance has been rapidly shifting for the better.

Many observers said large numbers of Iraqi soldiers simply refused to fight or put up any kind of defense when ISIS first seized territory in Iraq; that equation has now changed, U.S. officials say.

Warren said recent victories in Ramadi and villages near Makhmour have emboldened and empowered Iraq forces to fight, despite reports that many were still laying down their weapons and taking off from the battlefield.

“Small units confidence and morale is growing and strengthening. The training, advising and equipping that we have done is having an effect,” Warren told reporters.

Citing that the U.S. has trained 20,000 Iraqis over last 20 months to elevate their performance levels and instructed them how to better conduct operations in Tikrit and Ramadi, Warren added that Iraqi force have favorable responded to recent combat success.

“They have tasted victory and they want to taste more of it,” he said.

As evidence of increased Iraqi combat aggression, Warren pointed to a specific M1 Abrams tank crew in Hit, Iraq, which has earned the knickname “beast” for its ceaseless activities against ISIS. The one tank has been systematically and aggressively attacking enemy defenses, maneuvering and blasting enemy IEDs, Warren explained.

Hit is a city along the Euphrates river where U.S. Coalition forces continue to make substantial gains against ISIS, Warren said.

There are still some problems with Iraqi soldiers quitting, particularly in areas around Makhmour, Warren explained.

“Iraqi senior leaders have noticed this (Iraqi soldier quitting) and have fired some commanders. They have been replaced with more aggressive commanders,” he added. “Broadly speaking across the board we are seeing their level come up. As this Army drives closer to Mosul the fighting will only get harder.”

Warren added that Iraqi and U.S. Coalition combat tactics involved combined arms maneuvers on the ground along with air attacks and efforts to dismantle ISIS’ finance operations, cyber abilities and overall command and control.

“An enemy that is shattered and scattered has significantly reduced ability to mass combat power. We believe that by shattering them, fragmenting them and dismantling them, we move ourselves closer to the ultimate goal,” he said.

Although there has been widespread reporting quoting senior U.S. military officials saying there will likely be more U.S. combat outposts in Iraq, Warren emphasized that the U.S. Coalition strategy is grounded in the priority of having Iraqi forces make gains on the ground.

“The Iraqis are the only ones who can defeat ISIS in a way that is a lasting defeat,” Warren proclaimed. “Our intent here is to deliver them a lasting defeat. We believe that by degrading them in phase one and then dismantling them in phase two – we will be set up for phase three which is to defeat them.”

The U.S. Coalition’s recent killing of several ISIS senior leaders has had a substantial negative impact upon ISIS, Warren said.

“Any organization that has lost three of its most senior leaders in a span of 30 days – is going to suffer for it; the organization then turns in on itself. We’ve seen an increase in a number of executions (ISIS killing members of its own group). It creates confusion, paranoia and ultimately weakens the enemy,” Warren said.

Warren expressed confidence in the ultimate defeat of ISIS, in part due to the resolve of a 66-nation coalition that, he said, “understands that this is an enemy that needs to be defeated.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

A World Trade Center survivor left an amazing goodbye to his family

As the Director of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, I have the good fortune of exposing cadets at the U.S. Military Academy to a number of experiences that shape their worldviews about terrorism and counterterrorism. Sometimes we even get a special opportunity to shape their worldviews on life in general.


One of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences for cadets and faculty is our annual Fall trip to New York City. Surprisingly, we have not always done this, but we started an annual trip in 2014 with the intent of showing cadets the efforts to counter terrorism in the greatest city on the planet, just 50 miles south of West Point.

In addition to visiting with partners such as the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, NYPD, and the FDNY, we always spend the entire morning at the National 9/11 Museum and Memorial.

Regardless of whether it is your first time or your 100th time, it is guaranteed to be a moving experience. I learn something new every time I am there. If you have not visited it, you should make it a priority to do so. Many cadets say it is one of the most rewarding experiences of their West Point career, and almost every cadet wishes we could spend more time there.

If you do intend to visit, don’t plan on spending an hour or two. You really should carve out the whole day. No matter how many hours you spend in this sacred place, it won’t be enough.

On this last trip, I somehow spent more time in a lesser-known section of the memorial dedicated to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On that cold February day, there was a guy caught in an elevator shaft. Thinking it was his final hour due to the heavy smoke that came pouring in, he wrote a hand-written letter to his wife and kids. He thought he was going to die. Thankfully he survived, but his letter is in the museum for all to see, and I’m so glad it was included.

It is beautiful, jarring, inspirational, and emotional. It got me thinking about what I would write in that situation. It also made me think why we don’t articulate these kinds of thoughts to the people we love while we have the opportunity to do so (e.g. not waiting until we are in an elevator shaft filling with smoke, thinking we’re going to die).

Here it is:

*************************************************

To my family, from Dad

12:40PM smoking elevator 66, 2/26/93

A few thoughts if I am fated to leave you now.

I love you very much. Be good people. Do wonderful things in your life.

Barbara – I’ve always loved you, and showed you as much as I could.

Debbie – my beautiful girl, with wonderful bear hugs and kisses. Do good.

Jeff – What a terrific person, stay well, make good decisions, help people.

Doug – My boy. Discover secrets to cure lots of the world’s problems.

I’m so proud of my children – they’re each so wonderful.

I love and cherish – ideas, people, Cooper Union (Alumnus of the Year!!), my work, my family, doing the best I could. Nothing more to say. 

Love,

Dad

12:59 very smoky

**************************************************

It is a simple letter, but I love the themes he wrote about:

“Be good people.”

“Do wonderful things.”

“Do good.”

“Help people.”

“Cure lots of the world’s problems.”

I also love that beyond his family, the first things that came to mind when he thought about things he loved were ideas, people, his alma mater, and doing the best he could.

Also Read: This was how the military reacted after terrorists attacked on Sept. 11

So in the aftermath of a seemingly never-ending political season, where we still have to sit and watch negative messages that are intended to divide us, I like to focus instead on the wise words of someone forced to maximize what little time he had left on this earth. This is what is important. Whether you are black, white, or purple, straight or gay, native-born or an immigrant, everyone can relate to this letter. When you strip everything else away, we want our families to know we loved them and to inspire them to do good in the world.

After you read it, please tell the people in your life what they mean to you, and do it as if you were in an elevator shaft filling with smoke and you thought you weren’t going to make it.

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China is exploiting weakness in the South China Sea with its deceptive ‘second navy’

A recent report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies exposed a troubling tactic used by China to harass and intimidate neighboring nations into steering clear of their unlawful claims to militarized islands in the South China Sea.


In short, China has turned their coast guard into a sort of paramilitary force, the largest of it’s kind in the world. In some cases, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels have simply been painted white and repurposed for maritime “law enforcement.”

Sometimes, the .50 caliber machine guns still hang over the sides of vessels once used for war and now used to intimidate neighboring nations.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
The crew from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell trains with the China coast guard. | US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jonathan R. Cilley

But unlike military disputes, where internationally agreed-upon accords regulate standard operating procedures, these coast guard ships fall in a legal gray zone that China has come to exploit.

“What we have is a situation in East Asia where China in particular is not using naval vessels to intimidate, not using [traditional] force, but they’re taking actions that are below that line of triggering any kind of military confrontation, and yet intimidating other actors,” Bonnie Glasser, an expert on security in the Pacific from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in a phone interview.

Glasser, who headed up the report on China’s coast guard, compiled 45 incidents in the South China Sea and found China’s coast guard involvement in two thirds of them.

But according to Glasser, “what we have been able to compile is just a fraction of the number of incidents in the South China Sea,” where China’s larger ships have repeatedly rammed, harassed, and used water cannons on fishing vessels from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others.

“In my conversations in the Philippines — Chinese ramming of other ships is considered to be part of their acceptable rules of engagement. That’s just what they do,” said Glasser.

Nothing stopping them

Recently, China touted an agreement they reached with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on a Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), which provides a legal framework for how the navies of different nations should interact at sea.

According to Glasser, the legal framework marks a step in the right direction, but does nothing to stop the harassing actions of China’s coast guard, which operates as a navy in all but name. What’s more, the majority of signatories to the recent ASEAN CUES agreement had already signed a similar agreement in April 2014, rendering the agreement even more empty.

“China’s ASEAN CUES agreement is not new, and was already agreed upon. [Chinese state media] portrayed it as some breakthrough… Everyone is applauding, and it’s nice to have, but it doesn’t address the problem,” said Glasser. The real problem, of course, is that no meaningful laws regulate their paramilitary coast guard.

According to Glasser, there have been fatal incidents at sea, and not all involving China. Unlike in the Persian Gulf, where Business Insider previously reported that a hypothetically fatal incident between Iran and the US would touch off a major international incident, belligerent behavior like China’s is the norm in the South China Sea.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche July, 16, 2014, during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery

Looming conflict

“China is building very large coast guard vessels,” and lots of them in a “quantity as well as quality” approach, said Glasser. The sheer size of the ships, usually weighing more than 1,000 tons, as well as the way they’re armed, make other nation’s law enforcement craft “pale in comparison.”

Essentially, the Chinese bully civilian craft with hulking boats that intimidate on sight. Only Japan even comes close to having the capability to defend itself, with 105,000 total tonnage of coast guard ships to China’s 190,000. But Glasser says that actual military capability should come second to infrastructure, in the form of internationally agreed-upon law.

“Putting in place acceptable procedures of behavior and other confidence building measures is the way to go, rather than everyone having the ships the size of China’s,” said Glasser, nodding to the potential arms race that could result from China’s unilateral military buildup.

Glasser suggests that extending CUES to coast guard ships, as well as naval ships, could be a good model going forward. US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping reportedly discussed this topic in a recent meeting.

But it’s hard to imagine China agreeing to something that would limit its influence. Japan recently loaned some ships to the Philippines to monitor the Scarborough Shoal, where China continues to visit despite the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling against their claims to the land mass.

China has completely ignored this ruling, and should they go as far as militarizing that shoal, which Obama has warned against, the US would be forced to act or risk losing all leverage in the region.

“Many different risks are posed if China goes ahead and develops the Scarborough Shoal… it would undermine US credibility, cause the Chinese to continue to test the US, and push forward a greater agenda of seeking control of the air and sea space,” Glasser said.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
US Senator Dan Sullivan

Furthermore, China undermining the US would cause “enormous anxiety in the region, with the US seen as weakening in it’s ability and will,” Glasser said.

“Reverberating effects, as well as security threats eventually posed by China having capability near main bases (the Subic Bay) would be a threat to the Philippines and the US.”

So for now, China has found a loophole in international law that allows its paramilitary “second navy” of a coast guard to muscle smaller nations out of their rightful claims. China has shown a persistent will to militarize and enforce its claims in the South China Sea. Unless the US, and its allies in the Pacific, can get China to agree to a legal framework, Beijing appears ready to continue pushing its claims by force.

There is a perceived weakness in the way international law is enforced at sea, and China is exploiting it handily. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “weakness is provocative.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy ship trains to rescue astronauts at sea

San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26) is underway to conduct Underway Recovery Test (URT) 7 in conjunction with NASA off the coast of Southern California.

URT is part of a U.S. government interagency effort to safely practice and evaluate recovery processes, procedures, hardware, and personnel in an open ocean environment that will be used to recover the Orion spacecraft upon its return to Earth.


This will be the first time John P. Murtha will conduct a URT mission with NASA. Throughout the history of the program, a variety of San Antonio-class LPD ships have been utilized to train and prepare NASA and the Navy, utilizing a Boiler Plate Test Article (BTA). The BTA is a mock capsule, designed to roughly the same size, shape, and center of gravity as the Crew Module which will be used for Orion.

NASA and Navy teams have taken lessons learned from previous recovery tests to improve operations and ensure the ability to safely and successfully recover the Orion capsule when it returns to Earth following Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1) in December 2019.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation

San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS John P. Murtha arrives to its new homeport Naval Base San Diego.

(U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Lucas T. Hans)

EM-1 will be an uncrewed flight, whose successful completion hopes to pave the way for future crewed missions and enable future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

During URT-7, John P. Murtha will conduct restricted maneuvering operations. Small boats carrying Navy and NASA divers will deploy alongside the BTA to rig tending lines, guiding the capsule to Anchorage as the ship safely operates on station.

Conducting both daytime and nighttime recovery operations, NASA crew members will work alongside the Navy to manage how the capsule is brought in, set down and safely stored.

NASA plans to conduct two more URT missions before EM-1 takes place.

John P. Murtha is homeported in San Diego and is part of Naval Surface Forces and U.S. 3rd Fleet.

Commander, U.S. Third Fleet leads naval forces in the Pacific and provides realistic, relevant training necessary for an effective global Navy. They coordinate with Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet to plan and execute missions based on their complementary strengths to promote ongoing peace, security, and stability.

This article originally appeared on DVIDS. Follow @DVIDSHub on Twitter.

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Mattis says US still debating ‘big ideas’ on Afghan plan

The Trump administration is still sorting out “the big ideas” for a new Afghanistan strategy, beyond troop levels and other military details, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said July 21.


“We’re close,” he said in an impromptu exchange with reporters at the Pentagon one day after President Donald Trump met with him and his military chiefs for a broad discussion that aides said touched on Afghanistan and other issues.

The US has been fighting in Afghanistan for nearly 16 years, and as recently as June, Mattis said, “we are not winning.”

Mattis told Sen. John McCain at a hearing last month that he would have the Afghanistan strategy ready by mid-July. On July 21 he was asked what is holding it up.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Photo courtesy of the DoD

“It just takes time,” he said. “It wasn’t that past presidents were dumb or anything else. This is hard work, so you’ve got to get it right. That’s all there is to it.”

He also said it is vitally important to “get the big ideas right,” meaning to establish a consensus within the government on what problem Afghanistan poses and what policy goal is being pursued by committing US troops there. He called this “orders of magnitude” more difficult than deciding military tactics.

“It’s easy only for the people who criticize it from the outside and who don’t carry the responsibility for integrating it altogether,” he said, referring to making diplomatic and economic elements a part of the overall strategy.

Although Mattis did not mention him July 21, McCain is among the more vocal critics of the administration’s lack of an Afghan strategy.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
DoD photo by Chief Petty Officer James Foehl

On July 20, McCain mentioned his frustration on Afghanistan in a statement on the separate matter of the administration reportedly deciding to end a program to assist the Syrian opposition to President Bashar Assad.

“Six months into this administration, there is still no new strategy for victory in Afghanistan, either,” McCain said. “It is now mid-July, when the administration promised to deliver that strategy to Congress, and we are still waiting.”

In his remarks at the Pentagon, Mattis revealed no details of the ongoing administration debate.

He cast the Afghanistan problem in the context of past American wars, including those that did not end well — such as Vietnam — and those that still have not ended, such as Iraq. He said he wants to be sure there is administration agreement on the political goals as well as the military means.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley

“I realize this probably looks easy, but it is not easy,” he said.

Mattis said a decision disclosed by the Pentagon on July 21 to withhold $50 million in “coalition support funds” for Pakistan — money it receives each year as reimbursement for logistical support for US combat operations — was separate from deliberations over a new Afghanistan strategy. Officials have said the US approach to Pakistan is an important part of the Afghan strategy debate, in part because a Taliban faction known as the Haqqani network enjoys sanctuary in Pakistan. US officials called the Haqqani network the most lethal element of the Taliban opposition in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon said in a statement July 21 that Mattis has informed congressional committees that he could not certify that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network to deserve full reimbursement this year. Of $900 million in proposed reimbursement, Pakistan earlier received $550 million and Congress a few months ago withheld $300 million.

Mattis’ certification decision means the remaining $50 million also will be withheld.

The Pentagon chief said this was not a reflection of a new, tougher US policy toward Pakistan.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
A U.S. Army adviser from Task Force Forge conducts a room clearing drill with an Afghan trainee. (NATO photo by Kay M. Nissen)

“This is simply an assessment of the current state of play” with regard to suppressing the Haqqani threat. “It’s not a policy. It is the reality.”

Pakistan is authorized to receive up to another $900 million in support funds this coming year, of which $400 million is subject to Pentagon certification of sufficient Pakistani effort against the Haqqani network.

“In our discussions with Pakistani officials, we continue to stress that it is in the interest of Pakistan to eliminate all safe havens and reduce the operational capacity of all militant organizations that pose a threat to US and Pakistani interests as well as regional stability,” a Pentagon spokesman, Adam Stump, said.

Last year, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter determined the Pakistani effort against the Haqqani network was insufficient, and as a result, $300 million in support funds was withheld.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why the Russian navy just took a Philippine vacation

Three Russian navy ships have arrived in the Philippines and two others are expected over the weekend to deliver donated military equipment, officials say.


It is Russia’s third naval visit since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office vowing to diversify the country’s ties away from the United States and toward China and Russia.

Three Russian antisubmarine ships docked in Manila on October 20 in time for Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s upcoming visit to the country, said Rear Admiral E. Mikhailov, the task force commander.

Two other vessels will be arriving on October 21 at the port of Subic Bay northwest of Manila to unload donated military equipment, the Philippine Navy said in a statement.

Shoigu will be attending next week’s meeting of 10 Southeast Asian defense ministers with counterparts from other countries, including the United States and China.

The navy said the donated equipment would be handed over to Duterte, who earlier said Russia would provide 5,000 assault rifles.

“I am assuring you that we will do our best to make this port call a significant contribution to the strengthening of friendly ties and cooperation between our two nations in the interest of security and stability in the region,” Mikhailov said.

Russian news agency TASS reported that the Russian Navy will allow local residents of Manila to take tours of the large antisubmarine vessel Admiral Panteleyev during its stay in Manila.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the military wants more spy planes from Congress

The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific told Congress he lacks the spy aircraft needed to verify any “denuclearization” agreement that might come out of the proposed summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.


“I don’t have enough because there isn’t enough to go around,” Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said of the available intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee March 15, 2018.

In response to questions from Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska, Harris said Navy P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft, Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint signals intelligence, and WC-135 Constant Phoenix “sniffer” aircraft are vital to his mission monitoring North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Also read: US officials warn that North Korea will test another missile soon

All three aircraft are “critical to intelligence collection,” he said, adding the WC-135 is taking on added importance following the stunning announcement that Trump had agreed to meet with Kim.

“I don’t know where we’re going to end up with the talks,” Harris said, “[but] I do see demand increasing, clearly” for the use of the WC-135 and its ttop-secretequipment that can collect atmospheric samples and determine whether nuclear testing has taken place.

The WC-135 “helps me understand the nature of North Korea’s nuclear testing,” he said.

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The WC-135W. (Photo by U.S. Air Force)

The problem with ISR assets, Harris said, is that other combatant commands want them and they must be allocated by the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

“The WC-135, I have to ask for it and, when I ask for it, I get it,” he said.

Harris had a suggestion for Trump that is a wrinkle on President Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” axiom for arms reductions negotiations. In the case of talks with North Korea, “I think it’s distrust but verify,” he said.

“We have to enter this eyes wide open,” Harris said, but “the fact that we’re talking at all has a positive framework about it. We haven’t lost anything by talking … the opportunity to engage has value itself regardless of the outcome.”

Related: How the Navy will enforce North Korean sanctions

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who set the stage for the potential Trump-Kim summit by inviting North Korea to the Winter Olympics and then getting an offer from Kim to meet, pushed ahead with preparations for the negotiations.

Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, said a high-level negotiating team would meet with North Korean counterparts later in late March 2018 to lay the groundwork and set the agenda for Moon’s anticipated meeting in April 2018 with Kim at the Panmunjom peace village in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.

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President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

“This inter-Korean summit should be a turning point for fundamentally addressing the issue of peace on the Korean peninsula,” Im said.

Yonhap quoted Moon as saying, “Our firm stance is that we can’t make concessions [on denuclearization] under any circumstances and conditions” in the negotiations.

Trump caused a flap on his own agenda for the talks in mid-March 2018 when his comments at a private fundraiser leaked. He appeared to suggest that he might pull U.S. forces out of South Korea unless the U.S. received more favorable terms on trade agreements.

“We have a very big trade deficit with them, and we protect them,” he said, The Washington Post reported. “We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military. We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea. Let’s see what happens.”

Trump glossed over the trade issue in a phone call to Moon on March 16, 2018 in which he renewed his commitment to go ahead with the summit, probably at the end of May 2018, although a time and place have yet to be set.

A White House readout of the phone call said Trump “reiterated his intention to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by the end of May 2018. The two leaders expressed cautious optimism over recent developments and emphasized that a brighter future is available for North Korea, if it chooses the correct path.”

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Kim Jong Un.

In his appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Harris was characteristically blunt on issues in the region.

Harris noted that his testimony would be his last before the committee. He will soon retire after 39 years of service and has been nominated by Trump to be the next ambassador to Australia.

On the North Korea talks, Harris said, “As we go into this, I think we can’t be overly optimistic on outcomes. We’ll just have to see where it goes if and when we have the summit. North Korea remains our most urgent security threat in the region.”

“This past year has seen rapid and comprehensive improvement in North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear capabilities despite broad international condemnation and the imposition of additional United Nations security resolutions,” he said.

“It is indisputable that KJU [Kim Jong-un] is rapidly closing the gap between rhetoric and capability,” Harris added. “The Republic of Korea and Japan have been living under the shadow of North Korea’s threats for years; now, that shadow looms over the American homeland.”

He scoffed at the notion that the Trump administration had been considering a so-called “bloody nose” strategy that would involve limited strikes on North Korea to rein in Kim’s nuclear ambitions.

“We have no bloody nose strategy. I don’t know what that is. The press have run with it,” Harris said.

“I’m charged with developing, for the national command authority, a range of options through the spectrum of violence, and I’m ready to execute whatever the president and the national command authority directs me to do, but a ‘bloody nose’ strategy is not contemplated,” he said.

More: This is why you can’t trust North Korea’s new charm offensive

The strategy that does exist, Harris said, is for full-spectrum warfare that would obliterate the North Korean threat.

“We have to be ready to do the whole thing, and we are ready to do the whole thing if ordered by the president,” he said.

By way of farewell, Harris said that during his time at PaCom, “I have had the tremendous honor of leading the soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Department of Defense civilians standing watch for the largest and most diverse geographic command.

“These men and women, as well as their families, fill me with pride with their hard work and devotion to duty. I’m humbled to serve alongside them,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Transportation experts deliver mail – and love – to troops

For many service members, especially those stationed overseas, mail can be a lifeline to family, friends, and feeling connected to home. For those stationed within U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, there is a team of Airmen dedicated to providing timely, cost effective, and efficient mail services.

The USAFE-AFAFRICA Air Postal Squadron represents the major command as the single point of contact for Air Force postal matters. The squadron provides policy, procedures, and guidance for all USAFE-AFAFRICA postal operating locations and exercises command of aerial mail terminals assigned to the USAFE-AFAFRICA AIRPS.


In a nutshell, the squadron ensures all mail travelling to and from the major command is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. These Airmen use their skills to bridge the distance between service members stationed in Europe and their loved ones.

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In 2016, the USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS Frankfurt detachment transported approximately 45,000 pounds of inbound mail and 30,000 pounds of outbound mail for service members stationed in Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

“Our mission is essentially to get your mail to you,” said Staff Sgt. Dereth Worrell, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS noncommissioned officer in charge of command postal transportation. “What my flight does, as we like to put it, if the post offices in the [U.S.] and Army Post Offices here are A and Z, we cover everything from B to Y. We set up things like how your mail moves, what it takes to move, or should a new APO open.”

The AIRPS postal transportation flight validated a total volume of approximately 40 million pounds of inbound and outbound mail moved from Sept. 1, 2016 to Sept. 1, 2017.

The journey a package undergoes to reach its final destination is a long process requiring many moving parts. Once a package is dropped off at a local post office in the states, it is shipped to a U.S. Postal Service sorting facility in Chicago, within the O’Hare International Airport, that is two football fields long. This facility processes Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Military Service going overseas, whether it’s civilian, military, or Department of State. Joint Military Postal Activity military personnel are assigned as liaisons to the USPS at the Chicago mail sorting facility.

At the sorting plant, mail is sorted and loaded onto commercial aircraft flying to one of three main hubs for military mail in Frankfurt, Germany, London, and Istanbul. However, for military post offices in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, mail can also be shipped to a USPS sorting facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, to a facility that processes retail ground and space available mail destined for APOs in those three countries.

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Packages of mail move on a conveyer belt after being offloaded from an aircraft in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct. 5, 2017. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Air Postal Squadron ensures all mail traveling to and from Europe is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

“No one really thinks about the transportation aspect,” Worrell said. “They think, ‘Oh, I ordered this or my friends or family sent me this, and two weeks later it shows up in my box.’ It takes a lot of work. You’re dealing with so many entities and factors that can change everything, such as weather or civil disturbances. Waiting two and half weeks to get something isn’t that bad considering everything that box has to go through in order to get to you.”

The squadron has detachments at the hubs, for which the air postal squadron provides the tools, resources, policy, and oversight while adhering to postal policies outlined by USPS, the Air Force, Military Postal Service Agency, and the Air Force and Army major commands in Europe. They also manage mail movement to include the monitoring of Department of Defense official and personal mail in military and commercial transportation channels.While most mail handling is done by contractors, the Airmen in the detachments oversee the offloading, inspecting, sorting, and loading onto trucks the mail undergoes.

Read Now: 9 struggles infantrymen know all too well about mail drops

“My favorite part was when I was working at the air mail terminal in Turkey and actually seeing everything move, getting to load up the trucks, make sure everything was there and sending it off,” Worrell said. “It was very physical, and yes you were pretty much doing the same thing every day – I pick up box, I move box – but it was eye-opening.”

The Air Force works hand-in-hand with the Army to deliver mail throughout Europe. The Air Force is in charge of air transportation, but once all the packages and letters have been loaded into their respective trucks, the Army takes over the ground transportation.

Receiving mail can seem like such a small thing, but it can have a positive effect on Airmen.

“Mail is a very significant component of morale and greater morale has proven to be a major contributor to Airmen productivity,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Sartain, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS functional area manager. “Happy folks are better working folks. We are directly contributing to the delivery of Grandma’s cookies to the Airman who’s never been overseas.”

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U.S. Army trucks wait to be loaded with mail for service members stationed within the European theater in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct. 5, 2017. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Air Postal Squadron works alongside the Army to provide air and ground transportation for mail delivered throughout Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tryphena Mayhugh)

USAFE AFRICA AIRPS not only handles the transportation of personal mail, they are also responsible for the transportation of official mail throughout the theater.

“Not only do we have a big piece of the personal mail side for every Airman, civilian, and Department of Defense contractor, but we also directly contribute to the mission by ensuring the units have the parts, equipment and supplies needed to execute their missions,” Sartain said. “We’re talking about aircraft parts, communications pieces, things that are very important.”

The air postal squadron Airmen not only provide mail services to those stationed overseas, but when deployed they provide the same services to the military members downrange.

“Mail is appreciated in garrison, however, when you’re in a deployed environment, it’s different,” Sartain said. “When the Airman, Soldier, Marine, or Sailor gets that letter from home that smells like their girlfriend’s perfume, or they get cookies from mom while in a hostile and austere condition, it means more. There’s nothing more gratifying then handing a package to a service member and see their face light up. I really enjoy the deployments, being able to provide that morale support, which at times is crucial in a wartime situation.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

France flexes by firing nuclear-capable missile

France, one of Europe’s two nuclear powers, said on Feb. 5, 2019, that it had fired a nuclear-capable missile from a fighter jet, while the US and Russia feud over the death of a nuclear treaty that saw Europe purged of most of its weapons of mass destruction during the hair-triggered days of the Cold War.

France tested all phases of a nuclear strike with an 11-hour mission that saw a Rafale fighter jet refuel and fire an unarmed missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, Reuters described France’s military as saying.


“These real strikes are scheduled in the life of the weapons’ system,” said a spokesman for the French air force, Col. Cyrille Duvivier, according to Reuters. “They are carried out at fairly regular intervals, but remain rare because the real missile, without its warhead, is fired.”

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A French Dassault Rafale.

France also operates a fleet of ballistic-missile submarines that can fire some of its 280 some nuclear warheads, but the subs move in secrecy and don’t provide the same messaging effect as more visible fighter jets.

France’s announcement of a nuclear test run came after the US and Russia fell out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which barred both countries from building nuclear missiles with ranges between 300 and 3,400 miles. Signed in 1987, it saw Europe and Russia remove an entire class of nuclear warheads from the continent in one of the most successful acts of arms control.

The US has accused Russia of having violated the treaty for years, and with all of NATO’s backing, the US decided to exit it.

But while France, as part of NATO, sided with the US, it has increasingly sought to distance itself from the US in foreign-policy and military affairs, and increasing the visibility of its nuclear arsenal is one way to assert independence.

France flexes its nuclear might against Russia — and the US


In 2018 French President Emmanuel Macron, during a spat with US President Donald Trump, pushed the idea of creating a European army, which got backing from Germany.

Experts, however, have said this idea is largely redundant under NATO and unlikely to ever take shape.

Nonetheless, Trump took direct offense at Macron’s idea and mocked him over it on Twitter.

Reuters reported that France’s minister of armed forces, Florence Parly, said on Feb. 25, 2019, at a conference in Portugal, “We Europeans cannot remain spectators of our own security.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russians are making fun of election ballots skewed for Putin

Opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has dismissed Russia’s presidential election in March as nothing more than the “reappointment” of Vladimir Putin.


Navalny has urged Russians to boycott the vote, arguing that it is rigged, and is now noting even the most inconspicuous signs of possible electioneering.

For example, the layout of the ballot papers.

The Central Election Commission announced the ballot on February 8, the same day it announced that eight candidates had been officially registered to run in the March 18 election.

Navalny posted an image of the ballot on his Twitter account that shows the eight candidates listed alphabetically, as the independent TV channel Dozhd and other media note.

However, Putin’s slot appears to be smack dab in the center. Furthermore, his bio is by far the briefest of all the candidates, appearing to set him apart, optically at least, from all the others.

Even just the appearance of the ballot and its layout is one more reason not to go to the polls. It’s just a disgrace. Putin’s reelection. Do not participate in this. Boycott. Voters strike,” Navalny writes.

Ella Pamfilova, the chief of the election commission, shrugged off suggestions the ballot had been tinkered with to favor Putin.

“Everything was done exactly according to the law. He simply has a shorter title than the others. So, there’s nothing more to write,” Pamfilova said, according to TASS.

Russians and others have taken to social media to poke fun at the ballot.

Roman Fedoseev, an editor at the muckraking Russian news site Slon.ru, writes on Twitter: “Boy, where is Putin, I don’t see anything at all, it’s not very clear. Such a complicated ballot.”

Someone calling himself Genocide of the Eclairs notes on Twitter that “all the other candidates have full biographies and only Putin’s is so modest: the czar, simply the czar.”

Artem Deryagin said he was expecting something else altogether.

“I thought Putin’s last name would at least be highlighted with a bright-colored frame encircling it, or a little arrow pointing to it. I don’t know.”

Viktor Kozhuhar says “Putin even outplayed all the fools here.”

In reporting news of the ballot, the Meduza news portal said in its headline that “someone on it stands out,” adding a winking emoticon at the end.

Also Read: Russia now claims the US is interfering in their elections

It notes the ballot conforms with Russian law, with the candidates listed alphabetically, including biographical data, although Meduza points out that Putin’s bio is much briefer than the others.

Arguably Putin’s most serious challenger, Navalny, was barred from running due to a fraud conviction that he says was retribution for his political agitation and exposure of corruption in high places.

He has dismissed the vote as the “reappointment” of Putin, who has been president or prime minister since 1999.

With the Kremlin controlling the levers of political power nationwide after years of steps to suppress dissent and marginalize political opponents, it is virtually certain that the election will hand Putin a new six-year term.

Political commentators say Putin, 65, is eager for a high turnout to strengthen his mandate in what could be his last stint in the Kremlin, as he would be constitutionally barred from seeking a third straight term in 2024.

Articles

Is the White House planning to pull out of the Iran nuke deal?

US intelligence officials are under pressure from the White House to produce a justification to declare Iran in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement, in an echo of the politicization of intelligence that led up to the Iraq invasion, according to former officials and analysts.


The collapse of the 2015 deal between Tehran, the US, and five other countries – by which Iran has significantly curbed its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief – would trigger a new crisis over nuclear proliferation at a time when the US is in a tense standoff with North Korea.

Intelligence analysts, chastened by the experience of the 2003 Iraq war, launched by the Bush administration on the basis of phony evidence of weapons of mass destruction, are said to be resisting the pressure to come up with evidence of Iranian violations.

“Anecdotally, I have heard this from members of the intelligence community – that they feel like they have come under pressure,” said Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who also served as a national security council spokesman and special assistant to Barack Obama. “They told me there was a sense of revulsion. There was a sense of déjà vu. There was a sense of ‘we’ve seen this movie before’.”

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Former CIA analyst, Ned Price. Wikimedia Commons photo from user Dcwashguy1789.

However, Donald Trump has said he expects to declare Iran non-compliant by mid-October, the next time he is required by Congress to sign a three-monthly certification of the nuclear deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA). And the administration is pursuing another avenue that could trigger the collapse of the deal.

David Cohen, a former deputy director of the CIA, said it was “disconcerting” that Trump appeared to have come to a conclusion about Iran before finding the intelligence to back it up.

“It stands the intelligence process on its head,” Cohen told CNN. “If our intelligence is degraded because it is politicized in the way that it looks like the president wants to do here, that undermines the utility of that intelligence all across the board.”

In another move reminiscent of the Iraq debacle, the US administration is putting pressure on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be more aggressive in its demands to investigate military sites in Iran, just as George W Bush’s team pushed for ever more intrusive inspections of Saddam Hussein’s military bases and palaces.

The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, visited IAEA headquarters in Vienna to press the agency to demand visits to Iran’s military sites. Haley described IAEA inspectors as “professionals and true experts in their field”.

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US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

“Having said that, as good as the IAEA is, it can only be as good as what they are permitted to see,” Haley told reporters on her return to New York. “Iran has publicly declared that it will not allow access to military sites, but the JCPOA makes no distinction between military and non-military sites. There are also numerous undeclared sites that have not been inspected yet. That’s a problem.”

Unlike the case of Iraq and the Bush administration, where there were deep divisions in the US intelligence community over the evidence for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, there is now a general consensus among US intelligence and foreign intelligence agencies, the state department, the IAEA and the other five countries that signed the JCPOA, as well as the European Union, that there is no significant evidence that Iran has violated its obligations under the deal. Tehran scaled down its nuclear infrastructure and its nuclear fuel stockpiles soon after the deal was signed in Vienna.

However, Trump, who denigrated the agreement throughout his election campaign, has appeared determined to torpedo it.

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Photo by Michael Vadon

On July 17, the latest deadline for presidential certification of the JCPOA deal required by Congress, the announcement was postponed for several hours, while Trump’s senior national security officials dissuaded the president from a last-minute threat not to sign.

“If it was up to me, I would have had them non-compliant 180 days ago,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal on July 25. He hinted it was his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who had persuaded him to certify the agreement.

“Look, I have a lot of respect for Rex and his people, good relationship. It’s easier to say they comply. It’s a lot easier. But it’s the wrong thing. They don’t comply,” the president said. “And so we’ll see what happens… But, yeah, I would be surprised if they were in compliance.”

Trump said his administration was doing “major” and “detailed” studies on the issues.

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Vienna International Centre, Vienna, where the 61st IAEA General Conference will be held in September, 2017. Photo from IAEA.

Richard Nephew, who was principal duty coordinator for sanctions policy in the Obama administration state department and a member of the team that negotiated the JCPOA said government agencies were producing such studies all the time. He said the difference under the Trump administration was that they were being told the conclusions should be.

“Behind the scenes, there is a huge machine that is pumping up reports and updates and status checks for the administration and Congress,” Nephew, now at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said. “You have intelligence officers and analysts in a bunch of agencies who spend literally every day scrubbing every single report they have got of what is going on inside Iran trying to find instances of non-compliance.

“What I suspect is happening now is that those intel officers have been asked to go to the cutting room floor, [and are being asked:] ‘What have you forgotten? What have you discounted? What have you said doesn’t really fit and not really relevant?’

“I actually think that’s healthy if it’s an honest question,” Nephew said, but he added: “It seems there is a faction within the administration that is trying to lay the basis for getting out [of the agreement] on the basis of cooked books.”

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ministers of foreign affairs and other officials from the P5+1 countries, the European Union and Iran while announcing the framework of a Comprehensive agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, 2015. Photo from US Department of State.

He predicted that intelligence analysts would resign if they were pushed too hard.

“The intelligence community learned the lessons of Iraq hard,” Nephew said. “And the analysts I know who are attached to this effort I am quite convinced would resign and resign loudly before they would allow… their words to be twisted and turned the way it happened with Iraq.”

Robert Malley, who was a senior US negotiator at the nuclear talks with Iran, said that the Trump administration was discounting the information it was getting from its agencies because it viewed them as the “deep state” or “Obama holdovers.” But Malley predicted it would be harder for Trump to ignore the reservations of US intelligence and US allies and drive towards confrontation with Iran than it was for George Bush to go to war in Iraq.

“The main difference is that Iraq has already happened, which means that both the American public and the international community have seen a similar movie before, and therefore might well react differently than the way they reacted the last time around,” he said.

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Robert Malley (center) at Camp David during the Middle East Peace Summit in July 2000. Photo from the White House.

The other principal avenue of attack on the JCPOA being pursued by the Trump administration has focused on the question of inspections of Iranian military sites. Under the agreement, the IAEA can present evidence of suspect activity at any site to Iran and ask for an explanation. If the explanation is not accepted by the IAEA, Tehran would have two weeks to negotiate terms of access for the agency inspectors. If the Iranian government refuses, a joint commission of JCPOA signatories could vote to force access, andIran would have three days to comply.

“There is a mechanism, a very detailed one and one of the issues we spent the most time on in negotiation,” Malley said. But he added: “There are people on the outskirts of the administration, and who are pushing hard on the Iran file, saying they should be allowed to ask for inspection at any sensitive site for no reason whatsoever, in order to test the boundaries of the agreement.”

During her visit to Vienna, Haley suggested that Iran’s past practice of using military sites for covert nuclear development work was grounds for suspicion. But Laura Rockwood, a former legal counsel in the IAEA’s safeguards department (which carries out inspections), said the US or any other member state would have to provide solid and contemporaneous evidence to trigger an inspection.

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US Secretary of State John Kerry prepares to sit down with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, Austria, on July 14, 2014, before they begin a second bilateral meeting focused on Iran’s nuclear program. Photo from US Department of State.

“If the US has actionable intelligence that is useful for the IAEA to take into account, and I mean actual and honest intelligence, not fake intel that they tried to use in 2003, then I think the agency will respond to it,” Rockwood, who is now executive director of the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, said. “But if they try to create evidence or if they try to pressure the agency into simply requesting access because they can, I think it will backfire.”

Some analysts, however, believe that the Obama administration was too willing to let Iranian infractions slide and that a more skeptical view of the agreement and implementation is overdue.

“Asking the system for knowledge of violations is different than asking anyone to falsify them,” said David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security. “This is a highly technical subject and the Obama administration downplayed and even hid violations and problems. So, there is a need to establish the true situation and ensure decision makers understand these issues. Spinning this as equivalent to Iraqi WMD claims is not only unfair but highly inaccurate. Certainly, the pro-JCPOA advocates would love to do that.”

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President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. Photo from Moscow Kremlin.

Any Iranian objections to new inspections could be cited by Trump if he carries out his threat to withhold certification of the JCPOA in October. It would then be up to the US Congress whether to respond with new sanctions, and then Trump would have to sign them into law, in potential violation of the agreement. The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said this week that elements of the program that had been stopped under the agreement could be resumed “within hours” if the US walked out.

Ultimately, Tehran and the other five national signatories to the agreement would have to decide whether to try to keep the deal alive without US participation. The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, suggested over the weekend that if the other signatories remained committed, Iran would continue to observe the deal. It is an issue that would split Europe from the US, likely leaving the UK perched uneasily in the middle.

“As a practical matter, you’re not going to have the rest of the international community, you’re not going to have our allies in Europe, you’re certainly not going to have the Russians and the Chinese coming along with us to reimpose real pressure on the Iranians,” Cohen said. “So you’ll have this fissure between the United States and essentially the rest of the world in trying to reinstate pressure on Iran.”

Articles

This is the pin-up calendar that helps hospitalized heroes

Gina Elise and Pin-Ups for Vets are on a mission. Her nonprofit and the pin-ups who work therein are on a a 50-state hospital tour, visiting veterans at their bedside at military and VA facilities. In their 12th year, Elise and her cadre of volunteers will have visited over 12,000 veterans.


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Gina Elise on the cover of the 2015 Pin-Ups for Vets Calendar.

Choosing who gets to be in the yearly calendar is a much more difficult decision.

“We received so many incredible submissions from female Veterans all over the U.S.,” Elise says. “It is always so hard to select our calendar models, but there are only 12 months in a calendar, so we have to narrow it down. We are featuring an outstanding group of female Veterans in our 2018 edition, from a gunner’s mate to a surgery technician to a range coach. These ladies come from each of the five branches.”

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The 2018 Calendar Pin-Ups

Daphne Bye was selected for this year’s calendar. Bye was a TMO Marine, making sure equipment and other materiel got to where it was going. But she later became a range coach, teaching her fellow Marines how to properly use their weapons.

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Daphne Bye during her time in the Marine Corps and in the 2018 Pin-Ups for Vets Calendar.

“The fact that I was the only female [on the range as a coach] was even better for me not only because we are so few in the Corps but because most would be shocked to see me there as a coach,” Bye says. “I was proud!”

Another Pin-Up featured in the calendar is Allison Paganetti. Paganetti was a Signal Corps in the Army and came from a veteran family. Both her grandfathers also served in the military.

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2nd Lt. Paganetti (left) and Pin-Up Paganetti (right) in the 2018 Pin-Ups for Vets Calendar.

“The truly brave and selfless individuals who provided my freedom should always be respected and never forgotten,” she says. “I am proud to do my part to shine light on any cause that supports my fellow veterans.”

Megan Marine was a Motor Vehicle Operator in the Marine Corps but has been watching the work of Gina Elise and Pin-Ups for Vets for over ten years. She always wanted to be a part of the the organization and in the calendar. This year is her year.

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Megan as both a Marine and then a 2018 Pin-Up.

“Undoubtedly, there are a lot of people living in this world who are in need of care, time, and attention,” says Tess Rutherford, another 2018 calendar alum. “But for me, I feel it is my duty [and] my responsibility to extend a helping hand to my fellow veteran.”

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Tess Rutherford, U.S. knock-out.

“It gives us vets the opportunity to do what we did while serving,” Rutherford says. “We are able to to put a smile on the face of a veteran who has just undergone horrific surgery or lighten up the countenance of one who is on their dying bed. The only thing that changes is we are allowed to be elegant, regal, sophisticated, and beautiful during the process. It brings a great feeling of euphoria to change lives in such a way!”

Brendena Kyles was a gunner’s mate in the U.S. Navy. She remembers being on call when the ship called her up in the middle of the night.

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Bredena Kyles in the Navy and then as a Pin-Up in the 2018 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar.

“I thought it was a drill till I saw three small boats mounted with weapons following us in our wake…it was definitely not a drill,” she says. “I sighted in with my 240 just waiting for the call, after a good 30 mins of nervously waiting for the call to shoot. They finally gave up and stopped following us, could not go back to sleep after that adrenaline rush.”

Michelle Rivera wanted to be part of the calendar because it’s important for her to try to find a way to give back to the other people in the veteran community. She’s a 3rd-generation Army veteran who loves the fact that Pin-Ups for Vets gives female veterans a chance to do something meaningful for hospitalized veterans.

Texas soldier saves life with stem cell donation
Michelle Rivera now and then.

Gina Elise and her volunteer pin-ups are incredible human beings who makes it their goal to ensure the pin-ups make it to all 50 states.

A disabled veteran once told Elise, “When you are here, my pain is gone!” Since then, Pin-Ups for Vets has donated more than $56,000 to help VA Hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.

You can order the 2018 calendar right here!