Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

National Guard troops deployed to the border in Arizona are puttering around doing administrative and maintenance work in order to keep them out of potentially dangerous situations and to allow the border patrol to focus on working in the field.

Troops have been deployed to the border in the past — both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent troops there under similar circumstances — but the ones currently stationed in Arizona are even farther from the border than past deployments, according to a Politico report, and have no involvement in law-enforcement activity there.

President Donald Trump has called for up to 4,000 troops from various states to deploy to the border from Texas to California. Only about 200 Arizona National Guard soldiers have been put to work there, less than one-third of the 682 who have been authorized to deploy.


The troops are not allowed to join patrols or operations to detain people trying to cross the border undetected.

“There is a false narrative that we are doing ride-alongs,” Capt. Macario Mora of the Arizona National Guard told Politico. The troops also are not armed, Mora said, “and there is no anticipation that will change.”

Feeding horses and shoveling manure

Many have been pressed into service providing administrative support and doing upkeep, including feeding horses and shoveling manure out of stables, office work, and basic repairs and maintenance work on border patrol facilities and vehicles. “We fix flats,” one sergeant, a cook, told Politico.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
U.S Army Soldiers install steel runway planking for fence along the U.S./Mexico border in Naco, Ariz., June 28, 2007,
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)

Troops in Arizona are kept far from the border, though some have been given training to monitor the remote cameras the border patrol has set up along the frontier. In Texas, troops are allowed to visually monitor the border, but the ones tasked with surveillance are not allowed to look into Mexico. Those troops are also performing maintenance and doing repairs on roads and vehicles.

Jurisdictional issues and legal restrictions are part of the reason troops are tasked with such a narrow range of duties, but there is also an effort to keep the soldiers out of trouble, particularly in areas where they could encounter criminal groups along the border.

The soldiers are not really trained or equipped for law-enforcement duties, and officials are still wary of the potential risks involved in them interacting with civilians. Officials are still mindful of the 1997 killing of an 18-year-old by marines who were patrolling along the Rio Grande River in Texas as part of a drug-surveillance patrol.

Esequiel Hernandez was shot and killed within sight of his home by marines who had followed him as he herded goats along the river. The marines, who had been deployed to the area secretly days before, said Hernandez pointed his .22 rifle at them fired twice in their direction. A prosecutor and Texas Rangers doubted that story but were unable to indict the marines on a murder charge, leaving locals bitter.

Mora, the Arizona National Guard captain, told Politico that the troops were in a “much safer environment” miles away from the border. “It definitely helps mitigate the risk of the National Guard running into conflict,” he said.

The troops’ muted presence stands in contrast to Trump’s rhetoric about the threats posed by border crossers and about his administration’s response.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Both the Border Patrol and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the deployments, the former regarding them as a misuse of resources and latter seeing it as unneeded. Military officials have also criticized the deployments, viewing them as a distraction and a needless strain on US-Mexico relations.

The deployments, paid for by the Pentagon, are only funded through September 2018, the end of the fiscal year. It’s not clear if funding will be extended beyond that, and other events may limit or curtail the deployments going forward.

Governors from at least eight states have said they withhold or withdraw their states’ National Guard troops from the border, many of them citing dismay over the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating children from their parents as they cross the border.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

America’s top spy went to North Korea on a secret mission

President Donald Trump has confirmed that Mike Pompeo, the CIA director who is awaiting confirmation as secretary of state, met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea early April 2018.

Trump said the two men interacted “very smoothly” and formed a “good relationship.”


The talks are the highest-level meetings between US and North Korean officials since Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state, met Kim Jong Il in 2000.

“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week,” Trump tweeted April 18, 2018. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”

The meeting was remarkable given that only one year ago North Korean propaganda accused the CIA of plotting to kill Kim.

Pompeo’s trip, which reports out April 17, 2018, said happened over the Easter weekend, an apparent conflict with Trump’s announcement, had been kept quiet as the US and North Korea deliberate on how best to coordinate a planned summer meeting between Trump and Kim.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
President Donald Trump
(Photo vy Michael Vadon)

The news of Pompeo’s secret trip comes after South Korea confirmed that its officials were in talks to end the 68-year war on the Korean Peninsula with a peace deal, something to which Trump has given his blessing.

Any peace deal, however, would require Chinese and UN approval as well, since both are signatories to the 1953 armistice that paused, rather than ended, the war between North Korea and South Korea.

Other reports indicate that Trump has a plan to disarm North Korea of nuclear weapons by 2020. Experts, however remain deeply skeptical of Kim’s intentions.

Kim turns over a new leaf?

Though North Korea has touted its missile program as being able to hit the US with nuclear payloads, a capability experts believe the country has or is close to obtaining, Kim has recently opened himself up diplomatically like never before, starting with North Korea’s participation in 2018’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.

In recent weeks, Kim left North Korea for the first time since he took power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. He has also opened up his country to South Korean pop bands, which he is thought to love. Kim actually attended a K-pop concert where he was reportedly in good humor and made jokes.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Kim Jong Un and Xi Jinping. (Xinhua News)
(Xinhua News)

North Korea strictly controls the media in its country, and citizens caught enjoying South Korean media have been put to death or taken to labor camps.

Do Jong-hwan of South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism told foreign media that K-pop songs being performed in North Korea “could have considerable influence” on the country’s culture, according to NK News.

Experts have told Business Insider that Kim opening his country to the outside media could easily lead to his death, as his government holds power without input from its people and has kept them in meager conditions while South Korea has thrived.

Or is Kim waging a diplomatic offensive?

North Korea has moved toward talks with the US several times before, only to back out — though never under its current leader. Also, no other North Korean leader has met with a sitting US president, as Kim and Trump plan to summer 2018, though that has largely been because US presidents have rejected such meetings or imposed conditions that have not been met.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Kim at a military parade at the Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang celebrating the 70th founding anniversary of the Korean People’s Army.
(KCNA photo)

Thae Yong-ho, the highest-ranked North Korean defector, reportedly warned a meeting of the Mulmangcho Foundation organization that Kim was unlikely to deliver in the talks.

According to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, he said: “Kim will act during his summits with Seoul and Washington as if he were determined to dismantle nuclear weapons in stages — first declaring dismantlement followed by incapacitating nuclear weapons and denuclearization.”

In Thae’s view, Kim will extract concessions from the US but never truly rid his country of nuclear weapons, given that Kim wrote possession of such weapons into the country’s constitution in 2011.

Despite the moves toward peace and reconciliation on both sides of the Korean Peninsula, the US and its allies have resolved to maintain what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” strategy against Pyongyang, which calls for harsh sanctions and a buildup of military forces in the region.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Your heart matters: Why every service member should get an EKG

Every 80 seconds, an American woman dies of cardiovascular disease. That’s more than every type of cancer combined. We live in a society that has put a great amount of emphasis on educating the masses to identify a heart attack in men, but women present differently. Often the symptoms are misdiagnosed as panic attacks.


The documentary Ms. Diagnosed, sheds light on the problem that women’s symptoms are often not recognized because diagnostic testing has been developed to detect how the disease manifests in men. The documentary highlights a large health disparity between men and women in terms of the care they receive in the United States. Cardiologist Sharonne Hayes, M.D. stresses the importance of women advocating for themselves because, unfortunately, no one else is. This disparity of care translates into even further divisions in professions, like the military, whose statistics are male-dominated.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

For one female veteran featured in the documentary, Kelsey Gumm, it took ten years of fainting spells and misdiagnoses to discover her heart condition. Her first fainting spell occurred in boot camp. Prior to that, she had been a healthy, active teenager involved in dance and athletics throughout high school. At the age of 17, when medical professionals told her she was experiencing anxiety and dehydration, she defaulted to trust. After all, she was in the middle of boot camp, anxiety and dehydration came with the territory. It would take ten years of fainting spells and misdiagnoses before she was sent to a cardiologist.

At the age of 27 Gumm’s military career, the only path she had ever wanted, was over. She was fitted with a defibrillator and pacemaker and began her new civilian life feeling defeated, angry, and scared. All of this could have been avoided. Had Gumm received an EKG prior to enlisting the heart defect would have been discovered, and she would never have gone into cardiac arrest. True, she also wouldn’t have been allowed into the Navy, but she would have been equipped with the knowledge to pursue a healthy life with the heart she had. Knowledge and prevention make for good bedfellows. Today she is living a strong healthier life equipped with a viable plan forward based on facts, a passion for bike riding, and a desire for heart advocacy.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

Kelsey Gumm

The military does not give the proper test for detecting heart disease when potential cadets go through the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Physical deformities are screened but not the heart. A simple EKG takes only a few minutes. Those few minutes could save countless lives of men and women.

Gumm’s story is one of survival. Kelsey Nobles of Mobile, Alabama, did not have the same good fortune. In 2019, at the age of 18, she died of cardiac arrest during boot camp. Her’s is not the only story. There are other names, other lives cut short. In 2006 a study published by the American Journal of Cardiology found that between 1977 and 2001, the sudden deaths of women recruits, within 25 days of arriving for training, 81% were due to “reasons that may have been cardiac in origin.”

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

When Gumm was asked why military hearts matter she responded by saying, “Our heroes, our warriors, people serving our country deserve the best health care provided to them. They deserve to have their hearts checked. We are in a stressful job and stress is a leading factor in heart disease. In the military stress is so increased yet we default to thinking these men and women are young and healthy so they can’t be at risk. It simply isn’t true. Anyone can experience this. For something that is so easily tested it is inexcusable for heart health to not be provided for all military—for those in processing, for those serving, and for all veterans.”

The solution is simple. MEPS and yearly physicals should include EKGs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the Iraq War inspired North Korea to build nukes

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been called many things — crazy, mad, insane, and “rocket man” — because of his program to build nuclear bombs and missiles capable of launching the weapons to the U.S.


But experts say he is not crazy to want a nuclear arsenal. And Kim doesn’t necessarily want nukes because of a desire to use them on the U.S. or any other country, contrary to what bellicose political rhetoric might suggest.

“He is not crazy — he has consolidated control over that country in a very effective and ruthless manner,” Jeffrey Lewis, a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told Business Insider. “He’s just willing to do really terrible things to protect himself, which I think tells us something about the credibility of their nuclear threat.”

Such a threat is the purpose of the weapons, Lewis says, but almost certainly not their goal.

“If I were Kim Jong Un, I would want nuclear weapons, too,” added Lewis, who also publishes Arms Control Wonk, a site about nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Kim Jong Un New Years speech (Image KCNA)

Here are the most likely reasons Kim wants a nuclear arsenal.

The U.S. has a track record of breaking its word with rulers

A watershed moment for U.S.-North Korea relations occurred during the Bush administration in the mid-2000s: the six-party talks, initiated after questionable accusations that North Korea was cheating on an agreement not to pursue the production of nuclear materials led to its collapse.

“They very sincerely tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again,” Lewis said.

But one of the problems the Bush administration ran into was the U.S.’s track record with Iraq, formerly led by Saddam Hussein.

“How do you assure the North Koreans, when they sign a deal, that they don’t end up like Saddam? Because Saddam had actually given them the WMDs, and we still went ahead and said he had them, and we still went ahead and invaded,” Lewis said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Kim Jong-un next to the newest and most powerful missile in the North Korean arsenal, Hwasong-15. (Photo from Rodong Sinmun)

The Americans “realized they had to find a way to convey to Pyongyang that if they went ahead and gave up their nuclear program, we wouldn’t invade them,” Lewis added.

So, Lewis said, the Bush administration pointed to how the U.S. had held up its end of a disarmament agreement with Libya and its ruler at the time, Muammar Gaddafi.

“I know why they did it at the time — it was the right decision,” Lewis said. “But we had a disarmament deal with that guy. We told the North Koreans to go look at how well things had worked out with Libya, and then we turned around and toppled the Libyan government.”

These foreign policy decisions happened during the rule of Kim Jong Il, the father of Kim Jong Un. But his son has not forgotten them.

“Kim Jong Un, I think, is fearful of ending up like Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi,” Lewis said. “He is terrified that we will do to him what we did to them and has decided that nuclear weapons are the best way to ward that off.”

Also Read: This is how SEAL Team 6 could stop North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un

It’s unlikely North Korea has nuclear and thermonuclear weapons as reliable as those in the U.S.’s arsenal, if North Korea has deliverable weapons at all. But Lewis says this doesn’t really matter in the big picture.

“Every military system has developmental problems and issues, and maybe not work as well as it should,” Lewis said. “But they have all of the skills and expertise in place, and they’ve demonstrated the vast majority of things.”

He added: “If tomorrow they were going to put a nuclear weapon on a missile and fire it at my house, and you asked me, ‘How do you like your odds?’ I would say, ‘I don’t like my odds at all.’ … This is now a serious-enough capability that we have to start assuming, on a bad day, a lot of their stuff is going to go well.”

But nuclear weapons as a stick against the U.S. is not the only reason North Korea wants them.

A risky play for better diplomacy?

Some reports suggest Kim wants to use nuclear weapons to strong-arm South Korea into reunifying with North Korea. Lewis doubts this is true, though he says Kim is “insatiable” for power.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Kim Jong Un in a nuclear facility in North Korea. (KCNA)

“I am sure if given the choice between controlling North Korea or North Korea and South Korea, he would clearly prefer to control everything,” Lewis said. “I don’t think, though, that this explains their nuclear behavior.”

That may be because Kim’s ability to take over South Korea — at least not as a smoldering crater — is virtually nil. Lewis also says North Korea isn’t building the kinds of nukes “that would be consistent with that goal.”

What is possible, if not likely — and perhaps surprising to many Americans — is that North Korea sees obtaining nuclear weapons as a way to improve its relations with other countries, including the U.S.

Lewis, who has studied the history of China’s nuclear-weapons program, says it has many similarities to North Korea’s path toward nuclearization.

China set off its first nuclear device in 1964 during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, and two years later it launched a live nuclear warhead atop a missile to prove the capabilities of its program. The U.S.’s view of these events during the Cold War was grim. But over time, something shocking transpired.

“If you had gone into Lyndon Johnson’s office in October 1964 and said, ‘The Chinese are about to test a nuclear weapon,’ he would have said, ‘That’s terrible,'” Lewis said.

Also Read: This top-ranking Pentagon general wants to stick with the Iran nuke deal

“But if you would have then said, ‘No, no, no, it’s great — this is really going to improve Chinese security, and as a consequence of that, China is going to reorient its foreign policy, and they’re going to become anti-Soviet and pro-American, and we’re going to have a diplomatic relationship with them,’ Johnson would have asked you: ‘Really? What president is going to go to China and meet with Mao Zedong?’ And you would have said, ‘Richard Nixon.’ Then he would have thrown you out of its office and said you were an idiot.”

But that is exactly what happened: When China’s proven nuclear capabilities deterred U.S. military action and opened the door for increased local aggression or international diplomacy, China chose the latter.

“The reason it happened is because the people who wanted nuclear weapons in China also wanted a better relationship with the United States,” Lewis said.

His point is that North Korea’s motivations, notwithstanding its accusations of horrifying human-rights abuses, may not be so nefarious as rhetoric and propaganda suggest when it comes to nukes. In fact, it could be that North Korean nuclear scientists see themselves more as doves than hawks.

But the country’s direction is ultimately up to its leader.

“It is possible that the North Koreans will take the security they are given by these weapons and spend it on being awful — sinking more South Korean ships, shelling more South Korean islands, initiating more crises,” Lewis said. “It will depend on how the North Koreans choose to act now that they have this capability. They could be easier to get along with; they could be worse.”

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. (Photo from KCNA)

Instead of always assuming the worst, we should practice being “more neutral” about how having nuclear weapons might change North Korea, Lewis said.

“I don’t want to be optimistic, because it could really, truly go either way — North Korea could become more aggressive; North Korea could become less aggressive,” Lewis said. “But we should wait and see.”

He added: “You don’t want to prejudge something like that and foreclose what could be a chance at peace.”

But this likely isn’t the U.S.’s current thinking. President Donald Trump has expressed hopes to expand nuclear-weapons capabilities, and American military forces appear to be quietly training to face a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Every branch is getting the Army’s new modular pistol

The U.S. Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard have all placed orders to purchase the Army’s Modular Handgun System, according to Sig Sauer.


Military.com reported March 14, 2018, that the Marine Corps had budgeted money in its proposed fiscal 2019 budget to purchase 35,000 MHSs: the Sig Sauer pistol the Army selected to replace the M9 9mm, made by Beretta USA.

Also read: This is a first look at soldiers firing their new M17 handgun

The Army awarded Sig Sauer an MHS contract worth up to $580 million in January 2017. The other services are authorized to purchase the MHS through the Army contract, according to Tom Taylor, chief marketing officer for Sig Sauer.

“All services have been involved in MHS since its inception … and they have all committed to ordering guns,” Taylor said in an email to Military.com on March 15, 2018. “The U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Coast Guard all have orders that will be fielded starting later this year and early next year.”

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Compact XM18 MHS (Photo by U.S. Army)

The Army confirmed that the other services can go through it to buy the MHS.

“The other military services, who were involved in the entire acquisition process including source selection, can also procure XM17/XM18 Modular Handgun Systems under the Army contract with Sig Sauer,” Debra Dawson, spokeswoman for Program Executive Office-Soldier, said in an email.

Related: This is the Glock the Army rejected for its new combat handgun

Military.com reached out to the Navy, the Air Force, and the Coast Guard for comment but did not receive a reply by press time.

The Marine Corps said it would not comment on MHS at this time.

The Army’s 10-year MHS agreement calls for Sig Sauer to supply the service with full-size XM17 and compact XM18 versions of its 9mm pistol. The striker-fired pistols can be outfitted with suppressors and accommodate standard and extended-capacity magazines. There is also an accessory rail for mounting accessories, such as weapon lights.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Compact XM18, above left, and the full size XM17, lower right. (Photo by US Army)

The Army intends to purchase 195,000 MHS pistols, mostly in the full-size XM17 version.

Army officials first announced that all of the services intend to purchase the MHS at the National Defense Industrial Association’s 2017 Armaments Systems Forum May 2017.

MHS quantities for each service have not been finalized, Taylor said.

More: The Army is prototyping new weapons for its next combat vehicle

This is not the first time the services have agreed to adopt a common pistol. The Army selected the M9 in 1985 to replace the .45 caliber 1911A1, and the M9 soon became the sidearm for entire U.S. military.

The Marine Corps fiscal 2019 budget request does not give a total dollar amount for the MHS, but lists the unit cost of 35,000 Sig Sauer MHS pistols at $180 each.

Army weapons officials, as well as Sig Sauer officials, have so far declined to talk about the unit cost for MHS.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Plane full of US troops evacuated after landing gear catches fire

All flights from Ireland’s Shannon Airport were suspended on Aug. 15, 2019, after a plane carrying US troops was evacuated because of a fire, Irish news outlets reported.

Shannon Airport said an Omni Air International Boeing 763 was halted as it taxied on the runway at 6:20 a.m. local time (1 a.m. ET).

There had been reports of fire and smoke coming from the landing gear.

Air-traffic controllers instructed the crew to evacuate the aircraft as a fire on the left landing gear became visible, the Irish newspaper The Journal reported.

The Irish Independent reported that the fire was thought to have been caused by punctured tires.


Shannon Airport tweeted on Aug. 15, 2019: “We can confirm that an incident has occurred at Shannon Airport involving a Boeing 763 aircraft.”

“Emergency services are in attendance,” it said. “All passengers and crew have disembarked. Airport operations temporarily suspended.”

Irish news outlets reported that the Omni Air International, a US charter airline flying out of Tulsa International Airport in Oklahoma, was a private charter carrying US military personnel.

Omni Air International tweeted: “We are investigating reports of an incident involving Omni Air International flight 531 at Shannon Airport, Ireland. The Omni Boeing 767-300 aircraft rejected takeoff and was safely evacuated. Initial reports indicate no serious injuries to passengers or crew.”

Shannon Airport said in a later tweet: “We are currently working to remove the aircraft from the scene of the incident so we can resume safe operations on the runway. This may take some time.”

In the wake of the incident, several flights from the airport were canceled.

Shannon Airport is the focus of an antiwar campaign demanding that the Irish government stop letting the US use the airport as a de facto military base. Campaigners say that over 3 million US troops have passed through the airport since 2003.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US military is now advancing a tactical Ebola vaccine

It turned from a localized problem to pandemic – first hundreds, then thousands, then tens of thousands were infected. The 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak grew exponentially worse despite efforts to slow its spread. Similarly, Polio was once one of the most serious communicable diseases the world faced, but today, it is nearly eradicated due to vaccine development. The Ebola virus is just as lethal, but there is no Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccine for it… yet.


Also read: US Army gets approval from FDA for new malaria drug research

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department partnered with the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and Merck to develop a vaccine to protect warfighters and the public against future Ebola outbreaks.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Amy Shurtleff, Ph.D., works in a biosafety level 4 laboratory at USAMRIID. Shurtleff is part of a team that evaluated the protective efficacy of Merck’s EBOV vaccine, V920. (Photo by USAMRIID)

Scientists at USAMRIID completed four non-human primate studies to evaluate the protective efficacy of Merck’s Ebola vaccine, V920. Researchers also tested the vaccine in clinical trials within the United States, Canada, Europe, and Africa.

Related: 8 new projects that will revolutionize military medicine

USAMRIID examined the durability of immunogenicity and protection post-vaccination correlation. This data will be pivotal in extrapolating human immune response statistics. Further, researchers will also use the information to predict populations at risk for Ebola.

Conducted at USAMRIID’s biosafety level 4 laboratories, this joint effort will be instrumental when applying for licensure with both the FDA and the European Medicines Agency.

DTRA’s continued effort to enhance the combat support mission also advances public health services by developing innovative technologies that protect against biological threats.

Articles

This may be one concrete way the VA can make a dent in vet suicides

On June 27, the Department of Veterans Affairs released finalized plans to provide emergency mental health coverage to former service members with other-than-honorable administrative discharges.


“Suicide prevention is my top clinical priority,” Secretary David Shulkin, who is also a physician, said in a VA news release. “We want these former service members to know there is someplace they can turn if they are facing a mental health emergency — whether it means urgent care at a VA emergency department, a Vet Center, or through the Veterans Crisis Line.”

This is the first time a VA secretary has implemented an initiative specifically focused on this group of former service members who are in mental health distress, the release stated.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
US Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. VA Photo by Robert Turtil.

Effective July 5, all Veterans Health Administration medical centers will be prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who present at the facility with an emergent mental health need.

Under this initiative, former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential, or outpatient care, the release stated.

During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine whether the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
DoD Photo by Megan Garcia

Since Shulkin announced his intent in March to expand coverage to service members with OTH administrative discharges, the VA has worked with key internal and external stakeholders, including members of Congress, Veterans Service Organizations and community partners on the issue, the release stated.

Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.

Intel

William Shatner is traveling the US on a crazy-looking motorcycle to promote vets

Set phasers to stun — Capt. Kirk’s new ride looks even cooler than the USS Enterprise.


Famed Star Trek actor William Shatner is about to embark on an eight-day road tour on a crazy-looking motorcycle in order to raise awareness of The American Legion veterans organization. According to the Legion, Shatner will have select members of The American Legion Riders and the makers of the bike alongside him on the trip from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Shatner will be riding the Rivet Motors “Landjet” 3-wheeled motorcycle. Created by Wrench Works, the sleek, V-8 powered trike looks like it’s been pulled straight out of the Klingon Empire, but Shatner seems too excited by the motorcycle’s futuristic design to worry about what the Federation might think.

The 8-day road tour will begin on June 23 outside of the Windy City, and will pass through several major cities including Oklahoma City, Flagstaff and Las Vegas.

To see hear more about Shatner’s tour, check out the video below:

DON’T MISS: The Pentagon is developing a dirt bike that barely makes a sound

(h/t New York Daily News)

Articles

This super-secret Cold War military unit just came in from the cold

Dressed in civilian clothes with long hair, the men looked like any other on the streets of East Berlin.


Their German accents didn’t give away their true identities as American Special Forces soldiers, part of a clandestine military unit operating during the Cold War.

Berlin, a divided city located 100 miles behind the Iron Curtain, was a focal point in the tensions that developed between NATO forces and the Soviet Union after World War II.

With a literal line drawn between the forces — American troops and their allies in West Berlin and Soviet troops and their supporters in East Berlin — the city became the “Grand Central Station of East-West espionage” and a “playground for all sorts of secret agents,” according to Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant and former Green Beret.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Street art depicting the Brandenburg Gate during the Cold War. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

It was there that, for nearly 30 years, an elite Special Forces unit operated. Today, those veterans are decades removed from their secretive mission, but are only now receiving recognition for their efforts.

The little-known unit, called Detachment A, held various missions during its short-lived history, but the longest-standing was the “stay behind” mission.

In the event of World War III — with Soviet forces expected to come pouring across the Berlin Wall — members of the detachment, who never numbered more than 100 men, were expected to blend into the city and make life difficult for the much larger Communist force.

Teams were assigned sabotage missions, ready to destroy key transportation lines, military equipment, and other targets. They also would be expected to train and lead guerrilla forces that would then be tasked with harassing the Soviet troops from behind enemy lines, buying important time to allow NATO forces to mount a counterattack.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Photo: Central Intelligence Agency

Charest, twice a member of Detachment A, recalled one of his team’s forays across the Berlin Wall recently during a visit to Fort Bragg.

Despite the soldiers’ efforts to go unnoticed, it was not unusual for the men to realize they were being followed, Charest said.

When that happened, the soldiers were trained to evade the extra attention and disappear into the city. Failure was not an option.

“You’re a spy,” Charest said, decades after having served in the city. “You didn’t have any dog tags. You weren’t there, officially.”

“If they caught you, they would either kill you or put you in jail,” he said.

Despite the high stakes, Charest said, the men were highly trained and able to stay calm under pressure.

Part of that training involved how to surveil targets amid the busy city and, if needed, lose the enemy when under unwanted scrutiny.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
East German soldiers line up. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“We knew we were being watched,” Charest said.

Luckily, the men also knew their way around the city. Unlike other American troops in Berlin, these soldiers were trained to blend into Berlin. They had to immerse themselves in the city, becoming as knowledgeable on its nooks and crannies as the locals.

As the team led their tail through the city, Charest said, the soldiers made their way to a train station, part of the city’s subway, or U-Bahn, network.

Instead of stepping onto a train, the men let the first one pull out of the station. A second train arrived and the men were seemingly set to let that one pass, too.

But at the last moment, just before the doors closed, Charest said, the soldiers stepped onto the train.

He turned just in time to lock eyes with the man who had been following them. Charest is unsure who he worked for. It could have been the East German Secret Police, known as the Stasi, or the Soviet KGB.

As the train pulled out of the station, Charest looked at the man. Then he smiled, and as he pulled out of sight, Charest waved goodbye.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Inside a Berlin U-Bahn car, 1977. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

For most of its history, Detachment A — sometimes known simply as “the detachment” or “Det ‘A'” — was as elusive as the men who served in the unit.

When it was formed in 1956 with the cover story of a “security platoon” assigned to another US Army unit in Berlin, only about 10 officers knew the true makeup of the unit, according to James Stejskal, a Special Forces veteran who spent two tours of duty in Berlin and later served with the CIA.

Stejskal, a retired chief warrant officer 4 who now lives in Alexandria, Virginia, has written what might be the only definitive history of Detachment A.

His book, “Special Forces Berlin: Clandestine Cold War Operations of the US Army’s Elite, 1956-1990,” was published this year by Casemate Publishers, following a two-and-a-half-year effort to research and write the book and another year-long review by the Department of Defense.

Stejskal was one of dozens of Detachment A veterans who gathered on Fort Bragg earlier this month.

Once covered in shadows — to the point that even the US Army has little official documentation on the unit — the veterans of Detachment A are becoming increasingly vocal, with the hopes of bringing the unit the recognition it deserves before all of its former members are gone.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Photo: Scapler CC BY-SA 3.0

Charest, who now lives in Campobello, South Carolina, has been a key part of those efforts.

Since Detachment A was first publicly acknowledged in early 2014, he has worked to tell the unit’s untold story.

Previously recognized by veterans of the unit as “The Man Who Brought Detachment A In From the Cold,” Charest is the group’s webmaster, maintaining a website — detachment-a.org — along with his wife, Linda. He’s also become their organizer, facilitating annual reunions.

The most recent gathering was at Fort Bragg, the same place where veterans of the unit unveiled a monument stone honoring Detachment A outside of U.S. Army Special Operations Command in early 2014.

Detachment A has long been a small, elite group. Over its nearly 30-year history, an estimated 800 men served among its ranks or with the Physical Security Support Element-Berlin, a similar unit that replaced the detachment from 1984 to 1990.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Berlin Wall, 1988. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Charest said the annual gatherings, which once attracted more than 100 veterans, are starting to dwindle. Detachment veterans are growing older. They’re dying, he said. Or they don’t travel as well as they used to.

“We’re starting to slow down,” Charest said. “I can see the handwriting on the wall.”

That makes his mission to spread the word about the unit even more important.

“We’re getting the recognition we didn’t have,” he said.

In the years after the Cold War, the Army declassified many of Detachment A’s secrets. But its veterans were largely unaware that they were now free to speak about their experiences.

The breaking point came in 2014, Charest said. The ceremony outside the USASOC headquarters was a first for Detachment A.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Bob Charest addresses the crowd during a 2014 ceremony. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Carter

In addition to unveiling the monument stone, the veterans also took the symbolic step of casing the unit’s colors, a flag used to identify the detachment, for the first time.

“No force of its size has contributed more to peace, stability, and freedom,” Army Special Operations Command officials said during the ceremony.

Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, then-commander of USASOC, said the men operated amid untold risk, fraught with uncertainty.

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” he said.

The next day, a story about the ceremony was on the front page of The Fayetteville Observer.

Charest said it was the first public exposure for the unit, whose existence and missions had been highly classified secrets. It began a flurry of queries from veterans of the detachment, some of whom had never even told their families about the unit.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Retiring and casing of the Det. A colors. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel Carter

“We were out of the cold,” Charest said. “This unit — nobody knows about it. Nobody knew we ever existed.”

Stejskal, who interviewed 65 veterans of Detachment A for his book and dug through what little information was available from official sources, said it was long past due for the unit to receive its recognition.

“No one became famous because of his exploits in Berlin; they were classified,” he said. “The Army has no history on us. They know of it, but they don’t know anything about it.”

Stejskal said that when he visited the Army’s Center for Military History to research his book, the organization had six pages of documents and little information. Most of the unit’s actual documents have been lost or destroyed.

“After 25 years, I figured it was about time,” Stejskal said of his decision to put together a history of the unit. “We’re on the verge of dying out and losing it all, all that historical knowledge.”

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

Detachment A, also known by its classified name — the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment — was formed in August 1956 from carefully screened and selected members of the 10th Special Forces Group based in Bad Toelz, Germany. The unit was first housed at McNair Barracks and later, at Andrews Barracks in West Berlin.

Over the years, the men assigned to Detachment A remained a select group. They were highly trained, often with experience in World War II or, later, in Vietnam.

Members of the unit had to be Special Forces qualified. They needed to have a top-secret clearance. And they needed to be able to speak fluent German or another Eastern European language.

In the early days, nearly half of the unit came from soldiers who joined the Army under the Lodge Act — often refugees from Europe whose families remained under Soviet rule. Those immigrants provided important knowledge to the detachment members, who needed to appear to be German.

Charest, who served with the clandestine unit from 1969 to 1972 and again from 1973 to 1978, said the slightest mistake could blow a soldier’s cover.

“The Germans handle a knife and fork different than we do,” he said. “They count with their fingers different.”

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Breitscheidplatz–the center of West Berlin, 1960. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Detachment members had to study the habits of locals, Charest said. They needed to dress like a local, wear their hair like a local, and talk like a local.

They carried paperwork provided by German authorities or passports from Eastern European nations that supported their cover stories. Even their ranks were classified, Charest said. Instead, members usually referred to each other by their first names.

Even within the Special Forces community, Charest said, the detachment was largely an unknown.

Some soldiers were assigned to the unit assuming it was a conventional support unit. They wouldn’t learn the truth until they were in Berlin being debriefed by leaders.

“They knew it existed, but nobody knew what they did,” Charest said.

At first, Detachment A had about 40 soldiers, but it would grow to about 90 troops for most of its history. Most soldiers stayed in Berlin for three years.

Amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the detachment would have been little more than a speed bump against Soviet forces in a conventional fight.

But Charest said the detachment never intended to “fight fair.”

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

With Berlin more than 100 miles behind enemy lines, encircled by what could have become the front lines of a war, those allied forces stood little chance at stopping the Soviet forces.

Stejskal wrote that the city would likely have become the world’s largest prisoner-of-war camp. He compared the hypothetical plight of the detachment to the 300 Spartans who faced a superior Persian force at the legendary Battle of Thermopylae.

“If the Russians decided to roll across the wall, that would have been World War III,” Charest said. “It was a suicide mission.”

“The odds were against us,” he added. “But that’s part of the game.”

The most the detachment could hope for, Charest said, was slowing the Soviet juggernaut.

Stejskal described the detachment mission as a “Hail Mary plan.”

He said the soldiers were there to buy time and disrupt the enemy, much like World War II’s famed Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor of the modern CIA.

Charest said the soldiers were constantly “poking and prodding” German and Soviet defenses. Sometimes, that would mean sneaking into East Germany via canals and tunnels.

“We were constantly trying,” he said. “If you heard the stories, you wouldn’t believe them.”

As the Cold War stayed cold, the detachment would see its missions expand.

It was tasked with probing and testing allied security vulnerabilities across Europe.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Operation Eagle Claw ends in failure, 1989 – Photo by Wikimedia Commons

At the same time, it would become more of a counterterrorism force, training to respond to hijacked airplanes and participating in the famed Operation Eagle Claw — the failed mission to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980.

Detachment soldiers were tasked with rescuing three diplomats being held by Iran, and two detachment members were stationed in Tehran, providing information on the target buildings and preparing to receiving the rescue force.

When the mission was scrapped and disaster struck a staging site — resulting in the deaths of several troops — the detachment members in Iran were left to escape the country on their own.

Retired Maj. Gen. Sidney Shachnow, who commanded Detachment A from 1970 to 1974 and later commanded all American forces in Berlin, said the city was full of spies and the Soviet KGB had known about the detachment since the late 1960s.

But, Shachnow said, the Soviets greatly overestimated the size of the unit, assuming it was about 500 men instead of less than 100.

“They knew our capabilities but did not know what our targets were,” he said.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Berlin Wall, 1989 – Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Shachnow is a Holocaust survivor who was born in Lithuania and spent three years imprisoned in a Germany concentration camp as a young boy. He moved to the United States in 1950 and became a legend in the Special Forces community.

He said he had the privilege of deactivating the Special Forces presence in Berlin.

“It was a sad ceremony in an empty room with only about 12 guest spectators seated in folding chairs,” he said. “I awarded some medals, made some short remarks, and the ceremony was over in a matter of minutes.”

“Det A was a small, covert unit staffed with incredibly talented people willing to make the ultimate sacrifice,” Shachnow said on Fort Bragg earlier this month. “They served on the front lines of the Cold War and never fired a shot in anger. No force of its size in history has contributed more to peace, stability, and freedom.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Heroic Marine’s quick thinking saves family of three

U.S. Marines are known for their fast thinking and courage in a time of need. Marines are taught from day one the core values of honor, courage, and commitment. U.S. Marine Cpl. Alexandra Nowak, an administrative specialist with Alpha Company, Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations West, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, exemplified unwavering courage when she saved the lives of three people Sept. 20, 2019.

Nowak was driving to pick up her 2-year old daughter and mother at the airport on Interstate Highway 15 in Escondido, California, when she witnessed a multi-car collision resulting in a sports utility vehicle rolling onto its side.

Nowak, a native of Forney, Texas, sprang into action to help the vehicle’s occupants. She was able to successfully retrieve the driver’s uninjured 9-month old and 4-year old children from the vehicle and help them to safety.


After pulling back the broken windshield, Nowak realized that the driver’s arm was almost completely severed. Nowak then retrieved the tourniquet she kept in her vehicle and proceeded to administer first aid and keep the driver conscious until first responders arrived.

“I remember she asked me ‘Am I going to die?’ and I told her, ‘No, I am not going to let you die,'” Nowak said.

Escondido Fire Department Officials and witnesses at the scene credit Nowak’s quick thinking and bravery as the main reason that the driver did not suffer more severe medical issues or even death.

“I was courageous, yes. Would I do it again? Yes. Do I hope I have to do it again? No,” Nowak said.

Those who work with Nowak said her willingness to help was not surprising.

“It’s not surprising that she stopped to help,” said Sgt. Shannon Miranda, an administrative specialist with Alpha Co., HS Bn., MCI-West, MCB Camp Pendleton. “Her mom skills always kick in and she always tries to help people out.”

Nowak acted as any Marine should act in a traumatic event. With quick thinking and implementing the skills taught to her within the Marine Corps, she became a hero to the three people saved that day and an example to all Marines within the Corps.

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

Articles

Afghan special forces are trying to take back Tora Bora from ISIS

The Afghanistan Defense Ministry says the military operation against Daesh is ongoing in Pachir Aw Agam district in the southeast of Nangarhar province and security forces will soon reach to the Tora Bora region recently captured by the group.


The security forces are determined to defeat and eradicate Daesh from the area, the Afghanistan Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri said on June 16th.

Daesh captured the strategic Tora Bora region on June 13th. The area was used as a hideout by Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, who was killed in a US operation in 2011.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
Emblem of the Ministry of Defense of Afghanistan. Photo licensed under public domain.

“Our security forces are in Pachir Aw Agam district and Daesh will be eliminated in the near future. The military operation against Daesh will continue without any delay,” Waziri said.

Meanwhile, Nangarhar Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said Tora Bora will never turn into a safe haven for Daesh fighters.

“Daesh fighters have come to Pachir Aw Agam, but they will be defeated. Daesh and their supporters should be aware that there is no place for them [in the district],” Rahimi said.

Reports indicate that at least 600 families have left their houses in Dara-e-Sulaimankhail village close to Tora Bora area in Pachir Aw Agam district.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
The mountains of Tora Bora. DoD Photo by Spc. Ken Scar.

“Daesh came and captured the [Tora Bora] area and we left our villages,” a resident of Sulaimankhil said.

“Our goods have remained in our houses and all the people have fled,” another resident of Sulaimankhil said.

A number of military analysts said the presence of Daesh in Tora Bora would pose a serious threat to Nangarhar and its neighboring provinces.

“The reason behind the changing of Daesh into a big threat is that we concentrate on others instead of those who are killing the people and who loots their properties,” said Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, former Deputy Minister of Interior.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble
A line of ISIS soldiers.

On June 15, Abdul Saboor Sabet, the head of the National Directorate of Security in Nangarhar, claimed that Pakistani militia fully supported Daesh in their offensive against the Tora Bora region this week in eastern Nangarhar province.

In a trip to Nangarhar’s Chaparhar district, Sabet said that Pakistani militia are still backing Daesh militants in the region.

“Daesh militants sustained heavy loses, whenever they suffer a toll, they get reinforcements from the other side of the border who are the Pakistani militias. The [Afghan] public uprising forces are bravely defending all districts against the enemies,” said Sabet.

Earlier this week, Waziri stated that up to 700 Daesh operatives had been killed in Nangarhar as a result of a military operation by security forces over the past three months.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine mortarmen hammer ISIS fighters in new photos

“We’ve defeated ISIS,” President Donald Trump told Reuters on Aug. 20, 2018. “ISIS is essentially defeated.”

Despite Trump’s triumphant statement, ISIS still has as many as 30,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to the Pentagon.

As such, US Marines are still in Syria advising and providing fire support to SDF fighters, and sometimes reportedly at times even getting into direct fire fights (they’re also in country to deter Russian and Iranian influence, which the US largely denies or neglects to mention).

The US Air Force released some pretty incredible photos of US Marines training for those missions.

Check them out below:


Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.

(US Air Force photo)

“We can confirm this picture is of U.S. Marines conducting training on a 120mm mortar system in Syria on or about July 23, 2018,” Operation Inherent Resolve told Business Insider in an email.

The 120mm mortar has a range of up to five miles and a blast radius of 250 feet when it lands on a target. The Marines are using these indirect fire weapons to strike at ISIS positions and vehicles.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

Although OIR wouldn’t reveal where these pictures of US Marine mortarmen were taken, this picture was also taken by the same Air Force photog a few days earlier near Dawr az Zawr.

Dawr az Zawr is in eastern Syria, east of the Euphrates River, which has largely been a deconfliction line between US and Russian troops, and where US forces also killed about 200 Russian mercenaries in February 2018 that encroached into their area attempting to seize an oil field.

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.

US Marines fire a mortar during training in support of Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, July 23, 2018.

While ISIS still has a presence in Syria, the civil war in Syria appears to be in its last throes, as Syrian President Bashar Assad has retaken much ground and even recently began issuing death certificates for missing political prisoners taken before and during the civil war.

Source: Washington Post

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information