The U.S. State Department says its coordinator for counterterrorism is traveling to the three Scandinavian countries to discuss matters including “Iran-backed terrorism” in Europe.
The State Department announced Ambassador Nathan Sales’ trips to Denmark, Sweden, and Norway in a Jan. 29, 2019 statement, saying that Iran “remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”
“In recent years the regime has directed or backed terrorist plotting in France, Denmark, The Netherlands, Albania, and elsewhere,” it added.
In January 2019, the European Union approved fresh sanctions on Iran’s intelligence services and two Iranian nationals, accusing them of attempting — or carrying out — attacks against Iranian government opponents on Danish, Dutch, and French soil.
Nathan A. Sales prepares to sign his appointment papers to become Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 29, 2017.
(State Department Photo)
Tehran denied the claim, saying the accusations were aimed at damaging relations between Iran and the EU.
The Dutch government in 2019 accused Iran of likely involvement in the killings of two Dutch nationals of Iranian origin in 2015 and 2017. Both were opponents of the Iranian regime.
In October 2018, Denmark accused Iran’s authorities of planning to carry out attacks on its soil on Iranian exiles belonging to an Iranian opposition group, while France blamed Tehran for a foiled bombing attack that targeted a rally organized by another banned group near Paris in June 2018.
And in December 2018, non-EU member Albania expelled Iran’s ambassador to Tirana and another diplomat, saying they were suspected of “involvement in activities that harm the country’s security.”
Precise reasons for the move were not given, but U.S. officials said it sent a clear message that conducting “terrorist operations in Europe” was unacceptable.
The alleged plots in Europe have strained relations between Tehran and the European Union, which has been working to preserve the 2015 nuclear deal after the United States pulled out of the accord aimed at preventing Iran from developing a nuclear bomb.
The U.S. State Department said that Sales’ talks with Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian officials will also touch upon the prosecution of foreign terrorist fighters who traveled from Europe and other parts of the world to fight alongside the extremist group Islamic State in countries such as Syria and Iraq.
“The United States is urging its partners to repatriate their citizens and prosecute them for the crimes they have committed,” the statement said.
It said that a 2017 UN Security Council resolution requires states to combat terrorist travel, using tools including terrorist watch lists and airline reservation data.
The newest Freedom-class littoral combat ship, LCS 19, the future USS St. Louis, was christened and launched in Marinette, Wisconsin, on Dec. 15, 2018, when the 3,900-ton warship tumbled into the icy water of the Menominee River on its side.
Freedom-class littoral combat ships are among the few ships in the world that are launched sideways.
That method was used “because the size of the ship and the capabilities of the shipyard allow for a side launch,” Joe DePietro, Lockheed’s vice president vice president of small combatants and ship systems, said in a statement.
“The ship has a shallow draft (it requires less than 14 feet of water to operate in) and is a small combatant (about 381 feet long), and can therefore be side launched, where many other ships cannot.”
“Our partner Fincantieri Marinette Marine has delivered more than 1,300 vessels and has used the side launch method across multiple Navy and Coast Guard platforms,” DePietro added. “The size and capacity of the vessels under construction enable use of the side-launch method.”
Lockheed Martin got the contract to build the ship in December 2010, and the name St. Louis was selected in April 2015. It will be the seventh Navy ship to bear that name — the first since the amphibious cargo ship St. Louis left service in 1991.
LCS 19’s keel was laid in May 2017, when the ship’s sponsor Barbara Taylor — wife of the CEO of the St. Louis-based company Enterprise rental car — welded her initials into a steel plate that was included in the ship’s hull.
On Dec. 15, 2018, Taylor christened the ship by smashing a bottle of champagne on its bow and then watched the warship tip over into the water.
The Navy’s LCS 19 tipping back toward shore after being launched, December 15, 2018.
“LCS 19 is the second ship we’ve christened and launched this year,” DePietro said in a release, adding that the defense firm’s shipbuilding team had “truly hit its stride.”
“We completed trials on three ships and delivered two more,” DePietro added. “Once delivered to the Navy, LCS 19 will be on its way to independently completing targeted missions around the world.”
Lockheed has delivered seven littoral combat ships to the Navy and seven more are in various stages of production and testing at Fincantieri Marinette Marine, where LCS 19 was launched on Dec. 15, 2018.
While LCS 19 has been christened and launched, it won’t become part of the Navy until it’s commissioned. At that point, the name St. Louis will become official.
The Remote Minehunting System and an AN/AQS-20 mine-hunting sonar are brought aboard the littoral combat ship USS Independence during developmental testing of the mine-warfare mission module package, January 7, 2012.
(US Navy photo by Ron Newsome)
The Navy’s littoral-combat-ship program is divided into two classes. Freedom-class ships are steel monohull vessels that are slightly smaller than their Independence-class counterparts, which are aluminum trimarans by General Dynamics that have a revolutionary design.
The LCS is meant to be a relatively cheap surface warship — about one-third the cost of a new Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, according to Lockheed — with a modular design that allows it to be quickly outfitted with a variety of different equipment suited for different types of missions.
While both classes are open-ocean capable, they are designed for operations close to shore, with modular packages for their primary missions of antisubmarine warfare, mine countermeasures, and surface warfare against smaller boats. (Issues with the LCS program may lead to its mine-countermeasure assets being deployed on other ships.)
Crew members of the littoral combat ship USS Little Rock man the rails during the ship’s commissioning ceremony, in Buffalo, New York, Dec. 16, 2017.
(US Navy/Lockheed Martin)
The LCS is also meant to carry out intelligence-gathering, maritime-security, and homeland-security missions and support for Marine or special-operations forces regardless of its installed mission package.
The program has also faced more conventional hurdles. The USS Little Rock, the fifth Freedom-class LCS, was stuck in Montreal for three months at the beginning of 2018, hemmed in by winter weather and sea ice.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
One of the eight engines powering a Boeing B-52 bomber flying over Minot Air Force Base on Wednesday quite literally fell right off the aircraft.
The unarmed aircraft, which was on a training flight at the North Dakota base, landed safely and none of the crew were injured, an Air Force spokesman told Defense News.
The service has already initiated an investigation into what went wrong. All crew members of a B-52 that crashed in May 2016 escaped without injury, though a 2008 crash killed all six crew members on board.
The B-52 is a long-range, heavy bomber jet aircraft powered by eight Pratt Whitney engines. It was first introduced in 1955, though it has continually been upgraded and maintained.
The Air Force has just over 75 B-52s still in service today, which are slated to last into 2040, according to Defense News.
The B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber is expected to replace the aging B-52 fleet once it’s introduced some time in the mid-2020s.
President Joe Biden has renewed President Barack Obama’s pledge to draw down the number of detainees currently being held at a secure facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There are now nine detainees set to be released out of the 40 still held there after 20 years.
According to the New York Times, the United States is set to release 73-year-old Saifullah Paracha, 54-year-old Abdul Rabbani and 40-year-old Uthman Abdul al-Rahim Uthman. Uthman is a citizen of Yemen. The other two detainees are from Pakistan.
None of the men have ever been charged with a crime. When releasing “Gitmo” detainees, the U.S. usually asks the receiving country to place special security precautions and travel restrictions on them, but the United States isn’t sure where to send the recent list of soon-to-be-freed prisoners. A total of nine are set to be transferred to other countries.
Some of the previously cleared prisoners have waited for more than a decade for some other country to take them in. The other 31 prisoners have either been charged with war crimes, are considered too dangerous for release or have been convicted on charges.
Paracha, Rabbani, and Uthman were approved for release in a joint decision from the attorney general, the director of national intelligence, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the secretaries of state, defense and homeland security. These offices maintain seats on the Periodic Review Secretariat, a kind of parole board that reviews the records of detained persons in the camp.
A total of 775 detainees were brought to the U.S. Navy installation on Cuba in the years following the September 11 attacks. Most of these prisoners were released without charges, after being held for years on end. The last time a prisoner was transferred out of the camp prison was 2008, when one of the former detainees was returned to Pakistan.
After 20 years of detention, the stigma of being held in one of the world’s most notorious prisons and the ailing health of Saifullah Paracha, it’s unlikely for them to find a new home anytime soon.
In 2003, Paracha flew from his home in Karachi, Pakistan to Thailand by FBI agents who believed he helped the September 11th plotters make financial transactions in the wake of the attacks. He admitted he held money for them, but denied knowing who they were or what the money was for.
Rabbani was captured by Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence in a 2002 raid along with his brother. Both were accused of being members of al-Qaeda, of staying in al-Qaeda safehouses, undergoing military training in Afghanistan, and becoming an al-Qaeda operative.
The two brothers were held by the CIA for more than 500 days before being sent to Guantanamo Bay. They were also held at the CIA black site code named “Cobalt” – also known as “The Salt Pit” – and may have endured the torture experienced by many of the site’s detainees.
Uthman was brought to Camp X-Ray in 2002, captured and held on charges of being one of Osama Bin Laden’s many bodyguards.
None of the men have any future plans for how they can support themselves once released, and no country has stepped forward to take them in.
The Periodic Review Secretariat published its rationale for releases, security assurances, and recommendations for future resettlement for all released detainees on its public website.
In the tradition of Ukraine’s Lyudmila Pavilchenko and Kazakhstan’s Aliya Moldagulova and Nina Lobkovskaya, an Afghan teen girl has just taken up arms against the invaders who killed her family. Sixteen-year-old Qamar Gul decided it was time to fight back when the Taliban raided her family’s home in Geriveh, in central Ghor province.
Moldagulova and Lobkovskaya were the ninth and 10th deadliest female snipers in World War II. Pavilchenko was the deadliest female sniper ever, earning the nickname “Lady Death” for her 309 kills.
The journey of Afghanistan’s Qamar Gul is just beginning.
At 1:00 a.m. local time on Jul. 17, 2020, Taliban insurgents took to the streets of Geriveh and began to pull locals out of their homes at gunpoint. When they arrived at the doorstep of Gul’s parents, they refused to open. Eventually, the gunmen forced their way in, anyway.
The insurgents suspected Gul’s father – the village chief – of supporting the local government and of being an informant. The Taliban killed her parents and moved to kill her 12-year-old brother Habibullah. But she got to the family’s AK-47 first.
Qamar killed the two men who shot her parents and then lit up the other men who had raided her home. The Taliban tried to regroup on the street and several made an attempt to retake the house, but the 16 year old fought them all off. Her brother stayed behind her throughout the hour-long gunfight.
Soon, other villagers and pro-government militia arrived to push the Taliban out of their village. In total, it’s estimated Qamar killed up to five Taliban insurgents and more were injured by the local militia. Taliban fighters routinely raid villages to attack those who are suspected of sympathizing with the government of President Ashraf Ghani.
A photograph of Qamar Gul wearing a headscarf and holding a machine gun across her lap has even gone viral on social media.
“We know parents are irreplaceable, but your revenge will give you relative peace,” a Facebook user wrote in a comment on the photo.
Though the young girl is scarred at the loss of her parents, she is now taking care of her younger brother and has been invited to Afghanistan’s presidential palace by Ghani himself. After leaving the palace, she will not return to the village but will instead go to a safe house in the provincial capital of Chaghcharan.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs failed to report a number of medical providers, whose privileges were revoked, to national databases, according to a Nov. 27 report by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The GAO reviewed five of the VA’s 170 Medical Centers “after concerns were raised about their clinical care.” It found that VA officials did not report eight of nine doctors it found should have been reported.
The GAO report examined 148 providers from October 2013 to March 2017 and found that more than half didn’t provide documentation of reviews to the National Practitioner Data Bank or state licensing boards, as required by VHA policy. Also, the medical centers did not start the reviews of 16 providers for months to years “after the concerns were identified.”
“Depending on the findings from the review, VAMC officials may take an adverse privileging action against a provider that either limits the care a provider is allowed to deliver at the VAMC or prevents the provider from delivering care altogether,” the GAO report said.
At the five unidentified hospitals, providers weren’t reported because VA officials “misinterpreted or were not aware of VHA policies and guidance related to the NPDB and SLB reporting processes,” the report said.
“At one facility, we found that officials failed to report six providers to the NPDB because the officials were unaware that they had been delegated responsibility for NPDB reporting.”
The report found that two of four contract providers — whose privileges were revoked and were not reported — continued to provide outside care to veterans.
“One provider whose services were terminated related to patient abuse subsequently held privileges at another VAMC, while the other provider belongs to a network of providers that provides care for veterans in the community,” the report said.
Nearly 40,000 providers hold privileges in the centers.
GAO is making four recommendations for the Veterans Health Administration: To document reviews of providers’ clinical care after concerns are raised, develop timely requirements for reviews, to ensure proper oversight of such reviews, and perform timely reporting of providers.
The GAO said the VA agreed with its recommendations.
In 2015 and 2016, ISIS, the terrorist group also known as the Islamic State, carried out suicide attacks around the globe at a historic rate.
The group, founded in June 2014, has long demanded that its militants fight or die, and it often sends young men and even children on suicide-bombing missions.
But as the group weakens on the ground, it seems to have shifted course.
A US Department of Defense release on the battle for Hawijah cites “many sources reporting more than 1,000 terrorists surrendered.”
Unlike the battle for Mosul, once ISIS’ largest Iraqi stronghold, the terrorist group “put up no fight at all, other than planting bombs and booby traps,” Kurdish officials told The New York Times.
Strikingly, the same officials reported that ISIS commanders had ordered their fighters to turn themselves in, on the grounds that the Kurds would take prisoners while other opponents would be harsher.
Indeed, after three years of brutal conflict, the Iraqi Security Forces fighting have admitted to engaging in acts of savagery against defeated ISIS fighters.
After suffering defeat after defeat on the ground, ISIS has upped the aggression of its media operation in an attempt to save face. Recently the group released audio it said came from its top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was rumored to be killed or at least injured by airstrikes.
After last week’s shooting in Las Vegas, the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, ISIS also made the dubious claim that the gunman was one of its followers.
US officials have shot this claim down, and ISIS’ claims do not match evidence that has since emerged on the gunman’s preparation for the attack.
In its early months and years, ISIS enjoyed a surge of battlefield victories. The group had political support in Sunni Muslim areas, where many felt disenfranchised by Iraq’s Shia-run government.
But it has since been ground down for years by US-led coalition airstrikes and a wide range of militias and national armies on the ground.
With the fall of Hawijah, only a small strip of territory along Syria’s border remains in ISIS’ control.
The Times Free Press in November 2016 published a story that included information about Vietnam veteran Stephen D. Holloway, who was speaking at a Veterans Day event in Pikeville, Tenn., and claimed to be the most-decorated veteran of the Vietnam War. Holloway’s public claims were challenged by veterans of Vietnam and other conflicts, and the Times Free Press has spent more than a year investigating his military record. To date, Holloway maintains his claims are accurate, though few of his medals and awards have convincing documentation. This is part 2 of a two-day series.
The U.S. Supreme Court deemed lying about military service or medals a matter of free speech when in 2012 it struck down the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, signed into law by President George W. Bush.
Intentionally lying about, embellishing or fabricating one’s military service, medals or awards was protected speech under the First Amendment, the court ruled. But in 2013, President Barack Obama signed a revised version of the Stolen Valor Act that defined the violation as relating to fraudulent claims about military service “with intent to obtain money, property, or other tangible benefit.”
In other words, lies that materially benefited the person who uttered them could be a criminal violation. That’s aside from the fact that many veterans feel lies about military records or medals diminishes the sacrifices made by others.
The embellishment of military service records is not rare. But it is rarely prosecuted by federal authorities under the Stolen Valor Act of 2013.
Mary Schantag, chairwoman of the POW Network, has investigated hundreds of cases in which people’s lofty claims about their military service turned out to be false.
She said that, without a prosecutor willing to take on a stolen valor case, the best way to fight back usually is to publicly question a person’s claims.
“If he was asked, did he refuse to provide orders? Did he claim they burned? Did he claim he lost them? Did he claim they’re secret?” Schantag said.
“The ball basically is in his court, and there would be a lot of guys out there asking the same question: Why is it on his DD-214? [military discharge papers] Where’s the rest of it? Where’s the orders? Where’s the evidence?”
Schantag said she has seen close to 100 cases in which false information got into military records, whether through self-editing, intimidation of a clerk who handled documents or other means.
“Unless there are orders for this someplace, unless [the claimant] has witnesses, it’s still questionable,” she said.
Violation of the Stolen Valor Act is punishable by a fine and up to a year in prison. The problem is finding a federal agency with the resources and staffing to devote to the cases, Schantag said.
“They’re not going to drop their work on terrorism because we’ve got a guy claiming eight Purple Hearts,” Schantag said. “It’s common sense. That’s reality. But the state level may have the ability to pick that up. It’s a federal crime in most instances, falsifying military records but it pales in comparison to the level of other crimes going on that the FBI has to go after.”
Several states have stolen valor laws on the books, including Alabama, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas, according to news reports.
Schantag’s voice began to break when she described her passion for the issue.
“It is to make sure our military history and the lives lost to fight for freedom, to make sure those things are accurately told,” she said. “These liars are changing military history and if you think about it, 50 to 100 years from now, who’s going to be able to figure out the truth or a lie?”
Stolen valor takes away from those who spilled blood and, in some cases, lost their lives, she said.
“You get these guys that want that status,” Schantag said. “But they didn’t earn it. They don’t have the nightmares these other guys wake up with because of what they went through. They just want the recognition. They don’t want the pain. They don’t want the nightmares. They just want to be somebody’s hero, and it doesn’t work that way.”
Stolen valor has been a high-profile issue in East Tennessee and the region before.
Charles Kaczmarczyk and his wife, Martha, were the focus of an NBC “Dateline” program titled “Secrets in the Smoky Mountains” that aired in the fall of 2016, revealing how a Veterans Affairs investigation showed they faked military service and disabilities to obtain fraudulent benefits.
The investigation also led to the revelation that Martha Kaczmarczyk murdered her ex-husband as the con began. News reports detailed an initial indictment accusing Charles Kaczmarczyk of creating fake Air Force documents showing medals and decorations he did not earn, as the couple reaped benefits in their social status and finances.
The Monroe County couple is in prison now, with Martha sentenced to 50 years for her ex-husband’s murder.
In April, military veteran and former Holly Springs, Ga., police officer Shane Ladner was convicted by a Cherokee County jury on six felony counts of making false statements. Jurors found he lied about awards he received from the Army in the early 1990s, according to the Marietta Daily Journal.
Ladner had told people he carried out top-secret missions in Central America, Cuba and Somalia. He led people to believe he was a decorated war hero who was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received during a firefight in Central America, according to the Journal.
Jurors convicted Ladner of submitting a falsified DD-214 to his former employers and to the Cherokee County Tag Office to obtain a tax-exempt Purple Heart license plate for his Ford F-150.
In a 2016 story about a Veterans Day ceremony in Pikeville, Tenn., Vietnam veteran Stephen Douglas Holloway told the Times Free Press he was a POW and had earned more than 50 medals, including nine Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, three Army Commendation Medals, three presidential citations and scores of others.
But those medals were not all listed on Holloway’s military severance documents the newspaper obtained from the National Personnel Records Center, part of the National Archives.
A primary release paper, the DD-214, is given to all military service members when they are discharged. Holloway has two DD-214s filed in the National Archive for his first enlistment. They’re identical except for the awards listed.
One of the National Archive copies and a matching copy provided by a family member show Holloway earned a National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and a Vietnam Campaign Medal.
The other says he also earned “(9) PURPLE HEARTS, BRONZE STAR, ARCOM W/V, SILVER STAR.”
Veteran students of military documents and fakery contacted by the Times Free Press saw several problems with that DD-214.
The awards are out of order, for one thing, and the rarity of a Silver Star, in combination with the other suspicious claims, raises questions about that award, as well. Of the 60 million people to have served in the American military, only about 130,000 earned the Silver Star, experts said.
Bruce Kendrick, a member of Ernie Pyle Chapter 1945 of the Military Order of Purple Hearts, said Holloway’s failure to provide proof of his awards is suspicious, too. Decorated veterans usually are happy to produce documentation of their service and medals, he said.
“If somebody sees me wearing this [military veteran’s] hat and they say, ‘I don’t believe you,’ then I’ll prove it. I don’t mind it. It’s not going to offend me or anything like that,” Kendrick said. “I’ll get out my DD-214 and if that doesn’t satisfy them, I’ll meet them somewhere else and I’ll bring them these things, and I’ll bring these pictures and I’ll bring them these orders and let them read them.
“It’s that important to me,” he said.
Two national experts in the area of stolen valor contend that anyone awarded nine Purple Hearts would be a national hero, a legend.
The fact that no one has heard of Holloway is one of many red flags raised, said Anthony Anderson, founder and CEO of Guardian of Valor LLC and a retired Army staff sergeant.
Virginian Doug Sterner, founder of the organization Home of Heroes and its website, echoes Anderson’s assessment. Sterner and his wife, Pam, in the last decade or so played a role in the early versions of the federal legislation.
Sterner noted details of the major decorations listed on Holloway’s DD-214. Pointing to horizontal alignment of the type and some differences in the shape of the characters and the spaces between them, he said the document looks like “it went through at least two iterations on at least two typewriters.”
Also, Sterner said the awards are in reverse order of the way they should be listed, with the most valorous medals first and the lesser ones — the National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal and Vietnam Campaign Medal — last.
“It’s obvious to me that those four awards were added to the DD-214 and were not put on there when the DD-214 was actually generated,” Sterner said.
Sterner said a fire at the National Personnel Records Center on July 12, 1973, destroyed 16-18 million military personnel files. Because of that, veterans are allowed to submit paperwork to be placed in their files, an opportunity that could be tempting for people who wanted to embellish their records.
Records show Holloway is a Vietnam veteran who served almost 27 months as a supply clerk with the 71st Transportation Battalion between Jan. 5, 1967, and Aug. 17, 1969, before being honorably discharged as an E-5, or Specialist Second-Class.
A Statement of Service obtained by the newspaper dated Aug. 1, 1983, said Holloway was honorably transferred to the U.S. Army Reserve on Aug. 17, 1969, where he remained until he was honorably discharged Sept. 7, 1971. Then he re-enlisted Sept. 8, 1971, for four years but was discharged “under honorable conditions” in just over 11 months.
According to The Fort Hood Sentinel, an Army newspaper, there are five types of discharge: Honorable; General, Under Honorable Conditions; Under Other than Honorable Conditions; Bad Conduct; and Dishonorable.
The documents obtained by the newspaper show Holloway’s rank at his second discharge as E-4, which is lower than E-5. The documents did not explain the difference, and other paperwork obtained by the Times Free Press — “2-1” jackets, manila document holders with an index listing the contents — link many of the claimed medals to the time period associated with the Army Reserve, despite the fact that the box for listing “wounds” is empty though Holloway claimed to have been wounded in combat nine times. Officials have said the 2-1 forms can be modified by civilians or veterans.
Anderson said that, given the medals he claims, Holloway should have at least maintained his rank or been given a significant promotion, unless there was a problem with his service.
The Times Free Press has asked the National Personnel Records Center for documents related to Holloway’s second tour of duty. The paper also contacted Holloway’s family members throughout the past year but, beyond providing one of the DD-214s the newspaper has now obtained, they have declined to participate in the story.
There are three vehicles at Holloway’s Hixson residence, two that bear Tennessee-issued Purple Heart license plates and one that has a Tennessee-issued Silver Star plate. The Times Free Press has verified that all three are registered in Holloway’s name.
Is there an investigation underway in Holloway’s case?
Since early summer, Anderson and Sterner’s requests for Holloway’s military service records have been stymied. Both say they were told the records had been released to someone else or possibly another government agency. The Times Free Press shared the records it obtained so far with the military experts and veterans who assisted with the story.
Anderson and Sterner said they have encountered only two reasons for the files to be removed by another government agency: an investigation to add earned commendations or awards or an investigation into a problem in the record.
When the United States as a nation was in its infancy, President George Washington even weighed in on the issue of claiming unearned military awards. On Aug. 7, 1782, as a military general, Washington issued a general order creating several new military decorations for the Continental Army, among them the Badge of Military Merit, which would later become the Purple Heart when it was reconstituted by General Douglas MacArthur in 1932, according to the website dedicated to the history of the first president, mountvernon.org.
“[S]hould any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them they shall be severely punished,” Washington states in the order.
One by one, the veterans made their inaugural trip up the steep mountainside armed with harnesses and ropes. For most of them, rock climbing was a brand new experience, yet they were scrambling up and repelling down the cliff face at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, Colorado, with barely a semblance of a beginner’s nerves. Amid shouts of encouragement and good-humored banter, the Airmen were bonding. While they’d been strangers just the day before, they’d already become a team.
Traveling from different areas of the U.S., the eight Air Force wounded warriors, sponsored by Team Racing for Veterans’ (R4V), arrived at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado, to participate in three unfamiliar sports: rock climbing, fly fishing and mountain biking. The biannual camps give wounded veterans a chance to prove to themselves they can adapt to and overcome any current limitations, from amputations to post-traumatic stress.
For those attending the camp, it was a chance to network with other wounded warriors who wanted to get out of their comfort zones, take on new challenges, and pursue a sense of normalcy.
In addition to sharing their common goals and adaptive sports experiences at the camp, the wounded warriors had a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed setting during their down time. Instead of staying in a hotel where they would be scattered throughout the building, the Airmen stayed in a large ranch-style home that was donated for the camp’s use. During some of their meals and at the close of each day, the wounded warriors could gather in a common area and talk.
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Each night of the camp ended with reflection and therapeutic conversations. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
While engaging in one such casual conversation in the living room with four other veterans, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland National Guard, found himself smiling and feeling at ease. The openness he displayed was something new, because Connelly had grown up building walls around himself that no one could get through.
As a child, his experiences in the foster care system left him unwilling to depend on others. Though he was eventually taken in by his aunt and uncle, Connelly still found himself disappointed after witnessing his relatives getting robbed by other children they had adopted.
“Watching those kids grow up, how cruel and jagged they could be, it just pushed my trust in people away a lot more,” Connelly said.
“Before these guys,” he indicated the other wounded warriors, “you had no shot for me to trust you.”
Unexpectedly, the injuries that brought Connelly into the wounded warrior family were causing him to change for the better, he said.
On July 5, 2011, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly’s life took an abrupt turn after a motorcycle accident on the streets of Baltimore. As a result of the crash, Connelly lost his left leg below the knee, his right knee required a partial replacement, and his right arm had to be artificially restructured.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
“The first couple years were hard,” he said. “It was like gut-wrenching pain in my arm when I was lifting weights, curling, or anything like that, just because there wasn’t much muscle around the metal.”
Eventually he was able to build his strength back up, but by the time the doctors could take out the hardware in his arm, bone had grown over it and become fused to the metal. Because of this, Connelly opted not to have it removed.
“I’ve adapted to it,” he said. “I’ve adapted with my leg, my knee, and the arm was another thing. I just had to get over it. Cold affects it, but you move your wrist around a little bit and keep going. I’m all about adapting and overcoming everything. I’m not going to let anything stop me from doing what I want to do.”
Three years after his injury, Connelly became involved in the world of adaptive sports and attended an AFW2 camp. Striving for more, he was also selected to represent the Air Force during the 2014 Warrior Games in shot put, discus, and the 100- and 200-meter sprints. It was at this competition that he met a group of wounded warriors and began to finally let down his guard.
Two years later, his wounded warrior family remains important to him – it is a group of people he keeps in touch with nearly every single day.
Although Connelly is busy training in pursuit of his dream of running track at the Paralympic Games, he leapt at the opportunity to try new sports at a Team R4V mountain adventure.
“Mountain biking: that was the sport that brought everybody together today,” Connelly said. He found it inspiring to watch the guys zooming down the mountain tracks on hand cycles.
“The trails are probably 20 inches wide – the same as their wheel base – and they are just flying,” he added. “Watching them struggle, but still make it up and down the hills, it was awesome! It was definitely team building and it brought us that much closer together.”
Ricky Rose Jr. knew that the sports therapy aspect of Team R4V’s camps would help him physically, but he hesitated to participate.
After being medically discharged from the Air Force as a staff sergeant, Rose thought about attending a wounded warrior camp. It was an idea that had run though his mind many times before but what always stopped him were questions: Did he deserve to go? Would he even fit into the group?
When Team R4V invited him to their fall camp, Rose decided to set those doubts aside and give it a go.
At first he was nervous, but after realizing many people in the house shared the same medical conditions he did, Rose began to feel more comfortable. He found there was relief in being surrounded by people who’d gone through tough situations — from battling cancer to being shot in Afghanistan – because they could all relate to one another.
“While each individual’s circumstances are different in the grand scheme, we’re all fighting the same demons,” Rose said. “That’s been the most beneficial part of this camp; you feel comfortable talking to somebody that you know has been there and done that.”
At the camp, much of the conversation and bonding begins over food.
With a focus on overall wellness, Team R4V cooks healthy meals for the wounded warriors each day, and encourages them to eat breakfast and dinner together. At the kitchen table, sharing a meal and talking about the day’s events, the Airmen got to know each other better. As they talked, Rose felt a sense of camaraderie return, one that he’d missed since the last day he’d hung up his Air Force uniform.
“I wasn’t expecting us to come together as a family as quickly as we did,” he said. “We all realized pretty quickly that we’re all Airmen and we’re all in this together.”
Surrounded by people who could empathize with his journey, Rose spoke about his experiences in the Air Force and the daily challenges he continues to face as a wounded warrior.
During his time in service, Rose deployed three times, once to Kuwait and twice to Iraq. Employed as a combat photographer, his objective was to document the war through the experiences of the troops with whom he was embedded – the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.
“They didn’t send us on missions where we would just sit on base all day,” he said. “They’d send us on missions where crap was going to hit the fan, or there was a really good chance of it. More times than not, we were attacked … we got blown up what seemed like almost every mission. It felt like almost every day could have been the day you died because we lost a lot of people too. War is just nasty, and I got to help show that as honestly as I could to people.”
While deployed, Rose captured thousands of images, braving firefights and mortar attacks to accomplish his job. In 2007, Rose was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, in part for his dedication in the combat zone – a place seared into his memory by the very tool he used to perform his mission.
“The hardest thing, and I didn’t know this until after a lot of therapy and a lot of different doctors, but I didn’t realize, as a photographer, how many of those images I took were just going to stay in my brain,” Rose said. “I just kind of thought I’d take a picture and then they’d go away, but they don’t.”
Even at home, he was unable to turn his mind away from the combat zone. Feeling unstable, Rose asked for help. He went to see a doctor and was ultimately diagnosed with a TBI and PTSD.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that presents a variety of negative effects, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts and memories. Military members with PTSD can become hyper-vigilant, angry and depressed. Sights and sounds, such as large crowds, random crazy noises, and sudden flashes of light – can mentally bring them back to the combat zone and trigger an unconscious response.
“PTSD is horrible,” Rose said. “Imagine never being able to feel comfortable or like everything is alright. Every day is a challenge because I don’t know how my body and mind will react to whatever happens that day. Will I see, touch, or smell something that will give me an instant flashback and turn me into a different person? Will my conversations lead to nightmares? Do I feel like killing myself today? That’s what it’s like.”
The temporary home in Colorado is quiet and isolated from outside stimuli. The intensity and focus needed to learn new sports is designed to wear the Airmen out and give them the ability to be calm.
“I haven’t really had a bad thought since I’ve been here, other than being exhausted and tired (from the day’s activity),” he laughed, adding, “I haven’t really had a trigger or nightmare or anything since I’ve been here. It’s been peaceful, very peaceful.”
The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise have been proven time and time again, which is why Team R4V staff said they provide support to veterans through a wide variety of physical activities. Rehabilitation though adaptive sports has been an idea at the forefront of the organization since its conception.
Inspired by a friend who coached the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s team for the Warrior Games, a Defense Department competitive adaptive sports event for injured, ill and wounded service members, Bethany Pribila, Team R4V’s founder and CEO, decided to start a non-profit organization that would enable veterans from every branch of the military to benefit through participation in sports.
Team R4V provides wounded warrior athletes with funding for races and events, but it is their own sports camps, which they host in partnership with the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, that holds a special place in the heart of the organization.
At the camp’s end, Pribila reflected that everything had gone as envisioned. She had witnessed the wounded warriors supporting one another, cheering each other on, and forming lasting bonds. Though the Airmen had arrived as strangers, when they left, it was as friends and as family.
United States Army veteran Tony Fife-Patterson started smoking when he was 17 because “the cool guys in the neighborhood were doing it, and I wanted to fit in.” Eventually, he settled in to a pack a day habit, and never considered that he might be addicted to nicotine. Occasionally, someone would tell him he ought to quit, but it only made him want to smoke more.
A couple of years ago, Tony’s daughter called him about his 5-year-old grandson who was crying after watching a “Truth Ad” on television. The ad is part of a national campaign to eliminate teen smoking. Tony’s grandson never liked how smoking made Tony smell, but the advertisement made him worry about how smoking could hurt his grandfather’s health.
Although Tony began contemplating his cigarette smoking, he still didn’t think he had a problem. Yet a few days later, after lighting a cigarette, Tony had an epiphany.
“At that moment, I realized I really was getting tired of this habit,” Tony said. “It had become something that no longer was fun.”
At his next VA appointment, Tony asked his provider about quitting and learned about Truman VA’s “Thinking About Quitting?” program.
Tony agreed to attend the program’s orientation class. At first, he had doubts; however, once he learned that his smoking was an addiction, he knew he didn’t want tobacco to control him.
“Wait a minute,” Tony thought. “This really DOES control me!”
The realization that he was controlled by cigarettes offended him and he was determined to do something about it.
Tony enrolled in Truman VA’s Quit program with other veterans who wanted to quit tobacco. The first three classes helped Tony develop a personal plan to manage the physical, psychological and habit parts of his smoking addiction. He also learned how to get through urges to smoke without giving in. On the program’s “Quit Day,” Tony found it was helpful to quit with other motivated veterans. The final three classes focused on lifestyle changes to help him remain tobacco-free and avoid a relapse.
In the photo above, proud “Thinking About Quitting” graduate Tony poses with Joseph Hinkebein, Ph.D., Truman VA psychologist and tobacco cessation coordinator.
It’s now a year-and-a-half since Tony’s “Quit Day,” and he remains tobacco-free.
As part of his success, Tony uses a quit smoking smart phone app to track how long he has been tobacco-free and how much money he has saved since quitting. He’s saved almost id=”listicle-2641557022″,400 so far.
More importantly, Tony loves the tobacco-free lifestyle. His sense of taste and smell has improved, and he no longer gets complaints from his grandson about smelling like smoke.
“I didn’t realize how bad I smelled, but now I get it,” Tony said.
Most of all, he is proud to no longer be controlled by cigarettes. While the thought of smoking still crosses his mind every now and then, when stressed, he reminds himself, “I don’t need a cigarette to cope with stress anymore!”
Tony tries to lead by example and never “lectures or nags” those who still smoke. He just wants other veterans to know that they can quit when they are ready to do it for their own reasons. He encourages veterans to attend the “Thinking About Quitting” orientation class to learn how to successfully quit. The program provided education and support to help him be successful, but Tony gets all the credit.
“I never thought I could do this,” Tony said. “But I did it. It is something I am immensely proud of!”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Business Insider asked a senior scientist working on stealth aircraft how to evaluate the plane’s stealth, and the results were not good.
Take a look at the pictures below and see if you can spot what’s wrong:
The scientist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of stealth work, pointed out six major problems from the pictures.
First, take a look at the seams between the flaps on the aircraft — they’re big. For reference, look at the US’s F-22, the stealthiest fighter jet on earth:
(Photo by Senior Airman Kaylee Dubois)
The flaps at the end of the wing have very tight seams, which don’t scatter radar waves, thereby maintaining a low profile.
Secondly, look at the Su-57’s vertical rear tails. They have a wide gap where they stray from the fuselage. Keeping a tight profile is essential to stealth, according to the scientist.
(Photo by Marina Lystseva)
Look at the F-35’s rear tails for reference; they touch the whole way.
Third, look at the nose of the Su-57. It has noticeable seams around the canopy, which kills stealth. The F-35 and F-22 share a smooth, sloped look.
It’s likely Russia doesn’t have the machining technology to produce such a surface. The actual nose of the Su-57 looks bolted on with noticeable rivets.
Finally, take a look at the underside of the Su-57; it has rivets and sharp edges everywhere. “If nothing else convinces that no effort at [stealth] was attempted, this is the clincher,” the scientist said.
Russia didn’t even try at stealth, but that’s not the purpose
As the scientist said, Russia didn’t even appear to seriously try to make a stealth aircraft. The Su-57 takes certain measures, like storing weapons internally, that improve the stealth, but it’s leaps and bounds from a US or even Chinese effort.
This highlights the true purpose of Russia’s new fighter — not to evade radar itself, but to kill US stealth jets like the F-35 and F-22.
The Su-57 will feature side mounted radars along its nose, an infrared search-and-track radar up front, and additional radars in front and back, as well as on the wings.
As The Drive’s Tyler Rogoway writes, the side-mounted radars on the Su-57 allow it to excel at a tactic called “beaming” that can trick the radars on US stealth jets. Beaming entails flying perpendicular to a fighter’s radar in a way that makes the fighter dismiss the signature of the jet as a non-target.
Any fighter can “beam” by flying sideways, but the Su-57, with sideways-mounted radars, can actually guide missiles and score kills from that direction.
Russia has long taken a different approach to fighter aircraft than the US, but the Su-57 shows that even without the fancy percision-machined stealth of an F-22, Moscow’s jets can remain dangerous and relevant.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Strava drew on data from devices like Fitbits or smartphones that people use to track workouts such as runs or bike rides. But fitness-tracker users skew Western, young, and active. In countries like Niger, the heat map appears to highlight the activity of US troops on military bases keeping fit.
The result is potentially damning for the US military’s operational security.
Previously covert bases may have been exposed, and highly trafficked locations within known bases have been highlighted.
Additionally, some users may have left the trackers on while going about normal business. Important supply routes and key daily routines have most likely been picked up by the heat map.
“In Syria, known coalition (ie US) bases light up the night,” the military writer and analyst Tobias Schneider wrote.
“Some light markers over known Russian positions, no notable colouring for Iranian bases … A lot of people are going to have to sit through lectures.”
But the most dangerous element of the heat map isn’t the aggregated lines — it’s the potential to determine which person drew which line. Anyone who gains access to Strava’s data, legally or otherwise, can then track a specific person’s movement, Jeffrey Lewis points out at the Daily Beast.
A user who works out frequently at a known military base, say a missile base, and then uses the app at another location may draw attention to a previously unknown site of interest.
This data could inform both state and nonstate actors as to where to attack in the case of war.
The US is not alone in being exposed — apparent Chinese joggers in the South China Sea contributed data to the Strava map, as did workers on Taiwan’s secret missile bases. But the US’s larger presence around the globe means it has more to lose.
After the map came out, internet users in short order identified some of the most sensitive US military sites around the world.
Here Lewis seems to think US troops are running around the US’s nuclear weapons in Turkey.
But interestingly enough, the Pentagon, which is the headquarters of the Department of Defense, the biggest office building in the world, and the best-known US military command center in the world, is dark.
The U.S. military has for the third time raised the number of U.S. service members who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iran’s missile strike on an Iraqi air base earlier this month, AP reported citing a Pentagon spokesman.
Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Campbell said on January 28 that 16 more service members were now diagnosed with brain injuries, bringing the total to 50.
Thirty-one of the 50 were treated and had returned to duty, Campbell added.
In its previous update last week, the Pentagon said that 34 U.S. service members had suffered injuries.
Initially, President Donald Trump claimed that no Americans were harmed in Iran’s January 8 attack on the Ain Al-Asad air base in western Iraq.
Concussions can cause headaches, dizziness, sensitivity to light, and nausea.