One thousand service members from around the U.S. are set to call Tyndall Air Force Base’s “Tent City” their temporary home while supporting base recovery efforts.
In just over two weeks since Hurricane Michael made landfall along the base’s coastline, a blend of civil engineering airmen have worked around the clock and successfully brought basic necessities to the installation, which was heavily damaged in the storm.
Master Sgt. Angela Duran, 49th Civil Engineering Squadron team lead, arrived on Tyndall AFB Oct. 13, 2018, just a few days after the storm hit. She and her team of 27 from Holloman AFB, New Mexico, landed in a C-17 Globemaster III filled with equipment.
“When we came in, we had to build our tents first to house us,” she said. “We didn’t really have anything. We brought everything with us so we were able to start tent city.”
The team has since grown to 41, and what started as a 60-tent project has now expanded to 80.
“We put up the first 60 in three and a half days,” said Master Sgt. Jeremie Wilson, 49th CES team lead. “The new 20 will be done in two days.”
Tents aren’t their only task. They have also put in latrines, showering facilities and air conditioning units for the tents – bringing comfort to the city’s inhabitants.
Airmen from the 23rd Civil Engineering Squadron, Moody Air Force Base, Ga., and the 635th Material Maintenance Squadron, Holloman AFB, N.M., add to the dozens of housing tents they have helped construct on Tyndall AFB, Fla., Oct. 25, 2018.
“It is so rewarding to see people actually be able to go in and use the showers and have a climatized environment to sleep in after their hard day of work,” Wilson said. “They are able to come home, a deployed home, and have some kind of normality.”
Being able to help is especially important to Wilson, who is from New Orleans.
“When Katrina hit, I was deploying and a lot people did a lot of great things for my community and family,” he said. “It feels good to be paying it back, since I have been on the other side.”
For the other members of the team who may not have such strong emotional ties, the work is still rewarding, Wilson said..
“It can be trying work and repetitive,” Wilson said. “They are constantly counting parts and operationally checking equipment, but they are getting the opportunity to actually see the equipment working and being used for a purpose. Everyone is taking a lot of pride in that.”
Duran echoed his sentiment.
“They enjoy it,” she said. “They get to say, ‘this is what we do and what we do it for and we are helping these people out.’ They are getting fulfillment and satisfaction. For some, it is their first time putting training to work.”
Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II spent his last hours holed up in a fort near the Red Sea town of Maqdala. He was under siege by British troops who had just routed his numerically superior force and tore through his lines. With the British storming his fortress, the Emperor shot himself in the head, ironically using a gun gifted to him from Queen Victoria.
British forces had a field day with the fort. They would eventually destroy it before heading back to England, but first, they had to plunder everything of value from the captured prize. Their victory train required 15 elephants and 200 mules to carry all the gold, gems, and artifacts back to where they came from. But the British took more than that, they presented the Emperor’s seven-year-old son to Queen Victoria and kept locks of Emperor Tewodros II’s hair as a prize.
Not my first prize choice, but whatever.
Tewodros’ legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of Ethiopians to this day. More than 150 years later, the defiant Emperor’s spirit of independence inspires some of Ethiopia’s finest writers and artists. He is now a symbol for the potential of the country, a forward-thinking leader that would not bow to outside pressure or simply allow his people to be colonized. His star was on the rise as he worked to keep his country away from the brink of destruction, only to be brought down in a less-than-glorious way.
The Christian emperor was busy reuniting Ethiopia from various breakaway factions as the power and force of Islam and of Islamic nations put pressure on him to push back. Tewodros expected help from the Christian nations of the world but found none was forthcoming. He tried imprisoning British officials to force an expedition to come to Ethiopia’s aid. He got an expedition, but the 12,000 troop-strong force was coming for him, not his enemies.
The fort at Maqdala overlooks a deep valley. The British did not have an easy time of it here.
The Emperor imprisoned those officials at Maqdala, where he himself was holed up, along with 13,000 of his own men. The British force coming to the fort was comprised of only 9,000 men, but they were carrying superior firepower with them. When the redcoats completely tore up the Abyssinian army, Tewodros decided to take his own life, rather than submit to the humiliations that the British would surely subject him to.
That small act of defiance earned him immortality in Ethiopia, who remembers Tewodros today as one of the country’s most prominent cultural and historical figures.
And for decades, the Ethiopians have demanded the return of Tewodors’ hair. Only now, after decades and a French push to restore captured colonial artifacts to their home countries, has England ever considered giving in.
The deaths of four U.S. Special Forces soldiers in Niger last month have raised questions about America’s role in the fight against violent extremism in a sparsely populated region of Africa.
Before the October attack, in which at least four Nigerien soldiers were also killed, some members of Congress said they were aware of U.S. operations in Niger, but others — including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) — said they did not know U.S. troops were on the ground in Niger.
U.S. involvement includes more than 800 troops, according to Pentagon officials. There are also two drone bases in the country.
Niger and Burkina Faso want the U.S. to do more to support local governments in their fight against extremism, mainly by funding a new regional task force. The first-year operating budget for the five-nation force has been projected at $500 million. The United States is considering making a contribution of $60 million.
A decade of involvement
The heightened U.S. presence in the Sahel dates back to at least 2007, when the Pentagon established the United States Africa Command, AFRICOM. The command, based in Stuttgart, Germany, works with regional partners in Africa to strengthen security and stability. Since at least 2013, U.S. forces have conducted missions to train, advise, and assist in Niger, collaborating with local authorities to clamp down on armed extremists.
Niger has been a particularly important strategic partner in the region. During the Obama administration, the U.S. built drone bases in the capital, Niamey, and in the northern city of Agadez.
“Because the government of Niger has been a strong ally to the counterterrorism efforts, it’s been natural for the United States to station its counterterrorism forces in that country,” said Lisa Mueller, an assistant professor of political science at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.
But the Green Berets’ deaths have brought new scrutiny to U.S. partnerships in the Sahel, and it is unclear how — or if — the Trump administration might shift its policy in the region.
Some activists and U.S. lawmakers are concerned that some regional partners have authoritarian governments. Even Niger, said Brandon Kendhammer, an associate professor and director of the International Development Studies Program at Ohio University, is “problematically democratic.”
Still, Kendhammer characterized U.S. involvement as a net positive. “It’s pretty clear that these investments do make a real difference in the ability of the region to provide its own security,” he said.
Seeking input has been key to that success, according to Kendhammer. Despite perceptions among some observers that AFRICOM works unilaterally, the command has a track record of seeking local expertise and wide-ranging perspectives, Kendhammer said.
Green Beret deaths
Pentagon officials expect to complete their investigation into the Niger attack in January.
Based on what is now known, the U.S. soldiers killed last month were involved in exactly the kind of work that troops stationed in the Sahel undertake, Kendhammer said.
A big part of that role involves training local forces via workshops and fieldwork. Training can cover everything from basic operations to advanced tactics, including rapid response to terrorist attacks. To maximize their impact, the U.S. follows a “train the trainer” model, Kendhammer said, working with elite local forces who, in turn, share knowledge and skills.
No one has claimed responsibility for the October attack, but the Pentagon suspects possible involvement by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, one of several extremist organizations operating in the Sahel.
That presence typically involves local militants who pledge allegiance to an international organization like IS or al-Qaida. Such an affiliation might signal tenuous ties — occasional mention in an IS publication, for example — or ongoing communication with the broader network.
Either way, affiliating with an established terrorist organization can be more pragmatic than ideological. According to Kendhammer, the particular group alleged to be behind the Niger attack was previously affiliated with al-Qaeda and switched in 2015 or 2016 to find a better strategic partner.
The tactics employed by local militants hinge on undermining U.S. efforts. As VOA previously reported, it is likely that villagers in Tongo Tongo, where last month’s attack occurred, helped lure U.S. and Nigerien forces into a trap. The villagers’ willingness to assist militant groups reflects concerted efforts within those factions to build trust with local populations while fomenting contempt for America.
Daily Beast contributor Philip Obaji Jr. reported this month that residents of Tongo Tongo blamed the U.S. for a 2016 grenade attack that killed six children. No evidence has linked the U.S. to the incident, but local militant groups have pushed the narrative of an American-led slaughter to “win the hearts and minds of the local population,” Obaji wrote.
Governments in the Sahel say they need far more funding to carry out critical missions tied to two task forces: the newly-formed G5 counter-terrorism force and the Multinational Joint Task Force, a longstanding effort based in Chad that has been revitalized to fight Boko Haram.
Burkina Faso’s minister of foreign affairs, Alpha Barry, told VOA’s French to Africa service this month that the G5 force needs more help from the U.S., whose recent pledge will assist regional militaries but not the G5, according to Barry.
Despite its bases and troop deployments, U.S. investment in the Sahel, particularly in Mali and Niger, has so far been eclipsed, both financially and militarily, by the EU and France, Mueller said.
Concerns about lack of funding and efforts to demonize the U.S. may have a common solution: more local initiatives and buy-in. But bringing those solutions to fruition is easier said than done.
“In U.S. government discourse about West Africa, [we tend] to talk about the need for everything to be regionally oriented and for everything to be an African solution to an African problem. And those are good ideas in principle, but they don’t always translate directly into obvious policy,” Kendhammer said. “Not every regional initiative is going to be the right regional initiative. Not every local solution is going to be the local solution that’s actually going to solve the problem because countries have different interests.”
In the end, countries’ interests will dictate how well a solution works. In the Sahel, that’s complicated by a diverse host of local players, each with its own economic and security concerns.
For Niger, fighting extremism is less about combating a homegrown threat and more about securing its borders. “It might be tempting to look at Niger – a country that is approximately 99 percent Muslim in its population – and assume that Nigeriens are radicalizing. And as far as I can tell, that’s just not the case,” Mueller said.
Instead, threats have spilled into the country from all sides, putting Niger in the crosshairs.
The jihadist group Daesh (as ISIS hates to be called) warned the UK it “will suffer the lion’s share of the slaughter it plans for Europe.” British military vets are going to be ready.
The threat Daesh poses to Europe is being taken very seriously by members of the United Kingdom’s veteran community. So seriously, in fact, almost 60 former members of Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS), the UK’s most elite special forces outfit, are looking to get back in the fight.
According to the UK’s Mirror, 30 SAS operators, veterans of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond have reenlisted, while 30 more are on standby to do the same. The SAS, along with U.S. special forces operators are currently fighting Daesh in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
The recent Daesh attacks on Paris give the effort to fight the terror group abroad new urgency. Just as French special operators are on the streets of Paris and conducting counterterror operations they learned from Israeli commandos, the SAS’ elite counterterrorism unit, the Special Projects Group, are currently patrolling London in unmarked civilian vehicles.
“Former members of the SAS do rejoin the regiment, especially when there is a war approaching,” an unnamed British government source told the Mirror. “It happened after the 9/11 attacks and when the Iraq War began. But we have never seen a response like this.”
A former U.S. Army’s Special Forces officer has been arrested in Alexandria, VA, and charged with passing secrets of American military units and personnel to the Russian military intelligence arm (GRU) for over a decade.
Peter Rafael Dzibinski Debbins, 45, was recruited by Russian intelligence operatives as he considered himself a “son of Russia,” according to a 17-page indictment that was released after his arrest.
John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security said that,
“Debbins violated his oath as a U.S. Army officer, betrayed the Special Forces and endangered our country’s national security by revealing classified information to Russian intelligence officers, providing details of his unit, and identifying Special Forces team members for Russian intelligence to try to recruit as a spy [sic]. Our country put its highest trust in this defendant, and he took that trust and weaponized it against the United States.”
Debbins is the second person this week charged by the Justice Department for transmitting U.S. secrets to a foreign country. In the other case, a former CIA officer in Hawaii (Alexander Yuk Ching Ma) was arrested and charged with spying for China.
Debbins first agreed to spy for Russia back in 1996 when he was an ROTC cadet. His mother had been born in the former Soviet Union and Debbins told Russian GRU operatives who were trying to recruit him that he considered himself “a son of Russia.” He had told his Russian handlers that he considered the United States “too dominant” in world matters and that it “needed to be cut down to size.”
The GRU gave Debbins the code name “Ikar Lesnikov.”
In 1997 he married a Russian woman, the daughter of a Russian military officer from the Russian city of Chelyabinsk.
After graduating from the University of Minnesota and being assigned to a Chemical Co. in Korea, Debbins returned to Russia. He briefed his handlers on his unit, its mission, and personnel during a subsequent visit to Russia.
He offered to take a polygraph test for his handlers when they asked if he was working for an American intelligence agency. He told them that he wished to leave the military, but they encouraged him to stay. They further urged Debbins to apply for and join the Special Forces. He was told that “he was of no use to the Russian intelligence service as an infantry commander.” Debbins passed Special Forces Selection (SFAS) and the qualification course (SFQC) and was assigned as a captain in the 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (1-10 SFG).
On another trip to Russia, he briefed his GRU contacts about his SF unit, its personnel, locations, and mission. Debbins had his security clearance suspended and command of his A-Team revoked for an unspecified security violation in 2004 or 2005. He then left the military in 2005 with an honorable discharge, according to the indictment.
In subsequent meetings with his GRU handlers, Debbins disclosed information about his unit’s deployments to Azerbaijan and Georgia that were deemed “SECRET/NOFORN.” Debbins also gave the GRU the names of his former team members knowing that the Russians sought the “information for the purpose of evaluating whether to approach the team members to see if they would cooperate with the Russian intelligence service.” He also passed the names of two American counter-intelligence agents who tried to recruit him for an operation.
Once his active duty service was over he began to work for a Ukrainian steel company in Minnesota through his Russian contacts. He remained a member of the Reserves until 2010. During this time his security clearance was reinstated by an Army adjudicator, although he was warned that his family and business connections to Russia might make him “the target of a foreign intelligence service.”
Debbins was a “true believer” and not motivated by monetary gains. In fact, when the Russians (who are notoriously cheap in the intelligence world when it comes to paying agents) offered him id=”listicle-2647079043″,000 he initially declined it stating that he “loved and was committed to Russia.” He only reluctantly accepted the money as “gratitude for his assistance to the Russian intelligence service.” At a 2003 meeting, he was given a bottle of Cognac and a Russian military uniform.
The Justice Department did not divulge how it came to know that Debbins was spying for Russia. His last contact with his handlers was in 2011 when he told them that moved to the D.C. area (Gainesville, VA).
He will be indicted formally on Monday. He faces life imprisonment if convicted.
“The facts alleged in this case are a shocking betrayal by a former Army officer of his fellow soldiers and his country,” Alan E. Kohler Jr., FBI Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, said in a statement.
Award-winning nonprofit Pin-Ups for Vets is releasing its 13th annual fundraising calendar to raise money for VA hospitals; ill, injured, and homeless veterans; deployed troops; and military families. The 2019 calendar, photographed on the iconic Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA, features 19 female veterans decked out in World War II inspired fashion.
“Fans of Art Deco will appreciate the look of the upcoming calendar that reflects the vintage glamour of this 1936 cruise liner, now permanently docked in Long Beach, CA as a floating hotel,” said Pin-Ups For Vets Founder, Gina Elise, who established Pin-Ups For Vets in 2006, as a way to honor the WWII service of her grandfather.
Gina Elise, Founder
Gina has devoted her life to giving back to the military community. To date, Pin-Ups For Vets has donated over ,000 to help hospitals purchase new therapy equipment and to provide financial assistance for Veterans’ healthcare program expansion across the United States.
The 2019 calendar is officially ready for pre-order at www.PinUpsForVets.com. All 2019 Pin-Ups for Vets calendar pictures were taken by Shane Karns Photography — and let me just tell you…he really nailed it.
Kirstie Ennis, U.S. Marine Corps veteran
From a linguist, to a Human Intelligence Collector, to a combat photographer, to a combat medic, to a motor transportation operator, to a heavy equipment transporter driver leading convoys in Iraq, to a helicopter door gunner in Afghanistan, these ladies also include an above-the-knee amputee veteran (Marine Corps veteran Kirstie Ennis — who, by the way, at the time of this publishing was climbing Mount Denali in support of Service to Summit to raise money for Building Homes for Heroes, a nonprofit organization that builds or modifies homes and gives them to veterans in need).
Julie Noyes, Army veteran
Army veteran Julie Noyes says, “It can be so difficult as a female service member to feel empowered in her beauty without feeling like she may betray the professionalism of her uniform when we only seek to be treated like our male counterparts. I feel that Pin-Ups for Vets does a superb job at raising money and awareness for our elderly, wounded vets and our currently deployed troops while also showcasing the class and beauty of female veterans without objectifying them. What Pin-Ups Vets Founder Gina Elise has done with this publication and non-profit is nothing short of empowering and inspiring.”
Naumika Kumar, Navy Veteran
“I will always be thankful to the Navy. I met my husband in the Navy who is also a veteran now and I graduated from National University with Master’s Degree in 2012 as well. I am happy to see there are organization such as Pin-Ups For Vets who are doing so much to support the military and Veterans. I am happy that I got an opportunity to be part of the organization.”
Patti Gomez, Army veteran
Patti is a veteran of the United States Army, where she proudly served in the New York Army National Guard as a 35M (Human Intelligence Collector) of the 42nd Infantry Division, located in Glenville, New York. She volunteered to attend JRTC in Fort Polk, Louisiana, alongside the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team in July 2016. She also trained at Warfighter at Fort Indiantown Gap, Pennsylvania, with her unit in October 2017. Patti attended Basic Combat Training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and attended Advanced Individual Training at the United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.
“Pin-Ups for Vets is an incredible organization with an important mission. Being a part of a nonprofit that helps veterans and empowers women at the same time is truly an honor and one that I couldn’t pass up when I was asked to be a part of the 2019 calendar. As the reigning Mrs. New York America, my platform is veteran organizations — and Pin-Ups for Vets is truly among the best of them!”
Check out that cover image!
The 2019 calendar can be purchased at: www.PinUpsForVets.com or by check to: Pin-Ups For Vets, PO Box 33, Claremont, CA 91711.
An Air Force combat controller who risked his life during a battle to retake the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz in 2015 will receive the Silver Star in a ceremony on Fort Bragg early April.
Tech. Sgt. Brian C. Claughsey, part of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron, will be honored with the medal, the third-highest award for valor offered by the U.S. military, in a ceremony slated for April 7.
According to officials, he provided important support during operations to liberate Kunduz from Taliban control, protecting U.S. and Afghan forces while directing 17 close air support strikes from AC-130U and F-16 aircraft.
The Silver Star will be the latest in a lengthy history of valor from the 21st Special Tactics Squadron since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The unit, based at Fort Bragg’s Pope Field, is the most decorated in modern Air Force history, with four of the nine Air Force Crosses awarded since 2001 and 11 Silver Stars earned by the squadron’s airmen.
The medals have come not because the unit seeks them, but because its members often serve their country in the most dangerous of positions, officials said.
“Airmen like Brian honor the Air Force’s incredible legacy of valor,” said Lt. Col. Stewart Parker, commander of the 21st Special Tactics Squadron. “Like those who’ve gone before him, he serves our nation with no expectation of recognition.”
According to the squadron’s higher command, the 24th Special Operations Wing at Hurlburt Field, Florida, Claughsey recently completed Special Tactics Officer assessment and has been selected to become an officer. He will soon attend Officer Training School before commissioning as a second lieutenant.
Col. Michael E. Martin, commander of the 24th Special Operations Wing, praised the airman after officials confirmed the coming award on Friday.
“Brian is an exemplary airman and leader — he is a prime example of the professionalism, courage, and tactical know-how of the Special Tactics operator force,” he said. “In a violent, complex operating environment, Brian decisively integrated airpower with ground operations to eliminate the enemy, and save lives.”
An official description of Claughsey’s actions said he was part of a force that deployed to Kunduz on Sept. 28, 2015, after the city had fallen to an estimated 500 Taliban insurgents.
He volunteered to ride in the lead convoy vehicle to assume close air support duties during the movement into Kunduz and immediately took control of a AC-130U when the troops were ambushed upon entering the city.
Claughsey directed precision fires on an enemy strongpoint to protect the convoy. During a second ambush, he coordinated friendly force locations with an overhead AC-130U while directing “danger close” strikes.
When a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device forced the convoy to stop in the middle of a four-way intersection, Claughsey suppressed the machine gun fire of six insurgents with his own rifle while still coordinating with the AC-130U.
He directed the crew on the plane to destroy the enemy fighters and helped shield the convoy from follow-on attacks as it made its way to the compound of the Kunduz provincial chief of police.
There, the American special operators and Afghan forces came under attack by Taliban mortar fire. According to the narrative of the battle, Claughsey maneuvered as close to the mortars’ origin as possible to pinpoint the location to an overhead F-16.
He then controlled numerous strafing runs on the mortar position to eliminate the threat.
After helping to destroy the enemy mortar position, Claughsey moved to suppress enemy fire to allow another airman to direct another F-16 strike on the other side of the compound. He then stood exposed to enemy fire to hold a laser marker in position on an enemy building, directing two “danger close” strikes on the building from the F-16.
Those strikes killed an unspecified number of enemy attackers, effectively ending the attack on the Kunduz police compound.
Claughsey, from Connecticut, enlisted in May 2008 and became a combat controller in February 2014, after two years of rigorous training, according to officials.
He has deployed twice, once to Afghanistan and once to Kuwait as part of a global access special tactics team to survey and establish airfield operations.
He has previously been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, and Air Force Combat Action Medal.
Chris Fogt, 34, of Orange Park, Florida, is about to head to his third and likely final Olympics. He earned the bronze medal in Sochi in the four-man competition.
Like New York Army National Guard Sgt. Nick Cunningham, Fogt was also a track star before turning to the ice. He was a sprinter at Utah Valley University before he was recruited to bobsledding in 2007.
At that point, he’d been in the Army for two years — a choice he made, in part, because of his dad’s 33 years of service as a reservist.
After competing in the 2010 Vancouver Games, Fogt deployed to Iraq for a year to help train Iraqi intelligence agencies on how to track terrorists via technology. He said with the help of the World Class Athlete Program, he was able to train full-time while there so he could stay in contention for future bobsled competitions.
“There is no way I would be as successful in this sport without the military’s support,” Fogt said in a 2013 Army interview. “I feel like the Army’s training and experience has made me mentally strong and drives me to excel. Being around Soldiers, both in and out of the World Class Athlete Program, always inspires me to strive for excellence.”
Fogt took about three years off after competing in the Sochi Olympics. But last year, while three-quarters of his battalion was deployed to Kuwait, he stayed behind in the U.S. because he was the rear detachment manager. So, he decided to get back into bobsledding.
Antibiotic resistance is a one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Scientists working on an Army project have developed a new weapon to combat super-bugs, which could protect soldiers and fight resistance.
Bacteriophage, a virus that infects and replicates within bacteria, kill bacteria through different mechanisms than antibiotics, and they can target specific strains, making them an appealing option for potentially overcoming multidrug resistance. However, quickly finding and optimizing well-defined bacteriophages to use against a bacterial target is challenging.
Researchers at the MIT Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, identified a way to do just that. The U.S. Army established the institute in 2002 as an interdisiciplinary research center to dramatically improve protection, survivability and mission capabilities of the soldier and of soldier-supporting platforms and systems.
“This is a crucial development in the battle against these superbugs,” said Dr. James Burgess, program manager, Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, Army Research Office, an element of the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory. “Finding a cure for antibiotic-resistant bacteria is particularly important for soldiers who are deployed to parts of the world where they may encounter unknown pathogens or even antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Wounded soldiers are even more susceptible to infections, and they may come home carrying these drug-resistant bugs.”
Green Berets assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) move to load onto a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter for extraction during a training event.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Steven Lewis)
In this study, published in Cell, MIT biological engineers showed that they could rapidly program bacteriophages to kill different strains of E. coli by making mutations in a viral protein that binds to host cells. The results showed that these engineered bacteriophages are also less likely to provoke resistance in bacteria.
“As we’re seeing in the news more and more now, bacterial resistance is continuing to evolve and is increasingly problematic for public health,” said Timothy Lu, an MIT associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering and the study’s senior author. “Phages represent a very different way of killing bacteria than antibiotics, which is complementary to antibiotics, rather than trying to replace them.”
The researchers created several engineered phages that could kill E. coli grown in the lab. One of the newly created phages was also able to eliminate two E. coli strains that are resistant to naturally occurring phages from a skin infection in mice.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved a handful of bacteriophages for killing harmful bacteria in food, but they have not been widely used to treat infections because finding naturally occurring phages that target the right kind of bacteria can be a difficult and time-consuming process.
To make such treatments easier to develop, Lu’s lab has been working on engineered viral scaffolds that can be easily repurposed to target different bacterial strains or different resistance mechanisms.
‘Blues Platoon’ conducts ‘Fallen Angel’ training.
(U.S. Army photo)
“We think phages are a good toolkit for killing and knocking down bacteria levels inside a complex ecosystem, but in a targeted way,” Lu said.
The researchers wanted to find a way to speed up the process of tailoring phages to a particular type of bacteria. They came up with a strategy that allows them to rapidly create and test a much greater number of tail fiber variants.
They created phages with about 10 million different tail fibers and tested them against several strains of E. coli that had evolved to be resistant to the non-engineered bacteriophage. One way that E. coli can become resistant to bacteriophages is by mutating LPS receptors so that they are shortened or missing, but the MIT team found that some of their engineered phages could kill even strains of E. coli with mutated or missing LPS receptors.
The researchers plan to apply this approach to target other resistance mechanisms used by E. coli and to develop phages that can kill other types of harmful bacteria.
“Being able to selectively hit those non-beneficial strains could give us a lot of benefits in terms of human clinical outcomes,” Lu said.
The Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies engages in fundamental, multidisciplinary nanoscience research relevant to the soldier. In collaboration with Army and industrial partners, this focused nanoscience research creates opportunities for new materials, properties and phenomena that will directly advance modernization efforts. As an Army University-Affiliated Research Center, the institute’s contract is administered and overseen for the U.S. Army by the Army Research Office.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. became the sole superpower on the world stage, and was able to take advantage of the vast global influence it had amassed since the late 19th century.
But in recent years, this power has been fading.
From the South China Sea to the Middle East to Latin America, places where the U.S. once comfortably exerted its economic, military, and political power are slowly beginning to slip out of America’s grip, and often into China’s. Although former President Barack Obama initiated this trend in some regions through calculated disengagement, it has accelerated sharply under President Donald Trump.
Here are 10 regions where U.S. influence has faded most dramatically:
10. The South China Sea
The strategic and oil-rich South China Sea is one of the most contested waterways in the world, and the U.S. and its allies have competed with China for control of it for years. While the Obama administration took a tough stance on the issue and even forced China to back down from further expansion in the area in 2016, the Trump administration has instead pursued other priorities.
While on his trip to Asia this month, Trump articulated a largely incoherent policy on the South China Sea together with Vietnam and Philippines, but focused mainly on trade and North Korea. As a result, China has had a much freer hand in asserting its dominance in the region, and has expanded military bases, strengthened missile shelters, and built up small reefs into developed islands from which it can project its maritime influence — all to the detriment of U.S. power in the area.
Vietnam and China recently reached an agreement on the sea, and China’s foreign minister indicated it was a sign that the countries in the region did not trust the U.S. anymore to resolve such disputes.
9. The Pacific
The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), foreground, the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Z.A. Landers)
The U.S. has long had a powerful military and economic presence in the Pacific, and Obama had hoped to create even closer ties between the U.S. and east Asia through the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The controversial agreement was also seen as an effort to counter expanding Chinese trade power in the region.
In one of his first moves in office, though, Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the agreement. In response, the remaining 11 countries that signed onto the TPP formed their own pact without the U.S. earlier this month, cutting the U.S. out of potentially profitable export opportunities and diminishing its influence along the crucial Pacific Rim.
“It’s a huge setback for the United States,” Deborah Elms, the executive director of the Asian Trade Center, told Voice of America. “If you are an exporter, this is deeply damaging.”
U.S. Ambassador to the Asian Development Bank Robert Orr agreed.
“When Trump abdicated TPP and then told regional nations to go on their own as the U.S. would, it was inevitable that a new formulation of TPP would emerge not only without American leadership, but also without even an American presence,” he said.
8. The Philippines
America’s deep historical ties to the Philippines stretch back to the 1898 Spanish-American War, when the U.S. acquired the islands from Spain. Since then, the U.S. has maintained bases in the Philippines and has enjoyed immense cultural and political influence on the islands.
Along with Israel, Turkey has been considered the most reliable U.S. ally in the Middle East for decades and has been a crucial member of the NATO alliance since 1952.
Yet few of America’s ally relationships have become as strained as the one with Turkey in recent years. Peeved by America’s escalating diplomatic chastisement of its authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the U.S.’s continued support for Kurds in Syria, Turkey has diverged from the U.S. on numerous regional issues.
China, in particular, has stepped up to the plate in Africa, and the value of its investments on the continent outweigh America’s by a factor of 10. While the Obama administration had at least tried, unsuccessfully, to expand its reach in Africa from a security standpoint, the Trump administration, which has slashed foreign aid funding, has been “asleep at the wheel” according to Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Other officials, like former U.S. representative to the African Union, Reuben Brigety, agree.
“The most disturbing thing is they are looking beyond us at this point,” Brigety told U.S. News and World Report. “As [African countries] are getting their act increasingly together… They are no longer waiting for us to figure out what we may be doing.”
While Americans and Europeans often viewed Africa from a security lens, the Chinese have used state-owned corporations to entrench China’s geopolitical influence on the continent through industrial, infrastructure, and mining projects.
5. Latin America
The U.S. has also increasingly become outpaced by China in Latin America, right in the U.S.’s backyard.
As the U.S. has devoted its attention to other regions of the world, China has stepped in to fill the void economically, and has now replaced the U.S. as the main trading partner of regional giants like Peru, Venezuela, Brazil, and Argentina. Militarily, China has also been angling itself as a weapons provider in Latin America, and its developing Pacific Navy may well come to play a role in Pacific South America in years to come.
Following years of American involvement, the countries of Latin America formed a new international group called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that excludes the U.S. and Canada — and instead of meeting on the American continent, CELAC held a major conference in Beijing in 2015, according to CNN Money.
Evan Ellis, a Latin American expert and professor at the U.S. Army War College, told CNN that, like in other parts of the world, China is offering investment and trade benefits with no strings attached.
“China provides a source of financing and export markets without pressures to adhere to practices of transparency, open markets, and Western style democracy,” Ellis said.
All of this is very appealing to Latin American countries like Venezuela, among others.
When the U.S. passed a new sanctions bill against Russia this past July, it included a clause that said Congress could also levy sanctions against companies that worked on Russian export pipelines — and the Germans, whose companies are planning to do just that on the Russian-German Nord Stream 2 pipeline, erupted in protest.
President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said the EU was prepared to retaliate economically against the U.S. for the moves.
The diplomatic awkwardness on the energy issue reflects an increasing distance Germany and the European Union have felt toward the U.S. ever since the Obama years — Europeans’ trust of the U.S. has fallen by more than half since 2009. More recently, politicians in western Europe have complained about Trump’s refugee policy.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel summed up Europe’s increasing distance from the U.S. in May of this year.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days” she said. “We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands.”
3. The Arab Middle East
In 2009, Obama made a sweeping speech in Cairo that promised a new future for the Middle East, and especially for the Arab nations that make up its core. At the height of the Arab Spring two years later, it seemed like the U.S. had committed itself to use its power in the region to advance Arab democratic interests.
Yet in 2017, from Iraq in the east to Lebanon and Jordan in the west, it is no secret that U.S. influence in the Arab Middle East is at historic lows. Iranian regional dominance in the Fertile Crescent and Yemen, instability in Saudi Arabia, and the continuing appeal of Islamism over Western liberalism all mean that America’s ability to direct politics in the region has become seriously undermined.
After decades of American interventionism in the Arab Middle East that have borne little fruit, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently stated that if Trump withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal, “no one will trust America again.”
However Arabs’ distrust of the U.S. has deeper causes than just American waffling on deals like the one with Iran — Obama’s inaction on Syria, which many Arabs saw as a betrayal, along with America’s continued singular focus on stamping out terrorism in the region have dampened hopes that the U.S. has ever had the best interests of Arabs in mind.
The U.S. has long striven to maintain influence on the southeast Asian mainland, perhaps most directly through the Vietnam War, and has frequently served as a bulwark in the region against China.
This bulwark seems to be weakening though, and China has been rapidly supplanting U.S. influence throughout the region by investing heavily where Americans will not. While in past decades human rights and democracy had to be cultivated in Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia for the U.S. to do business there, with Trump stepping back and downplaying the importance of human rights on his recent Asia trip, southeast Asian nations have been given a freer hand — and in many cases have turned to China as a partner instead due to its strategic economic know-how.
China has long sought deeper involvement in the affairs of countries in its own backyard, and America’s disengagement on issues like the South China Sea have allowed it to unilaterally extend political and economic influence over southeast Asian countries on the mainland.
Among locals though, Chinese influence isn’t necessarily a good thing. A recent survey conducted from Singapore showed that 70% of Southeast Asians see U.S. influence as positive for regional stability, however 51% also stated that the U.S. had lost power in the region to China since Trump took office.
The U.S. and Pakistan have been ardent allies throughout the Cold War and into the War on Terror, but recent political differences and the growing influence of China in the country have strained American power in the south Asian country.
Pakistan, which has been India’s arch-rival since 1947, has instead turned to China, just like so many other tepid U.S. allies around the world. Pakistan’s top foreign policy advisor Sartaj Aziz indicated as much in June of this year.
“Pakistan’s relations with China are the cornerstone of our foreign policy,” Aziz said.
One of the challenges facing Army leadership as they transition to the new Army Combat Fitness Test, which will be fully implemented by October 2020, is preventing musculoskeletal training injuries. Physical training is necessary to develop and maintain the fitness required to accomplish military missions, but is also known to cause injury.
According to Army Public Health Center experts, MSK injuries and related conditions led to an average of 37 limited duty days per injury. This translates to 2 million medical encounters across the Army annually and an estimated 10 million lost training days due to limited duty.
“Seventy percent of all limited duty profiles are for MSK injuries,” said Dr. Michelle Chervak, acting manager for the APHC Injury Prevention Program, which identifies causes and risk factors for Army training-related injuries. “We can show that greater amounts of training (for example, of running or road marching) result in more injuries. Civilian data show us that there are levels of training above which injury rates increase, but fitness does not improve — two signs of overtraining.”
Dr. Bruce Jones, senior scientist, APHC Clinical Public Health and Epidemiology Directorate, explained further that part of the problem for the Army is that the thresholds of training above which injury rates increase and fitness does not have not been established. However, commanders have the information necessary to make decisions about the thresholds — they know the amount of training, physical fitness of their soldiers, and the number of soldiers on profile.
This infograph offers several tips for leaders to help their soldiers avoid MSK injuries.
“What we need to provide commanders are the general principles of training injury prevention; and an understanding of the relationships between training, fitness, and injuries,” said Jones. “They have to determine the risk of injury they are willing to accept.”
APHC Injury Prevention is working on updating financial and readiness costs to the Army due to MSK injuries.
“At this time, the only formal cost estimate that we have comes from a National Safety Council report for the Secretary of Defense,” said Chervak. “That report stated the annual costs ranged from -20 billion (2001 data). Roughly 40 percent of all injuries across the Department of Defense occur to Army personnel, so the Army costs are approximately .8-8 billion.”
The 2018 Health of the Force report highlights a previous Army success in reducing injury by changing its approach to fitness training.
In 2003, the Army evaluated a new standardized physical training program designed to enhance fitness while minimizing injuries through avoidance of overtraining. An evaluation group implemented the new standardized program and a comparison group conducted traditional PT (running, calisthenics, push-ups, and sit-ups). After nine weeks of basic combat training, the evaluation group had fewer injuries and a higher APFT pass rate.
Army Physical Fitness Test at the Department of the Army Best Warrior Competition.
The modified program reduced the total miles run by trainees, conducted distance runs by ability groups, added speed drills, executed warm-up exercises instead of pre-exercise stretching, progressed training amount and intensity gradually, and provided a wider variety of exercises.
In 2004, the new standardized PT program based on this evaluated program was mandated for all BCT units across the Army. It was also incorporated into Army physical training doctrine. From 2003 to 2013, a 46 percent decrease in all injuries and a 54 percent decrease in lower extremity overuse injuries among Army trainees was observed.
Jones recommends a five-step public health approach as the most effective construct for Army public health to organize and build an injury prevention program. Steps include surveillance to define the magnitude of the problem, research and field investigations to identify causes and risk factors, intervention trials and systematic reviews to determine what works to address leading risk factors, program and policy implementation to execute prevention, and program evaluation to assess effectiveness.
Jones also notes that both overweight and underweight soldiers who are the least physically fit are at the highest risk for injury compared to their most fit peers.
“The highest risks occur among the most underweight (leanest), least physically fit (slowest run times) men and women in basic training,” said Jones. “This is probably because underweight soldiers lack the muscle mass necessary to perform soldiers tasks and withstand the vigorous physical activity required.”
Injury risks are also 20 to 50 percent higher for soldiers who smoke cigarettes.
“A variety of hypotheses explain this relationship; the most feasible is that smokers have a reduced ability to heal following injury,” said Chervak. “Overuse injuries result from an inability to repair damage due to daily training; smokers repair that cumulative microtrauma less rapidly.”
U.S. Army Spc. Cameron Hebel, assigned to 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, performs sit-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at Joint Multinational Training Command Best Warrior Competition at Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, May 8, 2013.
(U.S. Army Photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
APHC is currently piloting a program through the Army Wellness Center at Fort Campbell focused on identifying soldiers at highest injury risk based on APFT run time, the leading predictor of active-duty Army injury risk.
APHC is working with specific units and the Fort Campbell Community Ready and Resilient Council to identify soldiers who meet the criteria for referral (men: run time slower than 15 minutes; women: run time slower than 19 minutes), said Chervak. These soldiers are offered AWC fitness assessments to assist with improving aerobic fitness, physical activity, sleep, and body composition.
“AWC education efforts focus on physical activity, sleep, nutrition (weight loss), and tobacco cessation; all factors that influence injury risk,” said Chervak. “There is a natural partnership with APHC’s Health Promotion and Wellness directorate. Key avenues of influence are Performance Triad-related communications and referral of high risk soldiers to the AWCs.”
Jones said the most important step forward is for leadership to recognize that training-related injuries are a problem and they can be prevented.
“Commanders need to recognize that there are no magic bullets,” said Jones. “Training causes injuries and modifications of training will prevent injuries. Commanders have the information to monitor injuries and fitness, and modify training to prevent injuries. We still need to determine the thresholds of training by unit at which injuries increase, but fitness does not improve.”
The news comes nearly a week after sources close to the Donald Trump campaign indicated the real estate mogul is seriously considering former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his running mate, an outside-the-box choice that would bring a registered Democrat and an Iraq war critic onto the 2016 Republican ticket.
The Clinton campaign’s look at Stavridis has been widely applauded by former colleagues of the once-Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, some of whom consider him a “warrior scholar” with deep knowledge of the global strategic landscape and a thought leader in national security policy.
“Admiral Stavridis is one of the finest military officers of his generation,” former top Pentagon official Michele Flournoy told Reuters in a statement. “He is a person of great ability and integrity, and an exceptional leader. He has the talents, experience, judgment and temperament to serve the American people at the highest levels of our government.”
A year before his retirement from the Navy in 2013, Stavridis was given a speaking slot at the prestigious Ted Talks, where he discussed his vision for a new global strategic policy in which security would be “built with bridges instead of walls.” The video has reportedly been viewed over 700,000 times.
Stavridis now serves as the Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston, one of the most prestigious graduate schools of foreign and national security policy in the United States. Before that, the 1976 Naval Academy graduate served as the 16th Supreme Allied Commander of Europe and the top military official at Southern Command.
According to his official bio, Stavridis has written six books and published hundreds of articles on leadership and strategic policy. And his accomplishments extend well beyond the lecture hall and onto the ship’s bridge, where he was awarded the Battenberg Cup for commanding the top ship in the Atlantic Fleet (USS Barry DDG-52) in the mid-1990s, and he was awarded the Navy League John Paul Jones Award for Inspirational Leadership after his command of Destroyer Squadron 21 in the Arabian Gulf in 1998.
Stavridis also led the Navy’s Deep Blue think tank, a service policy shop that often challenges leadership and technology assumptions and pushes new innovations for Navy strategy and tactics.
Salsa dancing and the military…it’s so crazy it just might work.
In honor of National Military Appreciation Month, Univision Communications Inc. and We Are The Mighty are teaming up to create a Salsa #InVETational, a dance competition for active duty servicemembers and veterans.
There are three reasons why this is actually pretty cool:
Servicemembers and veterans will be the main event as they compete alongside their dance partners, showcasing their best Latin dance moves for Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata and vying for 1st place prize of id=”listicle-2565272073″,000 in each category and 0 for 2nd place.
Also, this event is totally free for active duty military and veterans.
“Salsa dancing nights have long been enjoyed by active duty military and veterans alike not only for therapeutic purposes, but as a cultural connection within the military community,” noted David Gale, CEO Co-Founder, We Are The Mighty.
The arts are a powerful way for vets to heal after military service, and dance in particular adds the physical element we grew accustomed to on active duty. Dancing puts us back in our bodies, pushes our comfort levels, and connects us to music in very intense ways.
Hispanics have a longstanding tradition of military service to our country. According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs 2014 Minority Veterans Report, Hispanics comprise 12.4% of Post-911 veterans with more than one million Latinos currently in uniform.
Learning about our American mixing pot makes us stronger, united, and worldly.
Plus, we’re talking about a culture that knows how to flavor its food, baby — and there will be plenty of it at the event.
The event will take place on May 12, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas.
Military and veterans interested in participating with a partner must be at least 21 years of age. The next qualifying round is May 6, 2018, at Arjon’s International Club. Registration starts at 8 p.m. and the contest kicks off at 9:30 p.m. Five couples from each category will advance to the finals on May 12.
For anyone who cannot attend, you can help veterans in the San Antonio area by supporting the Lackland Fisher House, a home-away-from-home for the families of seriously ill or injured patients receiving treatment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio Military Medical Center or other medical facilities in the San Antonio Area at no cost.