Ah, springtime. It’s almost that beautiful time of year again.
Junior enlisted are happy, NCOs are yelling at them to downgrade to the summer PT uniform, and sergeant majors can finally see their beloved grass before a dumb butter bar walks on it. Rumor has it that the warrant officer might have even come out of hibernation!
For once, things are optimistic. Pizza MREs are coming, the Army is getting its Pinks and Greens back, and a sweet pay increase is coming. So, take it easy. Relax. Enjoy the smell of freshly cut memes.
13. Every. Single. Time.
12. “What are they going to do? Kick me out — oh…”
11. Holding random clipboards or putting your cellphone up to your ear also works.
10. We get enough opinions from the “Good Idea Fairy;” we don’t need anymore.
9. The beard comes standard with every DD-214.
8. Any troop who says they haven’t had to open an MRE packet with their mouth is a damn liar.
7. Perfect, until you drop something…
6. Will Gunny ever relax? Will we ever find the WO? Tune in next week.
5. They’re not mutually exclusive.
4. Eye for an eye. Next time they try to miss formation and lie about being “at dental,” get their asses.
3. If Big Army took the same approach, maybe everyone would get their SSD1 done.
The police official’s testimony seems to confirm a May 2017 report from The Asahi Shimbun, which described Kim Jong Nam meeting a Korean-American who Malaysian officials suspected was a U.S intelligence agent.
According to the report, the two met on Feb. 9 and Kim’s computer showed a record of a thumb drive being inserted, which some have speculated was used to offload vital information to the suspected U.S. agent. The report includes a photo that purports to show the two meeting, though the suspected agent’s face is cropped out. On Jan. 29, the police official seemed to confirm the encounter took place.
While reports about Kim’s life say he was a gambler with no ambitions to rule North Korea, he would make sense as someone whom the U.S. — and even China — would want to groom and leverage to possibly remove Kim Jong Un from power.
At 34 years old, Kim Jong Un could lead North Korea for another three to five decades. While his leadership makes obvious its hostility to the U.S., he is also no fan of China.
Citing three sources, Nikkei Asian Review reported in August 2017 that top government officials in China and North Korea seriously considered a plot to remove Kim Jong Un in 2012, however the plot reportedly fell through and resulted in the dictator having his own uncle killed.
Unlike his predecessors, Kim Jong Un has never visited Beijing nor had Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un has never met with another head of state, and has increasingly been viewed as out of Beijing’s control, while threatening the U.S. with nuclear weapons.
Kim Jong Un has effectively put a giant nuclear target on China’s borders, and risks having his country overthrown and occupied by U.. troops. Kim also has had top officials with ties to China brutally assassinated with packs of dogs or anti-aircraft guns, according to reports.
As a result, both the U.S. and China have plenty of reason to wish for something to end Kim Jong Un’s rule over North Korea. Because North Korea is ruled by the Kim family dynasty, Kim Jong Un could theoretically be replaced with another Kim in a relatively bloodless coup.
Such an opportunity may have proven too enticing for both the U.S. and China to pass up, and too risky for North Korea to ignore.
Kim family infighting becomes geopolitical
An anonymous source told South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo in November 2017 that Chinese authorities blocked a plot from seven North Korean assassins to enter the country and kill Kim Han Sol, the son of Kim Jong Nam.
Though North Korea denies any involvement in the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the same country that has worked to build up a nuclear arsenal while under the heaviest sanctions on earth might not think twice about offing a member of the Kim family to protect from coups orchestrated by outsiders.
Kim Han Sol, another legitimate Kim, now fears for his life as he represents the heir to a bloodline that could unseat one of the world’s most brutal rulers.
If true, the battle may mark the deadliest encounter between the Cold War rivals in decades.
While the Kremlin has declined to comment, and no independent party has yet verified the reports, U.S. and Russian aligned forces have fought on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict and in close proximity for years.
If the U.S. did kill Russian military contractors, it falls short of killing official Russian service members, which could escalate into a larger war.
But the loss of Russians in Syria may still blacken the image of the Kremlin’s intervention in the six-year civil war, which it portrays as peacekeeping and inexpensive.
Russian media said Russian private contractors and pro-government forces advanced on oil fields in the eastern Deir el-Zour province and were targeted by the United States.
“Pro-regime forces initiated what appeared to be a coordinated attack on Syrian Democratic Forces east of the Euphrates river,” Pentagon spokesperson Dana White said in a statement, referring to the SDF, which the U.S. has trained, equipped, and backed for years.
The river acts as a border between the coalition and Russian and Syrian forces, and the Pentagon also described the SDF location as well-known, and that therefore the attack wasn’t a mistake.
Syrian regime forces launched a coordinated attack that included about 500 regime troops, 122mm howitzers, tanks and multiple launch rocket systems on the U.S.-backed SDF headquarters in Deir al-Zor province approximately five miles east of the Euphrates River.
The U.S.-led coalition responded with “AC-130 gunships, F-15s, F-22s, Army Apache helicopter gunships and Marine Corps artillery,” according to Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson.
The Pentagon said that the attack wounded only one SDF soldier. Days later, a U.S. jet destroyed a Russian-made T-72 battle tank that had fired on U.S. and SDF forces, the Pentagon told Business Insider.
You’ve done the crafts, you’ve read the entire internet and you’ve finished Netflix. All there’s left to do is cry, eat and laugh. We’ll help you out with the last one. Hope you and yours are staying safe, healthy and somewhat sane.
These are your top 50 memes and tweets for the week of April 20:
1. Everything is fine
At least he’s maintaining social distancing.
2. The word of the mom
3. Conference calls
Zoom backgrounds make it better.
4. Laughter IS the best medicine
Oh Dad. So smart.
5. Happy little tree
I want peopleeeeeee.
6. Atta boy
Nothing to see here, nothing to see.
7. True transformation
I’m not proud of how hard I laughed at that one!!
8. The boombox
We’ve trained our whole life for this.
9. So loud
What are you eating, BONES?
10. M.J. knew
Now if we could just heal the world…
11. More vodka, please!
These are good life skills.
12. Reality tv
No wonder my kids like to watch other kids playing with toys on YouTube. We do the same thing with HGTV.
13. No pants
I can’t imagine having to wear shoes to a meeting again…
14. Hand washing
So many temptations to touch your face.
15. Catch me outside
How bout dat?
16. Shady pines
Might have to binge watch Golden Girls.
17. So much truth
If you having tortilla chips for breakfast means I don’t have to cook…
18. Iguana private office
Something about you getting on the phone screams, “COME TALK TO ME.”
19. SPF 15
At least you’re getting your vitamin D.
20. Dreams do come true
You bought it “for the pandemic.”
21. Pro tip
It’s like working out, but easier.
The sun is not impressed.
Every parent ever.
The sweatshirt is a nice touch. I bet her Barbie dream house is covered in crafts and regret.
25. Jax beach
26. What happens in Vegas…
Quarantine needs to stay in April 2020.
27. SO much truth
And most of them look tired.
28. Pajama shorts
Trick question. You don’t have to wear pants.
29. Good PR
Mmm ice cream.
30. Singing in the rain
31. Sick car
Taped together and barely holding on — a working title of everyone’s 2020 memoir.
32. Get it girl
No but seriously, why did I eat all my snacks?
33. Dun-dun. Dun-dun. Dun-dun.
To be fair, everyone didn’t die.
34. Lightning speed
Well played, fastest man in the world.
35. All by myself
We feel you, Ernie.
The isolation has turned to boredom.
We heard there’s a DUI checkpoint in the hallway though, so be careful.
38. Last nerves
Every. Little. Thing.
39. Grooming at home
All of our DIY haircuts and grooming.
40. Apologies, ya’ll
Lots of self-awareness happening.
It does, Kermie. It does.
42. Mind over matter
Beware my special powers.
43. Dogs know the truth
Stop judging me.
44. You can’t have both
This is why we can’t have nice days.
Deep thoughts by Dad.
46. Zoom stand in
I think people would pay for this.
47. You did it!
At least you didn’t quit.
48. Pinky promise
Just boxed wine. Not the ‘rona.
49. You know that’s right
Maybe you’ll get a “spa day” in the bathroom by yourself.
Suspected Taliban insurgents attacked a US-operated base in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Khost April 24, officials said, but gave few immediate details of an assault that coincided with a visit to Kabul by US Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
The attackers had detonated a car bomb at an entrance to Camp Chapman, a secretive facility manned by US forces and private military contractors, said Mubarez Mohammad Zadran, a spokesman for the provincial governor.
But he had little immediate information on any damage or casualties.
“I am aware of a car bomb attack at one of the gates in the US base, but we are not allowed there to get more details,” the spokesman said.
A spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan, Capt. William Salvin, confirmed the car bomb attack. He said there appeared to be a number of Afghan casualties but none among US or coalition personnel at the base.
The attack came just three days after more than 140 Afghan soldiers were killed in an attack on their base by Taliban fighters disguised in military uniforms.
The Russian sub fleet is growing and growing more active, and the US and its NATO partners are more concerned about what those boats and rest of the Russian navy are up to around Europe.
For the US Navy, that means more focus on the Atlantic, especially the North Atlantic, closer to the home base of Russia’s Northern Fleet on the Barents Sea.
At the end of September 2019, the Navy reestablished Submarine Group 2 in Norfolk, Virginia, five years after the unit was deactivated. The reactivation comes just over a year after the Navy reestablished its Second Fleet, which oversees the western half of the Atlantic up into the high north.
Sonar Technician (Submarines) 3rd Class Christopher T. Woods stands lookout on the Navy sub Colorado in the Atlantic Ocean prior to its commissioning, January 11, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Jeffrey M. Richardson)
The reestablishment of Submarine Group 2 is likewise “aimed at enhancing the Navy’s capacity to command and control its undersea warfare forces seamlessly across the entire Atlantic area, from the eastern seaboard of the United States to the Barents Sea, and even into the Southern Atlantic, if the need arises,” the Navy said in a release.
Echoing the comments of the Navy’s top officer upon the reestablishment of Second Fleet, Vice Adm. Charles Richard, commander of US submarine forces in the Atlantic, cited the “more challenging and complex” security situation as the reason for the return of Group 2.
“To maintain America’s undersea superiority, we must increase naval power and our readiness for high-end blue water warfare. How we’re organized to command that employment will be a driving factor in our success — that’s why we’re re-establishing Sub Group 2 today,” Richard said in the release.
A submarine group, composed of squadrons, handles the organization, training, and equipping of those boats while they’re state-side. Individual subs are attached to that squadron and group until they’re assigned to a combatant command, six of which are responsible for operations in specific areas of the globe.
A US Navy chief petty officer of the boat aboard pre-commissioned unit (PCU) South Dakota, directs his team while underway in the Atlantic Ocean, Nov. 27, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jared Bunn)
“Until [a submarine] makes that transition, it’s part of Group 2,” which owns it and operates it and tells it what to do, said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
Reestablishing Submarine Group 2 doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more subs prowling the Atlantic, but its return is important because the “group is in charge of the movement and the command and control of the ship” before it transitions over to combatant command, Clark said.
Without Group 2, the attention of command elements in the Atlantic was spread thin over a larger number of subs. Bringing back Group 2, Clark said, “allows you to put more attention on the North Atlantic submarines.”
“Along with the second fleet … it’s a way of putting more command and control and leadership attention on that part of the ocean,” Clark added.
Russian Black Sea Fleet’s B-265 Krasnodar Improved Kilo-class submarine.
Reestablishing Second Fleet and Submarine Group 2 are “visible representations of the US commitment to the security in the Atlantic in an era of great power competition,” Lt. Marycate Walsh, a spokesperson for Second Fleet, said in an email.
“Increased challenges and threats required a commensurate increase in capacity to address possible contingencies,” Walsh said, adding that Group 2’s operations in the region will add to and integrate with those of Second Fleet.
Submarine Group 2 also oversees anti-submarine warfare for US Fleet Forces Command and, when assigned, for Fourth Fleet. Fleet Forces Command organizes, trains, and equips naval forces for assignment to combatant commands, and Fourth Fleet is responsible for ships, subs, and aircraft operating around Central and South America.
In that role, Submarine Group 2 will “employ combat-ready forces in [anti-submarine warfare] and undersea warfare operations across mission-essential sea-service functions,” Cmdr. Jodie Cornell, a spokesperson for Submarine Forces Atlantic, said in an email.
The USS Rhode Island returns to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia after three months at sea.
(US Navy photo)
Group 2 will also “ensure assigned staffs and submarines achieve and maintain a level of training, personnel and material readiness necessary to carry out their assigned missions” and “advocate for resources and requirements that enable advancements in [anti-submarine warfare] and undersea warfare operations,” Cornell said.
The Navy generally does not comment on operations, and neither Cornell or Walsh would comment on potential future operations for subs assigned to Submarine Group 2.
But Richard’s mention of the Barents Sea, adjacent to the home of Russia’s Northern Fleet and its strategic nuclear forces on the Kola Peninsula, hints an increasing concern among US and NATO forces about Russian subs being able to reach into Europe with their relatively new sub-launched missile capability.
“The Kalibr-class cruise missile, for example, has been launched from coastal-defense systems, long-range aircraft, and submarines off the coast of Syria,” Adm. James Foggo, head of US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, said in late 2018. “They’ve shown the capability to be able to reach pretty much all the capitals in Europe from any of the bodies of water that surround Europe.”
Ranges of Russia’s Kalibr missiles when fired from seas around Europe. Light red circles are the land-attack version. Dark red circles indicate the anti-ship version.
The threat of sub-launched cruise missiles is “certainly … part of what this is intended to address,” Clark said of Submarine Group 2. “This gives better coordination and better command and control of those submarines.”
More frequent deployments of more sophisticated Russian subs are driving more US naval activity in the Atlantic, which includes more deployments US Navy P-8 maritime patrol aircraft to Iceland, where they have a higher operational tempo.
Those aircraft are in part managed by Group 2, Clark said. It helps “having people at Group 2 being able to focus on that problem.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Marine drill instructors go through some intense training to earn the military occupational specialty of 0911. With various tasks they have to complete on a daily basis, DIs have to be mentally and physically stronger than of those they train — consistently being on top of their game at all times and never letting anyone spot their flaws or weaknesses.
Despite what is typically a male-dominated world, no doubt these powerful female television characters could make badass drill instructors if they wanted to.
Played by Mariska Hargitay, this strong female lead has the ability to look deep into your soul and break you down from the inside out — a natural talent that can’t be taught.
2. Catherine Willows (C.S.I)
Played by Marg Helgenberger, this super smart detective takes pride in her ability to take down the bad guys with her attention to detail and exceptional investigative skills. Her focus on the most minute details would be perfect for finding flaws in someone’s uniform on inspection day.
3. Brenda Leigh Johnson (The Closer)
Played by Kyra Sedgwick, this determined leader of the major crimes division of the LAPD has no issue offending her peers to get the job done — a perfect trait for a DI.
4. Jane Tennison (Prime Suspect)
Played by Helen Mirren, this brilliant sleuth is one the first female chief inspectors of London’s Metro Police Service who looks to drive herself up in the rank structure. She’s highly moto!
5. Lydia Adams (Southland)
Played by Regina King, after years of working in some intense police situations, Adams’ passion for justice and her strong personality would have landed her in the right spot to scream at recruits to cover down and get in-line.
6. Jane Rizzoli (Rizzoli Isles)
Played by Angie Harmon, a homicide detective who is known for her raspy voice and quick decision-making skills, Rizzoli would be perfect for playing f*ck-f*ck games with future Marines.
She even knows proper trigger-finger placement before she’s prepared to fire. Outstanding! (Source: TNT )
7. Rosa Diaz (Brooklyn 9-9)
Played by Stephanie Beatriz, this detective is known for her stoic attitude and hard-hitting nature. Her strong physical stature allows her to bring down the hardened criminals in the rough streets of Brooklyn, making her a perfect candidate to shape up those recruits that will stand on the famous yellow footprints of MCRD.
A Coast Guard detachment in Florida is asking for tips that may help investigators track down a person making fake “mayday” calls on marine band radio and describing a military response to a nuclear attack.
The calls and threats originate off the Gulf Coast of Florida, according to a news release from Coast Guard Public Affairs Detachment Tampa Bay. The pattern of threats and false alarms has continued for some time; the release, issued Sept. 12, 2019, states that Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg received the latest threat Aug. 13, 2019, via VHF channel 22A.
“In this call, the male caller makes threats against the Coast Guard personnel, aircraft, and vessels,” officials said in the release. “The broadcast sounds like the same person who has made other radio broadcasts that start with MAYDAY three times and then talks about, ‘scrambling all jets we are under nuclear attack.'”
Coast Guard Investigative Service St. Petersburg is calling on the public to share any information leading to the identification of the hoaxer. CGIS, a federal law enforcement agency, investigates crimes within the Coast Guard, but is also tasked as part of its mission with investigating external maritime matters, including false distress calls.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jamie Thielen)
These kinds of calls are not uncommon; in June 2019, the Coast Guard published several releases asking the public to track down people behind hoax radio transmissions. One caller, from the Pamlico Sound and Oregon Inlet area of North Carolina, made calls “stating that they were ‘going down’ and regularly broadcasts ‘mayday’ or ‘help,’ along with a string of other calls, including profanity,” according to a report from news outlet Coastal Review.
Around the same time, a suspected hoax caller from the Ocean City, Maryland, area made transmissions claiming to be “going down with the ship” and interspersed “mayday” calls with profanity.
According to the recent release, those found guilty of making false distress calls may face up to 10 years in prison and 0,000 in fines on top of whatever it costs to search for and apprehend them.
(Coast guard photo)
While the Coast Guard does not always announce when suspected hoax perpetrators are apprehended, some do end up doing time. In 2015, a 23-year-old man from Vinalhaven, Maine, was sentenced to a year in prison, up to one year in community confinement and restitution of ,000 to the Coast Guard “for the costs associated with the search that it conducted in response to the hoax calls,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“Hoax calls are costly to the taxpayer and our service,” Charles “Marty” Russell, resident agent-in-charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service office in St. Petersburg, said in a statement. “When the Coast Guard receives a distress call, we immediately respond, putting our crews at risk, and risking the lives of boaters who may legitimately need our help.”
Those with information about the identity of the hoax caller can call Coast Guard Investigative Service St. Petersburg at (727) 535-1437 extension 2308.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Ralph Stepney’s home on a quiet street in north Baltimore has a welcoming front porch and large rooms, with plenty of space for his comfortable recliner and vast collection of action movies. The house is owned by Joann West, a licensed caregiver who shares it with Stepney and his fellow Vietnam War veteran Frank Hundt.
“There is no place that I’d rather be. … I love the quiet of living here, the help we get. I thank the Lord every year that I am here,” Stepney, 73, said.
It’s a far cry from a decade ago, when Stepney was homeless and “didn’t care about anything.” His diabetes went unchecked and he had suffered a stroke — a medical event that landed him at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
After having part of his foot amputated, Stepney moved into long-term nursing home care at a VA medical facility, where he thought he’d remain — until he became a candidate for a small VA effort that puts aging veterans in private homes: the Medical Foster Home program.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
The $20.7 million-per-year program provides housing and care for more than 1,000 veterans in 42 states and Puerto Rico, serving as an alternative to nursing home care for those who cannot live safely on their own. Veterans pay their caregivers $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location, saving the government about $10,000 a month in nursing home care. It has been difficult to scale up, though, because the VA accepts only foster homes that meet strict qualifications.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
For the veterans, it’s a chance to live in a home setting with caregivers who treat them like family. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, the program provides an option for meeting its legal obligation to care for ailing, aging patients at significantly reduced costs, since the veterans pay room and board directly to their caregivers.
Cost-effectiveness is but one of the program’s benefits. Stepney and Hundt, 67, are in good hands with West, who previously ran a home health care services company. And they’re in good company, watching television together in the main living room, going to elder care twice a week and sitting on West’s porch chatting with neighbors.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
West, who considers caring for older adults “her calling,” also savors the companionship and finds satisfaction in giving back to those who spent their young lives in military service to the U.S.
“I took care of my mother when she got cancer and I found that I really had a passion for it. I took classes and ran an in-home nursing care business for years. But my dream was always to get my own place and do what I am doing now,” West said. “God worked it out.”
The Medical Foster Home program has slightly more than 700 licensed caregivers who live full time with no more than three veterans and provide round-the-clock supervision and care, according to the VA. Akin to a community residential care facility, each foster home must be state-licensed as an assisted living facility and submit to frequent inspections by the VA as well as state inspectors, nutritionists, pharmacists and nurses.
Unlike typical community care facilities, foster home caregivers are required to live on-site and tend to the needs of their patients themselves 24/7 — or supply relief staff.
“It’s a lot of work, but I have support,” West says. “I try to make all my personal appointments on days when Mr. Ralph and Mr. Frank are out, but if I can’t, someone comes in to be here when I’m gone.”
VA medical foster home providers also must pass a federal background check, complete 80 hours of training before they can accept patients, plus 20 hours of additional training each year, and allow the VA to make announced and unannounced home visits. They cannot work outside the home and must maintain certification in first aid, CPR and medicine administration.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
But one prerequisite cannot be taught — the ability to make a veteran feel at home. West has grown children serving in the military and takes pride in contributing to the well-being of veterans.
“It’s a lot of joy taking care of them,” she said of Stepney and Hundt. “They deserve it.”
To be considered for the program, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care; have a serious, chronic disabling medical condition that requires a nursing home level of care; and need care coordination and access to VA services. It can take up to a month to place a veteran in a home once they are found eligible, according to the VA.
The veterans also must be able to cover their costs. Because medical foster homes are not considered institutional care, the VA is not allowed to pay for it directly. The average monthly fee, according to the VA, is $2,300, which most veterans cover with their VA compensation, Social Security and savings, said Nicole Trimble, Medical Foster Home coordinator at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.
Pilot program takes off
Since 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been required to provide nursing home services to veterans who qualify for VA health care and have a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or higher, or are considered unemployable and have a disability rating of 60 percent or higher.
The VA provides this care through short- or long-term nursing home facilities, respite care, community living centers on VA hospital grounds, private assisted living facilities and state veterans homes.
Shortly after, the VA Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark., launched an alternative — a pilot program that placed veterans in individual homes, at an average cost to the VA of roughly $60 a day, including administration and health care expenses, compared with upward of $500 a day for nursing home care.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
And because veterans who are enrolled in the Medical Foster Care program must use the VA’s Home-Based Primary Care program, which provides an interdisciplinary team of health professionals for in-home medical treatment, the program saves the VA even more. One study showed that the home-based care has yielded a 59 percent drop in VA hospital inpatient days and a 31 percent reduction in admissions among those who participate.
More than 120 VA medical centers now oversee a Medical Foster Home program in their regions, and the VA has actively promoted the program within its health system.
It also has attracted bipartisan congressional support. In 2013, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to allow the VA to pay for medical foster homes directly.
In 2015, former House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced similar legislation that would have allowed the VA to pay for up to 900 veterans under the program.
And in May, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) raised the issue again, sponsoring a bill similar to Miller’s. “Allowing veterans to exercise greater flexibility over their benefits ensures that their individual needs are best met,” Higgins said in support of the program.
A guardian ‘angel’
Foster care has been a blessing for the family of Hundt, who suffered a stroke shortly after his wife died and was unable to care for himself. Hundt’s daughter, Kimberly Malczewski, lives nearby and often stops in to visit her dad, sometimes with her 2-year-old son.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
“I’m not sure where my father would be if he didn’t have this,” she said. “With my life situation — my husband and I both work full time, we have no extra room in our house, and we have a small child — I can’t take care of him the way Miss Joann does.”
Trimble, whose program started in 2012 and has five homes, said she hopes to expand by two to three homes a year. The VA will remain meticulous about selecting homes.
“There is a strict inspection and vetting process to be a medical foster home,” Trimble said. “We only will accept the best.”
It also takes a special person to be an “angel,” as the caregivers are referred to in the program’s motto, “Where Heroes Meet Angels.”
Stepney and Hundt agree West has earned her wings. On a recent cruise to Bermuda, she brought Stepney and Hundt along.
For Hundt, it was the first time he’d been on a boat. And Stepney said it was nothing like the transport ships he and his fellow troops used in the late 1960s: “Well, I’ve gotten to travel, but it was mainly two years in Vietnam, and there weren’t any women around.”
When asked why she brought the pair along, West said caregiving is “a ministry, something you really have to like to do.”
“And you know how the saying goes,” she said. “When you like what you do, you never work a day in your life.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Jan. 26 to expand Ankara’s operation in a Kurdish enclave in northern Syria eastward, toward the border with Iraq.
In Vienna, the Syrian opposition and Russia agreed to a cease-fire to halt the fighting over the besieged eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, an area the U.N. has called the “epicenter of suffering” in the war-torn country.
The agreement, confirmed to The Associated Press by opposition official Ahmad Ramadan, is contingent on Russia compelling the government to allow aid flow to the suburbs, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group. Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Rebels gave the government 24 hours to comply, said Ammar Hassan, spokesman for the Islam Army, one of the factions fighting inside the area. The government did not sign the agreement, said opposition adviser Omar Kouch.
The eastern Ghouta area has seen more than two months of violent fighting since rebels tried to ease a choking government blockade that has depleted food and medical supplies.
The U.N. reported in November that child malnutrition in eastern Ghouta was at the worst ever recorded throughout the seven years of civil war. It estimates there are around 400,000 people trapped under the government’s siege.
Conditions deteriorated precipitously after pro-government forces choked off the last smuggling tunnels leading to the opposition-held suburbs in May.
A “de-escalation” agreement brokered by Russia, Iran, and Turkey in August failed to bring any relief. The government and rebels eased up on their fighting but the government refused to allow aid into eastern Ghouta contravening the agreement.
Fighting erupted again in November, leading the government to pound the enclave with airstrikes and artillery fire without distinguishing between civilian and military targets. Rebels have responded with waves of shelling on Damascus. At least 286 civilians have been killed in the crossfire in the last month alone, according to figures from the Observatory.
The agreement, the latest in a long line of short-lived truces for Syria, was announced on the second and last day of a U.N.-mediated round of peace talks in the Austrian capital. Another round, mediated by Russia, starts in Sochi on Jan. 29.
Erdogan said the Turkish forces’ push into Afrin would stretch further east, to the Syrian Kurdish town of Manbij, and toward the border with Iraq “until no terrorist is left.”
Erdogan’s latest comments appeared to be in defiance of the United States, which has urged Turkey to keep its campaign in Syria “limited in scope and duration” and to focus on ending the war.
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, to be a terrorist group because of their purported links to Kurdish insurgents within Turkey’s own border. Manbij is held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the YPG. U.S. troops are not present in Afrin but are embedded with the SDF in other parts of Syria, where they are working to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.
“We will clear Manbij of terrorists … No one should be disturbed by this because the real owners of Manbij are not these terrorists, they are our Arab brothers,” Erdogan said, “From Manbij, we will continue our struggle up to the border with Iraq, until no terrorist is left.”
Ankara’s push into Manbij would put Turkish troops in proximity to American soldiers there.
Erdogan remarks came on the seventh day of the Turkish incursion into Afrin, which started Jan. 20.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Health Minister Ahmet Demircan said Jan. 26 that the operation into Afrin had led to 14 deaths on the Turkish side. Three Turkish soldiers and 11 Syrian opposition fighters allied with them were killed in fighting since Jan. 20, he said. Some 130 others were wounded.
The SDF said the first week of Turkey’s incursion had left more than 100 civilians and fighters dead. The group said in a statement Jan. 26 that among the dead are 59 civilians and 43 fighters, including eight women fighters. At least 134 civilians were wounded in the weeklong clashes, it added.
Turkey’s military said at least 343 “terrorists” have been “neutralized” during the campaign, a figure the Syrian Kurdish militia dispute.
In his speech, Erdogan slammed the U.S. alliance with the Kurdish forces in Manbij and other parts of Syria.
“Our greatest sadness is to see these terrorist organizations run wild holding U.S. flags in this region,” Erdogan said.
Erdogan said President Donald Trump asked him “not to criticize us so much” during their telephone call on Jan. 24.
“Okay,” said Erdogan, citing what he allegedly told Trump in the conversation. “But how can a strategic partner do such a thing to its strategic partner?”
Erdogan also accused the Syrian Kurdish militia of using civilians as human shields in Afrin to try and slow down the advance of the Turkish forces and of the Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters.
He also criticized calls by U.S. and other allies for a quick resolution of Turkey’s incursion, saying military interventions in places in Afghanistan and Iraq lasted for several years.
Late Jan. 25, the Pentagon described Turkey’s military operations in Afrin as not helpful and threatening to damage the ongoing fight against Islamic State militants in Syria.
Joint Staff Director Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. said U.S. military commanders continue to talk with Turkey about the establishment of some type of safe zone along the Turkey-Syria border. He said it was “simply an idea floating around right now” and there has been no decision yet.
McKenzie said the U.S. is clearly tracking movement by Turkey but downplayed the chances of American forces being threatened in the vicinity of the town of Manbij.
During an operation aimed at eliminating ISIS’s last stronghold in Syria, a US-backed militia captured five foreign fighters including a school teacher from Texas who once sent his resume and a cover letter to the caliphate.
“Dear Director, I am looking to get a position teaching English to students in the Islamic State,” the letter reads.
The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish fighting group backed by the US, announced Jan. 13, 2019, that its fighters had captured Warren Christopher Clark, a 34-year-old from Houston. The New York Times obtained documents found in a house in Mosul, Iraq — including a resume and cover letter — that Clark reportedly sent to apply for a job teaching English in the caliphate.
A photo released by the Syrian Defense Forces reportedly shows Warren Christopher Clark after his capture in Syria.
(Syrian Defense Force)
The letter, which was verified by Seamus Hughes of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, and bears the signature “Abu Mohammed,” said to be a pseudonym, according to the Times. A resume accompanying the letter ends in 2015, which may indicate when Clark began working for the Islamic State. The documents obtained in Mosul show that before landing in Syria, the University of Houston graduate spent time teaching in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, according to the Times.
The SDF identified a second man as American, but the Times reported that Zaid Abed al-Hamid is more likely from Trinidad.
To date, only four Americans have been captured in battle in Iraq and Syria, according to George Washington University experts. According to the Times, US officials have not yet confirmed the SDF’s report.
If Clark and Hamid are returned to the US, they will join a small number of former ISIS militants extradited — according to GWU’s database, of 72 identified Americans who have traveled to join the caliphate, 14 have been returned to face charges.
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