The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 SIG Sauer Modular Handgun System to security forces units as part of the Reconstitute Defender Initiative and its effort to modernize weapon systems and increase warfighter lethality.
The M18 replaces the M9 Beretta, which has been in use for more than 30 years. This new weapons system is also projected to replace the M11-A1 Compact used by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the U.S. Army M15 General Officer pistol used for military working dog training.
The modular design of the M18 provides improved ergonomics, target acquisition, reliability and durability to increase shooter lethality.
A key benefit of the M18 is that it can be customized to individual shooters with small, medium or large handgrips.
The Air Force Security Forces Center, in partnership with the Air Force Small Arms Program Office, has begun fielding the new M18 Modular Handgun System to Security Forces units.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Vicki Stein)
“This is going to help shooters with smaller hands. It also has a much smoother trigger pull, leading to a more accurate, lethal shooter,” said Staff Sgt. Richard Maner, 37th Training Support Squadron armory noncommissioned officer in charge at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, who had an opportunity to test the weapon. “The M18 is a smaller platform weapon, but it gives the shooter more capabilities over the bulkier, larger M9 pistol.”
“The M18 is a leap forward in the right direction for modernizing such a critical piece of personal defense and feels great in the hand. It reinforces the muscle memory instilled through consistent shooting,” said Master Sgt. Casey Ouellette, 341st Military Working Dog Flight Chief JB San Antonio-Lackland. “It’s more accurate and, with a great set of night sights and with their high profile, follow-up shots have become easier than ever before.”
So far, more than 2,000 M18s have been delivered to JB Andrews, Maryland, the Air Force Gunsmith Shop, Air Education and Training Command Combat Arms Apprentice Course at JB San Antonio-Lackland, two regional training centers (Guam and Fort Bliss, Texas), Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, and F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming. All security forces units are expected to have their full authorization of M18s by 2020 with the remainder of the Air Force to follow.
“Once all security forces units have been supplied the new weapon, we will supply special warfare airmen, Guardian Angel/(pararescue) communities, OSI and other high-level users,” said Master Sgt. Shaun Ferguson, AFSFC Small Arms and Light Weapons Requirements program manager. “Aircrew communities and other installation personnel will be issued the handgun as well based on requirements.”
The trial into the assassination of the half-brother of Kim Jong Un ended on April 1, 2019, without testimony from either defendant.
The resultant lack of detail on how Kim Jong Nam’s assassination really went down could turn the death into a mystery forever.
A Vietnamese woman, Doan Thi Huong, and an Indonesian woman, Siti Aisyah, were accused of killing Kim Jong Nam after smearing the lethal nerve agent VX on his face at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, in February 2017.
The video below shows footage of the assassination, obtained by Japan’s Fuji TV channel and annotated by the UK’s Channel 5 News.
New CCTV shows moment Kim Jong Nam assassinated | 5 News
Both women were originally charged with murder, but denied it. In Malaysia, murder is punishable with death.
While the women accept that they rubbed a substance into Kim’s face, they have said they did not know what it was, and thought they thought they were taking part in a prank TV show.
Kim was the eldest son of North Korean’s former leader Kim Jong Il and one of his mistresses. He was once considered a potential successor.
The murder trial, which started in October 2017, has been mired in multiple delays and ended abruptly, without the murder charges being fully litigated.
On April 1, 2019, Doan Thi Huong, the Vietnamese defendant, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of voluntarily “causing hurt by a dangerous weapon” — in this case the nerve agent — and was sentenced to 40 months in jail.
The sentence will be counted for her February 2017 arrest, which would give her a release date of June 2020.
However, her lawyer told reporters that Huong would be freed in this May, less than two months after her guilty plea, because of a a one-third reduction in her sentence for good behavior, The Associated Press reported.
Neither the judge presiding over the case nor prosecutors explained the reasoning behind the early release.
Malaysian Attorney General Tommy Thomas said it came after lobbying from the Indonesian government, and that Malaysia made the decision “taking into account the good relations” between the two countries.
The end of the case means that neither Huong nor Aisyah were able to testify.
Their testimonies would have provided an important glimpse into how the two women were involved in the plot and who recruited them.
There are still a number of unexplained mysteries and inconsistencies about the case — and now they may never be resolved.
Kim Jong Nam.
The defendants said they thought it was a prank, not an assassination
The two women have claimed to know nothing about any assassination plot. Aisyah said she was recruited to be part of a Japanese prank show in January 2017, five weeks before the assassination.
She said her “trainers” led her through luxury hotels, malls, and airports in Malaysia and Cambodia, where she practiced smearing oil and hot sauce on Chinese-looking men, GQ reported in September 2017. It’s not clear if Huong received the same training.
Aisyah’s handlers — a man who purported to be Japanese, and another who purported to be Chinese — were later revealed to be North Korean agents, GQ reported.
Malaysia singled out four North Korean suspects in the murder, but they fled the country on the day of the assassination. Their whereabouts are not known.
According to GQ, Aisyah was so convinced by the gameshow cover story that she even thought her arrest and imprisonment were part of the prank.
Andreano Erwin, the acting Indonesian ambassador in Malaysia, told GQ: “The first time we visited her, she kept asking when she could leave the jail. The second, she complained that she still hadn’t been paid for the last prank. The third time, she accused us of being part of the prank.”
“The fourth time, we showed her a newspaper proving Kim Jong Nam had died,” he said. “When she saw it, she started to cry.”
Why plot to kill Kim Jong Nam?
Kim Jong Un is believed to have felt uneasy about Kim Jong Nam, who was previously spoken of as a successor to their father.
This has prompted claims that Kim Jong Un engineered the murder plot.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
(Kim Jong Nam fell out of favor with his father in the early 2000s, reportedly after he and his family were caught trying to enter Japan on false Dominican Republican passports so they could go to Disneyland.)
Japan’s Asahi Shimbun reported in 2018 that days, before Kim was killed, he met with a US intelligence official in Malaysia.
The news outlet said records from Kim’s computer showed a record of a thumb drive being inserted.
The alleged meeting reinforces a theory that the US, and possibly even China, were trying to groom and leverage Kim Jong Nam to possibly remove Kim Jong Un from power, Business Insider’s Alex Lockie reported.
Afghan officials are carrying out at least two tracks of talks with the Taliban, The Associated Press has learned, even after a month of brutal bombings and attacks by the militants that killed nearly 200 and despite President Donald Trump’s angry rejection of any negotiations for now.
The persistence of the back-channel contacts reflects the desire to keep a door open for reconciliation even as the Afghan government and its top ally, the United States, fumble for a strategy to end the protracted war, now entering its 17th year. Rifts within the Afghan government have grown vast, even as the Taliban gain territory and wage increasingly ruthless tactics.
The United States has unleashed heavier air power against the Taliban and other militants. After the string of Taliban attacks in recent weeks, Trump angrily condemned the group. “We don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” he said. “There may be a time but it’s going to be a long time.”
Still, Afghanistan’s intelligence chief Masoom Stanikzai and its National Security Chief Mohammed Hanif Atmar continue to each talk separately to the Taliban, say those familiar with the backdoor negotiations. The problem, however, is that neither is talking to the other or to the High Peace Council, which was created by the government to talk peace with the Taliban, they said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the contacts.
Hakim Mujahid, a member of the High Peace Council, confirmed that Stanikzai still has regular contacts with the Taliban’s point man for peace talks, Mullah Abbas Stanikzai. The two are not related.
Mujahid — who was the Taliban’s representative to the United Nations during the group’s five-year rule of Afghanistan that ended in 2001 — said the group would not respond well to Trump’s tough talk. “The language of power, the language of threat will not convince Afghans to surrender,” he said.
Andrew Wilder, vice president of the Asia Program at the U.S. Institute of Peace, said multiple players in Kabul have contacts with the Taliban. “But this isn’t being done in a coordinated manner to achieve clearly defined objectives,” he said.
Late February 2018, representatives from dozens of countries are to meet for a second time in the Afghan capital for the so-called Kabul process aimed at forging a path to peace. The first round was held in June 2017.
Still, the latest spate of violence has limited options for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who is also fending off a mini-revolt within his own government, feuding with the vice president as well as a powerful northern governor.
Meanwhile, the former No. 2 of the Taliban, Aga Jan Motasim, who still counts the radical religious movement’s leader Mullah Habaitullah Akhunzada among his friends, warned that Trump’s strategy of using the military to force a more compliant Taliban to the negotiation table could lead to more suicide attacks.
From within his fortress style house in Kabul, protected by steel gates and gunmen, Motasim said he wants to be a bridge between the government and Taliban.
Motasim was a senior member of the Taliban leadership shura, or council, until 2010 when he was shot 12 times after advocating peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Blame for the shooting has been directed at both elements within the Taliban who opposed peace talks and Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, often seen as the force behind the Taliban.
Motasim now travels in a bullet-proof car and even his friends have to be announced by men with weapons before they are allowed to enter. He spends his time between Kabul, where he talks to the government, and in Turkey, from where he can contact his former Taliban colleagues.
The 2010 shooting of Motasim in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi reflects the deadly conundrum that confounds efforts to find a peaceful end to Afghanistan’s war.
Pakistan is accused of giving sanctuary to the Taliban to assert influence in Afghanistan and to counter what it sees as growing influence of India in Afghanistan. Pakistan flatly denies the allegation, but Taliban who have advocated peace talks that threaten to sideline Pakistan have often ended up arrested, dead or forced to live elsewhere.
Pakistan has its own complaints about Afghanistan, saying it allows its territory to be used by anti-Pakistan militants who have staged horrific attacks in Pakistan. It also charges that Afghanistan is being used by hostile India to destabilize its troubled border regions.
The United States has suspended military aid to Pakistan to press it into kicking out Taliban. But Washington also says it sees Pakistan as key to bringing a peaceful end to the Afghan war.
Increasingly, the Taliban have gained control of areas inside Afghanistan. Even Washington’s own Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, says more than half of Afghanistan is either under direct Taliban control or under their influence. Other estimates put the figure as high as 70 percent.
Washington’s reaction to the news of Taliban territorial gains has been to prevent SIGAR from releasing estimates of territory gained or lost by the government, the special inspector general’s office reported last month. Washington has also classified information regarding the strength and performance of Afghanistan’s security forces.
In a report SIGAR said $72 billion of the $120 billion spent in Afghanistan since the war began went to the country’s security.
“Clearly, the time is ripe to ask why an undertaking begun in 2002 and costing $70 billion has — so far — not yielded bigger dividends,” the report said.
Precision U.S. strikes conducted Oct. 23 targeted two of al-Qaida’s most senior leaders in Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook announced last night.
In a statement, Cook said officials are still assessing the results of the strikes, which targeted Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi.
“Their demise would represent a significant blow to the terrorist group’s presence in Afghanistan, which remains committed to facilitating attacks against the United States, our allies and partners,” the press secretary said.
Qatani served as al-Qaida’s emir for northeastern Afghanistan, assigned by the group’s leadership to re-establish safe havens for the terrorist organization, Cook said. “He was a senior planner for attacks against the United States, and has a long history of directing deadly attacks against U.S. forces and our coalition allies,” he added.
Utabi is assessed to have been involved in efforts to re-establish a safe haven in Afghanistan from which to threaten the West, Cook said, and in efforts to recruit and train foreign fighters.
After an extensive period of surveillance, the United States targeted the al-Qaida leaders at what was assessed as command-and-control locations in remote areas of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, Cook said.
“If these strikes are determined to be successful,” he added, “eliminating these core leaders of al-Qaida will disrupt efforts to plot against the United States and our allies and partners around the world, reduce the threat to our Afghan partners, and assist their efforts to deny al-Qaida safe haven in Afghanistan.
The attack on Pearl Harbor happened 77 years ago on Dec. 7, 2018.
The Japanese attack on the US naval base in Hawaii killed more than 2,400 American sailors and civilians and wounded 1,000 more.
Japanese fighter planes also destroyed or damaged almost 20 naval ships and more than 300 planes during the attack.
Several photos were captured during the attack, some of which have become iconic of that infamous day.
Here are the stories behind five of those unforgettable images.
A Japanese fighter plane drops what’s believed to be the first bomb on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
1. The first bomb likely dropped.
The above photo, which was taken by a Japanese photographer, was found by US Navy photographer Martin J. Shemanski at Yokusuka Base near Tokyo Bay shortly after the Japanese surrendered.
The photo shows the Japanese fighter plane (the small black speck that almost looks like a bird) appearing to pull out of a dive after dropping the bomb on Battleship Row. Another Japanese fighter plane can be seen in the upper right corner.
Shemanski and four other US military photographers were ordered to go through Japanese photo processing labs after the surrender, and he found it torn up in a trash can.
“It had a torn photo in it,” Shemanski told the Press-Enterprise in 2015.
“I picked up a couple pieces and I got a shot of a torpedo hitting the Oklahoma. I thought, ‘This is Navy intelligence,'” he added.
The USS Oklahoma was a Nevada-class battleship that was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Shemanski told the Press-Enterprise that the picture was torn up in about 20 pieces.
The USS Shaw explodes during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
(US Navy photo)
2. The USS Shaw explodes.
This photo shows the USS Shaw destroyer exploding while in floating dry dock.
Between 7:55 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., the Shaw was hit by three bombs released by Japanese fighters in steep dives from approximately 1,000 feet, according to the US Navy action report.
The Shaw immediately caught fire, and the ship was abandoned. About 20 minutes later, as sailors were trying to flood the dry dock to save the ship, the forward magazines blew up, which is pictured above.
The blast destroyed the bow and damaged the dry dock and a nearby tugboat.
Initially thought to be a loss, the Shaw was eventually repaired and later took part in several engagements in the Pacific, including the biggest naval battle of all-time, the Battle of Leyte Gulf.
The USS West Virginia (left) next to the USS Tennessee during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
(US Navy photo)
3. Battleship Row on fire.
The picture above shows the USS West Virginia and USS Tennessee battleships on fire in Battleship Row.
Battleship Row was where seven US Navy battleships were moored on the eastern side of Ford Island (shown in the first picture), which rests in the middle of Pearl Harbor.
These seven battleships alone (the USS Arizona, USS West Virginia, USS Oklahoma, USS Tennessee, USS Maryland, USS California, and USS Nevada) were equal to about 70% of Japan’s active battleship fleet.
Each Japanese torpedo plane carried one Type 91 aerial torpedo with a warhead of 992 pounds, and 21 of them hit their targets. Japanese bombers then flew in after the torpedo plane attacks and caused further damage.
In total, the Japanese sunk the Oklahoma and Arizona, and damaged the other five ships.
A small boat rescues a crew member from the water after the Pearl Harbor attack.
4. Rescuing sailors from the USS West Virginia.
This photo shows a boat rescuing a crew member from the water as two other sailors are in the upper center of the burning USS West Virginia’s superstructure.
The USS West Virginia was a Colorado-class battleship that was hit by at least seven torpedoes and two bombs during the attack.
When the West Virginia was raised from the water for repairs six months after the attack, they found the bodies of three US Navy sailors who had been trapped in a compartment for 16 days, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.
US Marines standing guard had heard the sailors banging for help, but they couldn’t do anything. No one on guard wanted to go near the ship and hear the sounds.
When the sailors bodies were finally recovered, rescuers found a calendar on which the sailors had marked their last days.
The State Department did not provide justification for the finding publicized March 2, 2018. But it comes nearly one year after Kim Jong Nam died at an international airport in Malaysia in an attack, authorities said, that used VX nerve agent.
The determination, made by the department’s international security and nonproliferation bureau, carries restrictions on U.S. foreign aid and financial and military assistance that North Korea’s heavily sanctioned government is already subject to.
It was posted on the website of the Federal Register and takes effect March 5, 2018.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has previously referred to Pyongyang’s use of chemical weapons. He told reporters in January 2018, “we know they’ve been used by the North Koreans.”
According to the Pentagon, North Korea probably has a long-standing chemical weapons program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents and likely possesses a chemical weapons stockpile that could be used with artillery and ballistic missiles.
Experts say the Feb. 13, 2017, death of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport is the only confirmed North Korean use of chemical weapon agents. North Korean defectors have charged that such chemicals have been used against prisoners and disabled people inside the authoritarian nation.
North Korea is believed to have provided chemical defensive equipment and technology to Syria and Libya in the past, and an upcoming report by a United Nations panel that monitors sanctions against the North says that in August 2016, the North transferred special resistance valves and thermometers known for use in chemical-weapons programs in Syria.
North Korean technicians continue to operate at chemical weapons and missile facilities in the war-ravaged Mid-east nation, according to details of the report obtained by The Associated Press.
The U.S. and other Western nations have accused Syria of using chemical weapons against rebel-controlled areas of the country, which the government denies.
North Korea, on March 1, 2018, denied it was cooperating with Syria on chemical weapons. In a statement circulated by its diplomatic mission at the U.N. in New York, the North’s foreign ministry said it “does not have a single record of developing, producing, and stockpiling a chemical weapon.”
The general overseeing fitness for the U.S. Army hopes to see the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test approved next spring and, in time, become the service’s standard physical fitness test of record that all soldiers must pass.
The service is in the middle of the Army Combat Readiness Test, or ACRT, pilot, exposing soldiers to the six-event fitness test designed to better prepare them for the rigors of combat than the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.
The ACRT was developed, at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to better prepare soldiers for the physical challenges of the service’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.
“As we look at physical fitness, we now know in order to be physically fit in support of the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — what we know we need to do for combat readiness — we have to be physically fit across five fitness domains,” said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who oversees the ARCT as commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training.
Only two of those domains — cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance — are supported by the current APFT, which consist of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run, Frost said.
“There are three domains of physical fitness that are not addressed by that test but are nonetheless necessary … and those are muscular strength, explosive power, and speed and agility,” he said.
‘We Aren’t Where We Want to Be’
“We have world-class equipment … but do we have world-class soldiers that are world-class athletes at world-class level fitness? The answer is probably not one that we would want, meaning if you look at a lot of indicators from an individual physical readiness fitness standpoint, we aren’t where we want to be,” Frost said.
In 2016, the Army had 43,000 soldiers who were non-deployable, he said, adding that in fiscal terms, that equates to a loss of about $3 billion.
“Another staggering figure,” Frost said, is that about 78,000 soldiers were above a body-mass index of 30 percent.
“Musculoskeletal injuries about 500,000 a year; 10 million limited-duty days per year — that’s nearly $1 billion,” Frost said.
“To put it in fiscal terms is fine, but more importantly it is the lack of readiness due to some sort of physical fitness or readiness aspect — whether it’s injury, whether it’s being overweight or whether it is being non-deployable for a medical reason,” he said.
The ACRT is made up of six events:
This muscular strength test mimics movements required to safely and effectively lift heavy loads from the ground, then jump, bound and tolerate landing. The exercise is a strong predictor of a soldier’s ability to lift and carry a casualty on a litter and to lift and move personnel and equipment.
Standing Power Throw:
Soldiers toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift themselves or a fellow soldier over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.
In this event, soldiers start in the prone position and do a traditional push-up but, when at the down position, they move their arms outward and then back in to do another push-up. It is a test of soldier’s ability to push an opponent away during man-to-man contact, push a vehicle when it is stuck, and push up from cover or off the ground during evade and maneuver.
As they dash 25 meters five times up and down a lane, soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettle bell weights. This can simulate pulling a battle buddy out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.
Similar to a pull-up, soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees or thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. This exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional sit-up.
This is the same running event as on the current APFT. In the ACRT, run scores are expected to be a bit slower due to all the other strenuous activity.
Part of the ACRT pilot, which is expected to continue into 2018, is working out how leaders will administer the six-event tests.
“Part of the challenge is if we are going to do six events, there is a scope and scale challenge to this — you can’t take a week to test a battalion,” Frost said. “You have got to be able to move a company through at the same pace you move a company through to do the APFT.”
There is also the challenge of figuring out the correct sequence to the events, he said.
“We have been able to test 50 soldiers in 75 minutes using 10 lanes, so this is doable; it’s executable with the right equipment,” Frost said.
The plan, he said, is to present the data collected so far in the pilot to Milley “in the next couple of months” and hopefully get a decision to move forward.
If approved, program officials will finalize the test protocol and other details before going back to Milley sometime next spring for final approval to start rolling the ACRT out in 2019 so soldiers can start training for it, Frost said.
“There has got to be a transition period,” Frost said. “You have to give them time to ramp up to it.”
Soldier Performance Training Centers
As a simultaneous effort, he said, the Army will launch a pilot program next year to develop “soldier performance training centers,” which feature the right equipment and resources to help soldiers prepare for the ACRT.
The plan is to put these centers in gyms at three installations and staff them with experts such as trainers, physical therapists and nutrition counselors. Eventually, centers would be established all over the Army, Frost said.
The centers will also need equipment for soldiers to train for the ACRT — pull-up bars, sleds for dragging weight, deadlift bars, weights and medicine balls.
A battalion set of this equipment to create 10 test lanes retails for about $12,000, but the Army will likely be able to get equipment for less, Frost said.
“If we buy this at scale, it will be much, much, much less, and a lot of this equipment is already out there so we have to kind of inventory what we have and then figure out what the need is,” he said.
“And that doesn’t mean every battalion is going to get it,” Frost said. “You may have a brigade set and every battalion is not going to take the ACRT on the same day, so there are a lot of things we can look at.”
But there has to be a transition period before the ACRT can replace the APFT as the test of record, Frost said.
“Whether it is one year or two years, you train on one test — the other test is a test of record; maybe there is a transition period where both of them can be a test of record,” he said. “And eventually, you fade the APFT out — kind of like you did the gray PT uniform — and then the ACRT is the enduring test of record.”
There also has to be time for the Army to figure out the policy, legal and administrative factors involved with instituting a new test of record since there will be punitive and administrative measures that occur for soldiers who are not able to pass it.
“We are going to need feedback from the field, but my gut tells me before it becomes the test of record, it’s probably two years — so one year to train for it. Another year, maybe it could be a test of record maybe as an option with the APFT,” Frost said. “Then at the end of two years, the APFT is faded away, and the ACRT is the only test of record.”
A former Army officer will spend his Independence Day Tuesday by competing in the renowned Nathan’s Famous International Hot Dog Eating Contest.
“Buffalo” Jim Reeves was one of 20 other competitors to earn a spot on the nationally televised gastronomic event. He made the cut by eating 23 hot dogs.
“There’s no big secret to competitive eating,” Reeves told the Army Times. “You try your hardest and you’re either good or you’re not. I happened to be good.”
Reeves turned from soldier to competitive eater in 2002 by competing in the National Buffalo Wing Festival, where he finished as a finalist. He joined the Army in 1990 after completing reserve officers’ training corps at Clarkson University. He later attended the Engineer Officers’ Basic Course at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Reeves served as a a platoon leader, acting company commander, battalion personnel officer and civil engineering officer before leaving the Army in 1998. He now makes a living as a math and computer science teacher in New York.
The former engineering officer’s technique is simple: he downs two hot dogs at a time by separating the hot dogs from the buns and dipping the buns in water to help facilitate swallowing.
Reeves may be good, but he will have to be at his all-time best if he stands a chance at winning Tuesday’s contest. The world-famous Joey Chestnut won last year’s contest by consuming 70 hot dogs, setting a new world record. Odds makers put Chestnut at a distinct advantage to defend his title, known as “The Mustard Belt.” The winner is expected to consume 67.5 dogs, meaning that Reeves will have to triple his qualifying number to have a shot at victory.
“Til Valhalla” is becoming a more and more common exaltation among veterans today, especially when hearing about the passing of a fellow veteran. Whether you believe in Odin, Master of Ecstasy, leader of the Gods, chief of the Æsir and the king of Asgard, is irrelevant, the warrior ethos is the heart of the expression. It’s not necessarily meant to be a religion.
Unless you’re Japanese, that is.
The Yasukuni Shrine is a Shinto temple that was founded at the beginning of the Meiji Restoration, a period in Japanese history that saw the Emperor return as the true ruler of Japan. Around this time, the Shinto worship of nature spirits and ancestors became an official state apparatus, the Emperor himself became one of these divine spirits. Today, there are some 80,000 of these public shrines, and the Yasukuni Shrine is just one of many.
What’s unique about the Yasukuni Shrine is that it is dedicated to the memory and spirit of those who died fighting for Japan from the first war in which the shrine was founded – the civil conflict that restored the Emperor in 1869 – and World War II in 1945. The Meiji Emperor originally wanted the shrine to honor the souls of those who died fighting for him in that conflict, but as more conflicts came to pass, the Emperor decided to house the souls of more and more war dead there. As the Empire expanded, so did the ethnicities of those enshrined at Yasakuni. There are more than Japanese souls; there are Koreans, Okinawans, Taiwanese, and more – anyone who fought for Japan.
Anyone. And these days, that’s a problem.
That’s a problem.
These days, the Yasukuni Shrine is an incredibly controversial subject in Asia. It’s so taboo that Japanese Prime ministers can’t even officially visit. Even though war criminals prosecuted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East were denied enshrinement after World War II, lower classes of war criminals were slowly admitted to the shrine in the following years. Still, those class-A criminals like Hideki Tojo (above) were excluded…
… until the late 1970s, when the chief priest included them in secret during an enshrinement ceremony. There was nothing the government or the Emperor could do about it. Shinto was separated from the state in the 1947 MacArthur Constitution.
So now, the shrine causes a lot of friction between Japan, China, and the Koreas. The latter three accuse the shrine of encouraging historical revisionism and forgetting the crimes of its past. The museum attached to the shrine accuses the United States of forcing World War II on Japan with economic sanctions and military aggression. Thus, the last time an Emperor visited the shrine was in 1975.
U.S. Navy sailors visit the Yasukuni Shrine in 1933.
Any time a Japanese official visits the shrine, officially or unofficially, it sets off a firestorm of anger in the Pacific region. The last time a sitting Prime Minister visited Yasukuni was 2013 when Shinzo Abe made a visit, calling it an “anti-war gesture.” The Chinese said the visit was “absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people,” and South Korea says it expressed “regret and anger.” Since then, Abe has opted out of the visit.
Yasukuni now lists the names of 2,466,532 men, women, and children (and even some war animals) enshrined as deities. Of those,1,068 are convicted war criminals.
Training for a demanding race like the Army 10-miler requires focus, determination, and solid nine to 10 hours of sleep every night, according to sleep experts at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the Army Office of the Surgeon General. Sleep is one of the three pillars of the Performance Triad, which also includes nutrition and activity.
“Sleep allows our bodies to focus on recovery and restores both our mind and muscles,” said Army Lt. Col. T Scott Burch, Army System for Health Performance Triad sleep lead, OSTG. “Following a particularly strenuous training day, our body may need more time to recover and the good news is that our body will often give us signs that we need additional sleep, so plan go to bed a little earlier following high intensity workouts or post-race.”
Sleep is good recovery for the brain, said Dr. Tom Balkin, a sleep expert and senior scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.
“Aim for as much sleep as you can possibly squeeze in,” said Balkin. “Seven to eight hours of sleep is average, but more is even better.”
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
Both Balkin and Burch recommend using sleep banking as a strategy to reach peak performance before a strenuous event. Sleeping an extra one to two hours leading up to the race will “bank” extra energy, stamina, and focus.
“Consider this part of your training,” said Balkin. “It’s not something you would do every day in your normal life, but the week before you run a marathon, get all the sleep you can. Think of it like money. The more you get, it doesn’t matter when the money shows up in your bank account. The next day, the money is still in your account.”
It’s the goal of the Performance Triad to enable leaders to set conditions for soldiers to optimize their sleep, activity, and nutrition to improve the overall readiness of the Army, said Col. Hope Williamson-Younce, director of the Army System for Health and deputy chief of staff for public health, Army Office of the Surgeon General.
Failing to optimize sleep can lead to significant reductions in physical and cognitive performance.
“The Army has improved significantly in recognizing that sleep is a key component of a healthy lifestyle and healthy culture,” said Burch. “If your duties are precluding you from optimal sleep talk with your chain of command, encourage them talk to local subject matter experts at Army Wellness Centers and see how they cannot just improve your ability to obtain optimal sleep but how they improve the physical performance of the entire unit, while also reducing injuries and having a higher percentage of soldiers medically ready and prepared for battle.”
(Photo by Lt. Col. John Hall)
At Fort Riley, sleep banking was put into practice by an armored brigade combat unit, said Williamson-Younce. Prior to a weeklong FTX for gunnery tables, soldiers attended a sleep education session and participated in a “reverse PT schedule,” during which the soldiers arrived at 9 a.m. and conducted physical training at 4 p.m. This led to dramatic improvements in their Gunnery Table results. They went from an average score of 756 (qualified) without banking to an average score of 919 (distinguished) with sleep banking.
For people who have difficulty falling asleep, Burch recommends refining basic routines. Have a routine bedtime schedule, wind down the night in a calm manner by warm shower, reading and meditation. Turn off all “screens” at least an hour before bedtime and ensure the bedroom is a cool, relaxing sanctuary for a good night’s rest.
“There’s a great saying, make time for wellness, or you will be forced to make time for illness,” said Burch. “Sleep is a critical component of our wellness. Often individuals try to manage with reduced sleep; however it comes at the detriment of your physical and cognitive performance.”
The Performance Triad Website, https://p3.amedd.army.mil, has great resources for individuals, said Burch. He also encourages any soldier or family member to contact their local Army Wellness Center, which has excellent personnel and resources for sleep, stress management, nutrition and physical conditioning to help everyone perform their best and reduce risk for musculoskeletal injuries.
Detectives believe it was Tran who circled behind Stone and stabbed him in the Oct. 8 incident. Tran is not believed to be the man seen hitting a woman, the incident that sparked the altercation.
The stabbing incident occurred Oct. 8 at around 12:45 a.m. between 20th and 22nd street in Sacramento. Stone was stabbed “multiple times” in the chest following an altercation, police told KCRA-TV. Sacramento Police reported the incident as not being terrorism-related, tweeting that alcohol was believed to be a factor since it happened near a bar.
Police told CBS Local that Tran — who did not know Stone — has a criminal history.
Stone was one of three Americans who thwarted an attack on a French train in August. During the attack, Stone, 23, tackled and disarmed the gunman, who slashed him in the neck and nearly sliced off his thumb with a box cutter, according to NBC Bay Area.
Stone, who was the rank of airman first class at the time of the attack in France, was promoted to Staff Sgt. on Monday. He had only recently recovered from the serious wounds he sustained during the night club altercation. Stabbed four times, he had to have open heart surgery to save his life.
Over the last several years, a spotlight has been placed on employment challenges for transitioning service members, veterans, and Guard/Reserve members. Arizona is taking strides to combat these challenges for the 600,000-plus veterans in the state. In fact, Gov. Doug Ducey proclaimed 2018 as the “Arizona Veteran Career Year.” Much of the state’s effort can be attributed to groundwork laid by the collaborative team efforts of the Arizona Corporate Council on Veteran Careers (ACCVC), the Arizona Coalition for Military Families, and the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services.
Hal Pittman, director of external communications for Arizona Public Service (APS) and the co-founder of the ACCVC, said the efforts have focused on developing a road map for reducing underemployment, career development and corporate investment in military service members. In 2016, the ACCVC collaborated with Arizona Public Service (APS) and USAA to develop a baseline for addressing these issues, along with providing a pipeline between the community, government agencies and corporations.
Nick Caporrimo, an Army National Guardsman involved with the ACCVC, says these programs and services are imperative for service members and veterans. Caporrimo began his military career in 2010 while he was searching for employment with companies that understand the needs of service members and their families. In 2011, he accepted an internship with APS, which led to a full-time career. Caporrimo got involved in the VETRN program at APS, an employee program geared toward supporting veteran needs within the company. He said APS supports military and veteran employees and understands specific needs. The company provides differential pay to reservists, job security while away at required training and military-related duties, and recognizes the value of hard and soft skills that service members and veterans offer.
Caporrimo said the ACCVC encourages employers to establish a company culture that values military experience and skills such as leadership, teamwork, loyalty, discipline, professionalism and determination. The council is taking this message to human resources professionals at major companies in Arizona through symposiums and trainings geared toward coordinating communication between the companies and the military. The council encourages employers to establish internships and apprenticeships for active duty military personnel prior to discharge. The council has relationships with more than 20 companies.
In 2017 the ACCVC, APS and the Department of Veterans’ Services hired an epidemiologist to develop and conduct a survey that was distributed state-wide to 5,000 participants to further investigate barriers to employment, as well as underemployment, retention and career advancement for service members and veterans. The ACCVC is analyzing this data to develop a statistically supported baseline to further their efforts to combat and reduce employment challenges.
One of the programs Caporrimo is excited about is the SkillBridge Program, which was piloted at Luke Air Force Base with more than 400 transitioning military service members each year. Companies involved in this program coordinate with transitioning military service members and their commanders to provide an internship or apprenticeship for the last 180 days of their service to allow the service member to gain access to skills related to the corporate career. Those in the program continue to receive their military pay, which provides stability during the transition as they learn new skills related to their civilian career.
Caporrimo described the critical role the ACCVC and collaborators continue to play in examining private sector employment challenges faced by service members, developing a road map and baseline for best practices to combat these issues, building programs to bridge the gap between the military and private sector, establishing corporate investment in service members, and increasing the availability of careers rather than jobs for service members and veterans.
“The active efforts of the ACCVC has led to vast improvements in many areas related to career retainment and hiring for veterans and service-members in the state of Arizona,” Caporrimo said.
This article originally appeared on G.I. Jobs. Follow @GIJobsMagazine on Twitter.
Dozens of US states have reported mysterious seeds showing up in packages from China and are warning citizens not to plant them because they could be an invasive species.
The US Department of Agriculture said Tuesday that it was investigating the unsolicited packages of seeds reported by at least 27 states and urged anyone who receives them to contact local agricultural officials.
“Please hold onto the seeds and packaging, including the mailing label, until someone from your State department of agriculture or APHIS contacts you with further instructions,” the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a press release. “Do not plant seeds from unknown origins.”
The agency also said the packages were likely a “brushing scam,” in which consumers are sent packages and a company then forges positive reviews of the products.
But they could also quickly become an ecological disaster.
“An invasive plant species might not sound threatening, but these small invaders could destroy Texas agriculture,” Sid Miller, Texas’ agriculture commissioner, said in a press release.
And scientists agree — that’s why the USDA has such strict rules on importing plants and other organic materials.
“The reason that people are concerned is — especially if the seed is the seed of a similar crop that is grown for income and food, or food for animals — that there may be plant pathogens or insects that are harbored in the seed,” Carolee Bull, a professor with Penn State’s Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology program, told The New York Times.