Many Chinese citizens responded in a peculiar way to Feb. 25, 2018’s announcement that the Chinese Communist Party may get rid of presidential term limits — by posting images of Winnie the Pooh on social media.
The pictures target Xi Jinping, who could now stay in power for decades and potentially paves the way to one-man rule that China has not seen since the days of Mao Zedong.
The joke is that Winnie the Pooh, the fictional, living teddy bear made by English author A. A. Milne, looks strikingly similar to Xi, supposedly because both of them look somewhat chubby. Critics of the Chinese leader often use the cartoon character in a derogatory way.
The meme has been circulating around Chinese and Western social media since Xi became president in 2013, and has been out in full force since the CCP’s announcement.
One image showed Pooh Bear hugging a large pot of honey, with the words “Wisdom of little bear Winnie the Pooh” in Chinese and “Find the thing you love and stick with it” in English. Another image showed a screenshot from an episode that shows the bear wearing a crown and other royal regalia.
China censors Winnie the Pooh
China banned Winnie the Pooh after Xi was compared to him ?
The memes have provoked Chinese censors to clamp down on the circulation of the cartoon bear on social media apps like WeChat and Sina Weibo.
It appears the censors are going beyond just taking down pictures of Winnie the Pooh. Entire messages relating to the topic of Xi as a dictator or negative talk about him serving for life are being deleted minutes after being sent to friends or posted online.
“I’ve posted this before but it was censored within 13 minutes so I will post it again,” one micro-blogger wrote according to What’s on Weibo, an independent news site that reports on Chinese digital and social media. “I oppose to the amendment of the ‘no more than two consecutive terms of office’ as addressed in the third section of Article 79 of the Constitution.”
China Digital Times and Free Weibo have reported that some of the phrases that Chinese censors are scrutinizing include “I don’t agree,” “election term,” “constitution rules,” “Winnie the Pooh,” and “proclaiming oneself an emperor.”
“Migration” and “emigration” are also subject to heavy censorship.
State censorship is not new in China and censors have gone after Winnie the Pooh images in the past. The country has also notably gone to great lengths to make sure the Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989, in which hundreds of unarmed Chinese citizens were gunned down by the Peoples Liberation Army, are not discussed — either in person or on the internet.
The Iranian capital was hit by power outages amid protests in Tehran over worsening economic conditions in the country.
The semiofficial Fars news agency reported that Tehran was hit by a blackout for several hours on June 27, 2018, due to the “overheating” of the nation’s power grid.
The Iran Power Network Management Company, a power supplier, said consumption reached a peak at 4 p.m. local time on June 26, 2018, prompting the blackouts.
The Energy Ministry has said electricity consumption has increased by some 28 percent compared to 2017.
Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said in April 2018 that electricity output from hydropower plants would decrease because Iran was experiencing its worst drought in the past 50 years.
Ardakanian said power outages were inevitable and urged consumers to use less electricity.
The power shortages in Tehran coincided with demonstrations in the capital and other cities over the falling value of the national currency, the rial.
The value of the rial has plummeted by nearly a half in the last six months, helping feed a spiral of rising prices for everyday goods.
The currency’s fall accelerated after U.S. President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that he was pulling the United States out of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers and reinstating U.S. sanctions against Tehran.
Protesters on the streets and in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar staged demonstrations for three consecutive days starting from June 24, 2018.
There were no reports of fresh protests on June 28, 2018, a day after a heavy police presence on Tehran’s streets and at the Grand Bazaar.
Military spouses have enough on their plates. They do not need your unsolicited, unfavorable, unmannered, advice. There are so many ways you can help end the falsified image of helplessness military spouses have been forced to live with, within our culture. We are educated, physically strong and well-rounded people. We don’t need a pity party.
What we do need is support for our working military spouses, efficiently running daycare facilities, and units that truly understand that we too are important to the readiness of our service members.
Do you want to strengthen our military communities? If so, here’s how you can help end the negative stigma of the military spouse.
Do Not Contribute to the degradation of our community.
If you hear a rumor don’t repeat it. If you see a hurtful meme, don’t share it. Oftentimes, bullying is concealed and bred this way. Eventually, it spreads into a full-fledged attack on military spouses. Further dividing our community. Be a part of the solution, not the problem.
Every second of every day, a military spouse is left as their service member goes off to training, temporary duty, or war. They may be a new spouse, or maybe not. Either way, when they post about missing their loved one, be compassionate, or be invisible. You don’t have to contribute to every post. Just scroll on by.
Volunteer within the military community.
Volunteering is a great way to learn about the needs of a community. This can help you get to know the struggles military spouses face and how you can be a source of strength and compassion for them. If you have time, go volunteer at the local USO. If you don’t have time, but would like to donate resources, the USO is always in need of items such as; candy, coffee, greeting cards, and other basic care essentials. Reach out to your local USO and find out how you can help.
Be an advocate.
Speaking up about the struggles affecting military families helps start the much-needed conversation about the services or lack thereof within our community. Many services and programs specifically for military spouses aren’t well supported throughout the military for various reasons. We don’t need our hands held but we would like those in high places to advocate the need for the funding of enrichment programs.
Hear our stories.
We all come from different walks of life. We are derived from diverse cultures and have unique skill sets. Learn about who we are. Some of us are doctors, some scientists, engineers, and many have served within the military ranks. Allow spouses to speak at military town halls, and conferences about those things that are in our lane of expertise.
Let’s end the negative stigma of military spouses. Learn who we are, be encouraging, be an advocate, and most importantly, do not contribute to the spreading of rumors or the bullying of military spouses. We deserve to be treated with respect. As our service members fight the battles abroad, we shouldn’t have to fight ones at home. We too matter.
The shrinking of the U.S. State Department and the sidelining of its diplomatic corps, the backbone of American foreign policy, were major themes during Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first year at Foggy Bottom.
The State Department’s civilian workforce fell more than 6% between September 2016 and September 2017, which includes the first eight months of the Trump administration. The number of employees in administrative and legal positions fell 5.4%.
Within the foreign affairs occupation series, the number of employees fell 11.9%, from 2,580 in December 2016 to 2,273 in September 2017, according to Government Executive. Foreign affairs employees were more than 40% of the 836 civilian workers who left between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30.
Highly experienced members of the State Department have been a disproportionate percentage of those departures. Between December 2016 and September 2017, 16.2% of employees with 25 or more years of experience left. The number of employees in the foreign-affairs occupation series with at least 25 years of experienced shrunk 13.1% over the same period.
The department’s foreign service ranks, which includes diplomats and support staff, fell 1.2% in Tillerson’s first year, but the number of foreign service officers — those responsible for political, diplomatic, and economic relations — fell by about 2%, with 166 leaving.
Tillerson — whose planned reorganization the State Department has been criticized by legislators — kept a hiring freeze in place for most of his first year on the job. He eased it at the end of December for eligible family members and announced the expansion of the Expanded Professional Associates Program, which provided bureaus with greater placement flexibility.
But the trickle of new employees entering the State Department doesn’t compensate for the steady flow of departures, according to former diplomats.
Amb. Barbara Stephenson, president of the American Foreign Service Association, said in December 2017 that the Foreign Service’s “leadership ranks are being depleted at a dizzying speed.” When Obama left office, the State Department had five career ambassadors, but with the departure of Tom Shannon, a 34-year State Department veteran, earlier this month, just one remains.
“You’re throwing out the people at the top, so you’re losing expertise,” Ron Neumann, a retired 37-year State Department veteran, told Government Executive this month. “If you don’t bring in people at the bottom … you’re setting up a long-term problem.”
“Other countries are represented by people who have a deep background in the issue,” Neumann said, “and you’re like the high-school kid trying to pretend you’re in college.”
The atrophying of the State Department comes as China beefs up its own diplomatic corps, overhauling its Foreign Ministry to empower its diplomats, according to Bloomberg.
Chinese President Xi Jinping got the revamp underway in January 2017.
A reform committee led by Xi called on the Foreign Ministry to “forge a politically resolute, professionally exquisite, strictly disciplined foreign affairs corps,” and in October 2017, Xi appointed China’s top diplomat to the country’s powerful Politburo, making him the first former Foreign Ministry official in 20 years to reach that level.
The reforms will give Chinese ambassadors more control over their portfolios and strengthen the country’s diplomats as they manage multiple trade deals, supervise infrastructure projects, and oversee numerous foreign loans — all of which are elements of Xi’s efforts to exercise more clout abroad and become a more prominent player in international affairs.
“I can imagine these changes would be really good for the morale for the Chinese diplomats at the foreign ministry at a time when the morale of the diplomats in the U.S. foreign service is at an all-time low,” Susan Shirk, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asia, told Bloomberg.
Budget plans recently announced by the White House are likely to do little to improve the mood among those remaining at the State Department.
The budget would expand funding for the military but impose an $8.8 billion reduction for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development during the current and next fiscal years — the biggest reduction since the 1990s.
Lawmakers have a few weeks to find additional sources of funding, but the proposed cuts have already drawn rebukes from current and former members of the military, among others.
More than 1,200 veterans representing every branch of the military sent a letter to House and Senate leaders on February 12, saying that “strategic investments in the State Department and USAID will be essential if we are to solidify our hard-fought gains and prevent other bad actors from filling the void” around the world.
That letter came one day after 151 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals sent a letter to House and Senate leaders opposing cuts to the international affairs budget, to which the Trump administration proposed an almost 30% budget cut in 2017.
“We call on you to ensure our nation also has the civilian resources necessary to protect our national security, compete against our adversaries, and create opportunities around the world,” the letter says. “We must not undercut our nation’s ability to lead around the world in such turbulent times.”
The Air Force is beginning to work on how fast, lethal, durable and capable a new “A-10”-like aircraft would need to be in order to provide U.S. military ground troops with effective close-air support for decades to come.
Senior service officials are now exploring “draft requirements” concepts – and evaluating the kind of avionics, engineering, weapons, armor and technical redundancy the aircraft would need, Air Force officials told Scout Warrior.
Many of the core technical attributes and combat advantages of the A-10 will be preserved and expanded upon with the new effort, officials said.
The performance of the A-10 Warthog in the ongoing bombing campaign against ISIS, coupled with the Air Forces’ subsequent decision to delay the aircraft’s planned retirement – has led the service to begin the process of developing a new, longer-term A-10 type platform.
Following an announcement earlier this year from Pentagon leaders that the A-10 will not begin retiring but rather will serve until at least 2022, Air Force and DoD officials are now hoping to keep a close-air-support aircraft for many years beyond the previously projected timeframe.
Given the emerging global threat environment, it would make sense that the Air Force would seek to preserve an aircraft such as the A-10. While the aircraft has been extremely successful attacking ISIS targets such as fuel convoys and other assets, the A-10 is also the kind of plane that can carry and deliver a wide-ranging arsenal of bombs to include larger laser-guided and precision weapons.
This kind of firepower, coupled with its 30mm cannon, titantium armor plates and built-in redundancy for close-air-support, makes the A-10 a valuable platform for potential larger-scale mechanized, force-on-force type warfare as well. The A-10 has a unique and valuable niche role to perform in the widest possible range of combat scenarios to include counterinsurgency, supporting troops on the ground in close proximity and bringing firepower, protection and infantry support to a large-scale war.
Air Force officials have told Scout Warrior that the current approach involves a three-pronged effort; the Air Force may consider simply upgrading the existing fleet of A-10s in a substantial way in order to extend its service life, acquire an off-the-shelf existing aircraft or develop a new close air support platform through a developmental effort.
“We are developing that draft requirements document. We are staffing it around the Air Force now. When it’s ready, then we will compare that to what we have available, compare it to keeping the A-10, compare it to what it would take to replace it with another airplane, and we will work through that process,” Lt. Gen. James Holmes, Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, told reporters.
Holmes went on to explain that the service was, broadly speaking, exploring ways to achieve, preserve and sustain “air superiority” in potential long-term, high-end combat engagements. He added that considerations about a close-air-support replacement aircraft figured prominently in the strategic calculus surrounding these issues.
As a result, the Air Force will be looking for the “optimal” type of close-air-support platform by weighing various considerations such as what the differences might be between existing aircraft and future developmental platforms.
Cost and affordability will also be a very large part of the equation when it comes to making determinations about an A-10 replacement, Holmes explained.
“The question is exactly where is the sweet spot as we talked about between what’s available now and what the optimum CAS replacement would be. We are working along that continuum to see exactly what the requirement is that we can afford and the numbers that we need to be able to do the mission,” Holmes added.
Several industry platforms, such as Raytheon’s T-X plane and the A-29 Embraer EMB Super Tucano aircraft, are among options being looked at as things which could potentially be configured for a close-air-support plane.
Having the requisite funds to support this would be of great value to the Air Force; Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh recently told lawmakers that, despite the prior plan, the service did not want to retire the A-10.
Prior plans to retire the fleet of A-10s were purely budget driven, senior Air Force leaders have consistently said.
“I don’t want to retire it,” Welsh told a Congressional Committee in early March.
Air Force leaders had previously said that the emerging multi-role F-35 would be able to pick up the close-air-support mission. With its sensor technology, 25mm gun and maneuverability, there is little question about whether the F-35 could succeed with these kinds of missions. At the same time, there is also consensus that the A-10 provides an extremely unique set of battlefield attributes which need to be preserved for decades.
This week, nearly 10 years after he was killed in combat operations in Iraq, U.S. forces brought home the remains of F-16 pilot Maj. Troy Gilbert, who died saving the lives of U.S. service members and coalition allies.
On Nov. 27, 2006, Gilbert and his wingman were flying back to base when they got the call that an AH-6 Little Bird helicopter had been shot down. Enemy insurgents had the crew, along with the coalition forces called in to support, outnumbered and pinned down.
With little fuel left, the two F-16 pilots changed course and headed to the hotly contested warzone just outside of Taji, Iraq. Due to fuel limitations, the pilots were forced to take turns refueling and providing air support to the troops under fire. By the time Gilbert was able to make his first approach, the calls for support had grown more urgent. Insurgents attacked with truck-mounted heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, small arms fire and mortars.
Gilbert, a friendly Texas Tech graduate dubbed “Trojan” by his fellow aviators, acted quickly and aggressively. To avoid causing civilian casualties by dropping the bombs he carried under his wings, he opted for low-altitude strafing passes using his 20-milimeter Gatling gun. Gilbert made his first pass, destroying one truck and dispersing the others which were almost upon the friendly forces 20 miles northwest of Baghdad. Keeping his eye on the enemy targets moving at high speed, he conducted a second pass from an even lower altitude.
He continued firing on the enemy forces during a dynamic and difficult flight profile, impacting the ground at high speed on the second pass. Reports say the crash killed him instantly. However, Al Qaeda insurgents took Gilbert’s body before U.S. forces were able to get to the scene, leading to 10 long years of a family waiting for their husband, father, son and brother to come home.
He was survived by his wife Ginger Gilbert Ravella, sons Boston and Greyson, and daughters Isabella, Aspen and Annalise.
In a letter to Gilbert’s wife from the Army element commander whose troops the F-16 pilot was supporting that day, the commander wrote that Gilbert saved his unit from “almost certain disaster” as insurgents prepared to attack their position with mortars.
“With no ability to protect ourselves on the desert floor, we most certainly would have sustained heavy casualties,” he wrote. “Troy, however, stopped that from happening. His amazing display of bravery and tenacity immediately broke up the enemy formation and caused them to flee in panic. My men and I will never forget the ultimate sacrifice your husband made for me and my men on Nov. 27th, and we will always be in his debt.”
“Major Gilbert’s motivation to succeed saved the lives of the helicopter crew and other coalition ground forces,” then-president of the accident investigation board and current Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in his safety report.Goldfein saluted as Gilbert’s remains were solemnly carried from the C-17 that brought him home this week.
Also on hand was Gen. Robin Rand, Air Force Global Strike Command commander. Rand regarded Gilbert as a friend, first meeting him when he was an F-16 pilot at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, and eventually crossing paths again when Gilbert became his executive officer at Luke. The relationship continued when Gilbert served under Rand’s command in the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Balad Air Base, Iraq in 2006.
“Troy fought like a tiger in battle that day,” Rand said. “No doubt, his actions on Nov. 27, 2006 illustrate greatness, but those actions that day aren’t what made him great. What made him great was his commitment to adhere in every facet of his life to our three treasured core values of integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do.”
Rand recalled how Gilbert spent much of his off-duty time at Balad volunteering in the base hospital or supporting the unit chapel. He said base medics were so overcome by Gilbert’s death that they came to see him, asking if they could name a wing of the hospital after him, and enlisted groups petitioned to have the Balad Air Base chapel annex renamed “Troy’s Place.”
Following the accident, U.S. forces recovered DNA which provided enough information to positively identify Gilbert. His funeral, with full military honors, followed Dec. 11, 2006 at Arlington National Cemetery. In September 2012, some additional, but very limited, remains were recovered and interred during a second service Dec. 11, 2013.
Then, on Aug. 28, an Iraqi tribal leader approached a U.S. military advisor near al Taqaddam, Iraq, and produced what he claimed to be evidence of the remains of a U.S. military pilot who had crashed in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Iraqi said he was a representative of his tribe, which had the remains and the flight gear the pilot was wearing when he went down.
The tribal leader turned over the evidence to the U.S. advisor who immediately provided it to U.S. experts for testing at the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. AFMES confirmed the evidence Sept. 7 through DNA testing.
With this verification, U.S. military advisors in Iraq reengaged the tribal leader who subsequently turned over the remains, including a U.S. flight suit, flight jacket and parachute harness.
Gilbert’s remains, promptly prepared for return to the U.S. for testing, arrived Oct. 3 at Dover AFB. Airmen at Dover conducted a dignified transfer upon arrival at the base, which was attended by Gilbert’s family, base officials and senior Air Force leaders, to include the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James, Goldfein, Rand, and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody.
AFMES confirmed Oct. 4 through dental examination and DNA testing that all remains received were those of Maj. Gilbert. His lost remains had been recovered and fully repatriated.
“First and foremost I want say God is forever faithful,” Gilbert Ravella said. “He was good whether this recovery ever happened or not. But we praise Him, in His infinite mercies, for granting us this miracle after almost 10 years of waiting, hoping and praying.
“Second, I want to thank not only the brave Special Operations Forces that ultimately found Troy’s body but also each and every single Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine who searched or supported the recovery mission during these last 10 years,” she said. “As each of them put on the uniform and gave their best efforts, not fully knowing if they made a difference, I can assure them that they laid the stepping stones which led to this final victory. Justice was served.
James also praised the unwavering commitment of those who endeavored to bring the fallen fighter pilot back to U.S. soil.
“We are grateful to all those within the U.S. military, the U.S. government and beyond who never gave up and worked so hard to help return this American hero home to his final resting place,” James said. “As an Air Force, we are absolutely committed to leaving no Airman behind and to honoring the memory of warriors like Maj. Gilbert who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation.”
Goldfein echoed James’ sentiments saying Gilbert represented the best ideals of America’s Airmen.
“As an Air Force officer, husband and father, Troy Gilbert truly represented what being an Airman is all about,” Goldfein said. “He was committed to serving his country, his team and his family in everything he did. On the day he died, he characteristically put service before self when he answered the short-notice call to support coalition ground forces who had come under attack. He put his own safety aside and saved many lives that day.”
Now, finally, a decade later, Gilbert has returned to the country he so valiantly served. At the request of his family, his remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery in the coming months along with the remains originally recovered in 2006 and 2012.
“The memory of my five children watching their father’s flag-draped transfer case being unloaded from the cargo hold and carried by his brothers-in-arms back to American soil renews my hope for all mankind,” said Gilbert Ravella. “Attending the dignified transfer at Dover Monday night was the closest we have been to Troy in 10 years. That was bittersweet.
“However, the memory of his sacrificial selflessness, his passionate love for Jesus Christ, his devotion to his family and to his beloved country echoed in their footsteps long after the transport vehicle drove him away,” she said. “From the bottom of my heart I want everyone to know how grateful the kids and I have been for your years of prayers. There is no doubt they reached the very ears of God.”
“As our military promised, no one was left behind on the field of battle,” Gilbert Ravella said. “Troy is home.”
Of course, anything made to kill another human being has an element of dubiousness about it; but some designs go above and beyond merely killing and add suffering to the equation. Here are nine of these evil weapons:
1. Boiling Oil/Hot Tar
One of the earliest forms of evil weapons. When defending a castle, use arrows and spears and rocks to simply kill. Use hot tar to terrorize and demoralize the enemy as well as kill him.
2. Mustard Gas
Mustard gas was first used in battle by the Germans in World War I with the expressed intent of demoralizing the enemy rather than kill him. The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. This was extremely painful. Fatally injured victims sometimes took four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure. (Source: Wikipedia)
3. V-1 Buzz Bomb
The V-1 rockets were not intended to hit specific targets, but instead, they were designed terrorize the population of England during World War II.
What do you do when you don’t want to crawl into tunnels and pull Japanese soldiers out of their hiding places one-by-one? You strap on your flamethrower and burn them out — a torturous way to go.
Firebombing is an air attack technique that combines blast bombing with incendiaries to yield much more destruction than blast bombs would alone. The Germans firebombed Coventry and London in 1940, and the British paid them back in spades toward the end of the war, most notably at Dresden.
6. Atomic Bomb
Since August of 1945 service academies and war colleges have studied the calculus of using the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but regardless of whether the strategy ultimately saved lives that would have been lost during a manned invasion of the Japanese homeland, it inflicted great suffering on the population in the form of destruction on an unprecedented scale and the follow-on radiation poisoning.
7. Anti-personnel Mines
These mines are designed to maim, not necessarily to kill. Stepping on them causes the mechanism to bounce up to pelvis level before exploding, causing maximum suffering before a slow painful death.
8. Punji Sticks
An evil booby trap most notoriously associated with the Vietnam War, Punji Sticks were a low-fi weapon used by the Vietcong to terrorize American forces patrolling the jungle. The sharp sticks were hidden under tarps or trap doors covered with brush, and they inflicted nasty and painful wounds to lower extremities.
A bomb full of a gelling agent and petroleum, Napalm was originally used against buildings but later became an anti-personnel weapon. The flaming goo that erupts when the weapon goes high order sticks to skin and causes severe burns.
Was it ransom? That is the question that is now being asked as a Wall Street Journal report of a $400 million payment to Iran emerges. The money, reportedly Swiss francs and Euros that were provided by European countries, was delivered in pallets of cold, hard cash via unmarked cargo plane as four Americans were released back in January. Three of the Americans were flown out of Iran by the Swiss, while the fourth returned to the United States on his own.
Supposedly, the money was delivered as part of a $1.7 billion settlement surrounding an arms deal made before the fall of the Shah of Iran. Among the big components of that deal were guided-missile destroyers and F-16 fighters. The destroyers later were taken into service with the United States Navy as the Kidd-class destroyers, all of whom were named for admirals killed in action during World War II. The timing of that settlement, though, raised questions about whether the settlement was cover for a ransom payment. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, told The Wall Street Journal, “This break with longstanding U.S. policy put a price on the head of Americans, and has led Iran to continue its illegal seizures.”
Cotton’s comments were echoed by Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who served for over two decades in the Naval Reserve. “Paying ransom to kidnappers puts Americans even more at risk. While Americans were relieved by Iran’s overdue release of illegally imprisoned American hostages, the White House’s policy of appeasement has led Iran to illegally seize more American hostages, including Siamak Namazi, his father Baquer Namazi, and Reza Shahini,” he said.
The senators’ comments seem to be backed by comments on Iranian state media by a high-ranking commander of the Basij, an Iranian militia force, who was quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying, “Taking this much money back was in return for the release of the American spies.”
Since the first payment in January, the three Americans mentioned in Senator Kirk’s statement have reportedly been seized by the Khameni regime, leading some to speculate as to whether or not Iran is seeking leverage to force the release of other frozen assets. One portion of those assets, $2 billion frozen in 2009, was awarded to the victims of Iranian-sponsored attacks in a case that was finally resolved by the Supreme Court.
The U.S. Army’s new boss recently got a chance do shoot-house training with the latest Microsoft-based, smart soldier glasses.
Ryan McCarthy, who is now serving as acting secretary of the Army, and incoming Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville traveled to Fort Pickett, Virginia earlier this spring to try out early prototypes of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS.
The Army awarded a $480 million contract to Microsoft in November 2018 to develop IVAS — a high-tech device that relies on augmented reality to create a synthetic training environment for soldiers. The experience is reportedly similar to first-person shooter video games. The system is being designed to also be worn in combat, projecting the operator’s weapon sight reticle into the glasses.
“He and I literally put them on, and we went through a shoot house together,” McCarthy told Military.com on a flight to Fort Knox, Kentucky.
“Here’s the thing — they are empty rooms, because we had the synthetic feed.”
The Army’s new Integrated Visual Augmentation system is a single platform that uses augmented reality where soldiers and Marines can fight, rehearse, and train.
McCarthy then described how the IVAS device presented targets that resembled enemy fighters from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
“I literally came in a room … and they looked like Taliban targets and ISIS guys with black turbans,” he said. “They had one where they had a guy holding a civilian. It looked like a very good video game.”
IVAS is part of the Army’s effort to create a synthetic training world so soldiers can run through many repetitions of combat scenarios, such as clearing urban areas and engaging enemy forces, without having to leave home station and travel to training facilities.
Leaders can view the data compiled by IVAS during the training to show soldiers where they need improvement.
McCarthy and McConville were joined by Army and Marine Corps sergeants who also took a turn with IVAS.
“We had a bunch of NCOs from the 75th Ranger Regiment and the 1st Marine Division, and they did the shoot house and reminded me that I have been out for a while,” McCarthy chuckled, referring to the days when he served in the Ranger Regiment. McCarthy served in the Army from 1997-2002.
Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy.
McCarthy acknowledged that these were early prototypes of IVAS that need further development.
“You would do it for a little bit, and they would go out and [engineers] had to make a tweak and they would get the screen back up,” McCarthy said.
Rangers and Marines liked the technology, he said.
“The one thing that they all really liked about it was the greater depth perception,” he said.
“It was like a pair of glasses … and literally when you are walking through a room and seeing the target, I had depth perception to my left and right, so I could see down the hallway.”
IVAS replaces the service’s Heads-Up Display 3.0 effort to develop a sophisticated situational awareness tool soldiers can use to view key tactical information before their eyes.
Officials hope to complete the prototyping phase on IVAS by 2020; when the system might be fielded to soldiers is still unclear.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The sheer magnitude of traumatic brain injury in the military is enough to make anyone’s head hurt. Troops can get TBI from any number of actions. Everything carries a TBI risk, from routine training to combat operations, so it’s no surprise the injury is getting more attention in recent years. The U.S. military has counted the number of TBI cases suffered by its troops since 2000, and the numbers are sadly very big.
More than 383,000 American troops have suffered some form of TBI, either in daily operations or in a theater of combat. What is most startling about the numbers isn’t just how many, it’s how many people in each branch suffered such injuries. Soldiers of the U.S. Army are far more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury.
While the numbers of overall penetrating and severe TBI are thankfully relatively low, mild injuries make up a bulk of the cases, even when the injuries are broken down by branch. And while “moderate” TBI may not seem as dire as the word “moderate” sounds, those with moderate brain injuries can find themselves with reduced mobility, motor function, and unable to speak effectively. A recent video highlighting caretakers of TBI veterans by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation highlights just how hard life can be for a victim of moderate TBI.
Unfortunately, moderate brain injuries are the second largest number of injuries suffered by U.S. troops. But the real tragedy is how many TBI sufferers are in the U.S. Army.
Of the more than 383,000 troops that have suffered TBI since 2000, a staggering 225,144 of them have been in some component of the Army. Some 15.8 percent of that was National Guard troops, while 7.3 percent were Army Reserve. The rest, 76.9 percent, were active-duty troops. The numbers on what types of TBI mirror the numbers of all branches put together, with mild being the most widespread, followed by moderate, penetrating, and severe cases.
The rest of the branches hover between 52,000 and 54,000, the Marines have slightly more TBI reports, probably by nature of what they do. This data also reflects an update to the definitions of TBI, more information about the injuries, and subsequent reviews of existing Pentagon data.
The 3-year-old daughter of Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerome Cinco, a hospital corpsman with Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment, holds her father close before his departure from Marine Corps Base Hawaii on a seven-month deployment to Afghanistan. Unlike their last two deployments — supporting Task Forces Military Police in Iraq — 1/12 will revert back to its primary mission and provide artillery fire support to 2nd Marine Division (Forward) during ongoing counterinsurgency operations in the province.
On Tuesday night, the nation watched as President Trump praised a military spouse for her sacrifices and efforts, and then surprised her and her children. “I am thrilled to inform you that your husband is back from deployment. He is here with us tonight and we couldn’t keep him waiting any longer!” The woman looked genuinely surprised.
She gathered her two young children close and they watched as her husband, handsome in his dress uniform, walked down the stairs toward them, as members of Congress and millions of television viewers cheered.
But some of us in military families saw something different.
As pleased as we were for that family, and we were very pleased, we were also cringing. We knew more, much more, was happening under the surface, and would be happening for many days to come. I’ve been married to a soldier for 17 years, and he has deployed nearly every year of our marriage. I know this subject well.
Some of us call these public homecomings “reunion porn” because they’re shared for the entertainment of the spectators, not for the health of the family. Surprise public reunions are such a part of our culture now, after 18 years of war have overlapped with 15 years of YouTube, that in the later weeks of a deployment, well-meaning friends and family members will start asking us what our plans are for the reunion. They look on expectantly, hoping for details of jumbotrons — like we’re supposed to be organizing a flash mob on top of taking care of absolutely everything else. For them, these are grand milestones that should be celebrated en masse, like over-the-top engagements and increasingly complex gender reveals.
But a deployment reunion does not have the unfettered joy of an engagement or a birth announcement. It’s a complicated stew. There is joy, undoubtedly, but there is also trauma. There is survivor’s guilt, and resentment, and weeks of awful reintegration that loom, in sleepless nights after endless fights. On some level, I wish that every reunion video was paired with a deployment video, bookends of the war experience, and that you didn’t get to celebrate the hello until you had agonized through the goodbye. I wish people saw that many months before that child was surprised by a smiling, uniformed parent in an elementary school classroom, he had to be peeled and pulled off that deploying soldier by the parent who was staying home. I wish people saw that service member gulp, blink back tears, and force him or herself to turn and walk away. Not out of indifference or cruelty, but out of duty.
I wish people could hear the screams – the actual screams – military teens and tweens make when they are told their parent is deploying. Again. I wish the cheering crowds knew what it feels like to give birth alone, in a town where you know no one, and to take that baby back to an empty home without a clue of what to do, but having to do it anyway.
I wish they knew what it feels like for a service member to meet his own child on Skype, and not get to hold her in his arms until the baby is already crawling. Or to not be at the bedside when their child goes into surgery. Or to miss a graduation, and every game, recital and play.
I wish they saw me, sitting in a patio chair in the July heat, trying to hear my husband over a spotty satellite phone connection, with gunshots and mortar rounds perforating the conversation. Then hanging up and putting on a brave face to go back inside the house, because it was time to give my dad more pain medicine so that he wouldn’t feel the cancer that killed him.
I wish they heard the three volleys. I wish they watched the flag being crisply folded. I wish they hugged strangers at military funerals because it was obvious those strangers needed hugs. I wish they pushed the wheelchairs and suffered through the night terrors and witnessed the humiliation of a brain-injured warrior trying to remember his own address.
But, of course, I don’t actually wish everyone could see all of these raw moments. No one should have the worst days of their lives televised. I suppose what I really wish is that the same good-hearted, well-intentioned people who are sincerely happy to see our military families reunited would pay more attention to the war. I wish they knew where our service members were deploying to, and why.
I wish they knew our lives, even when the scenes aren’t pretty or heartwarming, so it wouldn’t feel like we were carrying these burdens alone.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is a now a master photographer, cartoonist and storyteller.
Officer: “Guys, if this job were easy monkeys could do it.”
NCO: “Yeah, and if monkeys could do it… then we wouldn’t need officers.”
When I was stationed with Special Forces Dive Academy in Key West Florida as an instructor, I took to immortalizing events as I witnessed them in person: the good, the bad, the smart, the stupid, and always the funny. Heck, as a cartoonist I could always make events funny even if they weren’t; that’s just what a cartoonist does.
The beauty of being the cartoonist is that I got to choose the events that were going to get the attention. Sure, guys could come up and present their ideas to me and plead their case, but if I didn’t like it I simply could… ignore it! It was easy to become intoxicated with power.
I carried the tradition with me to the Delta Force. I anonymously hung my first cartoon in the day room to test the waters. The sterling response from the pipe-hitters meant I could claim my work, and I kept a working log of my cartoons in a binder on the bar in our squadron lounge titled: A-Squadron Tymz.
Most of the guys loved being featured in the Squadron Tymz and roared with laughter at their plight or praise. Others lamented their incidental turn to be in the book. I consoled them in all seriousness:
“Brother, you’re looking at this all wrong… you WANT to be in the book; everyone should WANT to be in it because you are then immortalized for all time!” They thought that the book was a record of their mistakes but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
I really am quite certain that piece of cheerleading in earnest gifted them peace of mind, and none of the features I added to the book were ever in poor taste. Brothers from the other squadrons tended to mosey over to our break room to have a casual gander at the latest cartoons and beg the backstory from any standers-by. Other squadrons even began to keep their own versions of my Squadron Tymz.
As for the back story of the featured cartoon, there are two parts depicting events that both happened on the same assault on a complex target objective. My assault team was designated to move in behind an initial ground floor clearing team. Once they cleared that ground floor of threats using assault weapons and flash-bang grenades, my team was to flow through quickly to the stairs and gain access to the top floor.
All went particularly well, if I may brag; assault rifles belched smoke, fire, lead, and hate as bangers thundered smashing out glass in the window pains and tearing holes through gypsum wall boarding. Calls rang out:
“CLEAR,” “CLEAR HERE,” “ALL CLEAR,”!!
The condemned and abandoned target subject (left side)
Each of the guys on my team peered out and down the hall where our bro Guido had just swaggered out of a room and stood in the middle of the hall where you weren’t ever supposed to stop and stand. It was time for Guido-style post-assault levity as we had become accustomed to it. He stood with his rifle on his hip like a duck hunter, other hand on hip, head cocked to the side and stated in his best cool-guy voice.
“I think there’s something you guys don’t realized but need to know right now, and that is that this top floor is now officially… CLEAR!”
With that, the floor under his feet creaked and sagged, and Guido went instantly crashing through the floor of the old condemned building. His body fell roughly to its waist then jammed in the hole. On the floor below, startled men cursed as a half-dozen little red dots from visible lasers danced across his kicking legs.
We dashed to extract him. He cried out as we tugged and pulled him finally through the hole in the floor. Once out we headed back downstairs, Guido limping heavily. He had tweaked his hip in the fall, an injury we all insisted for days was actually his ass, a notion that he strenuously objected too at every opportunity.
Outside a car sped away with three more assaulters who had blocked the road leading to the target during the assault. Once we reported the objective secured, the men intended to push out farther away from the target to provide more advance notice to the assault force of approaching vehicles.
The vehicle they were in was purchased by the Unit from a local car dealer, and in need of repair, and fixed up by our crack mechanic shop. It was known by us all to have mushy breaks. As the driver, Jester, came up fast on the second security position in the dark he chose to right-leg break the car to a definitive stop, but didn’t have time to warn his riders.
As the car screeched to a halt, passenger Chainsaw came flying off his vinyl seat and slammed his head into and shattered the windshield. Poor Chainsaw… as Jester describes: “The brother is an accident magnet,” and indeed that may well be, as Chainsaw wrecked a motorcycle his first week in squadron plunging the kickstand through one of his calves.
The accident magnet Chainsaw in this exaggerated version is launched through the windshield as the Jester laments: “What have I done” in German.
Later he was blown up by the premature detonation of an explosive breaching charge. He is famous in the Unit for taking a .45 caliber ACP bullet to the forehead and surviving. The bullet struck his head at a shallow angle and bounced off just above his hairline. It snapped his neck back injuring it, but otherwise, he was ok. Only in the shower when his hair was wet could you see the .45 bullet-shaped scar on his scalp.
Sadly, Chainsaw was hit again in the head by an HK G3 rifle at the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. This time he was gravely injured and still suffers to this day from that head wound. We two remain friends on Facebook, catching up and busting chops just like in the day.
7.62 x 51 (NATO) Heckler and Koch (HK) G3 rifle
“How’s your ass, Guido?”
“I told you guys it’s my hip… my hip is what is injured; not my ass!”
“Ok, whatever you say, Guido… you take care of that ass, ya hear?”
“I TOLD you it’s not my ASS!”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha… sure thing, Guido.” And so it went.
The Army expects its new Joint Effects Targeting System — a handheld, portable device for target observation, location, and designation — to start arriving with forward-observation teams by mid-2018, according to Army Times.
JETS consists of a hand-held target location module, a precision azimuth and vertical angle module, and a laser marker module, which are mounted on a tripod. The system offers Army forward observers better targeting capabilities than current systems and can be used day or night in all weather conditions.
“It’s brand-new cutting-edge technology that is a paradigm shift” in how field artillery could be employed on the battlefield, Lt. Col. Michael Frank, product manager for Soldier Precision Targeting Devices, said in October. JETS, he added, could turn a howitzer or the Paladin self-propelled artillery weapon “into a giant sniper rifle.”
“I’m dropping that round, with first-round effects, on target,” he said.
The system will also speed the measurement process, Frank said. “We don’t have to take anywhere from 15 to 18 to 20 minutes. We can get that target data to the guns and rounds out of the tube faster with JETS than without.”
The Army currently has the Lightweight Laser Designator Rangefinder for these purposes, but it is larger and heavier than the JETS. It weighs approximately 35 pounds and is considered a crew-served system, though it is operated by a single soldier.
The system underwent testing during 2017, including airdrop testing at Fort Bragg in North Carolina in August, when soldiers put the system through several combat-equipment jumps and door-bundle jumps, evaluating its ability to function after hitting the ground.
After each drop, the forward observers testing the system assembled the equipment and started identifying and designating enemy personnel and vehicle targets in day and night conditions. The targets were set up on rolling terrain at distances from 800 meters to more than 2,500 meters.
That was followed in October by weeks of tests at the Cold Regions Test Center at Fort Greely in Alaska.
There, forward-observation teams put the system through its paces using “operationally realistic approach[es] to detect, recognize, and identify targets in a tactical environment,” the Army said in a release.
Soldiers conducted the tests in mountainous Alaskan terrain at elevations between 1,000 and 2,500 meters at several different observation posts, using the system’s own self-location methods to establish their location at each observation point.
The Army is looking to finish its testing and evaluation, including inclement weather and airdrop tests, early this year and have the JETS in the hands of every forward-observation team starting in July 2018, according to Army Times.