This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’ - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

September 11, 2001 means different things for different Americans. For some, the events of that date will forever be seared in their memories. For others, they were too young to know what was going on, yet they sensed something big had happened. For a younger generation, 9/11 is history. They read about it in textbooks that are absent the feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress that plagued so many Americans on that morning and the days following.

But, it’s an important date. It’s a date that represents sacrifice. Many people died, putting the lives of others before theirs. It’s a date that represents unity. Americans came together to offer up support to the families of the fallen. It also represents mistakes. Following the events of 9/11, Muslims and Middle-Eastern Americans had to weather the racial blowback that came from 19 men flying planes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.


What’s important is that we remember. And that our kids know what happened that day, so the sacrifices, the story of Americans coming together, as well as the mistakes we made are not forgotten. And a great way to share memories is through stories. In her debut middle-school novel, Caroline Brooks DuBois gives us The Places We Sleep. It’s a story about a young girl navigating a new school (because her dad is in the Army) during the events of September 11, 2001. I recently interviewed Caroline to learn more about her book.

WATM: This novel touches on so many different themes: 9/11, racism, being a military kid, being a middle schooler, and being a young girl in middle school. Could you talk a little bit about the story you tell in The Places We Sleep?

Caroline: With Abbey, I attempted to create a middle school character who is as multifaceted as the pre-teens and teens I know and teach (and adore). Middle schoolers currently are living through very complex times, yet they are still concerned about their complexion, their hair, what to wear, who said what to whom, getting embarrassed in front of their peers, and so much more. In the story, Abbey navigates challenging world events along with the struggles of middle school and adolescence. Currently, teens and children are facing their own difficult world events, so I hope readers will see how Abbey perseveres and strives to be a good friend, to be kind, and to express empathy and tolerance to others.

Although I did not grow up in a military family, both of my grandfathers served in the military, as well as both of my brothers, my brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. In the years that followed 9/11, my brothers and my brother-in-law were all called into active duty and deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq. These events were the seed for Abbey’s story. I knew I wanted to write about how world events have rippling effects on individuals and families in unexpected ways. But I also wanted to tell a story about a girl with whom readers could relate. Abbey’s story is about being a military child, but it’s also about identity, loss and grief, creating art in the face of tragedy, and friendship.

WATM: Who should pick this book up? Is this a book a parent could read with their middle schooler to talk about 9/11?

Caroline: Middle grade students I’ve taught have had only a fuzzy understanding of the events of 9/11 and are curious and want to know more. There are several great books for young readers on 9/11 that I’ve incorporated into my teaching over the years, as I’ve found reading stories offers an opening to difficult subjects. I hope The Places We Sleep will spark curiosity in young readers about 9/11 and the monumental lessons we learned and are still learning from that tragedy.

Although the story is written for middle-school age kids, adults have told me the story resonates with them as well. It allows readers to visit, or revisit, 9/11 in the safe space of a story. The current national trauma of the Coronavirus pandemic may have a similar traumatic impact on youth and adults. Reading with a child about a dark time in our history is one way to open up conversation on important topics such as resiliency, strength, attitude, and hope. My hope is that the book will leave readers with a memorable story about a girl who may not be all that different from themselves. If they see Abbey journey through difficult times and come out stronger, they too may be inspired and optimistic in the face of their generation’s own difficult times.

WATM: You chose to tell the story in Verse. Could you talk about that decision and why you think it will appeal to readers?

Caroline: As a teacher and parent, I’ve noticed the appeal of shorter and/or alternative forms of story-telling (e.g., books in verse, flash fiction, graphic novels, epistolaries, etc.), undoubtedly influenced by technology and reading online. Even though I have a love for long form and traditional novels, I’ve noticed how books in verse can create more white space between scenes as well as playful or dramatic visual messages with syntax, punctuation, and form, which can motivate or hook adolescent readers.

Abbey’s story came to me naturally in poetry, perhaps as a lyrical way to process 9/11 and my brothers’ deployment, but also likely because I’d recently completed my MFA in poetry. The snapshots or scenes that poems allow you to write provided me with the perfect medium for Abbey’s story.

Books in verse make great shared read-aloud opportunities. You’re never too old to be read to or to enjoy reading aloud to someone else. Where you may not have time to read an entire chapter with someone, there’s always time for a poem or two.

WATM: On top of all the other crazy events in the book, Abbey also deals with the struggle of puberty. A lot of middle school books gloss over this. But, it’s a main part of Abbey’s story. Could you discuss why you chose to address it in your novel?

Caroline: When I was a pre-teen, one of the few sources for making sense of puberty was Judy Blume novels, which we passed covertly between friends (Think: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret and Then Again, Maybe I Won’t). Changing bodies were cringe-worthy and carried heavy feelings of shame. Not enough has changed since then. I should know: I taught 7th grade for three years recently, and I saw it when girls cornered me at my desk to signal with their eyes they needed an emergency bathroom break, or when boys shut down in class conversations, avoiding branding themselves as not part of the pack. Novels that talk about puberty openly and other difficult issues are lifesavers for youth. Now more than ever, young readers need to be able to see themselves in books. Sometimes it takes a character in a book to show a reader they are not alone. Forewarning, my second reason is a little cerebral and a slight spoiler regarding Abbey’s character arc. Through her journey, Abbey makes a connection between coming of age (a.k.a, getting her period) and possessing the power to create life. She contemplates how the terrorists on 9/11 chose to destroy life. Coming of age brings with it many choices about how to act, and sometimes acting with integrity and authenticity means not following your peers—and that’s a true test of character.

WATM: Outside of classical literature, this is the first time I’ve ever read a novel in verse. Since you got your MFA in poetry, what are some of the must-reads in this genre?

Caroline: In this space, I’ll mainly mention notable middle-grade novelists who write in verse, but there are also numerous young adult novelists who write in verse as well. Disclaimer: These are a few of my own personal favorites and there are many others not included: Kwame Alexander (sports-themed Crossover and Booked), Sharon Creech (Love that Dog and Hate that Cat), Thanhha Lai (Inside Out Back Again), and Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming). Additionally, Ellen Hopkins is a must-read author of books in verse for young adults; she tackles challenging topics such as drug addiction and mental illness in her unapologetic, in-your-face verse. One of my all-time favorite novels in verse is Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, which tells the story of 14-year-old Billie Jo, who struggles to help her family survive the Dust Bowl.

The Places We Sleep is available on Amazon.

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This Navy SEAL was wounded during the frantic search for Bowe Bergdahl

On June 21, a former Navy SEAL testified that his military career ended when he was shot in the leg during a hastily planned mission to find Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl after the soldier left his post in Afghanistan.


Retired Senior Chief Petty Officer James Hatch told the judge that his team had about 90 minutes to plan their mission and board helicopters after receiving information about Bergdahl’s purported whereabouts shortly after he disappeared in 2009. While pursuing enemy fighters on foot, Hatch was hit by fire from an AK-47. Hatch says he survived because members of his team quickly applied a tourniquet while waiting for a medical helicopter.

“They saved me from bleeding to death for sure,” he testified during the pretrial hearing. Hatch, who entered the courtroom with a service dog and a limp, said he’s had 18 surgeries because of the wound.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
Bowe Bergdahl. Photo via NewsEdge.

Also on June 21, the military judge told defense attorneys they can ask potential military jurors about President Donald Trump on a lengthy written questionnaire. Defense lawyers have argued Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl will prevent him from getting a fair trial on charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

Prosecutors want to use the injuries to Hatch and others as evidence during sentencing if Bergdahl is convicted. The judge, Col. Jeffery Nance, already ruled that the injury evidence can’t be used during the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial scheduled for October.

A legal scholar not involved in the case, Eric Carpenter, said the decision on the injuries could be pivotal.

“This evidence has already been excluded from the guilt phase of the trial, and if it is excluded during the sentencing phase, the heart of the government’s case will be gone,” said Carpenter, a former Army lawyer who teaches law at Florida International University. “This might make the government more receptive to a deal.”

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Defense attorney Eugene Fidell declined to say after the hearing whether his client is interested in a plea bargain.

The topic also came up during the hearing. Defense attorneys asked the judge to rule that any alleged desertion ended when Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban hours after he left the remote post. They say the determination is needed so they can advise their client on how to plead to the desertion charge.

“We need to know so we can tell Sgt. Bergdahl what the consequences are,” Fidell told the judge, Col. Jeffery R. Nance.

Nance responded that Bergdahl can choose to plead guilty to the lesser offense of unauthorized absence, or AWOL, but that prosecutors could continue pursuing the more serious desertion charge if they weren’t satisfied. The judge said he would rule later on the defense’s arguments about the duration of Bergdahl’s absence.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
A U.S. Army soldier from 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, Task Force Black Hawk, conducts a foot patrol in the small village of Yayah Khel, March 10, 2012. DoD Photo by Sgt. Ken Scar.

The judge also said he would rule later on a motion to dismiss the misbehavior-before-the-enemy charge, which could land Bergdahl in prison for life. Defense attorneys say prosecutors chose the wrong building blocks for the offense because the actions cited in the charge wouldn’t be independently criminal, an argument that prosecutors dispute.

Later in the hearing, Nance said he would allow the defense to probe potential jurors’ feelings about Trump in a questionnaire being sent in the coming weeks. Prosecutors have objected to 17 of the approximately 40 questions, including ones asking how prospective panel members voted in the presidential election.

“I’m going to let you ask pretty much all the questions, but with some changes to address the government’s concerns,” Nance said.

Nance asked for further written arguments before the questionnaire is finalized. The judge previously said he would allow the defense wide leeway to question potential jurors, even though he rejected a motion to dismiss the case over Trump’s comments entirely in a February ruling.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
Former President Obama and Bowe Bergdahl’s parents. Photo from the Obama White House Archives.

Bergdahl left his remote post in Afghanistan in 2009 and was subsequently held by the Taliban and its allies for about five years. The military probe of Bergdahl began soon after he was freed from captivity on May 31, 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed he jeopardized the nation’s security with the trade.

Bergdahl, who has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base, has said he walked off his post to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army will invest $50 million in drone supply convoys

The U.S. Army has awarded a $49.7 million contract to Robotic Research LLC for autonomous kits to be tested on large supply vehicles in an effort to one day send unmanned resupply convoys across the battlefield.

The three-year award is part of the Expedient Leader Follower program, which is designed to extend the scope of the Autonomous Ground Resupply program, according to a recent release from Robotic Research.


Army leaders have pledged to make robotics and vehicle autonomy one of the service’s top modernization priorities.

The Next Generation Combat Vehicle program will be designed around manned and unmanned combat vehicles, giving commanders the option to send robotic vehicles against the enemy before committing manned combat forces, Army officials said.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
A Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle launches from the Navy Surface Warfare Centeru00a0Dahlgren test range.
(U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

The service plans to build its first Robotic Combat Vehicle technology demonstrator in three years. The early RCVs will help program officials develop future designs of autonomous combat vehicles, officials added.

Army Secretary Mark Esper has stressed that autonomous vehicles have a definite place in what became one of the most deadly mission during the Iraq War — resupply convoy duty.

The Army lost “too many” soldiers to improvised explosive device attacks driving and riding in resupply convoys, he said.

Under the Expedient Leader Follower program, the autonomous kits, made by Robotic Research, will be installed on Army vehicles, such as the Oshkosh PLS A1s. A series of the optionally manned vehicles will autonomously follow the path of the first, manned vehicle, the release states.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
The XM1216 Small Unmanned Ground Vehicle.

The program follows the “Autonomous Mobility Applique Systems (AMAS), Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD), and [Autonomous Ground Resupply] programs to develop unmanned prototype systems that address the needs of the Leader Follower Directed Requirement and Program of Record,” the release states.

The AGR architecture is being developed to “become the de-facto autonomous architecture for all foreseeable ground robotic vehicles,” according to the release.

“We are deeply honored to have been selected to perform this critical work for the U.S. Army,” said Alberto Lacaze, president of Robotic Research. “The Robotic Research team shares the Army’s commitment to rapidly fielding effective autonomy solutions to our nation’s soldiers.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The UK’s massive new aircraft carrier already has a leak

The British navy’s newest and most expensive aircraft carrier needs repairs after a faulty shaft seal was identified during sea trials.


Officials say the HMS Queen Elizabeth, which cost roughly 3 billion pounds ($4 billion) to build, will be “scheduled for repair” at Portsmouth.

Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said Dec. 19 the repairs wouldn’t be paid for by taxpayers because contractors who built the ship would be responsible.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
Her Majesty The Queen takes the salute at the commissioning of HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Queen spoke at a ceremony in Portsmouth’s Naval base this morning, attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Anne, Prime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson, military chiefs and former Prime Ministers (Ministry of Defense Photo)

A Royal Navy statement says the problem won’t prevent the ship from sailing or interfere with the extensive sea trials program underway.

Queen Elizabeth II earlier this month attended the commissioning ceremony of the carrier, which is named after the monarch.

Articles

Marines’ nude photo scandal is even worse than first realized

The scandal that prompted an investigation into hundreds of Marines who are accused of sharing naked photographs of their colleagues in a private Facebook group is much larger than has been reported, Business Insider has learned.


The practice of sharing such photos goes beyond the Marine Corps and one Facebook group. Hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch have been posted to an image-sharing message board that dates back to at least May 2016. A source informed Business Insider of the site’s existence on Tuesday.

The site, called AnonIB, has a dedicated board for military personnel that features dozens of threaded conversations of men, many of whom ask for “wins” — naked photographs — of specific female service members, often identifying the women by name or by where they are currently stationed.

Related: Commandant on nude photo scandal: ‘Do you really want to be a Marine?’

The revelation comes on the heels of an explosive story published earlier this week by journalist Thomas Brennan. He reported on a Facebook group called “Marines United,” which was home to approximately 30,000 members that were sharing nude photos of colleagues, along with personal information and even encouragement of sexual assault.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tyler Main

The report led the Marine Corps to open an investigation, spurred widespread outrage in the media and in Congress, and prompted sharp condemnation from the Corps’ top leaders. According to the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, investigators in that case are considering felony charges that could carry a maximum penalty of up to seven years in prison.

An official familiar with the matter told Business Insider the Marine Commandant, Gen. Robert Neller, would be briefing members of the House Armed Services Committee on the scandal some time next week.

“We’re examining some of our policies to see if we can make them punitive in nature,” the official said, adding that the Corps was taking the issue very seriously.

Facebook group exodus leads to message board’s popularity

Brennan’s story also led to an apparent exodus of members from the private Facebook group, though some appeared to have found the publicly viewable message board soon after — with the express intent of finding the cache of nude images Marines in the Facebook group were sharing.

“Come on Marines share the wealth here before that site is nuked and all is lost,” wrote one anonymous user who posted on March 6, just two days after Brennan’s story was published. Follow-up replies offered a link to a Dropbox folder named “Girls of MU” with thousands of photographs inside.

Dropbox did not respond to a request for comment.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
Gen. Robert Neller, commandant of the Marine Corps, is expected to brief Congress on scandal next week. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Shawn Valosin

Members on the board often posted photos — seemingly stolen from female service members’ Instagram accounts — before asking others if they had nude pictures of a female service member.

For example, after posting the first name and photograph of a female soldier in uniform on January 21, one board member asked: “Army chick went to [redacted], ig is [redacted].” Another user, apparently frustrated no pictures had yet been found, posted a few days later: “BUMP. Let’s see them t——.”

On another thread, a member posted a photograph on May 30, 2016, of a female service member with her breasts exposed, asking, “She is in the navy down in san diego, anyone have any more wins?”

One user followed up on June 13, offering another nude photo of the purported female sailor.

Also Read: Chinese troops have been spotted in Afghanistan

“Keep them coming! She’s got them floating around someone [sic] and I’ve wanted to see this for a while,” another user wrote in response.

Some requested nude photographs by unit or location.

One user in September 2016 asked for photos of women in the Massachusetts National Guard, while another requested some from the Guard in Michigan. Other requests included nude pictures of any women stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Bragg in North Carolina, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, or Naval Medical Center in San Diego, along with many more US military installations around the world.

In statements to Business Insider, military branches universally denounced the message board and promised discipline for any service members who engaged in activities of misconduct.

“This alleged behavior is inconsistent with our values,” Lt. Col. Myles Caggins, spokesperson for the Department of Defense, told Business Insider.

Capt. Ryan Alvis, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, told Business Insider the service expects that the discovery of the Marines United page will motivate others to come forward to report other pages like it.

“Marines will attack this problem head-on and continue to get better,” Alvis said.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Johnson, a spokesperson for the Army, told Business Insider: “The Army is a values-based organization where everyone is expected to be treated with dignity and respect. As members of the Army team, individuals’ interaction offline and online reflect on the Army and its values. Soldiers or civilian employees who participate in or condone misconduct, whether offline or online, may be subject to criminal, disciplinary, and/or administrative action.”

Air Force spokesperson Zachary Anderson told Business Insider: “We expect our Airmen to adhere to these values at all times and to treat their fellow service members with the highest degree of dignity and respect. Any conduct or participation in activities, whether online or offline, that does not adhere to these principles will not be tolerated.  Airmen or civilian employees who engage in activities of misconduct that demean or disrespect fellow service members will be appropriately disciplined.”

The Navy did not respond to a request for comment.

‘Hope we can find more on this gem’

The image board hosts disturbing conversations from what appears, in many cases, to be between active-duty personnel.

“Any wins of [redacted]?” read one request, which shared further details about a female Marine’s whereabouts, indicating the anonymous user likely worked with her in the past.

Another thread posted in November 2016, which saw dozens of follow-up comments as users acted as cyber-sleuths to track down the victim, started with a single photograph of a female Marine, fully clothed, taken from her Instagram account.

“Any wins?” that user asked, telling others the Marine’s first name and where she had been stationed.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Caitlin Brink

One user hinted at her last name as others scoured her Instagram account, posting more photos that they had found. One photo of the victim and her friend prompted one user to ask for nude photos of the friend, as well: “Any of the dark haired girl in the green shirt and jeans next to her?”

The thread carried on for months.

“Amazing thread,” one user wrote. “Hope we can find more on this gem.”

In December, a nude photo was finally posted. “dudeee more,” one user wrote in response. Many others responded by “bumping” the thread to the top, so that others on the board would see it and potentially post more photos. Indeed, more photos soon appeared from the victim’s Instagram account, which was apparently made private or shut down numerous times.

On the board, users complained that her Instagram account kept disappearing, apparently due to the victim trying to thwart her harassers. But others quickly found her new accounts and told others, with the new Instagram account names being shared throughout the month of February.

“Oh god please someone have that p—-,” one user wrote.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
Screenshot

The site that hosts the message board seems to have little moderation and few rules, though it does tell users: “Don’t be evil.” Its posting rules instruct members to not post personal details such as addresses, telephone numbers, links to social networks, or last names.

Still, large numbers of users on the board do not appear to follow those rules.

In one popular thread started on January 9, an anonymous user posted non-nude pictures of a female airman, teasing others with the caption: “Anyone know her or have anything else on her? I’ve got a lot more if there is interest. Would love for her friends and family to see these.”

The user, who suggested he was a jilted ex-boyfriend, judging by the accompanying captions, posted many more photos in the following hours and days.

“She knows how to end it all. If she does get in contact with me I won’t post anymore. So get it while it’s hot!” he wrote.

Later in the thread, the man even referred to the airman by name and told her to check her Instagram messages.

“Wow, she blocked me on Instagram!” he later wrote. “Stupid c— must want me to post her s— up. I gave her a choice, it didn’t have to be this way. I’m not a bad guy, she had a choice. Oh well, no point in holding back now. I want you all to share this everywhere you can, once I start seeing her more places I’ll post her video.”

Aside from those serving on active-duty, even some who identified themselves as cadets at some military service academies started their own threads to try to find nude photos of their female classmates.

In a thread dedicated to the US Military Academy at West Point, some purported cadets shared photos and class graduation years of their female classmates.

“What about the basketball locker room pics, I know someone has those,” one user asked, apparently in reference to photos taken surreptitiously in the women’s locker room. “I always wondered whether those made it out of the academy computer system,” another user responded.

In 2012, an Army sergeant who helped to train and mentor cadets was discovered to have secretly filmed more than a dozen women in the bathroom and shower areas at West Point. The soldier pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced in 2014 to 33 months in prison.

A spokesperson for West Point did not respond to a request for comment.

“Bumping all 3 service academies’ threads to see who can post the best wins in the next 7 days. Winning school gets the [commander’s cup],” one user wrote. “Go Army, Beat Everyone.”

‘This has to be treated harshly’

The existence of a site dedicated solely to sharing nude photographs of female service members is another black mark for the Pentagon, which has been criticized in the past for failing to deal with rampant sexual harassment and abuse within the ranks.

A 2014 Rand Corporation study found that more than 20,000 service members had been sexually assaulted in the previous year. Nearly six times that number reported being sexually harassed. In some cases even, the military has pushed out victims of sexual assault who have reported it, instead of the perpetrators.

“I’m kind of surprised. I’m still naive I think, on some level,” said Kate Hendricks Thomas, a former Marine Corps officer who is now an assistant professor at Charleston Southern University. “I am really disappointed to hear that the reach is broader than 30,000 and a couple of now-defunct websites.”

Thomas criticized past responses to the problem, in which some have indicated the issue is too difficult for the military to wrap its arms around.

“This renders us less mission-effective. It’s got to be a priority,” she said.

“These websites are not boys being boys,” she added. “This is a symptom of rape culture.”

The message board also presents a challenge for military leaders, who may face an uphill battle in trying to find, and potentially prosecute, active-duty service members who share photos on the site. Unlike the Marines United Facebook group, where many users posted under their real names, the newly-revealed message board’s user base is mostly anonymous, and the site itself is registered in the Bahamas, outside the jurisdiction of US law enforcement.

Brad Moss, a lawyer who specializes in national security issues, told Business Insider the military may have a hard time convincing the internet service provider to shut down the website. Instead, he explained, the victims themselves may have more legal standing when contacting the ISP in order to get photos removed.

Still, Moss believes the military could squash the behavior if it adopted a “zero-tolerance” posture.

“I think that absolutely 100% should be the policy. If they catch the main perpetrators who are sharing these photos around and essentially engaging in revenge porn,” Moss said. “They should have a zero-tolerance policy, and boot them from the military with a dishonorable discharge.”

“If they do anything less, it’s only going to incentivize this behavior in the future,” he added. “This has to be treated harshly.”

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Navy to attack ISIS with upgraded laser-guided Maverick missile

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
An F-16C launching an AGM-65D Maverick missile. | U.S. Air Force photo by SMSgt. Chapman


U.S. Navy F-18 fighter jets will soon be targeting and destroying ISIS targets with upgraded laser-guided Maverick missiles engineered to pinpoint maneuvering or fast-moving targets, service officials explained.

The Maverick air-to-ground missile, in service since the Vietnam era, is now receiving an upgraded laser-seeker along with new software configurations to better enable it to hit targets on the run.

The upgraded weapon is currently configured to fire from an Air Force F-16 and A-10 and Navy Harrier Jets and F/A-18s.

“The Laser Maverick (LMAV) E2 seeker upgrade is capable of precisely targeting and destroying a wide variety of fixed, stationary and high speed moving land or sea targets,” Navy Spokeswoman Lt. Amber Lynn Daniel told Scout Warrior.

The LMAV E2 upgrade program has been implemented as a seeker and sustainment upgrade, she added. The Air Force is currently attacking ISIS with the upgraded Maverick through a prior deal to receive 256 missiles from its maker, Raytheon.

Also, there is an existing laser-guided version of the Maverick already in use; the new variant involves a substantial improvement in the weapon’s guidance and targeting systems.

The AGM-65E2, as it’s called, will be used to attack ISIS as part of the ongoing Operation Inherent Resolve, Navy officials said.  Such a technology is of particular relevance against ISIS because the ongoing U.S. Coalition air bombing has made it virtually impossible for ISIS to gather in large formations, use convoys of armored vehicles or mass large numbers of fighters.

As a result, their combat tactics are now largely restricted to movement in small groups such as pick-up trucks or groups of fighters deliberately blended in with civilians. This kind of tactical circumstance, without question, underscores the need for precision weaponry from the air – weapons which can destroy maneuvering and fast-moving targets.

The Navy is now in the process of receiving 566 upgraded Maverick ER weapons from a 2014, $50 million contract with Raytheon.

The Maverick uses Semi-Active Laser, or SAL, guidance to follow a laser “spot” or designation from an aircraft itself, a nearby aircraft or ground asset to paint the target.

“Legacy AGM-65A/B Guidance and Control Sections will be modified with a state-of-the-art Semi-Active Laser E2 seeker.  The missiles with upgraded seekers add the capability to self-lase from the delivery platform, address numerous changes in response to parts obsolescence, and add Pulse repetition frequency (PRF) last code hold to ease pilot workload,” Daniel explained.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
Raytheon photo

The weapon can also use infrared and electro-optical or EO guidance to attack target. It can use a point detonation fuse designed to explode upon impact or a delayed fuse allowing the missile to penetrate a structure before detonating as a way to maximize its lethal impact. It uses a 300-pound “blast-frag” warhead engineered to explode shrapnel and metal fragments in all directions near or on a designated target.

“It uses a blast but not quite as large as a 500-pound bomb for lower collateral damage,” Gordon McKenzie, Maverick business development manager, Raytheon, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

Also, In the event of a loss of LASER lock, the upgraded missiles are able to de-arm fly towards last seen laser spot; and will re-arm guide to target with laser reacquisition.

“The Maverick is a superb close air support weapon against stationary, moving and rapidly maneuvering targets. Pilots say it is the weapon of choice for fast-moving and rapidly maneuvering targets,” McKenzie said.

In addition to its role against ground targets such as ISIS, the Maverick weapon able to hit maneuvering targets at sea such as small attack boats.

“It has a rocket on it versus being a free-fall weapon. It travels faster and has maneuverability to follow a laser spot on a fast-moving pick-up truck,” McKenzie explained.

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This 89-year-old World War II vet is riding cross-country on a Harley in remembrance of fallen GIs

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’


While many a fraction of E. Bruce Heilman’s age would be looking to pump the breaks, this 89-year-old USMC vet is still going full throttle — literally. In fact, while you’re reading this, there’s a good chance he is rolling along an open highway riding his Ultra Classic Electra Glide Patriot Edition Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Heilman was born and raised on a farm in Smithfield, Kentucky. At age 17, he left high school for boot camp in 1944, there he became the highest scorer on the Rifle Range in his platoon and one of the top three out of 600.

“I was the youngest and the smallest,” he said once in an interview. “But I had the best eye.”

His skills landed him in the Radio Gunnery School in Memphis’s  Naval Air Training Center while many members of his platoon were fighting in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Shortly thereafter, he would arrive at the shores of Okinawa. His bio on the website Spirit of ’45 describes that day:

He had his steak and egg breakfast, went down the rope ladder into a landing boat, and landed on the beach with all of the anticipation of a first time green Marine anxious to get into battle, but uncertain as to the outcome.

He would come out alive.

He managed to walk away from that brutal battle responsible for 82,000 casualties of all kinds. His unit also evaded a planned invasion of Japan (the war ended), and Heilman even survived an airplane accident over Iwo Jima while transporting intelligence personnel months after the war.

The WWII veteran went on to become an esteemed leader in education – he has served as president of several American colleges and universities and is now Chancellor of the University of Richmond. In 2008, he published the book: An Interruption that Lasted a Lifetime: My First Eighty Years.

While he has been awarded many medals that are indeed a testament to his own courage (Asiatic Pacific Medal with Battle Star, Combat Action Ribbon, Presidential Unit Citation, Good Conduct Medal, WWII Victory Medal, American Campaign Medal, Japanese Occupation Medal, Badge of Honor of the Republic), he has gone great lengths, literally, in his own unique way, to commemorate the courage of those who did not make it back. In a distinctive humility not uncommon among the dwindling population of the ‘Greatest Generation’ Heilman said: “We all expected to die there. Some gave all, they are the heroes.”

Now he rides to honor those heroes. In 2015, he logged over 6,000 miles riding his Harley across the United States to salute those brave souls he fought beside in Okinawa.

On April 30th, Dr. Heilman began another self-funded cross-country trip.  This time, his mission is to raise public awareness about the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. He is riding in honor of the 2,000 who died that day, and will travel through several states that had namesakes in the Harbor that were hit by bombs and torpedoes and lost crew members during the attack.

While he travels far and wide, it is clear what his heart truly holds close: his fallen brothers in arms. At the writing of this article, he has traveled through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. He will wrap up his tour on Memorial Day in Washington, DC.

He has been self-funding this tour. To help him defray costs, you can donate to Spirit of ’45 – indicate “Heilman’s Harley Ride” in the designation box.

You can catch Heilman and his Harley at the following places between now and Memorial Day:

May 8 – San Pedro, CA (USS Iowa)

May 9 – Silicon Valley, CA

May 10 – Santa Clara, CA

May 11 – Oakland, CA (USS Potomac)

May 12 – Sacramento, CA (Floor of the California assembly)

May 13 – Elko, NV

May 14 – Salt Lake City, UT

May 15 – Rawlins, WY

May 16 – North Platte, NE

May 17 – Omaha, NE

May 18 – Des Moines, IA

May 19 – Rest day

May 20 –  Des Moines, IA (Meeting with Governor Terry Branstad)

May 21 – Indianapolis, IN (American Legion National Headquarters)

May 22 – Cincinnati, OH

May 23 – Charleston, WV (Meeting with Woody Wilson)

May 25 – Richmond, VA (Virginia Veteran’s Memorial)

May 27 – Fairfax, VA (American Legion Gold Star Families BBQ)

May 28 – Washington, DC (Rolling Thunder)

May 29 – Washington, DC (Rolling Thunder)

May 30 – Washington, DC (Spirit of ’45 Memorial Day of Service and Parade)

(For more details on exact locations and photos from prior stops, visit Spirit of 45.)

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. increases focus on Russia, but Europe is unimpressed

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the US and urged Europe to forge its own path forward in its collective defense against Russia, according to reports.

In a speech to French ambassadors, he warned that increased nationalism is driving the US to abandon its European allies.

“The partner with whom Europe built the new post-World War order appears to be turning its back on this shared history,” he said.


His remarks stand at odds against recent US military efforts to counter increased Russian activity. Sparked by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’ newest National Defense Strategy, military officials are reinforcing their forces in Europe and the Atlantic.

Mattis’ new strategy maintains that “inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”

To comply with this shift, the US Navy in August 2018 relaunched its Second Fleet, a Cold War-era force known for its history of countering Soviet threats in the Atlantic. Its revitalization, coupled with an increased presence of US ships in the Black Sea, are the Navy’s direct responses to what officials are labeling as resurgent Russian activity in the region. At the fleet’s reactivation ceremony, the Navy’s top official, Adm. John Richardson, noted the threat of a resurgency in Russia.

“The nation, and the Navy, are responding,” he said.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) and the Blue Ridge-class command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) sail in formation in the Black Sea during exercise Sea Breeze on July 13, 2018. Sea Breeze is a U.S. and Ukraine co-hosted multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea and is designed to enhance interoperability of participating nations and strengthen Maritime security within the region.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Justin Stumberg)

The Defense Department recently committed almost million in funds to an air base in Romania, according to Defense News. Although the US does not maintain its own base in the country, the Romanian forces at Camp Turzii have often hosted US forces for exercises and training. According to the report, these funds are “specifically designated to deter Russian aggression.”

Despite these efforts, Macron remains skeptical that the US will defend its European allies. According to a Reuters report, he prodded the EU to discard its reliance on the US, urging financial and strategic autonomy.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The legal implications of that Area 51 raid

Over 2 million people have said they’re going to take part in that joke raid on Area 51 because, “They can’t stop us all.” (Spoiler alert: Yes, the Air Force and its co-branches of the military can absolutely stop thousands of people attempting to cross the miles of open desert to reach the main facilities at Area 51.) But a real lawyer with a prominent YouTube channel has taken a look at the legalities involved in storming a military facility and in defending it.


Area 51 Raid: What would happen, legally speaking? – Real Law Review

www.youtube.com

We’ve previously talked about the physical problems of storming Area 51, not the least of which is the dozens of miles of desert that people would have to cross on foot or in vehicles. After that, stormers would have to get past the defenses of the base, including security personnel. And the Air Force is reportedly building up a stockpile of less-than-lethal munitions in case anyone shows up. And it’s probably a safe bet that they’re counting their lethal weapons as well.

But the Federal Government works according to specific laws, rules, and regulations. Could the Air Force really legally kill American citizens? And don’t citizens have a right to see what their government is doing?

The answers are “yes” and “only sort of” in that order. And LegalEagle Devin Stone, an actual lawyer, broke down the laws involved.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

(damon32382)

American citizens do have a right to know what they’re government is doing, but the entire military and government classification system is based on the idea that our collective national security requires keeping some secrets from our enemies. To keep the info from our enemies, we have to keep it from the general public.

That’s a big part of why trespassing on a military installation is a crime according to U.S. Code Title 18 Section 1382. All of Edwards Air Force Base, of which Area 51 is part, is covered by this law. The law carries a punishment of up to 0 in fines and six months of confinement. Even accidental trespass on the base has triggered criminal charges in the past and resulted in hefty fines.

And if people don’t stop when ordered to do so, then the rules of engagement allow for deadly force. The law involved, Title 50 Section 797, allows for additional fines and up to a year of imprisonment if a person is stopped while intentionally entering a restricted area. But, military and law enforcement personnel are allowed to use deadly force to stop the individual, so the fines and jail time aren’t your biggest problem.

And Area 51 security personnel have killed trespassers, though the January 2019 case highlighted in the video involved a suspect who approached security officers and Nye County officers (no relation to the author) with a cylindrical object that might have been mistaken for a gun or other weapon. It’s unlikely that security personnel would go straight to lethal force for a bunch of kids “Naruto Running” at the base.

So most of the participants would be captured if they actually attempted to storm the base, and then they would be processed as federal prisoners and turned over to the FBI or another agency for formal charging and to await their trial. They would be given fines of about id=”listicle-2640123277″,000 and face jail times of up to 18 months under just the laws we’ve already discussed.

But there’s one more law that Stone points out could be applied to the raid. It could be a long shot, but there’s a chance participants could be charged with terrorism under The Patriot Act. U.S. Code Title 18 Section 2332b lays out the rules for terrorism charges. Basically, because the victim of this “raid” would be the U.S. government and assaulting the base would require damaging the base facilities, terrorism charges could likely apply.

And the maximum punishment depends on how badly awry the raid goes.

For each damage to a structure or vehicle on the base, participants could receive up to 25 years in prison. For any assault on a person or use of a dangerous weapon, a 30-year punishment could be levied. Any maiming of base personnel or bystanders could trigger a 35-year punishment. And if any person is killed during the raid, even accidentally, the death penalty and life imprisonment are on the table.

And, technically, all conspirators in the raid could be charged for the worst outcome. So, it’s unlikely, but a prosecutor could hit a guy who Naruto ran 25 feet before getting tired the same as the guy who actually bowled over a security guard who was then trampled to death.

Oh, and terrorism imprisonment can not be replaced with probation and sentences cannot run concurrently. That’s a fancy way of saying that a 10-year sentence for breaching the Area 51 defenses and a 35-year sentence for maiming a security guard would really mean 45 years in prison. You can’t get out early for good behavior, and you can’t serve both sentences at once, getting out in 35 years.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Damages for the sailors killed on the USS Cole goes to the Supreme Court

In 2000, the USS Cole arrived at the port of Aden, Yemen to refuel. The destroyer was part of the the U.S. Navy mission of enforcing sanctions against Iraq. It was only scheduled to stop for four hours. She would not leave Aden under her own power.

On Oct. 12 at 12:15 local time, a rubber dinghy outfitted with a small motor came alongside the Cole and detonated a 400-700 pound shape charge of C4 against the hull of the destroyer, ripping into the engines, mess areas, and living quarters of the ship and tearing a 40-by-60 foot hole in the side. The attack killed 17 sailors and wounded another 39.

It was the deadliest attack against U.S. sailors in 13 years.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’


At the time, it was assumed that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorist group were responsible. The FBI had just charged him with masterminding the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, 12 of which were Americans. But the Cole bombing was never conclusively linked to bin Laden.

Instead, a federal judge ruled in 2007 that the country of Sudan was liable for the bombings. Families of the fallen sailors allege that the attack would not have been possible without the cooperation of the Sudanese government, which they say provided key training bases to al-Qaeda operatives as well as technical and financial support to bin Laden.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
(FBI)

Osama bin Laden spent five years in Sudan after moving there from Afghanistan in 1991. He invested heavily in Sudan’s infrastructure before he was expelled in 1996. Sudan says it was his expulsion from Sudan that turned him into the world’s most wanted terrorist and, before that, he was little more than a businessman.

The judge awarded $8 million to the families through the Death on the High Seas Act, much of which was taken from Sudanese assets frozen in the United States. That act did not allow compensation for mental anguish.

In 2010, fifteen of the injured sailors and their spouses sued the Sudanese government for the same reason. Since Sudan did not appear in court to defend itself, the sailors were awarded $317 million in damages. The government in Khartoum says it was never notified of the lawsuit through the proper channels under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the settlement is a violation of international law. The Trump Administration agreed with the FSIA standards.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the award in 2015. In June 2018, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. There is no word on when the U.S.’ highest court will hear the arguments.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
Two flightline personnel at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, pay their last respects to the five sailors killed in an apparent attack on the USS Cole as they are escorted from the C-17 Globemaster III that arrived from Yemen.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Keith Reed)

By 2008, all those convicted for the bombing of the Cole either escaped custody in Yemen or were freed outright by Yemen — all except Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the alleged mastermind of the attack. He was captured in Dubai in 2002 and is being held at Guantanamo Bay, though his involvement is questionable. One CIA agent called him an “idiot” who “couldn’t comprehend a comic book.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Does the United States need more troops in Europe?

America’s top military commander in Europe wants more forces to deter Russia, but how much is enough?

The head of the United States European Command and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, General Curtis Scaparrotti, suggested additional resources might be needed to protect allies from Russia. Since the Cold War, America’s nuclear capabilities have been enough to deter Russia, so what has changed?

Deterrence maintains peace because our nuclear weapons make an escalating war suicidal. As Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara laid out in his 1967 speech, deterrence is the “highly reliable ability to inflict unacceptable damage upon any single aggressor… even after absorbing a surprise first strike.”


The assertion that more military units are needed in Europe implies that America’s nuclear deterrence is insufficient to do the job on its own. There are only two reasons why this might be the case. The first is that America has incorrectly signaled to Russia that nuclear weapons will not defend the Baltics. The second, is that President Trump’s transactional mindset and past musings on not upholding mutual defense obligations are serious and have signaled to Russia Trump’s ambivalence towards NATO.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Russia is modernizing its military and is capable of overrunning the Baltics in 24 to 60 hours. One of the reasons for the Scaparrotti’s concern is the geographical fact that the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are on Russia’s border. Yet America’s nuclear umbrella over Europe has held for almost 70 years. In fact, when asked whether Russia could overwhelm NATO, Scaparrotti said, “I don’t agree with that.” He worries about Russia’s advantage in regional forces, but he also thinks that NATO is stronger.

Indeed, NATO already committed more troops to defend the Baltics and Poland in 2016. Their press release stated there would be “four multinational battalion-size battlegroups in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, on a rotational basis.” Those battalions are led by America, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Germany with contributions from other European allies.

However, if American and European defenses ever did uncouple, Europe would be in danger because they still possess no real collective defense and no combined nuclear deterrence. Their militaries are atrophied with France quickly running out of ammunition against Muammar Gaddafi’s third-rate Libyan forces in 2011. Moreover, Germany, once the home of Prussian martial prowess, now has no functioning submarines, few working aircraft or tanks, and guns that don’t shoot straight. If Europeans expect to be able to have a greater say and to avoid Trump questioning the alliance, Europe needs to at least meet their NATO spending obligations.

Eight European allies plan to meet their NATO defense spending guidelines by the end of 2018, up from three who currently meet it. Given the upcoming NATO summit in July 2018, more European allies may yet meet that threshold. While there is a growing divide between Europe and America, Washington has still maintained its signal of deterrence (Trump committed to NATO in mid-2017). As long as Russia believes American nuclear weapons will defend NATO territory, Moscow will not touch an inch of it.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and President Donald Trump at the White House, Thursday, May 17, 2018.

Finally, recent studies carried out by RAND Corporation’s Andrew Radin have found that attacking the Baltics not only falls outside of Moscow’s core interests but that such an attack would likely be out of defense. Radin wrote in The National Interest, “[T]he main way that Russia would develop an interest in attacking the Baltics is if it perceives NATO building up sufficient forces to pose a threat.” Given America’s history with the Monroe Doctrine, the Zimmermann Telegram, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, it should come as no surprise that countries react forcefully to other’s forces on their doorsteps.

Therefore, America should focus on signaling deterrence without putting Russia in a corner. The idea that more boots are somehow necessary on top of 1,350 deployed nuclear warheads aimed at Russia’s cities is absurd. If over a thousand nuclear missiles cannot signal to Russia that an incursion into NATO territory is a bad idea, then any additional soldiers never will.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Tractors, herbs, vodka, saunas? Some leaders offer strange, unhelpful advice on warding off COVID-19

The way the leader of tightly controlled Turkmenistan sees it, there’s an ancient remedy for warding off the coronavirus: burning a wild herb known as hamala.


Belarus’s authoritarian president had similarly folksy advice for cabinet ministers and his fellow countrymen: go out and work in the fields. And ride a tractor.

Global leaders and medical experts are struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide, imposing quarantines, shutting down borders, mandating mask use, and bolstering the capabilities of infectious disease-fighting medical workers. Scientists, meanwhile, are rushing to find a vaccine and a cure for the disease that has killed more than 7,500 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Many officials are also struggling to prevent the spread of half-truths, misinformation, and unscientific remedies — something that is even harder in the era of social media and instantaneous communication — and even propaganda.

The coronavirus “outbreak and response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’ — an over-abundance of information – some accurate and some not – that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it,” the WHO said in a report issued in early February.

Garlic, vitamin C, steroids, essential oils? Despite what you might read on Facebook or VK, the Russian social network, there’s no scientific evidence any of these things will combat the coronavirus.

With a view to highlighting the problem of misinformation, and nudging people toward reliable, authoritative sources, here’s a look at some of the more outlandish remedies that some leaders have – wrongly – suggested would help fight the coronavirus.

Turkmen Fumigation​

In Turkmenistan, one of the most oppressive societies in the world, the country has been ruled for years by authoritarian leaders with a penchant for quixotic quirks and health recommendations.

Before his death in 2006, Saparmurat Niyazov, who called himself the Father Of All Turkmen, routinely dispensed spiritual guidance, not to mention public-health advice, to the country, messaging that was widely disseminated by state TV and newspapers. In 2005, the country’s physicians were ordered to spurn the Hippocratic Oath — the ancient pledge used worldwide by medical workers — and instead swear an oath to Niyazov, an electrical engineer by training.

His successor, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, is a dentist by training. But that hasn’t stopped him from building a personality cult similar to Niyazov’s — or from offering unfounded medical advice, most recently on March 13, when he chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the looming dangers of the coronavirus.

“Over the millennia, our ancestors have developed proven national methods of combating addictions and preventing various infectious diseases,” he said.

He went on to suggest that burning an herb known as hamala, or wild rue, would destroy viruses “that are invisible to the naked eye.”

In fact, this is not true.

In December, Turkmen state TV featured a program discussing veterinary remedies for farmers coping with an outbreak of disease among cattle. Among the remedies being offered were those featured in a book authored by Berdymukhammedov.

A year earlier, the Health Ministry offered medical advice to Turkmen dealing with summer respiratory ailments. Among the tips: “use medicinal teas scientifically described in the book of … Berdymukhammedov’s Plants of Turkmenistan.”

As of March 18, Turkmenistan had reported no confirmed cases of infection.

Reap What You Sow

Over more than two decades of ruling Belarus, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has also routinely dispensed folksy wisdom to his countrymen.

Prior to the presidency, Lukashenka headed a Soviet-style collective farm operation, which is where he has drawn his suggestions and medicinal folklore from in the past.

On March 16, he hosted a meeting of cabinet officials in Minsk, where he sought to head off mounting concerns about the coronavirus in the country. As of March 17, it had 17 confirmed cases.

At the meeting, which was televised on state TV, he told officials “we have lived through other viruses. We’ll live through this one,” he said.

“You just have to work, especially now, in a village,” Lukashenka said. “In the countryside, people are working in the fields, on tractors, no one is talking about the virus.”

“There, the tractor will heal everyone. The fields heal everyone,” he said.

Lukashenka wished his ministers good health and offered this other piece of health advice: Go have a good sweat in a dry sauna; the coronavirus, according to Lukashenka, dies at 60 degrees Celsius.

In fact, there’s no evidence that tractors, saunas, or fieldwork have any effect on the coronavirus.

Vodka Elixir

As of March 18, Serbia had 83 confirmed cases of the virus.

Three weeks prior, as officials across the world were beginning to take concerns about the coronavirus’s spread seriously, President Aleksandar Vucic met with health specialists to discuss the measures being taken by his government.

He joked that alcohol — ingested — might very well be a useful salve.

“After they told me — and now I see that Americans insist it’s true — that the coronavirus doesn’t grow wherever you put alcohol, I’ve now found myself an additional reason to drink one glass a day,” he said. “But it has nothing to do with that alcohol [liquor], I just made that up for you to know.”

It didn’t help matters that, earlier on, Vucic’s foreign minister, had gone on Serbian TV to suggest that the virus was a foreign plot targeting the Chinese economy.

Belarus’s Lukashenka, meanwhile, echoed Vucic’s quip about vodka himself earlier this week.

“I’m a nondrinker, but recently I’ve been jokingly saying that you should not only wash your hands with vodka, but that probably 40-50 grams of pure alcohol will poison this virus,” Lukashenka said.

In fact, drinking alcohol does not prevent or cure the coronavirus, or any other virus inside the body. Alcohol can, in fact, help kill germs and viruses externally, but washing your hands with vodka will not.

Holy Water, Holy Virus

While political leaders have been confusing people with unhelpful medicinal folklore, they aren’t the only leaders to do so.

Some clerics in a number of Orthodox countries — Russia included — have spurned medical guidance that has warned the coronavirus can be transmitted via close physical contact, or bodily fluids, such as droplets in the air, or saliva on utensils.

Metropolitan Ilarion, a top official in the Russian Orthodox Church, told state media that the church will not be closing parishes for services during the period leading up to Easter, which is to be celebrated on April 19.

Ilarion also told Rossia-24 TV that church leaders do not believe that any “virus or disease can be transmitted through communion” — the religious rite of eating bread and sipping wine during a church service.

Still, he indicated that the church would consider changes to things like the use of a communion spoon, used to give blessed wine to parishioners.

“But if it comes to bans or recommendations that we are obliged to follow, then in some cases single-use [disposable] spoons will be used,” he said.

On March 17, he went further.

“This does not mean that the church underestimates the threat. If the virus spreads and the number of infected grows, if new orders from the authorities appear regarding the fight against the coronavirus, the church will respond to them,” he was quoted as telling Rossiiskaya Gazeta.

He said church leaders were taking other unusual steps, including the use of disposable cups, disposable rubber gloves, and a suspension of the practice of kissing the cross or religious icons — a common practice in Orthodox tradition.

Two days earlier, however, at least one Orthodox parish, in the Volga River city of Kazan, was using a reusable “holy spoon” to administer communion wine.

As of March 18, Russia had 114 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, in Georgia (38 confirmed cases), Orthodox priests were reportedly continuing to use a common spoon to ladle communion into the drinking cups of worshippers who chose that option. And the Greek Orthodox Church also echoed Ilarion’s unfounded insistence that viruses could not spread via Communion.

Other Georgian Orthodox priests, meanwhile, took to the roads this week to try and curtail, or cure, the coronavirus, driving around Tbilisi sprinkling holy water on cars and drivers alike.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One more sign Marines in Europe are preparing for a ‘big ass fight’

The US Marine Corps’ Black Sea Rotational Force left its base in Romania for training in Bulgaria this month, carrying out exercises that are another sign the US military is preparing for a kind of conflict that’s different from what it has faced in recent decades.

A Marine Forces Europe and Africa release issued earlier in July said units from the rotational force were headed to Bulgaria’s Novo Selo training area, “where they would be able to take advantage of the rough, verdurous terrain for multiple training events.”

“We deployed from the place where we’re stationed at in Romania to this training area in Bulgaria. That way we can utilize the training areas out here that are a little better suited for the training that we’re trying to accomplish,” an unidentified Marine said in a video released this week by the command, first spotted by Marine Corps Times.

The Marines carried out a number of exercises focused on combined-arms proficiency and on building operational capacity.


This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

Marines perform high-angle fire training with a Mk 19 40mm grenade launcher at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

“During this training event we had snipers conducting everything from unknown distance ranges to live-fire stalks,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Kult, a combined anti-armor team (CAAT) platoon commander. “We also had our 81 mm mortar platoon conducting dismounted and mounted live-fire operations, both day and night.”

“We have our combined-anti-armor platoon conducting high-angle Mark-19 fire, which is a new thing for us,” the Marine said in the video. “It’s not really done in the Marine Corps anymore.”

High-angle fire with the Mark 19, an automatic grenade launcher that can fire up to 60 40mm grenades a minute, could come in handy if Marines engaged enemy personnel behind walls or other barriers, Marine Corps machine-gunners told the Times. Such fire could also be useful against Russian armor or other vehicles.

The gunners said that with skilled observers and good communications, high-angle fire — a skill taught at the Corps’ advanced machine-gunner course — from Mark 19s could quickly be walked onto a target.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

According to the release, platoons from Weapons Company from the 1st Battalion of the 6th Marine Regiment, typically work independently, making the joint exercises at Novo Selo a valuable opportunity.

“We don’t always get together as a company and do these combined training events, so as a whole, it improves our unit cohesion,” said Cpl. Benjamin Lepla, a forward observer. “Now we know how long it takes for every section to set up their equipment and assault the objective from different positions.”

“The most important event that we’re doing out here is the combined attack utilizing the entire company,” Kult said. “It’s a unique opportunity because normally we’re all away from each other, either supporting other companies, or in direct support of the battalion.”

NATO forces have increased their presence in Eastern Europe in the years since Russia began its incursion in Ukraine in 2014, and US military units in Europe have been boosting their capabilities.

Earlier this year, the Army’s Ironhorse Brigade arrived for a rotation in Eastern Europe — but instead of sailing to Germany, the unit disembarked in Belgium for the first time in decades to practice traveling across the continent by road, rail, and barge.

During the most recent iteration of the Saber Strike Exercise, US armored units also practiced traveling across Eastern Europe and the Baltic states. During the exercise, Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts practiced rough landings on a highway in Estonia — a drill only recently restarted after being discontinued in the 1980s.

The US military has been shifting its attention to preparations for a potential conflict with near-peer competitors like China or Russia — a change outlined in the National Defense Strategy released earlier this year.

This incredible book explores 9/11 through the eyes of an Army ‘Brat’

Marine lubricates the interior of a Mark 19 grenade launcher at Novo Selo Training Area, Bulgaria, July 2, 2018.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Abrey Liggins)

Such a conflict would be different from the fights of the recent past, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has said.

“I don’t think the next fight is going to be a stability op/counterinsurgency: It’s going to be a violent, violent fight,” Neller said in mid-2017, according to Marine Corps Times.

For the Marines, it also likely means a change in operational focus, away from the Middle East and toward the Pacific and northern and eastern Europe, Neller told Marines in Norway late last year.

He stressed that amid that shift, Marines should remain ready for a potential conflict, predicting a “big-ass fight” on the horizon, according to Military.com.

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” he told the Marines in Norway, who are part of a new rotational force meant to expand training and boost readiness. “You’re in a fight here, an informational fight, a political fight, by your presence.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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