A United States Navy P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft was buzzed by a Russian Air Force Su-30 Flanker over the Black Sea earlier today. This is the latest in a series of incidents this year in the Black Sea.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the two-seat multi-role fighter harassed the Navy plane for 24 minutes, including a pass at full afterburner that was roughly 50 feet away. The P-8 was in international airspace at the time of the incident.
The last time such a close encounter took place was this past June. In that incident, an Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane was buzzed by a Su-27 Flanker over the Baltic Sea. The Flanker came within five feet of the American plane, the closest of about three dozen close encounters that took place that month.
The incident came over three weeks after U.S. Navy fighters intercepted a pair of Russian Tu-95 Bears 80 miles from the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) as it operated in the Sea of Japan. The Bears were well within range of being able to fire powerful anti-ship weapons like the AS-4 Kitchen.
Russia hasn’t been the only country involved in buzzing American forces. Iranian and Chinese forces have also operated near American forces, in some cases unsafely. In the Persian Gulf, an Iranian drone flew into an aircraft carrier’s landing pattern, nearly causing a mid-air collision with a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet. Chinese J-10 Flounder fighters buzzed a Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft operating in international airspace off Hong Kong earlier this year.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un supervised the test of a new ballistic missile controlled by a precision guidance system and ordered the development of more powerful strategic weapons, the North’s official KCNA news agency reported on May 30.
The missile launched on May 29 was equipped with an advanced automated pre-launch sequence compared with previous versions of the “Hwasong” rockets, North Korea’s name for its Scud-class missiles, KCNA said. That indicated the North had launched a modified Scud-class missile, as South Korea’s military has said.
The North’s test launch of a short-range ballistic missile landed in the sea off its east coast and was the latest in a fast-paced series of missile tests defying international pressure and threats of more sanctions.
Kim said the reclusive state would develop more powerful weapons in multiple phases in accordance with its timetable to defend North Korea against the United States.
“He expressed the conviction that it would make a greater leap forward in this spirit to send a bigger ‘gift package’ to the Yankees” in retaliation for American military provocation, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
South Korea said it had conducted a joint drill with a US supersonic B-1B Lancer bomber on May 29. North Korea’s state media earlier accused the United States of staging a drill to practice dropping nuclear bombs on the Korean peninsula.
The US Navy said its aircraft carrier strike group, led by the USS Carl Vinson, also planned a drill with another US nuclear carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, in waters near the Korean peninsula.
A US Navy spokesman in South Korea did not give specific timing for the strike group’s planned drill.
North Korea calls such drills a preparation for war.
They also pose one of the greatest security challenges for US President Donald Trump, who portrayed the latest missile test as an affront to China.
“North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile … but China is trying hard!” Trump said on Twitter.
Japan has also urged China to play a bigger role in restraining North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s top national security adviser, Shotaro Yachi, met China’s top diplomat, State Councillor Yang Jiechi, for five hours of talks near Tokyo on May 29 after the North’s latest test.
Yachi told Yang that North Korea’s actions had reached a new level of provocation.
“Japan and China need to work together to strongly urge North Korea to avoid further provocative actions and obey things like United Nations resolutions,” Yachi was quoted as telling Yang in a statement by Japan’s foreign ministry.
A statement from China’s foreign ministry after the meeting made no mention of North Korea.
North Korea has claimed major advances with its rapid series of launches, claims that outside experts and officials believe may be at least partially true but are difficult to verify independently.
A South Korean military official said the North fired one missile on Monday, clarifying an earlier assessment that there may have been more than one launch.
The test was aimed at verifying a new type of precision guidance system and the reliability of a new mobile launch vehicle under different operational conditions, KCNA said.
However, South Korea’s military and experts questioned the claim because the North had technical constraints, such as a lack of satellites, to operate a terminal-stage missile guidance system properly.
“Whenever news of our valuable victory is broadcast recently, the Yankees would be very much worried about it and the gangsters of the south Korean puppet army would be dispirited more and more,” KCNA cited leader Kim as saying.
The latest Iranian ballistic missile test, which was condemned by US President Donald Trump, never happened and the images that were released of the supposed test were actually taken more than seven months ago, Fox News reported Sept. 25.
The conservative cable news channel, citing as its sources two US officials who requested anonymity, said that the launch was “fake” and that Iran released video images of a failed missile launch that it conducted in late January.
Trump originally had reacted to the claimed launch on Twitter on Sept. 23 evening, saying, “Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!”
When asked about the matter by EFE, a State Department official said that the US “is evaluating the reports” that Iran launched a ballistic missile Sept. 22 and refused to comment on “intelligence matters,” including the authenticity of the launch.
CNN reported that a Trump administration official familiar with the latest US assessment of the supposed test said that US intelligence radars and sensors “picked up no indication” of any Iranian missile launch.
So far, it would seem, the Iranian reports of the “successful” missile test do not appear to be true, the official added to CNN, saying “As far as we can see, it did not happen.”
Iran’s English-language television channel Press TV broadcast a video Sept. 22 of the allegedly successful launch of a new medium-range ballistic missile called the Khorramshahr which, according to the Iranian military, has a range of 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and is capable of carrying multiple warheads.
Trump said last week that he had made a decision on whether the US will continue to abide by – or withdraw from – the nuclear pact with Iran that put an end to 12 years of diplomatic conflict over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, but he has not yet revealed what that decision is.
In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly almost a week ago, Trump declared the nuclear pact to be an “embarrassment” that his government could withdraw from if it suspects that Iran was using the accord as a shield to ultimately be able to build a nuclear bomb.
“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program,” he said.
Regardless of whether the latest launch was faked or not, the US feels that the Iranian ballistic missile program and its “support for terrorism” constitute “provocative” behavior that undermines regional security, prosperity, and stability, the State Department officials told EFE.
“We will continue to carefully monitor these actions and we will use all the tools we have available to counter the threats of the Iranian missile program,” one of the sources added.
According to experts, Iran is the Middle Eastern nation with the largest arsenal of ballistic missiles – more than 1,000 short- and medium-range rockets.
She is “currently a poolee,” Marine Capt. Adam Flores told the Beaufort Gazette, “and will begin recruit training in the near future.” Opha Mae will be the 21st such mascot, but her starting date is currently unknown.
She will eventually take over duties, which include attending ceremonies and graduations, from Cpl. Legend, who is in poor health, the Beaufort Gazette said.
For the first time since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, NASA says it may soon have the capability to send astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil.
Critical milestones are on the horizon for Boeing and SpaceX, the space agency’s commercial crew partners: Flight tests of their spacecraft, including crewed missions, are planned for 2018.
That’s launched something of a “new space race” at the Kennedy Space Center, officials said.
“We have invested a lot as a center, as a nation into Kennedy Space Center to ready us for that next 50 years of spaceflight and beyond,” saidTom Engler, the center’s director of planning and development. “You see the dividends of that now, these commercial companies buying into what we’re doing.”
The public-private partnership is transforming Kennedy Space Center into a multiuser spaceport. NASA is developing the Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft for missions to deep space, including to Mars, leaving private companies to send people to low Earth orbit.
Boeing is building the CST-100 Starliner, a spacecraft that will send astronauts to the space station, in a hangar once used to prepare space shuttles for flight. Three Starliners are in production, including one that will fly astronauts next year.
“If Mars is the pinnacle of Mount Everest, low Earth orbit is base camp. The commercial companies are the sherpas that haul things there,” saidChris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut and director of crew and mission operations at Boeing. “It opens up a whole new world of business.”
SpaceX, which flies cargo missions to the space station with its Dragon spacecraft, has modified an old shuttle launch pad for its Falcon 9 rockets, which the company has successfully reused. It plans to use Dragon 2, a new version of the spacecraft, to send astronauts to the space station.
Blue Origin, founded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, is building a rocket factory; it also plans to launch its rockets from Cape Canaveral.
Boeing and United Launch Alliance built a crew access tower so astronauts can board the Starliner. The Atlas V, one of the world’s most reliable rockets, will launch the spacecraft and its astronauts.
“This is really the Apollo era for the next generation,” said Shannon Coggin, a production integration specialist at United Launch Alliance. “This is inspiring this next generation to fall in love with space again, to really test their boundaries and us paving their way for the future of commercial space exploration.”
To meet NASA’s requirements, Boeing and SpaceX must demonstrate their systems are ready to begin regular flights to the space station.SpaceX’s first flight test is scheduled for February. Boeing’s is scheduled for June.
As a young boy, Henry Reeve served in the Union Army as a drummer during the American Civil War. By the time of his death in 1876, he was 26 years old and fought in more than 400 battles over seven years – against the Spanish.
In 1868, Cuban landowner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes led an uprising against Spanish rule over Cuba. From his estate on the Eastern part of the island, Céspedes freed his slaves and raised an army. He led a resistance against the Spanish Empire that would last ten years and cost Céspedes his life. But the uprising attracted its fair share of foreign volunteers, one of those was a New Yorker named Henry Reeve.
Reeve’s Civil War service left him a virulent abolitionist and the Spanish in Cuba were the most determined abusers of slaves left in the Western Hemisphere. When he heard about the anti-slavery, anti-Spanish uprising, he immediately left for Cuba. He arrived in 1869 but was quickly captured by the Spanish Army, who tried to execute Reeve and his group of volunteers. Reeve escaped and went on to be an integral part of an otherwise-failed uprising that came to be known as Cuba’s First War of Independence.
His units routinely outmatched the Spanish, often overcoming superior Spanish numbers with the boldness and dedication that an American combat veteran brings to any fight. By the time he jumped over an enemy artillery battery to end a battle, he earned a promotion to Brigadier General and was wounded more than 10 times. Reeve soon became known as “Enrique El Americano” and “El Inglesito” — the Little Englishman — and was placed among legendary Cuban freedom fighters Máximo Gómez and Ignacio Agramonte.
Reeve also participated in daring raids, most famously to rescue Cuban freedom fighter and Major General Julio Sanguilly from the Spanish. That battle pitted 36 Cuban riders against more than 120 Spanish troops. Reeve also led exploration columns into the jungle wilderness of Cuba and led vanguards of the rebel army’s 2nd division.
Like Cuba’s version of Baron Wilhelm Von Steuben, Reeve wore his U.S. Army uniform the entire time.
In 1876, Reeve and his staff were ambushed by the Spanish during their fateful invasion of the Western half of the island. He was unable to escape and, rather than being captured and tortured, he took his own life. It would take more than 20 years before Cuba saw independence from Spain, and even then, it required the help of the United States to unhook Spain from its cash cow.
U.S. Army officials say they’re racing to find and start issuing new jungle boots to combat soldiers by late next year.
The service just released a request for information from companies as part of a “directed requirement” for a new model of Jungle Combat Boot for infantry soldiers to wear in the hot, tropical terrain of the Pacific theater.
“It’s a challenge to industry to say, ‘What can you do based on here are the requirements that we need and how fast can you deliver it to meet these specifications,’ ” Col. Dean Hoffman IV, who manages Project Manager Soldier Protection and Individual Equipment, said Wednesday at theAssociation of the United States Army’s annual meeting.
The Army’s formal requirement for a new type of Jungle Combat Boot will continue to go through the normal acquisitions process, but equipment officials plan to award contracts for new jungle boots next year to meet a recent directive from Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley that two brigade combat teams in Hawaii be equipped “ASAP,” Hoffman said.
“We are going to use this request for information to see what industry can do really fast because what we would like to do is get a BCT out by March of 2017,” he said.
Equipment officials hope to have a second BCT fielded with new jungle boots by September 2017,” according to the Oct. 3 document posted on FedBizOpps.gov.
The Army and the Marine Corps retired the popular, Vietnam War-era jungle boots in the early 2000s when both services transitioned to a desert-style combat boot for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since then, Army equipment development has been geared toward the Middle East, Hoffman said.
“We have kind of neglected the extreme weather environments, whether it be jungle or cold weather,” Hoffman said. “Looking at the way the world is shaping, those are areas that we might have to go.”
The Army recently conducted limited user evaluations of several commercial-off-the-shelf, or COTS, jungle boots in Hawaii.
“We put them on soldiers, let them wear them for a couple of weeks and got feedback,” Hoffman said. “What that showed at that time was there was no COTS solution.”
The Army is looking for lightweight materials and better insole and midsole construction, he said.
The problem with the old jungle boots was they had a metal shim in the sole for puncture protection that made the boots get too hot or too cold depending on the outside temperature, Hoffman said.
There are new fabrics that could offer some puncture protection for insoles as well as help push water out of the boot through drain holes, equipment officials say.
The two drain holes on the old jungle boots often became clogged with mud, Hoffman said, adding that newer designs that feature several smaller drain holes tend to be more effective.
The new jungle boots will likely be made of rough-out leather, which tends to dry out quickly and doesn’t need to be shined, he said.
To outfit two brigades, the Army plans to buy 36,000 pairs of new jungle boots, but contracts may be awarded to multiple vendors, Hoffman said.
“If six vendors meet the requirements, we might just award six contracts because, at the end of the day, we want to meet the requirements,” he said.
Following a flurry of reports in December 2017 predicting the Navy’s $500 million electromagnetic railgun experiment was dead on arrival, the chief of Naval Operations told lawmakers in March 2018 that the death of the program was greatly exaggerated.
“[We are] fully invested in railgun; we continue to test it,” Adm. John Richardson told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense during a hearing on Navy and Marine Corps budget issues. “We’ve demonstrated it at lower firing rates and … shorter ranges. Now we have to do the engineering to, sort of, crank it up and get it at the designated firing rates, at the 80- to 100-mile range.”
Richardson was responding to a question from Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who expressed concern about the proven capability of the Navy’s railgun weapon, which has yet to leave its test site at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia.
“My understanding is these weapons can fire projectiles at extremely high speeds with a range exceeding a hundred miles once fully operational,” Ryan said. “I know China has demonstrated a capability for shipboard railguns, and I’m just concerned, again, that maybe we’re falling short here.”
Photos showing what appears to be a railgun mounted on the Chinese landing ship tankHaiyang Shan emerged in February 2018. The evidence of what appears to be deployable Chinese railgun technology came to light following a handful of reports indicating the Navy’s own gun development program was losing steam.
Business Insider reported in December 2017 that the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities office was shifting research efforts from the railgun, which uses electromagnetic energy to shoot large projectiles at speeds of up to 4,500 miles per hour, to broader high-velocity projectile study.
The Navy has never acknowledged a loss of interest in railgun technology, however. July 2017, officials with the Office of Naval Research told reporters that the power behind the gun would be increased to 32 megajoules over the summer, giving the weapon a range of 110 miles.
In testimony released March 7, 2018, Richardson indicated the weapon had yet to reach that range in spite of predictions.
“That involves a number of technologies,” he said. “The barrel itself is probably the limiting case, the engineering on that, the materials required to sustain that power pulse, and the heat and pressure that’s involved in launching those projectiles. And we’re doubling down on that.”
Engineers have found the gun’s barrel wears out rapidly when metal projectiles are fired at the blistering rates the railgun’s technology delivers. Another unresolved issue is the power source for the gun; currently, only the new three-ship Zumwalt class of class of mega-destroyers is reportedly capable of supplying the electromagnetic charge needed to operate the gun. The Navy wants to deploy a version of the railgun aboard smaller-sized destroyers.
While Richardson acknowledged the challenges and said Navy brass were “very conscious” of reported Chinese achievements in railgun technology, he maintained the service was still invested in the program.
“As a benefit, too, of the program — the railgun program, we have developed a projectile — high-velocity projectile, which is actually usable across the fleet in a number of different applications, not only in the railgun,” Richardson said. “And so, it’s a very fruitful program that we continue to invest in.”
While the Kuznetsov and attack planes on board add little to Russia’s capabilities in the region, the US has nonetheless condemned Russia escalating a conflict where humanitarian catastrophes and possibly war crimes go on with some regularity.
“We are aware of reports that the Russian Federation is preparing to escalate their military campaign in Syria. The United States, time and again, has worked to try and de-escalate the violence in Syria and provide humanitarian aid to civilians suffering under siege,” a Pentagon statement provided to USNI News on Wednesday read.
Russia’s deployment of the troubled, Soveit-era Kuznetsov to Syria serves little military purpose, and likely deployed for propaganda purposes.
President Donald Trump has confirmed that Mike Pompeo, the CIA director who is awaiting confirmation as secretary of state, met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea early April 2018.
Trump said the two men interacted “very smoothly” and formed a “good relationship.”
The talks are the highest-level meetings between US and North Korean officials since Madeleine Albright, then secretary of state, met Kim Jong Il in 2000.
“Mike Pompeo met with Kim Jong Un in North Korea last week,” Trump tweeted April 18, 2018. “Meeting went very smoothly and a good relationship was formed. Details of Summit are being worked out now. Denuclearization will be a great thing for World, but also for North Korea!”
The meeting was remarkable given that only one year ago North Korean propaganda accused the CIA of plotting to kill Kim.
Pompeo’s trip, which reports out April 17, 2018, said happened over the Easter weekend, an apparent conflict with Trump’s announcement, had been kept quiet as the US and North Korea deliberate on how best to coordinate a planned summer meeting between Trump and Kim.
(Photo vy Michael Vadon)
The news of Pompeo’s secret trip comes after South Korea confirmed that its officials were in talks to end the 68-year war on the Korean Peninsula with a peace deal, something to which Trump has given his blessing.
Any peace deal, however, would require Chinese and UN approval as well, since both are signatories to the 1953 armistice that paused, rather than ended, the war between North Korea and South Korea.
Other reports indicate that Trump has a plan to disarm North Korea of nuclear weapons by 2020. Experts, however remain deeply skeptical of Kim’s intentions.
Kim turns over a new leaf?
Though North Korea has touted its missile program as being able to hit the US with nuclear payloads, a capability experts believe the country has or is close to obtaining, Kim has recently opened himself up diplomatically like never before, starting with North Korea’s participation in 2018’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
In recent weeks, Kim left North Korea for the first time since he took power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. He has also opened up his country to South Korean pop bands, which he is thought to love. Kim actually attended a K-pop concert where he was reportedly in good humor and made jokes.
North Korea strictly controls the media in its country, and citizens caught enjoying South Korean media have been put to death or taken to labor camps.
Do Jong-hwan of South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism told foreign media that K-pop songs being performed in North Korea “could have considerable influence” on the country’s culture, according to NK News.
Experts have told Business Insider that Kim opening his country to the outside media could easily lead to his death, as his government holds power without input from its people and has kept them in meager conditions while South Korea has thrived.
Or is Kim waging a diplomatic offensive?
North Korea has moved toward talks with the US several times before, only to back out — though never under its current leader. Also, no other North Korean leader has met with a sitting US president, as Kim and Trump plan to summer 2018, though that has largely been because US presidents have rejected such meetings or imposed conditions that have not been met.
Thae Yong-ho, the highest-ranked North Korean defector, reportedly warned a meeting of the Mulmangcho Foundation organization that Kim was unlikely to deliver in the talks.
According to the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo, he said: “Kim will act during his summits with Seoul and Washington as if he were determined to dismantle nuclear weapons in stages — first declaring dismantlement followed by incapacitating nuclear weapons and denuclearization.”
In Thae’s view, Kim will extract concessions from the US but never truly rid his country of nuclear weapons, given that Kim wrote possession of such weapons into the country’s constitution in 2011.
Despite the moves toward peace and reconciliation on both sides of the Korean Peninsula, the US and its allies have resolved to maintain what the Trump administration calls a “maximum pressure” strategy against Pyongyang, which calls for harsh sanctions and a buildup of military forces in the region.
North Korea demanded $2 million from the US for medical care provided to Otto Warmbier, a US college student who was detained in Pyongyang, where the young man slipped into a mysterious coma from which he would never awake, the Washington Post’s Anna Fifield reports.
North Korea required the US to agree to paying the $2 million before releasing Warmbier, according to The Post, but the bill went unpaid immediately after Warmbier’s return.
North Korea sentenced Warmbier to 15 years of hard labor in the country’s notorious prison camps that harbor thousands of political prisoners. His alleged crime was trying to take a poster from a hotel. North Korea deemed this a “hostile act against the state.”
He was released in the summer of 2017 after several rounds of negotiations with the North Koreans. When Joseph Yun, the State Department’s go-to guy on North Korea at that time, and Michael Flueckiger, a doctor, arrived in the North Korean capital, they were surprised to find that negotiations were far from over as Warmbier lay unresponsive in a North Korean intensive care unit.
“I didn’t realize what a negotiation it was going to be to secure his release,” Flueckiger reportedly said, explaining that the North Koreans expected him to write a report on the care Warmbier had received. While the doctor dealt with that issue, Yun was being handed a million medical bill.
North Korea billed US million for care of Otto Warmbier
Yun called then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who called President Donald Trump. Yun was instructed to sign off on the bill, two sources told The Post.
Warmbier’s family celebrated the boy’s return, but that joy was short lived. Warmbier died shortly after returning, as doctors saw no way to save him.
North Korea claimed Warmbier contracted botulism and went into a coma after taking a pill to help him sleep, despite reports that he was tortured. At the time, doctors examining Warmbier found no evidence of physical abuse. Flueckiger reported that the Warmbier had received “really good care,” an observation the Warmbier family disputes.
“Would I have lied to get him out of there? Maybe I would have. But I didn’t have to answer that question,” he revealed.
The president previously tweeted that Otto “was tortured beyond belief by North Korea.”
Later, Trump would take Kim’s word for it that he had no knowledge of anything bad happening to Warmbier. This prompted a firey rebuke from the Warmbiers.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier, Otto’s parents, sued North Korea over their son’s untimely death. A US judge ruled in their favor, stressing that it was appropriate to punish North Korea for the “torture, hostage taking and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Great aircraft and vehicles aren’t very useful without somewhere to park them, and troops need good cover to keep them safe from attacks. So, for all the innovations coming out of DARPA and the weapons being developed by the military, it’s the humble Hesco barrier that became an icon of security in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The barriers are a staple of deployed-life where they formed many of the outer perimeters and interior walls for NATO installations.
Originally invented by a former British miner to shore up loose earth in his backyard, the Hesco was first used for military defense in the Gulf War. The basic Hesco design is a wire mesh crate with fabric liner that can be folded flat for storage and transportation. To deploy them, engineers simply open them up and fill them with dirt and rocks. When they want to get fancy about a permanent wall, they can then apply a concrete slurry to the sides and top to seal them.
Even without a slurry added, the walls provided impressive protection. A group of engineers in Afghanistan in 2005 had a limited space to build their wall and so modified the barriers to be thinner. They then tested the modified version against static explosives, RPGs, and 40mm grenades. This thinner version was heavily damaged but still standing at the end of the test. In the video below, go to the 0:45 mark to skip straight to the tests.
Hescos even provide concealment from the enemy while troops are putting them in.
The famous Restrepo Outpost was constructed by soldiers who slipped up to a summit they needed to capture at night and began building fortifications around themselves. They dug shallow trenches for immediate cover and then began to fill Hescos with dirt and rocks for greater protection. When the enemy fired on them to stop construction, some troops would fire back while others would get down and keep pitching rocks into the barriers.
Though the original Hesco were great, the company still updates the design. When the military complained that breaking down Hesco walls took too long, the company created a recoverable design with a removable pin that would allow the dirt to fall out. Later, they developed an apparatus that could be attached to a crane to remove multiple units at once.
To rapidly build new perimeter walls like those needed to expand Bagram Airfield as the NATO footprint grew, a trailer was developed that could deploy the barriers in a long line. Each trailer can deploy a barrier wall over 1,000 feet long.
The barriers were so popular with troops that multiple people named animalsrescued from Afghanistan after them.
Paulette Fryar was named the Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year on May 7th, 2020. It was the first time in the award’s history that it went to a Coast Guard spouse and the excitement over her win reverberated loudly throughout the military spouse community. The next day, the joy and excitement over her honor would be muted.
Her cousin committed suicide.
David Heathers was a Marine veteran of the Iraq war. After leaving the service and returning home, he suffered from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder. Living through the effects of that diagnosis in the midst of the isolation of COVID-19, would ultimately take his life. Fryar comes from a long line of family members who have served, but had not yet truly been touched by devastating impacts of war, until now.
“I had no idea how bad it was for my cousin David until it was too late. If there is something I can do to bring more awareness so that other families don’t have to go through this, I want to,” Fryar said.
Although her initial platform of serving young military spouses and families had garnered her the title of Military Spouse of the Year, this deeply personal experience shifted things for her. Fryar has become very vocal about discussing the impacts of trauma and PTSD. She wanted to do something to combat the issue.
The Million Mile project was born.
In collaboration with the 2020 branch and base winners of the Military Spouse of the Year award, she approached Armed Forces Insurance to help sponsor the project. They immediately said yes. The goal was to unite the entire military community, as well as any patriotic supporters in raising suicide awareness. The participants would do this through logging miles for 22 days, to remember and honor the veterans lost to suicide.
“I knew I wanted to start a campaign to bring attention to this issue and provide some resources in hopes that other families would not have to experience this kind of loss,” Fryar explained.
The project began on August 15th, 2020 – which would have been her cousin’s 39th birthday and was the day in which is family held his celebration of life. This day was also significant because it was exactly 22 days before suicide prevention week would begin in September.
“One reason I wanted to start this Million Mile Project is that losing my cousin to suicide really opened my eyes to how awful this issue of military and veteran PTSD and suicide is. Once I saw it, I couldn’t turn a blind eye or look away,” Fryar said.
Studies have shown that up to 20% of veterans who have served since 9/11 are diagnosed with PTSD. Suicide has also been on the rise according to the 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report. Medical professionals are now on alert for increased rates of suicide due to the isolation and stress that COVID-19 is placing on veterans in particular.
Fryar and the other 2020 branch winners created a Facebook group for The Million Mile Project and it has over 6,000 members and continues to grow. The unique miles project allows members to log their miles in almost any way. Participants can walk, run, bike, swim or even skateboard for the suicide awareness project.
The parents of Fryar’s cousin have joined the project and have expressed their deep appreciation for the love and support they’ve received. It is their hope that through creating events like The Million Mile Project, they can reach people contemplating suicide and show them they matter and how important they truly are.
It is their hope that their story will show that life isn’t better without them.
“As the 2020 Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year, my main quote is ‘Together we are stronger’ and I feel it applies to the Million Mile Project so well,” Fryar explained. She continued, “Working together on a campaign like this is so important! I want people suffering from the loss of a loved one or possibly a veteran struggling with PTSD or suicide ideation to know that they are not alone, that they are needed and loved deeply.”