This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

An audio recording of the high-pitched sound that American intelligence officials believe caused U.S. diplomats in Cuba brain damage was released Thursday afternoon.


The Associated Press released the first publicly disseminated recording October 12th. The first of many audio recordings taken in Cuba has led U.S. intelligence operatives to believe the Cuban government is using an unknown sonic device to attack Americans and other foreigners on the island.

The U.S. Navy is currently investigating the strange recording, hoping to glean some information about what is harming American diplomats in Cuba.

Victims often described a sound similar to chirping crickets before experiencing any symptoms, but not all of the attacks have produced an audible sound. Some were described as inaudible, which is causing some concern among investigators who believe the attackers are developing, or even already employing, more sophisticated methods.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
The US flag flaps in the stiff breeze off the Florida Straits at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, Cuba, on March 22, 2016. Photo from US State Department.

The U.S. has confirmed 21 cases, and American intelligence operatives incurred arguably the worst damage reported thus far. U.S. spies have suffered brain damage, unrelenting hearing loss and other severe outcomes.

Reports of ongoing, mysterious attacks befalling U.S.-government personnel and other foreign citizens in Cuba are complete “nonsense” and “without evidence,” Cuban Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel said Sunday.

“Some unnamed officials are propagating unusual nonsense without any evidence, with the perverse aim of discrediting the impeccable reputation of our country as a safe destination for foreign visitors, including from the United States,” Diaz-Canel, the likely successor to Cuban President Raúl Castro, said Sunday.

Castro has also rejected any notion that the Cuban government is behind the attacks.

The U.S. Department of State has responded to the reported attacks, ordering all nonessential personnel in Cuba to evacuate the island. The State Department also issued a travel warning for all Americans not to visit the island nation until the attacks are resolved.

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This is why dropping “Sunni Arab allies” into Syria is a terrible idea

Five years into the Syrian Civil War, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced its readiness to send ground troops into Syria to fight Islamic State forces.


This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

“The kingdom is ready to participate in any ground operations that the coalition (against Islamic State) may agree to carry out in Syria,” Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, the spokesman for the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen, told the Saudi government-owned al-Arabiya TV.

Related: The 10 worst armies in the world

Just days after that announcement, the United Arab Emirates announced its readiness to join the fight.

“Our position throughout has been that a real campaign has to include a ground force,” the UAE’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said at a news conference in Abu Dhabi, adding “U.S. leadership on this” would be a prerequisite for the UAE.

Big surprise there.

For those keeping track, the UAE is also part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the religious-political faction of Houthis in Yemen, a Shia insurgent group who captured the Yemeni capital of Sana’a in 2014 and forced the fall of the Saudi-backed government five months later. Saudi Arabia’s nine-member coalition has since failed to dislodge the Iran-backed Houthis or restore the government. Meanwhile, just under one-third of the country has fallen to the resurgent al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

Maybe Saudi Arabia and the Arab allies aren’t everything American politicians have said they are during the 2016 election debates. Forget for a moment how bad they are at fighting a decisive war (they can’t even capture the capital city with air superiority and and more than a year to get it done), the idea of airlifting a coalition of Sunni Arab troops into Syria is not only overly simplistic, it’s a terrible one. Saudi Arabia and Iran are expending resources to wage an all-out proxy battle in the region, and Iraq and Syria are the primary battlefields.

By now, it should come as no surprise to Westerners that there is an huge, problematic divide between the Sunni and Shia sects of Islam. The main actors in this ideological conflict today are Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shia Iran. Yemen isn’t the first example of Saudi intervention. At the height of the Arab Spring, Saudi troops crossed the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain to put down Shia protests there.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
The most ironic peace sign ever.

The Saudi sphere of influence extends throughout the Arabian Peninsula while the Iranian sphere extends from Iran’s border with  Afghanistan to the East and pushes West through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. The conflicts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon are extensions of this greater conflict. When told the Saudis and Emiratis were ready to deploy to Syria, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem gave a very expected response: “I regret to say that they will return home in wooden coffins.”

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

Sectarianism is only increasing and is becoming the primary reason for conflict. Until recently, major non-state paramilitary organizations on either side of the divide publicly defined their mandates in terms of either anti-imperialist, anti-Israel, and/or anti-American terms. They did not openly define themselves in terms of Shia vs. Sunni. That is changing.

In 2013, Islamic extremist violence intensified, fueled by sectarianism in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Pakistan. The rise of anti-Shia resistance, combined with the remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist regime, led to the ideology behind the rise of the Islamic State, now the most aggressive and extreme group, with transnational roots in Nigeria, Libya, and Afghanistan. The sectarianism is only spreading.

When the Asad regime looked like it would fall, the Gulf states smelled the blood in the water and acted quickly to take advantage of the situation. Kuwait is now the leading source of funds for al-Qaeda-linked terror organizations in Syria. Qatar is a major funder of the al-Qaeda-allied Sunni al-Nusra Front there, and Qatari officials tell The Atlantic that ISIS is “a Saudi project.”

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
A Saudi project like a crane at the Grand Mosque in Mecca. That kind of project.

Iran funds, trains, and equips paramilitary forces throughout the Middle East, including the Lebanese political-militant group Hezbollah, and has for decades. Iraq’s government has been dominated by Iran-backed Shia parliamentarians since the ouster of Saddam Hussein by the 2003 U.S. invasion. Syrian President Bashar al-Asad’s regime is propped up by the Iranian government, who are reinforcing the Asad government against rebels, ISIS, the Kurdish YPG, and the other thousand groups vying for power there. The government’s legitimacy relies on the support of the Alawite minority in Syria, a Shia group whose followers control the top tiers of Syrian society.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

Sunni militant groups, financed by Gulf states like Kuwait, are seeing a rise in recruiting numbers and directing their ideology and violence toward other Muslim communities instead of Western targets. In response, Shia groups gain in strength and numbers to confront the  perceived threats posed by the Sunni groups. The war in Syria is no longer a fight for control of the country but a battle in a greater ideological proxy war.

The U.S. has so far managed not to take a side. The Obama Administration’s original plan for fighting ISIS, for example, involved both Sunnis and Shia, but accomplished little in the way of real, lasting stability or security in the region. It called for air support and advisors for Iraqi troops (sometimes led by Iranian advisors and in conjunction with Iraq’s Shia militias) while training and equipping “moderate” rebels in Sunni Saudi Arabia. We know how that turned out.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

Related: General briefs Congress fight against ISIS is a total mess

At the onset of the Syrian War, thousands of fighters left their homes in Syria for various Sunni or Shia militias. Foreign fighters soon began to flood in with professional jihadis from Chechnya and Afghanistan coming to reinforce Sunni groups while Shia militias from Iraq and Lebanese Hezbollah shored up the Asad regime. At the end of 2013, there were an estimated 1000+ armed groups in Syria. Since then, the rebel groups have only fractured.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
Map of Syrian Civil War as of February 2016

Knowing all of this, imagine how would it look to the average Shia militia if the United States began flooding a traditional Shia state with Sunni troops. The war in Syria will last at least another five to ten full years and the U.S. should be prepared for that. The U.S. only has to look at recent history when deciding how best to serve our national interest while helping bring the conflict to its conclusion.

The Lebanese Civil War ended only after the infighting exhausted itself. By the signing of the 1989 Taif Agreement that ended the war in Lebanon, the streets of Beirut looked remarkably similar to how the streets of the Syrian city of Homs look today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZRLvbgaIHs

That war had was much more akin to today’s Syrian conflict than other Arab Spring-related uprisings. Massacres, assassinations, and a large number of belligerents fueled the conflict for 15 years. In the end, the Taif Agreement ceded Lebanon to Syrian influence. Even so, the Taif Agreement only came about because of an anti-Saddam mindset between the Iranians and Saudis. U.S. military power was not a significant factor.

In 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut were bombed by Shia militias. The attacks killed 241 U.S. military members. Three months later, then-President Ronald Reagan withdrew all U.S. troops from the country. That turned out to be the right call. In trying to score political points, American politicians could call it a “cut and run.” Yet, in a 1991 biography of Reagan, one of the 20th century’s most brilliant military minds, Gen. Colin Powell, labeled the American intervention in Lebanon a misadventure from the start.

“Beirut wasn’t sensible and it never did serve a purpose,” Powell said. “It was goofy from the beginning.” The reversal of a bad military course, once decided, seems impossible 33 years later, considering the level of political rhetoric on the use of force against ISIS. It might even be political suicide.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
Would you to tell this man he was wrong?

Yet, the same U.S. involvement that was a mistake in Lebanon in the early 80’s is a leadership necessity in Syria today. Why? It’s not because of ISIS. In Lebanon, President Bachir Gemayel was assassinated and Palestinian refugees were slaughtered in camps by Christian Maronite militias. Those events didn’t influence Reagan to keep Marines in the country for an indeterminate period of time. Once it became clear that U.S. actions would have repercussions, the President decided the nature of the mission weighed against the potential cost wasn’t in U.S. interests and left the multi-national force … and it was the right call.

American intervention and use of military force should involve a clear strategy to reach a set goal, with rules of engagement to match. A policy of dropping Sunni troops into a Shia country is misguided. It will only fuel the Syrian war and the sectarian divide. The U.S. will win the hearts and minds of neither Shia nor Sunni and will pay the cost in security across the globe.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China and Russia formed a military bloc to oppose the US

China’s defense minister met his Russian counterpart in Moscow on April 3, 2018, to “let the Americans know about the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia,” according to the Associated Press.

“I am visiting Russia as a new defense minister of China to show the world a high level of development of our bilateral relations and firm determination of our armed forces to strengthen strategic cooperation,” China’s new defense minister, Gen. Wei Fenghe, said, according to CNN.


“The Chinese side has come [to Moscow] to show Americans the close ties between the armed forces of China and Russia … we’ve come to support you.”

The two defense ministers met for the seventh Moscow International Security Conference, according to Russian state owned media outlet TASS.

“To my memory, this is the 1st time in many years that a senior Chinese military leader says [something] like that publicly,” Alexander Gubev, a Senior Fellow and Chair of Russia in Asia-Pacific Program at Carnegie Moscow Center, tweeted on April 4, 2018.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
China’s defense minister, Wei Fenghe.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also met in Moscow on April 5, 2018, where they expressed the same sentiment of a forged “strategic partnership” against a “unipolar” world dominated by the US, the Associated Press reported.

In the last year, Russia and China have held joint naval drills in the South China Sea and the Baltics, as well as joint missile defense drills, according to the AP.

China and Russia have long supported each other’s positions on North Korea and Syria at the United Nations, and Beijing increased its support for Moscow after the West imposed sanctions on Russia for its annexation of Crimea, CNN reported.

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This assessment of North Korea’s missiles from top US intel experts will make you nervous

North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile can strike targets across the US, according to US intelligence officials.


North Korea tested the Hwasong-14 ICBM for the second time July 28, demonstrating previously-unseen offensive capabilities. The missile flew for around 45 minutes, soaring to a maximum altitude of about 2,300 miles and covering a distance of roughly 600 miles.

Expert observers assessed that were the missile fired along a standard trajectory, it would have a range between 6,500 miles and 6,800 miles, putting most of the continental US within striking distance.

The Pentagon has not released information on the range of the missile, but two intelligence officials have confirmed that Pyongyang likely has the ability to launch an attack against cities across the US, escalating the threat, Reuters reports.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
Image from Wikimedia Commons

The missile test on July 28 performed better than the Hwasong-14 tested earlier last month. Experts and defense officials estimated that the first missile could hit targets at ranges somewhere between 4,600 miles and 5,900 miles, putting Alaska, and possibly Hawaii and parts of the West Coast, in range.

The improved performance might be linked to additional motors.

North Korean state media reported the test “confirmed the performing features of motors whose number has increased to guarantee the maximum range in the active-flight stage as well as the accuracy and reliability of the improved guidance and stability system.”

The missile may have featured second-stage yaw maneuvering motors, according to Ankit Panda, senior editor for The Diplomat. He added the North may have also increased the burn time for its engines.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
Youtube Screenshot

After two successful ICBM tests, doubts remain about North Korea’s capabilities.

Russia, for instance, has yet to acknowledge North Korea even has an ICBM. After the July 4 test, Moscow claimed the North tested a medium-range ballistic missile, and they said the same after the July 28 test. It is unclear if Russia is being intentionally defiant or whether their outdated radar systems simply failed to detect the second stage of the ICBM.

There are also questions about whether or not North Korea has developed a reliable re-entry vehicle, a key step in the process of fielding ready-for-combat ICBMs and establishing a viable nuclear deterrent. Some also suspect that North Korea has not yet designed a suitable nuclear warhead for its missiles.

Several leading experts, however, assess the North has either already achieved these goals or will do so soon. The Pentagon expects North Korea to be able to field a reliable, nuclear-armed ICBM as early as next year, two years earlier than initially expected.

MIGHTY MONEY

Small nonprofits that make a big difference: The Military Health Project

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
Jacob Angel speaks to guests at the Veterans Day Reception in San Francisco on Nov 11, 2016.


Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.

Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.

Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.

The Military Health Project & Foundation is based in San Francisco and is run by Jacob Angel. Founded in April 2013, the nonprofit was originally designed to address mental health issues through pushing national legislation.

Angel tells us it took the nonprofit eight months to realize where it was failing.

“We were making the same mistake that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense were making,” he says. “We were treating mental and physical health care as two separate areas of care.”

The nonprofit re-aligned itself to better connect mental health and physical health, and in March 2014 it went to work garnering support for the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bill that Angel says eventually became law after a long battle.

“Thus far, the program is going very well,” Angel says. The law, according to Angel, makes counseling and other mental health service available to everyone “regardless of socioeconomic status or insurance coverage.”

In March 2015, The Military Health Project & Foundation announced the creation of the Military Support Fund, a dedicated financial resource to address coverage gaps for military and veteran families.

Angel tells that since its creation, the Military Support Fund has assisted 40 families in securing funding for specialized medical services and equipment.

Chief Petty Officer Carla Burkholder’s son was the recipient of a $2,500 grant for specialized medical equipment from The Military Health Project & Foundation.

“It feels like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she wrote.

The organization is focused on addressing both physical and mental health needs through direct assistance and legislation.

“We are now a hybrid organization,” Angel says.

The Military Health Project is the advocacy wing where the nonprofit helps to create policy that addresses the ever-changing needs of the military and veteran community through legislation.

The Military Health Foundation works to provide for military and veteran families in the interim.

“They should not have to wait for treatments that they require and frankly deserve.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

These vets share the challenges they faced transitioning back to civilian life

WATM hosted groups of veterans to answer several questions about their time in the military. The vets kept it real when responding to topics ranging from relationships to recruiters.


Editor’s note: If you have ideas for questions that you’d like to see a group of veterans answer, please leave a comment below.

 

Music courtesy of Jingle Punks:

All Ears – Auracle

Anyone Else-JP – The Beards

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A-10s staring down China while sending a message to critics back home

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
A U.S. Air Force A-10C Thunderbolt II, with the 51st Fighter Wing, Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, sits on the flight line of Clark Air Base, Philippines. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin W. Stratton)


Whenever the Pentagon sends troops abroad it’s about demonstrating resolve, reassuring allies or confronting potential opponents – or some combination of all three. But for the A-10 Warthogs and their crews in the Philippines, their biggest message might be one for critics back home.

On April 16, the U.S. Air Force announced that four of the venerable ground attack jets would remain in the Philippines after taking part in the annual Balikatan training exercises with Manila’s forces. Three HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters and an MC-130H Combat Talon II tanker would round out the new air contingent at Clark Air Base.

“The Air Contingent will remain in place as long as both the Philippines and the United States deem  necessary,” MSgt. Matthew McGovern, the Operations Division Manager for the Pacific Air Force’s public affairs office, told We Are the Mighty in an email. “Our aircraft, flying in and around the South China Sea, are flying within international airspace and are simply demonstrating freedom of navigation in these areas.”

The deployment at Clark is one part of a deal between Washington and Manila called the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Signed on April 28, 2014, the arrangement opened a number of Philippine military bases to American troops and outlined plans for increased cooperation between the two countries’ armed forces.

The EDCA would “help strengthen our 65-year-old alliance, and deepen our military-to-military cooperation at a time of great change in the Asia-Pacific,” Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter told reporters during a visit to the Philippines on April 14. “In the South China Sea, China’s actions in particular are causing anxiety and raising regional tensions.”

As Carter noted, Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea is the major concern for the Philippines and its neighbors in Southeast Asia. Effectively claiming the entire body of water as its sovereign territory, China policy has brought it near close to skirmishing with Manila’s ships.

In 2012, the Philippines found itself in a particularly embarrassing stand-off with unarmed Chinese “marine surveillance” ships near the disputed Scarborough Shoal, less than 250 miles west of Manila. While Beijing’s vessels ultimately withdrew, they blocked the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar – an ex-U.S. Coast Guard cutter and the largest ship then in the Philippine Navy – from moving into arrest Chinese fishermen.

Since then, Chinese authorities have used their dominant position to harass Philippine fishermen in the area. More importantly, Beijing began building a series of man-made islands – complete with air defenses, ballistic missile sites and runways able to support fighter jets and bombers – throughout the South China Sea to help enforce its claims.

“Countries across the Asia-Pacific are voicing concern with China’s land reclamation, which stands out in size and scope, as well as its militarization in the South China Sea,” Carter added in his comments in Manila. “We’re continuing to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

So, it’s no surprise that the A-10’s first mission was a show of force over the Scarborough Shoal, which China refers to as Huangyan Island and claims as its own. With plans to develop the narrow strip of land into a tourist destination, Beijing was incensed to see the Warthogs fly by.

“This threatens the sovereignty and national security of the relevant coastal states, as well as the regional peace and stability,” the Chinese Ministry of Defense said in a statement according to People’s Daily, an official organ of the country’s Communist Party. “We must express our concern and protest towards it.”

Though originally built to blast hordes of Soviet tanks in Europe, the blunt nosed attackers are a threat to small warships and other surface targets. The aircraft’s main armament is a single, massive 30-millimeter cannon that can fire up to 70 shells per second.

On top of that, the straight-winged planes can carry precision laser- and GPS-guided bombs and missiles. On March 28, 2011, Warthogs showed off their maritime skills when they destroyed two Libyan patrol craft during the international air campaign against the country’s long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

After the Pentagon announced the Warthog would stay in the Philippines, the Air Force released shots of the jets sitting at Clark, each loaded with targeting pods, training versions of the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile and an AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile. Northrop Grumman’s LITENING pod has a laser designator and a powerful infrared camera that can also double as a surveillance system if necessary.

Over Scarborough, the A-10s sported a LITENING on the right wing and an AN/ALQ-184 electronic jamming pod on the left. All four Warthogs, along with two of the Pave Hawks, went out for the initial maritime patrol.

But the Warthogs made an even bigger statement just by flying the mission at all – and not to officials in Beijing, but to critics back home. The deployment comes as the Air Force continues to move forward with plans to retire the low- and slow-flying planes without a clear replacement available.

To hear the flying branch tell it, the aircraft are inflexible, dated Cold Warriors unable to survive over the modern battlefield. Unlike multi-role fighter bombers like the F-16 or up-coming, but troublesome F-35, the A-10 is only good at one thing: close air support for troops on the ground.

The A-10 “is a 40-year-old single-purpose airplane,” then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said in February 2014.  “There’s only so much you can get out of that airplane,” Air Force Gen. Herbert Carlisle, chief of Air Combat Command, declared more than a year later.

The Warthogs’ trip to the Philippines stands in stark contrast to these claims. According to the Air Force itself, the A-10s and HH-60s will fly missions providing air and maritime domain awareness and personnel recovery, combating piracy and otherwise keeping anyone from denying access to “the global commons” in the South China Sea.

The flying branch didn’t randomly pick the A-10 for the job either. “Selecting the A-10C and HH-60Gs for this mission was strategically and economically the right decision,” Brig. Gen. Dirk Smith, PACAF’s director of air and cyberspace operations, told Air Force reporters after the detachment stood up at Clark.

“PACAF considered multiple options for what aircraft to use, however, the A-10Cs were the right choice for a number of reasons,” McGovern explained further. “A-10Cs also have a proven record operating out of short and austere airstrips, provide a flexible range of capabilities, and have a mission profile consistent with the air and maritime domain awareness operations the air contingent will conduct.”

The Warthog’s ability to stay airborne for long periods of time was another point in its favor. Of course, the fact that the jets were already in the Philippines for Balikatan didn’t hurt.

Still, the A-10 is cheap to operate in general. Compared to around $20,000 per flying hour for the F-16 or more three times that amount for bombers like the B-1 and B-52, the Air Force has to spend less than $20,000 for every hour a Warthog is in the air.

“With a relatively small investment we were able to deepen our ties with our Philippine allies and strengthen our relationship,” McGovern added. “The aircraft involved in subsequent deployments will be tailored to airfield capability and capacity and desired objectives.”

In February, the Air Force announced plans to start retiring the A-10s by 2017 and have the entire fleet gone by the end of 2022. Hopefully deployments like the one to the Philippines will show both the Chinese and the Pentagon that the Warthogs still have a lot of fight left in them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A World Trade Center survivor left an amazing goodbye to his family

As the Director of West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center, I have the good fortune of exposing cadets at the U.S. Military Academy to a number of experiences that shape their worldviews about terrorism and counterterrorism. Sometimes we even get a special opportunity to shape their worldviews on life in general.


One of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences for cadets and faculty is our annual Fall trip to New York City. Surprisingly, we have not always done this, but we started an annual trip in 2014 with the intent of showing cadets the efforts to counter terrorism in the greatest city on the planet, just 50 miles south of West Point.

In addition to visiting with partners such as the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, NYPD, and the FDNY, we always spend the entire morning at the National 9/11 Museum and Memorial.

Regardless of whether it is your first time or your 100th time, it is guaranteed to be a moving experience. I learn something new every time I am there. If you have not visited it, you should make it a priority to do so. Many cadets say it is one of the most rewarding experiences of their West Point career, and almost every cadet wishes we could spend more time there.

If you do intend to visit, don’t plan on spending an hour or two. You really should carve out the whole day. No matter how many hours you spend in this sacred place, it won’t be enough.

On this last trip, I somehow spent more time in a lesser-known section of the memorial dedicated to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. On that cold February day, there was a guy caught in an elevator shaft. Thinking it was his final hour due to the heavy smoke that came pouring in, he wrote a hand-written letter to his wife and kids. He thought he was going to die. Thankfully he survived, but his letter is in the museum for all to see, and I’m so glad it was included.

It is beautiful, jarring, inspirational, and emotional. It got me thinking about what I would write in that situation. It also made me think why we don’t articulate these kinds of thoughts to the people we love while we have the opportunity to do so (e.g. not waiting until we are in an elevator shaft filling with smoke, thinking we’re going to die).

Here it is:

*************************************************

To my family, from Dad

12:40PM smoking elevator 66, 2/26/93

A few thoughts if I am fated to leave you now.

I love you very much. Be good people. Do wonderful things in your life.

Barbara – I’ve always loved you, and showed you as much as I could.

Debbie – my beautiful girl, with wonderful bear hugs and kisses. Do good.

Jeff – What a terrific person, stay well, make good decisions, help people.

Doug – My boy. Discover secrets to cure lots of the world’s problems.

I’m so proud of my children – they’re each so wonderful.

I love and cherish – ideas, people, Cooper Union (Alumnus of the Year!!), my work, my family, doing the best I could. Nothing more to say. 

Love,

Dad

12:59 very smoky

**************************************************

It is a simple letter, but I love the themes he wrote about:

“Be good people.”

“Do wonderful things.”

“Do good.”

“Help people.”

“Cure lots of the world’s problems.”

I also love that beyond his family, the first things that came to mind when he thought about things he loved were ideas, people, his alma mater, and doing the best he could.

Also Read: This was how the military reacted after terrorists attacked on Sept. 11

So in the aftermath of a seemingly never-ending political season, where we still have to sit and watch negative messages that are intended to divide us, I like to focus instead on the wise words of someone forced to maximize what little time he had left on this earth. This is what is important. Whether you are black, white, or purple, straight or gay, native-born or an immigrant, everyone can relate to this letter. When you strip everything else away, we want our families to know we loved them and to inspire them to do good in the world.

After you read it, please tell the people in your life what they mean to you, and do it as if you were in an elevator shaft filling with smoke and you thought you weren’t going to make it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This ‘tidal wave of airpower’ just starting washing over Afghanistan

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan vowed a new wave of helicopter strikes by the Afghan National Security Forces on Taliban insurgents after the delivery of dozens of UH-60 black hawk helicopters, in a joint Saturday appearance with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.


Gen. John Nicholson pledged that “a tidal wave of air power is on the horizon” after the delivery of the helicopters, adding defiantly “terrorists will not triumph here.” The delivery of the Black Hawk helicopters aligns with President Donald Trump’s renewed push to settle the war in Afghanistan after 16 years of combat.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis previewed the strategy before Congress Wednesday noting that U.S. rules of engagement in Afghanistan would be adjusted in the months to come that allow airstrikes on Taliban militants anywhere in the country. Former President Barack Obama restricted U.S. strikes to targeting Taliban insurgents only when they were attacking U.S. or Afghan Security Forces. This allowed militants to maintain safe havens throughout the country, knowing they were free of danger of U.S. warplanes.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
SECDEF James Mattis disembarks from an E-4B while on an official overseas trip (Photo US Air Force)

Rules of engagement are only a small part of the overall change to U.S. posture in the country. Trump pledged in an Aug. 21 address to leave U.S. troops in the country until conditions on the ground justified a reduction and allowed Mattis to deploy an additional 3,000 troops to the country. Mattis deployed the additional 3,000 troops under the guise of a broader U.S. strategy he called “R4+S” which stands for “regionalize, realign, reinforce, reconcile, and sustain,” in Wednesday testimony before Congress.

The first three R’s emphasize the regional approach the administration intends to take, providing additional U.S. military advisers at lower levels of the Afghan National Security Forces, and pledging to stay in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. Mattis deployed an additional 3,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan shortly after Trump’s address to carry out this mission.

The ultimate goal of the strategy is “reconciliation,” which entails “convincing our foes that the coalition is committed to a conditions-based outcome, we intend to drive fence-sitters and those who will see that we’re not quitting this fight to reconcile with the Afghan National Government.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

So long to smocks? Army considers changes to 40-year-old maternity uniform

The Army Uniform Board will consider whether to update the service’s 40-year-old smock maternity uniform and possibly issue a lactation shirt for new mothers as part of the board’s 152nd meeting on Wednesday.

The uniform board meets twice a year to discuss recommendations for potential improvements to Army uniforms and changes to issue clothing bag items. It also proposes possible future uniform items for the service to study.

The board, which is made up of members of the active force, National Guard and Reserve, plans to discuss redesigning the Army Green Service Uniform-Maternity, which is part of the service’s new World War II-style uniform, according to a news release.

“That maternity uniform resembled the style of uniform that has been issued since the 1980s and was first designed in 1979,” the release states. It adds that the board will discuss whether to modernize the maternity uniform or continue with the current style.

The Marine Corps announced late last year that it is considering new long- and short-sleeve maternity shirts after the Air Force unveiled a new design of its own that offers more stretch and stain resistance.

Pregnant airmen at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio tested the new maternity shirts in 2018 to gather feedback from women at different stages of pregnancy to improve fit options.

Improved fit and function of maternity clothing items are overdue, said then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who explained that female service members have been forced to spend more money than men altering uniforms so they fit properly.

The Army Uniform Board is also scheduled to consider developing a lactation shirt for the Maternity Utility Uniform in the Operational Combat Pattern, according to the release.

The effort could result in an issued uniform item for new mothers. Currently, the Army does not include a lactation shirt as part of the clothing bag issue; female soldiers must purchase them from commercial companies, the release states.

The Marine Corps announced last year that it was fielding a nursing undershirt for new mothers as part of other uniform changes that emerged from a Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services committee meeting. Sailors and airmen are authorized to wear specially designed nursing T-shirts with certain uniforms.

The uniform board’s June 25 meeting resulted in a recommendation to develop a maternity Army Physical Fitness Uniform. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville approved the recommendation, allowing the service to proceed with a user evaluation, which will include a wear test of potential uniform items.

The board also recommended research on improving the quality and effectiveness of the athletic bras issued to soldiers in entry-level training, as well as to deploying troops.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA’s ‘Borne the Battle’ podcast marks 200 episodes

This 200th episode of Borne the Battle features Air Force Veteran Aerial Johnson, better known by her wrestling name “Big Swole,” Aerial shares her time in the military and how she transitioned into civilian life to eventually became a professional wrestler.


Johnson joined the Air Force in 2008 to be a fire truck mechanic. She was stationed at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina. On April 3, 2008, on a day she and her family would come to call her “second birthday,” Johnson was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease after being told she had half an hour to live. She survived a round of emergency surgery and was told that she would never be able to have children or engage in high-impact sports. However, Johnson didn’t let her diagnosis stop her from doing what she wanted to do. When her Crohn’s disease worsened, she had to leave Air Force in 2010 but she didn’t stop to pursue other dreams.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CROHN’S DISEASE

Hull returned to her hometown of Clearwater, Florida, where she started interacting with a local community of professional wrestlers. She became an independent wrestler herself, and after a few years she signed with All Elite Wrestling and has appeared on both AEW Dark and AEW Dynamite.

In this episode, Hull discusses how she overcame the struggles of Crohn’s disease and embraced the lessons she learned in the military to develop the “Swole mentality” of giving everything her all. She is a reminder to people everywhere that with discipline, anything is possible.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how the US wants to take down Iran

Early reports suggest National Security Advisor John Bolton presented a plan that called for 120,000 U.S. troops to counter Iran, just in case the Islamic Republic ups the ante by attacking American forces or starts building nuclear weapons again.



Tensions in the region are reaching a fever pitch as the United States sends more warships, including the USS Abraham Lincoln into the Persian Gulf and the Saudis accuse Iran of attacking oil tankers using armed drones. According to the New York Times, Bolton’s plan does not include a ground invasion force. But John Bolton is no moderate when it comes to regime change, and there’s no way his plan for the United States toppling the Iranian regime precludes a ground invasion.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

The guy who openly admits he joined the National Guard because he didn’t want to die in a rice paddy in Vietnam has no problem sending your kids to die in Iran.

Bolton has openly advocated for the U.S. to use military power to foment regime change everywhere from Syria and Iran to North Korea and Venezuela. Bolton even backed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and still maintains it was a good idea, despite everyone else, from historians to President Bush himself, admitting it was a costly, bungled pipe dream. President Bush soon learned from his mistakes and Bolton’s career was wisely kicked back into the loony bin where it belongs.

Also: Here are 10 wars that could break out in the next four years

But there’s a new President in office, one who has elevated Bolton and his hawkish sentiment to the post of National Security Advisor. While Bolton may have presented a plan without an invasion force, it’s very likely he has one somewhere that does include an invasion, and 120,000 troops will not be enough.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

John Bolton is a mouth just begging for a sock.

The extra seapower is likely just the beginning of the overall plan to topple the Islamic Republic. A complete naval blockade in the Persian Gulf would be necessary to cut Iran off from outside supplies, help from the Revolutionary Guards Corps forces, and protect international shipping lanes. This sounds like it should be easy for the U.S. Navy, but Iran’s unconventional naval forces could prove difficult to subdue without American losses.

Now Read: That time a Marine general led a fictional Iran against the US military – and won

That would be a significant escalation, perhaps even enough to subdue the Iranian regime for the time being. But that’s not John Bolton’s style, as cyber attacks would work to cripple what military, economic, and physical infrastructure it could while U.S. troops deploy inside Iran. The Islamic Republic is firmly situation between Iraq and a hard place, both countries where American troops are deployed and have freedom to move.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

The worldwide demand for white Toyota pickups is about to skyrocket. Or land rocket. Because of Javelins.

Then the ground game will begin. Tier one forces from the U.S. Special Operations command will conduct leadership strikes and capture or destroy command and control elements. Other special operators will have to engage Iranian special forces inside Iran and wherever else they’re deployed near U.S. troops, especially in Iraq and Syria. It’s likely that Army Special Forces would link up with anti-regime fighters inside Iran to foment an internal uprising against the regime.

Meanwhile, the main ground invasion force will have to contend with some 500,000 defenders, made up of Iran’s actual army, unconventional Quds Force troops, Shia militias like those seen in the Iraq War and the fight against ISIS, and potentially more unconventional forces and tactics.

Also: The horrifying way Iran cleared mines in the Iran-Iraq War

Conventional American troops will seal the country off along its borders, especially the porous ones next to Iraq and Afghanistan, where significant numbers of American combat troops are already deployed. The combined squeeze of American troops from the East and West along with the naval blockade of the Persian Gulf would be akin to Winfield Scott’s Civil War-era Anaconda Plan, which crippled Confederate supply lines while strangling the South. American forces would move from the northern areas to southern Iran in a multi-pronged movement.

The first prong would be a thrust from the northwest into the southern oil fields and into the Strait of Hormuz, securing Iranian oil and shipping infrastructure. The second prong would move right into northern Iran, cutting it off from its northern neighbors. The final thrust would likely cut Tehran off from the outside while keeping an eye on the border with Pakistan.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

Kinda like this except in the desert… and the Indians are very different.

While Iran’s borders with Iraq and Afghanistan make moving U.S. troops to the Iranian combat zone easier, it also leaves America’s supply lines vulnerable to attack. These would need to be reinforced and protected at every opportunity and are vulnerable to sympathetic forces that could be exploited by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Quds Forces, as all routes into Afghanistan pass through Iranian neighbors or their allies, which include Pakistan.

How long this would take is anyone’s guess, but the United States managed to build up its forces and topple Saddam Hussein’s Iranian regime in less than a year, though CIA operatives had been in-country with opposition forces for longer. If the CIA or American special operations troops are already inside Iran, then the invasion has already begun.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now there’s some doubt about whether Iran really tested a new long-range missile

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!”

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
Photo by Michael Vadon

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.”

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage

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.

This is the sound that gave American diplomats in Cuba brain damage
United Nations General Assembly hall in New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Avala.

“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.

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