U.S. President Donald Trump, who in early 2018 demanded that North Korea swiftly give up its nuclear weapons, has said that it could take years to achieve those results in negotiations.
“I think we’re really going to do something that’s going to be very important, but we’re not playing the time game,” Trump told a news conference in New York. “If it takes two years, three years, or five months — doesn’t matter.”
Trump’s comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was making plans to visit Pyongyang again in October 2018 to prepare for a second summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Trump held an unprecedented first summit with Kim in Singapore on June 12, 2018, that yielded a broad pledge by Kim to “work toward” denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Trump said afterward he expected results within months.
Since then, however, Kim’s actions have fallen far short of Washington’s demands, which range from providing a complete inventory of North Korea’s nuclear weapons to taking irreversible steps to give up its nuclear arsenal.
Despite the lack of progress, Trump has boasted repeatedly of having “a wonderful relationship” with Kim and said he expects the two to eventually clinch a deal.
The Pentagon has been developing a weapon system of highly flammable and intensely hot rocket balls to help destroy weapon of mass destruction (WMD) bunkers.
These “kinetic fireball incendiaries” are specially designed to rocket randomly throughout an underground bunker while expelling super heated gases that rise over 1,000 degrees Farenheit.
These rocket balls are specifically designed for destroying potentially dangerous materials — such as chemical or biological weapons — without blowing them up, which would risk scattering the materials into the surrounding area, Wired notes.
“There are plenty of bombs which could destroy a lab, and bunker-busting weapons can tackle hardened underground facilities. But blowing up weapons of mass destruction is not a good idea. Using high explosives is likely to scatter them over a wide area, which is exactly what you want to avoid,” Wired writes.
Instead, the fireballs function alongside a 2,000 pound BLU-109B bunker bomb, Flight Global reports. These bunker bombs are able to punch through six feet reinforced concrete. After punching into a bunker, the bomb would then release its internal kinetic incendiaries.
Once inside a bunker or structure, the rocket balls get to work. Essentially, the balls are hollowed out spheres comprised of rubberized rocket fuel that have a hole on the outside. As Technovelgy notes, this hole causes the balls, once ignited, to expel hot air in excess of 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Additionally, the expulsion of air causes the incendiary balls to rocket wildly throughout a structure with enough force to break down doors. This allows the balls to randomly and fully reach the entirety of a bunker while incinerating everything inside.
Wired also notes that the use of such incendiary devices could allow the military to effectively clear out a building without damaging the structure’s integrity, as well as effectively dealing with a nuclear facility without spreading nuclear material into the atmosphere or surrounding region.
Alright, we’ll grant you that fitness personalities don’t need to train up for simple tests. And the Army’s current PT test is a very simple challenge. A quick test of upper body strength and endurance, a quick test of abdominal endurance, and a quick two-miler. All pretty commonly used muscles, all movements with little need for special training.
But still, Natacha Océane did a pretty great job while taking the APFT. Sure, she flubs her number 5 sit-up during the test, but she also doesn’t count it, and she uses a poop emoji on the counter. And she does 82 others (Airborne!), which is enough to max the sit-ups. And her two-mile time is enough for 100 points as well. Her 42 push-ups only get her 94 points on the female scale, but that’s still a very respectable 294 total.
That’s enough for a fitness badge, and enough to raise your platoon’s average score if you’re serving anywhere outside of special operations (and a few places in spec ops). In fact, those 42 push-ups would be enough to get her into Airborne school as a male.
Which is good, because the Army is switching to a gender-neutral physical training test. And her push-up and run scores drop precipitously once you switch to the men’s scoring table. Still, she outperformed most of the POGs that I served with, even setting aside gendered standards.
But before recruiters start lining up to bring her in, if you listen to the audio at the start of the video, she’s a British citizen who lives in Britain. And, also, the Army probably doesn’t offer enough money to put her off of YouTubing. This video has over 2 million views in less than five months, meaning she probably makes a hunk of change already.
But, worst of all, she’s already taken the Marine Corps test as well, and she scored a 300 on it.
U.S. and Taliban officials have agreed in principle to the “framework” of a peace deal, The New York Times quotes U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad as saying after five days of talks between the militant group and the United States in Qatar.
Both sides have said “progress” had been made in the talks aimed at ending the 17-year conflict in Afghanistan.
“We have a draft of the framework that has to be fleshed out before it becomes an agreement,” The New York Times quoted Khalilzad as saying on Jan. 28, 2019, in an interview in Kabul.
In the framework, the militants agree to prevent Afghan territory from being used by groups such as Al-Qaeda to stage terrorist attacks.
That could lead to a full pullout of U.S. combat troops, but only in return for the Taliban entering talks with the Afghan government and agreeing to a lasting cease-fire.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
The Taliban “committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying.
“We felt enough confidence that we said we need to get this fleshed out, and details need to be worked out,” he added, according to The New York Times.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has struggled to fend off a resurgent Taliban and other militant groups.
The Taliban has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with Afghan government officials, whom they dismiss as “puppets.”
In separate comments made at a meeting with the Afghan media in Kabul on Jan. 28, 2019, Khalilzad said, “I have encouraged the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government. It is our policy to get to intra-Afghan talks.”
The militants have said they will only begin talks with the government once a firm date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops has been agreed.
In a televised address on Jan. 28, 2019, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the Taliban to enter “serious” negotiations with the government in Kabul and “accept Afghans’ demand for peace.”
“Either they join the great nation of Afghanistan with a united voice, or be the tool of foreign objectives,” he told the militant group.
Ghani spoke after Khalilzad briefed him and other Afghan officials in Kabul on the six-day talks he held with Taliban representatives in the Qatari capital, Doha, January 2019.
The president’s office quoted Khalilzad as saying he had held talks about the withdrawal of foreign troops and a possible cease-fire, but nothing was agreed upon.
“The U.S. insisted in their talks with the Taliban that the only solution for lasting peace in Afghanistan is intra-Afghan talks,” Khalilzad said, according to a statement.
“My role is to facilitate” such talks between the insurgents and Kabul, Khalilzad was quoted as saying.
The U.S. envoy said on Jan. 26, 2019, that the United States and the Taliban had made “significant progress,” adding that the Doha talks were “more productive than they have been in the past.”
He also emphasized that the sides “have a number of issues left to work out,” and that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that while there was “progress” at the meetings, reports of an agreement on a cease-fire were “not true.”
Mujahid also said in a statement that talks about “unresolved matters” will continue.
Until the withdrawal of international troops was hammered out, “progress in other issues is impossible,” he insisted.
Another round of peace talks between the Taliban and the United States was tentatively set for Feb. 25, 2019, the Reuters news agency quoted a Qatari Foreign Ministry official as saying on Jan. 28, 2019.
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.
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.)
Ukraine is marking the 32nd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on April 26, 2018, with a memorial service and a series of events in remembrance of the world’s worst-ever civilian nuclear accident.
In neighboring Belarus, an opposition-organized event will also be held to commemorate the disaster.
In Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, hundreds of people marched at midnight to the Memorial Hill of Chernobyl Heroes where they laid flowers and lit candles. At 1 a.m. on April 26, 2018, an Orthodox service and a prayer to commemorate Chernobyl victims were performed at the site.
President Petro Poroshenko, on April 26, 2018, wrote on Facebook that Chernobyl “will forever remain an open wound for us.”
“Today, we have to do everything to prevent a repetition of that tragedy… the Chernobyl zone must now become a place of new technologies, a territory of changes,” Poroshenko wrote.
In Belarus, the opposition plans to hold a march in Minsk known as the “Chernobyl Path” later on April 26, 2018.
The march has been held in the Belarusian capital since 1988 to commemorate the disaster in neighboring Ukraine, which also contaminated large swaths of territory in Belarus.
An explosion on April 26, 1986, blew the roof off the building housing a nuclear reactor and spewed a cloud of radioactive material high into the air — drifting across Ukraine’s borders into Russia, Belarus, and across large parts of Europe.
About 30 people died in the immediate aftermath and thousands more are feared to have died in the years that followed from the effects of the disaster — mainly exposure to radiation.
On April 25, 2018, the Vienna-based UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation said that around 20,000 thyroid cancer cases were registered between 1991 and 2015 in the area surrounding the reactor, which takes in all of Ukraine and Belarus, as well parts of Russia.
The UN scientists said that since the accident, 1-in-4 thyroid cancer cases have been caused by radiation in the region.
In November 2016, a huge arch was placed over the stricken reactor to prevent further leaks of radiation. The project — funded by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development — cost $1.6 billion.
As part of the “all options on the table” approach to North Korea often pushed by President Donald Trump and his cabinet, the U.S. has been training the first operational Marine Corps F-35 squadron to fight through nuclear war if needed.
In mid-November, U.S. Marine Corps pilots and support crew donned Mission Oriented Protective Posture (MOPP) gear to train for war fighting under the strain of chemical, biological, or radiological hazards.
The Marines wore MOPP gear level four, the highest grade of protective gear available to the U.S. military, while executing a “hot refueling,” or a fast-paced exercise where the pilot keeps the F-35’s engines on while it takes on more gas, so it can take off in a moment’s notice.
Hot refueling, as well as hot reloading, where F-35s take in more ordnance while the engines stay on, both represent tactics devised specifically with fighting in the Pacific in mind.
In the event of war with North Korea, Pyongyang’s opening salvo would likely include nuclear, chemical, or biological weapon attacks via ballistic missiles on U.S. bases in Japan. Although the U.S. maintains missile defenses, it’s not safe to assume the bases would make it out unscathed.
For that reason, the Marines’ F-35B, which can take off and land vertically, needs flexibility to improvise, land on makeshift runways, and turn around to keep fighting in minimal time.
Training in MOPP gear assures that the pilots and crew won’t be caught off guard when the atmosphere becomes hazardous with chemical, radioactive, or biological agents.
“It’s important to practice in MOPP gear because the Marines do”t get many opportunities to wear this on a daily basis, so in the instance where they do have to wear MOPP gear in a real-life scenario, it’s not going to be a shock or surprise to them of how they are going to operate,” Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Martin Aldrete, a maintenance controller with VMFA-121, said in a statement.
The military’s best planes and pilots are all training to take out North Korea
Alpert said that instead of sending 60 to 75 servicemembers into the air above North Korea aboard F-16s, F-15s, logistics, and surveillance planes, U.S. Air Force planners managed to work out a mission where just four pilots in two F-22 Raptors and two F-35s take out North Korea’s main nuclear infrastructure and leave unscathed.
After placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team has stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games starting Thursday in Madison, Wisconsin.
During the four-day competition, Capt. Chandler Smith said he looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.
“My goals at the CrossFit Games are reflective of my Army career goals as a whole,” Smith said. “My efforts there could potentially [bring in] a Soldier that will help educate my [future] son or daughter when they decide to join the Army.
Capt. Chandler Smith stamped his ticket to the CrossFit Games Aug. 1-4, 2019, in Madison, Wisc., after placing fifth at the Rogue Invitational in Columbus, Ohio. Smith, an armor officer and member of the Army Warrior Fitness Team looks forward to sharing his Army story at one of the largest fitness contests in the world.
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army Recruiting Command)
“I want to do something at the games that [helps] the Army, and the world, become a better place,” he added. “If someone sees my positivity and chooses to reflect that in their daily life — that is a win.”
Smith was born in Gainesville, Florida. His father, Cedric, was a former NFL fullback and currently works as a strength and conditioning coach in the league. As an aspiring young athlete, Smith had ample opportunity to interact with many players and coaches, which taught him to remain humble, he said.
During high school, Smith decided to get into wrestling. His coach, Nage Damas, was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, and a three-year letter winner on its wrestling team. Through their interaction, Smith decided to enroll in the academy.
“I am the person who is big on discipline,” Smith said. “West Point presented the hardest road … and presented the biggest challenge in comparison to the other academies.”
At the time the Army was highly involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. Smith believed the Army provided the best opportunity for applied leadership.
“Those were conflicts I saw myself in. As an aspiring leader, you want to place yourself at points of friction,” he said.
As both a cadet and wrestler, Smith worked hard to exceed West Point’s academic, physical and military performance standards, he said. He strived to be a positive example for all of his teammates and peers.
“I have been given some gifts in the physical realm,” Smith said. “It is something that the Army has helped me foster by putting me around similarly-minded [people].
“I’m big on putting a focused effort toward whatever it is that I am in charge of doing,” he added. “Anything less than my best would be to sacrifice my gift — that’s how I see it.”
The Army goes to great lengths to support competitive athletes. Here, Capt. Brian Harris completes the half Murph on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.
(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)
A NEW PATH
Smith’s respect for CrossFit started long before his time at West Point, he said.
“I wanted to do all the cool guy stuff that you see on TV. [CrossFit] helped me out with wrestling during high school and college,” he said.
After Smith graduated in 2015, CrossFit presented the most natural transition to help “stoke that competitive fire,” he added. In between his duties as a new lieutenant, Smith would spend hours in the gym. He was determined to make the CrossFit Games by 2020.
However, Smith’s fitness career almost derailed in February 2016. During an Army exercise, Smith sustained an injury, which broke his left ring finger in two places and sliced off the tip.
The injury happened a day before the CrossFit Open, the first qualifying stage for the CrossFit Games. The year prior, Smith placed 174th overall out of 273,000 total participants, according to CrossFit officials.
Smith took some time to recover and had to learn to operate with his new hand. He took a step back and started to reevaluate his ability to compete.
I didn’t realize that grip strength is a weakness of mine until I had something that affected my ability to grip. I began to specialize in the type of fitness my musculature can naturally support,” he said. “It ended up being a case of traumatic growth as this setback led to greater results.”
Through it all, Smith continued to move up in the ranks. He placed 128th overall in 2018 in the CrossFit standings. Coming into this year’s CrossFit Games, he is ranked 40th overall, according to program officials.
“I’ve gotten a chance to work out with [Smith],” said Master Sgt. Glenn Grabs, the first sergeant of the Army Recruiting Command’s outreach and recruiting company. “He speeds up as the workout gets longer, which makes him such a great competitor. Even though he’s maybe suffering inside, he’s just so positive and never backs down.”
As an overall athlete, Smith is relentless and the true embodiment of the warrior spirit, Grabs added.
“Captain Chandler Smith is not only a great Soldier, but he is a great person,” he said. “When I see him interact with people at competitions or in public, he goes the extra step to connect with people. That’s just who he is as a person and what makes him so remarkable.”
Army Strong: Capt. Kasandra “Kaci” Clark completing the half Murch on the Assault AirRunner during the U.S. Army Warrior Fitness Team Tryouts.
(U.S. Army image by Lara Poirrier)
As a Soldier, Smith looks forward to more milestones he hopes to accomplish in his career. He was recently selected to lead an infantry platoon as an armor officer, which ended up being one of his crowning achievements thus far, he said.
“That’s not something that happens too often. We went over to Bulgaria for nine months as part of the Operation Atlantic Resolve,” he said. “Knowing that my command trusted me enough to take on a role that I wasn’t necessarily trained for — it empowered me a lot.”
For the most part, Smith has not experienced a lot of difficulties while balancing his fitness goals and Army career, he said. However, anything that falls outside those two priorities is sometimes pushed aside.
“I think I am overly focused on doing my nine to five at work. I also take my fitness hobby very seriously. It doesn’t leave much time for anything else,” he said. “I haven’t done too much vacationing or maybe spent as much time with my family as I would have liked to.”
These sacrifices were necessary to keep him relevant in the Army and fitness community, he said.
“[Making the CrossFit Games] is a goal that I’ve had in mind since 2012, and I’ve been in the Army the whole time,” he said. “So figuring out a way to do this all while balancing my Army requirements was going to be a challenge, but I wouldn’t have it in any other way.
“I’m super happy that it has paid off with a trip to the games this year.”
Kenny Bass liked his job. As a 22-year-old Marine participating in the initial invasion of Iraq, life couldn’t have been more exciting.
“I was part of the combined anti-armor platoon,” he explained. “It was the ‘CAAT platoon.’ We were doing a lot of counter-ambush patrols, the insurgents were attacking Red Cross personnel, civilian contractors and other non-combatants. So we were tasked with going out and trying to solicit an attack. We were Infantry Marines, and young, so most of us were pretty excited about doing that kind of work. We had heavy-duty machine guns and anti-tank missiles.”
About four months into his tour, the odds caught up with the young Infantry Marine. The unarmored Humvee he was riding in struck an IED.
“I was sitting in the passenger side rear, and the IED blew up by the right front bumper,” he said. “Nobody got killed, and I just took a couple pieces of shrapnel to my face, nothing major. I think the blast wave injury was the major thing.”
Nevertheless, by the time he returned home from Iraq in early 2004, Bass was a different man.
“My friends noticed a change in me,” he said. “I was depressed. And I was anxious. I remember going to a flea market one time and that’s when I had my first panic attack, because of all the people there. It was like I was still in Iraq, where just about everyone you see is a potential threat. I hated going out to eat or going to the mall or anything like that.”
104 in a 65 Zone
As if depression, anxiety and panic weren’t enough, another symptom began to surface.Anger.
“I was walking around with an anger level of about seven or eight,” Bass explained. “One time I got pulled over by the California Highway Patrol for doing 104 mph. I got mad at the cop for pulling me over. I was such a jerk. It didn’t take much to tip me off.”
At home, the 33-year-old Veteran’s garage became his haven.
“I’d sit out there all day smoking cigarettes,” he said. “I could see the street from there, which made me feel safe, and I could also hear what was going on in the house. So I had everything covered.”
From Bad to Worse
To dull the anxiety and the fear, the former Marine turned to alcohol.
I started drinking a lot,” he said. “Of course the alcohol just made things worse. I got to the point where I hated to wake up in the morning. I hated my life. I wanted to be healthy again. I wanted to work again and not be on disability.”
In an effort to get his life back, Bass headed over to the Dayton VA Medical Center in 2007. There he began therapy sessions with Bill Wall, a clinical social worker who had served in the military for 30 years.
“Kenny went through our therapy program here at Dayton,” Wall explained, “but it was clear that he was still having some issues with personality changes, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, depression, anger and other symptoms related to post traumatic stress. When he would go out in public, he just didn’t feel safe or in control. I thought maybe a psychiatric service dog might be a good next step for him, so I recommended he look into it.”
Wall, a Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, had good reasons for thinking a service dog might be the game-changer Kenny Bass was desperately in need of.
“You can feel a lot more safe with a dog around you,” the social worker observed. “The dog has been trained to pick up on any fear or anxiety you might be feeling. They can actually smell it. The dog then does something to distract you or make you feel less anxious. When you become overloaded, the dog knows it and helps you refocus. Even before you realize you’re overloaded, the dog will pick up on it. For example, if you’re in a crowd of people and you begin showing subtle signs of distress, your dog will try to create a buffer zone around you. The dog is trying to give you a sense of safety.”
“A psychiatric service dog is…always focused on taking care of you.”
And when the world seems like a safer place, chances are you’re more likely to get out there and participate in it, Wall observed.
“The dog can help you have successful outings,” he said, “and the more successful outings you experience, the better you get at it. Your new experiences gradually begin to replace your old, traumatic experiences. You’re re-learning your behavioral script.”
Back From the Brink
In 2012, after doing a little research, Kenny Bass was able to get himself paired up with an 18-month-old German Shepard named Atlas, a highly-trained service dog provided by a non-profit called Instinctive Guardians.
“If you’re a Veteran, and suicidal, a little thing like that can be lifesaving,” Bass continued. “Atlas definitely brought me back from the brink. He’s such a character now. He gets me laughing.”“Atlas became my support system,” Bass said. “He could tell when I was having nightmares. He’d jump on the bed, lick my face and wake me up. A few weeks after I got him I was sitting alone in my garage, as usual. He came over and dropped his ball in my lap. Five minutes later I was out in the backyard with him, in the sunshine, throwing the ball for him.
Aside from being a natural comedian, Atlas also serves as a competent body guard.
“When we’re out, I can trust Atlas to be vigilant for me,” Bass said. “I’m experiencing more things now because of him. When we’re somewhere crowded, he’ll block for me. He’ll walk back and forth behind me to keep people from getting too close.
“And when I tell him to ‘post,’ he sits down on my right side, facing the other way. If somebody approaches me from behind, he’ll nudge me. He’s alerting me. It’s a good feeling knowing he’s watching and that I don’t have to.”
Having turned his life around two years ago with the help of Atlas, Bass decided it was time to start giving back. In 2013 he helped found The Battle Buddy Foundation, a non-profit that trains service dogs for Veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress.
“When you’re in combat, you don’t go anywhere without a buddy, someone to watch your back,” Bass said. “That’s where the term ‘Battle Buddy’ comes from.”
He added: “It’s a good feeling to know someone always has your back.”
To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit the VA National Center for PTSD Website at www.ptsd.va.gov
At some point during the Trump administration, Russia told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that it could use nuclear weapons in the event of a war in Europe — a warning that led Mattis to regard Moscow as major threat to the US.
According to “Fear,” Bob Woodward’s recently released book about turmoil in the White House, Moscow’s warning was in regard to a potential conflict in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
The Baltics were part of the Soviet Union and have deep ties to Russia, which has sought to reassert influence there since the end of the Cold War. Those countries have tried to move closer to the West, including NATO membership.
According to Woodward’s account, the warning from Russia came some time during or before summer 2017, when the Trump administration was haggling over the future of the Iran nuclear deal.
At the time, President Donald Trump wanted to withdraw from the deal, claiming Iran had violated the terms.
Mike Pompeo, then the director of the CIA, and Mattis didn’t disagree with Tillerson, Woodward writes, but they responded to the president’s assertions more tactfully.
Mattis, long regarded as a hawk on Iran, had mellowed, according to Woodward, preferring other actions — “Push them back, screw with them, drive a wedge between the Russians and Iranians” — to war.
Defense Secretary James N. Mattis.
(Photo by Tech Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Russia, Woodward then notes,”had privately warned Mattis that if there was a war in the Baltics, Russia would not hesitate to use tactical nuclear weapons against NATO.”
“Mattis, with agreement from Dunford, began saying that Russia was an existential threat to the United States,” Woodward adds, referring to Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, who is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Woodward offers no additional context for the warning, nor is it totally clear why that detail is included where it is in the book.
Most nuclear-armed countries have policies that would allow their first-use in a conflict.
Imagery released early 2018 indicated ongoing renovations at what appeared to be an active nuclear-weapons storage site in Kaliningrad, a Russian exclave on the Baltic Sea, south of Lithuania.
“Features of the site suggest it could potentially serve Russian Air Force or Navy dual-capable forces,” a Federation of American Scientists report on the imagery said. “But it could also be a joint site, potentially servicing nuclear warheads for both Air Force, Navy, Army, air-defense, and coastal defense forces in the region.”
‘Tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler’
Tactical nuclear weapons typically have smaller yields and are generally meant for limited uses on the battlefield. Strategic nuclear weapons usually have higher yields and are used over longer ranges.
Some experts prefer the term “non-strategic nuclear weapons,” as the use of nuclear weapons would have both tactical and strategic implications. Mattis himself has said there is no such thing as a “tactical” nuclear weapon, as “any nuclear weapon used at any time is a strategic game-changer.”
Russia and the US have more than 90% of the world’s nuclear warheads, though Russia’s arsenal is slightly larger. Pentagon officials have said Russia wants to add to that arsenal, violating current arms-control treaties.
During the Cold War, the Soviets expected Western countries to use nuclear weapons first and had plans to use nuclear weapons against NATO targets in the event of war, using larger-yield devices against targets like cities and smaller-yield ones — “tactical” nukes — against NATO command posts, military facilities, and weapons sites.
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, Aug. 2, 2017.
(US Air Force photo)
The size of Russia’s current stockpile of non-strategic nuclear weapons is not known, though it’s believed to be much smaller than that of the Soviet Union.
It’s not totally clear how Russia would use “tactical” nuclear weapons — the Congressional Research Service has said Russia appears to view them as defense in nature — but they are seen as compensating for Russia’s conventional military shortcomings. (US interest in “low-yield” nuclear weapons as a deterrent has also grown, though critics say they would raise the chance of US first-use.)
Russia has fewer “strategic” nuclear weapons than the US, and “tactical” nuclear weapons may be more handy for Moscow’s shorter-range, regional focus, Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, told The National Interest in late 2017.
“Russia’s conventional forces are incapable of defending Russian territory in a long war,” Kristensen said. “It would lose, and as a result of that, they have placed more emphasis on more usage of tactical nuclear weapons as a leveler.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Medal of Honor awarded to Pvt. Thomas Kelly was sold for 14,000 Euros by auction house Hermann-Historica. (Screengrab from LiveAuctioneers.com)
A Medal of Honor awarded to an Army infantryman for heroism during the Spanish-American War has been sold for $14,000 euros, or nearly $15,500, a Munich-based auction house confirmed Thursday.
The sale comes after advocates including Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and the National Medal of Honor Museum staged a late campaign to stop the auctioning of the medal, saying it damaged the dignity of the nation’s highest award for combat valor. It belonged to Pvt. Thomas Kelly, who earned it in 1898 while fighting in Santiago, Cuba.
But the German auction house Hermann-Historica, which is not bound by U.S. law, went through with the sale. The listing site shows just one bid; the medal ultimately went for four times the starting bid of 3,000 euros.
Bernhard Pacher, managing director of Hermann-Historica, told Stars and Stripes that he had previously sold four Medals of Honor, and added that the seller was a private individual “looking to beef up his pension.”
Reached for comment Thursday, a Hermann-Historica employee confirmed the medal’s sale but asked that further queries be sent by email. An emailed query did not receive an immediate response.
While the sale and barter of the Medal of Honor is illegal in the U.S., the law is not binding on international sellers.
Dave Knaus, a spokesman for the National Medal of Honor Museum, told Military.com that the museum is looking into who bought the medal and contemplating future steps. He said the museum is currently compiling historical data on other medals that have gone missing or changed hands.
Efforts to locate a surviving relative of Kelly, who died in 1920, had not been successful, Knaus said.
According to Kelly’s medal citation, he “gallantly assisted with the rescue of the wounded from in front of the lines and while under heavy fire from the enemy.”
The 96th Medical Group opened the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018, at Eglin Air Force Base.
More than 120 people attended the event and toured the new facility, including Air Force Surgeon General, Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, 96th Test Wing installation commander, Brig. Gen. Evan C. Dertien and members of the local community.
Hogg, the guest speaker for the ceremony, thanked everyone who helped standup the center and also reaffirmed the Air Force’s commitment to providing ‘Trusted Care’ to our military members.
“Standing up this facility is just the first step of many in our commitment to care for our warriors with invisible wounds,” she said. “We owe these brave men and women the very best treatment possible. Today, we make good on that commitment.”
The center will serve as a regional treatment center for post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, associated pain conditions, and psychological injuries.
“The center is ready to treat retirees, Guard, Reserve, and active duty members from our sister services who carry the weight of invisible wounds,” said Hogg. “Our goal is to eliminate barriers to care. We want to treat our service members with dignity through every phase of their recovery.”
The IWC, modeled after the best practices of the Intrepid Spirit Centers, will assemble a team of 18 specialties under one roof, providing treatment in an individually tailored, holistic and integrated fashion, using a combination of conventional and complimentary therapies.
Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg, Air Force surgeon general, speaks to the audience during a ceremony opening the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ilka Cole)
“We’re here for you, we’re ready to serve you,” said Dertien. “The facility and the capabilities we are building here have the impact and the potential to change people’s lives. This sends the message that we can talk about invisible wounds. It’s okay to ask for help.”
Art and music therapy, yoga, acupuncture, physical and occupational therapy, and mental health services will also be included in treatment.
“Having all these services under one roof, complimenting each other, provides treatment and healing in ways that are only now being recognized,” said Hogg. “The providers will also address physical, spiritual, mental and social well-being to further ensure positive health outcomes.”
Hogg shared positive accounts from wounded warriors she met at Intrepid Spirit Centers on military installations around the country. She attributed their success to the mind and body approach to treatment and community involvement. She also noted patient, caregiver and family education is key component in the healing process.
“We learned the best outcomes occur when a host of people are involved in the healing process,” she said. “Complete healing and reintegration requires healing the patient as well as the family.”
Dr. Thomas Piazza, Invisible Wounds Center director, talks with Green Berets from the 7th Special Forces Group (A) before a ceremony opening the Air Force’s first Invisible Wounds Center Aug. 30, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Ilka Cole)
The ceremony concluded with a good news, momentous announcement for the military community.
Hogg said the Department of Defense recently accepted a proffer from Arnold Fisher, honorary chairman of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, to build an Intrepid Spirit Center at Eglin AFB, making it the tenth of its kind and the first on an Air Force base. Plans for the ground breaking are underway, and officials expect a completion of the facility in 2020.
Fisher described these facilities as “centers of hope,” and adds that these center are not built by the government, but by donations from the American people. He said that thought is reassuring because Americans believe this is the right model to treat invisible wounds, according to Hogg.
“Fisher is determined to continue his mission to build Intrepid Spirit Centers,” said Hogg. “Today the Air Force is forever grateful to him and all the donors who will make the Intrepid Spirit Center here a reality.”
A key district in Afghanistan’s Helmand province that was taken by insurgents last year is now back under Afghan army control, US Marines deployed to Helmand announced July 17.
Nawa district, just west of Helmand’s capital city and regional police headquarters, Lashkar Gah, was overrun by the Taliban in August 2016, according to multiple media reports. The loss dealt a blow to hard-pressed Afghan National Army forces and raised questions about whether they would be able to maintain control of any part of Helmand.
With Nawa in enemy hands, civilian aircraft were unable to land at Bost, the airfield outside of Lashkar Gah, and the security of the city, a civilian population center, was in greater jeopardy.
But during a two-day operation that included airstrikes from US F-16 Fighting Falcons and AH-64 Apache helicopters, Afghan troops successfully wrested control of the district from the occupiers, reclaiming the district center earlier July 17, according to the release.
“The goal of this operation was to clear the Nawa district from the enemies, from the Taliban,” Col. Zahirgul Moqbal, commanding officer of the Afghan Border Police, said in a statement. “[Overall, our goal was] to retake the district from the Taliban.”
The Afghan army’s assault on Nawa, called Operation Maiwand Four, also involved surveillance from ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicles owned by the ANA and other coalition unmanned systems, according to the release.
The F-16s and Apaches “set conditions, conducted air strikes, and covered the flanks of the maneuver elements to decrease the amount of friction felt by the ground forces and allowed freedom of maneuver,” the release stated.
The offensive involved multiple air strikes and bravery from the troops on the ground, who disabled more than 100 improvised explosive devices and maneuvered under fire to retake the Nawa district center, officials said.
In April, about 300 Marines from 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune in North Carolina deployed to Helmand province as an advisory element known as Task Force Southwest to assist local Afghan National Army units in their fight to hold the region.
Col. Matthew Reid, deputy commander of the task force, said in a statement that Operation Maiwand Four highlighted leadership and determination from Afghan troops.
“So far during this operation we have seen some significant gains in leadership and maneuver from the Ministry of Interior forces, particularly the Afghan Border and National Police,” Reid said. “The vast majority of the ABP officers are from Helmand, many from Nawa, and they are aggressively fighting to clear insurgents from Nawa district.”
But the greatest difficulties may still be ahead for the Afghan forces.
In a New York Times report published July 14, Afghan Army Corps Operations Chief Lt. Col. Abdul Latif raised concerns about whether Afghan National Security Forces would be able to keep control of Nawa if they retook it.
“It is easy for us to take Nawa, but difficult to hold,” Latif said in the story.
The biggest challenge, he noted, was the scarcity of manpower. He estimated district security would require 300 police, but said that kind of manpower was not available. The report also noted that most forces in Helmand are not local to the area, but come in from the north and east.
According to the news release, Afghan National Security Forces plan to maintain control by setting up security checkpoints throughout Nawa’s district center and on the road to Lashkar Gah.
“It was a very successful operation in Helmand,” Moqbal said of Maiwand Four in a statement. “Defeating the enemy in Nawa means defeating the enemy in Helmand.”