The face of air security has changed a lot since the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, but one thing has stayed constant: you’re not allowed to bring bombs on planes. No, not even fake ones.
A passenger apparently forgot that on Saturday when he packed a high-quality, realistic replica grenade in his checked luggage at Newark Liberty International Airport near New York City.
The right way to pack a grenade is not to pack it at all. Passenger at @EWRairport had this in his checked bag on Saturday. @TSA contacted police, who removed man from plane for questioning. Explosives experts determined that it was a realistic replica, also not allowed on planespic.twitter.com/LCtUtnnzFq
The replica grenade was found by workers at a checked baggage-screening point at the airport’s Terminal A, according to Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for TSA.
The TSA reported the grenade to the Port Authority Police Department, which polices the New York City-area airports. As the passenger was removed from the plane and questioned, police officers examined the grenade and confirmed that it was not active.
The passenger was not charged, and there was no disruption to flights or security screening at the terminal. However, the passenger ended up short a fake grenade: prohibited items are not returned to passengers, according to Farbstein.
This was not the only episode of an explosive — real or replica — found at airport security in recent days.
.@TSA officers at @BWI_Airport detected this missile launcher in a checked bag early this morning. Man said he was bringing it back from Kuwait as a souvenir. Perhaps he should have picked up a keychain instead!pic.twitter.com/AQ4VBPtViG
On Monday morning, TSA screeners at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport found a real missile launcher, minus missile, in a passenger’s checked bag. The passenger, who is an active-duty servicemember, said that it was a souvenir from Kuwait. After airport police confirmed that there was no live missile in the launcher, officers transferred the device to the state fire marshal for disposal.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Iran’s Health Ministry reported 12 more deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the total to 66 deaths, while the number of cases in the country has reached 1,501.
A member of a council that advises Iran’s supreme leader is among those who died, state television reported on March 2.
Expediency Council member Mohammad Mirmohammadi died at a Tehran hospital of the virus, state radio said. He was 71. Mirmohammadi is the first top Iranian official to succumb to the COVID-19 disease that is affecting several members of Iran’s leadership.
The council advises Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It also acts as a mediator between the supreme leader and parliament.
Mirmohammadi’s death comes as other top Iranian officials have contracted the virus. Iran has the highest death toll in the world after China, the epicenter of the outbreak.
Infections Could Be Higher
Among those who are infected are Vice President Masumeh Ebtekar and Iraj Harirchi, the head of an Iranian government task force on the coronavirus who tried to downplay the virus before falling ill.
Across the wider Middle East, there are over 1,150 cases of the new coronavirus, the majority of which are linked back to Iran.
Experts say Iran’s ratio of deaths to infections, around 5.5 percent, is much higher than other countries, suggesting the number of infections in Iran may be much higher than official figures show.
In a move to stem the outbreak, Iran on March 2 held an online-only briefing by its Foreign Ministry.
Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi opened the online news conference by dismissing an offer of help for Iran by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Meanwhile, a team from the World Health Organization (WHO) has arrived in Tehran to support Iran’s response to a coronavirus outbreak, the UN agency said.
The plane carrying the team also contained “medical supplies and protective equipment to support over 15,000 health care workers, as well as laboratory kits enough to test and diagnose nearly 100,000 people,” the WHO said in a statement.
The supplies worth more than 0,000 were loaded onto the United Arab Emirates military transport plane in Dubai.
Earlier, Britain, Germany, and France have offered Iran a “comprehensive package of both material and financial support” to combat the spread of coronavirus.
In a statement, the three European countries committed themselves to providing financial support “close to” 5 million euros (.6 million) through the World Health Organization or other UN agencies.
The group would send by plane medical material to Iran on March 2, including equipment for laboratory tests, protective body suits, and gloves, it said.
Veterans will be able to go online and order their new identification cards next month, Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Oct. 12. Buchanan, whose Veterans Identification Card Act (H.R. 91) was signed into law in 2015, said official ID cards will be available to all veterans free of charge by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
“Every veteran – past, present, and future – will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft,” Buchanan said, noting that millions of veterans are currently unable to document their service without carrying around official military records.
“These ID cards will make life a little bit easier for our veterans and serve as a constant reminder that our brave men and women in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer.”
When ordering online, veterans will need to upload a copy of a valid government issued ID (drivers license/passport), a copy of a recent photograph to be displayed on the card, and will need to provide service-related details. Once ordered, the Veteran ID Card will be printed and mailed directly to the veteran.
Prior to Buchanan’s bill, the VA provided identification cards only to those who served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces or received care from the VA for a service-connected disability. Veterans who did not meet these qualifications had to carry around a paper DD-214 document to prove their military status. This form contains sensitive personal information including social security numbers and service details that put veterans at needless risk for identity theft if they lost or misplaced their documents.
The new identification card will also provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee’s military service.
Buchanan represents more than 88,000 veterans in Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough Counties. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
The U.S. Air Force will soon need to make a decision on whether its plan to grow to 386 operational squadrons should focus on procuring top-of-the-line equipment and aircraft, or stretching the legs of some of its oldest warplanes even longer, experts say.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced in September 2018 that the service wants at least 74 additional squadrons over the next decade. What service brass don’t yet know is what could fill those squadrons.
Some say the Air Force will have to choose between quantity — building up strength for additional missions around the globe — or quality, including investment in better and newer equipment and warfighting capabilities. It’s not likely the service will get the resources to pursue both.
“It’s quite a big bite of the elephant, so to speak,” said John “JV” Venable, a senior research fellow for defense policy at The Heritage Foundation.
Wilson’s Sept. 17, 2018 announcement mapped out a 25 percent increase in Air Force operational squadrons, with the bulk of the growth taking place in those that conduct command and control; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and tanker refueling operations.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson speaks with members of the workforce during a town hall at Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., April 5, 2018.
An additional 14 airlift squadrons using C-17s could cost roughly billion; five bomber squadrons of fifth-generation B-21 Raider bombers would cost roughly billion; and seven additional fighter squadrons of either F-22 Raptors or F-35s would be .5 billion, Venable said, citing his own research.
“Tanker aircraft, that was the biggest increase in squadron size, a significant amount of aircraft [that it would take for 14 squadrons] … comes out to .81 billion,” he said.
By Venable’s estimates, it would require a mix of nearly 500 new fighter, bomber, tanker, and airlift aircraft to fill the additional units. That doesn’t include the purchase new helicopters for the combat-search-and-rescue mission, nor remotely piloted aircraft for the additional drone squadron the service wants.
And because the Air Force wants to build 386 squadrons in a 10-year stretch, new aircraft would require expedited production. For example, Boeing Co. would need to churn out 20 KC-46 tankers a year, up from the 15 per year the Air Force currently plans to buy, Venable said.
The Air Force thus would be spending closer to billion per year on these components of its 386-squadron plan, he said.
New vs. old
In light of recent Defense Department spending fiascos such as the Joint Strike Fighter, which cost billions more than estimated and faced unanticipated delays, some think the Air Force should focus on extending the life of its current aircraft, rather than buying new inventory.
The Air Force will not be able to afford such a buildup of scale along with the modernization programs it already has in the pipeline for some of its oldest fighters, said Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Harrison was first to estimate it would cost roughly billion a year to execute a 74-squadron buildup, tweeting the figure shortly after Wilson’s announcement.
F-16 Fighting Falcons in flight.
If the Air Force wants to increase squadrons quickly, buying new isn’t the way to go, Harrison told Military.com. The quickest way to grow the force the service wants would be to stop retiring the planes it already has, he said.
“I’m not advocating for this, but … as you acquire new aircraft and add to the inventory, don’t retire the planes you were supposed to be replacing,” said Harrison.
“That doesn’t necessarily give you the capabilities that you’re looking for,” he added, saying the service might have to forego investment in more fifth-generation power as a result.
By holding onto legacy aircraft, the Air Force might be able to achieve increased operational capacity while saving on upfront costs the delays associated with a new acquisition process, Harrison said.
The cost of sustaining older aircraft, or even a service-life extension program “is still going to be much less than the cost of buying brand-new, current-generation aircraft,” he said.
Just don’t throw hybrid versions or advanced versions of legacy aircraft into the mix.
“That would just complicate the situation even more,” Harrison said.
“Why would you ever invest that much money and get a fourth-generation platform when you could up the volume and money into the F-35 pot?” Venable said.
Boeing is proposing a new version of its F-15 Eagle, the F-15X.
Running the numbers
Focusing on squadron numbers as a measure of capability may not be the right move for the Air Force, Harrison said.
The Navy announced a similar strategy in 2016, calling for a fleet of 355 ships by the 2030s. But counting ships and counting squadrons are two different matters, he said.
“While it’s an imperfect metric, you can at least count ships,” Harrison said. “A squadron is not a distinct object. It’s an organization construct and [each] varies significantly, even within the same type of aircraft.”
Still less clear, he said, is what the Air Force will need in terms of logistics and support for its planned buildup.
Harrison estimates that the aircraft increase could be even more than anticipated, once support and backup is factored in.
For example, if it’s assumed the squadrons will stay about the same size they are today, with between 10 and 24 aircraft, “you’re looking at an increase [in] total inventory of about 1,100 to 1,200” planes when keeping test and backup aircraft in mind, he said.
A squadron typically has 500 to 600 personnel, including not just pilots, but also support members needed to execute the unit’s designated mission, he said. Add in all those jobs, and it’s easy to reach the 40,000 personnel the Air Force wants to add by the 2030 timeframe.
“It’s difficult to say what is achievable here, or what the Air Force’s real endstate is,” said Brian Laslie, an Air Force historian who has written two books: “The Air Force Way of War” and “Architect of Air Power.”
“[But] I also think the senior leaders look at the current administration and see a time to strike while the iron is hot, so to speak,” Laslie told Military.com. “Bottom line: there are not enough squadrons across the board to execute all the missions … [and] for the first time in decades, the time might be right to ask for more in future budgets.”
The way forward
Air Force leaders are having ongoing meetings with lawmakers on Capitol Hill ahead of a full report, due to Congress in 2019, about the service’s strategy for growth.
So far, they seem to be gaining slow and steady backing.
Following the service’s announcement of plans for a plus-up to 386 operational squadrons, members of the Senate’s Air Force Caucus signaled their support.
“The Air Force believes this future force will enable them to deter aggression in three regions (Indo-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East), degrade terrorist and Weapons of Mass Destruction threats, defeat aggression by a major power, and deter attacks on the homeland,” the caucus said in a letter authored by Sens. John Boozman, R-Arkansas; John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, Jon Tester, D-Montana, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio. “We are encouraged by the Air Force’s clear articulation of its vision to best posture the service to execute our National Defense Strategy.”
For Air Force leadership, the impact of the pace of operations on current and future airmen must also be taken into account.
The secretary said the new plan is not intended to influence the fiscal 2020 budget, but instead to offer “more of a long-term view” on how airmen are going to meet future threats.
“I think we’ve all known this for some time. The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking it to do. The Air Force has declined significantly in size … and it’s driving the difficulty in retention of aircrew,” Wilson said.
There will be much to consider in the months ahead as the Air Force draws up its blueprint for growth, Laslie said.
“I think the Air Force looks at several things with regard to the operations side of the house: contingency operations, training requirements, and other deployments — F-22s in Poland, for example — and there is just not enough aircraft and aircrews to do all that is required,” Laslie said. “When you couple this with the demands that are placed on existing global plans, there is just not enough to go around.”
It’s clear, Laslie said, that the Air Force does need to expand in order to respond to current global threats and demands. The question that remains, though, is how best to go about that expansion.
“There is a recognition amongst senior leaders that ‘Do more with less’ has reached its limit, and the only way to do more … is with more,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Mi-24 Hind had a reputation as a cinematic bad guy in “Rambo III” and the original 1980s Cold War flick “Red Dawn.”
Helping the Mujahidin kill it was the focus of 2007’s “Charlie Wilson’s War.” But how much do you really know about this so-called “flying tank?”
Let’s take a good look at this deadly bird. According to GlobalSecurity.org, this helicopter can carry a lot of firepower, including 57mm and 80mm rockets, anti-tank missiles, and deadly machine guns or cannon. But it also can carry a standard Russian infantry section – eight fully-armed troops.
So, it’s really not a flying tank. It’s a flying infantry fighting vehicle.
There really isn’t a similar American – or Western – helicopter. The UH-1 and UH-60s were standard troop carries, but don’t really have the firepower of the Hind. The AH-64 Apache and AH-1 Cobra have a lot of firepower, but can’t really carry troops (yeah, we know the Brits did that one time – and it was [very] crazy!).
While the Mi-24 got its villainous cinematic reputation thanks to 1984’s “Red Dawn,” and the 1988 movie “Rambo III,” its first action was in the Ogaden War – an obscure conflict that took place from 1977-1978. After the Somali invasion of Ethiopia, the Air Combat Information Group noted that as many as 16 Mi-24s were delivered to the Ethiopians by the Soviets.
It has taken part in over 30 conflicts since then.
The Hind was to Afghanistan what the Huey was to Vietnam: an icon of the conflict. GlobalSecurity.org reported that as many as 300 Mi-24s were in Afghanistan.
In the Russian war movie “The Ninth Company,” the Mi-24 gets a more heroic turn than it did in Red Dawn or Rambo III.
At least 2,300 have already been built, and versions of the Mi-24 are still in production, according to the Russian Helicopters website. This cinematic aviation bad boy will surely be around for many years to come.
For the first time ever, a woman is now “in the final stage of training” to become the U.S. Army’s first female Green Beret.
The female soldier, who has not been identified by the Army, is an enlisted member of the National Guard, and was one of only a handful of women to ever make it through the rigorous 24-day assessment all aspiring Soldiers must survive in order to earn a spot in the year-long Special Forces qualification course, commonly referred to as the “Q Course.” According to a spokesman for the U.S. Army, this Soldier is nearing completion of the Q Course, which means her accession into the role of Special Forces engineer sergeant is all but guaranteed, provided she doesn’t fall out of training due to injury or a sudden shift in her performance. There is also at least one other woman in the same Q Course, though the Army did not indicate whether or not she was expected to pass.
U.S. Special Forces Green Beret Soldiers, assigned to 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), Operational Detachment-A, prepare to breach an entry point during a close quarter combat scenario while Integrated Training Exercise 2-16 at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms.
The Army isn’t releasing any information about the Soldier that may soon earn the mantle of first-ever female Green Beret, citing security concerns and standard protocol.
This Soldier won’t be the Army’s first ever female to earn a role within a Special Operations unit, however. In 2017. a female Soldier earned her place in the Army’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment, and more than a forty others have now completed Ranger School, which is widely considered to be not only grueling, but among the best leadership courses in the entirety of the U.S. Armed Forces. One of those women, Captain Kristen M. Griest, became the Army’s first female infantry officer back in 2016.
“I do hope that, with our performance in Ranger school, we’ve been able to inform that decision as to what they can expect from women in the military,” Captain Griest said when she graduated in 2015. “We can handle things physically and mentally on the same level as men.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jason Robertson)
Although the title “Special Forces” is often attributed to all Special Operations units in popular culture, in truth, the title “Special Forces” belongs only to the U.S. Army’s Green Berets. Special Forces Soldiers are tasked with a wide variety of mission sets and often serve as physical representation of America’s foreign policy at the point of conflict. That means Green Berets are experts in unconventional warfare, training foreign militaries for internal defense, intelligence gathering operations and, of course, direct-action missions aimed at killing or capturing high value targets. Earning your place among these elite war-fighters means excelling throughout 53 weeks of arduous training centered around combat marksmanship, urban operations, and counter-insurgency tactics, among others.
Over the weekend, two videos emerged that made their rounds — not just in the military community, but all over the world. In Portland, Oregon, where civil rights protests have occurred daily since the murder of George Floyd, there has been a mix of mostly peaceful demonstrations with some outbreaks of violence and destruction.
In the midst of this, the first video shows presumed law enforcement officials in military fatigues without any sort of identification yanking protestors off the street into unmarked cars. This drew a furious reaction from lawmakers on both sides, lawsuits from the state or Oregon to civil rights groups, and drew out even more protestors who were not very happy that federal officials would resort to such tactics.
One of those men was Christopher David, a Navy veteran, who showed up to make his voice heard. David’s interaction with the police was recorded and immediately went viral after he was attacked, beaten and maimed — but not broken in spirit.
David, age 53, spoke to the Associated Press about the incident, why he went out there and what he hopes happens now.
“It isn’t about me getting beat up. It’s about focusing back on the original intention of all of these protests, which is Black Lives Matter,” David told the AP.
David said he was hanging back as this was the first time he ever protested anything. He also wore his Naval Academy sweatshirt to show the police that he wasn’t some crazy anarchist. He said the protest started as a bunch of pregnant women standing with linked arms. He said he was trying to talk to the men in fatigues. He said he told them, “You take the oath to the Constitution; you don’t take the oath to a particular person,” when one officer pointed a weapon at David’s chest. Another pushed him back and he stood there with his hands at this side. That is when the video shows a law enforcement officer strike David five times with a baton. The attack seems to not faze David at all, but then he gets pepper sprayed in the face. Only then does he fall back, but not before giving the officials a hand gesture to show his displeasure.
While various people on Twitter spoke of him standing tall like a mountain and not being hurt, David says he actually has two broken bones in his hand which will require surgery to fix.
David is a 1988 graduate of the Naval Academy and served in the Navy’s Civil Engineer Corps before getting out. He doesn’t plan on going back out to protest anytime soon. “My ex-wife and my daughter would kill me if I did that. They’re so angry at me for doing it in the first place because I got beat up,” he said. “I’m not a redwood tree. I’m an overweight, 53-year-old man.”
According to CNN, the Portland Police and Customs and Border Protection have denied the officers belonged to their respective departments. So far, Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals have refused to acknowledge if the men belong to their departments.
On the 74th anniversary of the D-Day invasion next spring, up to three dozen athletes will wade ashore on Omaha Beach, scale the once-fortified cliffs of Normandy and march with heavy ruck packs into the French countryside.
The man re-creating the invasion route that changed the course of World War II is retired Navy SEAL Lance Cummings of Cardiff. The 58-year-old veteran is organizing the one-day biathlon-style athletic challenge to raise $175,000 for the Navy SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, Fla.
The event on June 6, 2018, is the follow-up to last spring’s Sparta300 for Charity, where Cummings led 19 military veterans, reservists, and endurance athletes on an eight-day, 240-mile trek across Greece.
The team — 18 men and one woman — retraced the epic journey to battle of the ancient Spartan King Leonidas and his 300-man army in 480 BC. That event raised $300,000 for three Navy SEAL charities.
A few Epic Charity Challenge members participating in the Sparta300 trek across Greece. Photo from Facebook.
Eight of those Sparta300 participants have already signed up for the D-Day event, which Cummings has billed as the Epic Charity Challenge. Among them is Jimmy Whited, 48, a Miami insurance industry executive who said he’d follow Cummings anywhere.
“The combination of having an endurance event that has significant historic importance with raising money for charity is incredible,” Whited said. “We became great friends in Sparta, enduring significant pain and immersing ourselves in history while laughing all the way.”
Cummings said the Greek trek was very emotional for him and for all the members of the Sparta300 team. But as a US military veteran, he thinks that following in the footsteps of the Allied forces who bravely landed on the heavily defended Normandy coastline in June 1944 will be even more powerful.
“I expect this will be one of the most daunting experiences of my life,” he said. “My family has watched so many videos on the History Channel of what happened that day. The ocean ran red with the blood of those men. We see this not as just a challenge to raise money, but as a way to honor their sacrifices.”
During his long career in Navy special operations, Cummings deployed overseas 16 times to the Middle East, Asia, and South America. Since his retirement in 2011, he’s been working part time training athletes in SEAL-style fitness skills and as a chiropractor for both people and animals.
Born and raised in Macon, Ga., Cummings joined the SEALS at age 22 after a year of Navy fleet service in Connecticut. He served on active duty until 1995, then joined the reserves for five years while he earned his chiropractic degree and started a practice in Georgia.
He was reactivated after 9/11 and sent to Afghanistan for a year. Then he became a private contractor, working first for Blackwater and then, after moving to San Diego in 2004, for the Navy, setting up its human performance initiative program for soon-to-deploy SEAL teams. The program assesses potential health problems and does preventive therapy to reduce the risk of injuries in the field.
Cummings started doing charitable work in 2015 when he and his wife, Michele Grad, signed up for an arthritis charity event where they pedaled 525 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles on a tandem bicycle. Grad said that her husband found the fund-raising experience so addicting, he’s been looking for ways to do more ever since.
Because of his long military service, Cummings has gotten strong support for the events from the US government. Before the Sparta300 hike began, the US Embassy staff in Athens hosted a reception in the group’s honor. Cummings said the staff at the Normandy memorial site has also been very easy to work with.
Retired Navy SEAL Lance Cummings and others taking part in Epic Charity Challenge’s Sparta300. Photo from Facebook.
The Sparta300 event was especially appealing to military veterans because it recalled a famous battle that changed history. King Leonidas and his 300-man Spartan army all perished at Thermopylae, but they held off the much-larger Persian Army for several days, allowing the Greek forces time to retreat and regroup.
Like the Spartan army, the Sparta300 trekkers covered the same distance, from Sparta to Thermopylae in eight days, and they each carried 60-pound packs to simulate the weight of the Spartans’ battle kit. Hewes Hull, a 49-year-old investment company CEO from Birmingham, Ala., said the camaraderie of the group is what kept him going.
“It was 100 percent about the people,” said Hewes, who has also signed up for the D-Day event. “How many times can anyone say they’ve spent eight days rucking with 20 people 10 hours a day and enjoyed every minute of it?”
Cummings conceived the idea for the D-Day event because he liked the idea of re-creating another battle plan that changed history, and he wanted to support the Navy SEAL Museum.
Opened in 1985, the museum commemorates the history of the SEALs, an elite Navy special forces unit that got its start during World War II at Ft. Pierce. Volunteers with strong swimming skills were recruited from the Navy ranks to serve as frogmen and underwater demolitions crews who cleared obstacles and reefs to allow landing craft to reach the beaches in both the Pacific and European theaters of the war.
For most of the past 15 years, Cummings has attended Veterans Day “muster” events at Ft. Pierce. The weekend program includes an ever-shrinking reunion of surviving Navy Combat Demolition Unit veterans from World War II, as well as a memorial ceremony, where Cummings and other SEALs honor those who’ve passed away by scattering their ashes offshore.
Rick Kaiser, executive director of the Navy SEAL Museum and a retired Navy SEAL master chief, said the Normandy event will help support SEALs and their families.
“The monies raised at the Normandy event will directly benefit the Museum’s Trident House Charities Program,” Kaiser said in a statement. “As the only museum in the world dedicated solely to SEALs and their predecessors, we are passionate and committed to this mission, however, the true heart of the Museum is to support our Special Operations Forces and their families.
“The Museum does this through the Trident House Charities Program in a three-pillar approach, providing college scholarships to the children of US Special Operations Forces; offering direct family support where there is additional financial need; and with the help of the Renewal Coalition, providing respite homes and family retreats entirely complimentary to serve our Special Operations Forces and their families, including the Museum’s Trident House in Sebastian, Florida,” Kaiser said.
Compared to the week-long Sparta300 event, the Epic Charity Challenge in Normandy takes place on just one day, but Cummings said that, like the Sparta trek, it will be so difficult that participants need five to six months of training to succeed.
The morning of June 6 will begin at 5 a.m., when boats will take participants out into the notoriously turbulent English Channel. Up to 25 team members will swim 6.2 miles (or 10 kilometers) to Omaha Beach. For those without strong swimming skills, up to 10 people will have the option of paddling 10 to 12 miles back in a Zodiac-style boat. That should take about five hours.
Participants will climb ropes or ladders up the 120-foot cliffs, then participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery Memorial on the bluffs. Then they’ll pull on a 44-pound pack (in honor of the year 1944) and ruck 20 miles to the town of Saint-L”, which should take another five to seven hours. The event will conclude that night with a celebratory dinner.
Participants are each expected to raise $5,000 in donations. Cummings is also recruiting several corporate sponsors, including Aqua Lung in Carlsbad, which is donating the swimmers’ wetsuits and fins. Pelican Case has also donated items for an online auction.
Through a new website, Cummings said his goal is to raise additional money to pay for several World War II veterans, both American and French, to take part in the ceremonies. More information is available via email at Seacoasthealth@gmail.com.
Chicago real estate agent Sean Easton, 32, is another who did the Sparta300 and has registered for the D-Day event. He said he can’t wait to be “wet and cold” at Normandy after suffering in the dry heat of Greece.
“The Sparta300 was a once-in-a-lifetime event that introduced me to a group who have pushed me farther than I thought possible,” he said. “They’re like-minded individuals who are constantly helping each other push themselves to grow as humans.”
The U.S. ambassador to the UN said on March 1, 2018, that she wants the UN Security Council to create a new investigative team charged with determining who is behind chemical attacks in Syria following several reports of the use of chlorine gas in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta in recent weeks.
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said she hopes the council will vote on the measure in early March 2018. The initiative comes days after the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said a child suffocated to death and 13 other people fell ill from a suspected chlorine gas attack over the weekend.
A previous UN inquiry ended in November 2017 after Russia vetoed efforts to renew its mandate. Russia maintained that the investigative team, which had attributed most of the chemical attacks it investigated to the Syrian government, was biased against its ally. Damascus insists it has renounced all use of chemical weapons.
Russia, in January 2018, offered its own plan to create a new inquiry but has never put it to a vote before the council. The Russian plan was opposed by the United States and other Western countries, which said it gave Syria too much influence over investigations.
“When the Russians put their mechanism forward, that’s a non-starter, and so that’s why we’re coming back out with another one,” Haley told Reuters. “We’ve been working on it since the [previous inquiry] was killed.”
“We’ve taken into account certain things that [Russian diplomats] thought were an issue, but if they want no mechanism at all, they’ll veto it,” Haley said.
U.S. diplomats said their draft resolution to set up a new one-year inquiry was discussed at a UN meeting on March 1, 2018, but Russian diplomats did not attend.
A council diplomat said it was unlikely Russia would back the measure, which calls for investigators to operate in “an impartial, independent, and professional manner.”
Russia criticized the previous UN investigative team for reaching conclusions about who perpetrated a chemical attack sometimes without visiting the place where the attack occurred or collecting evidence firsthand.
Russia and Syria fiercely rejected a final conclusion reached in the previous inquiry, which found the Syrian government used the nerve agent sarin in an attack April 2017 that killed nearly 100 civilians in the Syrian town of Khan Sheikhun.
Russian diplomats vetoed efforts to renew the inquiry after that incident, complaining that the UN investigative team never visited the site of the attack or the Syrian airbase from where the attack was allegedly launched.
Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow is an installation focused on refurbishing gear, not training troops for war. Nonetheless, it’s now the site of a pitched and bloody ongoing battle between species, officials say.
The environmental division at the California base is bringing the Marine Corps brand of ingenuity to bear in its fight to protect the desert tortoise, a federally listed endangered species native to the Mojave Desert, from the raven, a natural predator protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
While ravens historically haven’t found much appeal in the region, that changed with the construction of Interstates 15 and 40, which were both built around the 1950s and intersect in Barstow.
“Here in the Mojave Desert, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service noticed that as the desert tortoises were declining — less and less juvenile tortoises were being observed during surveys — there is a direct correlation to an increase in raven population,” Cody Leslie, the logistics base’s natural resource specialist, said in a released statement. “When I say ‘direct correlation,’ I mean that, as the tortoises are decreasing in population, the ravens have increased by as much as 1,500 percent. That’s a huge increase.”
The desert tortoise, which is listed as vulnerable, can live to be 100. When it was added to the federal register of endangered species in 1990, there were an estimated 100,000 tortoises. But, according to a study published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, an assessment of populations at six recovery units in 2014 estimated a population of under 86,000.
It’s been years since Leslie has encountered a juvenile or hatchling tortoise, according to a base news release.
While ravens are known to go after juvenile tortoises, whose shells stay soft for up to the first decade of the animal’s life, conservationists were troubled to discover that the birds will even attack adult reptiles, flipping them and pecking at vulnerable shell access points. A recent experiment by the Superior-Cronese Critical Habitat Unit using dummy tortoises found 43 percent of the dummies were attacked by ravens, according to the release.
“It’s pretty gruesome,” Leslie said in a statement.
Since officials can’t kill the protected ravens, they’ve had to get creative. And like the larger Marine Corps, they’ve found drones to be a force multiplier. The Barstow environmental division has undertaken an effort it calls “Egg Oiling,” according to the release. They send drones out to coat eggs found in raven nests with a silica-based oil, which essentially smothers the young inside the shell, keeping out oxygen needed for development.
Hatching baby desert tortoise.
(Photo by K. Kristina Drake)
“The ravens continue to sit on the eggs for the entire breeding season and do not continue to rebreed,” the release states.
In addition to the drone-aided egg oiling, conservationists are asking base employees and other residents to make sure their trash is disposed of in closed containers and that no food, including pet food, is left accessible to the birds.
Leslie also asked locals to report raven nests and bird activity to the Environmental Division and not to leave any water sources out in the open.
The desert tortoise, which also faces non-raven threats such as viral herpes and Upper Respiratory Tract Disease, has long presented a training challenge for Marines, who also occupy tortoise territory at Marine Corps Air-Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms in the Mojave. Marine officials have relocated gear and altered training plans in order to avoid disturbing the creatures.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In recent weeks, Wall Street has talked a lot about the fears of a coming recession, fueled by a drop in government bond yields. The casual investor may have no idea what this means for them, but for homeowners in the military and beyond, it means now is the perfect time to refinance a mortgage.
What any potential refinancer needs to know is that the falling bond yield is pushing mortgage rates to their lowest levels in three years. In November 2018, the interest rate was steady at five percent. Eight months later, the interest rate in now at 3.6 percent and looking to fall further.
This isn’t some shady internet ad, promising easy money on Obama-era mortgage laws or new Trump-era government home loans – those certainly exist and everyone should be wary about trusting easy money. But the drop in mortgage rates comes directly from Freddie Mac, whose rate on a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.6 in August 2019. The reason is that the 30-year rate is linked to 10-year Treasury Bonds. The rate of return on those bonds just fell to their lowest since October 2016.
(St. Louis Federal Reserve)
What this means is that suddenly your homeowner dollar goes a little bit further, considering the cost of taking out a new loan or refinancing an old one just dropped. According to Caliber Home Loans, a lending company who specializes in military and veteran homebuyers, the rule of thumb used to be that the interest rate for a new mortgage must be about two percentage points below the rate of a current mortgage for refinancing to make sense.
With new low- and no-cost refinancing from Caliber and other lenders, refinancing could make sense any time – especially right now, given the latest interest rates. A refinance could reduce overall interest while reducing a monthly payment. If you acted right now, you wouldn’t be alone, not by far. Falling rates boost the U.S. housing market.
It’s important to think of your home as an investment, too.
“My applications are up across the board,” said Angela Martin, a Nashville, Tenn.-based loan officer told the Wall Street Journal. “Every time the Fed starts talking is when my phone starts ringing off the hook.”
What Martin means is the Federal Reserve just cut the benchmark interest rate after a few successive rate hikes. This is when people start looking for a better deal. But be wary – lenders will sometimes employ different perks after a rate drop to entice customers to accept things like credits at closing instead of a lower rate.
For military families and veteran homeowners, look into military-oriented lenders like Caliber Home Loans. Caliber and companies like it specialize in the needs and benefits afforded to military members and veterans. Caliber is also a proud sponsor of the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, a three-day conference of service members, veterans, and spouses who work to elevate the military veteran community.
President Donald Trump wants to put armored vehicles on the National Mall for his Fourth of July extravaganza, the Washington Post reported July 1, 2019, citing people briefed on the plans for the event.
The president has reportedly requested that armored warfighting vehicles be set up in the nation’s capital as props for his “A Salute to America” event. The vehicles being considered for the holiday blowout include M1 Abrams tanks and Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
For President Trump’s previously planned military parade in DC, the Department of Defense rejected plans calling for tanks rolling down the streets of Washington, DC, arguing that they could damage the roads. The Pentagon is considering setting up static displays to fulfill the president’s request. Deliberations on this matter have not concluded, even as the Fourth of July is only days away.
The holiday blowout is expected to include a military parade, a flyover by Air Force One, the Blue Angels, and other military aircraft, fireworks, and a presidential address on the mall.
The U.S. Navy fight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, demonstrate choreographed flight skills.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)
President Trump has longed for a patriotic military parade since he experienced France’s Bastille Day celebration in Paris in July 2017. “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” the president said a few months after the event. “We’re going to have to try to top it.”
“I think we’re going to have to start looking at that ourselves,” he said. “So we’re actually thinking about Fourth of July, Pennsylvania Avenue, having a really great parade to show our military strength.”
In February 2018, President Trump ordered the Department of Defense to begin planning a big military parade for Veteran’s Day. Critics compared Trump’s plans to the military parades characteristic of authoritarian regimes, such as China or North Korea; the US has historically only held military parades after victories like World War II and the Gulf war.
An M2A2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle kicks up plumes of dust.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The president later cancelled his planned parade as costs ballooned from million to million to as high as million. President Trump suggested that the event could be rescheduled for 2019 if costs could be kept low. “Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN,” he tweeted after announcing the cancelation.
The initial estimate of million was based on a review of expenses for the Gulf war parade held in Washington, DC in 1991, the last major US military parade.
The cost of the president’s Fourth of July event has not been disclosed to date.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.