An American and an Australian who were held by the Taliban in Afghanistan for over three years were freed Nov. 19, 2019, as part of a prisoner swap.
The State Department said in a statement on Nov. 19, 2019, that the American Kevin King, 63, and the Australian Timothy Weeks, 50, were “successfully recovered” in the morning and were in the custody of the US military.
The department added that both men would soon be reunited with their families.
Weeks and King were teachers at the American University of Afghanistan in the capital of Kabul and were kidnapped at gunpoint outside the university in August 2016. The two men were held hostage for over three years.
In 2017, the Taliban released a propaganda video showing the two men in black robes and looking disheveled. In the video, the men discussed their time in captivity and urged their governments to negotiate with the Taliban to secure their release.
In a statement in 2017, the Taliban said King was “gravely ill” and needed urgent care.
The State Department said the Taliban released the professors as a “goodwill measure.” The department added that the Taliban intended to release 10 Afghan prisoners, and the Afghan government intended to release three Taliban prisoners as part of the exchange.
Pictures taken in 2014 by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security that officials said showed Anas Haqqani, left, a senior leader of the Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, and Hafiz Rashid, another commander.
(National Directorate of Security)
The men released as part of the swap were senior members of Haqqani network, which is linked to Al Qaeda.
“We see these developments as hopeful signs that the Afghan war, a terrible and costly conflict that has lasted 40 years, may soon conclude through a political settlement,” the State Department said.
Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said that the Australian government was “profoundly relieved” by the agreement and thanked the Trump administration and the Afghan government for their assistance.
“We regard this release as one of a series of confidence-building measures that are taking place in Afghanistan,” she said.
Payne added that Weeks’ family had “asked for privacy” but conveyed that they felt “relief that their long ordeal is over.”
According to The Washington Post, the Afghan government initially said the pair appeared to have been kidnapped by a criminal gang. The Pentagon and Navy SEALs also unsuccessfully attempted to rescue the two men in a botched mission in eastern Afghanistan.
The US had kickstarted talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government in September 2019 but abandoned talks after a Taliban attack in Kabul killed a US soldier.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Following a successful surprise meeting on Nov. 8, 2018, Beijing and Canberra want to be friends again.
That’s good, but it won’t change the fact that, for the Chinese people, Australia has made “probably the worst” impression out of all Western nations, The Global Times has noted in a strongly worded opinion piece.
Despite a reportedly warm first encounter on Nov. 8, 2018, between Australia’s newly enlisted foreign affairs minister Marise Payne and Chinese state councilor and foreign affairs minister Wang Yi (王毅 ) in Beijing, the strident Chinese tabloid had some tough truths to share for those hoping for a thaw in the frosty bilateral relationship.
In a typically withering opinion piece titled “It will be more difficult for China and Australia to repair people-to-people relations than to restore political relations,” the publication compared Australia unfavorably with US President Donald Trump.
At least when Trump was openly hostile toward China, people could understand why, the paper suggested.
“Trump has launched an unprecedented trade war with China, but the Chinese people can at least understand the rationale of the US. But Chinese people do not get why Australia is so hostile to China (in the last two years),” the opinion piece reads.
United States President Donald Trump.
In fact, the resumption of high-level meetings between China and Australia will come a lot easier than rediscovery of the once mutually admirative and friendly feelings between the two peoples, the paper observed.
Making the enemy less of an enemy
“Due to its performance in the past two years, Australia has left a bad impression on the Chinese people, probably the worst of all Western countries,” the opinion column said.
It continued: “The Chinese people understand that we must make friends with the outside world and try our best to make the enemy less than the enemy. Therefore, it is acceptable to improve the relationship between China and Australia rationally. However, people’s understanding of the Australian position in recent years is difficult to change in a short time.
For almost a decade really, Australia has been caught in a bit of a slow motion PR trainwreck in China.
Emerging of a once-in-a-generation trading boom that peaked around 2007, relations ironically began to sour around the same time the Mandarin speaking China expert Kevin Rudd was voted into office the same year.
We don’t want to talk about Kevin
The rot really began when Rudd famously delivered an unanticipated dressing-down of China in a speech at Beijing University, using a little-known and controversial word ‘Zheng you’ to describe a friend who is unafraid to tell it like it is.
Unsurprisingly the ensuing blunt assessment of China’s various faults in fluent Mandarin before an audience of hyped-up, patriotically infused, pre-Beijing Olympic students has never been forgotten, or forgiven.
What has followed has been a shopping list of insults, perceived or real, that have stretched the relationship to a breaking point.
Chinese public opinion can grasp that Australia is economically close to China, but politically and strategically attached to the US, the Times noted.
“But Australia has taken the lead in boycotting China’s so-called “infiltration” of the South China Seas … Australia also took the lead among Western countries to exclude Huawei from participating in 5G construction.”
Salt on the wound
“This is to say that salt was sprinkled on the wounds (伤口上的盐) of China-Australia relations.”
This position stands in contrast to the broad reporting of events in Beijing on Nov. 8, 2018, where foreign minister Wang Yi indicated that the two sides had found “an important common understanding.”
The flashpoint of Nov. 8, 2018’s discussions this time centered on the South Pacific, after Australia’s prime minister announced a surprise multibillion economic, diplomatic and security dollar fund to counter China’s rising influence in the region.
Beijing and Canberra should work together in the South Pacific and not wake up one day as strategic rivals, the State Councilor and former Ambassador to Japan said on Nov. 8, 2018.
“Australia and China are not competitors, not rivals but cooperation partners and we have agreed to combine and capitalize on our respective strengths to carry out trilateral cooperation involving Pacific island states.”
Australian prime minister Scott John Morrison.
An important extended thread in China’s 21st century Maritime Silk Road, the redrawing and rebuilding of trade routes, sea lanes and infrastructures, Wang said that China would prefer to be Australia’s partner in driving infrastructure in the Pacific.
Wang spoke of forming a “tripartite cooperative” with Pacific nations after Morrison announced a rebooting of Australia’s engagement with its neglected “backyard,” of which the centrepiece is a billion infrastructure fund to potentially lure island states away from the maritime leg of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
All well and good for the islands, the Times said, “but it is uncertain whether (people to people ties) will recover.”
“Let Australia pay the price …”
On Nov. 6, 2018, Australia flagged concerns at the United Nations Human Rights Council review in Geneva on the Communist Party’s aggressive expansion of “reeducation” camps directed against local Muslim populations in western China’s Xinjiang province.
“In an interview, Payne said that she would ‘talk about human rights’ in Beijing. This information shows that China-Australia relations will not be too calm in the future,” the Times cautioned.”
The example of Australia tells us that cooperation does not necessarily mean that each other is a friend … of course, we have to build leverage to harness (the advantages) of a complex relationship.”
“Australia said a few words of disrespect to China, but if it does actions that harm China’s actual interests … then we should respond, let Australia pay the price, and steer mutual cooperation through struggle.”
However, foreign minister Wang said that since taking office, the newly elected Australian government (this one is about two months old, and it’s not elected) has made “positive gestures” toward developing China-Australia relations on many occasions.
According to the state council news agency Xinhua, both sides also vowed to “promote bilateral ties on the basis of mutual trust and win-win results.”
“We stand ready to strengthen communication and coordination with Australia in multilateral mechanisms, as a way of jointly safeguarding multilateralism and free trade,” Wang added, in a clear nod to China’s need to shore up multilateral support as the damaging trade war with the US continues to impact the economy.
A country, yes, but also a kind of sandbox for experimentation
Xinhua noted that Payne acknowledged Australia does not regard China as a military threat and that a prosperous China is a positive and significant outcome for the entire world, as is custom on these occassions.
Meanwhile, the Times closed it out like this.
“Australia is a middle-power Western country not far from China. It is important to say that Australia is important to China. It doesn’t matter if it is not important. China should regard relations with Australia as a sandbox (一块沙盘) for experimenting with the relationship between China and the West.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A last minute budget to fund the federal government through the rest of 2017 includes money to help as many as 2,500 Afghans who helped U.S. forces during the war there emigrate to America.
The so-called “Special Immigrant Visa” program allows Afghans who have supported the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and face threats as a result of their service to apply for refuge in the United States, supporters say.
Advocates who’ve pushed for more visas say Afghans who helped U.S. forces are under near constant threat by Taliban and ISIS sympathizers in that war torn country and the SIV program is critical to saving lives.
“The increased number of visas is a great relief for our Afghan allies who risked their lives alongside us,” says retired Marine Lt. Col. Scott Cooper, who’s the director of Veterans for American Ideals.
“Many of our service members are alive and were able to come home because of these brave wartime partners,” he told WATM.
The SIV program has been under constant threat, as some lawmakers — including now Attorney Gen. Jeff Sessions who was previously the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee — argued the waivers could have allowed potential terrorists into the U.S.
But advocates said the SIV applicants are some of the most thoroughly vetted immigrants allowed into the country and have already proven themselves loyal in battle.
Since the SIV program began in 2013, more than 43,000 allies from Iraq and Afghanistan — along with their families — have been resettled in the U.S.
The State Department reportedly shut down the program for lack of funding earlier this year at a time the Afghan allies faced increasing threats from a resurgent Taliban and the so-called ISIS-affiliated Khorisan Group.
Advocates claim there are still about 30,000 Afghan and Iraqi citizens whose lives are at risk for helping U.S. forces. The new money means the program can be started back up immediately, Cooper said.
Some lawmakers applauded the new money for the SIV program, calling it a “lifesaving development.”
“Allowing this program to lapse would send the message to our allies in Afghanistan that the United States has abandoned them,” said New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
“Going forward, it’s critical that Congress overcome obstruction to this program and regularly replenish the number of visas available to avoid future brinkmanship. The lives of Afghan interpreters and support staff literally hang in the balance.”
No, the man eating alone in a diner in Nuuk wasn’t Fezzik — a friendless, brainless, helpless, hopeless giant, unemployed in Greenland.
Nonetheless, U.S. Coast Guard Seaman Katlin Kilroy, dining in the same restaurant during a port visit to Greenland’s capital, took pity on the man and decided to cover the cost of his dinner. Her action set off a chain of events that resulted in an international exchange of goodwill — and a merit award.
“Paying it forward” is how Kilroy was raised in Apex, North Carolina, a town of roughly 45,000 southeast of Raleigh, she said in an interview with Coast Guard public affairs personnel, published in a news release.
“My parents used to carry around sandwiches and socks for those down on their luck. We didn’t give money, but we’d give time or buy a meal and spend time with people. Listen to them,” Kilroy said.
But instead of purchasing provisions for a person she thought was in need, Kilroy inadvertently fed the man serving as premier of Greenland, a position roughly equivalent to president or prime minister, setting off a chain of events that led to a VIP visit to the Coast Guard medium endurance cutter Campbell.
During her encounter with Premier Kim Kielsen, according to the Coast Guard release, they talked about his careers before he entered politics, as a mariner and a police officer. He then expressed interest in visiting Campbell and its crew — unexpected attention that could have landed Kilroy in hot water.
Campbell’s commander, Capt. Thomas Crane, embraced the opportunity and welcomed Kielsen aboard. Crane then accepted a personal tour of Nuuk from the nation’s top politician.
“Her chance encounter in Nuuk directly strengthened our nation’s position in an increasingly competitive Arctic domain through relationship building. Seaman Kilroy is a true shipmate,” Crane said in the release.
Kilroy has been in the Coast Guard for nearly two years, enlisting in 2018. As a non-rate described as having an affable disposition and knack for reaching people, she slipped naturally into a public affairs role, supplementing the work of the PAOs at Coast Guard Base Portsmouth, Virginia, for much of her fledgling career.
She got a chance to deploy as a public affairs representative with the medium endurance cutter Tahoma, as well as the Campbell, in August 2020 when no other rated petty officers were available, covering joint Arctic operations and exercises with the U.S. Navy, and Canadian, French and Danish maritime forces.
Her performance during the 85-day mission, documenting events and photographing Coasties at work, as well as the chance encounter at dinner, earned her the Coast Guard Achievement Medal.
“We could not have been happier with her performance,” Crane said. “She enabled top-level real-time visibility of these operations, reaching more than 6.6 million people.”
Kilroy is now on her way to being a Coast Guard public affairs specialist, according to the service.
And the man she bought dinner for? He is probably most well-known in the U.S. for scoffing at President Donald Trump’s pitch in 2018 to purchase Greenland — a proposal that came up during a conversation between the president and Danish ambassador Lars Gert Lose.
Denmark and Greenland both nixed the idea outright.
“Greenland is not Danish. Greenland is Greenlandic. I persistently hope that this is not something that is seriously meant,” Kielsen said.
After his encounter with Kilroy, Kielsen lost his reelection bid for the chairmanship of his party — a defeat that may lead to his ouster as premier. So, while Kielsen is not exactly unemployed in Greenland, his political future is uncertain.
To Kilroy, paying for a stranger’s meal anywhere, regardless of stature, is a natural extension of her Southern hospitality.
“People also see me in uniform … They pay it forward, and I do too. In this case, it happened to be the premier, and we had a nice conversation,” Kilroy said.
A lot of American troops find something to love about cultures they discover during their service. One World War I veteran left Ohio and discovered the magical history of Medieval Europe amid the fighting and squalor of the trenches. When he returned to the rolling hills next to Ohio’s Little Miami River, he decided to build that magic in his own backyard. Literally.
Complete with sword room.
Just north of Loveland, Ohio sits a structure that has no business standing in the American midwest. Harry D. Andrews began constructing a full-scale replica of the castle where his medical unit was stationed in Southern France. It was built brick-by-brick by Andrews himself on land he acquired from buying yearlong subscriptions to the Cincinnati newspaper, The Cincinnati Enquirer, taking stones from the Little Miami River, and even using bricks formed from milk cartons.
It took him 50 years to complete the project.
Though it has come to be known as Loveland Castle, the building began its life as Chateau Laroche – French for “Rock Castle” – and Andrews was a huge fan of the Medieval Era of European History. As the Castle Museum’s website reads:
[It was built as] “an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope.”
Loveland Castle via Instagram
Harry D. Andrews was born in 1890 and served as a medic in France during World War I. While “over there,” he contracted spinal meningitis and was declared dead. Except that he was very much alive and in hospital at the actual Chateau La Roche in southwest France. It would take him six months to recover. By the time he was declared alive, the war was over, and his fiancée was married to someone else. So Andrews stayed in Europe and toured the castles. He never much cared for modern war and believed the weapons used by knights in the Medieval Era were much more fair to a fighting man.
That’s when Harry Andrews gave up on women and dedicated his life to recreating the Medieval Era right there in his native Ohio. As he built the castle, he also constructed a year-round hotbed garden, a secret room, and wrote a book about immigration. As a lifelong Boy Scout leader, he donated the castle to his scouts when he died in 1981. Called the “Knights of the Golden Trail,” they guard the castle to this day.
Beaver County native Scott Marshall and his wife Karen were trying out a new church Sunday because she had recently moved back to their home in La Vernia, Texas, after finishing an assignment at Maryland’s Andrews Air Force Base, family members said.
In what was the first and only time they worshipped at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, the Marshalls were among 26 people shot and killed when Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on a service there. Authorities said the attack appeared to stem from a domestic dispute .
Scott Marshall, 58, was retired from the Air Force and had been working as a civilian contractor and mechanic at Lackland Air Force Base, about 35 miles west of La Vernia, said his father Robert Marshall, 85, of Crescent. Scott and Karen met while they were in the service together more than 30 years ago.
Scott grew up in Hopewell, Beaver County, and joined the Air Force after graduating from high school.
Karen was a Master Sergeant in the Air National Guard and had just finished a posting at Andrews Air Force Base, Robert Marshall said. Scott was driving her back to Texas, where she would officially retire. The couple stopped in Pennsylvania on their way home to spend a few days with Scott’s family. They threw a birthday party for Robert two Sundays ago.
“It was a surprise party for my dad. He thought they were just celebrating her retirement,” said Scott’s younger sister Holly Hannum, 48, of Chippewa.
They left last Tuesday to continue on their way back to Texas, Hannum said. They were just settling back into life together, she said.
Hannum said Karen, who grew up in Nevada, wasn’t raised Baptist but she found a Baptist church that she liked in Maryland. She wanted to try another one of the same denomination when she got back to Texas.
“They wanted to try a Baptist church that was just 10 minutes from their house,” Hannum said.
Hannum was just returning from church herself when she said she felt a wave of apprehension come over her. Her heart sank when she saw news of a shooting in Texas and her brother wouldn’t answer her text messages. She reached Scott’s son Brandon, who told her that he was awaiting word from authorities about what happened to Scott and Karen.
The family found out early Monday morning — on Robert’s 85th birthday — that Scott and Karen were among the dead. Their red Xterra SUV was visible in many of the TV shots taken outside the church, Hannum said.
As of Monday night, the family was preparing for a trip to Texas — complicated by Robert’s need for an oxygen machine — by air and by car.
In addition to his father and sister Holly, Scott is survived by sisters Kim, Laurie and Amy; son, Brandon; daughters Martina and Kara; and five grandchildren. The Marshall family could not name all of Karen’s siblings.
Funeral arrangements were being planned for Texas, Hannum said.
The Islamic State group said its fighters have captured Osama bin Laden’s infamous Tora Bora mountain hideout in eastern Afghanistan but the Taliban on June 15th dismissed the claim, saying they were still in control of the cave complex that once housed the former al-Qaeda leader.
Earlier, ISIS released an audio recording, saying its signature black flag was flying over the hulking mountain range. The message was broadcast on the militants’ Radio Khilafat station in the Pashto language on late June 14th.
It also said IS has taken over several districts and urged villagers who fled the fighting to return to their homes and stay indoors.
A Taliban spokesman denied IS was in control, claiming instead that the Taliban had pushed IS back from some territory the rival militants had taken in the area.
The Tora Bora mountains hide a warren of caves in which al-Qaeda militants led by bin Laden hid from US coalition forces in 2001, after the Taliban fled Kabul and before he fled to neighboring Pakistan.
According to testimony from al-Qaeda captives in the US prison at Guantamo Bay, Cuba, bin Laden fled from Tora Bora first to Afghanistan’s northeastern Kunar province, before crossing the border into Pakistan. He was killed in a 2011 raid by US Navy SEALs on his hideout in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
Pakistan complained the raid violated its sovereignty while bin Laden’s presence — barely a few miles from the Pakistani equivalent of America’s West Point military academy — reinforced allegations by those who accused Pakistan of harboring the Talibanand al-Qaeda militants. Pakistan denies such charges, pointing to senior al-Qaeda operatives it has turned over to the United States.
Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Taliban fighters pushed back the Islamic State group from areas of Tora Bora that IS had earlier captured.
Mujahid claimed that more than 30 IS fighters were killed in battle. He also added that a US airstrike on Taliban positions on June 14th had killed 11 of its fighters and benefited the Islamic State group.
The remoteness of the area makes it impossible to independently verify the contradictory claims.
Afghan officials earlier said that fighting between IS and the Taliban, who had controlled Tora Bora, began on the 13th of June, but couldn’t confirm its capture.
Afghan Defense Ministry’s spokesman Daulat Waziri would not say whether IS was in complete control of Tora Bora. But he said Afghan forces engaged IS militants in the Chapahar district of eastern Nagarhar province, killing five and pushing them out of the area.
The province, which borders Pakistan, is the main foothold of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan. An affiliate of the IS, which is fighting in Syria and Iraq, emerged over the past two years and seized territory, mainly in Nangarhar.
The Afghan forces’ offensive will continue toward Tora Bora, Waziri said, adding that if the Afghans “need air support from NATO, they are ready to help us.”
While the United States estimates there are about 800 IS fighters in Afghanistan, mostly restricted to Nangarhar, other estimates say their ranks also include thousands of battle-hardened Uzbek militants.
Last week, Russia announced it was reinforcing two of its bases in Central Asia, in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, with its newest weapons because of fears of a “spill-over of terrorist activities from Afghanistan” by the Afghan IS affiliate.
“The [IS] group’s strategy to establish an Islamic caliphate poses a threat not only to Afghanistan but also to the neighboring countries,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.
The U.S. has some of the best special operations units in the world, but they can’t do everything on their own. The American military relies on allied special operators from places like Britain, Iraq, and Israel to collect intelligence and kill enemy insurgents and soldiers. Here are 6 of those special operations commands.
A quick note on the photos: Many allied militaries are even more loathe to show the faces of their special operators than the U.S. The photos we’ve used here are, according to the photographers, of the discussed special operations forces, but we cannot independently verify that the individuals photographed are actually members of the respective clandestine force.
1. SAS and SBS
These could obviously be two separate entries, but we’re combining them here because they’re both British units that often operate side-by-side with U.S. forces, just with different missions and pedigrees. The Special Air Service pulls from the British Army and focuses on counter-terrorism and reconnaissance. The Special Boat Service does maritime counter-terrorism and amphibious warfare (but will absolutely stack bodies on land, too).
Both forces have deployed with U.S. operators around the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan where they were part of secretive task forces that hunted top Taliban members, ISIS, and Iraqi insurgents.
2. Sayeret Matkal
Israel’s Sayeret Matkal has generated rumors and conjecture for decades, and it’s easy to see why when you look at their few public successes. They rescued 103 Jewish hostages under gunpoint in Uganda after a plane hijacking. They hunted down the killers who attacked Israel’s 1972 Munich Olympic team, killing 11 coaches and athletes. The commandos in the unit are skilled in deception, direct action, and intelligence gathering.
The U.S. is closely allied with Israel and Sayeret Matkal is extremely good at gathering intelligence, which is often shared with the U.S. One of their most public recent successes came when they led a daring mission to install listening devices in ISIS buildings, learning of a plan to hide bombs in the battery wells of laptops.
3. French Special Operations Command
French special operations units are even more close-mouthed than the overall specops community, but they have an army unit dedicated to intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism, a navy unit filled with assault forces and underwater demolitions experts, and an air force unit specializing in calling in air strikes and rescuing isolated personnel behind enemy lines.
The commandos have reportedly deployed to Syria in recent years to fight ISIS. And while Germany is fairly tight-lipped about the unit, they have confirmed that the unit was deployed to Iraq for a few years in the early 2000s. On these missions, they help U.S.-led coalitions achieve success.
5. Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service
The Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service was created by the U.S. and, oddly, does not fall within the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, making this one of the few special operations units that isn’t part of the traditional military. It has three special operations forces brigades and, in recent years, has largely focused on eliminating ISIS-controlled territory and the surviving forces.
The operators have also fought against other groups like Al Qaeda-Iraq. The unit was originally formed in 2003, meaning it has only existed while Iraq was at war with insurgents, so the force has operated almost exclusively within Iraq’s borders. It earned high marks in 2014 when its troops maintained good order and fought effectively against ISIS while many of the security forces were falling apart.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they’re always capturing what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
An F-16CM Fighting Falcon assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing lowers its landing gears in preparation for landing at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., July 21, 2017. The F-16 is a highly maneuverable multi-role fighter aircraft in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack during combat operations.
Four F-18 Super Hornets from Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, fly over Klamath Falls returing to Kingsley Field after a morning of air-to-air combat training with a variety of other fighter jets from around the country during Sentry Eagle 2017. Sentry Eagle is an air-to-air combat exercise bringing a variety of different fighter jets from around the country to train and work together. This year’s line-up includes the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Falcons, F-18 Hornets, and the F-35 Lighting. Along with the training exercise the 173rd Fighter Wing is hosting a free open house for the public with static displays and other events on Saturday the 21st.
Illuminating projectiles, each weighing close to 100 pounds, are staged by Pfc. Juan Valenzuela and others from the California Army National Guard’s 1st Battalion, 144th Field Artillery Regiment July 21 at National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. About 1,500 of these and similar rounds were to be expended by the end of the 144th’s annual training.
U.S. Soldiers, assigned to the 1-26 Infantry Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), participate in a simulated force on force exercise during the Network Integration Exercise (NIE) 17.2 at Fort Bliss, Tx, July 20, 2017.
Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Sean Martin heaves a line around with the First Class Petty Officer Association (FCPOA) during a replenishment-at-sea (RAS) aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1). Wasp is currently underway acquiring certifications in preparation for their upcoming homeport shift to Sasebo, Japan where they are slated to relieve the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) in the 7th Fleet area of operations.
The littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) prepares to moor at Broadway Pier to provide public tours July 22-23. Giffords is the newest Independence variant littoral combat ship and one of seven LCSs homeported in San Diego.
A U.S. Marine Corps recruit with Platoon 3052, Mike Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, holds a M16A4 rifle during a final drill evaluation at Peatross parade deck on Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., July 19, 2017. The recruits are scored for final drill according to execution of movements, confidence, attention to detail, and discipline.
U.S. Marines load into a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter to be transported onto the USS Somerset (LPD 25) as part of UNITAS 2017 in Ancon, Peru, July 19, 2017.UNITAS is an annual, multi-national exercise that focuses on strengthening existing regional partnerships and encourages establishing new relationships through the exchange of maritime mission-focused knowledge and expertise during multinational training operations.
A U.S. Coast Guardsman jumps into Lake Goodrich during a water survival demonstration at the 2017 National Jamboree at Summit Bechtel Reserve near Glenn Jean, W.Va. July 21, 2017. More than 30,000 Boy Scouts, troop leaders, volunteers and professional staff members, as well as more than 15,000 visitors are expected to attend the 2017 National Jamboree. Approximately 1,400 military members from the Department of Defense and the US Coast Guard are providing logistical support for the event.
An Air Station Kodiak MH-60 helicopter aircrew conducts maintenance on a MH-60 windshield at Forward Operating Location Kotzebue, July 20, 2017. FOL Kotzebue houses two MH-60 helicopters and their aircrews in support of Operation Arctic Shield.
For many runners, slogging along in the hot sun is a quick way to shut down a good training run. Before heading to the shade, keep in mind that the best training involves running in conditions one may face in actual competition. Although some runners may be hoping for a cool and cloudy day for the Army 10-miler in October, acclimating to the summer heat can provide a competitive edge on race day.
“It is important to acclimatize your body to the heat,” said Dr. Alexis Maule, a Defense Health Agency epidemiologist who works at the Army Public Health Center. “Start your training with short distance runs and slowly work your way to longer time and distance spent running in the heat. It can take several weeks for your body to adjust to training in the heat.”
Maule recommends avoiding running in the middle of the day when the sun is at its peak.
“If possible, train early or late in the day to avoid the hottest times of the day or find a running route that has plenty of shade,” said Maule. “You will get the same benefits of the aerobic exercise while avoiding unnecessary sun exposure.”
Maule recommends runners use sunscreen and eyewear that blocks UV rays to provide protection from the sun.
“Sunburn is the most common sun exposure risk runners face during training and competition,” said Maule. “Sunburn inhibits the skin’s ability to release body heat, which increases the risk of heat illness. High heat and humidity are also environmental risks that runners face during training and competition. Repeated sun exposure can also lead to skin cancer.”
Follow these tips for optimal hydration.
(U.S. Army Public Health Center Illustration)
Maule recommends runners balance the goals of comfort by having loose, breathable clothing, which is important for protecting them from environmental hazards such as sun exposure.
One of the dangers of running in the sun is heat illness, which refers to a range of conditions which includes heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat stroke is the most severe and requires immediate medical attention. Runners may develop symptoms including light-headedness, dizziness, fatigue, and muscle cramps.
There is no specific time of onset for heat illness symptoms, said Maule. The timing of symptoms can depend on many factors, including the outside conditions (temperature, humidity, wind and direct sun exposure), the intensity of the workout, and the physical fitness of the runner as well as their intake of fluids, electrolytes, and calories before, during and after a run. When enough of these factors combine, runners can lose the ability to regulate their own temperature. Immediate cooling are the two most important words to remember when heat illness is suspected.
“If you are on a training run, find a shady area to rest and remove extra layers of clothing,” said Maule. “If water is accessible, take sips of cool water and splash water on your head, neck, arms and legs.”
To avoid dehydration, runners might have to make themselves drink when they are not thirsty,” said Joanna Reagan, registered dietitian at the Army Public Health Center.
“It doesn’t take much water loss for your performance to suffer,” said Reagan. “With only 5 percent body weight of water, your speed and concentration are reduced. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, what your body composition is, or how old you are, you can easily become dehydrated. It can happen quickly when you are physically active, especially in extreme climates.”
For longer runs, Reagan recommends runners try different systems to determine what works best for them, such as a handheld running bottle, a waist belt or a running hydration vest.
“It is a good idea to drink water or fluids every 20 minutes,” said Reagan. “If you are out for less than hour, then water is the best choice. If you are running longer than an hour then you are losing electrolytes and if you lose too many electrolytes, your performance can suffer.”
Reagan says the key for replacing electrolytes is sodium and potassium along with calcium and magnesium. The easiest way to do with is with an electrolyte replacement sport drink. There are also powders or tablets that can be mixed with water runners can carry with them on their route.
The first signs and symptoms for dehydration are a slight headache and dark colored urine, said Reagan. As dehydration worsens, symptom are thirst, muscle cramps, fatigue and decreased heart rate. Runners need to listen to the signs and symptoms of their bodies and slowly sip on a fluids to help re-hydrate.
“Water, sports drinks, diluted fruit juice, milk and milk alternatives are good choices,” said Reagan. “Don’t forget about food choices high in water content such as fruit, vegetables, soups, and yogurt.”
Drinking too much plain water or not eating enough sodium can result in hyponatremia (low sodium levels in your blood), said Reagan. This can be very serious, if not treated. Women can be at greater risk than men of developing exercise-associated hyponatremia. The signs and symptoms include headache, vomiting, swollen hands and feet, confusion and wheezy breathing.
“During exercise, limit fluids to four cups per hour or six cups in hot weather to avoid hyponatremia,” said Reagan. “Do not drink more than 12 quarts per day.”
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.
A US Navy warship deployed to the Persian Gulf has been quarantined at sea for more than two months because of a virus outbreak, a rare move the US Navy revealed March 13, 2019, after an inquiry from CNN.
Parotitis, a viral infection with symptoms similar to the mumps, has spread across the USS Fort McHenry, a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship, affecting a total of 25 sailors and Marines. Symptoms of the illness appeared for the first time in December 2018.
In the past 15 years, state-sponsored cyber attacks have increased significantly, from hacking government and military computers to obtain information to shu…
Sick sailors were quarantined aboard the vessel and treated in the onboard medical facilities while their living areas were cleaned and disinfected. No one had to be medevaced off the ship, CNN reported March 13, 2019, but it’s very unusual for US warships to spend more than two months at sea without a port call.
USS Fort McHenry.
“None of the cases are life-threatening and all have either already made or are expected to make a full recovery,” Fifth Fleet said in a statement emailed to Business Insider. Since the first case was detected at the end of 2018, 24 of the 25 infected individuals have returned to duty.
The US Navy told Business Insider that port calls were canceled, effectively quarantining the ship at sea while medical teams worked to get the situation under control. Exercising caution, it was determined that all of the more than 700 service members on the Fort McHenry would receive booster vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella.
Viral parotitis is an infection of the saliva glands on either side of the face that’s typically caused by the mumps, which can be prevented through vaccination.
The Fort McHenry, which carries elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, is currently operating in the Persian Gulf. A US military medical team specializing in preventative care will be deploying to the Fort McHenry in the near future to assess the crew and MEU’s health.
A US Navy spokesman told Business Insider that a ship is like a college dorm, locker room, or even a first-grade class. People are living in close proximity, and illnesses make the rounds from time to time, but this situation is quite unusual. The Navy said that it believes it has a handle on the situation.
As only a small portion of the crew has been affected by the virus, routine unit-level training operations have continued with some modification to the training schedules.
CNN reported that the Navy made no mention of the virus outbreak aboard the Fort McHenry until the outlet asked about it.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It was a typical winter morning in northern Afghanistan. The sky was clear, and the blinding sun slowly climbed into it. The sun was bright, but it didn’t do much to fight the biting cold that pumped down the turret opening in our Humvee and chilled us all.
I was in a light infantry reconnaissance platoon, made up of an almost even split of snipers and recon guys. We were on our way to a large forward operating base just south of Kabul. Our specific skill set had been requested by the commander there so we crammed into our cold Humvees and headed into the unknown.
We pulled into the base later that morning and were shown to the tent that we’d call home for at least a day or two. After unloading all of our gear and equipment, me and the other lower enlisted guys made ourselves at home while our senior leaders went to work out the specifics of the mission we’d be supporting.
We hadn’t been there long before sudden pounding winds seemed to threaten the integrity of our tent. One soldier leapt up from his cot and ripped open the door flap of our tent. The clear sunbathed sky had faded behind a thick sheet of dark clouds and snow was collecting quickly on the ground outside.
The soldier fastened the door flap shut as we all looked at each other in amazement. “This mission has got to be scrapped” quipped one soldier. “There’s no way we’re going out in this” added another. Assuming the mission was a no-go, we settled back into our cots and pulled out our books, iPods, magazines and other essentials needed to ride out the storm.
Just as we were all getting comfortable and cozy in our sleeping bags, a red-faced and snow covered staff sergeant barreled into our tent. “Get your cold-weather gear on and get outside”. The staff sergeant stormed out of the tent just as rapidly as he’d come in.
We tossed our creature comforts to the side and began tearing through our bags for heavy jackets, pants and beanies. Questions and confusion filled the frantic tent. Once suited up, we all funneled out of the tiny tent opening into the storm and lined up in front of the two stone-faced staff sergeants.
We stood there silently as they divided us up between them. Reading our confused expressions, the staff sergeants laughed and explained what was about to happen.
“You guys go with him” he said gesturing at the other staff sergeant and his group. “And you guys come with me. We’ll have 15 minutes to build up our arsenal of snowballs and then it’s on. If you get hit, you’re out. You can be revived by a teammate once, but if you’re hit again, you’re out until the next round”.
Before our shock could fade, we were elbows deep in snow mounds, hastily and inefficiently shaping snowballs with our gloved hands. The 15 minutes were up and my group had established three separate caches of snowballs in case one were to be compromised. Our hodgepodge of recon and sniper guys made it difficult to establish a quick plan of attack. Me and the other recon guys suggested we move between tents to find a good ambush point. The snipers suggested we push to a small hill top and take advantage of the high ground. The infighting put us at a disadvantage.
When the other team started lobbing snowballs, strategy turned into self-preservation and it was every man for himself.
A number of my recon teammates had been taken out of the game so I retreated to the hill top where a few snipers were dug in. The high ground gave us the upper hand, and the continuing snowfall guaranteed we wouldn’t run out of ammo. We had the other team pinned down and just when we thought we had the game won, we were flanked and wiped out.
The snowball fight went a few more rounds and the longer we were out in the storm the more exhausted we got. Our honed military training and tactics gradually devolved into a laughter filled display of “soldiers on ice” as we slipped and fell endlessly.
When the snowball fight was over, we sluggishly made our way back to our tent, shed our cold weather gear and collapsed onto our cots.
The mission we came for had officially been scrapped, so we quietly retrieved the creature comforts we had discarded earlier and tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags. The next morning the bright sun rose and melted most of the snow. We gathered all of our equipment crammed ourselves back into our cold Humvees, and headed to the next outpost.
That day was rarely talked about in the months that followed. It was as if we were all safeguarding a cherished memory and if we spoke about it, the day would somehow seem less special.
I’m sure the snowball fight meant something different for everyone on the battlefield that day. For me, its meaning has evolved over the years. What was once just another story from my time in Afghanistan has grown into a meaningful narrative about the human moments soldiers often experience while deployed but are rarely reported.
For me this day was important because it helps me show that not every war story is a tale of heroism or tragedy.
When the winter months creep by here at home, I look forward to an impromptu moment where I’ll look out on a large snow covered field, and I’ll tell whoever will listen, about my snowball fight with snipers.