Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

A man who lost his wife in Iran’s January 8 downing of a Ukrainian passenger jet says he fled the country after being pressured by authorities for criticizing the way the government handled the tragedy.


Javad Soleimani’s wife, Elnaz Nabiyi, was among 176 people killed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) missile attack against the civilian airliner.

He says he was summoned by Iranian intelligence agents for “insulting” state officials.

“I decided to leave the country as soon as possible because I wasn’t the person to go to their office and apologize for my criticism, so I decided to leave Iran immediately and be the voice of the victims and their families,” Soleimani said in a January 30 interview with Canada’s CBC News Network.

Soleimani, a postgraduate student at the Alberta School of Business in Canada, says Iranian authorities also interfered in his wife’s funeral to prevent potential protests.

“They didn’t let us have our own funeral. They controlled everything because they were afraid of any protest against the government,” Soleimani said, adding that his family tolerated the pressure “because our first priority was to bury my wife.”

The IRGC admitted three days after the tragedy that it had shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, saying the incident was the result of a “human mistake.” Iran says an investigation has been launched and that arrests have been made.

But so far, no official has resigned over the tragedy — which occurred just hours after Iran fired ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq as retaliation for the January 3 assassination of the IRGC’s Quds Force commander, Qasem Soleimani, in a U.S. air strike.

Tehran’s admission after three days of persistent denials spawned protests in the Iranian capital and other cities, with demonstrators calling for the resignation of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Javad Soleimani says senior officials, including Khamenei, should be held responsible for the crash. He says many Iranians were upset that Khamenei did not personally apologize for the loss of innocent lives.

“When you kill someone intentionally or unintentionally, the first thing to do is to say, ‘I apologize.’ But [Khamenei] didn’t say it, and he made people in Iran angry and more upset,” Soleimani told CBC News.

He says he also was upset that Iranian authorities referred to his wife as a “martyr.”

“They said the victims are martyrs and they wrote down congratulations,” he complained. “It was terrible.”

Alireza Ghandchi, whose wife, daughter, and son were killed in the plane crash, said those responsible should face justice.

“We would not accept it if [authorities] find an individual and say he mistakenly pushed the button” in order to end the case, Ghandchi said in a January 10 interview with the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

persian.iranhumanrights.org

“It’s my right to know [who was responsible] and ask for them to be put on trial,” Ghandchi said.

Ghandchi said regime agents were present at his family’s funeral at Tehran’s Behesht Zahra Cemetery.

He said authorities have neither pressured his family nor provided any support.

“The government didn’t give us any support, except for using the term ‘martyr’ and creating somewhat better conditions for us during the burial. That is all,” he said.

Ghandchi said the term “martyr,” which is used in Iran to describe soldiers killed during the 1980-88 war with Iraq, should not be used when referring to the victims of the plane downing.

“The term martyr is used for people who are [killed] in a war in conditions when there’s an enemy. But it’s not correct to use it when referring to my children, who were returning [to Canada] from their trip,” he said.

Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his wife and daughter in the plane crash, said officials at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport harassed the relatives of victims when they left Iran to attend memorial services in Canada.

“Let the family members leave to attend the funerals with ease. It is none of your business if Canada has easily issued entry visas within hours for the relatives,” Esmaeilion said on Facebook on January 27.

Esmaeilion did not provide more details about why he thinks relatives of the victims are being harassed.

Other reports suggest some relatives of victims were told by authorities not to speak to Farsi-language media based outside the country but were encouraged to speak to Iran’s tightly controlled media.

“They said, ‘Come and talk to our own media, not to the anti-regime media,'” one mother who lost her son in the tragedy told the news site Iranwire.com on January 15.

“I said, ‘You want me to say that it was America’s fault? You will never hear me whitewash [this for] you’.”

Khamenei on January 17 accused Iran’s “enemies” of using the Ukrainian airline tragedy to question the Islamic republic and the IRGC, which he said “maintained the security” of Iran.

In his first public remarks about the incident, Khamenei said on January 17 that the downing of the Ukrainian plane was a “bitter accident” that “burned through our heart.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the LEGION Act is a big deal for veterans

In July 2019, President Trump signed into law the Let Everyone Get Involved in Opportunities for National Service Act – the LEGION Act. In brief, the legislation says the United States has been in a period of constant warfare since Dec. 7, 1941, the day the Japanese Empire bombed Pearl Harbor and brought the United States into World War II.


What this means for other areas of the law is up for other people to debate. What this means for veterans is that servicemen and women who were killed or wounded in previously undeclared periods of war are now eligible for expanded benefits.

The most apparent benefit of the new LEGION Act legislation is that now every veteran who served since the bombing of Pearl Harbor is eligible to join the American Legion. This will affect some 1,600 veterans who were killed or wounded during their service, which just so happened to be during a previously undeclared period of global conflict. The American Legion says this act honors their service and sacrifice.

“This new law honors the memories of those veterans while allowing other veterans from those previously undeclared eras to receive all the American Legion benefits they have earned through their service,” said American Legion National Judge Advocate Kevin Bartlett.

This also means the eligibility window will run until the U.S. is no longer at war, which – historically speaking – may never happen.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

The war in Afghanistan alone has outlasted two uniform designs.

Veterans with an interest in joining the American Legion still need to meet the other requirements of membership, such as having an honorable discharge. Joining the Legion means more than finding cheap drinks at the local post. The American Legion is not only a club for veterans, it’s also a powerful lobby in Congress and offers its membership benefits like temporary financial assistance, scholarship eligibility, and even help in getting VA disability claims through the system.

By expanding its network to include thousands of new veterans, the American Legion is better able to leverage its membership with members of Congress as well as state and local elected officials and legislative bodies – after all, it was the American Legion who drafted the first GI Bill legislation and helped to create the Department of Veterans Affairs.

So feel free to stop by for more than just a cheap beer.

popular

This is how WW2 Marines made ice cream at 30,000 feet

Every job has its unexpected perks. Even being a Marine Corps aviator in World War II had some unexpected benefits. This is because Marines make do, as the saying goes, and are used to making the most out of whatever Uncle Sam provides them to get the mission done. They will even make miracles happen when it’s not part of the mission.

That’s just what Marines do, even when it comes to ice cream.


Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
You read that right.

Everyone loves ice cream and I state that firm belief as someone who has been lactose intolerant his entire life. Marines these days give the Air Force a lot of smack for (almost) always having sweet treats present wherever there’s an Air Force dining facility. But let’s be real, after a few days, weeks, or however long being deprived of even the simplest luxury, a bit of ice cream goes a long way. Marine aviators in the Pacific Theater thought so, too.

The United States captured the island of Peleliu from Imperial Japan after more than two months of hard fighting toward the end of 1944. Marines on Peleliu were within striking distance of the enemy, but since there was no real threat at the time, they were not on combat patrols or supporting operations elsewhere in the theater. The Marines were getting bored and if you’ve ever made it past basic training in any branch of the military, you know there are few things more inventive or more dangerous than bored Marines.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
The crew of the USS Lexington raided the ice cream stores after being torpedoed by the Japanese in 1942. That’s not a joke.

 

One squadron commander, J. Hunter Reinburg, figured he could probably raise morale among his men if he could fix one of his F4U Corsair fighter-bombers to become a high-altitude ice cream maker. It wouldn’t be that hard. His crews cut the ends off a drop tank, created a side access panel, and strung a .50-caliber ammo can in the panel. He instructed the mess sergeant to fill the ammo can with canned milk and cocoa powder. All he had to do was get it cold enough to freeze – no problem for a high-altitude fighter.

There was something to Reinburg’s thinking. Ice cream has long been a staple of American morale. During the years of Prohibition, ice cream and soda jerks replaced bar nuts and bartenders for many Americans. Ice creams were marketed toward helping people cope with suffering during the Great Depression. When World War II broke out, other countries banned ice cream to enforce sugar rations — but not the United States. Americans loved the sweet treat so much the U.S. military even planned to build a floating ice cream factory and tow it into the Pacific Theater.

For Marines stranded on a hot island with no fresh food and no refrigeration, high-altitude ice cream was a great idea.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
I need to get me one of those old-time ice cream makers.

 

Army Air Corps bombers had been making the sweet treat in the same way for years, flying at frigid high altitudes while the hum and vibrations from the engine churned the milk and sugar into frozen ice cream. For the Marines, the first run was a disaster. Reinburg circled the island at 33,000 feet for 35 minutes. When he landed, the mixture was still liquid. But Marines don’t give up so easily.

The second run saw ammo cans bolted onto the underside of wings to keep the ice cream base far from the hot engines. The mixture froze, but didn’t have the creamy texture the men wanted so badly. The third run was the most inventive of all. This time Marines rigged the ammo cans themselves with propellers which turned a screw inside the ammo cans, churning the ice cream as it froze.

This time the ice cream was perfect. The only hitch was they forgot to let the Operations Officer, a Colonel, have a ration of ice cream.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this Union Army added insult to injury with its battle flag

By the time the Army of the Ohio joined General William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign in 1864, it had already repelled Confederate attacks on Ohio and marched South through Tennessee, chasing John Bell Hood through the Battles of Knoxville and Nashville. After burning Atlanta, the Union XXIII Corps, which made up the bulk of the Army of the Ohio, stopped to create a historical wonder: the world’s best battle trophy.


It turns out that Civil War combat isn’t very kind to the remnants of battle flags, especially those of the losing side. And after years of constant fighting, and a whole lot of winning, the XXIII Corps had a lot of captured Confederate flags.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

I don’t know if you see where this is going.

With all the wear and tear on their own battle flag, the Army of the Ohio decided they required a new flag to fly as they might soon be helping General Sherman March to the Sea. You don’t want to burn Savannah without looking your best. It’s a good thing Confederate battle flags decided to use the exact same colors the XXIII Corps required for its flag.

Using the best pieces of the captured enemy flags they had, the Corps decided to form a new battle flag of their own, made entirely from the shredded, battle-scarred remains of their defeated enemies’ banners. They even happened upon more of the cloth after capturing Macon, Ga. The finished product was actually made for them by the 98th Illinois Regiment.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

The flag itself was recently auctioned off for the low, low price of over ,000. Check it out over at Heritage Auctions.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is what Russia has to address to thaw relations with the US

The new U.S. national security adviser has told Russia’s U.S. ambassador that Moscow must address U.S. concerns on election meddling, the “reckless” nerve-agent attack in Britain, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria before relations can substantially improve.

A White House statement on April 19, 2018, said John Bolton, who took over from H.R. McMaster on April 9, 2018, made the remarks in a meeting with Russia’s ambassador to Washington, Anatoly Antonov.


“At the first meeting between the two in their current roles, they discussed the state of the relationships between the United States and Russia,” the statement said.

“Ambassador Bolton reiterated that it is in the interest of both the United States and Russia to have better relations, but that this will require addressing our concerns regarding Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, the reckless use of chemical weapons in the United Kingdom, and the situations in Ukraine and Syria,” it added.

Several global issues have raised tensions between Washington and Moscow despite President Donald Trump’s stated goal of improving relations between the two countries.

The U.S. intelligence community has accused Russia of a widespread cyberhacking-and-propaganda campaign aimed at influencing the 2016 presidential election vote.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
Donald Trump campaigning for president.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The United States and Europe have slapped sanctions on Russia for its 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula and its support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The U.S. military has assailed Russia for its support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and says it holds Moscow responsible for an alleged chemical weapons attack.

Meanwhile, the United States has said it supports Britain in a dispute with Russia over the March 4, 2018 poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. Britain has blamed Russia for the attack.

Moscow has denied it interfered in the U.S. election, said it had nothing to do with the Skripal poisonings, and claimed the allegations of a chemical attack in Syria are false.

The 69-year-old Bolton, a former UN ambassador, has served as a hawkish voice in Republican foreign-policy circles for decades. Among his more controversial stands, he has advocated for preemptive military strikes against North Korea and war with Iran.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran boasts about its increased uranium enrichment capacity

Iran says it is continuing to acquire uranium and is close to finishing a plant where it can build more centrifuges to enrich uranium.

The announcement on July 18, 2018, comes a day after Iran filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the United States in response to President Donald Trump’s decision in May 2018 to pull his country out of the 2015 nuclear accord and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.


Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other hard-liners in Iran have questioned whether Iran should continue honoring its obligations under the landmark deal with world powers after Trump’s decision.

Under the terms of the 2015 agreement — which also was signed by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union — Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei


The other signatories have said they will remain a part of the deal. Iran has demanded financial concessions from Europe to compensate for losses caused by Washington’s renewed sanctions.

Khamenei in June 2018 announced his country was preparing to increase uranium-enrichment capacity at its Natanz nuclear facility.

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran will continue adhering to the nuclear deal and that the country’s stepped-up nuclear activities will remain within the limits set by the accord.

A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Reuters that the organization was aware of Iran’s announcement but had no comment.

Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes, while Washington has accused it of attempting to develop nuclear weapons.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

How this soldier became a collegiate wheelchair basketball star

For Army Sgt. Shaun Castle, the Army was becoming a career.


As a military policeman in the early 2000s, Castle had some key war-zone assignments to Kosovo, Macedonia and the Middle East that were tracking toward a bright future in the service.

But in 2005, Shaun suffered a spine injury that eventually ended his Army career. And while he recovered enough to serve as a police officer in Alabama, his prior-service injury worsened and he had to leave the force, losing the use of his legs.

Undaunted, Shaun focused on getting a college degree and earned a place on the roster of the University of Alabama wheelchair basketball team where he’s also a member of the 2020 Paralympic Games development team.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
In 2012, after standing under the Paralympic banners of the Birmingham-based Lakeshore Foundation, Castle began training six days per week – hard work that has paid dividends for the now collegiate and professional sports star who plays for the University of Alabama’s men’s wheelchair basketball team and the USA Developmental team. Castle also has played professional wheelchair basketball in Lyon, France, and is a Paralympic hopeful for the 2020 Games in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo from Shaun Castle)

 

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
An advocate for Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Lakeshore Foundation, Castle has participated in numerous radio spots and other promotions in which he’s known for making mundane topics – like MREs (meals ready to eat) – sound interesting. In 2016, Castle pioneered the construction of an arena dedicated solely to wheelchair basketball at the University of Alabama. (Photo from Shaun Castle)

 

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
Castle also is active with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and NORAD Tracks Santa. A lover of Christmas, Castle and his wife Stephanie buy presents each year for underprivileged children. (Photo from Shaun Castle)

 

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

Articles

Fort Bragg troops play key role in liberation of Mosul

When more than 1,700 paratroopers left Fort Bragg for Iraq late last year, they knew that the fight to free Mosul would be one of their top priorities.


It was a question of when, not if, the major city in northern Iraq would be liberated from the Islamic State, officials said.

On July 10, Iraqi leaders officially declared ISIS defeated in Mosul. But Col. J. Patrick Work, who commands the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, said the work isn’t over.

In the roughly seven months since the 2nd Brigade deployed, the unit’s numbers have swelled to more than 2,100 paratroopers deployed to Iraq.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
Col. J Patrick Work (left). (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Anthony Hewitt)

It is the largest contingent among the thousands of Fort Bragg soldiers serving as part of an international coalition to defeat ISIS. That coalition is led by Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the 18th Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

On July 10, Work said the Falcon Brigade can be proud of its efforts to defeat ISIS through advising and assisting its Iraqi partners.

A few years ago, officials said the Iraqi army was largely defeated — broken, dispirited, and pushed to the gates of Baghdad. Today, it is celebrating a major victory.

“Our mission, the reason we matter, is to help the Iraqi Security Forces win,” Work said. “The fight continues, but they have dominated ISIS in Mosul. The key now is establishing a durable security that enables governance to extend its reach.”

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
U.S. Army Col. J Patrick Work greets residents in a recently-liberated neighborhood in west Mosul, Iraq, July 2, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

While Iraqi forces have been at the forefront of the victory, American paratroopers have played no small role in the success.

“It’s been hard, violent work every day,” Work said of fighting in Mosul. “The Iraqi Security Forces have fought doggedly to take terrain from ISIS and liberate the people of Mosul. ISIS had years to prepare its defense, and it gave nothing away. Our partners took it from them, and we’ve been helping them attack. At the same time, we are extraordinarily proud of our partners. They assume the lion’s share of the physical risk, but we attack a common enemy together. Their success is our success.”

When the brigade’s soldiers arrived in Iraq, the battle to defeat ISIS was still raging in east Mosul, Work said.

Now, that part of the city is thriving “despite being just over five months removed from intense ground combat.”

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Erik Salo, deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve and assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, observes a sniper course led by Iraqi Federal Police partners near Mosul, Iraq, June 7, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Heidi McClintock)

Work said the brigade’s paratroopers gave invaluable support to their Iraqi counterparts, advising and assisting ground commanders and providing artillery fires, intelligence, and logistical support.

As the fight moved to west Mosul, the paratroopers moved with their Iraqi counterparts, inching closer to the embattled city.

“We helped decimate a formidable ISIS mortar and artillery force in west Mosul,” Work said. “We helped destroy ISIS infantry, logistics, and suicide car bombs so that our partners could continue to attack on the hard days. We were with the commanders calling the shots, delivering fires that helped them dominate, and we always put them first. Every day and every night.”

Townsend congratulated Iraqi forces on July 10 for their “historic victory against an evil enemy.”

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson)

“The Iraqis prevailed in the most extended and brutal combat I have ever witnessed,” he said.

As commander of Combined Joint Task Force — Operation Inherent Resolve, Townsend is the top general overseeing the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. He’s one of several hundred 18th Airborne Corps soldiers who form the core of the anti-ISIS headquarters.

Several other Fort Bragg units, including the 1st Special Forces Command, are also deployed in support of the campaign.

Townsend spoke to members of the media via a video feed from Baghdad.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
Fort Bragg paratroopers in action. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Steven Galimore)

He said ISIS has now lost its capital in Iraq and its largest population center held anywhere in the world. That’s a decisive blow to ISIS and something for Iraqis to celebrate.

Townsend said forces also are making progress against ISIS in Syria, where partner forces working with American and coalition troops have surrounded ISIS’s capital of Raqqa.

The general said ISIS would fight hard to keep that city, much as it did in Mosul.

“Make no mistake, it is a losing cause,” he said.

Townsend said Iraqi forces have a plan in the works to continue to pursue ISIS in other parts of the country. He said he doesn’t anticipate any decrease in US troops in Iraq following the liberation of Mosul.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
Iraqi security force members and Coalition advisors share information. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jason Hull)

American forces, including those from Fort Bragg, are expected to play a key role in those efforts.

While the city of Mosul is now firmly under the control of Iraqi forces, Work said, no one will be celebrating too long.

“A lot of hard work remains. The Iraqi Security Forces will continue to attack the remnants of ISIS, search for caches, and free the people of west Mosul,” he said. “The transition for the Iraqis to consolidate their gains is critical now. It requires detailed intelligence, organization, and logistics. Our paratroopers will continue to give our best advice, help our partners attack ISIS, and keep enabling their operations.”

The 2nd Brigade deployed seven battalions to aid in the anti-ISIS fight. Most of the soldiers are involved in providing security or advising their Iraqi counterparts.

But, Work said, all soldiers contributed to the efforts and successes of the unit.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
Troops from 82nd Airborne Division speak with Iraqi Federal Police members in Mosul, Iraq, June 29, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm)

“All seven of our battalion teams have been tremendous. 37th Engineer Battalion has run a major staging base that is the hub of all logistics for a very decentralized coalition adviser network,” he said. “407th Brigade Support Battalion assists the Iraqis with advancing their own logistics while also sustaining and maintaining our adviser teams. Finally, the 2nd Battalion of the 319th Field Artillery devastated ISIS’s once-formidable mortar and artillery battery.”

Work also said the brigade has relied on junior soldiers to step up and fill important roles in the fight.

“We have a junior intelligence analyst, Spc. Cassandra Ainsworth, who is brilliant. We rely heavily on her thinking, on her analysis, and synthesis when we are making major recommendations to Iraqi generals,” he said. “We also have a junior signal soldier, Spc. Malik Turner, whom I count on daily to keep us connected securely in very austere environments. He is exceptional.”

Work said the brigade was the “right team at the right time” to help in Iraq.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
US Army 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. (U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm)

“There is a lot of hard work ahead, but the Falcons — some of the best trained, best equipped, and best led paratroopers in the world — helped the Iraqis win in Mosul,” he said.

With the city liberated, Work said, the soldiers’ attention will turn to securing those gains, improving the Iraqi forces, and taking the fight to ISIS forces in other parts of the country.

“The first priority is helping the Iraqis sink in their hold on west Mosul, helping them set conditions that allow the government to start delivering services and political goods,” he said. “Mosul is also a major battle in a much broader campaign to eliminate ISIS, and the fight continues. We will continue to give our best military advice, but the government of Iraq will decide the next objective. Whatever they decide, we are confident that we will continue to help them attack our common enemy.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

These soldiers fought off COVID-19 and still graduated basic training

Two of the U.S. Army newest soldiers recently earned bragging rights by completing Basic Combat Training after surviving bouts with the novel coronavirus.

Roughly eight weeks ago, 21-year-old Pvt. Carlos Mora and 36-year-old Spc. Juan Guajardo began suffering from COVID-19 symptoms while going through Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.


“I woke up in the morning and felt horrible,” Mora said in a recent Army news release. “I had a high fever, and I had slight pain. I told the drill sergeants, and they took me to the hospital.”

Guajardo said he has no idea how he got the virus.

“I got a fever, really weak and I had aches,” he said. “I coughed a lot and, when I blew my nose, I had red spots. I went to the hospital, and they did the test. I was positive.”

Army leaders halted the shipment of recruits to BCT for two weeks in early April to beef up testing protocols at the training centers. The Center for Initial Military Training (CIMT) had already taken several aggressive steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 — ranging from multiple screenings to separating new arrivals at BCT from the main population during the first two weeks of training.

Despite the precautions, about 50 soldiers tested positive for the virus at Jackson in early April.

So far, there have been 6,118 cases of COVID-19 among uniformed members of the U.S. military. Of those, 3,460 service members have recovered and three have died, according to Pentagon figures released May 26.

Mora and Guajardo were both assigned to Jackson’s 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment, when they began feeling ill, according to the release.

It’s not clear how severely the virus affected Mora or Guajardo since the Army would not release specific details about their condition or individual treatment, citing patient-privacy restrictions under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Meg Reed, spokeswoman for CIMT, told Military.com.

“I wasn’t too bad. I was out of breath and had a cough,” Mora said in the release. “Others had it worse. It scared me because they were about my age too.”

Guarjardo said he was more worried about his mother, who was concerned that she hadn’t heard from him.

“She was very worried about me,” Guajardo said in the release. “She’s in Mexico, and it’s bad there. I’m scared for her, but she is staying inside and away from people.”

After two weeks, both Mora and Guajardo were feeling better and soon tested negative at Moncrief Army Health Clinic, according to the release.

Overall, both missed about three weeks of training, so they had to be reassigned to the 4th Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment.

On May 14, Mora and Guajardo walked across Jackson’s Hilton Field with fellow BCT graduates in a ceremony that was streamed on Facebook for friends and family members, according to the release.

“It took me an extra week to breathe right again,” Mora said of his return to training. “I made it, though.”

Mora is scheduled to take advanced individual training at Fort Lee, Virginia, to become a wheeled vehicle mechanic.

Guajardo said he “really wanted to graduate with my old company,” but the Army Reserve soldier is looking forward to going to AIT at Fort Gordon, Georgia, to become an information technology specialist and “being able to talk to my family every day again,” the release states.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

The hero who gave her life protecting others during hijacking

On Sept. 5, 1986, New York-bound Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked by armed terrorists at Karachi airport in Pakistan in what would become one of the bloodiest hijackings of the 80s.

During the 17-hour ordeal, Neerja Bhanot would help the cockpit crew escape and ground the plane, hide the passports of passengers to protect their identities and nationalities, and open the emergency door to help others escape.

Bhanot would give her life saving and protecting the passengers on board that day. She was just shy of 23 years old.


Just after 0600, four gunmen sped onto the tarmac in an airport security van and entered the plane, firing their weapons. Flight attendant Sherene Pavan hailed the cockpit crew and pressed the hijack code as the hijackers grabbed Bhanot and held a gun to her head, demanding to be taken to the captain.

Upon arrival in the cockpit, they saw that the crew received the warning and evacuated by means of a safety hatch in the cockpit.

Inside the plane, 29 year-old American Rajesh Kumar was pulled out of his seat, shot, and kicked out of the plane.

“This changed everything. It showed they were ruthless killers,” said Sunshine Vesuwala, a surviving flight attendant.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

Passenger and plane details.

(Wikipedia)

The hijackers wanted a pilot to fly the plane to where other members of their militant group were imprisoned. As negotiators communicated with them from outside the aircraft, the terrorists began looking for more Americans on board.

This is when Bhanot and the other flight attendants began hiding the passports of the travelers to protect their identities. As the hours dragged on, the power of the aircraft began to dwindle. When the lights finally went out, the terrorists began to fire into the aircraft, killing the on-board mechanic Meherjee Kharas.

Bhanot and other members of the crew took the opportunity to open at least three doors and help passengers escape.

Bhanot was shot helping the hostages out of the plane and was evacuated by her colleagues, but she died at Karachi’s Jinnah Hospital.

22 people were killed in the attack, including two Americans, and another 150 were injured. The combined efforts of the 16 flight attendants likely saved hundreds of lives that day, and for two more days after the attack, the crew continued to care for minor passengers until they could be reunited with their families.

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This wounded airman saved his team (with an A-10’s help)

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during an intense firefight in Afghanistan in 2009.


JTACS are military personnel who direct combat support aircraft like the A-10, calling in air strikes to support ground operations.

Gutierrez was part of a nighttime raid with an Army special forces detachment to capture a high-value Taliban target, a “brutal” man living outside of the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan.

The team was attacked with heavy fire from a numerically superior and battle-hardened enemy force. Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route.

“We were just getting hammered, getting peppered,” he recalls in a six-minute interview. He talked to his team’s leader who wanted to drop bombs on the enemy targets.

“If you put a bomb on that it’ll kill us all,” he told his leader. “Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”

Gutierrez is having this discussion as bullets pepper the walls behind him, as a medic works on his chest wound, a through-and-through which the medic couldn’t find the entrance wound. He is also still holding off Taliban fighters with his M4 rifle.

“This is danger close, I need your initials,” he told his team lead.

“How close?”

“Less than 10 meters.”

Gutierrez needed the support of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog,” whose 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds are the size of beer bottles, to make a precision strike on the attacking insurgents.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities
An A-10 bombing run, too explosive to support Gutierrez’ team (U.S. Air Force photo)

Capt. Ethan Sabin, an A-10 pilot based at Kandahar Airfield, asked a nearby F-16 pilot to mark the target with the laser on his targeting pod.

The A-10 attack was so close, Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst and his left eardrum was severely damaged from the noise. He lost five-and-a-half pints of blood getting away from the combat zone.

After the first A-10 strafing, the medic had to re-inflate Gutierrez’ collapsed lung so he could direct two more strafing runs. For four hours, the team held off the enemy fighters and escaped the battlespace.

To give an idea of the kind of interactions JTACs have with close-air support pilots in the heat of the moment, the video below is a prime example of the extraordinary actions Gutierrez and airmen like him perform on the battlefield every day.


Feature image: USAF photo

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA adds 3D printing and virtual reality as treatment options

Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.

The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.


VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.

Some relatives of Ukrainian airliner victims complain of pressure from Iranian authorities

Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.

Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.

Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.

These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.

Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.

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

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Snowmaggedon? This wounded warrior and his wheelchair can help

A disabled vet in Nebraska has found an awesome way to continue serving his community. After receiving an off-road wheelchair with sweet treads, Justin Anderson fitted the front of his chair with a short snow plow.


He now uses it to clear the sidewalks of his block and help his neighbors.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFjqHeXnT6Ifeature=youtu.be

Anderson lost a leg in the Iraq War and was given the wheelchair by Independence Fund, a non-profit that helps severely wounded warriors.

He also received help from the local community during his surgeries and other medical care.

“The community has supported me immensely with my struggles and tough times as I had a leg amputated and my fight with brain cancer,” he told the local news. “This is my way of giving back.”

The response from the community has been great, with people asking to take photos with him and saying thank you.

“It’s very gratifying. It’s nice to know you’re appreciated,” he says in the video, “But even if I didn’t get any response from anyone – or nobody said Thank You – I’d still do it.”

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