US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president - We Are The Mighty
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US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser is calling on Russia to re-evaluate its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, leaving open the possibility of additional U.S. military action against Syria.


In his first televised interview, H.R. McMaster pointed to dual U.S. goals of defeating the Islamic State group and removing Assad from power.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was making the Trump administration’s first official trip this week to Russia, McMaster said Russia will have to decide whether it wanted to continue backing a “murderous regime.” Trump is weighing next steps after ordering airstrikes on April 6.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) conducts strike operations while in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017 (local time). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ford Williams)

“It’s very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime,” McMaster said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to affect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves [why they are] supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?”

He said Russia should also be asked how it didn’t know that Syria was planning a chemical attack since it had advisers at the Syrian airfield.

“Right now, I think everyone in the world sees Russia as part of the problem,” McMaster said.

After the chemical attack in Syria on April 4, Trump said his attitude toward Assad “has changed very much” and Tillerson said “steps are underway” to organize a coalition to remove him from power.

But as lawmakers called on Trump to consult with Congress, Trump administration officials sent mixed signals on the scope of future U.S. involvement.

While Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, described regime change in Syria as a U.S. priority and inevitable, Tillerson suggested that the April 6 American airstrikes in retaliation for the chemical attack hadn’t really changed U.S. priorities toward ousting Assad.

Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and ousting Syria’s president were somewhat “simultaneous” and that the objective of the missile strike was to send a “strong political message to Assad” to stop using chemical weapons.

He did not rule out additional strikes if Assad continued to engage in atrocities against rebel forces with either chemical or conventional weapons.

“We are prepared to do more,” he said. “The president will make whatever decision he thinks is in the best interest of the American people.”

Reluctant to put significant troops on the ground in Syria, the U.S. for years has struggled to prevent Assad from strengthening his hold on power.

U.S.-backed rebels groups have long pleaded for more U.S. intervention and complained that Washington has only fought the Islamic State group. So Trump’s decision to launch the strikes — an action President Barack Obama declined to take after a 2013 chemical attack — has raised optimism among rebels that Trump will more directly confront Assad.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
ISIS militants in Syria (Photo: Flickr)

Several lawmakers said on April 9 that decision shouldn’t entirely be up to Trump.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the Senate, praised Trump’s initial missile strike for sending a message to Assad, Russia, Iran, and North Korea that “there’s a new administration in charge.” But he said Trump now needed to work with Congress to set a future course.

“Congress needs to work with the president to try and deal with this long-term strategy, lack of strategy, really, in Syria,” he said. “We haven’t had one for six years during the Obama administration, and 400,000 civilians have died and millions of people have been displaced internally and externally in Europe and elsewhere.”

Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, agreed.

“What we saw was a reaction to the use of chemical weapons, something I think many of us supported,” he said. “But what we did not see is a coherent policy on how we’re going to deal with the civil war and also deal with ISIS.”

Still, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R- S.C., said he believed that Trump didn’t need to consult with Congress.

“I think the president has authorization to use force,” he said. “Assad signed the chemical weapons treaty ban. There’s an agreement with him not to use chemical weapons.”

Their comments came as Tillerson planned to meet with Russian officials. Russia had its own military personnel at the Syrian military airport that the U.S. struck with cruise missiles. But in interviews broadcast April 9, Tillerson said he sees no reason for retaliation from Moscow because Russia wasn’t targeted.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Russian forces were notified in advance of the strike against the Shayrat Airfield in Syria using the established deconfliction line. U.S. military planners took precautions to minimize risk to Russian or Syrian personnel located at the airfield. (Photo from DVIDSHub.net)

“We do not have any information that suggests that Russia was part of the military attack undertaken using the chemical weapons,” Tillerson said. Earlier, U.S. military officials had said they were looking into whether Russia participated, possibly by using a drone to help eliminate evidence afterward.

Tillerson said defeating the Islamic State group remains the top focus. Once that threat “has been reduced or eliminated, I think we can turn our attention directly to stabilizing the situation in Syria,” he said.

“We’re hopeful that we can prevent a continuation of the civil war and that we can bring the parties to the table to begin the process of political discussions” between the Assad government and various rebel groups, he said.

Haley said “getting Assad out is not the only priority” and that countering Iran’s influence in Syria was another. Still, Haley said the U.S. didn’t see a peaceful future for Syria with Assad in power.

McMaster, Cornyn, and Cardin spoke on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Haley and Graham were on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and Haley also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report.

Articles

First female Marine to attempt infantry course dropped on final attempt

The first female Marine to try to become an infantry officer has been reclassified to a different military occupational specialty after failing her second attempt at the grueling Infantry Officer’s Course, Military.com has learned.


The officer, who has not been publicly identified, began the 84-day course July 6 and was dropped July 18 after failing to complete two conditioning hikes, Capt. Joshua Pena said.

“IOC students may not fall out of more than one hike during a course,” Pena said.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) listen to a combat order brief before stepping off on a raid, which is part of the Infantry Integrated Field Training Exercise aboard Camp Geiger, N.C. | U. S. Marine Corps photo by CWO2 Mancuso, Paul S. Combat Camera

In all, 34 of the 97 officers who began the course have been dropped. Nine, including the female officer, were recommended for MOS redesignation, meaning they will be placed in a non-infantry job within the Marine Corps.

The female officer first attempted the course in April, just months after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declared all previously closed ground combat jobs open to women and ordered the services to design plans for integration. She was dropped on the 11th day of that attempt, after failing to complete a second hike.

Notably, the officer passed the notoriously challenging first day’s combat endurance test both times she attempted the course.

While 29 female officers had attempted the IOC on a test basis in a three-year period before the integration mandate was handed down, none would have had the chance to enter infantry jobs upon passing the course.

And because all but one of the female officers were volunteers attempting the course for personal improvement and Marine Corps research purposes, they were not guaranteed a second shot at the course the way male officers were. (The other female Marine was attempting to become a ground intelligence officer, a job that opened before other infantry jobs.)

For that reason, female officers now have their fairest shot at passing the course as the Corps looks to integrate previously male-only units.

But it remains to be seen how many women will attempt to enter these formerly closed positions.

Pena said there are now no female officers enrolled or slated to participate in future IOC classes. The current class will conclude Sept. 20.

In April, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Marine Corps would not change its physical standards in an attempt to help its first female infantry officers enter the fleet.

“One of the questions I got at IOC was, ‘OK, five years from now, no woman had made it through IOC. What happens?’ ” Mabus said at Camp Pendleton on April 12. “My response was, ‘No woman made it through IOC. Standards aren’t going to change.’ “

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is the infantryman posthumously receiving the MoH

The Pentagon has announced that President Donald J. Trump will present the Medal of Honor to the family of Army Staff Sgt. Travis W. Atkins, an infantryman killed in action on June 1, 2007, when he wrenched a suicide bomber away from his troops and absorbed the blast with his body, saving his men. The presentation will take place on March 27.


Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins: Final Mission

www.youtube.com

Atkins had previously received the posthumous Distinguished Service Cross for his actions, but the award has been upgraded to the Medal of Honor. He was a member of D Company, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

His other awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal with four Bronze Service Stars, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Valorous Unit Award with one Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Combat Infantryman Badge, and the Air Assault Badge.

During the morning of June 1, 2007, Atkins and his squad were conducting route security near Abu Samak, Iraq, when a squad member spotted two possible insurgents attempting to cross the route. One of the soldiers ordered the men to stop, and they complied but were acting erratically and seemingly preparing to flee.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

Then-Sgt. Travis Atkins poses with battle buddies in Iraq, 2007.

(Photo courtesy of the Atkins family)

Atkins moved up in his vehicle and then dismounted with his medic to interdict and search the men. One of the men began resisting the search, and Atkins realized that the man was wearing a suicide vest. They wrestled for control of the detonator, but the insurgent gained ground against Atkins

Atkins then wrapped up the bomber and pushed away from his men who were standing a few feet away, attempting to open up space. He pinned the insurgent to the ground and, when the vest detonated, Atkins absorbed the brunt of the blast.

Atkins was mortally wounded by the blast, but his actions saved others. Now, his son will receive his father’s posthumous Medal of Honor.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

Soldiers kneel to pay their respects to Staff Sgt. Travis Atkins, who was killed, June 1, 2007, by a suicide bomber near Sadr Al-Yusufiyah, Iraq, at a memorial ceremony held, June 7, 2007 at Camp Striker. Atkins was on a patrol with his unit, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) from Fort Drum, N.Y., when they detained men who were wearing suicide vests.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Chris McCann)

Before the fateful day on June 1, Atkins joined the Army on Nov. 9, 2000, and attended basic infantry training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and deployed with them to Kuwait in March 2003. He took part in the invasion of Iraq later that month before leaving the Army in December 2003.

After attending college and working as a contractor, Atkins returned to the Army in 2005 before deploying to Iraq in 2006.

A fitness center on Fort Drum was named for Atkins in January 2013.

Articles

This is what it’s like to do a little ‘Rangering’

During my first week in Ranger Battalion, I joined my platoon during a live fire. I wasn’t even allowed real bullets because I was so new. For a portion of the exercise I was on a hill watching the training of another platoon. I was in earshot of an old Ranger first sergeant. The Rangers in training were assaulting a constructed plywood building and were preparing to conduct an explosive breach on the plywood door. The team leader quickly applied the charge with double sided sticky tape and stepped back into the stack, pulling both detonators. “Failed Breach, Failed Breach!” was yelled. It was obvious the detonation cord was faulty.


Before anything else happened, the team leader barreled full speed into the plywood door, obliterating it from the hinges, and providing an entry point into the building. Without any hesitation, all three members of his team followed their leader right into the breach. The training mission went on and was completed successfully. The company commander was scowling about the breach technique but the first sergeant was grinning from ear to ear and bellowed, “That’s some good ole fashioned Rangering right there!” The company commander stopped scowling.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

I didn’t know much then, but I knew whatever this Rangering was, I wanted to try it and whatever a Ranger was, I wanted to be it. There’s a big difference between telling your friends, your family, or even your recruiter you want to be a Ranger, and then suddenly seeing a defining act of Rangering in front of you. It was an automatic sensation of knowing that you want to join the pack and you want to be the wolf. Rangers were never sheepdogs, they have always been wolves hunting the herd of treachery and I wanted to hunt.

We all touched down in a C-17 on a faraway land. Many of us landed in the C-17 by soaring over the mountains or screaming into the desert. Rarely did anyone go but once; in fact, many of our brothers are still going. What is special about Rangers is that on each of the thousands of deployment hours is someone who went to war months ago and is back again. A man, a team, a platoon, a battalion fully knowing the hazards of their chosen profession.

Running the gambit, sparking the fight, reliving the horror, noting the beauty, enduring the sacrifice, all this is symbolized by a simple scroll on your right sleeve that may as well be tied to your heart. There was a transformation taking place within me, within us all. Rangering made me hear the sound of valor and see the light of courage. The sound I could hear as I followed the drums of war and the light I could see in the enemy across the street.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Photo courtesy of US Army

Although this Rangering was a lifestyle, it came with the price of vanquishing what boyish innocence remained in my gaze upon the earth. I was now grown in ways that I could not possibly understand. It was magical and despicable what we were capable of. We flew across night skies, landed in fields, slinked over walls, eviscerated doors, and introduced ourselves to those souls who had lost the evening’s lottery in scumbaggery.

Whenever I returned from a mission, danger or not on that night, there was levity in the brotherhood. We had such little time to ourselves for being anything beyond Rangers and do anything beyond Rangering that when we did – it created exuberance for life that could not be contained. There was never a day without Rangers that I did not smile or laugh.

It’s for this reason that now when I look back, though I hated certain parts, though I despised endless training, though I constantly made other plans for outside of the military; I now feel nostalgia for those times with honorable men, I now feel pride in our shared struggle for our piece of war. I miss being John Wayne when everything was black and white. I miss being a note on the album Appetite for Destruction; I miss seeing the whites of the unsuspecting eyes. Goddamn it, a platoon of Rangers could do anything!

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
US Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock

The irony is that for all the Regiments glory, it’s not built for you to stay. So for me, and those like me, we fade back to which we came or we populate other military units. A small number stay, but the glory days of war hammer team leading and SpecFour Mafia mayhem, seem to disappear as the burden of leadership widens and the loss of lives grows vast. It was great while it lasted and the irony of that is that we all could have gone back had we really wanted to.

If it was so great, then why didn’t we? Probably because at this point it is better to tell these incredible stories, it’s good to drink this beer with war in the rear view, and it’s okay I never had a last shoot out at the Alamo. Rangering created more brothers than I ever could have wanted, but the pain of burying a brother is still the pain of burying a brother, no matter how many stand behind you. I still have the Ranger Creed. I still have my friends. I still have the sorrows of war; I still hear the sirens of action. And every now and then I can still be the teeth in the night, I can still laugh when things really suck, I can still run in short shorts.

“Rangering” was something I did, but I will always be a Ranger; you just have to look at my soul now instead of my sleeve.

MIGHTY TRENDING

13 photos of that huge, Air Force F-35 display

The ability to rapidly project power and force against any threat on a moment’s notice has long been a hallmark of American military might. Dozens of advanced stealth fighters carried on that tradition during a combat power exercise Nov. 19, 2018.

During the exercise, the US Air Force put a lot of destructive power in the air very quickly, launching a total of 35 F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters in 11 minutes.

Check out these stunning photos of this show of force by dozens of F-35s.


US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

Maintainers from the 388th Maintenance Group prepare an F-35A for its mission Nov. 19, 2018.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing prepare for takeoff as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

2. The milestone drill marks the first ever F-35 “Elephant Walk” combat power exercise, the purpose of which is to fly as many sorties as possible in a predetermined time period in preparation for a possible combat surge.

Source: The Drive

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing prepare for takeoff as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing prepare for takeoff as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing taxi as they prepare for takeoff prior to a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

5. The Air Force revealed that on any given day, the F-35 wings at Hill Air Force Base fly 30-60 sorties.

Source: Business Insider

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

Pilots from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings taxi F-35As on the runway in preparation for a combat power exercise Nov. 19, 2018, at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Fuchs)

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing fly by in formation as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

F-35A pilots from the 388th and 419th conducted a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Nov. 19, 2018.

(United States Air Force photo by Todd Cromar)

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

An F-35A Lightning II from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing fly by as part of a combat power exercise at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.

(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

9. The first of the US fifth-generation stealth fighters to fly an actual combat mission was an F-35B that was deployed against the Taliban in Afghanistan in late September 2018.

Source: Business Insider

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

F-35A Lightning IIs from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wing fly in close formation during the combat power exercise.

(United States Air Force photo by Cynthia Griggs)

10. During development, the F-35 has faced numerous setbacks. The aircraft, recognized as the most expensive in military history, suffered its first crash in South Carolina the same week it completed its first combat mission.

Source: Business Insider

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

A formation of F-35 Lightning IIs from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings stationed at Hill Air Force Base perform aerial maneuvers.

( U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Cory D. Payne)

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

A formation of 35 F-35A Lightning IIs, from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings fly over the Utah Test and Training Range as part of a combat power exercise on Nov. 19, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

12. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has ordered the Air Force and Navy to achieve a minimum of 80 percent mission capability rates for their F-35s, F-22s, F-16s, and F/A-18s by September 2019.

Source: Defense News

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

A formation of 35 F-35A Lightning IIs, from the 388th and 419th Fighter Wings fly over the Utah Test and Training Range during the exercise.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Lee)

13. Hill Air Force Base is expected to house three F-35 squadrons by the end of 2019.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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The 9 day jobs of brutal dictators

Everyone has to start somewhere. It’s not as if a young boy from Tikrit woke up one day and decided he would be known as “the Butcher of Baghdad.” It’s far more likely such a boy would just become a butcher. (And for the record, Saddam Hussein was trained to be a lawyer.)


US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Dictators at the Syrian Arab Summit, arguing about the most efficient ways to kill their own people. The winner was Hafez al-Asad, who decided to bulldoze the city of Hama, killing people and burying them at the same time.

Dictators are just like the rest of us (at least, at first). If they’re not born into powerful families, they will likely need to help their families make extra cash to survive or just make a living on their own until circumstances afford them the chance to take hold of the state’s coffers while stomping on the necks of their enemies real and perceived.

Here are the ways a few brutal dictators made ends meet while waiting for their big breaks:

Ho Chi Minh – Baker

The leader of the Vietnamese independence movement that liberated his home country from colonial France, as well as the figurehead for the North Vietnamese who fought the United States during the 1960s and 1970s also brought a brutal form of Communism to Vietnam. 50,000 to 100,000 people are thought to have been killed in his rise to power. He once said: “Anyone who does not follow the line determined by me will be smashed.”

Ho Chi Minh in 1921 (French National Library photo) Ho Chi Minh in 1921 (French National Library photo)

Before that, he claimed to be a baker at the Parker House Hotel while living in Boston in the early years of the 20th Century. He also spent time living in New York City, working in a series of menial labor jobs.

Pol Pot – Teacher

Born Saloth Sar, Pol Pot studied a number of disciplines as young man, but proved as capable a student as he was a capable leader, which is to say, not at all. He failed as a student in both France and his native Cambodia. When he came back, he taught at a school in the capital of Phnom Penh until he was forced out by the government.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Pol Pot’s students of life. (via Flickr User totalitarism)

In response, he changed his name to Pol Pot and took charge of the Khmer Rouge, ousting the government and installing himself as leader in 1975. He ruled for four years, presiding over the deaths of a million Cambodians after implementing disastrous economic, agricultural, and cultural reforms. Luckily for the average Cambodian, Vietnam invaded in 1979 to overthrow the regime.

Adolf Hitler – Artist

The boy who was all set to become a priest dropped out of the seminary in 1903 to be come a professional painter. His works were exact, unremarkable, unemotional landscapes that “was ripe for instruction he never received.” He moved to Vienna in 1908 and struggled there as a poor artist while the city’s culture incubated his racist and anti-Semitic ideas.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Hitler’s German Service Photo (Wikimedia Commons)

He left Vienna to dodge the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s draft for World War I. He was deemed unfit for service later anyway. He did volunteer in the Bavarian Army as a dispatch runner.

François Duvalier – Doctor

Haiti’s 40th president was a democratically elected black nationalist and classically trained doctor, which made him an excellent butcher of 30,000-60,000 Haitians. His education also earned him the nickname “Papa Doc.”

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Papa Doc with Nelson Rockefeller (Center for Latin American Studies)

The 41st President of Haiti was his son, Jean-Claude Duvalier, who was handed the name “Baby Doc,” despite not being a doctor at all. Baby Doc fled Haiti after a 1986 rebellion toppled the government.

Benito Mussolini – Author

Many dictators penned books. Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book is one of the bestselling books of all time. Hitler wrote Mein Kampf. Mussolini wrote romance novels. That’s right, romance novels.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Mussolini at the March on Rome (Wikimedia Commons – Public Domain)

The Cardinal’s Mistress tells the tragic story of,a 17th-century Catholic clergyman and his mistress. Lines like “cast a ray of your light into my darkened soul,” do much toward explaining why he was made to take the other fork in the career road, the one marked “dictator.”

Bashar al-Asad – Opthalmologist

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
(Kremlin Photo)

A graduate of Damascus University, Asad spent time as a doctor in his father’s (Syrian “President” Hafez al-Asad) army. He studied ophthalmology at London’s Western Eye Hospital. He returned to Syria when his brother Bassel was killed in a car crash to be groomed to take over for his father as “President” of Syria. Before ascending to leadership, his only administrative role ever, was head of the Syrian Computer Society.

Than Shwe – Mailman

The man who shipped almost a million Burmese people off to jungle gulags and work camps led one of the most repressive, autocratic regimes in the history of Earth. The military junta led by Than Shwe even executed Buddhist monks by the hundreds, dumping their bodies in the wilds and countrysides of Burma.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Shwe is rumored to have colon cancer that can’t metastasize fast enough. (Government of Thailand photo)

As a younger man, fresh from school, Than Shwe worked at the Meikhtila Post Office as a postal clerk before enlisting in the Burmese Army and becoming an officer who would later be Prime Minister.

Muammar Qaddafi – Goat Herder

No one knows exactly when Qaddafi was born, but it’s widely known his family comes from a Bedouin tribe of nomads who were illiterate and didn’t maintain birth records. His father was a camel and goat herder who wanted his son to attend school.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Obviously no longer a goat herder.

Qaddafi would seize power in 1969 while the pro-Western King Idris was away on state business. Qaddafi increased the Libyan quality of life at the cost of mass political repression and extrajudicial killings. In the early days of the Civil War that would lead to his overthrow and death, he ordered his army to starve the citizens of his own cities and kill any government troops who surrendered to the rebels.

Stalin – Weatherman

Joseph Stalin, the brutal Russian dictator and one of the deadliest dictators in history was actually born Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili, a Georgian seminary student with webbed toes. He dropped out of the seminary and worked as a meteorological clerk before joining Vladimir Lenin’s Bolshevik Movement. He started using the name Stalin around 1912.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Also he was apparently a god-damned hipster 70 years before it was a thing.

The estimated number of people killed by Stalin’s regime and its policies range between three and sixty million Soviet citizens, with the higher victim estimates being more common among experts.

 

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US general concerned about Russia’s military buildup in the Arctic

A U.S. commander in Alaska has expressed concern about Russia’s recent military buildup in the Arctic, saying it threatens the historically peaceful region.


“What concerns me about Russia is not that they have icebreakers and not that 25 percent of their economy is based in the Arctic. It’s the offensive military capability that they are adding to their force that’s Arctic-capable,” Air Force Lieutenant General Ken Wilsbach told the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce on May 25.

“If you really want to keep the Arctic a peaceful place where heretofore it has been, then why are you building offensive capabilities?” he asked. “My question is, are the Russians taking a page out of the Chinese playbook…whereby they declare an area is now Chinese sovereign territory [and] have overwhelming military force in that area?”

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Lt. General Ken Wilsbach (left) – DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Travis Litke

Wilsbach defended Russia’s five recent military flights near Alaska’s coast, however, saying they were legal and never entered U.S. airspace.

On the growing threat from North Korea, he said that while Pyongyang had been test-firing missiles that have an increasing capacity to reach parts of Alaska, the United States had “strong defensive capabilities” to deal with them.

Based on reporting by AP and the Fairbanks Daily News Miner

Articles

This Army officer beat cancer twice while going through Ranger School

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Army 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski, a Ranger School graduate and cancer survivor, told recent Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course graduates and future Ranger students at Fort Benning, Ga., to attack every second of the Ranger course, Oct. 2, 2015. Courtesy photo by Danielle Wallingsford Kirkland


FORT BENNING, Ga., October 20, 2015 — Speaking to a room-full of infantry lieutenants at the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment Headquarters here Oct. 2, Army 2nd Lt. Michael Janowski sought to motivate recent Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course graduates with his story of resilience as they prepared to begin the Ranger course in a couple of days.

Last year, Janowski graduated from Ranger School and beat cancer twice in the process.

“Hopefully, I can give you a new perspective today,” Janowski said.

Janowski told the lieutenants that he began Ranger School on July 21, 2014, but during the Ranger Training Assessment Course he began to have medical concerns.

“I didn’t want to go to the hospital, because I didn’t want to lose my Ranger slot. I was too naive, too stubborn. So I went to Ranger School anyway,” he said.

Janowski didn’t tell the course medics about his medical concerns. Instead, he confided in a fellow student who happened to be a Special Forces medic.

“After a few days, he pulled me to the side and was like, ‘It’s not getting better and I’ve had this idea of what it might be, but I didn’t want to scare you. I think it’s cancer. You should go to the medics,'” Janowski said.

Testicular Cancer

That night, Janowski went to the medics and was rushed to the hospital, where he learned that he had stage-one testicular cancer.

He underwent surgery and returned to the Infantry Basic Officer Leadership Course, or IBOLC, the next day, where he said he wanted to return to Ranger School.

Janowski waited two weeks to find out if the surgery worked.

“During those two weeks I was extremely fearful, not knowing the road ahead, and those are some of the feelings you are going to feel when you’re at Ranger School,” he said. “You’re going to be afraid. You’re not going to know what’s next. You’re not going to know if you’re going to recycle. My fight with cancer was the best training I got for Ranger School.”

At the end of the two weeks, Janowski learned that the surgery worked, and he was cancer free. He returned to the Ranger course Sept. 5, just five weeks after his surgery.

“Everyone in this room, I guarantee, is better physically than I am,” he said. “I’m not very big, not very strong and not very fast, but I went through Ranger School five weeks after [having] cancer and made it through [Ranger Assessment Phase] week.”

Janowski told the lieutenants that if they want their Ranger tabs bad enough, they will get them.

“RAP week is too easy. Ranger School is too easy. You don’t have to be a physical stud to get through. It’s literally all mental,” he said. Janowski made it through RAP week and then took a blood test to make sure the cancer had not returned.

Cancer Returns

“During my eight-hour pass, I got pulled aside and they [told] me the cancer is back,” he recalled, noting the disease had spread to his lungs and abdomen and had become stage four.

Janowski was medically dropped from the Ranger course again and he began to question whether or not he would survive.

“So, now I’ve wasted a bunch of time. I just got the hell beat out of me for no reason and I’m still losing. Trying to pick myself up after that was impossible,” he said. Janowski went to his hometown for medical leave and spent three months going through chemotherapy.

Getting Treatment

“It was five hours a day of just sitting in a chair, getting poison pumped into your body. It doesn’t hurt in the moment, but those days as it goes on and on it just beats you down,” he said.

During his treatment, Janowski said he lost all of his hair and watched himself physically deteriorate.

“Near the end of it I was at the bottom of the stairs trying to get up and I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t walk up the stairs. And there were moments when I was in Mountain Phase when I was sitting there at 3 a.m. on a long walk, looking up to the top of the mountain and thinking there’s no way I’m getting up this mountain. Then I thought back to those days, where I sat at the bottom of the stairs,” he said.

He told the lieutenants they will have moments in Ranger School when they feel like they can’t possibly complete the task at hand.

“I can tell you from my experience, the body will go forever. Your mind will shut off before your body does,” he said.

Janowski said every Ranger student should push themselves beyond their limits.

“Trust me, your body will not fail you. You’re going to feel like you have nothing left in the tank, but I’ve seen what it’s like to be on the edge of death when the chemo completely broke me down to where I couldn’t stand on my own two feet without somebody helping me — and the body still had more to give,” he said.

When Janowski finished his chemotherapy treatments, he began looking for alternative ways to serve his country. He thought he would be medically discharged, but he realized that he truly wanted to complete the Ranger course.

Determined to Complete Ranger School

“I didn’t want to be older and telling my kids how to get through tough times and then look back at my own track record and realize that I let Ranger School get away, to realize that the cancer beat me,” he said.

Janowski returned to the 2nd Battalion, 11th Infantry Regiment and began IBOLC.

“I came back two weeks after chemo and suffered through IBOLC,” he said. “Guys were trying to get me to do hill sprints and I thought I was going to have a heart attack. I was pathetic. Doing 10 push-ups was awful.”

Despite the difficulty, Janowski made it through IBOLC and prepared to return to Ranger School for the third time.

But on June 10, 11 days before the course was to begin, he received a phone call from his doctor, who said the cancer had returned.

“At this point, I’ve done surgery. I’ve done chemo. There’s nothing you can do for me. It’s just a time bomb. I’m going to die at some point,” he said.

Janowski said he went to his apartment that day and wept.

“I just sat there on the ground crying, so broken there was nothing anyone could have done for me,” he said.

False Positive

Luckily, that test had a false positive. Janowski was still cancer-free and he went to Ranger School as planned, June 21.

Janowski said his battle with cancer taught him to “attack,” because when you’re diagnosed with cancer there is no alternative.

“So, I’ll go into chemo and I’ll sit in the chair all day. I’ll do whatever it takes. I’ll attack all day,” he said.

Janowski said soldiers should have that attack mentality when they enter the Ranger course.

“When you go to your PT test on Monday, don’t ever tell yourself it’s only 49 push-ups. Hell no, get out there and be like ‘I’m going to do 1,000 push-ups,” he said. “I’m going to make this Ranger instructor count to a thousand because I know he is going to make my life hell for 62 days. Do not ever play defensive. Attack every second of Ranger School. Always maintain that aggressiveness, and you’re going to crush it.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

How an addict became a Navy SEAL and a nightmare for the Taliban

The biographies of most Navy SEALs probably don’t include a rap sheet — theft, possession of meth, possession of crack, and so on. But if there’s ever been a story of redemption through continued hard work and perseverance, it belongs to Adam Brown. Facing 11 felony drug and weapons charges after being found in a pool of his own blood, he opted into a drug rehab program — which only worked for a short while.

His best chance at turning his life around came in the form of a SEAL trident.


Brown’s life began like so many other good-ol’ American boys before him. The Arkansas native was a straight-A student and star football player. He was kind, respectful to his elders, and always ready for goodnatured fun. It wasn’t until he met an old flame that his descent into addiction began. She had a drug habit and, though Brown enjoyed a drink, he wasn’t inclined toward anything harder than that. Eventually, his girlfriend wore him down and he was hooked after one hit of crack-cocaine.

From there, he devolved into injecting it into his veins. Then, he began to try other drugs. Eventually, he could only be found on the floors of crack houses. He hit rock bottom when the girl who helped get him hooked eventually left and he began stabbing himself in the neck with a knife. When police found him, he was laying in a pool of his own blood. That’s when they discovered all his outstanding warrants. Facing massive jail time and a family that was done with his addictive behaviors, the judge gave him the choice: rehab or jail.

It was in rehab that Brown gave his life over to Christianity and met his soon-to-be wife, also a fervent believer. The two were happy, but Brown soon regressed. After a short disappearance, his new bride found him in a crack house. Addiction is a viscous and persistent curse, and this same scenario repeated itself until his new love threatened to leave.

By 1998, he knew he had to do something, so he stopped into a recruiter’s office after finding out a friend was joining the Navy as an aviator. The recruiter balked when Brown revealed his drug use and rap sheet, but Brown had a friend in a high place: the highest-ranking recruiting officer in the region. He vouched for Brown, who was almost immediately shipped out to basic training.

He showed up with just the clothes on his back and went straight for SEAL training.

“The training awakened in Adam the psycho who never quit,” Eric Blehm, author of ‘Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown’ told Investors Business Daily. “He also had Kelley [his wife] and his faith, which gave him a refuge and a shield of strength.”
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Brown and Family, shortly before his last deployment to Afghanistan.

He was sent to SEAL Team Four, where he ended up with a knife in his eye due to a training accident. He covered the wound and continued on, eventually having to have the eye stitched up due to a loss of blood. He later lost his right eye — his dominant eye — during a room-clearing exercise and still he pressed on. He just learned to shoot with his left eye in SEAL sniper school.

Even with a 50-percent washout rate among those with two eyes, Adam Brown succeeded. He decided he wanted to join what he thought was the best of the best: SEAL Team Six. While waiting for the right time to train with SEAL Team Six, he took a deployment to Afghanistan in 2005, where a freak convoy accident left his right hand mangled and missing fingers. Instead of tending to his own wounds, he tended to others and pulled security until the last casualty was evacuated from the site.

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When you can’t shoot with your dominant hand, just use the other hand.

With his dominant eye and his dominant hand both out, Brown did exactly what you’d expect him to do: he simply learned to work with his other hand. For a year, he made history as the only SEAL to ever attempt (let alone pass) the training with only one eye. And he was shooting almost-perfect scores.

By November, 2006, Brown was Chief Petty Officer Brown and the following years saw more hardship and deployments for the SEAL. He bore the pain of arthritis, a bad back, a broken leg, and surgery on both ankles so he could return to combat duty. He deployed to Afghanistan’s Kunar Valley and to the cities and villages all over Iraq, going on nightly raids chasing IED bomb-makers. Brown was only 33.

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Navy SEAL Adam Brown personally went out of his way to hand out shoes and socks to Afghan kids in need.

(NavySEALs.com)

His final deployment came in March of 2010. Their mission was to kill or capture a high-value Taliban leader, code-named Objective Lake James. Just like the bomb-makers in Iraq, the target was responsible for the deaths of many American and NATO soldiers. Flying into the mountains of Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush via Chinook Helicopter, Brown and the other STS SEALs fast-roped into the area and humped to a nearby village.

As the SEALs approached a stronghold, they managed to silently take out an enemy sentry, but another fired at the SEALs with his AK-47. As the area opened up with small arms fire, the SEAL Team needed to get a grenade in a nearby window. It was close, but not close enough to throw one in. As Brown made his way around with a grenade launcher, shots rang out to his left, riddling the determined SEAL with bullets. He was hit in both legs. Once he was down, other enemy positions poured bullets toward him.

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His fellow SEALs got him out of the line of fire, but it would not be enough to save Adam Brown’s life. He died later that day, back at the base.

Though Brown’s story ends in his tragic death, it’s nonetheless a story about the power of human will in overcoming any challenge. Brown showed us that you can always shape your life in any way you want, and all it takes is the love and support of your family, friends, and the people who will always have your back. Fearless is a fitting name for his story – there was nothing in life that Adam Brown couldn’t overcome to shape his own destiny.

Read about Brown’s struggle against addiction along with all his combat successes and failures in Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown, by Eric Blehm.

Articles

3 reasons ‘resilience’ is more than an overused buzzword

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(Photo: U.S. Army)


Young veterans often ask me why they should care about resilience. It’s a fair question. At this point, the term is almost meaningless – an overused buzzword. American military culture in particular has packaged “resilience” into an unsexy powerpoint training requirement. It seems like an add-on. An annoyance.

It’s unfortunate, because resilience practices are key to maximizing performance. And when you’re performing optimally, your family, your team, and the other people around you benefit significantly. We’re better off in every area of our lives – personally and professionally – when we practice resilience trait cultivation.

The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.  

I promise not to spend the next few paragraphs trying to convince you to drink green smoothies and sit on a therapist’s couch. There’s a lot more to wellness than that. Instead, we’ll examine some simple tactics you can start using today to build a better life.

1. Social Support: Surround Yourself With Good People

The first and most important step in building resilience is making the hard choice to surround yourself with great people. If you don’t have them around you, you can’t get started. You won’t start or keep growing.

This seems like an obvious step, but it’s a real challenge for some. It was for me.

The truth is, you’ve got a battle ahead and you’re most likely to succeed if you have like-minded people to walk with you as you make some changes. I’m not saying you have to hang out with people who look, think, and talk like you, but you do have to spend time with people who are supportive and interested in their own growth and development.

Take a moment to honestly evaluate the influence of the people in your life. Is their influence negative and destructive or positive? If you don’t have great people around you right now, that’s ok. It means you have plenty of room to grow.

You may need to make some serious life changes to find a more positive tribe. You may also need to put yourself in some uncomfortable situations to meet new people. Perhaps you’ll find your new group volunteering, on a sports team, or as part of a faith community.

If you’re not in a great place right now, or you don’t have many skills when it comes to connecting with other people, you might be feeling shame or a lack of confidence. Do some outreach anyway. Be willing to risk sharing things that feel deeply personal. You’ll be surprised at how supportive people can be when you open up.

Think about this intense challenge in terms of improving yourself for the people you love.

2. Self-Care: Calm Your Body and Mind

Start here by choosing just one or two healthy practices you can incorporate as daily habits, then track how they benefit your life. Don’t worry about trying to change everything at once.

By practicing effective self-care to calm your body and mind, you can become less reactive to external stressors. When you’re less reactive, you’re more capable of engaging in positive social interactions. Better social interactions result in increased social support. Improved social support increases your physical and emotional health. There’s a ripple effect here that’s really exciting.

Self-care can be as simple as cooking at home or going back to the gym. What you’re looking for is something that makes you feel relaxed. You might be working hard, but you’re going to feel your sympathetic nervous system (body and mind) calm down. Some people call it a click. An exhale. A downshift. When you feel it, you’ll know you found your thing.

Think of your sympathetic nervous system like a dashboard: It’s where your perception, speech, and moving about in the world happens. It’s where you live when you’re alert. Our goal through self-care is to pump the brakes and calm down this side of our nervous system.

When our brains shift to rest, our bodies and minds are refreshed and we’re more capable of controlling our emotions, focusing, and engaging in high-level thinking. You can reach this rested state by sleeping, but you don’t have to be sleeping to be in this zone. You may also get there by swimming, snowboarding, gardening, praying, meditating, or hitting flow in some other activity you enjoy. Most of us – particularly those of us with stress injuries – are sadly lacking in this rested state.

As you begin incorporating daily self-care practices into your life, track your progress. Take note of how you feel two weeks in. Do you feel better? More focused? Do you sleep better at night? Are you feeling less pain?

Remember that self-care will differ for every person. For example, if meditation isn’t for you and you keep trying it, it can actually increase your stress. You may not be a meditator – you may be a trail runner. It’s about trial and error. Don’t be surprised if what works for you changes over the years. The most important thing is to maintain your willingness to practice, and understand that it may take time to discover what works best for you.

3. Spirituality: Find Your Meaning

Finally, there’s a clear correlation between physical, mental, and emotional resilience and a sense of meaning in our lives. We all need a connection to someone higher – with God, or a sense of personal purpose. Whether you approach this aspect of resilience from a secular perspective (think Maslow’s hierarchy with transcendance at the top) or with a theological view, give yourself some time to ask questions about the source of purpose and meaning in your life.

To plug into a community that supports you as you explore this aspect of resilience, consider getting involved with your church, synagogue, or specific faith group, volunteering, giving generously, or taking time to study a faith practice you’ve been curious about.

Editor’s note: Each week WATM will be presenting a new column by Dr. Hendricks Thomas on topics important to the veteran community.

About the Author

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance, here.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Troops supporting pandemic response should get hazard pay, Senator says

Republican Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, a retired member of the Iowa National Guard and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, has proposed that service members deployed for COVID-19 response get hazardous duty pay.

Ernst plans to introduce legislation this week that would provide a tax-free stipend for all active-duty, Reserve and National Guard members fighting the pandemic. If enacted, it would provide a monthly bonus as well as back pay to the initial date of deployment for thousands of service members.


The senator, who served in Kuwait and Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said those on the front lines potentially exposing themselves to illness deserve the support.

“Whether it’s delivering personal protective equipment, food, or medical supplies, our National Guardsmen and women have answered the call to help during COVID-19,” Ernst said in a statement released Tuesday. “As a former Iowa Army National Guardsmen, I could not be more proud of their tireless and selfless efforts.”

According to the Pentagon, more than 62,800 service members, including 46,800 National Guard members, are supporting COVID-19 response. The troops are treating patients, conducting coronavirus testing, distributing food and personal protective equipment and helping at hotels housing homeless persons who have tested positive for the virus.

As of Tuesday, 889 members of the National Guard Bureau had tested positive for COVID-19. A Guardsman, Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, was the first service member to die of the virus, although he had not been mobilized for COVID-19 response.

Nearly 5,000 additional U.S. service members have contracted COVID-19, 100 have been hospitalized and two have died: Hickok and Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, who was assigned to the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and died April 13.

Nationwide, cases of COVID-19 reached nearly 2 million on Tuesday, with 70,646 American deaths.

For most members of the U.S. military, hazardous duty incentive pay totals 0 a month.

Military advocates, including the National Guard Association of the United States and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States threw their support behind Ernst’s legislation Tuesday.

“By definition, hazardous duty incentive pay is a monetary incentive for volunteers who perform hazardous duty based upon the inherent dangers of that duty and the risks of physical injury. EANGUS agrees with Sen. Joni Ernst that the duty our National Guard members are performing embodies that risk, and should receive hazardous duty incentive pay for COVID-19 response duty,” said retired Sgt. Maj. Frank Yoakum, EANGUS executive director.

Ernst’s proposed legislation follows a similar request last month from the American Federation of Government Employees, which is seeking hazardous duty pay for Department of Veterans Affairs workers caring for patients at VA facilities.

“I … implore Congress to pass legislation to provide hazardous duty pay to all front-line federal employees not already covered by existing laws like our nurses in federal prisons, and health care workers at the VA who provide direct patient care to our nation’s veterans,” AFGE National President Everett Kelley said in a statement.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

NATO agrees that Russia is in violation of major treaty

NATO allies agree that Russia is in material breach of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and have decided to start planning for a post-INF Treaty world, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels Dec. 4, 2018.

The secretary general spoke following a meeting of foreign ministers at NATO headquarters. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo represented the United States at the meeting.

“All allies have concluded that Russia has developed and fielded a new ground-launched cruise missile system — the SSC-8, also known as the 9M729,” Stoltenberg said. “Allies agree that this missile system violates the INF Treaty and poses significant risks to Euro-Atlantic security. And they agree that Russia is therefore in material breach of its obligations under the INF Treaty.”


Tensions raised in Europe

The treaty — signed by President Ronald Reagan and then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987 – was a pillar of European security. The treaty eliminated an entire category of destabilizing weapons. Russia’s deployment ratchets up tension on the continent.

“This is really serious, because, of course, all missiles are dangerous, but these missiles are in particular dangerous because they are hard to detect, they are mobile [and] they are nuclear-capable,” the secretary general said at a news conference.

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks with reporters during a foreign ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Dec. 4, 2018.

(NATO photo)

The new Russian missiles can reach European cities, thus reducing warning time. “And they also reduce the threshold for nuclear weapons in the event of a conflict,” he said. “That’s the reason why the INF Treaty has been so important, and that is why it is so serious that this treaty risks breaking down because of the Russian violations.”

Stoltenberg said the United States has made every effort to engage with Russia, and to seek answers about the new missile. “The U.S. has raised the matter formally with Russia at senior levels more than 30 times,” he said. “Other allies have raised it with Russia, too. We did so, a few weeks ago, in the NATO-Russia Council here in Brussels.”

Violation undermines allied security

But Russia has not listened and continues to produce and deploy the missiles. This violation “erodes the foundations of effective arms control and undermines allied security,” Stoltenberg said. “This is part of Russia’s broader pattern of behavior, intended to weaken the overall Euro-Atlantic security architecture.”

US calls on Russia to withdraw support for Syrian president

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The United States fully complies with the INF Treaty. “There are no new U.S. missiles in Europe, but there are new Russian missiles in Europe,” he said. “Arms control agreements are only effective if they are respected by all sides. A situation where the U.S. abides by the treaty and Russia does not is simply not sustainable.”

The NATO allies call on Russia once again to comply with the treaty. At the same time, the alliance will take appropriate actions to ensure the credibility and effectiveness of NATO’s deterrence and defense strategy, he said. “We will continue to keep Russia’s military posture and deployments under close review,” Stoltenberg said.

No one in NATO wants a new Cold War with a new arms race, he said. “We seek dialogue, not confrontation, with Russia,” the secretary general said. “Russia now has a last chance to come back into compliance with the INF Treaty, but we must also start to prepare for a world without the treaty.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

American troops tried to find Viet Cong tunnels using witching rods

For more than five centuries, farmers, treasure hunters, and others have applied a pseudoscientific practice known as “dowsing” to find water, caves, graves and more.


During the Vietnam War, American troops tried using the method to divine the location of Viet Cong tunnel networks.

It didn’t work.

Continually frustrated by the underground networks, the Pentagon made locating and destroying the subterranean passages a main goal in 1967. A year later, defense contractor HRB Singer told the Office of Naval Research that dowsing might hold the answer.

“Undoubtedly, any system that offers some promise of improving the odds above pure chance of discovering and locating the enemy is worth a try — if nothing else is available,” the scientists explained in a 1968 report. The U.S. Army and Navy had both so far failed to build a machine that could reliably detect the tunnels.

In spite of repeated studies failing to prove any scientific basis for dowsing, the practice has endured to the present day. HRB Singer was optimistic that dowsing could help in South Vietnam.

Debates have raged about whether dowsing works since the practice first evolved in Germany in the 15th century. In 1518, Christian theologian Martin Luther decried the practice as occultic — and an affront to God.

A common understanding surrounding dowsing is that certain people can either innately sense small shifts in Earth’s magnetic fields that indicate open underground areas such as caverns. These individuals can train others to feel these changes. Others have linked the diving to psychic abilities or other factors.

Dowsers may use a Y- or L-shaped wood or metal pole —typically called a “divining rod” or “witching rod” — to help in their search. However, some practitioners don’t use any special tools.

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U.S. Army troops investigate a Viet Cong tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Despite widespread skepticism, HRB Singer was quick point out dowsing’s clear military applications — if it worked. In South Vietnam, Communist rebels routinely ambushed American troops from camouflaged spider holes and bunkers linked to extensive underground networks.

“The evidence suggests that this network of underground installations which has been under construction for more than 20 years is an even better base for communist guerrilla … than was Castro’s Sierra Maestra range in Cuba,” HRB Singer’s Richard Bossart wrote in the report.

The Pentagon was trying pretty much anything it could think of to close these tunnels. In 1963, the Army tried using anti-tank rockets to blast into the underground pathways.

Three years later, the ground combat branch started working on a handheld device that could accurately measure differences in magnetic fields to find the Viet Cong hideaways. Dogs were another option.

In 1967, the Air Force looking into trying liquids that would change colors if surface temperature was markedly colder from that underground. This could indicate a large heat source such as a mass of people or a cooking fire.

None of these projects were working out. Between 1966 and 1971, the Army spent more than $500,000 on the portable magnetometer — nearly $3 million in 2016 dollars — and only got a dozen prototype devices to South Vietnam for tests.

With few options, American troops had already turned to dowsing in the field before HRB Singer started their research. Around the same time HRB Singer started their research, the U.S. Marine Corps went so far as to “train” a small group to dowse for tunnels.

The Marine Corps Development and Educational Command put the leathernecks through a four-hour course in the practice. In March 1968, Associated Press reporters spotted the troops near their base at Khe Sanh using bent brass rods to find their subterranean foes.

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U.S. Army specialist Marvin Miller drops a smoke grenade into a tunnel. | U.S. Army photo

Bossart and his colleagues hadn’t been able to figure out if the Marines’ had any luck with their witching rods. But it wasn’t enough to dissuade him from moving forward with his own investigations.

“The fact that detecting and locating tunnels is so critical that the niceties of scientific rigor can be de-emphasized, if necessary,” the HRB Singer researcher noted. In his opinion, the fact that American forces were doing it already made objections “somewhat academic.”

After reviewing the available literature, the HRB Singer team — including a number of employees who were amateur spelunkers — kicked off its own experiment. Having already used dowsing in their hobby, these individuals were happy to explore the phenomenon.

The company’s experts worked together with locals and students in and around Pennsylvania State University. The test subjects found a underground cavern in one case and a septic tank in another.

“These experiments are by no means meant to indicate proof of dowsing,” Bossart was quick to acknowledge in his conclusions. “They are in general uncontrolled and subject to reasonable doubt.”

Still, Bossart felt the results showed the potential of dowsing and the need for more and better studies. The key was trying to conclusively prove whether the practice was a science, an art or pure luck.

In the end, neither HRB Singer nor the Marine Corps could prove a scientific underpinning for dowsing. In 1971, with the Vietnam War steadily winding down, the Marines canned their program.

With its continued popularity in certain regions of the United States, the practice continues to pop up in military circles. In 1988, Air Force lieutenant colonel Dolan McKelvy made the case for dowsing among other types of “psychic warfare” as part of an Air War College research project.

The Marine Corps “did not discredit dowsing, but merely pointed out it is a special skill his marines hadn’t mastered,” according to Dolan. “It probably requires more than a four-hour short course for use operationally.”

In 1990, Lewis Carl, a “professional dowser,” tried again to get the Army interested in dowsing. Carl claimed the practice could help solve water problems for American troops rushing to the Persian Gulf following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

Four years later, David Gaisford conducted his own experiments into the procedure as a student at the Air Force Institute of Technology. In reviewing the historical record, he noted that the Marines had concluded there was no “scientific basis” for the practice.

The ground combat branch wasn’t interested in Carl’s offer. And just like those before him, Gaisford couldn’t find any solid evidence and called for more research.

Today, civilian scientists and engineers and their military counterparts generally rely on advanced magnetometers, radars and lasers to see enemy tunnels and other threats beneath the surface. So far, no one has been able to convince the Pentagon to add witching rods to soldiers’ packs.

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