How veterans are using writing to heal - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

How veterans are using writing to heal

Navy veteran and creative writing gold medalist Patrick Ward is excited to share his work at this year’s Vet Gala at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF). His featured story can be found among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.

“Writing has helped bring me back to the person that I want to be,” Ward said. “I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to be here and to share my story with others. We all have stories to tell. My hope in telling mine is that it inspires someone while I’m here.”


Inspiration and healing

Gary Beckwith, creator of the annual Veterans Literacy Jam at Battle Creek VA Medical Center and one of this year’s NVCAF writing event organizers, says he hopes veterans realize their potential and leave feeling healed.

How veterans are using writing to heal

Navy Veteran and creative writer, Patrick Ward (right), listens during a discussion at the writing workshop at the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. Ward’s story is among the 15 short stories and poems displayed in Writers’ Row at the festival’s Artist and Writer Exhibition.

“I believe that writing can be a cathartic experience,” said Beckwith. “The writing workshops and Vet Gala were designed to, not only highlight the talents of our writers, but were organized with the hopes that veterans leave here feeling inspired.”

During the festival, writers take the opportunity to speak about their writing and how it has affected their health, emotional well-being and recovery.

Army veteran Otto Espenschied has used writing to help him overcome Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and cope during a nine-year battle with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Recently receiving a gold medal for his short story titled, “I Don’t Have PTSD,” he explains that writing and participating in this year’s festival has helped him understand that he is stronger than he ever knew.

“It’s hard to dream when you’re barely holding on,” he said. “Writing has helped get me through some tough times, but I’m alive. I can hug my daughters and my wife each day. What more can I ask for?”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

‘The Mandalorian’ episode 8 recap: This is the Why

The eighth chapter is finally here and this time it’s directed by Thor: Ragnarok’s Taika Waititi – and it’s everything you thought a Star War directed by Taika Waititi would be. Everything we hoped it might be.

Even the scout troopers got a touch of personality in this episode. Consider this your spoiler warning.


How veterans are using writing to heal

With an appearance by Jason Sudeikis and Adam Pally.

(LucasFilm)

In this chapter of The Mandalorian, we learn a lot about Our Mandalorian. After we learn the scout troopers have murdered Kuiil and taken the Yoda Baby. We see one of the troopers actually punch the Yoda Baby before getting murdered themselves by the avenging nurse droid, IG-11. Back in the city, we find the heroes still trapped by a legion of Stormtroopers, led by everyone’s favorite villain Giancarlo Esposito, Moff Gideon, who gives them until nightfall to decide if they’re going to cooperate with the Imperial leader’s demands.

IG-11 rides into town like a one-droid army on a speeder bike, dropping stormtrooper bodies all over the streets until he reaches the square where our heroes are pinned down. IG, with the Yoda Baby on his back, continues his rampage as our pinned-down heroes break out of the building. Our Mandalorian even picks up an E-Web Heavy Repeating Blaster that looks like something Carl Weathers might have used in Predator.

How veterans are using writing to heal

(LucasFilm)

But before this amazing gunfight takes place, we learn a lot about our heroes – from Moff Gideon. It turns out the Moff was more than just an Imperial leader, but was part of an intelligence network. He knew the names of Cara Dune, and that she was from Alderaan, which explains why she hated the Empire so much. We also learn Our Mandalorian has a name, Din Djarin and he wasn’t born on Mandalore. In fact, Mandalorian isn’t even a race, it’s a creed. More importantly, we learn how Our Mandalorian became Mandalorian and why the Yoda Baby means so much to him.

In a flashback, we learn Djarin’s village and his parents were massacred by B2 Super Battle Droids when he was a boy. Just before meeting his own death at the hands of these droids, the young Djarin is rescued by a band of Mandalorian warriors who destroy the droids and carry the young boy off, presumably to Mandalore. Back on Nevarro, however, things look grim for our heroes.

Until the Yoda Baby comes into play.

How veterans are using writing to heal

“I’ma stop you right there.”

(LucasFilm)

Moff Gideon critically wounds Our Mandalorian by shooting the power cell of the E-Web blaster. He is rescued by his compatriots but they are once again trapped in the building with certain death outside. As Our Mandalorian lays dying, he refuses Dune’s help as it would require removing his helmet. IG-11 opens the sewer grate right as an Incinerator Stormtrooper walks in to blast the room. Instead of burning the room, however, the flames blast him right out the door, thanks to the Yoda Baby, who stepped up to defend his injured father. Once all the humanoids are in the sewer, IG-11 convinces Djarin that since the droid is not alive, he can take his helmet off to receive medical treatment and for the first time, we see our antihero’s face.

Once healed and looking for the Mandalorians in the sewer, they instead find the remnants of their armor. The remaining Mandalorians had been hunted or killed after the Imperials arrived, though some may have escaped. The Armorer survived, however, and after hearing about the Yoda Baby’s strange powers, tells Djarin about the Jedi. Unable to determine the baby’s race, Karga reminds Djarin that his mission will now be to raise the baby or find his home world – reminding him that “this is the way.”

She also give him his earned signet. Oh, and a jetpack called “Rising Phoenix.” She tells them the way out and covers their exit with the dopest slaughter of stormtroopers seen in the Star Wars universe since IG-11 and the Yoda Baby in the town square fifteen minutes before.

How veterans are using writing to heal

Can we talk about this most brutal stormtrooper kill?

(LucasFilm)

Our heroes make their way down a river of lava, thanks to a boat propelled by a droid. IG-11 sacrifices himself so that the group isn’t killed by a platoon of stormtroopers waiting to ambush them, and then Mando takes on Moff Gideon flying a TIE Fighter, thanks to his handy new jetpack. Every thing is reset for season 2, as Cara Dune decides to stay on Nevarro and become a member of the Guild and Karga forgives Mando, offering him the choice picks of the bounty hunter jobs.

But our Mandalorian is now a full warrior, with a mission. He returns to his ship and flies into the sunset, presumably determined to find the Yoda Baby’s home.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch CIA Chief of Disguise break down iconic spy scenes

Joanna Mendez, former Central Intelligence Agency Chief of Disguise, watched spy scenes from a variety of films and television shows in order to break down how accurate they really are. From Jason Bourne finding his cache of passports and foreign currency to Carrie Mathison’s (Homeland) half-assed “disguise” through airport security, Mendez doesn’t hold back in her opinions and expertise.

During her 27-year career, her position in the CIA’s Office of Technical Service involved providing operational disguises and alias training in hostile theaters of the Cold War from Moscow to Havana. Her duties included clandestine photography and preparing CIA assets with the use of intelligence-collecting equipment like spy cameras, as well as processing the information brought in.

Think “Q” — James Bond Q, not Star Trek…

Now retired, Mendez continues to consult with the U.S. Intelligence community as well as lecture with her husband Antonio Mendez, also a retired intelligence officer, with whom she has published several books about their covert experience including Spy Dust, which reveals “the tools and operations that helped win the Cold War,” and Argo, which would become an Academy Award-winning film of the same name that told the story of “the most audacious rescue in history.”

In the video below, Mendez lets her critiques fly. Check it out:


Former CIA Chief of Disguise Breaks Down 30 Spy Scenes From Film & TV | WIRED

www.youtube.com

“Carrie’s disguise, which basically consisted of dying her hair…was absolutely ineffective. She’s still Carrie…but with dark hair. She could have cut her hair and restyled it. She could have changed her makeup. She could have put on sunglasses to hide that crazy-eyed look she has…” claps Mendez.

She then jumped to a scene from Alias where Jennifer Garner nails her disguise. “She didn’t just dye her hair — she dyed it outrageously red and then adopted the whole persona to go with it. We could have used that as a training film!” she laughed.

Mendez moves on to Matthew Rhys’ character in The Americans. “He was never trying to look good. He came really close to projecting ‘the little gray man’ that we would talk about at the CIA. You wanted to be forgettable,” she commended.

Mendez then moves on to a “quick change,” the name for a move where an agent clandestinely changes his appearance in 37 seconds. She commented on Mission Impossible III, and in particular discusses why Tom Cruise’s “priest” would have been ethically off-limits.

How veterans are using writing to heal

From Megan Fox in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver, Mendez breaks down the “quick change” further — and also warns against stealing.

The video covers blending in with the crowd in James Bond — and CIA inventions that helps its agents remain discrete; being assigned a new identity in Spy; cultural customs in Inglorious Bastards; and life-like masks that cover the entire face in order to give the appearance of a completely different face.

The video is highly entertaining, not just because it grabs clips from iconic pop culture favorites (Austin Powers and Sherlock Holmes make appearances) but also because Joanna Mendez has a great, wry humor (“we never tried to disguise ourselves as furniture at the CIA…”).

Watch the full video above and find out what the CIA really thinks about black cat suits and seducing the enemy!
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These daring defectors turned the Vietcong against itself

In 1966, the Marines in Vietnam found themselves with an unusual opportunity – to turn the tables on the enemy.


This came by way of Viet Cong and North Vietnamese defectors who were willing to be retrained to work and fight with American combat units. In exchange, they would receive better treatment and pay than they had at the hands of the communists.

This program dubbed “Chieu Hoi” (translated as “open arms”) offered defecting Viet Cong and North Vietnamese amnesty, healthcare, money, and employment assistance. After barely surviving under communist oppression, many were more than willing to give it up.

How veterans are using writing to heal
Kit Carson scouts were recruited from Vietcong defectors for their knowledge of the terrain and the local population. (Photo from AirborneOCS.com)

These incentives were enough to convince thousands of Viet Cong to desert and join the Americans. Due to their inherent knowledge of the terrain and the locals, the Marines called them Kit Carson scouts after the famous American frontiersman.

To the Vietnamese they were Hoi Chanh – or “one who has returned.”

To prepare for missions with American forces, communist defectors first had to pass training to become Kit Carson scouts.

For the 3rd Marine Division, an early proponent of the Kit Carson program, this training took place at Quang Tri City. Sergeant Maj. Tran Van Tranh, a communist infiltrator who defected when he saw the good life in South Vietnam, led the school there.

How veterans are using writing to heal
Recruiting leaflet for the Chieu Hoi program. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

At the school he lectured on mines, booby-traps, snipers, and ambushes. And how to detect and disarm each one.

In 1967, after seeing the effectiveness of the program with the Marines, U.S. commander Gen. William Westmoreland ordered all divisions to recruit and train at least 100 scouts each.

Other schools with other divisions soon followed. In the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Division the Hoi Chanhs became known as Tiger Scouts.

Despite their training and experience many Kit Carson Scouts lacked English language skills. This was overcome in the Marine Corps by training young Marines in the Vietnamese language prior to arriving in country. These Marines were then assigned as “handlers” to the scouts assigned to their unit.

The Kit Carson Scouts were able to perform numerous tasks that made them priceless to the American fighting men. They were able to talk to the local Vietnamese in their native language and could identify Viet Cong guerrillas in the villages.

Through their training and experience they became adept at spotting booby traps – often having laid some themselves – saving countless Americans from death and dismemberment.

Due to the nature of their work and being out in front of American forces the Kit Carson scouts often found themselves engaged in combat as well. Relying on their guerrilla instincts and proper military training from the Americans, they excelled.

Many were recommended for awards for their bravery.

The scouts proved their value early on. In a short period of time in late 1966 the few Kit Carson Scouts assigned to the Marines were credited with nearly 50 enemy kills and the detection of nearly 20 mines, booby-traps, or tunnels.

Another scout led Marines through unfamiliar territory, at night, allowing them to surprise and capture a 15-man contingent of Viet Cong.

In another instance, a scout on patrol with Recon Marines fought savagely when the unit was ambushed. His suppressive fire in the face of overwhelming odds drove the enemy back. He then located a suitable landing zone for extraction and single-handedly carried two wounded Marines there. It was only after he fell, exhausted, while working to clear the landing zone that the Marines realized he had been shot three times but had never stopped.

The usefulness of the Kit Carson Scouts did not stop on the battlefield though.

They were equally as valuable in civil affairs and psychological operations due to their understanding of the local population and the enemy. Most importantly, they could help recruit more Viet Cong to rally to the government’s cause.

In total, over 83,000 Viet Cong were convinced to defect to South Vietnam, though only a small number would become Kit Carson Scouts.

In a paper detailing his experiences as the Officer in Charge of Kit Carson Scouts for the 3rd Marine Division Capt. William Cowan explained “the methods of effective Scout employment are restricted only by the imagination…success varies proportionally with the unit’s attitude and methods of employment.”

He gives the example of a Kit Carson Scout, Nguyen Thuong, who worked with 2nd Battalion 9th Marines. This particular scout could do it all.

In one instance Thuong discovered a well-concealed trap but because of his experience he suspected an enemy observation post in the area. His keen instinct was correct and the Marines were able to sweep through and destroy it.

In a later mission, Thuong braved enemy mortars to determine their firing position and called out the coordinates, in English, to the Marines who were able to call for fire and silence the position.

Thuong also made broadcasts for the Marines psychological operations efforts and acted as a clandestine agent in the villages around the Cam Lo artillery base. His intelligence gathering was far superior to anything the Marines could hope to accomplish on their own.

The service of men like Thuong proved invaluable to the overall war effort. By wars end over 200 Kit Carson Scouts had been killed in action out of less than 3,000 who served with the Americans.

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After weathering controversy, Wounded Warrior Project names Linnington as CEO

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General Linnington greets President Obama next to Marine One. (Photo: DVIDS)


Today, the Wounded Warrior Project Board of Directors announced the appointment of Michael S. Linnington to the position of Chief Executive Officer of the Wounded Warrior Project. Linnington is joining WWP from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, where he was appointed Director by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter in 2015. His 35-year military career included three combat tours and a number of command positions.

Linnington’s appointment follows a CBS News report about WWP that resulted in the firings last March of the previous CEO Steve Nardizzi and COO Al Giordano for misusing funds for extravagant parties and other perks that ate up nearly 50 percent of donated money. (The average overhead for veteran charities is approximately 10-15 percent.)

WWP’s interim CEO, retired Major General Charlie Fletcher, will remain in place until Linnington takes over on July 18. The WWP Board has also announced they planned to add another four members before the end of the year.

“Mike’s extensive military experience and proven leadership credentials make him the perfect candidate to lead WWP,” Anthony Odierno, Chairman of the WWP Board of Directors, said. “Mike understands the unique needs of our nation’s veteran community, is a collaborative team-builder, and is deeply committed to fulfilling our mission of honoring and empowering Wounded Warriors. I am excited for WWP’s path forward under his leadership.”

“I had the privilege of working with General Linnington in his role as Director of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, and know him to be a man of honor and integrity,” Bill Rausch, executive director of Got Your 6, said. “The veteran and military family communities — and our entire nation — will benefit from his demonstrated leadership and dedication.”

Linnington’s active duty tours included command of the Third Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is an Airborne, Air Assault, Pathfinder and Ranger qualified officer, and earned the Expert Infantryman’s Badge and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. He is a West Point graduate.

According to their website, “WWP’s purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public’s aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.”

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Video: This is the changing face of rotary-wing aviation

Lockheed Martin’s mysterious “Skunk Works” experimental division has become famous for game-changing aerospace breakthroughs. The SR-71 Blackbird; the F-117 Nighthawk; the U-2 Dragon Lady; and the F-80 Shooting Star all were pioneering designs that came from this legend of research and development.


Now, joining those game-changing planes could be the Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System, or ARES.

How veterans are using writing to heal
ARES, or Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System, is an unmanned VTOL flight module system designed to transport a variety of payloads. (Photo from Lockheed Martin Skunk Works)

According to BreakingDefense.com, ARES is a joint product between the Skunk Works and Piasecki Aircraft, an aerospace company out of Pennsylvania. The prototype tiltrotor drone, which features a 41-foot wingspan, a combat radius of 175 miles, and a top speed of 170 knots, is slated to take flight sometime next year.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) website notes that ARES would be able to fulfill a number of missions that previously required piloted helicopters. For instance, the resupply and MEDEVAC missions that won Ed “Too Tall” Freeman and Bruce “Snakeshit” Campbell the Medal of Honor during the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley could be carried out by ARES. Furthermore, a video on the Lockheed Martin website explains how ARES could land in a space half the size required by a traditional helicopter.

How veterans are using writing to heal
ARES has a unique design that allows it to adapt to multiple missions with interchangeable payloads; including medical evacuation units, cargo pods, a tactical ground vehicle, troops, and armed scout, reconnaissance and strike capabilities. (Photo from Lockheed Martin Skunk Works)

One other item of note is that the smaller payload will actually increase the tactical mobility of deployed troops.

“You could take a big Chinook or a [CH-53] and very efficiently drop 10,000 lbs. of stuff on a small unit, but then they’re no longer mobile,” Piasecki Aircraft CEO John Piasecki, told BreakingDefense.com, comparing the new logistics model that ARES could bring about to ordering products online using a smart phone. The Piasecki Aviation website on ARES notes that larger versions of the ARES could be designed, along with versions capable of operating off of ships.

ARES is not the only game-changer that could take flight next year. Bell Helicopter is introducing a pair of tiltrotors — the V-280 Valor and the V-247 Vigilant. The former is a manned tilt-rotor seen as a potential replacement for the UH-60 Blackhawk and the AH-64 Apache that has a crew of four and can carry 14 troops. The latter is an unmanned aerial vehicle that could see applications for the Marine Corps and the Navy.

Boeing and Sikorsky have teamed up to produce the SB-1 Defiant as a competitor to the V-280. The Defiant is based on the X2 prototype and the S-97 Raider, and features a pair of contra-rotating rotors on top and a pusher propeller that provide increased speed and range compared to conventional helicopters.

Compared to these protoypes, the H-13 Sioux helicopters seen delivering wounded personnel to the 4077th in the opening credits of M*A*S*H could very well look like a Sopwith Camel placed next to a F-16.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A ranking senator’s driver was a Chinese spy for 20 years

In July, 2017, Politico writer Zach Dorfman wrote an in-depth piece on Chinese intelligence gathering in the Silicon Valley area of California. The piece was focused on China’s acquisition of modern tech, but a small blurb in the middle of the piece noted that one of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staffers reported to the Chinese Ministry of State Security, China’s foreign intelligence agency.

The staffer was a spy, working for a Senator on the Select Committee on Intelligence (she was the Chair at the time) and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Whoops.


How veterans are using writing to heal

California State Senator Dianne Feinstein, take a group photo with Sailors and Marines from California at Camp Fallujah, Iraq.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Gunnery Sgt. Blankenship)

Politico’s sources were only referred to as “noted former intelligence officials.” The San Francisco Chronicle took the opportunity to investigate further. The newspaper’s source was an unnamed local who confirmed the FBI showed up at the Senator’s office in Washington in 2013 to address the incident. The FBI alleged the Senator’s driver was recruited by Chinese MSS and reported back to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

The Chronicle noted that the driver was only her driver in San Francisco, but he did attend functions for her at the Chinese consulate. The FBI apparently concluded that the driver didn’t have access to anything of substance and couldn’t have revealed anything to the Chinese. The newspaper says Feinstein forced the driver to retire and that was the end of it.

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President Trump, joined by, from left to right, U.S. Senators John Cornyn, Dianne Feinstein, and Marco Rubio, February 28, 2018, in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, D.C.

(White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

This all happened five years ago.

Feinstein’s communist spy story is reemerging this week due to a Twitter exchange between the Senator and President Trump, who mocked Senator Feinstein for a two-year investigation about the spy.

San Francisco’s local CBS affiliate KPIX talked to former FBI agent and security analyst Jeff Harp about the incident. Harp was running counter-espionage activities in the city, saying Chinese spies would be interested in everything from business, research, and politics to diplomatic secrets. He says politicians are trained what to say and what not to say around people who don’t have security clearances, but noted that 20 years is a long time to be around someone day in, and day out — and slip-ups are possible.

“Think about Dianne Feinstein and what she had access to,” said Harp. “One, she had access to the Chinese community here in San Francisco; great amount of political influence. Two, correct me if I’m wrong, Dianne Feinstein still has very close ties to the intelligence committees there in Washington, D.C.”
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US-backed forces were supposed to assault ISIS capital two weeks ago

The start date of the offensive to oust Islamic State fighters from the city of Raqqa and end the terror group’s state-building project has been announced several times in the past few months, often with great fanfare by commanders in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, the United States’ ground ally in northern Syria.


The last announcement came in March when Kurdish commanders said an assault on the city would begin April 1.

Two weeks later that start date, like many others, has come and gone, prompting the months-long question: when will the U.S.-backed SDF offensive shift gears from isolating Raqqa, which is hemmed in on three sides now, to mounting an assault to retake the capital of the jihadists’ self-styled caliphate?

How veterans are using writing to heal
A Marine directs an F/A-18D Hornet returning to an undisclosed location in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, and the wider international community, June 9, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Donald Holbert)

Over the weekend, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the French news agency AFP he would support whomever wants to oust Islamic State militants from Raqqa, but mocked the delay in an assault on the city, which U.S. officials believe is being defended by around 4,000 IS fighters.

“What we hear is only allegations about liberating Raqqa. We’ve been hearing that for nearly a year now, or less than a year, but nothing happened on the ground,” he said. “It’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqqa…It’s not clear yet.”

No firm answer about a new start date was forthcoming on April 15 from U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis when he met in Washington with his Turkish counterpart, Fikri Isik.

The Turkish defense minister again complicated the U.S. effort to choreograph an agreement among multiple local and international players about a Raqqa offensive by pressing Ankara’s long-standing demand for the U.S. to end its alliance with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, whose fighters dominate the ranks of the SDF.

There were no signs that the Turkish request made persistently by Ankara in recent months, and relayed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a February phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump, will be heeded.

U.S. officials say they envisage the Raqqa battle will resemble the fight in neighboring Iraq, where local indigenous forces have been waging the struggle to retake the northern city of Mosul, the last IS major urban stronghold in that country.

Also read: Defeating ISIS is hard; preventing ISIS 3.0 could be harder

Some 500 U.S. special forces soldiers deployed in northern Syria are helping to train and advise SDF units.

Mattis later said at a press conference the U.S. remains in solidarity with Ankara when it comes to fighting Islamic State militants and Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, but he made no mention of discontinuing the alliance with the YPG, the armed wing of Syria’s Democratic Union Party, or PYD.

The Turks, who fear the emergence of a Kurdish state in north Syria, maintain there’s no real distinction between the PYD and the PKK, which has been waging an insurgency in Turkey for more than three decades.

How veterans are using writing to heal
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)

Mattis cited the long security relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, dating back to 1952 when Turkey joined NATO; but, in the wake of the April 16 constitutional referendum that greatly enhances the Turkish president’s powers, analysts say it is unclear how much Erdogan values his country’s alliance with the West, and whether his slim victory will embolden him to disrupt a Raqqa assault by the SDF.

Earlier in April, Erdogan ramped up the pressure on Washington, saying his government is planning new offensives in northern Syria this spring against groups deemed terrorist organizations by Ankara, including IS and the PYD’s militia.

In March, Turkish forces escalated attacks on the YPG in northern Syria, forcing the U.S. to deploy a small number of forces in and around the town of Manbij to the northwest of Raqqa to “deter” Turkish-SDF clashes and ensure the focus remains on Islamic State.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is being pummeled by airstrikes mounted by U.S.-led coalition forces and Syrian warplanes.

Local anti-IS activists say the air raids fail to distinguish between military and non-military targets; however, with IS fighters seeded throughout the city and surrounding villages, being able to draw a distinction is become increasingly challenging, say U.S. officials.

How veterans are using writing to heal
U.S. Airmen load pallets of nonlethal aid for the Syrian Opposition Coalition onto a C-17 Globemaster III aircraft at an undisclosed base May 9, 2013. U.S. forces provided humanitarian aid to refugees of the Syrian civil war. (Dept. of Defense photo by Staff Sgt. Nicole Manzanares, U.S. Air Force)

“Civilians are now [caught] between the criminal terrorists on one side and the international coalition’s indiscriminate bombing on the other side,” said Hamoud Almousa, a founding member of the activist network Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, which is opposed to an assault on the city being led by the YPG.

“Liberating [Raqqa] does not come by burning it and destroying it over its people who have suffered a lot from the terrorist group’s violations,” he added.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a London-based monitoring group that relies on a network of activists for its information, said that four civilians — two women and two children — were killed April 17 in an airstrike believed to have been carried out by coalition warplanes on the Teshreen Farmarea north of Raqqa.

The Observatory says between March 1 and April 10, airstrikes killed 224 civilians. They included 38 children under the age of 18, and 37 women.

Another mainly Arab anti-IS activist network, Eye on the Homeland, complains at the lack of international condemnation about the civilian casualties from the airstrikes, arguing civilians caught in the conflict are being treated inhumanely.

“We assert that the liberation of civilians from all forms of terrorism requires that military forces acting in the area avoid civilian killing, displacement, and the destruction of their properties whenever possible,” the network said recently on its website.

It warned the deaths will “be used to by terrorist organizations in their propaganda to convince civilians that these military forces do not have their interests at heart” and will “only further fuel radicalization.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

How troops can take care of their pets while deployed

Deployments suck for everyone in the family. There are countless resources out there to help military dependents, but not too many troops know what to do with their beloved pets. Our pets are just a much a part of our family as anyone else and deployments can be just as rough on them as they are on people.

The hardest part is that there’s no way to sit down with your pet and explain to them that you’re going away. One day you’re giving them plenty of love and the next you’re gone for a while.

If you have a pet and are about to deploy, there are several things you need to do to make sure they’re given the best care until you can come home to make one of those adorable reunion videos.


I’m not crying. Just someone cutting onions, I swear.

The best thing you can do is to keep their routine as unchanged as possible. Keep them with people you know will love them as much as you and, if you can, keep them in the same place that they’re used to. In their furry minds, they don’t really grasp the concept of time so it’s just like you’re taking a really long time coming home.

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It won’t hurt to give them all of the loving they’ll be missing out on in one day.
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

Not everyone you know is willing to take in your buddy at a moment’s notice. Thankfully, there are many great organizations that can assist you if you can’t find boarding for your pet. Dogs on Deployment and Guardian Angels for Soldier’s Pet are two fantastic organizations that will foster your pets with loving homes.

Both groups provide free boarding for your pet until you come home. They work by connecting troops with boarders in their area who will give them plenty of love.

(By the way, if you’re just reading this because you love animals, these pets need foster homes and they’d love to let you help.)

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What better way can you think of to support the troops than by literally taking care of their puppy for them?
(photo by Senior Airman Keenan Berry)

While you’re deployed, you can still send your pet some love. They won’t recognize a chew toy you ordered on-line as being a gift from you but they will immediately recognize your scent if you send back home a blanket you’ve been sleeping with. Most pets are intelligent enough to recognize your face and voice over a video call, but it’s not the same.

How veterans are using writing to heal
They can’t really count down but they’re definitely ready for you to come back.
(Photo by Sgt. Valerie Eppler)

When the time finally comes for you to reunite with your fur-baby, don’t freak out if they freak out. They’ll be jumping with joy and probably knock something over with their tail in excitement. It kind of goes without saying but you should give them the same amount of love that they’re giving you.

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America suffers another tragic loss of a Green Beret in Afghanistan

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Aaron R. Butler was killed by an Islamic State booby trap in eastern Afghanistan Aug.16.


Butler was on a mission to clear a building on a partnered mission with the Afghan National Security Forces when his unit was struck. Eleven other members of the Utah National Guard were wounded in the incident but are expected to survive. Butler joined the Utah National Guard in 2008 and went on a Mormon mission trip to Africa as a young man.

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Butler was on a mission with Utah National Guard troops during a raid. (US Army photo)

“He was an absolute force of nature,” his family spokesman told local Utah media. “Ultimately, what we do is very dangerous business,” his commander Maj. Gen. Jeff Burton said in a statement. “Our hearts are broken when we lose one of our own. We know these people personally, they are our friends, we respect them and it’s very painful.”

Butler is the 10th U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan in 2017, many of whom were killed in the same geographical region fighting the terrorist group. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy veteran reportedly arrested for ricin poisoning

The suspect behind several suspicious letters that were sent to the White House and the Pentagon in early October 2018 has reportedly been taken into custody.

Authorities took the suspect, previously identified as a former Navy sailor, into custody Oct. 3, 2018, CNN first reported, adding that a crew has started clearing the suspect’s residence.



The envelopes, which were intercepted by the Secret Service and the Pentagon’s mail room staff, reportedly tested positive for ricin, a potentially deadly substance, especially in a pure, powdered form. The letters sent to the Department of Defense were addressed to Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. The letter sent to the White House was addressed to President Donald Trump.

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The White House.

(Photo by Daniel Schwen)

The suspect was identified by a return address on one of the letters sent to the Pentagon, Fox News reported on Oct. 3, 2018.

While the FBI has been spearheading the investigation, the Pentagon has been providing regular updates to reporters.

On Oct. 1, 2018, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency detected a suspicious substance during mail screening at the Pentagon’s remote screening facility,” DoD spokesman Col. Rob Manning told Business Insider in an emailed statement, further explaining that “all USPS mail received at the Pentagon mail screening facility yesterday is currently under quarantine and poses no threat to Pentagon personnel.”

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White provided additional information on Oct. 3, 2018, revealing that at least one of the letters sent to the DoD contained castor seeds, from which ricin is derived.

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

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Army Special Operations switching tactical kit from Android to iPhone

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U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers from the 3rd Special Forces Group patrol a field in the Gulistan district of Farah, Afghanistan. | US Army photo by Spc. Joseph A. Wilson


U.S. Army Special Operations Command is dumping its Android tactical smartphone for an iPhone model.

The iPhone 6S will become the end-user device for the iPhone Tactical Assault Kit – special-operations-forces version Army’s Nett Warrior battlefield situational awareness tool, according to an Army source, who is not authorized to speak to the media. The iTAC will replace the Android Tactical Assault Kit.

The iPhone is “faster; smoother. Android freezes up” and has to be restarted too often, the source said. The problem with the Android is particularly noticeable when viewing live feed from an unmanned aerial system such as Instant Eye, the source said.

When trying to run a split screen showing the route and UAS feed, the Android smartphone will freeze up and fail to refresh properly and often have to be restarted, a process that wastes valuable minutes, the source said.

“It’s seamless on the iPhone,” according to the source. “The graphics are clear, unbelievable.”

Nett Warrior, as well as the ATAC and soon-to-be-fielded iTAC, basically consist of a smartphone that’s connected to a networked radio. They allow small unit leaders to keep track of their location and the locations of their soldiers with icons on a digital map.

They are also designed to help leaders view intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance sensor feeds such as video streams from unmanned aerial systems.

The Nett Warrior system uses a Samsung smartphone worn in a chest-mounted pouch and connected to networked radio General Dynamics AN/PRC-154A Rifleman Radio. Nett Warrior evolved from the Army’s long-gestating Land Warrior program. Army officials began working on that system in the mid-1990s and over the next decade struggled with reliability and weight problems.

The special operations forces’ ATAC and iTAC use a smartphone connected to a Harris AN/PRC 152A radio.

Both radios are part of the Joint Tactical Radio System, but the PRC-152A allows operators to automatically move across different waveforms to talk to units in other services. The Rifleman Radio does not have this capability, the source said.

This is a problem, the source said, because SOF units can communicate with conventional soldiers using Nett Warrior, but it’s only one-way communications. Nett Warrior-equipped soldiers can only receive communications from SOF; they cannot initiate or answer SOF units with the Rifleman Radio, the source said.

Military.com reached out to Program Executive Office Soldier’s Project Manager Soldier Warrior to talk about this problem and to see if it was considering changing to the iPhone and possibly trading in the Rifleman Radio for the PRC-152A.

We received the following mail response:

“PEO Soldier has no response to the questions” posed by Military.com, according to PEO Soldier officials.

The Army does have plans to move the AN/PRC-159 radio as a fix to the one-way communications problem, but that is not supposed to happen until 2020 at the earliest, the source said.

As a short-term fix, the Rapid Equipping Force is looking at fielding Harris PRC-152A radio to units such as the 82nd Airborne Division that make up the Global Response Force, the source said.

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Duncan Hunter petitions Mattis to approve Medal of Honor for fallen Marine

Congressman Duncan Hunter is urging the new secretary of defense to re-examine the case of Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a Marine who died in house-to-house fighting during the 2004 Battle of Fallujah.


In a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Republican congressman wrote that it is his hope “that we can finally give Sergeant Peralta the recognition he deserves.”

Also read: Mattis’ first message to the troops shows his leadership style

In 2008, the Marine Corps recommended Peralta for the Medal of Honor after fellow Marines told investigators the 25-year-old sergeant jumped on a grenade and shielded them from the blast after he was mortally wounded by insurgent fire. The recommendation went all the way up to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who initially approved it, before rescinding the decision amid an inspector general’s complaint.

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Marine Corps Portrait of Rafael Peralta

An independent review panel later found that the grenade did not detonate beneath Peralta’s body. Peralta’s award was downgraded to the Navy Cross. And years later, in 2014, a number of witnesses came forward to The Washington Post to say they had embellished the original story.

Still, Hunter has been fighting for years to get the Pentagon to upgrade the award to the nation’s highest honor. Two other defense secretaries, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel, declined to overturn Gates’ ruling.

“Multiple eyewitnesses conveyed that from their respective fields of view, Peralta initiated several movements toward the grenade and pulled it into his body,” Hunter wrote. “In the spirit and tradition of the Medal of Honor, these eyewitness accounts are exceedingly sufficient, but they were overridden based on questionable forensic evidence assembled by Pentagon bureaucrats.”

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Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Hunter is optimistic that Mattis, the former commander of 1st Marine Division, will look into the case. Hunter told the San Diego Union-Tribune Mattis had originally signed off on the Medal of Honor award recommendation before it went up to Gates.

“I believe you have the right perspective and familiarity with the facts to make an informed judgment on this matter,” he wrote. “Even more so, you have the courage to do what’s right where others have been too sensitive to internal Pentagon politics.”

The public affairs office for the defense secretary did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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