During flu season, protecting your health with a flu shot is easier than ever and as close as your local VA or neighborhood Walgreens. VA and Walgreens care about your health and are partnering to offer enrolled Veteran patients easy access to flu shots.
VA and Walgreens are national partners, providing no-cost standard (Quadrivalent) flu shots to enrolled Veterans of the VA health care system.
If you are interested in finding out more about other vaccine options, especially if you are aged 65 or older, contact your VA health care team.
During the program, which runs from Aug. 15, 2018, through March 31, 2019, enrolled Veteran patients nationwide have the option of getting their flu shot at any of Walgreens’ 8,200 locations in addition to their local VA health care facilities.
No appointment is required. Simply go to any Walgreens, tell the pharmacist you receive care at a VA facility and show your Veterans Health Identification Card and another form of photo ID. (Patients will also be asked to complete a vaccine consent form at the time of service.)
Your immunization record will be updated electronically in your local VA electronic health record. Walgreens has the capability to electronically send vaccination information to the VA electronic health record.
The VA-Walgreens national partnership is part of VA’s eHealth Exchange project. This national program ensures that many Veterans get their no-cost flu shot at their local Walgreens, satisfying their wellness reminder because they either found it more convenient or did not have a scheduled appointment at a local VA health care facility.
Other options for immunization
VA health care facilities:
You may receive a no-cost flu shot during any scheduled VA appointment if you are admitted to one of our VA health care facilities, or at one of the convenient walk-in flu stations. For more information on locations and hours contact your local VA health care facility.
Other non-VA providers and pharmacies:
Many local retail pharmacies offer flu shots that may be covered by private insurance or programs such as Medicare. There may be a charge for your flu shot at these locations. If you do not have insurance, there will usually be a charge.
Air Force leaders met with scientists and industry members May 17, 2018, at the Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Science Summit to chart how the service will utilize emerging technologies in the future.
The summit, hosted by Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Stephen Wilson, focused on how to operationalize AI and quantum information science with briefings from experts from headquarters Air Force Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance directorate, Air Force Research Labs, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, and technology industry leaders.
“The world is changing,” Wilson said. “We will change at scale. As noted in the National Defense Strategy, we must continue to learn and adapt faster. We’re here to ensure we have that architecture and infrastructure to empower our Airmen.”
The implications of AI and quantum information science are wide-ranging. From harnessing, processing, protecting and using massive quantities of data to improve decision making, to changing business practices with predictive, conditions based aircraft maintenance, AI and quantum science can revolutionize how the Air Force flies, fights and wins.
(Photo by Anders)
But widely utilizing these technologies requires more than building upon current Air Force science and technology investments, according to leaders. It will require embracing the technology as a culture.
As well, pursuing game changing capabilities with industry will drive further change, especially in how the service works with industry and academic partners according to Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics.
“Acknowledging the paradigm shift that commercial industry now leads in many areas of technology development is important,” Roper said.
Experts from multiple leading technology industries shared their own insights from the AI and quantum science realms at the summit.
Wilson said continued partnership with industry is essential to posture the service with capabilities for dominance in the digital age.
“Digital speed, not industrial speed, will win the next war. There are things we need to do now to be the Air Force of the future,” he said.
While fighting in western Syria seems to have turned in favor of dictator Bashar Assad and his allies in Iran and Russia, US-led coalition strikes on ISIS continue in the eastern part of the country.
The terror group’s oil infrastructure remains a prime target, and a November 25 airstrike near Abu Kamal, close to the Iraqi border, went after several oil wellheads and a pump jack, an important piece of equipment for getting oil out of the ground.
The US-led coalition launched three strikes near Abu Kamal on November 25, destroying four oil wellheads and an oil pump jack.
That same day, slightly west of Abu Kamal in Dayr Az Zawr, two strikes reportedly destroyed three pieces of oil-refinement equipment, three oil-storage tanks, and an oil wellhead.
ISIS has relied heavily on oil revenue to finance its operations, and the US-led coalition has put special emphasis on attacking the infrastructure needed to get that oil out of the ground and to the market.
A few weeks after the November 25 airstrikes, coalition aircraft destroyed 168 oil-tanker trucks on the ground near Palmyra, in central Syria. That destruction cost the terrorist group about $2 million in revenue, according to Operation Inherent Resolve officials.
While the coalition has been able to target ISIS’ oil infrastructure, fighting positions, and other resources from the air, progress against the group on the ground in eastern Syria has been somewhat halting.
While efforts by Kurdish militants and their Arab partners in Syria to recapture Raqqa, ISIS’ capital city, have been bogged down in recent weeks, the coalition announced on December 12 that Syrian Democratic Forces had liberated 700 square miles of ISIS-controlled territory, retaking dozens of villages around the city, and were starting the next phase of their operation to isolate Raqqa.
These developments come after Syrian government forces, backed by Iran and Russia, retook the northwestern city of Aleppo, parts of which had been held by rebels for years.
That victory appears to have buoyed the outlook in Moscow, Tehran, and Damascus.
The recently reported outline of a deal being discussed by Russia, Iran, and Turkey would divide Syria into zones of influence for those countries, leaving Assad in power as president for at least a few years.
The purported deal appears after numerous fruitless attempts by the US and other western powers to broker a peace in Syria’s bloody, over five-year-long civil war — and may in part be inspired by Moscow’s desire to reassert itself on the world stage.
“It’s a very big prize for them if they can show they’re out there in front changing the world,” Sir Tony Brenton, Britain’s former ambassador to Moscow, told Reuters. “We’ve all grown used to the United States doing that and had rather forgotten that Russia used to play at the same level.”
While most of the things COVID-19 has brought us have been horrible, contagious, disappointing, frustrating, no good and almost overwhelmingly sad (just me? No?), one of the many silver linings has been the accessibility of entertainment. Movies like Trolls released straight to television, Ryan Seacrest hosted a family Disney sing-a-long (can you tell I have young children at home?) and museums and theaters all over the world are opening their doors for virtual shows, tours and the like.
And now (well, Sunday, April 19), you can watch one of our favorite Bond movies, GoldenEye, with none other than Bond. James Bond. (Fine, Pierce Brosnan, the fourth actor to star as 007).
Whether or not he’s your favorite Bond, you can’t say no to that face.
Put on by Esquire UK, the GoldenEye watchalong will stream live on their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube feeds this Sunday 19th April at 7pm BST (2pm ET for American viewers.) According to Esquire UK:
The 66-year-old screen icon will be taking us all behind the scenes of the spy epic, discussing his time in the tuxedo and how it felt to take up the mantle, as well as interacting with his legions of fans – which, of course, is where you come in. We need you to supply us with all the unanswered questions that have been burning away inside your brain for 25 years. Send them over to us via our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter pages now for a chance to get them answered by the main man himself.
The idea is simple: press play on GoldenEye (rental options are listed below) at the same moment as Pierce, and listen along to his play-by-play analysis and commentary in real-time.
Emails- They are the bane of our existence, but they are how we communicate in the modern world. Each day, military leaders clean out their inboxes only to have them fill back up within hours. Unfortunately, quantity doesn’t equal quality. Too often, the purpose of the email is buried, with the sender seeming to aim for length rather than substance. Unfortunately, many of these garbled messages create misalignment in organizations, waste time, money and in some extreme cases–lives.
Why does it matter? It matters because being able to effectively communicate through writing provides leaders and staff officers with understanding and the ability to act. Additionally, when we communicate efficiently, we give the person we’re communicating with time back to focus on other things besides reading emails or multi-page SITREPs.
Eighty years ago, Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill faced a similar problem. Every day he received a large volume of typed reports in his black box from his War Cabinet. And as he pointed out in a 1940 memorandum titled BREVITY, “Nearly all of [the reports] are too long. This wastes time, while energy has to be spent in looking for the essential points.”
Fortunately for us, Sir Winston offered his staff four tips that can help us improve our communication skills today.
The aim should be reports which set out the main points in a series of short, crisp paragraphs
If a report relies on a detailed analysis of some complicated factors, or on statistics, these should be set out in an Appendix.
Often the occasion is best met by submitting not a full-dress report, but an aide-memoire consisting of headings only, which can be expanded orally if needed.
Let us have an end to such phrases as these: “It is also important to bear in mind the following considerations…..” or “Consideration should be given to the possibility of carrying into effect……” Most of these wooly phrases are mere padding, which can be left out altogether, or replaced by a single word. Let us not shrink from using the short expressive phrase, even if it is conversationalized.
Less is more. When writing emails, brevity is better. A long email can overcomplicate an issue and your main message may get lost in the process.
I’ve learned that it is best to open emails with one or two sentences that describe the purpose of your correspondence. It also helps to let them know upfront if you are telling them for awareness or if you want them to make a decision. When you do it well, you don’t need to write the letters “BLUF” because it will be inherent. If you have suspense, include it upfront. And then end your paragraph there.
So as many of us spend the next several weeks working from home, let us take a page from Churchill’s notebook.
Snipers are considered one of the most dangerous warfighters in the battlefield, taking out targets from concealed and undisclosed locations while homing in on prey that has no clue that they’re even in the crosshairs.
So who in their right mind would challenge a highly-trained sniper to a duel without having a weapon?
There can be no doubt that terrifying things can happen in times of war. However, in most cases it can at least be counted on that the enemy one faces is a living human being.
What happens when other, more supernatural forces creep into war zones? What are soldiers to do when faced with mysterious phantoms, ghosts, apparitions and entities against which they have no experience and which they have not been trained to fight? War zones have attracted tales of hauntings and supernatural phenomena since time unremembered, and certainly one of the more modern such places of paranormal terror is the desolate battlefields of the war in Afghanistan. This is a place that is not only plagued by fighting and violence, but also apparently strange forces that have shown some soldiers here that human enemies are not always the only thing to be scared of in these bleak, violent wastelands.
Several mysterious reports came from a United States Marine who had just come back home after serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan. The witness tends to be quite secretive about his role in the war, only stating that his unit was “relatively safe,” and only suffered two non-combat related casualties. The witness claims to have had a couple of potential encounters with ghosts during his service, and one of them occurred as he was sitting with some superiors and colleagues within a makeshift office in the desert which had three rooms. There were reportedly four other people in the cramped room with him when, as he was standing near the backdoor, he noticed his Lieutenant step through the door and enter a small adjoining contractor’s office. He saw the man clearly, but at this point there was nothing particularly strange about it, and the witness explained “he was wearing a FROG suit and everything. Nothing unusual about him. Even had the moustache.”
Just 30 seconds later a call came through asking for the Lieutenant and the witness went to the contractor’s office to fetch him. Strangely, the room was completely empty – nobody was there. Since there was no other door out of the office, the witness asked if anyone had noticed the Lieutenant leave, but nobody had, even though there were four others in the enclosed space and it seemed that somebody would have noticed such a thing. The witness went to the rear door of the office they were in and looked around but there was no one there either. Even a look outside showed no signs of anyone. It was as if the Lieutenant had just disappeared into thin air. The witness explained:
I said ‘Disregard Sgt., nobody is around, looks like I was seeing things.’ Then, my roommate a fellow Lance says to me “That’s bull****, you and I both know somebody is in that room,” and I just said “Nope. You saw it too. Someone walked in, and nobody came out, but nobody is there.
Another incident in the very same office happened one evening at around 10PM. The witness claims that he was alone after working late and on his way out when the door to the contractor’s room opened by itself and stayed open. He went to investigate and shone a flashlight about into the dim space but no one was there. He said that at the time he had a very strange feeling like he was being watched and that it was quite unsettling. The very same witness claimed to have seen other strange things during his tour. He also says that there was a mysterious heat signature that would be seen on infrared equipment wandering and pacing around out in the desert outside in the dark, yet when it was observed with different cameras or the naked eye, nothing was there and there was no response when they called out into the night.
Another witness who reported strange, ghostly figures in the desert claimed that his unit was plagued by a mysterious phantom that would appear around the outskirts of their camp and vanish in the blink of an eye. The first time it appeared was a little after dusk, a couple hundred yards from their position. One of the men, described as a “random PVT,” told the others that there was a person out in the wilderness just standing there. The witness looked and at first couldn’t see anything but after a moment could make out a dark blob in the vague shape of a person. The Sergeant apparently was called over and saw it too. When asked where the figure had come from, the private explained that it had “just popped up.” Whoever was out there there was just standing motionless with its back to them. The witness described the eerie scene and what happened next:
So we watch this “person” for about 3hrs, who just stands there, motionless, with its back to us. You could put optics on it and see it was a person, adult male, average height and build. Best part: we “borrowed” a thermal monocular and this f*cker doesn’t register in it. ZERO F*CKING HEAT SIGNATURE. Then randomly, just poof, gone. Random PVT spends the next 6 weeks telling everyone about the ghost we saw.
Around 6 months later, the same witness was out on patrol when two of his unit reported seeing two figures standing on top of a berm a couple of hundred yards away. Anticipating an enemy IED (Improvised Explosive Device), they stopped the vehicle and examined the figures, which appeared to be men just standing with their backs to them. They were motionless and would not respond when called to, just like the strange phantom previously seen 6 months earlier. The Lieutenant called it in and some of the men got out to go investigate. The witness would explain what happened next thus:
We dismount, LT calls over terp asks if he knows what’s up. Terp gives blank stare and shrugs. LT decides we should go have a look-see and do some hearts-and-minds sh*t. I stay in the truck (which feels like 140 f*cking degrees), 20min goes by LT comes back with weird look on his face and says ‘we’re outta here.’ Later that day I asked another guy WTF happened, he says they get within 50yds of aforementioned “persons” and, presto, gone. I ask “what do you mean, gone?” and he just looks at me with this blank stare and says “gone. They were there, and then they weren’t. Weird huh?’
In another account, a marine who served in Afghanistan and Yemen from 2009-2013 relates an odd experience. One evening at 1AM, the witness had just finished setting up a patrol base with four members of his squad while the other seventeen men slept. In front of the patrol base was a huge, open field and to the left was, rather spookily, an Afghan cemetery. As the witness was looking out over the field on watch duty, he claims that a rock came hurtling through the air to land at his feet. Thinking this to be peculiar he peered out into the darkness over the field, which was wide open with no blind spots or hiding places, but he couldn’t see anyone there nor any movement. As he was looking, another rock reportedly was tossed in his direction from the field. The witness put on night vision equipment but could still see no one there, and infrared turned up no heat signatures either. The night was completely quiet and that field was totally empty. Yet another rock would be lobbed at him as he tried to figure out what was going on, and the whole thing was quite unnerving. The marine would say of the eerie incident:
At this point I’m kinda freaked out. This happened right after my team leader died. So I was freaked out and nothing to rule out what threw rocks at me because no one was there.
Equally as bizarre as any of these accounts of strange intruders is that of another soldier who was operating with a special forces squad in the mountains of Afghanistan with the mission of setting up a hide-to-survey in a village several miles away that was believed to be harboring a Taliban person of interest who the military had been tracking for years. The squad’s main goal at the time was to observe the village for a few days for any suspicious activity or persons, as well as to collect any useful information that could be later used in a raid. To this end they set up a team of six men at the base and two others whose job was to creep in closer to observe from a different vantage point.
Things went well at first, but on the second day the squad began having trouble maintaining radio contact with the observation team and the TOC (Tactical Operations Center). They found that transmissions were plagued by static and sometimes would not go through at all. It was chalked up to the magnetic content of the rocks in the area and the witness and some of the men went out to re-position the Satcom in order to get a better signal. As they were doing this at around dusk, one of the soldiers said he spotted a man wearing a white robe who looked to be flitting and running through the rocks outside of the village. When this was reported the men were immediately suspicious, and the witness would say:
There was something odd about the way he described it, but we were more worried about being compromised. Needless to say, we folded up our sh*t and got ready to move out. We weren’t going to end up in some Lone Survivor type clusterf*ck. We were the f*ck out of there. So at this point it’s late dusk, and we were moving pretty quick. Everyone is on high f*cking alert, we are a small element in a remote area without ready access to any kind of quick reaction force and we had no reliable comms.
The team continued their hasty trek back towards their outpost, and the witness took up the rear, walking backwards and making sure they weren’t being followed or leaving a clear trail, his gun trained on the darkness the whole time. As he did this he spotted a fleeting glimpse of something white moving in the distance, although he could not be sure just what it was or if it was following them. Oddly, he would later report that at the time he had begun to sense the smell of freshly baked bread permeating the air and a sudden onset of a feeling of peace and relaxation, which he sensed was emanating from the direction they had come from. This sensation was so profound that he actually slowed down, and thoughts danced through his head of running over to this comfortable place he felt pulling at him from where they had been. He shook off this daze and reported to the other men what he had seen and that he thought they were possibly being trailed, to which an officer replied that he had seen something white moving as well. The witness would say:
I asked my dudes to keep their eyes open for anything, because I thought I had seen someone trailing us. Our senior scout piped in “That’s strange mom, (I was mom, long story) I thought I saw some dude in white on the ridge in front of us.” At this point all the hairs on my neck are standing up. Everything felt strange. The air felt heavy, and sort of sweet. The silence hummed loudly.
With the night steadily moving in, a sense of urgency, panic, and dread set in and the men picked up the pace, even though they were already exhausted from hauling their heavy packs over the uneasy, rugged terrain. As darkness creeped over the landscape to slowly envelope them in pitch blackness, they put on their NODS (night vision goggles), turning the world into a green haze. The night was incredibly silent, even more than usual, and there was no movement out there in the mountainous moonscape bathed in the green cast of the night vision goggles. But this eerie silence would not last, and this is when things allegedly got very strange indeed. The witness describes it best:
Hallucinations happen. But what happened was beyond comprehension. First, we heard a sound like a huge airplane taking off. A loud low buzz that slowly increased in pitch. We had to yell over comms to hear each other. Everywhere I looked, I kept seeing what looked like glowing eyes staring back at me, but once i would center my focus on where I saw them, they would disappear. We were f*cking panicked. Everyone was holding their rifles at the high ready, we were expecting some kind of ambush attack and we started talking out the RP we would meet at if we needed to start a peel and move. Then it all just stopped. Everything got dark. The only thing I could hear was my breath and the blood pumping in my head. We stopped, dug into the side of the mountain, and performed SLLS (Stop look listen Smell) for about 10 minutes. Nothing. Not even bugs. The air and the land were silent.
Baffled, frightened, and overcome with fatigue, the men quickly resumed their trudge through the wilderness back to their camp, very aware that something very possibly malignant and beyond their experience was out there in the dark somewhere. As they scrambled over loose rock and through scrub and brush the witness claims that he suddenly noticed on a parallel hillside the very clear sight of a man dressed in light colored robes, which seemed to be slowly making his way towards their position. Bizarrely, it seemed that that the stranger was just passing through any obstacles he came across as he moved slowly but inexorably closer. The witness would describe the rest of the surreal encounter thus:
He seemed to melt over and around the rocks, it was f*cking unnatural the way he was moving. Through the NODS, his eyes glowed. I scoped up on him, and saw that he was looking directly at me. It was pitch black, there is no way he could have saw us from that distance without any kind of night optics. Suddenly, he stopped. He picked up one of his limbs and held it in the air, almost like he was waving at me. Then the arm melted back into his form, like it wasn’t an arm at all, but some kind of extendable proboscis that was meant to look like an arm from a distance. I was about to ask the guy’s if they could see him, when he suddenly disappeared.
The witness also saw lights flickering in the distance near the town, which he presumed to be the enemy closing in on the area where the booming sound had originated. The team moved on and managed to make it back to their recovery location. They went on to recount their strange experiences and were reportedly told that it was probably all attributable to weariness, panic, and adrenaline. The whole thing was more or less forgotten until a few days later, when the story would take another weird turn. According to the witness:
The reason we did the observation was so we could bring the intel back for a raid that was to be conducted. The raid was ‘successful’, in the sense that finding a deer hit by a car is a successful deer hunt. Apparently, the team that moved into the village found it completely abandoned. They also found several men in the area where I had seen the lights the night we were hauling ass out of there. The corpses had been ripped to shreds, and based on the sheer amount of blood, the general consensus was that there were more men that were killed there than just the bodies that were found. It went in the official records as a successful raid with several enemy KIA’s. Unofficially? No one has any idea what killed them. All I know is whatever it was…it chose. It chose those men and not us.
Whatever that “it” was remains unknown. Another account that most certainly belongs here is one given by a commenter on another article of mine on mysteries in the war in the Middle East. It is an account that seems hard to really categorize, but seeming to deal with ghosts, demons, or some other supernatural beings. The commenter, Jerry Aberdeen, related a truly bizarre experience that happened to him when he was stationed in Mosul, Ninewah Province in 2004, and it is so intriguing and fitting that I felt compelled to share it here. Jerry Aberdeen explains his very weird story thus:
I was attached to 2/3 INF 3 SBCT at FOB Patriot. A call went out on the radio that FOB Diamondback (the airfield) was under attack. Everyone on every FOB from, Courage, Blickenstaff, Patriot and Marez jumped into the closest vehicle and headed to the airfield to counter the attack. I was in a vehicle with some other infantry guys, an engineer and a PsyOps guy. When we got to the airfield we saw some dudes trying to climb over the wall. The gunner opened up on them and the rest of us took up a position in a ditch on the other side of the road and opened fire. There were three of us side by side, the engineer, the PsyOps guys and myself. We fired and one guy and he dropped from the top of the wall (hard to tell who actually shot him). Right after he fell there was stream of black smoke coming out of him. The engineer made that comment that he must have been wearing a suicide vest and it malfunctioned. A few seconds later the black smoke grew larger and started to take a human looking form. What happened next all three of us saw and there was no doubt. The now fully materialized black smoke was standing upright and now had red smoky glowing eyes and a weird looking mouth. The damn thing actually smiled at us and turned to, sort of run but it just dissipated after it took a few steps. Very hard to describe how it all happened. All three of us just looked at each other wide eyed for a second or two. After it was all over we only spoke about once then never again.
So far here we have been looking at assorted isolated incidents of the strange and supernatural, but the war in Afghanistan also seems to have certain places that draw in such bizarre tales. One such place is a lonely outpost called Observation Point Rock, also known as simply “The Rock,” which sits exposed around 20 meters (65ft) above the desert and situated near what appears to be a looming, giant rock, but which is actually the ruins of a caved-in, ancient mud fort, complete with arrow slits and the crumpled remains of turrets. Captured from the Taliban in 2008, the isolated outpost typically holds a small contingent of U.S. Marines to keep watch and guard it, and in addition to its reputation as being a harsh, forbidding place full of dust and grit and sporadic rocket attacks by Taliban fighters, it has also gathered about it an even more sinister reputation of being an intensely haunted and cursed one.
Almost as soon as the Marines moved in there were strange stories and dark rumors swirling about the place. It was said that Taliban fighters had been buried alive in the caves below, and that there were numerous bodies of Russian soldiers buried here during the failed Soviet invasion of these lands. One group of Marines digging a trench claimed to have come across a human leg bone, which led to the discovery of another piece of human remains, followed by another and another, including skulls and whole desiccated corpses and skeletons, which were all believed to have possibly been Russian since a stake with Russian writing was found. They would later find out that a contingent of Russian soldiers had been supposedly executed there in the 1980s after being found by the Taliban while using the rock as a hideout. Also among the macabre remains were found shards of ancient pottery long buried within the dry earth with more inscrutable, unknown origins.
With the creepy ambiance and all of the bodies said to be entombed here it was perhaps no surprise that weird reports would start popping up amongst those stationed here in these badlands. Noises with no discernible source, objects moving on their own, strange lights, disembodied cries or screams, the sound of footsteps or crunching gravel even when there was no one there, the sudden onset of heavy feelings of dread … the men serving here were often plagued with various strange phenomena. Electrical equipment was also said to often malfunction here, and that fresh batteries had a habit of going dead within minutes. On some occasions, machine gun fire or incoming rockets could be heard, but nothing was hit and none of the guns had been fired. There were cases of movement seen on the perimeter only to turn up no trespassers on thermal equipment and no footprints. A Sergeant Josh Brown, 22, once said of Observation Point, “The local people say this is a cursed place. You will definitely see weird-ass lights up here at night,” and another soldier named Lance Corporal Austin Hoyt, 20 has said:
This place really sucks. The Afghans say it’s haunted. Stick a shovel in anywhere and you’ll find bones and bits of pottery. This place should be in National Geographic — in the front there are weird-looking windows for shooting arrows. You know, they say the Russians up here were executed by the Mujahidin.
Strange phenomena were said to have been going on before they had even arrived. The British soldiers who had occupied the base before them also supposedly had experienced such strangeness, and even warned the American troops of what to expect when they got there. They claimed that lights prowled the bleak landscape, that phantoms and shadows moved about in the desert which were only briefly glimpsed by infrared cameras before vanishing, that there were dancing lights that could be observed through night vision goggles, that there were often noises and voices from nowhere, screams or shrieks out in the desert at night, and that to touch any relics or bones found there was to invite great misfortune.
Although the tales of the supernatural surrounding the haunted base are numerous, some stand out as particularly creepy. One Corporal Jacob Lima had a few spooky stories to tell concerning the Observation Point Rock. In one account he claimed that one night he was startled by a chilling scream coming from one of the men. When Lima ran to investigate, he found a Corporal Zolik cowering in fear at his guard post. Zolik claimed that as he had been sitting there, he had felt breath on his ear and heard a clear voice whisper something in Russian. The man was so terrified that he begged Lima to stay with him until his shift was finished. As they waited there together Lima said on several occasions they heard footsteps up on the observation post above them, even though no one else was there. At one point during the night Lima was scanning the area with thermal imaging and allegedly saw what looked like another soldier with “balled fists” standing out in the desert. As he tried to discern whether it was friend or foe, the mysterious figure vanished into thin air right before his eyes. The whole incident was enough to make Zolik desperately requested a transfer out of there. Interestingly, other men also frequently reported hearing disembodied whispers in Russian around the outpost.
On another occasion, Lima was on watch and suddenly heard a dog that was kept there, named Ugly Betty, barking wildly at something. Thinking it could be the enemy, Lima put on his night vision goggles and scanned the night for movement, which turned up what appeared to be a figure in the distance. Not sure what he was seeing, he switched to thermal imaging and tried to find the figure again but it was gone. When he went back to night vision he was able to see the mysterious figure again, which had inexplicably closed a large distance in just moments. A switch back to thermal once again turned up no heat signatures at all, even though Lima was sure that the whatever-it-was was still there. At some point in all of this switching between thermal and night vision, he lost sight of the figure altogether, at which point he claims he felt a heavy tap on his shoulder. When he turned around there was supposedly no one there. Somewhere out in the night, the dog was still barking.
Observation Point Rock is not the only supposedly haunted military outpost in Afghanistan – another notorious one is called Forward Operation Base Salerno. The location of the base already lends itself well to spooky tales, as on its outskirts is an old Afghan graveyard, which is overlooked by two high watchtowers. Indeed, it is these towers that are said to be intensely haunted by what appears to be the spirit of a little girl, said to be sometimes heard or seen wandering around aimlessly either in the towers themselves or in the area around them.
One frightening report concerns two paratroopers with the 2nd Battalion of the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment named Painter and Jackson, who one night were on watch duty when they were startled by a blood curdling, shrill laugh emanating from their radio, so high-pitched as to almost cause pain. The laugh was described as sounding like that of a little girl, and Painter would claim that “No grown man in the Army could have made it.” When the unearthly laugh stopped, the two men radioed to others on watch but it turned out that no one else had heard a thing. The very next evening, the two men were on watch duty again in the same place, still rather unnerved by what had happened the night before. As they sat there in the dark, they claim that they heard movement and footsteps in the tower, particularly on the trap door that led to another level, even though they were the only ones there. The room also allegedly suddenly became very cold for no apparent reason.
This was unsettling enough, but then there came a call over the radio from the other watch tower, claiming that they were detecting a small, 3-foot-tall figure wandering around in the dark outside. Creepily, although no details of the strange phantom could be seen, what did appear to be clear was that whatever it was reportedly seemed to be waving at them. Jackson says he went out onto the balcony to investigate but saw nothing but the desolate nighttime landscape and that graveyard out in the murk. A scan of the surroundings with thermal imaging equipment also turned up no heat signatures of any kind. After that, the scared men reluctantly continued the rest of their shift with no further such phenomena. Interestingly, although this incident was indeed frightening, neither of the men felt that the ghost was malevolent, but rather that it seemed to just want to play.
In this case the figure had been small but rather indistinct, yet other stories add more eerie detail. On another occasion that supposedly happened years earlier, two Marines were in one of the watch towers when they looked out and clearly saw through their night vision goggles a young girl walking along in the desert night with a goat, but when they took the goggles off the both the girl and the goat were gone. As soon as they put the goggles back on the girl was back, this time shockingly standing on the watchtower balcony, much to the horror of the guards. The event was so upsetting that these toughened Marines were supposedly reduced to tears and refused to go back to the tower. This is not even an isolated incident, and there have been other sightings of a ghostly little girl out walking abut, either by herself or with a goat, both always undetectable by thermal imaging or night vision.
Adding to ghostly lore of Forward Operating Base Salerno is the account of an Airman who had done two deployments in Afghanistan and had spent much of that time stationed at the base, where he stayed at a compound designated for aviation personnel. One night, he says he was out with another person from his platoon to go visit a friend of theirs who was doing guard duty at one of the towers. The friends spent some time chatting and, by the time they left the guard, it was quite late and the moonless night was pitch black, making it hard to get back to their compound since they did not have night vision goggles with them. They got lost and decided to head back to the guard tower to ask for directions back. As they set out into the night again towards the compound, they claim they heard a rustling and footsteps like someone coming up behind them, but when they looked, no one was there. This would happen several times as they picked up their pace and finally reached their destination. Could this have been the same spectral little girl? The mysteries of this place have yet to be explained, and there have been so many strange, unexplained phenomena at Forward Operating Base Salerno that it has become almost legendary in the region among military personnel.
What lies behind cases like these? Is there anything to them, or is this all the result of a scared mind seeing the world through the cracked sense of stress, horror, fatigue, and hallucination? There are many who say that this is precisely what it is. However, although I can see this being the case with lone, isolated individuals, it becomes harder to explain in these terms when the apparition is seen and experienced by several men at once. Is this possible that it is just a mass hallucination where each one sees exactly the same thing at exactly the same time down to every detail? Is this something that truly happens with mere hallucinations? There is also the fact that they may be lying, which is a possibility, but then again we are dealing with men with more on their mind, like staying alive and combating the enemy, than coming up with fanciful tales for the amusement of it all. Then there is the possibility that something truly strange is really going on, but what that could be remains evasive.
In the end, it certainly seems that war zones can attract just as many strange specters, phantoms, and assorted entities and spooky tales of hauntings as any old derelict house or secluded, darkened forest. In fact, some of the most haunted places in the world are places that have been cast under the shadow of violent battle and strife, whether that is happening now or a dark piece of history from centuries ago. War zones and battlefields consistently draw to themselves such eerie stories, as if they are not only collecting ghosts in the sense of memories of a bloody past, but also literal ones as well. Is it because places so saturated with killing, anguish, and horrific struggle somehow tether the spirits of the dead to them? Does all of this negative energy manifest itself in some bizarre and mysterious fashion beyond our understanding? Is it because the gruesome horrors of war have managed to pervade the landscape and etch themselves onto the very fabric of reality, like light onto film, with events and individuals playing back like a video? We may never know the answers to questions such as these, but one thing that becomes apparent when looking at these accounts is that sometimes those in the field face terrors both human and otherwise, and must come face to face with fear both living and dead.
There have been many iterations of the Power Rangers, but the upcoming film from Lionsgate is packing some punch, not only in it’s killer cast (Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston? Say no more!), but it’s progressive inclusion of an LGBQT superhero — the first for a blockbuster film.
With a new film comes new bad guys, so let’s take a look at how the military would combat the evil Rita Repulsa and her minions. The usual terrain will be the fictional city of Angel Grove, which was located in California (where early seasons of the TV show were filmed).
1. When Rita’s minions are normal size
In this case, Rita’s minions will have a lot of problems. If the present-day United States military has had a lot of experience in anything during the Global War on Terror, it’s what they call MOUT — military operation in urban terrain.
That’s a fancy way of saying, “full-scale street fire-fights.”
The California location means that the closest active-duty units on the scene would be the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin, plus whatever brigade is at the National Training Center.
These units would be springing into action, looking to evacuate civilians from the city while trying to inflict casualties on the invaders.
Here, they would also have the advantage of armored support from M1 Abrams tanks, M2 and M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, artillery support from M777 and M109 howitzers, and close-air support.
This is one fight that Rita’s minions would have no hope of winning. The experience of American troops in this sort of combat in places like Fallujah, Baghdad, and Ramadi would come through very quickly.
2. When the bad guys are kaiju size
Of course, when the fight goes badly, Rita often had her monsters grow into kaiju-size robots (call it about 300 feet tall, roughly the same height as Godzilla in most of his film appearances).
Once the battle reaches this stage, the infantry will shift to evacuating civilians almost exclusively.
From the ground, artillery systems like MLRS and HIMARS would be used to hammer the skyscraper-sized bad guy, along with fire from the M1 tanks.
The Navy would also get involved, using Tomahawk cruise missiles from submarines and surface vessels. Naval gunfire would also be used in the fight.
But the main attack would come from aircraft. While Navy and Marine Corps units around San Diego would be the closest, Air Force units in Utah and Arizona would also be capable of quickly responding, as would any active units carrying out a Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base.
Here, the best weapons would be laser-guided bombs, hoping to score a penetrating hit that would put the monster down.
The United States military might not succeed in actually killing the monster with conventional systems, but it would distract it long enough to carry out an evacuation of civilians. To actually kill the monster, it might come down to a B61 tactical nuclear weapon.
In either case, the United States military would be able to give Rita Repulsa one hell of a headache.
The war didn’t go well for the King, and he lost entire sections of his country in 1642 and 1644. By 1646, he had only one good castle left, Goodrich Castle at Herefordshire, but it was defended by a very loyal knight. In June 1646, Parliamentarians demanded that the Royalists surrender, but were politely rebuffed.
Except for some missing lead, this is basically what Goodrich Castle looked like after ole’ Meg was done with it. Note that the castle builders hadn’t designed the walls and towers to have those gaping holes in them.
(David Merrett, CC BY 2.0)
So, a siege ensued. For six weeks, the Parliamentarians attacked with artillery and managed to destroy the castle cisterns and a number of other structures, but the defenses held. So, the Parliamentarian commander, Colonel John Birch, commissioned a massive mortar from the local blacksmith.
“Roaring Meg” could fire an approximately 200-pound ball loaded with about 4 pounds of gunpowder that would explode in the courtyard, devastating nearby buildings with the blast wave and shrapnel. Meg destroyed buildings and walls and, combined with the mining operations happening at the same time, forced the defenders to surrender.
Now, Meg is a historical display, but a group of men got together to see what, exactly, a replica Meg could do. Because of modern ideas of “safety,” and “survival,” and “not being horribly maimed for the purposes of entertainment,” the men decided to fire the mortar at a caravan without any explosives loaded inside the ball. Then, after getting their hit, they would place explosives with similar power into the caravan and blow it up that way.
The video is pretty sweet (even if it took them a lot of shots to actually hit the caravan, which is normal with an old-school mortar). Check it out above.
While nuclear-powered carriers and submarines are all the rage in the U.S. Navy today, the sea-going service used to have a much wider nuclear portfolio with nuclear-powered destroyers and cruisers that could sail around the world with no need to refuel, protecting carrier and projecting American power ashore with missiles and guns.
The first nuclear surface combatant in the world wasn’t a carrier, it was the USS Long Beach, a cruiser launched in 1959. That ship was followed by eight other nuclear cruisers, Truxtun, California, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas. The Arkansas was the last nuclear-powered cruiser launched, coming to sea in 1980.
During the same period, a nuclear-powered destroyer, the USS Bainbridge, took to the seas as well. Due to changes in ship nomenclature over the period, it was a frigate when designed, a destroyer when launched, but would be classified as a cruiser by the time the ship retired.
The big advantage of nuclear vessels, which required many more highly trained personnel as well as a lot of hull space for the reactor, was that they could sail forever at their top speed. The speed thing was a big advantage. They weren’t necessarily faster than their conventionally fueled counterparts, but gas and diesel ships had to time their sprints for maximum effect since going fast churned through fuel.
That meant conventional vessels couldn’t sail too fast for submarines to catch them, couldn’t sprint from one side of the ocean to the other during contingency operations, and relied on tankers to remain on station for extended periods of time.
Nuclear vessels got around all these problems, but their great speed and endurance only really helped them if they weren’t accompanied by conventional ships. After all, the cruisers and destroyer can’t sprint across the ocean if that means they are outrunning the rest of the fleet in dangerous waters.
That’s why Rickover wanted a full nuclear battle group. It could move as a single unit and enjoy its numerous advantages without being slowed down by other ships.
And the ships were quite lethal when they arrived. Nuclear carriers at the time were similar to those today, sailing at a decent clip of about 39 mph (33.6 knots) while carrying interceptor aircraft and bombers.
The 10 nuclear cruisers (counting the Bainbridge as a cruiser), were guided-missile cruisers. Four ships were Virginia-Class ships focused on air defense but also featuring weapons needed to attack enemy submarines and ships as well as to bombard enemy shores.
The other most common nuclear cruiser was the California Class with three ships. The California Class was focused on offensive weaponry, capable of taking the fight to enemy ships with Harpoon missiles, subs with anti-submarine rockets and torpedoes, and enemy shores with missiles and guns. But, it could defend itself and its fleet with surface-to-air missiles and other weapons.
But the nuclear fleet had one crippling problem: expense. Rickover knew that to ensure that the larger Navy and America would continue to embrace nuclear power at sea, the ships had to be extremely dependable and secure. To do this, ships needed good shielding and a highly capable, highly trained crew.
Also, the reactors took up a lot of space within the hull, requiring larger ships than conventional ones with the same battle capabilities. So, when budget constraints came up in the 1990s, the nuclear fleet was sent to mothballs except for the carriers.
And even at that stage, the nuclear cruisers cost more than their counterparts. Conventional cruisers can be sold to allied navies, commercial interests, or sent to common scrap yards after their service. Nuclear cruisers require expensive decommissioning and specially trained personnel to deal with the reactors and irradiated steel.
Picture yourself on a foot patrol in Afghanistan, one of the most dangerous countries in the world where the majority of the population hates the fact that you’re there.
Now, imagine you’re the “lead” of that foot patrol (typically the combat engineer who is looking for IEDs buried in the ground) and you spot a suspicious device ahead with a command wire sticking out of the dirt.
For most of us, it’s not a good idea to approach, especially if that wire trails off toward a nearby compound — it’s a freaking trap. But for troops serving in Afghanistan, it’s just another day at the office.
Although most IEDs are considered primitively built with limited resources, the grunts on the ground have a clever way of dealing with ’em: the combat scythe.
Famously known as an agricultural tool, ground pounders use them to conduct a “hands-on” inspection of a potential threat from up to 12-feet away. The operator will extend out the scythe and use its rounded tip to tug and drag out the device for an exam.
By deploying his trusty scythe, a troop can safely determine if that bump in the ground is indeed an IED and call for a controlled detonation of the affected area. Of course, if it’s a false alarm, then that foot patrol proceeds onward without fear.
Not every IED can be figured out with a solid poking, though. If that IED is trickier than usual, the patrol will call upon the services of Explosive Ordnance Disposal to access and, typically, blow the sh*t out of the device.
On the bright side, controlled detonations are pretty epic to watch. They’re allied forces’ way of telling the bad guys ,”Not today, f*cker.”
A 74-year-old researcher at a Russian rocket and spacecraft design facility has reportedly been charged with treason for allegedly giving classified information to a NATO country.
The Russian newspaper Kommersant reported on July 23, 2018, that Viktor Kudryavtsev of the Central Research Institute for Machine Building is accused of passing classified data on hypersonic technology to a representative of an unspecified alliance member.
Citing unnamed sources, Kommersant reported that Kudryavtsev is being held at the Lefortovo jail in Moscow and has pleaded not guilty.
Central Research Institute of Machine Building checkpoint.
A spokesman for Russian space agency Roscosmos, Vladimir Ustimenko, said on July 22, 2018, that Kudryavtsev had been arrested but did not give any details.
A member of the Public Monitoring Commission NGO, Yevgeny Yenikeyev, said on July 22, 2018, that Kudryavtsev was placed in pretrial detention on high treason charge.
The case is one of several in recent years in which Russian citizens have been accused of treason or disseminating classified or sensitive information.
Featured image: Exterior view of Lefortovo Prison in Moscow.
I remember the major calling me into his office as an 18-year-old private for a discussion. The discussion came around to the importance of voting and how it was my duty to vote. I liked to do things the hard way at the time, and I was honest about how I wouldn’t vote. That went over like a lead balloon with the major.
After some yelling and cursing on his part, I agreed to look into voting. It would not be the only time that I spoke bluntly about voting and paid the repercussions for it. As many young service members have found out, no matter how much you push the ground, it doesn’t move anywhere. I did get stronger and times like these reinforced my stubbornness.
I ignored politics on both the local and national level. I focused all of my energies on being the best soldier that I could. At least that is what I told myself. I didn’t feel it was right to pick my bosses, like POTUS, who sits atop the command chain. I never looked into the issues because I didn’t care what happened locally as I was going to be moving anyway, and I certainly didn’t care about what went on in Washington, DC. Plus, I had a high level of disdain for politicians; well, that one hasn’t changed much.
Hindsight is a great knowledge enhancer. As I look back, I was wrong for not exercising my constitutional right to vote.I ignored issues that I should have spent a little time researching, instead of watching a movie or having a few cold ones. I could have dug into the problems instead of sticking my head in the sand. Now having been retired for 18 months, I acknowledge how ignorant I was.
We put our lives on the line so that others can vote in countries around the world, and I failed to do my civic duty at home. I’m now passionate about ensuring service members vote and that their vote counts.
I’m proud to support Count Every Hero, an organization committed to ensuring that every service member’s ballot is counted before a winner is declared. Count Every Hero (CHO) is a cross-partisan, nonprofit organization chaired by General (Ret) Tony Zinni. CHO has two principles: 1: Every service member’s right to vote must be protected and their votes must be counted. 2: Military voters must have an opportunity to register, request an absentee ballot, and cast a vote regardless of their location in the world. To date, 16 retired four-star Flag Officers have joined the movement to ensure every hero’s vote is counted.
General Zinni said, “We count on our troops to fight for our freedom so we owe it to them to count their ballots. No candidate should be declared an election winner until all military ballots are counted.” I fully support his message. Who you vote for is a personal choice. This right is part of why I served for 20 years, defending our freedoms. I don’t care who you vote for, but your vote should and must be counted before determining the winners of our elections.
As for me, I will be like the Afghans and Iraqis I saw with ink on their fingers, so excited to have voted for the first time. I may not have ink on my fingers come Nov. 3, but I will have the same smile and sense of pride partaking in a critical function of our democracy.