In a piece written for The Cipher Brief, Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute details Iran’s weapon of choice for imposing its will on domestic and foreign threats alike — cyber attacks.
Eisenstadt, as well as experts contacted by Business Insider, say that Iran has a weak conventional military that couldn’t possibly hope to push around stronger countries. For that reason, cyber attacks represent the perfect weapon.
Cyber attacks are cheap, ambiguous, hard to pin on any one actor, and almost completely without precedent when it comes to gauging a military response.
Cyber attacks allow Iran “to strike at adversaries globally, instantaneously, and on a sustained basis, and to potentially achieve strategic effects in ways it cannot in the physical domain,” writes Eisenstadt.
Unlike the US, which wields nuclear weapons and the world’s finest military, Iran relies on its ability to potentially wreak havoc in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s busiest oil shipping routes, its funding of terrorist organizations, and its arsenal of ballistic missiles to deter attacks, according to Eisenstadt.
“Hack those guys over there.” | Creative Commons photo by Mohammad Sadegh Heydari
However, Tehran cannot hold the Strait of Hormuz in an outright confrontation, its terrorist allies have become increasingly vulnerable and targetable by world powers, and if Iran ever used a ballistic missile, it would soon find itself on the receiving end of a blistering counter attack.
Therefore cyber attacks give Iran a fourth kind of deterrence, one which the US has repeatedly failed to punish. Indeed, cyber attacks are new territory, and the US still hasn’t found an appropriate and consistent way to deal with cyber attacks, whether those attacks come in the form of Russian meddling in the US election, North Korea’s hack of Sony, or China’s stealing valuable defense data.
Eisenstadt addresses this lack of US response as a “credibility gap,” which the US must somehow fill.
“This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while,” former President George W. Bush said on the White House South Lawn on Sept. 16, 2001. “And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient.”
Bush was right that a war on an abstract noun like “terror” would take awhile.
It began in October 2001 with the U.S.’s invasion of Afghanistan. And although former President Barack Obama officially ended “The Global War on Terror” in 2013, the fight against terrorism continues nearly 17 years later.
In fact, it has spread.
Between October 2015 and October 2017, the U.S. fought terror in 76 countries, or 39% of the total number of countries in the world, according to data recently published by Brown University’s Costs of War Project.
The graphic shows where the U.S. military had troops and bases, where it trained other forces in counterterrorism, and where it conducted drone and air strikes.
Perhaps the most striking detail, besides the U.S.’s well-known heavy involvement in the Middle East, is the American military’s presence in Africa.
You may have heard that President Trump signed an executive order Friday, March 27 allowing the military to recall members of the selected reserve and some former service members to active duty in support of the government’s response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
While this sounds ominous, the executive order is mainly a formality giving the Pentagon the authority to recall reserve members as necessary. A federal law (10 U.S. Code § 12302) that has been around since 1953 authorizes the president to recall up to one million reservists for up to two years in times of national emergency.
The military branches have also started to gauge interest from recently separated members on volunteering to return to active duty in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Army, for example, recently contacted 800,000 retired members asking about their willingness to return to active duty and help the service fight the pandemic. More than 17,000 retirees, representing various specialties, have responded at the time of this writing.
Maryland National Guard Transports Citizens During COVID-19 Pandemic.
If the coronavirus pandemic worsens and requires a major military mobilization, an involuntary recall would begin only if there aren’t enough active-duty members, selected reserve and guard members and volunteers returning to active duty. The order of recall is as follows:
Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for less than five years
Retirees and inactive reservists under 60 who have been off active duty for five years or more
Retirees and inactive reservists, including those retired for disability, who are over 60 years old
Again, the needs of the service are tantamount, and some military specialties may have different rules than others. A medical officer who has been out of the military for 15 years may be recalled before an aircraft mechanic who separated last month.
PA National Guard support COVID-19 test site in Montgomery County.
10 U.S. Code § 12302 also says that recall consideration will be given to:
the length and nature of previous service, to assure such sharing of exposure to hazards as the national security and military requirements will reasonably allow;
family responsibilities; and
employment necessary to maintain the national health, safety, or interest.
That means if you are a health care professional and can do society more good as a civilian, you may be exempted from recall. Also, if you have serious family responsibilities you may be exempted.
The law may also exempt veterans with some disabilities or medical conditions from any involuntary recall. Those with less than honorable discharges and certain separation codes may also be exempted from involuntary recall.
What Happens If You Are Recalled?
You will most likely get a certified letter from the military directing you to an intake center. If you don’t answer the letter, they will send another one to your home of record. If you still don’t respond, you will be identified as a deserter and possibly face legal action.
If you are recalled, you have the same responsibilities as any active-duty member: no drug use, adherence to grooming and physical readiness standards, support of the needs of the military and obedience to the chain of command.
Even if you meet those obligations, you won’t be eligible for any promotions as a recalled member. Instead, you will be paid at your current rank or the rank at which you separated. Your retirement pay and any VA disability benefits will also stop for the duration of your revitalized active duty service.
The AH-1Z aircraft is an updated version of the AH-1W, bringing new capabilities and features into the squadron’s arsenal.
“The AH-1Z’s are replacing the AH-1W’s, which are essentially from the 1980’s,”said Marine Corps Capt. Julian Tucker, the squadron’s ground training officer. “Some big takeaways on the new aircraft can be summarized into greater fuel capacity, ordnance capabilities, and situational awareness.”
The AH-1Z can carry and deploy 16 Hellfire missiles, effectively doubling the capacity of its predecessor, the AH-1W. Updated avionics systems and sensors are another important aspect of the upgrade. The upgraded capabilities allow the squadron and Marine Corps Base Hawaii to further project power and reach in the Asia-Pacific region.
“With the new turret sight system sensor, we can see threats from much further out than before,” Tucker said. “Obviously, that’s a huge advance for our situational awareness.”
Marine Corps Maj. Christopher Myette, the assistant operations officer for the squadron, piloted one of the new Vipers back from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“Having the displays under glass is a big change from the old steam gauges,” Myette noted on the new digital display systems. “Another thing you notice is that in the electrical optical sensor, there’s a night and day difference.”
The updated electrical systems create a new situation for Marines like Sgt. Jeremy Ortega, an avionics technician with the squadron.
“The new Zulus incorporate systems from the AH-1W and the UH-1Y and essentially combine them,” Ortega said. “The upgraded turret sight systems create much more in-depth images, which allow pilots to pinpoint targets better and get more descriptive, accurate pictures.”
Marines like Ortega are essential to keep the squadron at the peak of readiness during the transition, Myette said.
“Maintenance Marines have done an outstanding job of accepting the new aircraft,” Myette said. “They have really done the majority of the heavy lifting on this project, and we definitely appreciate them.”
Although there will be a learning curve working with the new system due to its modernity, Ortega said he is excited to work with the upgraded helicopters.
“Times are changing and things are evolving,” Ortega said. “It’s time for the AH-1W’s to go to bed. And, the AH-1Z’s are the perfect candidate to replace them.”
When American intelligence detected the massive buildup of North Vietnamese troops that preceded the 77-day siege of Khe Sanh in 1968, Gen. William Westmoreland gave the base priority access to all American airpower in theater, leading to Operation Niagara and a “waterfall of bombs.”
Khe Sanh was the westernmost base in a strong of installations along the crucial Route 9 in late 1967. It was in the perfect position to block North Vietnamese Army forces and other fighters moving in from Laos or other NVA areas.
But Westmoreland believed that Khe Sanh was crucial to victory and worth heavy investment despite its relatively small size as home to one Marine regiment and 5,000 support troops. To ensure the Marines could hold out against anything, he ordered improvements to infrastructure on the base and the installation of thousands of remote sensors in the surrounding jungle.
By the first week of January 1968, sensors and reconnaissance data made it clear that the NVA was conducting a massive buildup in the area of the base. All indications were that the North Vietnamese wanted to recreate their success at Diem Bien Phu in 1954 when a prolonged siege led to the withdrawal of French forces.
Artillery rounds were stockpiled at the base and intelligence was collected. The intel cells were able to get a good idea of where Communist forces were concentrating forces, artillery, and command elements. They were also able to track tunneling efforts by the North Vietnamese trying to get close to the base.
And the North Vietnamese were able to get close — in some cases within a few thousand meters.
On Jan. 21, 1968, the North Vietnamese launched a simultaneous attack against Khe Sanh itself and some of the surrounding hills. Their massed forces would eventually number 20,000, more than three times the number of the 6,000 defenders.
The U.S., with a mass of intelligence and stockpiled weapons, went on the offensive against the North Vietnamese. Artillery shells shot out of the base against pre-identified targets, and a waterfall of bombs started pouring from B-52s.
Initially, the bombs were dropped relatively far from the base. The B-52s tried to stay three miles out, but the communists figured out the restrictions and moved their fighters in close, forcing the B-52s to operate closer to the base and making the ground pounders rely more heavily on strike aircraft and the AC-47 gunship.
Of course, not everything went smoothly for the Marines and their support. An enemy artillery strike by the North Vietnamese managed to hit the ammo dump, destroying 90 percent of the stockpiled rounds in a single hit.
An explosion that rocked a German town over the weekend, and created a 13-feet deep crater in a cornfield, was likely a World War II-era bomb going off, experts said.
Residents in the town of Ahlbach were woken around 4 a.m. on June 23, 2019, by a loud blast followed by a tremor that felt like an earthquake, according to CNN. No one was injured in the blast, the Associated Press reported.
Investigators who visited the cornfield discovered a crater that was 33 feet wide, according to a press release from officials in the town of Limburg.
While there was speculation that the blast could have been a meteorite, experts were brought in and determined it was “almost certainly” a World War II bomb, hessenschau.de reported.
WWII bomb creates this strange circle near Frankfurt (Germany) – ITV News – 24th June 2019
Limburg officials pointed out in their statement that the area was a frequent target for bombing raids during the war, since the Nazis operated railway facilities and radio stations nearby.
Experts say that undiscovered bombs can explode as their detonators deteriorate over time, according to CNN.
Unexploded bombs continue to be found in Germany more than 70 years after World War II. On June 24, 2019, 2,500 people were evacuated just outside Frankfurt when two World War II era bombs were discovered, according to TheLocal.de.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship may soon be armed with an artificial intelligence-enabled maritime warfare network able to seamlessly connect ships, submarines, shore locations, and other tactical nodes.
The Navy is taking technical steps to expand and cyber harden its growing ship-bast ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services.
CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers said.
Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention. It is one of many emerging technologies now being heavily fortified by new algorithms enabling artificial intelligence, senior Navy leaders explain.
“Using AI with CANES is part of a series of normal upgrades we could leverage. Anytime we have an upgrade on a ship, we need the latest and greatest. Navy developers (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command) have a keen eye of what we can build in — not just technology sprinkled on later but what we can build right into automation on a platform. This is why we use open standards that are compliant and upgradeable,” Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, Navy Cybersecurity Director, told Warrior in an interview. “It can seem like a disconnected environment when we are afloat.”
Among many other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data.
(U.S. Navy photo)
“We consider the whole network, just like any system on an aircraft, ship or submarine. These things allow the Navy to protect a platform, ID anomolous behavior and then restore. We have to be able to fight through the hurt,” Barrett said.
Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time — such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing and fire control systems. CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.
The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters and drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems — the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.
Navy developers say increasing cybersecurity, mission scope, and overall resiliency on the CANES networks depends on using a common engineering approach with routers, satcom networks, servers, and computing functions.
“We are very interested in artificial intelligence being able to help us better than it is today. Industry is using it well and we want to leverage those same capabilities. We want to use it not only for defensive sensing of our networks but also for suggesting countermeasures. We want to trust a machine and also look at AI in terms of how we use it against adversaries,” Barrett said.
Nodes on CANES communicate use an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals.
CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.
Carriers equipped with increased computer automation are now able to reduce crew sizes by virtue of the ability for computers to independently perform a wide range of functions. The Navy’s new Ford Class carriers, for instance, drop carrier crew size by nearly 1,000 sailors as part of an effort to increase on-board automation and save billions over the service life of a ship.
Along these lines, Navy engineers recently competed technical upgrades on board the Nimitz-class USS Truman carrier by integrating CANES, officials with Navy SPAWAR said in a statement.
“The Truman received a full upgrade of the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services network to include more than 3,400 local area network drops, impacting more than 2,700 ship spaces,” a SPAWAR article said.
The current thinking, pertinent to LCS and other surface vessels, is to allow ship networks to optimize functions in a high-risk or contested combat scenario by configuring them to quickly integrate new patches and changes necessary to quickly defend on-board networks. Computer automation, fortified by AI-oriented algorithms able to autonomously find, track and — in some cases — destroy cyberattacks or malicious intrusions without needing extensive and time-consuming human interpretation.
“We see that the more we can automate our networks, the more we can use machines to do the heavy lifting. Our brains do not have the capacity from a time or intellectual capacity to process all of that information. It is imperative to how we will be able to maneuver and defend networks in the future. We can have more automated defenses so that, when things happen, responses can be machine-driven. It won’t necessarily require a human,” Barrett said.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
Old Glory traveled through 10 states and touched more than 8,000 hands on its 4,216 mile journey across America this year. Now the third annual Old Glory Relay across the United States has come to an end.
Organized by Team Red, White Blue, the national event spans 62 days and brings together runners, cyclists, walkers and hikers who have a shared interest in connecting with veterans and civilians in the communities they call home.
“We really wanted this to be a unifying event for the organization and to demonstrate the power and the inspiration that comes with a community of veterans working on an epic undertaking together,” said Team RWB Executive Director Blayne Smith. “We figured if we could run a single American flag averaging 60 miles a day … that would be a demonstration of the good that we could do together if we all worked together formed as a team and committed to a big goal.”
With support from incredible members and sponsors like Microsoft, Westfield, The Schultz Family Foundation, Amazon, Salesforce, Starbucks and La Quinta Inn Suites, the event raised more than $1,250,000! Team RWB will then use the donations to help establish new chapters across the United States and to sponsor events where veterans and community members with a shared interest in social and physical activities can get together for a little PT and camaraderie.
But the Old Glory Relay takes that connection one step further, linking together Team RWB’s 210 chapters and over 115,000 members with their love for the Stars and Stripes.
“This is all about connecting folks to the American flag,” said Donnie Starling, Team RWB’s national development project manager. “One hand-off after another, under the symbol of Old Glory.”
“People see the flag, and they see different things,” remarked Navy veteran Sean Kelly. “But when they see people together in their community, they’re drawn to it. I think it’s an interesting time in our country – and to see a positive force that tries to pull people together, that’s a super important mission that I’m excited to be a part of.”
The Old Glory Relay began on Sept. 11 under the Space Needle in Seattle. Runners carried the flag through the Pacific Northwest, through California and across the desert Southwest and deep south.
The relay ended on Veterans Day in Tampa. And while it was a long journey through some grueling country, the feeling of accomplishment showed through from all the participants.
For Shawn Cleary, a runner in Arizona who delivered the flag to the Tucson team to finish out the Phoenix leg, being part of Team RWB has helped him to get to know a culture he wasn’t a part of as a civilian but had always respected as a military child.
“My life before Team RWB was kind of a college lifestyle,” Cleary says. “It started about two and a half years ago, I wanted to get healthy again, and I was starting to run.”
A friend suggested Cleary run with Team RWB. “I was just hooked,” he says.
There are tens of thousands of veterans and civilians alike who have gotten “hooked” and found a home with Team Red, White Blue. Through the organization, they continue to give back to one another and the community at large – and have an incredible time doing so!
There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue, so join the team and get started today. There are always local events happening, and keep an eye out for Team RWB’s national events like the Old Glory Relay!
North Korea held a military parade and rally on Kim Il Sung Square on Feb. 8, just one day before South Korea holds the opening ceremony for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
More than 10,000 troops trained for the parade at a military airfield for several weeks and residents had practiced in plazas around the North Korean capital with bouquets of plastic flowers to spell out slogans during the parade.
A South Korean government official said tens of thousands of people participated or watched the parade that morning in Pyongyang. It wasn’t clear if Kim Jong Un spoke during the event, as he has on previous prominent national events.
The South Korean official also says it wasn’t immediately clear whether North Korea displayed strategic weapons such as intercontinental ballistic missiles during the parade. The official didn’t want to be named, citing office rules.
The North had said the parade and rally would mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of its military.
Feb. 8 has been seen as a less important founding anniversary but was elevated this year in part because it is the 70th — a nice round number.
But the Olympics undoubtedly weighed heavily in the decision to elevate the occasion, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is going out of his way to make sure the North will hold attention throughout the games.
Following a last-minute proposal during Kim’s annual New Year’s address, North Korea is sending 22 athletes to compete and a delegation of more than 400 musicians, singers, martial artists, and cheering squads to the games.
Kim is also dispatching his younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, to attend the opening ceremony. That, in itself, is a major development — she is one of his closest confidants, holds a senior party position, and her trip will mark the first time any member of the ruling Kim family has visited the South since the Korean War.
The North’s conciliatory moves related to the Olympics have generally been welcomed in the South. The parade, however, was more problematic.
Though possibly best known for their legions of goose-stepping troops, North Korean military parades are the country’s primary means of showing off its most recent advances in military technology — sometimes with aspirational mock-ups.
The North unveiled five new kinds of missiles at its most recent major military parade last April.
A group of 177 cybersecurity experts have signed a joint open letter calling on the UK government voicing concerns about the NHS’ plan to roll out a contact tracing app designed to tell people when they’ve come into contact with suspected coronavirus patients.
NHSX, the NHS’ digital experimental arm, says the app will be rolled out in Britain in the next two to three weeks. The way it works is when people sign up to the app, their phone sends out Bluetooth signals to determine what other phones are in its vicinity. If a user develops symptoms they’ll be able to report themselves in the app, and their phone will then send out an alert to all the phones it’s been nearby over the previous two weeks.
The UK has taken the decision to eschew the contact tracing API being built by Apple and Google for use by governments. This decision is partly down to the fact that the UK has decided it wants to centralize users’ data on an external server, making it easier to analyze, rather than keeping processing limited to people’s devices. Apple and Google’s API stipulates that apps use the decentralized method, which is more privacy-conscious.
“It has been reported that NHSX is discussing an approach which records centrally the de-anonymized ID of someone who is infected and also the IDs of all those with whom the infected person has been in contact,” the joint letter reads. The experts argue that this data hoard could facilitate “mission creep,” i.e. the government could later use the data for purposes other than tracking COVID-19.
“It is vital that, when we come out of the current crisis, we have not created a tool that enables data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of society, for surveillance.”
They noted that “invasive information” about users could be exploited.
“Such invasive information can include the ‘social graph’ of who someone has physically met over a period of time. With access to the social graph, a bad actor (state, private sector, or hacker) could spy on citizens’ real-world activities. We are particularly unnerved by a declaration that such a social graph is indeed aimed for by NHSX,” the experts write.
The experts ask in their letter that NHSX minimize the data it extracts from users to build trust in the app so it can be effectively deployed. Experts say 80% of smartphone users the UK would need to install the app for it to be effective in combatting the spread of coronavirus, and privacy concerns could mean falling short of that percentage.
They also ask that NHSX not build databases that could de-anonymize users, and that they lay out how the app will be phased out after the coronavirus crisis subsides.
Chris Markowski is a Marine who served in Iraq less than ten months after graduating from high school. Markowski’s unit deployed with 48 men, but only 18 returned alive or uninjured.
Sprawling across Markowski’s arms, legs, and back is a tattoo of a quote he found on a piece of scrap paper while walking across a base in Iraq. It is from the famous Czech historian Konstantin Jirecek and reads: We are the unwanted, using the outdated, led by the unqualified, to do the unnecessary, for the ungrateful.
“It spoke deeply to me. Many of the people that actually join the military are unwanted by society,” Markowski explains. “But the military gives you the ability to make a future.”
Markowski’s story is part of War Ink: 11 for 11, a video series presented by We Are The Mighty. The series features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.
Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.
The Crusades was the name given to the waves of European knights and peasants who tried to conquer, keep and reconquer the holy city of Jerusalem and the Middle-East between the 11th and the 13th centuries. Although it has been romanticized and turned into a time of heroic deeds through various works of fiction, the reality was much less glamorous than modern depictions.
The Crusades were used as an excuse for violence, cruelty and massacres beyond imagination. Cities were sacked and burnt to the ground, people were tortured and slaughtered for sport or for wearing the wrong symbol around their neck by both sides. Although the death toll is in discussion among historians, some specialists estimate it around 9 million people. Battle was not the only cause of death: thirst, starvation and diseases ravaged the ranks of the Crusaders as surely as combat. As a knight, riding toward the defense of Christendom, these were the diseases that would kill you in the Crusades.
Leprosy is a slow and ugly disease that causes deformities, sores and much suffering, before eventually leading to death. In the 12th century, an epidemic of leprosy ravaged Europe and followed the Crusaders in the Holy Land. It was the downfall of Baldwin IV, the “Leper King,” who ruled over the kingdom of Jerusalem from 1174 until 1185. The disease was believed by many to be a punishment of God; cast upon entire families, thus causing lepers to be isolated and ostracized. They were seen as morally corrupt and were forced to wear identifying clothing ‘R’ and to carry a bell announcing their approach.
Dysentery is a potentially fatal, parasite-induce diarrhea. Probably not the best way to die for a noble knight in quest of glory in the Holy Land. Yet, it proved the undoing of King John, younger brother of Richard the Lionheart, and it affected Saint Louis so badly that he had the bottom of his breeches cut off so he wouldn’t have to constantly pull them up and down. It was originally believed that dysentery killed Saint Louis, but it was later proven that scurvy got him first. Dysentery was often contracted from water contaminated by human wastes. With poor hygiene measures and the rarity of water leading soldiers to make unsafe compromises of the quality of their beverage, dysentery was frightfully common during the Crusades.
Malnutrition was an all-too-common issue in medieval times, and even more so during the Crusades. Due to the aridity of the Middle-East, food sources were jealously protected and not widely available. During marches, soldiers only had access to meager rations and often went hungry. During sieges, food was even more scarce. Even when encamped, they lacked some important variety in their diet. Meat was believed to be the only important source of energy, neglecting fruits and vegetables, which are the main source of vitamin C. Scurvy, a consequence of extreme vitamin C deficiency, killed a sixth of the French army during the Fifth Crusade and even took Saint Louis, king of France, during the Seventh Crusade. It would cause gums to swell, teeth to fall off, feet to hurt violently, and bones to rot. For most soldiers suffering from the scurvy, death was a welcomed mercy.
Sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis, ran rampant in those times. Hygiene was less than basic and protection such as condoms did not exist. Knowledge regarding the cause and the cure for these diseases was also uncommon or non-existent. The prostitutes accompanying the armies were rarely in perfect health and served a great number of clients. Thus allowing a single strain of a particular disease to infect a great number of soldiers. Moreover, mass sexual assault during the conquest of a city was not only common practice, it also was used as a weapon of war. The conquerors then caught whatever bacteria and viruses infected the local population and brought them back to their own side.
Medicine was almost barbaric in this era. The knowledge was vague and sparse, particularly regarding bacteria and viruses. When it was necessary to perform an amputation, usually done by a butcher or a barber. Alcohol was the only form of anesthesia given to the patient. The instruments were not sterilized, leading to a very high probability of fatal infection. Hygiene principles were primitive at best. The smallest cut or injury a potential nest for bacteria that could easily lead to death.
Other diseases, such as smallpox, lice-borne trench fever and tuberculosis, also deserve a mention on the list of common cause of death during the Crusades. Under the guise of good intentions, the Crusades brought about a time of incredible violence, repression, and intolerance. They lead both to the decline of the Muslim world and that of the Byzantine Empire, also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, a Christian nation that was not spared from greed and war crimes. In the end, many people died from diseases. It was not a great time to be alive.
Featured image: Mahdian Crusade 1390: The Crusade-fleet with her leader, the Duke of Bourbon, and the Oriflamme. (British Library, Harley 4379 f. 60v)
The Air Force is tossing out formal performance evaluations for its least experienced airmen.
The service announced January 4 that Enlisted Performance Reports are no longer required for all active-duty airmen until they reach the rank of senior airman or have served for 36 months, regardless of grade. For reservists, EPRs will be required for senior airmen and above. The change is effective immediately.
The move is part of a larger effort by Air Force senior leaders to reduce the administrative burden on airmen and give them more time to focus on the mission, officials said.
“While the Air Force values the contributions of all enlisted personnel, the requirement to document performance in a formal evaluation prior to the grade of senior airman is not necessary,” Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, deputy chief of staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, said in a statement.
The removal of EPRs before promotion to senior airman will give airmen more time to learn their primary skills and duties before their performance is formally documented, Grosso said.
Under the policy change, commanders still have the option to document substandard performance for airmen first class and below after the 20-month-in-service mark.
The Air Force didn’t say how many evaluation reports the policy change would eliminate. Airmen previously were required to get their first evaluation after at least 20 months in uniform.
Thursday’s announcement brings to fruition a plan that Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright had talked about this fall at the Air Force Association’s annual conference.
Wright said at the time that he was working with senior leadership and the Air Force Personnel Center to reduce the burden enlisted performance reports have on schedules, particularly in the maintenance squadrons, according to Air Force Magazine.
The Air Force uses EPRs to evaluate the performance of enlisted personnel both on and off duty, typically on an annual basis. The reports, normally written by the member’s supervisor with input from other unit leaders, are often time-consuming and cumbersome to complete.
Under the change, all active-duty airmen will receive their initial evaluation upon reaching their first March 31 static close-out date after either promotion to senior airman, or after completion of a minimum of 36 months’ time-in-service, regardless of grade, whichever occurs first, officials said.
Enlisted reservists will receive their initial evaluations as a senior airman.