Why troops need to be 'spiritually and mentally fit' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

“When you’re spiritually and emotionally fit, you’ll take care of yourself because you love yourself,” said Master Sgt. David Mundy, 35th Infantry Division chaplain assistant.


While sitting on a bench outside the main chapel at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Mundy made it clear that being spiritual is not necessarily the same as being religious, but that spiritual fitness has the ability to bring a peacefulness to anyone.

“Being spiritually, mentally, and emotionally fit will help lead to physical fitness and, ultimately, it all works toward the overall stability, fitness, and readiness of the individual Soldier,” said Mundy.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
Chaplain Emil Kapaun celebrates a Catholic Mass for cavalry soldiers during the Korean War (Photo U.S. Army)

To build spiritual fitness, Mundy had a few key pieces of advice for Soldiers that he finds helpful whether at home or in a deployed environment.

“As an individual, accept pain for what it is — don’t keep it in,” Mundy said. “Once accepted, become transparent and work through the pain and analyze the situation that brought you to that point.”

This, in Mundy’s experience, helps an individual clarify the problem and work toward a healthy resolution.

In order to successfully work to resolve life’s problems and maintain our mental fitness, Mundy explained that there are four types of people we need to surround ourselves with.

“The first type are prophets — everyone needs a person who can hold their feet to the fire and make them own up to their mistakes,” said Mundy. “The next type of person is the cheerleader — we need to be surrounded by friends who can cheer us on regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves.”

Also Read: What’s the Commandant talking about when he says Marines need to be ‘spiritually’ fit?

“Teasers are the friends who won’t let us beat ourselves up and also make sure to show us a good time,” said Mundy. “Finally, we need encouragers. Encouragers help you find the good in your life and expand on that.”

After a Soldier establishes these friendships and recognizes the different types of people in their lives, Mundy suggests getting into a workout routine with someone who will help drive them.

“Once you find those people, work out with someone in better shape than yourself in order to push yourself to be better,” Mundy continued. “Everyone needs friends who are like-minded, who can encourage yet challenge.”

Like any military installation, there are plenty of avenues to work on physical fitness at Camp Arifjan. Options for workouts include anything from volleyball, basketball, swimming, and weightlifting to 5Ks, marathons, flag football, and soccer.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
Master Sgt. David Mundy, 35th Infantry Division chaplain assistant (left), and friends play Christmas carols for the Christmas program at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Dec. 25, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Margaret Ziffer)

The key is maintaining a routine. Attaining spiritual fitness, according to Mundy, is no different.

“There are chapels and a mosque on Camp Arifjan if a person is looking for religious support,” said Mundy. “It’s all about finding and making the time to participate.”

If Soldiers are not necessarily religious in their beliefs, Mundy also encourages meeting with behavioral health support specialists to help lift or ease burdens.

“Both chaplains and behavioral health support will help you on your way to establishing spiritual and emotional fitness,” said Mundy. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to Soldier stability, but Soldiers should be aware that they have all the resources available to them to stay strong.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim family visits South Korea for the first time since the Korean War

The sister of the North Korean leader on Feb. 9 2018 became the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War as part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.


Arriving on her brother Kim Jong Un’s white private jet for a three-day visit, Kim Yo Jong and the country’s 90-year-old nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam are scheduled to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Feb. 10 in a luncheon at Seoul’s presidential palace.

Dressed in a black coat, carrying a black shoulder bag, and hit with a barrage of camera flashes, Kim Yo Jong smiled as a group of South Korean officials, including Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon, greeted her and the rest of the delegates at a meeting room at Incheon International Airport.

The North Koreans — also including Choe Hwi, chairman of the country’s National Sports Guidance Committee, and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs — then moved down a floor on an escalator to board a high-speed train to Pyeongchang.

Also read: Kim Jong Un suspected of ordering assassination of nephew

Moon has been trying to use the games as an opportunity to revive meaningful communication with North Korea after a period of diplomatic stalemate and eventually pull it into talks over resolving the international standoff over its nuclear program.

The last time a South Korean president invited North Korean officials to the presidential Blue House was in November 2007, when late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, the political mentor of Moon, hosted then-North Korean premier Kim Yong Il for a luncheon following a meeting between the countries’ senior officials.

Skeptics say North Korea, which is unlikely to give up its nukes under any deal, is just using the Olympics to poke holes at the U.S.-led international sanctions against the country and buy more time to further advance its strategic weaponry.

The North Korean delegation’s arrival came a day after Kim Jong Un presided over a massive military parade in Pyongyang that was highlighted by the country’s developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles, which in three flight tests last year showed potential ability to reach deep into the U.S. mainland when perfected.

Related: North and South Korea to train together at the Winter Olympics

South Korean media have been speculating about whether Kim will send a personal message to Moon through his sister and, if so, whether it would include a proposal for a summit between the two leaders.

Kim Yo Jong, believed to be around 30, is the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South since the Korean War.

As first vice director of the Central Committee of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, Kim has been an increasingly prominent figure in North Korea’s leadership and is considered one of the few people who has earned her brother’s absolute trust.

Analysts say the North’s decision to send her to the Olympics shows an ambition to break out from diplomatic isolation and pressure by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.

By sending a youthful, photogenic person who will undoubtedly attract international attention during the games, North Korea may also be trying to craft a fresher public image and defang any U.S. effort to use the Olympics to highlight the North’s brutal human rights record.

South Korea has yet to announce a confirmed schedule for the North Korean delegates aside from their participation in the opening ceremony and the Feb. 8 luncheon with Moon.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
South Korean President Moon Jae-in. (Photo from official South Korea Flickr.)

There’s a possibility that they would attend the debut of the first-ever inter-Korean Olympic team at the women’s ice hockey tournament, hours after their meeting with Moon. They could also see a performance by a visiting North Korean art troupe in Seoul before heading back to Pyongyang.

The North has sent nearly 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games, including officials, athletes, artists and also a 230-member state-trained cheering group after the war-separated rivals agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures for the games.

Moon, a liberal whose presidential win in May last year ended a decade of conservative rule in Seoul, has always expressed a willingness to reach out to the North. His efforts received a boost when Kim Jong Un in his New Year’s Day speech called for improved ties between the Koreas and expressed willingness to send athletes to Pyeongchang.

This led to a series of talks where the Koreas agreed to have its delegates jointly march during the opening ceremony under a blue-and-white “unification” flag and field a combined team in women’s ice hockey. A North Korean art troupe also performed in Gangneung on Feb. 8 2018 and will perform in Seoul on Feb. 11 2018 before heading back home.

More: North and South Korea just took an enormous step back from war

Critics say that South Korea while cooperating with its rival over the Olympics allowed itself to play into the hands of the North which is apparently trying to use the games to weaken sanctions.

South Korea allowed the North to use a 9,700-ton ferry to transport more than 100 artists to perform at the Olympics, treating it as an exemption to maritime sanctions it imposed on its rival, and is now considering whether to accept the North’s request to supply fuel for the ship.

While neither Kim Yo Jong nor Kim Yong Nam are among the North Korean officials blacklisted under U.N. sanctions, the U.S. Treasury Department last year included Kim Yo Jong on its list of blacklisted officials over her position as vice director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.

The U.N. committee monitoring sanctions against North Korea has proposed granting an exemption for Choe, who has been on the U.N. sanctions blacklist since last June.

Articles

Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

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The Marine Corps is solving the problem of requiring pull-ups for women by adding a push-ups option for all troops on the physical fitness test, Military.com has learned.

On Friday, the Corps rolled out a series of sweeping changes to the PFT, combat fitness test, and body fat standards — the result of a review of existing policies that began last November. The new fitness standards go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, officials said, and the body composition standards take effect immediately.

New pull-up policy

Perhaps the most significant change is the elimination of the flexed-arm hang as an alternative to pull-ups for women on the PFT. Instead, both men and women will be able to opt for push-ups instead — an exercise that was not previously part of the test. To encourage troops to do the more demanding exercise, the new standards limit the number of points available to those who choose the push-ups option. While women can achieve the maximum 100 points for completing between seven and ten pull-ups, and men can meet their max at between 20 and 23 reps depending on age, the push-ups scoring chart maxes out at just 70 points.

Most female Marines will have to complete between 40 and 50 push-ups to earn those 70 points, while most men will have to do between 70 and 80.

“Push-ups become an option on the PFT, but Marines are incentivized toward pull-ups, as these are a better test of functional, dynamic upper body strength and correlate stronger to physically demanding tasks,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said in an administrative message to the Corps released Friday. “Push-ups are also a valid exercise and good test; however maximum points can only be earned by executing pull-ups.”

Taken together, Neller said the changes to the PFT were the most significant updates to the program since 1972.

The hybrid pull-up option is the Marines’ solution to a four-year conundrum of how to promote pull-ups for all Marines without making it impossible for women to succeed. In 2012, the Corps announced it was doing away with the female flexed-arm hang in favor of pull-ups, with a minimum of three. Those plans were delayed multiple times, and in 2014, Marine officials admitted that half of women tested in boot camp couldn’t meet the three-pull-up minimum.

Brian McGuire, the deputy force fitness branch head for the standards division of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Military.com that push-ups, like pull-ups, could be completed in the field. But, he said, the pull-up is a more functional test and requires individuals to overcome their entire body weight, while push-ups only require them to overcome 75 to 80 percent of their body weight. But even with its limitations, the push-up is superior to the flexed-arm hang, he said.

“The flexed-arm hang, in many studies, has been shown to be an inadequate test of upper body strength,” McGuire said.

The high number of pull-up repetitions required of women in the new scoring standards reveal an optimism about how training will help them improve. Earlier this year, the Marine Corps promoted a training program piloted by Marine Maj. Misty Posey that promised to use strength and repetition pyramids to get female Marines from “zero to twenty-plus.”

The female pull-ups scoring chart maxes at 10 reps for women between the ages of 26 and 30, though most women will have to do at least seven reps to max their score.

Notably, all of the new standards will keep in place a gender-normed scoring system, which scores men and women differently on the same exercises in acknowledgment of different physical ability thresholds. While the Marine Corps introduced gender-neutral minimum standards for entry into an array of ground combat jobs last fall, McGuire said gender-neutral physical fitness standards for the Marine Corps were never ordered or considered.

Age-specific scoring

Marines may also find themselves doing more repetitions than in previous years to max out their score. The new scoring charts divide Marines into eight age groups, all with different maximum standards based on calculated peak ability. For men and women, the charts assume peak fitness between the ages of 21-25, and 26-30. While the previous PFT scoring chart maxed out pull-up repetitions at 20 for all ages, the new male scoring chart maxes at 23 for men between the ages of 21 and 35.

McGuire said the new age groups were added to meet Neller’s guidance to create relevant and challenging standards. Previously, the Marine Corps had only four fitness age groups, and they only dictated minimum allowable standards.

“We had a 27-39 age group, that’s 12 years,” McGuire said. “There’s some performance differences that happen during that time.”

For events requiring repetitions, such as pull-ups, crunches, and the ammunition can lift, McGuire and TECOM officials went to the fleet to gather real data on Marines’ performance thresholds. Between January and March, they tested around 2,000 Marines at bases around the Corps to chart maximum and median repetition levels. As a result, some repetition maximums are increasing significantly. Max reps for the two-minute ammunition can lift portion of the combat fitness test are going up for 91 to 120 for men and from 60 to 75 for women in some age categories.

For other events, such as running on the PFT and maneuver-to-contact on the CFT, TECOM looked at existing data from Marines who were taking the tests, creating scatter charts and graphs to determine the real distribution of times and scoring. As a result, some maximum times were increased and some minimum times shortened.

“By elevating the standard, which was based again on our data collection, this will allow for greater levels of distinction” among Marines taking the tests, McGuire said.

Male and female run times are getting relaxed for some of the new age categories. While run times for men continue to max at 18 minutes for three miles and for women at 21 minutes, the standards now allow more time for men and women over 40.

Younger Marines will have to work harder, though, to achieve their minimum run score. While the previous standards awarded points for a 33-minute run time for men, now male Marines under 30 will have to beat 28 minutes to pass the test.

Similarly, Marines in younger age groups will have to do more crunches — between 105 and 115, depending on age and gender — to max their score on the exercise. Previously, all charts maxed out at 100 crunches.

Under the new program, the Marines’ combat fitness test will continue to feature maneuver-under-fire, the ammunition can lift, and movement-to-contact. But all scores are now age-normed using the new eight age groups.

No body fat limits for PT studs

Beginning in January, Marines who can get close to maxing out their PFT and CFT scores, earning at least 285 points out of a possible 300, are exempt entirely from the hated tradition of body fat testing, Neller said in his message to the Corps. Those who can score at least 250 on the tests also receive a bonus: an extra allowable one percent body fat above existing standards.

However, he added, all Marines must still comply with the service’s professional appearance standards, ensuring troops look good in uniform.

For some, weight standards will become more relaxed, beginning immediately. The new standards increase weight maximums for women by five pounds across the board. A 5’3 female Marine who previously maxed out her weight at 141 pounds can now weigh 146 pounds and stay within regulations.

Neller told Military.com in February that female troops had told him they struggled to get stronger in order to complete pull-ups and work to enter newly opened ground combat jobs while staying within existing height and weight standards.

“Whether women go into ground combat or not, they’re telling me they’re going to do pullups for the fitness test. They’re going to get stronger. You get stronger, normally you gain weight, you get thicker,” Neller said then. ‘[Female Marines are] wanting to know, ‘Hey, Commandant, make up your mind. What are you going to have us do and if we do this, understand that I’ll do it, but it’s going to cause me probably to have a physical change, so don’t penalize me for doing what you’re telling me to do.'”

The decision to ease the female weight requirements was also supported by data from the Marines Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, an experiment that tested the ability of female Marines to succeed in the infantry alongside men.

“Females who were performing better at the integrated tasks were heavier,” McGuire said.

In his message Friday, Neller said Marines would also use more precise measuring devices to measure body fat. While the “rope-and-choke” circumference method of measuring body fat isn’t going away, McGuire said the Marine Corps would start using self-tensioning tape measures designed to yield more accurate measurements.

“It does eliminate some of the error,” he said.

Also taking effect immediately is a new waiver authority governing troops who max out their weight and body fat limits and are assigned to the body composition program, which can stall career progression and promotion. If Marines cannot get within standards after six months in the program, they risk expulsion from the Corps.

Now, Neller said, the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command will have the authority to sign off on a waiver exempting him or her from the BCP on account of satisfactory fitness and military appearance.

While the new weight standards are not retroactive, Marine officials said, troops who are currently assigned to the BCP or in the process of administrative discharge because they can’t meet standards will be re-evaluated immediately in light of the new policy. If they fall in line with the new regulations, they will be removed from the BCP right away.

“We will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure our standards continue to contribute to the effectiveness of our force and enhance our ability to respond when our Nation calls,” Neller said.

Maj. Gen. James Lukeman, the commander of TECOM, said the new physical standards “raised the bar” for Marines’ fitness.

“Marines today are stronger, faster and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate,” he said in a statement. “In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The President may look at pulling US troops out of Germany

The US Defense Department is reportedly analyzing whether or not it is feasible to conduct a large-scale withdrawal or transfer of US troops in Germany, according to a Washington Post report published on June 29, 2018.

President Donald Trump reportedly mulled the option after meeting with military aides in early 2017, US officials said in the report. Trump, who has had a tenuous relationship with the German chancellor Angela Merkel, was said to have been surprised by the number of US troops stationed in the region.

Some US officials were said to have tried to dissuade Trump from taking action.


Around 35,000 active-duty troops were stationed in Germany in 2017. US troop levels peaked at 274,119 in 1962, 17 years after World War II.

In addition to the US presence in Germany, Trump was reportedly vexed by his belief that other NATO countries were not contributing enough to the organization. Trump has frequently vented his frustration and criticized NATO members for failing to abide by the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level that members agreed to during the alliance’s inception.

European officials were reportedly alarmed at the possibility of US troop movements — some of whom wondered whether Trump might use it as a negotiation tactic.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
Members of Bull Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Cavalry, prepare to engage a multinational force while taking part in a quick-deployment exercise during Allied Spirit VI at Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Hohenfels Training Area, Germany, March 25, 2017.
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Frye)

The National Security Council downplayed the significance and said it had not asked for a formal analysis on repositioning troops: “The Pentagon continuously evaluates US troop deployments,” a statement from the NSC said, according to The Post. The statement added that the “analysis exercises” were “not out of the norm.”

“The Pentagon regularly reviews force posture and performs cost-benefit analyses,” Eric Pahon, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement to The Post. “This is nothing new. Germany is host to the largest US force presence in Europe — we remain deeply rooted in the common values and strong relationships between our countries. We remain fully committed to our NATO ally and the NATO alliance.”

But despite repeated denials of a rift between US and NATO countries, Trump has suggested withdrawing from the 29-member alliance on multiple occasions.

“My statement on NATO being obsolete and disproportionately too expensive (and unfair) for the U.S. are now, finally, receiving plaudits,” Trumps said during his 2016 presidential campaign on Twitter.

Trump has similarly suggested pulling US troops out of South Korea. Citing several people familiar with the discussions, The New York Times reported in May that he had ordered the Pentagon to prepare options for a drawdown.

“We lose money on trade, and we lose money on the military,” Trump said in a speech March 2018. “We have right now 32,000 soldiers on the border between North and South Korea,” Trump added. “Let’s see what happens.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Special Tactics combat controller laid to rest at Arlington

Known for his grit, loyalty, unwavering character, and the author of quick-witted military cadences, often referred to as “jodies,” Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin was tough, dedicated, and easy going — often making light of difficult situations.

He was a good teammate, a selfless friend and a true patriot who expressed a willingness to lay down his life for what he believed in — God and country.


Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, was honored as hundreds gathered in the rain and he was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery, Jan. 24, 2019.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

A Special Tactics combat controller with the 24th Special Operations Wing pounds a flash into the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“The boy had a deep-seeded love for his country, and I think early on he decided he wanted to do something with that,” Elchin’s grandfather, Ron Bogolea said. “Somewhere along the line, he apparently made the decision that he was willing to give his life for the country.”

As a Special Tactics combat controller, Elchin was specially trained and equipped for immediate deployment into combat operations to conduct global access, precision strike, and personnel recovery operations. He was skilled in reconnaissance operations, air traffic control and joint terminal attack control operations.

Foundation of morals, discipline

Growing up in rural Beaver County, Pennsylvania, Elchin’s love for camping, hiking, and swimming led him to cub and boy scouts, where his grandfather, Bogolea, believes he acquired his moral compass.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

Dawna Duez, mother of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, receives a flag from Air Force Lt. Gen. Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command, during a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 24, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“He loved the whole aspect of boy scouts,” said Bogolea. “I think as a boy scout, it did a lot to instill in him some of the better moral things in life that people need, and it filled him with patriotism.”

Alongside three brothers, Dylan grew up doing “boy things,” often resulting in minor scrapes and bruises. A trip to the hospital at the age of four showcased a trait that would establish the foundation for Elchin’s success in Special Tactics.

As Bogolea recalls, Dylan’s horseplay on a bunkbed resulted in a laceration above his eye that required stitches, but with the location of the cut, the medical team wasn’t able to apply any medication for the pain. What happened next amazed Dylan’s grandfather and showcased how Dylan was different from other children.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

An Air Force bugler plays taps during the military funeral honors of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“The boy never whimpered, never whined, never cried, and I was just amazed.” Bogolea said. “From that point on, I just knew there was something a little different about this child. He could take things and kind of brush them off.”

Joining the nation’s elite warriors

By age 14, Dylan began reading accounts of various historical conflicts — Vietnam, the Gulf War, and others — that involved the expertise of special operations.

“A spark ignited, the spark that most of us don’t have,” Bogolea said.

At the end of high school, Dylan visited the local Air Force recruiter and expressed his desire to perform more high-risk activities.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

A casket team folds an American flag during the military funeral honors of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Jan. 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“Dylan wanted to jump out of airplanes, scuba dive and do all that fun stuff,” his grandfather said.

The recruiter was able to fulfill Dylan’s desires and offered him an opportunity to serve his nation as a Special Tactics combat controller. While the desire and passion were there, Elchin needed to focus on the physical aspects of the job to best prepare him for what lay ahead.

“For a year, the recruiter took Dylan under his wing and brought him to the YMCA…swam him, lifted weights with him, ran him, ran him and ran him.” Bogolea said. “The whole year this recruiter got him in shape; otherwise he wouldn’t have made it.”

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

A casket team removes the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

On Aug. 7, 2012, the Hopewell High School graduate would come one step closer to his goal as he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and arrived in San Antonio, Texas for basic military training. Upon graduation, he immediately began the two-year Special Tactics combat control training program.

As Dylan progressed through one of the most strenuous military training programs, his teammates began to notice one of his most valued characteristics, his quick-witted humor.

“He was a hilarious human, he was probably one of the funniest people that I’ve ever encountered in this job,” said a Special Tactics officer with the 720th Special Tactics Group and Dylan’s teammate in the pipeline. “His quick wit, his ability to draw the most hilarious comics and just provide levity to the worst situations made him an unbelievable teammate that everybody wanted to help carry along and be carried by.”

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

A caisson carries the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

However, it wasn’t only his humor his teammates noticed. They saw the same spark Bogolea did.

“He just had that grit…He just kept driving through and he would always do whatever it took to get the job done. That definitely stood out to me,” said a Special Tactics officer and Elchin’s teammate throughout the pipeline and his team leader at the 26th STS. “His never quit, no-fail attitude carried him, and that’s what he took to everything he did, even post-pipeline, as an operator.”

When it came time for Dylan and his team to graduate from combat control school at Pope Field, North Carolina, and don their scarlet berets for the first time, he invited his family down to attend the graduation ceremony.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

Air Force Maj. Amber Murrell, left, and Air Force Capt. Christopher Pokorny, both chaplains, lead a caisson carrying the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

“I go down there and I meet up with him; and I look across the field and I see a half a dozen guys jogging through a field with a telephone pole on their shoulders,” Bogolea said. “I said to (Dylan), ‘what’s that?’, he said ‘that’s Andy’, I said, ‘what are they doing?’, and he replied, ‘well, if you screw up, you get to carry Andy. If you don’t screw up, you get to carry Andy’.”

The ability to smile and laugh gave Dylan and his team a comradery that would fuel them through combat control school and their next stop — Advanced Skills Training at Hurlburt Field, Florida. Following graduation of AST, Special Tactics operators are sent to their respective units deployment ready and prepared to be force multipliers on the battlefield.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

The family of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

When Dylan arrived to the 26th STS in October of 2015, his new unit was set to deploy in the upcoming months. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the time required to earn his joint terminal attack controller rating, and he was unable to go with his unit on the deployment.

For many special operators, this situation would be disheartening.

“His attitude with it the whole time was great,” said Master Sgt. TJ Gunnell, a Special Tactics tactical air control party specialist with Air Force Special Operations Command headquarters and Dylan’s team sergeant at the 26th STS. “We came back and they were like, ‘man, Dylan was crushing it here the whole time you guys were gone,’ and they put him right back on a team and he immediately went to work.”

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

A casket team removes the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

In August of 2018, the 26th STS deployed and this time Dylan joined his unit in Afghanistan serving as a JTAC embedded with a U.S. Army Special Operations Force Operational Detachment-Alpha team. His role was to advise the ground force commander, direct close air support aircraft, and deliver destructive ordnance on enemy targets in support of offensive combat operations.

“As soon as they got overseas on this trip, he was there two weeks and immediately into it, just crushing it as a JTAC,” Gunnell said.

Gunnell was referring to Dylan’s actions Aug. 12, 2018, when he repeatedly disregarded his own personal safety and exposed himself to enemy fire while coordinating life-saving, danger-close, air-to-ground strikes, killing enemy fighters who had pinned down their friendly forces convoy. Dylan’s timely and precise actions were credited with saving the lives of his Army Special Forces and Afghan Commando brethren, and he was awarded an Army Commendation Medal with Valor.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

More than 350 family members, friends and teammates of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin gather for a ceremony at Fort Myer Memorial Chapel, Arlington, Va., Jan. 24, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

This was just the start of a consistent battle rhythm Dylan and his teammates pursued throughout their deployment; but unfortunately on Nov. 27, 2018, Elchin and three of his teammates paid the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.

Elchin, along with U.S. Army Capt. Andrew Ross and U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Emond, were killed in action when their vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan while deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Army Sgt. Jason McClary died later as a result of injuries sustained from the IED.

For his outstanding courage and leadership over the course of his deployment, Dylan was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star Medal.

“I implore you to honor (Dylan’s) service and sacrifice by picking up your sword and shield and continuing the righteous fight, that each one of us might make this world a better and safer place,” said Air Force Lieutenant Col. Gregory Walsh, 26th STS commander, in a letter addressed to Dylan’s teammates. “Although heartbroken at the loss of Dylan, I am extremely proud of him, and every one of you as we carry on in defense of our great nation. Together we must continue the mission, honor his legacy, and never forget what Dylan gave that we might be free.”

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

A casket team secures the casket of Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joseph Pick)

Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin is the 20th Special Tactics Airman to be killed in combat since 9/11. In the close-knit Special Tactics community, the enduring sacrifices of Elchin and his family will never be forgotten.

Elchin was a qualified military static line jumper, free fall jumper, an Air Force qualified combat scuba diver, and a qualified JTAC. His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal with Valor, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Action Medal, Air Force Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Air Force Longevity Service Award, Air Force noncommissioned Professional Military Education Graduate Ribbon, Air Force Training Ribbon and NATO Medal.

“Dylan knew the freedom and lifestyle we enjoy here must be protected from evil people wanting to destroy our life. Such love a man must have to lay down his life for his friends and his country, but this is who he was,” Bogolea said. “He truly died a noble death. Dylan was a man who had dreams and the guts to make those dreams come true.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

Articles

Army vet walked 2,200 miles to raise awareness about veteran suicide

On April 19, a former soldier completed a 2,200-mile walk across the United States to draw attention to suicides among military veterans.


Army veteran Ernesto Rodriguez finished his trek from Clarksville, Tennessee, to the California coast when he walked the last few miles and onto the Santa Monica Pier.

A police motorcycle officer led the way and a crowd of supporters followed as Rodriguez strode to the end of the pier with American flags protruding from his backpack.

“I’m freaking out, I’m overwhelmed,” he told KTTV. “It’s the culmination of everything I’ve done and it’s starting to hit me. I’ve tried to stay calm pretty much up until today but I’m getting to a point where my emotions are starting to hit.”

Rodriguez, who spent 15 years in the Army, said he got the idea for the journey after hearing about a 2012 study that said there were 22 veteran suicides a day.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

“I could’ve been one of those 22 back in 2011,” he told the station. “I wanted to find a way to inspire those that are having dark days like that to just keep pushing forward. So I just started walking.”

The trek began on Veterans Day 2016.

“There’s been days I’ve wanted to quit,” he said. “There’s been days that I almost died, to be quite honest. When I was out in the desert it was rough — dehydration, heat exhaustion — but there were so many people that came out. I remember something as simple as somebody driving and finding me and bringing me water or Gatorade just to make sure I wasn’t dehydrated out there.”

“I’m so grateful for the kindhearted people that helped me get through this.”

Articles

This soldier thinks it’s time to retire the Pathfinder badge

The de-activation of the Pathfinder Company at Fort Campbell and the Army’s recent decision to do away with Long Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance Detachments got me thinking: Why do we even have Pathfinder school anymore?


Don’t get me wrong, Pathfinder was a tough course, and I proudly wore the winged torch for much of my career.  But the only reason I went to the school was for the badge, and if most people are honest with themselves, that’s why they went, too.  After all, the course is often derisively referred to as “Badgefinder.”

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
U.S Army Civil Affairs Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Soldiers earn their Pathfinder Badge at Fort Bragg, N.C. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres

I learned some useful skills in Pathfinder School, but I probably didn’t need to go to a dedicated school to learn them.  The hardest part about Pathfinder was memorizing the capabilities, tables, and charts necessary to calculate things like forward throw, HLZ and DZ sizes, and cargo capacity.  Those are important things to know how to do, but (like for Air Assault School), you will rely on hard copy versions of that information, not your memory, if you need to do it for real.

Additionally, most of the people who attend Pathfinder end up never being in a Pathfinder unit, much less use those skills operationally.

Pathfinder has a long and proud history, but it has outlived its utility.  It’s time to furl the school’s colors, retire the badge, and put those resources to better use.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Air Force Academy cadets are building satellites

“Learning space by doing space” is the motto of the Air Force Academy’s unique FalconSAT senior capstone engineering program, a program unlike any other undergraduate space program in the world.

Each year Astro Department faculty, aided by experts from other departments, NCOs, technicians and contractors, provide cadets with the real hands-on experience of designing, building, testing, and launching and operating satellites for the Air Force.


FalconSAT’s roots trace back to the early 1980s when the first cadet experiments were designed for space shuttle missions. These later morphed into balloon-launched testbeds and small payloads followed by free-flying satellites launched in the early 2000s. Since the mid-2000s, the Air Force Research Lab has sponsored the FalconSAT program, providing funding and payloads to give cadets this unique opportunity. Each FalconSAT has included payloads intended to provide flight heritage and experimental data to researchers at AFRL, the Academy, NASA, Air Force Space Command and major contractors.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

U.S. Air Force Academy cadets clean the components of the FalconSat-6 satellite they and their instructors built at the Academy at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The satellite successfully launched into space Dec. 3, 2018 from Vandenberg.

FalconSAT experience is invaluable to the development of future Air Force leaders. Graduates of the program have earned numerous nationally competitive scholarships, including two Rhodes scholarships and three Holaday Fellowships in the last 15 years, and have gone on to do similar work at the Space and Missile Systems Center, the AFRL, National Reconnaissance Office, and in operational space and rated duties. Many cite their real-world FalconSAT lessons as the best, most effective preparation for active duty that they received during their cadet career.

This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

After 75 years, D-Day veteran is reunited with his long-lost French love

An American D-Day veteran was reunited with his French love, 75 years after they first parted, USA Today reports.

K.T. Robbins kept a photo of the girl he met in the village of Briey in 1944. Jeannine Pierson, then Ganaye, was 18 when she met the Army veteran, who was 24 at the time.

“I think she loved me,” Robbins, now in his late nineties, told television station France 2 during an interview. Travelling to France for the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, Robbins said he hoped to track down Pierson’s family, the BBC reports. “For sure, I won’t ever get to see her. She’s probably gone now.”


Robbins left Pierson when he was transferred east. “I told her, ‘Maybe I’ll come back and take you some time,'” he said. “But it didn’t happen.” After the war, Robbins returned to the US, got married, and started a family. Pierson, too, married, and had five children.

After Robbins showed the photo of the young Pierson to France 2 journalists, they tracked her down — she was still alive, now 92, and living just 40 miles from the village where they had originally met.

75 years later, D-Day veteran meets long-lost French love

www.youtube.com

Robbins reunited with his wartime love at Sainte Famille, her retirement home in the town of Montigny-les-Metz.

“I’ve always thought of him, thinking maybe he’ll come,” Pierson said. And, 75 years later, he did.

“I’ve always loved you. I’ve always loved you. You never got out of my heart,” Robbins told Pierson upon their reunion.

The two sat together and told reporters about the time they spend together so many years ago.

“When he left in the truck I cried, of course, I was very sad,” Pierson told reporters. “I wish, after the war, he hadn’t returned to America.” She also started to learn English after World War II, in hopes Robbins would return.

“I was wondering, ‘Where is he? Will he come back?’ I always wondered,” Pierson said.

“You know, when you get married, after that you can’t do it anymore,” Robbins said about returning to find Peirson earlier. Robbins’ wife, Lillian, died in 2015.

While the two had to part again — Robbins left for Normandy to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion — they promised to meet again soon.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army gave this young man a taste of the armored cavalry life

Young Ethan Larimer has always dreamed of joining the Army and following in the footsteps of his father, Daniel Larimer, who was a “Blackhorse Trooper,” as soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment are known.

However, Ethan has a unique neurological disorder — Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy type 4J, or CMT4J — that will prevent him from joining the military. Because of his medical condition, Ethan has difficulty with motor functions and uses a wheelchair.


“Ethan has dealt with his disease very well,” said Daniel Larimer. “He has been hospitalized for weeks on end at times as well as continuous physical therapy. One thing Ethan has taught me is that even if you have some barriers or limitations, that doesn’t need to be your life.”

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
Ethan Larimer, center, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Honorary Blackhorse Trooper, and Grant Averill, Ethan’s friend, are briefed about the capabilities of the vehicle mounted Browning M2 .50 Cal. Machine Gun.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)

Though Ethan will never be able to serve in the Army due to his disability, he still dreams of riding into battle on the back of tanks. When Ethan’s mother, Victoria Perkins, contacted the 11th Armored Cavalry about fulfilling Ethan’s dream, the famed Blackhorse Regiment was happy to oblige.

Ethan recently spent a day with soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry, who helped Ethan check off all the items on his bucket list. Upon arrival to Regimental Headquarters, Ethan was inducted into the Blackhorse Honorary Rolls, an honor set aside for those who have served the regiment above reproach. The regimental commander then presented Ethan with the Regimental Command Team coins.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
Ethan Larimer, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Honorary Blackhorse Trooper, and Col. Joseph Clark, commander, 11th ACR, share humorous stories.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)

Ethan was able to see demonstrations of several guns, including the M240B Machine Gun, Browning M2 .50 Cal. Machine Gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and M4A1 Carbine. He also got to drive his wheelchair into a tank and see a helicopter.

“Through his diagnosis and living with CMT4J, Ethan has shown great resiliency,” said Col. Joseph Clark, Regiment Commander, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. “My interaction with Ethan was inspiring, because he maintains positivity, and refuses to allow his disability to stop him. Throughout the day, he was curious and asked many questions about what we do. His personality, his drive, and his grit is exactly what I look for in my troopers, and I am honored to have made him a Blackhorse Trooper.”

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
Ethan Larimer, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Honorary Blackhorse Trooper, is briefed during his tour in the smoke house at the National Training Center.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)

Ethan was given a personal “Box Tour,” an event where people are shown the ins and outs of training and battles at the National Training Center in Irvine, California. Then he led a platoon during building clearance drills through the streets of “Razish,” a simulated town at NTC.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
Ethan Larimer, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Honorary Blackhorse Trooper, explores the main battle tank.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)

Later the 11th Armored Cavalry’s Horse Detachment gave Ethan a tour of the stables and brought some of the horses out to greet the young Blackhorse Trooper. The Horse Detachment conducted a special demonstration for Ethan and his family to mark the end of Ethan’s day.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Troopers explain building clearance drills to Ethan Larimer, 11th ACR Honorary Blackhorse Trooper, and Daniel Larimer, Ethan’s father and former Blackhorse Trooper.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)

“Even though I am no longer a service member, the post and the unit I was a part of really pulled out all the stops to accommodate my son,” said Daniel. “We are all really grateful to come back and see what the Blackhorse has become and to hear ‘Allons’ again.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @usarmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Secretary Mattis’ press briefings are so intense

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spent more than 40 years in the study and practice of war, but his extensive thoughts and writings on the subject have often been selectively reduced to chesty one-liners.


There’s the admonition to the troops, “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet.”

And another, “There’s some a——s in the world that just need to be shot.”

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (Photo courtesy of DoD)

Other examples of bumper-sticker bravado could be cited that tend to drown out the context and Mattis’ consistent underlying message in a career as Marine legend and four-star general — that being prepared for war is the best way to prevent it.

Mattis, in the past week, has been attempting to provide more context in three informal sessions with Pentagon reporters that he acknowledges undertaking at the suggestion of The Associated Press’ senior defense correspondent, Bob Burns.

It’s just him in the middle of a reporters’ huddle. His aides stand aside but within earshot. He is unfailingly polite and direct in his responses to any topic that comes up, with the exception of those that he feels would give a clue to future operations.

Only once has he snapped at a question. Mattis took a question on civilian casualties in Yemen as suggesting that the U.S. didn’t care about the casualties. “Don’t screw with me,” he said.

At the session with reporters Jan. 5, Mattis took questions on Pakistan, Syria, Korea, Iran, Russia, transgender recruits, and the budget and, in the process, made a statement that could be added to his lexicon of one-liners.

“What counts most in war is [the] most difficult to count,” he said in expanding on his thoughts about civil war in Syria in response to a question about whether progress could be gauged by the number of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters killed.

Another reporter interjected that Mattis had recently said in Tel Aviv, “I’ve got better things to do than counting while the fight’s still going on.”

Mattis went on to say, “Yes, we’re not going to get into that sort of thing. You’ll know probably the most challenging part in assessing in combat — to include specifically your question — is that what counts most in war is most difficult to count, to quantify, OK?”

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis meets with Iraqi Minister of Defense Arfan al-Hayali at the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, Iraq, Feb. 20, 2017. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

The most difficult thing to quantify is the enemy’s morale, Mattis said, but there are “lagging indicators” that would show that constant pressure is having an effect.

“Morale, eventually, you’ll see a lagging indicator,” he said. “You’ll see that not as many people want to be recruited into a force that’s getting annihilated — witness Syria.”

“You won’t see as many foreigners coming to join witness this. So, you can kind of look at what’s happened in Syria and say, ‘Wait a minute. They’re not putting out squads to go blow off bombs in Brussels anymore.’ They can’t. You know, this sort of thing,” Mattis said.

The problem is that “not always can you quantify where you’re at, at any one moment,” he said, but in the case of ISIS “we’ll fight them” until the threat is eliminated.

Read More: 15 quotes from Gen. Mad Dog’ Mattis, slayer of bodies (Updated)

Mattis also spoke on tyranny and revolution in commenting on the recent street protests in Iran against the Islamic regime.

“You know, it’s interesting. You know, I enjoy reading history, just because I learn a lot from it. And, if you watch, when people confront tyranny — and this goes back 1,000-2,000 years — people, eventually, they get fed up with it,” he said.

“And whether it be physical tyranny or mental tyranny or spiritual tyranny, they revolt against it,” Mattis said.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’
(Photo from Department of Defense)

“So we may come from different directions,” he said of Iranian and American judgments on the regime in Tehran, “but ultimately, it’s the same kind of tyranny.”

“In their case, it’s about their internal government, what it does to them. In our case, it’s that, plus it’s what that government has done to espouse or support terrorism, destabilizing activities, export of ballistic missiles, disruption of commerce. All these kinds of things,” he said.

Mattis declined to speculate on what may come next, and what the U.S. response would be.

“There’s a reason I have four-stars out in the field,” he said of the combatant commanders.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

A seeming clone of the X-47B shows up at Chinese airshow

A new drone model with stealth features has been unveiled at China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) booth at the China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition and Airshow China, in Zhuhai.

Initially hidden under a tarp, the unmanned aircraft has eventually been unveiled, showing a striking resemblance to some pretty famous American unmanned aerial systems (UAS). We don’t know whether it is a full scale mock-up or just a scale model of an existing or future prototype; still, the available images provide enough details for some analysis.


Some observers suggested the Chinese drone is a sort of copy of the famous Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealth drone captured by Iran in 2011 and then reverse-engineered by Tehran: according to the information circulating on the Chinese Defense forums, a group of 17 Chinese experts flew to Iran 4 days after only four days after the Sentinel drone had crash landed in Iran during a spy mission, not only to inspect, but also to collect and bring back to China some key components of the RQ-170.

While it’s extremely likely that China had the opportunity to inspect the drone and copy the circuitry, lenses, sensors that probably survived the mysterious crash landing, the shape of the article exhibited at Zhuhai seems to be more similar to the Northrop Grumman Unmanned Carrier Air Vehicle demonstrator (UCAS-D) aircraft of the X-47B program than the Lockheed Martin RQ-170.

In their article on the Chinese drones at the Zhuhai Airshow, The War Zone’s Joseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway, describing the large flying wing-shaped aircraft hidden under tarps said:

“From what little we can tell of the planform under the mats, it appears to be similar in configuration to something roughly akin to an X-47B, but with more slender outer wings and less of accentuated ‘cranked kite’ configuration.”

Indeed, the new drone seems to be largely based on the X-47B with some modifications, including slightly different intake (taller than that of the Northrop Grumman demonstrator aircraft – in fact, this is the one thing that seems to really “come” from the RQ-170), wingspan/planform, nose section and landing gear (the one of the American UCAV was designed for arrested landings on aircraft carriers).

The front nose gear bay door reminds the one of another quite famous Northrop Grumman stealth aircraft: the B-2 Spirit bomber.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

A B-2 Spirit sits on jacks Feb. 26, 2010, awaiting Airmen from the 509th Maintenance Squadron Aero Repair Shop to perform landing gear operational checks.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jessica Snow)

Anyway, until more images and details about this new drone emerge we can just add that considered all the cyber attacks targeting Lockheed Martin stealth projects as well as other US aerospace industries in the last years, we can’t rule out the possibility that Chinese hackers were able to put their hands on some useful technical drawings of some American UAVs, useful to “clone” U.S. shapes, planforms and components. And possibly improve them or at least try to.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kurdish forces strike a deal with Syrian army

The Kurdish-led administration in northeastern Syria announced on Oct. 13, 2019, that it had struck a deal with the Syrian army in order to combat an intensifying attack by Turkish forces in the region.

Turkey has embarked on major air and land offensives against The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who control a sizeable area of land in Syria’s northeast which runs along the Turkish border. The move comes just days after Trump announced that he would soon be pulling out US troops still stationed in the region.

On Oct. 13, 2019, the Kurdish-led administration announced that it had reached a deal with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, and that Syrian government troops would be deployed in the north in order to fend off the Turkish incursion.


“In order to prevent and confront this aggression, an agreement has been reached with the Syrian government… so that the Syrian army can deploy along the Syrian-Turkish border to assist the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF),” the statement said, according to Al Jazeera.

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

Syrian President Bashar al Assad

The statement added that the Syrian deployment would also help “liberate” areas held by Turkish-backed Syrian rebel groups like Afrin, a city which was occupied as a result of the Turkish military operation in 2018.

Syria’s state-run SANA news agency reported that Syria’s army had begun moving north “to confront Turkish aggression on Syrian territory.” The agency also condemned Turkish “massacres” against locals in the north.

The move represents a shift in alliance for the Kurds after US ‘stab in the back’

The surprise move represents a major shift in alliance for Kurdish forces, who were once the United States’ main allies in the region and had been fending off Islamic State militants alongside US troops for years.

The SDF has called Trump’s sudden decision to withdraw troops a “stab in the back” and has vowed to “defend our land at all costs.”

Why troops need to be ‘spiritually and mentally fit’

U.S. and Turkish military forces in northeast Syria.

(Photo by Spc. Alec Dionne)

Turkey’s assault on Kurdish-held areas stems from the group’s ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party, also known as the PKK, which has long fought an armed conflict for Kurdish independence against Turkey. Turkey and other allies have labeled the PKK a terrorist organization, and Turkey has expressed concern that Kurdish forces along its southern border could pose a security threat in the future.

Videos have surfaced online which appear to show Turkish-backed rebel groups slaughtering Kurdish fighters. The US State Department also confirmed on Sunday that Havrin Khalaf, the civilian secretary-general of the Kurdish movement called the Future Syria Party, was captured and killed by Turkish forces.

On Oct. 13, 2019, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said that the US was officially preparing to withdraw its remaining 1,000 troops. The hasty pullout has reportedly left dozens of “high value” ISIS prisoners behind in the area gripped by chaos.

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

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