These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY GAMING

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

Everyone in the military (including the Air Force) scratches their heads over why ridiculous and over-sized swords are given to high ranking Air Force officers. The real reason is rooted in tradition and a dash of silliness.


U.S. Air Force NCOs honor officers who have made significant contributions to the enlisted corps by inducting them into the Order of the Sword. The keeper of the Air Force Master Sword, the Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, bestows the honored officers with a sword of their own, fitting to their duty.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
That’s right. The Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force has his very own actual Master Sword.

According to the Air Force’s claim: “The original order of the sword was patterned after two orders of chivalry founded during the Middle Ages in Europe: the (British) Royal Order of the Sword and the Swedish Military Order of the Sword, still in existence today. In 1522, King Gustavus I of Sweden ordered the noblemen commissioned by him to appoint officers to serve him, and these people became known as the non-commissioned officers.”

Eagle-eyed historians would poke holes in many of those claims. The Brits don’t have an Order of the Sword. The Sweds didn’t have one until 1748, which is way later than what is considered the Middle Ages — and they haven’t inducted anyone since 1975. The Romans already had a form of an NCO, France’s King Charles VII helped form corporals a century earlier than Gustavus I, and Baron Von Steuben helped finalize the American NCO Corps as we know it with the “Blue Book” for the Colonial Army, so, yeah, there are some holes in this origin story.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
By video game logic, those Senior Airmen shouldn’t be high enough level to equip that sword.

As for the current Air Force Order of the Sword, the inductee is chosen by the enlisted airmen on a strictly confidential matter. Having roughly 50,000 airmen keeping a secret is nearly impossible, so the decision is made by the 15 senior most enlisted. Because of this, seven consecutive 4-star commanders of the United States Air Forces in Europe were placed into the order.

But it’s the design of sword that draws the most attention. The over-the-top pageantry that goes into the design is a source of entertainment and jest all around the military.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
So it has +15 lightning damage because he was the Deputy Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command? Got it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Swiss vets can keep their rifle after leaving the service

After troops from various militaries around the world finish their time in service, they turn their gear in, finalize their paperwork, and hang up their uniform for good. Swiss soldiers, however, can skip that last visit to the arms room and walk out with their service weapon in tow.

Surprised? To the Swiss, this is just a part of the culture.


This is a part of Switzerland’s Aggressive Neutrality Policy. Despite being a nation whose name has become synonymous with neutrality, Switzerland has kept the peace by letting the world know that it will not hesitate to defend itself by any means necessary.

It’s an open secret that the country hosts a huge amount of heavily fortified bunkers, ready-to-blow roadways, and the world’s 38th largest military despite the fact that the country is just shy of half the size of South Carolina. No, really — all of this information is readily available on Google.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
Very picturesque, even after realizing there’s enough TNT hidden on that thing to blow it to Hell.
(Photo by Oma Toes)

Another way for the Swiss to keep outside threats on edge is by pairing conscription with a gun culture that’s on par with Texas’. Every able-bodied male citizen is required to join the military in some fashion and the women are strongly encouraged. Culturally, conscription isn’t seen as a negative thing and recruits aren’t dragged in kicking and screaming.

In fact, it’s just an ordinary part of life and the Swiss are proud to join. In 2013, a referendum was drawn up to abolish conscription, but it failed miserably — 73% of citizens strongly favored conscription.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
The Swiss love their army. And their Army Knives…
(Courtesy Photo)

All of this is important to understanding the mindset of the Swiss people, their military, and their veterans. Nearly everyone in Switzerland has served in the military in some capacity and they keep the peace by tiptoeing while carrying a large friggin’ stick. If there should ever come a time where Switzerland is invaded, a well-armed and well-trained population is ready to rise up.

Now, this isn’t to say that rifles are handed over freely, even though that would make for the greatest VA system in the world. Most times, Swiss veterans pay out of pocket to keep the firearm they trained on. The ammunition isn’t for sale, though. Swiss vets need to get that on their own.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
u200bI have one, plausible, idea why that might be…

MIGHTY TRENDING

7 lesser-known facts about the National Guard

Sometimes it can feel pretty darn easy to forget about the National Guard – especially when the branch doesn’t get any traction for high visibility news coverage. But the truth is that the National Guard actually has a long and distinguished history, and has been a cornerstone to the support of other branches of the military.

Here’s a list of 7 lesser known facts about the National Guard.


Earliest beginnings 

Did you know that the National Guard is older than the United States? It’s true. In 1636, the first militia units were organized in the Massachusetts Bay Colony under three permanent regiments, and each of these militia units trace their lineage back to 17th century armed forces. However, colonists were fearful of a militia and vehemently opposed a standing army.

Over 100 years later, the 1792 Militia Act gave the president powers to call forth the militia whenever the United States might be invaded or be in face of imminent danger of invasion.

Evolution of the Guard

Free, able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45 were conscripted into local militia during the 19th century in the United States. The militia units were divided much like the current modern military into divisions, brigades, battalions and companies.

What’s in a name?

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
It was the Frenchman who helped America fight for its independence that popularized the name “Nationa Guard” decades before being an official title. (Wikimedia Commons)

The use of the term “National Guard” occurred after the end of the Civil War. In 1878, the National Guard Association of the United States was formed to lobby for the formation of the National Guard in states and territories. The term was popularized by Marquis de Lafayette, but didn’t become an official term until 1916.

During the Revolutionary War, National Guard service members were called “Minutemen” for their rapid response abilities, making them the original Rapid Deployment Force.

Official recognition 

During the Progressive Era (1890-1920), reforms to government and private industry saw a shift in the perception of the National Guard. Of the most pressing reforms was the Militia Act of 1903 which established training and organizational standards across all Guard units in the country.

The amendment of the National Defense Act in 1933 officially created the National Guard of the United States and formally established it as a separate reserve component of the Army. This revision allowed for the creation of training standards and clearly defined the role of National Guard units when they’re called into service.

Swearing in ceremonies are unusual

Each member of the National Guard has to swear to uphold both the federal constitution and their state constitution. This oath hearkens back to the origins of the National Guard as a state militia.

Presidents serve, too

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
President George W. Bush as a member of the Texas Air National Guard, where he served from 1968-1973 (U.S. Air Force)

Two presidents have served in the National Guard in its current iteration – Harry S. Truman and George W. Bush.

A National Guard for every state

Guard units are everywhere except in American Samoa, which is the only U.S. territory not to have a unit.

To join the National Guard, a person has to be between the ages of 17 and 35, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, and have at least a high school diploma or GED. Enlistment is eight years, minimum. However, a person can elect to serve three or six years and spend the remainder of the time in Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). IRR soldiers don’t train with a unit but can be called up in the event of an emergency.

MIGHTY HISTORY

6 heroes who saved American lives on Heartbreak Ridge

The Battle of Heartbreak Ridge in 1951 was supposed to be a quick win by U.S. and U.N. forces in Korea. They had just pushed the North Koreans and Chinese off of the nearby “Bloody Ridge,” and they believed the communist forces could be pushed off the ridge quickly as they’d had a limited time to dig in, but it turned into a month-long slugfest that would leave almost 30,000 dead.

Here are six heroes who ensured most of those deaths came from North Korea and China:


These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau

(Military Sealift Command)

Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau

Infantryman Pfc. Herbert K. Pililaau’s company was holding a key position at Pia-ri on the ridge when, after repeated attacks, the platoon was nearly out of ammo. They needed to withdraw temporarily, but the near-continuous attacks made that challenging. Pililaau volunteered to stay in position as the men near him withdrew.

Communist forces charged the lines as the rest of the company withdrew, and Pililaau fired through his automatic weapon ammo, threw hand grenades until he ran out, and then fought hand-to-hand with his fists and trench knife until he was overwhelmed. He is thought to have killed more than 40 before dying and later received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea.

(Pfc. James Cox, U.S. Army)

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris

Sgt. 1st Class Tony K. Burris was part of a series of attacks near Mundung-Ri from October 8-9, 1951. They hit an entrenched force and the attack stalled, except for Burris. Burris charged forward and hurled grenade after grenade, killing 15 and creating an opening. The next day, he spearheaded an assault on the next position.

He was hit by machine gun fire, but pressed the attack anyway. He took a second hit, but remained forward, directing a 57mm recoilless rifle team to come up. He drew fire from the enemy machine gun, allowing the team to take it out. Then, he refused medical evacuation and attacked again, taking out more machine gun emplacements before taking a mortal wound. He received a posthumous Medal of Honor.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

Corpsmen assist wounded from the 7th Division at the Battle of Triangle Hill in 1952. May was from the 7th Division.

(U.S. Army)

Sgt. Homer I. May

On September 1, 1951, Sgt. Homer May helped lead an assault squad against enemy positions, but the attackers encountered withering machine gun fire. The sergeant sent his men into cover and maneuvered against the guns himself and got eyes on three bunkers, and took one out with grenades.

He doubled back for more grenades and made his way back forward, taking out the other bunkers. The attack was successful, and May received the Distinguished Service Cross for his efforts. He tragically died the next day while helping fend off an enemy counterattack against the hill.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

U.S. infantrymen from the 27th Infantry Regiment defend a position near Heartbreak Ridge in August, 1952.

(National Archives Records Administration)

Cpl. James E. Smith

Army Cpl. James E. Smith was manning a defensive position on September 17 as waves of enemy forces attacked. His company was able to repulse attack after attack, but ammunition dwindled and the attacking waves got closer and closer to the American lines. As it became clear that the unit would need to pull back, Smith stayed in position to cover the withdrawal.

He fired through all of his ammunition and then fought with bayonet and his bare fists until he was killed. He is thought to have downed 35 of the enemy before succumbing, earning him a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

French Sgt. Louis Misseri

French Army Sgt. Louis Misseri was part of an assault on September 29 against a hill that was part of Heartbreak Ridge. The French Battalion came under artillery and mortar attack but kept pressing forward. Misseri split his squad into two sections and led one of them against enemy bunkers on the hill, taking them out.

When the communist forces launched a counterattack, Misseri led the defense and, despite suffering a serious wound, hit 15 enemy soldiers with his rifle fire. He was able to reach the top of Heartbreak Ridge and remained in position until the rest of his force had withdrawn. He would later receive a Distinguished Service Cross from the U.S.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

Infantrymen move to the firing line in July 1950 during fighting in Korea.

(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

Sgt. George R. Deemer

On October 10, Company F of the 2nd Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, was attacking Hill 800 as mortar and artillery fire rained down. Sgt. George R. Deemer went into the battle carrying a 57mm recoilless rifle. A companion helped him load and he advanced with the skirmish line, knocking out one enemy emplacement after another.

When the company took the Hill, he used the weapon to aid in the defense until he ammunition ran out. Then, he organized two machine gun teams and made three trips under fire to keep them supplied with ammunition. During the third trip, he was mortally wounded by mortar fire. He received a posthumous Distinguished Service Cross.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 reasons why the Winged Hussars are among the greatest fighters of all time

Everyone always remembers the sheer bad*ssery and battle prowess of the vikings, the samurai, and the Roman legionnaires — but the Winged Hussars of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth a rarely find a way into the conversation.

Don’t let the flamboyant wings fool you. These shock troops were some of the most devastating cavalrymen to ever mount a horse.


These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

Creighton Abrams may be remembered for it, but Polish-Lithuania lived by the mantra, “they’ve got us surrounded again? The poor bastards…”

They defeated nearly every “unstoppable” empire that came at them

When history buffs bring up the three most formidable empires in history, they’ll often include the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Khanates. Smack dab in the middle of those three was the little commonwealth of Polish-Lithuania. As history buffs also know, everyone always tries to come grab a piece of Poland. What kept them at bay for so long were Winged Hussars.

The Ottomans? The Hussars charged through Vienna like it was nothing. The Russians? They toppled Ivan the Terrible in the dead of winter. The Khanates? There’s a reason the Mongols, and, eventually, the succeeding khanates, never made it past Poland and into Europe.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

Marching into battle looking like Roman angels was steeped religious symbolism. After all, Polish-Lithuania was (and Poland remains) a very Roman Catholic nation.

Their wings weren’t just for decoration

It might sound silly that heavily armored cavalrymen felt the need to include giant, feathery wings on either their saddles or their backs, but it wasn’t just a fashion statement — it was an effective strategy.

Hussars were shock troops, meaning that they needed to instill as much fear as they could as fast and effectively as they could — before the enemy has a chance to realize what’s going on. In an era when it was unlikely that you’d ever even see a neighboring city, what were you supposed to make of the rapidly approaching, heavily armed legion of vengeful, glittering angels?

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

Best thing about a sword is that you never have to reload it.

They adapted extremely well to firearms

As new technologies are introduced to the battlefield, old tactics get thrown out. No single piece of military tech changed warfare quite like firearms.

Firearms instantaneously made arrows obsolete and swords pointless — if you can keep your distance. The Hussars never really got the memo, though, and they’d still charge into battle, decked-out in armor that could take a bullet or two and close the distance before their enemy got a chance to reload.

The Hussars eventually got their own firearms, which meant their enemies now had to deal with a heavily armored Hussars charging at them with spears, swords, warhammers, and rifles.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

Seriously, Hollywood? Why isn’t this a movie yet?

They put the Battle of Thermopylae to shame.

Everyone praises the Spartans for pitting 300 troops against the mighty Persian army. But when you start looking deeper into it, you’ll quickly realize there are plenty of things they left out for the sake of the comic (and, later, film adaption), like the actual numbers of Greeks aiding them and how poorly trained most of the Persians were. The Spartans were bad*sses, yes, but some elements of their most famous tale are questionable.

Want to know who undoubtedly pulled off a heroic victory when faced with 62-to-1 odds? The Polish Winged Hussars.

A 400-strong Hussar unit was being attacked on two fronts by the 25,000+ Crimean Khanate forces and they were backed into the tiny village of Hodow. The Hussars had only a single night to turn the town into a fortress, to defend themselves with no supplies and no backup.

The Crimean forces raided the half-defended town and ran out of ammunition so fast that they needed to turn enemy arrows fired at them into improvised rounds for their long rifles. Six hours of intense fighting later and the Crimean Khanate started to retreat. The dust settled and thousands of the Khanate Tatars lay dead on the floor while less then a hundred Hussars had fallen.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

The famous winged banners weren’t needed.

They never really went away

As tanks took over the battlefield, people generally stopped riding into battle on horses. For the Polish, that was kind of true. Officially, the Winged Hussars ended in the 1770s because of political reforms, but heavily geared-out, horse-mounted, Polish troops existed throughout World War I and World War II.

Since Poland was being attacked from all sides and had little room to breathe, local militias needed to pick up some of the slack. The militias didn’t have tanks, but the farmers did have horses, rifles, and an undying will to fight.

Today, their spirit lives on with the Polish Land Forces’ 11th Armored Cavalry Division.

Articles

Dogfighting in an F-35 is ‘like having a knife fight in a telephone booth’

Civilian pilot Adam Alpert of the Vermont Air National Guard wrote an interesting and enjoyable article on his training experience with the vaunted F-35 in a mock mission to take out nuclear facilities in North Korea.


Chief among the interesting points in the article is a quote from Alpert’s instructor pilot, Lt. Col. John Rahill, about the F-35’s dogfighting ability.

Also read: Beyond the F-35: Air Force and Navy already working on 6th generation fighter

Speaking about the nuanced technical and tactical differences between the F-35, the future plane of the VANG, and the F-16, the VANG’s current plane, Rahill said this:

“If you get into a dogfight with the F-35, somebody made a mistake. It’s like having a knife fight in a telephone booth — very unpredictable.”

The F-35 has been criticized for its dogfighting abilities. But as more information comes to light about the F-35’s mission and purpose, it becomes clearer that measuring the F-35 by its ability to dogfight doesn’t make much more sense than measuring a rifle by its capability as a melee weapon.

“The pilot uses onboard long-range sensors and weapons to destroy the enemy aircraft before ever being seen. The combination of stealth and superior electronic warfare systems makes the F-35 both more lethal and safer,” said Rahill, according to Alpert.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
Mission planners could risk four airmen in fifth-generation planes or up to 75 in legacy aircraft when embarking on dangerous missions. US Air Force

In Alpert’s mock mission to North Korea, planners sent only four planes, two F-35s and two F-22s, instead of the older formation of F-18s for electronic attacks, F-15s for air dominance, and F-16s for bombing and airborne early warning. Altogether, the older formation totals about 75 lives at risk versus four pilots at risk with the F-35 version.

Alpert’s piece highlights many of the ways in which the F-35 outclasses the F-16 with an easier, more intuitive interface that allows pilots to focus more on the mission and less on the machine. In fact, Alpert compares the F-35’s controls to an “elaborate video game” with a variety of apps he can call up seamlessly to access any relevant information — including an indicator that tells him how stealthy he is.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

Articles

6 things you didn’t know about sick call

“Hydrate, take Motrin and change your socks.”


Chances are you’ve heard this advice at one time or another. Service members visit sick call with issues ranging from upper respiratory infections to needing to have a toenail removed. With over 130 military installations located throughout the world, every soldier, airman, sailor or Marine has medical care readily accessible. 

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

If the troop in question needs to go to medical that day without an appointment, he or she is going to end up in an urgent care center commonly known as “Sick Call.” Here are six things you probably didn’t know about sick troops and the care they need to get back to work.

1. Thermometers 

You’re sitting on a patient table when a medical technician tells you to say “AHHHHHHH” before sticking a blue-handled thermometer under your tongue. But did you ever wonder why it was color coded?

The military purchases dual-function thermometers which are typically red and blue. The blue one is assigned to take your oral temp, where the red draws the short end of the stick and gets shoved up where the sun doesn’t shine. Not to fear, rectal temperature checks are primarily used on heat causalities.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Christopher L. Clark)

Better hope the nurse isn’t color blind because … that would suck. The photo above shows a member of the medical staff using the right color. A+.

2.  The “Feared Medical Condition Not Demonstrated”

Believe it or not, this is a real medical diagnosis. If you were to open your medical record right now and saw this term printed one or more times, chances are you were a “sick call commando.”  This isn’t the commando label you want to have.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

“Feared Medical Condition Not Demonstrated” is a polite way to inform other medical professionals they didn’t find anything wrong with you physically. You can try and tear out the paper from your record, but unless it was hand written, it’s in the computer system. For-ev-er.

3. “One Chief Complaint Only”

For those who don’t know, a “chief complaint” is the term used for the reason you showed up to medical. “I have a headache and I think I broke my foot.” From my direct experience working alongside seasoned doctors, some stated to the patient they weren’t allowed to treat more than one medical condition at each encounter. It’s also bull.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

This is regularly used as an excuse to get rid of you. You would likely have come back the next day for the second issue or visit the ER. Good thing Tricare covers both.

4. On The Job Training

Medical clinics commonly use the ideology of “show one, do one, teach one.” The doctor shows a new medic/corpsman/tech how to perform a procedure, they repeat it on another patient in front of the doctor, then go off and show someone else how to perform it. Sounds like a pretty good plan right? It was pretty darn helpful and a confidence builder for the lower enlisted.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

This type of training isn’t that rare, even in the civilian sector. What is rare is how many different procedures junior enlisted were allowed to perform “under doctor supervision” – who were usually warming up their afternoon coffee.

5. Service Connections

When the VA gathers its data to process your compensation claim, it may seem hard to believe, but they don’t hire a team of private detectives and Harvard-trained doctors to conduct an extensive investigation to ensure that you get the top rating you deserve.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
Mind. Blown.

After submitting your claim, the VA board wants proof your condition was a result of your time on active duty. Missing sick call and other medical documents can cause a massive delay in reaching your service connection settlement. Cover your six and make copies of your copies.

6. Legal

You may remember the day when you walked into the Military Entrance Processing Command and signed your service contract. A proud day.

What you made not have realized is that those papers you signed included The Feres Doctrine.

The Feres Doctrine is a 1950s-era rule that protects the federal government from its employees collecting damages for personal injuries experienced in the performance of their duties. So if a military doctor screws up on you, you can’t sue the government, but they can charge you with an Article 108 (destruction of government property) for getting a new tattoo or a sunburn.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

You’re Welcome, America!

MIGHTY TRENDING

COVID-19: Russia to seal border; Iran reports single-day record in new deaths

A roundup of the latest news on the coronavirus crisis in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries:


Iran

Iran says the COVID-19 illness has killed 129 more people, a single-day record high for one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

During a televised news conference on March 16, Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur appealed to the public to drastically curb outings, especially intercity trips.

“Our plea is that everyone take this virus seriously and in no way attempts to travel to any province,” Jahanpur said.

The deaths bring the overall toll to 853 fatalities since February 19, when the government announced Iran’s first two deaths from the COVID-19 disease sparked by the coronavirus.

Ayatollah Hashem Bathaei, a 78-year-old member of the Assembly of Experts, which is empowered with selecting the country’s supreme leader, is the latest of several Iranian officials to have died, local media reported.

Jahanpour also reported 1,053 confirmed new cases of infection in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 14,991.

Iran has the third-most registered cases after China and Italy.

Tehran Province had the highest number of new infections with 200 cases, about 50 fewer than the day before.

The central province of Isfahan followed with 118 cases, with Mazandaran in the north of Tehran coming next with 96.

The holy city of Qom in central Iran, where the virus was first reported, had 19 new cases that took its total to 1,023.

There are suspicions that the outbreak in the Islamic republic — whose government is known for its opaqueness and censorship — is far worse than authorities are admitting.

President Hassan Rohani on March 16 urged Iranians to stay home for the Norouz holiday celebrations on March 20 and to avoid traveling over the festive period.

Police are to begin checking the temperature of drivers, Rohani said, adding to a raft of measures that include the closure of schools, universities, and Iran’s most sacred site.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has canceled his annual Persian New Year’s speech in the city of Mashhad, planned for March 21.

Russia

Russia says it will ban the entry of foreign nationals and stateless people to May 1 in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The government said on March 16 that the ban, starting on March 18, won’t apply to diplomatic representatives and some other categories of people.

Russia has reported 93 cases of the virus so far, but no deaths.

Earlier in the day, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin announced new measures in the Russian capital, including prohibiting gatherings of more than 50 people until April 10, and closing schools and universities from March 21 until April 12.

Sobyanin also asked elderly people to stay home.

A subsidiary of Russian Railways Rail said service between Russia and Ukraine, Moldova, and Latvia would be suspended as of March 17.

Belarus

Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has criticized Russia’s “unnecessary” decision to close the border between the two countries in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“There must be no unnecessary moves that might complicate already uneasy relations between the two nations,” he said on March 16 during a meeting with officials in Minsk.

The Russian government said the restrictive measures against Belarus, announced earlier in the day, were “prompted by special circumstances and are absolutely temporary.”

Belarus has reported 36 cases of coronavirus so far, but no deaths. Russian authorities have confirmed 93 cases, and no deaths.

Belarus, heavily reliant on Russia for cheap oil, has been at odds with Moscow over oil prices for months. The dispute is part of wider political discord between the two countries over forming a union state.

Instead of closing the Russian-Belarusian border, Lukashenka said, “our dearly beloved” Russia should help Belarus beef up security against coronavirus at its border with Poland, which he called “our common union-state border.”

The Belarusian leader also said he would talk to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone soon.

Lukashenka, who has been in power in Belarus for more than 25 years, has faced growing pressure from Moscow in recent years to agree to deeper integration under a 1999 unification agreement, which envisaged close political, economic, and military ties but stopped short of forming a single country.

Serbia

Serbian election authorities have delayed general elections scheduled for April 26 until after the end of a state of emergency imposed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Republican Election Commission said it decided to “temporarily suspend the elections process during the state of emergency triggered by the coronavirus outbreak,” in a statement on March 16.

Preparations for the elections will be resumed after the state of emergency is revoked, according to commission Chairman Vladimir Dimitrijevic.

The Balkan state has so far recorded 57 coronavirus infections. There have been no fatalities, but two patients are in serious condition, health authorities say.

Serbia declared a state of emergency on March 15 in a bid to prevent the rapid spreading of the epidemic, shutting down schools and universities.

In announcing the decision, President Aleksandar Vucic said in a televised address that from March 16 the military would be guarding state hospitals, while police will be monitoring those quarantined or in self-isolation for 14 or 28 days.

Those who violate quarantine may face jail terms of up to three years, he warned.

Serbia also announced it was closing its borders to foreigners coming from the worst-hit countries.

Vucic, however, said the border-entry ban did not apply to people from China, praising Beijing for helping Serbia amid the COVID-19 crisis.

He criticized the European Union for allegedly failing to provide adequate support.

After Vucic’s address, Prime Minister Ana Brnabic told state TV that borders will be open only “for Serbians, foreign diplomats, and foreign nationals with residence permits.”

Uzbekistan/Kazakhstan

Five more cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Uzbekistan, bringing the total to six, the government’s Telegram channel dedicated to the disease said on March 16.

Four of the six individuals are members of one Uzbek family returning from France, the government said in a separate statement.

Uzbekistan early on March 15 had reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19.

The same day, neighboring Kazakhstan declared a state of emergency as authorities announced that three new cases had been recorded, pushing the total number there to nine.

Kazakhstan was thought to have been coronavirus-free until four infections were confirmed on March 13.

The state of emergency announced by presidential decree imposes a nationwide quarantine and will restrict both entry to and departure from the country to all except diplomats and individuals invited by the government.

Kazakhstan had already announced the cancellation of Norouz holiday celebrations and a military parade devoted to the 75th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany.

Officials there previously said more than 1,000 people were in quarantine and nearly 500 others in self-quarantine at home.

Uzbekistan announced similar sweeping measures on March 15, barring entry for all foreigners and departures by locals.

The Uzbek government also closed schools and universities for three weeks, canceled all public events, and suspended international air and highway connections beginning March 16.

Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are the only Central Asian republics to have officially registered any cases of the new coronavirus at the center of a global pandemic that as of early March 15 had infected more than 156,000 people and killed more than 5,800.

Armenia

The Armenian government has declared a monthlong state of emergency to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

The National Assembly discussed the move for several hours, and none of the three parliamentary factions raised any objections or proposed any amendments.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told lawmakers that Armenia would have to hold its referendum on constitutional reforms, originally planned for April 5, after the state of emergency ends.

“Under Armenian legislation, a referendum cannot take place during a state of emergency. The referendum will take place no sooner than 50 and no later than 65 days after the end of the state of emergency,” he said.

Armenia reported 17 new coronavirus cases on March 16, bringing the total number of cases to 45. One patient is said to have recovered, and more than 300 people remain in quarantine. There have been no recorded deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, in the country.

Armenia and Russia have agreed to suspend passenger flights between the two countries for two weeks in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Armenian government press service said on March 16.

The decision was made during a phone conversation between Pashinian and his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Mishustin.

All Armenian educational institutions in the country are shut, while the borders with Iran – one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak – and Georgia are closed.

Georgia

Georgia will close its borders to foreign nationals for two weeks, starting on March 18.

Irakli Chikovani, the spokesman of the prime minister, said Georgian citizens who wish to return to the country will be able to do so, using Georgian Airways flights.

Georgia has registered 33 cases of the new coronavirus.

Afghanistan

Afghanistan reported five new cases on March 15, bringing the total number of registered cases in the country to 16.

Officials in Kabul said that all of those infected are Afghans who have recently returned from neighboring Iran.

The officials said up to 15,000 Afghan migrants workers and refugees are returning from Iran on a daily basis.

Pakistan

Pakistani President Arif Alvi is on an official visit to China on March 16-17 to hold meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, and other top officials, Alvi’s office said in a statement on March 15.

The statement said the visit aims at “further solidifying historic bonds” between the two countries and described China and Pakistan as “the closest friends and staunch partners.”

It also pointed out that the visit comes as China is “engaged in efforts to contain” the spread of the new coronavirus, which has affected 157 countries and territories since it was first recorded in Wuhan, a city in central China.

It’s Alv”s first official visit to China, a strategic partner and major investor to Pakistan’s economy.

Pakistan on March 16 announced 41 additional cases of infection with the coronavirus after 41 more cases were confirmed in the Sindh region, bringing the total tally to 94.

Dozens of people quarantined at the Pakistan-Iran border protested what they called the poor hygiene in the camps.

The quarantined include religious pilgrims who are now returning from Iran.

Romania

President Klaus Iohannis has declared a state of emergency for 30 days to fight the spread of the disease.

During the state of emergency, schools will be closed; prices for medicine, fuel, and utilities are frozen; road and air traffic could be banned; and borders may be closed if necessary.

Romania has 158 registered cases.

One Romanian citizen — a woman in her 80s — died last week in Italy from COVID-19, the illness sparked by the virus.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria banned entry on its territory of citizens from 15 countries with large coronavirus outbreaks, including five EU member states, as of March 18, the Health Ministry said.

Exceptions will be made for citizens with permanent or long-term permits to stay in Bulgaria and their family members.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.


MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s everything you need to know about tattoo removal

Whether you’re considering removing your ink or are simply curious, there’s a lot to know about the tattoo-removal process.

INSIDER spoke to some experts to answer some of the most common questions people have about getting a tattoo taken off.


Where do you go to get a tattoo removed?

For your health, safety, and optimal results, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that you go to a dermatologist for your tattoo removal.

Removals are typically done using lasers that the FDA states should be used by or under the supervision of healthcare professionals. Per the FDA, visiting a dermatologist who specializes in tattoo removal is likely your best bet.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

(Photo by Genesis Castillo)

Although some tattoo shops and spas offer laser tattoo-removal services, only dermatologists have medical training in this area, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). And so, you may run a greater risk of experiencing negative side effects if your tattoo remover does not have appropriate medical training, per the AAD.

How long does it take to fully remove a tattoo?

Removing a tattoo will almost always take more than one visit to the removal specialist — sometimes it could even take dozens of sessions.

To figure out how many visits you’d need to get a tattoo removed, you should first consult a professional so they can review your ink and medical history, said Dr. Amy Derick, board-certified dermatologist and medical director of Derick Dermatology, a Chicago-based practice that specializes in tattoo removal.

“Number of treatments vary based on many factors including: age of tattoo, number of colors, size, etc. For picosecond-wavelength tattoo removal — which is considered a gold standard for tattoo removal — most treatments will require seven to 10 treatments six to eight weeks apart,” she told INSIDER.

“The [total] number of treatments [also] depends on your body’s ability to eliminate ink from the skin. This varies for everyone,” added Dr. Debra Jaliman is a board-certified dermatologist based in New York, whose practice offers tattoo removal as a specialty.

Per Jailman, generally, the more colors in your tattoo, the more treatments you will need. In addition, these sessions must be spaced out (typically a few weeks apart), so the process can take quite some time.

How much does it cost to get a tattoo removed?

Removing a tattoo can be costly depending on how many sessions you’ll end up needing. In general, a single removal session can cost around to 0, but the price may vary depending on your tattoo and your location.

To estimate how many treatments you may require for your specific tattoo and skin type, you may want to reference tools like the Kirby-Desai scale. Just keep in mind that the best and most accurate way to figure out how many sessions you’ll need is to consult a professional.

Does getting a tattoo removed hurt?

How much the removal process hurts oftentimes depends on your individual pain tolerance — just like when you first got the tattoo you’re having removed.

“Getting a tattoo is generally more painful than removing the tattoo. Uncomfortable — and there is a certain level of pain — but it’s bearable. It feels like a small rubber band is snapping on your skin,” Jailman told INSIDER.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

(Photo by Matheus Ferrero)

That said, some areas may be more painful to have ink removed from than others. “On certain bony areas, like the wrists, ribs, and ankles, tattoo removal is more painful than on other areas of the body,” Derick added.

Fortunately, there are some ways the process can be made to be even less uncomfortable, said Jailman. “The area is numbed with a topical numbing cream and a small chilling machine that blows cold air on the skin helps to keep pain at bay,” she added.

Are there any risks that come with getting a tattoo removed?

As with any medical procedure, there are some risks associated with tattoo removal.

“Individuals who have light-sensitive seizures, vitiligo, history of poor healing, or an active rash or injury to the area may not be an ideal candidate for laser,” Derick told INSIDER. She said these individuals may be prone to experiencing more tattoo-removal-related side effects.

She also said that all individuals (especially those with darker skin tones) are at risk of experiencing hypopigmentation after laser tattoo removal. “This is when the patient’s normal skin pigment is removed by the laser process, resulting in white-looking scarring that is permanent. This is also known as a ghosting effect,” Derick explained.

Jailman also pointed out that those who have sensitive skin and who are prone to allergic reactions may experience some issues when they have their ink removed. “You could have an allergic reaction as the laser breaks down the pigments in the tattoo,” she added.

Some may also be at risk of experiencing more prominent scarring. “If you are prone to keloids (a type of raised scar), having a tattoo removed could be a problem. The scars from the area treated may definitely develop into a keloid,” Jailman also told INSIDER.

Can all tattoos be removed?

Most of the time a tattoo can be removed — but with certain inks, it may not be possible to entirely remove your design.

“A true black-ink tattoo is by far the easiest to treat. In some cases, red ink can resolve easily as well,” Dr. Will Kirby, board-certified dermatologist and chief medical officer for aesthetic-dermatology group LaserAway. previously told INSIDER.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

(Photo by Ivan Verrengia)

But, he said that colors like maroon, aqua, and teal can be resistant to laser removal. He also noted that some shades like yellow, orange, and brown may not be removed by laser treatment at all.

Do you have to do any special sort of aftercare for a tattoo that’s in the process of being removed?

Derick told INSIDER that, just like with your initial tattoo, when you undergo removal you’re creating an open wound that requires careful treatment to ensure you heal properly and avoid getting an infection.

“After a session, the technician bandages the area just like the patient will be expected to do at home for generally about one week or until the area is healed,” said Derick. “The patient changes this bandage every 24 hours after washing the area with a mild soap. Keeping the area bandaged keeps the tattoo out of the sun and allows for effective healing of the treated skin.”

Those removing a tattoo can also expect to experience a bit of bruising, blistering, and scabbing, said Jailman. She said you should avoid picking scabs, cover blistering skin, and use ointment as recommended by your doctor.

If you’re experiencing any reactions that seem abnormal to you (ie: you have a fever or your skin is severely swelling), you’ll want to reach out to a medical professional.

Do tattoo-removal creams work?

Some special creams and ointments claim to help fade a tattoo by bleaching or peeling away layers of your skin to remove the ink, per Today. But there’s a reason these creams sound too good to be true — they are.

At this time, the FDA hasn’t “approved or cleared any do-it-yourself tattoo removal ointments and creams that you can buy online.” Furthermore, the FDA warns that these creams can cause adverse side effects including scarring, rashes, and burning.

Can you really use salt to remove a tattoo?

You may have heard some people talking about using salt and water solutions to scrub away tattoos in a dated method called salabrasion — but this is potentially a very dangerous strategy, according to the AAD.

Scraping off the top layers of your skin and using salt to try to rid yourself of unwanted tattoos can lead to pain, scarring, and a serious infection, per the AAD.

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

Read more:

Humor

That time a US hacker hijacked North Korean propaganda to play ‘the Final Countdown’

A socially conscious hacker known as “The Jester” put one over on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recently. To add to his long list of hilarious practical jokes with a social-conscious message, the hacktivist hijacked a propaganda-laden North Korean shortwave radio station.


His request? “The Final Countdown” by the 80s one-hit-wonder Swedish rock band, Europe.

(EuropeVEVO | YouTube)

He announced the feat through his Twitter account. In the past, The Jester has taken on jihadist websites, notably ISIS. He even retaliated against the Russian Foreign Ministry for attacking American targets, defacing their website with the message:

Comrades! We interrupt regular scheduled Russian Foreign Affairs Website programming to bring you the following important message,” he wrote. “Knock it off. You may be able to push around nations around you, but this is America. Nobody is impressed.

While no one knows who he is, The Jester is a self-proclaimed patriot hacker, who thinks Anonymous is a bunch of “blowhards” whose work amounts to a “hill of beans.” Evidence in The Jester’s work makes people believe he is either a military veteran or former military contractor — he even leaves a calling card for his work: “Tango Down.”

Either way, he’s on our side.

 

The North Korean radio station hit by The Jester is used to broadcast coded messages and often used as a warning post for outside media before the regime does something provocative. It also re-broadcasts programming from the appropriately-named Pyongyang Broadcasting Station… aka “Pyongyang BS.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 terms you won’t believe have military origins

There’s a long history of military slang, probably dating all the way back to when the first people hit each other with sticks and rocks. While military slang can be fun, it’s even more fun when it seeps into the common vernacular of everyday people. The only problem is when a word or phrase is too good, its origin gets lost in time, and people forget where it came from – but no longer.

Here are just a few words and phrases that came from military tradition.

1. “Best man”

In the days of yore, it was quite possible that a betrothed man might lose his wife even before their wedding to any number of possible hazards – rival bands, enemy leaders, or even random highwaymen. So while he was in the middle of the ceremony, he would enlist his best swordsman to cover his back while his attention was focused elsewhere or hold off an attacking party while the new couple made their getaway.

2. “Boondocks”

These days, to be way out in the boonies means you’re out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the sticks. When the term was coined, it meant that too, only the actual boondocks are in the Philippines. In Tagalog, “bundok” literally translates to “mountains” so when Filipino fighters told American troops they were headed to the bundoks during the 1898 Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine-American War, it meant they were headed to the islands’ inner wilderness.

3. “Cowboys”

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
On their way to the first Cowboys-Patriots Super Bowl. Public domain.
 

Sorry, but the term “cowboy” used to define the ranchers and vaqueros of the Old West was never actually used for those guys at the time. They were usually just called cow herders or cowhands. The term “cowboy” goes well past the 19th Century. The original cowboys were American colonists loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. They would band together in guerrilla units and lure other units of rebel farmers into ambushes using cowbells to coax them in. After the war, it was used to describe criminals from Texas who made raids into Mexico.

4. “Face the music”

In the European military tradition (from which the U.S. tradition is derived), any disgraced officer who was summarily kicked out of his unit was done so in the most demeaning manner possible. As the regiment’s drummer played on, the officer would have his sword broken, his buttons removed, and his charges read to the entire room. The officer was them marched across the parade ground to the tune of the “Rogue’s March” toward the regimental band.

5. “Last ditch effort”

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
Public domain

In the kind of fighting that took place in the 16th and 17 Century, troops didn’t just maneuver around the battlefields in the open, in tight formations, wearing bright colors. I mean, they did that, but they also constructed a series of earthwork redoubts and other protective places to hold. Among these was a series of trenches they could fall back to if the stuff started hitting the fan – and they would dig many in case things went really wrong. But everyone knew by the time you got to your last one, you had to do something amazing, or everyone was likely to die in that last ditch.

6. “The whole nine yards”

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
Loading up a P-51 Mustang.

This term appeared in the 1950s, after the end of World War II – and it has nothing to do with football or anything else where yardage is a factor. It refers to the length of the ammunition belts designed for American and British fighter planes during the war, 27 feet (or nine yards). When flying a particularly tough mission or otherwise using a lot of ammo, a pilot might have been said to use “the whole nine yards.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea claims that U.S. must step up for peace

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said that Pyongyang has already taken steps towards denuclearization and is expecting Washington to make the next move.

Kim met with Chinese and Russian officials who were visiting North Korea for its toned-down 70th anniversary celebrations, and conveyed his frustrations on stalled talks with the US.

In attendance was Li Zhanshu, a third-ranking member of the Chinese Communist Party leadership, who presented a letter from President Xi Jinping to Kim and reiterated commitment to denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.


But Kim told Li that the regime had already taken steps towards denuclearization, like refraining from further nuclear and missile testing, and awaited the US to reciprocate in its actions. US intelligence reports indicate that North Korea has continued to work on its nuclear program and missile arsenal.

“We would like the United States to take some kind of action that is reasonable, then we would like to move forward along the process of a political solution,” Kim told Li during their meeting, according to the Asahi Shimbun, citing Chinese state media.

The North Korean leader added that the country is “taking measures by sticking firmly to the agreement” made with President Donald Trump during their summit in June 2018, though he did not expand on what measures had been taken, Asahi added.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.

Moscow official Valentina Matviyenko said on Sept. 10, 2018, that Kim appealed to Russia to help ease crippling sanctions imposed against the regime, given the “steps they have been taking” in line with Kim’s agreement with Trump, Russia’s TASS state news agency reported.

“Those are very serious steps aimed at the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” she said, adding that Kim expects “reciprocal” measures by the US because “it is impossible for only North Korea to take unilateral steps on denuclearization.”

The relationship between the US and North Korea remains uneasy

Relations between North Korea and the US have grown stale in recent months, though both sides appear to be open to dialogue.

In August 2018 Trump canceled a planned trip to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing lack of “sufficient progress” towards denuclearization, and days later North Korea’s state newspaper accused the US of plotting to “unleash a war” on them while continuing to negotiate “with a smile on its face.”

But on Sept. 10, 2018, the White House said it’s planning another summit between Trump and Kim after it received “further evidence of progress” with Pyongyang in the form of a “very warm and very positive” letter. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said no details have been finalized, and said it will not release the full letter unless Kim agrees it should be made public.

On Sept. 9, 2018, Trump praised Kim’s muted 70th anniversary celebrations, which didn’t feature its usual showcase of nuclear weapons, as a sign of progress.

“This is a big and very positive statement from North Korea,” he tweeted. “Thank you To Chairman Kim. We will both prove everyone wrong! There is nothing like good dialogue from two people that like each other!”

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

Military Life

Navy recruits now test their fitness before shipping out

Enlisting in the Navy is about to get a bit more challenging.


On Nov. 15, the service announced it is creating an initial fitness test for prospective sailors on their first day of boot camp at Great Lakes, Ill.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, male recruits must complete a one-and-a-half-mile run within 16 minutes, 10 seconds, and female recruits must complete the same run within 18 minutes, seven seconds.

If recruits can’t pass the test, they won’t move on to training.

Also read: The complete hater’s guide to the US Navy

The Navy is the only military service that until now has never had an initial test of fitness prior to recruit training, Lt. Sean Brophy, a spokesman for Naval Service Training Command, told Military.com.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
Sailors assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) participate in the run portion of the physical readiness test. Nimitz is pierside at its homeport of Naval Station Everett. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Eli K. Buguey)

“It’s an effort to raise the bar and develop tough, more qualified sailors during basic military training to increase the lethality of the fleet overall,” he said.

The change was implemented after Rear Adm. Mike Bernacchi, commander of Naval Service Training Command, realized with surprise that the Navy, alone among the services, lacked an entry-level physical standard, an official with knowledge of the process told Military.com.

According to a Navy announcement, recruits who don’t make the minimum run time for the new test on first attempt can take the test again within 48 hours. If they still can’t pass the test, they will be discharged with an entry-level separation.

That form of discharge allows prospective recruits to obtain a waiver from Navy Recruiting Command and apply again for enlistment if they wish to do so.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
Navy is the only military service that until now has never had an initial test of fitness prior to recruit training. (Photo from US Navy)

While the new standard may keep some people out, it’s pretty lenient compared with the other services.

In the Marine Corps, the initial strength test includes pull-ups, sit-ups, ammo can lifts, and a one-and-a-half-mile run. For male recruits, the run must be completed in 13 minutes, 30 seconds. Female recruits have 15 minutes to finish.

The Air Force requires new recruits to complete a run of the same distance in a recommended 13 minutes, 45 seconds for men and 16 minutes, one second for women. Push-ups and sit-ups are also included in the test.

Read Also: 7 military fitness tricks for working out without a lot of fancy gear

The Army, which also requires push-ups and sit-ups, has prospective enlistees complete a one-mile run before they start training. Men have 8 minutes, 30 seconds for the run, while women have 10 minutes, 30 seconds.

Brophy said the Navy’s standard for its new initial fitness test is based on a calculation of where recruits need to start in fitness to make a satisfactory medium, or passing, score on the physical readiness test administered at the end of boot camp.

These are the Air Force swords that look like they belong in a video game
US Navy recruits graduate, June 30, 2017. (Photo from US Navy)

“If recruits push themselves through eight weeks of boot camp, there’s a 98 percent chance we can get them to the satisfactory medium,” he said.

While challenges with meeting military recruitment quotas have prompted some services to rethink their entry standards and requirements, Brophy said officials expect this change to produce more qualified enlistees, rather than cutting into the eligible recruitment pool.

“We expect attrition due to [physical fitness assessment] failures to drop,” he said.

And along with the challenge posed by the new test comes an incentive.

Recruits who achieve an “outstanding high” score on their final physical fitness assessment will be meritoriously advanced to the next rank when they graduate boot camp, officials said.

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