This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War - We Are The Mighty
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This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Berlin was a dangerous place during the Cold War. A preserved piece of the Wall containing a mural memorializing 146 Germans killed trying to escape communism stands in stark testament.


As the grand central station of East-West espionage, the city was a playground for all sorts of secret agents. And its place in the history of the 20th century far outweighs its size. Indeed, 37 percent of Americans viewed the fall of the Berlin Wall as the single most important event of the 1980s.

That Wall came down after 28 years because Americans in uniform stood as a barrier to Soviet aggression. The vast majority of those GIs were clearly visible. But a small contingent operated behind the scenes, not even acknowledged until long after the Cold War ended. Only this year were they fully and publicly recognized.

Born in the Mid-’50s

Though the Status-of-Forces Agreement signed by all four powers occupying Berlin prohibited elite forces, each country had its own prowling the city. It was 10 years after WWII ended, however, before the U.S. had such a unit formally in place there.

In August 1956, the elite 10th Special Forces Group, based in Bad Tolz, Germany, stationed the secretive 7781 Army Unit (also known as the 39th Special Forces Operational Detachment) in West Berlin. It consisted of six modified detachments that became part of the Headquarters Company of the 6th Infantry Regiment. Each team had six members.

Two years later, the unit was renamed Detachment A and assigned to the Headquarters Company of the U.S. Army Garrison, Berlin. Then in April 1962, it was attached to the Berlin Brigade. Its area of operations was primarily that city, but it could undertake missions elsewhere in Europe.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Top secret spy photos taken by Det-A in the early ’60s showing detail of the Berlin Wall. (Photo: Bob Charest)

“Detachment A was literally in the eye of the Cold War hurricane,” said Lt. Gen. Charles T. Cleveland, commanding general of the U.S. Army Special Operations Command. As an unconventional and classified outfit of 90 men (a normal tour of duty was three years), Detachment A carried out clandestine operations.

Originally operating in small cells, by the late 1960s it expanded to 12-man “A” teams. Unit members were as unique as the U.S. Army ever recruited. Many were German or East European refugees who still had families trapped behind the Iron Curtain. In the early years, a significant number were WWII vets, too. Hence they brought much-needed skills along with knowledge of other nations and languages to the unit.

Training and tools of the trade

Physical training was wide-ranging and progressively intense. For instance, winter warfare training in Bavaria consisted of downhill and cross-country skiing equivalent to extreme skiing. Specialized demolition training was required for various targets in Berlin. Some teammates attended the CIA’s specialized demo course at Harvey Point, N.C. Scuba diving was another required skill.

Every month, members made parachute jumps staging out of Tempelhof Air Base in Berlin. Detachment A participated in NATO escape and evasion exercises. Exercises exclusive to Berlin included dead drops, live drops, primary meetings, surveillance and communications. Team members trained with the elite West German Federal Border Guard and Border Protection Group 9, British Special Air Service and special police units.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
The Det A boys ready to go all cloak and dagger circa ’72. (Photo: Bob Charest)

 

But they also taught an urban course to other 10th SFG personnel, as well as SEAL Team 2 based on Crete. As masters of spy craft, team members carried items reminiscent of a James Bond movie.

Coal filled with C-4 explosives was used to potentially sabotage the rail ring surrounding Berlin. Oneshot cigarette-lighter guns, vials filled with metal shavings for destruction of turbines and noise-suppressed weapons for eliminating targets were all part of the arsenal. The German Walther MPK 9mm SMG that fit in a briefcase was the weapon of choice.

All scuba gear was German-made, including the one-man portable decompression chamber. Every member spoke fluent German and dressed mostly in authentic German civilian clothes. They sometimes carried non-American flash documentation and identification. Dual passports, or dual nationalities, were part of the deception.

Adversaries in this potentially deadly game of cat and mouse included the notorious East German Secret Police (Stasi), Soviet KGB (Committee for State Security) and even Spetsnaz (Russian Special Purpose Forces). Being vigilant of Soviet surveillance was a given. The KGB had members under constant watch and possessed dossiers on everyone in Detachment A. Yet the Green Berets always deceived their adversaries into believing they were an exponentially larger force than they really were.

Mission

During the mid-1970s, the unit’s mission began to evolve. Though the classic Cold War enemy always remained, a new one reared its ugly head in the form of terrorism. The lethal Red Army Faction —a rabid Marxist group targeting the U.S. military starting in 1972—came into play, killing six GIs in all. That meant being prepared to take on terrorists with snipers and SWAT tactics.

“They were very brave men and took on some tough missions,” recalled Sidney Shachnow, who led Detachment A from 1970 to 1974. Still, the Soviet threat hovered over the divided city. In 1978, the unit was tasked by the CIA with digging up several mission sites positioned throughout Berlin for stay-behind operations. Also, to maintain the equipment in them— weapons and demolitions, for example.

In April of 1980 Detachment ‘A’ participated in “Operation Eagle Claw,” the attempt to end the Iran hostage crisis by rescuing 52 diplomats held captive at the United States Embassy and the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tehran, Iran. Det-A’s portion of the mission was code-named “Storm Cloud.”

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Patch for Operation Storm Cloud. (Courtesy: Bob Charest)

Detachment ‘A’ was responsible for the pre-mission reconnaissance of the targets by successfully infiltrating a team into Tehran on several occasions and contributed an element to rescue three hostages held in the MFA.

When the first mission was aborted because of a crash involving a C-130 and a CH-53 in the middle of the Iranian desert, a second attempt was planned for later that year. That was cancelled when negotiations proved successful.

Four years later the mission of this unique outfit was deemed unnecessary even though the Cold War was far from over. At the end of 1984, Detachment A was disbanded.

“I knew when I closed the door,” said Eugene Piasecki, the detachment’s last commander, “I would no longer serve in a unit like that.”

Bob Charest, a retired Army master sergeant, served with Detachment A from 1969 to 1972 and 1973 to 1978.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Borne the Battle: Dale Dye, Marine Corps birthday episode

When watching a movie, it’s easy to think that everything is real and true and lifelike. It’s no surprise that that isn’t always the case, especially with military movies. That’s how Marine veteran Dale Dye got involved. He wanted to tell Hollywood the right way to portray the military on screen.

Dye’s journey to becoming a military technical advisor started when he was a young man. He often overheard his father’s inspiring World War II stories. He enlisted in the Marines after seeing a Marines poster.


In service, Dye became a combat correspondent and he often documented battles and life in the Marines during the Vietnam War. It was this experience that he later drew on to advise Hollywood film directors on how to accurately portray the military. His love for the military inspired him to influence the next generation through films, books, and even video games, so he created Warriors Inc. to provide Hollywood with technical advisors for all things military related.

About Warriors, Inc.

www.youtube.com

As Dye discussed his experiences, he covered the following topics:

  • His military career in the Marines during the Vietnam War where he received three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with a Combat “V.”
  • His military consultant business Warriors Inc.
  • His 141 credits in film, television and video games.
  • His new projects.
  • His books and publishing company Warriors Publishing.
  • His struggle and treatment of his PTSD.

He emphasized the importance of not only having knowledge about what you are getting into but also knowing that there are people who have gone through the same thing as you that want to help support you.

No Better Place To Die

www.youtube.com

Dye recently finished the film “The Last Full Measure” which will hit theaters in early 2020, and his directorial debut in “No Better Place to Die” was recently announced.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Green beret dies after IED blast in Afghanistan

A Washington-based Special Forces soldier has died from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device that detonated near him during a recent combat patrol in Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, died Aug. 12, 2018, as a result of injuries he suffered in Helmand province on Aug. 7, 2018, according to an Army news release. Transfiguracion was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.


He was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class and awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal, according to the news release. It was Transfiguracion’s second Purple Heart.

No additional information was immediately released about the incident that caused his injuries. It remains under investigation.

Transfiguracion, of Waikoloa, Hawaii, was born in the Philippines. He enlisted as a motor transport operator in the Hawaii National Guard in 2001 and deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Purple Heart Medal.

In 2008, Transfiguracion joined the active duty, deploying again to Iraq from 2008 to 2009. From there, he spent six months supporting Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines from 2010 to 2011.

After attending Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Transfiguracion was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana, as a horizontal construction engineer. There, he was selected for Special Forces.

After completion of his Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Transfiguracion joined his last unit as an engineer sergeant. He’s been deployed to Afghanistan since March.

His other awards and decorations include the Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Achievement Medal (third award), Army Good Conduct Medal (third award), Combat Action Badge, Army Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantry Badge and Air Assault Badge.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Syrian air defenders kill 15 Russian airmen in horrific blunder

Syria’s air defenses have again proven ineffective and even dangerous as they killed 15 Russian service members flying aboard an Il-20 spy plane during an air battle over the Mediterranean on Sept. 17, 2018.

Syria has Russian-made air defenses that it’s had ample opportunity to use as Israel regularly attacks the country and the US has twice fired missiles at its military facilities in response to chemical weapons use.

But Syria has never credibly recorded an missile intercept. Syria’s lone anti-air victory came in February 2018 when an Israeli F-16, the same plane rumored to have taken part in Sept. 17, 2018’s strike, went down from S-200 fire.


On Sept. 17, 2018, that same missile defense system not only failed to hit a single Israeli plane or verifiably intercept a single incoming missile, but it took down an allied aircraft in the process.

Russia’s ministry of defense initially blamed the shoot down on a purposeful attempt by Israel to trick Syria into the friendly fire, but Russian President Vladimir Putin later referred to the event as an accident.

But, according to Justin Bronk, an air combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, Israel could have planned on using the Russian Il-20 for cover all along.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

An Israeli F-16I.

(Major Ofer, Israeli Air Force)

If the Russian Il-20 was on a regular patrol route of the Mediterranean, Bronk said the Israelis may have tried to plot an attack under a leg of its planned flight path, that they would have observed via local intelligence assets or in information sharing with the Russians themselves.

“One of the Israeli hallmarks when they do these sort of fairly bold strikes within the coverage of the Syrian air defenses is heavy electronic warfare and jamming,” Bronk told Business Insider.

So not only do the Syrians face heavy electronic interference and jamming of their radars, the threat of Israeli bombs rocking their position, and a big, obvious Russian target flying just above the shrouded F-16s, history shows they’re just not that good at air defense.

When the US struck Syria in April 2018, photography showed Syrian air defense sites firing missiles that burned across the sky leaving long, bright trails even in the instant it takes to snap a photo. But Business Insider consulted experts at the time to find out that Syria likely fired many of these missiles with out any target at all in a helpless, face saving attempt to convince the people of Damascus that they hadn’t sat idly by.

“It would be very unlikely that the Israelis were trying to engineer a situation where the Syrians shot down a Russian plane,” Bronk said, but perhaps they did intend to use the Il-20 overhead to convince Syria not to shoot.

“The S-200 is not a very sophisictated system,” said Bronk. “It’s not going to distinguish between a fighter and a big plane.”

Syria could have easily communicated with the Russians, but likely relies on voice communications which can easily be overwhelmed in times of crisis.

If it weren’t for the Israeli strike, the 15 Russians likely would have survived to this day. But ultimately, the death of the Russians and downing of the Il-20 comes down to “sloppy fire discipline from Syrian air defenses,” said Bronk.

And for sloppy work from Syrian air defenses, this example hardly represents the first.

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

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The 10 most dangerous military jobs

“No catalogue of horrors ever kept men from war. Before the war you always think that it’s not you that dies. But you will die, brother, if you go to it long enough.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Jocko Willink, a retired Navy Seal Officer who led SEAL Team 3, Task Unit Bruiser, in Iraq during the 2006 Battle of Ramadi, says that war is the ultimate human test. “When people from both sides of a conflict are trying to kill each other, it’s life or death.” Not every station of military service bears that intensity, but some do. There are jobs in which the choices you make spell out the difference between going home safely or never going home at all. These ten jobs are some of the highest-risk jobs in the U.S. military.

  1. Explosive Ordnance Disposal

Immortalized in pop culture with The Hurt Locker and broadening awareness of the conditions on the ground in Iraq, these military bomb squad techs clear mines and inspect malfunctioning munitions. The proliferation of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in our current conflicts make the career conditions of these warriors extremely precarious. 

  1. Pararescue

An elite ambulatory care team in the USAF that not only operates in war zones, but in severe conditions due to weather and natural disasters, and even as support for NASA missions. Called PJs (Pararescue Jumpers), they’re tasked with flying, climbing, and marching into high-risk areas to save those isolated or wounded by war or disaster.

dangerous military jobs
Pararescuemen, combat rescue officers, and SERE specialists from the 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan performed jump training Dec. 1, 2018.
  1. Special Operations

Encompassing a broad range of units including Army Rangers, Navy Seals, and Green Berets, Marine Raiders, Special Ops soldiers are culled through rigorous training and selection processes. Working in all terrains, they are often equipped with better gear and additional training than their counterparts in the regular infantry, but they’re also put in much more challenging situations that can amount to greater casualties.

dangerous military jobs
BAGHDAD – U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Patrick B. Roberson, the deputy commanding general of Special Operations Joint Task Force
  1. Motor Transportation

The rise in the usage of IEDs during our “forever wars” in the Middle East expose truck drivers and other vehicle transport to intense risk. Though there is a greater supply of up-armored vehicles for the units in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq than there was fifteen years ago, there’s no avoiding the exposure to bombings that many of these drivers face.

  1. Aviation

Due to the tremendous support aircraft provides to the battlefield, their pilots and crews are valuable targets to the enemy in battle. Helicopter crews in particular often have to move in and out of hostile territories while under fire to transport people and ordnance.

  1. Combat Medics (Corpsman)

The job of a medic is to move alongside friendly forces to aid the wounded and dying while under fire. Though medics are protected under the Geneva Convention, they are still susceptible to mortars, artillery, and air strikes just as their infantry support is. 

dangerous military jobs
Sgt. Kirsten Wroblewski along with Spc. Riley Martinez both medics with the 313th Medical Company Ground Ambulance unit based in Lincoln, Nebraska, perform first-aid on a patient during a mass casualty exercise at Northern Strike 19. 
  1. JTAC

JTAC, or joint terminal attack controllers, are in charge of directing offensive air operations. Basically, they’re responsible for controlling the chaos of battle in the air. They’re responsible for directing attacks, and it’s a complicated and dangerous job. While joint terminal attack controllers are usually observing and directing the action rather than acting it out themselves, they’re still in close proximity to gunfire, bomb detonations and a number of other life-threatening hazards.

  1. Artillery

These troops are subject to a lot of attention from the enemy because of their vital task of launching heavy rounds beyond the range of typical infantry. Not only are they called upon to breach fortifications and larger targets, but enemy formations as well. They are also sometimes called upon to move to infantry or cavalry positions, where they’ve received less training and can by more susceptible to danger.

  1. Aircraft carrier ground crew

You don’t have to be in a combat role to be in harm’s way. Aircraft carriers are inherently dangerous. Planes land on them while they’re in motion; it’s comparable to landing a plane on top of a skyscraper during an earthquake. Aircraft carrier ground crew members are subject to multiple hazards. Combine thousands of gallons of fuel, jet engines and intentional crash landings, and you have a pretty risky job– even if no bullets or bombs are involved.

  1. Infantry

As the primary force deployed in conflicts to take and hold enemy territory, it should come as no surprise that an infantry man or woman, now as always, is a high-risk profession. They perform all of the most common battle operations, and are host to the greatest number of casualties.


The price paid by many of our military service members is the steepest there is, and we should all strive to treat them with grace and respect. For further information on finding support after the death of a loved one, www.militaryonesource.mil is just one of the many resources available. 

Articles

13 best military memes for the week of Feb. 10

It’s Firday, the day of libo briefs and the best military memes from around the Internet.


1. Hey, if you can pass while only running during the actual test, then you do you (via Decelerate Your Life).

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Of course, if you can’t ….

2. Come on, it’s just a few years (via Sh-t My Recruiter Said)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
And you get to lurk in all those high schools and stuff.

ALSO SEE: That time a bad radio call won the WWII Battle of Cape Esperance

3. Ooooh, should’ve double checked what they’re testing for (via Coast Guard Memes).

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Hey, there’s always future servicewide exams. After all your buddies pin before you.

4. A-10 puns are brrrrrtiful (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
But I don’t recommend catching anything from A-10s. Not super safe.

5. The Air Force has an amazing headless chicken budget (via Air Force amn/nco/snco).

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

6. Not gonna lie, would promote the guy who painted this (via Coast Guard Memes).

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Of course, I issue all my order in the voice of Gru.

7. Gave you one job, Timmy (via Sh-t my LPO says).

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Timmy is going to have an uncomfortable next few days.

8. Bubba knows what’s up.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
And yes, Forrest is misspelled. Let it go.

9. American airports are not keeping pace with our needs (via The Salty Soldier).

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

10. “Take all commands from the tower. Rotate your selector switch from safe to semi ….”

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
The 15-6 investigation is going to be epic.

11. This would have gotten me to join the Navy (via Military Memes).

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

12. Secrets of the E-4 mafia:

(via Air Force Memes Humor)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Another secret: They can’t get you to re-enlist if you’re barred from doing so.

13. Not usually into Carl jokes but this one is great (via Pop smoke).

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Carl: The most Marine Marine who ever Marined.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

COVID-19: Iran surpasses 1,000 deaths with highest 24-hour rise yet; Hungary eases border closure

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 201,000 people worldwide, causing mass disruptions as governments continue to try to slow the spread of the new respiratory illness.


Here’s a roundup of developments in RFE/RL’s broadcast countries.


Iran

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus has reached 1,135, with 147 deaths over the past 24 hours — the highest 24-hour rise yet — state TV reported on March 18, as President Hassan Rohani defended his government’s response to the outbreak.

Iran has been the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, with a total of 16,169 confirmed cases, roughly 90 percent of the region’s cases.

Iran has been accused of acting too slowly and of even covering up initial cases.

But Rohani on March 18 rejected criticism of his government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, telling a government meeting that authorities have been “straightforward” with the nation, and that it had announced the outbreak as soon as it learned about it on February 19.

“We spoke to people in a honest way. We had no delay,” Rohani said.

Government officials pleaded for weeks with clerics to completely close crowded holy shrines to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The government finally shut down the shrines this week.

“It was difficult of course to shut down mosques and holy sites, but we did it. It was a religious duty to do it,” Rohani said.

The outbreak has cast a shadow over the Persian New Year, Norouz, that begins on March 20.

It was later announced that Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will pardon 10,000 prisoners, including political ones, to mark Norouz.

“Those who will be pardoned will not return to jail,” judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili told state TV on March 18, adding that “almost half of those security-related prisoners will be pardoned as well.”

Judicial officials had previously announced the temporary release of 85,000 inmates to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in Iran’s prisons. They confirmed that those freed included political prisoners, which Iranian authorities describe as “security-related prisoners.”

Pakistan

The Pakistani government has confirmed the country’s first fatality from coronavirus in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The South Asian country had a total of 260 confirmed cases of the infection as of late March 18, including 19 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“With deep regret I confirm the death of first Pakistani due to coronavirus. A 50-year-old male from Mardan city recently returned from Saudi Arabia. He developed fever, cough, and breathing difficulty and tested positive for the COVID-19,” Health Minister Zafar Mirza tweeted.

A 36-year-old man from Hangu district also died of the respiratory disease after returning from Turkey to Islamabad via Dubai, according to a spokesperson for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government.

Thousands of Pakistanis, mostly pilgrims, have been put in quarantine in recent weeks at the Taftan border crossing in Pakistan’s southwestern province of Balochistan after returning from Iran, one of the world’s worst-affected countries.

Amid the steep rise in known cases, Pakistani authorities have moved to discourage crowds and gatherings.

Islamabad on March 17 announced that all gyms, swimming pools, religious shrines, and children’s parks would remain closed for three weeks.

Health officials in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, urged the public to avoid unnecessary social contacts or traveling and to stay indoors.

Governments around the world continue to take sweeping measures to try to slow the spread of coronavirus, which has now infected more than 201,000 people and killed over 8,000.

Ukraine

The speaker of the Ukrainian parliament and other lawmakers will be tested for the novel coronavirus after one of their colleagues tested positive on March 18, local media has reported.

Authorities are trying to trace everyone who has been in contact with lawmaker Serhiy Shakhov of the Dovira (Faith) parliamentary group since he entered the legislature earlier in the week following a trip to an unspecified European Union member state.

Shakhov appeared on Ukrainian television on March 12-13, according to deputy Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, and participated in a meeting of the parliament’s Environment Committee on March 13.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the infected lawmaker’s voter card was registered in parliament on March 17 and was used to vote, although Shakhov was absent.

“Unfortunately, his colleagues are guilty of multiple voting,” Zelenskiy said about the widespread phenomenon in parliament that is now punishable by law.

Ukraine, which has confirmed 16 cases of the respiratory illness and two deaths in four regions and the capital, Kyiv, closed its borders to foreigners for two weeks starting on March 16.

Authorities have also canceled air, rail, and bus connections between cities and regions, and shut down the subway in all three cities where they operate, including Kyiv.

Moldova

Moldova on March 18 reported its first death from coronavirus.

“A first Moldovan citizen died of the coronavirus infection last night. This is a 61-year-old woman,” Health, Labor, and Social Protection Minister Viorica Dumbraveanu said.

The woman had recently returned from Italy and was suffering from several illnesses, Dumbraveanu said.

The manager of the Chisinau hospital where the woman died told the media that the woman’s village has been placed under quarantine.

Moldova, a nation of 3.5 million sandwiched between EU member Romania and Ukraine, reported 30 confirmed coronavirus cases as of March 18.

Moldova’s parliament on March 17 imposed a 60-day state of emergency in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.

The country, one of the poorest in Europe, has already temporarily shut its borders and suspended all international flights from March 17.

Hundreds of thousands of Moldovans have been working abroad, many of them in Italy and Spain, two of the countries most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Separately, Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniester declared a state of emergency until April 5 in the wake of the outbreak.

Transdniester declared independence in 1990 and fought a bloody war with Moldova two years later. It is unrecognized by the international community but is unofficially backed by Russia, which stations hundreds of troops in the region.

Romania/Hungary

Hungary on March 18 moved to relax a sweeping border closure after thousands more travelers – many angry and lacking supplies — clogged its crossings with Austria to the west and Romania to the east.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s right-wing government on March 17 closed its land crossings to foreigners as well as border crossings at airports to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Thousands of travelers were massed on March 18 at the Nickelsdorf-Hegyeshalom border crossing between Austria and Hungary, after missing a window of several hours allowed by Budapest overnight for those who wanted to transit the country on their way to Romania and Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, some 7,000 people who had reached the Romanian border to the east overnight were facing another hours-long bottleneck due to health checks imposed by Bucharest.

The two-pronged crisis prompted Budapest to reopen the border with Austria at noon on March 18 until the easing of the blockage to the west, and to allow daily passage for Romanians and Bulgarians from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. on preapproved routes, according to a statement by Romania’s Foreign Ministry.

Austrian authorities on March 18 advised drivers to keep away from the Hungarian border as the traffic jam there grew to 45 kilometers and protests broke out among stranded travelers.

“There is no use in coming to the border,” said Astrid Eisenkopf, the deputy governor of Austria’s Burgenland Province, which neighbors Hungary.

Most of the delayed Romanians are workers returning from Italy and Spain, the world’s second- and fourth-most affected countries by the virus, but also from other Western countries.

Romania is the European Union’s second-poorest country, and at least 4 million Romanians work abroad, according to estimates.

On March 18, Romania reported 29 more confirmed cases, bringing the total to 246, as well as 19 recovered cases. There have been no coronavirus deaths inside the country.

But specialists warn that Romania has so far tested only some 3.000 people for the coronavirus, while in other countries the number of those tested was in the tens of thousands.

Hungary reported having 50 confirmed coronavirus infections on March 17, with one death.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria announced it has entered into a fiscal deficit and Ukraine said it is seeking a bigger lending program from the International Monetary Fund beyond the .5 billion for which it was asking.

Confirmed cases in Bulgaria, the EU’s poorest but least indebted country, spiked by 30 percent on March 17 to 81. The government in Sofia banned all foreign and domestic holiday trips until April 13.

Kosovo

Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti has fired Interior Minister Agim Veliu for purportedly spreading “panic” about coronavirus after he backed a presidential call for a state of emergency over the pandemic.

Kurti announced Veliu’s dismissal on March 18, just hours after Veliu said he supported a proposed state of emergency that has divided officials in the Balkan country.

President Hashim Thaci late on March 17 signed a decree declaring a state of emergency. It has been sent to Kosovo’s parliament, which has 48 hours to either accept or reject the move.

But Kurti has rejected calls for a state of emergency. He said it would cause “unnecessary panic.”

“At this time, when the entire public administration is making the utmost efforts to minimize the damage caused by the coronavirus, the heads of central institutions, including those in the government cabinet, need to prove maturity both in decision-making and in making statements,” Kurti said in his announcement about firing Veliu.

The move may resonate far beyond the debate about how to react to the coronavirus pandemic.

It could cause a rift in the governing coalition that took power in Kosovo just over a month ago.

Veliu is from the Democratic League of Kosovo (LDK), which is in a fragile coalition with Kurti’s Self-Determination party.

LDK leader Isa Mustafa gave Kurti until the end of the week to “annul the decision to dismiss Veliu and make a decision to abolish the tariffs” on Serbian imports.

Pristina is under huge pressure from the European Union and the United States to revoke the 100 percent import tariff it imposed on goods from Serbia in November 2018.

The tariff came in response to Belgrade’s diplomatic campaign to encourage some of the 110-plus countries that have recognized Kosovo since it declared independence from Serbia in 2008 to reverse their position.

Kosovo says it has confirmed 19 cases of the coronavirus since the first infected person was discovered on March 13.

Most cases are people who had traveled to nearby Italy or had been in contact with others who’d been to Italy.

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina declared a state of emergency to enable coordination of activities between its two autonomous regions.

“We are focusing in all ways on how to alleviate the consequences of the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Zoran Tegeltija told reporters.

Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan has confirmed its first three cases of the coronavirus in a group of travelers returning from Saudi Arabia.

Kyrgyz Health Minister Kosmosbek Cholponbaev said on March 18 that the three Kyrgyz citizens are from the southern Suzak district in the Jalal-Abad region.

The infected had returned to Kyrgyzstan on March 12, he said. They are 70, 62, and 43 years of age.

Authorities in the district have sealed off the villages of Blagoveshchenka, Boston, and Orta-Aziya. They’ve also set up 19 checkpoints nearby, regional officials said.

Deputy Foreign Minister Nurlan Abdrakhmanov said in a statement that as of March 18, all foreigners are banned from entering Kyrgyzstan.

Elsewhere In Central Asia

In neighboring Kazakhstan, the Health Ministry said on March 18 that the number of coronavirus cases had reached 36, after three more infections were confirmed in Almaty.

Kazakhstan has declared a state of emergency until April 15. As of March 19, the cities of Nur-Sultan and Almaty will be in lockdown.

Uzbekistan announced on March 18 that its total number of confirmed cases had reached 15.

So far, no coronavirus cases have been officially announced in the Central Asian former Soviet republics of Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

The new coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries worldwide. It has infected more than 201,000 people and killed more than 8,000, with the number of people now recovered at more than 82,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

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

Articles

These kamikaze drones pack an explosive surprise

The U.S. military has truly gone bonkers for unmanned aerial systems, with a vast inventory of surveillance drones alongside a few that are big enough to carry missiles for precision strikes.


But imagine if a UAS could observe a target for units on the ground, providing intel on a key terrorist leader or bomb making factory and be the bomb that takes them out.

That’s the kind of capability special operations units like the Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command are looking for, and a few companies displaying their wares at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo and this year’s Association of the U.S. Army conference are offering the technology to fit that mission.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Developed by an Israeli defense company, the Hero-30 can fly over 3 miles to its target and orbit for more than 30 minutes before homing in for the kill. (Photo by We Are The Mighty)

Developed by Israeli defense firm UVision, the Hero-30 is a beyond line of sight unmanned aerial vehicle that packs into an 11 pound launch canister that can be carried onto battle on a trooper’s back. The drone is about 4 feet long and is launched by a pneumatic shot of air. Once airborne, a soldier flies the vehicle using a handheld control unit which allows him to orbit his target for up to 30 minutes.

Once the bad guy is in sight, the operator just flies the drone straight into its target for the kill. The Hero-30 warhead can be configured for point detonation or air burst while still in flight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JChwrALofLQ
 

“It is lightweight for a special ops team or an infantry squad to be able to provide them with a precision munition they can fly themselves,” said Clinton Anderson with Mistral Inc., which represents UVision in the U.S. “You can designate how you want it to attack and how you want the fuse to operate and you launch it in attack mode and it comes in right on the target and blows up.”

UVision also has a new version dubbed the Hero-40 that’s a bit longer with greater range and explosive payload and is intended for vehicle-borne operations and missions.

One of the oldest companies in the small UAV business Aerovironment has a more scaled-down answer to the kamikaze drone requirement with its Switchblade miniature lethal aerial system.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
The Aerovironment Switchblade lethal drone munition can be carried in a backpack and launched at a moment’s notice by troops in contact. (Photo by We Are The Mighty)

Coming in at just under 5 pounds with its diminutive launcher, the Switchblade has a 10 km range and can loiter over a target for about 10 minutes. It’s so small the Switchblade can fit inside a typical tactical pack and delivers a lethal blast on target using a small, handheld ground control system.

“This miniature, remotely-piloted or autonomous platform can either glide or propel itself via quiet electric propulsion, providing real-time GPS coordinates and video for information gathering, targeting, or feature/object recognition,” the company says. “The vehicle’s small size and quiet motor make it difficult to detect, recognize and track even at very close range.”

Company officials say the U.S. Army is buying the Switchblade for testing with its infantry troops and special operations soldiers.

MIGHTY GAMING

What we hope for in the ‘Halo’ television series

Adapting a video game into a film or television series is always a difficult task. Even when you’re working with well-written source material that has a pre-established, dedicated fan base, converting a story from one medium to another comes with a huge number of challenges.

Some video-games-turned-movies have worked out well enough. The Tomb Raider movies (both from 2001, starring Angelina Jolie, and 2018, starring Alicia Vikander) gave fans a little more about Lara Croft without trampling over established motifs. The first Mortal Kombat film was fantastic because it gave fans of the series more of the over-the-top action they wanted. Even Warcraft was a hit because of the ravenous legions (sorry, we had to) of existing fans — but none of these films were released without meeting a bevy of criticism.

Other video game adaptations, however, like Bloodrayne (and basically anything else directed by Uwe Boll), dragged once-beloved characters through the mud, flopped hard, and left a permanent stain on the source material.

The recently announced Halo series that’s to air on Showtime has fans filled with a mixture of excitement and anxiety. Despite the overwhelming belief that it will never meet audiences’ expectations, we firmly believe it isn’t an impossible task to make this show great.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
We love the series. We don’t want it to be soured by a bad adaptation.
(Microsoft Studios)


First and foremost, the biggest pitfall the creators of the show must avoid is going too deep into the psyche and history of series’ primary protagonist, Master Chief.

Master Chief, in the games, is an anomaly. We’ve followed him since 2001 and yet we know nothing about his past — or even what his face even looks like. That mystique will be thrown out the window if he’s the main character of upcoming series. If the show does feature him, he must be treated as if he’s the stand-in for the audience, just as he was in the short film Neil Blomkamp made a while back.

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Instead, the series must be filled with countless other characters that the audience has never played. The Halo universe is rich with unique personalities, environments, political struggles, and futuristic weaponry. We’ve rarely been given a glimpse of what it’s like to not be the guy who’s single-handedly winning the war. We want to see the side stories of the other Spartans. We want to see battles from the perspective of the regular ODST guys.

It doesn’t need to be a flashback or so far removed from the plot of the original games — if the series takes us to a world built on lore and story lines we, as the audience, already know from fighting as Master Chief, things could get interesting.

Halo 3: ODST was beloved by fans because they took this approach — pitting the player in a secondary yet crucial battle. If that’s the basis of the show, we’re ready and waiting.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
ODST is still one of the best games. Not just in the series, but in all of gaming.
(Microsoft Studios)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Retired Army 4-Star Jack Keane to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

A former Army vice chief of staff and Fox News analyst will be awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor by President Donald Trump, the White House announced Wednesday.


Retired Gen. Jack Keane, a Silver Star recipient who led troops in Vietnam and was at the Pentagon on 9/11, will be presented with the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom next week.

“General Keane has devoted his life to keeping America safe and strong,” a White House statement announcing the award states.

Keane could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bill Hemmer, a Fox News host, on Wednesday called the award well deserved. “Jack Keane, a friend and colleague for years here at Fox … is a committed American to getting it right,” he said.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Presidents select Medal of Freedom recipients. The award was created to honor Americans who have made significant contributions to national, international or cultural causes in the public or private sectors. Recipients have included those in the medical, journalism, entertainment and business fields.

President George H.W. Bush presented the award to Holocaust survivor, author and political activist Elie Wiesel in 1992. Civil rights activist Rosa Parks received the award from President Bill Clinton in 1996. Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun and later saint, was chosen for the award by President Ronald Reagan in 1985 and physicist Stephen Hawking by President Barack Obama in 2009.

The award was most recently presented to conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh during last month’s State of the Union address. Trump took heat for the decision to award the medal to Limbaugh, who is seen as a divisive figure by critics. The talk show host has been accused of making sexist and racist comments on the air.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

Keane, 77, retired from the Army in 2003. As vice chief of staff, he provided oversight for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to his bio. He played a key role in formulating and recommending the surge strategy in Iraq, it states, and as recently as 2016 was still advising senior government officials on national security issues and the Afghanistan War.

Keane also serves as chairman of the board for the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank that produces research on military and foreign affairs.

In addition to being awarded the Silver Star, Keane has earned two Defense Distinguished Service Medals, five Legions of Merit, two Army Distinguished Service Medals and the Bronze Star.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Navy won’t reinstate Crozier, holds 1-Star’s promotion over poor decision-making

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story and the headline incorrectly stated that Rear Adm. Stuart Baker had been fired. His promotion has been held by the Navy.

The Navy won’t reinstate the captain who was fired after warning of a serious health crisis on his ship, and the captain’s superior has also had his promotion withheld as the result of a deeper probe into the matter, top Navy leaders said on Friday.


The Navy secretary and top admiral reversed course on a previous recommendation to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. Crozier will be reassigned. If he was still in command today, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said he would relieve him.

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“It is because of what he didn’t do that I have chosen not to reinstate him,” Gilday said.

Crozier acted too slowly to keep his crew safe and made questionable decisions to release sailors from quarantine, potentially putting others at risk, the CNO added. Gilday also said the email Crozier sent warning about the situation on the ship “was unnecessary.”

Gilday, about two months ago, recommended that Crozier be reinstated as the Roosevelt’s commanding officer.

“Had I known then what I know today, I would have not made that recommendation,” Gilday said on Friday. “… Capt. Crozier’s primary responsibility was the safety and the wellbeing of the crew so that the ship could remain as operationally ready as possible. In reviewing both [Rear Adm. Stuart] Baker and Capt. Crozier’s actions, they did not do enough soon enough to fulfill their primary obligation.”

Baker, former commander of Carrier Strike Group Nine, won’t be promoted pending further review, Gilday said. His promotion to rear admiral upper half was approved by the Senate on March 20.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

“They were slow egressing sailors off the ship, and they failed to move sailors to available safer environments quickly,” Gilday said. “… It is my belief that both Adm. Baker and Capt. Crozier fell well short of what we expect of those in command.”

The decisions are the result of a deeper review into the situation on the Roosevelt, which James McPherson directed in April over what he called “unanswered questions” while serving as acting Navy secretary.

Braithwaite said on Friday he stands by the latest investigation’s findings. Jonathan Hoffman, a Pentagon spokesman, also said Defense Secretary Mark Esper was briefed on the findings and supports the Navy’s decisions.

Baker was aboard the Roosevelt when Crozier emailed several people about a growing number of COVID-19 cases among the crew. Crozier, whose email asking for help was leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, was ultimately fired by then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly over his handling of the situation.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

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Modly told reporters when announcing his decision to relieve Crozier of command that the captain should’ve walked “down the hallway” to discuss his concerns with Baker before sending the email. Modly later resigned from his post as acting Navy secretary amid backlash over these events.

The Roosevelt pulled into Guam in late March as more than 100 crew members tested positive for COVID-19, the sometimes-fatal illness caused by the coronavirus. Crozier had warned in his email that sailors could die if they didn’t quickly evacuate the ship.

“If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors,” he said.

Ultimately, more than 1,200 members of the roughly 4,800-person crew tested positive for the virus, including Crozier. One sailor, 41-year-old Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., died of the illness.

Gilday said his initial recommendation to reinstate Crozier was based only on “a narrowly scoped investigation” that looked only at why he had sent the email warning.

“I was tasked to take a look at those facts against then-acting Secretary Modley’s justification for relieving him,” Gilday said, “and I did not feel that the … facts supported the justification.”

The CNO said the two-month-long deeper investigation, ordered by McPherson, made additional facts visible. That included the decision to lift quarantine in part of the ship, which allowed about 1,000 crew members to potentially expose other sailors to the virus, Gilday said. He also said Crozier and Baker failed to take advantage of 700 beds in a gym in Guam that were spaced 6 feet apart, choosing to put his sailors’ “comfort over safety.”

In his endorsement letter accompanying the results of the investigation, Gilday said he thought Crozier had the best interests of his crew and the readiness of the ship in mind. But, he added, Crozier did not “forcefully and expeditiously execute the best possible and available plan, or do enough, soon enough.”

Baker and Crozier were talking to the U.S. Seventh Fleet commander every day, Gilday told reporters on Friday, and if the two had issues they should have raised them.

“If [Crozier] fearlessly communicated with that email that he sent — that I’ve never disagreed with, his fearless sending of the email — then he certainly should have just [as] fearlessly communicated issues every day during those video teleconferences,” Gilday said.

Rep. Adam Smith, a Washington Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said on Friday that everyone up and down the Navy chain of command had a role to play in the inadequate response to the situation on the carrier. Smith announced that his committee has launched its own investigation into the Roosevelt’s COVID-19 outbreak.

“The Department’s civilian leadership portrayed Captain Crozier’s decision-making aboard the Roosevelt as the critical weakness in the Navy’s response, but the truth is that civilian leadership was also to blame,” Smith said. “… While the committee works on our own investigation, it is my hope that the Navy will learn from this series of mistakes.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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Navy Orders Deeper Investigation into Crozier Firing Over ‘Unanswered Questions’

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Articles

A brief history of the Berlin Wall, “the monument to Communist failure”

As of 2015 the Berlin Wall has been down almost as long as it stood separating the German people. The wall built by the Communist German Democratic Republic (GDR – better known as East Germany) around the Western sectors of Berlin became a longstanding symbol of the divide between Western Capitalism and Eastern Communism during the Cold War. In the 28 years it stood, no place on Earth was so central to world events as Berlin and the reason for that is the Berlin Wall. Twenty-six years after its fall, it’s worth a look to see the how Cold War history played out surrounding such a central, divisive symbol.


After World War II, West Germany was occupied by France, England, and the United States, East Germany was occupied by the Soviet Union. Berlin, despite being deep in Soviet-occupied territory, was also partitioned in a similar way. After the Berlin Airlift ended a Soviet blockade — really an attempt to push the West out of Berlin through economic strangulation — fears of further drifts toward a full Communist state in the East prompted many to emigrate to West Germany in exponential numbers. These were mostly young, well-educated Germans whose flight became known as a “Brain Drain” of East German intelligentsia and workers. Only 61% of the East’s working age population remained. Something had to be done and what better way to make people want to stay in your country than by walling them in and threatening them with constant torture and execution?

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Memorial crosses of those killed by East Germany while trying to cross to West Germany

The borders around West Berlin were closed on August 13, 1961 as the Soviets tore up the streets, erected fences, and placed barbed wire. Families were suddenly split, jobs were lost and the United States had no official response. The U.S. didn’t actually think there was valid reason for its permanent erection. Then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, “The Wall certainly ought not to be a permanent feature of the European landscape. I see no reason why the Soviet Union should think it is—it is to their advantage in any way to leave there that monument to Communist failure.”

Erected in 1961, it was called the “Anti-Fascist Protective Wall” by the GDR, who placed rows of barbed wire a guard towers along the wall. It would soon become a symbol for the corruption and lack of freedom for those living in the Soviet Union-dominated Eastern Bloc, as the world recognized it as a true “Iron Curtain,” a means to keep East Germans from getting to West German freedom, instead of keeping West Germans out of the East Germany. It would be upgraded three times after its construction.

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Robert Kennedy and Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt at the Berlin Wall

President Kennedy denounced its construction and appointed retired Army General Lucius D. Clay as Ambassador. Clay was the mastermind of the Berlin Airlift, former military governor of American-controlled Germany, nicknamed “the Kaiser” and was wildly popular with Berliners. Following Kennedy’s order to reinforce the Allied defenders of West Berlin, Clay ordered 1,500 men with vehicles and trailers from West Germany, through East Germany to West Berlin, where they were met by Clay and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson as a show of strength and a reassertion of the Allies’ access to Berlin.

In June, 1963, President Kennedy visited the Berlin for the first time with General Clay to reaffirm the U.S. dedication of support for West Germany and to remind the Soviet Union of that support.

Hundreds of East German died trying to get to freedom on the other side of the wall, thousands were successful in defecting across the wall. They would dig tunnels below the wall, flying hot air balloons, through the sewers, or just driving cars at max speed through weaker sections. One East German guard even drove his tank through the wall to defect. Western guards were not able to help defectors until they were on the Western side of the wall.

In 1988, the year before the Berlin Wall fell, Bruce Springsteen played the Berlin Wall in a concert organized by East German Communist authorities in an attempt to pacify East German youth. Communist authorities saw rock music as a “nefarious cultural weapon” (and for much of the music of the 1980’s, that assertion isn’t far off), so the concert was a surprising shockk to much of the world, most of all East Germans. Springsteen didn’t miss the importance of the event. After playing Born in the U.S.A. in front of 300,000 East Germans, he delivered a short speech in German:

“I’m not here for any government,” he began. “I’ve come to play rock and roll for you in the hope that one day, all the barriers will be torn down.”

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War
Springsteen in East Germany (wikimedia commons)

The crowd went wild. Sixteen months later, on November 9, 1989, the government of the German Democratic Republic, better known as East Germany, announced Germans living in the East would then be free to visit West Germany and West Berlin. That day, East and West Germans crowded the Berlin Wall, and systematically chipped away and demolished it.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of December 7th

The beginning of December is a wonderful time in the military. We all get to watch those from the southern states lose their minds as they watch a little dusting of snow settle on the pavement, nobody’s sure if it’s time to switch over to winter PT uniforms, and troops express extreme pride in their respective branches with the Army-Navy Game on the horizon.

All the while, everyone starts mentally clocking out because block leave is quickly approaching and no one wants to do sh*t until then. It’s a sweet, sweet waiting game.

So, here’re some memes to enjoy as you’re sitting around the training room, just waiting to finally take your happy ass home.


This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via Uniform Humor)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme by Ranger Up)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme by WATM)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

This top secret Green Beret unit quietly won the Cold War

(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)

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