Care packages are how troops stay connected with the ones they love back home. Most troops will have their family send them little trinkets or mama-made cookies to make things better while troops without families have their day brightened by a sweet, heartfelt thank-you card sent by a grade schooler.
These packages are the one constant that every troop, regardless of where or when they served, can depend on. But on January 21st, 2018, the shipping costs for postage to and from all APO/FPO/DPO addresses increased substantially. Thankfully, this increase can be reverted and the rate for shipping can be permanently fixed, benefiting the troops.
Nothing can bring joy to troops like a care package from home.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Eddie Siguenza)
The increases in shipping costs to APO/FPO/DPO addresses were part of an overall increase in the price for all mailing services, across the board. Rates for APO/FPO/DPO mailing addresses were hit hardest — almost doubled. In the defense of the United States Postal Service, the APO/FPO flat-rate box was only increased by five cents and they’ve always supported the troops, but a recently proposed bill can take that support further.
If there were a separate, fixed rate for all postage going to and from troops at APO/FPO addresses, it would be classified as Zone 1/2 postage from any CONUS location. Meaning, that if you were to ship a big ol’ care package not in a APO/FPO flat-rate box, it would cost the same as sending a letter to a soldier stationed in Germany.
But mainly, you don’t want to screw over the nice people who just want to help support the troops.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot)
In addition to offering a single, fixed rate for those who want to send a care package abroad that might not fit within a fixed-rate box, this could also open up companies to more readily offer online shopping opportunities to deployed troops.
This also means that troops would be more able to ship things from deployed environments back to the States. So, a deployed parent could pick up souvenirs at a local bazaar for their kid while crafty troops could ship certain personal belongings home before they return stateside so don’t need to wait for the connex to return months later.
The bill would apply to all troops everywhere, even if they’re sailing in the middle of nowhere.
(U.S. Navy photo by Lorenzo J. Burleson)
The bill that includes this fixed cost, H.R.6231 – Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018, has been introduced to Congress by Rep. Thomas MacArthur. It would permanently establish a single rate for mail and packages being sent to and from at APO/FPO/DPO addresses.
Congressman MacArthur has championed veteran issues since his assignment to the Armed Services Committee and its two subcommittees, the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces and the Subcommittee on Military Personnel. He also introduced the Veterans’ Mental Health Care Access Act, which would have allowed veterans to access any mental health care facility and eligible for reimbursement — but it failed to garner approval.
To help make sure that this bill makes it through Congress, contact your representative and let them know how you feel. Let them know that this bill will greatly benefit the morale of our fighting men and women. According to Skopos Labs, the bill only has a 3 percent chance of being enacted, so if you feel passionately about it, don’t wait; act.
If you’re unsure of who your representative is, you can use this tool right here and let them know you support H.R.6231 — the Care Packages for Our Heroes Act of 2018.
One of the most legendary successes of the Royal Air Force in World War II was a bombing raid that was written off for decades as a largely symbolic victory, but was actually a technically challenging operation that choked Nazi industry in 1943 and helped ensure that German factories couldn’t produce the materiel necessary to win.
A Lancaster bomber with the special Upkeep bomb bay and bomb used in Operation Chastise in May, 1943.
(Royal Air Force)
The Dam Busters Raid, officially known as Operation Chastise, was the result of a series of bombing raids that hit target after target in the Ruhr region of Germany, but failed to significantly slow German industrial output. Planners needed a way to cripple German industry, and large-scale bombing wasn’t getting the job done.
So, they presented an alternative: Instead of attacking individual factories and areas, they’d wipe out an entire productive region with the destruction of key infrastructure. Some of the best and most obvious targets were the dams in the Ruhr region.
The dams fulfilled a few key roles. They channeled water to where it was needed, provided hydroelectric power, and kept thousands of acres of farmland protected for regular cultivation.
Workers construct tanks in factories in Germany during World War II. Factories like this one, and the factories that fed them raw materials, were targeted during Operation Chastise, the “Dam Busters Raid.”
Destroying the dam would wreak worse havoc, allowing flood waters to damage dozens of factories essential for everything from coke production to tank assembly as well as additional farmland. The raid would tip the scales of 1943 and 1944 — provided they could figure out how to pull it off.
And figuring it out would prove tough. This was before England’s “earthquake” bombs, so the weapons available at the outset of the raid were basically just normal gravity bombs. But hitting a narrow dam with a bomb is challenging, and even a direct hit on the top of the dam would be unlikely to actually cause any sort of breach.
It would take multiple strikes, potentially dozens, in almost the exact same spot to really break a dam from the top.
An inert, practice bouncing bomb skips along the water in this video still from training drops by the Royal Air Force 617 Squadron. The bomb is one of the “Upkeep” munitions, the barrel-form of the weapon aimed at destroying German dams.
(Imperial War Museums)
But if the bomb could strike the dam, that would be much different. A bomb strike against the air-exposed side of the dam could heavily damage it, and a bomb in the right spot on the water side of the dam would cause the whole thing to shatter under the combined pressure of the blast and the water.
So, Britain went shopping for options, and they found a weapon under development by British engineer Barnes Wallis, who wanted to create a better bomb for taking out destroyers.
His thought was fairly simple: A bomb with the right shape and spin could skip across the water until it struck a ship. Then, the spin would drive the bomb underwater as it basically rolled itself down the outside of the ship. It would explode under the waterline with a payload much larger than a torpedo, dooming the ship. These became known as the “Bouncing Bombs.”
One of the flight crews from the Dam Busters Raid pose in July 1943. Their successful attack made the brand new 617 Squadron world-famous overnight and crippled German infrastructure.
(Royal Air Force)
His weapon was adapted slightly for Operation Chastise. The original “High Ball” design, basically a sphere, evolved into the “Upkeep” bomb, a more barrel-shaped weapon.
The British created an all-new squadron to conduct the mission, the 617. Pilots from across the Western Allies, including U.S., British Canadian, Australian, and Kiwi personnel, were assigned. The plan was for a low-level, nighttime raid targeting three dams in the valley. The squadron began intense training with the special bombs.
The most successful method they found was flying 60 feet above the water at 232 mph ground speed. While this gave the greatest chances of success and minimized the likelihood that surprised, tired anti-aircraft crews would get a shot at them, it also made for spectacularly dangerous and tricky flying.
The dam at Edertalsperre in Germany after the Dam Buster raid. The hole in the dam was estimated to be 230 feet wide and 72 feet high.
At 9:28 p.m. on May 16, 1943, the 133 men took off in 19 bombers aimed at three separate and challenging targets. They flew in three waves and successfully breached two of the dams while damaging the third.
The next morning, the attacks were reported in Germany and England. Germany tried to downplay the results, and Britain played up the success. For a generation, the exact results were in controversy. Even British historians would claim that the attack was over-hyped.
The English King George VI inspects the airmen of the 617 Squadron, the Dambusters, on May 27, 1943, after their widly successful mission.
(Royal Air Force)
The workers had to repair the physical dam before the fall rains or risk the region running low on water and electricity — even after the dam was repaired. They had to repair 100 damaged factories, not counting the 12 factories completely destroyed. Thousands of acres of farmland, necessary to feed the armies on the march, were ruined.
And, all of this came while the German army was desperately trying to stave off Soviet advances and just a year before the Normandy landings, increasing the chances of success there.
In other words, the mission was a stunning success. But it didn’t come without cost. Two bombers were lost on their way to the target. One struck the water’s surface and another hit electrical wires. Eight bombers were shot down.
53 Allied personnel were killed and another three captured.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that can jail citizens for insulting government officials — including him.
People who show “blatant disrespect” for the state, the government, the Russian flag, or the constitution can be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($1,550) under the new law, which Putin signed on March 18, 2019, Reuters reported.
Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days under the new law.
Punishments became more severe as the bill moved through Russia’s government. Earlier drafts of the law had proposed fining people 1,000 or 5,000 rubles, a fraction of the final figure.
Putin also signed that a law that mandates fine for people who spread what authorities deem to be “fake news.”
People can be fined up to 400,000 rubles (,100) for spreading false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order.”
Authorities can also block websites that do not remove information which the state says is not accurate, according to Reuters.
Russian lawmakers say the law is necessary to fight fake news reports and abusive online comments, Reuters reported.
But critics say the law amounts to state censorship.
Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin.
British human rights organization Article 19, which focuses on issues of freedom of expression, said: “Allowing public officials to decide what counts as truth is tantamount to accepting that the forces in power have a right to silence views they don’t agree with, or beliefs they don’t hold.”
Sarah Clarke, the group’s head of Europe and central Asia, said before Putin signed the bill that it will be “another tool of repression to stifle public interest reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions, including the speech of the political opposition.”
Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician, told Reuters in January 2019, before the bills were signed, that these are both “crazy laws.”
“These are crazy bills. How can they prohibit people from criticising the authorities?” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Afghan government forces have retaken most of Ghazni from the Taliban as clashes continued for a fourth straight day after the militant group launched an assault on the eastern city, officials say.
Security forces recaptured some 90 percent of Ghazni after reinforcements were sent to the city, Defense Ministry spokesman Ghafoor Ahmad Javed told RFE/RL late on Aug. 13, 2018.
Javed said clashes continued into the evening on Aug. 13, 2018, in Ghazni’s Baghe Bahlool area, one of the last pockets that remain under Taliban control.
Earlier on Aug. 13, 2018, Defense Minister Tareq Shah Bahrami said that some 1,000 additional troops had been sent to Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name, and were trying to clear the city of Taliban militants.
“With the new measures in place, we expect that there will be a considerable development in the next 24 hours in the situation in Ghazni,” Bahrami told reporters in Kabul.
“We hope there will be a good development,” he added.
Afghan officials were quoted as saying that U.S. Special Forces units were on the ground helping to coordinate air strikes and ground operations but that was not confirmed by the U.S. military.
Ghazni is a strategic city located on the main road linking the capital, Kabul, with southern Afghanistan.
Three days after the militants launched their assault on the city of 270,000 people early on Aug. 10, 2018, information was difficult to verify with telecommunications services being shut down due to the clashes.
Bahrami said the ongoing battle had killed about 100 police officers and soldiers, as well as at least 20 civilians. He also said that 194 Taliban fighters were killed.
Officials at the Interior Ministry were quoted as saying that the fighting also left at least 15 civilians dead and more than 400 others wounded.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called on the parties to “protect the lives and rights of civilians and to protect civilian infrastructure,” particularly medical facilities.
“Medication at the main hospital is reportedly becoming very scarce and people are unable to safely bring casualties for treatment,” Dr. Richard Peeperkorn, acting humanitarian coordinator for Afghanistan, said in a statement.
He also said it was “unsafe” for people to travel to larger cities where medical facilities are available.
Food supplies in the city were “reportedly running low,” he added.
Shah Gul Rezayee, a lawmaker from Ghazni, told RFE/RL on Aug. 13, 2018, that the “Taliban has torched many parts of the city.”
Some Ghazni residents who fled to other cities described panic and fear in the city, Rezayee said, speaking by phone from Kabul.
“They say dead bodies are laying uncovered in the streets, people are facing a shortage of food and drinking water, and there is no electricity in the city,” she added.
A communications tower was destroyed by the Taliban, cutting off cell-phone and landline access to the city.
“People can’t contact their relatives and friends, and it has added to the fear and panic,” Rezayee said.
The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.
In May, the Taliban attacked the western city of Farah. After a day of intense fighting, Afghan commandos and U.S. air strikes drove the group to the outskirts of the city.
“By that time I was a trainer of heart surgeons for the Army,” Lough said in the video below. “I reached a point in my Army career where the future really held more and more administrative responsibilities and I really wanted to continue using my hands.”
He left the military to continue to do what he loved in a safe, private practice. He performed thousands of surgeries on his way to becoming director of his department at The George Washington University Hospital. He was living the definition of success in his second career.
But after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the call to service began to tug at him.
“I had always considered myself a soldier, and now there was a need for military surgeons, and so I engaged the reserves about joining,” he said.
He wasn’t taking no for an answer.
“You want me to carry water?” he said about a conversation with recruiters. “I’ll carry water.”
He joined the U.S. Army Medical Corps Reserves and returned to service in 2007 at age 58. He deployed to Afghanistan twice, saving hundreds of lives on the front lines before going full active in 2013.
Watch Lough deliver his incredible service story and powerful message about personal growth in this short AARP video:
Beijing has carried out anti-aircraft drills with missiles fired against drone targets over the South China Sea after the US challenged it by flying B-52 bombers across the region.
China’s drills were intended to simulate fending off an aerial attack on unspecified islands within the waterway. Beijing lays unilateral claim to almost all of the South China Sea, a passage that sees trillions in annual shipping.
Chinese missiles, deployed to the South China Sea despite previous promises from Beijing not to militarize the islands, fired at drones flying overhead to simulate combat, the South China Morning Post reported.
Typically, the US carries out its challenges by sailing warships, usually guided missile destroyers, near the shores of its islands in a signal that the US does not recognize China’s claims. China always reacts harshly, accusing the US of challenging its sovereignty, but the US challenged the excessive maritime claims of 22 nations in 2016.
As someone who has served on active duty and in the reserves, I can confidently say that neither side of the divide fully understands the other. The Army Reserve often thinks of the active Army as drill days that come more often, and the active Army thinks of the Reserve as weekend warriors with no expertise or experience.
They’re both wrong, but reserve drill days are, to put it mildly, weird beasts.
Army reservist drives to drill. So much fun.
(YouTube/Strength Over Benches)
It starts with a long drive
Sure, some people live near their drill location, but as unit after unit after unit gets shuffled around thanks to base closings and re-alignments (plus the fact that there’s always a good chance that a slot for your military job at your current rank isn’t available), you’re going to have one hell of a drive.
If you’re particularly lucky, you’ll be driving a few hours to drill, meaning that you’ll drive up Friday night after work, using Rip-Its and a pinch of dip to stay awake like you’re driving through Ramadi instead of the Carolinas.
Every reservist approximately 20 minutes before drill.
(U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Christopher Callaway)
Then you have to groom all the stuff you haven’t bothered with in four weeks
Most Reservists aren’t necessarily AR 670-1 friendly the rest of the month, so there’s a lengthy grooming process to get rid of all the hair growth and long fingernails and, in rarer circumstances, bruises, henna tattoos, and Sharpie.
Depending on your living circumstances, you might have to do this before the drive, but whatever. Just scrub until the genital drawings are all off your face.
Army Reserve Officer Training Cadets getting ready to do some physical training.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
Finally, throw on the uniform and stumble into PT
It’s obviously best if you’ve actually received the uniform of the day from whoever is disseminating that information (it being your first-line NCO is far from guaranteed), but you’ll be lining up in formation regardless of whether you had the right uniform ahead of time. And, since all the NCOs need to get some instruction time and there are only two PT sessions per month, there’s a good chance there’s a different instructor every time.
A different instructor who only does this once every few months, who didn’t have time to plan until the day before drill, who has to practice the conditioning drills, and who uses the same pocket physical training guide as everyone else. Be prepared for some seriously repetitive workouts, probably conducted while at least four guys who can’t pass tape wheeze behind you.
Hmmm, this computer training is probably different from the computer training she did earlier, but it’s impossible to tell after a few hours.
(U.S. Army National Guard Maj. Joseph Siemandel)
Admin, admin, admin
When you get to actual work, be prepared for all the admin requirements of active duty to be packed into two duty days. Yeah, cars need to be inspected, people need to learn not to harass each other, and someone has to click through all these anti-suicide slides (because, yeah, PowerPoint is the best way to defeat that particular scourge.)
On the off chance that there is time leftover for actual training, it’s probably going to be conducted by the guys in the unit who have similar jobs on the civilian side, because they’re the only ones with a ton of experience doing the work.
(Side note: This is one of the legitimate advantages of the reserve components. There are a ton of guys in most units who actually get day-in, day-out experience. Truck drivers aren’t sitting around in motor pools waiting for a training exercise where they’ll finally be able to get some wheel time. No, they’re on the road for 40 hours or more a week, so they have lots of experience to share.)
Alright, we finally have equipment, so let’s spend the next six months inventorying it over and over and over.
Sure, this could be bundled into admin, but units have to do their property inventories every month on the reserve side just like the active. And that means that at least a few people every month take the special time allocated for ALMS classes to follow the commander around instead.
But this is, obviously, crucial, because otherwise, the Army Reserve might lose track of the weapons that date back to Vietnam, the radios that date back to Desert Storm, or the office implements that still have Eisenhower’s fingerprints on them.
Meals are served in a half-staffed dining facility unless there are too few units at drill to justify starting up the grills. In that case, be prepared for MREs or to do some extreme budget shopping at whatever chain restaurant is so hard up for business that they’ll dive through all the hoops that the Army makes them go through to sell burnt burgers to soldiers.
Vegetarians, understand you’ll be eating the chicken caesar with no chicken. Sorry about that. Still better than a veggie omelet, though.
Army Reserve soldiers prepare to deploy.
(U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Ken Scar)
Finally, release formation
This will, just like on active duty side, run late, especially if annual training or, gods be praised, a deployment is coming up. And sorry, reserve first sergeants are just as likely to piggyback on the commander with comments about “behooving” as their active duty counterparts. The safety brief is extra laughable, though, since everyone there spends three weekends a month successfully not drinking and driving, so it makes it extra odd to get warnings after the fourth.
If you’re commuting and staying in a local hotel during drill, then hope you can make friends with someone in the unit. Because you’re going to be surrounded by them regardless of what you do.
The littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords launched a Naval Strike Missile on Oct. 1, 2019, marking the first time the NSM has been fired in the Indo-Pacific region, the Navy told Insider.
The NSM, along with additional firepower from US and Singaporean forces, sank the decommissioned frigate USS Ford as part of an exercise with Singapore’s navy in the Philippine Sea on Oct. 1, 2019.
The Gabrielle Giffords, along with US Navy helicopters, ships, and submarines, and Singaporean navy ships, conducted the exercise as part of Pacific Griffin, a biennial exercise in the Pacific near Guam.
“LCS packs a punch and gives potential adversaries another reason to stay awake at night,” Rear Adm. Joey Tynch said in a statement. “We are stronger when we sail together with our friends and partners, and LCS is an important addition to the lineup.”
The NSM, made by Raytheon, is a stealthy long-range missile capable of hitting targets up to 100 nautical miles away. It flies at low altitudes and can rise and fall to follow the terrain, and it can evade missile-defense systems.
Read on to learn more about the Pacific Griffin exercise and the sinking of the USS Ford.
Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Abby Rader)
This is the first time an NSM has been deployed to the 7th Fleet area of responsibility, and the Gabrielle Giffords is the first littoral combat ship to deploy with an NSM on board.
Eventually, the entire littoral-combat-ship (LCS) fleet will have NSMs aboard, CNN reported. The LCS fleet and NSMs will allow the US Navy to engage with China in the South China Sea.
With the NSM, “You can hit most areas in the South China Sea if you’re in the middle” of the sea, Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, told Insider.
Compared with China’s DF-21 “carrier-killer” missile, the NSM has a shorter range but better precision targeting, enabling it to destroy an enemy vessel rather than just damage it, as the DF-21 is built to do, Clark said.
An MH-60S Seahawk fires an AGM-114 Hellfire missile at the former USS Ford.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christopher A. Veloicaza)
An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter fired Hellfire missiles at the USS Ford.
The Hellfire missile is a precision-strike weapon and can be fired from airborne systems, like the MH-60S Seahawks used in Oct. 1, 2019’s SINKEX, or from vessels like an LCS.
B-52 bombers from the US Air Forces’ Expeditionary 69th Bomb Squadron also dropped ordnance during the exercise, and the Republic of Singapore multirole stealth frigates RSS Formidable and RSS Intrepid fired surface-to-surface Harpoon missiles at the Ford.
The USS Gabrielle Giffords launches a Naval Strike Missile at the decommissioned USS Gerald Ford.
(Screenshot via US Navy)
The Gabrielle Giffords is the first LCS to perform an integrated NSM mission in the Indo-Pacific region.
Littoral combat ships can carry MH-60R/S Seahawk helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) aboard, as well as Mark 110 57 mm guns and .50-caliber machine guns.
Many littoral combat ships have Harpoon missiles aboard, which don’t have the long range of the NSM.
Littoral combat ships are designed for use in the open ocean and closer to shore, in littoral waters. They typically perform mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, and surface warfare, but they are capable of performing a variety of missions, according to the Navy.
The decommissioned USS Ford during a sinking exercise as part of Exercise Pacific Griffin 2019.
(Commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific / US Navy)
The Navy follows very specific protocols when performing a so-called SINKEX.
Decommissioned vessels that are used in these kinds of exercises, like the Ford, are referred to as “hulks.”
They must be sunk in at least 6,000 feet of water and at least 50 nautical miles from land.
Before they’re sunk, they’re cleared of transformers and capacitors, as well as of trash, petroleum, and harmful chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls and mercury, and materials containing fluorocarbons, according to a Navy release.
Watch the full video here:
USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) launches a Naval Strike Missile during exercise Pacific Griffin.
When all was said and done, all the American media saw was a presumed dig at President Donald Trump. But in the speech he gave while receiving the 2017 Liberty Medal, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said much more than that. He looked back on his life, his political career, the events that shaped America – and the events America shaped.
The next day, the headlines raved about McCain’s “half-baked spurious nationalism” dig at the sitting president.
The “half-baked, spurious nationalism” isn’t just a dig a President Trump. The world at large is consumed by the same kind of nationalism the senator from Arizona describes in his speech. A wave of far-right populism has especially swept Europe in the past few years.
French President Emanuel Macron just defeated Marine Le Pen, who wanted to ban any display of religious beliefs – including yarmulkes and turbans – which she considered “not French.” In the UK, far-right broadcaster and analyst Nigel Farage led a campaign that resulted in a vote forcing Britain to leave the European Union, for better or for worse. And across Europe – from Spain to Greece – a wave of far-right nationalist populism and isolationism has captured the interest of the population, each looking for a “scapegoat” of its own.
The Senator didn’t mention Europe specifically. He did say that America, “the most wondrous land on earth,” still has a special role to play in the world and should rise above the urge to isolate itself from the rest of the world, that American leadership is going to be as necessary in the 21st century as it was in the 20th.
He also implied that Americans should leave the past behind, a not-so-subtle reference to the resurgence of Nazism and Confederate pride in the U.S.’ recent days.
“This wondrous land has shared its treasures and ideals and shed the blood of its finest patriots to help make another, better world,” McCain said. “And as we did so, we made our own civilization more just, freer, more accomplished and prosperous than the America that existed when I watched my father go off to war on Dec. 7, 1941.”
The 81-year-old Vietnam veteran and former POW went on to speak like a man who is looking back on his life and leaving us with the parting thoughts of a lifelong public servant. McCain was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, and his prognosis was not good.
“We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t,” he said. “We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”
Presenting McCain with his medal was former Vice-President, erstwhile Senate opposition, and longtime friend, Joe Biden. The two most notably ran on opposite tickets in the 2008 Presidential Election where McCain lost to the Obama-Biden ticket.
Before Sen. McCain began his remarks, he commented on the multi-decade friendship between the two.
“We served in the Senate together for over 20 years,” McCain said, “during some eventful times, as we passed from young men to the fossils who appear before you this evening.”
McCain was presented with the Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center, a medal meant to honor “men and women of courage and conviction who have strived to secure the blessings of liberty to people the world over.” Previous recipients include Nelson Mandela, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, and former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell.
As he closed, McCain recounted the innumerable people he worked with in his 60 years of service in the Navy and in the U.S. government.
“I have enjoyed it, every single day of it, the good ones and the not so good ones. I’ve been inspired by the service of better patriots than me,” McCain said. “I’ve seen Americans make sacrifices for our country and her causes and for people who were strangers to them but for our common humanity, sacrifices that were much harder than the service asked of me. And I’ve seen the good they have done, the lives they freed from tyranny and injustice, the hope they encouraged, the dreams they made achievable.”
From the Marine Corps to the medical field, Onur Yenigun has exemplified a commitment to service in remarkable ways. A first generation American, Yenigun was the child of a Turkish immigrant and though he always knew he wanted to be a doctor, first, he wanted to give back to his country.
He served in 1st Battalion 5th Marines after telling his recruiter he “wanted to get his butt kicked.” After his service, he used the G.I. Bill and graduated with highest honors from UC Davis, before attending medical school at UC San Francisco.
Now, he’s in his third year of residency in the ER of Stanford Hospital, fighting on the front lines of a new threat: COVID-19. I had the chance to talk with him about the virus, what it’s like for our medical professionals right now, and why it’s still important to “flatten the curve.”
Here’s what he had to say:
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_Fr6D8hBjo/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “I’ve seen those pictures – folks so beat by the daily grind that they’re passed out and photographed by a passer-by. Sure, it happened to…”
Yenigun: It keeps changing because we’re learning new things all the time. Our overall volume is down. There are fewer patients — but the ones that do come in are sicker. People who are sick keep waiting it out at home because they’re afraid to go to the hospital so when they do come in, they’re really sick.
And then there’s more overall fear in the hospital. I used to greet my co-workers with a hug and now we can’t do that. We’re a close-knit family and that camaraderie means a lot to me, so it’s really hard to not be able to high five everyone. One of the interesting things about it, though, is that usually our [attending physicians] are the ones doing the teaching, but due to the nature of the virus, we’re all learning together. We’re growing together and I like that aspect.
WATM: What would you say to citizens who are putting off health treatments because of the virus? When should people go to the hospital?
Yenigun: People should call their doctor for advice. A lot of out-patient visits are shut down, but physicians are still pretty accessible and they can give medical advice.
Anyone with serious symptoms should come in, but if someone feels like their symptoms are manageable at home then they can safely do that. It is risky to come to a hospital if someone doesn’t need to be there — not just because of COVID-19.
People’s primary care doctors are still a really good resource.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B_DWDYhhRcy/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “Behind these doors lies a convention center turned medical facility with over 200 cots, neatly lined and ready to accept and care for the…”
WATM: What treatments have been effective for patients with COVID-19?
Yenigun: Supportive therapy is still the most effective right now. There are a lot of drug and vaccine trials and antivirals being studied right now but if you were to come into the hospital today with COVID, the major things would be supportive treatments: administer oxygen, control fevers, monitor symptoms, and intubate when necessary.
WATM: Is your hospital doing proning?
Yenigun: Proning is something that has been around for so long. Proning has been an effective treatment for patients with bad lung diseases like ARDS [acute respiratory distress syndrome], which is what we call the syndrome these patients are getting with bad COVID. It’s not always effective, but in certain cases it can improve outcomes.
WATM: What kind of recovery rate are you seeing for COVID-positive patients?
Yenigun: The majority of patients I see are healthy enough to be discharged and they go home to get better. I don’t know the exact percentage, of course. I have seen some very sick people who end up in the ICU. Most of them have been elderly or they’ve had risk factors that we know lead to more serious infections. The big four that we know about are diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and lung disease, so when we see COVID patients at higher risk then we monitor more closely.
WATM: What does the hospital do to help prevent COVID-19 from spreading to patients/staff?
Yenigun: Even just to get into our hospital, staff members have to get their temperature checked. People with fevers have to go home. We also have very strict policies with regards to our PPE [personal protective equipment].
For patients, we can see many who are less critical in a drive-through outside and they will “iPad in” — we can tell a lot about a person from looking at them. Looking at you, I can tell that you’re breathing comfortably, that your color is good, that you can talk easily. I can tell that you don’t have a bad respiratory condition. We could swab you, you could go home, you could call in and get results.
For patients who are “persons under investigation” or that we think might have COVID in the hospital, we try to place them in negative pressure rooms. We also have HEPA filters in the rooms that are purifying the air. Anytime we go into those rooms, we wear full protective gear: gloves, N95 masks, goggles.
We’re fortunate now to have a rapid test so we can quickly determine who has COVID and who doesn’t so we’re able to separate COVID-positive patients from other patients.
WATM: Why is social distancing and “flattening the curve” important?
Yenigun: I don’t really like the term “social distancing” — I prefer “physical distancing” because I don’t think anyone should be forced into complete isolation, distancing themselves from the people they care about most in their social circles because that’s going to lead to a whole host of issues surrounding mental health.
It is important, however, to reduce the number of infections at any one time. The whole point of flattening the curve isn’t necessarily to reduce the number of infections — it’s to reduce the number of infections at once.
The worst thing we could do is have everyone go out and spread this thing like wildfire; suddenly everyone would present critically ill, flooding our emergency department. Many would need to get intubated, we would run out of ventilators, the ICU would fill, and then people would die in the waiting room. That’s our biggest nightmare — we don’t want people to die.
The whole point of distancing is to provide time for this virus to trickle through the population. The people who are going to get sick will get sick, but it will be manageable for hospitals. We’ll be able to take care of them and save as many lives as we can.
That time will also give us the opportunity to run these clinical trials and develop vaccines.
WATM: Have you seen any cases of reinfection?
Yenigun: I haven’t seen any reinfections. There has been talk about reinfections overseas, but we haven’t seen anyone personally who has gotten sick, gotten better, then gotten sick again here.
WATM: Are you worried about getting the virus?
Yenigun: I’m not too worried about my own personal well-being. I don’t think I would get critically ill. I’m more worried about the fact that I interact with multiple people and patients every day. I don’t want to pass it on to other people.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B-it1Q1Bc10/ expand=1]Onur Yenigun on Instagram: “I remember driving home from work last night wishing I had a way to spend my day off that would in someway contribute to the community. I…”
WATM: What is life like for doctors and nurses right now? What’s your work-tempo like and how is morale?
Yenigun: Work hasn’t necessarily increased because we’re able to manage the patients as they come in. I’ve personally been able to volunteer with Team Rubicon to staff a convention center here we’ve turned into a medical respite. I’ve had a lot of 24-hour days, but this is what I love and I’m happy to do it.
As far as morale, our community has really come together. We’ve been getting donations of food and snacks and letters from grateful locals. We had a great Black Rifle Coffee Company donation — shout out to those guys. Our staff has Zoom social hours. I put together a Zoom work-out for nurses and staff. We’ve found ways to come together.
WATM: What can people do to support hospitals and people in the medical field?
Yenigun: Everyone in health care would really appreciate it if everyone can just take measures to stay healthy. That’s what’s going to get us through this in the long run — that’s how we’re going to end these lockdowns. Wash your hands. Stay healthy. If you feel like you just have a cold, stay home. Unless you become afraid that you cannot manage the symptoms, you might be safer at home.
WATM: What are the benefits of taking an antibody test?
Yenigun: If you have been exposed, even if you were asymptomatic, you should have developed antibodies. In most cases, when you have antibodies for an illness you’re most likely protected from it. We can’t say that for sure about COVID-19. Antibody testing is interesting from an epidemiological perspective, but it might not necessarily mean anything conclusive for individuals yet.
WATM: Finally, and this is arguably the most important question, there’s an article about whether COVID-19 could be spread through farts…would you like to comment on that, Doctor?
Yenigun: Oh god…
WATM: I just want people to stay safe.
Yenigun: Do I think it could be…spread through a fart?
Yenigun: They have isolated the viral RNA in stool but that doesn’t necessarily mean it could be passed fecally…still, this is probably where common sense and courtesy come in.
WATM: Thank you for that and, sincerely, thank you for your continued service.
I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to me, too! Thank you.
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.
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.
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.
A weapons sergeant with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) who heroically fought up a mountain through a barrage of enemy fire to help rescue his detachment members will receive the Medal of Honor.
The White House announced today that Master Sgt. Matthew O. Williams went above and beyond the call of duty during an operation on April 6, 2008. Williams — a sergeant at the time of the operation — was assigned to Special Operations Task Force-33 in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Williams will receive the highest military award for valor at a White House ceremony, Oct. 30, 2019. A “Hall of Heroes” induction ceremony at the Pentagon is slated for Oct. 31, 2019.
In April 2008, Williams joined 14 other Special Forces operators and roughly 100 Afghan commandos on a mission to take out or apprehend high-value enemy targets that were operating out of a mountain-top village within Shok Valley.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams with other team members assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), wait on a hill top for the helicopter exfiltration in eastern Afghanistan, late spring 2007.
(Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Shortly after the joint force dropped into the area and organized into elements, the lead command and control team started their treacherous hike up a near-vertical mountainside toward the objective.
It did not take long for the adversary to respond. A barrage of heavy sniper and machine-gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades rained down on the team’s location.
In the ensuing chaos, the lead element was pinned down at a higher elevation and isolated from the larger military force. Further, they had sustained injuries and were requesting support.
In response, Williams organized a counter-assault team and led them across a waist-deep, ice-cold fast-moving river, and fought their way up the terraced mountain to the besieged lead element’s location.
Joined by his team sergeant, Williams positioned his Afghan commando force to provide a violent base of suppressive fire, preventing the enemy force from overrunning the team’s position. In turn, the actions of Williams and his team allowed the first command and control element to consolidate and move the casualties down the mountain.
As Williams worked to defend the force’s position, an enemy sniper took aim and injured his team sergeant. With disregard for his safety, Williams maneuvered through an onslaught of heavy machine-gun fire to render aid.
Then-Sgt. Matthew Williams assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), conducts long-range weapons training at Camp Morehead, Afghanistan, during the fall of 2009.
(U.S. Army Master Sgt. Matthew Williams)
Once his team sergeant was secure, the joint team egressed off the mountainside. Williams descended with his team sergeant off a near-vertical 60-foot cliff to a casualty collection point and continued to provide first aid.
With more injured soldiers coming down the mountainside, Williams ascended through a hail of small arms fire to help with their evacuation, and also repair his operational detachment commander’s radio.
As Williams returned to the base of the mountain with three wounded soldiers, enemy forces maneuvered to their position in an attempt to overrun the casualty collection point. Williams and the Afghan commandos quickly responded with a counter-attack and courageously fought back the attacking force.
As the medical evacuation helicopter arrived, Williams exposed himself to insurgent fire again to help transport casualties. Once the injured were secure, Williams continued to direct Commando fires and suppress numerous enemy positions. The team’s actions enabled the evacuation of the wounded and dead without further casualties.
The entire Shok Valley operation lasted for more than six hours. During that time, Williams and the joint force fought back against about 200 adversaries, all while they were subjected to a series of friendly, danger-close air strikes.
Williams is the second member of his detachment to receive the Medal of Honor for this operation. The president presented Staff Sgt. Ronald Shurer II the Medal of Honor at a White House ceremony Oct. 1, 2018.
When Jessica Pearce Rotondi lost her mother to breast cancer in 2009, she had no idea of what she would gain: the chance to become a part of her military family’s history. The unexpected journey took her from her childhood home in Massachusetts to the lush mountains of Laos, where her airman uncle was shot down in 1972.
“Sending a loved one away and not knowing if they’ll walk through the door again is an incredible sacrifice,” Rotondi said.
It’s a sacrifice her mother’s family made multiple times. For not only was her Uncle Jack shot down alongside his AC-130 crew during the “secret war” in the neutral nation of Laos, her grandfather — Jack’s father — fell from the sky too, spending two and a half years in a German POW camp during WWII.
As “What We Inherit: A Secret War and a Family’s Search for Answers” so arrestingly confesses in its first sentence, Rotondi comes from “a family that loses children.”Rotondi spent a decade researching and writing her debut novel, a deeply personal family memoir and obscure history lesson released this April. Historical supporting evidence, it turns out, would be hard to come by.
Read more about Vietnam War vets traveling to find answers.
“Much about what happened in Laos has only recently been declassified. I embedded photographs of some of the reports and letters I found directly into the book, because I wanted to recreate that sense of expectation to show how the force of a single document can change a family’s hopes,” Rotondi, a Brooklyn resident, said. “Getting CIA officers, refugees and former soldiers on the record about their role in the war was a slow exercise in trust-building but led to some incredible conversations.”
Before her mother’s death, conversation about Rotondi’s uncle and grandfather’s wartime experiences were few. A chance discovery of a hidden-in-the-closet file cabinet just hours after her mother’s passing launched Rotondi onto what would eventually become “What We Inherit.” It involved thousands of hours of research, sifting through redacted files, yellowed newspaper clippings and maps of questionable accuracy.
Rotondi, whose work has been published in the likes of The Huffington Post and The History Channel, traveled to Southeast Asia in 2013 to locate her uncle’s crash site. She was not the first family member to do so; she was simply retracing her grandpa’s steps through Laos as he obsessively searched for answers about his missing son years earlier.
The process of writing her family’s tragedies reminded Rotondi of the incredible strength of military families.
“I had the incredible privilege of speaking to other families of the missing for this book, and the biggest takeaway from them was the strength of the unspoken bond between military families,” she said. “I read somewhere that we never truly die until our name stops being spoken aloud. There is power in talking about our lost and missing veterans — especially with the next generation.”
“What We Inherit,” a book worth reading, ensures that will never happen on Rotondi’s watch.