SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

Veterans will continue to see improvements in VA services, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at “State of the VA” speech Feb. 5 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


These improvements for Veterans include increased innovation—including the VA’s first 5G hospital—along with decreased wait times for appointments and better overall care.

Increased innovation

The secretary pointed to several programs designed to provide better Veteran care.

The VA hospital in Palo Alto, California, is about to become one of the first 5G enabled health facilities in the world, with portions becoming operational this week. The secretary said will deliver is richer, more detailed three-dimensional images of patients’ anatomy. He added the resolution is so clear and consistent that it will give VA a reliable means of delivering telesurgery services to Veterans.

“That means we will have the capacity to allow VA’s best physicians to consult during surgery even if they’re not in the same room and are halfway across the country,” he said.

Wilkie also pointed to VA’s work on exoskeletons, which do the work patients can’t do on their own. The VA currently has a pilot program to develop exoskeletons that stimulate the spinal cord.

“Instead of the exoskeleton moving the patient around, the patient can increasingly control the exoskeleton as their own muscles are reactivated,” he said. With further research at VA, we are hoping to turn the exoskeleton from a mobility device into something that trains injured people to walk again under their own power.”

Other innovation

The secretary also pointed to a VA partnership to help Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and pain management.

The partnership is with the University of Southern California, a non-profit called Soldier Strong, and AppliedVR. Veterans with PTSD use virtual reality relive and reimagine traumatic events in a controlled setting, under the care of a clinician. The program gives Veterans a chance to process these emotions, which can be an effective treatment for PTSD. He said virtual reality can also help block pain signals from reaching the brain, and thus is a drug-free supplement to traditional pain therapies.

Veterans also see improved care through innovations such as telehealth, a new technology to identify potential diabetic foot ulcers and the precision oncology program. All these innovations help increase Veteran care, he said.

The secretary said this innovation carries on VA’s previous innovation, which includes inventing the cardiac pacemaker, inventing the nicotine patch, performing the first liver transplant and introducing a powered ankle-foot prosthesis. He said all these innovations have a direct impact on Veterans’ well being.

Better Veteran care

Veteran wait time is shorter at VA than compared to private sector. This decreased wait time is for primary care and two of three specialty areas. Wilkie said that’s coupled with a record-high 59.9 million Veteran visits in fiscal year 2019. That’s 1.7 million more appointments for Veterans than ever before. He added 90 percent of Veterans surveyed trust the care they get at VA.

When Wilkie took over, only 25% women vets were enrolled in VA care. Now, he said 41% receive VA care.

Overall Veteran care is improving, Wilkie said. He said VA will implement a provision of the MISSION Act in 2020. This will extend Caregiver benefits to Veterans who served before 1975.

Veterans also receive better mental health care, Wilkie said. This includes same-day mental health care and a universal screening process to identify Veterans who may be at risk. Since late 2018, VA screened more than 4 million Veterans. He said the Veterans Crisis Line is taking more than 1,700 calls each day, and VA takes emergency action on about 100 of those calls.

“I believe that Veterans can show the country the way on how to deal with this terrible problem,” Wilkie said.

Different approaches

Wilkie said the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, task force is weeks away from releasing recommendations. The task force will include a community integration and collaboration proposal, a national research strategy and an implementation strategy. Wilkie said he will recommend that VA opens up financial support. This includes charities, local governments and non-governmental organizations to help Veterans.

Overall, the MISSION Act gives Veterans choice, Wilkie said. In the first six months, VA approved nearly 2.8 million referrals to private sector care for 1.5 million Veterans. Wilkie said just like the MISSION Act rollout, he expects the upcoming Electronic Health Records Modernization will improve Veteran care.

Veterans also see changes in how VA uses Whole Health, setting a standard for care. Wilkie said programs like yoga, aqua therapy, music therapy and art therapy were unheard of decades ago. Now, he said VA uses a Whole Health approach to develop a personalized health plan.

Wilkie also addressed Veterans stationed at Karshi-Khanabad base in Uzbekistan, better known as K2. U.S. forces occupied the old Soviet base shortly after 9/11. Wilkie had candid advice for any Veteran who served there.

“I want all Veterans who have been there and who feel they need to see us to come forward,” he said. He added all Veterans should seek out VA to use the benefits they’ve earned.

“Come see us. File the claims. Come speak to us. This is not your grandfather’s VA where the paperwork is going to take 10 years.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The best beers to drink with your favorite Halloween candy

Once trick or treating is over and your kids are safely tucked into bed, you’ll probably want to engage in the time-honored tradition of “borrowing” some candy from her bucket of treats. And after a long night roaming the neighborhood, you’ll have more than earned a delicious beer. But which pairs best with the candy buffet you’re about to explore? For that, we asked some beer experts to see what brews they would drink alongside some of the most popular Halloween candies around. Here’s what they said.


1. Twix

Best with: A Hefeweizen like Funky Buddha’s Floridian Hefeweizen, Star Hill’s The Love Wheat Beer, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Kellerweis.

Why? Matthew Stock, beer specialist for The Brass Tap, says that notes of banana and clove in wheat beers like Hefeweizens pair nicely with the caramel and shortbread flavors in Twix bars.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

(Photo by Ravi Shah)

2. Reese’s

Best with: A peanut butter porter (which seems obvious in retrospect) like Horny Goat Brewing Co.’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter.

Why? Jessica Salrin of Growler USA recommends doubling down on the peanut butter goodness of Twix with a porter that is itself made with peanut butter.

3. Skittles

Best with: A lambic like Lindemann’s Framboise.

Why? Dave Selden, owner of 33 Books, a company that makes beer tasting journals, rightly points that Homer Simpson may have been to pair Skittles and beer with Skittlebrau. But instead of Duff, he recommends a tart Lambic because “the acidity is a nice contrast to the sweetness.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

4. SweeTARTS

Best with: A saison like Wild Florida Saison, Goose Island Beer Co.’s Sofie, The Lost Abbey Carnevale, Stone Brewery Saison.

Why? Stock calls SweeTARTS a “lively and often intense candy” that is balanced out with a “slightly tart, semi-dry, and earthy beer like a saison.”

5. Three Musketeers

Best with: An American porter like Samuel Adams Holiday Porter, Yuengling Black and Tan, Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter.

Why? Stock says that the light sweetness of this old standby has flavors that will be intensified when paired with a rich American porter.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

6. Snickers


Best with: A brown ale like Rogue’s Hazelnut Brown Nectar or a stout like Guinness.

Why? Our experts differed on this Halloween classic. Salrin says that the nutty, caramel base of a brown ale pairs nicely with the peanuts and caramel in a Snickers bar. Selden says that the combination of salty and sweet that makes Snickers the “balanced meal” of candy bars means that it pairs well with stouts, known as the “meal in a glass” of the beer world. The dryness of a stout goes well with the sweetness of the candy.

7. Candy Corn

Best with: A Vienna lager like Green Room Brewing Vienna Lager, Dos Equis Amber Lager, or Great Lakes Brewing Co.’s Eliot Ness or a vintage old ale like North Coast Brewing’s Old Stock Ale.

Why? In our second split decision, Stock recommends a light, refreshing Vienna lager to wash down the intense sweetness of candy corn while Selden said that vintage old ales have the subtle malt sweetness that brings out the vanilla flavor of candy corn.

8. Caramel Apple Pops


Best with: A cider like Original Sin Hard Cider Black Widow.

Why? We’re fudging our own rules with a non-beer pick here, but drinking an apple beverage with an apple candy seems like a no-brainer. Salrin says that this lollipop pairs well with many cider options, but that the spooky name of the Black Widow from Original Sin makes it an extra-festive choice.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Merging Vets and Players is a group that will make you want to lift

Sportswriter Jay Glazer created MVP — or Merging Vets and Players — in 2015 to address the similar issues that many professional athletes and veterans face as they transition back into civilian life.


Like service members, athletes live a very structured lifestyle day-in and day-out — and life after rigorous training schedules, travel, and competition can be jarring, both mentally and physically.

The idea behind MVP is to connect veterans and athletes together so they can benefit from each other’s strengths and experiences.

“A lot of our military come home and they feel different, don’t have a purpose,” Glazer states. “So we’re trying to rebuild our vets from the inside out.”

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
Jay Glazer at the Unbreakable Performance Center in Hollywood, CA. (Source: MVP)

Related: How to stay fit and not get fat after you get out of the military

With the help of former Green Beret and NFL Long Snapper Nate Boyer, MVP is growing on both sides of the spectrum as they gain new motivated members who want to continue to feel like they are part of a winning team.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
Former Green Beret and NFL Long Snapper Nate Boyer.

“When it’s all said and done, and the uniform comes off, you don’t have that purpose; you don’t have that team, you don’t have that mission. You just feel lost.” — Nate Boyer

If you’re a veteran or professional athlete and you’re interesting in joining this amazing team click here for more info.

Also Read: Army wants to see ‘explosive power’ in new physical fitness test

Check out FOX Sports Supports’ video below to see for yourself how sportswriter Jay Glazer and former Green Beret and NFL Long Snapper Nate Boyer set out to unite veterans and professional athletes.

FOX Sports Supports, YouTube
Articles

History shows that successful military leaders don’t always make good political ones

Political analysts are buzzing this week over rumors that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is seriously considering a high-ranking former Army general as his running mate. And while many on the right — and even some on the left — are applauding the move, history shows former military leaders don’t necessarily make good political ones.


Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former top spy for the military, has been a vocal Trump supporter since he left the Army as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, and has recently taken on a role as a foreign policy advisor for the campaign. But lately, his name has been floated by Trump associates as a potential vice president for the Republican real estate mogul.

“I like the generals. I like the concept of the generals. We’re thinking about — actually, there are two of them that are under consideration,” Trump told Fox News in reference to his VP vetting process.

A pick like Flynn might appeal to a broad political spectrum. He’s a registered Democrat, has leaned pro-choice on abortion, and has criticized the war in Iraq and the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But he’s also been a critic of Hillary Clinton and her handling of classified information and was forced to retire after publically denouncing the Obama administration’s foreign policy.

And while a no-nonsense, general officer style might work in a service environment and appeal to voters looking for something new, history shows plenty of landmines for military men who turn their focus from the battlefield to the ballot box.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
(Photos: US Department of Defense)

While two of America’s most senior officers in history, General of the Armies George Washington and General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, enjoyed successful careers as presidents after military service, their compatriot General of the Army Ulysses S. Grant led an administration marked by graft and corruption.

On the list of generals-turned-president, Andrew Jackson and Rutherford B. Hayes were respected in their times, but Jackson’s wife died due to illness aggravated by political attacks during his campaign.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
Maj. Gen. Zachary Taylor was a hero in the Mexican-American War but he struggled as a president. Photo: Public Domain

Zachary Taylor ran as a political outsider and then found himself outside of most political deals cut during his presidency. Benjamin Harrison’s administration was known for its failure to address economic problems which triggered the collapse of 1893. James A. Garfield’s assassination early in his presidency is sometimes cited as the only reason he is known as an inconsequential president instead of a bad one.

So, why do successful general officers, tested in the fires of combat and experienced at handling large organizations, often struggle in political leadership positions?

The two jobs exist in very different atmospheres. While military organizations are filled with people trained to work together and put the unit ahead of the individual, political organizations are often filled with people all striving to advance their own career.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
Painted: The British burn the White House in 1814, also known as the last time strongpoint defense was the most important thing a vice president could know. (Library of Congress)

And while backroom deals are often seen as a failure of character in the military, they’re an accepted part of doing business in politics. One senator will scratch another’s back while they both look to protect donors and placate their constituencies.

Plus, not all military leaders enter politics with a clear view of what they want to accomplish. They have concrete ideas about how to empower the military and improve national security, but they can struggle with a lack of experience in domestic policy or diplomacy after 20 or 30 years looking out towards America’s enemies.

These factors combined to bring down President Ulysses S. Grant whose administration became known as the “Era of Good Stealings” because of all the money that his political appointees were able to steal from taxpayers and businesses. It wasn’t that Grant was dishonest, it was that he failed to predict the lack of integrity in others and corrupt men took advantage of him.

Of course, at the end of the day it’s more about the man than the resume, and Flynn and McChrystal both have traits to recommend them. McChrystal was seen as largely successful as the top commander in Afghanistan where he had to work long hours and keep track of the tangled politics of Afghanistan.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
Gen. Stanley McChrystal may have more experience with Afghan politics than American. (Photo: Operation Resolute Support Media via Flickr)

Flynn has spent years in Washington as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The Beltway may be full of duplicity and tangled deals, but it isn’t much worse than all the terrorist organizations and hostile governments Flynn had to keep track of for the Department of Defense.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that neither man will end up next to Trump at the podium. The rumors say that McChrystal has not been contacted and is not interested in being the next vice president. Flynn appears to be more open to the idea but registered as a democrat for years, something that would make him impalatable for many Republican party leaders.

If one of them does end up on the presidential ticket, they should probably buff up on their Eisenhower, Washington, and Grant biographies, just to be safe.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Economic warfare is taking its toll on the Iranian people

Iranians got accustomed to the miniscule increases in their every day quality of life since U.S. and UN sanctions lifted. In 2016, the first year after the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed, the Islamic Republic’s economy experienced more than 12 percent growth after the five percent contraction it had the year prior. Along with that growth came a huge drop in inflation rates, increases in luxury goods, and a dip in the poverty rate.

But that’s all gone now, wiped away by the reimposition of UN/U.S. economic sanctions – and Iranians are not happy.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

You can’t buy an iPhone when you can’t feed your family.

Many Iranians, however, saw little improvement in their lives, as many economic sanctions weren’t actually lifted before President Donald Trump reimposed them after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement. Iranians say they can feel themselves breaking under the economic pressure, but they aren’t blaming Trump or the United States; they blame the regime. Little about Iran’s economy has changed in the last 40 years. Its inflation rate is now 37 percent and its unemployment rate hovers around 12 percent.

Oil revenues are a full third of Iran’s economy and President Trump has blocked it from being sold on world markets while promising to sanction any country who buys it. Still, the Iranians blame the government and its leadership.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Citizens of the Islamic Republic believe many in their government are corrupt, citing reports of former officials who embezzled millions of dollars and then fled the country before it could be recovered.

“The economic war is not from outside of our borders but within the country,” Jafar Mousavi, who runs a dry-goods store in Tehran, told the Associated Press. “If there was integrity among our government, producers and people, we could have overcome the pressures.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The British re-cut Nazi propaganda to make these soldiers dance

You all know flossing, right? The sort of ridiculous little dance that became a meme with kids and then went into Fortnight and now you can’t go to a ball game without seeing a bunch of people on the Jumbotron acting like they’re running a towel between their legs? Well, the 1930s had their own dance craze like that called the Lambeth Walk. And after a Nazi party member decried it in 1939 as “Jewish mischief and animalistic hopping,” a British video editor got to work.


Lambeth Walk: Nazi Style – by Charles A. Ridley (1941)

www.youtube.com

The Lambeth Walk has a simple history, but like six things in it are named “Lambeth,” so we’re going to take this slowly. There’s an area of London named Lambeth which has a street named Lambeth Road running through it. Lambeth Walk is a side street off of Lambeth Road. And all of it was very working-class back in the day. So, Lambeth=blue collar.

Three Englishmen made a musical named Me and My Girl about a Cockney boy from Lambeth who inherits an earldom. It’s a real fish-out-of-water laugh riot with a cocky Cockney boy showing a bunch of stodgy aristocrats how to have fun. Think “Titanic” but with less Kate Winslet and more singing.

And one of the most popular songs from the musical was “The Lambeth Walk.” It was named after the side street mentioned before, and the lyrics and dance are all about how guys from Lambeth like to strut their stuff. The actual dance from the musical is five minutes long, but was cut down and became a nation-wide dance craze.

The King and Queen were down with the whole dance, Europe thought it was a sweet distraction from all the civil wars and growing tensions between rival royalties, and the Nazis thought it was some Jewish plot.

Yeah, the Nazis were some real killjoys. (Turns out, lots of murderers sort of suck socially.)

A prominent Nazi came out and gave that earlier quote about Jewish mischief. Then World War II started in late 1939, and British propaganda got to start taking the piss out of Germany publicly. Charles A. Ridley of the British Ministry of Information went to Nazi Germany’s top propaganda film and started cutting it up.

Triumph of the Will was a 1934 video showing off the Third Reich, and it included a lot of video of Nazis marching and Hitler gesticulating. Ridley spliced, copied, and reversed frames of the video until he had a bunch of Nazi soldiers doing a passable Lambeth Walk.

Goebbels and other Nazi officials were not amused, but the anti-Nazi world was. It got played in newsreels and cinemas around the world. And Danish commandos forced their way into cinemas and played a version of the video titled Swinging the Lambeth Walk.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Taliban announces new department for intra-Afghan talks

The Taliban has formed a new 20-member department responsible for holding intra-Afghan talks, as well as negotiations with the United States.

Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the militant group’s chief negotiator, told RFE/RL on August 26 that he will head the new department, which will be tasked with selecting the location and preparing the agenda for planned intra-Afghan peace talks.


The talks between the Taliban and the internationally backed government in Kabul are part of an earlier agreement reached between the militants and the United States in an effort to end nearly 19 years of war in Afghanistan.

However, the talks have recently been thrown into uncertainty after the Afghan government said it would not release more Taliban prisoners until the militant group freed more of its soldiers.

Stanikzai said the newly formed department is separate from the Doha-based Taliban political office and will be in direct contact with the Taliban leadership. He also said the intra-Afghan talks will be held in different countries.

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

Articles

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.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
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.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
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.”

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
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 TRENDING

Why forcing regime change in Iran is not the answer

Is it time for America to support regime change in Iran? A growing chorus inside the Beltway says “yes.” According to them, the arc of history bends toward freedom in Iran. Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh argue in The Wall Street Journal that “[d]evising a strategy to collapse the clerical regime isn’t difficult” because “the essential theme in modern Iranian history is a populace seeking to emancipate itself from tyranny.” They see the growing economic chaos in Iran as birth-pangs of emancipation and call for America to act as midwife.

Many intellectuals before Gerecht and Takeyh have advanced theories of unstoppable historical change, driven by forces the wise can interpret and accelerate. In the nineteenth century, Hegel thought history was rushing toward human freedom. Marx thought it drove toward the collapse of capitalism and the rise of socialism. More recently, some thought the end of communism foreshadowed an inevitable global shift toward liberal democracy — an “end of history.” Dictatorships elsewhere, they thought, were living on borrowed time. One small push and the tide of history would do the rest.


They put their theory to the test in Iraq in 2003. They promised regime change in Iraq would lead the whole Middle East into the next stage of history: peaceful, tolerant, and democratic. The exact opposite resulted.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
U.S. Marines fire an M198 Medium Howitzer
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Washington’s foreign policy elite used U.S. military power to bring down a brutal autocracy, only to see barbarism follow. Iraq became a land of looting, torture, and beheadings. A sectarian civil war drove out the majority of Iraq’s Christians and sorted Baghdad into a checkerboard of segregated neighborhoods. The Islamic State group sprung up in the chaos. ISIS—not democracy — spread to Iraq’s neighbors. American troops are still cleaning up the mess in Iraq 15 years later. Shaping history had failed. The regime change experiment’s cost was too high and accumulates to this day.

Those now calling for regime change in Iran insist they do not want a repeat of Iraq. That incorrectly assumes the invasion of Iraq was a tactical rather than a strategic failure. They seem to believe overthrowing the mullahs will not only be easier but also lead to even better outcomes — we are asked to suspend reality and ignore the results from Washington’s post-9/11 foreign policy decisions.

It took hundreds of thousands of American troops to remove Saddam Hussein. Iran regime change proponents suggest economic sanctions, a little covert action, and a few mean tweets can do in Ali Khamenei. Even better, democracy is sure to follow, since it is the next stage in Iranian history’s arc.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
Saddam Hussein being pulled from his hideaway in Operation Red Dawn, Dec. 13, 2003.
(U.S. Army photo)

And that’s possible. Iran is home to a great people with a terrible government. Things can get much better. However, as the regime changers learned the hard way in Iraq, they can also get much worse. Deeper pressure on Iran could strengthen the regime. Sanctions on Saddam’s Iraq did exactly that. As Peter Beinart observed, “sanctions shift the balance of power in a society in the regime’s favor. As sanctions make resources harder to find, authoritarian regimes hoard them. They make the population more dependent on their largesse and withhold resources from those who might threaten their rule.”

In Iran, the hardline Revolutionary Guards have the inside track on those resources. The last round of sanctions let them buy up struggling businesses and run smuggling rings. New pressure could leave the Guards with an even bigger slice of an even smaller pie.

And if new unrest leads to the clerics’ fall, the Guards have the money and the guns. A military dictatorship may be more likely than a democracy. At a minimum, the military would have a veto over the new government. Revolutions can end up in unexpected places. We need to look no further than Iran’s 1979 uprising for evidence. Few realized Khomeini would be more than a figurehead. Intellectuals and left-wing groups that backed Iran’s revolution faced serious persecution after it. Women’s rights supporters held a massive demonstration against mandatory hijab just weeks after the revolution’s success, chanting “We did not make a revolution to go backwards.”

Even if we do provoke an uprising in Iran, uprisings often fail. As Takeyh and Gerecht note, they failed in Iran in 1999, 2009, and late 2017.

History is full of thwarted revolts and broken rebellions: Tiananmen Square in China, the Prague Spring, the Fronde, the Vendee Rebellion, the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, the 1953 East German protests, the March 1st Movement in Korea, the 2.28 Incident in Taiwan, the 1956 Hungarian revolution, the 1848 Hungarian revolution, the Basmachi revolt against the Soviet Union, the Constitutionalist Revolution in Brazil, and many more. The regimes that led the crackdowns on these uprisings lasted for many more years — and they were often more brutal than before.

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020
Iconic image of the Tiananmen Square from the May Fourth movement of 1919

Americans should reject calls for new regime change plans abroad. But that does not mean ignoring dictators, abandoning our values, or espousing moral relativism.

Instead, we should embrace the tradition of humility in foreign policy exemplified by our Founders. They, too, witnessed repression abroad. They, too, loved our system of government and hoped for its spread. They wanted America to be, in John Quincy Adams’ words, “the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all.” But they prudently worried that getting involved in other nations’ internal politics would entangle America in new conflicts it could barely understand, let alone solve. (Iraq showed the price of ignoring their wisdom.)

Freedom is not something to be given away or imposed. It emerges organically, and often slowly, in a people. Its success is difficult to predict. This is why the Monroe Doctrine emphasized America would recognize new states that “maintain” their freedom, not those who merely declare it, and why Adams warned that backing revolts abroad “involve [America], beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.”

They were heirs to the complicated, uncertain, centuries-long rise of the rights of Englishmen. The Magna Carta was in its sixth century when the Constitution was written. They were also heirs to the classical tradition and thus knew that the establishment of the Republic in Rome or democracy in Greek city-states had not brought about an end to history. They put checks and balances in the Constitution because they knew their project was uncertain. The same uncertainty helped foster their disinterest in using American power to boost foreign revolutions. Lasting republics take time, and they aren’t inevitable.

Unlike today’s regime changers, America’s founding generations realized that history is not predictable.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

But can it fight? Russian tank filmed using turret to cut fruit

Russia’s T-80 battle tank was once expected to be among the best in the world. They were the first tanks developed by the Soviet Union to utilize a gas turbine engine, giving it an impressive top speed of 70 kilometers per hour and a far better power to weight ratio than its predecessors. It was even dubbed the “Tank of the English Channel,” because Soviet war games calculated that it could plow through Europe and reach the Atlantic Coast in just five days.


Then it went into battle, and like so many Russian efforts since, reality failed to live up to the hype. When called into service to fight in 1994’s separatist war in Chechnya, the latest iteration of the T-80 (The T-80B) absorbed heavy losses against the lesser equipped Chechnyans. Inexperienced operators combined with fuel-hungry engines left some T-80s useless, as they burned through their fuel reserves idling before the fighting even began.

Others were quickly destroyed by Chechnyan RPGs thanks to a significant design oversight. The T-80 was among the first Russian tanks to utilize an auto-loader for its main gun, which kept stored propellant in the vertical position beneath the tank where it was only partially protected by the tank’s wheels.

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Russian T-80 Main Battle Tank shown while not serving as a fruit chef

(Vitaly Kuzmin)

All it took was a few well-placed shots with RPG-7V and RPG-18 rocket launchers to literally pop the top off of a T-80, as the propellant exploded and destroyed the vehicle. T-80s, the Chechnyans quickly assessed, were easy targets — especially when they were out of gas. All told, nearly a thousand Russian soldiers and 200 vehicles were lost in the conflict, with the T-80s serving as both the most advanced vehicles present and the most often destroyed.

Today, the 51-ton T-80 remains in service in the Russian military in rather large numbers, despite its embarrassing debut. Some 5,500 total tanks were produced during its run, and thanks to Russia’s stagnant economy and the limited production run of their latest advanced tank, the T-74, it seems likely that Russia will continue to rely on the T-80 as a main battle tank for years to come.

History may have already shown that the T-80 is a troubled platform that’s perpetually thirsty for fuel and that harbors at least one fatal flaw along with a laundry list of lesser issues. But that doesn’t mean it’s without its uses. Sure, the T-80 may not hold up to ground troops armed with RPGs, but it actually makes for a pretty decent stand-in for your SlapChop.

T-80 tank VS battle group of fruits (watermelon, pear and apple) ARMY-2019, Kubinka, Russia

youtu.be

As you can see in this footage, surely meant as a demonstration of the stability and precise control allotted by the T-80s 125mm main gun, this vehicle really can do a passable job at slicing fruit.

Of course, you’ll need a Russian soldier that’s willing to stand there and do most of the busy work (like moving the fruit into the tank’s reach, separating it, and moving it away again) but that’s just the price you pay for a fresh fruit Soviet-Smoothie. I suppose this video would still be pretty impressive, if Russia weren’t the first to show off their tank skills using food. Long ago, Germany released a video of their own Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank (designed and built in the same era) hitting the trails with a stein of beer sitting comfortably on its turret.

If you think chopping a watermelon is good, you’ll love this.

Leopard 2 Beer Test

youtu.be

Unlike slicing fruit, this actually serves as a good demonstration of the Leopard 2’s ability to keep its main weapon pointed at distant targets, even as it traverses all sorts of terrain. In a fight, that serves a far greater purpose than any fruit salad might, no matter how well prepared.

The Russian video does, however, offer a glimpse into what may be another secret weapon Russia has maintained since the cold war. If all else fails, their tanks can always fix bayonets.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

How the Navy picks names for its ships — and breaks its own rules

The Secretary of the Navy is in charge of naming US Navy ships, under the direction of the president and with the guidance of Congress.

But it’s not just a random choice; there have long been rules and traditions concerning how ships are named.

On Monday, the Congressional Research Service released a report on the current rules for naming ships recently obtained by the Navy and those that will be procured in the future. The report outlines the rules for naming ships for Congress, but the ultimate decision rests with the Secretary of the Navy, so of course there are exceptions.

In fact, the report says exceptions to the naming rules are as much a Navy tradition as the naming rules themselves.

Learn about the Navy’s ship-naming rules — and the exceptions — below.


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An artist rendering of the future Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

US Navy / DVIDS

The Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines will replace the Ohio-class, starting to patrol in 2031. The first submarine has been named Columbia for the District of Columbia, but the Navy hasn’t publicly stated what the rule for naming this submarine class will be.

The 12 submarines of the Columbia class are a shipbuilding priority. The Columbia-class Program Executive Office is on track to begin construction with USS Columbia (SSBN 826) in fiscal year 2021, deliver in fiscal year 2028, and on patrol in 2031.

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The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut moored at US Fleet Activities Yokosuka for a port visit.

Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Dobbs / US Navy / DVIDS

The Navy doesn’t seem to have a rule for naming Seawolf-class attack submarines. The three submarines of this class still in service are the Seawolf, the Connecticut, and the Jimmy Carter — named for a fish, a state, and a president.

Designed to be the world’s quietest submarines, Seawolf-class submarines are one of the Navy’s most advanced undersea warfighting platforms, and unique among US submarines.

The Jimmy Carter now serves the same secretive purpose as the USS Parche, the US Navy’s most decorated warship.

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The Virginia-class fast attack sub USS Hawaii sails by the battleship Missouri Memorial and the USS Arizona Memorial while pulling into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, June 6, 2019.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki / US Navy / DVIDS

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The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) underway in the Indian Ocean prior to flight operations. The Carl Vinson Strike Group is currently on deployment to promote peace and stability and respond to emergent events overseas. USS Carl Vinson will end its deployment with a homeport shift to Norfolk, Va., and will conduct a three-year refuel and complex overhaul.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Dusty Howell

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USS Preble, USS Halsey, and USS Sampson underway behind the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Persian Gulf, March 24, 2018.

US Navy

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The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery at Changi Naval Base in Singapore.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tristin Barth / US Navy / DVIDS

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USS Boxer (LHD 4) prepares to launch Australian S-70A Blackhawks during flight operations in support of Exercise Talisman Saber 2005.

U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class James F. Bartels

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The amphibious transport dock ships USS San Antonio and USS New York underway together in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Virginia, June 9, 2011.

US Navy

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A graphic representation of a future U.S. Military Sealift Command John Lewis-class oiler.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Armando Gonzales

John Lewis-class oilers will be named for civil-rights and human-rights activists, like Lewis himself.

Some of the Navy’s Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo and ammunition ships are named for civil-rights leaders, like Cesar Chavez, too, although the rule is to name them for explorers.

Lewis, who fought for civil rights alongside Dr. Martin Luther King and is now a member of Congress, attended the keel-laying of his namesake oiler earlier this year.

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The Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport ship USNS Carson City arrives in Sekondi, Ghana, in support of its Africa Partnership Station deployment, July 21, 2019.

John McAninley / US Navy / DVIDS

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USNS John Glenn underway off the California coast, January 9, 2014

US Navy

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An artist rendering of the future USNS Navajo (T-TATS 6), February 15, 2019.

US Navy photo illustration

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

Articles

How China could potentially stop a US strike on North Korea — without starting World War III

After North Korea tested a salvo of ballistic missiles designed to defeat US and allied missile defenses in the Pacific, speculation has risen about a possible US decapitation strike on North Korea.


With the help of Stratfor‘s Sim Tack, Business Insider detailed how such a strike would likely play out, but in the interest of keeping the article focused, we omitted a major player — China.

Here’s how China would respond if the US were to attack the Hermit Kingdom.

China has interests in preserving the North Korean state, but not enough to start World War III over.

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DoD photo

China may not endorse North Korea’s nuclear threats towards the US, South Korea, and Japan, or its abysmal human rights practices, but Beijing does have a vested interest in preventing reunification on the Korean peninsula.

Related: China’s J-20 stealth fighter enters military service

Still, China’s proximity to North Korea means that the US would likely alert Chinese forces of an attack — whether they gave 30 minutes or 30 days notice, the Chinese response would likely be to preclude — not thwart — such an attack.

China sees a united Korea as a potential threat.

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U.S. Soldiers move a casualty toward a designated casualty collection point (CCP) with their Republic of Korea (ROK) Army Soldier counterparts during a platoon live fire training blank iteration on Rodriguez Live Fire Complex, near the DMZ, Republic of Korea. | U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock

“A united Korea is potentially very powerful, country right on China’s border,” with a functioning democracy, booming tech sector, and a Western bent, which represents “a problem they’d rather not deal with,” according to Tack.

The US has more than 25,000 troops permanently stationed in South Korea, but no US asset has crossed the 38th parallel in decades. China would like to keep it that way.

And without North Korea, China would find itself exposed.

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A Korean Ship sails in formation during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2006, the world’s largest biennial maritime exercise. RIMPAC brings together military forces from Australia, Canada, Chile, Peru, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States. | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rebecca J. Moat

For China, the North Korean state acts as a “physical buffer against US allies and forces,” said Tack.

If the US could base forces in North Korea, they’d be right on China’s border, and thereby better situated to contain China as it continues to rise as a world power.

Tack said that China would “definitely react to and try to prevent” US action that could lead to a reunified Korea, but the idea that Chinese ground forces would flood into North Korea and fight against the West is “not particularly likely at all.”

Overtly backing North Korea against the West would be political suicide for China.

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Kim Jong-Un on the summit of Mt. Paektu. Photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on April 19, 2015

For China to come to the aide of the Kim regime — an international pariah with concentration camps and ambitions to nuke the US — just to protect a buffer state “would literally mean that China would engage in a third world war,” said Tack.

So while China would certainly try to mitigate the fall of North Korea, it’s extremely unlikely they’d do so with direct force against the West, like it did in the Korean War.

Any response from China would likely start with diplomacy.

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The test-fire of Pukguksong-2. This photo was released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency on February 13. | KCNA/Handout

Currently, the US has an aircraft carrier, nuclear submarines, F-22s, and F-35s in the Pacific. Many of the US’s biggest guns shipped out to the Pacific for Foal Eagle, the annual military exercise between the US and South Korea.

But according to Tack, the real deliberations on North Korea’s fate aren’t going on between military planners, but between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Chinese diplomats he’ll be meeting with.

Even after decades of failed diplomacy, there’s still hope for a non-military solution.

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A North Korean propaganda poster depicting a missile firing at the United States. | Via Flickr.

“There’s still a lot of diplomatic means to use up before the US has no other options but to go with a military option,” said Tack. “But even if they decide the military option is going to be the way to go — it’s still going to be costly. It’s not something that you would take lightly.”

While no side in a potential conflict would resort to using force without exhausting all diplomatic avenues, each side has a plan to move first.

According to Tack, if China thought the US was going to move against North Korea, they’d try to use force to pressure Pyongyang to negotiate, lest they be forced to deal with the consequences of a Western-imposed order in what would eventually be a reunified Korea.

“China could bring forces into North Korea to act as a tripwire,” said Tack.

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Soldiers with the People’s Liberation Army at Shenyang training base in China, March 24, 2007. | 
DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, U.S. Air Force.

“The overt presence of Chinese forces would dissuade the US from going into that territory because they would run the risk of inviting that larger conflict themselves.”

For the same reason that the US stations troops in South Korea, or Poland, China may look to put some of its forces on the line to stop the US from striking.

Related: Chinese troops are reportedly patrolling in Afghanistan

With Chinese soldiers in Pyongyang and around North Korea’s main nuclear infrastructure, the US would have to think long and hard about bombing these critical targets.

It’s pretty likely that China would try to force the “infallible” ruler’s hand.

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Even China, a country often indifferent to international opinion that has strict prohibitions on free speech internally, wouldn’t want to stand up and back the murderous Kim regime.

Chinese forces in North Korea would “be in a position to force a coup or force Kim’s hand” to disarm, said Tack.

“To make sure North Korea still exists and serves Chinese interests while it stops acting as a massive bullseye to the US,” he added.

That would be an ideal result for China, and would most certainly preclude a direct US strike.

But even if China does potentially save the day, it could still be perceived as the bad guy.

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President Donald J. Trump speaks with Sailors in the hangar bay aboard Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). | U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Joshua Sheppard

Chinese leaders wants to avoid a strong, US-aligned Korea on its borders. They want to prevent a massive refugee outflow from a crushed North Korean state. And they want to defuse the Korean peninsula’s nuclear tensions — but in doing so, they’d expose an ugly truth.

US President Donald Trump has accused China of refusing to help with North Korea.

If China unilaterally denuclearized North Korea to head off a US strike, this would only vindicate that claim, and raise questions as to why China allowed North Korea to develop and export dangerous technologies and commit heinous human rights abuses.

So what happens in the end?

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Chinese and US sailors observe a gun exercise aboard the Chinese Navy frigate Hengshui during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Chinese Navy Lt. Cmdr. Zeng Xingjian)

For China, it’s “not even about saving” the approximately 25 million living under a brutal dictatorship in North Korea, but rather maintaining its buffer state, according to Tack.

China would likely seek to install an alternative government to the Kim regime but one that still opposes the West and does not cooperate with the US.

According to Tack, China needs a North Korean state that says “we oppose Western interests and we own this plot of land.”

If China doesn’t exert its influence soon, it may be too late.

Articles

After 100 years World War I battlefields are poisoned and uninhabitable

No war in recent memory can compare to the meat grinder of World War I. Europe still bears the scars of the war, even almost a century later. The gruesome and terrifying type of warfare typical of the Great War had a lasting impact on those who witnessed and experienced it. It also created such carnage on the land where it was fought that some of those areas are still uninhabitable to this day.


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The Battlefield at The Somme (Imperial War Museum photo)

The uninhabitable areas are known as the Zone Rouge (French for “Red Zone”). They remain pock-marked and scarred by the intense fighting at places like Verdun and the Somme, the two bloodiest battles of the conflict.

During the Battle of Verdun, which lasted over 300 days in 1916, more than 60 million artillery shells were fired by both sides – many containing poisonous gases. These massive bombardments and the brutal fighting inflicted horrifying casualties, over 600,000 at Verdun and over 1 million at the Somme. But the most dangerous remnants of these battles are the unexploded ordnance littering the battlefield.

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The Battlefield of Verdun in 2016 (French Government photo)

Immediately after the war, the French government quarantined much of the land subjected to the worst of the battles. Those areas that were completely devastated and destroyed, unsafe to farm, and impossible for human habitation became the Zone Rouge. The people of this area were forced to relocate elsewhere while entire villages were wiped off the map.

Nine villages deemed unfit to be rebuilt are known today as the “villages that died for France.” Inside the Zone Rouge signs marking the locations of streets and important buildings are the only reminders those villages ever existed.

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Photo by Olivier Saint Hilaire

Areas not completely devastated but heavily impacted by the war fell into other zones, Yellow and Blue. In these areas, people were allowed to return and rebuild their lives. This does not mean that the areas are completely safe, however. Every year, all along the old Western Front in France and Belgium, the population endures the “Iron Harvest” – the yearly collection of hundreds of tons of unexploded ordnance and other war materiel still buried in the ground.

Occasionally, the Iron Harvest claims casualties of its own, usually in the form of a dazed farmer and a destroyed tractor. Not all are so lucky to escape unscathed and so the French and Belgian governments still pay reparations to the “mutilée dans la guerre“– the victims of the war nearly 100 years after it ended.

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Photo by Olivier Saint Hilaire

To deal with the massive cleanup and unexploded ordnance issues, the French government created the Département du Déminage (Department of Demining) after World War II. To date, 630 minesweepers died while demining the zones.

An estimated 720 million shells were fired during the Great War, with approximately 12 million failing to detonate. At places like Verdun, the artillery barrages were so overwhelming, 150 shells hit every square meter of the battlefield. Concentrated barrages and driving rains turned the battlefield into a quagmire that swallowed soldiers and shells alike.

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Photo by Olivier Saint Hilaire

Further complicating the cleanup is the soil contamination caused by the remains of humans and animals. The grounds are also saturated with lead, mercury, and zinc from millions of rounds of ammunition from small arms and artillery fired in combat. In some places, the soil contains such high levels of arsenic that nothing can grow there, leaving haunting, desolate spaces.

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Photo by Olivier Saint Hilaire

Though the Zone Rouge started at some 460 square miles in size, cleanup efforts reduced it to around 65 square miles. With such massive amounts of explosives left in the ground, the French government estimates the current rate of removal will clear the battlefields between 300 and 900 years from now.

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