Sailor wins again at Japan’s grueling Iron Dog competition, which Navy says is like CrossFit for handlers and canines

A Yokosuka master-at-arms has won U.S. Forces Japan’s Iron Dog competition for the second year in a row.

Petty Officer 1st Class Ashly Lester and her dog, Ttibor, recently competed against 17 other working-dog teams from across all services in the U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Forces, the Navy announced Friday.

The service described the May 17 challenge at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo as a series of “grueling tasks that to outsiders may seem more akin to a CrossFit competition or Ironman race.”

Canine competitors sniffed for explosive odors over three floors of a tower, extracted suspects from cars and ignored distractions like gunfire to complete handlers’ commands. Handlers completed physical tasks, including dragging 200-pound mannequins 50 meters and carrying their more than 80-pound dogs up eight flights of stairs.

The handlers’ veterinary skills were also tested through pretend situations such as helping a dog with an open chest wound or one that’s in shock. Lester said these skills translate directly to the battlefield.

“We are trained in basic veterinary skills so that if we were down range on a mission and something goes wrong, we’re not just sitting there asking ‘What do I do?’” she said. “We can at least do something [to help] until we can get the dog emergency care.”

Though it was the second year in a row that Lester took home the win, it was the first year for young Ttibor to compete. Lester used a different dog last year, but said she was impressed by how well the 2-year-old brown and blonde dog performed.

“He was doing things he hadn’t done before and he was doing them fluidly,” she said. “I was just so happy with him.”

Master-at-Arms Master Chief James Meares, who manages the military working dog program at U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., commended Lester, according to the Navy statement.

“Lester took the right ingredients for success: hard work, patience, perseverance and the fighting spirit of the Navy,” he said. “I know this achievement will inspire those around her.”

Lester said competitions such as Iron Dog pushes handlers and their dogs toward excellence.

“I know every rate says this about the Navy, that they have the best job, but I really love this job,” she said. “I think most of us that are in this program have the personality where we want to compete and we want our dog to be the best. And that’s just a good group of people to be around because you’re always pushing one another in some facet to be better.”

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© 2018 the Stars and Stripes

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Sub Base marks 76th anniversary of Navy’s victory over Japanese fleet at Battle of Midway

The mission of the submarines, including the one J. Deen Brown was on, was to form a semi-circle southwest of Midway to ensure that Japanese transport ships loaded with thousands of soldiers and equipment couldn’t reach and invade the island.

In recent years, Brown, 95, of Oakdale, has been the sole Battle of Midway veteran at the Naval Submarine Base’s annual commemoration of the event. Navy officials and a small crowd on Monday marked the 76th anniversary of the three-day battle, recognized as the turning point of World War II in the Pacific

“I feel sometimes like maybe I’m being a little spoiled. But it is an honor and I do appreciate very much the attention and consideration I’ve received,” said Brown, who turns 96 on Friday.

The battle, which started at 4:30 a.m. on June 4, 1942, happened six months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After Pearl Harbor, Japanese commander Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto wanted to lure what remained of the American fleet to Midway and destroy it, then invade and use the island as a base for attacking Hawaii.

“Our nation and Navy’s response was just as forthright,” said Capt. Paul Whitescarver, commanding officer of the base, explaining that on June 4, 1942, U.S. aircraft flying from three aircraft carriers – USS Enterprise, USS Hornet, and USS Yorktown – attacked and sunk four Japanese carriers, which had attacked Pearl Harbor.

“By June 6, 1942, Admiral Yamamoto and his Japanese forces were forced to withdraw,” Whitescarver said.

The battle was not the most challenging for submarines – that would come later in the war – but Brown and the rest of the crew assigned to the USS Trout (SS 202) had to frantically prepare the submarine to head to Midway. The submarine only had two working engines because it had been damaged two months earlier while supporting the Doolittle Raid, the first U.S. air raid to strike the Japanese home islands.

“We didn’t anticipate having to go to Midway,” Brown said. “It came as a very, very quick surprise.”

The submarine was getting ready to receive a radar system, cutting edge technology at the time, and had to repair the other disassembled engines while underway to Midway in rough seas with “a rolling and tossing ship,” Brown said.

Midway laid the foundation for the ultimate end of the war, Whitescarver said, noting that D-Day, when Allied troops invaded Normandy, France, two years after the Midway battle, was a “cornerstone to that end” and marks its 74th anniversary on Wednesday.

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© 2018 The Day (New London, Conn.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Palestinians are flying ‘fire balloons’ into Israeli territory, report says

Palestinian protestors are sending flaming helium balloons into Israeli territory during the “March of Return” protests in Gaza, following similar stories last month of burning “incendiary kites” being flown and injuring protestors.

The tactic has resulted in thousands of acres of valuable farm land and nature preserves being burned, the Times of Israel reported.

The helium balloons outfitted with flaming material attached to a long string have been used for at least the last month and a half, but the tactic has more recently picked up traction. Approximately 4,300 acres of land have already been burned as a result of more than 250 fires during the last two months from both balloons and kites.

For now, the Israeli military says that it has yet to come up with a way to combat the threat of the flaming objects. Originally, a pilot program utilizing drones to shoot down the objects was in practice, but ultimately deemed a failure, Israel’s Kan TV said. Instead, Israel must resort to preparedness and a rapid response when fires do break out.

The biggest problem, authorities said, is that the fires have destroyed valuable farm land along with more than half of Isreal’s nature reserves. Farmers are tasked with digging out borders surrounding the fires in order to starve the flames out and save some of the land, and around 2,470 acres of parks and natural reserves have also been destroyed just in the last few weeks.

On Saturday, some 74 acres of the Carmia nature reserve burned in one of the largest individual fires since the start of the protests. The damage claimed one-third of the park’s total land area, and Israel’s Hadashot news reported that the blaze was likely started by a fire balloon.

Approximately 620 acres of Jewish National Fund forests have also burned, according to a spokesperson for the organization.

The fires will likely cost Israel millions of dollars in damages, with the Tax Authority estimating that the farmland alone will need more than $1.4 million to recover. The money will be paid out from the government’s fund for damage caused by terrorist activity.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also announced that the government would withhold funds from the Palestinian Authority to cover the costs. The decision was met with some criticism by analysts who pointed out that the PA does not control the Gaza Strip, and punishing the PA for Hamas’ actions would likely encourage Hamas to continue with its fire-enduing tactics rather than stopping them.

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