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This sergeant became the first woman in the U.S. Army to earn a Silver Star for combat valor

On the morning of March 20, 2005, then-Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester was tasked with assisting a supply convoy moving east of Baghdad, a job that meant scanning and clearing the route of any improvised explosive devices. She’d done this job countless times before, getting shot at on almost a daily basis and seeing vehicles blown…

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This sergeant became the first woman in the U.S. Army to earn a Silver Star for combat valor

On the morning of March 20, 2005, then-Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester was tasked with assisting a supply convoy moving east of Baghdad, a job that meant scanning and clearing the route of any improvised explosive devices.

She’d done this job countless times before, getting shot at on almost a daily basis and seeing vehicles blown up more times than anyone would like to remember.

Executing daily patrols as a member of the National Guard’s Kentucky-based 617th Military Police Company meant guaranteed exposure to combat, something the Pentagon, until an order was signed in 2013, was not even allowing women to officially engage in as a occupational specialty.

“It was that one job where you can get out there and get dirty and be in an infantry-type environment,” she told the Tennessean in 2015.

“I guess it was one of the more exciting jobs in the military for women when I enlisted and it still is now.”

As such, Hester’s resolve in the environment was battle-tested, and it showed when the supply convoy her team was assisting was ambushed by waves of AK-47 fire, RPK machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades.

It didn’t take long for the lead supply vehicle to bear the brunt of the onslaught, quickly catching fire and trapping the rest of the convoy in the kill zone.

Unshaken, Hester directed her team away from the enemy’s concentrated fire and into a flanking position that exposed multiple irrigation ditches and an orchard the enemy was using to stage the attack.

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With enemy fire peppering the convoy, the 23-year-old sergeant directed her gunner to send MK19 rounds downrange into a ditch containing more than a dozen heavily armed insurgents.

Hester then dismounted her vehicle, lobbing rounds from her M203 grenade launcher and tossing two fragmentation grenades into the trench line before storming the area on foot.

Joined by her squad leader, Sgt. Hester quickly cut through two additional trenches, personally killing three enemies to her front in close-quarters combat with her M4.

With the irrigation ditches cleared, a cease fire was called. Forty-five minutes of sheer pandemonium had transpired.

Twenty-seven insurgents lay dead, six wounded and one captured.

Every member of Hester’s unit survived.

Then-Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester stands at attention before receiving her Silver Star. (Spc. Jeremy D. Crisp/Army)

For her actions, Hester was awarded the Silver Star, making her the first woman in the Army to receive the award since World War II and the very first to ever earn it for combat valor.

Once she returned from Iraq, Hester became a police officer, a job she wanted since childhood. But military service was still calling, and before long, she rejoined the National Guard.

“I’m glad that I took a break. I really am,” Hester told NPR in 2011.

“It made me realize that I really enjoyed being a soldier, and it’s something that I missed and it’s something that I’m good at. And I look forward to getting deployed again.”

In 2014, Hester spent 18 months in Afghanistan, where she earned a promotion to sergeant first class. And in 2017, she was sent to the Virgin Islands as part of the international humanitarian effort in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Throughout it all, Hester’s selfless devotion to service took precedence over the notoriety deservedly afforded to a true pioneer — like having her own Leigh Ann Hester action figure developed.

“You’d never know of her accomplishments when you meet her, but you soon realize that she is the type of soldier you want next to you in combat,” then-Sgt. 1st Class Jason Bucklew, who worked with Hester from 2012 to 2014, told the Tennessean.

“I’d trust her with my life.”

A number of soldiers trusted Hester with their lives that day in 2005 and are alive to talk about it because of her actions, something she still casually downplays.

“You know, it’s just something that happened one day, and I was trained to do what I did, and I did it,” she told NPR.

“We all lived through that battle.”

Read more about Leigh Ann Hester by checking out her full Silver Star citation.

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This is the dancing Soviet soldiers Twitter account we never knew we needed

Have you ever tried to drop it low and then just…dropped? If you’re looking to gain the thighs of steel required to not only drop it, but pop it, look no further than these Cold War-era Soviet soldiers leaving it all out on the dance floor. If watching these Soviets perform wildly athletic feats isn’t…

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This is the dancing Soviet soldiers Twitter account we never knew we needed

Have you ever tried to drop it low and then just…dropped? If you’re looking to gain the thighs of steel required to not only drop it, but pop it, look no further than these Cold War-era Soviet soldiers leaving it all out on the dance floor. If watching these Soviets perform wildly athletic feats isn’t mesmerizing enough, viewers can now enjoy the soldiers breaking it down to timeless classics such as Britney Spears’s “Toxic” and The Killer’s “Mr. Brightside,” courtesy of the Twitter account @communistbops. mr brightside – the killers pic.twitter.com/AXgD82WWwN— soviet soldiers dancing (@communistbops) August 30, 2019 Run by an 18-year-old in the U.K., the account traces its roots back to the user’s 20th century Russian history coursework. To fully immerse himself in that world, @communistbops began using some of his free time to listen to the Red Army Choir, he told Slate.com in 2019. The result? A bright spot amid the hellish cesspool that is oftentimes social media. Pulling most of the footage from a YouTube account run in the name of Leonid Kharitonov, a Russian opera singer who died in 2017, the teen has watched “these videos so much now, I kinda remember which dance moves would go best with certain lyrics.” And, like your drunk uncle at a wedding, who, despite doing zero cardio in 20 years, seemingly becomes as nimble as a gazelle as he guzzles his 17th Busch Light, the Soviet soldiers seem impervious to pain and ACL blowouts as they bound around the dance floor. Try not to feel vicarious pain, for example, as two soldiers seemingly re-invent the single-leg squat as the angsty tune of Evanescence’s “Bring me to life” blares. bring me to life – evanescence pic.twitter.com/6ON8V1yJvT— soviet soldiers dancing (@communistbops) September 13, 2020 Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military’s most comprehensive news and information every morning (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. Train for nuclear war and develop legs like a Clydesdale? No wonder McCarthy was so concerned. So, head on over to @communistbops to peruse some of yesteryear’s most phenomenal dance moves set to some of today’s greatest hits.

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Paid parental leave is on the horizon, but feds still have questions

The availability of paid parental leave for federal employees kicks off in just over two weeks, but employees and their representative organizations have informed the Office of Personnel Management that policies surrounding the use of that leave are still unclear or overly restrictive. The leave becomes available for employees that give birth to, have a…

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Paid parental leave is on the horizon, but feds still have questions

The availability of paid parental leave for federal employees kicks off in just over two weeks, but employees and their representative organizations have informed the Office of Personnel Management that policies surrounding the use of that leave are still unclear or overly restrictive. The leave becomes available for employees that give birth to, have a partner give birth to or adopt children on or after Oct. 1, a policy that received the most criticism and confusion in responses to the rule. Many commenters noted that, especially for those expecting the birth of a child, a due date is not a definite estimation, and federal employees that expected to be able to take paid leave may be denied it if they or their partner end up giving birth earlier than the planned due date. The OPM rule is firm on how a birth or placement for adoption must fall in relation to the official start date: “Paid parental leave is available to covered employees only in connection with the birth or placement of a son or daughter that occurs on or after October 1, 2020. Since paid parental leave may not be used prior to the birth or placement involved, paid parental leave may not be used for any period of time prior to October 1, 2020.” But as the Office of Employee Advocacy for the House of Representatives noted in its comments, the rule and its definition of the term “birth” is restrictive in its description of a “living” child, as a child may be born without a heartbeat, but be resuscitated by doctors, or the parents may plan to have a living baby, only to later have complications that result in that child’s death. According to the Office of Employee Advocacy comments, the language should be updated to ensure that employees experiencing such situations still have access to paid parental leave. Those comments also called for alterations to clarify that an employee may use annual or sick leave in addition to the 12 weeks of paid parental leave. Sign up for the Daily Brief Get the top federal headlines each morning (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Daily Brief. Commenters also questioned how such leave would apply to an employee that experienced the birth or placement of a child twice within the same 12-month period, and the Office of Employee Advocacy noted that “if there are two triggering events that generate their own 12-month period, it entitles the employee to 12 weeks of paid parental leave for each of those 12-month periods.” In its comments, the National Treasury Employees Union noted that some of OPM’s requirements for eligibility of paid parental leave were too restrictive and “are in tension with Congress’s intent in providing this significant and necessary benefit to federal employees.” Those comments note that the requirement for employees to “affirmatively elect to use paid leave and execute an agreement providing that the employee will work for the agency for twelve weeks following the paid leave,” unless the employee is physically or mentally incapable of making such an election — at which point they would be eligible for retroactive election to use the leave — puts an unfair burden on employees. “OPM’s standard, moreover, fails to account for the non-birthing parent of a child who is born earlier than expected. The employee may need to leave work, immediately, to care for his or her family. This departure might occur before the employee elects paid parental leave and executes a work obligation agreement,” NTEU wrote. “But, under Section 630.1706(a)’s strict language, the employee would not be able to retroactively opt for paid parental leave because he or she would have been physically and mentally capable of timely making the election.” NTEU also took issue with the interim rule’s allowance that, if an employee provides medical evidence that they cannot return to work after the 12 weeks due to a serious condition, the agency may demand additional examinations and certifications from other health-care providers. “First, the Act does not authorize an agency to demand additional certifications from ‘other’ healthcare providers affirming the employee’s serious health condition. Once the employee provides a medical certification supporting to the serious health condition that prevents a return to work, that should be the end of the matter,” NTEU wrote. “An agency has no statutory authority to order the employee to solicit additional certifications from ‘other health care providers,’ which would necessarily entail additional medical examinations from those providers.” Both NTEU and the Office of Employee Advocacy raised concerns that agencies’ authority to require certification or documentation of a child’s birth or placement gives too much discretion to the agency to revoke such leave, especially since OPM itself determined that “the risk of fraud is low” and a simple statement from the employee has in the past been sufficient proof.

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Military plays ‘never have I ever’ on Twitter

There are certain inevitabilities that come with joining the military. From being screamed at by drill instructors to bad housing assignments and learning how to sleep anywhere, some experiences are universally shared by anyone who has worn the uniform. Twitter user @scmorrison, however, recently noted that while certain ordeals are shared, there are other commonplace…

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Military plays ‘never have I ever’ on Twitter

There are certain inevitabilities that come with joining the military. From being screamed at by drill instructors to bad housing assignments and learning how to sleep anywhere, some experiences are universally shared by anyone who has worn the uniform. Twitter user @scmorrison, however, recently noted that while certain ordeals are shared, there are other commonplace endeavors that some have managed to avoid for the entirety of their service. I have 14 years of service and have NEVER thrown a hand grenade. Is there something common in the military that you’ve never done? @SDDCCSM @TradocDCG?— Steve (@scmorrison) September 13, 2020 The notion attracted the attention of Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command and Army Training and Doctrine, both highly active accounts on the platform, which kicked off a friendly game of “never have I ever, military edition,” yielding surprising and amusing results from those in all branches. (Don’t forget to put a finger down if you’ve undertaken any of these endeavors.) Riffing on the original Tweet, Maj. Gen. Tammy Smith noted that while she has had the pleasure of throwing a grenade, there’s a distinct piece of flair she’s missing: The Army Achievement Medal. 34 years of service and never earned an AAM- but I have thrown a hand grenade.— MG Tammy Smith (@MG_SmithT) September 13, 2020 Smith’s remark hurts, considering she’s dedicated more than three decades to the Army. Other responses, however, stung less but revealed plenty about military culture. Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military’s most comprehensive news and information every morning (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. Chain smoked.— Blondes Over Baghdad (@BlondsOvrBaghd) September 13, 2020 A surprising response, given the soaring number of smoking personnel. “About 30 percent of veterans self-reported current use of cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, roll-your-own, and/or pipe tobacco, with the majority of the users (21.6 percent) reporting current cigarette smoking,” the FDA reports. Good on BoB for not succumbing to peer pressure. Though, it appears she’s not the only one to avoid the bandwagon substance use that keeps most service members sane — like energy drinks. 13.5 years. 5 deployments, 2 Navy and 3 Marine Corps. Never used tobacco, Red Bull, or NO-Xplode.— MechE Devil Doc (@MathNerdJeremy) September 13, 2020 Scientists should study how @MathNerdJeremy managed to stay awake for those 13 years without assistance. And then there’s this downright impressive sailor with a two-decade-long streak of fortunate duty stations. Almost 23 years in the Navy and I’ve never been stationed in Norfolk or DC. I win the Navy.— Erik Naley (@battlechop719) September 13, 2020 Still, the most shocking revelation, perhaps, belongs to user @DavidChetlain, a submariner. Never ate an MRE.— David Chetlain (@DavidChetlain) September 13, 2020 How anyone makes it through a career in the military and never happens upon a brown packet of chili-mac, we’ll never know. Perhaps things are just different under the sea.

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