1st soldier dies of COVID-19; Aircraft carrier CO pleads for help; Some good news for Afghan talks; N. Korea threatens ‘hurt’ to US; And a bit more.

First U.S. service member dies of COVID-19. Army Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, a physician assistant in the New Jersey National Guard, died on Saturday after a 7-day hospitalization in Pennsylvania. National Guard chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel noted his passing on Twitter, as did Defense Secretary Mark Esper in a DoD release. The Hill has a bit more, here.

Navy captain pleads for help with outbreak on aircraft carrier. In an extraordinary March 30 letter, Capt. Brett Crozier, commander of USS Theodore Roosevelt, asks for Navy help in finding rooms ashore where he can quarantine COVID-sickened sailors. The carrier has been docked in Guam since last week, when several of its roughly 4,000 embarked sailors tested positive. 

“The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating” aboard the warship, which has no space to give infected patients a separate berthing space and bathroom, Crozier wrote in the letter, which was obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Crozier wrote that the carrier could still go into battle and win, because “in combat we are willing to take certain risks that are not acceptable in peacetime. However, we are not at war, and therefore cannot allow a single Sailor to perish as a result of this pandemic unnecessarily.” At press time, the Navy had not yet responded. Read on, here.

Dozens are sick at the Marine Corps’ Parris Island recruit training center. A spate of testing over the weekend revealed that recruits and staff members are infected, leading the Corps to suspend the intake of new recruits. Washington Post, here.

Eleven veterans have died during a coronavirus outbreak at the state-run Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts. WBUR reports that five are confirmed positive for COVID-19, while tests are pending for the rest. Still alive are 11 other residents and five employees who have tested positive.

For the after-action report: South Korea and the United States both detected their first known case of COVID-19 on Jan. 20. Within a week, The Guardian reports, “South Korea’s disease control agency had summoned 20 private companies” and “told them to develop a test for the virus at lightning speed. A week after that, the first diagnostic test was approved... identifying infected individuals who could then be quarantined to halt the advance of the disease. Some 357,896 tests later, [South Korea] has more or less won the coronavirus war. On Friday, only 91 new cases were reported in a country of more than 50 million.”

In the United States, where the president downplayed the epidemic, it took six weeks for the federal government to allow private labs and hospitals to conduct their own COVID-19 tests. Read on, here.

Currently: At least 3,073 Americans are known to have died of the disease, a figure that has more than doubled in the past five days. Another 163,575 are known to be infected. 

From Defense One

Coronavirus Is Rising Around US Military, Defense Infrastructure, Analysis Shows // Marcus Weisgerber: The Govini assessment indicates that COVID-19 is about to hit military bases and manufacturing hubs in the southern and western United States.

Defense Radio Ep. 65: Preparing for the next coronavirus // Defense One Staff: Three things that could help better protect us ahead of the next coronavirus-like pandemic.

China is Willing to Negotiate on Nuclear Arms, But Not on Trump’s Terms // Gregory Kulacki: Here are four steps that might bring Beijing to the table.

Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1970, the first satellite that the U.S. put into orbit, Explorer 1, re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and burned to dust after 12 years and more than 58,000 turns around the planet. It only transmitted data for about three and a half months of those 12 years. Read on at NASA, here

In some good news for Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani’s office and former CEO of the country, Abdullah Abdullah, both say they support a new 21-member, intra-Afghan team of negotiators for talks with the Taliban. It’s a significant step forward for relations between Ghani and Abdullah, especially since Abdullah still has not given up his effort to run a parallel government despite losing the last general election to Ghani. Tolo News has more, here
The EU welcomed the news from Ghani and Abdullah, and asked the Taliban to stop killing people so peace talks might go a little more smoothly. Tolo also has that one, here
The Taliban just sent a team of observers to Kabul today, AP reports, for talks on a prisoner release deal the U.S. has been trying to get President Ghani to agree to ever since Feb. 29. “Jawed Faisal, spokesman for the Afghan National Security Adviser’s office, said [Monday] Afghan officials and the Taliban agreed during a video conference that the insurgent group should send a technical team to Kabul for face-to-face discussions on the release of Taliban prisoners.”
Worth noting: Today is “the first time a Taliban delegation has been in Kabul since the group was driven out by the U.S. -led coalition in November 2001,” AP writes.
The second life of the so-called “Taliban Five.” Go behind the scenes of Afghan peace talks with this Monday Washington Post feature on the “Taliban Five, a group of high-level militant inmates traded for an American during the Obama administration.” 
The five include: 

  • Khirullah Said Wali Khairkhwa, "a multilingual former Taliban provincial governor"; 
  • Mohammad Fazl, a "former military commander accused of crimes against Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazara minority";
  • Mohammed Nabi Omari, "former Taliban government communications chief";
  • Abdul Haq Wasiq, a "former Taliban intelligence official," and 
  • Norullah Noori, a "former governor."

They’re all now “now members of the Taliban’s negotiating committee,” the Post reports. “One of them, [Fazl], traveled at least twice to Pakistan to generate buy-in among skeptical militant commanders.”
Where from here: “If the next phase of talks do begin, it is likely that the Taliban Five will be at the table attempting to negotiate a settlement that could bring the movement into Afghanistan’s political process.” Continue reading, here.

North Korea: "If the U.S. bothers us, it will be hurt." That’s the latest tough-guy rhetoric from Pyongyang after testing it’s multiple-rocket launch system again for what amounted to the country’s sixth projectile fired in the month of March. That test happened Sunday (CNN). North Korean state-run media took a harsh line toward U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday, and Stars and Stripes rolled up the talk tough, here
ICYMI (because we did): “The statement came a week after North Korea said its leader, Kim Jong-un, had received a personal letter from President Trump offering help in fighting the coronavirus pandemic,” the New York Times noted Monday.
Coming soon: ICBM shootdown test from Hawaii. Get to know more about an “upcoming first-of-its-kind test of a new intercontinental ballistic missile killer.” It’s planned for May (fingers crossed; looking at you coronavirus), and will involve “a Navy destroyer, likely the USS John Paul Jones out of Pearl Harbor, [which will] fire an SM-3 Block IIA missile at an ICBM target missile out over the Pacific,” William Cole of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.