Whenever a new weapon sees widespread deployment, all the rules get rewritten. The draft version of the new rules can be a bit strange though. Here are five crazy ways Britain thought it might get a handle on Germany’s U-Boats in World War I.
1. Training seagulls to sh-t on the periscopes
There is no explanation of how the seagulls would be trained to do this. Admiral Sir Frederick Inglefield, head of all “motor-boat patrols” (discussed below), believed seagulls would defecate on submarine periscopes if properly trained. The blinded submarines would then be forced to surface or attempt to escape the harbor.
2. Hammers and bags
The British tried to stop the submarine menace with a “motor-boat patrol.” There were hundreds of these boats, each with at least two crew members. The boats would patrol designated areas near the coast looking for periscopes. But only 1 in 10 was armed.
So, if the crew spotted a periscope, they were supposed to sneak as close to it as they could in the boat and then swim the rest of the way. One man would take a canvas bag and pop it over the periscope while the other would swing a hammer as hard as he could to break the periscope.
3. Meeting submarines under the surface with top notch swimmers and sharp hammers
There’s no record of the British ever attempting this method, but someone proposed the Royal Navy select some especially strong swimmers. When a submarine was spotted these swimmers could swim to the hull and attempt to hit it with a pointed hammer, piercing its hull and sending it down.
4. Training birds and sea lions to watch for periscopes
In an effort to more quickly identify submarines working near British and Allied shipping, the British Navy attempted to train seagulls and sea lions to chase periscopes. The training was done by creating dummy periscopes that dispensed food.
This was supposed to work in two ways. First, any submarine that raised its periscope while the ocean was covered in paint would be blinded as the paint covered the periscope glass. Second, the paint was generally green which may confuse the submarine captain as to what depth he was cruising at, possibly causing him to move higher in the water which would expose his hull.
Artillery on the shore or motor boat patrols could then target the blind, exposed U-boat. While this tactic was proposed to the Royal Navy, it’s not clear that they ever attempted it. This could be because they didn’t have enough green paint to cover the surface Great Britain’s 19,491 miles of coastline.
Asked on Thursday by Rep. Tim Ryan of the House Appropriations Committee to explain why the US doesn’t just go to war to stop North Korea from developing the capability to hit the US, Secretary of Defense James Mattis painted a grim scenario.
“I would suggest that we will win,” Mattis said. “It will be a war more serious in terms of human suffering than anything we’ve seen since 1953.
“It will involve the massive shelling of an ally’s capital, which is one of the most densely packed cities on earth,” Mattis said of Seoul, South Korea, which boasts a metro-area population of 25 million.
North Korea recently launched one of the nation’s largest military exercises, displaying a deadly barrage of artillery. (Photo from North Korean news service)
“It would be a war that fundamentally we don’t want,” Mattis said, but “we would win at great cost.”
Mattis explained that because the threat from North Korea loomed so large and a military confrontation would destroy so much, he, President Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had all made a peaceful solution a top priority.
Mattis said the topic of North Korea dominated Trump’s meeting in April with President Xi Jinping of China, North Korea’s only ally, and that the US intended to make China understand that “North Korea today is a strategic burden, not a strategic asset.”
China argues it has limited influence on Pyongyang, but as one expert explained, Beijing could at any moment cripple North Korea through trade means, forcing it to come to the negotiating table.
Mattis made clear that the US was nearing the end of its rope in dealing with North Korea, saying: “We’re exhausting all possible diplomatic efforts in this regard.”
North Korea recently taunted Trump by saying it was capable of hitting New York with a nuclear missile, but Mattis said a war today would hurt our Asian allies.
“It would be a serious, a catastrophic war, especially for innocent people in some of our allied countries, to include Japan most likely,” Mattis said.
When people think about the military, rigid discipline and hierarchy come to mind. One imagines a hard-nosed drill instructor barking orders at new recruits or a soldier saluting every time an officer is on deck. From a civilian point of view, it might feel difficult or even unfair. Discipline is very important for any army to function properly. It ensures the smooth transmission of orders and the swift implementation of these decisions.
However, sometimes, soldiers choose not to follow orders. In the heat of the actions, their evaluation of the situation is very different from that of their superior, and they decide to act according to their conscience rather than their orders. Thanks to their risky choice, some of these soldiers became heroes. They save lives, cities or the entire world. Here are the stories of 5 heroes who said no.
The Korean War claimed countless lives, including that of 34,000 Americans. On April 24, 1951, the U.S. Army received orders to retreat to the south, but a company of Rangers was trapped, unable to move from their position. Then-Lt. David Teich volunteered to stay behind and organize a daring extraction. His captain replied: “We’ve got orders to move out. Screw them. Let them fight their own battle.” But despite the threat of 300,000 Chinese soldiers fast approaching, Lt. Teich felt a “moral obligation” to try and help his fellow soldiers.
Ignoring the orders, he led four tanks northward. Army Ranger E.C. Rivera, the soldier who crawled up a napalm-fried hill to radio in about his company’s predicament, described these tanks as “the most beautiful sight of [his] life.” So many men boarded the tanks that the guns were no longer visible. Thanks to Lieutenant Teich’s disobedience, 65 lives were saved on that day. He continued his career to become a major, and survivors still call and write to him in thanks for his heroic actions.
On the evening of September 8, 2009, a joint American-Afghan mission to meet the elders of the village of Ganjgal was awry when the 40 men were ambushed by 150 heavily armed Taliban. Upon hearing the news on the radio, Cpl Dakota Meyer and his friend SSgt Juan Rodrigez-Chavez requested permission to go in to help their fellow soldiers, but they were denied four times. Eventually, they decided to ignore the orders. With Rodrigez-Chavez behind the wheel of a Humvee and Meyer manning the turret, they charged into the line of fire.
Over the course of six hours, they made five trips into the village, despite taking heavy fire. Alternating between shooting a defensive barrage of .50 ammo at the Taliban and loading the wounded into the humvee with one hand while firing his M4 with the other, Cpl Meyer, alongside the driver Rodrigez-Chavez, managed to save 36 out of the 40 men who were ambushed. Unfortunately, on their fifth trip, they discovered the bodies of four Marines who had already died in a ferocious last stand. They still managed to bring the bodies back so they could be properly honored. Cpl Meyer was awarded the Medal of Honor and the chance to down a cold one with President Obama for his heroic actions.
Due to his religious beliefs, Desmond Doss was a conscientious objector. He refused to bear arms or to kill an enemy. Despite these beliefs, he joined the U.S. Army in 1942, where he became a medic, and he was sent to the Pacific Theater with his platoon. In April 1945, in Okinawa, while attempting to occupy an escarpment known as Hacksaw Ridge, his battalion was taking artillery fire and 75 men were wounded in the attack. Corporal Doss refused to take cover alongside his fellow soldiers and went on to rescue all 75 of the wounded.
Crawling under heavy fire, he moved them one by one to a safe area where they could receive medical attention. In the following 22 days, he rescued many more men, exposing himself to danger without a second thought and placing their lives before his. He was eventually wounded by a grenade and by a sniper bullet. He always refused to carry any sort of weapon to defend himself. His actions earned him a well-deserved Medal of Honor after the war.
After the invasion of Normandy in June 1944, the Allies began to retake France from the Germans, bit by bit. Seeing the Allies approaching Paris, Hitler gave the general in command, Dietrich von Choltitz, the order to destroy all religious and historic monuments in Paris, leaving the French capital in ruins, if it ever was to fall to the Allies. According to the legend, the Fuhrer called von Choltitz, yelling “Is Paris burning?” The general had different ideas and refused to carry out the destructive order. According to him, “If for this first time I disobeyed, it was because I knew Hitler was crazy.” On the August 25, 1944, he surrendered the intact city to the Allies.
In 1983, the tensions between the USA and the USSR were high and the Cold War was colder than ever. The two powers were in possession of nuclear arsenals that could cause unimaginable damage all around the world if launched. They were only used as a dissuasion device, but the threat was on everybody’s mind. On the September 16, 1983, LtCol Stanislav Petrov was in charge of monitoring Oko, the USSR’s nuclear attack early-warning system. When one of the satellites announced that the USA had launched five ballistic missiles. Such an attack warranted immediate retaliation.
However, Petrov had “a funny feeling in [his] gut.” He reported the detection to his superiors, according to protocol, but as a false alarm. Had he reported it as an attack, the retaliation would have started a nuclear war. Such an event would have led to destruction on a planet-wide scale. By trusting his instinct rather than a faulty system or any anti-American feelings, Stanislav Petrov probably saved the world.
Featured photo: Sgt. (then Cpl.) Dakota Meyer while deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Ganjgal Village, Kunar province, Afghanistan. Meyer received the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, from President Barack Obama making him the first living Marine recipient since the Vietnam War. Meyer was assigned to Embedded Training Team 2-8 advising the Afghan National Army in the eastern provinces bordering Pakistan. \
On June 30, 1812, President James Madison called for emergency commissions of Naval Officers to help fight the British.
Often called America’s “Second War of Independence,” the War of 1812 was sparked by Britain’s Royal Navy seizing American ships in French ports and impressing American sailors into British service.
President Madison asked Congress for the young United States’ first declaration of war – against their former colonial ruler Great Britain.
Though America’s all-volunteer Navy had no trouble finding men to fight, few officers were available to lead those men. Less than two weeks into the War of 1812, President Madison sent out an urgent plea, asking for more officers to come forward for the American cause.
At the time, the Royal Navy ruled the high seas with powerful warships and an empire that spanned the globe. But the young U-S Navy wasn’t about to be bullied into submission. The 20-ship Navy mostly came out of port to raid British shipping lines but when the USS Constitution defeated the HMS Guerrière east of Boston, it gave Americans confidence that they could defend themselves from a power like Great Britain.
The young United States would suffer many costly defeats during the War of 1812, including the capture and burning of the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C., in August 1814. Nonetheless, American troops were able to repulse British invasions, defeat Great Britain’s naval power — then, the greatest in the world, and gain an empowered sense of patriotism and self-confidence.
In the annals of history, the War of 1812 would be remembered as minor conflicts for the United States and Great Britain (who merely catalogues it as part of the Napoleonic Wars, and not even a war in itself).
For Canadians and Native Americans, however, it would become a decisive turning point in their losing struggle to govern themselves.
The bill has already passed the House and is expected to be voted on and approved by the Senate this week before going to President Obama’s desk for his signature.
This is not the first time Congress has gotten its dander up over this subject. Lawmakers asked both services to explain the same thing last year, but Marine Corps leaders said they need to do more testing of the Army’s M855A1 enhanced 5.56mm round.
I reached out to the Marine Corps yesterday and the Army today to ask about how they planned to deal with the request. I could almost hear the head-scratching as if neither service had heard anything about it.
According to the provision, the report must be submitted within 180 days after the bill, which includes the entire defense budget for the coming year, is enacted.
If the secretary of defense does not determine that an “emergency” requires the Army and Marine Corps to use the two different types of rifle ammo, they must begin using a common 5.56mm round within a year after the bill is passed, it states.
OK so here is the back story for those you out there who don’t know it.
The Army replaced the Cold-War era M855 5.56mm round in 2010 with its new M855A1 enhanced performance round, the end result of more than a decade of work to develop a lead-free round.
The M855A1 features a steel penetrator on top of a solid copper slug, making it is more dependable than the current M855, Army officials have maintained. It delivers consistent performance at all distances and performed better than the current-issue 7.62mm round against hardened steel targets in testing, Army officials maintain. It penetrates 3/8s-inch-thick steel at ranges approaching 400 meters, tripling the performance of the M855.
The Marine Corps had planned to field an earlier version of the Army’s M855A1 until the program suffered a major setback in August 2009, when testing revealed that the bismuth-tin slug proved to be sensitive to heat which affected the trajectory or intended flight path.
The setback prompted Marine officials to stay with the current M855 round as well as start using the MK 318 Special Operations Science and Technology round developed by U.S. Special Operations Command instead. Commonly known as SOST ammo, the bullet isn’t environmentally friendly, but it offered the Corps a better bullet after the Army’s M855A1 round failed.
Since then the Marine Corps has purchased millions of MK 318 rounds.
The MK 318 bullet weighs 62 grains and has a lead core with a solid copper shank. It uses an open-tip match round design common with sniper ammunition. It stays on target through windshields and car doors better than conventional M855 ammo.
The Army quickly replaced the bismuth-tin slug in its new round with a copper one, solving the bullet’s problems in 2010, Army officials said.
The new Army round also weighs 62 grains and has a 19-grain steel penetrator tip, 9 grains heavier than the tip on old M855 ammo. Seated behind the penetrator is a solid copper slug. The M855A1 consistently penetrates battlefield barriers such as windshields more effectively than the M855, Army officials contend.
Congress just nixed a plan that would have made women register for the military draft.
Lawmakers on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees stripped the requirement of women to register for Selective Service that was inserted into the forthcoming $618 billion defense bill, which will be voted on by both chambers within the next few days, according to The Washington Post.
Current law requires all male US citizens aged 18-25 to register for the draft. The provision requiring women to do the same was part of early drafts of the bill, added after a number of military leaders and women’s rights advocates offered support for it following Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s removal of restrictions placed on women in combat.
While the bill doesn’t change the Selective Service System, it does call for a review of whether a military draft is still worthwhile and cost-effective, according to Military Times. The last time a draft was ordered was during the Vietnam War.
Dropping women from draft registration may be a signal that the next Defense Secretary could reinstitute the policy excluding women from some direct combat jobs, such as infantry and artillery. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta ordered the policy change in 2013, but since Congress never passed a law affirming it, a stroke of the pen could roll it back.
Few people get to experience the amazing rush, and have the incredible view, that pilots with the US Air Force are able to experience.
The following pictures take us inside the cockpits of the US Air Force.
US Air Force Maj. James Silva, left, and Lt. Col. Steven Myers, both B-1B Lancer pilots, complete a flight in the first newly upgraded operational B1-B Lancer, January 21, 2014, at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.
First Lt. Greg Johnston and Capt. RJ Bergman fly their UH-1N Iroquois over a mountain range, January 27, 2015, near Malmstrom Air Force Base.
Capt. Jonathan Bonilla and 1st Lt. Vicente Vasquez, 459th Airlift Squadron UH-1N Huey pilots, fly over Tokyo after completing night training, April 25, 2016.
A US Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the 77th Fighter Squadron (FS) settles into his cockpit before takeoff, October 5, 2011, from Shaw Air Force Base.
A US Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker aerial-refueling aircraft connects with a Belgian F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft, August 18, 2011, during aerial refueling over Afghanistan.
Staff Sgt. Michael Keller takes a self-portrait in an F-15E Strike Eagle during a local training mission over North Carolina, December 17, 2010.
Vlado Lenoch, a pilot with Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight program, taxis the runway at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on March 5, 2016. Lenoch and his P-51 Mustang participated in Air Combat Command’s Heritage Flight Training Course, a program that features modern fighter/attack aircraft flying alongside Word War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War-ear aircraft.
F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing fly an air-to-air training mission against student pilots, April 8, 2015.
A US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from the 335th Fighter Squadron approaches a 911th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135R Stratotanker over North Carolina during a local training mission, December 17, 2010.
US Air Force Technical Sgt. James L. Harper Jr., aerial-combat photographer, 1st Combat Camera Squadron, Charleston Air Force Base, South Carolina, takes a self-portrait during a training mission with the 119th Fighter Squadron, New Jersey Air National Guard on August 19, 2009, over the Atlantic Ocean.
A US Air Force F-16 aerially refuels from a KC-135 Stratotanker.
During Navy Special Ops training, candidates complete exhaustive missions under extreme stress, limited sleep, and in freezing water conditions.
For the last 25 years, the US military has used an ingestible thermometer pill to monitor the core body temperature of service members during physically demanding missions.
CorTemp pill (HQ, Inc.) was developed in the mid-1980’s by the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the Goddard Space Flight Center. The sensor technology was first used on astronauts to detect hypothermia and hyperthermic conditions during space flight.
Here is how the pill works: Soldiers swallow a 3/4-inch silicone-coated capsule which contains a microbattery and a quartz crystal temperature sensor. Within two hours, the quartz crystal sensor vibrates at a frequency relative to the body’s temperature and transmits a harmless, low-frequency signal through the body.
Team personnel can wirelessly monitor the core body temperature of multiple subjects in real time. There are several options and configurations for tracking temperatures, including the most simple method of holding the data recorder near the small of the back. The pill safely passes through the digestive system after 18 to 30 hours.
“For SWCC personnel, the pill is used to monitor body core temperature and is used only in training. Its use ensures candidates can understand the impact of cold water and allows medical and training cadre staff to ensure safety parameters for training are observed,” wrote Navy Lt. Ben Tisdale via email.
The ingestible capsules are also used by the NFL, various European militaries, and fire departments in the United States and in Australia, according to Director of Sales Marketing, Lee Carbonelli.
AdTechCares and VCV worked closely with Venables Bell + Partners to develop the creative for the integrated campaign by looking to the past—from Rosie the Riveter to Smokey the Bear—for inspirational images that drove Americans to work together and overcome obstacles by appealing to a shared sense of duty, and updated these iconic images to reflect the America we see today. The “Call to Arms” campaign enlists arms of every kind from “the tatted, the toned and the sun-deprived” to encourage all Americans to get vaccinated because “better times are within arms reach.” The ads end with a simple and direct call-to-action: “Don’t wait. Vaccinate.” Mass market messaging will appear across broadcast, digital, social, video and Times Square out-of-home. Integrated media for this effort was donated and a sampling of the creative can be viewed here.”
“As the Covid-19 crisis continues, even as the vaccines rollout, the advertising industry has an inherent duty to support fact-based journalism and to ensure continued access to accurate and timely information,” says Ryanne Laredo, Chief Customer Officer at Amobee and Co-Founder of AdTechCares. “It’s an honor for AdTechCares to work with the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination and their renowned veterans organizations and we’re confident we’ll replicate the success of our initial Covid-19 PSA campaign with a renewed focus on driving the public to credible vaccine information with the goal of keeping humanity well.”
“Veterans are among one of the most trusted populations in the United States, and through the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination we are able to bring together these leading veterans organizations to build trust for the nationwide vaccination effort,” says Lorey Zlotnick, Chief Marketing Officer at Team Rubicon and founding member of the Veterans Coalition for Vaccination. “We are proud to launch a campaign that is visually representative of the communities that we serve and reaffirms the VCV’s priority and commitment to equitable vaccine distribution. We invite you to ‘roll up your sleeves’ and help us defeat this virus.”
“The national vaccination effort is the largest and most important mobilization in recent history. We felt that the messaging needed to be welcoming and optimistic, but also feel big, and really tap into people’s sense of duty to a larger cause; something the Veterans Coalition is very familiar with,” says Tyler Hampton, Creative Director at Venables Bell + Partners. “We couldn’t help but be inspired by the ‘in this together’ messaging and design harkening back to World War II.”
The new campaign builds on the artwork and messaging of iconic home front effortposters with a modern twist. Venables Bell + Partners partnered with photographer Jim Hughes to photograph a wide range of masked people proudly displaying their vaccination bandages. Alice Blue Production Studio artists Lena Pigareva and David Waraksa then hand painted the images and created the typography to give them a vintage poster look. The campaign builds on a partnership between AdTech Cares and the Ad Council and it’s the biggest push in the history of the organizations.
Last March, Amobee launched a PSA campaign to lead consumers to authoritative sources like Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization to help the public understand the seriousness of Covid-19 and encourage mask wearing. Amobee’s campaign quickly evolved into the formation of the larger AdTechCares coalition, which now includes more than 50 companies spanning demand-side platforms, supply-side platforms, agencies and data providers—including Universal McCann, eBay, DoubleVerify and others. That PSA campaign has served more than 4.8 billion impressions to over 2.6 billion people across dozens of countries in 50 languages with digital, video and out-of-home ads.
About Veterans Coalition for Vaccination
The Veterans Coalition for Vaccination will partner to convert vaccines to vaccinations. Utilizing veterans, we aim to build trust in the vaccine and fight the spread of misinformation. We have created a nationwide network that can quickly mobilize veteran volunteers to assist with the set up and management of vaccination sites. We aim to provide care to patients and support the decompression of the healthcare workforce; and ensure equitable distribution of the vaccine to communities often forgotten.
Part of the Memex suite of tools, Tellfinder reveals trafficking activity and summarizes the behavior of and relationships between the entities that post them. (DARPA graphic)
Wade Shen, a program manager in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, said in a recent DoD News interview that the program, called Memex, is designed to help law enforcement officers and others perform online investigations to hunt down human traffickers.
“Our goal is to understand the footprint of human trafficking in online spaces, whether that be the dark web or the open web,” he explained, characterizing the dark web as the anonymous internet, accessed through a system, among others, called Tor.
“The term dark web is used to refer to the fact that crimes can be committed in those spaces because they’re anonymous,” Shen said, “and therefore, people can make use of [them] for nefarious activities.”
Point of Sale
The approach he and his team have taken is to collect data from the Internet and make it accessible through search engines.
“Typically, this is data that’s hard for commercial search engines to get at, and it’s typically the point of sale where sex trafficking is happening,” Shen explained. “Victims of sex trafficking are often sold as prostitutes online, and a number of websites are the advertising point where people who want to buy and people who are selling can exchange information, or make deals.
“What we’re looking for,” he continued, “is online behavioral signals in the ads that occur in these spaces that help us detect whether or not a person is being trafficked.”
When a prostitute is advertised online as being “new in town” or by specific characteristics, those are hints that person might be trafficked. New in town means a person might be moving around, and the term “fresh” often means a person is underage, Shen explained. “Those kinds of things are indicators we can use to figure out whether or not a person is being pimped and trafficked,” he added.
Before the Memex program formally began in late 2014, Shen’s team was working with the district attorney of New York to determine if they could find signals associated with trafficking in prostitution ads on popular websites.
DMA modern slavery info graphic.
“We found that lots of signals existed in the data, whether they be phone numbers used repeatedly by organizations that are selling multiple women online, or branding tattoos that exist in photos online, or signals in the text of the ads,” Shen said.
Shen’s team had been working on text-based exploitation programs for big data — extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions. But they thought that if they extended the technology to understand images and networks of people, then they could apply it to detecting rings of traffickers and behaviors associated with trafficking online.
“If we could do that,” he said, “we could … generate leads for investigators so they wouldn’t have to sift through millions of ads in order to find the small number of ads that are associated with trafficking. So that’s what we did.”
Early on, the team realized that search wasn’t quite the right modality for doing such investigations and that there was a lot more work to do before the technology could be adapted to trafficking. That’s when the Memex program began, Shen said.
“Since the beginning of the program, we’ve had a strong relationship with the district attorney of New York, but they’re not the only user of the technology. Over time, we have engaged with many different law enforcement agencies, including 26 in the United Kingdom, the district attorney of San Francisco, and a number of others,” he said.
Investigators for the district attorney of New York were able to use Memex tools to find and prosecute perpetrators, and that resulted in an arrest and conviction in the program’s first year, he added.
“Since then,” Shen said, “there have been hundreds of arrests and other convictions by a variety of law enforcement agencies in the United States and abroad.”
Today, more than 33 agencies are using the tools, he added, and an increasing number of local law enforcement agencies are using the tools.
“As word of mouth spreads about the tools and the fact that we give free access to the tools to law enforcement, more and more people are signing up to use it,” he said.
Shen said it’s easy for his team to work with state, local and federal partners in the United States, but it’s harder to work with agencies abroad.
“But we’re committed to do that,” he added, “so we are in the process of working out deals with a number of those agencies so they have access to the tools we currently deploy and to allow them, after we exit [when the program ends in a year] … to continue to run their own versions of these tools.”
DARPA funds the Memex project, which, according to the agency’s budget office, has cost $67 million to date. But rather than do the work, as with its other projects, DARPA catalyzes commercial agents, universities and others to develop the technology, Shen said.
“They are experts in their fields — image analysis, text analysis or web crawling and so on — and we engage the best of that community to work on this problem. What they’ve essentially done is form coalitions to … build the tools [needed] to solve the problem, because no one of the entities that we call performers is able to do that on their own,” he added.
The Memex program has 17 different performers, and many of them also work with partners. “So all in all,” Shen said, “we have hundreds of people who are working on this effort. All of them are very dedicated to this problem, because the problem of human trafficking is real.”
When Shen’s team started the program, one of the things they realized was that the cost of people in these spaces, the cost of slaves, is essentially zero, he added.
“That means our lives are essentially worthless in some sense, and that just seems wrong,” he said. “That motivated us and a lot of our performers to do something, especially when we build technology for all sorts of commercial applications for profit and for other motives. That’s what a lot of our folks do on a day-to-day basis, and they felt the need to make use of their technology for a noble cause. We think Memex is one of these noble causes.”
The invisible scars of combat can make reintegration to civilian life a challenging transition for some combat Veterans, especially for those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For South Florida Veterans, a new technology combined with traditional treatments may hold the secret for a successful post-military life.
Mental health providers at the Miami VA Healthcare System are now offering a virtual reality (VR) treatment option for Veterans with PTSD. Combining VR with traditional treatments, such as prolonged exposure therapy, providers can help Veterans change how they perceive and respond to the symptoms of PTSD, which typically cause depression, isolation and anxiety.
“Avoidance, hyper vigilance and re-experiencing are symptoms of PTSD that result from memories of trauma,” said Dr. Pamela Slone-Fama, Miami VA posttraumatic stress clinical team staff psychologist. “By using a recovery model approach, prolonged exposure therapy and virtual reality, most of our patients who complete this treatment don’t experience the same level of stress and intensity when faced with painful memories. Prolonged exposure therapy is what makes this approach to PTSD recovery so effective.”
In conventional prolonged exposure therapy, patients are gradually exposed to events they avoid because of trauma, and providers directly control the stimuli – which can be adjusted based on patients’ responses and individual needs. One of the benefits of using VR in PTSD treatment is providers can control the virtual combat landscapes, sounds and even smells.
What happens during PTSD VR sessions?
Before the first VR session, providers talk with their patients about the benefits of using exposure therapy and VR to treat PTSD. If patients choose to participate, VR sessions begin during the third visit. Before beginning the session, patients are connected to the VR machine – which consists of a headset with video goggles, plastic M-4 rifle, remote to control a virtual humvee and a chair.
“Patients begin the session by recounting their traumatic memories in the present tense, while we document responses, anxiety levels and memories,” Dr. Slone-Fama said. “As patients are recounting, we can see what they are seeing on our screens and try to simulate the landscapes, sounds and smells they are describing.”
While repeatedly recounting their memories, patients also describe how they are feeling. Depending on how far along a patient is in his/her treatment, sessions can run anywhere between 30 to 60 minutes. Even though the VR session is an important piece of the therapy, the post session also has an important role in the recovery process.
“After VR sessions, we work with the patient on processing what just happened,” Dr. Slone-Fama said. “This part of the therapy helps patients understand the events that happened to them and allows them to process the entire memory. VR sessions can be intense, so before wrapping up we always make sure the patients are ok to leave. Safety is always important.”
Common Misconceptions about PTSD
While PTSD can be a serious condition, its symptoms are what cause Veterans to develop low self-esteem and unhealthy, unrealistic beliefs about themselves, according to Dr. Camille Gonzalez, Miami VA posttraumatic stress clinical team staff psychologist. She said Veterans living with PTSD frequently blame themselves for the trauma and feel hopeless.
“It’s common for Veterans with PTSD to feel as though they are permanently damaged,” Dr. Gonzalez said. “We try to help Veterans understand it’s not their fault they experienced these events. Once they realize PTSD is a result of something that happened to them, the recovery process can begin. Even though Veterans will always remember what happened to them, therapy can help them decrease the negative impacts of those memories.”
While most veterans would have responded with a “yes” and maybe a quick example, xixoxixa posted what may be the best “my recruiter lied to me” story we’ve ever heard. The story is below. If you love it, head to the original reddit post and give xixoxixa an upvote so he can get his credit:
Editor’s note: We’ve left the original language. Be aware that some of it is NSFW.
So no shit, there I am, a fresh faced 18-year old, needing to do something with my life. A short stint in the military sounds like just the ticket – gets me out of my crappy hometown, puts money in my pocket and food in my belly, and in 3 or 4 years, I’ll get out, go to school with my GI bill, and have a happy [life]. The local strip mall had a slew of recruiting offices, all right next to each other.
I go in, a recruiter’s wet dream. I scored remarkably high on my ASVAB (which I only took to get out of class for 3 hours), so I could pick pretty much any job I wanted. But did I do that? Shit no, I walked in, thumped my chest and said ‘I’m ready to go today, what’s your best offer?’
The Army guy asks what I’m interested in, and I tell him that I really don’t care, just something relatively safe (this was pre-9/11, but I knew that soldiers had a chance of getting shot at), and something that would give me a marketable skill. Like medical – everyone always needs medical folks.
He asks about my hobbies – mountain biking, snowboarding, rock climbing, typical adrenaline filled activities…He types some stuff in his computer and comes back with ‘How about a combat medic with the 75th Ranger Regiment? You know, Airborne Rangers, like Nic Cage in Con Air?’ ‘Well, what’s that get me long term?’ ‘Well, you’ll be at least a paramedic, so you can get a job just about anywhere. You’ll be part of the Special Operations community, so you’ll avoid most of the big army bullshit, and you’ll be part of the Rangers, so you’ll do high-speed stuff like jump out of airplanes, and fly around in helicopters.’
OK, I think, this isn’t such a bad deal. I agree, but not before carefully asking how this will play out – I don’t want to end up as just a grunt. This is what he says, near as verbatim as I can remember almost 14 years later: ‘Well, the Rangers are part of SOCOM, a type of Special Forces. So every soldier needs to have a bare basic level of ability to fight, just in case the shit hits the fan.
So everyone, and I mean everyone, goes through Infantry basic training to get that bare level of skill. Then, everyone goes to airborne school, to learn how to jump out of planes. Then, you’ll go to whatever job school. You will got to San Antonio to go to medic school. The artillery goes go to artillery school, the parachute riggers go to rigger school, etc. Then everyone shows back up at Fort Benning to join the regiment.’
In my 18-year old mind, this makes sense, and I am impressed with the forethought the Army has put into this. Of course medics might end up in the thick of it, so why wouldn’t they want to know how to fight?
I agree, we go to MEPS, my contract gets drawn up as 11X. Now, I know from looking at the posters on the wall that 11 series is infantry, but it only lists 11B, 11C, 11H, and 11M, so I figure the 11X is for the guys like me that are just going through infantry basic, and then off to another job.
Fast forward 3½ months, and I’m cruising along through basic, solid in my knowledge that as a medic, I will probably never need half of this shit, so I’m happy to just play the game. The day comes when the Drill Sergeants break us down into our respective MOSs so we can go to any required extra training (like the 11Cs, who have to go learn how to shoot mortars).
’11Bs, in that corner, 11Cs, over there, 11Hs, up here by me, and 11Ms, over there by Drill Sergeant [Whatever-his-name-was]. Now!’
I, PVT xixoxixa, am the lone asshole standing in the bay by himself. ‘Drill Sergeant, where do you want the medics to go?’ I ask. ‘Goddamn it Private! This isn’t rocket surgery – there ain’t no fucking medics here! Get where you belong!’ Ah! I see his mistake – he doesn’t know that I’m an 11X, not one of these other dumbasses destined to be a grunt.
Briefly, I find it odd that this E-7 with many, many years in the Army can be so obtuse, and in need of correction…but maybe he’s not familiar with this program. So I tell him such – ‘Drill Sergeant, I see where your mistake is. I’m supposed to be a medic, I’m just doing Infantry Basic.’
Through his clenched teeth and skyrocketing blood pressure, he tells me ‘Private, bring me your. GOD! DAMNED! PAPERWORK!!’ I happily dig out my contract and go wait at a textbook perfect Parade Rest outside his office. He calls me in, sits me down, and leafs through my shit. As he’s flipping through, he directs me to tell him exactly what my recruiter told me. I do, in exquisite detail, happy to know that the student has become the teacher.
He looks at me like this and then, calmly says ‘Private, I know we talk a lot of shit about recruiters, but you – you got fucked.’ He then proceeded to tell me how the Army really works, and explains to me that the 11X I was so proud of means I will complete basic, go to airborne school, then show up at the 75th to be whatever kind of Infantryman the Rangers need me to be.
I spent the rest of basic poring over that contract in extenuating detail trying to find a loophole, but alas, despite my best effort my first MOS in the army was as an airborne infantryman.
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Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs chose a contractor to run its Choice Card program who was previously fired for allegedly defrauding the government after working on a similar contract with the Department of Defense.
The contractor, TriWest, now takes so long to schedule appointments with private healthcare providers that many veterans could shorten wait times by opting for traditional VA care, whose delays Choice was intended to allow veterans to escape.
Choice Card links vets with private doctors, but VA seemingly tried to sabotage the program, fearing it jeopardizes its budget.
TriWest contracts to administer parts of Tricare, the active military’s healthcare system, since 1996. TriWest paid $10 million in September, 2011, to settle charges that it defrauded the government by negotiating low prices with doctors but not passing the resulting savings on to taxpayers.
“Those who overbill Tricare threaten to undermine the health care provided to our men and women in uniform,” Tony West, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, said of the legal settlement at the time.
But the standards seem to be lower for care owed to those who formerly wore the uniform of the U.S. military, because VA gave TriWest a contract in September, 2013, to run its Community Care program, a precursor to Choice Card that allowed veterans to use private doctors in some circumstances.
Inspector general reports said that program was run poorly, pointing the blame both at TriWest and the way VA set up their work. Meanwhile, Congress created the Choice Card program to enable any veteran delayed more than 30 days for VA care, or who didn’t live close to a VA facility, to seek private health care services.
VA managers and leaders of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) union, which represents most of the department’s employees opposed it, fearing that fewer veterans in the government system would mean smaller budgets and fewer civil service jobs.
When VA leaders claimed budget shortfalls threatened closure of hospitals, they asked Congress to let them re-purpose $3.3 billion originally authorized for the Choice Card program.
When the bill became law anyway, VA gave the Choice Card contract to TriWest and HealthNet, another company that worked on Community Care.
A VA spokesperson said that “in order to enact [Choice] within 90 days, VA held an industry day to try to partner with industry to operate the program. Unfortunately, given the timeline set to roll out the program, VA’s only option was to modify a previously existing national community care contract, which was never intended to handle the scope” of the Choice Card model.
Official data obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation shows that more vets are now waiting months for private care because contractors take so long to schedule appointments.
Consequently, VA bureaucrats and their union will likely get the result they sought: veterans going back into the government healthcare system despite its delays.
Private care doctors aren’t happy with the Choice Card initiative either, because the companies, which also manage payments, have been so slow to pay, causing many private care physicians to refuse veterans, leading to the same result.
A knowledgeable VA source told TheDCNF that after a patient does finally see a private doctor, TriWest takes up to 75 days to get the medical results of that appointment back into the VA system. That makes followup care impossible.
Darin Selnick, an Air Force veteran and former VA official under George W. Bush who now runs Concerned Veterans For America’s Fixing Veterans Health Care Taskforce, said that “TriWest and HealthNet may not have been the best choices,” but much of the failure is because VA “didn’t want it to work.”
Officials at VA “didn’t like the idea of patients going outside,” because “what does any organization want to do? It wants to get more money, more people, more power, it wants to grow,” Selnick added.
Scheduling delays happen because the system has a middleman, Selnick said. What other health care plan has “a system where you have to call a 1-800 number and they set up an appointment for you” with a provider that they select?,” he asked.
Half of all veterans are on Medicare anyway, so the VA should simply pay a small supplement to Medicare providers, instead of creating multiple administrative layers of VA bureaucrats and contractors in between veterans and healthcare workers, Selnick noted, which would purportedly save billions of tax dollars annually.
Those close to the issue believe “the chief problem with Choice is that we’ve had to rely on VA to implement it, and the department is just not very good at implementing things,” a spokesman for the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, which designed the Choice Card program, told TheDCNF
The committee never requested a third-party administrator to schedule appointments, the spokesman noted.
Companies involved in the Choice program defend their record. “Overall, TriWest is processing 90% of clean claims from providers within 30 days,” the company explained, adding that it got “exceptional” and “very good” performance ratings for its Tricare work, and saved the military money, but voluntarily entered a settlement on the assumption that more savings were possible.
Hiring people with prior records of failure is a pattern at VA. When hospital directors come under criticism for poor management, VA executives routinely remove them, then reinstate them at another hospital where the poor performance continues.
Only weeks after the Chicago VA fired Deloris Judd from the federal workforce for patient abuse and dishonesty, the Phoenix VA hired her to work on the Choice Card program.