These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics - We Are The Mighty
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These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

The 2020 Tokyo Paralympics took place from Aug. 25 to Sept. 5, 2021. Team USA was represented at the games by 240 Paralympic athletes. Among them were 18 veterans and three active duty service members, many of whom took home medals at the Beijing, London and Rio Paralympics. For 2020, six of them won nine medals for the US.

Alfredo De Los Santos

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
De los Santos qualifying for the Tokyo Paralympics (U.S. Paralympics Cycling)

Going by the nickname Freddie, De los Santos was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In 1986, he moved to New York to finish high school. He attended the City College of New York where he studied graphic design and went on to work at NYU. Following the attacks on 9/11, De los Santos joined the Army. On October 20, 2009, he was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan where his vehicle was struck by an RPG. De los Santos was wounded in the attack and later lost his right leg above the knee. During his extensive rehabilitation period, he took up handcycling. He competed in the 2016 Rio Paralympics but earned his first medal (bronze) in Tokyo in the mixed team relay. De los Santos still has a passion for art and uses graphic design and abstract painting to illustrate his combat experience.

Ryan Pinney

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
(Left to right) Alicia Dana, Ryan Pinney, and Freddie De los Santos after winning bronze in Tokyo (Team USA)

Pinney was born and raised in Arizona. An avid cyclist, he graduated from Grand Canyon University with a BS in Sport Management. In 2000, Pinney enlisted in the Air Force and served as an inflight refueler. Over his 14 year career, he deployed to the Middle East over 10 times and flew over 100 combat missions. Shortly after returning from a tour in the Middle East, Pinney competed in a bicycle race where he was thrown over the handle bars of his bike. His spinal cord was injured and Pinney was medically retired from the Air Force as a Technical Sergeant. He was able to continue his passion for cycling with a gifted handbike from The Freewheel Foundation. Pinney joined the Air Force Wounded Warrior Team as well as the Paralyzed Veterans of America Racing Team. Tokyo was his first paralympics and he took home bronze in the mixed team relay.

Shawn Morelli

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Morelli won Team USA’s first medal in Tokyo (Team USA)

Morelli is a Pennsylvania native who commissioned as an Army engineer officer through Marion Military Institute. During her Army career, she served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2007, she was wounded in Afghanistan. An explosion caused severe brain trauma, blindness in her left eye, and damaged her neck and spine. Her cycling career began with a trip to her local bike shop and was propelled by her exposure to competitive cycling at the 2010 Warrior Games. At the 2016 UCI Para-cycling Track World Championships Morelli broke the women’s C4 pursuit world record. In Rio, she took home two gold medals (road time trial, track pursuit) and earned another gold (time trial) plus a silver (individual pursuit) medal in Tokyo.

Ray Hennagir

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Hennagir talks with teammates during a scrimmage intermission (Team USA)

Hennagir joined the Marines in 2001 and served as a combat engineer. On June 16, 2007, in Zaidon, Iraq, he was wounded by an IED. This led to the amputation of both of Hennagir’s legs as well as four fingers on his left hand. While recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, one of his recreational therapists encouraged him to try out wheelchair basketball. While he enjoyed the sport, it was wheelchair rugby that Hennagir really took after. Still a hard-charging devil dog, he preferred the physicality of wheelchair rugby and strove for the opportunity to compete at the highest level. He got that opportunity in Tokyo where he competed with Team USA’s wheelchair rugby team and helped to bring home silver.

Bradley Snyder

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Snyder (left) with guide Greg Billington after winning Team USA’s first gold medal in Tokyo (Team USA)

Snyder was born in Nevada but grew up on the beach in Florida where he developed his ability as a swimmer. He went on to swim competitively in high school and at the U.S. Naval Academy where he captained the swim team from 2005-2006. He commissioned as a Naval Officer and completed the grueling 42-week Explosive Ordnance Disposal School. On Sept. 7, 2011, Snyder stepped on an IED in Kandahar. Although the resulting blast did not affect his limbs, Snyder was blinded and lost both of his eyes. A determined sailor and athlete, Snyder battled his disability and immediately began training for the Paralympics. Just one year after his injury, he competed in the London Paralympics and won silver in the men’s 50m free and gold in the 100m free and 400m free. He returned in Rio and won another silver medal (100m back) and three more gold medals (50m free, 100m free, 400m free). In 2018, Snyder transitioned to Paratriathlon. In Tokyo, he won the men’s PTVI race. He is the first U.S. man to win a Paralympic, or Olympic, medal in an individual event in triathlon.

Elizabeth Marks

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Marks with her silver medal (50m free) in Tokyo (Team USA)

Marks comes from a family with a legacy of military service. In 2008, shortly after her 17th birthday, she joined the Army. While serving in Iraq as a combat medic, Marks sustained bilateral hip injuries. In 2012, nearly two years after her injury, she discovered her gift for competitive swimming during her recovery process. Six months later, Marks was declared fit for duty. More importantly, she was accepted into the Army’s World Class Athlete Program. In 2014, Marks was in London for the inaugural Invictus Games when she became rapidly ill. She was placed on ECMO life support for respiratory failure. She continued to suffer from chronic regional pain syndrome, a result of her original injuries and her time on ECMO. Still, she took home bronze (4x100m medley relay) and gold (100m breaststroke) in Rio. In 2017, Marks underwent left below the knee amputation. Despite this, she continued to train and push herself to excel. Her hard work paid off in Tokyo where she won bronze (50m butterfly), silver (50m freestyle), and gold (100m back). She is an inductee in the Army Women’s Foundation Hall of Fame.

Feature Image: The 2020 Team USA Paralympic Team at the opening ceremony in Tokyo (Team USA)

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This is what the F-22 Raptor’s replacement will be like

The F-22 Raptor is already the most lethal fighter jet ever built, severely outclassing virtually every other aircraft of a similar class fielded by the rest of the world’s air forces.


But with the advent of newer anti-aircraft defense systems, stealth-defeating tracking technologies and the entrance of countries such as China and Russia into the stealth fighter foray, the F-22 will eventually need to be replaced with something even more powerful.

With the looming retirement of the F-15C/D Eagle, its secondary air superiority fighter, in the next decade, the Air Force has begun taking strides towards designing the F-22’s follow-on in order to maintain its combat edge over every other air force in the world.

Throughout the USAF’s history, each of its fighter jets have built upon the aircraft they replaced, incorporating lessons learned and proven concepts, while expanding on their capabilities with new technology and methods of prosecuting aerial combat. The F-22’s replacement, currently known as “Penetrating Counter Air,” will take shape in much the same way.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
A 6th generation fighter concept developed by Boeing for the US Navy (Photo Boeing)

It will likely be highly stealthy, carrying its weapons internally in order to minimize radar detection. It will also probably be supersonic, and able to actively defeat enemy sensors in a similar manner to the F-22 and F-35.

Among the most noticeable differences between the F-22 and its replacement will be the lack of tails. Every American fighter jet ever built has featured one or two vertical stabilizers which, as their names suggest, provide stability and yaw control in flight.

Instead, the PCA will likely remove the vertical stabilizers altogether to enhance stealth by decreasing the aircraft’s overall radar signature. The end result will look more like a sleeker and faster B-2 Spirit or a X-47B drone, instead of something similar to the twin-tailed F-35 Lightning II, or the single-tailed F-16 Fighting Falcon.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
An F-22 banking away after refueling in midair with a KC-135 Stratotanker (Photo US Air Force)

Additionally, the new fighter be built for long-range missions — especially escorting larger bomber aircraft like the B-2, or the upcoming B-21 Raider, deep behind the front lines to strike at the heart of the enemy’s war machine. This is a much-needed capability the USAF has sorely lacked for decades.

The PCA will be designed to work alongside the F-35 Lightning II, with both aircraft drawing upon each other’s strengths while mitigating weaknesses in capability. Given that the Air Force plans on retaining its F-16 Fighting Falcon fleet long for years and years to come, the PCA will likely also be capable of working with older “legacy” aircraft.

One of the key focal points of the PCA program will be developing an engine that gives the new fighter unprecedented range, while maximizing operational fuel efficiency.

The PCA program seeks nearly $300 million in funding from Congress over the next few years in order to complete its research and analysis goals while developing and investigating new technologies that will make the F-22’s replacement arguably the deadliest and most powerful fighter aircraft ever conceived.

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The actor who played “Scotty” on ‘Star Trek’ was shot six times on D-Day

Today I found out the actor who played “Scotty” on Star Trek, James Doohan, was shot six times storming Juno beach on D-Day.


These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Wikipedia

Doohan, a Canadian, after leading his men through a mine field on Juno beach and personally taking out two German snipers in the process, eventually took four rounds in one of his legs; one in his hand, which ultimately resulted in him losing his middle finger; and one in the chest.  The shot to the chest likely would have been fatal except that he had a silver cigarette case there, given to him by his brother, which deflected the bullet.  He would later give up smoking, but at least he could say that being a smoker actually saved his life.

Ironically, the shots he took were not fired by the enemy, but rather by an overzealous Canadian gunman.  After his unit was secured in their position for the night, Doohan was crossing between command posts, when a Canadian gunman spotted him and opened fire.

Doohan originally joined the Canadian Forces at the age of 19, eventually being commissioned a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery.  D-Day was the first and last action he saw in the war.  After recovering from his injuries, he became a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, but never saw action.  Despite not ever flying in combat, he was once called “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” when he flew a plane through two telegraph poles after “slaloming” down a mountainside, just to prove it could be done.  This act was not looked upon highly by his superiors, but earned him a reputation among the pilots of the Canadian Air Force.

Bonus Facts:

  • As mentioned, contrary to what many people think, Doohan was not Scottish.  He was Canadian.  When he was auditioning for the role of the ship’s engineer, he went over various accents for Gene Roddenberry for the character.  After he finished, Roddenberry asked him which he liked best and he responded: “Well, if you want an engineer, he better be a Scotsman because, in my experience, all the world’s best engineers have been Scottish.”
  • Although he wasn’t Scottish, Doohan described the character of Scotty as: “99% James Doohan and 1% accent.”  “It was a natural. When I opened my mouth, there was Scotty.  Scotty is the closest to Jimmy Doohan that I’ve ever done.”
  • The name Montgomery Scott was chosen because Montgomery was Doohan’s middle name and the character was portrayed as Scottish.
  • Both the Klingon language and the Vulcan language were initially very crudely developed by Doohan.  Later, these languages were expanded and refined by professional linguists, primarily by Marc Okrand.
  • While great pains were taken in Star Trek to conceal the fact the Doohan was missing a middle finger, there are several episodes where this can be observed.  These include: Cat’s Paw; Day of the Dove; and The Lights of Zetar.  This can also be observed in a scene in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  In the former, it can be observed when he hands McCoy parts for the Transwarp Drive and in the latter when he’s holding a plastic bag dinner which was given to him by Lt. Uhura.
  • Doohan not only played the character Scotty in Star Trek, but also did the voice for many different parts including: The M-5 from The Ultimate Computer and Sargon from Return to Tomorrow, among many others.
  • Before landing the role as Scotty, Doohan did over 4000 radio shows and 400 TV shows in Canada and was particularly noted for his great versatility in voice acting.
  • Shortly before his death, Doohan was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, lung fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and, eventually, pneumonia.  His official cause of death was listed as pneumonia and Alzheimer’s.
  • Doohan was married three times in his life and fathered four children.  He met his final wife, Wende Braunberger, when she was just 17 and he was 54, marrying her very shortly after their first meeting.  The two had three children, the last in 2000, and remained married for 31 years until Doohan’s death in 2005 at the age of 85.
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Marine receives Silver Star for thwarting assassination attempt

The Marine Corps will present the third-highest combat award to an Iraq War veteran on Thursday, following a review that upgraded his commendation.


Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Glenn M. Walters, is slated to present the Silver Star Medal to Capt. Andrew Kim, an officer serving with Marine Corps Logistics Operations Group, at the Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms on Thursday.

The ceremony stems from a Pentagon initiative to review all valor awards after Sept. 11, 2001. Kim initially received a Bronze Star Medal for valorous actions performed on Aug. 6, 2003, while serving as a counterintelligence specialist with Task Force Scorpion of the 1st Marine Marine Division in Iraq, according to a press release issued Monday by the Marine Corps.

An Iraqi man approached Kim, his team chief, a linguist and a source. He suddenly drew a pistol and shot Kim’s team chief in the neck.

A sergeant at the time, Kim immediately returned fire, killing the assassin. He was then hit repeatedly by small arms fire from the rear. Disregarding his own wounds, Kim ushered his fallen team chief into a vehicle and exited the ambush’s kill zone, pursued by five Iraqis in a white pickup truck.

His vehicle sprayed by volleys of enemy fire, Kim drove to a light armored reconnaissance security element and ordered a deadly counterattack on the enemy — “bold” actions theMarine Corps concluded showed “undaunted courage and complete dedication to duty,” plus “gallantry and effectiveness under fire” that “saved the lives of all those conducting the mission,” according to this award citation.

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These new changes to the USMC physical fitness program are effective immediately

The Marine Corps has announced today that revisions have been made to its physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT), and the Body Composition Program (BCP). Changes to BCP will take effect immediately, while PFT and CFT changes will be implemented starting Jan. 1, 2017.


The PFT changes are among the most profound since 1972 and the changes to the CFT standards are the first since its inception in 2009.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Revisions have been made to the U.S. Marine Corps physical fitness program, to include the Physical Fitness Test (PFT), Combat Fitness Test (CFT) and the Body Composition Program (BCP). All final changes to BCP will take effect as of January 2017.

“Last November we began a comprehensive review of physical fitness and body composition standards,” said Gen. Robert B. Neller, the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps. “Subsequent efforts focused on developing a physical fitness program that incentivizes behavior toward an end state of a healthy and fit force able to better answer the call in any clime and place.”

Immediate changes to the BCP include an increase in the height and weight standards for females, better equipment for determining height and weight for all Marines and the BCP waiver authority will be passed from the deputy commandant of Manpower and Reserve Affairs to the first general officer in a Marine’s chain of command.

The Marine Corps has taken physical performance into consideration when considering BCP. Marines scoring 285 and higher on both the PFT and CFT will now be exempt from height and weight standards. Marines who score between 250 and 284 will have their maximum body fat percentage increased by one percent.

So for example if a Marine has a maximum body fat percentage [of] 19 percent, with a score between 250 and 284 on both the PFT and CFT, he or she will be allowed to go up to 20 percent body fat.

Changes to the PFT include a pull-up/push-up hybrid for both males and females. This eliminates the option for the flex arm hang for females starting in January.

Although Marines can earn points by doing either of the exercises, the maximum amount of points a Marine can earn doing push-ups is 70 points versus 100 if they chose to do pull-ups. This means the highest PFT score a Marine can earn if they chose to do push-ups is 270. The primary benefits of incorporating the pull-up/push-up option for all Marines is that it incentivizes Marines to improve their pull-ups while ensuring gains of upper body strength across the force.

Marines will also have to complete more crunches for maximum score on their next PFT, with scoring being age and gender normed. There will be a slight adjustment to the three-mile run for Marines in high age brackets, too. The PFT and CFT age brackets will change from four age groups to eight. The new groups are as follows: 17-20, 21-25, 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, 46-50, and 51+.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
U.S. Marines perform a combat fitness test. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Melissa Marnell)

Changes to the CFT will consist of adjusted scoring for all three events to correspond with the eight age brackets. The most drastic change will be with the ammo can lifts (ACL) where male Marines age 31-35 will have to complete 120 ACLs for a perfect score vice 97, and female Marines age 26-30 will have to complete 75 ACLs for a perfect score vice 63.

Another change to the CFT is all Marines will perform five push-ups instead of three push-ups during the maneuver under fire portion of the test.

“The new PFT and CFT standards raise the bar on physical fitness for all Marines,” said Maj. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general, Training and Education Command. “Marines today are stronger, faster, and fitter than ever and these changes reflect that. Bigger and stronger often means heavier, so tying performance on the PFT and CFT to changes to the Body Composition Program are improvements that we think the Marines will appreciate. In the end, it’s all about improving the readiness and combat effectiveness of our Corps and the physical fitness of every Marine contributes to that.”

Related: Marine Corps rolls out biggest fitness standard overhaul in 40 years

TECOM will monitor the effects of these adjustments for two years and then adjust if required to ensure the standards contribute to the effectiveness of the force.

Additional details, including the new PFT/CFT scoring tables, physical fitness training recommendations and BCP adjustments are available at: https://fitness.usmc.mil. Follow-on MARADMINS and instructional products will further address details of the changes and the associated Marine Corps Orders will be updated accordingly.

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That time an American cruise missile hit the wrong continent

Today, we see cruise missiles as very accurate. This was not always the case. In fact, one cruise missile has the distinction of hitting the wrong continent – and it was quite a miss.


These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
SM-62 Snark in flight. (USAF photo)

The missile in question was the SM-62 Snark. It was intended to help deter Soviet aggression. According to Designation-Systems.net, with a maximum range of 6,000 miles and a top speed of 550 knots, it had a W39 nuclear warhead with a 4 megaton yield – 20 times as powerful as the W80 used on the Tomahawk cruise missile and the AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile.

It flew at 50,000 feet – which at the time made it hard to intercept with enemy anti-aircraft missiles.

The Snark needed the big warhead. The closest it came to hitting its target was within about eight miles. That is a very far cry from the 260 feet that Designation-Systems.net cited the early models of the Tomahawk cruise missile achieving.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
SM-62 Snark missile on display in the Cold War Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

But Air Force magazine described the miss to end all misses. On Dec. 5, 1956, a Snark was launched with a flight plan to cruise to Puerto Rico and return to its base in Florida. Only, it stopped responding to signals.

Even a self-destruct command didn’t work. The Air Force scrambled fighters to shoot down the wayward missile, but they couldn’t pull off the intercept – proving that the design got that part right.

Ultimately, the missile went beyond tracking range – last seen headed towards Brazil. The missile would remain missing for 26 years until some wreckage was found in that South American country.

According to a Reuters report in the Regina Leader-Post, unidentified Brazilians found the parts and reported them.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
SM-62 Snark launching from Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. (USAF photo)

Designation-Systems.net reported that the Snark would achieve a brief period of fully operational service from February to June 1961 (an initial operating capability was established in 1959). But then-President John F. Kennedy ordered the one active wing to stand down, largely due to the development of inter-continental ballistic missiles.

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These Coast Guard special operators fight terrorists and secure American ports

The elite U.S. Coast Guardsmen of the specialized forces deploy around the globe to fight terrorism and prevent attacks.


These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Melissa E. McKenzie

The Coast Guard anti-terrorism mission is most perfectly exemplified by two groups: the Maritime Safety and Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response Team. The MSRT and the MSSTs were part of the Coast Guard Deployable Operations Groups before the DOG was dissolved in 2013.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

The Maritime Security Response Team is the group that answers the 911 call and rapidly deploys when an impending terrorist attack is suspected or underway at an American port or waterway. They’re also charged with conducting higher risk law enforcement missions.

During training exercises in 2014 and 2015, the MSRT was tasked with securing a moving ferry with 5,000 passengers, eliminating hostage takers onboard, and disabling a radiological device before it could be detonated. The MSRT has also been called on to provide an evacuation capability for the President of the United States and other dignitaries at the U.N. General Assembly.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Eggers

Like the MSRT, the Maritime Safety and Security Teams can rapidly deploy when necessary — they secured sensitive areas in Boston within hours of the Boston Marathon bombings — but they focus on longer missions, deploying to American and friendly ports that are at increased risk of attack and establishing a semi-permanent presence.

Twelve MSSTs provide security at ports from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to New York Harbor, from San Diego to Anchorage, Alaska and Honolulu.

“Special operations” technically covers only Department of Defense assets. The Coast Guard, operating under the Department of Homeland Security, classifies its elite operators as Deployable Specialized Forces.

See more photos of them below:

A Maritime Security Response Team member pulls security during a ferry boarding in an exercise Oct. 22, 2015.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

The MSRT members quickly gained control of the ferry and searched it for radiological threats.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

A military working dog with the MSRT was brought in to search the vessel while his human counterparts controlled it.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell

A member of a Maritime Safety and Security team patrols New York waterways in Nov. 2003.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer Milke Lutz

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The US military took these incredible photos this week

The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:


MARINE CORPS:

Lithuanian soldiers and U.S. Marines from the Black Sea Rotational Force engaged opposition forces in a partnered attack during Exercise Saber Strike at the Pabrade Training Area, Lithuania.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Sgt. Paul Peterson/USMC

Cpl. Tyler R. Garretson, a crew chief assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, monitors the flight line out of the rear of a MV-22B Osprey after completing fast-rope and rappelling training with Marine Corps Special Operations Command, near Marine Corps Air Station New River, North Carolina.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Sgt. Orlando Perez/USMC

ARMY:

A Green Beret, assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group-Airborne, conducts free-fall training in a wind tunnel while a civilian sky dive instructor observes in Eloy, Arizona.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Spc. David Welker/US Army

A U.S. Army Reserve Soldier, assigned to 926th Engineer Brigade, 412th Theater Engineer Command, conducts security operations during a route clearance mission at their annual Combat Support Training Exercise at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton/US Army

NAVY:

Sailors participate in a low light small arms training exercise aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Ross (DDG 71). Ross is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/USN

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Kyle Cawein, from Lake Isabella, Calif., stands by to prepare an aircraft to be launched from the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ignacio Perez

COAST GUARD:

Rescue swimmers and aircrewmen from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., conduct hoist training evolutions.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell/USCG

Rescue swimmers and aircrewmen from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod, Mass., conduct hoist training evolutions.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Petty Officer 3rd Class Ross Ruddell/USN

AIR FORCE:

Team Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Air Force Tech. Sgt. Isreal Del Toro braves the 110 degree heat index during track and field competition for the 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games on Marine Corps Base Quantico.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: AW2 Staff Sgt. Tracy J. Smith/USAF

U.S. Air Force Senior Airmen Krystalane Laird (front) and Helena Palazio, weapons loaders with the 169th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina Air National Guard, download munitions from an F-16 fighter jet that was just landed after a monthlong deployment to Łask Air Base, Poland.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Tech. Sgt. Caycee Watson/Released/USAF

NOW: More incredible military photos

OR: Watch 6 most badass US military test pilots:

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The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

The US Navy is currently testing a robotic ship that would be able to autonomously hunt enemy diesel submarines.


These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Darpa.mil

Originally conceived as a DARPA project, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) is designed to hunt the next generation of nearly silent enemy diesel submarines.

Diesel submarines are quickly proliferating around the world due to their low cost. Russia recently announced that it has launched the world’s “quietest submarine.”

To accomplish its submarine-hunting mission, the ACTUV project is structured around three primary goals: the ability to outmatch diesel submarines in speed at significantly less cost than existing systems, the system’s ability to safely navigate the oceans in accordance with maritime law, and the ability to accurately track diesel submarines regardless of their location.

Tests of the ACTUV have been promising. Defense One reported in March that during six weeks of testing off the coast of Mississippi the ACTUV was capable of autonomously avoiding randomly moving vessels while navigating around natural obstacles.

The next major test for the ACTUV will be having the drone attempt to trail a submarine while other vessels attempt to block it.

Although diesel submarines are not capable of carrying out open ocean operations for as long or as quickly as nuclear submarines, diesel submarines still present the US with an asymmetric challenge. Significantly cheaper and more quiet-running than their nuclear counterparts, diesel subs can enable navies around the world to harass military and civilian transport along coastal routes.

The threat of diesel submarines could increase, as Franz-Stefan Gady notes at The Diplomat, as the next generation of these vessels will feature propulsion systems and lithium-ion batteries, making them even quieter and harder to detect.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

The technical challenges are steep: “Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,” Rear Admiral Frank Drennan said in March 2015.

By creating the ACTUV, the US Navy will be able to more accurately track the proliferation of enemy diesel submarines. The transition to using drones for such missions will also ultimately save the Navy considerable resources and manpower.

“Instead of chasing down these submarines and trying to keep track of them with expensive nuclear powered-submarines, which is the way we do it now, we want to try and build this at significantly reduced cost,” DARPA program manager Ellison Urban said at a National Defense Associate Event in Virginia.

“It will be able to transit by itself across thousands of kilometers of ocean and it can deploy for months at a time. It can go out, find a diesel-electric submarine and just ping on it.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

NOW: There’s going to a ‘Top Gun 2’ – with drones

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DOD offers discounted rates for campgrounds nationwide

The Defense Department recently launched an online guide to U.S. joint-service campgrounds and facilities that can be accessed via computer or mobile devices.

“Best Kept Secrets” connects active-duty service members and their families, National Guard, Reserve, DOD civilians and retired military members with campground sites that offer lower rates as compared to non-DOD campground sites.  

With a new look-up feature, users can search by state to easily locate the campground of their choice, contact information, details on reservation policies, and a list of amenities and activities available at different locations. 

DoD discount campground
Naval Air Station Key West, Fla., campground. (Military OneSource)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance states that outdoor activities, such as campground visits, are safer than indoor activities. 

The campground guide was produced by DOD’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation and Resale Policy Office. MWR provides the resources to help service members connect with recreational opportunities.

To access “Best Kept Secrets,” click here

Feature image: Military OneSource

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The US Army’s ‘Tiger Force’ took terror tactics to the Viet Cong

By 1967, the United States was firmly committed to the war in Vietnam. That year saw 485,600 American troops in country. That’s like arming the entire population of Kansas City and moving them into another country.


So yeah, they were invested.

But from the start, the Vietnam War was unlike the previous American wars. There was no real front, the enemy could be anywhere, and most importantly, they didn’t always fight like a conventional army in the mountains, jungles, or rice paddies.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

The Americans were fighting a limited war, trying to keep North Vietnam from infiltrating or taking over the South. They were also using a data-driven (but flawed) campaign of bombing and other operations based on pursuing and exploiting the fears and beliefs of the North Vietnamese.

Enter then-Maj. David Hackworth.

Hackworth was tasked with creating an elite commando unit from the already elite Special Forces long range reconnaissance patrol units. The mission of what he would call Tiger Force was more than just intelligence gathering. As he put it, he wanted to “out-guerrilla the guerrillas.”

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

In 1967, Hackworth was out of the unit, and it was assigned to Vietnam’s Central Highlands, where it conducted a six-month long terror campaign in the Song Ve Valley and as part of Operation Wheeler. The mission was so brutal and so deep in enemy territory, members of the Tiger Force did not expect to survive.

“We didn’t expect to live. Nobody out there with any brains expected to live,” then-Sgt. William Doyle told the Telegraph. “The way to live is to kill because you don’t have to worry about anybody who’s dead.”

In a war where the U.S. military relied on body counts as a measure of success, Tiger Force was ready to do its part. Hackworth once noted, “You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.”

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Tiger Force went into villages the Viet Cong relied on for support and shelter in the Spring and Fall of 1967 and drove the villagers out of their homes using brute force. They allegedly used some disturbing methods to achieve those ends.

The Toledo Blade’s Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss, and Joe Mahr (right) won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for their eight months of investigation and reporting on the alleged war crimes committed by Tiger Force.

“Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed — their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”

The three journalists say the Army commandos, far from friendly areas and left without support, routinely violated the laws of armed conflict, killed unarmed civilians, dropped grenades on women and children, and covered up the incidents during the official Army investigations.

Some members of the Tiger Force today aren’t even disputing the allegations. Doyle, along with others, claims to have lost count of how many people they killed.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

”I’ve seen atrocities in Vietnam that make Tiger Force look like Sunday school,” Doyle told the New York Times. “Everybody I killed, I killed to survive. They make Tiger Force out to be an atrocity. Well, that’s almost a compliment. Because nobody will understand the evil I’ve seen.”

The Army investigated the allegations for four and a half years but no charges were ever filed and the men of tiger Force became some of the most decorated in the Vietnam War. They were even awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.

For its part, the Army told the Toledo Blade that, barring any new evidence coming to light, the investigations would remain closed, even after comparing the newspaper’s information with their official records.

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Self-Care is for grunts as well as gurus

If your idea of self-care is eating paleo and running ultra marathons, I’ve got news for you – you’re missing out.


Self-care goes way beyond the way you feed or train your body: It’s about health at multiple levels. At its core it requires attention to regulating your nervous system – to regularly giving your brain and endocrine system (your body’s network of hormone-producing glands) the chance to calm down and return to normal levels.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Soldiers from Alpha Battery, 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), fire high-explosive artillery rounds from their M119A2 Howitzer during Operation Fulton Harvest near Samarrah, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo)

This type of self-regulation is important for your physical and mental performance whether you’re an elite athlete or an everyday person of any age.

Pain isn’t always weakness leaving the body

As a veteran, you know that the military does a great job attaching metrics to physical fitness. Service members are required to pay attention to their physicality, and intensity is emphasized. These are good things in many ways. After all, you can’t see improvement without testing your body’s limits.

However, the military often falls short on the topic of balanced wellness. Many veterans leave their time in service physically broken, with muscular imbalances, and hold fast to the belief that if training is hurting, it’s helping. We might even think that only malingerers, failures, and dirtbags take time to care for themselves.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
U.S. Marines with India Company, Battalion Landing Team 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, participate in a formation run prior to a physical-training competition in Djibouti. The 15th MEU deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry)

I’m not here to suggest that you give up your high intensity training. But I am here to say that the whole point of intensity should be about using it to increase your performance in a smart and productive way.

Whether your goal is muscle growth or cardiovascular improvement, attaining your specific training objectives will be easier when you lower your blood cortisol levels (the stress hormones your body produces).

You can do this by practicing self care and something called “mindful movement.”

But isn’t mindful movement for hippies?

Mindful movement is as useful for grunts as it is for POGs as it is for civilians. Here’s what career infantry officer Maj. Gen. Thomas Jones, USMC (Ret.), has to say about it:

“For many years as an infantry officer, I worked feverishly to build resiliency in combat Marines.  However, and unfortunately, it wasn’t until I was a civilian that I learned that I was missing the central, necessary ingredient…to crafting resiliency: a thorough understanding of the physiology of stress within the body…I learned that mindfulness enabled me to personally address stressors with positive outcomes.”

Mindfulness is a form of self-care, and what it really means is that you’re paying close attention to your breath and body so you can discover how to care for yourself. For example, if you notice that you have really tight hips, you should work to correct the problem instead of ignoring it. This type of awareness is a very calming thing – we can use breath as a vehicle to connect our (sometimes very) disconnected mental and physical selves, and it can let us know how we need to adjust our training or lives to perform more effectively.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
U.S. Army Lt. Charles Morgan, with the 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, throws a M67 fragmentation grenade during skills training at Kunduz province, Afghanistan, July 3, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avila)

When we’re busy and stressed, paying attention to the needs of the physical body is one of the first things to go. However, we can benefit tremendously from figuring out when we’re not in a rested state and then working to provide our bodies and minds with opportunities to relax.

Why are mindfulness and self-care so good for me?

When we effectively manage stressed out bodies and minds, our levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are lowered. Lowering cortisol is helpful because it improves our brain’s ability to function and our body’s ability to perform.

Alternately, high levels of cortisol encourage your body to seek out and crave simple carbs and store them as fat. Too much cortisol also impairs upper-level cognition in our brains – making it harder to think clearly, experience empathy, and communicate effectively. It can also degrade our physical performance.

Finding ways to lower our stress – even if only for a few moments – has the opposite effect and is incredibly beneficial to us.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
A soldier from Task Force Iron Warrior waits to land to offer guidance for the medical evacuation training being conducted by soldiers of Hatchet Troop, 6th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment. While deployed soldiers are focusing not only on maintaining security but also on training to improve skills with partners. (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Charles Morgan)

So what does a drop in stress hormones feel like? Think about the last time you enjoyed an activity or training – when you took a deep breath in and you just felt that “Ahhh!” feeling – even if you were working hard and running up and down trails. You may find it while running, skiing, doing yoga, getting a deep tissue massage, or even lifting weights. Some people call it a “click,” or a “shift.”

That moment will look different for everyone, but when you find it, take note.

If I want to practice self-care – where should I start?

The first and most important step to practicing self-care is to commit to managing your time so you can structure a plan for success.

Next look at how what you’re doing on a daily basis makes you feel. Tune into that and take notes for a few days. Do you feel depleted at the end of a day? Energized? Hopeless? Keyed up?

Once you have a read on how you’re doing, begin to expand your skills. If you only know one or two tools to make yourself feel better, the good news is that you have lots of room to grow. Continue to do what you already know you like and benefit from, then learn and add in a couple of new options to your wellness program and nutritional choices.

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Mark A. Santos, a food service specialist with Headquarters Company, Regimental Combat Team 6, adds seasoning to the hamburger patties for the evening meal outside the new Dining Facility (DFAC) on Camp Delaram II, Nimroz province, Afghanistan June 16, 2012. The DFAC was converted from a former water treatment facility as part of the ongoing process to consolidate and demilitarize the camp. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Pay attention to how you’re treating your body with food. Consider taking fast food and soda out of the options column for yourself. If you don’t want to take them out, then look to add items that taste amazing and are healthy. Instead of restricting, add in.

If you feel overwhelmed as you think about all the training and wellness options out there, consider plugging into an organization or non-profit that can teach you helpful skills. As a veteran, if you can imagine a self-care or mindful movement option, a non-profit probably exists that supplies it.

Self Care Resources

Outdoor Odyssey – Funded weeklong retreats for wounded, ill and injured active-duty and veteran warriors, designed to craft a definitive plan for the future with the support of a team.  Designed and operated by those who have been there!

Outward Bound – OIF/OEF veterans can enjoy all-expenses paid week-long trips rock climbing, dog sledding, sailing, and more, as they learn the value of compassionate leadership.

Ride for Recovery

Team RWB Athletic Camps – Learn how to rock climb, practice yoga, or run trails.

Sierra Club Military Outdoors – Power ski, ice climb, whitewater raft and more alongside fellow veterans in some of America’s most stunning backcountry.

Just Roll With It Wellness Retreat – This free three-day retreat teaches self-care and mindfulness practices, gives you the opportunity to connect with other veterans interested in physical and mental health, and includes a travel stipend.

Semper Sarah Health Coaching – Need an individual environment to learn self-care? Tap into the skills of a former Marine-turned-health pro.

 

About the Author

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.

 

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7 Celebrities Who Didn’t Last At West Point

Being a West Point cadet isn’t for everyone, and that’s not a bad thing if you’re a poet or an LSD pioneer.


Not everyone can make it through the famed U.S. Military Academy that has been training Army leaders for more than 200 years. The academy has had its fair share of famous graduates, of course, but we looked back at a few who didn’t make it all the way through.

 

Edgar Allen Poe

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Edgar Allen Poe, the poet best known for “The Raven,” served as a non-commissioned officer in the U.S. Army 1827-1829. He was a member of West Point’s Class of 1834 and excelled in language studies, but he was ultimately expelled for conduct reasons. (Wikipedia)

Chris Cagle

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Before he played in the NFL, Chris Cagle was part of West Point’s Class of 1930. He played for the Black Knights during the 1926–1929 seasons. Right before his commissioning, he was forced to resign in May 1930 after it was discovered he had married — a breach of the rules for cadets — in August 1928. (Wikipedia; Photo: Amazon.com)

Timothy Leary

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Timothy Leary, counterculture icon and LSD proponent, was part of West Point’s Class of 1943 before dropping out to “drop out, tune in, and turn on” – his motto during the ’60s.

Richard Hatch

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Richard Hatch was part of West Point’s Class of 1986 before he dropped out to eventually become the original reality show bad boy and winner of the first season of Survivor. (Photo: People.com)

Maynard James Keenan

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Maynard James Keenan is well known in rock music circles as the front man of art metal bands Tool and A Perfect Circle. Keenan would have been part of the Class of 1988 but instead of accepting his appointment to West Point in 1984 (while he was attending United States Military Academy Preparatory School) he decided to skip cadet life and instead complete his term of active duty enlistment. (Photo: Karen Mason Blair/Corbis)

Adam Vinatieri

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Adam Vinatieri is well-known to NFL fans as a placekicker for the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts. His stint as a cadet didn’t last very long. He left the Academy after two weeks of plebe life. (Photo: Colts.com)

Dan Hinote

 

These 6 veterans won medals at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics

Dan Hinote dropped out of West Point in 1996 – his plebe year – when he was picked up by the Colorado Avalanche, which made him the first NHL player ever drafted from a service academy. He is currently an assistant coach for the Columbus Blue Jackets. (Photo: NHL.com)

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