There are bad guard details, horrible guard details, and then guard details where you and the bulk of your regiment are ordered to guard caves filled with bat shit.
Gunpowder is made up mostly of saltpeter, a chemical powder generally mined from deposits on cave walls or extracted from urine and bat guano. When the South found itself under naval blockade early in the war, it had to find a way to make many of its necessities.
Modern ammunition uses cleaner-burning propellants, but the nitrates in guano are still valuable for fertilizers. The descendants of the bats that provided the guano are now famous in Austin. Spectators line up on bridges to watch the bats depart for their nightly feeding.
The final day of work comes upon everyone. Some people take a long lunch with coworkers to hand out gifts and going away mementos. Others choose to quietly go out as they either prepare for retirement or moving on to their next job.
US military pilots take to the skies and soar one last time alongside wingmen from their unit.
Their emotional last day at a unit isn’t just celebrated like a last day at an office. Pilots stick to a tradition that’s as old as the Air Force itself: the final flight, known widely amongst aircrew members as the ‘fini flight.’
The tradition was initially celebrated to accompany milestones in the career of Airmen of all ranks and positions. To find the first documented fini flight, one would have to reach back in history as far as Vietnam, when an aircrew commemorated the completion of 100 missions.
Since then, the way final flights have been celebrated has changed, but the sentiments have remained.
“Traditions such as this are great examples of esprit de corps throughout the Air Force community,” said Steven Frank, 27th Special Operations Wing historian. “It can also help create strong bonds of camaraderie and teamwork among past, current, and future generations of Airmen.”
Today, these final flights are celebrated not for one Airman’s accomplishments but an entire crew’s across the Air Force. They’re used for all ranks and positions to honor their contributions to the unit.
Once the plane lands, it is acknowledged with a formal water salute, where two firetrucks shoot water over the plane creating an arch with plumes of water collapsing down on the plane as it taxis in.
Upon halting the plane, the pilot exits to an immediate barrage of water as their family, friends, and coworkers douse them with fire hoses. Celebratory champagne follows soon after (or whenever their peers decide they had enough water) and thus gives them time to reflect with friends and loved ones on the time they’ve had together at that unit.
Frank says it’s one of the many examples of military cultural institutions that Airmen are proud to participate in.
“Fini flights are just one example of over a hundred years of Air Force traditions and heritage that honors the sacrifices and victories previous generations of Airmen have made to secure our freedoms,” Frank said. “Every Air Force organization continues to make contributions to the Air Force story and the exploration and awareness of each unit’s past can help encourage a sense of increased pride and respect for every Airman’s career field and organization.”
Whether they’re pilots who’ve tallied thousands of hours in a particular aircraft or crew who man weapons that deliver air power, fini flights are a longstanding tradition that remain one of the most exhilarating ways to recognize the very best amongst the Air Force’s ranks.
Airborne soldiers have some particular fears that most other troops don’t have to worry about. Total malfunctions of the parachute like a “cigarette roll” can cause them to hurtle into the earth at terminal velocity while mid-air entanglements can leave them with broken bones or worse.
One of their most unique fears is that of becoming a “towed jumper,” something that happens when their chute fails to separate from their static line and they are literally towed behind the plane like the pet dog from “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”
(Younger readers should not Google that reference. Instead, just imagine the worst possible version of parasailing.)
For Army Ranger Spc. Brian Hanson, the nightmare became a reality during a training jump under the stars of Fort Benning, Georgia. He and the rest of his company were under strict orders to conduct the perfect nighttime jump, to include not losing any gear.
But Hanson’s chute failed to separate and he became a towed jumper.
This left Hanson flying through the night sky as he fervently tried to keep all of his gear as close as possible despite the wind rushing over him while he dangled 1,200 feet above the surface of Benning. Watch the video above to learn how he made peace with these developments as well as the moment when he realized he was truly screwed.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) just released a glowing endorsement of retired Marine Gen. James Mattis to serve as Defense Secretary.
In a statement released Monday, McCain called the 66-year-old retired four-star general “one of the finest military officers of his generation” who, he hopes, “has an opportunity to serve America again.”
The senator knows Mattis quite well, since he serves as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. While he was in charge of Central Command and leading troops in Iraq, Mattis testified to that committee regularly.
“I am pleased that the President-elect found General Jim Mattis as impressive as I have in the many years I have had the privilege of knowing him. General Mattis is one of the finest military officers of his generation and an extraordinary leader who inspires a rare and special admiration of his troops. He is a forthright strategic thinker. His integrity is unshakable and unquestionable. And he has earned his knowledge and experience the old-fashioned way: in the crucible of our nation’s defense and the service of heroes,” McCain wrote in his statement.
“General Mattis has a clear understanding of the many challenges facing the Department of Defense, the U.S. military, and our national security. I hope he has an opportunity to serve America again.”
Mattis is seen as a top contender for the position at the Pentagon. He met with President-elect Donald Trump on Saturday to discuss whether he might be interested in coming out of retirement to oversee roughly 3 million military and civilian personnel.
Afterward, Trump praised Mattis on Twitter as “a true General’s General” who was “very impressive.”
If he were tapped to be defense secretary, Mattis would need a waiver from Congress to take the position, since it requires a military officer to have been off active duty for at least seven years. Mattis retired in 2013.
Mattis currently splits his time between Stanford and Dartmouth as a distinguished fellow, conducting research and giving lectures on leadership and strategy.
World of Warcraft, one of the world’s most successful RPGs, is releasing a new expansion where an army of demons invades the world, forcing heroes to fight beside a new demon hunter class to prevent the coming apocalypse.
“World of Warcraft: Legion” is a highly anticipated expansion with tons of changes to gameplay, class structure, professions, and more. Many players have already experienced pieces of the expansion by taking advantage of the pre-order perks. Since there’s so much going on, we’ll just give you a quick overview of new gameplay in Legion.
Legion offers gamers the chance to play as the new hero class, demon hunters — cursed elves who consume the blood and powers of demons to make themselves more powerful.
Drinking the blood grants them the ability to fly around the battlefield, shoot energy from their eyes, grow spiked armor, and explode in waves of fire.
New class abilities for all heroes and artifact weapons help make players feel truly powerful even as they’re facing off against demons larger than most buildings.
A new quest zone, the Broken Isles, has Alliance and Horde heroes facing off against the Legion in a hunt for the “Pillars of Creation” and the Tomb of Sargeras. Sargeras is the creator of the Legion who the demons are trying to revive.
To prevent it, heroes will have to fight through the Broken Isles, attempting to save mortally wounded dragons and topple invading armies to prevent a living hell from consuming the world.
The best thing about questing in the Broken Isles is that Blizzard made the new zones scale to the player’s level. So no matter what order a player fights through the new areas, the enemies there are powerful enough to pose a challenge without feeling impossible.
Players will get access to class halls where they can do quest lines unique to their character type.
Demon Hunters are marshaling armies against the Legion. Druids hunt down nightmares that have invaded their dreamscape. Mages seek to rebuild an elite order of battle mages, the Tirisgarde.
When players want to take some time away from the fight against the Burning Legion to play against each other, they’ll find that class changes have made player versus player combat much easier to enter.
The new, lighter spell books of Legion make it easy to build a toolbar that works for both PVP and player versus enemy content.
Grab the game today from battle.net to go and beat back the vanguard of the Legion. The full invasion comes on August 30.
After WWII, the dividing line between Soviet-controlled East Germany and Western-backed West Germany became immortalized in a speech by Sir Winston Churchill. In a speech at Missouri’s Westminster college, Great Britain’s wartime Prime Minister famously said: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
For the rest of the Cold War, this dividing line between the East and West would bear the moniker of the “Iron Curtain.” The Iron Curtain was an ideal as well as a physical thing, a series of fortifications meant to keep Western forces out and Communist citizens in.
For 870 miles, the divide was marked by fences, tank traps, barbed wire, dog runs, guard towers, and stone walls. There were sand strips to detect footprints and automated machine guns to end any attempt to flee to freedom. All this came crashing down in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Twenty-five years after the fall of Communism, the boundary areas have morphed into a green belt untouched by the pressure of German agricultural and industrial development, a place where endangered species like the European Otter have found refuge.
According to a recent NOVA story on PBS, the European Green Belt stretches over 7,700 miles from north to south. Black storks, moor frogs, and white-tailed eagles find refuge in the forests, meadows and marshlands linked by 40 national parks across 24 countries.
The government and European conservationists want to make the undeveloped areas into permanent wildlife refuges. They see a pan-European reserve that stretches from Finland to the Black Sea. The refuge has been a goal for East German environmentalists since the Berlin Wall came down. The original green belt petition was started December 9, 1989, just one month after the fall of the wall.
When the two Germanys reunified, the land was preserved to compensate people for expropriation by the former East German government. Over the years the funding stalled at the hands of the German legislature. At one point “Friends of the Earth,” a not-for-profit that included former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev as an investor.
Now, the green belt has the support of former East German Angela Merkel, who is now the Prime Minister of a unified Germany. What began as a symbol of division and oppression is turning into one of growth and renewal.
More than a century after a mining magnate and a wealthy socialite deeded 400 acres in Los Angeles for the care of old soldiers, the property hosts wine tastings, a college baseball stadium, a commercial laundry, golf course and several other enterprises that have nothing to do with wounded warriors — but that injustice soon could be corrected.
Following a class-action lawsuit brought on behalf of homeless veterans and the descendants of Arcadia de Baker, the wealthy widow of two powerful landowners, a plan to return the valuable parcel to the service of veterans is due next month. The Department of Veterans Affairs, working with a specially appointed committee, will honor the intentions of Baker and John Percival Jones, a silver baron, one-time U.S. senator from Nevada and founder of Santa Monica, when they left the land to the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers in 1888.
“The misuse of the West Los Angeles campus is particularly offensive because of that donation,” David Sapp, of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California, told FoxNews.com.
While the property did serve as a refuge for tens of thousands of veterans scarred in battles ranging from the Civil War to the Vietnam War, something changed in the 1970s. There was no shortage of wounded veterans, yet the VA emptied out the sprawling grounds known as the West Los Angeles Campus and began renting property out for all sorts of uses that had nothing to do with veteran care.
“The original goal here was to provide comfort and stability to disabled veterans. It was a different era with different wounds but that goal should remain exactly the same.”
– Jim Strickland, VAWatchdog.org
“Not only were the local VA officials not using the land to house homeless vets, but they were actually affirmatively misusing the property by entering into these private-use agreements that had nothing to do with healthcare, housing or otherwise serving veterans,” said Sapp.
Critics believe the land’s prime location in the tony Brentwood area, nestled by the Santa Monica Mountains and neighboring Beverly Hills, played a role in the ouster of veterans. While a mental health facility may have been perceived as detrimental to soaring property values, Sapp said it also was in part due to the VA’s move away from operating permanent housing for veterans.
The ACLU sued the VA in 2011, and, earlier this year, forced the government agency to restore the land to its intended use. VA Secretary Bob McDonald declined to pursue an appeal, despite pressure from third parties including UCLA, whose baseball stadium occupies 20 acres.
Although the VA has not revealed any accounting, critics estimate the VA reaped as much as $40 million over the decades leasing the land out for such uses as a hotel laundry facility, storage for a movie studio, car rental companies, oil companies and a parking lot for public school buses. The rolling acreage also has hosted everything from golf tournaments and musical performances to wine-tasting and gala benefits.
Meanwhile, the number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles – the nation’s largest population of homeless and veterans with disabilities – has grown to an estimated 8,000.
The legal settlement involved the establishment of a specialized team of residents, veteran service organizations and elected officials to develop a master re-development plan. Out of that, the nonprofit organization called Vets Advocacy was formed to partner with the West LA VA chapter and ensure veterans’ voices were heard.
They’re still in need of input and ideas – thus both veterans and civilians are being urged to participate in Vets Advocacy’s online survey “VA the Right Way.” A deadline has been set for this coming Oct. 15, in which representatives will present a preliminary proposal subject to public comment.
Some former service members have called for a center specializing in issues pertaining to female veterans, and others have proposed a reintegration center and “one-stop shop” for all needs and questions. Alternate suggestions have included long-term and sustainable veteran housing, a work center for disabled veteran-owned businesses and even a holistic center in which a veteran doesn’t necessarily need to be sick, but can visit with friends and family.
Richard Valdez, a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient appointed liaison for the major Veteran Service Organizations on the project, stressed that the intended outcome is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for all veterans, and meeting long-term needs as demographics change.
In a town hall meeting to address veteran homelessness in Long Beach last week, McDonald, who took the leadership role in July 2014, reaffirmed his commitment to ending veteran homelessness in LA.
“This is a top priority for us. We can’t do this from Washington alone,” McDonald said, adding that various local partnerships and veteran voices were a necessity.
The Department of Veterans Affairs did not immediately offer comment on past or future land-use plans. But Jim Strickland, founder of advocacy group VAWatchdog.org, said the whole debacle comes as no surprise.
“The original goal here was to provide comfort and stability to disabled veterans,” he said. “It was a different era with different wounds, but that goal should remain exactly the same.”
Last week, the Marine Corps released a summary of results on a nine month study on gender-integrated units in combat situations. Called “Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force,” the four-page summary described how all-male units performed significantly better on 69 percent of tactical tasks and how female Marines were injured at twice the rate of men. All-male units were faster, stronger, and had less body fat. They were also more accurate with every standard individual weapon, like M4 carbines and M203 grenade launchers.
The sh-tstorm started as soon as the preliminary results were announced. Accusations of gender bias and counteraccusations of political motivations were fired between the Department of the Navy and the Marine Corps. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a proponent of opening combat roles to women, disagreed with what he saw as gender-biased results of the study.
“At the end, they came out in a different place than I do,” said Mabus. “because they talk about averages, and the average woman is slower, the average woman can’t carry as much, the average woman isn’t quite as quick on some jobs or some tasks… we’re not looking for average. There were women that met this standard, and a lot of the things there that women fell a little short in can be remedied by two things – training and leadership.”
Capt. Phillip Kulczewski, a public affairs officer for the Marine Corps says the study, which was overseen by George Mason University with physiological tests conducted by the University of Pittsburgh, was not politically motivated or an experiment to discriminate against women. The Corps says it was the first step to creating a gender-neutral standard for combat jobs.
“Before he left office, [former Secretary of Defense Leon] Panetta said we are opening up all jobs to all genders and that the new policy will be gender neutral,”Kulczewski says. “There were a lot of questions about how to go about changing the standards to be gender neutral. Secretary Panetta said we need concrete scientific data to back up the new standards, so this was our first step in our marching orders.”
GARMSIR DISTRICT, Helmand Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — Sgt. Kimberly Nalepka, a Coral Springs, Fla., native, speaks to a teacher about the day’s lesson plan at a local school. Photo: US Marine Corps Cpl. Colby Brown. (U.S. Marine Corps Photo)
“The aim was to break down each task to find out what factors affect the Marines in combat,” Kulczewski continues. “Then ultimately, we want to take gender out of the equation and look for ideal physical traits that help all Marines perform these tasks, male or female.”
The study’s summary noted the performance of female Marines in individual combat situations and in current overall combat operations, saying: “Female Marines have performed superbly in the combat environments of Iraq and Afghanistan and are fully part of the fabric of a combat-hardened Marine Corps after the longest period of continuous combat operations in the Corps’ history.” But Capt. Kulczewski says the nature of combat is different from a ground combat MOS and the two are separate ideas.
“Anyone close to the front can be in combat. We know men and women both have the same mental capacity and the capacity for courage. When its an everyday job, everyone in an MOS has to perform certain everyday tasks and we want Marines who can do that.” That’s where the study came in. The Marines took physiological data with the help of the University of Pittsburgh to help determine what those Marines will have to do for their respective job, to ensure “they’re in the right job for their career.”
Meanwhile, some female Marines think they’ve found the right job. An article in the Washington Post found female Marine participants who believe the Navy Secretary’s comments were insulting when he said the women probably should have had a “higher bar to cross” to join the task force, even though Marines in the study, men and women, were trained to the same standard before it started.
“Everyone involved did the job and completed the mission to the best of their abilities,” Sgt. Danielle Beck, an anti-armor gunner, told the Washington Post. “They are probably some of the most professional women that anybody will ever have chance to work with, and the heart and drive and determination that they had is incomparable to most women in the Marine Corps.”
The same Post article found that women in the study performed better than men on the Marine Corps-wide physical-fitness test. The average score for the men was 244 out of 300 while women’s was 283. The average all-male infantry unit scores in the 260s. Both men and women who volunteered for the study had to fulfill all requirements and pass the service’s MOS school, be it infantry, armor, or artillery schools, before qualifying for the study.
The study, was not without its problems. The Washington Post also found Marines involved could drop at any time and many did throughout the experiment because they were promised an assignment to any unit in the Marine Corps just for participating. For this reason, the gender-integrated company shrank considerably from its initial strength.
The current gender-neutral employment policy in the Defense Department requires military specialty areas to request an exemption to the policy. The exemption has to be signed off by the Defense Secretary and by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Marine Corps infantry, Navy SEALs, and all other combat jobs in the Navy Department (which includes the Marine Corps) will be open to women by the end of 2015, and no exemptions would be granted, according to Mabus. Neither the Navy’s SEAL units or Marines asked for such an exemption.
The complete results of the study have yet to be released.
A U.S. Navy veteran who served in the Pacific during World War II finally received his service medals April 12 at the American Legion in Fort Smith, Arkansas — 71 years to the day from when he honorably discharged.
James Donald Neal Burnett, 91, of Alma was presented several medals, including the World War II Victory Medal, by U.S. Sen. John Boozman.
The senator called Burnett among the “greatest generation” and thanked him for his service.
“It’s a real honor to pat Mr. Burnett on the back and thank him for his service,” Boozman said before a large group of veterans gathered at the American Legion Ellig-Stoufer Post 31. “We do want to thank this special generation that went off and did incredible things, ordinary people who did extraordinary things, came back and just went back to work. They not only rebuilt our country but provided the protection for Europe and much of the rest of the world so they can rebuild. We forget about this sometimes.”
The veterans were there to have a closed-door discussion about their issues with the Veterans Choice health-care program. Boozman is a member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and is hosting a series of listening sessions with Arkansas veterans. Boozman also had listening sessions two other local cities.
Before presenting the medals, Boozman also thanked the veteran’s wife, Imogene Burnett, and their family because “being in the service regardless of how long…is a family affair and we always want to remember the families that sacrificed.”
One of the Burnetts’ sons, James Alan Burnett, gave the ultimate sacrifice in 2002 on the Kate’s Basin fire in Wyoming. He was the first Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Forestry Services employee to lose his life fighting a fire.
Kathy Watson, constituent services manager for Boozman’s office, said many World War II veterans did not receive medals simply because they went home after the war and did not apply for them. Boozman said his father, a B-17 waist gunner during WWII, also didn’t talk much about the war, and when asked to talk about his experiences would usually only offer a short description: “It was cold.”
James and Imogene Burnett’s son, Bob Burnett, said his father was among those who simply came home after the war and did not request the medals. A relative, state Rep. Rebecca Petty, District 93, “got the ball rolling” on Burnett’s medals after a family visit last year, Bob Burnett said.
In the recent 91st General Assembly, Petty entered House Resolution 1039 to honor Burnett for his service from 1943-1946 as a motor machinist’s mate third class on the USS Oak Hill LSD 7. He entered the Navy a few months after his 18th birthday, Nov. 11, 1943.
Anita Deason, Boozman’s senior military and veterans liaison, read a commendation letter in Burnett’s file for the ship’s crew from Capt. C.A. Peterson, dated June 14, 1945: “At Okinawa, Oak Hill participated in one of the largest and most important amphibious assaults in the history of warfare. Then for a period of 71 days, this vessel shared in the hazards of supporting armed forces on that island, often under continuous attacks by enemy planes. One suicide plane apparently aimed for this ship was splashed by the fire of our gun crews. By the cheerful cooperation of all hands, every mission assigned this ship was successfully carried out.”
The letter goes on to say that “outstanding” work was done in particularly by the repair force in the task of maintaining landing ships and craft in operation condition.
“Higher authority at first considered this job beyond the capacity of this ship, but by efficient administration and hard work it was done and earned high praise for the task force commander,” Peterson wrote.
Burnett, who was born Aug. 31, 1925, at Clayton, Okla., served two years, four months and 25 days in the Navy. He was honorably discharged, coincidentally, on April 12, 1946.
In addition to the WW II Victory Medal, the National Personnel Record Center also authorized Burnett to receive the Combat Action Ribbon, China Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Honorable Discharge Button, and Honorable Discharge Lapel Pin.
Burnett is also eligible for the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, a foreign award that is not funded by the Department of Defense.
After three combat deployments to the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, something as simple as the smell of hay could trigger Rick Burth’s post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
The smell of gunpowder and jet fuel put him on edge, too. He’d known he had PTSD for a long time, but he never talked about it.
“There was this stigma, so you didn’t want to say anything,” said Burth, 49, a Roseville resident and threat assessment specialist with the state Office of Emergency Services. “You just kept your head down and kept doing your job, but after awhile, it just got bad.”
Other treatments hadn’t worked, so Burth opted for a novel procedure that some say is a quick and effective way to quiet the anxiety and agitation that PTSD patients frequently experience. He traveled to the Chicago area, where a doctor injected a local anesthetic into his neck, targeting the nerves that regulate the body’s “fight-or-flight” response to perceived threats.
The treatment, called stellate ganglion block, has typically been used for pain management, but Dr. Eugene Lipov, an anesthesiologist, said he discovered in 2005 that it has the potential to relieve PTSD symptoms.
The 10-minute procedure halts the nerve impulses to the brain that trigger anxiety and jitters in trauma victims, Lipov contends.
Experts disagree on its effectiveness, but some doctors and patients say it seems to be a useful tool in combination with therapy and other medications, which may not always provide relief.
Burth said it helped calm his mind to the point where he could think more rationally about the traumatic events in his past.
The former Marine said he started noticing symptoms after returning from the Gulf War in 1991, and that his symptoms grew worse when he went to Iraq, where he was part of the anti-terrorism team for the California Army National Guard.
“The day-in, day-out fighting — getting shot at, shooting back, things blowing up around us — that compounded the issue,” he said.
When Burth came home, he couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t stand being in crowds. He was abusing alcohol. And it was all wearing on his wife and two young sons, he said. He’d been on anti-anxiety medication for years but never noticed much difference, he said.
“I was just really short-tempered. Always go, go, go. Didn’t have time to stop and listen to folks because I was always so anxious,” he said.
There are nearly 8 million Americans like Burth suffering from PTSD, many of them military veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. PTSD is the third most common psychiatric diagnosis in the Veterans Health Administration.
People can develop PTSD months after they experience a life-threatening event or trauma such as a mugging, sexual assault, or the sudden death of a loved one. Its symptoms are broad because everyone’s PTSD manifests differently, said Dr. David Schafer, acting associate chief of staff for mental health at the Sacramento VA Medical Center.
People can relive a traumatic event such as an ambush or bomb attack in nightmares or flashbacks. They might also avoid places and situations that remind them of the trauma. Feeling anxious, jumpy, and experiencing panic attacks are common symptoms.
Burth, for instance, would become agitated at the smell of hay because he’d been in gunbattles in fields and orchards.
“For many, the easiest and safest thing to do is stay home with the door locked, sleeping on the floor by the closet,” Schafer said. “The challenge with avoidance is that it works.”
Approved treatments of PTSD include reintroducing patients to the people, places, and things they might find distressing. To work through the trauma, they attend therapy sessions for 10 to 15 weeks as they try to understand their reactions to events. Medications may also be prescribed to help take the edge off, Schafer said.
Burth had gone through months of therapy, including a month-long stint in a Texas rehabilitative treatment center, but his PTSD symptoms always returned, he said.
“It was helpful,” he said, “but after you get back home and get back into the same old routine, things pop up again, and you try to remember how to work through it on your own.”
Burth learned of stellate ganglion block through his mother-in-law, who volunteers with the Global Post Traumatic Stress Injury Foundation, which pays for veterans to receive the $1,600 treatment because it isn’t recognized or covered by the VA. The foundation is having a fundraiser at the Granite Bay Golf Club on Sept. 11.
Chris Miller, a local developer and philanthropist, was moved by the testimonials he heard at a foundation event in Washington, DC, last year, where soldiers and veterans spoke of their symptom relief after receiving the anesthetic treatment. Because there is a large military population in the Sacramento area, he decided to host his own fundraiser for the foundation, he said.
In March, helped by the foundation, Burth went to Lipov’s clinic near Chicago. After the first injection, he said he didn’t feel much different.
If patients don’t feel relief after the first injection, Lipov said, he’ll give them another injection higher in the neck. The second injection has a 90 percent success rate, he said.
After the second injection, “I didn’t feel different physically, but I felt different mentally,” Burth said. “Things slowed down. I didn’t have a million thoughts. I didn’t have that anxious and paranoid feeling, always looking over my shoulder. All of that kind of dissipated.”
Lipov said he’s performed stellate ganglion block procedures on 500 veterans with a 70 to 75 percent success rate.
So far, the anecdotal evidence about the procedure is mainly positive, but the scientific data is inconclusive as to whether stellate ganglion block is widely effective at treating PTSD, said Dr. Michael Alkire, an anesthesiologist at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System, who is studying the treatment with Dr. Christopher Reist, a psychiatrist.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched studies into the procedure because the long-term side effects remain unknown. One study is being conducted at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System.
In February, the VA Portland Health Care System found there was insufficient evidence to say stellate ganglion block was an effective treatment for PTSD. In trials, at least 75 percent of the subjects reported improvement. But when the treatment was tested against a placebo, a shot of the local anesthetic fared no better than a saline injection.
“The pattern suggests that, while it is possible that some patients benefit, the response rates seen in case series will not hold up in actual practice,” the researchers said. “Substantial uncertainty remains about the potential harms of (stellate ganglion block) as well.”
At VA Long Beach, Reist and Alkire have been performing stellate ganglion blocks to collect better data and understand when it can be effective. Their research has included 17 patients who are selected according to whether they’ve tried medication or psychotherapy without improvement. Of the 17 subjects, 13 reported immediate or gradual relief from their symptoms, the doctors said.
While the sample size is small, Reist and Alkire have found the blocks are most successful for patients who have symptoms of hyperarousal, which is like being in a constant state of fight or flight. The stellate ganglion block eases the patients’ tension and anxiety so they can engage in traditional therapies for PTSD, Reist said.
Alkire said it’s important to note that the treatment doesn’t work for everyone. He recalled the case of one patient who wanted it to work so badly that, when it didn’t, he spiraled into a deeper depression.
No treatment erases the memory of trauma, Schafer said. “Part of trauma-focused work is walking through the trauma and putting it in context, expanding people’s understanding of what happened.”
Burth agreed. “This is not a be-all, cure-all,” he said. “This is something that calms your mind and allows you to deal with the memories that are always there.”
“Since the injection, I can look at things in a different light and deal with it. I had someone ask me if this is a miracle, and I said, I don’t know if it’s a miracle, but it’s working for me.”
The Syrian Air Force is getting ten new Su-24M2 “Fencer D” all-weather strike aircraft, courtesy of Vladimir Putin. The regime of Bashir al-Assad received two right away, with the other eight coming soon. As a result, the Syrians gain a very capable weapon for use against ISIS or moderate rebels supported by the United States.
The Su-24M2 is the latest version of a plane that first took flight in 1967 – and it has been in service since 1974. The Fencer, comparable to the General Dynamics F-111, was designed to deliver over 17,600 pounds of bombs on target any time of day – or night – and in good weather, bad weather, or any in between. Su-24s are fast (a top speed of just over 1,000 miles per hour) and can reach deep into enemy territory (a combat radius of about 400 miles). The plane has seen action in the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the Iran-Iraq War, over Lebanon, Desert Storm, civil wars in Tajikistan, Libya, and Afghanistan, the South Ossetia war, and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
The Su-24M2, which first flew in 2001, adds the capability to fire the AS-17 Krypton anti-radar missile, the AA-11 Archer, and the KAB-500Kr television-guided bombs. The plane also received a more advanced “glass cockpit” with new multi-function displays (MFD), GLONASS (Russia’s knockoff of the Global Positioning System), a new heads-up display (HUD), and a helmet-mounted sight, allowing it to use the Archer to its maximum effectiveness.
The Soviet Union built over 1,400 Su-24s from 1967 to 1993. That 26-year production run alone is quite impressive. So was its wide exportation to a number of countries in the Middle East and North Africa, including such responsible regimes like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya, Hafez al-Assad’s Syria, and the Sudan. Yes, all of them state sponsors of terrorism. A bunch of Iraq’s Su-24s made their way to Iran during Desert Storm. (Iraqi pilots preferring the Ayatollah Khameni’s hospitality to getting blown out of the sky by the allied coalition.)
The transfer comes as part of Russia’s military assistance to Assad’s regime. Syria had 22 Su-24s prior to this deal, 21 of which were bombers, one a reconnaissance plane. The Syrians had been upgrading some of their planes to the Su-24M2 standard. Now, they will be getting another ten very advanced deep-penetration bombers.