Footage obtained by the British paper The Guardian shows the intense battle that claimed the life of U.S. Navy SEAL Charlie Keating IV.
Keating was part of a quick-reaction force that moved in to relieve another group of U.S. advisors supporting the Kurdish Peshmerga when ISIS broke through the Peshmerga’s lines with a massive assault using 20 technicals, car bombs, and a bulldozer.
The efforts of Keating and the other SEALs were successful and the other U.S. advisor team survived, but Keating himself was shot. Though he was medevac’d out, he died of his wounds.
U.S. airstrikes and Peshmerga fighters succeeded in killing 58 of the attacking ISIS fighters, destroying many of the vehicles, and reclaiming the lost territory over the next 14 hours.
As the video below shows, Keating and his warrior brothers rushed to save others despite intense fire against them:
New warheads make the missile more lethal against a wide range of targets. The shaped-charge warheads from the original Hellfire have given way to tandem high-explosive warheads to defeat reactive armor.
The metal augmented charge of the AGM-114N is a thermobaric warhead which fills an enclosed space with a highly reactive metal and then detonates the mixture, creating a massive, secondary explosion.
Meanwhile, adaptations to the Hellfire and its launchers allow more and more platforms to carry it. The Navy now deploys the AGM-114L on ships so they can better protect themselves from attacks by fast boats and other threats.
The Hellfire’s iconic air platform is still the Apache, but it catches rides on AH-1s, drones, Blackhawks, Kiowas, and even modified Cessnas.
Land vehicles employ the missile as well. Lockheed self-funded the development of the Long Range Surveillance and Attack Vehicle which can fire the Hellfire or the DAGR, a smaller weapon with most of the Hellfire II’s technology.
Kaj Larsen with VICE News went on an airborne operation with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team and filmed a 360-degree video of what it’s like to climb onto the plane and conduct a jump from 1,000 feet.
Check it out below. Computer users can click and drag in the video to look around. Phone users should play the video full screen and then turn their phone to look in different directions.
In order to combat versatile enemies who are not only able to acquire US weapons and vehicles but emulate tactics as well, the US military needs to take advantage of the latest advances from the defense industry.
But just as the military and its branches all have unique missions, the individual units within the military are also issued equipment geared towards fulfilling their respective jobs.
One such unit from the special forces community may very well be receiving the latest offering from SkyRunner, a company that specializes in utility vehicles and light sport aviation.
This all-terrain vehicle has the ability to take off from indigenous runways and transform into a light-sports aircraft using a parafoil wing. Reaching ground speeds of up to 70 mph and flight speeds of 40 mph, the SkyRunner can transport 2 occupants 240 miles, or 120 nautical miles, at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
The latest model of SkyRunner, equipped with a carbon-fiber body, will cost about $139,000.
After receiving FAA approval in June, a SkyRunner representative explained in an interview with Business Insider that they received interest and a verbal commitment from the US special forces community.
“The shocks [are what] won this particular group over,” said SkyRunner consultant Mike Mitchell. “Going off of a loading dock 4-5 feet tall … with such a soft landing was a big plus in their eyes.”
Rather than being offensively oriented, Mitchell explained that a military-grade SkyRunner would be primarily used for surveillance or recovery missions.
SkyRunner could not comment on what the commitment specifically entailed, or which branch of the military expressed interest in their vehicle.
Despite President Donald Trump’s bold proclamation that a North Korean nuclear missile capable of hitting the US “won’t happen,” Kim Jong Un appears to be on his way — faster than many had thought — to an intercontinental ballistic missile that could flatten Washington.
But a nuclear-armed North Korea wouldn’t be the end of the world, according to some senior military officials.
“We can deter them,” retired Adm. Dennis Blair, the former head of US Pacific Command, said of North Korea at a National Committee for US-China Relations event. “They may be developing 10 to 15 nuclear weapons. We have 2,000. They can do a lot of damage to the U.S., but there won’t be any North Korea left in the event of a nuclear exchange. That’s not a good regime survival strategy, and even Kim Jong Un would understand that.”
The U.S. has to live with the fact that Russia, the world’s second-greatest nuclear power, openly opposes Washington’s foreign policy in nearly every dimension, and that Pakistan, a country rife with corruption and Islamist groups gaining traction within and around its borders, has nuclear weapons.
A senior Defense Department official with expertise in nuclear strategy told Business Insider that while the US has said it cannot and will not accept a North Korea armed with a nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile, that amounted more to an opening position in an ongoing negotiation than an intention to use military force to stop it.
F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornets from the USS Carl Vinson’s Carrier Air Wing fly over the carrier strike group flanked by two South Korean destroyers on May 3. US Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Brown.
“You never undermine your official position going in,” the official told Business Insider. “You’re never going to voluntarily back away from that. You’re going to actively work to make sure they don’t get” an ICBM.
“The North Koreans having nukes is a bad thing, and we don’t want it,” the official said. “But if we lose that one, we survive it.”
Despite bluster on both sides — whether posturing that the US may attack to cripple North Korea’s nuclear program or that North Korea would use its nuclear weapons on the US or allies — the defense official and other experts Business Insider contacted said they found both cases extremely unlikely and undesirable.
“It’s always in the US’s favor to be somewhat ambiguous about what they will or won’t do,” said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate in the East Asia Nonproliferation Program. “That’s because there’s no good thing to do. They have to convince South Korean allies and North Korean adversaries that they’ll do anything to protect Seoul, even all-out nuclear war.
There’s a real risk that, even without nuclear weapons, Seoul would fall in a conflict with North Korea. Photo from Stratfor
“But those experienced military leaders know. They’ve run the models. They’ve run the numbers,” Hanham said. There’s just no way to fight North Korea “without chaos and enormous death and damage to the world.”
Because US nuclear weapons would have to fly over China or Russia and most likely would spread deadly fallout in South Korea or as far as Japan, nuclear conflict with North Korea would be likely to bring about World War III — a great power war between nuclear states that the world has developed nuclear weapons to avoid.
To an extent, the US already lives with and deters a nuclear North Korea daily. Hanham said that although it hadn’t been verified, North Korea most likely had a deliverable nuclear weapon that could hit the 10 million civilians in Seoul or the 25,000 permanent US troops stationed in South Korea.
So North Korea will continue on its path toward a nuclear weapon that could hit anywhere in the US — but like Russia, China, and Pakistan, it probably wouldn’t use it.
There are hundreds (if not thousands) of numbered units throughout the military, many with storied histories and with extensive combat roles since the United States military began operating on the world stage in the early 20th Century. The U.S. Army’s 3rd Infantry Regiment can trace its lineage all the way back to the American Revolution. The 1st Infantry Division can claim to be the longest continuously serving division in the U.S. military. Even the U.S. Navy has the famed USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned sailing ship in the fleet. However, no unit has been deployed to every major conflict of the last one hundred years except for one — the 5th Marine Regiment.
The 5th Marine Regiment’s story begins on June 8, 1917, when it was activated in Philadelphia as part of the United States’ buildup for World War I. The Regiment was assigned to the 4th Marine Brigade, which became a part of the U.S. Army’s 2nd Division. The 5th would establish itself in Marine Corps lore for its actions at the Battle of Belleau Wood in the spring of 1918. They would also fight at places such as Aisne and St. Mihiel, as well as the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
During the regiment’s service in France, it earned its nickname, “the Fighting Fifth,” and was awarded the French Fourragère for receiving three Croix de Guerre citations, a decoration members of the 5th Marines still wear today. The unit also had five folks (3 USMC, 2 USN) receive the Medal of Honor.
The next major action for the Fighting Fifth was battling their way across the Pacific in World War II. The 5th landed on Guadalcanal on August 7, 1942 and endured four months of grueling combat on there before being relieved with the rest of the division on December 9, 1942. For their efforts during Guadalcanal, the 5th Marines and the entire 1st Marine Division received their first Presidential Unit Citation.
After a rest and refit in Australia, the 5th Marines returned to combat in the late stages of Operation Cartwheel in late December 1943. They landed at Cape Gloucester, New Britain and would fight there until February 1944 when they were relieved by the 40th Infantry Division. The Marines had another period of rest and refit before encountering their greatest challenges of the war, at Peleliu and Okinawa.
The 5th Marines entered combat on Peleliu on September 15, 1944. Unbeknownst to them, the Japanese changed their tactics from attempting to stop landings at the beach to fortifying the entire island and creating a defense in depth. The lack of this knowledge would cost the Marines dearly. After the seizure of the airfield, the rest of the division set about clearing the remainder of the island.
By late October, the 5th Marines were the only regiment still combat effective and their commander, Col. Harold Harris, turned to siege tactics to remove the Japanese, telling his officers “be lavish with ordnance and stingy with men’s lives.” The Marines handed over operations of the island to the 81st Infantry Division and moved on to prepare for the invasion of Okinawa.
The 5th Marines final action of the World War II was at Okinawa, where they landed along with the rest of the 1st Marine Division and 6th Marine Division on April 1, 1945. They were able to quickly clear the northern part of the island but Japanese resistance to the south would require extraordinary effort to reduce. The fight on Okinawa made places like Sugar Loaf Hill and Shuri Castle famous.In all of World War II four Marines from the 5th were awarded the Medal of Honor. Following the fall of Okinawa and the Japanese surrender, the 5th was sent to China for occupation duty.
War soon found the 5th Marines again when they were deployed as part of the Provisional Marine Brigade to the Pusan Perimeter in South Korea to shore up defenses against the invading North Koreans. The Fighting Fifth then rejoined their World War II counterparts, the 1st and 7th Marines, in reforming the 1st Marine Division to take part in the landings at Inchon and the liberation of Seoul.
That winter the 5th Marines fought for their lives at the “Frozen Chosin” Reservoir. When the situation looked bleak and the Marines were falling back Gen. Oliver Smith told his command, “Retreat, Hell! We’re not retreating, we’re just advancing in a different direction!”
After their withdrawal from North Korea, the 5th Marines remained in the war and would hold off the Chinese attempts to break the Main Line of Resistance until the armistice in July 1953. The heroic efforts of the 5th Marines garnered ten more Medals of Honor and another Presidential Unit Citation. The regiment left Korea in 1955.
Peacetime would not last long for the 5th as just over a decade after leaving Korea they were deployed as part of the troop buildup in Vietnam in May 1966. The 5th Marines and the rest of the 1st Marine Division would spend six years battling the North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong. Their fighting spirit would make their name known once again, this time at places like Huế during the Tet Offensive. During the Vietnam War, seven members of the regiment received the Medal of Honor before returning to Camp Pendleton in 1971.
The 5th Marines returned to combat once again against the forces of Saddam Hussein in 1991 as part of Operation Desert Storm. 1st Battalion served as part of Task Force Ripper, while the 2nd and 3rd Battalions joined later and participated in the Liberation of Kuwait. The 5th Marines returned to the Middle East in 2003 as part of the Invasion of Iraq where they spearheaded the Marine Corps efforts. After defeating Iraqi forces, the 5th Marines remained in Iraq until October 2003, conducting security and stability operations. They would return to Iraq two more times, each time completing a 13-month deployment. Beginning in 2009 separate battalions of the 5th Marines began deployments to Afghanistan until the deployment of Regimental Combat Team 5 in 2011. 2nd Battalion was the last to deploy serving with RCT 6 in 2012.
In the nearly 100 years since the 5th Marine Regiment was first formed, 24 Marines from the regiment have received the Medal of Honor, second only to the 7th Marines 36 recipients. The 5th Marines have also been a part of the 1st Marine Division when it received all nine of its Presidential Unit Citations, as well as earning two of its own during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. According to the Marine Corps website, the 5th Marines are the most decorated regiment in the Corps.
One of the presidential candidates has been on the campaign trail making claims about how the election is “a rigged deal.” And while Donald Trump tries to make a linkage between perceived media bias against him and his declining poll numbers as evidence of this so-called “rigging,” history shows that the American voting process is not as much rigged as it is flawed in some ways.
And nowhere is this truer than with military absentee ballots.
Absentee ballots started during the Civil War when Union soldiers complained that they couldn’t exercise their right to vote because they were stationed along battle lines far away from their home states. President Lincoln, knowing it was going to be a close election and sensing he enjoyed the support of the troops because he was commander-in-chief, pushed to make absentee voting possible. States responded along party lines; Republicans passed laws allowing soldiers to mail ballots home from the war, and Democrats resisted such laws.
The idea died after the war but came back to the attention of lawmakers some 85 years later during World War II. Both Democrats and Republicans figured GIs would support President Roosevelt, which is why Democrats liked the idea and Republicans did not. Most states passed a law allowing absentee ballots, and as a result, nearly 2.6 million service members voted during the 1944 election, according to Donald S. Inbody of The Washington Post.
Demand grew in the decades that followed and processes for absentee ballots, including those used by the military, varied from state to state. Finally, Congress passed overarching guidance in the form of the Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act of 1986.
That guidance was imperfect, however. States often mailed ballots out too close to the election to be returned from overseas in time to be counted. As a result, service members grew disenfranchised and often chose not to participate fearing that to do so would be a waste of time.
This sense came to a head during the controversial presidential election of 2000 between Bush and Gore. Gore, the Democratic candidate, conceded only to take it back after discovering that he was actually winning the popular vote and the count in the crucial state of Florida was only separated by several hundred votes. The Democrats demanded a recount, and lawyers sprang into action across polling places statewide. Suddenly words like “hanging chads” (referring to stuck cut-outs on punch cards used to tally votes on antiquated machines) were part of the national lexicon.
Several thousand military absentee ballots came into play in this winner-take-all scenario. Once again lawmakers came down along party lines. Democrats — fearing the military voters were mostly Republican — tried to have the ballots thrown out because they had arrived past the deadline or weren’t postmarked. The Bush campaign ultimately got the ballots counted, which allowed W. to win the election and become the 43rd president.
Because of that chaos, Congress created the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to better provide information about elections and passed the Military and Overseas Voting Empowerment Act of 2009, which forced states to overhaul election laws to allow troops to request ballots and register to vote electronically. States were also required to have ballots ready to mail 45 days before an election to ensure enough time for the service member to get it back to be counted.
But these actions have far from fixed the problem. As Eric Eversole wrote in The Washington Times, during the 2010 election cycle many local officials missed the 45-day-prior deadline by more than two weeks. The result was upwards of 40,000 military absentee ballots sent only 25 days before election day, not enough time to make it out to ships at sea or forward operating bases and then back to the U.S.
And that’s not the only problem. Military absentee ballots are supposed to be tallied by home states and sent to the EAC, which is charged with reporting the results to Congress, but an independent study of EAC data conducted by the Walter Cronkite School’s News21 national reporting project found that 1 in 8 jurisdictions reported receiving more ballots than they sent, counting more ballots than they received, or rejecting more ballots than they received.
According to News21, some local voting officials think the EAC’s forms for recording military overseas participation are confusing.
“How am I supposed to account for ballots that are sent to domestic addresses but are returned from overseas?” asked Paul Lux, the supervisor of elections in a Florida county with a large population of active duty Air Force personnel. “There are just too many potential anomalies in the way we have to provide service to these voters.”
The process is also complicated on the service member’s side, mostly because of the inherent challenges of the mail systems at the far reaches of America’s military presence around the world but also because the availability of voting information varies between commands.
Matt Boehmer, the director of DoD’s Federal Voting Assistance Program, told News21 that service member confusion “is exacerbated by the fact that military voters never receive confirmation that their ballots were counted.” FVAP has recommended that state election officials notify troops when their ballots are counted.
But in spite of all of the issues challenging the military absentee ballot process, military leaders urge their subordinates to participate in the voting process.
“It’s what you raise your hand to do, support and defend the Constitution,” Capt. Yikalo Gebrehiwet, a company commander at Ft. Bragg, told News21. “The best way to do that is by voting.”
With the tax season upon us, service members and their families can access free tax-filing software and consultations to help them navigate the task of submitting their annual taxes.
Military members and their families can visit the Military OneSource website or call 1-800-342-9647 for the no-cost “MilTax” software, explained Erika Slaton, a program analyst with Military OneSource.
The Defense Department recognizes military members and their families have unique filing situations with deployments, relocations and various deductions and credits, she said.
The MilTax software, previously known as “Military OneSource Tax Services,” was created with the military situation in mind, Slaton said.
Expert Tax Consultants Ready to Help
Tax consultants are available via phone through Military OneSource, Slaton said. In-person tax filing assistance can be accessed at military installations at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance location.
The tax consultants can inform eligible users about the unique tax benefits available to service members and their families, Slaton said.
Tax laws change each year, Slaton pointed out, adding MilTax consultants are experts on the nuances of the law and can help users get the tax credits they earned and deserve.
“That’s why it’s such a great program because it is a program that is specifically designed for those unique military tax situations,” she said.
Confidential, Secure Resources
MilTax is confidential and secure, Slaton said. The online filing program allows users to submit a federal return and up to three state tax returns, she said.
Those eligible for MilTax include members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard. Coast Guardsmen serving under Title 10 authority are entitled to the services as well. Retired and honorably discharged members are authorized for up to 180 days past their separation. Spouses, dependent children and survivors are able to use the free services as well.
Calculations are backed by a 100-percent accuracy guarantee, Slaton said.
The deadline to file taxes this year is Tuesday, April 18. The traditional tax deadline day is April 15, but it falls on a Saturday this year, and the following Monday, April 17, is Emancipation Day, in the District of Columbia — a legal holiday — according to the IRS.
Call, Click, Connect
Slaton wants the military community to know about the range of services and resources available at no cost through the Defense Department-funded Military OneSource, including related to health, family relationships, education, employment, financial issues, deployments and transitions.
Military members and their families, she said, can “call, click and connect today” to access these services.
“We encourage service members and their families to learn more about Military OneSource, MilTax and all of the services that are available because it is a benefit that they deserve,” she said.
The Air Force Chief Scientist said F-35 pilots will be able to control a small group of drones flying nearby from the aircraft cockpit in the air, performing sensing, reconnaissance and targeting functions.
At the moment, the flight path, sensor payload and weapons disposal of airborne drones such as Air Force Predators and Reapers are coordinated from ground control stations.
In the future, drones may be fully operated from the cockpit of advanced fighter jets such as the Joint Strike Fighter or F-22, Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.
“The more autonomy and intelligence you can put on these vehicles, the more useful they will become,” he said.
This development could greatly enhance mission scope, flexibility and effectiveness by enabling a fighter jet to conduct a mission with more weapons, sensors, targeting technology and cargo, Zacharias explained.
For instance, real-time video feeds from the electro-optical/infrared sensors on board an Air Force Predator, Reaper or Global Hawk drone could go directly into an F-35 cockpit, without needing to go to a ground control station. This could speed up targeting and tactical input from drones on reconnaisance missions in the vicinity of where a fighter pilot might want to attack. In fast-moving combat circumstances involving both air-to-air and air-to-ground threats, increased speed could make a large difference.
“It’s almost inevitable people will be saying – I want more missiles on board to get through defenses or I need some EW (electronic warfare) countermeasures because I don’t have the payload to carry a super big pod,” he explained. “A high powered microwave may have some potential that will require a dedicated platform. The negative side is you have to watch out that you don’t overload the pilot,” Zacharias added.
In addition, drones could be programmed to fly into heavily defended or high-risk areas ahead of manned-fighter jets in order to assess enemy air defenses and reduce risk to pilots.
“Decision aides will be in cockpit or on the ground and more platform oriented autonomous systems. A wing-man, for instance, might be carrying extra weapons, conduct ISR tasks or help to defend an area,” he said.
Advances in computer power, processing speed and areas referred to as “artificial intelligence” are rapidly changing the scope of what platforms are able to perform without needing human intervention. This is mostly developing in the form of what Zacharias referred to as “decision aide support,” meaning machines will be able to better interpret, organize, analyze and communicate information to a much greater extent – without have humans manage each individual task.
“A person comes in and does command and control while having a drone execute functions. The resource allocation will be done by humans,” Zacharias said.
The early phases of this kind of technology is already operational in the F-35 cockpit through what is called “sensor-fusion.” This allows the avionics technology and aircraft computer to simultaneously organize incoming information for a variety of different sensors – and display the data on a single integrated screen for the pilot. As a result, a pilot does not have the challenge of looking at multiple screens to view digital map displays, targeting information or sensory input, among other things.
Another advantage of these technological advances is that one human may have an ability to control multiple drones and perform a command and control function – while drones execute various tasks such as sensor functions, targeting, weapons transport or electronic warfare activities.
At the moment, multiple humans are often needed to control a single drone, and new algorithms increasing autonomy for drones could greatly change this ratio. Zacharias explained a potential future scenario wherein one human is able to control 10 – or even 100 – drones.
Algorithms could progress to the point where a drone, such as a Predator or a Reaper, might be able to follow a fighter aircraft by itself – without needing its flight path navigated from human direction from the ground.
Unlike ground robotics wherein autonomy algorithms have to contend with an ability to move quickly in relation to unanticipated developments and other moving objects, simple autonomous flight guidance from the air is much more manageable to accomplish.
Since there are often fewer obstacles in the air compared with the ground, drones above the ground can be programmed more easily to fly toward certain pre-determined locations, often called a “way-points.”
At the same time, unanticipated movements, objects or combat circumstances can easily occur in the skies as well, Zacharias said.
“The hardest thing is ground robotics. I think that is really tough. I think the air basically is today effectively a solved problem. The question is what happens when you have to react more to your environment and a threat is coming after you,” he said.
As a result, scientists are now working on advancing autonomy to the point where a drone can, for example, be programmed to spoof a radar system, see where threats are and more quickly identify targets independently.
“We will get beyond simple guidance and control and will get into tactics and execution,” Zacharias added.
Wargames, exercises and simulations are one of the ways the Air Force is working to advance autonomous technologies.
“Right now we are using lots of bandwidth to send our real-time video. One of the things that we have is a smarter on-board processor. These systems can learn over time and be a force multiplier. There’s plenty of opportunity to go beyond the code base of an original designer and work on a greater ability to sense your environment or sense what your teammate might be telling you as a human,” he said.
For example, with advances in computer technology, autonomy and artificial intelligence, drones will be able to stay above a certain area and identify particular identified relevant objects or targets at certain times, without needing a human operator, Zacharias added.
This is particularly relevant because the exorbitant amount of ISR video feeds collected needs organizing algorithms and technology to help process and sift through the vast volumes of gathered footage – in order to pinpoint and communicate what is tactically relevant.
“With image processing and pattern recognition, you could just send a signal instead of using up all this bandwidth saying ‘hey I just saw something 30-seconds ago you might want to look at the video feed I am sending right now,'” he explained.
The Army has advanced manned-unmanned teaming technology in its helicopter fleet –successfully engineering Apache and Kiowa air crews to control UAS flight paths and sensor payloads from the air in the cockpit. Army officials say this technology has yielded successful combat results in Afghanistan.
Senior Air Force leaders have said that the services’ new next-generation bomber program, Long Range Strike Bomber or LRS-B, will be engineered to fly manned and unmanned missions.
Also, in September of 2013, the Air Force and Boeing flew an unmanned F-16 Falcon at supersonic speeds for the first time at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. The unmanned fighter was able to launch, maneuver and return to base without a pilot.
At the same time, despite the speed at which unmanned technology is progressing, many scientist and weapons’ developers are of the view that human pilots will still be needed – given the speed at which the human brain can quickly respond to unanticipated developments.
There is often a two-second long lag time before a UAS in the air can respond to or implement directions from a remote pilot in a ground station, a circumstance which underscores the need for manned pilots when it comes to fighter jets, Air Force officials said.
Therefore, while cargo planes or bombers with less of a need to maneuver in the skies might be more easily able to embrace autonomous flight – fighter jets will still greatly benefit from human piloting, Air Force scientists have said.
While computer processing speed and algorithms continue to evolve at an alarming pace, it still remains difficult to engineer a machine able to instantly respond to other moving objects or emerging circumstances, Air Force scientists have argued.
However, sensor technology is progressing quickly to the point where fighter pilots will increasingly be able to identify threats at much greater distances, therefore remove the need to dogfight. As a result, there may be room for an unmanned fighter jet in the not-too-distant future, given the pace of improving autonomous technology.
Finances are stressful in emergency situations, and it doesn’t matter what rank you are. From an unexpected death in the family to a broken car courtesy of the deployment curse, financial emergencies happen no matter how well you plan for them.
Fortunately for service members, their spouses, and veterans, there’s a little safety net in place for each of the services to help when these things happen, dubbed the “Emergency Relief Fund.”
The Army has the Army Emergency Relief, a non-profit that helps soldiers, retirees and families with resources in a pinch. Additionally, AER provides access to interest free loans, grants, and scholarships.
The AER is endorsed and run by the Army.
The National Guard has the National Guard Soldier and Airman Emergency Relief Fund, which provides up to $500 to eligible households. For more information, check out the National Guard’s publication on its emergency relief fund.
The Air Force has the Air Force Aid Society, and it provides emergency assistance, education support, and community programs. While the AFAS is a private non-profit, it is “the official charity of the United States Air Force.”
The Navy and Marine Corps share a relief fund called the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. The NMCRS is a non-profit that, though unaffiliated with the Department of Defense, can be found on nearly all Navy or Marine Corps bases.
The NMCRS is completely funded by donations and on-base thrift stores, and it provides financial assistance and counseling, quick assist loans, education assistance, health education and post-combat support, budget for baby classes, emergency travel, disaster relief, and the on base thrift stores.
American Red Cross:
For service members, family members, and eligible veterans who are not near an installation, there is The American Red Cross. The Red Cross works alongside the above mentioned aid societies to provide assistance.
China’s Defense Ministry says a Chinese warship is assisting the US Navy in its search for a sailor who is missing and may have gone overboard during operations in the South China Sea.
The ministry said in a statement August 3 that the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s guided-missile frigate Liuzhou is coordinating with the US in the search for the sailor “in the spirit of humanitarianism.”
The US Navy’s Pacific Fleet says the destroyer USS Stethem reported a man overboard around 9 a.m. August 2. Multiple searches of the destroyer were conducted but the sailor hasn’t been found.
China, which claims virtually all of the South China Sea, accused the US in July of trespassing in its waters when the Stethem sailed within 12 nautical miles (32 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel Group.
The operation was aimed at affirming the right to passage and challenging what the US considers China’s excessive territorial claims in the area. China sent ships to intercept the destroyer.
China has strongly objected to repeated freedom of navigation missions by the US Navy in the South China Sea.
The number of civilians dying in Afghanistan’s protracted 16-year war dropped slightly during the first three months of this year, the United Nations reported April 27, but in a surprising twist more women and children are among the dead and wounded than in previous casualty reports.
The report blamed the hike in casualties among women and children on aerial attacks. According to U.N. figures, there were 148 casualties from aerial bombings in the first three months of this year compared to 29 last year. Casualties from unexploded ordnance, which seemed to claim mostly children, was also up slightly.
“It is civilians, with increasing numbers of women and children, who far too often bear the brunt of the conflict,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan in a release.
Although there was a four percent overall drop in casualties during the first three months of the year, the U.N. suggested the drop may be the result of Afghan civilians fleeing their homes. According to the report there is an unprecedented number of Afghans displaced by war living inside the country. There are another 1.5 million Afghans living as refugees in neighboring Pakistan.
The U.N. blamed 62 percent of the civilian casualties on insurgents while ordinary Afghans caught in the crossfire accounted for nearly 35 percent of all casualties.
Both the Taliban and the Islamic State group are present in Afghanistan. They are fighting each other and Afghanistan’s security forces.
Earlier this week, a half dozen Taliban attacked an army base in northern Afghanistan in one of the worst attacks against the security forces, killing as many as 140 soldiers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has about 9,800 troops in Afghanistan. NATO ended its combat mission in the country in 2014, and the primary role of U.S. troops is now to assist and train, though increasingly the U.S. has been called in by Afghan Security Forces for support.
The report accused anti-government elements, without specifying Taliban or the Islamic State group, of intentionally targeting civilians.
“During an armed conflict, the intentional killing and injuring of civilians is a war crime,” Yamamoto said in the release. “Anti-Government Elements must stop this deplorable practice and everybody must apply- and respect – the definition of ‘civilian’ provided by international humanitarian law.”
Legendary U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis once said, “The most important six inches on the battlefield is between your ears.”
Service members who have deployed during today’s complex conflicts likely have a special appreciation for Mattis’ assertion that the mind matters most.
In an era where the military is heavily involved in both combat operations and nation-building, troops are often expected to simultaneously sustain focus, make nuanced, split-second decisions about the use of force, and reach back into their memories to draw on their training during high-stress situations.
These efforts require a high frontal cortex functional capacity. The frontal cortex helps us with both emotional regulation (being able to think and not just react) and upper level cognition (focus). These brain functions comprise our working memory capacity, and interestingly, we can improve that capacity with the use of some well-studied, relatively simple exercises.
Unfortunately, although the military emphasizes the importance of physical training and does a wonderful job creating developmental stress opportunities, it doesn’t do a great job training service members to rest, or do the restorative practices needed to maximize the mind’s growth opportunities.
Restorative practices move our bodies to a rested state between action and sleep. These practices matter because they increase our physical and mental performance, which are important both in and out of the military. The same things that make you a better warrior can also make you a better parent, partner, employee, and friend.
Why does mental fitness training matter?
For active duty servicemembers and veterans alike, mental fitness training should include stressors alongside very intentional mental recovery time. When both are combined, physical and mental performance increase, clarity of thought improves, and you’re able to slow your reaction times in the right contexts.
The good news is you don’t have to wait for the military to provide this training – you can train yourself.
But before we get to the training part, let’s take a quick look at what happens in your body during and after you encounter stressors.
Think about the last time you experienced stress. Maybe it was being stuck behind a slow driver in traffic or gearing up for a mandatory run with a wicked hangover. Maybe it was being in a firefight or being lost somewhere. Here’s a snapshot of what happens in your body in those scenarios: Your brain is operating in an active state, indicated by what researchers call Beta waves. This is a high-functioning mental space. As the stress is registered by your brain, a chain reaction fires. Your body releases cortisol (a stress hormone), adrenaline, and a host of other chemicals to help you cope. It also releases a hormone called DHEA into your bloodstream.
DHEA’s entire role is to help your brain grow from the stressor you just survived. The hormone increases synaptic firing and neural connectivity (you’ll think faster) and increases working memory capacity (emotional regulation and focus). DHEA is what makes stressful experiences worth your time, but there’s a catch: although the hormone is released when your body or brain are stressed, it only does its work during recovery time – when your body and brain consciously downshift.
One of the best, validated ways to move your brain to this state is through mindfulness-based stress reduction, or – as it is more commonly known – meditation.
Meditation takes your brain from Beta state (alert, on guard) to Theta space (at rest, but aware). When you sleep, your brain produces Delta waves (deep, dreamless sleep).
Mediation is one of the fastest ways to give your mind and body the space they need to turn stress into strength. Even if you only dedicate 15 minutes each day to it, you’re likely to see dramatic changes in your ability to focus and regulate emotions within a week or two of practice.
Every hurdle you jump over and every stress or trigger you encounter becomes more useful if you carve out recovery time. Meditation is performance enhancement – it trains us for mental fitness.
How can I train myself?
You don’t have to run to an island somewhere to start experiencing more calm – it’s something you can easily make part of your day.
Learn mindfulness meditation (takes about 10 minutes). It’s simple to teach, simple to learn, but not simple to practice – it may take some getting used to. I like iRest.us (it’s been validated specifically in military community). It’s simple and a great place to start.
Ritualize your practice by making mindfulness a regular part of your day. Prioritize this opportunity for growth.
Track your progress. How did you mentally feel week 1? Week 2? Write down wins so you can remember them. A great journal might work for you.
Continue your practice daily.
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.