Check Out The 'Iron Man' Suit That Special Operations Forces Want By 2018 - We Are The Mighty
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Check Out The ‘Iron Man’ Suit That Special Operations Forces Want By 2018

Photo Credit: US Army


MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla., Jan. 28, 2015 – Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit is cool. But it’s not real.

The Tactical Assault Light Operators Suit is cool, too. But it is real and may soon be protecting America’s special operations forces going into harm’s way.

The TALOS suit “was chartered to explore and catalyze a revolutionary integration of advanced technology to provide comprehensive ballistic protection, peerless tactical capabilities and ultimately to enhance the strategic effectiveness of the SOF operator of the future,” Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel III, Socom’s commander, said at the National Defense Industries Association’s Special Operations/Low-intensity Conflict Symposium here yesterday.

The joint acquisition task force for the suit was established in November 2013 and is banking on breakthrough technology — or technologies — to protect special operators, Votel said. Socom, he said, has put together an unprecedented group from industry, academia and government to develop the prototype.

And Votel says they are on the mark.

“Although many significant challenges remain, our goal for a Mark 5 prototype suit by 2018 is on track right now,” he said.

A Holistic System

Future prototype suits have exoskeletons that augment the power of the operators, Votel explained. They will also feature helmets with heads-up display technology. Other future prototypes will feature cooling/heating systems and medical sensors to monitor an operator’s vital signs.

“It’s a holistic system with open systems architecture, so if a new technology rises we can swap it in,” said a joint task force member speaking on background during a recent interview at Socom at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. “Survivability is our number-one tenet. We have to look not only at the integration of current systems for personal protective equipment, but also to augment the guy’s motion.”

This is serious science with risks and serious trade-offs, and the task force’s main effort this year was to “get as many smart people working on it as possible,” the task force member said.

A rapid prototyping event was held in Tampa from April to June 2014. “The idea of the event was to bring industry , Interagency [and] academia together with special operators to accelerate the development of the technology and accelerate the brainstorming of the ideas for the suit and the project,” said a task force member.

It worked.

More than 200 people from a wide range of disciplines answered the open call. “Putting those people in one room enabled cross polinization and an incredible collaborative teamwork atmosphere,” the task force member said.

But the rapid prototyping event was more than simply charting the way ahead of theorizing on how the various parts would fit together, the task force member said. There were 3D computer modeling designers participating, he added.

“People could explore concepts by seeing what it would look like, how it would fit, how it would affect other aspects of the design,” an engineer said. “Usually in [Defense Department] contracting you don’t get that kind of immediate feedback. We could actually have a physical model of what we were thinking about.”

The team went from cutting designs from foam to sculpting it from clay to 3D printing the prototypes. “We were able to try a group of different ideas with the experts in the room,” a task force member said.

‘Big Leap’ Challenges Remain

Going into the rapid prototyping event, the task force members had ideas of what the problems were going to be and the event confirmed them. “It also pointed to ways we can surmount those challenges and pointed out challenges we really didn’t think would be that tough,” the engineer of the group said.

An untethered power source is going to be a problem, officials said. The power will be needed to operate the exoskeleton, cool or heat the operator and fuel all the sensors in the suit. “Identifying an untethered power source for extended duration is one leap of technology,” one official said. “It’s something that doesn’t exist in that man-portable size technology. If someone has an arc reactor in their basement, I know how they can make a lot of money.”

The task force is looking at novel materials and materials used in different configurations. “If you could make armor that was super, super light and is a leap in technology, that buys down some of our other problems,” an official said. “We wouldn’t need as much power, for example.

“We’re looking to get those leaps of technologies,” he continued. “Those leaps of capabilities to the guys so they can do their jobs better than they do now.”

Suit Sensor Challenges

Another challenge is with the suit’s sensors, officials said. One problem deals with latency — the time between when a sensor detects something and when it is transmitted to the brain. Night-vision goggles are immediate — there is zero-difference from when the sensor picks it up and it hits the eye.

“When I move my head, the picture is with me all the time,” the engineer said. “The problem with current visual solutions right now is when I move my head, it lags and takes a second to catch up.”

Today, even the best prototype sensor solution still creates nausea after being under it for 30 minutes.

The task force never forgets they are developing this suit for real people, for comrades in arms, and they have constant interaction with operators, officials said. “The last thing you want to do is build a suit that nobody wants to get inside,” said one task force member.

The task force has given various pieces of technology to operators to test. Recently, operators tested various heads-up displays. They also had user assessment of the first-year exoskeletons. “We had operators from all components strap them on and run through an obstacle course,” one task force member said. “We also did functional movement tests. It gives the operators the chance to come and tell us what they liked and disliked about the prototypes.”

TALOS has a number of civilian uses as well, officials said. Firefighters may find the initial prototype passive load bearing exoskeleton suits handy, as would other people working in extreme environments. The results of tests will be seen not only in the special operations community, but in improved ballistic protection for all service members.

On the wall of the task force building is a countdown calendar. The day of the interview, the number read 877 — the days left before the Mark 5 first prototype suit must be ready for testing.

“We know why we’re doing this,” one member of the task force said. “This is life-saving technology. There are challenges, but the juice is definitely worth the squeeze.”

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)

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5 crimes involving a lot of troops that were forgiven by the United States

We all make mistakes. Sometimes we all make mistakes together. And when we all make mistakes sometimes punishing us isn’t worth the time, effort and money. Depending on the severity of the crime, it might be more efficient to just give us all a mulligan and call the whole thing off.


The U.S.Department of Defense is familiar with this sort of calculus. Between Selective Service (aka “The Draft”) with civilians and the crimes unique to military personnel, problems with the application of laws involving the military are bound to happen. Sometimes they happened en masse. In those instances, the government has decided it would be better not to prosecute or the law became unenforceable because so many people committed the crime. It’s rare, but it happened. Here are five times where we were forgiven our trespasses:

1. Adultery (by the masses)

The list of email addresses released by hacktivists The Impact Group included thousands of .mil addresses. This means military members actually used their military email accounts to sign up for Ashley Madison, a site designed to facilitate adultery, which is a crime under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), punishable by a year in confinement and a dishonorable discharge.

Among these were 250 addresses from various aircraft carriers, addresses from every destroyer and amphibious assault ship in the Navy, 1,665 navy.mil and 809 usmc.mil addresses, 54 af.mil addresses, and 46 uscg.mil addresses. The Army was the most impressive, with 6,788 army.mil addresses signed up. At first, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said DoD would investigate but the Pentagon has since decided not to, since there would be no proof of actual adultery and simply signing up for a website isn’t a crime.

2. Homosexuality

After 18 years, the policy governing homosexuality in the U.S. military known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) was repealed. In response to the repeal, the Army issued a statement saying simply “the law is repealed” and reminded soldiers to treat each other fairly.

(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The thing is being gay is not in itself a crime under the UCMJ, but the way homosexuals have sex is, under Article 125. Homosexuals were simply given an “Other than Honorable” discharge. With more than 66,000 gay and lesbian men and women in uniform, trying to control the way they have sex becomes problematic after a while. Now with the DADT repeal, former service members are allowed to reenlist, but their cases will not be given priority. Officials have so far failed to address how all of this affects Article 125 of the UCMJ.

3. Dodging the draft

On January 21, 1977, newly-elected President Jimmy Carter granted a full pardon to hundreds of thousands of American men who evaded the Vietnam War draft by fleeing the country or not registering. Carter campaigned on this promise in an effort to help heal the country from the cultural rift the war created.

Most fled to Canada, where they were eventually welcomed as immigrants. Exempt from the pardon were deserters from the U.S. Army who met their obligation and then fled. 50,000 Americans became Canadian during the draft, facing prosecution if they returned home.

4. Seceding from the Union

In the most egregious example of getting away with flaunting the rules (to put it mildly), in 1872 Congress passed a bill signed by then-President Ulysses S. Grant which restored voting rights and the right to hold public office to all but 500 members of the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War.

The original act restricting the rights of former Confederates was passed in 1866. The act covered more than 150,000 former Confederate troops. The 500 who were still restricted were among the top leadership of the Confederacy.

5. Illegal Immigration

This one hasn’t happened yet but the discussion is very serious. The current version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) contains a controversial plan to allow illegal immigrants with deportation deferments to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. U.S. military veterans currently serving in the House of Representatives offer bipartisan public support for the provision.

(Photo: TA4.org)

The NDAA as is faces significant challenges in the entire Congress. Last year, Representatives Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), a Desert Storm veteran and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), an Iraq War veteran entered a similar bill, called the ENLIST Act, which would have had the same provisions but it was quickly sidelined.

 

NOW: 6 Weird laws unique to the U.S. military

OR: The 5 military laws that nearly everyone breaks

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Hillary Clinton claims she almost joined the Marine Corps

Is Hillary Clinton that person at the bar who claims they almost joined the military?


In 1994, the then-First Lady claimed she tried to join the Marines in 1975, but the Marine recruiter in Arkansas suggested she try the Army because she was too old for the Corps. She reiterated this story in a breakfast in New Hampshire while on the 2016 campaign trail recently.

“He looks at me and goes, ‘Um, how old are you?’ And I said, ‘Well I am 26, I will be 27,'” Clinton said. “And he goes ‘Well, that is kind of old for us.'”

“And then he says to me, and this is what gets me, ‘maybe the dogs will take you,’ meaning the Army.”

She meant “dogfaces.” In another version of the story, Clinton, then wearing thick glasses, said the recruiter included bad eyesight as a reason for being dismissed.

Maureen Dowd, a reporter for the New York Times, was as skeptical of Clinton’s claim as the world is now of Maureen Dowd. She noted Clinton’s status as an Ivy League, anti-establishment, anti-war, “up-and-coming legal star” would probably not make the Marines a real consideration for Clinton.

The Washington Post asked Marines who were Judge Advocate recruiters at the time if it would be possible the Marines would turn away a prime recruit with credentials like Hillary Rodham’s. The answer was a resounding no. Some lawyers in the Marines at the time “had coke bottle glasses” or “weighed 200 pounds.”

Clinton’s friends at the time vouch for her story, saying that she was likely to press the military to see how far women could go and what kind of career access she would have.

Of course, the former First Lady’s almost-service certainly prepared her for the not sniper who didn’t shoot at her in Bosnia.

She could take some almost training from Donald Trump, who feels like he was in the military because he went to a military boarding school.

Clinton isn’t the only candidate with a fuzzy recollection of almost serving. GOP candidate Dr. Ben Carson recently admitted he was never offered  a “full scholarship” offer to West Point. Carson was found out when the world realized scholarships to West Point don’t exist and the dinner where Gen. William Westmoreland met Carson and would initiate the offer process didn’t happen because Westmoreland could not have been in Detroit as Carson claimed.

If the run for the White House doesn’t pan out, maybe Clinton and Carson can join the Almost-Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America to continue their almost service with Brian Williams.

(Featured image by Keith Kissel)

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Nuclear trains may be coming back

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia are dangerously high. Both sides are complaining that the other has ignored military norms in international airspace and at sea, both have accused the other of violating treaties designed to prevent large-scale war, and both are developing systems to counter the other’s strength.


But, while Russia works on new tanks and bombers and the U.S. tries to get its second fifth-generation fighter fully operational, each side is also looking to a nearly forgotten technology from the Cold War, nuclear-armed trains.

The idea is to construct a train that looks normal to satellite feeds, aerial surveillance and, if possible, observers on the ground, but carries one or more intercontinental ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads.

Concept art of the Soviet Union’s first nuclear-armed train, the RS-23 Molodets. (Image: Defenseimagery.mil)

These trains would remain in a fortified depot during normal operations. During periods of nuclear brinksmanship, though, they would be dispersed across the country to provide a credible counterstrike if the enemy fires their nukes first.

The trains, if properly camouflaged, would be nearly impossible to target and could launch their payloads within minutes.

Russia got the missile cars to work first and fielded an operational version in 1991. In the early 1990s, America built prototype rail cars for the Peacekeeper Rail Garrison missile system and tested them, but then the Soviet Union collapsed and the project was cancelled.

One of Russia’s first nuclear-armed trains on display in the Saint Petersburg railway museum. Photo: CC BY-SA 2.5 Panther

Now, Russia has leaked that it is designing and fielding a new version of the trains. The Barguzin missile trains, named for a fierce wind that comes off of Russia’s Lake Baikal, will carry six RS-24 Yars missiles each. Yars missiles can carry up to six independently-targetable warheads with 100-300 kilotons of explosive power each.

The missile cars and fuel tanks are to be disguised as refrigeration cars and will be indistinguishable from regular trains if the weapons live up to the hype. Each will be able to deploy with its own security force and missile personnel for up to 28 days without resupply.

America has been flirting with restarting its nuclear trains, but it doesn’t seem likely. The Air Force awarded study contracts in 2013 to look at the feasibility of a “nuclear subway” system where missile launching trains would have dedicated tracks underground.

Concept art for the U.S. Peacekeeper Rail Garrison missile system. Image: San Diego Air Space Museum

But, budget problems that were biting at the Pentagon then have continued to hound it, and mobile launchers are expensive. Plus, most Americans don’t like the idea of nuclear trains running under their feet any more than they like the idea of nuclear trucks driving through their local streets.

The feasibility of Russia’s plans is also suspect. After all, the Russian Defense Ministry is running into worse budget problems than the Pentagon. It’s ability to fund a nuclear-armed train while oil prices are low and its economy is in shambles is questionable at best.

Right now, America’s main counter to Russian nuclear trains, and any other intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, appears to be its missile shields in Europe which could intercept many outbound nuclear missiles.

China has also flirted with nuclear trains. In 2013, Chinese media – whether accidentally or on purpose – leaked footage of a train modified to hold DF-31 and DF-31A missiles which can carry a single 1-megaton nuclear warhead. There were some questions at the times about whether or not the system was truly operational.

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First female Marine recruit signs infantry contract

Two sergeants take cover while maneuvering to conduct an enemy counter-attack during a pilot test at Range 107, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, March 2, 2015. | Photo by Sgt. Alicia R. Leaders


The first woman to enlist in the Marine Corps with an infantry contract is headed to boot camp later this year.

A 19-year-old female applicant had contracted into the Marines’ delayed entry program, selecting to enlist in the infantry, Jim Edwards, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, told Military.com.

The contract means that she will enter the 0300 community, with her specific military occupational specialty to be determined according to the needs of the Marine Corps at School of Infantry training in Camp Geiger, North Carolina, he said.

The poolee is set to ship to recruit training between October and December of this year, Edwards said. At this point, she has not been publicly identified and she has opted not to conduct any interviews, he said.

There will be numerous physical hurdles to cross before she gets to an infantry unit in the fleet.

In order to qualify for the infantry contract, the recruit had to pass an enhanced initial strength test including a mile-and-a-half run, three pullups, an ammunition can lift and crunches, Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Philip Kulczewski told Military.com.

She will have to pass this enhanced IST again after she reaches boot camp at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. Non-infantry recruits, on the other hand, take a strength test with no ammunition can lift requirement and the option for women to conduct a flexed-arm hang, instead of pullups.

About 45 days into boot camp, the recruit and all other recruits slated for infantry jobs will need to pass a physical fitness test that includes a six-pullup requirement, Kulczewski said.

If a recruit fails to pass any of these tests, they risk being reclassified into a non-infantry job.

And that is proving to be a stringent requirement.

According to data obtained by Military.com and first reported by the Associated Press, seven female recruits have attempted to pass the enhanced strength and physical fitness tests since January. One has passed, and six have been reclassified to different jobs.

Among male recruits, 1,457 have taken the tests and 46 have been reclassified.

Kulczewski said the female recruits who were counted in this data were attempting to enter one of 11 ground combat jobs that the Marine Corps opened to women in 2014, ahead of the mandate at the start of this year to allow women into every combat specialty. These previously opened jobs include low-altitude air defense gunner, field artillery radar operator, and repairer/technician for a variety of combat vehicles, among others.

Before getting assigned a specific MOS, men and women entering the infantry field also must pass a range of job-specific physical skills tests administered once they reach the School of Infantry.

Applicants for all infantry jobs must demonstrate the ability to conduct a casualty evacuation of a combat-loaded teammate, scale a wall, and conduct an MK-19 machine gun lift. Other job-specific skills include breaching a door with a battering ram, conducting a 20-kilometer ruck run, lifting a tank towbar, and more.

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The nice old man in the popular military meme is actually operator AF

If you follow us on Facebook or popular military pages like Terminal Lance, Duffel Blog, and others, chances are you’ve come across the meme of Sgt. Maj. Mike Vining.


You know, the soldier in his Army dress uniform with the smug, nice looking grandfather face wearing a huge fruit salad on his chest and massive spectacles.

Sergeant Maj. Mike Vining as a popular military meme

Yes, that one. After noticing the comments under one of our articles shared on Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said mentioning his badassery, we looked Vining up.

Turns out, he’s operator as f-ck! While some may say, “duh, just look at his ribbons,” it’s easy to be dismissive with that Mr. Rodgers look — it just doesn’t fit.

Related: A rare glimpse of life as a Delta Force operator

Vining’s full list of military accolades, including his DD-214, career timeline, and pictures of him serving, are included in his Together We Served profile.

Most noticeably, Vining was a 1st SFOD-D — Delta Force — operator during his three decade Army career. Under the “Reflections on SGM Vining’s US Army Service” section he comments about his decision to join Delta Force:

In 1978, I decided I wanted something more challenging, so I volunteered to join a new unit that was forming up at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. They wanted people with an EOD background. The unit was 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment – Delta (Airborne). I spent the next 21 years in Delta and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), except for a year in a EOD unit in Alaska. In 1988, I transferred from EOD to Infantry. I figured I stood a better chance making Sergeant Major in Infantry, which worked out for me.

Like most who served, he also had unforgettable buddies. When asked to recount a particular incident from his service that may or may not have been funny at the time — but still makes him laugh — he said:

It would be SFC Donald L. “Don” Briere. At times he reminded me of the cartoon character Wiley Coyote. We were in New Zealand in 1980 on a joint-country special operations exercise. We were on a recon mission to scout out a target site. It was just Don and I on the recon team. We had a tall steep muddy embankment that we needed to negotiate. I looked at it and thought, no way. Don thought we could do it. As he moved across it, you could see his hands and feet sliding down. He clawed up and slid down some more. Finally he slid all the way down the slope into the water. I was rolling with laughter and said, “You want me to follow you?” I found another way around the obstacle.

Vining continues to be involved with the military and veteran community, he’s a member of several organizations, including the VFW, National EOD Association, and others, according to his profile.

After exploring his incredible career, Vining is someone we’d definitely love to have a drink with.

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37 been-there-done-that nicknames for military gear

At the pointy end of the spear (and in the rear with the gear) there are official nomenclatures that you’ll find on procurement documents and supply forms and then there are the names that troops really use to identify something. Here are 37 terms that fleet players use to refer to the some of the stuff they use every day:


1. 100-mph tape 

Basically, duct tape. Oddly enough, the tape called duck tape, duct tape, and 100-mph tape was supposedly named duck tape by American troops in WWII. When Duck Tape became a registered trademark, the military had to start using a different name for it in manuals and publications. 100-mph tape was substituted, but the actual tape is the same.

2. 30 mike-mike

(Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Fernando Serna)

The 30mm grenade launcher or the ammunition that it fires, most commonly used to refer to the cannon on an Apache helicopter or an A-10 attack plane. Another version of this is 40 mike-mike, referring to a 40mm grenade launcher, like the M320 or Mark-19, or the ammunition those weapons fire.

3. 5-ton 

A large truck used to move supplies and troops. It is commonly misreported that the 5-ton (10,000 lb.) nickname comes from the weight of the truck, but it’s actually the cargo weight the vehicle is rated to carry in off-road conditions. Most of the trucks that have carried the nickname have actually weighed over 10 tons.

4. Alice/Molle/Ruck

The large backpack troops carry in the field. Alice and Molle are both named for the acronym that described a specific generation of the equipment. ALICE stood for all-purpose, lightweight individual carrying equipment. MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. Ruck is simply short for rucksack.

5. Ass

(Photo: Gunnery Sgt. Robert K. Blankenship)

A military asset with a lot of firepower, generally referring to armored vehicles or tanks.

6. Bird

An aircraft.

7. Birth control glasses (“BCGs”)

(Photo: Stacey Pearsall)

Glasses given out in basic training that were nearly impossible to look attractive in. Designated the S9, the frames were dropped in 2012 for the 5A, frames with a slimmer, more contemporary look.

8. Boomstick

A weapon, most commonly an M4 or M16. This nickname is generally used by someone trying to sound stupid for comedic effect.

9. Cammies

(Photo: US Navy Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Michael Starkey)

Camouflage uniform for blending into the environment.

10. CHU

Pronounced “chew,” CHU is an acronym for containerized housing unit. CHUs are shipping containers that are built to be shipped on trains and boats like normal cargo, but can be quickly converted into living areas on arrival at a base.

11. Deuce-and-a-half

A truck designed to carry at least 2.5 tons (5,000 lb.) of cargo. The first truck to carry the designation was the GMC CCKW. The current deuce-and-a-half, the M35, is being replaced by the family of medium tactical vehicles. The FMTV has different models, but only one will continue the legacy of the “deuce and a half,” all other variants will carry 5 tons or more.

12. Donkey Dick

A flexible spout that can be screwed onto a gasoline can, especially the 5-gallon jug most commonly carried by military vehicles.

13. E-tool

(Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho)

A shovel. The official term for the foldable shovel troops carry is an “entrenching tool.”

14. Fart sack

For Marines and soldiers, this is most commonly used to refer to sleeping bags. The Air Force will also use this term to refer to flight suits.

15. Fast mover

A jet, especially one that is providing close air support.

16. Full battle rattle

All combat equipment assigned to a service member. When troops are told to get into full battle rattle, it typically includes body armor, helmet, knees and elbow pads, ballistic glasses, ear plugs, gloves, weapons, and load carrying equipment.

17. Green Ivan

Pop-up targets used at ranges to test marksmanship. Green Ivans are made of shaped green plastic in the rough shape of a soldier complete with helmet and rifle.

18. Hangar queen

(Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Anthony W. Johnson)

An aircraft in the maintenance area that is being used for parts.

19. Hooch

A shelter. While “hooch” is sometimes used to refer to a service member’s room in a building, it is most commonly used to mean a small tent, sometimes improvised from items like tarps or ponchos.

20. Hook-and-loop tape

Commonly called Velcro. Like 100-mph tape, this term is used because Velcro is trademarked. The fasteners work by pushing together two pieces of cloth or plastic tape, one covered in tiny plastic hooks and one covered in tiny loops of thread or plastic. The hooks sink into the loops and hold fast.

21. JDAM

(Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)

Most service members use JDAM to refer to a GPS-guided, large bomb dropped from a plane, but it is more accurately a kit attached to the bomb. JDAM stands for joint direct attack munition, and it is a kit that combines GPS and a inertial guidance systems. The kit is attached to bombs between 500 and 2,000 lb. that do not have built-in guidance systems. The JDAM kit can guide the bomb to within a few meters of designated GPS coordinates.

22. Ka-bar

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Nicolas von Kospoth)

A utility and combat knife used by service members since WWII, most famously the Marine Corps. “Ka-bar” is used to refer to any knife of the correct style, but it’s most properly used to refer to the original knife made by KA-BAR, a knife company based out of Olean, New York.

23. Kevlar/Steel pot

A helmet. Both nicknames are in current circulation, but U.S. helmets have not been made of steel since the early 1980s. Kevlar fibers were originally used in the PASGT helmet and are still a major component of the current helmet, the advanced combat helmet (ACH).

24. Mah-deuce/Fitty

Nicknames for the M2, .50-cal. machine gun. “Mah-deuce” refers to the M2 nomenclature while “fitty” is a deliberate mispronunciation of the weapons caliber.

25. Moonbeam

A flashlight. This nickname is most commonly used in the Marine Corps.

26. MOPP

(Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Kevin R. Reed)

Gear used to protect troops from chemical, biological, and nuclear attacks. MOPP is an acronym for mission oriented protective posture.

27. NODs/NVGs

Night vision devices. NOD is an acronym for night optic devices. NVG is an initialism that stands for night vision goggles. The nicknames are used interchangeably by troops.

28. Pajamas

A derogatory name for flight suits due to the suits’ visual similarity to onesie pajamas. The suits are a single-piece coverall that zips up the front.

29. Pig

(Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Arlo K. Abrahamson)

Originally referred to the M60 machine gun, a 7.62mm machine gun that served in every branch of the armed forces. It was most famously used by ground troops in Vietnam. The M60 has been replaced by the M240, but the “Pig” is a legend even among troops who have never seen one.

30. SAPI plate

The armored plates that go into modern body armor. SAPI is an acronym that stands for “small arms protective insert.” The plates can stop 7.62mm or smaller rounds but are surprisingly susceptible to damage from drops of even a few feet.

31. Snivel gear

Cold weather gear worn by service members in uniform. Snivel gear is famously issued in a variety of styles with many being banned from wear. “Poly pros” and “waffle tops” are long underwear that, along with gloves, troops are generally allowed to wear. Other items, like most outer jackets, face coverings, or hats, are issued, but troops are seldom allowed to wear them.

32. Canopy/streamer/cigarette roll

(Photo: US Army Spc. Paolo Bovo)

A parachute. “Canopy” refers to an open parachute. “Streamers” and “cigarette rolls” are parachutes that have malfunctioned, deploying from the pack but not inflating with air. Senior paratroopers will sometimes refer to a newer jumper’s chute as a streamer or cigarette roll in order to make the jumper nervous by implying that the chute will malfunction.

33. Swab

A mop. This term is most commonly used by the U.S. Navy.

34. Tillie

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Gregory A. Pierot)

The crash crane on a U.S. Navy carrier to move damaged planes on the flight deck.

35. Tootsie roll

An artillery or mortar round. These rounds are transported in black cardboard tubes that resemble massive tootsie rolls.

36. Water buffalo

A large container for water. Though it is sometimes used to refer to bladders used for water storage on forward bases, the term is most commonly used for water tanks on trailers pulled behind military trucks.

37. Willy Pete

(Photo: US Air Force)

White phosphorous, which can be used for two purposes. First, as a smoke screen to protect friendly troops from observation. Since the smoke is extremely flammable, WP’s second use is to destroy enemy equipment or kill massed troops. Multiple white phosphorous round are dropped in the target area and, once the smoke has spread, a high explosive round is dropped to detonate the white phosphorous. This tactic is referred to as “shake-and-bake” or “Willy Pete plus H.E.” It’s use is limited by international agreements.

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Every Coast Guard officer begins their career on this former Nazi sailing vessel

The U.S. Coast Guard is involved in a variety of missions since it began service in 1790 as the Revenue-Marine. It has destroyed pirate forts, landed Marines on beaches around the world, and recently captured over $1 billion dollars in cocaine. It requires a lot from its members.


And, for nearly 70 years, the U.S. Coast Guard has trained all of its academy cadets on a 295-foot sailing vessel commissioned by the Nazis, ridden on by Adolf Hitler, and originally named for the man who wrote the Nazi Party anthem.

Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer Telfair Brown

The ship, now called the USCGC Eagle, has an amazing history.

Launched in 1936 as the SSS Horst Wessel, the vessel was always destined to be a training ship. The Nazis made her the flagship of the training fleet of the Kriegsmarine, the navy.

Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

Hitler is believed to have rode on her only one time, but legends persist in the Coast Guard about where Hitler may have napped while on board. A sailor on the Horst Wessel in World War II, Tido Holtkamp said in a BBC interview that Hitler’s boots had nails that scratched the deck, but everyone was too afraid to say anything.

Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

She served in this role for three years, but was sidelined at the start of World War II in 1939. For a few years, she was a dormitory for Hitler Youth. In 1942, the ship was pressed back into service with a complement of anti-air guns but they weren’t very effective. Hotkamp remembers an American bomber attempting to destroy the ship, but it only survived because the bombs missed.

Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

The ship was captured by the British in 1945. In 1946, Allied commanders splitting up the captured spoils of war reportedly pulled the names of captured ships from a hat. A Russian commander pulled the Horst Wessel, but a U.S. officer eager to bring home the tall ship convinced him to trade it.

The ship was sailed across the Atlantic by a mixed crew of Germans and Americans. In American, she was rechristened the USCGC Eagle. It is the sixth cutter to bear the name.

Photo: US Coast Guard

When the Revenue Cutter Service — a prelude to the modern U.S. Coast Guard — began training cadets, it had no physical building to train them in. Instead, it took it’s first class of nine cadets and trained them on the USRC Dobbin, a cutter. In 1932 the academy received a permanent shore facility, but it has continued to use a sailing ship as a major part of the training process for potential officers. Since 1946, the vessel cadets have trained on has been the USCGC Eagle.

Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory Mendenhall

Training for emergencies is important when taking a nearly 80-year-old ship across the ocean.

Photo: US Coast Guard

Today, the training vessel also operates as a goodwill ambassador for the U.S., visiting friendly ports in the U.S. and around the world.

Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer Sherri Eng

It has visited Kiel, its original homeport, a few times throughout history. She’s due to return next year to celebrate the 70th anniversary of her trip to America.

Photo: US Coast Guard Public Affairs Specialist Bobby Nash

A few presidents have been photographed on board the Eagle. The first was President Harry Truman.

Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

President John F. Kennedy toured her and later gave a speech on deck.

Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

Future president Lyndon B. Johnson was there for the speech by Kennedy.

Photo: US Coast Guard Archives

More historical photos of the Eagle can be seen at the Coast Guard’s website. To keep up with the USCGC Eagle today, like the ship’s Facebook page.

NOW: That time the Coast Guard captured 18 ships, and 8 more surprising stories from its history

OR: 24 historic photos made even more amazing with color

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The story of Wojtek: The 440-pound bear that drank, smoked, and carried weapons for the Polish army during World War II

During World War II, the 22nd Artillery Supply Company of the 2nd Polish Corps had an unusual soldier among its ranks, a 440-pound Syrianbear named Wojtek.


Wojtek first came to the company as a cub, but over the course of the war he matured and was given the rank of corporal in the Polish army.

Here’s Wojtek’s amazing story below.

After being released from a Siberian labor camp during the Nazi invasion of Russia in 1942, the 22nd Polish Supply Company began a long trek south toward Persia. Along the way, they bought an orphaned bear.

Photo: imgur coveredinksauce

“He was like a child, like a small dog. He was given milk from a bottle, like a baby. So therefore he felt that these soldiers are nearly his parents, and therefore he trusted in us and was very friendly,” Wojciech Narebski, former Polish soldier, told the BBC.

Photo: imgur coveredinksauce

As he grew, his diet changed, but he remained friendly.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/The New York Public Library

The bear became fond of drinking beer, as well as smoking, and even eating cigarettes. “For him one bottle was nothing, he was weighing 440 pounds. He didn’t get drunk,” Narebski said.

Photo: imgur coveredinksauce

The bear became a major morale boost to the troops.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Imperial War Museum

The company was fond of boxing and wrestling with Wojtek, as seen in this footage.

via GIPHY

While he was still small enough, Wojtek would hang out of the passenger side of trucks, until he eventually grew so large he had to be transported in the back of cargo vehicles.

Photo: imgur coveredinksauce

By 1943, the Polish company had reached Egypt and was preparing to reenter the war zone in Italy. The army had strict rules denying pets passage to war zones, so the company did the only thing they could — they made Wojtek an official soldier.

Photo: imgur coveredinksauce

Because of his fearsome size and strength, Wojtek carried crates of munitions much easier than his human comrades. He inspired the emblem for his company.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Imperial War Museum

After the war, Wojtek spent his days in the Edinburgh zoo, where he was a beloved attraction. Wojtek died in 1963.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Skabiczewski

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

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7 ways Topper Harley taught us to be better Americans

Considered one of the best comedies of all time, Jim Abraham’s films “Hot Shots!” had audiences laughing hysterically as he poked fun at one of Hollywood’s most iconic films “Top Gun.”


The film’s lead character is Topper Harley who it turns out has some extreme “daddy issues” and is asked to go off to war for America’s greater good.

Within this story, there are a few hidden messages on American exceptionalism.

Related: This is what happened to the soldiers from ‘Platoon’

So check out our list of how Topper Harley taught us to be better Americans.

1. He answers America’s call to serve once again

After being booted from the Navy, Topper finds himself living a peaceful life among Native Americans. But soon his country calls for his help on a crucial mission called “Sleepy Weasel.”

After smoking a peace pipe full of helium, Topper decides it’s his duty to answer America’s call by accepting the mission and to find closure for his “daddy issues.”

2. He stands up for his fellow man.

Soon after reporting for duty, Topper tells a senior officer to “lighten up” after witnessing him yelling at a fellow pilot with shitty vision. Then, Topper receives an ear full — which he has no problem taking.

Topper is all about leading his men from the front like a true American.

3. He attends therapy.

Most tough guys wouldn’t be caught dead discussing their feelings in any setting. But Topper does it, and so should the many Americans who look to him for leadership.

4. He taught us how to cook an American breakfast using a hot girl’s stomach.

Sounds impossible? Well, Topper did it, and he added an egg, hash browns, and bacon. There’s nothing more American than that.

5. Harley reminds us that giving money isn’t the best way to say “I’m sorry.”

Americans often look for a simple way to apologize by giving a gift. When Topper hands over his apology gift, he’s told the cold hard cash will likely be blown on a new collection of hats.

Americans also misuse their money, but that’s an entirely different subject.

6. Topper doesn’t f’ing quit and neither should America … ever.

Topper’s father was known as sort of a wild pilot. He died during a mission and Topper has had issues ever since. This issue temporarily grounded the Navy pilot who is known to freeze up when people mention his father’s death.

Once Topper learns the heroic truth about his father, he snaps out of his funk and takes down the all bad guys — then celebrates.

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. We’re all on the same team.

For the whole film, Topper has been duking it out with a fellow pilot for respect with his team and for the affections of a girl. But after dueling it out with the bad guys, the men put their differences aside and become best buds.

This is just a reminder of how in the end, we’re all Americans.

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4 times Canada was more moto than the US

America’s neighbor to the north is known for their politeness, medical care, maple syrup cartels, Ryan Gosling, hormone-free cows, and love for Kraft Mac and Cheese.


Also, have you tried a double double and a Maple Dip? Holy hell they are good.

None of these facts should come as a surprise. Canadians are just a hair’s breadth away from being Americans. In fact, we wanted Canada so bad the Articles of Confederation stated that Canada could join the United States at any time, just by asking. Everyone else needed a nine-state agreement. We settled for Vermont instead.

Vermont: Canada Lite.

But don’t be fooled by their overwhelmingly nice disposition, their Prime Minister who takes public transit to work, or that Alex Trebek shaved his mustache. Outnumbered Canadians beat the crap out of us in the only war we ever fought.

We burned Toronto, so they burned Washington. They also gave the Canadian soldier better sideburns in their War of 1812 monument.

Canadian Forces are still deployed around the world, often alongside American counterparts. And historically, Canada has been just as hyped as the U.S. to take the fight to the fascists, the Communists, or the terrorists.

Maybe it comes from being the world’s largest consumer of Budweiser. Don’t drink too much of that stuff, guys. You’ll be buying hummers and spreading freedom in no time.

1. Canada just built a Civil War monument.

At a time when the U.S. is removing some Civil War monuments, an Ontario-based Civil War re-enactors group erected one. It’s a monument to the Canadian soldiers who died in the American Civil War.

They call themselves the Grays and Blues.

Though Canada was still in the British sphere during the time period, some 6,000 Canadians headed south (and some further south) to fight on both sides of the war.

“We don’t have any far-right maniacs, racists or anti-Semites, we’re just town folks who are interested in history,” Grays and Blues president Bob McLaughlin told Postmedia News.

2. They were the first to declare war on Japan.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Canadian Parliament was adjourned. But in the hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Prime Minister Mackenzie King and his cabinet decided that war with Japan was inevitable and called it then and there. The Japanese had also hit Malaya and Hong Kong – possessions of the United Kingdom – on Dec. 7th.

In the long run, sucker punching is not a sustainable strategy.

The United States didn’t declare war until the next day. When Parliament reconvened on Jan. 21, 1942, King let them know that Canada was at war with Japan…and also Finland, Hungary, and Romania.

Mackenzie King will f*cking kill you…then have a seance and ask your ghost for political advice.

3. Canada took in Vietnam Draft Dodgers…then replaced them.

It wasn’t official or anything. Canada didn’t exchange unwilling participants with willing ones. While an estimated 30,000 would-be conscripts fled the draft for Canada (and were warmly welcomed), 30,000 Canadians fled peace-ridden Canada for the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Canadian Rob McSorley, left, is pictured in March 1970 with two members of his U.S. Army Ranger regiment after a dangerous reconnaissance mission. McSorley was killed in action only weeks after this photo was taken. (L Company Ranger 75th Infantry Archives)

The Canadian government outlawed such volunteerism, but the 30,000 Canadians still managed to sign up for Vietnam service. Those that did received the same treatment as every other soldier, including the assignment of social security numbers. That is, until, after the war, when they got none of the post-service benefits. It wasn’t until 1986 that they got the same treatment…in Canada.

The Canadian Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial is called “The North Wall” and can be found in Windsor, Ontario.

The North Remembers.

4. Canada took in Americans during the 9/11 attacks.

Flights bound for the U.S. that day were diverted or grounded — except in Canada, where they were welcomed by Operation Yellow Ribbon. Canada wanted to help get any potentially dangerous flights on the ground as soon as possible. They even opened up their military airfields to the 255 flights diverted to their airspace.

In all, some 30,000 people were left displaced inside Canada. And if you have to be a refugee somewhere — even temporarily — Canada is the place to be. If hotels, gyms, and schools were full, Canadians started taking Americans into their own homes and putting them up.

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The US wants this new defense for its tanks, but a weapon to defeat it is already out there

The US Army is considering various systems to better shield tanks and armored vehicles from RPGs, antitank missiles, and other enemy fire.


But the latest version of the RPG, a staple in the arsenals of Russia and other forces, may already be a step ahead of the active-protection systems the US may soon adopt.

The Pentagon has purchased active-protection systems to test out on Abrams tanks and Bradley and Stryker armored vehicles, and may even mount them on lighter vehicles, like the successor to the Humvee, according to a report from Scout Warrior.

“The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program,” an Army official told Scout Warrior.

The Army intends to outfit Abrams tanks with the Israeli-made Trophy APS and Bradley vehicles with the Iron Fist system, which is also Israeli-made. It plans to put the US-made Iron Curtain system on Stryker vehicles. (The Army leased several of the Trophy systems last spring, working with the Marine Corps to test them.)

“The one that is farthest along in terms of installing it is … Trophy on Abrams,” Lt. Gen. John Murray, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, said in a statement. “We’re getting some pretty … good results. It adds to the protection level of the tank.”

The US’s look to APS comes as other countries adopt the technology.

Israeli’s Merkava comes standard with the Trophy, as does Russia’s new T-14 Armata. Both Israel’s and Russia’s tanks, as well as the UK’s Challenger 2, are considered by US officials to be close to or at parity with the US’s mainstay, the Abrams tank. (Though some officials don’t consider the Armata fielded.)

A tank crew in an M1A2 Abrams belonging to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Micah VanDyke, 4th ID MCE Public Affairs/Released)

As militaries have adopted active-protection systems and other means to up-armor tanks, arms makers have looked for new antitank weaponry to counter them. Whenever US vehicles equipped with APS join similarly outfitted vehicles in the field, they will face a new challenge from an old foe, the RPG.

Russian arms manufacturers first introduced the RPG — short for Ruchnoy Protivotankovyy Granatomet, meaning “handheld antitank grenade launcher,” not “rocket-propelled grenade” — in 1949, updating it over the decades since.

The most recent variant, the RPG-30, unveiled in 2008, has a 105 mm tandem high explosive antitank round, and features a second, smaller-caliber projectile meant to bait the active-protection systems that have become common on armored vehicles in recent years.

A tandem HEAT round carries two explosive charges. One neutralizes a vehicle’s reactive armor (which uses explosions to counter incoming projectiles), and the other is designed to penetrate the armor of the vehicle itself.

“The novelty of the Russian rocket launcher is that two rockets are fired at the target at the same time. One is a so-called ‘agent provocateur’ 42 mm in caliber, followed a bit later by a primary 105-mm tandem warhead rocket,” Vladimir Porkhachyov, the director general of arms manufacturer NPO Bazalt, told Russian state news agency Tass of the RPG-30 in September 2015.

The RPG-30 reportedly cleared testing and went into active service with the Russian military sometime between 2012 and 2013. At that point, according to a 2015 report by Russian state-owned outlet Sputnik, the Pentagon put it on its list of “asymmetrical threats to the US armed forces.”

A U.S. Soldier of the 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, Joint Multinational Readiness Center fires a simulated Rocket Propelled Grenade Launcher while role-playing as opposing force during Exercise Allied Spirit V. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman)

The effectiveness of the RPG-30 against active-protection systems, and whether those systems need be upgraded to adapt to the RPG-30 and similar munitions, remains to be seen. But the RPG — though limited by the size of its warhead — has long been potent on the battlefield, even against modern tanks.

The previous model, the RPG-29, was introduced in 1991 and is still in service with the Russian armed forces. It fires a 105 mm tandem HEAT round and can also fire a thermobaric fuel-air round against bunkers and buildings.

Russian RPG-29s were used by Hezbollah in the mid-2000s, deployed against Israeli tanks and personnel during the 2006 Lebanon War.

According to a Haaretz reportfrom the time, Hezbollah antitank teams using RPG-29s managed on some occasions to get through the armor of Israel’s advanced Merkava tanks.

In other cases, Hezbollah fighters used the RPG-29 to fire on buildings containing Israeli troops, penetrating the walls.

“The majority of Israel Defense Forces ground troops casualties, both infantry and armored, were the result of special antitank units of Hezbollah,” which used other antitank missiles as well, according to the Haaretz report, published in the final days of the conflict and citing intelligence sources.

A French paratrooper aims his antitank weapon at an enemy. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Juan F. Jimenez)

Those RPG-29s were reportedly supplied to Hezbollah by the Syrian military, which got them from Russia. Moscow disputed those origins, however, with some suggesting they were exported from former Communist bloc countries after the fall of the Soviet Union.

In August 2006, a RPG-29 was used successfully against a British Challenger 2 tank in southern Iraq.

During operations in Al Amarah, an RPG-29 rocket defeated the reactive armor installed on the Challenger, penetrating the driver’s cabin and blowing off half of one soldier’s foot and wounding several other troops.

UK military officials were accused of a cover-up in 2007, after it emerged that they hadn’t reported the August 2006 incident.

Two years later, during fighting in Baghdad’s Sadr City — a Shiite neighborhood in the Iraqi capital — a US M1 Abrams tank was damaged by an RPG-29. (The US has long avoided reactive armor systems but accepted them in recent years as a cheap, easy way to up-armor vulnerable parts of the Abrams, particularly against RPGs.)

During fighting in Iraq, RPG-29s penetrated the armor on the Abrams tanks twice and the Challenger once, according to The National Interest. Other Abrams tanks in Iraq were knocked out by antitank missiles, like the Russian-made AT-14 Kornet.

Britain’s Challenger 2 tank (Photo by U.K. Ministry of Defense)

The threat goes beyond tanks. Seven of eight US Army helicopters shot down in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2009 were brought down by RPGs.

RPGs remain in service around the world, filling the arsenals of both state and non-state actors, according to the Small Arms Survey. The weapon and parts for it have popped in arms bazaars in Libya in recent years.

The RPG-7, the RPG-29’s predecessor, would be or would likely be used by forces in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Central, South, and East Asia.

Regular and irregular forces in Latin America also have RPGs, and the weapons have made their way into the hands of criminal groups in the region. The Jalisco New Generation cartel reportedly used one to down a Mexican military helicopter in early 2015.

 

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This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home

Kenny Bass liked his job. As a 22-year-old Marine participating in the initial invasion of Iraq, life couldn’t have been more exciting.


“I was part of the combined anti-armor platoon,” he explained. “It was the ‘CAAT platoon.’ We were doing a lot of counter-ambush patrols, the insurgents were attacking Red Cross personnel, civilian contractors and other non-combatants. So we were tasked with going out and trying to solicit an attack. We were Infantry Marines, and young, so most of us were pretty excited about doing that kind of work. We had heavy-duty machine guns and anti-tank missiles.”

Nothing Major

About four months into his tour, the odds caught up with the young Infantry Marine. The unarmored Humvee he was riding in struck an IED.

“I was sitting in the passenger side rear, and the IED blew up by the right front bumper,” he said. “Nobody got killed, and I just took a couple pieces of shrapnel to my face, nothing major. I think the blast wave injury was the major thing.”

When Veteran Kenny Bass was at the Dayton VA, receiving medical attention for a kidney stone, Atlas was there by his side.

Nevertheless, by the time he returned home from Iraq in early 2004, Bass was a different man.

“My friends noticed a change in me,” he said. “I was depressed. And I was anxious. I remember going to a flea market one time and that’s when I had my first panic attack, because of all the people there. It was like I was still in Iraq, where just about everyone you see is a potential threat. I hated going out to eat or going to the mall or anything like that.”

104 in a 65 Zone

As if depression, anxiety and panic weren’t enough, another symptom began to surface.Anger.

“I was walking around with an anger level of about seven or eight,” Bass explained. “One time I got pulled over by the California Highway Patrol for doing 104 mph. I got mad at the cop for pulling me over. I was such a jerk. It didn’t take much to tip me off.”

At home, the 33-year-old Veteran’s garage became his haven.

“I’d sit out there all day smoking cigarettes,” he said. “I could see the street from there, which made me feel safe, and I could also hear what was going on in the house. So I had everything covered.”

From Bad to Worse

To dull the anxiety and the fear, the former Marine turned to alcohol.

I started drinking a lot,” he said. “Of course the alcohol just made things worse. I got to the point where I hated to wake up in the morning. I hated my life. I wanted to be healthy again. I wanted to work again and not be on disability.”

In an effort to get his life back, Bass headed over to the Dayton VA Medical Center in 2007. There he began therapy sessions with Bill Wall, a clinical social worker who had served in the military for 30 years.

“Kenny went through our therapy program here at Dayton,” Wall explained, “but it was clear that he was still having some issues with personality changes, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, depression, anger and other symptoms related to post traumatic stress. When he would go out in public, he just didn’t feel safe or in control. I thought maybe a psychiatric service dog might be a good next step for him, so I recommended he look into it.”

Safety Net

Wall, a Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, had good reasons for thinking a service dog might be the game-changer Kenny Bass was desperately in need of.

“You can feel a lot more safe with a dog around you,” the social worker observed. “The dog has been trained to pick up on any fear or anxiety you might be feeling. They can actually smell it. The dog then does something to distract you or make you feel less anxious. When you become overloaded, the dog knows it and helps you refocus. Even before you realize you’re overloaded, the dog will pick up on it. For example, if you’re in a crowd of people and you begin showing subtle signs of distress, your dog will try to create a buffer zone around you. The dog is trying to give you a sense of safety.”

“A psychiatric service dog is…always focused on taking care of you.”

And when the world seems like a safer place, chances are you’re more likely to get out there and participate in it, Wall observed.

“The dog can help you have successful outings,” he said, “and the more successful outings you experience, the better you get at it. Your new experiences gradually begin to replace your old, traumatic experiences. You’re re-learning your behavioral script.”

Back From the Brink

In 2012, after doing a little research, Kenny Bass was able to get himself paired up with an 18-month-old German Shepard named Atlas, a highly-trained service dog provided by a non-profit called Instinctive Guardians.

Kenny Bass and his dog Atlas

“If you’re a Veteran, and suicidal, a little thing like that can be lifesaving,” Bass continued. “Atlas definitely brought me back from the brink. He’s such a character now. He gets me laughing.”“Atlas became my support system,” Bass said. “He could tell when I was having nightmares. He’d jump on the bed, lick my face and wake me up. A few weeks after I got him I was sitting alone in my garage, as usual. He came over and dropped his ball in my lap. Five minutes later I was out in the backyard with him, in the sunshine, throwing the ball for him.

The Watcher

Aside from being a natural comedian, Atlas also serves as a competent body guard.

“When we’re out, I can trust Atlas to be vigilant for me,” Bass said. “I’m experiencing more things now because of him. When we’re somewhere crowded, he’ll block for me. He’ll walk back and forth behind me to keep people from getting too close.

“And when I tell him to ‘post,’ he sits down on my right side, facing the other way. If somebody approaches me from behind, he’ll nudge me. He’s alerting me. It’s a good feeling knowing he’s watching and that I don’t have to.”

Having turned his life around two years ago with the help of Atlas, Bass decided it was time to start giving back. In 2013 he helped found The Battle Buddy Foundation, a non-profit that trains service dogs for Veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress.

“When you’re in combat, you don’t go anywhere without a buddy, someone to watch your back,” Bass said. “That’s where the term ‘Battle Buddy’ comes from.”

He added: “It’s a good feeling to know someone always has your back.”

To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit the VA National Center for PTSD Website at www.ptsd.va.gov