China’s deployment of the Liaoning, an Admiral Kuznetsov-class carrier, has not seen anything equivalent to the Kuznetsov follies, but it is a note that China’s navy is becoming more capable by the year.
The carrier recently conducted flight deck tests of Chinese PLAN fighters and is cruising through parts of the disputed South China Sea, worrying allies in Japan and Taiwan.
Here are some photos that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force took of Beijing’s latest show of force.
According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, the Luyang-class destroyers carry the HHQ-9 surface-to-air missile, which is comparable to the SA-N-6 Grumble used on the Kirov-class battlecruisers and the Slava-class cruisers. The Jiangkai II-class frigates carry the HHQ-16 missile, a knockoff of the SA-N-7 – the naval version of the SA-11 Gadfly.
The Liaoning can carry roughly two dozen J-15 Flankers — knock-offs of the Su-33. The carrier also will have a variety of choppers as well, most for anti-submarine warfare or for search-and-rescue missions.
Each year over Veterans Day we witness a wonderful outpouring of love for our veteran community. “Happy Veterans Day,” parades, free meals, “thank yous,” and vet-centric events are par for the course over the holiday and the weekends that proceed and follow it.
But what about the other 51 weeks of the year?
While many of you are veterans yourselves, some of our readers are in a relationship of some kind with a currently serving veteran or a veteran of past conflict. We know how to support the veterans in our own homes.
But I believe we also have a responsibility to support the other veterans around us, and help our civilian neighbors do the same. We can lead by example.
So how do we do that? Here are five ideas.
1. Listen. Over Veterans Day weekend this year I worked with our community and the local Team Red, White Blue chapter to run a Veterans Town Hall. Inspired by an idea in Sebastian Junger’s book “Tribe,” the town hall had a simple goal: give veterans a space to talk about their service, and the community a space to listen. While we did not have a huge turnout — only around 50 people — we were able to light a fire on what I hope will be a long-term movement of saying “happy Veterans Day” by listening. Through the simple act of listening we extended grace and understanding to our veteran neighbors. We can do more of that, and we can do it beyond Veterans Day weekend.
2. “Thank a Vet” in a video. Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has an awesome way to create a keepsake to #ThankaVet. You can upload a customized message and a few photos, and the site will turn them into a tribute video. The videos are something you can create and share year round.
3. Serve all year long. Veterans don’t just exist on Veterans Day. The Veterans Home in my little town’s downtown is there every day of the year. Veterans are homeless in our nearest major city. My veteran neighbor will always need his driveway shoveled after it snows. Not every act of service to our community takes a big effort. But every act matters.
4. Tell your civilian friends. When you get ready to help your community’s veterans, invite your civilian friends to come along. I find that my civilian friends don’t ignore veterans on purpose — they just don’t really know any. We can be the people who can help make that connection.
5. Join a veteran organization. Your local VFW and American Legion both have auxiliary memberships for non-veterans. Team Red, White Blue exists purely to connect veterans with their communities, and getting involved is incredibly easy. Team Rubicon is constantly seeking volunteers for the important work they do with disaster relief. Military spouses often focus their volunteer efforts on the currently serving population — and maybe you just flat out don’t have time to add something else to your plate. But if you do, consider even just showing up for one of these groups’ (or countless others’) events. You won’t be sorry.
There’s nothing wrong with wishing anyone a “happy Veterans Day” or using Veterans Day to shine the spotlight on veterans in our community. But let’s keep the momentum going all year long.
Coding boot camps are programs that teach programming skills. Typically, these boot camps are short (12 weeks to 7 months), often intense (sometimes requiring 90 hours/week), and usually designed to teach beginners enough so that they can become professional junior software developers.
And, the demand for their graduates is robust and growing. According to Dave Molina, a former U.S. Army captain, and the founder and executive director of Operation Code, a non-profit online, open source coding program for active duty military, veterans, and their families, “There are over 200,000 computing jobs open annually in the U.S., with 30,000 of those jobs filled by computer science graduates; however, that number is expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2020. Meanwhile, we have 250,000 U.S. military personnel that exit the service annually, many of whom possess the discipline and aptitude to fill those jobs, if they had some training in computer coding skills.”
These are generally good paying jobs. Rod Levy, the founder and executive director of Code Platoon, a non-profit coding camp in Chicago for veterans, states that “starting salaries for graduates coming right out of the boot camp are about $65,000, rising to about $100,000 after five years of experience. Placement rates for graduates are high.”
So, why are coding boot camps a good option for veterans?
Levy lists several reasons: “As we know, veterans often struggle ‘translating’ their military experience to a civilian audience. Coding boot camps solve this problem by giving veterans job-ready skills that are well understood in the job marketplace”, he said.
“Even more important”, Levy added, “successful software developers typically need to work well in teams, demonstrate grit and resilience, and have to be able to systematically problem-solve. These characteristics are often found in veterans.”
Molina supports this view. He said, “Military veterans have the right set of skills to become programmers. Technical expertise, emotional resilience, psychological persistence, and teamwork—these are the qualities found in our best and brightest and they are the qualities of the best programmers.”
There are coding boot camps to serve about every veteran’s needs. These various coding boot camps are distinguished by the following characteristics:
Level of intensity. “Immersive” is around 60 – 80 hours a week; “full-time” can be 30 to 70 hours a week; “part-time” is typically 10 to 30 hours week.
In-person or remote. In-person means you spend the majority of the training on-site, with instructors and fellow students on premises. Remote means you do the training on your computer at home regardless of location.
Internships/Job Placement. This one is obvious. Coding boot camps that offer internships and/or have high job placement rates for entry-level software developers should be given serious consideration.
Population focus. A few coding boot camps serve specific populations and look to tailor their programs to those populations, as well as creating a “safe” space where members of those populations may feel more comfortable. There are coding boot camps just for women, minorities and veterans, to name a few. Obviously, veterans should choose a boot camp that caters to their specific needs, when possible, and leverage their New GI Bill wherever possible.
Given all of these various aspects of coding boot camps, what should a veteran look for in choosing a coding boot camp? At a minimum, veterans should consider the following items when selecting a boot camp:
Different boot camps are meant to serve different interests. Remote online boot camps, like Thinkful.com, are much more convenient than in-person boot camps, such as Code Platoon, where you have to move to Chicago for a few months. The trade-off for that convenience is that it may be very hard to stay motivated, understand the material thoroughly and ask your peers and instructors questions. In-person boot camps, on the other hand, offer the immediate feedback and support that can be missing in remote programs, although they may not be located near when the veteran lives or works. Consequently, they may be much more expensive to attend.
If your goal is to learn skills for a new career in programming, look for a program that will put you through at least roughly 1,000 hours of coding/instruction, at an absolute minimum. Whether this is in an immersive 12-week program at 80 hours a week, or a year-long program at 20 hours a week is up to you; but 1,000 hours of focused, directed learning in programming is the bare minimum needed to become a competent programmer.
The choice of technology stack is often a source of much discussion, with trade-offs discussed around the number of jobs versus the learning curve needed for various languages. In the end, there are many jobs in each of the languages/stacks that are being taught. Always look for a coding boot camp where the programming stack is in substantial demand, with many jobs available immediately upon graduation.
Cost is an important consideration that the veteran needs to keep in mind in selecting the right code camp to meet their needs. Most coding schools offer scholarships to veterans to help to defray the costs. At Code Platoon, for instance, the tuition is $13,000 for the full program. However, all veterans accepted into the program receive a scholarship of $10,500, bringing the total cost of the program to the veteran to $2,500. Travel expenses to and from Chicago, and living expenses while attending the program in Chicago, are extra.
There is no charge for Operation Code programs and services for active duty military, National Guard and reserve troops, veterans, and their spouses. Information on conference scholarships can be found on the Operation Code website: https://operationcode.org/scholarships.
What about using the Post-9/11 GI Bill to attend one of these coding camps? Currently, 5 code schools across the country accept the New GI Bill: Sabio (Los Angeles), Code Fellows (Seattle), Galvanize, RefactorU and SkillDistillery (Colorado).
Most coding schools, however, are not eligible to receive GI Bill funds. Code Platoon hopes to be eligible for GI Bill funding within a year. Each state has its own authorizing agency that approves programs for participation in the New GI Bill, with two years of school operating experience generally required. More information on this subject can be found on the Operation Code website at https://operationcode.org/code_schools.
Internships, mentoring partners, and job placement are all important considerations for the veteran in selecting a coding camp. Code Platoon, for instance, pairs its students with two industry partners, who work with the student during the entire program.
Operation Code offers its military veteran members ongoing software mentorship through its Software Mentor Protege Program, where its members get help with their code, pairing online in a peer-to-peer learning environment with professional software developers for lifelong learning and understanding in an inclusive and nurturing environment.
And, most coding schools help their graduates with job placement assistance, upon completion of their programs.
It is obvious that veterans need to consider a lot of things before applying to a coding camp.
The different types of programs, whether on-site or online, need to be determined. The reputation of the coding camp, the success of its graduates, costs, potential use of the GI Bill, scholarships, internships, mentoring and job placement assistance all need to be carefully researched.
But, one thing is perfectly clear about obtaining the skills necessary to be a successful computer programmer. It offers the opportunity to have a lasting career in a growing, well-compensated field that’s going to change the world.
And, what could be better than that for veterans and their families?
Watch this introduction to Code Platoon:
And now watch this introduction to Operation Code:
Paul Dillon is the head of Dillon Consulting Services, LLC, a firm that specializes in serving the veteran community with offices in Durham and Chicago. For more visit his website here.
The U.S. Army announced Friday the top five photos its photographers took in 2014, and the decision for which shot earned the top honor was left to the public on Facebook.
The process of selecting the best pictures “involved a yearlong photo search and compilation” by Army public affairs, according to the news release. The Army then put the images out to the public on Facebook where they counted up “likes” and “shares.”
With a Facebook “like” count of 2,600, this photo from Christopher Bodin of a 25-Black Hawk helicopter convoy is the best of 2014.
Coming in a close second with 2,300 Facebook “likes,” this shot from Sgt. 1st Class Abram Pinnington is a powerful reminder of the sacrifices soldiers made on Omaha Beach in World War II.
This shot that show’s CH-47F Chinook helicopters transporting Humvees, taken by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado, garnered 1,300 Facebook “likes.”
This photo taken in October by Sgt. Mark Brejcha highlights soldiers training at the Leaders Reaction Course at Fort Hood. It received 1,200 Facebook “likes.”
The photo taken by Sgt. Daniel Stoutamire, which received 1,100 Facebook “likes,” depicts a somber milestone for the Army. It was taken in March 2014 at the funeral of Walter D. Ehlers, the last surviving recipient of the Medal of Honor during the D-Day invasion of World War II.
No one endures a national state of emergency like the Waffle House. For those who don’t live near the 2,000-plus locations spread out across 25 states, a Waffle House is a restaurant that harnesses the enduring image of the all-night truck stop greasy spoon. The most outstanding thing about the food at a Waffle House is that it’s always available 24-7, rain or hurricane.
But when your local Waffle House is suddenly not open, you know it’s time to head for the hills.
Waffle Houses have a loyal following in the areas where they operate, and it’s not just truckers and the late night, post-drinking crowd. A good slice of Americans would tell you that Waffle House produces the kind of food they love.
The restaurant chain is so reliable during disasters that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, actually closely monitors the activities of local Waffle House restaurants to prepare for potential economic damage and make risk-management decisions. They call it the “Waffle House Index,” and it’s not just a measure of the danger of a storm, it’s a barometer for economic recovery.
The Waffle House Index has three levels of severity. Green means a Waffle House is open and serving a full menu, yellow means the menu is limited to just a few options, and red indicates the Waffle House was forced to close, its crew has skipped town, and you probably should, too.
The reason is that Waffle House operates a huge number of stores in the American South and Southeast. Their properties and supply chain are always vulnerable to extreme weather conditions faced on the U.S. coasts. In the event of an emergency, the chain is able to quickly inform employees and move supplies to secure warehouses. Once the crisis has passed, the Waffle House is usually the first business open in the aftermath.
It’s not only in the public’s (and FEMA’s) best interest to monitor dangerous storms. For Waffle House, who maintains a storm watch center, it keeps the company’s product and supply chain intact and ready to re-open for business. Food, after all, is not a product that stands the test of time. The company has generators, supplies, and staff ready to go as soon as the all clear is given.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, it wasn’t just fry cooks and waitresses that flocked back to North Carolina after the storm. Waffle House sent in construction teams and IT personnel, all lead by the company’s CEO. The supply staging strategy used by Waffle House is the same method used by the U.S. Military and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in case of a national crisis or theater-level operation.
Waffle House Restaurant torn apart by Hurricane Katrina on the Biloxi, Mississippi, coast.
(Library of Congress)
While the Waffle House Index is a decent risk indicator, it’s not always 100-percent perfect. Waffle Houses closed in the wakes of Hurricanes Katrina, Matthew, and Harvey. The Waffle House in Joplin, Mo. remained open during the devastating tornado that hit the town in 2011. The Waffle House survived, but much of the rest of the town did not.
In a unanimous vote, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow WWII-era Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) to be interred at Arlington National Cemetery. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Az.), a former A-10 pilot who flew missions over Iraq.
“The WASPs opened the door for people like me being able to serve,” McSally said.
The women were denied burial rights when the Army reinterpreted a bill from the 1970’s. The decision excluded the WASPs, who ferried combat aircraft and trained male pilots from 1942-1944. The female WWII pilots were not considered active duty troops under the reinterpretation despite having since received the Congressional Gold Medal, as well as benefits under the VA system.
Space at Arlington is becoming increasingly scarce as time goes by. The acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy insists only Congress can change the internment rules. The bill now goes to the Senate, where similar bills have been introduced.
The House Veterans Affairs Committee heard testimony June 7 that was both encouraging and disturbing about PTSD programs and allegations that some vets are faking symptoms to get a disability check.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has greatly expanded its treatment programs for mental health problems overall, and for post-traumatic stress disorder in particular, said Dr. Harold Kudler, acting assistant deputy under secretary for Patient Care Services at the VA.
In fiscal 2016, the VA provided mental health treatment to 1.6 million veterans, up from 900,000 in 2006, Kudler said. Of the overall figure, 583,000 “received state-of-the-art treatment for PTSD,” including 178,000 who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, he added.
Kudler said the number of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn veterans receiving VA treatment for PTSD has doubled since 2010, while VA services for them have increased by 50 percent.
In addition, the VA is increasingly open to alternative treatments for PTSD, including the use of hyperbaric chambers and yoga, but an Army veteran who went through VA treatment for PTSD said the expansion and outreach leave the program open to scams by veterans looking to get a disability check.
Brendan O’Byrne, a sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Brigade who served a 15-month tour in the remote Korengal valley of eastern Afghanistan, told the committee he was overwhelmed by “crippling anxiety, blinding anger” compounded by drinking when he left the service in 2008.
After four years, he was given a 70-percent disability rating for PTSD and was immediately advised by administrators and other veterans to push for 100 percent to boost his check, O’Byrne said.
“Now, I don’t know if they saw something that I didn’t but, in my eyes, I was not 100 percent disabled and told them that,” O’Byrne said. But they continued to press him to go for a higher rating. His arguments for a lower rating went nowhere, he said.
In VA group counseling sessions, “I realized the sad truth about a portion of the veterans there — they were scammers, seeking a higher rating without a real trauma. This was proven when I overheard one vet say to another that he had to ‘pay the bills’ and how he ‘was hoping this in-patient was enough for a 100-percent rating.’ I vowed never to participate in group counseling through the VA again,” O’Byrne said.
“When there is money to gain, there will be fraud,” he said. “The VA is no different. Veterans are no different. In the noble efforts to help veterans and clear the backlog of VA claims, we allowed a lot of fraud into the system, and it is pushing away the veterans with real trauma and real PTSD.”
Then there is politics. “In order for soldiers to avoid something called ‘moral injury,’ they have to believe they are fighting for a just cause, and that just cause can only reside in a nation that truly believes in itself as an enduring entity,” Junger said.
“When it became fashionable after the election for some of my fellow Democrats to declare that Donald Trump was ‘not their president,’ they put all of our soldiers at risk of moral injury,” he said.
“And when Donald Trump charged repeatedly that Barack Obama — the commander-in-chief — was not even an American citizen, he surely demoralized many soldiers who were fighting under orders from that White House,” Junger said. “For the sake of our military personnel — if not for the sake of our democracy — such statements should be quickly and forcefully repudiated by the offending political party.”
The allegation that some veterans are bilking PTSD programs is not a major concern for Zach Iscol, a Marine captain who fought in Fallujah and now is executive director of the non-profit Headstrong Project.
“If there are people taking advantage of us, that’s OK, because we have a bigger mission,” Iscol said, but he also noted that Headstrong does not give out disability payments.
In partnership with Weill Cornell Medical College, the project’s goal is to provide free assistance with experienced clinicians to post-9/11 veterans for a range of problems, from PTSD to addiction and anger management.
Iscol said Headstrong currently has about 200 active clients, and “on average it costs less than $5,000 to treat a vet.” He cautioned there are no panaceas for treating PTSD, and “there’s no simple app that will solve this problem. I don’t think you can design a one-size-fits-all for mental health.”
The witnesses and committee members agreed that PTSD is treatable, but disagreed over the types and availability of treatment programs and whether the VA is adequately funded to provide them or should rely more on non-profits.
The issue of the estimated 20 suicides by veterans daily came up briefly when Rep. Jack Bergman, R-Mich., a retired Marine lieutenant general, questioned Kudler on VA programs to bring down the rate.
Kudler said there is a “counter-intuitive” involved in addressing the veteran suicide problem. About 14 of the 20 daily suicides involve veterans who never deployed and experienced combat trauma, he said. “It would be premature to say we know why.”
(Editor’s Note – The following is an updated repost of a story on the USAF School of Aerospace Medicine Epidemiology Reference Laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, which was originally published on March 27, 2018. It contains new information on the lab’s mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s epidemiology laboratory is the Air Force’s sole clinical reference laboratory, and as such, is testing and processing samples of COVID-19 sent from military treatment facilities around the world.
The lab was authorized by the Defense Health Agency to test samples from Department of Defense beneficiaries for COVID-19 in early March, and received its test kit from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention shortly after.
“The USAFSAM Epi Lab is currently working long hours, testing and processing samples of COVID-19 that are coming in from MTFs globally,” said Col. Theresa Goodman, USAFSAM commander. “If you ask anyone on this team how they’re doing, they’ll tell you they’re fine–that they’re just doing their jobs. But I couldn’t be more proud of them right now — their selfless and tireless dedication to this mission. COVID-19 testing is our primary mission right now and the members of the Epi Lab are my front line to this fight.”
USAFSAM’s epidemiology laboratory, nested in the Air Force Research Laboratory’s 711th Human Performance Wing, has a long history of testing and identifying various infectious respiratory diseases, including those that occur on a regular basis like influenza, and the ones similar to COVID-19 that become a public health issue, spreading globally. Because of this, the team works closely with the CDC and other agencies.
Col. Theresa Goodman
“We have been in operation for approximately 30 years, and therefore involved with many other infectious disease outbreaks, for example SARS,” said Col. Dana Dane, USAFSAM Public Health Department chair.
This laboratory is only authorized to test samples coming in from DoD beneficiaries, but those outside this demographic have the support of their state public health departments for testing purposes. USAFSAM is working closely with public health professionals across the DoD, as well as with the CDC as the situation evolves. Per CDC guidelines, reference laboratories are no longer required to submit samples to the CDC for further testing and final confirmation. If the tests do show as positive, the USAFSAM Epi Lab marks the sample “confirmed positive.”
USAFSAM’s laboratory is not participating in vaccine development. It also is not the type of laboratory where people go to get blood drawn, nasal swabs, etc., like a CompuNet or clinic at a doctor’s office or in a hospital. USAFSAM’s clinical reference lab is set up to receive these samples from military treatment facilities. They run the tests on those samples and log the data.
“We’re all sensitive to those around the world who are grieving losses due to this awful virus as well as to others who are just downright scared. Our hearts go out to you,” said Goodman. “But just know that our epidemiology laboratory here in USAFSAM is waiting at the door 24/7 for any and all samples that come in from our DoD family.
Goodman also stated that the team is lockstep with public health personnel around the world as well as with our partners at the CDC.
“We truly are all in this together,” she said. “Fighting this virus will take all of us doing our part–from those staying at home washing their hands a little more often and checking on neighbors to USAFSAM’s public health team testing samples and getting the data where it needs to go.”
THE DISEASE DETECTIVES (ORIGINAL POST – MARCH 27, 2018 )
After slowly using a blade to cut through thick tape, a technician in a protective gown and glasses opens the flaps of a cardboard box revealing a polystyrene container. As her gloved hands cautiously remove the lid, a wisp of vapor rolls slowly over the edge of the box, clinging to its surface as it descends onto the tabletop.
The technician gingerly reaches through the fog and removes a plastic bag filled with clear vials from the container. This process is repeated over a hundred times each morning as carts filled with boxes of clinical patient specimens arrive at the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine’s Epidemiology Laboratory Service at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Created in 1990, the Epi Lab, as it is referred to at USAFSAM, focuses on clinical diagnostic, public health testing and force health screening, performing 5,000 to 8,000 tests six days a week (or about 2.1 million tests a year) for clinics and hospitals treating active duty service members, reservists and National Guard members and their dependents and beneficiaries.
The data collected from these tests not only enables the analysis of disease within the joint force, but is shared with civilian public health agencies contributing to the tracking of diseases, such as influenza and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), as well as supporting disease prevention efforts, such as the formulation of vaccines.
While the lab receives most of its medical samples from Air Force bases around the world, it also tests specimens sent by Navy and Army hospitals and clinics, totaling more than 200 military medical facilities around the globe.
The Epi Lab’s workload is a result of its efficiency and economics, according to Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epi Lab.
Elizabeth Macias, Ph.D., is a clinical microbiologist, and director of the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio. The lab, which receives between 5,000 and 8,000 samples, six days a week, for analysis, routinely reports results to Department of Defense hospitals and clinics around the world within 48 hours of a sample being shipped to the lab.
“A lot of the testing is very specialized, and in some cases can be very expensive. Many of our Air Force clinics and laboratories are small and don’t have the personnel to do that kind of thing or the funding to get all the specialized instruments that we have,” Macias said. “Our personnel are comprised of military, government civilians and contractor civilians, so we have the expertise and the personnel to handle the workload.”
Nearly 30 people work throughout the morning, removing samples packed in dry ice from their boxes, ensuring the patient information on the specimen tubes and paperwork match the orders on the computer system and then re-labeling them for the lab’s computer system before sending the samples to the appropriate testing departments.
“The laboratory consists of three branches; Customer Support, Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology. Immunodiagnostics and Microbiology perform testing, such as immune status and screening for STDs, like Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis and some other serology assays,” said Tech. Sgt. Maryann Caso, noncommissioned officer in charge of the immunodiagnostic section of the Epi Lab.
Just over a year ago, the Epi Lab adopted fourth-generation HIV testing, which enables the lab to detect an HIV infection two weeks sooner after a patient is exposed. This newer technology allows patients to receive treatment and counseling sooner.
There is a constant flow of samples requiring STD screening and immune status testing, as these are gathered as part of the in-processing screening for each new service member. The tests help screen for potentially infectious diseases as well as establish a baseline of antibody types and levels for each new recruit to precisely target which vaccines they need.
“For example, all the new recruits are tested for measles, mumps, and rubella. So if they have antibodies to those diseases then they’re not vaccinated again. This saves the Department of Defense because they don’t waste manpower and money to vaccinate somebody that is already protected against those diseases,” Macias said.
The lab has become more efficient and safer for laboratory technicians after the installation of an automated testing system last year.
Laboratory technicians unpack and log in blood serum, fecal, urine or respiratory samples which arrive from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as some other Department of Defense facilities Jan. 30, 2018. The Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio, receives 100-150 boxes a day, six days a week. The lab, which tests between 5,000 and 8,000 samples daily, is a Department of Defense reference laboratory offering clinical diagnostic, public health, and force health screening and testing.
“The samples come in now and are put on an automated line. It will actually uncap the sample, spin it down, aliquot it (divide the sample into smaller portions for multiple tests) and sort it to whatever section and analyzer it needs for a particular test,” Caso said.
“Before, our techs had to manually uncap the tubes, aliquot the samples and sort them. When you have thousands of samples that you have to uncap and then recap by hand, you get repetitive-motion injuries to the wrist – such as carpal tunnel. The whole idea is to have automated processes and to eliminate or mitigate pre-analytical errors, such as specimen contamination.”
Once tested, the results are automatically returned to the submitting hospital or clinic via computer, unless the system notifies a technician to intervene and manually certify the test result.
“Specimens are collected at hospitals and clinics around the world and sent to us,” Macias said. “We receive the boxes within 24 hours and most of the results are completed within 24 hours… So, generally, we get those results back to the submitting clinic within 48 hours from when they are shipped to us, so the docs can then treat their patients appropriately and with a good turnaround time.”
In addition to the immunology testing that is performed in the lab, the Microbiology branch performs testing on bacterial cultures, examines fecal samples for parasites that cause intestinal disease, and performs influenza testing.
The Air Force began an influenza surveillance program in 1976 to collect data about disease and its spread in response to an outbreak of what was called “Bootcamp Flu.” In the close quarters of basic training, the virus spread through many barracks, according to Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the Virology and manual testing section at the Epi Lab.
Donald Minnich, technical supervisor for the manual testing section, oversees the influenza surveillance program at the Epidemiology Laboratory Service, also known as the Epi Lab, at the 711th Human Performance Wing’s United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine and Public Health at Wright Patterson AFB, Ohio.The lab identifies and sequences the genome of influenza samples received from U.S. Air Force hospitals and clinics around the world, as well as other Department of Defense facilities. The data collected on active flu strains contributes about 25 percent of the total data used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to formulate its yearly influenza vaccine.
To combat illness, recruits needed to be regularly monitored, giving birth to Operation Gargle, in which recruits gargled with a solution and spit it back into a specimen cup which was then tested for influenza and other respiratory pathogens.
The Air Force program is now part of the Defense Health Agency’s Global, Laboratory-Based Respiratory Pathogen program which grows, sequences and collects data on influenza, parainfluenza, adenovirus and the Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV.
The flu surveillance program at the Epi Lab has approximately 95 submitting laboratories scattered across the continental United States and the globe, from deployed areas to Europe, Japan and Guam.
In a typical flu season, the surveillance program receives between 5,000 and 6,000 specimens. This year, the Epi Lab has received 5,000 specimens in just the first few months of the flu season, according to Minnich.
As Hurricane Hermine passed through Florida last week and moved northward, Langley Air Force Base in Virginia was faced with the problem of protecting its F-22 Raptors.
Costing about $140 million a pop, not including development costs, the stealth aircraft became vulnerable to the elements as Virginia declared a state of emergency.
That’s when the Air Force reached out to NASA’s Langley Research Center nearby.
With 85,200 square feet of space in their hangar, NASA’s Category 2 hurricane-rated facility seemed like the ideal location to hold 13 F-22s. After it was all said and done, 22 aircraft, including a massive C-130, was squeezed into the hangar.
The Air Force even showed their gratitude with the following tweet:
A dual-military family is adjusting to life under the same roof after almost two years apart.
It’s not uncommon in the military community to have a unique story of how you and your spouse met. But for Army Sgt. Jared Jackson and his wife, Spc. Christina Jackson, their happily–ever after didn’t start with being pronounced husband and wife. They’ve spent their entire courtship and marriage living thousands of miles apart — until now.
When Christina and Jared were introduced by a mutual friend, they hit it off quickly. But the fireworks were strictly plutonic. For three years, they – along with a mutual friend — were inseparable, referring to themselves as “the three amigos.”
“We did everything together,” Christina said.
And becoming a couple wasn’t even a thought. It wasn’t until Jared moved to Hawaii that they entertained the idea of having a romantic relationship.
“We tested the waters and we decided to start dating,” she said.
Having established a strong friendship, the main challenges presented with dating for Jared was the distance and three–hour time difference.
“We communicated well, but trying to find the right time to call would be hard,” he said.
He couldn’t build the consistency he wanted with both Christina and her 8–year old daughter because all they had were phone calls and short visits.
“I wanted to make sure they know I’m here to stay,” Jared said.
The Jacksons both craved stability for their new family. Christina says her daughter, “wanted this father figure. And when she finally got him it was hard on her because he would come and go. He would come see us, then he would leave.”
After dating for a year, they married with the expectation of being stationed together.
“My mindset was thinking that the military was going to put us together and it wouldn’t be that long,” Jared said, but waiting for approval dragged on. “It’s bothering me because I’m married but yet I still feel like I’m kind of a bachelor because I’m here by myself.”
Christine was also losing hope and eventually wanted to get out of the military. She was told by her NCO that she’d get orders right after being married. That didn’t happen. And she was further stressed by all of the paperwork requirements and chasing after people for answers.
Each service branch has a program for assigning married couples to the same duty location or within 100 miles of each other, according to Military OneSource. Couples can look into joint assignments through offerings like the Air Force Joint Spouse Program and the Married Army Couples Program. But for the Jacksons, this wasn’t a smooth process.
After almost a year of not knowing when they could be together, they were finally given orders to the same duty station. Now they had new challenges to tackle.
For the first time in his life, Jared was a full–time parent. Christina’s daughter is adjusting to a two-parent home where they both share an equal role in raising and disciplining her.
“I’ve been trying to give him more of that responsibility in that role and just say whatever he says goes,” Christina said.
Jared wants to establish a good father/daughter relationship, with Christina’s support of his role helping to ease the adjustment.
“I appreciate that Christina always validates me and tells me ‘you’re doing a good job.’ It keeps me motivated,” he said.
One thing they did not do was leave their family cohesiveness to chance, so they attended premarital counseling.
“We went into this already knowing how we both wanted to parent. He knew what I expected and I knew what he expected,” Christina said.
And now the family will be adding a new member, a son, in July.
Throughout their time apart, they kept communication fluid and honest, sharing their hopes and frustrations without hesitation. This put the relationship in a healthy place during their entire transition.
Christina says for help and support if you’re are dealing with a similar situation, to find a military spouses club. Share your experiences and find others who have gone through the same thing.
Jared advises, above all, make sure that even when you get discouraged keep the communication strong. Also do your research so that you know what should be happening with job assignments.
When it comes to their parenting advice on blending a family, they simultaneously agree that the answer is patience.
Of course, anything made to kill another human being has an element of dubiousness about it; but some designs go above and beyond merely killing and add suffering to the equation. Here are nine of these evil weapons:
1. Boiling Oil/Hot Tar
One of the earliest forms of evil weapons. When defending a castle, use arrows and spears and rocks to simply kill. Use hot tar to terrorize and demoralize the enemy as well as kill him.
2. Mustard Gas
Mustard gas was first used in battle by the Germans in World War I with the expressed intent of demoralizing the enemy rather than kill him. The skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore and they began to vomit. Mustard gas caused internal and external bleeding and attacked the bronchial tubes, stripping off the mucous membrane. This was extremely painful. Fatally injured victims sometimes took four or five weeks to die of mustard gas exposure. (Source: Wikipedia)
3. V-1 Buzz Bomb
The V-1 rockets were not intended to hit specific targets, but instead, they were designed terrorize the population of England during World War II.
What do you do when you don’t want to crawl into tunnels and pull Japanese soldiers out of their hiding places one-by-one? You strap on your flamethrower and burn them out — a torturous way to go.
Firebombing is an air attack technique that combines blast bombing with incendiaries to yield much more destruction than blast bombs would alone. The Germans firebombed Coventry and London in 1940, and the British paid them back in spades toward the end of the war, most notably at Dresden.
6. Atomic Bomb
Since August of 1945 service academies and war colleges have studied the calculus of using the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but regardless of whether the strategy ultimately saved lives that would have been lost during a manned invasion of the Japanese homeland, it inflicted great suffering on the population in the form of destruction on an unprecedented scale and the follow-on radiation poisoning.
7. Anti-personnel Mines
These mines are designed to maim, not necessarily to kill. Stepping on them causes the mechanism to bounce up to pelvis level before exploding, causing maximum suffering before a slow painful death.
8. Punji Sticks
An evil booby trap most notoriously associated with the Vietnam War, Punji Sticks were a low-fi weapon used by the Vietcong to terrorize American forces patrolling the jungle. The sharp sticks were hidden under tarps or trap doors covered with brush, and they inflicted nasty and painful wounds to lower extremities.
A bomb full of a gelling agent and petroleum, Napalm was originally used against buildings but later became an anti-personnel weapon. The flaming goo that erupts when the weapon goes high order sticks to skin and causes severe burns.
A new HBO documentary premiering this month claims the United States, desperate to beat the Soviet Union to the moon, purchased space technology from former Yugoslavia.
But how could an Eastern European Communist country defy the Soviets without their knowledge? The answer starts with Yugoslavia’s longtime leader, Josip Broz Tito.
Tito was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army during WWI, becoming Austria-Hungary’s youngest Sergeant Major ever. He was captured by the Russians and helped the Red Guard take down the last Czar during the October Revolution. He would later become the leader of the most effective World War II resistance forces fighting Nazi occupation in Yugoslavia. After the war, he became a Communist dictator, but the only one free of Soviet influence.
Very adept at handling the Russians, Tito once wrote to Stalin: “Stop sending people to kill me. We’ve already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. If you don’t stop sending killers, I’ll send one to Moscow, and I won’t have to send a second.”
In the early days of the Space Race, capturing the technology took money, power, and meant a large return for the ideology that got to the moon first. Once the USSR put the first satellite and then the man in space, the U.S. felt the sting of that early defeat.
A new film, called “Houston, We Have A Problem” alleges that the former Yugoslavia was a secret third player in the Space Race. The Yugoslavians made great technological leaps, based on the 1929 writings of Slovenian Rocket Engineer Herman Potočnik, whose book “The Problems of Space Travel” marked the first discussion of long-term human habitation in space, the first designs for space stations, and the importance of geostationary orbit. The documentary alleges Werner von Braun, the Nazi inventor of the V-2 Rocket and later the Saturn V Rocket for the United States, which carried the Apollo Program to the moon, received unpublished Potočnik diaries captured by Tito after Potočnik’s death.
Tito found the diaries in 1947. After conflicts with Stalin in 1948 where Tito asserted Yugoslav independence, Tito implemented the Yugoslav Space Program. By 1960, the film alleges, the CIA determined that Yugoslavia had developed operation space flight technology based on these writings. In March 1961, the film says Yugoslavia sold its complete space program to the United States. Just two months later, President John F. Kennedy gave the speech that announce the U.S. goal of reaching the moon within the coming decade.
The burst of growth in Yugoslavia following the 1960’s is supposed to be (from the filmmakers’ points of view) a result of the influx of currency from the sale of the space race technology. There could be other mitigating circumstances behind that rapid growth. One Canadian researcher believes that growth came the $47 billion in war reparations Yugoslavia received from the former Axis powers. The questions don’t stop there, however.
“The trailer draws a lot of links between events that may or may not have happened in some cases and connects the dots between a number of things that aren’t necessarily connected whatsoever,” Bill Barry, NASA’s Chief Historian, told Radio Free Europe. “There’s a lot of coincidence in time, but just because two things sort of happened one after the other does not necessarily mean that there’s causation involved. There’s a very big stretch involved here.” Barry does acknowledge the influence of Potočnik and his work, however.
The film’s evidence also centers around “Object 505,” a secret Yugoslav Army post on the Croatia-Bosnian border that was Top Secret and inaccessible, even to the top Yugoslav Army brass. The film’s crew visits the still-mysterious installation in the film.
“It was very mysterious and one couldn’t enter it easily,” former Yugoslav Army officer and aviation Lieutenant Ivan Prsa told Radio Free Europe. “Only selected people could enter this underground facility and that’s why it is still unknown to the public.”
This is the director’s original trailer:
In an interview with Radio Free Europe’s Balkan Service, the film’s director, Ziga Virc, tried to downplay some of the more incredulous claims that made his film’s trailer an internet sensation.
“We are in the phase of gathering all the facts, but we still need a lot, a lot of confirmation. We still need a lot of documents and archive-gathering so we can confirm,” Virc said. “I would not like to be too sensational about this topic.”
“Houston, We Have a Problem” is listed by HBO as “docufiction… exploring the myth of the secret multi-billion-dollar deal behind America’s purchase of Yugoslavia’s clandestine space program in the early 1960s.” The film was screened at 2016’s TriBeCa film Festival and will be in select theaters in May 2016.
If you think it’s hard getting tickets to a summer blockbuster on opening night, try getting into Kennedy Space Center these days to see a Space Shuttle launch.
After two and a half years of anticipation, people around the world want to see NASA boost back into action and the show sells out quick. Thinking about slipping in through the back door?
Along with the formidable force of standard security at Kennedy, a highly trained and specialized group of guardians protect the Center from would-be troublemakers. They are the members of the Kennedy Space Center Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team and they mean business.
“We’re here 24-7,” said SWAT commander David Fernandez. “There’s never a point when SWAT is not here, so we’re ready to respond to something if needed at a moment’s notice.”
NASA contracts the 29-member team from Space Gateway Support (SGS) to protect Kennedy’s employees, visitors, and national assets like the Space Shuttle from any potential threat. The SWAT team carefully prepares for special events like launch day and the arrival of astronauts and VIPs, but it also stands ready every day for possible problems that may arise.
Additionally, the SWAT team provides support to Kennedy security when special expertise may be needed to diffuse a dangerous situation. Skills like rappelling, defensive tactics, or marksmanship may be used to help keep the peace.
To stay sharp and fit for their job, members of the team have to pass annual physical fitness tests and maintain updated certifications for using their weapons.
“The training that we do out here is very intense sometimes,” Fernandez said. “But that’s because we’re at a stage which could be considered by some to be advanced. The training has to be more intense and challenging.”
As a part of staying in shape, members of the Kennedy Space Center SWAT team participate in competitions with the most elite teams around the world. SWAT officers hone their skills in events testing their speed and accuracy with special weapons and equipment. In 2019, the team from Kennedy placed 10th out of 55 teams at the annual SWAT Roundup in Orlando, Fla.
SWAT team logo Members of the SWAT team admit that one of the best parts of their job is getting the “big-boy toys.” But senior officer Eric Munsterman said there is also a rewarding bond they share with one another.
“In the civilian world, outside of police work or fire work, I don’t see where you’re going to find [camaraderie] as strongly as we develop it,” Munsterman said.
They may have their differences during the week, but when they suit up and go to work, that all goes away, Munsterman said.
Through a strong commitment to each other, members of the SWAT team ensure things at Kennedy stay safe. If you plan to come see a Space Shuttle launch, make sure you have a ticket.
“If anybody means harm to the astronauts or anyone else that works out here, they’re not getting past us,” Munsterman said.