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Now the VA will let you schedule an appointment with your smartphone

The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking new steps to use technology to improve access to health care for veterans across the country, including in rural areas.


Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says the initiatives include using video technology and diagnostic tools to conduct medical exams. Shulkin says veterans will also be able to use mobile devices to schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments with a VA doctor.

Now the VA will let you schedule an appointment with your smartphone
Marines, veterans and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

Shulkin says the new programs will make it possible to provide medical care to veterans wherever they are, whether they’re in their homes or are traveling.

The new programs are in addition to existing “telehealth” programs that Shulkin says provided care to more than 700,000 veterans last year.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Economic warfare is taking its toll on the Iranian people

Iranians got accustomed to the miniscule increases in their every day quality of life since U.S. and UN sanctions lifted. In 2016, the first year after the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed, the Islamic Republic’s economy experienced more than 12 percent growth after the five percent contraction it had the year prior. Along with that growth came a huge drop in inflation rates, increases in luxury goods, and a dip in the poverty rate.

But that’s all gone now, wiped away by the reimposition of UN/U.S. economic sanctions – and Iranians are not happy.

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You can’t buy an iPhone when you can’t feed your family.

Many Iranians, however, saw little improvement in their lives, as many economic sanctions weren’t actually lifted before President Donald Trump reimposed them after withdrawing from the nuclear agreement. Iranians say they can feel themselves breaking under the economic pressure, but they aren’t blaming Trump or the United States; they blame the regime. Little about Iran’s economy has changed in the last 40 years. Its inflation rate is now 37 percent and its unemployment rate hovers around 12 percent.

Oil revenues are a full third of Iran’s economy and President Trump has blocked it from being sold on world markets while promising to sanction any country who buys it. Still, the Iranians blame the government and its leadership.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Citizens of the Islamic Republic believe many in their government are corrupt, citing reports of former officials who embezzled millions of dollars and then fled the country before it could be recovered.

“The economic war is not from outside of our borders but within the country,” Jafar Mousavi, who runs a dry-goods store in Tehran, told the Associated Press. “If there was integrity among our government, producers and people, we could have overcome the pressures.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this new Russian doomsday device can create huge tidal waves

During Vladimir Putin’s address to the Russian Federal Assembly on March 1, 2018, he described a plethora of nuclear weapons Russia is developing.

One of these proposed weapons — an autonomous submarine — stood out among the depictions of falling warheads and nuclear-powered cruise missiles.


The autonomous drone would quietly travel to “great depths,” move faster than a submarine or boat, “have hardly any vulnerabilities for the enemy to exploit,” and “carry massive nuclear ordnance,” Putin said, according to a Kremlin translation of his remarks (PDF).

“It is really fantastic. […] There is simply nothing in the world capable of withstanding them,” he said, claiming Russia tested a nuclear-powered engine for the drones in December 2017. “Unmanned underwater vehicles can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads, which enables them to engage various targets, including aircraft groups, coastal fortifications and infrastructure.

“Putin did not refer to the device by name in his speech, but it appears to be the “oceanic multi-purpose Status-6 system” — also known as Kanyon or “Putin’s doomsday machine.”

The Russian government reportedly leaked a diagram of that weapon in 2015, which suggests it’d carry a 50-megaton nuclear bomb about as powerful as Tsar Bomba, the largest nuclear device ever detonated.

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Nuclear physicists say such a weapon could cause a large local tsunami, though they question its purpose and effectiveness, given the far-more-terrible destruction that nukes can inflict when detonated above-ground.

Why Putin’s ‘doomsday machine’ could be terrifying

A nuclear weapon detonated below the ocean’s surface can cause great devastation.

The underwater US nuclear weapons tests of the 1940s and 1950s — including operations “Crossroads Baker” and “Hardtack I Wahoo” — demonstrated why.

These underwater fireballs were roughly as energetic as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki in August 1945. In the tests, they burst through the surface, ejecting pillars of seawater more than a mile high while rippling out powerful shockwaves.

Some warships staged near the explosions were vaporized. Others were tossed like toys in a bathtub and sank, or sustained cracked hulls, crippled engines, and other damage. Notably, the explosions roughly doubled the height of waves to nearby islands, flooding inland areas.


“A well-placed nuclear weapon of yield in the range 20 MT to 50 MT near a seacoast could certainly couple enough energy to equal the 2011 tsunami, and perhaps much more,” Rex Richardson, a physicist and nuclear-weapons researcher, told Business Insider. The 2011 event he’s referring to is the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people in Japan.

“Taking advantage of the rising-sea-floor amplification effect, tsunami waves reaching 100 meters [328 feet] in height are possible,” Richardson said.

Richardson and other experts have also pointed out that a near-shore blast from this type of weapon could suck up tons of ocean sediment, irradiate it, and rain it upon nearby areas — generating catastrophic radioactive fallout.

“Los Angeles or San Diego would be particularly vulnerable to fallout due to the prevailing on-shore winds,” Richardson wrote, adding that he lives in San Diego.

The problem with blowing up nukes underwater

Greg Spriggs, a nuclear-weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, acknowledges that a 50-megaton weapon “could possibly induce a tsunami” and hit a shoreline with the energy equivalent to a 650-kiloton blast.

But he thinks “it would be a stupid waste of a perfectly good nuclear weapon.”

That’s because Sprigg believes it’s unlikely that even the most powerful nuclear bombs could unleash a significant tsunami after being detonated underwater.

“The energy in a large nuclear weapon is but a drop in the bucket compared to the energy of a [naturally] occurring tsunami,” Spriggs previously told Business Insider. “So, any tsunami created by a nuclear weapon couldn’t be very large.”

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(Brookings Institution; Madnessgenius )

For example, the 2011 tsunami in Japan released about 9,320,000 megatons (MT) of TNT energy. That’s hundreds of millions of times more than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, and roughly 163,000 times greater than the Soviet Union’s test of Tsar Bomba on October 30, 1961.

Plus, Spriggs added, the energy of a blast wouldn’t all be directed toward shore — it’d radiate outward in all directions, so most of it “would be wasted going back out to sea.”

A detonation several miles from a coastline would deposit only about 1% of its energy as waves hitting the shore. That scenario may be more likely than an attack closer to the shore, assuming a US weapons-detection systems could detect an incoming Status-6 torpedo.

But even on the doorstep of a coastal city or base, Spriggs questions the purpose.

“This would produce a fraction of the damage the same 50 MT weapon could do if it were detonated above a large city,” Spriggs said. “If there is some country out there that is angry enough at the United States to use a nuclear weapon against us, why would they opt to reduce the amount of damage they impose in an attack?”

Is the Doomsday weapon real?

Putin fell short of confirming that Status-6 exists, though he did say the December 2017 tests of its power unit “enabled us to begin developing a new type of strategic weapon” to carry a huge nuclear bomb.

The Trump administration even addressed the weapon’s possible existence in its 2018 nuclear posture review.

In a 2015 article in Foreign Policy, Jeffrey Lewis — a nuclear-policy expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies — dubbed the weapon “Putin’s doomsday machine.”

He wrote that in part because of speculation that the underwater weapon might be “salted,” or surrounded with metals like cobalt. That would dramatically extend fatal radiation levels from fallout (possibly for years or even decades), since the burst of neutrons emitted in a nuclear blast could transform those metals into long-lived, highly radioactive chemicals that sprinkle all around.

“What sort of sick bastards dream up this kind of weapon?” Lewis wrote, noting that such “salted” weapons are featured in the Cold War parody and science-fiction movie “Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

In Lewis’s eyes, it doesn’t necessarily matter if Status-6 is real or a psychological bluff designed to prevent the US from attacking Russia or its allies.

“Simply announcing to the world that you find this to be a reasonable approach to deterrence should be enough to mark you out as a dangerous creep,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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11 awesome facts about John Glenn and his amazing life

John Glenn may be one of the United States Marine Corps’ most epic alums. And that’s saying a lot (he’s in good company).


In his 95 years on planet Earth — and his time off the planet — Glenn racked up accomplishment after accomplishment, feat after feat, do after derring-do.

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It’s no wonder the U.S. and the world hail the Ohioan as a legend. He was a decorated war hero, astronaut, and senator — but he was so much more.

Here are a few interesting things you may not have known about the first American to orbit the Earth.

1. The documentary about his life was nominated for an Oscar.

The 1963 short film “The John Glenn Story” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. That was before he was elected to the Senate.

 

His life was already so epic it warranted its own movie, and even then, he was far from finished.

2. He and his wife were married for 73 years.

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John and Anna Glenn in 1963.

Glenn and his wife, Anna, were married in April 1943. They had two children and two grandchildren. Anna had a severe speech impediment and he protected her from the media because of it.

3. He was also the first man to eat in space.

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Glenn is seen here eating applesauce. No kidding.

The first meal in space was applesauce. And it was a big deal because scientists thought humans might not be able to digest in zero gravity. He also ate pureed beef and vegetables. Other famous space feats include being the oldest man in space (age 77) and the first man to carry a knife (a 9-inch blade in a leather sheath).

4. His Korean War wingman was also famous.

Glenn flew several missions with “The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived,” baseball hero Ted Williams. Williams flew half of his 39 combat mission over North Korea with Glenn.

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Glenn and Ted Williams reconnect following a parade down State Road A1A in Cocoa Beach in 1999. (NASA photo)

Glenn called Williams “one of the best pilots I ever knew.”

5. Bill Clinton sent two emails as President: One was to John Glenn.

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The laptop Clinton used to send the email sold for $60,000. (The White House/NASA)

The internet as we know it was in its infancy during the Clinton Administration, yet as President, Bill Clinton sent two: one to U.S. troops in the Adriatic, and the other to Glenn, then 77 years old and in orbit around the Earth.

6. Glenn was almost an excuse to invade Cuba.

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Operation “Dirty Trick” was planned if Glenn’s capsule crashed back to Earth. The Pentagon reportedly wanted to blame any mishap on Cuban electronic interference, and use his death as an excuse to invade Cuba.

7. Glenn’s Marine Corps nickname was “Magnet Ass.”

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Magnet Ass standing beside the damage to the tail of his F9F Panther from antiaircraft fire after a mission during the Korean War. (Ohio State University)

He flew a F9F Panther jet interceptor on 63 combat missions, twice returning with over 250 holes in his aircraft. His aircrews all thought he somehow attracted flak.

8. John Glenn was the last surviving Mercury 7 astronaut.

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The Mercury 7 astronauts examine their ‘couches.’ Each astronaut’s couch was molded to fit his body to help withstand the G-loads of the launch. (NASA photo)

The next to last one died in 2013. Also, the five sons of Jeff Tracy in the kids show “Thunderbirds” were named after the first five American astronauts into space through the Mercury project: Scott Carpenter, Virgil Grissom, Alan Shepard, Gordon Cooper, and John Glenn.

9. President John F. Kennedy barred Glenn from further space flights.

Glenn found out by reading Richard Reeves’ biography of President Kennedy decades later.

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(Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)

“Kennedy had indicated to NASA that he would just as soon that I was not assigned to another flight,” Glenn told the Mercury News in 2015.

10. Glenn took the first human-shot photo of the Earth from space.

It was a panoramic view of Florida from the Georgia border.

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(NASA photo by John Glenn)

His first words back to NASA were, “This is Friendship 7. Can see clear back; a big cloud pattern way back across towards the Cape. Beautiful sight.”

11. His space flight inspired a blues song.

Blues legend Lightnin’ Sam Hopkins wrote an upbeat blues song about Glenn’s first orbital spaceflight.

 

Lightnin’ Hopkins was not known for upbeat, fun songs. He is best known for downbeat songs about emotional pain, tragedy, and death.

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That time American and Russian tanks faced off in a divided Berlin

Continuing tensions with Russia over its annexation of Crimea, backing of separatists in Ukraine, dealing weapons to the Taliban, and the hacking of the U.S. elections have led to many people on both sides of the divide saying that current U.S.-Russian tensions are worse than they were in the Cold War.


Apparently, those people have forgotten that U.S. and Russian troops killed each other a few times, conducted a standoff with tactical nuclear weapons in Cuba, and stared each other down in armed tanks in divided Berlin.

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This is one of the most boss photos on this site. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The incident started on Oct. 22, 1961, when America’s senior diplomat in West Berlin, E. Allan Lightner, Jr., attempted to cross the newly-erected Berlin Wall at a major checkpoint, Checkpoint Charlie. He was stopped by East German authorities who wanted to see his papers, but Lightner insisted that only the Soviets had the authority to check his papers.

He eventually turned back from the border, but Gen. Lucius Clay ordered that the next U.S. diplomat who needed to cross the border would be accompanied by military police in armed Jeeps. The next diplomat did cross the border with the Jeeps.

But Clay still wasn’t satisfied. He sent M48 tanks to the checkpoint and had them rev their engines. The Soviet commander requested permission to call an equal number of tanks out in response and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev approved it.

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American tanks at Checkpoint Charlie in October 1961. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

So T-55 tanks pulled up to the opposite end of the street and, approximately 82 yards away from each other, the two sides threatened each other for 16 hours from Oct. 27-28, 1961.

News crews rushed to the scene and the world watched with bated breath to see if this would be the flame that set off the powder keg and descended the world into nuclear war.

But neither country wanted to fight World War III over paperwork in Berlin. President John F. Kennedy ordered back channels to be opened to reach a negotiation. Khrushchev agreed to a deal where the countries would take turns withdrawing a single tank at a time.

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Soviet tanks withdraw from Checkpoint Charlie at the end of the crisis. (Photo: Central Intelligence Agency)

The Soviets withdrew a T-55 and, a few minutes later, America pulled back an M48. The process continued until Checkpoint Charlie and its Soviet counterpoint had returned to their normal garrisons of a few soldiers on either side.

Today, the intersection has a replica checkpoint and a number of historical exhibits. Aside from the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year, Checkpoint Charlie may be the closest America and Soviet Russia came to blows in open warfare.

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The Marine Corps wants an ‘R2D2’ robot for every squad

QUANTICO, Va. — A Marine infantry squad with its own “Star Wars” drone. A combat unit in the field making its own spare parts with a 3-D printer. A truck that tells its operators when it needs maintenance.


These are a few of the innovative concepts a panel of senior Marine Corps leaders on Sept. 27 said were being developed or considered to help the Corps operate and, if necessary, fight in a future that could include a “great power war.”

The officers also discussed broader ideas such as the Marines finding ways to help the Navy achieve sea control in a heavily contested littoral environment and developing the capabilities to fight information warfare to match the newly threatening Russians.

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Spot, a quadruped prototype robot, aids Marines in clearing a room during a demonstration at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, Sept. 16, 2015.

The officials’ report to industry came on the opening day of the Modern Day Marine exposition at the historic “home of the Marine Corps.”

The focus of the report and the expo is innovation and a drive to move the Corps quickly into the future to respond to the rapid increase and global proliferation of advanced technology and an increasingly complex security environment.

Those themes will be highlighted by the unveiling of a new operating concept by Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller.

The panel listed a number of efforts already underway, including a rapid capabilities office designed to reduce the prolonged acquisition process. That is tied into an innovation center that has a website eliciting revolutionary ideas from Marines at all levels. They also mentioned a 10-year experimental effort called Sea Dragon and a drive to change basic organization in the Marine Corps Force 2025 initiative.

“What we see is how technology is changing so rapidly. That excites us, but also scares us a bit,” said Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration.

To avoid falling behind potential adversaries, Walsh said, the Corps is changing, but “we have to go faster. The commandant is pushing us to go faster.”

Deputy Commandant for Programs, Plans and Operations Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey noted the Russian capabilities in information warfare and warned “we have to be able to operate in that environment to be successful.”

Highlighting the need for greater use of robotic system, Bailey envisioned “every infantry squad having an R2D2,” a reference to the Star Wars drone.

Director of Combat Development and Integration Brig. Gen. Roger Turner said he is moving into phase two of the Force 2025 study that is developing the kind of Marine Corps needed for future conflicts with peer competitors or against “non-state actors” that could use asymmetric guerrilla tactics or high technology weapons.

“It is sobering to think we could be engaged in great powers war. … That is a major driver in Force 2025, that we’re not prepared to fight great power war,” Turner said.

In the emerging combat environment, Turner said, naval force will “really have to fight for sea control,” and his office is looking for ways that the Marine Air Ground Task Force deployed with an amphibious force can contribute to sea control to enable power projection in a contested environment.

Assistant Deputy Commandant for Installations and Logistics Brig. Gen. Terry Williams described efforts under way to achieve “hybrid logistics” that would reduce the burden of pushing supplies and support into isolated combat units by improving their ability to provide their own water, recharge batteries and use less fuel.

He said use of 3-D printing could allow deployed units to produce their own spare parts and “sense and response” maintenance would allow vehicle maintenance to be conducted only when needed and would avoid unnecessary work.

Marine Corps Systems Command chief Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader described a number of ways to reduce the weight of combat forces, including shifting to “active protection” systems for tactical vehicles, instead of the “passive protection” of armor plating, and changing the combat gear carried by ground units. Active protection would use small munitions to intercept anti-armor missiles.

He said other efforts were ongoing that might provide different combat equipment for the different jobs performed by Marine infantry units, such as riflemen, machinegunners or mortar crews.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The true story behind the recovery of Extortion 17

The following passage is an excerpt from “Violence of Action: The Untold Stories of the 75th Ranger Regiment in the War on Terror.” It has been edited for clarity.

On the night of Aug. 5 through Aug. 6, 2011, one of the worst tragedies in modern special operations history occurred. By this point in the war, the men who made up the special operations community were some of the most proficient and combat-hardened warriors the world had ever seen. Even so, the enemy always has a vote.

The men of 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment were on a longer-than-normal deployment as the rest of their company was on Team Merrill and they surged ahead with them.


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Coalition security members prepare to conduct an operation in search of a Taliban leader. Photo by SGT Mikki L. Sprenkle, courtesy of Department of Defense.

They had yet another raid mission in pursuit of a high-value target in the Tangi Valley, which was in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, on the night of August 5.

The mission was not easy. The Rangers took contact not only during their movement to the target but also on the target. Despite the tough fight that left some wounded, the enemy combatants were no match for the Ranger platoon. They secured the target and were gathering anything of value for intelligence when it was suggested by the Joint Operations Center (JOC) back at the Forward Operating Base (FOB) that a platoon of SEALs from a Naval Special Mission Unit be launched to chase down the three or four combatants that ran, or squirted, from the target.

This was a notoriously bad area, and the Ranger platoon sergeant responded that they did not want the aerial containment that was offered at that time. The decision was made to launch anyway. The platoon-sized element boarded a CH-47D Chinook, callsign Extortion 17, as no SOF air assets were available on that short of notice.

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U.S. Special Forces Soldiers, attached to Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan, alongside Afghan agents from the National Interdiction Unit, NIU, load onto CH-47 Chinooks helicopters for their infiltration prior to an operation in the Ghorak district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, Sept. 12, 2016. Photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez, courtesy of U.S. Army.

As Extortion 17 moved into final approach of the target area at 0238 local time, the Rangers on the ground watched in horror as it took a direct hit from an RPG (rocket-propelled grenade). The helicopter fell from the sky, killing all 38 on board. The call came over the radio that they had a helicopter down, and the platoon stopped what they were doing to move to the crash site immediately. Because of the urgency of the situation, they left behind the detainees they fought hard to capture.

The platoon moved as fast as possible, covering 7 kilometers of the rugged terrain at a running pace, arriving in under an hour. They risked further danger by moving on roads that were known to have IEDs (improvised explosive devices) to arrive at the crash site as fast as they could, as they were receiving real-time intelligence that the enemy was moving to the crash site to set up an ambush.

Upon their arrival, they found a crash site still on fire. Some of those on board did not have their safety lines attached and were thrown from the helicopter, which scattered them away from the crash site, so the platoon’s medical personnel went to them first to check for any signs of life. With no luck, they then began gathering the remains of the fallen and their sensitive items.

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Footage of the Extortion 17 crash site revealed mangled weapons and melted metal. Screen capture via YouTube.

Similar to the Jessica Lynch rescue mission almost a decade prior, the Rangers on the ground decided to push as many guys as possible out on security to spare them from the gruesome task. Approximately six Rangers took on the lion’s share of the work. They attempted to bring down two of the attached cultural support team (CST) members, but had to send them back as they quickly lost their composure at the sight of it all. On top of that, the crashed aircraft experienced a secondary explosion after the Rangers arrived that sent shrapnel into two of the medics helping to gather bodies.

Despite their injuries, they kept working. Later in the day they had to deal with a flash flood from enemy fighters releasing dammed water into the irrigation canal running through the crash site in an attempt to separate the Ranger platoon, cutting them in half. Luckily, because of the sheer amount of water heading toward them, they heard it before it hit them and were moved out of the way before anyone was hurt. If that wasn’t enough, there was also an afternoon lightning storm that was so intense it left some of their equipment inoperable and their platoon without aerial fire support.

Meanwhile, 3rd Platoon, Delta Company from 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment was alerted after coming off a mission of their own. They took a small break to get some sleep before they flew out to replace the other platoon, which would hold the site through the day. Once they awoke, they were told to prepare to stay out for a few days. They rode out and landed at the nearest Helicopter Landing Zone (HLZ), 7 kilometers from the crash site, and made their way in with an Air Force CSAR team in tow.

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Austin Williams visits the gravesite of U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher C. Campbell in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. Campbell was one of 30 Americans killed when a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, with the call sign Extortion 17, crashed in Afghanistan. Photo by Rachel Larue, courtesy of Arlington National Cemetery.

After arriving, the platoon from 2/75 had to make the 7-kilometer trek back to the HLZ, as that was the nearest place a helicopter could land in the rugged terrain. The men were exhausted, having walked to their objective the night before, fighting all night, running to the crash site, securing it through the day only to execute another long movement to exfil.

New to the scene, the platoon from 1/75 did what they could to disassemble the helicopter and prepare it to be moved. The last platoon evacuated the bodies and sensitive items on board, so now the only thing left was the large pieces of the aircraft spread out across three locations. They were out for three days straight, using demolitions as well as torches to cut the aircraft into moveable sections and then loading them onto vehicles that the conventional Army unit that owned the battlespace brought in.

Despite the gruesome and sobering task, Rangers worked until the mission was accomplished. The third stanza of the Ranger Creed states that you will never fail your comrades and that you will shoulder more than your fair share of the task, whatever it may be, 100 percent and then some. The Rangers of these two platoons more than lived the Creed in response to the Extortion 17 tragedy.

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This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.


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The 7 everyday struggles of women in the military

Being in the military means keeping up with grooming standards. Being a woman in the military means keeping up with grooming standards of the military and society. While there is a lot of press around sexual harassment and assault in the military, and it is a real problem, there are plenty of other aspects to being a female in uniform. It also means plenty of trash talk, confusion, and humorous adventures dealing with men in the line of duty.


Throughout any career in the military, there are plenty of gripes that come from the lowest of privates to the highest of generals. Females, though, have a special set of complaints which develop over the course of their careers. Here are seven basic things women learn during their service.

1. Keeping your hair in regs is harder than it looks

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(U.S. Coast Guard Training Video)

While the buzzcuts and high-and-tights adorn the heads of many men in the military, attempting to keep long, thick hair in a perfect sockbun is hardly the equivalent. Gel, hairspray, bobby pins, socks, hair ties, and prayers go into each bun, which often has to be fixed throughout the day.

2. Morale items can end up sapping your morale

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Female drill instructors at a Marine Corps basic training graduation practice (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Vincent White)

Many woman in the military own a ton of t-shirts and sweatshirts bearing branches and units, just like their male counterparts. Wearing these in public, women will often get asked if their boyfriend is in the military. The look on people’s faces when you politely correct them is always priceless.

3. Haters gonna hate

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Lt. Col. Christine Mau, 33rd Operations Group puts on her helmet before taking her first flight in the F-35A at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marleah Robertson)

Snide comments come with being a woman in the military, but sometimes the questions leave you speechless. Things like “Aren’t women in the Army lesbians?” or “They let you fire a real gun?” or even “Green and tan aren’t really flattering on you.” The questions are rooted in discrimination against women who serve, but many women take the questions in stride and use it as a way to teach someone about what it’s really like to serve.

4. There are many, many more grooming standards

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Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Joslyn Kelly from Fairfax, Virginia, shares her #WhyIServe statement from USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chris Cavagnaro/Released)

Makeup is accepted throughout the military, but regulations demand a “natural look.” Servicewomen across the branches become experts at the “no-makeup makeup,” with natural lips, eyes, and cheeks. Even if no one can tell, keeping a bit of your femininity in uniform is crucial to staying sane, especially on long duty weekends. Along with extreme makeup, nail color on the hands is not authorized, many relish in pedicures with beautiful colors. Even behind heavy combat boots, a rainbow of shades of nail polish can be found.

5. You never stop proving your value

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Maj. Lisa A. Jaster carries a fellow soldier during the Darby Queen obstacle course at the U.S. Army’s Ranger School at Fort Benning, Ga. (U.S. Army photo)

Every new person has to prove themselves but now that combat roles are open to women, there is a new level of proving yourself as the first generation of women in jobs that have been exclusively for men over the last hundred years. Trying to prove yourself as a .50 cal gunner as a petite woman is hardly easy, but the women who do it will pave the way.

6. Nothing issued off the rack actually fits

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Spc. Arielle Mailloux gets some help adjusting her protoype Generation III Improved Outer Tactical Vest from Capt. Lindsey Pawlowski at Fort Campbell, Ky. (U.S. Army photo)

Combat equipment, such as body armor, was developed and sized with men in mind. Many women have found themselves unable to fit in the smallest sizes of some flak jackets and bulletproof vests, not to mention the uncomfortable fits that were meant for more square body types.

7. “If the military wanted you to have kids . . .”

Women with children are often faced with criticism, accused of abandoning their children while deployed or being unfit parents for choosing work over families. One writer went so far as to say that women in the military were punished for being both mothers and serving in the military. The stigma of a woman not staying home with her husband and children is more visible in the military than anywhere else, with pressure from both civilians and from their own peers.

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Jeannie Leavitt, the first U.S. Air Force fighter pilot in 1993 (U.S. Air Force photo)

Despite all of the challenges, it is rewarding to be a part of the proud line of women who have served in the military, whether as a part of the WAVES, WAGS, and SPARS of WWII or today as sailors, soldiers, Marines, coasties, and airmen.

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This is one of the oldest Middle East deployments of American troops you’ve never heard of

One of America’s longest Middle East deployments has been taking place since 1981. This is part of the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai Peninsula, which helps implement the 1979 Camp David Accords – the peace treaty negotiated by then-President Jimmy Carter between Egypt and Israel.


According to the State Department, the U.S. brokered the historic accords in 1978, with the peace treaty taking effect the following year. While that treaty is best known for the billions of dollars in military aid it has provided Egypt and Israel over the years, what is not as well known is the fact that a peacekeeping force was also established to keep the two sides at bay.

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A Texas Guard soldier shoots during the Task Force Sinai quarterly competition. (National Guard photo)

According to the MFO’s web site, the peacekeeping force was supposed to come from the United Nations, but that organization couldn’t get a Security Council Resolution approved. Israel and Egypt had to get together in 1981 to work out an alternative arrangement. The MFO was born out of those negotiations.

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MFO Battalion South Fijian and U.S. Soldiers conducting security drills during a mass casualty exercise on MFO-South Camp June 28, 2016. (Photo by U.S. Army 1st. Lt. Sondra Setterington, Task Force Sinai Public Affairs)

The United States provides the largest contingent of troops to this 1,365-person force. The American contingent usually includes an infantry battalion (either National Guard or active component) that serves a 9-month tour. The United States also provides a support battalion to back up not only its infantry battalion, but the troops from 11 other countries as well, including Australia, Canada, and Uruguay.

Colombia and Fiji provide the second- and third-largest contingents, respectively.

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MFO Battalion South Fijian Soldiers conducting security drills during a mass casualty exercise on MFO-South Camp June 28, 2016. Fiji provides the third-largest contingent to the MFO. (Photo by U.S. Army 1st. Lt. Sondra Setterington, Task Force Sinai Public Affairs)

There have been fatalities during this mission. In 2007, according to a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Company, a DHC-6 Twin Otter crashed while trying to make an emergency landing. All eight personnel on board were killed.

In 1985, 250 personnel from the 101st Airborne Division were killed while returning from their tour, according to a Montreal Gazette report.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 of the most spine-chilling military superstitions

Humans are superstitious. We tend to come up with all kinds of ways to justify certain things we don’t fully understand. That same quality definitely has a home in military service. While some of these may seem ridiculous at first glance, there’s usually some kind of explanation underneath.

The Navy is easily the most superstitious of the branches — since their origins are tied to a history of life at sea, both military-related and otherwise, where imaginations ran wild after spending many months adrift. But, as a whole, the military has a wide array of superstitions that, when you take a closer look, are actually pretty creepy.


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You don’t want one of these bad boys to drift right over a cliff.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Yarnall)

Don’t carry a white lighter… Ever.

This is a superstition held by a huge number of people, mostly because of the notorious “27 Club” — a club made up of famous musicians and artists (like Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and others) that died at the age of 27 while carrying, you guessed it, a white lighter.

In the military, however, this superstition was given legs by a bad experience with an Amphibious Assault Vehicle. Rumor has it, the vehicle lost its brakes and went off a 100-foot cliff while one Marine carried a white lighter and another had a damn horseshoe. That horseshoe might have been good luck, but the lighter’s bad mojo was enough to disrupt the balance.

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King Neptune doesn’t want to hear your sh*t.

(U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate Airman Andrew Betting)

Neptune doesn’t like whistling

It’s a long-held belief in many cultures that whistling, especially at night, is an invitation to the spirits. There’s a home for this superstition in maritime tradition, too. Instead of spirits, however, the idea is that whistling will summon bad weather as it angers the King of the Sea.

So, if you find yourself on ship and you get the urge to whistle — don’t. Neptune seriously hates it.

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When you hear the enemy eating apricots.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Apricots

A Stars Stripes article from 1968 explains a story surrounding Marines at Cua Viet who continuously found themselves under attack by enemy artillery barrages. What they started to notice, however, was that these barrages would start almost immediately after a Marine ate a can of apricots from their C-Rations.

Coincidence? You be the judge.

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Maybe the “grandma’s couch” pattern wasn’t the best camouflage idea.

(Reddit)

Skeleton Keys

This superstition comes from the U.S. Army. If you look closely, you’ll see a pretty distinct key-shaped blotch within modern camouflage patterns. In what may be coincidence, several soldier took bullets right in the keys. It could just be that — coincidence — or it could be a deeper, like a spiritual omen.

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Just don’t do it. Please.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nello Miele.)

Saying the “R” word

You know the word. “Rain.”

Marines, soldiers, and anyone who has a job in the military that requires going outside believe that using the term will change the weather from anything to pouring rain. Infantry Marines will tell you that a bright and sunny day changes almost instantly when someone utters this word.

What’s worse is that it won’t stop until you head back to the barracks.

Articles

The 7 types of SNCOs in every military unit

Not all staff non-commissioned officers are created equal.


Across branches and job descriptions, most senior enlisted leaders develop their own unique personalities and leadership styles. But that doesn’t mean they don’t sometimes fall into certain archetypes, from “drill instructor” to “guidance counselor.”

In just about every unit, you’ll find these personality types for SNCO’s.

1. The drill instructor

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHNTufCZmH4

Paying close attention to details and quick to correct even the slightest mistake, “the drill instructor” maintains order through fear, respect, and constantly demanding maximum effort. They are so passionate about maintaining order and discipline that they may be willing to lose their bearing to achieve it, as demonstrated by the sergeant major in the video above who demanded a Marine veteran take off the drill instructor campaign cover during a protest.

2. The career cruiser

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Also known as “retired on active duty,” these are the SNCO’s on the backend of their career who are just skating by. With only a year or two left until their retirement date, the “career cruiser” is working hard to not work hard. Basically, they do just enough to get by and punch the clock until they can get out.

3. The cool parent

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They view each and every one of their troops not just as subordinates but as their extended family and are very protective of each and every one of them. They give their personal number to all of their junior ranking troops so that if they ever find themselves in a questionable situation or need a ride at 0300 on a Saturday morning, they should feel comfortable knowing “the cool parent” will be there to help them out.

4. The guidance counselor

Most troops are young and inexperienced in not only their military careers but in life in general. These SNCO’s are always finding ways to give personal and group mentorship every chance they get, whether they need it or not. “The guidance counselor” helps junior troops advance in life and in their careers while keeping them motivated and mission-ready.

5. The super motivator

Their tone, posture, speed, intensity, and character is always a cut above the rest. No matter what your mood or level of motivation, after every interaction you have with this SNCO, you leave feeling more dedicated and proud to be wearing the uniform and your role in the unit’s mission.

6. The warrior-leader

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Not one for talking, they are found doing. They have impeccable fitness, the highest qualifications scores, the highest standard of military bearing, and always mission ready, even while off duty. They exude confidence and their track record demands respect. Not one to shy from making tough decisions, they will always be found leading their men by example, like Sgt. Maj. Brad Kasal (pictured above), who earned a Navy Cross for his heroic actions in Fallujah.

7. The all-in-one

The SNCO that embodies all of the leadership traits. They are able to maximize the efforts and morale of everyone in their command, and are looked upon by their peers for guidance as masters in developing new leaders.  Everyone, from commanders to the most junior ranks, can count on them to make sound decisions and always have their best interests at heart.

NOW: This Green Beret’s heroism was so incredible that Ronald Reagan said it was hard to believe

MIGHTY MOVIES

History of Camp Pendleton in film and television

With its vast training areas and prime location along California’s shorelines, Camp Pendleton is well known for producing the finest fighting forces on the West Coast. What Camp Pendleton might be less known for, however, is that it has been a backdrop to some of America’s most famous films. Throughout Camp Pendleton’s history, multiple movie producers have utilized its training grounds over Hollywood sets to recreate authentic war scenes of our Country’s most famous battles.


“[Working with the entertainment industry] gives us an opportunity to showcase assets and capabilities that are available to production companies,” said U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Katesha Washington, Entertainment Media Liaison Office (EMLO). “It allows us also to accomplish our mission of telling the story of Marines.”

Camp Pendleton has an ongoing story to tell that continues each day. Since the base opened, over 20 films have been produced including “Sands of Iwo Jima,” starring, John Wayne. During the filming which also cast 2,000 Marines, producers transformed the installation to resemble the Japanese island also using elements to resemble the volcanic ash from Mt. Suribachi. Additional familiar titles include TNT’s television series, “The Last Ship,” and Columbia Media Corporation’s, “Battle Los Angeles.”

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(IMDb)

With access to starstruck active-duty Marines and their familiar training grounds, producers are able to create authentic scenes without a need to hire actors or build sets in some cases. But the Marine Corps does not merely reduce production costs without some benefit. In giving Marines opportunities to share the limelight with some of their favorite characters, the Marine Corps legacy is captured by telling its stories and reaching an audience, they might not typically reach.

For over a century, the Marine Corps has helped producers, writers and directors coordinate personnel, aircraft and equipment. “There are several steps leading up to filming a production,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Matthew Hilton, also with the EMLO. “We figure out how and if we can or cannot support.”

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(IMDb)

There have been countless stories told and countless stories yet to be told when it comes to Camp Pendleton’s rich history and tradition. Watching the actions of its Marines and sailors come to life on the big screen, both fictionally and non-fictionally only serves to preserve the Marine Corps heritage and real-life activities. And remember, the next time you watch your favorite action film, it just might have been filmed on the one and only Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

These body armor breakthroughs will change combat

Somewhere, probably in front of a brightly lit screen with Weird Al playing in the background, a bunch of pencil-pushing scientists are writing long formulas on whiteboards, looking at the formulas thoughtfully, and then trying to use all that science to make you nearly invulnerable to firearms.


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Body armor saves lives, but it destroys knees.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Kiara Flowers)

Current body armor is great against most rifle, submachine gun, and pistol fire, but it’s far from perfect. It’s heavy, adding as much as 40 pounds to troops’ loads, and it cracks under repeated hits. Against high-velocity and high-caliber rounds, it will typically give way, allowing the rounds to pierce the target anyway.

And all of that’s without taking into account that the armor, when working perfectly and when hit by rounds it’s designed to stop, can’t absorb all the impact. Most of it gets transferred to the target, just over a larger surface, sometimes resulting in broken bones or internal bleeding.

So it could definitely deal with some serious improvements. And that’s where the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes in. They have projects in the works that could give rise to futuristic body armor.

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Researchers are modeling impacts with 10,000 or more particles that, as they rub together, could absorb the energies of bullets, shrapnel, or blasts that would otherwise kill a soldier.

(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)

One of the most exciting is possibly the “Superelastic Granular Materials for Impact Absorption.” Yup, it’s a boring title. This is science. They name stuff with “descriptive” titles instead of entertaining ones. But, basically, this is looking at how to give troops high-tech, wearable beanbags.

The idea is that a bunch of grains of elastic material or crystals can be packed into the armor and, as the armor is hit, the energy is dissipated by these objects through friction and “intra-particle martensitic phase transformation.”

That last phrase is about a fairly complicated scientific process, but it’s the same process that metal goes through when it’s tempered. At its most basic level, the microstructures of certain metals change when heated or placed under extreme stress. So, if a bullet hits a material that will go through the martensitic transformation, then that material will absorb energy as it changes, possibly saving the soldier who doesn’t have to absorb that energy instead.

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This is a time-lapse image of a silica particle striking polymer materials. Watching the polymers at this micro-level requires sophisticated equipment, but allows researchers to get a much better idea of how these materials absorb impacts.

(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)

Another project is looking at what materials future body armor should be made of. What will hold the superelastic granular materials? That’s the purview of “Design Testing of Polymers for Improved Soldier Protection.” They’re looking at current materials used in body armor and other applications and seeing how they respond to shock and impact.

The hope is that, with a proper understanding of how these materials work at the most microlevels, MIT can figure out how to synthesize even better materials for protecting troops. And these guys want the nitty gritty details on how the materials take hits, watching the materials and measuring their electromagnetic properties when microparticles are fired at them.

One of the specific things they want to know is what materials give up hydrogen atoms when hit and which ones take hydrogen atoms when hit, allowing them to blend materials together so they quickly create hydrogen bonds and crystalline structures when stressed.

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One of the projects looks at how different nanocomposite materials react to different stresses.

(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)

In “Shock Mitigating and Reinforcing Molecular Nanocomposites,” another team is looking at how shockwaves travel through materials, especially nanocomposites, so that blast and ballistic hits to armor won’t kill the soldier wearing it.

The shockwave from an explosion travels through different tissues and different parts of cells at different rates, and so it causes the tissues and cells to deform, ripping them apart, potentially killing the soldier. And, that can happen even when zero shrapnel or heat hits the target.

If that shock can be mitigated—especially if it can be mitigated in extremely strong, light materials like graphene—then explosive weapons would lose a lot of their power against troops wearing new armor.

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3rd Cavalry Regiment soldiers during a reconnaissance patrol in Iraq in November 2018.

(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Timothy Durkin)

If all the projects come to fruition and engineers are able to blend all the results together, we could see a revolution of body armor. Instead of simply using hard materials to stop attacks like we have for centuries, we could use flexible materials to create armor that moves like clothing and, if we’re really lucky, weighs about the same as traditional fabrics.

But when these fabrics are hit by blasts or by gunshots, the fibers harden themselves and stop the threat, crystalline structures packed inside of the armor absorb the energy, and the whole thing is cost-effective because we’ve figured out cheap ways to create the fabrics.

But it will likely take decades to create final products and get them to the field.

Until then, you’re just going to have to ruck with ballistic plates. Sorry.

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