This program brings vets closer to home by working the land - We Are The Mighty
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This program brings vets closer to home by working the land

Christopher Brown squats among knee-high rows of green garlic. He grasps a stalk at its base and tugs it from the ground with a satisfying crunch. After popping several plants from the soil, he peels back their papery protective layers, revealing bulbs that are a brilliant, glossy white.


Six months ago, much of this Skagit Valley farmland was a mucky soup of tangled grass, mud and standing water under stormy skies. Today, it’s a pleasant 70 degrees. Rows of produce, from garlic and sugar snap peas to kale and broccoli, spring from the valley’s soft loam.

A three-time Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, Brown struggled to adjust when he returned to the U.S. So, too, did many of the men and women who are now harvesting produce alongside him — military veterans from all branches, of all ages.

Welcome to Growing Veterans, the thriving nonprofit that has transformed the life of Brown, its president and co-founder, and the lives of many of its workers and volunteers.

Together, they use sustainable practices to plant, grow and harvest a rich variety of produce for sale at farmers markets and donation to food banks. It is satisfying work, but there’s a deeper mission at stake: helping veterans reconnect — to each other, and to the communities they serve. And, in the process, tackling the pervasive isolation that underlies many of the issues they face.

In the morning, they park their cars in the gravel driveway of a former dairy farm. They greet each other with hugs. As they work, they share stories — funny stories, sad stories, terrifying stories — from their time in the service. They talk politics. Medications. Family. Civilian life.

Brown has a story of his own. In 2008, he returned from his final tour of duty. “There was a lot of guilt, grief, anger, frustration and anxiety,” he says. He also had to cope with a mild traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

His struggles were not unique. Along with PTSD, many returning veterans face depression. Substance abuse. Unemployment. Homelessness. And suicidal thoughts.

There was a lot of guilt, grief, anger, frustration, and anxiety

Brown’s Marine battalion, the 2/7, has a suicide rate four times that of all young male veterans. At least 15 men from the battalion have taken their own lives since he left the military.

“When I went back to get my undergraduate degree,” he says, “I made a commitment to myself that I would pursue an education and a career where those losses would not be in vain.”

Brown also began working on his own mental health. He spent over two years in group and individual counseling, processing his traumas and learning coping strategies. Following the advice of his counselor, he started growing plants as a way to reconnect with life.

Soon, he was harvesting food from his own garden for dinner, and he was feeling better and better. “I realized that there really is something to working with food and growing plants,” he says.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land

And then, just before he turned his thoughts to graduate school at the University of Washington, he says, it clicked: Why not combine food and sustainable agriculture with helping veterans?

For the past four years, he has done just that. Along with counselor-turned-farmer Christina Wolf, who serves as operations manager, Brown co-founded Growing Veterans on a 3.5-acre site north of Bellingham. The organization has since leased its expansive Skagit Valley location and a half-acre spot in Auburn, and continued to deepen its connections with regional farm agencies, veteran service providers and nonprofits.

Brown, who just completed his master’s in social work at the UW, and Wolf have also deepened their organization’s focus on mental health. Each of Growing Veterans’ nine employees has completed a peer-support training program designed to tackle veteran isolation and prevent suicide.

And beyond providing life-sustaining social support at its farms, Growing Veterans helps people connect with as many meaningful opportunities as possible: through other local and national veteran organizations, business and community networking, and educational projects.

There’s plenty of excitement cropping up for Growing Veterans. More community partners. More acreage planted. More people receiving healthy, sustainably grown produce. More veterans beginning the journey to healing.

But there’s also tremendous power in the present: The warmth of the sun. The fertile soil that gently gives way under each step. And the rhythm with which dirt-covered, callused hands pick and peel bunches of garlic, set them aside, and then begin anew.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land

When Growing Veterans was just getting off its feet, Christopher Brown embarked upon another journey: He took on a master’s degree in social work at the University of Washington.

Now a newly minted graduate, Brown recently transitioned from executive director of Growing Veterans to president of the board of directors — freeing up time to launch his career as a PTSD counselor for veterans.

Brown says the UW’s flexible M.S.W. extended degree program gave him much more than just the tools and credentials he needed to be a counselor.

His professors supported him as he focused many of his research projects on furthering the mission of Growing Veterans. And, though his concentration was in integrative health and mental health practice, Brown also learned about leadership and community building.

“Many of my professors also ran their own foundations and brought their worldly experience to the classroom,” he says. “They helped challenge and refine not only my understanding of how to work with others, but my view of the world, too.”

For more on Growing Veterans visit their website here.

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The path to Mars goes through military test pilot school

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Photo: NASA)


Early on the morning of December, 5 NASA launched the Orion rocket — the first American spacecraft designed for manned space exploration since the Saturn V rocket powered the Apollo missions to the moon.  According to NASA, the Orion spacecraft – unmanned for this first mission – orbited Earth twice, reaching an altitude of approximately 3,600 miles above Earth before landing in the Pacific Ocean.

“[This mission was] a huge step for NASA and a really critical part of our work to pioneer deep space on our Journey to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.  “The teams did a tremendous job putting Orion through its paces in the real environment it will endure as we push the boundary of human exploration in the coming years.”

And with the success of this mission astronauts once again think about going into space instead of hanging around Houston like a bunch of glorified academics.  The sense of purpose that evaporated with the last Shuttle flight is back, and in a big way.  We’re on our way to Mars!

You remember Mars, right?

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land

So do you want a chance to be among the first to walk on the Red Planet?  Then you need to be an astronaut.  And there are two surefire ways to be selected:  You can get a Ph.D. in astrophysics or something else equally boring and be selected by NASA as an astronaut mission specialist or you can join the military and go to flight school on the government’s dime and earn your pilot’s wings and be selected as an astronaut pilot.

But there’s more to it than just being a military pilot.  According to NASA’s website, candidates must have at least 1,000 hours pilot-in-command time in jet aircraft. The website also states that “flight test experience is highly desirable,” which undersells the requirement a little bit in that the fact is that the large majority of the pilots who have ever been selected to become NASA astronauts have been test pilot school graduates.

There are only three sanctioned military test pilot schools in the world:  U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California, U.S. Naval Test Pilot School at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland, and Empire Test Pilot School at Boscombe Down in the U.K.

Here’s a video produced by the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School that gives an overview of the command:

Military pilots of various branches and nationalities attend each of these schools, but generally pilots prefer to stick with the school that fully focuses on their warfare specialty, for instance, flying off of aircraft carriers.

Test pilot school is about a year long and very rigorous both in the classroom and airborne.  The instruction is designed to teach students how to take the principles of science, math, and engineering into the cockpit and then back again in order that they can quickly and effectively analyze performance characteristics and assist in creating better designs if required.  At test pilot school you’ll learn how to take an airplane beyond its design limits without destroying it, and you’ll also learn how to write accurate reports

Like everything else cool and kick-ass, getting into test pilot school is very competitive.  Applicants need fleet experience, and they also need to have been graded at the top of their peer group every step of the way.  And it’s not a “hard” requirement, but because of the intensity of the syllabus most test pilots schools look for candidates with engineering degrees.

Classes convene twice a year and each class is only comprised of about 20 students.

For more on what being a test pilot is all about read Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff.  Unlike the movie based on the book, the first half of the book provides great insights into the history of what life is like in the world of military test and evaluation.

And here’s a video from World War II era that describes some spin recovery techniques . . . techniques developed by test pilots:

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13 old school war movies every young trooper needs to watch

“American Sniper,” “Dunkirk,” and “Fury” are just a few the great war films that have hit theaters with in the last few years. These films help inspire today’s youngsters to consider joining the military.


In the next few decades, they will be remembered as among “The Classics” when it comes to ranking war movies.

But as we move forward, the classic war movies that inspired our past generations are the ones that helped get the modern day war films greenlit. Because of this, we should always recognize and never forget them — ever.

Grab your popcorn and check out our list of classic war films every young trooper should watch.

1. The Great Escape

Steve McQueen stars in this epic WWII film about a group of POWs trying to escape from a German prison camp.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: United Artist/Screenshot)

2. Kelly’s Heroes

Directed by Brian G. Hutton, the film follows a group of American troops who travel deep behind enemy lines to retrieve some Nazi treasure.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

 

3. Paths of Glory

This classic stars Kurt Douglas as Col. Dax, an officer who attempts to defend his troops who are accused of cowardice while fighting in the dangerous trenches of WWI.

 

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: United Artists)

4. Hamburger Hill

Directed by John Irvin, this story depicts one of the bloodiest American battles to take place during the hectic Vietnam War.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: Paramount)

5. Apocalypse Now!

This film is considered one of the greatest movies ever produced. The story follows Capt. Willard’s journey to locate and assassinate a renegade Army colonel during the Vietnam War.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: MGM)

6. The Green Berets

John Wayne plays Col. Mike Kirby, an Army Special Forces officer tasked with two vital missions consisting of building a camp and kidnapping a North Vietnamese General.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: WB)

7. Sands of Iwo Jima

This time John Wayne plays Sgt. John Stryker, a Marine who puts his men through his rough style of training to prepare them to fight in one of the Corps’ most historic battles.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: Paramount)

8. Midway

Directed by Jack Smight, this classic tale re-enacts the American victory at the Battle of Midway — considered one of the most critical turning points in the Pacific during World War II.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: Iniversal)

9. Patton

This 1970 film focuses on the incredible career of Gen. George S. Patton during WWII.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: Fox)

10. To Hell and Back

In this 1955 release, real life war hero Audie Murphy plays himself in the story of how he became one of the most decorated soldiers in U.S. history.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: Universal)

11. The Dirty Dozen

This epic motion picture follows Maj. Reisman, a rebellious soldier assigned to train a dozen convicted murders to carry out a deadly mission to kill multiple German officers.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: MGM/Screenshot)

12. The Fighting Seabees

John Wayne plays Lt. Cmdr. Wedge Donovon, a construction worker building military bases in the Pacific. After they come under fierce attack from Japanese forces, the Seabees have to defend themselves at all costs.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: Republic)

13. The D.I.

Directed and starring Jack Webb, this film follows one of the toughest Marine drill instructors to ever serve on Parris Island as he pushes a recruit platoon through basic training.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
(Source: Mark VII)

Can you think of any other? Comment below.

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US officials want to deploy 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan

President Donald Trump’s senior advisers said they have proposed sending additional troops to Afghanistan to weaken the Taliban in an effort to bring about negotiations.


In order to send the reinforcements, Trump must approve the recommendation by his senior military and foreign policy advisers aimed at breaking a military deadlock in the war that began in 2001, U.S. officials told The New York Times. The proposed additional troops would work together with a greater number of Afghan forces and operate more closely to the front lines.

The new strategy, which is supported by top Cabinet officials, would give the Pentagon the authority to set troop numbers in Afghanistan and to carry out airstrikes against Taliban militants.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
A couple hug before the last group of the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade Soldiers deploy for Afghanistan at Joint Base Lewis-McChord Sunday. The Raptor Brigade has deployed about 800 Soldiers in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel with U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

U.S. officials told The Washington Post the new plan expands the U.S. military role in Afghanistan to stem an increasingly confident and resurgent Taliban to force it back to the negotiating table with the Afghan government.

The recommendation was created after a review of the 15-year war — America’s longest — conducted by the Department of Defense, the Department of State, U.S. intelligence agencies and other government agencies.

In Afghanistan, there are 13,000 international troops — 8,400 from the United States — assisting the Afghan security forces, mainly in training and advising roles, but U.S. troops also carry out counter-terrorism operations.

The proposed plan would send an additional 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops, including hundreds of Special Operations forces. The U.S. government would request NATO nations to send thousands of troops. The final number of how many U.S. troops would be sent depends on how many troops NATO allies are willing to send.

Trump is expected to make a decision before the May 25 NATO summit in Brussels.

The Taliban frequently launches attacks, generally targeting Afghan troops, international troops and government officials. In April, the Taliban launched an attack in which it killed more than 140 soldiers stationed at Camp Shaheen, which serves as a headquarters of the Afghan National Army.

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Army arms Stryker with laser weapon

The Army and General Dynamics Land Systems are developing a Stryker-mounted laser weapon aimed at better arming the vehicle to incinerate enemy drones or threatening ground targets.


Concept vehicles are now being engineered and tested at the Army’s Ft. Sill artillery headquarters as a way to quickly develop the weapon for operational service. During a test this past April, the laser weapons successful shot down 21 out of 23 enemy drone targets.

Also read: Army Stryker gets lethality upgrade

The effort marks the first-ever integration of an Army laser weapon onto a combat vehicle.

“The idea is to provide a solution to a capability gap which is an inability to acquire, track and destroy low, slow drones that proliferate all over the world,” Tim Reese, director of strategic planning, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The weapon is capable of destroying Group 1 and Group 2 small and medium-sized drones, Reese added.

The laser, which Reese says could be operational as soon as 11-months from now, will be integrated into the Fire Support Vehicle Stryker variant designed for target tracking and identification.

General Dynamics Land Systems is now working on upgrading the power of the laser from two kilowatts of power to five kilowatts. The laser weapon system uses its own tracking radar to acquire targets in the event that other sensors on the vehicle are disabled in combat and has an electronic warfare jamming system intended to jam the signal of enemy drones. Boeing is the maker of the fire-control technology integrated into the laser weapon. The laser is also integrated with air-defense and field artillery networks

“The energy of the laser damages, destroys and melts different components of the target,” Reese explained.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
US Army photo

The Army is now in research and test mode, with a clear interest in rapidly deploying this technology. Reese added that GDLS anticipates being able to fire an 18-kilowatt laser from the Stryker by 2018.

One of the challenges with mobile laser weapons is the need to maintain enough exportable power to sustain the weapon while on-the-move, developers have explained.

“As power goes up, the range increases and time to achieve the melt increases. You can achieve less than one-half of the burn time,” he said.

This initiative is of particular relevance given the current tensions in Europe between Russia and NATO. US Army Europe has been amid a large-scale effort to collaborate with allies on multi-lateral exercises, show an ability to rapidly deploy armored forces across the European continent and up-gun combat platforms stationed in Europe such as the Stryker.

Lasers at Forward Operating Bases

The Army is planning to deploy laser weapons able to protect Forward Operating Bases (FOB) by rapidly incinerating and destroying approaching enemy drones, artillery rounds, mortars and cruise missiles, service leaders told ScoutWarrior.

Forward-deployed soldiers in places like Afghanistan are familiar with facing incoming enemy mortar rounds, rockets and gunfire attacks; potential future adversaries could launch drones, cruise missiles, artillery or other types of weapons at FOBs.

Adding lasers to the arsenal, integrated with sensors and fire-control radar, could massively help U.S. soldiers quickly destroy enemy threats by burning them out of the sky in seconds, Army leaders said.

Laser weapons have been in development with the Army for many years, Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Research and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

“We’ve clearly demonstrated you can takeout UAVs pretty effectively. Now we are not only working on how we take out UAVs but also mortars and missiles–and eventually cruise missiles,” she said.

The emerging weapons are being engineered into a program called Indirect Fire Protection Capability, or IFPC Increment 2. Through this program, the Army plans to fire lasers to protect forward bases by 2023 as part of an integrated system of technologies, sensors and weapons designed to thwart incoming attacks.

At the moment, Army soldiers at Forward Operating Bases use a system called Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar – or C-RAM, to knock down incoming enemy fire such as mortar shells. C-RAM uses sensors alongside a vehicle-mounted 20mm Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System able to fire 4,500 rounds per minute. The idea is to blanket an area with large numbers of small projectiles as a way to intercept and destroy incoming artillery, rocket or mortar fire.

Also, lasers bring the promise of quickly incinerating a wide range of targets while helping to minimize costs, Miller explained.

“The shot per kill (with lasers) is very inexpensive when the alternative is sending out a multi-million dollar missile,” Miller said.

Boeing’s Avenger Laser weapon successfully destroyed a drone in 2008 at White Sands Missile Range. Army weapons developers observed the test.

The Army is also developing a mobile high-energy solid-state laser program called the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD. The weapon mounts a 10 kilowatt laser on top of a tactical truck. HEL MD weapons developers, who rotate the laser 360-degrees on top of a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, say the Army plan is to increase the strength of the laser up to 100 Kilowatts, service officials said.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command

“The supporting thermal and power subsystems will be also upgraded to support the increasingly powerful solid state lasers. These upgrades increase the effective range of the laser or decrease required lase time on target,” an Army statement said

In November of 2013, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command used the HEL MD, a vehicle-mounted high energy laser, to successfully engage more than 90 mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles in flight at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

“This was the first full-up demonstration of the HEL MD in the configuration that included the laser and beam director mounted in the vehicle. A surrogate radar (Enhanced Multi Mode Radar) supported the engagement by queuing the laser,” an Army statement said.

Miller explained how the Army hopes to build upon this progress to engineer laser weapons able to destroy larger targets at farther ranges. She said the evolution of laser weapons has spanned decades.

“We first determined we could use lasers in the early 60’s. It was not until the 90’s when we determined we could have the additional power needed to hit a target of substance. It took us that long to create a system and we have been working that kind of system ever since,” Miller added.

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The legendary rock band KISS has surprising roots from World War II

The legendary rock band Kiss is known for their makeup, over-the-top stage show, and hits like “Rock ‘n Roll All Night” and “Detroit Rock City.”


They aren’t known as historians, although two of the band’s members — Gene Simmons and Tommy Thayer — have remarkable stories to tell about what their families went through during World War II. And equally remarkable is how these stories link the two members of Kiss to each other.

Backstage at a Kiss concert in northern Virginia in late July, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer talked about his father’s military service. James B. Thayer retired as a brigadier general in the mid-60s, but in 1945 he was an first lieutenant in charge of an anti-tank mine reconnaissance platoon that made its way across France into southern Germany. The unit saw a lot of action, including battles with Waffen SS troops – among the Third Reich’s most elite fighters – that involved bloody hand-to-hand combat.

As the platoon made its way farther south they stumbled upon the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. “The SS had just fled,” Tommy Thayer said. “They left behind 15,000 Hungarian-Jewish refugees who were in bad shape.”

Ironically enough, based on time and location, among the refugees that U.S. Army Lieutenant Thayer liberated was most likely a family from Budapest that included a teenage girl who would later give birth Gene Simmons, Kiss’ outspoken bassist and co-founder.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EbocCi_OZ_U
“My mother was 14-years-old when they took her to the camps of Nazi Germany,” Simmons explained. “If it wasn’t for America, for those who served during World War Two like James Thayer, I wouldn’t be here.”

As a result of this connection, the band has thrown its clout behind the Oregon Military Museum, which will be named in honor of the now 93-year-old Brigadier General Thayer. Tommy Thayer is on the museum’s board, and the band recently played at a private residence in the greater Portland area to raise money and awareness for the effort.

“The idea that Americans enjoy the kind of life that the rest of the world is envious of is made possible – not by politicians – but by the brave men and women of our military,” Simmons said. “The least we could do is have a museum.”

“There is evil being done all over the world,” Simmons said. “And the only thing that keeps the world from falling into complete chaos is our military.”

Beyond supporting the Oregon Military Museum, in the years since 9-11, Simmons has worked as a military veteran advocate. Among some of his more high-profile efforts is the band’s hiring of veterans to work as roadies for Kiss on tour.

While other celebrity vet charities could rightly be criticized as something between Boomer guilt and vanity projects, the bass guitarist’s desire to help vets is fueled by what his mother’s side of the family went through to make it to America a generation ago.

Simmons has a few things to say about national pride, something he thinks the country has lost a measure of.

“When I first came to America as an eight-year-old boy people were quiet when the flag was raised,” Simmons said. “We all stood still.”

To Simmons’ eye that respect is lacking in too many Americans now, particularly younger Americans who are surrounded by information and media but may not appreciate the relationship between history and their daily lives.

“Just stop yakking for at least one minute,” he said. “The rest of the day is all yours to enjoy all the benefits that the American flag gives you.”

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The 5 weirdest examples of military-inspired fashion

There’s no need to leave your love of military fashion at the parade grounds when you get off duty. Here are five great designs that’ll let you show your colors while turning heads. Or just make you look really weird. Either way will work.


1. RAF high heels

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
Photo: Amy Hart/Pinterest

For the fashion-forward ace fighter pilot in your life, complete with five rivets annotating the number of kills the wearer has.

2. Digital camo crop top

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Perfect for hiding out in the woods or standing out in a crowd.

3. Who wore it better?

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
Photos: Wikimedia Commons

It takes a lot of personality to pull off this look, but the King of Pop rocked a sequined military jacket while receiving an award from President Ronald Reagan. Jimi Hendrix, a former member of the Army, rocked a more subdued version of the military dress jacket.

4. Dueling medals

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
Photo: Ida Leo/Pinterest

Today’s fashionistas shouldn’t fear showing allegiance to multiple regimes. Here, a woman displays her love for the U.S. military, the bail enforcers, and communism, all displayed on a military style coat. The pistol belt allows wearers to quickly dispatch enemies of the state, subdue bail jumpers, or protect the freedoms of civilians, depending on which medal is given precedence that day.

5. Classic spats for modern women

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
Photo: Ida Leo/Pinterest

This great design takes the gaiters, formerly relegated to protecting boots during marches in the backcountry, to the catwalk. Pair it with high heels and a matching purse.

NOW: 9 military uniform items that Jennifer Aniston made into fashion staples

OR: ‘You’re really pretty for being in the Army’

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Special ops may try to develop ‘super soldiers’ with performance-enhancing drugs

US Special Operations Command is weighing the use of nutritional supplements or even performance-enhancing drugs to push the abilities and endurance of its forces beyond current human limits, according to a report from Defense News.


While special-operations forces already have access to specialized resources, like dietitians and physical therapists, SOCOM is looking to increase their ability to tolerate pain, recover from injuries, and remain physically able in challenging environments.

“If there are … different ways of training, different ways of acquiring performance that are non-material, that’s preferred but in a lot of cases we’ve exhausted those areas,” Ben Chitty, the senior project manager for biomedical, human performance, and canine portfolios at US SOCOM’s Science and Technology office, told Defense News.

Related: How to make yourself hard to kill, according to a special operator

While Chitty said SOCOM was exploring nutritional supplements, other substances were in consideration as well.

“For performance enhancing drugs, we’ll have to look at the makeup and safety in consultation with our surgeon and the medical folks before making any decisions on it,” he told Defense News.

One goal of the research to develop what Defense News referred to as “super soldiers” would be to expand troops’ ability to operate in places not well suited for humans — high altitudes or underwater in particular.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
A US Navy SEAL aims his SCAR during training. Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Martin L. Carey

While the evaluation process would emphasize safety — “We’re not cutting any corners,” Chitty said — any proposal to deploy pharmaceutical substances among special-operations troops is likely to draw scrutiny, especially in light of recent revelations about a what Capt. Jamie Sands, the commander of 900 Navy SEALs on the East Coast, called a “staggering” number of drug cases among Navy Special Operations units.

Three active and retired SEALs spoke to CBS in April, with their faces masked and voices disguised, telling the network that illicit drug use among SEAL units was increasing.

Also read: SOCOM wants drugs to turn its K9s into super dogs

“People that we know of, that we hear about have tested positive for cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, ecstasy,” one of them said.

Another active-duty SEAL described by the CBS report tested positive once in the past for cocaine, and, during a new round of testing prompted by a drug-related safety stand-down in December, tested positive againfor prescription drugs. He was being removed from SEAL teams.

While Navy SEALs are supposed to undergo regular drug tests, that doesn’t always apply when they are away from their home bases. As demand for SEALs in operations around the world has grown, they have spent an increasing amount of time deployed.

This program brings vets closer to home by working the land
U.S. Navy SEALs exit a C-130 Hercules aircraft during a training exercise near Fort Pickett, Va.

Three active-duty SEALs told CBS they hadn’t been tested in years. Sands, for his part, announced in December that SEALs would start undergoing tests while deployed.

While Chitty did not mention the frequency of operations — and the physical and emotional wear and tear related to it — as a reason for pursuing nutritional and pharmaceutical supplements, other special-operations officials have warned that their forces are being depleted by an overreliance on them.

“We’ve been operating at such a high [operational] tempo for the last decade plus, and with budgets going down, what we’ve had to do is essentially … eat our young, so to speak,” Theresa Whelan, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for special operations, said during a House Armed Services Committee session this month.

Special-operations commanders, while acknowledging the strain increased operations have put on their units, have emphasized that they are still capable of addressing threats emerging around the world. But, Whelan told Congress, constant readiness has had and will have consequences.

“We’ve mortgaged the future in order to facilitate current operations that has impacted readiness and it’s also impacted development of force for the future,” she said. “And as the threats grow, this is only going to get worse.”

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This Soviet colonel managed a crazy escape from the KGB after he was exposed as a spy

Oleg Gordievsky, British spy and former Russian Soviet Colonel, is congratulated by Baroness Thatcher following his investiture by the Queen on 18th October 2007. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Sergei66


The KGB colonel knew his cover was almost blown.

He had been suspiciously summoned to Moscow. They had got him drunk on cognac while a KGB general grilled him for four hours. He’d be executed if they could catch him. They seemed to be closing the net. But the MI6 double agent couldn’t risk openly fleeing.

After he sobered up at home, Oleg Gordiyevsky turned to his last resort — an emergency escape plan devised by the British intelligence services that was hidden in invisible ink in a collection of Shakespeare sonnets.

Pulling bed sheets over his head to elude surveillance cameras in the ceiling and walls of his Moscow apartment, Gordiyevsky soaked the book cover in water, revealing a set of instructions. He set about memorizing them.

The plan sketched out a risky rendezvous with two British diplomatic cars at the bend of a road near Finland. From there, Gordiyevsky would be smuggled across the border in the trunk of a car right under the nose of Soviet guards.

If the plan failed, the British security services would lose a prized asset, sometimes considered the West’s most valuable Cold War intelligence source. The plan was backed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher: if uncovered it would spark a major diplomatic incident; for Gordiyevsky it would mean certain death.

Recruited in 1974 in Copenhagen by MI6, Gordiyevsky, a KGB colonel, was an unparalleled source within the secretive Soviet state, passing reams of information to the British, who shared it with the CIA. It led to him being compromised. Gordiyevsky blames Aldrich Ames, a KGB mole in the CIA, who he says told Moscow there was a leak in the KGB London station where Gordiyevsky was posted.

‘Toward Death’s Embrace’

Gordiyevsky was summoned to the KGB’s Lubyanka headquarters in Moscow, ostensibly so that he could be confirmed as station chief. But Gordiyevsky suspected something was up.

“I realized I was going toward death’s embrace. But I still decided to go to show that I’m not scared,” he said. He took with him a backup escape plan written by British spy John Scarlett, the man who went on to become “M,” the head of MI6.

“It was all arranged ahead of time,” Gordiyevsky said 30 years later in an interview with RFE/RL’s Russian Service at his two-floor house in a town near London.

All he had to do was inform the British of the proposed date of his extraction. But even that proved hard.

A first “control” meeting arranged at Kutuzovsky Prospekt was botched. A second rendezvous was planned at St. Basil’s Cathedral, where he was meant to pass a note to a British spy on the narrow staircase leading up to the iconic tourist site’s second floor.

But after walking for three hours to shake off his KGB tail, Gordiyevsky arrived to find the plan had been foiled — the whole of Red Square was closed for renovations.

Finally, a third control meeting was successful. The plan was on.

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Courtesy photo

At five o’clock on a Friday afternoon on July 19, 1985, a short, thick-set man in a worn jacket and corduroy trousers stepped out of a west Moscow apartment. Staying close to the bushes to avoid detection by a surveillance vehicle, he quietly slipped across to an adjacent street.

Within an hour Gordiyevsky was at Moscow’s Leningrad train station, where he bought tickets to Leningrad before travelling by suburban electric train to Zelenogorsk. From there, he jumped on a bus to Vyborg.

Hours Of Waiting

The meeting place was somewhere along the way, but he had only a description of the meeting place and no precise location.

Unsure exactly where to get off but having passed a big bend in the road that resembled the meeting place, he feigned sickness and nausea to convince the driver to let him off, and walked back along the road until he found the designated meeting place.

“I was surrounded by woodland where I laid down waiting for the diplomatic car of the [British] embassy. I lay there three hours waiting for the moment when the car was meant to come. At 2:20 a.m. two cars with two drivers arrived. They managed to hide around the bend for a few minutes away from the KGB car following them from Leningrad.”

“I dived into the trunk of one of the cars. The whole operation took no longer than a minute, we managed to get going again before the KGB tail appeared round the corner.”

Luckily, a slow goods train chugging through a railway crossing had separated the British diplomats from the KGB tail and put considerable distance between them. The KGB sped forward to catch up, but the British cars had waited by a small hill out of sight and the KGB overshot them.

“Our pursuers, having reached a traffic police post, asked the police: ‘Where are the English cars?'”

“‘What cars? No one has passed,’ [they answered]. And then our cars appeared. They surrounded the English: ‘Right, that’s it, now they’re going to arrest us,’ they thought. But the KGB were also tired. It was half past five, Saturday, end of the working day. They’d been on duty since about 7 that morning and let us go through to the border point without checking us.”

From the trunk of the car, all Gordiyevsky could hear was the driver turn on a piece of music by Sibelius called Finlandia.

“That’s how I realized we were on Finnish territory.”

In Finland, Gordiyevsky was let out of the stuffy trunk of the car and met by a young British diplomat named Michael Shipster. He called MI6, Gordiyevsky recalls, and announced: “The luggage has arrived. It’s all in order.”

Also from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

This article originally appeared at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Copyright 2015.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.

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This Medal Citation Reads Like a Blockbuster Movie

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General Mike Hagee, Commandant of the Marine Corps, presents the Navy Cross to First Lieutenant Brian Chontosh, USMC.


The word “hero” has been overused since 9-11, but early in the Iraq War, Marine Corps First Lieutenant Brian Chontosh engaged in some bad-assery that truly merits him wearing that label.  Check out the write-up on his Navy Cross citation.  It reads like something straight out of Hollywood:

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the NAVY CROSS to

FIRST LIEUTENANT BRIAN R. CHONTOSH

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS

for service as set forth in the following

Citation:

For extraordinary heroism as Combined Anti-Armor Platoon Commander, Weapons Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM on 25 March 2003. While leading his platoon north on Highway 1 toward Ad Diwaniyah, First Lieutenant Chontosh’s platoon moved into a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket propelled grenades, and automatic weapons, fire. With coalition tanks blocking the road ahead, he realized his platoon was caught in a kill zone. He had his driver move the vehicle through a breach along his flank, where he was immediately taken under fire from an entrenched machine gun. Without hesitation, First Lieutenant Chontosh ordered the driver to advance directly at the enemy position enabling his .50 caliber machine gunner to silence the enemy. He then directed his driver into the enemy trench, where he exited his vehicle and began to clear the trench with an M16A2 service rile and 9 millimeter pistol. His ammunition depleted, First Lieutenant Chontosh, with complete disregard for his safety, twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack. When a Marine following him found an enemy rocket propelled grenade launcher, First Lieutenant Chontosh used it to destroy yet another group of enemy soldiers. When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others. By his outstanding diplay of decisive leadership, unlimited courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and utmost devotion to duty, First Lieutenant Chontosh reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.

Also Read: Medal Of Honor: Meet The 16 Heroes Of Iraq And Afghanistan Who Received The Nation’s Highest Honor 

Here’s what the actual citation looked like as it was presented to Lieutenant Chontosh:

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NOW: Inside ‘Dustoff’ — 22 Photos Of The Army’s Life-Saving Medevac Crews 

OR: Take the quiz: Which Marine Corps Legend Are You? 

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The 13 funniest military memes for the week of Jul. 8

Look, all we’ve got here is funny military memes. If that’s something you want, keep scrolling down.


1. “You embarrassed the Air Force!”

(via Military Memes)

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2. Seems like this happened way too often:

(via Marine Corps Memes)

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SEE ALSO: At the beginning of the Civil War, most surgeons didn’t know how to treat gunshot wounds

3. Just bring Windex and you can have all the flights you want (via Pop Smoke).

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4. The Navy might have gotten this one right (via Military Memes).

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Discos sound way more fun than missions.

5. Things that are easier to find than promotion or ETS papers:

(via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

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Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, Santa Claus. Whatever.

6. The sequel has a little less action than the first movie (via Coast Guard Memes).

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More realistic depiction of Coast Guard life, though.

7. No lie, the first time I heard zonk I was left in an empty field with my first sergeant, completely confused (via The Salty Soldier).

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8. What’s so wrong about skating?

(via Sh-t my LPO says)

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Oh yeah, no work would ever get done again.

9. The nice thing about mannequins is that they can’t screw anything up (via Sh-t my LPO says).

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It does seem like his coffee should be further from the edge, though.

10. D-mn, Jody. Give her at least a minute after he gets on the bus (via Devil Dog Nation).

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11. Tinder, Facebook, Twitter, everywhere (via Coast Guard Memes).

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12. When chief finds out the commander has already mandated the release time:

(via Air Force Nation)

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But remember, you belong to chief again first thing the next morning.

13. Finally! Get to formation, everyone:

(via Team Non-Rec)

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Have a good and safe weekend.

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Air Force developing hypersonic weapons by 2020s

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An artist’s rendering of the X-51A | U.S. Air Force graphic


The Air Force will likely have high-speed, long-range and deadly hypersonic weapons by the 2020s, providing kinetic energy destructive power able to travel thousands of miles toward enemy targets at five-times the speed of sound.

“Air speed makes them much more survivable and hard to shoot down. If you can put enough fuel in them that gets them a good long range. You are going roughly a mile a second so if you put in 1,000 seconds of fuel you can go 1,000 miles – so that gives you lots of standoff capability,” Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias told Scout Warrior in an interview.

While much progress has been made by Air Force and Pentagon scientists thus far, much work needs to be done before hypersonic air vehicles and weapons are technologically ready to be operational in combat circumstances.

“Right now we are focusing on technology maturation so all the bits and pieces, guidance, navigation control, material science, munitions, heat transfer and all that stuff,” Zacharias added.

Zacharias explained that, based upon the current trajectory, the Air Force will likely have some initial hypersonic weapons ready by sometime in the 2020s. A bit further away in the 2030s, the service could have a hypersonic drone or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance) vehicle.

“I don’t yet know if this is envisioned to be survivable or returnable. It may be one way,” Zacharias explained.

A super high-speed drone or ISR platform would better enable air vehicles to rapidly enter and exit enemy territory and send back relevant imagery without being detected by enemy radar or shot down.

By the 2040s, however, the Air Force could very well have a hypersonic “strike” ISR platform able to both conduct surveillance and delivery weapons, he added.

A weapon traveling at hypersonic speeds, naturally, would better enable offensive missile strikes to destroy targets such and enemy ships, buildings, air defenses and even drones and fixed-wing or rotary aircraft depending upon the guidance technology available.

A key component of this is the fact that weapons traveling at hypersonic speeds would present serious complications for targets hoping to defend against them – they would have only seconds with which to respond or defend against an approaching or incoming attack.

Hypersonic weapons will quite likely be engineered as “kinetic energy” strike weapons, meaning they will not use explosives but rather rely upon sheer speed and the force of impact to destroy targets.

“They have great kinetic energy to get through hardened targets. You could trade off smaller munitions loads for higher kinetic energy. It is really basically the speed and the range. Mach 5 is five times the speed of sound,” he explained.

The speed of sound can vary, depending upon the altitude; at the ground level it is roughly 1,100 feet per second. Accordingly, if a weapon is engineered with 2,000 seconds worth of fuel – it can travel up to 2,000 miles to a target.

“If you can get control at a low level and hold onto Mach 5, you can do pretty long ranges,” Zacharias said.

Although potential defensive uses for hypersonic weapons, interceptors or vehicles are by no means beyond the realm of consideration, the principle effort at the moment is to engineer offensive weapons able to quickly destroy enemy targets at great distances.

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B-52 carries the X-51 Hypersonic Vehicle out to the range for launch test. | US Air Force photo by Bobbi Zapka

Some hypersonic vehicles could be developed with what Zacharias called “boost glide” technology, meaning they fire up into the sky above the earth’s atmosphere and then utilize the speed of decent to strike targets as a re-entry vehicle.

For instance, Zacharias cited the 1950s-era experimental boost-glide vehicle called the X-15 which aimed to fire 67-miles up into the sky before returning to earth.

China’s Hypersonic Weapons Tests

Zacharias did respond to recent news about China’s claimed test of a hypersonic weapon, a development which caused concern among Pentagon leaders and threat analysts.

While some Pentagon officials have said the Chinese have made progress with effort to develop hypersonic weapons, Zacharias emphasized that much of the details regarding this effort were classified and therefore not publically available.

Nevertheless, should China possess long-range, high-speed hypersonic weapons – it could dramatically impact circumstances known in Pentagon circles and anti-access/area denial.

This phenomenon, referred to at A2/AD, involves instances wherein potential adversaries use long-range sensors and precision weaponry to deny the U.S. any ability to operate in the vicinity of some strategically significant areas such as closer to an enemy coastline. Hypersonic weapons could hold slower-moving Navy aircraft carriers at much greater risk, for example.

An April 27th report in the Washington Free Beach citing Pentagon officials stating that China successfully tested a new high-speed maneuvering warhead just last week.

“The test of the developmental DF-ZF hypersonic glide vehicle was monitored after launch Friday atop a ballistic missile fired from the Wuzhai missile launch center in central China, said officials familiar with reports of the test,” the report from the Washington Free Beacon said. “The maneuvering glider, traveling at several thousand miles per hour, was tracked by satellites as it flew west along the edge of the atmosphere to an impact area in the western part of the country.”

X-51 Waverider

Scientists with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Pentagon’s research arm are working to build a new hypersonic air vehicle that can travel at speeds up to Mach 5 while carrying guidance systems and other materials.

Air Force senior officials have said the service wants to build upon the successful hypersonic flight test of the X-51 Waverider 60,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean in May of 2013.

The Air Force and DARPA, the Pentagon’s research entity, plan to have a new and improved hypersonic air vehicle by 2023.

The X-51 was really a proof of concept test designed to demonstrate that a scram jet engine could launch off an aircraft and go hypersonic.

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US Air Force photo

The scramjet was able to go more than Mach 5 until it ran out of fuel. It was a very successful test of an airborne hypersonic weapons system, Air Force officials said.

The successful test was particularly welcome news for Air Force developers because the X-51 Waverider had previously had some failed tests.

The 2013 test flight, which wound up being the longest air-breathing hypersonic flight ever, wrapped up a $300 million technology demonstration program beginning in 2004, Air Force officials said.

A B-52H Stratofortress carried the X-51A on its wing before it was released at 50,000 feet and accelerated up to Mach 4.8 in 26 seconds. As the scramjet climbed to 60,000 feet it accelerated to Mach 5.1.

The X-51 was also able to send back data before crashing into the ocean — the kind of information now being used by scientists to engineer a more complete hypersonic vehicle.

“After exhausting its 240-second fuel supply, the vehicle continued to send back telemetry data until it splashed down into the ocean and was destroyed as designed,” according to an Air Force statement. “At impact, 370 seconds of data were collected from the experiment.”

This Air Force the next-generation effort is not merely aimed at creating another scramjet but rather engineering a much more comprehensive hypersonic air vehicle, service scientists have explained.

Hypersonic flight requires technology designed to enable materials that can operate at the very high temperatures created by hypersonic speeds. They need guidance systems able to function as those speeds as well, Air Force officials have said.

The new air vehicle effort will progress alongside an Air Force hypersonic weapons program. While today’s cruise missiles travel at speeds up to 600 miles per hour, hypersonic weapons will be able to reach speeds of Mach 5 to Mach 10, Air Force officials said.

The new air vehicle could be used to transport sensors, equipment or weaponry in the future, depending upon how the technology develops.

Also, Pentagon officials have said that hypersonic aircraft are expected to be much less expensive than traditional turbine engines because they require fewer parts.

For example, senior Air Force officials have said that hypersonic flight could speed up a five- hour flight from New York to Los Angeles to about 30 minutes. That being said, the speed of acceleration required for hypersonic flight may preclude or at least challenge the scientific possibility of humans being able to travel at that speed – a question that has yet to be fully determined.

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Trump’s CIA pick: Russia ‘threatening Europe,’ failing to destroy ISIS

WASHINGTON — U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to run the CIA says he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely satisfied with the political furor in the United States over what U.S. intelligence calls a Russian hacking campaign to meddle in the presidential election.


Representative Mike Pompeo (Republican-Kansas) said during the January 12 confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee that it would not be surprising if Russia’s leadership sees the uproar “as something that might well rebound to their benefit.”

Also read: The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

“I have no doubt that the discourse that’s been taking place is something that Vladimir Putin would look at and say: ‘Wow, that was among the objectives that I had, to sow doubt among the American political community, to suggest somehow that American democracy was not unique,'” Pompeo said.

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U.S. Congresman Mike Pompeo speaking at the 2011 Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC. | Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore

Trump has publicly questioned the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian involvement, though a day earlier he acknowledged that Moscow was likely behind the cyberattacks targeting the campaign of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Trump insists, however, that the meddling had no impact on the outcome of the election.

Pompeo was responding to a question by Senator Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida) about the hacking campaign, in which Russia denies its involvement, and unsubstantiated claims that surfaced recently alleging that Russia possesses compromising information on Trump.

Pompeo said he accepts the assessment by U.S. intelligence that Russia was behind the cyberattacks.

Pompeo told the Senate Intelligence Committee that he attended last week’s meeting at which top U.S. officials briefed Trump on the matter.

“Everything I’ve seen suggests to me that the report has an analytical product that is sound,” Pompeo said.

Russia denies it was behind the cyberattacks.

Pompeo also said he believes Russia is “threatening Europe” while “doing nearly nothing” to destroy Islamic State (IS) militants.

“Russia has reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe, and doing nearly nothing to aid in the destruction of ISIS,” Pompeo said in his written testimony submitted to the committee, using an alternate acronym for IS.

Trump has said he wants better relations with Russia, including greater bilateral cooperation in fighting IS militants in Syria.

Pompeo also said he would drop his opposition to the Iran nuclear deal if confirmed for the post and focus on “aggressive” verification that Tehran is complying with the terms of the accord.

A fierce critic of the deal between Iran and world powers during his time in Congress, Pompeo said in his confirmation hearing that he would have a different role if the Senate confirms his nomination.

“While I opposed the Iran deal as a member of Congress, if confirmed, my role would change — I’ll lead the [Central Intelligence] Agency to aggressively pursue collection operations and ensure analysts have the time, political space, and resources to make objective and sound judgments,” Pompeo said.

Trump has previously said he could scrap or renegotiate the deal.

Pompeo has said that the CIA must be “rigorously fair and objective” in assessing the accord.

In his testimony, he called Iran “the world’s largest state-sponsor of terror” and said the Islamic republic “has become an even more emboldened and disruptive player in the Middle East.”

Watch a video from the hearing below:

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