VA launches 'Step Forward' campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month - We Are The Mighty
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VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month


If your spouse has the flu, you make soup. If your friend breaks an arm, you offer to help with their chores or errands. When a loved one needs surgery, friends and family send Get Well cards and flowers. The same cannot always be said when someone is in emotional pain and takes the important step forward to improve their mental health.


Unfortunately, many people in this country don’t recognize the signs and symptoms or realize that effective mental health treatments are available. One of the challenges driving these false perceptions is the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Additionally, fear of how they may be perceived by their loved ones, friends, or colleagues can keep someone from seeking effective treatment.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and it provides us with an important opportunity to continue the national dialogue about mental health and wellness and reduce the negative perceptions associated with seeking treatment.

We Are The Mighty wants to help you play a vital role in connecting the veterans you serve with resources for leading a healthier life. Visit MakeTheConnection.net/Step4ward to discover simple ways to participate in Mental Health Awareness Month and show your support for veterans by sharing the Step Forward materials.

MakeTheConnection.net is a free, confidential resource where veterans, their family members, and friends, can privately explore such topics as health, wellness, and everyday life events and experiences.

The success of our efforts during Mental Health Awareness Month depends on your support. Visit the Mental Health Awareness Month hub on the site to watch personal stories of veterans, find resources, share social media content or find other actions that will help raise awareness and broaden this important conversation.

Make the Connection encourages veterans to seek support and mental health services when needed. If you or a veteran you are working with are in immediate crisis or having thoughts of suicide, trained responders at the Veterans Crisis Line are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with confidential support and guidance. Call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net, or send a text message to 838255.

Now watch this really powerful short Public Service Announcement from the Veterans Crisis Line, titled “I’m Good”:

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Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

Maj. John Fuccillo, an air mobility liaison officer, looks on as a C-130 Hercules takes off during exercise Cerberus Strike 16-02 at the Red Devil Landing Zone, Colo., Sept. 12, 2016. Contingency response forces rehearsed potential real-world situations by training with Army counterparts during the exercise. Fuccillo is with the 621st Mobility Support Operations Squadron assigned to the Army’s 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford

Multiple B-2 Spirits land for aircraft recovery as storm clouds gather Aug. 24, 2016, at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The B-2s low-observable, or stealth, characteristics give it the ability to penetrate an enemy’s most sophisticated defenses and threaten its most valued, heavily defended targets, while avoiding adversary detection, tracking and engagement.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jovan Banks

ARMY:

A soldier with 4th Squadron, 2D Cavalry Regiment, conducts a gunnery table during Exercise #BraveWarrior16 at CESR Training Area, Hungary, Sept. 15, 2016.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ryan Spence

A soldier, assigned to the South Carolina National Guard, fires a M240B machine gun during crew-served weapons familiarization night training at Fort Jackson, S.C., Sept. 15, 2016.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
National Guard photo by United States Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

NAVY:

GULF OF OMAN (Sept. 18, 2016) Seaman Kennedy Prescott performs a deadlift during a power lifting competition aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Whidbey Island (LSD 41). Whidbey Island is deployed with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group to support maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan R. McDonald

PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 20, 2016) Marines conduct maintenance on an SH-53E Super Stallion on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the Philippine Sea in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Sykes

PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 20, 2016) Amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) steams through the waters near Guam during a routine deployment. Bonhomme Richard, flagship of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, is operating in the Philippine Sea in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class William Sykes

MARINE CORPS:

Cpl. Chris Lawler, a crewmaster with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152, observes an F/A-18C Hornet with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 approach the refueling hose during Exercise Pitch Black 2016 at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal, Australia, Aug. 9, 2016. VMGR-152 provides aerial refueling and assault support during expeditionary, joint and combined operations like Pitch Black. This exercise is a biennial, three week, multinational, large-force training exercise hosted by RAAF Tindal.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Nicole Zurbrugg

Marines with Marine Rotational Force Darwin and French Armed Forces New Caledonia service members paddle out to Orphelinat Bay, New Caledonia as part of the Nautical Commando Course. Marines with MRF-D are participating in the full Nautical Commando Course for the first time to engage their amphibious heritage during.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Carlos Cruz Jr.

COAST GUARD:

Washdown at OPBAT! Petty Officer 2nd Class Ronald Carrasquillo from Air Station Clearwater, washes down an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter in Great Inagua, Bahamas.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Schuyler Chervinko, an aviation maintenance technician from Air Station Clearwater, takes a fuel sample from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter in Great Inagua, Bahamas. Aircraft maintenance crew members, like Chervinko, deploy to the opbat constantly ready to support Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
U.S. Coast Guard photo

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These are the top ISIS leaders killed by the coalition (so far)

The life expectancy of a known jihadi fighting the U.S. and its allies is not very long. If they aren’t killed as Iraqis retake towns and cities, then they are likely to be killed or captured in night raids conducted by special forces or in a drone strike.


ISIS leaders are in the crosshairs more than any other bad guy group these days. Here’s a list of leaders that coalition attacks have helped shuffle off this mortal coil:

1. Fadhil Ahmad al-Hayali (aka “Haji al-Mutazz,” aka Ned Price)

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

This righthand man to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in August 2015. The IS deputy was the top weapons procurer and logistician for the terror group. His death sparked off a number of internal reprisals against those the terror group suspected of leaking important information to Western intelligence.

2. Omar al-Shishani (aka “Omar the Chechen”)

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

Of all the ISIS leaders killed in action, he’s the most ISIS. He  was widely considered to be the terror group’s minister of war. He was killed as a result of an American airstrike in March 2016, near the Syrian border city of Shadadi. He survived the initial strike, but later died of his wounds. It’s not known why they called him “the Chechen,” because he is from Georgia.

Shishani also headed the terror group’s main prison in Raqqa, Syria. The U.S. State Department once offered $5 million for information leading to the capture of Shishani. Shishani was also called “Abu Meat” by detractors, because he had a reputation of staying in the rear with the gear while ordering others into battle.

Related: US special operators show off the gear used against ISIS

3. Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli (aka “Hajji Imam”)

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

In a March effort to capture this senior IS commander, U.S. special operators originally planned to disable his vehicle from the air, land a helicopter, and then take him into custody. Instead, they lit up the vehicle, killing al-Qaduli. He was the group’s top financier.

4. Fathi ben Awn ben Jildi Murad al-Tunisi (aka “Abu Sayyaf”)

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

British SAS and American Delta Force elements raided the house of Abu Sayyaf, ISIS’ chief oil minister and a high-ranking commander in Deir-ez-Zor, Syria. Abu Sayyaf was shot twice in the chest as he went for a weapon. His wife, called Umm Sayyaf by the Daily Mail, claimed to be a Yazidi sex slave. (Sayyaf and his wife ran ISIS’ sex slave network.) His actual Yazidi sex slave was freed by the operators. His wife was captured.

5. Tariq al-Harzi

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

Also known as the “Emir of Suicide Bombers” he was killed in June 2015 by coalition airstrikes in Syria. He was another logistics expert for ISIS, managing the movement of men and materiel between Iraq and Syria and the support and recruiting for ISIS operations in North Africa.

6. Junaid Hussein

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

A British citizen, Hussein was the critical operative in the Garland, Texas cartoon contest attack in 2015 and an effective ISIS recruiter. He was killed in Raqqa, Syria by a coalition airstrike. Raqqa is supposed to be a safe haven for the fighters. He was hit by a missile fired from a drone. Hussein was central to the plot of attacking the homes of U.S. service members after ISIS hackers posted their home addresses.

7. “Abu Maryam”

Called an ISIS enforcer and senior leader of their extortion network, Maryam was killed in a December 2015 airstrike. Since extortion is one of the top ways ISIS raises money, the death of Maryam was likely a blow to that revenue stream. He was killed in an air strike near the Iraqi city of Tal Afar.

Related: Sex, drugs, and Bitcoin: The 10 ways ISIS pays the bills

8. Muwaffaq Mustafa Mohammed al-Karmoush (aka “Abu Salah”)

As part of the apparent effort to disrupt the group’s fundraising and ability to use those funds, the U.S. also hit ISIS’ chief accountant. Abu Sarah (Abu is not his real first name. “Abu” means “father of” in Arabic, and is often used as a nickname) was responsible for paying fighters’ salaries in Northern Iraq, where they are fighting a mixture of Kurdish Peshmerga, Iraqi Army, and Shia militias backed by Iranian Quds Force operators.

9. Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al-Zubaydi (aka “Abu Nabil”)

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

Abu Nabil was killed in an F-15 strike in the Libyan coastal city of Derna. He was an Iraqi who one fought for al-Qaeda but turned to spearheading ISIS operations in Libya. He was the first ISIS leader killed by Western strikes in Libya. His December 2015 death hampered the terror group’s ability to recruit and establish bases in Libya.

10. Sleiman Daoud al-Afari

Afari is unique on this list because he was the only one captured, interrogated, and handed over to the Iraqi government, instead of being outright killed. Afari was ISIS chief chemical weapons engineers. He learned the trade under the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He told officials about ISIS efforts to develop everything from mustard gas to Sarin nerve gas.

11. Mohammed Emwazi (aka “Jihadi John”)

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

Emwazi was a significant ISIS operative because of his command of English led him to be the voice of the terror group’s propaganda efforts. Jihadi John was killed in a drone strike in Raqqa, Syria. Starting in August 2014, he appeared in ISIS beheading videos and was a celebrity in the group. He played no important spiritual or military role.

12. Abu Rahman al-Tunisi

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

An IS executive officer who coordinated the movement of arms, money, people, and information. Hitting al-Tunisi likely significantly disrupted ISIS’ command and control capabilities.

13. Charaffe al-Mouadan

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

Central to the ISIS attacks in Paris in November 2015, Moudan was killed in an airstrike in Syria the following December.

14. Fayez al-Shaalaan (aka “Abu Fawz”)

Shaalaan was the ISIS leader in the Arsal region of Syria, near neighboring Lebanon. In the northern areas of Lebanon, fighting between ISIS and the al-Qaeda allied Nusra Front fighter spills into Lebanese territory. The Lebanese Army routinely engages these fighters.

BONUS: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (maybe)

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

The “Caliph” of ISIS, the overall leader of the terror group was the target of an Iraqi airstrike. It’s unknown whether or not Baghdadi was killed in the October 2015 strike. (CNN reported the leader was taken away in a vehicle to an unknown location.)

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The new reveal trailer for ‘Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare’ is intense

The guys at Infinity Ward have released the reveal trailer for “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare” and it looks amazing (and features a great version of Bowie’s “Major Tom”).


The newest game in the iconic Call of Duty series opens with a Pearl Harbor-type attack, a massive surprise that cripples the defenders. The trailer reveals some new experiences for Call of Duty players like the ability to pilot ships in space combat as well as the standard ground warfare in the series.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
GIF: YouTube/Call of Duty

An epic storyline plays out in the trailer and will hopefully correlate to a similarly-epic campaign mode. The video description from Call of Duty promises that the new game is a return to the franchise’s roots, “large-scale war and cinematic, immersive military storytelling.”

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
GIF: YouTube/Call of Duty

Since the original Call of Duty focused on the combined arms warfare of World War II, it’s appropriate that it opens with a surprise attack before throwing the player into a global fight. Infinity Ward has said the game will feature few visible loading periods, so players shouldn’t be ripped out of the story too often.

The game is slated for release on Nov. 4 for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

Check out the full first trailer below:

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Here’s how China’s heavily-armed islands could wreak havoc in the South China Sea

If you were wondering about why China didn’t bother to show up to that hearing at the Hague on their South China Sea island claims — when their boycott of the process only made the adverse ruling a guarantee — well, now you know why.


China, like Cersei Lannister from “Game of Thrones,” had no intention of accepting the consequences for their failure to take part.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
China’s military installations in the South China Sea create a huge area that could possibly be turned into an air identification and defense zone. | CSIS ASIA MARITIME TRANSPARENCY INITIATIVE

According to reports from the Wall Street Journal and CBSNews.com, China has deployed weapons to at least seven of the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea, despite a promise from Chinese president Xi Jingpin.

The report from the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative noted that satellite photos showed various anti-aircraft weapons on the islands. These join the 10,000-foot airstrips on the islands, which have operated J-11 Flankers. Two such locations in the Spratly Islands are Mischief Reef and Fiery Cross Reef, located about 650 nautical miles from the northernmost point of Hainan Island.

China has landed airliners on those islands – and if you can land airliners, you can land other sorts of heavy aircraft, like tankers, airborne radars, and H-6 Badger bombers like the one used to assert China’s “nine-dash line.”

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Fiery Cross Reef air base. This air base and others could help bolster China’s aircraft carrier, the Liaonang. (Image taken from Google Earth)

In essence, China has turned these islands into unsinkable, albeit immobile, aircraft carriers. China’s J-15, for instance, has a combat radius of about 540 nautical miles, according to GlobalSecurity.org. By getting those unsinkable aircraft carriers, the J-15s (as well as J-11 and J-16 Flankers in the Chinese inventory) can now carry more weapons, and less fuel, and spend more time dogfighting their adversaries.

When combined with China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, these bases greatly increase the striking power of the Chinese in the region. The Liaoning, like its sister ship, the Russian Admiral Kuznetsov, has a very limited aircraft capacity (about 18 Su-33 Flankers or MiG-29K Fulcrums for the Russian carrier, and a similar number of J-15 Flankers for the Chinese ship).

That alone cannot stand up to a United States Navy aircraft carrier (carrying 36 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and 10 F-35C Lightnings). The islands also provide alternate bases, to avoid those embarrassing splash landings that are common with the Kuznetsov.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Sukhoi Su-33 launching from the Admiral Kuznetsov in 2012. | Russian MoD Photo

However, these island bases, if each had a squadron of J-11, J-15 or J-16 Flankers, suddenly change the odds, especially if the Philippines refuse to host land-based fighters. Now, the Chinese could have a numerical advantage in the region against one carrier group, and inflict virtual attrition on the United States Navy.

The forward bases have caused concern from other countries, like the Philippines.

“It would mean that the Chinese are militarizing the area, which is not good,” the Philippine defense secretary told CBSNews.com.

The Philippines have been trying to modernize their forces, including with the recent purchase of a dozen KA-50 jets from South Korea, and the acquisition of second-hand Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters from the U.S. Coast Guard.

They still are badly out-classed by Chinese forces in the region.

The U.S. Navy has conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea. In one of the recent operations, the USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) “conducted routine operations” while transiting the region, which is claimed by China. Navy surveillance and maritime patrol aircraft in the region had had a series of close calls with Chinese fighters, including an Aug. 2014 intercept where a J-11 came within 20 feet of a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) man the rails while pulling into Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, during a Naval Engagement Activity with the people of Vietnam, Oct. 2. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Allen Michael McNair)

Tensions with China increased when President-elect Donald Trump accepted a congratulatory phone call from Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen after winning the Nov. 8 presidential election. Trump had taken a tough line on trade with China during the campaign.

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These are the differences between Airborne and Air Assault

Short answer: One is still used as a tactically viable way of getting troops into the fray and the other is more ceremonial.


Benjamin Franklin once said “Where is the prince who can afford to cover his country with troops for its defense, so that ten thousand men descending from the clouds might not, in many places, do an infinite deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to repel them?”

Both of these troops fit that bill over two hundred years later.

Out of all of the current military rivalries, this one still ranks pretty high on the list. As someone who’s Air Assault and let his personal rivalry simmer a bit, there’s no reason to keep it up. The differences between the two just keeps growing with each conflict.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
(U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Sean McCollum, 29th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

By World War II, many forces developed their own form of Airborne infantry that soared into combat. Allied forces captivated folks back home with the tales of jumping into the European theater. Over the years, airborne operations can be performed in essentially two ways: static jumps (think of the age-old cadence “Stand up, Hook up, Shuffle to the door! Jump right out on the count of Four!”) and HALO/HAHO, or High Altitude, Low Opening and High Opening (free-falling).

Air Assault rose in the Cold War and became more prominent in the Vietnam War. There are usually two means for getting troops into combat, FRIES, or Fast Rope Insertion/Extraction, where you grab a piece of rope and slide out of a hovering helicopter and just Air Insertion, where the helicopter lands on the ground and troops hop out. Technically, there’s also Sling Load operations, where you attach things underneath a helicopter, but that’s more of a special task that’s assigned to Air Assault qualified troops.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
There’s several more ways of leaving a helicopter. Like SPIES and Helocasting, as seen above (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. Codie Mendenhall)

But in the wars since 9/11, you can count on one hand the number of combat jumps performed by US troops. They were done twice in Iraq and once in Afghanistan — and all three to command and control airfields.

Making a combat jump authorizes you to wear a Combat Jump Device. It’s a gold star that adorns the Parachutist Badge and is often referred to as a “mustard stain.” Finding one of these bad asses outside of Jump School is like finding a CW5 — you know they have to exist somewhere because you’ve seen the badges at the PX, but it still sounds as plausible as any other barracks rumor.

There isn’t as comprehensive list on total Air Assault missions because it’s far more common. It’s just another way to get around.

Many combat arms guys can tell you that they never went to Air Assault school, but still do Air Assault operations in country. The only Air Assault task restricted to someone who actually went to the school is the previously mentioned sling load operations. Even that has its “volun-told” feel to it. Sling loading has a risk to it that could be deadly if not done properly. Only Airborne school qualified personnel are allowed to complete airborne jumps (because of the weeks they spend just learning how to fall properly).

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Jason Johnston)

Sure. We have our disagreements and will probably flame each other in the comment section. They’re both ways to get men out of a perfectly good aircraft.

We both deal with a heavy amount of prop / rotor wash that training can never prepare you for. And both of our badges are still highly sought after by badge-hunters — usually a staff lieutenant or junior NCO. And they both will probably correct you by saying “well actually, according to Army regulation…”

Wear your blood wings proud, my brothers and sisters.

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A first-hand look at how Army National Guard helicopter crews fight massive forest fires

With the increasing number of forest fires on the West Coast, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has had to ask the California National Guard for help containing the blazes.


Soldiers of the National Guard have been called in to assist both on the ground and in the air. Chinook crews have been flying missions to drop water from nearby lakes onto the wildfires. Here’s what they see while completing their mission.

Helicopter crews pick up water from lakes in Bambi Buckets, large water carriers with remote-operated valves.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

Once they have the water, the crews target areas where the fire is attempting to spread.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

The crews map out nearby water features and plan their flights so they can refill and return to the fire as quickly as possible.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

The pilots’ navigation equipment was designed for war and provides more than enough information for them to navigate on the objective.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

The crew assist the pilots in targeting the fire and aiming the water.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

These images and the below video were taken from the California Rocky Fire which burned for 16 days and consumed over 69,000 acres. 96 buildings were destroyed and 8 damaged before it was contained.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Video Still: California National Guard Staff Sgt. Edward Siguenza

Check out the video below to see the California National Guard crews go through their mission.

NOW: This remarkable video shows what it’s like for Medevac crews to rescue troops under fire

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Watch airmen and soldiers rescue people from a burning building

This video shows airmen and soldiers rescue people, three women, and three children, after a building near Songtan, South Korea caught fire and trapped them in a third-story apartment. Luckily, Songtan is near Osan Air Base. Local airmen from the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan and the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, along with soldiers from the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade happened to be in the area and rushed to the scene.


The Korea service of the Armed Forces Network shared the mobile phone video of the rescue, as Army Master Sgt. talks about grabbing a blanket from a nearby store to use to catch children, as their mother tosses them out of the high window.


In all, the troops rescued three women and three young children.

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16 photos that show how the US military responds to natural disasters

When natural disaster strikes at home or abroad, America usually sends its military to aid in rescue and recovery. Engineers, search and rescue, and logistics specialists pour into the area to save as many people as quickly as possible.


Here are 17 photos that show what that’s like.

1. Troops are rushed to the area, usually via cargo aircraft.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Eric Harris

2. In the crucial first hours, disaster survivors can be rescued from collapsed or flooded structures. Engineers carefully shore up crumbling buildings and cut through obstacles.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Tania Reid

3. During hurricanes and tsunamis, there’s a good chance some survivors will have been swept to sea. Trained swimmers work to extract them.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Krystal Ardrey

4. Survivors are transported to safe areas in military aircraft and vehicles.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Blackwell

5. When possible, the Navy sends its hospital ships to the disaster zone. The USNS Mercy and USNS comfort are floating hospitals with capacity for 1,000 patients each.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Blackwell

6. Field hospitals are set up to receive and treat the injured or sick after the disaster.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Justyn M. Freeman

7. As survivors are being evacuated to care facilities, equipment, food, and other necessities surge in.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air Force Master Sgt. Roy A. Santana

8. If the local transportation network has been damaged, the U.S. military finds workarounds. Here, a group of Air Force combat controllers direct air traffic at Toussaint L’Ouverture Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake there knocked out the control tower.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios

9. As supplies come in, they are moved overland to shelters and distribution centers.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

10. Sometimes, engineers have to prevent additional damage from aftershocks or continuing flooding.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

11. The engineers can operate 24-hours-a-day to get ahead of rising water.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

12. Sandbags and materials can be dropped into place by helicopters, vehicles, or carried in by troops.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago

13. When helicopters are used, the crew chief directs the pilots in order to get the materials in the right spot.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air National Guard Airman Megan Floyd

14. Clearing roads allows for more vehicles to move supplies and evacuees.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Clayton Cupit

15. If invited by local government officials, troops will help patrol disaster areas.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Army National Guard Sgt. Brian Calhoun

16. As the situation begins to stabilize, the military will assist with clean up as well. Eventually, they’ll be released back to their normal missions.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month
Photo: US Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Stefanie Pupkiewicz

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Why the M-60 ‘Pig’ remains one of the best US machine guns ever

Just a few feet away from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., is a life-size statue called “Three Soldiers.”


Crafted in bronze by sculptor Frederick Hart, he portrayed the men garbed in uniforms representative of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, carrying weapons of the Vietnam War era and facing the memorial wall. The man on the left, his body draped with ammo belts, carries an M-60 general purpose machine gun.

VA launches ‘Step Forward’ campaign to kick off Mental Health Awareness Month

Other than the M-16 rifle, perhaps no other firearm is as closely associated with the Vietnam War as the M-60. Portrayals of the M-60 in the hands of Vietnam War soldiers range from the sublime dignity expressed by the “Three Soldiers” statue to the over-the-top destruction of the fictional town of Hope, Washington, by Sylvester Stallone’s character, John Rambo, in the film “First Blood.”

The M-60 is a weapon that has faithfully served American soldiers in many battles since 1957. Far from perfect, the early model of the M-60 had so many design flaws that soldiers jerry-rigged fixes using everything from wire coat hangers to empty C-ration cans. The M-60 is also heavy — the machine gun weighs about 23 pounds, and those belts of ammo aren’t exactly lightweight, either.

No wonder the M-60 earned an unflattering nickname: The Pig.

But one thing is certain. Even with its flaws, a soldier armed with an M-60 can lay down a lot of lead, whether he is fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the badlands of Afghanistan.

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U.S. Marine Corps M-60 in all her glory. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

The M-60 is an air-cooled, disintegrating belt-fed, gas-operated general purpose machine gun. It fires the 7.62 mm round with a cyclic rate of about 550 rounds a minute — a rate of fire that requires the crew to change the M-60’s barrel about every minute. In addition, the M-60 has an integral, folding bipod, but it can also be mounted on a folding tripod.

The M-60 was — and is — a fixture in the U.S. armed forces, serving as a squad support weapon, vehicle-mounted machine gun and as a “flex gun” mounted in the doors of helicopters like the UH-1 Huey and the CH-47 Chinook.

Development of the M-60 started after World War II. American generals held a grudging admiration for the German MG-42, a machine gun so powerful that it was nicknamed “Hitler’s Bone Saw” by the Wehrmacht troops that fired it. The MG-42 had a blinding rate of fire and was belt fed—both qualities were considered desirable by weapons designers. The Fallschirmjägergewehr 42, or FG 42 battle rifle, also had equally desirable qualities, such as a gas-operated bolt, which were closely scrutinized by the Americans.

Ordnance experts took the best Germany had to offer and developed a prototype machine gun. Some argued it wasn’t an ideal machine gun compared to foreign models such as the FN MAG—but it could be domestically produced, which made congressmen with defense industries in their districts very happy.

In 1957, the Defense Department adopted the machine gun and dubbed it the United States Machine Gun, Caliber 7.62 mm, M60. It’s been in the arsenal ever since.

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A Navy SEAL fires an M-60 lightweight machine gun from the shoulder, because that’s how SEALs roll. (Photographer’s Mate Petty Officer 1st Class Chuck Mussi)

But the three-man crews who served the M-60 during the Vietnam War discovered the machine gun had its idiosyncrasies.

First of all, no one designing the M-60 remembered to put a wire carrying handle on the barrel. That made barrel changes an agonizing affair—in order to remove the red-hot steel, an assistant gunner was expected in the heat of battle to don asbestos gloves that looked like oven mitts. Also, ammo belts would sometimes bind in the weapon. Then, some G.I. got a brilliant idea: just lash an empty C-ration can to the left side of the receiver so the belt would flow smoothly over the curved surface.

By the 1980s, the military adopted the M-60E3, a version of the machine gun with added improvements and (most of) the bugs worked out.

Although the Defense Department ordered the phase-out of the M-60, it is still used by U.S. armed forces personnel. SEALs favor the M-60, the Navy and the Coast Guard often have it on board their ships, and Army reserve units frequently have an M-60 in the weapons room.

And 45 nations — many of them NATO or East Asia allies — continue to use the M-60 as their heavy-hitting general purpose machine gun.

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5 epic cavalry formations of the ancient world

Before the tank entered the lexicon of military history, there was horse cavalry.


The horse, like the modern day tank, provided support to the infantry and artillery. However, while every kingdom, like every modern nation today, has some sort of mobile land support designed to punch holes through enemy lines, only a handful of nations have the best trained. So here we take a look at 5 epic cavalry formations of the ancient world.

1. The Numidians (light cavalry)

The Numidians were from what is now Algeria and were known for their cavalry abilities.

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The Numidian cavalry of the ancient world. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Hannibal used these Numidian cavalrymen during the Second Punic War. So what made the Numidian cavalry so darn good?

The Numidians saw many battles during Hannibal’s campaign in Roman Italy. The Greek historian Polybius, describes the Numidian warriors as light cavalry armed with missile weapons (javelins). The Battle of Cannae 216 BCE, showcased their abilities.

What made the Numidian cavalry so effective at Cannae is that unlike the Spaniard and Celtic cavalries that also accompanied Hannibal, the Spaniard and Celtic horsemen were heavy cavalries that fought en masse, much like the Roman cavalry. The Numidians, being light cavalry, fought in a much looser formation and because of this, they harassed the Roman cavalry with complicated tactics before disengaging.

And while the Celtic and Spaniard cavalries had the Roman cavalry fixed, the Numidians went from harassment to providing shock support once the Roman cavalry turned their back. This caused the Roman cavalry to flee once the Numidians made contact and understood that if they do not make a break for it, they would be enveloped and decimated.

2. The Scythians (light cavalry)

The Scythians may not be the original inventors of asymmetrical warfare, but one could argue that they perfected it.

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(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Scythians were ancient nomadic horse warriors who were first mentioned by the Assyrians during the reign of Sargon II (reigned 722 – 705 BCE). What made these horsemen so powerful was that they were raised in the saddle and were typically armed with a distinctive composite bow.

The Scythian bow is unique and revered throughout the ancient world by kings, historians, and a philosopher. King Esarhaddon of Assyria had a Cimmerian bow, the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar II and Nabonidus were equipped with their bows and arrows, and even Hercules’ Greek portrait displays him armed with a Scythian bow. The Greek philosopher Plato said,

The customs of the Scythians proves our error; for they not only hold the bow from them with the left hand and draw the arrow to them with their right, but use either hand for both purposes.

When one examines the Scythian lifestyle, one can easily gain an understanding of the type of warfare necessarily carried on against more sedentary (non-migratory) people, like those in Mesopotamia. The Scythian took a guerilla approach to warfare as their method, using small bands to conduct military operations. Herodotus mentions their method of warfare when King Darius of Persia campaigned against them.

It is thus with me, Persian: I have never fled for fear of any man, nor do I now flee from you; this that I have done is no new thing or other than my practice in peace. But as to the reason why I do not straightway fight with you, this too I will tell you. For we Scythians have no towns or planted lands, that we might meet you the sooner in battle, fearing lest the one be taken or the other wasted. But if nothing will serve you but fighting straightway, we have the graves of our fathers; come, find these and essay to destroy them; then shall you know whether we will fight you for those graves or no. Till then we will not join battle unless we think it good.

The description indicates that the Scythians against whom Darius was warring had no center of gravity. King Darius’ military campaign into Scythia (modern Ukraine) went for nothing. As he could not catch them, the Scythians burnt their own their fields, destroyed Persian supplies, and harassed his forces with hit and run tactics.

In the end, Darius turned his large army around and headed home before it was annihilated.

3. The Parthians (light cavalry)

The Parthian horsemen are much like the Scythians.

The Parthians also known as the Parni/Aparni, originated from eastern Iran and like the Scythians, wore light attire, carried a composite bow and a sidearm — possibly a sword or a dagger. What made the Parthian horse archers so powerful was their ability to hit and run, and this was demonstrated at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire.

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(Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The Roman general Crassus led his Roman legions into the desert wilderness thinking they were going to face a pussycat. Instead, they found themselves face-to-face with an equal foe. Once Crassus gave the order to form a square, the Parthian horse archers saw an opportunity. They showered the Romans with raining death.

The average Parthian horse archer, with a quiver of 30 arrows, loosed between eight to ten arrows a minute at Carrhae. It would take almost three minutes to exhaust his arsenal before needing to be resupplied. The amount of Parthian horse archers at the battle is estimated at 10,000. Now, if all 10,000 fired away for 20 minutes, the amount of arrows fired by an individual horse archer would have been between 160-200 arrows. Take 10,000 and the amount of arrows fired upon the Roman soldiers are estimated to have been an astounding 1.6-2 million arrows in a 20-minute timeframe.

The Greek biographer and essayist Plutarch describes the devastation brought upon the Roman legions.

In the convulsion and agony of their pain they writhed as the arrows struck them; the men broke them off in their wounds and then lacerated and disfigured their own bodies by trying to tear out by main force the barbed arrow heads that had pierced through their veins and muscles.

Romans could do little, for if they break formation they are dead, if they stand still they are dead but have a chance. Only nightfall saved them. While the Parthian horse archers showered the Romans with death, the Parthian cataphract was the hammer.

4. The Parthian Cataphract (heavy armored cavalry)

When it comes to heavy cavalry in the ancient world, the Parthian cataphract takes the lead.

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Parthian heavy armored cataphract. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The word cataphract comes from the Greek Kataphraktos means “completely enclosed.” The origins of the cataphract may not have started with the Parthians but with the Massagetae, who also inhabited portions of Eastern Iran three centuries before the arrival of the Parthians. If you want more info on this, click “here.”

The Parthian cataphract in many ways looked like the medieval knights of Europe. What made them so effective on the field of battle was that the rider and horse were covered in armor. The rider would carry a lance, sword, and presumably a bow.

At the Battle of Carrhae, the cataphract would charge into Roman lines once the legions locked shields to protect themselves from the arrows. According to Plutarch, the cataphracts would hit the lines with such a force that “many (Romans) perished hemmed in by the horsemen. Others were knocked over by the pikes or were carried off transfixed.”

This hit and run attack would go on for some time until the Roman broke and fled.

5. Late Roman Equites Cataphractarii and Sassanid Clibanarii (very heavily armored cavalry)

It may be an understatement to say that Equites cataphractarii were heavy cavalry as they were indeed the heaviest of the bunch.

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(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Equites cataphractarii were Roman. What is known about them is that they were designed to combat the best the east (Sassanid Empire) had to offer, which were the Clibanarii. The Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus describes the Equites cataphractarii:

among them were the full-armoured cavalry (whom they called clibanarii or cataphracti equites ), all masked, furnished with protecting breastplates and girt with iron belts, so that you might have supposed them statues polished by the hand of Praxiteles, not men. Thin circles of iron plates, fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs; so that whichever way they had to move their members, their garment fitted, so skilfully were the joinings made

The Clibanarii were Sassanid. However, the Sassanids also used this term to describe the Equites cataphractarii. The description provided by Ammianus Marcellinus about the Clibanarii goes as follows:

Moreover, all the companies were clad in iron, and all parts of their bodies were covered with thick plates, so fitted that the stiff joints conformed with those of their limbs; and the forms of human faces were so skilfully fitted to their heads, that, since their entire bodies were plated with metal, arrows that fell upon them could lodge only where they could see a little through tiny openings fitted to the circle of the eye, or where through the tips of their noses they were able to get a little breath. Of these some, who were armed with pikes, stood so motionless that you would think them held fast by clamps of bronze.

The Persians opposed us serried bands of mail-clad horsemen in such close order that the gleam of moving bodies covered with closely fitting plates of iron dazzled the eyes of those who looked upon them, while the whole throng of horses was protected by coverings of leather.

So who had the best cavalry in the ancient world? Well, the answer to that question is the various nomads who dotted the Eurasian Steppe, Central Asia, and the Iranian plateau. These various nomads are the ones who not only perfected horse archery and heavy cavalry, they also brought civilization the chariot.

However, horse archers and heavy cavalry — no matter the kingdom — would come to an end once the gunpowder age arrived. Eventually new tactics took the rider off his mount and placed him into a tank.

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How this VA whistleblower just became the VA’s top whistleblower

After years of exposing problems at the Phoenix VA and fighting off retaliation, noted whistleblower Brandon Coleman has accepted a position at the new Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection.


“The same agency that tried to destroy my career is now bringing me on to help fix this,” Coleman told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “That’s pretty humbling. And I don’t take it lightly. And I’m gonna give 120 percent like I do all the time.”

Coleman announced his new position at the Whistleblower Summit in Washington, DC last week.

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Veteran and whistleblower Brandon Coleman. Screengrab from Concerned Veterans YouTube.

Coleman’s endeavor into whistleblowing first started when he came forward in December 2014 to report the problem of neglected suicidal veterans walking out of the emergency room at the Phoenix VA and subsequently experienced a whirlwind of retaliation. After making a media appearance, management almost immediately plotted to terminate him and repeatedly rifled through his medical records as a method of intimidation.

Citing supposed workplace violence, Phoenix VA management successfully pushed Coleman out on paid leave for a total of 461 days, during which time his reputation blossomed as a public whistleblower fighting retaliation and wrongdoing. He later settled a lawsuit with the VA and returned to work, but this time at a VA facility elsewhere in Arizona. His whistleblowing career culminated in his testimony before the Senate and recent presence on the stage with President Donald Trump during the signing of the executive order to bring more accountability and whistleblower protection to the VA.

The very office created by the executive order is the office Coleman will soon be working for.

While the new office is still in the beginning stages, Coleman is hopeful that it can be used as an instrument to reform the VA.

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President Trump Signs the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017. Photo courtesy of The White House.

For Coleman, one of the best indications that the office has a good shot at pushing reform through is that many of the employees have come from outside of the VA.

“My impression from the new division is that these are all employees brought in from other agencies — most of them I’ve met have been with the VA less than 6 months, and I really like that, cause they all want to fix this mess and that’s what my goal is, too, to fix this and to better care for our vets and protect whistleblowers, so what happened to me stops happening,” Coleman said.

“In a perfect world there would be no Brandon Colemans — what happened to me would never happen again. That’s my goal, to help them fix this. I told them I was willing to clean toilets, take out the garbage. I didn’t care. As a former Marine I just wanted to be a part of this,” Coleman added.

For now, Coleman is slowly transitioning out of his current role helping veterans with substance abuse disorders, at which point he will likely take over a role in whistleblower education, as he’s developed solid relationships with groups like the Project on Government Oversight, Government Accountability Project, the Office of Special Counsel and Concerned Veterans for America.

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Top military doc is open to changing obesity standards

The Army is likely catching a lot of grief lately, after a news story reported that Pentagon data showed Joes are fatter than their brethren in other services.


But are they really?

According to the head of the new Defense Health Agency, the way the military measures obesity using the so-called Body Mass Index might be a bit behind the times.

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U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Senna, assigned to Joint Multinational Training Command, performs push-ups during the Army Physical Fitness Test at U.S. Army Europe’s Best Warrior Competition in Grafenwoehr, Germany, July 30, 2012. (Photo from U.S. Army)

“I know that Navy has looked at this in terms of modifying what they say is a healthy weight and a healthy body mass and I think that’s appropriate,” said Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, Director of the Defense Health Agency told WATM during a breakfast meeting with reporters Oct. 20.

“Do I have any indication that [obesity] is hurting readiness? No,” Bono added. “But I would actually say that is one of the hallmarks of being in the military is that we’re always ready.”

According to the services, a Body Mass Index of 25 or over is considered unsat (the BMI is determined by a simple calculation of height and weight). The National Institutes of Health define obesity as a BMI of 30 or over.

A 44 year-old male who weights 215 pounds and is 74-inches tall has a BMI of 27.6, for example. That’d be considered “clinically obese” to the DoD.

Some in the services argue measuring weight standards using the BMI is a blunt instrument, putting perfectly fit and healthy servicemembers on notice for not being up to snuff.

And while she’s all in favor of modifying how the level of fitness to serve is calculated, Bono is concerned about the overall trend on obesity, with the Pentagon reporting nearly 10 percent of its troops are overweight. And Bono recommended healthier choices in chow halls, regular exercise (not just for the PFT), and stopping smoking.

“My job is to make sure I’m enabling the department to have the healthiest troops possible,” Bono said. “I struggle with encouraging troops to make healthier choices — even when we activate servicemembers with health data or scary pictures of what smoking can do to you they still persist in those behaviors. I don’t know what the right answer is.”