Charissa Littlejohn was an aspiring model before joining the Air Force, but it wasn’t until she left the service that her modeling career really took off. In this spotlight episode, Charissa tells her unconventional transition story of becoming a fashion model after serving as an Air Force medic.
When all of her roommates in Las Vegas in 2009 were sent to Korea through the Air Force, Charissa was inspired to join as well. She was trained as a medic, a field she enjoyed, and was sent to Tokyo, Japan.
After four years, she separated and moved back to Florida where her family lived, but on a trip to visit a friend in California, she fell in love with Los Angeles and the Newport Beach area. She also met with some managers at modeling agencies, and her interest in modeling quickly grew.
Modeling became her day job. She did monthly shoots for a local magazine honoring veterans, and wants to remind the people who see her work that veterans are not only defined by their military careers. Once they leave service, they can be whatever they want to be.
She also holds a Masters in Healthcare Administration, further annihilating any stereotypes that might come to mind when you think of the modeling industry.
Now, she’s shifted her focus mostly to entrepreneurship; she runs LittleGat, a holster and apparel manufacturer, with her husband, and holds the title of CEO. It just goes to show that Charissa will make anything happen.
The black box of a Ukrainian passenger airliner shot down by Iranian forces in Tehran in January is damaged and Iran will not hand it over to another country, despite pressure for access, state media quoted top Iranian ministers as saying on February 1.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that he had “impressed upon” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that a complete and independent investigation into the shooting down of the airliner had to be carried out.
Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was brought down by Iranian air defenses after it took off from Tehran on January 8, killing everyone on board. Iran says the shoot-down was a mistake. The 176 victims included 82 Iranian citizens and 63 Canadians, many of them of Iranian origin.
The crash occurred with Iran’s air-defense forces on high alert following an Iranian ballistic-missile attack a few hours earlier against U.S. forces in Iraq. The strikes came days after Iran’s most prominent military commander, Qasem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.
“We have a right to read the black box ourselves. We have a right to be present at any examination of the black box,” Zarif said.
“If we are supposed to give the black box to others for them to read it in our place then this is something we will definitely not do,” he said.
However, Iran is in discussions with other countries, particularly Ukraine, about the investigation, Zarif said. Defense Minister Amir Hatami said the flight data recording box had “sustained noticeable damage and the defense industry has been requested to help in reconstructing (it).”
“The reconstruction of the black box is supposed to take place first and then the reading,” Hatami said.
Carry the battle to them. Don’t let them bring it to you. Put them on the defensive and don’t ever apologize for anything.” When most people think of Harry S. Truman, they think of the president who signed off on the first and only wartime use of nuclear weapons. But before Truman became the 33rd President of the United States during World War II, he was a senator from Missouri. One of the projects in which Truman was instrumental as a senator was establishing Lake City Army Ammunition Plant (LCAAP).
LCAAP is the single largest producer of small-arms munitions within the Department of Defense. Initially operated by Remington Arms, the government-owned, contractor-operated facility is currently run by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems, formerly Orbital ATK. Basically, they provide all branches of the U.S. military with every round of small-caliber ammunition they need. This goes beyond supply and demand — it’s a living legacy.
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant Installation Mission Video
uring an exclusive private tour of LCAAP, Whitney Watson, manager of media relations and communications with Northrop Grumman, divulged that the media hadn’t been granted access to the facility in years. However, being invited to visit Lake City and actually getting through the doors are two different things — the security process was unlike any I’d previously experienced. Once inside, though, it was like stepping back in time.
In 1940, the government purchased nearly 4,000 acres of privately owned property in Independence, Missouri. Then-senator Truman helped secure both the land and the funding for establishing LCAAP. Ground broke in December 1940, and the first round — a .30 caliber — came off the line on Sept. 12, 1941. In October 1941, the first shipment left by rail. LCAAP was up and fully functioning within nine months in an era before modern capabilities and technology while enduring a Midwestern winter and in the midst of war. During World War II, LCAAP employed 21,000 full-time workers and produced 50 million rounds per year.
Lake City lives up to its name, functioning as a self-sufficient city. The property contains 22 miles of road, 11 miles of railroad (not currently in use), military housing, a 24-hour police force, a hospital, nine medical locations, a cafeteria, a non-federal post office, a fire station (complete with a bunkhouse), a gym facility, a road maintenance crew, a water production plant, three wastewater treatment facilities, and indoor and outdoor shooting ranges.
An aerial view of the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.
(Photo courtesy of the LCAAP Facebook page)
From the buildings to the machines, all of the original equipment remains functional and, to some extent, is still utilized. It was surreal to see the newer robotic equipment mixed in with the legacy equipment on the production floor. The legacy machines are the original machines installed upon the opening of LCAAP. As of today, they continue producing rounds as quickly and efficiently as their modern counterparts — this is 1930s technology functioning without fail in 2019! It speaks volumes for LCAAP and the pride with which they have maintained their facility and equipment.
The employees at LCAAP are often generational, and they share a deep understanding of the importance of their product, where it goes, and what it’s used for. The prevailing objective is that not a single round can fail — lives literally depend upon it. To ensure this, LCAAP has a prodigious process for case traceability. Each round has a specific stamp on the head, which allows it to be individually traced to the day, time, and machine that produced it. This way, if there is ever an issue during their extensive testing protocol, they can quickly ascertain why. Lake City produces 4 million rounds per day, so being able to trace each one is not only essential, it’s astonishing.
Another example of the pride and teamwork at LCAAP is the motto “One Team, One Mission,” which is visible at various places around the facility. The saying was originated by Watson.
LCAAP produces 4 million rounds of small-caliber ammunition per day.
(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)
“In the years immediately following the terrorist attacks of 9/11, with widespread military operations throughout the Middle East, Lake City employees could turn on the news every night and see the products they produce in action. In 2019, that isn’t the case. Even though we still have troops fighting all over the world, it’s not on the scale it was a decade earlier,” Watson said.
“We were looking for a way to remind Lake City employees that, first, we are all on the same team — regardless of what your job here is, every one of us is an important part of the team and we need to perform like it,” he continued. “And second, that our mission hasn’t changed: to produce the quality ammunition that the men and women who defend our country deserve.”
The phrase has been incorporated throughout the plant on signs, shirts, hats, and other items, and, according to Watson, it’s working.
LCAAP has a history of employing women, as well as generations of family members, that goes back to its World War II roots.
(Photo courtesy of Lake City Army Ammunition Plant)
“Our employee engagement has risen dramatically over the past few years,” he said. “Fewer employees are leaving for other opportunities (even in this historically low unemployment), and we are performing amazingly. I never served in the Armed Forces, but I am very proud to be a part of a team whose sole mission is to support the warfighter.”
LCAAP’s commitment to those who serve the country doesn’t stop when they turn in the uniform; the company also supports and values veterans. They partner with the Foundation for Exceptional Warriors to host an annual turkey hunt for veterans. The vets get to hunt the LCAAP property — 4,000 private acres of prime hunting land. While at the facility, the guests of honor are treated as such. They enjoy a hotel stay, catered food, dinners out, and a paid shopping spree for gear.
LCAAP is also involved in the Kansas City, Missouri, chapter of the Association of the United States Army. This spring, 100 LCAAP team members will participate in and financially support a project to build a home for a disabled veteran who is raising her young grandchildren. Watson said that a significant percentage of the workers at LCAAP are veterans and that hiring former service members is a top priority.
(Photo by Karen Hunter/Coffee or Die)
When asked what Lake City Ammunition means to him, Watson responded: “My father fought in the Pacific during World War II. Even though we have some of the most modern manufacturing equipment in the industry, we also still use some legacy equipment that has been in operation since the early 1940s. It means a lot to me knowing that some of that equipment may have been used to produce the rounds he fired, either in training or in combat. The ammunition that may have helped save his life or the life of one of his buddies. Who knows? I do know that the ammo we make today definitely helps save lives. And that means more than I could express.”
Lake City Army Ammunition Plant is much more than a facility manufacturing small-caliber munitions — it’s a small community and an important asset to the U.S. military. With a 1.6 billion round per year production capacity, Lake City is vigilantly prepared to ramp up production at a moment’s notice. But most importantly, Lake City is a family — a family that extends to every individual who touches one of their rounds.
The Brimstone missile is Europe’s equivalent of the Hellfire missile. Like the Hellfire, it’s designed to take out tanks and other armored targets, it can be fired with different seeker and warheads, and it’s battle-tested, especially in the Middle East. Now, its manufacturer has packed an insane number of them into small, all-terrain drones that could break apart Russian armor formations.
First, a quick background on the threat. While the U.S. is torn between competing threats in the Middle East, China, and Russia, Europe has a clear top priority in Russia. Europe gets a ton of energy from Russia, but the relationship is tense.
Russia has already invaded Ukraine twice, and it’s still supporting separatists in the Donbas region of that country. It has also allegedly violated the territorial sovereignty of Estonia by kidnapping an intelligence officer. (Russia claims the capture happened on their side of the border, Estonia disagrees, and U.S. and NATO intelligence backs Estonia.)
Russia still has the largest fleet of armored land vehicles in the world, with an estimated 22,000 combat tanks, according to GlobalFirepower.com. The largest European armored fleet in NATO comes from Turkey with about 3,200 tanks, and it’s moving into a Russian orbit. The total tank force of European NATO countries only totals a little over 11,000. Adding the U.S. and Canadian armored fleets only gets NATO to about 18,000 tanks.
So, yeah, Russia’s massive armored forces could cause legitimate heartburn in the rest of Europe. No one wants to be the next Ukraine or the next Georgia. (Russia successfully annexed a portion of Georgia in a 2008 invasion.)
But how do you brush back Russia without an armored corps, a massive attack helicopter fleet, or some other costly investment?
Well, if you need to intimidate an armored corps and can’t afford hundreds of attack helicopters with air-to-ground anti-tank missiles, maybe you could just put those missiles on a small drone on the ground.
“This cassette magazine, with its high weapon loadout, is optimised to counter mass armour,” said Andy Allen, MBDA U.K. Head of Land Domain Sales and Business Development. “Pairing the combat-proven MBDA Brimstone missile with a flexible and mission deployed UGV such as the Milrem Robotics’ THeMIS provides the tactical commander with the capability to rapidly and remotely deliver high volumes of precision anti-armour effects, importantly in all weathers, against all known DAS and at extended ranges.”
At least that’s the logic behind the pairing of the Brimstone missile and the MILREM Robotics THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle. The resulting product looks a bit like WALL-E if you switched out the cute eyes and body for a six-pack of abs missiles.
The THeMIS UGV is an unmanned infantry support vehicle, and MILREM Robotics sells it in a number of configurations, from transport to remote weapon platform to explosive ordnance disposal. But the most robust anti-tank version on MILREM’s website has a single Javelin missile. MBDA’s proposal would pack six Brimstones instead.
This could be especially potent when MILREM finishes the “swarming” control protocol that’s currently in development.
And Europe might invest in the solution. Europe is already heavily invested in Brimstone, and some countries already own a few THeMIS, so a paired solution shouldn’t be an insanely hard sell. So, hey, next time you head to Europe for an exercise, you might see a European soldier with a loyal attack robot following him. An attack robot with six tank-killing missiles.
Sitting on Miyagi Coast in Okinawa, Japan, is a well-loved establishment called Transit Café where people gather to eat and enjoy the scenery of Okinawa. It was Feb. 19, 2019, a normal weekday afternoon, the sun was shining, the blue ocean waves were crashing and Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure, a military policeman with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Installations Pacific, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler-Japan, and his wife were enjoying their meal. Meanwhile, Jillian Romag and one of her close friends were also chatting during their lunch break at Romag’s favorite lunch destination on island, the Transit Café.
The McClure family was relaxing and people-watching when a sudden movement caught Mrs. McClure’s attention.
“What’s wrong?” Mrs. McClure asked her husband, looking towards the white bar. “I think she’s choking!”
Staff Sgt. McClure looked up to see Romag’s vomit splattering across the white floor. As she stumbled, grabbing desperately at her throat he rushed over, grabbed her shoulder, and looked into her eyes.
First Sergeant Jacob Karl, right, reads Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure’s, left, Navy Achievement Medal citation Feb. 22, 2019, at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
(Photo by Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)
“Are you choking?” he asked.
“I’m going to help you,” McClure said reassuring the woman as he moved to stand behind her. McClure, an experienced policeman aboard Camp Foster, had rehearsed the abdominal thrust, commonly known as the Heimlich maneuver, yearly as part of military policemen’s annual training. After three abdominal thrusts, the chunk of steak that was lodged in her throat blocking her airway came up enough for her to remove it.
In relief and mortification Romag sat down.
McClure bent down, “Are you okay?” he asked. She nodded sheepishly.
After McClure washed his hands and arms, he asked the manager for rags, immediately cleaning up the mess.
On Feb. 22, 2019, McClure was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal for superior performance of his duties while serving as a military policeman and accident investigation section chief Provost Marshal’s office, HS Bn, MCIPAC-MCB.
“This reminded me that there are really still good people out there,” said Jillian Romag, the woman McClure saved. “The Marine Corps takes care of its people and teaches its people how to take care of others.”
McClure’s exceptional professionalism, unrelenting perseverance and loyal devotion to duty reflected great credit upon him and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
Staff Sgt. Jonathan McClure, left, and Jillian Romag, right, pose for a picture Feb. 22, 2019, at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan.
(Photo by Cpl. Tayler Schwamb)
“I think that any MCIPAC Marine would have reacted the same way,” said Col. Vincent Ciuccoli, commanding officer of HS Bn., MCIPAC, MCB Camp Butler. “In the organization that I am in we have a very diverse group. We have a common thread throughout, every Marine here has a bias for action, and every Marine would do something. It is one thing to say that you attempted to save someone’s life, but to actually save their life and have the bravery and skillset to do it says a lot.”
Marines aboard MCIPAC strengthen and enable force projection in the Asia-Pacific region by building bridges with their allies and partners while protecting and defending the territory of the United States, its people and its interests.
“I firmly believe with 100% of my heart and soul that any Marine who knew what was going on and how to react would have done so the same exact way,” said McClure proudly. “I work with military policemen who react to hard situations on a daily basis. I know without a shadow of a doubt that any of those Marines would do the same thing. The life lesson that this instance reminded me of is that you are forever a student. You have to be willing to learn and continue to hone and refine your skills. If you do have any type of certifications, or if you are recertifying, make sure you take it seriously. If you don’t have the training, go out there and seek it. There are programs through our U.S. Naval Hospital and Red Cross. We need more people who are out there, trained and ready to act when a situation gets hectic or scary.”
BorgWarner said in a statement sent to RFE/RL on Jan. 1, 2019, that Paul Whelan was the company’s global security director. It added that he is responsible for overseeing the company’s facilities in Auburn Hills, Michigan, “and at other company locations around the world.”
A spokeswoman for BorgWarner told RFE/RL that the company “does not have any facilities in Russia.”
Russia’s state-owned conglomerate Rostec said in 2013 that its truckmaker, KamAz, had a long record of collaboration with a subsidiary of BorgWarner known as BorgWarnerTurboSystems.
David Whelan told AP in a Jan. 1, 2019 interview that his brother had been to Russia “several times” before and was helping a former U.S. Marine friend of his plan a wedding with a Russian woman.
On the morning of the day he was detained, Paul Whelan had given a tour of the Kremlin museums to a group of wedding guests, his brother said. He failed to show up for the wedding on the evening of Dec. 28, 2018.
David Whelan said his absence led the family to fear he had been in a car accident or perhaps mugged, and were searching the Internet for news about “dead Americans in Moscow.”
The U.S. State Department has said it knows about “the detention of a U.S. citizen by Russian authorities” and had been formally notified by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The State Department said on Dec. 31, 2018, that it had requested consular access to Paul Whelan and expected “Russian authorities to provide it.”
David Whelan said in the AP interview that his family was told by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow that it has been unable to speak with Paul Whelan.
David Whelan said his brother had previously worked for Kelly Services, an international office-staffing company that does have offices in Moscow, and had been to Russia on business and to visit friends he had met on social-media networks.
Paul Whelan reportedly had a page on the Russian social-media site VKontakte on which he writes messages in basic Russian.
David Whelan said his brother was stationed in Iraq several times with the U.S. Marines and has been living in Novi, Michigan.
The announcement of Whelan’s detainment came a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin said Moscow remains open to dialogue with Washington in a New Year’s greeting to U.S. President Donald Trump.
Relations between the United States and Russia remain strained over a raft of issues including Russia’s role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, its alleged meddling in elections in the United States and elsewhere, and the poisoning of a Russian double agent in Britain.
At the end of November 2018, Trump abruptly canceled a planned meeting with Putin on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Argentina, citing tensions after Russian forces opened fire on Ukrainian Navy boats before seizing them and capturing 24 Ukrainian sailors.
The detention of Whelan comes weeks after Russian Maria Butina pleaded guilty in a U.S. court to acting as an agent for the Kremlin.
The Kremlin has denied that Butina is a Russian agent and has organized a social-media campaign to secure her release.
In the past, Russia has arrested foreigners with the aim of trading prisoners with other countries.
In his annual year-end news conference on Dec. 20, 2018, Putin said Russia would “not arrest innocent people simply to exchange them for someone else later on.”
Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.
A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.
“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”
Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out
The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.
“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”
Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.
Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.
“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”
Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.
“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.
“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”
Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.” “I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”
When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.
Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.
“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”
Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.
“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.
“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”
Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.
Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.
The military is no picnic when it comes to consuming food. Eating quickly and at strange hours is a way of life in the armed forces. For many women veterans, these experiences can affect their eating habits, and relationship with food after their military service is over.
For a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers Dr. Jessica Breland of VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Dr. Shira Maguen of San Francisco VA Health Care System talked with 20 women veterans about how military service affected their eating habits. They found that many had developed unhealthy patterns such as binging, eating quickly, eating in response to stress and extreme dieting. In many cases, those habits carried over into civilian life.
Poor eating habits
The veterans described three military environments that promoted poor eating habits: boot camp, deployment, and on base.
Almost all of the women recalled that in boot camp, they were forced to eat quickly.
“My family asks why I eat so fast, and I say I learned it from the military,” one woman veteran said. “We were always timed.”
Finding healthy food choices in the military was not easy.
Others ate quickly in order to get second helpings. In addition to eating fast, they also ate a lot. Since they were physically active, they didn’t gain weight. But when they got out of boot camp and continued eating large meals, they gained weight, which then affected their self-esteem.
Deployment changed eating habits even further since there was no set schedule for meals.
“You ate as much as you could before the flies ate your food, or you had to run off and do something and get [to] … the next stressful situation” said one woman veteran.
On base, meals were less stressful than in boot camp or on deployment, but healthy choices were limited.
“Your options are the mess hall or Burger King and Cinnabon,” said another woman bveteran.
Security Forces Airmen with the 121st Air Refueling Wing participate in quarterly weapons training during a regularly scheduled drill at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio, May 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Wendy Kuhn)
For many women, the need to “make weight” — not exceed maximum military weight limits — was an ongoing struggle. This involved continually monitoring what they ate and being monitored by others. For some, this struggle was tied directly to the stress of being female in the military.
“There is just a whole host of things that we have to deal with that [male service members] don’t have to,” one woman said, “and one of those things is being constantly judged on our appearance. It’s like there is nothing we can do right as women in the military and … that translates into these eating issues when we get home.”
Challenges making weight
Making weight was even more challenging — and critical — after pregnancy.
“They give you nine months to gain the weight [during pregnancy], and if you’re over[weight] when you come back to work in six weeks, it’s career death,” one participant said. “They start writing you up, they start demoting you, but the men don’t have that, you know?”
Some women ate as a way of finding comfort and control in stressful situations. One Navy veteran said she and a female colleague felt isolated and bullied due to their gender. They used food as a way to feel good and cope.
“When we got in port, we would just hole up in a hotel room, and just buy a whole bunch of just comfort food, candy, cookies, and whatever it was that we wanted to pig out and eat on. So we [were] in a relationship with the food, her and me, which … helped us out a lot.”
Some became trapped in a cycle of overeating and extreme dieting.
Army 2nd Lt. Caitlyn Simpson prepares her platoon for a training mission from inside a tank at Fort Irwin, Calif., May 28. 2019.
(Photo By: Army Cpl. Alisha Grezlik)
“You [could have] the start of a really serious eating disorder that could have killed you and it was reinforced by people saying, ‘Oh my god, look how much weight you are losing,’ like it was a good thing,” one female veteran said. “Were they going to wait until you were dead before they said, ‘You know, this might not be so healthy’?”
Adapting to civilian life
Some women found it hard to readjust to civilian eating patterns after leaving the service.
“[My family said], ‘We’re not in the military. You have to slow down and back away and think about what you are doing,'” another female veteran said. “So that was hard … it wasn’t clicking in my head that I was no longer in the military. They didn’t know my norm, and I didn’t know their norm, and we were just clashing all the time.”
Other women reported that they no longer took pleasure in food because years of consuming mediocre military meals had reduced eating to the level of a chore.
“You just eat it or you starve,” as one woman put it.
The researchers caution that their findings may not apply to all women in the military, but only to those with certain risk factors. They hope to do larger-scale research to further explore the issue.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
And just like that, all of America became homeschoolers.
As resources are furiously pinned to social media, it quickly becomes overwhelming to newbie parent-teachers trying to choose what tools to fill their children’s long days with. Rather quickly, most of you will hit walls. Walls that I too hit, full of rookie mistakes made trying to recreate the actual school day or classroom schedule within my home.
I’m here to tell you to throw that all away. To slowly and happily sip your morning coffee and read this.
Whatever you do, don’t try to recreate the school day at home.
As a former public school teacher turned travel schooling mom (google that in your spare time), the first mistake typically made is both the course load and daily schedule. Classrooms educate on average 20-30 children simultaneously at various levels of learning. At home, you have one student-yours. He or she will accomplish a school day’s worth of work in far less time.
The beauty of homeschool is that it is meant to be flexible, individual, and guided by learner’s passions. You will learn to “do school” at times when your child is the most focused. This may mean 1-2 lessons first thing in the morning, then creative passions, exploration, and fun until later in the evening when they finish up a few “core lessons.” At this very moment, homeschoolers are on thousands of varied schedules. The best part? There’s no wrong answer. So spend the first week or so tuning into your home and child’s rhythms before charging forcefully ahead into a schedule.
Pursuing interests is the best form of education
What’s the best modality for educating your children? Good conversation. I could start and end this article there.
Once you realize “core curriculum” takes up only a tiny fraction of time, something else will begin to fill the days…passion. The deep pursuit of self-interest is the beautiful gem of homeschooling. Now is the best time for your children to take up a love of art study, Claymation, geology, gardening, or marine biology via the unlimited library of content available online. Allow them to spark a new interest or immerse themselves completely in a passion for discovering a world they never knew existed.
The simplest, yet effective way to spark passion is to discover the world around you through intricate observation. On the way to the beach, my children noticed several tsunami hazard zone signs. A series of questions, answers, and google results led to over an hour of becoming mini experts at 4 and 8 years old. The subject was tangibly relevant to them; thus, they pursued the study fiercely. Experiences like this are worksheet free. Developing a love of learning is the ultimate goal of education.
Let them participate in what we are all going through
Knowledge is empowering. Your children are aware the world is changing around then, no matter how innocent they may be. Each new day we experience a global pandemic forcing the world into quarantine, shutting down schools, and infringing upon our way of life, which is a time worth documenting.
Allow your children to become historians and reporters. Generations all go through something, and this is something noteworthy. Invite your children to document what they see in the world around them and how they feel or what they understand is going on. Not only is this highly educational (spelling, grammar, creative writing, history, etc.), but it is also helpful to frame an otherwise scary situation for young minds. Together, each day you can go over their journals to help shape or clarify things for them. It is also an opportunity to solidify in their minds how you are doing all you can to keep your family safe.
This time is a gift. A gift to stop and reengage with your children all over again. To get to know them deeply as individuals in this season of life. To make the memories and connections necessary to sustain them into adulthood.
Take a breath, take it easy, and simply enjoy discovering each day together.
The new Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, Black Widow, comes out this May. The standalone film will revolve around the Avenger Natasha Romanoff, otherwise known as the Black Widow.
The former assassin turned superhero has a dark and mysterious past that has been alluded to several times during the MCU run. Now, fans get to dive into that story and learn what made Black Widow and why her past haunts her.
The new trailer also featured more of the movie’s villain, the Taskmaster. The Taskmaster has the ability to learn and mimic the fighting style of anyone he faces. In the first trailer we see him take aim with a bow and arrow which means he must have gone up against Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye.
But in the new trailer, we see other Avengers mimicked by the Taskmaster. At the 1:12 mark, we see Taskmaster give the ole Wakanda Forever salute, prompting fans to wonder if there will be an appearance by Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, also known as Black Panther.
Also, we see Taskmaster pull out a very iconic tool of one of the Avengers.
That’s right, he uses (pretty proficiently) a shield as a weapon just like Captain America.
Taskmaster is considered Marvel’s ultimate copycat
In the new #BlackWidow trailer you can see him:
– Studying Natasha’s moves in ‘Iron Man 2’
– Throwing a shield like Cap
– Mimicking Black Panther
– Shooting a bow and arrow like Hawkeye
Speaking of the Captain, the movie features his old Soviet counterpart. Played by Stranger Things star David Harbour, the Red Guardian has a big role in the movie as one of Black Widow’s family members. The premise of the movie seems to be that the Taskmaster has taken control of the Red Room (used to create Black Widow assassins) and Black Widow and her family must do battle to stop him. Rounding out the superhero family are Rachel Weisz and Florence Pugh.
The movie is supposed to be set after Captain America: Civil War, and has Romonoff alone and dealing with a sinister force that is using her past against her. She must battle both the Taskmaster and her past in order to prevail.
It sounds like this will be another great Marvel action flick!
Five years after a proof-of-concept mission, the MQ-9 Reaper drone has developed into a key asset in California’s fight against wildfires, including the Carr and Mendocino Complex Fires, which are currently burning in Northern California.
“It’s a technology I never thought I’d see,” said Jeremy Salizzoni, a fire technical specialist with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who was embedded with the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing at March Air Reserve Base, California, during 2013’s devastating Rim Fire.
More than 250,000 acres burned in August 2013 as the Rim Fire raged in Tuolumne County, California. At the time, it was the state’s third largest wildfire on record. More than 100 structures were lost in the blaze, which took nine weeks to fully contain.
An aircrew from the California Air National Guard’s 163rd Attack Wing flies an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft during a mission to support state agencies fighting the Mendocino Complex Fire in Northern California, Aug. 4, 2018. The aircrew conducted fire perimeter scans and spot checks on the blaze, which encompasses the Ranch and River fires.
(California Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)
Eleven days after the Rim Fire started, the wing launched a first-of-its kind mission to overfly the fire with an MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted reconnaissance aircraft and beam back real-time video footage of the fire to Salizzoni and wing intelligence analysts working in an operations facility at March.
Through the Predator’s footage, Salizzoni, who was used to driving for hours through rugged terrain to access overlook points and put eyes on the leading edge of a fire, could see any area of the fire he wanted, in real time and without ever leaving the operations facility.
The remotely piloted aircraft’s thermal imaging camera provided a view of the fire unlike anything he’d ever seen. Traditional aerial assets are important, but encounter limitations due to smoke, fuel, altitude and field of view, he said.
“It was such a dramatic change from anything I’d seen in my career,” Salizzoni said. “It was like being blind and then having vision in the blink of an eye.”
He and his colleagues knew they had a new tool in their firefighting toolbox.
“We saw things over the course of that fire that you couldn’t have made up,” Salizzoni said. “I don’t think there’s a better intel resource at our disposal right now.”
During its eight-day emergency activation for the Rim Fire, the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing — the unit’s name at the time — logged more than 150 hours of fire support and was credited with helping firefighters expedite containment.
MQ-9 Reaper RPA
In the five years since, the 163rd Attack Wing has changed its name and the kind of airplane it flies, but one thing hasn’t changed: the wing’s dedication to domestic disaster response missions right here at home.
RPAs are no longer just trying to prove their worth, said Air Force Maj. Mike Baird, the senior intelligence officer at the 163rd Attack Wing. The wing’s MQ-9 Reaper RPAs — a big-brother to the recently-retired Predators — are an in-demand incident awareness and assessment asset preferred by California’s civil authorities when disaster strikes.
The wing has supported more than 20 wildfires since 2013, but it takes more than just airplanes, Baird said. Keeping California safe takes a wing-wide effort.
“What we’ve been doing behind the scenes from maintenance and communications to refining our deployment and personnel processes has led up to our ability to provide an unprecedented level of MQ-9 support,” Baird said.
The wing provided real-time full motion video support over a number of fires in 2017, including California’s most destructive fire on record and also its largest fire to date. More than 5,600 structures were damaged and 22 lives were lost during the Tubbs Fire in Sonoma County in October. Two months later, in December, the Thomas Fire ravaged Ventura and Santa Barbara counties to become the state’s largest fire on record with more than 280,000 acres burned.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class James Thompson)
Innovation on the Fly
The wing works to refine its techniques and procedures, and works to expand the detailed real-time incident awareness and assessment data it provides to incident commanders. Innovation on the fly is the name of the game.
An investment by James G. Clark, director of Air Force innovation, and Air Force Col. Chris McDonald from the disruptive innovation division in Clark’s office, helped the wing’s Hap Arnold Innovation Center develop a specialized network to push and pull data from RPAs and other data-generating assets from civilian and military organizations.
The network’s customizable data sets — coupled with the RPAs’ real-time thermal imagery — provide incident commanders and first responders a common operating picture they can access from anywhere, anytime.
RPAs proved “an opportunity for people to make tactical and objective based decisions on real time information,” Salizzoni said.
As the Rim Fire nears its fifth anniversary, RPAs are once again in the sky, flying through smoke to deliver data and protect Californians as wildfires ravage the state.
By July 31, the 163rd was on its fifth fire of the summer.
Throughout July, the wing flew nearly 350 hours to support civil authorities working the County, Klamathon, Ferguson, Carr, Mendocino Complex and Eel fires, and is credited with helping to protect thousands of structures in the process. The MQ-9 provided near real-time full motion video and frequent fire-line updates to decision makers determining where to build up future containment lines.
It’s a marathon pace, but the wing’s airmen up for it, said Air Force 1st Lt. Frank Cruz, officer in charge of the 163rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, whose unit provides direct support for the MQ-9’s around-the-clock fire operations to aid civil authorities.
“Everyone is 100 percent on board,” Cruz said. “They’re all-in.”
Emir Abdelkader was born the son of a respected military leader who had helped harass French occupiers in Algeria. As might be expected, young Emir continued his father’s war against the French in a conflict that had religious overtones since, you know, the Algerians were mostly Muslim and the French predominantly Christian. But when he rode forth to save Christians from angry mobs in 1860, France conferred on him its top military honors, the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor.
Emir Abdelkader as a military leader in the late 1830s.
Further successes on the battlefield and in negotiations gave him control of more land and pushed most French forces back to a few ports. His success on the battlefield in service of Algerian independence led to him being dubbed the “George Washington of Algeria.”
But Abdelkader was unable to defeat the larger and better equipped French military forever. A renewed French campaign in 1840 slowly ground down Abdelkader and his supporters and, in 1847, he surrendered to a French general and the duc d’Aumale, the French king’s son.
But his story was not over. He was a prolific writer and was widely respected in the region and across the world. So, when political violence erupted into a summer civil war in 1860, Abdelkader’s calls for calm incited some popular support for peace.
A statue of Emir Abdelkader in Algeria.
(Mouh2jijel, CC BY-SA 3.0)
But the violence did continue and spilled into Damascus, now the capital of Syria. Abdelkader rode forth with his guard and supporters and personally rounded up Christians and took them back to his compound where he and his men guarded them. He put a bounty out for the safe delivery of any Christians to him and his men. And, he sent guards to escort local Christian leaders and officials back to safety.
His efforts were credited at the time with saving thousands, and he had hundreds of Christians at a time sheltered under his protection.
The men of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment spearheaded one of the American columns that invaded Iraq on Feb. 23, 1991. After three days of light fighting they stumbled into one of the largest Iraqi armored formations and annihilated it with cannons, TOW missiles and mortars in the Battle of 73 Easting, often called “the last great tank battle of the 20th century.”
Then-Capt. (now Lt. Gen.) H.R. McMaster, commander of Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd ACR, literally wrote the book on the battle and commanded one of the lead elements in the fight.
Helicopters buzzed over Eagle Troop as the ground invasion of Iraq began on Feb. 23. The mission of the 2nd ACR was simple in theory but would be challenging to achieve. They were to cut off Iraqi retreat routes out of Kuwait and destroy the large armored formations thought to be hiding in the flat, featureless desert.
The empty desert could be challenging to navigate since there were no features to use for direction. Heavy rains and windstorms limited visibility as the tanks and other vehicles felt their way through the desert.
Fox troop made contact first, destroying a few enemy tanks. Over the next couple of days, 2nd Squadron tanks and vehicles would encounter enemy observation and scout vehicles and destroy them with missiles and cannons, but they couldn’t find the Iraqi Republican Guard divisions they knew were dug somewhere into the desert.
In the afternoon of Feb. 26, 1991, McMaster was pushing his troop through a sandstorm when he crested a rise and there, directly in front of him, was an entire division of Iraqi tanks with elite crews. Finding himself already in range of the enemy, he immediately gave the order to fire.
The enemy had parked themselves away from the slight rise so that they would be hidden and so incoming American tanks would be forced to drive down the hill towards them. This exposed the relatively weak top armor of the tank to the Iraqi guns.
But the Iraqis had lost most of their scout vehicles and so were just as surprised as the U.S. commanders when the two armored forces clashed, leaving them unable to capitalize on their position.
McMaster’s opening salvo set the tone for the battle. His first shot was a HEAT round that destroyed a tank cowering behind a berm. His second shot, a depleted uranium sabot shell, shot through an Iraqi tank that was swiveling to fire on him. As his crew targeted a third enemy, the driver realized they were driving through a minefield and began taking evasive action.
Enemy rounds began falling around the lead tank as the two tank platoons in Eagle Troop got on line to join the fight. Nine American tanks were now bearing down on the Iraqi positions, destroying enemy T-72s and armored vehicles. As McMaster described it in his first summary of the battle:
The few seconds of surprise was all we had needed. Enemy tanks and BMP’s (Soviet-made armored personnel carriers) erupted in innumerable fire balls. The Troop was cutting a five kilometer wide swath of destruction through the enemy’s defense.
The Bradley fighting vehicles joined the tanks, firing TOW missiles at the enemy armor and using their guns to cut down Iraqi infantry. Mortar and artillery support opened up, raining fire onto the remaining Iraqi positions.
The American forces cut down 30 tanks, 14 armored vehicles, and hundreds of infantrymen before reaching their limit of advance, the line they were originally told to halt at. But McMaster ordered the troop to continue attacking, fearful that the Iraqis would be able to regroup and wage a strong counterattack.
At 23 minutes since first contact, McMaster declared it safe to halt his troop’s advance. The single armored troop had crippled the Iraqi flank with zero casualties. One American tank from the 2nd Squadron headquarters had received light damage from a mine.
Near the Eagle Troop position, Ghost, Killer, and Iron troops were mixing it up other Iraqi units and trying to catch up to Eagle. The enemy made a few half-hearted attempts at counter-attacking the U.S. tanks, but they were quickly rebuffed.
That night, the U.S. called on the Iraqi’s to surrender and it was answered by droves of troops. About 250 survivors surrendered to Eagle Troop.
Up and down the U.S. lines, the story was similar to that of Eagle Troop. The Iraqis suffered nearly 1,000 casualties, 85 tanks destroyed, 40 armored vehicles destroyed, 30 wheeled-vehicles lost, and two artillery batteries annihilated. The U.S. suffered 12 men killed, 57 men wounded, and 32 vehicles destroyed or damaged.