Some kids dress up as cute animals for Halloween, some dress up as pretty princesses… and some dress up as Ellen Ripley from the 1986 thriller Aliens. To pay homage to James Cameron’s sci-fi series — and perhaps to pass some movie wisdom onto the next generation — one dad created a costume to beat all costumes for him and his daughter.
It’s a real-life replica of the power loader that Ellen wears in the movie to destroy the Queen. And this dad definitely took the “real-life” thing to a new level when he built the highlight of the whole get-up: the fully-functioning forklift feature for his daughter to sit in, complete with retractable supports.
Unsurprisingly, Reddit, along with everyone else on the internet, is going crazy over it. And we have so many questions. What is it made of? How on earth did he manage to build this monstrosity? And isn’t it heavy?!
But how this dad created the realistic robot costume might not be all that different from how the original one came into existence. In 2016, 30 years after Aliens was made, director James Cameron revealed the process of building the power loader.
“We were literally down on the floor, cutting out big pieces of foam core,” he explained, “We hung it on a pipe frame and we had a guy stand there and put his hands down into the elbows of the arms and lift them.”
While the details of this dad’s robot suit are unclear, one thing is for sure: Any parent who not only builds a costume this cool but also carries it (and his daughter) around all night trick-or-treating deserves more than one award. And a couple pieces of her Halloween candy, too.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The world lost another great today, as legendary songwriter John Prine succumbed to complications from COVID-19, his family confirmed to Rolling Stone. Prine, 73, lost his battle with the novel coronavirus at Nashville’s Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
Prine was known for his innumerable talents but none better than his ability to tell the story of humanity through his words. Prine’s acclaim as one of America’s best songwriters has prompted a flood of tributes from celebrities and fans alike as they mourn an indescribable loss.
We’re heartbroken here. And all our love — each of us, the entire Belcourt community, our town — to Fiona and John’s family. We’ve loss a beautiful one.pic.twitter.com/SShyVQ2cC3
From gracing the Opry House stage for those memorable New Year’s Eve shows to other special Opry appearances including one alongside the StreelDrivers and Bill Murray, John Prine has touched our hearts with his music. We are thinking of his family and friends tonight. pic.twitter.com/FV3nIfT1kc
Oh John Prine, thank you for making me laugh and breaking my heart and sharing your boundless humanity. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This is one of the most gorgeous songs ever written. Bonnie Raitt John Prine – Angel From Montgomery https://youtu.be/1T5NuI6Ai-o via @YouTube
Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois. He was one of four sons of a homemaker and a union worker, who raised the boys to love music. Prine grew up on the likes of Hank Williams and other performers of the Grand Ole Opry, but it was really his father’s reaction to Williams’ music that touched Prine. “I used to just sit and watch how he would be so moved by the songs,” Prine said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “In fact, I might have been more affected by the way the songs touched him than by the songs themselves – they seemed to have such power.”
Prine graduated from high school in 1964 and started his career with the U.S. Postal Service as a mailman. Instead of focusing on the monotony of his day job, Prine used the time to write songs. But his career delivering mail was cut short when he was drafted in 1966 into the Army. The war in Vietnam was escalating, but Prine was sent to Germany where he served as a mechanical engineer. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Prine said his military career consisted largely of “drinking beer and pretending to fix trucks.”
After two years, Prine returned to the postal service and started writing songs until he became a regular on the Chicago music circuit.
While Prine’s discography is impressive, it was his song “Sam Stone” about a veteran struggling with addiction that resonated with millions of soldiers across the world. Maybe Prine really did just drink beer and fix trucks, but his haunting portrayal of Sam Stone will never be forgotten.
Sam Stone came home, To the wife and family After serving in the conflict overseas. And the time that he served, Had shattered all his nerves, And left a little shrapnel in his knees. But the morhpine eased the pain, And the grass grew round his brain, And gave him all the confidence he lacked, With a purple heart and a monkey on his back.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone’s welcome home Didn’t last too long. He went to work when he’d spent his last dime And soon he took to stealing When he got that empty feeling For a hundred dollar habit without overtime. And the gold roared through his veins Like a thousand railroad trains, And eased his mind in the hours that he chose, While the kids ran around wearin’ other peoples’ clothes…There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.Sam Stone was alone When he popped his last balloon, Climbing walls while sitting in a chair. Well, he played his last request, While the room smelled just like death, With an overdose hovering in the air. But life had lost it’s fun, There was nothing to be done, But trade his house that he bought on the GI bill, For a flag-draped casket on a local hero’s hill.There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes, Jesus Christ died for nothin I suppose. Little pitchers have big ears, Don’t stop to count the years, Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios.
Prine’s ability to tell a story through his words was truly second to none. In his memoir, “Cash,” Johnny Cash wrote, “I don’t listen to music much at the farm, unless I’m going into songwriting mode and looking for inspiration. Then I’ll put on something by the writers I’ve admired and used for years–Rodney Crowell, John Prine, Guy Clark, and the late Steve Goodman are my Big Four.” Rolling Stone referred to Prine as “the Mark Twain of American songwriting.”
Your death leaves a hole in our hearts, John Prine. Rest in peace, Sir.
Memorial Day is often a conflicting moment for those of us with friends or loved ones who were killed during military service. Traditionally, the three-day weekend has been celebrated in America as the unofficial summer kick-off — a time for sales events and parties.
For those of us who remember the fallen, however, the weekend is bittersweet. Some honor it with service while some prefer solitude. Others gather with friends to celebrate the lives of lost companions.
With COVID-19 numbers remaining dangerously high (at the time of publishing, the CDC reports 1,551,095 total U.S. cases — 22,860 new cases compared to the day before — and 93,061 total deaths — 1,397 new dates compared to the day before), it still isn’t safe to pay tribute the way we might prefer.
Here are some ways to honor the holiday during the quarantine:
(Let this double as your weekend safety brief; while states are slowly reopening and we can go out, it isn’t necessarily safe to do so — and while we all feel invincible, let’s remember the military core value of putting others before ourselves, lest we risk becoming an asymptomatic carrier who exposes someone at risk to a fatal infection.)
Salute Across America will be a first-of-its-kind live stream honoring fallen service members. Prominent veteran companies such as Kill Cliff, Combat Flip Flops, Nine Line Apparel, Grunt Style and many more are joining forces to send a message of gratitude for those who have defended our freedoms while promoting togetherness during this time of isolation.
During the live stream, New York Times Best Selling Author John Brenkus will be joined by influencers and celebrities including NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, MMA Legend Randy Couture, actors Donnie Whalberg and Jenny McCarthy, Bruce Arians, Dan Quinn, Nate Boyer, Jay Glazer, Rich Salgado and musicians Ryan Weaver, Tim Montana, Joey McIntyre, Ted Nugent and Jesse Hughes.
Viewers will have the opportunity to simply click a link and make a donation. Likewise, the Salute Across America webpage will have links to the military charities supported by the companies behind this initiative in an effort to drive awareness and donations for some incredible non-profits doing great work to support our troops, including the Navy SEAL Foundation.
The Murph Challenge is an annual fundraiser that raises funds for the LT. Michael P. Murphy Memorial Scholarship Foundation in honor of Mike Murphy, a U.S. Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in action on June 28, 2005.
This Memorial Day tradition will continue on May 25, 2020, where participants are invited to complete the Crossfit Hero WOD (workout of the day) ‘MURPH’ then return to TheMurphChallenge.com to submit their ‘MURPH’ time and compare their achievements with those of others around the world. All times will be displayed on a worldwide leaderboard and the top five men and top five women will be recognized for their efforts.
Since 2014, the foundation has raised over id=”listicle-2646068043″,000,000 in addition to bringing the community together to push each other and pay tribute to LT. Michael P. Murphy.
Team Rubicon has been actively responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by launching initiatives to help local communities. Called #NeighborsHelpingNeighbors, Team Rubicon volunteers have activated to meet the needs of their communities through safe individual acts of service.
“During this time of the COVID-19 crisis, many people are unable to access and afford their most basic needs, including food. Team Rubicon and Patient Advocate Foundation have partnered to provide emergency food assistance to those who have cancer, Multiple Sclerosis or Rheumatoid Arthritis, and have been affected by COVID-19.
Most military veterans took their oath to serve because they felt the call to take action and help others. Finding “service after service” is healing and therapeutic for vets — and Memorial Day is a perfect time to answer the call once more.
The greatest beer run in the history of beer | Drink Like a Sailor
Stoke the fire, grill or cook up your favorite summer foods, and jump on a Zoom or Google Hangout with your friends. Memorial Day is about remembering the fallen and raising a glass in their honor. The act of cooking or grilling is a great way to pass the time — and talking with friends is a cathartic experience for anyone grieving a loss.
Talk about the people you lost. Share their stories online. Acknowledge how it feels to miss them. Take comfort in the virtual company of your friends.
You’ve been eating enough microwave food — give yourself the gift of a home-cooked meal and enjoy.
5. Go to a Drive-In Movie
Parks, trails and beaches sound great after you’ve been cooped up inside, but face masks and the aerosol range of potentially contagious partiers really puts a damper on the experience. Still, if you’re craving an experience out of the house to boost your mood, find a local outdoor movie theater and catch a flick.
Drive-In Movie Theaters are making a comeback with safety restrictions in place to help protect people. Viewers remain in their vehicles, which are parked further apart. Anyone entering restroom facilities must wear masks and most locations are limiting the number of people allowed in the restroom at any given time.
This makes a great date to enjoy with anyone you’ve been sheltering in place with. It’s also an opportunity to park near your buddies and either live-text or zoom together from car-to-car. The shared experience and change of pace can give you just the kind of morale boost you’ve been craving.
6. Donate to your favorite veteran non-profit organization
Many nonprofits are working hard to stay afloat and continue their initiatives. If you have money to spare, consider making a contribution to causes you believe in. If you’re also hurting financially, share their content online and show your support.
We’re going to be separated for a while longer — but that doesn’t mean we’re alone. Whatever you do this Memorial Day weekend, reach out to your friends, take care of each other and stay safe.
Sometimes, civilians have a difficult time relating with troops. In many cases, they just don’t know how to talk to them. Realistically, it’s pretty easy. After all, we’re simple creatures; we like a handful of things — alcohol, tattoos, and anything else that’s fun with a dash of self-destruction. We’re, essentially, the kings and queens of counter-culture — “rebels with a cause,” as we were once described by a Marine general.
That being said, there are plenty of civilians out there who fit right in with the troops — usually those who work in a select few professional fields. The following are the civilian professionals that get a ton of love from the troops.
But, before we kick this off, I want to make it clear you don’t have to work in one of these fields for troops to appreciate you. Troops appreciate support of any kind — even if it’s a simple “thank you.”
You should never piss off your bartender, honestly.
(U.S. Air Force)
Easily topping this list is your friendly neighborhood beer-slinger. Troops love to drink and, although some troops might find themselves embroiled in “friendly” disagreements with their bartender after kicking back a few, a good service member will always respect the person behind the bar that helps them wind down after a long week.
Tattoo artists are almost always cool with service members.
Troops love tattoos, too. For each new piece, a troop will sit on the chair or bench for hours at a time — so you kind of can’t help but become friends with your tattoo artist. Artists in a military town tend to understand troops because they tattoo a lot of us. They know what we like to talk about and they can probably all draw a perfect eagle, globe, and anchor with their eyes closed.
Okay, okay. The ones from the shop on base aren’t always bad.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Photographer’s Mate Chris Desmond)
Troops need haircuts and a good barber is hard to find. If you’re lucky, you’ll find that one place off-base that isn’t too expensive and leaves you with a better cut than the clowns on base shop can offer.
A lot of respect goes both ways in this regard.
Life, especially one spent in the armed forces, leaves you with a lot of complications. As warfighters, we spend a lot of time working on our own bodies and training to deliver harm to the enemies’. Although doctors have a much more thorough understanding of human anatomy, troops certainly have a lot of questions.
Doctors specialize in fixing humans and grunts, well, we specialize in the opposite. Plus, grunts have medical professionals embedded with us in the form of medics and corpsman, who are usually the best friends any troop could have. So, we sort of lump all doctors in with them.
Have you ever been lost for words in how to approach a serious conversation? As military spouses, we may feel vulnerability is a bad thing, but it’s crucial to have meaningful, heartfelt conversations. Have you ever shared legitimate fears, hoping for a safe space to find relief, and were met with jokes or platitudes? Here are a few ways we weave vulnerability into our conversations.
Please, Sir, can I have some more?
Asking for what you need might sound demanding, but this request allows the other person to know what you’re looking for to support you better. Ideas for phrase starters could look like: “I’m looking for encouragement…advice…a reminder I’m not crazy and can do this,” Sometimes as listeners, we advise because we want to help when the other person is just looking to vent or verbally process. Knowing this information beforehand gives the listener insight into how to respond in a way that nourishes each of you.
Let’s take it to the next level
What do you do when you want to have a serious conversation and do not want to be brushed aside or met with sarcasm? Using this ‘level’ tool, you can set the tone for discussion beforehand.
Level 1 is everyday chat, light-hearted fun.
Level 3 is, ‘I want you to take me seriously and hear me out; please don’t make light of this.’
Level 5 is divorce talks or a year-long unaccompanied tour announcement. A high stakes all-hands-on-deck conversation.
By stating the level, you give the person you are hoping to talk with an understanding of where you are mentally.
Hurry Up and Wait
Be prepared to wait if you ask for a level 3+ conversation. If they are in the middle of a project, they may need to get back to you later to give you proper attention. Adding more care to our conversations is a gift. Providing clarity on the topic helps them mentally prepare as well. For example: “Hey, hun, I’d love to have a level 3 about your deployment next week, we need to make a plan,” or, “Hey, mom, level 5, I’m four months into a one-year deployment, with three kids. I’m not okay. I need help.”
When we share the topic of conversation and use an easy tool like levels, we can let people know the seriousness of our feelings before the discussion even starts. Using these tools can change the conversation from one of frustration to one of vulnerability and met hearts.
The Pentagon reportedly plans to restart the manufacturing process for once-banned ground-launched cruise missiles as a Cold War-era arms agreement with Russia crumbles, Aviation Week reported.
The Trump administration announced US withdrawal from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in early February 2019, citing Russian violations of the bilateral arms control agreement. The pact is expected to expire in August 2019.
President Donald Trump stated in February 2019 that the US will “move forward with developing our own military response” to alleged Russian treaty violations. Russia has said it will do the same, although there is evidence it had already done so.
In the late 1970s, the Soviets deployed the RSD-10 Pioneer intermediate-range ballistic missile system in Eastern Europe, and the US responded by deploying mid-range Pershing II missiles and intermediate-range ground-launched cruise missiles in Western Europe.
Intermediate-range ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead RSD-10 Pioneer.
(Photo by George Chernilevsky)
The deployment of the BGM-109G ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM), a variation of the Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missile, helped bring the Soviets to the negotiating table, Breaking Defense reported October 2018, noting that reviving this system would be relatively easy.
The INF Treaty helped defuse tensions by prohibiting both sides from developing and fielding these types of weapons, but with the treaty on its deathbed, the Department of Defense has decided to begin fabricating components for GLCM systems, Pentagon officials told Aviation Week.
The Pentagon confirmed the plan to Reuters as well.
In late 2017, research and development began on non-nuclear GLCM concepts, but it never moved beyond that, as any additional steps would have been “inconsistent” with the requirements of the INF Treaty.
Even as the Department of Defense steps up RD activities since the suspension of the treaty, it remains open to canceling the programs and returning to negotiations with Russia.
“This research and development is designed to be reversible, should Russia return to full and verifiable compliance before we withdraw from the Treaty in August 2019,” a Pentagon spokesperson explained to Aviation Week, adding that “because the United States has scrupulously complied with its obligations with the INF Treaty, these programs are in the early stages.”
The suspension of the INF Treaty has stoked fears about an escalated arms race between the US and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already threatened the US should Washington opt to place missiles in Europe, something it presently has no intention of doing.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
If Washington takes that step, Moscow “will be forced, and I want to underline this, forced to take both reciprocal and asymmetrical measures,” Putin said. “We know how to do this and we will implement these plans immediately, as soon as the corresponding threats to us become a reality.”
The suspension of the INF Treaty has stoked fears about an escalated arms race between the US and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already threatened the US should Washington opt to place missiles in Europe, something it presently has no intention of doing.
If Washington takes that step, Moscow “will be forced, and I want to underline this, forced to take both reciprocal and asymmetrical measures,” Putin said. “We know how to do this and we will implement these plans immediately, as soon as the corresponding threats to us become a reality.”
As for the revival of the GLCM program, the US reportedly has a number of different options.
It could, according to experts, convert existing air- and sea-launched cruise missiles, like the Raytheon AGM-160 Miniature Air-Launched Decoy, Raytheon AGM-109 Tomahawk and Lockheed Martin AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface-Standoff Missile, to a GLCM role while adapting existing rocket artillery launchers for this purpose.
Or, it could build something completely new.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The mission of the Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard is to represent the Air Force in a variety of ceremonial functions in Southern Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah. They are responsible for rendering military honors for funeral services and various Air Force ceremonies, as well as provide their services at various opening ceremonies.
For the guardsmen, excellence is the only way “to honor with dignity.” Every day they are fine-tuning their skills, or tweaking the slightest hesitation or shift until they can no longer get it wrong.
Devotion to duty
Under the hot desert sun, a group of airmen stand motionless. In two rows of three, they’re positioned opposite of each other, where the only sound is coming from a gentle wind passing through the formation. Between them rests an unfurled American flag draped over a spotless white casket.
Without so much as a whisper, they simultaneously grip the flag and, with each motion as precise as the next, they begin folding it. As the flag reaches the final fold, the last airman bearing the folded flag breaks the silence.
“Again,” he says.
He hands the flag back to the formation for the airmen to unfold and repeat the movements. The airmen didn’t make a mistake, but in their line of work, they don’t practice until they get it right; they practice until they can’t get it wrong.
Airman 1st Class MaryJane Gutierrez, Nellis Air Force Base honor guardsman, salutes during after playing taps during a military honors funeral at the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sept. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)
Before any guardsman is put on a detail, they have nearly a month of training to learn the basic movements. Afterwards, they continue to meticulously work out the slightest imperfections.
“Most of us will have put in about 80 hours of training in the weeks prior to a detail because we have to be perfect. We can’t afford to mess up,” said Airman 1st Class David Diez, Nellis AFB honor guardsman. “Every funeral we do should be as perfect as we would want our funerals to be.”
Grit for greatness
In the distance, the repeated percussion of hands smacking against wood and metal escapes the open doors of the Honor Guard practice room. Inside, three airmen stand shoulder-to-shoulder, staring into a mirror to analyze their every movement.
The airmen lift their rifles with both hands then remove one hand, hit it against the stock and hold the rifles vertically in front of them.
“Port arms!” commands Spegal.
Again, they hit their rifles then position them diagonally across their chests. After taking a brief moment to pause and discuss what needs to be fixed, the airmen pick up their rifles and start again.
Nellis Honor Air Force Base Guardsmen march in formation after presenting the colors at the South Point 400 NASCAR race opening ceremonies at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Sept. 14, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Andrew D. Sarver)
“Honor Guard is pure teamwork,” said Tech. Sgt. Leon Spence, Nellis AFB Honor Guard Non-commissioned officer in charge. “You can’t go to a funeral or a colors presentation and do everything by yourself. You have to be confident in your abilities and confident in your fellow guardsmen’s abilities to execute each detail as precise as possible.”
Passion for perfection
Down a hallway, the soft brushing of lint rollers against freshly pressed uniforms competes with the sound of gentle laughter from a poorly delivered dad joke.
In a room, Staff Sgt. Victoria Schooley and Airman 1st Class Ashley Libbey, Nellis AFB honor guardsmen, sit eye-level with their uniforms. With a ruler in one hand and a butterfly clutch in the other, Libby is aligning her ribbons. Across the room, Schooley is running her fingers up and down every seam of her ceremonial dress uniform, combing for loose strings to cut away with nail clippers or melt down with a lighter.
For them, looking sharp is just as important to having a successful detail as performing the actual maneuvers.
“I joined because I wanted to do a lot more than my regular day-to-day job. I wanted to feel like I had a bigger purpose in the Air Force and a bigger picture of our impact as a whole,” Diez said. “It will teach you to pay attention to detail, when you realize something as little as a crease in the uniform or a slight hesitation in a facing movement can be the difference between precision and failure.”
“We’re here to serve our community and I want to challenge people to come by and tell us what we could do better or to just learn about us and see what it is we do,” echoed Spence.
Officers, medical staff, and interpreters are a few of the high-value targets that enemy forces focus on first while in a war zone. But the enemy also has their crosshairs on another professional that’s excellent at sniffing out homemade bombs: military working dogs.
Over 1,600 dogs train and serve alongside our brave troops, adept at hunting down the nasty ingredients used to produce those dangerous IEDs. Despite the serious nature of their mission, military working dogs are the subject of some of the funniest memes ever created.
Distinguishing between the bravery of warfighters like these is tough. After all, what’s the exchange rate between five Navy Crosses and two Medals of Honor? These men cannot be ranked, but they can and should be commemorated. And in that spirit WATM presents this lineup:
1. Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly
Sgt. Maj. Daniel J. Daly was called the “fightenest Marine I ever knew” by the famed Maj. Gen. Smedley Butler. In perhaps his most famous action, he encouraged the Marine advance at Belleau Wood in 1918 by turning to his men and yelling, “Come on, you sons of bitches, do you want to live forever?”
Daly was recommended for the Medal of Honor for his actions at Belleau Wood, but received the Distinguished Service Cross. He also received two Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, and a Silver Star in addition to a number of foreign awards for other battles during his career.
2. Maj. Audie Murphy
Commonly called the most decorated soldier of World War II, Maj. Audie Murphy received the Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, and two Bronze Stars with Combat V.
Murphy’s foreign awards were especially impressive. He received the French Forrager, Legion of Honor, and Croix de Guerre with Palm and Silver Star and the Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 with Palm. He also received the Texas Legislative Medal of Honor.
3. Col. Edward V. Rickenbacker
When America entered World War I in 1917, race car driver Edward Rickenbacker volunteered for service. He started off as a staff driver but a chance meeting with Col. Billy Mitchell, an aviation pioneer, saw him reassigned to the new Army Air Corps where he became an “Ace of Aces” with 26 kills in only nine months.
The Distinguished Service Cross and one Navy Cross were received for actions Puller took at the Chosin Reservoir where he personally oversaw the Marine and Army defenses while under withering machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire over five days of fighting.
5. Boatswain’s Mate First Class James Williams
Boatswain’s Mate 1st Class James Williams holds every level of valor award with a Medal of Honor, a Navy Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit with Combat V, two Navy and Marine Corps Medals, three Bronze Stars with Combat V, and two Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V.
In his Medal of Honor action, Williams was commanding a river patrol boat when he took fire from two enemy Sampans in Vietnam and gave chase. He was lured into an ambush but fought against overwhelming odds for three hours, leading a fight that saw 65 enemy ships destroyed by Williams’ crew and a detachment of helicopters that eventually reinforced him.
News broke earlier this week that a military spouse shot and killed her child before turning the gun on herself, dying by suicide.
The news hit the community hard and military spouses are left wondering, where is her movement? Where is her foundation? Where are the bills being passed to help people like her? Silence. As America prides itself on patriotism and strength, we neglect to support the nurturers our foundation was built upon: the military spouse.
Tristen Watson and her son Christopher. Watson was also pregnant with her second child at the time of her suicide.
So many military spouses have silently struggled; myself included. Our community claims to be uplifting and empowering, but when do we really support us? After it’s too late? Once the person is gone, then do we band together for support and strength?
It’s time we put as much energy into someone’s life as we do in mourning their deaths.
Up until recently, the Department of Defense did not keep track of the number of suicides committed by military spouses. Why? Because it wasn’t important. We have always been an afterthought in this community. Our struggles have been minimized as we are called “dependa” and other derogatory slurs that paint an incorrect image of our lives.
According to the Department of Defenses’ first ever study on dependent suicide, in 2017, nearly 200 military dependents committed suicide, that year. Of that, over 100 were military spouses. Knowing that these men and women were spouses of a military member and internally battled something we knew nothing about is not okay. Did they ask for help? Maybe. Our community is pretty tough and often times asking for help may result in actions that are not helpful at all, like bullying.
Our lives aren’t easy. The images of military spouses you see on television aren’t completely accurate. We hurt, too. We face mental health issues like every other human. Yes, we endure hardships within military life. We work, we go to school, we solo parent, we struggle with PTSD, and yet we still find the strength and courage to care for our service members. Many military spouses have college diplomas that are collecting dust, as our student loans collect interest, because we cannot obtain gainful employment. We are turned down by employers because of gaps in our resumes or lack of longevity.
New military spouses receive briefings from members of the Military and Family Readiness Center and Key Spouses during a spouse orientation seminar April 5, 2018, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.
We volunteer within the military community as Soldier and Family Readiness Group Leaders, Crisis Response team members, and so many other positions that help keep our military strong. We are a valuable asset to the military that is often overlooked and underserved. We deserve to have a voice. You need to hear our stories.
Remember, when you are sharing that meme and berating the struggles of our military spouses, you are contributing to the destruction of an already under supported community. Our stories matter. We matter. Let’s spread this message of love and support to our sisters and brothers living their lives with wounds we cannot see. Be the voice of the silent. Speak up!
If you are a military spouse struggling, reach out. Know that your sisters and brothers love you and want you to be okay. We are a village. It’s time to embrace one another and uplift each other during these tumultuous times.
Everyone knows you can’t leave Marines alone to be bored. Idle hands are the devil’s plaything, and no one plays around more than Devil Dogs. If you don’t believe me, just check out Terminal Lance’s Instagram page for a few minutes. I’ll wait.
While most Marines are content to goof around in the barracks or as a group during some hurry-up-and-wait, there are some examples of Marine Corps behavior that show why you should never leave Uncle Sam’s Most Capable troops alone to their own devices. Even for a minute.
(Congressional Medal of Honor Society)
Made a personal weapon from an aircraft machine gun
While fighting in the World War II Battle of Bougainville, Cpl. Tony Stein picked up a .30 caliber ANM2 Browning machine gun from the wrecked wings of a Douglas SBD Dauntless dive bomber. Since he was a toolmaker before the war, he was able to refashion the aircraft weapon – which fired 1200-1500 rounds per minute – into a personal machine gun. He dubbed it “the Stinger” and later carried it into combat on Iwo Jima.
While there, Stein would clear enemy pillboxes with the Stinger, then carry a wounded Marine back to the beach as he picked up more ammunition. Stein did this eight times, and for his efforts, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. He was later killed by a sniper in the battle for Mount Suribachi – which he only joined after leaving a hospital ship.
Became a Warlord in Somalia
Remember the movie Black Hawk Down, where a group of Army Special Forces operators and Rangers attempt to capture Somali warlord Mohammed Farah Aidid in order to regain the stability of Mogadishu? It’s too bad the Army didn’t know that all they had to do was wait until 1996 when his son would rise to power.
His son, Hussein Farah Aidid, was just hanging out as a Marine Corps artilleryman in Battery B, 14th Marines at the Marine Corps Reserve base in Pico Rivera, Calif. As a matter of fact, just a few years after the events of Task Force Ranger depicted in Black Hawk Down, the younger Aidid told his reserve unit he was leaving the country for a while. And he did. He went to Somalia to prepare to take his father’s place in one of the most powerful militias in Mogadishu. When Mohammed Farah Aidid died, his son was declared his successor. The Corporal was now a General.
Sgt. Faustin Wirkus’ weekend libo is off the chain.
Became the Voodoo King of Haiti
In 1915, Sgt. Faustin Wirkus was one of many United States Marines sent into Haiti to stabilized the American-backed government from succumbing to a German-backed coup. After four years of duty in the Caribbean, the NCO was sent to La Gonâve, an island that, until he came along, no white man had ever set foot on and lived. This worked out for Wirkus because he had been curious about Gonâve for the entire time he was deployed. His first assignment there was to arrest the locals for practicing voodoo.
The local voodoo queen, Ti Memenne, had a ceremony for Faustin, which he thought was a celebration of some kind. And it was. The locals thought their old king had been reincarnated as a white man. They decided that Faustin was their new old king – and he ruled their island until the President of Haiti forced him to go home to Pennsylvania.
Howard Foote always wanted to be a fighter pilot. Sadly, when he was joining the Marine Corps, he could not qualify to be a pilot, so he settled for the next best thing: an airplane mechanic. But just because the Marine Corps said he wasn’t allowed to be one of their pilots didn’t mean he would never fly a USMC fighter. One night, the mechanic suited up, hopped in his perfectly-maintained A-4M Skyhawk, and took off into the night.
The Corps, to their credit, didn’t try to intercept Foote as he flew his way around the skies above California. Foote flew the fighter to his hearts’ content and landed safely… into the hands of the waiting police. He was sent to the stockade and served some time before being discharged. Luckily for him, it wasn’t a dishonorable one, so Foote was able to realize his dream of becoming a pilot – this time legally. For NASA.
Lots of Marines fall in love and get married to a local when they’re in the middle of their first assignment. While some aim low and take strippers or lawyers, one enlisted Marine decided that wasn’t enough. His deployment to Bahrain was going to be memorable, so he decided to marry into a local family.
The ruling Al-Khalifa family, that is.
In 1999, Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson fell in love with Meriam bint Abdullah al-Khalifa after meeting the princess at a local mall. He helped smuggle her out of Bahrain and into the United States, which is why he later faced a court-martial, not for getting married without the Corps’ consent.
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan is the Air National Guard Special Assistant to Maj. Gen. Scott F. Smith, the Director of Training and Readiness, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Arlington, Va. The directorate, encompassing seven divisions and the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, is responsible for policy, guidance and oversight of Air Force operations.
General Vaughan also serves as the lead for the Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team (AF-PEAT) and co-leads the ad hoc Joint-PEAT, along with Navy Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman.
General Vaughan completed Reserve Officer Training Corps at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received his commission as honor graduate from ANG’s Academy of Military Science. He previously served in leadership roles at the squadron, group, wing and higher headquarters levels in both the mobility and combat air forces. General Vaughan commanded the 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico, and Detachment 1 of the 13th Air Expeditionary Group (formerly the 13th Expeditionary Support Squadron), Antarctica.
During an interview with Airman Magazine, Gen. Vaughan discussed his new post leading the joint investigation of Unexplained Physiological Episodes (UPEs) and his experiences as a mobility and combat airman and safety officer.
Airman Magazine: Please tell us about your new job investigating Unexplained Physiological Episodes.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: As part of my role working in A3T, I’ve been tasked by the A3 Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly to lead the Physiological Episodes Action Team, also known as the PEAT.
PE stands for physiological episode or event. Essentially it’s any anomaly in the interaction among the aircrew, equipment, and environment that causes adverse physical or cognitive symptoms, which may impede the ability to fly..
What we’ve done across the Air Force and all aircraft, but most recently with the T-6 fleet, is to investigate what causes PEs. In some cases an Unknown PE will immediately reveal to us what happened. Maybe there was some sort of contamination in the cockpit due to an oil leak or some other fumes, so we’re able to identify it as a known physiological event.
In other cases, pilots will experience symptoms, come down and land, report them and we don’t know exactly what the cause is until we investigate further.
Members of the Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team and Air Force PEAT listen to a discussion between Rear Adm. Fredrick R. “Lucky” Luchtman (left) and Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward L. “Hertz” Vaughan (right) as they lay the ground work for the Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team, or J-PEAT.
(Photo by Scot Cregan)
Airman Magazine: Tell me about the PEAT. What is the structure and objective of the team?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: The AF-PEAT is Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team. Now, previously this has been known as the UPE IT or Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team. We’re working very closely with our Navy partners and they came up with a pretty good name – Physiological Episodes Action Team. In the interest of both jointness and keeping it simple for all the flying community, we’ve aligned names with the Navy.
Of course, that’s not the only thing we’ve learned from the Navy. The Navy’s had some great success in exploring what happens in physiological episodes, what happens to aviators, and we’ve been able to learn a lot from them and they’ve learned from us as well.
Airman Magazine: How does the PEAT operate?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We have two meetings per week. Every Friday the Air Force PEAT meets. Who is on this action team? The answer is those people who are required for that particular meeting.
We’ll have the topics of the week, sometimes we’re looking at specific incidents with airplanes, specific episodes, and other times we may be investigating new equipment that’s coming out, new procedures, new training or maybe there’s the results of an investigation that we’ll need to review. We have standing members of the team, about half a dozen, that are there at every meeting.
Then we have another kind of a second layer of folks, which gets us up closer to 20 people, who come in as needed. That second layer includes folks from the acquisition community or the 711th Human Performance Wing. We don’t necessarily need to have them come to every meeting, but there’s times we really need somebody from human performance wing present. That’s one meeting.
Then immediately following that meeting, we have, what I call the Joint-PEAT. It’s really an ad hoc Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team with the Navy. It is very much a joint effort in that we work closely together and meet weekly to keep a steady battle rhythm so as things come up during the week, if they’re not an emergency or if it’s not something that we’ve got to address right at that minute, we’ll be able to put it together on Friday. We know that once a week we’re going to have a meeting where we can sit down face-to-face and hash these things out.
My Navy counterpart is Rear Adm. Frederick Luckman, he goes by “Lucky”. My call sign is “Hertz”. We immediately got to a Hertz-Lucky professional friendly demeanor. We go through an awful lot of coffee. He and I meet as often as we can to share data. Like I said, we cannot share the information fast enough.
The Navy is doing a lot of good work. They had a series of issues with physiology not only in the F-18, but T-45s, and they’ve had very good success in their T-6 fleet. They have a T-6 fleet that’s about half the size of the Air Force’s. They have slightly different models, some of theirs are newer models, but the oxygen systems are very similar.
The Navy adopted early on, in response to some of the lessons they learned from other airframes, significant maintenance practices in their T-6 oxygen system that we found very useful. We watched the Navy adopt those, saw the results of it and in those cases we’ve been able to adopt it exactly the same way that they have.
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan, head of the Air Force Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team, and Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman, Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team lead, discuss ongoing efforts to minimize the risk of Physiological Episodes.
(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Scot Cregan)
Airman Magazine: How does the timely resolution of PEs, affect training and readiness?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Looking at the National Defense Strategy, lethality is the primary objective and, for the Air Force, that equates to readiness. Are we ready to fight? You know, the question is readiness for what? Ready to do what? It’s ready to prosecute the war, ready to fight. In some cases, being ready to go out and influence and be that presence where we need to be.
If we’re having equipment struggles, delays in our programs, or we’re having to stand-down aircraft or cancel missions because of physiological episodes that will get in the way of us being ready. It will get in the way of us executing any plans we may have out there. So it’s important for us to get the information back, put the fixes in, get those funded, fielded and executed as quickly as possible. Once we do that, we’re going to enhance readiness and capability as we grow toward the Air Force We Need.
It also eliminates a distraction. Anytime you have aircraft mishaps of any kind, anytime you have a cluster of these PEs, it’s going to create a distraction, not just for the frontline airman, but for their families, and anybody else associated with it. Anybody involved with the operation and maintenance will have a distraction. That distraction takes our eye off the readiness ball. That’s one of the reasons that you’ll see the PEAT, Physiological Episodes Acting Team, embedded right in A3T. A3T’s tasking is training and readiness.
Airman Magazine: What types of symptoms are commonly associated with PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Symptoms span the spectrum of what can happen to people on airplanes. I’ll caveat this with Air Force aviators receive extensive training in physiology and what may happen to them in tactical aviation. All pilots and other aircrew going through their initial training, experience the hypobaric chamber, we call it the altitude chamber. They get used to what it’s like to operate at high altitudes and what happens during decompression. They also have routine refresher training in all aspects of aviation physiology.
One of the main reasons for doing that training is so that each aviator can learn what their individual symptoms will be. No two people will react the same to an aircraft or environmental stimulus and, in fact, the same person may have different reactions on different days based on fatigue, fitness, nutrition, or other personal factors.
It’s important for each aviator to have a sense of what symptoms they might have, especially the early onset symptoms, so they can take early appropriate action to safely recover the aircraft or get out of the environment that’s causing the problem.
Some of these symptoms can range from things like tingling in the extremities, fingers and toes, headaches or nausea. There are actually cases of folks having euphoria, while other folks may become belligerent. They know if you’re flying along and all of a sudden you just feel a little irritated for no particular reason it may be time to check your oxygen system, look at the environment you’re in or determine if that’s caused by something else. Then take appropriate action to mitigate the risk.
Airman Magazine: You have said that when investigating and mitigating PEs, “We can’t share information fast enough.” Describe what you mean and how that process can be improved?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Sharing the right information and then making sense of the information is very important in dealing with this phenomenon. What we do right now in the Air Force is we listen to the pilots. Pilots will land and give us a debrief – What happened? When did it happen? What types of conditions were going on in the airplane?
You’ll find that in the Air Force fleet, and the Navy fleet as well, most of the aircraft have pretty sophisticated sensors when it comes to their engines and other aircraft systems. When they land that information is downloaded, aggregated, and acted upon. Much of the critical data is available real time and available to the pilot for immediate action. Each aircraft is slightly different as technology improves, but the amount of data that we’re able to download from a given flight is enormous. But hard data on the human weapon system is slim to none.
This gets into right into some of the themes of Secretary of the Air Force has talked about going into artificial intelligence, big data analytics. How do we deal with all this data, make some sense of it and not run down the wrong path to get a wrong conclusion?
I will tell you one area though, where we’re still struggling, not only the Air Force, but also the Navy and our colleagues at NASA, is collecting data from the actual human weapon system.
We want to know things like pulse rate, oxygen content in the blood, cognitive functions, any anomalies with eyesight, but these are very hard things to sense independently without interfering with the aviators while they conduct their mission.
That’s a fascinating area of research that’s happening out at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in conjunction with the Navy Medical Research Unit Dayton. What they’ve started to do, both those labs working together and along with some NASA support, is fielding some prototypes, such as sensors that might go, for example, in the (oxygen) mask or on the pilot’s helmet.
We actually know real-time information about the oxygen system in an airplane. We have sensors on the actual system to know the content of oxygen and other gases that might be presented to the aviator. What we don’t know is what happens in system losses; what happens between the actual oxygen production or the oxygen source and the pilot’s breathing. Furthermore, we don’t know the pilot’s ability to uptake that oxygen. There’s a lot of medical and physiological processes that we need to monitor better.
A technique called Hybrid 3D Printing, developed by AFRL researchers in collaboration with the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, uses additive manufacturing to integrate soft, conductive inks with material substrates to create stretchable electronic devices.
(Wyss Institute photo)
Airman Magazine: What does the end state of this research look like? Are you talking about monitoring physiological responses of pilots during missions in real time?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: That’s absolutely correct. We’d like to get to an end state where the human weapon system is instrumented in such a way that’s noninvasive and nonintrusive. The aviators won’t feel the sensors and it doesn’t interfere with their duties at all, but that that data is available just like you would read all the instruments on an engine. We’re trying to figure out, is that five years from now, two years from now or 20 years from now?
If you think of the human on the loop or in the loop going forward, especially in cyber systems and integrating across all-domain operations, it’s going to be more important than ever to make sure that the human weapon system is keeping up and that we’re able to monitor that.
So we’re looking at sensors that might be wearable. A lot of folks out in the community are familiar with wearable fitness monitors and the chips that go in your shoes if you’re going to run a race to keep track of where you are. One of the challenges we have in aviation is the sensors that might be worn in commercial practice that people might buy at a local store are not suitable for the aviation environment, particularly tactical aviation.
Not only do you have the pressure and temperature anomalies that occur as airplanes travel up and down, but in tactical aviation, fighters, bombers and training aircraft, there’s an awful lot of G-loading. There can be anomalies that go from high altitude to low altitude in very short order and that has a lot of wear and tear on the sensors. Some sensors are embedded in clothing and depend on contact with the skin. For example, in order to prepare themselves for a mission, aviators will strap down tighter than you might in an automobile to keep them safe, but that may also cause bulges in the clothing that interferes with sensory contact. There’s a lot of research yet to be done and a lot of development ahead of us.
I’m looking forward to the Air Force potentially investing more in that research. I’m especially impressed with our ability to work with our joint partners with the Navy and the Army, which is coming on board later this month, in this PEAT effort. They’ve got a lot of exciting things happening in their aerospace medicine field and then NASA has been a partner throughout. You really can’t beat, from an intellectual capacity standpoint, having partners like the 711th Human Performance Wing and NASA. We’ve got the best partners in the world.
Airman Magazine: Are there other interagency or commercial partners in the research and investigation of PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Absolutely. Some of the companies that produce our aircraft have divisions dedicated to human physiology and enhancing the ability of the human to perform in or on the loop. They provide enhancements such as providing sensors and digital displays. In some cases, even an augmented reality display, which we have in many aircraft, where there’s a lens that comes over one eye and not only can you see your environment, but that lens will produce a heads-up display of images that will help you interpret what you’re seeing on the ground.
Not only do we have industry partners that helping us with this, we also have universities and some international partners. Primarily we’re working through the Navy to access the folks that are doing that work on the outside, but we’re going to start working a little more with our international affairs group here in the Air Force to foster those partnerships.
Airman Magazine: Do you see a time when human sensor capability will be baked in rather than bolted on?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I think we’re going to get to that point. Right now, we’ve got to be sensitive to the fact, that if we start utilizing every sensor that’s available commercially, we run the risk of interfering with the mission and maybe causing a distraction. The last thing we want to do is have sensors be the cause of problems. We want the sensors to help us solve those problems.
We’re looking at ways to prototype these things. Edwards Air Force Base, for example, where we do a lot of research and development flight testing, has been very instrumental in working with the 711th Human Performance Wing and the system program offices for the airplanes, to include the T-6, F-15, F-16 and others, in doing some remarkable testing that gives us great foundational data. That foundational data is important to determine where we do the development going forward. Also, we recently shook hands on an agreement with the Civil Air Patrol to help us collect, assess, and sort through the many commercially available wearable sensors.
Airman Magazine: What’s the benefit to the force of being able to process and utilize PE data faster?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So for example, right now if we have a physiological event in the aircraft, we typically execute emergency procedures, get to a safe backup source of oxygen if it’s available, descend to an altitude where it’s safe to breathe ambient air and then land as soon as possible at the nearest suitable airfield.
Perhaps what will happen in the future, with sensors on board, you may be able to head off that emergency. Sensors may alert the pilots to the fact that they are entering a phase of flight or a set of activities or an environment, where they’re at higher risk of these kinds of anomalies. By alerting the pilot to that, they may be able to mitigate it or avoid a physiological event.
Furthermore, if there is a situation in flight, the sensors on board that gives them real time readings may enable them to do a better job of assessing what’s going on.
But this is where it gets insidious. With physiological events, one serious possible symptom is an inability to assess the situation.
Now that’s a pretty extreme symptom, but you may have those situations come up. In which case, presenting the data to the pilot as numbers or another traditional data format might not be as useful as, maybe, an alert light. There are some programs out there that cause the oxygen mask to vibrate a little bit. We do this with the control stick in airplanes as well. With such an equipped aircraft if you were to get into a stall, the control stick vibrates, They call it a stick shaker. Applying these proven technologies to other areas are all in prototype and being tested.
Zach Demers, an aerospace engineer, demonstrates the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) in an F-16 flight simulator at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
Airman Magazine: Weren’t you involved in the adoption of another pilot safety system?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Formerly, I served as the Air National Guard’s national director of safety. Part of our safety portfolio is flight safety and in that we have some advanced fourth and fifth- generation aircraft, but we also have legacy systems out there. Systems that don’t have baked-in ground collision avoidance systems.
We worked very hard with the system program office and the Pilot Physician program in the United States Air Force to bring on board these Auto G-CAS systems (Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System). We have confirmed saves in situations where the pilot may have lost awareness. It doesn’t have to be a physiological event. It can be task saturation or other things that cause the pilot to lose awareness of proximity to the ground. Traditional GCAS systems will alert the pilot, such as an X symbol in the heads-up display, letting them know they’re near the ground and need to pull back on the stick.
In the Auto G-CAS, the aircraft sensors can actually determine the point where the pilot can no longer recover, due to the limits of human reaction time, and the system takes over the jet and recovers it for the pilot. As soon as the aircraft is in a safe regime, it returns the control back to the pilot. And that’s also had a couple of great saves for us.
Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Pilot Physician program, what is that and are they involved in the J-PEAT and investigating of UPEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan:Pilot Physician is a very unique program in the Air Force and its highly specialized. These are individuals are rated aviators of all sorts, but primarily pilots. Then they go to medical school and change their job category. So they’re no longer primarily pilots for the Air Force, they’re now physicians for the Air Force.
They’ve enabled to help us understand what’s going on both operationally and medically and where those two things meet. In other situations, you have pilots who were trying to describe what’s happening to them in the airplane and then you have medical doctors trying to understand that description. There can be things lost in translation between the communities.
The Pilot Physicians speak both aviation and medicine fluently, are able to identify with the pilots and, in many cases, have flown that exact aircraft being investigated.
Lt. Col. Jay Flottmann, pilot physician and 325th Fighter Wing chief of flight safety, explains how a valve in the upper pressure garment and the shape and the size of oxygen delivery hoses and connection points contributed to previously unexplained physiological issues during F-22 flights.
(Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)
Airman Magazine: Are there specific examples of investigations that benefitted from Pilot Physician experience and expertise?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Lt. Col. James “Bones” Flottman was the Pilot Physician directly involved in the F-22 investigation that we did a few years ago. The F-22 had a series of physiological episodes. He was the one that was able, as an F-22 pilot and a physician, to credibly determine that it was a work of breathing issue.
It was a combination of factors, we don’t need to go into all the specifics right here, but he was able to bridge the gap between pilot practices, things they’ve been taught to do and things they did through experience, and what was happening medically. That resulted in improvements in the whole system – improvements in some of the hardware and improvements in the pilot practices. Not only was he able to help the investigation team solve that, he was able to then go back and credibly relate this to the pilots, restoring faith both in the system, in the Air Force process.
There’s another one that is a friend of mine, retired Col. Peter Mapes. Dr. Pete Mapes is a classic Pilot Physician. He was a B-52 pilot and a fantastic doctor, as are all of them. He and I worked closely together on Auto G-CAS, as well as several key people in engineering and operations. He was really the driving force, along with Lt. Col. Kevin Price, at the Air Force and the OSD level to push that development and production through, especially for the legacy aircraft.
He also had a role in many other aviation safety improvements to include helicopters, specifically wire detection. A lot of helicopters have mishaps because they strike power lines. He was instrumental in getting some of those systems put into helicopters and out into the fleet.
He was also instrumental in improving some of the seat designs and some of the pilot-aircraft interface designs as well. Really too many to mention.
Another great a success story for the Air Force, when it comes to the Pilot Physician program is Col. Kathy Hughes, call sign “Fog”. She’s flown the T-38 and A-10, a great flying background, and has been a wonderful physician for the Air Force. She really explored the use, the application and the design of our G-suits and was able to help the Air Force evolve into a full coverage G-suit. So now the G-suits that our fighter aviators fly are more standardized and more effective than the previous generations of flight suits. Thanks, in large part, to her work. I recently met her at aviation safety conference where she is helping commercial interests design better ejection seats.
That’s just three examples. There’s a whole laundry list.
We also have advising both the Navy and Air Force PEAT, Col. William P. Mueller; call sign “Ferris”. Col. Mueller was an F-4 fighter pilot and now one of the top physicians in aerospace medicine. He’s been absolutely invaluable in helping us understand what’s going on with the physiological episodes. He not only sits on the Air Force PEAT, but he also has a permanent membership sitting on the Navy’s PEAT. So he’s part of that joint interaction and offers a fearless perspective on improving training.
Col. Kathryn Hughes, a pilot-physician and director, Human Systems Integration, 711th Human Performance Wing, sits on the stairs of a centrifuge at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 22, 2016.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I like using the email analogy. So most of us have email. Those that work in an office may have one for work and one for personal use, or maybe even more than that. If you’re like me at all, if you skip checking your emails for even one day, you find yourself in a huge email deficit. Now imagine all the sensors, whether it’s a cyber system, aircraft systems, space system, and each piece of all the data being collected as an email coming to you. Within minutes you would be completely overwhelmed with data. So we’re going to rely on systems to help us sort through the data and present those things that are most important now for decision making.
Those other pieces of information that we might want later for analysis, it will store those and present them at the appropriate time. So that gets after artificial intelligence. We need these systems to work with the human in the loop. We don’t necessarily want it to be standalone. We want it to be integrated with humans and that’s where the real challenge comes in, because as an aviator flying an airplane, the data I want right at that moment to prosecute the fight, may be different than the data a cyber operator working with me in that operation may need at that same moment. Artificial Intelligence or underlying data systems will have to be smart enough to give the data to the operator that’s needed to make the right decision.
I recently spent some time with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I asked him about this wicked technology problem of applying artificial intelligence on the tactical edge. His advice about leveraging cloud technology to perform advanced operations on big data, where and when needed, has been invaluable.
Airman Magazine: How does recorded data on individual pilots allow you establish baseline physiology and find relationships between PEs that may occur in aircrew from different units and bases?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We’re already finding benefit from that data, so the 711th Human Performance Wing is working very closely, in this case with the T-6 system program office, and some big data analytic gurus. These folks will take large volumes of data and slice and dice it to find where there might be some differences from what would be considered a baseline or normal.
Then they can dig into those differences and see if there is something to learn. They’re finding a lot of great results that help us improve the systems. Because physiological events involve humans and each human has such a different reaction and an individual person will have a different reaction on a different day, it can be difficult to look at a small sample size and draw any big lessons. We need large sample sizes and that’s where you can start to kind of tease out the pieces of the data that are going to move us forward.
As we worked with the Navy on the Physiological Episode Action Team we have found that pilots in the Air Force and the Navy are more informed than ever. They know people in the tech business and the pilots talk amongst themselves and share information and they’re finding these wearable sensors.
Most of the wearable sensors are not suitable for aviation use. They just can’t provide good data under those conditions, but it’s worth exploring. Talking to Admiral Luckman, we wanted to find a way to get these sensors, and most of them are small things like fitness monitors, that just aren’t allowed in our environment right now, into the cockpit just to see how they survive a flight. The Civil Air Patrol, which flies general aviation aircraft, fly with their smart phones and other types of equipment.
They have a tremendous safety record, but they also have a completely different set of rules than we do. They typically just follow the AIM and the FAA civilian flight rules. Most of those flight rules don’t have any prohibitions on bringing equipment in your pocket or your flight bag.
So recently we sat down with some of the leaders of the Civil Air Patrol to work out a memorandum of understanding whereabouts we’ll get these ideas and sensors to our pilots in the fleet. Some of them will appropriately go through Air Force and Navy channels and may end up being something of a program of record in the long term.
Others that we can’t cross that gap and into the system, we’ll offer those to Civil Air Patrol and, at their option, they can start flying those. It’s not official flight test, but they can at least tell us, does this thing survive a flight up to 10,000 feet and back. And that piece of information might be just enough. That then allows our system program office with the labs to start taking a closer look.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So that’s a great question and that’s why I think the development of sensors and better understanding of baseline human physiology is so important.
The RPA environment is just the tip of the iceberg. As we look at humans in the loop or on the loop, human physiology, whether it’s in cyber, RPAs, intel, space, any of the other missions that we’re doing, is a very important consideration.
What we don’t have yet is a tremendous amount of baseline data. What’s physiology supposed to look like in those situations? So when it’s different, how would we know it? That’s some of the work that’s going on right now at the labs is base-lining that data.
I will tell you that while the environment of RPAs is uniquely different than the environment in airplanes, but it’s not always easier. You have a lot of folks that are out there engaged in very serious operations, life and death situations, that they are dealing with for hours on end and then go home every night to their families and to would be a normal environment. Most people have coping mechanisms to deal with that. But that’s one of the areas of research that folks are looking at in the labs – how do we better prepare people to go back and forth between these kinds of environments?
Maj. Bishane, an MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. RPA personnel deal with the stressors of a deployed military service member while trying to maintain the normalcy of a day-to-day life.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Airman Magazine: Let’s shift gears and talk about your career history. How does leading PEAT differ from your past experiences as a safety officer at a wing or a squadron?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Prior to this, I worked for Secretary Mattis in OSD reserve integration. We basically informed OSD policy relative to the seven different reserve components out there to include the Air National Guard.
Before that, I served as commander of the 156th Airlift Wing. As a wing commander, it is a minute-by-minute duty to make risk decisions and it’s very important to realize the consequences of those decisions and understand that whole risk matrix.
In my current position, I’m not a commander of anything. I’m not really in charge of folks specifically. We have a team, but we come together as required. So this job is more informative. One of our primary roles is to inform commanders. As they give us data, we give them back context so they can make better risk decisions.
It also allows the labs to put a focus on their studies enabling the system program offices to acquire and improve systems to support the mission. So this job is very different in that respect.
I think having been a commander previously helps me understand what these commanders they need to hear and how they want to receive that data so it doesn’t overwhelm them.
Airman Magazine: What is it you would like the pilots and aircrew to know about you, the PEAT and their part in preventing and mitigating PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I traveled to Randolph Air Force Base and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the higher headquarters staff. I met with the commander of 19th Air Force and I was very encouraged and reassured with everyone’s openness to really solving this problem as aggressively and quickly as possible, talking about physiological episodes, but also, in a broader sense, the sustainment of the T-6 and sustainment of other airframes for which people might be interested.
I feel good about where that’s going. I also had a real eye-opener when I had an opportunity to meet with some of the T-6 pilots. We met off base. We decided to meet in a restaurant in a casual environment. We wanted that format because I wanted to hear really unfiltered what some of these T-6 pilots, who are some of the most experienced pilots in the Air Force flying that mission, that airframe. I was able to learn a lot. They have great faith in their chain of command and leadership. They have valid and serious concerns about physiological episodes, as does the commander all the way up to the chief of staff and the Secretary.
I think being able to hear their perspective, share with them my firsthand knowledge of meeting with senior level commanders in the Air Force bridged some gaps. I also was able to hear some very specific engineering questions and connect some of those pilots directly with some of the engineers at the system program office and some folks within their own chain of command that they just haven’t connected with yet. Just trying to get those dialogues going, because the solutions that the air Force is putting into place, whether it’s T-6 or any other airframe, are usually phased. Some of them require major investment, money and time-wise, and those take a little longer to accomplish.
So how do you bridge the gap between today and when we get to that promised land if some of those bigger fixes and it comes down to some solid risk management? In the case of the T-6, there’s a whole list of maintenance protocols that we handle and emergency procedures for the pilots that don’t necessarily reduce the number of these events, but they can reduce the severity and certainly mitigate the consequences. That’s what we’re trying to do. We don’t want a situation where any physiological episode goes far enough to lead to a permanent injury or harm of an aviator destruction of property. We want to catch those things as early as possible through these mitigation techniques.
Another thing I got to do when I was at Randolph was shadow the maintainers as they did maintenance on a T-6 that had a physiological episode. In the past, when these things would happen, there wasn’t a specific protocol. They would do their very best to look at the oxygen system, but there wasn’t a protocol on how to do that.
T-6 Texans fly in formation over Laughlin AFB, TX.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
Over the last year, with the help of a lot of the pilots, doctors, chain of command folks, human performance wing – a big team effort, when the airplane lands after one of those instances it’s an automatic protocol for that oxygen system.
In most cases it’s removed and a new one is put in and the suspect system then gets this thorough going over at the depot level and not only do we fix that, that particular system and return it to service. We’re able to learn a lot and collect data points. In some cases, we don’t find the specific cause in that system and then we look elsewhere – maybe more pilot interviews, talking to the doctors and trying to piece it together.
The protocols that are out there now not only helped mitigate the consequences of these events until we field new equipment, but they also help us in collecting data that will inform better decisions going forward.