On October 6, legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen lost his battle with cancer. The death of the rocker shocked not just his legions of fans but people around the globe. As a tribute to the late great, Army Staff Sgt. Austin West took to the internet to play through his grief and offer one of the most fitting tributes to the musician.
West knew what many of us inherently understand – music unites us, both in times of hope and in times of grief. Of course, West wasn’t the only person who took to the internet to offer their tributes, but his was definitely the best.
The three-minute video of West has been viewed more than a million times. West, who is a recruiter based in Watertown, New York, instantly became a viral sensation, not just because of West’s stellar guitar skills but also because it’s so very clear that his tribute to the late rocker is so heartfelt.
West successfully manages to play half a dozen of Van Halen’s best-known guitar riffs, including “You Really Got Me,” “Panama” and “Eruption.” The Army musician reportedly told Stars and Stripes that he feels connected to both his guitar and the late musical legend.
The 26-guitar player first picked up an ax after listening to an AC/DC cassette. He was hooked and immediately wanted to learn how to play. Then, he saw Van Halen live in 2008, and that sealed the deal. He’s been playing for 13 years now, and he once played a single song for an AC/DC tribute band.
That tribute was never rehearsed and played flawlessly, West said, so it’s no surprise that his Van Halen tribute has had so many views and rings so true.
In an interview with the Watertown CBS affiliate WWNY, West said that even his earliest attempts at learning Van Halen’s music made him feel like a “rock god,” and that’s one of the many reasons he kept practicing.
During his Army career, West has worked as both a signal soldier and then held a post as a guitarist for the US Army Bank.
A soldier spotlight video for the US Army Recruiting Command, released in February, features West. In the video, he says that getting out of bed every morning is easier knowing he’s going to help someone, “whether it be in recruiting and helping change someone’s life and hearing their success stories or going out and playing in front of all these beautiful people.”
The Van Halen tribute video isn’t the first time that West’s guitar playing has reached countless fans. Back in 2015, he performed in a tour with the US Army Soldier Show. The Soldier Show is an annual production that visits installations around the country to feature the musical and theater talents of service members and to help raise awareness that creative positions in the Army exist. During West’s participation in 2015, the Soldier Show stopped at 74 installations.
In a time of increasing social isolation, music is one of the few shared creative outlets that can exist across all communities. Uniting through music, no matter if it’s Van Halen or Mozart, can help bring people together in a way that other media can’t. West’s touching tribute proves that viral videos don’t need to be over the top or extreme to be shared, liked, and appreciated by people all around the country. Music is all around us and helps provide us the foundation to share our stories, which is exactly what West has been able to do with his tribute to Eddie Van Halen. As a universal language, it helps unit us across cultures and can comfort people in times of need, grief, or sadness – emotions all felt when the world learned of Van Halen’s untimely death.
Once his recruiting billet is complete, West will be joining the Army pop-rock group, As You Were, for a three-year assignment.
A Minnesota-based Army recruiter recently helped police arrest four suspected shoplifters while shopping at a local mall with his 10-month-old daughter.
Staff Sgt. Sean Oliva had been pushing his daughter in a stroller Feb. 24, 2019, inside the Southdale Mall in Edina, a Minneapolis suburb, when he saw a group of suspicious men leave an electronics store with several boxes of headphones worth thousands of dollars.
Store employees, he said, told the four men to stop, but they walked away toward the mall’s exit. Oliva said he pursued the men as the employees remained in the store to presumably call the police.
“I stayed at a safe enough distance, because I didn’t know if they had weapons,” said Oliva, the operations sergeant for the Minneapolis Army Recruiting Company.
Since the men were not running, Oliva was able to keep an eye on them the entire time without putting his daughter in harm’s way, the father of two said.
The suspects’ vehicle is seen here surrounded by police outside Southdale Mall.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Sean Oliva)
But when the men exited the mall, Oliva thought they would get away. A friend of Oliva’s then offered to watch his daughter while he and her husband followed the men out into the parking lot to get a vehicle description for police.
“I ended up getting my phone out and was able to get pictures of the vehicle’s license plate and of the suspects,” said Oliva, who has previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan as a field artillery surveyor.
As the suspects’ vehicle began to flee the scene, Oliva flagged down a nearby police patrol car and a brief chase ensued. Another patrol car quickly intervened, he said, and cut off the escape route for the suspects’ car after it nearly hit two other moving vehicles in the parking lot.
Officers arrested four men aged 19 to 21 years old and charged them with felony shoplifting of nearly ,300 worth of electronics, according to Edina police records. One of the men was also charged with another felony for fleeing from police in a motor vehicle.
Staff Sgt. Sean Oliva with his wife, Jamie, at a recruiter training conference.
Police later told Oliva the electronics store had recently been targeted by shoplifters several times before.
“It was just like a duty for me,” Oliva said March 4, 2019. “Living the Army values is important to me. To be taught those values and to not intervene would have been going against them.”
Oliva, who became a recruiter in 2012, also tries to assist local youth in finding their future career path whether it be in the Army or elsewhere.
“It’s good to help others who either need direction or not sure what they want to do with their lives yet,” the sergeant said. ‘We kind of get to play a big role in helping them achieve their goals.”
His company commander, Capt. Michael Beck, said he was proud of the sergeant’s actions that day.
“More than anything, I think the fact that he’s representing the Army values in a public setting really shows the type of character of all the soldiers in the Army today,” he said.
Many other people, Beck said, may not have done anything to help apprehend the suspects.
“I think more and more frequently there are people who are just comfortable with being bystanders,” he said. “They don’t necessarily feel comfortable for standing up for what’s right.
“Sergeant Oliva didn’t really hesitant. He saw the opportunity to do the right thing.”
Five years ago, Marine Corps Veteran Frederick Nardei returned to service, but not the military. He became a certified peer support specialist, dedicated to helping fellow Veterans whose futures were as uncertain as his had once been.
Nardei served as a peer specialist for a recent study at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, helping Veterans enrolled in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) manage their mental health and substance misuse challenges. The study was also conducted at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., where it was led by Dr. Marsha Ellison.
Actively and significantly engaged in their own recovery from mental health issues, VA peer specialists serve as success stories for their fellow Veterans. Their experience using mental health services, combined with their VA training and certification, have made them valuable additions to VA’s mental health offerings.
“My own experiences with homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness had prepared my heart to serve in ways that the Veterans could easily relate to… When I share my recovery story, they say that they are inspired and empowered because they can see that I am the evidence that recovery is possible and achievable,” said Nardei.
The study, led by Pittsburgh VA’s Dr. Matthew Chinman, found that formerly homeless Veteranswho worked extensively with peer specialists had greater improvements in their symptoms than those who did not work with a peer specialist. When asked about their work with a peer specialist, both the Veterans and the other HUD-VASHstaff expressed great satisfaction. Veterans reported being less isolated, more integrated into their community, and more involved in recovery activities as a result of their work with a peer specialist.
Who better to help other Veterans on their recovery journey than someone who has been in their shoes?
“The Veterans who struggled with the shame and stigma of being homelesswere able to overcome those barriers… because I was able to share with them my own experience with being homeless for seven months after my wife left, because of my heroin addiction,” said Nardei, one of an estimated 1,100 Veterans serving as VA peer specialists.
Recover, heal, grow
The peer support program inspires and empowers participants to recover, heal and grow. Nardei believes that there is nothing more powerful than seeing someone accomplish the things that once seemed impossible.
He’s the proof he inspires in others.
To become a VA-trained peer specialist, visit the VA Careers webpage for details.
To learn more about peer specialists and their how they improve Veterans’ lives, download the Peer Support Toolkit.
But military activity has been increasing on the other side of the Baltic Sea and in Kaliningrad — areas that have long been flash points for Russia and NATO.
Moscow assumed control of Kaliningrad after World War II and retained it after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Now an 86-square-mile exclave, Kaliningrad is home to about a million people who are separated from the rest of Russia by Lithuania, Poland, and Belarus. But that location makes it strategically valuable.
It has Russia’s only Baltic Sea port that is ice-free year-round. In addition to several air bases, it is also home to Russia’s 11th Army Corps. It also looks over one side of the Suwalki Gap, which NATO worries could be blocked during a conflict, cutting the Baltics off from the rest of Europe.
Russia appears to be upgrading its military facilities there.
Moscow has in the past deployed Iskander short-range, nuclear-capable missiles there temporarily, but in February 2018, a Russian lawmaker confirmed that the Iskander, which has a maximum range of about 310 miles, had been moved there permanently in response to NATO’s buildup in Eastern Europe.
Satellite imagery taken between March and June 2018 showed activity around bunkers in Baltiysk, the main base of Russia’s Baltic Fleet, including the fortification of buildings “characteristic of explosive storage bunkers,” Matt Hall, a senior geospatial analyst at 3Gimbals, told Defense One in July 2018.
Imagery taken between mid-July and the beginning of October 2018 showed upgrades at least four sites in Kaliningrad, according to CNN.
That included construction of 40 new bunkers and the expansion of a military storage area near Primorsk, which is Russia’s second-largest Baltic port. Images also showed improvements at the Chkalovsk air base and upgrades at a base in Chernyakhovsk, which houses Iskander missiles.
Kaliningrad received much of the Soviet weaponry in Eastern Europe after the USSR’s collapse, and for a long time the area “was a bit of a dumping ground,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow’s focus on Kaliningrad increased in the early 2000s, around the time the Baltic states — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — joined NATO. Their inclusion was especially galling for Russia, which sees them as its “near abroad.”
“Kaliningrad has been on a trajectory of improvements since the Baltic tensions and certainly since” the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, Townsend said.
The Iskander deployment is of a piece with Russian efforts to influence other European capitals, Townsend added. “They would say, ‘Look, if NATO puts troops into the Baltics, we’re going to put Iskanders onto Kaliningrad.”
Northeast Europe is a particularly sensitive area for Russia, Townsend said.
St. Petersburg, from which the Baltic can only be reached by passing Finland and Estonia, is Russia’s second-biggest city. To the north is the Kola Peninsula, home to Russia’s Northern Fleet and its submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
“The Baltic is kind of a backdoor to that. Kaliningrad helps to defend that backdoor,” Townsend said. “So that’s very sensitive.”
Russia’s military is not the only one active in the Baltics.
The NATO buildup cited by Moscow as reason for permanently deploying Iskander missiles was the multinational battle groups the alliance has stationed in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia since 2016.
More recently, the US Air Force and the Estonian air force heralded the completion of a joint-use facility at Amari air base near the latter’s capital, Tallinn, which was the first completed military construction projected fully funded by the European Deterrence Initiative.
Soviet jets were stationed at Ameri during the Cold War, but since 2004 it has hosted NATO aircraft during their rotations in the alliance’s Baltic air-policing mission. (The Baltic countries don’t have their own combat aircraft.)
US airmen from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron marshal in an F-15C Eagle at Siauliai air base, Lithuania, Aug. 29, 2017.
(US Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)
Improvements at Amari “provide strategic access into that very contentious part of Europe,” said Brig. Gen. Roy Agustin, director of logistics, engineering, and force protection for US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, according to Stars and Stripes. “You look right across the border and there’s a big regional adversary right there.”
The EDI, previously called the European Reassurance Initiative, has funded military projects in Europe since Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014. Since then, the US has spent millions upgrading facilities across Eastern Europe to allow its military and partner forces to respond quickly to crises.
EDI funding also covers Operation Atlantic Resolve, which includes US armored rotations in Europe, a continuous presence in the Black Sea area, and prepositioning equipment and weapons around the continent.
The Pentagon’s 2019 budget request for the EDI was nearly doublewhat it got for the program in 2017 and six times what was allotted for it in 2015.
North of the Baltics, Sweden and Finland — close NATO partners that remain outside the alliance — have also turned increasing attention to military readiness.
Sweden’s armed forces said in 2018 that they needed to boost staffing from 50,000 to 120,000 by 2035 — in addition to adding new surface vessels, subs, and combat aircraft — to meet future challenges.
The report also said Sweden’s military budget would need to more than double over that period. Every mainstream party in the country’s September 2018 parliamentary election backed a military budget increase, but that growth will take time.
Stockholm’s defense outlay has tumbled since hitting 3.68% of GDP in 1963. The 1.03% of GDP currently spent on the military is a historic low, according to Defense News.
Sweden has also reintroduced military conscription and put troops back on Gotland Island in the middle of the Baltic Sea.
More recently, Finland, which shares a 838-mile border and a history of conflict with Russia, has begun pumping money into military modernization — notably id=”listicle-2614964544″.5 billion for the Squadron 2020 program, which includes buying four multirole, ice-breaking, submarine-hunting corvettes armed with surface-to-surface missiles, torpedoes, and sea mines.
The program will also fund upgraded fast-attack missile vessels and upgrades to Finnish mine-layers and mine-countermeasure vessels, according to Defense News.
“The Baltic Sea has become a possible focal point for tension between East and West,” said Finland’s defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. “We are dealing with a more unpredictable Russia.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
From the moment you arrive to the day you graduate, Marine Corps boot camp is the worst time of your life. Thankfully, during a recruit’s time at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, he or she can find ways to temporarily postpone the mental and physical ass-kicking.
The art of avoiding work and responsibilities, better known as “skating,” will follow us for the rest of our military careers, but it always starts at the same place: boot camp.
You can spend all day sitting at medical to skate out of the day’s event. This method, if used too often, will earn you a prime spot on the shitlist.
4. Getting your wisdom teeth pulled
This way sucks, but you get 3 days sick-in-quarters where you don’t leave the squad bay, and then you get another 5 days of light duty, where you aren’t allowed to run or lift heavy things.
3. Getting stuck on working parties
If you’re stuck on a working party while everyone else is training, you’ll probably want to take your time to finish the job at hand.
2. Have a penicillin allergy
This one is really a gift and a curse. The benefit of being allergic to penicillin is that you get to leave the squad bay early on Friday mornings to go to breakfast ahead of your platoon so you can get to medical and receive a special antibiotic pill.
Not only can this get you out of any morning training, but it gets you out of having to get the infamous peanut-butter shot. The downside, however, is that it comes with some crappy side effects, like diarrhea.
Scribes help the drill instructors compile lists and keep track of information regarding the recruits in their respective platoons. The reason this is such a great way to skate is, oftentimes, these lists need to be made and revised during training events, so scribes can skip out — especially when it’s phase 3 and the Crucible is only days away.
The big thing about being a scribe is making the nightly fire watch list. In fact, some scribes choose to exempt themselves from this list (Note: If you’re not a scribe, it’s good to make friends with one).
What are some other ways to skate in Marine Corps boot camp?
Pamela Foley was 17 and pregnant in 1982 when her parents said she wasn’t welcome in their house, and wasn’t keeping her baby.
She searched and wondered for decades what happened to the child she gave up for adoption before the two reconnected in January 2019. They met again for the first time in 36 years at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Foley, an Air Force veteran, who uses a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis, pushed up from her chair July 9, 2019, as the two embraced and held each other tight.
“Let me look at your face!” Foley sobbed as she held her daughter’s face in her hands. “My baby!”
The two have since been inseparable at 2019’s Games, with her daughter, Carrie Knutsen, cheering on her birth mom, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences. While the two have filled each other in on the last 36 years, they cemented the reunion with matching tattoos of two hearts and a double helix DNA that Carrie designed.
Pamela Foley competed in bowling, 9-ball and slalom at this year’s Wheelchair Games, but will most remember her reunion with the daughter she was forced to give up for adoption 36 years ago.
Foley never stopped hoping this day would come, always marking Carrie’s birthday on her calendar. Carrie, based on what little information she had, would sometimes see a face in the crowd and wonder if they were related.
When Pamela told her parents she was pregnant 36 years ago, she wasn’t surprised at their reaction.
“They said, ‘You’re going to live with your sister in Virginia.’ They’re the type they always have to impress people, and if anybody had found out their daughter was pregnant, they couldn’t have that.”
Pamela got to spend time with her baby after giving birth April 29, 1983, in Roanoke, which made it even harder.
“That was the emotional pain,” she said. “They let me have her while I was there, feeding and clothing her. I saw and held her and was a blithering idiot. I had 30 days after signing the paperwork to change my mind. So I called my mom, crying in the hospital.”
“What would happen if I kept her?” Pamela asked.
“Oh, don’t come home,” her mom replied.
“And I’m crying more as I’m thinking of changing my mind. Then I thought about it. I was 17. I didn’t have a job, I had no resources. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have any skills.”
Carrie interjects with a laugh: “I mean, you gave birth, that’s a pretty good skill. Just saying.”
“It just happens,” Pamela deadpans. “You just do it. It was going to happen regardless.”
Catholic Charities told Pamela the adoption records would be sealed for 18 years, then she could find information about her baby.
Although she was named Lisa Marie on the birth certificate, her adoptive parents — Casey and Marie — took parts of their name and changed her name to Carrie.
“It was a huge blessing for them, and they are amazing people,” Carrie said. “They changed my name because they wanted to give me a piece of them. I never wanted for anything. I went to college, I finished grad school. I don’t have any memory of not knowing I was adopted. They told me when I was young.
Mom and daughter got matching tattoos of two hearts and double helix DNA to commemorate the reunion. Carrie, who is a graphic artist, designed the artwork.
“I always wondered if she was a movie star and occasionally wondered why they gave me away. I knew I was born in Roanoke, so anytime we were there, I’d look at faces in the crowd and wondered if they resembled me or were family.”
Pamela moved back home after giving birth and graduated from high school. She joined the Air Force in 1985, married and had another daughter, Samantha, in 1986. She was diagnosed a year later with multiple sclerosis and separated from the military. She divorced her first husband, remarried and had a son, Sean, in 1991. Tragedy struck in 1993 when Samantha died after she fell through a glass table while playing.
“It was the worst thing in the world,” Pamela said. “It was worse than giving my baby away.”
Pamela and her husband, Michael, had another daughter, Megan, in 1994.
And in 2001 — 18 years after giving birth to Carrie — Pamela asked to see the adoption records.
“They were so rude. ‘Nooooo, these are sealed records. You have to get a lawyer and petition the court.’
“I let it drop,” she said. “We didn’t have that kind of money, and at that time, there was no internet like there is today. I did find an adoption registry and filled out all the information, what I knew. I never heard anything.”
Carrie filled out a similar registry around the same time.
“I thought, ‘What the hell? Maybe?’ I never heard and forgot all about it.”
She married in 2011, and tried to find more about her family’s health history, but hit the same road block with sealed records.
Another 17 years passed while Pamela watched a show about reuniting lost family members. There was a phone number for a private investigation company at the end of the program, and she gave them a call. For id=”listicle-2639220262″,000, she was told, they could probably find her daughter. Pamela reached out to the birth father and they split the cost.
In December 2018, the investigation firm sent Carrie a letter she almost didn’t open.
“I just stuck it in my purse, and when I opened it later, they said they had a client who was looking for me,” she said. “I thought it was probably my mother, but it might be a scam. I got in touch with them, and on January 2 told them they could use my e-mail. I’m sitting at work and 10 minutes later, I get an e-mail from Pam.”
This’ll get ya. Pamela Shears Foley was forced to give up her baby, Carrie Knutsen, at 17. They found each other in January and met for the first time in…
Pam wrote: “Hi my name is Pamela Foley … You might be the child I gave up 35 years ago. I would like get to know and possibly meet you sometime in the future … I know this a lot to take in, but I’m hopeful we can stay in contact.”
Carrie wrote back: “Hi, Pam! What a way to start a new year! You’re right, it is a lot to take in — but in an exciting way! For 30 years, since I first found out I was adopted at the ripe old age of 5, I have wondered everything about my birth family. I am thankful for my parents who have given me everything — the best life I could have ever imagined. But I’ve always had those thoughts in the back of my mind — who are they, where are they, what do they like, what do they look like, and so on. This is a fascinating new journey!”
The two e-mailed back and forth all day.
Does the rest of your family “know about me? If so, when did you tell them?” Carrie asked.
“Everybody in my life knows about you and has for many years,” Pam replied. “I don’t hide my past from my children, so they know about you and that we are in contact. They are also very excited!
Carrie said that made the difference in their new relationship.
“The biggest part for me was finding out I was nobody’s secret,” she said. “I was wanted.”
They are making plans to visit one another after the Games, and Carrie hopes to get to the 2020 event in Portland. She has since been in touch with her birth father and is finding other family members, too.
“We use social media a lot, and I’m getting all these friend requests from cousins, aunts, a grandma on my birth father’s side … my grandparents died in 2014 and now I get another grandma,” Carrie said as she dabbed a tear from her eye. “I’m finding out that I’ve had, like, 30,000 family members I never knew I had who had been praying for me my whole life. It’s wonderful.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Nuclear weapons take less than a millionth of a second to detonate. Meanwhile, the resulting fireball from a thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb can swallow and incinerate a 1-mile area in about a second.
Such rapid and raw power can seem as abstract as it is terrifying. But humanity has triggered and observed more than 2,420 nuclear blasts since the first one in July 1945, according to a recent tally by Alex Wellerstein, an historian of physics and nuclear weapons at the Stevens Institute of Technology.
To make the legacy of nuclear blasts more accessible to the average person, Brooklyn-based artist Eric LoPresti tried something unusual and symbolic: He filmed his Aikido dojo members reenacting every known nuclear blast as hand-to-hand combat moves.
“I wanted to make it visceral,” LoPresti said. “Every time someone’s thrown, there’s this slight slapping noise on the ground. That’s a way of taking a fall — a potentially lethal fall — in a non-lethal and a safer way. It’s called a breakfall, and that sound reminded me of the sound of a sped-up nuclear explosion.”
LoPresti presented his video installation, called “ Center-Surround” at a public expo of Reinventing Civil Defense, a project that aims to “restore a broad, cultural understanding of nuclear risk.”
The art exhibit plays three different videos on three screens in sync. One displays a colored tile with the name and date of a nuclear explosion, while a second screen displays a supercut of the Aikido sparring that’s coordinated to mirror those detonations. A third screen displays a grid-style visualization of all the test names and dates.
There have been so many nuclear explosions — most of them test blasts by the US and Russia — that the film takes roughly two hours to complete one loop, despite the lightning-fast attacks. (There’s one Aikido attack roughly every 3 seconds.)
The trailer below shows a couple minutes of an earlier version of the video.
In an ideal setting, the music-less installation plays in a darkened corner lined with martial arts mats, which exhibit-goers can sit on.
LoPresti wants those who see “Center-Surround” to feel the effort that his dojo members (the artist is also in the film) put into working through thousands of nuclear blasts.
“We did survive without injury, but it’s painful, it’s effortful. I wanted that cathartic experience, almost like an endurance piece,” LoPresti said.
In full, the visual experience is meant “to humanize this vast subject” of nuclear weapons and their history, he added.
LoPresti said his choice of Aikido was deliberate, since it’s a martial art that “grew up around post-World War II Japan,” which is where the US unleashed the first two wartime nuclear attacks.
“Before the war, the founder of Aikido described it as sort of the most lethal martial art. It’s the most sophisticated. It was a combination of all that had come before it — one strike Aikido could kill. After the war, it became the ‘way of harmony,'” LoPresti said.
He added that the modernized form of the martial art is built around movements to protect both the defender and attacker.
“It’s premised on the idea that you should endeavor to engage in conflict resolution without defeating your enemy, right? Because if you defeat your enemy, they’re just going to come back for another round,” he said.
LoPresti’s exhibit debuted in late 2018, but it’s being updated with a grant from Reinventing Civil Defense, a project organized by the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Artist from a nuclear residence
LoPresti grew up in Richland, Washington, one of several communities that housed workers from the Hanford Site: a nuclear reservation where plutonium-239 was manufactured and refined for tens of thousands of US warheads.
A 99.96% pure ring of plutonium.
(Los Alamos National Laboratory)
LoPresti said nuclear weapons were a fixture of the town and, for his dad, a subtext for making a living. Hanford Site employed LoPresti’s father, a statistician, who worked on projects to clean up environmental damage left over from the decades-long Cold War nuclear arms race.
That childhood in what he called a “nuclear town” guided his future relationship with atomic weapons. Today, LoPresti said, his art strives to take nukes out of the realm of what philosopher Timothy Morton called a “hyperobject” — something so large a person can’t think about it, yet without it the world wouldn’t make sense — and into one that’s comprehensible.
“Center-Surround” is LoPresti’s first video installation; most of his other works are paintings. His prior exhibits almost all focus on nuclear weapons, too, and several lean on his obsessive visual studies of the Nevada National Security Site, which sits about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Previously called the Nevada Test Site, the 1,350-square-mile desert laboratory is where the US set off more than 1,000 nuclear weapons, some 921 of them in underground chambers. This left behind a pockmarked landscape of hundreds of roughly 800-foot-wide craters.
These radioactive scars show up in many of LoPresti’s paintings.
“I would submit this is a better way to think about nuclear weapons than a mushroom cloud,” he said. “Nuclear weapons are one of those very strange things, which is both omnipresent, everywhere, and also sort of impossible to visualize in a concrete way. Because most of it happens invisibly.”
With “Center-Surround,” LoPresti hopes to make nuclear weapons something anyone can understand as part of US history. He said he’s watched people go into his exhibit and relax, only to shudder as they learn about what the numbers and their Aikido representations mean.
“But there wasn’t that fear, an amnesia of terror,” he said — and quashing that fear is what he believes is a vital step to doing something about nukes.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Most veterans look forward to that beautiful DD-214, the discharge form from active duty. Whether you’re a long-timer looking forward to retirement, a one-termer just waiting to get out and go to college or back to the civilian workforce, or a reservist or National Guardsman looking to end an active duty stint, the 214 is your ticket out.
But it’s not just a ticket, it’s also the primary record of everything you did while on active duty. It’s the document you use to prove where you served, what awards you earned, and more. But there are a couple potential problems.
First, what if your DD-214 isn’t perfect? What if things are missing? After all, the DD-214 is usually the last piece of paper an active duty service members needs to get their ticket home or back to their reserve component. If a couple missing pieces of text on the DD-214 are all that’s standing between the dude getting out and his trip to Florida for college and drinks, he may ignore the discrepancy and get on the road.
But if a DD-214 is incomplete or gets lost (oh, yeah, you’ve never lost a piece of paper. Congratulations), there’s a way to replace them, and it’s probably not the office you would expect.
The U.S. National Archives, the place that maintains a bunch of photos of the D-Day landings and the Declaration of Independence, also receives copies of most service records. If your admin shop processed it and it should go in your OMPF—the official military personnel file, there’s a decent chance the National Archives has a copy of it.
That NATO Medal you got in Afghanistan but lost the 638 while re-deploying home? The orders sending you to and from Korea? And, most importantly, the DD-214 from when you got out? Yup, there’s a solid chance the National Archives has a copy of it even though you lost it in literally your first barracks move after you got your copy.
And they’re happy to send you those records whether it’s for nostalgia or for proving a medical claim at the VA or just to back up your bar claims.
But you most likely don’t live near the National Archives, so how do you get your hands on it? Well, you can write them a letter including your complete name from your service records (so, whatever your legal name was while in the military), branch of service, social security number, service numbers, date of bi—
Uh, a lot. They want you to put a lot in the letter. But there’s also an online service where you just fill out a web form with all the info that would be in the letter. Since you’re reading this article on the internet, we’re going to assume that would be easier for you. (If the letter is easier for you, the required information is available here.)
Everyone who prefers to submit their request online can access eVetRecs, an online tool that looks like it was coded in 1994 but seems to work fine. Just fill out the online form and wait for the sweet military records to show up at your house.
But you will, likely, be waiting a little while. The National Personnel Records Center says it receives about 4,000-5,000 requests per day. When everything you’re looking for is in one spot and easy to get to, they can typically respond within 10 days. This is especially true if you just need a DD-214 that already exists.
But if your records were hit by the 1973 Fire, are older records, or just got spread to the winds by some crazy, rare error, then it could take six months or more to get your documents to you.
There is a carve-out for emergencies. Their examples are surgeries, funerals, and following natural disasters when the veteran or their next of kin needs end of service documents to get certain benefits. Those requests have to be made by phone or fax.
The United Kingdom’s Unknown Warrior, much like the United States’ Unknown Soldier, arose from a movement to honor the unknown war dead who perished on the battlefields of World War I. When he was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey, he was surrounded by a throng of women whose only uniting thread was that they had lost their husbands and all their sons in the Great War.
When the British Empire decided to bury its war dead with France, the Commissioner for the Imperial War Graves encountered a shoddy battlefield grave. On its hastily-constructed wooden cross were just the words, “An Unknown British Soldier,” crudely written in pencil. The Commissioner took it upon himself to take the matter of unknown war dead first to the Prime Minister and later, King George V himself. He wanted to create a national memorial to the scores of unknown war dead killed in the service of their country.
As the Empire’s new Tomb of the Unknown Warrior was born, other countries began to honor their unknown dead with symbolic tombs of their own. France followed suit, as did the United States, and a number of other countries. In England, the Unknown Warrior was buried in one of the most revered places in British history.
Westminster Abbey is more than just a church, it is the burial site of more than 3,300 famous Britishers – from Prime Minister and Royals to artists and scientists – and has been the site of every coronation for the English throne since William the Conqueror captured the country in 1066. It also houses hundreds of priceless works of art and historical documents.
It is truly “Britain’s Valhalla.”
The Abbey also houses Britain’s Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, who was entombed here on Nov. 20, 1920, at the same time as his French counterpart was entombed at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. After being chosen from four possible Unknown Warrior candidates, the current Unknown Warrior was guarded by the French 8th Infantry throughout the night. King George chose a Medieval Crusader sword to affix to the lid of the specially-made casket, along with an iron shield bearing the words: “A British Warrior who fell in the Great War 1914–1918 for King and Country.”
The next day, a military procession a mile long escorted the warrior to the harbor, where it was loaded aboard the HMS Verdun and set sail for London.
“Burial of The Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey.” 1920.
After landing at Dover, the remains were carried by rail to London, where its new, British military parade received a Field Marshal’s salute in front of an otherwise silent crowd. Eventually, the funeral procession was met by the King at Whitehall, who, along with the Royal Family and other government ministers, walked with the procession to Westminster. There, it was protected by an honor guard of 100 Victoria Cross recipients. After a ceremony, the body was interred in the floors and covered with a black marble slab.
To this day, it’s the only part of the floor visitors cannot walk over.
A few days after multiple US bomber flights over the disputed waters of the South China Sea, fighters and bombers from the Chinese military carried out live-fire exercises over the same area — the latest round of drills in a period of increasing tension between the two countries.
Aircraft from the Southern Theater command of the People’s Liberation naval air force conducted “live fire shooting drills” at a sea range in the South China Sea, according to the People’s Daily official newspaper, which released photos from a broadcast by state-run CCTV.
Chinese fighter jets during live-fire drills over the South China Sea, September 28, 2018.
The brief report by CCTV stated that dozens of fighter jets and bombers performed the drills to test pilots’ assault, penetration, and precision-strike abilities during operations at sea, according to The Japan Times.
Those exercises came days after US aircraft carried out several overflights through the area.
On Sept. 23 and Sept. 25, 2018, a single US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber flew over the South China Sea in what US Pacific Air Forces described as part of the US’s ongoing continuous bomber presence operations.
A US Air Force B-52H bomber and two Japan Air Self-Defense Force F-15 fighters during a routine training mission over the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan, Sept. 26, 2018.
(Pacific Air Forces photo)
“US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence (CBP) operations have been ongoing since March 2004,” PACAF told Business Insider, saying that recent missions were “consistent with international law and United States’s long-standing and well-known freedom of navigation policies.”
On Sept. 26, 2018, a B-52H heavy long-range bomber based in Guam met Japanese Air Self-Defense Force fighter jets over the East China Sea and Sea of Japan for what Pacific Air Command called “a routine training mission.” The B-52 carried out drills with 12 Koku Jieitai F-15 fighters and four F-2 fighters before returning home.
The US sent B-52s over the disputed waters of the East and South China Seas four times in August 2018, and the increased activity in the skies there comes amid a period of heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington.
A B-52H bomber and two JASDF F-15 fighter jets, Sept. 26, 2018.
(Pacific Air Forces photo)
Asked about the overflights on Sept. 26, 2018, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described them as normal and pointed to Beijing’s actions in the South China Sea — where Chinese forces have constructed artificial islands and equipped them with military facilities and hardware — as setting the stage for tensions.
“That just goes on. If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” Mattis said, referring to a US base in the Indian Ocean.
“So there’s nothing out of the ordinary about it,” he added.
Beijing has made expansive claims over the South China Sea, through which some trillion in global trade passes annually, clashing with several other countries that claim territory there. China has also set up an air-defense identification zone and claims uninhabited islands controlled by Japan in the East China Sea.
A Chinese fighter jet during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.
On Sept. 27, 2018, China condemned the recent US overflights.
“As for the provocative action taken by the US military aircraft, we are firmly against it and we will take all necessary means to safeguard our rights and interests,” Defense Ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said.
In recent days, the US has also sanctioned China’s Equipment Development Department and its director, Li Shangfu, for buying Russian Su-35 combat aircraft in 2017 and Russia’s S-400 air-defense missile system in 2018.
The sanctions are part of a US effort to punish Russia for its actions abroad, and US officials said Moscow was the “ultimate target” of sanctions on Chinese entities. The sanctions did come amid a broader trade dispute between Washington and Beijing, however.
The US also moved ahead with the sale of 0 million in spare parts and other support for Taiwan’s US-made F-16 fighter jets and other military aircraft.
A Chinese fighter jet during a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea, Sept. 28, 2018.
China also denied a request for a port call in Hong Kong by US Navy amphibious assault ship USS Wasp in October 2018. The last time China denied such a request was in 2016, during a period of increased tension over the South China Sea.
Asked on Sept. 26, 2018, about recent events, Mattis said he didn’t think there had been a “fundamental shift in anything.”
“We’re just going through one of those periodic points where we’ve got to learn to manage our differences,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“Star Wars Canyon” (aka Rainbow Canyon) which empties into the Panamint Valley region of Death Valley National Park has become very popular among serious aviation photographers from all around the world who daily exploit the unique opportunity to shoot military aircraft during their low altitude transit through the so-called “Jedi Transition.”
While you may happen to see any kind of combat aircraft thundering through Canyon, fast jets (including warbirds) are, by far, the most common visitors to the low level corridor. However, if you are lucky enough, you can also have the chance to spot a heavy airlifters during low level training.
As happened at least twice in the last days when the C-17 Globemaster III 33121/ED belonging to the 418th Flight Test Sqn, 412th Test Wing from Edwards Air Force Base, performed some passes in the Start Wars Canyon.
The following video, taken by John Massaro, shows the pass on April 18, 2019. As said it’s not the first time a C-17 cargo aircraft flies through the Jedi Transition, still it’s always interesting to see such a heavy aircraft maneuvering at low altitude through the valleys.
Star Wars Canyon…Jedi Transition…C-17 Low Level Pass
[…] what makes the low level training so interesting, is the fact that aircraft flying the low level routes are involved in realistic combat training. Indeed, although many current and future scenarios involve stand-off weapons or drops from high altitudes, fighter pilots still practice on an almost daily basis to infiltrate heavily defended targets and to evade from areas protected by sophisticated air defense networks as those employed in Iran, Syria or North Korea. While electronic countermeasures help, the ability to get bombs on target and live to fight another day may also depend on the skills learnt at treetop altitude.
To be able to fly at less than 2,000 feet can be useful during stateside training too, when weather conditions are such to require a low level leg to keep visual contact with the ground and VMC (Visual Meteorological Conditions). Aircraft involved in special operations, reconnaissance, Search And Rescue, troops or humanitarian airdrops in trouble spots around the world may have to fly at low altitudes.
That’s why low level corridors like the Sidewinder and the LFA-7 aka “Mach Loop” in the UK are so frequently used to train fighter jet, airlifter and helicopter pilots.
And such training pays off when needed. As happened, in Libya, in 2011, when RAF C-130s were tasked to rescue oil workers that were trapped in the desert. The airlifter took off from Malta and flew over the Mediteranean, called Tripoli air traffic control, explained who they were and what they were up to, they got no reply from the controllers, therefore continued at low level once over the desert and in hostile airspace.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
While the Pentagon has been very adamant with claims that none of the 4,000+ American troops in Iraq are involved in “combat,” American jets have been flying attack sorties against Islamic State (IS) militants. But what exactly goes into getting bombs on the bad guys? Here’s what a day in the life of an aircraft carrier-based crew is like:
The mission cycle begins with CENTCOM’s Joint Task Force sending the tasking order to the intelligence center on the aircraft carrier. From there, the air wing operations cell assigns sorties to the appropriate squadrons, and those squadrons in turn assign aircrews to fly the sorties. At that point aircrews get to work with intel officers and start planning every detail of the sortie.
Once the long hours of mission planning are done, crews attempt a few hours of sleep. (The regs call for 8 hours of sleep before a hop, but that seldom happens.)
After quick showers and putting on “zoom bags” (flight suits), aviators hit the chow line before the mission brief.
All the crews involved with the mission gather for the “mass gaggle” brief, usually two and a half hours before launch time. After that elements break off for more detailed mission discussions.
Meanwhile, on the flight deck maintainers fix gripes and make sure jets are FMC — “fully mission capable.”
At the same time ordnance crews strap bombs onto jets according to the load plan published by Strike Operations.
Forty-five minutes before launch, crews head to the paraloft and put on their flight gear — G-suits, survival vests, and helmets. They also strap on a 9mm pistol in case they go down in enemy territory.
Aviators walk to the flight deck and conduct a thorough preflight of their jets, including verifying that their loadouts are correct.
Once satisfied that the jet is ready, crews climb in and wait for the Air Boss in the tower to give them the signal to start ’em up.
While lining up with the catapult for launch, pilots verify that the weight board is accurate.
With the throttles pushed to full power and the controls cycled to make sure they’re moving properly, the pilot salutes the cat officer. The cat officer touches the deck, signaling the operator in the catwalk to fire the catapult.
Zero to 160 MPH in 2.2 seconds. Airborne! (Airplanes launching on Cats 1 and 2 turn right; those on Cats 3 and 4 turn left.)
Overhead the carrier, Super Hornets top off their gas from another Super Hornet configured as a tanker.
Wingmen join flight leads and the strike elements ingress “feet dry” over hostile territory.
The flight hits the tanker again, this time an Air Force KC-135.
At that point the mission lead checks in with “Big Eye” — the AWACS — to get an updated threat status and any other late-breaking info that might be relevant.
E/F-18 Growlers — electronic warfare versions of the Super Hornet — are part of the strike package in the event of any pop-up surface-to-air missile threats.
The AWACS hands the flight off to the forward air controller in company with Iraqi forces. The FAC gives the aviators a “nine-line brief” that lays out the details of the target and any threats surrounding it and the proximity of friendlies.
The enemy has no idea what’s about to happen . . .
Target in the cross-hairs of the Super Hornet’s forward looking infrared pod.
Ground view . . .
Mission complete, the jets head back “feet wet,” stopping at the tanker once again along the way.
Jets hold over the carrier until it’s time to come into the break and enter the landing pattern. The aircraft from the event attempt to hit the arresting wires every 45 seconds or so.
Once the planes are shut down on the flight deck, aircrews head straight to CVIC with their FLIR tapes for battle damage assessment or “BDA.”
At that point everybody waits for the word to start the process all over again . . .
The Army had its ups and downs in the Plains Wars of the mid-1800s. There’s no denying that. Say what you will about their performance, they never sought to destroy American settlements. But, due to a bizarre misunderstanding, the Mormons of the Utah Territory thought the U.S. Army was on the way to wipe out their burgeoning religion.
The United States enshrines the freedom of religion in its Constitution, but the idea of a new way of thinking about Christianity was pretty controversial in the early days of the Mormon Church. Today, we’re accustomed to the grand temples of the church, the missionaries, having Mormon friends, and maybe even sitting in our homes with two young church members, out to spread their good word. Early church members, however, were not so accepted.
Many were killed for their beliefs. The violence directed against the young church forced its members to leave their homes and build a new one in what was then called the Utah Territory to escape persecution in a place they thought no one else would want.
This left the membership more than a little skittish about visits from their countrymen.
Especially Albert Sydney Johnston.
President James Buchanan rode into the White House in 1856 on a tide of anti-Mormon sentiment in the United States. Americans saw the kind of polygamy espoused by the Church of Latter-Day Saints in Utah as immoral and anathema to the Christian beliefs held by much of the nation – not to mention the threat of a theocracy state in the Union. Polygamy was put on par with slavery as an abomination that plagued the union.
Fearful that popular sovereignty, a means of compromise between states on the issue of slavery, would allow Utah to become a state with LDS teachings enshrined in its state constitution, mean that both Democrats and Republicans turned on the church and the Utah Territory.
In 1855, relations between the Army and the settlers of the Utah Territory reached a boiling point when 400 U.S. troops passing through to California ran afoul of the residents of Salt Lake City.
The New York Times reported that the soldiers were initially welcomed by Brigham Young and gave no indication that a fight was on the way. Instead, the fight was said to be instigated by a drunken Mormon who pushed a soldier during a Christmas celebration. A fight between the parties ensued until it devolved into an all-out brawl.
Fighting engulfed the scene and two Mormons were killed before officers and church leaders broke up the rioting. Word soon spread about the violence throughout the city and the soldiers had to abandon it, moving forty miles south of Salt Lake City.
So, the Mormons, who had already been chased out of Indiana, New York, Illinois, and elsewhere by almost everyone who wasn’t a Mormon were unnerved when they heard the rumor that the U.S. military was approaching their new home in the desert from the Oregon Territory.
Then, in 1857, natives from the Paiute tribe slaughtered a wagon train headed West to California. With white men among the raiding party, they convinced the settlers that Mormons cut a deal with the Paiutes to allow their safe passage, so long as they gave up their weapons. Once the men turned in their rifles, they were all slaughtered: men, women, and children.
This false flag attack was the last straw — and anti-Mormon sentiment had everyone back East believing the Mormons were absolutely responsible for the attack. The Army prepared to send a column of 1,500 seasoned cavalry troops to Salt Lake City. Mormon leader Brigham Young decided to evacuate the women and children, but he needed to buy time.
Attacks from local Paiute Indians helped precipitate the conflict.
The Mormons began to refurbish their rifles and began to fashion melee weapons from farming equipment, determined to prevent the Army from entering Utah at all, let alone mounting an assault on Mormon settlements. They determined they would keep the Army out by inciting the Indians to attack the troops at a mountain pass, but it never came about.
While they were not able to keep the Army out indefinitely, they were able to harass the Army’s supply routes, keeping supplies and ammunition away from the beleaguered soldiers. The Mormons were able to steal up to 500 head of oxen in a single night as the Army marched on through snow, sleet, and freezing temperatures as low as 25 degrees below zero – which killed off much of the army’s other livestock, including cavalry horses.
This holding action prevented the Army from approaching Salt Lake City but was not enough to deter the well-supplied U.S. Army entirely. The Mormons feared they were going to be assaulted by the U.S. troops for their beliefs but, in reality, no one told them why the troops were coming or who sent them — the Mormons were just acting on past experience. Mormon militias responded to the Army’s movements in what is now known as Wyoming. There, they fought a number of skirmishes to a draw and local settlements saw their property destroyed. Eventually, the territory’s governor declared the Mormons in full rebellion.
Colonel Albert Sydney Johnston was promoted to brevet brigadier and allotted an additional 3,000 troops, bringing his strength up to more than 5,600 — a full one-third of the entire U.S. Army at the time. The stage was set for a full-scale invasion of the Utah Territory. The Colonel even wrote to the New York Times that he fully expected to have to ride to Salt Lake City and subdue the Mormons.
But cooler heads prevailed.
One-third of the active duty Army would be like 15,000 soldiers invading Utah today.
A lobbyist acting on behalf of the Mormons in Washington was able to barter an end to the conflict with President Buchanan. As the tensions between the sides mounted, a financial panic swept the country and the President was eager to put the whole thing behind him. In exchange for peace, Brigham Young would give up governorship of the Utah Territory and all citizens of Utah would receive a blanket pardon.
Johnston still marched the Army through Salt Lake City but the Army took no action, instead moving to establish a presence 40 miles south. Despite capturing national attention, the whole incident would soon be overshadowed by the violence of “Bleeding Kansas” and the coming Civil War.