See how life-saving docs compete for "Best Medic" - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

For combat medics, success is all about keeping up with formations and providing expert and timely medical care at the point of injury. So it makes sense that their competitions for top bragging rights include everything from administering medical aid and triage to land navigation and calling for fire.


In fact, an Army-wide Best Medic competition is held annually and has evolved out of the Best Ranger competition. This contest pits 34 two-person teams against one another in a 72-hour competition. During this three-day event, docs are challenged by events like rifle ranges, stress shoots, obstacle courses, a 12-mile ruck march, an urban assault lane, and combat medic lanes.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

U.S. Army Spc. Charles Hines from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), fires an M4 during a stress shoot at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, July 25, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

The medics in the competition are always tested on some sort of basic soldiering skills — rifle marksmanship usually makes the list. In this photo from a competition in Alaska, we get a look at medics competing in stress shoots.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

U.S. Army Pfc. Joshua Rowe from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), jumps up from pushups during a stress shoot July 25, 2018, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Stress shoots are events wherein a shooter’s body is put under duress by physical exercise — in this case, push-ups — before having to fire their weapons as accurately as possible. The event tests a competitor’s ability to perform as they would in combat where moving around in armor causes accuracy-reducing fatigue.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Spc. Aaron Tolson of 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, administers an IV to a simulated casualty during a best medic competition in Fort Bragg, N.C., July 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)

Of course, Best Medic competitions still center around medical knowledge and the ability to assess, treat, and transport casualties.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Pvt. Joshua Rowe from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), administers a nasopharyngeal airway intervention on a dummy patient July 24, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

The simulated patients are presented with injuries and illnesses common on battlefields as well as injuries that are challenging to diagnose and treat, pushing medics’ skills to the limit.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Spc. Steven Gildersleeve from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), pulls the quick-release cord from body armor on a simulated casualty July 24, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Casualties are often covered in protective gear as they would be in a real fight. This can include everything from MOPP gear, used in chemical, biological, and nuclear environments, to body armors and helmets used nearly everywhere, both in training and combat.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

An Army medic from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), decontaminates himself during a best medic competition July 26, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Of course, if you’re testing medics on how to treat patients in a chemical environment, you also have to test their ability to operate in a chemical environment. This means medics must not just ensuring the medic takes the right steps to protect their patient, but they must also make sure to protect themselves properly.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

An Army medic from Charlie Company, 725th Brigade Support Battalion (Airborne), configures a radio during a best medic competition July 26, 2018 at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Jamal Wilson)

Other tasks that medics are tested on include radio communications. After all, their patients can’t make it off of the battlefield in a timely manner, let alone within the “Golden Hour” that’s critical to saving lives in combat, if the medics and battlefield leaders can’t get the radios up and call for medevac and fire support.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Staff Sgt. Miguel Matias assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, completes the monkey bars during a best medic competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)

Similarly, the medics have to prove that they can get to the fight and move around on the battlefield like the soldiers they support. To test this, medics are put through a number of obstacles.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Cpt. Brian Calandra, physical therapist with 15th Brigade Support Battalion, does the low crawl during the obstacle course portion of the 8th Army Best Medic Competition 27-29 September at Camp Casey, South Korea.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

These obstacle courses can include everything commonly tested during basic training, airborne, and air assault schools, as well hazards from other military competitions, like Best Ranger.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Staff Sgt. Miguel Matias assigned to 5th Squadron, 73rd Calvary Regiment, climbs over an obstacle during a best medic competition at Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. John Lytle)

Even better, obstacle courses can be combined with medical training to create the medical equivalent of a stress shoot. Medics capable of serving patients while under fire on the battlefield should be able to treat patients immediately after completing obstacles.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Spc. Juan Villegas, a combat medic with 1st Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, goes through the log jump portion of the obstacle course during the 8th Army Best Medic Competition 27-29 September at Camp Casey, South Korea.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin)

And, of course, the photos look cool. It’s way easier to recruit prospective soldiers into the medical fields when they think they’ll look like a computer wallpaper every once in a while as they do their jobs.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The legendary Gurkha warriors are creating a new battalion

The legendary Gurkha units of the British Army have centuries of history as premier warfighters, earning top awards for individual and unit valor in combat from the Indian Mutiny in 1857, through both World Wars, Iraq, and Afghanistan. On March 11, Great Britain announced that it will be creating a new Gurkha rifle battalion, the infantry forces of the Gurkhas.


The history of the Gurkhas in 3 minutes

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Gurkha warriors fought British Dutch East India Company soldiers in the early 1800s and did so much damage to the company military that its leaders tried to buy some of the Gurkhas over to their side, and they were successful.

(While many Gurkha histories, including the quick summary embedded above, gloss over this part of the timeline and make it sound like the Gurkha warriors were recruited after the war, the first units were recruited while the company was still fighting Gurkha forces. And yes, some Gurkha tribes fought directly against their brethren on behalf of the company. But these tribes had fought each other for years, so it’s not as shocking as you might think.)

The Gurkha units in the company military were immediately successful, and they proved deep loyalties during the Indian Mutiny in 1857-1858, saving British forces and government leaders that were nearly overrun during mass uprisings against British rule. The Gurkhas were so successful in these early decades working for the company that the British absorbed them into the Indian Army, part of the forces that fought for the British Crown.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Colour Sgt. Dhan Prasad Ghale, a Gurkha assigned to the British Army’s 2nd Battalion, Royal Gurkha Rifles, follows a Malawi Defense Force soldier as he crawls towards an objective at Machinga Hills Training Area in Zomba, Malawi, May 30, 2018.

(U.S. Army Sgt. Asa Bingham)

Five Gurkha rifle regiments were originally absorbed into the Indian Army, and another three were transferred from the Bengal Army soon after. These rifle regiments served around the world in the Great War and World War II. When India gained its independence after World War II, these regiments were split between the Indian Army and the British Army.

The British Army units were organized into the British Brigade of Gurkhas with four rifle regiments as well as transportation, engineer, and signal units. But another reorganization in the 1990s trimmed the size of the Gurkha infantry down to two battalions.

When Prince Harry deployed to Afghanistan as a forward air controller, he did so with a Gurkha infantry battalion, partially because they are seen as some of the best in the world and could help keep him safe even during fierce frontline fighting.

But Britain announced March 11 that they would create another Gurkha infantry battalion, the 3rd Battalion, Specialist Infantry. Specialized infantry units are part of Britain’s new Specialised Infantry Group (British spelling), an infantry force that focuses on working with Britain’s allies, analogous to America’s new security force assistance brigades.

And the new Gurkha battalion is expected to be especially valuable in this role. The Gurkha units are still recruited from Nepal, and all of its members beef up on English when they are selected to serve in the British Army. That’s because the Nepalese people grow up speaking a caste language as well as Nepalese, and many speak Hindi. So, by the time they are trained by Britain for service in its army, most Gurkha warriors can speak four languages.

So, the new Gurkha specialized infantry will be filled with some of the world’s most elite and respected infantrymen who can speak four languages and teach their skills to most of Britain’s allies. It’s hard to imagine a force that would be better suited to the mission.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Sailors still getting sick as mumps-like outbreak tears through warship

A US Navy warship deployed to the Persian Gulf has been stuck at sea for months due to a viral outbreak of what’s likely the mumps, and servicemembers are continuing to fall ill as the medical workers try to get the situation under control, Fifth Fleet told Business Insider March 28, 2019.

As of March 23, 2019, 27 sailors and Marines aboard the dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry have been diagnosed with parotitis, which the Navy described in a statement earlier this month as a “viral infection which has symptoms similar to mumps.”

Viral parotitis is an infection of the saliva glands on either side of the face that’s typically caused by the mumps.


The Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) later explained to BI that “based on clinical presentation and laboratory testing, these cases are currently classified as probable cases of mumps,” one of a number of illnesses that all US military personnel are vaccinated against.

Twenty-six of the affected sailors and Marines have recovered and returned to duty.

The first troubling case appeared on Dec. 22, 2019, shortly after the ship departed Mayport Naval Station in Florida for its current deployment. “The point of origin has not yet been determined,” Fifth Fleet told BI.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry in the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 24, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Megan Anuci)

In response to the outbreak, the Navy and Marines Corps Public Health Center has deployed health professionals to the quarantined Fort McHenry to conduct an in-depth epidemiologic investigation, a process which has not yet been completed.

The Navy has been working hard to contain the outbreak. “Since the onset of the first case, the ship’s medical department has implemented health protection measures, provided an additional outbreak-specific dose of vaccine to the crew, and managed patients to stop the spread of the illness,” BUMED explained.

Complications from the mumps are rare, but can be life-threatening.

As of March 9, 2019, just a few days before CNN first brought the story public, 25 servicemembers aboard the Fort McHenry had fallen ill. By March 17, 2019, Fifth Fleet had informed BI that all 25 affected personnel had made a full recovery and returned to duty.

A new case popped up March 26, 2019, CNN reported at the time, and since then, the number has risen again.

“The health and welfare of our Sailors and Marines is paramount,” the Navy said, “Our servicemembers are receiving the best care to treat this illness and prevent it from spending to others.”

In addition to making the decision to quarantine the ship at sea while sick servicemembers received treatment, the Navy, exercising caution, also gave all of the more than 700 service members on the Fort McHenry booster vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

The amphibious dock-landing ship USS Fort McHenry arrives in Dublin

(U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Michael Lewis)

“The Navy’s position is that vaccines are effective at reducing the incidence and severity of vaccine-preventable diseases,” BUMED told BI. Unfortunately, “the mumps portion of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine is the least effective of the three components, providing 88% effectiveness after completion of the two dose series.”

While outbreaks of influenza and other common illnesses occur every year aboard Navy vessels, the situation on the Fort McHenry is unusual, the Navy explained. “It is not common for us to see outbreaks of vaccine-preventable viral infections.”

The ship hasn’t made a port call since early January 2019 and now isn’t likely to for at least another month — a very long stretch at sea that’s a morale killer for the crew. Typically deployed US warships have port calls at least once a month to repair systems and rest the crew.

It is difficult to know how long the Fort McHenry’s ongoing quarantine at sea will last as a situation like this cannot be considered fully resolved until two full incubation periods have passed without incident. “This ensures that the virus is no longer spreading, as infected individuals sometimes show no symptoms of illness,” BUMED said.

For the mumps, the incubation period is 25 days, so it will be another 50 days after the last affected servicemember recovers before the Navy can declare the situation under control.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This common weapon was so ‘pernicious’ that Catholicism banned it

In 1096, Pope Urban II took a good hard look at this new “crossbow” thing and gave it all of the nopes. No Christians were to use it in any battle against a fellow Christian on the punishment of excommunication and eternal damnation of the soul. But the weapon that would act as the precursor to the rifle was simply too valuable to leave on a shelf.


See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

A figure depicting a crossbowman who helped execute Saint Sebastian in the later 15th Century.

(Gun Powder Ma, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Crossbows were already an old weapon when European knights first ran into them in the 900s. Ancient Europeans had used similar weapons, but crossbow-like designs had fallen out of favor in Europe by the year 500 A.D., and few Europeans would’ve recognized them before their resurgence in the late 900s and 1000s.

But French use, as well as use by Eastern nations who had never stopped using the weapon, brought it back into the lexicon of European warfare.

And Western knights did not like it. Their armor protected them from most weapons they would face with the exception of the longbow, a weapon that took years to learn and decades to master. But crossbows could slice right through the armor at greater range than even a longbow, and shooters could be trained in hours or days.

The French were the ones who brought the crossbow back into European warfare. The English had a huge advantage when it came to bowmen, especially longbowmen, and France and England fought often. But while crossbow shooters could fire at greater ranges and with less training than soldiers equipped with a longbow, the weapon did have disadvantages.

Crossbows fire only two rounds per minute while good archers with longbows could fire 10. And crossbow units needed supporting staff and spare parts that weren’t necessary with traditional archers. They were also more susceptible to weather damage because it was harder to remove and replace their sensitive strings.

Still, the advantages outweighed the problems, and units across Europe adopted the new weapon. Mercenary units recruited and trained skilled crossbowmen and sold their services. For a few years, kings largely tried to follow the ban on using crossbows against Christian foes, and Pope Innocent II continued the ban in 1139 after ascending to the position of Pope.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Saint Sebastian was martyred by archers, reportedly at least one of which was using a crossbow.

(Hans Baldung, public domain)

But it couldn’t last. Kings used the weapons against pagans and Muslims, but then had to leave the men behind while fighting against each other in Europe. By the early 1200s, they were once again common in European combat. Crossbowmen played a crucial role for Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1238.

In fact, just a year later, Pope Gregory IV used mounted crossbowmen against the Lombard League, an alliance of European kingdoms that were all Christian. Yeah, the allure of crossbow power was so strong that a pope employed them against Christian forces.

Crossbows would continue to play a role in combat until after the 15th Century when advances in gunpowder slowly rendered them obsolete. First, advanced cannons were able to break up their formations from further away than even the crossbowmen could fire. And muskets and rifles eventually filled the role that crossbowmen once had.

Of course, the church didn’t love firearms either. It declared all black powder weapons to be daemonic, but armies quickly embraced them anyway.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Apache will fly for 30 more years, says major general

The U.S. Army has no current plans to replace its Cold-War era AH-64 Apache, a still-lethal attack helicopter that the service plans to fly into combat for at least another three decades, according to the head of Army aviation.

“Right now, it’s an incredibly capable aircraft that we know we are going to be flying well into the 40s,” Maj. Gen. William Gayler, who commands the Army’s Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker, Alabama, told an audience Sept. 5, 2018, at the Association of the United States Army’s Aviation Hot Topic event.


Gayler’s comments on the future of the AH-64 offer a new perspective on the Army’s evolving Future Vertical Lift program. FVL is the third priority under the Army’s bold new modernization plan, and until now Army leaders have focused on talking about the program’s goals of building a new long-range assault aircraft to replace the UH-60 Black Hawk and an armed reconnaissance aircraft — leaving the future of the AH-64 an open question.

Senior Army leaders continually hammer away that the service’s modernization vision is to begin fielding a new fleet of combat platforms and aircraft by 2028 that will replace the Cold War “Big Five:” the M1 tank, Bradley fighting vehicle, Black Hawk, Apache, and Patriot air defense system.

“Does it mean you now have to have a replacement for the AH-64? I would say somewhere in the future, absolutely, 64s will no longer be in the inventory, just like [UH-1] Hueys are no longer in the inventory … they have a lifespan,” Gayler said. “But the timing of what replaces it and the affordability what replaces it has yet to be seen.”

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

An AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.

The new armed reconnaissance aircraft, or ARA, is designed to take on a burden that AH-64 has long shouldered, Gayler said.

“What that armed reconnaissance aircraft is designed to do is replace an AH-64 used as a reconnaissance and security platform in an armed reconnaissance squadron,” Gayler said. “That aircraft was not designed to do that, therefore that’s why we are pursuing something does it optimized for that mission.”

For the long range assault aircraft, the Army selected two firms to develop demonstrators in 2014. Textron Inc.’s Bell Helicopter created the V-280 Valor, which completed its first test flight in December 2017. Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin Corp., and Boeing Co. built the SB1 Defiant, a medium-lift chopper based on Sikorsky’s X2 coaxial design.

The FVL family will also include an advanced unmanned aerial system to deliver targeting data to long range precision fires and launch electronic attacks on enemy radar systems.

Future Vertical Lift is competing with five other modernization priorities: long-range precision fires, next-generation combat vehicle, a mobile network, air and missile defense and soldier lethality.

To be successful, Army aviation leaders have to focus on “what you can afford to do and prioritize where you have greatest need,” Gayler said, pointing to the ARA and “long range assault aircraft.”

“That Apache is still very, very capable … made more capable by the armed reconnaissance aircraft that complements it and the long range assault aircraft that further enables it to be successful,” Gayler said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Army just figured out a way to recharge your radio with pee

So you’re in the OP, and you’ve identified the supply route that Chinese troops are using to resupply and reinforce their frontline troops. But the enemy managed to cut off your own resupply two days ago when a platoon slipped by undetected and set up to your rear. Now, you need to get the intel back to base and try to squirt home, but your batteries are dead. It’s okay, though, because, in this new future, you can just piss into the battery.


Well, you could do that if you were using a hydrogen fuel cell battery and have a tablet of the new aluminum alloy powder developed by researchers working with the U.S. Army. Don’t pee onto your current batteries. That will not work.

The Army’s powder is a “structurally-stable, aluminum-based nanogalvanic alloy.” Basically, when the powder is exposed to any liquid containing water, it releases hydrogen. In a hydrogen fuel cell, that hydrogen can then be split into its component proton and electron. The proton passes through a membrane to create a positive charge on the other end of a circuit, and that draws the electron through the circuit, powering the radio, vehicle, or whatever else you hook it up to.

At the end, the proton and electron recombine into hydrogen, combine with oxygen, and are disposed of as water in a low-temperature exhaust.

“This is on-demand hydrogen production,” said Dr. Anit Giri, a materials scientist at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. “Utilizing hydrogen, you can generate power on-demand, which is very important for the Soldier.”

It’s all environmentally friendly, cheap, and—more importantly for troops—leaves no exhaust that could be easily detected by the enemy. Depending on the exact makeup of the equipment, troops could even drink their radio or vehicle exhaust if they were using hydrogen fuel cells.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

New Jersey Best Warrior Competition. That radio is not fueled by pee. Yet.

(New Jersey National Guard Master Sgt. Mark Olsen)

And hydrogen is very energy dense, having 200 times as much specific energy as lithium batteries. But the military has resisted using hydrogen fuel sources for the same reason that auto manufacturers and other industries have been slow to adopt it: transporting hydrogen is costly and challenging.

While hydrogen fuel cell cars can be refueled at any hydrogen filling station as quickly as their gas counterparts, they can go twice as far. But the streets have more electric and gasoline-powered vehicles because it’s way easier to recharge and refuel those vehicles than to find a hydrogen station.

But with the new powder, the Army might be able to generate hydrogen on demand at bases around the world. And the technology is so promising that civilian corporations are lining up to use the powder here in the states.

According to an Army press release, H2 Power, LLC of Chicago has secured a license that grants it “the right to use the patent in automotive and transportation power generation applications related to ‘2/3/4/6 wheeled vehicles, such as motorcycles, all sizes of cars, minivans, vans, SUV, pick-up trucks, panel trucks other light and medium trucks up to 26,000 pounds and any size bus.'”

H2 Power is envisioning a future where existing gas stations can be easily converted into hydrogen fueling stations without the need for new pipelines or trucks to constantly ferry hydrogen to the station.

“The powder is safe to handle, is 100 percent environmentally friendly, and its residue can be recycled an unlimited number of times back into aluminum, for more powder. Recycling apart, only water and powder are necessary to recreate this renewable energy cycle, anywhere in the world,” H2 Power CEO Fabrice Bonvoisin said, according to a TechXplore article.

“For example, this technology enables us to transform existing gas stations into power stations where hydrogen and electricity can be produced on-demand for the benefit of the environment and the users of electric and hydrogen vehicles or equipment. We can’t wait to work with OEMs of all kind to unleash the genuine hydrogen economy that so many of us are waiting for,” he said.

The Army could pull this same trick at bases around the world. With a static supply of the aluminum powder, it could generate its own fuel from water and electricity. This would be good for bases around the world as it would reduce the cost to run fleets of vehicles, but it would be game-changing at remote bases where frontline commanders could create their own fuel, slashing their logistics support requirement.

They would need constant power generation, though, meaning the Army would need to invest more heavily in mobile solar or nuclear solutions to fully realize the advantages of their hydrogen breakthrough.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Danger Close’ tells the story of heroic Australians in Vietnam

It’s easy to forget that the Vietnam War was originally fought by the French and that plenty more countries came to fight the communists, not just the U.S. One of the other groups deployed to Vietnam was a force of Australian and New Zealand soldiers. A group of just over 100 of them would fight an estimated 2,500 North Vietnamese for over three hours with little support, achieving a victory in the direst of circumstances.


Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan – Official Trailer

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The Battle of Long Tan is now in theaters, and it tells the story of these soldiers and how a combination of grit, danger close artillery, and gutsy support from helicopters got them out alive. The movie is, appropriately, named Danger Close.

The men of Delta Company, 6th Royal Australian Regiment, were sent out to patrol the area around their base at Nui Dat. The base was established in order to cut North Vietnamese supply lines, and the North Vietnamese and their Viet Cong allies were super pissed off about it.

So, in August 1966, the Australian command began to gather intelligence that said North Vietnamese troops were conducting reconnaissance in a rubber plantation just a few miles from the base and potentially building up forces for an attack. Senior leaders did not share this intelligence with the men of the 6th Royal Australian Regiment.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

This painting is a reconstruction of several different events that occurred during the Battle of Long Tan fought on Aug. 18, 1966, between ‘D’ Company, 6RAR and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army forces.

(Bruce Fletcher, Australian War Memorial)

On that August 18 patrol, 108 men of Delta stumbled into a fight with an estimated 2,500 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops in deep mud as massive rains poured onto the men. The company commander, Maj. Harry Smith, positioned his men behind a small rise that provided some cover as long as they were laying down. Bullets would fly over their heads for the next 3.5 hours.

Despite the discomfort of the rain and mud and how dangerously outnumbered they were, the Australian troops did have a few advantages. The rain was hitting hard enough that mud splashed up and camouflaged them, and the light silhouetted the North Vietnamese and helped the Australian troops target them. And, amazingly professional artillerymen fired thousands of rounds in support of them, including numerous fire missions within 60 yards of the friendly infantry.

But the men weren’t equipped for a protracted battle. They nearly ran out of ammunition as the weather kept helicopters on the ground. Two helicopter pilots took it upon themselves to deliver a re-supply despite the dangers, giving the men enough ammo even as the men were firing their last few rounds of what they had carried in.

Reinforcements finally made it to the fight in armored personnel carriers and forced the North Vietnamese back. Eighteen Australian and New Zealand troops had been killed or would soon die of their wounds while another 24 were injured. Meanwhile, they had inflicted at least 245 fatalities on the enemy, and it is believed that the North Vietnamese had suffered many more losses but had carried the dead away to frustrate Australian intelligence collection.

While American and South Vietnamese leaders decorated Delta Company in the years that followed, it would take decades for the Australian government, wracked by protests at home, to commend the men for their bravery.

Now, the movie praising their exploits is available in Australian theaters, and it will soon be available online.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How medically-discharged vets can get a disability rating boost

Hardeep Grewal was a 29-year-old Air Force computer operations specialist suffering a mild case of pneumonia when he deployed to Saudi Arabia and a series of other Southwest Asian countries in 2003.

The staff sergeant stayed ill and returned to the United States “looking like a scare crow,” he said. He was diagnosed with asthma, which would require two medications daily for the rest of his life. By December 2004, Grewal was medically discharged with a 10 percent disability rating and a small severance payment.


The Air Force physical evaluation board “lowballed me,” he recalled in a phone conversation on April 25, 2018, from his Northern Virginia home. “They were trying to get rid of people” from a specialty that, after offering an attractive reenlistment bonus, quickly became overmanned.

Grewal promptly applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and his initial VA rating was set at 30 percent. Full VA payments were delayed until Grewal’s Air Force severance was recouped.

Twelve years later, in August 2016, he got a letter inviting him to have his military disability rating reviewed by a special board Congress created solely to determine whether veterans like him, discharged for conditions rated 20 percent disabling or less from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2009, were treated fairly.

“I waited like almost two months to apply because I didn’t know if somebody was pulling my leg,” Grewal said. “I talked to a lot of people, including a friend at Langley Air Force Base, to find out if it was legit. He said other service members he knew who had gotten out were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s legit. You can look it up.’ “

Grewal had to wait 18 months but he received his decision letter from the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) in April 2018. It recommends to the Air Force Secretary that Grewal’s discharge with severance pay be recharacterized to permanent disability retirement, effective the date of his prior medical separation.

If, as expected, the Air Force approves a revised disability rating to 30 percent back to December 2004, Grewal will receive retroactive disability retirement, become eligible for TRICARE health insurance and begin to enjoy other privileges of “retiree” status including access to discount shopping on base.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

Congress ordered that the PDBR established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of service members medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.

The PDBR began accepting applications in January 2009. So far only 19,000 veterans have applied from pool of 71,000 known to be eligible for at least a disability rating review. All of them were medically-discharged with disability ratings of 20 percent or less sometime during the qualifying period.

A bump in rating to 30 percent or higher bestows retiree status including a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And yet only 27 percent of veterans believed eligible for a rating review have applied. Indeed, applications to the PDBR have slowed to a trickle of 40 to 50 per month.

For this column, Greg Johnson, director of the PDRB, provided written responses to two dozen questions on the board’s operations. Overall, he explained, 42 percent of applicants receive a recommendation that their original rating be upgraded. Their service branch has the final say on whether a recommendation is approved but in almost every instance they have been.

To date, 47 percent of Army veterans who applied got a recommendation for upgrade, and 18 percent saw their rating increased to at least 30 percent to qualify for disability retirement.

For the Navy Department, which includes Sailors and Marines, 34 percent of applicants received upgrade recommendations and 17 percent gained retiree status. For Air Force applicants the approval rate also has been 34 percent, but 21 percent airmen got a revised rating high enough to qualify for disability retirement.

The top three medical conditions triggering favorable recommendations are mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, back ailments and arthritis.

See how life-saving docs compete for “Best Medic”

As Grewal learned, decisions are not made quickly. The current wait, on average, is eight to 12 months, Johnson said. But that is faster than the 18-to-24-month wait that was routine in earlier years.

Also, veterans need not fear that a new review will result in a rating downgrade. The law establishing the PDBR doesn’t allow for it.

Once received, applications are scanned into the PDBR data base and the board requests from the service branch a copy of their physical evaluation board case file. Also, PDBR retrieves from VA the veteran’s treatment records and all documents associated with a VA disability rating decision.

After paperwork is gathered, a PDBR panel of one medical officer and two non-medical officers, military or civilian, reviews the original rating decision. All panelists are the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (for Navy, captain or commander) or their civilian equivalents. The board has 34 voting members plus support staff, which is more than PDBR had in its early years, Johnson said.

The wait for a decision is long because of the time it takes to retrieve records, the thoroughness of the review and the complexity of the cases, Johnson said.

About 70 percent of applicants have been Army, 20 percent Navy or Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force and less than one percent Coast Guard.

PDBR notification letters have been sent to eligible veterans at last-known addresses at least twice and include applications and pre-stamped return envelopes. Grewal said he had moved four times since leaving service which might be why he never heard of the board before the notification letter reach him in 2016.

At some point Congress could set a deadline for the board to cease operations but it hasn’t yet. The board advises veterans, however, to apply as soon as they can. The longer they wait, it notes on its website, “the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in-service sources [needed] to assess your claim.”

If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Troops on the border practice nonlethal riot control

Active-duty troops deployed to the US-Mexico border are increasingly bracing for confrontations rather than just running razor wire to deter their entry in the US, images published by the US military show.

In November 2018, US troops have been conducting non-lethal riot control training at bases in Arizona and California, and tactical training is expected to continue.


Soldiers and Marines were also apparently present on Nov. 25, 2018, at San Ysidro, a busy port of entry where border agents clashed with migrants, using tear gas against those who rushed the border.

Watch US troops engage in tactical training in preparation for violence:​

This is how US troops are training for confrontations at the border.

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Soldiers from 65th Military Police Company, 503rd Airborne Military Police Battalion, finish non lethal training in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Bradley McKinley)

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Marines attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force 7 join Customs and Border Protection at San Ysidro Point of Entry, California, Nov. 25, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jesse Untalan)

Active-duty military personnel with riot shields were present at the San Ysidro port of entry Nov. 25, 2018, when CBP agents used tear gas and tactics to drive back migrants who rushed the border, some of whom threw rocks at US agents. Some critics have called the CBP response an overreaction.

US troops are authorized to provide force protection for border agents, but are barred by law from law enforcement in the US.

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Soldiers from 65th Military Police Company, 503rd Airborne Military Police Battalion, take cover to conduct non lethal training in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, Nov. 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Bradley McKinley)

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Soldiers from the 65th Military Police Company, 503rd Airborne Military Police Battalion, conduct non-lethal riot control training in Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

(U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Bradley McKinley)

300 active-duty troops previously stationed in Texas and Arizona were shifted to California.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veteran stays busy with elaborate LEGO builds

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Thousands of pieces, elaborate instructions, and finished products that are intricate and impressive: That’s what fans get in adult-level LEGO kits. Projects that come with as many as 9,036 serialized bricks – creating a Roman Coliseum – and cost hundreds of dollars each. Yes, hundreds – that same kit retails at $449.99 a pop.

It’s a hobby that veteran Eric Rickards and girlfriend, Charlotte Murnan, know well. In fact, they have an entire dedicated “LEGO room.” It wasn’t an afterthought with an extra bedroom, however, they purchased their house near Tampa, FL with their hobby at the forefront of “new home must haves.”

The room is lined with heavy shelves that display completed LEGO builds, like a replica of Central Perk from Friends and the Hogwarts Quidditch field. Meanwhile, Ikea tables host in-progress builds. 

“LEGO can be really intricate and that’s what I love most about it,” Rickards, who served 12 years active duty in the Army, said.

Murnan added, “It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off other stuff.”

The hobby began after the pair had been searching for an interest they could share. Rickards suggested building the LEGO Hogwarts Castle. Murnan, an avid Harry Potter fan, agreed, and they began their first build.

“I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I did, but there’s something therapeutic about seeing it come to life,” she said.

The hobby has only grown since the onset of COVID-19. Former travel buffs, the couple hunkered down in their Memphis house at the start of the pandemic, before permanently relocating to Tampa for Murnan’s job as a Senior Financial Analyst in Investor Relations. Meanwhile, Rickards, who was medically discharged, dealt with a recurring injury. He realized it wasn’t feasible to remain a mechanic, and went to school to study history.

The move prompted them to do away with one of the biggest inconveniences about their former house: not enough space for LEGOs.

From there, the duo began seeking out and buying new LEGO projects, even buying new kits as they’re released, just so they can get their hands on the goods before they sell out.

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“We have 15 in the box right here, so [my favorite] could change,” Rickards said. He cited his current favorite build as their Nintendo screen; it’s a retro tv that has a turn crank, causing Mario to jump up and down.

They have retired sets – kits that LEGO no longer manufacturers – these they find on eBay or through niche Facebook groups. Rickards cited Wall-E as a project he’s excited to tackle next. 

“You have to track them down and they’re a little pricey. It took me a while to pull the trigger, but I finally got it.”

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There’s also the Ghostbusters car, a Land Rover, an incredibly detailed flower bouquet, even more Harry Potter builds, including a house crest made up of 17,000 individual dot pieces, the carousel they built with Rickards’ mom – she’s a long-time carousel collector. And Murnan’s favorite, a custom selfie portrait of the two; she likes the sentimental touch. The latter was made at a LEGO portrait studio in London wherein users can take a photo and purchase a custom brick set. 

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As for the finished project themselves, the pair remains in awe of LEGOs engineering and completed designs. For instance, a T-rex that seemingly defies gravity to stand on its hind legs, a book they received as a free gift with purchase where the bricks come together to look like real pages. All of which, and more – for a total of over 40 completed builds – are shown throughout their home.

“It’s such a fun thing to do to take our minds off of other stuff. And with COVID – all bets are off – we could be in there building on a weeknight,” Murnan laughed. “We can work on builds and relax; it’s such a stress relief.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This anti-Putin journalist faked his own death to out Russian assassins

Arkady Babchenko, a Russian journalist who is a fierce critic of President Vladimir Putin, was reported to be assassinated on May 29, 2018, in Ukraine, but he showed up alive at a news conference on May 30, 2018, according to several reports.

Babchenko, 41, appeared at a news conference in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, where the Security Service of Ukraine, known as the SBU, said the reported assassination was a sting operation.


Reports on May 29, 2018, indicated Babchenko was shot in the back in his apartment in Kiev, dying in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. His wife was said to have found him and called the ambulance.

“Special apologies to my wife,” Babchenko said at the press conference, according to the BBC.

“We prevented the attempted murder of Babchenko by conducting a special operation,” the head of the SBU, Vasily Hrytsak, said on May 30, 2018, before Babchenko appeared, adding that the attempt on his life had been planned by Russia for two months.

“According to information received by the Ukrainian Security Service, the killing of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko was ordered by the Russian security services themselves,” Hrytsak said, according to The Telegraph.

The SBU also said that a suspect accused of planning to carry out the assassination was apprehended and that Russian intelligence had paid the person ,000 thousand for the hit.

Babchenko, a prominent war correspondent, is extremely critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and fled Russia in February 2017, because of threats to him and his family.

A Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said the ministry was happy Babchenko was alive, calling the staged assassination a “propagandistic effect,” the BBC reported, citing the Russian news service RIA.

See Babchenko speak at the news conference below:

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The reason LEGO cancelled its V-22 Osprey set

On July 21, 2020, LEGO announced that the upcoming LEGO Technic V-22 Osprey had been cancelled. Set number 42113 was an officially licensed model of the Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft used by the US Navy, Marines, Air Force and Japanese Self-Defense Forces.


Despite being just 10 days away from its August 1 release date, LEGO pulled the Osprey from its website and announced that shipments of the new set would not go out to retailers. In their official statement, LEGO said:

The LEGO Technic Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey was designed to highlight the important role the aircraft plays in search and rescue efforts. While the set clearly depicts how a rescue version of the plane might look, the aircraft is only used by the military. We have a long-standing policy not to create sets which feature real military vehicles, so it has been decided not to proceed with the launch of this product. We appreciate that some fans who were looking forward to this set may be disappointed, but we believe it’s important to ensure that we uphold our brand values.

LEGO’s policy of not making sets based on military vehicles goes back to its very beginning. In fact, the original LEGO brick colors in the 1950s didn’t even include grey because LEGO feared that they could be used to make military vehicles like tanks.

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Orange trim wasn’t enough to distance the V-22 from its military use (LEGO)

In recent years, LEGO has limited the scope of their military restriction to modern military vehicles. This allowed them to create sets based on historic military vehicles like the WWI-era Sopwith Camel biplane and Fokker Dr.1 triplane.

Licensed IPs like Indiana Jones and Star Wars have also allowed LEGO to make sets with military themes that weren’t modern or real. Indiana Jones set number 7198 included an armed Pilatus P-2 with Luftwaffe markings from The Last Crusade and set number 7683 featured the fictional Nazi flying wing bomber from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Under the Star Wars license, LEGO has created molds for fictional blasters that come from the galaxy far, far away.

However, while LEGO has not released a licensed modern military set, it has released some that bear striking resemblances to modern military vehicles. LEGO Creator 3-in-1 sets have featured vehicles that look remarkably like the AH-64 Apache (31023), F-14 Tomcat (4953), Rafale M (5892), F-35 Lightning II (31039) and even the V-22 (31020). LEGO City set number 60021 City Cargo Heliplane is a dedicated set that also bears a striking resemblance to the V-22. The main difference between the aforementioned sets and the cancelled V-22 seems to be the official licensing by Bell and Boeing, who make the real-life aircraft.

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It looks like a V-22, but it isn’t (LEGO)

In July, the German Peace Society issued a warning against LEGO releasing the licensed V-22. Despite rebranding of the aircraft in the set to make it a search and rescue aircraft, the German Peace Society released a statement saying:

On 1. August 2020 LEGO® plans to release its first ever military set while internal corporate value documents forbid the production of current military vehicles. The German DFG-VK also criticises the license placed on the set. With every buy, customers help to finance arms companies.

Despite the set being ready for release with advertisements and stock ready to go, LEGO has marked all packaged sets of the V-22 for return to circulation. While LEGO stores will never receive the set, some smaller retailers did receive their first orders early and buyers have been quick to scoop up the rare sets. New Zealand seems to have received the most shipments as Ebay listings for the V-22 all ship from New Zealand and are selling for well over id=”listicle-2646785825″,000. Some retailers are even returning their stock to LEGO rather than selling them.

While this turn of events has been a major disappointment for LEGO fans, the fact that the set got so close to release can be seen as a sign of things to come. While the V-22 is used exclusively by armed forces, it’s not unreasonable to think that military aircraft with civilian variants like the C-130 Hercules or the CH-47 Chinook might be turned into licensed LEGO sets in the future.

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Commercials were filmed and ready. Note the “Rescue” markings. (LEGO)

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the President named his predecessor Commander-In-Chief

The President of the United States has a few jobs, and one of the most important is his role as Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces. Another part of the job is knowing when to delegate authority to someone who is just as much, if not more qualified than the President in a certain area.

For President John Adams, looking down the barrel of a possible French invasion, that meant asking the previous President to be Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces again.


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Every time you think you’re out, they pull you back in.

(Mount Vernon)

It was John Adams who suggested to the Continental Congress in 1775 that George Washington be named Commander-In-Chief to lead the new Continental Army. In 1798, Adams was doing it again. The first challenge of the Adams Presidency was not just being the second president after a war hero like Washington; it was a looming war with revolutionary France.

The United States refused to pay its Revolutionary War debt to France after the French Revolution toppled the Bourbon monarchy that had helped the Americans separate from England. What’s more, is the U.S. further angered the French by actively seeking the British as a trading partner. France began to authorize its privateers to attack American merchants, and the United States retaliated in kind. Battles raged at sea, and the only reason it was called the “Quasi-War” is that it was undeclared.

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Like our Quasi-War in Afghanistan.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Joseph Chenelly)

While the U.S. Navy, though young, was holding its own at sea, led by legendary sailors like William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur, the land forces of the United States were still found to be wanting. At this time, the defense of the U.S. relied heavily on state militias, raised locally, and sent into federal service by the state’s governor. And until this point, the President who was expected to be Commander-In-Chief of these forces was a battle-hardened veteran of at least two wars. President Washington even led a 13,000-strong U.S. Army to put down the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.

John Adams was a smart guy and realized he just didn’t have the chops for something like that, especially if the French invaded. Luckily, Adams and Washington were on the same page in two very important ways.

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John Adams knew when to delegate.

The first point was that the U.S. should remain neutral in the war between England and France. The second point was that John Adams didn’t have the skills required to lead a young country – and likely its actual army – in a war. So he appealed to George Washington’s military prowess once again and was able to name him Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces, despite the fact that Washington was no longer president.

If the United States was ever in danger of actually being invaded from French forces isn’t known. They were certainly near the young United States, but with a government in such a state of upheaval as Revolutionary France’s was and the number of troops and ships the French could have brought to bear, it was probably wise for Adams not to take any chances. If the French had any notion of invading the U.S., they probably thought better of it once the man who’d beaten the mighty British Empire took command.







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