Deep in the swamp – or what feels like the swamp at least – lies a training ground whose memories haunt your dreams forever. What pops up when your headlamp goes off? Why does the ground look like it’s moving? It’s all in here… it’s all Fort Polk.
The itsy-bitsy swarm of spiders
It’s night and you are patrolling through the Vietnam-like jungles of Fort Polk in search of the elusive “G Man.” The humidity is so thick you could cut it with a knife and as you scan the ground with your headlamp, tiny flashes of light shimmer back at you from the grass, bushes, and trees that surround you. No those aren’t water droplets and you didn’t suddenly walk into a diamond mine.
They are spider eyes and there are hundreds of them across every inch of ground within “The Box.” In Louisiana, there exist such species of spiders, like the massive Banana Spider who live to haunt you forever. According to local wildlife guides, they’re likely hiding or in webs between trees which wouldn’t affect you unless you’re doing such things like digging foxholes, fighting positions, or traipsing through the wilderness in the dark. All things which in fact, you will be doing in the box while training there. Good thing you packed a flame thrower just for this instance.
The first few days after arriving at Fort Polk for training usually involve unpacking Conexes, unloading vehicles at the rail yard and attending training classes. The weather during this period is likely sunny and warm, giving a false sense of hope that perhaps it’s not so bad here after all. Then at the precise moment, your unit enters the box, the monsoon hits.
With an average yearly rainfall around 60 inches, it’s nearly double the national average. Your hooch is in mortal danger of becoming swept away (with your body in it) when the puddle quickly becomes a raging river.
Beware of the “swamp ass”
You wake up- you’re sweating. You go to sleep-sweating. You stand still and you’re sweating. Not only is it embarrassing, but it’s stinky. This particular form of “booty-dew” is nearly impossible to solve since it’s likely you only rucked in with a few extra shirts or socks, which are likely still wet from last night’s flash flood that swept through the camp.
Gators, mosquitos, and horses- oh my!
Fort Polk is home to a host of species we’re all terrified of. Ever parachuted into a cloud of fog to see nothing, but hear the pounding of hooves coming straight for you? Welcome to Fort Polk. Wondering what that fast-moving cloud is that covered the sliver of sunshine? It’s mosquitos. They’re so bad down here that slapping yourself in the face is not only “normal” but it’s a tactical strategy. You’re not crazy, they are. Another fun fact about this paradise you ask? Louisiana has one of the highest populations of alligators in the U.S.
So when that nearby flood pond looks like the salvation from “swamp ass” you’ve been looking for, think again. If you’re lucky enough to avoid the real-life jaws of death, perhaps you should check your ankles after the LT’s suggestion to save time. Leeches are just another of God’s greatest creations awaiting your arrival to Fort Polk.
Finally, the Conex is packed, the vehicles loaded and you’re on the march out. You’ve survived. There’s something special waiting for you…next year’s rotation back to this paradise.
Some of our nation’s greatest treasures aren’t places, they are people. Leo LaCasse survived three crash landings and evaded 4,000 enemy troops during World War II. He now lives at a VA Community Living Center in Salem, Virginia. Here is his story:
Born on July 4, 1920, Leo LaCasse was one of five children–all of whom were born on birthdays of former presidents. At the age of 15, he joined the New Hampshire National Guard, and later the Army Air Corps, where he was assigned to a recruiting command. The private was soon promoted to corporal, then sergeant, as he traveled New England recruiting pilots from colleges and universities.
One day, Leo learned that he was accepted to flight school. It was a reward from his commanding officer who had submitted the application on his behalf. Despite never having gone to college, the Army sent Leo to college under an accelerated learning program, and when he graduated, he became a B-17 bomber captain.
Soon, flying planes “felt like home” to Leo.
“Some of them [planes] were cramped, but it didn’t make any difference to me because I was the pilot. When you’re packed in an aircraft and don’t have the room to move your body in the cockpit, any airplane you fly after that is good.”
In June 1943, Leo was assigned to the 8th Air Force, Bomb Group 548th in Suffolk, England, where he served under General Curtis Lemay.
Leo LaCasse flew 35 missions over Germany and other occupied countries, and survived three crash landings. During World War II, Leo evaded 4,000 enemy troops over 4 months.
One of Leo’s crashes landed in France, which was then occupied by Germany. He instructed his crew to head for the front lines, to surrender and tell whoever interrogated them that he was headed for Berlin. Instead, Leo left for Luxembourg to meet up with the French Resistance, where he crossed the Pyrenees Mountains, and made his way to Portugal.
In all, he spent four months avoiding Nazi capture. When the war was over, he was sent to Berlin for debriefing. That’s where he met and befriended a German general who recognized Leo’s name and revealed there had been 4,000 German troops looking for him following the crash landing in France.
Captain Leo LaCasse in front of his B-17 Bomber.
Leo retired from the military as a Brigadier General. For his service he has received numerous medals including the Silver Star Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart, Legion of Merit Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Combat Medal, Joint Services Commendation Medal, World War II Victory Medal, European and Middle East Campaign Medal, Army Air Force Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, and the American Defense Medal.
On June 5, 2016, Leo received the Legion of Honor Medal, France’s highest honor.
Leo now resides at Salem VA Medical Center’s Community Living Center located in Salem, Virginia.
On July 4, 2019, Leo will celebrate his 99th birthday.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Capital Concerts announced that a special presentation of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT, hosted by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise, will air on PBS and feature new performances and tributes filmed around the country to honor all of our American heroes.
Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the traditional live concert on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol will not be held – to ensure the health and safety of all involved.
The special 90-minute presentation of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT will air on Sunday, May 24, 2020, as a celebration to the heroes currently fighting COVID-19. This year marks its 31st year as a way to honor and remember our troops, Veterans, wounded warriors, all those who have given their lives for our nation and their families.
“In this unprecedented time, when the nation needs it most, we will bring Americans together as one family to honor our heroes,” said Executive Producer Michael Colbert. “This has been the mission of the NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT for 30 years, and we look forward to sharing stories and music of support, hope, resilience, and patriotism.”
America’s national night of remembrance will feature new appearances and performances by distinguished American statesman, including: General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret); Tony, Emmy and Grammy winner and two-time Oscar nominee, Cynthia Erivo; world-renowned four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano superstar Renée Fleming; country music star and Grammy-nominated member of the Grand Ole Opry, Trace Adkins; Grammy Award-winning gospel legend CeCe Winans; Tony Award-winning Broadway star Kelli O’Hara; Tony Award-nominated actress Mary McCormack; members of the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of top pops conductor Jack Everly; and a special message from General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Broadway and television star Christopher Jackson will open the show with a performance of the national anthem. The broadcast will also feature performances from previous concerts by Academy Award-nominated actor Sam Elliott; Oscar nominee and Emmy and Tony-Award winner Laurence Fishburne; and actor/producer/director Esai Morales.
Woven throughout the program will be messages of thanks and support from prominent guest artists for active-duty military, National Guard and Reserve and their families, Veterans, and Gold Star families; the messages include gratitude for for first responders, doctors, nurses, grocery clerks, truck drivers, postal workers – all those who are on the front lines, putting their lives at risk now in the fight against this virus.
Hosts Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise will also share several powerful segments that highlight stories of generations of ordinary Americans who stepped forward and served our country with extraordinary valor in its most challenging times.
The NATIONAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT airs on PBS Sunday, May 24, 2020, from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. E.T., as well as to our troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network. The concert will also be streaming on Facebook, YouTube and www.pbs.org/national-memorial-day-concert and available as Video on Demand, May 24 to June 7, 2020.
Also participating in new and some past selected performances are members from the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Chorus, the U.S. Army Voices and Downrange, the Soldiers’ Chorus of the U.S. Army Field Band, the U.S. Navy Band Sea Chanters, the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants, and Service Color Teams provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.
The program is a co-production of Michael Colbert of Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington, D.C. Executive producer Michael Colbert has assembled an award-winning production team that features the top Hollywood talent behind some of television’s most prestigious entertainment awards shows, including the ACADEMY AWARDS, GRAMMY AWARDS, COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDS, TONY AWARDS, and more.
Social isolation and feelings of loneliness are associated with suicidal thoughts. Consequently, the more people feel disconnected from their friends, peers and colleagues, the more isolated they become.
One antidote for social isolation is social connectedness. That is, people coming together and interacting. But there’s been little research on suicide prevention programs that target social connectedness.
Dr. Jason Chen of the VA Portland Health Care System is leading a study to establish a stronger sense of social connectedness for Veterans at high risk of suicide. He’s doing this by increasing their participation in community activities.
Chen and his team have been identifying the community engagement needs and preferences of Veterans who have been hospitalized and evaluated for psychiatric conditions. Specifically, the team interviewed participants within a week of their discharge from an inpatient psychiatric unit. They discovered Veterans analyzed for psychiatric conditions, such as PTSD, are at much greater risk than other cohorts of taking their own lives within three months after leaving the hospital.
Social connection could decrease suicidal thoughts
“When working with Veterans, I noticed that many didn’t have social connections,” Chen says. “We know that feeling connected to others can be a form of protection against suicide. So I thought to myself, if the Veterans I work with don’t have many connections, perhaps we could help them create new connections through community activities. My hope is that by helping Veterans increase their engagement in community activities, they’ll feel a stronger sense of social connection that will, in turn, decrease their level of suicidal thoughts.
“The first part of our study was to learn more from Veterans about what gets in the way of connecting. For example, we interviewed 30 Veterans to learn about their past experiences connecting to the community and their thoughts about what would get in the way in the future. Our Veteran sample varied in age from their 20s through their 70s. The average age was 48. We wanted to understand a broad range of experiences across different eras of conflict and generations.”
Suicide prevention is VA’s top clinical priority
Eventually, Chen and his colleagues plan to create clinical toolkits for VA and community figures. The toolkits will focus on increasing social connectedness for Veterans in this vulnerable population.
VA considers suicide prevention its top clinical priority. The most updated analysis of Veteran suicide rates, issued in 2016, notes Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This compares with 22% in 2010.
Chen and his team have identified patterns of Veterans’ needs and preferences for social connectedness.
“Veterans appear to be interested in a broad range of activities,” he says. “However, they noted having difficulty knowing how to access these activities and how to make new social connections. Within our sample, Veterans have discussed needing more hands-on support for engaging in community activities. They generally value and believe these activities are important for their wellness and recovery. But they could use extra support for navigating logistics and interactions with new people. We plan for this support to come from a Veteran peer support specialist. That is a Veteran who has undergone his or her own mental health recovery and is now helping support other Veterans with their experiences.”
Working with communities
Researchers are partnering with communities to provide a broad range of activities tailored to the interests of Veterans who are at high risk for suicide. These activities include engaging with Veterans or non-Veterans in the Chinese martial art tai chi or outdoor activities, such as fly fishing or playing music.
“We do not have good evidence that any one type of activity is more protective than another,” Chen says. “They’re worthwhile as long as folks develop a sense of belonging and feel like they’re giving back to others.”
The holiday block leave period is the time of year that bases empty out and most troops return home to spend time with family and friends. During the holidays, you might see more than a few service members back home. Here are 3 kinds of troops that you could see around town, and one that you won’t.
1. The war hero
“So no shit, there I was in the middle of hell. Guns firing everywhere, people shouting, my battle buddy crying next to me. That’s when he got hit. His MILES gear went off and I checked his casualty card. Lucky S.O.B. was D.O.A. He never even got reconstituted. He just sat at the rear and swiped on Tinder. Yup, JRTC at Fort Polk was one helluva deployment.” We’ve all seen it. This guy is still rocking his high and tight, a unit t-shirt, wearing his dogtags out, and probably has his jeans bloused too. Don’t bother confronting him. Just let him spin his war stories before he goes back to his squad leader who smokes him for losing his CAC on a daily basis.
2. The quiet professional
This one may be tough to spot, but with a keen eye, you might see one. Is that Garmin watch for land nav or are they just an avid outdoorsman? Their hair might be a grown-out medium fade or just a regular civilian cut. They’ve got some facial hair, but maybe they’ve grown it out on leave or they’re just operator like that. They’re very well-spoken and project confidence, but it’s hard to pinpoint if they’re a service member. But then it happens. The cashier was thinking the same thing as you and asks if they’re military. They humbly admit that they are and pull out their CAC. After all, it’s hard to turn down a military discount.
3. Are you even in the military?
If you can spot this one you should probably apply with National Geographic. This service member is probably near the end of their contract and is ETSing within the next few months. They’re likely a Terminal Lance or maybe a member of the E-4 mafia. Long scraggly hair, a generic hoodie and sweatpants. This person has one foot out the door and is trying to pretend that they’re all the way out. It doesn’t matter what kind of discount they are offered, they are not pulling out their CAC. After leave, they might not even show up to formation.
4. Staff duty
Well, someone has to do it. Whether they’re on duty as a punishment, had nothing better to do, or took a buddy’s shift in exchange for monetary compensation, this is one service member that you won’t see around town. You also won’t see the troops that decided to stay on base during the holidays and throw barracks parties. They’ll make sure that the folks on duty won’t have a silent night.
When the Navy called on women to volunteer for shore service during World War II to free up men for duty at sea, 102-year-old Melva Dolan Simon was among the first to raise her hand and take the oath.
“I went in so sailors could board ships and go do what they were supposed to be doing,” said Simon. She recalled her military service as “something different” in an era when women traditionally stayed home while men went off to war. “I helped sailors get on their way.”
Simon was the first woman in her hometown of Bridgeport, Pa., to join the WAVES, according to a yellowed clipping of a 1942 newspaper article. She was also among the first in the nation to join the service. It was just three months earlier, on July 30, 1942, that President Franklin D. Roosevelt had signed the law establishing the corps.
“I had a good job with the school, but I felt I would be doing more for my country by being in the service,” said Simon.
The seventh of 12 children, Simon said she chose the Navy because several of her brothers were already serving in the Army, Air Force, and Coast Guard.
WWII Navy WAVES Veteran Melva Dolan Simon’s service memorabilia includes her rank and insignia, photos and official documents.
“They were all enlisted, and I thought, well, what’s wrong with joining the Navy?” said Simon. “I decided I wanted to go, and I was accepted.”
“That’s where we learned the basics of the Navy,” said Simon. “We were trained to march, we studied hard, and they drilled into us how important what we were doing was.”
After completing basic, many of the WAVES trainees spent another 12 weeks at the college for advanced training in secretarial duties.
From Oklahoma, Simon was assigned to active duty at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, which during World War II employed 40,000, built 53 warships and repaired another 1,218. She and her fellow yeomen earned anywhere from to 5 in basic pay per month, depending on their rank, plus food and quarters allowance, unless provided by the Navy.
Simon lived on the all-female fourth floor of the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia. WAVES personnel were under strict orders not to visit any other floors of the hotel – an order Simon said she followed.
“I didn’t go on the other floors,” said Simon, sternly. “It was none of my business.”
Simon’s military responsibilities included taking dictation from the officer in charge, performing clerical duties and driving officers around the base.
“They gave me a driver’s license for the Navy, and I would drive these officers, sometimes just very short distances,” Simon said, smiling as she motioned from her seat at a dining room table to the far side of her kitchen. “I thought that was interesting because it would have done them some good if they’d just walked.”
Simon wrote letters home to her family at first, then sent her parents money to have a home phone installed. Simon said that home phones were a luxury at the time. Before they installed the phone, her family used a telephone at a nearby store to call her.
“I sent them money every payday to keep the phone bill paid,” Simon said. “It was much easier to call than to sit down and write, especially since I was writing all day at the office.”
The phone also allowed her future husband, Joseph “Joe” Simon, to keep in touch with her. The two had met at the high school where Joe Simon worked as an agriculture teacher, and he’d visit with her when she was home on leave. They married in July 1945, just a few weeks before Melva Simon received an honorable discharge from the Navy in August 1945.
WAVES standing in formation.
The couple purchased a 22-acre farm in 1947 in Mt. Pleasant Township, Pa., where they supplemented Joe’s teacher’s salary by growing and selling sweet corn.
“It sold like hot fire because it was good sweet corn,” Melva Simon said. “Then Joe planted apple trees, and that’s what we decided to do.”
The couple started an apple orchard — Simon’s Apple Orchard — that remains family-run today. The orchard opens its doors to customers every fall, offering everything from pure sweet cider still made using the Simons’ original recipe to bags of fresh McIntosh, Stayman, Rome, Jonathan, red and yellow delicious, and other apple varieties.
At the VA
Melva Simon worked the orchard alongside her husband, then took over when he died in 2004 at the age of 88. Still spry at 102, she drove tractors, harvested apples, made cider and worked the counter at a small shop on the property until just a few years ago.
Blessed with a lifetime of good health, Melva Simon only recently discovered she is eligible for health care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. With the help of her daughter, Melvajo Bennett, the World War II veteran has, since August, received care through VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Westmoreland County VA Outpatient Clinic.
“It didn’t dawn on her to go to the VA because she’s always had such good health and never really had to see the doctor,” said Bennett. “But they’ve been wonderful with how they are treating her.”
Asked for the secret to good health and a long life, Melva Simon gave a simple answer.
“There is no secret,” she said. “All it takes is simple living. I eat simple food. I don’t drink, and I don’t smoke.”
As for her military service, Melva Simon said she’d do it all over again.
“That was all I ever wanted to do, was to do something for the government and the country,” she said. “I’d do it again.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Just before New Year’s Eve 1973, NASA’s mission control center in Houston lost contact with the crew of Skylab 4. For 90 minutes, no one on the ground knew anything about what was happening in Earth’s orbit. The three crew members had been in space longer than any other humans before them. The astronauts were all in orbit for the first time.
All NASA knew is that the rookie astronauts had a tremendous workload but roughly similar to that of previous Skylab missions. They didn’t know that the crew had announced a strike and had stopped working altogether.
Skylab 4 Commander Gerald P. Carr, floating in Skylab.
The Skylab crew had been up in space for six weeks, working a particularly rigorous schedule. Since the cost of a days work in space was estimated to be million or more, there was little time to lose. NASA didn’t see the problem, since previous crews had worked the same workloads. The crew of the latest – and last – Skylab mission, however, had been there with a rigorous schedule for longer than anyone before.
Skylab missions were designed to go beyond the quick trips into space that had marked previous NASA missions. The astronauts were now trying to live in space and research ways to prevent the afflictions that affected previous astronauts who spent extended time in weightless orbit. Medical and scientific experiments dominated the schedules, which amounted to a 24-hour workday. On top of that, there was the cosmic research and spacewalks required to maintain the station.
NASA had purposely pushed the crew even harder than other missions when they fell behind, creating a stressful environment among the crew and animosity toward mission control. Mission control had become a dominating, stressful presence who only forced the crew to work excruciatingly long hours with little rest.
So after being fed up with having every hour of the stay in space scheduled, they decided to take a breather and cut contact with the ground. Some reports say they simply floated in the Skylab, watching the Earth from the windows. After the “mutiny” ended and communications were restored, the astronauts were allowed to complete their work on their own schedule, with less interference from below. They even got a reduced workload.
But none of the astronauts ever left the Earth again.
When the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook sailed into the Baltic Sea in April 2016, it had been more than two years since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.
Tensions between Russia and its NATO and European neighbors were still high, and the intervening period had seen a number of uncomfortable and even unsafe encounters between their forces, for which NATO often criticized Russia.
Adm. James Foggo, then a vice admiral in charge of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet, had those in mind as the Cook sailed into the Baltic.
“I had warned them going up there that as they passed through the Danish Straits and into the Baltic that they should be prepared for something like that and that the only way that the world would recognize that it happened is if they had a recording or a photograph,” Foggo, now commander of US Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa, said on the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings podcast.
A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very-low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
“So the commanding officer [of the Cook], Chuck Hampton, told me afterward, ‘Well, I had six combat cameramen on each bridge wing.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot,'” Foggo said.
“He goes, ‘Well, you told me if something happened I had to be prepared,'” Foggo added. “So that was part of their ‘man battle stations’ type drill for close-aboard contacts.”
Guided-missile destroyers like the Cook are the Navy’s premier air-defense platforms and are often tasked with guarding other ships, aircraft carriers in particular.
Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
‘Here comes this Russian hot dog’
The encounter with two Su-24 fighter jets, which took place about 80 nautical miles from the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, was one of two the US destroyer had on April 11 and 12, 2016.
On April 12, a Russian helicopter flew around the Cook seven times at low altitude in what the ship’s commander deemed “unsafe and unprofessional” passes.
A short time later, two Su-24s made 11 more close-range, low-altitude passes in what the Navy said was “a simulated attack profile.” The jets didn’t respond to safety advisories from the Cook, whose commander deemed several of their maneuvers “unsafe and unprofessional.”
The April 11 incident was especially dangerous because of what the Cook was doing and because of how the Russian pilot behaved.
A Russian Kamov KA-27 HELIX helicopter flies low-level passes near the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Baltic Sea, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
“What a lot of people don’t know is that at the time they were doing what we call a ‘hot-pump’ of a Polish aircraft that was doing deck landing [qualifications],” Foggo said.
“So the Polish helicopter had landed and was being refueled while the rotors were turning, and here comes this Russian hot dog in his jet, doing several hundred knots, and the distance between wingtip and the deck of Donald Cook was about 30 feet,” Foggo added.
That was the closest of the 20 passes the Russian jets made that day, according to US officials, who said the Russians flew so close they created wakes in the water and that it was among the “most aggressive” Russian acts in some time.
A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
The fly-by that took place during the refueling was deemed unsafe by the Cook’s commanding officer, and the ship suspended flight operations until the Su-24s left the area.
“I asked Gen. [Philip] Breedlove and Gen. [Frank] Goranc … ‘would you ever fly your F-16 that close to a moving platform like Donald Cook?'” Foggo said.
“And they said, ‘No way, if the guy sneezed he might have buried his wing into the Donald Cook,'” Foggo added. “Now what would’ve happened then? We’d be explaining that this was a pilot error and not a shoot-down of that aircraft.”
Breedlove and Goranc are retired Air Force generals and fighter pilots who both led US Air Forces in Europe and Africa; Breedlove was also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command.
Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft make multiple low-level passes over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
‘Wings clean’ vs. ‘wings dirty’
Encounters between NATO ships and aircraft and their Russian counterparts increased after the seizure of Crimea. US forces involved frequently deemed those encounters “unsafe.”
In years prior, “the Russians would typically fly with what we call a ‘wings clean’ configuration, which is no weapons on the wings,” Foggo said on the podcast. “Now in the interactions and the intercepts I see today, they’re coming out ‘wings dirty,’ or they have weapons on board.”
“That’s another bit of the calculus that goes in the commanding officer’s mind on … what is the intent of that pilot, and at what point is [the commanding officer] obliged to defend his ship under defensive rules of engagement,” Foggo said.
Foggo didn’t elaborate on those rules of engagement, but a European Command spokesman told Navy Times at the time that the Cook’s commanding officer didn’t feel threatened, and a retired Navy commanding officer said that, under the circumstances, the Russian aircraft didn’t present a credible threat.
Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
Encounters at sea still happen but are less frequent, Foggo said.
“I don’t have as many negative interactions … between Russian Federation navy and US or NATO assets,” he said. “They tend to act very professionally. It’s mostly in the air with intercepts, and those could possibly be due to different pilots … is it an air force guy in the cockpit or a navy guy? It depends, and every situation is different.”
US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO’s current Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command, said this summer that encounters had decreased and that “unsafe” intercepts had “diminished tremendously.”
“What I can assure this audience is that well over 99% of the intercepts that occur in the air are actually safe,” Wolters said at an event in Brussels in June. “In many of the cases where they’re unsafe, when you take a look at the experience level of the operators that were involved, it typically turns into a young man or woman that was probably just hot-dogging it a little bit more than they should.”
“For every one intercept that a Russian aviator commits against a NATO aircraft, we actually have three NATO intercepts” of Russian aircraft, Wolters added, according to Military Times. “That gives you a little bit of a feel for the readiness disposition of your NATO force.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States Military must keep its troops in the best possible shape to fight and win America’s wars. This is made evident by the rigorous physical training schedule that many troops adhere to every single morning. Not a day goes by where an entire formation of infantrymen isn’t collectively breaking a sweat before most civilians wake up.
But the military can’t have absolute control over the lives and overall physical health of every single troop in formation. Uncle Sam can’t spend time preparing and serving your each and every meal, and he certainly can’t make sure you’re not cheating on each and every push-up. For the most part, however, things tend to work out. Sure, troops will enjoy a bit of pizza, beer, and junk food, but since they’re constantly working their asses off, a little indulgence isn’t going to hurt overall combat readiness.
To make sure that nobody slips through the cracks, the Department of Defense established and enforces height and weight standards. They’ve used the standard “tape test” for measuring these standards, but they’re finally eyeing its replacement — and that change can’t come fast enough .
Remedial PT is just like morning PT except the NCO leading it either broke weight themselves or is some salty NCO that’s been forced into leading it.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marnie Jacobowitz)
Generally speaking, the tape test is a fine gauge of someone’s maximum allowable weight in relation to the troop’s height. If they weigh more than their height allows, senior NCOs have to bring out a tape to measure their waist size relative to their neck size. The idea here is that if you’re heavier because of muscle (and not just fat), then your neck muscles will reflect that, and you’ll be on with your day.
If the troop does weigh more than their height allows and their belly is disproportionately large for their neck size, then the hammer comes down. This means instantly flagging them for positive actions, like schools, awards, or leave, and they’re sent to do remedial PT after the duty day has ended.
Even the height test can be screwy if the person grading it decides to “wing it” or the weight is “adjusted for clothes.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jourdain Yardan)
Now, it’s that not the tape test is inherently a bad way to gauge the health of the troops. In some cases, it’s a perfectly fine measurement. Unfortunately, this test is the end all, be all for determining if someone is fat. It’s a highly flawed system (and everyone knows it’s flawed) that is taken as gospel.
For instance, many troops can attest to seeing soldiers who have scored 300s on their PT test “bust” tape and then get sent for remedial PT — why? Because they’re under 5’10” and didn’t focus on their traps at the gym. On the other side of that token, troops could point fingers at troops built like Shrek, but they’re tall enough that their weight doesn’t even become a factor.
Additionally, when it comes to administering the tape test, there’s just too much room for error. The heights and weights recorded may be empirical measurements, but taking those measurements isn’t a hard science. For example, whoever’s recording those measurements might turn a blind eye as their buddy sucks in their gut. Now, the guy who pulled in their belly gets a passing grade while the bodybuilder who spent too little time working on their traps won’t be able to take leave and may possibly get chaptered out of the military.
Thankfully, there are better solutions out there. Body mass index scales are getting more and more accurate and less expensive. Water displacement tests can now be found on most installations.
But, honestly, one of the most useful tools here is common sense. If you can look at a troop and their PT scores and see that they’re well beyond most other troops, don’t ruin their career with an antiquated test.
Six years ago, Austin, Texas, dad Eric Scott had a good job in fundraising and arts event production. He loved the work, but it was a stressful, demanding job that regularly required him to put in 15- to 18-hour days. One day, Scott came home to his then six-year-old daughter. She looked at him very matter-of-factly and said, “Some days it’s like you’re not my Daddy.”
“She didn’t mean to be cruel,” says Scott. “She was just sharing her observation, as children sometimes so brutally do.” But Scott was devastated; the next day, he started looking for a new job.
Working long, demanding hours can affect a parent’s ability to, well, parent. But getting an accurate picture of how a parent’s work life affects kids’ health might be more complex — and the effects could be physical in addition to emotional, new research suggests.
According to a new study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, parents in high-stress jobs in which they had “low autonomy” – meaning they didn’t have freedom to make decisions about how they do their jobs – tended to have children who felt less healthy.
(Flickr photo by mrhayata)
The researchers solicited self-reported data from Nigerian kids, mostly 13 to 15 years old, and their parents. It didn’t matter whether the parents made a lot of money or very little, the authors wrote. The strongest correlation was between parents who had demanding jobs with little freedom and kids who most identified with statements such as “My health is worse now than it was last year” and “Sometimes I feel like my health keeps me from doing something I want to do.”
It takes more resources to regulate behavior in demanding, low-autonomy jobs, says co-lead author Christiane Spitzmueller, Ph.D., professor of industrial organizational psychology at the University of Houston. If someone’s job depletes those resources, Spitzmueller says, they’re less able to engage in behavior that requires “sustained effort,” such as parenting.
“Generally, there’s a relationship where the more work stressthere is, the more likely there is to be work-family conflict, where you feel like work is negatively impacting your family,” Spitzmueller says. “Parents who feel depleted tend to want to plop on the couch after work and not do anything active or try to steward kids to engage in positive behaviors.”
Positive behaviors include cooking a meal together, going for a walk, or working on a game or puzzle, she says. Problems can arise, on the other hand, with “passive parenting”: Bringing home take-out or staring at a phone while the kid is entertained by the TV or an iPad doesn’t allow for the kind of engagement that tends to enrich kids.
Psychologists have been studying the effects of parental stress on kids’ mental health for several decades. Studies have linked fathers’ behavior with emotional problems in their children; another study published in 2007 found that marital stress affected teens’ emotional development; and a study of low-income families published the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychologyin 2008 concluded that boys with depressed mothers were more prone to antisocial behavior such as aggression.
(Flickr photo by Vincent Albanese)
But researchers are just starting to explore how parental stress might affect kids’ physical health, too. In another new study, German researchers concluded that stressed mothers were more likely to have infants that were obese. Work demands more of people than it ever did before. The majority of modern workers pull longer hours than ever before and the boundaries between the office and home become more blurry by the day, making it harder to disconnect from the demands of a job. As stress from work bleeds into home life, it’s no wonder a correlation is forming.
At this point, however, it’s probably too soon for parents to begin worrying that their stressful job might make kids sick.
“Could I imagine that, depending on how a child’s treated by a parent on a regular basis, it could have an impact on the child’s health? Sure,” says Matt Traube, MFT, a psychotherapist in San Luis Obispo, California. “But it’s a tricky thing to measure because there are so many factors mitigating how people deal with stress. At this point I would just say, ‘It’s a neat idea — how do we further study it?'”
Although there’s been a trove of published research about stress, the effects of autonomy are less understood, Traube says. “When people feel they don’t have control, that has historically been tied to dissatisfaction at work.”
Feeling as though someone doesn’t have a sense of agency at work can be draining and emotionally exhausting, he continues. “It can affect your self-esteem and start to shape how you view yourself as a parent.”
Another, perhaps simpler, way to look at it is in terms of value rather than autonomy, says Tom Kearns, LMSW, a counselor in New York City and the mental health advisor for the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Flickr photo by whereugotthat)
“If he’s in a workplace where he feels valued, that has a positive impact on his ability to connect and relate to and have patience with his child,” Kearns says. “But if he’s overlooked at meetings, or not included in a meeting or lunch with co-workers, it can make him feel not a part of something, and that can make him feel isolated.”
A father might compensate for the frustration he feels at his job ruling his kids with a heavier hand at home, putting strict and less healthy demands on them to create a sort of “value” for himself, Kearns adds. Feeling isolated also can make dads withdraw at home.
“Even if he’s present, he might not engage with the child if he’s not feeling valued himself,” Kearns says. “The child picks up on this, and it has the effect of the kid longing for something that’s not there. Or the kid might think he or she is to blame for the father not being more attentive.”
So, it might sound, at this point, like an impossibility to hold down a challenging, stimulating job without screwing up your child for life. It’s not. It does, however, require that people take stock of how their career might be affecting their kids and that they make sure to take care of themselves, too.
“Knowing when to focus on your job or your family, and how to deal with the rejected party gracefully, may be the essence of being a working parent,” says Scott, who still works in the nonprofit sector but now as a marketing director with less intense hours. “And it’s easy to place the blame for this on your job or your employer, but I think parents have to take ownership of our part in this.”
Scott points out that sometimes it’s just easier to deal with work than to deal with your kids, although parents might tell themselves that they “have to” answer that email, for example, or put in another hour of work after dinner.
“Your work is straightforward: You have defined responsibilities and expectations, and, usually, you can evaluate your success easily,” says Scott. “You have a level of control that you simply do not have with parenting. Parenting can be a total mind scramble, where success can look like failure and vice-versa, and I think some people retreat into their work as an escape.”
If a parent’s job is unfulfilling for whatever reason, they might want to move on like Scott did. But if they’re stuck for the moment and feeling undervalued at their job, they do have to check that before they walk through the door to make sure that when they’re home, they’re in a good space for their child, Kearns says.
(Flickr photo by J E Theriot)
Self-awareness, per Kearns, is key. “Also ask yourself, How does this connect historically into my family? and Am I doing the kinds of things I saw my father do when he came home from work?” he suggests. Without some reflection and awareness, people tend to repeat negative patterns of behavior even when they don’t want to.
Of course, most parents want to be engaged as much as they’re able. But it’s impossible to be the perfect “on” parent all the time.
Although he overhauled his career to make sure he was more present for his daughter, Scott says he still carves out some me-time. “I cut myself some slack. I’d rather my kids have a father who is overall happy than one who is terrified to let them watch TV for an hour while daddy drinks a beer on the porch to decompress.”
Traube, who is a father of one with another on the way, agrees that creating a support system and figuring out what a parents can do to take care of themselves — whether it’s calling a friend and talking during their commute, meditating, negotiating an earlier work start time so they can leave earlier or letting their family know that taking a breather to walk the dog is the first thing they do when they get home — is essential for parents.
“It’s like putting on your oxygen mask first on an airplane before putting one on your child,” Traube says. “You do need to do self-care to be a good parent.”
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
We all know Stone Cold Steve Austin from his years when he was the face of World Wrestling Entertainment. “The Texas Rattlesnake” was one of the toughest, most badass wrestlers who left an indelible mark in the ring — both on TV and on the silver screen. Recently, we got to see Stone Cold sit down with some gentlemen who exhibited an entirely different type of toughness and heroism. By partnering up with Wargaming, the company responsible for the hit game World of Tanks, Austin recently sat down to interview three World War II tankers about their experiences. Their stories are powerful, harrowing, and heartbreaking.
The second veteran interviewed is Clarence Smoyer.
Clarence Smoyer served in the 32nd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division. Hailing from Pennsylvania, Smoyer served as a gunner during World War II. On D-Day, he landed on Omaha Beach. He recounted that, by the time he landed on the beach, things were already under control — but that control didn’t extend far inland. Moving forward, he rapidly found himself in the thick of it.
Smoyer would load his tank’s gun fast and often get blistered up badly as a result. He recalls that once, he went to medical to get the blisters treated and, on the way back, heard a mortar coming in. He ran and took cover just as it exploded nearby. A piece of shrapnel ripped his nose up, but Smoyer didn’t want to go back to medical because, “I was afraid I’d get hit by another mortar,” so he soldiered on.
Austin asks Smoyer if his tank ever got hit. Smoyer tells us that his tank got hit with an armor piercing shell and it took a chunk out of the tank. If it had been six inches over, it would have gone through his telescopic sight and he would have died. It’s a harrowing thought.
(Photo Courtesy of Clarence Smoyer)
In one of the most heart-wrenching accounts of losing a buddy, Smoyer relates a story about losing his tank commander who was also his best friend. When one of the open-top vehicles was hit, his friend ran toward them to assist — despite Smoyer’s warnings. “He always ran to help someone if they were in need.” Just before he reached the vehicle, he was killed instantly by two mortar shells as Smoyer watched in horror.
Smoyer’s stories are so powerful, in fact, that they’re the subject of a New York Times bestselling book, Spearhead, which is a great read if you’re looking for all the gritty details.
Austin asks Smoyer to recount the first time he took on a German tank. Smoyer tracked down a tank, but it backed off behind a building. Smoyer shot through the building and hit a pillar which caused the building to collapse. Smoyer learned later the building collapsed on the tank and put it out of actions. Years later, on his return to Europe, he met one of the occupants of the German tank after they fished him out from under the building’s rubble. “I hesitated, I didn’t know how he was going to feel about me. After all I dropped a building on him.” The meeting went well, and they shook hands. Smoyer told him, “The war is over now, we can be friends.”
To continue the Tank action, be sure to check out World of Tanks on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One today. Through the World of Tanks Tanker Rewards program, Wargaming offers tons of benefits and exclusive rewards both in-game and in person for all registered players. Be a part of our current WWE season and get endless opportunities to claim WWE and Tanker rewards. To learn more about the program, click here.
Carlos Ghosn has expressed interest in making a movie about his life before, from meeting with “Birdman” producer John Lesher to being at the center of rumors he was working with Netflix (which the streaming service denies).
Now, Hollywood may be even more interested in the ousted Nissan CEO, now that he’s pulled off an unbelievable escape from 24-hour surveillance on house arrest in Japan to living lavishly in Lebanon.
In a new interview with CBS News, Ghosn said Hollywood had reached out to him about his life story, and responded “Why not?” when asked if he could see a project happening.
Former Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn on escape from Japan: “I fled injustice”
He also answered “no comment” when asked about whether his daring escape on December 29 involved any Americans, or if he really stuffed himself into a box used for concert equipment with breathing holes cut in the bottom so that he could ride a private jet out of Japan without detection.
Ghosn described the risks he took when escaping from 24-hour surveillance in Japan, but didn’t elaborate on how he did it
Ghosn also told CBS News that he planned his escape himself, which was rumored to involve 15 people – including a former US Green Beret – and cost millions. For the first leg of his escape, Ghosn boarded a bullet train undetected for a 3-hour trip to the Osaka airport.
“I knew that, if I was putting people around me in the loop, not only they were taking a risk, but also the risk of any slippage, any rumor, any leak, would be very high, and they would kill any project like this. So, I had to work by myself only with people who are going to operate, you know? There was nobody else. This was a condition.”
The fugitive, who described himself specifically as a “fugitive from injustice,” says he’s the only person who knows all the details about what really happened.
Carlos Ghosn at Nissan’s Honmoku Wharf, a logistics hub about 10 km southeast of Nissan’s global headquarters in Yokohama, July 2011
(Photo by Bertel Schmitt)
In the late ’90s, Ghosn helped pull Nissan back from the brink of bankruptcy. But other Nissan executives accused him of not disclosing how much he was taking out of the company as profits began to suffer in 2018, and Ghosn was arrested in Japan and charged with financial wrongdoing.
He has claimed he’s innocent of all charges and needed to escape from Japan, where there is a 99% conviction rate. At Japan’s request, Interpol issued a “Red Notice” for Ghosn and his wife Carole, which doesn’t require Lebanon to arrest him but is a request to law enforcement worldwide that they locate and arrest a fugitive.
“I don’t feel bad about it, because the way I’ve been treated, and the way I was looking at the system, frankly, I don’t feel any guilt,” Ghosn told CBS News. The Lebanese government has restricted him from leaving the country, but he is now believed to be residing in a million mansion.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Marines and sailors of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit are concluding their 2019 deployment this week, just in time for Thanksgiving.
Departing in waves from the three ships of the Boxer Amphibious Ready Group, the 11th MEU conducted an amphibious landing aboard Camp Pendleton, California, and aircraft landings at Miramar, California, and Yuma, Arizona.
At each site, Marines and sailors were greeted by family members and welcomed home after seven months away.
During the deployment, the Boxer ARG and 11th MEU spent time in the U.S. 7th Fleet and U.S. 5th Fleet areas of operations, and conducted training in Kuwait, Jordan, Djibouti, Brunei, the Philippines, and Malaysia.
Families and friends of Marines with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), await their loved ones at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Nov. 25, 2019.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jaime Reyes)
“We have traveled a long way and the Marines and sailors of the 11th MEU have risen to every challenge. They have built important partnerships and have been ready to help, ready to respond, and ready to fight if necessary,” said Col. Fridrik Fridriksson, commanding officer of the 11th MEU. “I am incredibly proud of each and every Marine and sailor in the ARG/MEU team.”
11th MEU consists of the command element; the aviation combat element comprised of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163 (Reinforced); the ground combat element comprised of Battalion Landing Team 3/5; and the logistics combat element comprised of Combat Logistics Battalion 11.
Boxer ARG is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4), San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock USS John P Murtha (LPD 26), and Harpers Ferry-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49).
The ARG/MEU departed their home port of San Diego and began their deployment May 1, 2019.