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.
If you haven’t heard, the generous folks at Amazon are celebrating Veterans Day with the best discount ever: $40 off your Amazon Prime membership. For those of you doing the math at home, that’s 32% off. Free two-day shipping (and sometimes one-day shipping and in some locations, even same-day shipping) on all your favorite things like paper towels, and furniture, and clothes and, well, everything, should be enough to entice you to take advantage of this incredible deal.
Turns out, there’s more to Amazon Prime than just free shipping. Here are 6 other benefits to this incredible service. Alexa, sign me up.
If you are a Prime member, you can set up Amazon Household. You can add one other adult and up to four teenagers and four children on your Prime Household. That means everyone gets to take advantage of the awesome perks. Here’s how to create your Household.
Through Household, your teens can shop til they drop without actually spending any money. That’s right: you have approval powers. We both know a trip to the mall with the fire-monster that is your 15-year-old daughter will be an entree of eye-rolling served with a side of teenage angst. Skip the dressing room battles and let that person who used to love you pick out her own damn clothes. And then veto and approve with the judicious powers that only a mother or father could have and love.
So your teenager has picked out eight pairs of jeans, and you’re going to let her keep one. With Prime Wardrobe, she can try all of them before she buys.
Mandatory fun coming up? Order all the dresses or pants in the land without spending a dime. Yep, order up to eight items at a time, only pay for what you keep, and the returns are free and easy. And you never have to leave your house.
With more than two million songs and curated playlists, listening to your favorite tunes just got easier. Download the Amazon music app and listen offline.
Set your shopping guilt aside and tell yourself that you’re doing it for a good cause with AmazonSmile.
“AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. You can choose from over one million organizations to support.”
See, shopping for yourself is a good thing.
Jack Ryan isn’t going to watch itself. Neither will the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the entire Suits series, countless Disney movies, or thousands of other shows, all included with your Prime membership. Best part? With the app you can download all of these to watch offline. Alexa, book me a cross-country flight.
More of a binge-reader than a binge-watcher? Good on ya. Prime has something for you, too. Prime Books gives you access to thousands of books that you can read on your Kindle (or through the Kindle app if you don’t have a separate device). You is smart.
There are countless benefits to having an Amazon Prime account. Take advantage of this weekend’s discount and live your best life, one Prime perk at a time.
U.S. Marines with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldiers conducted military working dog detection training exercises at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Nov. 21, 2019.
JMSDF MWD handlers visit MCAS Iwakuni quarterly for training. The purpose of the training is to give them the opportunity to train their dogs with U.S. Marine Corps training aids, use different facilities on the air station and share knowledge between the two different services regarding MWDs.
“Training with the JMSDF is a great experience for everybody,” said U.S. Marine Corps 1st Lt. Justin Weaver, operations officer of the Provost Marshal Office. “They learn from us and we learn from them.”
U.S. Marine Corps military working dog with Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force soldier conduct military working dog detection training at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Nov. 20, 2019.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Triton Lai)
The PMO military working dogs train almost four hours every day depending on the specifics of the working dog. They train for real life scenarios, patrolling, odor detection, and to increase physical fitness.
“Our K-9 units perform very well,” said Weaver. “They are in charge of every kind of customs sweep that comes through for every event.”
Weaver said that in the future, there may be the opportunity for PMO Marines from MCAS Iwakuni to use JMSDF facilities for more bilateral exercises and to further build their relationship with JMSDF.
As a veteran, you might experience difficult life events or challenges after leaving the military. We’re here to help no matter how big or small the problem may be. VA’s resources address the unique stressors and experiences that veterans face — and we’re just a click, call, text, or chat away.
Seven mental health resources veterans can use right now:
Make the Connection is an online resource designed to connect veterans, their family members, friends and other supporters with information and solutions to issues affecting their lives. On the website, visitors can watch hundreds of veterans share their stories of strength and recovery, read about a variety of life events and mental health topics, and locate nearby resources.
3. Veterans Crisis Line.
The Veterans Crisis Line connects veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring VA responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, and text messaging service. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
4. Vet Centers.
Vet Centersprovide community-based counseling for a wide range of social and psychological services, including confidential readjustment counseling, outreach and referral to eligible veterans, active duty service members, including National Guard and Reserve components and their families. It offers individual, group, marriage and family counseling. And you can get a referral and connection to other VA or community benefits and services at no cost. Vet Center counselors and outreach staff, many of whom are veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief and transition after trauma.
SFC William Petit hugs his children at a deployment ceremony for the HHD 210th Military Police Battalion, Michigan Army National Guard.
( MIARNG photo by Staff Sgt Helen Miller)
5. Coaching Into Care.
Coaching Into Care provides guidance to veterans’ family members and friends on encouraging a veteran they care about to reach out for mental health support. Free, confidential assistance is available by calling 1-888-823-7458, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday, or by emailing CoachingIntoCare@va.gov.
6. Veteran Training online self-help portal.
The Veteran Training online self-help portal provides tools for overcoming everyday challenges. The portal has tools to help veterans work on problem-solving skills, manage anger, develop parenting skills, and more. All tools are free. Its use is entirely anonymous, and they are based on mental health practices that have proven successful with veterans and their families.
AboutFace features stories of veterans who have experienced PTSD, their family members, and VA clinicians. There, you can learn about PTSD, explore treatment options, and get advice from others who have been there.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
An enlisted leader is proving the Coast Guard’s reach extends far beyond America’s coastlines.
Bahrain is the epicenter of the Combined Maritime Forces — a partnership comprised of 33 different nations dedicated to combating terrorism and piracy, while promoting maritime safety. Command Master Chief Lucas Pullen, the first Coast Guard member to hold a senior enlisted leadership role for a coalition force, serves as its liaison. The decision to put him in that position instead of a sailor was done purposefully, he says.
Since the CMF operates as a part of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, a coastie brings objectivity, Pullen explained. In the midst of extensive Navy operations, him being in the Coast Guard more clearly defines his position and role.
“With this there are no blurred lines on who does what, I am able to specifically make sure things are working for the coalition side of things,” Pullen said.
The Oklahoma-native enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1998 to become a Boatswain’s Mate, a rating that is the operational core of almost every mission. After completing basic training, he was assigned to Small Boat Station South Padre Island, Texas, according to his official biography. As an operator, he gained experience “in maritime law enforcement to include fisheries, counter-narcotics, and counter-migrant operations, as well as search and rescue, and maritime security operations.”
Pullen’s extensive 22-year Coast Guard career prepared him for his new role as the senior enlisted leader of the CMF. He now works directly with senior military leaders from the multi-national partnership to promote security and stability across 3.2 million square miles of international waters.
“As a command master chief, one of my main jobs is the people and their families,” he said.
Working directly with members of the coalition has been an incredible experience, Pullen added. He described a typical day as starting with sharing Arabic coffee with a Kuwaiti leader and ending with tea and scones with the British. He loves the diversity and continuous ability to learn from the other nations’ military leaders, he said, also expressing his position in Bahrain will serve him well for further Coast Guard positions, although none will probably be as unique and involved.
Prior to Bahrain, the Pullen family was stationed in Guam — a duty station the kids did not want to leave. Marcy Pullen, who has moved 10 times with her husband, didn’t initially think she and the couple’s children would be eligible to PCS to Bahrain. It is typically an unaccompanied tour but a waiver changed that.
Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.
“I didn’t hesitate, I said let’s go,” she said.
Her husband praised his family’s resiliency and strength. Their oldest son, Tucker, is 17 and about to start college. If he attends the same college all four years, it’ll be the longest he’s ever lived anywhere.
Adjusting to life in Bahrain has included a unique set of experiences for the family, due to the political influence, culture, and customs. Seated to their left could be a fellow military kid while on their right, a Saudi Arabian royal.
Sixteen-year-old Cheyenne shared her struggle with not being able to just go explore or do things independently off base because it isn’t safe, especially for girls. Bahrain is a very conservative country where most women are either hidden or extensively covered when in public. But Levi, 13, also says there’s some good to being a military kid in Bahrain.
“I loved getting to do new things like learning how to play cricket with the Australian military kids. You get all of these amazing experiences that are out of the way and interesting,” he said.
All of the kids did agree on one thing: the food is amazing. One of their favorite things to eat is Baklava, a sweet dessert dish made with nuts and honey.
Pullen also credits the Coast Guard with preparing his family for such a unique assignment in the Middle East.
“Our quality of life thought process is very different from the other branches. I think we are very resilient as a service because we go into these remote locations without big military bases. We pick up all the military challenges without the resources there to support us,” he explained.
Marcy Pullen echoes his sentiment, reflecting on how hard it was as a new Coast Guard spouse and mom. She takes those lessons and experiences with her, using what she’s learned to help all military families who may be struggling to adjust to life in Bahrain.
Lucas and Mary Pullen Photo courtesy of Candice Baker.
With one year left in Bahrain, travel remains high at the top of their bucket list — though COVID-19 and tensions overseas have heavily restricted movement. As the Pullen family reflected on their journey, they agreed each move has brought new lessons and memories. They eagerly anticipate their next Coast Guard adventure that can take them anywhere.
New guidance from the Pentagon lays out a series of special pays and allowances for military members who are dealing with coronavirus response, quarantined after contracting the virus or separated from their families due to permanent change-of-station changes.
The guidance, issued Thursday evening, includes a new cash allowance for troops ordered to quarantine after exposure to the virus.
The new pay, known as Hardship Duty Pay-Restriction of Movement (HDP-ROM), helps troops who are ordered to self-isolate, but are unable to do so at home or in government-provided quarters, to cover the cost of lodging, according to the guidance. Service members can receive 0 a day for up to 15 days each month if they meet the requirements, the guidance states.
“HDP-ROM is a newly-authorized pay that compensates service members for the hardship associated with being ordered to self-monitor in isolation,” a fact sheet issued with the guidance states. “HDP-ROM may only be paid in the case where your commander (in conjunction with military or civilian health care providers) determines that you are required to self-monitor and orders you to do so away from your existing residence at a location not provided by or funded by the government.”
For example, if a single service member who otherwise lives in the barracks is ordered to self-isolate, but no other on-base housing is available, he or she could get a hotel room instead, and use the allowance to cover the cost, the policy says.
Service members will not be required to turn in receipts to receive the allowance, it adds, and commanders will be required to authorize it. The payment is given instead of per diem, according to the fact sheet.
Service members who receive Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) but who are ordered into self-isolation in government-provided quarters will continue to receive BAH or overseas housing allowances (OHA) at their normal rates, it states.
Additionally, a Family Separation Housing Allowance (FSH) may be available for families whose military move was split by the stop-movement order, the guidance states. That payment allows the family to receive two BAH allotments — one at the “with dependents” rate and one at the “without dependents rate” — to cover the cost of multiple housing locations. Service members may also qualify for a 0 per-month family separation allowance if blocked from returning to the same duty station as their family due to self-isolation orders or the stop-movement, it states.
The guidance also instructs commanders to “apply leave and liberty policies liberally,” allowing non-chargeable convalescent leave for virus-related exposure, self-isolation or even caring for a sick family member, the guidance states. It also directs them to allow telework whenever possible.
“Commanders have broad authority to exercise sound judgment in all cases, and this guidance describes available authority and flexibility that can be applied to promote, rather than to restrict, possible solutions,” the policy states.
A separate policy issued March 18 allows extended per diem payments to service members or families in the process of moving who are without housing due to lease terminations or home sales.
Master Sergeant George Hand US Army (ret) was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, The Delta Force. He is now a master photographer, cartoonist, and storyteller.
Being the unit’s cartoonist is an incredible responsibility. For one, you have to decide what will live on in the annals of history and two, you have to find stories that are funny. A gift that has come to me throughout my life. Yes but a gift… or a curse?
I was approached on so, so many occasions by a chuckling brother to the effect: “Geo! ha ha ha, hey listen, ha ha ha, how ’bout you do a cartoon of Bob spilling his juice in the chow hall and all the guys are saying, like: ‘awww man… you spilled your juice!” ha ha ha ha ha ha!!”
The inherent humor in Bob spilling his juice is debatable at best, but let’s say for the sake of argument that it’s there. The narrative of the man’s snappy comeback… not so funny. I had two choices in the matter strictly from my perspective:
1. Let the man down gently: “Man, I’m really sorry, but that scenario just doesn’t pass the acid test, my brother. Look, it has nothing to do with you personally; it’s really just a business decision, a very difficult business decision. I got mad love for you my brother, but I have a reputation to maintain here in the Unit. I’m sorry, but my hands are tied.”
2. Freakish exaggerations are the very core of the power of the cartoon. I can take the pallid tale of Bob spilling of his juice coupled with the vapid remarks from the men and wildly exaggerate the whole scenario to make it so ridiculous as to be funny.
I can show a dozen men being washed out of the chow hall door by a flood of red liquid (Bob’s juice), with men donned in various levels of gear associated with waterborne operations and perhaps one man yelling: “Hey, do we get paid dive credit this month for this?!?
Not really funny? I feel you, dawg. There isn’t a set “formula” for hilarity, but two variables that help are mistakes and commanding officers. The poor Commanding Officer of our squadron had been out on the flat range one day with a new assault rifle in an effort to adjust his gun sites for accuracy. In some cases, new gun sites can be wildly off the bull’s eye.
(Outdoor shooting flat range where the distance to the target is Known Distance, or KD)
His first mistake, well… his ONLY mistake, was to guest himself onto a range where the boys were already conducting *Blaze Ops. There are always those occasional line-walkers that feel the urge to stroll the target line to see how those around them fair in accuracy. Well, a brother noted that the boss’ cupboard was bare; he had slick paper with no bullet impacts on it. The launch sequence was initiated; the man couldn’t get to me fast enough to tell me all about how the boss himself had flown all of his rounds off his target:
“Ha, ha ha… Geo, you could show — ha, ha, ha, — the boss with a clean target — ha, ha, ha, — and the guys could all be saying, like, ‘Hey there boss… it looks like you missed your target!’ — ha, ha, ha!”
“Yeah, man… that’s a total riot — I’ll get right to work on that.”
Hence the morass (morass is what you use when you don’t have enough ass). I didn’t think it was necessarily funny that the boss had rounds off paper, but if anyone else had done that his chops would have been busted. I couldn’t let the boss off the hook so easily. I ginned up ideas that came to mind.
What is generally said to a person who launches with poor accuracy whether it a gun or a rock or a baseball? One of my more obscure phrases is: “He couldn’t hit a bull in the butt with a bass fiddle,” said during WWII of the inaccurate pilot of a dive bomber.
(American SBD Dauntless dive bomber. It was this same bomber that sank all fourJapanese aircraft carriers during the pivotal battle of Midway.)
Ok then: “He couldn’t hit the side of a barn.” That nicely anchored the theme: Everyone’s target is the usual half man-sized cardboard target on a plank, with the boss’ target being an entire barn facing sideways… silo and hay loft… the nine yards. Then I added a Range Safety Officer in the parapet calling out the disposition of the bullet strikes to the men at the firing line.
It was a done deal. All that was left was to jones over that future moment when the boss and I would inevitably pass each other in the hall, just he and I… awkward!
FOX News Journalist Abby Hornacek is no stranger to the outdoors. Growing up in a family of athletes, she’s now brought her love for fitness and travel to the FOX Nation series, Park’d.
In 2020, disabled military veterans received one of the best benefits of service the country could give them: free access to the most breathtaking sights in the country they served.
A partnership between the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation allows veterans with a service-connected disability an Access Pass that allows for free entry and discounts on park amenities.
There are so many reasons why this is an incredible benefit for America’s disabled veterans (and Gold Star Families, by the way). On Park’d, you can see FOX’s Abby Hornacek hike, surf and RV across the country in the most stunning national parks, but here are a few she’s visited everyone should see for themselves.
1. Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Nowhere else in America – perhaps on Earth – will nature lovers see a more stunning, otherworldly sight than Canyonland National Park. One of two national parks in the Moab area of Utah, Canyonland National Park is a park filled with dozens of the outdoor enthusiast’s must-do and must-see lists.
From Grand View Point, visitors can see much of the park’s painted, jaw-dropping landscape in all its technicolor glory. The Mesa Arch is probably its most famous landmark, and with one look, visitors will see why. Canyoneering and camping is a must for any visitor, but the thrill seeker can watch Abby Honacek rappel a 120-foot drop into the park’s “Medieval Chamber” and consider taking the challenge.
2. Acadia National Park, Maine
Maine’s Acadia National Park isn’t just a sight to see for so-called “leafers” looking for explosions of color among the fall foliage. It’s called the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast” for a reason. Hiking in Acadia means literal cliff walks, offering a full panoramic view of the Maine coastline and the beautiful forests below. You may even get a glimpse of the majestic Peregrine Falcons that call Acadia home.
When Abby Hornacek visited Acadia National Park for FOX Nation’s “Park’d,” she was able to take in the full grandeur of the park’s vastness by gliding far above the treetops. The park is so vast, in fact, that reaching some of its outlying islands could take a full day’s boat ride. Hornacek and company got in some good lobstering along the way.
3. Channel Islands National Park, California
From the Atlantic Coast to the Pacific Coast, Abby Hornacek took in Channel Islands National Park, south from the coast of Santa Barbara. In true California style, she took in some of the best waves on the West Coast, surfing in the cool Pacific waters off the “Galapagos of North America. A visit to Channel Islands National Park is an experience in one of the most ecologically diverse places on the continent.
Kayaking across Santa Cruz island, she was able to experience the California coast as it was when untouched by human contact. Kayakers and hikers to any of the five Channel Islands will have an opportunity to see green peaks, pristine coastlines and an intense array of wildlife, from sea lions and island foxes to the American Bald Eagle.
4. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Visitors without a lot of time to explore Mesa Verde’s 5,000 natural wonders and 600 Native American cliff dwellings can still have an amazing experience inside the park’s 52,000 acres. Abby Hornacek explored as much as possible through a zipline excursion, which gave her a panoramic view of the park and its deep canyons.
For a more up-close and personal view of the vistas of Mesa Verde, visitors can hike the Petroglyph Point Trail, for views of the canyons, cliffsides, and expansive work of art that nature created. The best view comes from hiking to Park Point Fire Lookout, the highest point in the park. At 8,572 feet, those who make the trek will be able to see Utah, New Mexico and Arizona on a clear day.
Anyone planning on seeing as much as possible in Mesa Verde should prepare for camping in the park, as it was just certified as an International Dark Sky Park, perfect for stargazing in the clear Colorado skies.
5. Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas
Arkansas’ natural wonder was established long before the idea of creating national parks even existed. It’s easy to see why. The lush green landscape is fed by thermal springs from thousands of feet below ground mixed with the cold ground water of the area. What makes this park unique is how closely the park is integrated to the surrounding area.
Abby Hornacek explored the history of the town, which featured rustic bathhouses and other tourist attractions using the storied healing power of the spring water. She even gets a lesson in beer brewing using Hot Springs’ famous water supply from the locals. Follow Hornacek as she summits Music Mountain, the park’s highest point for a breathtaking view.
6. Yosemite National Park, California
No list of breathtaking national parks would be complete without including California’s Yosemite National Park. The park is home to 1,200 square miles of glacier-carved peaks, stunning river valleys and the majestic waterfalls that dot the landscape – a truly unforgettable experience.
Visitors will also see the forest of grandiose, ancient Giant Sequoias and the storied, legendary granite summits of El Capitan and Half-Dome. On Park’d, viewers can follow FOX’s Abby Hornacek as she braves a zipline over the mountains of the Yellowstone National Park and rafts the formidable Yellowstone River.
What’s even better? If you’ve served (or are currently serving) our beautiful country, then you get a free year of Fox Nation. Check out the Fox Nation website for more details!
It looks like the World Cup isn’t coming home to England. Such a shame to see the championship match of the sport you claim to have invented go to literally everyone else. Seeing as an estimated seven people from the United States give a damn about the World Cup — give or take six people — we’re finding it hard to care.
Meanwhile, American troops are about to do some dumb sh*t this weekend. Not for any particular reason — just that it’s a payday weekend and it’s Friday the 13th. Remember, if your weekend doesn’t involve you making the blotter and having your First Sergeant busting your drunk ass out of the MP station, did you really have a weekend?
No matter what you’ve got planned, enjoy these memes first.
(Meme via Infantry Army)
(Meme via Smokepit Fairytales)
(Meme via Lost in the Sauce)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Sh*t My LPO Says)
I guess screaming, “If you ain’t ordinance, you ain’t sh*t” is the Air Force’s way of feeling slightly less like POGs.
Fun Fact: Airman and Navy aviators have their own version of POG — “Personnel on the Ground.” But they’re all still POGs in the eyes of soldiers and Marines.
Forget three square meals a day. Fasting may be the ultimate recipe for long-term health.
This is a piece of advice that cultures and religions around the world have been taking for centuries.
In recent years, a version of this practice called intermittent fasting, where people skip eating anywhere from several hours to several days in a row, has started taking off. Hugh Jackman once said he only eats for a strict 8 hours each day, and Silicon Valley biohackers are embracing a 36-hour water-only “Monk fast,” as they call it, which some perform once a week.
Another popular version of the plan, the 5:2 fast, lets people eat normally most of the week, but then requires a strict limit of around 500 calories per day on the remaining 2 days.
There’s clear evidence that fasting, when done right, can reduce a person’s chances of developing long-term health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis (MS). And it helps some people lose weight, too.
Dr. Miriam Merad, director of the Precision Immunology Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, said the typical modern diet of constant eating is making our immune system cells work overtime, and it’s not good for long term health. Her team’s small study (in both people and mice) out in the journal Cell today provides some of the first essential clues about why letting our guts spend many hours of the day without food can do a body good.
(Photo by Toa Heftiba)
Eating food turns on inflammatory cells in the body
The reason why fasting is good for us has to do with a type of immune cell called a monocyte, which our bodies typically release to fight off infections and wounds.
Monocytes are inflammatory, and the white blood cells can cluster to heal the body when we’re injured. But any time we eat food, monocytes are also standing guard in case we ingest any threatening microorganisms. This is especially true when we eat (and drink) sugar. Monocytes also accumulate in fat tissue, contributing to chronic disease.
Merad’s new study provides some of the first evidence that intermittent fasting can help calm these inflammatory cells, making them less active. By taking blood samples from 12 healthy adults who were asked to fast for 19 hours in a day (and performing similar experiments with similar results on mice, too), Merad’s team of scientists discovered that the subjects’ circulating monocyte levels were astonishingly low while fasting.
“That scared us, because we thought maybe when you diet like this, if you have an infection, this monocyte won’t be able to react to it,” Merad said. This turned out not to be the case.
Her hunch is that by being well-fed every day, we are creating a perfect storm of inflammatory monocytes running on overdrive in the body, setting people up for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and liver issues, especially if we run on lots of sugar.
When we fast, though, we deprive our bodies of glycogen, a simple energy source that often comes from carbohydrates like sugar.
“Usually the number of monocytes that we have circulating is pretty high because, in America especially, we eat all the time, Merad said. “We snack. I don’t know whether you snack, I snack all the time.”
Don’t start a fasting plan without expert advice
Merad cautions that her study should not serve as dietary advice on its own.
“All fasting has to be done in discussion with a dietitian, with a nutritionist, with your general practitioner,” she said.
She said it’s important to understand the difference between fasting and starving, which can cause long-term brain damage or even be deadly. People who are particularly sensitive to glucose levels (like diabetics) and other at-risk groups, including pregnant women, likely should not fast.
Fasting is not 100% safe for anyone when taken to extremes.
“If you start fasting for too long you destroy your immune system,” Merad said. “You become very susceptible to infection. So fasting is not a trivial thing. It’s good to fast, but you cannot starve yourself.”
Fasting has so many health benefits, they’re hard to count
Researchers have known for a long time that caloric restriction is tied to a host of health benefits. Periodic fasting can help people steer clear of long-term health problems like diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. It can also can boost the production of a protein that strengthens connections in the brain and serve as an antidepressant. Some scientists even think fasting can help people live to a ripe old age by keeping cells healthy and youthful longer.
Merad now tries to eat dinner a few hours earlier than she used to, and she said other researchers in her lab (as well as her husband) are also experimenting with their own versions of intermittent fasting plans, like skipping breakfast.
“Often we eat because we want some social time with family and friends, but do we need to eat three times a day?” she asked. “Maybe eating two times a day would be entirely sufficient and very beneficial, in fact, in terms of health.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Air Force joint terminal attack controllers, JTACS for short, are airmen who go forward with special operators, infantry, and other maneuver forces to call down the wrath of god on anyone with the cajones to engage American troops while they’re around.
Here’s what they do and what makes them so lethal:
A Joint Terminal Attack Controller from the 116th Air Support Operations Squadron, 194th Wing, Washington Air National Guard, observes a U.S. Air Force F-35 Lightning during close air support training at the Utah Test and Training Range, April 11, 2018.
(U.S. Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Jason Kriess)
JTACs are an outgrowth of the “forward air controllers” who tipped battles in World War II through Vietnam. Their job is to keep track of all aircraft available in the area they’re sent into while supporting any maneuver force to which they’re attached. If that maneuver force comes into contact with the enemy, intentionally or otherwise, the JTAC gets to work.
They can fire their personal weapons quickly and accurately if needed, but their priority is fixing the locations of all friendly forces, enemy elements, and civilians on the battlefield. Once the tactical air control party, or TACP, has a map of where he can’t shoot and where he should, he starts calling in help from planes, helicopters, and drones flying overhead.
U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Clayton Eckstrom, Train, Advise, and Assist Command-Air Joint Tactical Air Controller advisor, observes the target accuracy of an Afghan Air Force training strike on Forward Operating Base Hunter, Afghanistan, June 18, 2018.
(Operation Resolute Support)
With the powers of all U.S. air assets at their command, JTACs can do a lot of damage. One of the most common weapons dropped in Iraq and Afghanistan is the JDAM, an older, dumb bomb upgraded with a kit that allows it to be guided to a target. JDAMs can be a 500, 1,000, or 2,000-pound bomb.
But JTACs can also call for bunker busters against hardened targets or strafing runs against personnel and light vehicles. If they think the best way to end the threat to friendlies under their umbrella is to call for attack helicopters to lay down a cloud of rockets, then all they have to do is set it up and tell the pilot that they’re “cleared hot.”
But the Air Force puts a priority on training their JTACs to not only call in fires from the air to the surface, but also “surface-to-surface” fires, employing artillery, like howitzers and rockets. In other words, JTACs are expected to be able to call in Army, Marine Corps, and naval artillery with just as much lethality as they call down fires from the air.
A joint terminal attack controller from the 18th Air Support Operations Group checks an M4 Carbine during an exercise aimed at pushing JTACs to their limit, Aug. 3, 2018, at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.
(U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Janiqua P. Robinson)
So, for those keeping score at home, TACPs can kill you with nearly any artillery that rolls on the ground as well as any bombs and bullets that can be fired from the sky. And they can also kill you with AC-130s, which are planes that fire artillery from the sky.
But, of course, these are also special operations airmen, so even if all of those weapons aren’t available, they’re also well-trained in shooting you in the face.
All of this can quickly become more complicated than it might sound, because the JTAC has to organize all of this chaos, making sure that he never requests artillery that will cross the line of flight of the helicopters and aircraft in the area, since that would end with the aircraft being shot down by friendlies.
A Slovenian Armed Forces joint terminal attack controller moves through a building during training in Slovenia June 4, 2018.
(U.S. Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Michelle Y. Alvarez-Rea)
But the JTAC community has proven itself equal to the tasks, and often surpassed the call of duty while supporting their friends on the front lines.
For instance, Master Sgt. Thomas Case is the recipient of two Silver Stars, both awarded for actions taken as a JTAC-certified member of the TACP. The first award came for directing hundreds of strikes over a three-day battle in 2003, and the second award came for exposing himself to enemy fire while directing danger-close support from an AC-130.
And Tech Sgt. Robert Gutierrez received the Air Force Cross for directing air strikes in 2009 that saved his entire team, despite the fact that he was severely wounded with a “softball-sized” hole in his back that he didn’t expect to survive. At the time, Guteirrez was just shy of full JTAC certification, and had to get another operator to give the final OK for the mission. But it was his math and decision making, calculated while under fire and medical treatment, that saved the day.
Meanwhile, when British Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, went to war in Afghanistan, he went as a JTAC. And even he ended up deep in the fight, once manning a .50-cal. machine gun to fend off an insurgent attack alongside a bunch of British Gurkhas.
He’s shaking his belly like a bowl full of jelly, even in the craziness that is this year. Despite all we’ve gone through this year, Santa remains a common bright spot for the ages. Even though most kids are taking pictures from afar this year, the magic of Santa still remains bright.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t poke a little fun along the way. Check out these favorite Santa memes and let them perk up your holiday season.
He’s such a spotlight ranger
We appreciate you too, elves!!
So many people need this in their lives
Dictionaries (and Spell Check!) for all!
Doesn’t sound like a bad gig TBH
Plus free milk and cookies. Where do I put my application?
This is the CUTEST
This dog made our whole Christmas.
This low-key freak out is the best
We love this kid!
This reminder to take credit for the expensive stuff
Spread the Santa joy equally!
Busting out that ameteur acting each year
THAT IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION
Why is this normal and accepted?
Time for a lyric change IMO
Every adult’s dream
This age-old question that’s never been answered
Your guess is as good as ours.
Rosy cheeks and ashy hair might be in all of our futures, but let’s hope it’s with Santa over personal experiences. After all, Santa is a beloved tradition for all ages and beliefs.
What’s your favorite way to celebrate Santa each year? Tell us below.
As the US, Russia and China test each other’s patience and strategic focus, speculation about the chances of a world war has hit a new high. But many of the people seriously engaged in this weighty discussion often get it wrong.
When it comes to estimating military capability, the Western media is principally concerned with the weapons capabilities of weaker states – and it rarely pays much attention to the colossal capability of the US, which still accounts for most of the world’s defense spending.
Any sensible discussion of what a hypothetical World War III might look like needs to begin with the sheer size and force of America’s military assets. For all that China and Russia are arming up on various measures, US commanders have the power to dominate escalating crises and counter opposing forces before they can be used.
Take missile warfare alone. The US Navy already has 4,000 Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the Navy and Air Force are currently taking delivery of 5,000 JASSM conventional cruise missiles with ranges from 200-600 miles. Barely visible to radar, these are designed to destroy “hardened” targets such as nuclear missile silos. Russia and China, by contrast, have nothing of equivalent quantity or quality with which to threaten the US mainland.
The same holds true when it comes to maritime forces. While much is made of Russia’s two frigates and smaller vessels stationed off the Syrian coast, France alone has 20 warships and an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean – and US standing forces in the area include six destroyers equipped with scores of cruise missiles and anti-missile systems. At the other end of Europe, the Russian military is threatening the small Baltic states, but it is rarely noted that the Russian Baltic fleet is the same size as Denmark’s and half the size of Germany’s.
A U.S. Air Force B-1 bomber.
Meanwhile, China’s aggressively expansionist behaviour in the South China Sea is reported alongside stories of its first aircraft carrier and long-range ballistic missiles. But for all that the Chinese navy is large and growing, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, it’s still only numerically equivalent to the combined fleets of Japan and Taiwan, while the US boasts 19 aircraft carriers worldwide if its marine assault ships are included.
But overhanging all this, of course, is the nuclear factor.
Out of the sky
The US, Russia and China are all nuclear-armed; Vladimir Putin recently unveiled a new fleet of nuclear-capable missiles which he described as “invincible in the face of all existing and future systems”, and some have suggested that China may be moving away from its no-first-use policy. This is all undeniably disturbing. While it has long been assumed that the threat of nuclear weapons acts as a deterrent to any war between the major powers, it’s also possible that the world may simply have been riding its luck. But once again, the US’s non-nuclear capabilities are all too often overlooked.
US leaders may in fact believe they can remove Russia’s nuclear deterrent with an overwhelming conventional attack backed up by missile defences. This ability was cultivated under the Prompt Global Strike programme, which was initiated before 9/11 and continued during the Obama years. Organised through the US Air Force’s Global Strike Command, it is to use conventional weapons to attack anywhere on Earth in under 60 minutes.
This is not to say the task would be small. In order to destroy Russia’s nuclear missiles before they can be launched, the US military would need to first blind Russian radar and command and communications to incoming attack, probably using both physical and cyber attacks. It would then have to destroy some 200 fixed and 200 mobile missiles on land, a dozen Russian missile submarines, and Russian bombers. It would then need to shoot down any missiles that could still be fired.
Russia is not well positioned to survive such an attack. Its early warning radars, both satellite and land-based, are decaying and will be hard to replace. At the same time, the US has and is developing a range of technologies to carry out anti-satellite and radar missions, and it has been using them for years. (All the way back in 1985, it shot down a satellite with an F15 jet fighter.) That said, the West is very dependent on satellites too, and Russia and China continue to develop their own anti-satellite systems.
The air war
Russia’s bomber aircraft date back to the Soviet era, so despite the alarm they provoke when they nudge at Western countries’ airspace, they pose no major threat in themselves. Were the Russian and US planes to face each other, the Russians would find themselves under attack from planes they couldn’t see and that are any way out of their range.
US and British submarine crews claim a perfect record in constantly shadowing Soviet submarines as they left their bases throughout the Cold War. Since then, Russian forces have declined and US anti-submarine warfare has been revived, raising the prospect that Russian submarines could be taken out before they could even launch their missiles.
The core of the Russia’s nuclear forces consists of land-based missiles, some fixed in silos, others mobile on rail and road. The silo-based missiles can now be targeted by several types of missiles, carried by US planes almost invisible to radar; all are designed to destroy targets protected by deep concrete and steel bunkers. But a problem for US war planners is that it might take hours too long for their missile-carrying planes to reach these targets – hence the need to act in minutes.
A U.S. Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.
One apparently simple solution to attacking targets very quickly is to fit quick nuclear ballistic missiles with non-nuclear warheads. In 2010, Robert Gates, then serving as secretary of defence under Barack Obama, said that the US had this capability. Intercontinental ballistic missiles take just 30 minutes to fly between the continental US’s Midwest and Siberia; if launched from well-positioned submarines, the Navy’s Tridents can be even quicker, with a launch-to-target time of under ten minutes.
From 2001, the US Navy prepared to fit its Trident missiles with either inert solid warheads – accurate to within ten metres – or vast splinter/shrapnel weapons. Critics have argued that this would leave a potential enemy unable to tell whether they were under nuclear or conventional attack, meaning they would have to assume the worst. According to US Congressional researchers, the development work came close to completion, but apparently ceased in 2013.
Nonetheless, the US has continued to develop other technologies across its armed services to attack targets around the world in under an hour – foremost among them hypersonic missiles, which could return to Earth at up to ten times the speed of sound, with China and Russia trying to keep up.
The remainder of Russia’s nuclear force consists of missiles transported by rail. An article on Kremlin-sponsored news outlet Sputnik described how these missile rail cars would be so hard to find that Prompt Global Strike might not be as effective as the US would like – but taken at face value, the article implies that the rest of the Russian nuclear arsenal is in fact relatively vulnerable.
Starting with the “Scud hunt” of the First Gulf War, the US military has spent years improving its proficiency at targeting mobile ground-based missiles. Those skills now use remote sensors to attack small ground targets at short notice in the myriad counter-insurgency operations it’s pursued since 2001.
If the “sword” of Prompt Global Strike doesn’t stop the launch of all Russian missiles, then the US could use the “shield” of its own missile defences. These it deployed after it walked out of a treaty with Russiabanning such weapons in 2002.
While some of these post-2002 missile defence systems have been called ineffective, the US Navy has a more effective system called Aegis, which one former head of the Pentagon’s missile defence programs claims can shoot down intercontinental ballistic missiles. Some 300 Aegis anti-ballistic missiles now equip 40 US warships; in 2008, one destroyed a satellite as it fell out of orbit.
In advance of the Iraq war, various governments and onlookers cautioned the US and UK about the potential for unforeseen consequences, but the two governments were driven by a mindset impervious to criticism and misgivings. And despite all the lessons that can be learned from the Iraq disaster, there’s an ample risk today that a similarly gung-ho attitude could take hold.
Foreign casualties generally have little impact on domestic US politics. The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who died under first sanctions and then war did not negatively impact presidents Clinton or George W. Bush. Neither might the prospect of similar casualties in Iran or North Korea or other states, especially if “humanitarian” precision weapons are used.
But more than that, an opinion poll run by Stanford University’s Scott Sagan found that the US public would not oppose the preemptive use of even nuclear weapons provided that the US itself was not affected. And nuclear Trident offers that temptation.
The control of major conventional weapons as well as WMD needs urgent attention from international civil society, media and political parties. There is still time to galvanise behind the Nobel-winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons and the nuclear ban treaty, and to revive and globalise the decaying arms control agenda of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, which played a vital part in bringing the Cold War to a largely peaceful end.
Like the Kaiser in 1914, perhaps Trump or one of his successors will express dismay when faced with the reality a major US offensive unleashes. But unlike the Kaiser, who saw his empire first defeated and then dismembered, perhaps a 21st-century US president might get away with it.