On June 22, 2019, VA will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the G.I. Bill. It was on that date in 1944 when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act into law, which became widely known as the G.I. Bill of Rights. As veterans came home from the war, many started families and used their VA home loan entitlement to become homeowners. Through subsequent decades, new generations of veterans continued to use the VA home loan benefit that they earned through service to our nation, becoming a fundamental pillar of the U.S. housing industry and the building of communities.
In honor of this historic event, Army veteran Maxine Henry and Air Force veteran Mark Connors of the VA’s Loan Guaranty Service team sat down with Borne the Battle to discuss one of the best and most popular veteran benefits — the VA home loan entitlement.
Jan Mayen is north of Iceland and between Greenland and Norway, the latter of which administers and supplies it with regular flights by C-130 aircraft.
It has been used for centuries for whaling, hunting, and, more recently, meteorological monitoring. During the Cold War, it was a base for communications and navigation systems. Though it doesn’t have a usable port, its airfield can be used for research and search and rescue.
The island is also above the Arctic Circle and, the release noted, “along sea-routes connecting Russia to the Atlantic Ocean.”
The assessment and survey took place from November 17 to 24, but the squadron “spent several months working with the host nation to find the optimal time” to do it, US Air Forces Europe said in an email.
The visit by the survey team was its first airfield assessment there, and before the survey, US aircraft could not land there.
“The 435th CRS was there to conduct a landing zone survey and assessment so C-130J Super Hercules aircraft can land at the Jan Mayen airfield in order to provide transport and resupply to the station located there,” US Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager, a member of the squadron, said in the release.
Members of the 435th Contingency Response Squadron conducting a landing-zone survey.
(US Air Force/Staff Sgt. Kyle Yeager)
The 435th CRS is the “unit of choice” for these airfield surveys because of its “cross-functional makeup,” comprising more than 25 Air Force specialties that train together for unique challenges, Air Forces Europe said.
Its members were joined by members of the 435th Security Forces Squadron, which was there to do “a security assessment of the airfield to ensure that it met Air Force security requirements for C-130 operations,” said Tech. Sgt. Ross Caldwell, a member of that squadron.
“We must be trained and certified on many different tasks to counter any threat and survive in any environment we are tasked to operate in,” Caldwell said.
“If the [Contingency Response Group] goes, we go,” Caldwell added, referring to the US Air Forces Europe unit that assesses and opens air bases and performs initial airfield operations.
Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Christopher Carlson watches the Royal Norwegian navy frigate Thor Heyerdahl pull alongside the USS Harry S. Truman in October 2018.
(US Navy/Mass Comm. Specialist Seaman Joseph A.D. Phillips)
The Norwegian Sea in particular has also gotten more attention, as Russia’s growing submarine fleet — which is far from the size of its Cold War predecessor but much more sophisticated — would need to traverse it to get to the Atlantic.
The USS Harry S. Truman became the first US carrier to sail above the Arctic Circle since the 1990s when it arrived in the sea in late 2018 for Trident Juncture, NATO’s largest exercise since the Cold War.
Navy ships carrying Marines to the exercise first stopped in Iceland, where the Navy has spent millions refurbishing hangars at Naval Air Station Keflavik to accommodate more US Navy P-8 Poseidons, considered the best sub-hunting aircraft out there. P-8s will visit Keflavik more often, but the Navy has said it’s not reestablishing a permanent presence, which ended in 2006.
In November, the Navy publicized visits by surface ships and submarines to Norway for exercises, tweeting photos of the nuclear-powered attack sub USS Minnesota loading MK-48 torpedoes at Haakonsvern naval base in Bergen.
That deployment also saw B-2s fly into the Arctic, performing “an extended duration sortie over the Arctic Circle” in early September. US Air Forces Europe called it the B-2’s “first mission this far north” in Europe.
While the Jan Mayen airfield may be able to handle cargo and mobility aircraft like the C-130J, strategic bombers like the B-2 or the B-52, which also flew into the Arctic in late 2019, may not be able to operate there.
But it’s always better to have more places to land.
“You’ve got Fairford, you’ve got Keflavik, you’ve got other places … It’s not just one spot that if you crater the runway that’s it,” Jim Townsend, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a former Defense Department official, told Business Insider after the B-2s visited Iceland last year.
US Air Force fuel-distribution operators conduct hot-pit refueling on a B-2 Spirit bomber at the Keflavik air base in August.
(US Air Force/Senior Airman Thomas Barley)
Jan Mayen’s airfield “would add another option in that region, and the surveys are often a critical piece of the Global Air Mobility Support System, ensuring unfamiliar airfields are safe to land for a variety of Air Force mobility aircraft,” US Air Forces Europe said in its email.
During the Cold War, Iceland sat in the middle of the Greenland-Iceland-UK gap, through which Russian subs would have to pass to reach the North Atlantic. Russian submarines’ newfound ability to strike cities and infrastructure in Europe with sub-launched missiles has led to arguments that NATO needs to operate farther north, closer to the Barents Sea, to keep an eye on them.
Jan Mayen is closer to the Barents — but if there’s a role it could play in operations up there, the US military isn’t saying.
“It would be inappropriate for us to speculate about possible future operations by US or partner nation forces,” US Air Forces Europe said when asked about the island’s future.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As a fighter pilot, one of the most common questions I get is: How do you go to the bathroom in an F-16 or F-35? Let me start off by describing the cockpit.
A cockpit in a modern fighter is an engineering masterpiece. An incredible amount of effort goes into allowing us to interface with the aircraft. In fact, as pilots, we don’t say we’re climbing into the jet; rather, we call it strapping the jet on our back, because it feels like you and the aircraft become one entity. All the buttons and controls surround your body, allowing you to quickly react to an adversary.
Data is displayed throughout our field-of-view starting in the helmet with true augmented reality, then extending to screens in front of us, and finally to an instrument console between our legs. We have an unprecedented amount of situational awareness, however, the tradeoff is there’s no room for a bathroom.
Now, typically in training, our flights are less than an hour and a half. As long as you don’t drink too much coffee before a flight, it’s generally not a problem. However, in combat, I’ve flown missions as long as 8 hours; crossing the Atlantic, I was airborne for over 10 hours. For these missions, I used what we as pilots affectionately call, piddle-packs.
Piddle-packs are the ultimate long road trip solution. They are specially shaped bags with absorbent beads in them. If we have to relieve ourselves, we’ll unzip the flight suit—which is designed to unzip from the top as well as the bottom—unroll the piddle pack, and then pee into it. Once done, we’ll seal the top, while the absorbent beads turn it into a gel that won’t leak during hard maneuvering.
While the concept is simple, it takes time to become proficient at it. Imagine driving a car while unwrapping a bag and peeing into it while staying in your lane and avoiding traffic. Now take that and amplify it in a 3-dimensional world while flying just under the speed of sound with an enemy that’s potentially trying to shoot you down.
The key is to anticipate times when you’ll have a few minutes of straight and level flight. While in Afghanistan, I would typically use the time it took to travel to the tanker. This allowed me to finish up before I got to the tanker, refuel, and then gather situational awareness while I was returning to the fight.
Because it’s a task-saturating event and difficult to maintain formation or answer radio calls, we’ll use the brevity term “racehorse” to let our wingmen know we’re busy for the next few minutes. This allows them to pick up the slack and minimize extraneous talking until we’re done.
Since I’ve been in the Air Force, a number of devices have been developed to make the process easier—particularly for women. I’ve never flown with any of them, but they usually involve an undergarment with a jockstrap that is attached to a vacuum. When the pilot needs to pee, they turn on the vacuum and relieve themselves without having to unzip. While the process is simpler, for me, the upfront preparation, along with the added weight and complexity of a vacuum, have made the cost greater than the benefit.
As for your follow-up question, how do you go number 2? The answer is, you don’t.
“For us being Special Forces, we are the first on the battlefield, then we are the last to leave,” said a Bulgarian Special Operations Tactical Group Commander.
The captain was the commander of the SOTG for exercise Saber Junction 19. Approximately 5,400 participants from 15 NATO and partner nations including Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuanian, the Republic of Northern Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Ukraine and the US took part in the exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center, Sept. 3-30, 2019.
The exercise partnered about 100 Multinational SOF from Bulgaria, the US, and members of the Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Defense National Force, or KASP, with conventional forces to improve integration and enhance their overall combat abilities.
A US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.
(US Army photo Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)
US Army Maj. Nathan Showman of the 173rd Airborne Brigade watches as paratroopers from the brigade land during a joint forcible entry as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 18, 2019.
To determine the best use of SOF capabilities to support larger combined maneuver, the Bulgarian SOTG Commander coordinated directly with his conventional force counterpart US Army Col. Kenneth Burgess, the commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
The SOTG also placed SOF liaison officers within the brigade staff to facilitate communication directly between the staff and SOF on the ground.
A US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldier provides security for paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade as they parachute onto a drop zone as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 16, 2019.
This gave the SOTG the ability to support critical portions of the exercise such as the joint forcible entry, a multinational airborne operation delivering paratroopers from Ramstein Airbase into the exercise to seize key terrain.
Paratroopers from the Italian Army’s Folgore Brigade jumped from Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 aircraft to set the drop zone for the 173rd Airborne Brigade.
Bulgarian and US SOF provided early reconnaissance of the drop zone and secured the area for the pathfinder’s jump, ensuring they had up to date information from the moment they hit the ground.
Italian Army paratroopers from the Folgore Airborne Brigade coordinate with US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers after the Italian paratroopers parachuted onto a drop zone secured by special operations forces as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 17, 2019.
(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)
This multinational coordination was one of the key objectives of the exercise.
“From my point of view, this is the most important exercise for my unit in that it helps prepare us for future NATO missions,” said the Bulgarian commander. “We are currently on standby in my country [as a quick reaction force], so this exercise is beneficial for us.”
Bulgarian special operations forces exit a US Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade during combined aviation load training as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.
(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)
Lithuania’s KASP also worked alongside SOF to set conditions for the conventional force. Exercising their real-world mission of unconventional warfare, the KASP integrated with Special Forces soldiers from the US Army’s 5th SFG(A).
This combined time conducted operations ahead of friendly lines in enemy-occupied territory to enable the multinational conventional joint force.
US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.
(US Army photo Spc. Patrik Orcutt)
The KASP are structured similar to the US National Guard, with about 500 professional soldiers and 5,000 reservists, but have a very different mission.
“Our mission is to conduct territorial defense, so we must be ready to defend our country against any type of threat, either hybrid or conventional,” said Col. Dainius Pašvenskas, the KASP commander.
Pašvenskas added that the demand to come to exercises like these within his unit is so high that they have placed internal requirements to be selected. After completing rotations in exercises like Saber Junction 19, they share the techniques they have learned within their units, and teach the unconventional warfare tactics to the rest of the force.
US Army 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Special Forces soldiers deploy light tactical vehicles from CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the 1st Combat Aviation Brigade as part of exercise Saber Junction 19 in Hohenfels, Germany, Sept. 13, 2019.
(US Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Whitney Hughes)
The KASP’s missions at Saber Junction 19 included long-range reconnaissance, direct action and personnel recovery.
“We may have different tasks but we will operate in a similar area as Special Operation Forces,” said Pašvenskas. “Working with Special Forces and learning from their experience is an excellent opportunity for us.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The charge for marijuana reform is being led mainly by representatives from the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA).
It’s no secret that veteran issues of post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries have been pushed to the forefront of thought of the general public. Vincent Lawrence, commander-in-chief of VFW, claims that this alone could call for the VA to look into the potential benefits of medical cannabis.
Lawrence went on to say that VA patients who also use marijuana for medical purposes are doing so without regimented care from the VA and therefore it is unregulated. However, he then went on to say, “This is not to say VA providers are opting to ignore this medical treatment, but that there is currently a lack of federal research and understanding of how medical marijuana may or may not treat certain illnesses and injuries, and the way it interacts with other drugs.”
This idea is not revolutionary or specific to the VA, Lawrence continued, “There is currently substantial evidence from a comprehensive study by the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academic Press that concludes cannabinoids are effective for treating chronic pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, sleep disturbances related to obstructive sleep apnea, multiple sclerosis spasticity symptoms, and fibromyalgia –– all of which are prevalent in the veteran population…”
There are already some bills that have been submitted for the advancement of medical marijuana research–such as the VA Medicinal Cannabis Research Act which would mandate that the VA conduct trials on the effects of medical marijuana for veterans afflicted with PTSD and chronic pain.
A similar piece of legislation was proposed last year but did not pass a floor vote.
Medical marijuana has also been linked to lowering instances of opioid abuse as well. Lawrence even mentions this before congress explaining, “states that have legalized medical cannabis have also seen a 15-35 percent decrease in opioid overdose and abuse.” Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) echoed Lawrence’s statements in support.
The momentum of medical marijuana in the VA is gaining some bipartisan steam, too. Recently, a similar proposal was brought to the floor by the ranking member on the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs– Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) when he said, “The VA is where cannabis should be studied[…] Let’s find out the risks, the benefits, the black box warnings and so on. I could not agree more with you there.”
Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN)
While it’s clear that there is support for medical marijuana within the structure of VA, there is a long way to go before its application is widespread. The positive links between marijuana for medical purposes and veterans dealing with afflictions derived from service are apparent and numbered–and congress is starting to take notice.
Know what’s a great tool in combat? Planes. They were the ultimate high ground until the Space Race began; they can carry heavy weapons like large machine guns, bombs, and missiles; and they’re fast, allowing them to cross the battlefield quickly. But they also have big infrastructure needs like entire airstrips. Unless they’re vertical take-off, a technology that took decades to make work.
Vertical take-off aircraft like the Harrier and F-35B use vertical take-off to achieve one strategic goal: allowing pilots to support Marines from ships or forward landing areas that cannot support planes conducting conventional takeoffs and landings.
Planes need quite a bit of runway, and even carrier catapults have limits when it comes to rapidly accelerating an aircraft. So when Marines are fighting to take a beachhead or press inland or just doing patrols in the desert, there’s always the chance that they might press ahead into an area that a carrier can’t get to, and that doesn’t have a suitable airport or enemy airbase which they can capture to ensure they get timely air support.
But Harriers, and now the F-35B, can operate from certain amphibious assault ships and many forward positions on land. All they need is a large open area, preferably without much dust and debris, that Marines on the ground can secure and carry fuel and ammo to.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Dylan Hess)
But it’s hard to make planes fly when they aren’t moving horizontally. Most planes only achieve lift by moving forward through the air. The air flowing over the wings generates the lift, and if the plane starts moving too slowly, it will stall and, potentially, fall out of the sky.
The Harrier got around this by creating four columns of air that supported the plane when it needed to takeoff and land. These columns overcame the weight of the Harrier and allowed it to fly. But the columns were unstable, and it took a lot of computer power to make all the fine adjustments necessary to prevent crashes.
The new F-35B is more stable and has much more computer power, allowing it to create its columns of air more safely. And, the F-35B uses its vectored thrust to create one of these columns, allowing it to transition to forward flight by simply re-vectoring that thrust after takeoff.
Check out the video above to learn more about how this whole process works.
There’s a long history of military slang, probably dating all the way back to when the first people hit each other with sticks and rocks. While military slang can be fun, it’s even more fun when it seeps into the common vernacular of everyday people. The only problem is when a word or phrase is too good, its origin gets lost in time, and people forget where it came from – but no longer.
Here are just a few words and phrases that came from military tradition.
1. “Best man”
In the days of yore, it was quite possible that a betrothed man might lose his wife even before their wedding to any number of possible hazards – rival bands, enemy leaders, or even random highwaymen. So while he was in the middle of the ceremony, he would enlist his best swordsman to cover his back while his attention was focused elsewhere or hold off an attacking party while the new couple made their getaway.
These days, to be way out in the boonies means you’re out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in the sticks. When the term was coined, it meant that too, only the actual boondocks are in the Philippines. In Tagalog, “bundok” literally translates to “mountains” so when Filipino fighters told American troops they were headed to the bundoks during the 1898 Spanish-American War and the subsequent Philippine-American War, it meant they were headed to the islands’ inner wilderness.
Sorry, but the term “cowboy” used to define the ranchers and vaqueros of the Old West was never actually used for those guys at the time. They were usually just called cow herders or cowhands. The term “cowboy” goes well past the 19th Century. The original cowboys were American colonists loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution. They would band together in guerrilla units and lure other units of rebel farmers into ambushes using cowbells to coax them in. After the war, it was used to describe criminals from Texas who made raids into Mexico.
4. “Face the music”
In the European military tradition (from which the U.S. tradition is derived), any disgraced officer who was summarily kicked out of his unit was done so in the most demeaning manner possible. As the regiment’s drummer played on, the officer would have his sword broken, his buttons removed, and his charges read to the entire room. The officer was them marched across the parade ground to the tune of the “Rogue’s March” toward the regimental band.
5. “Last ditch effort”
In the kind of fighting that took place in the 16th and 17 Century, troops didn’t just maneuver around the battlefields in the open, in tight formations, wearing bright colors. I mean, they did that, but they also constructed a series of earthwork redoubts and other protective places to hold. Among these was a series of trenches they could fall back to if the stuff started hitting the fan – and they would dig many in case things went really wrong. But everyone knew by the time you got to your last one, you had to do something amazing, or everyone was likely to die in that last ditch.
6. “The whole nine yards”
This term appeared in the 1950s, after the end of World War II – and it has nothing to do with football or anything else where yardage is a factor. It refers to the length of the ammunition belts designed for American and British fighter planes during the war, 27 feet (or nine yards). When flying a particularly tough mission or otherwise using a lot of ammo, a pilot might have been said to use “the whole nine yards.”
Experts at the cutting edge of simulated warfare have spoken: China would handily defeat the US military in the Pacific with quick bursts of missile fired at air bases.
The exact phrasing was that the US was getting “its ass handed to it” in those simulations, Breaking Defense reported the RAND analyst David Ochmanek as saying earlier in March 2019.
“In every case I know of,” Robert Work, a former deputy secretary of defense, said, “the F-35 rules the sky when it’s in the sky, but it gets killed on the ground in large numbers.”
Against China, which has emerged as the US’s most formidable rival, this problem becomes more acute. China’s vast, mountainous territory gives it millions of square miles in which to hide its extensive fleet of mobile long-, medium-, and short-range missiles.
An F-35 is much more capable than the jet shown on the left, but on a runway, the F-35 is just a more expensive target.
In the opening minutes of a battle against the US, Beijing could unleash a barrage of missiles that would nail US forces in Guam, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and possibly Australia. With China’s growing anti-ship capability, even US aircraft carriers in the region would likely come under intense fire.
For the US, this would be the feared attack in which F-35s and F-22s, fifth-generation aircraft and envy of the world, are blown apart in their hangars, runways are cratered, and ships are sunk in ports.
The remaining US forces in this case would be insufficient to back down China’s air and sea forces, which could then easily scoop up a prize such as Taiwan.
Additionally, the US can’t counter many of China’s most relevant missile systems because of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty it signed with Russia, which prohibits missiles with ranges between 310 miles and 3,400 miles — the type it would need to hold Chinese targets at equal risk. (The US is withdrawing from that treaty.)
So given China’s clear advantage in missile forces and the great incentive to knock out the best military with a sucker punch, why doesn’t it try?
The ranges of Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles, air-defense systems, and warships.
(Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments)
China could light up much of the Pacific with a blistering salvo of missiles and do great harm to US ships and planes, but they likely won’t because it would start World War III.
China wouldn’t just be attacking the US. It would be attacking Japan and South Korea at a minimum. Whatever advantage China gained by kicking off a fight this way would have to balance against a combined response from the US and its allies.
The US is aware of the sucker-punch problem. In the event that tensions rise enough that a strike is likely, the US would simply spread its forces out among its bases and harden important structures, such as hangars, so they could absorb more punishment from missiles.
Potential targets China needed to strike would multiply, and the deployment of electronic and physical decoys would further complicate things for Beijing. For US ships at sea, the use of electronic decoys and onboard missile defenses would demand China throw tremendous numbers of missiles at the platforms, increasing the cost of such a strike.
Key US military bases will also have ballistic-missile defenses, which could blunt the attack somewhat.
The US also monitors the skies for ballistic missiles, which would give it some warning time. Alert units could scramble their aircraft and be bearing down on China’s airspace just after the first missiles hit.
Justin Bronk, a military-aviation expert at the Royal United Service Institute, pointed out at the institute’s Combat Air Survivability conference that when the US hit Syria’s Al Shayrat air base with 58 cruise missiles, planes were taking off from the base again within 24 hours.
Missiles brigades that just fired and revealed their positions would be sitting ducks for retaliation by the US or its allies.
Japan, which will soon have 100 F-35s, some of which will be tied into US Navy targeting networks, would jump into the fight swiftly.
China would have to mobilize a tremendous number of aircraft and naval assets to address that retaliatory strike. That mobilization, in addition to the preparations for the initial strike, may tip Beijing’s hand, telegraphing the sucker punch and blunting its damage on US forces.
While China’s missile forces pose a huge threat to the US, one punch isn’t enough to knock out the world’s best military, but it is enough to wake it up.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When we envisioned our first publication for this blog, we never dreamed we would be interviewing one of our own founders for it. Or, that the topic would be her diagnosis and recovery of COVID-19. Despite the initial anxiety and concern over her positive test, she chose joy. Every day.
Samantha Gomolka is a Physician Assistant for a dermatology office in Buffalo, New York. Her state is arguably the hardest hit with COVID-19 and although schools and businesses were shut down, she continued to work and treat patients. “It was my biggest fear…. That if my family got sick, it would be because I brought it home. It was a heavy weight to carry,” she said.
Gomolka shared that she researched the signs and symptoms heavily, watching closely for fever or any shortness of breath. When she started with a cough and headache, she didn’t initially think it could be COVID-19. A few days later, the fever and body aches came. “In that moment, you are kind of stuck between the place of fear and disbelief,” she said. Gomolka said she just knew she had it. She quarantined herself in a guest bedroom, praying she wouldn’t pass it to anyone else in her family. A call to the public health department gave her the verbal instructions of self quarantine and presumption of COVID-19 based on symptoms, but there was no test available to her due to being considered low risk, and lack of other comorbid conditions.
Gomolka wouldn’t get one, until she ended up in the emergency room.
“Getting up from the bed to walk into the kitchen is not usually challenging. With this, there was an air hunger. It became a conscious effort to breathe in and out all day long. The feeling that I could never get enough air was making me live right under the threshold of panic,” she shared. Gomolka finally went to the emergency room when breathing became even more difficult and was placed on oxygen for hours. It was there she received her Chest X-ray, CT scan and COVID test, which revealed she did in fact have the virus. Then her husband, who had just returned from a long deployment overseas, started getting sick too.
Their family was quickly and officially served with mandated home quarantine paperwork by their local sheriff’s office, unable to leave their home at all. Contracting this virus and bringing it home to her family — her biggest fear — could have caused despair. Instead, she found the beauty in it.
“It comes down to perspective….. to find the opportunities for beauty. You have to choose joy,” she shared. Gomolka shared that having time slow down for her family was a blessing. Relationships were strengthened and hearts were lifted. What could have been a time of anxiousness was an opportunity to reconnect and spend time in a space of gratefulness.
Gomolka also shared that initially she hesitated in going public with their diagnosis, wondering if people would respond in a negative way. The result was completely opposite of that. “We had an entire community, local and virtual of people who just rallied around us and lifted my family up,” she said.
She shared stories of receiving aid from the Green Beret Foundation, needed medications on her doorstep, warm meals and groceries were provided, gift cards for expenses, activities for her children, and even coffee creamer. All of this during a time that could have easily slipped their family into a dark space, was nothing but light. Gomolka shared that her family feels like they could never repay the true value of these gifts. Instead, they plan to pay it forward.
“We are trying to figure out how we make that kind of difference in someone else’s life and come to their aid in a way that makes impactful change,” she said. One of the ways she’s going to do this, is to immediately go back to work treating patients with emergent conditions and skin cancer. She and her husband also signed up with the New York Blood Center, the American Red Cross, and Upstate University Hospital with the National Plasma Antibody project, hoping they can give their plasma for use in critically ill COVID19 patients. They also plan to try to complete errands and shopping for members of their community who are immunocompromised or elderly.
“We are always going to encounter challenges, but how do you respond to them? Find the good,” she said. She continued on saying that this experience has broadened her definition of what a hero is. “As a military family we tend to think of heroes as someone in a camouflage uniform, but that has changed for me,” she said. Gomolka explained that now, her version of a hero are the people who run towards danger while the rest of us “hunker down”. The grocery store workers, health care professionals, and deliverymen — to name a few.
When asked what she would tell those reading this article, she smiled and shared that although she knows her diagnosis and experience is not the same as others, she wants people to know that together we can make it through anything. She implored people to “pause, and take it all in and find the beauty”.
“How do you get posted at a location such as Area 51 or the Pentagon while in the military?”
I feel bad because no one actually answered this question. You see, in the military, there are a finite number of jobs at each location. Depending on the branch or the assignment, the average PCS (Permanent Change of Station) rate is about 4 years (shorter for a remote tour or a deployment). So someone will be assigned to work at the Pentagon and then after 4 years they’ll be due for a transfer, leaving their position open.
Let’s say you’re graduating from boot camp in August (congratulations, you did it, you little hero!) and Airman Snuffy is gonna PCS in August, leaving his Pentagon position open. You now have the option to go work at the Pentagon!
Your command will rate you based on your performance and recommend you for your list of assignment preferences. If you’re lucky, you’ll get your number one choice (the Pentagon I guess?) and if you’re not, well, bring mittens to Minot.
But you weren’t *really* asking about the Pentagon, were you? You were asking about aliens.
How to get posted at Area 51 | Dumb Military Questions 104
How to get posted at Area 51 | Dumb Military Questions 104
Area 51 is the most exciting conspiracy theory in the U.S. military. Aliens could be real! Just imagine!
But trust me, my little tinfoil-hat tribe, if there were actually aliens in a bunker in Nevada, you just know some boot would have instagrammed them by now. If the inability of humans to keep secrets doesn’t satisfy you, then you can fill out a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Security Agency. They’re required by law to pretty much share any information they have on anything really — they’ll just redact anything classified. You win some, you lose some.
“My husband is a Marine who makes fun of anyone in a different branch of service. Is this normal?”
Navy vet August Dannehl had a great stream of responses to this: “We’re all family but we’re all talking sh** on each other, you know? Marines, Army…they’re all stupid. Navy, we’re all gay. Air Force, bougy-as-f***.”
And I mean, I can’t protest this, especially since the next cut showed Air Force captain Mark Harper sporting business casual in pastel and a rainbow unicorn Pomeranian. 100% Air Force.
His name is Ding Dong and he’s a perfect gentleman.
“What level of self-reliance training do Green Berets have? What can they actually do?”
Actually, I don’t even want to spoil the answers to this one. Go to 1:17 of the video and watch Harper dominate this question. We’re done here.
“What would a real-life U.S. military party do in a scenario like the first Predator movie?”
It’s possible that U.S. Air Force vet Tara Batesole is the only one to have seen a Predator film in this group, but U.S. Marine Graham Pulliam had some thoughts as well: “Not run around shirtless with a machine gun?”
Why not, Pulliam? What do shirts have to do with killing monsters?
The sting of the Warrior Wasp is pure torture, according to entomologist Dr. Justin Schmidt, who was willingly stung by each of the most painful insect stings on Earth to create a scale of pain. He went on to describe it as being chained in the flow of an active volcano. It was the only one that ever made him question why he would endeavor to create such a scale.
Schmidt’s Pain Index covers the stings of Hymenoptera, a class of insect that includes bees, wasps, and ants. On the scale of one to four, with four being the worst pain imaginable, only three insects made the top of the list.
Level One: Adorable.
The first level is short, sharp, but not lasting stings from things like sweat bees and fire ants. The pain from these stings generally last around five minutes or less. There is minimal damage done to the body from the insect venom. Schmidt described the sting of a sweat bee as “light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.”
Level Two: Been There, Done That.
Raising the stakes just a little means the next level is still filled with creatures with which most of us are familiar. Level two includes common honeybees, yellow jackets, and hornets. Dr. Schmidt says the vast majority of bees, wasps, and ants will fall into level two, though the sensations of pain are different from creature to creature.
While a yellow jacket can cause a very directed and hot kind of pain, Schmidt describes the sting of a termite-raiding ant as a “migraine contained on the tip of one’s finger.”
Level Three: Not Cute.
This level, though not exclusively filled with wasps, is mostly wasps. The stings of a level three insect can last from anywhere from a few minutes to longer than an hour. Though the ants that do make a level three kind of pain are very painful and memorable.
He described the sting of the Maricopa Harvester Ant as “After eight unrelenting hours of drilling into that ingrown toenail, you find the drill wedged into the toe.”
Level Four: Kill It With Fire.
As previously mentioned, only three insects fall into this level of pain, and Dr. Schmidt has experienced all of them, including that of the bullet ant, long regarded as the most painful insect bite ever felt and lasting for hours. The others include the tarantula hawk, a wasp whose venom is meant to hunt giant tarantulas and the warrior wasp, with a sting that was once clinically described as “traumatic.”
The Amazonian Tribe of the Mawé have a puberty right for males that includes wearing a bullet ant glove. If you experience the worst pain the jungle has to offer, how can you possibly fear anything else?
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had a photoshoot on a white horse on Mt. Paektu, a symbolically important location for his family and for North Korea.
Kim Jong Un has had similar trips and photo shoots before; during one such trip, North Korean state media claimed that the rotund dictator climbed Mt. Paektu, while photos of the event showed him in leather business shoes.
Of course, the photo caused a stir on Twitter, with some Photoshopping the pictures into prestige drama ads for Netflix:
Or bringing up a similar winter photoshoot:
But apart from looking faintly ridiculous to the outside world, the new photos from the Hermit Kingdom are shot through with meaning, according to experts. Read on to see what Kim Jong Un’s snowy ride means.
The North Korean leader on the side of Mount Paektu.
Propaganda images are nothing new for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North Korean propaganda machine is an important part of the regime.
Photos of the North Korean leader climbing the mountain on horseback is “a great event of weighty importance in the history of the Korean revolution,” according to KCNA, the North Korean state media.
North Korean propaganda is nothing new; in fact, it’s everywhere in the country. From posters showing the US’s evil aggression toward North Korea, to Kim’s winter wonderland, controlling the message in the hermit kingdom is vital in order to keep citizens obedient and in the dark about the rest of the world.
Kim rides an immaculate, snow-white horse to match his surroundings. But it’s not just about equine aesthetics.
The white steed upon which Kim Jong-Un is seated is reminiscent of the legendary creatures Chollima, a winged horse, and Mallima, a horse with incredible speend and indurance, according to Reuters.
Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un’s grandfather, was also supposedly visited by a white steed during his guerilla days, according to The Washington Post.
There are postage stamps of Kim Jong Il riding white horses on Mt. Paektu, according to Michael Madden, a North Korea researcher for the Stimson Center, but “no one’s had the balls to take a horse up there,” he said.
Kim Jong Un resembles his grandfather physically, and has had a number of propaganda photos mirroring his grandfather’s. Kim Jong Un’s resemblance of his grandfather allows him to “project power and gravitas,” Madsen told The Guardian in 2014.
Kim Jong Un isn’t the only person harkening the past in the photo shoot, though; in other photos, his sister, Kim Yo Jong, is riding a horse like the one her father used to ride, and is dressed like her grandmother, Kim Il Sung’s first wife Kim Jong Suk, who is considered the mother of North Korea and holds vital importance in the country’s mythology.
Mt. Paektu is a loaded location for the Kim family — and North Koreans.
Mt. Paektu is an important place for the Kim family, as it cements their status as the rightful rulers of North Korea.
It’s said to be the “location of Kim Il Sung’s mythical guerrilla base,” Joshua Pollack, a North Korea researcher at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies told Reuters. Kim Il Sung, the current leader’s grandfather, was the first leader of North Korea, and the country’s mythology sees him as a great guerilla fighter against imperilalist Japan, which ruled the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Of this latest photoshoot, Pollack said, “The location and the clothes are meant to evoke the founder’s legacy.”
And according to North Korean state media, Mt. Paektu is where Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, was born, although it’s more likely he was born in the Soviet Union. It’s also, according to legend, where Dagun, the leader of the first Korean kingdom, was born thousands of years ago, according to the BBC.
There are two Kim family compounds nearby, including one built by Kim Jong Il on Mt. Paektu, Madden told Insider. Somewhere in the vicinity — perhaps at that compound — is the secure facility Madden referred to as the “North Korean panic room,” where the Kim family can head in case of disaster. They also have the option of crossing the nearby border into China.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un rides a horse during snowfall in Mount Paektu in this image released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 16, 2019.
While the photos may look absurd, they’re intended to have a very serious message.
“This is a statement, symbolic of defiance,” Pollack told The Washington Post. “The pursuit of sanctions relief is over. Nothing is made explicit here, but it starts to set new expectations about the coming course of policy for 2020.”
North Koreans have suffered from international sanctions due to its nuclear program; the photos seem to show that North Korea will not bow to international pressure.
According to multiple reports, Kim Jong Un has visted Mt. Paektu prior to major announcements or policy decisions before. For example, a 2017 trip came just days after the North Korean military launched its largest-ever intercontinental ballistic missile.
Madden told Insider that the photo shoot most likely portends a military announcement of some kind, possibly that North Korea and China are announcing a long-term strategic aggreement. “A member of the Chinese Military Commission is in North Korea right now, and [talks are] going very, very, very well,” he told Insider.
Madden told Insider that “North Korea in 2020 is either going to launch a rocket, or announce that they have attained the ability to perform sub-critical nuclear tests,” and the photos could be in advance of such an announcement.
Whatever the announcement is, it’s almost certainly not about making concessions to the US or any of its allies, Madden said.
“North Korea has massively regressed in the past few months,” in terms of foreign policy “and I have no idea why,” Madden noted.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.