The trips I’ve made back to Vietnam with Jason, Paul and Andy brought back many memories — some good and some not so good — but one gemstone has been our times at the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon.
I was introduced to the Caravelle and its rooftop bar during my first tour in Vietnam. While traveling to Saigon for debriefings of some of the operations I participated in a good friend took me to the Caravelle’s rooftop bar for beers and to enjoy the scenery. As a young soldier I didn’t feel like I was making history, but felt like I was among those who were. The Caravelle was full of foreign diplomats, senior military personnel, journalists and some who I suspected (right or wrong) were intelligence agents attempting to gather information. It was a heady time for a young sergeant who was a bit full of himself.
There was an air of expectancy surrounding the entire goings on at the bar, as if people expected something to happen at any moment. It was an exciting adventure watching the flow of the crowd, listening to the conversations and hearing the clinking of glasses as everyone enjoyed themselves – as if we were all in another universe. Then off in the far distance I, and many others, heard the crump of incoming mortar shells at the edge of the city and were quickly brought back to reality. I wasn’t sure what to do or how to react, but my friend did – he ordered another beer and the band, sensing the situation upped the volume of their music and we watched “the war”.
Each time I returned to our camp in Ban Me Thuot and reflected on my trip to Saigon the time I spent at the Caravelle seemed like a dream – so out of place with what I knew operationally, but also a perfect counterpoint.
The Caravelle will always be one of my favorite memories and go-to places in the world.
Being knocked off a ship is one of the most disorienting and terrifying experiences you can have.
German sailor Arne Murke had this happen when he was knocked off a sailboat in 9 foot waves, and without a life preserver. Fortunately, Murke had the wherewithal to employ a trusted life-saving trick used by Navy SEALs that starts by taking off your pants, and was rescued off New Zealand after over three hours in the water.
The method uses your pants to assist with flotation to stay on the surface and conserve your energy. And unlike a dead man float where your face is in the water, this tactic allows you to rest with your face up so rescuers can more easily find you.
Here’s how to perform this tried-and-true “drown proofing” technique, which is taught to troops from all the military branches.
Step 1: Take off your pants. While you tread water or lie on your back, tie a knot in the ends of the pant legs. The US Navy recommends you tie both pant legs together and tight enough to trap air, as seen in a 2015 video. Oh, remember to zip up the fly.
Step 2: Inflate. Put the waist opening over your shoulder, then in one motion raise the open waist high over your head to scoop in air and then slam it into the water. Close the waist underneath the water to hold in the air.
A US Army soldier sits upright after inflating his pants and putting his head through the legs.
(US Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Pascal Demeuldre)
Step 2.5: If your air pocket isn’t filled enough, repeat the last step. Or you can try to fill the pants by going under water and breathing air into the open waist.
Step 3: Put your head through the inflated pant legs and hold the waist closed and under water. Wait for help and stay calm. If and when the pants deflate, just repeat the steps.
These moves are fairly straightforward, but it’s hard to get the pants to inflate by swinging them over your head. It may take a few tries. Best to practice this in a pool first.
Watch the US Navy video here:
Navy Skills for Life – Water Survival Training – Clothing Inflation
The U.S. Coast Guard performed two daring rescues at sea over the past week. The first, on November 13, involved a stroke victim aboard a commercial fishing vessel. Then, just six days later, Coast Guard aircrews were tasked with the rescue of another fisherman who had fallen overboard. Footage of both rescues has been released.
On Friday, November 13, at approximately 6:00 p.m. EST, Coast Guard watchstanders received word that a fisherman had suffered an apparent stroke some 60 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter was able to locate the vessel and rescue the fisherman by 7:30 that evening.
On Thursday, rescue crews out of Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod were once again tasked with saving an injured fisherman. This time, as a result of a man falling overboard.
At approximately 3:30 a.m. EST, a watchstander from Coast Guard District One received word of an emergency situation unfolding aboard a 72-foot fishing vessel called the Jennifer Anne. According to a Coast Guard statement, the 35-year-old fisherman had fallen overboard and had been recovered by other members of the crew. However, he had suffered a number of lacerations and was exhibiting signs of hypothermia.
The Coast Guard deployed an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft to locate the vessel, some 160 miles out to sea. By 6:51 a.m. EST, the vessel had been located, and rescue crews were able to safely hoist the injured fisherman from the deck of the Jennifer Anne. The injured man was stabilized and brought to Massachusetts General Hospital for further care.
This dramatic footage of the rescue highlights the incredible skill and bravery on display from the Coast Guard crew.
The US Navy is trying to find out who secretly filmed dozens of service members in a bathroom and shared the videos on the porn website Porn Hub, US military officials told NBC news.
An agent from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service found the videos on Porn Hub earlier this month. Some of the videos showed sailors and marines in uniform with visible name patches, NBC reported. The individuals didn’t know they were being recorded and officials were not aware of any sexual acts in the videos.
The clips, which have since been removed, also included civilians.
The officials believe the videos were taken through a peephole in a bathroom, according to NBC.Some of the individuals in the videos were assigned to the USS Emory S. Land, a vessel that supplies submarines and is assigned to a port in Guam, the officials told NBC.
A message left by Insider for a Navy spokesperson was not immediately returned.
In the statement, White said that PornHub employs a team to scan for and remove content that violates their terms of service.
The company also uses “Vobile, a state of the art third party fingerpringing software,” to make sure new uploads don’t match videos that have already been removed from the site, White said.
This isn’t the first time that US service members have been targeted by voyeurs looking to share nude photos of them online.
In a 2017 scandal, the US Marine Corp. opened an investigation after hundreds of nude photos of female service members from every military branch had been posted to an image-sharing message board.
The discovery of the photos and investigation resulted in a change in US Marine and Navy laws banning revenge porn.
Violators who are found to have shared an “intimate image” of a colleague without their consent can face consequences ranging from administrative punishments to criminal actions.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Veterans in California will soon be able to adopt dogs and cats from public shelters for free.
The more than two million veterans living in that state will have adoption fees waived at public shelters beginning Jan. 1, 2020, if they show their driver’s license or ID card with the veteran designation on it to shelter personnel. So those wanting a new puppy or kitten from Santa may have to wait a few weeks after the holiday if they want to get the discount.
Although the bill waives adoption fees, additional costs such as licensing and microchipping may apply.
While the language of the new law specifically mentions only dogs and cats, other animals — including reptiles, livestock, and birds — may also be available for free adoption depending on the individual shelter’s policies.
The law limits the free dog and cat adoptions to one every six months.
Private shelters are not affected by the new law.
State Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar), who introduced the bill, said, “This is a big win for veterans and shelter animals. I’m glad we can reduce the barriers for bringing together veterans seeking companion animals and pets in need of a home.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
People were left scratching their heads last year when the Air Force’s top intelligence officer said the U.S. was looking for ways to expand its multi-domain operations and intelligence gathering into galaxies, far far away.
When Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson made the observation in August 2018, it sounded to many more like visions from movies like “Interstellar” and “The Matrix” than military policy.
“I only talk about the domains we know about today,” Jamieson told Aviation Week’s Steve Trimble following a briefing where Jamieson discussed the service’s future intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flight strategy.
“I am convinced that there are more domains — man-made domains — that will come, and I would offer you that if we look at galaxies — sounds nuts — but there’s going to be a man-made domain in galaxies,” she said last August. “Space has got different galaxies. And in those galaxies, in the future, we’re going to actually have capability that we have right now in the air. We don’t know what it is because we haven’t freed our mind to think about what is that space and how we are going to utilize it,” she said.
Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson.
In her comments last year, Jamieson wasn’t describing plans to insert physical national security space assets into space systems light years away, she recently told Military.com.
Instead, the term “galaxies” was meant to invoke how the Pentagon should be streamlining and blending intelligence from anywhere in the world and beyond.
“Envision if you will, the ISR constellation of sensors that are all interconnected by a common data architecture, operating with precision, clockwork, and movements of a galaxy,” Jamieson said in an interview at the Pentagon.
“So we took that and from that we went, ‘well, let’s put it down on paper.’ That’s where we came up with the collaborative sensing grid,” she said.
The sensing grid, she explained, is a map of data fused from sensors that is processed through artificial intelligence and machine learning to produce an “all-domain picture.”
“It helps us open up our minds to new ways to approach things,” she said.
In 2016, Jamieson became the service’s deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on the Air Staff at the Pentagon, known as the A2. This year, the Pentagon merged the A2 position with that of deputy chief of staff for Information Dominance, or A6. Following a senate vote in March, Jamieson also added cyber effects operations to her job title.
(NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope)
Jamieson, the first female intelligence officer to be a director of ISR for the Air Force in more than a decade, and the first intelligence officer to hold the A2 position, has been seen as a proponent of avant-garde ideas in ISR: she has put a high emphasis on artificial intelligence and machine intelligence as a necessity to process information from every domain, including space, more quickly.
“It incorporates everything,” she said. For that reason, the days of PED, or processing, exploitation and dissemination of each individual piece of intel, without putting it into greater context, are “dead,” she said last year.
For her, “galaxy” was a “sexy word to say. How do I actually look at things through a different lens? How do I look at the interconnectedness of space? Because that gets me thinking very differently than terrestrial examples,” Jamieson said. “If I can look at [the] interconnectedness of the solar system, can I look at an interconnectedness of my sensors, whether I have them today or I’m going to attain them tomorrow?”
With the sensing grid, “I can look at an adversary’s intent in a much clearer way … and attain decision advantage,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Prison time is hard time. Depending on where an inmate is locked up, they can spend anywhere from 21-23 hours a day in their cells, regardless of the severity of their crimes. Wherever possible, inmates who really want to get out are making the most of that time. But it turns out there is one job that is perfectly suited to someone with that much time on their hands: training service dogs for wounded veterans.
America’s VetDogs employs inmates like Tyrell Sinclair, an inmate at Connecticut’s Enfield Correctional Facility, to train service dogs destined for wounded veterans – and the dogs work wonders for the inmates as well. For Sinclair, it gives him something to do, something to look forward to every day. More than that, the increased attention the inmates are able to give the trainee dogs cuts the training time down to just one year instead of two to five years.
“After committing a crime, being in here, you just sit around and think about how bad things are, how bad a person I am for being in this predicament,” said Sinclair. “Once I got the dog and got into the program, things were better. It’s like a whole different outlook.”
Sinclair says he was amazed at the abilities the dogs have once they are subject to the proper training and skills.
“It amazed me,” he said.
But it’s not just the constant companionship of man’s best friend that helps inmates like Sinclair through their jail time. The inmates know the dogs will not be with them for very long if all goes according to plan. It’s knowing that the dogs they train are destined to help someone who served their country that gives the inmates the boost in confidence.
“It almost makes me feel like a proud dad.”
Mark Tyler, who oversees the Enfield program for America’s VetDogs, believes the prisoner’s inclination toward the dogs (and vice versa) is a natural one and the program is a win-win situation for everyone involved. The numbers support that belief. Around 85 percent of Enfield inmates will end up back in Enfield after their release, for the same crime or another crime. For inmates who train dogs, that number drops to 25 percent.
“They know all too well the crime they committed will likely become an extension of who they are,” Tyler said of the prisoners. “The dog doesn’t care what that person did in the past, he cares about who they are today.”
Maybe you’re exhausted at work and accidentally end up butting heads with a supervisor, or maybe things have boiled over at home and you suddenly find yourself in a shouting match over who forgot to buy toilet paper on their way home.
Before you know it, emotions have taken over and an otherwise inconsequential situation has turned into an hour-long conflict with someone you otherwise love or respect.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s no need to pay for anger management lessons or pick up a self-help book, because psychologists Susan Heitler and Susan Whitbourne have a few actionable suggestions that can help anyone begin to immediately de-escalate a conflict and come to a resolution that both parties can agree on.
(Photo by Harli Marten)
It’s tempting to swallow up our emotions in order to avoid a conflict, but Heitler and Whitbourne say instead it’s important to acknowledge that our negative emotions may be trying to tell us something.
“Negative emotions help you by telling you that there’s a conflict — i.e. a decision ahead, something you want that you are not getting, or you are getting something you don’t want,” Heitler, a psychologist and author of “The Power of Two,” told Business Insider. “Like yellow highlighting, they signal to you pay attention and do something.”
However, “addressing a conflict with negative emotions in your voice invites the person you are trying to work with to get defensive,” she said.
While it’s important to check in with our own emotions, Whitbourne, professor emerita at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said it’s also important to have empathy and stay in touch with the other person’s emotions as well. If you go into an argument only caring about your wants and needs, a win-win solution is going to be much harder to come by.
Instead, both psychologists suggest keeping a friendly tone when expressing your concerns and trying to understand the other point of view as well. Your tone of voice is the first key to resolving a fight quickly.
You could spend hours arguing over who’s right and who’s wrong, but the psychologists said a little empathy is the trick to ending a fight quickly.
“Access those feelings of empathy in which you put yourself in the other individual’s place,” Whitemore said. “Without being disrespectful of the other person’s unhappiness in the moment, you might even try to find a way to laugh yourselves out of the situation if it indeed was something ridiculous.”
Likewise, Heitler said it’s important for both parties to reiterate that they understand the concerns of the other person.
Another important step in resolving your own conflicts efficiently, say the psychologists, is to brainstorm not only solutions that work for both parties, but plans to actually achieve those solutions.
“At the time of the resolution, set forth the agreement that both of you will adhere to the decision that was mutually reached. This will help you push the reset button should the conflict begin again,” Whitbourne said.
Heitler also suggested taking time to make sure both parties understand the agreement the same way, and that no stone has been left unturned.
“End with this magic question: Are there any little pieces of this that still feel unfinished?” she said. “Then summarize the conclusion, especially what each of you will be doing as next steps, and you are good to go.”
Conflict is not always avoidable, say the psychologists, but how you approach the situation can make a world of difference in the outcome you see.
By checking in honestly with your own emotions, as well as honoring the emotions of the other person, you can begin to quickly find the root of the argument and come to a solution that works for both of you — without burning any bridges along the way.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
You may have noticed a recent addition to the Air Force Portal homepage. A logo depicting a warrior looking over his shoulder with a fighter jet above him. It’s the face of the Blue Grit podcast. The podcast is the brainchild of Maj. Anna Fedotova, Los Angeles Air Force Base psychologist. The first of its kind in the Air Force, Blue Grit features conversations with current and former military leaders, mental health experts, elite athletes, veterans, and other individuals who have overcome significant adversity.
The idea for the podcast first occurred to Fedotova in 2017. On a daily basis, she was humbled and inspired by the stories of resilience and strength she heard from patients and colleagues.
“The idea of growth and perseverance has always been captivating to me. My job is to ask questions and listen, so why not try a podcast?” she said.
The fact the she had no funding, official support, experience or equipment didn’t deter her from pushing forward with her podcast. Looking back, she laughs, “in retrospect, it was the ideal beginning for a podcast about grit. There was only one way – up!”
Eight months later, with the podcast off and running, Fedotova found herself briefing Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, about her podcast.
Blue Grit logo.
(U.S. Air Force graphic)
“I didn’t do it alone,” she is quick to add. “My leadership supported me from the beginning and there have been a hundred helping hands.”
Her guests have included author and speaker retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro, who suffered burns over 80 percent of his body from a roadside bomb blast but continues to serve, and Dr. Gary Percival, whom many consider to be the father of survival, evasion, resistance and escape psychology.
“Blue Grit guests had included several former prisoner(s) of war, mental health practitioners and guests such as Maj. (ret.) Kat Portello, who in the blink of an eye went from a being a competitive bodybuilder to being a quadriplegic,” Fedotova said. “All of my guests have had unique experiences, but I continue to be surprised at how simple and consistent their techniques are for developing grit.”
Blue Grit is not only an opportunity for Fedotova to share techniques, tactics and procedures for developing grit. She also views it as a venue to have a broader conversation about mental health.
“I wanted a platform to steer the conversation from mental illness towards mental health,” she said. “I’m not implying happiness-ever-after. Mental health is about living a meaningful life, having an impact, deliberate practice, discomfort. That is grit.”
Doylestown Brewing Company, located in Doylestown, Pa., has a mission that is bigger than just making fine craft beer. They use their platform as a local brewery to honor one of their hometown heroes, Travis Manion.
Travis Manion, a Doylestown native, was killed in action while serving in Iraq in 2007, and his family established the Travis Manion Foundation in his memory. The foundation hosts events such as leadership expeditions for veterans and families of fallen heroes, youth character development through a combination of informal discussions and activity-based learning, and community engagement.
A motto and conviction that Travis lived by was the phrase “If not me, then who,” words that Travis spoke before leaving for his final deployment. This motto has inspired a movement across the nation to promote character, leadership, and service. Joe Modestine of Doylestown Brewing Company was one such individual inspired by Travis, and for the last seven years has been brewing “If Not Me, Then Who” Blonde Ale.
Initially brewing the beer for various events and fundraisers, the support has grown dramatically.
“We have gotten calls and messages from all over the United States,” said Modestine of the brews’ popularity. “Everyone is excited about the beer and the ability to support the foundation. For every case of beer we sell, .00 goes back to the foundation, and just within the last couple of months, we have raised over 00, but that is just the beginning.
With the demand for the beer reaching all over the country we know we would never be able to support each chapter so what we are getting ready to launch is a program where we team up with a local brewery in each state, provide them the rights and recipe to brew the beer and support that state and foundation’s efforts. This has never been done before in the beer world, and we can’t wait to get things started.”
Doylestown Brewing Company
Doylestown Brewing Company has been in business for over nine years now, and their beers are currently primarily available in the Philadelphia area, with the goal of having their products available from coast to coast by the year 2022. They have used their business as a platform to educate and advocate for causes meaningful to them, and the people of Pennsylvania. In addition to their support of the Travis Manion Foundation, the company also brews Duffy’s Cut Irish Style Red Ale, which honors the 57 Irish immigrants and railroad workers that tragically died of cholera in August of 1832 while constructing a stretch of railroad west of Philadelphia.
Modestine added, “We are completely honored to be working with the foundation on this project. I often think of Travis and wonder if he would have liked the beer; believe me, that is the only concern I have. I would have wanted his approval and hope that I did him proud, the way he has for so many others.”
The sun was already bright and warm when I pulled up at the Twin Springs Preserve in Williamson County, Texas just before 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning. Stepping out of my car, I shielded my eyes to take in the dense stands of ash juniper and white oak trees against the cloudless blue sky. It felt unusually spring-like for early February; I opted to shuck my jacket.
With my back to the road and neighborhood, I could imagine this area north of Austin as the verdant forest it once was. But the human population of Williamson County has tripled over the last several decades, encroaching on the wildland. In 2009, the county bought 175 acres to create a preserve and mitigate against the destruction of natural habitat. In addition to wild turkeys, foxes, deer, and raccoons, Twin Springs is home to several threatened or endangered species, including the bone cave harvestman spider, Salido salamander, and golden-cheeked warbler.
The beauty and peacefulness of the preserve belie a hidden danger. Here, the forest floor is strewn with grasses, shrubs, and the litter of fallen leaves and branches. In hot, dry conditions, those materials become tinder. All it takes is a sustained wind and an errant spark—from a discarded cigarette, say, a car’s exhaust system, or a lightning strike—for the tinder to catch fire. Unchecked, the flames can climb to the upper canopy and then quickly spread from tree to tree.
Cleaning up after the West Fire that hit Alpine, CA, in 2018.
Canopy fires are intense, fast-moving, and virtually unstoppable says Kyle McKnight, an Emergency Management Specialist with Williamson County. “A canopy fire could very rapidly progress to these homeowners, causing millions of dollars of losses and potentially loss of human life as well,” he said. “Look at what is happening in California. We’ve seen a huge loss of life and property.”
id=”listicle-2646945029″ OF PREVENTION VS. OF CURE
Greater Austin, which includes Williamson County, ranks fifth in the nation among metropolitan areas at risk for wildfires according to a recent report by CoreLogic, an online property data service. The only areas at greater risk are all in California.
Rather than wait to react to the inevitable wildfires, Williamson County officials put together a comprehensive plan to mitigate risk. “According to FEMA, [the Federal Emergency Management Association], on average, every id=”listicle-2646945029″ spent in mitigation results in of saved cost from fighting the fires and recovery from damage,” says McKnight. In some areas with more expensive real estate, he says, the return is as high as for every id=”listicle-2646945029″ invested in prevention.
The Williamson County mitigation plan calls for creating a 50-foot wide shaded fuel break along the perimeter of Twin Creeks Preserve, McKnight explains. The idea is to take out debris and shrubs, and remove tree limbs up to about 8 feet above ground, leaving the shaded canopy to keep the forest cooler and discourage the growth of flammable understory plants.
Clearing a blowdown on a road after Colorado’s Spring Creek fire.
What Williamson County didn’t have, however, was the budget or manpower to carry out the work. That’s where Team Rubicon came in. For two weekends in February, teams of about 50 volunteers—known by Team Rubicon as Greyshirts—worked steadily to make the forest and surrounding neighborhoods safer by creating a shaded fuel break.
A BLUE-SKY OPERATION
The morning I arrive, the preserve is a beehive of activity. The insistent buzz of chainsaws and mechanical drone of woodchippers cut through the morning air. It smells amazing, like walking into a freshly built cedar closet.
Oscar Arauco, the Texas State Administrator for Team Rubicon, has me don a hard hat, goggles, and earplugs before we survey the worksite. As we walk, he explains that Team Rubicon coordinates “gray skies” operations to provide relief after disasters such as Hurricane Harvey, which roiled the Gulf coast in 2017, and “blue skies” prevention operations such as this that help mitigate risk. Often, Team Rubicon uses such mitigation work to further educate and train sawyers and other Greyshirts, too.
Like 70% of the people involved in Team Rubicon, Arauco is a military veteran, having served for 28 years as a U.S. Army artillery officer and chaplain. (The remaining members are affectionately known as kick-ass civilians, he explains.) Once Team Rubicon identifies a need and defines a project, a call for help goes out to members living within a 450-mile radius. With the exception of a couple of paid project managers, everyone here is a volunteer. Most have driven in for the weekend and are bunking on cots at the nearby First Baptist Church of Georgetown.
Clearing debris for fire mitigation in the Twin Springs Preserve.
Arauco points out that the busy work site is well organized into sets of three teams, each supervised by a strike leader. People known as “sawyers” use pole saws and chainsaws to take out tree limbs and vegetation up to the 8-foot mark. “Swampers” carry the woody material to the perimeter where the “chippers” feed it into wood chippers to turn it into mulch that goes back into the preserve.
I’m struck by the diversity of Greyshirts and the lack of traditional hierarchies—a young woman is just as apt to be leading a team as an older man. That’s one of the things Arauco says he likes most about his work. “I love that Team Rubicon values service over any other factor,” he says. “There are no age- or gender-specific roles. It’s all about pulling your weight and getting the job done.”
FORMER ARMY MEDIC TURNS HER FOCUS TO HEALTHY FORESTS
M.D. Kidd, who takes a break from the chainsaw to talk, is one of the younger faces in the group. She served as a medic in the U.S. Army from 2011 to 2015 and then trained as a wildland firefighter for the Southwest Conservation Corp in Colorado. In 2017, she joined Team Rubicon and underwent training to become a regional chainsaw instructor. Now a full-time college student majoring in sociology and public health, Kidd says she would eventually like to work for the Peace Corps. For her, volunteering with Team Rubicon is the way to serve both people and the environment.
She points out that fire is a natural part of the cycle for healthy forests, but for more than a century people have focused on suppressing fires, leaving the tinder-like material to build up. “The longer we suppress fires and leave the fuel sitting there, the worse it is in the long run,” she said. “So efforts that mitigate the risk of fire are hugely important. As with medicine, I think prevention is really the way to go.”
To mitigate against fire, Greyshirts take tree limbs out up to the 8-foot mark.
Kidd and others say a big reason they volunteer on mitigation projects like this for Team Rubicon is the break from routine it provides, and the camaraderie. “The reason I am so passionate about this organization is that it provides a purpose for veterans,” says Patrick Smith, a 23-year U.S. Army veteran who is coordinating logistics for the operation. Smith works as a Deputy Sheriff in charge of animal cruelty for Harris County and as a physician’s assistant at Memorial Herman Hospital in Houston. “Team Rubicon takes our skills and experience and finds a place where they can be put to good use,” he says.
Greyshirt Keith Elwell, a former project engineer for the defense industry, joined in 2018 after seeing people in Houston trying to cope with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey on the news. “Man, I’m sitting there just watching. I’m thinking ‘I’ve got some skills. I can help. I can do stuff’,” he says. He has now gained enough training and experience as a sawyer to mentor others.
Since then, he says, he’s “been all over the place”—from clearing trees felled by a fierce storm in Wisconsin to tearing down homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael in Panama City, Florida to cleaning up after the Mississippi River Flooded in Vicksburg, Tennessee. “There are all different roles and no two situations are the same,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate enough to help people on the worst day of their lives.”
OVER TWO WEEKENDS, MONTHS GET WHITTLED AWAY
It’s hard to put into words how meaningful the mitigation effort is to the county officials and inhabitants of this scenic area, says Mark Pettigrew, a Trails and Preserves Steward for Williamson County. We sat down on a couple of flat rocks in front of the trailhead and he gestured to the activity around us. “I’m one of only two main employees for the Williamson County Conservation Foundation. To get all this done would have taken us months and months,” he says.
Pettigrew points to the area in front of us, where the preserve abuts a busy road and neighborhood. The teams are mostly finished here and it looks like an arboretum with a wide, mulched path shaded by a graceful canopy of trees. “The most hazardous area is along this road and we’ve got the whole place completely cleared out and ready to go,” he says. “It’s phenomenal.”
Without the help of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts, it’s not clear when—or if—fire mitigation in the preserve would get done. As the county’s Emergency Management Specialist, McKnight says he knows that there’s currently no budget for the work. Grants often require extra steps and cost matching. “It’s a creative strategy for getting projects like this done,” says McKnight. “It requires a minimal investment on our behalf—some food and porta-potties—and we’re saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in labor costs. It’s a win-win.”
By the time I’d wrapped up, the day had shaped up to be unseasonably warm with low humidity—pleasant, but concerning, too, given what I had learned about wildfire risk. Climate change is bringing wave after wave of record heat to the Austin area. Last September was the hottest on record, with nearly three straight weeks of triple-digit temperatures.
On the way back to my car another Team Rubicon Greyshirt, Sam Brokenshire, stopped me. He wanted me to leave with a sense of scale for just how much the group had accomplished. At the end of the two-weekend project, he says, the team will have removed about 4,000 cubic yards—about 90 dumpsters worth—of brush.
Seeing people out working for the common good means a lot, says Brokenshire. “Yesterday, a guy from the neighborhood pulled up to thank us for the work we are doing,” he says. “That makes it all worth it.”
Some of the Team Rubicon Greyshirts who worked on the Williamson County fire mitigation project.
Veterans lined the halls of the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center Nov. 8, 2019 to watch the first ever Inpatient Veterans Parade. The parade is the result of one VA employee’s vision and the patriotic spirit of a community.
The Muskogee High School R.O.T.C. color guard led the way through Primary Care and inpatient wards. The parade also included members of the community and “mini” floats decorated by VA staff.
Honor, the facility dog, acted as grand marshal while parade participants handed out candy, hats and other treats to veterans.
Twenty-five organizations and VA services joined in the event. Muskogee High School provided a marching band, cheerleaders and football players. Korean War veterans, the American Red Cross and over 80 students from the Sadler Arts Academy also participated.
Seeing Color Guard was emotional
Veteran Billy Fuller became emotional when he saw the color guard.
“I really liked the parade,” said Fuller. “I was in the Air Force and seeing the colors and hearing the songs just takes me back. Thank you for doing this for us.”
VA staff from the Intensive Care Unit were one of 25 hospital services and community organizations that participated in the parade.
Sadler students passed out cards and thanked veterans for their service while the band, cheer squad and football players brought the music and patriotic spirit that echoed throughout the facility.
Air Force veteran Merle Smith and Terry Hood were all smiles as the parade passed through the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit.
“I think this is the greatest thing in the world,” said Smith. “All these young kids bringing cards and thanking veterans. It was just really something special.”
Hood agreed, but added with a big smile, “The candy was my favorite part.”
Volunteer specialist had idea for parade
The idea for the parade came about a year ago when inpatients expressed their disappointment at not being able to attend Veterans Day activities. As a result, Voluntary Service specialist Shantel McJunkins thought of how VA could bring the parade to veterans.
“It was important to me that we bring the parade to the VA this year to celebrate and honor our veterans who are not able to attend Veterans Day parades in their community,” said McJunkins. “It was such a joy to see their faces light up as the parade went through the hospital.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
We have a history of showing off American military hardware, training, and photos. But we’re not always great about showing the great photographic work of our rivals. (Our “enemies” if you’re feeling aggressive or if you need to make your headline more click-baitey.)
So, we just took a quick walk through the Instagram feeds of the Chinese and Russian militaries as well as their senior leaders and found these seven epic photos that show off their hardware, troops, training, and celebrations.
Because they’re coming from Instagram and we don’t have the rights to download the images and upload them raw, you’ll also see the captions the photos were shared with. Lucky us, the Russian military includes English captions on their photos. The Russian caption comes before the English one, so just scroll until you see some familiar letters.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/Bh-VBjxn5vj/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Chinese Armed Forces on Instagram: “We serve China! – People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Su-30MKK – #中国 #中华人民共和国 #中国人民解放军 #中国人民解放军空军 #中国武装力量 #中华人民共和国武装力量 #plaaf…”
This Su-30MKK is an export variant of Russia’s Sukhoi Su-30. It’s flown by the China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force and is a capable fourth-generation fighter. It’s primarily used to protect from other fighters or to conduct strikes against targets on the ground like an F-15 does.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0GHMPIAG5L/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “До Дня ВМФ чуть больше недели, а морпехи Тихоокеанского флота уже целый месяц репетируют эпизоды шоу, которое состоится во Владивостоке в…”
These armored personnel carriers are Russian BTR-82As. They can race along the ground at about 62 mph and have only been in service since the end of 2009. A three-person crew is needed to operate the vehicle, and seven more can ride in the back. It boasts a 30mm auto-cannon as well as a 7.62mm machine gun.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0Akdy7ge8o/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “Удивительные кадры первых репетиций Главного военно-морского парада, посвященного Дню ВМФ, прошедших вчера в Санкт-Петербурге. В…”
A Russian helicopter, most likely the Mi-17, flies over St. Petersburg during rehearsals for a national holiday. Russia’s transport helicopters are some of the best in the world, and their attack helicopters have gotten better and better as well, though the most-modern Apaches and Vipers can likely still clear the sky.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BzS_LkwpVoL/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Instagram post by General Zhuang Dingman • Jun 29, 2019 at 2:15pm UTC
Chinese troops lift tires filled with water and dump them on themselves. The general who shared this image provided no context, but displays like this are common for Chinese troops, especially special operators, when cameras are nearby to capture the moment.
That may make it sound like these troops are just photo models, but China’s special operators have actually placed highly at recent Warrior Competitions in Jordan, taking first and third in 2017 and second in 2018.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B0gSJnOgC-y/?utm_source=ig_web_button_share_sheet expand=1]Минобороны России on Instagram: “Небо Москвы вчера озарили 2500 фейерверков в честь 75-ой годовщины освобождения Бреста от немецко-фашистских захватчиков ⠀ Брест был…”
The Russian government and its citizens celebrate the liberation of Brest, Belarus, during a party in Moscow. Brest was one of the first Russian cities lost during the German invasion in World War II but Russia re-took the city in 1944, 75 years ago.
Chinese troops prepare to erect an air defense missile. China has a wide selection of air defense missiles including S-300 and S-400 missiles imported from Russia as well as domestically built HQ-9 and HQ-22 missiles.
There’s some speculation about how much technology China might have reverse-engineered from Russia without permission, but the HQ-9, at least, was first deployed before China got access to Russian air defense missiles.