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.
Nuclear weapons take less than a millionth of a second to detonate. Meanwhile, the resulting fireball from a thermonuclear or hydrogen bomb can swallow and incinerate a 1-mile area in about a second.
Such rapid and raw power can seem as abstract as it is terrifying. But humanity has triggered and observed more than 2,420 nuclear blasts since the first one in July 1945, according to a recent tally by Alex Wellerstein, an historian of physics and nuclear weapons at the Stevens Institute of Technology.
To make the legacy of nuclear blasts more accessible to the average person, Brooklyn-based artist Eric LoPresti tried something unusual and symbolic: He filmed his Aikido dojo members reenacting every known nuclear blast as hand-to-hand combat moves.
“I wanted to make it visceral,” LoPresti said. “Every time someone’s thrown, there’s this slight slapping noise on the ground. That’s a way of taking a fall — a potentially lethal fall — in a non-lethal and a safer way. It’s called a breakfall, and that sound reminded me of the sound of a sped-up nuclear explosion.”
LoPresti presented his video installation, called “ Center-Surround” at a public expo of Reinventing Civil Defense, a project that aims to “restore a broad, cultural understanding of nuclear risk.”
The art exhibit plays three different videos on three screens in sync. One displays a colored tile with the name and date of a nuclear explosion, while a second screen displays a supercut of the Aikido sparring that’s coordinated to mirror those detonations. A third screen displays a grid-style visualization of all the test names and dates.
There have been so many nuclear explosions — most of them test blasts by the US and Russia — that the film takes roughly two hours to complete one loop, despite the lightning-fast attacks. (There’s one Aikido attack roughly every 3 seconds.)
The trailer below shows a couple minutes of an earlier version of the video.
In an ideal setting, the music-less installation plays in a darkened corner lined with martial arts mats, which exhibit-goers can sit on.
LoPresti wants those who see “Center-Surround” to feel the effort that his dojo members (the artist is also in the film) put into working through thousands of nuclear blasts.
“We did survive without injury, but it’s painful, it’s effortful. I wanted that cathartic experience, almost like an endurance piece,” LoPresti said.
In full, the visual experience is meant “to humanize this vast subject” of nuclear weapons and their history, he added.
LoPresti said his choice of Aikido was deliberate, since it’s a martial art that “grew up around post-World War II Japan,” which is where the US unleashed the first two wartime nuclear attacks.
“Before the war, the founder of Aikido described it as sort of the most lethal martial art. It’s the most sophisticated. It was a combination of all that had come before it — one strike Aikido could kill. After the war, it became the ‘way of harmony,'” LoPresti said.
He added that the modernized form of the martial art is built around movements to protect both the defender and attacker.
“It’s premised on the idea that you should endeavor to engage in conflict resolution without defeating your enemy, right? Because if you defeat your enemy, they’re just going to come back for another round,” he said.
LoPresti’s exhibit debuted in late 2018, but it’s being updated with a grant from Reinventing Civil Defense, a project organized by the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Artist from a nuclear residence
LoPresti grew up in Richland, Washington, one of several communities that housed workers from the Hanford Site: a nuclear reservation where plutonium-239 was manufactured and refined for tens of thousands of US warheads.
A 99.96% pure ring of plutonium.
(Los Alamos National Laboratory)
LoPresti said nuclear weapons were a fixture of the town and, for his dad, a subtext for making a living. Hanford Site employed LoPresti’s father, a statistician, who worked on projects to clean up environmental damage left over from the decades-long Cold War nuclear arms race.
That childhood in what he called a “nuclear town” guided his future relationship with atomic weapons. Today, LoPresti said, his art strives to take nukes out of the realm of what philosopher Timothy Morton called a “hyperobject” — something so large a person can’t think about it, yet without it the world wouldn’t make sense — and into one that’s comprehensible.
“Center-Surround” is LoPresti’s first video installation; most of his other works are paintings. His prior exhibits almost all focus on nuclear weapons, too, and several lean on his obsessive visual studies of the Nevada National Security Site, which sits about 65 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
Previously called the Nevada Test Site, the 1,350-square-mile desert laboratory is where the US set off more than 1,000 nuclear weapons, some 921 of them in underground chambers. This left behind a pockmarked landscape of hundreds of roughly 800-foot-wide craters.
These radioactive scars show up in many of LoPresti’s paintings.
“I would submit this is a better way to think about nuclear weapons than a mushroom cloud,” he said. “Nuclear weapons are one of those very strange things, which is both omnipresent, everywhere, and also sort of impossible to visualize in a concrete way. Because most of it happens invisibly.”
With “Center-Surround,” LoPresti hopes to make nuclear weapons something anyone can understand as part of US history. He said he’s watched people go into his exhibit and relax, only to shudder as they learn about what the numbers and their Aikido representations mean.
“But there wasn’t that fear, an amnesia of terror,” he said — and quashing that fear is what he believes is a vital step to doing something about nukes.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Veteran Tom Zurhellen was hoping to write a novel this summer. Instead, he’s walking 22 miles a day across the U.S. to raise awareness about veteran homelessness and suicide.
Zurhellen is a Navy veteran who teaches English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He’s breaking his journey of about 2,860 miles into segments of 22 miles a day. The daily goal matches an [outdated] number of veterans who commit suicide each day.
“I had a year off [for] sabbatical and I was just going to write another novel,” he said. “But then I got this commander job at the Poughkeepsie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 170. I’m a veteran, but I had no idea how much support was needed by our local veterans with mental health and homelessness.
“I figured if that was happening in my hometown, it had to be happening all across the country. So instead of writing just another silly novel, I decided to use my sabbatical to embark on this crazy adventure.”
Air Force Veteran Erin Ganzenmuller and Zurhellen.
Maintaining the pace
Since leaving Oregon in mid-April 2019, Zurhellen has doggedly maintained his 3-mph pace through all kinds of weather.
“It was 100 degrees in Sioux City, 98 degrees in Beloit, I hit a snowstorm three or four times, sub-freezing temperatures, so yeah, I’ve seen it all,” said Zurhellen.
His journey brought him along the Hank Aaron Trail, which winds through the campus of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
He kicked off his walk through the Milwaukee metro area in a local coffee shop.
On hand to offer support was Navy veteran Mike Waddell, who said he had learned of Zurhellen’s walk that morning on Facebook.
“I just figured I’d come down and show him a little love and encourage him, keep him going,” Waddell said. “I think what he’s doing is great.”
Erin Maney, a social worker at the Milwaukee VA, said raising awareness with a goal of prevention is extremely important.
“I think there’s a lot of media coverage when, unfortunately, there’s a veteran death by suicide,” Maney said. “But there’s not always coverage when every day, Veterans are coming in asking for help, getting the help that they need, and going on to live meaningful lives. What he’s doing is extraordinary.”
Erin Ganzenmuller, an Air Force veteran and environmental consultant, thanked Zurhellen.
“I think it’s an incredible journey to raise awareness for struggles that our veterans face,” said Ganzenmuller, who also volunteers at Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “It’s awesome that he came to Wisconsin.”
Zurhellen at the Milwaukee VA greeted by employees and well-wishers.
Never giving up
“There was a time up until about a month ago, I was hitting the wall at about mile 15. And I thought, ‘What am I doing, experiencing pain? It would be so easy to go home.’
“But then I remembered the pain of the veterans I’m walking for. The people who are dealing with mental health issues. The people who are dealing with homelessness.
“Their pain’s a lot worse than mine. I can go home anytime. It’s like I’m just playing at being a homeless veteran, but they’re doing it for real. So, when I put in that perspective, it gets a lot easier.”
And with that, it was time for Zurhellen to hit the road and walk another 22 miles — a distance that to him means something far greater than just a number.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Planning out and making a home-cooked meal every night can get old; so can the evening routine. Also, kids are expensive and you need for something, just once in a while, to not cost so goddamn much. Fortunately, there is the great American tradition of “kids eat free,” wherein chain restaurants offer free, road-tested, mostly fried children’s meals on certain days (Tuesday seems to be a popular one) or have special deals that significantly offset the cost of a kid’s meal out.
From fast-casual restaurants like Applebee’s and Red Robin to more regional chains, here are 19 restaurants where kids eat free. Because why not score a free mini-quesadilla or plate of chicken fingers for the kids when you can?
Kids eat free on certain days of the week based on location. The menu includes a range of classic kids’ favorites and moderately more adventurous dishes, from mac-and-cheese and chicken fingers to chicken tacos, pizza, and corn dogs.
On Tuesdays after 4 p.m., when parents order an adult entrée, kids under 12 eat free. Parents will appreciate the family meals to go, which can be customized for whatever size family you have.
For those in Texas, this eclectic cafe offers free meals to kids under 12 with the purchase of an entrée from Sunday through Thursday. The menu has Tex-Mex favorites like tacos and empanadas, plus classic brunch picks like waffles. Kids will get a kick out of the “pancake tacos.”
With the purchase of an adult entree, you can snag a free kid-sized quesadilla.
Rewards members get a free kid’s meal as long as they spend at least every 60 days. The kids’ menu includes favorites like sliders, chicken fingers, pizza, pasta, grilled cheese, and quesadilla, so there’s bound to be something for everyone.
At this beloved breakfast joint, kids eat free when adults order an entrée. It’s limited to two free kids’ meals per adult, and may apply to different days according to location.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
Kids under 12 eat free on Sundays for each adult that spends at least . With the hearty portions offered at Dickey’s, nobody will be left hungry.
Kids eat free at select locations, but….
Everyone’s favorite Swedish home store offers free baby food with each entrée purchased. Plus, certain locations offer free meals for bigger kids on special days of the week.
At select locations of this old-fashioned diner and burger joint, kids eat free on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. with the purchase of a regular entrée and drink.
Marie Calendar’s Restaurant and Bakery
Kids under 12 eat free on Saturdays with the purchase of an entrée at this regional chain with restaurants in California, Utah, and Nevada.
Margaritas Mexican Restaurant
Kids eat free on Saturdays and Sundays at participating locations of this New England chain.
At participating locations, kids eat free on Tuesdays. Plus, all entrées come with free chips and salsa, and kids’ meals also include a drink and cookie.
Kids eat free on Wednesdays and Sundays when adults order an enchilada entrée.
The deal varies by location, so check with your local franchise, but popular deals include “kids eat free” one night of the week and id=”listicle-2645141716″.99 kids’ meals. At all locations, kids can get a free sundae on their birthday, and royalty rewards members get a free burger during their birthday month as well as every 10th item free.
This national chain lives up to its name. Kids eat free every Tuesday after 5 p.m. with the purchase of an entrée.
This buffet-style restaurant is perfect for the kids who can never seem to answer the question, “what do you want for dinner?” The 50-foot salad bar might even entice them with some veggies. Rewards members get a free kid’s meal on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Kids eat free all day, every day at the largest ribs joint in the country. Participating locations only.
Kids eat free every Tuesday at participating locations of this famous Chicago pizza joint. For the more sophisticated palette, Uno offers a surprisingly wide-ranging menu, from classic deep dish to vegan and gluten-free pizzas, seafood options like lemon basil salmon, pastas like buffalo chicken mac-and-cheese and even the buzzed-about Beyond Burger. Plus they have margaritas. Amen.
On Sept. 20, 2011, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. The policy served as a sort of compromise between people who wanted to continue to ban gay men and women from serving in the military, which had been the case prior to 1993, and those who felt that Americans should be eligible to serve regardless of sexual orientation.
In other words, until Sept. 20, 2011, service members were punished and even discharged with prejudice for being gay or bisexual. Now, it’s time to restore their honor and give them the benefits they deserve. Here’s how:
Honorable — For service members who meet or exceed the required standards of service. An honorable discharge comes with four major benefit programs, including disability compensation and medical care as well as pension programs and education.
General — For service members whose performance is satisfactory but is marked by a considerable departure in duty performance and conduct. A general discharge will also come with the benefit programs available to those honorably discharged.
Other Than Honorable — The most severe form of administrative discharge, representing a serious departure from the conduct and performance expected of military members. The majority of veterans’ benefits are not available to individuals who receive an Other Than Honorable discharge.
Bad Conduct — A punitive discharge that can only be given out by a court-martial. Virtually all veterans’ benefits are forfeited by a Bad Conduct Discharge.
Dishonorable — A punitive discharge handed out by a court-martial for the most reprehensible conduct, including sexual assault and murder.
Downgraded discharges not only result in the loss of benefits, they carry with them shame and stigma, as well.
As reported by The Bay Area Reporter, “Advocates for LGBT veterans estimate that roughly 114,000 U.S. service members were “involuntarily separated” from the military due to their sexual orientation between the end of World War II and the repeal in 2011 of the homophobic “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that barred LGBT people from serving openly in the military. While many of those veterans could likely qualify to correct or upgrade their discharges, just 8% had done so as of 2018, according to a report presented that April at a conference held at the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School.”
Vets can also receive help from non-profit organizations like Modern Military Association of America, dedicated to advancing fairness and equality for the LGBTQ military and veteran community, or Swords to Ploughshares, which provides assessment and case management, employment and training, housing, and legal assistance to veterans.
Fifty years after Neil Armstrong said, “One small leap for man, one giant leap for mankind,” during the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, one American soldier will take the next “giant leap” into space.
Col. Andrew Morgan, astronaut and Army emergency physician, is counting down to his launch for a nine-month mission aboard the International Space Station, July 20, 2019 — the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
Morgan, a Special Forces battalion surgeon with more than 20 years of military service, is the first Army Medical Corps officer to be selected as an astronaut.
Along with his crewmates, Morgan is scheduled to arrive at the ISS six hours after blasting off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, where he will serve as a flight engineer for Expedition 60, 61, and 62.
“It is a tremendous honor to launch on the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission,” Morgan said during an interview Monday from Star City, Russia. “The entire crew of Expedition 60 has been entrusted with being the torch bearers of the next generation of space exploration.”
With St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow’s Red Square providing the backdrop, Expedition 60 crewmember Col. Andrew Morgan, NASA astronaut and Army emergency physician, poses June 28, 2019, as part of traditional pre-launch activities.
(Photo courtesy of Beth Weissinger)
He added there is no better way to commemorate the achievements of Apollo 11 than with a mission to space with an international crew.
It will be Morgan’s first space mission. His crew members include Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos and Luca Parmitano, an Italian astronaut from the European Space Agency.
Morgan and his crewmates will facilitate research on various projects, including mining minerals in the Solar System, looking into methods for engineering plants to grow better on Earth, and examining cells from Parkinson’s patients in zero gravity to better understand neurodegenerative diseases, according to a NASA press statement.
Morgan joined NASA as a member of the 2013 astronaut class, and was assigned his specific flight 18 months ago.
However, according to Morgan, he is a soldier first.
During the space mission, Morgan plans to pull from his military experience, where he is certified as a military flight surgeon and special operations diving medical officer.
Army Astronaut Col. Drew Morgan, NASA Detachment, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, receives the oath of office during an underwater promotion ceremony in the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory.
(NASA Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory photo)
“I am a sum of my experiences,” Morgan said. “The Army has been a critical part of my experiences since the very beginning.”
Where he is today is because of the Army, he added.
In 1996, while a cadet at West Point, Morgan, along with his team, earned the national collegiate title for competitive skydiving. His military career also includes time with the Army’s “Golden Knights” demonstration parachuting team.
Skydiving is a “core part” of who I am, Morgan said. He added the “calculated risk taking” and entrusting his life with team members parachuting laid the foundation he needed to become an astronaut.
Shortly after parachuting, he became the battalion surgeon for the 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), also known as the “Desert Eagles.”
After three years serving on flight status, combat dive, and airborne status with the Desert Eagles, he was selected for a strategic operations assignment in the Washington, D.C., area, according to his NASA biography.
Col. Andrew Morgan.
“I’m a soldier, a physician, and an astronaut,” Morgan said. “I made the decision to be a soldier when I was 18, and I am very, very proud of that.”
There are a lot of similarities between military deployments and being an astronaut, he said, including time apart from his family.
Morgan’s family are no strangers to deployments. The astronaut has deployed multiple times with the Special Forces in direct combat support operations to Afghanistan, Africa, and Iraq.
Married for nearly 20 years and a father of four, Morgan said his family is ready for the upcoming mission.
They understand the makeup of the mission, he said, and “we are all in this together.”
“I want to make everybody proud,” Morgan added. “I want to accomplish my mission with a team that’s highly effective. If I can accomplish all of that and come home safely to my family, then mission accomplished.”
The Air Force Academy graduated 989 newly-minted Air Force officers in 2019. As part of their graduation, each cadet gets his or her own pinning-on of their new rank, often done by the new officer’s loved ones. One cadet had the oath of a new military member given by an old former airman who was flying when the Air Force was still called the Army Air Corps.
(U.S. Air Force Academy photo)
Newly-commissioned 2nd Lt. Joseph Kloc had his new rank pinned on by his mother and father in May 2019. Among the other family members who made the trek to Colorado Springs was the young man’s 101-year-old grandfather, Walter Kloc. The elder Kloc was an Air Corps bombardier officer who served in World War II. It was Maj. Walter Klock who delivered his grandson’s oath, commissioning him into the U.S. Air Force.
According to Kloc’s wife Virginia, Walter was incredibly excited to go, give the oath and then deliver some words of wisdom to his grandson.
Before delivering the oath, Walter was greeted with a standing ovation by the assembled crowd. He delivered the oath in his old uniform and then watched on as his son pinned the younger Kloc’s rank on his epaulets. The moment was an emotional one for everyone involved.
“I’m so excited for him,” 2nd Lt. Joseph Kloc’s father William Kloc told WGRZ before their trip to Colorado. “He’s fulfilling his dream and he was so excited that his grandfather, a World War II Air Force bombardier pilot, could come and commission him.”
As soon as Shawn Campbell saw his name on a plaque next to a statue sunken 40 feet on the seafloor, the memories of soldiers he had once served with flooded his mind.
The life-size statue, one of a dozen concrete figures that make up the nation’s only underwater veterans memorial, depicted a soldier wearing combat gear from the Iraq War — a war he had fought in three separate times.
“It really took my breath away,” said the former staff sergeant, now a master diver at a Florida dive shop. “It was a huge honor.”
His company made a donation to place his name at the base of the statue before the figures were recently installed about 10 miles off the coast of Clearwater, Florida.
The memorial, called Circle of Heroes, honors the entire military with statues portraying a variety of service members in what organizers hope will serve as a therapeutic dive for veterans and a unique diving experience for all.
Plans call for an additional 12 statues to be added to the memorial next year.
Circle of Heroes is the nation’s only memorial of its kind and will eventually have 24 life-size statues depicting troops from all services.
(Circle of Heroes)
For Campbell, who served about a decade in the Army as a combat medic, he said the memorial helped him remember those who never returned home and those who struggled once they did.
“I had a lot of friends who didn’t make it back,” he said Aug.12, 2019, a week after the memorial officially opened. “And even more who did make it back, but then couldn’t win the battle with themselves after the war.”
One such friend was Staff Sgt. Victor Cota. He and Campbell had been in the same 4th Infantry Division unit that provided security for senior leaders traveling in and around Baghdad.
On May 14, 2008, Cota’s vehicle hit a roadside bomb, killing the 33-year-old Tucson, Arizona, native.
“He was a really good friend of mine,” Campbell said. “We lost him during [my] second deployment.”
In 2013, Campbell left the Army to finish his associate’s degree and then worked as a commercial deep sea diver. He now teaches courses at a dive shop in the Tampa area, where he grew up.
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, looks at his name on a plaque next to one of the statues at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
(Video still by Bill Mills)
“I was like, well, if I survived the war, I’m going to start doing everything I want to do now,” he said.
Campbell said scuba diving is a relaxing activity that calms his post-traumatic stress and gives him time to analyze his thoughts in peace.
“It helps me deal with things,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to have a bad day when you’re underwater and you get to reflect upon yourself.”
Former Staff Sgt. Jace Badia, also a diving instructor, agreed, saying the sport gives him more freedom of movement.
Badia, an infantryman who lost his left leg above the knee to a roadside bomb in Iraq, said he and others who have had amputated limbs can move however they like while floating below the surface.
He even knows a blind veteran who enjoys scuba diving.
“If you don’t have the ability to run because of prosthetics, you can get in the water with a tank and you can swim as fast as you want,” he said. “Nothing is stopping you.”
Shawn Campbell, a former staff sergeant and now a master diver, had a statue dedicated to him at the Circle of Heroes underwater veterans memorial off the coast of Clearwater, Fla.
Badia, who manned a boat so other wounded veterans could dive around the memorial last week, said he is looking forward to seeing it soon in an upcoming dive.
“I can’t believe that they finally made an underwater memorial for [service members],” he said. “That’s amazing, I never even thought that was possible.”
While memorials are typically above ground, this one can allow visitors to connect to it on a deeper level. There is even a nonprofit that specifically takes wounded veterans to the site as an alternative form of therapy.
“The one thing about scuba diving is when you’re down there, even if you’re in a group, you’re still by yourself,” Campbell said. “You have no choice but to reflect on what you’re looking at.
“It’s more of a serene experience that you never get an opportunity to experience above the water.”
Women are capable of incredible things, including feats of physical strength, athleticism and tremendous bravery. I have always been a strong supporter of equality for women, and women in the military are no exception. With that in mind, the playing field between men and women in the military isn’t level. Equal doesn’t mean identical.
Often, they’re unaware of these potential hardships until they experience them firsthand. Women are assets to the military without a doubt, but they also deserve to know the details before they sign up. Here’s what any prospective female recruit should consider before they enlist.
Sexual assault is a real threat.
Of all the risks to women in the military, sexual assault is the most widely publicized. While male soldiers are also at risk, women have a heightened risk in comparison. The risk is highest for those stationed on ships; at some high-risk installations studied in 2014, 10% of women were assaulted – and that’s only what was reported. At the two most dangerous, 15% of women were assaulted. The risk is much lower for most military bases, but because studies are done after the fact, it’s impossible to know which bases are the most dangerous currently.
All branches of the military have been working to improve these sobering stats, but between 2016 and 2018, the number of assaults actually increased. Some of the pinpointed factors included alcohol use and off-base parties. Victims also had certain common qualities, like joining the military at a younger age and having a prior history of sexual abuse. On average, one in 17 civilian women will be sexually assaulted in the US. For military women ages 17 to 20, the risk is one in 8, and around 25% of women report sexual harassment at some point during their time of service.
Experiences like these have an impact on mental health.
Many women choose not to report their assaults for fear that their case won’t be taken seriously, or that it will impact their career potential. Either way, victims are more likely to experience PTSD, depression and anxiety that can last for years.
More women in service will serve safely than not, but it’s important to be aware that fending off male attention can be part of the job…even though it shouldn’t be.
Women have a much higher risk of injury in certain military roles.
In close-combat positions and others that require ongoing heavy lifting and extreme physical exertion, women are more likely to experience injuries like stress fractures and torn muscles. Women are more than capable of holding their own in combat, but the particularly physical roles don’t come without risks. Pelvic floor injuries are a particular problem related to carrying heavy weights, potentially leading to urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
Eating inconsistently impacts women more heavily than it does men. Many women experience irregular menstruation, or none at all, with potential impacts on future fertility. Since periods can be irritating to deal with when you’re taking on a role that’s heavily physical and allows very little downtime, some opt to take birth control that eliminates periods completely. The hormones they include can have substantial side effects when taken long term, including low bone density and metabolic issues.
Women are more likely to receive a physical disability discharge.
According to one study published by the Army surgeon general’s office, women are 67% more likely to leave on a physical disability discharge due to a musculoskeletal disorder. That statistic was also from 2011, before the most intense combat jobs allowed women to apply.
Side effects can take years to show up.
It’s possible that even women who leave the military feeling healthy will feel the consequences of hard, physical labor later in life. Some female veterans have reported issues like osteoporosis, muscle atrophy, low endurance and infertility, which they believe to be the result of their time in the military.
Military careers can be rewarding for women, too. As long as they know what to expect.
The point of this piece isn’t to tell women they should stay out of combat or avoid the military. That said, since there are risks unique to female members of service, it would be unfair to encourage them to enlist without offering full transparency.
Some military roles can increase the risk of pelvic floor and musculoskeletal injuries, and sexual harassment and assault is an issue that is far from solved, but many women also climb the ranks proudly without a hitch. Now you know the risks. If you still feel a combat role is where you belong, don’t let any statistic hold you back.
When the Navy destroyer USS Donald Cook sailed into the Baltic Sea in April 2016, it had been more than two years since Russia seized Crimea from Ukraine.
Tensions between Russia and its NATO and European neighbors were still high, and the intervening period had seen a number of uncomfortable and even unsafe encounters between their forces, for which NATO often criticized Russia.
Adm. James Foggo, then a vice admiral in charge of the Navy’s Sixth Fleet, had those in mind as the Cook sailed into the Baltic.
“I had warned them going up there that as they passed through the Danish Straits and into the Baltic that they should be prepared for something like that and that the only way that the world would recognize that it happened is if they had a recording or a photograph,” Foggo, now commander of US Naval Forces Europe and Naval Forces Africa, said on the US Naval Institute’s Proceedings podcast.
A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a very-low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
“So the commanding officer [of the Cook], Chuck Hampton, told me afterward, ‘Well, I had six combat cameramen on each bridge wing.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s a lot,'” Foggo said.
“He goes, ‘Well, you told me if something happened I had to be prepared,'” Foggo added. “So that was part of their ‘man battle stations’ type drill for close-aboard contacts.”
Guided-missile destroyers like the Cook are the Navy’s premier air-defense platforms and are often tasked with guarding other ships, aircraft carriers in particular.
Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
‘Here comes this Russian hot dog’
The encounter with two Su-24 fighter jets, which took place about 80 nautical miles from the Russian Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, was one of two the US destroyer had on April 11 and 12, 2016.
On April 12, a Russian helicopter flew around the Cook seven times at low altitude in what the ship’s commander deemed “unsafe and unprofessional” passes.
A short time later, two Su-24s made 11 more close-range, low-altitude passes in what the Navy said was “a simulated attack profile.” The jets didn’t respond to safety advisories from the Cook, whose commander deemed several of their maneuvers “unsafe and unprofessional.”
The April 11 incident was especially dangerous because of what the Cook was doing and because of how the Russian pilot behaved.
A Russian Kamov KA-27 HELIX helicopter flies low-level passes near the USS Donald Cook in international waters in the Baltic Sea, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
“What a lot of people don’t know is that at the time they were doing what we call a ‘hot-pump’ of a Polish aircraft that was doing deck landing [qualifications],” Foggo said.
“So the Polish helicopter had landed and was being refueled while the rotors were turning, and here comes this Russian hot dog in his jet, doing several hundred knots, and the distance between wingtip and the deck of Donald Cook was about 30 feet,” Foggo added.
That was the closest of the 20 passes the Russian jets made that day, according to US officials, who said the Russians flew so close they created wakes in the water and that it was among the “most aggressive” Russian acts in some time.
A Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft makes a low-altitude pass by USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
The fly-by that took place during the refueling was deemed unsafe by the Cook’s commanding officer, and the ship suspended flight operations until the Su-24s left the area.
“I asked Gen. [Philip] Breedlove and Gen. [Frank] Goranc … ‘would you ever fly your F-16 that close to a moving platform like Donald Cook?'” Foggo said.
“And they said, ‘No way, if the guy sneezed he might have buried his wing into the Donald Cook,'” Foggo added. “Now what would’ve happened then? We’d be explaining that this was a pilot error and not a shoot-down of that aircraft.”
Breedlove and Goranc are retired Air Force generals and fighter pilots who both led US Air Forces in Europe and Africa; Breedlove was also NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command.
Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft make multiple low-level passes over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
‘Wings clean’ vs. ‘wings dirty’
Encounters between NATO ships and aircraft and their Russian counterparts increased after the seizure of Crimea. US forces involved frequently deemed those encounters “unsafe.”
In years prior, “the Russians would typically fly with what we call a ‘wings clean’ configuration, which is no weapons on the wings,” Foggo said on the podcast. “Now in the interactions and the intercepts I see today, they’re coming out ‘wings dirty,’ or they have weapons on board.”
“That’s another bit of the calculus that goes in the commanding officer’s mind on … what is the intent of that pilot, and at what point is [the commanding officer] obliged to defend his ship under defensive rules of engagement,” Foggo said.
Foggo didn’t elaborate on those rules of engagement, but a European Command spokesman told Navy Times at the time that the Cook’s commanding officer didn’t feel threatened, and a retired Navy commanding officer said that, under the circumstances, the Russian aircraft didn’t present a credible threat.
Two Russian Sukhoi Su-24 attack aircraft fly over the USS Donald Cook, April 12, 2016.
(Photo by US Navy)
Encounters at sea still happen but are less frequent, Foggo said.
“I don’t have as many negative interactions … between Russian Federation navy and US or NATO assets,” he said. “They tend to act very professionally. It’s mostly in the air with intercepts, and those could possibly be due to different pilots … is it an air force guy in the cockpit or a navy guy? It depends, and every situation is different.”
US Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO’s current Supreme Allied Commander in Europe and head of US European Command, said this summer that encounters had decreased and that “unsafe” intercepts had “diminished tremendously.”
“What I can assure this audience is that well over 99% of the intercepts that occur in the air are actually safe,” Wolters said at an event in Brussels in June. “In many of the cases where they’re unsafe, when you take a look at the experience level of the operators that were involved, it typically turns into a young man or woman that was probably just hot-dogging it a little bit more than they should.”
“For every one intercept that a Russian aviator commits against a NATO aircraft, we actually have three NATO intercepts” of Russian aircraft, Wolters added, according to Military Times. “That gives you a little bit of a feel for the readiness disposition of your NATO force.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army is interested in the possibility of leasing underutilized government facilities in an effort to help smaller companies start modernization projects, the Army’s acquisition chief said last week.
Through conversations with industry partners, Dr. Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, said he often heard the challenges some companies face in winning government contracts due to their lack of available investment capital.
While a company may have the engineering capacity to turn advanced ideas into reality, it may not have sufficient investor backing necessary to win a contract.
The Army is not likely to award a contract to a company without the facilities to carry out their project.
“It’s a chicken-and-egg problem for the smaller yet innovative companies the Army wants to attract and work with,” Jette said, May 23, 2019, during the Land Forces Pacific Symposium, hosted by the Association of the U.S. Army.
Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, gets a briefing on product improvements for cannon systems.
(US Army photo by John Snyder)
The idea of government-owned, contractor-leased operations could help non-traditional defense contractors bring innovative projects to fruition. It could also serve as a motivating factor for the larger defense contractors, he said.
There are government-owned properties at Army depots, arsenals and other installations that now sit idle, but still have lots of capability.
Under the concept, which started being developed a few weeks ago, vacant space could be leased to a company that can confidently show the Army it can complete a project using it.
“We’ll lease you the facility, which might be included in the price of your vehicle, and then I can employ unused space, generate income, upgrade the space, and you’ll be able to enter the market more easily,” he said.
While he does not see the potential construct focused on making money for the government, it will allow an equitable comparison between companies that intend to use their own facilities and those including the government resource in their bids. Additionally, it may allow the Army and a company to share labor expenses at a specific facility.
“I may be able to take people who are currently overhead expenses and put them in a billable form by then making them available for hiring by the offering company,” he said. “In one way, I can share excess labor with them.”
As the founder of a defense firm after he retired from the Army, Jette also realized it was “extremely difficult” to do business with the government.
Bruce Jette, assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, talks to soldiers from the 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Hohenfels, Germany, April 26, 2018.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Kalie Frantz)
“At a certain point, particularly for small companies, from which most innovation comes, they just give up and walk away,” he said. “So, one of the things I’ve done is made an extensive effort to try and lower that barrier.”
For instance, he could have put a team together to bid for a next-generation combat vehicle, he said, but could not afford the 0 million investment necessary to have access to facilities that would make him a viable bidder.
“That’s the issue. You can put an engineering team together that will make an offer that is really top notch… but they won’t have the facility,” he said. “I can’t accept an offer from somebody who has no ability to show me that they can actually achieve the outcome.”
His office has begun to speak with members of Congress to see if the Army now has the authorities to run the program, which he foresees to be in place in a year or so.
“We’re not sure if it’s going to require new authorities or if current authorities are sufficient,” he said. “We are talking to Congress to make sure that they have no specific objections to it.”
Some companies have already expressed interest in the program, but Jette said they won’t really know how many will take advantage of it until it goes live.
“It really does help us make it easier for companies that can bring competency to the table,” he said, “but don’t have the resources to compete in more capital-intensive areas.”
The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, the military’s transgender ban, the diversion of military construction funds to build a wall on the Mexico border — all of these controversial policies and others could be history on Day One of Joe Biden’s presidency.
As soon as he’s sworn in, Biden would have the authority with a stroke of a pen to reverse a string of controversial military and national security policies put in place by President Donald Trump’s executive orders or use of his emergency powers. The Associated Press and major news outlets projected Biden the winner Saturday, although the result still must be certified and is expected to face legal challenges from the Trump campaign.
Various advocacy groups are already lining up to hold Biden to his campaign promises to reverse Trump’s controversial military policies.
In a statement Saturday, the Modern Military Association of America, a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy group, said Biden was expected to reverse Trump’s executive order that effectively banned transgender military service.
“Thankfully, President-elect Biden has pledged to quickly take action and reverse Trump’s unconstitutional transgender military ban,” MMAA said. “Every qualified American patriot — regardless of their gender identity — should be able to serve.”
Trump’s surprise decision in July to remove nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, shifting some eastward and sending others home, could also be reversed rapidly under Biden’s stated objective to shore up NATO and strengthen partnerships with allies.
The early indicator of how far the new president will go in abandoning Trump’s “America First” policy will be “whether Biden will move to reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
“Doing so will be a down payment on ensuring adequate resources are available to deter Russia,” Skaluba wrote in an analysis Saturday shortly after Biden claimed victory.
To the end of shoring up alliances, Biden could also immediately end the impasse with South Korea over how much Seoul pays to support the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula.
South Korea currently pays about $900 million and has offered a 13% increase, which has been rejected by the Trump administration.
Biden has also pledged to move quickly to halt construction of the border wall and possibly move to withdraw the more than 4,000 active-duty and National Guard troops the Trump administration has deployed to the border to support Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security.
At a joint convention in August of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Biden vowed to halt construction of the border wall.
By declaring a national emergency at the border in 2019, Trump began diverting $2.5 billion in funding from military construction and counter-drug programs authorized by Congress to the border wall. Biden could begin to reverse that by declaring an end to the national emergency.
We’re nearing the middle of January, and chances are your new year’s resolution is already feeling like a bit of a battle. Resolutions are a helpful tool for testing ourselves and improving our willpower, but if you’re having a really hard time sticking to your new vow, you might be better off giving up.
Psychologist Niels Eék, the cofounder of mental health and wellbeing app Remente, told Insider resolutions can offer us direction if we’re suffering from end of year anxiety about what we actually achieved in the previous 12 months, and making clear future goals can really help us focus.
“The extent to which resolutions can help you will depend on your personality, though,” he said. “Consider if having a deadline and an annual roadmap is a good motivator for you, or if it will make you procrastinate and stress. If it’s the latter, new year’s resolutions might not be for you.”
“The joke is supported by the advertising industrial complex, which sees a huge increase in the sale of diet products and gym memberships every January,” she said. “So if you make a resolution on New Year’s Day only to forget about it three weeks later, you are the rule, not the exception.”
Many people set resolutions that they’re simply not going to stick to, like signing up for a marathon when they’ve never put on a pair of running shoes in their life.
According to Statista, the most common resolutions include “exercise more” and “lose weight,” but only about a quarter of people are actually able to keep them. Eék said this is because it requires a lot of effort to change habits that are ingrained in us.
“To succeed, you not only need to keep your own motivation intact, you will also need to consider the environment you live in, the company you keep, and your day-to-day routines,” he said. “For instance, if your resolution is to ‘lose weight,’ going on a diet might work for a little while until your cravings take over.”
Being clear about why you’ve made certain resolutions also helps in the fight against losing interest. If it’s something based on what you want, not what other people and society think you should do, there’s a much better chance you’ll persist with it.
To give up or not to give up?
Daniel said if a resolution doesn’t come from the heart, it’s not going to stick.
“Making extreme commitments on a specified holiday because popular culture prescribes it is not a firm foundation for that intention to take root,” she said. “Instead, consider making simple resolutions every day or every hour about small things that are easy to manage.”
For example, try starting every day with the intention of counting to ten before you react to an annoying coworker. Or pick things you can improve at over time, like being a better listener, driving more carefully, or watching less tv news.
Resolutions are supposed to be a challenge, and when life throws you a curveball, it’s all part of the fun, Eék said.
“Expect setbacks and disappointments along the way,” he said. “If you stay focused and inspired, though, I’m sure you’ll achieve your goal before the year is over.”
“As such, setting a goal can have a powerful effect on the brain as it can trick the brain into believing it has already accomplished the goal, making your desired outcome part of the brain’s self-image,” Eék said. “This is what makes goal-setting such a powerful tool.”
On the other hand, this means your brain can be your harshest critic, he said, which makes it even more disappointing if your resolution isn’t going to plan.
“By not meeting your goal, your brain will react as if you have taken something away that it already had and, therefore, will become upset and react by cutting off your supply of dopamine [the feel-good hormone],” Eék said. “Feelings of anger, disappointment, and embarrassment may arise instead.”
It’s likely you’ll hit a wall at some point, which means it could be time to readjust. But if you’ve reflected on why you’re not succeeding, made some changes, and you still don’t feel any motivation whatsoever, then it might be time to throw in the towel.
These are some tell-tale signs you should give up on your resolution:
You’ve lost sight of why you decided to do it in the first place.
You keep thinking that you “should” instead of “want” to keep going.
Your plans have changed and your resolution no longer fits in.
It’s negatively affecting your mental health.
Essentially, if you’ve lost sight of the point of the resolution you made, it’s making you feel like a miserable failure, and it’s getting in the way of you achieving anything else, then you should give yourself a break.
“Remember, at the end of the day, a resolution is there to help you, not to cripple you,” said Eék. “If it’s continuously doing the latter, simply let it go.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.