US ‘Hurricane Hunter’ aircraft have been flying in and out of Hurricane Dorian, capturing wild photos of a storm that devastated the Bahamas and appears to be heading toward the US.
Dorian, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in history, has been downgraded from a Category 5 storm to a Category 2, as winds have decreased to around 110 mph from their earlier 185 mph, but this hurricane remains a cause for concern.
The U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters fly in the eye of Hurricane Dorian, Aug. 31, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Diana Cossaboom)
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit located at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi., gathered weather information during a mission into Hurricane Dorian Sep. 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit located at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi., gathered weather information during a mission into Hurricane Dorian Sep. 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by U.S. Navy Midshipman First Class Julia Von Fecht)
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron shared this photo from a mission on Sept. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“We’ve made it back home to Keesler Air Force Base,” the squadron tweeted on Sept. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
This image shows the “stadium effect” seen from the eye of the hurricane.
This image shows another view of the “stadium effect” seen inside Hurricane Dorian.
While Hurricane Dorian is not as strong as it was, it is still considered a very dangerous storm. The National Hurricane Center, a division of NOAA, sent out a notification Sep. 3, 2019, explaining that the storm may actually be getting worse given its growing size.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russia has ratcheted up military tensions in Syria by announcing it would send the advanced S-300 missile defense system to Syria, and the US military had a savage response.
Asked for comment on the announced movement of the missile defense batteries to Syria, Maj. Josh T. Jacques of the US Military’s Central Command, which covers the Middle East, said Russia “should move humanitarian aid into Syria, not more weaponry.”
Another Pentagon official similarly had words for Russia, responding to Russian claims that Soviet-era Syrian defenses blocked 83 missiles from a US-led strike early April 2018.
“This is another example of the Russian disinformation campaign to distract attention from their moral complicity to the Assad regime’s atrocities,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told Business Insider, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Russia stands accused by international observers of bombing humanitarian aid convoys on their way into besieged Syrian towns and stifling efforts to ease suffering in the country while they support Assad and allegedly cover him while he conducts chemical warfare against his own citizens.
Experts tell Business Insider that the S-300 likely could not stop another US strike like the one on April 14, 2018, where 105 missiles hit three suspected chemical weapons sites in the country. Russia claims its defenses can down “any” US missile.
Syria has been mired in a brutal civil war since March 2011. Russia, Syria’s ally, has provided air support and training for Assad’s military since late 2015, during which time it has been linked to several war crimes involving the death of civilians.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
As entrepreneurs like SpaceX founder Elon Musk launch increasingly powerful rockets, call for a new space race, and prepare to send astronauts into space for the first time, it’s an exciting time to think of joining NASA’s ranks.
But to even think of applying to be an astronaut, you must first pass a stringent list of requirements, including being a US citizen, having an accredited college degree in science, engineering, or mathematics, and three years of professional experience or 1,000 piloting hours.
Then you have to go through a grueling selection process that is about 74 times harder than getting into Harvard University: NASA selects a new astronaut class once every couple of years, and picked only 12 of 18,300 applicants in 2017.
So how much does NASA compensate its astronauts for their experience, extensive training, and willingness to risk their lives to explore space?
According to a frequently asked questions page on NASA’s website, the annual salary is “based on the Federal Government’s General Schedule pay scale for grades GS-12 through GS-13.”
Such grades are used to determine how much white-collar career employees are paid across many government agencies, and they are further broken down into steps ranging from 1 through 10, which are based on acceptable performance and years of service.
The US Office of Personnel Management is in charge of the base pay and leave figures, and the numbers change each year.
In 2018, according to OPM pay scales, a new astronaut with a GS-12 grade and Step 1 experience and performance would earn $63,600 per year. After several years of excellent performance, the same astronaut might be eligible to make the GS-12’s Step 10 pay: $82,680 per year.
Meanwhile, more-qualified astronauts with a GS-13 pay grade could initially earn $75,628 per year (Step 1) and, after several years, up to $98,317 per year (Step 3).
Veteran U.S. Marine Corps combat cameraman Scotty Bob loves to jump out of perfectly safe aircraft. He got his first taste of what would become his career at age 19 when his attachment to Marine Force Recon sent him to U.S. Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia.
“That’s kind of where I bit the bug,” Bob told Coffee or Die. He now lives in Southern California as a professional base jumper working with Squirrel Wingsuits. He also works with Kavu, maker of the well-known Rope Bag.
Back in the Marines, Bob didn’t get to jump very often. He deployed to Iraq twice, in 2007 and 2009, and spent most of his time with line infantry units. “Once we get deployed, we’re kind of property of the MEF (Marine Expeditionary Force),” he said. “I think I was the only combat cameraman with jump wings.”
For anyone unfamiliar with the role of a combat cameraman, Scotty said that “if you’ve ever seen the movie ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ it’s the exact same job. The guy who wrote the manuscript of that movie for Stanley Kubrick, he was my MOS (military occupational specialty).”
After his five-year stint in the Marines, Bob left in 2010 and soon realized that college was “not really my thing.” So he began his skydiving and base-jumping career in Virginia.
(Photo courtesy of Scotty Bob/Facebook.)
As with many career paths, Bob said, one starts in the skydiving industry with “entry-level jobs, and you tend to work your way up the ranks. And for me it started as a parachute packer.” He worked long hours and did not get to jump very often, but his foot was in the door.
After spending a while working in Virginia, where he grew up, Bob decided to head west. He said that once “you spend a couple years skydiving on the East Coast, you realize you need to move West. In California, we can jump year round.”
By 2013, he had earned tandem instructor certification, and Bob was well on his way to living his dream.
He has jumped everywhere from Virginia to Alaska, where he jumped out of de Havilland Beavers. He described the Alaskan experience as “just flying down mountains.” He even jumped Pioneer Peak, one of the most iconic mountains of the western Chugach range, not far from Anchorage.
(Photo courtesy of Scotty Bob/Facebook.)
In his day-to-day life, Bob tests new wingsuits for Squirrel Wingsuits and coaches people in wingsuiting.
“I do that basically seven days a week,” he said, adding that “the base-jumping community especially has a massive veteran community, it’s pretty scary. When we have events, at least in the States, you can throw a rock and hit three Marines.”
As for the future, Bob says that he is happy where he is. “I’ve reached the holy grail of jobs,” he said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
“You can’t get a product. You are not going to get a product for months.” That’s what Brian Edwards, a medical supplier in California, has been telling dozens of people per day when they call searching for critical medical supplies that, before this year, they took for granted would be in stock.
The Chinese government’s mismanagement of the novel coronavirus not only spread the virus worldwide, it shut down many supply chains that the U.S. and other countries had become accustomed to; indeed, that the U.S. deeply relied upon. As we consider how our post-pandemic country will look, we should be careful to avoid a repeat of these mistakes.
U.S. dependence on Chinese manufacturing was no accident. The Chinese government’s “Made in China 2025” strategy to consolidate manufacturing supply chains and impose itself as the world’s preeminent source of high-value manufactured goods has been well-known for years. While we have neglected to safeguard our industrial base, Beijing was aggressively subsidizing its country’s manufacturing plants and creating supply chains that maximized its economic and geopolitical leverage.
Some of my colleagues and I have worked the White House and the Department of Defense in the last two years to restrict purchases of Chinese-manufactured critical materials for use in U.S. military systems, and the Federal Communications Commission and other agencies have taken the first steps to stop Huawei and related entities from dominating next-generation communications hardware. But the COVID-19 crisis demonstrates that a broader approach is needed.
The U.S. government should develop better, near-real-time insight into supply chains. Occasional reviews of individual supply chains create blind spots that major crises will reach unexpectedly. With the tools that are out there, it should be easier than ever for the government and its critical suppliers to share data to provide resiliency and security.
The government also needs to take the lead in maintaining and expanding critical American supply capabilities. It will be crucial to prevent the pennies-on-the-dollar purchase of distressed American assets during or immediately after the pandemic by firms linked to the Chinese government. This includes many major Chinese firms (such as Huawei). The country that knowingly took steps that allowed the disease to spread worldwide should not be allowed to financially benefit from those decisions.
At the same time, the government should ensure that American businesses get the liquidity and capital they need to maintain and expand critical supply chains within the United States. This can be done through direct investment into manufacturing plants, but it could also be done by making purchase agreements and building national stockpiles of needed supplies. The much-discussed Defense Production Act allows the federal government to both expand and ensure manufacturing capabilities, and the id=”listicle-2645908630″ billion that Congress provided to the DPA program in the CARES Act should be promptly supplemented with the direction that the government identify gaps and fragile sectors of supply chains and build capacity to bulwark them against future crises.
Though the current focus is, deservedly, on China, we should not think that there are no other foreign countries that seek to identify, develop, and exploit critical gaps in U.S. supply chains. Russia has always been a leader in the production of critical defense materials and a known bad actor on the global stage. Indian companies are routinely cited by U.S. authorities for dumping materials in critical and noncritical sectors of the economy. As we have seen recently with everything from thermometers to toilet paper, though, the supply chains that we rely on for our normal lives can be stressed in any number of ways.
A strong national approach to securing our manufacturing base is a necessary step for security and prosperity. The federal government is the only entity both large enough and focused enough to lead this effort. Congress should, therefore, act quickly, as soon as the next stimulus bill, to establish a supply chain monitoring and investment framework that will get America back to work and provide for a cohesive and united future.
So here’s the story. I normally run a few times a week, strength train and figure skate as often as I possibly can. (What can I say? I love knife shoes.) I’ve since gone through several quarantine phases. It started with, “I’m going to use this time to be in the best shape of my life!”…aka denial. It was then followed by stress baking, boredom snacking and finally my current stage: Trying my best to find balance.
Instead of stressing myself out with rigid fitness goals, I’m listening to my body and choosing workouts I actually feel like doing. For motivation, I’m trying a new fitness challenge each day to appreciate everything my body can do. (Even when I’ve eaten more onion and garlic pretzel chips than medically recommended.) These are a few of the exercises I’ve tried so far…can you do them all?
Stand Up From the Floor…No Hands Allowed!
Okay, this one sounds deceptively easy. Lay down on your stomach and try to get up without using your hands for help. Roll over, sit up, bend your knees, lean forward and try to rise to your feet. It doesn’t require exceptional strength, but you do need to have decent flexibility throughout your hips and hamstrings.
Balance on One Leg for 60 Seconds
Another exercise that sounds crazy easy, except that you have to do this balanced on the *ball* of your foot. You don’t have to raise all the way up to your toes, but your heel must be lifted off the ground for it to count. Start out with one hand on a chair or countertop for balance. First, lift your free leg up, keeping your foot pressed lightly against your standing leg for stability. Then, lift up onto the ball of your foot and start the timer.
This is a test not only of balance but of the strength of all the stabilizing muscles from your calves to your core. Thirty seconds and up is considered good, and 60 seconds is excellent. Pro-tip: Try focusing on keeping a tight core and flexing your glutes to hold the position longer!
Hold a Plank for 2 Minutes
The humble plank is a great, full-body exercise, and it’s pretty tough. Just hold the “up” part of a pushup as long as you can, making sure your back isn’t arched and your butt isn’t sticking up in the air — save that for yoga class! While you only need to hold planks for around 30 seconds to benefit from them, it’s fun to see how long you can hold them! (Not to brag, but I did it for 3.)
This is the toughest one on the list, hands down. To do a pistol squat, you extend one leg straight out in front of you and squat down to a minimum of 90 degrees- some people can go all the way to the floor! It’s super tough, and you need more than just strength. You need a ton of flexibility to keep your free leg from hitting the floor. A cheat as you work your way up to a full pistol squat is to hold onto a railing to lessen the resistance. I managed 5 before I couldn’t make it back up and fell on my butt.
Which exercise was the toughest for you? Hopefully, you surprised yourself!
The once-proposed, hotly-debated November 10th parade in Washington D.C. has been put on the back-burner in the face of climbing costs. When it was first published that the price of the event was jumping from $10 million to $92 million, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, in response to the erroneously-suggested figure, “whoever told you that is probably smoking something.” Regardless of where the costs actually stand, it’s been officially postponed until 2019.
Unfortunately, by pushing the whole thing back a year, the event will lose much of its luster. This Veterans Day, which falls on November 11th, 2018, is the centennial of the signing of the armistice that ended the First World War.
So, what do we do now on such a tremendous anniversary? There have been many suggestions made by many sources, but two stand out against the noise: The American Legion’s request to focus on veteran support and attending the Centenary Armistice Forum in Paris.
I’m fairly confident that there would be little argument for a military parade when the War on Terrorism concludes.
(Photo by David Valdez)
To be frank, America has seldom felt the need to rattle its saber and show how powerful of a force it is — it just is. This fact has been proven when it matters time and time again. But putting on a parade doesn’t have to be a show of force. In fact, countless Veterans Day parades are held across the country at which Americans can show their support of the United States Armed Forces.
American troops are, at present, in armed conflict and, typically, military parades in Washington D.C. are reserved for the ending of wars, such as the celebration of the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Any military parade this November should focus on what the day is really about: Supporting America’s returning veterans and memorializing the end of World War I.
You know, like getting federal acknowledgement of the hazards of burn pits or the alarming number of veterans who commit suicide on a daily basis. A simple “we hear you” will get the ball rolling on helping those affected.
(U.S. Army photo by the 28th Public Affairs Detachment)
Meanwhile, it’s no secret that the Department of Veterans Affairs hasn’t been, let’s say, “well equipped” to handle the many issues within the military community. National Commander of the American Legion, Denise H. Rohan, issued the following statement through the American Legion’s website:
“The American Legion appreciates that our president wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops. However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”
Securing funding for Veterans Affairs is always going to be a uphill battle, but any event held in the United States could be used to champion relevant issues and bring to light the very serious struggles that many veterans face.
Besides, Paris will be hosting their own Armistice Day parade. If America were to join in theirs — it’d send a strong message to both our allies and our enemies. We save money and it shows the world that they’ll have to face off against more than our fantastic military alone.
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro)
On the other side of the coin, French President Emmanuel Macron will be hosting an international forum in Paris on November 11th to advance the promise of “never again” for the war that was supposed to end all wars. He has invited more than 80 countries to attend the event, including the United States.
Macron has invited world leaders to join together to work towards international cooperation. He compared present-day divisions and fears to the roots that caused World War II. On August 17th, in a tweet, President Trump said that he’ll be there.
Over the past two decades, the strategic landscape has changed dramatically. While the fundamental nature of war has not changed, the pace of change and modern technology, coupled with shifts in the nature of geopolitical competition, have altered the character of war in the 21st century.
Advancements in space, information systems, cyberspace, electronic warfare, and missile technology have accelerated the speed and complexity of war. As a result, decision space has collapsed, and we can assume that any future conflict will involve all domains and cut across multiple geographic regions.
Today’s strategic landscape is also extraordinarily volatile, and the nation faces threats from an array of state and nonstate actors. Revisionist powers such as China and Russia seek to undermine the credibility of our alliances and limit our ability to project power. North Korea’s efforts to develop a nuclear-capable, intercontinental ballistic missile now threaten the homeland and our allies in the Pacific. Iran routinely destabilizes its neighbors and threatens freedom of navigation while modernizing its maritime, missile, space and cyber capabilities. Violent extremist organizations (VEOs), such as the so-called Islamic State (IS) and al Qaeda, remain a transregional threat to the homeland, our allies and our way of life. These realities are why some have called today’s operating environment the most challenging since World War II.
At the same time, the U.S. military’s long-held competitive advantage has eroded. Our decisive victory in Operation Desert Storm was a wake-up call for our enemies; they observed that our operational source of strength is the ability to project power where and when needed to advance U.S. interests and meet alliance commitments. This spurred dramatic tactical, operational and strategic adaptations and accelerated modernization programs to asymmetrically counter our ability to project power. All the while, budget instability and the challenges of a decades-long campaign against violent extremism adversely affected our own modernization and capability development efforts required to preserve – or in some cases restore – our competitive advantage.
(Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen)
Additionally, the Joint Force lacks sufficient capacity to meet combatant command requirements. Over the past 16 years, we made a conscious choice to limit the size of the force to preserve scarce resources necessary for essential investments in immediate upgrades to critical capabilities. And requirements have not abated, as we assumed they would after major combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan ended. As a result, global demand for forces continues to exceed the inventory.
Finally, as a nation that thinks and acts globally, the United States cannot choose between a force that can address IS and other VEOs and one that can deter and defeat state actors with a full range of capabilities. We require a balanced force that can address the challenges outlined in the recently published National Defense Strategy and has the inherent flexibility to respond to the unexpected.
We must adapt to maintain a competitive advantage
Advances in technology and the changing character of war require that our plans address all-domain, transregional challenges and conflict. In the past, we assumed most crises could be contained to one region. That assumption, in turn, drove regionally focused planning and decision making processes. Today, this assumption no longer holds true. Our planning must adapt to provide a global perspective that views challenges holistically and enables execution of military campaigns with a flexibility and speed that outpaces our adversaries.
We must also be prepared to make decisions at the speed of relevance. While the cost of failure at the outset of conflict has always been high, in past conflicts there were opportunities to absorb costs and recover if something went wrong. Today, that cannot be assumed, and our strategic decision making processes must adapt to keep pace. Senior leaders require routine access to synthesized information and intelligence to ensure their ability to see the fight in real time and seize initiative.
We must manage the force in a manner that allows us to meet day-to-day requirements, while maintaining readiness and the flexibility to respond to major contingencies and the unexpected. To ensure that the Joint Force provides viable options and is in position to execute when called on, our force posture must be optimized to strategic priorities and provide strength, agility and resilience across regions and domains.
To arrest and, in time, reverse the erosion of our competitive advantage, our force development and design processes must deliver a Joint Force capable of competing and winning against any potential adversary. This future force must remain competitive in all domains, deny adversaries’ ability to counter our strengths asymmetrically, and retain the ability to project power at a time and place of our choosing.
Finally, we must further develop leaders capable of thriving at the speed of war – leaders who can adapt to change, drive innovation and thrive in uncertain, chaotic conditions. The nature of war has not changed, and, in a violent clash of wills, it is the human dimension that ultimately determines the success of any campaign.
The “how” of global integration
To address these imperatives, we are adapting our approach to planning, decision-making, force management and force design. These processes are interdependent and mutually reinforcing – intended to drive the changes required to maintain our competitive advantage. Over the past two years, we have made progress in each of these areas, but more work remains.
(DoD photo by Dominique A. Pineiro)
The National Defense Strategy establishes clear priorities for the Department of Defense, and the National Military Strategy is nested within to provide a global framework for the Joint Force to operate across regions, domains and functions. We reoriented the Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan to operationalize the strategy and developed global campaign plans to provide a framework for planning an all-domain, transregional approach to the challenges outlined in the National Defense Strategy. These plans are designed to bring coherence to operations of all functional and geographic combatant commands.
The Joint Force is also improving how it frames decisions for the Secretary of Defense in an all-domain, transregional fight. This begins by developing a common intelligence picture and a shared understanding of global force posture, which then serves as a baseline to test operational plans and concepts through realistic and demanding exercises and wargames. By testing our assumptions and concepts, exercises and wargames provide senior leaders with the “reps-and-sets” necessary to build the implicit communication required to facilitate rapid decision-making in times of crisis.
Our force management processes are evolving to support the objectives laid out in the National Defense Strategy. Setting the globe begins by allocating resources against strategic priorities – optimizing the way we posture capabilities globally to support our strategy, provide strategic flexibility and ensure our ability to respond rapidly to the unexpected. Once the globe is set, we are applying the concept of Dynamic Force Employment to provide proactive and scalable options for priority missions while maintaining readiness to respond to contingencies. In a global environment that demands strategic flexibility and freedom of action, these adaptations enable the Joint Force to seize the initiative rather than react when faced with multiple challenges.
To ensure our competitive advantage, we are implementing a process for force design that provides the secretary with integrated solutions to drive the development of a more lethal force. This process begins by assessing our ability to execute the strategy and compares our capabilities and capacities vis-à-vis our adversaries. Assessment findings shape the development of comprehensive materiel and nonmateriel recommendations that inform the secretary’s priorities for investment, concept development, experimentation and innovation. This approach is designed to provide integrated solutions, across the services, which ensure competitive advantage today and tomorrow.
Finally, we are reinvigorating strategic assessments to support all these efforts. Assessments provide the analytic rigor to inform our ability both to meet the current strategy and to develop a future force that maintains our competitive advantage. A cornerstone of this process is the Chairman’s Risk Assessment, which evaluates our current ability to execute the National Military Strategy and provides a global perspective of risk across the Joint Force. And, in 2016, we published the Joint Military Net Assessment for the first time in 20 years – benchmarking the Joint Force against near-peer adversaries today and comparing our trajectory over the next five years. These assessments are essential to provide an analytic baseline for everything we do, from planning to force management and from exercise development to force design.
There is no preordained right to victory on the battlefield, and today the United States faces an extraordinarily complex and dynamic security environment. To keep pace with the changing character of war, we must globally integrate the way we plan, employ the force, and design the force of the future. If we fail to adapt, the Joint Force will lose the ability to compete.
The drug war has been going on for so long, the inward, secret lives of narcotics traffickers are beginning to take on a life all of their own, separate from the national borders we know as their homes. They have their own rituals, coded languages, technology, and now, even a secret religion has sprung up around their lives.
It’s called the cult of Santa Muerte – “Holy Death” – and it’s more intense and deadly than anything that came before it.
A Santa Muerte follower announces its adherence.
Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon upped the ante on the Drug War in 2006 by taking down the highest-ranking members of certain cartels, violence in the country has increased exponentially. Since then some 45,000 people have died in the drug war. The level of violence and death without warning has spurred the spread of the Santa Muerte religion in Mexico and beyond. Santa Muerte, in turn, spurs the narcos to become more and more violent.
The worshippers of Santa Muerte are primarily disenfranchised, poor Mexicans who turn to the cartels as a means of employment but soon begin the same cycle of murder and torture as those who came before them. The activities they’re forced to conduct aren’t accepted by pure Catholicism, so they turn elsewhere for comfort.
And now, you can buy the figurines on Amazon.
Santa Muerte has developed as a belief system for over 50 years or more. According to the FBI, “The Santa Muerte cult could best be described as [following] a set of ritual practices offered on behalf of a supernatural personification of death…she is comparable in theology to supernatural beings or archangels.” Unlike Death or the Virgin of Guadalupe, as she is often represented, her scales don’t actually work, a reflection of her amoral nature. Since many narco foot soldiers will end up dying a brutal death, the appeal of worshipping a death-like figure is obvious. In the meantime, Santa Muerte advocates are enjoying the world’s earthly pleasures.
While the FBI stops short of calling the worship of Santa Muerte a full-blown religion, it does have its own belief system, as well as priests, temples, and shrines, along with all the rituals associated with religion – including ritual killings.
A statue of Santa Muerte in a practitioner’s home.
Ritualistic Santa Muerte killings are abundant in Mexico and South America amongst narco-traffickers, but the killings are now making their way into the United States, albeit, primarily close to the border cities already struck by violence that has become the signature of the War on Drugs, and only four have been confirmed as related to Santa Muerte.
Border agents and local police have been thoroughly trained on the ins and outs of the religion and its followers, but luckily very few have been seen on the U.S. side of the border.
The months following the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, would forever shape the way the military does business.
In an effort to provide some sense of comfort to the families of those who perished that September day, the US Army Human Resources Command established the Joint Personal Effects Depot at present day Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in Arlington, Virginia.
Its close proximity to the Pentagon made Arlington the perfect area to account for and process personal items of fallen warriors, return them to the families, and help provide closure.
But as America’s resolve strengthened, the young men and women of this country took up arms to defend the freedoms of its citizens against an unconventional new enemy in a war against terror thousands of miles away.
With the possibility of a rising number of casualties stemming from this new war, America’s military was faced with a new challenge — how to care for its fallen?
As the war on terror intensified, the need for an expanded personal effects facility soon became evident and the JPED was relocated from Arlington to Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
Working out of old and sometimes dilapidated World War II era warehouses, workers at the JPED ran an assembly line operation without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer until 2005, when the decision was made to consolidate the Joint Personal Effects Depot, along with the services’ mortuary, to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
“I was assigned to the depot in Aberdeen as a mortuary affairs specialist with the Army Reserve and I can say it was less than ideal conditions to work in,” said Nelson Delgado, JPED operations management specialist and retired Army Reserve master sergeant.
“Back then, everything was moved from station to station,” he said. “It was cramped and there was too much room for mistakes. One day, General Schoomaker (retired Gen. Peter Schoomaker, 35th Chief of Staff of the US Army) showed up and asked us what we needed.
“That’s how we got to Dover.”
In March 2011, construction of the current 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility was finally completed by the Philadelphia District Corps of Engineers at a cost of $17.5 million. A few months later in May, the first personal effects processed there.
Staffed by a mix of active and Reserve component Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines, as well as a handful of Department of the Army Civilians and contractors, the JPED, along with the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations facility provides dignity, honor, and respect for the families left behind.
When Soldiers make the ultimate sacrifice in theater, their personal effects are inventoried, packed, and rushed to the JPED, usually within five days.
“If it comes through the front door, it has to be accounted for by us and sent to the family,” said Delgado. “We don’t throw anything away.”
“Sometimes, what might seem insignificant to you and me may, in fact, be very important to the families. We’ve actually had instances where families have called back asking for something like a gum wrapper that was given to the service member by a child,” he said.
As items arrive at the depot, they are carefully x-rayed and screened for unexploded ordnance in a blast-proof corridor before they are ever brought into the main facility.
From there, items are brought into an individual cage where they are inventoried and packed for shipment to the service member’s primary next of kin.
“All the preparations are done, from start to finish, in one single room,” Delgado said.
“We ensure there are two Soldiers present in the cage at all times in addition to a summary court martial officer. This gives us a system of checks and balances and also reduces the risk of cross contamination of items,” he added.
Each cage is equipped with photographic equipment, washers and dryers, and cleaning materials. As items are inventoried, they are carefully inspected and then individually photographed. Soldiers go through great pains to ensure each item is soil-free and presentable for the family members.
“We want to make sure everything that the individual service member had with them in theater is returned to the family,” Delgado said. “What we don’t want to do is make a difficult situation worse.”
“If an item is soiled or bloodstained, we will stay here as long as it takes to get it clean so it can be returned. Besides memories, this is all the families have of their loved ones,” he said.
After items are cleaned and inventoried, they are carefully packaged into individual plastic foot-lockers.
Each item is pressed and folded. They are placed neatly in the containers, and wrapped tightly with several layers of packaging paper and bubble wrap. Smaller items, such as rings, watches or identification tags, are placed into small decorative pouches, inscribed with the service member’s individual branch of service.
Items such as Bibles, flags, or family photos are placed at the top of the first box, so that they are the first things the families see upon opening it.
“We emphasize box one, because that is usually the box the families will open first. But that doesn’t mean we neglect box two, or box six, or even box 10,” Delgado said. “We treat each box the same way because we really want the families to know we care about their loved one.”
“That’s why we take our time and make sure items are neat and presentable, not just stuff thrown in a box.”
After the items are finally packaged and sent to the transit room, Soldiers scour the cage one last time and sweep the floor before exiting. Great attention to detail is given to make sure everything is accounted for and nothing is overlooked.
Soldiers at the JPED are meticulously screened for duty fitness by HRC’s Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Operations Division before they are ever assigned there.
Assignments at the JPED can be emotionally taxing on the Soldiers working there.
Soldiers regularly attend resiliency training to help them cope with the tasks they are asked to perform. The JPED chaplain is as much there for them as he or she is for the grieving families attending dignified transfers.
“This is a job that not a lot of people want, or can do, but at the same time, this can be the most rewarding job you will ever do,” Delgado said.
“Taking care of the personal effects is the last part of the process. This is what helps bring some sense of closure to the families. The families don’t see what goes on here, but we get to know the service members and their loved ones by working here. We develop a closeness and connection with them,” he added.
For Delgado and others working at the JPED, that connection sometimes hits close to home.
“Sometimes you see kids as young as 19 years of age coming through here,” he said. “I have a 19-year-old kid at home. Sometimes it hits a little too close to home. I don’t know anyone working here that hasn’t cried at one time or another.
“I spent 23 of my 25-year Army Reserve career as mortuary affairs and I was blessed to get assigned to the JPED. This is our way of giving back to the families of the fallen. It’s an honor to do this.”
Thirteen years after a medical discharge from the Air Force, photographer Omar Columbus received an assignment that was the stuff of dreams: to shoot for a hip fashion and culture magazine filled with models and feature-length stories.
It was a long road for Columbus to travel, to use photography and writing to cope with PTSD, to suddenly shooting fashion in New York City. But it wasn’t always this way.
Columbus grew up in Washington, North Carolina, raised by a single mom. Feeling that he did not have much opportunity, he enlisted into the Air Force, serving from 1994 to 2006. In that time, Columbus served in South Korea, Colorado Springs, and to Saudi Arabia in 2003 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
After exiting service, Columbus moved to New York City, where he found art and community in veterans’ writing groups around the city. He found his voice through writing poetry and performing with Warrior Writers, Craft of War Writing, and Voices from War.
Veteran Omar Columbus and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Marion Creasap.
“My PTSD is related to specific things I experienced on deployment, as well as a general feeling of guilt,” says Columbus. Writing poetry gave him a sense of confidence, a way to express traumas of his military experience through art. The chance to perform in front of civilians is powerful. “Words like desert, combat, and bomb become part of artistic expression rather than just association with personal guilt and doubt or shame.”
Columbus also recognized that photography gave him a way to manage his anxiety in public. Through the imaginary barrier created with his camera lens, he chooses if he wants to interact with his subjects or just photograph the streets from a distance. Featured in a group gallery show at the legendary Salmagundi Club in Manhattan, Columbus recently sold a photo collage called “New Yawk State of Mind.”
Columbus found help at the VA NY Harbor, with his psychiatric nurse practitioner, mentor and counselor, Marion Creasap, who has been a steadying and stabilizing influence. “She’s been a rock for me to hold on to when I was down and wanted to give up.”
“Eye on Brooklyn” collage by Omar Columbus.
Recently, celebrity fashion photographer and TV personality, Mike Ruiz, called Columbus and made him an extraordinary offer. He wanted Columbus to photograph a project. “The photoshoot was over-the-top and such an exhilarating experience,” Columbus recalled.
Now, Columbus is giving back, to help others as he has been helped. Later this year, he will be sending disposable cameras to service members deployed to Afghanistan, to capture the good times with their friends. He raised id=”listicle-2639096820″,000 to purchase boxes of Girl Scout Cookies and sent them to military personnel serving on the front lines to remind them of home.
“The biggest reward was the photos they sent back holding up the boxes of cookies and the joy on their faces,” said Columbus. “I want to do more of that.”
The taste of acknowledgment has helped Columbus feel optimistic. “I want to be a healer and advocate for veterans through art. Hear my story, hear my words.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
It’s time to be real. The world isn’t looking so great at the moment. That’s just the cold hard reality. The coronavirus is spreading and everyone’s losing their minds. But there’s always a bright side to everything. Us veterans should already understand exactly what to do.
Stuck in your house without any way to make money? That’s just like a 45 & 45. Having to make do with just what little bit of toilet paper you had before the panic hoarding? Time to conserve like you’re in the field. Bored out of your mind with absolutely nothing to do? Tell yourself you’re going to start doing online classes before procrastinating to go play video games!
And hey! Another bright side is, from what I’ve seen, people are focusing on buying out all of the foods and leaving all of the beer and liquor! So, just kick back, enjoy your unofficial Quarters slip, and get down on some much-needed you time until this all blows over in… Oh… Eight weeks? Sh*t…
Anyway, here’s another dose of your regularly scheduled memes – delivered to you from a “Socially distant” appropriate distance.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FHvDYL4BquK3qRR2UwpO5n40evb1nyE0OylUsFQ_p6pHgq22M9-AmiSxQljk6ZowiZu3phEX7kmZGKA7AUy6QzhZ6UPzYVvRluCdp4_TK&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=765&h=34b3bcbb7e7c5d344d0f4f80b3583d6e4e2a3beed72c4b5ab2fe8db376fddc73&size=980x&c=1819453376 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FHvDYL4BquK3qRR2UwpO5n40evb1nyE0OylUsFQ_p6pHgq22M9-AmiSxQljk6ZowiZu3phEX7kmZGKA7AUy6QzhZ6UPzYVvRluCdp4_TK%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D765%26h%3D34b3bcbb7e7c5d344d0f4f80b3583d6e4e2a3beed72c4b5ab2fe8db376fddc73%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1819453376%22%7D” expand=1]
It’s one of the most persistent myths in the U.S. Military. I was even told it in basic training a mere 11 years ago, almost 90 years after the .50-caliber M2 was first designed. It goes like this: Weapons firing a .50-caliber round can be aimed at equipment, but not people. So, if you need to kill a person with a .50-cal., you have to aim at their load-bearing equipment (basically their suspenders).
Look at this. War crimes at night. What is wrong with troops today?
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Robert Barney)
But, uh, really? The U.S. has and deploys a weapon in an anti-personnel role that can’t legally be fired at people? And we’ve just been hoodwinking everyone for a century?
That’s… surprising, if not unbelievable. That would require that every enemy in World War II never brought war crimes charges against the U.S. If you assume that the rule was put in place after World War II, when a lot of modern war crimes were defined, then you still have to assume that no one in Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, or Afghanistan protested the illegal American actions.
And, even more odd, militaries brag about their top ranged sniper kills. Five of the top six longest-range kills, at least according to Wikipedia right now, were made with .50-cal. rounds (Number six was made by Carlos Hathcock with a machine gun, because he’s awesome). Since all of those snipers were targeting individuals, if you accept this premise, aren’t they war criminals?
Extremely accurate war crimes, huh, buddy?
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Conner Robbins)
Uncool, Wiki editors — do not list war crimes made by war heroes. Let the military justice system do its work without your amateur meddling…
The actual rules for weapons in combat ban specific categories of weapons, like poisonous gasses or plastic landmines, and weapons that cause more unnecessary suffering than they provide military advantage.
If that sounds vague, that’s because it is. Nations occasionally argue about what weapons cause unnecessary suffering, but the militaries involved would typically rather keep all their options open, and so combatants usually decide that any given weapon is fine.
Look at this guy and his belt-fed war crimes. Horrible.
(U.S. Army Spc. Deomontez Duncan)
Shotguns came under some serious contention in World War I. The U.S. brought them over the Atlantic to clear German trenches, and they were ridiculously effective. Germany complained that the weapons, which often left their troops either blown in half or with pellet-filled guts, caused unnecessary suffering. America just pointed out that Germany was already using poisonous gasses, and so they should screw off.
This is the target that the .50-cal. is best for. It can pierce light armor at decent ranges unlike 5.56mm or 7.62mm rounds. So, if you have a limited supply of the ammo, you want to hold it for the vehicles. The command is thought to have grown from simple ammo conservation to belief of a war crime.
But no, if it’s an enemy combatant, you can legally kill it with any weapon at your disposal, as long as you don’t damage civilian structures or intentionally cause undue suffering. You don’t need to aim a .50-cal at their suspenders, belt buckle, or buttons.