You’d be hard-pressed to find a combat Marine or Soldier who doesn’t have wear-and-tear injuries from their deployments and training. U.S. Marine veteran Scot Knutson is no different, but it was during his tenure in Explosive Ordinance Disposal where he received his most significant injuries.
In 2012, blast exposure from IEDs gave Knutson a concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI), spinal stenosis (compression in the spine), and pulmonary edema caused by trauma to the lungs. When he returned home from his deployment in 2013, he was placed on a non-deployment status to heal — and he was given Oxycodone for the pain.
Like many veterans, Knutson developed an opioid addiction until he was finally hospitalized in 2017 after an overdose.
He received a 30-day in-patient treatment program followed by a 60-day out-patient program to help detox, but he credits THC and CBD products for helping him remain off narcotics ever since.
CBD Treatment Program
“Start low. Start slow.” That’s the advice Knutson has for anyone looking into medicinal cannabis to help treat pain and PTSD. As a Federal Schedule 1 controlled substance, many doctors are prohibited from recommending CBD or THC to patients.
As states begin to decriminalize marijuana, more and more people are gaining access to medicinal strains, but anyone who has jumped right in to an edible knows they can be potent.
When Knutson began his CBD program, he’d been prescribed Ambien for sleep and Prazosin for PTSD-related nightmares. With proper timing and dosage of CBD, along with occasional microdosing of THC, Knutson no longer needed the Ambien for sleep (though the Prazosin, which is non habit-forming and a non-narcotic, continues to help with nightmares, a common side-effect of PTSD).
There really is a difference between the marijuana trips of 70s and the use of medicinal cannabis today. For Knutson, THC in the form of a liquid deliverable (for example, in a sparkling water) will begin to treat pain in 10 minutes. The same dose (5-10mg) in an edible might take 1-2 hours to provide relief.
As for vaping or smoking, Knutson avoids them altogether to protect his lungs.
Knutson Brothers – (Left) Scot, retired Marine and Keef VP of Operations, (Middle) Kelly, co-founder, (Right) Erik, co-founder and CEO.
The Cannabis Industry
Knutson’s transition into a career in the cannabis industry was a slow one. His brother started a cannabis company in 2010 (ironically around the time Knutson was getting his Top Secret clearance background check…) but it wasn’t until after he separated from the Marine Corps in 2014 that he decided to join the industry professionally.
He now helps lead a thriving and award-winning cannabis company, Keef Brands, which is designed with the health-conscious consumer in mind. Through his company, he’s been able to help place other veterans into jobs and security positions within the industry.
When I asked how the Department of Veterans Affairs can better accommodate the needs of veterans, Knutson was pretty straight-forward: “Cannabis needs to come out of the shadows and be talked about so there can be education about how to properly use it. It’d be helpful if the VA would be able to talk about it with veterans so they could receive the treatment they need — and also so they can prevent abuse.”
Women have been serving in the military in one capacity or another since the Revolutionary War; Molly Pitcher cooled down canons during that time. However, it wasn’t until World War II that women gained recognition as full-fledged members of the military. WWII was a turning point for women in military service. This was the time when we saw the Women’s Air Service Pilots (WASPs), Women’s Army Corps, and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service.
WWII saw nearly half a million women in uniform in both theaters of conflict during that time. The valuable role women played during the war, along with President Truman’s determination to make changes within the military, led to the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. With this act, for the first time, women were recognized as full members of the Armed Services. This meant they could finally claim the same benefits as their male counterparts. This also made it so those women who chose to do so, could make a career in the Army or Navy.
During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, there were tens of thousands of women who volunteered for service. Many of them were nurses. However, they also made great strides among all of the military branches, donning both Marine and Air Force uniforms to serve alongside those already serving in the Army and Navy.
During the 1960s in Post-Vietnam America, great social changes were made throughout the nation. Many of those changes were driven and led by women. The Women’s Rights Movement not only fought for equality in the workplace, carved out places for women in the political arena, and opened up new opportunities in higher education, but it also led to changes for women in the military. One of the biggest changes in the treatment of women in the military during this time was giving them the opportunity to attend the service academies. Opening these academies to women was pivotal for the treatment of women in the military because, for the first time, they were allowed to obtain officer status in the ranks. This then placed them in positions of leadership and authority throughout all the branches.
The 1990s began with the Gulf War. During this time, female military members distinguished themselves. For the first time, women won the right to serve as combat pilots during the war. By the end of the decade, women were serving on combat ships and flying warplanes from carrier ships. However, in 1994, these female service members did suffer a bit of a setback when the Secretary of Defense refused to allow them to serve in units whose primary mission was ground combat.
With the 21st century, women saw even greater strides in their opportunities in service. Colonel Linda McTague became the first female commander of a fighter squadron, and women in the Army and Marines began to edge closer to being able to serve in full combat duty. In 2013 the ban on women in combat was finally lifted, and the branches were given two years to comply with full integration. By 2015 two women completed Army Ranger school, which led to the decree that all combat duties should be open to women as well.
The past few years have seen women gaining advancement to some of the highest levels of authority in the military. They have also been given the opportunity to complete elite training courses, along with Ranger school, women have been allowed to enter the ever difficult Navy SEAL officer training courses. One thing is for certain, women in the military have come a long way since World War II, and it is definite that they will continue to be seen and heard in their ever growing-roles in all of the branches of the U.S. military.
A US Marine Corps F-35 squadron plans to deploy aboard the British Royal Navy’s new flagship, the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
“It’s going to be a wonderful new way — and I will offer, potentially a new norm — of doing coalition combined allied operations with a maritime partner,” Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, head of Marine Corps aviation, said at this week’s Sea-Air-Space conference outside Washington, DC, according to Military.com.
A yet-to-be-identified Marine Corps squadron is expected to deploy aboard the foreign carrier in 2021.
This approach will be a “tremendous milestone in the progression of maritime interoperability with the UK,” Capt. Christopher Hutchinson, a Marine Corps spokesman, told Military.com. He told Business Insider that this will be the first time in modern history, if not ever, US aircraft have deployed aboard a foreign aircraft carrier.
HMS Queen Elizabeth visiting New York City.
The deployment has been a long time in the making, as senior US and British defense officials reportedly first began discussing this type of cooperation as a real possibility when the HMS Queen Elizabeth was commissioned in 2017.
An F-35B jet, a short takeoff/vertical landing variant of the fifth-generation stealth fighter developed for the Marine Corps, landed on the HMS Queen Elizabeth for the first time last September. “The largest warship in British history is joining forces with the most advanced fighter jets on the planet,” then British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said in a statement.
An F-35B Lightning II above the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, Sept. 25, 2018.
(UK Ministry of Defense)
Last fall, US Marine Corps Maj. Michael Lippert, an F-35B test pilot, spent several weeks conducting test flights from the deck of the British carrier. The movement of a whole squadron to the carrier is simply the next step in the cooperative process.
Both sides are currently preparing for the eventual deployment. “They’re working together … on all of the things that go into making sure supportability is right,” Rudder said, according to Military.com. “It has been a pleasure working with our UK partners on this. I think it’s going to be a very interesting data point and operational success.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When engineers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory brainstormed on how to improve soldier lethality, the idea of a third arm seemed like something that might help.
Mechanical engineer Dan Baechle carefully planned out a device that doesn’t need batteries, is lightweight and can evenly distribute the load of a heavy weapon.
“It can help stabilize the weapon and take the load off of their arms,” he said. “It’s made from composite materials to make it as light as possible, but also to ensure the range of motion that soldiers need.”
The device, officially called the Third Arm helps take the weight of the weapons off of a soldiers’ arms. It weighs less than four pounds, and because of the innovative design, the weight of the device and the weapon are evenly distributed.
“We’ve actually tested it with the M249 and M240B machines guns. The M240B weighs 27 pounds, and we were able to show that you can take the weight of that weapon completely off of the soldiers’ arms,” Baechle said.
(U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)
Soldiers testing the device pointed out that initial versions didn’t make it possible for them to use the device and go into the prone position. But that’s not an issue with the current version.
At a recent test with a soldier at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain site at APG, a sergeant wore the device with an M-4 type weapon and dove into a prone fighting position from a sprint. The Third Arm provided immediate stabilization to improve marksmanship for the soldier.
“Right now it’s a prototype device, and it’s a fairly early stage prototype device,” Baechle said. “It’s been getting a lot of interest higher up in the Army, but also online with some of the stories that have come out. We’re using some of the interest to help motivate further development of the device.”
Baechle said that the Army modernization priorities include “soldier lethality that spans all fundamentals — shooting, moving, communicating, protecting and sustaining.” Further documentation specifically mentions the fielding of “load-bearing exoskeletons.”
“It falls in line with the direction that the Army wants to be heading in the future,” Baechle said. “We get comments from Soldiers who tell us different things about the way it feels on their body … about the way it redistributes the load. Some like it, some give us tips about the ways it could be improved, and we’re using that input to improve the device and improve the design so that it not only works well, but it also feels good.”
(U.S. Army photo by Conrad Johnson)
In 2017, the lab conducted a small pilot study of active-duty troops using Third Arm in live-fire trials. The results showed the device can improve marksmanship, reduce arm fatigue and muscle activation for some soldiers.
“We’re using that small study to motivate a larger study this year with more soldiers taking a look at dynamics, shooting scenarios,” Baechle said. “We’re still refining the device. We’re starting to look at heavier weapons.”
Baechle stressed that what you see now may not be what gets to future soldiers.
“What we have right now is a very specific device, but we can learn from that device,” he said. “I hope in the future what we’ll end up with is something that will help the soldier. Whether or not it’s in the form you see today, that’s less important. Helping the soldier is what I really hope for. I think this year is really going to be a good one and an important one in showing what this device can do.”
The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.
The leaders of North Korea and South Korea are scheduled to meet face-to-face for the first time on April 27, 2018, in the border village of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone.
It will be the first leadership summit between the countries in more than a decade. It’s a first for a North Korean leader to agree to visit South Korea since the Korean War in the 1950s. And the South Korean government, led by President Moon Jae-in, has pledged to create an environment conducive to diplomacy.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is expected to bring several high-ranking officials and guards from his Escort Command. Ri Sol Ju, Kim’s wife, and Kim Yo Jong, his sister, may make appearances.
Kim Jong Un will also most likely bring a toilet.
Whenever he travels, the North Korean leader is said to always bring his own toilet. And not just one — he has numerous toilets in different vehicles in his motorcade.
Daily NK, a South Korean website focusing on North Korea news, reported in 2015 that “the restrooms are not only in Kim Jong Un’s personal train but whatever small or midsize cars he is traveling with and even in special vehicles that are designed for mountainous terrain or snow.”
The publication quoted an unnamed source as saying, “It is unthinkable in a Suryeong-based society for him to have to use a public restroom just because he travels around the country,” using a Korean term meaning “supreme leader.”
Kim is also said to have a chamber pot in his Mercedes to use if he doesn’t have time to stop to hop out and jump into one of the purpose-built traveling toilets.
Aside from Kim’s apparent dislike of public restrooms, there’s an important reason for the portable conveniences.
Lee Yun-keol, who worked in a North Korean Guard Command unit before coming to South Korea in 2005, told The Washington Post that “the leader’s excretions contain information about his health status so they can’t be left behind.”
Kim’s urine and fecal matter are routinely tested to check for illnesses and other health indicators, according to Daily NK.
But his personal preference might be his undoing.
Jeffrey Lewis, an expert on North Korea, has jokingly suggested that the US should strike Kim’s personal toilet to demonstrate its precision.
“Destroying the port-a-potty will deny Kim Jong Un a highly valued creature comfort, while also demonstrating the incredible accuracy of US precision munitions to hold Kim and his minions at risk,” Lewis wrote in the Daily Beast.
“It will send an unmistakable message: We can kill you while you are dropping a deuce.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Every era has its arch-nemesis. The Nazis, the Communists, and the Terrorists all seemed to come in succession. Now, it seems America’s new arch-rivals are making their presence known. After spending a decade or more in its “peaceful rise” era, the People’s Republic of China appears to have switched to “Crouching Tiger.” President Trump has responded in kind, meeting aggression with aggression, which raises the stakes.
But that also means a lot of civilians are gonna get drafted if and when the war comes. The Infographics Show will tell you why.
The video above wargames China mobilizing its forces to invade Taiwan. When it does, the U.S. military would move to DEFCON 3, requiring the U.S. Air Force to be able to mobilize in 15 minutes or less. Once China’s invasion force starts boarding ships to land on Taiwan, the United States will be at DEFCON 2, which requires all the armed forces to be ready for war at the front in six hours. By the time the U.S. Navy engages Chinese Air Forces, Chinese ballistic missiles will have already targeted Naval air assets in the Pacific, killing thousands of American troops.
In the first month of fighting, the casualties will mount, and they will be heavy. The number of killed and wounded will reach the levels last seen in the Vietnam War. In less than a year, it would be the bloodiest war since World War II. And guess what? The military is gonna need replacements.
If it helps any, Beijing doesn’t seem that far away on this map.
The Chinese military numbers some two million or more with another half million in reserve. Since the most likely flashpoint is the tiny but democratic American ally of Taiwan, just off China’s coastline, the fighting will be focused, but intense, and casualties would be enormous. The United States would call on its 860,000-plus reservists to bolster its forces in the area. While that would be enough to counter the Chinese threat to Taiwan, it would not be enough to forcibly topple the Chinese government. That would require an invasion of mainland China, and that would be really, really hard.
To successfully invade China would require so many troops, the United States doesn’t currently have that many. It would have to activate the Selective Service System, instituting a draft for American males between the ages of 18-25, a potential pool of 16 million American troops. While it’s unlikely the U.S. will have to draft the entire 16 million, it will need a lot of troops to get to Beijing.
In August 1942, Joseph Kennedy, Jr. died aboard a B-24 Liberator loaded with explosives – and almost nothing else. He was part of Operation Aphrodite, an all-out effort to destroy reinforced Nazi weapons bunkers. But there was one bunker in particular that appeared to resist every Army Air Forces bombing attempt. This one was critical because it developed off the merciless V-2 and maybe even V-3 rocket programs that terrorized London – and the United States thought it would be the delivery agent for a Nazi nuke.
It had to go – but to do that required a developing technology and a lot of bravado. More airmen than Nazis would die trying.
These things were built to last.
For months, the Allies worked to destroy the bunker, called the Fortress of Mimoyecques, that might be developing the V-3 rocket, one that was possibly capable of guiding a nuclear weapon over London. Time and again, the United States would conduct a massive bombing operation over the site, but like clockwork, the resupply trains would be back the very next week. It seemed like nothing could be done using conventional explosives. So the USAAF turned to the unconventional. It turned to Operation Aphrodite.
The plan was for a remotely operated, obsolete bomber to be packed with the bare minimum of machinery and equipment necessary to get the craft over the target. The rest of the plane was filled with high explosives. While nowadays drone technology is pretty par for the course, back then it was something entirely different – not quite as reliable and it required a crew to get a plane up in the air, two at the bare minimum. So two men would be aboard a ticking time bomb as it took off for enemy territory and would have to bail out shortly after.
The men were supposed to get the plane off the ground then bail out over the English Channel to be picked up. Then the plane would be guided using cameras on the instrument panel and the view ahead of the plane via remote control. Once at the target the plane would be flown into whatever was too protected for a conventional bombing run. The volunteer who wanted to fly the plane that was destined for the Fortress of Mimoyecques was none other than Lt. Joseph Kennedy Jr., brother to future President of the United States John F. Kennedy and son to prominent businessman Joseph P. Kennedy.
Unfortunately for the Kennedy family, the B-24 Liberator bomber Kennedy and his wingman Lt. Wilford J. Willy flew took off from RAF Fersfield in England, bound for the bunker complex in Northern France. The 20,000 pounds of Torpex explosive the B-24 was carrying ignited from an electrical fault in the plane shortly after takeoff. The resulting explosion was the largest conventional explosion in history at the time. Kennedy and Willy were likely vaporized instantly.
Luckily for the Allies, the Aphrodite plan for Mimoyecques would be unnecessary. Canadian D-Day invaders reached the complex site on Sept. 4, 1944. What they found was not the vast underground death factory planners assumed was below the surface. It turned out the heavy bombing campaign – especially the use of Tallboy earthquake bombs – was enough to disrupt work at the complex. Hitler just kept sending fake resupply trains to the site in order to keep the Allies bombing a disused factory instead of massing German troops elsewhere in Europe.
There’s an old military saying that goes, “if it’s stupid and it works, it isn’t stupid.” As enlisted personnel rise through the ranks, they tend to encounter more and more questionable practices that somehow made their way into doctrine. This isn’t anything new. Most of the veterans reading this encountered at least one “WTF Moment” in their military careers. Few of these bizarre scenarios will get a troop wounded or worse.
Then there are the tactics that could mean the difference between life and death – and you have to wonder who decided to do things that way and why do they hate their junior enlisted troops so much? These are those tactics.
“Walking Fire” with the Browning Automatic Rifle
When introduced in the closing days of World War I, the Browning Automatic Rifle – or “B-A-R” – was introduced as a means to get American troops across the large, deadly gaps called “no man’s land” between the opposing trenches. The theory was that doughboys would use the BAR in a walking fire movement, slowly walking across the ground while firing the weapon from the hip.
Anyone who’s ever used an automatic weapon has probably figured out by now that slowly sauntering across no man’s land, shooting at anything that moves will run your ammo down before you ever get close to the enemy trench. It’s probably best to stay in your own trench, which is what the Americans ended up doing anyway.
Soviet Anti-Tank Suicide Dogs
The concept seems sound enough. In the 1930s, the USSR trained dogs to wear explosive vests and run under oncoming tanks. In combat, the dogs would then be detonated while near the tank’s soft underbelly. It seems like a good idea, right? Well, when it came time to use the dogs against Nazi tanks in World War II, the Soviets realized that training the dogs with Soviet tanks might have been a bad idea. The USSR’s tanks ran on diesel while the Wehrmacht’s ran on gasoline.
Soviet tank dogs, attracted to the smell of Soviet diesel fuel, ran under Soviet tanks instead of German tanks when unleashed, creating an explosives hazard for the Red Army tanks crews.
Flying Aircraft Carriers
In the interwar years, the U.S. military decided that airpower was indeed the wave of the military’s future, and decided to experiment with a way to get aircraft flying as fast as possible. For this, they developed helium airships that housed hangers to hold a number of different airplanes. It seemed like a good idea in theory, but it turns out the air isn’t as hospitable a place as the seas and flying, helium-borne craft aren’t as stable as a solid, steel ship on the waves.
After the two aircraft carriers the Navy built both crashed, and 75 troops were dead, the military decided to go another way with aircraft.
In World War II, there wasn’t always a metal detector around. Sometimes, troops had to get down and dirty, literally. In areas where land mines were suspected, soldiers would get down on the ground, with their heads and bodies close to the ground and – without any kind of warning or hint of where mines might be, if there were any at all – poke into the ground at a 30-degree angle.
The angle helped avoid tripping the mines because the trigger mechanisms were usually located at the top of the mines. If the terrain was a bit looser, the mines could be raked up by the prodders instead.
It seems so urgent. You receive a call saying your deployed or traveling military member has lost their ID, needs cash, and has asked this trustworthy person to contact you. While you may recognize this to be along the lines of the Nigerian-prince-asking-for-money email, some other scams that hurt military families may be more difficult to spot.
Military members are often young and financially inexperienced, have reliable income, and frequently move around, a combination which may make them and their families seem like easy targets to scammers, especially since it might take them some time to notice an irregularity in a bill or credit report.
Can you spot a would-be scammer? Here are a few to watch out for, as you protect your loved ones, your personal information, and your wallet.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Jacob Barber)
1. Scams Preying on Deployed Families
What it is: Scammers contact the spouse or parents of a deployed service member and pretend to be someone in authority, claiming the military member has been injured/lost their wallet/is held up somewhere traveling. Using the fear that families already feel about their loved one or lack of knowledge about military processes, the scammer hopes family members will give up personal information to “prove who they are” or even cash.
Why it matters/what to do: The military won’t ever contact family members via phone or email asking for personal information or money. Military members won’t need cash from their families to travel to or return from deployment. Don’t let fear compel you to share your personal information with strangers.
2. Rental Scams
What it is: You’re due to PCS in a few months and have decided to start looking at homes online. You come across what seems like the perfect house for your family–a rental decorated with that farmhouse style that would meet Joanna Gaines’ approval, with four bedrooms, amazing upgrades, new appliances, and in the school district you’ve been hoping for…all with amazingly low rent! The kicker? The landlord pushes for a security deposit or money to hold the property before you or a representative can even view the home in person, because “it’s going to go fast.” And you need to send that money, like yesterday. “Hurry!” they press, “I’ve already got someone else looking at it!”
Why it matters/what to do: This sense of false urgency should be a red flag. While it could be legit, it’s possible the person listing the property simply copied it from another listing, isn’t the actual property manager, and is using the compressed military move timetable to try to make a quick, dishonest buck.
Stick with reputable sites or trusted referrals. Better yet, wait until you arrive to tour the home yourself. If that’s impossible, see if you have a friend in the area who can Facetime you while touring the home or hire a MILLIE Scout to do the legwork (the company hires military spouses just for this purpose!). Get more details about online rental scams.
3. Tickets or High-Priced Items at a “Too Good to Be True” Discount
What it is: Crooks hide behind all the goodwill and discounts offered to military by many businesses around Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Putting ads on Craiglist or other sites, sellers offer “great deals” for active duty on everything from tickets for professional sporting events to home goods. The seller, of course, requires money to be wired first to hold the item at this phenomenal price (seeing a pattern here?) and then when the item is to be picked up or transferred, disappears.
Why it matters/what to do: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Stick to well-known business and sites when you see military or veteran deals around holidays, especially for big ticket items like cars or in demand concert or event tickets.
(Photo by Jeff Drongowski)
4. Scams Targeting Extended Family
What it is: Along the lines of the scams targeting deployed family members, this one preys on elderly relatives of service members. One scammer contacted a soldier’s 84-year-old grandmother and asked her to wire money in order to assist him, with the caller claiming that her grandson had lost his ID card on his way home from Iraq and couldn’t get home without her help. Thankfully, she realized the request was not legitimate.
Why it matters/what to do: The military doesn’t require funds from family members to transfer wounded back home (another scam) or help with getting ID cards or other belongings. There’s a system in place that would not involve contacting the member’s spouse, parents, grandparents, or anyone else for money. Educated your elderly relatives about how the military handles emergencies and advise them to call authorities if they are contacted by a scammer or suspicious person.
What it is: Recently, I noticed a Facebook friend request from a high ranking service member I’m friends with, who I know is not on social media. I let him know and quickly deleted and reported it, since the photo showed him in uniform in his official photo. His comment about the situation was sad, “It happens all the time.”
Help protect your identity and those of people you know. Monitor your own social media for obvious duplicate accounts and let friends know if you see a duplicate account of theirs. Use identity theft protection and credit monitoring from reputable providers such as Lifelock or Experian to get real-time notifications of data breaches.
A New Meaning to the Phrase “Trust but Verify”
A couple of good rules to follow: never send money to an unknown entity, no matter how urgently they appeal, and never share your personal information over the phone or by email, even to an “official” sounding person. Family members, double check with the military member’s unit if you receive an urgent call regarding their situation.
As long as there have been phones and the internet, there have been people bent on using it for harm. While it can seem like a losing battle, staying vigilant about your personal information and trusting your gut will go a long way towards protecting yourself. Changing passwords frequently, monitoring your accounts regularly, putting a security freeze on your credit reports to prevent unwanted access to your information, and even not listing your birthdate on social media are some simple ways to thwart the scammers. Deployed members can put an ‘active duty alert’ on their accounts, which will notify businesses to take extra steps before offering credit in their name. For more ideas to protect yourself, see Consumer Report’s “Protect Your Identity.”
If you’ve been the victim of a scam or need to report suspicious activity, get more information from:
Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson was trying to get some rest before work the next day. The phone rang twice before he answered it. His neighbor, who lives just above his apartment complex on the hill, told him the fire was really close and they were evacuating.
That neighbor was 1st Lt. Mike Constable, a pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, Channel Islands Air National Guard Station, California. Dawson said he could see Constable and his roommates packing things into their cars.
The Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4, 2017, in Santa Paula, near Thomas Aquinas College. Driven by Santa Ana winds gusting up to 70 mph, the flames screamed across the hillsides toward Ojai and Ventura. Numerous fires leapfrogged across Ventura and Los Angeles Counties the following day.
Chino Valley firefighters watch the oncoming flames of the Thomas Fire from the yard of a home in Montecito, California, Dec. 12, 2017. C-130Js of the 146th Airlift Wing at Channel Islands Air National Guard Base in Port Hueneme, carried the Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System and dropped fire suppression chemicals onto the fire’s path to slow its advance in support of firefighters on the ground.
(Photo by J.M. Eddins JR.)
“I looked out my window, and could see the sky above the ridge by my home was glowing really orange and red already. My wife and I decided at that point to just grab what we could get and go somewhere safe,” Dawson said.
Dawson’s three-level, 52-unit apartment complex burned to the ground a few hours later.
Ironically, Dawson is a C-130J Hercules crew chief for the 146th AW, one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with the module airborne firefighting system, or MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight the very thing that took his home, wildfires.
The 146th AW was activated Dec. 5 to fight what became the largest California wildfire by size in the state’s recorded history, covering 281,893 acres. The Thomas Fire is now 100 percent contained.
“We got the word and everybody sprung into action. Our maintenance folk got the airplane ready for us, our aerial port guys went and got the MAFFS units pulled out and loadmasters got the airplanes ready. It was really a well-oiled machine on that day. We got things done really quickly,” said Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, a loadmaster with the 146th AW.
Most of the airmen stationed at Channel Islands ANGS are from Ventura County or the surrounding area. Approximately 50 people from the 146th AW evacuated their homes during the fire and five airmen lost their homes.
Residents of a 52-unit apartment complex search for belongings, Dec. 13, 2017, after the Thomas Fire roared through their neighborhood. Staff Sgt. Timothy Dawson, a C-130J Hercules aircraft maintenance technician with the 146th Airlift Wing, was also a resident of the apartment complex.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
“I can see the smoke from my house and we know people who live there,” Poulson said. “My daughter went to day care up there and I think I flew over that house. I think it’s gone. So it really hits close to home when you are this close to home.”
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE, requested MAFFS aircraft and personnel support through the state’s governor and the Adjutant General of the state’s National Guard. Once activated, CAL FIRE incident commanders assigned to the Thomas Fire, and based at the Ventura Fairgrounds, generate the launch orders for the MAFFS. The aircraft sit ready at Tanker Base Operations, a few miles south of the fairgrounds at Channel Islands Air National Guard Station.
Once requested, the C-130s would join the fight at a designated altitude in the protected flight area, typically 1,500 feet above ground. An aerial supervisor, or air attack, would fly at about 2,000 feet, directing and controlling the aircraft. Lead planes, at 1,000 feet, guide the tankers to their drop points, approximately 150 feet above the ground.”
Once we enter the fire traffic area, we join on the lead plane. He’ll typically give us a show me [puff of smoke] which shows us where he’s intending us to drop,” said Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th AW. “We try to be very precise with that because you know it’s a high value asset and you get one shot at it.”
The mission requires the crews to fly the C-130s very close to the fires.
“You’re taking the fight directly to the ground,” Pemberton said. “We are 150 feet above the ground at 120 knots, at the edge of the airplane’s envelope. You’re demanding a lot of yourself and your fellow crewmembers. So that’s why you are typically very highly trained and are very prepared to do this mission.”
The MAFFS can hold 3,000 gallons of retardant, which is released from a nozzle placed in the left rear troop door of the aircraft. It takes approximately 15 minutes to load retardant into the MAFFS, another 15 minutes to reach the Thomas Fire, 10 more to join the lead plane and drop and then another 15 minutes to return to base. With 10 hours of daylight and two planes, the 146th AW drops an average of 60,000 gallons of retardant each day.
Lt. Col. Scott Pemberton, a C-130J pilot with the 146th Airlift Wing, has been with the 146th for 30 years and has lived in the Ventura/Santa Barbara, California community for about 48. He has been flying the modular airborne fire fighting system for approximately 20 years. The 146th was activated Dec.5, 2017, to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
“Many times if you are close to a fire line and you’re doing direct attack you’ll see the guys standing down there,” Pemberton said. “On the second, third or fourth drop you’ll come by and you will see that you have gotten close enough to where they are a different color. But I’ve also seen the whites of their eyes where they’re diving behind their bulldozer because you’re that close, and they know that the retardant is coming.”
Still, the dangers of this mission are not lost on Pemberton.
On July 1, 2012, MAFFS 7, which belonged to the North Carolina Air National Guard’s 145th Airlift Wing based at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport, crashed while fighting the White Draw Fire in South Dakota’s Black Hills. Four of the six crewmembers aboard died.
“There was a thunderstorm approaching from the north and as they were waiting for the lead to coordinate and get his bearings… The thunderstorm moved closer and closer,” Pemberton said. “They made a first run and I think they got off half of their retardant.”
As they made their second run, they had a wind shear event and a microburst took away their lift and forced them to fly straight ahead into the terrain.
Senior Master Sgt. Phil Poulsen, 146th Airlift Wing loadmaster, checks the level of retardant in the module airborne firefighting system as redardant is loaded, Dec. 9, 2017. The 146th AW is one of five wings in the Air Force equipped with MAFFS. This system is loaded onto C-130s and is designed to fight wildfires.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
“As a result of that incident we completely changed our training. We incorporated a lot of the wind shear escape maneuvers, and we built new seats for the loadmasters in the back and made crashworthy seats for those crewmembers,” Pemberton said.
This training and the 146th AW’s capabilities benefit everyone involved in the wildfire fighting community, too.
The 146th AW plays a big role in extinguishing fires, said Tenner Renz a dozer swamper with the Kern County Fire Department, but it’s something he sees on almost every fire. Whether a 100-acre or a 250,000-acre fire, the guard shows up.
“Some of these guys are crazy. I mean dipping down into some of these canyons, flying through smoke, buzzing treetops,” Renz said. “They have a talent that most people don’t have.”
Having the MAFFS capability means the 146th AW can be federally activated to support firefighting operations around the United States by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. An Air Force liaison group, led on a rotating basis by one of the five MAFFS unit commanders, staffs the center.
A C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.
(Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
This wide-ranging operational experience and capability gives CAL FIRE an extra capability when things are at their worst.
“We currently have low humidity, Santa Ana winds, we haven’t had rain in a number of days and we’re in areas that haven’t burned in 50-60 years,” said Dan Sendek, MAFFS liaison officer for CAL FIRE. “You can never have enough equipment for every eventuality. What the guard brings to us is that surge capacity when we’re in a situation where we need everything we can get.”
Six days after he lost his home, Dawson was back at work.
“The routine of going about the mission and getting things done is probably better,” Dawson said. “I needed to get back and get involved in the fire mission. The show must go on. The world doesn’t stop spinning and the guard doesn’t stop flying missions.”
For Dawson, it’s also a chance to combat the fire that took his home and save some of his neighbor’s property.
Tanner Renz, Kern County Fire Department, looks on as a C-130J Hercules from the 146th Airlift Wing, California Air National Guard, sprays fire retardant ahead of the leading edge of the Thomas Fire, Dec. 13, 2017. The 146th was activated to support CAL FIRE with wildfire suppression efforts within the state. The C-130s from Channel Islands Air National Guard Station are capable of spraying fire retardant from a modular airborne firefighting systems loaded in the cargo bay.
Photo by Master SGT. Brian Ferguson)
Dawson and his wife were able to return to their apartment a few days after the fire destroyed it, however, they were not able to search for personal items because the fire was still smoldering.
“Every single tenant in the 52 units was able to get out ahead of the fire. When we went back for the first time it was it was pretty emotionally taxing,” he said. “There were two stories worth of apartments that collapsed into a carport. There’s nothing left that we could really find.
“To me, then and even now, it still feels a little surreal. I know it’s happening to me, but it feels like it’s happening to someone else.”
This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.
If you’re a veteran and you’ve watched Cobra Kai, then you already know what we’re talking about. The new series premiered on YouTube Red earlier this month and we cannot be more excited for an inside look at the training that goes on in the infamous karate dojo. But Marines who watch this may see some lessons similar to what they learned in boot camp.
Johnny Lawrence re-opens the karate dojo that taught him so much to teach the current generation the brand of karate he once learned — and the life lessons that came with it. As the series progresses, he teaches his students each of the three main lessons of the dojo and we can’t help but see the similarities between his lessons and the ones we got in the Corps.
You also learn to not be a coward.
(Sony Pictures Television)
You learn how to fight
Obviously, when you go to a karate dojo, this is what you go to learn. In the Corps, you’ll also learn a form of martial arts. Their applicable uses may vary, however.
He even makes his students clean the place before they leave.
(Sony Pictures Television)
Sensei Johnny Lawrence treats his students like recruits (which they are) and acts like a drill instructor — minus the frog voice and screaming in someone’s face. He punishes his students the same way a DI would their recruits, by subjecting them to increased physical training until they learn their lesson.
He’s that really tough father figure who will constantly call you names and make you feel like crap.
(Sony Pictures Television)
The instructor is tough
He’s unrelenting in his rigid attitude, going as far as denouncing the existence of things like asthma and peanut allergies. At no point during the series does he ever lighten up on any of his students. He may become demonstrate compassion with some, but only after they’ve earned their place in his dojo.
There is a slight difference, though. Drill instructors never stop hating you, even after you’ve earned your title of “Marine.”
Pretty much sums up the whole experience of Marine boot camp.
(Sony Pictures Television)
The lessons are essentially the same
Cobra Kai teaches three lessons: Strike hard, strike fast, and have no mercy. Sound familiar? These are almost generalizations of lessons you learn in boot camp. You learn all of these things, even if your drill instructors don’t directly say it. You learn to take initiative, never give up, and always give 110%.
He’s unmistakably tough in this picture.
(Sony Pictures Television)
Turns nerds into total bad asses
One of our favorite scenes in the entire show is when the character Eli is verbally berated by Sensei Lawrence for his nervous personality. He attack’s the kid’s appearance, mocking his surgical scar and sending him running from the dojo. You think he quits, but he comes back – with a mohawk.
After this, he turns into a total carefree badass. That’s exactly what happens to the nerdy, reserved recruits in boot camp who can handle the drill instructor’s mind games: They evolve into fearless badasses.
Being a first responder can suck. In fact, it often does suck… Yes, there are some clear benefits to being a part of the first responder family, but it’s grueling work that never stops. You’ve gotta be a special kind of person to put yourself on the line like that, day in, day out.
But there’s a silver lining to first responder life. One of the most underrated benefits of being a first responder is the special holiday treatment. It’s hard to describe and really has to be experienced to be appreciated, but you’re here already, so we’ll do our best.
The holiday season is the one time when being a first responder might be the best job to have.
This is what the average Security Forces gate shack looks like by noon, Christmas Day.
(The Japan Times)
This one is actually specifically for my Security Forces/Master of Arms/Military Police family. Our firefighter brothers and our siblings in the ambulances don’t typically face the same struggles in getting a simple lunch. Day in and day out, the constant nature of our work makes a daily lunch uncertain (to say the least).
Having that experience really makes the flood of holiday food that much easier to appreciate. It’s almost as if the other 11 months of being overworked and under-appreciated are a fair price to pay for all the love we get during this wonderful time of the year.
Something about having the higher-ups serve you gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
People are actually nice to you
It may seem like respect is always on the menu when dealing with first responders — and that’s true, to a degree. But we’re also often treated as though we’re invisible. First responders deal with the outside world in the worst of times. If you’ve dialed 911 and had responders show up at your location, chances are you were having at least a marginally bad day. So, it’s easy to see us first responders as inanimate objects — as tools of rescue. Save for a few occasions, we might as well be made of glass.
During the holidays, all of that changes. People understand that having to work on those days is a particular kind of suck that somehow stands out from the rest. This is the one time of the year when everyone sees you. Everyone tries to make you feel better, or, at the very least, expresses genuine care for your well-being.
Believe it or not, the schedule
There’s no denying that having to work on these special days is tough. No matter how great you’re treated or fed, it isn’t an easy undertaking. It messes with you, at least those first few times.
Conversely, working on those days often means some form of holiday schedule. This means about a week straight of work, either followed or preceded by a week of time off. Many of us use that time in conjunction with some leave and end up with a solid lump of time either to ourselves or with our loved ones.
Your work family will be going through the suck alongside you.
(Department of Defense)
Brotherhood is a standing and well-recognized benefit of being a first responder. During the holidays, first responders have a way of coming together and really being a family.
There are few better bonding moments than sharing some holiday goodies with your work-family over a 12-hour shift.
Before joining the service, I thought everyone in the military was somehow fighting and killing bad guys. I looked to movies and television to try to put myself into the mindset of who I wanted to be if I had to fight a real battle.
Clearly, I no idea what I was getting into. That’s where the similarities between the badass antihero from Big Trouble In Little China and myself end.
Years before Die Hard changed every action movie that came after it into some version of Die Hard, the dream-team duo of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell brought us this bizarre but awesome story of a man determined to help save his new friends that have been captured by a mystical, ancient Chinese cult.
Jack Burton was a John Wayne in a world full of Bruce Lees. But it wasn’t swagger that made me admire this custom-booted character. Jack Burton was way deeper than he seemed — all you had to do was look.
He had heart. He had dedication. Dammit, he had fun.
“This is Jack Burton in the Porkchop Express and I’m talkin’ to whoever’s listening out there.”
Jack Burton drops pearls of wisdom.
The saltiest warriors have been around the world and they’ve seen some things most us can’t comprehend. When they try to tell you about it, it all just seems unbelievable. That’s why wise, older warriors impart wisdom by giving practical advice, not by relating one specific story. Just listen to Jack Burton:
When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that: “Have ya paid your dues, Jack?” “Yessir, the check is in the mail.”
Jack Burton is okay with being the sidekick.
Being in the military isn’t about glory, it’s not about being in the spotlight, and it definitely isn’t about the money. Big Trouble in Little China is about Wang Chi rescuing his girlfriend. When a Chinese street gang abducts her, Jack Burton is right there to fight the good fight, because it’s the right thing to do.
“Hey, I’m a reasonable guy, but I’ve just experienced some very unreasonable things.”
Even when the sh*t gets deep, Jack Burton does not run.
Jack Burton is just an average, ass-kickin’ kind of guy (with amazing reflexes). He’s used to a good, fair fight and knows when to back off. But just because he’s seeing some sh*t he’s never seen before doesn’t mean he’s going to turn and run. He’s going to stay and fight until he knows he can’t win.
“You people sit tight, hold the fort, and keep the home fires burning. And if we’re not back by dawn… call the president.”
Jack Burton has the right gear for the job.
Those boots, my dude. Those boots are custom.
“May the Wings of Liberty never lose a feather.”
Jack Burton is all about intel.
It’s not all about throwing around weight and fists for Jack Burton. When the situation demands it, he’s willing to be more subtle; less swagger and more cloak-and-dagger. He gathers all the information he can before he starts kicking in doors.
“We may be trapped.”
People want to follow a leader like Jack Burton.
Some may call it cockiness, but I see self-confidence. Jack Burton stands up for what’s right: saving ladies in distress, helping people who’ve been abducted, good fighting evil, etc. People fighting with him see it and they love him for it. Remember: Jack Burton only ever met one person in all of Big Trouble In Little China and he is still fighting with them.
“Everybody relax, I’m here.”
Despite his shortcomings, Jack Burton gets the job done.
He’s not John McClane. He’s not James Bond. There’s very little about Jack Burton that can be called “smooth.” He can stay up all night drinking and gambling, but will keep fighting for days. Like the professional he is, he operates just as well on the third day of combat as he did on the first.