If there’s one accessory that’s become synonymous with the post-9/11 generation of troops, it has to be the nonsensical PT belt. It’s that bright, neon green, reflective band that you see wrapped around every troop when they go out for a jog.
Honestly, it seems like some big wig at the Pentagon must have thought it was funny in an ironic sort of way to make all troops who’re wearing camouflage fatigues put on a bright, shiny, eye-catching belt. Military doctrine isn’t made on a whim and, usually, there’s a lot more at play than meets the eye, but the actual reason behind wearing the belt is a perfect example of someone listening to the “Good Idea Fairy” instead of reason.
In all fairness to the glow belt, it does help troops be seen at night. That doesn’t mean that’s the solution to vehicular manslaughter, however.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Zachary Wolf)
Prior to the 90s, troops didn’t wear any sort of reflective clothing during morning PT. Instead, for safety, troops conducted PT on roads that were blocked off in the mornings to avoid any potential accidents with civilian drivers. Unfortunately, the scenario didn’t play out as installation commanders hoped and fatalities would happen occasionally.
The first step in preventing these unfortunate deaths was to create more reflective PT uniforms — without abandoning the military appearance, of course. A few designs were tested, but the luminescence would consistently lose its luster after a few runs through the laundry.
So, rather than holding the manufacturers accountable for making a sub-par product, the Army used reflective armbands, reflective vests, before, finally, adapting the the widespread PT belt. Initially, this was more of a Band-Aid solution to a large problem.
It’s funny how everyone of ranks of E-7, O-2, and below unanimously hate the belts, but as soon as you make rank, you suddenly laud their effectiveness…
Then came a horrible incident on Lackland Air Force Base in 1996 in which several airmen were struck by a moving vehicle during a morning run. Rather than installing a traffic light or determining what, exactly, was to blame, the Air Force pulled the trigger and made the new reflective belts mandatory.
The rest of the branches soon followed suit because it gave the commanders an out when creating Risk Management Assessments. Rather than taking an analytical look at serious and tragic incidents, the commanders could cut themselves out of the accountability equation by making everyone wear reflective bets.
In short, the solution of “add a PT belt” was a lazy answer to a complicated question that resulted in horrible accidents. Vehicles hitting pedestrians in the motor pool was another problem addressed by adding a PT belt instead of figuring out why so many accidents were happening — after all, do the belts even have any real effect in broad daylight?
“Going into combat? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Picking someone up from the local bars? Don’t forget your PT belt!” “Jumping out of a C-130 without a parachute? It’s fine so long as you wear your PT belt!”
There are at least 42 commissioned aircraft carriers in service with at least 14 navies around the world.
Aircraft carriers come in many shapes and sizes: some carry large aircraft fleets of fighters and electronic attack planes, some only carry helicopters; some are nuclear powered, some are fueled by gas; some have vertical take-off and landing, some have short take-off and vertical landing, some have catapult assisted take-off and arrested recovery, where a tail hook snags a cable to catch the plane on landing.
Whatever the specifications, a carrier is not much use to any navy if it’s breaking down or not able to launch the full range of combat sorties it was built to perform.
So we put together a list of seven of the worst commissioned flattops, which have a history of breaking down or limitations on the missions that these ships were built to perform.
Check them out below:
1. China’s Liaoning (16).
Commissioned in 2012, the Liaoning is a Kiev-class aircraft carrier that Beijing tricked Ukraine into selling by sending a Hong Kong businessman to purchase it under the guise of it being used as a casino in 1998.
The Liaoning was later commissioned in 2012, becoming China’s first aircraft carrier.
“The main problem with the ship is that is has a very problematic propulsion system,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, previously told Business Insider. “It’s just unreliable.”
Commissioned in 1995, the Kuznetsov experienced a serious breakdown in 1996, and wasn’t available again until 1998.
Commissioned in 1997, the Chakri Naruebet was once a fleet carrier, but was later relegated to a helicopter carrier in 2006, mostly because of budgetary issues.
Although the Chakri Naruebet was used after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsnuami and in rescue operations after flooding in Thailand in 2010 and 2011, the carrier has mostly resided in port for much of its 20-year career with the Thai Navy.
So while the Chakri Naruebet has not necessarily suffered from design flaws or repeated maintenance issues, we included it on the list because it’s simply not being used for what it was supposed to.
A Navy spokesman said in 2013 that it was because the ship was being “configured to serve as the Navy’s Joint Strike Fighter test platform,” but that reason only accounted for the years 2011-2013.
“That’s a CYA [cover-your-ass] reason. That is not the reason it’s not deploying,” a retired Marine general told the Marine Times in 2013. “It doesn’t seem to make sense to keep one of these ships out of the deployment rotation for so many years.”
One of the problems appeared to have been that faulty engine seals were leaking oil into different engine areas.
The Adelaide is Australia’s second helicopter carrier.
(United States Navy photo)
6. HMAS Adelaide (L01).
Commissioned in 2015, the HMAS Adelaide is Australia’s other Landing Helicopter Dock carrier.
The Adelaide also took part in RIMPAC 2018, but it was sent back to port at the same time in 2017 as the Canberra with the same problems.
Given that both ships, which were commissioned around the same time, had similar problems at the same time, might very well hint at design problems.
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is seen underway on its own power for the first time on April 8, 2017, in Newport News, Virginia.
(United States Navy photo)
7. America’s USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78).
Commissioned in July 2017, the USS Gerald R. Ford is the most powerful and capable supercarrier ever built — but it’s been dogged by repeated problems and is still not ready for combat a year after it entered service.
The Ford’s AAG caught its first C2-A Greyhound aircraft in late May 2018, according to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems.
When we reached out to renowned ship expert Eric Wertheim about our inclusion of the Ford in this piece, he pushed back.
“It’s important to give new complex warships and weapon systems time to mature through operational experience,” Wertheim told Business Insider in an email. “If you had looked at many of the most successful weapons and warship designs, they often might have looked like miserable failures early in their life cycle, but they eventually turned a corner.”
“If a warship is still underperforming its mission after a decade or more, it’s probably not a very sound design,” Wertheim added.
In February, 2014, Taliban insurgents released a video with what they claimed was a U.S. prisoner of war that they had captured the previous year. They called him “colonel” as they led him around by a leash and described taking him during a night raid in Afghanistan’s Laghman Province. He was a Belgian Malinois working dog – and he was about to put his captors to work.
“Colonel” was actually a dog working for the British forces under ISAF command in the country, according to BBC reporters. The dog was apparently captured in the middle of an intense firefight with coalition forces trying to drive the Taliban out of the Alingar Valley. They were tipped off about a British SAS raid on Dec. 23.
It was the first time a working dog was taken prisoner in Afghanistan.
Colonel, or dagarwal in Pashto, was a valuable asset, no matter how the Taliban chose to see him. Not only was the dog not killed, injured, or otherwise mistreated, he was an asset. They would never get a trained working dog like Colonel. They sure couldn’t train one. Even as a prisoner of war to be ransomed, he was priceless.
“It’s always possible that we could use the dog, since it has been trained,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement. “If someone offers a trade for it then we can think about that.”
A casual viewer might never know it, as videos with the Malinois show him surrounded by as many as five Taliban fighters, all heavily armed with rifles and grenades, but the dog is much more than a mutt found on the street. Colonel had needs, and he liked things a certain way. Whereas other dogs were kicked out into the streets and fed scraps, Colonel had a team of Taliban waiting on him.
“It is not like the local dogs which will eat anything and sleep anywhere,” Mujahid added. “We have to prepare him proper food and make sure he has somewhere to sleep properly.”
This means Colonel has a few Taliban fighters who were attached to him. They provided him with blankets and made human-level food for him from chicken and kebab meat. Dogs are not considered pets in Afghan culture, are widely seen as “unclean,” and the Coalition’s use of dogs has irked the Afghan President and people at times.
The Taliban also showed off weapons seized during a raid on one of their hideouts.
Sadly, it’s hard to know if Colonel was ever rescued. British special operations forces from the Who Dares Wins Regiment volunteered to go find the dog and rescue him, but the British Defence Ministry called the mission “unlikely.”
Colonel has since been nominated for the Dickin Medal, the animal equivalent of the Victoria Cross.
When the English military needs to train its newest Gurkha recruits on English language and culture, they take them to the Gothic, fog-covered abbey that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula for some cruel reason. Then, they urge them to buy fish and chips from local vendors for some even crueler reason.
A British Gurkha soldier watches down his rifle barrel for threats during an exercise with U.S. troops.
(U.S. Army William B. King)
Gurkha soldiers, for those who haven’t heard, are elite troops recruited out of the Gurkha region of Nepal. Troops from the kingdom stomped the British and the British East India Company in the 1760s and again during the Anglo-Nepalese War, which ran from 1814 to 1816. The Gurkhas defeated so many British troops that the East India Company hired them for future conflicts — if you can’t beam ’em, hire ’em.
This mercenary force proved itself over the years and, eventually, the Gurkhas were brought into the regular British Army in special regiments. Now, they’re elite units famous for their controlled savagery in combat.
When Gurkhas See The Sea For The First Time | Forces TV
Today, the Gurkhas are still recruited out of the mountains of Nepal. While they’re assessed on their English skills during the selection process, many young recruits from Nepal generally know little of the language and culture of the nation they swear to defend.
So, the British government gives them classes and takes them on field trips to historic sites. Oddly enough, one of the historical sites they take them to is the abbey in Whitby, North Yorkshire — the site that inspired Dracula.
“Thank you for defending England. Too bad it’s haunted, eh?”
The Whitby Abbey ruins which helped inspire the story that would become ‘Dracula.’
(Ackers72, CC BY-SA 3.0)
Bram Stoker visited a friend in Whitby in July, 1890 — and it was a Gothic writer’s dream. It had the old abbey ruins, a church infested with bats, and large deposits of the black stone jet, often used in mourning jewelry.
Stoker was working on a novel about “Count Wampyr” when he arrived, but it was in a library in Whitby that he learned about Vlad Tepes, the impalement-happy prince whose nickname was Dracula, meaning “son of the dragon.” Stoker also learned about a Russian ship that had crashed nearby while carrying a load of sand. He tweaked the name of the ship to create the ship Dracula used to move his home soil and coffin to England.
In ‘Dracula,’ the titular monster lands on the coast of Whitby — at a place like this — before climbing the abbey’s steps and beginning a reign of terror.
(Andrew Bone, CC BY 2.0)
In the novel, Dracula’s ship runs aground at Whitby and the “Black Dog” runs up the abbey’s 199 steps to begin terrorizing the English residents.
Now, Gurkhas tour the area to learn about Stoker and absorb some English history.
After their tour, the Gurkhas are encouraged to try out the local delicacy, fish and chips (for the fiercely American among us, “chips” means “french fries”). This may not seem like additional horror, but since Nepal is known for spicy curry and the English are known for using vinegar as a condiment, this is honestly the cruelest part of the lesson.
As Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley made her way through mountainous terrain in the midst of a scorching Georgia summer in 2018, she admittedly struggled, carrying more than 50 pounds of gear during a patrol exercise.
Tired and physically drained, her body had withstood nearly a month of training in the Army’s most challenging training school. She had already suffered a fracture in her back in an earlier phase and suffered other physical ailments.
But then she looked to her left and right and saw her fellow Ranger School teammates, many of whom she outranked.
“I know that I have to keep going,” said Kelley, the first enlisted female graduate of the Army Ranger School at Fort Benning. “Because if I quit, or if I show any signs of weakness, they’re going to quit.”
In the middle of 21 grueling training days in northeast Georgia, Kelley knew if she could weather the mountain phase of the Army’s Ranger School, she and her teammates would reach a new pinnacle, a critical rite of passage for Ranger students. The electronic warfare specialist spent 21 days in the mountains which includes four days of mountaineering, five days of survival techniques training and a nine-day field training exercise. She had already been recycled in the school’s first phase and didn’t want to relive that experience.
Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley marches in formation during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018.
(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)
“It’s not about you at that moment,” Kelley said. “It’s about the people around you. You don’t realize in that moment how many people look up to you until you complete it. Everybody has those trying periods because those mountains are really rough.”
Her graduation from Ranger School paved the way for her current assignment as an electronic warfare specialist with the Third Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Since 2016, more than 1,200 female soldiers have entered combat career fields, including field artillery, armor and infantry.
Kelley said the Ranger training pushed her to meet the same standards as her male counterparts. She finished the 16-mile ruck march in under three hours.
“You literally go through the same thing,” Kelley said. “It’s not any different … You do the same thing that they do. That’s the greatest thing about Ranger School: there’s one set standard, across the board.”
Taking the easy road has never been how Kelley has lived her life. As a teenager she competed as a centerfielder on boy’s baseball teams. She also was on her high school’s track team. Growing up in the small rural community of Easley, South Carolina, she had few mentors as a teen.
“I just wanted to be somebody,” Kelley said. “And I also want to be someone that others can look up to. I didn’t have that growing up. We don’t all come from a silver spoon background; some of us have to fight for things.”
She joined the Army on a whim in 2011, considering joining the service only six months prior to enlisting. She admired the Army’s rigid discipline and high standards.
“Better opportunities,” was one reason Kelley said she joined the Army. “I wanted to get out of where I was.”
Kelley wanted to reach even higher. The 30-year-old wanted to one day become sergeant major of the Army and let her supervisors know that it wasn’t some pipe dream. After an Iraq deployment with the 1st Armored Division, Kelley’s battalion commander, Lt. Col. Mike Vandy, told her that attending Ranger School would help chart her path to success.
A family member places the Army Ranger tab on Staff Sgt. Amanda Kelley’s uniform.
(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)
“When I went to Ranger School, I didn’t go so I could be the first (enlisted female),” Kelley said. “I went so that I could be sergeant major of the Army. And I want to be competitive with my peers.”
After Kelley decided to apply for Ranger School, she spent five months physically preparing herself and studying while deployed. Her roommate in Iraq, former Staff Sgt. Mychal Loria, said Kelley would work 12-hour shifts, workout twice a day and still found time for study. At the same time, she helped mentor other soldiers.
“She just exemplified the perfect NCO; always there for her soldiers,” Loria said.
Kelley praised former Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey for helping create more opportunities for women in combat career fields. Since the first two female graduates — Capt. Kristen Griest and then-1st Lt. Shaye Haver — completed Ranger training in 2015, more than 30 female soldiers have earned their Ranger tab. Sgt. 1st Class Janina Simmons became the first African American woman to graduate from the course earlier this year.
Kelley said has begun preparation for a six-month deployment to an undisclosed location. The South Carolina native said she looks forward to using many of the skills she learned during her time training to be an Army Ranger.
The eight-year Army vet said the Third Special Forces group has fostered a welcome environment for unit members, offering a wealth of training opportunities to help advance her career, including electronics and intelligence courses.
Kelley offered some advice for soldiers who may be considering Ranger School or other certifications to advance their careers.
“Soldiers need to understand that sometimes things you had planned change,” she said. “So just be open-minded to new things and don’t be scared to go after things that seem impossible. Because nothing’s impossible if somebody’s done it before you.”
When considering music that we’d want to play as we ship out to a combat zone, very few of us would think of choosing a 19th century Australian folk song about a hobo who stole a sheep. And yet, that’s exactly what the Marines of the 1st Marine Division do en masse. It may seem odd that United States Marines choose to deploy using Australia’s unofficial national anthem, but a closer look at the history of the unit (and how the song ends) helps make sense of it all.
During World War II, the Marines of “the Old Breed,” the 1st Marine Division, famously began the first Allied offensive against Japan in the Pacific at Guadalcanal. Armed with old Springfield M1903 rifles and meager stores of food and ammunition, the Marines wrested control of the island from Japan in just over six months, earning them their first of three Presidential Unit Citations in WWII and a well-deserved rest in Australia.
Say “no” to Bull Halsey. See what happens.
After the months of fighting and privation, the Marines were looking worse for wear. Sick from dysentery and weak, the men were just worn out. When they first docked in Brisbane, they were housed in what amounted to a series of shacks in swampland.
When the Marines’ commander, General Alexander Vandegrift, ordered that the entire division be moved, the Navy told him there was no way to spare the number of ships needed — and they had nowhere to go, anyway. That’s where Admiral William “Bull” Halsey and the city of Melbourne came in. Australia’s second-largest city offered to take them with open arms and Halsey would get them there.
Camps of already-pitched tents and bunks were waiting for them as they landed in Melbourne. The sick and wounded were transferred to a newly-finished hospital in nearby Parkville and the rest were given unlimited liberty for the next 90 full days. One account says the citizens of Melbourne opened their homes to the Marines. It was a mutual love affair for the guys who left their homes in the U.S. to fight with and for the Aussies.
On George Washington’s birthday, Feb. 22, 1943, the Marines marched a parade through Melbourne. During this parade, the 1st Marine Division Band decided to play the Australian folk favorite, Waltzing Matilda. The Australian onlookers loved it and cheered loudly for the procession.
Thus began the love affair between the 1st Marine Division and Australia.
When winter came, the Australians even gave the Marines their winter jackets, which were soon adopted by the USMC uniform board (no small feat). This is also where 1st Marine Division’s now-famous blue diamond patch was designed. Aside from the the red “one” and “Guadalcanal” markings, the patch also features the constellation Southern Cross, which is a symbol of Australia.
Every camp set up by the 1st Marine Division is called “Matilda.”
Marines hit three feet of rough water as they leave their LST to take the beach at Cape Gloucester, New Britain.
The Australians were jubilant for the Marines’ victory on Guadalcanal. It was bad news for the Japanese who had invaded nearby Papua New Guinea, an Australian protectorate. After their rest, the Marines’ next move prevented the Imperial Japanese Navy from invading mainland Australia by taking the war to them yet again, invading New Guinea via Cape Gloucester.
As for the sheep thief in Waltzing Matilda, he was confronted by police for his theft and refused to surrender, instead throwing himself into the nearby body of water, a billabong, to evade capture.
A Marine Corps veteran, Ray Guasp is no stranger to serving others. He founded Veterans Response, a nonprofit disaster relief and humanitarian aid organization made up of former military personnel and first responders. He is emblematic of the military veteran who continues to serve his country after leaving the service, as highlighted in the #StillServing campaign launched this year by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
#StillServing aims to bring attention to and honor the continued commitment and sacrifice of America’s veterans. In fact, The Corporation for National & Community Service’s 2018 Volunteering in America Report shows that veterans volunteer 25 percent more time, are 17 percent more likely to make a monetary donation and are 30 percent more likely to participate in local organizations than the civilian population.
“All those skills I learned in the military transfer right over to disaster response,” Guasp said. “Veterans Response gives me and other veterans and first responders an environment that we are accustomed to — mission-forward, mission-centric, focused and disciplined.”
Ray’s story began at age 18 when he joined the United States Marine Corps and served in Operation Desert Storm. He took those problem solving and leadership skills and founded Veterans Response, with the mission to deliver timely and appropriate emergency services to disaster-stricken communities. A Veterans Response team deploys into communities suffering catastrophic events helping to meet immediate and longer-term needs, everything from water and temporary shelter to rebuilding homes and communities.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria were both Category 5 storms that struck within two weeks of each other in the fall of 2017, devastating the Caribbean and parts of Florida. Within a week of forming Veterans Response, the organization raised ,000 and purchased and installed a water filtration system in Puerto Rico. Using any source of freshwater, contaminated or not, the system can produce 250 gallons of clean water per hour. Veterans Response also provided residents with reusable water bottles to use with the system and worked with residents to monitor and maintain the system when the organization’s team is no longer on site.
The next phase of Guasp’s plan for Puerto Rico is to focus on providing stricken communities with mental health services; services he realizes were needed after his own experiences in Desert Storm.
“Those memories live with you forever,”Guasp said. “Our goal for Puerto Rico is to enable the treatment of some of the pain that its residents have gone through in the last several years.”
Currently, Veterans Response is focusing on a new disaster, one close to home. Since the COVID-19 outbreak began in early March, the group has been working around the clock shopping for food to donate to food banks, stocking food bank shelves and assembling packages of donated items to distribute to those in need. To date, Veterans Response has provided food banks around Guasp’s hometown in Connecticut with more than 550 pounds of food.
“Normally we respond to disasters but in this case, this is a crisis and we decided to take up arms and be part of the solution,” said Pablo Soto, an Army veteran and member of Veterans Response.
“We’re trying to do our part to try to help at least put food on somebody’s table,” Guasp said. “So they can have some type of normal in their household.”
When not volunteering with Veterans Response, Guasp is a partner and co-founder of a medical device sales company (Attero Surgical), a volunteer fireman and a firearms instructor. Because of his continued service, VFW has chosen Guasp to serve as a spokesperson for its national #StillServing campaign.
The VFW encourages all veterans to share stories on social media using #StillServing to show how they continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small. In addition, family or friends are asked to use #StillServing in social media posts to honor a veteran in their lives who believes the spirit of service transcends military life.
“Service creates a balance in our life,” Guasp added. “It allows us to still be a part of that world and the brotherhood that we enjoyed. It is critical for veterans to share this message and show that veterans are not an obscure population. We are making real changes in our communities every day.”
There’s skydiving, and then there’s Army skydiving.
Their origins began in the Cold War when the Soviet Union was dominating the emerging skydiving sport. In 1959, 19 Airborne soldiers began competing at the international level, and by 1961 they were known as the Golden Knights.
Since then, the Knights have conducted more than 16,000 shows around the world, and team members have broken 348 world records.
And sometimes if you’re very lucky, you can strap one on like a backpack and jump out of a plane with him.
Watch what it’s like to jump with the Golden Knights
The Golden Knights are comprised of a few different teams: the demonstration teams perform at over 100 events per year (and if you haven’t seen them in action, run don’t walk — they’re remarkable) while the tandem team jumps with fellow soldiers, heads of state, celebrities, people of influence, members of the military community, and, well, military pin-ups as it turns out.
The Knights reached out to Gina Elise of Pin-Ups for Vets, and while she declined (for now, Gina — but I am determined to get you up in the air!!), she did ask if she could send some of her more daring ambassadors. If you’re not familiar with Pin-Ups for Vets, it’s a non-profit organization that helps hospitalized and deployed service members and military families.
Erikka Davis (U.S. Army), Megan Martine (U.S. Marine Corps), Shannon Corbeil (U.S. Air Force)
After a fun meet-and-greet with our fellow guests, who included people like an A.P. Bio Teacher, a Vice Principal, a firefighter, some Los Angeles Rams Cheerleaders, and a stand-up comic, we set our alarms for an early wake-up and set out for our adventure. This is where I got to meet Sgt. 1st Class Chris “Ace” Acevedo, who would be my jump instructor.
And who apparently is also a legend.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B20UzKiA7_b/ expand=1]Shannon Corbeil on Instagram: “Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?) I might be a little biased but he’s my favorite jump instructor! ?…”
Before & After with SFC Chris “Ace” Acevedo. (Check out the hair! ?)
Ace’s Army career included service as a Cavalry Scout and an Air Defensive Artilleryman in countries like Iraq and South Korea before he joined the Golden Knights. Over the past eleven years, he has served on both the Black and Gold demonstration teams, competition teams, and now the tandem team. He will also be representing the Army on the 2020 U.S. Parachute Team in the 2020 World Championships. I asked him what he had to do to make the team:
“Freefall at 300 mph.”
Oh. Is that all?
For comparison, during our freefall, we’d be descending at about 120 mph. So, yeah, the guy is fast.
He’s also got about 6000 jumps under his belt, which gave me a lot of comfort when confronted with this view:
Just imagine kneeling here and then…tumbling out. Because it was ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT.
(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
It’s nice to know that if I somehow fell out of the plane without a parachute, my instructor could just…come catch me.
Because as you can see in the video above, when the students load up in the plane, we don’t have chutes. We strap in mid-flight, get a refresher from the morning’s instruction (hold chest straps, keep your eyes on your videographer, arch arch arch, two taps on the shoulder means you can release your hands, two taps on your hips means arch more, etc.), then shuffle to the door.
From there, it became a practice in trust. Walking to the edge of an open plane door without using my hands went against every instinct in my body — but I knew that Ace literally had my back.
Can you find the C-17?
(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
In 2003, I completed five unassisted jumps with the U.S. Air Force Freefall program, which meant I was responsible for pulling my own chute after a 10-second freefall. But with the Golden Knights, my job just was to “relax, arch, and have fun.”
Right before we took off, my videographer Sgt. 1st Class Rich Sloan told me that safety was the priority, but if we were stable then he’d reach his hand out to me, and we’d spin SO I WAS DETERMINED TO BE THE MOST STABLE POSSIBLE IN THE UNIVERSE.
“And we’re the three best friends that anyone could have…”
(U.S. Army image by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
In the video above, you can see what that spin looked like. You can also see from my reaction that it was thrilling.
During our descent, Ace pointed out a C-17 flying beneath us, maintained his checklist, and kept us alive – all of which I’m extremely thankful for. Then after what felt like 10 seconds but was actually a good 45 seconds, with a sharp salute he pulled our chute.
It went by so fast it surprised me, so I made a giphy of the moment BECAUSE MY LEGS KICK OUT AND IT’S HILARIOUS.
We had a good chute and did some spins under the canopy while Ace endured what I can only describe as me doing a breathless double rainbow guy impression (“Oh my godddddd! Oh my god this is amaaaaaazing!”) before he steered us to the landing zone and brought us gently and lovingly to the earth from whence we came.
For me, it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. For Ace, it could have just been another one of 300 tandem jumps — but that’s not how he sees it. He still remembers his first jumps and the thrill of that experience, so he likes to share that feeling with others.
Talking with him after, I asked what some of his favorite parts of the job are. “Gold Star Families are pretty special. It helps them with their healing process, so that’s a big deal to me. I just want to help them through the day — for many of them, it helps them feel close to the person they lost.”
Feather-soft landing, I’m not even kidding.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sloan)
All I can say about the program is that if you get the invitation to jump with the Golden Knights, take it. They are so professional, so precise, and so skilled at what they do. I had no problem trusting this team with my life. I’m still incredulous that they even provide this kind of experience to people.
I asked Ace why they do it, and he said it’s so our country can get to know her soldiers.
“This is us. This is what an American soldier looks like. This is my Army story.”
When someone has diabetes, there’s a constant stream of questions. Did you check your blood sugar? Are you exercising and keeping a good diet? Do you have your insulin handy?
Mary Julius, a program manager for the diabetes self-management education and training at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, wants to help educate veterans and their families about how to self-manage diabetes.
Julius broke down the differences between Type I and Type II diabetes.
Persons with Type I diabetes produce little or no insulin.
Persons with Type II diabetes make insulin but there is a resistance to the insulin.
According to Julius, diabetes awareness and education are increasingly important for veterans and their families; “25% of veterans receiving VA care have been diagnosed with diabetes.” Without awareness and education, people diagnosed with diabetes put their health at risk. Thus, veterans who have been diagnosed with diabetes should work closely with their primary provider, but, she emphasizes, veterans and their family also need the tools and education to apply self-management techniques.
Finally, Julius shares how VA has been working on creating a virtual medical learning center for veterans and their families to learn more about diabetes and related topics. Veterans and their families can access this learning site at VAVMC.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
This week on the Borne the Battle podcast is none other than We Are The Mighty’s President and CMO, Air Force veteran Mark Harper.
Borne the Battle #221: Mark Harper, Air Force Veteran, President/CMO of We Are The Mighty.
Synopsis: This week’s Borne the Battle features Air Force Veteran Mark Harper, who found his niche as a content creator for combat camera. Harper joined the U.S. Air Force after commissioning through ROTC and graduating from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. For most of his Air Force career, Captain Harper was the Video Flight commander of the 1st Combat Camera Squadron. There, he led combat-ready documentary teams to provide the world insight into military operations, contingencies, exercises, weapons tests and humanitarian relief operations. After leaving service, he leveraged his military experience for a career in the entertainment industry. He now leads We Are The Mighty, celebrating service of our veterans, military men and women and their families, through excellent storytelling.
Launched in late 2016, the Department of Veterans Affairs weekly podcast is a part of its ongoing effort to engage and reach out to Veterans. “Borne the Battle” recognizes each battle, challenge, and sacrifice our Veterans endure during and after their service, as well as spotlighting important resources, offices, and benefits VA offers our Veterans.
Borne the Battle is dedicated to:
Bridging the military/civilian divide
Educating VA employees about the warriors they serve
Promoting Veteran advocacy initiatives thru the voice of Veterans
Inspiring and educating transitioning Veterans with positive stories
Informing Veteran listeners about new information from VA as it is released
The Green Beret Foundation is the premiere benevolent organization dedicated to the Special Forces soldiers and their families. The organization is now poised to do even more thanks to its newly announced Veterans Services Organization accreditation by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation by Veterans Affairs is an accomplishment that GBF is extremely proud of. At this time, it is the only special operations charity to hold the distinction. The organization recognizes the deep impact and importance the accreditation offers and leadership states that they look forward to being able to greatly expand their ability to serve.
“The overall health and wellness of a Green Beret and their family is our priority, and this accreditation is a testament to our expertise and level of support as the premier benevolent organization in the Special Forces community,” Brent Cooper, Executive Director of GBF shared.
While the GBF has been supporting its Special Forces soldiers with their needs from the VA for some time, its hands were tied with how much help they could give in many areas. With the new accreditation, the GBF can now walk alongside its soldiers throughout the entirety of the VA claims process, which is known to be cumbersome and difficult to navigate even with support.
John Armezzani is the Veterans Services Director for the claims process with the VA. In a statement posted to the GBF website, Armezzani shared that, “This process, which may range from initiating claims to carrying them through VA and Board of Veterans Appeals hearings when necessary, will greatly enhance the capability of the GBF and its Next Ridgeline program to provide unique assistance throughout the life of our Special Forces veterans.”
One deeply impactful way the Green Beret Foundation’s accreditation will help is by being able to more fully support its soldiers as they leave the military. “This [accreditation] allows the GBF to expand it’s Transition Assistance Program from providing general informational briefings on benefits to filing the benefits claims for those separating service members,” Armezzani explained.
Not only will the organization be doing more to ensure its Special Forces soldiers receive the support they may need as they get out, but it will be able to be there throughout issues of hardship too. “GBF now has the ability to provide benefits assistance to Green Berets with life events such as change of career or in the event of a catastrophic health event. This includes dependents too,” Armezzani stated.
As the Special Forces soldiers from the Vietnam War era continue to age, their needs will most likely increase. The VSO accreditation will allow the GBF to step in and support these honored veterans by being their voices in the benefits claims process. “Inherent in this accreditation is the ability to provide benefits assistance to our legacy holders from the Vietnam era as they enter into the twilight of their lives,” Armezzani said.
Perhaps one of the most impactful parts of the announcement is the ability for the GBF to now represent its Special Forces Soldiers in the appeal process. “We will be able to represent Green Berets in appellate actions before the Board of Veterans Appeals when they disagree with a VA decision,” Armezzani said. No longer will they have to fight appeals without support, the GBF will be right there with them and will fight to ensure they are heard.
The ultimate goal of this newly-expanded program is to be able to install a representative at each location where a Special Forces Group is located. This will all be made possible through the generosity of donors and future fundraising efforts.
The Green Beret Foundation remains committed to ensuring that every single Special Forces soldier is not only honored for their service to this nation but also cared for the way they deserve. Although the VA VSO accreditation is an impressive and important feat to have achieved, GBF is ready to do even more.
For decades, America was convinced that the Soviet Union was going to nuke the country and possibly the world. Even though the US and Russia were allies during WWII, once the war stopped, that partnership ended. Postwar Soviet expansion and takeovers of many Eastern European countries fueled plenty of fears of communism. Americans had long been wary and concerned about Joseph Stalin’s treatment of his own country. For their part, the Russians weren’t fans of Americans either, especially since the US government was unwilling to accept the Soviet Union as a legitimate part of the international community. After the war ended, any relations Americans had with the Russians froze … but you can still visit Cold War sites in America.
American leadership decided the best way to deal with the Soviets would be a strategy called containment, which meant that America’s only solution was a long term vigilance of Russian tendencies to invade countries and take over. The containment approach also provided the government with the rationale for an unprecedented arms buildup, beginning in 1950. Both Americans and the USSR had access to atomic weaponry. The ever-present threat of nuclear war had a huge impact on American domestic life. People started to build bomb shelters, drills were practiced in schools and public places, and movies showcased depictions of nuclear devastation. The government did its part too and built bunkers, reactors, and missile silos in preparation for a possible Russian invasion.
Though the Cold War might have ended, the traces of our fear, paranoia, and preparation still exist today. Check out this list of top Cold War tourism sites to visit in America.
Greenbrier Bunker, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
This fallout shelter is located at Greenbrier Resort. What’s strange about it is that no one in the hotel knew it was designated as a bunker or that the government planned to house all of Congress in the event of a nuclear attack. Apparently, the government somehow convinced resort staff that it was building a conference center and that the 7,000-foot landing strip outside the building was completely necessary. The bunker was never used, and now you can take tours of it and check out the less-than-glamorous digs reserved for Congress.
Hanford Site, Richland, Washington
This 586 square mile site has been producing plutonium since 1943 when the War Department took it over to conduct parts of the Manhattan Project. The last reactor was shut down in 1987, and formal cleanup began two years later.
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Philip, South Dakota
No surprise that this place used to house missiles, but what might be surprising is how many. At its peak, the South Dakota silo field houses 150 missiles. Now it’s down to just one, the Launch Facility Delta-09. Now it’s run by the National Park Service, and there are tours available of the underground control centers.
The Culpeper Switch, Culpeper, Virginia
In 1969, construction on a bunker that had lead-lined shutters and steel-reinforced concrete. The reason? To keep cash flowing in case a Soviet attack wiped out America’s banks. For many years, the Federal Reserve kept $4 billion in cash inside the bunker. The government moved the cash out in 1988 and gifted the site to the Library of Congress in 1992.
Titan Missile Museum, Sahuarita, Arizona
For 24 years, the US had 54 Titan II missile sites on high alert. President Reagan ordered all Title II missiles deactivated in 1981, and most of them were completely destroyed in the process. All except for one, which is now on display at the Titan Missile Museum in Arizona. The missile was never fueled and never carried a warhead, so it’s completely safe for the public.
X-10 Graphite Reactor, Oak Ridge, Tennessee
For two decades, the X-10, an artificial nuclear reactor, existed on a diet of uranium. It’s dormant now and has been since 1963. Located inside the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the reactor is now open to the public.
This is just a small sampling of the Cold War sites in America, even though the Cold War has officially been over for decades.
The announcement of the Space Force has plenty of us waiting for the day that the first recruitment office opens up. After all, who wouldn’t want to go into space?
Sure, the Space Force isn’t going to be doing a bunch of sci-fi bad*ssery for a long while yet. In fact, the Space Force is likely going to spend more time monitoring satellites than training space shuttle door gunners, but let’s pretend that the day will eventually come where we need to send grunts into the great, dark beyond…
I hate to say it, but it’s still going to suck — and for some unexpected reasons, most of which stem from being outside of the Earth’s atmosphere.
I’m highly confident that it’d be a terrible idea.
(20th Century Fox)
5. You’re going to have to ration everything
When it comes to the essentials, resupplies are going to be limited. When it comes to the extras, you know, the little things that make life comfortable? Ha! Good luck getting mom to ship those out to you. If you want something, you’re going to have to bring it yourself and make it last.
Right off the bat, you’re going to have to go without most of the junk that everyone takes for granted. Chances are extremely slim that you’ll be able to convince the next wave of spacemen (in lieu of an official demonym, let’s assume they’ll be called ‘spacemen,’ like ‘airmen’) to take up valuable cargo space just to bring you a bag of chips.
The Earth is pretty and all, but you can only stare down at the Big Blue Marble so many times…
4. You won’t have many pastime options
Astronauts have a very strict schedule they need to follow or else they’ll be too weak to survive their eventual return. The average astronaut needs to exercise at least two hours a day to just to prevent bone and muscle loss. Since most troops tend to need more exercise to stay at peak performance, this figure will more than likely double.
Combine all that self-maintenance with an actual mission and troops are going to find themselves with barely any time to take a break.
Just imagine, you could pay off your Ford Mustang by the time you get out of atmosphere.
3. You probably won’t get any extra incentives for being in space
Colonel Buzz Aldrin was one of the finest airmen to ever grace the Air Force. He made history alongside Neil Armstrong by being the first men to ever step foot on the moon. Since he was on active duty, he submitted a travel voucher. For his 483,636-mile journey, he got a whole .31.
Once upon a time, you’d get a load of cash at the end of a TDY trip, but that per-mile rate is probably going to be non-existent when you’re travelling 4.76 miles per second.
It’s like being in a slightly less comfortable Humvee for weeks. Only slightly, though.
(NASA photo by Bill Bowers)
2. You shouldn’t expect any kind of personal space in space
Once you’re on a space ship, that’s it. You obviously can’t leave the ship, so get comfortable, because you’re going to be packed in with your unit. If you’re claustrophobic, you’re probably going to go nuts.
This isn’t unlike what some submariners deal with, but subs surface every once in a while — and there’s a difference of magnitude here. The Apollo 11 capsule was roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. Granted, the crew was in there for only eleven days and modern astronauts have a bit more leg room, but if you’re up there for months at a time…
“Well, guys. I’m out. Have fun in space!”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Volkmar Wentzel)
1. After a while, your body won’t function like you’re used to
There’s no real order to the fairly terrible things listed here, but this one definitely takes the top spot. To put this in the most delicate way possible to stay in line with the family-friendly vibe we strive for here at We Are The Mighty, it has to be noted that astronauts run into health concerns after spending extended periods of space time. First, you’ll find your red blood cell count has dipped. Zero-gravity also makes the circulation of blood more evenly spread throughout the body, as opposed to it being able to concentrate in the lower extremities, like it does in regular gravity.