How to make a great living room obstacle course - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How to make a great living room obstacle course

Long before obstacle-course races became the dad fitness fad du jour, kids enjoyed crawling, jumping, and swinging from station to station in PE class. And they still do, even if not all of them want to train for a Mini Mudder. Most young kids have a good notion of what obstacle courses are (the world looks like one when you’re small enough) so getting them to race through homemade gauntlets is fairly easy and, when it comes to tiring them out, incredibly effective. It’s an activity that naturally builds on itself because kids will want to provide feedback on specific obstacles and courses can have endless permutations, at least until someone breaks something. The perfect obstacle course should be challenging, silly, and easily deconstructed or reconstructed. But, most importantly, it should be safe ⏤ so no fire pits!


Prep Time: About 30 minutes.
Entertainment Time: 20 minutes to two hours.
Energy Expended by Child: Mostly physical, unless you want to throw in a puzzle or two.

What You Need:

  • Things to jump over, onto, or from. Interlocking foam play mats and tumbling mats are great. So are ropes, toys, cushions, and very stable pieces of furniture.
  • Things to crawl under or through. If you don’t already have a play tunnel, pull a sheet taut and have them crawl under it, army style.
  • Things to throw. Make a station where aim is important. Throwing is a skill very young kids can develop.
  • Things to balance on. An extra piece of woods in the shed can be a balance beam. So can a floorboard if everyone agrees it’s surrounded by lava.
  • If you’re setting an outdoor obstacle course up in the backyard, there are plenty of ready-to-buy obstacles, as well.

How to Play:

The best way to play ‘Obstacle Course’ is by building several stations, each with their own challenge. Depending on the age of the kids, they can help with this part. Here’s an example (note that writing it down can be helpful and make comprehension part of the game):

  1. Balance beam.
  2. Knock down all the cans.
  3. Jump from block to block.
  4. Ride the tricycle across the living room while making a silly face.
  5. Crawl through the tunnel.
  6. Drag a heavy thing past the line.
  7. Walk a ping pong ball with a spoon.
How to make a great living room obstacle course

The individual stations can be anything and are only limited by space and imagination. You can add special challenges as kids figure out how to manage certain obstacles. It’s also important to note that stations can reoccur in each running of an obstacle course. It is, for instance, a great idea to get kids to jump multiple times between activities that require more precise muscle control. This forces kids to engage different muscles and tires them out.

It’s also important to note that obstacle course are not merely physical. They are based on rules. It’s good to establish a points system that informs timing (plus 10 seconds for falling off the balance beam) because it incentivizes kids to really do the thing while turning you into a referee and arbiter of success, which puts you in a better position to encourage certain approaches or dish out positive feedback so kids feel like they’re making progress over time. If they aren’t, it also puts you in a prime position to obscure that fact.

To that end, it’s smart to make yourself one of the obstacles. Make kids dodge balls you’re throwing, chase you down, or play the levels game. This allows for you to make the course increasingly difficult and gets you directly involved, which is likely to ramp up interests (kids are predictable like that). On that same note, it’s a good idea to try to do the course — the parts you can fit through — to set a baseline time for your kid to beat. A bit of competition, no matter how silly, provides kids with a way to compete with mom and dad and understand their abilities and bodies in relation to other people’s. This leads to an ability to do a kind of athletic self-assessment that can be helpful later in life. It also tends to lead to absolute exhaustion.

Wrap Up:

Obstacle courses are a great way for your kids to burn off excess energy. And if they ever get tired of the same old course, change the theme or turn it into a narrated adventure: Superhero tryouts, ninja training, find the hidden treasure. Younger kids will especially enjoy embarking on the course as a character on an expedition. In the end, not only is it satisfying to watch your kids challenge themselves but also to watch them enjoy something you all built … even if it was made with couch cushions.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Shanahan officially takes over from Mattis at Pentagon

Patrick Shanahan has taken over the helm of the Pentagon, as U.S. President Donald Trump attacked his Defense Department predecessor, pointing to what he said was a lack of success in Afghanistan.

Shanahan, who has been serving as deputy defense secretary, worked his first day in office as acting defense secretary on Jan. 2, 2019, as the replacement for Jim Mattis, who resigned as defense chief on Dec. 20, 2018, saying his policies were not fully “aligned” with the president.


Trump has not specified a time frame for choosing a permanent defense secretary or said whether Shanahan could potentially assume that role.

Mattis initially said he would be leaving the Pentagon at the end of February 2019. But Trump later announced that Mattis, 68, would be leaving earlier after the defense secretary published a letter that directly criticized the president.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

(DOD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

In televised remarks on Jan. 2, 2019, Trump said he “essentially fired” Mattis. “I’m not happy with what [he has] done in Afghanistan — and I shouldn’t be happy,” said Trump, as Shanahan sat by his side.

“I wish him well. I hope he does well. But as you know, President [Barack] Obama fired him, and essentially so did I. I want results.”

A former Marine general, Mattis was fired by Obama in 2013 as head of U.S. Central Command over what the then-president said were too hawkish views toward Iran.

Shanahan, 56, meanwhile, said his priorities would include the impending U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria and countering China’s military might.

“While we are focused on ongoing operations, Acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember: China, China, China,” a Pentagon official said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

popular

The FBI’s 4 countries that can cripple the US with cyber attacks

An FBI agent has mapped out the nation states that pose the biggest cyber threat to the US.

Business Insider spoke to Aristedes Mahairas, a special agent in charge of the New York FBI’s Special Operations/Cyber Division, about the cybersecurity landscape in America.

He said the US is always alive to threats from cyber criminals, cyber terrorists, and renegade hacktivists, but nation states are at the “very top” of the threat list.


Mahairas said there has been a “significant increase in state-sponsored computer intrusions” over the past 12 years as it has become a potent way of unsettling an adversary alongside traditional espionage.

“Cyber operations can be a relatively cheap and deniable means to a worrisome end,” he said, talking to Business Insider at the Digital Business World Congress in Madrid, Spain.

Mahairas marked out the four countries most capable of launching a crippling attack on America. They are captured in the map above and comprise Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea.

Here’s a breakdown of the four nations, and the different threats they pose to the US:

Russia

“Russia remains the most sophisticated and technically capable. They are really good at hiding the digital breadcrumbs that lead back to them,” Mahairas said.

The FBI agent pointed to the Yahoo hack, which compromised 1 billion accounts in the biggest data breach in history. Canadian hacker Karim Baratov, who worked with Russia, was given a five-year prison sentence for the attack.

How to make a great living room obstacle course
(Photo by Eric Hayes)

Mahairas also highlighted a different kind of cyber attack: Influence operations. This resulted in Russia interfering in the 2016 US presidential election, and the indictment in February 2018, of 13 Russians affiliated with St Petersberg troll farm the Internet Research Agency.

“Cyber is a vector and some of the nation states have realised that this vector can be used as a capability to weaponise the information that has been stolen as a result of hacks,” Mahairas said.

“The goal is to erode the population’s confidence, not only in its institutions, its values, its leaders, and most importantly in its ability to find the truth. The objective is to undermine the target by magnifying any number of existing issues that currently divide people in order to create discord and aggravate tensions.”

“These influence operations are not new, but there is an observed increase in their scalability due to… modern social media.”

The FBI agent added that the best way to flush out influence operations is through transparency on platforms like Facebook. “We have to make the targeted audience less vulnerable by educating them about the threat and providing context to allow critical judgement,” he said.

China

Up until recently, China launched extremely noisy cyber attacks. “China used to be loud in and around your network, almost like the drunk burglar who’s banging on your door and breaking windows to get in,” Mahairas said.

But after the US charged five Chinese military officials for computer hacking and economic espionage in 2014, the country has switched up its tactics. “Today, they operate in a more patient and methodical manner, akin to death by a thousand cuts,” Mahairas continued.

A notable attack the former counterterrorism agent pointed to was the one on Lockheed Martin, when Chinese military officers stole US state secrets on fighter planes, including the F-35 jet.

How to make a great living room obstacle course
F-35 jet.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)

In a series of attacks codenamed “Byzantine Hades”, they carried out the attack and the economic impact was estimated to be around $100 million (£75 million). It was a “very significant matter,” according to Mahairas.

Iran

Mahairas said there has been a “noticeable uptick in activity” from Iranian hackers in recent years, as they become more sophisticated and targeted in their attacks on the US.

This was evidenced in 2017 when Iranian hacker Behzad Mesri attacked American broadcaster HBO. He was accused of breaking into the firm’s network, leaking “Game of Thrones” scripts, and demanding $6 million worth of bitcoin in ransom.

How to make a great living room obstacle course
(HBO)

Mahairas’ FBI division led the investigation into Mesri and an indictment was unsealed against the hacker in November 2017. He is now on America’s most wanted list and risks being arrested if he leaves Iran.

Although Mesri appeared to be acting alone, Mahairas said the FBI is increasingly concerned about the “blended threat” from some countries. This is when they work with criminal contract hackers to “do their dirty work.”

North Korea

North Korea remains a significant cyber threat to the US, despite a thawing in diplomatic relations in recent months. Mahairas said the health of diplomacy between two common enemies has very little to do with how nation states conduct cyber activity.

“Diplomacy isn’t going to impact their ability or desire to continue in this activity,” the FBI agent explained. “What they’re looking for is information, access, and advantage. Whether it’s in the cyber universe or not, those are the objectives.”

US President Donald Trump’s administration publicly blamed North Korea for unleashing the massive WannaCry cyber attack in 2017, which crippled many organizations globally, not least Britain’s health service.

Ultimately, Mahairas said cybercriminals are not fussy about their targets: “These nation state actors, they’re not targeting just the US. Anyone is fair game. What they do is generally the same, I don’t think any one nation state brings more specific threat.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

6 reasons why veterans would gear up and head back to war

As veterans, we’ve all thought about signing back up at one time or another. But what would it take to truly get us back in uniform, to don all that heavy gear and take the fight to the enemy as we’ve always done?


Though we all have to take into consideration all the formations, bull-sh*t we receive from the chain of command — and let’s not forget all those wonderful uniform inspections. Everyone loves those.

With all the crap that comes with serving, many veterans still miss some aspects of military life.

Let’s gear up and go to war! (Images via Giphy)

Check out our reasons why we would gear back up to take on the bad guys.

1. If another major terrorist attack happens

The Sept. 11 attacks stirred up patriotism in millions of Americans, and some joined the military during that period just to get a little revenge.

I represent ‘Merica! (Image via Giphy)

2. For a huge bonus check

Everyone wants to line their pockets with extra beer money.

And a case of beer! (Image via Giphy)

3. If your military family went as well

The military brother and sisterhood have a very tight bond, you f*ck with one brother or sister — you f*ck with whole while family.

You said it girl. (Image via Giphy)

4. If you just couldn’t find a good enough job that suits you

Because office work just didn’t satisfy that inner combat operator in you.

These guys were all former snipers. True story. (Image via Giphy)

5. To feel that combat adrenaline rush again

Shooting and blowing up the bad guys makes an operator feel great about themselves. It’s a morale booster.

He nailed every shot too. He’s that good. (Image via Giphy)

6. To get some adventure

Post-military life is hard to adjust too. Sometimes you just want to leave the homeland and get back into the sh*t.

Can we go with you? (Images via Giphy)To all of our military family already forward deployed — we salute you.

Can you think of any more reasons to throw those cammies back on? Comment below.

Articles

13 of the funniest military memes for the week of June 30

I found these memes. I have no idea what else you want from me in these things. Like, you’re only here for the memes, right?


Why are you still reading this? The memes are RIGHT there, just below this. Scroll down, laugh, and share them. Stop reading. If you want to read so much, we have lots of actual articles. Like this one. I was proud after writing this one. Lots of audience members enjoyed this one.

So like, scroll to the memes or click on one of the links. These paragraphs are nonsense in literally every memes list. I just think of 50-ish words to put here and hope no one notices them.

1. Let’s be honest, Canadian snipers can kill you regardless of distance, but they’ll only do it if you’re rude.

How to make a great living room obstacle course
Warning: They think suicide bombers are rude.

2. If you somehow haven’t seen this video, you have to. Never seen someone this poised after the enemy misses by a fraction of a degree (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

How to make a great living room obstacle course
But then she blames someone else for not telling her an enemy sniper was out there, which is weak.

ALSO SEE: This is what happens when the Army puts a laser on an Apache attack helicopter

3. I mean, PT belts do prevent pregnancy (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

How to make a great living room obstacle course
They’re nearly as effective as birth control glasses.

4. Stop playing Sergeant White, we all know we’re basically your personal dwarves (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

How to make a great living room obstacle course
Also, Jody lives at my home now, so there’s no point.

5. Lol, like he really cares whether he gets the corn chip (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

How to make a great living room obstacle course
They don’t do it for the swag, they do it because they hate you.

6. Every soldier getting out ever: I’m gonna be a legend (via Why I’m Not Re-enlisting).

How to make a great living room obstacle course
Make sure to PLF when you hit rock bottom.

7. Gonna get swole, y’all (via Shit my LPO says).

How to make a great living room obstacle course
Marines don’t even limit them to after they work out. These are basically meal replacements.

8. This statement is explosive (via Military World).

How to make a great living room obstacle course
Just gonna leave these puns floating here.

9. Operators gotta operate (their pens and pencils).

(via Coast Guard Memes)

How to make a great living room obstacle course
Operations Specialists like their jobs, though. Maybe because people mistake them for operators.

10. Is it this hard? My commanders’ lies were always super obvious (via Pop smoke).

How to make a great living room obstacle course

11. How to brush up on your skating skills before it counts (via Decelerate Your Life).

How to make a great living room obstacle course
Try the engine room. It’s a great level.

12. A good safety brief leaves you motivated to go use condoms and sober up before you swim (via Weapons of Meme Destruction).

How to make a great living room obstacle course
Captain William Ferrell, commanding.

13. When your new policies are basically blue falcon bait:

(via Air Force amn/nco/snco)

How to make a great living room obstacle course
I guess making the Blue Falcon its logo wasn’t effective enough.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 great gifts for your military pet

You’ve covered the kids, your spouse, neighbors, your in-laws, and even snagged a little something for the mailman and school principal. As you’re making your list and checking it twice this holiday, don’t forget a favorite military pet!

The best gifts for pets are useful and practical items that might also benefit the pet owner in some way (think: hours of entertainment for an energetic pup or frisky feline). Here are the best gifts for pets this year:


How to make a great living room obstacle course

(PetFusion)

1. Interactive cat toy

This top-rated toy uses a cat’s natural hunting instincts to captivate their attention using a feather. Battery powered, the device mimics prey and mixes it up to keep pets engaged and anti-skid feet help to keep the gadget in place for any cat owners who might be worried about forceful felines.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

(Nite Ize)

2. Light up ball

Make fetch more fun with this LED light-up ball that promises hours of fun for your dog, even after the sun goes down. One bounce activates the color-changing toy and an easy-to-replace battery ensures playtime longevity.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

(Crown Paw)

3. Custom artwork

As it turns out, your pet can also be a military member….sort of. Crown Paw allows users to submit a headshot of their pet and then customize it into a regal portrait. All pets are welcome and users can choose from canvas themes like “The Admiral” or “The Colonel.” More than one animal in your house? Multi-pet themes like “The Officers” make gifting easy.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

(SmartBones)

4. Rawhide-free chews

Skip the rawhide for your pup this year and pick up some SmartBones, which are made from whole ingredients like vegetables and chicken. Enriched with vitamins and minerals, these treats not only taste delicious to a dog, but the natural motion of chewing helps to maintain healthy teeth and gums.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

(Design Dua)

5. Stylish beds

Help your pet get the best sleep of their lives without sacrificing your interior design style. These woven beds (and specialty pods for feline friends) are made from natural Elephant Grass and are handcrafted using traditional Ghanian craft techniques. Each basket comes with a fitted cushion and are available in a range of sizes.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

(Furbo)

6. Pet camera

The whole family will enjoy this wifi-enabled camera that allows you to drop in your pet when you aren’t home. Using an HD, wide-angle lens, the device allows users to see, talk to, and even dole out treats, to pets using an app on their phone. The bonus? A built-in sensor alerts pet parents to animal and human movement, so you’ll never wonder what your pet is up to all day again.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

(Rocco Roxie Supply Co)

7. Pet odor + stain eliminator

Alright, this one might be a gift for the pet parents and not the pet, but 10,000+ reviews speak to the power of this enzyme-powered stain and odor remover. Created to work for both cats and dogs, this formula is chlorine-free, color safe and promises to work or you’ll get a full refund. You will never stress about pets and rental carpets again!

Still at a loss on what to gift your favorite military pet? Quality time still ranks pretty high on their list — and maybe a few extra treats, too.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 20 edition)

Here are the 5 news items you need to know about as you get your week started:


Now: Russia’s huge military upgrade hit another snag — and Putin is not happy

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 reasons ‘Full Metal Jacket’ should have been about Animal Mother

In 1987, Warner Brothers released one of the most iconic Vietnam War dramas ever recorded on film: Full Metal Jacket.


The story follows Joker, a young Marine reporter who wants to be the first kid on his block to get a confirmed kill during his tour in Vietnam.

Although the film is epic, did you ever wonder how different it would be if it followed Animal Mother instead of Joker? Well, we did.

Related: 11 things your platoon medic would never say

6. The boot camp could have been even more interesting.

We’re all fans of watching Gunny Hartman train those recruits — especially Gomer Pyle — in the first act of the film. With Animal Mother in the platoon, we bet that not only would he be the squad leader, but the blanket party scene would have come much sooner.

Soap wrapped in a towel is a common tool to use during a blanket party. (Image via Giphy)

5. There would have been way more sh*t talking — and we like that.

We can all say Animal Mother was a hardcore killer and has minimal social skills, especially when Marine reporters from Stars and Stripes show up.

Although he tends to fire off his mouth as often as he fires his M60. Seeing him verbally torment more of the film’s characters would be freakin’ funny to watch.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

4. The film’s coverage of the Tet Offensive would have been much different.

We only see a small fraction of the bloody campaign that takes places through Joker’s lens. Once Joker and Rafterman meet up with Hotel Company 1/5, Crazy Earl tells us a quick story of how they came to Hue City and took on a massive enemy force.

We would have loved to have seen that footage through Animal Mother’s POV.

How to make a great living room obstacle course
Crazy Earl and his deceased counterpart. (Source: WB)

3. The film would have had a sex scene for sure.

Remember when Animal Mother c*ckblocked Eightball when that Vietnamese girl came around? Sure you do. Well, we think it would have been interesting to catch a glimpse of him and her having sex doing their taxes in the following scene.

How to make a great living room obstacle course
We Are The Mighty does not condone prostitution. (Source: WB)

2. More erratic shooting.

Animal Mother was known for being trigger happy and spraying rounds everywhere.

We understand that it’s not the most accurate way of discharging your weapon, but when you’re shooting that thing on full auto — it’s f*cking hard to control.

How to make a great living room obstacle course
The only way to fire your weapon is while you’re sporting your war face. (Source: WB)

Also Read: 5 ways your platoon would be different if ‘The Punisher’ was the CO

1. Animal Mother’s backstory and how he got that epic name.

Joker wasn’t the most exciting character in the film, yet we knew slightly more about him than anyone else. We’re curious what someone has to do to earn the name Animal Mother.

A little more backstory would have been cool, but apparently Stanley Kubrick didn’t want to show any humanity in the film.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

MIGHTY TRENDING

75 years after death, WW2 hero buried in hometown

Hundreds of people attended the memorial and funeral of a World War II soldier in his hometown of Troy, Indiana on March 30, 2019. Most of them never met him.

Pfc. Clifford M. Mills, a soldier who fought with the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, was buried 75 years after his death during Operation Market Garden in 1944.


Mills was considered Missing in Action since Sept. 18, 1944, after the glider he was in crashed behind enemy lines near Wyler, Germany, until January 2019 when his remains were identified by the Defense Prisoner Of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency and transferred back to his hometown on March 28, 2019.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, carry the casket of Clifford M. Mills, a World War II veteran, in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

Mills’ remains were transported from Tell City’s Zoercher-Gillick Funeral Home to Troy Cemetery in an elaborate procession consisting of local fire departments, law enforcement, and motorcycles flashing red and blue lights.

As the procession made its way, it passed beneath a large American flag attached to the outstretched ladder of a firetruck. Residents of all ages lined the streets or stood in front of public buildings waving American flags or saluting as the procession passed by them.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

A portrait of U.S. Army Pfc. Clifford M. Mills, formerly a member of the 319th Glider Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Airborne Division, is displayed at his memorial service in Tell City, Ind., March 30, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

The Purple Heart recipient was buried with full military honors provided by the 319th Field Artillery Battalion, 82nd Abn. Div. from Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

“In the 82nd Airborne, we walk in the footsteps of legends,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Gregory Seymour of the 319th. “With each of these homecomings, we close the gap of those still missing and come closer to fulfilling our promise to never leave a comrade behind.”

Currently, there are 72,000 Americans still unaccounted for from World War II.

Seymour presented Mills’ 91-year-old brother, Robert Lee Mills, with a folded flag during the burial ceremony March 30, 2019.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

U.S. Army Paratroopers assigned to the 319th Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, carry the casket of Clifford M. Mills, a World War II veteran, in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

Mills was buried next to his wife, Ethel Mills, who died in 2004. She never remarried.
Notably, the efforts of a 33-year-old Dutch man from the Netherlands proved unmeasurable in facilitating the positive identification and homecoming of Mills.

Nowy van Hedel was approved by a volunteer program 12 years ago, which assigned him the name of a soldier on the Walls of the Missing at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, Netherlands.

After over a decade of research conducted in his free time, Hedel submitted his findings to the DPAA in 2017. Scientists from the DPAA were able to make a positive identification. Hedel received the news from Mills’ family in January 2019.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

The casket vault of Clifford M. Mills rests above ground before being buried at Troy Cemetery in Troy, Ind., March 30, 2019.

(Photo by Spc. Justin W. Stafford)

“You’d get one lead and search that direction. Then you’d hit a dead end. It went on for 12 years,” said Hedel. “When I received the information from the family that there was a 100 percent match, my world was turned upside down. I couldn’t believe it.”

Hedel keeps a photograph of Mills in his living room. He also continues to help others in identifying unknown soldiers.

A rosette has been placed next to Mills’ name on the wall to indicate he has been accounted for.
“It is like a piece of closure for me,” said Hedel holding back tears, “but you also feel the pain because it’s a funeral. He died 75 years ago for our freedom.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA asks for more veterans to sign up for Burn Pit Registry

An overall goal of scientific research on groups such as veterans is generalizability — the measure of how well the research findings and conclusions from a sample population can be extended to the larger population.

It is always dependent on studying an ideal number of participants and the “correct” number of individuals representing relevant groups from the larger population such as race, gender or age.

In setting the eligibility criteria for the Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry, VA researchers used generalizability as an important consideration.

Simply put, they want as many veterans and active-duty service members who had deployed to specific locations to join the registry. Participants could have been exposed to burn pits or not. They could be experiencing symptoms or not. Or, they could receive care from VA or not.


Helping to improve the care of your fellow veterans

For researchers, everyone eligible to join the registry has a unique experience critical in establishing empirical evidence. By signing up and answering brief questions about their health, veterans and active-duty service members are helping researchers understand the potential effects of exposure to burn pits and ultimately helping improve the care of their fellow veterans.

How to make a great living room obstacle course

It is estimated that 3 million veterans and active-duty service members are eligible to join the registry. However, just over 173,000 have joined as of April 1, 2019, and 10 out of 100 have had the free, medical evaluation, which is important to confirm the self-reported data in the registry.

See what questions are asked

In hopes of encouraging more participation in the registry, VA is sharing a partial list of registry data collected from June 2014 through December 2018. This snapshot will give you a sense of the type of questions on the questionnaire as well as how the data is reported when shared with researchers and VA staff.

As a reminder, the registry is open to active-duty service members and most Veterans who deployed after 1990 to Southwest Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Djibouti and Africa, among other places.

Check your eligibility and sign up.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

This is how the Gadsden Flag became America’s first meme

The simple yellow flag, a coiled rattlesnake, and those four famous words have been emblazoned on everything from license plates to soccer jerseys, a Metallica song to a U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Badge, waved by classic Libertarians, Tea Party Republicans, and everyone in between.


For many, the Gadsden flag embodies the spirit of America and our willingness to fight for what we believe in.

Now, looking at the flag as a meme requires a strict interpretation of the first definition and a loose one for the second. Merriam-Webster describes it as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Everything about the flag screams Americana. Its rebellious spirit has been carried with it since its inception and has many variations holding onto that spirit.

As for the definition of “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media.” That came after the internet became a thing.

How to make a great living room obstacle course
Redditor DeltaHDot submitted this photograph to /r/funny and it got 6,340 points within a week. (image via Imgur)

Benjamin Franklin is often cited as starting the joke in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1751. At the time, the Brits didn’t have Australia as a colony, so they sent their convicts to America. Franklin suggested that Americans repay the UK by sending them rattlesnakes.

He found the snake fitting. Unlike the current idiom of “snakes in the grass,” in pre-revolution America being called that was an honor — a symbol for the underdog. Something that, if stepped on, would strike back hard.

Fun fact: Franklin supported the symbol of the rattlesnake and never mentioned turkeys on the Great Seal until much later.

The rattlesnake stuck with Franklin and the Gazette years later when he created the “Join, or Die.” cartoon. It showed the rattlesnake cut into eight parts for the eight regions of the colonies. Bear in mind, New England is one segment, Delaware is considered part of Pennsylvania, and well, sorry Georgia. Historians think it’s because they were just frontier land and didn’t count back then.

How to make a great living room obstacle course
I guess you could say: Georgia didn’t make the cut. (Image by Pennsylvania Gazette)

The Boston Gazette printer, Samuel Kneeland, recreated it with the phrase “Unite and Conquer” coming from the snake’s mouth. In 1774, Paul Revere modified it into the masthead of Thomas’ Boston Journal.  Already we’re seeing adaptations on what Richard Dawkins describes as memetics, or the cultural evolution that determines cultural relevance and success.

The cartoon would appear all across the colonies. Uniforms, newspapers, and Georgia put the whole “not being mentioned on the most iconic revolutionary era cartoon” aside and put it on their $20 bill.

For the traditional Gadsden flag that we all know of today, an anonymous writer to the Pennsylvania Journal by the name of “An American Guesser” penned the need for the flag.

“I observed on one of the drums belonging to the Marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America.”

The anonymous writer, who many historians believe was still Franklin, continues, “She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. … She never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.”

Colonel Christopher Gadsden designed the flag and hoisted it as the personal symbol for his Marines and his flagship. Since then, the flag has been hoisted by Marines, American revolutionaries, and patriots across the nation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to fly America’s ‘Dragon Lady’

The six years of experience and hundreds of hours of flight time needed to become a pilot of the US Air Force’s oldest spy plane are no more, and now trainee pilots will be eligible to take the controls of the venerable Dragon Lady.

The new U-2 First Assignment Companion Trainer, or FACT, program will allow Air Force student pilots to jump directly into the U-2 pipeline and join the 9th Reconnaissance Wing.


“Our focus is modernizing and sustaining the U-2 well into the future to meet the needs of our nation at the speed of relevance,” Air Force Col. Andy Clark, commander of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, said in a release.

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Pilots from Beale Air Force Base go through pre-flight checks on a U-2 at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, Sept. 29, 2018

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Schultze)

The new program is meant to create ” a new reconnaissance career path for young, highly qualified aviators eager to shape the next generation of [reconnaissance] warfighting capabilities,” Clark said. The first selection will be among fall 2018 undergraduate training pilots with the next round coming in about six months.

The change comes as the Air Force seeks to modernize the U-2 airframe and mission, as well as its pilot-acquisition and development process.

Once selected, pilots in the FACT program will go the T-38 pilot instructor training course at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph in Texas before a permanent change-of-station to Beale Air Force Base in California, where the U-2s are based.

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Airmen refuel a U-2 at Beale Air Force Base, California, Aug. 9, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Justin Parsons)

The selectee will then be a T-38 instructor pilot for the next two years, and once they have the requisite experience, they will undergo the standard two-week U-2 pilot interview process.

If hired, they’ll then start Basic Qualification Training.

“The well-established path to the U-2 has proven effective for over 60 years,” Lt. Col. Carl Maymi, commander of the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, said in a release.

“However, we need access to young, talented officers earlier in their careers. I believe we can do this while still maintaining the integrity of our selection process through the U-2 FACT program.”

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A U-2 prepares to land at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

‘An art, not a science’

The U-2 entered service during the Eisenhower administration, carrying out covert missions high above enemy territory during the height of the Cold War. The aircraft have been overhauled and the missions have changed in the decades since, but the Dragon Lady remains one of the most unique and challenging aircraft US pilots can fly.

Today’s U-2s are larger than the original versions and are made of slightly lighter material, as less weight translates into more altitude — about one extra foot for each pound shed, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Phillips, who ventured up in a U-2 in 2018, accompanied by Jethro, one of the few pilots who’ve qualified to fly it.

Every six years, each U-2 is totally overhauled by Lockheed Martin, which takes the plane completely apart and goes through “every wire, every connector, every panel,” Jethro told Phillips.

“They’ll X-ray it … make sure there’s no cracks, replace anything that’s broken, put it back together, new coat of paint, and it looks like a brand-new airplane again, and it flies like a brand-new airplane again,” Jethro added.

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A U-2 is prepped for takeoff from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)

The long, narrow wings allow the U-2 to quickly lift heavy payloads of cameras and sensors to high altitudes and stay there for extended periods. It’s capable of gathering an array of imagery, including multi-spectral electro-optic, infrared, and synthetic aperture radar products that can be stored aboard or transmitted to the ground.

Some parts of the preparation process are still low-tech, however.

The U-2 has a central fuel tank fed by tanks in each wing. Crews will fill up the wing tanks and then look to see which way the aircraft leans. They they transfer fuel from one side to the other until it balances out.

“So it’s really kind of an art, not a science,” Jethro said.

U-2 pilots work in two-man crews, but the pilots go up in the aircraft alone. Their pre-flight preparations begin with donning a full-pressure suit, like those worn by astronauts, that regulates the pilot’s pressure and temperature.

“If the cockpit lost pressure at 70,000 feet” — the usual cruising altitude — “and I weren’t wearing a space suit, my blood would boil,” Phillips said.

Once suited, pilots head to the aircraft, accompanied by a crew member carrying their oxygen supply.

Pilots give the U-2 a traditional pat on the nose, shake hands with each flight crew member, and clamber into the cockpit, where a team of technicians hooks them up to an array of regulators and sensors.

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A U-2 pilot prepares to board his aircraft at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan, June 22, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kristin High)

“I’ve got crew chiefs. I’ve got electricians. I’ve got different civilians for each of the sensors … so there may be 40 people around the aircraft, who are all there just to get you in the air,” Jethro said. “We don’t call it a takeoff. We call it a launch.”

The U-2’s 103-foot wingspan and broad turning radius make it hard to maneuver, and the wings, laden with fuel, are supported by bicycle-like wheels that break away during takeoff.

To help deal with those hazards, the other member of the two-man pilot team trails behind the U-2 at the wheel of a muscle car — like a Pontiac GTO or Tesla Model S — that can keep up with the U-2.

Other U-2 pilots who aren’t flying may be in Beale’s control tower, overseeing their fellow pilots’ missions.

During takeoff, the pilot wrestles with the plane as it gets off the ground.

“As soon as you throw the power up, you’re pushing 18,000 pounds of thrust out of the backend. You have those big, long wings, and it just wants to accelerate so fast,” said one U-2 pilot, identified only as Nova. “You gotta pull it up to about 40 degrees nose high just to keep the airplane within limits, and that is just one of the coolest feelings ever.”

“When you get a chance to look and just see the earth just falling away behind you so quickly, it’s awesome,” he added.

Temporary wheels, called “pogos,” that hold up the wings during takeoff drop away as the plane leaves the ground.

The U-2 ascends to about 70,000 feet for a typical mission. Up there, the curvature of the earth allows pilots to see 270 nautical miles in each direction — a field of vision of about 500 miles. It can map all of Iraq in a single mission.

On the edge of space, the cockpit is silent except for the raspy hiss of the breathing system, which sucks pure oxygen into the pilot’s helmet.

“The air pressure inside the cockpit is the equivalent to standing on top of Mount Everest,” Phillips said.

“Without the oxygen I’d be gasping for breath, and I’d be in danger of getting the bends,” he added, referring to an illness that occurs when dissolved gases enter the bloodstream as the body experiences changes in pressure.

“A lot of times when we get up to altitude, you’ll be able to look down and see the airliners,” Jethro, the pilot, said during the flight.

“And you can see that very gentle curve of the earth from here,” Phillips added, “It’s an extraordinary view.”

“When you get up there and you think, like, ‘What makes these people different from these people?’ And you just don’t see it from up there,” Nova, the other pilot, said. “It’s one world. There’s one planet.”

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A U-2 lands at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, Nov. 16, 2017.

(Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Colton Elliott)

‘You’re in a small club’

The features that make the U-2 an exceptional high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft make it extremely difficult to land. Pilots have to perform a kind of controlled crash to bring the plane back to earth.

The two sets of wheels built into the plane are set up like bicycle wheels, with one set under the nose and the other under the tail. The massive wings, now relieved of their fuel, make the aircraft hard to control as it comes in.

The cars that saw the plane off zip in as it lands, their drivers giving the pilots a foot-by-foot countdown and alerting them to any problems. The cars can hit 140 mph while chasing an incoming U-2.

Once the plane has slowed down enough, one of the wings droops to the ground. Titanium skid plates on the bottoms of both wings help bring the plane to a full stop, at which point the temporary wheels are reattached. The plane then taxis off the runway.

Back on earth, technicians begin developing the imagery.

A flight can produce 10,500 feet of film, stored on a 250-pound spool, according to Phillips.

The U-2’s wet-film camera produces images that are clearer than digital images, which are analyzed with loupes or microscope-like optics that zoom in on the features captured on the film.

It’s an old-fashioned approach to aerial reconnaissance, Phillips noted. “But it works, and that’s why it’s still around,” one of the airmen overseeing the film-development process added.

After the first two undergraduate pilot training students are picked and enter the FACT program, the assignment process “will be assessed to determine the sustainability of this experimental pilot pipeline,” the Air Force said in its announcement.

For the time being, the Dragon Lady’s pilot corps will be a rare breed.

“A thousand pilots, [there are] way more Super Bowl rings out there. You’re in a small club,” Lt. Col. Matt Nussbaum, 99th Reconnaissance Squadron commander, told Phillips.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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