Taking off the uniform and retiring is fraught with fear and uncertainty. Luckily, you’ll live. It might not seem like it sometimes after spending so much of your life in the military, but with a little persistence and patience, everything will be fine.
First, 10 things you can look forward to:
1. Higher pay
This is what everyone gets excited for and it’s a good deal after you get through the searching, preparing, and interviewing processes. It takes time and can cause night sweats wondering where you’ll end up after retirement, but if you play your cards right and land a decent job then your net pay can increase by about 50 percent. It’s not Easy Street, but it’s Easier Than Before Street.
This is a double-edged sword. Some people like the nomadic lifestyle the military gives us and actually struggle with sitting still in one place. We enjoyed seeing new places and wondering where we’ll be sent next. So when that train stops, it’s hard for some people to deal with. Others can’t wait to put down roots in a community and never move again. It’s nice to finally have an address that doesn’t change and no chance of another deployment order.
3. PT on your time
If you hated early morning PT then good news … you can hit the gym at whatever time you like. Leave work early and go for an afternoon run? Why, yes, I will thanks.
This can be fun or a pain depending on how you look at it. Networking is always a good idea, especially if you’re a professional. If a post-military job doesn’t work out and you want to try something else, you have to know people who can help. So now you have a valid excuse to get out there and mingle.
5. Health insurance
While your co-workers at your new job are complaining about co-pay, premiums, and Obamacare, you’ll be comfortable in knowing Tricare and/or the VA system is cheap and effective … okay, now that I read that back it sounds kinda ridiculous. However, if you happen to be in an area that has a good military hospital and your family doesn’t have any major medical issues, the money you save on healthcare can be significant. I’m probably one of the few people who has nothing bad to say about the Army healthcare system, but I live outside Ft Belvoir (huge hospital) and have not had anything significant to deal with.
Never had time for one before? You do now. And if your hobby is hanging out with family, even better. Build a drone, write a novel, or hike the Grand Canyon finally.
7. Joining the “old farts” organizations
The American Legion, VFW, IAVA, and everyone else will try to get you to join their club. These groups do good things for the collective good of the military but they’re honestly not for everyone. As soon as I retired I joined my local outpost but just never really connected with them on a personal level. But I continue to pay my dues and support them because those organizations are great advocates for the veteran community.
8. Running into old friends again
The American military is the biggest fraternity in the world. I live in DC and during any given month an old friend has to come here for one reason or another and we invariably get together, have a few drinks and enjoy Reason Number 9 to look forward to retirement …
9. Reliving old tales
Over and over and over again. And history seems to change with each telling of the tale.
10. Facial hair
Come on … you know you want to grow that sweet goatee.
Now, five things not to look forward to:
1. Loss of camaraderie
You take the uniform off the soldier, but not the soldier out of the uniform…or something like that. The people you served with are what makes the life special. They had your back and you had theirs and it’s hard to find that camaraderie in the civilian world.
2. Lack of respect from young bucks
Get it through your head that your former rank doesn’t mean anything when you get out. Even if you were a general officer, you’re Mister Jones now, so when some brazen E4 cuts in front of you in line at the PX because he’s in uniform, get over it.
3. Not being able to do what you did on active duty
This is more of an age thing, but the days of running 5 miles in body armor or going on a drinking binge the night before a Company run are over. Long walks through the neighborhood are the routine now. And naps.
4. Going to the bottom of the list of priorities
Whether you’re picking up a prescription or trying to get on a MAC flight, retirees are the last priority for everything. In an instant, you go from priority one to priority none.
5. Dental insurance
For some strange voodoo reason, Delta Dental is 4 times more expensive than any of the dental insurance plans of the civilian companies I’ve worked for since retiring. Weird.
Your local exchange’s package store could soon have a surprise for you military history buffs: a little taste of “Old Blood and Guts” for your tumbler.
Kentucky’s Boundary Oak Distillery is now distributing a liquor bearing the face of the famous Gen. George S. Patton. Even though it hails from Kentucky and is made by a bourbon distillery, the libation isn’t actually bourbon. Instead, the manufacturers call the barrel-aged cane liquor “Patton Armored Diesel” after the tradition Patton started during World War II.
According to Boundary Oak, that World War II-era drinking tradition included a “drink, a cup, and a sign his troops associated with Armored Diesel.” The bootleg hooch was made differently from division to division, using a mixture that included bourbon, whiskey, scotch, and white wine. One variation even had a shot of cherry juice to represent “the blood of our enemies.”
Patton commanded the 7th Army during the Allied invasion of Sicily in World War II and then led the 3rd Army through France and Germany after the D-Day landings of June 6, 1944. He died in a car accident shortly after the end of the war in Europe.
He is one of the most celebrated leaders in the history of the United States Army.
Waters will help promote Patton Armored Diesel, which retails for around $46 per bottle.
Its first big promotion features a limited edition collector’s case for the bottles. The case is designed to look like a mini version of the general’s footlocker, complete with the stenciled “PATTON” lettering on the lid.
“We’re not trying to glorify alcohol, we’re just trying to glorify him,” said Goodin in the same AP interview. “This generation, they enjoy craft American spirits, and we want to give them a history lesson along with a good drink.”
North Korea on Sept. 15 conducted a new missile launch, less than two weeks after it tested what it called a hydrogen bomb, South Korean defense officials said, according to Yonhap News.
The missile was fired from an airfield near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang at 6:57 a.m. local time, and headed eastward over Japan, South Korean military officials said.
Military officials estimated that the missile reached an altitude of 479 miles and flew for nearly 2,300 miles, far surpassing the distance between Pyongyang and Guam, the closest US territory.
Emergency alerts in Japan were issued at about 7:06 a.m. local time. NHK, Japan’s public-broadcasting outlet, cited government information that said the missile fell into the Pacific Ocean about 1,240 miles east of Hokkaido, the country’s second-largest island.
Japan did not attempt to shoot down the missile, NHK added.
An initial assessment from US Pacific Command indicated that the projectile was an intermediate-range ballistic missile. The North American Aerospace Defense Command added that the missile “did not pose a threat to North America.”
“Our commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remains ironclad,” PACOM’s statement said. “We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation.”
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, had briefed President Donald Trump on the launch.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the country’s National Security Council were holding an emergency meeting in response to the launch.
It was the second time in two months in which North Korea fired a projectile over Japan. Late last month, North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile that also passed over Hokkaido and traveled about 1,700 miles, reaching a height of nearly 340 miles. If the initial estimates of the launch are accurate, they could be seen as an improvement in North Korea’s missile capabilities.
In response to the latest provocation, South Korea conducted a ballistic-missile drill, firing a Hyunmoo-II missile into the East Sea.
A day before the North Korean launch, a state agency threatened to use nuclear weapons to “sink” Japan and reduce the US to “ashes and darkness,” Reuters reported. The threat was a response to the latest UN Security Council resolution stepping up sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test.
Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, one the country said was a hydrogen bomb. The underground test, which experts estimated to be four to 16 times more powerful than any of Pyongyang’s previous bombs, sent shockwaves that were felt in South Korea and China, according to The New York Times.
Though the sanctions, which imposed a cap on crude-oil imports and banned exports of textiles, were unanimously approved by member nations, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson downplayed their efficacy on North Korea. Critics have said the sanctions were watered down to appease China and Russia, Pyongyang’s closest allies, and reports have emerged that North Korea may be undercutting the sanctions by smuggling goods.
“With respect to the UN Security Council resolution and the president’s view that it was a small step, I share that view,” Tillerson said during a press conference. “We had hoped for a much stronger resolution from the Security Council.”
The U.S. Navy’s 2016 shipbuilding plan called for 355 ships needed to compete in an increasingly contested international environment. The acting Secretary of the Navy has promised the Navy’s new plan will be complete by Jan. 15, 2020, but by all accounts, the number of ships will be reduced to 304, allotting for the construction of 10 new ships per year, fewer than the 2016 assessment.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Navy is increasing its naval presence – at a massive rate.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy is gearing up for the naval fight of the century, one that will likely happen without ever firing a shot. For control of the contested islands in the South China Sea, the PLAN is going to have to intimidate all the other naval forces of the world, but mostly the United States Navy. While China sees the waters around the Spratly Islands as its sovereign territory, other countries in the neighborhood don’t see it that way. The U.S. Navy, as part of its Freedom of Navigation mission, makes regular trips through these “Chinese waters,” challenging China’s claim to the islands and its territorial sea.
Basically, the U.S. Navy goes to contested sea areas and conducts operations inconsistent with “Innocent Passage,” which would be any action that doesn’t contribute to their quick and hasty movement through the territorial waters. When the U.S. Navy does something like launch planes or helicopters while in the disputed zones, it’s basically telling China, the U.S. doesn’t recognize their claim. In the South China Sea, there are at least two island chains in dispute between the Chinese and their neighbors.
The U.S. doesn’t take sides, but it also doesn’t recognize China’s Excessive Maritime Claims, so it frequently conducts Freedom of Navigation operations – and China hates it.
China’s response to the ongoing Freedom of Navigation operations has been to increase the presence of its deployed military hardware throughout the Spratly and Paracel Islands. It has even moved its vaunted DF-26 Ballistic Missile forces onto the islands in an effort to intimidate the U.S. Navy from continued operations. It has not been successful. China has even put its own ships in the way of the U.S. ships traversing the islands, threatening to stop them with one ship and sink it with another. But that is easier said than done. The United States Navy is the largest and most advanced fleet of ships in the world, with 11 aircraft carrier battle groups and hundreds of ships. It’s a lot to consider fighting.
Unless you also have hundreds of ships.
While the U.S. Navy is planning to build ten ships every year, the Chinese shipyards have been documented building up to nine ships at a time. The photo above shows nine Destroyers under construction, a number that would dwarf the UK’s Royal Navy, who has just six destroyers in service. This is only one yard, captured on social media for the world to see. China just finished its homegrown aircraft carrier, its second, and it boasts a crazy mysterious sailless submarine the United States knows very little about.
One day soon, the U.S. Navy’s intimidating Freedom of Navigation missions might just blow up in its face and it might find a fleet of Chinese ships waiting for it.
A woman is suing the Naval Hospital at Jacksonville, Florida, after discovering a portion of an anesthesia needle was left in her spine before a C-section at the facility in 2003, according to The Florida Times-Union.
Her lawsuit claims that hospital staff improperly administered the anesthesia, which caused the needle to break, then covered up the incident. According to the suit, about three centimeters — just over an inch — of the broken needle were left inside her body.
According to the Times-Union, medical records from the time make no mention of the needle breaking but do say that “the anesthesia did not take.”
Amy Bright, whose husband was a Navy corpsman stationed at the hospital, suffered from leg and back pain for several years, according to attorney Sean Cronin, who filed the lawsuit on her behalf.
(Flickr photo by Nathan Forget)
Cronin told the Times-Union that the needle was discovered when Bright underwent a CAT scan in 2017. He told the newspaper that removing the needle is no longer an option, as Bright could suffer from further damage and even become paralyzed. Bright was reportedly never told about the needle.
“From our perspective this is a double failure,” Cronin told the newspaper. “It is a cowardly, unethical cover-up.”
Cronin told the Times-Union that hospital staff did not report the broken needle to Bright or the chain of command because “they did not want to get in trouble.”
In a statement issued to the Times-Union, representatives of the hospital said they could not provide comments regarding the lawsuit or Bright’s situation, citing patient confidentiality and privacy laws, but said they were “deeply committed to providing the best care to every patient entrusted to us.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
When the Continental U.S. North American Air Force Aerospace Control Alert Maintainer of the Year for 2020 was announced, there was some shock. The prestigious Air Force award went to … a coastie.
The Continental Division of the North American Aerospace Defense Command is comprised of the United States Air Force, Air National Guard, Army National Guard, Canadian Air Force and to the surprise of many – the Coast Guard.
The National Capital Region Air Defense Facility of the Coast Guard is housed under the command of NORAD in Washington, D.C and is their only permanent air defense unit. Operating simultaneously as both a military branch and law enforcement within the Department of Homeland Security allows the elite Coast Guard unit the ability to respond to potential threats on a moment’s notice. One of their most vital missions is protecting the restricted air space around the White House.
When a threat to the capital is detected, coasties are the first on deck to respond.
(Photo: USCG PA1 Tara Molle)
Avionics Technician First Class Andrew Anton is a member of the small crew of coasties tasked with protecting America’s capital and the only coastie to have ever been selected for the Maintainer of the Year award. “It was a surprise to me. I didn’t see it coming and it’s very humbling,” he said. Anton continued, “We don’t fly the helicopter by ourselves. This is a team award and a Coast Guard win.”
Anton is responsible for managing, scheduling and maintaining all of the helicopters at the unit. “We are the only rotary wing air intercept entity under the NORAD structure. We are Coast Guard but we work for the Air Force,” he explained.
Working within aviation is not without risk, which is why Anton feels his award is attributed to the team and not just him. A day in the life of a coastie working aviation involves dangerous chemicals, heavy parts and working in high lifts. Then, there’s the inherent risk of simply being up in the air in flight. “At the end of the day, there has to be a human factor in this. We all live and die together. This is a very dangerous job,” Anton shared. “This unit applies the best amount of leadership that I have ever seen. Although this is an individual award, it is a team. No one can be successful if the ones around you can’t do their jobs.”
(Photo: USCG PA1 Tara Molle)
Military service has been ingrained into Anton his entire life as his family has served in the Armed Forces for generations. “I have had a passion for aviation since I was very young. Every male in my family since World War II was a pilot, I am the only mechanic in my family. I love flying but I prefer to work with my hands,” he explained. When he finished college, he knew he wanted to join the Coast Guard.
“I work for Aviation Engineering and I am a maintainer, a mechanic,” Anton said. But he’s much more than that. Anton is a Coast Guard Rotary Wing Aircrew Member, an Enlisted Flight Examiner, Flight Standards Board Member, a facility Training Petty Officer and is responsible for primary quality assurance.
Since his unit is a part of NORAD and works alongside the Air Force, they have unique protocols to follow. “The Coast Guard regulations are one thing, but we also have to abide by the Air Force Regulations because we are an Air Combat Alert unit,” Anton explained.
Anton shared that when the Air Force completes the inspections for their Coast Guard unit, they are often left baffled. When they realize that only one Coast Guard maintainer does the job that it takes eight separate Air Force members to do, they’re shocked. “When they come for these assessments, it’s kind of funny to hear them ask, ‘I’d like to talk to your refueler’ or ‘I’d like to talk to your tool manager’ and I’m like – still here, all me. They’ll do that for everything. We take pride in our workload and what we are able to accomplish,” he said.
(Photo: USCG PA1 Tara Molle)
They maintain their high level of efficiency with just six maintainers on a daily basis.
“As coasties, there’s just so many hats that we take off and put on, but we do it well. We’re so accustomed to being adaptable,” Anton shared. Many may find themselves shocked at what the Coast Guard accomplishes in a single day and probably didn’t realize they are a vital part of protecting the President of the United States.
“We don’t have Coast Guard signs out front and this mission isn’t as heavily publicized because we are following POTUS around. It’s a way to mitigate risk,” Anton shared. The members of this unit are not allowed to wear their Coast Guard uniforms outside of the facility and much of what they do still remains shrouded in secrecy, as a matter of national security.
While this unit is lending vital support to Operation Noble Eagle, the Coast Guard as a whole is also engaging in Rotary Wing Air Intercept nationwide for the U.S. Secret Service. They guard the skies above National Special Security Events and the president, wherever he or she goes.
Receiving this award showcases the important role that the Coast Guard plays in not only guarding America’s waters, but her sky as well. Their missions are accomplished with pride and devotion, despite the challenges they encounter within their budget. “It’s important to know that these guys and this team manage it all. You don’t hear about it because they do it so well,” Anton said. “The Coast Guard is such a small branch that it must be that good.”
The Modern Army Combatives Program was started by the service in 1995 at Fort Benning, Georgia, with a mission to train soldiers to fight hand-to-hand and to sharpen the warrior mind.
Rather than beat the enemy into a pulp, MACP is intended to teach a soldier to subdue the enemy enough to grab another weapon.
It’s not like the Army is training MMA fighters here.
The average infantry trooper learns the basics of combatives, such as grappling and controlling a resisting opponent’s body. Soldiers who compete in the tournaments held by the Army are those who take their Modern Army Combatives skills to the next level.
More advanced combatives skills draw from Muay Thai, Boxing, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Sambo martial arts styles, among others. It becomes more complex when training with weapons as well.
The footage compilation below comes from the 2015 Modern Army Combatives Tournament held at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. The first round of competition was for basic combatives, the second round through the finals featured more advanced techniques.
The finals featured a “Tactical Enclosure” – also known as a cage – with open striking.
For active duty military members, playing video games can help release stress, build camaraderie and offer comforting familiarity in foreign environments. For veterans returning from combat, gaming can reduce isolation, renew connections with fellow service members and provide therapeutic benefits.
Recognizing the unique value of gaming for the military community, Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide Xbox Adaptive Controller units to 22 initial VA rehab centers across the U.S.
Launched in 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was created to make gaming accessible to players with limited mobility by enabling them to customize their setups and connect with external devices like buttons, switches and joysticks that accommodate their playing. The controller, which can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games, was developed after extensive consultation with gamers, accessibility advocates and nonprofits that work with gamers with limited mobility, including veterans.
Ken Jones, the founder of Warfighter Engaged, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides gaming devices to wounded vets, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes gaming accessible to a broader range of veterans.
“People just want to participate, and it’s going to allow them to do that,” he says. “It allows for a much bigger population of people to be included in gaming.”
Microsoft and VA partner to bring Xbox Adaptive Controller to Veterans with limited mobility
Gaming is a popular activity among the military community, but navigating a traditional controller can be difficult or impossible for injured veterans. The inability to game can mean the loss of connection to veterans’ military communities and to an activity that was a significant part of their lives during service.
The partnership with Microsoft aims to give veterans with limited mobility the opportunity to game again, get them more involved with their rehabilitation and increase social interaction, says Dr. Leif Nelson, director of National Veterans Sports Programs Special Events for the VA.
“We’re looking for platforms for veterans to interact with each other, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be that access point to get involved in this world and in the gaming community,” Nelson says. “Gaming is now everywhere in the world, and while people tend to think of it as isolating, we’re finding that it actually has the opposite effect and can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans. I think this can be a tool in the rehabilitation process to achieve a lot of different goals.”
For Jeff Holguin, gaming was a way to cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced after being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2003 following an injury. He’d planned on a career in the military, but that identity was suddenly gone. Facing a series of surgeries and feeling adrift in the civilian world, Holguin isolated himself. He turned to gaming, an activity he’d enjoyed since childhood, and found the sense of inclusion he was craving.
“It gave me an outlet, a virtual efficacy within a world that I didn’t feel like I had a place in anymore,” says Holguin. “I made a lot of social connections and friends through that virtual space.”
Holguin went back to school, studying clinical psychology with a focus on trauma and PTSD. He has designed research for Microsoft around mixed-reality devices and learning outcomes and is also a clinical psychology doctoral intern at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott, Arizona. For Holguin, gaming provided a space where he could gradually reintegrate into post-military life.
“It was a sense of belonging and a sense of safety,” he says. “When you have trauma and you’re depressed, sometimes even just a little bit of stimulation is too much and you just don’t have the cognitive or emotional resources to deal with other people’s well-meaning interactivity.
“Gaming gives you what we might call exposure therapy, meaning you get a little bit of socialization, but when you’re ready to turn it off you can turn it off,” Holguin says. “Gaming provided some significant therapeutic value for me.”
Jamie Kaplan, a recreation therapist at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, has been using gaming as therapy with his patients — about 25 percent of whom have had traumatic spinal injuries — for seven years.
Kaplan, himself an avid gamer, says gaming provides a range of therapeutic benefits. Manipulating a controller and pressing buttons, for example, can help with motor skills. Decisions made throughout a game, from choosing which character to play to which moves to make, requires cognitive processing and visual processing, he says.
“It’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, decision-making ability, information processing, cognitive processing,” Kaplan says. “We can assign a number of therapeutic values to gaming.”
Kaplan used various gaming systems and consoles with patients before getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller last fall. He particularly likes the Copilot feature, which was developed for Xbox One and links two controllers as if they were one, allowing players to team up on a game and share controls. The feature quickly became one of Xbox’s most popular ones and was built into the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
One of his patients, Kaplan says, was able to play with his brother for the first time in three years by using Copilot. “It’s amazing,” Kaplan says. “It allows me as the therapist to make up for whatever deficit the patient has in utilizing a regular controller or the adaptive controller.”
Kaplan uses games ranging from sports and racing games to virtual reality games and programs that allow veterans with limited mobility to try activities such as scuba diving, fishing or hiking. VR is useful for helping amputees work on balance, Kaplan says, and VR guided relaxation and meditation programs can help veterans reduce stress and anxiety — and potentially reduce reliance on pain medications such as opioids.
“I see chronic pain patients every day and tell them, ‘I’m not going to cure your pain; we’re just hoping to trick it for a little while,'” he says. “You’re distracting them from the pain by engaging them in gaming.”
Gaming has been part of Mike Monthervil’s life since his childhood growing up in Carrefour, Haiti, a suburban area southwest of Port-au-Prince. Monthervil’s family was one of the only ones in the neighborhood with a gaming system, but electricity was only available for part of each day. When the lights would come back on, Monthervil recalls, “every kid would be banging on our door to come and play a game.”
For Monthervil, gaming was a passion that also provided an escape from a challenging environment. “It was a very tough place to live. Kids don’t have a lot to do there,” he says. “Gaming made my childhood better. It took a lot of stress out for me.
“To this day, I still talk to the guys who are over there that I grew up with, that are still going through the hardship of being there,” he says.
Monthervil continued gaming after moving to the United States and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. Stationed in Afghanistan, he passed time playing games with his fellow soldiers between missions. But in July 2014, Monthervil sustained a serious spinal cord injury after falling backward into a ditch during a training session, leaving him unable to use his legs. He underwent surgery and spent nine months at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. There he met Kaplan, who helped him adapt his gaming to accommodate the dexterity limitations caused by his accident.
Kaplan gave Monthervil an adaptive controller to try several years ago, but it was cumbersome and difficult for him to use. After getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller, Kaplan created a custom set-up for Monthervil by adding a few additional buttons. Monthervil recently got one of the controllers at home and says it works better for him than any device he’s tried since his injury.
“Of all the adaptive stuff I’ve tried, it’s by far the best one,” says Monthervil, who’s 26.
Photo of Mike Monthervil gaming with the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
The Xbox collaboration is part of a strategic partnership between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dating back more than 20 years. Recent efforts under the partnership have focused on equipping VA employees with productivity and collaboration technologies, migrating VA legacy systems to the cloud and using advanced analytics in VA call centers to give veterans better information to make decisions about their benefits and medical care.
Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. Regulated Industries at Microsoft, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller collaboration is part of a broader effort to improve therapeutic and clinical care for veterans. But its fundamental goal is to harness technology to improve veterans’ lives, she says.
“It’s an example of using technology as a means to a much more significant end, which is a sense of belonging, being part of a team, a sense of reconnection, a sense of family,” she says.
Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, sees the collaboration as an ideal pairing of Microsoft’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in gaming with the vast reach of the VA, which serves more than 9 million veterans nationwide in its health care system.
“Everyone can play games, and we really focus on that as an organization,” he says. “With the VA being the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., we thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring our focus on gaming and the great work that the VA is doing together.”
Microsoft will use feedback and data collected by the VA centers to determine how effective the Xbox Adaptive Controller is in serving veterans and how the device might be improved going forward, Townes-Whitley says. Nelson believes the initiative will serve not just existing gamers, but also veterans who weren’t previously into gaming.
“If we do our job well and we’re able to expose veterans to (the Xbox Adaptive Controller) as a possible tool or intervention in their rehab process, I expect to find successes even in those folks who have never gamed before in their lives,” he says.
A 2018 study found that gaming can relieve stress for veterans, help them cope with moods and provide a way to connect. Kaplan also sees the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an equalizer for veterans and others with disabilities.
“One of the biggest things kids and adults with disabilities face is the stigma of being different. Online, we’re all the same,” he says. “I could be missing my arms or my legs and you wouldn’t know it. Gaming really helps to promote that feeling of normalcy and feeling of belonging.
“I have a lot of respect for Xbox seeing and filling a need for making something that allows military members and anyone who has a disability to be able to game,” Kaplan says.
“I think it’s great for a mainstream company like Microsoft to be the one to take the first step. I hope it encourages other companies to do that.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The mortar round detonated on impact, sending thousands of pieces of shrapnel through the plane and crew. Levitow was hit with 40 pieces of shrapnel, and the other six members of the crew didn’t fare much better.
But the worst piece of news was still coming. Levitow started to drag another injured crew member away from the door before he spotted an armed Mk-24 flare that was smoking and rolling around near stored ammo.
The flares operate on a timer set to anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds. Once armed, a crewmember would throw the flare out the door and it would parachute down. Magnesium in the flare would ignite a 4,000 degree Fahrenheit flame that illuminated the battlefield.
Levitow, despite his serious wound from the shrapnel, crawled his way to the 27-pound flare and attempted to grab it three times, but it kept escaping his hands. So he threw himself on it, clutched it to his body, and dragged it towards the door.
“I had the aircraft in a 30-degree bank, and how Levitow ever managed to get to the flare and throw it out, I’ll never know,” said pilot Maj. Kenneth Carpenter.
Somehow, Levitow got the flare to the door and out of the plane just before it ignited, saving everyone aboard. The pilot was able to limp the plane back to an emergency landing.
For Levitow, that was his 181st mission. He recovered from his wounds and completed another 20 combat missions before heading home and receiving his discharge paperwork in August 1969.
Hidden in the arcane halls of the command deck there are three billets few Marine infantrymen interact with. Every infantry battalion has specialists attached to them to ensure training is conducted as expected by high command. These gentlemen of warfare cut through bureaucracy. They ensure the lance corporal kicking down doors is as lethal as possible. Yet most enlisted in the line companies do not know they exist.
The Marine Gunner is a Chief Warrant Officer specifically trained in the employment and training of infantry battalion organic weapons, gear and assigned personnel, and in the Combat Marksmanship continuum. Marine Gunners are special staff officers employed as the principal advisor to commanders at all levels. They assist in the development of training and employment plans designed to ensure Mission Essential Task compliance. They help design and vet the weaponeering and training policies of the commander and help to disseminate information to the unit’s personnel regarding such policies.
NAVMC 3500.44B Excerpt, Signed 30 Aug 2013, pages 10-2 to 10-3
The Gunner is responsible for reports and feedback from the Fleet Marine Force directly to Systems Command. They know everything about every single weapon system. The amount of knowledge they have is incredible. Therefore, this is why when the battalion commander goes to them when he has a question about weapons. Additionally, the Gunner is the only person a lance corporal can walk up to and give his opinion on equipment and request new or replacement gear for the battalion. If you think the rifles in the armory have lived past their use – this is the person to talk to. It sounds too good to be true but it happened in 2nd battalion 6th Marines. The Non commissioned officers in the line companies complained that the M16A4s they had were pieces of sh*t and the Gunner ordered brand new M4s.
Marines will put up with alot but we draw the line with garbage weapons. When you receive new gear, this officer wants to hear the good, the bad, and ugly. They stood where you stood as prior enlisted, they won’t give you a hard time because gathering that information is literally why they exist.
The adjutant is responsible for: coordinating internal and external administrative requirements; tracking and monitoring critical administrative support requested by higher headquarters and/or subordinate commands; preparing and publishing duty roster assignments; publishing staff regulations, preparing, reviewing and staffing command correspondence to include congressional inquiries/special interest correspondence; managing the commands’ performance evaluations program; processing personal, unit, and special awards; maintaining command correspondence files.
Essentially, the Adjutant is the subject matter expert of everything Admin. They are the colonel’s administrative right hand, normally holding the rank of captain or major at the battalion level. They’re also the officer in charge of the S-1 shop. An Adjutant isn’t as approachable as a Gunner but they’re still there to get the administrative mission done. As well as being an infinite source of knowledge, they can dispel myths about Marine Corps Orders (MCO) if you can catch one at the smoke pit.
CBRN Defense Officer
CBRN Defense Officers function as supervisors, coordinators, technical advisers, and Special Staff Officers to the Commanding Officer for operational and technical functions associated with CBRN and supporting Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (C-WMD) related issues within the command. CBRNDOs provide technical expertise pertaining to the management, procurement, and distribution of CBRN capabilities. They plan, coordinate, and supervise CBRN related training, and prepare plans, annexes, orders, and standard operating procedures relative to CBRN. CBRNDOs also advise commanders on the vulnerability of their own forces, and work with intelligence, plans and operations, and logistics communities in collecting, evaluating, and dissemination of information concerning enemy/ adversary CBRN capabilities, as well as other information relating to CBRN threats and hazards supporting C-WMD objectives.
Also known as Chi-wo (CWO) on the command deck. Every infantry battalion has a CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) attachment. Most infantrymen only encounter this Military Occupational Specialty when they have to do their annual gas mask training. This MOS is attached to the S-3 Operations section as their own island. That is, they have their own office or building, and they are part of the shop in name only. They have their own chain of command, albeit much smaller. It will consist of a junior enlisted, a non commissioned officer, and the warrant officer. At the battalion level they are usually ranked at CWO 3.
The reason infantry do not know these guys exist in the battalion is because they skate so hard it is awe inspiring. A Chi-wo is the batman of the battalion — he will disappear mid-sentence if given the chance. I do not know what they do with the other 364 days of the year and I’ve worked with them for at least two years. Without a doubt fighting crime.
Standing proudly in front of a B-25 Mitchell on display for a recent airshow in the central Texas town of Burnet, retired Lt. Col. Richard Cole slowly walked up to the antique bomber and clutched one of its propeller blades.
The last surviving Doolittle Raider, who had just marked his 101st birthday a few days before, smiled as he reminisced in the shadow of the bomber — a link to his storied past.
“When we got the B-25, it was a kick in the butt,” he later said, adding that he first flew the B-18 Bolo out of flight school. “It was fast and very maneuverable, with a good, steady bombing platform. You could fly it all over.”
Seventy-plus years ago, he co-piloted a similar bomber alongside then-Lt. Col. James Doolittle during a pivotal mission April 18, 1942, that helped turn the tide for the allies in the Pacific theater of World War II.
As the final member of the famed 80-man Army Air Forces unit, Cole was chosen to announce the name of the Air Force’s newest bomber, the B-21 Raider, at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference on Sept. 19 in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve never flown in any of the modern bombers so it’s pretty hard to realize how all of the improvements have meant to aviation,” he said at the Sept. 10 airshow. “All I can say is that the B-25 was like having a Ford Model T, (and now pilots are) getting into a Mustang.”
Following the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, Doolittle developed a plan to retaliate with a daring air raid on Japan. Without escort fighters, he and the other crewmembers flew 16 modified Army B-25s off an aircraft carrier, the USS Hornet, for a one-way trip that had the makings of a suicide mission. The plan called for the aircraft, which were incapable of landing back on the aircraft carrier, to bomb industrial and military targets in five cities on the Japanese home islands and then continue on to friendly airfields in China.
Forced to launch 10 hours earlier than planned, due to the task force being spotted by a Japanese patrol boat, many aircrews later had to bail out of their fuel-parched aircraft after dropping their bomb loads. Doolittle’s crew, including Cole, parachuted into China and linked up with Chinese guerillas operating behind Japanese lines who helped them escape.
“The main memory I have was when my parachute opened,” Cole said of the mission. “But that was part of the job. I’d rather be sitting here than worried about a parachute jump.”
Being alone to tell the Raiders’ story these days has been something of a paradox for Cole.
“You can’t help but be happy that you’re here but on the other side of the coin you also wish that the people who were with you were here too,” he said. “But you know that that’s not possible so you have to live with it.”
The average age of the Raiders during the mission was 22, while Cole was a 26-year-old lieutenant, according to his daughter, Cindy Cole Chal.
“Dad was older on the raid,” she said. “Nobody thought that Dad would be the last one, even though he’s been in excellent health.”
Former Staff Sgt. David Thatcher was the second to last living Raider before he died at the age of 94. He was buried with full military honors June 27 in Montana.
As a 20-year-old gunner in Flight Crew No. 7, then-Cpl. Thatcher saved his four other crewmembers when their B-25 crash-landed into the sea near the Chinese coast after it bombed Japanese factories in Tokyo. He pulled them to safety on the surrounding beach and applied life-saving medical treatment, despite having injuries himself. He later earned the Silver Star for his actions.
Meanwhile, Cole parachuted into rainy weather at night and landed in a tree located on precarious terrain.
“I was fortunate in that I never touched the ground. My parachute drifted over a tall pine tree and caught on top leaving me about 10 feet off the ground,” he recounted in a 1973 letter posted on the official Doolittle Raider website. “At daybreak I was able to see that the terrain was very rough and had I tried to look around at night; probably would have fallen down a very steep hill.”
Once the sun rose, Cole walked westward and the next day he found an outpost belonging to the Chinese guerillas, the letter states.
On April 18, 2015, Cole and Thatcher were presented the Congressional Gold Medal for the Raiders’ efforts, the highest civilian honor given by Congress.
In his speech, a playful Cole couldn’t resist a touch of humor.
“Tonight’s affair couldn’t have been planned more accurately,” Cole said. “As I remember, the mission was over, it was Saturday night on the 18th of April and about this time David Thatcher was on the beach in China saving the rest of his crew and I was hanging in my parachute in a tree.”
Also at the ceremony, Thatcher spoke candidly as he gave advice to today’s Airmen.
“Be prepared for anything you run into — we weren’t,” he said. “Learn everything you possibly can, and be good at it.”
Seven Raiders died during the mission: three were killed in action while another three were captured and executed and one died of disease in captivity.
The bombing runs did little damage but the mission rekindled the morale of the American people and struck fear into the Japanese with aircraft reaching their homeland.
“Knowing that we did the mission and did it like it was supposed to be done, we felt pretty good about it,” Cole said.
In response, the Japanese maneuvered their forces from around Australia and India to the Central Pacific, and sent two aircraft carriers to Alaska.
“The Japanese thought we were going to make more visits. But we didn’t have any equipment to do it and we had no plans for it,” Cole said. “For some reason they moved two carriers to Alaska, thinking that’s where we came from. When they did that, it evened up the number of carriers we had available for Midway.”
The Battle of Midway proved to be a major turning point in the war. Believing their Central Pacific flank to be vulnerable because of the Doolittle Raid, the Japanese launched an invasion force to secure the isolated atoll of Midway to establish a base and airfield. Unaware that U.S. Naval Intelligence had broken their naval codes and knew the date and location of the impending attack, the Japanese sailed directly into an ambush set by three U.S. carriers.
When the smoke cleared, U.S. Navy dive-bombers had sunk four Japanese carriers, the Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all members of the six-carrier force that had launched the attack on Pearl Harbor, and more than 3,000 men, including many experienced combat pilots. The U.S. lost one carrier, the USS Yorktown, and about 300 men. The Japanese remained on the defensive for the rest of the war.
“When the time came for the Battle of Midway, the (U.S.) Navy was able to win and that started the Japanese on the downhill,” he said.
Nowadays, Cole has shifted his focus away from the twin-engine bomber to his tractor and lawnmower. He refuses to let his age stand in the way of his daily chores. So when not traveling for events, he tends to his acreage in Comfort, Texas, about an hour’s drive northwest from San Antonio.
“People ask me if I’m getting any flying time and I say, ‘Well, I’m getting a lot of single-engine time with the lawnmower,” he said, chuckling.
To keep the memory of Doolittle and the rest of the Raiders alive, he helps sell his book, “Dick Cole’s War,” which documents not only the Doolittle Raid, but his service after that mission with the First Air Commandos in Burma. Proceeds from the book go into a scholarship fund in Doolittle’s name for students in the aviation field.
Cahl estimates her father has put in hundreds of thousands of dollars from the sales of books and signed lithograph prints into the fund to honor Doolittle, who died in 1993.
“All the time when I was flying with Colonel Doolittle, I was in awe over the fact that I was sitting next to him,” Cole said. “He put the word ‘team’ in the forefront of the English language.”
Now the sole survivor, Cole wants no part being the poster child for the historic mission.
“You did the mission. You did what you were supposed to do,” he said. “The people who were involved are all passing (away) and that’s the way it ends.
“I didn’t think any of the Raiders wanted to be singled out. We just wanted to be part of the big picture.”
But if the tests prove successful and the carrier’s design is deemed plausible, the research center will follow through with a 1:1 scale metal mock-up of the carrier (China may have just constructed its own mock-up of a new carrier).
According to Russia’s TV Vezda, the carrier would be able to stow 100 aircraft onboard. The body of the carrier is also being designed to minimize drag by 20 percent compared to past Russian carriers. If built, the vessel would be Russia’s first carrier to debut since the Admiral Kuznetsov, which launched in 1985. The Kuznetsov is Russia’s only functioning carrier.
TV Vezda also stated that the ship would feature catapults on the ship’s top to launch aircraft during storms. However, this claim is countered by the fact that the carrier’s models feature a ski-ramp style aircraft in the front aircraft takeoff like older Soviet models, which did not have catapults.
The Russian carrier, if constructed, would be slightly larger than the US’s current Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, which can carry around 90 aircraft.
However, any indication of Russian plans should be taken with skepticism. The carrier is still in a conceptual phase and only a scaled mockup has been built so far. Any plans for Russia’s construction of the carrier could also be seriously hampered as Moscow is expected to enter a recession due to current economic sanctions and the falling value of the Russian ruble. It might not have the money for this ambitious of a military project, especially with so many other needs.
Russia’s drive to modernize its navy comes as its force is deteriorating rapidly. The vast majority of Russia’s Navy is a holdover from the country’s Soviet fleet. These ships are older than Moscow would like and suffer from frequent mechanical failures.
Of Russia’s 270 strong navy, only about 125 vessels are functional. Only approximately 45 of those 125 ships and submarines are functional and deployable, according to War Is Boring.
Russia was meant to have received two Mistral-class assault ships from France in 2014 as part of its fleet modernization, but the deal was put on hold over the crisis in Ukraine.
In Oct. 2014, China’s Xinhua reported that Russia would seek to acquire an advanced aircraft carrier by the 2030s. The vessel would be capable of operating in diverse environments and could accommodate both manned and unmanned systems.
According to popular legend, in 1859, “the quatrefoil” design was added and stitched onto the top of Marine officer’s cover to help identify them from the rest of the personnel.
The quatrefoil — adapted from the French — is a cross-shaped braid with many different symbolic interpretations. Some think of it as representing the four cardinal directions, while in architecture it is an icon of design (and it’s fancy).