Since its launch in 2007, the Veterans Crisis Line has been an invaluable resource for Veterans nationwide — answering more than 3 million calls and initiating the dispatch of emergency services to callers in crisis nearly 78,000 times.
Veterans Crisis Line responders have also engaged in nearly 363,000 chats through the anonymous online chat service added in 2009, and we’ve answered more than 81,000 texts since our text messaging service began in November 2011.
I say all of this to show that from the start, the Veterans Crisis Line staff has consistently looked for more opportunities to better serve Veterans, and that desire to expand our services hasn’t slowed down.
The No Veterans Crisis Line Call Should Go Unanswered Act took effect in 2016, and we’ve responded with steps designed to provide the best support possible. From employing staggered shift scheduling for better coverage during periods of high call volume to formalizing our intensive training program and incorporating the latest evidence-based practices, we are always working to enhance our ability to serve Veterans.
New call center in Kansas
Most recently, we implemented an automatic transfer system: With the push of a button, a local VA Medical Center can directly connect a Veteran to the Veterans Crisis Line. Soon, we will greatly expand call capacity with the opening of a third call center in Topeka, Kan.
The results of these efforts have already begun to show, as virtually every call we receive is answered by a Veterans Crisis Line responder with specific training to provide support to Veterans and Service members. In 2017, just 0.3 percent of calls to the Veterans Crisis Line were rolled over to non-VA crisis line operators, and that percentage fell to 0.07 in December.
We’re committed to providing the support that our Veterans have earned. If you’re experiencing a crisis or having thoughts of harming yourself, the Veterans Crisis Line can help. More than 500 responders are ready to answer your call, because they believe no Veteran should be without support in a time of need. You served your country, and we’re here to serve you.
If you or a Veteran you know is in crisis, call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat online at www.VeteransCrisisLine.net to get immediate help.
“The decision to move our families and civilians was made in consultation with the Government of Turkey, our State Department, and our Secretary of Defense,” Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, commander of U.S. European Command, said in the statement. The decision affects 700 spouses and children in these areas.
The ongoing threat of ISIS attacks in Turkey makes Incirlik and other U.S. installations prime targets for terrorism. U.S. security forces in the country have been a Force Protection Condition (FPCON) Delta for weeks. Delta is the highest alert level, meaning intelligence has been received that terrorist action against a specific location or person is imminent. The base was locked down in July 2015 and voluntary departures for dependents were authorized in September. The latest order is mandatory.
Almost 100 people have died in the five terror attacks in Turkey in 2016 alone. Two of the attacks were claimed by ISIS, while the other three allegedly from Kurdish terrorist organizations, which is still a threat to U.S. forces, as the Incirlik Air Base is shared with the Turkish Air Force. Incirlik, located 100 miles from the Turkish border with Syria, houses 2,500 American troops.
“This step does not signify a permanent decision to end accompanied tours at these facilities,” said a European Command statement. “It is intended to mitigate the risk to DoD elements and personnel, including family members, while ensuring the combat effectiveness of U.S. forces and our mission support to operations in Turkey. The United States and Turkey are united in our common fight against ISIL, and Incirlik continues to play a key role in counter-ISIL operations.”
Some hucksters will have you believe that in order for you to get the best results from your training you need to be taking some combination of pills and powders daily.
That’s not true. There are very few supplements that are worth the plastic tubs that they’re stored in. I’m here to tell you which supplements are worth it and which aren’t.
In order to keep things relatively uncomplicated, the supplements that I talk about here are only those that you don’t require to survive. The vitamins and minerals that we require for life are just that, necessary to survive. Obviously, if you are deficient in one of those, you should be supplementing or changing your diet around.
What I’m talking about are those supplements that are completely unnecessary for human life that you’re potentially spending greater than 10% of your monthly income on… I’m talking to you Cpl Jones.
I went to bodybuilding.com and searched their top 50 most selling supplements. I’m sure this list is very similar to the sales in your closest Exchange on base, so I’ll just use it as a proxy. Out of those top 50 selling supplements, all fall into the following categories:
I don’t fully accept that protein powder is a supplement…because it’s a macronutrient. You need protein. If you aren’t getting enough in your diet from foods, It’s perfectly acceptable to buy and use some form of protein powder.
When should you have it? Literally whenever. There is no significantly important anabolic window. If you are eating somewhere in the ballpark of .8-1.3 grams of protein per lb of body weight per day, then you’re fine. For more on nutrition timing, check this out.
NOW, not all protein powders are created the same. There are generally three factors that you should keep in perspective when you go to buy some protein powder. Here they are in order of importance:
Leucine Content: If a protein powder has less than 11% leucine or if it doesn’t list the exact proportions of amino acids, it’s sh!t protein with useless fillers. You don’t get an adequate muscle protein synthesis response with any dose of protein that has less than 2.5 grams of leucine in it. 11% leucine puts you at just over 2.5g of leucine for a typical serving scoop of powder of 25 grams of protein. This may seem more complicated than it actually is… read more on it here or shoot me an email at email@example.com, and I’ll gladly explain it to you in detail.
Ingredients: If you’re supplementing with additional protein, then supplement with protein, not a ‘proprietary blend.’ If there are other ingredients in your preferred brand, the chances are that they are simply trying to distract you from the fact that there’s an inadequate amount of leucine per serving.
Sourcing: This one is simply based on your preferences. If you’re vegan or dairy doesn’t sit well in your stomach, then you’ll want to avoid proteins like whey and casein. Typically worthwhile vegan proteins will be a blend in order to get you the required amount of leucine. That being said if it doesn’t tell you what the blend is or again how much leucine there is per serving then it’s bullshit hippie nonsense made by someone just trying to take advantage of you or that’s too stupid to understand how protein supplementation works; either way, they don’t deserve your money.
How I make my own Pre-Workout to be both more effective and save $$$$$
This category is pretty large, mostly I’m talking about those dumb supplements with names like Gnar Pump, NitraFlex, Pre-Kaged, NeuroCore, and Pump Mode. Chances are that if it has a dumb name, it’s a waste of your money.
You’ll see, though, my umbrella recommendation is pretty consistent. If the supplement you’re considering contains any trademarked or patented blend/mix of supplements instead of individually listing the supplements, don’t buy it.
There are plenty of pre-workout supplements that have been shown to help increase performance. Recommendations are varied depending on what type of training session you are walking into and what the rest of your diet looks like.
Caffeine taken with theanine are pretty much always a safe idea to supplement with 30 minutes prior to training. That is my blanket recommendation for pre-workout. I failed to find any pre-workouts on the top 50 purchased supplements on bodybuilding.com that contained solely caffeine and theanine. They pretty much all have nonsense and bullsh!t in them.
If you’re a constant experiment, which you are, and you want to find out what actually impacts your performance, which you do, how can you figure that out if you’re taking a supplement that has 60 ingredients? There’s no way to know what’s working, what’s fluff, and what’s contributing to the tingling side-effect.
If you’ve already Pavlov’s-dogged yourself into needing that tingling sensation in order to get a good workout have no fear, it’s not something dangerous.
It’s probably beta-alanine that your favorite blend uses to achieve that feeling, which isn’t harmful and can actually aid in physical efforts over a minute.
In part 2 I’ll cover BCAAs, Post Workout Supplements, Intra Workout Supplements, and Multivitamins. That’s when things get interesting.
As I mentioned multiple times throughout this article, if you have any questions or alternative opinions on my take on these types of supplements, do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, when it comes to nutrition, your number one solution to any dietary need or hack should be to alter your diet of real foods to get adequate quantities and proportions of macro and micronutrients. Only after you have that dialed-in like I very explicitly outline in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide should you bother walking down the supplement aisle.
If you made it this far in the article, you clearly care about your health and fitness. Why then have you not joined the Mighty Fit FB group? If you are in the group post in there which category of sports supplements that I covered in this article that you are the most disappointed by.
Let’s be clear — all battles suck for a foot soldier, even the smaller ones. But there were some in recent times that sucked more than others for the lowly grunt, with body counts piling up, bad commanders and leadership with a total lack of respect for the lives of their men.
Here is a partial list of five of the worst modern battles to be a bottom-of-the-barrel foot soldier.
1. The Battle of Kiev, 1941
The Battle of Kiev lasted from August 23 – Sept. 26, 1941. The German army, led by Fedor von Bock, Gerd von Rundstedt, and the famed Heinz Guderian, continued their spearhead towards Moscow but Hitler reconsidered.
Instead, he ordered Bock, von Rundstedt, and Guderian to focus their attack on the city of Kiev. The total amount of German forces heading towards Kiev numbered a little over 500,000. The reason for this was that Kiev was third largest city with a large concentration of Soviet forces with likely more than 627,000 Red Army troops facing the German onslaught.
How bad was it? In order to crush the Soviets in Kiev, the Germans were forced to systematically reduce the pockets of resistance. In other words, the Germans had to work at making each line (pockets of resistance) buckle and break.
Because of this, the fighting was unsurprisingly up close and personal. The total number of dead were 127,000 Germans and 700,544 Soviets — that’s over 800,000 killed in the battle for Kiev.
2. The Battle of Verdun, 1916
The Battle of Verdun lasted from Feb. 21 – Dec. 18, 1916, between the armies of France and the German Empire. Located in northeastern France, when the battle of Verdun kicked off, 30,000 French soldiers faced 130,000 German soldiers. Seeing that 30,000 troops were not enough, the French bolstered their forces to a staggering 1.1 million men. The Germans countered this by delivering 1.25 million troops.
The horrors of such a battle need little explanation. All one has to do is look at the photos of the battle site. World War I was a war in which the technology outpaced the tactics and strategies. Because of this, war came to a near standstill as men were mowed down by machine guns and blown to pieces by artillery fire on a daily basis.
If that wasn’t enough, living in the trenches was another misery all its own. Here’s a testimony.
A German soldier writes to his parents:
An awful word, Verdun. Numerous people, still young and filled with hope, had to lay down their lives here – their mortal remains decomposing somewhere, in between trenches, in mass graves, at cemeteries…
In total, the French would lose upwards of 500,000 troops while the Germans lost in some estimates more than 400,000 — nearly 1 million killed on both sides.
3. The Siege of Leningrad, 1941-1944
The siege of Leningrad lasted from Sept. 8 1941 – Jan. 27, 1944. The German army surrounded the city with 725,000 troops and began an on-and-off bombardment and assault of the city which was defended by 930,000 Soviet soldiers.
While the Germans made little advancement into the city, mainly controlling the outskirts, they were effective in starving the city to near death.
While war is indeed hell, the Germans suffered from the typical day-to-day engagements as did the Soviet soldiers. However, the people of the city suffered the worst. Due to the limited amount of supplies, many people ate whatever they could get their hands on, even people.
Once the siege lifted, the Germans suffered 579,985 casualties while the Soviets lost 642,000 during the siege and another 400,000 at evacuations.
4. The Battle of Stalingrad, 1942-1943
The battle of Stalingrad lasted from August 23, 1942 – Feb. 2, 1943. Initially, the Germans besiege the city with 270,000 troops. But by the time the siege was lifted, the Germans army had swelled to 1,040,000 men.
The Soviets at first only had 187,000 personnel to defend the city, but by the time of the counteroffensive, more than 1.1 million troops were on the move.
The horrors of Stalingrad were an outgrowth of the hellish street-to-street and building-to-building fighting. Not to mention the many horrors both sides witnessed and committed.
Red Army Maj. Anatloy Zoldatov, recalled:
The filth and human excrement and who knows what else was piled up waist-high. It stank beyond belief. There were two toilets and signs above them both that read: No Russians allowed.
In total, the Germans would lose 734,000 killed, wounded and missing, while the Russians lost 478,741 killed and missing and another 650,878 wounded or sick.
5. The Battle of Berlin, 1945
The battle of Berlin ran from April 16 – May 2, 1945. The Germans had only 766,750 soldiers on hand to defend the city against 2.5 million Soviet soldiers. The result was a decisive Soviet victory that would lead to Germany’s surrender on May 7, 1945.
As for the horrors of the battle, many German citizens — including children — were forced to defend the city. Of course, this was the norm when the situation grows dire.
Like Stalingrad, the fighting in Berlin would be from street-to-street and building-to-building. However, the German army, like its people, were depleted from years of war and had 2.5 million angry Soviets kicking their door in.
Once Berlin was theirs, the pillaging began. In total, the Germany army lost 92,000–100,000 troops while the Soviets lost 81,116.
The two World Wars were some of the first true industrial wars, forcing leaders to innovate so they would lose fewer troops and have a chance at victory. While some were slow to change, some leaders figured out truly novel ways of using everything from bicycles to railroads to artists. Here are just seven of the crazy jobs that were created:
German bicycle troops in World War I.
Believe it or not, bicycles were a huge part of World War I. France and Britain has about 250,000 troops in bicycle units by the end of the war, and most major combatants had at least a couple thousand. This included bicycle couriers, reconnaissance cyclists, and bicycle infantry, all of which were exactly what they sounded like.
Want to work on two wheels but don’t want to pedal so much? Fair enough, maybe the motorcycle corps was for you. Motorcycles were used for everything that bicycles were, and occasionally even pressed into service as anti-tank weapons. But the craziest way to use motorcycles was definitely tank recovery.
A fake M4 Sherman, an inflatable decor, sits on the ground in World War II.
Fake Army/city creator
On both sides of World War II, artists were put to work creating decoy forces or, in the case of Britain, decoy cities to draw away attackers and waste the enemy’s resources. The most famous of this is likely America’s “Ghost Army,” a collection of mostly inflatable military hardware complete with fake radio traffic that caused the Germans to overestimate the enemy they were facing and even got them to think D-Day was a feint.
British Chindits, guerrilla fighters from Britain who fought in Burma, discuss operations in a captured town.
(Imperial War Museum)
Guerrilla warfare fighter/trainer
For major combatants with lots of territory to fight over, it’s always easier if you can put a small number of troops or trainers into position and force a much larger enemy force to remain there to fight them. That’s what America achieved with guerrilla trainers like Detachment 101 and the British achieved with guerrilla units like the Chindits.
In both cases, sending in a couple dozen or a couple thousand men tied down entire Japanese divisions and inflicted heavy losses. The situation was similar in Europe. A Marine guerrilla warfare unit of just six men provided support to French resistance fighters and killed so many Nazis that the Germans assumed they were an entire battalion. And they achieved this despite losing two Marines on the jump into France.
“Mad” Jack Churchill leads his troops off the boats during a training exercise while preparing for D-Day. He’s the one with the sword at far right.
(Imperial War Museum)
Granted, these jobs only came up under one commander: Jack “Mad Jack” Churchill, a British officer who led his men onto the beaches of Normandy while carrying a claybeg (basically a smaller claymore) and a longbow. And he did use the weapons in combat, at one point riding through France on a bicycle with his quiver hanging from the frame.
Poison gasses float across a battlefield in World War I.
Chemical warfare operator
The first large-scale deployment of chemical weapons came at Ypres, Belgium, in 1915, but, luckily, was largely outdated by changes in international law before World War II, so there were just a couple of years in history where offensive chemical warfare operators were a real thing.
Railway artillerymen were usually outside of the range of enemy fire, so it was relatively safe. But expect some serious hearing loss and even brain damage. Massive amounts of propellant were required to launch these huge shells.
Hundreds of representatives from businesses small and large attend the 2019 Small Business Forum in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration at the U.S. Space Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., Oct. 24, 2019. (U.S. Army/Stephan Baack)
Veteran unemployment rates fell in May by nearly three points to 9%, from 11.7% in April — the first signs of an economic rebound from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Labor Department reported Friday.
The drop in the unemployment rate for veterans of all generations exceeded the 1.4% decrease in the rate for the general population, from 14.7% to 13.3%, reflecting “a limited resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed” by the virus, the monthly report said.
May’s 9% jobless rate for all veterans compared to 2.7% overall in May 2019 during the economic surge, and 3.8% in March before the first effects of the novel coronavirus hit the economy, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.
The unemployment rate for all female veterans in May was 7.8%, compared to 2.7% in May 2019, BLS said.
For post-9/11, or Gulf War II, veterans, the unemployment rate remained in double digits at 10.3%, but was down from 13.0% in April, BLS said. A year ago, the unemployment rate for post-9/11 veterans was 2.8%.
The figures showed remarkable resiliency in a hard-hit economy among older veterans who began their service in the 1990s, referred to as Gulf War-I veterans by BLS. For those veterans, the unemployment rate was 4.8% in May, BLS said.
However, the unemployment rates remained in double digits for the oldest generation of veterans from Vietnam, Korea and World War II, it said. For those veterans, the unemployment rate in May was 11.9% compared to 2.7% in May 2019.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Wall Street analysts had warned that the overall unemployment rate could approach 20% in May and June and remain in double digits through the end of this year, depending on a range of variables.
However, BLS Commissioner William Beach, in a statement accompanying the report, said that non-farm payroll jobs increased by 2.5 million in May despite the pandemic “and efforts to contain it.”
The 2.5 million figure was the largest monthly gain in new jobs since BLS began tracking the data in 1939, it said.
At the White House, President Donald Trump hailed the unexpected drop in the unemployment rates as “an affirmation of all the work we’ve been doing.”
He called predictions of jobless rates in the range of 20% “the greatest miscalculation in the history of business shows” and said the economy is now poised to take off “like a rocketship.”
In a statement, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia said the May jobs report showed “much higher job creation and lower unemployment than expected, reflecting that the reopening of the economy in May was earlier, and more robust, than projected.”
He said, “It appears the worst of the coronavirus’s impact on the nation’s job markets is behind us.”
Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.
A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.
“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”
Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out
The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.
“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”
Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.
Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.
“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”
Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.
“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.
“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”
Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.” “I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”
When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.
Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.
“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”
Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.
“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.
“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”
Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.
Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.
CAMP PENDLETON, California — Maj. David Palka had seen combat before in Iraq and Afghanistan, but roughly 90% of the Marines under his command — tasked with setting up a remote fire base in northern Iraq in 2016 — had only heard the stories.
Their trial by fire in March 2016 came just hours after they landed on Army CH-47 helicopters under cover of darkness in Makhmur, Iraq. Getting off the helicopters at around 2 a.m., the Marines were in what was essentially open farmland with a large protective berm of dirt around their small perimeter.
“By 0900, we received the first rocket attack,” Palka told Business Insider. As a captain, Palka had led the Marines of Echo Battery, 2nd Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment when it was attached to the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) from Oct. 2015 to June 2016.
On Monday, Palka was awarded the Bronze Star medal (with combat “V”), the fourth-highest combat award, for what his battalion commander called “sustained valorous leadership.” He’ll also receive the Leftwich Award later this week, a trophy presented annually to a Marine company or battery commander who displays outstanding leadership.
Palka and his unit’s foray into Iraq to set up an artillery support base was previously shrouded in secrecy. But new details have emerged from that mission, showing that they were under constant threat and directly attacked more than a dozen times during their two-and-a-half months there, according to interviews and documents reviewed by Business Insider.
“When they got the call, they were ready,” Lt. Col. Jim Lively, the commander of Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Palka’s battalion commander at the time, told Business Insider.
‘It was no surprise that we were rocketed’
When Palka and others among his advance party left their helicopter on March 12, they marked the first American boots on the ground in Iraq to set up a quasi-permanent base since US forces left in 2014.
At what would be named Fire Base Bell — in honor of Staff Sgt. Vincent Bell, a Marine who died in Afghanistan in 2011 — Palka and his Marines began to establish security and build bunkers to protect from enemy fire.
The base was initially protected by 60 infantry Marines from Echo Co. 2/6 armed with rifles, machine-guns, and mortars, along with an Army unit providing radar equipment that would detect and zero in on rockets fired from ISIS positions. Marine artillerymen brought four M777A2 Howitzers to the base just days later.
The base was small and had no creature comforts, and troops dug holes where they would man their guns, fight, and sleep.
“It was austere. There was the constant threat 24/7,” Palka said. “My other deployments, you’d come back to a [forward operating base]. Or we’d remain on a FOB and shoot fire support in support of maneuver. We didn’t have an adjacent unit to our left and our right. We were the only general purpose ground force forward. There was no wire.”
Though the Pentagon tried to keep the presence of Marines being back in Iraq quiet, those efforts were thwarted just one week after Palka arrived.
On March 19, Bell was hit once again by rockets fired from ISIS positions located roughly 15 miles away.
“It was no surprise that we were rocketed,” Palka said, noting that military planners had determined that Russian-made 122mm Katyusha rockets were the weapon of choice for ISIS at the time.
“I had received indirect fire on previous deployments, but nothing that large,” he said.
Unfortunately, the first rocket impact that day was a direct hit on the 1st gun position on the line. “As soon as it impacted, it was obvious there were casualties,” he said.
27-year-old Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin was killed, and eight other Marines on Gun One were wounded. Immediately, the other Marines began running toward the rocketed position to render medical care, despite a second rocket landing just a few hundred meters away.
“It was amazing to see them,” Palka said. “The manifestation of all of our training coming to fruition.”
Meanwhile, the Army counter-battery radar site honed in on where the rockets had come from. And Palka, according to a military document summarizing his performance, calmly assessed casualties, called for medical evacuations, and executed an artillery counter-fire mission of seven rounds back at ISIS’ firing point. The document noted that the enemy’s rocket position was “effectively” suppressed.
“Dave kept the team focused while they did the evacuation of casualties,” Lively said. “They ran the counter battery mission [as] the fire base was attacked.”
‘This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before’
Echo Battery’s mission in Iraq was to set up a small outpost that could provide indirect fire support to Iraqi troops on the front lines. Artillerymen kept busy doing just that. Over the course of slightly more than 60 days at the site, the unit fired more than 2,000 rounds, including high-explosive, illumination, and smoke.
Those efforts made them a big target, as ISIS shot more than 34 rounds at their positions during that time. All told, the unit was attacked on 13 different occasions, which included rockets, small arms, and suicide attacks.
“This was as kinetic as anything that I had experienced before,” Palka said.
On two occasions, the base was attacked in a coordinated fashion by about a dozen or so ISIS fighters armed with suicide vests, small arms, machine-guns, and grenades.
The first, which came just two days after Cardin’s death, began with an ISIS fighter detonating his suicide vest against an obstacle of concertina wire.
The Marines fought back over a period of three hours on the night of March 21, eventually killing all of the ISIS fighters with no American casualties. The artillerymen, just over 2,000 feet from the enemy positions, fired illumination rounds as the grunts on the perimeter engaged with their rifles and machine guns.
“I’d say that ISIS and the enemy that we encountered in Iraq this past time… they were more bold. The fact that they would infiltrate the forward line of troops and attempt to engage a Marine element with foreign fighters,” Palka said. “Their weaponry, and their tactics were more advanced. They were more well-trained than any other force that my Marines had directly engaged on previous deployments.”
While Echo Battery fired its guns almost “daily,” it expended much of its ammunition in support of Iraqi forces gearing up to assault the city of Mosul later that year. Ahead of the October offensive to take back Iraq’s second-largest city from the Islamic State, the unit fired off more than 1,300 rounds in support of Iraqi troops attempting to take back villages on the outskirts of the city.
“Our mission was to provide force protection fire support to Iraqi security forces, which we did,” Palka said.
The unit also had a number of “firsts” besides its presence back in Iraq, to include the Corps’ first combat use of precision-guided fuses — which make artillery rounds hit with pinpoint accuracy — and the successful employment of the Army’s TPQ-53 Radar system alongside Marines, which helped them quickly identify where rockets were coming from so they could be taken out.
“There’s nothing I can put into words about how I feel about the Marines in that unit,” Palka said. “Words don’t do it justice. There’s something that you feel and sense when you walk into a room with them.”
The White House is giving the Pentagon greater flexibility to determine the number of U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria, in another move by President Donald to shift greater power to his military leaders.
The decision will give Defense Secretary Jim Mattis the authority to send more forces into Syria, to assist U.S.-backed local troops as they move to retake Raqqa from the Islamic State group, which has used the city as a de facto capital.
It will also let him adjust the force numbers in Iraq, in the ongoing fight to oust IS from Mosul and stabilize it as the rebuilding begins.
The Pentagon has already been making quiet, incremental additions to the troop levels in both countries in recent months, adding hundreds of Marines in Syria to provide artillery support, and sending more advisers into Iraq to work with units closer to the fight in Mosul. Those moves were done with White House approval, but without any formal adjustment to the longstanding troop caps that had been set by the Obama administration.
Dana White, chief spokesperson for the Pentagon, said Wednesday that Mattis has not made any changes yet to the current authorized force levels.
Under the Obama White House, military leaders chafed about micromanagement that forced commanders to get approvals for routine tactical decisions and personnel moves, and provide justification for any troops sent into war zones. Commanders have argued that they should be able to determine troop deployments based on the military capabilities they believe are needed at any given time.
The new authority will provide greater transparency about the actual number of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria after several years of public confusion about the accurate totals. Under the Obama-mandated caps, the U.S. was limited to 503 officially deployed troops in Syria, and 5,262 in Iraq. The Pentagon, however, has closer to 7,000 in Iraq, and hundreds more than the cap in Syria, but doesn’t count them because they are on temporary duty or not counted under specific personnel rules.
The change, however, could trigger concerns — particularly in Iraq, where there are political sensitivities about the footprint of American and coalition troops and fears about occupation forces. Officials worry that if they publicly acknowledge there are thousands more troops there, it could fuel opposition and problems for the Iraqi government.
decision applies only to the two countries, and so far does not affect Afghanistan, although that change has also been discussed.
“This does not represent a change in our mission in Iraq and Syria to defeat ,” said White, using another name for the Islamic State group. She said the U.S. will continue to work through and with local forces, but giving Mattis the authority to make troop-level decisions will allow commanders to be “more agile, adaptive and efficient in supporting our partners, and enables decisions that benefit unit readiness, cohesion and lethality.”
She added that the the change will allow the Pentagon be more open with Congress and the public.
A distant, flashing image of blue sky, rolling mountains and snowy rivers visited itself upon an injured soldier flying away from a violent firefight on the ground below – just barely beyond view from the naked eye.
This vivid, yet paradoxical scene is what former Green Beret Dillon Behr recalls seeing when looking down in a weary, half-conscious state from a Black Hawk helicopter while being evacuated from a near-death combat encounter in the mountains of Afghanistan.
“I was able to look back in the valley below and see a lot of my teammates still there fighting. It was a beautiful scene from a distance, yet what had just happened down below was basically hell on earth,” Behr explained.
This violence, heroism and near death for Behr is now known as the famous battle of Shok Valley in Afghanistan, 2008; the mission on that April day was called “Operation Commando Wrath.”
Behr was part of a 12-man US Special Forces A-team tasked with taking out a high-value enemy target up in the mountains; his unit was joined by another supporting 12-man Green Beret A-team and about 100 Afghan Commandos. Behr was part of the 3rd Special Forces Group, ODA 3336.
While Green Berets are, among other things, experienced with helicopter rope drops and various kinds of airborne attack raids typically employed in assaults of this kind, Behr’s unit was forced to climb the side of a mountain and attack on foot, due to the rugged terrain and relative inexperience of supporting Afghan Commando partners.
Behr recalled the combat scene on the mountain, at an elevation of about 1,000 feet, as dreary with gray rocks, some small trees and not much vegetation. The uneven terrain was accompanied by some snow on the ground and a partially iced-over river. Concrete-like looking mud huts and small villages were scattered in rows and villages along ridges of the mountainside.
Having completed Special Forces training, selection, and preparation, Behr had spent years preparing for the life-and-death combat scenario he knew he was about to encounter.
He was a trained fighter, trainer and teacher working as part of a close-knit group focused on a specific attack mission. Behr was an intelligence and communications specialist, yet like all Green Berets, he was first and foremost a fighter, equipped and ready to respond to fast-evolving combat situations.
“As we started climbing, we encountered insurgents… around 200 enemy combatants. They had the high ground and had us surrounded,” he recalled.
During a subsequent, fast-ensuing firefight, Behr and his fellow Green Berets used what rocks, small trees and ditches they could find to both avert enemy gunfire and launch counterattacks.
“We had intelligence that a high value target was going to be there, someone traditionally hard to track down. We did not know there would be so many fighters and enemy forces there. We happened upon a much larger meeting of enemy combatants than we had expected,” he said.
At one point during the unfolding 7-hour firefight, Behr was abruptly thrown to the ground by a larger caliber bullet cutting through the side of his pelvis. The bullet blew out the ball and socket of his hip.
“It was like being struck by a car or baseball bat and being electrocuted at the same time,” he said.
This near-fatal strike, unfortunately, was only the beginning of Behr’s effort to stay alive. While fellow A-Team Green Beret intelligence specialist Luis Morales was tending to his injury, a second bullet ripped through Behr’s bicep and continued on to hit Morales in the thigh.
Behr described the painful sensation of feeling a bullet cut through the muscle in his bicep as minor compared to the initial hit to his pelvis… a scenario which can make it seemingly impossible to imaging the magnitude of pain he experienced upon first being shot.
As he fought to stay conscious and his teammates scrambled to stop the bleeding, Behr himself was focused on the survival and safety of his fellow Green Berets under attack.
“I have vivid memories of laying there almost helpless and being concerned about a building across the valley that had direct access to our team. If someone was to shoot from there, we were pretty exposed. I remember directing some people on the team and having them take that out with a large bomb,” he said.
US air support then arrived to destroy attacking insurgents; shrapnel from a bomb mistakenly struck Behr, perforating his intestines.
When confronting what he thought was certain death, Behr thought of his fellow Soldiers and family back home in Illinois.
“There was a point where I thought I was going to leave this world. At one point I thought I was not going to make it, so I said a prayer to myself and felt a calm come over me. Then, all of a sudden, Ron Shurer, the medic on our team, slapped me across the face and said ‘wake up you are not going to die today,'” he said.
The intensity of the firefight, volume of enemy bullets and massive scale of the attacks are still difficult for Behr to recall and describe, the sharpness of certain powerful and violent memories have found a permanent resting place in his mind. Then, at the very moment Behr thought he might have an opportunity to live, the attacks worsened.
Just after telling Behr he would not die, Shurer himself took a bullet in the helmet right above his face. Fortunately, the bullet bounced off his helmet.
“It could have been much worse,” Behr said.
Four Americans were critically injured and MEDEVAC’ed to Landstuhl Army Medical Center and then Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Two Afghan Commandos were killed, including an interpreter.
In total, 11 Silver Stars and one Air Force Cross were awarded for the events of that day.
“The heroic part is what my team did and how they kept it together under heavy enemy gunfire. They risked their lives to get me and the other injured guys on the team off of that mountain. They were dragging and dropping me over the ledges and trying to catch me off of the ledges,” Behr explained.
Life After Near-Death in Combat
Despite this accumulation of combat trauma and near death experience, Behr has made an astounding recovery. Following medical treatment, Behr went on to earn a Masters degree in Security Studies at Georgetown University before starting a non-profit gym for injured Soldiers at Walter Reed.
When asked how he was able to go on after his combat experience, Behr said “I don’t know what else to do. We’re given abilities and skills and it is a shame to waste them. Even after we leave the military, we have a responsibility to become leaders in our communities.”
These days, after working for a period as a cyber security threat intelligence analyst at Discover, Behr now works as a professional liability and cyber liability broker for Risk Placement Services, a Washington D.C.-area firm.
In a manner quite similar to his fellow Green Berets, known as “Quiet Professionals” often reluctant to discuss the perils of combat, Behr does not wish to highlight his war zone activities. He does, however, say the experience has changed him forever.
Behr is now married to a former Red Cross volunteer who helped him recover from his injuries.
“I value relationships more than I ever did previously,” Behr said.
Behr is also involved with the Green Beret Foundation, an organization dedicated to helping Green Berets and their families. You can visit the Green Beret Foundation website here.
A group of 177 cybersecurity experts have signed a joint open letter calling on the UK government voicing concerns about the NHS’ plan to roll out a contact tracing app designed to tell people when they’ve come into contact with suspected coronavirus patients.
NHSX, the NHS’ digital experimental arm, says the app will be rolled out in Britain in the next two to three weeks. The way it works is when people sign up to the app, their phone sends out Bluetooth signals to determine what other phones are in its vicinity. If a user develops symptoms they’ll be able to report themselves in the app, and their phone will then send out an alert to all the phones it’s been nearby over the previous two weeks.
The UK has taken the decision to eschew the contact tracing API being built by Apple and Google for use by governments. This decision is partly down to the fact that the UK has decided it wants to centralize users’ data on an external server, making it easier to analyze, rather than keeping processing limited to people’s devices. Apple and Google’s API stipulates that apps use the decentralized method, which is more privacy-conscious.
“It has been reported that NHSX is discussing an approach which records centrally the de-anonymized ID of someone who is infected and also the IDs of all those with whom the infected person has been in contact,” the joint letter reads. The experts argue that this data hoard could facilitate “mission creep,” i.e. the government could later use the data for purposes other than tracking COVID-19.
“It is vital that, when we come out of the current crisis, we have not created a tool that enables data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of society, for surveillance.”
They noted that “invasive information” about users could be exploited.
“Such invasive information can include the ‘social graph’ of who someone has physically met over a period of time. With access to the social graph, a bad actor (state, private sector, or hacker) could spy on citizens’ real-world activities. We are particularly unnerved by a declaration that such a social graph is indeed aimed for by NHSX,” the experts write.
The experts ask in their letter that NHSX minimize the data it extracts from users to build trust in the app so it can be effectively deployed. Experts say 80% of smartphone users the UK would need to install the app for it to be effective in combatting the spread of coronavirus, and privacy concerns could mean falling short of that percentage.
They also ask that NHSX not build databases that could de-anonymize users, and that they lay out how the app will be phased out after the coronavirus crisis subsides.
Army Lt. Col. Ron Cole, 49, a public health nurse with the Army Public Health Center, doesn’t exactly look the part of the long-distance runner. He’s a big guy.
This 5 feet, 10-inch tall former professional body builder and wrestler will tell you his physique is more suited for short bursts of speed, but he loves distance running. This year marks an important milestone for Cole — he’s turning 50 and he’ll be competing in his ninth Army Ten-Miler in October.
“Age is not on our side always and I’m not the smallest of guys,” said Cole. “My joints have been in the military for 28 years and pounding the pavement has had its toll, but my motto for this year’s race is ‘Forged at 50’. I’m not slowing down, I’m getting better with age, and I’ve gotten creative with the knowledge I’ve learned over the years to either keep the pace or even improve my pace.”
Cole, who also serves as the APHC Performance Triad action officer, understands the importance of sleep, activity and nutrition. He hopes to improve on his best 9:30-minute mile ATM pace by incorporating the 10-mile training plan (linked to this article) offered through the ATM website and endorsed by APHC’s health and fitness experts.
“One of the things I’m doing is incorporating the Performance Triad of sleep, activity and nutrition as well as some of my weight training background and personal nutrition experience to enhance my muscle endurance as I prepare to run,” said Cole.
Cole plans to run hills, incorporate treadmill sprints, follow a good sleep and nutrition plan, and do some cross training to optimize his performance.
“I live in Havre de Grace, Maryland, which has a lot of hills that I also use for shorter sprints instead of resting on the inclines,” said Cole. “I also like to cross train and do walking lunges with weights in the hallways during my breaks from my desk.”
Cole was first introduced to the run through his then girlfriend and now wife Shanekia, who was training for the run in 2006 as part of the Kirk Army Community Hospital Team at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland. He trained with the team on some of their practice runs and cheered her on at the finish line.
Lt. Col. Ronald Cole, a public health nurse with the Army Public Health Center, hydrates in between exercises June 21, 2019, in preparation for competing in his ninth Army Ten-Miler in October. Cole is following the APHC-expert recommended Army Ten-Miler training plan as well as APHC guidance on proper hydration.
(Photo Credit: Graham Snodgrass)
The two married in August 2008 and planned to compete together for the 2009 race, but Shanekia was diagnosed with cancer in October 2009, and he ended up doing his first ATM that year with no training or preparation, which he does not recommend.
“The race was going well until I reached mile seven, which was the entrance of the 14th Street ramp,” said Cole. “The ramp is about a 1 degree incline and continues to rise at 1 degree for approximately 2 miles.”
It was at that moment that Cole felt like a pack of gorillas had jumped on his back and he wanted to quit. However, he looked to his right to find a wounded warrior changing his prosthesis; this sight made him realize that he had nothing to complain about.
“So I started running from that point on and every time I wanted to quit — he was my motivation,” said Cole. “So that first run wasn’t my best run, but it was my most inspiring.”
Cole is committed to running the race every year until he can no longer run. He also does this to honor Shanekia, who suffered complications from chemotherapy and can no longer compete in the race, but remains one of his biggest supporters. She is now free of cancer and helps with his meal prepping and comes out to cheer every run.
Cole’s story and commitment to the race have motivated some of his co-workers to make the run.
“His energy and spirit and story of why he runs has also inspired me to run the Army Ten-miler this year,” said Joanna Reagan, an APHC registered dietitian who recently retired from the Army. “Although I’ve run it in the past, Lt. Col. Cole has inspired me to shoot for my own personnel best this year.”
The two train together, which Reagan says helps keep her motivated.
“We are holding each other accountable with our running plans, trying to eat eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day and getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night,” said Reagan. “Having a ‘running buddy’ really helps with accountability and commitment.”
Cole hopes to keep running for years to come.
“The energy of the Ten-Miler keeps me enthusiastic and motivated to run,” said Cole. “Every time you’re running it may be painful, but along the course of the run you’re surrounded by at least 30,000 other people and you feel you want to do that again.”
The Performance Triad website at https://p3.amedd.army.mil/performance-learning-center/nutrition is a good resource for nutrition, nutrient timing and hydration recommendations for this year’s ATM competitors.
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through studies, surveys and technical consultations.