As the wife of an active-duty Navy pilot preparing for his third combat deployment, I have heard my husband thanked for his service many times, but at this point in the nation’s history that expression of gratitude has been overused. These days automatically telling a veteran “thank you for your service” can come off as obligatory, or worse, insincere. (Think “have a nice day.”)
Here are five more meaningful ways to thank those who have served the nation this Veterans Day:
1. HONOR THE FALLEN BY HELPING THOSE LEFT BEHIND
Veterans Day is not Memorial Day. Memorial Day, celebrated in May, honors those who have died serving their country. Veterans Day pays tribute to all veterans—living or dead—but is generally intended to honor living Americans who have served in the military. However, one of the best ways to thank a living veteran is to do something for the friends he or she has lost. The Tragedy Assistance Programs for Survivors is instrumental in providing aid and support to families in the aftermath of a military member’s death. They connect families with grief counselors, financial resources, seminars and retreats, peer mentors, and a community of other survivors. Nicole Van Dorn, whose husband J. Wesley Van Dorn died after a Navy helicopter crash last year, says the program was invaluable in helping her and her two young boys through a horrific time. “One woman called me twice a week just to let me know she was thinking about me. The fact that she continued to reach out even when I didn’t respond made me feel a little less alone.” TAPS paid for her oldest son to attend a camp where he could meet other children who had lost parents. “Sometimes people don’t know what to do,” she says. “But one way to help is to go through organizations like this one.”
2. HELP A VETERAN MAKE A SMOOTH TRANSITION
When soldiers are injured or disabled in service, they are thrust out of the lives they have known in an instant; most cannot return to the units they left behind. Sometimes the psychological consequences are harder to deal with than the physical ones. The Mission Continues, founded by former Navy Seal Eric Greitens, helps all veterans—not just the wounded—adjust to life at home by finding new missions of service. The organization harnesses veterans’ skills to connect them with volunteer opportunities in their communities.
3. DO SOMETHING FOR MILITARY FAMILIES IN YOUR COMMUNITY
When a soldier is deployed, sometimes for up to a year, daily life for spouses can be challenging. If you know the spouse of a veteran, through your community, church or social group, don’t ask how you can help. Instead, be proactive. When my husband was deployed, a neighbor took my garbage can to the street every week before I had the chance to do it. Offer to come by once a month to mow the lawn or fix what’s broken. Offer babysitting so a mother can run errands or go to a movie. Perform a random act of kindness, however small, for military families. “A woman used to send cards to my house that said, ‘I’m thinking of you,’ or ‘I’m proud of you,’ says Van Dorn of the months after her husband’s death. “She signed them ‘Secret Sister’ so I didn’t have to worry about thanking her.”
… Not just the newest ones. Andrew Lumish, a carpet cleaner from Florida, made the news recently when it was reported that he spends every Sunday cleaning veterans’ gravestones. This Veterans Day, bring flowers to a cemetery. Help a senior veteran visit his memorial in Washington DC by donating to the Honor Flight Network. Or volunteer at a shelter that helps homeless veterans, nearly half of whom served during Vietnam.
Victoria Kelly’s poetry collection, “When the Men Go Off to War,” was published this September by the Naval Institute Press, their first publication of original poetry. She holds degrees from Harvard University, Trinity College Dublin, and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her debut novel, “Mrs. Houdini,” will be published in March by Simon Schuster/Atria Books. She is the spouse of a Navy fighter pilot and the mother of two young daughters.
According to The Daily Mail and The Sun, a Bulgarian “migrant hunter”, Dinko Valev, has somehow managed to get his hands on an ex-Bulgarian Air Force Mil Mi-24 Hind hybrid gunship/light troop carrier, and has added it to his small arsenal of military gear, which also includes a pair of armored personnel carriers (APCs). Valev, a former semi-professional wrestler, made headlines in Europe for forming small posses of Bulgarian locals to chase down illegal immigrants and, who he calls, potential terrorists from Turkey. The Bulgarian government allegedly helped him acquire the two APCs just last year, while ISIS put a bounty on his head for $50,000 USD.
There aren’t any indications that point towards Valev’s new Hind’s operational status, and there’s nothing to suggest that the aircraft is even flightworthy at all. However pictures of the aircraft show the Hind’s chin turret still equipped with the barrels of a Yak-B 12.7mm 4-barrel Gatling cannon, though those barrels could possibly be plugged and the internal mechanisms removed or disabled. Also noticeable in the picture are two empty UB-32 rocket launcher pods, attached to the port wing of the aircraft. The short video also took a look inside the Hind’s surprisingly clean front cockpit, though the rear cockpit, where the main flight control systems are, wasn’t shown. Valev indicates that he’ll use this Hind to continue his “jihadi-hunting” activities to an even greater magnitude than before. How he’ll actually get the Hind working, armed or even up in the air at all is an entirely different question altogether.
It actually isn’t all that difficult to get your hands on old Soviet-era military hardware, and a buyer’s options list ranges anywhere from worn-out utility trucks to fighter jets, and everything in between. Just last year, the Albanian government put up a number of retired yet still flightworthy fighter aircraft for sale as part of a massive downsizing of their military. Bids for the aircraft, which included an assortment of MiG-15, -17 and -19 fighters, began at a whopping $8,600 USD… meaning that just about anybody could have actually entered the bidding process to pick up an aircraft! That, of course, doesn’t include certification, operations, parts and maintenance costs, but that’s still a relative steal!
As for helicopters, you can even find yourself a Mil Mi-24 Hind via a number of websites online, set up by small enterprises which got a hold of a considerable chunk of Soviet-manufactured military gear around and after the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. When it became unsustainable for the Russian military to continue to operate the large numbers of aircraft, tanks, armored vehicles, etc. it had amassed during the Cold War, entire regiments and brigade-sized elements were retired, their hardware either left to rust and rot on abandoned airfield, sold off at cut rates to other countries, or pawned off (sometimes illegally) to individual buyers. In 2015, everybody’s favorite online auctioneer, eBay, actually put up a Mi-24 for sale, retailing at $4,000,000 USD. Apparently, everything about this particular Hind was operational, save for its weapons, which were removed.
Organizations like Russian Military, based out of the United Kingdom, are another option for folks looking to get their hands on old Soviet planes, tanks and other military vehicles. They too offered a Mil Mi-24 Hind at one point, though without a price listed on their official website. This particular helo was de-militarized, possibly used as a prop in a few movies, and left in a state of disassembly, though it was apparently fully capable of being reassembled and flown. It’s unclear whether or not it sold.
When August O’Niell, a member of an elite special forces group, woke up from routine surgery, it only took one look at his mother’s face to tell something went horribly wrong.
She was with the doctor. “Are you awake? Are you able to talk now?” the doctor asked. “I have woken you up halfway through the surgery. There was so much scar tissue …”
O’Niell had already endured 19 grueling surgeries in the three-and-a-half years since a rifle round mangled his leg while he was on deployment in Afghanistan. He woke up hoping this 20th surgery would finally allow him to have a functional knee. But he quickly learned his left leg would never fully function again.
The entire left side was mostly scar tissue. The skin, tendons and muscle were all adhered straight to the bone in one solid layer. Given the extent of the damage, a knee replacement was going to give him less than 14 degrees of movement.
“You will be in less pain, and I can put it in there if you tell me that’s what you want,” the doctor told him. “But I didn’t feel right putting that in there without telling you that it wasn’t going to be what we thought it was going to be at first.”
“There’s so much scar tissue in there, it’ll be impossible for you to have a functional knee.”
O’Niell was an Air Force pararescueman, a para-jumper or “PJ,” as they are known in the service. He was the elite of the elite, in charge of rescuing the most drastically injured troops, and even top special operators, in dire circumstances. He loved being a PJ, and wanted nothing more than to be back in the field, jumping out of helicopters and saving wounded comrades. The diagnosis he now faced was tough, but without missing a beat, he made up his mind.
“Don’t worry about it, I’m gonna have it amputated,” he said.
Dumbfounded, the doctor asked if he was sure. O’Niell was sure. After 20 surgeries and years of unsuccessful treatment, he was done with experiments.
He allowed himself what he called a “ten minute boo-hoo session.” It wasn’t so much about losing the leg, as it was learning this particular surgery was a fail. He had been looking forward to some relief from the constant pain of his injury.
But none of that mattered now. It was time to move on. He had seen troops with major amputations make remarkable progress on prosthetics in a little as six months while he was in rehab, and here he was after more than three years barely hopping along on crutches. He thought of the amputees he had seen running on prosthetic legs and had a moment of inspiration, and it occurred to him that if he could run again, he could be a PJ again.
That was all the motivation he needed to greenlight the removal of his leg.
A Faucet Of Blood
It happened when O’Niell was halfway through his deployment to Afghanistan on July 15, 2011. The U.S. had begun drawing down forces two days before, but the notoriously violent Sangin Valley was as deadly as ever. O’Niell and his team got a call that a group of Marines were under fire. Two were injured, one critically, after taking a shot in the chest. O’Niell’s team was headed back to base after working all day, but immediately turned around to rescue the injured Marines.
The PJs came onto the scene in two Pavehawk helicopters, one leading the other. They circled in shifts. One would provide watch and draw the enemy’s attention, while the other went into the zone to rescue the wounded.
As O’Neill’s helicopter was about to take a turn going in for the wounded, his team got word that another Marine had been hit. O’Niell was lead medic for the operation, and told his team leader to let the team in the helicopter behind them go into the zone, since it had three PJ medics on board, while they provided cover.
“So it’s better patient care, you know, one medic per patient,” O’Niell told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
O’Niell’s helicopter then flew over the zone, dropped smoke grenades and popped back up so the second helicopter knew where to land. The tactic has the dual purpose of attracting enemy fire, and was successful in doing so.
“It works like a charm,” O’Neill said. “We came up over the smoke and popped up and we caught all that fire. They started shooting up at our bird, and one of the rounds, when they shot up, bounced off the door where I was sitting in the left door. [It] bounced off the doorway and then went through both of my legs.”
O’Niell initially he thought a flare had bounced off the door and hit his knee. He looked over the edge of the chopper, and then the pain hit him.
“Ah, they shot me!” he yelled while grabbing the top of the Pavehawk to pull himself back. He saw a hole in the side of the leg of his pants where the bullet had entered. “It just looked like someone had turned a faucet on, it was pouring blood,” he said.
His team leader instinctively jumped towards him, putting one of O’Niell’s tourniquets on his legs. He was in critical condition, forcing the helicopter to return home. Fortunately, a second PJ team was deployed with Apache helicopters in tow when O’Niell returned. They were able to extract the Marines and take out the enemy forces in the area.
O’Niell was well known to the medical staff at the base. He and his fellow PJs would often help out with the injured between shifts in order to keep their medical skills sharp. The hospital pulled a surgeon to try to save O’Neill’s leg. He was woken up after the doctors fixed an artery, and informed he would be moved to Bagram air base.
“Not until I get my re-enlisting paperwork,” O’Niell said.
“Now that’s the type of dude we need!” a nearby officer said excitedly. O’Niell was told it was an Army general. The paperwork was there waiting for him when he got to Bagram. His brother, an Air Force officer who is now also a PJ, swore him back in while he was in Landstuhl, Germany for another round of surgeries.
O’Niell wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he joined the Air Force in 2005, but he was certain he didn’t want to be behind a desk. The Air Force occasionally gets chided as the “Chair Force” by the other services, and O’Niell knew he wanted to be doing something active. He became interested in the pararescue and combat controller jobs. A recruiter warned him that either would be tough, but assured him he wouldn’t see much of a desk.
The medical aspect of the PJs also appealed to O’Niell. His father, a retired Air Force major, had encouraged him to stay in college and become a doctor. He figured the PJs would keep him from a desk job and make his father happy.
“I just went with it,” O’Niell explained. “I joined it not really knowing anything about it except for we jump out of planes and do cool guy stuff.”
Most people have never heard of the PJs, even inside the special operations community. It’s a remarkably small force whose work is often overlooked.
They’re are a remarkable combination of expert shooters, skydivers and medics. A PJ can shoot with the top Marines, save lives like the best Navy medical corpsmen and jump out of planes like an Army Ranger. They even do their fair share of diving. This remarkable combination is why becoming a PJ is one of the hardest things you can do in the military.
“You need to be able to deal with all situations between the top of Mount Everest and 130 feet below the ocean — and in all environments, all weather conditions, all light conditions,” Nic McKinley, a former PJ, told TheDCNF. “And you need to be able to deal with them in a way that mitigates risk to the extent that you will live through those missions, because, you know, there is nobody to go get the PJs if the PJ’s gonna patrol.”
Training for the group, known as “The Pipeline,” has one of the highest attrition rates of any program in the armed forces. O’Niell started training in a class of 110. Nine would make it through. For McKinley, that was a big draw factor.
“I’m a big data guy,” he told TheDCNF. “I really like the numbers and the facts, and I don’t like your opinion.”
On the basis of data, McKinley found the PJs to be the toughest. “You know, they can get into arguments about why, or any of the subjective stuff, but the objective data shows that it’s harder,” he told TheDCNF.
Special operators often debate about who is the toughest, but one thing is clear: when the SEALs, Green Berets and Marines need saving in the worst conditions, they call the PJs.
The training puts a massive strain on your mental strength.
“You can’t just have a high level physical performance and ride on that, you also have to be able to think at a high level,” McKinley said. “Pararescue teams expect you to be able to do everything, and if you can’t do it at a high level, you need to go succeed elsewhere.”
The entire process takes between two and three years. After basic training, a would-be PJ starts “The Pipeline” with an indoctrination course at Lackland Air Force Base, which consists of ten weeks of intense physical training including obstacle courses, running and swimming.
“That’s where they test your mental and physical limits … push every button they can,” O’Niell told TheDCNF.
No aspect of indoctrination training so utterly punishes the mental toughness of a PJ than “The Pool.” Technically known as “water confidence training,” the Pool is known for chewing up even the most elite athletes in the program.
Would-be PJs are expected to swim laps under water, tie complex knots at the pool bottom, bob up and down with hands and ankles tied (an exercise known as “drown proofing”) and wrestle underwater with an instructor while not being allowed to fight back, according to former PJ Matt White. His solution? Just don’t breathe.
“When your fingers go number tying a knot, you can panic,” he wrote in a piece for Task and Purpose. “Or you can relax. When an instructor pushes you to the bottom of the pool and stands on your head, what can you do? You can quit. Or you can relax.”
PJs who survive indoctrination go on to a combat diver course in Panama City, Florida for six weeks, then to survival school in Spokane, Washington. Next they pay a visit to Army Airborne School, where they learn to jump out of planes, before heading to either Army or Navy free-fall skydiving school, located in Yuma, Arizona and San Diego, California respectively.
Once a PJ candidate is a honed warrior they attend 37 weeks of various medical courses. Trainees are expected to get their national paramedic certification within two months of medical training, a task which normally takes six months.
The Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course puts everything a PJ trainee has learned together in a 24-week course which includes shooting, jumping and full mock mission profiles. Upon completion, a PJ is given a maroon beret and assigned a team. A PJ is then expected to to do on the job training with his team to become mission qualified.
O’Niell deployed to Afghanistan with about 20 people rotating in six man teams. He recalled flying approximately eight missions per shift, all of them being worst case scenarios. He acknowledged that war is terrible, but said he loved Afghanistan because he got to do his job.
“It’s very satisfying when you have a guy [that] easily ten minutes later … would’ve been just dead, and you were able to get him, get pain meds onboard, get blood onboard, and see this guy who wasn’t even responding all of a sudden start blinking up at you and you’re like: ‘Hey man, you’re going to be good,'” said O’Niell. “And then you go and check with the hospital, they’re like ‘Yea, he’s on his way home,’ and it’s just awesome.”
When asked how many people he’s saved, O’Niell said he never kept count.
Road To Recovery
His job cost him a leg and years of pain and surgeries, but O’Niell is laser focused on returning to the fray. There was not a hint of regret or doubt in his voice when he recalled his harrowing experience to TheDCNF. He detailed his injury like the challenges presented by one of his missions, by focusing on solutions to problems.
Step one of O’Niell’s road back to the PJ teams was to get acquainted with his new prosthetic leg. Fortunately, the Center for the Intrepid fitted him with one of the most advanced models available.
“It’s an Ottobock X3, and it’s awesome,” he said.
The leg is completely waterproof, and comes with an app that lets O’Niell switch between four modes suited for various kinds of situations. He detailed it like a piece of high-tech military equipment.
“I’ve got a boxing mode, which basically doesn’t allow the knee bend more than 14 degrees, that way I can throw a punch and don’t have to worry about the knee buckling. And I can, you know, bob and weave on it,” O’Niell said. “I’ve got a running mode, I’ve got the basic walking mode which is just the everyday mode, and I’ve got a jump mode, which keeps the knee from bending past ninety degrees while I’m jumping so that way I can fly flat dumb and happy, as we say, and not worry about backsliding.”
His injury was not the least bit apparent when I met him for the first time in an Air Force office in Manhattan, except for the presence of his service dog, Kai. O’Niell walked through the door and shook hands much like he probably did before the injury.
Most amputees usually require approximately six weeks of walking on their new prosthetics before they take them home. But O’Niell was taking his home in only two. He noted that’s because most amputees have trouble trusting the devices to hold their weight.
“I attribute it to the fact that I’ve trusted my life on much sketchier pieces of equipment,” O’Niell joked. Falling to his knees due to a prosthetic is nothing when you’re used to jumping from planes with parachutes made by the lowest bidder.
O’Niell’s sense of relief after the amputation and prosthetic was practically immediate. Even before the prosthetic was fitted, he recalled his fellow PJs looking at him strangely after the amputation when they found him moving around his thigh. He hadn’t been able to move the leg for years before, so this was a victory.
“The pain I was living with was awful,” he said. “I don’t take pain meds so it became a normal way of life, just living with pain all the time and it’s miserable. It’s miserable. So yeah, it was definitely awesome waking up and immediately not feeling that pain.”
The next step to getting back to the job he loved was requalification. By November 2016, O’Niell had qualified in calisthenics, swimming, parachuting, ropes, alternative insertion, diving and was close to reaching the requisite run time. He has been working on mission profiles as well, in order to learn how to adjust to his new leg.
O’Niell’s fellow PJs have been extremely supportive during his recovery. They’ve kept him up to date on any new tech or kit that has been incorporated since his injury, and asked him when he is coming back to the teams. He even had training plan offers from five or six team chiefs. He noted he’s unsure about their motivations, but nevertheless, he remains focused on his goal.
Fellow injured airmen have also been a source of strength and friendship. Thanks to the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, O’Niell has developed a close-knit group of friends who refer to themselves as “The Order of the Pineapple.” He noted the origin of the name is a long story, but that not a day goes by that they don’t talk to each other.
Additionally, his service dog Kai has served a crucial role in his recovery. K9 Soldiers in New Jersey gave him the German Shepherd on Veteran’s Day 2013, and he has relied on him ever since.
“Mentally, I was in a real crappy place when I started reaching out to get him, and then after getting him, he’s just made my outlook almost one-eighty,” explained O’Niell. “I’m inherently a really happy person anyway, so when I’m depressed, I’m very depressed … because a lot of things have happened to make me very depressed.”
Kai can sense when O’Niell is depressed or angry, and will come put his head on his lap or go for a walk with him, immediately putting O’Niell in a better mood. He also helps with bracing and stability and will block people from invading his personal space. Kai also can do smaller tasks, like getting O’Niell his phone and keys when he doesn’t have the prosthetic attached.
“He’s not a retriever and he absolutely hates doing it, but he will do it,” joked O’Niell.
Kai goes to work with O’Niell, and has become a big hit with the other PJs. He inspired a team in Alaska to buy their own dog so they can keep up morale abroad. O’Niell hopes to bring Kai on his next deployment. The German Shepherd won’t be tagging along on missions, but he would be waiting for him when he gets home.
The First Of His Kind
Other special operations forces have rejoined their units after an amputation, including members of the Army Special Forces, Marine Special Operations Command and Navy SEALs. Advances in medical science and prosthetics have allowed many troops to return to duty after amputations. More than 16 percent of amputees had returned to combat in the early 2000s, up from 2.3 percent in the 1980s. But O’Niell would be a first for the PJs and the Air Force.
He has every intention of getting back in, and he doesn’t plan to leave any time soon. He reenlisted in the beginning of 2015, and plans to do at least another five years after his contract runs out.
“The majority of people who want an amputation, they aren’t very crazy like I am, so they’re just kind of like ‘Yeah, I’m done,’ and rightfully so,” he said.
O’Niell’s remarkable story has also come with a great deal of unexpected fame. He has competed in both the Warrior Games and Invictus Games, the latter of which earned him a profile in ESPN. He also led the Atlanta Falcons onto the field during the Super Bowl, carrying an American flag as he ran in front of thousands on his prosthetic. And Paramount Pictures bought a pitch on O’Niell’s story in March, so a feature film could be in the works.
O’Niell told TheDCNF he’s “excited” for the press coverage to end, but he’s also pleased his story brings attention to PJs. “I don’t mind doing this type of stuff because it highlights the career field and that’s awesome,” he said.
For now, he is continuing strength training and Pararescue qualification training at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Florida, where he is expected to join a team sometime next year if all goes well.
has been sent to begin requalifications so he can join a team at Hurlburt Field AFB, hopefully sometime next year. Assessments with the teams have been positive, and aside from some issues with stress fractures, he has no complaints.
O’Niell hopes to be back to jumping out of planes and saving lives as early as the end of 2017.
We all have a few things we need to work on. The U.S. military is no different. A new year is a new beginning, especially with a new Commander-in-Chief in control. It’s time to finally get around to doing all those things we said we were gonna do.
If sequestration is the household equivalent of cleaning out the garage, those old paint cans aren’t gonna move themselves. Here are some more of the military’s 2017 New Years resolutions.
1. Get in shape.
Ah fitness…the eternal struggle…as many of us veterans (whose old uniforms don’t fit as well as they used to) know.
In 2016, an Associated Press piece asked if U.S. troops were “too fat to fight,” thanks to a study by the Army research center. The VA is addressing the issue with a standardized weight management program going into place at VA centers across America.
First Boeing, then Lockheed received the brunt of the Donald’s ire. Someone apparently told him about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s price tag, because that was his next defense contractor target on Twitter.
Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!
The military is going to have to play with the toys they have or hope the military-industrial complex bows to the incoming President’s demands.
3. Work on our relationships.
Let’s be honest. In the last few years, we have not been as good to our allies as we could have.
Nor have we been all that upfront with our competition.
We can do better. We just have to be ourselves — the shining example to the rest of the world that we know we can be. That doesn’t mean we have to wear our heart on our sleeve. We’re the United States. Our military wears their heart on our sleeve.
From the very top of the chain of command to the very bottom, we need to be more upfront and less touchy-feely.
4. Finally finish our education.
We have one more history class before we can finally finish up that degree. Now…time to learn about this “graveyard of empires” we heard so much about…
It doesn’t need to be a literal graveyard, after all.
5. Spend more time with family.
Because together everyone achieves more!
Heavy deployment tempos, long tours, short tours, or just intense work schedules (especially at a less-than-ideal assignment) places a heavy burden on service members and their loved ones. Let’s focus on that in 2017 and keep in touch, even if it’s just via Skype.
Getting married can be one of the most exciting times in one’s life, and marrying someone who serves is no different. That said, marrying into the military lifestyle can often come with an adjustment period. Ten military spouses agreed to speak candidly about aspects of military life – from moving to education – that they wish they would have known before marrying their spouse.
“I wish I knew that friendship would be so, so hard. And that the people I truly view as friends are never close because we move away. Yes, I knew we’d move. But after restarting my life four times now, I am really struggling to make friends and have my own tribe because it’s so much effort. And at some duty stations, it’s great. Others are terrible and you just never really connect with anyone the entire time (or you do and they of course move one second later). I feel like a lot of people won’t be my friend, because they know I will leave too. I also wish I knew that most of the country does not understand our lifestyle, like, at all.” – Melissa Sheridan, Air Force spouse
“Be diligent in finding your people – however many that may be for you – and you’ll thrive. Above all else, you will experience the best and worst in the world, but your mindset is everything.” – Missy Moore, Army spouse
“Life can be a real adventure if you stay open minded and flexible to new people, places and cultures! In my wildest dreams I would have never imagined where this path has led my husband and I. From meeting in Honduras while stationed there, getting stationed in an amazing area of Texas to living in a tropical paradise in Hawaii – just bizarre in all the most amazing ways!” – Katie Whitehurst, Air Force reservist and Army spouse
“I’ve never felt more supported than in this community, but I’ve also never felt so alone. Sometimes you can’t wait for that PCS to roll around and others you absolutely dread leaving a place that feels more like home than anywhere else. I wish I’d known that grief can include the giant loss you feel when you are forced to leave a place and people you love. I wish I’d known the guilt I would feel for not giving my children roots.” – Chelsea Coulston, Navy spouse
“It’s OK to find a new home and you are going to find friendships that are more meaningful than any in your life prior.” – Jaci Greggs, Army spouse
“Accept that nearly nothing will go according to plan. Write plans down in pencil and buy the refundable tickets! Dates, missions, locations, etc., change often and with little notice.” – Alex Fernandez Rubio, Army spouse
“I didn’t expect that we would have a bunch of curtains that will never fit in the next house! I also didn’t expect to love the adventure so much. Military life truly is that. It’s hard, yes, but it’s also allowed me to see the world from a different perspective. Having a baby abroad was an unexpected surprise blessing that we really enjoyed! I also didn’t expect how intense the stress levels would be. Stress that isn’t what the average person experiences—like traffic—stress that not only cripples the military member, but cripples the entire family both physically and emotionally.” – Caroline Potter, Navy spouse
“I appreciate the college opportunity offered to me as a spouse of an enlisted soldier and I wish more spouses knew about and took advantage of the MyCAA program.” – Jenn Richardson, Army spouse
“I got married at 25. I had no idea at that point how important having a career would be to me, and that maintaining a career would be nearly impossible as a military spouse. We end up taking a backseat to our spouse’s career. It’s hard personally, professionally, and frankly, financially. The military does not prioritize helping spouses [who have] careers maintain them.” – Julie Yaste, Navy spouse
“I wish I would have known how little the military actually cared about the physical and mental health of my spouse. After 15 years, we have realized that it’s all a numbers game and about how much they can get out of their members without much regard for the life they have to live after service. I don’t think it would have changed my husband’s mind regarding his career but I would have approached a lot of things within his job differently regarding health.” – Kylie Martin, Navy spouse
“I wish I had known that my husband would be treated like [a] machine whose mental and physical health doesn’t matter. I wish I had known that the military doesn’t care about individuals, just the overall result and the ability to get results as quickly as possible.” – Hannah O’Melia Sherriff, Navy spouse
Your Advice for New Military Spouses Facing Their First Deployment
We asked our audience what advice they had for new military spouses facing their first deployment. With hundreds of responses from military spouses from all walks of military life, there is no shortage of support out there for you! Here are some of our favorite responses.
Power of Attorney and do NOT listen to all of the freaking horror stories some of the other spouses may impart. Your spouse is not their spouse or their friend’s best friend’s spouse. Have faith in your spouse instead of the b.s. stories. Brush off the gossip and its mouthpiece. Most of all, take time out for you… mind body and soul. You’re strong and you’ve got this. – Holly M.
An amazing spouse told me, “Count paychecks. Because 2 a month is way better than trying to count down 180+ days.” Definitely helped! – Caitlin M.
Have a candid discussion with both sides of the family about what to expect/not to expect as well as what is helpful/hurtful. Examples: best ways to stay in touch, care package ideas, why he/she can’t just come home for special occasions, whether or not RR is allowed and the process, things always change, etc. – Jane T.
Make goals, start a hobby, go back to school. Take care of yourself. Make time for self care. Talk about your spouse being gone, especially with your kids. Routine, routine (whether you have kiddos or not). Think out of the box for friends, we are a diverse community. Remember to send boxes and little things (I am horrible at this and after four deployments I slack) but I know how much my spouse appreciates a piece of home. It will feel like autopilot sometimes and that’s okay. Being sad is okay. Check with all your on post services! I was so young the first time I had no idea all the things I could use like MYCAA scholarships, and spouse get togethers (for parents and child free spouses!) just know you’re not alone. It never gets easier and every tour will have its struggles but you have tools at your disposal; learn to use them, and yes have a POA. – Andrea R.
Afghan special forces have freed 61 captives held by the Taliban in an operation in the southern province of Helmand, the military says.
Jawid Saleem, a spokesman for the elite commando units, said the operation was conducted late on Aug. 2, 2018, in the Kajaki district in Helmand, a stronghold of the Taliban.
Saleem said at least two Taliban militants were killed during the rescue mission by Afghan special forces.
The Taliban did not immediately comment on the matter.
The prisoners were transferred to the provincial army headquarters, said Munib Amiri, an army commander.
Those held had been captured for a range of reasons, Saleem said, from cooperating with Afghan security forces to belonging to the local police force.
According to Saleem, the prisoners were held in poor conditions, including a lack of proper food and health care. They were also tortured, Saleem added.
Hundreds of prisoners have been freed from Taliban prisons by Afghan security forces in Helmand Province in recent months.
On May 31, 2018, Afghan special forces freed 103 people held at two sites run by the Taliban in Kajaki district.
According to the latest report by the Special Inspector-General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an independent U.S. federal auditor, the militants control nine of 14 districts in Helmand. Half of the population of the province lives in areas under Taliban control.
Research from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America has found a number of factors that increase risk of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) in military spouses.
This study used information gathered from the largest longitudinal study ever conducted to assess the impact of military service and several other data sources such as electronic personnel files.
“The goal of the present study was to identify demographic, military-specific, and service member mental health correlates of spousal depression,” according to the authors of “Depression among military spouses: Demographic, military, and service member psychological health risk factors.”
Military spouses, on average, deal with many unique situations such as geographic separation, unpredictable training cycles, frequent relocation, spouse deployments, and secondary effects of the lifestyle, such as frequent job rotations.
Though from the myriad factors related to military spouses, several were found to be strong indicators of increased risk for MDD.
According to the study, “less educational attainment, unemployment, and large family size were all independently associated with greater risk for MDD among military spouses.”
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Bryan Nygaard)
While depression may be due to a complex set of issues and factors affecting the person, researchers were able to determine that these factors played a substantial role as independent factors.
Other family or individual elements that may increase risk are gender (female), being less than 30 years of age, combat deployments, PTSD, alcoholism, and the service member’s branch.
This research provides information with real-world application for spouses to better understand the factors that may play a role in their depression.
Additionally, it provides leaders with important data on several subgroups that may be proactively identified for resourcing.
Below are resources that may help with any one of these factors contributing to depression:
My Career Advancement Account (MyCAA): ,000 of financial assistance for spouses pursuing a license, certification or associate degree.
Pell Grant: Federal student aid that varies dependent on several factors.
G.I. Bill: This military benefit can be transferred to eligible spouses or children.
Grants and scholarships: Do some research, many states and private organizations offer grants, scholarships, or reduced tuition to military spouses.
Priority Placement Program: Spouses receive preference over other job applicants seeking federal service (USAJobs).
FMWR resources: Morale, Welfare and Recreation has services, personnel, and resources that are dedicated to helping spouses with career placement, including its Employment Readiness Program.
Job placement: Check out local staffing agencies, job posting sites, and local unemployment offices.
Military and Family Life Counseling: Counselors can help people who are having trouble coping with concerns and issues of daily life, the stress of the military lifestyle, parenting, etc.
Family Advocacy Program: Dedicated to the prevention, education, prompt reporting, investigation, intervention, and treatment of spousal and child abuse and neglect.
New Parent Support Program: Prenatal and postnatal education from baby massage groups to customized breastfeeding support and more.
Army Family Team Building: Helps you to not just cope with, but enjoy the military lifestyle. AFTB provides the knowledge and self-confidence to take responsibility for yourself and your family.
US-led coalition airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria hit record levels in August, dropping 5,075 bombs during close-air-support, escort, or interdiction operations.
That was the highest monthly total recorded during Operation Inherent Resolve, the three-year campaign against ISIS.
The amount of bombs dropped in each of the first eight months of 2017 exceeded the total of any other month during the campaign.
The 32,801 weapons deployed by coalition aircraft through August 2017 is more than the 30,743 dropped all last year, which was the previous annual high for Operation Inherent Resolve.
The sustained uptick in bombing during the first months of President Donald Trump’s administration seems to fulfill his campaign promise to “bomb the s— out of” ISIS. But the increase in bombings is also likely driven by intense operations in Mosul and Raqqa, ISIS’ last major urban strongholds in Iraq and Syria, respectively.
Close-quarters fighting against determined ISIS militants in reinforced positions often necessitates close air support from Iraqi and coalition aircraft. (Not all aircraft active over Iraq and Syria are under US control, so the total number of weapons used is likely higher.)
Calls for airstrikes “would come from forces on the ground that an enemy’s been identified, say, in this house,” US Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Robert Sofge, director of the Combined Joint Operations Center in Baghdad, told Business Insider earlier this month. CJOC, as it’s called, liaises with Iraqi security forces and government officials and is one of two strike cells in Iraq that manage such engagements, Sofge said.
“The enemy’s been in a house, and that enemy’s firing from this structure,” Sofge said, describing a potential strike scenario. “So the first thing we do in a strike like that, we become aware of it, and we know where it is with great precision, 10-digit grids, down to the meter.”
Coalition personnel and their local partners have a database of “category-one structures” that they will avoid targeting because they have infrastructural or historic value, including religious centers or hospitals. ISIS fighters are known to make use of those structures for that reason, Sofge said.
“If it’s not that, it’s still a [category two] structure that we would have to go through a rigorous process to say, ‘Hey, this structure can be removed from its inherent protected status because of what’s going there on now. There’s fighters in there shooting at the Iraqi security forces.’ So first we establish that we can go engage with this thing,” Sofge told Business Insider.
“Then we apply a some fairly strict criteria of positive identification: How do we know who that is and what they’re doing, and we have multiple intelligence requirements — it can’t just be one thing; we have multiple indications that that is in fact what’s going on from that place,” he said, adding:
“And then we have a legal review that says that engaging this target comports with the laws of armed conflict and that engaging in these circumstances is permissible according to those laws, and once we’ve established all of those things we go to the government of Iraq and ask them for permission to strike that building, and they’ll say yes or no, and they do say both, depending on the structure. They do a pretty thorough review themselves.”
Sofge said coalition personnel will then, “within the bounds of proportionality,” do engineering analysis to see what will be damaged in a strike and what effect it would have on nearby structures. That’s followed by the weapon-selection process.
“We have an array of weapons available in support of the Iraqi security forces,” he said. “We’ll choose from among those and then use them in order to make sure that we do enough damage to kill the target and kill what it is that’s attracted the Iraqi Security Forces’ attention.”
Sofge, who stressed coalition forces’ efforts to avoid civilian casualties, said the actual process likely takes less time to complete than it does to describe, in part because of the experience they have doing it and because parts of it happen concurrently.
The US-led coalition’s air campaign against ISIS has attracted intense scrutiny for the number of civilian casualties it is believed to have caused.
According to Airwars, a UK-based independent monitoring group, between Trump’s inauguration and mid-July, more than 2,200 civilians appeared to have been killed in coalition airstrikes — almost as many as the 2,300 likely killed by coalition strikes under Obama.
That works out to 80 civilian casualties a month under Obama and 360 a month during the Trump administration.
Civilian deaths under Trump peaked in March, with nearly 700 confirmed or likely casualties. They have declined since June and July, when fighting in Mosul wrapped up.
Concerns about the air campaign were also piqued by reports the coalition had loosened its rules of engagement, allowing US and other coalition personnel on the ground to move closer to the front line and call in strikes and artillery fire directly, rather than going “through a whole bureaucracy and through Baghdad,” one embedded US adviser told the Associated Press at the time.
A coalition spokesman told the AP the rules of engagement had been “adjusted” in December, “empowering” more coalition forces “to call in airstrikes without going through a strike cell.”
The Pentagon contested that report, saying in March that overarching guidelines about such strikes had not changed, even as US personnel were being embedded at lower levels within Iraqi Security Forces units and appeared to be closer to direct combat.
Asked if the process to carry out strikes had changed during the fighting in Mosul, Sofge said “not appreciably,” adding that the process did see “refinements” regarding Iraqi permission for airstrikes.
“Some of the processes tend to be centralized, and in effort to decentralize them while still retaining the integrity of an Iraqi permission [it] was tweaked by the Iraqi government, not by the strike cells, as to who’s the Iraqi giving you the thumbs-up that the government has given permission,” Sofge told Business Insider.
“I know in some cases [it] was lowered a level in an effort to streamline the process so it was more effective to the fighters on the ground,” he added, “but there was no change from a coalition perspective in the process — only who was the person saying ‘yes’ to the strike on the Iraqi side.”
Such an adjustment may have given Iraqi commanders on the front line more say in when and where strikes took place.
The Iraqi government declared the liberation of Mosul in early July, though cleaning up munitions left there by the fighting could take a decade or more.
ISIS fighters remain in some pockets of Iraq, mostly in the north-central part of the country and in the far western desert.
Iraqi forces, backed by the coalition, have launched assaults on those positions in recent days.
In Syria, the months-long fight in Raqqa has gained ground, according to US Army Col. Ryan Dillon, a coalition spokesman.
More than 75% of the city is now cleared of ISIS fighters, he said on Thursday, adding that Syrian Democratic Forces, a mainly Kurdish force partnering with the coalition, “have made clear progress and we are seeing ISIS begin to lose its grip on their self-declared capital in Raqqa.”
The weapon is believed to be a DF-41, China’s latest ICBM still in the final stages of development. It was seen making its way through a traffic circle in Daqing, a city of over one million people in Heilongjiang province.
The missile is supposedly capable of carrying large thermonuclear weapons. That includes as many as 10 smaller warheads known as multiple independent reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, which allow it to hit multiple targets with one shot. It has an estimated maximum range of 9,300 miles, putting it in the range of most of the continental U.S. To put the weapon’s range in perspective, the distance from Daqing to Washington, D.C., is only approximately 6,400 miles.
Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact email@example.com.
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.
A Chinese destroyer challenged a US Navy warship in an “unsafe and unprofessional” encounter in the tense South China Sea Sept. 30, 2018.
The Chinese ship, reportedly the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 052C Luyang II-class guided-missile destroyer Lanzhou (170), part of the Chinese navy’s South Sea Fleet, took on the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) during a close approach near Gaven Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands.
The Chinese vessel “conducted a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings” for the US Navy ship to “leave the area,” Pacific Fleet revealed in an official statement on Oct. 1, 2018. US Navy photos first obtained by gCaptain and confirmed to CNN by three American officials show just how close the Chinese destroyer got to the US ship.
(The USS Decatur is pictured left, and the Chinese destroyer is on the right)
The USS Decatur was forced to maneuver out of the way to avoid a collision with the Chinese vessel, which reportedly came within 45 yards of the American ship, although the pictures certainly look a lot closer to the 45 feet originally reported.
Ankit Panda, foreign policy expert and a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful U.S. Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”
China condemned the US for its operations in the South China Sea, where China is attempting to bolster its claims through increased militarization. The US does not recognize Chinese claims, which were previously discredited by an international tribunal.
Beijing said the US “repeatedly sends military ships without permission close to South China Seas islands, seriously threatening China’s sovereignty and security, seriously damaging Sino-U.S. military ties and seriously harming regional peace and stability,” adding that the Chinese military is opposed to this behavior.
The latest incident followed a series of US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress long-range bomber flights through the East and South China Sea. Beijing called the flights “provocative,” but Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis insisted that the flights would not mean anything if China had not militarized the waterway.
“If it was 20 years ago and had they not militarized those features there it would have been just another bomber on its way to Diego Garcia or wherever,” he said on Sept. 26, 2018.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.