As Lt. Col. Mike Drowley says in his TEDx Talk, he’s an attack pilot, but he sees himself as also being a Marine rifleman, Army infantryman, and Navy SEAL, because when he’s flying in support of those people, he has to fly like its his own boots on the ground, his own face catching the heat and shrapnel from enemy artillery. And he wants to spend 15 minutes describing that world for you.
There Are Some Fates Worse Than Death: Mike Drowley at TEDxScottAFB
Drowley is now a full colonel and the commander of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona. But don’t let the name fool you, the 355th primarily operates A-10s and, while Drowley has flown F-15s, F-16s, and training aircraft, his career has centered on the beloved Warthog.
He restored the A-10 Demonstration Team after its five-year hiatus, and he led a surge of A-10 pilot training that resulted in 175 aviators getting certified to fly it. Even today, the aircraft that bears his nameplate is, you guessed it, an A-10.
But he wasn’t always a famed A-10 pilot, and in this TEDx Talk from 2012, then Lt. Col. Drowley talks about his first combat mission in the A-10, hearing that dreaded call of “troops in contact” come over the radio, the stress of juggling weather and terrain problems while trying to save the guys on the ground, and the relief he felt when he was successful.
Col. Mike Drowley renders his first salute to Airmen of the 355th Fighter Wing during a change of command ceremony at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., June 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force Air Force Airman 1st Class Giovanni Sims)
And he also, grippingly, tells the story of when he was sent to rescue Chief Warrant Officers David Williams and Ronald Young, Jr., Apache pilots shot down during a failed raid on Karbala, Iraq. It was a mission that didn’t go so well.
While Drowley and the other A-10 and rescue pilots were desperate to save the downed Apache crew, the fire from the ground was just too dense, and the situation was just too dangerous. He had to make the call to save his own men, bringing 40 Americans out alive even if it meant leaving those two Americans on the ground.
Historically, the military has relied on clearly defined boundaries of acceptable interaction between the officer and enlisted ranks to maintain good order and discipline.
It is a long-standing custom that dates back hundreds of years and has proven itself effective time after time. But not everyone feels it’s a custom worth holding on to.
“I think there should not be a difference between officer and enlisted ranks,” said former Air Force officer Shannon Corbeil. “I believe we should all reach rank based on experience and accomplishment.”
On the other hand, Chase Millsap — another former officer — believes the military should maintain its course because officers bring leadership experience accomplished through higher learning and training.
President Donald Trump shot down a veiled vision of peace offered by Iran’s president on July 22, 2018, to full-on threaten the Islamic Republic with historically epic confrontation — and it looks as if his administration could topple the country.
“To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE,” Trump tweeted.
“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!” he continued.
Trump was responding to statements from Rouhani, Iran’s elected political leader who serves at the pleasure of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s religious supreme leader.
In a meeting with Iranian diplomats, Rouhani offered a vision of peace with the US but also said a conflict between the two would be “the mother of all wars.”
According to Reuters, he said: “America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace, and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”
Rouhani’s statement, though balanced against the threat of massive war, actually represents a shift in Iranian foreign policy.
Iran has strongly opposed the US since its theocratic government took power in 1979, with officials chanting “death to America” in parliament. Iran’s navy has the explicit, though lofty, operational goal of destroying the US Navy.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
Trump is coming for Iran’s leadership
Rouhani, in extending a veiled olive branch, may have been acting in anticipation of an onslaught by Trump.
A new report from Reuters suggests Trump’s administration has launched a campaign designed to topple Iran’s leaders.
Several officials told Reuters that Trump would pressure Iran’s leaders with tough sanctions and an information campaign meant to erode their support.
Recent statements from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo indicate this shift has already taken place, as the US expresses its hope for the Iranian people to install a more moderate, secular government.
An Iranian woman protesting the theocratic government’s rule that all women must wear headscarves in public.
(My Stealthy Freedom آزادی یواشکی زنان در ایران / Facebook)
Iranian women rejecting the forced dress code of headscarves have become emblematic of the movement.
While European countries strongly opposed Trump’s withdrawal of the US from the Iran nuclear deal, the threat of US sanctions has successfully made Tehran a pariah in the business world.
After Trump’s withdrawal, Iran’s currency ballooned and the government imposed a set of strict financial controls on its citizens, capping the amount of foreign currency they can hold and seizing overseas accounts.
As Iran’s working class rejects the government’s foreign-policy ambitions, the upper class has had its aspirations of foreign travel or education crushed by such financial restrictions. Iran’s government has responded to protests with security forces and violence time and time again, but the unrest has continued on a regular basis in 2018.
Russia, normally a powerful ally of Iran, swiftly turned its back on Tehran, refusing to sell it air defenses even when its forces were coming under heavy fire from Israel and telling Iran’s militias to leave Syria.
Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank, told Reuters that Trump’s strategy could produce one of two outcomes.
“Outcome one is capitulation, forcing Iran to further curtail not only its nuclear program but also its regional ambitions,” Sadjadpour said. “Outcome two is the implosion of the Islamic Republic.”
The US maintains it does not seek regime change for any country, even those as antagonistic as Iran and North Korea.
Syria’s coastal city of Latakia, which hosts a large Russian naval base and military presence, has come under attack from an unclaimed missile strike that Syria attributes to Israel.
“Air defenses have confronted enemy missiles coming from the sea in the direction of the Latakia city, and intercepted a number of them,” Syrian state-run media said, according to Reuters.
Syrian officials blamed Israel for the strike, but Israel rarely takes credit for its air raids in Syria and has frequently fired missiles from outside of Syrian airspace before.
The strikes followed Israel releasing satellite images of Damascus International Airport and the palace where Syrian President Bashar Assad lives in a possible threat. Syria also blames Israel for a Sept. 16, 2018 strike on the airport.
Syria and Israel have fought wars against each other in the past and Israel has taken military measures to resist Iran’s influence and ability to transfer arms in southern Syria near Israel’s borders.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said missiles targeted ammunition depots of the technical industry institution in the eastern outskirts of Latakia, according to Reuters.
Unlike the semi-regular strikes that hit Iranians-aligned forces in southern Syria, this strike hit an area rich with Russian forces and missile defenses. In past US-led strikes, Syria has shown little proof that its air defense can actually fend off large-scale naval cruise missile strikes.
Russia recently concluded naval exercises in the Mediterranean near Latakia and maintains a consistent naval presence in the region.
So far nothing indicates Russian military bases have been targeted, but Syria-based correspondents have reported Russian air defenses operating.
Russia has, since 2015, stationed warships at Latakia and operated some of the world’s top missile defenses near Latakia. Video and photos claiming to show the air battle over Latakia show what look like massive surface to air fires with missiles streaking overhead, indicating a state military rather than a rebel or terror group.
Featured image: A video claims to show a massive missile strike in Latakia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Surrounded by carnage, one thought became crystal clear to 29-year-old Taylor Winston. He needed a truck, and he needed it now.
Winston, of Ocean Beach, was in the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival when a man opened fire from the nearby Mandalay Bay Hotel Resort and Casino on Oct. 1.
At least 59 people were killed, including San Diego attorney Jennifer T. Irvine, and hundreds more were injured.
“People were bleeding everywhere,” Winston said. “Gunshot wounds were everywhere. Legs, torsos, necks, chests, arms — just dozens of people.”
The Marine veteran knew victims needed to get to a hospital right away. He and spotted a nearby parking lot and started running toward it. He knew that festival employees often left keys in work vehicles and he was hopeful. He got lucky.
“The first one we opened had keys inside,” Winston said.
Over the next 40 minutes or so, Winston and a friend would transport between 20 and 30 critically injured people to a hospital in the commandeered truck.
“It was a lot of chaos, but within the chaos there was a lot of good being done and a lot of people rising to the occasion and helping others,” he said.
Just a couple of days removed from the Oct. 1 mass shooting, more stories from survivors, including local residents, are emerging.
Jeffrey Koishor, of San Diego, said it wasn’t until singer Jason Aldean ran off the stage that people realized they weren’t hearing fireworks, but gunshots.
Collective panic set in and people in the crowd around him dropped to the ground. Koishor threw himself over a friend, and, moments later, a piercing pain shot through his leg.
Despite being wounded, Koishor still managed to run to a nearby bar where his leg finally gave out. He was again shielding his friend when he was shot a second time. He said the left side of his body “wasn’t working” so he ran another 50 yards to cover, hopping on one leg.
“I have never ran so fast on one leg in my life,” he wrote on Facebook.
Two strangers helped him get to a hospital, which was absolute chaos, Koishor said.
“I was able to get a hold of my mother,” he wrote. “Trying to explain what happened, I just broke down crying so hard. I was so worried and (in) so much pain.”
Doctors told Koishor that one of the bullets had shattered his fibula and the other had fragmented when it hit his hip. Neither the bullet nor the fragments could be removed for fear of damaging surrounding nerve tissue.
A close friend started a GoFundMe account to help support Koishor as he continues to recover.
“Obviously I’m in pain, but I will take the pain tenfold knowing how lucky I am to be alive,” he wrote.
Some other local residents injured in the shooting have been identified, many through social media. They include: Del Mar Deputy Fire Chief Jon Blumeyer, George Sanchez, 54, of San Diego and Zack Mesker of San Marcos.
An unidentified off-duty San Diego firefighter was injured as well. The injury was not life-threatening.
Winston said he and his friends were to the right of the stage when the shooting began. People were getting hit all around them as they ran to a nearby fence. They started throwing people over the other side, eventually climbing over themselves.
Winston and a friend appropriated the truck soon after.
With gunfire continuing in the background, he and the friend hopped in the truck and started driving around picking up injured people. After driving them away from the shooting, they returned to the concert venue.
Victims were everywhere.
He soon spotted a group of his friends who had set up a makeshift medical area. Strangers were dragging victims there and others were providing emergency first aid.
He pulled up and started loading the most seriously injured into the truck.
“I think the hardest part was seeing so many people who desperately needed help and only being able to take a handful of them at a time,” he said.
It took about ten minutes to get everyone to a hospital. Once the victims were in the hands of medical professionals, Winston looked at his friend and said, “We’re going back for round two.”
Plenty of people still needed to be taken to the hospital when they returned, so they loaded a second group.
“We were looking for the most critically injured,” he said. “It was hard to gauge, but we tried to make decisions as quickly as possible to hopefully save as many people as possible.”
By the time they went back for a third trip, there were several ambulances in the area.
He said he doesn’t know if all the people he assisted survived. A couple of them were limp and unconscious by the time they got to the hospital. He said he might be reunited with some of the people he transported later this week.
“I just know I’m super fortunate,” he said. “I just wanted to help as much as possible and, in life, nothing gets done by losing your cool.”
Winston decided to stay in Las Vegas for a little while longer, to continue to try and help.
“I could have easily gone back to San Diego in my safe little area with everyone I know and forget this all happened, but I’d rather be here and help out the best I can and not run from it,” he said.
As for the truck he commandeered, he parked it sometime later and it ended up being towed. Winston and the owner were connected via social media, and they got together Oct. 2 so Taylor could return the keys.
He said they had a heart-to-heart, and the owner didn’t mind “at all” that Winston had borrowed the truck.
The A-10 Thunderbolt II, affectionately known as the Warthog, is as popular on the battlefield as it is on the internet. Hog enthusiasts love the plane for its massive 30mm rotary cannon and the iconic “BRRRRRT” sound that it makes. During the early days of its development, the Air Force played around with the concept of an all-weather and night-capable version of the Warthog.
Designated as the YA-10B N/AW, the Night/All-Weather version of the Warthog was modified from an existing A-10A and featured a number of upgrades. Among these were an advanced inertial navigation system, terrain-following radar, a low light TV camera, forward-looking infrared, and laser targeting pods. However, the YA-10B’s most obvious evolution was the addition of a second seat. Having a back-seater would allow the workload of managing so many systems to be split.
The N/AW not only offered more capability to the Air Force, but also made the aircraft more appealing from an export standpoint. Some countries were interested in purchasing the N/AW for use in littoral brown water and coastal anti-piracy operations. Testing of the modified platform occurred from 1979 to 1980 with exceptional results. The aircraft excelled in adverse weather conditions and could carry out night attacks with deadly precision. However, the cost of adapting the A-10 to the N/AW variant was too high for the Air Force sign off on.
Initially, Air Force brass wanted to add the modular LANTIRN night targeting navigational system to the A-10A. While this killed off the two-seater A-10, the concept did not come to fruition. Instead, the F-16 Block 40 received the system and the Air Force called it a day. However, thanks to its precision engagement package and pilot-mounted NVGs, the modern A-10C now boasts night attack capabilities.
Unfortunately, despite its success on the battlefield, the A-10 is under constant threat of extinction. Modernization efforts like the night capabilities of the C-variant have extended the life of the aircraft, but Air Force brass continue to push multi-role aircraft like the F-35 Lightning II to replace it. Perhaps the two-seater A-10 would have further highlighted the necessity of a dedicated ground-attack platform. The world may never know. Today, the only two-seater A-10 is on display at Edwards Air Force Base in Southern California.
Mitch is a Marine Corps veteran that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. He then started a career in manufacturing before realizing that it sucked. Now, Mitch has found his true calling in acting silly on a stage in front of strangers on a nightly basis. To follow Mitch or check out one of his shows visit his website: Mitchburrow.com.
The US Commander of Naval Forces in Europe has warned CNN in an interview that Russian submarine activity has reached levels not seen since the Cold War.
Speaking of the spread of submarines, their aggression, buildup, and capabilities, Admiral Mark Ferguson warned that the situation could pose serious problems for NATO in the coming years.
“The submarines that we’re seeing are much more stealthy,” Ferguson told CNN. “We’re seeing (the Russians) have more advanced weapons systems, missile systems that can attack land at long ranges, and we also see their operating proficiency is getting better as they range farther from home waters.”
Ferguson’s concerns echo those raised by NATO Vice Admiral Clive Johnstone, who told IHS Jane’s 360 in February that Russian increase has once again made the North Atlantic a primary area “of concern” to the military alliance.
Additionally, the admiral warned that such levels of Russian activity are nearly unprecedented.
There is now more reported “activity from Russian submarines than we’ve seen since the days of the Cold War,” Johnstone told Jane’s.
And it is not just the number of Russian submarines in a previously uncontested area that has NATO concerned. Although Russia’s navy suffered strongly after the fall of the USSR, Moscow’s submarine forces continued to stay effective.
Playing to its strengths, the Kremlin has successfully continued to focus on its submarine forces through both an effort to modernize and professionalize that segment of the Navy.
US Navy Rear Adm. Dave Johnson said, during a 2014 symposium at the Naval Submarine League, that he was so impressed by the new Russian nuclear guided missile submarine Severodvinsk that he had a model of the submarine built from unclassified data.
“The rest of the world’s undersea capability never stands still,” Johnson said.
Johnstone echoed these comments from Johnson to Jane’s. Russia, in his view, has made “technology leaps that [are] remarkable, and credit to them.”
And retired Admiral James Stavridis, a former NATO supreme allied commander, told CNN that “Russian subs pose an existential threat to U.S. carrier groups,” as the US can no longer maintain “100% awareness of Russian sub activity.”
This sudden Russian expansion is additionally deeply troubling to NATO due to a lack of knowledge about what Moscow’s potential plans may be. This, coupled with Russia’s perceived willingness to interfere in Ukraine and other neighboring states, has unnerved NATO members.
“Just outside NATO’s territory we face major challenges that could have direct consequences for Norwegian and allied security,” Norwegian Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Soreide writes. Norway has increased military spending by 9.4% for 2016.
The US has also slated an increase in funds for submarines. Over the next five years, the Pentagon is hoping to have $13 billion for submarine research, development, and procurement.
We’ve all seen them before. The cans, small shots, and uniquely packaged energy drinks that promise to give you an energy boost during the most important parts of your day. At first glance, it seems like a great idea: chug it down and get reinvigorated for the day. But, if you go beyond wanting to simply stay alert and begin to overindulge, you could wind up doing some serious harm to your body.
Energy drinks became the beverage of choice for many service members during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Walter Reed Army Institute of Research analyzed data collected during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2010 and found nearly 45 percent of deployed service members consumed at least one energy drink daily. Nearly 14 percent reported drinking three or more per day.
Many of the most popular energy drinks are heavily marketed to young people, including military members. The marketing is sexy, the packaging is slick, the flavors are sweet like fruit drinks children crave, and the beverages are readily available on military bases and down range.
But, there are real reasons to avoid overusing energy drinks.
Energy drinks can cause drastic side effects
Energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, and too much of it isn’t good for you. Dr. Patricia Deuster, professor and director of the Consortium for Health and Military Performance at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, warns service members to avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine every four hours. That means service members should add up the caffeine in their energy drinks, plus any other caffeinated beverages they may drink, like coffee and soft drinks.
“If it’s got more than 200 mg of caffeine, don’t use it,” cautions Deuster.
Deuster also warns female service members to be cautious about using energy drinks, noting the amount of caffeine you ingest relative to body weight is an issue for women. “Women get a higher concentration [of caffeine] since they tend to be smaller,” she said.
“Doctors don’t know what the effects of [energy drink] ingredients are in larger doses,” Deuster noted. “I don’t think anybody has an answer to the long term effects question.”
High amounts of caffeine can lead to increased blood pressure, panic attacks, heart palpitations, anxiety, dehydration, insomnia, and even bowel irritability when energy drinks are mixed with alcohol.
What is clear is consumers need to be more aware about what they’re putting in their bodies when it comes to energy drinks.
Energy drinks can activate your sweet tooth
Energy drinks are loaded with sugar. Some cans pack a punch of 27 grams of sugar — two thirds of the recommended daily maximum for men, and 2 grams more than the maximum doctors recommend for women. Some service members can double or even triple that if they drink more than one energy drink per day.
All of that extra sugar can cause your blood sugar to increase. Even the sugar-free versions of energy drinks can lead to weight gain, as research suggests artificial sweeteners may raise blood sugar, too.
Your body can also begin storing fat, especially if you’re unable to increase physical activity.
Energy drinks + alcohol = a dangerous cocktail
Energy drinks have become popular mixers for alcohol, raising concerns for health experts.
“A lot of the young people mix energy drinks with alcoholic beverages, then you’ve got a wide awake drunk,” says Deuster.
The CDC warns that when alcoholic beverages are mixed with energy drinks, the caffeine stimulant can mask the effects of the alcohol, which is a depressant. Often, the person drinking doesn’t even realize that they’re actually drunk. According to the CDC, that means people who mix alcohol with energy drinks are three times more likely to binge drink than those who don’t mix alcohol with energy drinks. Experts warn motor skills can be affected and some people engage in riskier behaviors while under the influence of alcohol and energy drinks. Additionally, both caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which can cause dehydration if you’re not careful.
Some companies sell pre-mixed alcoholic energy drinks which have the same sweet or tart flavors as standard energy drinks. As the Army notes, the alcohol content in these beverages can be significantly higher than what’s found in beer.
These energy drinks with alcohol may appeal to underage drinkers because they’re cheaper than hard liquor and they’re marketed with a message that the drinker can last all day or all night long. The sugary nature of the beverages also makes drinkers feel they can imbibe longer than if they were having harder alcohol.
Energy drinks can ruin your good night’s sleep
Deuster raises concerns about a problem in the military with energy drinks and sleep. And, the data back up those concerns. While service members may initially use energy drinks to make up for a lack of sleep, overuse can lead to a harmful cycle. Excess consumption of energy drinks can cause sleep problems and hamper performance.
Dr. Nancy J. Wesensten, from the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neurosciences Research, tells Army Medicine that research on caffeine shows that it can be effective if used properly. However, Wesensten notes “because caffeine impairs sleep, individuals should stop all caffeine consumption at least 6 hours prior to scheduled sleep. Otherwise, sleep could be impaired without the person even being aware of it.”
As caffeine is the major ingredient in energy drinks, the CDC reports service members who drink three or more of the drinks per day were significantly more likely to report sleeping fewer than four hours per night. They were also more likely to report disrupted sleep and other illnesses. Lack of sleep can impact memory and a service member’s ability to pay attention when it matters most. Research indicates service members who drank three or more energy drinks each day also had difficulty staying awake during briefings or on guard duty.
The Army’s Performance Triad offer tips on how to get a better night’s sleep, including controlling light and temperature, as well as leaders ensuring service members have time for quality sleep.
You really don’t know what’s in them
These drinks are not regulated as dietary supplements. While the cans have nutrition labels, many do not list supplement information.
One area that’s concerning to Deuster is the ingredient taurine. The chemical compound is an amino acid found in animal tissue. Many manufacturers purport the ingredient will enhance mental and physical performance. Researchers with the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center report little is actually is known about taurine’s neuroendocrine effects.
So, what should service members use instead of energy drinks?
Deuster keeps it simple: “Good old water.” Appealing to service members’ frugality, she adds,
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Deficiencies in Afghanistan’s security forces, including the military and police, are getting renewed attention as the US administration considers sending more than 3,000 additional troops to the country.
President Donald Trump held talks on Sept. 21 with his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York City, where both expressed optimism about the planned increase in US troop numbers.
The US has spent $70 billion training Afghan forces since 2002 and is still spending more than $4 billion a year, according to a report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, published on Sept. 21.
Despite those sums, Afghan security forces are struggling to prevent advances by Taliban fighters, more than 16 years after the US invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban government that gave al-Qaeda the sanctuary where it plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
According to US estimates, government forces control less than 60 percent of Afghanistan, with almost half the country either contested or under the control of fighters.
The report said US forces focused on carrying out military operations during the initial years after the 2001 invasion, rather than developing the Afghan army and police.
When the US and NATO did look to develop the security forces, they did so with little input from senior Afghan officials, according to the report.
“The report does not surprise us. We’ve been hearing about these irregularities for many years now, and many here in Afghanistan have witnessed it,” Habib Wardak, an Afghan security specialist, told Al Jazeera from Kabul.
“When the idea of creating the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) came up, it was a rapid building up of the army. The government was recruiting anyone from militias to warlords.
“In 2010 and 2011, the focus was on building the capabilities of assets. We’ve seen a helicopter pilots going in and teaching Afghan security forces how to battle insurgency, which is ridiculous.
“You have a military which is fighting the war, but no one is raising questions that at what cost is the Afghan army fighting the Taliban.”
At one point, the report said, training for Afghan police officials used PowerPoint slides from US and NATO operations in the Balkans.
“The presentations were not only of questionable relevance to the Afghan setting, but also overlooked the high levels of illiteracy among the police,” the report said.
John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, said that one US officer watched TV shows such as Cops and NCIS to understand what to teach Afghan officials.
He said the US approach to Afghanistan lacked a “whole of government approach” in which different agencies, such as the state department and Pentagon, coordinate efforts.
The inability of embassy officials in Kabul to venture far outside their secure compound also affected oversight and coordination, he said.
“The rules of engagement what President Trump is talking about might be able to contain Taliban up to certain extent, but it’s not the Afghan army in true essence that will be able to contain or confine the Taliban and not let them advance,” Wardak told Al Jazeera.
Afghan police and army units in 2015 took over from NATO the task of providing security for the country.
According to SIGAR, 6,785 Afghan soldiers and police officers were killed between January 1 and November 12, 2016, with another 11,777 wounded.
Even those partial numbers showed an increase of about 35 percent from all of 2015 when some 5,000 security forces were killed.
Still, Sopko credited the Afghans for “fighting hard and improving in many ways”, but stressed the US and NATO have to do a better job helping them.
Pan flute music like an old-time kung fu movie drifts serenely through the recreation room of the Milwaukee VA’s Spinal Cord Injury Center. Zibin Guo talks of swaying breezes, mountain streams, and the peaceful but powerful force of nature.
“Still… like a mountain,” he says. “Flow… like water.”
The group follows his every move from their chairs, pivoting wheels as he turns on foot. This new twist on an ancient martial art, Guo says, will play a big role in the modern-day treatment of pain and post-traumatic stress, even cutting down on opioids and other painkillers.
The three-day wheelchair tai chi seminar for health care workers from the Milwaukee and Madison VA Medical Centers; Appleton, Wisconsin, Clinic; and community hospitals, is part of Guo’s nationwide tour to teach more instructors, collect data and prove tai chi works.
Guo, a medical anthropologist from the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, has received more than 0,000 from the Adaptive Sports Grant Program, and has already traveled to 24 VA medical centers. He hopes to get to 24 more by next year.
The grant program, managed by the National Veterans Sports Program and Special Events Office, provides million annually to support studies and adaptive sports for disabled veterans. Guo said his goal is to promote a way to rethink western rehabilitative medicine, based on bodily functions of eastern philosophy.
“There is a mental clarity that comes from tai chi, which then creates physical benefits for the whole body,” he said.
“For some people,” he added, “this can be psychological. If someone is in a wheelchair, they may see themselves as disabled and are labeled that way. When you are labeled as disabled, you become disabled.
“Wheelchair tai chi transforms the idea of the wheelchair into something else. Now, it’s no longer just for transporting from one place to another. You use it to create power and beauty, integrating the chair movements with tai chi.”
Guo said some VAs have already learned the healing benefits while others are just starting to add tai chi to their repertoire.
“Especially now as VA is building up its Whole Health program nationwide, I hope we are going to see more of these types of offerings,” he said.
Milwaukee was one of the first VAs to offer tai chi. Its polytrauma department started it in 2012 with another grant from the Adaptive Sports Program. Guo’s techniques provided a different perspective, said Dr. Judith Kosasih, lead physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
“I knew when we started this seven years ago it was going to be valuable, and I believe in it,” she said. “Right now, we teach tai chi fundamentals, but he gives us a completely different perspective, with more movement, even in a wheelchair.”
Kosasih first started tai chi in Milwaukee, believing it would help with Parkinson’s Disease and pain.
Zibin Guo leads health care workers through one of his tai chi routines. He first taught the group standing up and then in wheelchairs. Guo believes regular tai chi can significantly help treat post-traumatic stress and reduce the use of painkillers.
“The practice helps you relax, helps you sleep better. When you sleep better, you will feel better,” she said. “I guarantee it improves endurance, balance, memory, and you will be able to stand longer. It gives our veterans skills and empowers them to develop this and get better.”
It’s also a gateway to health for those who can’t afford other sports.
Guo said: “Paralympics and wheelchair rugby and basketball is great but think about how much just one of those chairs costs. The average person doesn’t have a chance. One percent can get the specialized chair and 99 percent can’t. Wheelchair tai chi gives people self-empowerment. You don’t need a special chair.
“There are so many physical benefits,” he added. “A lot of studies have already demonstrated that the nature of the movements is so unique, and the circular motion creates powerful circulation in the body. It’s not just the blood, but the energy, and that treats a wide range of problems without drugs — it treats pain, it treats headaches. There are so many benefits.”
Besides teaching others how to teach the class, he is asking them to compile data to prove his point. He pointed to one veteran in Tennessee, who said she used tai chi to drastically cut down on painkillers.
Zarita Croney, an Afghanistan veteran, suffered from post-traumatic stress, three bulging discs, one eroded disc and intermittent paralysis, plus a host of other issues.
“I had to have a huge purse just for all my meds. You’d look inside and see nothing but pill bottles.” While still in the military, she said she cycled through an array of pain medications. “I’d have to lay in bed for three hours, just waiting for the medicine to work,” she said.
Croney spiraled into depression until she reached out to the Tennessee Valley Health Care System for mental health. Her VA recommended recreation therapy, including the tai chi Guo promotes.
“The first time in tai chi, they had to wheel me there in a wheelchair,” she said. “The first few visits, I couldn’t get through the whole class. Then I start getting more range of motion. My instructor said, ‘Even if you can’t do it, see yourself doing it in your mind.’ And as you go along, your body does catch up with what the mind is doing.
“I went from visiting the emergency room at least once a month to get shot up with morphine, to walking with a cane, and sometimes without the cane. I’ve cut out about three-fourths of the pills I was on,” she said. “With all these things, it’s a battle every day, but tai chi gave me the foundation.”
Guo says this is nothing new to him.
“Pain symptoms are very complex and not just physical. The symptoms of stress, tension, or anger and bad emotions, that creates chemicals in the brain that stimulate pain,” he said. “Tai chi not only relaxes, it promotes healing.”
Leanne Young, a recreation therapist from the San Francisco VA Health Care System, said she is excited to see tai chi and other eastern philosophies gain more acceptance, because it plays into what she and other therapists have been doing for years.
“This is definitely time for this,” she said. “I think most people want to see evidence-based practice and data. They want to see research. Many things recreation therapists have done — not just tai chi, but in general — hasn’t always been recognized because there isn’t always research that supports the benefits.
“I really feel tai chi is a whole mind-body thing, and that really works. Your brain ends up telling your body what to do. It’s mindfulness, and to me, it’s a state of mind which affects your body and your pain reduction.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Cold War saw both sides of the Iron Curtain come up with new ways to inflict a nuclear apocalypse on one another — always in the hope that these methods would serve more so as a deterrent than a call to war.
Among the myriad bombs and missiles designed in the United States to counter the surging Soviet missile program was the Supersonic Low Altitude Missile, arguably the most destructive missile system ever conceived in the history of modern warfare.
Designed by Vought in the late 1950s, SLAM was theorized as a viable alternative to nuclear-tipped missiles and bombers, which were slow enough (at the time) to be intercepted and shot down by Soviet air defense systems. Created as part of Project Pluto, which was established to develop new engines for cruise missiles, SLAM quickly became the most advanced weapons project the US military had ever undertaken.
Pluto’s real mission was to create nuclear engines for missiles, giving them a nearly unlimited range and the ability to reach any target around the world after being deployed from American launch sites. When equipped with a Pluto-originated engine, a SLAM could literally fly 113,000 miles without stopping — that’s more than four times around the equator with enough gas in the tank left for more flying.
It would carry dozens of small hydrogen bombs in canisters inside its fuselage, and would also be given a terrain contour matching (TERCOM) radar, allowing it to fly close to the earth in order to avoid enemy radar detection.
SLAM would be launched using rocket boosters, pushing the sleek missile up to its cruising altitude so that it could activate its ramjet engine. Once the boosters fell away, the nuclear ramjet would power up, allowing it to loiter indefinitely at high speeds while waiting for the order to attack.
And when that order came, all hell would break loose.
Once the attack order was transmitted to a SLAM, it would descend down to less than 300 ft over land, flying at supersonic speeds while wreaking havoc with its sonic shockwaves, destroying anything that wasn’t hardened or sheltered along the way.
Along the way, SLAM could attack between 14 to 26 targets, releasing one thermonuclear warhead for each objective from compartments on top of the missile while it accelerated away to find its next target. And when SLAM exhausted its nuclear payload, it would become a weapon on its own, flying into the ground and catastrophically melting down its own reactor, further irradiating the area around it.
By the mid-1960s, the project was scrapped. The advent of improved intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could be launched from land bases or submarines, rendered developing the SLAM moot. Once launched, ICBMs were virtually unstoppable, while a SLAM could still hypothetically be shot down.
That, and the SLAM was considered just too destructive. In addition to effecting a nuclear annihilation upon all of Eastern Europe and a hefty chunk of communist-controlled Asia, the missile would also release toxic waste into the atmosphere, potentially contaminating the area above the United States and its allies.
The missile couldn’t even be tested, since it was simply too dangerous. What if the nuclear engine failed in-flight, or the guidance system washed out and it flew over allied territory? Thousands upon thousands would be given a lethal dose of radiation as a result.
Rising costs were the final nail in SLAM’s coffin, ending it and Project Pluto for good in the summer of 1964. Apparently, there really is a thing as too deadly when it comes to weapons of war!
For a narrated visualization of this missile’s concept, check out the below video, created by Convair during the competition bid to build what would eventually become SLAM:
These days, it seems like countries don’t invade each other like they used to. It just seems like they’d rather do small, covert raids or just outright overthrow a hostile government.
Countries do still invade one another. Ethiopia invaded Somalia in 2006. Israel invaded Lebanon that same year. America invaded Iraq because… well, just because. But the world’s most recent invasions weren’t really conducted with the idea of actually annexing territory.
Still, there are plenty of powder kegs out there: India vs. Pakistan, Iran vs. Saudi Arabia, or China vs. all of its neighbors. And then there’s the Korean Peninsula – the most volatile country vs. country situation in the world.
After almost 70 years of animosity, a constant state of war (there was never a real end of the war, only an armistice… and North Korea pulled out of that in 2013), and the continued acts of violence between the two, here’s a situation that could blow up at any time.
It’s actually that threat of widespread mutual destruction that keeps the conflict from boiling over. The 1950-1953 Korean War was a disaster for both sides, and that fact is largely what drives North Korean military policy. It’s what keeps the people supporting the regime: animosity toward the U.S. and South Korea.
North Koreans either remember the war firsthand or through the stories from their grandparents. Fighting between North and South Korean forces was particularly brutal and as a result, there is no reason to believe either side would pull punches today.
“Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984.
Both countries have significant military power. South Korea has one of the most powerful militaries in the world, with 3.5 million troops. North Korea has 5 million troops with another 5 million who can fight in a protracted war. The North Korean Songun policy means the military comes first in terms of food, fuel, and other materials before any are given to the population at large. Mandatory conscription (for a 10-year enlistment) means that most North Koreans have some form of military experience.
The North also boasts 605 combat aircraft and 43 naval missile boats, but the (North) Korean People’s Air Force’s most numerous fighter is the subsonic MiG-21, which first debuted in 1953. Their latest model is the aging MiG-29, and it dates back to the 1970s. And they’re all armed with Vietnam War-era ordnance.
In terms of military technology, North Korea’s pales in comparison to the South. South Korea is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world.
The South’s GDP is 50 times greater than the North’s and they spend almost five times as much as North Korea on defense. Since it can’t keep up in traditional combat arms, the North is beefing up its unconventional warfare capabilities, including chemical and nuclear weapons, along with the ballistic missiles to deliver them. It can’t deliver the weapons by air because their antiquated air forces would be easy pickings for the U.S. F-22 Raptor squadron on the Peninsula.
The North is also hampered in terms of alliances. During the Korean War, the Korean Communists were pushed all the way to the Yalu River. It was only after the Chinese intervened with massive manpower and materiel that the Communists were able to form any kind of counterattack. Chinese intervention for the North these days is questionable at best, given its extensive overseas economic ties.
In fact, it might even be in China’s best interest to invade North Korea itself, to give a buffer zone between China and a collapsed North Korean government or worse, U.S. troops right on the border.
Whereas South Korea maintains a tight alliance with the United States, who has 30,000 troops of their own stationed there, 3,800 in Japan, and 5,700 on Guam, along with significant air and naval forces in the region.
A North Korean attack on the South would give the north a slight advantage in surprise and initiative… for a few days. Allied forces will respond instantly, but the North will still have the initiative.
Retired Army General James Marks estimates they would have that initiative for four days at most. When the first war was launched across the Demilitarized Zone, the DMZ wasn’t quite as defended as it is today. No one was expecting the attack and the bulk of U.S. forces had been withdrawn to Japan.
Today, an assault across the 38th parallel (the North-South border, along which the lines are divided) is tantamount to slow, grinding, probably explosive death.
North Korea will open with artillery and rocket fire from positions on the North slopes of the mountains just across the border. The North has the world’s largest artillery force with 10,000 pieces in their arsenal. The bulk of these forces are at the border, with much of the rest around Pyongyang and near Nampo, the site of their electricity-producing dam.
It is likely that the South Korean capital of Seoul, just 35 miles from the border, would be the first target and would be devastated in the opening salvos. With the artillery on the North side, hidden in the mountains, there would be little warning of an attack and U.S. and South Korean air forces would have trouble penetrating the North Korean air defenses.
Air operations would be tricky because the North keeps tight interlocking lines of antiaircraft guns and surface-to-air missile systems. Pyongyang itself is a “fortress.” North Korean special operations forces would be inserted via submarines along both coasts and through tunnels dug under the DMZ (many have been found in previous years).
The North would also activate sleeper agents in the South to direct missile and artillery fire. South Korean intelligence estimates up to 200,000 special operators are in the North Korean military, trained to fight Taliban-like insurgencies.
The U.S. air assets in the area will establish air superiority over the region, destroy air defenses, attempt to take out the artillery and missile batteries, and then destroy Northern command and control elements.
Allied airpower will target infrastructure like bridges and roads, especially the unification highway linking the capital at Pyongyang with the border, to keep Northern forces from being able to move effectively inside their own country. The U.S. would also make humanitarian air drops outside of major cities to draw noncombatants out of the cities and make targeting regime figures much easier.
After the conventional fighting, the question is if North Korea will use its nuclear weapons. It is estimated to have up to eight weapons and ballistic missile technology capable of reaching U.S. and South Korean forces in the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and all the way to Guam.
However, experts cannot confirm that the North has ever successfully used a warhead on any of its missiles. If the North does use its nuclear arsenal, nuclear retaliation from the U.S. isn’t a forgone conclusion, especially if U.S. forces have the opportunity to destroy most of the North’s nuclear weapons.
A recent Pentagon war game against the fictional country of “North Brownland,” a country whose dynastic family regime had nuclear weapons that had to be recovered during a regime collapse, found that U.S. troops didn’t fare well in retrieving those weapons. V-22 Osprey aircraft were cut off from the rest of the allied forces and surrounded by the enemy.
The result was the United States would have to fight through the countryside to the North’s estimated 100 nuclear-related sites. In all, it took the U.S. 46 days and 90,000 troops to secure those weapons.
In the end, the North – despite some early successes – would lose. They would be able to inflict massive devastation with conventional weapons in Seoul and near the border areas. The toll on civilians would likely be massive if they used their biological and chemical stockpiles, and even more so if they used the nuclear arsenal. Special forces would likely detonate their nukes in the border areas for fear of being caught trying to move South.
The U.S. would quickly establish air superiority while ground forces bypassed the heavily defended DMZ area. Once the artillery and missile batteries were taken out, the advanced technology, mobile armor, helicopter support, and airpower would quickly overwhelm the large infantry formations and their associated WWII-era tactics. The hardest part of subduing North Korea would be unifying the Korean people and taking care of the North’s backward and likely starving populace.
The hardest part of subduing North Korea would be unifying the Korean people and taking care of the North’s backward and likely starving populace.
The U.S. and South Korean governments might want to just keep the North at bay instead of overrunning the government completely. A 2013 RAND Corporation research paper estimated the cost of unification to be upwards of $2 trillion dollars. This is not only to pay for the
This is not only to pay for the war but for food for the population and the restoration of all the infrastructure the Kim regime neglected over the past sixty-plus years. Gen. Marks believes the North and South will continue to only use short, contained attacks on each other, making a full-scale war unlikely.