Harrowing video posted to Twitter shows Royal Australian Air Force pilots navigating through a thick haze of orange smoke that prevented them from completing rescue missions in the bushfire-plagued towns of Mallacoota and Merimbula.
As of Tuesday morning local time, there were over 130 fires burning across the country, the worst of which are burning in the states of New South Wales and Victoria.
Australia’s air force commander, Air Vice-Marshal Joe Iervasi, posted a video of the horrifying conditions that pilots are facing as they attempt rescue missions into towns and areas devastated by the disaster.
Australia’s Navy on Friday began evacuating some of the thousands of tourists and residents still trapped in Mallacoota because conditions on land were so dire.
But Iervasi’s video demonstrated that smokey conditions also made it challenging to conduct rescue missions from the air.
“Our people are highly trained professional, but not always able to complete the mission on first try,” he wrote.
On Monday local time, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged a billion bushfire recovery fund, which will assist in rebuilding devastated areas over the next two years.
“This money will go towards supporting small businesses, supporting local councils, providing mental health support, investment in social and economic infrastructure, as well as providing environmental protection and protection for native wildlife, which has been so badly hit by these tragic fires,” Morrison said at a press conference.
Celebrities have also pledged and raised millions of dollars for relief efforts, though rescue missions on the ground remain challenging and dangerous.
Weather conditions have been increasingly hot and dry in some areas, breaking heat records, which exacerbate fire conditions.
Bushfires have also now become so big that they are generating their own weather through pyrocumulonimbus clouds, which create their own thunderstorms that can start more fires. And two major fires burning on either side of the Victoria-New South Wales border are inching closer to one another, which may result in what officials are calling a ‘megablaze‘ that could balloon to 1.2 million acres in size.
Additionally, thick blankets of smoke from nearby fires have filled major cities, including Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra with hazardous air.
“The fires are still burning and they will be burning for months to come,” Morrison told reporters on Monday.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
The Air Force’s stealthy long-range bomber will have the endurance and next-generation stealth capability to elude the most advanced existing air defenses and attack anywhere in the world, if needed, senior service officials said.
When the Air Force recently revealed its first artist rendering of what its new Long Range Strike – Bomber looks like, service Secretary Deborah James made reference to plans to engineer a bomber able to elude detection from even the best, most cutting-edge enemy air defenses.
“Our 5th generation global precision attack platform will give our country a networked sensor shooter capability enabling us to hold targets at risk anywhere in the world in a way that our adversaries have never seen,” James said when revealing the image.
James added that the new bomber will be able to “play against the real threats.”
The new bomber, called the B-21, will soon be named through a formal naming competition involving members of the Air Force, their families and other participants.
The Air Force has awarded a production contract to Northrop Grumman to engineer and its new bomber. The LRS-B will be a next-generation stealth aircraft designed to introduce new stealth technology and fly alongside – and ultimately replace – the service’s existing B-2 bomber.
“With LRS-B, I can take off from the continental United States and fly for a very long way. I don’t have to worry about getting permission to land at another base and worry about having somebody try to target the aircraft. It will provide a long-reach capability,” Lt. Gen. Bunch, Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
The service plans to field the new bomber by the mid-2020s. The Air Force plans to acquire as many as 80 to 100 new bombers for a price of roughly $550 million per plane in 2010 dollars, Air Force leaders have said.
Although there is not much publically available information when it comes to stealth technology, industry sources have explained that the LRS-B is being designed to elude the world’s most advanced radar systems.
For instance, lower-frequency surveillance radar allows enemy air defenses to know that an aircraft is in the vicinity, and higher-frequency engagement radar allows integrated air defenses to target a fast-moving aircraft. The concept with the new bomber is to engineer a next-generation stealth configuration able to evade both surveillance and engagement radar technologies.
The idea is to design a bomber able to fly, operate and strike anywhere in the world without an enemy even knowing an aircraft is there. This was the intention of the original B-2 bomber, which functioned in that capacity for many years, until technological advances in air defense made it harder for it to avoid detection completely.
The new aircraft is being engineered to evade increasingly sophisticated air defenses, which now use faster processors, digital networking and sensors to track even stealthy aircraft on a wider range of frequencies at longer ranges.
Stealth technology works by engineering an aircraft with external contours and heat signatures designed to elude detection from enemy radar systems.
At the same time, advanced in air defense technologies are also leading developers to look at stealth configurations as merely one arrow in the quiver of techniques which can be employed to elude enemy defenses, particulalry in the case of future fighter aircraft. New stealthy aircraft will also likely use speed, long-range sensors and manueverability as additional tactics intended to evade enemy air defenses – in addition to stealth because stealth configurations alone will increasingly be more challenged as technology continues to advance.
However, stealth technology is itself advancing – and it is being applied to the B-21, according to senior Air Force leaders who naturally did not wish to elaborate on the subject.
“As the threat evolves we will be able to evolve the airplane and we will still be able to hold any target at risk” Bunch said.
Although the new image of LRS-B does look somewhat like the existing B-2, Air Force officials maintain the new bomber’s stealth technology will far exceed the capabilities of the B-2.
U.S. Air Force
At the same time, the B-2 is being upgraded with a new technology called Defensive Management System, a system which better enables the B-2 to know the location of enemy air defenses.
Prior to awarding the contract to Northrop, the Air Force worked closely with a number of defense companies as part of a classified research and technology phase. So far, the service has made a $1 billion technology investment in the bomber.
“We’ve set the requirements, and we’ve locked them down. We set those requirements (for the LRS-B) so that we could meet them to execute the mission with mature technologies,” Bunch said.
The Long Range Strike-Bomber will be built upon what the Air Force calls an “open systems architecture,” an engineering technique which designs the platform in a way that allows it to quickly integrate new technologies as they emerge.
“We’re building this with an open mission systems architecture. As technology advances and the threat changes, we can build upon the structure. I can take one component out and put another component in that addresses the threat. I have the ability to grow the platform,” Bunch explained.
Air Force leaders have said the aircraft will likely be engineered to fly unmanned missions as well as manned missions.
The new aircraft will be designed to have global reach, in part by incorporating a large arsenal of long-range weapons. The LRS-B is being engineered to carry existing weapons as well as nuclear bombs and emerging and future weapons, Air Force officials explained.
“We’re going to have a system that will be able to evolve for the future. It will give national decision authorities a resource that they will be able to use if needed to hold any target that we need to prosecute at risk,” Bunch said.
In what many have defined as an upset victory, the United States Air Force announced the selection of the MH-139, to replace its fleet of UH-1N “Huey” helicopters. A 375M USD firm-fixed-price contract for the non-developmental item integration of four aircraft was awarded on Sept. 14, 2018. If all options are exercised the programme is valued at $2.4 billion for up to 84 helicopters, training devices, and associated support equipment until 2031.
The new choppers, based on the Leonardo AW139 and offered by Boeing as prime contractor, are expected to reach the IOC (initial operational capability) in 2021 (this is what Leonardo claims in its press release even though it appears a bit optimistic considered that the Lockheed Martin and Sierra Nevada, both offering UH-60 Black Hawk variants, may contest the award) when they will replace the old Huey taking over the role of protecting the America’s ICBM missile silos as well as VIP transportation and utility tasks.
(Boeing / Leonardo)
The MH-139 leverages the market-leading Leonardo AW139 baseline, a modern, non-developmental, multi-mission helicopter that is in service with 270 governments, militaries and companies across the world. According to Leonardo, over 900 AW139s are already in service with 260 assembled and delivered from Philadelphia, where the U.S. Air Force’s MH-139 will be assembled.
The HH-139A also features a secure communications suite, integrated defensive aids suite, hoist, search light, wire cutters, cargo hook, loudspeaker system, and emergency floatation gear and any other equipment required to perform “convetional” search and rescue, as well as Combat SAR missions.
The Italian Air Force helicopter can do also something else. Since they can carry a bambi bucket they can perform aerial firefighting activity. Beginning in 2018, the Italian HH-139A belonging to the 82° Centro CSAR (Combat SAR Center) from Trapani have carried out firefighting tasks in Sicily.
Feature image: Boeing MH-139.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
In April 1944, an intrepid pilot swooped into the jungle in Burma and scooped up three wounded British soldiers and began to fly them out. It would have been a grand escape, a small part of the growing story of air ambulances in World War II. But this story isn’t about that pilot, Tech Sgt. Ed Hladovcak.
An L-1A Vigilant similar to the plane piloted by Tech. Sgt. Ed Hladovcak before he went down.
They were alone behind enemy lines. Low-flying planes of the 1st Air Commando Group, of which Hladovcak was a member, found the struggling survivors. But while the air commandos had planes specially made for jungle and short airstrip operations, even those planes couldn’t get the four men out of the jungle they were in. So the order was given to send in a YR-4B, the first military production helicopter.
The YR-4B was an experimental aircraft, but it worked and went into production. The early models had bomb racks and were used in a variety of combat trials while the later R-4 had the racks stripped off. There were so few helicopter pilots in the world in 1944 that there was only one qualified pilot in the China-Burma-India Theater: 1st Lt. Carter Harman.
1st Lt. Carter Harman, standing at left, and other members of the 1st Air Commando Group medical evacuation mission.
(U.S. Air Force)
Harman had joined the Air Corps to avoid being drafted into the infantry, but fate steered him into helicopter flight. Despite Harman’s martial misgivings, he took to the “whirlybirds” and became just the seventh Army pilot to fly a helicopter solo. When he shipped to India, he was the only one who could fly the “eggbeater.”
And he was needed 600 miles away, over mountains and through thin air which his helicopter could barely traverse, as fast as possible if the four men on the ground were going to get away without being captured or killed by the Japanese troops already searching for them.
Harman packed the YR-4B with extra fuel and took off on a marathon flight, hopping through the terrain until he reached a jungle airstrip known as “Aberdeen.” Then, despite the jungle air inhibiting the performance of his air-cooled engine and the lift of his rotors, he took off over the trees.
A liaison airplane, one of those models built to perform in the jungle, led Harman to the downed airmen. But thanks to that jungle air mentioned above, Harman could only lift one patient at a time. So, he landed April 24 and spoke to Hladovcak, and Hladovcak helped load a British soldier. It was Hladovcak’s first time seeing a helicopter.
Harman carried him and then a second British soldier back to Aberdeen and came back for the third man, but his engine gave out under the strain. He was forced to land on a small sandbank as Japanese troops prowled the nearby jungle, searching for him. Alone behind enemy lines, Harman slowly repaired his engine. On the morning of April 25, he was back in the air.
He quickly got the third British soldier to a waiting liaison plane and then pulled out Hladovcak, flying his 1st Air Commando counterpart to Aberdeen. Harman would later receive the Distinguished Flying Cross for his actions. This and other rescues in World War II proved the value of helicopter evacuation, leading to its extensive use in Korea and then Vietnam.
It was there, in the jungles of Vietnam, that the helicopter cemented its place in military aviation. It didn’t just serve medical evacuation; it was used extensively to move supplies and troops, and Bell Helicopters sold the Army its first dedicated attack helicopter, the AH-1 Cobra.
April is a great month to remember the namesake of one of our Pearl Harbor guided-missile destroyers, USS John Paul Jones, named for a founding hero of our Navy and proudly known by the crew and their families and friends as “JPJ.”
On April 19, 1775, the Battles of Lexington and Concord lit the match of Revolution against British tyranny. At the time Great Britain had more than 250 warships with nearly half having 50 or more guns – cannons. Our tiny naval force consisted of a few ragtag privateers and some humble sailing vessels. Even before our nation began, the founders commissioned 13 frigates and recruited warfighters, including immigrants like John Paul Jones.
In April 1776, Jones was aboard the large converted merchant ship Alfred, taking the fight against the British with a contingent of Continental Marines. On April 6 the colonial mariners attacked and heavily damaged the British cruiser HMS Glasgow, which had been harassing the colonies’ shipping. It was our Navy’s first sea battle.
After that victory Lt. Jones was awarded with an assignment to captain of the Providence. A year later he was assigned to the sloop Ranger. Jones bristled at the state of readiness and combat capability of his new ship. Throughout his career he demanded the best, deadliest and fastest; he trained, equipped and operated with precision and rigor.
On April 24, 1778, Jones, aboard Ranger, captured HMS Drake after thunderous fusillades of cannons and muskets and bloody close combat with cutlasses and boarding pikes.
We remember John Paul Jones for his courage and tenacity against all odds. His heroism aboard Bonhomme Richard and his bold attacks against the British homeland are well-known. He owned the fight, willingly going in harm’s way.
That legacy continues.
On April 5, 1956, the Navy commissioned USS John Paul Jones (DD-932), which made a shakedown cruise to Europe. The Forrest Sherman-class destroyer was re-designated DDG-32 and served our navy for more than 25 years.
Our current JPJ, DDG 53, was launched in October 1991, and ten years later – less than a month after 9/11 – fired the first Tomahawk missiles in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Johans Chavarro)
JPJ is the first Arleigh Burke class guided-missile destroyer to be stationed in the Pacific Fleet, and in the summer of 2014 became one of our go-to Ballistic Missile Defense System supporting ships in Hawaii, with the latest SM-3 missiles and updated, advanced Aegis capabilities.
During JPJ’s four years home ported in Pearl Harbor, the ship has participated in numerous operations and exercises, working closely with our Pacific Missile Range Facility test and training range, and cooperating with the forces of key allies like Japan and Republic of Korea. Here in Hawaii we are uniquely able to put new innovation to the test so our fleet can have proven, effective weapons systems.
(U.S. Navy photo by Leah Garton)
JPJ helps the Navy determine the accuracy of weapons systems, detect potential system anomalies and demonstrate advances in surface force lethality and defensive capabilities. At the same time, JPJ, along with our other nine gray hulls in Pearl Harbor, conducts effective community outreach.
Back in 2006, Sailors of USS John Paul Jones and USS Preble (DDG 88) participated in the 99thRose Festivalin Portland Oregon. One imagines gentlemanly Capt. John Paul Jones, who was known for writing poetry, being pleased to be part of the festival.
As with many of our Navy’s namesakes, Capt. John Paul Jones was not without his flaws. He was a complicated man with conflicting personality traits, both sensitive and tough, reflective and extremely vain, paranoid and exceptionally self-assured.
In the words of Navy veteran Sen. John McCain, writing about Jones, “I challenge you to show me someone flawless who has made a significant contribution to history. It is not perfection that characterizes greatness. It is, rather, the ability to achieve great things in spite of ourselves.”
In many ways resilient warfighting John Paul Jones serves as a namesake for our entire Navy.
One final April reference: On April 24, 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt spoke at Annapolis at a re-interment ceremony commemorating John Paul Jones:
“Every officer in our Navy should know by heart the deeds of John Paul Jones. Every officer in our Navy should feel in each fiber of his being an eager desire to emulate the energy, the professional capacity, the indomitable determination and dauntless scorn of death which marked John Paul Jones above all his fellows.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Martin L. Carey)
Today our men and women of JPJ, along with their shipmates everywhere, continue to emulate their namesake’s resilience and willingness to fight, with the ability to survive and return, and with the commitment to adapt and overcome. Our Sailors are able to go in harm’s way, if necessary, with indomitable determination and the will to win.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated demands that Iranian forces and their allies leave Syria are not “realistic,” Russia’s ambassador to Israel has said.
“The Iranians are playing a very, very important role in our common efforts to eliminate the terrorists in Syria,” Anatoly Viktorov said in English on Israel’s Channel 10 broadcaster on July 30, 2018.
“That’s why, for this period of time, we see as nonrealistic demands to expel any foreign troops from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” he said.
Viktorov said the presence of Iran’s military advisers and allied fighters in Syria is “fully legitimate, according to UN principles,” and Russia “cannot force them” to leave the country.
Syria, with help from Russia, Iran, and Tehran’s ally, the Lebanese militia Hizballah, has swiftly regained control over large swathes of territory after seven years of a civil war that has killed more than 400,000 people.
On July 30, 2018, the Syrian Army was reported to be consolidating control of its border with Israel after having ousted a last remnant of the Islamic State extremist group in the area.
Russia, which has friendly relations with both Iran and Israel, recently has sought to play a mediating role between the two sworn enemies.
Both Tel Aviv and Washington have demanded that Iranian fighters leave Syria, and Israel has repeatedly carried out deadly air strikes against Iranian facilities and positions in Syria.
Viktorov told Channel 10 that Russia is “not OK” with such use of “force” by the Israeli government, which has reportedly killed dozens of Iran-allied fighters.
But the diplomat said Russia “cannot persuade Israel how to proceed” in Syria. “It is not up to Russia to give it freedom to do anything or to prohibit anything,” he said.
The Israeli air raids have gone largely unimpeded by Russian defense systems deployed in Syria, and Israel set up a hotline with Russia in 2015 to ensure the two countries avoid accidentally clashing in the air over Syria.
While Viktorov’s comments are the first to publicly state that Russia will not try to kick Iran out of Syria, in July 2018 Israeli officials reported that Russia offered to keep Iranian forces 100 kilometers from Syria’s border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights during a Jerusalem meeting between Netanyahu and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Israel has been on high alert since June 19, 2018, when Syrian government forces launched an offensive to retake southern Daraa and Quneitra provinces, next to the occupied Golan Heights.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers of the Golan Heights from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War, in a move never recognized internationally.
Plastic surgeons at William Beaumont Army Medical Center successfully transplanted a new ear on a Soldier who lost her left ear due to a single-vehicle accident.
The total ear reconstruction, the first of its kind in the Army, involved harvesting cartilage from the Soldier’s ribs to carve a new ear out of the cartilage, which was then placed under the skin of the forearm to allow the ear to grow.
“The whole goal is by the time she’s done with all this, it looks good, it’s sensate, and in five years if somebody doesn’t know her they won’t notice,” said Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III, chief, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, WBAMC. “As a young active-duty Soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get.”
The revolutionary surgery has been over a year in the making for Clarksdale, Mississippi native, Pvt. Shamika Burrage, a supply clerk with 1st Battalion, 35th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division.
In 2016, while returning to Fort Bliss, Texas, after visiting family in Mississippi, a tire blowout changed Burrage’s life in an instant.
“I was coming back from leave and we were around Odessa, Texas,” said Burrage, who was traveling with her cousin. “We were driving and my front tire blew, which sent the car off road and I hit the brake. I remember looking at my cousin who was in the passenger seat, I looked back at the road as I hit the brakes. I just remember the first flip and that was it.”
The vehicle skidded for 700 feet before flipping several times and ejecting the Soldier. Burrage’s cousin, who was eight months pregnant at the time, managed to only suffer minor injuries while Burrage herself suffered head injuries, compression fractures in the spine, road rash and the total loss of her left ear.
“I was on the ground, I just looked up and (her cousin) was right there. Then I remember people walking up to us, asking if we were okay and then I blacked out,” said Burrage, whose next memory was waking up in a hospital.
She was later told by doctors that if she would not have received medical attention for 30 more minutes, she would have bled to death. After several months of rehabilitation, Burrage began to seek counseling due to emotions caused by the accident and its effects on her appearance.
“I didn’t feel comfortable with the way I looked so the provider referred me to plastic surgery,” said Burrage.
“She was 19 and healthy and had her whole life ahead of her,” said Johnson. “Why should she have to deal with having an artificial ear for the rest of her life?”
When explained her options for reconstruction, Burrage was shocked and initially resistant to go through with the total ear reconstruction.
“I didn’t want to do (the reconstruction) but gave it some thought and came to the conclusion that it could be a good thing. I was going to go with the prosthetic, to avoid more scarring but I wanted a real ear,” said Burrage, who is now 21. “I was just scared at first but wanted to see what he could do.”
In order to avoid any more visible scarring, Johnson selected prelaminated forearm free flap, which involved placing the autologous cartilage into the patient’s forearm to allow for neovascularization, or the formation of new blood vessels. This technique will allow Burrage to have feeling in her ear once the rehabilitation process is complete.
“(The ear) will have fresh arteries fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so she’ll be able to feel it,” said Johnson.
In addition to the transplant, epidermis from the forearm, while attached to the ear, will cover up scar tissue in the area immediately around Burrage’s left jawline.
“I didn’t lose any hearing and (Johnson) opened the canal back up,” said Burrage, whose left ear canal had closed up due to the severity of the trauma.
“The whole field of plastic surgery has its roots in battlefield trauma,” said Johnson. “Every major advance in plastic surgery has happened with war. This was trauma related.”
With only two more surgeries left, Burrage states she is feeling more optimistic and excited to finish the reconstruction.
“It’s been a long process for everything, but I’m back,” said Burrage.
On Feb. 28, 2015, Staff Sgt. Sebastiana Lopez stepped out of her apartment on an early Saturday morning in Charleston, South Carolina. The humidity was low, making a good day for a motorcycle ride. As she went back into her apartment to swap her car keys for motorcycle keys, she didn’t know it was the first step toward a life-changing moment.
Lopez’s four older siblings served in the US military in different branches. She looked up to them, eventually joining the US Air Force. She served for seven years as a crew chief on C-17s. Lopez’s parents immigrated to the US illegally, and she felt that she owed her country for the new opportunities afforded to her. Joining the military was her way of saying thank you.
As Lopez was coming around a corner of the road on her motorcycle, an armadillo was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Her motorcycle and the armadillo collided causing her to crash into the curb, ejecting her from the bike and directly into a tree. She remembers bear hugging a tree and her leg kicking her in the face, breaking the motorcycle helmet visor. She fell to the ground and a plume of dust erupted. She never lost consciousness.
Lopez was dazed but immediately started thinking about how to survive. She tried to do blood sweeps, but her arms wouldn’t move. She saw that her leg was positioned at an unnatural angle and thought, “Well, that sucks. I probably need to put a tourniquet or something on that.” No matter how she looked at it, she wasn’t able to self-administer aid due to the extent of her injuries.
Her lung was punctured by a broken rib, she had several broken bones, an amputated (above the knee) right leg, lacerated liver, ruptured spleen, and many other internal and external injuries. Lopez was losing blood fast, and every breath felt like a million stab wounds, but she maintained a goal.
Sebastiana with her family after her accident. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
“So I kind of looked up at the sky, and I’m like, there’s nothing I can do about this except for — keep breathing,” Lopez said.
She focused on each breath, counting in her head while she held her breath to minimize the pain. Then panic crept into her mind: It was a Saturday morning, people were up partying the night before, and it’s unlikely anyone will be awake to find her. Lopez stayed calm but couldn’t help thinking that this might be the end.
“I was pretty happy with the life I had already lived — even though it was very short, 24 years old at the time,” Lopez said. She accomplished what she had always wanted to do, giving back to her country by joining the Air Force. As she settled into being okay with the fact that she was dying, a car drove past.
She said that the first thought that popped into her head was, “That’s a stupid-looking car.” Then she realized that the person driving that car might be her ticket out of there. Luckily, her motorcycle had come to a stop up the road. The bystander saw it and immediately threw his vehicle into reverse. He found Lopez lying next to the tree, and the fear on his face was evident. He panicked, and the first thing he asked her was, “Do you want me to call an ambulance?”
Side by side (right photo showing initial recovery, left showing extensive recovery) comparison showing just how much Sebastiana has recovered since her crash. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
The ambulance arrived, and even though Lopez couldn’t see him, she recognized the voice of one of the responders. He was an Air Force reserve pilot she had flown with during an operation in Malaysia when they were designated as a backup C-17 for the president while he toured that area of the world. Hearing a familiar voice, especially someone she knew from the military, immediately put her mind at ease. I might make it through this, she thought.
Despite the massive amount of blood loss, Lopez can recall up until the point when the hospital staff wheeled her into the OR. Her heart stopped not long after her arrival at the hospital, but they managed to get her back. She woke up a month later surrounded by her family, and she felt like she might have been in purgatory. A priest was close by and had been waiting to give Lopez her last rites in coordination with her Catholic beliefs.
“They knew telling me the news that, hey, you don’t have a leg anymore, was going to just tear me apart,” Lopez said. “To be quite honest, it didn’t. At least initially because I was just happy to wake up. It didn’t really hit me until a few months later that life was going to get pretty shitty and pretty hard, especially when I lost my hand function in both hands.”
Shortly after waking up from the coma, Lopez sustained a stroke and lost her speech. Her family added a degree of frustration when they unknowingly talked slowly and loudly to her, thinking she had lost the ability to process information as well. This was one more blow, but it didn’t shake Lopez — it was just another speed bump.
“I was like, Motherfuckers, I understand what y’all are saying — I just can’t verbalize my answer or write it even,” she said, adding that she felt trapped, much like when she was lying on the ground after her crash.
Lopez loves sports, and the driving force to compete again kept her internal fire blazing. As she completed her speech therapy and regained the ability to speak, she started to feel better about herself. Her first steps with her prosthetic leg brought even more confidence.
Even while Lopez completed speech therapy and physical rehabilitation, another battle loomed under the surface. One of the first movements she had to do was rolling from side to side, and whenever she did, the incision from her abdominal surgery would start bleeding. The hospital staff was growing concerned and asked her if she wanted to stop.
“I was like, ‘Hell no, I need to start moving!'” she said.
She recovered to an extent while staying at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital. She described it as similar to a scene out of Kill Bill when Uma Thurman’s character wills herself out of paralysis by saying, “Wiggle your big toe.”
Sebastiana competing in the Invictus Games. Photo courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
Lopez aggressively pursued her exercises while running a consistent temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit. From rolling side to side to putting on her socks by herself, she was making progress. But then she started losing energy again and didn’t feel well. Her recovery was coming along, but she lost function in her right arm. She was scheduled to be transferred to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for a higher level of physical rehabilitation.
Her new doctors ran tests and found out that Lopez was septic, which is a widespread, serious infection within the body that can have lethal consequences. She was transferred directly into the ICU.
Once recovered, Walter Reed brought on even harder rehabilitation training — and the results were even better. Lopez worked hard and rep after rep moved closer to her goal of competing again.
She spent hours every day sending signals to her hands and any other part of her body that wouldn’t readily move with her internal instructions. She eventually regained some command over the movement of her fingers.
Sebastiana Lopez Arellano powers a hand cycle during the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando. May 9, 2016. DoD News photo by EJ Hersom, courtesy of Sebastiana Lopez.
After her incident, the Air Force enrolled Lopez in what’s called the Casualty Care Program and the Recovery Care Program. She was assigned a Recovery Care Coordinator (RCC). Lopez transferred to outpatient physical rehab, and one day while she was working on different exercises, her RCC walked up to her. She asked Lopez what she thought about doing an adaptive sports camp.
“No, I’m not ready. I’m still rehabbing my hand — I want to be able to wipe my butt first before I go compete or learn a sport,” Lopez responded. Her RCC told her a white lie: “You’re still in the US Air Force, you kind of have to.”
Lopez later found out that wasn’t the case, but she felt that the RCC knew she needed a little push. The RCC signed up Lopez, unbeknownst to her, for a beginner’s adaptive sports camp through the Air Force Wounded Warrior program.
What her RCC said was a beginners camp was actually the tryouts for the Air Force’s Wounded Warrior Games team. Lopez found out once she arrived at the “camp,” but with her no-quit spirit, she persevered and made it onto the team.
Within a year of her accident, Lopez competed in the Wounded Warrior Games and earned five gold medals for two-hand cycling races, shot put, discus, and sitting volleyball.
“The funny thing about the 2016 Warrior Games, I broke my arm the first day we got there,” she said, laughing. “So I competed the entire week with a broken arm.”
From that first Warrior Games to her most recent competition performance in the 2019 Team USA Parapan American Games, Lopez has achieved her goal of competing again — and then some. In addition to the medals from the 2016 Warrior Games, she went on to medal over 19 times in different events over the course of the next few years, and she even established a world record in discus.
Lopez has defied the physical disabilities that the armadillo caused that fateful Saturday morning in February 2015.
“I might still pursue [Team USA] in the future, between school and everything else — I’m kind of looking into starting a family soon, and I want to focus on that,” Lopez said. “I’m not saying that’s the end of the world for me. I probably will try to pursue it, but maybe 2024 for me.”
On the day after Thanksgiving 1984, a Soviet citizen on a tour of the DMZ suddenly abandoned his group and sprinted to freedom in South Korea.
Vasilii Matuzok long dreamed of fleeing the oppression of Communism. He even obtained a job in Pyongyang as a means of making his escape attempt.
But despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone is anything but. The four-kilometer wide area is heavily mined and guarded by armed soldiers from each side. A crossing there was as near suicidal during the Cold War as it is today.
However, at a small village named Panmunjom (the site of the Korean War Armistice signing), the North and South created a Joint Security Area. This area is heavily guarded but it contains no minefields or other the deterrents to crossing that can’t be said for the rest of the DMZ.
When Matuzok’s tour group was distracted, he made a break for it.
Immediately realizing what was happening, some 30 North Korean soldiers pursued him and fired wildly in the hopes of bringing him down before he could reach the other side.
This immediately created a significant incident. As the two sides were still technically at war – having never signed a peace agreement – the North Korean soldiers pursuing Matuzok instantaneously became an armed incursion. The UN guards quickly alerted the United Nations Quick Reaction Force at nearby Camp Kitty Hawk.
The United Nations had a Joint Security Force company comprised of Americans and Koreans stationed at Camp Kitty Hawk to respond to any incidents at the Joint Security Area and provide the guard detail.
As the incident developed into a full-on firefight between the North Korean soldiers and the UN’s JSA guards, Capt. Bert Mizusawa got the call at Camp Kitty Hawk. He told his men to load up while he got as much information as he could from the Tactical Operations Center.
As his group sped the quarter mile to the JSA, Mizusawa was unaware of the defection. His sole purpose was to restore the Armistice conditions. The North Korean soldiers, invaders at this point, had to be turned back, he said, “with no concern for proportionality… we were going to win no matter what.”
When Mizusawa and the QRF arrived with three infantry squads augmented with three machine gun teams, the UN guards at the JSA had the intruding North Koreans pinned down in an area known as the “Sunken Garden.” It had been only fifteen minutes since Matuzok defected.
Mizusawa sent one squad east to reinforce the men at Checkpoint 4, who were engaged against the North Koreans there while he personally led the other two squads on a flanking maneuver to the southwest. During their movement, the men came across Matuzok hiding in the bushes.
Captain Mizusawa immediately realized the urgency of the situation. If the North Koreans were able to kill or recapture Matuzok, they controlled the narrative of the day’s events.
After confirming Matuzok’s intention to defect, Mizusawa put him in the personal custody of the QRF Platoon Sergeant who raced him to safety at Camp Kitty Hawk.
With the defector now secured Mizasawa was in a tactically perfect situation. He had his enemy pinned down on low ground and was in position to move in from the flank. The Americans executed a textbook example of Battle Drill 1A. As the lead fire team bounded into the Sunken Garden under accurate suppressive fire, the North Koreans attempted to flee.
Caught in the open, they chose to surrender rather than be gunned down.
The elapsed time since the defection was approximately 20 minutes. It only took six minutes after the arrival of the QRF platoon to defeat the North Korean threat.
During the fighting, a South Korean KATUSA soldier was killed and an American soldier wounded when they drew heavy fire from the North Koreans protecting the escape of Matuzok.
The North Koreans lost three killed, five wounded, and eight captured during the incident.
However, for the North Korean soldiers, failure in this situation would be costly. It is believed that the leader of the North Korean troops and his subordinate were summarily executed immediately after the incident.
Despite being one of the worst instances of violence on the DMZ in some time, further bloodshed was avoided.
Hoping to keep the incident quiet, the Army choose to withhold some awards immediately after the firefight. It would not be until the year 2000 that the Army recognized the service and awarded or upgraded seventeen decorations to participants on that day.
Matuzok, the defector that started everything, eventually was allowed to resettle in the U.S. as a refugee under an assumed name.
South Korea is reportedly considering withdrawing some of its military forces and equipment from guard posts on the border with North Korea on a “trial basis,” according to a Yonhap News report published on July 23, 2018.
It’s part of an effort to promote friendlier ties between the two countries, South Korea’s defense ministry outlined a plan to transform the [Demilitarized Zone] into a “peace zone,” the defense ministry said, referring to the buffer between North and South Korea.
“As stated in the Panmunjom Declaration, [the ministry] is seeking a plan to expand the [withdrawal] program in stages after pulling out troops and equipment from the guard posts within the DMZ,” the defense ministry said.
The ministry said it would also plan on designating a de facto maritime boundary as a “peace sea” to allow fishermen from both countries to operate.
The Panmunjom Declaration was the culmination of months-long dialogue between the two countries after a year of fiery threats in 2017. The diplomatic detente was signed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at their summit in April 2018, paving the way for a “a new era of peace,” on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Mooon Jae-in.
South Korea has already made some changes on the border that reflect friendlier relations. In spring 2018, it dismantled loudspeakers that blasted news and Korean pop music towards North Korea. The loudspeakers, which were set up in 2016, could be heard for miles inside the North.
However, for many North Korea observers, the declaration’s broad language and the absence of a specific plan tempered expectations of an immediate solution to the nuclear threat North Korea poses. Despite dismantling some key facilities related to its intercontinental ballistic missile program, some experts believe the gesture may not be very meaningful in the aggregate.
Featured image: A South Korean checkpoint at the Civilian Control Line, located outside of the DMZ.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There’s no doubt that Amish communities in America have a distinctive look. Amish men wear a long, flowing, ZZ-Top-level beard that can make other hirsute pursuits just look pitiful in comparison. While they may not be the only ones sporting long, long whiskers these days, they’re likely the only bearded men you’ll see whose mustache areas are clean shaven — and the U.S. military is the reason why.
Among devoutly Christian Amish men, sporting a beard is like living the Bible. In the days and locales where the stories in the Christian Bible take place, beards were commonplace. When a young Amish boy gets married, he stops shaving his beard area and grows a facial homage to his biblical forebears, letting everyone in the community know this boy is now a man.
But they never stop shaving the mustache area. The Amish, a form of Mennonite, have many traditions and beliefs that separate them, not just from society, but also from other Mennonite and Christian groups. One such core beliefs is the growing of a beard.
Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. – Leviticus 19:27
Another core tenet of Amish beliefs is pacifism and the rejection of military service – and the mustache is just one indicator of military service.
In order to separate themselves physically from those who would engage in military service (while letting the world know they were married, because the Amish don’t exchange wedding rings), they decided to grow beards but shave their lips.
British Army officers in the Crimean War.
It should be noted that the Amish prefer the term “nonresistance” as opposed to pacifism, because they are dedicated to avoiding confrontation in all areas of life, not just in military service.
Mustaches may not be as in vogue as they once were among military service members and regular troops are always clean shaven — almost everywhere in the western world — but still the old Amish tradition of keeping a clean upper lip lives on.
Almost any hiking area has some sort of history tied to it, but sometimes a historical connection makes a hike even more special. When we walk over old trails, we see what others saw and get a sense for their universe.
History is never far from the surface of our world, and as much as I love a good historical text, hiking in a historic area is a more personal encounter. Here are four historic hikes for nerds who love to be outdoors.
Las Medulas ancient Roman mines, UNESCO, Leon, Spain.
(Adobe Stock photo/Coffee or Die)
1. El Camino de Santiago, Spain
For over 1,000 years, pilgrims have travelled to Santiago along El Camino, or The Way of Saint James. The route reached its greatest popularity in the high Middle Ages, between about 1000 and 1300, and only came back into heavy use in recent decades.
Along the way, pilgrims and secular travelers experience medieval architecture combined with stunning vistas of the countryside of northern Iberia. Unlike most modern trails, however, El Camino has nearly infinite variations, though the classic route to Santiago runs from the French border near Roncevaux, site of the mythical battle in “The Song of Roland.”
A hiker can walk The Way of Saint James alone or with others, though trail camaraderie typically makes the experience more enjoyable. Whether or not you hike with others, El Camino takes you through a region of tremendous history. Churches, little towns, and even the roads have long stories here.
Stunning Stone Monuments of Petra | National Geographic
For thousands of years, people have lived in the Jordanian desert near Petra. Whether you choose to explore the ancient Nabatean Treasury building featured in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” or a lesser-known area like the Byzantine Church, Petra will not disappoint.
History is rarely linear, and Petra makes this point eminently clear. Layers upon layers of history converge in a single place. The Nabateans, a mysterious pre-Roman people, first built tremendous structures into the sandstone. Then the Romans came, and the site expanded further. The Romans evolved into the Byzantines, then the Islamic world absorbed the area.
With each iteration, another layer of history and architecture was added, only increasing the grandeur of Petra. You can hike in areas with seemingly incongruous Greco-Roman influence, only to remember later how vast those empires were.
The Byzantine monastery is another piece of history left behind in rural Jordan. The Byzantines actually made this building from recycled remnants of older structures. Much of the area still remains buried under time and sand.
One of Britain’s finest UNESCO World Heritage sites, Hadrian’s Wall has stood for nearly 2,000 years, a stone line across the north of England. Built on the order of the Roman Emperor Hadrian as part of his effort to shore up a deteriorating military situation, his wall was meant to deal with Pictish threats to the north of the Roman province of Britannia.
Between 1803 and 1806, the Corps of Discovery paddled, walked, and rode across North America, led by captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Though the Lewis and Clark Trail stretches over most of our country, the most spectacular part is in Montana, where the captains and their group experienced the most difficulty.
Today, a hiker can paddle the Missouri River or trek over the daunting Lolo Pass. Cross the Continental Divide near Salmon, Idaho, where Lewis became the first member of the expedition to see west of the Divide. You can even horseback ride over the Bitterroot Mountains, as the Corps did after purchasing Shoshone horses in 1804.
The grandeur of the American Rockies is on full display in Montana, and every bit is worthwhile. Stephen Ambrose’s well-researched and -written book “Undaunted Courage” offers a beautiful portrait of the expedition from the perspective of Lewis himself, who kept a detailed journal.
Despite two centuries of industrialism and destruction, the Northern Rockies remain much as Lewis saw them, albeit with less snow and smaller glaciers.
Speaking at a Center for a New American Security conference on Monday, the US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, explained why China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” antiship ballistic missile isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The DF-21D, an indigenously created, precision-guided missile capable of sinking a US aircraft carrier with a single shot, has a phenomenal range of up to 810 nautical miles, while US carriers’ longest-range missiles can travel only about 550 miles away.
“I think there is this long-range precision-strike capability, certainly,” Richardson acknowledged. But “A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial] is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it’s much more difficult.”
“The combination of ubiquitous ISR, long-range precision-strike weapons takes that to another level and demands a response,” said Richardson, adding that China’s extension into the Pacific created a “suite of capabilities” that were of “pressing concern.”
But the US Navy won’t be defeated or deterred by figures on paper.
“In the cleanest form, the uninterrupted, frictionless plane, you have the ability to sense a target much more capably and quickly around the world, you’ve got the ability, then, to transmit that information back to a weapon system that can reach out at a fairly long range and it is precision-guided … You’re talking about hundreds of miles now, so that raises a challenge.”
“Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult,” he continued.
Richardson was clear that China’s purported capabilities were only speculations.
“What you see often is a display of ‘Here’s this launcher, here’s a circle with a radius of 700 miles, and it’s solid-color black inside’ … And that’s just not the reality of the situation,” he said.
“You’ve got this highly maneuverable force that has a suite of capabilities that the force can bring to bear to inject uncertainty,” Richardson continued.
Richardson also went on to address the dual aircraft carrier deployments in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, saying that the deployments afforded a rare opportunity for “high-end war fighting and training,” as carrier groups rarely get to train with each other in realistic, not just theoretical, situations.