The U.S. Air Force will reduce exterior lighting at a Hawaii facility to help protect endangered and threatened seabirds there.
The Air Force agreed to reduce lighting at a mountaintop radar facility on the island of Kauai, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. After the announcement, the Center for Biological Diversity said it no longer intends to sue the Air Force.
The nonprofit conservation group says the threatened Newell’s shearwater and Hawaiian petrel are attracted to bright lights at night, which can cause crashes onto the ground and sometimes death.
The center believes lights at the Kokee Air Force Station caused more than 130 birds to fall out of the air in 2015, including Hawaiian petrels, endangered band-rumped storm petrels and Newell’s shearwaters. Most of them died, the center said.
The Kokee Air Force Station was founded in 1961 to detect and track all aircraft operating near Hawaii.
The Air Force also said in June 2016 that it had agreed to turn off outside lights from April through December, when birds are going to and from colonies.
But the Center for Biological Diversity threatened legal action at the end of June 2016, saying the Air Force was violating the Endangered Species Act by not updating its formal consultation about seabirds with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The center said the Air Force reinitiated the consultation and agreed to ongoing protective measures in response.
The Air Force is “committed to protecting the threatened and endangered bird species that frequent the area around Mt. Kokee Air Force Station,” Col. Frank Flores wrote in an email to The Star-Advertiser.
Flores is the commander of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, which provides oversight for Kokee Station.
“We have collaborated closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services over the years on this issue. We take environmental stewardship very seriously and will continue to partner with USFWS to protect these species,” Flores wrote.
We’ve all seen the labels on our clothes, our cars and everything in between. As much as we hate to admit it, sometimes it’s cheaper (and easier) to buy products that aren’t made here in the good ole’ U.S. of A.
Actor Scott Eastwood (The Outpost, Fury) and his business partner, serial entrepreneur Dane Chapin, are on a mission to change that story. Along the way, they’re highlighting some amazing American workers, companies and veterans.
“Supporting the American worker is not a political issue. It’s just what we should do,” Chapin said in an exclusive interview with We Are The Mighty. Chapin’s latest venture? Partnering with actor Scott Eastwood to cofound Made Here, a company dedicated to selling American-made goods.
“Made Here exists to celebrate the excellence of the American worker by exclusively partnering with American manufacturers to make, market and license the best goods this country has to offer,” Chapin explained. Eastwood echoed his comments, adding, “The feeling of pride in our country that we share is something that is expressed in our products.”
And just like its incredible mission, Made Here has one hell of a story.
A commitment to service is more than a nice sentiment or a long-lost ideal for Chapin and Eastwood. For both men, it’s personal. Chapin’s father served in the Army and spent much of his time helping injured veterans before he passed away. Chapin continues to honor that legacy in his work and in personal projects, such as supporting the Encinitas VFW. Eastwood’s father (you might have heard of him – Clint?) was scheduled to deploy to Korea when he was in a plane crash, returning from a visit with his parents. The plane went down in the ocean en route from Seattle to Eastwood’s then duty station, Fort Ord. The Independent Journal from Oct. 1, 1951, reported:
Two servicemen, who battled a thick gray fog and a strong surf for almost an hour last night following a plane landing in the ocean near the Marin shore, are returning to their service units today uninjured.
Army Pvt. Clinton Eastwood, who wandered into the RCA radio station at Point Reyes after struggling in the ocean, told radio operators he and the pilot were forced to land their AD-2 bomber in the ocean and left on life rafts.”
While that grit and resilience is certainly what Clint is known for, perhaps lesser known is that he instilled those qualities in his son. Scott is bringing that same passion and determination to Made Here.
“When Dane approached me about this idea a few years ago, I was automatically and immediately all in,” Eastwood shared. “For hundreds of years, ‘American-made’ has been synonymous with high quality,” he said. “It’s all the hard-working folks across the country that make our brand possible. I want to honor the iconic heritage of American manufacturing and let people know it’s very much alive and well.”
The company did a soft launch last month on their website and are ecstatic to be partnering with Amazon to launch a Made Here store front later this month. While Made Here is currently limited to apparel, Eastwood and Chapin have hopes to expand their product line as they move forward. “We’d love nothing more than to showcase all types of products,” Chapin said. “And the more veteran-owned and military-spouse owned businesses we can highlight, the better. We can never repay the debt of service we owe our veterans and military families, but American workers and manufacturers are what make our country the best in the world. We want people to know what they’re buying and feel good about their purchases, and what a benefit to be supporting those who have served us.”
While Made Here in and of itself is incredible, equally impressive is their “In a Day” series they launched, showcasing what Americans can accomplish in just 24 hours. Eastwood and Chapin couldn’t think of a better place to start than 24 hours on the USS Nimitz. “I couldn’t believe how down to earth, humble and hard-working those people were,” Eastwood said. Chapin added, “We joked about how they’re all working ‘half-days,’ recognizing that their 12 hour half-day is more than most people do in a full day. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
IN A DAY | AIRCRAFT CARRIER – Scott Eastwood and the Made Here team aboard the USS Nimitz
Made Here is here to stay and WATM couldn’t be more excited to cheer this company on as it promotes American workers and American ideals. “At a time when the country is so divided,” Chapin said, “we can all get behind supporting one another and buying goods that are Made Here.”
Upon entering a room lined with panels and LED lights, described solely as something out of a science fiction movie, people in polar white suits are ready to re-skin a new beast.
The airmen working across two shifts in the work center, paint and renovate the aircraft and equipment assigned to the Air Force’s largest combat F-16 Fighting Falcon wing.
The work being performed on the aircraft is intended to provide a protective finish that prevents damage to the structure and enhance the aircraft’s overall lifespan.
“Our mission here is to remove defective aircraft coatings,” said Tech. Sgt. Ryan Tinsley, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control noncommissioned officer in charge. “We also inspect for corrosion and reapply coats should the aircraft need it.”
Airmen assigned to the 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron corrosion control paint barn, work on an F-16CM Fighting Falcon at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Nov. 13, 2018.
Tinsley went on to say the flight helps identify and troubleshoot paint fatigue that may be caused by consistent flights.
Within the facility, a locker room houses the protective gear of the airmen assigned to the 20th EMS aircraft structural maintenance flight.
“When we paint, no matter what we are working on that day, we keep safety in mind at all times,” said Tech. Sgt. Joseph Harris, 20th EMS corrosion control shift lead.
Each job requires the airmen to gear up from top to bottom to prevent any damage or poisoning that could be caused by the exposure to paint fumes.
During the painting process, corrosion control airmen inspect the aircraft for any cracks or wear that may have been caused through various aerial missions.
“Our airmen are the ones out there doing the hard work,” said Tinsley. “They are either sanding or painting anything that may come into the paint barn … they’re the real work horses, they’re killing it.”
With the continued support of these technicians the mission of the 20th Fighter Wing can thrive and allow the pilots to accomplish the suppression of enemy air defenses mission anytime, anywhere.
US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber aircrews participated in live-fire training operations with the US Army over the Pohakuloa Training Area, located on the big island of Hawaii Nov. 15 and 18, 2019.
During the two separate days, two B-52 bombers coordinated with members of the 25th Air Support Operations Squadron and US Army Pacific 2nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, 2nd Brigade Combat Team joint terminal attack controllers, also known as JTACs, to deliver a mixed payload of unguided, precision-guided and laser-guided weapons.
“This is a unique experience for the Army to integrate with Air Force bombers because controlling bombers is quite different than controlling helicopters or even fighter aircraft,” said US Air Force Capt. Mike Brogan, Pacific Air Forces bomber liaison officer.
To maintain readiness, crews often use simulation tools, so the opportunity for live-fire is a significant event for aircrews and those on the ground. “This is incredibly valuable to them because it demonstrates that what they are doing and saying is actually being seen and accomplished,” Brogan said.
A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam, Nov. 14, 2019.
(US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Heal)
This event allowed the JTACs to conduct daytime missions as well as night training, giving them the opportunity to utilize equipment they wouldn’t normally work with during the day.
“Being able to practice close air support with B-52 bombers dropping over 15,000 pounds of high explosives while running alongside our Army brethren in a company movement with attack aviation to the left and active artillery to the right, provided numerous lessons to myself and my [team] that will help us to neutralize the enemy and keep our aligned [forces] safe when we deploy,” said Capt. Austin Hairfield, 25th ASOS flight commander.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Dillman, 25th Air Support Operations Squadron Tactical Air Control Party, plots friendly positions before passing targeting and terminal guidance to an AH-64 Apache during an exercise in Hawaii, November 2019
(US Army photo)
Additionally, during the Fire Support Coordination Exercise on the ground, they were able to perform Pacific Air Forces’ first off-board laser spot track between the US Army’s RQ-7 Shadow Unmanned Aerial System and the B-52’s targeting pod.
“Without the effective and efficient laser lock … the JTAC would have had to spend crucial seconds to locate the reinforcements himself and talk the aircraft onto the target before providing terminal guidance,” Hairfield said.
An AH-64 Apache provides armed overwatch for Alpha Company during an exercise in Hawaii, November 2019.
(US Army photo)
The bombers, assigned to the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron out of Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, are currently deployed to Guam as part of US Indo-Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence operations.
The 19.5-hour flight from Guam to Hawaii and back required air refueling supported from KC-135 Stratotankers. Upon completion of the training mission the bombers returned to Guam completing a 7,000-nautical mile round-trip mission.
Dillman coordinates a Medical Evacuation for a notional casualty while Observer Controllers/Trainers stand by during an exercise on Pohakuloa Training Area, November 2019.
(US Army photo)
A UH-60 Black Hawk flares before landing with armed escort from an AH-64 Apache during a Fire Support Coordination Exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, November 2019.
(US Army photo)
Missions like these provide significant opportunities to strengthen joint capabilities in the region, enhance combined readiness, increase air domain awareness and help ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The US has been conducting continuous bomber presence operations in the theater as part of a routine, forward deployed, global strike capability to support regional security since March 2004.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Special Air Service sniper who spotted a group of Islamic State fighters leaving a suspected bomb-making facility in Iraq fired three shots that detonated two suicide vests and killed all five fighters, according to reports in British media.
The SAS sniper was operating 800 meters away from the factory when he noticed the group wearing unseasonably warm and bulky clothing. The 10-year veteran of the SAS hit the first man in the chest and detonated his vest, killing three fighters. As the two survivors attempted to escape back into the factory, the sniper shot one in the head and the other in the vest, which detonated the second vest.
“This was a classic SAS mission,” a British Army source told the Express. “About three weeks ago the intelligence guys got information that a bomb factory had been set up in a nearby village. With just three well-aimed shots, that single team has probably saved the lives of hundreds of innocent people. The unit was sent in to see if they could identify the house and the bombers.”
The decision to attack with a sniper was made due to concerns about collateral damage.
“There were too many civilian homes nearby and children were often around so an airstrike was out of the question,” the unidentified British Army source said. “Instead, the SAS commander in Iraq decided to use a sniper team and the operation was a complete success.”
The US military gave or took fire in some form or another in at least seven countries in 2018: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Libya.
Here’s a breakdown of America’s military involvement in each country.
U.S. Army Pfc. Aaron Birmingham, an infantryman with 1st Platoon, Company D, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Task Force Duke, from Alpena, Mich., keeps on eye on a wadi in Andar, Afghanistan, April 21, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Guffey)
The war in Afghanistan
At least 15 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in 2018 in a war that entered its 18th year in October 2018.
The deadliest incident of the year occurred in late November 2018, involving a roadside bomb that ultimately claimed the lives of four US service members. This marked the largest loss of life in a single incident for the US in Afghanistan since 2015.
There are currently roughly 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
Members of 5th Special Forces Group (A) conducting 50. Cal Weapons training during counter ISIS operations at Al Tanf Garrison in southern Syria.
(US Marine Corps photo)
The fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria
The US military also continues to be active in Iraq and Syria in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group, conducting airstrikes and advising local forces on the ground.
At least 10 US service members were killed in Iraq in 2018, though none of the deaths were a direct result of enemy action.
Human rights groups have accused the US-led coalition of reckless behavior and “potential war crimes” in the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
While civilian casualties are still being assessed for 2018, a report from the monitoring group Airwars said the US and its allies may have killed up to 6,000 civilians via strikes in Iraq and Syria in 2017 alone.
The US has been waging a campaign against the Islamic State group since August 2014.
The US fired more than 118 missiles, more than twice the number it used in an attack on Syria’s Sharyat Airbase on April 7, 2017.
Shadow wars in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan
Under Trump, the US has also dramatically increased the number of drone strikes in places the US is not currently at war.
In 2018, there have been a slew of strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Pakistan, where the US is fighting what have been dubbed “shadow wars.”
The US conducted at least one drone strike in Pakistan in 2018, at least 36 in Yemen, and at least 39 in Somalia, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has been tracking US drone strikes in these countries for years.
As the numbers above show, the US military has been particularly active in Somalia in 2018, where it’s been focusing on aiding local forces in the fight against the Islamist militant group al Shabaab, which is an al Qaeda affiliate.
In June 2018, Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Conrad was killed in southwestern Somalia when militants attacked his team as it worked alongside Somali and Kenyan troops.
The US has also been active in Libya in 2018, where it’s launched roughly half a dozen air strikes against militants linked to al Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
(Official US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Ned Johnson)
The war on terror entered its 18th year in 2018
The various operations in which the US took or gave fire in 2018 were linked to the so-called “war on terror.”
Since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the US has spent nearly trillion on the broad, ill-defined conflict, which has claimed nearly 500,000 lives, according to an annual report from the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs.
According to the report, America is conducting counterterror operations in 76 countries, and nearly 7,000 US troops have been killed since the war on terror began.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
CLEMSON, S.C. — Expect to be impressed when you meet a Marine, but when that Marine is a 96 year-old Pearl Harbor survivor who challenges you to a pull-up contest, prepare to be blown away.This is one of many things Clemson University student Will Hines of Spartanburg has learned in conducting the Veterans Project, an ongoing undergraduate research project to collect and preserve the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations can hear those stories directly from the men and women who lived them.
Former Marine Staff Sgt. Robert A. Henderson’s story begins in Hawaii on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, as a plane with a perplexing paint job thunders overhead “close enough that I could have thrown a rock and hit it” toward a row of U.S. Naval ships docked in the harbor, he said.
He thought it was part of a drill until the plane dipped and released a torpedo. The violent chaos in the two hours that followed would define much of the 20th century.
Henderson, relaxed in a comfortable chair in his Spartanburg living room, describes in gripping detail the 51 months of combat he experienced, culminating in the Battle of Okinawa.
“I was in the first and last battles of the war,” he said.
Hines videotapes every word. One copy will go to Henderson and his family, and one copy will go to the Library of Congress to be preserved forever.
When asked how he stays so healthy at 96. Henderson takes Hines out to his garage to show off his home gym, where he exercises three times a week. He demonstrates by doing 12 pull-ups without breaking a sweat, and dares Hines to match him.
Interactions with truly amazing veterans like this are just some of the fringe benefits students who participate in the project enjoy. The Veterans Project is an example of community-engaged learning at Clemson, which has a military history dating back to its founding in 1889.
Hines, a junior business management major from Spartanburg, became involved in the project because of his life-long fascination with history.
“I’ve been interested in veterans since I was little. I met my great uncle when I was about 7 years old. I found out he landed on five islands in the Pacific, and I asked him a ton of questions,” he explained. “I was able to interview him in high school — for fun, not for anything specific — which helped me become closer to him. He was wounded twice — once on Okinawa from a grenade rolled down a mountain. Meeting him really influenced how I became interested in studying the history of America’ s conflicts.”
Despite the military defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and most of Syria, the extremist group still has around 20,000 to 30,000 militants in the two countries, according to a United Nations report.
The report circulated on Aug. 13, 2018, said the estimate came from governments it did not identify. It includes a “significant component” of foreign fighters.
The militants were equally divided between Iraq and Syria, said the report to the Security Council by experts monitoring sanctions against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
Many of the key IS operatives were being relocated to Afghanistan, where the group has between 3,500 and 4,000 fighters and is growing, the experts said.
The militant group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also has significant affiliated supporters in Libya, Southeast Asia, and West Africa.
Military training in Erbil, Iraq, Jan. 25, 2018. This training is critical to enabling local security forces to secure their homeland from ISIS. Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve is the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Anthony Zendejas IV)
Islamic State overran large parts of Iraq and Syria in 2014, but by January 2018, the group was confined to small pockets of territory in Syria.
According to the UN report, IS “is still able to mount attacks inside Syrian territory. It does not fully control any territory in Iraq, but it remains active through sleeper cells.”
The flow of foreign fighters to IS in Syria and Iraq has come to a halt, the experts said, but “the reverse flow, although slower than expected, remains a serious challenge.”
They said Al-Qaeda’s global network also “continues to show resilience,” with its affiliates and allies much stronger than the IS group in some spots, including Somalia, Yemen, South Asia, and Africa’s Sahel region.
The United States says it is halting deliveries to Turkey related to the F-35 fighter-jet program in response to Ankara’s decision to move ahead with the purchase of Russian air-defense system.
“Pending an unequivocal Turkish decision to forgo delivery of the S-400, deliveries and activities associated with the stand-up of Turkey’s F-35 operational capability have been suspended while our dialogue on this important matter continues with Turkey,” a Pentagon spokesperson said on April 1, 2019.
Washington has been warning Ankara for months that buying the S-400 system would jeopardize its planned purchase of the advanced fighter aircraft.
Turkey has said it is committed to a deal to buy S-400 missile-defense systems from Russia.
Pentagon plans envisioning smart, autonomous weapons able to instantly react and respond to combat situations may run up against a proposed United Nations ban on lethal autonomous weapons systems.
The UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals, though the US, Russia and others appear to be in no hurry to slow the advance of killer robots.
Just last week Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told a national defense forum in Washington, D.C., that a strong deterrence strategy in the future will depend partly on having weapons systems that “learn” in real-time and operate autonomously.
Automated battle networks boosted by advances in computing power and network attacks already has combat operations moving at cyber speed, Work said.
“This trend is only going to continue as advanced militaries experiment with these technologies, as well as others like hypersonics,” he said. “In the not-too-distant future, we’ll see directed energy weapons on the battlefield which operate at the speed of light.”
But the UN is hoping to head off autonomous killing systems before countries begin making them part of their arsenals.
Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, told the British newspaper The Guardian in October that research and development is well underway.
“A lot of money is going into development and people will want a return on their investment,” Heyns told the paper. “If there is not a preemptive ban on the high-level autonomous weapons then once the genie is out of the bottle it will be extremely difficult to get it back in.”
When UN delegates met in Geneva in April to discuss a proposed LAWS convention, the head of the American delegation said the US believes that “a robust policy process and methodology can help mitigate risk when developing new weapon systems.”
The Pentagon has established a directive for how the US would consider plans for developing such systems, Michael Meier told the group.
“We would like to make clear that the Directive does not establish a US position on the potential future development of [LAWS] — it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such future systems.”
During a meeting on LAWS in October, the US called it premature to consider a ban on LAWS and reiterated that it neither encourages nor prohibits the development of such weapons, according to Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, a group made up of nine human rights and peace organizations.
Russia sounded much like the US, according to the group, which quoted that delegation as saying banning such systems is premature since, “for the time being we deal with virtual technology that does not have any operating models
Work, in his presentation in Washington last week, quoted Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of Russia’s General Staff, as saying Russia is preparing to fight on a roboticized battlefield.
“And [Gerasimov] said — and I quote — ‘In the near future, it is possible that a fully roboticized unit will be created, capable of independently conducting military operations’,” Work said.
At the end of 2019, BMC Toys responded to 6-year-old Vivian Lord’s inquiry as to why there are only green Army men by designing some green Army women with 15 different poses. Now the toy designer is expanding the set to include military working dogs and their handlers, as well.
“[Please] can you make army girls that look like women,” Vivian wrote. “I would play with them every day and my [friends] would [too]!”
Jeff Imel, the owner of the Pennsylvania toy company, launched a Kickstarter campaign with a simple premise: “Customers asked for Plastic Army Women. The story went viral. So, now I’m making them.”
The campaign was such a success that BMC Toys unlocked stretch goals that upgraded the set to 36 figures in with six additional poses:
Light Machine Gunner
By Dec. 17, 2019, even more stretch goals had been unlocked, which added the Medical Team and the K9 Team to the set.
“Why do you not make Girl army men[?] My [friend’s] mom is in the army [too]!” wrote Vivian, voicing the concerns that many veterans have asked over the years. Introducing young girls to military toys that include them will help shape their ideas of what they can achieve in their lives.
BMC Toys recognized this fact and set to work, hiring a sculptor for their first prototype.
The BMC Female Combat Soldiers, which are marketed as “real American Made plastic heroes, meant to be set up, knocked down, picked up and played with for years to come” are in development for production and will become available in October 2020.
When kids are apart from a parent, it’s rough on everyone. For some families, it’s a week-long business trip to Minneapolis. Others it’s months on an oil rig. And for the more than 2 million families of the military and National Guard, it’s a year-long deployment overseas. That requires a unique level of parental fortitude, but there are things the moms and dads in the armed forces can teach any parent who needs to be away from the kids for a bit.
Bana Miller is the Communications Director of Blue Star Families, an organization that provides resources and info to military families. She’s also a mother of 3 and her husband has been on active duty for their entire 12-year marriage — so she’s basically a 5-star general of deployment coping management. Miller has a bunch of military-grade tips on how to stay connected to your kid and mitigate their anxiety when you can’t physically be there for them.
Prepare the family
Depending on how old your kid is, they might not really understand what’s going on. Help them prepare by spending quality time as a family. For military parents, this is usually block leave the week before deployment. For business parents, you can just block out the weekend before you take off and make sure there’s there’s one-on-one time together. It can be just hanging out and watching Paw Patrol, or doing some special activity that you both enjoy.
Miller also recommends reading books or watching shows that talk about leaving. Even Daniel Tiger knows “grown-ups come back.” “I have 3 kids under 4, and I’ve found reading stories helps them grasp the hard concepts,” she says. Just keep it kid-appropriate. Your 3-year-old isn’t ready for All Quiet On The Western Front.
Get everyone synchronized
Kids can’t grasp the concept of leaving the playground in 5 minutes, so telling them dad will be gone for a year is not something they can internalize. Long stint or short trips, Miller says setting up countdown rituals can help. Some ideas include adding to a candy jar every day (or, because kids like candy, subtracting). Or you can make a paper chain where they remove a link weekly for a long deployments, or daily to understand when you’re coming back from that conference in Miami. Also, you can help them understand time differences by setting up a command station with one clock for the household and one for the other parent’s time zone. Hey kids, it’s tomorrow in Guam!
Leave a little bit of yourself behind
You can’t be there to cuddle or give them a hug, but a plush version of you can. There’s a company called Daddy Dolls that takes photos of service members and makes them into a doll for their kid. “It’s kind of like Flat Stanley. That way the parent can still be in pictures and at milestone events,” Miller explains. “Anything physical or tactile that they can hold onto is great.” If you’re afraid your family is going to start using that doll like a voodoo pincushion, you can record their favorite bedtime stories. Or, if you kids would rather listen to Bryan Cranston read an audiobook, get one of Toymail’s Talkies to send your kid messages via stuffed animal.
We have the technology
It’s easy enough to use the Wi-Fi at your Holiday Inn Express to FaceTime the family for dinner, but for those locked into the schedule of active duty, it’s more difficult. Miller says everyone should be able to find a regular time each week to check in. “It’s such a great tool to feel like they’re part of the day-to-day routine of being home.”
One thing that your kids can learn from families with a parent on deployment, it’s that they learn to roll with things. She says if you can’t connect one evening, don’t make a big deal out of it. “If military families have one thing in common, it’s flexibility,” says Miller. “The parent at home can say, ‘OK, looks like the computer’s not working today, we’ll try again next time.’ And that’s where having those recorded story books or something a child can play on their own time is great.”
Care packages work both ways
“The care package has been around for as long as we’ve been deploying soldiers, and it’s great for the family and home to have that ritual of putting it together,” says Miller. Even if you’re not serving, but are just going to be gone for an extended period, make sure you have the hotel address. Remember, it doesn’t just have to be loaded up with treats (although nobody ever turned down a Rice Krispie Treat). The box gives kids the opportunity to share letters and pictures, and write back on the same note. Try taking turns writing pages in a shared journal. It will teach your kid what communication was like before emojis.
Build your support team
Miller says service members rely on the community for support, and you should too. Let teachers, coaches, and any other important adult in your kid’s life know that they need to communicate with both parents. It’s 2016, so schools now use electronic mail; all it takes to keep you in the loop is a CC. “For the child too, knowing that while their parent may not be able to do in-person parent-teacher conferences there’s still communication, can be fantastic reassurance,” says Miller. Although contributing to the bake sale may be a bridge too far.
As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) efforts to provide the best mental health care access possible, VA is reminding veterans that it offers all veterans same-day access to emergency mental health care at any VA health care facility across the country.
“Providing same-day 24/7 access to mental health crisis intervention and support for veterans, service members and their families is our top clinical priority,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “It’s important that all veterans, their family and friends know that help is easily available.”
VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention is the national leader in making high-quality mental health care and suicide prevention resources available to Veterans through a full spectrum of outpatient, inpatient and telemental health services.
Additionally, VA has developed the National Strategy for Preventing Veteran Suicide, which reflects the department’s vision for a coordinated effort to prevent suicide among all service members and veterans. This strategy maintains VA’s focus on high-risk individuals in health care settings, while also adopting a broad public health approach to suicide prevention.
VA has supported numerous veterans and has the capacity to assist more. In fiscal year (FY) 2018, 1.7 million veterans received Veterans Health Administration (VHA) mental health services. These patients received more than 84,000 psychiatric hospital stays, about 41,700 residential stays and more than 21 million outpatient encounters.
Nationally, in the first quarter of FY 2019, 90% of new patients completed an appointment in a mental health clinic within 30 days of scheduling an appointment, and 96.8% of established patients completed a mental health appointment within 30 days of the day they requested. For FY 2018, 48% of initial, in-person Primary Care — Mental Health Integration (PC-MHI) encounters were on the same day as the patient’s PC encounter. During the first quarter of FY 2019, 51% of initial, in-person PC-MHI encounters were on the same day as the patient’s PC encounter.
Veterans in crisis – or those concerned about one – should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 and press 1, send a text message to 838255 or chat online at VeteransCrisisLine.net.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.