In episode 157, we spoke with Army veteran Ursula Draper about her role in the development of an Assistive Technology (AT) program. In this week’s Benefits Breakdown, we take a deeper dive into how this program works and who is able to access it.
The AT program will sound familiar to those who know Darwin’s Theory of Adaptation. The adaptation theory — also known as survival theory, or survival of the fittest — is an organism’s ability to adapt to changes in its environment and adjust accordingly. The Assistive Technology program helps veterans to do just that.
The AT program, which began in 2008, aims to improve the lives of disabled veterans by allowing them to maintain independence by completing everyday tasks. It helps veterans with computer use and accessibility, voice activated technologies, drive control for wheelchairs, and even giving them the ability to turn lights on and off.
After having as many as 24 of its planes destroyed in a salvo of 59 cruise missiles from US Navy ships in the Mediterranean Sea on April 7, Syria has repositioned its jets to bases protected by Russian missile defenses, according to CNN.
“The Syrian air force is not in good shape,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon, according to CNN. “It’s been worn down by years of combat plus some … significant maintenance problems.”
Still, combined with the dozens of planes from his Russian backers, Syrian President Bashar Assad has an asymmetrical air advantage over his adversaries — rebel groups that have little more than a few anti-aircraft missile launchers.
The move to bases near Russian missile defenses provides Syria with a clear deterrent against further US strikes. Experts say Russia’s S-300 and S-400 anti-air defenses can knock down Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were used in the April 7 strike.
US officials have repeatedly stressed that they are “prepared to do more” against Assad’s regime should more evidence of the use of chemical weapons in Syria appear, but the recent developments on the battlefield mean an engagement would be much more dangerous.
“One air defense battalion with an S-300 has 32 missiles,” Sutyagin said. “They will fire these against 16 targets — maybe against cruise missiles they would fire a one-to-one ratio — but to prevent the target from evading, you always launch two … but what if there are 50 targets?”
To further avoid detection, the US could use stealth aircraft like F-22s currently stationed in the theater.
Although the US could still carry out an attack against Syrian and Russian military targets, it would run a huge risk of killing Russian service members. The US warned Moscow ahead of the April 7 strike on Shayrat air base.
In this situation, where the target is Russian air defenses or planes on Russian bases, it’s unclear if the Russians would back away from their hardware, and killing Russian service members would risk massive escalation.
It takes a different kind of individual that voluntarily chooses to put on a uniform and do the toughest jobs necessary to protect the United States. Most career assignments aren’t glamorous or exciting but they are necessary to prevent the free reign of criminals and terror. Everyone has their own reasons why they joined but service becomes about the welfare of your team and your mission.
Law enforcement and the military have separate mission statements yet run parallel in the grand scheme of things. Through experiences, foreign and domestic, each branch and department forge a bond within their units that last a life time. As much as civilians try to understand us, they’ll never fully ‘get it’ but it’s nice to share a drink a with someone who does — a kindred spirit, your cousin-in-arms.
At the start of every career of public service, an oath is sworn to protect the Constitution of the United States. Criminals and terrorists don’t care about what color your uniform is; your gender, religion, race, or creed; or if you’re behind a desk. In the eyes of the wicked, all are a threat to their ambitions of power and wealth. Veterans can also be found within their ranks.
Here’s why the NYPD is the most badass police department in the country
The War on Terror started on our soil and the first ones to respond were police and fire departments. Our rights as Americans to live free of tyranny are constantly under assault by religious radicals. Cities where our people are most free are prime targets for those who seek to destroy our way of life. Police departments train officers to prevent and respond to these threats and are not alone in the defense of the Nation.
Toward the Sounds of Chaos: Operation Moshtarak – Hearts and Minds
They have struggled to win the hearts of the people
Politics aside, there are good men and women who do the right thing day-in and day-out. Some things are easier said than done and defeating an aggressive media campaign against those in uniform is one of them. Earning the trust of the community we patrol differs in difficulty contingent on the actions of our predecessors. Both uniforms know what it’s like to have the public turn on you for something someone else did.
American Takedown: Intercepting Drug Traffickers (Season 1, Episode 1) | A&E
Traffickers will smuggle anything into the U.S. to make a profit: drugs, contraband, even people. They are a mounting problem for the Department of Defense and joint operations are necessary to secure our borders. Coast Guardsmen are usually the butt of the joke when other branches sit at the Thanksgiving table but it’s all in good fun. We know they kick ass at hunting down traffickers, hurricane relief, and rescues out at sea.
Our law enforcement shares this mission, sometimes working alongside the military to keep the U.S. safe.
“So there I was about to end my shift when suddenly…”
Both have crazy stories we can’t share with civilians
Everyone has a wild story or two that can’t be told to civilians because they won’t understand the humor in it. The kinds of stories that made you turn to your buddy and give a ‘you seeing this sh*t?’ kind of look. Rest assured, both military and police have these and they’re great to share over drink.
A panel on memorials at the US Naval Academy will discuss whether two buildings on the campus grounds should remain named after two American naval officers who fought for the Confederacy, the academy’s superintendent said Sept. 11.
Vice Adm. Ted Carter, who briefed the academy’s Board of Visitors about the building names at a meeting at the Library of Congress, said the academy’s Memorial Oversight Committee will be looking into the issue, which has been raised in the aftermath of a white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that erupted into deadly violence.
“Where we are right now, there is not a move to make an immediate change, but there is ongoing dialogue,” Carter told The Associated Press in an interview during a break at the meeting.
The superintendent’s residence in Annapolis, Maryland, is named after Franklin Buchanan, the academy’s first superintendent who left to join the Confederate Navy at the outbreak of the Civil War. A road by the house, which hosts thousands of visitors every year, also is named after him. Maury Hall is named after Matthew Fontaine Maury, a leader in the fields of naval meteorology and navigation. He headed the coast, harbor, and river defenses for the Confederate Navy.
Carter told the Board of Visitors, which includes members of Congress, that the buildings were named after the two men because of their links to Navy history and their accomplishments, separate from their service in the Confederacy. He also noted that Maury was opposed to slavery. Buchanan, Carter said, turned in his commission when he believed his home state of Maryland would secede from the union. When it didn’t, he sought to return, but the secretary of the Navy at the time rejected the request.
Carter said he has not been getting encouragement to change the names.
“The other thing is, there’s nobody clamoring within the campus nor our alumni, or anyone else, to effect a change, so I listen to those voices as well,” Carter said. “And nor are the midshipmen looking for a change, so these are all parts of the conversation that we are now being open to listen to.”
Carter also noted that the decision in changing building names rests with the Chief of Naval Operations. Carter brought up the issue during a public portion of the board meeting.
Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Maryland Democrat who is on the board, said the issue also was discussed during a portion of the meeting that was closed to the public. He declined to elaborate on what was said in the closed portion, but he said the committee will produce a report.
“It’s something that we’re looking at,” Ruppersberger said. “We’re evaluating.”
Rep. Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican who chairs the board, said he believes there should be extensive discussion before any names are changed.
“I think you really need to think long and hard about the person in the context in which they existed in that period of time,” Wittman said.
Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said he believes the Defense Department will end up making a military-wide policy on the issue. He said he didn’t see an urgent need to change the two names at the academy.
“But I do think it’s a matter of what do we want to have as a reflection of our values today, and that’s something that we should be looking at,” Cardin said.
This can be a hard time of year. The holidays are over, and we’re ready for spring — but it’s still winter. For many people that means not leaving the house, or the couch, until the middle of March. But let’s face it, there are only so many shows you can binge watch on Netflix and Hulu. You need to get outside, breathe in the cold air, let the sun shine on your pale face, put the snow or cold earth between your fingers, and get the blood pumping through those stiff muscles.
It may seem like a chore to get up and moving, but you won’t be sorry. From exploration to exercise, a lucrative side hustle to just kicking back and relaxing with friends in a shanty, there are plenty of things to do during these final months of winter.
The author snowboarding at Monarch Mountain, Colorado.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.)
1. Skiing or Snowboarding
As soon as the first snow of the year begins to fall, my mind immediately goes to the slopes. Skiing and snowboarding are two of America’s most popular winter sports, and for good reason. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie who wants to see how fast you can bomb a double black diamond or a beginner on the bunny slope, you’re going to get some great physical exercise. No slopes? No problem.
2. Cross-country Skiing
This type of skiing can be done on flat land — all you need is a set of skis and some motivation. Similar to hiking with skis on your feet, you use your own locomotion to traverse the snow-covered countryside. It requires a bit of skill and practice, but it’s a great introduction to its downhill counterpart and will get your blood pumping.
A rainbow trout caught while doing some winter fishing in Colorado.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.)
Riding a snowmobile — also known as a sled or snowmachine, if you’re from Alaska — is an absolute thrill and a great way to get an adrenaline boost. Many current stock machines boast speeds of 95 to 125 mph, raw power at the squeeze of the throttle. If speed isn’t your thing, they’re also a great way to get out and tour the countryside. Many towns in the northern states have groomed trails that allow you to ride from town to town and even to restaurants and bars. Don’t have a couple grand to drop on a seasonal vehicle? Many places offer snowmobile tours and rentals. Get out and shred!
4. Hiking and Shed Hunting
No, I’m not talking about raiding your neighbor’s shed; shed hunting refers to antlers. Every year from January until about March, members of the deer family shed their antlers. Why go out in search of cast antlers in the winter? A matching pair of freshly shed antlers from a big whitetail can be sold for over 0 if you find the right buyer. Their value decreases after they’ve laid in the woods for a while and become bleached from the sun. Shed hunting also gives you a reason to get outside and hike! A great place to start when searching for these elusive bones is along fence rows, as antlers will sometimes fall off from the force of a deer jumping the fence. Make sure you have permission from landowners and check your local and state regulations.
The author’s view while searching for shed antlers in western Nebraska.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Herne.)
5. Ice Fishing
Most people think of warm, sunny days as ideal fishing weather, but ice fishing provides the perfect excuse for getting outside and relaxing with your buddies. For those who haven’t experienced it, you just need to find some safe ice — at least 4 inches — drill a hole, and drop a line with either bait or a jig on it. It can be as comfortable or as rugged as you make it. We usually take popup shelters, heaters, and a cooler full of our favorite beverages and snacks, then spend the day catching fish and bullshitting. By the time we’re done, we usually need to call someone to come get us — but that’s half the fun!
Like hiking, snowshoeing is a beginner-friendly sport. You already know how to walk, so there is no need to learn a new skill, just adjust your stride to accommodate the oversized snowshoes. Snowshoeing can allow you to access areas that are crowded by tourists in fair weather by allowing you to move on top of the snow. It’s also inexpensive compared to many other winter activities — all you need to be on your way down the trail are warm winter clothes, snowshoes, and poles. Though not hard to learn, snowshoeing will definitely elevate your heart rate!
Meet ROTC Cadet Colonel Megan Steis. She belongs to the 430th at Ole Miss (@det430olemiss) as she is rolling down final during her senior year at the University of Mississippi.
Megan is one of 12 finalists of Navy Federal Credit Union’s ROTC All-American Award program, which honors exemplary ROTC cadets with a scholarship that is split between their student expenses and their detachment. From a pool of over 170 submissions, cadets have been judged by their Leadership, Military Excellence, Scholarship and Service. Just to be nominated, the candidate must be in the top 25 percent of his or her class academically, as well as ranked in the top 25 percent of ROTC. There is no shortage of excellence among these young ROTC men and women, but Megan has earned her way to the top.
Of the 12, three finalists are chosen to win additional scholarship money, but Megan said no matter the outcome there’s a camaraderie that’s grown between them. They even have a group chat. Megan says these connections across ROTC branches alone have been a reward in and of itself.
“Everybody is outstanding,” Cadet Colonel Steis said.
Nominated by her Detachment Commander without her knowledge, Megan has certainly earned her place among finalists by the work she put into the 430th. She looked at the detachment budget and realized it was in need of attention. What did she do? She began an integrated priority list, and then went on to organize a fundraising effort called “Steps for Vets.” Cadets got sponsors to donate a dollar amount per mile they ran, which promoted physical health on top of raising money. Megan ran over 30 miles. Some of the proceeds went to benefit the detachment, which bought them a T-6 flight simulator. “We are one of the first detachments in ROTC around the country to have a flight simulator.” She noticed there were a lot of people in ROTC at the University of Mississippi who want to be pilots. Her thoughts?
“Let’s go for it.”
And she did. She said the simulator has not only torn down walls between upper and lower classmen, but has been a great recruiting tool as well as help them train for their future careers.
This is especially important for Megan because it is her dream to become a pilot. She’s working toward her hours in the cockpit, but that doesn’t mean her work to continue building resources at her detachment is over.
“We don’t have a joystick. A joystick would be really useful.”
She said the portion of her scholarship for her detachment would not only go to a joystick for the simulator, but she also has plans to grow their alumni outreach program.
“We have amazing alumni at Ole Miss who have had outstanding military careers and we don’t even know who they are. Depending on how COVID turns out in the spring I’d love to have a crawfish boil. It’d be great to have some of that Ole Miss heritage and to have the alumni come back.”
And to anyone considering the ROTC Megan has this to say:
“You have a place here. Try it. I wanted to be a part of something greater than myself. Thankfully I tried it. If I didn’t ever try it I wouldn’t know how much potential I had as a leader. I got here and I realized these people are just like me. They’ve become family.”
Thank you to all the NFCU’s ROTC All-American Awards finalists for your relentless pursuit of excellence. Congratulations, Cadet Colonel Steis, for the scholarship and good luck beyond senior year. The Air Force will be lucky to have you.
How long can you go in the enlistment process before it’s too late to back out? What exactly constitutes lying on your enlistment paperwork? How much weed can you actually admit to smoking before the military won’t accept you anymore? These are questions many recruits ask themselves as they go through the enlistment process. The problem with asking yourself is that you don’t know and the answer will still elude you.
If you lied to your recruiter to get to the Military Entrance Processing Station, and you lied there too, there’s one place in the enlistment process where you should probably come clean.
MEPS: Where memories of your first-ever awkward military moments are born.
The Military Entrance Procession Station is where potential military recruits are sent to test their suitability to join the military. It’s at MEPS you’ll get your first taste of forming acronyms, sharing a hotel room with a stranger, and having the elderly gawk at your naked body while measuring you like you’re a Saint Bernard at the Westminster Dog Show. More than that, it’s usually where you’ll be drug tested with someone watching you for the first time, take the ASVAB test, and where most of us lie about how much pot we smoked (for the record, you never tried it more than twice).
After your second visit to MEPS, you won’t be going home, you’ll be off to basic training, wherever that may be. Once you’re inprocessing at your basic training unit, you’ll likely be grilled about any personal information you might have neglected to tell your recruiter back home. This is where the truth makes or breaks your career – and integrity matters.
Just ask these guys.
Basic Training is where you’ll do a ton of paperwork, and most important among that paperwork is your actual, real military contract. When you go to sign this paper, the person working with you is going to ask if there’s anything you haven’t divulged that could affect your ability to enlist. Once you sign this paper, they own you, and it’s too late to back out. The government will move next to check out its new investment. That is to say, they’re actually going to check up on you. So when the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard asks you if there’s anything else, this is the “Moment of Truth.”
If you lie at this point, it will be held against you. Convictions, drug busts, massive debt, debilitating diseases, anything with a paper trail, (and remember you only ever smoked pot twice and you disliked it, so you never tried it again), all need to be laid out. If you come clean at the “Moment of Truth,” there’s a good chance you’ll be able to stay and enter the military. If you don’t and it comes up later, there’s a good chance you won’t.
Remember when you were going to be an Airborne Crytological Linguist but you lied about all your parking tickets? You will.
What you lied about may not be something that would require you getting kicked out of the military. Of course, there’s a reason you lied about it, so it likely would be serious enough for the military to think about kicking you out. Even if it isn’t that serious, it was a test of integrity in which you failed. In short, this is coming back to haunt you for the rest of your military career.
It’s easy to exhibit mental toughness when you know exactly where the fire is coming from, for example, hostile territory or the far side of the range. It’s a lot harder when you’re not sure if your coworkers, a rival company, or the customer standing across from you is your enemy or your ally.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to U.S. Navy Vet Dr. Seth Hickerson, the CEO of A Boost Above. They specialize in Leadership and Mental Toughness Training. It’s a little different than you may have experienced in the military though…
We talked about mental toughness, education, loneliness, breathing, domestic terrorism, and a whole bunch of other stuff. So hold onto your butts as you jump into this all too familiar rabbit hole.
How is Boost’s mission to defend the nation against domestic terrorism?
Me and my team are Vets…and we signed an oath to support and defend the United States against ALL enemies foreign AND DOMESTIC. And we believe there are domestic institutions that do not have the best interest of our citizens in mind. Rather they are focused on controlling, manipulating, conditioning people to perpetuate hyper-capitalism and elite ideologies…so we wanted to create a company that provides awareness, education, and more importantly, training to help our citizens live their best lives.
We want people to be healthy, happy, and whole…
In our world out there today, it’s all about psychological warfare, and sadly most of our citizens are completely unarmed…so they are in a losing battle. We want to equip them.
The root cause is simple. We are still utilizing antiquated systems and institutions that were designed during the industrial revolution to produce workers instead of thinkers. The world and society has changed exponentially, but we still push people through “systems,” control media, Perpetuate the illusion of “the American dream” all in an attempt to control the masses while also extracting as much money from them as possible before they die…right before they can cash out their 401ks.
Some of the U.S. Army’s Boost trained Medics.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
How can Boost help address the loneliness problem that’s running rampant lately?
First by educating and raising awareness as to why we have a loneliness epidemic. Technology is the main culprit…the devices we are using to “connect” us are actually isolating us. We are devolving as a species….Humans are meant to be tribal, communal, social.
We need to interact…face to face…not online.
Also, technology provides people an opportunity to constantly compare themselves to others. But what they are comparing themselves to are illusions. Not reality.
News media perpetuates this by utilizing fear-based sensationalism…they use stimulus content that makes people fearful, racist, divided, and not want to leave their house.
Social media uses fantasy-based sensationalism….the content on there is FANTASY, but people believe it is real. “Why can’t I have the nice car, vacation, job, family,” Why can’t I look like that, cook like that etc. So it makes them feel less than, feel inadequate.
These are just a few things that perpetuate loneliness.
It takes TRAINING to overcome this stuff…and that’s where we come in.
The civilian world may look cuter and nicer than the military but there’s just as much suck that needs to be embraced.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
How specifically can Boost be used to help service members transition out of the military more effectively?
The biggest challenge Vets face when transitioning to civilian life is the loss of identity.
Only Less than 1% of our population serves in the military. It is a tight, highly trained fraternity, brotherhood. We think, act, and behave differently.
It is difficult to transition from the warrior mindset to the civilian one.
In my opinion, the ball gets dropped because we don’t do a good job of educating and prepping Vets before this transition happens. Then when they struggle, get depressed, lose confidence etc…we stick them in the “mental illness model” and expect them to sit on couches, treat them like they are broken, and have them “talk about things” with some egg-head who has never served.
Vets need training….we are mission-oriented…always will be…we need tasks and something to work towards…we don’t need talking…we need training.
Boost is training…not therapy.
Dr. H and cohorts spreading techniques that help vets transition out of the military more successfully.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
Can you give a quick rundown of BAMO, why it works, and why everyone should be using the breath to help regulate themselves?
Since we are Vets…we LOVE acronyms. BAMO is one of the first techniques we teach people. It stands for Breathe And Move On. The two most powerful things in a person’s lives are their thoughts and their breath…and most people have NO idea how to control either.
BAMO is a breathing technique we teach that basically shows you how to “flip the switch” from sympathetic nervous system to parasympathetic “aka the parachute”….it is what calms you down.
When someone gets scared due to a stimulus that they have perceived as a threat it activates the sympathetic nervous systems and engages the flight, flight or freeze…rapid heart rate, blood restricts only to essential organs, fear/worry mindset, sweating, trembling, breathing rapidly…it’s very hard to perform when this is happening…so you need a quick way to flip the switch to the parasympathetic nervous system…to calm your ass down..even if it’s just for a few seconds so you can execute the task at hand.
We use the 4×4 breathing technique…a simple breathing technique that you have to PRACTICE…four seconds in through the nose, breathing into the belly, then four second exhale through the mouth…..COUNTING to four in your head on the inhale and exhale (hard to think/worry about anything else) when you are counting in your head. The trick is to practice this breathing technique often throughout the day when you AREN’T SCARED or WORRIED…so that your body can adjust to it and then automate it once any negative stimulus comes your way…that’s when you are on the next level.
Dr. H and Boost sponsor all kinds of events that help make their community stronger in their free time.
(Dr. Seth Hickerson)
At Boost we are very aware of the alarming suicide problem as it pertains to our military Veterans, and we understand they need access to more tools.
We have served on many deployments and multiple combat operations at all levels…from grunts to upper echelon (SEALs and Rangers). We are also PhD’s in Human Performance, Psychology, and Educational Leadership.
Most importantly, we are Vets that want to help Vets.
Vets need to see what they are doing as training…not therapy. The current model promotes and perpetuates a sense of brokenness. And it’s usually led by someone that has “not been there.”
Vets are warriors. They need to be treated accordingly and given the tools in a way that makes sense to them and makes them proud to be doing the training.
So that’s our approach and philosophy.
We believe that by providing a modern and fun, measurable, accessible training systems utilizing technology is imperative. Our unique methodology (mindfulness training, emotional intelligence training, cognitive fitness training, and spec ops training) can give each and every veteran the tools they need to thrive. No insurance, no appointments, no coaches, no BS…and deployable anywhere anytime.
U.S. Army modernization officials on Feb. 7 briefed lawmakers on the service’s plan to equip soldiers with futuristic small arms that will ultimately replace the M4 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon.
Lt. Gen. John Murray, deputy chief of staff for Army G8, testified with other Army modernization generals before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Airland subcommittee on the future of Army modernization.
Subcommittee chairman Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, wanted to know what the Army is doing about enemy body armor that the current 5.56mm round is unable to penetrate.
“There has been a proliferation of body armor, specifically Russian and Chinese, designed to defeat traditional 5.56mm NATO ammunition which is, of course, what our soldiers fire from their M4s,” Cotton said. “What are we doing to address what is a very serious issue for the soldier on the front lines?”
Last May, Gen. Mark Milley testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the service’s current M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round will not defeat enemy body armor plates similar to the U.S. military-issue rifle plates such as the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Insert, or ESAPI.
The revelation launched an ad-hoc effort to acquire new 7.62mm Interim Service Combat Rifle, mainly for infantry units, but the idea quickly lost momentum.
“That gives us the ability to penetrate the most advanced body armor in the world,” he said. “We are accelerating the Squad Designated Marksman Rifle to 2018; we will start fielding that in 2018.”
The Army had hoped to start fielding the advanced 7.62mm armor-piercing round in 2018 as well, but that effort will take another year to complete, Murray said.
The SDMR “will still penetrate that body armor, but you can’t get that extended range that is possible with the next generation round,” Murray said.
Phase two of the effort will be the development of the Next Generation Squad Weapon.
“The first iteration will probably be an automatic rifle to replace the M249 squad automatic weapon, which is also a 5.56mm,” Murray said.
The Army has decided, however, that it isn’t interested in following the Marine Corps’ adoption of the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle.
We have been pushed on the M27, which the Marine Corps has adopted, that is also a 5.56mm which doesn’t penetrate, so we are going to go down a path next generation squad weapon automatic rifle first to be closely followed, I’m hopeful, with either a rifle or a carbine that will fire something other than a 5.56mm.
“That is what we see as a replacement for the M4 in the future.”
Murray added that “It probably won’t be a 7.62mm; it will probably be something in between — case-telescoping round, probably polymer cased to reduce the weight of it.”
Murray also confirmed that the Army already has a science and technology demonstration weapon, made by Textron System.
The working prototype has evolved out Textron’s light and medium machine guns that fire 5.56mm and 7.62mm case-telescoped ammunition developed under the Lightweight Small Arms Technology program.
Over the last decade, the Army has invested millions in the development of the program, which has now been rebranded to Textron’s Case-Telescoped Weapons and Ammunition.
“It’s too big; it’s too heavy,” Murray said. “We have recently opened it up to commercial industry for them to come in with their ideas. We have offered them some money to come in a prototype it for us that type of weapon.”
Murray said that such as weapon “can achieve weights similar to the M4’s 5.56mm ammo — the weapon will probably weigh a little bit more, the ammo will weigh a little bit less and we can get penetration on the most advanced body armor in the world well out beyond even the max effective range of the current M4.”
The Army had planned on fielding the new Next Generation Squad Weapon by 2025-2026, but the service has now accelerated the effort to have some kind of initial capability by 2022 or 2023 at the latest, Army officials maintain.
NATO is launching its largest military exercise since the collapse of the Soviet Union, mustering tens of thousands of troops in what the head of the Western alliance called a “strong display” of its capability, unity, and resolve at a time of growing danger in Europe.
“The main phase of exercise Trident Juncture will begin tomorrow in Norway,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference in Brussels on Oct. 24, 2018. “This is an important day because Trident Juncture is NATO’s biggest exercise since the end of the Cold War.”
The drills are drawing criticism from Moscow amid persistent tension between NATO and Russia, which seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and backs separatists in an ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine but accuses the alliance of provocative behavior near its borders.
Another source of discord is what NATO says is Russia’s deployment of a missile that violates a key U.S.-Russian nuclear arms treaty and could potentially be used to target alliance members in Europe.
“Trident Juncture sends a clear message to our nations and to any potential adversary: NATO does not seek confrontation, but we stand ready to defend all allies against any threat,” Stoltenberg said.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
The exercise “is a strong display of our capabilities and our resolve to work together,” he said.
Without mentioning Russia by name, he said that “Europe’s security environment has significantly deteriorated” in recent years and that NATO has responded with the biggest adaptation of our collective defense since the end of the Cold War. Trident Juncture demonstrates that adaptation.”
“Trident Juncture will include around 65 ships, 250 aircraft, 10,000 vehicles, and 50,000 personnel. All 29 NATO allies will participate, as well as our partners Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said of the exercise, which will run in two phases from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7 and Nov. 13-24, 2018.
“It is ambitious and it is demanding,” he said.
Moscow has frequently said that it views NATO’s enlargement to include former Warsaw Pact countries and the Baltic states since the 1991 Soviet collapse as provocative, and Russia and NATO have repeatedly accused each other of aggressive action repeatedly in recent years.
Russia held large military exercises called Zapad-2017 (West-2017) in September 2017 in its western regions jointly with Belarus, which also borders several NATO countries, and last month conducted massive drills across its central and eastern regions.
A Russian T-72B3 during Zapad-2017.
The Defense Ministry said the weeklong Vostok-2018 (East-2018) war games involved some 300,000 personnel — twice as many as the biggest Soviet maneuvers of the Cold War era.
Speaking at a joint panel of the Russian and Belarusian defense ministries in Minsk on Oct. 24, 2018, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that “the scale of [NATO] operational and combat training near our borders is expanding, its intensity is growing. The bloc’s member states are practicing the objectives of conducting offensive combat actions.”
Describing the exercise, Stoltenberg said the personnel will be split into “South Forces” and “North Forces” that will “take turns playing the role of the fictitious aggressor and the NATO defending forces. The exercise will test our readiness to restore the sovereignty of an ally — in this case Norway — after an act of armed aggression.
“This scenario is fictitious but the lessons we learn will be real,” he said.
Norway shares a short border with Russia in the Arctic.
The OA-X program will not be seeing how its top contenders fare in combat. That is the decision the Air Force made as two of the planes failed to make the cut for the next round of evaluations.
According to a report from CombatAircraft.net, the Textron Scorpion and the AT-802U Longsword were given the chop by the Air Force. The AT-802 is a modified cropduster that’s been equipped with two .50-caliber Gatling guns. The Scorpion is a twin-engine jet that’s capable of carrying up to 9,000 pounds of ordnance.
The Air Force has been running the OA-X program to find a new close air support aircraft. Previously, the Air Force had planned to take designs that made the cut, the AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano, and put on a real-world combat demonstration. This demonstration has been canceled. Instead, the U.S. Air Force plans to “work closely with industry to experiment with maintenance, data networking, and sensors with the two most promising light attack aircraft,” according to the Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson.
Even though the Scorpion is officially out of contention, Textron is not entirely out of the running, as it also produces the AT-6 — a version of the T-6 Texan II. The T-6, though, was recently reported to be causing in pilots what the Air Force describes as “unexpected physiological events,” a term that’s been recently used to describe incidents where aircrew experience symptoms of hypoxia. The 19th Air Force has ordered an “operational pause” for the Texan II while the issues are addressed.
If this same problem plagues the AT-6, we’re likely to see the A-29 Super Tucano win the OA-X competition. The A-29 has already proved itself in action with the Afghan Air Force and has also been sold to Nigeria and the Philippines.
Should every American Citizen serve in the military? Should women be required to register for the selective service (draft)? What should the future of the Selective Service look like?
Navy veteran Shawn Skelly and Marine Corps veteran Ed Allard are commissioners for the Commission on National, Military and Public Service. Their mission is to recommend answers to these and many more questions to Congress by March 2020. Shawn and Ed visited Borne the Battle to discuss the two years of data that the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service has gathered to answer those and many other questions.
Some of the goals of the National Commission are:
Reviewing the military selective service process.
Listening to the public to learn from those who serve.
Igniting a national conversation about service.
Developing recommendations that will encourage every American to be inspired and eager to serve.
According to their interim report, the Commission has learned:
Americans value service.
Americans are willing to consider a wide variety of options to encourage or require service.
Some Americans are aware of the details of the Selective Service System while many are not.
Some Barriers to Service include:
Military Service is a responsibility borne by few.
National Service is America’s best-kept secret.
Public Service personnel practices need an overhaul.
Civic knowledge is critical for our democracy, but too few Americans receive high quality education.
Finally, the commissioners came on Borne the Battle to let listeners know that they can provide input.
Click here to learn how – deadline is Dec. 31, 2019.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
He’s had triple bypass surgery, two leg amputations, gallbladder removal and eye surgery.
So how does Jim Jacobi feel?
“I feel healthier now at (age) 75 than I did at 50,” said the U.S. Army Veteran. “I’ve had a lot of things done to me, but I feel healthier now (because of) my attitude and the (Milwaukee) VA.
“I just have a positive attitude about everything.”
For many, the ravages of disease and age take their toll mentally as well as physically. But Jacobi, a Milwaukee native who served one year in Vietnam after being drafted in 1965, has chosen a different path.
“It’s better to be happy and friendly,” he said. “When I was 50, I said, ‘You gotta be happy. Don’t let things bother you.'”
And he has stuck by that philosophy, tackling his various physical ailments with determination and fortitude that belie his age.
“He’s unique, he’s an outlier,” said Milwaukee VA prosthetist Justin Heck. “He’s an inspiring guy.”
Sarah Mikesell, Jacobi’s physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA, agreed.
“Statistically, he’s an anomaly, being as old as he is and being able to walk with bilateral prostheses. That’s definitely against the odds.
“Jim is really super motivated. He does a good job taking care of himself and following through on recommendations. And he tries to share his good, positive attitude with everybody else.”
Jim Jacobi, a U.S. Army Veteran, stands with the help of physical therapist Sarah Mikesell at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center after putting on his new prosthetic leg.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Jacobi was just a few months out of high school when his number came up.
His job in the Army was ordering food for the troops — 150,000 when he arrived and 200,000 by the time he was discharged.
“Me and the captain were the two people that ordered all the food for the II Corps,” he said. “When I left, the captain and I got replaced by a whole company.”
His job took him to the front lines, and he remembers being shelled by mortar fire his very first day in the country.
Somewhere along the way – he’s not sure when or how – he was exposed to Agent Orange. And that is what led to the disease that has gnawed away at him – diabetes.
Exposure to Agent Orange and other herbicides has been linked to the disease. And while heredity is also associated with diabetes, Jacobi said he’s the only member of his family to develop it.
After Vietnam, Jacobi worked in manufacturing for a number of years before opening a gas station. That eventually led to a job with a company that oversaw 13 convenience stores.
The work played to Jacobi’s strengths of being friendly and outgoing.
“I realized that in a factory, you see the same people every day,” he said. “When I was working for the convenience stores, I would be going to different stores. I had a lot of people working for me, and I got to know some of the customers. I’m more of a people-oriented person.”
It wasn’t long after Jacobi’s retirement when the diabetes began to take its toll.
He remembers getting an infection in the big toe on his right leg. A month later, all of his toes on his right foot had to be amputated.
“Since I’ve had this, I’ve downhill skied, curled and went sailing on Lake Michigan, all through SCI recreation. We play bocce ball, we bowl, we do air rifles, archery, kayaking, bicycling — I do all of that.”
— Jim Jacobi, talking about how his life changed after losing his first leg.
Three years later, the leg had to be amputated. Jacobi was fitted with a prosthetic, and within months he was walking again. But that wasn’t all. Besides hooking up with the Walk a Mile or More group of Veterans at the Milwaukee VA, Jacobi also became involved with recreation groups through the Spinal Cord Injury center.
“Since I’ve had this,” he said, pointing to his first prosthesis, “I’ve downhill skied, curled and went sailing on Lake Michigan, all through SCI recreation. “We play bocce ball, we bowl, we do air rifles, archery, kayaking, bicycling – I do all of that.”
He found a “great bunch of guys” at the SCI and WAMM, which gathers three days a week at Lake Wheeler on the Milwaukee VA campus not only to walk for exercise but also to socialize.
“You meet such wonderful people,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he also went on outings to Harley-Davidson and organized bicycle rides on the Hank Aaron Trail. He and his buddies would also serve free coffee once a week at the hospital’s South Entrance.
But diabetes wasn’t done with Jacobi yet.
A familiar scenario began last summer when the little toe on Jacobi’s left leg had to be amputated. The remaining toes were taken in succession within months.
In February, he was back in the hospital, having his remaining leg amputated.
During his recovery, his friends would drop by his room every day, doing what they could and bringing him anything he needed.
“The nurses on the seventh floor, they were amazed I would have about 10 guys visiting me before the virus shut it down,” he said. “They’re great buddies… They’re always there to help you. And I’m the same way – I’ll do anything I can to help them.”
In June, Jacobi was fitted with his new prosthesis, and physical therapy began again.
He hasn’t been able to take it home yet – it’s still being tweaked. Meanwhile, the remainder of his left leg continues to heal after the amputation.
As is his nature, Jacobi has not seen this latest amputation as a roadblock, but merely a hurdle to get over.
“My goal is to walk without any device – no walker, no cane – by the end of the summer,” he said.
And according to the experts, he’s likely to do it.
“I think he’s on track,” Mikesell said.
“It’s all him. He wants to do it,” Heck said. “How positive he is – that’s the hardest part.
“Physically, we know people can walk or stand with the prosthetics. That’s fairly simple. To do it well and stay positive and work at it every day – that’s the hard part.”
Diabetes threw Jacobi another curveball in June.
He woke up one Sunday morning and noticed his vision was impaired.
“I think everybody at the VA hospital is so caring. I have a lot of buddies, a lot of Veterans, and I’ve not heard one person complaint about VA.”
— Jim Jacobi talks about the care he receives at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
“It was like hair was hanging in my eye,” he said. “But I don’t have any hair.”
After talking with his primary care physician’s nurse on Monday, Jacobi walked into the eye clinic at the Milwaukee VA the next day and had laser surgery on the spot.
As Jacobi explained it, the diabetes led to the formation of blood vessels in the back of his eye.
“It looks like hair, but it’s actually blood,” he said.
Jacobi has one more procedure for the eye, scheduled in August.
Through all of this, Jacobi has continued to maintain his positive, upbeat attitude while lauding the care he has received at the Milwaukee VA.
“I think everybody at the VA hospital is so caring,” he said. “I have a lot of buddies, a lot of Veterans, and I’ve not heard one person complain about the VA.”
His health care providers at the Milwaukee VA are equally as appreciative of Jacobi.
“Jim’s a really good advocate for himself and other amputees,” Mikesell said, noting that Jacobi annually volunteers to work with students in training to be physical therapists. “He’s willing to share his knowledge and wisdom.”
“He has been an advocate for other Veterans as well as for the workers here,” Heck said.
Jacobi has a theory about people, saying 25% have “wonderful attitudes,” 50% have “normal” attitudes and the remaining 25% have “negative” attitudes.
“That’s just the way it is,” he said. “I wish we could get to that 25% who are angry.
“I see patients when I’m in the hospital, and some guys are so grumpy and negative. That’s a shame to see,” he said.
“It’s better to have a positive attitude. You make everybody else feel positive too.”