Belgian Air Force F-16s scrambled to intercept two Russian Tu-160 Blackjack supersonic, nuclear-capable bombers, accompanied by two Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker fighters over the Baltic Sea on Sept. 17, 2019.
The Belgian Air Force has been guarding the Baltic airspace since Sept. 3, 2019, when it took over the police mission from fellow NATO member Hungary, which was supported by Spain and the UK in its mission. Four Belgian F-16s and at least 60 soldiers have been deployed to protect Baltic airspace from unwelcome incursions, according to the Belgian Ministry of Defense.
Sept. 17, 2019’s interception was Belgium’s first since it began its rotation over Baltic airspace, and seemingly at very close range.
Russian aircraft have engaged in several provocative actions over NATO airspace this year. In June 2019, British Typhoon fighter jets scrambled to intercept Russian Su-30 Flanker fighters twice in two days.
An British air force Typhoon fighter jet, foreground, with a Russian fighter over the Baltics.
But NATO countries aren’t merely reacting to Russian aggression. In August 2019 alone, US and UK aircraft sent clear messages to Russia:
US B-2 Spirit stealth bombers flew with UK F-35s, the B-2’s first time flying with non-US F-35s.
B-2 Spirit bombers landed in Iceland for the first time. The B-2, which operates from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and Royal Air Force Fairford in the UK, needs specific conditions to support its stealth capabilities.
B-2 bombers flew their first extended sorties over the Norwegian Sea earlier in September 2019 — right in Russia’s backyard.
Two US Air Force B-2 Spirit stealth bombers, currently deployed to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire, fly alongside two Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning aircraft from RAF Marham near the White Cliffs of Dover, England, Aug. 29, 2019.
(US Air Force/UK Ministry of Defense)
NATO countries share the mission of protecting Baltic airspace, as the Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — don’t have the infrastructure to protect their own airspace and are considered at risk of destabilization or invasion by Russia.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Snipers are masters of disguise who are able to hide in plain sight, providing overwatch, scouting enemy positions, and, when necessary, taking out threats.
“No one knows you’re there. I’m here. I’m watching you, I see everything that you are doing, and someone is about to come mess up your day,” First Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a Texas native and experienced US Army sniper, said during a recent interview.
“We are capable of hurting you in many ways … We’re not going to tell you how we’re coming. But, we’re coming for you.”
Business Insider asked a handful of trained Army snipers, elite sharpshooters who have served across multiple combat deployments in multiple countries, how they disappear in any and all environments. Here’s what they had to say.
An Army Green beret sniper, assigned to 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), takes aim at a long-range target for a timed shooting event during advanced skills sniper training at Fort Carson, Colorado, Dec. 12, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Connor Mendez)
Concealment is about putting anything you can between yourself and the watchful eyes of the enemy.
“A sniper is not limited to any one method,” Sipes, a veteran sniper with more than a decade of service, explained. “We are extremely free. You are limited only by however you limit yourself.”
Snipers use a mixture of natural and artificial materials to achieve concealment and camouflage to avoid enemy detection, as the sniper must remain unseen by the enemy to collect intelligence or take a shot if needed. The aim is to effectively blend into the negative space, areas the eye naturally overlooks.
Concealing oneself from an adversary’s gaze is about putting “anything you can between you and whatever might be observing you,” Staff Sgt. David Smith, a sniper instructor at Fort Benning, told BI, explaining that this could be natural vegetation, face paints, false screens, a sniper’s ghillie suits, or the hides they construct.
A ghillie suit is designed with loose strips designed to resemble natural backgrounds like twigs or long grasses, and can make snipers nearly undetectable by visual. Ghillie suits typically do not shield the wearer from detection via thermal imaging, a technology that advanced militaries are likely to use; however, the Army is developing an improved ghillie suit which is expected to offer enhanced protection.
With the tools they bring with them and materials found in the field, snipers can break up and distort their outline, making them significantly harder to spot.
Pfc. William Snyder, 1-173rd Infantry, practices sniper camouflage techniques at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, April 7, 2018.
(Photo by Army Staff Sgt. William Frye)
In many ways, it’s about knowing your environment.
“The best tool snipers can use to disguise and conceal themselves from the enemy is a solid understanding of their surroundings,” Capt. Greg Elgort, the company commander, told BI.
Snipers need to know the lay of the land, they need to plan their route, and they need to take advantage of whatever nature gives.
“I want to look at the terrain. What can I put between myself and the target,” Sipes, who runs the marksmanship training company alongside Elgort, said.” It’s not just about the face paint or what I attach to my body, it’s the natural environment around me that I can utilize to keep them from seeing me.”
For example, the winners of the International Sniper Competition, two non-commissioned officers from the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, hid themselves from view with nothing more than a ghillie suit hood and various materials they found in the field.
In particular, they focused on hiding their face.
“Just by being able to disfigure and break up the outline of their face — you know, a human face stands out very vividly in a woodland area — by concealing the outline of their face, they were able to win,” Elgort explained. “It really comes down to an understanding of that and knowing what you’re presenting and adjusting accordingly.”
Sgt. Chayne Walsh, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, prepares to execute his concealment exercise during sniper training at Fort Benning.
(Patrick A. Albright/MCoE PAO Photographer)
There are a lot of small things that if overlooked could be fatal.
Snipers have to manage their tracks, scent, shadow, glare and countless other things to remain hidden from enemies. “There are a million things that go into being a sniper, and you have to be good at all of them,” Sipes explained.
Here’s just a few of the many things snipers have to think about.
“If you are facing east in the morning, the sun is going to be coming at you, so you need to do something with your scope to prevent glare,” Elgort told BI. To combat this problem, snipers build cat eyes.
“We use natural vegetation, we use wraps, netting, whatever to block the optics from any observation but allow us to see through it,” Sipes said, noting that other considerations include whether or not he is silhouetting himself against something else. A shadow could give away his position, exposing him to the enemy.
As for scents, he said that snipers avoid scented soaps, smoking, any type of cologne, deodorant, etc.
In colder climates, a sniper can eat snow to hide their breath, but it only works for a short time. “You would have to continuously eat snow, and then you have to pee,” Smith said, bringing up another potential consideration.
Snipers also have to think about bodily excretions. Sometimes when nature calls, a sniper will use bags with sponges to soak up their business. They can also bury it in the earth. Other times, they just have to hold it.
US Army Sgt. John Stewart, a Sniper assigned to NATO’s Battle Group Poland, improves his fighting position during react to contact drills at Bemowo Piskie Training Area, Poland, Nov. 8, 2018.
(Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Sarah Kirby)
Some environments are easier than others.
Staff Sgt. Joshua Jones, another sniper instructor, identified two decidedly difficult environments for concealment — fresh snow and the urban environments.
“You can disappear into the snow. It takes a little more thought. It’s a little harder to play with the blending in,” he told BI. “And, in the urban environment, there’s just so many eyes on you from the onset that it makes it pretty tough for you to get into your setup without someone knowing that you’re already there.”
Places like cities and suburbs are also the hardest areas to shoot in.
“I can say that the most difficult place to shoot is in an urban environment,” Sipes said, calling attention to the some of the angles and structures obstructing visibility, among other problems.
“The targets are generally moving. They have civilians around them. They’re using the patterns of life on the ground to conceal themselves. And they’re never in one location,” he added.
As for the easiest environments to blend into, that is definitely your standard woodland or jungle, Jones explained.
Hidden beneath twigs and weeds, a sniper’s stomach is flat on the ground, dirt and grime on his face. All that can be seen in the bundles of cheatgrass is a pair of steady, intense eyes.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)
One of the greatest dangers is that new technologies are making it harder for snipers to hide.
The US is once again in a time of rivalry with other military powers, and that means they must learn to counter more advanced threats from adversaries like China and Russia.
“Defeating a thermal signature is probably the hardest thing that a sniper has to do, especially with emerging technology by our near-peer enemies,” Smith told BI. Snipers can hide in the visible spectrum, but combating high-end sensors is a challenge.
US rivals are starting to “creep into the thermal arena, and that in itself is dangerous to a sniper because then you can’t hide from that,” Smith said. Thermal imagers can easily detect a human body’s heat against the ambient temperature of the environment around it.
Smith called this a “large challenge” that the Army is “working to defeat that as well.”
Sometimes that means getting back to the basics. Snipers often use laser range finders to get a more accurate read on a target, but that’s not always an option.
“When going against a near-peer threat or an adversary that has the capability to identify that, we have to rely solely on the reticle that’s in our scope,” Staff Sgt. Christopher Rance, a sniper instructor team sergeant from Colorado, explained.
There are also new camouflage systems, such as the Fibrotex’s Ultra-Light Camouflage Netting System capable of providing more persistent infrared, thermal, and counter-radar performance, that are in development to help the Army’s snipers, as well as other soldiers, hide from the more advanced threats.
Warfare is always evolving, which means that US snipers have to be ready for anything.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
While no one was keeping good track of exactly how often troops got laid in World War II, historians studying tensions between U.S. and Australian soldiers in northern Australia have noted that rationing, combined with differences in pay and uniform design, gave at least the impression that U.S. soldiers were getting a leg up in romance down under.
Men of USS Northampton and USS Salt Lake City were welcomed when their ships visited Brisbane.
(Australian War Memorial)
First, let us say that there’s no appearance that anyone was doing this on purpose so Americans could bring adorable wallababies back home after the war. But a series of decisions and facts combined to make a perfect storm.
Number one: U.S. troops were sent to help defend Australia from Japanese incursions, necessarily putting them in proximity with Australian civilians, including the female ones they were most likely to pursue romantically.
Number two: U.S. troops were paid much better than their Australian counterparts with privates collecting about three times as much if they flew Ol’ Glory instead of whatever Australia calls their flag.
Number three: U.S. troops had access to Post Exchanges that sold items, like pantyhose, at low prices that weren’t available at any price to an Australian soldier (unless the Aussie bought it from an American). And, U.S. rationing of alcohol and other consumables was generally done on a unit-per-time scheme, such as two drinks per day, while Australian troops could consume a set amount at a very specific time, like X number of drinks during this specific hour.
U.S. military police outside the Central Hotel, Brisbane.
All of this combined meant that an Australian soldier who wanted to woo a woman could invite her out to a date, but had to be careful about costs. They could invite her to drinks, but the couple could only drink for a very limited period at a specific place. And he could give her a gift, but typically just items that were available in the Australian civilian market.
An American soldier, on the other hand, could spend more money, could get more alcohol in a more flexible way, and could purchase gifts made of silk or nylon that would otherwise be nearly impossible for the woman to procure.
Believe it or not, historians think this might have been the cause of some of the tensions between U.S. and Australian troops in World War II. If you’ve never heard about those tensions, whoa boy. This’ll be fun.
U.S. troops disembark at New Britain in December 1943 where they worked with Australian troops.
(Harold George Dick, Australian Government)
U.S. and Australian troops had such a fraught relationship that the military dedicated multimedia efforts to trying to keep them tied together, putting out comics, pamphlets, and other short materials to try to bridge the gap between them. Slang translation guides were released, and U.S. troops were told how key Australia was to Allied victory.
Japan, meanwhile, knew about some of the tensions and released propaganda with an opposite message: U.S. troops are there to steal your women and destroy your culture. Kick them out or risk the unmaking of your society.
On at least one occasion, this tension erupted into violence. The “Battle of Brisbane” was a riot in that Australian city that raged for two days between U.S. troops and Australian troops and civilians. A number of the Australian complaints during the riot are listed above, including the presence of the American PX mentioned above.
U.S. and Australian troops celebrate 100 years of “Mateship” in 2018.
(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
One person died, and at least 18 were seriously wounded. Rioters in some places beat U.S. soldiers to the point of hospitalization, and U.S. military police fired weapons at a crowd at one point, injuring eight and killing one. We won’t go through the whole thing here (Blake Stilwell already did a good job of it last year), but it’s a good example of the tensions between the forces overflowing.
But of course, Australian and American soldiers were able to get along when it counted, especially when they were deployed too far forward to fight over women. U.S. and Australian troops fought near each other during landings in North Africa and Sicily as well as in Europe. The bulk of Australian service was in the Pacific, and U.S. fought hand-in-hand with Australia against Japan at the Solomons, Borneo, and other areas.
And now, Australian soldiers have the same access to nylons that the U.S. does, so it’s probably not an issue anymore.
Earlier this week, two letters arrived at the Pentagon. One was addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis and the other to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson. Each letter contained a 5×8 card with something scribbled onto it (what was written has not yet been released publicly) and a castor bean — the base for the deadly toxin, ricin.
Though not officially linked, similar letters containing ricin also arrived at the White House and two offices of Senator Ted Cruz. The letters sent to the Pentagon were detected and set off alarms during routine screening procedures and the area was quickly quarantined. Unfortunately for those at Ted Cruz’s Houston office, two people were hospitalized.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman for Salt Lake City, Melody Rydalch, told the Military Times that they have made an arrest in connection with the ricin-laced packages. While the investigation is still ongoing, based entirely on his past record, we feel confident in saying that this guy was a massive piece of sh*t.
Authorities have arrested William Clyde Allen III in Logan, Utah, with Federal charges expected to be levied on Friday. According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, he has confessed to the purchasing of castor beans to make the toxin ricin and to sending the letters.
As reported by the Military Times, he is a U.S. Navy veteran, having served four years as a damage control fireman apprentice. He spent 17 months on a combat support ship, USS Supply, and 15 months on the support ship, USS Detroit.
His military records show that his last obtained pay grade was E-2, meaning that he was demoted at least twice before leaving the service. His medals also indicate that he had done nothing of interest.
After his military service ended, he had many run-ins with the law. In 2004, he plead guilty to two cases of neglect and child-sexual abuse against two girls. He did not have to file as a sexual predator in accordance with his plea deal. He was then arrested for aggravated assault in 2008 and sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.
He also engaged in a lengthy harassment campaign against and the eventual doxxing of a female veteran that was bad enough to warrant a spotlight by Counter Domestic Terrorism. He made countless death threats against her and her two children, made several fictitious reports to the CIA and FBI, and would share her personal information, including her home address, to social media. In 2017, the Air Force notified Logan police that Allen called in a bomb threat.
Reportedly, his social media accounts were also filled with right-wing conspiracy theories and included several instructional videos on how to create various dangerous materials, including cyanide.
The December 17th, 2017 article on him by Counter Domestic Terrorism concludes with the cryptic caption on a screen-capture of his “how to manufacture cyanide” video, posing the question, “why would he want to make Cyanide?”
Barbara Allen relives her husband’s murder, every day. “I don’t want to be out here doing this. This is not fun for me, it’s exhausting. It’s been fourteen years of it,” she shared.
On June 7, 2005 Lt. Louis Allen and Cpt. Phillip Esposito were on an Army base in Iraq winding down after a long day. Allen’s husband had just deployed to Iraq and kissed her and their four sons goodbye 10 days earlier. He was playing the board game, Risk, with the Captain. A few minutes after they started, a claymore mine was set off outside their window. Grenades exploded shortly after the mine went off. They were both rushed to the hospital immediately but died of internal injuries the following day.
While military investigators initially thought the enemy was an insurgent who had set off a rocket or mortar, the discovery of the hand placed mine led them to other suspects. Their subsequent investigation found that the enemy – was from within.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen
A staff sergeant within their company was soon charged with two counts of premeditated murder during the week both men were buried by their families. The widows of the men allegedly killed by the staff sergeant were flown to Kuwait a few months later for his Article 32 hearing. Nine witnesses testified and a general court martial for murder was recommended based on the evidence presented. In early 2006, after learning of the evidence against him, the staff sergeant accused offered up a guilty plea to avoid the death penalty.
It was rejected by the military.
Two years later on December 4, 2008, the accused staff sergeant was acquitted of both murders, despite a mountain of evidence that he had “fragged” the two officers. Allen wasn’t told until months later that he had entered a guilty plea and the accused staff sergeant was discharged from the Army. Honorably.
Many witnesses testified that the accused staff sergeant had pledged to “burn” and “frag” the captain. They also shared that he was seen smiling and laughing after their deaths. A supply sergeant even testified that she gave the accused ammunition, including a claymore mine. Despite all of that – it wasn’t enough to convince the jury.
Allen requested that the Senate Committee on Armed Services look into the case. They didn’t.
“If our trial had happened when social media was a thing, I think it would have gone completely differently. It fell through a gap and we can’t get it back. If we had the court of public opinion on our side, the country on our side, he’d get the Purple Heart,” said Allen.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen
Allen was devastated that, in her words, the accused got away with murder and her husband was forgotten afterward. Her husband’s death was declared non-hostile, meaning the military states that he wasn’t killed by the enemy. This meant he wasn’t a candidate for the Purple Heart. She described the whole experience as hell on earth.
“Anyone who willfully kills two soldiers in a combat zone has aided and abetted the enemy. Therefore, is the enemy,” Allen said. “Even the weapon used had the words ‘front to an enemy.’ Flabbergasted, Allen asked, “What else do you have to do to be considered an enemy?” Allen didn’t understand how Ft. Hood victims could get awarded Purple Hearts, but her husband, who was murdered in a combat zone, isn’t eligible.
Allen believes that the Army must decide that they either made a mistake and charged the wrong person and her husband was killed by an insurgent enemy or they let a guilty man go. She reported that “people tended to get fired” when they helped her. Allen said they’ve gone as far as having a Medal of Honor recipient deliver the casefile to President Trump to plead for her husband to receive the Purple Heart, without success.
When asked how her boys feel about all of this, she began to cry. “This is their father, their dad, who’s been missing for their entire lives,” she said. “In the eyes of history he doesn’t exist. His future was taken already; you can’t take his legacy. The message is that any member of the military is expendable. If you die in a way that is embarrassing, we [the military] will erase you. That isn’t the military that I believe in or that he believed in.”
Allen achieved a master’s in criminal justice years after her husband was killed. She reported studying 12 other capital cases like her husband’s. She believes that if the FBI’s protocol for workplace violence had been followed by the military with the accused, her husband wouldn’t have been killed. “They deserved to be protected; nobody was trained. They believed that the uniform was a barrier to reporting,” she said.
This ruling is more than just an award to Allen and her family, she shared. “If the military said that if you willfully injure or kill another service member in a combat zone, let’s just start there, you are an enemy. Teach them about the warning signs. I can testify to what happens when you don’t. It would change things,” said Allen.
Today, Allen says she has a glimmer of hope once again. Her murdered husband’s case file for a Purple Heart is currently sitting on a desk in the Pentagon, awaiting review and the stroke of a pen.
“Worry about the dollars and the pennies take care of themselves.” — anonymous
It’s worthwhile to keep that adage above in mind when you are being pitched to buy a franchise business.
One of the most costly mistakes veterans can make is paying too much upfront for a franchise that you can’t sell for the same price the next day. It’s the venture equivalent of buying a used Chevy for the price of new BMW.
I hate it when I receive letters from veterans who “want out” of a franchise they just bought. They feel snookered, trapped, and annoyed at themselves for not looking at the details before signing on the dotted line.
The best way to avoid buyer’s remorse is to become a smart shopper of franchise opportunities. Here are five tips to help you assess if you are more likely to make money or lose money in the franchise world.
1. Set higher standards
If your objective is to merely “go into business for yourself” or “own a franchise” then your aspirations are not high enough to be a successful business owner. After all, you will achieve your goal of business ownership the day you sign the franchise contract! Then what?
A more purposeful objective is to own a franchise that will make money for you. When you set high standards for your financial return on your invested time and savings your tire-kicking “due diligence” questions become more precise and purposeful.
2. Understand sales rep motivations
When you start to explore different franchise opportunities, you will come in contact with franchisor representatives and business brokers who have just one purpose—to sell you a franchise as fast as possible. These individuals are not your trusted friends or unbiased financial advisors. Certainly don’t sign any franchise agreement without prior review from an experienced corporate attorney who understands franchise valuations and royalty obligations.
3. Add up cost of acquisition
Sneaky franchise brokers are adept at hiding the true investment cost of a franchise purchase. If you sign up to buy a franchise, your cost of acquisition is more than the down payment. Include the amount you have to borrow to acquire the franchise plus other savings you may have to apply to the business until it achieves at least cash flow breakeven. (when net sales revenues exceed expenses every month) This is the total amount you will have at risk in your new business. How comfortable are you with this amount? What would happen if you lost it all?
4. Evaluate owner’s compensation
Another trick of franchise sales reps is to present impressive financial projections of average franchise unit performance. Look closely at these projections. Do they include a budget allocation for the owner’s salary, healthcare, adequate insurance and other real world expenses associated with running a business? If there is no allocation for an owner’s salary and benefits and you intend to work full time in the business, beware!
Remember, year-end profits should be your financial return on your invested capital, not your sole source of compensation for working 40 to 70 hours a week to keep the franchise alive! Of course, the business could fail to generate a profit too which means you as the founder earns nothing for a lot of work.
5. Understand market value
Buy low, then sell high. If you pay $25,000, $50,000, or $100,000 to buy into a franchise, then you should find evidence that other franchises can be sold at least for that much or more. Unfortunately, the opposite is often true.
Research the market for this brand of franchise. What are the average resale purchase prices in your state? Who buys up franchises when the owner wants out? Does the corporate office buy back franchises? What does the franchise agreement call for? Frequently, one regional franchise operator buys distressed properties at deep discounts.
Given all the risks associated with owning a business and personal obligation to repay debt, you should walk away from any franchise that cannot eventually be sold for at least two times your invested capital.
Unfortunately, I get too many letters from franchise buyers who are desperate to get out of a money-losing franchise. They realize they overpaid for a franchise usually within a year of purchase. They didn’t pay attention to the quantitative issues where they could lose hard cash because the sales reps kept their attention on how great it will be to at last be the boss of a money making business. At the end of the day, they didn’t make any money and didn’t have any fun as a business owner.
Now you know better.
Susan Schreter is a devoted Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program workshop presenter and founder of Start on Purpose, a service organization that empowers business owners anywhere in America to find and manage business funding with confidence. Connect with her at Susan@StartonPurpose.
Military service often requires duty in noisy environments that can cause hearing loss and it doesn’t just happen during combat operations at deployed locations far from home station.
From flight line operations to firearms qualification ranges, aircraft maintenance back shops, vehicle repair shops, civil engineering shops, or even Air Force Research laboratories where innovative and agile technologies are born, noise brings the potential of hearing loss if proper personal protective hearing equipment is not available or utilized.
“In fact, Veterans Administration records show that auditory conditions such as hearing loss and tinnitus are the number one and number two most prevalent disability claim in the VA,” said Dr. Tanisha Hammill, research coordination branch lead at the Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence in San Antonio. “In terms of number of claims, this is the most prevalent injury among our veterans, so there is an obvious need to focus on reducing those injuries among our service members,” she said.
In 2009, the Congressionally-mandated HCE was stood up to combat hearing and balance disorders. As part of the HCE, the Collaborative Auditory & Vestibular Research Network, or CAVRN was formed to bring together researchers with an auditory research focus to discuss current research efforts across the DoD and VA enterprises, providing unique opportunities for collaboration, Hammill said.
Annual CAVRN meetings are held at federal facilities and are hosted by member organizations, and in 2018, the annual meeting was held April 24-26 and was hosted by the 711th Human Performance Wing’s Airman Systems Directorate, Warfighter Interface Division, Battlespace Acoustics Branch; the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, and the Naval Medical Research Unit – Dayton.
Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Koeniger, 711th HPW commander, welcomed the CAVRN meeting attendees and cited numerous opportunities for collaboration with the 711 HPW.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Richard Eldridge)
“As you go forward, the Human Performance Wing wants to be part of what you all do to help Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines maintain their hearing so that hopefully in the future, hearing loss ceases to be the number one disability.
“The Air Force Chief of Staff’s focus areas converge on a singular vision – to create healthy squadrons full of resilient and credible warfighters primed to excel in multi-domain warfare,” he told them. “Certainly, nobody can do their job, or at least they would have a very difficult time doing their job if they couldn’t hear well.”
Hearing is a critical sense and is required for all service members to effectively communicate within dynamic and often chaotic environments.
“The ability to hear and communicate is critical to the safety of each warrior and their unit, and is central to command and control, and mission accomplishment,” Hammill said.
The CAVRN aims to foster knowledge sharing and facilitate greater communication, coordination, awareness, and transparency between community members.
“The CAVRN promotes collaboration, translation, and best practices that influence auditory-vestibular readiness, care, and quality of life for warfighters and veterans,” added Hammill.
Hammill stated that as she toured the 711 HPW, she thought about all the tremendous crossover opportunities between auditory research and so many other disciplines within human performance. “We are a very interdisciplinary team and that’s a big part of our growth – to discover and reach out to these other teams who are somehow focused on auditory or balance disorders,” she said.
“When you bring these folks together, they end up having very meaningful conversations, they are able to incorporate perspectives of their colleagues, who are subject matter experts across the DoD and VA and incorporate their perspectives and really make smarter projects and make more multiservice projects.”
Hammill explained that the CAVRN is built on a translational model, including bench scientists, clinician scientists, funding program managers, and public health experts, adding, “The whole scope from idea to application to practice, all in the same room so they can plan everything out together right up front.”
“This is a complex issue. Losing your hearing is not a part of doing business in military service and there are a lot of smart people working diligently to come up with better solutions to protect their hearing, both from a personal protective equipment stance, but also efforts in noise reductions and efforts in communication enhancement while making sure they’re able to do their job and have a reasonable quality of life after service,” Hammill said.
This article originally appeared on Health.mil. Follow @MilitaryHealth on Twitter.
In the wake of World War I, hundreds of thousands of returning and separating American troops came home to a nation ill-prepared to support them. In 1920, DAV (Disabled American Veterans) was founded with the goal of helping these service members transition comfortably back into civilian life. Since then, DAV has been providing a lifetime of support for veterans of all generations and their families by helping them access benefits they earned—like health care, education and disability—and connecting them to meaningful employment opportunities.
The nonprofit charity was founded by an injured infantryman who rose to become a judge in the Superior Court of Ohio after The Great War. The organization was originally known as the Disabled American Veterans of the World War and, as its name suggests, it was focused on helping those who were disabled by the War.
DAV established the National Employment Program in 2014, which focuses on connecting veterans and their spouses with employers. Their goal is to improve the lives of veterans and their families by finding meaningful employment.
Today, DAV hosts a job board that has as many as 250,000 active job openings listed at once. They also help represent veterans to employers, explaining to decision-makers why it’s best to target veterans for open positions.
Thanks to George Aldrich and his team of NASA sniffers, astronauts can breathe a little bit easier. Aldrich is a chemical specialist or “chief sniffer” at the White Sands Test Facility’s Molecular Desorption and Analysis Laboratory in New Mexico. His job is to smell items before they can be flown in the space shuttle.
Aldrich explained that smells change in space and that once astronauts are up there, they’re stuck with whatever smells are onboard with them. In space, astronauts aren’t able to open the window for extra ventilation, Aldrich said. He also said that it is important not to introduce substances that will change the delicate balance of the climate of the International Space Station and the space shuttle.
More than being merely unpleasant, smells in space can indicate a health threat. Even objects that give off no odor can emit dangerous chemicals by a process called off-gassing. If an object’s off-gassing has toxic effects, it can be a matter of life and death.
“Smell is brought out by confined spaces and heat,” said Aldrich, “yet astronauts have no way of escaping a smell if it becomes pervasive. If that smell comes from dangerous compounds, it’s a serious health threat.”
It is Aldrich’s job to use his sense of smell to ensure the olfactory comfort, as well as the safety, of astronauts on orbit.
When he was just 18 years old, Aldrich began working at White Sand’s fire department and was asked to be on the department’s Odor Panel. Aldrich explained that one of the requirements to get a job as a sniffer is a lack of any allergies or respiratory problems. “If you have a lot of allergies, your nasal passages are already irritated and cannot be used,” he said.
NASA calibrates and certifies its sniffers’ noses every four months using a “10-bottle test” in which seven of the bottles have odors and three of them are blanks. The seven scents must be categorized as musky, floral, ethereal, camphoraceous, minty, pungent or putrid.
According to the NASAexplores Web site, Aldrich’s team tests nearly all items that astronauts would encounter during their flight — including fabric, toothpaste, circuit boards, makeup and even the ink on their checklists.
First, the items are tested for toxicity. They are placed into individually sealed containers and then into an oven, which is heated to 49 degrees Celsius (120 degrees Fahrenheit) for three days to speed up the off-gassing process. The gases are then extracted and tested to determine whether they are toxic or carcinogenic. If the gases are deemed safe, the items then undergo odor testing.
Aldrich and four other team members smell the items and rank them on a scale of zero to four, ranging from non-detectable (zero), to barely detectable, easily detectable, objectionable and offensive (four). Aldrich refers to level four as “get-me-out-of-here.” Because the sense of smell can vary from person to person, sniffers give each object its own ratings, from which an average is obtained. If an item rates more than a 2.4 on the scale, it fails the test and is not allowed on the flight. Some items that have failed are camera film, felt-tipped markers, mascara and certain types of stuffed animals. Aldrich has done 765 of these “smell missions” to date.
NASA could use dogs or “electronic noses” for this testing, but as Aldrich pointed out, the Agency would rather use human sniffers because they serve as a screening test for the also-human astronauts. The human testers can more accurately identify smells that will offend the human crewmembers than an electronic nose could.
As a result of his career, Aldrich has had some uncommon opportunities. He has served as a judge four times at the Odor-Eaters Rotten Sneaker Competition. He has also appeared on television a number of times, including appearances on two game shows.
While others may chuckle at his unusual occupation, Aldrich said he believes in its value.
“I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think it was important,” he said.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
If you were surprised to see some of the tearful farewells from those worst affected by the lifelong policies of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, you aren’t alone. Mugabe ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years after helping free the country from British colonial rule. Mugabe was very much the central figure in then-Rhodesia’s struggle for freedom.
The African world rejoiced at his success, and then watched him plunge the country into every economic and human rights disaster there is.
At the end of the 1970s, African colonialism was taking its dying breaths. Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, was one of the last remnants of the African colonial era, where the minority white population ruled over the majority black population with an iron fist. The struggle to correct this resulted in the 15-year Rhodesian Bush War that saw thousands of Zimbabweans die at the hands of Rhodesian armed forces. The central figure to emerge from that struggle was Robert Mugabe, a charismatic freedom fighter and former college professor who idolized Mohandas Gandhi who started his firebrand career giving speeches in his home country.
After spending years in prison for sedition in Rhodesia, he left for neighboring Mozambique to join the militant wing of the struggle for freedom, the Zimbabwe African National Union. After the leaders of ZANU were assassinated by the Rhodesian government, Mugabe quickly rose to the top of its ranks. Rhodesia soon realized the writing on the wall, as Mugabe and other groups sent more insurgents into Rhodesia faster than the Rhodesians could kill or capture them. In the election that followed the political stalemate, Mugabe was victorious and became Prime Minister in 1980.
Mugabe with Joshua Nkomo at the Constitutional Conference on the future of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia at Lancaster House in London.
He renamed the country Zimbabwe and the capital Harare. He also expanded educational opportunities to most of the population. In 1987, he and his ZANU-PF party amended the Zimbabwean constitution and installed himself as Executive President, a new position he made for himself while his one-party dominated the Parliament. Mugabe became just one more African strongman. Mugabe betrayed his own revolution.
Although he was an educated man, he was not fit to rule an entire country on his own. After sending military forces into the countryside to root out dissent, Zimbabwe found itself deeply in debt and a mineral sector in virtual collapse. The value of its currency began to drop, and Mugabe began to exploit the ethnic differences in his country to stay in power, a textbook dictatorship move. The wealthy and educated began to flee the country, and by 2000 the economy was in freefall. Hyperinflation became synonymous with the Zimbabwean dollar. He created a repressive police state in order to stay in power, while stripping the rights of everyone, not just white farmers.
Mugabe died in Singapore on Sept. 6, 2019. He was 95. He will still be buried in the country he fought to loot for 37 years.
Even after the total collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, widespread corruption, and Mugabe’s brutal suppression of all opposition, Mugabe remained in power. He and his inner circle of cronies stole the revenues from the country’s mineral wealth while stealing elections and killing the opposition. Finally, after 30-plus years of brutality, Western powers slapped sanctions on him, the country, and anyone caught doing business with Zimbabwe. Yet only after he began to groom his second wife, Grace, to take his position after he died, did Zimbabweans organize his ouster. When he died, he was still working to undermine the government in Harare that had succeeded him.
So while Robert Mugabe was an undisputed liberating force for so many black Rhodesians-turned-Zimbabweans, along with those affected by the subsequent anti-colonial and anti-apartheid movements that came after his success, he was also responsible for 37 years of pillaging the country he fought to liberate.
When he finished his enlistment and left the Army in 2012, Alex Ortega wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do for his post-military career.
With no specific plan for a civilian career, Ortega decided school was the best option. But he still wasn’t sure what direction to take.
While in school one of his classmates, a military veteran like him, mentioned help available through the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program.
An Easterseals employment specialist helped Ortega by guiding the former soldier through the process of crafting a plan for his post-military education and to find work in a professional field.
The specialist helped Ortega retool and improve his resume — such as translating military-specific tasks and jobs he held during his six years in the Army into similar, equivalent duties in civilian employment. With the specialist’s help, Ortega was able to detail his military experience on his resume in a way that was clearer and more relevant to potential civilian employers.
That assistance paid off. Today, Ortega works as a veteran peer support specialist at a leading university in Southern California.
“An employment specialist will help that veteran accomplish his or her goals, which is very important,” he said. “I’m very thankful for Easterseals and the employment mentorship. They provided great mentorship and guidance for me and assisted in the transition … from my military experience to my civilian job now that I’m completely happy and content in.”
Ortega said he’s grateful to the work of the Easterseals Bob Hope Veterans Support Program, which “is making a big difference in the lives of veterans like myself.”
Ortega is among many veterans and their spouses who have received help, guidance and resources through Easterseals and the Bob Hope Veterans Support Program. The transition assistance program gives veterans and their families some peace of mind after they leave the military and have to reset themselves or their families for a new chapter of life — whether they want to find civilian employment, pursue college or technical training, or start a small business.
Funded with a seed grant from The Bob Hope Legacy, the support program was launched in 2014 and provides referrals and resources, including one-on-one support for transitioning veterans and reservists and National Guard members who are leaving active duty.
The program provides resources that fit each veteran’s interests, skills and goals. Specialists help them write resumes, sharpen interviewing skills, learn how to network and boost their confidence to help them obtain work with potential employers. The program also helps with direct referrals to partner agencies who can provide housing, legal assistance, counseling or child care.
Support is free for post-Sept. 11, 2001, veterans leaving active or reserve duty who intend to work in San Diego County or Orange County and who have received an honorable, general or other-than-honorable discharge. A veteran does not need to have a disability to be eligible for the program.
The service also is available to spouses or registered domestic partners of veterans who are unable to work due to a disability.
The transition program is part of Bob Hope’s legacy, and its impact is felt in veterans like Ortega. He follows a long lineage of military service in his family, including his father, brother and an uncle who all served in the Army like him.
Growing up, Ortega often watched videos of Bob Hope as he entertained tens of thousands of U.S. troops during his famous USO shows and worldwide tours.
“For a well-known comedian to come out like that and boost the morale of the troops in tough times, it’s a game-changer, and it really helps the veterans get through the day and deployment,” he said. “It really brings a touch of home, a piece of the United States to wherever they were.”
Two violent explosions in galaxies billions of light-years away recently produced the brightest light in the universe. Scientists caught it in action for the first time.
The explosions were gamma-ray bursts: short eruptions of the most energetic form of light in the universe.
Telescopes caught the first burst in July 2018. The second burst, captured in January 2019, produced light containing about 100 billion times as much energy as the light that’s visible to our human eyes.
Gamma-ray bursts appear without warning and only last a few seconds, so astronomers had to move quickly. Just 50 seconds after satellites spotted the January explosion, telescopes on Earth swiveled to catch a flood of thousands of particles of light.
“These are by far the highest-energy photons ever discovered from a gamma-ray burst,” Elisa Bernardini, a gamma-ray scientist, said in a press release.
Over 300 scientists around the world studied the results; their work was published Nov. 20, 2019, in the journal Nature.
The Hubble Space Telescope imaged the fading afterglow of the gamma-ray burst GRB 190114C (center of the green circle) and its home galaxy.
50 seconds to capture the brightest, most mysterious light in the universe
Gamma-ray bursts happen almost every day, without warning, and they only last a few seconds. Yet the high-energy explosions remain something of a mystery to scientists. Astronomers think they come from colliding neutron stars or from supernovae — events in which stars run out of fuel, give in to their own gravity, and collapse into black holes.
“Gamma-ray bursts are the most powerful explosions known in the universe and typically release more energy in just a few seconds than our sun during its entire lifetime,” gamma-ray scientist David Berge said in the release. “They can shine through almost the entire visible universe.”
After the brief, intense eruptions of gamma rays, hours or days of afterglow follow.
Telescopes have observed low-energy rays that come from the initial explosion and the afterglow.
“Much of what we’ve learned about GRBs [gamma-ray bursts] over the past couple of decades has come from observing their afterglows at lower energies,” NASA scientist Elizabeth Hays said in a release.
But scientists had never caught the ultra-high-energy light until these two recent observations.
On Jan. 14, 2019, two NASA satellites detected an explosions in a galaxy over 4 billion light-years away. Within 22 seconds, these space telescopes — the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope — beamed the coordinates of the burst to astronomers all over Earth.
Within 27 seconds of receiving the coordinates, astronomers in the Canary Islands turned two Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) telescopes toward that exact point in the sky.
On January 14, 2019, the Major Atmospheric Gamma Imaging Cherenkov (MAGIC) observatory in the Canary Islands captured the highest-energy light ever recorded from a gamma-ray burst. This illustration of that event also shows NASA’s Fermi and Swift spacecraft (top left and right, respectively).
The photons flooded those telescopes for the next 20 minutes, leading to new revelations about some of the most elusive properties of gamma-ray bursts.
“It turns out we were missing approximately half of their energy budget until now,” Konstancja Satalecka, a scientist who coordinates MAGIC’s searches for gamma-ray bursts, said in the release. “Our measurements show that the energy released in very-high-energy gamma-rays is comparable to the amount radiated at all lower energies taken together. That is remarkable.”
The large central H.E.S.S. telescope array in Namibia detected the light from a gamma-ray burst on July 20, 2018.
(MPIK / Christian Föhr)
Ultra-high-energy light came in the afterglow, not the explosion itself
The photons detected from a gamma-ray burst six months earlier, in July 2018, weren’t as energetic or as numerous as those from the January explosion.
But the earlier detection was still notable because the flow of high-energy light came 10 hours after the initial explosion. The light lasted for another two hours — deep into the afterglow phase.
In their paper, the researchers suggested that electrons may have scattered the photons, increasing the photons’ energy. Another paper about the January observations suggested the same thing.
Scientists had long suspected that this scattering was one way gamma-ray bursts could produce so much ultra-high-energy light in the afterglow phase. The observations of these two bursts confirmed that for the first time.
Scientists expect to learn more as they turn telescopes toward more gamma-ray bursts like these in the future.
“Thanks to these new ground-based detections, we’re seeing the gamma rays from gamma-ray bursts in a whole new way,” Hays said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The British government will not block the potential use of the death penalty in the case of two captured fighters of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) who could face trial in the United States, news reports say.
Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are suspected of being the final two members of a IS foursome labelled “The Beatles” due to their British accents.
The two men, who were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters in January 2018, were reportedly wanted for allegedly imprisoning, torturing and killing hostages.
They were captured by Syrian Kurdish fighters in January 2018.
Britain, which opposes the death penalty, has been in discussions with the United States about how and where the pair should face justice.
In a letter to the U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that was seen by the Daily Telegraph, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said London will not seek “assurances” that the pair will not be executed.
“I am of the view that there are strong reasons for not requiring a death penalty assurance in this specific case, so no such assurances will be sought,” Javid wrote in June 2018, according to a transcript of the letter published by the newspaper on July 23, 2018.
Amnesty International said the case “seriously jeopardizes the UK’s position as a strong advocate for the abolition of the death penalty.”
“At a time when the rest of the world is moving increasingly to abolition, this reported letter…marks a huge backward step,” Amnesty International UK’s head of advocacy Allan Hogarth said.
A Home Office spokesman said the government would not comment on leaked documents.
Mohammed Emwazi, known as “Jihadi John” became the most notorious of the four after appearing in videos showing the murder of Western and Japanese journalists and aid workers.
He is believed to have been killed in a U.S.-British missile strike in 2015.
Featured image: British Home Secretary Sajid Javid