The brain cancer that killed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Maj. Beau Biden, might have been caused by burn pit exposure in Kosovo and Iraq, Biden said in a recent interview.
“Science has recognized there are certain carcinogens when people are exposed to them. Depending on the quantities and the amount in the water and the air, [they] can have a carcinogenic impact on the body,” he said in a PBS NewsHour interview early this month.
Beau Biden, a judge advocate general (JAG) officer in the Delaware National Guard, died from brain cancer in 2015. He had been deployed to Iraq in 2009, and worked as a civilian lawyer with the U.S. attorney’s office in Kosovo.
A book published last year, The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers, by former Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Hickman, includes a chapter on Beau Biden’s cancer and its possible links to burn pit exposure.
In the interview, Joe Biden said he had been unaware of any potential link before reading that book.
“There’s a whole chapter on my son Beau in there, and that stunned me. I didn’t know that,” he said in the interview.
Burn pits were routinely used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste. Although government officials have declined to establish a firm link between burn pits and veterans’ health problems, including rare forms of cancer and respiratory diseases, the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014 established a registry for veterans to log their exposure and complaints.
More than 120,000 veterans have logged themselves in the registry. An estimated three million are eligible to join, according to the VA.
A federal judge last year dismissed a major lawsuit by veterans, contractors and their families against KBR, a defense contractor, for operating burn pits they claimed caused deadly respiratory diseases and cancer.
But the judge dismissed the suit, saying that KBR cannot be held liable for a Pentagon decision to use burn pits for waste disposal.
With the apparently successful test of an ICBM by North Korea, questions arise about what can be done about the regime of Kim Jong Un. This is understandable. After all, he did threaten Sony over the 2014 movie “The Interview.”
Also, the whole humanitarian crisis thing.
According to an op-ed in the Washington Times, there are some high-tech options that could shut down the North Korean threat. Investigative reporter Ronald Kessler stated that the Pentagon was looking at a cruise missile that could fry electronics. He reported that the Pentagon is also exploring micro-robots capable of delivering a lethal toxin to the North Korean dictator.
The cruise missile is known as the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, and it comes from Boeing’s Phantom Works — a lesser-known advanced aerospace projects division than the Lockheed Skunk Works. The missile uses microwaves to knock out radios and other electronic equipment. Boeing released a video about a 2012 test that you can see here.
Kessler also mentioned the use of insect-sized robots as potential weapons. While assassinations are currently prohibited by an executive order signed by President Gerald R. Ford, such a policy could be reversed by President Trump “with a stroke of the pen.” The advantage of using the micro-drones to bump off Kim Jong Un would be the fact that no American lives would be put at risk for the operation.
FoxNews.com reported that since the North Korean test, the United States tested the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense system in Alaska. The system continued a perfect record on tests when a battery stationed in Alaska took out a missile launched from Hawaii. Two launchers from a battery of six have been deployed in South Korea.
It was only a matter of time before the current climate of unrest led back to the U.S. military — and its 10 Army bases named for Confederate generals, all spread throughout the former Confederacy.
Whether to rename them continues to be a contentious political issue, but the practical-minded among us have moved on. If they are renamed, what will they be called?
So, without once using the term “Forty McFortFace,” here are a few suggestions — some entirely serious, some very not — for changing those 10 antiquated base names.
1. Fort Benning (Georgia)
This Columbus, Georgia, base was named after Confederate Gen. Henry L. Benning, who fought against the Union armies at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg. It was named for him in 1918, while many Civil War veterans were still alive. That doesn’t mean it needs to keep the name.
For sheer coolness factor, the base could be renamed for former NFL Wide Receiver Calvin Johnson, whose hometown is just an hour away from Columbus. Enemies would think twice if they knew they would be facing soldiers from Fort Megatron.
They both also have a lot of touchdowns. (U.S. Army photo by Ismael Ortega)
In all seriousness, though, renaming Fort Benning will likely be the easiest rechristening of this whole list, as the military’s basic paratrooper training is conducted here. The base could be named for Maj. General William C. Lee, the “Father of the U.S. Airborne,” and the first commander of the Army’s “jump school.”
Naming it “Fort William C. Lee” isn’t weird, either. Just ask the residents of Fort George G. Meade.
2. Fort Lee (Virginia)
So what to do with Fort Lee, Virginia, now that Fort William C. Lee is in Georgia? The current Fort Lee was named for Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. Even though the federal government seized his estate and turned it into Arlington National Cemetery, it still somehow thought it appropriate to name a base after him.
Robert E. Lee, history’s most undeservingly beloved loser.
A decent thing to do would be to name the base, once a training center for the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), after the WAC’s first director, Oveta Culp Hobby. As the WAC accepted women of all races, it would be a fitting rebranding effort. Gen. Douglas MacArthur did call the WACs “his best soldiers,” after all.
If that doesn’t garner enough support, renaming the installation for Lee’s famous adversary should. Situated in the greater Richmond region, renaming Fort Lee to Fort Grant would send a positive message to the people who look up to the U.S. Army. Grant owned one slave in his life, acquired from his father-in-law, and set the man free in less than a year.
3. Fort Bragg (North Carolina)
Besides being named for a Confederate general, Fort Bragg should be renamed because it’s the home of Army Special Forces, the 75th Ranger Regiment and the Air Force Combat Control School — and it’s named for American history’s worst general.
Is this who we want the home of Army Special Forces to be named for?
Lemme answer that for you: No. (U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Isaac Johnson)
There are a bevy of candidates that would be better suited for the name of such a place. “The President of the Underground Railroad,” Levi Coffin, got his start helping fugitive slaves in Greensboro, North Carolina. “Fort Coffin,” however, sounds, well … So maybe that’s a no.
Then there’s Hiram Revels, born a free man in Fayetteville, he helped organize two regiments of the then-called United States Colored Troops and served as their chaplain. Later, he became the first African American U.S. senator, representing Mississippi.
Fort Revels sounds like a name appropriate for a base in Fayettenam.
4. Fort Hood (Texas)
This Killeen, Texas-based installation is named for John Bell Hood, a Confederate who wasn’t even from Texas. Known for his bravery, all that bravado didn’t help him even slow down Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman on his way to burn down the South and everything they loved. Surely, Texans have a number of people they would prefer to honor over a Confederate. It’s Texas. TEXAS.
For starters, how about the most decorated soldier who ever lived, a World War II Medal of Honor recipient born in Kingston, Texas, who went from enlisted man to officer, then starred in the hit movie about his own life: Audie Murphy.
Fort Murphy would have much better pedigree than Fort Hood, named for a general who peaked before the Civil War was even halfway over.
5. Fort Polk (Louisiana)
What does one rename the most reviled duty station in all of the U.S. Army? Surely, we can honor someone other than a guy with no previous military experience whose Civil War claim to fame is that he died in it.
Louisiana is one of the most unique states in the Union, with a history unlike any other. But again, for sheer coolness factor, we could rename this for Union Col. Algernon Sidney Badger. Badger was from Massachusetts but served at the Battle of Mobile Bay and ended up in Louisiana. He liked it so much, he stayed there when the war was over. Plus, the symbolism of a badger killing a snake is too good to pass up.
Who wouldn’t want to be stationed at Fort Badger?
But the top candidate for Fort Polk‘s new name has to be William C.C. Claiborne, the first American governor of Louisiana. He was conciliatory toward native tribes under his jurisdiction and tried to secure clemency for the captured organizers of the largest slave revolt in U.S. history. He also negotiated for the help of the pirate Jean Lafitte for the defense of New Orleans during the War of 1812.
Fort Polk is dead. Long live Fort Claiborne.
6. Fort Gordon (Georgia)
Only in the old Confederacy could you be hailed a hero upon your return from losing a war. Besides getting that particular participant trophy, John Brown Gordon’s career can’t be discussed without mentioning how many times he was wounded in action.
This photo would be more accurate if you could see the four wounds on his head.
This installation also housed Camp Crockett, a training area for special operators and airborne troops preparing for action during the Vietnam War. It would be an easy historical nod to American legend Davy Crockett, who fought against the Indian Removal Act and later died fighting at the Alamo. If we want to stick to soldiers of the U.S. Army, Fort Gordon is notable because Alvin York, the famed conscientious objector-turned Medal of Honor recipient in World War I, was trained here.
Fort York has a nice ring to it. But Fort Flipper would be more appropriate.
Georgia was home to Henry O. Flipper, the first African American graduate of West Point. Can you imagine the level of harassment this man endured? Commissioned and sent to the frontier areas, he did his job well until he was improperly accused of embezzling quartermaster funds and court-martialed, an injustice to which the Army later admitted. President Bill Clinton would later pardon him.
7. Fort Pickett (Virginia)
Fort Pickett is a National Guard Base in Virginia named after a guy who led one of the most ill-advised infantry charges in history. Not just in American history, but all of world history. While Maj. Gen. George Pickett didn’t order the charge at Gettysburg (Robert E. Lee did, despite all advice against it), his name got slapped on it, whether he liked it or not.
Just like no one cares what they called meat on bread before the 4th Earl of Sandwich started passing them out on card night.
Pickett’s charge led to the defeat of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, a loss from which the South couldn’t recover and ultimately ended their war with loss. And we named a base after him.
A much better choice for the name of the fort would probably be Gibbon, named for Brig. Gen. John Gibbon, commander of the Union forces who stopped Pickett’s part of the infamous charge.
But since this is a base belonging to the Virginia National Guard, they might want to name it after a Virginian. Luckily, there’s no shortage of good Virginians, and two of them are giants of the U.S. Army’s history. Gen. Douglas MacArthur considered Norfolk his home, and Gen. George C. Marshall, Army chief of staff during World War II, attended the Virginia Military Institute.
Pick one, Virginia.
8. Fort A.P. Hill (Virginia)
Then, use the other one to rename Fort A.P. Hill.
Although one of the more capable commanders on the list, this Confederate general’s accomplishments include not being Stonewall Jackson, getting shot seven days before the war ended and having gonorrhea for 21 years.
9. Fort Rucker (Alabama)
Fort Rucker is named for Col. Edmund Rucker, a Confederate Army chef who designed a way for Confederate troops to live on eating grass. While that’s not even remotely true, no one outside of Fort Rucker knows that or cares to Google it. Rucker wasn’t even from Alabama, he just made a lot of money there.
The first suggestion for renaming the base goes to Gen. Oliver W. Dillard, the fifth African American flag officer in Army history, the first black intelligence general and a National Intelligence Hall of Famer. He joined during World War II and served through Korea, Vietnam and most of the Cold War.
But if time in service is what we’re looking for, look no further than Alabama’s own Sgt. Maj. Gilbert “Hashmark” Johnson. Johnson first enlisted in the Army in 1923 and was discharged as a corporal six years later. After four years as a civilian, he again enlisted, this time in the Navy. “Hashmark” was aboard the USS Wyoming when it was attacked at Pearl Harbor. Later that year, he was one of the first black men to join the United States Marine Corps.
If there’s a problem with an Army base named for a Marine, look at who it’s named for now, then look at this photo of Hashmark. (U.S. Marine Corps)
Johnson spent another 17 years in the Corps, with a total of 32 years in service. He earned the name “Hashmark” because he had more service stripes than stripes indicating his rank. Welcome to Fort Hashmark.
10. Camp Beauregard (Louisiana)
Louisiana’s National Guard runs this base, named for Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, one of the South’s most able commanders — and one who would end up arguing for racial cooperation after the Civil War’s end.
While that’s admirable, there’s a good chance he just wanted the votes of newly freed black men against Reconstruction-era radical Republicans, so let’s not go crazy about how reconstructed Beauregard was. If we’re going to choose a Louisianan with questionable motives, let’s name the camp after the aforementioned pirate Jean Lafitte.
Who wears the same facial expression as your First Sergeant.
Lafitte turned from sailor/pirate/merchant to soldier in nearly a heartbeat to help the Americans defend the port city of New Orleans from outside attack, and if that doesn’t sound like the National Guard, I don’t know what does.
San Francisco’s housing shortage has gotten so dire that developers are increasingly eyeing old military sites.
For the last several years, the development company Lennar has been building a 12,000-home community at the Hunters Point Shipyard, the former site of a top-secret nuclear-testing facility operated by the US Navy. Across the bay, Lennar is also participating in a joint venture to add 8,000 residential units to Treasure Island, another former Naval base.
Now the company has set its sights on a naval weapons station in Concord, a city less than an hour from San Francisco. The land is scattered with dozens of empty bunkers that once housed World War II munitions, but Lennar wants to turn it into a full-fledged community with 13,000 homes.
2006 aerial view of the former San Francisco Naval Shipyard at Hunters Point.
The plans call for many of the bunkers to get torn down, but a few could be transformed into pop-up cafés or beer halls.
The idea is just a proposal for now, but here’s what the community could look like when it’s finished.
The Concord Naval Weapons Station spans 12,800 acres, but developers plan to renovate less than one-fifth of that land.
More than 7,600 acres are currently occupied by the US Army. Another 2,500 acres have been set aside for a regional park. Lennar intends to use around 2,300 acres for its planned community.
“In terms of the Bay Area, this is certainly one of the largest contiguous pieces of land that is available for this kind of planning,” Craig Hartman, the project’s lead architect, told Business Insider. Hartman’s firm, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, was hired by Lennar to create an architectural vision for the site.
The station is technically just north of Concord, but developers hope the new community would be an extension of the city.
Developers want to build a hiking trail that connects the community to Concord. Hartman said it would be the first time the two areas were physically linked since the Navy occupied the site.
But developers also don’t want to alter the land too much.
“It still has this beautiful rolling form of typography,” Hartman said. “That is a really, really important part of the history of the site.”
Most of the bunkers would need to get removed to make way for new development, but a few could be converted into neighborhood hangouts, like bars or cafés.
“Our intention is to examine them and, to the extent that some of them could be used, that will be the goal,” Hartman said. “We certainly would not be trying to save all of them.”
Developers already know that the structures are sturdy and that no more weapons are stored inside.
“They’re designed to actually withstand major blasts,” Hartman said.
But the bunkers will have to be inspected to see if they’re waterproof.
Once the structures are torn down, the concrete could be repurposed and used to build new roads.
The bunkers sit along 150 miles of defunct railroad tracks. Steel from these tracks could help finance some of the project.
The tracks were built by the Navy, but they’re no longer operational.
They were the site of a notable anti-war incident: In 1987, an Air Force veteran sat in the middle of the railroad to protest the United States’ participation in a war in Nicaragua. The train ran into him going 17 miles an hour, fracturing his skull and slicing both his legs. In solidarity, a group of anti-war protesters dismantled some of tracks.
The new community could have 13,000 homes, including apartments and single-family units.
A quarter of the residences would be affordably priced, according to the plan; that means the prices would be set so that lower-income families, veterans, teachers, and senior residents would spend less than 30% of their total income on housing.
The prices of the remaining units would range in order to cater to multiple income levels, Hartman said.
“This will not solve the Bay Area’s problems by a long shot, but the density and the mixture of housing is important,” he added.
Hartman expects that most of the residents who move in would be relatively young.
The development could also include a new sports complex and public schools.
The developers’ plan sets aside more than 6 million square feet for commercial space, including offices and retail stores. Another 2.3 million square feet would be for an academic campus that might eventually house a university or research and development center.
Separately, developers plan to build six public schools — or as many as the local school district requires.
Pedestrian walkways and bicycle lanes would run through the community like a spine.
The neighborhood could also feature shuttles and buses that connect residents to a BART station (the Bay Area’s main public transportation system). Residents also have the option to walk to the North Concord BART station, which would be less than a quarter mile away from some of the development’s offices, shops, and homes.
“You could live in this place and, if you wish, not even own a car,” Hartman said.
But there are some environmental concerns to address before any residents could move in.
The naval station is a Superfund site — a label given to hazardous waste sites that pose a risk to human health or the environment.
In 1944, a load of munitions exploded at the station as the weapons were being loaded onto a cargo vessel. The Navy has been working to clean up the land since 1983, when it identified around 1,200 acres that had been contaminated. The soil at the site contains chromium, a radioactive isotope, and the groundwater contains industrial chemicals like trichloroethene and tetrachloroethylene.
The Environmental Protection Agency says the land doesn’t present a risk to human health, but levels of contamination in the groundwater still aren’t considered safe. Last year, Concord’s former mayor, Edi Birsan, said the land was “not suitable for public habitation.”
Construction could begin next year, but the entire project would likely take up to 35 years to complete.
Concord’s city council still needs to vote on the development plan, but the city already has a roadmap for how to move forward: Nearby sites like Treasure Island and Hunter’s Point were also cleared for development despite a legacy of Navy weapons tests in those areas.
If the new Concord community follows in their footsteps, it could soon offer new homes and a refurbished set of bunkers.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Russian and Chinese advancements in hypersonic weaponry are driving the US military to field a viable hypersonic strike weapon within the next couple of years.
The Army, Navy, and Air Force are jointly developing a common boost-glide vehicle to clear the way for each of these services to bring American hypersonic weaponry to the battlefield in the near future.
For the Army, that’s the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW). The Air Force is building the Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon (HCSW) and the Navy is pursuing its Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) weapon, The Drive reported Oct. 11, 2018, citing an Aviation Week report. There is the possibility these systems could be deployed as early as 2021.
“There is a very aggressive timeline for testing and demonstrating the capability,” Col. John Rafferty, director of the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires cross-functional team, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, DC on Oct. 10, 2018. The progress already made “is a result of several months of cooperation between all three services to collaborate on a common hypersonic glide body.”
The Navy is responsible for designing the boost-glide vehicle, as the fleet faces the greatest integration challenges due to the spacial limitations of the firing platforms like ballistic missile submarines, the colonel explained.
U.S. Army Wisconsin National Guard Soldiers from the 1-426 Field Artillery Battery operate an M109A6 Paladin Howitzer at at Fort McCoy, Wis., Aug. 18, 2018
(US Army photo by Spc. John Russell)
“Everybody’s moving in the same direction,” he added, further commenting, “The Army can get there the fastest. It will be in the field, manned by soldiers, and create the deterrent effect that we are looking for.”
As the boost-glide vehicle is unpowered, each service will develop its own booster technology for launching the relevant weapons, which fly at least five times faster than the speed of sound. The goal for the Army’s AHW is for it to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 8, giving it the ability to cover 3,700 miles in just 35 minutes, The Drive reported.
The Air Force has already awarded two hypersonic weapons contracts in 2018, and the Navy just awarded one in October 2018. The Army’s LRPF CFT is focusing on producing a long-range hypersonic weapon, among other weapons, to devastate hardened strategic targets defended by integrated air defense systems.
The US military’s intense push for hypersonic warfighting technology comes as the Russians and Chinese make significant strides with this technology. Hypersonic weapons are game-changers, as their incredible speeds and ability to maneuver at those speeds make them invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems, making them, in the simplest of terms, weaponry that can not be stopped.
Russia is expected to field its nuclear-armed Avangard hypersonic boost-glide vehicle in 2019, and China has conducted numerous tests of various hypersonic glide vehicles and aircraft, most recently in early August 2018, when China tested its Xingkong-2 hypersonic experimental waverider, which some military experts suspected could be weaponized as a high-speed strike platform.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Senior Afghan officials have praised voters who cast ballots in parliamentary elections that were plagued by violence and organizational problems, saying the turnout shows that Afghans are rejecting the ideology of Taliban militants.
“The Taliban wanted to build a stream of blood, but the Taliban was defeated and the Taliban’s thoughts and ideas were rejected,” Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told a cabinet meeting on Oct. 22, 2018.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
(US Department of State)
Around 4 million out of 8.8 million registered voters in a country of more than 30 million cast their ballots over the two-day voting at more than 4,500 polling centers across the country, according to election authorities, despite deadly militant attacks in which dozens of people were killed and delays caused by technical and organizational problems.
The Taliban had issued several warnings in the days leading up to the poll demanding the more than 2,500 candidates for the lower house of parliament withdraw from the race and for voters to stay home.
(US Department of State)
Preliminary results of the parliamentary elections, which were seen as a key test of the government’s ability to provide security across the country, were expected to be released on Nov. 10, 2018, at the earliest. Final results will likely be out sometime in December 2018, an election commission spokesman has said.
Originally scheduled for 2015, the vote was delayed for three years amid disputes over electoral reforms and because of the instability following NATO’s handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces at the end of 2014.
“The Afghan people want a system based on the people’s vote, and in fact, we have witnessed a historical moment,” said Abdullah, who also admitted there were shortcomings during the vote.
Voting was extended to a second day on Oct. 21, 2018, after hundreds of polling stations were closed on the first day of voting due to technical and security issues.
But only 253 of the 401 polling centers that were scheduled to be open on Oct. 21, 2018 were operational, with the remainder closed for security reasons, election authorities said.
An Afghan man prepares to vote in a villiage near Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 18, 2010
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gloria Wilson)
At some of the centers that opened for voting, there were insufficient ballot papers and voter rolls were “either incomplete or nonexistent,” Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Ali Reza Rohani said, adding, “most of the problems we had yesterday still exist today.”
The ECC said it had received more than 5,000 complaints of irregularities from voters and candidates, and the Interior Ministry said 44 people had been charged with “illegal interference in the election and fraud.”
However, President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised address to the nation after polls closed on Oct. 21, 2018, that the election turnout showed that voters “have the power and will to defeat their enemies.”
Ghani also challenged the Taliban to “show if your way or the way of democracy is preferred by the people.”
In a tweet on Oct. 21, 2018, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg commended “the millions of Afghan men women who have exercised their democratic right to vote the Afghan security forces who have provided security for the elections despite great challenges.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement released on Oct. 20, 2018, that it was “encouraged by the high numbers” of Afghans who braved security threats and waited long hours to cast their votes.
UNAMA said the elections, which it described as “the first completely run by Afghan authorities since 2001,” were an “important milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to self-reliance.”
Military leaders say that General Order 1, which limits alcohol consumption and cohabitation for troops deployed to war zones, reinforces good order and discipline. Advocates and troops say it’s an antiquated “ban on sex” — and may in reality be harming women’s health.
Women troops said in some cases that their doctors cited this controversial order to deny them access to birth control while deployed, a fact that was revealed in a survey conducted by the Service Women’s Action Network advocacy group.
In their survey of nearly 800 women serving or who have served in the US military, SWAN found that 26% of active-duty women do not have access to birth control while deployed. That number jumps even higher for other communities: 41% of women veterans reported limited access during their time in uniform.
While several reasons were provided to account for these numbers, including the inability to refill prescriptions far enough in advance, advocates were shocked to find that a limitation on sexual activity would be used to deny access to birth control.
A U.S. Army Pvt. pulls her way to the top of the slide to victory obstacle during the confidence course phase of basic combat training at Fort Jackson.
(U.S. Army photo)
“Isn’t that ridiculous,” Ellen Haring, chief executive of SWAN, told Business Insider. “It astounds me that people would be denied for that reason.”
It’s astounding, Haring said, because birth control is not just used as a contraceptive. One of the survey’s respondents said she was dismayed when she could not get enough refills to last through her deployments because she primarily used birth control to regulate, and even skip, her menstrual cycle.
Along with safely skipping a period, Planned Parenthood lists a range of medical benefits to using birth control — from reduction of acne to prevention of endometrial or ovarian cancers.
These benefits are not being ignored by the Department of Defense, which said it would be a violation of service members’ privacy if their commander denied them access to birth control.
“Birth control … is not just indicated for pregnancy prevention, it is also indicated for menstrual regulation, including menstrual suppression,” Jessica Maxwell, spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said in an emailed statement to Business Insider.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Twila Stone readies her weapon during a Memorial Day ceremony.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Stefanko)
It would be a privacy violation for a commander to deny birth control, Maxwell wrote, because taking birth control would not limit a woman’s ability to perform her duties. But she could not publicly comment whether a doctor’s refusal to prescribe the medication would trigger a violation of any military regulation or whether the Pentagon was investigating any reports of this occurring.
Her statement emphasized that emergency contraception, which can be obtained over-the-counter, is readily available even for service members in deployed locations.
But emergency contraceptives are singular in their purpose; these remedies do not satisfy the host of alternate uses filled by prescription birth control.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It’s dark. The air is heavy, filled with Afghanistan smoke and dust. On the flight line at Bagram Airfield, an Army CH-47F Chinook helicopter waits, beating thunder with its blades.
An 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron Guardian Angel team, which consists of pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, runs out and boards the helicopter. As the Guardian Angels settle into their seats, the helicopter takes off against the night sky over the mountainous terrain.
During the ensuing flight, two Operation Freedom’s Sentinel teams will conduct a personnel recovery exercise, testing their capability to work together as they extricate simulated casualties from a downed aircraft. The Army and the Air Force are working together to execute personnel recovery.
‘Personnel recovery is a no-fail strategic mission’
“Personnel recovery is a no-fail strategic mission,” said Air Force Maj. Robert Wilson, 83rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron commander. “The interoperability between the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force, by way of the CH-47F, has enabled our Guardian Angel teams to effectively conduct a wide variety of personnel rescue operations in ways not previously attainable.”
Executing missions with CH-47Fs gives the seven-man Guardian Angel team unique advantages; such as an increased capacity to recover a larger number of isolated personnel and the ability to fly further and higher than previous platforms allowed.
“This partnership strengthens the resolve of those fighting on the ground and in the air to fight harder and longer, knowing that someone will always have their back,” Wilson said.
The Chinook is a twin-turbine, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift transport helicopter with a useful load of up to 25,000 pounds. With its high altitude and payload capability, the CH-47F is vital to overseas operations, such as in Afghanistan. Its capabilities include medical evacuation, aircraft recovery, parachute drops, disaster relief and combat search and rescue.
“I’ve been flying CH-47 models for 22 years,” said Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shawn Miller, a CH-47F pilot with the South Carolina National Guard. “This is an unprecedented tasking. Never in its history has an Army unit been tasked to provide dedicated aviation assets and crew to conduct joint personnel recovery operations.”
Miller’s team is also joined by the Illinois Army National Guard.
The CH-47F model, with its enhanced capabilities, combined with the combat search and rescue mission set, allows the team to transport more personnel and essential equipment higher, further distances, and offer longer on the scene station times than ever before, Miller added.
Joint operations between services capitalize on the unique skillsets each branch brings to the fight.
For missions in Afghanistan, because of its high altitudes and current enemy threats, the benefits seem to outweigh the risks of using a different system. Especially in terms of the varied mission sets required of the personnel recovery enterprise.
The pararescue team also specializes in cold weather/avalanche or snow and ice rescue, collapsed structure/confined space extrication, or many different forms of jump operations in static-line or free-fall configuration.
Using the teams to their full capacity is all about strengthening the resolve of those fighting on the ground and in the air.
“Critical to the warfighter is knowing that a highly trained and capable PR force is standing ready at a moment’s notice, willingly placing themselves in harm’s way … so that others may live,” Wilson said.
This article by James Clark and Michael Lane Smith was originally published on Task Purpose, news and culture site for the next great generation of American veterans.
For anyone who has worn the uniform, there’s a fundamental truth of service that never makes it into the commercials and recruiting ads: It can be boring as all hell.
Sometimes, either due to good intentions gone awry, frustration, or someone drank too much, service members and veterans make some bad decisions. In many cases, this ends with a hangover or a moment of public embarrassment. Occasionally, these choices lead to sprains and maybe a broken bone or two, like when a Marine decided to jump three stories onto a stack of mattresses.
But sometimes, someone does something so dumb and outrageous that it makes the news. Here are five of those moments.
1. The soldier who stole a puppy to save it from being neutered
In early June 2015, U.S. Army Sgt. Aaron Duvel of the Missouri National Guard was caught on video stealing a mixed-breed puppy from the Humane Society of Southwest Missouri with his fiancée, according to ABC affiliate KSPR News.
Having heard from a veterinary hospital that it is unhealthy for dogs to be neutered within the first year of their lives, the couple wanted to make sure this puppy was protected from such an operation. After being denied the opportunity to adopt the puppy, the couple thought the best course of action was to take him anyway.
“Really, the criminal part never really came in mind at all to be honest,” Duvel told KSPR with a seemingly amused grin. “It’d gotten pretty serious so it was pretty much past the point of dropping off some money and saying I’m sorry.”
Presumably Duvel’s chain of command didn’t appreciate seeing “guardsman steals puppy” in the news either.
2. The drunk soldier who defected to North Korea
On the night of Jan. 4, 1965, U.S. Army Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins crossed the heavily mined Korean demilitarized zone 10 beers deep and defected to North Korea.
According to Business Insider, Jenkins decided to get drunk and then defect because his unit was being ordered to lead increasingly provocative patrols, and he heard they might be heading to Vietnam. His time in North Korea involved 24-hour surveillance, making it more akin to imprisonment than defection.
Instead of continued service in the military fighting communism, Jenkins spent the next 40 years learning the works of Kim Il-Sung by heart, teaching English to presumed spies in training, and acting in movies as the villain. Needless to say, Jenkins quickly regretted his decision.
In a 2005 interview on “60 Minutes,” Jenkins described being constantly watched and told when to eat, sleep, and even when to have sex. According to Jenkins, the North Korean government eventually brought him an abducted a woman from Japan to teach North Korean spies Japanese, and before long, they were married. Not exactly the most beautiful love story, but it did yield the pair two daughters.
Upon being freed in 2004, Jenkins reported for duty in Japan and was swiftly court-martialed, receiving a significantly reduced sentence for the almost four decades of internment in North Korea. He now sells crackers at a historical museum in Japan.
3. The soldier who landed helicopter on the White House lawn
In the early hours of Feb. 17, 1974, U.S. Army Pfc. Robert Preston buzzed commuterson the Baltimore-Washington Parkway in a stolen Huey, and then approached the White House, landing briefly before Maryland State Police arrived in two choppers of their own.
Preston led them on an aerial chase, leading one officer to say afterward that he was “one hell of a pilot.” He proceeded to hover near the Washington Monument, nearly colliding with it, before returning to the White House, where he hovered 100 meters away on the South Lawn.
After taking shotgun and submachine gun fire, Preston put the Huey down and attempted to escape on foot, but was tackled and arrested. President Richard Nixon, who was in the middle of the Watergate scandal, was not at the White House during all of this.
Even though he led two police choppers, and scores of other law enforcement personnel on a high speed chase, broke a host of laws and military regulations, Preston only served six months in the military stockade, before receiving a general discharge.
4. The drunk Marine who set off the fire suppression system in a hangar
At about 1:45 a.m on May 23, 2015, a Marine drunkenly triggered the foam-based fire suppression system at an Air Force hangar on Kadena Air Base in Okinawa. Marine Corps Times reported that it’s unclear how the Marine entered the hangar, what specific punishment he may have faced after his arrest, and just what his level of intoxication was.
5. The British soldier who stole an armored vehicle, crashed it, stole another
In February 2009, an 18-year-old British soldier went for a drunken joy ride, stealing not one, but two armored vehicles before running a military police patrol off the road, reported Daily Mail.
German authorities said that the unnamed soldier was “highly intoxicated” when he stole an armored command car, swerved through the entrance at Hoehne Barracks in Northwest Germany, before careening off the road minutes later, reports the Daily Mail.
Astonishingly, the soldier crept back on base, which was now on high alert, and stole another armored vehicle — a tracked ambulance this time — and sped off again. A military police patrol tried to stop him, but was forced off the road before the driver crashed the second vehicle into a tree.
Long ago, ancient Greeks told the tale of the titan, Atlas, who once tried to defy Zeus. He failed spectacularly and, for his hubris, was doomed to carry the sky for eternity as punishment. Later, Atlas tried to defy the gods once more by attempting to trick Hercules into taking on his punishment. He was fooled by the intrepid demigod and wound up shouldering the heavens all over. In short, he gambled with the gods and he lost.
It was only fitting that the largest ship of its time, the Olympic-class liner, RMS Titanic, whose name was rich with Classical symbolism, would suffer such a grim ending after spitting in the face of fate. A shipwright once famously said, “God himself couldn’t sink this ship!” Unfortunately for the shipwright (and all those aboard), the powers that be (perhaps those atop Mt. Olympus) were ready to call his bluff.
Just like Atlas, Sisyphus, Midas, Arachne, and Icarus all learned, it’s really not a good idea to keep trying to tempt fate. Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd, an Australian passenger and cargo shipping company, disagrees. They’re currently in the process of building the Titanic II, a near-identical replica of the famous, doomed Olympic-class liner, as their new flagship.
Logically speaking, you’d think that if they model it after a ship that sank due to striking an iceberg, they’d have a few safety precautions in place for when they sail directly through an area full of them.
(“Sinking of the Titanic,” Willy Stower, 1912)
To be entirely fair, the latest iteration will feature some serious 21st-century upgrades: The hull will be welded instead of riveted, a diesel-electric engine will replace the steam engine, and wooden panels will be replaced with a veneer to keep up with modern fire regulations while maintaining an authentic appearance. Oh, and, of course, it’ll have the proper amount of lifeboats.
As one of its first voyages, the Titanic II will travel the same waterways as did the RMS Titanic, cruising along a route from Southampton to New York City. The path will still go through an area thick with icebergs, but given that it isn’t 1912, they’ll have better technology to spot and avoid them. Icebergs will, at most, probably just inspire tourists to take drunken selfies.
You can only do the “I’m flying, Jack!” once before realizing the bow of the ship is friggin’ cold.
(National Park Services)
With the threat of icebergs (hopefully) neutralized, there are three main areas in which things could go wrong for the ship.
The first (and most obvious) threat is financial. The project has been the longtime dream of South African businessman, Sarel Gous. He first announced his venture back in 1998, around the time the Academy Award-winning film, Titanic, hit theaters.
Since then, the project has been on and off. There have been reports that the Titanic II would finally set sail in 2001, then again in 2008, 2012, 2016, 2018, and now, finally, in 2022. It’s been a repeating cycle: They’ll find an investment company willing to foot the bill, that company realizes it’s a pipe dream, and then they abandon the project.
Why are investors backing out? Well, since the new Titanic II will sport the same number of passengers as the original vessel, tickets for the maiden voyage will need to be insanely expensive — from around K to id=”listicle-2614623238″.2 million each — just to dream of making a profit. And, after the initial “cool factor” of being on the Titanic II fades, you’re left with the average, cruise-going crowd who won’t be able to afford tickets.
The headlines would just write themselves if the Titanic II were to sink immediately upon hitting the water.
The next threat to second unsinkable will come the moment the ship is first released into the water. The shipyard constructing the Titanic II, the state-owned CSC Jinling, has no drydock. They intend to side launch the 269m-long, 56,000 gross tonnage vessel directly into the Yangtze River.
This will make it the largest side-launched ship in history by an astronomical margin. When side-launching a vessel, extra care is taken to prevent it from capsizing the very moment it touches water. Weights are added to the ship to make its entry as gentle as possible. It’s fine for more balanced ships, but the Titanic II is extremely top-heavy.
They’re likely addressing this issue behind closed doors, but for the moment, it feels a lot like we’re looking at imminent disaster.
Finally, the Titanic could end in disaster (again) during its maiden voyage — but not due to icebergs. The trip recreating the original route from England to the US is actually the second voyage planned for the Titanic II. The maiden voyage will go from Dubai, UAE, to Southampton, UK, sailing directly through the Horn of Africa.
This is a Somali pirate’s wildest dream. Thousands of millionaires and billionaires are going to sail right through their backyard. You can bring security alongside the vessel while sailing through the region, but that won’t stop pirates from trying to take what’s not theirs.
Obviously, it’d be fantastic if the Titanic II actually manages to set sail and prove naysayers wrong. But unless they’re keeping a lot of solutions secret, it doesn’t seem likely. At the same time, people are genuinely excited for the chance to sail on the Titanic II.
I think most people want to go to enjoy a sense of danger — they may be disappointed when things go well.
Transitioning into civilian life can be tough. Veterans are often advised to look for a job in a field they’re passionate about and excited to join. Remember the old career day adage, Do what you love and you’ll never work a day?
One USMC veteran took that advice to heart and, being a Marine, decided not to do it halfway. As a result, the entertainer known as “Will Pounder” was recently honored as “Best Newcomer” at the AVN Awards. The Adult Video News Awards.
(Do we have to spell it out? He’s in X-rated films, people. You know, the kind you watch in your barracks alone. Not with your mom.)
Reached for comment for this story, Pounder said, “Best Male Newcomer to me means that I’m doing my job well.” He continued, saying, “I like to provide a safe experience that allows my scene partners to explore themselves sexually and to overall have a fun day so that everyone leaves with a smile on their face.”
His award got us wondering, how many other veterans have decided to earn their keep in the adult film industry?
Spoiler: A lot.
We can speculate on the reasons why, beyond the really obvious reason: sex. Maybe it’s because veterans are already used to frequent, random medical tests and they’re already comfortable with being naked in front of people? Maybe they just miss having close camaraderie with their co-workers? For the record, Pounder said he thinks the percentage of veterans to non-veterans working in the adult industry is probably about the same as in any other industry.
Regardless of their reasons, Pounder is far from the first to trade fatigues for his birthday suit. He wasn’t even the first vet to score that Best Newcomer award. Brad Knight—a Navy veteran—brought it home in 2016. That’s right. A sailor got it done before a Marine.
But we don’t even have to speculate on why some veterans are drawn to this particular industry. Brick Yates, a Navy veteran who runs a company that produces adult films about and starring military service members and veterans, agreed to answer the why question for us, at least as it applies to his films, in which service members and veterans perform.
“Active service members are always being told not to fraternize, but we all fantasize about good-looking people we work with,” Yates said. “So, it’s natural for a Marine or sailor or soldier to want to have sex with another service member because the military makes sure that is a very taboo subject still.”
Yates said that, though he understands that some people might find adult films featuring uniformed service members offensive, his company has the exact opposite intent. “We respect the uniforms these people don to the fullest,” he said, noting that he believes a military fetish is no different than a fetish for police officers or, that plot-staple, the pizza delivery guy. “People can disagree with me and that’s okay. I know not everyone is pleased with my work, but it is truly not meant to be degrading or disrespectful in any manner. We aren’t out here to make the service look bad in any way.”
Though typing your MOS into a job translator isn’t likely to yield a result of “X-rated movie star,” there does seem to be something of a …pipeline. (Sorry.) And while adult entertainment recruiters probably won’t have a table at any on-base hiring fairs, there are active efforts to recruit vets into the industry, ensuring that the supply of veterans-turned-adult-entertainers never dwindles.
Besides, military veterans have been starring in adult entertainment for decades, since even before X-rated film legend Johnnie Keyes took off his Army uniform in the early 1970s. Again, we’re not going to post links here, but the by-no-means complete list of vets who’ve gone on to adult entertainment fame includes, Johnni Black (Army), Dia Zerva (USMC), Chayse Evans (USMC), Julie Rage (Army), Nicole Marciano (USMC), Fiona Cheeks (USMC), Amber Michaels (Air Force), Kymberley Kyle (Army), Viper (USMC), Amanda Addams (Army), Misti Love (Army), Loni Punani (Air Force), Sheena Ryder (Army), Sheena Shaw (Army), Alura Jenson (Navy Army), Kim Kennedy (USMC), Alexis Fawx (Air Force), Lisa Bickels (Army) and Tiffany Lane (Army). Cory Chase (Army), is a vet even non-adult film viewers know as the female film star Ted Cruz got caught peeping.
And Diamond Foxx’s name might also be recognizable to those who aren’t familiar with her work. She was discharged from the Navy for “sexual misconduct” but entered military news again earlier this year when a West Point cadet tried to raise money online so that he could bring her to the Yearling Winter Weekend Banquet as his date.
With all we’ve said about vets in adult entertainment, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention retired LTC David Conners, aka “Dave Cummings”. After 25 years of service to the U.S. Army, he went on to service… sorry, sorry… he started his career in the adult entertainment industry at age 55, appearing in hundreds of adult films, and being inducted into both the AVN and XRCO (X-rated Critics Association) Halls of Fame, before his death last fall. Which, we suppose means that while Will Pounder and Brad Knight are USMC and Navy veteran adult film stars who certainly started their second careers strong, it was the old Army guy who really had the staying power. Hooah!
Loni Punani, Air Force veteran and adult entertainer.
Though adult films are totally legal for veterans to film, it’s a UCMJ violation for active duty service members to have a side job—any side job— without obtaining prior permission from their command. And commands have a long history of punishing, and even discharging, service members who engage in activities that prejudice “good order and discipline or that is service discrediting,” risk potential “press or public relations coverage” or “create an improper appearance.”
Yates said the “is this allowed” question can be tricky. “I have spoken with a few officers about their Marines being in my films and it really depends. It’s more the details of the film than it is the general fact of them doing (adult entertainment). Military brass are people, too, and some don’t care if their personnel do (adult entertainment), but some do. As long as they are safe, not reflecting poorly on their branch of service and not in their own uniform, they are usually fine.”
Air Force Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart received a formal reprimand, was removed from her position as a training instructor and was demoted after she posed nude in a 2007 Playboy magazine spread.
And in 2006, seven paratroopers from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division were court martialed on charges of sodomy, pandering and engaging in sex acts for money. According to reporters who covered the case, the soldiers were not gay but, because they engaged in homosexual acts on screen at a time when the military was still under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, they were punished for the activity.
Yates also warned that service members and veterans who are interested in entering the adult industry should be savvy and a little suspicious. He said that while there are some really great people in the industry, there are also some bad ones. Potential adult film stars should verify that the companies that recruiters claim to represent are real and should ask to see references and examples of previous work before engaging in any onscreen work themselves.
All to say, if it’s your dream to turn your night passion into your day job, it might be safest to wait until you’ve got that DD-214.
Until then, feel free to enjoy the talents and attributes of your brothers and sisters in arms who’ve found their futures in a whole different kind of service.
Afghan officials appear confident a planned deployment of about 300 U.S. Marines will help local forces reverse insurgent gains in the embattled southern province of Helmand.
Backed by airpower, the Afghan National Army has intensified offensive operations in the largest Afghan poppy-growing province, after the Taliban captured the strategically important district center of Sangin in late March, although government officials continue to dispute the claim.
Afghan forces in overnight operations are reported to have killed dozens of insurgents and destroyed several narcotics-producing factories in Helmand.
The provincial governor, Hayatullah Hayat, says national security forces are prepared and better placed this year to beat back the Taliban. They already have cleared areas around the provincial capital of Lashkargah and nearby districts.
“We have [also] started clearing pockets of [insurgents] in Garmsir district, in Marjah district, and also this will be done in Sangin district,” Hayat told Voice of America.
Hayat sounded upbeat about a planned deployment of Marines in Helmand, saying it will boost local efforts to evict the Taliban, which is currently in control of most of the province.
“I am quite sure they will have definitely lots of positives to bring in the frontline and also changing the security situation down in Helmand,” Hayat noted. He emphasized that Afghans will continue to lead the security operations, and U.S. Marines will serve in an “advise-and-assist” role.
The Pentagon announced in January it will send a task forces of about 300 Marines back to Helmand in the wake of rapid insurgent advances and heavy casualties inflicted on Afghan forces during the 2016 fighting season.
Marines will be returning to an area where they have engaged for years in intense deadly battles with the Taliban. This will be the first deployment since 2014 when the U.S.-led international forces combat forces withdrew from Afghanistan.
Peace talks offered
Governor Hayat again urged the insurgents to quit fighting and join the Afghan government-led peace process.
“I think the only solution [to the conflict] in Afghanistan is negotiations. It’s the land of jirgas (tribal dispute resolution councils) and it’s the land of talks. Any problems, even if they were big or small, can be resolved through negotiations and dialogue,” he said.
The Taliban has extended its control of influence across Afghanistan since the withdrawal of U.S.-led international combat forces two years ago, and efforts aimed at encouraging the insurgents to come to the table for peace talks with Kabul have not yet succeeded.
Russia plans to host a multi-nation conference of Afghanistan’s immediate and far neighbors on April 14 to try to jump-start peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, India, China, and several former Soviet Central Asian states have been invited to the talks in Moscow.
The United States also was invited to attend the meeting, but turned down the invitation, questioning Russian objectives and intentions for initiating the process.
A Taliban spokesman said late March it was not in a position to comment, and would not consider whether to attend the Moscow talks until the group received an invitation.