Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy E. Black led a motivational run on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Nov. 5, 2019. The run was held in celebration of the Marine Corps’ upcoming 244th birthday.
The Marines ran from Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to the Marine Corps War Memorial where Berger and Black shared some motivation with the Marines.
The run began a week of celebration leading up to the birthday on Nov. 10, 2019.
“Having one day to celebrate the birthday is not good enough,” said the commandant. “We have to have a whole week.”
Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Troy E. Black join Headquarters and Service Battalion, Headquarters Marine Corps, Henderson Hall Marines during the 2019 Marine Corps birthday run in Arlington, Va., Nov. 5, 2019.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Morgan Burgess)
Berger then asked Marines to do three things this week. First, to stop and remember all those that have come before them. Second, to celebrate with their Marine Corps family. Finally, to look ahead at where they are going, because the Corps exists to fight and to win.
After the run, there was a moment of silence to honor all those who are forward deployed and all those that have come before them, as well as one final loud war cry that echoed across the base.
This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.
While some children grow up with aspirations to become scientists, professional athletes, or actors, Mohammad Nadir’s goal was to become a United States Marine, stemming from an early childhood amid a strong military presence.
As the sixth of ten siblings, Nadir grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he constantly lived among uniformed personnel.
“My mom would tell me stories about the military when I was younger, my father was a cop with the Afghan police . . . and many people welcomed the Americans, even during times of strife,” Nadir explained.
Intrigued by the lifestyle, Nadir’s curiosity for the military grew after he graduated high school and discovered several private companies hiring Afghan locals.
“They were hiring Afghan locals to work as interpreters for the International Security Assistance Force,” said Nadir. “This was my chance to be around the military.”
Under the impression Nadir would be safe, his family wished him well as he left to the Sangin District of Helmand province, Afghanistan, in October 2011, where he spent the next three years working with multiple operational units and serving as a key influencer to the community.
“I told my family it was a nice job and would be safe, but they didn’t know it was nothing like that. . . It was the worst place,” said Nadir.
Although translators play a crucial role for the U.S. military, many Afghan-born employees are branded a traitor by the Taliban and other groups for working with the U.S.
“We were the ears and eyes of ISAF,” Nadir recalls. “I was serving my country and also the United States. I felt great. But you could see the distance between the locals and the U.S. personnel.”
Nadir recalls the apprehensive nature of locals whenever Americans traveled to a new area in their country.
“They’d initially be scared and then realize we were here for good reasons. We would explain everything in their language and made them understand,” said Nadir. “We brought them closer together.”
Nadir’s responsibilities lied heavily with bridging the language and cultural gaps between locals and U.S. service members who needed the community to understand their presence.
Educating the Afghan police about improvised explosive devices and operational safety were other key tasks Nadir appreciated doing to heighten overall protection of Americans and Afghans in the area.
“It was something I really liked doing and I felt good when I got a chance to work with the Afghan police,” Nadir commented.
As an interpreter, Nadir also had the opportunity to apply for a Special Immigrant Visa, which helps provide protection for translators and their families to migrate to the U.S. after their service.
Through this program, Nadir took his first steps on American soil on Nov 10, 2014, the Marine Corps’ much-celebrated birthday, and set forth on his journey to become a United States Marine.
“I told my family I was going to come to America and become a Marine, so I did,” said Nadir.
Nadir traveled to Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he stayed with Marine Corps Maj. Mark Nicholson, a former administration adviser for the Afghan National Police Advisory Team with Marine Expeditionary Brigade Afghanistan.
“We met him at the airport and brought him to our home,” said Nicholson. “Nadir helped us out when we needed him. He had been in some pretty dangerous situations, but was as good as they got. Interpreters put themselves in a lot of danger, more than we do.”
Nicholson built a strong bond with Nadir and other interpreters as he supervised a majority of the administrative tasks handled for these employees. The type of relationship between the interpreters and U.S. service members require a lot of trust and reliability.
“Nadir is a really smart guy,” said Nicholson. “We relied on interpreters for our safety and knowledge of the culture. I trusted him with my life.”
Nadir found work soon thereafter to help support his family back home. He also took lessons to help improve his English fluency and prepare for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.
“My English was terrible, so I had to study,” Nadir joked. “I moved to Anaheim, Calif., with a friend and that’s when I met a Marine recruiter, Sgt. William Soukthavong.”
Nadir enlisted in February 2017 and recently graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego on May 26, 2017.
“I watched the movie Full Metal Jacket, but when I arrived it was totally different,” said Nadir. “Receiving company was so easy, then we met our actual drill instructors and they ‘destroyed our house.’ I thought, ‘Oh my god, I wasn’t expecting that!’ It was very different and I believe mentally it was easier for me since I’ve been in stressful situations. I tried my best and worked as hard as I could.”
He added that living in the rugged environment of Afghanistan with the mountainsides helped him physically as well, a “I was good at the hikes,” said Nadir, a quality truly needed for the demanding terrain recruits endure at boot camp.
Looking back at the 13 weeks spent at recruit training, Nadir says it was tough but his memories of Marines in his home of Afghanistan are the inspiration for him moving forward for training as an infantryman.
“When I saw the Marines fighting I knew I wanted to do that,” said Nadir. “They are the brute force for a military and I respect them a lot for what I saw those Marines do in Afghanistan.”
Nadir has lived a life of service and becoming a Marine has given him another opportunity to serve, one which he has undoubtedly earned.
“I love Nadir like a brother,” said Nicholson. “I’m very excited that he is now a U.S. Marine.”
The 82nd Airborne Division has a long and storied history. It also has a very significant mission for the United States: It’s America’s fire brigade — sent to a hot spots around the world to draw a line in the sand whenever needed. It did just that in 1990, at the start of Operation Desert Shield, but a lot of time has passed since then.
During Saber Strike 2018, an international exercise held annually in partnership with the Baltic States and Poland to rehearse the deployment of troops in defense of those nations, the 82nd Airborne Division was used to send a pointed reminder. The world needed to know that this division remains ready to act.
With the help of nine U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport planes, roughly 700 paratroopers from the famed division, as well as some from the British Army’s Parachute Regiment, dropped into Latvia, simulating a no-notice deployment.
A paratrooper gathers his equipment after making a landing during Saber Strike 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
It took ten hours for the planes to take the troops to their drop zone in Latvia. In addition to the paratroopers, they also dropped vehicles, like the High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), and equipment, including FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles and .50-caliber sniper rifles.
The message was clear: In less than half a day, the United States and its allies can have troops on the ground, equipped and ready to fight.
But here’s something you may not know about the 82nd Airborne Division: There is always a brigade ready move anywhere in the world with just 24 hours’ notice. This is known as the Division Ready Brigade. Inside that brigade, one battalion can arrive anywhere in the world within 18 hours or less.
Not only did paratroopers from the 82nd make a jump into Latvia, they brought vehicles like HMMWVs, too!
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven)
In 1990, the deployment of those forces to Saudi Arabia stopped Saddam Hussein at the Kuwaiti border with Saudi Arabia. It was a clear message that said crossing the border would lead to war with America.
Their rapid deployment as part of Saber Strike 2018 sends a similar message to Putin: The United States of America can and will rapidly respond if you try to attack the Baltic States. Hopefully, as it did in 1990, such a deployment will give a hungry, aggressive nation pause.
Just one year after President Trump signed Executive Order 13822, VA has made significant strides forward in its mission to provide mental health care to transitioning service members and veterans during the first 12 months after separation from service, a critical period marked by a high risk for suicide.
The executive order mandated the creation of a Joint Action Plan by the departments of Defense, Homeland Security and VA. The plan was accepted by the White House in May 2018 and has been underway since that time.
According to Dr. Keita Franklin, executive director, suicide prevention for VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, all 16 tasks outlined in the Joint Action Plan are on target for full implementation by their projected completion dates, seven out of the 16 items are complete and early data collection efforts are showing positive results.
Transitioning service members can now register for VA health care early
Partnerships within the Veterans Health Administration and the Veterans Benefits Administration’s Office of Transition and Economic Development, are actively providing, through the Joint Action Plan, transitioning service members with the opportunity to register for VA health care pre-transition during the Transition Assistance Program. This is a new option for service members, who before were provided with information for independent registration, however, were not provided with the opportunity for facilitated registration.
“In a single month, more than 34 percent of the nearly 8,000 transitioning service members who attended the TAP modules in person registered for VA health care before, during or after their class attendance date,” Franklin said. “One of the joint goals of this effort is to reduce barriers to care. By getting transitioning service members registered into the VA health care system earlier, we are able to get them the mental health care they need much quicker.”
The TAP curriculum is also modified to incorporate a new military lifecycle module on community integration resources. This module informs transitioning service members about community organizations as well as how to identify and check them.
“Because of the updates to TAP, 81 percent of the transitioning service members in TAP during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018 said they felt informed about the mental health services available to them,” Franklin said. “This modification reinforces the important role of community partners, such as Veteran Service Organizations.
Emergent mental health care available to more service members than ever before
Through the coordinated efforts of DoD, DHS, and VA, certain former service members may receive emergent mental health care from VA. Additionally, any newly transitioned veteran who is eligible can go to a VA medical center, Vet Center, or community provider and start receiving health care right away.
As part of the effort to provide mental and behavioral health care, VA is using telemental health technology to reach those service members who may not have easy access to a VA facility and implementing eligibility training for employees at the field level.
“Mental health care is something that we want to make available as widely as possible,” said Dr. David Carroll, executive director, Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention. “The efforts under this executive order are one way that we can make that happen. We have the greatest respect for the men and women who have served in our nation’s armed forces, and we will not relent in our efforts to connect those who are experiencing an emotional or mental health crisis with lifesaving support.”
Looking ahead: Early contact and predictive analytics
While proud of how far the program has come since May, Franklin acknowledged that there is still some time before all of the Joint Action Plan goals will be fully implemented. However, there are several goals underway that will be complete in the coming months, including:
Within the next six months, the veterans Benefits Administration will establish caring messaging and reach to all transitioning service members and veterans to inform them about a variety of resources including health care enrollment, education benefits, and more.
By April 2019, DoD, DHS and VA will establish a way forward for an integrated data environment and inter-agency analytical platform that can support development of a joint approach to predictive modeling.
“This executive order was established to assist in preventing suicide during a critical period – the first-year post-separation from military service. However, the completed and ongoing work of the executive order and Joint Action Plan will likely impact suicide prevention efforts far beyond the first year,” Franklin said. “We are working diligently to increase coordinated outreach, increase access to care and focus our efforts beyond just the first-year post-separation. We are working to promote wellness, increase protective factors, reduce mental health risks, and promote effective treatment and recovery as part of a holistic approach to suicide prevention.”
The efforts created under Executive Order 13822 and the Joint Action Plan are all key components of VA’s public health approach to suicide prevention. Combined with VA’s other suicide prevention programs, these efforts will provide a full continuum of evidence-based mental health care that can help prevent a suicidal crisis before it occurs. Using a public health approach to suicide prevention, VA continues to focus care on high-risk individuals in health care settings, while also encouraging comprehensive collaboration with communities to reach service members and veterans where they live, work, and thrive.
“Just as there is no single cause of suicide, no single organization can end suicide alone,” Franklin said. “We’ve been able accomplish and implement some great things from the executive order and Joint Action Plan in the last year, but there other important and valuable efforts ongoing and in our future, too. That’s why VA is working to educate partners, other government agencies, employers, community organizations, and more, on the available mental health and suicide prevention resources available – both inside and outside of VA.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
President Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address, and the national cemeteries are inextricably connected in American history. Lincoln’s birthday on Feb. 12, 2019, is especially noteworthy this year because a historic tablet cast with his Gettysburg Address was recently installed in the lobby of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs headquarters. This meaningful object exists only because the nation observes Lincoln’s birthday.
President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on Nov. 19, 1863, on a battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Over three days of Civil War fighting on July 1-3 that year, more soldiers died here than any single battle fought in North America before or since. In just 272 words, Lincoln conveyed the importance of the proposition “all men are created equal” to America’s past, present and future. Thousands had gathered to dedicate the Soldiers’ National Cemetery. Lincoln did not know that his brief but poignant words would become one of the most famous speeches in American history.
The Gettysburg Address tablets were placed in national cemeteries in 1909 when the nation celebrated the centennial of Lincoln’s birth as an official observance. Efforts included designating Feb. 12 a national holiday and a memorial highway connecting Lincoln-related sites. Publishers printed colorful postcards. The Federal government issued the first penny featuring an historic figure and a 2-cent stamp.
Congress also authorized the original Gettysburg Address tablets, 77, to place in the national cemeteries. They were produced and delivered in 1909—but not by Feb. 12. “The delay was almost entirely due to difficulty in determining the text of the Gettysburg Address,” according to the [Washington D.C.] Sunday Star (May 30, 2018). Lincoln had produced five versions of the speech. The government chose Memorial Day to announce it would use the Col. Alexander Bliss version, the only copy dated and signed by Lincoln, to become the “standard use of the Lincoln Gettysburg Address.” The large tablets (56 inches x 33 inches) became an essential feature in the national cemeteries.
Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, taken on Nov. 8, 1863, eleven days before his famed Gettysburg Address.
For the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth in 2009, the federal government purchased 62 additional tablets. At the same time, a damaged tablet at Los Angeles National Cemetery was removed and secured in the NCA History Collection. Both original and replica tablets were produced through the U.S. Army Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois. This NCA project assured that Lincoln’s words and the tablet remains a relevant part of the cemeteries as the system continues to grow. Re-installation of the un-restored Gettysburg Address tablet from California at VA headquarters marks the first time one has been displayed outside of a national cemetery — and this was realized for Veterans Month 2018.
Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg and cast in metal are part of national cemetery heritage. VA employees and visitors are invited to stop by this historic object and learn more at NCA History Program website.
Maj. Charles “Astro” Kilchrist, chief of training for the 9th Bomb Squadron and a B-1 pilot, pointed it out during Military.com’s flight in the B-1B over training ranges in New Mexico on Dec. 19, 2017.
The switch, now used in the process to release both guided and unguided conventional bombs, once could have launched nuclear weapons before the B-1 fleet was converted to a non-nuclear role.
The B-1, which has the largest payload in the bomber fleet, can be put into any theater without stirring the same concerns as nuclear-capable aircraft, Kilchrist said.
“We have the ability to have a global footprint,” he said.
Recently, the B-52 Stratofortress replaced the B-1B in the Pacific. The move marked a significant shift to bring back the B-52H – which provided a continuous bomber presence in the region from 2006 to 2016 – to put a nuclear-capable bomber in theater at a time when relations between the U.S. and North Korea are largely unpredictable.
The B-1, by comparison, is all about variety now – the missions it can perform, and the bombs it can drop, Kilchrist said.
“The list of weapons [we have now], it’s pages and pages of different options and different systems,” added Lt. Col. Christopher Wachter, director of operations for the 345th Bomb Squadron at Dyess. “The mission sets [have] grown.”
And Kilchrist has an answer for critics who say the supersonic-capable bomber should be converted back: “It’s not an easy disconnect,” he said, adding, “Why add that one more [detail] in a conventional bomber now?”
The B-1 fleet was converted as part of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
Every year, Russian officials travel to either Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, or Dyess to review whether the B-1 fleet complies with the treaty, which specifies it must remain disarmed.
“It’s fine … it’s nothing contentious,” said Col. Brandon Parker, 7th Bomb Wing commander, during a roundtable discussion Dec. 18 2017. “We fully support compliance with the treaty. It’s part of the inspection regime. We see it as a part of our mission.”
Compliance with the treaty ended the bombers’ nuclear future, so many were surprised when the fleet was realigned in 2015 from Air Combat Command to Global Strike Command, which oversees strategic nuclear deterrence.
“We liked it better that way [under ACC],” said Lt. Col. Dominic “Beaver” Ross, director of operations for the 337th Test and Evaluations Squadron. Ross still wears an ACC patch on his flight suit because the testing and evaluations portion of the mission resides with the 53rd Wing under ACC.
For the testing office, there’s been some jumble, he said.
For example, “We have noticed, when you combined us with the B-52, as far as testing and stuff goes, they almost drudge us down a little bit; it kind of diluted the pool, if you will, when you take the two and combine the program office [into one],” Ross said.
“That’s still a hurdle we’re trying to overcome, because you’re spreading what we had available to us out over more, so we get a little bit less [in both money and resources],” he said.
He added, “It’s a weird realm because we have to operate under both sets of regulations in [the Air Force Instruction]. We think of them differently too. They’re [The B-52s] more high-altitude; they’re the nuke guys. We’re two completely different animals.”
Still as an ops director, Ross knows both the B-52 and B-1 communities are proud of their work.
For the B-1s, “we try to keep it the most lethal machine there is,” he said.
Prepping for the B-21
B-1 operators are keeping in mind how they may shift again in preparation for the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber – the Pentagon’s latest classified, multi-billion-dollar program in development by Northrop Grumman Corp. – should it come to Dyess.
Officials are weighing whether the B-21 should eventually replace a portion of the B-1 fleet, since it will have both nuclear and non-nuclear roles.
On a November 9, 2016, two US Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets collided during a routine training flight off the coast of California.
As reported August 10 on Military.com, one of the aircraft erupted in flames — the pilot safely ejected — and the other was damaged but still able to fly home to Naval Station North Island, San Diego.
An investigation into the incident concluded the pilots failed to see that they were on a collision course, a failure attributed in part to inexperience and not getting enough flying time.
Despite all that, the pilot who landed this aircraft got high praise from Col. William Swan, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 11, who reviewed the report.”[The pilot] displayed exceptional airmanship when he successfully landed [the aircraft] after significant portions of its flight control surfaces were destroyed,” Swan wrote.
The pilot himself, whose name was redacted on the investigation, was understated about his own accomplishments.
“I … realized we were on a collision course and I immediately pushed the stick full forward in a last-ditch effort to miss his aircraft. Our left wings struck each other in a low-to-high merge,” he wrote of the mishap.
He saw an explosion from the other aircraft, he said, and pieces falling off — it wasn’t clear from which of the two fighter jets. He assessed the damage to his own plane and saw that the “entire outboard section” of the left wing was gone. All the while, he kept a lookout for the other Hornet to see what happened to the pilot.
The pilot called in to base and had his commander read the procedures for controllability checks, allowing him to ensure the aircraft was still good to fly. Then, on advisement from the skipper, he made contact with another aircraft, which flew in to inspect and confirm that the other pilot, who had ejected from his Hornet, had successfully deployed his parachute:
“After inspection, I selected flaps half and could feel the jet change configuration but had no indication of flap position on my display. Next selected the gear down. With 3 down and locked indication, I continued to slow the jet in 10-knot increments and determined the jet was stabled at 180 knots at 15,000 feet. However, due to some light turbulence down low and the feel of the jet I made my approach at 200 knots. [The other aircraft called in] coordinated an arrested landing for me on Runway 36 at [Naval Air Station North Island, Halsey Field]. We discussed our hook-skip game plan and commenced approach. I utilized a 3-degree descent on approach for about 13 [nautical miles] straight in. At approximately 12:40 [Lima] I made a successful arrested landing which concluded the event.”
Two U.S. military commands involved in buying and fielding new gear for special operators have released a list of what features they would like to see in future military vehicles — and the list shows some serious upgrades for warfighters.
The Joint Special Operations Command and the Program Executive Office Special Operations Forces Warrior released their wish list in a Federal Business Opportunities solicitation. While some of the upgrades they’re searching for are pretty standard — such as more reliable drivetrains and cheaper brakes — these five technologies could be game changing:
1. Invisible armor on civilian vehicles
The document calls for low visibility “Armor materials/panels, etc., that can be transferred and integrated from one commercial vehicle to another with minimal manpower and in a minimal timeframe.” This could allow operators to fortify a civilian vehicle for a mission. Then, if that car is compromised, quickly move the armor to a new ride for the next mission.
2. Transformer vehicles
Spec ops buyers are looking for a chassis that could survive after the car body wears out. In other words, operators would have a truck or SUV that they use for some operations, and after the vehicle gets banged up, worn out, or just stops looking cool, the troops could trade out the body for a new one for cheap.
3. Engine starters and batteries that work at -50 degrees
Batteries and starters that work at 50 degrees below zero would give soldiers confidence that they can always make a quick getaway, even in the Arctic Circle. In addition to delivering power in extremely frigid weather, the batteries should provide electricity for a longer time between charges. This would allow users to run the heat and electronic devices in the field for longer without turning on the engine.
4. Lighter, hidden armor
In addition to the transferability of the armor described in the first entry, JSOC and PEO-SOF are asking for the hidden armor for civilian vehicles to be lighter. This would reduce the low gas mileage and high rollover problems associated with current vehicles using hidden armor.
5. Hybrid military dune buggies
The solicitation calls for electric or hybrid electric vehicle technology for LTATVs. The Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle is basically a souped-up ATV for light troops like special operators and paratroopers. Now, soldiers want an all-electric or hybrid version of the vehicle that would “increase range, reduce maintenance, and lower the audible signature.”
6. “Low Profile Antennas for Line of Sight, SATCOM, and ECMS”
This is exactly what it sounds like, a variety of antennas that work as well as current models while also being harder to detect. It would allow all vehicles — commercial and military — to be outfitted with more communications devices without drawing undue attention and enemy fire.
7. “Visual, Audible, and Thermal Signature Reduction”
The commandos want vehicles that are harder to detect, track, and target. Quieter vehicles are more difficult to hear, cooler vehicles are harder to see with IR, and better-camouflaged vehicles are challenging to pick out with the naked eye. Operators want all three upgrades.
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan is the Air National Guard Special Assistant to Maj. Gen. Scott F. Smith, the Director of Training and Readiness, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Arlington, Va. The directorate, encompassing seven divisions and the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, is responsible for policy, guidance and oversight of Air Force operations.
General Vaughan also serves as the lead for the Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team (AF-PEAT) and co-leads the ad hoc Joint-PEAT, along with Navy Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman.
General Vaughan completed Reserve Officer Training Corps at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received his commission as honor graduate from ANG’s Academy of Military Science. He previously served in leadership roles at the squadron, group, wing and higher headquarters levels in both the mobility and combat air forces. General Vaughan commanded the 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico, and Detachment 1 of the 13th Air Expeditionary Group (formerly the 13th Expeditionary Support Squadron), Antarctica.
During an interview with Airman Magazine, Gen. Vaughan discussed his new post leading the joint investigation of Unexplained Physiological Episodes (UPEs) and his experiences as a mobility and combat airman and safety officer.
Airman Magazine: Please tell us about your new job investigating Unexplained Physiological Episodes.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: As part of my role working in A3T, I’ve been tasked by the A3 Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly to lead the Physiological Episodes Action Team, also known as the PEAT.
PE stands for physiological episode or event. Essentially it’s any anomaly in the interaction among the aircrew, equipment, and environment that causes adverse physical or cognitive symptoms, which may impede the ability to fly..
What we’ve done across the Air Force and all aircraft, but most recently with the T-6 fleet, is to investigate what causes PEs. In some cases an Unknown PE will immediately reveal to us what happened. Maybe there was some sort of contamination in the cockpit due to an oil leak or some other fumes, so we’re able to identify it as a known physiological event.
In other cases, pilots will experience symptoms, come down and land, report them and we don’t know exactly what the cause is until we investigate further.
Members of the Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team and Air Force PEAT listen to a discussion between Rear Adm. Fredrick R. “Lucky” Luchtman (left) and Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward L. “Hertz” Vaughan (right) as they lay the ground work for the Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team, or J-PEAT.
(Photo by Scot Cregan)
Airman Magazine: Tell me about the PEAT. What is the structure and objective of the team?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: The AF-PEAT is Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team. Now, previously this has been known as the UPE IT or Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team. We’re working very closely with our Navy partners and they came up with a pretty good name – Physiological Episodes Action Team. In the interest of both jointness and keeping it simple for all the flying community, we’ve aligned names with the Navy.
Of course, that’s not the only thing we’ve learned from the Navy. The Navy’s had some great success in exploring what happens in physiological episodes, what happens to aviators, and we’ve been able to learn a lot from them and they’ve learned from us as well.
Airman Magazine: How does the PEAT operate?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We have two meetings per week. Every Friday the Air Force PEAT meets. Who is on this action team? The answer is those people who are required for that particular meeting.
We’ll have the topics of the week, sometimes we’re looking at specific incidents with airplanes, specific episodes, and other times we may be investigating new equipment that’s coming out, new procedures, new training or maybe there’s the results of an investigation that we’ll need to review. We have standing members of the team, about half a dozen, that are there at every meeting.
Then we have another kind of a second layer of folks, which gets us up closer to 20 people, who come in as needed. That second layer includes folks from the acquisition community or the 711th Human Performance Wing. We don’t necessarily need to have them come to every meeting, but there’s times we really need somebody from human performance wing present. That’s one meeting.
Then immediately following that meeting, we have, what I call the Joint-PEAT. It’s really an ad hoc Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team with the Navy. It is very much a joint effort in that we work closely together and meet weekly to keep a steady battle rhythm so as things come up during the week, if they’re not an emergency or if it’s not something that we’ve got to address right at that minute, we’ll be able to put it together on Friday. We know that once a week we’re going to have a meeting where we can sit down face-to-face and hash these things out.
My Navy counterpart is Rear Adm. Frederick Luckman, he goes by “Lucky”. My call sign is “Hertz”. We immediately got to a Hertz-Lucky professional friendly demeanor. We go through an awful lot of coffee. He and I meet as often as we can to share data. Like I said, we cannot share the information fast enough.
The Navy is doing a lot of good work. They had a series of issues with physiology not only in the F-18, but T-45s, and they’ve had very good success in their T-6 fleet. They have a T-6 fleet that’s about half the size of the Air Force’s. They have slightly different models, some of theirs are newer models, but the oxygen systems are very similar.
The Navy adopted early on, in response to some of the lessons they learned from other airframes, significant maintenance practices in their T-6 oxygen system that we found very useful. We watched the Navy adopt those, saw the results of it and in those cases we’ve been able to adopt it exactly the same way that they have.
Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan, head of the Air Force Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team, and Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman, Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team lead, discuss ongoing efforts to minimize the risk of Physiological Episodes.
(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Scot Cregan)
Airman Magazine: How does the timely resolution of PEs, affect training and readiness?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Looking at the National Defense Strategy, lethality is the primary objective and, for the Air Force, that equates to readiness. Are we ready to fight? You know, the question is readiness for what? Ready to do what? It’s ready to prosecute the war, ready to fight. In some cases, being ready to go out and influence and be that presence where we need to be.
If we’re having equipment struggles, delays in our programs, or we’re having to stand-down aircraft or cancel missions because of physiological episodes that will get in the way of us being ready. It will get in the way of us executing any plans we may have out there. So it’s important for us to get the information back, put the fixes in, get those funded, fielded and executed as quickly as possible. Once we do that, we’re going to enhance readiness and capability as we grow toward the Air Force We Need.
It also eliminates a distraction. Anytime you have aircraft mishaps of any kind, anytime you have a cluster of these PEs, it’s going to create a distraction, not just for the frontline airman, but for their families, and anybody else associated with it. Anybody involved with the operation and maintenance will have a distraction. That distraction takes our eye off the readiness ball. That’s one of the reasons that you’ll see the PEAT, Physiological Episodes Acting Team, embedded right in A3T. A3T’s tasking is training and readiness.
Airman Magazine: What types of symptoms are commonly associated with PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Symptoms span the spectrum of what can happen to people on airplanes. I’ll caveat this with Air Force aviators receive extensive training in physiology and what may happen to them in tactical aviation. All pilots and other aircrew going through their initial training, experience the hypobaric chamber, we call it the altitude chamber. They get used to what it’s like to operate at high altitudes and what happens during decompression. They also have routine refresher training in all aspects of aviation physiology.
One of the main reasons for doing that training is so that each aviator can learn what their individual symptoms will be. No two people will react the same to an aircraft or environmental stimulus and, in fact, the same person may have different reactions on different days based on fatigue, fitness, nutrition, or other personal factors.
It’s important for each aviator to have a sense of what symptoms they might have, especially the early onset symptoms, so they can take early appropriate action to safely recover the aircraft or get out of the environment that’s causing the problem.
Some of these symptoms can range from things like tingling in the extremities, fingers and toes, headaches or nausea. There are actually cases of folks having euphoria, while other folks may become belligerent. They know if you’re flying along and all of a sudden you just feel a little irritated for no particular reason it may be time to check your oxygen system, look at the environment you’re in or determine if that’s caused by something else. Then take appropriate action to mitigate the risk.
Airman Magazine: You have said that when investigating and mitigating PEs, “We can’t share information fast enough.” Describe what you mean and how that process can be improved?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Sharing the right information and then making sense of the information is very important in dealing with this phenomenon. What we do right now in the Air Force is we listen to the pilots. Pilots will land and give us a debrief – What happened? When did it happen? What types of conditions were going on in the airplane?
You’ll find that in the Air Force fleet, and the Navy fleet as well, most of the aircraft have pretty sophisticated sensors when it comes to their engines and other aircraft systems. When they land that information is downloaded, aggregated, and acted upon. Much of the critical data is available real time and available to the pilot for immediate action. Each aircraft is slightly different as technology improves, but the amount of data that we’re able to download from a given flight is enormous. But hard data on the human weapon system is slim to none.
This gets into right into some of the themes of Secretary of the Air Force has talked about going into artificial intelligence, big data analytics. How do we deal with all this data, make some sense of it and not run down the wrong path to get a wrong conclusion?
I will tell you one area though, where we’re still struggling, not only the Air Force, but also the Navy and our colleagues at NASA, is collecting data from the actual human weapon system.
We want to know things like pulse rate, oxygen content in the blood, cognitive functions, any anomalies with eyesight, but these are very hard things to sense independently without interfering with the aviators while they conduct their mission.
That’s a fascinating area of research that’s happening out at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in conjunction with the Navy Medical Research Unit Dayton. What they’ve started to do, both those labs working together and along with some NASA support, is fielding some prototypes, such as sensors that might go, for example, in the (oxygen) mask or on the pilot’s helmet.
We actually know real-time information about the oxygen system in an airplane. We have sensors on the actual system to know the content of oxygen and other gases that might be presented to the aviator. What we don’t know is what happens in system losses; what happens between the actual oxygen production or the oxygen source and the pilot’s breathing. Furthermore, we don’t know the pilot’s ability to uptake that oxygen. There’s a lot of medical and physiological processes that we need to monitor better.
A technique called Hybrid 3D Printing, developed by AFRL researchers in collaboration with the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, uses additive manufacturing to integrate soft, conductive inks with material substrates to create stretchable electronic devices.
(Wyss Institute photo)
Airman Magazine: What does the end state of this research look like? Are you talking about monitoring physiological responses of pilots during missions in real time?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: That’s absolutely correct. We’d like to get to an end state where the human weapon system is instrumented in such a way that’s noninvasive and nonintrusive. The aviators won’t feel the sensors and it doesn’t interfere with their duties at all, but that that data is available just like you would read all the instruments on an engine. We’re trying to figure out, is that five years from now, two years from now or 20 years from now?
If you think of the human on the loop or in the loop going forward, especially in cyber systems and integrating across all-domain operations, it’s going to be more important than ever to make sure that the human weapon system is keeping up and that we’re able to monitor that.
So we’re looking at sensors that might be wearable. A lot of folks out in the community are familiar with wearable fitness monitors and the chips that go in your shoes if you’re going to run a race to keep track of where you are. One of the challenges we have in aviation is the sensors that might be worn in commercial practice that people might buy at a local store are not suitable for the aviation environment, particularly tactical aviation.
Not only do you have the pressure and temperature anomalies that occur as airplanes travel up and down, but in tactical aviation, fighters, bombers and training aircraft, there’s an awful lot of G-loading. There can be anomalies that go from high altitude to low altitude in very short order and that has a lot of wear and tear on the sensors. Some sensors are embedded in clothing and depend on contact with the skin. For example, in order to prepare themselves for a mission, aviators will strap down tighter than you might in an automobile to keep them safe, but that may also cause bulges in the clothing that interferes with sensory contact. There’s a lot of research yet to be done and a lot of development ahead of us.
I’m looking forward to the Air Force potentially investing more in that research. I’m especially impressed with our ability to work with our joint partners with the Navy and the Army, which is coming on board later this month, in this PEAT effort. They’ve got a lot of exciting things happening in their aerospace medicine field and then NASA has been a partner throughout. You really can’t beat, from an intellectual capacity standpoint, having partners like the 711th Human Performance Wing and NASA. We’ve got the best partners in the world.
Airman Magazine: Are there other interagency or commercial partners in the research and investigation of PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Absolutely. Some of the companies that produce our aircraft have divisions dedicated to human physiology and enhancing the ability of the human to perform in or on the loop. They provide enhancements such as providing sensors and digital displays. In some cases, even an augmented reality display, which we have in many aircraft, where there’s a lens that comes over one eye and not only can you see your environment, but that lens will produce a heads-up display of images that will help you interpret what you’re seeing on the ground.
Not only do we have industry partners that helping us with this, we also have universities and some international partners. Primarily we’re working through the Navy to access the folks that are doing that work on the outside, but we’re going to start working a little more with our international affairs group here in the Air Force to foster those partnerships.
Airman Magazine: Do you see a time when human sensor capability will be baked in rather than bolted on?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I think we’re going to get to that point. Right now, we’ve got to be sensitive to the fact, that if we start utilizing every sensor that’s available commercially, we run the risk of interfering with the mission and maybe causing a distraction. The last thing we want to do is have sensors be the cause of problems. We want the sensors to help us solve those problems.
We’re looking at ways to prototype these things. Edwards Air Force Base, for example, where we do a lot of research and development flight testing, has been very instrumental in working with the 711th Human Performance Wing and the system program offices for the airplanes, to include the T-6, F-15, F-16 and others, in doing some remarkable testing that gives us great foundational data. That foundational data is important to determine where we do the development going forward. Also, we recently shook hands on an agreement with the Civil Air Patrol to help us collect, assess, and sort through the many commercially available wearable sensors.
Airman Magazine: What’s the benefit to the force of being able to process and utilize PE data faster?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So for example, right now if we have a physiological event in the aircraft, we typically execute emergency procedures, get to a safe backup source of oxygen if it’s available, descend to an altitude where it’s safe to breathe ambient air and then land as soon as possible at the nearest suitable airfield.
Perhaps what will happen in the future, with sensors on board, you may be able to head off that emergency. Sensors may alert the pilots to the fact that they are entering a phase of flight or a set of activities or an environment, where they’re at higher risk of these kinds of anomalies. By alerting the pilot to that, they may be able to mitigate it or avoid a physiological event.
Furthermore, if there is a situation in flight, the sensors on board that gives them real time readings may enable them to do a better job of assessing what’s going on.
But this is where it gets insidious. With physiological events, one serious possible symptom is an inability to assess the situation.
Now that’s a pretty extreme symptom, but you may have those situations come up. In which case, presenting the data to the pilot as numbers or another traditional data format might not be as useful as, maybe, an alert light. There are some programs out there that cause the oxygen mask to vibrate a little bit. We do this with the control stick in airplanes as well. With such an equipped aircraft if you were to get into a stall, the control stick vibrates, They call it a stick shaker. Applying these proven technologies to other areas are all in prototype and being tested.
Zach Demers, an aerospace engineer, demonstrates the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) in an F-16 flight simulator at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
(Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)
Airman Magazine: Weren’t you involved in the adoption of another pilot safety system?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Formerly, I served as the Air National Guard’s national director of safety. Part of our safety portfolio is flight safety and in that we have some advanced fourth and fifth- generation aircraft, but we also have legacy systems out there. Systems that don’t have baked-in ground collision avoidance systems.
We worked very hard with the system program office and the Pilot Physician program in the United States Air Force to bring on board these Auto G-CAS systems (Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System). We have confirmed saves in situations where the pilot may have lost awareness. It doesn’t have to be a physiological event. It can be task saturation or other things that cause the pilot to lose awareness of proximity to the ground. Traditional GCAS systems will alert the pilot, such as an X symbol in the heads-up display, letting them know they’re near the ground and need to pull back on the stick.
In the Auto G-CAS, the aircraft sensors can actually determine the point where the pilot can no longer recover, due to the limits of human reaction time, and the system takes over the jet and recovers it for the pilot. As soon as the aircraft is in a safe regime, it returns the control back to the pilot. And that’s also had a couple of great saves for us.
Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Pilot Physician program, what is that and are they involved in the J-PEAT and investigating of UPEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan:Pilot Physician is a very unique program in the Air Force and its highly specialized. These are individuals are rated aviators of all sorts, but primarily pilots. Then they go to medical school and change their job category. So they’re no longer primarily pilots for the Air Force, they’re now physicians for the Air Force.
They’ve enabled to help us understand what’s going on both operationally and medically and where those two things meet. In other situations, you have pilots who were trying to describe what’s happening to them in the airplane and then you have medical doctors trying to understand that description. There can be things lost in translation between the communities.
The Pilot Physicians speak both aviation and medicine fluently, are able to identify with the pilots and, in many cases, have flown that exact aircraft being investigated.
Lt. Col. Jay Flottmann, pilot physician and 325th Fighter Wing chief of flight safety, explains how a valve in the upper pressure garment and the shape and the size of oxygen delivery hoses and connection points contributed to previously unexplained physiological issues during F-22 flights.
(Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)
Airman Magazine: Are there specific examples of investigations that benefitted from Pilot Physician experience and expertise?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Lt. Col. James “Bones” Flottman was the Pilot Physician directly involved in the F-22 investigation that we did a few years ago. The F-22 had a series of physiological episodes. He was the one that was able, as an F-22 pilot and a physician, to credibly determine that it was a work of breathing issue.
It was a combination of factors, we don’t need to go into all the specifics right here, but he was able to bridge the gap between pilot practices, things they’ve been taught to do and things they did through experience, and what was happening medically. That resulted in improvements in the whole system – improvements in some of the hardware and improvements in the pilot practices. Not only was he able to help the investigation team solve that, he was able to then go back and credibly relate this to the pilots, restoring faith both in the system, in the Air Force process.
There’s another one that is a friend of mine, retired Col. Peter Mapes. Dr. Pete Mapes is a classic Pilot Physician. He was a B-52 pilot and a fantastic doctor, as are all of them. He and I worked closely together on Auto G-CAS, as well as several key people in engineering and operations. He was really the driving force, along with Lt. Col. Kevin Price, at the Air Force and the OSD level to push that development and production through, especially for the legacy aircraft.
He also had a role in many other aviation safety improvements to include helicopters, specifically wire detection. A lot of helicopters have mishaps because they strike power lines. He was instrumental in getting some of those systems put into helicopters and out into the fleet.
He was also instrumental in improving some of the seat designs and some of the pilot-aircraft interface designs as well. Really too many to mention.
Another great a success story for the Air Force, when it comes to the Pilot Physician program is Col. Kathy Hughes, call sign “Fog”. She’s flown the T-38 and A-10, a great flying background, and has been a wonderful physician for the Air Force. She really explored the use, the application and the design of our G-suits and was able to help the Air Force evolve into a full coverage G-suit. So now the G-suits that our fighter aviators fly are more standardized and more effective than the previous generations of flight suits. Thanks, in large part, to her work. I recently met her at aviation safety conference where she is helping commercial interests design better ejection seats.
That’s just three examples. There’s a whole laundry list.
We also have advising both the Navy and Air Force PEAT, Col. William P. Mueller; call sign “Ferris”. Col. Mueller was an F-4 fighter pilot and now one of the top physicians in aerospace medicine. He’s been absolutely invaluable in helping us understand what’s going on with the physiological episodes. He not only sits on the Air Force PEAT, but he also has a permanent membership sitting on the Navy’s PEAT. So he’s part of that joint interaction and offers a fearless perspective on improving training.
Col. Kathryn Hughes, a pilot-physician and director, Human Systems Integration, 711th Human Performance Wing, sits on the stairs of a centrifuge at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 22, 2016.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I like using the email analogy. So most of us have email. Those that work in an office may have one for work and one for personal use, or maybe even more than that. If you’re like me at all, if you skip checking your emails for even one day, you find yourself in a huge email deficit. Now imagine all the sensors, whether it’s a cyber system, aircraft systems, space system, and each piece of all the data being collected as an email coming to you. Within minutes you would be completely overwhelmed with data. So we’re going to rely on systems to help us sort through the data and present those things that are most important now for decision making.
Those other pieces of information that we might want later for analysis, it will store those and present them at the appropriate time. So that gets after artificial intelligence. We need these systems to work with the human in the loop. We don’t necessarily want it to be standalone. We want it to be integrated with humans and that’s where the real challenge comes in, because as an aviator flying an airplane, the data I want right at that moment to prosecute the fight, may be different than the data a cyber operator working with me in that operation may need at that same moment. Artificial Intelligence or underlying data systems will have to be smart enough to give the data to the operator that’s needed to make the right decision.
I recently spent some time with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I asked him about this wicked technology problem of applying artificial intelligence on the tactical edge. His advice about leveraging cloud technology to perform advanced operations on big data, where and when needed, has been invaluable.
Airman Magazine: How does recorded data on individual pilots allow you establish baseline physiology and find relationships between PEs that may occur in aircrew from different units and bases?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We’re already finding benefit from that data, so the 711th Human Performance Wing is working very closely, in this case with the T-6 system program office, and some big data analytic gurus. These folks will take large volumes of data and slice and dice it to find where there might be some differences from what would be considered a baseline or normal.
Then they can dig into those differences and see if there is something to learn. They’re finding a lot of great results that help us improve the systems. Because physiological events involve humans and each human has such a different reaction and an individual person will have a different reaction on a different day, it can be difficult to look at a small sample size and draw any big lessons. We need large sample sizes and that’s where you can start to kind of tease out the pieces of the data that are going to move us forward.
As we worked with the Navy on the Physiological Episode Action Team we have found that pilots in the Air Force and the Navy are more informed than ever. They know people in the tech business and the pilots talk amongst themselves and share information and they’re finding these wearable sensors.
Most of the wearable sensors are not suitable for aviation use. They just can’t provide good data under those conditions, but it’s worth exploring. Talking to Admiral Luckman, we wanted to find a way to get these sensors, and most of them are small things like fitness monitors, that just aren’t allowed in our environment right now, into the cockpit just to see how they survive a flight. The Civil Air Patrol, which flies general aviation aircraft, fly with their smart phones and other types of equipment.
They have a tremendous safety record, but they also have a completely different set of rules than we do. They typically just follow the AIM and the FAA civilian flight rules. Most of those flight rules don’t have any prohibitions on bringing equipment in your pocket or your flight bag.
So recently we sat down with some of the leaders of the Civil Air Patrol to work out a memorandum of understanding whereabouts we’ll get these ideas and sensors to our pilots in the fleet. Some of them will appropriately go through Air Force and Navy channels and may end up being something of a program of record in the long term.
Others that we can’t cross that gap and into the system, we’ll offer those to Civil Air Patrol and, at their option, they can start flying those. It’s not official flight test, but they can at least tell us, does this thing survive a flight up to 10,000 feet and back. And that piece of information might be just enough. That then allows our system program office with the labs to start taking a closer look.
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So that’s a great question and that’s why I think the development of sensors and better understanding of baseline human physiology is so important.
The RPA environment is just the tip of the iceberg. As we look at humans in the loop or on the loop, human physiology, whether it’s in cyber, RPAs, intel, space, any of the other missions that we’re doing, is a very important consideration.
What we don’t have yet is a tremendous amount of baseline data. What’s physiology supposed to look like in those situations? So when it’s different, how would we know it? That’s some of the work that’s going on right now at the labs is base-lining that data.
I will tell you that while the environment of RPAs is uniquely different than the environment in airplanes, but it’s not always easier. You have a lot of folks that are out there engaged in very serious operations, life and death situations, that they are dealing with for hours on end and then go home every night to their families and to would be a normal environment. Most people have coping mechanisms to deal with that. But that’s one of the areas of research that folks are looking at in the labs – how do we better prepare people to go back and forth between these kinds of environments?
Maj. Bishane, an MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. RPA personnel deal with the stressors of a deployed military service member while trying to maintain the normalcy of a day-to-day life.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Airman Magazine: Let’s shift gears and talk about your career history. How does leading PEAT differ from your past experiences as a safety officer at a wing or a squadron?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Prior to this, I worked for Secretary Mattis in OSD reserve integration. We basically informed OSD policy relative to the seven different reserve components out there to include the Air National Guard.
Before that, I served as commander of the 156th Airlift Wing. As a wing commander, it is a minute-by-minute duty to make risk decisions and it’s very important to realize the consequences of those decisions and understand that whole risk matrix.
In my current position, I’m not a commander of anything. I’m not really in charge of folks specifically. We have a team, but we come together as required. So this job is more informative. One of our primary roles is to inform commanders. As they give us data, we give them back context so they can make better risk decisions.
It also allows the labs to put a focus on their studies enabling the system program offices to acquire and improve systems to support the mission. So this job is very different in that respect.
I think having been a commander previously helps me understand what these commanders they need to hear and how they want to receive that data so it doesn’t overwhelm them.
Airman Magazine: What is it you would like the pilots and aircrew to know about you, the PEAT and their part in preventing and mitigating PEs?
Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I traveled to Randolph Air Force Base and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the higher headquarters staff. I met with the commander of 19th Air Force and I was very encouraged and reassured with everyone’s openness to really solving this problem as aggressively and quickly as possible, talking about physiological episodes, but also, in a broader sense, the sustainment of the T-6 and sustainment of other airframes for which people might be interested.
I feel good about where that’s going. I also had a real eye-opener when I had an opportunity to meet with some of the T-6 pilots. We met off base. We decided to meet in a restaurant in a casual environment. We wanted that format because I wanted to hear really unfiltered what some of these T-6 pilots, who are some of the most experienced pilots in the Air Force flying that mission, that airframe. I was able to learn a lot. They have great faith in their chain of command and leadership. They have valid and serious concerns about physiological episodes, as does the commander all the way up to the chief of staff and the Secretary.
I think being able to hear their perspective, share with them my firsthand knowledge of meeting with senior level commanders in the Air Force bridged some gaps. I also was able to hear some very specific engineering questions and connect some of those pilots directly with some of the engineers at the system program office and some folks within their own chain of command that they just haven’t connected with yet. Just trying to get those dialogues going, because the solutions that the air Force is putting into place, whether it’s T-6 or any other airframe, are usually phased. Some of them require major investment, money and time-wise, and those take a little longer to accomplish.
So how do you bridge the gap between today and when we get to that promised land if some of those bigger fixes and it comes down to some solid risk management? In the case of the T-6, there’s a whole list of maintenance protocols that we handle and emergency procedures for the pilots that don’t necessarily reduce the number of these events, but they can reduce the severity and certainly mitigate the consequences. That’s what we’re trying to do. We don’t want a situation where any physiological episode goes far enough to lead to a permanent injury or harm of an aviator destruction of property. We want to catch those things as early as possible through these mitigation techniques.
Another thing I got to do when I was at Randolph was shadow the maintainers as they did maintenance on a T-6 that had a physiological episode. In the past, when these things would happen, there wasn’t a specific protocol. They would do their very best to look at the oxygen system, but there wasn’t a protocol on how to do that.
T-6 Texans fly in formation over Laughlin AFB, TX.
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)
Over the last year, with the help of a lot of the pilots, doctors, chain of command folks, human performance wing – a big team effort, when the airplane lands after one of those instances it’s an automatic protocol for that oxygen system.
In most cases it’s removed and a new one is put in and the suspect system then gets this thorough going over at the depot level and not only do we fix that, that particular system and return it to service. We’re able to learn a lot and collect data points. In some cases, we don’t find the specific cause in that system and then we look elsewhere – maybe more pilot interviews, talking to the doctors and trying to piece it together.
The protocols that are out there now not only helped mitigate the consequences of these events until we field new equipment, but they also help us in collecting data that will inform better decisions going forward.
Wellman and coworkers at the hospital’s opening, April 14, 2020.
Fred Wellman, a West Point graduate and retired public affairs officer, was at home in Richmond, Virginia when he got a call from his friend Kate Kemplin, an assistant professor at the University of Windsor Faculty of Nursing in Ontario, Canada, who was driving to New York.
“She said, ‘we’re building a hospital and we need your network in New York City,'” Wellman, who holds a masters in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School, told We Are The Mighty.
Kemplin was referencing what would become the Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University’s Baker Field, a temporary hospital created to care for COVID-19 patients.
“She needed someone to handle the administrative aspects — things like admin work, bed tracking systems, logistics, not a hospital person, but someone intimately familiar with processes,” Wellman explained. “I was telling my girlfriend about all of this later on and she looked right at me and said, ‘You know that’s you, right?'”
Wellman, the founder and CEO of public relations and research firm ScoutComms, talked to his senior staff and family and called Kemplin back.
“It sounds like you need me,” he told her.
Wellman pauses for a selfie in what would become The Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Field Hospital at Columbia University’s Baker Field.
Courtesy of Fred Wellman
Wellman drove to New York City, where he has been working for a week in his new role as chief of staff at the field hospital, where the staff is composed entirely of former military.
“We put the SOS out to the Special Forces community for medics, and said we need you in New York within a day or two,” Wellman said. “We were able to bring in Special Forces medics as healthcare providers under doctor supervision. It’s never been done in a stateside setting, to use former medics as providers. They’re putting on PPE and taking care of patients. That’s what’s so revolutionary about this. These are former special operations community medics and healthcare workers who have come together on a week’s notice. It’s never been done. Using medics this way is unheard of.”
On Tuesday, April 14, 2020, the Ryan F. Larkin NewYork-Presbyterian Field Hospital opened.
Melissa Givens, a retired Army colonel, serves as the hospital’s medical director with over 20 years of experience in emergency and special operations medicine and disaster operation.
“We’re able to let veterans do what they love to do and that’s run at the sound of gunfire, and the gunfire is coronavirus. Here we come and we’re here to help,” Givens, who left her work as a practicing emergency physician in the Washington, D.C. area to aid in NYC, said in an interview with Spectrum News NY1.
The temporary hospital, named after Navy SEAL medic Ryan Larkin who died in April 2017, has the capacity to treat 216 COVID-19 patients, as well as staff a 47-bed emergency department outpost.
“Many beds are being taken up at local hospitals by people who are recovering and we need those beds for sicker people,” Wellman said. “Hospitals are using their waiting rooms, cafeterias, as bed space. We have treated a couple dozen patients [here], and that’s growing quickly. Our hope is to get our system working really well and to get sicker patients into the proper hospitals where they belong.”
Despite the enormous physical and mental strain of the work being done, Wellman admits that the military’s ingrained sense of camaraderie has helped.
“We all understand the gravity of what we are doing and why we are here,” he said. “[But] seeing the way all these veterans, from different branches of service, with different experiences, and completely different ranks, just fell right into a unit from day one.”
Speaking through a mask as the interview ended and Wellman headed back inside the bubble, he likened his experience to his former life as an executive military officer.
“I went to Iraq three times and Desert Storm before that. That first deployment, you didn’t know what to expect; it’s planned, you know what you’re going to do, but once you cross that border, all bets are off. Yeah we have systems and processes, but this virus gets to vote, too.”
PTSD, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, affects numerous men and women throughout the country and is commonly linked to veterans who’ve served in a combat theater. Behavioral symptoms include irritability, hyper vigilance, and social isolation, just to name a few.
Unfortunately, many who suffer from the disorder take or have taken substantial doses of medications that may or may not work — or cause unwanted side effects.
As awareness of the condition grows, an alternative to relieve symptoms is gaining some significant attention in the fight against the mental illness.
The “God shot” or Stellate Ganglion Block (known as SGB), is making headway as a treatment for our suffering veterans.
According to Cedars-Sinai, the stellate ganglion is a collection of sympathetic nerves located in the base of the neck; when a local anesthesia injection is administered into the nerves, the numbing agent blocks pain symptoms from reaching the brain.
In other words, the treatment minimizes the “fight or flight” reaction in the brain.
For those who aren’t familiar with “fight or flight”, it’s the physical reaction to what the body perceives as danger.
For many combat veterans, it can be activated from hearing unexpected and loud stimulus — like a loud bang or backfire. In a dangerous situation like combat, this system takes over and floods the body with adrenaline and chemicals that will help it either escape or confront the danger.
But the body struggles with differentiating whether the stressful stimulus is actually life-threatening, and therefore people with PTSD can stay in an agitated state where the body believes it is in danger when it might not actually be.
The shot was originally used to treat pain in the face, neck, and arms, but patients also reported improvement in their mental health. Although this procedure has been around for a few years, test groups are still conducted to fully understand the treatment.
If you feel this treatment may be right for you, please contact your local medical professional for more details.
We want to hear from you — comment below and share your thoughts or experiences with this new treatment.
The Textron Scorpion has been competing for the OA-X contract lately, but while the Air Force seems all too willing to ignore what could be a very capable light-attack plane, it could soon find a launch customer. That customer is Saudi Arabia.
The Scorpion, a private venture by Textron, has been pitched as a potential trainer, light attack, or ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) platform. The aircraft, which first flew in 2014, is capable of carrying 9,000 pounds of weapons, flying as high a 45,000 feet, reaching a top speed of 450 knots, and having a maximum range of 2,400 nautical miles, according to MilitaryFactory.com.
The Saudis signed a $110 billion arms deal with the United States earlier. Big-ticket items in the deal included four frigates based on the Littoral Combat Ship, as well as Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense missile systems, and M1A2 Abrams tanks. However, the Scorpion could be an interesting pick for the Saudis.
The aircraft is easy to maintain – and its long range could be very useful given the vast distances involved on the Arabian Peninsula. It also comes cheap, allowing the Saudis to buy a lot of airframes. That last item becomes very important in an era where a new F-35 can cost as much as $100 million.
The production-ready version of the Scorpion will be at the Dubai Air Show in the United Arab Emirates. That plane will feature a Garmin 3000 avionics suite. You can see a video about the potential Saudi order of this plane below.