Christian McCaffrey is one of the best players currently playing in the NFL. As a running back for the Carolina Panthers, McCaffrey has made a tremendous impact on the field turning into one of the best rushers in the NFL. He’s notched numerous league and franchise records in his still-young career. I mean, just look at these highlights. But McCaffery isn’t just NFL skills – he has a heart for the military community as well.
McCaffrey had an amazing college career, playing for Stanford. He took after his dad, Ed, who was a solid receiver for the New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos while earning three Super Bowl rings. The influence of Ed on Christian is evident and draws a lot of comparison to how military members will follow in their parents footsteps.
Military service runs in the family — 80% of military recruits come from families where at least one family member has served; 25% have a parent who has served. In celebration of Father’s Day this year, USAA brought together two fathers who’ve inspired their kids to follow in their footsteps.
Carolina Panthers All-Pro Christian McCaffrey and his dad, Ed, a former NFL wideout, teamed up with USAA and the USO of North Carolina to virtually surprise a military family (both dad and daughter are active duty service members and Panthers fans) for a special Father’s Day celebration in honor of their service. The military and the men and women who serve in it mean a lot of McCaffery.
The surprised father/daughter service members are longtime Carolina Panthers fans. Gunnery Sergeant Jeremy is active duty with the United States Marine Corps and has 16 years of service who is currently based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and Senior Airman Ella, is active-duty with the United States Air Force with three years of service. She is based at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia.
Watch as this NFL star (and his NFL Dad) virtually visit with these unsuspecting military members for a surprise Father’s Day celebration that they’ll never forget:
The experience was hosted by USAA, Official NFL Salute to Service Partner as part of its commitment to authentically honor the military through “Salute to Service.”
This isn’t the first time that USAA and Christian have teamed up to help military service members. Back in January, McCaffery sent a Marine SgtMaj to the Super Bowl. We can’t wait to see what Christian and USAA come up with next!
A birthday celebration was held at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans on Oct. 2, 2018, for retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima. A man with bright eyes and heartwarming laughter, 95 years old never looked so youthful.
Williams watched as his brothers were drafted into the U.S. Army and decided he wanted to become a U.S. Marine. He enlisted in the Marine Corps Reserve in 1943 and retired after approximately 17 years of service.
“I joined the Marine Corps primarily because I knew nothing about the Marine Corps,” Williams said. “I was totally uneducated about the armed forces. The Marines were always very sharp, neat, polite, treated women very respectfully, and it caught my eye.”
Williams joined the Corps with the ambition to protect the country he called home. Little did he know, he would end up on enemy territory fighting for the freedom he loved so dearly.
“I thought that we would stay right here in the United States of America to protect our country and our freedom, so nobody could take this country away from us,” Williams said. “In boot camp, I was being trained by individuals who had been in combat. They were teaching us that if we were going to win, if we were going to survive, we had to fight a war.”
Brig. Gen. Bradley S. James, commanding general of 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, reads a letter written by Gen. Robert B. Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, addressing retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)
A boy from West Virginia working on a farm, Williams underwent the same honorable transformation endured by those before him and those after him; becoming a U.S. Marine headed overseas to enemy territory to defend his country.
“In boot camp, a person’s life completely changes,” Williams said. “From the time they arrive to the time they graduate, they become a new person. There is a spirit created within us that I cannot explain. It makes you so proud to be a Marine.”
Every Marine a rifleman, Williams had another asset that made him valuable to the Marine Corps and the war effort. He was selected to carry and use a flamethrower during World War II.
Retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of Iwo Jima, explains the importance behind the Gold Star Flag and the Blue Star Flag to the attendees of his 95th birthday party at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018. Williams established the “Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation” in 2010. The foundation encourages the establishment of Gold Star family Memorial Monuments.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tessa D. Watts)
“Naturally, we were all trained to be a rifleman first,” Williams said. “I was selected to be in a special weapons unit with a demolition flamethrower. Flamethrowers were being used a lot in the Pacific because of caves, and on Iwo Jima there were many reinforced concrete pillboxes that bazookas, artillery, and mortars couldn’t affect.”
Little did he know, his actions with that flamethrower would earn him the Medal of Honor on Oct. 5, 1945, for his heroic actions during the Battle of Iwo Jima.
“At that point in time, I did not understand what I was receiving,” Williams said. “I had never heard of the Medal of Honor. I didn’t even know such a thing existed. As far as I was concerned, I was just doing what I was trained to do at Iwo Jima. That was my job. It wasn’t anything special.”
After receiving the Medal of Honor at the White House in Washington, D.C., Williams was called upon to speak to the 18th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Alexander Archer Vandegrift. A conversation of a lifetime, something very specific stuck with Williams despite the fear of speaking to a man known to never crack a smile.
The Victory Belles, a vocal trio, sing the Marines’ Hymn during the 95th birthday party of retired Chief Warrant Officer 4 Hershel “Woody” Williams, the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient of the Battle of Iwo Jima, at the National World War II Museum, Oct. 2, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl Tessa D. Watts)
“When the commandant spoke to me, much of what he said I do not recall because I was too scared,” Williams said as he laughed. “One of the things he did say that registered and has never escaped me is ‘that medal does not belong to you. It belongs to all of those Marines that never got to come home. Don’t ever do anything that would tarnish that medal.’ I remember those words very well.”
Williams joined the Marine Corps with a pure heart, dedicated to perform his duty to his country. Those duties ended up being significant enough to earn himself the Medal of Honor. A hero in the eyes of many, when he looks in the mirror he sees a man who was simply doing his job and caring for the fellow Marines around him.
With the distant gaze of a mind recalling nostalgic memories, “We were just Marines looking out for each other,” Williams said.
The Department of Justice Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team (J-CODE) and Europol on Tuesday announced the conclusion of Operation DisrupTor, which resulted in 179 arrests throughout the world and the seizure of $6.5 million in cash and virtual currency, 500 kilograms of drugs, and 63 firearms. According to a US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) press release, the operation was “a coordinated international effort to disrupt opioid trafficking on the Darknet.”
The joint international task force developed follow-on intelligence after completing Operation SaboTor on March 12, 2019, where they infiltrated and shut down the notorious dark web e-commerce site, the Wall Street Market (WSM). According to a DOJ press release, the WSM was “a sophisticated online marketplace available in six languages that allowed approximately 5,400 vendors to sell illegal goods to about 1.15 million customers around the world. […] WSM functioned like a conventional e-commerce website, but it was a hidden service located beyond the reach of traditional internet browsers on the Tor network, a service designed to conceal user identities.”
“Criminals selling fentanyl on the Darknet should pay attention to Operation DisrupTor,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen in the press release. “The arrest of 179 of them in seven countries—with the seizure of their drug supplies and their money as well—shows that there will be no safe haven for drug dealing in cyberspace.”
Operation DisrupTor was conducted throughout the world with arrests executed in the US, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, Austria, and Germany. Out of the approximately 500 kilograms of drugs confiscated, 274 kilograms were seized in the US including opioid prescriptions such as fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and its street version, heroin. Methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, MDMA, and “medicine containing addictive substances in the United States” were also among the drugs seized.
One of the raids conducted through the joint efforts of the FBI, United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in support of Operation DisrupTor took place in Southern California. The Los Angeles J-CODE team successfully apprehended members of the drug trafficking organization that operated under the code name “Stealthgod” on the dark web. This group is suspected to be one of the largest methamphetamine distributors that J-CODE has apprehended so far. According to the DEA press release, the group conducted “more than 18,000 illicit drug sales to customers in at least 35 states and numerous countries around the world.”
Former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the establishment of the FBI-led J-CODE on Jan. 29, 2018, in a press release. Since then, J-CODE has taken down several dark web sites in an effort to combat the opioid pandemic and the people responsible for it. J-CODE has expanded its partnerships to both domestic and international allies for operations like DisrupTor and SaboTor.
Law enforcement on scene in Southern California after one of the raids on the “Stealthgod” drug trafficking network. Photo courtesy of the FBI/Flickr.
E-commerce sites like the WSM are hosted on the darknet, also known as the dark web, which functions like the regular World Wide Web but with encryptions to disguise the users on it. The darknet was previously a stronghold for both criminals and noncriminals. Besides criminals using it to prevent law enforcement and/or the mainstream media from identifying illegal transactions ranging from sex trafficking to illicit drug sales, political dissidents have used the darknet to keep their identities secret.
Sessions had a stark warning for criminals on the dark web after announcing J-CODE. “Criminals think that they are safe on the darknet, but they are in for a rude awakening,” he said in the press release. “We have already infiltrated their networks, and we are determined to bring them to justice. […] The J-CODE team will help us continue to shut down the online marketplaces that drug traffickers use and ultimately that will help us reduce addiction and overdoses across the nation.”
James Ruvalcaba was the lead operational planner and Joe Plenzler was the public affairs officer for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan. They were responsible for authoring the III MEF CONPLAN 5003 to protect all U.S. forces, their families, and Defense Department personnel in Japan. They are both retired Marine lieutenant colonels.
As former lead operational planners for the Biohazard Defense Contingency Plan for all military service members, their families and Defense Department employees in Japan, we noticed the strong possibility of a COVID-19 pandemic in early February of this year.
There are lessons to be learned from an earlier viral outbreak.
In response to the H5N1 or “bird flu” outbreak in 2005, President George W. Bush issued a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza (PI) that November.
Thirteen days later, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace issued a planning order (PLANORD) directing all combatant commanders to conduct execution-level planning for a DoD response to pandemic influenza.
The guidance was clear and broad: Develop a contingency plan that specifically addressed the three major missions of force health protection, defense support for civil authorities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
As leaders of the planning efforts, we recruited medical experts and researched preventive health materials from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, and disease exposure control studies from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This 18-month planning effort included tabletop exercises with State Department officials and local government officials and resulted in a 650-page biohazard response plan for all Marine Corps forces in Japan.
The plan also involved the additional major mission of continuity of operations to ensure that local governments and military installations continued to provide essential and emergency services during a pandemic.
The plan required all units and critical support agencies and businesses to classify their employees or service members as nonessential, essential or emergency-essential personnel.
The lessons we learned in this comprehensive 2005 planning effort are extensive, but they have not been fully implemented in response to COVID-19.
So what can policymakers, emergency medical responders and today’s planners learn from our plan?
Expect a “new normal” until a proven vaccine is developed. Social distancing measures and restrictions on mass gatherings must continue until the population has been vaccinated and the current COVID-19 virus is no longer a threat.
Just like we adapted to the post-9/11 terrorist attacks by instituting new security measures, we must also adapt to the pandemic by continuing social distancing measures until a proven vaccine has been developed, tested and administered to the entire global community. We must do this to avoid subsequent pandemic waves.
Our plan operated under the advice from health experts that a vaccine may take about a year to develop and that it will take months more for it to be readily available to the entire population. We recommend that the vaccine be prioritized and allocated first to medical responders and other personnel designated as emergency-essential responders. Local public health experts should draft immunization plans, to include the prioritization of immunizations to emergency-essential personnel.
The public should expect to experience additional shortages of medical equipment. We’ve seen the shortages of N95 masks, ventilators and ICU beds in hospitals; however, when restrictive measures are eased or lifted, our planning revealed that there will be a huge demand for infrared thermal detection systems (IR thermometers) in order to conduct public health febrile surveillance — especially prior to boarding flights or mass transportation. The post-pandemic environment will most likely involve febrile screenings to ensure viral threats are contained.
Ongoing surveillance and contact tracing are extremely critical after the first pandemic wave is contained to a manageable level, in order to prevent a second wave or spreading it to another region. We should leverage technology in our smartphones to self-report if we have been in contact with infected people. China successfully implemented these protocols in Wuhan province through a phone app.
The demand for mortuary services may exceed available capacity. Additionally, new protocols must be established for conducting funerals.
Public Service Announcements are critical to shape public action to comply with evolving restrictive measures implemented by public health officials. Additionally, PSAs alleviate fear and anxiety by providing reassurance and critical educational material to assist the public in helping to contain and reduce the pandemic. Simply stated, PSAs help to reset the expectations of the evolving crisis and the associated escalatory or de-escalatory restrictive measures.
A pandemic may produce a second wave after the first outbreak, and sometimes even a second cycle outbreak after a few seasons. This is due to previously undetected pockets of viral outbreaks, a lapse in compliance to restrictive measures, the reintroduction of the virus from an external source, or the possibility of the virus mutating gradually by antigenic drift, or abruptly by antigenic shift. It is important for medical responders, public officials and the public to understand that we must not let our guard down when we start seeing a reduction in the transmissibility of the COVID virus or a reduction in the number of people infected.
We cannot lean on unfounded messages of hope; rather, we should look to science and condition-based assessments to decide when to ease or lift restrictive measures. The message to policymakers and high-ranking preventive health officials is clear: Demand science-based justifications for lifting restrictive measures.
For all that have closely tracked the evolution of this COVID-19 virus from its initial outbreak to a pandemic, the writing on the wall is obvious: National leaders made grave mistakes by not taking the threat seriously.
The lack of early mitigation has now cost us more than 427,000 sick Americans, more than 14,000 deaths and more than .3 trillion.
Our nation is paying a terrible cost for not taking this pandemic seriously enough, early enough. We must act in earnest to implement these lessons to help contain the viral spread so we can safely ease the restrictive measures while preventing a second pandemic wave or subsequent pandemic cycle.
It leads the United States’ war against ISIS and with 75 aircraft on its deck has the ability to carry out numerous combat sorties a day. On July 3, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the USS George H. W. Bush docked opposite the Haifa Port and became the first sitting head of state to visit America’s largest and most lethal floating war machine.
The docking of the ship on July 1 marked the first time an aircraft carrier visited Israel in 17 years.
“The visit of the USS George H.W. Bush speaks to the enduring commitment to our shared interests and a commitment to fight against our common enemies,” Commanding Officer Capt. Will Pennington told reporters during a visit to the ship. According to a statement by the US European Command, the ship’s visit is meant “to enhance US-Israel relations as the two nations reaffirm their continued commitment to the collective security of the European and Middle East Regions.”
According to Pennington, the crew is constantly engaged in cooperation with Israel, including sharing intelligence.
“There is a tremendous network of shared intelligence. As you are aware the airspace in the region is very, very, busy with lots of different actors so the need to deconflict that and make sure that everyone understands their missions is very important,” he said.
Visiting the ship with US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, Netanyahu recalled his visit to another aircraft carrier 20 years ago.
“So much has changed since the first time I visited… our ties have gotten stronger and deeper,” he said. “It is a floating island of America. It is a symbol of freedom and strength and victory.”
The USS George H.W. Bush was in the region to participate in the fight against ISIS, carrying out its last operational mission on June 30. With 20-25 sorties per day, aircraft aboard the ship have carried out 1,600 sorties over both Syria and Iraq, striking targets in Mosul and in the vicinity of Raqqa on missions that can last seven to nine hours.
The targets which are directed by the coalition ground commander, are sometimes known prior to take-off and pilots have sometimes also received targets while in the air.
According to Carrier Air Wing 8 Captain James A. McCall, one of the real-time targets was the Syrian jet that was downed on June 18 in southern Raqqa province by one of the jets stationed on the aircraft carrier.
“The jet came within visual distance” McCall said, stating that US jets “warned the Syrian aircraft that they were approaching coalition friendlies. They (the Syrian regime jet) ignored the warning and even dropped bombs on the friendlies,” he said referring to the Syrian Democratic Force who are supported by the coalition.
Towards the end of its seven-month deployment, the USS George H.W. Bush arrived in Haifa after a 40 day voyage from Dubai.
While the ship will not be taking part in any joint exercises with the Israeli Navy, Israel provided security as it pulled into the Haifa Bay allowing the ship’s strike group to continue to other missions and port calls.
“We are very tightly linked with our colleagues and partners and allies from the IDF and have been for very many years,” Pennington said.
Speaking at a ceremony aboard the carrier, Admiral Michelle J. Howard, commander of the US Naval Forces Europe-Africa, stated that the visit marks “a special moment” between Israel and the United States which “has had long standing military to military engagements with Israel.”
“In this visit to Israel, the ship’s might is a metaphor for the strength of the bonds between our countries. I’d like to thank the Israeli people for hosting us and for taking care of our Sailors,” she added.
Intelligence Minister Israel Katz, who visited the ship on Sunday stated that it was “a timely show of American power projection and deterrence capability.”
“Its support for the countries fighting Islamic extremism and terror and Iran is very important, especially now when Iran is working to create facts on the ground in Syria, including a port on the Mediterranean, and Hezbollah continues to build its arsenal with more advanced and precise missiles.”
Somewhere, probably in front of a brightly lit screen with Weird Al playing in the background, a bunch of pencil-pushing scientists are writing long formulas on whiteboards, looking at the formulas thoughtfully, and then trying to use all that science to make you nearly invulnerable to firearms.
Body armor saves lives, but it destroys knees.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Kiara Flowers)
Current body armor is great against most rifle, submachine gun, and pistol fire, but it’s far from perfect. It’s heavy, adding as much as 40 pounds to troops’ loads, and it cracks under repeated hits. Against high-velocity and high-caliber rounds, it will typically give way, allowing the rounds to pierce the target anyway.
And all of that’s without taking into account that the armor, when working perfectly and when hit by rounds it’s designed to stop, can’t absorb all the impact. Most of it gets transferred to the target, just over a larger surface, sometimes resulting in broken bones or internal bleeding.
So it could definitely deal with some serious improvements. And that’s where the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes in. They have projects in the works that could give rise to futuristic body armor.
Researchers are modeling impacts with 10,000 or more particles that, as they rub together, could absorb the energies of bullets, shrapnel, or blasts that would otherwise kill a soldier.
(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)
One of the most exciting is possibly the “Superelastic Granular Materials for Impact Absorption.” Yup, it’s a boring title. This is science. They name stuff with “descriptive” titles instead of entertaining ones. But, basically, this is looking at how to give troops high-tech, wearable beanbags.
The idea is that a bunch of grains of elastic material or crystals can be packed into the armor and, as the armor is hit, the energy is dissipated by these objects through friction and “intra-particle martensitic phase transformation.”
That last phrase is about a fairly complicated scientific process, but it’s the same process that metal goes through when it’s tempered. At its most basic level, the microstructures of certain metals change when heated or placed under extreme stress. So, if a bullet hits a material that will go through the martensitic transformation, then that material will absorb energy as it changes, possibly saving the soldier who doesn’t have to absorb that energy instead.
This is a time-lapse image of a silica particle striking polymer materials. Watching the polymers at this micro-level requires sophisticated equipment, but allows researchers to get a much better idea of how these materials absorb impacts.
(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)
Another project is looking at what materials future body armor should be made of. What will hold the superelastic granular materials? That’s the purview of “Design Testing of Polymers for Improved Soldier Protection.” They’re looking at current materials used in body armor and other applications and seeing how they respond to shock and impact.
The hope is that, with a proper understanding of how these materials work at the most microlevels, MIT can figure out how to synthesize even better materials for protecting troops. And these guys want the nitty gritty details on how the materials take hits, watching the materials and measuring their electromagnetic properties when microparticles are fired at them.
One of the specific things they want to know is what materials give up hydrogen atoms when hit and which ones take hydrogen atoms when hit, allowing them to blend materials together so they quickly create hydrogen bonds and crystalline structures when stressed.
One of the projects looks at how different nanocomposite materials react to different stresses.
The shockwave from an explosion travels through different tissues and different parts of cells at different rates, and so it causes the tissues and cells to deform, ripping them apart, potentially killing the soldier. And, that can happen even when zero shrapnel or heat hits the target.
If that shock can be mitigated—especially if it can be mitigated in extremely strong, light materials like graphene—then explosive weapons would lose a lot of their power against troops wearing new armor.
3rd Cavalry Regiment soldiers during a reconnaissance patrol in Iraq in November 2018.
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Timothy Durkin)
If all the projects come to fruition and engineers are able to blend all the results together, we could see a revolution of body armor. Instead of simply using hard materials to stop attacks like we have for centuries, we could use flexible materials to create armor that moves like clothing and, if we’re really lucky, weighs about the same as traditional fabrics.
But when these fabrics are hit by blasts or by gunshots, the fibers harden themselves and stop the threat, crystalline structures packed inside of the armor absorb the energy, and the whole thing is cost-effective because we’ve figured out cheap ways to create the fabrics.
But it will likely take decades to create final products and get them to the field.
Until then, you’re just going to have to ruck with ballistic plates. Sorry.
People who love military documentaries can never seem to get enough of them. But there are only so many good ones out there.
There’s a reason every new history or military channel on TV turns into “The World War II Channel” for the first two years of their existence. Military history documentaries are awesome. We found six cool docs for the motivated viewer to watch on Veterans Day when the History Channel repeats its programming every eight hours.
And the cool thing is, you don’t have to have that pricey cable subscription to watch them. All these can be found on Snagfilms.com, which presents them completely free of charge.
The President and Magic Johnson celebrate 11/11/11 with world’s first NCAA game on an active aircraft carrier. Filmmaker Steven C. Barber and his entertainment company Vanilla Fire Productions were granted permission to shoot a documentary on the Veterans Day event The Carrier Classic held on 11/11/11 in San Diego, California. Barber funded this documentary and had full access to the Morale Foundation founders and participants in order to show this amazing event and the outstanding work and dedication the Morale Foundation has done with the U.S. military.
Kelsey Grammer narrates this amazing story of the young men and women of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (once known as JPAC) that embed themselves in beyond rugged and brutal conditions in order to bring our fallen service members home. The Battle of Tarawa finally has some closure after 69 years. US remains were flown back in a C-130 with a C-17 transfer back to Honolulu. DPMAA Team members are the unsung heroes that until now have been unrecognized and have worked in the shadows. That is about to change.
Narrated by four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris, “Return to Tarawa” follows the journey of World War II veteran Leon Cooper. Cooper — a U.S. Navy landing craft officer who in 1943 fought in the bloody battle — returns to the site in 2008 to investigate disturbing reports about the current state of the fabled “Red Beach.”
National Geographic presents “Arlington: Field of Honor,”a portrait of one of America’s most sacred places. Once little more than a potter’s field, Arlington National Cemetery has become a national shrine and treasury of American history. Now, discover how this revered site came to be, and how it serves as the final resting place for both the famous and obscure, from John F. Kennedy to the Unknown Soldier.
One thousand miles from anywhere lay a lonely outpost of coral and sea called Midway. It was here in 1942 where the U.S. and Japan fought one of the greatest naval battles of World War II and changed the course of history. And it is here again where Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard now leads a team of experts and four World War II veterans on the voyage of their lives. They’re on a race against time to do the impossible: find at least one of the five downed aircraft carriers. Join them as they pay their final respects to their fallen comrades.
“Honor Flight” is a heartwarming documentary about four living World War II veterans and a Midwestern community coming together to give them the trip of a lifetime. Volunteers race against the clock to ﬂy thousands of WWII veterans to Washington, D.C., to see the memorial constructed for them in 2005, nearly 60 years after the war. The trips are called “Honor Flights” and for the veterans, who are in their late 80s and early 90s, it’s often the first time they’ve been thanked and the last trip of their lives. As the Honor Flight trip unfolds, Orville, Julian, Joe, Harvey and others share their stories and wisdom. While the program is meant to give something back to these humble heroes, the goodness they embody and their appreciation for life transforms everyone they meet.
Following construction and acceptance trials earlier this year at the Austal USA shipyard in Mobile, Giffords sailed to Galveston, Texas, where she was commissioned June 10.
“Our Sailors are honored to represent the ship namesake, its homeport in San Diego, and the U.S. Navy,” said Cmdr. Keith Woodley, Giffords’ commanding officer. “Every Sailor will continue, through USS Gabrielle Gifford’s service to her nation, to fulfill the ship’s motto, ‘I Am Ready.'”
During her sail around transit from Mobile, Giffords Sailors conducted Combat Ship Systems Qualification Trials events, various crew certification training events, and regularly scheduled equipment and systems checks and transited through the Panama Canal.
Giffords is the ninth littoral combat ship to enter the fleet and the fifth Independence-variant LCS. She joins other LCS, including USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), USS Coronado (LCS 4), USS Jackson (LCS 6), and USS Montgomery (LCS 8), who are also homeported in San Diego.
Giffords Sailors are excited for the future of their ship but also for their own return to San Diego.
“We have put in a lot of hard work over the past nine months,” said Operations Specialist 1st Class Lee Tran. “It is going to be nice to have a little down time with friends and family before continuing to work the ship toward its next milestone.”
Family and friends were similarly eager for some quality time with their returning Sailors. Many said they were also grateful for the support and friendships they forged with other families while their Sailors were away.
“Knowing I was not in this alone and that there were more families out there going through it too made me at peace knowing our Sailors had each other,” said Morgan Witherspoon, friend of a Giffords Sailor.
LCS 10 is named after former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who survived an assassination attempt in 2011. Former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus selected the LCS 10 namesake and said it is appropriate that the ship is named for Giffords, whose name is “synonymous with courage when she inspired the nation with remarkable resiliency and showed the possibilities of the human spirit.”
LCS is a high-speed, agile, shallow draft, mission-focused surface combatant designed for operations in the littoral environment, yet fully capable of open ocean operations. As part of the surface fleet, LCS has the ability to counter and outpace evolving threats independently or within a network of surface combatants. Paired with advanced sonar and mine hunting capabilities, LCS provides a major contribution, as well as a more diverse set of options to commanders, across the spectrum of operations.
The US Navy will not send warships to participate in celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.
More than 60 countries, including US allies Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, are expected to send naval delegations to attend the celebratory fleet review, The Japan Times reported, citing the Chinese defense ministry.
The US, however, will only send a defense attaché from the US embassy in Beijing.
“The U.S. Navy will continue to pursue its primary goal of constructive, risk-reduction focused, discourse with the PLAN,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Dave Eastburn told Business Insider in an emailed statement April 4, 2019. “Along with the international community, the Department of Defense engages with the PLAN in forums that advance international rules and norms and a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
“The United States Navy will continue to engage the PLAN through established military-to-military dialogues,” Eastburn added. He declined to say why the US Navy will not be participating in China’s anniversary celebration as it has done in the past.
Tensions between the US and China have been on the rise in the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait. In recent years, the US and China have had occasional confrontations at sea.
The guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald under way in the Pacific Ocean.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Paul Kelly)
The US disinvited the Chinese navy from 2018’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises in response to China’s militarization of the South China Sea.
“The PLA is the principal threat to U.S. interests,” Adm. Philip Davidson, the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2019. Stressing that China is a threat to US and allied interests in the First Island Chain, he added that “the PLA is quickly increasing its ability to project power and influence beyond the First Island Chain.”
The US Navy sent the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald to participate in the Chinese navy’s 60th anniversary event, the South China Morning Post has reported. The decision to not send one this year could be seen as a snub.
“America’s ships and sailors are needed across the Indo-Pacific,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe recently told The Washington Free Beacon, praising the administration’s decision.
“America’s Navy is busy enough confronting the challenges posed by China’s aggression in the South China Sea and other critical aspects of great power competition without the distraction of participating in communist pageantry,” the Oklahoma Republican added.
Indeed, the anniversary fleet review is a major propaganda moment for Beijing. “The naval parade in April aims at sending a message to the international community” about the capabilities of the Chinese navy, a Beijing-based military analyst told the South China Morning Post.
The anniversary celebrations will be held in Qingdao from April 22 to 25, 2019.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Since being paralyzed almost three decades ago, Dean Juntunen has competed in more than 90 wheelchair marathons, continued snowmobiling and four-wheeling, and taken up kayaking.
Now, Juntunen is taking another significant step. And then another step. And then another.
“Just standing talking to you is interesting,” Juntunen said. “I had not gone from a sitting position to a standing position in 27 years. I got injured in ’91, so just standing is fun. I like just standing up and moving around.”
About 160 veterans are participating in the program at 15 VA Centers across the country. After completing a series of rigorous training sessions, veterans in this study will take the exoskeleton home for use in everyday life.
Juntunen executes a challenging 180-pivot with the aid of VA trainers Cheryl Lasselle (left) and Zach Hodgson.
Participants must meet certain criteria, including bone density. Users should be between about 5-foot-3 and 6-foot-3 and cannot weigh more than 220 pounds.
“Most paralyzed people, if not all, lose bone density,” Juntunen said. “So, you have to pass a bone density scan to qualify for this program. I happen to have unusually good bone density and I’ve been paralyzed for 27 years.”
Juntunen was on active duty when he was injured in between assignments from Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana, to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, when his life changed.
Fell 30 feet, broke spinal cord in two places
An avid hiker and outdoorsman, Juntunen’s life changed when a tree branch gave way and he fell 30 feet to the ground.
“I landed on my back in a fetal position,” said Juntunen, who lives near Mass City in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “Spine folded in half, broke five vertebrae, wrecked my spinal cord in two spots.”
“Well, I have a hard time saying no and they strongly asked me to do it. So, I decided, that’s probably going to be fun playing with that robot. I guess I’ll make a bunch of trips to Milwaukee.”
Juntunen, who has an engineering degree, said the hardest part of mastering the robotic device was developing balance.
“One of the hardest things about getting paralyzed is relearning your sense of balance because you can’t feel anything through your butt,” he said. “I’m paralyzed from the base of the rib cage down, so it’s like I’m sitting on a stump all the time.”
Turns and pivots presented challenges, as did going up an incline, he said.
“I liken this to walking on stilts for an able-bodied person because you have to feel the ground through wooden or metal legs. That’s basically what I’m doing in this thing.”
“I don’t really describe this as walking, more like riding the robot,” he said. “The interesting thing is, my brain feels like it’s walking. I’m a complete injury, so I can’t feel anything. My brain has no idea what my legs are doing, but nonetheless, it feels like I’m walking in my head.”
Not all participants are able to sufficiently master the nuances of the 51-pound device to meet the requirements of the study.
Basic training needed to master balance skills
“Some people don’t get past what we call the basic training,” said Joe Berman, Milwaukee VA project manager. “To be eligible to go into the advanced training, you have to be able to master some balance skills and do five continuous steps with assistance within five training sessions. That’s been shown by previous research to be a good predictor of who is going to succeed in passing the advanced skills that we require to take the device home.”
The training sessions at Milwaukee last about two to two-and-a-half hours, usually twice a day. With the aid of certified trainers, Juntunen walked up to a quarter mile, starting with the lightly trafficked tunnel between the main hospital and the Spinal Cord Injury Center.
When Juntunen takes the device home, companions trained to assist will replace the VA trainers.
He eventually progressed to one of the main public entries to the hospital, which had inclines, carpeted areas, and pedestrian traffic.
“The inclines are harder,” Juntunen said. “Here, you’ve got short incline, then flat, then incline, so the transitions are harder. You’re in balance going down and when it flattens out, you have to change where your balance is, so the transition is a little trickier. Coming up is the worst, up the ramps is the hardest. You kind of have to reach behind you with the crutches. It’s more exertion and more difficult on the balance because the robot is always perpendicular to the surface.”
Mastering use of the device in the public space was part of the requirement before Juntunen can take it home.
“In order to take the device home, they need to be able to navigate up and down Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps and go through doorways,” said Zach Hodgson, a physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA and part of the certified training team. “Right now, we have three trainers, but at home, he’ll need a companion to walk with him at all times. It’s looking at all those skills we need to get to and then making plans based on how he’s progressing.”
“He’s going to use this device in his home and community so we really get a good idea about how useful these devices are,” Hodgson said.
At home, companions replace the VA trainers to help with the device. In Juntunen’s case, he’s getting help from his kayaking buddies.
“They’ve seen me transferring and stuff,” he said. “They know I can sit and balance, sit on the edge of my kayak before I transfer up to the seat. So, that’s all normal for them.”
After completing training in Milwaukee, Juntunen is scheduled to have another session at a shopping mall in Houghton, Michigan, tentatively followed by another session in the atrium of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
Most fathers are happy to receive a tie or some other type of keepsake from their children for Father’s Day — especially once their children are grown.
For Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, he will have something far more valuable to see while he is forward deployed to Qatar this Father’s Day. He serves alongside his oldest son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, and both are members of Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment, New Jersey Army National Guard at Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar.
“It’s a satisfying feeling with your children being in the military and seeing their accomplishments,” said Robert, who is the Base Defense Operations Center noncommissioned officer in charge for Area Support Group-Qatar. “If anybody has an opportunity to do it, do it. If you could, give it a shot because it’s nice to have somebody around.”
The Scott’s family history of military service extends back to World War II. Robert’s father, and John’s grandfather, was drafted into the 114th Infantry Regiment for World War II service. Robert first enlisted in the Army in 1985 as a military police officer. After serving for six years in assignments in Panama, Korea, California and Missouri, he returned to civilian life and eventually became a police officer.
John, who is now the headquarters platoon sergeant and operations noncommissioned officer for Centurion Company, first enlisted at 17, while still a senior in high school, in 2006. This led to a fateful question John asked his father.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment.
(SGT Zach Mott)
“He was active duty long before I even joined, then he decided to get out,” John said. “When I joined, I can only remember me looking at him and saying, ‘don’t you miss it?'”
With that simple question, the ball began rolling and shortly thereafter Robert again found himself at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, this time training to become a 74 Delta: chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) specialist.
“He went in the Guard so I had him recruit me,” Robert said. “At the time, they had a little bonus program so it made him a little extra money.”
In addition to Robert and John’s military service, Robert’s second oldest daughter Jamie is a National Guard military intelligence officer and youngest son Robert is currently serving on active duty in Germany. Robert has four other children, one who manages a bar and restaurant in New Jersey, another who is a firefighter in New Jersey, one who recently finished high school and one more who is still in school. In total, their ages range from 32 to 15.
Robert, a Brick, New Jersey native, is proud of all of his children and happy to see that they’ve applied the discipline and structure that his military training instilled in him.
“He always had that military mentality that everything needs to be dress right dress, everything needs to be lined up perfectly. We grew up with it,” said John, a Toms River, New Jersey native. “Him being a cop didn’t help.”
This is the second time the Scott’s have been deployed at the same time. The first time, in 2008 to 2009, Robert was at Camp Bucca, Iraq, and John was at Camp Cropper, Iraq. While the two were separated by more than 300 miles then, they now have only about 300 feet between them.
“We would talk to home more than we were able to talk to each other,” Robert said of that 2008 to 2009 deployment. “This is kind of like we’re both at home. We’ll run into each other. The communication here is a lot better. It’s face-to-face. It’s good to see everything’s going good. I can tell by the way (he’s) looking at me that something’s up.”
John, who is also a police officer in New Jersey, likes to spend his off time, or “overtime” as he calls it, visiting with his dad in the BDOC, sharing a meal together at the dining facility, smoking cigars or doing typical father and son type games.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Scott, left, and his son, Staff Sgt. John Scott, are both currently deployed to Camp As Sayliyah, Qatar, where they serve with the New Jersey Army National Guard’s Centurion Company, 1st Battalion, 114th Infantry Regiment
(SGT Zach Mott)
“The other day we were just talking and we just started tossing a roll of duct tape around, just catching back and forth,” Robert said. “If there was a ball there we probably would have picked it up and just started playing catch. We were both standing there throwing it back and forth to each other, he looks at me and he goes, ‘This turned out to be more fun than I thought.'”
Whether it’s the father-son relationship or the military rank structure, John remains deferential to his father when it comes to off duty activities.
“I don’t know, he outranks me so whatever he wants to do,” said John, who is on his fourth tour in the Central Command area of operations. Once to Iraq in 2008 to 2009, once to Afghanistan in 2009 to 2011, Qatar in 2014 to 2015 and again to Qatar now.
What the future holds for both remains open — and competitive. Robert said he wants to finish out his current contracted time of two years and see what options are available. John, who has 13 years of service, is looking for a broadening assignment as an instructor in the New Jersey Army National Guard next.
“He’s hoping I either die or retire because my brother was a retired sergeant first class,” Robert said. “I’m going to stay in. I’m going to drive him into the dirt. He’ll have to shoot for E-9 first.”
“He’ll retire, I’ll outrank him. Then I’ll rub it in his face,” John said.
The jokes continue and the smiles grow as father and son talk about the unique opportunity to serve together while deployed.
“How many other people get to go overseas with their father? I don’t hear much about it,” John said. “I’d say it’s a rare case. I get to have family support while deployed. I don’t have to reach back home to see what’s up.”
After the US-led raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and several civilians, Yemen is reportedly barring the US from further special-operation ground missions against terrorists in the region.
Russia’s military and state-sponsored media have reacted with a fire and fury of their own to the news that the US will exit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty), one of the last barriers preventing a full-on Cold War-like arms race in Europe — and there’s already talk of a nuclear doomsday device visiting the US.
The INF Treaty banned land-based nuclear-capable missiles with a range between 300 and 3,200 miles in 1987 when Russia and the US had populated much of Europe with intermediate-range nuclear missiles. The ban eliminated this entire class of missiles and went down as one of the most successful acts of arms control ever.
The US and NATO concluded recently that Russia had spent years developing a banned nuclear-capable weapon, thereby making the treaty meaningless. The US responded by saying it would withdraw and design its own treaty-busting missiles. Russia said it would do the same, though many suspect they have already built the missiles.
United States President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
But Russia’s response to the US didn’t stop there.
“If the Americans deploy their new missiles near Russia’s borders, and in response we deploy ours, then of course, the risk of [nuclear] conflict rises sharply,” an arms-control expert told one paper.
“If US missiles are deployed in Poland or the Baltic states, they’ll be able to reach Russia in minutes. In such an event, the way Russia currently conceives using nuclear weapons, as a retaliatory strike, becomes impossible, since there won’t be time to work out which missiles have been launched against Russia, what their trajectory and their targets are,” he continued. “This is why there is now a temptation for both us and for them to adopt the doctrine of a preemptive strike.”
The expert said the INF Treaty’s demise means both the US and Russia now have to consider nuking the other at the first sign of conflict because missile attacks won’t be as predictable as longer-range salvos from the continental US and Russia’s mainland.
But the expert neglects to mention that US and Russian nuclear submarines can already fire from almost anywhere at sea, already confusing targets and trajectories and taking minutes to reach Russian forces.
Since they announced the weapon, they’ve already used it to threaten Europe. But now with the INF Treaty in tatters, a military expert told a Russian paper that the doomsday device could see use.
“It cannot be excluded that one of the Poseidon with a 100 megaton nuclear warhead will lay low off the US coast, becoming ‘the doomsday weapon.’ Thus an attack on Russia, will become a suicidal misadventure,” the paper said.
The paper also declined to mention that the US and Russia’s nuclear posture already guarantees any mutual nuclear exchanges would lead to the total destruction of both countries.
Russia’s media may swerve into bombast, but Russia’s actual military has already announced plans to build more weapons and extend the range of weapons to counter the US in what experts peg as the next great nuclear standoff.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.