Can community engagement prevent veteran suicides? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Can community engagement prevent veteran suicides?

Social isolation and feelings of loneliness are associated with suicidal thoughts. Consequently, the more people feel disconnected from their friends, peers and colleagues, the more isolated they become.

One antidote for social isolation is social connectedness. That is, people coming together and interacting. But there’s been little research on suicide prevention programs that target social connectedness.


Dr. Jason Chen of the VA Portland Health Care System is leading a study to establish a stronger sense of social connectedness for Veterans at high risk of suicide. He’s doing this by increasing their participation in community activities.

Chen and his team have been identifying the community engagement needs and preferences of Veterans who have been hospitalized and evaluated for psychiatric conditions. Specifically, the team interviewed participants within a week of their discharge from an inpatient psychiatric unit. They discovered Veterans analyzed for psychiatric conditions, such as PTSD, are at much greater risk than other cohorts of taking their own lives within three months after leaving the hospital.

Dr. Jason Chen

Veterans Affairs

Social connection could decrease suicidal thoughts

“When working with Veterans, I noticed that many didn’t have social connections,” Chen says. “We know that feeling connected to others can be a form of protection against suicide. So I thought to myself, if the Veterans I work with don’t have many connections, perhaps we could help them create new connections through community activities. My hope is that by helping Veterans increase their engagement in community activities, they’ll feel a stronger sense of social connection that will, in turn, decrease their level of suicidal thoughts.

“The first part of our study was to learn more from Veterans about what gets in the way of connecting. For example, we interviewed 30 Veterans to learn about their past experiences connecting to the community and their thoughts about what would get in the way in the future. Our Veteran sample varied in age from their 20s through their 70s. The average age was 48. We wanted to understand a broad range of experiences across different eras of conflict and generations.”

Suicide prevention is VA’s top clinical priority

Eventually, Chen and his colleagues plan to create clinical toolkits for VA and community figures. The toolkits will focus on increasing social connectedness for Veterans in this vulnerable population.

VA considers suicide prevention its top clinical priority. The most updated analysis of Veteran suicide rates, issued in 2016, notes Veterans accounted for 18% of all deaths from suicide among U.S. adults. This compares with 22% in 2010.

Chen and his team have identified patterns of Veterans’ needs and preferences for social connectedness.

“Veterans appear to be interested in a broad range of activities,” he says. “However, they noted having difficulty knowing how to access these activities and how to make new social connections. Within our sample, Veterans have discussed needing more hands-on support for engaging in community activities. They generally value and believe these activities are important for their wellness and recovery. But they could use extra support for navigating logistics and interactions with new people. We plan for this support to come from a Veteran peer support specialist. That is a Veteran who has undergone his or her own mental health recovery and is now helping support other Veterans with their experiences.”

Working with communities

Researchers are partnering with communities to provide a broad range of activities tailored to the interests of Veterans who are at high risk for suicide. These activities include engaging with Veterans or non-Veterans in the Chinese martial art tai chi or outdoor activities, such as fly fishing or playing music.

“We do not have good evidence that any one type of activity is more protective than another,” Chen says. “They’re worthwhile as long as folks develop a sense of belonging and feel like they’re giving back to others.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

13 funniest military memes for the week of Sep. 23

It’s finally Friday, everyone. It’s time for some memes, a few safety briefings, and the weekend. Here are 13 of the funniest military memes we could dig up:


1. It’s like being called out by a guy who looks like Mister Rogers but kills like Mr. T (via Awesome Sh*t My Drill Sergeant Said).

Dude’s got more badges than a Pokemon trainer.

2. I hate it when she cuts off mid-sentence like that (via The Funny Introvert).

3. You could fit at least three infantrymen on that bed (via Military Memes).

That’s pretty good looking dirt, though. A little loose, but good dirt regardless.

4. Yup, this brings back memories (via Military Memes).

Best part is, the armorer isn’t even there yet.

5. This is an NCO failure. LTs should never be left unattended near tumbleweed like that (via Military Memes).

This is why you always need a battle buddy team.

6. Immediately shared this with my girlfriend (via Operation Encore).

7. It could always use more glow belt. Always (via Pop Smoke).

Maybe if most of you wore three belts, and then one of you wore a full vest?

8. Why wait 1,500 years? Most Marines are salt-powered robots within three years (via The Chive).

All service members are salt-powered within seven.

9. DD-214: The only known cure for saltiness (via The Salty Soldier).

Being out of the military is so refreshing.

10. Ha ha! Jokes on you, staff sergeant! (via The Salty Soldier)

I long ago turned into an empty husk fueled by energy drinks and spite.

11. “I need two for …” (via U.S Army W.T.F!  moments)

12. Nothing to do but lift and work (via U.S Army W.T.F!  moments).

Time to get swole.

13. “I’m just so glad we can be here and bond as a unit.” (via U.S Army W.T.F!  moments)

It really builds esprit de corps. I guess.

MIGHTY CULTURE

These stout brownies will change your life forever

I am in a scotch and cigar club and occasionally I’ll bake something for the crew. Last week I decided to make stout brownies with a stout frosting. These were such a hit that I was politely told that they had replaced my usual chocolate chip cookies at the top of the favorites list.

For those who are not that familiar with stout beer, stout is a dark beer commonly associated with undertones of coffee or chocolate. The word stout itself was first used in 1677 in the “Egerton Manuscript” and implied a strong beer. You may have heard the term porter which—for much of history was used interchangeably with the word stout—and was used to describe a dark beer. The word porter was first used in 1720 to describe “the thick and strong beverage…consumed by the working class.” Nowadays, in an age of craft breweries, there is a distinction between the two: brewers have come to a consensus that porters are made with malted barley while stouts are brewed with unmalted barley. Historically, stouts were the strongest of beers, 7-8% alcohol by volume (ABV) but don’t have to be! Guinness Draught, the world’s best-selling stout is 4.1-4.3% ABV.


This recipe calls for you to reduce the stout (Guinness or any other type of stout) to 2/3 of its original volume. I made these in the morning before work and I thought this wouldn’t take very long but I was late to work that day on account of slowly simmering beer for longer than expected at 7:00am.

Ingredients:

  • one 12 oz bottle stout beer (you could use Guinness, I found Founder’s Breakfast Stout at Grove Market)
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chunks (I like the kind from Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 and 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • optional: 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder

Stout Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons reduced stout (from step 1)
  • 1 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a small saucepan, bring the stout to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, lower to medium heat and allow to simmer until reduced down to 2/3 cup, about 20 minutes. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes. You will use 1/2 cup in the brownies and the rest in the frosting.

Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×9 inch pan and line with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on the sides to lift the finished brownies out. Set aside.

Place the butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl. Melt using the microwave on high in 30 second increments, whisking after each, until completely smooth. Mix in the sugar and 1/2 cup of reduced stout until completely combined. Whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract. Finally, whisk in the flour, salt, and espresso powder. The batter will be thick and shiny. Pour and spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, then test the brownies with a toothpick. Insert it into the center of the pan. If it comes out with wet batter, the brownies are not done. If there are only a few moist crumbs, the brownies are done.

Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely before frosting and cutting into squares.

The frosting:

In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until completely smooth and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, beating on low at first then increasing to high speed. Once creamy and combined, beat in the remaining reduced stout, the espresso powder, vanilla extract, and salt.

Taste. If it’s too thick, you can thin it out with a bit of milk. If it’s too thin, add more powdered sugar. Frost cooled brownies.

Cover and store leftover brownies at room temperature for up to 1 week but if your friends are anything like mine, you won’t have any leftovers.

This article originally appeared on The Booze League. Follow @BoozeLeague on Twitter.

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MIGHTY CULTURE

5 tips for leading during COVID-19, from the Sergeant Major of the Army

Across the military, service members and their families are working through the new normal brought about by COVID-19. Everyone is dealing with a fair amount of stress and we understand how important great leadership is right now. So, we reached out to the Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston (socially distanced, of course) to get his advice for leaders while we work through this pandemic.

He opened up his green notebook and provided the following insights.


Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, senior enlisted leader for Army Forces Command, presents the FORSCOM Eagle Award during a ceremony Jan. 9, 2019.

Department of Defense

1. Lead differently

Leadership matters right now. This isn’t harder than what is required of leaders in combat, but it is a very difficult time. In combat, you can physically bring everyone together. Now, how do you lead during this time of uncertainty? How do you get the information out? How do you make sure they stay the course? How do you make sure your soldiers are following orders –- which in some cases may be to stay at home and keep everyone healthy?

Everyone agrees that face-to-face leadership is the best and leaders can tell a lot about someone’s emotional condition by looking them in the eyes. We still have to do it. Don’t fall in the trap of relying on text messages to communicate. I recommend leaders develop a communications PACE plan. Make video chats your primary means of communication. If that isn’t available, make a phone call so you can hear their voice. Finally, leaders can use text and email to keep the lines of communication open.

Remember, these are difficult times and leadership is what is going to make the difference for the people in your formation.

2. Get innovative

There are so many opportunities right now for leaders to get innovative with how they maintain readiness and keep their soldiers motivated.

For example, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, a battalion conducted an individual 6-mile foot march competition. Everyone used either cell phone apps or GPS watches to track their progress and then posted their times online. The winner with the fastest time received an Army Achievement Medal.

Another unit in Poland conducted EIB training, but included hand-washing and social distancing enforcement during the event.

At the Department of Army level, we are looking for ways to maintain readiness. We started running the Basic Army Leader Course via distance learning. I expect the same of our leaders down at the unit level — look for innovative ways to accomplish the mission.

Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston visited the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Jan. 15.

Department of Defense

3. Stay ready

We all have a responsibility to maintain our fitness and stay focused on personal readiness during this period.

We also have a responsibility and a great opportunity to focus on the operational readiness rate of our equipment so that when we come back to train, our vehicles and weapons are ready to go. Leaders can take advantage of this pause in training to bring mechanics and crews in to bring equipment up to 10/20 standard.

4. Stay informed

Besides company-level leadership keeping soldiers and their families informed, there are also plenty of opportunities to stay up-to-date on the latest news by Department of the Army and Garrison Commands.

I know that unit-level leaders are doing weekly virtual town halls, most garrisons are doing them several times a week and we have done a few at the Army level. Don’t rely on hearsay to get your information; tune-in and stay informed with facts.

5. Set goals

Treat this period like a deployment. We not only want to survive it, we also want to thrive in it. A great way to do this is to set personal and professional goals.

Gyms are closed and many of the conditions we had pre-coronavirus have changed. So, we need to reassess our goals. While we can’t go to gyms, there are workouts we can do in our living rooms to stay fit. Look for opportunities; there might be online courses or credentialing classes that you can take advantage of to achieve professional goals.

I recommend everyone try to figure out some kind of routine to work toward your goals. Don’t wake up everyday and muddle through it — keep moving forward.

A Proud SMA

At the end of our interview, SMA Grinston shared how proud he was of our Army’s efforts to #KilltheVirus; from researching a vaccine to preventative measures and treatment efforts. He also applauded the efforts of our National Guard and Reserve forces who are bearing a large burden of the response efforts across the country.

Articles

This triple amputee has taken Hollywood by storm


Specialist Bryan Anderson’s first question when he came out of a seven-day coma and saw his mother was, “What are you doing in Iraq?” But his mother wasn’t in Iraq.  She was at his bedside at Walter Reed Medical Center.

A week before Anderson had been on his second combat tour, once again serving as an Army MP this time charged with training members of the Iraqi police. His unit had to travel the streets of Baghdad in up-armored Humvees to get to the various police stations around the city, and they were getting hit by IEDs on a daily basis.

“It wasn’t a matter of if we’d get hit, but when we’d get hit,” he said.

Anderson’s exposure was increased by the fact that the unit commander liked his squad. “He knew we knew what we were doing,” he said. “So our mission became to take him wherever he wanted to go to do whatever he wanted to do.”

And his CO wanted to see everything. “He was ‘Capt. America,’ as we called him,” Anderson said. “I get what he was trying to do – lead by example – but at the time we viewed it as he was putting our lives in danger because he was going out to the same Iraqi police stations every day.”

Although they tried to stay unpredictable with their routes and times, there were only so many police stations and so many ways to get to them.  The odds caught up to Anderson on October 23, 2005 at 11 o’clock in the morning. He was driving the last of three Humvees in a slow-moving convoy when an IED triggered by a laser beam exploded next to him.

“I had both my hands on the bottom of the steering wheel and one leg curled under the other because we were only doing, like, five miles per hour, which is why we’re all still alive,” Anderson explains. “The IED was set for a vehicle traveling 30 miles an hour, so instead of going through the passenger compartment the explosion took off the front of the Humvee.”

But although the detonation didn’t happen as the insurgents had planned, the toll on Anderson’s body was substantial.  “I saw smoke, fire, and sparks coming through my door,” he said. “And then it was pitch black because there was so much smoke.”

The soldier riding shotgun jumped out before the vehicle stopped with shrapnel in his wrist and hip. The gunner got what Anderson called the “Forrest Gump wound” – shrapnel to his butt – and he jumped out of the turret.

Anderson tried to get out of the Humvee but couldn’t, unaware of his wounds. The two others busted the bolts off the driver’s side door and pulled him out of the wreckage.

“All I could see was my friends running back and forth like they’d just seen a ghost, and I knew something was wrong,” Anderson said.

He tried to use his right hand to swipe the flies away from his face, and noticed that his index finger tip was missing. He turned his hand over and could see shattered bones and torn ligaments.

As he was looking at his right hand a fly landed in his left eye. He went to swipe it with his other hand, but “whiffed,” as he put it. His left hand was gone.

Then he looked down. His legs were gone. He couldn’t process what he was seeing. “There’s no way that just happened,” he thought to himself. “I’m dreaming.”

“Then I got this weird feeling, like, ‘Oh, man, my mom’s gonna kill me,” he said.

Then he looked up at the soldier who was attending to him and asked, “Do you think I’m ever going to get laid again?”

It took the medevac helicopter 12 minutes to get to the scene. Anderson was having trouble breathing because his right lung had collapsed with the concussion of the bomb. The shock was wearing off a bit, and he described the initial pain sensation as a “burning all over, like putting on too much Icy Hot.”

The helo landed in what Anderson described as “an impossible place.” Once they were airborne he passed out.

He awoke seven days later to see his mother standing over him, saying, “You had an accident.”

Anderson considered his injuries and thought to himself, “Really?” Fortunately his entire family was there along with his mother – his identical twin brother, his sister, his aunts and uncles. “That gave me enough strength to say screw it,” he said. “One day at a time, right?”

He spent 13 months at Walter Reed, six weeks in-patient and the rest living at the Malone House as he did physical therapy. For the first four months he had a good attitude, sort of what he called a “wait and see” outlook. But then he fell into deep depression. “I’d look at myself as a triple amputee and ask, ‘What am I possibly going to be able to do?'”

He had panic attacks and flew into uncontrollable rage. He didn’t sleep for two weeks. Then one day he was sitting by a reflecting pond near the Malone House talking to his twin brother who asked him if he was listening to music. Anderson replied that he wasn’t. His brother gave him a CD of a mutual friend’s band.

“I was listening to the chorus of this one song,” he recounts. “The words got to me: ‘Life’s been less than kind. We’ve all been hurt; we’ve all been sorry. Take a number, stand in line. How we survive is what makes us who we are.’ For some reason that just resonated with me, and at that moment I felt like I’d grabbed the first rung of the ladder to pull myself out of this hole.”

The second rung was an impromptu trip to Las Vegas. “I was able to just be a dude for the first time in a long time,” he said. “I had fun, and that forced me to think about what’s in front of me. It made me live in the moment.”

When he got back to Walter Reed he mediated at the reflecting pond again, and it struck him that he had two choices: He could roll over and die or he could go live his life.

“At that moment I made the decision to start figuring out what I could and couldn’t do,” he said. “And it turns out there’s not a lot I can’t do.”

Anderson started skateboarding and snowboarding again. And, after being profiled in Esquire magazine and receiving a couple of offers, he decided to head to LA to pursue an acting career, something he’d always wanted to do.

His first gig was as a stunt driver in “The Dark Knight.” On the set he befriended the movie’s star, Heath Ledger. “He was a skater,” Anderson said. One day he mentioned to the actor that it was intimidating to talk to him with his Joker makeup on. Ledger replied, “You realize I could say the same thing about you, right?”

Anderson’s next role was in “The Wrestler” in which he has a brief scene handing Mickey Rourke one of his prosthetic legs to use as a weapon against an opponent.  After that he played a wounded Navy SEAL accused of murder on “CSI: New York.”

Following a couple of episodes of “All My Children,” a cameo in “The Wire,” and an episode of “Hawaii Five-O” he landed a part in “American Sniper.”

“I was standing next to Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper thinking, ‘This is crazy,'” Anderson said.

The first scene he was in had no script. “Bradley Cooper told us, ‘Clint likes to do things natural,’ and he told us to just say whatever we wanted. Nobody was talking, so I just wound up taking the lead and telling the story about how my right hand was saved the day I was hit because I reached for a cigarette.”

Anderson’s plan for a future in Hollywood is pretty simple: “More parts,” he said.

Whatever happens he’s going to leverage the main lessons his life since that tragic and fateful day in Iraq has taught him: “Nobody’s going to make you happy. You have to do that yourself,” he said. “And take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.”

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

11 sure-fire gifts military dads will actually love

It’s June! Soon we will be honoring our dads and reminding them how much we care this Father’s Day. While it can be tricky to get the perfect gift for your spouse “from your kids,” we have put together some sure-fire, military-themed gift ideas for the military dad in your life. AND they are SUPER reasonably priced for as awesome as they are… Order now and get them delivered in time for June 21st. Check it out!


1. Grenade Cufflinks

Yes, these really are as bad@$ as they look…class up any outfit. Grenades.

Made in the USA.
Best. Gift. Ever.

BUY NOW

2. Engraved Ammo Box

Who says gifts have to be serious?! This pistol is so detailed no one would ever guess it’s made out of soap! Whether it’s used as decoration at a party or gathering or in the shower, these are sure to be a great conversation starter (maybe not in the shower…) Be sure to check out this entire store of military replicated soaps and candles!

(Who doesn’t need 5.56mm candles?!)

BUY NOW

3. American Flag Tie Clip

This company offers military tie clips to the max! You can choose from various types of aircraft, nautical replicas, ammunition and weapons. No matter what their branch or specialty, you’re sure to find the perfect addition to their suit and tie. At such great price points, you can buy a few!

BUY NOW

4. Personalized Engraved .50 Cal or .30 Cal Caliber Ammo Can

“These mil-spec ammo-cans are tough, steel constructed and 100% brand new. Great for storing ammunition or other items. The lid features rubber gaskets to form a tight moisture proof seal that keeps water and dust out. These cases are also stackable.”

BUY NOW

5. AR15 CAT Scan Gun Print

This is by far one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen. These are CAT scan images of actual weapons. After two years of effort and tweaking, they were finally able to take high-res, detailed images of over 40 different guns. With statements assuring you no one else in the world has perfected this technology, you can be positive this will be a one-of-a-kind man cave gift!

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6. 50 BMG Bullet Bottle Opener

This is a bottle opener is handmade from a real expended .50 caliber round. They measure 5.5 inches long and 0.75 inches in diameter. It is guaranteed to look good while opening the service member’s beverage of choice. Made in the good ol’ US of A. Be sure to check out the different shell options!

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7. Shotgun Shell Pocket Knife

It seems pocket knives are a dime a dozen these days. But pocket knives shaped like Beretta shotgun shells? Now those are a rarity. With a 2-inch stainless steel blade, it’s just as functional as it is esthetic.

BUY NOW

8. Paracord Bracelet with Metal Fish Hook Rope

“The paracord cord bracelet is made with 550 rope and one fish hook closure. The bracelet is also accented with customizable wrapped bands that secure the bracelet on your wrist. Leather (Leather available in black and brown only). The picture shows black leather accent wrap near the fish hook and near the opposite end of the loop.”

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9. Custom Cornhole Set

This company offers customization to the max! They have every branch to choose from in addition to branch neutral/American themes as well. Handmade from the best materials out there, these cornhole sets are perfect for a little RR in the backyard! Contact them today to customize names, logos, colors, bags, etc…they have every add-on imaginable!

BUY NOW

10. Personalized Custom Flip Style Lighter

These custom made, personalized lighters are available to be engraved with the military rank insignia of your choice. Each lighter comes in a case which can be laser engraved on the lid or even the bottom. Whatever satisfies your desires.

BUY NOW

11. Engraved Whiskey Stones

Service members lead strong, full-bodied lives…they don’t need watered down whiskey. These stones are made out of cubes of solid soapstone. They retain their temperature much longer than ice, so they will cool the whiskey or liquor of choice and provide a more sustained chill.

BUY NOW

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A-10s join NATO forces all along the Russian border

US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolts are back in the Baltics, practicing for rough landings on improvised runways as a part of Saber Strike 18, the annual exercise where NATO and partner forces work to improve their ability to operate across Europe and with NATO’s forward-deployed battle groups.

In early June 2018, A-10s from the Michigan Air National Guard’s 107th Fighter Squadron, based at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, practiced landing and taking off from a rural highway in Latvia and an abandoned runway in Estonia.


During the Cold War, highways were considered an option for fixed-wing aircraft, as standard airstrips were likely to be targeted first in the event of conflict. But the A-10s only recently resumed the exercise.

During the 2016 iteration of Saber Strike, Warthogs from the Michigan National Guard landed on a strip of highway in Estonia— the first such exercise since 1984. In August 2017, A-10s from the Maryland National Guard practiced landing and taking off from a stretch of highway in northern Estonia.

“The requirement that we’ve been tasked with to be able to force project into battle spaces where the assumption is that the enemy is going to immediately try to destroy or limit capabilities on known airfields,” said Air Force Maj. David Dennis, the detachment director of operations for the 107th Fighter Squadron.

“So the A-10 has been tasked with being able to forward deploy into areas a little bit more austere,” he added, “whether they’re old airfields, riverbeds, old highways, whatever the case may be, so we continue to provide close air support to the guys on the ground.”

The 107th Fighter Squadron is currently deployed to Latvia. Working with members of the 321st Special Tactics Squadron’s combat controllers, the 107th’s A-10s carried out landings and takeoffs from an abandoned runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, on June 7, 2018.

A US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 107th Fighter Squadron from Selfridge, Michigan, practiced landing on an austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18, June 7, 2018.

The exercise is part of Saber Strike 18, the latest version of a US Army Europe-led training exercise involving NATO countries and partner forces. This year’s iteration focuses on improving land- and air-operational capabilities, with the additional goal of training with NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle groups.

On a rural highway in northern Estonia, a pilot flies an A-10 Thunderbolt II attached to the 107th Fighter Squadron, Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich., from Lielvarde Air Base, Latvia, to practice landings and takeoffs, during the Exercise Saber Strike 18 on June 7, 2018.
(US Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Kujawa)

NATO’s enhanced forward presence battle groups have been deployed to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland over the past two years and are made up of units from various NATO member countries. They are still on station in those four countries and now number over 4,500 personnel in total.

“We’re landing on Estonian soil, so we have Estonian defense forces here, providing security. We have local fire departments on standby, in case there is some sort of incident,” Dennis said. “So it involves a host of people.”


Austere-landing exercises contribute to the goal of providing close air support. “So day five, day six, day ten of the war, the assumption is that the airfields that the Air Force has been operating out of are probably compromised in some manner,” Dennis said.

A US Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II, assigned to the 107th Fighter Squadron from Selfridge, Michigan, practice landing on a non-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, during Saber Strike 18, June 7, 2018.

“So in order to continue to force project, and to continue to drop bombs and protect the troops on the ground, we’re going to have to find other suitable means with which we can continue our combat operations,” Dennis added. “So they would literally truck in the bombs, the bullets, all the things they need to, to austere environments, like an old airfield, a highway, whatever have you, so that we can continue to operate and ultimately save lives on the ground.”

US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, checks an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

The A-10, introduced in the 1970s, was a key component of the NATO’s frontline defense during the Cold War. It served as the main antitank platform and was equipped with heavy armaments, like the AGM-65 Maverick missile and a 30 mm Gatling gun, and was heavily armored itself in order withstand ground fire.

US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, marshals an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

A-10 pilots were given a coloring book to help train them to recognize Soviet tanks. The book, filled with deadpan humor and titled “What you always wanted to know about the T-62 but were afraid to ask,” color-coded sections on Soviet vehicles to instruct pilots on which parts to target and which to avoid.

“The point of the article is to highlight for newly assigned pilots the improved vulnerabilities of the tank from a side or rear attack,” Andy Bush, a retired A-10 pilot, told War is Boring in 2014. Bush said he had “no idea who wrote it or where.”

Cold War planners were not optimistic about the A-10’s chances in a war. In the 1980s, the Air Force planned to put 68 A-10s at each of six forward operating bases in West Germany. Their estimates assumed a 7% loss rate for each 100 flights, meaning each forward operating base would lose at least 10 A-10s every 24 hours. At that rate, the roughly 700-plane A-10 fleet would be shot down in less than two weeks.

US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Alex Goulette, crew chief assigned to 127th Wing maintenance squadron in Selfridge, Michigan, and Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, communicate with A-10 pilots about landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

Source: War is Boring

Current tensions with Russia are far from the level seen between the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War. But the austere-landing exercise and other drills are meant to keep pilots and aircrews sharp and reassure allies.

A US Air Force A-10 practices landing on a non-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

“Why did we choose Haapsalu over other areas? Inside the country of Estonia, essentially inside the Baltic region … it’s part of reassuring our NATO alliances,” Dennis said. “We continue to force-project airplanes, not just the A-10 but other NATO assets, all throughout the Baltic region. So what we have done is we’ve analyzed different areas, not just inside of Estonia, but also in Latvia and Lithuania as well, that are suitable landing sites.”

US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, marshals an A-10 after landing in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

There are three important training objectives, Dennis said.

“The first is, trust the pilots right? So the larger Air Force in a whole needs to trust that the A-10 pilot group is capable of executing this in a very important mission set.”

“The next thing is the pilot trusting the airplane. As you operate this these sort of austere environments, the pilot has to have confidence that he or she can actually land in these environments, and execute the operation safely.”

“And the third, and I think equally as important, is we exercise the Special Tactics Squadrons, and other people that are involved in controlling us, and keep them proficient and current.”

Even in a training situation, landing on rough surfaces poses risks. “The airplanes can blow tires. The concrete isn’t as well grooved. In this case, the concrete is not even nearly the same as it would in a normal airfield,” Dennis said. “So there’s a lot of challenges that, physically, the airplane will face when … the rubber actually meets the concrete.”

US Air Force Master Sgt. Wolfram Stumpf, public affairs assigned to the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard, records an A-10 Thunderbolt practice landing on a un-operational, austere runway in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

“There’s a lot of detailed planning that goes into ensuring that all of these areas have been properly looked at,” Dennis added. “The Special Tactics Squadrons have a very methodical way with which they come and analyze and basically evaluate these landing surfaces.”

US Air Force Staff. Sgt. Clinton Kennedy, combat controller assigned to 321st Special Tactics Squadron in Mildenhall, England, checks the runway for foreign-object debris after A-10 landed in Haapsalu, Estonia, June 7, 2018.

The A-10, however, is the best plane for this kind of job. “The reason the A-10 does this is because it was designed to do this,” Dennis said. “In the design phase of the actual airplane, [there] was the consideration for this type of environment. So landing gear all the way up to the high-bypass engines, that sit above the airplane, all of that is specifically designed so the airplane is not just survivable, but can operate in these austere environments.”

US Air National Guard photos by Staff Sgt. Bobbie Reynolds

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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MIGHTY TRENDING

The first US-North Korea talks in years could happen by May

President Donald Trump gave a timeline for the upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and appeared to be optimistic for a positive outcome.

“We’ll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June 2018, and I think there’ll be great respect paid by both parties and hopefully we’ll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea,” Trump said on April 9, 2018, according to Reuters.


“They’ve said so. We’ve said so,” Trump continued. “Hopefully, it’ll be a relationship that’s much different than it’s been for many, many years.”

On April 8, 2018, a US official confirmed that North Korea was willing to discuss the subject of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

North Korean leaderu00a0Kim Jong Un.
(KCNA)

The CIA has reportedly been in communication with representatives from North Korea, setting up backchannels, according to multiple news reports. Officials from the two countries were reportedly communicating with the intent to establish an appropriate venue for the talks and other details ahead of the summit.

Trump’s statement comes amid North Korean state-sponsored media’s acknowledgement of the bilateral talks.

The two Korean leaders are set to hold their own historic summit on April 27, 2018, the first in 11 years, between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A timeline of the political crisis in Venezuela

For the past two months, Venezuela has been locked in a dramatic political crisis, which has seen countries around the world disavow its president and back an upstart politician in his bid to depose him.

In less than two months, Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó went from being a little-known lawmaker to the opposition leader posing one of the greatest threats to President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist rule in recent years.

But the tensions between the socialist government and the opposition party dates back more than a decade, spanning over accusations of vote rigging, violent protests, and a humanitarian crisis.

Here are the events that culminated in the current crisis.


• Socialist leader Hugo Chavez died in 2013, when his vice president Nicolas Maduro stepped in to take over. Chavez had been in charge for 14 years.

• Soon after, shortages and crime ravaged the country. Anti-Maduro mass protests broke out, and 43 people died.

• Leopoldo Lopez, the most prominent opposition leader, was charged for fomenting unrest in the 2014 protests. He spent three years in prison and is now under house arrest.

Leopoldo Lopez speaking to a crowd.

• In December 2015, the opposition party won a majority of seats in the National Assembly for the first time since Chavez took power in 1999.

• As oil prices continued plummeting, the oil-dependent economy tanked, and the government could not afford to import many foods. Maduro declared a state of “economic emergency” in January 2016.

• Maduro’s government faced significant protests in 2017 as it created the Constituent Assembly, which took over most important legislative functions. The Supreme Court also tried taking over the functions of the opposition-led National Assembly, but failed.

• On Jan. 5, 2019, the little-known lawmaker Juan Guaidó was appointed the head of the National Assembly, shorn of most of its power.

• Just five days later, Maduro started a second presidential term. His election win was dogged by accusations of vote-rigging. Domestic opposition parties, the US, and 13 other countries in the Americas do not recognize the result.

​Juan Guaidó speaking at a demonstration.

• Tens of thousands of people around the country staged protests saying that Maduro’s presidency was unconstitutional and fraudulent, and told him to resign. They were met with pro-government rallies.

• On Jan. 23, 2019, Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, on the basis that there is no legitimate president of Venezuela, and called for free elections.

• With opposition leader Lopez still under house arrest, Guaidó emerged as the new face of the anti-Maduro movement.

• The US, Canada, and most Latin American nations immediately recognized Guaidó as interim president. Maduro severed diplomatic ties with the US in response.

• Guaidó began to urge soldiers, especially high-ranking ones, to join the opposition. The military is the backbone of Maduro’s power, with generals holding important government positions. The national guard is frequently deployed against protesters.

• In an op-ed for The New York Times, Guaidó offered amnesty to everyone opposing Maduro’s government, and members of the armed forces who haven’t committed crimes against humanity. Many members of Venezuela’s military — a solid power base for Maduro — are implicated in human rights abuses and drug trafficking, according to The Associated Press.

• Venezuela’s Supreme Court imposed a travel ban for Guaidó and froze his assets on Jan. 30, 2019, saying he is being investigated for “usurping” power.

Maikel Moreno, the president of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

(Maikel Moreno Twitter via TSJ Noticias)

• Some of Europe’s most important nations, such as Germany, France, Britain, and Spain, backed Guaidó on Feb. 4, 2019.

• On Feb. 22, 2019, Guaidó defied his travel ban. He left Venezuela to attend the “Venezuela Live Aid” concert in Colombia, organized by British billionaire Richard Branson.

• The following weekend, opposition supporters tried to bring in US-backed humanitarian aid over the Colombian and Brazilian borders, which the government closed. The armed forces barred their entry, killing two and injuring more than 300. The Venezuelan government shut the country’s bridge to Brazil on Feb. 21, 2019, and to Colombia on Feb. 23, 2019.

• International leaders rejected the possibility of sending their militaries into Venezuela to take over control. Guaidó had tweeted that “all options are open” after Maduro barred US-backed aid to enter.

• Guaidó traveled around South America to meet world leaders who back him, including US Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador.

Guaidó, Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, and US Vice President Mike Pence meet in Colombia.

(Official White House Photo by D. Myles)

• Guaidó announced March 4, 2019, as his definitive return date to Venezuela, risking arrest and imprisonment for going against the travel ban.

Guaidó announces his return on a livestream.

(Juan Guaido’s Periscope)

• Guaidó arrived in Venezuela and passed through immigration on March 4, 2019, he said on Twitter. He was met by European diplomats.

• Thousands of supporters welcomed him at a rally where he called for a new round of protests on March 9, 2019.

• On March 5, 2019, Guaidó met with unions to win their support, he tweeted. He is planning to organize a public sector strike, but the details have yet to be confirmed. On the same day, Maduro announced an “anti-imperialist” march to rival Guaidó’s

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

A few years ago the top YouTuber was a WWII vet telling stories

Peter Oakley was a British pensioner and widower from Bakewell, Derbyshire, England.


On the Internet, he was known as geriatric1927, or “the Internet Grandad,” a YouTube personality whose long-running show Telling It All consisted of five to ten minute autobiographical videos, including his service as an 18-year old Royal Navy radar mechanic during World War II.

Though an aging (Oakley was 79 when he began his show) man telling old stories about his life may seem dry, his YouTube page was the #1 most subscribed page of 2006, just one year after the page’s launch. By the time Google purchased YouTube, Oakley had 30,000 subscribers.

“It’s a fascinating place to go to see all the wonderful videos that you young people have produced so I thought I would have a go at doing one myself,” he told the Guardian in 2006. “What I hope I will be able to do is to just bitch and grumble about life in general from the perspective of an old person … and hopefully you will respond in some way by your comments.”

While that may not seem like a lot by todays standards (Jenna Marbles, one of YouTube’s current top channels, has more than 15 million subscribers), in the early days of social media, Oakley’s stories were beating YouTubers signed by large networks and other brands. People were interested in watching Oakley muse on how the world had changed. His first video, called “First Try” now has almost 3 million views.

Oakley’s discussions on life, war, motorcycles, and more led to a YouTube stardom which allowed the widower to avoid the lonely life of a traditional aging pensioner, traveling all over the world, earning extra income. He was even asked to weigh in on other YouTube phenomena.

Oakley would be diagnosed with untreatable cancer in 2012. By that time, he had made more than 350 videos. His final video, the 434th on the page, was posted on February 12, 2014 and he died on March 23 that year.

His final words to his audience: “In conclusion, I would say my possibly final goodbye. So goodbye.”

Articles

The guy who allegedly stabbed train hero Spencer Stone has been arrested

The man who allegedly stabbed Air Force Staff Sgt. Spencer Stone multiple times outside of a Sacramento night club has been arrested, Fox 40 is reporting.


Sacramento Police arrested 28-year-old James Tran during a traffic stop Wednesday, the station reported.

CBS Local reports:

Detectives believe it was Tran who circled behind Stone and stabbed him in the Oct. 8 incident. Tran is not believed to be the man seen hitting a woman, the incident that sparked the altercation.

The stabbing incident occurred Oct. 8 at around 12:45 a.m. between 20th and 22nd street in Sacramento. Stone was stabbed “multiple times” in the chest following an altercation, police told KCRA-TV. Sacramento Police reported the incident as not being terrorism-related, tweeting that alcohol was believed to be a factor since it happened near a bar.

Police told CBS Local that Tran — who did not know Stone — has a criminal history.

Staff Sgt. Spencer Stone

Stone was one of three Americans who thwarted an attack on a French train in August. During the attack, Stone, 23, tackled and disarmed the gunman, who slashed him in the neck and nearly sliced off his thumb with a box cutter, according to NBC Bay Area.

Stone, who was the rank of airman first class at the time of the attack in France, was promoted to Staff Sgt. on Monday. He had only recently recovered from the serious wounds he sustained during the night club altercation. Stabbed four times, he had to have open heart surgery to save his life.

MIGHTY CULTURE

How to get VA health care without all the paperwork

It will soon be easier for you to get VA health care in your community without paperwork.

As of January 2020, you won’t have to provide a signed, written authorization for VA to release your electronic VA health information to a participating community care provider.

VA will automatically begin sharing your health information with participating community care providers using the Veterans Health Information Exchange. The electronic system is secure and safe.

This change will make it easier for your health care team to make better decisions about your health care. It can also help you be safer, especially during emergencies.


No action needed

If you are OK with VA sharing your electronic patient information with your community care provider, you don’t have to do a thing. Your information will be shared automatically.

Form needed to OPT OUT of electronic sharing

However, if you do not want to share your information electronically, you must submit VA Form 10-10164 (Opt Out of Sharing).

There is no September 30 deadline to submit your form 10-10164

You can submit your Form 10-10164 at any time. VA will share your information until you submit your form.

If you submitted Form 10-0484 before September 30, you do NOT need to submit Form 10-10164.

You can return VA Form 10-10164 at any VA Medical Center. Just visit the Release of Information (ROI) office. You can also send it by mail. After VA processes your form, your VA health information will not be shared electronically with community providers you see for treatment.

(Photo by John Schnobrich)

Change your mind? No problem

You change your mind and share your health record with your participating community provider. Just complete and return VA Form 10-10163 (Opt In for Sharing) at any time.

You also can still ask VA to share your information with participating community care providers by fax or mail service.

If you don’t share your information, it will not affect your VA health care or your relationship with your VA health care provider.

Download and print forms here.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 spots to keep in mind when you’re making Veterans Day plans

Veterans Day isn’t just a day to pause and reflect on the great sacrifices that troops have made in the name of this great country. It’s also a day of celebration and a moment for troops and veterans to take in the gratitude of the American people.

So, businesses across the country offer some sort of deal to anyone with a military ID, uniform, or veteran apparel, like a campaign cap. Sure, a free order of chicken wings might not be a fair trade for all that veterans have done for us, but it’s greatly appreciated nonetheless.

To help you properly celebrate Tactical Thanksgiving, we’ve put together a little guide here to make sure you don’t miss a spot on your tour of appreciation. Put the following places on your list and get ready for deals — all for the low, low price of just the gas in your car.


This list highlights types of businesses you should check out. For a list of specific spots that have officially announced Veterans Day discounts or freebies ahead of time, look here. Keep in mind, this list isn’t comprehensive and discounts may be subject to availability, but it’s definitely worth a read.

Make sure to adjust your schedule to account for a free breakfast, lunch, dinner, second breakfast, supper, late-afternoon snack…

Restaurants

Restaurants all over the country offer Veterans Day discounts — and that’s amazing. Most places you’ll go to will have little ways of making their meals more patriotic, too, like Red, White, and Blue Pancakes at IHOP or a burger adorned with a little American flag toothpick.

While the more well-known, chain restaurants are often able to take the financial hit of offering free meals, they might be extremely crowded — like, 2-hour-wait-times crowded. Meanwhile, the smaller, locally-owned spots may offer something smaller, like a free side, but you’ll likely get better service and a more personal “thank you.”

If you’re not the type to enjoy small talk during a haircut, at least it’s better than giving yourself a free haircut.

Barber shops

Getting a really good haircut isn’t cheap. And the places that offer a cheap chop typically aren’t all that good. For one day of the year, at least for veterans, this decision is made much easier, as even the good places offer their services for extremely low prices — some even offer free cuts.

What’s nice about getting a free haircut — in contrast to most other things on this list — is that when you let your barber know that you’re a veteran, it actually initiates a conversation. It’s much more personal than a quick thanks and a line item on the receipt.

If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly encourage you to take a visit to the National Veterans Art Museum. Every exhibit in there is made by our brothers- and sister-in-arms.

(National Veterans Art Museum)

Museums

Plenty of museums are free for veterans year round. Those that aren’t, however, typically offer free admission on Veterans Day.

If you look through the pamphlet of most any history museum, you’ll likely find that warfare is a central theme. And when you look deeper into most of the paintings in art museums, you’ll see that many of the beautiful pieces, adored by critics and enthusiasts alike, were created by veterans.

What better way to honor a fellow veteran’s work than by spending the day admiring some of it?

They always put on an amazing show for the troops and veterans at Disneyland on Veterans Day.

(Screengrab via 1st Marine Division Band)

Amusement parks and casinos

Many amusement parks close their gates around Labor Day — but some use Veterans Day as their final celebration of the year. This is perfect for veterans with kids or grandkids as it’s a way for the kiddos to enjoy the benefits of their service.

Or, if you’re not excited by cartoon mascots dancing around, know that most casinos on Veterans Day offer free cash credits for veterans. If you play your cards right (literally), you can take that free money walk away. Or just play one or two games and walk out with the remainder. Whatever floats your boat.

Nothing says “thank you for your service” better than a free beer or five.

(National Archives)

Your favorite bar

When the day comes to a close, there’s no better way to end a day of celebration than with a nice, hard drink. Head down to your local bar and you can probably get a free drink — either from the bartender or other patriotic patrons.

This one isn’t ever written down as an official thing, but it’s mostly agreed upon that bars will give veterans a free drink or two on Veterans Day.