The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

This Friday, February 26, Fred Lewis will lead his all-military team to muscle through setbacks due to aging equipment. Lewis and his team of patriots are no strangers to delays, but one team member is particularly hedging his bets on this endeavor. ‘This needs to work out, I don’t want to be another homeless vet,” said Kyle Pletzke. This quote reveals more about the team than before. Pletzke is one of the nation’s homeless veterans who joined Lewis in Discovery’s Gold Rush in pursuit of fame and fortune. Homelessness is an in issue so pervasive that even I, the author, was a homeless veteran at one point in the not-too-distant past.

Time and again Lewis and his crew go through the gauntlet. Reinforcements arrive as the situation grows dire. Mitch Blatshke from Parker’s crew leaves no man left behind and renders aid to the other team’s machines. Will it be enough or too little too late? Mitch races against the clock to accomplish the mission.

In 2019 there were 37,085 homeless veterans registered with the VA’s PIT Count. The goal of the PIT count (point-in-time count) is to show Congress there is a need to end homelessness amongst veterans. From 2018 to 2019 the program reduced the homeless population by 2.1% by providing shelter.

Another resource is the Salvation Army. When I was homeless, the VA and the Salvation Army’s case workers banded together to help me find temporary housing. The irony of the situation was I could work from home, yet I didn’t have one. Long story short, my roommates lost their jobs due to the pandemic and instead of giving me a heads up to find my own place they kept me in the dark until we abruptly had to move.

If it wasn’t for We Are The Mighty and the fans who read my work I probably would have ended up a statistic. This artform is a cathartic release that pulled me through my darkest days. My mother lost her kidneys to Lupus and was fighting for her life. I’m still taking care of my sister. Veterans are proud and we won’t ask for help. However, it is important to call broken arrow when your back is against the wall.

Help is there and it will come.

That’s why this episode resonates so deeply for me. Another veteran is out of ammo and is fixing his bayonet, refusing to accept defeat. Gold Rush paints the perfect example of the camaraderie forged in the fires of combat. The other veterans also share their stories of their past and how they got into gold mining. Gold Rush is one of the few shows that accurately displays the brotherhood of the military.

A formerly homeless vet
After retiring from the military, formerly homeless vet Fred Lewis tried wrestling, volleyball coaching, and a number of other activities to try to regain a sense of purpose. It’s no easy task. (Discovery Channel)

Gold Rush airs this Friday at 8 PM ET/PT on Discovery, followed by the military Gold Rush special at 10 PM ET/PT on Discovery. Fans can also binge all previous seasons of Gold Rush on Discovery+.

Articles

General claims 60,000 ISIS fighters have been killed

Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of US Special Operations command, said on Tuesday that the US and its allies in the fight against ISIS had killed more than 60,000 of the terrorist group’s fighters.


That estimate was considerably higher than the 50,000 ISIS-dead estimate given by US officials in December.

Thomas, whose command includes Navy SEALs and the Army Special Forces, was cautious in his remarks but held up the total as a sign of the anti-ISIS campaign’s impact.

Related: SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

“I’m not into morbid body counts, but that matters,” he said, speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference outside Washington, DC.

“So when folks ask, do you need more aggressive [measures], do you need better [rules of engagement], I would tell you that we’re being pretty darn prolific,” he added.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

The increase between December and now may be attributable to stepped-up campaigns in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria, but body counts are generally considered a dubious metric for a number of reasons.

In the case of ISIS, it’s difficult to first assess just how many fighters the terrorist group has.

According to Military.com, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said in 2014 that ISIS had 100,000 militants in Iraq and Syria, while the Pentagon said in summer 2016 that there were just 15,000 to 20,000 fighters left in those two countries.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
Statistically, most of these guys are probably dead.| Photo via Flickr

Complicating matters is the UK Defense Minister Michael Fallon’s estimate of the number of ISIS slain. “More than 25,000 Daesh fighters have now been killed,” Fallon said in December.

Differing assessments of ISIS’ manpower are likely to make it more difficult for the Trump administration and its allies to develop an effective strategy to counter the terrorist group.

Body-count assessments also have a bad reputation as a relic of the Vietnam War, when rosy estimates, often made by officers angling for promotions, earned scorn.

During the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government reversed its policy on body counts more than once.

A body-count figure released by the Obama administration in mid-2015 was undercut several times.

“These are the types of numbers that novices apply,” a US military adviser told The Daily Beast at the time.

Chuck Hagel — who served as US defense secretary prior to Ash Carter — has also recently dismissed the policy of keeping body counts.

“My policy has always been, don’t release that kind of thing,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in December. “Body counts, I mean, come on, did we learn anything from Vietnam?”

“References to enemy killed are estimates, not precise figures,” Christopher Sherwood, a spokesman for the Defense Department, told CNN. “While the number of enemy killed is one measure of military success, the coalition does not use this as a measure of effectiveness in the campaign to defeat ISIS.”

Articles

Things you need to know about al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban

Everyone wants to throat-punch ISIS, right? Right!


But what is ISIS…really? And who attacked the World Trade Center? And what’s the deal with Syria?

Keeping track of terrorist groups can be confusing, so here’s the quick and dirty on three hard-hitting groups the U.S. is currently fighting:

1. Al Qaeda

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
Osama bin Laden created al Qaeda, executed the 9/11 attacks, and was killed by U.S. Navy Seals on May 2, 2011.

Al Qaeda is a Sunni Islamic militant organization founded by Osama bin Laden circa 1988 and is responsible for the attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Originally organized to fight the Soviet Union during the Afghan War, al Qaeda continues to resist entities considered corrupt to its leaders, including differing Islamic interpretations and foreign (read: U.S.) occupation of their lands.

Al Qaeda operates under the belief that it is their duty to kill non-believers, including civilians.

After 9/11, a U.S.-led coalition launched an attack in Afghanistan to target al Qaeda, which had been operating under the protection of the Taliban government in the country. Operation Enduring Freedom successfully toppled the Taliban and dispersed al Qaeda throughout the region, but U.S. forces remain unable to fully eradicate the group.

Today, al Qaeda is still a significant threat across the Middle East and North Africa. Though forced to operate underground, the organization cooperates with other terrorist groups and continues to engage in attacks against the U.S. and its allies.

2. The Taliban

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
Two Taliban religious police beating a woman in public because she dared to remove her burqa in public. (Hidden camera footage courtesy of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan)

Let’s go back to the Afghan War.

From 1979-1989, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Afghan fighters known as the mujahedeen resisted, finally forcing the Soviet Union to withdraw from the country.  In the aftermath, there was a power vacuum, with fighting among the mujahedeen until the Taliban was established in 1994.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and imposed strict Islamic laws on the Afghan people. A Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement, the Taliban harbored al Qaeda operations, including bin Laden’s stronghold, which led to the U.S. invasion Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.

During OEF, the Taliban lost governing control of Afghanistan and went into hiding along its borders and Pakistan, but it continues to wage its war against the West and the current Afghan government.

Today, largely funded by opium production, the Taliban fights to regain control of Afghanistan, engaging with military forces in-country and claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks in the region.

3. ISIS

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
ISIS continues to defend territory in Iraq and Syria, but inspires or takes credit for global attacks, including the November 2015 attacks in Paris, France, and the May 2017 attacks in Manchester, England.

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or just the Islamic State, is a Salafi jihadist Sunni Islamic militant group established in 1999 with the intention of establishing their God’s rule on earth and destroying those who threaten it.

They are known for being exceptionally brutal, utilizing publicity and the social media to broadcast mass executions, beheadings, and crucifixions.

They once pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, but separated from it in 2014 and concentrated their attention on Syria and Iraq.

In January 2014, ISIS captured the city of Raqqa, Syria. For the next six months, the group overtook major Iraqi cities like Mosul and Tikrit before self-declaring a caliphate, an Islamic State with authority over the global Muslim population.

In August 2014, President Barack Obama approved airstrikes against ISIS.

Today, the United States works with Syrian and Iraqi forces to purge ISIS control from Syria and Iraq.

MIGHTY CULTURE

US Army celebrates women in combat

Observed on August 26, Women’s Equality Day commemorates the adoption of the 19th Amendment in 1920, guaranteeing women the right to vote. While the change to the Constitution was significant toward shaping gender equality, it highlights the complicated journey women had to gain equal rights.

“Commemorating the adoption of the 19th Amendment on Women’s Equality Day is so very significant,” said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of Texas. Norris and Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham recently spoke about women who paved the way for today’s equality.

For instance, Abigail Adams wrote to the Continental Congress in 1776, asking them to, “Remember the ladies,” when making critical decisions to shape the country. Later in 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott led the first women’s rights convention in New York.


The convention sparked decades of activism through the Women’s Suffrage Movement, which helped lay a foundation for the 19th Amendment and paved the way for women to serve and fight alongside men in combat today.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

Staff Sgt. Amanda F. Kelley gets her Ranger tab pinned on by a family member during her Ranger School graduation at Fort Benning, Ga., Aug. 31, 2018. Kelley was the first enlisted woman to earn the Ranger tab.

(Photo by Patrick A. Albright)

Later the civil rights movement of the 1950s generated the Equal Pay Act in 1963, followed by the Civil Rights Act in 1964. And in 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments was signed into law.

However, “women have been serving their nation through military service for far longer than we have had the right to vote,” Norris said.

During the Revolutionary War, women followed their husbands into combat out of necessity. They would often receive permission to serve in military camps as laundresses, cooks, and nurses. Some women even disguised themselves as men to serve in combat.

“One of the more famous women to do this was Deborah Samson Gannett, who enlisted in 1782 under her brother’s name and served for 17 months,” Norris said. “Wounded by musket ball fire, she cut it out of her thigh so that a doctor wouldn’t discover she was a woman.”

The Army later discovered Gannett’s gender, and she was discharged honorably. She later received a military pension for her service.

Countless examples exist of women serving in various roles to support military operations during the Civil and Spanish-American Wars and beyond.

Notably during World War I, upwards of 25,000 American women between the ages of 21 and 69 served overseas. While the most significant percentage of women served as nurses, some were lucky enough to assist as administrators, secretaries, telephone operators, and architects.

These women helped propel the passage of the 19th Amendment through their hard work and dedication to service.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

Now Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, the adjutant general of Texas, visits Soldiers at Camp Bullis, Texas, on June 21, 2018.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Mark Scovell)

From the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act in 1948 to the day the Defense Department opened all combat career fields to women in 2016, the role of women in the Army has steadily increased.

“Women are tough,” Norris said.

“We have been proving it for a long time now, and we have a knack for forcing change,” Norris added. “As Col. Oveta Hobby, a fellow Texan and the first director of the Women’s Army Corps, put it so well: ‘Women who step up want to be measured as citizens of the nation — not as women.'”

Inclusion

These are exciting times, said Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, the Army’s outgoing assistant chief of staff for Installation Management. Women are now on the forefront, serving in military occupational specialties they haven’t seen in Army history.

“Quite frankly, the Army is not [solely] a man’s job,” she said.

After a 38-year career, Bingham is now enjoying her last days in service, as she waits for her official retirement in September. During her career, she served as the first female quartermaster general, the first woman to serve as garrison commander of Fort Lee, Virginia. She was also the first female to serve in commanding general roles at White Sands Missile Range and Tank-automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, Michigan.

“There is no way that I would’ve stayed in the Army 38 years if I didn’t feel a sense of inclusion. I will never downplay the word ‘inclusion’ — ever,” she said. “It is one thing to have a seat at the table. However, it is another to feel included in the decisions being made at the table.”

Considered to be a trailblazer by others, Bingham acknowledges the historical significance of her stepping into each position. However, recognizing the “trailblazer moniker” brings to light all the areas that women have yet to serve, she said.

“We will get there, as women continually distinguish themselves in roles that they haven’t typically [served],” she said. “The way I see it, you can choose to spotlight [trailblazers] but progress is having … more [women serving] than what we had before.”

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham talks with Maj. Gen. Donna Martin, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, after promoting her to major general Aug. 28, 2018.

(Photo by Michael Curtis)

Similar to Bingham, Norris is the first woman to serve as the Texas adjutant general. As the senior military officer, she is responsible for the overall health, wellbeing, training, and readiness of Texas’ soldiers, airmen, civilian employees, and volunteers.

“I am simply another individual in a long line of leaders of Texas military forces,” she said.

“The fact that I am the first woman is secondary to me. What truly matters is that we have a leader of the Texas Military Department who is ready to command and take care of those who serve. I believe I fulfill that role based on qualifications and experience, not by being a woman.”

When it comes to women’s equality, the Army is doing a great job, Norris added. Based on her experience, the military is often the leader when it comes to opening up roles for women to serve.

Managing talent will be critical to the Army’s way ahead. It is about getting the right person, to the right place, at the right time, regardless of their race or gender, she explained.

And to all the women out there that are considering the Army as a future career, “I would tell them — join! Your nation needs you,” Norris said. In 2015, Capt. Kristen

Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first female soldiers to earn the Ranger tab, she noted.

“They are following a long line of powerful women who have forced change in our culture and by their actions opened doors for the generations that follow them,” she said.

“I challenge you to join and be the first one to break [a] barrier down,” Norris added. “The Army opened more doors for me than I could ever have imagined possible. It has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime to serve our state and nation, and I encourage others to do the same.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how Pendleton will honor Marines and Sailors who died in Vietnam

A memorial honoring Marines and sailors who died during the Vietnam War and were part of the “Fighting Fifth” Marine Regiment is getting closer to being set in stone.


The groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial, a work of passion for Vietnam veterans Steve Colwell and Nick Warr, was held Friday, Oct. 27 in the memorial garden at Camp San Mateo. Participants included members of the 5th Marine Regiment, representatives from the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, and active-duty Marines.

“The construction of this new memorial at the 5th Marine Regiment command post symbolizes the respect, gratitude, and honor today’s generation of Marines hold for Vietnam veterans,” said Lt. Col. John Gianopoulos, Executive Officer, 5th Marine Regiment. “This memorial will remind today’s Marines of the tenacity, courage, and character of the Vietnam Marines at Khe Sanh, Da Nang, An Hoa, and many more battles. It will provide us with a powerful reminder of what we owe to our nation and how we must represent the Marine Corps.”

The $400,000 to fund the memorial is coming from private and public sources. Four South Orange County cities have stepped up so far to help: Dana Point, with $10,000; San Clemente, $5,000; Rancho Santa Margarita, $2,500; and Irvine, $10,000. Colwell said he will ask the Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel city councils for help in the next few weeks.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
Concept of the planned monument honoring Marines and sailors lost in the Vietnam War. Image from 5th Marine Regiment Support Group.

“After four years of fundraising, this is finally becoming a reality,” said Colwell, who was severely wounded in a bomb blast Dec. 16, 1967, in Vietnam. “It’s exciting to honor the 2,706 Marines and sailors. It will validate for the families the bravery and service of those lost in Vietnam.”

The garden was created and is funded by the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group. It is home to Marines who have died in action and is a place of reflection for those who remember them. Two monuments there honor Marines and sailors who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Purple Heart Monument was installed in the garden in February.

Also Read: 18 of the greatest photos of Marines fighting America’s wars

“Our Vietnam veterans suffered untold injures by our nation not acknowledging them,” said Terry Rifkin, executive director of the Dana Point group. “Vietnam veterans are as great a generation as any our country has ever produced. This monument of epic proportions, and unlike anything else at Camp Pendleton, will be a remarkable way to say thank you to those who served by recognizing those who did not make it home.”

The 50-ton black granite memorial is being crafted by Vermont’s Rock of Ages. It will have six panels honoring the 2,706 Marines, Navy corpsmen, and a chaplain who died in Vietnam while serving in the 5th Marine Regiment. Their names will be etched on the panels surrounding a 14-foot-tall black granite spire. It also will include the names of Marines and sailors who died as part of the 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
A battle cross sits on display during sunrise, April 15, 2016, at Avon Park Air Force Range, Fla. USAF Photo by Senior Airman Ryan Callaghan.

The image of the iconic battle cross — helmet, rifle, bayonet, and boots — will be etched on all four sides of the granite. The monument also will have a combat chronology of the 5th Marines during the Vietnam War.

The 5th Marines, the most highly decorated regiment in the Marine Corps, deployed March 5, 1966, to Vietnam. They remained there for five years, until April 1971.

Colwell and Warr — who also was wounded in Vietnam — came up with the idea for the monument in 2014 after returning to Camp Pendleton for a 1st Marine Division reunion.

Colwell, 73, who served as an officer with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and Warr, 72, who fought as an infantry officer with Charlie Company in the 5th Marines, noted during the visit that there was nothing in the garden recognizing those who lost their lives in Vietnam.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

“I feel strongly there should be a representation for the Marines and sailors who were killed in Vietnam,” said Colwell. “These young men raised their hands and enlisted in the Marine Corps for an unpopular war.”

The hardest job, they said, was finding the names of those who served with the 5th Marine Regiment and died in Vietnam. That fell to Brian Coty, a board member of the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, who has worked more than two years with the Coffelt Database of Vietnam casualties to make sure no name is left out.

Among the names are 13 Marines awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor for personal acts of valor.

The monument is set to arrive at Camp Pendleton on March 29, declared National Vietnam Veteran’s Day by President Donald Trump. It will be installed in the garden during a ceremony on Memorial Day, May 28, 2018.

Articles

Marines’ future helicopter may be optionally manned

As the Marine Corps enters the final stages of preparing to receive the CH-35K King Stallion, its new heavy-lift workhorse helicopter, aviation officials are already looking forward to the Corps’ next generation of rotorcraft.


Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant of aviation, told reporters Friday at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., that the Corps had asked for optionally manned capability for the Pentagon’s future vertical lift plan, which aims to develop replacement choppers for the Army and other services.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
Bell Helicopter V-280 Valor

“We’ve told them it’s what we want,” Davis said. “Why wouldn’t we want it?”

Davis said he envisioned a vertical lift platform that might be operated unmanned to deliver cargo and manned for more sensitive or technically complex missions.

Potentially, he said, such a platform, equipped with a sensor, could also serve as an unmanned sentry of sorts from the air in defense of a deployed ship.

Davis noted that the future vertical lift, or FVL, program is currently in the down-select phases, and acquisition was expected to take place in the 2030s.

“The future of aviation is operationally manned,” Davis said.

The Air Force and Marine Corps are both part of the FVL program, which is led by the Army.

One candidate to satisfy FVL requirements is Bell’s V-280 Valor aircraft, a next-generation tiltrotor that does feature a fly-by-wire control system. The other aircraft being evaluated in the FVL program, the medium-lift Sikorsky/Boeing SB-1 Defiant, also features fly-by-wire capabilities.

Davis said Marine officials had communicated with both contracting teams about their interest in optionally manned technology.

Meanwhile, the Marine Corps continues to evaluate concepts for a separate unmanned or optionally manned air cargo and logistics platform.

In May, two Lockheed Martin/Kaman K-MAX optionally manned rotorcraft arrived at Marine Corps’ Operational Test Evaluation Squadron 22 at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Arizona, for testing and development designed to evaluate their ability to perform surveillance and reconnaissance.

The K-MAX had previously deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, where it assisted Marines in moving cargo and gear across the battlespace.

Marine logistics officials have also expressed interest in DARPA’s Aerial Reconfigurable Embedded System (ARES), an unmanned vertical lift platform designed for cargo resupply, medevac and surveillance.

MIGHTY TRENDING

In a world of vet-owned coffee, Rakkasan Tea has a mission of its own

Brandon Friedman wants you to know that just because coffee has the reputation of being the military’s beverage of choice, tea isn’t reserved for Brits in silly hats enjoying crumpets. For Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, their wars have centered mostly around having tea. After all, foreign fighters and tribal leaders hold court over tea, not coffee. Friedman thought it was strange that tea isn’t more associated with the military experience. He founded Rakkasan Tea Company with that in mind.

Friedman was commissioned as an Army infantry officer in 2000 and was assigned to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division — known as the “Rakkasans,” the old Japanese word for “parachute.” By March, 2002, he and his unit were in an air assault into Afghanistan’s Shah-e-Kot Valley as part of Operation Anaconda. In 2003, he was part of the initial invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and eventually became part of the force that held Tal Afar and Mosul.


By 2004, he was out of the Army and taking his career in a different direction. His now-business partner in Rakkasan Tea was then-Pfc. Terrence “TK” Kamauf, whom Friedman met in his unit. Kamauf was a machine gunner then, but stayed in long after Friedman left. Kamauf went on to become a Green Beret and was in another six or seven years. Now, the two import tea together.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

Friedman’s partner in Rakkasan Tea, Terrence “TK” Kamauf (left), in Iraq.

(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)

But Friedman’s love for the leaf began in Iraq. As many veterans can attest, all business was conducted over tea. It was an introduction to what Friedman calls the “social experience of tea.”

“It’s hard to find that in the U.S. because this is such a coffee country and coffee is really a solitary drink,” He says. “Tea brings people together and we think the U.S. is ready for that. I know we won’t convert everyone, but the veteran community should certainly give tea a serious look.”

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

Friedman with his platoon of Rakkasans in Iraq.

But where Rakkasan Tea Company gets its tea is central to its ongoing mission. The company imports solely from post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic development.

“As a veteran-owned and veteran-staffed company, we understand what conflict does to communities,” Friedman says. “And we want to get as many veterans into this business as we can. So, we often describe our mission as being one that helps communities recover from war at home AND abroad.”

Rakkasan Tea comes from places like Nepal, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Laos. With the exception of Sri Lanka, these are difficult to find on American shelves. The tea imported from Laos is significant because it comes from one of the areas most devastated by American bombing during the Vietnam War — more ordnance was dropped on Laos than in the entirety of Europe during World War II.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

One of Rakkasan Tea Company’s Vietnamese tea pickers.

(Courtesy of Brandon Friedman)

The latest effort in Laos centers on small farms in the mountainous Xiengkhouang Province and on the Bolaven Plateau in southern Champasak Province. The teas come from some of the oldest trees in the world and you won’t find this quality at Starbucks or Whole Foods.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

To Friedman, tea is like wine: its character, flavor, and aroma are all greatly influenced by its environment. That might be why he sells tea both by the type of tea and its place of origin.

“Rainfall, altitude, soil content, processing techniques, and more all factor into the taste and quality,” Friedman says. “So when we say we have premium tea grown in Rwanda’s volcanic soil or tea grown on northern Vietnam’s 400-year-old tea trees, that’s of interest to tea enthusiasts. Because it’s really good.”

He wants you to know how good it is and he wants you to be a repeat customer. He obsesses over the returns from his customers. Their feedback really does have an influence on the direction of the company.

“First, I hope we’re living up to the Rakkasan ideal of honor, justice, and commitment,” he says. “But meeting people who enjoy our product is best part of doing this.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-35 pilot describes A-10 as ‘Chewbacca with chainsaw arms’

The desert screams by below. The clouds scream by above. Both stretch on into the horizon. It’s deceptively calm in the cockpit. There’s a constant, seemingly discordant stream of chatter coming through his helmet. The digital screens in front of him, along with images projected onto his visor, provide enough information to save lives and take a few as well. In the sky ahead are more than 60 advanced enemy aircraft, flown by some of the best fighter pilots in the world. They are hunting — looking to kill him and his wingmen. He just graduated pilot training. Welcome to Red Flag.


“I haven’t been flying that long. There are things that stand out in my career. My first solo flight, my first F-35 flight and my first Red Flag mission. I don’t think I’ll ever forget those things,” said 1st Lt. Landon Moores, a 388th Fighter Wing, 4th Fighter Squadron, F-35A Lightning II pilot.

Moores is one of a handful of young F-35A pilots who recently graduated their initial training and are currently deployed to Nellis Air Force Base as part of exercise Red-Flag 19-1. Now they are being battle-tested.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

An F-35A Lightning II takes off at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Feb. 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

“Going from F-35 training a little over a month ago to a large force exercise with dozens of aircraft in the sky is pretty crazy,” Moores said. “For the initial part of the first mission, I was just kind of sitting there listening. I was nervous. I was excited. Then the training kicked in.”

Red Flag is the Air Force’s premier combat training exercise where units from across the Department of Defense join with allied nations in a “blue force” to combat a “red force” in a variety of challenging scenarios over three weeks.

“For us, the biggest difference between this Red Flag and our first with the F-35A two years ago is that we have a lot of pilots on their first assignment,” said Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, 4th FS commander. “Putting them alongside more experienced wingmen is what Red Flag was designed for.”

Combat training has changed dramatically over the years, Morris said.

“When I was a young pilot in the F-16, I had a couple of responsibilities in the cockpit. One, don’t lose sight of my flight lead. Two, keep track of a bunch of green blips on a small screen in front of me, and correlate the blips to what someone is telling me on the radio,” Morris said. “Now, we’re flying miles apart and interpreting and sharing information the jets gather, building a threat and target picture. We’re asking way more of young wingmen, but we’re able to do that because of their training and the capabilities of the jet.”

Capt. James Rosenau flew the A-10 in four previous Red Flags, but he’s brand new to flying the F-35. He graduated from the transition course in December 2018.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing’s 4th Fighter Squadron prepare for launch at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., Jan. 31, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by R. Nial Bradshaw)

“I loved the A-10 and its mission. It’s like a flying tank. Like Chewbacca with chainsaw arms. A very raw flying experience,” Rosenau said. “Obviously the F-35 is completely different. It’s more like a precision tool. After seeing the F-35 go up against the near-peer threats replicated here at Nellis (AFB), I’m a big believer.”

The two aircraft are similar in one way. They do very specific things other aircraft aren’t asked to do.

“In the A-10, I liked being the guy who was called upon to directly support troops on the ground. To bring that fight to the enemy,” Rosenau said. “Now I like being the guy who can support legacy fighters when they may be struggling to get into a target area because of the threat level. We have more freedom to operate. We have this big radar that can sniff out threats. We can gather all of that and pass it along or potentially take out those threats ourselves.”

The threat level is high at Red Flag. From the skill and size of the aggressor forces in the air to the complexity and diversity of the surface to air threats, there is a real sense of the ‘fog and friction’ of war. The adversary force also uses space and cyber warfare to take out or limit technology that modern warfighters rely on. Cutting through the clutter is a strength of the F-35A.

“One of the jet’s greatest assets is to see things that others can’t, take all the information it’s gathering from the sensors and present them to the pilot,” Moores said. “One of our biggest jobs is learning how to process and prioritize that. For the more experienced pilots it seems like it is second nature. … If we don’t, it’s not like we’re getting killed (in the F-35), but we could be doing more killing.”

The pilots say seeing the F-35A’s capabilities being put to use as part of a larger force has been invaluable.

“When we mission plan with other units, it’s not always about kicking down the door,” Rosenau said. “It may be about looking at what the enemy is presenting and ‘thinking skinny.’ With the F-35, we can think through a mission and choose how we want to attack it to make everyone more survivable.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Help Jared Allen’s Wounded Warriors by voting for Maxim’s cover model

Football is back! That means it’s time for me to remind everyone about the best organization around, one that provides homes for America’s wounded warriors, Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors. Allen has long been one of the U.S. military’s biggest fans. In his 12 years in the NFL, Allen was one of the hardest-hitting defensive players around. His foundation builds houses for wounded vets that are specifically adapted for their wounds, at no cost.

Now the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors is teaming up with Maxim, allowing readers to vote for their favorite cover model, with all proceeds going to building more homes for wounded vets.


Allen has been working with veterans for ten years now, ever since returning from a USO trip to visit troops in the field. He saw what U.S. military veterans experience in combat zones and wanted to give thanks to those who sacrificed themselves for service. The goal is simple: raise money to build or adapt homes suited to the needs of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans – and do it at no cost to them – even if they can only help one warrior at a time. That’s where Maxim – and you – come in.

Readers can vote for their favorite potential Maxim cover model once per day for free, or they can make a “Warrior Vote” where they pay one dollar for every vote, with a minimum donation of . After voting for their free daily vote, all subsequent votes cost a dollar, with again, a minimum of . In order to generate votes, models are able to offer voting rewards, similar to rewards offered on Kickstarter. The winner receives ,000 and a Maxim cover photo shoot while other proceeds go toward Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

Robin Takizawa is a Los Angeles-based model and makeup artist, currently in second place in her group. Her father is a Vietnam vet and Purple Heart recipient.

“I was extremely excited to find that the competition was also a fundraiser for Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors,” says 2019 entrant Robin Takizawa. “Sadly, there isn’t enough support for veterans once they return. Sometimes home no longer feels like it. This is a cause close to home because my father is a Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient. His combat wounds healed without physically altering his life, however many he knew and served with did not meet the same fate.”

“Ever since I was a little girl, I always dreamt about being in Maxim. I loved the glamor and over-the-top sexiness that comes from being self-confident,” she continues. “It’s an honor to know my bid in this contest is also a chance to fundraise for such an amazing cause.”

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran

Allen with Navy Corpsman Thomas Henderson and family after giving Henderson the keys to his new home. Henderson lost his leg in an IED attack in Afghanistan.

For Allen, the ten-year journey is one of the best things he’s ever accomplished. Even though his grandfather and younger brother were Marines, the experience changed Allen, inspiring him to create Homes for Wounded Warriors.

“I knew I had to do something to serve our country,” Allen once said of the Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors. “I feel the best way to do that is serve those who serve us.”

If you’re a veteran of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan who is in need of housing or alterations to suit your disability, apply to Jared Allen Homes for Wounded Warriors on the organization’s website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans are more likely to have trouble sleeping – here’s the fix

You quit coffee, tea and chocolate! You put up black out curtains and got rid of all the screens in your bedroom. You even tried counting sheep. But still you find yourself lying awake, unable to sleep. Sleep Hygiene tips help many people. But they don’t work all the time and they don’t work for everybody — especially if you have been experiencing sleep problems for a long time.


Sleepless nights are not uncommon, but if they persist for weeks at a time and impact your life, it could be that insomnia, nightmares or other sleep problems are affecting your well-being. Insomnia after returning from deployment is one aspect of military service that relates to sleep problems. Training to be alert through the night, working extended shifts and upsetting memories from combat zones can all affect sleep, even after separating from service. This means that if you are a veteran, you are more likely to have trouble sleeping than civilians.

Sleeping Better Feeling Better

www.youtube.com

Treatment is key to improving both your physical and mental health

Sleep problems often occur with PTSD, depression, anxiety and chronic pain, and can lead to trouble concentrating, challenging emotions, and a feeling of hopelessness that could worsen thoughts of suicide. So, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor early, when you first notice changes in your sleep that impact your functioning. Proven treatments for insomnia are more effective than sleep medications in the long-term without the side effects.

“Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, CBT-I, targets behaviors and thoughts that perpetuate sleep problems, and is a treatment that has demonstrated longer-term effects than sleep medications”, says Dr. Sarra Nazem, a VA psychologist and researcher. “Imagery Rehearsal Therapy, IRT, is a treatment that involves re-scripting nightmares which can lead to decreases in nightmare severity and frequency.”

Take the Sleep Check-up to understand your own sleep. And remember, sleeping better means feeling better in all ways.

If you or a veteran you know is in crisis call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 or text 838255.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea warns of ‘new path’ if US insists on sanctions

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned that his country could seek a “new path” in relations with the United States “if the U.S. does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world…and insists on sanctions and pressures on our republic.”

In a New Year’s statement broadcast on Jan. 1, 2019, Kim praised his June 2018 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, where the leaders had “fruitful talks” and “exchanged constructive ideas.”


He also said he was ready to meet again with Trump “at any time in the future.” Kim also called on the United States to extend its halt on military exercises with South Korea.

He added that the United States “continues to break its promises and misjudges our patience by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushing ahead with sanctions and pressure.”

At the June 2018 summit, Kim and Trump agreed to a vague pledge to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but little progress has been made on the issue in recent months.

Kim Jong Un warns U.S. in New Year’s speech

www.youtube.com

A meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean officials was canceled in November 2018 and has yet to be rescheduled.

On Dec. 31, 2018, South Korea’s Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that Kim had sent Trump a “letter-like” message that was “conciliatory” in tone.

The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in also said Kim had sent a message to Seoul expressing a desire to hold additional Korean summits in 2019 with the goal of denuclearizing the peninsula.

In 2018, Kim used his New Year’s address to open up a new diplomatic initiative with Washington and Seoul that led to three summits with Moon and the historic Singapore summit with Trump.

Kim also met three times in 2018 with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines will get a new rifle and a bunch of other gear

More than a year after announcing it was experimenting with a rifle for infantrymen, the Marine Corps has said it will distribute the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle to more Marines, including those outside of the infantry squad.


The M27 is currently carried by just one member of the fire team, the automatic rifleman. But Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Military.com in December that the service plans to field the rifle more widely.

Each member of the rifle squad will receive the $3,000 rifle, as will others outside the squad, though the exact number has not been finalized.

“I don’t think mortars and javelin guys need the M27,” Neller told Military.com, but artillery forward observers, fire-support team members, and engineers might get them. “I’m going to wait and see,” Neller said. “It’s not that much [money].”

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2017. The M27 has been introduced to different units throughout the Marine Corps within the last six months. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory)

The M27 was introduced in 2010, initially meant to replace the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines carried out pre-deployment exercises with the M27 in late 2016 to evaluate it for wider use in infantry units.

Neller — who has said he thinks a “big-ass fight” is on the horizon — suggested in April he was considering providing all riflemen with M27s, which have a slightly longer effective range than the M4 used by other members of the squad.

M27s also have a free-floating barrel, which reduces the effects of rifle movement during firing on accuracy, as well as a proprietary gas-piston system that makes it more reliable and reduces wear. The rifle’s cost and the possibility its higher rate of fire could lead to more ammunition use were two potential drawbacks Marine Corps officials examined in late 2016.

A request for information issued by the Marines in February asked for 11,000 M27s, which would be sufficient to equip every squad. A pre-solicitation issued in August requested up to 50,800 of the rifle — a move by the Marines to make sure that gunmaker Heckler Koch was able to supply an order that big, according to Military.com.

‘I’m ready to say yes’

Chief Warrant Officer 5 Christian Wade, the weapons officer for 2nd Marine Division, told Military.com that competition and larger orders had helped bring down the price the service would pay for new M27s, making it comparable to what the Corps paid for M4s.

Also Read: The Marine Corps is looking for suppressed weapons, flexible body armor and all these other goodies

Marines may be getting a plethora of new gear in the near future. A 13-man infantry squad that Wade called the “Über Squad” was outfitted this summer with a range of equipment for an 18- to 20-month experiment, with plans for the squad to take their new kit on a full training and deployment cycle in Europe.

Squad members were given an M27 with a suppressor and Ops-Core helmets with built-in hearing protection systems to muffle loud noises while enhancing other sounds a Marine may need to hear in combat. The squad was also outfitted with 60-round Magpul polymer drum magazines as well as light body armor used by Marine Special Operations Command and advanced night-vision goggles.

Late last year, Marines were spotted doing live-fire drills with the M38 Squad Designated Marksman Rifle, which carried a more advanced scope than the M27 as well as a suppressor. The Corps plans to designate one infantry squad member as “marksman” and equip them with the M38, allowing them to engage targets at 300 to 600 meters.

The Marines have tested new ammo for the M27, looking to switch from M855 5.56 mm rounds to the M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round used by the Army.

Marine officials have said the M855A1 round causes reliability and durability issues with the M27, but lawmakers have complained that maintaining two types of rifle round leads to waste.

The Marine Corps has also been looking at outfitting entire infantry battalions — from M4s to .50-caliber machine guns — with suppressors.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
U.S. Marines with 3rd Battalion 8th Marine Regiment fire the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle during a live-fire weapons exercise at range F-18 on Camp Lejeune, N.C., Dec. 8, 2017. The M27 has been introduced to different units throughout the Marine Corps within the last six months. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Michaela R. Gregory)

Wade said in late 2016 that three companies were using suppressors on all their rifles, including their M27s. Bravo company of 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines was the first of those units to deploy, arriving in Norway in May 2017. That unit’s members heralded the new ease of communications allowed by the suppressors.

The Corps is also considering testing a new kind of optic. Wade told Military.com he hopes to test different scopes with different infantry squads to build a case for more powerful gear. The Marines are planning to outfit infantry squads with new rifle-mounted laser range-finders, allowing squad leaders to call in airstrikes and artillery.

All the gear being tested may not end up with Marine units, and more equipment may be rolled out in the future. And Neller downplayed the expense, indicating he could sign off on new gear soon.

“The money to buy all that other stuff, the suppressors, the ear protection enhancement, the different helmets, it’s not a lot of money in the aggregate,” he told Military.com. “So I’m just waiting for them to come back, and I’m ready to say yes.”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the Army’s billion-dollar robot program

The Pentagon is investing roughly $1 billion over the next several years for the development of robots to be used in an array of roles alongside combat troops, Bloomberg reported.

The US military already uses robots in various capacities, such for bomb disposal and scouting, but these new robots will reportedly be able to preform more sophisticated roles including complex reconnaissance, carrying soldier’s gear, and detecting hazardous chemicals.


Bryan McVeigh, the Army’s project manager for force protection, told Bloomberg he has “no doubt” there will be robots in every Army formation “within five years.”

“We’re going from talking about robots to actually building and fielding programs. This is an exciting time to be working on robots with the Army,” McVeigh said.

In April 2018, the Army awarded a $429.1 million contract to Endeavor Robotics and QinetiQ North America, both based out of Massachusetts. Endeavor has also been awarded separate contracts from the Army and Marine Corps in as the Pentagon pushes for robots in a wide range of sizes.

The introduction of more robots into combat situations is intended to not only make life easier for troops, but also protect them from potentially fatal scenarios.

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
The RIPSAW-MS1 demonstrates its off-road capabilities during a lanes exercise at the Fort Hood Robotics Rodeo. The RIPSAW is equipped with six claymore mines, can carry 5,000 pounds and tow multiple military vehicles. The RIPSAW is designed to be an unmanned convoy security vehicle.
(U.S. Army photo)

But there are also concerns about the rapid development of robotic technology in relation to warfare, especially in terms of autonomous robots. In short, many are uncomfortable with the notion of killer robots deciding who gets to live or die on the battlefield.

‘These can be weapons of terror…’

Along these lines, over two dozen countries have called for a ban on fully autonomous weapons, but the US is not among them.

In August 2017, Tesla’s Elon Musk and over 100 experts sent a letter to the United Nations urging it to move toward banning lethal autonomous weapons.

“Once developed, lethal autonomous weapons will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend,” the letter said. “These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways.”

In May 2018, roughly a dozen employees at Google resigned after finding out the company was providing information on its artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to aid a drone program called Project Maven, which is designed to help drones identify humans versus objects.

Google has reportedly defended its involvement in Project Maven to employees.

America’s use of drones and drone strikes in counterterrorism operations is already a controversial topic, as many condemn the US drone program as illegal and unethical. The US continues to face criticism in relation to civilian casualties from such strikes, among other issues.

Hence, while the military is seemingly quite excited about the expansion of robots in combat situations, there is a broader debate occurring among tech experts, academics and politicians about the ethical and legal implications of robotic warfare.

The killer robots debate

Peter W. Singer, a leading expert on 21st century warfare, focuses a great deal on what is known as “the killer robots debate” in his writing and research.

“It sounds like science fiction, but it is a very real debate right now in international relations. There have been multiple UN meetings on this,” Singer told Business Insider.

As Singer put it, robotic technology introduces myriad legal and ethical questions for which “we’re really not all that ready.”

The all-military crew of Discovery Channel’s Gold Rush welcomes a homeless veteran
While being dragged, 225th Engineer Brigade Soldier Sgt. Kasandra Deutsch of Pineville, La., demonstrates the power of the Talon robot.
(U.S. Army photo)

“This really comes down to, who is responsible if something goes bad?” Singer said, explaining that this applies to everything from robots in war to driverless cars. “We’re entering a new frontier of war and technology and it’s not quite clear if the laws are ready.”

Singer acknowledges the valid concerns surrounding such technology, but thinks an all-out ban is impractical given it’s hard to ban technology in war that will also be used in civilian life.

In other words, autonomous robots will likely soon be used by many of us in everyday life and it’s doubtful the military will have less advanced technology than the public. Not to mention, there’s already an ongoing arms race when it comes to robotic technology between the US and China, among other countries.

In Singer’s words, the Pentagon is not pursuing robotic technology because “it’s cool” but because “it thinks it can be applied to certain problems and help save money.” Moreover, it wants to ensure the US is in a good position to defend itself from other countries developing such technology.

Singer believes it would be more practical to resolve issues of accountability, rather than pushing for a total ban. He contends the arguments surrounding this issue mirror a lot of the same concerns people had regarding the nuclear arms race not too long ago.

“I’m of the camp that I don’t see as an absolute ban as possible right now. While it might be something that’s great to happen I look at the broader history of weapons,” he said.

Moving forward, Singer said countries might consider pushing for banning the use of such weapons in certain areas, such as cities, where the risk of killing civilians is much higher.

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information