The new National Biodefense Strategy is a living document designed to counter man-made and natural biological threats, National Security Advisor John Bolton said during a September 2018 White House briefing.
“This is critical, we think, for our defense purposes looking at the range of weapons of mass destruction the United States our friends and allies face,” he said.
While nuclear weapons are an existential threat to the United States, chemical and biological weapons also pose dangers to Americans. Bolton noted that biological weapons often are called “poor man’s nukes” and said the biodefense strategy aims at countering that threat.
“What we’ve done is establish a Cabinet-level biodefense steering committee to be chaired by the Department of Health and Human Services,” he said. “This is the approach best suited for carrying out the strategy operationally.” HHS Secretary Alex Azar will chair the committee.
Participating agencies include the departments of Defense, Agriculture and Homeland Security, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and others.
Bolton stressed that this is just one part of the nation’s biodefense strategy and does not encompass what the U.S. offensive response would be to a biological attack. He also said the strategy will evolve as needed. As new techniques or new medical treatments or new threats emerge, he added, the strategy will change.
A nurse takes a patient’s pulse in the influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C., near the end of the Spanish Flu epidemic, Nov. 1, 1918. Fresh air was believed to help prevent the spread of the disease, which killed 50 million to 100 million people worldwide. Pandemic flus such as this are rare, occurring just three times in the 20th century, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
(Library of Congress photo)
Azar, who also spoke at the briefing, noted that the strategy has to cover a range of threats, from nation-states to individuals. He noted that the anthrax attack of 2001 was launched by an individual, while the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918 that infected a quarter of all Americans and killed almost 700,000 was natural.
The threats are real and growing, Azar said. The world is growing more urbanized and interconnected, which speeds the spread of infectious threats. He noted the early summer 2018 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “Such is the ease of travel between countries now that just in the DRC, more than 100,000 people are being screened at border crossings every day,” he said. “We also face accidental and man-made threats. Today’s rapid technological advances have great potential to improve public health and human health, but they also create the opportunity for new kinds of threats and for more and more actors to make use of biological weapons.”
The strategy looks to promote research into combating pandemics and coordinating response to attacks or outbreaks. It looks to work with allies, the United Nations’ World Health Organization, the Red Cross and others.
Featured image: National Security Advisor John Bolton.
Recently, a Marine was kicked out of a wedding for wearing his Dress Blues instead of a regular suit and tie. According to the post on Reddit, he was polite and gentlemanly but was asked to leave because he didn’t follow the dress code and the bride felt he was taking the spotlight away from the marriage.
There’s still a lot of other variables that aren’t really known that could really determine who’s the a**hole in this situation. If he was pulling a “you’re welcome for my service” routine, totally justified. If he didn’t have any other suit and tie, he could have probably explained that. If he was flexing his bare pizza box and two ribbons, he’s a douche. Since he was a friend of the groom, did he ask first? So on and so forth.
I’m personally of the mindset that he didn’t follow the uniform of the day and weddings are one of those things where you just nod and agree with the bride. But that’s ultimately pointless since this wedding has no bearing on my life.
Anyways. Since we in the U.S. aren’t subject to the EU’s Article 13 ruling on copyright material and the gray area it puts on sharing memes – have some memes!
June deployed to Fallujah during OIF as Field Radio Operator and earned several awards during his time in service. He even credits the Marine Corps for giving him the needed discipline to continually write his rap lyrics drawing them from personal experience.
Afterward, he became a CBRN instructor and trained hundreds of Marines before they deployed to their combat zones.
In 2012, Marx received an Honorable discharge from the Marine Corps then spearheaded himself to focus on his true calling — a music career.
June wears the gas mask as part of his image and believes the modern music industry is too “toxic” and there aren’t enough artists with “substance” being promoted.
Aluminum has served in war since ancient times, but its most common application today is as armor, allowing for well-protected but light vehicles that can tear through rough terrain where steel would get bogged down. But aluminum has an unearned reputation for burning, so troops don’t line up to ride in them under fire.
Crewmen in the coupla of an M-2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle elevate the barrel during a 1987 exercise.
(U.S. Army Pfc. Prince Hearns)
Aluminum got its start in war as alum, a salt composed of aluminum and potassium. This was one of the earliest uses of aluminum in military history. Ancient commanders learned you could apply a solution of the stuff to wood and reduce the chances it would burn when an enemy hit it with fire.
As chemists and scientists learned how to create pure aluminum in the 1800s, some military leaders looked to it for a new age of weaponry. At the time, extracting and smelting aluminum was challenging and super expensive, but Napoleon sponsored research as he sought to create aluminum artillery.
Because aluminum is so much lighter than steel, it could’ve given rise to more mobile artillery units, capable of navigating muddy lanes that would stop heavier units. Napoleon’s scientists could never get the process right to mass produce the metal, so the ideas never came to fruition.
But aluminum has some drawbacks when it comes to weapon barrels. It’s soft, and it has a relatively low melting point. So, start churning out cannon balls from aluminum guns, and you run the risk of warping the barrels right when you need them.
Instead, the modern military uses aluminum, now relatively cheap to mine and refine, to serve as armor. It’s light, and it can take a hit, making it perfect for protection. The softness isn’t ideal for all purposes, but it does mean that the armor isn’t prone to spalling when hit.
But aluminum’s differences from steel extend deep into the thermal sphere. While aluminum does have a lower melting point than steel, it also has a higher thermal conductivity and specific energy (basically, it takes more heat to heat up aluminum than it does to heat up steel). So it can take plenty of localized heat without melting away.
An armored personnel carrier burns in the streets of Egypt during 2011 protests.
(In industrial applications that rely on aluminum burning, the process is usually started by burning another metal, like magnesium, which burns more easily and releases enough heat, and the aluminum is crushed into a fine powder and mixed with oxygen so that the soot doesn’t halt the reaction.)
In a book published in 1993, after the Bradley became one of the heroes of Desert Storm, he claimed that the vehicles survived because of changes made after those tests. But while the Army might have switched the locations where ammo was stored and other design details, they didn’t change the hull material.
But, again, aluminum does melt. And the few Bradley’s that did suffer extended ammo fires did melt quite extensively, sometimes resulting in puddles of aluminum with the steel frame sitting on top of it. This spurred on the belief that the aluminum, itself, had burnt.
The M2A3 Bradley is capable, but troops don’t love its aluminum hull.
(Winifred Brown, U.S. Army)
But aluminum melts at over 1,200 Fahrenheit, hot enough that any crew in a melting aluminum vehicle would’ve died long before the armor plates drip off. Aluminum is great at normal temperatures, providing protection at light weights.
And so aluminum protects vehicles like the M2 Bradley and the M113 armored personnel carrier. The new Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle that is slated to replace the M113 has, you guessed it, an aluminum hull. But while troops might enjoy the increased space, they’ll probably leave off any discussion of the vehicle’s material while bragging.
Olivia Nord doesn’t remember much from Marine Corps boot camp, or the car accident that killed her three friends, and almost killed her and her mother.
Her mom, Jennifer, doesn’t remember anything either. But as she looks at her daughter, says she knows one thing for sure.
“She’s my miracle. She’s my absolute miracle.”
The two were returning home Dec. 2, 2016, for Olivia’s first leave after she graduated from basic training at Parris Island, South Carolina.
“I don’t have any memory of that,” Jennifer says. “The last memory I have is waiting at the airport in South Carolina.”
“I don’t even remember basic training,” she adds. “I remember running and shooting. That’s it.”
Olivia’s boyfriend, Austin, joined the Marines six weeks ahead of her. His family — mother, Dawn; sister, Dylan; and Dylan’s 2-year-old son, Payton–met them at the Minneapolis Airport. As they drove onto the interstate, another driver having an epileptic seizure slammed head first into their car.
Olivia Nord is all smiles after graduating from Marine Corps basic training. Hours later, she would be in a coma from a head-on car crash.
Dawn, Dylan and Payton were killed.
“I was broke in half,” Jennifer says. “My pelvis was crushed. I have a moderate brain injury and a rod in my back, with four screws holding it together.”
First responders didn’t have much hope for Olivia. Paramedics first took her to Hennepin County Medical, a level-1 trauma center, before she was transferred to Walter Reed in Maryland, and finally, to the Minneapolis VA Health Care System, Jan. 12, 2019. She had a severe brain injury and was in a coma, along with a shattered femur, torn aorta and lacerated liver. She had a tracheotomy, and was kept alive with artificial respiration.
Coming out of the coma
The Minneapolis VA is one of five major polytrauma centers in the entire Department of Veterans Affairs. It offers an array of integrated services for those in inpatient, transition and outpatient care. Brain-injury runs the gamut from someone with a concussion or stroke, or in Olivia’s case, all the way to a coma — one of their most severe cases.
“She was in our ‘Emerging Consciousness’ program, but wasn’t very responsive,” said Christie Spevacek, a nurse who oversees some of the most acute polytrauma cases. “We had to wean her from the vent, and she was in a very minimal state. Wasn’t talking, wasn’t doing anything.
“You see that, and you say, ‘Let’s get to work.’
“In the next month or so, she started waking up, but she’d maybe have five minutes, and then would be down again,” Spevacek said. “We had to bring up her endurance.”
Olivia shares photos from that time. Tubes and wires run everywhere. In another, she hugs her mom with a vacant stare in her eyes.
“She was awake, but she wasn’t awake,” Jennifer said. “She wasn’t aware of what was happening and didn’t know she was hurt. We had to keep reminding her.”
At one point, Olivia woke up and it didn’t know where she was at.
Olivia Nord suffered a severe brain injury, torn aorta, lacerated liver and crushed femur. She was in a coma for more than a month.
“I didn’t know I was hurt or why I was there,” she said. “I didn’t know my one leg didn’t work. I started to get up and fell down. The nurse came in to get me.”
Doctors, nurses, and therapists continued working with her. They’d take her out of the room. The goal was to make her feel normal again. They painted her fingernails and gave her lipstick. She worked on walking, talking, remembering, and all those things taken for granted.
“It was amazing to see her flourish,” said Kristin Powell, a recreation therapist who worked with her on the acute side, and now as an outpatient. “We were able to take her on outings. She was able to take what she learned in physical therapy and use those skill and flourish in the community.”
Not every outcome is as good as Olivia’s, which makes the recovery even more remarkable,” Powell said. “You see them come in here at their worst, in acute care, with tubes going in and out, and that was Olivia. And look at her now.”
Olivia is training to ride the recumbent bike at the upcoming VA Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. She works as a grocery cashier and has plans to go back to school for elementary education.
No one expected 18-year-old U.S. Marine Corps Private Olivia Nord to survive …
Patrick Hayes, the man who caused the crash, was not even supposed to be driving. He was sentenced April 9, 2019, to 100 months in prison. Olivia and her mom both gave victim statements at the sentencing.
“I feel like we are a flicker of a flame, and you caused three of those flickers to burn completely out,” Olivia sobbed in court.
The car crash is still a blank for mom and daughter.
“In one way, it’s a blessing,” Jennifer says. “But there is a part of us that wants to remember, just so we can grieve.”
“It’s just like they were here one moment, and now they’re gone,” Olivia adds.
She and her boyfriend are no longer together.
“We don’t talk,” Olivia says. “He was back home for his birthday and I sent him a ‘Happy birthday’ text.”
“We know it’s hard for him, too,” Jennifer says. “He lost his mom. He lost his family.”
Recovery beyond the Minneapolis VA
Today, in a lot of ways, Olivia is like any 21-year-old. She laughs, tells jokes and likes to cuss like… well, like a Marine.
Jennifer and Olivia help each other remember dates and even the right words that sometimes get lost or garbled.
“She’ll help me and I’ll help her,” Jennifer says. “The other day, I said, ‘I’m going out to vacuum the lawn.'”
“I said, ‘No, you’re going to mow the lawn,'” Olivia added.
Olivia uses a leg brace to walk, and also participates in Wounded Warrior events in the community. But sometimes it’s hard not to get angry.
Jennifer and Olivia Nord lost their three friends, and were both nearly killed in a head-on collision. Today, mom and daughter are thriving despite brain injuries.
“I’m still not the best,” she says. “I see how far I’ve come. My gosh, I’m out of the hospital. At some point, I don’t want any injuries. I can’t run. I can’t use my left arm. But I’m getting better. My thinking process is better. I’m always thinking.
“My friends think I’m crippled,” she adds. “I’m not crippled.”
Mom and daughter have tattoos that show their love for one another — and those they’ve lost.
Both sport a red fox tattoo on their ankles. Jennifer’s says, “Love you, bebè.” Olivia’s says, “Love you, mamá.” She also has another, larger tattoo on her waist. It’s an American flag shaped like the United States, a cross and three dog tags bearing three names Dawn, Dylan and Payton. She has another on her inside right arm — four different colored roses for family members, and a tiny cross on a chain that says, “Faith.”
“For me, the faith is not always what you believe in. It’s what you do to get better,” Olivia says. “I have faith in myself that I will get better.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
You’re throwing a football around in the yard with your neighbors. While stretching out as far as you can to catch the pass, you slam your head hard against a pole going for the ball. Seeing stars and feeling confused, you take a seat. Wouldn’t it be nice if a test could say whether you have a brain injury?
Brain injury can happen from a fall, while in combat, or during training exercises. Thanks in part to research funded by the Dept. of Defense and the U.S. Army, Banyan Biomarkers has created the first-ever brain trauma blood test. On Feb. 14, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration cleared marketing of the Banyan Biomarkers’ Brain Trauma Indicator, or BTI™.
The BTI can identify two brain-specific protein markers, called UCH-L1 (Ubiquitin Carboxy-terminal Hydrolase-L1) and GFAP (Glial Fibrilliary Acidic Protein). These proteins rapidly appear in the blood and are elevated 12 hours following an incident where a head injury occurs and can signify if there is bleeding in the brain. The two protein markers won’t be elevated if your brain is uninjured or if you have a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), otherwise known as a concussion.
“When these proteins are elevated, there may be blood in the brain,” said Kathy Helmick, acting director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC). “A hematoma, or blood in the brain, may indicate a more serious brain injury has occurred, which could require rapid evacuation for neurosurgery to remove a clot in the brain.”
The first thing a doctor tries to rule out with suspected brain injury is the potential for serious complications, like losing consciousness, going into a coma, or death. According to the research results and FDA clearance, the blood test can help medical professionals determine the need for computed tomography (CT) scans in patients suspected of having a concussion. It also can help prevent unnecessary radiation exposure for patients.
Prior to discovering these biological protein markers, medical professionals had to rely on symptom reporting and other more subjective means to evaluate patients with few signals of more serious head injury.
“This technology helps us identify red flags after you suspect a head injury so that you can get the person to definitive care,” Helmick explained. “Most times, the blood test will be negative and the medical provider will continue with a concussion evaluation.”
Lt. Col. Kara Schmid said U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command will “begin limited user testing with the device in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019.” Schmid is a project manager for the Neurotrauma and Psychological Health Project Management Office at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. “Improvements could make the device more supportable by the military health system.”
The Department of Defense has been seeking a method for diagnosing and evaluating TBI in service members for over a decade. According to DVBIC, over 375,000 service members have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000. Approximately 82 percent of those TBI cases are classified as a concussion.
According to Kelley Brix, MD – who is a branch chief for interagency research and development at the Defense Health Agency – the need for diagnosing milder forms of brain injury sparked research questions that were funded as part of a greater TBI research portfolio.
“The research question became centered on if the brain releases anything detectable into the blood stream when there is damage,” said Brix. “The answer is yes. This is a big project with a successful outcome. But, it’s only part of our large portfolio looking at improved ways to diagnose and treat TBI.”
Helmick says knowing whether blood, swelling, or bruising on the brain has taken place helps with understanding the severity of the TBI.
“These two proteins give us a window of insight into what is going on in the brain,” said Helmick. “We have lacked objective devices and data in TBI, especially with concussion. The reason biological markers are so important is because they are accurate, sensitive, and objective.”
Making the machine required to run the blood test smaller and more portable is a work in progress, as currently it’s intended for use in a laboratory. Logistical constraints of the BTI device make deployment to the force a challenge.
“There is active work going on to reduce the 3-4 hour timeframe for getting test results, which could make it even more usable for austere environments,” Helmick said. “This blood test is an example of a significant public-private success and a huge advancement in the field of TBI.”
Bryan Thompson on the set. (Photo courtesy of Bryan Thompson)
Bryan Thompson’s path to the U.S. Army was a circuitous one. The Detroit native earned his bachelor’s degree in International Trade from Eastern Michigan University before getting hired by Stahls, a sportswear graphics company. He got the job because he was fluent in Spanish, a skill he attributes to the first military mentor in his life.
“Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jose Rodriguez, my Spanish teacher during my junior and senior year of high school, kind of forced me to learn the language,” Thompson said. “During his class, he would make us do pushups if we failed to do our homework, or whatever. A Mexican immigrant, he invited me to many family events, where he told everyone not to speak to me in English. He also invited me and the rest of my class to Spanish-language church services where he gave the public the same instruction.”
Stahls moved Thompson to Miami, striking distance from the places in Central and South America that he needed to travel. He loved Miami right from the start, and while he was there he fed his creative side by singing with a Top 40 band on the side. In time, the company wanted to move him back to the home office in Detroit, but he had no interest in leaving his new life so he quit and decided to make the band a full-time gig.
The band, “Jesse James and Crossover,” travelled extensively to pay the bills, including an extended stop in Singapore. But that work was seasonal, and he soon found himself back in Miami struggling to make ends meet. He took a job with Royal Flowers and moved to Quito, Ecuador.
Thompson was his usual busy self in Quito, working his day job while also starting another band on the side. He also got married to a local girl. Then, like all Americans worldwide, he was hit with the tragedy of 9/11.
He wanted to do something of consequence, so he went back to Miami with his new Ecuadorian wife and immediately joined the Army. In short order, he found himself through basic training and stationed at Fort Eustis, Virginia as a watercraft operator attached to the 7th Sustainment Brigade.
After a year or so, Thompson decided to leverage his college degree and apply for OCS, and to his surprise, he was accepted on the first attempt. He was commissioned as a transportation officer and shipped off to Camp Liberty, Iraq for 15 months. While there, as well as dealing with the daily challenges the war presented, he also began working on a screenplay, an effort that would eventually inform the next chapter of his life.
But Thompson still had some active duty time ahead of him, and in typical fashion, he made a dramatic pivot, this time getting selected for the Army’s legal education program. He went to law school at William and Mary, and once he got his degree he was transferred to Fort Bliss, Texas to intern with the JAGs there.
All the while he kept his hand in filmmaking, networking with locals wherever he went, even when his workload was at its most demanding.
“The ideas just stayed in my head and just spilled onto the page and I couldn’t turn them off,” Thompson said. “Eventually, I found some experienced filmmakers who mentored me in the use of scriptwriting software and production techniques and before I knew it, I was writing and producing short films, hiring experienced directors to make my visions come to life. Once I had enough experience, I started directing as well.”
While in Texas, Thompson taught acting and dance at Latin American Talent, a local agency. One day a student gave him a 15-page script to read. The story about two immigrant children whose legal status is threatened by the murder of their parents moved him, and he started to film it with the working title of “The Dream.”
While filming he had a realization: “If I wanted people to invest in my films I had to finish making a film,” he said. So he kept working during whatever free time his Army life afforded him. Eventually “The Dream” was finished and premiered in El Paso to a packed house that included reps from the Spanish-language channel Univision who indicated they were interested in helping distribute the film to a wider audience.
As a JAG he was required to pass the bar exam in whatever state he wanted, so he tried in Florida (where he planned to return after his Army service was over) and failed and then tried in Missouri (supposedly the easiest one to pass) with the same result. But that disappointment was eclipsed by a bigger challenge: He developed severe pneumonia and while treating it, Army doctors found a benign tumor on his lung.
Thompson had surgery to remove the tumor, and while he was recovering he got word that he was most likely going to be declared as “not physically qualified” for active duty and medically discharged. Again, he refused to let disappointment crush his spirit, and, lying in a hospital bed, he decided to start an online film festival.
He’d had some experience with film festivals at that point. His web series “The Cell” won Best Directing and Best Visual Effects at the LA Web Series Festival in 2013, and his film “Noventa” won Best Short at the Miami Independent Film Festival in 2015 and also won Audience Choice at the Film Miami Fest that same year.
So once he got out of the Army he created the Miami Web Fest, a 4-day festival showcasing the best digital content in the form of web series.
“Since web series are increasingly popular among the 18-34 demographic, they have quickly become the preferred form of exposure for independent filmmakers looking to use the internet to make a name for themselves,” Thompson said. “Miami Web Fest takes that to a new level, by offering those same filmmakers a chance to experience the traditional film festival experience, including theater screenings, panel discussions, an elegant Red Carpet Awards Ceremony, and exclusive Miami-style parties in an environment that is unique and art-savvy.”
And while he was happy that he had started his own business, he’d always wanted to stay connected to the military community in some way, so this year he’s adding a “Vet Fest” to the Miami Web Fest.
“Filmmaking is all about showing the audience a new and interesting perspective on life,” Thompson said. “I believe that military and veteran filmmakers have seen the world through a lens that most never will, so the stories tend to be amazing and profound. So, after Miami Web Fest solidified its place in the global market, I decided to do something that would specifically highlight the work of military and veteran filmmakers as well as military-themed productions.”
Miami Vet Fest will include all types of films and web series and takes place on September 24 in Miami, Florida. Veteran filmmakers who want to submit their work for consideration should visit the Vet Fest website.
“The Miami Web Fest has proved to be an effective showcase, and I hope to do the same for veteran filmmakers this year,” Thompson said. “Winners have leveraged their success into deals with Netflix and major production companies.”
Miami Vet Fest winners will also be showcased at We Are The Mighty and its associated social media sites.
For more about Bryan Thompson’s film projects visit his website.
Miami-based DJ and Air Force veteran Rodrigo Arana – AKA DJ KA5 – is cooking up something special for his featured guest appearance in the USAA Lounge at BaseFEST this weekend. But don’t expect him to just cue up a list of Top 40 hits and fire them off, one after another. He approaches deejaying the way a trained specialist approaches a mission: he plans, he prepares, he drills, and then, when he’s got you captive on the dance floor, he executes.
Result: the beat drops and you lose your mind.
“I’m always about bringing those vibes that are taking you back to that certain time that was good for you [and] I’m always about trying to perfect my craft. That’s something that the military taught me: you can always do better.”
BaseFEST Powered by USAA kicked off in 2017 with two huge festival dates at Camp Lejune and NAS Pensacola, gathering over 20,000+ fans for each and creating a fun atmosphere of appreciation and support for servicemembers, their families, and friends.
(Photo by USAA)
The mission of the festival is “to provide a platform to give back to family programs on base, boost morale for troops and their families, and build strong base communities that are the backbone of our military.” Musical acts like DNCE, Dustin Lynch, Ha Ha Tonka, and DJ KA5 provide a live and lively soundtrack to a wide variety of activities, games, exhibits, and dining.
For Arana, playing BaseFEST is a chance to reconnect with his veteran family, to celebrate the military education that helped set him on the path to doing what he loves.
“Deejaying is about creating a vibe and creating a feeling. You’re painting. A different song is a different color and you’re creating a masterpiece. So by the end of the night, you step back and you look at the whole paining and you realize how you did this for somebody else.”
Two members of Marine Special Operations Command received valor awards for their heroism during a gun battle in 2017 with al Qaeda militants in Northern Africa, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command confirmed on Aug. 15, 2018.
While on a three-day operation to train, advise, and assist partner forces in the unnamed country — which the command withheld due to “classification considerations, force protection, and diplomatic sensitivities” — the Marine Special Operations Team on Feb. 28, 2017, became engaged in a “fierce fight against members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb,” according to one of the award citations for the unnamed Marines, who are often referred to as “Raiders.”
The two award citations for the Navy Marine Corps Achievement Medal (with “V” distinguishing device for valor) were released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Task Purpose. Despite redactions of names and the specific Marine Raider team involved, the citations provide a glimpse of a battle between Americans and militants on the African continent that had not previously been made public.
While the specific country where the battle took place remains unknown, Northern Africa consists of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and Western Sahara, according to the United Nations.
Africa Command spokeswoman Samantha Reho told Task Purpose in a statement that partner forces initially engaged and killed one al Qaeda fighter with small arms fire before calling for helicopter support. Militants then attempted to flank the Marines and partner forces from the rear, leading the Marines to “return fire in self-defense.”
United States Military Achievement Medals.
According to one citation, the Raiders’ communications chief and assistant element leader — typically a sergeant or above — “provided critical communications relay and ensured proper positioning of partner force elements.” The citation went on to say the Marine, while under accurate enemy fire, provided immediate trauma care for a fellow Raider who was wounded and helped evacuate him into a partner force helicopter that was hovering six feet above his position.
The second citation for an element member on the team — typically a sergeant or below — captures how the battle raged from the helicopter overhead. While onboard the partner force helicopter, the Marine fired at militants below, coordinated close air support, and directed the gunners and pilots on board the aircraft.
The militants responded with accurate fire, however, and a partner force soldier behind the helicopter’s M60 machine gun was shot twice in the foot, after which “[the Marine Raider] took control of the M60 and continued to suppress the enemy while treating the wounded gunner,” the citation said.
“He then accompanied the helicopter during the casualty evacuation of the Marine Raider and a second casualty later in the day, and conducted two re-supply deliveries all under enemy fire,” the citation added.
The partner force ultimately secured the site of the battle and “assessed two enemies were killed,” Reho told Task Purpose. The wounded Marine was evacuated and has since made a full recovery.
The gun battle between Marines and al Qaeda militants took place seven months before a deadly battle between ISIS militants and U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers who were advising partner forces in Niger. The Oct. 4, 2017 ambush resulted in the deaths of four American service members and led the Pentagon to conduct a major review of U.S special operations missions in Africa.
This article originally appeared on Task Purpose. Follow @Taskandpurpose on Twitter.
French President Emmanuel Macron shared a video of a man zooming around the sky above celebrations on Bastille Day in Paris on July 14, 2019.
The man appeared to be carrying a rifle, or at least a replica rifle, while he soared above the crowds.
France 24 reports that the man is a former jet-skiing champion and inventor named Franky Zapata. He is riding a “Flyboard Air,” a device developed by his company Zapata. A photo on Zapata’s Instagram gives a closer picture of himself strapped into the device:
The Guardian reports that the jet-powered board can reach speeds of 190 km/h (118 mph) and was originally designed to fly above bodies of water.
Both Macron and French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly cast the display as a display of military strength.
“Proud of our army, modern and innovative,” Macron tweeted alongside the video. Parly, meanwhile, told radio station France Inter that the board “can allow tests for different kinds of uses, for example as a flying logistical platform or, indeed, as an assault platform,” according to France 24.
It is not clear if the machine is being formally tested by the French military. Zapata has previously marketed an adapted version of the board — called the EZ-Fly — for military applications.
Zapata’s Bastille Day display marks quite a turnaround for the inventor, who was banned in 2017 from riding the hoverboard in France.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Congress is hurtling toward yet another government shutdown deadline on Jan. 19 and while the focus for this round of negotiations is on immigration, there is one key issue that will determine whether the deadline comes and goes without an agreement.
Congress must still decide exactly how much funding to provide for defense and non-defense functions of the government. So far this fiscal year, short-term funding bills passed before the few shutdown deadlines maintained last year’s spending levels for federal programs — but Congress wants to increase spending for the new year.
There are limitations on how large the funding increases can be because of the spending caps triggered in 2013 by the 2011 Budget Control Act. These caps on the amount the government can increase spending for defense and non-defense spending from year to year are much lower than lawmakers want.
Both Democrats and Republicans want to come to an agreement in order to increase those levels beyond the current limits for next year. Going above the Budget Control Act’s limits can be done with a congressional action, but first Congress must get over the substantial disagreement on the size of the increases.
Republicans want a bulk of the spending increase to go to defense spending instead of non-defense spending. Democrats, on the other hand, want to increase defense and non-defense spending by an equal amount.
The initial offer from the GOP in December was to boost defense spending by $54 billion and non-defense spending by $37 billion for 2018 and 2019. Democrats rejected this, calling for parity between the two by raising both sides by $54 billion.
Despite being in the minority, Democrats have substantial influence on the issue because some Republicans concerned about government spending — such as Sen. Rand Paul — could vote against any bill that substantially increases spending above the caps.
Additionally, Democrats could filibuster any spending bill in the Senate that does not meet their demands.
Sen. John Cornyn, the second-highest ranking GOP senator, said that setting these caps has been difficult so far because Democrats are attempting to attach codification of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration program, which prevents the deportation of undocumented immigrants that entered the country as minors, to the bill setting the caps.
Despite the complication of the DACA fight, Democrats have additional leverage on the spending cap issue since no party has had the government shut down while controlling both Congress and the White House since 1979.
The most likely scenario in the coming days, according to reports, is that Congress passes a short-term funding extension with new cap levels, giving appropriators — staffers who do technical budgetary work — time to hash out exactly where to spend the money.
“In our minds, the only question is the size of the deal — we had initially ball-parked a $300 billion deal over two years, though ~$200 billion over two years (equal amounts to defense and non-defense) now seems more likely,” said Chris Kreuger, a policy strategist at Cowen Washington Research Group. “The Republicans have offered $54 billion for defense and $37 billion for non-defense, though the Democrats are demanding 1:1 parity (which they are likely to get).”
Virtual recruiting teams, outreach to civic leaders and 770 more recruiters on the ground are helping the Army sign up more new soldiers this year in some of America’s largest cities.
Recruiting is up 27 percent in Minneapolis over this time last year. New York City has improved 19 percent and Baltimore is up 17 percent, according to Army Recruiting Command figures for April 2019.
Cities are where the people live, so the Army needs to recruit there, said Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy. Until this year, however, recruiting success typically seen in the rural South was not shared by the big cities.
“We’re trying to bring a lot of balance to our recruiting effort and focus in on the largest metropolitan areas in the country,” McCarthy said.
A recruiter hands out a water bottle from a table of Army items near the Eutaw Street gate during an Orioles game May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
Last year, Army senior leaders selected 22 cities to apply those efforts. These were areas with large populations that had little exposure to soldiers because most were located far from active Army training centers.
Senior leaders began meeting with mayors of those cities. McCarthy, for instance, first met with the mayor of Chicago, his hometown. He has since met city leaders in Baltimore, Houston and Orlando.
“We’ve got to get out there and forge relationships,” he said.
At the Baltimore meeting, city officials decided that Army interests aligned with one of theirs: keeping youth out of trouble. As a result, the city opened up all 43 of its recreation centers to recruiters.
“It was a great meeting because it opened doors,” said Col. Amanda Iden, commander of the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion, who sat with McCarthy at the meeting table.
“They’ve given us carte blanche access” to the rec centers, she said, adding her recruiters “don’t just play basketball and do sports with these kids,” they actually provide educational aids to help students study.
A young fan slaps five to the Orioles mascot as Staff Sgt. Antwon Yourse (left) and Staff Sgt. Bryan Lenis of the Baltimore Recruiting Company watch May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
Recruiters uploaded the Army’s “March2Success” software on computers at the centers so students could study there for college boards and other entrance exams.
“You want to take the LSAT, LCAT, MCAT, all those other different tests, the GMAT, SAT, AECT, it’s a tool to teach you how to take tests,” Iden said, “and it focuses on your weaknesses.”
Meetings with city officials also help open up schools to recruiters.
“It’s a relationship,” Iden said. “It’s about getting to know leaders, principals and guidance counselors.”
Recruiters are there to help students and influencers — such as parents and teachers — make “informed decisions,” she said. It’s not just about “trying to pull you into the Army,” it’s about helping students be successful and explaining options, she said.
Many students and influencers don’t know the Army has more than 150 career paths, said Col. James Jensen, director of the USAREC Commander’s Initiatives Group.
They don’t know Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, has the world’s only school that certifies students in handling hazardous material for serious nuclear-biological-chemical threats, he said, adding graduates can get a job at dozens of agencies once they leave the Army.
They don’t know that military police officers are automatically certified in 32 different states and can become state police officers without attending that state’s police academy, he said.
“We’re trying to expand the audience and touch not only the potential applicants, but the influencers, too,” Jensen said. “Especially within the latest generation, influencers hold a huge amount of weight with the decisions to go into the military.”
Influencers are among the target audience for “Meet Your Army” events in many of the cities. These events often include senior Army leaders returning to their hometowns for speaking engagements mixed with editorial boards, meetings with civic leaders and other public forums.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, for instance, returned to Boston April 14, 2019, to throw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. The next day he ran the Boston Marathon — all part of the first-ever “Boston Army Week” proclaimed by the mayor.
Nearly 30 different events took place during the week, including an expo on the Boston Common that had the Army Special Operations Command “Black Daggers” parachute team jump in. Over 30 Army units and 10 senior Army leaders also took part.
Sgt. Chobie Van Rossum, a Baltimore area native assigned back to the city as a recruiter, stands on Eutaw Street during an Orioles Game May 3, 2019, to discuss Army opportunities with potential prospects and influencers.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
These events maximize resources, Jensen said.
Beginning later this year, new mobile Army recruiting platforms will participate at events such as the one in Boston, Jensen said. These semitrailers will include video-game terminals where visitors will be able to play against members of the Army’s new esports team, consisting of soldiers who will compete at gaming events across the country.
Virtual recruiting teams
Last year USAREC tested the concept of virtual recruiting teams at some of its battalions. Now each of the Army’s 44 recruiting battalions have VRTs that focus on social media.
The teams consist of three to six soldiers proficient in all types of social media. These VRTs are currently manned at about 80 percent, Jensen said, but he added they will be going up to 100 percent by this summer.
The Baltimore Recruiting Battalion’s VRT stood up in September with three members at its headquarters on Fort Meade. Each of the battalion’s six recruiting companies across Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia also have liaisons who work directly with the VRT, Iden said.
These VRTs are “force multipliers” for recruiters, Jensen said. When a potential candidate responds to a social media post and asks a question, the virtual recruiters will initially respond, then pass the prospect off to a neighborhood recruiter, Jensen said.
“This helps the recruiter on the ground with less prospecting and more processing,” he said, “putting [prospects] in boots.”
The VRTs have access to “segmentation” data from the command’s G-2. The Recruiting Command has identified 65 different types of neighborhoods or “segmentations” based on demographic data from the last U.S. census.
Sgt. Chobie Van Rossum (left) and Staff Sgt. Antwon Yourse of the Baltimore Recruiting Company hand out water bottles as they discuss opportunities in the Army with young fans attending an Orioles game May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
“There’s a plan for every zip code,” Jensen said.
One of the main segmentations in downtown Baltimore is the “Urban Modern Mix,” Iden said. Characteristics for people in this segmentation include listening to urban adult contemporary music and having an interest in boxing. Virtual recruiting teams use such data to help target their social media posts, she said.
In a Chicago test that began in October, the Army is “micro-targeting” different neighborhoods and changing Internet ads weekly if they don’t resonate with particular segmentations. The pilot program is about to expand to Boston, officials said, and perhaps to more cities in the future.
In another pilot program, the recruiting company in Baltimore is partnering with the Maryland National Guard. In most areas, the National Guard has its own recruiters, but the five recruiting stations in the Baltimore area sign applicants up for the Guard. In return, the Guard provides assets to help recruit at different events, Iden said.
Recruiters also partner with the Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks to plan participation in events such as the African American Festival in August.
“It’s inherent when you are amongst the public that you will integrate” and form partnerships, Jensen said.
During the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, the mayor signed the city up for the Army’s Partnership for Youth Success program.
Under the PaYS program, recruits are guaranteed two job interviews at the end of their enlistment. For instance, if recruits pick the city of Houston, they might interview for a job with the Department of Public Works and Engineering.
Recruits are 15 percent more likely to sign up with the Army if they are offered the PaYS program, McCarthy said.
Staff Sgt. Bryan Lenis of the Baltimore Recruiting Company hands an Army water bottle to a young fan at the Eutaw Street concessions of Camden Yards during an Orioles game May 3, 2019.
(Photo by Gary Sheftick)
About 900 different companies and agencies across the country are now part of the PaYS program. The Baltimore Police Department is a partner and Iden said the Maryland State Police are about to sign up.
With these initiatives, recruiting is now up in 18 of the 22 focus cities, according to USAREC. But still, “there are cities all over the country where we know we have to do better,” McCarthy said.
Jensen cautions that it will take time. “While these initiatives go on, this is a plane in flight,” he said of the Army’s recruiting force. “We have to deliver every day. So you’ve got to be very cognizant of what you’re doing and how many ripples in the water you do to the recruiting force.”
Since the Army Training and Doctrine Command gained oversight of all accessions in September, he said focus and unity of command has improved.
“Having the TRADOC commander has been absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “Now it really helps us get after our mission and stay focused on our mission, and they [at TRADOC] handle a lot of the things that we used to have to handle.”
The TRADOC focus has brought more total Army assets to help with recruiting, he said, and more senior leader involvement to help educate influential audiences about the Army.
“I think it’s a requirement for every leader of this institution to get out there and talk about the U.S. Army as an organization, to educate our fellow countrymen, to encourage young men and women to take a hard look at this profession,” McCarthy said.
Next month, as Hollywood and professional athletes gather in Los Angeles to celebrate the year in sports, U.S. Army Veteran and VA employee Danielle Green will be honored at the 2015 ESPYS with the Pat Tillman Award for Service.
“As a teammate and soldier, Pat believed we should always strive to be part of something bigger than ourselves while empowering those around us,” said Marie Tillman, president and co-founder of the Pat Tillman Foundation. “Danielle has been unwavering in her aspiration to lift others suffering from the physical and mental injuries of war. In Pat’s name, we’re proud to continue the new tradition of the Tillman Award, honoring Danielle for her service as a voice and advocate for this generation of veterans.”
Green, who is now a supervisor readjustment counseling therapist at the South Vet Center located in South Bend, IN., said she was honored to receive the award and be a part of Tillman’s legacy of selfless service.
“It means so much,” she said. “You see so many negative stories revolving around suicide, PTSD and VA employees, but everyday my team and I work with Veterans who truly believe they are broken. We show them how much they have to offer, how they can heal and get them the help they need.”
Green has seen her share of adversity. In 2004, a little more than a year after leaving her job as a schoolteacher to enlist as a military police, she found herself on the rooftop of an Iraqi Police station in the center of Baghdad.
She recalls the heat and the uneasy feeling she had when the normally lively neighborhood turned quiet. Suddenly a coordinated RPG attack on the station from surrounding buildings left her bleeding out and in shock.
“I didn’t realize I was missing my left arm,” she said. “I just remember being angry at the fact that I was going to die in Iraq.”
She credits the quick response of her team and their proximity to the Green Zone to her survival. She believed her quiet prayers, asking for a second chance to live and tell her story, didn’t hurt either.
“I learned to really value life that day,” Green said. “You can be here today and gone tomorrow.”
In the course of a few days, she went from a hot rooftop in Iraq to Walter Reed Medical Center. For eight months the former Notre Dame Basketball standout worked with physicians, nurses and occupational/physical therapists to recover from her injuries. The southpaw’s loss of her dominant arm forced her to relearn daily tasks like writing, but through it all she continued to follow her dreams and found inspiration in those medical professionals around her. They never let her quit on herself, and while there was doubt and fear of what her life would be like after she was discharged from Walter Reed and the Army, she kept charting a path toward service.
After going back to school for her masters in counseling, and a short stint as an assistant athletic director at a college, Green found an opportunity to harness all of her experiences and assist fellow Veterans who were transitioning out of the military. By 2010, she had gone from being a patient to a catalyst for change for those seeking help at her local Vet Center.
“There was some doubt and self pity,” she said. “I’d sometime look down at my arm and wonder what the purpose of it all was … But now I realize the importance of what I can do for my peers. It’s challenging and rewarding, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”