Fall brings changing leaves, shortening days and cooler temperatures. At VA, it also means a slew of conferences and conventions.
Normally, you’d find us all over the country at various professional health care conferences. While in-person events are currently off the table, there are still plenty of chances to catch us at virtual career events.
Check out the list of online events below that we’ll be attending or hosting this fall. You can sign up for one to learn more about VA, what it’s like to work here and how you can find your perfect VA job.
VA Virtual Open House: At noon ET every Wednesday through Oct. 28, you can sign up to talk to a VA recruiter at our virtual open house. Learn more about open positions, how to apply and the many benefits of a VA career. During the 10-minute chat, you’ll also have a chance to ask the recruiter any other questions you might have about working at VA.
Talk About It Tuesday: Looking for more information about what it’s like to work at VA? Hear about it straight from VHA Marketing Specialist Mike Owens. Every Tuesday on LinkedIn, Owens talks about his experiences at VA and gives advice to job seekers. Topics he’s covered include common application mistakes, VA work culture and advice for transitioning military personnel. Once a month, he also sits down with a VA expert for a longer question-and-answer session. Grab some lunch and come join us next Tuesday at noon ET for another episode, or check out our archive of past videos anytime.
VHA Innovation Experience (iEX): Returning virtually this October, our third annual iEX gives you a chance to discover how VA is using innovation, partnership and technology to change and save Veteran lives. From Oct. 27-29, you can attend talks and demos, watch the VHA Shark Tank competition, attend discussion panels and virtual exhibits, and listen to keynote addresses from health care industry leaders. Register for iEX here.
Other virtual events: You can also catch us at a number of virtual events held by external partners this fall. If you live in the St. Louis area or are interested in working there, we’ll be exhibiting at a PracticeMatch virtual career fair from 4-7 p.m. CT on Oct. 29. We’ll also be at:
Barbara Allen relives her husband’s murder, every day. “I don’t want to be out here doing this. This is not fun for me, it’s exhausting. It’s been fourteen years of it,” she shared.
On June 7, 2005 Lt. Louis Allen and Cpt. Phillip Esposito were on an Army base in Iraq winding down after a long day. Allen’s husband had just deployed to Iraq and kissed her and their four sons goodbye 10 days earlier. He was playing the board game, Risk, with the Captain. A few minutes after they started, a claymore mine was set off outside their window. Grenades exploded shortly after the mine went off. They were both rushed to the hospital immediately but died of internal injuries the following day.
While military investigators initially thought the enemy was an insurgent who had set off a rocket or mortar, the discovery of the hand placed mine led them to other suspects. Their subsequent investigation found that the enemy – was from within.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen
A staff sergeant within their company was soon charged with two counts of premeditated murder during the week both men were buried by their families. The widows of the men allegedly killed by the staff sergeant were flown to Kuwait a few months later for his Article 32 hearing. Nine witnesses testified and a general court martial for murder was recommended based on the evidence presented. In early 2006, after learning of the evidence against him, the staff sergeant accused offered up a guilty plea to avoid the death penalty.
It was rejected by the military.
Two years later on December 4, 2008, the accused staff sergeant was acquitted of both murders, despite a mountain of evidence that he had “fragged” the two officers. Allen wasn’t told until months later that he had entered a guilty plea and the accused staff sergeant was discharged from the Army. Honorably.
Many witnesses testified that the accused staff sergeant had pledged to “burn” and “frag” the captain. They also shared that he was seen smiling and laughing after their deaths. A supply sergeant even testified that she gave the accused ammunition, including a claymore mine. Despite all of that – it wasn’t enough to convince the jury.
Allen requested that the Senate Committee on Armed Services look into the case. They didn’t.
“If our trial had happened when social media was a thing, I think it would have gone completely differently. It fell through a gap and we can’t get it back. If we had the court of public opinion on our side, the country on our side, he’d get the Purple Heart,” said Allen.
Photo courtesy of Barbara Allen
Allen was devastated that, in her words, the accused got away with murder and her husband was forgotten afterward. Her husband’s death was declared non-hostile, meaning the military states that he wasn’t killed by the enemy. This meant he wasn’t a candidate for the Purple Heart. She described the whole experience as hell on earth.
“Anyone who willfully kills two soldiers in a combat zone has aided and abetted the enemy. Therefore, is the enemy,” Allen said. “Even the weapon used had the words ‘front to an enemy.’ Flabbergasted, Allen asked, “What else do you have to do to be considered an enemy?” Allen didn’t understand how Ft. Hood victims could get awarded Purple Hearts, but her husband, who was murdered in a combat zone, isn’t eligible.
Allen believes that the Army must decide that they either made a mistake and charged the wrong person and her husband was killed by an insurgent enemy or they let a guilty man go. She reported that “people tended to get fired” when they helped her. Allen said they’ve gone as far as having a Medal of Honor recipient deliver the casefile to President Trump to plead for her husband to receive the Purple Heart, without success.
When asked how her boys feel about all of this, she began to cry. “This is their father, their dad, who’s been missing for their entire lives,” she said. “In the eyes of history he doesn’t exist. His future was taken already; you can’t take his legacy. The message is that any member of the military is expendable. If you die in a way that is embarrassing, we [the military] will erase you. That isn’t the military that I believe in or that he believed in.”
Allen achieved a master’s in criminal justice years after her husband was killed. She reported studying 12 other capital cases like her husband’s. She believes that if the FBI’s protocol for workplace violence had been followed by the military with the accused, her husband wouldn’t have been killed. “They deserved to be protected; nobody was trained. They believed that the uniform was a barrier to reporting,” she said.
This ruling is more than just an award to Allen and her family, she shared. “If the military said that if you willfully injure or kill another service member in a combat zone, let’s just start there, you are an enemy. Teach them about the warning signs. I can testify to what happens when you don’t. It would change things,” said Allen.
Today, Allen says she has a glimmer of hope once again. Her murdered husband’s case file for a Purple Heart is currently sitting on a desk in the Pentagon, awaiting review and the stroke of a pen.
The American Legion has stepped in with offers of limited assistance for Coast Guard personnel working without pay should the partial government shutdown continue.
In a statement on Jan. 7, 2019, Legion National Commander Brett Reistad also called on members of Congress to back the “Pay Our Coast Guard Act” introduced by Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.
The bill would exempt the Coast Guard from the shutdown funding cutoff affecting its parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The proposed exemption would also cover Coast Guard retiree benefits, death gratuities, and other related payouts.
Currently, about 42,000 Coast Guard personnel are working without pay. DHS and the Coast Guard were able to find funding for members’ last paychecks, which went out Dec. 31, 2018. The next paychecks for Coast Guardsmen are due Jan. 15, 2019.
U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class John Cantu, with the Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team mans a mounted machine gun on a 25-foot Response Boat-Small in front of the Washington Monument in Washington.
(DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Lisa Ferdinando, U.S. Coast Guard)
Reistad said the Legion backs the Thune bill legislation, “which will guarantee that these heroes who guarantee our safety and security will be paid on time and not miss a single paycheck.”
“Just because a Washington flowchart structures the Coast Guard under Homeland Security does not mean they should not be paid,” he added.
The Legion is prepared to offer financial assistance to some Coast Guardsmen.
“In the event that there is a delay in paying our Coast Guard, I have directed administrators of the American Legion Temporary Financial Assistance program to stand by and quickly administer requests made by active-duty Coast Guard members with children who need help with living expenses,” Reistad said.
However, he noted, “As a nonprofit, the American Legion is not capable of funding the entire Coast Guard payroll.”
The Veterans of Foreign Wars also called Congress to find a way to keep paying Coast Guard personnel.
“Our country needs this Congress and this White House to push through the rhetoric and take care of those who are on the front lines protecting our country,” B.J. Lawrence, VFW national commander, said in a statement. “What the Coast Guard and DHS do daily allows the rest of us to sleep easier at night. No one should ever take that for granted.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Ask a Green Beret or Navy SEAL about the most powerful weapon in their arsenal, and they’ll probably give you an answer you didn’t expect: the brain. These special operators know that the mind is a lethal tool and that the outcome of many battles is often decided well before the shooting even starts.
In fact, the first of principle of Special Operations is that “humans are more important than hardware.”
But New Yorkers already know this principle. They live it everyday. The Big Apple is a hard city and its citizens have survived brutal winters, hurricanes, British occupation, and multiple terrorist attacks. And yet, the city endures and continues to thrive because New Yorkers know that with resiliency, they can survive whatever comes next. Just try it, King Kong.
New York has always supported the U.S. military by hosting parades, fleet week, and, ultimately, throwing out the British, but now some New Yorkers are doing something a little different. They’re running for 12 hours straight around Manhattan as part of the Relay For Heroes.
The host of this crazy endeavor is the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (IFHF), a non-profit organization that supports U.S. military personnel experiencing the invisible wounds of war: traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS). Like the military, citizens of New York know that a strong mind can be a lethal tool, so they’re pitching in to combat ailments that plague it. Headquartered out of the Intrepid Aircraft Carrier in New York Harbor, teams of four to six runners will run five mile legs all day long, from 8am to 8pm.
Winston Fisher is a member of Team Extreme who raise funds for Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund
One of these runners is Winston Fisher, a proud New Yorker and board member of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, who is running as a part of Team Extreme, a group of dedicated athletes who use extreme supports to raise funds for the military and veterans. Winston described his efforts to We Are The Mighty,
“Our team has participated in some of the most recognized and, in many instances, the most challenging events in the world, including major world marathons, Ironman, and the toughest ultra-distance events on the planet. Relay for Heroes is Team Extreme’s signature running event.”
As a lifelong athlete, fitness has always been part of Winston’s world, but in 2012, he fully committed himself to endurance sports by starting with a Tough Mudder and then progressing to half- and full Ironman events. Since then, Winston has completed the Kona Ironman (an event that will humble even the fittest Green Beret) and finished the grueling World Marathon Challenge — 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continent. Winston, who personally raised over 0,000 during the 2017 Relay for Heroes, has another special reason for running;
“The race was, first and foremost, for my children. I wanted them to know they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. Life is not easy, it requires sacrifice, but success is theirs if they work for it. Lead by example. Walk the walk, don’t just talk the talk.”
Intrepid Spirit Centers combine the latest technology in physical and mental health to combat TBI and PTS.
This year, Winston, Team Extreme, and the rest of the runners are definitely doing more than walking the walk. They are putting themselves through a 12-hour gauntlet for a very important mission: To help IFHF raise funds to build a series of specially designed treatment facilities, named Intrepid Spirit Centers, at military bases across the country.
If you’re on active duty, you may have seen these centers in places like Camp Lejeune, N.C. and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Each facility is state-of-the-art-campus designed to help active members overcome the effects of TBI and PTS with experts in neurology, physical therapy, and even nutrition all on site. These centers are literally on-base gyms for the brain.
Matthew Schumacher, a petty officer stationed aboard the USS Taylor from 1992 through 1996, is running in the Relay for Heroes because he remembers a time when TBI and PTS were left untreated for many of his fellow sailors. Matthew explained to We Are The Mighty why he’s running this year:
“I’ve seen personally the day-to-day effects [these ailments] have on fellow service members, both current and retired. To get others to realize, the small amount of pain I’ll go through in this relay is minimal compared to those suffering daily with TBI and PTS.”
With the new Intrepid Spirit Centers, the military has the tools needed to help the wounded recover from the invisible wounds of war and return to the battlefield, ready to fight. Since its inception in 2016, the Relay for Heroes has dedicated 100% of all funds raised in the race to build Intrepid Spirit Centers and this year is no different. Donations from this year’s’ race will go towards three additional centers that still need to be built, including centers at Fort Carson in Colorado, Fort Bliss in Texas, and Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
For runners like Winston Fisher, the payoff of 12 hours of pain is simple:
“Traumatic brain injury is a silent killer if untreated. Fallen Heroes Fund is the front line of medical treatment. Our troops do so much for us, the least I can do is help them heal.”
Northern Afghanistan is at risk of falling to the Islamic State. Their latest attack in Sar-e Pul Province killed 15 Taliban fighters at prayer, but it’s just the latest in a series of ongoing conflicts that have seen hundred killed on both sides. The ISIS stronghold in Nangarhar Province is pushing westward in an effort to undermine the al-Qaeda-affiliated Taliban there.
All the groups involved in the fighting, including those who support the Ghani government in Kabul, are having the same logistical and intelligence problems faced by anyone fighting in the mountainous country — fighters and civilians switch their allegiances as often as their clothes.
The two terrorist groups are vying for power in the country’s eastern and northern regions. The Taliban want to push the Islamic State out of the country before it can establish a clear footprint. In June 2018, the Taliban launched two sweeping offensives in Kunar and Laghman. ISIS, for its part, did not observe the recent three-day ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday observed by government and Taliban troops.
The black represents ISIS support as of December 2015.
(Institute for the Study of War)
It was during that holiday, the holiest of days for the world’s Muslim population, that ISIS killed 25 in a suicide car bomb attack in Nangarhar. According to The National, a newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates, ISIS sources say the recent Taliban advances were effective and that the Islamic State is experiencing “setbacks” in the rocky provinces of Kunar.
Fighters from Islamic State arrived in force in Afghanistan in 2015, just as ISIS fortunes in Iraq and Syria started to turn sour. The strength the group projected outside the country in recent years invited many defections from other terrorists groups and militias, especially from the Pakistani Taliban. The Afghan Taliban and ISIS have been butting heads ever since.
The Taliban dislikes the Islamic State’s brand of Islamic fundamentalism.
A lot. A whole lot.
ISIS hates that the Taliban draws its legitimacy through ethnic and nationalistic foundations, not Islamic jurisprudence like the kind declared by the Islamic State. To ISIS, Afghanistan is a province they call “Khorasan” and subject to the rule of their self-proclaimed caliphate. The Afghan Taliban’s alliances with Pakistan’s intelligence services and even Shia Muslims are just a few more reasons ISIS declares the Taliban to be non-Muslim nationalists.
There will be no possibility for peaceful resolution between the two.
Jariko Denman knows a bit about learning from and adapting to the heat of stressful situations. The Hollywood military technical advisor served as a US Army Ranger for more than 15 years and deployed to combat 15 times in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2002 to 2012. As a Weapons Squad Leader, Rifle Platoon Sergeant, and Ranger Company First Sergeant, Denman racked up 54 total months of combat experience as a part of a Joint Special Operations Task Force. He retired from active duty in 2017.
Denman said after he first enlisted in 1997, soldiers who had seen combat were revered, not just for what they’d been through, but for the lessons they’d learned through experience. At the time, there were relatively few service members who had been in a firefight.
“The Mogadishu vets, when I was a private, they could walk on fuckin’ water. When they talked, everybody listened,” Denman said during a conversation with Mat Best, co-owner of Black Rifle Coffee Company.
Denman, right, with a few of the actors he coached on the set of The Outpost. Photo courtesy of Jariko Denman/Instagram.
They discussed how some people in leadership positions who didn’t have the experience that some of their subordinates had tended to project a false veneer of professionalism that didn’t really mean much, and sometimes could be detrimental. The two veterans agreed that this behavior can also be seen in the business world and in people’s personal lives.
Best, also an Army Ranger veteran, said that some of the leaders in command during his time in uniform were guilty of this as well, and it resulted in a faulty concept of professionalism.
“[They would have specific orders] about, like, what boots you’re going to wear. And I’m like, man, we’re going out every single night and getting in TICs (troops in contact), let the dudes wear the boots that are most comfortable for them rather than tan jungle boots because you think that’s ‘professionalism,'” Best said. “Professionalism is getting all your friends home to their families.”
The corollary in the business world might be an intense focus by executives on the appearance of workers in the office, with numerous emails and meetings devoted to the matter, while the company’s goals are not being met.
“Professionalism is, at a leadership level, recognizing your operating environment and making your subordinates as effective as possible,” Denman added.
Best said that’s how he and his partners have thought of their company, and that trial and error have been their best teachers and allowed them to innovate where others may be locked in place by a rigid set of rules that may not always be applicable or appropriate.
Jariko Denman, Mat Best, and Jarred Taylor film an episode of the Free Range American podcast in Las Vegas.
“When we look at business and what we’re doing with Black Rifle Coffee — that’s the methodology we’ve used,” Best said. “It’s mission first, everything else is subordinate to that, rather than, like, reading a marketing book and going, ‘This is set in stone, we cannot operate outside this.’ Instead, it’s try, fail, try, fail, try, fail, and then you’ll succeed and see great things because you’re willing to take a risk. You’re willing to be innovative.
“If more people applied that to their organizations, their personal lives, they’d see massive successes in whatever they want to achieve. It’s a general statement, but it’s the truth,” Best continued. “You got to fuckin’ think outside the box, you got to innovative because the enemy is more innovative.”
“There’s nothing like hunting people to make you an adaptive person,” Denman said. “There’s no other instinct in the world that’s stronger than survival, so when you’re trying to, like, kill people, you learn how to think outside the box and how to really put your fucking thinking cap on and not do it how we’ve always done it, but do it how it works.”
A space capsule carrying a two-man Russian-American crew that malfunctioned after liftoff has landed safely in the steppes of central Kazakhstan, the Russian and U.S. space agencies say.
Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin and U.S. astronaut Nick Hague returned to Earth on Oct. 11, 2018, in their Soyuz capsule for an emergency landing following a problem with the booster rocket shortly after a launch bound for the International Space Station (ISS).
Both NASA, the U.S. space agency, and Roskosmos, the Russian equivalent, said the astronauts were in good condition after their capsule landed about 20 kilometers east of the Kazakh city of Zhezqazghan.
“The search and rescue teams have reached the Soyuz spacecraft landing site and report that the two crew members are in good condition and are out of the capsule,” NASA said.
“The cosmonauts are alive. They have landed. They have been found,” according to a source at the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.
The crew had to return in “ballistic descent mode,” NASA earlier had said, which it explained was “a sharper angle of landing compared to normal.”
Following their emergency landing, NASA published pictures of Hague and Ovchinin undergoing a medical checkup and relaxing on sofas in Zhezqazghan. The two were expected to be flown to Baikonur and then on to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center outside Moscow.
Roskosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin said he had ordered a state commission to be set up to investigate the causes of the malfunction, while Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced that manned space flights would be suspended until the probe is completed.
The Soyuz capsule automatically jettisoned from the booster when it failed 123 seconds after the launch from Baikonur, Borisov said, according to the Interfax news agency.
The minister added that the problem occurred when the first and second stages of the booster rocket were in the process of separating.
Footage from inside the spacecraft showed the crew being shaken around at the moment the failure occurred.
In a statement, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that a “thorough investigation into the cause of the incident will be conducted.”
Hague and Ovchinin were due to spend six months on the ISS, which is orbiting 400 kilometers above the Earth.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have plunged to the lowest level since the end of the Cold War over the wars in Ukraine and Syria, allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential, and other issues, but Russia and the United States have maintained cooperation in space.
The Russian-built Soyuz spacecraft is currently the only vehicle for ferrying crews to the ISS following the retirement of the U.S. space shuttle fleet in 2011.
The Oct. 11, 2018, booster failure led to what is said to be the first emergency landing for the Soyuz since 1975, when it failed to separate between stages during an ascent and triggered the abort system. The crew survived.
In 1983, a Soyuz exploded on the launchpad soon after the two cosmonauts it was carrying jettisoned. The crew also survived without injuries.
U.S. Air Force Col. Michael Hopkins is leading an international crew of astronauts on a six-month mission to the International Space Station following a successful launch on the first NASA-certified commercial human spacecraft system in history.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1 mission lifted off at 7:27 p.m. EST Sunday from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard their Crew Dragon spacecraft propelled by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocketNASA astronauts Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, along with Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), into orbit to begin a six-month science mission aboard the space station.
Selected as a NASA astronaut in 2009, Hopkins spent 166 days in space as a long-duration crew member of Expeditions 37 and 38 and completed two spacewalks totaling 12 hours and 58 minutes. Before joining NASA, Hopkins was a flight test engineer with the U.S. Air Force. As commander, Hopkins is responsible for all phases of flight, from launch to re-entry. He also will serve as an Expedition 64 flight engineer aboard the station.
Bookended by planning meetings with ground controllers, a day aboard ISS is packed with work from start to finish, said Hopkins during a 2017 interview with Airman magazine.
“It is usually going to involve three things; some type of maintenance, whether it’s a preplanned or something broke and you have to fix it; science, which is the primary reason for the space station, and exercise. We usually have at least two hours of exercise on our schedule every day. That’s really the next 12 hours.”
The Crew 1 mission is the first of six crewed missions NASA and SpaceX will fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
“I think that the development of these commercial vehicles isn’t involving just NASA. There’s a there’s a lot of good synergy that happens in programs like this. The Air Force is a part of and benefits from that effort”, Hopkins said.
“It’s not just the development of the new cap capsules per se, but it’s also the rockets that go along with that. Those same rockets can potentially be utilized by the Air Force for putting their payloads or platforms up in space. I think that’s one of the things that makes it very exciting, particularly for myself and some of the other Air Force astronauts. You’re not only supporting NASA but you’re also supporting your parent organization; in our case, the Air Force.”
The Crew 1 mission has several firsts, including: the first flight of the NASA-certified commercial system designed for crew transportation, which moves the system from development into regular flights; the first international crew of four to launch on an American commercial spacecraft; the first time the space station’s long duration expedition crew size will increase from six to seven crew members, which will add to the crew time available for research; and the first time the Federal Aviation Administration has licensed a human orbital spaceflight launch.
Hopkins, Glover, Walker, and Noguchi will join the Expedition 64 crew of Commander Sergey Ryzhikov and Flight Engineer Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, both of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, and Flight Engineer Kate Rubins of NASA.
The crew will conduct science and maintenance during a six-month stay aboard the orbiting laboratory and will return in spring 2021. It is scheduled to be the longest human space mission launched from the United States. The Crew Dragon spacecraft is capable of staying in orbit for at least 210 days, as a NASA requirement.
Crew Dragon also is delivering more than 500 pounds of cargo, new science hardware and experiments inside, including Food Physiology, a study of the effects of an optimized diet on crew health and, Genes in Space-7, a student-designed experiment that aims to better understand how spaceflight affects brain function, enabling scientists to keep astronauts healthy as they prepare for long-duration missions in low-Earth orbit and beyond.
Among the science and research investigations the crew will support during its six-month mission are a study using chips with tissue that mimics the structure and function of human organs to understand the role of microgravity on human health and diseases and translate those findings to improve human health on Earth, growing radishes in different types of light and soils as part of ongoing efforts to produce food in space, and testing a new system to remove heat from NASA’s next generation spacesuit, the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU).
During their stay on the orbiting laboratory, Crew-1 astronauts expect to see a range of un-crewed spacecraft including the next generation of SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft, the Northrop Grumman Cygnus, and the Boeing CST-100 Starliner on its un-crewed flight test to the station. They also will conduct a variety of spacewalks and welcome crews of the Russian Soyuz vehicle and the next SpaceX Crew Dragon in 2021.
What little free time astronauts have aboard ISS is spent checking email, talking with family, or taking a view that only a relative handful of humans have seen in person.
“You’re 250 miles above the earth, and you’re getting to see it in a way that very few of us get to see – live and in person”, Hopkins said. “Your see the images and those are very representative, it looks very real, but when you see it with your own eyes, it’s stunning.
“Sometimes with your free time you just go hang out by the window. Even at nighttime. When it’s dark out, you wouldn’t think there’s that much to see, but then you’d be going over Africa, and there’d be this huge storm front over the continent, and you get to see these lightning storms from above. You see this flash of light going here and there and just dancing across the whole continent. Amazing. It never gets old.”
See and read more about U.S. Air Force astronauts HERE.
The exercises, which were held in Belarus and western Russia for six days, tested Russia’s defensive capabilities against the fictional country of Veishnoriya which had supposedly been infiltrated by western-backed militias.
The games were not, as many eastern European leaders and even some US generals feared, used to occupy Belarus, invade Ukraine or for some other deceitful act.
In fact, Russian tank and airborne units are currently leaving Belarus and heading home.
The games also did not, as many in the west said, appear to involve 100,000 or more Russian troops.
Moscow claimed that only 12,700 troops participated — just under the 13,000 figure that requires foreign observation according to the Vienna Document — and that “official count … in Belarus and parts of nearby Russia was … probably fairly accurate,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at CNA, told Business Insider.
“The trick is that they have a lot of other official exercises that seem to be taking place nearby,” Gorenburg said.
Russia’s Northern Fleet Moscow conducted exercises in the Barents Sea, and its Strategic Rocket Forces test launched two new RS-24 YARS ICBMs. Additional exercises were also held, including some with China and Egypt in other parts of Russia.
“Most of these exercises are not part of Zapad 2017, but as always, it’s a bit hard to tell,” Michael Kofman, a senior research scientist at CNA, recently wrote.
Gorenburg said it’s still too difficult to discern how many troops participated, but guessed that roughly 60,000-70,000 took part. Some analysts have estimated a similar range.
These overblown western estimations of 100,000 or more troops, along with fear of occupations and invasions, Gorenburg said, were a political win for Russia, which “is trying to show its military is back and strong.”
The Kremlin can also now “credibly claim that the West overreacted and fell victim to scaremongering and reporting rumours that Moscow was not being transparent about the nature of the exercise and its intentions,” Mathieu Boulègue, a research fellow at the Chatham House, wrote.
“Short of entrapment, proving the West wrong is increasingly part of the Kremlin’s political strategy which, in turn, strengthens Russia’s sense of superiority,” Boulègue wrote.
Some have even argued that Russia made western media look like fake news, and that these western exagerations were done out of ignorance or to fit their own political agenda.
Despite not appearing to have gone over or been close to the 100,000 or more figure, Russia nevertheless seems, according to Gorenburg and many otheranalysts, to have had more than 13,000 troops participating in the overall Zapad exercises, which is in violation of the Vienna Document.
While Belarus was rather transparent, and invited foreigners to observe the games, it makes sense that Moscow would want to limit such foreign observation as much as possible. After all, Zapad means “west” in Russian, and the games were essentially a simulation of how well Russian military branches could coordinate a defensive against NATO.
The first three days of the exercises were purely defensive, initially defending against a large aerial attack, which Russian military leaders have determined is the US and NATO’s traditional opening move during invasions, according to the Jamestown Foundation.
The last three days of the exercises were all about “counterattack,” Gorenburg said. For a thorough breakdown of all Russia’s military maneuvers during the exercises, check out Kofman’s blog summarizing all seven days of Zapad-2017.
Ultimately, Russia was able to repel the simulated western invasion, and while “it will take a more detailed analysis” to see how well Russia faired, Moscow initially seems to think “it went fairly well,” Gorenburg said.
Gochujang is going to be the runaway flavor of 2018, mark my words. For those of you who spent some time in South Korea, you might be familiar with the sweet, spicy Korean pepper sauce. If you haven’t tasted it yet, be prepared to completely forget about Srira… sri… whatever it’s called. And, of course, a Ranger-owned business is leading the way.
If you’re interested in trying it out, you need to get KPOP sauce.
KPOP was founded by Mike Kim and Theo Lee. Kim was an Army Ranger and infantry platoon officer who served with distinction in Afghanistan. He and Lee co-founded KPOP Foods and developed the sweet and spicy sauce from Lee’s grandmother’s original recipe.
The two began a Kickstarter project to raise the capital needed to get their business off the ground.
We field-tested the sauce at the WATM offices and, after going through five bottles in a week, we decided that we’d follow the Ranger officer to any culinary place he wanted to take us. You can check out the KPOP Foods site for some epic recipes, but we decided to create one of our own.
August Dannehl, WATM’s resident Navy veteran, chef, and host of KCET’s new show Meals Ready to Eat, created a special recipe using the KPOP sauce — one that he says blends the flavors of the NC forests with the fields of South Korea.
This is a crowd pleaser, so bring a couple of friends.
Camp Lejeune NC BBQ Sandwich w/ KPOP and Kimchi Slaw
1 (8lb) pork shoulder roast
1 qt apple cider
2 tbsp kosher salt
2 tbsp paprika
2 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
1 lg onion chopped
2 cups KPOP
5 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp mustard powder
2 cup Kimchi(hot)
5 cup Napa Cabbage, shredded
1 carrot, shredded
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 cup Japanese mayo
Salt and pepper to taste
Soft rolls w/ sesame seeds
3 cups hickory chips, water-soaked
• Prepare the pork by rubbing 1/2 of all of the dry ingredients on the pork and then place the shoulder in a large pot. Pour the apple cider into the pot until it covers the pork. Place the pot in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight.
• To prepare the slaw, add all of the shredded vegetables to a bowl. Chop the Kimchi and add to the bowl with the vinegar and mayo. Mix liberally and add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in the fridge for 12 hours or overnight.
• To prepare the sauce, add all of the ingredients into a small sauce pot and simmer at very low heat for 45 mins. Add water if reduction becomes to thick. Keep warm for service.
• After the pork has brined in the apple cider for at least 12 hours, remove cider brine and reserve. Prepare your smoker to 210 degrees Fahrenheit, pour in reserved brine, and place onion into water pan of the smoker. Spread remaining rub over shoulder and add to the center of the smoker.
• Smoke pork until fork tender; about 8-10 hours. Baste the shoulder with KPOP BBQ sauce about every 20mins to build a crust. Once falling apart, remove to a large receptacle and let sit for 15-20mins. Once juices have redistributed, pull pork apart using two forks and add more KPOP sauce. Place in warm oven or back in smoker to keep warm.
• To serve, remove slaw and allow to warm to room temp; about 15 minutes. To assemble sandwich, place pulled pork on bun, top with more KPOP BBQ sauce and Kimchi Slaw.
A group of tank restorers was working on a World War II Hellcat when they realized that the man who worked that exact Hellcat from Omaha Beach to V-E Day, Don Verle Breinholt, happened to live just a few miles down the road from them.
The restorers rushed to finish their restoration in time for Breinholt and his tank to reunite at a veteran appreciation event.
The M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer was one of the fastest and most agile armored vehicles of World War II. It was custom designed to cripple Germany’s Panzer Corps, quickly moving to the heart of the action and firing its 76mm main gun into Nazi armor. It would also dart ahead of an enemy thrust and then lie in wait to launch an ambush.
The Hellcat was so fast that America’s modern and feared Abrams Main Battle Tank, widely praised for its speed, is actually slower than the Hellcat. The Abrams can book it across the battlefield at 45 mph. The Hellcat can swing past it at 53 mph.
And the ammo on the Hellcat was vicious. While the gun itself was similar to the one on most American medium tanks, Hellcats carried high-velocity, armor-piercing rounds designed to jet molten metal right through German armor.
While Hellcats were lethal, they were also vulnerable. The Hellcats carried minimal armor and could be killed with everything from tank rounds to panzerfausts to heavy machine guns.
That’s what makes it so amazing that Breinholt made it from Omaha as a gunner to where he met up with the Russians as a vehicle commander without suffering his own life-threatening injury or losing his Hellcat.
You can watch the restoration and learn a lot more about the M18 Hellcat and the modern M1 Abrams in the video below. Breinholt speaks throughout the video, but you can see him meet his old vehicle for the first time since May 1945 at the 46-minute mark:
Post-Traumatic stress disorder carries him into the depths of fear and pain; reliving images of death and destruction. Closing his eyes to night terrors at sundown and fighting through daily anxiety attacks eventually pushed him to the brink of suicide so he could put an end to the never-ending cycle.
It wasn’t until his second suicide attempt that Air Force veteran and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center support agreement manager Ryan Kaono took steps to face his invisible scars and reach out for help.
It was 2010 and he hadn’t slept in more than four days, knowing he’d get flashbacks of what he’d experienced during deployments to Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
“They were terrible,” Kaono said. “I would wake up screaming and my wife would be scared. Out of desperation, I decided I was going to end it.”
Kaono’s wife, Alessa, said it was very difficult for her to watch her husband suffer with no real diagnosis.
“You feel helpless,” she said. “I described it as having an animal or child unable to speak yet you know they’re feeling something. You see a look in their eyes that they’re suffering but you don’t know what you can do to help them.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
Exhausted and going through myriad feelings, Kaono swallowed numerous prescription drugs in the hopes of not waking up. Something inside him, however, made him reach out to his commander for help, letting her know what he’d done.
He was admitted to the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs hospital for a few days of observation and diagnosed with PTSD. This began his journey of living with the disorder instead of being a slave to it.
His diagnosis came with some relief but angst as well.
“I was scared yet relieved at the same time,” Alessa said. It was a roller coaster of emotions. I was happy he was finally diagnosed but both he and I knew it would be a long and difficult journey at times.”
Even today, two deployments replay in the mind of the former security forces military working dog handler and logistician.
Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia
In June 1996, Kaono was working a gate at Khobar Towers, Saudi Arabia, when a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device detonated on the other side of the compound, killing 19 and wounding countless others.
“When the actual blast went off, it was chaos everywhere,” Kaono said. “I had to stop and put that part behind me. I needed to focus and ensure that the folks who had been injured or disoriented … were taken care of.”
For years, he continued pushing the many visions of pain and suffering he’d seen there to the back of his mind where they festered.
In total, the Hawaii-native had 11 deployments as a security forces defender by the time he found himself at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, struggling with anger issues.
“I would quickly get frustrated; I would have bouts of just frustration and real anger,” he said.
While on a smoke break outside of central security control one day, Kaono lost consciousness and fell to the ground. Controllers inside the building were able to see what happened and his officer-in-charge ran to his aid.
When he regained consciousness, his captain was leaning over his chest, trying to wake him.
He was quickly taken to the hospital where he suffered with partial paralysis in his legs for about 10 hours and the inability to use his body from the base of his neck to his fingertips for three days.
His medical team diagnosed him with syncope; the uncontrollable loss of consciousness with no real explanation.
“From that, they determined I couldn’t deploy, I couldn’t carry a weapon so I couldn’t really be a security forces member anymore,” Kaono explained. “I was force retrained for medical reasons into logistics.”
Balad Air Base, Iraq
Fast forward to 2005 when Kaono served as first sergeant and deployment manager for the 93rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron in Balad, Iraq.
As a dual-hatted logistics planner and first sergeant in the Reserve, he was responsible for making sure unit members arrived safely at their deployed location, were able to get their jobs done and would return home to Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida, when their deployment was over.
While in a meeting with senior leaders, the base began taking mortar fire that impacted closer and closer to Kaono’s trailer and two fully-loaded F-16s nearby.
“They were trying to walk (mortars) up our runway to our loaded aircraft,” Kaono said, with the expectation that they’d be able to hit the aircraft causing secondary explosions with more damage.
While everyone in the room was running for cover, Kaono gathered up classified materials to stow in a safe.
“It wasn’t my first mortar attack so I really didn’t think anything of it,” he said.
With the sensitive documents in the safe, Kaono turned to leave to seek shelter when a mortar pierced the aluminum trailer and exploded, sending him 15-20 feet in the air before slamming his head and right shoulder into a concrete Jersey barrier.
“It felt essentially like The Matrix … I’m floating through the air and everything is going in slow motion. I see shrapnel and dust and everything just going around me,” he said.
Once he hit his head, he was snapped back to reality and felt the severe pain of what would later be diagnosed as a traumatic brain injury.
“I went to the hospital there at Balad and they checked me out and told me I had a concussion but that was about it; nothing really life threatening so I didn’t get sent home,” he said.
When he eventually rotated back to Homestead, he went through a standard post-deployment physical health assessment where he initially struggled with discussing what he’d endured. When he was able to talk about it, the doctor said he entered what was considered a fugue state — a complete loss of what was going on around him.
“I essentially was staring off into nothingness for a period of time suffering a flashback,” he said.
“From there, they said I had a possibility of PTSD and they sent me on my way.”
Five years later, after his extreme cries for help, his PTSD diagnosis came.
PTSD, the daily struggle
“PTSD and living with it is a daily struggle,” Kaono said. “We’re always cognizant of it. Those who are around us may see us and see absolutely nothing’s wrong. We don’t typically have external signs of our disability but emotionally and mentally, we still have to deal with it.”
In the years between 1996 and today, Kaono said there were times when he would just shut himself away because he didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. There were also times when he could go to work and feel that people would think there was nothing wrong with him because he looked fine.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Armando Perez)
“That just reinforced the issue that I had,” he said. “To me, one of the main issues of dealing with PTSD is that people don’t (realize) … they don’t see you missing a limb, they don’t see you scarred, they don’t see you burned and so to the outside world you look like you’re no different — you’re not special, you have no issue, no disability to really claim.”
In order to live his life, Kaono has to acknowledge his PTSD and what caused it every single day.
“If I continued down the path that I was on previously, where I just let it consume me, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, 10 percent of Gulf War veterans, 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans and 11 percent of veterans from the war in Afghanistan live with PTSD.
To be able to help them, Kaono recommends people educate themselves on the disorder.
“Find out what post-traumatic stress is, see what it does, look at the studies that show why there are 22 people per day committing suicide because they can’t handle the stress anymore. Don’t just pass us off as being fine … that’s the worst thing that people can do.”
On top of everything else, dealing with the stigma of having PTSD is a struggle for the Kaono family.
“When people hear the word PTSD they think of the negative news articles out there. Ryan may have PTSD, but it doesn’t make him any less of a human being,” Alessa said.
“We’re not asking people to walk on eggshells around us,” Kaono said. “Treat us as if you would treat anybody else … we are still people. We still hold jobs. We still have families.We still have responsibilities and if you don’t give us the opportunity to meet those responsibilities, you’re not helping us.”
Jürgen Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, told reporters on Nov. 8, 2018, that “there was no reason for me to (suspect) that anything was forced or wrong” about the resignation.
Interpol secretary-general Jürgen Stock.
Details of China’s allegations against Meng remain unclear. His detention appears to be part of a wider “anti-corruption drive” led by President Xi Jinping since his ascendancy to the Chinese leadership.
Activists at Human Rights Watch believe Meng is kept under a form of secret detention called liuzhi (留置), where the person is held incommunicado without access to lawyers or relatives for up to six months.
Sophie Richardson, the organization’s China director, told Business Insider that “we assume but cannot confirm” that.
The wife’s fight
Meng’s wife, Grace, repeatedly denied China’s corruption charges and claimed that her husband’s disappearance was “political persecution.”
She told the BBC in October 2018: “I’m not sure he’s alive. They are cruel. They are dirty,” she added, referring to China’s tactics to silence people.
Reuters reported early November 2018 that Meng had retained two law firms in London and Paris to track down her husband. Business Insider contacted the two firms for comment on Meng’s next steps.
The last text Grace Meng received from her husband on Sept. 25, 2018, says in Chinese: “Wait for my call,” followed by a knife emoji — a possible warning that he was in danger.
Interpol says it can’t investigate, but is “strongly encouraging” China to speak out
The international police organization, where Meng was elected president in 2016, has not provided much clarity either.
It has not released a public statement since Oct. 7, 2018, when it acknowledged Meng’s resignation and has not responded to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Stock, Interpol’s secretary-general, said on Nov. 8, 2018, that the organization’s rules forbade him from investigating Meng’s disappearance.
“We are not an investigative body,” he said, according to the Associated Press. He added that “we are strongly encouraging China” to provide details of Meng’s whereabouts.
Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Richardson of Human Rights Watch told Business Insider: “If President Xi was even remotely serious about the rule of law, Meng would be guaranteed fair trial rights, but that is highly unlikely to happen given the profound politicization of China’s legal system.”
Rights groups protested Meng’s election to the Interpol presidency at the time, citing his previous work at China’s ministry of public security in Xinjiang and Tibet. The two regions are home to the country’s Uighur and Tibetan ethnic minorities, who Beijing has attempted to muzzle.
During Meng’s tenure, China submitted multiple “red notices” — Interpol arrest warrants — for dissidents around the world.
Roderic Wye, an associate fellow at Chatham House and former first secretary in the British Embassy in Beijing, told Business Insider in October 2018 that public disappearances were not unusual in China, especially in politics.
“It is often a sign that someone has got into trouble if they fail to appear in public doing their normal duties for a period of time,” he said.