A U.S. Army tanker who lost his arm to an IED attack in Iraq was able to manipulate a prosthetic arm for the first time since his 2007 injury.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Maryland worked with Army Spc. Jerral Hancock to develop the Modular Prosthetic Limb, a robotic arm being built by JHU’s Applied Physics Lab. The goal of the program is to create a robotic prosthetic with all the capabilities of the human arm.
Hancock has struggled in the years since his injury to live a fully-functioning life after the attack left him paralyzed from the mid-chest down. His right arm has limited mobility, making it difficult to do even one-handed tasks.
Army Spc. Jerral Hancock and a researcher from John Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Lab discusses the calibration procedures for the Modular Prosthetic Limb. (Photo: YouTube/Freethink)
The MPL features hundreds of sensors that help it accurately gauge the angles, speed, and power the arm is using. Other sensors strapped to Hancock’s body read the signals being passed through his skin to his missing limb. The device’s software then tries to replicate the movements that Hancock is imagining, syncing his commands to the robotic arm.
In one heart-breaking moment, Hancock tells the researchers that he doesn’t imagine a left hand with full mobility, but one that has the same physical limitations of his injured right hand.
In the video, Hancock teaches the software his signals for opening and closing his hand and bending his elbow. Once the software is calibrated, he can then use the arm to grab a drink from the fridge and to fire a foam dart with his daughter.
See Hancock with the arm and his family in the full video below:
Hancock won’t get to use the arm just yet, but his work with researchers to refine the technology will hopefully allow people who need prosthetics to get a more functional option in the next few years. JHU currently has six MPLs that are being used for research purposes and four more in development, according to the project’s website.
Georgia’s Fort McPherson, the historic Army base that operated in suburban Atlanta from 1885–2011, has been sold to filmmaker Tyler Perry, who plans to redevelop the facility as movie studio.
Perry will control 330 of the facility’s 448 acres and has plans to build up to 16 soundstages. His $30 million purchase includes the post’s former golf course, key office buildings and the fort’s historic parade grounds and officers’ quarters.
A civilian agency has been tasked with redeveloping 144 acres of land not included in Perry’s purchase. Those plans could include rehabbing the fort’s historic village in the northeast quadrant of the post and turning it into neighborhood retail and restaurants.
Tyler Perry has become a major player in Georgia’s growing film industry and the new studio will house his company’s 350 employees.
Before its establishment as an Army base in 1885, the land was used as a Confederate base during the Civil War and later as a post for Federal troops occupying Atlanta during Reconstruction.
A host of changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice became effective Jan. 1, modernizing definitions for many offenses, adjusting maximum penalties, standardizing court-martial panels, creating new computer-crime laws, and much more.
The changes strike a balance between protecting the rights of the accused and empowering commanders to effect good order and discipline, said Col. Sara Root, chief of the Army’s Military Justice Legislation Training Team.
“We’re pretty excited,” Root said. “It’s a healthy growth of our military justice system.”
Root and three members of her team spent the last year traveling to 48 installations to train 6,000 legal personnel and law-enforcement agents about the changes. Her two-day classes included everyone from judges to law clerks, and privates to generals, she said, and even 600 from other military services.
Many of the changes came about after a review by the Military Justice Review Group, consisting of military and criminal justice experts whose report made recommendations to Congress.
“We’ve had a lot of changes to our system [over the years], but piecemeal.” Root said. She explained that the Review Group convened to take a thorough and holistic look at the system to standardize military law and update the Manual for Courts Martial.
Many of the MJRG’s changes were incorporated into the Military Justice Act of 2016, the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, and then Executive Order 13825 signed by the president March 8. Additionally, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper signed a directive Dec. 20 that clarifies definitions for dozens of offenses taking effect this week.
“We’ve really needed that much time,” Root said, from 2017 to now, in order to train all members of the Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Those attending her classes then needed time to train commanders and others on the installations, she added.
One of the changes replaces the offense of adultery with “extra-marital sexual conduct.” The new offense broadens the definition of sexual intercourse, which now includes same-sex affairs. The amendments also now provide legal separation as a defense.
In the past, service members could be charged with adultery even if they had been legally separated for years but were not divorced. Now legal separation from a court of competent jurisdiction can be used as an affirmative defense, Root said.
Also in the past, prosecutors had to prove traditional intercourse to obtain a conviction for adultery, Root said. Now oral sex and other types of sexual intercourse are included.
Recruits with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion, prepare and practice for their initial drill evaluation on Peatross Parade Deck Sept. 14, 2018 on Parris Island, S.C.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Dana Beesley)
Protecting Junior Soldiers
UCMJ Article 93a provides stiffer penalties for recruiters, drill sergeants and others in “positions of special trust” convicted of abusing their authority over recruits or trainees.
The maximum sentence was increased from two years to five years of confinement for those in authority engaging in prohibited sexual activities with junior Soldiers. And it doesn’t matter if the sex is consensual or not, Root said, it’s still a crime.
Article 132 also protects victims and those reporting crimes from retaliation. An adverse personnel action — such as a bad NCO Evaluation Report, if determined to be solely for reprisal — can get the person in authority up to three years confinement without pay and a dishonorable discharge.
Article 123 provides stiff penalties for Soldiers who wrongfully access unauthorized information on government computers. Distributing classified information can earn a maximum sentence of 10 years confinement, but even wrongfully accessing it can get up to five years in jail. Unauthorized access of personally identifiable information, or PII, is also a crime. Intentionally damaging government computers or installing a virus can also bring five years in the clinker.
Article 121a updates offenses involving the fraudulent use of credit cards, debit cards or other access devices to acquire anything of value. The penalty for such crimes has been increased to a max of 15 years confinement if the theft is over id=”listicle-2632036233″,000.
If the theft is under id=”listicle-2632036233″,000 the maximum penalty was increased from five to 10 years confinement, and this crime also includes exceeding one’s authorization to use the access device, for example, misusing a Government Travel Card.
Cyberstalking is also now included as a stalking offense under Article 130 of the UCMJ.
Support for military sexual assault victims and the number of reported offenses have increased in recent years, resulting in more investigations and courts-martial involving sexual assault charges.
(U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse)
A “bench trial” by a judge alone can now determine guilt or innocence for many offenses. Almost any charge can be referred to such a forum, except for rape and sexual assault, which requires referral to a general court-martial. However, if the offense has a sentence of more than two years, the accused has a right to object to such charges being referred to a bench trial and could request a special or general court-martial.
If found guilty at a bench trial, Root said a Soldier cannot be given a punitive discharge and the max sentence would be limited to no more than six months forfeiture of pay and no more than six months confinement. The judge can still adjudge a reduction in rank.
“It’s a great tool that we’re really excited to see how commanders use it out in the formations,” Root said.
More than half of the cases in the Army actually are settled by plea agreements in lieu of a contested trial, Root said. Commanders have always had the authority to limit the max sentence with a plea agreement, but she said now they can agree to a minimum sentence as well. This might result in a range for the judge to sentence within, for example, no less than one year confinement, but no more than five years confinement.
If a case goes to a non-capital general court-martial, the panel has now been standardized to eight members. In the past the size of the panel could vary from five to an unlimited number, but often around 10-12 members. Now each general court-martial must begin with eight panel members, she said, but could continue if one panel member must leave due to an emergency during trial.
Special courts-martial will now be set at four panel members. A court-martial convening authority can also authorize alternate members to be on a special or a general court-martial, she said.
Capital offenses such as murder require a 12-member panel.
For a non-capital court-martial, three-fourths of the panel members must agree with the prosecution to convict the accused, she said. For instance, if only five members of an eight-member panel vote guilty, then the accused is acquitted. A conviction for a capital offense still requires a unanimous verdict.
Congress expanded judges’ authorities to issue investigative subpoenas earlier in the process, for example, to obtain a surveillance video from a store. One of the most significant changes is that now military judges can issue warrants and orders to service providers to obtain electronic communications such as email correspondence.
In the past, trial counsel had to wait until preferring charges to issue investigative subpoenas. Now, with the approval of the general court-martial convening authority, trial counsel can issue subpoenas earlier to help determine whether charges are necessary. For electronic communications, the government previously had to rely on federal counterparts to assist with obtaining electronic communications.
“Being able to have these tools available earlier in the process is going to be helpful for overall justice,” Root said.
The changes also call for more robust Article 32 hearings to help the commander determine if an accused should go to trial, she said. For instance, a preliminary hearing officer must now issue a more detailed report immediately after an Article 32 hearing’s conclusion. In addition, both the accused and the victim now have the right to submit anything they deem relevant to the preliminary hearing officer within 24 hours after the hearing specifically for the court-martial convening authority to consider.
Aimed at speeding up the post-trial process, immediately following a court-martial, audio can now be provided to the accused, the victim, and the convening authority in lieu of a verbatim transcript which will be typed and provided later, but prior to appeal.
A number of other procedural changes are aimed at making the military justice system even more efficient, Root said.
More changes to punitive offenses also take effect this week. For instance, the definition of burglary has changed to include breaking and entering any building or structure of another, anytime, with the intent to commit any offense under the UCMJ. In the past, burglary was limited to breaking and entering the dwelling house of another in the nighttime.
The penalty for wearing unauthorized medals of valor has increased from 6 months to a max of one-year confinement along with forfeiture of pay and a bad-conduct discharge. This includes wearing an unauthorized Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Purple Heart, or valor device. The maximum penalty for wearing any other unauthorized medal is still only six months.
Regarding misconduct that occurred prior to Jan. 1, the changes to the punitive articles are not retroactive, Root said. However, some of the procedural changes will apply to cases that were not referred to trial before Jan. 1.
All members of the JAG Corps are trained in the changes and ready to go, Root said.
“We’re pretty proud that our commanders are really at the center of this,” she said, “and it just gives them some more tools for good order and discipline.”
Imagine attempting to make your way across the United States with the entirety of America and the Internet on the lookout for you. Now imagine there are a million dollars at stake: a half-million for the Chase Teams after you and almost a half-million for you if you can evade capture. These are the stakes for “The Runner,” an original series available on go90 and AOL.com and perhaps the most innovate audience-participation reality competition ever devised.
“This new show is the most participatory, the most fun, and most exciting to watch,” says Vice News’ Kaj Larsen, a former Navy SEAL and one of the hosts of “The Runner.” “I think the really amazing part is that the audience has buy-in, all puns intended, in a fundamentally different way.”
The rules of the game seem complex, but in practice, they’re really very simple. One chosen Runner will attempt to cross the U.S. in thirty days, trying to go unnoticed through predetermined checkpoints by any means necessary. Meanwhile, five two-person teams of “chasers” will receive clues on mobile devices in an effort to track the Runner before the next checkpoint can be reached.
Kaj Larsen is just one of the hosts. He checks in on the progress of the Runner and the Chase Teams’ locations. His co-host, Mat “MatPat” Patrick, a YouTube star and self-proclaimed “Information Addict,” will ensure everyone understands how “The Runner” is played and what is currently happening in the game.
“I’m really the boots on the ground guy,” says Larsen. “My role is to help the audience understand exactly what’s happening with the game of cat and mouse going on between the chasers and the runner. I’ll be watching the Chase Teams working towards their challenges. I’m the tactical, kinetic element.”
“The Runner” uses a proprietary technology that allows the Chase Teams to geotag The Runner within five feet. This is how they “capture” the Runner. Their reward starts at $15,000 and goes up every second of every day of game play, up to a half million dollars. The more the Runner evades the Chase Teams, the more money he gets. The chase teams are given a new challenge every day, a challenge both cerebral and physical which will give them clue to the Runner’s movements.
“We cast a really wide net in trying to find people who had interesting, diverse skill sets that could be applicable to hunting the Runner,” says Larsen. “For example, two guys known as Brother Nature, they’re a group of surfer kids from Hawaii with a large social following.”
That social media following actually matters in this game because their built-in audience will help them crowdsource the answers to these clues. “The Runner” is a more than a game for just the Runner and the Chase Teams. It’s a live game for everyone on the internet. Viewers on social networks will have the opportunity to help interpret the clues for the Chase Teams and get their own cash prize. $15,000 is awarded to viewers every day with a $20,000 bonus to the most socially active viewer.
“The stakes are really high,” Larsen says. “But it’s a really fun game and Verizon is the perfect platform, given how exciting it is to play on mobile. The more people who play, the more exciting it is and the more money can be won.”
The show is the result of a decade and a half of collaboration and development between Executive Producers Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. It really is groundbreaking – From the core concept to the technology used to track the competitors to the inclusion of the nationwide audience, what we can expect is something truly unique.
“The truth is when Matt and Ben conceived it, the idea was so innovative that the technology didn’t really exist to make it work,” says Larsen. “That’s changed over the last decade. The ability to crowd-source, to use social media to unlock the clues, and to play the gamification side of the game, that’s all here and ready for prime time.”
The Runner launches July 1st, 2016 on go90 and AOL.com. Don’t expect to just be voting every week for an idol or waiting for the show to return from a commercial break to find the outcomes of a segment. “The Runner” features real-time video and three episodes daily, including a recap of the previous day, live updates, current standings, and performance analyses.
“It’s exciting and different,” Larsen says. “We’re getting into new, super-competitive territory. I love competition in any form, but for me, it’s an easy day. I can’t wait to watch these teams compete.”
Any time anything can be made into a competition, it’ll almost certainly be taken to the next level. In a reload faceoff, you might be competing for your life.
The only reason we do more pushups after we max out is to raise that middle finger to the dude who said he could do more. We cheer our boys on during weapon qualifications to let that other squad know we’re better.
Sh-t gets real when it’s time for Marine Corps Martial Arts Program bouts or Modern Army Combatives Program tussles — we’ve all seen it at one time or another.
That’s why when an Marine infantryman and a machine gunner get into a speed reload competition, the whole unit got involved.
It’s a best out of three competition to see who can drop their magazine, slap a new one in, slam that bolt forward, and take a good firing position.
Blink and you’ll miss it but the first two speed reloads are a tie.
Check out the video down below to see who wins this reload match: The infantryman or the machine gunner.
[WARNING: There’s some salty Marine language sprinkled throughout, so this video is stamped NSFW]
Control of the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum is a major asset in military operations.
The Marines have demonstrated their painful “heat ray,” a weapon that blasts intruders with a wave beam that targets the skin and makes victims feel like they’ve stepped in front of a blazing oven — all without killing them.
It doesn’t cause irreversible damage, but will make someone instinctively back off.
Modern weapons systems employ radio, radar, infrared, optical, ultraviolet, electro-optical, and laser technologies.
“The Russians and the Chinese have designed specific electronic warfare platforms to go after all our high-value assets,” said Lieutenant General Herbert Carlisle, the Air Force’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, as reported by Aviation Week.
The US military is developing cyber-capabilities to gain a tactical edge.
Electronic warfare consists of three subdivisions: electronic attack, electronic protection, and electronic warfare support.
According to US military doctrine for electronic warfare planning, electronic attack (EA) involves “the use of electromagnetic energy, directed energy or anti-radiation weapons to attack personnel, facilities, or equipment with the intent of degrading, neutralizing, or destroying enemy combat capability.”
Basically, the aim is to wipe out the enemy without getting too dirty.
The Marine Corps “Heat Ray” raises the temperature on the target’s skin by 130 degrees
But it won’t kill you.
The Active Denial System (ADS) creates an intense heated sensation lasting 1-2 seconds. It’s caused by a radio frequency wave, not radiation or microwave.
“You’re not going to see it, you’re not going to hear it, you’re not going to smell it. You’re going to feel it,” said director of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, Marine Col. Tracy Tafolla, according to Stars and Stripes.
The 95 GHz millimeter wave has a range of up to 1000 meters. The directed-energy beam only penetrates 1/64th of an inch into the skin.
As a nonlethal weapon, it can be used for crowd control or determining hostile intent before engaging with lethal weapons. That way, ADS can buy life-saving time without inflicting lethal injury on its targets.
This hand-held laser system can temporary blind you
As another directed-energy weapon, the Phasr employs a two-wavelength laser system that temporarily blocks an aggressor’s ability to see.
It’s like opening your eyes in the middle of the night to someone shoving a blinding flashlight in your face. The Air Force casually calls this effect “dazzling” or “illuminating.” Whatever you call it, this hand-held device effectively impairs anyone targeted.
The “Death Ray” can detect and destroy missiles with a deadly laser beam
The US has run several test flight experiments on the Airborne Laser Test Bed (ALTB). So far, they’ve worked out this killer firing sequence:
1. The ALTB uses one of its six infrared sensors to detect the exhaust plume of a boosting missile.
2. A kilowatt-class solid state laser, the Track Illuminator, tracks the missile and determines a precise aim point.
3. The Beacon Illuminator, a second laser, then measures disturbances in the atmosphere, which are corrected by the adaptive optics system to accurately point and focus the High Energy Laser (HEL) at its target.
4. Using a large telescope located in the nose turret, the beam control/fire control system focuses the HEL beam onto a pressurized area of the missile, holding it there until laser energy compromises the missile’s structural integrity causing it to fail.
Radar jamming takes out the enemy’s ability to communicate
Radar jamming can disable the enemy’s command and control system ahead of an offensive attack. NGJ will be used on the Boeing EA-18G, the aircraft for airborne electronic attack operations.
Another example of electromagnetic jamming is Counter-RCIEDs (Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device). You can see the Marine Corps’ Chameleon system here.
Military Deception manipulates the enemy’s combat decisions and generally messes with their heads
Troops can mislead enemy decision-makers about their intentions, prompting the enemy to take specific actions or inactions and making it difficult for the enemy to establish an accurate perception of reality.
Using the EM spectrum, they can disrupt communication and intelligence systems to insert deceptive information.
Military Deception (MILDEC) operations apply four basic deception techniques: feints, demonstrations, ruses, and display.
The anti-radiation missile is a smokeless, rocket-propelled missile that destroys radar-equipped defense systems
The AGM-88 HARM (High-speed anti-radiation missile) is used throughout the Air Force for suppressing surface-to-air radar warning systems.
Anti-radiation missiles help neutralize hostile airspace and take out the enemy’s ability to defend itself.
As Air Force officials have noted, “Coalition forces in Operation Desert Storm operated ‘at will’ over Iraq and Kuwait after gaining control of the EM spectrum early in the war.”
Boeing has test-flown a nonlethal missile that fries electronics while minimizing collateral damage (like civilian deaths). You can read about CHAMP here.
Expendables are active decoys that throw enemy missiles off target or seductively lure them away
The AN/ALE-55 fibre-optic decoy is towed behind to protect fighters, bombers, and transport aircraft from radio frequency-related threats, such as an incoming missile’s tracking on the aircraft.
There are three layers of protection though, so the idea is that a target track is eliminated from the start.
If all else fails, the intelligent decoy will lure the missile away to become the target and deny the enemy a hit.
Veterinarians assigned to Camp Lemonnier and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa conducted Canine Tactical Combat Casualty Care training to joint-service medical and operational personnel deployed here Aug. 18, 2018.
The training, which included canine anatomy, primary assessments and CPR, is designed to provide handlers and nonveterinary providers the capability to provide basic first aid until definitive veterinary care is available.
Base veterinarian Army Capt. (Dr.) Richard Blair facilitated the training to personnel from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force medical and law enforcement fields. Blair said that while the focus of the training was aimed at medically trained personnel, people from other military occupations were welcome to attend.
“In a mass casualty situation where military working dogs may be injured, anyone with this kind of training in their back pocket would be extremely helpful.” Blair said. The training combined classroom and practical hands-on applications. Artificial dogs were used as training aids, and participants simulated CPR, intravenous catheter insertion and tracheal intubation.
Veterinarians assigned to Camp Lemonnier and Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa conduct Canine Tactical Combat Casualty Care training to joint-service medical and operational personnel deployed to Djibouti, Aug. 18, 2018. The training is designed to provide interoperability for medical personnel to provide first aid in a mass-casualty scenario involving military working dogs.
(Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Joseph Rullo)
Army Maj. (Dr.) Steven Pelham, veterinarian for Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa civil affairs, said military working dogs are an integral weapon for today’s fighting forces and that combat casualty care training is an important part of readiness.
“These dogs detect explosives that would go undetected. They save people from getting injured or killed,” Pelham said. “The number of lives one dog can save is worth the medical care we can give them to keep them in the fight.”
Navy Cmdr. Mark Thomas, emergency medical facility officer in charge, attended the training and said that the cooperation between medical personnel and the veterinary units is a valuable partnership that can improve the level of care in an emergency.
“Having our people trained in canine combat care as well as utilizing the veterinarians in our facility gives us an interoperability that allows for better coverage for anyone [including military working dogs] who may be injured in a mass casualty situation,” Thomas said.
Camp Lemonnier is one of Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia installations that conducts six lines of operations to support air operations, port operations, safety, security, quality of life, and what is called the core: the fuels, water and power that keep the bases operating. Camp Lemonnier’s mission includes enabling joint warfighters operating forward and to reinforce the U.S.-Djibouti relationship by providing exceptional services and facilities for the tenant commands, transient U.S. assets and service members.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For yourself and everybody else:
~ the gift of renewed purpose and civil service deployed where it’s needed ~
The promotional media that The Mission Continues posts on its website and social media repeatedly puts the full weight of modern digital video production behind an idea that strikes us as so self-evident, so perfect and air tight, we’re left wondering who it is rattling around out there who needs convincing?
In the words of Army vet and Mission Continues volunteer, Bradford Parker:
“Every veteran, no matter who you are, everyone gets that moment when they get out when they’re like, oh man, I should re-enlist. This is what you’re missing from the military and this is where you’re gonna get it.”
Vets come home from service and are struck by the demands of a civilian life that seems both isolating and bereft of greater purpose.
Meanwhile, communities all over the country are sorely in need of highly skilled volunteers with honed leadership experience to spearhead the betterment of their living situations.
This is a match made in heaven, an easy pairing. But as these things tend to go, it required someone to come along, recognize the potential, and make a dancefloor introduction. Spencer Kympton, former Army Captain and founder of the organization, would probably step in here and assure us that it took a little more than that to get the whole thing humming. We’d certainly believe him, but it wouldn’t quash our enthusiasm for The Mission Continues one sand flea-sized bit.
An organization whose mission positively serves both sides of the equation, veterans and community members, creates a very rare thing indeed, a common ground, a space in the middle where truly constructive work can be done. What other opportunities does civilian life present in which your hard won skills are so readily valued, in which the experience you bled for can be put to such grateful use?
Says Army vet Matt Landis:
“One of the things that I think the military does better than anyone else is get people to work together. From all different cultures, from all different walks of life–[if] you sweat and bleed together, you’re brothers.”
This Holiday Season, give yourself the gift of renewed purpose and give the gift of your time and effort wherever The Mission Continues would see you deployed.
The 2017 We Are The Mighty Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Propper, a tactical apparel and gear company dedicated to equipping those who commit their lives to serving others. All views are our own.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
Sociological examination of veterans confirms higher rates of voting, volunteering, and civic engagement
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The veteran empowerment campaign Got Your 6 today unveiled the latest findings of its annual Veterans Civic Health Index, a major study that confirms significant and positive trends in levels of civic engagement among veterans. As the nation approaches Election Day, Got Your 6’s findings provide tangible evidence that veterans volunteer, engage with local governments and community organizations, vote, and help neighbors, all at rates higher than their non-veteran counterparts.
Findings from the report were highlighted this morning at an event titled “Veterans: America’s Greatest Assets” at SiriusXM’s Washington, D.C. studios. The event featured panels moderated by SiriusXM POTUS Channel 124 host Jared Rizzi and included Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald, co-chairs of the Congressional Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Scott Perry (R-Pa.), and Got Your 6 Executive Director Bill Rausch, among others.
Among other data points, the 2016 Veterans Civic Health Index found:
Voting – 73.8 percent of veterans always or sometimes vote in local elections, versus 57 percent of non-veterans.
Service – Veteran volunteers serve an average of 169 hours annually – more than four full work weeks. Non-veteran volunteers serve about 25 percent fewer hours annually.
Civic Involvement – 11 percent of veterans attended a public meeting in the last year, versus 8.2 percent of non-veterans.
Community Engagement – 10.7 percent of veterans worked with their neighbors to fix community problems, compared to 7.6 percent of non-veterans.
“This report shows that by investing in our country’s veterans we’re really investing in our communities,” said Rausch. “The Veterans Civic Health Index continues to be shared as a tool to increase understanding, eliminate misconceptions, and empower veterans as they return home. Now, as our nation prepares to vote in November, this report serves as an indispensable annual metric for evaluating the veteran empowerment movement.”
“I’m thankful to Got Your 6 for putting this study together which proves what many of us inherently know to be true: that veterans are engaged members of their communities. To them, service does not end when the uniform comes off; it often means being a leader in their community, a dutiful employee, a coveted neighbor and a civic asset,” said Sec. McDonald. “A sense of purpose lasts a lifetime. Our nation is stronger because of its veterans.”
“Contrary to the misguided stereotype that veterans have difficulty coping when they re-enter civilian life, this report confirms what many veterans already know: veterans continue to impact their communities in positive and significant ways after leaving the military. Veterans are not a population that requires services, but a population that continues to serve our nation,” said Rep. Perry, co-chair of the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus.
“This report underscores what so many of us see and experience every day: when our veterans return to civilian life, their mission of service doesn’t end. Whether it’s running for local office, volunteering in their communities, exercising their right and responsibility to vote, and so much more, our veterans continue to give back and serve our communities long after they leave the military. With roughly 500 veterans reentering civilian life every day, this report highlights the many ways our veterans continue to serve, and the responsibility we have to support and empower them,” said Rep. Gabbard, co-chair of the Post-9/11 Veterans Caucus.
“It is important to recognize how civic health is entwined with many of the social and political issues that are top of mind for Americans today,” said VCHI author and Got Your 6 Director of Strategy Julia Tivald. “As the VCHI reports, civic engagement is vital for strong communities, and veterans – through their consistently high engagement – are strengthening communities at higher rates than their non-veteran peers. As we search for solutions to some of our country’s most pressing issues, we should look to veterans who are continuing to lead in their communities, and also follow their example by engaging alongside them.”
Listen to “Veterans: America’s Greatest Assets” on SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124 Friday, Sept. 30 at 2pm ET and Saturday, Oct. 1 at 1pm and 9pm ET.
The report also features a detailed examination of the city of Baltimore, Md., demonstrating that local veterans volunteer more than local nonveterans (30.7 percent versus 27.2 percent), participate in civic organizations (20.7 percent versus 7.3 percent), and vote at higher rates in local elections (75.8 percent v 61.2 percent).
The A-10 Warthog is the only aircraft built for a close air support (CAS) mission. It was literally designed around its distinctive 30mm gatling gun. The gun is more than 19 feet long and weighs more than 4,000 pounds. The distinctive sound made by the weapon (aka the BRRRRRRRRRT – created as rounds fire faster than the speed of sound), is music to the ears of the troops on the ground, so much so, the plane sometimes called “the grunt in the air.” A-10 pilots often find themselves providing support at Danger Close distances.
“They love this airplane,” says one Air Force A-10 pilot, referring to units on the ground. “They trust us. For them to trust to do that is very gratifying.”
Recently, the John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, came across a video he suspects was produced by the Air Force’s Combat Camera units, lauding the A-10, its crews, its pilots, and the capabilities of its support for ground troops.
“ComCam is perhaps alone in its possession of the unique combination of access and capability to create something this close to the mission with such superior production values,” Carr writes. “A ComCam airman risked mortal danger to make this film and tell this story, getting immersed in a firefight along the way (you’ll see him drop his camera and hear him discharge his weapon in the video).”
Combining ground combat footage with access to the aircrews who run and fly the Warthogs, Carr believes the video has “unmistakeable importance,” but wonders if the video is being suppressed by senior Air Force leaders for political reasons.
The controversy stems from the Air Force’s repeated attempts to retire this relatively young fleet of aircraft. The A-10 first appeared in the Air Force arsenal in 1972 and was used with great effect in Operation Desert Storm. Comparatively, the Air Force’s B-52 fleet was first introduced in 1955 and is still in service.
“It’s not a political statement,” says a pilot in the theater. “I’m not saying air interdiction isn’t important … but the benefits [of close air support] are right there.”
The Air Force aims to replace the A-10 with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a trillion-dollar weapons system that is the most expensive in history, which is extremely over-budget and experiencing an uncanny number of development setbacks. While retiring the A-10 would save many billions of dollars annually, that money would likely go to further developing the F-35. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh III says the F-35 is designed “for the whole battle space” and would replace the A-10’s CAS capabilities.
“When you’re talking to a 19-year-old man with a rifle, who’s scared on the other end of a radio,” another Air Force A-10 pilot says in the video. “You know he doesn’t care about fiscal constraints, ‘big picture’ Air Force policy, the next fancy weapons system coming down the pipeline. He cares about being saved right then and there.”
The heartfelt, informative A-10 video is below, and is worth a watch for anyone with an interest in the importance of close air support.
Military kids are a unique breed. They grow up too fast during deployments and are wise beyond their years. They ask tough questions about war, politics, furloughs, and DD93s because they overhear these things at the dinner table. But, some of the best things about military kids are their comments. The days and weeks leading up to Veterans Day in a house with military kids are just plain fun.
Frequently, military-friendly schools will line the halls with artwork honoring veterans. One year, my son brought home a few half-sheets of paper that were to be filled in by our family about the veterans in our family. Our son, who was in early elementary school at that point, said, “We need so many more, Mom. We have TONS of veterans in our family.” From grandparents to aunts and uncles to cousins to parents and siblings, military kids have a fierce pride in every single person who served.
2. They know the history.
“Veterans day began as Armistice Day but was later changed by President Eisenhower in 1954,” I heard from the back seat. Someone was practicing lines for the upcoming Veterans Day program at their school. “Veterans day com…commem…commemorates veterans of all wars.”
3. They understand the sacrifices.
You’ll never find a military kid who confuses Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and Veterans Day. Ever. They know the difference, they understand why those things are different, and they don’t want to talk about it again. Sure, they’ll be excited if their parent gets a free dessert at Chick-fil-A on Veterans Day or if there’s a military discount, that means they can spend more at the toy store, but overall, they just want their parents home with them.
In some school districts, Veterans Day is not a school holiday. For military families, this can be a hard adjustment as most service members in garrison will have this day off. But one thing we’ve discovered is that the schools that remain in session have fantastic Veterans Day programs, on a day where active duty and veteran parents can actually attend. One child equated going to school on Veterans Day as a military kid to their parent having to work on Christmas. Sometimes you have to do your job on a holiday.
5. They have some fierce branch pride.
As the token Army family in a Navy community, my children went to a school whose mascot was the captains. They had a giant anchor out front, and they rode the “Anchor bus.” They wore their “Proud Army Brat” t-shirts a lot that year. And we were quite possibly the only people celebrating Army’s win that December in Pensacola, Florida.
Veterans Day is a great time to teach your children about the significance behind the day. You can read books together, attend a parade, or make poppies. If you are stationed overseas, you can take a trip to visit historic battlefields and cemeteries. And when they get older, you can binge-watch Band of Brothers with them. Now that is a military parenting win.
Human rights champion Nadia Murad was recently co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In August 2014, Murad’s village in northern Iraq was attacked by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and she was sold into sexual slavery.
She managed to escape, sought asylum in Germany in 2015 and has fought for the rights of the Yazidi minority ever since. Upon becoming a Nobel laureate, she said:
“We must work together with determination — so that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators. Survivors deserve justice. And a safe and secure pathway home.”
Accountability has become a key issue. While the United States-led international coalition has dislodged ISIS from the cities it had occupied and controlled, namely Mosul and Raqqa, the group is weakened but not dead.
ISIS remains a force in the Middle East
Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the United Nations estimate that approximately 30,000 ISIS fighters remain in those countries.
At the same time, a significant number of foreign fighters from places like Canada, the U.K. and Australia have fled Iraq and Syria. Numerous countries are struggling to find policy solutions on how to manage the return of their nationals who had joined the group.
The Canadian government has stated publicly that it favors taking a comprehensive approach of reintegrating returnees back into society. Very few foreign fighters who have returned to Canada have been prosecuted.
Poster of Nadia Murad speaking to the UN Security Council at the Yazidi Temple of Lalish, Kurdistan-Iraq.
Things are about to become much more complicated for officials in Ottawa. Stewart Bell of Global News, reporting recently from Northern Syria, interviewed Canadian ISIS member Muhammad Ali who is being held by Kurdish forces in a makeshift prison.
Ali admits to having joined ISIS and acting as a sniper, and playing soccer with severed heads. He also has a digital record of using social media to incite others to commit violent attacks against civilians and recruiting others to join the group.
Another suspected ISIS member, Jack Letts, a dual Canadian-British national, is also locked up in northern Syria. The same Kurdish forces are adamant that the government of Canada repatriate all Canadian citizens they captured on the battlefield.
Soft on terror or Islamophobic
The issue of how to manage the return of foreign fighters has resulted in highly political debates in Ottawa, demonstrating strong partisan differences on policy choices and strategies to keep Canadians safe.
The Liberal government has been accused of being soft on terrorism and national security, while the Conservative opposition has been charged with “fear mongering” and “Islamophobia” for wanting a tougher approach, namely prosecuting returnees.
But the most important point is that Canada has both a moral and legal duty to seek justice and uphold the most basic human rights of vulnerable populations.
Open trials can serve as means by which to lay bare ISIS’s narrative and to help counter violent extremism and future atrocities.
They can also serve as a deterrent and warning to other Canadians who might try to join ISIS as it mutates and moves to other countries in the world like Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Pakistan or in Mali, where Canadian peacekeepers have just been deployed.
If Canada truly stands for multiculturalism, pluralism, the rule of law, global justice, human rights and the liberal international order, then we must be firm and take a principled stand to prosecute those have fought with ISIS. That includes our own citizens. No doubt Nadia Murad would agree.
Following the plea, a military judge has heard testimony from numerous witnesses who either knew Bergdahl or were involved in the search to find him. Soon the military judge is expected to issue Bergdahl’s sentence based on his actions, his time in captivity and the impact on the soldiers who spent weeks searching across Afghanistan. We are the Mighty has been in the courtroom since the plea and has heard many details that haven’t been released before.
Here’s a list of ten things you should know before the Judge issues his sentence.
10. Bergdahl was a waiver Soldier
Bergdahl entered the Army in 2008 with a waiver after being discharged from the Coast Guard nearly two years earlier. The Army has yet to confirm if his waiver was related to mental health issues, but upon his release from captivity, Bergdahl was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder. Some symptoms of this disorder include difficulty adjusting to social situations and a distrust of others. During the pre-trial hearings, the Army did rule that despite his diagnosis, Bergdahl did understand his actions when he walked away from his post in 2009.
9. He was described as “Squared Away”
During the trial testimony, some fellow soldiers — including his former leaders — have described Bergdahl as “squared away.” Numerous witnesses have said Bergdahl was always in the designated uniform, on time and in the right place. During his free time, he even read field manuals and philosophy books. This is one of the most interesting turns in the case and begs the question: “How did Bergdahl go from a squared away soldier to a deserter?”
While the rest of Bergdahl’s unit, 4th Brigade 25th ID, deployed to Afghanistan in early 2009, he stayed behind with a staph infection. After recovering, Bergdahl finally deployed as an individual augment and was with his Platoon in Afghanistan for less than two months before he walked off. When asked by the military judge during the trial if he knew that his service in Afghanistan was important, Bergdahl responded, “At the time, it was hard for me to understand.”
7. There were some red flags
In the days and weeks before he walked off, Bergdahl displayed some behavior that might have seemed normal until strung together by investigators, revealing that he may have planned his desertion in advance.
First, he sent his computer home, which to many other soldiers would been weird since writing emails and watching movies is a great way to pass the down time of deployment.
Second, he went to finance and asked for a cash advance before he rotated back to his outpost and subsequently walked off.
Lastly, he left all his serialized gear (weapon, night vision, etc.) at his outpost. One soldier testified that when he found the gear in a neat pile he knew Bergdahl had left on his own.
6. His outpost was “Hell on Earth”
Bergdahl’s platoon was assigned to OP Mest, a small checkpoint in Paktika province close to the Pakistani border. OP Mest guarded a road intersection and was located literally right next to the village of Mest. The outpost was built in a dry river bed that often flooded during the spring rains. As a result of the poor weather and living conditions, many soldiers in the Platoon suffered from bad cases of dysentery. Additionally, the outpost was built over an Afghan cemetery; some soldiers even found bones as they were digging their fighting positions.
In the first few hours and days, the platoon conducted a nearly constant rotation of patrols in the area to try and find Bergdahl. At one point, they stretched themselves so thin that only a Fire Team of three was left at the outpost to man the radio. Many of the soldiers describe the initial days of searching as a “complete hell.”
4. SEAL Team 6 went after Bergdahl and the enemy killed their dog
During the first week of the search, SEAL Team 6 was ordered to find Bergdahl given their unique and specialized training in hostage recovery missions. When one of the SEALs testified at the trial, he remembered saying that “someone is going to get hurt or killed looking for this kid.” A few nights later, the SEALs raided a house where they suspected Bergdahl was being held. During the mission one of the SEALs was shot 7 times and his military working dog was killed by the enemy.
The summer of 2009 was a critical point in the war in Afghanistan. The Afghan elections were scheduled for August and a major mission of U.S. forces was to protect the polling sites from attack and corruption. When Bergdahl walked off in late June, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
For weeks, thousands of soldiers across Afghanistan were ordered to shift their focus from counterinsurgency missions to search recovery operations to find Bergdahl. So many soldiers were flooded into the area where Bergdahl went missing that the Commanders on the ground created a second unit to coordinate the search effort.
By August, the focus shifted away from Bergdahl to the elections and the future of Afghanistan.
Bergdahl’s intelligence value has been defined in two ways. First, a DOD representative of the group that runs Survival, Evasion, Resistance Escape (SERE) school stated that Bergdahl’s detailed description of his captivity will help “prepare forces in the future.” Secondly, the lead intelligence analyst who follows the Haqqani Network, the group that held Bergdahl for nearly 5 years, told the military judge that the information from the debrief helped “build [an understanding] of the capture network like it’s never been done before.”
1. His charges were reduced before he pleaded guilty
The Army initially charged Bergdahl with Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during Combat Operations in Afghanistan. However, after months of arguments by the lawyers on both sides, Bergdahl finally pleaded guilty to Desertion and Misbehavior Before the Enemy during guard duty at OP Mest and a possible convoy patrol scheduled for the following day.
While this change may seem minor, the distinction is critical during the sentencing phase of the trial. The military judge will now only consider Bergdahl’s actions for the first few hours before he was captured by the enemy instead of the nearly five years Bergdahl was missing.