Sand shifts below service members’ feet as sulfur engulfs the air and humidity lingers across the island. The weight of reality and historical value settles among them as they take in the view of where so many of their fellow service members lost their lives. This is, Iwo To (Iwo Jima).
Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 152 conducted a historical professional military education for squadrons stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Nov. 7, 2017.
They loaded service members on KC-130J Hercules aircraft and flew them from the air station to Iwo To.
Once disembarked from their flights, they broke off into groups and conducted a hike passing by caves, memorials, and old machine-gun nests before reaching the top of Mt. Suribachi.
As the service members gazed across the island from atop Mt. Suribachi they left behind items such as rank, belts, name tapes, and dog tags.
“Never in my entire life did I think I’d ever be in Iwo Jima,” said U.S. Navy Seaman Anthony Adams, a corpsman with VMGR-152. “It blew my mind; the best part of the day was being able to place my shield at the top of Mt. Suribachi.”
Mt. Suribachi was a key strategic position for the Japanese military, serving as the toughest line of defense for the island during World War II. U.S. Marines with the 28th Marine Regiment surrounded and climbed the mountain at an estimated rate of 400 yards per day until the famous raising of the colors atop the mountain.
“It tugs at my heart strings,” said U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Gregory Voss, an aviation ordnance technician with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12. “This is a huge piece of Marine Corps history. Marines shed blood, sweat, and tears here. Granted I’ve only been in for five years, but this is the most exciting thing that I’ve done in my career. I’m honored that I could be here.”
As the service members began their journey down to the black beaches to collect sand from the once blood-ridden island, exhaustion was present through the sounds of grunts and groans, but not one Marine backed down. They trucked though the beating sun and radiating heat of the active volcano that is Iwo To.
“It was demanding,” said Voss. “Though we didn’t go through what our brothers and sisters went though, it was definitely a challenging — but humbling — experience.”
Service members collected sand from the beaches in whatever container they had so they could take a piece of history with them to keep or give to their families back home. Collecting sand from the beach is a tradition that most guests partake in during their journey across the island.
The beach played a significant role in the advancement on the island. Hundreds of, Landing Vehicles, Tracked (LVTs) carried troops to the steep sulfur beaches of the island as U.S. Naval ships rained fire down upon the Japanese fortifications.
By the end of what was about a month of battle, 27 service members received the Medal of Honor, almost half of them posthumously.
“Tradition, lineage, and Marine Corps history means the world to me,” said Voss. “It reminds me of where we come from. Just to say I was in the same family as Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone is amazing.”
As we celebrate the Marine Corps birthday, it’s important to remember the Marines that drew the line, went above and beyond the call of duty, and their unselfish acts of valor. We must also remember the sailors that fought alongside them, through the bloody, tattered clothing to heal their wounds, and the Coast Guardsmen who replenished their brothers and sisters with supplies as enemy fire came barreling down upon them. On that island, we remember that U.S. Navy Adm. Chester Nimitz said, “uncommon valor was a common virtue.”
President Donald Trump emphasized the U.S.’ commitment to impose “maximum pressure” against North Korea during his first State of the Union address on Jan. 30 in Washington D.C.
Speaking before Congress and other members of government, Trump stressed the “cruel dictatorship” of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s regime.
“North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland,” Trump said. “We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening.”
Trump also criticized the various approaches from previous administrations to reign in North Korea’s provocations.
“Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation,” Trump said. “I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position.”
Though Trump’s rhetoric toward North Korea and its leader, which arguably dictates the tone of North Korean relations around the world, has swayed between inconclusive praise and outright hawkishness, his comments come amid confident statements from the U.S. military and diplomatic moves that signal a departure from previous administrations.
On Jan. 30, Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the U.S. military expressed optimism about the possibility of destroying most of the infrastructure behind North Korea’s nuclear missile program.
Although he declined to provide specifics, Selva said that the military could “get at most of [Kim Jong Un’s] infrastructure,” according to The Washington Post.
Trump’s comments also come amid reports of the White House’s decision to pass over Victor Cha’s nomination for U.S. ambassador to South Korea. The position, currently held by Chargé d’Affaires Marc Knapper, has been vacant for over a year.
Cha, who served as director for Asian affairs for the National Security Council during the George W. Bush administration and is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, is arguably one of the leading experts on matters concerning the Korean Peninsula.
Though Cha is widely respected in his field, his candidacy was reportedly scuttled after it was revealed that he disagreed with the Trump administration’s consideration of striking North Korea in a “bloody nose” attack — a limited strike intended to send a message to the regime — and had reservations to Trump’s stance on the U.S.’ “horrible” trade deal with South Korea, which the president called unfair and proposed scrapping.
“It’s inconceivable that there would be anything so complex in the portfolio of an academic that wouldn’t be quickly resolved,” a former official said, referring to Cha’s months-long delayed nomination.
The White House’s decision to pass over a candidate, who is by most accounts, qualified for the position, rippled through foreign-policy circles.
Detracting from the traditional hawkish and dovish rhetoric towards the Korean peninsula, Cha advocated for a balanced coercive strategy to de-escalate tensions in the Korean Peninsula — one that involves an increased defensive posture amongst allies “without escalating into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans.”
“These are real and unprecedented threats,” Cha wrote in an opinion column, following reports of the White House’s decision. “But the answer is not, as some Trump administration officials have suggested, a preventive military strike.”
As the White House looks for another ambassador to South Korea, tensions still remain high in advance of the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Though North Korea appears to have backed off from its annual military exercises amid increased sanctions, it reportedly still plans on conducting a parade to mark the military’s founding, one day before the Winter Olympics begin.
While officials did not specify the type of nerve agent used, a well-placed source told the BBC it was likely to be extremely rare.
Nerve agents are extremely toxic chemicals that effectively shut down communication between the brain and muscles — in other words, they stop the body from working. They are also very hard to make.
Here’s what you need to know about the deadly substances.
What are nerve agents?
Nerve agents can take the form of gas, aerosol, or liquid, and enter the body through inhalation, the skin, or the consumption of liquid or food contaminated with them, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) said.
Symptoms include restlessness, loss of consciousness, wheezing, and a running nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Depending on the amount and method of administration, symptoms can take minutes or hours to occur, Sky News science correspondent Thomas Moore said. When administered in high doses, nerve agents can suffocate victims to death within a couple of minutes, the OPCW said.
It’s not clear when the Skripals were exposed to the chemicals and how much was administered to them.
A witness at Zizzi, the restaurant where the Skripals were eating before they collapsed, told the BBC that the elder Skripal “seemed to lose his temper” and “just started screaming at the top of his voice, he wanted his bill and he wanted to go.”
Another witness who saw the stricken Skripals later on said Yulia “looked like she had passed out” and Sergei “was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky.”
What was used on the Skripals?
The type of nerve agent used on the Skripals remains unclear. Investigators have identified it but are not making it public at this point, the BBC reported.
A source close to the investigation told the BBC the nerve agent was likely rarer than sarin gas, which is believed to have been used in the Syrian war and used to kill 13 people in a Tokyo subway in 1995.
The Sun previously reported military scientists on the case as saying the pair might have been poisoned with a “hybrid” kind of thallium, a hard-to-trace heavy metal commonly found in rat poison and insecticides. Detectives originally thought former KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned with thallium in London in 2006.
How easy is it to make nerve agents?
The raw materials for nerve agents are relatively inexpensive and easy to procure, the OPCW said. However, the chemical weapon itself is difficult to make.
Victor Madeira, a senior fellow at The Institute for Statecraft who testified to Parliament about Russian covert interference in Britain, told Business Insider: “Nerve agents are rare, tightly-controlled synthetic substances that do require specialised knowledge to manufacture, store and use safely.
“However, that knowledge isn’t beyond someone with a good Master’s degree in Organic Chemistry, say, and access to a good laboratory. Very difficult, but not impossible.”
Chemical weapons expert Richard Guthrie similarly told The Guardian that manufacturing nerve agents require “fairly complicated chemistry,” and were “essentially impossible” to make at home.
“Nerve agents, such as sarin or VX, require some fairly complicated chemistry using certain highly reactive chemicals,” Guthrie said. “Small quantities could be made in a well-equipped laboratory with an experienced analytical chemist. To carry out the reactions in a domestic kitchen would be essentially impossible.”
Does this point to Russia?
Experts appear to differ over whether Russia was responsible.
Matt Tait, a former GCHQ officer, said the method of attack seemed “designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it.”
He told The Atlantic: “This is a very extreme form of killing in a way that is designed to project that this is a nation-state that’s doing it. Nobody can be under any sort of illusions that this is some sort of run-of-the-mill killing. […]
“The clear message that they’re sending to both people who currently work for their intelligence agencies and also people who used to work for their intelligence agencies … they will make an example of you.”
Madeira disagreed. Just because nerve agents are rare doesn’t necessarily mean a state actor did it, he said.
“Simply using a ‘very rare’ nerve agent against Col. Skripal wouldn’t necessarily indicate Kremlin (or Russian) involvement,” he told BI. “This is why DSTL Porton Down [the UK Ministry of Defence’s science lab] and partner agencies are racing to ‘fingerprint’ the agent used, which will then allow them to narrow the list of potential sources right down.”
Rob Wainwright, executive director of Europol, told CNN that attacking an ex-spy with a nerve agent in Britain was an “outrageous affront to our security in Europe and our way of life.” He warned, however, that people should “exercise caution before jumping to any conclusions.”
The Kremlin has vehemently denied any involvement or knowledge of the case.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton has confirmed that an announcement will be made on June 28, 2018, regarding a planned summit between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.
“There will be an announcement on that tomorrow simultaneously in Moscow and Washington on the date and the time of that meeting,” Bolton said after holding talks on June 27, 2018, with the Russian president in Moscow.
Trump will raise a full range of issues with Putin, Bolton said, including alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, something Putin has denied.
The adviser said he did not rule out concrete results to come out of the summit, adding that the leaders believe it is important to meet, despite their differences.
Earlier, a Kremlin aide said the summit — the first full-fledged meeting between the two presidents since Trump took office in January 2017 — will be held in a third country that is convenient for both sides. He said several more weeks were needed for preparations.
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin said that Bolton’s visit “instills hope” that steps can be taken to improve badly strained relations between Moscow and Washington.
Putin said he regretted that ties between the former Cold War foes are “not in the best shape” and suggested their dire state is due in large part to what he called “the internal political struggle” in the United States — indicating he does not blame Trump.
“Russia has never sought confrontation, and I hope that we can talk today about what can be done by both sides to restore full-format relations on the basis of equality and respect,” Putin said.
Bolton said he was looking forward to discussing “how to improve Russia-U.S. relations and find areas where we can agree and make progress together.”
When Moscow and Washington had differences in the past, Russian and U.S. leaders met and that was “good for both countries, good for stability in the world,” Bolton said. “President Trump feels very strongly on that subject.”
Bolton also said he would like to hear Putin’s account of “how you handled the World Cup so successfully.” The United States will co-host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada.
Bolton met with Putin after holding separate talks with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and a senior member of Putin’s Security Council, Yury Averyanov.
At least part of the meeting between Bolton and Putin was also attended by others including Lavrov, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman, and Fiona Hill, senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that in addition to bilateral ties, Lavrov and Bolton discussed current global issues including Syria and Ukraine — where Moscow’s involvement in military conflicts is a source of U.S.-Russian tension.
Bolton traveled to Moscow after meetings with U.S. allies in London and Rome on June 25-26, 2018.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a television interview over the weekend that Trump is likely to meet Putin “in the not-too-distant future.”
Ushakov’s comments suggested that the summit is likely to take place at some point after Trump attends a NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12 and visits Britain on July 13, 2018. Vienna and Helsinki have been cited as possible venues.
An Austrian newspaper earlier this week said teams from the United States and Russia were already in Vienna preparing for a July 15, 2018 meeting between the two leaders.
However, a senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on June 26, 2018, that Finland’s capital, Helsinki, was the likeliest choice, but the final decision depended on the outcome of Bolton’s talks.
Trump and Putin have met twice on the sidelines of international summits and they have spoken at least eight times by telephone. Trump telephoned Putin to congratulate him in March 2018 after the Russian president’s reelection and said the two would meet soon.
However, Russian officials have since complained about the difficulty of setting up such a meeting, as ties between Washington and Moscow have further deteriorated over issues including the war in Syria and the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, which the West blames on Moscow.
Relations were already severely strained by tension over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and what U.S. intelligence agencies concluded was an “influence campaign” ordered by Putin in an attempt to affect the U.S. presidential election, in part by bolstering Trump and discrediting his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
Democrats and some Republicans have accused Trump of being soft on Russia. Trump made clear during his campaign and into his presidency that he wants better relations with Russia and Putin, and has often praised the Russian president.
Bolton’s trip and the movement toward a Trump-Putin summit comes after Trump unnerved allies by calling for Russia to be readmitted to the G7, the group of industrialized nations it was ejected from in 2014 over its interference in Ukraine.
Trump has also sharply criticized a U.S. Justice Department investigation into the alleged Russian meddling and whether his associates colluded with Moscow. Russia denies it interfered, despite substantial evidence, and Trump says there was no collusion.
The steady increase in deadly violence that Mexico has experienced over recent years continued in May 2018, when 2,890 people were killed — an average of 93 a day, or almost four victims an hour.
The total number of victims surpasses the 2,746 recorded in March 2018 to make May 2018 the deadliest month this year, and it topped the 2,750 victims registered in October 2017, making May 2018 the deadliest month in two decades, the period for which the government has released homicide data.
There were also 2,530 homicide cases opened in May 2018. Cases can contain more than one victim, and May’s total was the most in a month in 2018 and the most on record. The daily average of 93.2 homicide cases was also an increase over April 2018, when it was 90.7 cases a day.
Deadly violence in Mexico has steadily increased since 2015, after declining during the first two full years of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s term, which started in December 2012.
There were 7,167 homicide victims during the first five months of 2015, which closed with 17,892 victims. There were 8,364 victims between January and May 2017, increasing to 22,569 by the end of that year.
2017 had 10,988 homicide victims during the first five months and ended with 28,710 victims, which was a record for a full year.
There were 13,298 homicide victims recorded in the first five months of 2018, putting the year on pace for 31,915 killings.
The homicide rate between January and May 2018 was 9.17 cases per 100,000 people, a 75% increase over the 5.25 cases during the same period in 2015, according to Mexican news site Animal Politico.
“We are nearing a level of 100 homicides a day in the country, and with an upward trend, we still don’t see a break,” Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said on June 21, 2018, on radio show Atando Cabos.
Much of the increase since 2015 has been attributed to organized crime, especially in areas where organized-crime groups are clashing or where larger criminal groups have fragmented into smaller factions.
Such fragmentation often leads to more violence as smaller groups compete with each other. Those groups are also more likely to prey local populations, adding to insecurity.
Colima, one of Mexico’s smallest states by population, is also its most violent, with a rate of 33.17 homicide cases per 100,000 people through May 2018.
Baja California, which borders the US in northwest Mexico, was also among the most violent of Mexico’s 32 states, with a homicide rate of 29.47 per 100,000 people. Much of that bloodshed has taken place in Tijuana, which borders San Diego. Tijuana had 975 of the state’s 1,218 homicide victims during the first five months of the year; the head of the rapid reaction police force in Rosarito, a town near Tijuana, was found slain in Tijuana on the morning of June 20 2018.
Chihuahua, another northern border state, had a rate of 17.16 homicides per 100,000 people, and the 801 homicide victims there between January 2017 and May 2018 were an increase over the 752 during the same period in 2017.
“Chihuahua caught my attention a lot in May. It’s back in the top 5. Something also happened in Ciudad Juarez,” Hope said, referring to the state’s major border city, which was the site of extreme drug-related violence between 2008 and 2012.
Femicides, or killings that specifically target women, have consistently increased over the past three years. The 328 femicides recorded through May 2018 were over 100% more than the 153 over the same period in 2015.
While reports of kidnapping and extortion were down slightly over the first five months of 2018, there was a 22% increase in violent car thefts and a 39% increase in street-level drug dealing.
Homicide data for May 2018 was released 10 days before Mexicans vote in nationwide elections on July 1, 2018, in which 3,400 elected offices are up for grabs, including the presidency.
The military is no picnic when it comes to consuming food. Eating quickly and at strange hours is a way of life in the armed forces. For many women veterans, these experiences can affect their eating habits, and relationship with food after their military service is over.
For a study published in the journal Appetite, researchers Dr. Jessica Breland of VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Dr. Shira Maguen of San Francisco VA Health Care System talked with 20 women veterans about how military service affected their eating habits. They found that many had developed unhealthy patterns such as binging, eating quickly, eating in response to stress and extreme dieting. In many cases, those habits carried over into civilian life.
Poor eating habits
The veterans described three military environments that promoted poor eating habits: boot camp, deployment, and on base.
Almost all of the women recalled that in boot camp, they were forced to eat quickly.
“My family asks why I eat so fast, and I say I learned it from the military,” one woman veteran said. “We were always timed.”
Finding healthy food choices in the military was not easy.
Others ate quickly in order to get second helpings. In addition to eating fast, they also ate a lot. Since they were physically active, they didn’t gain weight. But when they got out of boot camp and continued eating large meals, they gained weight, which then affected their self-esteem.
Deployment changed eating habits even further since there was no set schedule for meals.
“You ate as much as you could before the flies ate your food, or you had to run off and do something and get [to] … the next stressful situation” said one woman veteran.
On base, meals were less stressful than in boot camp or on deployment, but healthy choices were limited.
“Your options are the mess hall or Burger King and Cinnabon,” said another woman bveteran.
Security Forces Airmen with the 121st Air Refueling Wing participate in quarterly weapons training during a regularly scheduled drill at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio, May 5, 2019.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Wendy Kuhn)
For many women, the need to “make weight” — not exceed maximum military weight limits — was an ongoing struggle. This involved continually monitoring what they ate and being monitored by others. For some, this struggle was tied directly to the stress of being female in the military.
“There is just a whole host of things that we have to deal with that [male service members] don’t have to,” one woman said, “and one of those things is being constantly judged on our appearance. It’s like there is nothing we can do right as women in the military and … that translates into these eating issues when we get home.”
Challenges making weight
Making weight was even more challenging — and critical — after pregnancy.
“They give you nine months to gain the weight [during pregnancy], and if you’re over[weight] when you come back to work in six weeks, it’s career death,” one participant said. “They start writing you up, they start demoting you, but the men don’t have that, you know?”
Some women ate as a way of finding comfort and control in stressful situations. One Navy veteran said she and a female colleague felt isolated and bullied due to their gender. They used food as a way to feel good and cope.
“When we got in port, we would just hole up in a hotel room, and just buy a whole bunch of just comfort food, candy, cookies, and whatever it was that we wanted to pig out and eat on. So we [were] in a relationship with the food, her and me, which … helped us out a lot.”
Some became trapped in a cycle of overeating and extreme dieting.
Army 2nd Lt. Caitlyn Simpson prepares her platoon for a training mission from inside a tank at Fort Irwin, Calif., May 28. 2019.
(Photo By: Army Cpl. Alisha Grezlik)
“You [could have] the start of a really serious eating disorder that could have killed you and it was reinforced by people saying, ‘Oh my god, look how much weight you are losing,’ like it was a good thing,” one female veteran said. “Were they going to wait until you were dead before they said, ‘You know, this might not be so healthy’?”
Adapting to civilian life
Some women found it hard to readjust to civilian eating patterns after leaving the service.
“[My family said], ‘We’re not in the military. You have to slow down and back away and think about what you are doing,'” another female veteran said. “So that was hard … it wasn’t clicking in my head that I was no longer in the military. They didn’t know my norm, and I didn’t know their norm, and we were just clashing all the time.”
Other women reported that they no longer took pleasure in food because years of consuming mediocre military meals had reduced eating to the level of a chore.
“You just eat it or you starve,” as one woman put it.
The researchers caution that their findings may not apply to all women in the military, but only to those with certain risk factors. They hope to do larger-scale research to further explore the issue.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently oversaw the launch of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles and apparently pulled the trigger on four of them himself, the Associated Press reports.
The large-scale military drill exercised Russia’s land, air, and sea-based nuclear capability with test launches from submarines, supersonic bombers, and a launch pad.
“The goal of the launch was to test advanced ballistic missile warheads,” a Russian defense ministry spokesman said. And the missiles, as well as the warheads, were very advanced.
Not only does the land-based missile boast a range of over 6,000 miles, enough to hit anywhere in the US with hundreds of kilotons of explosive force, but it has been tailor-made to evade US missile defenses.
Russian media reports that the Yars ICBM tested by Russia flies in a jagged pattern to evade missile defenses. Once the missile breaks up, it carries multiple reentry vehicles and countermeasures to confuse and overwhelm missile defenses.
It’s included in that giant bucket of information dumped on you in briefing after briefing right before deployment:
Exactly what will happen if your service member or another member of his unit is killed? What should you expect? What happens if they are injured?
We get a lot of questions about this at SpouseBuzz. Readers want to know what to expect from the notification process, can’t remember what was said in those briefings or maybe never made it to one. They want to know who will show-up at their door, what they will say and when they will arrive. They want to be empowered with information.
We understand the predeployment mental block on this stuff. While it may be the most important part of any predeployment briefing, it’s probably the part you most want to forget. Who wants to dwell on the possibility that their service member may not come home before he even walks out the door?
But it is so important. And whether this is your first or fifteenth deployment, a refresher from the casualty affairs folks is probably a good idea.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Adam Dublinske)
But we’re not PowerPoint people here. So instead of making you sit through an acronym riddled briefing the next time we see you, we’ve gone straight to the source at the Pentagon to get you as cut and dry a run down here as we can.
Look at this as a point of reference. Forward it to other members of your unit or include it in your FRG newsletter. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments and we’ll do our best to get you the official answer and get back to you.
But first, a caveat: The policies and information we’ll talk about below are the Pentagon’s military-wide standard, straight from Deborah Skillman, the program director for casualty, mortuary and military funeral honors at the Defense Department. However, like almost everything else in the military, each service has the ability to change things at their discretion. We’ll note where that is most likely to happen. In a perfect world, though, the below is how things are supposed to be done.
What to expect if your service member is killed:
Two uniformed service members will come to your door to tell you or, in military speak, “notify you.” One of them will actually give you the news, the other one will be a chaplain. Sometimes a chaplain may not be available and so, instead, the second person will be another “mature” service member, Skillman said. If you live far away from a military base there is a chance the chaplain may be a local emergency force chaplain and not a member of the military, she said.
These people will come to your door sometime between 5 a.m. and midnight. This is one of those instances where the different services may change the rule in limited instances. Showing up outside this window is a decision made by some very high ranking people. If it happens it’s because it’s absolutely necessary.
You are supposed to learn about your spouse’s death before anyone else. A different team of notification folks will deliver the news to your in-laws – but only after you’ve been told. Same thing goes for any children your spouse has living elsewhere or anyone else he’s asked be told if something happens.
The news is supposed to reach you within 12 hours of his death. The services use that time to get their notification team together, find your address and send someone to your home. If you live near the base and have all your contact information up to date with your unit, they’ll arrive at your home very quickly. If you’ve moved and live far away from any base, it may take the full 12 hours. If you live in a very remote location (for example our past unit had to send a team to notify in the Philippines) it could take more than 12 hours.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Zachary Hada)
You’re supposed to hear the news first from the notification team. There’s a reason for that, and it’s not just because it’s solemn and respectful. Telling you in person makes sure you are in a safe place to hear such life changing news. And it makes sure that the information they are giving you is accurate, not just a rumor. After they notify you, the team will stay with you until you can call a friend or family member to be with you or until the next official person – the casualty assistance officer – can arrive.
If you hear the news first from someone else, the notification team will still come. In that case instead of delivering notification they will deliver their condolences, Skillman said. Even though the unit goes into a communications blackout after someone dies or gets seriously injured, sometimes word sneaks out anyway through a well meaning soldier or wife who doesn’t know the rules. The team, however, will still come and do their duty.
What happens after notification? You will be assigned a casualty assistance officer who will walk you through all the next steps, including the benefits you receive as a widow. You can read all about those here. That service member has been specially trained for this duty. His or her job is to make sure you get everything you need from the military.
What if your service member is wounded?
The notification process for a injured service member is different but the result is still the same — you are supposed to learn the news before anyone else (other than his unit) stateside. Here’s how it works:
You’ll receive a phone call. If at all possible, Skillman said, the phone call will be from your service member himself. If that’s not possible a military official will call you with as many details as he has and then give you regular updates by phone until they are no longer necessary. If they cannot reach you (let’s say you dropped your iPhone in the toilet again) they will contact your unit to try to reach you through whatever means necessary.
If your service member is severely wounded and will not be transferred stateside quickly, you may be able to join him wherever he is being treated outside the combat zone, often Germany. The official will let you know whether or not this is an option.
You’ll be regularly updated with how and when you will be able to see him. If he is transferred to a treatment facility stateside far away from you, the military will help you arrange travel to wherever he is being sent.
What if someone else in your unit is injured or killed?
Some of the hardest moments you’ll have as a military spouse will be spent wondering if your service member is the one who has been injured or killed. Because the unit downrange goes on blackout until all the notifications stateside are made, you may be able to pretty well guess when something has happened based on a sudden lack of communication. Will it be you? Will the knock be on your door this time?
That can be very a scary time. In my experience, the best thing to do is to choose to not live in fear. When our unit lost 20 soldiers in four months, it became very easy to predict when something had happened and sit in dread in our homes alone — just waiting, watching and praying. However we knew that wasn’t healthy. So instead, a small group of us purposefully spent time together instead.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Willis)
Specifically what happens in the unit when a service member is injured or killed probably differs from unit to unit and base to base. But most of the processes look something like this:
The unit goes on blackout. That means that all communication from downrange to families is supposed to abruptly and without warning stop. That blackout will likely last until notification to the families has been made.
You will receive a phone call or an email from your unit that someone has been killed or injured. After all the family has been notified, the unit will let you know who has been killed or injured by either email or phone. If it has been less than 24 hours since the last family member was notified, the message will only tell you that someone was killed or injured — not who. If you are told about it via a phone call, the person making the call — possibly a point of contact from your family group — will likely read you a preset script. An email could look like the below, one of the many our unit received during our 2009-2010 deployment:
Families and Friends of 1-17 IN,
On Sept. 26, 2009, 1-17 IN was involved in an incident that resulted in 1 soldier who was Killed in Action. The soldier’s primary and secondary next of kin have already been notified.
On behalf of the soldiers of 1-17 IN, I send my condolences to the soldier’s Family. We will hold a Memorial Ceremony for this soldier at a time and place to be determined.
Please remember to keep the soldiers of 1-17 IN and all other deployed soldiers in your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your continuous support.
The Defense Department will release the name of the person killed no less than 24 hours after the family has been notified. That buffer gives the family some private time. However, you may learn who it was before that. The family may choose to tell people. If blackout is lifted downrange, your servicemember might tell you. The most important thing during this time is to respect the family’s privacy. If you do happen to know who was killed before the family or the DoD has released the name, for the love of Pete don’t go blasting it all over town.
You will receive details from your family readiness group on how you can help support the family and when the military memorial will be. Above all us, respect the family’s privacy and needs. Attending the military memorial can be a great way to show that you care without being intrusive.
The first American to visit Afghanistan decided he was going to take the wild land by force. That’s just what Americans did back then, I suppose. The young man was born into a privileged life for the time, and lived a life of globetrotting adventure as a young man. When the love of his life decided to marry another man, Josiah Harlan decided to make his world a little more interesting.
But so were the Afghan rulers and warlords.
Having grown up learning Greek and Latin and reading medical books and journals for fun, Harlan decided to join the British East India Company’s expedition to Burma as a surgeon, even though he had never attended medical school. But he didn’t stay for all of the company’s wars. He left the company in 1826 to live in an Indian border town called Ludhiana. That’s where he met Shuja Shah Abdali Durrani, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan that would shape Josiah Harlan’s future.
The two men hatched a plan to oust the leader who deposed the Shah, Dost Mohammed Khan using a coalition of Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim fighters, then foment a full-scale rebellion in Afghanistan. Once the Shah was back on the throne, he would make Harlan his vizier. Things did not go according to plan. Khan defeated Shah at Kandahar and was forced to flee once more.
Dost Mohammed Khan can sleep soundly knowing the British got what was coming to them.
Harlan next fell in with Maharajah Ranjeet Singh, a great warrior king who had conquered most of what is today Northwest India and Pakistan. Singh, it turns out, knew how to party unlike anyone since the good ol’ days of insane Roman emperors. He was also a hypochondriac, one that “Doctor” Josiah Harlan could treat. Harlan did treat the Maharajah, earning his trust and the governorship of Nurpur, Jasota, and later, Gujerat. But he eventually fell out of Singh’s favor and turned to Dost Mohammed Khan – the man he tried to usurp in the first place.
Acting as a special military advisor to Khan, Harlan took to the battlefield against armies allied to the Maharajah, having taught the Afghans the “Western way of war,” which basically meant using numerical superiority to your supreme advantage. With Khan, he was made royalty and led armies against the Sikhs in India, against Uzbek slavers, and even led punitive expeditions in the Hindu Kush. But upon returning from those raids, he found Khan was deposed, and the British occupied Kabul and had replaced Khan with ol’ Shuja Shah.
The Maharajah’s life was so great it gave him Forest Whitaker Eye before that was even a thing.
Even though Harlan was the Commander-In-Chief among all Afghans by Khan’s decree, Khan was out and Shah was in. All the tribes and their warlords were now allied with Shah – that was just the Afghan way. Khan already fled, so it was time for Harlan to return to America and to his life in Pennsylvania.
Unsurprisingly, Pennsylvania had a marked lack of exotic spices, royal orgies, and international intrigue, so Harlan found himself trying to drum up American support to challenge Russia and Britain for supremacy in Afghanistan. America, however, had enough problems back home around the time the man returned in 1841, and there was little interest in it. Josiah Harlan moved to San Francisco where he spent the rest of his days practicing medicine.
Fitness. The word conjures mental images of tight lycra clothing, 5K finish lines, and overcrowded rooms filled with clanking weights and the pungent odor of sweat. Fitness, however, is much simpler than what is being sold to you. Fitness is health, plain and simple — the pursuit of which is a lifetime endeavor.
The concept of improving fitness almost always focuses directly on the improvement of the physical body. However, mental and spiritual health play equally important parts in the equation. Setting the proper intention — the purpose of one’s physical pursuit is as important, if not more so, than the physical movement itself.
When it comes to fitness, goals are paramount. There are three simple questions you need to ask yourself:
Where do I want to be?
Where am I currently?
What is the healthiest path from No. 2 to No. 1?
(Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee, or Die Magazine)
Your goals are your own. They should not exist for anyone else, and should be clearly identified so a path to achievement can be established. Let’s say your goal is to squat 200 pounds. Why? How does that number improve your quality of life? Numerical goals are not wrong so long as you can identify the reason. For example, if you aspire to be an EMT who will regularly need to hoist a 200-pound person, the goal serves you well.
Take an honest, comprehensive look at your current fitness level. Avoid self-criticism and identify the areas which can use the most improvement. Can you push and pull your body weight through various planes of movement repetitively and with ease? Does each of your joints flex and extend to an appropriate degree without pain? I know blood pressure and cholesterol levels aren’t as sexy to consider as what your abs look like, but they are undeniably factors that will sooner inhibit your quality of life than any aesthetic variance will.
Identify your weakness, then attack it with verve. Experienced triathletes know this concept well. For those with a strong swim and a weak run, it is much more enjoyable to practice swimming. This does little to improve race results or fitness in general though. That weakness may be flexibility, balance, or elevated levels of stress.
Knowing where you are and where you want to be doesn’t mean anything without establishing a reasonable path from one to the other. This is the angle of the ladder you will climb to your goal. Time plays a crucial factor in this. If your goal is to squat that 200 pounds but you currently have physical difficulty getting off the couch, the goal is still achievable when the proper number of rungs are implemented at appropriate intervals.
Does the pursuit of your goal require detriment to other aspects of your health? If your goal is to complete a marathon for the sake of doing so and your training plan omits components of strength, power, speed, or agility, you may get to the finish line a little faster — but you are ultimately working against your own fitness.
If you can identify where you currently are and where you want to be but are unsure how to get from one to the other, fear not. In the coming weeks and months, I will address pertinent aspects of fitness programming, equipment, and ideology. Wherever you may be, let’s improve our fitness — and our quality of life, together.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
Michael Fumarola didn’t see the rush of ocean as he sped toward the beach and toppled from his surfboard. He face-planted in the wet, goopy sand and gulped the salty water.
Red-faced and gasping for a quick breath, the blind veteran with multiple sclerosis from the Cincinnati VA Medical Center sucked in some San Diego air and couldn’t help but smile.
“That was great!” he yelled.
His instructor, Felipe Rueff, slapped his hands on both sides of his face.
“Atta boy! Do it again?”
Fumarola is one of more than 130 veterans from across the nation in San Diego, California, Sept. 15 to 20, 2019, for VA’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. The annual event, presented with the Wounded Warrior Project, brings amputee, paralyzed, blind, and other veterans to learn adaptive surfing, kayaking, sailing, hand cycling and more.
Michael Fumarola gives a high five after coming in from the surf.
(Photo by John Archiquette)
Empower and develop
“This is one of the highlights of VA’s commitment to veterans,” said Dave Tostenrude, acting director of the Summer Sports Clinic. “This is one of those events that reaches a broader range of vets.
“What we’re looking for are vets looking to make changes in their lives, and we don’t care where they come from or what their issues are, we’re going to work with them, we’re going to empower them and develop a plan to be active at home.”
Dana Cummings, a Marine Corps veteran who only learned to surf after he lost a leg in a car accident, brought his company, AmpSurf, to the clinic to give the veterans one-on-one training.
“Listen,” he told the veterans before they hit the water, “Don’t worry. You’re going to be fine. I tried this before I lost a leg and failed miserably, now I do it all the time. It’s going to be a lot of fun and you’re going to have a great time.”
Cummings went over the basics of surfing, then vets, instructors and volunteers hit the surf.
“Hell, yeah, let’s do it!” said Brandon Starkey, a veteran who lost his leg in a car crash 15 days after coming home from Iraq. “If someone says they can’t do this, I call them a liar, because the only limits we have are the ones we put on ourselves.”
Fumarola was wheeled down to the surf in a special wheelchair with wide wheels, made to run over the wet sand.
“You think you’ll be able to do it?” someone asked.
“I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out,” he laughed. “I’ve never done it. But you gotta do it to find out. Someone doesn’t want to try it, that’s just B.S.”
Bobby Hutchinson says coming to Summer Sports was part of his transformation to get out of the house, despite an amputation.
(Photo by John Archiquette)
First time for everything
A few feet down the beach, Bobby “Hutch” Hutchinson, who lost a leg in Desert Storm, was still able to get up on one knee as he rode the surf to the beach.
“Hey, I’m surfing, or trying to, anyway,” he said. “I got up on one knee, tried to get up and kind of wiped out, but I’m having a blast. There’s a first time for everything and here I am. I told some friends I was doing this and they said I’d better videotape it because they want to make fun of me.”
But for Hutchinson, from the St. Louis VA, it was about more than just a day at the beach.
“It’s about getting out of the house and having something to look forward to,” he said. “It gives you hope, you know? It gives you something to try, something different. It’s always good to try something new and color outside the box.”
It was also emotional for the instructors.
“I’ve been surfing for 47 years and teaching for 11,” Rueff said. “You see these guys drain the water, riding it all the way into the beach, it’s great. There is a healing power to the water. You can’t tell because I’m all wet, but I get really emotional.”
Fumarola said it was an experience he’ll never forget.
“I enjoyed the hell out of it. I learned I can do it. There ain’t nothing I can’t do. Life is great. Love it! Live it!”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Rumors are swirling after a Nov. 21 meeting at Trump Tower in New York that former Massachusetts senator and 35-year Army National Guard veteran Scott Brown could be the new president’s pick to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Brown, a Republican, won a special election to take the senate seat vacated by Democrat Sen. Ted Kennedy, who died in 2009. Brown served as a Judge Advocate in the Massachusetts Army Guard and also infamously posed nude for Cosmo magazine in 1982.
He later joked that he was in his 20s at the time and didn’t regret his nude centerfold pose for the magazine’s “America’s Sexiest Man” contest.
But he now says he’s “the best candidate” for the VA job and wants to reform the reeling organization.
“We obviously spoke about my passion and his passion which are veterans’ issues,” Brown told reporters after his meeting with Trump, according to CBS News. “And you know obviously I think it’s the toughest job in the cabinet to lead the VA, because while it has so many angels working there, it has so many great problems as well.”
Trump also tapped South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as the American ambassador to the United Nations, while 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is front-runner for Secretary of State.
Governor Haley was first elected to her post in 2010, after serving three terms in the South Carolina House of Representatives. She gained national attention in the aftermath of the July 2015 shooting at a Charleston church. Her husband is in the National Guard and served a tour in Afghanistan on an Agribusiness Development Team, and is believed to be the first spouse of a sitting governor to serve in a war zone.
“Our country faces enormous challenges here at home and internationally, and I am honored that the President-elect has asked me to join his team and serve the country we love as the next Ambassador to the United Nations,” FoxNews.com quoted Haley as saying.
Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts who lost the 2012 presidential election to Barack Obama, is considered the front-runner for Secretary of State. During that campaign, he noted Russia was a “geopolitical foe,” to derision from Obama and the media. During the 2012 campaign Romney also criticized China for unfair trade practices, criticized the 2011 withdrawal of troops from Iraq and took a hard line on Iran. Romney and Trump exchanged harsh words during the Republican presidential primaries, but apparently buried the hatchet in a weekend meeting.
Potential VA chief Brown served in the National Guard for 20 years in the Judge Advocate General Corps, part of a 35-year career which also saw him receive airborne, infantry and quartermaster training. Brown spent time overseas in Kazakhstan, Paraguay and Afghanistan during his career. His decorations include the Legion of Merit and the Army Commendation Medal.
According to a report by the Boston Globe, Brown told the media that if selected to run the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, his top priorities would be to address veterans’ suicides and to clear up the backlog of cases by outsourcing care to private providers. His service as a state lawmaker and Senator included a focus on veterans’ issues.