I reacquainted myself on Facebook with one of the leaders of the Iraqi citizens group whom we joined with as they fought Al-Qaeda. In the neighborhood of Ameriya, two Christians were kidnapped which sparked the local uprising. Within two months our neighborhood of Ameriya was largely clear of Al-Qaeda and our patrols largely consisted of smiling and waving like pageant queens. You cannot make this stuff up, and that is what separates those who live in safety and those who take risks. Survive- you get some really great stories and make some really interesting friendships.
I went from regretting going to Iraq, then learned these tidbits of information over the years that turned my borderline cynicism turned into thankfulness. I’m thankful for the experiences I had and the new appreciation for life today. Someone who was once an enemy and probably tried to kill me or another American soldier is now my friend and my brother.
Seven years later after Iraq I have concluded: God used the war in Iraq. Iraq is the second most mentioned country in the Bible and the United States drastically changed the environment there. Coincidence? Highly doubt it. So what is going on?
I think the answer can be found by looking in the Old Testament which mentions some of the places we are currently reading about in the news. Isaiah Ch. 17 talks about the destruction of Damascus- well it’s still there. When this destruction happens I think Syria’s ties to Russia and Iran set up events described in Ezekiel Ch. 38 and 39. For all of the regional places mentioned in these two chapters there is no mention of Damascus.
In my four part series titled “The Middle East: A Shia Caliphate?” I looked at these chapters of scripture through military, political, cultural and logistical points of view and described what these scriptures might look like without scriptural references. Many hard questions were asked to avoid making assumptions. After completing this research, I sent it to contacts who had worked for the CIA, NSA, and a former intelligence officer who worked for Saddam Hussein for feedback. I was pleasantly surprised when these different contacts within the intelligence community gave a thumbs up on the analysis. Keep your eyes open, read these chapters for yourself and do some homework- don’t take my word for it.
Today, Iraq is helping me learn about grace- even on our worst day God loves you and me. The defensiveness I once returned from Iraq with has gradually faded because grace protects better than my body armor. In return, I have to give others grace even when my defensiveness wants rear its ugly head. Defensiveness prevents the vulnerability which relationships require. When I trust grace to protect me my defensive walls are not required anymore. How many of us harm our relationships by this defensiveness? Grace takes on the enemy within us.
The challenges of returning some days are still overwhelming. I discovered four years ago God loves me on my worst day. It takes the focus off of the immediate challenge ahead and refocuses my attention on that God loves me. Because I am loved, I am capable of loving others and myself even my worst day. Once a soldier always a soldier, and a soldier who is living is one who is loving others. I hope you have people in your life whom you can love and learn about grace.
Because of experiencing Iraq, my goal is to make someone’s world a better place today.
Spend any amount of time on or around an Army or Air Force post and you’ll be sure to find a number of beret-wearing service members around you.
Hell, you’re going to be greeted by a blue beret each and every time you get to an Air Force gate (SecFo HUA!) and, if you were on any Army post between 2001 and 2011, you saw black berets everywhere you went, as they were a part of standard Army uniform.
Got it — but what about the less commonly seen berets? The green, the tan, and the maroon?
This is what berets of all colors mean in the Army and Air Force.
Black — U.S. Army
A black beret is worn by all soldiers in service dress unless they are otherwise authorized to wear a different, distinctive beret.
Black — U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Control Party
A black beret is the official headgear of the Air Force TACP. They’re about as operator as you get in the Air Force without becoming pararescue or combat control.
Blue — U.S. Air Force Security Forces
The most common beret across all branches of service as of writing. Security Forces (the Air Force’s version of Military Police) wear the blue beret with every uniform whenever not deployed or in certain training.
Green — U.S. Army Special Forces
This is the cream of the crop of the U.S. Army. The green beret is the single most recognizable sign of a badass.
Grey — U.S. Air Force Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape
These guys teach most of the other badasses on this list how to survive in the worst conditions. That definitely qualifies them for their own beret.
Maroon — U.S. Army Airborne
Aside from the Army’s green beret, the maroon beret of Army airborne is one of the easiest to recognize.
These guys drop into any situation with complete operational capability.
Maroon — U.S. Air Force Pararescue
In the Air Force, the maroon beret means something completely different. While being Army Airborne is an amazing distinction, the Air Force Pararescuemen are truly elite.
The introductory course has one of the highest failure rates of all military schools and the ones that do complete it go on to become the kind of guy that you do not want to fight in a bar.
Pewter Grey — U.S. Air Force Special Operations Weather
These guys do weather in the most undesirable conditions. I know that may not sound very operator, but just take a quick look at the training they endure and the types of operations they conduct and you won’t ever question their beret again.
Tan — U.S. Army Rangers
The Army Rangers began wearing tan berets in 2001 when the Army made the black beret the standard headgear for the entire Army.
Prior to that, they owned the black beret.
Scarlet — U.S. Air Force Combat Control
The scarlet beret is the headgear of the U.S. Combat Controller. Their beret is one you’ll rarely see because they’re always on the go, doing what they were trained to do… which is classified.
The civilian and military leaders of the Air Force, Navy and Army attempted March 8, 2019, to convince skeptical senators that they are working aggressively — and effectively — to correct poorly maintained military housing that has left some homes coated in mold, infested with rodents and with other problems affecting health and safety.
“Our military families deserve good housing,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “And when there’s a problem with a house, it should be fixed promptly and competently. Moreover, our airmen should be comfortable that they can identify problems without any fear of retaliation.”
Wilson was joined by Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper and Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer as well as the military chiefs of each service — Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley, Marine Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John M. Richardson.
Each was alternately contrite and outraged, apologizing for the not attacking the problem sooner but promising swift and decisive action. The responses followed blunt assessments from a number of senators.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein and Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Wayne Clark)
James Inhofe, R-Okla. and committee chairman, said reports of substandard housing are “heart wrenching.” Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who is the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the current state of housing on some bases is the result of “systemic failures on the part of contractors and Department of Defense.”
The service secretaries and chiefs each acknowledged the problem.
“In too many cases, it is clear the private housing companies failed to uphold their end of the bargain, a failure that was enabled by the Army’s insufficient oversight,” Esper said. “We are determined to investigate these problems and to hold our housing contractors and chains of command … accountable.”
To underscore their response, leaders of each service described their services’ review of base housing. Wilson told senators that the Air Force completed its review on March 1 and that she personally visited housing at MacDill, Tinker and Shaw Air Force Bases. Goldfein saw housing and met families at Keesler and Maxwell AFBs.
Each found problems and substandard maintenance that “were very consistent with the testimony that you heard from the families that came forward,” Goldfein said. “And I’ll second what the secretary said, that the most concerning to me that I found was the breakdown in trust that we’ve got to rebuild.”
A major part of the corrective effort, the officials told senators, is creation of a tenant bill of rights. An early version of the document has been released. It provides service personnel who live in military housing more authority and stronger tools to alert the chain of command to problems and force action.
Foremost is the ability of renters to withhold payment if problems are properly reported to the private companies that manage the homes but are not addressed or resolved.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)
“Excitement in the near term based on hearings is interesting, not compelling,” Goldfein told senators. “We are going to have to keep our boot on the throat of the underperforming contractors and our command chain and leadership to make sure we get after this for the long term. And we’re committed to do so.”
How long it will take to enact the tenant bill of rights, however, is unclear. Spencer said it could take 90 days because it requires contacting each company that manages military housing to inform “and educate” them about new expectations and consequences for not complying.
Beyond the bill of rights and stronger commander involvement, the service secretaries and chiefs said they will work to ensure that base housing authorities are sufficiently staffed and trained. Wilson said she as part of her review, at bases where housing is well maintained and satisfaction ratings are high, the housing authority is strong.
“One of the bases that I went to was one that was rated as performing well and when you have a contract housing office where the contractor is performing well, we probably have enough people in that housing office,” Wilson said. “But when performance starts to slide that’s when it becomes overtaxed. So how we put the people back (to) give support to the base commanders where it’s really needed is … going to be the key decision point.”
Wilson, Goldfein and the other leaders also said that commanders must work harder to understand the state of housing on their bases and to respond aggressively and quickly. In addition, each secretary and service chief said there would be “zero tolerance” for retaliation when problems are reported.
“If people feel that if they act there will be retaliation, people will not act,” Wilson said.
When asked by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to speak directly to active-duty service personnel who are living in substandard housing, Goldfein said the issue was a “mirror check” moment for him and other commanders.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein provide testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark)
“We have a moral obligation,” he said. “We are not going to stop until we have the system right and we can take care of all of them.”
The Air Force and other services are also looking at the terms of leases to determine if universal language might be used. They also are examining building codes and how building inspectors from local governments are used to ensure that safe and most up-to-date standards are used.
While the hearing was for the most part cordial, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., focused on the role that commanders play to ensure that rules and standards are enforced. She also said they must be more assertive in rejecting bonus payments to contractors that fail to meet high standards.
A contract can have “perfect language,” she said, but “If leaders don’t enforce the rules, at the end of the day, we’re not going to be delivering for our military personnel.”
Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., agreed. “This is ultimately a commander responsibility.”
McSally should know. A retired Air Force colonel and fighter pilot, McSally said her experience is that the record of commanders is “very patchwork.”
By the end of the 3-hour hearing, senators said they believe the actions and plans of the services are well designed and will make a difference.
But they also warned that their attention will not wane and that each of the services is expected to show real and lasting improvement.
“We will have another oversight hearing with the chairman’s blessing to see where the progress is,” Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said. “And I’m not talking about next year. I’m talking on fairly short intervals because if you look at this, this is not rocket science. We can fix this. And it starts by doing what every branch has said they’re going to do.”
Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey’s promotion to two-star has been denied by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, the Washington Post reports. This action will effectively end the admiral’s career. The decision comes after Congress pressured the SECNAV by threatening to hold up the confirmations of other Navy officials.
Rear Adm. Brian L. Losey, commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, delivers remarks during the Naval Special Warfare Group (NSWG) 1 change of command ceremony at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John R. Fischer)
Losey, an Air Force Academy graduate and Navy SEAL, has been due for promotion since October 2015, about the time he was accused of illegally punishing three people under his command in a witchhunt for anonymous whistleblowers who reported him for a travel policy infraction. The inspector general’s investigations upheld three of the five accusations that Losey had retaliated against the whistleblowers.
Losey is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Panama, Bosnia, and Somalia. He once commanded SEAL Team 6 and served as military aide at the White House.
“The failure to promote does not diminish the achievements of a lifetime of service,” a Navy representative said in a statement. “While the full scope of his service may never be known, his brilliant leadership of special operators in the world’s most challenging operational environments…reflected his incredible talent, energy, and devotion to mission. There are few in this country whose contributions to national security have been more significant.”
Despite Congressional pressure, a board of admirals recommended Losey for promotion anyway, a recommendation rejected by Mabus. The Navy told The Washington Post that Losey’s time at the helm of the Special Warfare Command would soon end and that he would soon be putting in for retirement.
The Northrop T-38 Talon is one of the oldest aircraft still serving in the United States Air Force, functioning as an advanced jet trainer for future fighter pilots who’ll eventually make their way to the cockpit of an F-16 Fighting Falcon, F-15 Eagle, or F-22 Raptor. The Talon gives trainee pilots a feel for what it’s like to fly and fight in a supersonic aircraft that can mimic the handling characteristics of current 4th generation fighters to a fair degree. But with the impending advent of the Air Force’s brand new F-35A Lightning II, and the upcoming F-X Next Generation Tactical Air fighter, which will supersede the F-22 and F-15, it’s time for a new lead-in trainer. One that’s better suited to adapting future fighter pilots to the ultra-modern cockpits of the next level of fighter aviation.
Well, that, and the Talon is just plain old. Having taken to the skies for the first time in early 1959, and with full-rate production ceasing in 1972, the T-38 is due to be retired and replaced in the coming years with an aircraft that’ll be able to serve the needs of the Air Force going into 2020 and beyond. Though the formal program to replace the aging T-38 hasn’t yet started, Lockheed Martin has already taken the initiative to showcase its proposal for a prospective T-X trainer.
Working closely with Korea Aerospace Industries to redevelop their FA-50 Golden Eagle (which Lockheed Martin helped fund back in the 1990s), they came up with the T-50A. The Golden Eagle was actually built from the ground up as a supersonic light fighter, similar to the T-38’s fighter variant, the F-5 Freedom Fighter/Tiger II. Modifications that’ll meet T-X specifications include a new dorsal refueling receptacle, designed to mate with the typical boom/probe setup used by Air Force fighters, and a state-of-the-art glass cockpit similar to the one found in the F-35 Lightning II, featuring a large area display (LAD). The T-50A will also be equipped with the FA-50’s integrated EW (electronic warfare) suite, but will likely lack the 20mm .
The Air Force is vigorously pursuing new avionics, radar, targeting sensors, weapons, glass cockpit displays and Artificial Intelligence for its F-22 stealth fighter to try to sustain air supremacy amid Russian and Chinese 5th-generation stealth fighter technical modernization, service officials said.
The service has an ambitious, wide-ranging set of objectives woven into this initiative; the Air Force aims enable the F-22 to ID targets at longer ranges, respond more efficiently to sensor input, sustain an air-to-air combat superiority over near-peer rivals and lay down a technical foundation such that the aircraft can quickly embrace new weapons, technologies, sensors and software as they emerge – all so that the F-22 can serve all the way out to 2060.
The multi-pronged effort is inherently connected to early iterations of increased computer automation and AI, as a mechanism to integrate otherwise disparate elements of F-22 avionics, sensors and mission systems. Common IP protocol standards, including both software and hardware, are engineered to provide a technical backbone enabling upgrades and integration of a variety of interconnected systems—to include radar warning receivers, AESA radar, LINK 16 connectivity, improved weapons, emerging sensor and targeting configurations and new transponders, able to identify friend or foe.
“The Air Force has made progress with efforts to upgrade sensors on the F-22. The Air Force continuously looks for ways to upgrade and enhance capabilities based on threats around the world, to include the F-22 sensors,” Capt. Emily Grabowski, Air Force spokeswoman, told Warrior Maven.
In concept and application, AI can lower a hardware footprint and increasingly use advanced algorithms to perform processes without requiring as much human intervention. For instance, a more integrated computer processor is better-equipped to potentially perform real-time analytics during a mission to make adjustments as maintenance and combat circumstances may require. Faster analytics, relying on newer forms of computer automation, can more quickly identify problems, recognize threats and streamline various cockpit functions.
In particular, this can mean the emergence of multi-function sensors where single systems can simultaneously perform different missions and organize incoming data. Such AI-oriented technologies can have targeting benefits for combat, threat-recognition improvements, longer-range enemy identification or weapons delivery applications.
Ken Merchant, Lockheed Vice President of F-22 Programs explained this to Warrior Maven in an interview, “we are starting AI, which includes what includes what we call enterprise sustainment organization. Our cockpit is still a series of six displays. Should we go to glass and synthesize new sensor inputs in front of the pilot? Can I squeeze all that information into a small display and sustain those for next 20-years, or should I go to glass?”
Many of these considerations, in terms of specifics, are expected to inform an upcoming mid-life upgrade and sustainment enterprise for the F-22 fleet. Merchant said the mid-life upgrade will not only extend the functional service life of the aircraft for several more decades, but also reduce technical risk. The mid-life work on the aircraft, slated for 2024, is primarily geared toward maintaining F-22 technological superiority while both China and Russia fast-track 5th-generation stealth aircraft.
Exploration of AI for the F-22 aligns, in many respects, with the current “sensor fusion” technologies built into the F-35; this includes organizing and displaying information from Electro-Optical/Targeting Systems (EOTS), Distributed Aperture Systems (DAS) and other sensors onto a single screen. Relying on advanced algorithms, this system is often referred to as man-machine interface, able to lower the “cognitive burden” placed on pilots, who can be freed up to focus on other priorities and decisions.
Specifically, Merchant said, F-22 engineers were already exploring a lightweight DAS-like sensor system for the F-22, able to bring advanced tech to the F-22 without compromising stealth advantages or maneuverability.
Computer-enabled AI, naturally, can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle – Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.
If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.
This entire effort synchronizes with a current 3.2b software upgrade (covered extensively in Part 2 of the F-22 series), which uses agile software development to, among other things, upgrade F-22 weapons systems.
This progressive series of F-22 modernization enhancements feeds into a commensurate effort to update 1980s and 1990s computer technology, in some cases drawing on commercially available technical innovations, such as RedHat open-source software, Merchant explained. The mid-life upgrade will address much of this in an effort to ensure the pumps, valves and integrated core processors are brought up-to-date.
Newer F-22s are already getting advanced AESA radar, not unlike what is already on the F-35, engineered to accommodate software upgrades as they emerge. This architecture enables the aircraft radar warning receiver to broaden its threat library to identify new enemy aircraft. These upgrades involve the installation of new transponders able to quickly identify “friend or foe” aircraft more efficiently, developers explained.
“You can see air-to-air targets coming your way and a ground target will appear as a blip on a screen – with an information tag on it based on intel telling you what it is,” Merchant said.
Interoperability with the F-35 and 4th-gen aircraft will also be greatly improved by the addition of more LINK 16 data-link technology; the F-22 will be able to wirelessly transmit targeting, mapping and other sensor information to other aircraft without needing to rely upon potentially “hackable” voice transmissions, Merchant explained. Merchant said Lockheed and the Air Force are planning some initial flight tests of this transmit improvement by the end of this year.
“This will help everybody that is airborne see a common picture at the same time,” Merchant added.
A hardware portion of the upgrades, called a “tactical mandate,” involves engineering new antennas specifically designed to preserve the stealth configuration of the F-22, John Cottam, Lockheed F-22 Program Manager, told Warrior Maven.
“New antennas have to be first constructed. They will be retrofitted onto the airplane. Because of the stealth configuration putting, antennas on is difficult and time consuming,” he said.
Air Force is already using wirelessly-enabled automation to facilitate real-time analytics for conditioned based maintenance on board F-16s.
Automated CBM can help identify potential points of failure while an aircraft is in-mission and therefore increase safety and reliability while also lower costs and streamlining maintenance. AI is one of the emerging ways this can increasingly be accomplished. At the same time, AI is also fundamental to rapid targeting, navigation and other aircraft functions – it allows the aircraft to keep pace with rapid technology change and add new algorithms or computer processing tech as it becomes available.
Upgrading computer tech is something the Air Force is pursuing across the fleet, recognizing its significance to future combat; for instance, the service is progressing with an ongoing effort to equip the F-15 with the fastest jet-computer processor in the world, called the Advanced Display Core Processor, or ADCPII. Boeing developers tell Warrior Maven the system is capable of processing 87 billion instructions per second of computing throughput.
The F-22 will also continue to upgrade its collision avoidance technology which is somewhat different than the F-16s ground collision avoidance system which can automatically re-route an aircraft headed for collision. The F-22 system simply keeps the aircraft above a certain altitude in the event that a pilot is incapacitated. Also, auto-navigation software could be used to help an F-22 maneuver, re-position during an air-to-air engagement or land in challenged circumstances. A technology of this kind, called Delta Flight Path, is already operational on the F-35; the software helps guide the aircraft independently in circumstances where that might be necessary.
Autonomous, or semi-autonomous, flight is a fast-evolving technology across the US military services which increasingly see AI as a key wave to future warfare; the Air Force has already experimented with unmanned F-16s and there is a lot of work going more broadly in this area. Former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus once said the service’s F-35C will likely be the last “manned” fighter. This question, continues to inform an ongoing debate. AI enabled autonomous flight, while bringing some advantages without question, also has limitations, military scientists and engineers explain.
Thus far, AI-enabled computer programs are able to complete procedures much more quickly than efficiently, in many instances, than a human can. At the same time, there is still not as of yet a suitable substitute for the kind of problem-solving and dynamic decision-making ability provided by human cognition, scientists explain. For this reason, future explorations place a premium on machine-learning and autonomy as well as man-machine interface wherein algorithms are advanced to support a human functioning in the role of command and control.
For instance, Air Force former Chief Scientist Dr. Gregory Zacharias often talked about these questions over the course of several interviews with Warrior Maven in recent years. As an expert specialist in the area of autonomy, he talked about a fast-approaching day wherein pilots will be able to control nearby drone “wing-men” from the cockpit of an F-35 or F-22. Such a technology, naturally, could enable forward operating drones to conduct reconnaissance missions, test enemy air defenses and even fire weapons – all while a pilot remains at a safer standoff distance acting in the role of command and control.
This is often done by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, attached to the 403rd Wing, based out of Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi Mississippi.
According to a release by the 403rd Wing, WC-130J Super Hercules weather reconnaissance planes have already made 10 flights into Hurricane Harvey, presently a Category 2 storm slated to reach Category 3 when it makes landfall in Texas.
Each plane has a crew of five: a pilot, co-pilot, a weather reconnaissance officer, a navigator, and a loadmaster.
During the flights through Harvey, the Airmen made dozens of passes through the eye of the hurricane, braving the strong winds in the center of the storm. On each pass, a device known as a “dropsonde” is released, providing data on dew point, pressure, temperature, and of course, wind speed and direction.
That data is sent out immediately to the National Hurricane Center.
“As the Hurricane Hunters, our data is time sensitive and critical for the [National Hurricane Center],” Maj. Kendall Dunn, 53rd WRS pilot explained. “This storm is rapidly intensifying.”
You’d think these pilots would be full-time Air Force, but you’d be way off. These gutsy crews who brave the wrath of nature are with the Air Force Reserve – meaning that many of them are taking time off from their regular lives to serve their country. You can see them in action monitoring Hurricane Harvey in the video below.
The base camp on the Nepal side of Mount Everest sits at just below 18,000 feet. At this extreme altitude, oxygen decreases by half, and climbers can become light-headed, get headaches, and feel weak. Climbers also risk acute mountain sickness, hypoxia, and fatigue, as well as pulmonary and cerebral edema.
The Everest Summit is at 29,035 feet, 3,000 feet above what is known as the “Death Zone” of mountain altitudes: the elevation level where the oxygen in the air is insufficient to support human life. It’s at this altitude WATM interviewed Tim Medvetz, not on the actual mountain but at his Equinox training center in Beverly Hills. Here, Medvetz and Marine Corps veteran Charlie Linville have been training in a simulated altitude chamber, working on stationary bikes at atmospheres replicating Everest Base Camp.
This week, Medvetz and Linville departed for Nepal to begin their summit of the world’s highest mountain. Linville, an Afghanistan veteran and father of two, had his right leg amputated below the knee as a result of an IED explosion. If he summits the mountain, he will be the first combat-wounded veteran to climb Everest.
“This is what we do,” Medvetz says. “We concentrate on one Marine, one soldier, one vet, at a time. We feel that we can make a larger impact on one guy’s life rather than making a little impact on a lot of guys’ lives.”
Medvetz is a former member of the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club and founder of The Heroes Project, a nonprofit with the mission to improve the care and protection of heroes through individual support, community empowerment and systemic change. One of the three ways they do that is the Climb for Heroes Initiative, supporting climbing programs for wounded veterans. The Foundation puts injured war veterans on some of the highest summits of the world.
“One of the greatest things I’ve found with climbing the big mountains is that it brings them back,” Medvetz says. “It gives them that feeling of being on the battlefield again without getting shot at, so it’s a real big positive effect.”
The pair use the Beverly Hills based altitude pod to prepare. They started at 5,000 feet, which is like a visit to Denver. A few days later, they go to 8,000. Then 12,000. Every few days they would simulate higher and higher altitudes to stave off altitude sickness. They also slept in altitude chamber “bubbles” at home. The effort physically shows. During my interview in the chamber at a simulated 18,000 feet, Medvetz’ blood oxygen saturation steadied at 90 while mine dropped to 85. At sea level, the average saturation level hovers around 96. After 45 minutes of talking, I felt lightheaded and loopy.
“That’s your body literally falling apart,” Medvetz said. “You can’t just go to Base Camp. You get headaches, fatigue, and general wooziness before you pass out. There are only three cures: descend, descend, descend.”
“I feel good this year,” says Linville. “There were so many nerves that were here before that are gone now. I’ve been working a long time to prepare for this.”
Tim Medvetz and Charlie Linville have known each other since before Linville had to have his foot amputated in 2012. Before that the Marine had 14 surgeries to try to repair the damage to his limb. That was the year Linville says his whole life changed.
“I called him [Medvetz] two hours later from the hospital that I was ready to train,” Linville remembers. “That drive speaks to Tim. I wanted to push myself as much as I could.”
The duo was set to climb another mountain, but the Marine didn’t feel like it was enough of a challenge. While at a fundraiser, he was speaking to a mutual friend. Linville told the friend that the mountain they were set to climb was okay but it wasn’t the challenge he was looking for.
“That’s when Tim came to the realization that I was the right guy for Everest,” Linville says.
This will be the pair’s third attempt to summit the mountain. During their first attempt, a serac, a huge ice tower, separated from the Khumbu Icefall during an avalanche and killed 16 Sherpas. Out of respect to the Sherpas who are well known in the climbing community, they cancelled the trip after reaching 22,000 feet.
“This is going to be my 5th time on Everest,” Medvetz says. “The first time we climbed it, we had 11 guys that died. The 2nd time, 13 guys died. But this was the first time 16 all died or buried at once.”
For the second attempt for Medvetz and Linville, they attempted from the north face of the mountain in April 2015. They arrived at the base camp and went into tents to get food. While they were there, the 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal. The team, the Sherpas, and everyone else at the camp were stuck there. There, the damage was minimal, but 8,000 were dead with another 12,000 injured throughout the country. While most decided that they might as well press on to the summit, Medvetz and Linville didn’t feel right about it. As soon as the Chinese re-opened the road to Lhasa, the duo linked up with Team Rubicon’s Operation Tenzig, distributing food and first aid to villages in the Nepalese countryside that the Red Cross couldn’t access.
“Charlie was just like, boom, right at it,” remembers Medvetz. “We hit the road with gloves on, right to work. Patching kids up, patching old people up, and in the end, it was more rewarding to be on the ground helping this country than standing on the summit of Everest.”
Medvetz has put wounded veterans on almost all the Seven Summits, the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, including Antarctica. Whether talking about Kilimanjaro to K2, the former biker believes the ability to overcome anything from a mountain to a war injury is all in your mind. He should, he survived a motorcycle accident in 2001 which left every bone in his body broken.
“I was a 250-pound Hell’s Angel who studied with the Gracie brothers in Brazil and was a bouncer in New York City,” recalls Medvetz. “And here’s this punk doctor telling me be lucky I’m alive, well you know, f*ck you. I’ll show you. Next thing I know I’m on a plane to Nepal and I’m going to climb Everest.”
It was the question “What are you going to do next?” that inspired the biker to help wounded veterans through the Heroes Project. He went to Balboas Naval Hospital in San Diego to meet someone to go on a climb with. Medvetz sat in the hospital for three hours, drinking coffee and watching wounded veterans, some missing limbs, come and go. He’d never seen anything like it.
“I pulled over off the 5 freeway at the first gas station and I must have smoked half a pack of cigarettes,” he remembers. “I decided I’m gonna do everything I can. I’m gonna make a difference. That’s how I started.”
Medvetz and Linville departed for their third trip to Nepal this week, April 6, 2016. Medvetz’
The Heroes Project has multiple fundraising events throughout each year, the first being “Climb for Heroes” in April, and another on September 11th at Santa Monica Pier. To donate to the Heroes Project, visit their website. But if you can’t make the events, the former biker has advice for both veterans and civilians.
“I guarantee you there’s some veterans in your local community,” he says. “Go shake their hand, man. Tell them welcome home and make them feel a part of your community. For veterans who want to do something like summit Everest or Kilimanjaro, convince yourself you can do something and you’re already halfway to the summit. Everything else will fall into place.”
In the era of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, training was frequent and necessary in order to maintain the level of combat readiness required to sustain and prevail in battle. While times have changed, our Operational Tempo (Optempo) has not.
The number of troops needed in combat zones has decreased significantly. The amount of funds needed to maintain those combat zones has decreased as well. Funds have been redirected to modernize equipment, further training and have helped our forces remain relevant and vigilant. But what is this current wartime Optempo and Personnel Tempo (Perstempo) doing to our troops and our families?
How much is it really costing us?
Since 2001, more than 6,000 U.S. service members and DOD civilians have lost their lives. Of that, over 5,000 were KIA. Even more staggering is the number of wounded in action (WIA) since then. At least 50,000 service members have been wounded in action (DOD 2019). Since the wars began in 2001, the United States has spent 0.4 billion dollars on medical care and disability benefits.
This is only the beginning of medical care for wounded troops.
According to Costs of War, the financial costs of medical care usually peaks 30 to 40 years after the initial conflict (Bilmes, et al. 2015). In a study, it shows that although veteran suicide rates have recently decreased in numbers, the rate of suicide of military members versus civilians is still substantially higher, and ever-increasing. Furthermore, the number of veterans who use VHA versus those who don’t also, have a higher rate of suicide (DVA 2018). The toll this is taking on military families is creating unsalvageable relationships, emotional distress for children, and, ultimately, lives that are forever lost.
At the start of the war in 2001, Perstempo policies have been disregarded by many. According to the GAO:
DOD has maintained the waiver of statutory Perstempo thresholds since 2001, and officials have cited the effect of the high pace of operations and training on service members; however, DOD has not taken action to focus attention on the management of Perstempo thresholds within the services and department-wide (GAO 2018).
Is there a lack of genuine concern for family stability and well-being? Understanding the expectation of family interaction would decrease during wartime, once the service member has completed their deployment, reintegration, and revitalization of the home and family must take place. Families have been neglected and left without the proper resources to cultivate a healthy family environment. The concern for service member readiness has been an on-going issue in recent years. Studies have been conducted, and programs implemented, but is that enough?
Marital issues have often been associated with Perstempo, such as length of partner separation, infidelity during separation, and other challenges encompassed in a military marriage. The stress on the family of a service member is immeasurable; oftentimes, even discounted in comparison to the stress the service member endures. Support or resources for military spouses seeking separation or divorce are nearly nonexistent. They have been conditioned to believe that the well being of their soldiers comes before their own.
Military spouses sacrifice their academic achievements and employment opportunities in support of their service member’s careers. As the budget cuts roll out for the fiscal year, more much-needed family programs are becoming extinct. Programs that provide support for spousal employment, childcare, and leisure activities are being defunded, which can destabilize already struggling families.
Child and domestic abuse are an ever-growing concern within a community that is known for its patriotism and heroism. The families suffer in silence. Surviving recurrent deployments, solo parenting, housing issues, and the lack of program funding, the plight of the military family continues to decrease soldier readiness and morale.
Their mental well-being
The rate of PTSD and mental health diagnoses is on the rise for both service members and their families. However, services providing support and medical care for these issues have declined. The effect of time away from children has taken a toll on military children.
Neglect, abuse, and mental health issues are being ignored due to a lack of care. Some military installations cannot provide adequate mental health care because of their remote locations, and the costs to contract providers are often more than the proposed budgets allow. Because of this, the family’s needs go unmet.
With orders coming down the wire, Command Teams are obligated to carry out relentless training exercises, and soldiers are feeling the burn. Everyone is exhausted, each soldier doing the job of three, and families are becoming isolated. They lack sleep and proper nutrition, putting them at greater risk of making mistakes during training that may cost them their lives, but the soldiers march on.
The way forward
Repairing family units are necessary for the success of soldier readiness. Programs and support for families should not be cut. Revisions of budget direction may be necessary in order to tailor programs in a way that both benefits the government and the well-being of the service member and their families.
Allow soldiers to receive mental health care without fear of retaliation or loss of career. Provide structured support programs for spouses that go beyond counseling. Long term care is necessary for service members and families upon redeployment. Taking a true interest in supporting our military members and families should be the priority for our Department of Defense. We are fighting wars but not fighting for our families. Cultivate strength by improving the quality of life for everyone.
Researchers from the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory, recently partnered with Texas A&M University to work on artificial intelligence and machine learning as applied to material informatics (and genome).
1st Lt. Levi McClenny, a doctoral candidate in the university’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and an active member of the U.S. Army Reserve serving as a platoon leader and Black Hawk helicopter pilot in an aviation battalion in Conroe, Texas, recently completed a two-week internship at the lab’s Vehicle Technology Directorate at Aberdeen Proving Ground.
At Texas AM University, McClenny and his adviser Dr. Ulisses Braga-Neto support the development of an AI agent to determine the internal state of various materials and systems using microscopic images and deep machine learning techniques.
Researchers want to understand how materials fracture and break so they can potentially predict when a component will break in an aircraft, for instance, to help with maintenance and operational requirements. The idea is to engineer vehicles that can begin to detect their own deterioration.
Researchers from the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s Corporate Research Laboratory, recently partnered with Texas AM University to work on artificial intelligence and machine learning as applied to material informatics (and genome).
(US Army photo)
“We are applying machine learning techniques to better understand what is happening at the microstructure level in materials,” said Dr. Mulugeta Haile, research aerospace engineer at VTD. “We want to have a complete understanding of how materials behave during normal usage or in extreme conditions from the day they are put there until they are removed.”
McClenny said coming to the Army’s corporate research laboratory and working in its facilities allowed him to interact with some brilliant and experienced materials scientists that can not only shed some light on the work he’s done, but also pave a way forward.
“The new AI lab is absolutely incredible,” McClenny said. “I was able to use the supercomputer facilities to generate products that I will be taking back to Texas AM with me for future projects that would not be possible without the facilities Dr. Haile and Mr. Ed Zhu put together.”
According to Haile, the new AI/ML lab was conceived to facilitate research in artificial intelligence and machine learning to focus on vehicle technology and maneuver sciences. The lab, not only hosts state-of-the-art GPU accelerated high performance computing resources, it makes these resources highly available and easily configurable to users in an open and collaborative space.
Researchers from the RDECOM Research Laboratory, the Army’s Corporate Research Laboratory (ARL), recently partnered with Texas AM University to work on artificial intelligence and machine learning as applied to material informatics (and genome).
(US Army photo)
“I was able to get these products, as well as develop a plan of action for the microstructure research in the two weeks I was here,” McClenny said. “I was also able to sit down with numerous researchers from the VTD to see their data and see how we could apply machine learning approaches to learn more from it. We always say that models are only as good as the data, and here we can generate some top-notch data.”
The directorate was pleased to host McClenny and found his mix of skills to add to the overall research.
“As a PhD student and an Army Black Hawk pilot, Levi brings to the research environment a unique mix of skills and understanding,” said Dr. Jaret Riddick, director of VTD. “The unique mix of scientist and end user gives Levi a perspective that can be key to enabling the Army Futures Command’s objective of incorporating warfighter feedback into advancing science and technology for the modernization process.”
McClenny said working at the Army’s corporate research laboratory was an incredible experience and absolutely surpassed his expectations. He also said being a member of the military and a researcher offered some unique perspective.
“Throughout all the conversations and ideas, I have tried to remember the ‘why’ for these projects,” he said. “This is important to me, potentially more so than the average researcher, because I can directly impact the soldiers in my own unit, and future units, with this work. The facilities and expertise offered at this facility, not only by Dr. Mulugeta Haile, my mentor, but others in the group like Dr. Dan Cole and Dr. John Chen, really helped to expand my understanding of why we are researching the topics we are.”
Israeli Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin announced that its F-35 aircraft, known as Adir, “are already operational and flying in operational missions.”
“We are the first in the world to use the F-35 in operational activity,” Norkin said via the official Israel Defense Forces’ Twitter account on May 22, 2018.
In an interview with the Haaretz newspaper, Norkin said F-35s had been used in two recent strikes, but it was unclear if the aircraft supported the missions by providing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance or conducted the strikes.
Early May 2018, Iranian forces “fired 32 rockets, we intercepted 4 of them & the rest fell outside Israeli territory,” Norkin tweeted, referring to a counterattack in the Golan Heights.
Israel responded by attacking multiple Iranian weapons and logistics sites in Syria. “In our response attack, more than 100 ground-to-air missiles were fired at our planes,” he said.
Israel declared initial operating capability of its Lockheed Martin-made F-35I in December 2017. Middle Eastern outlets have said the fifth-generation stealth aircraft has likely made flights before for reconnaissance missions over or near Syrian territory, but those reports are unconfirmed.
Critics at the time wondered why the F-35 wasn’t used, since the aircraft would have been better able to evade enemy radar. But pilots and former members of the Israeli Air Force said use of the F-35 would have been risky so early in its operational lifespan.
“If they thought that the targets were so strategically important, I’m sure they’d consider using them. But they weren’t. So why risk use of the F-35s at such an early point in their operational maturity?” retired Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Abraham Assael told Defense News at the time.
Israel in August 2017, signed a new contract with Lockheed for its next batch of 17 aircraft, following two previous contracts for 33 aircraft.
IAF officials have expressed interest in buying up to 30 additional aircraft.
On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day which serves as a day to honor all those who serve in the sister-service branches.
The men and women of the military have made exceptional sacrifices and so on Armed Forces Day and all other military appreciation days, we can do small acts to show our gratitude to them.
Below are some ideas of how to show your appreciation:
1. Volunteer at a VA hospital or donate your time to a veterans group.
There are 152 veteran medical centers in the US as well as hundreds of clinics, outpatient and nursing facilities. Call your local VA medical center or community to learn more about donating your time.
2. Talk to veterans or an active service member.
(Photo by Russell Sellers)
Ask questions about their service, why they joined the military and listen to their stories. A little interest can go a long way.
3. Visit a memorial.
All across the US, military members are honored through monuments that memorialize their service and sacrifice. Washington DC is home to 8, but monuments dedicated to members of the military can be found throughout the nation.
4. Put together a care package.
(Department of Defense photo)
With so many USO centers sending a comforting package is easy. Check with your local center to ensure that they can send out the package. You can fill them up with snacks and non-perishable food, toiletries, stationery or purchase a pre-made package.
Cities across the US celebrate Armed Forces Day with parades. Some of the most famous parades can be found in the cities of Torrence, California, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.
7. Offer to help a military spouse.
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Leanna Litsch)
While expressing gratitude to service members is encouraged, so is helping out their families. With one person at home, daily tasks can get overwhelming and a break is welcome. Offer to cook a meal, drive them somewhere or watch their children for a few hours.
8. Fly a flag, the correct way.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Dennis Rogers)
Sometimes the simplest expressions of gratitude are the most appreciated. Make sure that if you do fly America’s Stars and Stripes you follow the code.
9. A simple thank you.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Snider)
Sometimes this is the most honest expression of gratitude to those who serve our country.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.