As victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma pleaded to be rescued on popular social media apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, the National Guard altered its response accordingly.
“It’s been a very dynamic and evolving environment,” National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel recently told Military.com. “This has certainly evolved how we do it.”
Lengyel spoke with Military.com at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States in Louisville, KY.
While social media isn’t the primary communications tool between the Guard and those at risk, it’s starting to play a larger role.
The Washington Post reported that during Harvey, a Guard Humvee vanished in Katy, Texas. With no other way to reach the driver, soldiers finally were able communicate with him using SnapChat, a messaging app that can capture a photo or video, which is then relayed to the recipient briefly before it disappears.
Similar situations can happen when there is a communications capability gap in a disaster area, Lengyel said.
“Whenever you go into particular environments, communications is always difficult when you first start. Because the infrastructure [isn’t] there. It has to evolve,” he said.
For example, the Guard got the call to drive to Beaumont, Texas, before the Federal Emergency Management Agency or first responders could set up hub stations to house communications equipment.
The military has crews that monitor response efforts as they happen in real-time.
For example, its only non-offensive air operations center, known as “America’s AOC,” at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, keeps track of relief no matter where it’s needed in the US.
Military.com visited the 601st AOC in March. It evaluates domestic operations, or DomOps, for Air Forces Northern, monitoring the airwaves — and social media sites — for events with potential military ties.
Lengyel said he was impressed with efforts as ongoing training rotations across the globe have not stopped despite the massive hurricane relief effort. Part of the Texas Guard deployed to the Horn of Africa even as Harvey laid waste to the Houston area and Hurricane Irma loomed.
“Every state creates and drafts an all-hazards response plan … and a lot of it comes together from various federal agencies,” Lengyel said of the constant training and push to get ahead of the next big disaster, which could vary from an earthquake to a terrorist attack.
“Everybody has a plan. And we coordinate … and we think about it before it happens, and we’ve gotten much better about this over the years,” he said.
Special Mission Unit Milestone
This year’s relief efforts — from Harvey and Irma to wildfires in the West — created another milestone for the US military this year.
For the first time in the nearly 70-year history of the Air Force Reserve, all three special mission units — weather reconnaissance, firefighting, and aerial spray — were called to action simultaneously, the service said this week.
Air Force Reserve Command’s 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron — better known as the Hurricane Hunters — out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, “have been flying weather reconnaissance missions nonstop” since Aug. 17, the Air Force said in a release.
The 302nd Airlift Wing out of Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, is assisting the National Interagency Fire Center by providing a Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130H Hercules, aircraft and aircrew to support ongoing aerial firefighting efforts in the western U.S.
And the 910th Airlift Wing, out of Youngstown Air Reserve Station, Ohio, is providing its aerial spray capability to repel mosquitos and other pests in eastern Texas following Harvey.
Less than 900 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival recipients are serving in the military, and the Pentagon has no idea what will happen to them.
President Donald Trump officially declared an end Sept. 5 to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival program initiated by the Obama administration to allow illegals to remain and work in the country without fear of deportation, but what that rollback means for the military is still up in the air. The program’s protections will begin being phased out in six months, but DACA recipients whose permits expire before March 2018 can renew for another two-year period.
For now, the Pentagon is working closely with the Department of Homeland Security to find out what this policy change will mean for DACA recipients currently in the military. Out of 800,000 DACA recipients, the Pentagon said that less than 900 are currently serving in the military.
“There are less than 900 individuals currently serving in the military, or have signed contracts to serve, who are recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival authorization,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Paul Haverstick told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a statement. “These individuals are part of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest Pilot Program. The Department of Defense is coordinating with the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security regarding any impact a change in policy may have for DACA recipients. The Department defers to our colleagues at DHS on questions related to immigration, naturalization, or citizenship.”
Those with DACA status have been allowed to enlist in the military since 2014 through the MAVNI program.
A total of 10,400 immigrants who have made it through MAVNI have received US citizenship, but MAVNI has been put on hold as of last year.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post published Sept. 4, former Obama administration Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said that if DACA ends, soldiers who are part of the program could be deported immediately. Panetta argued that GOP Sen. John McCain should allow the bipartisan Dream Act to be added to the annual defense bill, which would give illegal aliens a pathway to citizenship.
The moment newly-arrived Marines entered the jungles of Vietnam, they were faced with a question from the most persistent recruiter. The call of the Blue-Eared Barbet, a bird indigenous to southeast Asia and beyond, has a distinctive, high-pitched warble:
In the elephant grass, there lives a bird whose call sounds like reeeuhuuup, and of course Marines call it the RE-Up Bird. As I am sure you know, re-up means to re-enlist, an idea not popular with the Marines over here.
It was the question no one was ready to answer right away. Luckily for the soldiers and Marines in the Vietnamese jungles, night time brought out the Tokay Gecko, who had the perfect answer to the Re-Up Bird.
Yes, the nocturnal lizard’s own distinctive call earned it a nickname as well. And the nights in the central highlands of Vietnam were filled with the refrain of this continual question-and-answer game.
Elbert Franklin Evans recounted his earliest encounters with Vietnam’s nighttime sign-countersign between the Barbet and the Gecko in his 1997 book, “Night On The Perimeter:”
“I heard the snickers from the soldiers on the bunker on my left. They enjoyed this jungle sonata, which echoed their own sentiments. Re-up? F*** you. You found humor in unlikely places in the bush, and this small bit of humor was peculiarly calming.”
Vietnam veteran John Podlaski writes extensively about the sounds of the jungle at night on his blog, which is named after his book, “Cherries, a Vietnam War story,” about his 1970 deployment to the country.
The Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship may soon be armed with an artificial intelligence-enabled maritime warfare network able to seamlessly connect ships, submarines, shore locations, and other tactical nodes.
The Navy is taking technical steps to expand and cyber-harden its growing ship-based ocean combat network, called Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES).
CANES is being installed on carriers, amphibious assault ships, destroyers, and submarines, and the service has completed at least 50 CANES systems and has more in production, Navy developers said.
Upgraded CANES, which relies upon hardened cyber and IT connectivity along with radio and other communications technologies, is being specifically configured to increase automation – and perform more and more analytical functions without needing human intervention. It is one of many emerging technologies now being heavily fortified by new algorithms enabling artificial intelligence, senior Navy leaders explain.
“Using AI with CANES is part of a series of normal upgrades we could leverage. Anytime we have an upgrade on a ship, we need the latest and greatest. Navy developers (Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command) have a keen eye of what we can build in — not just technology sprinkled on later but what we can build right into automation on a platform. This is why we use open standards that are compliant and upgradeable,” Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, Navy Cybersecurity Director, told Warrior in an interview. “It can seem like a disconnected environment when we are afloat.”
Among many other things, fast-evolving AI technology relies upon new methods of collecting, organizing, and analyzing vast amounts of combat-relevant data.
“We consider the whole network, just like any system on an aircraft, ship, or submarine. These things allow the Navy to protect a platform, ID anomalous behavior and then restore. We have to be able to fight through the hurt,” Barrett said.
Surface ships such as the Littoral Combat Ship, rely upon a host of interwoven technologies intended to share key data in real time – such as threat and targeting information, radar signal processing, and fire control systems. CANES connectivity, and AI-informed analysis, can be fundamental to the operation of these systems, which often rely upon fast interpretation of sensor, targeting or ISR data to inform potentially lethal decisions.
The LCS, in particular, draws upon interconnected surface and anti-submarine “mission packages” engineered to use a host of ship systems in coordination with one another. These include ship-mounted guns and missiles along with helicopters, drones such as the Fire Scout and various sonar systems – the kinds of things potentially enhanced by AI analysis.
Navy developers say increasing cybersecurity, mission scope and overall resiliency on the CANES networks depends on using a common engineering approach with routers, satcom networks, servers and computing functions.
“We are very interested in artificial intelligence being able to help us better than it is today. Industry is using it well and we want to leverage those same capabilities. We want to use it not only for defensive sensing of our networks but also for suggesting countermeasures. We want to trust a machine and also look at AI in terms of how we use it against adversaries,” Barrett said.
Nodes on CANES communicate use an automated digital networking system, or ADNS, which allows the system to flex, prioritize traffic and connect with satcom assets using multiband terminals.
CANES is able to gather and securely transmit data from various domains and enclaves, including secret and unclassified networks.
Carriers equipped with increased computer automation are now able to reduce crew sizes by virtue of the ability for computers to independently perform a wide range of functions. The Navy’s new Ford Class carriers, for instance, drop carrier crew size by nearly 1,000 sailors as part of an effort to increase onboard automation and save billions over the service life of a ship.
Along these lines, Navy engineers recently completed technical upgrades on board the Nimitz-class USS Truman carrier by integrating CANES, officials with Navy SPAWAR said in a statement.
“The Truman received a full upgrade of the Consolidated Afloat Network Enterprise Services network to include more than 3,400 local area network (LAN) drops, impacting more than 2,700 ship spaces,” a SPAWAR article said.
The current thinking, pertinent to LCS and other surface vessels, is to allow ship networks to optimize functions in a high-risk or contested combat scenario by configuring them to quickly integrate new patches and changes necessary to quickly defend on-board networks. Computer automation, fortified by AI-oriented algorithms able to autonomously find, track and — in some cases — destroy cyber-attacks or malicious intrusions without needing extensive and time-consuming human interpretation.
“We see that the more we can automate our networks, the more we can use machines to do the heavy lifting. Our brains do not have the capacity from a time or intellectual capacity to process all of that information. It is imperative to how we will be able to maneuver and defend networks in the future. We can have more automated defenses so that, when things happen, responses can be machine-driven. It won’t necessarily require a human,” Barrett said.
China is so desperate to stop jaywalkers it has turned to spraying them with water.
In Daye, in the central Hubei province, one pedestrian crossing has had a number of bright yellow bollards installed that spray wayward pedestrians’ feet with water mist.
The pilot system works by using a laser sensor that identifies movement off the curb when the pedestrian light is still red. The bollard then emits its water spray, set to 26 degrees Celsius, and announces, “Please do not cross the street, crossing is dangerous.”
Unsurprisingly, the bollards are also equipped with facial recognition technology and photographs of jaywalkers are displayed on a giant LED screen next to the crossing.
While many Chinese cities are displaying jaywalkers’ photos, names, and identification numbers on giant public screens, and even government websites, some cities are becoming more creative.
Shenzen has begun immediately texting jaywalkers after they commit their traffic infringement, while other cities only allow pedestrians to have their photos removed from public screens after helping a traffic officer for 20 minutes.
But why, of all crimes, does China focus so heavily on stopping jaywalkers?
Crossing roads in China can be very dangerous, and local governments are likely trying to minimize traffic jams and change pedestrians’ behaviors for their own safety.
According to the World Health Organization, China had more than 260,000 road traffic deaths in 2013.
An anecdotal contributor to this number appears to be the country’s compensation system. In China, drivers who injure someone customarily pay expenses, but paying up to $50,000 for a funeral or burial is far cheaper than what may be life-long medical bills. So for some drivers its more frugal to ensure a victim is deceased.
(Photo by Leo Fung)
There could also be less altruistic reasons for the clamp-down.
When one city built pedestrian gates at a busy intersection it was linked to attempts to strengthen “public morals.” In a country where the government attempts to — and largely succeeds in —censoring its citizens behaviour in accordance with morality and socialist values, the constant flood of jaywalkers flaunting the law and creating havoc is hardly an ideal scenario.
And while the new water spray system seems like a light-hearted solution to these problems, the consequences could be severe.
When someone has diabetes, there’s a constant stream of questions. Did you check your blood sugar? Are you exercising and keeping a good diet? Do you have your insulin handy?
Mary Julius, a program manager for the diabetes self-management education and training at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, wants to help educate veterans and their families about how to self-manage diabetes.
Julius broke down the differences between Type I and Type II diabetes.
Persons with Type I diabetes produce little or no insulin.
Persons with Type II diabetes make insulin but there is a resistance to the insulin.
According to Julius, diabetes awareness and education are increasingly important for veterans and their families; “25% of veterans receiving VA care have been diagnosed with diabetes.” Without awareness and education, people diagnosed with diabetes put their health at risk. Thus, veterans who have been diagnosed with diabetes should work closely with their primary provider, but, she emphasizes, veterans and their family also need the tools and education to apply self-management techniques.
Finally, Julius shares how VA has been working on creating a virtual medical learning center for veterans and their families to learn more about diabetes and related topics. Veterans and their families can access this learning site at VAVMC.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Almost everyone gets email forwards from their family. In the days before social media, people emailed the jokes, memes, and urban legends that populate Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest today. These days, it’s mostly older people that stick to forwarding emails instead of sharing via social media.
Loved ones forward things to veterans wanting to know if something about the military or life in the military is true.
This one has been circulating around the internet for a while. Its origins are hard to trace, but the authors — whomever they may be — pinpointed some of the more bizarre aspects of military life by trying to find a civilian equivalent. It’s funny to look back at things military personnel and veterans accept as a part of life, no matter how strange it may seem from the outside looking in.
65 ways civilians can simulate military life:
1. Dig a big hole in your back yard and live in it for 30 days straight.
2. Go inside only to clean the house. On weekends, you can eat in the house, but you can’t talk.
3. Pour 10 inches of nasty, crappy water into your hole, then shovel it out, stack sandbags around it and cover it with a sheet of old plywood.
4. Fill a backpack with 50 pounds of kitty litter. Never take it off outdoors. Jog everywhere you go.
5. Every couple of weeks, dress up in your best clothes and go the scummiest part of town, find the most run down trashy bar you can, pay $10 per beer until you’re hammered, then walk home in the freezing cold.
6. Perform a weekly disassembly and inspection of your lawnmower.
7. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, turn the water pressure in your shower down to a trickle, then on Tuesdays and Thursdays, turn it up so hard it peels skin. On Saturdays and Sundays, declare to your entire family that they can’t use the shower in order to keep it clean for inspection.
8. Go inside and make your bed every morning. Have your wife tear the blankets off at random during the day. Re-make the bed each time until it is time to go back outside and sleep in your hole.
9. Have your next door neighbor come over each day at 5am, and blow a whistle so loud that Helen Keller could hear it and shout “Get up! Get up! You are moving too slow! Get down and do push-ups!”
10. Have your mother-in-law write down everything she’s going to do the following day, then have her make you stand in the back yard at 6am and read it to you.
11. Eat the raunchiest Mexican food you can find for three days straight, then lock yourself out of the bathroom for 12 hours. Hang a sign on the bathroom door that says, “Unserviceable.”
12. Submit a request form to your father-in-law, asking if it’s ok for you to leave your house before 5pm.
13. Invite 200 of your not-so-closest friends to come over. Have them all dig holes in your yard to live in. After 30 days, fill in the holes and wave at your friends and family through the front window of your home as you set out for a 25 mile walk and After-Action-Review.
14. Shower with above-mentioned friends.
15. Make your family qualify to operate all the appliances in your home (i.e. Dishwasher operator, blender technician, etc.).
16. Walk around your car for 4 hours checking the tire pressure every 15 minutes. Write down on a piece of paper everything you want the shop to fix the next time you bring the car in. Give your wife the list to throw away.
17. Sit in your car and let it run for 4 hours with the windows down before going anywhere. Tune the radio to static and monitor it while letting the car run. If it is cold outside, don’t run the heat. Sleep on the hood or roof of your car.
18. Empty all the garbage bins in your house, and sweep your driveway 3 times a day, whether they need it or not.
19. Repaint your entire house once a month. Paint white rings around all the trees in your neighborhood. Paint all curbs yellow. Paint all rocks red.
20. Cook all of your food blindfolded, groping for any spice and seasoning you can get your hands on.
21. Use eighteen scoops of budget coffee grounds per pot, and allow each pot to sit 5 hours before drinking.
22. Have your neighbor collect all your mail for a month, read your magazines, and randomly lose every 5th item.
23. Spend $20,000 on a satellite system for your TV, but only watch CNN and the Weather Channel when you are inside to eat. Tune the tint on the TV to green.
24. Avoid watching your green tinted TV with the exception of movies which are played in the middle of the night. Have the family vote on which movie to watch and then show a different one.
25. Have your 5-year-old cousin give you a haircut with goat shears.
26. Sew big pockets to the legs of your pants. Don’t use them.
27. Spend 2 weeks sleeping in holes in your neighbor’s lawns and call it a deployment.
28. Spend a year sleeping in holes in your local area and call it world travel.
29. Attempt to spend 5 years working at McDonald’s and NOT get promoted.
30. Ensure that any promotions you do get are from stepping on the dead bodies of your co-workers.
31. Blast heavy metal music on your stereo and conduct Ranger PT, grass drills, and sprints on your front lawn after your neighbors have gone to bed.
32. When your children are in bed, run into their room with a megaphone and shout at the top of your lungs that your home is under attack, and order them to man their fighting positions. Don’t let them eat or sleep again for two days.
33. Make your family menu a week ahead of time and do so without checking the pantry and refrigerator.
34. Post a menu on the refrigerator door informing your family that you are having steak for dinner. Then make them wait in line for at least an hour. When they finally get to the kitchen, tell them that you are out of steak, but you have dried ham or hot dogs. Repeat daily until they don’t pay attention to the menu anymore so they just ask for hot dogs.
35. When baking a cake, prop up one side of the pan while it is in the oven. Spread icing on real thick to level it off.
36. In the middle of January, place a gate at the end of your street. Have your family stand watches at the gate, rotating at 4-hour intervals.
37. Make your family live with you in your hole for 6 weeks. Then tell them that at the end of the 6th week you’re going to take them to Disneyland for “block leave.” When the end of the 6th week rolls around, inform them that Disneyland has been canceled due to the fact that they need to get ready for Individual Skill Certification, and that it will be another week before they can go back into the house.
38. In your hole (refer to #1), with 200 of your not-so-closest friends (see para. 13), get the flu.
39. Sleep in a thicket of blackberries or rose bushes. Tie a string to your foot that runs to the house. Have your wife yank on the string about 3 hours after you go to sleep. Crawl out of the bushes and go to the house to see what she wants. She should then shine a flashlight in your eyes and mumble, “Just making sure you’re okay.”
40. Do not sleep from 1:00 a.m. Monday mornings until 3 p.m. Wednesday afternoons. Tie a branch around your neck and chew on sand to stay awake.
41. When there is a thunderstorm in your area, dig a trench into your hole so that it fills up with water. During the worst part of the storm, get out of your hole and go for a 12 mile walk.
42. Don’t change your socks for a week. After they disintegrate off with pieces of your feet, put on an unbroken pair of new boots and go for a 12-mile walk.
43. For mechanized infantry or armor types: leave the lawn mower running next to your hole 24 hours a day. When you get an opportunity to sleep in your house, put lube oil in your humidifier and set it on high.
44. Have the paperboy give you a haircut.
45. Set up a port-a-potty in the corner of your yard. Once a week, have the service truck back into your yard and pump it out. Make sure the wind carries the smell into your neighbor’s house. Ignore his complaints.
46. Every other month pull every single possession you own out of your house and line everything up on your lawn from smallest to largest, front to back. Count everything and write it down to file with your insurance company. Give your wife the list to throw away.
47. Lock wire the lug nuts on your car.
48. Buy a trash can, but don’t use it. Store the garbage in your hole.
49. Get up every night around midnight and stroll around your yard to “check the perimeter.”
50. Run the garden hose to your hole and turn it on. Set your alarm clock to go off at random during the night. Jump up and get dressed as fast as you can. Run out into the backyard and get in your hole.
51. Once a month, take apart every major appliance in your home and put them back together again.
52. Build a scale model of your yard. Make your children draw sketches of it including little arrows indicating what they are going to do when they go out to play. Post these sketches on a bulletin board for reference.
53. Remove the insulation and widen the frames of your front and back doors so that no matter how tight you shut the door, the weather will still get inside.
54. Every so often, throw the cat in front of your hole and shout “Enemy in the wire! Fire Claymores!” Then run into the house cut off the circuit breaker. Yell at the wife and kids for violating security and not maintaining good noise and light discipline.
55. Put on the headphones from your stereo set, but don’t plug them in. Hang a paper cup around your neck with string. Go sit in your car. Say to no one in particular “Lost-One, this is Lost-Three, are you lost too, over?” Sit there for three or four hours with the engine running. Say again to no one in particular “Negative contact, Lost-Three out.” Roll up your headphones and paper cup and place them in a box.
56. Cook a gourmet meal then eat it in the middle of a McDonald’s play place.
57. Receive 500 gallons of purified water. Only eat snow.
58. Find out your house was built on an erosion point. Burn your house down. Build new one 3 feet away.
59. Buy 10 pairs of sunglasses for your neighbors to steal.
60. When you catch above mentioned neighbors, only blame the neighbors that just moved in.
61. Dig a new hole in your front yard for a bathroom next to your original hole. Only piss in Powerade bottles.
62. When above-mentioned hole is washed away, dig a new bathroom hole 6 inches from your fresh water supply.
63. Every 2 or 3 days take your closest not-so-close friends camping across the street.
64. Shower semi-annually.
65. Have your parents take away your allowance on weekends that were a part of your vacation.
Along with announcing Aug. 5 that they would soon be ditching the blue digital camouflage Navy Working Uniform Type I, the U.S. Navy said it will also allow the popular “Don’t Tread On Me” patches for its uniforms and would offer new insignia for its boat driving commandos.
As of Oct. 1, any sailor wearing the woodland digital NWU Type III duds can sport the DTOM flag patch in the same camouflage scheme. SEALs and other Naval Special Warfare Unit sailors, or those specifically authorized to wear the desert digital NWU Type II, may also wear a similarly-camouflaged DTOM patch.
MCPON answers a question from Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Miguel Ferrer during an all hands call on March 24, 2016. Note the subdued DOTM patch on his left shoulder and the subdued reverse American flag on his right shoulder. (U.S. Navy photo by Lisa Lill, Naval Hospital Beaufort public affairs officer) (Released)
The Navy also says it will allow sailors to wear the reverse American flag, which denotes units deployed in combat overseas, on the Type II and Type III uniforms.
“During garrison and non-tactical exercises or operations, the non-tactical DTOM and Reverse Flag patches may be optionally worn at the discretion of the unit commanding officer and at the expense of the Sailor,” the Navy announced in Navy Administrations Message 174/16. “During tactical deployment exercises and operations, a tactical DTOM and Reverse Flag patch may be worn at the discretion of the unit commander and approval from the Task Force or Joint Task Force Commander.”
The Navy’s permission for sailors to wear the Don’t Tread On Me patches puts to rest a controversy prompted by a Republican congressional candidate two years ago who said SEALs had been barred from wearing the popular patch over fears it had a political connection to the conservative Tea Party.
As the Washington Post reported at the time, the patch is actually a derivative of the First Navy Jack flag used by the Continental Navy during the American Revolution and was authorized by then-Navy Sec. Gordon England for use on ships after the 9/11 attacks.
Reports indicated the SEALs were barred from wearing the DOTM flag patch for a short time after leaders realized there were no standards for the new digital camouflage outfits. Shortly after the controversy erupted, Naval Special Warfare authorized the DOTM wear for Navy commandos. Now the service is giving the go-ahead for all sailors to don the Revolutionary War-era flag.
The new Navy uniform regs also include a revised series of badges for Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen — an effort the community has been pushing for about five years. The three new badges will denote the qualifications and seniority of the individual crewman and will be phased in beginning this month.
SWCC Basic Insignia: A 2.5 x 1 1/4-inch silver matte metal pin showing a background of a cocked flintlock pistol, a crossed naval enlisted cutlass, and a MK V Special Operations Craft atop a bow wave.
SWCC Senior Insignia: A 2.5 x 1 3/8-inch silver matte metal pin showing a background of an anchor, cocked flintlock pistol, a crossed naval enlisted cutlass and a MK V Special Operations Craft atop a bow wave.
SWCC Master Insignia: A 2.5 x 1 3/8-inch silver matte metal pin showing a background of an anchor with a banner and three gold stars, cocked flintlock pistol, a crossed naval enlisted cutlass and a MK V Special Operations Craft atop a bow wave.
Missing Fort Hood Soldier, Pfc. Vanessa Guillen. (Courtesy: Fort Hood Press Center)
U.S. Army officials at Fort Hood today said that there is no evidence that a male soldier who killed himself this week to avoid police capture sexually assaulted 20-year-old Spc. Vanessa Guillen, who has been missing from the Texas post since April.
During a news conference, Army Criminal Investigation Command Special Agent Damon Phelps named the now-deceased soldier as Spc. Aaron David Robinson, who was assigned to A. Company, 3rd Cavalry Regiment at the time Guillen, a fellow 3rd Cavalry soldier, disappeared April 22.
Before the event, Natalie Khawam, an attorney representing Guillen’s family, announced that CID officials told her that Robinson had murdered her in the unit armory on the day of her disappearance.
“The murderer sexually harassed her and then killed her,” the Whistleblower Law Firm attorney, told Military.com in a statement. “We believe he murdered her because he was going to report him.
“This gruesome murder should never have happened.”
Law enforcement officials attempted to make contact with Robinson, 20, on Tuesday in Killeen, Texas, but he displayed a weapon and took his own life, Phelps said during the news conference.
“We are still investigating their interactions, but at this point, there is no credible information of reports that Spc. Robinson sexually harassed Spc. Guillen,” Phelps said.
Phelps would not comment on the allegations made by Khawam that Robinson murdered her because it is still an ongoing investigation.
Officials did not identify a civilian woman they arrested Tuesday in connection with Guillen’s disappearance, described earlier as the estranged wife of a former soldier. She remains in custody in the Bell County Jail awaiting charges by civilian authorities.
Fort Hood officials said that the human remains discovered recently have not been identified. They did not confirm details cited by Khawam about where specifically remains were found and what condition they were in.
Army officials said on Tuesday that they found partial human remains near the Leon River about 30 miles outside Fort Hood. The remains have been sent to a forensic anthropologist for analysis, though no official confirmation on the identity of the remains has been completed.
“Our agents are working very closely with the Armed Forces Medical Examiner to expedite identification of the remains,” Phelps said. “We will release information on those remains as soon as we can and after notification is made with the next of kin.”
Army officials also stressed repeatedly at the news conference that there is “no credible information” that Guillen was the victim of sexual harassment or assault.
“The criminal investigation has not found any connection between sexual harassment and Vanessa’s disappearance,” Maj. Scott Efflandt, deputy commanding general of III Corps and Fort Hood, said. “However, all sexual harassment allegations are being investigated, as they are in every other instance.”
At Efflandt’s request, Army Forces Command ordered a seven-member inspector general team to Fort Hood to review the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program, (SHARP). The inspection will assess whether the command climate at Hood is supportive of soldiers reporting sexual harassment and seek to identify any potential systemic issues within the program at Hood, Efflandt said.
Phelps said investigators are aware Guillen’s family members made statements early on to the media concerning sexual harassment allegations.
He acknowledged that agents uncovered statements on May 7 that could be considered sexual harassment.
“After subsequent investigation, another allegation of verbal harassment involving the same individual was discovered. However subsequent interviews have failed to [confirm] this allegation,” Phelps said. “Nevertheless, we are still investigating.”
An active-duty US Marine captain wrote a stinging op-ed for the Marine Corps Gazette, going through all the problems he sees with the Department of Defense and the Marine Corps in addition to recent failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The biggest problem, according to Capt. Joshua Waddell, is “self-delusion.”
“Let us first begin with the fundamental underpinnings of this delusion: our measures of performance and effectiveness in recent wars,” he wrote. “It is time that we, as professional military officers, accept the fact that we lost the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
The active-duty infantry officer, who served with and lost Marines under his command with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines, in Afghanistan, didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. He said it took several years for him to accept that, with the goal of improving the system.
A case in point, he says, is a comparison of the US military with other adversaries.
The Pentagon’s budget dwarfs the combined defense spending of the next 10 countries. The Army and Marine Corps are arguably the best-trained fighting forces in the world. The Air Force has the most high-tech aircraft and weaponry, while the Navy maintains nearly 20 aircraft carriers — far more than adversaries like Russia and China that have only one each.
These stats should mean the US military is unstoppable, but the budget, talk of being the best in the world, and other claims it makes don’t square with measures of effectiveness, Waddell writes.
“How, then, have we been bested by malnourished and undereducated men with antiquated and improvised weaponry whilst spending trillions of dollars in national treasure and costing the lives of thousands of servicemen and hundreds of thousands of civilians?” he wrote.
“For example, a multibillion-dollar aircraft carrier that can be bested by a few million dollars in the form of a swarming missile barrage or a small unmanned aircraft system (UAS) capable of rendering its flight deck unusable does not retain its dollar value in real terms. Neither does the M1A1 tank, which is defeated by $20 worth of household items and scrap metal rendered into an explosively-formed projectile.
“The Joint Improvised Threat Defeat Organization has a library full of examples like these, and that is without touching the weaponized return on investment in terms of industrial output and capability development currently being employed by our conventional adversaries.”
His article isn’t just a critique; Waddell offers several solutions to get the military out of the “business-as-usual” mindset that looks good in PowerPoint briefs but doesn’t translate to success on the ground.
While military leaders typically complain to Congress that constrained budgets have a “crippling” effect on the military, Waddell says the military should work more efficiently with the money it has. He gives an example of a nation already doing this: Russia.
Moscow’s military budget is about $52 billion, versus Washington’s proposed defense budget of $583 billion. Yet with far less money, Russia has been a consistent thorn in the US’s side in Syria, Ukraine, and now Afghanistan. That’s not to mention Moscow’s success in cyberwarfare.
“This is the same Russian military whom the RAND Corporation has estimated would be unstoppable in an initial conventional conflict in the Baltic states, even against the combined might of the NATO forces stationed there,” Waddell wrote. “Given the generous funding the American people have bequeathed us to provide for the common defense, is it so unreasonable to seek an efficient frontier of that resource’s utility?”
Waddell’s critique includes a call to fix inefficiencies between the Defense Department getting gear to war fighters, as some have to buy things they need because they don’t get there before they deploy. Waddell also calls for an audit of the Marines to see whether there are redundant efforts among contractors.
“There is no reason we should be paying twice for the same work or, as is often the case, paying government personnel for work that they have instead outsourced to more capable contractors for tasks within the government worker’s job description,” he wrote. “I would be willing to bet that a savvy staff officer with access to these position and billet descriptions as well as contracting line items could save the Marine Corps millions of dollars by simply hitting Control+F (find all) on his keyboard, querying key tasks, and counting redundancies.”
It’s unclear how much of an effect this op-ed would have on any changes. The Marine Corps Gazette is read mostly by senior Marine leadership, but whether that translates to taking this captain’s advice in an institution that is resistant to change is an open question.
“I have watched Marines charge headlong into enemy fire and breach enemy defenses with the enemy’s own captured IEDs in order to engage in close combat,” Waddell wrote. “This same fighting spirit from which we draw so much pride must be replicated by our senior leaders in leading comprehensive reform of our Corps’ capabilities and in creating a supporting establishment truly capable of fostering innovation.”
I awake with a start. John isn’t in bed beside me. Throughout his military career, I never could grow used to an empty bed. Unlike before, I hear him breathing. He is in his recliner on the other side of the room. Either insomnia, a migraine or back spasms have pulled him away from me tonight. I ask if he is ok before realizing he is sound asleep. The rhythmic sound of his breath lolls me back to sleep as well.
There was a time, early in our marriage, where we both craved one another’s attention. We never wanted to leave each other’s side. Twenty years later, three kids, two deployments and many many nights apart, we’ve become more accustomed to absence then togetherness.
We are relearning what it looks like to be together, always.
Quarantine and Retirement
I’ve been hearing from friends whose spouses are either recently retired or working from home currently with no end in sight. The struggles are similar. Our routine at home is now chaotic. It’s similar to the disruption of reintegration but for a much lengthier stretch.
It is extremely difficult to continue forward with the routine when there is a new person in your space. Knowing that your spouse is just one room away while you are trying to get your to-do list complete is frustrating. It would be much more fun to join in watching that movie or whatever else is happening. I mean after all isn’t more time together what you craved during that last deployment?
Look, it’s ok not to want to be together 24/7 even if that’s all you were craving in the normality of 2019. For many of us, 2020 has brought more together time then we could have imagined. It’s ok not to spend every second together. It’s also equally ok to not finish that crazy to-do list and just enjoy some extra time with your soldier.
Drop the guilt. Everyone right now understands the need to focus on mental health. Plus, there’s no need to worry about unexpected guests dropping by, so yes, the dishes and laundry can wait.
2. Find time to be alone, even if you have to hide in a closet
I am an introvert. I used to wake at 0500 to see John off to PT and soak up the quiet early morning with a book and a cup of coffee before the kids woke up. Our new normal means that this house is never empty. The kids are doing e-learning and even the hobbies that once took John out of the house after retirement have ceased. There is much togetherness going on.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the extra time with one another, but sometimes it can be too much. In those moments, I need a timeout. I need to recharge by being alone.
What does this look like when the whole world is shut down?
Here are a few ways I’ve figured out how to get my alone time.
Long drives through backroads with the radio cranked all the way up
Walks through the neighborhood
Adult coloring books while listening to an audiobook
Noise-canceling headphones while writing
Sitting in the closet with the lights off enjoying the silence
3. Open communication makes all the difference
Communication while in the military had its challenges. We spent ten years learning how to communicate long distance, how to keep the dialogue going across oceans, and then how to understand one another after surviving vastly different challenges. My world of toddlers was not the same as his of war. It took effort to hear what the other was saying and the perspective we each brought to the conversation. The same is true now.
One of the things we’ve learned since retirement is that just because we’ve been married twenty years doesn’t mean we actually know the other person well. We may have been married but we inhabited very different spaces during that time.
All of this togetherness now is giving us the opportunity to get to know one another for who we are today. We are learning how to ask questions and how to listen in new ways. It’s a little like dating, the excitement and frustration are there. The only difference being the commitment to keep doing this, to keep trying, to keep growing together, and to maybe come out of this year closer then we were when it began.
The most important lesson I’ve learned during this time of increased togetherness and struggling to get everything done in the weirdness of 2020 is to be kind to myself. It’s time to drop the guilt because it isn’t mine to carry.
VA scientists are working to create a 3D-printed artificial lung that they tout as having the potential to revolutionize the treatment of Veterans affected by lung disease.
One such lung disorder—chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—is one of the most prevalent and costliest ailments in the Veteran population.
Dr. Joseph Potkay, a biomedical engineer at the VA Ann Arbor Health Care System in Michigan, is leading the VA-funded research. It calls for making a prototype of the 3D-printed artificial lung. Potkay and his team hope to build what they call the first wearable artificial lung that is compatible with living tissue and is capable of short- and long-term respiratory support.
The lung is seen initially as a temporary measure, a bridge to help patients awaiting a lung transplant or an aid for those whose lungs are healing. Future versions could have longer-term applications, the researchers say.
Potkay says this is the first time high-resolution 3D polymer printing is being used to create microfluidic lungs with three-dimensional blood flow networks.
Potkay’s artificial lung model relies on microfabrication to achieve highly efficient gas exchange and blood paths similar to those in a human lung.
(Photo by Brian Hayes)
Microfluidic artificial lungs, a new class of artificial lungs, mimic the structure of the natural lung better than conventional artificial lungs. Tiny blood channels, some thinner than a human hair, are closer in shape and dimension to those in a person, allowing for blood flow similar to that in the human body.
The biocompatible coatings on the lung’s surface are equally important. Anytime blood comes in contact with an artificial surface, an immune response leads to hardening of the blood and clotting. Biocompatible coatings will help curtail that immune reaction.
“We hope that these microfluidic flow paths and biocompatible coatings will be more compatible with living tissue, thereby reducing the body’s immune response and increasing the lifetime of the device,” says Potkay, who is also a researcher at the University of Michigan. “The flexibility in design afforded by 3D printing gives us more freedom and thus the ease to build artificial lungs with a small size and pressure drops that are compatible for operation with the body’s natural pressures.”
To read the full article, click here to visit VA Research Currents.
Featured image: Biomedical engineer Dr. Joseph Potkay, with the VA Ann Arbor Health Care System, displays a 2D prototype of an artificial lung. A 3D version is in production.
Iraqi nationals who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime should not be subject to a recent executive order halting immigration from Iraq, a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday.
The letter, a joint effort by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, asks Trump to grant the request of Defense Secretary James Mattis to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order. Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively.
The letter was also signed by Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans. Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa.
“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”
On his own, Moulton has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order. In a statement, he warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.
“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”
Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq. The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than a decade. Darweesh, who was granted a Special Immigrant Visa on Jan. 20, was ultimately released into the U.S. a full day later.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters Monday that the Defense Department is making a list of Iraqis who had worked to help U.S. troops for submission to the government agencies carrying out the executive order.
Special Immigrant Visas were created in 2008 for the express purpose of providing a special path for people from Iraq and Afghanistan who had assisted American troops to resettle in the United States, a recognition that these individuals and their families often faced greater danger because of their service.
“It is important that a special exception is made for the consideration of individuals who directly supported American personnel overseas,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter. “We respectfully ask that you take this action to ensure these individuals are not put in any further danger. Doing so would send a strong signal to those who show such immense courage to advance U.S. security interests at a risk to their own safety, as well as the many veterans and warfighters who’ve relied on the service of these individuals for their own protection and to accomplish their objectives.”