As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), it’s my job to help veterans understand how changes to their diets and lifestyles can change their lives. Here are the most common reactions that I see:
“I feel so much better, physically and mentally!” “I feel like a new man!”
It’s true. One of the biggest benefits to improving eating and activity patterns is an enhanced mood! Your brain is fueled by the foods you consume, and what you eat can affect how your brain functions.
But that’s not all. Keeping a healthy gut is key, too. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is mostly made in your GI tract, regulates your sleep, appetite, mood, and pain. Low levels of serotonin are linked to an increased risk of low mood and depression. This complex pathway is not entirely understood, but early research from the National Institute of Health suggests achieving an optimal level of serotonin production will help keep the body in good health.
So, what can you do to keep a healthy mind and gut?
Follow Mediterranean Lifestyle guidelines to reduce inflammation and reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Water: Consume at least 64 ounces each day (for most healthy individuals; if you have Congestive Heart Failure, are on dialysis, or another medical condition, you may have different fluid needs).
Vegetables: Eat at least 3 servings each day.
Fruit: Eat at least 2 servings each day.
Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, albacore tuna: Eat 2 servings per week.
Limit processed foods, refined sugars and sugary beverages.
It can be overwhelming to think about changing your diet and lifestyle, but there are many resources available at your local VA. If you want to get started on a journey toward improving your mind, body and spirit, contact your PACT team or your local MOVE! Weight Management Program.
Many VA facilities also offer Healthy Teaching Kitchen classes where you can learn to prepare healthy foods with delicious flavors. If you’re interested in these great opportunities or other nutrition-related topics, contact your local VA to speak with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Be sure to contact your PACT team or Mental Health team if you are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, depression, or changes in mood.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
He pretended to be blind so that he could receive benefits. But the Reno County man was spotted driving his car in Wichita, and on Sept. 6 he was sentenced in federal court.
Billy J. Alumbaugh, 62, of Turon, was sentenced to three years of probation and must also repay $70,000 in benefits he received, US Attorney Tom Beall said in a prepared statement. Alumbaugh pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. His ex-wife, Debra Alumbaugh, 58, pleaded guilty to concealing the crime.
In his plea, Alumbaugh admitted he falsely represented to the Veterans Administration that he was blind and home-bound in order to receive monthly pension benefits. In truth, he was able to drive and engage in other routine life activities without assistance.
His wife accompanied him to medical visits during which they pretended he was blind and depended on her for help. Alumbaugh, who served in the US Army from 1973 to 1976, received the supplemental assistance from 2009 to 2016, according to the federal indictment that charged him.
Billy Alumbaugh was seen with his ex-wife arriving at the VA hospital in Wichita last October, according to the indictment. Debra Alumbaugh was seen driving the car and she went on to help Billy Alumbaugh out of the car and into the complex.
After the appointment, they left in the vehicle with Debra Alumbaugh behind the wheel. After she drove for a few blocks, she pulled over and they switched seats, according to the indictment.
Mike Ergo enlisted with the Marine Corps Band but then decided to go Infantry and wound up engaged in heavy urban fighting in the Second Battle of Fallujah in 2004.
One of Ergo’s defining tattoos from the war is an image on his left forearm of St. Michael holding a scale of justice and a foot on the face of a dead Iraqi he came across in a combat.
“For a long time I was seeing this person’s face every single day, sometimes every single hour of the day,” said Ergo. “My thinking was if I had to see his face, everyone else had to see it as well. It was a tattoo I got out of anger.”
“Vietnam vets talk about their experiences coming back and the big gulf that happened between the veterans and civilians,” continues Ergo. “This is an opportunity for our generation to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Ergo’s story is part of War Ink: 11 for 11, a video series presented by We Are The Mighty. The series features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.
Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.
When NASA astronaut Michael Hopkins arrives at the International Space Station this week, he plans on making one small change to his professional title, which will mark one giant leap for America’s newest military branch.
An Air Force colonel and commander of SpaceX’s Crew-1 mission, which launched into orbit Sunday, Hopkins, 51, is scheduled to transfer to the Space Force in a ceremony aboard the International Space Station. In so doing, Hopkins will become the Space Force’s first astronaut. The in-orbit, interservice transfer is meant to highlight more than 60 years of cooperation between NASA and the Department of Defense, officials say.
“If all goes well, we’re looking to swear [Hopkins] into the Space Force from the International Space Station,” Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations of the US Space Force, told Space News on Oct. 28.
Aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule named Resilience, Sunday’s launch was the first step of a 27-hour trip to the International Space Station for Hopkins and his three fellow crew members. It also marked the second manned flight for SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which NASA officially certified on Nov. 10 for manned spaceflight missions. After a successful test mission over the summer, Sunday’s launch signals the beginning of regular manned flights aboard the groundbreaking spacecraft, which was developed and built by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technology Corp., the company better known as SpaceX.
The other three crew members on Sunday’s launch were two NASA astronauts, Navy Cmdr. Victor Glover and civilian physicist Shannon Walker, as well as Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
Sunday’s launch marks “the beginning of a new era in human space flight,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer, said during a press conference, adding that the commercial spaceflight company plans on launching seven Dragon capsules over the next 15 months, including three cargo missions.
A Missouri native, Hopkins was selected by NASA as an astronaut in 2009. He has spent 28 years in the Air Force and was reportedly nominated in June to transfer to the Space Force. Hopkins previously flew to the International Space Station in 2013 aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, spending 166 days in space.
On May 30, NASA astronauts and US military veterans Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken launched into space aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which was propelled into orbit by the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.
Known as the Demo-2 test flight, the mission was essentially an in-orbit shakedown of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to fully certify it for operational, manned spaceflights. May’s launch was the first-ever launch of a space crew aboard a commercial spacecraft, and it marked America’s return to active spaceflight operations after a nine-year hiatus following the last space shuttle flight in 2011.
The Space Force, which is the US military’s first new branch in more than 70 years, falls under the purview of the Department of the Air Force — a relationship roughly analogous to that of the Marine Corps’ falling under the Department of the Navy.
When the Space Force was officially created on Dec. 20, 2019, some 16,000 military and civilian personnel from Air Force Space Command were put under the new branch’s authority. However, those personnel officially remained members of the Air Force. The Space Force’s ranks swelled from two to 88 in April when 86 Air Force Academy cadets graduated to become second lieutenants in the upstart military branch. In September, more than 2,400 Air Force personnel were scheduled to begin shifting over to the Space Force.
The force now numbers more than 2,000 men and women. Recently, the first Space Force recruits began basic military training. At full strength the Space Force is expected to have about 16,000 people in its ranks. The Space Force’s personnel are currently spread out among some 175 different facilities worldwide, officials say.
The recent creation of the Space Force reflects a new era of warfare. With America’s adversaries, such as China and Russia, developing their own novel military capacities in space, US military leaders say it’s important to field a military branch solely devoted to waging war in this contested domain.
“Increasingly, free and open access to space is under threat. Though the United States will not be the aggressor in space, we will, we must, build a Space Force to defend our space interests,” Secretary of the Air Force Barbara Barrett said Oct. 28 during a virtual address at Space Symposium 365.
Trident Juncture officially started Oct. 25, 2018, with some 50,000 troops from all 29 NATO members and Sweden and Finland preparing for drills on land, sea, and in the air from the Baltic Sea to Iceland.
As a NATO Article 5 exercise, Trident Juncture “will simulate NATO’s collective response to an armed attack against one ally,” the organization’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said in October 2018. “And it will exercise our ability to reinforce our troops from Europe and across the Atlantic.”
NATO has increased deployments and readiness in Europe since Russia’s 2014 incursion in Ukraine, as countries there have grown wary of their larger neighbor.
Stoltenberg has said the exercise will be “fictitious but realistic.” But Russia has still taken exception.
Marines with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit prepare for a cold-weather training hike in Iceland, Oct. 19, 2018
(US Marine Corps photo)
“NATO’s military activities near our borders have reached the highest level since the Cold War,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Oct. 24, 2018, adding that the exercise will be “simulating offensive military action.”
But Moscow may be most piqued by inclusion of two non-NATO members, Finland and Sweden, who work closely with the alliance.
Those two countries are “very important NATO partners,” US Navy Adm. James Foggo, the commander of US naval forces in Europe who is overseeing the exercise, said in October 2018 on his podcast, “On the Horizon.”
“I was just talking to the Swedes last month, and they’re pretty excited about it. They’ve confirmed their participation … and have committed their advanced military and highly professional forces,” Foggo said. “So we look forward to having them on board.”
Sweden and Finland, both members of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, have joined NATO exercises in the past and invited NATO members to their own exercises.
US and Swedish marines check out Swedish mortars during a practice amphibious assault as part of Exercise Archipelago Endeavor on the island of Uto, Harsfjarden, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
At the end of 2017, 19,000 Swedish troops were joined by NATO members in the Baltic region as well as France and the US for Aurora 17, Sweden’s largest exercise in 23 years.
In May 2018, Finland hosted Arrow 18, an annual multinational exercise, in which US Marine Corps tanks participated for the first time.
Russian officials have also warned both of them.
Shoigu, the defense minister, said in 2018 that a deal between Stockholm, Helsinki, and Washington to ease defense cooperation would “lead to the destruction of the current security system, increase mistrust and force us to take counter-measures.”
Moscow has specifically reproved Finland, with which it shares an 830-mile border and a history of conflict. In mid-2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested he could move troops closer to the border if Finland joined the alliance.
“Do you guys need it? We don’t. We don’t want it. But it is your call,” Putin said at the time.
US Marines review the scheme of maneuver for a live-fire exercise as part of Exercise Arrow 18 in Pohjankangas Training Area near Kankaanpaa, Finland, May 16, 2018.
(US Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Averi Coppa)
Russia has said “if you guys join, we will take military measures … to take into account that you two are in the alliance,” said Jim Townsend, a transatlantic security expert at the Center for a New American Security.
Moscow has carried out “cyberattacks and threatening aircraft maneuvers around Sweden as well,” added Townsend, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for European and NATO policy during the Obama administration. “Both those nations have been bullied by the Russians and warned by the Russians not to do something with NATO.”
But both Sweden and Finland have mulled NATO membership with varying intensity in recent years.
Ahead of Sweden’s general election in early September 2018, the four main opposition parties all backed membership — which Stoltenberg seemed to welcome, saying in January 2018, “If Sweden were to apply to join, I think there would be broad support for that within NATO.”
Public sentiment in Sweden has shifted toward membership, but support rarely tops 45%. (A January 2018 poll put it at 43%.) There would also be political and administrative hurdles. A month and a half after the election, leaders in Stockholm are still struggling to form a government, which is already a record.
Swedish military personnel taking part in Aurora 17, Sept. 13, 2017.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Housey)
Finns are much cooler on membership. A poll at the end of 2017 found just 22% of them supported joining, while 59% were opposed; 19% didn’t give a response. Finnish President Sauli Niinisto has said membership is a possibility, and an endorsement from him may change many minds.
Sweden and Finland, both wary of their larger neighbor, have sought to boost defense spending and upgrade their forces.
They’ve made plans to increase defense cooperation with each other, and at least one NATO official has said the alliance has an obligation to come to their defense, as their non-membership increases the likelihood of aggression against them.
“Those two are probably the closest partners that NATO has in the Partnership for Peace. You see that in Trident Juncture, where they’re part of that NATO Article 5 exercise,” Townsend said.
“It used be that those nations wouldn’t take part in a major exercise if it was about Article 5, because that was just too close to NATO,” he added. “Now they’re taking part not just in the Article 5 exercise, but they’re taking part in one of NATO’s largest exercises in many years.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
TrueCar and DAV (Disabled American Veterans) just launched their second annual DrivenToDrive program, which is aimed at helping disabled veterans by retrofitting vehicles to accommodate their injuries. Last year, TrueCar gave their first-ever recipient the keys to a brand-new and modified cargo van.
And now it’s time to give away another car.
The CEO of DAV, Marc Burgess spoke in a March 15 press release, “DAV is grateful to partner with TrueCar and their DrivenToDrive program, which is designed to help the brave men and women who served our country regain their freedom and independence. Awarding a vehicle is a special way to recognize the sacrifices a veteran made and dramatically improve his or her quality of life. We’re additionally grateful to TrueCar for supporting DAV’s mission to honor our heroes and make them aware of the assistance we provide at no cost.”
“Driving is an expression of freedom and independence,” said Lucas Donat, Chief Brand Officer at TrueCar. “Helping injured veterans, those that have sacrificed so much for our freedom, to drive again is a cause close to our heart. Last year we had such an incredible response that we are excited to open up the contest again, and we’re honored to be working with DAV.”
Applicants are selected by a panel based off criteria to determine who will receive the vehicle. The program is only giving one deserving member of the military community a new vehicle. Active duty, veterans, and immediate family members are eligible to enter by visiting the link here. While there, visitors will be asked “what drives you” and how they would use the new vehicle to help them reach their goals.
Entrants must act fast as the submission period ends Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 9PM (PST.) Up to five finalists will be notified on or about March 26 and the Grand Prize winner will be notified on April 9. The official announcement will take place on or about May 21, 2018.
On his second deployment to Afghanistan, then-Sgt. Sean Karpf led his squad along a narrow pathway between two streambeds in Kandahar.
Up ahead, about 300 meters, a group of suspicious men scrambled on the rooftop of a building. He and his squad moved in closer to pull security.
As he walked on the pathway, which had been previously cleared, his left boot stepped on a pressure plate. A buried bomb exploded.
In a daze, Krapf remembered looking down at the cloud of smoke. He had ringing in his ears; he could taste the chemicals from the bomb.
“It was just chaos,” he recalled of the June 2012 incident. “I could hear people yelling my name, but I was still stunned at that point and I really did not know what was going on.”
Today, Karpf, 33, wears a prosthetic on his left leg that was later amputated below the knee.
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
He can often be seen in the weight room or on the practice field for the Jacksonville Jaguars — his favorite NFL team since he was 10 when they began to play in his hometown.
In his first year as a full-time strength and conditioning associate for the team, Karpf has found a new purpose in life that drives him.
Helping players get ready for each weekly battle on the gridiron against opposing teams reminds Karpf of his days as an Army sergeant.
“I love the preparation that goes into the games,” he said in a phone interview Dec. 18, 2018. “It brings me back to military training.”
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf was a squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Once the smoke cleared, the squad leader with the 82nd Airborne Division saw his injured leg and began to push himself out of the crater the bomb had left.
A medic put a tourniquet on him and he was placed onto a litter. As a medevac helicopter began to land, the Taliban insurgents fired a machine gun toward it and it lifted back up.
A firefight ensued and Karpf, who was still calling out orders to his squad, said an Army attack helicopter swooped in to make a few gun runs so the other helicopter could pick him up.
Karpf, who had played linebacker for a semipro football team in North Carolina, was about to face the biggest test in his life.
He spent over a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and had more than 20 surgeries.
The following year, he returned to sports. He competed in several swimming and track and field events in the Warrior Games and took home four gold medals.
“When I was working with the physical therapist, I made sure I got in extra work,” he said. “I had that goal in mind and I think it helped with my recovery.”
He also received a presidential send-off at the White House for a four-day bicycle ride that he and other wounded warriors participated in.
To the sergeant’s surprise, then-President Barack Obama spoke of his recovery and training in his speech.
“I didn’t even know that he was going to talk about me,” Karpf said, laughing. “I was sitting there on the bike and he mentioned my name and told the crowd I was competing in Warrior Games. I was like, wow, that was pretty cool.”
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, left, who lost his lower left leg after he stepped on a pressure plate that detonated a buried bomb in Afghanistan, now works as a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Once he left the Army after almost six years, Karpf moved back to Jacksonville. No longer in uniform, depression began to set in and he stopped staying active.
He then started a program through a nonprofit that allowed him to take college courses and do an internship in the local community. He chose his favorite sports team.
At first, he did various office jobs for the Jaguars but then gravitated toward the weight room to help out players.
When his brief internship ended, the father of two was asked to come back to intern for the entire season in 2017.
Following the Jaguars loss to the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game, Karpf came in for his last time with the team to clean out his locker.
Karpf was asked to report to Tom Coughlin, a two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach who now serves as the Jaguars’ executive vice president of football operations.
Coughlin decided to take on the former soldier full time.
“I thought this would be a heck of a guy to hire for our strength and conditioning program because of what he brings to the table,” Coughlin said in a recent ESPN video about Karpf. “And also for our players to maybe get to know a young man who had made those kind of sacrifices for his country.”
Former Sgt. Sean Karpf, a strength and conditioning associate for the Jacksonville Jaguars, gave U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who support the local community, including veterans and their families.
(Photo by Alex Brooks)
Being able to be around the game he loves has been therapeutic for Karpf, who has just started on a master’s degree in injury prevention.
“As far as with the [post-traumatic stress disorder], it’s made it easier,” he said.
He also shares a special bond with those on the team, a similar connection he once had with his fellow soldiers.
“You can see a brotherhood, but it’s not as prevalent as in the military,” he said. “But it’s still that team atmosphere and everybody coming together with that same goal in mind.”
As he was preparing to leave after last season’s final game, he gave folded U.S. flags encased in shadow boxes to players who volunteer in the community, some of those efforts helping veterans and their families.
“I did that before I realized that I was coming back,” Karpf said. “It was my way of saying thank you for everything you do in the community.”
As an honor to Karpf, some players even kept the flags on display in their lockers.
“It’s pretty cool going through the locker room and seeing the flags,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”
Veterans with PTSD often suffer from nightmares, as 53 percent of combat Veterans with PTSD report a significant nightmare problem. In fact, nightmares are one of the criteria used to diagnose PTSD. Often, nightmares are recurrent and may relate to or replay the trauma the Veteran has experienced. They may be frequent and occur several times a week.
Prolonged or intense stress, such as that experienced during a trauma or in PTSD, is associated with a decreased level of serotonin. The serotonin system regulates parts of the brain that deal with fear and worry. Low serotonin production disrupts sleep and often leads to more significant sleep disorders, like insomnia.
Those with PTSD who experience these brain chemistry changes may be hyper-vigilant, even in sleep. This can make it difficult to fall asleep or remain asleep. Excess adrenaline can make Veterans feel wired at night and unable to relax and fall asleep. With elevated cortisol, there is a decrease in short-wave sleep, and increases in light sleep and waking.
Treating PTSD and sleep disorders
It’s important for Veterans to seek treatment for trauma-related sleep difficulties. With treatment, Veterans can work to improve sleep difficulties and get more restful sleep. Treatment for Veterans with PTSD may include:
1. Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is used to facilitate processing of a traumatic event. It may include therapies such as prolonged exposure, cognitive processing therapy, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. Although psychotherapy may not be directly aimed at sleep improvement, it can be effective in relieving PTSD, and in turn, the symptoms of sleep disruption from PTSD.
2. Cognitive behavioral therapy: With cognitive behavioral therapy, Veterans with PTSD discuss their sleep habits and identify opportunities for improvement of sleep hygiene.
3. Relaxation therapy: Often combined with meditation, relaxation therapy is used to promote soothing and a peaceful mindset before bedtime. Ideally, relaxation therapy can alleviate hyperarousal so that Veterans with PTSD can relax and fall asleep more easily.
4. Light therapy: Light therapy uses exposure to bright light to realign the circadian clock. With exposure to bright light during the day, your brain is better able to understand that it’s daytime, and time to be alert. Patients of light therapy often fall asleep more easily and sleep later.
5. Sleep restriction: Sleep restriction is controlled sleep deprivation, which limits the time spent in bed so that sleeping takes up 85 to 90 percent of the time spent in bed.
6. Medication and supplements: Medications are typically considered a last resort for solving sleep difficulties due to their potential side effects. Supplements of melatonin, a natural hormone that regulates the sleep cycle can help patients sleep better. Medications including sedatives and hypnotics may be used if therapies and natural supplements are not effective.
Strategies and techniques to help PTSD-affected Veterans get to sleep
Treatment of PTSD and related sleep disorders is key. However, there are steps Veterans can take in addition to treatment that can alleviate the sleep disruption associated with PTSD. These include:
7. Sleep in a comforting location: Your sleep environment should be a location where you feel safe, and free of any triggers that might cause you to relive trauma.
8. Ask friends and family for support: Some with PTSD feel safer and more comfortable sleeping with a trusted friend or family member in the same room or a nearby room.
9. Wind down in the evening: Spend time in the evening before bed winding down from the day to induce relaxation. If you take time to relax and maintain a consistent bedtime routine, you can signal to your brain that it’s time to sleep. This can be done by going through the same steps before bed every night, ideally relaxing activities such as playing soft music, meditating, practicing muscle relaxation, taking a warm bath, or reading a book.
10. Setup the ideal sleep environment: A nightlight might make you feel more comfortable sleeping in a dark room. If your sleeping environment can be noisy or disruptive, consider playing soft music or using a white noise machine to block out sounds that can startle you out of sleep. Make sure to control the temperature of your room and keep it between 60-67 degrees fahrenheit. From your mattress to your bedding, make sure you know what keeps your spine in alignment and alleviates any pressure points or additional issues you might face.
11. Give yourself enough time to sleep: Being rushed in the evening or morning can contribute to feelings of stress that may exacerbate sleep struggles for Veterans with PTSD. You shouldn’t feel like you don’t have enough time to sleep. Schedule enough time for adequate rest, leaving extra time if you often experience difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep through the night.
12. Listen to your body’s sleep cues: Following trauma, you may need more sleep than you’re expecting. Listen to your body and go to bed when you feel ready to sleep. However, it’s important to avoid getting into bed too early and lying awake for long periods of time.
13. Avoid activities that can interfere with sleep: Eating a large meal, drinking alcohol, consuming caffeine, or napping or exercising a few hours before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Avoid screen time late at night, including video games, TV, and mobile devices.
Speaking at a Center for a New American Security conference on Monday, the US Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, explained why China’s DF-21D “carrier killer” antiship ballistic missile isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
The DF-21D, an indigenously created, precision-guided missile capable of sinking a US aircraft carrier with a single shot, has a phenomenal range of up to 810 nautical miles, while US carriers’ longest-range missiles can travel only about 550 miles away.
“I think there is this long-range precision-strike capability, certainly,” Richardson acknowledged. But “A2/AD [anti-access/area-denial] is sort of an aspiration. In actual execution, it’s much more difficult.”
“The combination of ubiquitous ISR, long-range precision-strike weapons takes that to another level and demands a response,” said Richardson, adding that China’s extension into the Pacific created a “suite of capabilities” that were of “pressing concern.”
But the US Navy won’t be defeated or deterred by figures on paper.
“In the cleanest form, the uninterrupted, frictionless plane, you have the ability to sense a target much more capably and quickly around the world, you’ve got the ability, then, to transmit that information back to a weapon system that can reach out at a fairly long range and it is precision-guided … You’re talking about hundreds of miles now, so that raises a challenge.”
“Our response would be to inject a lot of friction into that system at every step of the way [and] look to make that much more difficult,” he continued.
Richardson was clear that China’s purported capabilities were only speculations.
“What you see often is a display of ‘Here’s this launcher, here’s a circle with a radius of 700 miles, and it’s solid-color black inside’ … And that’s just not the reality of the situation,” he said.
“You’ve got this highly maneuverable force that has a suite of capabilities that the force can bring to bear to inject uncertainty,” Richardson continued.
Richardson also went on to address the dual aircraft carrier deployments in the Pacific and the Mediterranean, saying that the deployments afforded a rare opportunity for “high-end war fighting and training,” as carrier groups rarely get to train with each other in realistic, not just theoretical, situations.
Life in the military is a path not many people take, and even fewer take the road of becoming a U.S. Marine. The military in general has many challenges that service members learn to face throughout their career. Those challenges include going to school, taking care of their family and performing their military occupation specialties simultaneously, while also participating in exercises or preparing for deployments.
For Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Kirby, a radio chief with 3rd Platoon, Rocket Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, learning how to balance his family, military career, civilian careerand training exercises while also managing to have time to help out his community is a top priority.
“It’s harder for the Reserve Marines,” Kirby said. “We balance full-time jobs, a family, college and also being a Marine. You’re going high speed on all of it and you want to be the best at what you are doing in your civilian career, the Marine Corps and your family.”
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Anthony Rubio, an inspector-instructor communication chief for 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, vouches for Kirby’s capability to uphold his responsibilities within the United States Marine Corps. Kirby’s civilian career has never interfered with his performance as a Marine, he said.
Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Kirby, a radio chief with 3rd Platoon, Rocket Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, poses for a photo in front of a Humvee during Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 1-18 at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Calif., Oct. 12, 2017. Kirby was preparing for an upcoming deployment. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melany Vasquez
“He is a very intelligent human being,” Rubio said. “He has been at this unit as a radio operator for the longest time and knows how to get the job done. He is very proficient at his [military specialty]. Because he’s such a hard worker, I don’t have to micromanage him. He knows how to get the job done, regardless of what the mission is.”
After completing his monthly drills, Kirby returns to his civilian career as an aircraft pneudraulic systems mechanic at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where is responsible for equipment maintenance and operational and functional checks on aircraft.
The Marine Corps has helped Kirby to stand out above his peers by developing the skills needed to becoming a better leader, he said.
“All the principles and values of the Marine Corps are brought into my civilian life,” Kirby said. “The Marine Corps will set you above everyone else.”
Regardless of the amount of work and responsibility present on his daily routine, he has adapted and became proficient at multitasking. He manages to exceed at his obligations and even find some extra time for himself, but he says he doesn’t spend his free time watching television or relaxing alone.
Instead, Kirby said, he is constantly involved in volunteer work. He has helped on rescue operations in the aftermath of tornados and he’s an active participant in the Toys for Tots program.
Kirby has been participating in exercises to prepare himself for a deployment early next year.
“He has been waiting for this deployment for as long as he has been here, and I’m glad that he is one of the Marines that is going,” Rubio said. “If he wasn’t going, the Marines would have a hard time accomplishing or understanding the communication side.”
Even with his service to the Marine Corps, deployment, work as a mechanic and volunteer hours, Kirby said he wants to go back to school to finish his education.
“I plan on going back to school after my deployment,” he said. “I want to go back and go into mechanical or aerospace engineering. I think that it would help me in my career as a tinker.”
Last year the news was full of headlines about veterans and their service dogs being turned away from public places such as restaurants, airports, and, in the case of an Ohio substitute teacher, work. It’s a complicated problem; businesses don’t want to turn people away, but without knowing the difference between a service dog and a pet, their hands are tied when other customers complain.
Why would someone complain about a service dog? Unfortunately, there’s been a good deal of abuse of national service dog laws lately. Anyone can buy a red or yellow vest online, claim their pet is a support animal, and take it places pets aren’t typically allowed. If the animal isn’t well behaved, it gives actual service dogs a bad rep. Also, keep in mind some people are allergic to dogs or afraid of them, and some people just don’t like dogs.
For these folks, seeing a dog in a restaurant or sitting next to them (or their children) in an airport can provoke a strong reaction that leads to confrontation. It’s frustrating and embarrassing for the veteran, confusing for business owners, and upsetting for the community.
Veterans who have a service dog say their companion has allowed them to return to “normal” life. Service dogs can help veterans cope with depression, anxiety, and PTSD by recognizing signs of panic attacks, awakening handlers from nightmares, and signaling them to engage in coping mechanisms that break cycles of anger and paranoia. Service dogs can even be taught to block strangers from approaching their handlers with a passive maneuver. Of course, service dogs can also help disabled veterans who have mobility issues.
This is one problem that is potentially easy to solve. Veterans need their service dogs, and businesses and the community at large want to support veterans in whatever way they can. Service dogs are unobtrusive in public; they do not approach people who aren’t their handlers and, trained correctly, they will quietly do their jobs without causing any disruption in public settings.
Most people are surprised to learn there are national laws regarding where service dogs can and can’t go, but no national standard for what qualifies as a service dog. Ending the confusion about what is a service dog and what is a pet is as simple as creating one national standard.
A variety of “service dog” bills have been presented in the House and Senate, but The American Humane and the National Association of Veteran-Serving Organizations (NAVSO) are the first to create a national credentialing standard for service dogs. This measure would allow veterans to keep their service dogs with them in public places without fear of confrontation. This week they are asking everyone to support this standard by signing a Change.org petition that will go to the House and Senate Committees for Veterans’ Affairs.
If you’d like to help veterans keep their service dogs with them without fear of confrontation, sign the petition, and let lawmakers know you support this common sense solution. The petition can be signed and shared right here.
When Johnson Beharry was awarded the Victoria Cross, it was the first time a living soldier received the award in over 30 years. It’s not an easy award to pick up, and perhaps Lance Sgt. Beharry should have died in Iraq – but he didn’t. And because he survived, so did many, many men from his unit.
In May 2004, Beharry was driving an armored vehicle to help rescue a foot patrol that was caught in an ambush. The Warrior, an armored infantry fighting vehicle used by the UK military, had taken so many RPG hits that most of his crew were injured and he was unable to see using his periscope.
So, he popped open the hatch.
A British Army MCV-80 Warrior Infantry Tracked Fighting Vehicle.
He drove the rest of the way with his head outside of the protection of the vehicle. In doing so, he exposed his head to the same nonstop barrage of bullets and RPG fire that wounded most of his fellow soldiers. He drove the Warrior right through the ambush until he got to the threatened foot patrol.
He drove through multiple ambushes, small arms fire, heavy machine gun fire, several RPGs, and even improvised explosive devices. His commander and gunner, along with others in the crew, were wounded and incapacitated. Beharry didn’t know their status because the Warrior’s communications system was damaged in the initial ambush. With smoke pouring into his vehicle, he drove through the Iraqi night.
Beharry’s Warrior fighting vehicle after arriving at Cimic House outpost.
At one point, he could see an RPG flying at him, directly toward his face. He quickly pulled down the lid of the hatch with one hand, while driving the vehicle with the other. The blast pulled the hatch out of his hand but allowed the force and flame to pass over him.
Next, a 7.62 round hit Beharry in the head, lodging into his helmet, but miraculously not wounding him. Beharry pressed the vehicle on, away from the ambush area. He saw another Warrior from his unit and followed it through the dark streets of al-Amarah until they reached their destination: a British Army outpost. Still under intense fire, Beharry lifted his platoon commander and then his gunner out of the vehicle’s turret and into the safety of the other Warrior. He then went back into his Warrior and drove it to the outpost.
Lance Sgt. Johnson Beharry poses with one of two captured Chinese cannons used to create Victoria Cross medals.
Once inside a defended perimeter, Beharry secured the Warrior, pulled the fire extinguisher, and moved to the other, seemingly undamaged Warrior, where he passed out from sheer exhaustion. But his story doesn’t end there – Victoria Crosses, the UK’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor, are exceedingly difficult medals to earn. A month later, Johnson Beharry was back in action in Iraq.
The coalition base in al-Amarah was under attack from a mortar team in June, 2004. Beharry was part of a quick reaction force sent to neutralize the threat to the base. Driving again through the city at night, Beharry’s armored vehicle was ambushed on its way to the attackers. The initial volley of that ambush saw an RPG explode just six inches from the young soldier’s head, causing serious injury.
Beharry is presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II.
Other RPGs rocked the vehicle, and the turret, again incapacitating and wounding the vehicle commander and the others in the crew. With blood pouring into his face, Beharry stayed in control of the vehicle. He drove the vehicle out of the ambush area – in reverse – until it became lodged in the side of a building. Only then did he lose consciousness from loss of blood. But in moving out of the ambush zone, other Warriors were able to come to their aid. All of them survived both of the deadly attacks.
The attack put him in a coma, and his wounds ultimately required him to leave the service. Before that, he was presented with the Victoria Cross by Queen Elizabeth II on Apr. 27, 2005. Since then, he has made a number of public appearances and implored veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to seek mental health assistance for post-traumatic stress. These days, he runs a youth foundation to keep kids away from gangs and rehabilitate former gang members.
The US Navy’s Arctic muscles have atrophied over the years, so the service is working to relearn how to operate in this increasingly competitive space.
One way the Navy is doing that is by working with US allies and partners with the necessary knowledge and skills, picking their brains on how best to operate in this unforgiving environment.
Lt. Samuel Brinson, a US Navy surface warfare officer who took part in an exchange program aboard the Canadian frigate HMCS Ville de Quebec as it conducted Arctic operations, recently talked to Insider about his experiences.
Although he declined to say exactly where he went, Brinson said that he “didn’t know anyone who had been as far north” as he traveled on his Arctic mission.
The US Navy’s 2nd Fleet was reactivated last summer to defend US interests in the North Atlantic and Arctic waterways, as great power rivals like Russia and even China are becoming increasingly active in these spaces.
But there’s a learning curve.
“2nd Fleet is a newly-established fleet, and we just haven’t been operating in the Arctic as a navy much recently,” Brinson told Insider.
HMCS Ville de Quebec.
“We need to get up there. We need to practice operating. We need to practice operating with our allies. We need to get up there and experience it for ourselves as much as possible.”
That’s exactly what he did. He went on a one-month fact-finding mission in the Arctic.
Brinson, who had previously deployed to the 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations (Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf), was approached by 2nd Fleet for this opportunity, which involved reporting on how the Canadian navy carries out its activities in the Arctic effectively.
“The most striking difference [between the Arctic and other deployment locations] is how remote it is,” he explained to Insider. “There are just not many towns. You go forever without seeing other ships. You go forever without seeing other establishments. The distance is a lot further between the places we were operating than it looks on a map.”
From an operations perspective, that makes logistics a bit more difficult. “The biggest challenge for going into the Arctic is logistics,” Brinson said.
“You have to have a plan where you are going and really think about where you are going to get fuel, where you are going to get food, and if you need to send people or get people from the ship, how and where you are going to do that. Everything is pretty far apart.”
“You don’t have a lot of refueling points, resupply stations,” he added. “When you get up into the Arctic, there is not really anything there, and if someone had to come get you, like if they had to send tugs to come get us, it was going to take days, like lots of days.”
The emptiness of the Arctic isn’t just a problem from a resupply standpoint. It also creates navigational problems.
“Because it’s less developed up there, it’s also been less charted,” Brinson told Insider. “We spent a lot of time switching between electronic charts, paper charts, you know, Canadian charts, Norwegian charts, etc. to navigate around where we were going. You have to use whichever chart was most complete and most up to date.”
“There’s a lot of headway that could be made on that in the future,” he added. “The more we operate up there, the more we know that, but before we send ships in to some of these places, we probably need to just survey it first.”
Views of a U.S.-Canada joint mission to map the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean in 2011.
There’s also frigid temperatures and ice to worry about.
Brinson, a native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was in the Arctic in August, a warmer period when the daytime highs were in the low 30s. “It was cold to me, but [the Canadians] all thought I was being silly,” he said.
In the spring, fall, or winter, the temperatures are much lower, and there is a risk of getting iced in while at port. “Right now, you pretty much only want to be up there June, July, August, and then as it starts getting into September, it starts getting too cold,” Brinson told Insider.
Even though the temperatures were higher when Brinson was there, ice was still a bit of problem. “There is enough around that you need to be extra careful, especially if it’s nighttime or foggy. There were icebergs that were bigger than the ship,” he said.
“If you were to hit something like that, it’s a huge problem,” Brinson added, recalling that he saw a polar bear roaming about on one of the icebergs with plenty of room to move around.
From the Canadians, Brinson learned how to deal with cold temperatures and ice, how to keep your water supply from freezing, which side to pass an iceberg on if there are pieces coming off it, and how to sail through an ice flow, among other things.
“Working with partners like Canada is key because they’ve never stopped operating up there,” he said. “They know things like that.”
Brinson told Insider that the US Navy has fallen behind and lost a step when it comes to Arctic operations. “What we need to do is just get back to doing it,” he said. “We need to start getting the level of knowledge back.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.