There’s nothing more terrifying than imagining yourself trapped in a burning building, unable to escape … until you imagine being trapped in there with your children.
According to multiple news sources, that’s exactly what happened in Phoenix, Arizona, last week. A mother and her two children were in a third-story apartment when flames presumably rendered the exits inoperable, forcing the woman to the balcony. Bystanders encouraged her to throw her baby from the balcony and when she did, 28-year-old Marine turned security guard Phillip Blanks sprinted in, dove and caught the boy milliseconds before he would have hit the ground.
According to the Washington Post, Blanks said his time in the Marines, coupled with his athletic training as a wide receiver in high school and college, prepared him for this moment. The Marines taught him to “always be on high alert, not be complacent and to have discipline,” he said.
Every one who’s ever work the uniform loves that military discount. No matter how hard you try to deny it or blow off a small discount, that extra ten percent ain’t bad. In California, that’s like not paying sales tax. While we all love them and appreciate them when it happens, many of us don’t really go looking for them. Let’s be real: shopping purely for military discounts can be a lot of work. Now you can find everything you’ll ever need discounted in one place.
And what’s more, your shopping spree will go toward helping your fellow veterans.
Then you can keep your savings in one place.
GovX has access to the products and brands everyone loves, not just veterans. From outdoor gear by The North Face to Ray-Ban accessories, this site covers most anything you can think of wanting or needing for work or play. Like the A-10 being a tough plane designed around a giant gun, GovX is a retailer designed around providing amazing discounts to military, veterans, and first responders.
The site is like the exclusive Costco for the military-veteran and uniformed community. A membership with GovX provides access to discounts on brands like 5.11 Tactical, Propper, Vortex Optical, Under Armour, and – amazingly – Yeti.
If you’re unfamiliar with this miracle brand, I suggest you head to the Google posthaste.
But wait. That’s not what really makes GovX stand out. The real power of this site is that every month, the company selects a new nonprofit organization who does work related to first responders, military members, veterans, and their families and donates a portion of its revenues to the chosen groups. This is what GovX calls “Mission: Giveback.”
Previous Mission: Giveback recipients include the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Firefighter Aid, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial, the Semper Fi Fund, Team Rubicon, The Pat Tillman Foundation, and the Green Beret Foundation.
In 2019, GovX is supporting the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event that brings together entrepreneurs and veterans from all walks of life to share knowledge, build one another up, and help mentor each other through the rigors of starting their own businesses. Learn more about it by visiting the website and look for a Military Influencer Conference near you.
Now feel free to splurge on those yoga shorts you were iffy about buying – and feel good about doing something for your brothers and sisters in arms.
In a 1989 incident, the Air Force crew of a B1-B bomber found itself unable to lower the front landing gear during a training flight and was forced to execute an emergency landing in the dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
Investigators later blamed a hydraulic failure, but the crew in the air just knew that they had to reach the ground safely. The Air Force routed the plane to a dry lakebed in California that was often used for landing the space shuttle.
The dust of the Rogers Dry Lake bed is more likely than most surfaces to allow for a safe skid, reducing the risk to the crew and plane. The full landing is visible from a few angles in this video from airailimages:
The U.S. Space Force will incorporate National Guard units that already have a space-related mission, according to the head of Air Force Space Command.
“We rely very heavily on the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserve forces, and that’s going to continue in the future,” said Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee to become the new head of U.S. Space Command.
“They operate really critical capabilities. They provide a capacity, a resource capacity, and we’re going to rely on them. They’re seamlessly integrated,” he said June 4, 2019.
In March 2019, officials announced that Raymond had been nominated to lead U.S. Space Command. Pentagon officials said at the time that, if confirmed, he would continue leading Air Force Space Command along with U.S. Space Command. The current Senate version of the Fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act legislation would also require Raymond to lead Space Force for at least a year.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk discusses U.S. space operations with Gen. Jay Raymond, the Commander, Air Force Space Command, and Joint Force Space Component Commander; and Gen Terrence O’Shaughnessy, the Commander of the North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, April 15, 2019.
Guard units across seven states already have space missions, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-New Hampshire, said during the hearing. That includes roughly 1,500 airmen conducting space-related operations in Ohio, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, New York, Arkansas, and California.
Raymond’s comments come as other officials want to make sure there is a place for the Guard in the Space Force structure.
Last month, Air National Guard director Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice said that, while details are still being worked out, ANG units are “all in” for space operations.
During an Air Force Association breakfast in Washington, D.C., Rice said the Pentagon is looking to leverage the state forces that already have space-related operations.
U.S. Air National Guard Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice, Director of the Air National Guard (right) answers questions from airmen of the 142nd Fighter Wing during a town hall session at the Portland Air National Guard Base, Portland, Oregon, March 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. John Hughel, 142nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs)
“My job is to make sure it works. How would I present the operational piece and the bureaucracy for a new Space Force? I would do it from those seven states. I would not do 54 states and territories of Space National Guard,” he said.
However, the Air National Guard is setting up two new space squadrons in two more states, which would also be incorporated into the Space Force structure in the near future, Rice said.
“We are looking at standing up more capability for space control squadrons in the Pacific,” he told reporters after his presentation at the breakfast, as reported by Federal News Network.
“We are under review on where we are going to do that and how we are looking at that. The timeline is within the next month, two new squadrons in two new states.”
He did not reveal the locations under consideration.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The next war will be dynamic and disruptive. To prepare for it, some US military leaders have embraced a mindset of “creative destruction” in order to challenge orthodoxy, adopt revolutionary changes, and even question how success should be defined on the battlefield of the future.
Along that line of thinking, for the past three years the US Army’s vaunted 75th Ranger Regiment has run an experimental military design cell called “Project Galahad.” This select team has subsequently gone against the grain of so-called conventional doctrine and investigated novel solutions to tomorrow’s warfighting problems.
“We need to be nimble and can’t hesitate to wipe the board when we need to,” Army Lt. Col. Adam Armstrong, a member of the 75th Ranger Regiment who served as a Project Galahad team member, told Coffee or Die Magazine.
According to a forthcoming article in the Special Operations Journal, Project Galahad was an “act of creative destruction” intended to “create cognitive space for experimentation.”
Armstrong described Project Galahad as a “mixed team of carefully selected officers and [non-commissioned officers] from diverse educational and experiential backgrounds chartered to think big with nearly complete autonomy, beholden only to the [regimental commander].”
“Done a lot of jobs — that’s easily in my top three,” Armstrong added.
With support from the Joint Special Operations University, since 2018 Project Galahad has become a permanent fixture within the 75th Ranger Regiment’s command system. The project’s goals include “fostering innovation” and “disrupting legacy systems to provide novel opportunities.”
Project Galahad implemented a decision-making process called “military design thinking.” A specialized field with roots in chaos and complexity theories, design thinking fosters divergent and experimental ways of problem solving.
Design thinking spurs its practitioners to “challenge their fundamental beliefs” in order to “reframe” a situation. According to the methodology, if you see problems in a different light, you’re more likely to produce innovative solutions.
An early version of design thinking called “Systemic Operational Design theory” — a product of the Israeli Defense Force’s Operational Theory Research Institute — was put into action by select US military teams on the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq during the mid-2000s. Since then, the methodology has become more mainstream within the US military as it prepares for a new era of great power competition.
“History seems to show folks rarely know when they are in need of a revolutionary change until circumstances force it upon them,” Armstrong said.
America’s military personnel have the natural attributes of autonomy, creativity, and the appetite for taking risks that are necessary to combat modern adversaries. US society is unique in the value it places on novel and unconventional thinkers. We praise the rule breakers. Whereas in many other countries — particularly those of America’s primary adversaries, Russia and China — that sort of proclivity for independent thought is not inculcated in citizens throughout their lives. So, some say that a design cell like Project Galahad is an effective way for US military units to take advantage of their premier battlefield advantage — the independent character of American troops.
Answering directly to the regimental commander, Project Galahad does not implement policy. Rather, this unique team is charged with bucking orthodoxy and coming up with new ways of doing business. Unlike some other innovation-geared groups and think tanks within the US military, Project Galahad is meant to keep its pulse on the day-to-day realities of regimental life, as well as the requisites of real-world combat.
Prior to the beginning of Project Galahad in 2018, the military design process had already been used for solving real-world combat problems within the 75th Ranger Regiment. Once enacted, Armstrong said Project Galahad was subsequently geared toward “ill-defined, often nascent, and ambiguous problem sets.”
To foster creativity, the Project Galahad team members created a workspace more analogous to a Silicon Valley startup than an elite special operations unit. They covered the walls with whiteboards and Post-it notes and established dedicated collaborative spaces. They even repainted the interior in “less depressing paint than the bland tan colors found in so many government buildings,” Armstrong said. The overarching goal was to spur abstract thought. And, in that vein, the team frequently turned their cellphones and computers off and engaged in what they called “deep thought sessions.”
“By using abstract thought we found we could conceptualize things that maybe we hadn’t thought of, see things we wouldn’t have otherwise seen,” Armstrong said.
The team’s composition, too, was key to its success in generating innovative ideas. There was a major who studied music in university and who was, in Armstrong’s words, a “completely disruptive thinker.” There was a master sergeant who’d spent his career within the regiment and had an MBA “from a very high-end program.” There was a midcareer officer with a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear background, a retired Army master sergeant, and a young officer with only one year in the regiment.
“Each Ranger brought a unique perspective — officer, enlisted, lots of time and life experience, or less,” Armstrong said, adding: “We also kept each other honest. Everyone had a voice, people could question things, we could argue. I was well out of my comfort zone, but that became comfortable after a few months.”
Still, it was difficult for Project Galahad team members to “reframe.” For his part, Armstrong said that after spending 10 years in the 75th Ranger Regiment, he had a lot of “institutionalization” to kick.
“My undergraduate degree is in physics, with almost 10 years in the regiment and an infantry officer — that’s about as ‘regimented’ as they come,” Armstrong said, adding: “We found that the key for Galahad’s team members was their assimilation through structured professional development. Team members went through courses on critical thought, basic and advanced design, and even cognitive optimization.”
Rangers Lead the Way
The Army’s premier special operations direct action raid force, the 75th Ranger Regiment is headquartered at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Rangers specialize in joint special operations raids and joint forcible entry operations.
“The Rangers are the most elite large-scale fighting force the Army has to offer,” the Army says on its website. “Their mission, depending on the operation, can range from airfield seizure to special reconnaissance to direct action raids on select targets and individuals, and they have a rich operational history.”
Ranger units have always been outliers within Army doctrine. The concept of “standing orders” was adopted by US Rangers during the French and Indian War — from 1754 to 1763 — to facilitate the execution of small-unit raids.
Following the Vietnam War, a new, permanent peacetime Ranger battalion was established to be a “change agent” within the Army. It has gone through a series of expansions since then, from a single battalion to a regiment, and more recently adding a special troops battalion and military intelligence battalion. Thus, the experimental Project Galahad program is well suited to the 75th Ranger Regiment’s institutional culture, which remains receptive to novel and unconventional solutions to combat problems.
Since October 2001, the 75th Ranger Regiment has been continuously deployed in support of counterinsurgency fights that stemmed from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. War is always chaotic and dangerous and unpredictable. Yet, over the past two decades of unending combat, war has — in the American experience — existed, more or less, within a fairly consistent battlefield architecture. The nature of combat, the terrain within which it is fought, and even the general nature of the enemy haven’t significantly changed since 2001.
So, while the US military is battle-hardened after 20 years of counterinsurgency combat, all that experience doesn’t necessarily translate into a battlefield advantage against modern adversaries such as China and Russia. When Project Galahad was created, the Rangers faced “plenty of problem sets related to national security, which we knew had the potential to be very different from our experiences of the last 20 years,” Armstrong said.
The unrelenting pace of two decades of constant counterinsurgency combat has been an obstacle to the regiment’s ability to foster innovative, novel solutions to burgeoning threats. In short, the real-world demands of combat took precedence over the kind of “creative destruction” needed to adapt to new threats from burgeoning great-power competitors.
“The operational demand for continuity leaves little room for those who stray outside time-proven institutional practices. The uncertainty of war makes experimentation, even in conceptual forms, a difficult and controversial undertaking,” according to an excerpt from a forthcoming article in the Spring 2021 issue of the Special Operations Journal.
After its conception, Project Galahad helped the 75th Ranger Regiment to address future problems without diverting time and energy away from the management of ongoing combat operations.
“Project Galahad was able to take the problem set on, run it through some design iterations, and then bridge to plans while staying linked in with the regimental commander and our [higher headquarters],” Armstrong said. “Overall, I think that provided a much better product, while allowing quality to remain high on everything else that the regiment was working.”
Project Galahad’s purview also extends to the most basic institutional standards of the US military, including chain of command systems that date back to the 19th-century Prussian army.
In 2017, Col. Brandon Tegtmeier, then commander of the 75th Ranger Regiment, “recognized the risk posed by a legacy paradigm that applied yesterday’s practices to tomorrow’s challenges,” write the authors of the excerpted Special Operations Journal article, which was posted to Facebook.
The Prussian army’s general staff system became the gold standard for Western military chains of command after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 to 1871. For his part, Tegtmeier “decided to take unconventional action toward his own organizational form and took steps to upend the legacy, Prussian-designed Regimental staff system,” the Special Operations Journal reports.
The article’s authors add: “[Tegtmeier] saw the emerging complex security environment of the 21st century as something that required a new way of operating at the Regimental level, starting with his staff’s structure and processes.”
‘Studio for War’
The 2018 US National Defense Strategy made it clear that the preeminent challenge to the US was no longer terrorism but near-peer competitors such as Russia and China. That document underscored the ongoing evolution of thinking within the Pentagon that has spurred changes spanning the gamut from the creation of the US Space Force to the development of new battlefield technologies like artificial intelligence and ultra-long-range artillery systems.
In June 2017, Tegtmeier charged a small team with investigating how the legacy Prussian command system was hobbling his unit’s ability to face new threats. His team came back and confirmed that, yes, the 150-year-old chain of command was indeed a hindrance to innovation. The team also identified an “insular culture” that this old system created, which was also stifling innovation.
Tegtmeier’s investigative team proposed two options to shake things up. He could either implement a top-to-bottom upheaval of the current command system or put in place a “standing cross-functional team” to address specific challenges outside the normal chain of command.
According to the excerpted Special Operations Journal article: “The re-organize option that flipped the Prussian-style staff structure on its head would be recognized as the superior option, despite the vast undertaking required.” However, that option also “risked functional chaos,” the article states.
“The process of analyzing which direction to go was pretty involved — and [Tegtmeier] was leaning toward a complete restructure for most of it,” Armstrong said. “He wanted to eliminate the typical ‘silo’ effect you get in conventional staff structure.”
The Rangers are still at war, and sweeping changes to a 150-year-old command system might be too risky to carry out when lives are still at risk and American national security is still at stake. The regiment’s leadership also worried that the “re-organize option” could adversely affect the unit’s interoperability with the rest of the Army.
Moreover, by existing wholly outside the normal chain of command, the cross-functional team option would likely face less institutional resistance. According to the Special Operations Journal: “It would be a dynamic and highly experimental ‘studio for war’ within the Regiment, unlike any other staff function.”
Ultimately, the cross-functional team option was chosen for its practicality. Thus was begot “Project Galahad.” The project’s name is a nod to a legendary World War II unit, known as “Merrill’s Marauders,” which saw combat in Southeast Asia.
“‘Project Galahad’ was the answer to what I saw as a dire need in our formation — the ability to mass quickly on complex, ambiguous problems without a loss in capacity for the rest of our Regimental staff, already consumed with force generation, force modernization, day to day warfighting, and sustaining readiness for contingencies,” said Tegtmeier, the former 75th Ranger Regiment commander, according to the excerpted Special Operations Journal article.
The Project Galahad team quickly identified “tensions” in the unit. One example: the occasional disparities between the qualifications that make a good Ranger versus what’s most beneficial for career advancement within the Army’s promotion system. That includes the need for Rangers to pursue higher education for the sake of their Army careers — all while maintaining the regiment’s unrelenting operational tempo.
One Project Galahad success story is in the so-called “war for talent” — or, in other words, the ongoing effort to improve recruiting and retention, and to “take care of our people,” Armstrong said. Due to Project Galahad’s recommendations, the 75th Ranger Regiment implemented the “Phalanx” program, which, according to Armstrong, has been instrumental in fostering a healthy unit culture that spurs the regiment’s Rangers to achieve peak performance.
‘Meat on the Bones’
Disruptive change is not always an easy ask within the hierarchical command structure of the US armed forces. Contrarian thinkers may be reluctant to buck the system for myriad reasons — such as the potentially negative consequences on one’s prospects for career advancement.
In short: the hierarchical command system that maintains order and discipline amid the fog of war may not be ideal for fostering creative brainstorming sessions within peaceful circumstances. Still, the so-called old ways remain useful when it comes time to turn innovative ideas into action on the battlefield.
“Design allows you to frame a problem and identify some potential solutions but it still requires a bridge and handoff to plans teams for some detail work, placing meat on the bones,” Armstrong said.
“Conventional chains of command can be pretty ideal […] particularly in a time-constrained environment,” he added. “All that said — [for a] complex problem, when I have the time, I’m probably going to apply design whenever possible.”
While the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Project Galahad has proven successful, other Department of Defense programs geared toward the generation of innovative solutions to tomorrow’s problems have not fared as well under current budgeting priorities.
In October, Coffee or Die Magazinereported on the Army’s decision to defund its University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies — colloquially known in military circles as the “Red Teaming University.” The news followed the Army’s recent decision to shut down its Asymmetric Warfare Group, as well as the Marine Corps’ recent decision to close an experimental training program that focused on complex urban terrain called Project Metropolis II.
Some military experts have criticized these moves as shortsighted and part of a broader prioritization of Pentagon resources toward acquiring new technologies, rather than researching how doctrine should evolve to combat modern threats.
Throughout history, US military-industrial dominance has permitted the luxury of warmup periods in its wars to arrive at a coherent strategic vision and develop workable tactics to achieve victory. Famously, US military forces honed their combat acumen on the North African front in World War II before embarking on the liberation of Europe.
In his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Allied North African campaign, An Army at Dawn, Rick Atkinson wrote: “Like the first battles in virtually every American war, this campaign revealed a nation and an army unready to fight and unsure of their martial skills, yet willful and inventive enough to prevail.”
However, against a near-peer adversary such as Russia or China, US military forces will have less time to hone their tactics and find their confidence in battle. The next war may be over before America’s armed forces learn how to fight it. Thus, one key goal of experimental programs like Project Galahad is to spur innovations to combat future threats before meeting them for the first time while in a war.
“That’s the classic innovation conundrum,” Armstrong said. “I think getting it right, 100%, the first time is pretty tough — but I think the employment of concepts like design are going to help us get closer to the mark, and hopefully save us from having to learn some hard lessons at high cost.”
He added, “I am a firm believer that design would work anywhere in the Army, something as simple as applying design thinking to routine problems could be hugely impactful.”
He told the crowd he planned to negotiate a system for the Veterans Affairs Department that would allow veterans to receive health care in a VA facility or at a private doctor of their choice.
Trump also reiterated his plan to aggressively promote “Americanism,” saying he would make sure American students recited the pledge of allegiance.
Clinton invoked Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” in her Wednesday address, promising to defend American exceptionalism. Trump continued the theme, saying he would enlist the American Legion’s help in promoting American values.
“We will stop apologizing for America and we will start celebrating America,” he said. “We will be united by our common culture, values and principles, becoming one American nation. One country under one constitution, saluting one American flag.”
Trump’s speech, which at 15 minutes was about half as long as Clinton’s, limited discussion of veterans’ policy to his plan to reform the VA.
While VA Secretary Robert McDonald told the American Legion on Wednesday that the department hoped to turn a corner in organizational reform this year, Trump said it was in “very sad shape,” adding that he had spoken with a number of veterans who had received unsatisfactory care.
Trump said he plans to carry out his VA overhaul by appointing a new secretary and firing anyone who failed to meet standards.
“I’m going to use every lawful authority to remove anyone who fails our veterans and breaches the public trust,” he said.
Trump also said he would make sure female veterans got the best possible access to medical care.
“We’re going to get you fantastic service. It’s going to happen, believe me,” he said. “Never again will we allow any veteran to suffer or die waiting for care.”
The Republican candidate, who on the previous day delivered a speech in Mexico promising to crack down on illegal immigration, drew applause when he reiterated promises to defend American borders.
In what appeared to be a pivot from 2015 comments in which he made disparaging many Mexican immigrants as drug smugglers and criminals, Trump praised Mexican Americans for their service in the U.S. military.
“I just came back from a wonderful meeting with the president of Mexico where I expressed my deep respect for the people of his country and for the tremendous contribution of Mexican Americans in our country,” he said. “Many are in our armed services. You know how good they are. I want to thank him for his gracious hospitality and express my belief that we can work together and accomplish great things for both our countries.”
Trump also received applause when he promised to stop Syrian refugees, many of whom he has characterized as terrorists and extremists, from entering the United States, citing plans to build a safe zone overseas to house them.
Soldiers take part in pathfinder training at the Liberty Pickup Zone at Fort Benning, March 21, 2019. (U.S. Army/Patrick Albright)
The U.S. Army may close or drastically alter its Pathfinder School at Fort Benning, Georgia, as part of a sweeping review of all service schools operating in the reality of the stubborn COVID-19 pandemic.
Army Times reported that the service is considering shuttering the historic, three-week course that was created during World War II to train special teams of paratroopers how to guide large airborne formations onto drop zones behind enemy lines.
Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) confirmed that the Pathfinder course — which also trains soldiers how to conduct sling-load helicopter operations — is part of the review being conducted by the service’s Combined Arms Center, or CAC.
TRADOC spokesman Col. Rich McNorton told Military.com that no decision had been made as to “which ones are we going to turn off, convert to distance [learning] or in some cases go to a mobile training teams. … Pathfinder School is in there with all of those courses.”
The CAC has been conducting an analysis of all TRADOC schools for about four months to see whether they are meeting the needs of combat commanders, he added.
Shrinking defense budgets have forced the Army to look for ways to save money by possibly reducing travel needed for some training courses.
“COVID-19 accelerated that process because, all of the sudden, now we’ve got these restrictions,” McNorton said. “Some courses that we have are a week long and, in order to sustain that, we have to quarantine them for two weeks and then they start it. And it doesn’t make sense to do that.”
McNorton said what will likely happen is that the Army will prioritize which courses will remain the same and which ones will convert to mobile training teams or distance learning.
Another option may be to relocate a course, such as the Master Gunners courses at Fort Benning designed to provide advanced training to gunners on M1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles.
Part of TRADOC Commander Gen. Paul Funk II’s guidance is “looking at and saying, ‘Hey does it make sense for everybody to go to Fort Benning for this particular course? How about we push it out to Fort Hood where the tankers are and not bring them in?'” McNorton said.
He said he isn’t sure when the review will be complete, but any recommendation to close an Army school will have to be approved by the service’s senior leadership.
“This stuff gets briefed up to senior leaders, and the senior leaders can say, ‘Bring that one back. We are not getting rid of it,'” McNorton said.
By the time May 1, 2019, rolls around, American troops will have rolled out of Syria entirely, according to the Wall Street Journal. The plan calls for a complete American withdrawal from the country after the last vestiges of ISIS territory have been captured by the various anti-ISIS factions in the country.
As of February, the remaining Islamic State fighters and their families are fleeing whatever strips of territory still under its control in Syria as President Donald Trump doubled down on his assertion that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria and the time is right for American troops to return to their home bases.
Anti-ISIS Kurdish fighters pose with a captured ISIS flag.
The United States did not break the back of ISIS over the past five years on its own. Kurdish forces from Syria and Iraq, along with fighters from other various factions were led by U.S. forces in Syria, either through air cover, artillery support, and direction from American special operations troops. As of yet, there is no plan in place to secure these Syrian fighters, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), once their American support is gone.
President Trump’s current timeline is set to pull a significant number of American troops out of Syria by mid-March, 2019, with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April. After that time, Kurdish fighters on the ground will be open to retaliation from Turkish forces operating in Syria, who consider the Kurds terrorists in their own right. Also fighting the Kurds will be other Islamic militant groups still operating, as well as Russian-backed Syrian government troops.
A U.S. armored vehicle in Al-Hasakah meets with Kurdish YPG fighters in Kurdish-held territory in Northern Syria, May, 2017.
The United States is trying to reach a political agreement with the Turkish government to protect the Kurdish fighters, who did the bulk of the fighting against ISIS on the ground. Given the current timetable for withdrawal, an agreement seems unlikely unless the U.S. military slows its process. Kurdish allies will no doubt express alarm at the removal of the 2,000 Americans in Syria.
Pentagon spokespeople and the United States Central Command have all expressed that there is no official timeline for withdrawal, and no conditions are fixed for a removal of Americans from the country, but equipment and materiel support for the troops has already begun to move out of Syria.
With the signing of a directive by Army Secretary Mark T. Esper on March 25, 2019, U.S. Army soldiers can voluntarily seek alcohol-related behavioral healthcare without being mandatorily enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program. This policy encourages soldiers to take personal responsibility and seek help earlier therefore improving readiness by decreasing unnecessary enrollment and deployment limitations.
The directive’s goal is for soldiers to receive help for self-identified alcohol-related behavioral health problems before these problems result in mandatory treatment enrollment, deployment restrictions, command notification and negative career impact.
“This is a huge historical policy change that will address a long standing barrier to soldiers engaging in alcohol-related treatment,” said Jill M. Londagin, the Army Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care Program Director. “Alcohol is by far the most abused substance in the Army. Approximately 22 percent of soldiers report problematic alcohol use on Post Deployment Health Reassessments.
However, less than two percent receive substance abuse treatment. This is due, in part, because historic Department of Defense and Army substance abuse treatment policies and practices discouraged soldiers from self-referring for alcohol abuse care.”
(Photo by Audrey Hayes)
Substance Use Disorder Clinical Care (SUDCC) providers are now co-located with Embedded Behavioral Health (EBH) teams across the Army. “SUDCC providers being integrated into our EBH teams allows for more seamless, holistic, far-forward care than we have ever been able to provide in the past,” said Dr. Jamie Moore, Embedded Behavioral Health Clinical Director.
The directive creates two tracks for substance abuse care: voluntary and mandatory. Soldiers can self-refer for voluntary alcohol-related behavioral healthcare, which does not render them non-deployable and doesn’t require command notification like the mandatory treatment track does.
Soldiers enter mandatory substance use disorder treatment if a substance use-related incident occurs, such as a driving under the influence violation. Under the voluntary care track, treatment is not tied to a punitive process and is a choice a soldier can make before a career impacting event occurs. Soldiers in the voluntary care track may discontinue care at any time and can also choose to reenter care at any time.
The treatment process begins when a soldier notices signs of alcohol misuse, which may include frequently drinking in excess, engaging in risky behavior, such as drunk driving, lying about the extent of one’s alcohol use, memory impairment or poor decision-making. Next, the soldier self-refers to Behavioral Health for an evaluation. The provider and the soldier will then develop a treatment plan directed at the soldier’s goals.
The length of treatment will be based on the soldier and his or her symptoms. HIPPA privacy laws require that soldiers’ BH treatment remains private unless they meet the command notification requirements in DoDI 6490.08, such as harm to self, harm to others, acute medical conditions interfering with duty or inpatient care.
(Ms. Rebecca Westfall, Army Medicine)
“Only those enrolled in mandatory substance abuse treatment are considered to be in a formal treatment program,” Londagin said. “Self-referrals that are seen under voluntary care are treated in the same manner as all other behavioral health care.”
The previous version of the substance abuse treatment policy, Army Regulation 600-85 (reference 1f), required all soldiers to be formally enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program just to seek assistance, which discouraged soldiers from seeking help early.
“The policy also limited the number of enrollments permitted during a soldier’s career, preventing the soldier from seeking more support at a later date without risk of administrative separation,” Londagin said.
“During a pilot phase, 5,892 soldiers voluntarily received alcohol-related behavioral health care without enrollment in mandatory substance abuse treatment,” said Londagin. “This supports our efforts to provide early treatment to soldiers prior to an alcohol-related incident and has led to a 34 percent reduction in the deployment ineligibility of soldiers receiving care.”
“Early intervention for alcohol-related behavioral health care increases the health and readiness of our force and provides a pathway for soldiers to seek care without career implications,” said Londagin.
The Trump administration is considering the ramifications of paring back the US presence in Afghanistan as part of its ongoing strategy review in America’s longest war, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Trump’s national security cabinet is bitterly divided on the future US role in Afghanistan. Senior national security officials like Secretary of Defense James Mattis and National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster are reportedly pushing Trump to allow a surge of approximately 4,000 troops into Afghanistan, while White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon has lobbied against the effort.
“It doesn’t work unless we are there for a long time, and if we don’t have the appetite to be there a long time, we should just leave. It’s an unanswered question,” a senior administration official told WSJ of any plan to increase US troops. “It is becoming clearer and clearer to people that those are the options: go forward with something like the strategy we have developed, or withdraw.”
Trump is reportedly deeply skeptical of increasing US troops in Afghanistan and sent back McMaster’s final version of a plan to his national security council in late-July. Secretary of Defense James Mattis and other military leaders in charge of the war in Afghanistan say they need a few thousand more US troops to train, advise, and assist the Afghan National Security Forces in the fight against the Taliban.
The Afghan National Security Forces have largely failed to rise to the challenge of the Taliban insurgent movement, despite tens of billions of dollars in US assistance and a 16-year NATO presence. Afghan civilian casualties are also at a 16-year high in the war as a result of Taliban improvised explosive devices. US military commanders admit that any surge in US troops will need to be sustained for years to come in order to build up the Afghan National Security Force’s indigenous capabilities.
The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since the US invasion in 2001, and maintains control over approximately one-third of the civilian population. The US backed Afghan government remains paralyzed by corruption and political infighting, further hindering the war effort and plummeting morale among Afghan troops.
Former US special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Laurel Miller described officials asking the same fundamental questions about US strategy in the region in 2017 as they were 4 years ago, in a recent interview with Politico Magazine. “Here we are two full presidential terms and into the start of a next one later; there are no peace talks,” Miller lamented.
Alcohol plays a prevalent role in many cultures, with many of us toasting to big life moments, enjoying happy hours with coworkers or friends, or simply indulging in a few drinks after a long, stressful day.
Of course, health experts have long cautioned against binge drinking, which roughly equates to consuming five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women in about two hours. If you’ve ever overindulged in your favorite drinks, you know that it typically doesn’t feel great the next day, and repeated alcohol abuse can impact your mental and physical health.
But research has also shown that drinking alcohol in moderation can actually be beneficial for your health in some surprising ways.
Here are some of the most interesting ways drinking in moderation can benefit you, so long as you consume it safely and responsibly.
1. Moderate alcohol consumption can lead to a longer life.
It’s true that drinking to excess can lead to illness and disease, including several types of cancer, brain damage, and liver damage, and it can even shorten your life span. But drinking moderately might actually help you live longer, according to a 2014 study conducted by three universities in Spain.
Researchers followed a small group of Spanish participants over the course of 12 years and found that those who who drank “low amounts of wine spread out over the week” but avoided binge drinking showed a 25% reduced risk of mortality.
Another study from 2017 followed approximately 333,000 adults who drink alcohol and found that those who kept their drinking habits in moderation saw a 21% lower risk of mortality than participants who never drank.
Similarly, a 2018 study, published in the journal PLOS Medicine, has found that people who drink in moderation may be less likely to die early than those who stay away from booze altogether.
A 2006 study found that light to moderate alcohol consumption “is associated with a lower risk of ischemic stroke,” as well as a reduction in vascular risk in middle-aged people in particular.
A 1999 study found that “moderate drinkers are at lower risk for the most common form of heart disease, coronary artery disease than are either heavier drinkers or abstainers,” due to the “protective effects” of alcohol on the heart linked to blood chemistry and “the prevention of clot formation in arteries that deliver blood to the heart muscle,” leading to a lower risk of coronary disease.
Another study completed between 1980 and 1988 found that the risk of coronary disease and stroke in women was particularly low in those that reported moderate alcohol use among a sample of 87,526 female nurses between the ages of 34 and 59.
Though these findings are promising for those who already have a healthy relationship with alcohol, it’s also important to note that adopting overall healthy lifestyle habits is the surest way to protect your heart.
3. You might have a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
A 2005 analysis published in the journal Diabetes Care noted a “highly significant” reduced risk of type 2 diabetes among moderate alcohol drinkers than heavy drinkers and abstainers, compiling data from 15 different studies, linking healthy lifestyle habits with those who report moderate alcohol use.
“As it stands, we are expecting to see a 37% influx in type 2 diabetes cases around the world by 2030, and though studies have shown no abatement in the risk of type 2 diabetes in those who already drink heavily in their day-to-day lives, there is a notable 30% reduced risk in those that drink in moderation,” cardiologist Robert Segal told Insider.
4. Moderate drinking might help with male fertility.
A 2018 study conducted by an Italian fertility clinic and published in the journal Andrology showed that male fertility was highest among participants who consumed four to seven drinks per week compared to those that drank between one and three alcoholic beverages or more than eight.
The sample size was 323 men, so it was a relatively small pool, but it seems to be another reason to stick to a drink per day or so if you’re hoping for optimal fertility.
5. Drinking in moderation can help prevent the common cold.
Though too much alcohol can worsen cold symptoms by dehydrating you and potentially interacting with cold medicines, it seems that moderate drinking can help prevent you from catching a cold in the first place.
In a 1993 study by the department of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University, researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption led to a decrease in common cold cases among people who don’t smoke. In 2002, according to the New York Times, Spanish researchers found that by drinking eight to 14 glasses of wine per week (particularly red wine), those who imbibed saw a 60% reduction in the risk of developing a cold, with the scientists crediting the antioxidants found in wine.
“Wine is rich in antioxidants, and these chemicals help prepare your body to combat any free radicals in your system by allowing your body to absorb resveratrol, a key compound that helps keep your immune system in top form,” Segal told Insider. “Regardless of healthy or unhealthy drinking habits, smokers should expect to confront the common cold more easily and with more frequency than those who abstain from nicotine consumption.”
In a series of studies published by the journal Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment in 2011 that began in 1977 and included more than 365,000 participants, researchers found that moderate drinkers (those who drank one or two drinks per day) were 23% less likely to develop cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, Science Daily reported.
“Small amounts of alcohol might, in effect, make brain cells more fit. Alcohol in moderate amounts stresses cells and thus toughens them up to cope with major stresses down the road that could cause dementia,” said Edward J. Neafsey, co-author of the study, told Science Daily. “We don’t recommend that nondrinkers start drinking, but moderate drinking — if it is truly moderate — can be beneficial.”
7. There might also be a reduced risk of gallstones.
Capping your drinks to two per day might reduce your risk of gallstones by one-third, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England. The 2009 study found that participants who reported consuming two drinks per day had a one-third reduction in their risk of developing gallstones.
“Researchers emphasized that their findings show the benefits of moderate alcohol intake but stress that excessive alcohol intake can cause health problems,” according to a press release.
The finding was further supported by a 2017 study conducted by researchers at the School of Public Health at Qingdao University in Qingdao, China, who found “alcohol consumption is associated with significantly decreased risk of gallstone disease.”
As for how this happens, Segal told Insider that “consuming moderate amounts of alcohol does help in the production of bile, which keeps gallstones from fully forming.”
8. Postmenopausal women might experience bone health benefits from moderate alcohol use.
People lose bone mass or density naturally as they age, which can lead to osteoporosis, a disorder in which the bones become fragile or weakened. This is particularly common in postmenopausal women, who are more susceptible to bone disorders due to their naturally smaller bones and hormone changes after menopause.
But a 2012 study published in the Journal of The North American Menopause Society showed that moderate alcohol intake can actually slow down bone loss in women after menopause, potentially leading to a lower risk of developing bone disorders like osteoporosis.
9. You might also be less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
A 2010 study published in the journal Rheumatology showed that people who don’t drink are almost four times more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis than those who have at least one drink three times per week.
Researchers said that’s likely due to alcohol’s anti-inflammatory properties, which can help prevent joints from aching and swelling if drinking is in moderation.
Researchers also found that people with arthritis who drink alcohol in moderation have less severe symptoms, though they noted that heavy drinking can be damaging to those who already suffer from arthritis, as it can exacerbate symptoms and interact with medications.
Meanwhile, wine has iron in it, as well as the aforementioned antioxidant properties.
Of course, a pint of beer shouldn’t take the place of your daily multivitamin, but the occasional drink can be part of an overall balanced diet and lifestyle without impacting your health in a negative way.
One study found that those who consume low to moderate amounts of alcohol reported an increase in happiness and “pleasant and carefree feelings.” Researchers also found a decrease in “tension, depression and self-consciousness,” saying that “heavy drinkers and abstainers have higher rates of clinical depression than do regular moderate drinkers.”
Though your mental and physical health with respect to alcohol is best discussed with your doctor, the connection between heavy alcohol use and depression is well known, and should not be taken lightly.
If you’re able to maintain a healthy relationship with alcohol and not rely on it as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, or depression, you might find a healthy balance between moderate drinking and your mental health. Check in with your doctor to ensure that alcohol is playing a safe and responsible role in your lifestyle.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
It can be hard to be anyone that is military-connected. Long hours, uncertain travel plans, deployment, bootcamp, cancelling everything…MREs; but military kids somehow manage to navigate the life much better than most adults. What I noticed after spending time with my own military kids and their friends is that when the rubber meets the road they will always shock you with their resilience and their maturity, and really their sheer coolness under pressure. They also have a little bit of humor about their lives, which we all know is an essential part of getting through this life. I’d like to introduce five military kids, ages 6 to 13. If you really want to know what being a military kid is like maybe we should actually ask the kids?
Here are 4 reasons military brats are superior human beings:
Military kids have a sense of humor.
At age 6, Mattis (yes, you read that right, his namesake is the unwavering General Mattis) has a rather humorous outlook on life as a military kid. Both of Mattis’ parents are Marines, his dad is currently serving. He’s dead serious about the fact that having a million dollars would make his life as a military kid much easier. Me too, kid. Upon further reflection he settled on a hug being the best way to get him through the tough times; and is swaying from the idea that it’s impossible that his military parents have made him stronger. Ami, age 11, firmly believes the best part about being a military kid is the military ID you get when you’re 10.
Military kids Dannika Mattis.
Military kids find ways to thrive in hard times.
Dannika, age 10, finds the good and bad with military life. “I just don’t want to feel left out,” she said. “My friends from my old school talk about things going on in their lives, and I don’t feel a part of the group anymore. It makes me sad.” On the flip side she says, “Every time I move I get to make new friends, so I have way more friends than regular kids.” Ami, age 11, shared, “I’m used to things getting cancelled. It usually just means we’ll just get to do something different. It might even be cooler.”
Military kids might know more about the world than you do.
Brian, age 13, is always shocked about how much his friends don’t know. “You get to learn a lot about the stuff that’s happening in the world and our history in a way that’s different.” Dannika shared what that understanding really means. “Regular kids have normal lives where they don’t have to worry about their mom or dad going to war. We appreciate our parents more when they are home.”
Military kids Brian, Ami, and Phillip.
Military kids know what they need.
And it’s really simple. Phillip, age 8, says, “I just want people to pray for my dad and me.” On Brian’s wishlist? “People just to be able to be sympathetic to military kids, especially when they have parents who are gone. Just tell us it’s going to be okay and that we aren’t alone, and that you’ll be there for us.”
So, this Month of Military Child we can read about education supports, therapy, why a parent loves their military kid…but it’s worth your time to sit down with your military kid and just ask them. You might be surprised at their responses.
If you listen to Francis Currey describe his life, he’ll tell you he’s an average man. Never mind that he’s been featured on a U.S. postage stamp and was a model for one of the most famous dolls in history — G.I. Joe.
Despite his protests, Currey is a genuine hero.
Awarded three Purple Hearts, he is also New York State’s only living Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, but he views those medals and the ensuing accolades with modesty.
“I got it, that’s all,” Currey once said of his Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor that he received in 1945.
Maybe not, but the five men Currey saved on Dec. 21, 1944, thought differently.
Currey was a 19-year-old Army sergeant when his platoon of 30 men was assigned to defend Malmedy, a small town in Belgium. His team had very few weapons, and most were small arms that had little effect on the German tanks. After prolonged fighting, his group was forced to withdraw to a nearby factory.
There, Currey found a bazooka and crossed the street to secure rockets, meanwhile enduring intense fire from enemy tanks and hostile infantrymen who had taken up a position at a house a short distance away. In the face of small arms, machine gun, and artillery fire, he knocked out a tank with one shot. Moving to another position, he observed three Germans in the doorway of an enemy-held house. He killed or wounded all of them with his automatic rifle.
Currey emerged from cover and advanced alone to within 50 yards of the house, intent on wrecking it with rockets from his bazooka. Covered by friendly fire, he stood erect and fired a shot which knocked down half of one wall. While in this forward position, he observed five Americans who had been pinned down for hours by fire from the house and three tanks.
Realizing that they could not escape until the enemy tank and infantry guns had been silenced, Currey crossed the street to a vehicle, where he procured an armful of antitank grenades. These he launched while under heavy enemy fire, driving the tankmen from the vehicles into the house. He then climbed onto a half-track truck in full view of the Germans and fired a machine gun at the house.
Once again changing his position, he manned another machine gun whose crew had been killed; under his covering fire, the five soldiers were able to retire to safety.
Deprived of tanks and with heavy infantry casualties, the Germans were forced to withdraw.
Through his extensive knowledge of weapons and by his heroic and repeated braving of murderous enemy fire, Currey was greatly responsible for inflicting heavy losses in men and material on the enemy, for rescuing his comrades — two of whom were wounded — and for stemming an attack which threatened his unit’s position.
Currey’s actions are credited with shortening the war by at least six weeks and saving countless American lives, because if the Germans had broken through that day, they would have gained a huge advantage.
For his bravery, Currey was awarded the Medal of Honor in a ceremony, Aug. 17, 1945, in Reims, France, with just over two weeks left before the end of the war. At the time, Currey was recovering from a wound that earned him his third Purple Heart — a gunshot he sustained while disarming a German soldier in Bavaria.
When the war in Europe ended, Currey became a counselor for veterans. He retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 1980 and currently lives in Albany County with his wife of more than 65 years, Wilma.