The thing about your regular habits in the military is that they are sometimes literally drilled into you. Chances are good you still have the urgent desire to remove your hat when you walk into a building. You probably fall into lock-step when anyone starts walking next to you and feel incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of putting your hands in your pockets. These are just the little things you’ve done for years, things you may not even notice.
There are many, many other things you probably do notice that you probably wish you could break – because you look ridiculous.
“I don’t know what you have planned for the weekend, Wayne, but I’m out.”
The bug-out bag in your trunk.
This one isn’t that big a deal. You’re basically ready to deploy to somewhere at a moment’s notice, even though you don’t need to be. Luckily, only the people who see inside your trunk (and probably also in your closet) will know about this one. But lo and behold, you are prepared for almost any eventuality, no matter when it happens. House fire? All set. Earthquake? Ready to go. Zombie apocalypse? Absolutely. Your go-bag contains food (probably an MRE), important papers, a water filter, and anything else you’ll need to survive or walk away with in case stuff hits the fan. Even if you don’t have this, you think you need to get one.
To the rest of the world, you might look like a crazy survivalist, but they’ll be dead, and you’ll be alive so who cares?
Does the driver of the vehicle you’re riding shotgun in need to know if he or she is clear on the right or left? That doesn’t matter because you’re going to tell them, and probably do it a little louder than your indoor voice. If, for some reason, there is some kind of vehicle or other object on the way, you’ll be sure to let them know exactly what it is and how far away it is from the vehicle. If not you’re letting them know: CLEAR RIGHT.
Extra points if you feel the need to fill up at half a tank and/or check the pressure of every tire, including the spare.
How to gain credibility in one easy photo.
Staring at everyone’s shoes.
Sure, that guy who interviewed you was the senior reporter for the local news channel, but it looks like he polished his shoes with a Hershey bar and was thus slightly less deserving of your respect. He probably also has terrible attention to detail as all people with rough-looking shoes must have, right? You know who those people are because you’re staring at shoes for a few seconds upon meeting literally anyone and everyone.
Eating too fast.
How does it taste? We may never know. Veterans could eat an entire Thanksgiving dinner during a Lions-Packers commercial break.
Carrying everything in your left hand.
When you’re in the military, this is not only a regulation, it just makes sense. How are you supposed to salute when your right hand is full? The answer is that your right hand should always be empty. When you’re out of the military, this is so ingrained in your muscle memory that you’ll carry a whole week’s groceries in one hand while your right is completely free.
When you find out White Castle has a free meal for veterans.
Moving with a sense of purpose for things that don’t warrant it.
There’s no reason to make a beeline for the prime rib at Golden Corral, but the actions of hundreds of veterans on Veterans Day would make one think otherwise. There’s a high probability veterans get annoyed at civilians who don’t move through the taco bar fast enough.
For active duty military members, playing video games can help release stress, build camaraderie and offer comforting familiarity in foreign environments. For veterans returning from combat, gaming can reduce isolation, renew connections with fellow service members and provide therapeutic benefits.
Recognizing the unique value of gaming for the military community, Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide Xbox Adaptive Controller units to 22 initial VA rehab centers across the U.S.
Launched in 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was created to make gaming accessible to players with limited mobility by enabling them to customize their setups and connect with external devices like buttons, switches and joysticks that accommodate their playing. The controller, which can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games, was developed after extensive consultation with gamers, accessibility advocates and nonprofits that work with gamers with limited mobility, including veterans.
Ken Jones, the founder of Warfighter Engaged, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides gaming devices to wounded vets, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes gaming accessible to a broader range of veterans.
“People just want to participate, and it’s going to allow them to do that,” he says. “It allows for a much bigger population of people to be included in gaming.”
Microsoft and VA partner to bring Xbox Adaptive Controller to Veterans with limited mobility
Gaming is a popular activity among the military community, but navigating a traditional controller can be difficult or impossible for injured veterans. The inability to game can mean the loss of connection to veterans’ military communities and to an activity that was a significant part of their lives during service.
The partnership with Microsoft aims to give veterans with limited mobility the opportunity to game again, get them more involved with their rehabilitation and increase social interaction, says Dr. Leif Nelson, director of National Veterans Sports Programs Special Events for the VA.
“We’re looking for platforms for veterans to interact with each other, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be that access point to get involved in this world and in the gaming community,” Nelson says. “Gaming is now everywhere in the world, and while people tend to think of it as isolating, we’re finding that it actually has the opposite effect and can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans. I think this can be a tool in the rehabilitation process to achieve a lot of different goals.”
For Jeff Holguin, gaming was a way to cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced after being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2003 following an injury. He’d planned on a career in the military, but that identity was suddenly gone. Facing a series of surgeries and feeling adrift in the civilian world, Holguin isolated himself. He turned to gaming, an activity he’d enjoyed since childhood, and found the sense of inclusion he was craving.
“It gave me an outlet, a virtual efficacy within a world that I didn’t feel like I had a place in anymore,” says Holguin. “I made a lot of social connections and friends through that virtual space.”
Holguin went back to school, studying clinical psychology with a focus on trauma and PTSD. He has designed research for Microsoft around mixed-reality devices and learning outcomes and is also a clinical psychology doctoral intern at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott, Arizona. For Holguin, gaming provided a space where he could gradually reintegrate into post-military life.
“It was a sense of belonging and a sense of safety,” he says. “When you have trauma and you’re depressed, sometimes even just a little bit of stimulation is too much and you just don’t have the cognitive or emotional resources to deal with other people’s well-meaning interactivity.
“Gaming gives you what we might call exposure therapy, meaning you get a little bit of socialization, but when you’re ready to turn it off you can turn it off,” Holguin says. “Gaming provided some significant therapeutic value for me.”
Jamie Kaplan, a recreation therapist at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, has been using gaming as therapy with his patients — about 25 percent of whom have had traumatic spinal injuries — for seven years.
Kaplan, himself an avid gamer, says gaming provides a range of therapeutic benefits. Manipulating a controller and pressing buttons, for example, can help with motor skills. Decisions made throughout a game, from choosing which character to play to which moves to make, requires cognitive processing and visual processing, he says.
“It’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, decision-making ability, information processing, cognitive processing,” Kaplan says. “We can assign a number of therapeutic values to gaming.”
Kaplan used various gaming systems and consoles with patients before getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller last fall. He particularly likes the Copilot feature, which was developed for Xbox One and links two controllers as if they were one, allowing players to team up on a game and share controls. The feature quickly became one of Xbox’s most popular ones and was built into the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
One of his patients, Kaplan says, was able to play with his brother for the first time in three years by using Copilot. “It’s amazing,” Kaplan says. “It allows me as the therapist to make up for whatever deficit the patient has in utilizing a regular controller or the adaptive controller.”
Kaplan uses games ranging from sports and racing games to virtual reality games and programs that allow veterans with limited mobility to try activities such as scuba diving, fishing or hiking. VR is useful for helping amputees work on balance, Kaplan says, and VR guided relaxation and meditation programs can help veterans reduce stress and anxiety — and potentially reduce reliance on pain medications such as opioids.
“I see chronic pain patients every day and tell them, ‘I’m not going to cure your pain; we’re just hoping to trick it for a little while,'” he says. “You’re distracting them from the pain by engaging them in gaming.”
Gaming has been part of Mike Monthervil’s life since his childhood growing up in Carrefour, Haiti, a suburban area southwest of Port-au-Prince. Monthervil’s family was one of the only ones in the neighborhood with a gaming system, but electricity was only available for part of each day. When the lights would come back on, Monthervil recalls, “every kid would be banging on our door to come and play a game.”
For Monthervil, gaming was a passion that also provided an escape from a challenging environment. “It was a very tough place to live. Kids don’t have a lot to do there,” he says. “Gaming made my childhood better. It took a lot of stress out for me.
“To this day, I still talk to the guys who are over there that I grew up with, that are still going through the hardship of being there,” he says.
Monthervil continued gaming after moving to the United States and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. Stationed in Afghanistan, he passed time playing games with his fellow soldiers between missions. But in July 2014, Monthervil sustained a serious spinal cord injury after falling backward into a ditch during a training session, leaving him unable to use his legs. He underwent surgery and spent nine months at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. There he met Kaplan, who helped him adapt his gaming to accommodate the dexterity limitations caused by his accident.
Kaplan gave Monthervil an adaptive controller to try several years ago, but it was cumbersome and difficult for him to use. After getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller, Kaplan created a custom set-up for Monthervil by adding a few additional buttons. Monthervil recently got one of the controllers at home and says it works better for him than any device he’s tried since his injury.
“Of all the adaptive stuff I’ve tried, it’s by far the best one,” says Monthervil, who’s 26.
Photo of Mike Monthervil gaming with the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
The Xbox collaboration is part of a strategic partnership between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dating back more than 20 years. Recent efforts under the partnership have focused on equipping VA employees with productivity and collaboration technologies, migrating VA legacy systems to the cloud and using advanced analytics in VA call centers to give veterans better information to make decisions about their benefits and medical care.
Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. Regulated Industries at Microsoft, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller collaboration is part of a broader effort to improve therapeutic and clinical care for veterans. But its fundamental goal is to harness technology to improve veterans’ lives, she says.
“It’s an example of using technology as a means to a much more significant end, which is a sense of belonging, being part of a team, a sense of reconnection, a sense of family,” she says.
Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, sees the collaboration as an ideal pairing of Microsoft’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in gaming with the vast reach of the VA, which serves more than 9 million veterans nationwide in its health care system.
“Everyone can play games, and we really focus on that as an organization,” he says. “With the VA being the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., we thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring our focus on gaming and the great work that the VA is doing together.”
Microsoft will use feedback and data collected by the VA centers to determine how effective the Xbox Adaptive Controller is in serving veterans and how the device might be improved going forward, Townes-Whitley says. Nelson believes the initiative will serve not just existing gamers, but also veterans who weren’t previously into gaming.
“If we do our job well and we’re able to expose veterans to (the Xbox Adaptive Controller) as a possible tool or intervention in their rehab process, I expect to find successes even in those folks who have never gamed before in their lives,” he says.
A 2018 study found that gaming can relieve stress for veterans, help them cope with moods and provide a way to connect. Kaplan also sees the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an equalizer for veterans and others with disabilities.
“One of the biggest things kids and adults with disabilities face is the stigma of being different. Online, we’re all the same,” he says. “I could be missing my arms or my legs and you wouldn’t know it. Gaming really helps to promote that feeling of normalcy and feeling of belonging.
“I have a lot of respect for Xbox seeing and filling a need for making something that allows military members and anyone who has a disability to be able to game,” Kaplan says.
“I think it’s great for a mainstream company like Microsoft to be the one to take the first step. I hope it encourages other companies to do that.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
When ships are fighting, the battles can take a long time. To give one example, the battle between a German wolfpack and convoy ONS 92 lasted from May 11 to May 14 — three days of constant ASW. Combat can take a toll on a crew, but so can not eating.
Today, it runs a little differently, given the higher expectations that sailors have about their food. Let’s look at one of the newest warships in the Danish Navy, the Iver Huitfeldt-class frigate HDMS Peter Willemoes. This frigate is powerful, carrying 32 RIM-66 SM-2 surface-to-air missiles, up to 16 RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles, 24 RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles, a pair of 76mm guns, and a 35mm close-in weapon system. It also can operate a MH-60R helicopter and carry up to 165 personnel.
So, how can they quickly feed that crew, while still keeping a combat edge? Well, for one thing, the crews don’t get a lunch hour — they get six minutes to eat. That restriction means that the cooks can fix that meal and clean everything up in a grand total of 74 minutes.
As a result, that crew is refueled and ready to take on the enemy, whether in the air, on the surface, or underwater. The video below from the Smithsonian Channel helps show how this is done – quickly and efficiently, so this ship can fight!
If you’ve read the book Lone Survivor, written by former SEAL Marcus Luttrell, or seen the 2014 movie adaptation of the same name, then you’re very familiar with the incredible tale of survival and valor. But prior to Luttrell’s involvement to that 2005 operation, there was another well-known “love survivor” raid.
The tale of Torpedo Squadron Eight at the Battle of Midway has since become legend. All 15 of the squadron’s Douglas TBD Devastators that were sent out that day were shot down. Of the 30 crew aboard those planes, the only survivor was Ensign George Gay. The others were all killed in action.
Some people believe that this squadron’s sacrifice is what pulled down the Mitsubishi A6M Zeros that were providing combat air patrol for the Japanese carrier force, known as Kido Butai, thus opening the way for Douglass SBD Dauntless dive-bombers to deliver the bombs that left three Japanese carriers fatally damaged in the span of five minutes. This is, however, an over-simplified view.
Ensign George Gay (right) with a gunner from Torpedo Squadron Eight.
(US Navy )
It should be clear, though, that Torpedo Eight’s attack was the first in a chain of events that culminating in a Japanese loss so devastating the force could never recover. According to the book Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway, written by Anthony P. Tully and Jonathan B. Parshall, the attack by Torpedo Squadron Eight came in almost an hour before the dive-bombers arrived — around 9:18 AM. Their attack took no more than 17 minutes. Gay was perhaps the only pilot to get close enough to drop a torpedo against a Japanese carrier before he ditched his plane. He attempted to rescue his gunner, Robert K. Huntington, but was unsuccessful.
The reason Torpedo Squadron 8 attacked alone was because Hornet’s air group commander, Stanhope Ring, made an incorrect guess. Waldron, commander of Torpedo Squadron 8, and Ring had often disagreed on where the Japanese carriers might have gone. This time, Ring ended up missing the Japanese carriers — flying too far to the north. Waldron was dead on target, though.
World War II’s answer to Michael Murphy is Lieutenant Commander John C. Waldron, who received a posthumous Navy Cross for Torpedo Eight’s attack.
At 9:38am, Torpedo Squadron Six began their attack, launched from the USS Enterprise. This lasted until about 10:00. Torpedo Squadron Six’s attack came from a different angle than Torpedo Eight’s — four of that squadron’s planes returned to the Enterprise.
It was during Torpedo Six’s attack that Wade McCluskey, leading the Dauntless dive bombers from the Enterprise, would sight a Japanese destroyer trying to catch up with the rest of Kido Butai after trying to chase off the submarine USS Nautilus (SS 168). As McCluskey’s Dauntlesses arrived over Kido Butai, so did the Yorktown’s strike of 12 Devastators and 17 Dauntlesses, escorted by six F4F Wildcats.
Of the fifteen pilots in this photo, only one lived.
The Devastators of Torpedo Three would be savaged by the Zeros, but the Dauntless dive-bombers would turn the tide of war in five minutes, largely because the torpedo squadrons had not only drawn fighters down, but their attacks forced the Japanese carriers to maneuver in ways that precluded the launching of their own planes.
Torpedo Eight’s attack, the first in this deadly series, had set the entire sequence in motion — a sequence that would forever cripple the Japanese Navy, leading to victory for the Allies at Midway.
Every branch of the military has a specific ranking system that takes time and effort to move up through. Although each branch has different names for their ranks, the Navy’s system is different in comparison to the Air Force, Army, and the Marine Corps.
You can look at any service member and clearly notice their rank either on their sleeves or collar devices. You can also imagine what experiences they’ve had based on that rank and the ribbons on their rack — but you wouldn’t have a clue on their specific job title.
If spot a modern era sailor walking around sporting his or her dress blues, look below that perched crow (E-4 to E-9) on their left sleeve, and you’ll be able to tell how they contribute to their country.
The image above showcases a rating badge consisting of three-inverted chevrons, one-inverted rocker, a perched crow, a five-point star (which makes the sailor an E-8), and the well-respected caduceus medical symbol (the specialty mark).
Only Hospital Corpsmen are allowed to wear the caduceus, as it applies to their distinguished military occupation.
In 1886, the Navy authorized sailors to wear these rating badges and created 15-specialty marks to recognize various fields of expertise.
Up until the late 1940s, it was up to the sailor on which sleeve they wore the rating badge on if they had issues deciphering which side was port (left) or starboard (right) as a reminder.
After the time period, the Navy established the rating badge be worn on the left for uniformity purposes. That same tradition is followed today.
U.S. Special Operations Command has set the wheels in motion for a new Advanced Sniper Rifle to replace the organization’s current Precision Sniper Rifle setup.
It appears SOCOM will continue using a modular, bolt-action, multi-caliber rifle design; but will switch up calibers on the ASR. Though 7.62×51 NATO will remain in use, .300 Norma Magnum, and .338 Norma Magnum will replace SOCOM’s current .300 WinMag, and .338 Lapua cartridge selection.
Black Hills Ammunition is working closely with the government to lend “surrogate cartridges” to companies interested in developing an ASR contender. The rounds are not a spot-on representation of the final government approved ammo, instead serving as a starting point for gun makers to craft their ASR platforms.
SOCOM implied earlier this year that it was looking to switch up its rifle platforms, but held off on offering specific details. The ASR pre-solicitation came down the official pipeline last week. Still in its early stages, the formal solicitation with rifle requisites are expected to drop in February 2018.
SOCOM’s current Precision Sniper Rifle system took the government nearly two and a half years to award. The PSR was first announced in November 2011 and after extensive testing and fielding was eventually awarded to Remington’s Modular Sniper Rifle in March 2013. Remington took the top spot over Sako’s TRG M10. The 10-year contract with Remington, worth $79.7 million, called for 5,150 rifles and over 4 million rounds of ammunition.
The selection process for the ASR will likely mirror that of the PSR. Once selected, the ASR will serve SOCOM for five years with an initial order of 10 rifles to include ancillary equipment. The government alluded that more than one contract might be assigned, stating that it reserves the right to grant multiple awards.
SOCOM is currently prepping an industry day for manufacturers to gain insight on the ASR program. SOCOM says the event will cover the official timeline as well as addressing rifle specifications and test equipment. In addition, SOCOM is using the event to discuss future needs of Special Operations Forces. The ASR event is scheduled to run Dec. 5 through Dec. 7 at NSWC Crane.
Today there are over 40,000 nonprofits that focus on military and veteran issues, according to Charity Watch.
Most of those registered as nonprofits are chapters of larger organizations, but some of them are single chapter projects that focus on specific needs within the veteran community.
Here at We Are the Mighty, we wanted to explore some of those advocacy groups you might not have heard of in a bit more depth.
The Military Health Project & Foundation is based in San Francisco and is run by Jacob Angel. Founded in April 2013, the nonprofit was originally designed to address mental health issues through pushing national legislation.
Angel tells us it took the nonprofit eight months to realize where it was failing.
“We were making the same mistake that the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense were making,” he says. “We were treating mental and physical health care as two separate areas of care.”
The nonprofit re-aligned itself to better connect mental health and physical health, and in March 2014 it went to work garnering support for the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bill that Angel says eventually became law after a long battle.
“Thus far, the program is going very well,” Angel says. The law, according to Angel, makes counseling and other mental health service available to everyone “regardless of socioeconomic status or insurance coverage.”
In March 2015, The Military Health Project & Foundation announced the creation of the Military Support Fund, a dedicated financial resource to address coverage gaps for military and veteran families.
Angel tells that since its creation, the Military Support Fund has assisted 40 families in securing funding for specialized medical services and equipment.
Chief Petty Officer Carla Burkholder’s son was the recipient of a $2,500 grant for specialized medical equipment from The Military Health Project & Foundation.
“It feels like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” she wrote.
The organization is focused on addressing both physical and mental health needs through direct assistance and legislation.
“We are now a hybrid organization,” Angel says.
The Military Health Project is the advocacy wing where the nonprofit helps to create policy that addresses the ever-changing needs of the military and veteran community through legislation.
The Military Health Foundation works to provide for military and veteran families in the interim.
“They should not have to wait for treatments that they require and frankly deserve.”
While troops are in uniform, the only thing that matters is if it’s correct. Uniform is tidy and presentable. Boots are clean (and polished, for you older cats.) Hair is cut on a weekly basis. Things like that.
But when troops are off-duty and in garrison, they’re allowed to wear whatever.
Normally, troops just wear something comfortable and occasionally trendy. When you’re off-duty, you’re on your own time (until someone in the unit messes up).
But then there are the young, dumb boots who make it so painfully obvious that they don’t have any real clothes in their barracks room.
Shy of some major exceptions for clothing unbecoming of a service member, there are no guidelines for wearing civilian clothes out of uniform. But it’s like boots haven’t figured out that being “out of uniform” isn’t meant to be the unofficial boot uniform. You can spot them immediately when they wear these.
I feel like this dude’s NCO failed him by not immediately taking him to the barber.
Barracks haircut without a hat
It really doesn’t matter if you’ve got a stupid haircut in formation. You’ll be mocked relentlessly by your squad but it doesn’t matter. You’re at least in regulations.
If you don’t hide your shame with a hat when you’re in civvies, however, your buddies might get the impression that you don’t realize it’s an awful haircut. And that you’re a boot. And that you should be mocked even harder.
But hey. It technically counts as civilian wear.
Uniform undershirt with basketball shorts
When you’re done for the day, normal troops get out of their uniform as fast as they can. Boots tend to stop half way through just so they can go to the chow hall and get away with being in civvies.
They just stop at the blouse and pants and toss on a cheapo pair of basketball shorts. If they’re really lazy, they’ll even wear the military-issued socks with the same cheap Nike sandals.
Can we all agree that the bedazzled butt cross should have never been a fad?
Combat boots tucked into embroidered jeans
Combat boots aren’t really worn for comfort. They’re practical as hell (which is why the military uses them) but they’re not comfortable. Especially when they need to be bloused over the uniform pants. It would make sense that you’d not want to do this with regular clothes…right?
Nope. Boots never got that memo. And it’s never the same jeans any regular American would wear. It’s always the trashiest embroidered jeans that look like they weren’t even cool back in early 2000’s.
One of my favorite things when someone is wearing a shirt for a fighter is to press them for details about fighter’s record.
It’s one thing if a new troop wears their basic training shirt. It’s one of the few shirts they have and completing basid is something to be proud of. No qualms with that.
If a boot rotates wearing one of seven Tapout or Affliction shirts and they’ve only ever taken Army Combatives Level One — yeah, no.
Just like with the goofy embroidered jeans, these shirts also look like they were constantly sprinkled in glitter.
Just please take them off. This just looks dumb.
Oakleys worn on the back of the head (or under the chin)
Think of how literally every single person does with their sunglasses when they’re not using them. You’d assume they’d take them off or flip them up to the top of their head if it’s for a quick moment, right?
Not boots. They flip them around so they’re worn in a stupid manner. Nothing against Oakleys either — but if they’re more expensive than everything else combined in their wardrobe, it’s a problem.
“You’re welcome for my service.”
Dog tags outside a shirt
Dog tags serve a purpose for identifying troops in combat and treated as an inspectable item while in uniform. It is unheard of in any current branch of service to wear dog tags outside of the uniform.
And yet, boots will wear their dog tags on the outside of their Tapout shirt to let everyone know that they’re in the military and didn’t just buy their dog tags online.
But seriously. Where did they get these from?
ID card holder armbands
If troops are in a top secret area, they may need to wear identification outside of their uniform (and even then, it’s probably a separate badge). While on a deployment, troops may need to wear an ID card armband if they’re in PTs. Shy of those two very specific moments, there is literally no reason to store your CAC outside your wallet.
There’s an explanation for everything else on this list: boots think it looks cool and makes them feel like even more in the military. But boots who wear their CAC on their sleeve just paint a big ol’ target on themselves.
A regular deployment for our troops down here on Earth gets pretty boring while you’re off-mission. It becomes challenging to find new ways to fill your downtime. Maybe you’ll swing by the MWR and play some video games. Maybe you’ll watch a movie or two — that is until you’ve watched everything on the deployment hard drive twice.
Realistically speaking, the life of a astronaut in space is probably similar. Even the whole zero-G’s thing and watching the Big Blue Marble has got to get boring after a while…
Thankfully, through the power of social media, astronauts can record themselves and upload their shenanigans to the internet for the world (and beyond) to see. No judgment here; whatever takes the edge off while being stuck in the same, tight confinements for nine months at a time…
The great musicians here on Earth have written countless tunes about space and astronauts. These songs are then copied and repeated ad nauseam by that one guy at the party who thinks he can play.
But when David Bowie’s Space Oddity is played by someone who’s actually in space… It doesn’t matter if he’s not on the level of the late, great Ziggy Stardust — it’s awesome on its own level.
Play with toys
There was a challenge a few years back for gifted children to design toys usable in space. The constraints were simple: It had to be fun and not involve plenty of lose pieces that could float around and potentially cause a Homer-Simpson-level disaster.
Since astronauts are generally pretty stand-up people, we can assume they actually accepted the toys and used them instead of letting the kids’ efforts go to waste.
Exercising in zero gravity
As awesome as it is to live in weightlessness for an extended period of time, it can wreak havoc on your body. Your bones will deteriorate and your muscle mass will shrink.
To make sure that their bodies aren’t completely crushed by an inevitable return to normal gravity, astronauts need to exercise a minimum of two hours per day. That’s when things get interesting since they can’t just hop on a normal treadmill or grab some free weights.
Fun experiments (for science, of course)
Although space tourism has expanded in recent years, for the most part, astronauts who were sent up by their respective countries are there to do science. They’ll plan objectives for years, like maintaining the Hubble Telescope in case of emergency or documenting the effects of micro-gravity on an extremely fast spacecraft.
But, sometimes, astronauts get bored writing the same equations and the same formulas only to yield nearly identical outcomes. Sometimes, they just want to see how many zero-G backflips they can do before throwing up. I mean, who could resist a few childish experiments if you spent all those years dreaming of going to space?
For the most part, you have to be pretty nerdy to make it far in NASA’s space program. And there’s nothing nerds love more than some nerdy pop culture.
Astronauts watch everything from Gravity (which I assume they critique like soldiers did The Hurt Locker) to The Simpsons to even Star Wars.
Marine Corps veteran and beloved character actor R. Lee Ermey was missing from the “In Memoriam” segment of the 2019 Academy Awards telecast.
Ermey, who passed away in April 2018, is best remembered for his role as Gunny Hartman in Stanley Kubrick’s classic movie “Full Metal Jacket,” a legendary performance that should have made him a lock to be included in the video segment.
Ermey also played memorable roles in “Se7en,” “Mississippi Burning,” “The X-Files,” “Toy Story 2” and that 2003 remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” He also hosted the TV shows “Mail Call” and “Lock ‘N Load With R. Lee Ermey.”
Other Hollywood legends left out of the tribute include Verne Troyer (Mini-me in the “Austin Powers” movies); the incredible Dick Miller (best known for playing a WWII vet in the “Gremlins” movies); Danny Leiner (director of the classics “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle” and “Dude, Where’s My Car?”); Carol Channing (Oscar-nominated for her role in “Thoroughly Modern Millie”); Sondra Locke (Oscar-nominated for her role in “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”); and the director Stanley Donen (“Charade,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and the unfortunate 80s sex comedy “Blame It on Rio.”).
We can all take a moment to remember Ermey with the “Left from Right” clip from “Full Metal Jacket.” RIP, Gunny.
Necessity is the mother of invention — and war is often the catalyst. Sure, we can look at all of the obvious military advancements that trickled down to the civilian sector, like fixed-winged aircraft, GPS, the microwave, and the can opener, but it’s a little-known fact that a lot of contemporary American foods also got their start on the battlefield.
The doughnut, one of the most American deserts known to man, got its start when troops needed a tactical desert to get their minds off the horrors of WWI.
Looks just like the line at your local Krispy Kreme — some things never change.
During WWI, the Salvation Army actually deployed overseas with the troops, offering a wide variety of support for the troops. This support ranged from preparing home-cooked meals to sending money back home to sewing their uniforms when needed. The organization was entirely independent from the Armed Forces, but they followed units around the battlefield — oftentimes going to the front lines with them.
Two women assigned to assist the US Army’s 1st Infantry Division, Ensign Helen Purviance and Ensign Margaret Sheldon, endured the hellish environment of Monte-sur-Soux, France, just as the soldiers did. It rained for thirty days and supplies were running thin. They needed to come up with something — anything — to boost the abysmal morale.
They searched the countryside for ingredients and came back with eggs, milk, yeast, sugar, and a bit of vanilla. Perfect ingredients to make a cake, but that wouldn’t be enough for all the troops. They made some dough, used a wine bottle to work it, and cooked the cake batter on a frying pan in some grease. They served it up — and the soldiers loved it.
Soldiers would gather from all around when they smelled the doughnuts being cooked. It was said that the lines were so long that troops would miss duty or formation because they just wanted a single doughnut. One soldier eventually asked Ensign Purvaince, “can’t you make a doughnut with a hole in it?” She obliged this request by cutting the middle of the doughnut out with an empty condensed milk can and used the rest of the batter for other doughnuts.
Doughnuts quickly spread across the U.S. front and other Salvation Army officers started making them for the troops in their care. It didn’t take long for the women making the sweets to be given the nickname of “doughnut girls” or “doughnut lassies” — despite the numerous other ways in which they aided troops.
So, when National Doughnut Day rolls around on the first Friday of June, know that it’s about more than the glazed treat you used to cheat on your diet this morning. It’s a day in honor of the women who served on the front-lines with the troops, preparing tasty treats in hopes of cheering them up.
To learn more about Doughnut Girls or real meaning behind National Doughnut Day, check out the video below.
The Army is now engineering a far-superior M1A2 SEP v4 Abrams tank variant for the 2020s and beyond –designed to be more lethal, faster, lighter weight, better protected, equipped with new sensors and armed with upgraded, more effective weapons, service officials said.
Advanced networking technology with next-generation sights, sensors, targeting systems and digital networking technology — are all key elements of an ongoing upgrade to position the platform to successfully engage in combat against rapidly emerging threats, such as the prospect of confronting a Russian T-14 Armata or Chinese 3rd generation Type 99 tank.
The SEP v4 variant, slated to begin testing in 2021, will include new laser rangefinder technology, color cameras, integrated on-board networks, new slip-rings, advanced meteorological sensors, ammunition data links, laser warning receivers and a far more lethal, multi-purpose 120mm tank round, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
While Army officials explain that many of the details of the next-gen systems for the future tanks are not available for security reasons, Basset did explain that the lethality upgrade, referred to as an Engineering Change Proposal, or ECP, is centered around the integration of a higher-tech 3rd generation FLIR – Forward Looking Infrared imaging sensor.
The advanced FLIR uses higher resolution and digital imaging along with an increased ability to detect enemy signatures at farther ranges through various obscurants such as rain, dust or fog, Bassett said.
“A combination of mid-wave and long-wave sensors allow for better target identification at long ranges and better resolution at shorter ranges,” Bassett explained. Higher-definition sensors allow Army crews to, for instance, better distinguish an enemy fighter or militant carrying an AK 47.
Improved FLIR technologies also help tank crews better recognize light and heat signatures emerging from targets such as enemy sensors, electronic signals or enemy vehicles. This enhancement provides an additional asset to a tank commander’s independent thermal viewer.
Rear view sensors and laser detection systems are part of these upgrades as well. Also, newly configured meteorological sensors will better enable Abrams tanks to anticipate and adapt to changing weather or combat conditions more quickly, Bassett explained.
“You do not have to manually put meteorological variables into the fire control system. It will detect the density of the air, relative humidity and wind speed and integrate it directly into the platform,” Basset explained.
The emerging M1A2 SEP v4 will also be configured with a new slip-ring leading to the turret and on-board ethernet switch to reduce the number of needed “boxes” by networking sensors to one another in a single vehicle. Also, some of the current electronics, called Line Replaceable Units, will be replaced with new Line Replaceable Modules including a commander’s display unit, driver’s control panel, gunner’s control panel, turret control unit and a common high-resolution display, information from General Dynamics Land Systems states.
Advanced Multi-Purpose Round
The M1A2 SEP v4 will carry Advanced Multi-Purpose 120mm ammunition round able to combine a variety of different rounds into a single tank round.
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
The latter round was introduced in 1993 to engage and defeat enemy helicopters, specifically the Russian Hind helicopter, Army developers explained. The MPAT round has a two-position fuse, ground and air, that must be manually set, an Army statement said.
The M1028 Canister round is the third tank round being replaced. The Canister round was first introduced in 2005 by the Army to engage and defeat dismounted Infantry, specifically to defeat close-in human-wave assaults. Canister rounds disperse a wide-range of scattering small projectiles to increase anti-personnel lethality and, for example, destroy groups of individual enemy fighters.
The M908, Obstacle Reduction round, is the fourth that the AMP round will replace; it was designed to assist in destroying large obstacles positioned on roads by the enemy to block advancing mounted forces, Army statements report.
AMP also provides two additional capabilities: defeat of enemy dismounts, especially enemy anti-tank guided missile, or ATMG, teams at a distance, and breaching walls in support of dismounted Infantry operations.
Bassett explained that a new ammunition data link will help tank crews determine which round is best suited for a particular given attack.
“Rather than having to carry different rounds, you can communicate with the round before firing it,” Bassett explained.
Engineering Change Proposal 1
Some of the upgrades woven into the lethality enhancement for the M1A2 SEP v4 have their origins in a prior upgrades now underway for the platform.
Accordingly, the lethality upgrade is designed to follow on to a current mobility and power upgrade referred to as an earlier or initial ECP. Among other things, this upgrade adds a stronger auxiliary power unit for fuel efficiency and on-board electrical systems, improved armor materials, upgraded engines and transmission and a 28-volt upgraded drive system. This first ECP, slated to begin production by 2017, is called the M1A2 SEP v3 variant.
This ECP 1 effort also initiates the integration of upgraded ammunition data links and electronic warfare devices such as the Counter Remote Controlled Improvised Explosive Device – Electronic Warfare – CREW. An increased AMPs alternator is also part of this upgrade, along with Ethernet cables designed to better network vehicle sensors together.
The Abrams is also expected to get an advanced force-tracking system which uses GPS technology to rapidly update digital moving map displays with icons showing friendly and enemy force positions.
The system, called Joint Battle Command Platform, uses an extremely fast Blue Force Tracker 2 Satcom network able to reduce latency and massively shorten refresh time. Having rapid force-position updates in a fast-moving combat circumstance, quite naturally, could bring decisive advantages in both mechanized and counterinsurgency warfare.
Active Protection Systems
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging technology for Abrams tanks designed to give combat vehicles an opportunity to identify, track and destroy approaching enemy rocket-propelled grenades in a matter of milliseconds, service officials said.
Called Active Protection Systems, or APS, the technology uses sensors and radar, computer processing, fire control technology and interceptors to find, target and knock down or intercept incoming enemy fire such as RPGs and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles, or ATGMs. Systems of this kind have been in development for many years, however the rapid technological progress of enemy tank rounds, missiles and RPGs is leading the Army to more rapidly test and develop APS for its fleet of Abrams tanks.
The Army is looking at a range of domestically produced and allied international solutions from companies participating in the Army’s Modular Active Protection Systems (MAPS) program, an Army official told Scout Warrior.
General Dynamics Land Systems, maker of Abrams tanks, is working with the Army to better integrate APS into the subsystems of the Abrams tank, as opposed to merely using an applique system, Mike Peck, Business Development Manager, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Peck said General Dynamics plans to test an APS system called Trophy on the Abrams tank next year.
Using a 360-degree radar, processor and on-board computer, Trophy is designed to locate, track and destroy approaching fire coming from a range of weapons such as Anti-Tank-Guided-Missiles, or ATGMs, or Rocket Propelled Grenades, or RPGs.
The interceptor consists of a series of small, shaped charges attached to a gimbal on top of the vehicle. The small explosives are sent to a precise point in space to intercept and destroy the approaching round, he added.
Radar scans the entire perimeter of the platform out to a known range. When a threat penetrates that range, the system then detects and classifies that threat and tells the on-board computer which determines the optical kill point in space, a DRS official said.
Along with Rafael’s Trophy system, the Army is also looking at Artis Corporation’s Iron Curtain, Israeli Military Industry’s Iron Fist, and UBT/Rheinmetall’s ADS system, among others.
Overall, these lethality and mobility upgrades represent the best effort by the Army to maximize effectiveness and lethality of its current Abrams tank platform. The idea is to leverage the best possible modernization upgrades able to integrate into the existing vehicle. Early conceptual discussion and planning is already underway to build models for a new future tank platform to emerge by the 2030s – stay with Scout Warrior for an upcoming report on this effort.
A New York military aviation researcher got more than she bargained for on a dream trip to a battle-scarred South Pacific island — the chance to help solve the mystery of an American soldier listed as missing in action from World War II.
Donna Esposito, who works at the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in upstate Glenville, visited Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands this spring and was approached by a local man who knew of WWII dog tags and bones found along a nearby jungle trail. The man asked if Esposito could help find relatives of the man named on the tags: Pfc. Dale W. Ross.
After she returned home, Esposito found that Ross had nieces and nephews still living in Ashland, Oregon. A niece and a nephew accompanied Esposito on her late July return to Guadalcanal, where they were given his dog tags and a bag containing the skeletal remains.
Although it’s not certain yet the remains are the missing soldier’s, the nephew who made the Guadalcanal trip is confident they will be a match.
“It’s Uncle Dale. I have no doubt,” said Dale W. Ross, who was named after his relative.
The elder Ross, a North Dakota native whose family moved to southern Oregon, was the third of four brothers who fought in WWII. Assigned to the Army’s 25th Infantry Division, he was listed as MIA in January 1943, during the final weeks of the Guadalcanal campaign. He was last seen in an area that saw heavy fighting around a Japanese-held hilltop.
When the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal three weeks later, it was the first major land victory in the Allies’ island-hopping campaign in the Pacific.
Ross’ relatives handed the remains — about four dozen bones, including rib bones — to a team from the Pentagon agency that identifies American MIAs found on foreign battlefields. On August 7, the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Guadalcanal, an American honor guard carried a flag-draped coffin containing the bones onto a US Coast Guard aircraft.
The Pentagon said the remains were taken to Hawaii for DNA testing.
“Until a complete and thorough analysis of the remains is done by our lab, we are unable to comment on the specific case associated to the turnover,” said Maj. Jessie Romero of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
The other three Ross brothers made it back home, including the oldest, Charles, who served aboard a Navy PT boat in the Solomons and visited Guadalcanal in the vain attempt to learn about his brother Dale’s fate.
Ross’ niece and nephew made their trip last month with Esposito and Justin Taylan, founder of Pacific Wrecks, a New York-based nonprofit involved in the search for American MIAs from WWII. They met the family whose 8-year-old son found the dog tags and remains. They also were taken to the spot on a slope in the jungle where the discovery was made.
“I never met this man, but I was a little emotional,” Ross, 71, said of the experience.
For Esposito, 45, finding evidence that could solve a lingering mystery in an American family’s military history is the most meaningful thing she’s ever done in her life.
“I can’t believe this has all happened,” she said. “It has been an amazing journey.”