Holiday weekend. Here’s hoping you got a good safety briefing, made responsible decisions, and have woken up fresh and ready to celebrate America. And here’s an 800mg ibuprofen and a bag of saline because we know you got hammered and tattooed “Murica” on your lower back last night.
1. Most military bases are wastelands with a few palm trees and ant mounds.
Moviegoers across the nation love to get a fresh bucket of popcorn and sit down in front of the big screen to watch a well-crafted action film. With so many cool explosions and witty one-liners, there’s only one thing left to take a movie from great to legendary: an epic knife fight.
From a directorial standpoint, capturing an excellent knife fight on film is both dangerous and difficult, but the following movies managed to pull off the impressive feat in unique ways.
In 1986, New York City got its first taste of the knife-wielding, Aussie bushman, Michael J. ‘Crocodile’ Dundee. The character from down under was a huge blockbuster for Paramount Pictures and featured one of the funniest almost-knife fights to ever hit the big screen.
In a knife-measuring contest, Dundee’s unveils his monster blade and dwarfs the tiny switchblade brandished by thugs who wanted his wallet. Unfortunately for the muggers, the Aussie’s steel was far too fierce.
It may not be the most action-packed knife fight, but it’s f*cking hilarious. Who could forget this line?
It’s safe to say that Jean-Claude Van Damme was one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars. Known for his cinematic helicopter kicks, Van Damme takes on a bunch of murderous thugs in his living room while sporting nothing but his undies.
In attempts to avenge the murder of his wife, the Belgian martial artist travels through time to try and rewrite history, defeating all the bad guys along the way.
When moviegoers show up to the cinemas to watch a Tarantino film, they know they’re in for some witty dialogue and a sh*t-ton of F-bombs. When they showed up to watch Kill Bill: Volume 1, they got just that — and a whole lot of action. In this scene, our protagonist goes up against an old enemy and the two immediately draw steel. Uma Thurman and Vivica A. Fox put on a dazzling display — until they’re interrupted by a four-year-old girl.
Although 1992’s Under Siege, starring Steven Seagal, defies many of the real-life attributes of life in the Navy, it does showcase a pretty cool knife fight that you wouldn’t have expected out of acclaimed actor Tommy Lee Jones. Seagal and Jones go toe-to-toe, pitting a real-life Aikido expert up against a talented actor in one of the best knife-fight scenes ever to take place on a Navy vessel.
Tommy Lee Jones takes the two top spots on this list — who would’ve thought this veteran actor was so freakin’ talented with a blade? In 2003, William Friedkin brought The Hunted to the big screen, which follows an FBI tracker (played by Jones) as he sets out to capture a trained assassin (played by Benicio Del Toro), who’s made a sport out of killing humans.
The film features some pretty epic knife fights and showcases some interesting human-tracking skills.
Bring your A-game if you want to play World of Warcraft with Karen Sakai, but check your negativity at the door.
“I’m a gamer,” she says. “A gamer likes to play their favorite games with people. So I give out my real information so I can do that. That’s who I am.” Being true to herself is how Sakai stays successful. She was born in Norfolk, Va. but her mother took her to Japan when she was young. She later ended up in the Navy town of Bremerton, Washington, where she experienced a lot of bullying as a kid, growing up biracial in an Asian community.
“There were many Japanese around,” she says. “I’m half-white and half-Japanese and the Japanese, they picked on me because I was half-white: I brought a disgrace to Japan, I’m ugly, blah blah blah. The older folks, they also saw me as kinda weird. They didn’t understand that people could be biracial. I didn’t know many mixed kids either. The friends that I did have didn’t care though, and that was the best.”
The racism she struggled with when she was younger was only compounded by her hobbies and love for all things considered nerdy and geeky. She experienced so much flak for the nerdy things she loved, she took a very long hiatus.
“It was in 2003. I stopped doing it because I got bullied,” Sakai recalls. “But after a while, I thought to myself, ‘I’m an adult now. I can do whatever I want.'”
When Sakai joined the Navy as a Master-at-Arms in 2009, many of the issues surrounding her childhood faded away, despite being stationed in her Washington hometown (which, incidentally is what Sir Mix-A-Lot wrote about in his 1988 song, Bremelo).
“I loved being in the Navy,” Sakai says. “I met a lot of gamer, nerdy folks in the Navy and they thought it was really cool that I am a female who loves this stuff. Everyone was so accepting of me. They didn’t care where you came from as long as you came in and did your job and had a good personality.”
Sakai’s family has a long Navy tradition. Her father was a long time Surface Warfare Officer who practically spent his entire life on an aircraft carrier.
“He was a career officer, always an XO or CO,” she says. “He was in for 22 years and he talked about it his whole life. I think everyone should have an experience in the military, if its something they’re thinking about. I chose the Navy because it runs in my family.”
Sakai was in the Navy for four years and left to finish her dual degrees in Anthropology and Primate Behavior and Ecology. While in school, she began modeling and cosplaying. She found the cosplay community to be the most accepting of which she’s ever been a part.
“I’m a cosplayer who will openly admit I’ve been bullied and it hurt my feelings. I’m open about it because it’s all part of being human,” she says. “This community is a very happy place. It feels like family. People who enjoy the same things as you, they’re not going to criticize you. Comic-Con and events like that feel like a long distance family gathering. It’s a safe place where you can really be yourself.” She compares it to football fandom.
“I’m from Washington,” she says. “So I like the Seahawks. If you like anime and you’re among friends, it’s like a group of Seahawks fans meeting up at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the game. But people respect each other’s preferences. No one is going to make fun of you for liking Black Butler over Dragonball Z. You can be who you are.”
For Sakai, modeling is a bit different.
“I’ve done car shows, lingerie, cosplay modeling, all that stuff. It’s an industry. Sex sells,” she says. “So they want that generic, skinny, ‘whatever’ because it sells. I’ve done tests on my Facebook page and whatnot, posting different kinds of pictures, seeing the interactions, likes, and views it gets. The ones that get the most attention are the ones where I’m slutty and generic. I’m completely fake in those pictures but they’re the ones that get the most attention.”
So which photos are the real Karen Sakai?
“The ones where I’m not wearing makeup and I’m in a sweats, not showing cleavage,” she says with a laugh. “I’m me. I do my own thing, if they want to see cleavage 24/7 then I’m probably not the person to follow.
Karen, now 25, lives with her boyfriend who is himself an Air Force veteran, in Washington state. They got together because he outdid her own nerdiness.
“If you one-up me and start a conversation about how wrong I am about something, then I know you are a true nerd,” she says. “He knows much more lore, more information, about games, anime, and comics in general.”
Sakai’s game is World of Warcraft. To her, it’s like cosplay.
“I made a character to live in a second world. I’m the hero in the game, not a little kid getting picked on. I create and customize a character who is strong, powerful, and pretty. When I dress up, I like to try and role play as a character I always looked up to or enjoyed. It’s fun to be someone else for a change.”
To hire Karen, email her: email@example.com
To help Karen purchase material to build her own costumes (she loves to make armor) see her Patreon page.
Hercules, in classical mythology, is a hero and god famous for his strength, travels, and adventures.
At the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa, a black lab, appropriately named Hercules, is a hero to veterans, visitors, and VA staff. He’s their resident rock star and therapy dog, and he’s about to celebrate his third birthday.
Robert Lynch is a Marine, the Tampa VA Veterans Experience Officer, and proud dad to Hercules. As a service-connected veteran, Lynch is upfront and open discussing his physical and mental health needs, including mobility, depression and anxiety.
In 2017, Lynch applied for a therapy dog to help with his own overall health, but after further thought wanted to expand the role of his potential new best friend. He talked with Tampa VA Director Joe Battle about having a therapy dog as a VA staff member.
Battle loved the idea of a full-time canine on staff, as did other leadership and they created a hospital policy defining what would be the role of their new employee.
Southeastern Guide Dogs, a non-profit group that trains guide and service and therapy dogs, brought a few furry friends to meet Robert. Once Lynch met Hercules, he knew they had a special bond. The trainer from Southeastern saw it too, saying they were “surprised at how fast the two connected.”
To this day, Hercules doesn’t want Lynch out of his sight. While working at the Tampa VA, Hercules and Lynch do spend some time apart as Hercules goes with other trained handlers to visit different areas of the hospital. Hercules puts in about 50 hours a week, rotating visits to various clinics and care units.
A work day for Hercules can range from playing fetch with veterans in physical therapy, painting with veterans in a creative arts class, or playing a role in a Final Salute–a ceremony held inside the VA to honor a veteran who has passed. Hercules carries the flag and seeks out those who may need some emotional support.
Lynch received a call one day with a special request. A veteran in the hospice unit wanted to visit with Hercules again. Hercules was not scheduled to visit that part of the hospital that day, so Lynch made arrangements and took the intuitive black lab to see the patient as quickly as possible.
Hercules got in bed and snuggled the gentleman as he reminisced about his boyhood pup named Shadow and how Hercules reminded him of his beloved dog.
Lynch and Hercules spent about 45 minutes with the patient and then went back to their regular schedule. A short time later, Lynch received a call. “It was for a Final Salute. The same man that wanted to see Hercules in hospice had passed and they wanted us to be a part of the Final Salute.”
Director Joe Battle consoled Lynch by telling him, “You gave that man, that veteran, his last wish, there’s no better way to honor him.”
Hercules shakes with Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams at the VA Patient Experience Symposium.
As VA staff come in to start their day, several make sure to stop by Lynch’s office and get a hug from Hercules. Lynch knows the importance of this seemingly small gesture. “It’s just as important to enhance the staff experience as it is the veteran experience when they come to VA,” he said. “Something positive sets the tone for the work day and happier employees means happier customers.”
What does Hercules do to unwind and have fun? He takes breaks during the day and will lay at Lynch’s feet to rest and recharge. On the weekends, Lynch and his family take Hercules fishing and to his favorite spot–the dog beach.
“Sometimes I think he’s kinda bummed out that he’s not at the hospital every day. He likes to play with other dogs, but he really loves to be around people,” Lynch said. “He’s so devoted. I still have my own issues. I love to see him make others happy.”
Tampa VA will be celebrating Hercules’ 3rd birthday with a Barkday party, June 26, 2019, at 1pm. For details, visit the James A. Haley VA Medical Center’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/VATampa/.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Many veterans have a unique perspective on the state of the world — with continued deployment tempos to foreign countries (especially those impacted by conflict), our veterans are exposed to life outside the continental United States. They also work alongside our allies and build relationships with them.
On Veterans Day 2017, Human Rights First’s Veterans for American Ideals project is launching the #WhatIFoughtFor campaign to tell the stories of U.S. veterans with deeply personal and profound connections with refugees.
Veterans have seen firsthand the devastation of war. According to #WhatIFoughtFor, “many of them have worked in communities around the world that have suffered from violence and oppression. They have even fought alongside many of these individuals as allies during wartime. They understand why refugees flee their homes, and that refugees want the same safety and opportunity for their families that we do.”
As a result, many veterans believe that commitment extends beyond their military service. Veterans for American Ideals is one such organization, and their mission is to stand with refugees, to tell their stories, and to help the American people make educated and informed decisions about America’s relationship with refugees.
According to their website, “Veterans for American Ideals is a nonpartisan group of military veterans who share the belief that America is strongest when its policies and actions match its ideals. After taking off the uniform, we seek to continue serving our country by advocating policies that are consistent with the ideals that motivated us to serve in the first place: freedom, diversity, equality, and justice. It is those same ideals that make the United States a beacon to the world’s refugees.”
The campaign chronicles seven stories of family, friendship, brotherhood, and camaraderie between U.S. veterans and refugees. You can find more information about the Nov. 11, 2017 launch on Facebook or Twitter.
2015 was a good year for movies. Anticipated series continuations from franchises like Terminator, Jurassic Park, and James Bond met with mixed success. Star Wars came back in a big way, as did the Avengers. Marvel’s Ant-Man was a surprise hit while The Fantastic Four saw even the most die-hard Marvel fans struggle to stay in the theatre for the duration of the movie.
But it was a good year for military movies the world over. The world’s best war and conflict films from the past year are at your fingertips. A few movies are a great way to recover from New Years’ Eve.
1. Beasts of No Nation
Netflix made a foray into conflict films this year with its critical hit Beasts of No Nation, starring Idris Elba as a warlord recruiting child soldiers to fight in a civil war in Liberia. The government falls as the warlords forces attack a village under international protection. A young boy named Agu flees after his father is shot and is captured by the NDF, rebel guerillas.
The film captures the brutality of life as a child soldier, with rampant drug use, rape, and murder of civilian noncombatants. The powerful film holds a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.
2. Cartel Land
This is a film about vigilante groups fighting drug cartels in the Mexican Drug Wars. The most shocking part of Cartel Land is that its a documentary, and you can see the characters and events unfold as they did in the real world.
The brutal film was shot in Mexico and Arizona. It garnered a 94% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is currently shortlisted for an Academy Award nomination.
3. Kilo Two Bravo
Released in 2014 in Europe as Kajaki, Kilo Two Bravo is the story of a small group of British soldiers stationed near the Kajaki dam in Afghanistan.
Though set during the modern day Afghan War, Kilo Two Bravo is more horror-thriller than a traditional set piece war film. The outcome is a realistic, critical success with a 100% Rotten Tomatoes critical rating.
4. Krigen (“A War”)
Danish Army Company commander Claus Michael Pedersen and his men are stationed in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in heavy Taliban crossfire. In order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that ultimately sees him return to Denmark accused of a war crime.
Claus’ wife Maria is trying to hold everyday life together with a husband at war and three children missing their father. This film is remarkable for its depiction of what life is like for the wife and children of deployed troops. The war hits those at home every bit as much as it affects the men who fight it. The film also uses real Danish Army veterans.
5. April 9th
2015 saw a lot of WWII films produced the world over. April 9th, also from Denmark, depicts the Nazi invasion of Denmark as bicycle and motorcycle companies are deployed to hold off the German Blitzkrieg until reinforcements arrive.
Denmark, of course, couldn’t resist the Nazi onslaught and fell in only six hours.
In the last full year of World War II, the Eastern Front was the most brutal battleground in the world. This Estonian film depicts the 1944 Battle of the Tannenberg Line through the Battle of Tehumardi. The war for Estonia was very different, as it bordered both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, each with mutually exclusive ideologies.
More than ideology, its location forced Estonians to choose sides during the war, pitting Estonians in the Wehrmacht against Estonians in the Soviet Red Army. The film shows the war from both sides.
7. Baahubali: The Beginning
This film is a Telgu and Tamil film. It’s the fictional story of two ancient brothers at war. One prince returns to free his mother the queen who was wrongfully usurped by his elder brother.
The two-part blockbuster is also the most expensive Indian film ever made. It took a full year of preproduction, 25 artists made 15,000 storyboards, there were 380 shooting days over three years, 2,000 stuntmen worked on it, and thousands of weapons and props were used.
8. Hyena Road
This Canadian film is eagerly anticipated outside of Canada. It’s the story of Canadian forces building a road deep into Taliban territory, creating a dirt track that can only be driven in armed convoys protected by snipers. The road is strategically crucial to defeating the Taliban.
The theme of war being bad while those who fight are inherently good continues in Hyena Road but the depiction of the deployed life and combat by Canadian Forces by Canadian writer Paul Gross is authentic and realistic.
9. The Battle for Sevastopol
When the Nazis invade the Soviet Union in 1941 a young girl, Lyudmila, joins the Red Army. She turns out to be a natural sniper, and her impressive skills impress those around her. Her wounds keep her from fighting on, so she travels to the United States to press for a second front.
This film is actually about a real Red Army sniper, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, one of WWII’s deadliest snipers. The movie hero fights in the Battles of Odessa and Sevastopol. She racks up 309 confirmed kills, she is sent to the US to campaign for American support. She meets Eleanor Roosevelt, just as the real Pavilchenko did. This joint Russian-Ukrainian project is like the Mockingjay on steroids but, you know, real.
According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.
Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.
Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.
“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”
In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.
Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.
“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”
The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”
The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”
Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.
Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.
“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.
“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”
The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.
Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.
Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.
“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.
“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”
Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.
“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.
“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”
Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.
“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.
Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.
“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”
As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.
No one knows exactly what caused 24 US diplomats and their families in Cuba to fall ill and in many cases show signs of brain injuries after they reported hearing strange noises.
But whatever is causing these mysterious illnesses, it seems to now be happening in China too.
On May 23, 2018, the US State Department announced that one embassy worker in Guangzhou experienced “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure” before being diagnosed with symptoms similar to those found in the diplomatic personnel that were in Cuba, including mild traumatic brain injury.
The New York Times reported June 6, 2018, that at least two more Americans in Guangzhou have experienced similar phenomena and also fallen ill. One of those embassy workers told the Times that he and his wife had heard mysterious sounds and experienced strange headaches and sleeplessness while in their apartment.
After the evacuation of the first diplomatic employee from Guangzhou was announced, the State Department issued a health alert via the US Consulate in Guangzhou telling people that “if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source. Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”
“U.S. government personnel and family members at affected locations have been directed to alert their mission’s medical unit if they note new onset of symptoms that may have begun in association with experiencing unidentified auditory sensations,” the State Department announcement said. “Reported symptoms have included dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping.”
A mysterious problem that began in Cuba
The saga began in late 2016, when American diplomatic staff (and some Canadians) that had been in Cuba began to report odd physical and mental symptoms. Some individuals could no longer remember words, while others had hearing loss, speech problems, balance issues, nervous-system damage, headaches, ringing in the ears, and nausea.
Some even showed signs of brain swelling or concussions — mild traumatic brain injuries.
A study of those victims suggested a disconcerting possibility: some unknown force projected in the direction of the patients could have somehow injured their brains.
“The unique circumstances of these patients and the consistency of the clinical manifestations raised concern for a novel mechanism of a possible acquired brain injury,” the study’s authors wrote.
Many of the victims remembered strange occurrences before the symptoms appeared, though others didn’t hear or feel anything. One diplomat reported hearing a “blaring, grinding noise” that woke him from his bed in a Havana hotel, according to the Associated Press. The AP also reported that some heard a “loud ringing or a high-pitch chirping similar to crickets or cicadas” in short bursts at night, while others said they could walk “in” and “out” of blaring noises that were audible only in certain spots.
The US State Department eventually determined that the incidents were “specific attacks” and moved to cut its Cuban embassy staff by 60%.
The recent State Department announcement said there have been at least 24 victims of these attacks. Of those, 21 were studied by a team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair. More than 80% reported hearing a sound that had a “directional” source — it seemed to come from somewhere.
After three months, 81% still had cognitive issues, 71% had balance problems, 86% had vision issues, and about 70% still reported hearing problems and headaches.
The fact that a number of these symptoms could be subjective has raised questions about the possibility that this group of people is suffering from some sort of collective delusion, according to the study authors. But they say that mass delusion is unlikely, since affected individuals were all highly motivated and of a broad age distribution, factors that don’t normally correspond with mass psychogenic illness. Plus, objective tests of ears and eye motion all revealed real clinical abnormalities.
The symptoms seem consistent with some form of mild brain trauma, according to the researchers. But these symptoms persisted far longer than most concussion symptoms do, and were not associated with blunt head trauma.
“These individuals appeared to have sustained injury to widespread brain networks without an associated history of head trauma,” the study authors wrote.
An unknown cause
Despite having identified common symptoms and clinical evidence of some sort of injury, researchers are still at a loss about what happened to these diplomats.
If there is some kind of weapon involved, no one knows what kind it was or who would have used it. The Cuban government denied any connection and investigators hadn’t found a link to Russia, which intelligence analysts have speculated might have the means and motivation to carry out such an attack.
Now that there are cases in China, the mystery is even deeper.
The reported presence of strange audio and of the feeling of changes in air pressure have led to speculation about some kind of sonic or audio-based weapon. But although sonic weapons exist, they’re very visible and easy to avoid, according to Seth Horowitz, a neuroscientist who wrote the book “The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind. Plus, the specific symptoms make a sonic weapon unlikely.
“There isn’t an acoustic phenomenon in the world that would cause those type of symptoms,” Horowitz said.
He speculated that perhaps some sort of mysterious pathogen or other phenomenon could have caused the symptoms, but the authors of the study on the victims from Cuba reported found no signs of infection (like fever). They determined that it was unlikely a chemical agent caused these effects, since it would have damaged other organs, too.
In an editorial published alongside that study, two doctors wrote that without more information and more data on the patients before they reported feeling ill, they couldn’t definitively figure out what went wrong.
“At this point, a unifying explanation for the symptoms experienced by the US government officials described in this case series remains elusive and the effect of possible exposure to audible phenomena is unclear,” the editorial’s authors wrote. “Going forward, it would be helpful for government employees traveling to Cuba to undergo baseline testing prior to deployment to allow for a more informed interpretation of abnormalities that might later be detected after a potential exposure.”
Now, employees headed to China may have to consider similar testing.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
With every move comes a host of decisions — schools, recreation, safety, length of commute — but among the most important ones is whether to buy or rent your home at your new duty station. Here are 5 things to consider when making that call:
1. Can you finance the home using your VA home loan benefit?
There are a bunch of advantages to using a VA loan. VA home loans require zero money down, and because they’re underwritten by the U.S. government, sellers are usually comfortable with accepting offers from buyers using them. Also, VA home loans can be assumed by qualified buyers, which is a great option when considering the volatility of the military lifestyle. For more information check out the VA’s site here.
2. Can you build equity during the time you’re in that area?
Nobody buys a home to lose money in the process. Before you buy, consider the real estate market trends. Are home pricing rising or falling . . . and how quickly? Making money on a home after owning it a short time is ambitious, but not impossible in the right market.
3. Can you sell your home quickly when you get orders away from the area?
Just like in the previous bullet, market conditions are important when considering how quickly you could sell your home when the time comes. The easy way to assess this is to consider how many “for sale” signs there are on the street around your desired home. If there are a lot of them you might want to think twice about buying, especially if you’re only planning on being in the area for a couple of years or less.
4. Could you turn your home into a rental property if you got orders away from the area?
If the rental market is active in your area you might consider turning your home into a rental property. In some areas, the amount an owner can charge for monthly rent exceeds the owner’s mortgage payment, which allows the owner the retain all the associated tax benefits while continuing to build equity. But owners should also consider the responsibilities of being a landlord, not the least of which is keeping track of how the tenant is treating the property.
5. Is the duty station where your home is one to which you’re likely to return?
Will your career path bring you back to the area? Would you consider staying there once your time on active duty is over? And would you be willing to rent the home (see the previous bullet) in the meantime? If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then the equity timeline can be stretched out and the risk of buying is reduced.
To start the process, check out Zillow.com’s cool buy/rent calculator here.
A top defense strategy think tank recently released a report hat looks at the implications of a possible war between the U.S. and China. The news is almost universally bad, but the assessment of a full-scale war between the U.S. and China in 2025 paints a dire picture of the aftermath of a conflict between the world’s two biggest superpowers.
While a war today would be costly for the U.S., China’s increasing anti-access, area denial arsenal as well as its growing carrier capability and aircraft strength could make it impossible for the U.S. to establish military dominance and achieve a decisive victory in 2025, the report by the RAND Corporation says.
“Premeditated war between the United States and China is very unlikely, but the danger that a mishandled crisis could trigger hostilities cannot be ignored,” RAND says. “Technological advances in the ability to target opposing forces are creating conditions of conventional counterforce, whereby each side has the means to strike and degrade the other’s forces and, therefore, an incentive to do so promptly, if not first.”
Instead, the two sides would fight until its home populations got fed up and demanded an end to hostilities, something that may not happen until the body counts get too high to stomach.
RAND declined to state a number of expected casualties in any potential war, but it estimated the loss of multiple carriers and other capital platforms for each side. Nimitz-class carriers carry approximately 6,000 sailors and Marines on a cruise. The loss of a single ship would represent a greater loss of life and combat power than all losses in the Iraq War.
The study predicts a stunning display of technological might on both sides, which isn’t surprising considering what each country has in the field and in the works. The paper doesn’t name specific weapon systems, but it predicts that fifth-generation fighters will be able to shoot down fourth-generation fighters with near impunity.
The U.S. recently fielded its second fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 Lightning II. America’s other advanced fighter, the F-22 Raptor, has been in service since 2005. China is developing four fifth-generation fighters — the J-20; the J-32; the J-23; and the J-25.
The J-20 and J-32 will likely be in the field in 2025 and would potentially rival America’s fighters.
By 2025, China could have two more aircraft carriers for a total of three. It currently owns one functional carrier purchased from Russia and is manufacturing a second.
Despite America’s greater numbers of both fifth-generation fighters and total aircraft carriers, China’s growing missile arsenal would force America to act cautiously or risk unsustainable losses, RAND argues.
Outside of the conventional war, cyber attacks, anti-satellite warfare, and trade disruptions would hurt both countries.
Both belligerents have anti-satellite weapons that are nearly invulnerable to attack, meaning that both countries will be able to destroy a substantial portion of each other’s satellites. The destruction of the American satellite constellation would be especially problematic for the rest of the world since nearly all GPS units connect to American satellites.
Cyber attacks would cripple vulnerable grids on both sides of the Pacific, likely including many of the computer servers that maintain public utilities and crucial services like hospitals.
Trade disruptions would damage both countries, but China would be affected to a much greater extent, RAND says.
A lot of American commerce passes through the Pacific, but China does a whopping 95 percent of its trade there and is more reliant on trade than the U.S. For China, any large Pacific conflict would be very expensive at home.
While it’s very unlikely that China could win a war with the U.S., RAND says the fighting would be so bloody and costly for both sides that even average Americans would suffer greatly. Service members and their families would have it the worst.
“By 2025, U.S. losses could range from significant to heavy; Chinese losses, while still very heavy, could be somewhat less than in 2015, owing to increased degradation of U.S. strike capabilities,” RAND says. “China’s [anti-access weapons] will make it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to gain military-operational dominance and victory, even in a long war.”
There are two pieces of good news. First, leaders on both sides are hesitant to go to war. Even better, RAND’s assessment says that neither country is likely to risk nuclear retaliation by firing first, so the war would likely remain a conventional affair.
The bad news is that increasing tension could trigger an accidental war despite political leaders best intentions. RAND recommends that leaders set clear limits on military actions in the Pacific and establish open lines of dialogue.
When a person joins the military, they make a commitment to their country, service, and their brothers- and sisters-in-arms. Some, however, go beyond expectations and, determined that the lives of others are more important than their own, decide to go full beast-mode.
Prior to enlisting in the United States Marine Corps in 1941, Albert Ireland served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
After earning numerous purple hearts during World War II, Ireland was recalled to active service for the Korean War. He was unable to go back to combat service, however, due to having earned more than two purple hearts.
He then decided to go to Washington D.C. and talk to General Clifton B. Cates, the Commandant of the Marine Corps at the time, to try and convince him to let him go anyway. The commandant bought him a plane ticket to San Francisco, en route to Korea.
In 1953, Ireland received an honorable discharge after being wounded in the leg, hand, neck, and face. Overall, he earned 9 purple hearts on top of two bronze stars, along with campaign and service medals with eight bronze stars.
Marines typically won’t take, “no,” for an answer. (Image via Zero Foxtrot Instagram)
4. Duane Edgar Dewey
In 1951, Duane joined the Marines on an indefinite enlistment (the duration of the war plus an additional 6 months). He was a machine gun squad leader with Company E, 2nd battalion, 5th Marine regiment in Korea when he was wounded by a grenade that fell into his position.
While being treated by a corpsman, another enemy grenade landed near him. Quickly, he tossed the corpsman away before jumping on the grenade. When it exploded, Dewey was lifted off the ground, suffering shrapnel wounds all over the lower part of his body. He survived.
Dewey went on to be the first person awarded the Medal of Honor by President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his actions.
Duane Edgar Dewey is still alive today. (Image via Zero Foxtrot Instagram)
3. Staff Sergeant Nicky Daniel Bacon
During the Vietnam War, Nicky Daniel Bacon took command when his platoon leader was wounded. He then led his men to destroy enemy emplacements. But, when another platoon lost their leader, he took on command yet again.
During that attack alone, Staff Sergeant Bacon was personally credited with killing 4 enemy soldiers and an antitank gun.
2. Havildar Lachhiman Gurung
As a rifleman with the 8th Gurkha Rifles as part of the British Indian Army during World War II, Havildar Gurung was serving in Burma when over 200 Japanese soldiers attacked his position.
After returning two grenades, Gurung caught a third one, which exploded. It cost him his hand and an eye and inflicted serious damage to the rest of his arm, his torso, and his right leg. Despite this, he continued to fight for 4 hours with just one arm, ending 31 Japanese soldiers before reinforcements arrived.
At age 27, Havildar Gurung stood at 4’11” and was 100% certified badass. (Image via Zero Foxtrot Instagram)
During World War II, Susan Travers, an Englishwoman, trained as a nurse before becoming an ambulance driver for the French Red Cross. While serving in Northern Africa with the French Foreign Legion, her unit was attacked by Rommel’s Afrika Corps, but she refused to be evacuated with all the other female personnel. She led 2,500 troops to safety, breaking through enemy lines and driving through machine gun fire and even over a landmine.
After the war, Travers applied to become an official member of the French Foreign Legion without specifying her sex. Her application was approved by an officer who admired her and she became the first ever female to officially serve as part of the French Foreign Legion.
She would go on to serve in Vietnam during the First Indochina War and, in 2000, published her autobiography, Tomorrow to Be Brave.
The US Army issued an warning against “fraudulent” text messages that claimed the recipients were selected for a military draft.
A spokesperson from US Army Recruiting Command (USAREC), the organization responsible for attracting prospective soldiers, told Insider the text messages were being sent “across the country from different brigades” this week.
USAREC said it received multiple emails and calls about the text messages, and that it was in no way associated with the US Army; the people behind the emails claimed to serving in the Army.
The text messages claimed that the sender was “contacting you through mail several times and have had no response,” according to photographs obtained by Insider.
The messages, which advised the recipient to “come to the nearest branch” in the Florida and New Jersey area, falsely claimed that the recipient would be “fined and sent to jail for a minimum 6 years” if there was no reply.
U.S. Army recruits wait in line for their initial haircut while still partially dressed in their civilian clothes during basic combat training.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua)
The decision to enact a military draft is initiated by the Selective Service Administration. All American males between 18 and 25 years of age are required by law to register with the organization. The database for these individuals are compiled in the event Congress declares a military draft.
“The Selective Service System is conducting business as usual,” the Selective Service System previously said in a statement. “In the event that a national emergency necessitates a draft, Congress and the President would need to pass official legislation to authorize a draft.”
The text messages comes amid the US airstrike against Iran’s elite Quds Force commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, in Baghdad, Iraq, on Friday. Following the attack that also killed the leader of the Shiite Iran-backed militia responsible for the assault on the US Embassy in Iraq, search queries like “World War III” and “military draft” began trending on social media platforms.
The last time the draft was implemented was in 1973, during the Vietnam War.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
If you’re a veteran living in the Washington, DC area, the hit Netflix series House of Cards wants you. Filming on the fourth season starts this July and they’re looking for extras. The show wants to cast men and women who actually served.
There’s always a chance they’ll give someone a line which would get you into the actors union which could lead to a huge action movie career. Or you could at least be visible in a couple of shots, allowing you to show the episodes to your friends and family and talk about what it was like to work with Kevin Spacey.
Check out the details from Project Casting below. They’re very concerned that applicant follow instructions to the letter, but that should be easy for anyone who served and got an honorable discharge, right?
Also, when showbiz folks say “play either right before or right after the July 4th weekend,” they mean “film either right before or right after the July 4th weekend.”
How to apply:
MILITARY VETERAN (age 28–40, male AND female) – Preferably someone who actually toured overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan. This will play either right before or right after the July 4th weekend. Please have a flexible schedule.
TO APPLY please email: firstname.lastname@example.org WITH
4. Waist and Jacket/dress sizes
5. Three (3) Selfies. Selfies, not headshots. Must be recent!