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Military might be winding down southern border deployment

Weeks after President Donald Trump ordered nearly 6,000 troops to the US-Mexico border, the largest active-duty mobilization to the border during his presidency, some of those troops will start heading home.

The expected end date for the operation is Dec. 15, 2018, but some troops that are either not needed or have completed their mission could leave before that date, according to Politico. All troops should be back to their home stations well before Christmas, Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan told Politico.


“We will continue to support [US Customs and Border Protection’s] request for support up until Dec. 15, 2018, unless we are directed otherwise,” Col. Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said. “At some point in time, when the work is done, we’ll start downsizing some capability or shifting capability to elsewhere on the border. Our numbers will be commensurate with the capacities that DHS and CBP have requested.”

For those not heading home, Thanksgiving dinner will be shipped to troops at the border.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

Members of the U.S.military along the U.S.-Mexico border.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Brandon Best)

A CNN report published late Nov. 19, 2018, seemed to contradict the assertion that the border operation was beginning to wind down. The news outlet said Trump is expected to grant some troops the authority to “protect” CBP personnel from migrants “if they engage in violence.” The report, which cited administration officials familiar with the matter, said the troops would also be granted permission to protect federal property.

In late October 2018 — days before the Nov. 6, 2018, midterm elections — Trump ordered troops to the US-Mexico border to aid CBP and other law enforcement in anticipation of a caravan of migrants traveling north from Central America. Some 2,800 soldiers were sent to Texas, 1,500 to Arizona, and 1,500 to California — in addition to roughly 2,100 members of the National Guard already deployed.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

Members of the U.S.military along the U.S.-Mexico border.

(U.S. Air Force photo by SrA Alexandra Minor)

Usually, when military personnel are sent to the border to back up law enforcement and CPB, it’s part-time National Guard troops (under the command of state’s governors), as was previously authorized. However, the troops sent ahead of the midterm elections included active-duty troops: “three combat engineer battalions, members of the US Army Corps of Engineers and troops who specialize in aviation, medical treatment and logistics,” according to The Washington Post.

Critics called the mobilization of troops to the border a political stunt pulled before the midterm elections to rally the president’s base.

The troops were mainly responsible for building barriers along the border including shipping containers and barbed wire. Thus far, roughly seven miles of wire have been placed at the border, according to Military.com. And the concertina wire mission has been completed in Texas, Stars and Stripes reported. The Pentagon said it does not have any clarity on the next step now that barrier emplacement has been completed.

Migrants have begun to arrive in Tijuana, Mexico, and roughly 7,000 could end up there, according to KPBS. Earlier on Nov. 19, 2018, CBP closed some northbound traffic and pedestrian lanes at the border crossing.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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This is why space could become the next battleground

In 2007, China fired a missile that flew 537 miles above the earth and smashed one of its weather satellites, causing thousands of pieces of debris to drift endlessly through Earth’s orbit.


Just a year later, the US Navy responded by shooting down a satellite in danger of falling out of earth’s orbit at 133 miles and traveling at 17,000 mph with an SM-3 missile, which the US military fields hundreds of.

Since then, Russia has completed at least five anti-satellite missile tests.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment
A Standard Missile-3. (Photo courtesy of US Navy.)

Though US astronauts aboard the Apollo 11 left behind a plaque on the moon in 1969 with the inscription “We came in peace for all mankind,” in the intervening decades, space has become militarized as major superpowers now rely on satellite communications.

“Space is not a sanctuary, it is a war fighting domain,” US Air Force Brigadier General Mark Baird said at the Defense One Tech Summit last week.

The US military relies on space-based operations for everything including communications, coordination, navigation, and surveillance, Peter Singer, a senior fellow at non-partisan think tank New America and the author of “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War,” told Business Insider.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment
A computer-generated image of objects in Earth orbit that are currently being tracked. Approximately 95% of the objects in this illustration are orbital debris. (Image from NASA.)

Even civilian systems like the stock market are reliant on satellites because GPS systems “time-stamp” stock trades, according to Singer.

“If you were an adversary attacking the US, you’d start by attacking satellites,” said Singer. “The first shots in a war between the US and China or Russia, no one would likely hear.”

Also read: This is what the potential US Space Corps could look like

China and Russia also rely on space systems for numerous functions, but the US is more heavily dependent. Chinese and Russian jets still use analogue systems in their older jets and tanks and boats, and could operate better without satellites.

In that way, the US’s strength in space assets has become a dragging liability.

New defenses emerging

Military might be winding down southern border deployment
Nimbus B1 Satellite. (Image from NASA.)

While the concept of a space-based conflict terrifies Baird, he said a range of growing technologies and possibilities also has him excited.

In response to the growing space threat, the House of Representatives passed a National Defense Authorization Act with money set aside for a proposed sixth military branch, the Space Corps. While the Space Corps seems unlikely to make it through the Senate, the Senate version of the NDAA does set aside extra money for increased space operations.

But even with a dedicated military branch, there is just no protecting satellites, which sit defenseless in geosynchronous or predictable orbits above earth.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment
Close-up view of the SPARTAN satellite. (Photo from NASA.)

Instead, companies and the military are leveraging shrinking processors and cameras to develop constellations of small satellites that can be easily launched, thus ending a reliance on large satellites that cost billions. The US would then be able to quickly replace downed satellites with smaller, cheaper ones that would simultaneously create more, lower-value targets for adversaries to find and destroy.

For example, the massive Stratolaunch airplane, founded by billionaire Paul Allen, could one day fly high in the atmosphere and launch three rockets, each carrying multiple small satellites into orbit.

Additionally, reusable rockets from companies like SpaceX could save the US time and money on launches, making it less damaging when a satellite is lost.

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Stratolaunch Systems Corporation

The space debris problem

While replacing large satellites with smaller ones works as a quick fix, it comes with major environmental concerns.

Space debris from destroyed satellites clutters the domain and makes it harder for sensors and trackers to operate. In a worst-case scenario, the debris could potentially get into a very fast orbit around the earth and end up smashing holes into existing space systems.

“I worry about anti-satellite business from the orbital debris mitigation point of view,” Dr. Bhavya Lal, a research staff member at the IDA Science and Technology Policy Institute, said at the Defense One Tech Summit.

According to Lal, the Chinese anti-satellite test in 2007 added approximately 3,000 pieces of debris to the more than half a million pieces “bigger than a marble” in Earth’s orbit.

With enough high-velocity debris flying around, the entire upper atmosphere of Earth could become unsuitable for satellites, possibly resetting technology back decades before the proliferation of space systems.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment
1986 DIA illustration of the IS system attacking a target. (Ronald C. Wittmann via Wikimedia Commons)

Deterrence

Like all conflicts between major powers, space combat doesn’t happen because it is deterred.

The US’s anti-satellite tests have demonstrated that it too can down another nation’s satellites, to say nothing of the US’s ability to counter any serious attack with its formidable nuclear forces.

However, new technologies like Stratolaunch and others show that the US can can survive an initial space attack and get a new cluster of critical satellites up within a matter of hours if needed.

For the US, the world’s most powerful country, commanding forces is mainly about deterring aggression rather than fighting wars.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Up late? 5 ways service members stay awake when the going gets tough

Exhaustion is the great equalizer. There comes a point for everyone when your body demands sleep, and if you aren’t willing to give it what it wants, things start to get rough. It doesn’t matter if you’re a soldier on post in a combat zone or a new mom trying to make it through the day after a sleepless night of diaper changes and bottle-boiling, the sandman comes for us all.

If you’re desperate for sleep, the best thing you can do is rack out and get some. If that’s not an option, however, here are some of the ways service members stay alert long after exhaustion has set in. They’re not always the healthiest options, but hey, if we were that worried about our health, we’d be getting some rest.


Military might be winding down southern border deployment

Instant coffee works best when you can chew it.

Caffeine

Ah, caffeine–the old standby. Whenever anyone’s tired, the first thing they think to do is pour themselves a nice hot cup of joe. Of course, in the field, that’s not always an option, but there are plenty of other ways to get your fix. Aside from the service-member favorite energy drinks, the most common field-sources of caffeine come in MREs (Meals Ready to Eat). Some even now come with sticks of caffeinated gum.

If you’ve got the time and the hot water, the small packets of instant coffee that come in MREs can make for a passable cup, but plenty of guys simply pour the pouches into their lips like a pinch of chewing tobacco. Might not be delicious, but it’ll help keep you up. Of course, too much caffeine poses a number of problems, including dehydration and nausea, so there are limits to what a lipper of coffee can do for you.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

Nicotine

Not just for smoke breaks, nicotine can also go far in helping to keep you conscious and alert during long nights on post or in the campus library. A lot of service members pick up cigarette or chewing tobacco habits during their time in uniform, in part because it offers something to do during long stretches of downtime, and in part because of the kick of energy you can get from a properly timed smoke break.

Of course, nicotine comes with a whole host of negative side effects, so choose your weapons wisely when waging war against your own exhaustion.

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Debate

Many service members stumble across this tactic on post: you and another person are stuck in one place for a while with nothing to do but look at the horizon, so you spark up a bit of conversation. Before you know it, you’re arguing about whether or not Darkwing Duck was a better show than Duck Tales and you’ve both managed to kill two hours of your shift… so powerful is the magic of useless debate.

It’s important not to let friendly debate boil over into a full-fledged fight, however, which can be a real challenge sometimes when you’re operating on little sleep.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

Get physical

Long after caffeine has failed you and nicotine is just giving you the shakes, there’s one more thing you can do to help you overcome the heaviest of eyelids: get up and get moving. Something as simple as hopping off your chair for a set of push-ups can get your blood pumping again. Go for a walk around the office or your house, karate chop some old boards in your garage, or haze yourself with a few sets of burpees.

And as an added bonus, you can meet the criteria for “getting physical” by getting into a fist fight with your buddy once your Ducktales debate gets out of hand.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

When your friends are counting on you, you do what you’ve got to do.

(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Ken Scar)

Just ride it out

Eventually, if you ride out your exhaustion well into the next day, some of the worse symptoms will begin to subside. You’ll feel strange, hazy, and detached… but conscious nonetheless. The human body is capable of playing dirty to get you to do the things you need to do (like sleep), but it’s also good at letting you stay in the fight when it becomes clear the things you need to do aren’t in the cards.

Just like hunger pains will subside after a time, so too will the horrible weight of exhaustion… at least, for a few hours. Once that second wind subsides, you’ll be hurting worse than ever. Hopefully, you’ll have a chance to rack out by then.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coalition bombings spike in Afghanistan, but stalemate drags on

The US and its coalition partners have dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in the first ten months of 2018 than any year in the past five years, the US military revealed Nov. 29, 2018.

Between January and October of 2018, the US-led coalition dropped 5,982 bombs in support of Operation Freedom Sentinel and Operation Resolute Support, significantly more than the previous years.

Coalition strike aircraft flew 6,584 sorties during that time, 783 of which involved the release of a weapon, the US Air Forces Central Command’s Combined Air Operations Center disclosed in its monthly Airpower Statistics report.


The Trump administration made airpower a priority for the war in Afghanistan. With the relocation of Air National Guard KC-135 refueling tankers from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar to Kandahar last fall, the US-led coalition has been able to increase the number of airstrikes against the Taliban and other enemy combatants.

In addition to the refueling tankers, a number of A-10C Thunderbolt attack aircraft, HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, and MQ-9 Reaper drones were also shifted to Kandahar, Military.com reported Nov. 28, 2018.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

A U.S. Air Force MQ-9A Reaper.

The US and its coalition partners have made progress in the fight against ISIS, but while the number of bombs falling on Afghanistan is on the rise, the coalition continues to struggle to secure victory against a surging and brutal Taliban foe.

The Afghan government’s control of the country has been slipping over the past few years, falling from 72 percent in 2015 to just over half in the third quarter of 2018. In that period, Afghanistan lost 28,529 security force personnel, the Afghan president said in November 2018.

The US continues to suffer losses as well.

Five US troops were killed in November 2018, one to an insider attack, one to accidental friendly fire, and three to an improvised explosive device. Thirteen US service members have died fighting in Afghanistan in 2018, as US forces have largely shifted to advise, assist and training missions.

The Taliban “are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. “We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

(DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)

“We do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile,” Dunford added, stressing that the key is to pressure the Taliban, which has also suffered heavy losses, to eventually negotiate.

Reporters from the Washington Post recently questioned President Donald Trump on America’s presence in Afghanistan. “We’re there because virtually every expert that I have and speak to say if we don’t go there, they’re going to be fighting over here. And I’ve heard it over and over again,” he replied.

He further remarked that there is talk of peace, but added that he was unsure if that is a real possibility.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon Nov. 28, 2018, Mattis said the peace process is “picking up momentum,” but did not go into additional detail.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

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Another US Navy ship dodges a rebel missile off of Yemen

Military might be winding down southern border deployment
The amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17) transits through the Suez Canal. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky)


While the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) dodged three anti-ship missile attacks in one week, and USS Nitze (DDG 94) sent a three-Tomahawk salvo in response, another American ship came under attack in the Bab el Mandab.

According to a release on the Facebook page of USS San Antonio (LPD 17), the amphibious vessel was targeted by anti-ship missiles on October 13. The attack failed, according to Commander D. W. Nelson’s post. The amphibious vessel was transiting the chokepoint between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea with the Wasp Amphibious Ready Group, carrying the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The attack could prompt the Navy to act on proposals to fit two 8-cell Mk 41 Vertical Launch Systems on to the San Antonio-class ships. The systems would then be able to accommodate the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. With a range of up to 27 nautical miles and a top speed in excess of Mach 4, this would give the San Antonio-class ships another layer of air defense.

The San Antonio is the lead ship of a class of amphibious vessels and can carry up to 700 Marines, and has a crew of 28 officers and 335 enlisted personnel. The 25,000-ton ship has a top speed of 22 knots and is armed with two SeaRAM launchers and two 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns. The vessel carries two Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft and can also carry upwards of four helicopters or two V-22 Ospreys.

On 9 October, USS Mason was attacked while accompanying USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) in the Red Sea. The Mason was attacked again on October 12 and 15. The American naval vessels were deployed to the Gulf of Aden after HSV-2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel now operated by a company in the United Arab Emirates, was attacked on October 1.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Once a Marine, always a Marine

His weathered hands, aged by war and time, brushed across the fuselage of an aircraft. Like a gust of wind, old memories washed over him.

Stepping out from the hangar, the 99-year-old Marine took a firm grasp of his grandson’s hand as a Marine from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, escorted them onto Camp Pendleton’s flightline.

Nearly a century of experience, coupled with more than 20 years of military service, visibly weighed on his frame. Here was a man who had danced with death above the skies and oceans of the world and lived to tell the tale.


Now, on the day of his birth, Dick Cropley, a retired dive bomber, wanted nothing more than to breathe in the air with the Marines who faithfully carried on the legacy he helped shape.

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Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)

On May 31, 2019, his wish was granted.

“I can’t believe the Marine Corps would do something like this for me,” said Cropley while fighting back tears. “You get out or retire, and it just feels like the world forgot about you. I can’t express how much this means to me.”

Cropley started flying in 1942 and spent more than 20 years in the Marines. The retired Marine Corps Major operated a dive bomber during World War II and conducted operations across the globe in support of his Marine Corps family.

“The planes I flew could fit inside here,” said Cropley as he motioned toward one of the massive engines of an MV-22B Osprey.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)

It was a far cry from the small, single engine airplanes he had trained on and fought in during World War II.

The years seemed to fall from his shoulders as he peered across the flight line. Hundreds of aircraft, aviation equipment and sensors welcomed him to the air strip with a rare and peaceful silence. He was home.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Richard Cropley celebrates his 99th birthday with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 164, Marine Aircraft Group 39, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, at Marine Corps Air Station Camp Pendleton, Calif., May 31, 2019.

(Photo by Sgt. Charles Plouffe)

It was an emotional welcome for a Marine. Especially in a service that is typically seen as unflinching, hard, calm and calculated war fighters. It was a different and loving feeling on this day. The men watching Cropley soaked it all in and could only smile as they helped fulfill this Marine’s birthday wish.

“Aircraft change, aviation changes,” said Capt. Ross Studwell, the flight equipment and ordnance officer in charge at VMM 164. “But Marines never change. Cropley is a fine example of the commitment the Marine Corps is famous for.”

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

An endearing and welcoming attitude formed out of pure respect was extended to Cropley, who was invited as an honored guest to a change of command ceremony and a guided tour of VMM-164’s hanger for an inside and personal look at modern day Marine Corps aircraft.

What he didn’t expect was the surprise birthday celebration planned by the Marines. The “Knightriders” presented the former pilot with a cake, celebrating his 99th birthday, honoring his more than 20 years of service.

Semper Fidelis is a Latin phrase that means “Always Faithful.” The motto has been a guiding principle and the foundation on which every Marine is made. Marines have always and will always stay true to that foundation and show it through their actions.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

“This is a true honor for VMM-164, but it’s just keeping with the fundamentals of Marine Corps tradition,” said Lt. Col. Joseph DiMambro, the squadron’s commanding officer. “We always remember our brothers and sisters and take pride in caring for our own. Keeping the standards of brotherhood set by Marines like Maj. Cropley means a lot to us and to the Marine Corps.”

The Marines of VMM-164 were honored to celebrate Maj Cropley’s birthday with him and many of them were enamored with his Flight Logbooks and WWII keepsakes from places like Guadalcanal and Bougainville.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment
Once A Marine Always A Marine

Cropley’s voice broke as he held back tears. His words echoed in the small room as he thanked the Marines and expressed his pride in sharing the title United States Marine — a title few earn.

His parting words were brief, but carried the weight of hundreds of years of tradition. “Semper Fidelis.”

This article originally appeared on Marines. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

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Here is how the US military would fight ‘Power Rangers’ villains

There have been many iterations of the Power Rangers, but the upcoming film from Lionsgate is packing some punch, not only in it’s killer cast (Elizabeth Banks and Bryan Cranston? Say no more!), but it’s progressive inclusion of an LGBQT superhero — the first for a blockbuster film.


With a new film comes new bad guys, so let’s take a look at how the military would combat the evil Rita Repulsa and her minions. The usual terrain will be the fictional city of Angel Grove, which was located in California (where early seasons of the TV show were filmed).

1. When Rita’s minions are normal size

In this case, Rita’s minions will have a lot of problems. If the present-day United States military has had a lot of experience in anything during the Global War on Terror, it’s what they call MOUT — military operation in urban terrain.

That’s a fancy way of saying, “full-scale street fire-fights.”

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Photo: U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Johancharles Van Boers

The California location means that the closest active-duty units on the scene would be the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton and the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Irwin, plus whatever brigade is at the National Training Center.

These units would be springing into action, looking to evacuate civilians from the city while trying to inflict casualties on the invaders.

Here, they would also have the advantage of armored support from M1 Abrams tanks, M2 and M3 Bradley Fighting Vehicles, artillery support from M777 and M109 howitzers, and close-air support.

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Photo: Spc. Evan D. Marcy | U.S. Army

This is one fight that Rita’s minions would have no hope of winning. The experience of American troops in this sort of combat in places like Fallujah, Baghdad, and Ramadi would come through very quickly.

2. When the bad guys are kaiju size

Of course, when the fight goes badly, Rita often had her monsters grow into kaiju-size robots (call it about 300 feet tall, roughly the same height as Godzilla in most of his film appearances).

Once the battle reaches this stage, the infantry will shift to evacuating civilians almost exclusively.

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Photo: U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Julio McGraw

From the ground, artillery systems like MLRS and HIMARS would be used to hammer the skyscraper-sized bad guy, along with fire from the M1 tanks.

The Navy would also get involved, using Tomahawk cruise missiles from submarines and surface vessels. Naval gunfire would also be used in the fight.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment
A U.S. Marine Corps F/A-18C Hornet aircraft from Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., takes off. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik)

But the main attack would come from aircraft. While Navy and Marine Corps units around San Diego would be the closest, Air Force units in Utah and Arizona would also be capable of quickly responding, as would any active units carrying out a Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base.

Here, the best weapons would be laser-guided bombs, hoping to score a penetrating hit that would put the monster down.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment
A U.S. Air Force F-16 flies over Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve April 5, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Hook/Released)

The United States military might not succeed in actually killing the monster with conventional systems, but it would distract it long enough to carry out an evacuation of civilians. To actually kill the monster, it might come down to a B61 tactical nuclear weapon.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment
Could this be the only option to defeat one of Rita Repulsa’s monsters?

In either case, the United States military would be able to give Rita Repulsa one hell of a headache.

Check out the new trailer from Lionsgate below:

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch how a soldier who survived an RPG in Iraq lives on after ten years

Victor Medina has an actual video of the moment that changed his life forever. One day, his unit in Iraq was forced to take a detour around its planned patrol route. It was June 29, 2009, and Sgt. 1st Class Medina was the convoy commander that day. After winding through alleyways and small villages around Nasiriyah, his convoy came to a long stretch of open road. That’s when an explosive foreign projectile struck the side of his Humvee.

He was evacuated from the scene and diagnosed with moderate traumatic brain injury, along with the other physical injuries he sustained in the attack. It took him three years of rehabilitation, and his wife Roxana became a caregiver – a role that is only now receiving the attention it deserves.


The footage of the attack in the first 30 seconds of the above video is the moment Sgt. 1st Class Medina was hit by the EFP, a rocket-propelled grenade. There just happened to be a camera rolling on his Humvee in that moment. The TBI that hit Medina affected his balance, his speech, and his ability to walk, among other things.

“It’s referred to as an invisible wound,” Victor says, referring to his traumatic brain injury. “In my case, you can’t see it, but I feel it every day.”

Since 2000, the Department of Defense estimates more than 383,000 service members have suffered from some form of traumatic brain injury. These injuries range in severity from ones caused by day-to-day training activities to more severe injuries like the one suffered by Sgt. 1st Class Medina. An overwhelming number of those come from Army personnel. Of the 225,144 traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers, most are mild. But even a moderate injury like Victor’s can require a caregiver for the veteran.

Military might be winding down southern border deployment

This video is part of a series created by AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, highlighting veteran caregivers and the vets they care for. AARP wants to let families of wounded veterans know there are resources and support available through AARP’s Military Caregiving Guide, an incredible work designed to start your family off on the right foot. Some of you reading may not even realize you’re a veteran’s caregiver. Like Victor Medina’s wife Roxana, you may think you’re just doing your part, taking care of a sick loved one.

But like Roxana Delgado, the constant care and support for a veteran suffering from a debilitating injury while caring for the rest of a household, supporting the household through work and school, and potentially caring for children, can cause a caregiver to burn out before they even recognize it’s happening. It took Roxana eight months to realize she was Victor’s full-time caregiver – on top of everything else she does. It began to wear on her emotionally and strain their relationship.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Roxana Delgado and Victor Medina before his deployment to Iraq in 2009.

(Roxana Delgado)

With AARP’s Prepare to Care guide, veteran caregivers don’t have to figure out their new lives on their own. The guide has vital checklists, charts, a database of federal resources, including the VA’s Caregiver Program. The rest is up to the caregiver. Roxana Delgado challenged her husband at every turn, and he soon rose to the challenge. He wanted to get his wife’s love back.

Before long, Victor was able to clean the house, make coffee in the morning, and generally alleviate some of the burdens of running their home. After 10 years in recovery, Victor Medina has achieved a remarkable level of independence, and together they started the TBI Warrior Foundation to help others with traumatic brain injuries. Roxana is now a health scientist and an Elizabeth Dole Foundation fellow. AARP Studios and the Elizabeth Dole Foundation are teaming up to tell these deeply personal stories of caregivers like Roxana because veteran caregivers need support and need to know they aren’t alone.

If you or someone you know is caring for a wounded veteran and needs help or emotional support, send them to AARP’s Prepare to Care Guide, tell them about Roxana Delgado and Victor Medina’s TBI Warrior Foundation, and let them know about the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes Campaign.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghanistan wants the A-10 to come back

Afghanistan’s government wants the U.S. to redeploy the A-10 Thunderbolt to bolster efforts to fight the Taliban, according to a Military Times report.


A senior Afghan defense official said that country’s government wants the vaunted A-10, which is highly regarded for its durability and lethality in close-air-support operations, to return to Afghanistan.

No decision on A-10 deployments has been made, according to Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch, who directs U.S. air operations in Afghanistan. “The discussions of what forces we move to Afghanistan or drawdown from Iraq and Syria are all ongoing,” Bunch said.

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(US Air Force photo by Senior Airman Chris Drzazgowski)

After the liberation of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria in July and October, respectively, operations against ISIS in those two countries, in which the A-10 played a major role, have begun to wind down.

President Donald Trump has also started to pursue an expansion of U.S. operations in Afghanistan over the later half of 2017 and the Air Force may see increased operations in Afghanistan as a part of that expansion.

In September, the Air Force chief of staff said the force was “absolutely” reviewing greater involvement following Trump’s decision on Afghanistan strategy.

The Air Force has deployed six more F-16 fighter aircraft — bringing the total to 18 F-16s — and a KC-135 tanker aircraft to Afghanistan in recent months. And the air war in the country has already intensified. (Though the Pentagon has begun classifying previously available data about military operations in Afghanistan.)

The numbers of weapons released by U.S. combat aircraft in Afghanistan have hit highs not seen since the 2010 surge. Air Forces Central Command data released in October showed 751 weapons dropped in September, eclipsing the 503 released in August and setting a new five-year high. (Data released in November adjusted September’s total down to 414 and recorded a new high — 653 — in October.)

Now Read: Watch how the A-10 Warthog’s seven-barrel autocannon works

U.S. forces in Afghanistan have also turned their attention to the Taliban’s involvement in the drug trade in an effort to cut into the insurgent group’s financing. Advanced F-22 fighters, joined by B-52 bombers and Afghan A-29 Tucano propeller aircraft, attacked drug labs in November.

Since then, about 25 Taliban drug labs in northern Helmand province — a hotbed for Afghan drug production — have been destroyed, costing the Taliban almost $16 million in revenue, according to Bunch, who said the air campaign against Taliban financing had only “just begun.”

In 2017, area under opium cultivation in Afghanistan increased 63% over the previous year, according to U.N. data. Even though eradication increased 111% during that period, the number of opium-poppy-free provinces declined from 13 to 10.

The Taliban has gotten heavily involved in the drug trade. The insurgent group has also expanded its territorial control in Afghanistan — from 11% of the country’s 407 districts in February to 13% in August.

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Dead poppies mark the destruction of a poppy field in the district of Por Chaman in Farah Province, Afghanistan, May 10. The destruction of the poppy field occurred in the presence of Farah Provincial Governor Rahool Amin, as an effort to promote positive agricultural solutions such as wheat cultivation. (ISAF photo by U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Rylan K. Albright)

Trump’s new strategy will also deploy more U.S. troops to Afghanistan — some of whom will embed with Afghan forces closer to the fighting. That could put them in harm’s way and will likely lead to more U.S. aircraft providing close air support, at which the A-10 excels.

The Air Force backed away from plans to begin mothballing its A-10 fleet earlier this year. The Air Force has pushed Congress for additional funding to produce new wings for 110 of its 283 Thunderbolts, and Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson assured lawmakers this month that money allotted for that project would keep the A-10 dominant.

“I happen to be a fan of the A-10,” Wilson told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Dec. 7.

MIGHTY TRENDING

11 amazing facts about aircraft ejection seats

Obviously, having to eject from a multi-million dollar aircraft of any kind is the last thing on a pilot’s bucket list (and is dangerous enough to actually be the last thing on the pilot’s bucket list). The truth is that, as in any military job function, things don’t always go as planned, even for the men and women fighting at a few thousand feet above the Earth. 


The technology surrounding the ejection of any pilot is really incredible. After more than a century in the making, ejections can be made at supersonic speeds and at altitudes where there is little oxygen in the air. The canopy blows open, the air rushes in, and in one-tenth of a second, the pilot(s) are on their way to safety. The tech has come a long way since and the chances of a successful ejection are up from 50% in the 1940s. A lot happened in the meantime. Here are 11 things  you may not have known before.

1. The first successful ejection was in 1910 and was initiated by bungee cord.

In 1916, one of the inventors of a type of parachute also invented an ejection seat powered by compressed air.

2. The German Luftwaffe perfected the ejection seat during WWII. The first combat ejection was in 1942.

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The Focke-Wulf FW190 Würger testing ejection seat

Two German companies, Heinkel and SAAB (of the automobile fame) were working on their own types of ejection seats. The pilot of the first ejection bailed out because his control surfaces iced over.

3. Some aircraft, like the supersonic F-111, used pods to eject the crews. The B-58 Hustler tested its ejection system by ejecting bears.

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Lt. (j.g.) William Belden ejects from an A-4E Skyhawk on the deck of the USS Shangri-La in the western Pacific circa 29 July 1970.

Because parachutes need time to open, early zero-zero (zero altitude, zero airspeed) ejection seats used a kind of cannon to shoot the pilot out once they cleared the canopy. This put incredible forces on the pilot.

5. Before zero-zero seats, safe ejections required minimum altitudes and airspeeds.

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A Royal Air Force pilot ejects from a Harrier at Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan.

Modern zero-zero technology uses small rockets to propel the seat upward and a small explosive to open the parachute canopy, cutting the time needed for the chute to open and saving the forces on the pilot.

6. The most common reason ejections fail is aviators wait too long to eject.

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A recent study found the survival rate for ejection was as high as 92%, but the remaining 8% is usually because the pilot waited until the last second to eject.

7. Seats in planes like the B-1 Bomber eject at different angles so they don’t collide.

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A two-ship of B-1B Lancers assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, release chaff and flares while maneuvering over New Mexico during a training mission Feb. 24, 2010. Dyess celebrates the 25th anniversary of the first B-1B bomber arriving at the base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)

The B-1B Lancer has a crew of four and their seats are designed so that the seats are positioned at different angles and different intervals to avoid mid-air collisions. The B-1A used a capsule for the crew.

8. Depending on altitude and airspeed, the seats accelerate upward between 12 and 20 Gs.

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That’s just the upward thrust. Pilots have ejected in speeds exceeding 800 miles per hour (the speed of sound is 767.2 mph) and from altitudes as high as 57,000 feet.

9. Ejection seat manufacturer Martin-Baker gives a certificate, tie, and patch to aviators who join the “Martin-Baker Fan Club” by successfully ejecting.

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The first pilot was a Royal Air Force airman who ejected over what was then Rhodesia in January 1957. Since then, over 5800 registered members have joined.

10. The interval between ejections in a two-seat plane like the F-14 Tomcat is about half a second.

The RIO (Radar Intercept Officer) goes first, then the pilot (Goose then Maverick, but in real life, Goose would probably survive.)

11. Ejection seats have saved more than 7,000 people.

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Not Goose, of course. (Should have followed F-14 NATOPS boldface procedures. RIP, shipmate . . .)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Vets are going to get a new ID card, and they’ll be ready for use next month

Veterans will be able to go online and order their new identification cards next month, Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Oct. 12. Buchanan, whose Veterans Identification Card Act (H.R. 91) was signed into law in 2015, said official ID cards will be available to all veterans free of charge by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.


“Every veteran – past, present, and future – will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft,” Buchanan said, noting that millions of veterans are currently unable to document their service without carrying around official military records.

“These ID cards will make life a little bit easier for our veterans and serve as a constant reminder that our brave men and women in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer.”

When ordering online, veterans will need to upload a copy of a valid government issued ID (drivers license/passport), a copy of a recent photograph to be displayed on the card, and will need to provide service-related details. Once ordered, the Veteran ID Card will be printed and mailed directly to the veteran.

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Speaker John Boehner signs H.R. 91, the Veterans Identification Card Act, sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-MI). Photo from Speaker John Boehner Flickr.

Prior to Buchanan’s bill, the VA provided identification cards only to those who served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces or received care from the VA for a service-connected disability. Veterans who did not meet these qualifications had to carry around a paper DD-214 document to prove their military status. This form contains sensitive personal information including social security numbers and service details that put veterans at needless risk for identity theft if they lost or misplaced their documents.

The new identification card will also provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee’s military service.

Buchanan represents more than 88,000 veterans in Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough Counties. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army announces historic, ‘temporary promotion policy’ for soldiers

Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston announced a historic new temporary promotion policy for soldiers. The policy is designed to expand on the Army’s ongoing commitment to supporting its soldiers. 

“Today I am pleased to announce a new promotion policy that helps us to continue to put people first,” Grinston shared on a press call. Beginning with the January 2021 promotion month, soldiers unable to complete the Army’s required Professional Military Education courses to qualify for advancement to sergeant, all the way through sergeant major, due to pregnancy, deployment or those enrolled in a non-resident sergeant major course will be temporarily advanced to the next rank. 

Through research, the Army recognizes that the requirements for advancement to higher rank negatively impacts women in particular. Grinston shared that female soldiers would routinely speak to him about the struggle and difficulty of determining when to start a family in order to not negatively impact their career. Female soldiers are unable to complete the physical training portion of leadership school required due to pregnancy or being postpartum, often putting them behind their male counterparts in career advancement. 

Deployed soldiers were also falling behind their peers in advancement opportunities. Grinston explained that Army units overseas were declining to send soldiers to the required PME courses due to operational needs within combat zones. Around 300 soldiers requested exceptions in 2019 in order to advance to the next rank. Although the number may seem small, Grinston shared that it would be much higher if the Army ever had to significantly increase their numbers to meet combat needs.  

When developing the policy, leadership wanted to ensure that those attending either sergeant major course could advance on time, regardless of how they took it. It was discovered that those attending the nonresident sergeant major course tended to finish their course later, missing the deadline for meeting requirements for promotion on time. This left qualified soldiers waiting a year to advance to the next rank despite completing the required schooling. The new policy avoids that.  

Command Sergeant Major Kenyatta Gaskins was also on the call with members of the press and addressed questions on whether soldiers being temporarily promoted were actually ready to advance. “Those soldiers have already demonstrated that they have the potential to perform at the next higher level. They have been recommended for promotion by their commanders,” he explained. “I don’t believe we are blindly promoting individuals. These are well deserved promotions of soldiers who’ve demonstrated the ability to perform at the next higher level.” 

The temporary promotion policy applies not only to active duty Army but also those in the Army Reserves and Army National Guard. As long as soldiers are otherwise qualified and meet the conditions outlined, they will be advanced beginning January 1, 2020.

Those temporarily advanced to the next rank will have a set amount of time to complete their PME courses or they will revert back to their previous rank. Should they be reverted back due to not completing PME, they will not be required to pay back the received increase in pay due to temporary advancement. Active soldiers returning from deployment will have one year to complete their PME course and active female soldiers will have two years from the end of their postpartum profile. Those in the Army Reserves or Army National Guard will have three years. 

The temporary promotion is allowable only once in a soldier’s career. 

“I believe none of these scenarios – starting a family, deploying to a combat zone or selection to the nonresident sergeant major course should be a reason a soldier’s career should be delayed,” Grinston explained. “These temporary promotions support the Army’s ‘people first’ strategy.”

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