Just one day after Nate Boyer entered the Guinness World Record book for the longest football long snap, former Texas Longhorn, Seattle Seahawk, and U.S. Army Green Beret Nate Boyer embarks on a mission to climb Mount Kilimanjaro with disabled veteran Blake Watson to help 10,000 people gain access to clean water.
The charity is called Waterboys. It was started by Chris Long, a former defensive end for the Rams who rallied NFL players to digging clean water wells in Tanzania,” Boyer says. “His initial goal was to find thirty-two players from thirty-two teams and to have thirty-two wells dug.”
The effort now has 21 NFL players involved, including the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, the Steelers’ Lawrence Timmons, and the Eagles’ Sam Bradford, who currently has raised the most money for the campaign.
“Chris went out there a couple years ago and did Kilimanjaro himself,” Boyer recalls. “But he was leaving and he felt like he wanted to do more for those people. They walk five miles a day for clean water for their villages; they can cook and drink water and try to live healthy.”
Tanzania is currently suffering from a devastating water crisis. In a country where one-third of the land is semi-arid, access to clean, sanitary water is a daily struggle. Many of the country’s current wells are dug near toxic drainage systems and are contaminated by runoff. Water-borne illnesses, such as malaria and cholera, account for over half of the diseases affecting the population.
“Long went out there last year and dedicated the first clean water well” says Boyer. “It’s pretty cool because the people, they come out of the woodwork for this thing. It’s a huge deal to them.”
That’s what brings Boyer to Kilimanjaro. When Long recruited him for the charity, Boyer was at the gym, working a stair climber machine, on the “Kilimanjaro” setting. Boyer spoke with Dave Vobora, who runs Dallas, Texas’ Performance Vault Inc., a sports performance training center for elite athletes and U.S. Special Forces.
“I told him I’m doing this climb and asked if he had anybody in mind that would be a good counterpart,” Boyer said. “I wanted to go with a guy who was going to spend the next four months working towards this goal and grinding. He’s like, ‘I got just the guy.'”
Vobora linked Boyer up with Marine veteran Blake Watson, a single leg amputee. During Watson’s first deployment he accidentally knelt down onto an IED. Watson lost his leg and his pulse rate went to zero on the helicopter during the flight to the hospital, but the medics were able to resuscitate him.
“I approached Blake and started explaining what we were doing, what I wanted to do with him and why,” Boyer remembers. “I talked about the clean water wells and before I could even finish my pitch he was like, ‘I’m in, dude. I’m in.’ He was excited about was not only the challenge and the climb and all that but what we would be doing for those people.”
Blake struggled for three years with dependency, depression, and thoughts of suicide. With the help of others and his Marine mindset, he pulled himself out of a rut, started training again, and got back in shape. Got involved at this gym called Adaptive Training Foundation in Dallas, also run by Vobora. A gym for adaptive athletes, many of them amputees. They all have a goal they’re pursuing.
“It’s not just, ‘I want to work out. I want to get in shape,'” Boyer says. “It’s like, ‘I want to go climb Kilimanjaro,’ or ‘I want to be on the Paralympic bobsled team.’
Those wounded warriors led Boyer to another goal. The clean water initiative is important, but for Nate Boyer and Blake Watson, it’s also about inspiring veterans and current service members who might be struggling back home.
“We’re people of service. Whether we joined because we had no other options or because we wanted to serve our country, at the end of the day, we became men and women of service. If we don’t have that element in our life moving forward, working towards a mission, something bigger than us, then it’s really easy to get lost and feel like you’re never going to do anything as important as what you did when you served. That’s the impetus behind this whole thing.”
To help Boyer and Watson raise money and awareness for the people of Tanzania and American wounded warriors donate here. Donations will go toward digging more clean water wells for the people of an important U.S. friend and ally.
Twitter and news outlets came alive with spotty, unconfirmed news reports of an incident in Saudi Arabia that some sources were describing as a possible “coup attempt.” There has been no official verification of significant or organized action in the region and no reports have surfaced as of 00:30 Riyadh time on the BBC World News, but the volume of Twitter reports and private messages received by this reporter seem to indicate an incident of some significance.
Saudi Arabia has been so far successful in avoiding inclusion in the “Arab Spring” revolts that have toppled governments across the Middle East and began in Tunisia in 2010. Since then Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Bahrain have been subject to either government coups or coup attempts. The attempts at overthrowing the Syrian government have resulted in one of the bloodiest conflicts in the history of the region now in its seventh year.
As the minutes have passed during the last hour the volume of traffic about Saudi Arabia on Twitter has increased, but the region’s top Twitter reporter, @SamiAlJaber, has reported nothing specific about a “coup attempt”.
“An official Riyadh district police spokesman said that at about 19:50 p.m. on April 21, 2018, a security screening point in the Al-Khuzama district of Riyadh noticed a small, remote-controlled recreational aircraft (drone) flying without being authorized to do so, which required security personnel at the security point to deal with it in accordance with their orders and instructions in this regard,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported according to Newsweek.
The following traffic was monitored in the aftermath of the reported gunfire. It might be completely unrelated to the alleged attempted coup, still it’s worth of note, considered that according to flight tracking authority @CivMilAir the GL4 has always shadowed the Crown Prince’s UK, USA, France tours.
For instance, the same aircraft, registration HZ-MS4B was part of the fleet that supported the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman during his U.S. tour. Here’s a tweet dating back to a couple of weeks ago:
Concern about unrest in the country have been top of mind in the region for several years but the existing government has, to date, been mostly successful in moderating large, overt attempt at leadership change.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
Let’s face it. As 2016 has shown, we live in a dangerous world.
Furthermore, there are real problems and challenges at the Pentagon, like $125 billion in “administrative waste” over the last five years.
In less than a month, a new team takes charge, which is to be lead by retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to serve as Secretary of Defense.
So, what are some of the challenges that “Mad Dog” and his team will face?
1. Getting the nuclear house in order
Most of America’s strategic delivery systems are older than music superstar, sometime actress, and veteran serenader Taylor Swift.
Of the two that are younger than her, only one isn’t “feeling 22” as the hit song puts it. In fact, in some case, very outdated tech is being used. How outdated? Try 8-inch floppy disks in an era when a micro SD card capable of holding 128 gigabytes costs less than $40.
Don’t get us wrong, most civilian employees at the Department of Defense do a lot of good. But as the active duty military dropped from 1.73 million in Sep. 2005 to just under 1.33 million in Sep. 2016, the civilian workforce increased from 663,866 to 733,992, according to Pentagon reports.
California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert noted in a Washington Examiner op-ed that the ratio of civilian employees to uniformed personnel is at a historical high.
There was $125 billion of “administrative waste” over the last five years. That money could have bought a lot of gear for the troops. This needs to be addressed as soon as possible, with Iran and China, among other countries, getting a little aggressive. The DOD’s business is to fight wars, and a little refocusing on military manpower might be needed.
3. Acquisition Reform
It is taking longer to deliver weapon systems to the troops, and they are getting more expensive.
Do we have to look to the 1970s for acquisition reform? (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Air Force announced the B-21 Raider earlier this year. But it might not be in service until the mid-2020s at the very earliest — and the B-52 isn’t getting any younger. The F-35 has taken almost 15 years to reach an initial operational capability after the winner was chosen in 2001.
By comparison, Joe Baugher notes that the F-111 took about five years from the selection of General Dynamics to the first planes reaching operational squadrons — and that drew controversy back then.
4. Cyber warfare
With some of the hacks that have gone on, it’s amazing that so many people find this a snoozer. Keep in mind, this October, a massive cyberattack cost companies over $110 million — enough to buy a F-35B.
And the Pentagon needs to tighten its defenses — this past June, over 130 bugs were found when DOD offered “bug bounties” to so-called “white hat” hackers. While it’s nice a lot of the bugs were found… did the “white hats” miss any?
5. Old Equipment
Age isn’t just striking the nuclear force. Many of the systems used for conventional warfare are old as well. In a commentary for the Washington Examiner, Representative Ken Calvert (R-CA) noted that many F-15 Eagle fighters are over 30 years old. To put this into context, take a look at how old three music superstars are: Taylor Swift is 27, Ariana Grande is 23, and Ke$ha is 29. It’s past time for recapitalization.
After a full season of plunging into the high-octane, post-service worlds of veterans like Russell Davies, Mike Glover and Jacqueline Carrizosa, Oscar Mike host Ryan Curtis was feeling understandably uneasy about the state of his own manhood.
After all, over the span of 9 episodes, he’d been out-driven, out-paddled, out-shot, out-jumped, and, well, knocked out — not to mention the emotional pasting he took in Navy SEAL-turned actor David Meadow’s acting class.
Each of these vets has taken some slim notion of a civilian future, paired it with the skills and discipline he or she learned in the military, and then proceeded to kick ass with nary a backward glance.
Curtis, however, found himself in need of some help.
Luckily for him, he had a team of “Oscar Mike” vets ready and willing to support their brother, starting with Meadows. Of course, it didn’t go smoothly.
In the season one finale, Curtis learns the most important lesson of all: Lean on your mates. Be there for them to lean on you. Do that, and we’ll all be “oscar mike” together.
Watch him limp toward enlightenment in the video embedded at the top.
The US Army in Europe has made a number of changes in recent months as part of a broader effort by the Pentagon to prepare for a potential fight against an adversary with advanced military capabilities, like Russia or China.
The latest move came on November 28, when the Army activated the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, in a ceremony at Shipton Barracks in Ansbach, near the city of Nuremberg in southern Germany.
The battalion has a long history, serving in artillery and antiaircraft artillery roles in the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. It was deactivated in the late 1990s, after the US military withdrew from the Cold War.
Lt. Col. Todd Daniels, commander of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uncovers the battalion colors during the activation and assumption of command ceremony at Shipton Kaserne, Germany, on November 28, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jason Epperson)
Its return brings new and important short-range-air-defense, or SHORAD, capabilities, according to Col. David Shank, the head of 10th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, of which the new unit is part.”Not only is this a great day for United States Army Europe and the growth of lethal capability here. It is a tremendous step forward for the Air Defense Enterprise,” Shank said at the ceremony.
The battalion will be composed of five battery-level units equipped with FIM-92 Stinger missiles, according to Stars and Stripes.
Three of those batteries will be certified before the end of the summer, Shank said, adding that battalion personnel would also “build and sustain a strong Army family-support program, and become the subject-matter experts in Europe for short-range-air-defense to not just the Army, but our allies.”
Those troops “will have a hard road in from of them,” Shank said.
Stinger missiles are fired from the Avenger Air Defense System.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Air Defense Artillery units were for a long time embedded in Army divisions, but the service started divesting itself of those units in the early 2000s, as military planners believed the Air Force could maintain air superiority and mitigate threats posed by enemy aircraft.
But in 2016, after finding a gap in its SHORAD capabilities, the Army started trying to address the shortfall.
In January, for the first time in 15 years, the US Army in Europe began training with Stinger missiles, a light antiaircraft weapon that can be fired from shoulder- and vehicle-mounted launchers.
Lightweight, short-range antiaircraft missiles are mainly meant to defend against ground-attack aircraft, especially helicopters, that target infantry and armored vehicles. Unmanned aerial vehicles — used by both sides in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine — are also a source concern.
A 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade member loads a Stinger onto an Avenger Air Defense System.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Rachael Jeffcoat)
US Army Europe has been relying on Avengers defense systems and Stinger missiles from Army National Guard units rotating through the continent as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, which began in 2014 as a way to reassure allies in Europe of the US commitment to their defense.
Guard units rotating through Europe have been training with the Stinger for months, but the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, will be the only one stationed in Europe that fields the Avenger, a short-range-air-defense system that can be mounted on a Humvee and fires Stinger missiles.
The Army has also been pulling Avenger systems that had been mothballed in order to supply active units until a new weapon system is available, according to Defense News, which said earlier this year that Army Materiel Command was overhauling Avengers that had been sitting in a Pennsylvania field waiting to be scrapped.
A U.S. Army Avenger team during qualification in South Korea, October 24, 2018.
(U.S. Army photo by Capt. Marion Jo Nederhoed)
The Army has also fast-tracked its Interim Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD) program to provide air- and missile-defense for Stryker and Armored Brigade Combat Teams in Europe.
The Army plans to develop IM-SHORAD systems around the Stryker, equipping the vehicle with an unmanned turret developed by defense firm Leonardo DRS. The system includes Stinger and Hellfire missiles and an automatic 30 mm cannon, as well as the M230 chain gun and a 7.62 mm coaxial machine gun. It will also be equipped with electronic-warfare and radar systems.
Final prototypes of that package are expected in the last quarter of 2019, according to Defense News, with the Army aiming to have the first battery by the fourth quarter of 2020.
The activation of the 5th Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, is part of a broader troop increase the Army announced earlier this year, saying that the increase in forces stationed in Europe permanently would come from activating new units rather than relocating them from elsewhere.
The new units would bring 1,500 soldiers and their families back to Europe. (Some 300,000 US troops were stationed on the continent during the Cold War, but that number has dwindled to about 30,000 now.)
A member of the Florida National Guard’s 3rd Battalion, 265 Air Defense Artillery Regiment, uses a touchscreen from the driver’s seat of an Army Avenger.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
In addition to the short-range-air-defense battalion and supporting units at Ansbach, the new units will include a field-artillery brigade headquarters and two multiple-launch-rocket-system battalions and supporting units in Grafenwoehr Training Area, and other supporting units at Hohenfels Training Area and the garrison in Baumholder.
The activations were scheduled to begin this year and should be finished by September 2020, the Army said in a statement.
“The addition of these forces increases US Army readiness in Europe and ensures we are better able to respond to any crisis,” the Army said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped the world’s first atomic bomb over the city of Hiroshima.
U.S. President Harry Truman decided to use the atom bomb to force an unconditional surrender from Japan. At 8:16AM on Aug. 6, the B-29 bomber Enola Gay (named for her pilot’s mother) dropped the bomb known as “Little Boy” over Hiroshima, killing eighty thousand people instantly and another sixty thousand over the following weeks from the effects of the fallout.
Hiroshima was selected as a target to deliberately demonstrate the power of the weapon by causing the most physical destruction but also as a psychological attack against the people and decision-makers of Japan.
The blast was so intense, human shadows are marked permanently on the ground and walls left standing. Radiation poisoning caused a significant number of deaths in the weeks following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The effects of radiation are varied, ranging from milder symptoms like gastrointestinal distress, fever, headaches and hair loss, but up to and including death. Because radiation can cause a drop in the number of blood cells produced, wounds heal more slowly than normal.
The effects were devastating but it would take a second atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki several days later before Emperor Hirohito finally surrendered, ending World War II.
The pilot of theEnola Gay, Paul Tibbets, died in January 2007, after having retired from the Air Force in 1966. Instead of being interred at home or at Arlington National Cemetery with all his brothers in arms, he was cremated and his ashes spread across the English Channel. The elder Tibbets was concerned that any grave or headstone he left behind would become ground zero for anti-nuclear weapons protests, anti-war protesters or a place for any other kind of revision historian to make a stand against what he saw as the right history. Instead of that, he opted to be cremated and his ashes spread where he had flown so often during the war.
Featured Image: An atomic cloud rises over Hiroshima after the bomb is dropped.(509th Operations Group)
Every spring caterpillars shed their cocoons, emerging as butterflies. This timeless symbol of change is now being applied to enhanced chemical detection for our nation’s warfighters. Researchers from the military service academies, funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s Chemical and Biological Technologies Department, are using butterflies to detect trace amounts of chemical warfare agents with increased precision and speed.
Managed by DTRA CB’s Brian Pate, Ph.D., researchers at the U.S. Air Force Academy demonstrated that analyzing light reflected from the scales of a butterfly wing may fill a critical capability gap for our service members. Currently, only expensive, non-portable instrumentation exists for the required sensitivity of certain CWA. Other tools, such as colorimetric and nanomaterial methods show promise, however, they pose challenges for long-term field use such as inadequate sensitivity or sensor poisoning.
Highlighted in the ACS Omega article, “Sensing Chemical Warfare Agent Simulants via Photonic Crystals of the Morpho didius Butterfly,” researchers tested both naturally occurring and synthetic photonic crystals for CWA vapor detection. Using the reflective properties of the butterfly wings, researchers were able to identify changes in the refractive index or distance between structure layers.
When exposed to water, methanol, ethanol and simulants for mustard gas, researchers found that vapors could be detected at parts per million concentrations in under one minute. Offering an innovative, low-cost and rapid means of threat agent detection, this sensing technique may offer significant advantages for deployed warfighters. The portable technique only requires a small photonic crystal, a visible light source and a fiber optic cable. Further, this method could potentially be used as a long-term, continuous, passive sensor.
While promising, these sensing agents present some challenges such as generating a synthetic butterfly wing to increase vapor sensitivity and selectivity towards chemical agents. Ongoing efforts are underway at the Air Force Academy to address this issue.
Collectively, these efforts highlight the capability of the service academies to contribute to the chemical and biological defense enterprise’s mission of protecting our force from threat agents, while fostering critical thinking and technical excellence in the next generation of military leaders.
President-elect Donald Trump caused a genuine uproar in the combat-aviation community when he tweeted in December, “Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!”
The idea that an F/A-18 Super Hornet could be “comparable” to the F-35 met swift and intense condemnation, and Lockheed Martin quickly lost billions in value on its stock.
Virtually everyone pointed to a single aspect of the F-35 that the F/A-18 lacked: stealth.
But the US and other countries already have in their sights a modern update on the F/A-18 that is meant to complement the F-35. The update may be poised to deliver even more capability than Lockheed Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter in some areas, even without being as stealthy.
Dan Gillian, Boeing’s vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18 programs, told Business Insider that even with the coming F-35C naval variant, US carrier air wings would still field versions of the F/A-18 into the 2040s. The company is planning considerable updates that will focus on “addressing the gaps” in naval aviation.
Gillian and the Boeing team call it the Advanced Super Hornet, a modern update on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, which itself was an update on the original F/A-18 Hornet. Gillian says Boeing designed the Super Hornet “from the beginning in an evolutionary way with lots of room for growth in power, cooling, and weight so it could adapt to changes over the years.”
Gillian says Boeing could start fielding Advanced Super Hornets by the early 2020s at the latest, while some limited contracts to bring elements of the Advanced Super Hornet are already underway. So even though the designs of the F-35 and the F/A-18 reflect different missions, they certainly are comparable in terms of price, availability, and capability.
So what does a 2017 update of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet look like?
“When we talk about the Advanced Super Hornet package, it can be delivered to a build of new airplanes and it can be retrofitted to existing airframes,” Gillian said.
“An airplane that I’m building today off the line has some systems that have matured over time that a Super Hornet would not have,” he added, saying there would essentially be no difference between a 2017 Advanced Super Hornet and a Super Hornet plucked off an aircraft carrier and brought up to date.
The physical characteristics of a fully decked out Advanced Super Hornet would be as follows:
Shoulder-mounted conformal fuel tanks to carry 3,500 pounds of fuel and reduce drag. These fuel tanks could “extend the reach about 125 nautical miles,” meaning the planes can “either go faster or carry more,” according to Gillian.
An infrared search and track radar, which would be the first such capability included on a US fighter jet since the F-14 Tomcat. This will allow the Advanced Super Hornets to counter enemy stealth capability and to get a read on heat-emitting entities without emitting any radar signal of their own. “There was a fixation on stealth attributes,” Gillian said of fifth-gen fighters, “which is an important attribute for the next 25 years, but tactical fighters are designed for stealth in one part of the spectrum, all planes emit heat.”
Advanced electronic warfare capabilities. Currently, the F-18 family leads the US military in EW platforms with the Growler, an EW version of the Super Hornet in which Boeing has “taken out the gun and installed more EW equipment … Instead of missiles on the wing tips it has a large sensing pods,” Gillian said. The Navy has scheduled the F-35C to eventually carry the advanced EW pod, but the initial generation of F-35s will have to rely on Growlers for EW attacks. The Advanced Super Hornet will have EW self-protection, but not the full suite present on the Growler.
An advanced cockpit system with a new 19-inch display. Basically “a big iPad for the airplane, allowing the pilot to manage all the information and data that’s out there,” Gillian said, comparing its utility to the F-35’s display.
Improved avionics and computing power as well as increased ability to network to receive targeting data from platforms like the F-35 or the E-2 Hawkeye. The Advanced Super Hornet would also feature an improved active electronically scanned array radar.
Further enhancements still to be considered by the US Navy for Advanced Super Hornets include the following:
An enclosed weapons pod would make the plane more aerodynamic while also cutting down on the plane’s radar cross section. Combined with the form-fitting fuel tanks, the Advanced Super Hornet could cut its radar signature by up to 50%.
An improved engine could increase fuel efficiency and performance. Boeing hasn’t yet begun earnestly working toward this, and it could add to the overall cost of the project significantly.
Hypothetically, Advanced Super Hornets could field IRST before F-35Cs come online. Growlers will also serve in the vital role of EW attack craft, without which the F-35 cannot do its job as a stealth penetrator.
So while an Advanced Super Hornet will never be comparable to the F-35 in all aspects, it could certainly develop some strengths that the F-35 lacks.
Additionally, Gillian said the Advanced Super Hornets would not cost much more than the current F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, which run about $70 million apiece. Even if that price rose by $10 million, it would still be lower than that of the cheapest expected F-35s, which come in at $85 million.
Conclusion: Could Boeing create an F/A-18 ‘comparable’ to the F-35?
“The Advanced Super Hornet is really a collection of systems and design changes that when implemented achieve a significantly different capability for the air wing,” said Gillian, who stressed that the Super Hornet and Growler platforms were “well positioned” to improve in scope and capability over time.
Gillian made it clear, however, that the Advanced Super Hornet program had been, since its inception, meant to accompany the F-35, with carrier air wings consisting of three squadrons of Super Hornets and one squadron of F-35s into the 2040s.
The US Navy has contracts already underway to update its existing Super Hornet fleet with elements of the Advanced Super Hornet package, and it seems the US will end up with both Advanced Super Hornets and F-35s, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The F/A-18, not designed with all-aspect stealth in mind, will most likely never serve as a penetrating aircraft for heavily contested airspace, but its future onboard America’s aircraft carriers is well defined for decades to come.
But with Boeing’s field record of delivering F/A-18 projects on time and on budget, and the US Navy left waiting by overrun after overrun in the F-35 program, the two planes are starting to look like apples and oranges — both good choices. Choosing which to buy and when may simply come down to what is available on the market.
One by one, the veterans made their inaugural trip up the steep mountainside armed with harnesses and ropes. For most of them, rock climbing was a brand new experience, yet they were scrambling up and repelling down the cliff face at Hartman Rocks in Gunnison, Colorado, with barely a semblance of a beginner’s nerves. Amid shouts of encouragement and good-humored banter, the Airmen were bonding. While they’d been strangers just the day before, they’d already become a team.
Traveling from different areas of the U.S., the eight Air Force wounded warriors, sponsored by Team Racing for Veterans’ (R4V), arrived at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colorado, to participate in three unfamiliar sports: rock climbing, fly fishing and mountain biking. The biannual camps give wounded veterans a chance to prove to themselves they can adapt to and overcome any current limitations, from amputations to post-traumatic stress.
For those attending the camp, it was a chance to network with other wounded warriors who wanted to get out of their comfort zones, take on new challenges, and pursue a sense of normalcy.
In addition to sharing their common goals and adaptive sports experiences at the camp, the wounded warriors had a chance to get to know each other in a relaxed setting during their down time. Instead of staying in a hotel where they would be scattered throughout the building, the Airmen stayed in a large ranch-style home that was donated for the camp’s use. During some of their meals and at the close of each day, the wounded warriors could gather in a common area and talk.
Military veterans share their individual stories during dinner at an adaptive sports camp in Crested Butte, Colo. Each night of the camp ended with reflection and therapeutic conversations. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
While engaging in one such casual conversation in the living room with four other veterans, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly, a 175th Wing chaplain assistant with the Maryland National Guard, found himself smiling and feeling at ease. The openness he displayed was something new, because Connelly had grown up building walls around himself that no one could get through.
As a child, his experiences in the foster care system left him unwilling to depend on others. Though he was eventually taken in by his aunt and uncle, Connelly still found himself disappointed after witnessing his relatives getting robbed by other children they had adopted.
“Watching those kids grow up, how cruel and jagged they could be, it just pushed my trust in people away a lot more,” Connelly said.
“Before these guys,” he indicated the other wounded warriors, “you had no shot for me to trust you.”
Unexpectedly, the injuries that brought Connelly into the wounded warrior family were causing him to change for the better, he said.
On July 5, 2011, Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly’s life took an abrupt turn after a motorcycle accident on the streets of Baltimore. As a result of the crash, Connelly lost his left leg below the knee, his right knee required a partial replacement, and his right arm had to be artificially restructured.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Richard W. Rose Jr. (Ret.) and Staff Sgt. Gideon Connelly celebrate after climbing a 50-foot mountain. | Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.
“The first couple years were hard,” he said. “It was like gut-wrenching pain in my arm when I was lifting weights, curling, or anything like that, just because there wasn’t much muscle around the metal.”
Eventually he was able to build his strength back up, but by the time the doctors could take out the hardware in his arm, bone had grown over it and become fused to the metal. Because of this, Connelly opted not to have it removed.
“I’ve adapted to it,” he said. “I’ve adapted with my leg, my knee, and the arm was another thing. I just had to get over it. Cold affects it, but you move your wrist around a little bit and keep going. I’m all about adapting and overcoming everything. I’m not going to let anything stop me from doing what I want to do.”
Three years after his injury, Connelly became involved in the world of adaptive sports and attended an AFW2 camp. Striving for more, he was also selected to represent the Air Force during the 2014 Warrior Games in shot put, discus, and the 100- and 200-meter sprints. It was at this competition that he met a group of wounded warriors and began to finally let down his guard.
Two years later, his wounded warrior family remains important to him – it is a group of people he keeps in touch with nearly every single day.
Although Connelly is busy training in pursuit of his dream of running track at the Paralympic Games, he leapt at the opportunity to try new sports at a Team R4V mountain adventure.
“Mountain biking: that was the sport that brought everybody together today,” Connelly said. He found it inspiring to watch the guys zooming down the mountain tracks on hand cycles.
“The trails are probably 20 inches wide – the same as their wheel base – and they are just flying,” he added. “Watching them struggle, but still make it up and down the hills, it was awesome! It was definitely team building and it brought us that much closer together.”
Ricky Rose Jr. knew that the sports therapy aspect of Team R4V’s camps would help him physically, but he hesitated to participate.
After being medically discharged from the Air Force as a staff sergeant, Rose thought about attending a wounded warrior camp. It was an idea that had run though his mind many times before but what always stopped him were questions: Did he deserve to go? Would he even fit into the group?
When Team R4V invited him to their fall camp, Rose decided to set those doubts aside and give it a go.
At first he was nervous, but after realizing many people in the house shared the same medical conditions he did, Rose began to feel more comfortable. He found there was relief in being surrounded by people who’d gone through tough situations — from battling cancer to being shot in Afghanistan – because they could all relate to one another.
“While each individual’s circumstances are different in the grand scheme, we’re all fighting the same demons,” Rose said. “That’s been the most beneficial part of this camp; you feel comfortable talking to somebody that you know has been there and done that.”
At the camp, much of the conversation and bonding begins over food.
With a focus on overall wellness, Team R4V cooks healthy meals for the wounded warriors each day, and encourages them to eat breakfast and dinner together. At the kitchen table, sharing a meal and talking about the day’s events, the Airmen got to know each other better. As they talked, Rose felt a sense of camaraderie return, one that he’d missed since the last day he’d hung up his Air Force uniform.
“I wasn’t expecting us to come together as a family as quickly as we did,” he said. “We all realized pretty quickly that we’re all Airmen and we’re all in this together.”
Surrounded by people who could empathize with his journey, Rose spoke about his experiences in the Air Force and the daily challenges he continues to face as a wounded warrior.
During his time in service, Rose deployed three times, once to Kuwait and twice to Iraq. Employed as a combat photographer, his objective was to document the war through the experiences of the troops with whom he was embedded – the good times, the bad times, and everything in between.
“They didn’t send us on missions where we would just sit on base all day,” he said. “They’d send us on missions where crap was going to hit the fan, or there was a really good chance of it. More times than not, we were attacked … we got blown up what seemed like almost every mission. It felt like almost every day could have been the day you died because we lost a lot of people too. War is just nasty, and I got to help show that as honestly as I could to people.”
While deployed, Rose captured thousands of images, braving firefights and mortar attacks to accomplish his job. In 2007, Rose was named one of the Air Force’s 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, in part for his dedication in the combat zone – a place seared into his memory by the very tool he used to perform his mission.
“The hardest thing, and I didn’t know this until after a lot of therapy and a lot of different doctors, but I didn’t realize, as a photographer, how many of those images I took were just going to stay in my brain,” Rose said. “I just kind of thought I’d take a picture and then they’d go away, but they don’t.”
Even at home, he was unable to turn his mind away from the combat zone. Feeling unstable, Rose asked for help. He went to see a doctor and was ultimately diagnosed with a TBI and PTSD.
PTSD is an anxiety disorder that presents a variety of negative effects, such as flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts and memories. Military members with PTSD can become hyper-vigilant, angry and depressed. Sights and sounds, such as large crowds, random crazy noises, and sudden flashes of light – can mentally bring them back to the combat zone and trigger an unconscious response.
“PTSD is horrible,” Rose said. “Imagine never being able to feel comfortable or like everything is alright. Every day is a challenge because I don’t know how my body and mind will react to whatever happens that day. Will I see, touch, or smell something that will give me an instant flashback and turn me into a different person? Will my conversations lead to nightmares? Do I feel like killing myself today? That’s what it’s like.”
The temporary home in Colorado is quiet and isolated from outside stimuli. The intensity and focus needed to learn new sports is designed to wear the Airmen out and give them the ability to be calm.
“I haven’t really had a bad thought since I’ve been here, other than being exhausted and tired (from the day’s activity),” he laughed, adding, “I haven’t really had a trigger or nightmare or anything since I’ve been here. It’s been peaceful, very peaceful.”
The physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular exercise have been proven time and time again, which is why Team R4V staff said they provide support to veterans through a wide variety of physical activities. Rehabilitation though adaptive sports has been an idea at the forefront of the organization since its conception.
Inspired by a friend who coached the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program’s team for the Warrior Games, a Defense Department competitive adaptive sports event for injured, ill and wounded service members, Bethany Pribila, Team R4V’s founder and CEO, decided to start a non-profit organization that would enable veterans from every branch of the military to benefit through participation in sports.
Team R4V provides wounded warrior athletes with funding for races and events, but it is their own sports camps, which they host in partnership with the Crested Butte Adaptive Sports Center, that holds a special place in the heart of the organization.
At the camp’s end, Pribila reflected that everything had gone as envisioned. She had witnessed the wounded warriors supporting one another, cheering each other on, and forming lasting bonds. Though the Airmen had arrived as strangers, when they left, it was as friends and as family.
Marine Corps Systems Command’s Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad team has partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory to create a boot insert prototype to help improve Marines’ health and performance.
The Mobility and Biomechanics Insert for Load Evaluation, or MoBILE, technology is handmade by the bioengineering staff members at Lincoln Labs with the Marine in mind. MoBILE helps to detect changes in mobility and agility, which will help MCSC make informed decisions on material composition and format of athletic and protective gear.
Marine Corps-MIT Partnership
“Partnering with MIT has allowed us to create a groundbreaking research tool that will help inform future acquisition decisions and performance of Marines in the field,” said Navy Cmdr. James Balcius, Naval aerospace operational physiologist with the Marine Expeditionary Rifle Squad team.
The team has partnered with MIT since 2012 and coordinates the integration and modernization of everything that is worn, carried, used, or consumed by the Marine Corps rifle squad. It conducts systems engineering, and human factors and integration assessments on equipment from the perspective of the individual Marine.
MIT Lincoln Labs is one of 10 federally funded research and development centers sponsored by the Defense Department. These centers assist the U.S. government with scientific research and analysis, systems development, and systems acquisition to provide novel, cost-effective solutions to complex government problems.
MoBILE has flat, scale-like load sensors that are placed within the boot insole to measure the user’s weight during activities such as standing, walking, and running. The insert sensors are positioned in the heel, toe and arch, and they are capable of capturing data at up to 600 samples per second. When the sensors bend with the foot, the electronics register the bend as a change and send the information back to a master microcontroller for processing.
MoBILE will help users gauge how they are carrying the weight of their equipment and if their normal gait changes during activity, Balcius said. The sensor data provides information on stride, ground reaction forces, foot-to-ground contact time, terrain features, foot contact angle, ankle flexion, and the amount of energy used during an activity.
Ultimately, the sensors will provide operational data that will help Marines gather information on training and rehabilitation effectiveness, combat readiness impact, and route and mission planning optimization.
Technology Leads to Healthier Marines
“MoBILE has been compared to a force-sensitive treadmill which is a gold-standard laboratory measurement,” said Joe Lacirignola, technical staff member in the Bioengineering Systems and Technologies Group at MIT Lincoln Laboratory. “Because MoBILE has a high sampling rate, the accuracy does not degrade with faster walking or running speeds. In the future, this accurate data could help provide early detection of injuries, ultimately leading to healthier Marines.”
Balcius said MoBILE will be tested this summer in a controlled environment on multiple terrains during road marches and other prolonged training events over a variety of distances.
“This tool is basically a biomechanics lab in a boot, which allows us to gather data at a scale we have not had until now,” said Mark Richter, director of MERS. “The resulting data will be useful to inform decisions that will impact the readiness and performance of our Marines.”
Pocket-size drones are on their way to US Army soldiers, offering a better view of the battlefield and giving them a lethal edge over enemies.
The Army has awarded FLIR Systems a $39.6 million contract to provide Black Hornet personal-reconnaissance drones — next-level technology that could be a total game changer for US troops in the field — the company said in a recent press release.
Measuring just 6.6 inches in length and weighing only 1.16 ounces, these “nano unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems” are “small enough for a dismounted soldier to carry on a utility belt,” according to FLIR Systems.
These drones can provide situational awareness beyond visual line-of-sight capability day or night at a distance of up to 1.24 miles, covering ground at a max speed of 20 feet per second.
The “nearly silent” combat systems can provide constant covert coverage of the battlefield for almost a half hour, transmitting both live video and high-definition photographs back to the operator.
The Army is looking at a number of technologies that will allow soldiers to spot and even fire on enemies without putting themselves in harm’s way, such as night vision goggles connected to an integrated weapons sight that allows troops to shoot from the hip and around corners with accuracy.
The new drones “will give our soldiers operating at the squad level immediate situational awareness of the battlefield through its ability to gather intelligence, provide surveillance, and conduct reconnaissance,” Army spokesman Lt. Col. Isaac Taylor told Task and Purpose.
The drones will first be delivered to a single brigade combat team, but they will later be sent to platoons across the various brigade combat teams.
Deliveries will start early 2019 FLIR said in its recent press statement.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The admiral commanding America’s Pacific naval fleet says he will retire.
Admiral Scott Swift made the shocking announcement in a statement released late Sept. 25.
In the statement, Swift revealed he had been informed that he would not rise to become Commander of United States Pacific Command, a usual advancement for Navy admirals who commanded the Pacific Fleet.
“I have been informed by the Chief of Naval Operations that I will not be his nominee to replace Adm. [Harry] Harris as the Commander, U.S. Pacific Command,” he said. “In keeping with tradition and in loyalty to the Navy, I have submitted my request to retire.”
Admiral Swift’s career included service with Attack Squadrons 94 and 97, flying the LTV A-7 Corsair. He saw combat during Operation Preying Mantis, and commander Air Wing 14 and Carrier Strike Group 9. His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, and Air Medal with Combat V.
In recent months, the Pacific Fleet as rocked by the collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) that killed a total of 17 sailors and seriously damaged both vessels, which were forward-based as part of Destroyer Squadron 15.
A number of other officers have been relieved of duty in the wake of those collisions, including Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin, the commander of the 7th Fleet, and the commanders of Destroyer Squadron 15 and Task Force 70.
Native American Vietnam veteran Robert Primeaux shared his journey from a Lakota reservation to the Army and even to Hollywood.
As a young man, Primeaux was eager to get off the reservation and see the world. To leave, he decided to join the Army. He trained in Fort Lewis and Fort Knox before joining the 101st Airborne Division and sent off to Vietnam.
In 1972, Primeaux returned to the United States. His younger brother had been killed in a car accident, leaving Primeaux as the sole male survivor of his family.
However, he did not stay in the Army long. A car accident of his own put him in a coma for three weeks. After he recovered, he was discharged.
Primeaux then lived on his grandmother’s ranch while he recovered from his injuries. To help with his recovery, he began to self-rehab by working with the horses on the ranch. His love for horses gave him the opportunity to go to school through a rodeo scholarship from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).
Between school and living on his family ranch, Primeaux met Michael Apted on the set of Thunderheart in South Dakota. Through this meeting, he landed a stunt role on Thunderheart and become eligible for access to the Union of the Screen Actors Guild.
Later, Primeaux moved to LA to begin his film career where he landed roles in Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and a more prominent role in Rough Riders. This role as Indian Bob was special to Primeaux because the director John Milius specifically created it with him in mind.
Recently, Primeaux has worked as an advocate for fallen service-members.
Throughout his life, through thick and thin, Primeaux credited the Four Cardinal Lakota Virtues for helping him recover from the Vietnam War and his car accident. He listed the Lakota Virtues as:
Bravery. “Individual valor meant more than group bravery, and the warrior who most fearlessly risked his life earned the admiration of all the people and received the most cherished honors.”
Generosity. “If you have more than one of anything, you should give it away to help those persons.”
Fortitude. “All had to be borne without visible signs of distress.
Wisdom. “A man who displays wisdom, displays superior judgment in matters of war, the hunt, of human and group relationships, of band and Tribal policy, and of harmonious interaction with the natural and spiritual world.”
From childhood, Lakota Warriors were taught these four virtues. Primeaux stated that warriors who were taught the true meaning of these virtues learn to treat their Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.