NATO defense ministers have wrapped up two days of talks in Brussels during which they approved plans to create two command centers in response to what the military alliance called a “changing” security environment.
Speaking at the end of the meeting on Feb. 15, 2018, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the allies also planned to “scale up” the alliance’s presence in Iraq.
On the first day of their talks, the ministers approved the establishment of two new command centers aimed at supporting rapid troop movements across Europe and protecting sea channels between the continent and North America.
The new command center for logistics, reinforcement, and military mobility will allow NATO to respond to crises “with the right forces, in the right place, at the right time,” Stoltenberg said on Feb. 14, 2018.
The NATO ministers also agreed to set up a new cyberoperations center to help counter military hacker attacks, among other things.
“The security environment in Europe has changed, and so NATO is responding,” he also said.
Since the Cold War, the alliance has shrunk from 22,000 staff working in 33 command centers to fewer than 7,000 staff in seven centers, the secretary-general said.
The ministers are expected to decide on the required timelines, locations, and increased staff levels at their next meeting in June 2018.
The moves come as relations between Moscow and NATO have been severely strained over issues including Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014 and its support for separatists who control parts of eastern Ukraine. The war between Kyiv’s forces and the Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.
Allegations of malicious Russian cyberactivity and a series of potentially dangerous close encounters between Russian and NATO warplanes and navy ships in recent months has added to the tension.
Stoltenberg said on Feb. 15, 2018 he was looking forward to meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the Feb. 16-18 Munich Security Conference in Germany, saying “dialogue is particularly important when tensions are high.”
On Iraq, the secretary-general announced that the defense ministers agreed to start planning for a NATO training mission that he said would “make our current training efforts more sustainable.”
“We will also plan to help the Iraqi forces become increasingly professional” by “establishing specialized military academies and schools,” he added.
“We are planning to scale up NATO’s presence. But we are not planning for a combat mission,” Stoltenberg said. “We can make a big impact with our trainers and advisers — in full coordination with the Iraqi government, the global coalition, and other actors, such as the UN and the EU.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told a press conference in Brussels that NATO allies “will go to a constant mission in Iraq to build the capabilities that [the Iraqis] believe they need to sustain this effort and protect their people from the uprising of another type of terrorist organization.”
NATO ministers also met with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in the Belgian capital to discuss their concerns over duplication after members of the bloc agreed in December 2017 to develop new military equipment and improve cooperation and decision-making.
“There is a clear understanding to include in written EU documents that the common defense is a NATO mission and a NATO mission alone,” Mattis said.
Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Recon Patrol holds two Cobras during jungle survival training alongside his U.S. Marine counterparts
Royal Thai Marine Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasarnsa, Chief Jungle Survival Trainer with Marine Reconnaissance Patrol, displays a spider’s fangs during jungle survival training alongside his US Marines.
The Taliban captured a key district center in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Thursday while in the country’s north, an officer turned his rifle on sleeping colleagues, killing nine policemen, officials said.
The fall of Sangin district, once considered the deadliest battlefield for British and U.S. troops in Afghanistan, comes amid the insurgents’ year-long push to expand their footprint in the Taliban heartland of Helmand.
The British who took over southern Helmand in 2006 were headquartered at Camp Sebastian, which at its peak was the center for 137 bases in Helmand. Most of Britain’s more than 400 military deaths occurred in Helmand province — in Sangin alone, Britain lost 104 soldiers.
Since the withdrawal of foreign NATO combat troops from Afghanistan at the end of 2014, and with only a smaller, U.S.-led advise and training mission left behind, Sangin has been seen as a major tests of whether Afghan security forces can hold off advancing Taliban fighters.
The district’s police chief, Mohammad Rasoul, said the Taliban overran Sangin center early on Thursday morning.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, also issued a statement claiming the Taliban capture of Sangin.
Speaking to The Associated Press over the phone from several kilometers (miles) away from the district center, Rasoul said the district headquarters had been poorly protected and that at the time of the Taliban siege, only eight policemen and 30 Afghan soldiers were on duty.
Afghan security forces were now amassing nearby for a full-scale counter-attack in a bid to retake Sangin, Rasoul added, though he did not say when the assault would occur and how many forces would be involved.
“We are preparing our reinforcements to recapture the district,” Rasoul said.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the Afghan military would seek the help of international coalition forces in the area.
NATO spokesman William Salvin said in a statement that Afghan troops remained in Sangin district but had relocated several kilometers (miles) outside the district center. He said the relocation was necessitated because of the extensive damage to the district center by the Taliban.
In Kabul, a lawmaker from Sangin, Mohammad Hashim Alokzai, urged the military to move quickly to retake the district, saying its fall could have devastating consequences for Helmand, where the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah has in the past months also come under constant and heavy attack by the Taliban.
“The seizure of Sangin is a major tactical triumph for the Taliban,” Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South Asia at the U.S.-based Wilson Center, said Thursday. The insurgent group “has taken over a major urban space in one of its major stronghold provinces, amplifying the major threat that the group poses to Afghanistan nearly 16 years after it was removed from power.”
Sangin is also one of the biggest opium markets in Afghanistan, which saw over 4,800 metric tons produced countrywide in 2016 — more than all other opium-producing countries combined, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes. Efforts at poppy eradication in Afghanistan have been severely restricted because of the insecurity in the southern and eastern regions of the country, where the bulk of the crop is grown.
Opium, which is used to make heroin, is a major source of income for the insurgents and the Taliban levy taxes on opium that moves through its territory.
“It’s hard to overestimate the significance of Helmand — it’s strategically located near Pakistan, it’s a bastion of the opium trade,” said Kugelman. “Perhaps the biggest reason why the British focused so much on Sangin is that they had invested so much over the years in trying to stabilize the place — and had suffered many combat deaths in the process.”
In northern Kunduz province, police spokesman Mafuz Akbari said the insider attack on Thursday that claimed the lives on nine policemen took place at a security post and that the assailant escaped under the cover of darkness.
Afghanistan has seen a spike in so-called insider attacks. In such incidents, attackers who turn their rifles and kill colleagues usually end up stealing their weapons and fleeing the scene to join insurgents.
Akbari said the assailant had gone over to the Taliban. He also claimed that the attacker and the Taliban gathered the bodies of the dead policemen and set them on fire.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed claimed responsibility for the attack, but denied that a policeman had been involved or that the Taliban had burned the bodies of the policemen.
The conflicting accounts could not be immediately reconciled. The region is remote and not accessible to reporters.
Afghan forces have come under intensified pressure by insurgents in both Helmand and Kunduz.
Sun Tzu once said that he who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.
To be honest, in a way, that is exactly what camouflage is all about. It is not about colors, shapes, or ninja stuff. It is about knowledge, patience, and the manipulation of anything anywhere.
All to achieve one goal: to become the environment. In this article, I am going to give you a small, bitter taste of the art of camouflage.
When I was in the Israeli Airborne SF, I served with one of the SR groups. My secondary specialty in my team was what we call in the IDF, a ‘builder.’ Basically, someone who is capable of concealing anything, from one man to an entire team or vehicles in any environment.
What is camouflage?
Back in the days, when I used to assist as an instructor for the next generation of builders, one of the first questions I asked the young soldiers in every introduction lesson was, ”What does the word ‘camouflage’ mean to you?”
The majority of the answers were split into two: hiding or disappearing.
While both might sound correct, those two words describe a long-living misconception that one experiences when he gets involved with task-oriented concealment work.
Long story short, the majority of the time camouflage begins with understanding the nature of observation.
The purpose of it is not only to hide, but to make you part of the environment, allowing you to safely observe, document, and, when necessary, respond.
Being a master of camouflage means being able to live off nature’s hand for 72 hours (or more), being just hundreds of meters away from the objective, and being able to observe the point of interest all the while.
Let’s say camouflage is the art of manipulation–the controlling of reality.
Fundamentals of Camouflage
There are three fundamental camouflage actions. These are the main principles that are found in any concealing construction.
Hiding: The action of hiding is setting a barrier that separates you physically, and often visually, from the surrounding environment and its unfolding reality.
Blending: Resembling your surroundings by combining different, like elements into a single entity. The main difference between success to failure lays in properly blending subtle details.
Disguising: In short, disguising is an action we perform to alter an existing shape or form. We do that to eliminate or create intentional target indicators, such as smell, shape, or shine. Disguising, for example, is adding vegetation to a Ghillie suit or collecting branches to conceal my hide side.
Knowledge is power. One of the keys to perfect camouflage at the tactical level is the ability to understand what kind of X or Y signatures my presence creates that will lead to my exposure.
TI, or target indicators, are about understanding what signatures my enemy creates in a specific environment. Those target indicators suggest presence, location, and distance in some cases.
There are two dimensions to consider when detecting and indicated presence. The first–and oldest–dimension is basic human sense. The other is technological.
While smelling, hearing, and touching are obvious senses, but those senses normally only come into play in short distance.
Let’s focus on ‘seeing.’
The visual sense is, by far, the most reliable sense for humans. We use it up to 80% of the time to collect information and orient ourselves. So, what kind of visual signatures could I leave that may lead to my exposure? In short:
Shape – The perfectly symmetrical shapes of tents or cars, for example, don’t exist in nature. Those, and the familiar shape of a human being, are immediate eye candy.
Silhouette – Similar to ‘shape,’ but with more focus on the background. A soldier walking on top of the hill or someone sneaking in the darkness with dark clothes against a white wall–the distinction of a foreground element from its background makes a target indicator sharp and clear.
Shine – Surface related. Radiance or brightness caused by emitted or reflected light. Anything that my skin, equipment, or fabrics may reflect. Popular examples would be the reflection of sunlight on hand watches, skin, or optics for example.
Shadow – Shadows are very attractive and easy to distinguish for human eyes, depending on a shadow’s intensity. For example, caves in open fields stand out for miles and are very easy to recognize. As a result, we never use caves for hiding, as they’re a natural draw to the eye.
Color – Let’s make it sure and simple–wearing a pink hoody to a funeral is a good way to stand out. Match your environment.
Oh boy, this is where the real challenge begins! I’m actually going to risk it and say that ghillie suits are becoming less and less relevant today due to increases in technology.
Before we will dive into all that Einstein stuff, these are the main wavelengths used by different devices to find your ass:
Infra-Red / NIR – Used in NVGs, SWIR cameras, etc. Night-vision devices, for example, use active near-infrared illumination to observe people or animals without the observer being detected.
UV – UV radiation is present in sunlight. UV-capable devices are excellent, for example, in snowy environments for picking up differences undetectable by the naked eye.
Thermal – Your body generates a temperature different from any immediate background, such as the ground in the morning or a tree in the evening. Devices tend to set clear separations between the heat or cold of different objects, resulting in pretty nice shapes that are easy to distinguish for the observer.
Radar (radio)– A radar system consists of a transmitter producing electromagnetic waves, an emitting antenna, and a receiving antenna to capture any waves that return from objects in the path of the emitted signal. A receiver and processor then determine the properties of the object. While often used to detect weather formations, ships, structures, etc., there are numerous devices that can give you an accurate position of vehicles and even humans. It’s a long story, hard to manipulate. Such devices exist already in the tactical level.
It is nearly impossible to eliminate your signature against devices who work within the wave length. The only solution is to understand what the human being sees through advanced optics and manipulate the final result.
Buckle up and get your aspirin – we’re moving into the science stuff.
The human and its environment emits different signatures that can be picked up by different technological devices that make use of different types of waves.
Cones in our eyes are the receivers for tiny visible light waves. The sun is a natural source for visible light waves and our eyes see the reflection of this sunlight off the objects around us.
The color of an object that we see is the color of light reflected. All other colors are absorbed.
Technically, we are blind to many wavelengths of light. This makes it important to use instruments that can detect different wavelengths of light to help us study the earth and the universe.
However, since visible light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum that our eyes can see, our whole world is oriented around it.
With the advancement of technology, humanity slowly cracked and understood the existence of other light waves.
We began to see those dimensions through different devices.
Since the visual camouflage has foiled many plans throughout a history of wars and conflicts, militaries around the world began researching the possibilities of using non-visible wavelengths in detecting the signature of specific objects in specific environments.
Camouflage is not about hiding and it’s definitely not only about wearing a ghillie suit or digging deeps foxholes.
It’s an involved, looping process that starts with understanding how humans detect and continues with manipulating this detection.
The old standards, such as ghillie suits, are becoming less and less relevant to the modern battle space as detection technologies advance.
New predators such as SWIR or advance thermal cameras are hard to beat unless you know the device, the interface, and the humans who use it.
As Albert Einstein once said, technology has exceeded our humanity–so get creative.
Pamela Foley was 17 and pregnant in 1982 when her parents said she wasn’t welcome in their house, and wasn’t keeping her baby.
She searched and wondered for decades what happened to the child she gave up for adoption before the two reconnected in January 2019. They met again for the first time in 36 years at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Foley, an Air Force veteran, who uses a wheelchair because of multiple sclerosis, pushed up from her chair July 9, 2019, as the two embraced and held each other tight.
“Let me look at your face!” Foley sobbed as she held her daughter’s face in her hands. “My baby!”
The two have since been inseparable at 2019’s Games, with her daughter, Carrie Knutsen, cheering on her birth mom, laughing and finishing each other’s sentences. While the two have filled each other in on the last 36 years, they cemented the reunion with matching tattoos of two hearts and a double helix DNA that Carrie designed.
Pamela Foley competed in bowling, 9-ball and slalom at this year’s Wheelchair Games, but will most remember her reunion with the daughter she was forced to give up for adoption 36 years ago.
Foley never stopped hoping this day would come, always marking Carrie’s birthday on her calendar. Carrie, based on what little information she had, would sometimes see a face in the crowd and wonder if they were related.
When Pamela told her parents she was pregnant 36 years ago, she wasn’t surprised at their reaction.
“They said, ‘You’re going to live with your sister in Virginia.’ They’re the type they always have to impress people, and if anybody had found out their daughter was pregnant, they couldn’t have that.”
Pamela got to spend time with her baby after giving birth April 29, 1983, in Roanoke, which made it even harder.
“That was the emotional pain,” she said. “They let me have her while I was there, feeding and clothing her. I saw and held her and was a blithering idiot. I had 30 days after signing the paperwork to change my mind. So I called my mom, crying in the hospital.”
“What would happen if I kept her?” Pamela asked.
“Oh, don’t come home,” her mom replied.
“And I’m crying more as I’m thinking of changing my mind. Then I thought about it. I was 17. I didn’t have a job, I had no resources. I didn’t know anything. I didn’t have any skills.”
Carrie interjects with a laugh: “I mean, you gave birth, that’s a pretty good skill. Just saying.”
“It just happens,” Pamela deadpans. “You just do it. It was going to happen regardless.”
Catholic Charities told Pamela the adoption records would be sealed for 18 years, then she could find information about her baby.
Although she was named Lisa Marie on the birth certificate, her adoptive parents — Casey and Marie — took parts of their name and changed her name to Carrie.
“It was a huge blessing for them, and they are amazing people,” Carrie said. “They changed my name because they wanted to give me a piece of them. I never wanted for anything. I went to college, I finished grad school. I don’t have any memory of not knowing I was adopted. They told me when I was young.
Mom and daughter got matching tattoos of two hearts and double helix DNA to commemorate the reunion. Carrie, who is a graphic artist, designed the artwork.
“I always wondered if she was a movie star and occasionally wondered why they gave me away. I knew I was born in Roanoke, so anytime we were there, I’d look at faces in the crowd and wondered if they resembled me or were family.”
Pamela moved back home after giving birth and graduated from high school. She joined the Air Force in 1985, married and had another daughter, Samantha, in 1986. She was diagnosed a year later with multiple sclerosis and separated from the military. She divorced her first husband, remarried and had a son, Sean, in 1991. Tragedy struck in 1993 when Samantha died after she fell through a glass table while playing.
“It was the worst thing in the world,” Pamela said. “It was worse than giving my baby away.”
Pamela and her husband, Michael, had another daughter, Megan, in 1994.
And in 2001 — 18 years after giving birth to Carrie — Pamela asked to see the adoption records.
“They were so rude. ‘Nooooo, these are sealed records. You have to get a lawyer and petition the court.’
“I let it drop,” she said. “We didn’t have that kind of money, and at that time, there was no internet like there is today. I did find an adoption registry and filled out all the information, what I knew. I never heard anything.”
Carrie filled out a similar registry around the same time.
“I thought, ‘What the hell? Maybe?’ I never heard and forgot all about it.”
She married in 2011, and tried to find more about her family’s health history, but hit the same road block with sealed records.
Another 17 years passed while Pamela watched a show about reuniting lost family members. There was a phone number for a private investigation company at the end of the program, and she gave them a call. For id=”listicle-2639220262″,000, she was told, they could probably find her daughter. Pamela reached out to the birth father and they split the cost.
In December 2018, the investigation firm sent Carrie a letter she almost didn’t open.
“I just stuck it in my purse, and when I opened it later, they said they had a client who was looking for me,” she said. “I thought it was probably my mother, but it might be a scam. I got in touch with them, and on January 2 told them they could use my e-mail. I’m sitting at work and 10 minutes later, I get an e-mail from Pam.”
This’ll get ya. Pamela Shears Foley was forced to give up her baby, Carrie Knutsen, at 17. They found each other in January and met for the first time in…
Pam wrote: “Hi my name is Pamela Foley … You might be the child I gave up 35 years ago. I would like get to know and possibly meet you sometime in the future … I know this a lot to take in, but I’m hopeful we can stay in contact.”
Carrie wrote back: “Hi, Pam! What a way to start a new year! You’re right, it is a lot to take in — but in an exciting way! For 30 years, since I first found out I was adopted at the ripe old age of 5, I have wondered everything about my birth family. I am thankful for my parents who have given me everything — the best life I could have ever imagined. But I’ve always had those thoughts in the back of my mind — who are they, where are they, what do they like, what do they look like, and so on. This is a fascinating new journey!”
The two e-mailed back and forth all day.
Does the rest of your family “know about me? If so, when did you tell them?” Carrie asked.
“Everybody in my life knows about you and has for many years,” Pam replied. “I don’t hide my past from my children, so they know about you and that we are in contact. They are also very excited!
Carrie said that made the difference in their new relationship.
“The biggest part for me was finding out I was nobody’s secret,” she said. “I was wanted.”
They are making plans to visit one another after the Games, and Carrie hopes to get to the 2020 event in Portland. She has since been in touch with her birth father and is finding other family members, too.
“We use social media a lot, and I’m getting all these friend requests from cousins, aunts, a grandma on my birth father’s side … my grandparents died in 2014 and now I get another grandma,” Carrie said as she dabbed a tear from her eye. “I’m finding out that I’ve had, like, 30,000 family members I never knew I had who had been praying for me my whole life. It’s wonderful.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Have you seen the hilarious memes surrounding military spouses and social media? It’s a wild frontier, y’all. Military spouses are not bound by the same standards as their service members, yet there are definitely some guidelines that should steer any digital footprint — and we’re not just talking OPSEC. Here are 7 rules to keep milspouses savvy on social:
Just because you aren’t employed…
Relaxing standards when you’re not working feels good. But for a community who finds themselves walking in and out of careers, we’re suggesting not going full-blown IDGAF online. The digital dirt you’re kicking up doesn’t settle in the virtual world. Instead, every sassy comment or a drunken rant you go on is all there for your future employer to find. If what you’re about to type would likely get you fired if you were employed, opt for yelling into a pillow instead.
Quit pulling faux or metaphorical rank on each other
In case you haven’t heard, your service member’s rank does not carry over to you. Nothing is more annoying or quite frankly detrimental to the spouse community than when the perfume you’re wearing stinks of superiority. Sharing help, tips, insight and posting questions online should be met with equality, not discrimination or judgment. So be nice.
Oversharing is emotional vomit
It’s amazing what the digital world has done for military friendships and connectivity, but it’s not (always) the right space to show everyone your private stash of special. Spouses need to use online pages for their intended purpose, and that purpose only. Don’t divulge your marital issues on a “for sale or free” page. Instead, ask for local run chapter pages of organizations like InDependent, a dedicated space for overall spouse wellness and connection.
Dirty laundry goes in the washer, not on the internet
What’s the easiest way to spot a spouse going through a life change or marital issue? They go from cardigan selfies to bikini shots real quick. We’re hoping for all of humanity that decorum isn’t dead and everyone ready to step it up in a rough patch would have first put that amount of energy into saving their marriages.
Stop telling hackers all of your information
How gullible do you have to be to not realize that the “list your last 5 hometowns in order, or cars or pets names” isn’t a total scam? Stop sharing it. We’re lucky enough to have six street names and five possible cities to use for a password that might actually make it difficult to guess. Why spoil it by just divulging all of that with the world?
Make social media work in your favor
Scrolling isn’t all bad, in fact, it could lead to your next career. Building up a network of potential leads, resources and communities can work in your favor if you play your cards right. If you’ve followed suggestion number one, your social profile becomes a bit resume-like in the best way. Researching the major players in your next area before you move and “showing up” as who you want the world to see you as might just catch the eye of your next boss.
Keep pages separate
What’s more annoying than your online friend going from zero to MLM salesman of the year? Nothing, nothing is more annoying. Take it from someone who enjoyed one or six careers in their life and keep social media pages consistent or make a new one. You can’t go from daily donut love to a fitness “expert” in the blink of an eye. Authenticity takes time, so take the time to consider if this next stage is here to stay, or would be better suited as a group or subpage.
Disabled American Veterans, a non-profit originally started by World War I vets and civic leaders in the 1920s, is looking to help veterans and volunteers meet up so that America’s former service members can get the help they’ve earned and volunteers can find opportunities to be helpful.
Many veterans have projects around the house that might be challenging for them to complete, especially if they were disabled during their service. So, DAV has built a new online platform to allow veterans, their caregivers, and friends of veterans to sign up and list projects where the veterans or caregivers could use some help.
Volunteers can peruse the list and find opportunities in their local areas. The listings include everything from clearing snow off of driveways to garage painting to meal prep and camaraderie. Chances are, someone needs something that you can help with. The tool is new many vets are still discovering it, so feel free to check back if you don’t see anything local immediately.
2. Help veterans voice their needs through social media and online platforms
As a matter of fact, if you know a veteran who could use some help, you can create a listing for them on the service, and the tool makes it easy to share the listing through Facebook, Twitter, or email.
Listings can cover any need that doesn’t require a specific license or certification for safety, and the pre-made general categories cover a lot of territory as well. These can include asking for help teaching less tech-savvy veterans learn to work their phones, helping mobility-challenged vets grocery shop or do meal prep, or even conducting veteran remembrance projects.
Student Conservation Association members assist with recovery after Hurricane Sandy.
(National Park Service)
3. Recruit your kids and other young people (and potentially get them scholarships)
Youth may be wasted on the young, but sometimes you can get those whipper-snappers to volunteer their time and youth to help others. As an added benefit, those helping out may be eligible for the potential rewards for altruism, like merit badges or college scholarships.
And volunteering on platforms like the DAV’s new platform makes it easy to track volunteer hours. DAV even offers scholarships for students who have volunteered to help veterans, whether the student found those opportunities on volunteerforveterans.org or elsewhere.
Darlene Neubert, Step Saver carts driver of Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, prepares to go out to WHASC’s parking areas to pick up patients. Around the military and veteran community, volunteers can make a big difference in terms of what medical care patients can receive.
(U.S. Air Force Daniel J. Calderón)
4. Donate your own time (and maybe your wheels)
Of course, the youth have some limitations, like the fact that many of them can’t drive. So, it may be necessary to donate your own time and potentially your car’s time, especially if you find a veteran who needs to get some help getting to or from their medical appointments.
DAV and Ford got a fleet of vans set up to help veterans who live relatively close to VA medical centers, but these vans need volunteer drivers. And vets do live outside of the areas these vans can service, so there’s a good chance that vets in your area need help getting to appointments or to places like the grocery store.
5. Share this video
The video at top, clearly, is all about helping people find out about opportunities to help veterans in their local areas, especially through DAV programs.
But as a savvy WATM reader, you’re likely the kind of person who already thinks about veterans a lot (and there’s a decent chance you’re a veteran yourself). So, help get the word out by sharing this video, and we can recruit more volunteers to help veterans in need.
With most veteran service organizations, the only way to get in the door is to show your military cred — if you didn’t serve, they don’t serve.
And that’s great for some. But for groups like Team Red, White Blue, the whole point is to bring veterans and the civilian community together.
If you didn’t serve, we’re here to serve, they say.
And that proved a crucial difference for Mark Benson, a former Army fire direction specialist who left the military in 2004 after serving a tour during the invasion of Iraq. It was that civilian-to-military connection that attracted Benson to Team RWB, and it’s a distinction that he believes helps former service members survive in the civilian world.
“Team RWB’s mission is also to help folks rejoin the civilian world. If you’re not engaged with civilians then how are you ever going to connect with the civilian world?” Benson said. “If you’re just hanging out with a bunch of veterans, then you just kind of have your own little microcosm.”
Living in the Los Angeles area is like living in a military veteran desert, he said, it’s hard to find folks who get what doing a combat deployment means. But through his work as a community liaison with Team RWB, Benson found that even those who didn’t serve have a lot of support to offer.
“Some of these non-veterans did experience things in their life where they had a hard time and they kind of can relate to a certain extent,” Benson said. “A lot of the people that are in the leadership in the LA chapter aren’t veterans, but they do have a story. And I think that’s important.”
Benson has been a community liaison for Team RWB for almost a year and helped run with the “stars and stripes” in this year’s cross-country Old Glory Relay. It was Benson’s first run and served as a poignant reminder of the service he and others gave of themselves and provided an outlet to show a new generation the meaning of patriotism and selflessness.
During a stretch of the relay, Benson and his team of runners passed by an elementary school where the kids were lined up outside reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Later in the run, the Old Glory Relay team paid their respects with the flag at a veterans memorial cemetery.
“It was kind of cool to start out with the young future leaders of the world and then go pay our respects to those who gave their lives to help those young leaders live their lives in peace,” Benson said.
With just over a year being part of Team Red, White Blue, Benson sees his involvement deepening and the influence of his organization growing. Particularly in a non-military town like Los Angeles, it’s groups like Team RWB that bring veterans and their community together and help narrow that military-civilian divide.
“LA is probably one of those areas that has a larger civilian-military divide,” Benson said. “But it seems like in our area at least, there’s definitely a lot more understanding.”
“The Fighting Season,” is a six-part documentary from actor and veteran supporter Ricky Schroder and DirecTV. But it’s not just another war documentary.
The series culls out many of the hard-to-explain details of deployment in Afghanistan — the frustrations and setbacks and small victories. And in so doing, it gets it right.
“The Fighting Season” drops the viewer into the war without injecting any pretense or agendas. The film captures the nuance of asymmetric war, how soldiers suss out the difference between friendly locals and insurgents. It shows how the bad guys build an ambush against a backdrop of relative calm.
The infantry platoon talks about how happy they are that the Afghan National Police didn’t accidentally shoot them when the American platoon approaches the Afghan base in the dark. An American security team is in open disagreement with their colonel about how to complete their mission. The American’s sense of progress takes a major step backward as an Afghan National Police sentry allows a vehicle with an armed passenger right through their checkpoint in Kabul.
And the documentary feels like Afghanistan. It’s gritty and unpolished. The soldiers smoke, dip, and cuss. They forget to wear eye protection.
It feels like being back on the FOB and at the outpost.
“The Fighting Season” will debut on Audience Network Tuesday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
In lieu of a traditional advertising campaign, DirecTV is pursuing a social media campaign using the hashtag #TheFightingSeason. For every post with the hashtag, they’ll donate $1 to Operation Gratitude.
Sgt. First Class Stephen B. Cribben, 33, of Simi Valley, California, died Nov. 4 in Logar Province, Afghanistan as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations. He was assigned to 2d Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colorado. The incident is under investigation.
A new study finds that consuming alcoholic beverages daily — even at low levels that meet U.S. guidelines for safe drinking — appears to be “detrimental” to health.
The researchers found that downing one to two drinks at least four days per week was linked to a 20 percent increase in the risk of premature death, compared with drinking three times a week or less. The finding was consistent across the group of more than 400,000 people studied. They ranged in age from 18 to 85, and many were veterans.
Dr. Sarah Hartz, a psychiatrist at the VA Eastern Kansas Health Care System, led the study. It appeared in November 2018 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical Experimental Research. She’s not too surprised by the findings, noting that two large international studies published this year reached similar conclusions.
“There has been mounting evidence that finds light drinking isn’t good for your health,” says Hartz, who is also an assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
(Photo by Alan Levine)
Study considered a range of demographic factors
The study results don’t necessarily prove cause and effect. People who tend to drink more may indeed end up having shorter lives — but not necessarily because of more alcohol consumption. It could be, for example, that those people have harder lives all around, with more stress, which takes a toll on health and longevity. But the researchers did control for a range of demographic factors and health diagnoses to try to tease out the direct effects of alcohol.
Another limitation of the study is that it relied on in-person self-reports of alcohol use. Researchers believe this method may lead to under-reporting, compared with anonymous surveys.
But relative to some past studies that found health benefits from light-to-moderate drinking, the new study looked at a much larger population. This allowed Hartz’s team to better distinguish between groups of drinkers, in terms of quantity and frequency of alcohol consumption.
“We’re seeing things that we didn’t before because we have access to such large data sets,” she says. “In the past, we couldn’t distinguish between these drinking amounts. The larger the data set, the more statistical power you have and the easier it is to make conclusions.”
(Photo by Heather Hammond)
94,000 VA outpatient records part of study
The researchers reviewed two data sets of self-reported alcohol use and mortality follow-up. One set included more than 340,000 people from the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). The other contained nearly 94,000 VA outpatient medical records. Health and survival were tracked between seven and 10 years.
According to the findings, people who drank four or more times a week, even when limiting it to only a drink or two, had about a 20 percent greater risk of dying during the study period.
As part of the study, Hartz and her team specifically evaluated deaths due to heart disease and cancer. For heart disease, they found a benefit to drinking, specifically that one to two drinks per day about four days a week seemed to protect against death from heart disease. But drinking every day eliminated those benefits. In terms of death from cancer, any drinking was “detrimental,” she says.
Current CDC guidelines call for alcohol to be used “in moderation — up to two drinks a day for men and up to one drink a day for women.” The guidelines don’t recommend that people who do not drink should start doing so for any reason.
Leaders from Greece and Macedonia say they will meet in Switzerland this week as they continue to seek a solution to a nearly three-decade-old name dispute.
A Greek government spokesman said on Jan. 22 that Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet his Macedonian counterpart, Zoran Zaev, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 25.
Athens says the use of the name Macedonia suggests Skopje has territorial claims to Greece’s northern region of Macedonia, which includes the port city of Thessaloniki.
Greece’s objections to Skopje’s use of the name Macedonia since the country’s independence in 1991 have complicated the bids by the ex-Yugoslav republic to join the Europe Union and NATO.
Authorities from both Greece and Macedonia have said that they want to settle the issue this year.
U.N.-mediated talks between the two countries’ chief negotiators in New York on Jan. 17 did not produce concrete results but some name suggestions were put forward for negotiation, according to media reports.
Greece wants Macedonia to change its name — adding a modifier like “New” or “North” — to clarify that it has no claim on the neighboring Greek province of Macedonia.
However, many Greeks disagree with such a solution.
For the last decade, Russian-made engines have been propelling US national security satellites into space.
While this has proven to be a good approach in the past, the time has come for a new breed of rocket engine that’s American-made.
On Feb. 29, the US Air Force — who runs the national security launch missions — announcedthat it will invest up to $738 million to put an end to America’s reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines.
RD-180 engines currently power the Atlas V rocket, which is owned and run by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) aerospace company.
And over the last 10 years, the Atlas V has helped ferry expensive and sensitive national security payloads into space for the Air Force.
But in recent years, as political tensions grew between the US and Russia, ULA’s use of the RD-180 engines has come under fire.
After the Crimean crisis in 2014,Congress called to permanently terminate the Air Force’s reliance on Russian-made rocket engines by building a program that would see functional, American-made rocket engines by the end of 2019.
Now is the right time
As part of its announcement on Feb. 29, the Air Force said it will award ULA up to $202 million, which will go toward the construction of ULA’s new Vulcan rocket — scheduled to launch for the first time in 2019.
Vulcan is expected to run on rocket engines designed and constructed by the American aerospace company Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
But Blue Origin isn’t the only company working on taking back America’s role as a leader in rocket propulsion systems.
In direct competition is the rocket propulsion manufacturer company Aerojet Rocketdyne, which just got a major vote of confidence.
The rest of that $738 million the Air Force is willing to invest — which equates to a whopping $536 million — was dedicated to Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Right now, Aerojet is constructing its AR1 rocket engine, which the company says could be used to propel the Atlas V, Vulcan, as well as other rockets currently under development.
While ULA has contracted with Blue Origin to build its BE-4 rocket engines for the Vulcan rocket, ULA also has a contract with Aerojet, as back up.
If Blue Origin’s efforts to build the BE-4 rocket engine falter, then ULA will turn to Aerojet’s AR1 to power the Vulcan.
ULA and Aerojet have until Dec. 31, 2019 to design, build, and test its new engines.
“While the RD-180 engine has been a remarkable success with more than 60 successful launches, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a release.