Growing evidence suggests that poor sleep habits harm our health, our relationships, and even our jobs. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, then it’s time to get back to the basics — military style.
Special operators, who are sent on the US military’s most dangerous assignments, must sleep when they can and often face extreme sleep deprivation to complete their missions. Whether you’re a new parent, have a stressful job, or are dealing with a difficult situation, there’s a lot you can learn from these elite operators.
To get a sense of how to sleep like a champ in the worst situations, we pored over sleep techniques for special operators and interviewed a former Navy SEAL who trains pro athletes, firefighters, and police tactical teams on how they maximize their performance.
“There’s not a harder job out there than being a mom or dad, working or stay at home,” said Adam La Reau, who spent 12 years as a Navy SEAL and is a cofounder of O2X Human Performance, a company that trains and advises groups from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Boston Fire Department. “There’s definitely a sleep debt that could occur over time.”
Small tweaks to your routine — what La Reau called “1% changes” in a March 19, 2019 phone interview — will make a huge difference to your sleep.
These are the basics of sleep boot camp. Know these before you nod off.
An airman catches some zzz’s on a C-17 Globemaster flight.
(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)
Have a presleep game plan.
“It’s like a warm-up routine you do for a work out,” La Reau said. He then ticked off a list of do-nots: eat within two hours before bed, stare at bright lights, or start playing “Fortnite.”
During this time, La Reau suggests activities that will calm your nerves, maybe reading, meditation, listening to music, or dimming the lights.
Definitely: turn off your electronics.
TV watchers, e-tablet readers, “Fortnight” gamers — “They’re getting crushed with light,” La Reau, whose O2X team includes a half-dozen sleep scientists. “And that’s just going to disrupt their circadian rhythm, it’s going to trick your body into thinking it’s day and your body should be up.”
La Reau recommends writing a daily list to help you mentally prepare for the next day.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
Put together a list or a reminder of what you need to do the next day.
We all have a lot going on, especially new parents. La Reau says you need to tackle that head-on.
In the hours before bed, put together a list or reminder of what you need to do the next day.
“Every time I go home, I have a list of what I need to do the next day … I feel like I’m prepared when I wake up in the morning,” La Reau said. “I know exactly what I’m going to do, and I sleep better at night for it.”
Aerobic exercise boosts the amount of rejuvenating deep sleep you receive, according to researchers at the John Hopkins Center for Sleep.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
Exercise is important, but do it well before bedtime.
Obviously. These are Navy SEALs.
The Navy SEALs’ Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training is notoriously exhausting.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
Sleep when you can.
One military sleep manual advises special operators to use the lulls in combat to nap. “Uninterrupted sleep for as little as 10 minutes may partially recover alertness,” the Naval Health Research Center report said.
A nap can boost your energy but don’t zonk out too close to your bedtime, La Reau said.
“Naps are really helpful, and any sleep is better than no sleep at all,” La Reau said. “When the baby takes a nap, that could be a good time for you to take a nap.”
Just think of it as a lull in combat.
Set yourself up for nighttime right.
(US Army photo by Scott T. Sturkol)
Get a high-quality mattress, black-out shades, and a white-noise machine.
“The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleeping and relaxation and recovery, it’s not to be used as an accessory or a work station,” La Reau said.
He suggests black-out shades, a white-noise machine, and a quality mattress.
“Sleeping on a high-quality mattress is the best investment you’ll ever make,” he said.
Light from devices such as your phone can delay the release of the hormone melatonin, which regulates when you’re tired.
(Photo illustration by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)
Put away that phone. Seriously.
It’s not just because of that blue light, either. It’s about stress. You want to use the two hours before bed to relax and unwind — not get yourself worried.
“If you’re going to check your email and you realize you have 10 emails — that doesn’t help you be very settled at night,” La Reau said.
Recognize when you’re exhausted and ask others to help you.
(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)
Sleep can be a team sport.
An exhausted parent needs to recognize it and call in reinforcements: friends, family, or their partner.
“I think there’s opportunities to have those open and honest conversations,” La Reau said. “Be like, ‘You know, I’ve got a huge meeting tomorrow, I’m on a long period of travel, I’ve got a lot going on,’ or someone’s just completely exhausted.”
“‘Let me take care of all issues that come up with the kids tonight.'”
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The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.
The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.
This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.
The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”
This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.
The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.
Vigorous physical training
The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.
McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.
“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”
Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.
Thanks to new legislation signed into law Saturday, anyone distressed with thoughts of suicide will be able by next fall to dial 988 to reach a national crisis line similar to 911 for mental health emergencies.
President Donald Trump on Saturday signed two bills into law to help prevent veterans suicide — the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act and the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act.
The latter establishes a new Department of Veterans Affairs grant program to promote collaboration with outside entities and enhance suicide prevention services for veterans and their families. It establishes new data requirements to better track potential causes of suicide and new hiring rules to bolster the VA’s mental health workforce.
The VA estimates that more than 20 veterans die by suicide every day, and of those 20, 14 have received no treatment or care from the VA, according to a statement by Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Jerry Moran, R-Kan. Moran and ranking member Jon Tester, D-Mont., sponsored the Improvement Act, which they say will improve outreach to veterans and their mental health care options in six major ways:
Bolstering VA’s mental health workforce to serve more veterans by offering scholarships to mental health professionals to work at Vet Centers and placing at least one suicide prevention coordinator in every VA hospital.
Improving rural veterans’ access to mental health care by increasing the number of locations at which veterans can access VA telehealth services.
Implementing a pilot program to provide veterans access to complementary and integrative health programs through animal therapy, agritherapy, sports and recreation therapy, art therapy, and post-traumatic growth.
Establishing a grant program that requires VA to better collaborate with community organizations across the country already serving veterans. This collaboration will result in earlier identification of veterans who are at risk of suicide and will provide the ability to intervene with preventative services.
Studying the impact of living at high altitude on veterans’ suicide risk and diagnostic biomarker research to identify depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and other conditions.
Holding the VA accountable for its mental health care and suicide prevention efforts by examining how the department manages its suicide prevention resources.
Introduction ceremony for the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act. Photo from US Sen. Jon Tester’s official website.
“People in distress and in need of timely care should face the fewest obstacles possible to get help,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said after the bill was signed. “The bill President Trump signed today will soon make it easier for those at risk to be quickly connected to a trained responder and will help save lives.”
The legislation is named for Navy SEAL Commander John Scott Hannon, who retired to Montana after 23 years of service and worked to help veterans find their own paths to recovery before he died by suicide Feb. 25, 2018.
“This is a very proud moment for my brother and our entire family,” said Kim Parrott, Hannon’s sister, on behalf of the Hannon family. “This law will provide veterans greater and earlier access to the mental health care they need by requiring the DOD and VA to work together to bridge the transition between military service and civilian life and conduct research in evidence-based treatments.”
Tester said the new law “combines the best ideas from veterans, veterans service organizations, the VA, and mental health care advocates to deliver innovative solutions that’ll help heal invisible wounds of war through increased access to care, alternate therapies and local treatment options.”
Senators also agreed to try and fast-track a package of nine House bills also related to veterans suicide. That package — dubbed the COMPACT Act — features a measure by House Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Mark Takano, D-Calif., to make VA mental health care services available to all veterans, regardless of their discharge status, according to Military Times. It also seeks to bolster support networks for at-risk veterans and requires VA officials to reach out to veterans every few years to ensure they are aware of benefits and health care options.
“It’s been a remarkable journey to get to this point, and I look forward to seeing the critical efforts laid out in this legislation to help our nation’s heroes get the right care at the right time for their mental health conditions,” said Matt Kuntz, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Montana, in a statement.
2020 is a different year and this is especially true as we have our Thanksgiving dinners lockdown style. We veterans are like family: we can pick on each other and laugh. Let an outsider pick on us and it’s fighting words. This year is like a deployment — we need to find the little things to laugh about. I hope everyone is staying safe and riding this “deployment” out with a smile. Here are some Thanksgiving memes to bring a chuckle as you are loading up on turkey and likely less fixings.
I hope those crayons go well with gravy.
You know trainees are licking their chops for this food, the DI is doing the same to scuff them up afterward.
Seems like a valid question.
Thanksgiving or not, the BCGs kill the mood.
The kids’ table
Aww, the Space Force.
Give me a break
That’s right, four days of no bs.
There goes all the fun on block leave.
Pass the mashed potatoes
Who doesn’t feel like this after stuffing themselves on a good holiday meal?
Should have skipped the seconds
No one is looking forward to that Monday morning run.
Just saying we do have different methods.
Get ‘er done
We all know this is going to be trouble.
We can’t help it
I may be a tad jealous of having a butler.
Three cheers for propane
What could go wrong?
We actually do like the Air Force, I swear
Just another day for the Air Force.
The military doesn’t do miracles.
It’s sad but true.
We hope you have an awesome, safe Thanksgiving, despite a global pandemic and travel restrictions. At least they can’t take your turkey.
Grant Broggi has been struggling right alongside many other small business owners due to the worldwide pandemic. But there’s probably one big difference: He’s a Marine.
Broggi opened The Strength Co. in 2017 after receiving his Starting Strength Coach Certification in 2016. He opened his second gym location in southern California in January 2019 and was getting ready to open his third location when COVID-19 hit the United States, forcing business closures due to quarantine mandates. “I always thought if it [a pandemic] came, it would be bad. I also knew I had a responsibility to my coaches and the members…I’ve faced harder things than this, but this is a pretty prolonged hard thing,” he explained.
Going through training within the Marine Corps definitely prepared Broggi for the pandemic. “In Marine Officer School the number one thing said is, ‘Make a decision, lieutenant!’ it might be wrong or right, but you have to make a decision,” he said. When the quarantine mandate came down, he didn’t simply close his doors and wait.
Broggi jumped into action.
“Any hesitation and you lost speed and tempo…I had a bunch of members but only 16 squat racks. I had made squat racks in the Marine Corps, so we started cranking those out and giving them out for free to members.” Broggi’s company also adapted and started offering online strength classes to keep their members engaged. But he wanted to do more and when he couldn’t get the equipment for them, he decided to make it himself.
Broggi’s gym then began manufacturing racks for members.
“I started buying steel and went to a welder. It was always very clear to me that it had to be done. The only way now it seems is to invest more and double down…People asked me why I was manufacturing, I would just say people need to keep lifting. I think it’s important for their survival and is good for them – especially now,” Broggi said. The Strength Co.’s overall mission is to use barbell training to help people get strong for life – mentally and physically.
He credits his team for their strength as well, saying that because everyone truly follows the concept of strength for health and survival – they’ve been able to adapt and keep going in the midst of the pandemic.
“Now more than ever, people are dealing with adversity daily in their own homes and cities. There’s unrest in American cities that just blows my mind,” he shared. With the country beginning to feel the negative mental health effects of continued quarantine and social distancing measures, Broggi sees the negative impact it’s having every day. He continued, “It can’t be underplayed on how people are feeling. They are not prepared for this… When we get deployed, it’s what we signed up for and what we trained for. People aren’t trained for this. I think people just needed leadership, they are scared. A lot of what we do is to try to bring positivity back,” Broggi said. Keeping people connected and engaged is difficult without the ability to open his gyms as the cases of COVID-19 continue to soar in California, but Broggi remains committed to finding ways to be innovative in helping people continue to train and build strength.
Sometimes Marines themselves need a little strength coaching, too. Even with the Marine Corps having one of the toughest and longest basic training around, he said he was still surprised when he took leadership of his first group of Marines in 2012.
“I got my first unit in the Marine Corps…I remember looking at them the first time thinking, ‘Are you kidding me?’ Of course, Marines are scrappy no matter what – so I started coaching them. We had less people going to med or falling out on hikes and we had a more prepared unit by the end of it. That really resonated with me, that this [building strength] is preparing you for life or an uncertain event,” he shared. When he and his unit deployed to Afghanistan, they didn’t stop training either.
They just got creative.
“We had weights on a wooden platform, it was very hodge-podge. We hung a big whiteboard and it had every Marine’s name on it. It’s not just about being competitive, it’s the achievement and hard work that matters,” Broggi said. When he returned stateside and went into the reserves, he knew he wanted to continue teaching and helping people develop their own strength.
Fast forward to now, owning two gyms during a global pandemic. Broggi continues to think and power forward like he was trained to as a Marine. Not only is the company making squat racks, benches, deadlift mats and all American leather weightlifting belts, but now they are having ‘Made in USA’ cast iron Olympic weights being manufactured in Wisconsin.
“I think we are all cut from the same cloth in terms of the driving factor. That’s why I stayed in the reserves, it made me feel fulfilled even while launching the gyms,” Broggi said. He explained that most members of the Armed Forces seek that deep feeling of purpose and fulfilment. It’s something he hopes to bring to each of his gym members.
One workout at a time.
To learn about the Starting Strength method and The Strength Co., check out their website.
The Acting Secretary of the Army announced proposed changes to eligibility criteria at Arlington National Cemetery. This begins the process for the federal government to prepare for the public rulemaking process which includes public feedback to the proposed changes.
The nation’s premiere military cemetery is at a critical crossroads in its history. Nearly all of the 22 million living armed forces members and veterans are eligible for less than 95,000 remaining burial spaces within these hallowed grounds.
A planned Southern Expansion project will add 37 acres of additional burial space for the nation’s veterans. Southern Expansion includes the area nearest the Air Force Memorial and a part of the former grounds of the Navy Annex. However, expansion alone will not keep Arlington National Cemetery open to new interments well into the future. Without changes to eligibility, Arlington National Cemetery will be full for first burials by the mid-2050s.
Columbarium Courts 10 and 11 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, July 20, 2018.
(Photo by Ms. Elizabeth Fraser)
“The hard reality is we are running out of space. To keep Arlington National Cemetery open and active well into the future means we have to make some tough decisions that restrict the eligibility,” said Executive Director of Army National Military Cemeteries and Arlington National Cemetery Karen Durham-Aguilera.
The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Secretary of the Army to establish revised eligibility criteria to keep the cemetery functioning as an active burial ground well into the future, defined as 150 years.
The Secretary established imperatives to recognize the individual’s sacriﬁce, service and impact to the nation’s security. The proposed eligibility criteria honors commitment to military service and is equitable across branches and eras of service. Additionally, any change should be easily understood, fair and consistent with Arlington National Cemetery’s mission.
Years of outreach have guided the decision-making process. Arlington National Cemetery and its stakeholders — military and veteran service organizations, military, government leaders, Congress, veterans, military service members and their family members — have been working this issue very closely.
Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.
“This has been a very lengthy and deliberate process that has been done in the public domain,” said former Superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery Katharine Kelley. “We have a Federal Advisory Committee at Arlington National Cemetery, an independent body mandated by Congress to look at very substantive issues related to the cemetery, and they have looked at the question of eligibility for many years,” said Kelley.
The cemetery has maintained an active and ongoing dialogue with military and veteran service organizations over two and a half years of thoughtful deliberation and public outreach. Additionally, the cemetery has conducted public surveys that garnered input and feedback from these important stakeholders, as well the active duty component who serves today.
The cemetery received more than 250,000 responses to these national surveys, and the results offered a compelling look at the opinions and attitudes of veterans, family members and active duty populations. Ninety-five percent of respondents want Arlington to not only remain open, but remain open and active well into the future.
“We’ve made extensive efforts to listen and gather input as part of this process, and that feedback we have received has been part of the Secretary’s deliberations and part of our discussions going forward,” said Kelley.
Now that the Secretary has established the proposed criteria, once cleared, the Department of the Army will publish a draft rule in the Federal Register for public comment, adjudicate public comments and publish the final rule. Federal rulemaking is a deliberative process and is expected to take a minimum of nine months.
“This is a lengthy process, but it’s another opportunity to have a say in what the future of Arlington National Cemetery should be for our nation,” said Durham-Aguilera.
An officer salutes as members of the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Guard take the casket of a Sailor killed during the Vietnam War to his gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Todd Frantom)
In addition to preserving 1,000 gravesites for current and future Medal of Honor recipients, the proposed revised eligibility criteria for those who honorably serve the nation are as follows:
For below-ground interment:
Killed in Action, to include repatriated remains of service members
Award recipients of the Silver Star and above who also served in combat
Recipients of the Purple Heart
Combat-related service deaths while conducting uniquely military activities
Former Prisoners of War
Presidents and Vice Presidents of the United States
Veterans with combat service who also served out of uniform as a government oﬃcial and made signiﬁcant contributions to the nation’s security at the highest levels of public service
For above-ground inurnment:
World War II-era veterans, to include legislated active duty designees
Retirees from the armed forces who are eligible to receive retired pay but are not otherwise eligible for interment
Veterans who have served a minimum of two years on active duty and who have served in combat
Veterans without combat service who also served out of uniform as a government oﬃcial and made signiﬁcant contributions to the nation’s security at the highest levels of public service
Eventual implementation of revised eligibility will not affect previously scheduled services at Arlington National Cemetery. Additionally, the proposed revisions will not affect veterans’ burial beneﬁts or veteran eligibility at Department of Veterans Affairs 137 national cemeteries and 115 state veterans cemeteries.
Arlington National Cemetery will continue to actively engage stakeholders in the important decisions impacting the future of the cemetery.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says he has directed the Pentagon’s watchdog to examine the circumstances of the Air Force’s failure to report the Texas church shooter’s domestic violence conviction to the FBI.
Mattis says we have to “find out what’s going on.”
Under Pentagon rules, convictions of military personnel in crimes like assault should be shared with the FBI for its National Criminal Information Center database. Devin Patrick Kelley, the gunman in the Nov. 5 attack, was convicted of assault against his wife and stepson in an Air Force court-martial in 2012.
The Taliban Five are not the reigning champions of Afghanistan’s Got Talent. They are five long-term prisoners held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In a controversial move, the Obama administration released the five in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in a deal struck by the Emir of Qatar in 2014. Bergdahl had been held by the Taliban for five years.
The Taliban Five were among those the Administration deemed too hot to transfer to prison on the U.S. mainland, but not hot enough to remain in Gitmo. This is our rundown on where they came from, and an update on where they are these days.
Mohammed Fazl: Deputy Defense Minister in Afghanistan under the Taliban and senior military commander in the North during the American invasion. He was outside of Mazar-e Sharif when the prisoners of war held there revolted against their Northern Alliance captors. The Obama administration’s review of his case in 2010 says he may have been responsible for CIA agent Mike Spann’s death at Mazar-e Sharif. Spann was the first American killed in Afghanistan. Fazl is also responsible for killing ethnic minorities in the country and is connected to the killing of Iranian diplomats.
Norullah Nori: Nori was with Mohammed Fazl at a fortress near Mazar-e Sharif in Northern Afghanistan and may have been involved in Spann’s death. He is also responsible for massacring Shia Afghans, something he admitted to while at Gitmo.
Abdul Haq Wasiq: Wasiq was the head of Taliban intelligence and is responsible for torturing and murdering Afghan civilians. He is connected to al-Qaeda.
Khirullah Khairkhwa: Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat province under Taliban rule and was in close contact with Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. It is believed he helped found the Taliban in 1994. He met with officials from Iran and was a friend of former Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Mohammed Nabi Omari: A Taliban official who helped smuggle weapons into Afghanistan after the American invasion, Omari is connected to both the Taliban and the Pakistan-based terror group the Haqqani Network. While in captivity, Omari was deemed a risk to his captors.
In 2014, the five were transferred to Qatar in exchange for Bergdahl and are being monitored by the Qatari and U.S. security services, according to the Omani Tribune. The Obama Administration demanded strict monitoring as part of the deal because the first time the U.S. released a Taliban POW, Abdul Qayyum Zakir (released by the Bush administration in 2007), he returned to Afghanistan to continue fighting Coalition forces, eventually becoming the overall Taliban military commander.
He has not yet received his reward of a U.S. military drone strike.
The five are also currently fighting a travel ban with the government of Qatar, who are under pressure from the United States to help keep the five men from posing a threat to Americans or American interests.
According to CNN, the men will remain in Qatar under house arrest, until long-term solutions can be made. Where they want to go is unclear, as neither Pakistan or Afghanistan will take them. Some believe Fazl would likely attempt to join ISIS if he leaves Qatar, while two others want to rejoin the insurgency in Afghanistan.
Taliban negotiators and other representatives of the Afghanistan-based insurgent group are based in Qatar, where their every need is met in wealth and splendor. Until the world figures out what to do with the five, they will remain in Doha’s lap of luxury, with other Taliban diplomats.
The new Star Wars movies are pretty exciting. It freaked out the entire media landscape in a way unseen since the days before cable TV ensured we all didn’t watch the same episode of Friends on Thursday night. As each trailer brings the new, Jar-Jar free reality of an impending new saga upon us, the inner child of someone who once read the Star Wars Encyclopedia cover to cover bubbles to the surface, realizing some of the tech seen in the new trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens would have been really useful on some real-world deployments.
Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) is a human scavenger on the desert planet of Jakku (that’s not the desert world of Luke Skywalker’s Tattooine). Jakku is home to thieves and other criminals and someone like Rey must survive by salvaging old parts and reselling them. Having protection from the elements in the harsh, dry, dusty environment (sound familiar?) of Jakku is a real plus.
Rey’s eyepro is stripped from an old Stormtrooper helmet, giving her the same tactical advantage Imperial Stormtroopers had on the battlefield. Though it limits her field of vision, it does help her see in the dark, and through smoke, sand, and glare.
BB-8 “Roller Ball” Droid
As an Astromech droid in the line of R2-d2, the BB-8 droid can deftly work with electronic devices, which would do efficient work with deactivating explosive devices. The new droid comes with a number of improvements on the R2 unit’s original design, including a head which appears to float on a 360-degree base, giving the robot vastly improved maneuverability for the rocky slopes of Afghan terrain.
Luke Skywalker’s Cybernetic Hand
Although in some sci-fi epics, cybernetic hands are more of a problem, in the Star Wars universe, cybernetic limb replacements allow for full range of motion, full use, and full sensitivity. These prosthetic replacements connect mechanical parts directly to the user’s brain via a neural net interface, covered by synthskin, to where no one would know the difference to look at it. This would be an excellent way to care for troops injured in Afghanistan, considering more than 1,000 lost limbs there. Good thing science already figured this one out. Thanks, DARPA.
What military unit wouldn’t want an invisible force field to protect them from harm while they destroyed their enemies. It may not be necessary in Afghanistan, but it sure would be nice to have. It’s much more necessary in the Star Wars Universe, where not having deflector shields looks like this:
Honorable Mention: Rey’s Staff
It may not actually help in combat in Afghanistan, but if you want to see how Rey’s skills with that staff weapon might look onscreen, check out this video of Daisy Ridley’s stunt double, Chloe Bruce, working with one like it:
Close enough for government work, either with the U.S. or the New Republic.
And finally, we want lightsabers. Please, please make it happen, DoD.
The Army is accelerating plans to build early prototype components for its futuristic Next-Generation Combat Vehicle for the 2030s and beyond – a lighter weight, deployable high-tech armored vehicle platform to control nearby robots, fire new weapons, and outmatch future Russian and Chinese tanks.
While the particular configuration and technology woven into the new combat vehicle is in the early phases of conceptual exploration, there is widespread consensus that the future armored platforms will be able to sense and destroy enemy vehicles and drones at much further ranges, make use of active protection systems, leverage emerging artificial intelligence and command and control systems, use more automation and – perhaps of greatest significance – fire lasers and the most advanced precision weaponry available.
Senior Army leaders tell Warrior Maven that the NGCV program – is being massively sped up. The acceleration of NGCV prototyping is strongly supported in the new 2019 budget request which seeks $119 million for the program.
The revved-up effort is likely to evolve into a family of vehicles to fight alongside or succeed the Abrams tank, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and Stryker among other armored platforms.
Development of the new armored vehicles is being pursued in alignment with the Army’s shifting modernization strategy, an effort which places a higher premium on more rapidly prototyping and testing platforms, weapons, and technologies; the idea is to access the best of the “realm of the possible” when it comes to weapons and technology and circumvent some of the bureaucratic challenges known to encumber traditional Army acquisition approaches.
“In the past, we would have spent many years and hours toiling away trying to write down requirements for the system and then fight over the fine points of that system. Then we pour a lot of money in shaping those requirements and then you become bound by them,” Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, Director, Program Analysis and Evaluation, G-8, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Ferarri explained that specific cross-functional team leads have begun to explore concepts, technologies and early possibilities for the NGCV effort to, among other things, look for common, cross-fleet technologies, integrate weapons and build in flexibility.
“We are taking time to hone in on what is possible by building prototypes, not the final system. You start tweaking the variables in the near term rather than waiting,” Ferarri said.
Engineering methods now being explored for the vehicle reflect a growing recognition that rapid development, while still measured and intended to ensure the highest quality, is necessary to keep pace with rapid global technological change. More specifically, adaptation of new technologies as they become available is increasingly taking on new urgency in light of current Russian and Chinese armored vehicle modernization efforts.
The Army’s 2015 Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites concerns about Russia’s use of advanced weapons and armored vehicles in Ukraine.
“The Russians are using their most advanced tanks in the Ukraine, including the T-72B3, T-80, and T-90. All of these tanks have 125mm guns capable of firing a wide range of ammunition, including antitank/anti-helicopter missiles with a six-kilometer range, and advanced armor protection, including active protection on some models,” the strategy writes.
In essence, early exploratory efforts seek to engineer a technical foundation sufficient to accommodate future technologies – and maximize weapons, sensors, and computers likely to be available for combat in the 2030s. This could include new sensors, sights, electronics, force tracking systems, a range of C4ISR technology and a special emphasis on computer processing, automation, and AI.
“We are taking a different approach, much more like silicon valley. We will start with assumptions, then we will prototype and experiment to validate and test the assumption or hypothesis,” Ferarri explained.
This rapid-prototyping Army approach exemplifies the strategic epicenter of the now emerging Army Futures Command.
“We are trying to have a command focused upon what the future might hold and driving technology and concepts. We are having sessions with outside experts and inside leadership,” Ferarri told Warrior Maven.
Ferarri specified that some of the early NGCV prototyping will look at ways to adapt or improve upon existing upgraded armored vehicle platforms. In fact, Army developers have indicated that the configuration of the new vehicles may resemble hull forms of an Abrams, Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, Bradley or even elements of a Stryker vehicle.
The Army’s “Far-Term” strategic emphasis, aimed at the 2031 to 2046 timeframe according to Army strategy papers, heavily depends upon an Armored Brigade Combat Team’s “ability to ability to deploy rapidly while improving the formation’s mobility, protection, and lethality. As the ABCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers and mortar indirect fire platforms.”
A fleet of similarly engineered vehicles would be designed to both allow for each vehicle to be tailored and distinct, while simultaneously improving maintenance, logistics, and sustainment by using many common parts; the objective would, of course, be to lower long-term life-cycle costs and extend the service life of the vehicles.
Army developers also explained that the service is doing some early developmental work assessing lighter weight armor and hull materials able to provide the same protection as the current vehicle at a much lower weight.
“We could look at some novel material such as lightweight tracks or a hull replacement,” Lt. Col. Justin Shell, the Army’s product manager for Abrams, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Weight, speed and mobility characteristics are deemed essential for a tank’s ability to support infantry units, mechanized armored units and dismounted soldiers by virtue of being able to cross bridges, rigorous terrain and other combat areas less accessible to existing 70-ton Abrams tanks.
“The vehicle needs to have physical adaptability and change and growth ability for alterations as one of its premises – so it can learn things about energy and power and armor. The Army really needs to think about growth as an operational need,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, Training and Doctrine Command told Warrior Maven in an interview.
Abrams robotic wingmen
Army senior developers also tell Warrior Maven that it is conceivable future armored vehicles may indeed include an unmanned turret as well as various level of autonomy, teleoperation and manned-unmanned teaming.
Accordingly, future NGCV vehicles will be designed to incorporate advanced digital signal processing and machine-learning, such as AI technologies.
Computer algorithms enabling autonomous combat functions are progressing at an alarming rate, inspiring Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers to explore the prospect of future manned-unmanned collaboration with tank platforms. It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wingman” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transport ammunition or perform long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.
In fact, Army modernization strategy documents specifically cite autonomy enabled platforms, speed, and maneuverability as fundamental to future armored warfare.
“As the armored BCT fields new systems, it will replace main battle tanks, howitzers, and mortar indirect fire platforms. Far-term initiatives aim to solve the absence of the armored BCT’s ability to deploy rapidly. The Army assesses the feasibility and application of autonomous or semi-autonomous sub-systems, manned and unmanned teaming, and autonomy enabled combat platforms,” the Army documents read.
Levels of autonomy for air vehicles, in particular, have progressed to a very advanced degree – in part because there are, quite naturally, fewer obstacles in the air precluding autonomous navigation.
GPS enabled way-point technology already facilitates both ground and air autonomous movement; however, developing algorithms for land-based autonomous navigation is by all means far more challenging given that a vehicle will need to quickly adjust to a fast-moving, dynamic, and quickly-changing ground combat environment.
“Ground combat autonomy is the hardest level of autonomy possible – you are talking about a terrain that is shifting all the time,” Ferarri told Warrior Maven.
Weapons for the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle
The Army canceled its plans for a future Ground Combat Vehicle, largely for budget reasons, however, some of its innovations, technologies, and weapons systems are informing this effort to engineer a new tank for the future.
Design specs, engineering, weapons and other innovations envisioned for the GCV are now being analyzed for application in future armored vehicles. In particular, the new tank may use an emerging 30mm cannon weapon planned for the GCV – the ATK-built XM813.
The XM813, according to Army developmental papers, is able to fire both armor-piercing rounds and air-burst rounds which detonate in the air in proximity to an enemy in defilade, hiding behind a rock or tree, for example.
The computer-controlled and electronically driven weapon can fire up to 200 rounds per minute and uses a dual-recoil firing system and a semi-closed bolt firing mode, Army information says.
Greater automation, when it comes to sensor data organization, ammunition loading, and even some weapons functions, can reduce the hardware footprint, lower weight, and improve crew survivability.
The new vehicles will emerge after the Army first fields its M1A2 SEP v4 upgraded Abrams tank in the 2020s, a more lethal Abrams variant with 3rd Generation Forward Looking Infrared Sensors for greater targeting range and resolution and more lethal Advanced Multi-Purpose, or AMP ammunition combining many rounds into a single 120mm round.’
The AMP round will replace four tank rounds now in use. The first two are the M830, High Explosive Anti-Tank, or HEAT, round and the M830A1, Multi-Purpose Anti -Tank, or MPAT, round.
Another possibility now receiving some attention, Army senior leaders say, is that the NGCV may implement a lightweight 120mm cannon previously developed for one of the Manned-Ground Vehicles developed for the now-canceled Future Combat Systems program. The vehicle, called the Mounted Combat System (MCS), was built with a two-ton 120mm cannon roughly one-half the weight of the current Abrams cannon.
There is a certain irony built into what was the Future Combat Systems effort because, while it was canceled in part for not being survivable enough, many of its concepts and technologies continue to both inform and integrate with modern Army platforms.
The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds.
The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
The Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.
“Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”
Special, new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.
Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.
The headlines in Georgia read that the country will one day join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – whether Russia likes it or not. The man who made the declaration is NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. The Secretary was visiting Georgia at the end of a set of joint NATO-Georgian military exercises.
No firm date has been set but the Kremlin, long opposed to Georgia’s membership in the anti-Russian alliance, can’t be pleased with the idea of another NATO country along its border.
From the 2011 Film “Five Days of War,” about the Georgian side of the 2008 Russia-Georgia War.
The Russians have occupied part of internationally-recognized Georgian territory since capturing it in 2008. The aftermath of that conflict saw Russian occupation of the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russian recognition of those territories as sovereign states, and a permanent Russian military presence in both areas. Thousands of Russian troops are stationed there to this day. Georgia still considers those areas to belong to Georgia.
That same year, the NATO membership decided Georgia would definitely become a NATO member one day. Secretary Stoltenberg reaffirmed the commitment of NATO allies to Georgia, saying there was nothing Russia can do to prevent the move.
“We are not accepting that Russia or any other power can decide what members can do,” he said. “No country has the right to influence NATO’s open-door policy.”
American and Georgian troops during military exercises in the Caucasian country.
Georgia has been in what Russia considers its sphere of influence since the days of the Tsar, which can put the country in a precarious situation so close to its powerful neighbor. Ukraine has also been trying to escape Russian influence since the fall of the Soviet Union and has tried to do so by moving closer to joining the NATO alliance. Russia considered Ukraine’s membership in NATO to be a direct national security threat, which led to the unofficial invasion of Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.
Russia used similar tactics in the lead-up to its 2008 invasion of Georgia, including the use of Russian-backed insurgents, Russian-made weapons, and even the first use of concurrent cyberattacks during a conventional armed conflict. If the Russian Army made such an aggressive move on Georgia as a NATO member, the attack would trigger NATO’s Article 5 – that an attack on one member country is an attack on all countries.
American troops with the NATO flag in Afghanistan.
The first and only time Article 5 was automatically invoked, the alliance took immediate action. Less than a day after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, struck the United States, NATO member countries informed the United Nations they were invoking Article 5 and that each country would take an immediate eight steps to assist the United States. While provoking the alliance isn’t Russia’s style, the addition of Georgia could still lead to a war.
On three separate occasions, the collective defense agreement came to member state Turkey’s aid at the request of Turkish officials. In 1991, 2003, and again in 2012, the NATO alliance responded with allied troops, weapons, and equipment to the call for aid from a NATO ally. A buildup of allied troops near the border with the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia would surely be met with a buildup of Russian troops on the opposite side.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev and President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin has not specifically responded to the recent statements made by Jens Stoltenberg, but most recently, Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev warned of “a terrible conflict” brewing just by making such a move. He also questioned the wisdom of provoking such a conflict.
On the most basic level, havening means hugging or caressing yourself, sometimes while voicing positive affirmations. On a more technical level, it’s using self-soothing to induce “amygdala depotentiation,” which essentially means reining in and retraining the emotional part of the brain that kicks us into fight-or-flight mode and causes anxiety. There’s not denying it’s touchy-feely stuff. But it’s got the backing of real science and enthusiastic experts. Here’s why.
The Brain on Anxiety
To get what havening is and how it works, it helps to first understand what’s happening in the brain when we experience anxiety. Because whatever the root cause of anxiety — whether a phobia, childhood trauma, generalized anxiety disorder, or fear of contracting COVID-19 — scientists theorize that what’s going on in our heads is essentially the same.
Each of us has an “emotional brain” and a “thinking brain.” The emotional brain, ruled by the amygdala, is primal; it exists to gauge threats and react quickly to avoid danger. “The amygdala is designed to keep us safe,” says Kate Truitt, Ph.D., a psychologist and certified practitioner of the Havening Techniques. “It’s not very bright — it doesn’t think; it just operates on ‘safe’ or ‘not safe.'” When sensing a real threat, the amygdala activates the sympathetic nervous system, better known as fight-or-flight mode. Whenever we’re in this state, we feel unnerved and anxious.
Fortunately, the thinking brain also kicks into gear upon perceiving a threat, albeit four times more slowly than the emotional brain, says Truitt. It introduces reason, allowing us to react more intelligently and appropriately, which might mean not reacting at all.
“We’ve all experienced some version of walking down the road, seeing a hose or a stick, and doing a stutter step,” Truitt says. “The brain is saying ‘is that a snake?’ because we are biologically designed to look for snakes because we know they can kill us. In a healthy system, the amygdala goes, oh, that’s just a stick, and the thinking brain says, cool; we’re OK then.”
Trouble is, many people’s brains are not so healthy, especially right now. In that case — as experts believe is the case for people with generalized anxiety, phobias, or post-traumatic stress disorder — the amygdala hijacks the thinking brain and runs the show, trapping us fight-or-flight mode, even when there’s no threat present. The result: persistent, sometimes crippling, anxiety.
“Attacking or running is what we do acutely in extreme situations, but otherwise, we’re not supposed to be in sympathetic mode,” says Julie Holland, M.D., a psychiatrist in New York City. “We should be in our parasympathetic nervous system, where we stay calm, present, and open to connection. This is the only time where the body rests, digests [information], and repairs, so parasympathetic is where we want to be.” Many of us, though, are stuck in sympathetic.
Interestingly, as Holland writes in her new book Good Chemistry (Harper Wave, 2020), feeling disconnected, isolated, or lonely also activates the sympathetic nervous system. “Humans have to be social to survive, so anytime we are cut off from society or feel isolated, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode,” she says, adding that this response traces back to our early ancestors. “On the savannah, if you strayed from the tribe, you wouldn’t get help building shelter, gathering food, or finding mates. Isolation, literally, meant death. We still carry that genetic code today—we are hardwired to feel unsafe when we are alone.”
Holland says feelings of isolation and loneliness were already super common pre-pandemic, thanks to our increasingly digitized world. But now that COVID-19 has closed schools, canceled social events, and forced us to work from home, these emotions — and therefore anxiety — have become rampant.
How Havening Helps
Havening (more specifically, the trademarked Havening Techniques) was developed by neuroscientist Ronald Ruden, Ph.D., about a decade ago as trauma therapy. It uses gentle touch of the upper arms, hands, and face, along with constructive messaging, to ‘depotentiate’ or rewire unhealthy neural pathways that have developed due to stressful experiences, putting healthier responses and emotions in their place.
But havening is also a powerful stress-busting technique that anyone can learn and practice at home on themselves or their kids. You basically cross your arms, place your palms on your shoulders, stroke your arms downward to your elbows, and repeat. While doing this, you can recite a simple mantra like “calm and relaxed” over and over, sing a song, or, as Truitt suggests, play a distracting brain game such as thinking of band names starting with letters A through Z. (Check out the official Havening Techniques website for lots of videos demonstrating applying havening to specific situations.)
On a neurological level, havening helps shift the brain into parasympathetic mode. It does this in part by boosting oxytocin, a hormone that is normally conjured up by human touch and bonding — something many of us are sorely lacking these days.
“Havening harnesses the brain’s ability to heal and build itself,” Truitt says. “Use this technique whenever your nervous system starts to feel dysregulated. As soon as you notice a stressful stimulus, such as text messages coming in or CNN popping up on your phone, do havening to bring the system back to a state of calm.” The more you do this, she notes, the more resilient your amygdala becomes and the more easily you can access this calming state in the future.
Havening can also help if you’re anxious about something specific, such as delivering a work presentation on Zoom. “Sit down and do self-havening and ask yourself how you would like to feel,” Truitt says. “If you’d like to feel confident, reflect on a time when you felt confident. Because you have that memory, you can imagine going into the speech with that confident energy instead.”
Parents can also use havening with their kids when they get anxious. “Parents are the nervous system for their children,” Truitt says. “When they regulate their nervous system, the child starts to regulate right along with them. For kids, we teach the ‘don’t worry massage.’ Kids apply touch and the whole family sings songs and applies touch together, which brings the family together.”