Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again - We Are The Mighty
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Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

The moment Otto Catalan had waited almost two decades for had finally arrived. Sitting in a small office, surrounded by his doctors and other medical staff, the blind U.S. Navy Veteran could only hope for one thing: to see the face of his teenage son for the first time.


“I see a lot of flashes, and they’re getting brighter,” he said. “Wow. It’s amazing.”

He turned his head to the right and saw bright flashes of light reflecting off the white coat of Miami VA Chief of Ophthalmology Dr. Ninel Gregori. When he turned to the left to talk with his son, he paused and began to cry. Gregori hugged him.

“Thank you very much, guys,” he said. “I’ll work hard, so I can see. It’s been 19 years, and I have been able to see my son. Thank you. Thank you so much.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
VA photo

Catalan is keeping true to his word and continuing to work hard to learn how to use his new Argus® II prosthesis or “bionic eye.” Even though he struggled for years to come to terms with the loss of his sight, Catalan now feels optimistic about moving forward and beginning a new life.

“I’m learning something new everyday,” he said. “This prosthetic will help me be more successful in life. It’s already helping me be more mobile at home, and it’s going to make a big difference for me at work.”

Catalan’s struggles with vision loss began in 1989, when he was serving as a ship serviceman in the U.S. Navy. While he was on guard duty aboard a ship in the middle of the Persian Gulf, everything suddenly went dark.

“It felt like I was walking in the dark,” he said. “I told my superior officer, and he sent me to a doctor, but they couldn’t find out what it was. We went back to Virginia. They did extensive tests, and that’s when they found out I had retinitis pigmentosa.”

Catalan was scared when he heard the diagnosis. He never heard of retinitis pigmentosa and didn’t know what it would mean for his future. He was immediately removed from the ship and sent to rehab, and would eventually be medically separated from the military.

What is retinitis pigmentosa?

“Retinitis pigmentosa is one of the most common inherited diseases we see in ophthalmology,” Gregori said. “For people with this condition and certainly in Mr. Catalan’s case, the retina becomes very thin, and the photoreceptors, which convert light into electrical signals, gradually die off over time. Initially, peripheral vision, or the side vision, goes away, and then finally the central vision disappears.”

In 2014, the National Eye Institute generally estimated that the rare disorder affected roughly 1 in 4,000 people in the U.S. and worldwide.** This genetic condition results from a mutation in more than 100 genes and can present in individuals without family history of the disorder. It usually develops gradually either early or later in life and eventually causes significant visual impairment, according to Gregori. In severe cases, the disorder can cause a complete loss of vision, forcing people like Catalan to find ways to cope and emotionally adjust to life with the condition.

Catalan’s eyesight continued to deteriorate. Still needing to make money, he took a job as a cook. As his conditioned worsened, he struggled to tell if food was cooked and even burned himself multiple times. It was at this point that Catalan knew he needed help, so he went to the Northport VA Medical Center in New York.

“My doctors told me I needed to start preparing because I was going to be permanently blind soon,” he said. “After I heard that, I remember crying all the time. I couldn’t even hear someone say the word ‘see’ because I would burst into tears.”

The Northport VAMC referred Catalan to the VA Connecticut Healthcare System to participate in its Eastern Blind Rehabilitation Service’s three-month training program. While sitting through the training sessions and listening to the instructors and other Veterans, Catalan unexpectedly learned a valuable life lesson.

“Once I met other blind Vietnam Veterans at VA Connecticut and saw how well they were dealing with their situation, I never cried about my own condition again,” he said.

Throughout the program, he also learned to perform everyday tasks, such as shave his face, eat with utensils, identify clothing and walk with a cane. He stayed an additional two months to learn to use a computer and screen-reader technology.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
VA photo

Moving to Florida

In 2005, Catalan heard about ophthalmology research being conducted at the Miami VA Healthcare System and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which serves as the ophthalmology department of the University of Miami Health System. He moved his family to Cutler Bay, Florida and transferred his care to the then Miami VA Medical Center—where he worked with Roberta Goldstein, now retired Miami VA visual impairment services team coordinator.

“Roberta was great,” he said. “She referred me to the prosthetics department at the West Palm Beach VAMC, so I could get equipment to help me go back to work. She’s the best.”

Shortly after receiving his prosthetics equipment, Catalan landed a job as a resource specialist with Marriott Hotels—where he still works today. He says Marriott has been accommodating to his condition, and he hopes to be considered for promotion one day.

In March 2015, he received a phone call that would help his chances of getting that long-awaited promotion and also change his life.

One of my hopes was to see my son’s face for the first time

When he heard about the “bionic eye,” Catalan requested an evaluation for the device at the Miami VA Eye Clinic. With the help of the low vision Miami VA team, Gregori selected him for the Argus II® screening evaluation and personally called his home to ask if he was still interested.

“He was a perfect candidate,” Gregori said. “His personality was extremely important. With artificial vision, the patient must have the patience to learn to interpret the lights and images he or she is seeing. Learning to use the Argus II is like learning a new language, so individuals with both an optimistic personality and a strong willingness to work hard are the best candidates for the technology.”

Dr. Gregori is the Miami VA chief of ophthalmology and an associate professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. In 2004, she was part of the surgical team that implanted the first Argus II® retinal prosthesis in a Florida patient, a non-Veteran from Tampa. She was eager to bring the new technology to the Miami VA, where she proudly serves South Florida Veterans and has lead the ophthalmology department for the past 10 years.

“Miami VA Medical Center Director Paul Russo and Chief of Surgery Dr. Seth Spector both enthusiastically welcomed the idea of making the bionic eye available to our Veterans. It would not have been possible without their support,” Gregori said.

It felt like I had just given somebody the best Christmas present

Catalan underwent surgery to implant the Argus® II, a new prosthesis approved in 2013 by the Food and Drug Administration to treat people with end-stages of retinitis pigmentosa, at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute on Nov. 24, 2015. Catalan’s bionic eye was activated Dec. 11 by the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute’s biomedical engineers, under the supervision of Miami VA’s Dr. Ninel Gregori. Even though Gregori and her team had already been through the experience of turning on the prosthesis with a previous patient, Catalan’s moment was emotional nonetheless.

“When it was turned on, Mr. Catalan started crying, and it brought tears to my eyes,” Gregori said. “It felt like I just gave somebody the best Christmas present I had ever given to anybody in my life. That’s why I went into ophthalmology.”

“After 19 years, the first thing I saw was my son’s face,” Catalan said. “I could also see Dr. Gregori, and when we walked around the hall, I was able to tell where the door and window frames were for the first time. That might not mean a lot to other people, but it meant so much to me.”

Catalan’s progress

Catalan continues to work with the Miami VA Blind Rehabilitation Team, lead by optometrist Dr. Kasey Zann, to learn how to use the Argus II® in his everyday life. Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist Linh Pham visits his home and trains him to use the device in his home environment and in public. He also works regularly with Gregori and her team at the Miami VA Eye Clinic.

“The Miami VA Healthcare System has amazing low vision and blind rehabilitation resources for Veterans. It is an ideal setting for rehabilitation after Argus II implantation,” Gregori said.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
VA photo

At home, Catalan now sees objects and walls, and can even see lights and motion on his television for the first time. His next goal is to learn to use his new computer at work. After his training, he will be able to see shapes, the different windows and letters on his computer screen.

During an outing with his family in early 2015, Catalan was surprised to see a sight he had not seen in years.

“On New Year’s Eve, I was able to see the fireworks outside for the first time in 19 years. My mouth stayed open for a while,” he said. “Now, when I’m walking on the grass, I can see the lines where the grass is versus where the sidewalk is. The fact that I’m walking outside and can see the lights makes it all worth it.”

About the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System

The Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System—made by Second Sight Medical Products, Inc.—is an artificial retina, or bionic eye, that converts images into light and uses a miniature video camera that is mounted on a pair of glasses, said Gregori. Once the images are converted, they are wirelessly transmitted to a surgically implanted prosthesis located in the patient’s eye. The implant then stimulates the retina to produce an image that is sent to the brain for interpretation.

According to the Second Sight website, more than 200 patients worldwide have now received the prosthesis. To learn more about the Argus II, visit the Second Sight Medical Products Inc. website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A drunk guy stole an armored carrier then promptly crashed it

A drunken man was detained after stealing an armored personnel carrier and crashing it into a supermarket in northwestern Russia on Jan. 10, police said.


Police said in a statement carried by Russian news agencies that the man stole the tank-like vehicle on caterpillar tracks from a military driving school in the city of Apatity in the far northern region of Murmansk.

Related: That time a drunk Richard Nixon tried to nuke North Korea

The school teaches driving skills to future army conscripts, but the vehicle had been stripped of weapons, police said.

On a joyride through Apatity, the man driving the armored vehicle badly damaged a parked car before careening through the supermarket window, police said.

After the crash, the man climbed out of the vehicle’s hatch and walked into the aisles of the supermarket before being detained, the police said.

After detaining the man, officials said police determined that he was drunk.

Local news website Hibinform reported that the man also attempted to steal a bottle of wine from the supermarket just before his arrest.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia claims accused spies were on a routine trip

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected accusations made by the Dutch authorities against suspected Russian spies.

In early October 2018, authorities in Netherlands said that four agents of Russian GRU military intelligence tried and failed to hack into the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), whose headquarters are in The Hague.

Commenting on the Dutch allegations, Lavrov said the four Russians were on a “routine” trip to The Hague in April 2018 when they were arrested and deported by Dutch authorities.


“There was nothing secret in the Russian specialists’ trip to The Hague in April,” Lavrov said at a briefing in Moscow on Oct. 8, 2018, after talks with Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

“They weren’t hiding from anyone when they arrived at the airport, settled in a hotel and visited our embassy. They were detained without any explanations, denied a chance to contact our embassy in the Netherlands and then asked to leave. It all looked like a misunderstanding.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it handed a note on Oct. 8, 2018, to the Netherlands’ ambassador protesting the detention and expulsion of Russian citizens, calling the incident a provocation.

Dutch defense officials released photos and a timeline of the GRU agents’ botched attempt to break into the OPCW.

The OPCW was investigating a nerve-agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England; Britain has blamed it on the Russian government. Moscow vehemently denies involvement.

Featured image: Four Russian citizens who allegedly attempted to hack the OPCW in The Hague are seen in this handout picture released on Oct. 4, 2018.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

These are the crazy Air Force pilots who fly into hurricanes

When the Wild Weasels were formed, one of the candidates was said to have remarked of the mission: “You’ve got to be shitting me!”


Well, if you think pilots flying up against surface-to-air missile sights define crazy, you haven’t heard of the Hurricane Hunters – and these folks have been busy.

With Hurricane Harvey set to hit the coast of Texas with at least two major military bases in the bullseye, tracking its movement has been important. One of the ways the data is gathered is by flying into the storm to help determine how strong the storm is, and where it may be headed.

This is often done by the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, attached to the 403rd Wing, based out of Keesler Air Force Base near Biloxi Mississippi.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

According to a release by the 403rd Wing, WC-130J Super Hercules weather reconnaissance planes have already made 10 flights into Hurricane Harvey, presently a Category 2 storm slated to reach Category 3 when it makes landfall in Texas.

Each plane has a crew of five: a pilot, co-pilot, a weather reconnaissance officer, a navigator, and a loadmaster.

During the flights through Harvey, the Airmen made dozens of passes through the eye of the hurricane, braving the strong winds in the center of the storm. On each pass, a device known as a “dropsonde” is released, providing data on dew point, pressure, temperature, and of course, wind speed and direction.

That data is sent out immediately to the National Hurricane Center.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Master Sgt. Erik Marcus, 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron loadmaster, loads a dropsonde into a dropsonde cannon during a flight into Hurricane Harvey Aug. 24, 2017 out of Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Heather Heiney)

“As the Hurricane Hunters, our data is time sensitive and critical for the [National Hurricane Center],” Maj. Kendall Dunn, 53rd WRS pilot explained. “This storm is rapidly intensifying.”

You’d think these pilots would be full-time Air Force, but you’d be way off. These gutsy crews who brave the wrath of nature are with the Air Force Reserve – meaning that many of them are taking time off from their regular lives to serve their country. You can see them in action monitoring Hurricane Harvey in the video below.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

5 of the worst weapons projects the US military has in the works

The US military, together with its industry partners, makes some of the finest weapons in the world, but the programs that produce them rarely run as smoothly as intended.

Some of the most problematic of the military’s recent projects belong to the US Navy.

The big problem for the Navy is that the service, just as other branches of the military have in the past, has rushed to develop platforms before the required technologies were ready, Bryan Clark, a naval affairs expert, told Business Insider, pointing to the new Zumwalt-class destroyers and the Ford-class supercarriers.

“We still have technology that is not fully mature even though the ship has been delivered,” he said, advising the service to slow things down and mature the technology rather than build an entire platform around an idea.


This issue is not unique to the Navy though. The Army is rethinking innovation at the newly-established Army Futures Command in the wake of past development failures, such as the Comanche helicopter or Crusader self-propelled artillery.

Here are 5 troubled projects the US military is desperately trying to get sorted right now.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

Three F-35Cs.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

1. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter

“The F-35 program and cost is out of control,” then-President-elect Donald Trump tweeted on Dec. 12, 2016.

US Air Force Lt. Gen Chris Bogdan briefed Trump on the F-35 program a week later. The presentation highlighted the program’s “troubled past,” which includes premature production problems, ballooning costs, delivery delays, and numerous technical challenges, among other issues, The Drive reported.

The Air Force presentation concluded that it is “difficult to overcome a troubled past, but [the] program is improving.” Still problems persist.

The Pentagon’s latest operational testing and evaluation assessment noted continued reliability and availability issues. And, according to Bloomberg, the lifetime program cost for the world’s most expensive weapons program has grown to id=”listicle-2638634792″.196 trillion.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan has colorfully described the F-35 program as “f—ed up.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000)

(US Navy)

2. Zumwalt-class destroyer

The US Navy has invested two decades and tens of billions of dollars into the development of these advanced warships, which lack working guns and a clear mission.

The two 155mm guns of the Advanced Gun System are incredibly expensive to fire. One Long-Range Land Attack Projectile costs around id=”listicle-2638634792″ million. Procurement was shut down two years ago, leaving the Zumwalt without any ammunition.

The guns never provided the desired range anyway, so now the Navy is talking about possibly scrapping the guns entirely.

The Zumwalt has also struggled with engine and electrical problems, as well as a potential loss of stealth capabilities due to the use of cost-saving bolt-on components.

While the Navy had planned to field more than 30 Zumwalt-class destroyers, the service now plans for only three.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

The USS Independence, a Littoral Combat Ship.

(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon Renfroe)

3. Littoral Combat Ship

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), sometimes referred to as the “Little Crappy Ship,” has suffered from uncontrolled cost overruns, delivery delays, and various mechanical problems.

The Navy has pumped around billion over roughly 20 years into this project, which was started to create an inexpensive vessel that was small, fast, and capable of handling a variety of missions in coastal waterways.

The LCS was specifically designed to carry out anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasure, and surface warfare missions in contested littoral waters, but there have been a lot of problems with the modular mission packages designed to be loaded aboard.

There are also concerns that the ships are not survivable in high-intensity conflict and that they are not sufficiently armed to perform their missions, according to the most recent Department of Defense operational testing and evaluation assessment.

While the Navy initially aimed to build a fleet of 55 ships, the LCS order has since been reduced to 35. The Navy, which has struggled to deploy the ships it already has, is currently looking at new missile frigates to replace the LCS.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

USS Gerald R. Ford

(United States Navy)

4. Ford-class aircraft carrier

The billion USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier continues to suffer from a variety of problems even as the Navy moves forward with plans to build more Ford-class supercarriers.

The Ford was expected to be delivered to the fleet this summer, but delivery has been delayed until at least October due to persistent problems with the weapons elevators and the propulsion system.

This is not the first time the powerful ship has been delayed.

This massive flattop has also had problems with the basic requirements of an aircraft carrier, launching and recovering planes. The most recent Department of Defense assessment called attention to the “poor or unknown reliability of systems critical for flight operations.”

President Donald Trump has repeatedly criticized, occasionally at inappropriate times, the new electromagnetic catapults, which still don’t work correctly. Just as he was critical of the rising F-35 costs, Trump has also frequently slammed the ballooning costs of the Ford-class carriers.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

An artist rendering of a railgun aboard a US Navy surface vessel.

(US Navy)

5. Electromagnetic naval railgun

The problem with the railgun was that the Navy began pouring time and money into research and development without really considering whether or not the weapon was a worthwhile investment militarily.

The railgun, which the Navy has invested more than a decade and over 0 million in developing, suffers from rate of fire limitations, significant energy demands, and other troubling technological problems that make this weapon a poor replacement for existing guns or missile systems.

“It’s not useful military technology,” Clark previously told Business Insider. “You are better off spending that money on missiles and vertical launch system cells than you are on a railgun.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson described the railgun project as a lesson in what not to do during a talk earlier this year. When asked about the program, the best answer he could offer was: “It’s going somewhere, hopefully.”

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

Articles

11 Things new soldiers complain about during basic training

Through the use of insults, strict discipline, sleep deprivation, and controlled explosions, Army drill sergeants turn recent high school grads and civilians looking for a new job into trained soldiers ready to serve in America’s wars. This transition is, of course, painful — by design.


Here are 11 things trainees will complain about before learning to suck it up as an Army soldier:

“I’m tired. I didn’t get enough sleep last night.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: US Army

New U.S. Army soldiers are expected to operate on little sleep. While in the barracks, recruits’ sleep is regularly interrupted by drill sergeants conducting inspections, punishing infractions, getting head counts, or waking soldiers for the heck of it. The party continues in the field where soldiers sleep in bags instead of beds.

“This food is terrible.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: US Army Sgt. 1st Class Mark Bell

Military food is rarely praised, and basic training food is even worse. Eating periods are very short and are supervised by drill sergeants who pounce onto soldiers who reach for fattening or sugary foods.

“You mean I have to pay for this terrible haircut?”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

Soldiers get their heads buzzed, run in tennis shoes, and shave every day — but what most people don’t know is the trainees foot these bills. The shoes, haircuts, toothpaste, and other gear and services are all paid for by the trainees through Eagle Cash cards, a sort of military prepaid debit card. Most of these costs are defrayed by a uniform allowance that soldiers receive once a year, but the surprise bills still create complaints.

“There’s ugly, then there’s Army Ugly. We are all Army Ugly.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: US Department of Defense by Air Force Tech Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth

No matter how handsome you are, it’s hard to rock the haircuts, glasses, and tan lines the Army gives you. Males have to have their heads buzzed. All soldiers requiring corrective lenses are issued basic training glasses, generally referred to as “birth control glasses.” And, after months in the sun in physical training uniforms, combat uniforms, and berets, graduating soldiers have deep tan lines around their wrists and across their foreheads.

“They yell at us all day, and one keeps calling us crack pipes.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: US Army

It doesn’t matter who the recruit is, even if they’re famous or the child of a general, they’re getting yelled at in basic training. (Stephen Colbert didn’t even enlist and he caught the sharp edge of the drill sergeants.) Many recruits find themselves shocked at the sheer amount of verbal abuse as well as the language used. The language might be toned down, but the volume never will be.

“Why do we have to take the mask off? Isn’t the point to learn how to use the mask?”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: US Army Staff Sgt. Ronald Shaw Jr.

Though they will brag about these experiences later, all recruits have a training event they’re dreading during basic. Maybe it’s the CS gas chamber where they’re forced to remove their gas masks and breath deeply. Some complain about the night infiltration course where they must crawl across the ground while machine guns are fired over their heads and artillery simulators are thrown nearby. Most complain about the “smokings,” physical training sessions spread throughout the day to help new soldiers quickly build strength and endurance.

“Even on overnight guard, I can’t be alone.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: US Army by Vince Little

They march as a group, eat as a group, sleep as a group, shower as a group. They go to the bathroom in, at a minimum, two-man teams. Recruits have no privacy for the nine weeks or more of training. Soldiers who go through one station unit training, a combined basic training and job school mostly used for combat soldiers, will endure this for even longer. This can be a source of a lot of complaints, especially if a soldier is paired with another recruit they don’t like.

“Oh, that guy’s a blue falcon. We couldn’t stand him.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Desiree N. Palacios

The other recruits, especially the “blue falcons,” soldiers who screw over their peers by tattling or just being a moron, can be a major source of stress for new soldiers. When one basic trainee screws up, that means the whole platoon or whole company is screwed up, and everyone suffers equally. Bad hospital corners on one bed? Grab some real estate, soldier; you’re doing pushups until sweat fogs the windows. Adding to the atmosphere is that, after the punishments, all the trainees are still stuck in the same bay together, still sleeping four feet away from each other, still crapping in battle buddy pairs. And they remember which ones ratted them out.

“We can’t walk on that grass. That grass is only for the drill sergeant.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Recruits are issued a handbook with pages and pages of arbitrary rules during reception week, before they even make it to basic training — rules like, “All towels must be folded in thirds, not halves, and the open sides must face towards the south side of the building.”

“We had to run everywhere, even when we were early.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: US Air Force Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua

Soldiers are ordered to sprint between training stations, even if they can see the long line from a hundred feet away. Trainees run to the back of the line, then wait until the line moves. The experience and frustration defines “Hurry up and wait” — a military maxim.

“I wore pants with buttons for so long, zipping my jeans felt weird.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Photo: Army Pfc. Kirby Rider

For nine or more weeks, they’ve worn only what they were told to wear, only sat in chairs if given express permission, ate what they were given when they were given it. After graduation, they find take out menus and weigh the merits of thai versus pizza for dinner. They debate whether to watch a DVD or play a football game after the training day ends. They get their cell phones back and wonder whether they should call their mother or their girlfriend first. (They generally call their significant other first. Sorry, mom.)

Articles

This is how SEAL Team 6 could stop North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un

President Donald Trump has called North Korea a “brutal regime,” and many in his administration think that America should do something about it.


But that wouldn’t be as easy as sneaking a sniper into Pyongyang and taking a shot at North Korea’s top leader during a parade. There are too many variables to consider.

The tight security surrounding Kim Jong-un and the fanatical devotion of his followers are serious obstacles that must be taken seriously. All phases of this operation must be carefully thought out if North Korea is to be liberated.

Yet, Kim Jong-un has a very elaborate yacht on the east coast near Wonsan that he’s very proud of.

If SEAL Team 6 could board the ship in the shroud of night, terminating the despot might be possible. Security would be tight, but disabling vessels is no new task for our boys.

The U.S. has toppled brutal dictators and terrorists before. As the Inch’on Landing took inspiration from Normandy; we can compare this and learn from previous operations.

This is only a thought experiment using history as a guideline.

Preparation – Operation Mongoose (Cuba)

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
President John F. Kennedy briefed on Operation Mongoose

After the Bay of Pigs incident, the Central Intelligence Agency began a psychological warfare campaign against Cuba. The idea behind this was to create distrust between the Cuban people and the government. The goal was to spark an internal revolt within Cuba.

The CIA authorized sabotage acts against refineries and power plants to shatter its economy. This part wouldn’t be necessary in North Korea since sanctions have already crippled that country.

If there’s any possibility for action in North Korea, there needs to be distrust of Kim Jong-un — a crack in an idol seen as a god.

North Koreans have very restricted television channels for those who are allowed to watch. This would be a logical starting point. Record atrocities. Film the labor camps. Show how little the government truly cares for its people. And end with clips of South Koreans willing to embrace the long lost family.

SEAL Team 6 would infiltrate a broadcasting station and play these tapes. If you could get that message to the people, it will help shine light on the lies told to them.

Assassination – Operation Neptune Spear (Pakistan)

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
President Barack Obama receives an update on Operation Neptune Spear in the Situation Room

On May 1st 2011, the US conducted the daring raid against the most wanted man in the world, Osama bin Laden.  SEAL Team 6 and CIA operators stormed his safe house outside Abbottabad, Pakistan. This well organized and prepared mission is the epitome of “tactical precision.”

On the eastern coast of North Korea sits Kim Jong-un’s mansion — filled to the brim with amenities fit for a 33-year-old dictator. The compound is more of a private amusement park with rides, water slides, and his beloved yachts. He uses it to throw lavish parties for close friends and high ranking party officials.

With the location right on the beach, there is no better location for SEAL Team 6 to infiltrate from.

Fallout – Operation Odyssey Dawn (Libya)

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, USS Barry (DDG 52), launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn.

In March 2011, NATO authorized all necessary measures to insure the safety of civilians during the Libyan Civil War. President Obama stressed that there would be no US troops sent there to fight, so NATO launched a combined 110 Tomahawk cruise missiles to support anti-Gaddafi forces.

Even after Gaddafi’s capture and execution, his loyalists still remained active. The country remained in political unrest. Political scientist Riadh Sidaoui said of the mayhem that “Gaddafi has created a great void for his exercise of power. There is no institution, no army, no electoral tradition in the country.”

Three years later, a second Libyan Civil War began.

If the US were to succeed after an assassination, there would have to be a swift reunification of Korea. South Koreans, generally, do not see North Koreans as a threat. The older generation still sees them as family that has broken apart. Party loyalty would need to break to prevent further uprisings.

Articles

Pentagon reveals covert Chinese fleet disguised as fishing boats

The Pentagon’s new report on China’s developing military capabilities exposes the fighting force on the front-line of China’s quest to control the seas.


The Chinese Maritime Militia, a paramilitary force masquerading as a civilian fishing fleet, is a weapon for gray zone aggression that has operated in the shadow of plausible deniability for years. Supported by the People’s Liberation Army Navy “grey hulls” and Chinese Coast Guard “white hulls,” the CMM “blue hulls” constitute China’s third sea force.

The CMM engages in “low-intensity coercion in maritime disputes,” according to the Department of Defense report.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
A Pentagon report reveals that China has a covert fleet of fishing trawlers intended to wreak havoc in the maritime ‘grey areas’ of the South Pacific. (US Navy photo)

“China has used coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims and advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict,” the report explains. For instance, after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague discredited China’s claims to the South China Sea last July, Beijing dispatched the CMM to the territories China aims to control.

“China is building a state-owned fishing fleet for its maritime militia force in the South China Sea,” the Pentagon report introduced.

China presents the CMM as a civilian fishing fleet. “Make no mistake, these are state-organized, -developed, and -controlled forces operating under a direct military chain of command,” Dr. Andrew Erickson, a leading expert on Chinese naval affairs, explained during a House Committee on Armed Services hearing in September.

The maritime militia, according to the Pentagon, is a “subset of China’s national militia, an armed reserve force of civilians available for mobilization to perform basic support duties.” In the disputed South China Sea, “the CMM plays a major role in coercive activities to achieve China’s political goals without fighting, part of broader [People’s Republic of China] military doctrine that states that confrontational operations short of war can be an effective means of accomplishing political objectives.”

The Department of Defense recognizes that the CMM trains alongside the military and the coast guard. A 2016 China Daily article reveals that the maritime militia, a “less-noticed force,” is largely “made up of local fishermen.” The article shows the militia training in military garb and practicing with rifles and bayonets.

“The maritime militia is … a component of China’s ocean defense armed forces [that enjoys] low sensitivity and great leeway in maritime rights protection actions,” explained a Chinese garrison commander.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
A helicopter attached to Chinese Navy ship multirole frigate Hengshui (572) participates in a maritime interdiction event with the Chinese Navy guided-missile destroyer Xi’an (153) during Rim of the Pacific. (Chinese navy photo by Sun Hongjie)

The CMM is not really a “secret” weapon, as it has made its presence known, yet throughout the Obama administration, government publications failed to acknowledge the existence of the maritime militia. “We have to make it clear that we are wise to Beijing’s game,” Erickson said in his congressional testimony.

The CMM harassed the USNS Impeccable in 2009, engaging in unsafe maneuvers and forcing the U.S. ship to take emergency action to avoid a collision. The maritime militia was also involved in the 2011 sabotage of two Vietnamese hydrographic vessels, 2012 seizure of Scarborough Shoal, 2014 repulsion of Vietnamese vessels near a Chinese oil rig in disputed waters, and 2015 shadowing of the USS Lassen during a freedom-of-navigation operation. China sent 230 fishing vessels, accompanied by several CCG vessels, into disputed waters in the East China Sea last year to advance China’s claims to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands administered by Japan.

Commissar of the Hainan Armed Forces Department Xing Jincheng said in January that the members of the Maritime Militia should serve as “mobile sovereignty markers.” He stated that this force is responsible for conducting “militia sovereignty operations” and defending China’s “ancestral seas,” territorial waters “belonging to China since ancient times.”

“I feel that the calm seas are not peaceful for us,” he said. “We have to strengthen our combat readiness.”

While the maritime militia has been mentioned by Navy officials, as well as congressional research and commission reports, the new Department of Defense report is the first high-level government publication to address the third sea force. “The fact is that it is there,” U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift said in November, “Let’s acknowledge that it is there. Let’s acknowledge how it’s being command-and-controlled.”

Dragging the maritime militia into the light significantly limits its ability operate. “It is strongest—and most effective—when it can lurk in the shadows,” Erickson wrote in the National Interest.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how to beat the rope-a-dope

Follow the rules set forth by Max, The Body, Philisaire and you’ll be at the top of the rope in no time.


If Max “The Body” Philisaire has a Phil-osophy (a Maxim?) he lives by, it might go a little something like this:

Learn the rope. Or be the dope.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
FYI: the dope (left) ends up on his ass. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons, Nicoleon, CC BY-SA 4.0)

In the army, Max did his time on the climbing rope, just like you did. Every branch climbs the rope. After all, the military, in its infinite wisdom, recognized early on that the game of large-scale global deployment would be won or lost on the proficiency with which its troops could drop into, and wriggle out of, The Danger Zone.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Max is Danger Zone Highway Patrol.

And so they dangled ropes off every structure taller than two stories and made you haul your ass up, down, and up again — sometimes with feet, often with not. How well this went for you depended on the upper body strength you were able to muster and/or the belligerent, spittle-flecked hatefulness of the sergeant whose job it was to motivate you.

Now, imagine a world in which the rope is no longer a crucible and you are no longer the dope being bamboozled by it. This world is called The Danger Zone. Max guards the on-ramp to the highway to this world. And if you approach the on-ramp with enough oomph (say, 100mph or so), he will waive you through.

Because this is Max. Max doesn’t so much pull himself up as he hauls the sky down to look him in the eye. Frequently the sky resents this and throws a tantrum. And that is why sometimes there is rain.

In this episode, Max addresses all your weaknesses at once. Because that is what the rope would do. To effectively master the rope climb, you need explosive power in your upper body (biceps, back, and forearm grip), a solid core, and strong legs (quads, glutes, and groin).

Do these exercises. Because it’s a tough world out there. And if you’re going to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, you best be able to pull yourself up by a rope.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
We haven’t even begun to discuss the chain… (Go90 Max Your Body screenshot)

Watch as Max rumbles all the jungles, in the video embedded at the top.

Watch more Max Your Body:

This elite veteran trainer will make you aim true

This elite veteran trainer is why your ammo shows up on time

Our trainer will make you want to play Ruck Ruck Goose

This is how squats can open doors for you

This trainer will make you a card-carrying member of the log-carrying elite

MIGHTY TRENDING

General Charles “CQ” Brown confirmed as America’s first black service chief

General Charles “CQ” Brown has officially been confirmed as the next Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, the branch’s highest military position, following a unanimous confirmation from the U.S. Senate on Tuesday. The historic vote secured Brown’s position as the 22nd Chief of Staff in Air Force history, and the first black service chief in the history of our nation.

Brown rose through the ranks as an F-16 pilot with more than 2,900 hours in the cockpit and at least 130 flight hours in combat environments. Brown’s talents in the cockpit eventually led him to serving as an F-16 pilot instructor before moving on to a variety of command positions, including his recent role as the commander of Pacific Air Forces.


Throughout his impressive career, General Brown has repeatedly stood out among his peers. First commissioned in 1984, Brown went on to earn a master’s degree in aeronautical science and was singled out at Air Command and Staff College as his class’ distinguished graduate in 1994. He has commanded Air Force Weapons School, two fighter wings, the U.S. Air Force’s Central Command, and also served as the deputy commander for U.S. Central Command.

The historic 98-0 Senate vote to confirm Brown saw Vice President Mike Pence presiding over the process–an unusual move as the Vice President historically serves as s tie-breaker in hotly contested votes. Instead, Pence said he attended to confirmation because of its historic significance.

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Vice President Pence wasn’t the only leader to extend their congratulations to General Brown. Chief of Space Operations and fellow service chief, Gen. Jay Raymond also congratulated Brown on his confirmation.

“Gen. Brown is an innovative leader who clearly understands the complex and evolving strategic environment we face today as a Department,” Raymond said. “He clearly understands the importance of leading across all domains to compete, deter and win — especially in war-fighting domains like space. I am thrilled with Gen. Brown’s confirmation. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett took to Twitter to point to Brown’s credentials and accolades as a military leader.

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Brown’s confirmation comes at a challenging time for America, as protests regarding racial injustice continue to take place in cities all around the nation, following the murder of George Floyd while in police custody.

Earlier this week, Brown released a heartfelt video in which he described the challenges of being a black man in America, and an officer in the United States Air Force–a dichotomy Brown described as having to lead two distinct lives.

“I’m thinking about having to represent by working twice as hard to prove [that my supervisors’] perceptions and expectations of African Americans were invalid,” he said in the video. “I’m thinking about the airmen who don’t have a life similar to mine, and don’t have to navigate through two worlds. I’m thinking about how these airmen see racism, where they don’t see it as a problem because it doesn’t happen to them, or whether they’re empathetic.”
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The officer responsible for Floyd’s death has been charged with second degree murder and the other three officers involved in the incident have also been taken into custody–but the incident itself has served as a pivot point for many Americans who have used Floyd’s death as an impetus for positive change in their community and nation. Protests throughout the country calling for racial equality have garnered support from service leaders in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps–but it was the Air Force that first spoke out about race in recent weeks.

On June 1, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright published an Op-Ed on his social media accounts outlining his concerns as a black man and the senior enlisted leader of America’s Air Force.

“Like you, I don’t have all of the answers, but I am committed to seeing a better future for this nation. A future where Black men must no longer suffer needlessly at the hands of White police officers, and where Black Airmen have the same chance to succeed as their White counterparts. Trust me, I understand this is a difficult topic to talk about…
Difficult…not impossible…
Difficult…but necessary.”

Following CMSAF Wright’s post, the current Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General David Goldfein, also released a statement and the two leaders released a number of videos and participated in town hall discussions about race within their branch.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


Articles

This botched air strike on Lebanon changed Naval Aviation forever

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
A-7E Corsair II aircraft line the bow of the aircraft carrier USS Independence (CV 62) about the time of the air strike against Syrian gun emplacements in Lebanon. (Photo: U.S. Navy)


American air power going against targets in the Middle East didn’t start with Operation Enduring Freedom or even Desert Storm. The first significant strike was conducted in December of 1983 by carrier-based assets against Syrian anti-aircraft positions in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and it was in many respects a disaster, one that radically changed the way the U.S. Navy conducted strike warfare.

The Bekaa Valley strike was supposed to be in direct retaliation for the Beirut barracks bombing that killed 241 Marines on October 23, but the mission was delayed for months by lawmakers in Washington and the operational planners at the European Command in Germany. Finally Syrians firing SAMs at F-14 reconnaissance flights over Lebanon compelled decision-makers to action.

The strike planning process was cumbersome and not tactically agile.  Pentagon and EUCOM higher-ups made the call on strike composition, weapons loadouts, ingress and egress routes, and times on target. As a result, aviators who would ultimately fly the mission had little say in how it would be carried out.

The 28-plane strike package launched from two carriers – Kennedy and Independence (both decommissioned now) – on the morning of December 4, which proved to be the perfectly wrong time as the metrological conditions made it hard for the attack aircraft to see their targets (remember, these were the days before smart bombs, when pilots had to actually maneuver their airplanes toward the ground and pickle their bombs with a high level of skill). At the same time the weather and sun angle highlighted the American airplanes in the sky for Syrian anti-aircraft gunners. The strike package also flew toward their targets along the same route, which made it easy for gunners to train their weapons.

The Syrians managed to shoot down two A-7E Corsairs and an A-6E Intruder.  One of the A-7 pilots and the A-6 pilot were killed.  The other A-7 pilot – who also happened to be the Air Wing commander aboard the Independence – managed to get his jet over the Mediterranean before he ejected.  He was picked up by Lebanese fisherman and eventually returned to the Americans unharmed.

The A-6 bombardier/navigator, Lt. Robert Goodman, was captured by Syrian troops and taken as a hostage. The month-long stalemate between governments on his release was finally broken by Jesse Jackson, who took an interest in the young aviator because he was an African-American.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Lt. Robert Goodman in the back of a car with a Syrian soldier after being shot down during an air strike against targets in Lebanon. (AP photo)

As a result of this fiasco the U.S. Navy established the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center at the air station in Fallon, Nevada, basically taking a page from the Top Gun playbook a decade or so earlier when that school was created to fix the problem of fighters getting shot out of the skies over North Vietnam because of inferior tactics. The staff at NSAWC studied better ways of getting bombs on target while surviving intense SAM environments, and their research yielded more thorough mission planning processes (including streamlining strike coordination up and down the chain of command), off-axis attack profiles, and the improved use of jammers to better suppress the SAM threat.

Although times have changed in recent years with the advent of stealth technology and precision-guided munitions, many of the lessons learned from Bekaa Valley are still relevant today.

Now: Top secret files detail how drone strikes target terrorists — and how they go wrong 

Articles

Why WWII soldiers nicknamed the Sherman tank ‘death trap’

The Sherman tank was a powerful force to be reckoned with on the battlefields in WWII; it was fast and mobile and it shelled out plenty of firepower.


It provided just enough cover for American ground troops as it stomped through the German front lines. The Sherman was designed to patrol over enemy bridges and it was easily transported on railroad cars.

Related: 9 tanks that changed armored warfare

When the U.S. decided to invade Europe, General Patton selected the Sherman as his particular tank of choice and wanted as many to roll off the assembly lines as possible. Nearly fifty thousand were produced between 1942 and 1945.

Weighing in at 33 tons, it sustained a speed of 26 miles per hour and housed 2 inches of armor. Many saw the image of the Sherman tank to be invincible just like the American war effort, but the brave soldiers who served as tank crew members believed that it had too many engineering flaws and was far inferior compared to the German’s Tiger and Panther tanks.

The Sherman tank was equipped with a fully-transversing 75mm turret short barrelled gun that fired a high explosive shell 2,000 feet per second. Compared to the German tanks that shot accurately at 3,500 feet per second, the enemy’s armor piercing ammo was 2-3 times more effective.

It was recommended that to defeat the Germans, the tank crew had to speed up and flank around their battlefield rivalry and get within 600 yards range to be effective.

Captain Belton Y. Cooper, author of Death Traps and a member of the 3rd Armor Division maintenance unit, recounts knowing how inferior the Sherman was after seeing its physical destruction firsthand. He knew it was no match for the Nazi’s arsenal.

“We lost 648 tanks totally destroyed in combat, another 700 knocked out, repaired and put back into action,” Cooper says. “That’s 1,348 tanks knocked out in combat. I don’t think anyone took that kind of loss in the war.”
(HistoryAndDocumentry, YouTube)
Articles

Meet the F-16 pilots who turned their wartime experiences into hilarious songs

Some vets with a tendency toward showmanship like to take their talents to YouTube or Hollywood when they hit the post-service world.


Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
These guys sang a couple songs that pissed their CO off (bravo!). (Photo: Amazon.com)

But the former F-16 fighter pilots behind Operation Encore took the old-school approach and are working to shatter some of the caricatures of veterans through music. The result is a blend of music genres from a variety of military-affiliated artists that range from folksy bluegrass to present-day pop rock — all of it relating to experiences of war that poke fun at life in the service and lament the tragedy of war.

Chris Kurek is the co-founder and partner with Viper Driver Productions. He’s better known as “Snooze,” one of the two founding members of the band Dos Gringos, a pair of F-16 pilots who released four satirical albums full of songs with titles like “I Wish I Had a Gun Just Like the A-10” to the NSFW drinking song “Jeremiah Weed” to the Willie Nelson-esque “TDY Again.”

The band kicked off when Kurek and his fellow jet jock Robert “Trip” Raymond were deployed to Kuwait for Operation Southern Watch and later Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“We were out there for six months, there was nothing else to do,” Kurek said. He and Raymond wrote some songs and performed for the rest of their squadron.

Their songs drew what Kurek described as “wonky eyes” from some, but their squadron commander was very supportive, encouraging them to record the songs on CD, even offering to put up the money.

“We were kind of writing on stuff that pointed out things that drive you crazy in the military,” he said.

After the band’s return stateside, they went to Texas to record their first CD, “Live at the Sand Trap.”

Turns out Dos Gringos’ wing commander was less than pleased with their extracurricular enterprise and barred them from performing at the Cannon Air Force Base Officer’s Club.

But the band went viral in a 2003 sorta way via the enlisted maintenance personnel who particularly dug the song, “I’m a Pilot,” Kurek said. The semi-satirical ditty about a self-centered fighter jock — which evokes a sound similar to some songs from the 80s band Warrant — was passed around the flightline.

Eventually, Dos Gringos would put out three more albums —”2,” “Live at Tommy Rockers,” and “El Cuatro” — before the band had to go on hiatus due to pressure from higher ups as Raymond rose through the ranks.

They were not done with music, though. Both felt some frustration with how some caricatured vets and with what they perceived as an effort by Nashville to cash in on the veteran experience.

Kurek recounted that the war wasn’t always patriotism or sadness, pointing out there was a lot of “goofing off and laughter” because of “boredom.”

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Stephen Covell, a former Army medic who contributes to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

“Vets can write about anything,” Kurek said. Eventually, in a conversation with Erik Brine, a C-17 pilot who was a later addition to Dos Gringos, Kurek recounted someone asking, “I wonder if there are any other people who did what we did on deployment – bring a guitar and write songs.”

They began a search, and it was a pair of submissions from Stephen Covell, an Army medic who served with the 82nd Airborne Division, that prompted them to create Operation Encore.

“Those two alone were the best I ever heard,” Kurek said. “They conveyed a combat vet’s experience.”

Covell’s submissions pushed Kurek and Raymond to launch a Kickstarter campaign to pay for airfare, studio time, mixing and mastering.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again
Rachel Harvey Hill, a military spouse who has contributed to Operation Encore. (From OperationEncoreMusic.com)

While two albums, “Volume 1” and “Monuments,” have so far been released, Kurek notes the process has been a challenge, largely due to the way the music industry has changed. Kurek recounted that when the first Dos Gringos album came out, CDs were still king. The rise of iTunes and digital downloads were one shift which evened out – the volume increased, even as they got less per song.

With Operation Encore, though, the big challenge has been the fact that the music industry has shifted once again to streaming services, and it takes hundreds of thousands of streams to get real money. Furthermore, Kurek pointed out that Dos Gringos was a niche market, and their audience knew what they would get.

Operation Encore is different.

“Operation Encore is a compilation, not one band, sound, or genre,” he explained, pointing out some of the songs were pop rock, others country or bluegrass. Furthermore, the singers who appear are scattered all over the world. Just getting the performers together for a concert would entail airfare, hotel rooms, and equipment rental. Not to mention all the stuff that is in the riders for the artists.

Navy Veteran blind for 19 years sees hope again

Kurek, though, is still hot on his Iraq War-era band.

“I wish we could do one more Dos Gringos album,” he said.

Operation Encore’s CDs can be purchased at CDBaby.com, or bought as digital downloads from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play. Dos Gringos CDs are also available at CDBaby.com, and can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon.com, and Google Play.

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