Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Terry Hunt, a blind veteran who receives health care at the Kernersville VA Health Care Center (HCC), mentioned several years ago that he wished he could participate in water sports.

Around the same time, Terri Everett, a Blind Rehabilitation Outpatient Specialist at the HCC, became a chapter coordinator for the national kayaking organization Team River Runner.

Team River Runner helps veterans and their families find health, healing, community purpose, and new challenges through adventure and adaptive paddle sports. It is funded through VA grants.


All Hunt needed to say was, “Let’s get on the water!” and Everett was ready to go. Shortly after they connected, Hunt began regular kayaking with the Triad Chapter of Team River Runner. He has been doing so for the past five years. Everett or other volunteers guide him on the water.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

(Photo by Nil Castellví)

Guides use voice commands and music

Guides use several methods to help blind people kayak, including voice commands, music and tethering, if necessary.

Hunt purchased his own kayak last year. He also participated in the 2018 High Rock Lake Dragon Boat Race, where he placed first in one of the races. He will compete in the Dragon Boat Race again this year as one of the lead rowers.

Everett has worked in blind rehabilitation for 38 years. She has participated in adaptive sports for disabled veterans for most of that time. She is a certified, level 2 American Canoe Association kayak instructor with adaptive endorsement.

Hunt has been kayaking for five years and loves every minute of it.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

(Photo by Murat Bahar)

New remote guiding system with sensors in vests

This past summer, Team River Runner and Hunt took kayaking to a new level for visually impaired and blind kayakers. They used a new, remote guiding system, developed and engineered by Team River Runner Chapter Coordinator Jim Riley.

The veteran wears a vest with sensors and Everett uses a paddle with a switch, guiding him based on where he feels the sensors. The vibrating sensation of sensors on his sides, chest and back let him know where he needs to concentrate effort.

It was an incredible success. On that day, they paddled four miles, in and out of coves, under bridges, in and around piers and then back to the dock. The guiding system will be featured at the VA Summer sports clinic in San Diego in September.

Reflecting on his experience, Hunt jubilantly declared, “This life vest, having pulsating areas at the right, left, front and back, to let the visual impaired person know which way you want them to go, was awesome!”

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

(Photo by McKayla Crump)

“How awesome to feel independent!”

“This is incredible because it gave me a sense of greater independence,” Hunt said. He continued, “I feel this life vest is a breakthrough for help in enjoying the kayak trip for the visual impaired person.

“How awesome to feel independent on this day! I think this not only shows Team River Runners’ commitment to visual impaired persons, but also shows VA’s willingness to help our visual impaired community in ways not just connected to health care.

“It is a great feeling to do things you never thought you would ever do again.”

Hunt will continue his kayaking adventures with Team River Runner and beyond. He will attend the VA Summer Sports Clinic in September 2020. There, he will have the opportunity to kayak, sail, ride a tandem bike and participate in other activities. Kudos to Mr. Hunt for the positive example he is setting for other disabled veterans!

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Aspiring Marine and classmates tackled the Colorado school shooter

On May 7th, just barely 20 years after the Columbine shooting, and only seven miles away from the original tragedy, yet another school shooting took place. Thankfully, this one was thwarted early on by three young heroes.


Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

In the face of overwhelming tragedy, an act of heroism casts a ray of hope to focus on amidst the chaos.

An aspiring Marine and his two classmates are being referred to as heroes for their act of bravery at STEM School Highlands Ranch in Denver, Colorado.

When one of the two gunmen entered the classroom firing—the boys sprang into action and charged the shooter, tackling him.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

According to reports, while the three boys charged the shooter, classmates took cover under desks, fled to safety, and some tended to the wounded.

Tragically, one of the wounded was Kendrick Castillo, 18. Castillo was one of the three brave young men who tackled and subdued the gunman. He was shot in the chest as he lunged towards the shooter. He lost his life protecting his classmates. He would have graduated three days later.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Joshua Jones, hero

Another one of the three boys, Joshua Jones, tackled and subdued the shooter. He was shot twice in the leg, but pressed on to hold the assailant down. Amidst all the chaos, he pulled out his phone and called his mom, who he refers to as his ultimate “problem solver.” He told her, “Hey, Mom. There’s been a school shooting. I’ve been involved. The authorities are on the way. They’re going to get an ambulance and I’m going to go to the hospital. That’s all I got right now for you.” Jones says his leg is healing incredibly well.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Brendan Bialy plans to enlist and become a Marine. Semper Fi.

Another one of the three brave young men who defended their classmates was future Marine, Brendan Bialy.

According to Brendan’s father, Brad Bialy, the young men were able to successfully subdue and disarm the gunman, holding the gunman in place until law enforcement arrived. Bialy, who has already proven his bravery and service to others in the direst of circumstances, will continue to do so in honorable service to his country in the Marine Corps.

The two shooters identities have been released, but will not be focused on here. The faces and stories that should live on should be the memory of three young men, in the middle of a normal school day, putting their lives on the line to defend the lives of their classmates.

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Marines elevate marksmanship standards

Marines qualify on the rifle range every year and train to locate, close with, and destroy the enemy. In October 2016, the Marine Corps has presented a new challenge for Marines on the range — a modification to the second half of the marksmanship program was implemented with hopes to better train Marines for combat.


Marines will still complete table one, which trains Marines on the basic fundamentals and techniques of rifle marksmanship.

Also read: Army round triggers problems in Marine M27 auto rifle

According to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Luis Carrillo, the officer in charge on Camp Hansen ranges, table two takes the training to the next level. This table focuses more on combat and teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat related environment.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
Sgt. Jeremy T. Wellenreiter, a primary marksmanship instructor with Weapons Training Battalion, fires an M-4 Carbine at Robotic Moving Targets at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel Wetzel

The following changes have been implemented for table two:

• Keeping up the heart rate: Instead of Marines staying stationary while shooting, they are required to start at the standing position and quickly get into the kneeling or prone position when the targets are ready to appear.

• Engaging the enemy: Marines begin qualifying at the 500-yard line then advance towards the 100-yard line, where previously they trained the other way around.

• Maintaining situational awareness in combat: New targets show both friendly and enemy forces and Marines must maintain awareness of the targets to determine when to shoot forcing them to make combat decisions.

This half of the marksmanship program focuses more on teaching Marines how to engage enemies in a combat-related environment, which Carrillo, a Janesville, Wisconsin native, said helps in real life scenarios.

“There are several situations this will come in handy,” said Carrillo. “When I was in Afghanistan there were several times we would get ambushed or we would respond to fires across the valley and a lot of those times the enemy wasn’t close. We had to move closer to the enemy and maneuver against them.”

The modification to table two allows Marines to experience the different types of ranges they may see in combat.

“The good thing about table two is it presents Marines with different ranges,” said Carrillo. “You have the long ranges, which I experienced in Afghanistan; and you have the short ranges, which I experienced in Iraq.”

Marines are America’s expeditionary force in readiness and need to be ready to move in a moment’s notice. Table two helps train Marines to respond quickly and aggressively in real-world scenarios, according to Carrillo.

“I think it gets the Marines more in a combat mindset while closing in on the enemy,” he said.

Articles

The US Navy is upgrading these Cold War-era cruise missiles to hit enemy ships at sea

The US Navy today faces a devastating missile gap between its two biggest rivals, Russia and China, but a new upgrade could quite literally blow the two competitors out of the water.


The US Navy’s destroyers and cruisers field advanced missile defenses and far-reaching land-attack cruise missiles, but the Harpoon, the current anti-ship missile first fielded in 1977, has been thoroughly out-ranged by more advanced Chinese and Russian systems.

China’s YJ-18 and YJ-12 each can fly over 240 miles just meters above the surface of the ocean. When the YJ-18 gets close to the target, it jolts into supersonic speed, at about Mach 3. When the YJ-12, also supersonic, approaches a target, it executes a corkscrew turn to evade close-in ship defenses.

Russia’s anti-ship Club missiles can reach 186 miles and boosts into supersonic speeds when nearing a target.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
USS Princeton fires an RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Noble.

The US Navy’s Harpoon missile is subsonic and travels just 77 miles. Simply put, these missiles would chew up a US carrier strike group, with destroyers and cruisers protecting an aircraft carrier. Launching F/A-18s off a carrier could out-range and beat back a Russian or Chinese attack, but the missile gap remains palpable and a threat to the US Navy’s highest-value assets.

Recognizing this serious shortfall, the US Navy will sign a deal with Raytheon to upgrade the Block IV Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles aboard destroyers and cruisers to hit moving targets at sea, US Naval Institute News reports.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
USS Ross (DDG 71) fires a tomahawk land attack missile April 7, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Robert S. Price/Released)

“This is potentially a game-changing capability for not a lot of cost. It’s a 1,000-mile anti-ship cruise missile,” Bob Work, the deputy secretary of defense, said after a successful test of the upgraded TLAM in 2015, USNI News reported at the time. “It can be used by practically our entire surface and submarine fleet.”

With missiles out-ranging China and Russia’s fleets many times over, the US could engage with targets and hold them at risk far beyond the horizon. Similarly, this could help break down anti-access and area-denial zones established by Russia in the Baltics and the Black Sea, and China in the South China Sea.

While China and Russia have the US beat on offensive range, don’t expect their ship-based missile defenses to hold a candle to the US’s Aegis system in the face of a Tomahawk attack.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
A UGM-109 Tomahawk missile detonates above a test target, 1986. Photo courtesy of US Navy.

But also don’t expect the upgrade to change the balance of power soon.

“We’re signing the contract now, there will be a couple of year development effort to determine the configuration of the seeker to go into the missile and a couple of years to take it out and test it to accurately know what the performance is so the fleet will have confidence in the system,” Capt. Mark Johnson of Naval Air Systems Command told USNI News.

USNI News estimates the game-changing missiles could be in service by the early 2020s.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A small bureaucratic change at the Pentagon hints a major shift for US special-operations units

If you can’t destroy the mountain, go around it.

Despite spending the past 20 years focused on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations in the Middle East, the US military still outmatches its Chinese and Russian competitors. The US is the only country that can effectively respond to a military contingency anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.

Understanding that they are conventionally overpowered, China and Russia have been using irregular warfare to achieve their goals without matching the US military’s might. And they have been quite successful.

In Africa, China has been handing out development aid and infrastructure loans like candy, with the dual purpose of securing geopolitical influence and resources for its growing economy. In Asia, Beijing has been bullying its neighbors on its way toward regional supremacy.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
A US Army Green Beret and multinational Special Operations Forces disembark an MH-60S helicopter during the Rim of the Pacific exercise, July 5, 2018.
US Navy/Chief Mass Comm Specialist William Tonacchio

Russia has used social media to influence election outcomes in the US and Europe. Moscow has also been using private military companies, such as the infamous Wagner Group, to achieve strategic goals in Ukraine, Libya, and Syria, among other places.

Both countries understand that in an era of renewed great-power competition — a race between the US and Russia and China for geopolitical influence, economic advantages, and resources — irregular warfare is the ideal strategy against the US.

Now the US Department of Defense is trying to counter that threat by investing in and expanding its own irregular-warfare capabilities.

The Pentagon heralded this shift with its recent decisions to turn the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office into the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate and to release the irregular-warfare annex to the National Defense Strategy.

The creation of the directorate was included in a November memorandum signed by acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, which elevated the Pentagon’s civilian official overseeing special operations to the same level as a military service chief. The annex was released in October.

Struggle in the gray zone

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
A US Special Forces soldier discusses tactics with a Latvian Zemessardze officer during a small unit exercise near Iecava, June 7, 2020.
US Navy/Lt. Rob Kunzig

The US military defines irregular warfare as a “violent struggle among state and non-state actors for legitimacy and influence over the relevant population(s).”

Irregular warfare doesn’t necessarily mean open warfare, but it can take place in the gray zone between competition that’s below the level of armed conflict and a war that’s formally declared. It can affect all traditional and non-traditional realms of geopolitical struggle, such as the economic, diplomatic, military, intelligence, law enforcement, and cyber domains.

The difference between irregular warfare and counterterrorism is that the former is a strategy that aims to defend US global supremacy against state and non-actors, whereas the latter is a mix of activities and operations against terrorist groups and state-sponsored terrorism.

Same game, different name

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
Lithuanian National Defense Volunteer Forces members and US Army Green Berets conduct mission planning during an exercise, September 8, 2018.
US Army/Sgt. Karen Sampson

Irregular warfare isn’t new to the US military. Indeed, the US campaign against terrorist organizations over the last two decades has included elements of it. But now, the irregular warfare “target deck” has been officially updated to include near-peer adversaries, such as Russia and China.

Irregular warfare against a near-peer adversary isn’t new either, but now the Pentagon recognizes that the strategy’s utility isn’t seasonal but enduring. Previously, the US would use irregular warfare against an adversary, such as the Soviets in Afghanistan, but would then let the capability and resources dedicated to it atrophy.

The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) already has potent irregular-warfare capabilities. Army special operations, in particular, take the lead on that front.

The Army’s Green Berets specialize in foreign internal defense, which means training local troops, and in unconventional warfare, which consists of creating and leading guerrilla campaigns. Both are squarely within the gray zone of irregular warfare.

Additionally, the Army’s Civil Affairs teams help create the necessary civil and political conditions for US diplomacy and political influence to be more effective. The Army’s Psychological Operations teams also help shape the geopolitical environment to favor the US.

Other special-operations units, such as the Marine Raiders or Navy SEALs, can contribute to an irregular-warfare campaign but perhaps not as effectively as their Army counterparts.

But to ensure a robust and effective irregular-warfare capability, US military has to understand and embrace it as a whole.

The conventional side of irregular warfare

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
Cadets talk with actors playing locals during West Point Irregular Warfare Group’s Unconventional Warfare Exercise in April 2019.
US Military Academy

Policymakers have relied on special-operations forces for almost everything for years, but conventional forces also play a big role in irregular warfare.

For example, if a US aircraft carrier cruises through the South China Sea, it sends a message to China by physically contradicting Beijing’s territorial claims in the disputed region.

Similarly, when an Army mechanized brigade deploys in Eastern Europe and trains with local forces, it sends a dual message: A psychological one to the US partners and allies about American commitment in the region, and a geopolitical one to Russia, illustrating the US’s reach and influence.

Ironically, it is the conventional might of the US military that encourages adversaries to invest more in their own ability to wage irregular warfare.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea is so short on cash it’s selling electricity to China

Despite persistent power shortages, North Korea is reportedly selling electricity to China for cash.


The deal, which reportedly began on Feb. 9, 2018, will see China pay between $60,000 and $100,000 a month for power generated by a hydroelectric dam close to the border between the two countries, according to Seoul-based news outlet Daily NK.

“The Supong Hydroelectric Generator in Sakju County is providing the energy to a Chinese factory that produces fire proofing materials. The [North Korean] authorities are accepting payments in the form of cash,” a source in the local North Korean province told Daily NK.

The source also said the export project has been named “The January 8 Fund,” after the birthday of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. His father, Daily NK reported, also had a similar project that earned foreign currency named after his birthday on Feb. 16.

Also read: China tests missile defense system after North Korean nuke test

According to Daily NK, North Korea’s usual priority is to first power “idolization sites” for the country’s two previous leaders, government organizations, and munitions factories, before civilian homes or buildings.

Fewer than one-in-three North Koreans have access to electricity, the World Bank estimates, and nighttime satellite images show what that looks like for most of the country.

 

Unsurprisingly, the Sakju generator doesn’t provide electricity for ordinary citizens, rather it reportedly usually powers a munitions factory, meaning military production could be affected by the power sale to China.

The desire to reroute electricity away from a munitions factory indicates how desperate sanctions have made Pyongyang to earn foreign currency.

Related: China’s army looks like it’s getting ready for something big to go down in North Korea

Sanctions currently bar North Korea from exporting coal, steel, minerals, food, wood, and textiles, as well as ending the practice of sending foreign labor overseas to earn funds for the regime.

South Korea’s government currently estimates the North’s hard currency reserves, which are believed to be about $3 billion, will dry up by October 2018.

Articles

This VA hospital could have infected hundreds of vets with deadly diseases

A VA hospital in Wisconsin is under scrutiny for potentially exposing hundreds of veterans to blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV. The infections are being blamed on a dentist at the Tomah VA hospital.


Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
Tomah VA Medical Center Building 400. (Photo from Tomah VA Flickr)

According to a report by WEAU.com, 592 veterans are in the process of being informed about the potential exposure, brought about by the re-use of equipment from October 2015 to October 2016. A substitute for the dentist’s regular assistant noted the unidentified dentist’s actions and reported him.

The dentist has since been re-assigned to an administrative position. VA regulations require that equipment not be re-used.

“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Victoria Brahm, the acting director of the medical center, told WEAU.com. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”

The Tomah VA hospital came under fire in the past for allegedly over-prescribing painkillers. The hospital is providing free medical screenings and will also provide free treatment of any infections. The VA Inspector General has been notified and will be investigating to determine if criminal charges should be filed.

“We have clear evidence that we are moving forward and the people that remain here are very vested and here for the mission of taking care of veterans,” Brahm told WEAU.com. “There are pockets of improvement that need to occur they still need to I’ll be honest, and we are aware of where they are and we are dealing with them as quickly as we can.”

This is not the first VA medical center to have issues. A VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona, used “separate waiting lists” to hide a backlog of cases, leading to at least 200 deaths. A VA center in Chicago reportedly had a cockroach infestation that was so bad, some of the bugs got into food intended for the patients.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The 11 most important things in the world right now

Hello! Here’s what’s happening on March 2, 2018.


1. US President Donald Trump announced new tariffs on steel and aluminum starting next week.

The news set off a chain reaction, with Canada, the EU, and others vowing to retaliate.

2. Special counsel Robert Mueller is building a case against Russians involved in 2016’s DNC hack.

Mueller is also investigating President Trump’s attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

3. Chinese media warned a new travel bill between Taiwan and China could spark war.

The legislation, which needs to be signed by Trump, would allow all-level official travel between Taiwan and the US.

4. South Korea plans to send a special envoy to North Korea.

North Korea reportedly said last week it is willing to conduct talks with US.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
President Donald J. Trump and President Moon Jae-in. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

5. Russia touted a new ICBM that is “invisible” to missile defense systems.

The new missile, dubbed Satan 2, has advanced guidance systems and likely countermeasures designed to trick anti-missile systems.

6. Cyber attacks on Germany’s government computer network are ‘ongoing.’

Local media has speculated Russian hacking group Fancy Bear is behind the breach.

7. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte told police not to cooperate with a probe into his war on drugs.

Already this week Duterte said he was getting “too old” and would like to step down by 2020.

8. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey admits the platform spawned “abuse” and “troll armies,” but pledged big fixes.

Dorsey plans to recruit outside experts that can help measure and improve the “health” of conversations on Twitter.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey

9. Google signed a deal with $9.5 billion gadget manufacturer Flex to fix healthcare systems.

Flex has praised Google for its security, privacy, and futuristic technology.

10. Israel’s flagship airline is seeking international help to use Saudi Arabia’s airspace.

Earlier this month there were reports Saudi Arabia may have granted approval for Air India flights from Tel Aviv to use its airspace, which would shift a decades-long policy in place.

And finally…

11. How Xi Jinping spent a decade tightening his grip on China to become the most powerful leader since Mao.

Articles

2 lessons this elite fighter pilot says will guide you through a successful life

When Dave Berke was a kid, he imagined himself flying an F-18 off an aircraft carrier.


By the time he retired as a US Marine officer in 2016, he had not only done that, but he’d also flown an F-16, F-22, and F-35, taught at the elite Top Gun fighter pilot school, and served a year on the ground alongside Navy SEALs in the 2006 Battle of Ramadi as a forward air controller.

Today, he’s a member of Echelon Front, a leadership consulting firm started by two of those SEALs, Task Unit Bruiser commander Jocko Willink and one of his platoon commanders, Leif Babin.

Berke has spent the past year sharing lessons from his 23-year military career, and we asked him what insights were at the heart of his leadership philosophy. He shared with us two lessons he learned as a teenager, long before he ever saw combat.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
Photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Polvorosa

They’re lessons he said became not only the foundation of his service, but his entire life, and they’re ones he’s had reinforced repeatedly.

Set specific goals and develop detailed paths to them.

Berke’s mom Arlene had become used to hearing her young son talk about how he wished he could fly fighter jets one day.

She told him that he needed understand that the role of a fighter pilot was a real job, one that existed outside of his daydreams. Berke said her message boiled down to: “You could sit there and think about wanting to be a pilot. By the time you’re 25 somebody will be doing that job. Spend less time fantasizing about it, spend less time dreaming about it, and spend more time coming up with a plan.”

Berke took it to heart, and in retrospect, probably took his mom’s advice even more intensely than she had intended. By 15 he knew that his goal was to fly F-18s off aircraft carriers and be stationed in Southern California. He wouldn’t go the more traditional Navy route, either, but would join the Marines and become an officer.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
Photo by Staff Sgt. Christine Polvorosa

The Marines have fewer pilots, but even their pilots go through the same training as all other Marines. He wanted the best of both worlds, and to have his goal be as challenging as possible.

He accepted that he might not make this a reality, but decided he would act as though there were no alternative.

At 17, he met with a recruiting officer to nail down everything he needed to do to make his vision a reality, giving him a year to think about the resulting timeline before signing up for the Marine Corps.

“It keeps you disciplined because the risk of not doing all the things you need to do is failure,” he said about this timeline approach. “It’s a failure that you have nobody else to blame but yourself.”

 

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Patrick J. McMahon

Mental toughness is more important than abilities.

Berke said that he’s never been the biggest or strongest guy among his friends in the military, and as an 18-year-old, he was thin and average height.

He arrived at the Marine Corps Base Quantico for officer candidate school scared and intimidated. “I looked around and everybody else around me looked bigger, tougher, stronger, faster, and seemed to be more qualified than me to do that job,” he said.

But as the days went by, he would be surprised to see some of his fellow candidates break under pressure. A guy next to him that he knew was naturally a better athlete than he was wouldn’t be able to keep up in fitness trials, but it was because he didn’t share the drive that Berke had developed for years.

“As they started to fail, I started to realize that the difference between success and failure was mental toughness,” he said.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water
Berke, middle, with the Echelon Front team and Jocko Podcast producer Echo Charles, second from right. Berke joked this photo proves his point about not having to be the biggest or strongest to succeed. Photo from Echelon Front

He became an officer. Next was the Basic School, where he would be given his role in the Marine Corps. He was one of 250 new officers, and there were only two pilot spots for his class.

“There’s no way I’m going to let somebody else work harder, be more committed, be more disciplined, and outperform me in that environment to accomplish what they want at my expense,” he thought. “It’s not going to happen.”

The same mindset is what got him through the chaos of Iraq 15 years later, when a plane didn’t separate him from the fighting on the ground.

“There’s no Plan B to losing in combat,” he said.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

See Rosie run! Military spouses run for elected office

There has never been an active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. As overall military representation has fallen by roughly 20% over the past 60 years, spouses of service members are seeking to close the military-civilian representation gap.

Military Families Magazine spoke to three military spouses running for elected office in 2020 to see what led them to take the leap from concerned citizen to candidate.


First active-duty spouse in Congress? 

If elected in November, Lindsey Simmons, a candidate for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District, would be the first active-duty military spouse elected to Congress. To put that in context there are currently 535 representatives in the 116th Congress. Since the election of the first female representative in 1917 there have been 51 sessions of Congress and thousands of opportunities to elect an active-duty military spouse.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Army spouse Lindsey Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political journey began when she started working with and for veterans in her community, trying to close the civilian-military representation gap. (Military Families Magazine)

Like many military spouses, Simmons’ journey into public service started through her advocacy for military families, with a desire to improve schools and health care access.

“I recognized that There was a huge gap between military families and civilian families,” Simmons said. “And so much of the policies coming down from Washington and how they were affecting our families never made the news.”

Representation gap

On the surface, the military population seems diverse, with increased participation from women and minorities. However, those who join the military are more likely to come from military families. With the overall size of the military in decline, the average citizen’s connection to someone in the military has dropped. Seventy-nine percent of baby boomers have a military connection as compared to only 33% of millennials.

If military families choose not to participate in a “second service” by running for elected office, then their voices and experiences are left out of the political process, widening the civilian-military representation gap.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Simmons is running for Missouri’s 4th Congressional District. Her political campaign was born out of her concern for her communities’ access to healthcare and other services. (Military Families Magazine)

With fewer experienced representatives in Congress, “their [politicians’] only notion of the military is what they see,” Simmons said. “And often the liaisons that DOD sends are going to be higher-ranking officers.”

Because military spouses are not subject to DOD Directive 1344.10 — the regulation that prevents active-duty service members from engaging in politics — there is no reason they cannot attempt to close the gap. According to Sarah Streyder, Director of the Secure Families Initiative and active-duty Air Force spouse, there is a lack of clarity surrounding what level of political engagement is acceptable for military families. Military programming is “missing a call to public sector engagement,” Streyder said. There are no reasons spouses should not “lobby our representatives, by voting, by speaking up in order to be a more active part of the conversations that drive war and peace.”

Serve where you want to see change

Not everyone feels called to serve in Congress, but their participation is no less valuable. Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters is running for the school board in Coronado, California. Things shifted for Palacios-Peters during a parent-teacher conference.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Coronado, California School Board candidate and Navy spouse Alexia Palacios-Peters participated in #thefrontstepsproject while actively running for elected office. Photo credit: Katie Karosich. (Military Families Magazine)

“It became clear that the teacher didn’t realize dad was deployed and had been extended four times,” Palacios-Peters said. “You’re in a military town and how many kid’s parents are on the [U.S.S. Abraham] Lincoln?”

It seemed that Coronado, a proud Navy town with a high military population, didn’t have strong military representation.

“Not all of them are residents here or are able to vote here,” Palacio-Peters said. As a politically-active resident, she hopes to “be that voice for military families because decisions are going to affect our kids.”

Being a voice in local communities is not out of reach for the average disinterested citizen.

Team River Runner gets veterans out on the water

Before Melissa Oakley decided to run for elected office, she actively participated in politics, founding the Onslow Beat Conservative News Blog. Oakley is pictured interviewing Congressman Dr. Greg Murphy (R) after his first town hall. (Military Families Magazine)

“I really wasn’t into politics,” Melissa Oakley, a Marine Corps spouse who is running for the Board of Education in Onslow County, North Carolina, said. “I had the mindset ‘I’m a military spouse and they know I’m going to move, and they don’t want us.’ But in reality, they really do want us.”

Oakley’s call to service was born out of her personal conviction to help her community. She founded a food pantry and supported local like-minded political leaders. According to Oakley, local government involvement is vital.

“A lot of people think that we need to focus on the president; no not really. Because if you’re a homeowner your local government is controlling your property taxes being raised,” she said.

Military spouses can make a difference in the communities in which they live. The only hurdle is finding a way to get involved.

Where do I start?

Because Melissa Peck, a Navy spouse, was stationed in Japan with her family, she felt removed from the 2016 election cycle. Rather than throwing up her hands in frustration, upon her return to the U.S. she immediately joined her local political committee and brought her family along for the ride.

“All four of my kids have gone canvassing with me,” Peck said. “They have attended political rallies. We hosted a meet and greet for a congressional candidate in our home.”

Today, Peck is an elected leader of her local political party.

All candidates agree. You don’t have to run for office to make a difference. Whether you contribute one hour a month, or you turn your volunteering into a full-time job, it is appreciated. It’s attainable. And it makes a difference.

Wondering what you can do to make an impact on your community? You don’t have to run for office to make change happen:

Easy next steps

  1. Register to vote.
  2. Volunteer for a candidate or political party you support.
  3. Research candidates for the 2020 election via Vote411.org.
  4. Go to school board meetings.
  5. Show up to virtual and in-person town halls.
  6. Sign a petition for a cause you support.
  7. Involve your kids. Show them the process isn’t just for politicians.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Bashing Beijing: Iranian official’s criticism of China’s coronavirus figures causes uproar

Rare criticism by an Iranian Health Ministry official of China’s controversial COVID-19 figures has angered hard-liners in Tehran, some of whom asked if he was speaking on behalf of the country’s archrival, the United States.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur said at a press briefing on April 5 that China’s statistics about the number of deaths and infections from the coronavirus are “a bitter joke.”


He added that, if Beijing said it got the coronavirus epidemic under control within two months of its outbreak, “one should really wonder [if it is true].”

The comments did not go down well with Chinese officials or hard-liners in Iran who reminded Jahanpur that China has stood with Iran at a time of severe crisis caused by the coronavirus outbreak and crushing economic sanctions applied by Washington.

Many questions have been raised in the Western media recently about China’s official coronavirus figures amid suggestions that the real numbers are likely much higher.

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Officials wait outside a Beijing metro station to monitor for anyone infected with the coronavirus.

Wikimedia Commons

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused China’s ruling Communist Party on April 3 of being involved in a “disinformation campaign” regarding the virus that is being used to “deflect from what has really taken place.”

But similar criticism from an Iranian official whose country enjoys strong relations with China led to raised eyebrows and has provoked crunching criticism.

“At a time when China has been Iran’s major helper in the fight against the coronavirus and has provided the country with several strategic products while bypassing the [U.S.] sanctions, Jahanpur suddenly becomes the spokesperson of [U.S. President Donald Trump] and [Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin] Netanyahu,” the editor of the hard-line Mashreghnews.ir, Hassan Soleimani, said on Twitter on April 5.

Others, including Hossein Dalirian, a former editor with Tasnim news, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), went as far as calling for Jahanpur’s dismissal from the ministry.

‘Unforgettable’ Support

China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, also joined the chorus, telling Jahanpur he should follow press briefings by China’s Health Ministry “carefully” in order to draw his conclusions.

Amid the mounting criticism and in what appeared to be damage control, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi tweeted in support of China, saying the country has led the way in suppressing the coronavirus while also “generously” helping other countries.

“The Chinese bravery, dedication, and professionalism in COVID-19 containment deserves acknowledgement,” Musavi tweeted on April 5, adding that Iran has been grateful to China in these trying times with the hashtag #Strongertogether.

Musavi’s tweet was retweeted by Chang, who said “Rumors cannot destroy our friendship.”

The Gvt. ppl. of #China lead the way in suppressing #coronavirus generously aiding countries across . The Chinese bravery, dedication professionalism in COVID19 containment deserve acknowledgment. has always been thankful to in these trying times. #StrongerTogether

twitter.com

For his part, Jahanpur attempted to calm the waters by publicly praising China for supporting his country during the outbreak.

“The support of China for the Iranian nation in [these] difficult days is unforgettable,” he said on Twitter on April 6.

He also said the Iranian government and the nation are grateful and will not forget the countries that stood with them during the pandemic.

Jahanpur’s tweet was welcomed by Ambassador Chang, who retweeted it while writing in Persian: “Friends should help each other, we fight together.”

‘Understated’ Numbers

Citing current and former intelligence officials, The New York Times reported last week that the CIA has told the White House since February that China has understated the number of its infections.

China has claimed that it has been open and transparent about the outbreak of the coronavirus in the country, which emerged in December in Wuhan, where the virus has officially claimed the lives of 2,563 people and a nationwide total of 3,331 as of April 6. Beijing also claims some 81,708 total infections.

Radio Free Asia issued a report on March 27 suggesting tens of thousands of more people had died in Wuhan from the coronavirus than the official total given by Beijing.

Some Iranian officials believe the country’s coronavirus outbreak, by far the worst in the Middle East, began because of Tehran’s ties to China, which has been buying a limited amount of Iranian oil despite strict U.S. sanctions and penalties.

Iranian officials think the virus reached Qom, Iran’s epicenter of the outbreak, through Chinese workers and students residing in the city who had recently traveled to China. Flights conducted to and from China by Iran’s Mahan Air — even after coronavirus cases were registered — have been also blamed for exacerbating the epidemic.

Since the outbreak in Qom in February, Chinese officials have sent Iran regular shipments of relief materials — including masks, test kits, and other equipment — to help the country battle against the coronavirus.

According to official figures released on April 6, COVID-19 in Iran has killed 3,739 people and infected 60,500.

Much like the case of China, many people inside and outside of Iran have questioned Tehran’s official figures on the pandemic.

An ongoing investigation by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda that studies figures released by officials from Iran’s 31 provinces puts the total number of deaths in Iran at 6,872 people as of April 5, with some 94,956 infections.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia just declared the defeat of ISIS in eastern Syria

The Latest on the Syrian conflict (all times local to Beruit):


6 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says the Islamic State group in eastern Syria has suffered a “complete defeat.”

Putin, speaking on a visit to Nizhny Novgorod, said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to him earlier December 6th that operations against the IS on both the western and eastern banks of the Euphrates River had been successfully completed.

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Putin’s inauguration. (Kremlin image)

Putin said some isolated pockets of resistance could remain in the area.

The Russian military says it has provided air support to Kurdish forces and local tribes in the oil-rich province of Deir el-Zour in eastern Syria and helped coordinate their offensive against the IS.

Russia launched an air campaign in support of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in 2015.

5:30 p.m.

Syrian activists say airstrikes have killed at least 12 civilians in an eastern Syrian village held by the Islamic State group.

Deir Ezzor 24 says Tuesday’s attack targeted the village of al-Jarthi. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says 21 civilians were killed, among them 9 children. It says Russia carried out the strikes, in support of U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces driving to capture IS territory on the Euphrates River.

Read Also: ISIS forces now declared defeated in Iraq and Syria

The extremist group still controls patches of territory in eastern Syria, where it imposes a media blackout.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on Sunday thanked both the U.S. and Russia for their military support, days after the U.S. announced it would stop arming the group.

Articles

A war with China in 2025 would be bloody and unwinnable

A top defense strategy think tank recently released a report hat looks at the implications of a possible war between the U.S. and China. The news is almost universally bad, but the assessment of a full-scale war between the U.S. and China in 2025 paints a dire picture of the aftermath of a conflict between the world’s two biggest superpowers.


While a war today would be costly for the U.S., China’s increasing anti-access, area denial arsenal as well as its growing carrier capability and aircraft strength could make it impossible for the U.S. to establish military dominance and achieve a decisive victory in 2025, the report by the RAND Corporation says.

“Premeditated war between the United States and China is very unlikely, but the danger that a mishandled crisis could trigger hostilities cannot be ignored,” RAND says. “Technological advances in the ability to target opposing forces are creating conditions of conventional counterforce, whereby each side has the means to strike and degrade the other’s forces and, therefore, an incentive to do so promptly, if not first.”

Instead, the two sides would fight until its home populations got fed up and demanded an end to hostilities, something that may not happen until the body counts get too high to stomach.

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Soldiers of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division prepare to provide Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen with a demonstration of their capabilities during a visit to the unit in China on July 12, 2011. (Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

RAND declined to state a number of expected casualties in any potential war, but it estimated the loss of multiple carriers and other capital platforms for each side. Nimitz-class carriers carry approximately 6,000 sailors and Marines on a cruise. The loss of a single ship would represent a greater loss of life and combat power than all losses in the Iraq War.

The study predicts a stunning display of technological might on both sides, which isn’t surprising considering what each country has in the field and in the works. The paper doesn’t name specific weapon systems, but it predicts that fifth-generation fighters will be able to shoot down fourth-generation fighters with near impunity.

The U.S. recently fielded its second fifth-generation fighter, the F-35 Lightning II. America’s other advanced fighter, the F-22 Raptor, has been in service since 2005. China is developing four fifth-generation fighters — the J-20; the J-32; the J-23; and the J-25.

The J-20 and J-32 will likely be in the field in 2025 and would potentially rival America’s fighters.

By 2025, China could have two more aircraft carriers for a total of three. It currently owns one functional carrier purchased from Russia and is manufacturing a second.

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The Navy’s Pre-Commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford is moved from one shipyard to another in 2013. When launched, the Ford-class carriers will be the largest aircraft carriers in history. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Aidan P. Campbell)

Despite America’s greater numbers of both fifth-generation fighters and total aircraft carriers, China’s growing missile arsenal would force America to act cautiously or risk unsustainable losses, RAND argues.

Outside of the conventional war, cyber attacks, anti-satellite warfare, and trade disruptions would hurt both countries.

Both belligerents have anti-satellite weapons that are nearly invulnerable to attack, meaning that both countries will be able to destroy a substantial portion of each other’s satellites. The destruction of the American satellite constellation would be especially problematic for the rest of the world since nearly all GPS units connect to American satellites.

Cyber attacks would cripple vulnerable grids on both sides of the Pacific, likely including many of the computer servers that maintain public utilities and crucial services like hospitals.

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Photo: Airliners.net CC BY-SA 4.0

Trade disruptions would damage both countries, but China would be affected to a much greater extent, RAND says.

A lot of American commerce passes through the Pacific, but China does a whopping 95 percent of its trade there and is more reliant on trade than the U.S. For China, any large Pacific conflict would be very expensive at home.

While it’s very unlikely that China could win a war with the U.S., RAND says the fighting would be so bloody and costly for both sides that even average Americans would suffer greatly. Service members and their families would have it the worst.

“By 2025, U.S. losses could range from significant to heavy; Chinese losses, while still very heavy, could be somewhat less than in 2015, owing to increased degradation of U.S. strike capabilities,” RAND says. “China’s [anti-access weapons] will make it increasingly difficult for the U.S. to gain military-operational dominance and victory, even in a long war.”

There are two pieces of good news. First, leaders on both sides are hesitant to go to war. Even better, RAND’s assessment says that neither country is likely to risk nuclear retaliation by firing first, so the war would likely remain a conventional affair.

The bad news is that increasing tension could trigger an accidental war despite political leaders best intentions. RAND recommends that leaders set clear limits on military actions in the Pacific and establish open lines of dialogue.

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The Chinese Navy frigate Hengshui fires its main gun at a towed target during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (Photo: Chinese Navy Senior Capt. Liu Wenping)

The American and Chinese military do participate in some exercises together. The Chinese hospital ship Peace Ark and the Chinese frigate Hengshui took part in the Rim of the Pacific exercise, but continued Chinese espionage against America and reported cyber attacks prevent a happy relationship.

Hopefully the U.S. and China can come to friendly terms because a war tomorrow would be catastrophic and a war in 10 years could be crippling for everyone involved.

The full report from RAND is available as a PDF for free here. It can also be purchased as a paperback. A Q A with the lead study author is available here.

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