The National Security Agency, the US’s largest and most secretive intelligence agency, has been deeply infiltrated by anonymous hackers, as detailed in a New York Times exposé published Nov. 12.
The NSA, which compiles massive troves of data on American citizens and organizes cyber-offensives against the U.S.’s enemies, was deeply compromised by a group known as the Shadow Brokers, which has made headlines in the past year in connection to the breach, whose source remains unclear.
The group now posts cryptic, mocking messages pointed toward the NSA as it sells the cyber-weapons, created at huge cost to US taxpayers, to any and all buyers, including US adversaries like North Korea and Russia.
“It’s a disaster on multiple levels,” Jake Williams, a cybersecurity expert who formerly worked on the NSA’s hacking group, told The Times. “It’s embarrassing that the people responsible for this have not been brought to justice.”
“These leaks have been incredibly damaging to our intelligence and cyber-capabilities,” Leon Panetta, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told The Times. “The fundamental purpose of intelligence is to be able to effectively penetrate our adversaries in order to gather vital intelligence. By its very nature, that only works if secrecy is maintained and our codes are protected.”
Furthermore, a wave of cyber-crime has been linked to the release of the NSA’s leaked cyber-weapons.
Another NSA source who spoke with The Times described the attack as being at least, in part, the NSA’s fault. The NSA has long prioritized cyber-offense over securing its own systems, the source said. As a result, the US now essentially has to start over on cyber-initiatives, Panetta said.
UPDATE: THE VOTING IS NOW CLOSED AND THE WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED ON MONDAY, SEPT. 25, 2017 AT WE ARE THE MIGHTY!
Welcome to the finals for Mission: Music, where veterans from all five branches compete for a chance to perform onstage at Base*FEST powered by USAA. CLICK THE BUTTON BELOW TO VOTE every day to determine the winner!
Bobby Blackhat is a Coastal Virginia Bluesman and an award-winning recording artist, harmonica player, vocalist, songwriter, producer, comedian, and actor. He’s been playing harp for over 40 years.
After 27 years of service in the U.S. Coast Guard, which included serving as Military Aide to the President and being awarded the Coast Guard Medal for Heroism, Bobby started to pursue music professionally. He is a proud graduate of two Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) programs: Piano and Comedy Bootcamp.
“I love doing what I do because music allows me to get fingers poppin’, toes tappin’, hip shakin’, and faces smilin’. Through music I can bring joy and happiness to the lives of others. I am a prime example that it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and check an item off that pesky bucket list.”
For every vote, USAA will donate $1 (up to $10k) to Guitars for Vets, a non-profit organization that enhances lives of ailing and injured military veterans by providing them with guitars and a forum to learn how to play. Your votes help those who served rediscover their joy through the power of music!
The Army is fast-tracking an emerging program to engineer a longer-range artillery cannon able to out range enemy ground forces by hitting targets at more than twice the distance of existing artillery.
The service is now prototyping an Extended Range Cannon Artillery weapons with a larger caliber tube and new grooves to hang weights for gravity adjustments to the weapon — which is a modified M777A2 mobile howitzer.
Existing 155m artillery rounds, fired with precision from mobile and self-propelled howitzer platforms, have a maximum range of about 30km; the new ERCA weapon is designed to hit ranges greater than 70km, Army developers said.
“When you are talking about doubling the range you need a longer tube and a larger caliber. We will blend this munition with a howitzer and extend the range. We are upgrading the breach and metallurgy of the tube, changing the hydraulics to handle increased pressure and using a new ram jet projectile — kind of like a rocket,” a senior Army weapons developer told Warrior Maven in an interview.
The modification adds 1,000 pounds to the overall weight of the weapon and an additional six feet of cannon tube. The ERCA systems also uses a redesigned cab, new breech design and new “muzzle brake,” the official explained.
“The ERCA program develops not only the XM907 cannon but also products, such as the XM1113 rocket assisted projectile, the XM654 supercharge, an autoloader, and new fire control system,” an Army statement said.
Marines fire an M777A2 155 mm howitzer.
(United States Marine Corps photo)
As part of an effort to ensure the heavy M777 is sufficiently mobile, the Army recently completed a “mobility” demonstration of ERCA prototypes.
The service demonstrated a modified M777A2 Howitzer with an integration kit for the mass mock-up of the modified XM907 ERCA cannon at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona.
“Their [user] concern is that when the self-propelled program is done they will be left with a towed cannon variant that they can’t tow around, which is its number one mode of transportation,” David Bound, M777ER Lead, Artillery Concepts and Design Branch, which is part of the Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center, or ARDEC, said in an Army statement.
The ERCA is currently being configured to fire from an M109a8 Self-Propelled Howitzer, using a 58-Cal. tube; the existing M109a7, called the Paladin Integrated Management, fires a 39-Cal. weapon.
ERCA changes the Army’s land war strategic calculus in a number of key respects, by advancing the Army’s number one modernization priority — long-range precision fires. This concept of operations is intended to enable mechanized attack forces and advancing infantry with an additional stand-off range or protective sphere with which to conduct operations. Longer range precision fire can hit enemy troop concentrations, supply lines and equipment essential to a coordinated attack, while allowing forces to stay farther back from incoming enemy fire.
A 70-kilometer target range is, by any estimation, a substantial leap forward for artillery; when GPS guided precision 155mm artillery rounds, such as Excalibur, burst into land combat about ten years ago – its strike range was reported at roughly 30 kilometers. A self-propelled Howitzer able to hit 70-kilometers puts the weapon on par with some of the Army’s advanced land-based rockets – such as its precision-enabled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System which also reaches 70-kilometers.
In a modern threat environment, wherein near-peer and smaller-level rivals increasingly possess precision-guided land weapons, longer-range C4ISR technology and drone weapons, increasing range is a ubiquitous emphasis across the Army and other services. Russia’s violations of the INF treaty, new S-500 air defenses, new Armata tanks and fast growing attack drone fleet – all point to a growing need for the US to outrange and outgun potential adversaries.
An M109A6 Paladin fires a gas propelled 155mm Howitzer round.
In fact, senior Army developers specifically say that the ERCA program is, at least in part, designed to enable the Army to out-range rival Russian weapons. The Russian military is currently producing its latest howitzer cannon, the 2S33 Msta-SM2 variant; it is a new 2A79 152mm cannon able to hit ranges greater than 40km, significantly greater than the 25km range reachable by the original Russian 2S19 Msta – which first entered service in the late 1980s, according to data from globalsecurity.org.
In early 2018 statements from the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation said that 2S19 Msta-S modernized self-propelled howitzers were fielded near Volgograd, Russia. The 2S19 Msta-S howitzers are equipped with an automated fire control system with an increased rate of fire, digital electronic charts, ballistic computers, and satellite navigation systems, the report says.
Therefore, doing the simple math, a 70km US Army ERCA weapon would appear to substantially outrange the 40km Msta-S modern Russian howitzer.
While senior Army weapons developers welcome the possibility of longer-range accurate artillery fire, they also recognize that its effectiveness hinges upon continued development of sensor, fire control, and target technology.
“Just because I can shoot farther, that does not mean I solve the issue. I have to acquire the right target. We want to be able to hit moving targets and targets obscured by uneven terrain,” the senior Army developer said.
Multi-domain warfare is also integral to the strategic impetus for the new ERCA weapon; longer range land weapons can naturally better enable air attack options.
Operating within this concept, former Army TRADOC Commander Gen. David Perkins and Air Force Air Combat Command Commanding General James Holmes launched a new series of tabletop exercises several months ago — designed to to replicate and explore these kinds of future warfare scenarios. The project is oriented toward exploring the kind of conflicts expected to require technologically advanced Army-Air Force integration.
In a previous Pentagon report, Holmes said the joint wargaming effort will “turn into a doctrine and concept that we can agree on.”
Such a development would mark a substantial step beyond prior military thinking, which at times over the years has been slightly more stove-piped in its approach to military service doctrines.
Interestingly, the new initiative may incorporate and also adjust some of the tenets informing the 1980’s Air-Land Battle Doctrine; this concept, which came to fruition during the Cold War, was focused on integrated air-ground combat coordination to counter a large, mechanized force in major warfare. While AirLand battle was aimed primarily at the Soviet Union decades ago, new Army-Air Force strategy in today’s threat environment will also most certainly address the possibility of major war with an advanced adversary like Russia or China.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
In fact, the Army’s new Operations 3.0 doctrine already explores this phenomenon, as it seeks to pivot the force from more than a decade of counterinsurgency to preparedness for massive force-on-force warfare.
Jumping more than 40 years into the future beyond AirLand Battle into to today’s threat climate, the notion of cross-domain warfare has an entirely new and more expansive meaning. No longer would the Air Force merely need to support advancing armored vehicles with both air cover and forward strikes, as is articulated in Air-Land Battle, but an Air Force operating in today’s war environment would need to integrate multiple new domains, such as cyber and space.
After all, drones, laser attacks, cyber intrusions, and electronic warfare (EW) tactics were hardly on the map in the 1980s. Forces today would need to harden air-ground communications against cyber and EW attacks, network long-range sensor and targeting technology and respond to technologically-advanced near-peer attack platforms, such as 5th-generation stealth fighters or weaponized space assets.
In a concurrent related effort, the Army is also engineering a adaptation to existing 155mm rounds which will extend range an additional 10km out to 40km.
Fired from an existing Howitzer artillery cannon, the new XM1113 round uses ram jet rocket technology to deliver more thrust to the round.
“The XM1113 uses a large high-performance rocket motor that delivers nearly three times the amount of thrust when compared to the legacy M549A1 RAP,” Ductri Nguyen, XM1113 Integrated Product Team Lead.” “Its exterior profile shape has also been streamlined for lower drag to achieve the 40-plus kilometers when fired from the existing fielded 39-caliber 155mm weapon systems.”
Soldiers can also integrate the existing Precision Guidance Kit to the artillery shells as a way to add a GPS-guided precision fuse to the weapon. The new adapted round also uses safer Insensitive Munition Explosives.
This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.
The US Navy carrier strike group and US Air Force bombers deployed to the Middle East to counter Iran conducted simulated strike drills near Iran as tensions between Washington and Tehran remain high.
The US began deploying numerous troops and military assets to the US Central Command area of responsibility May 2019 in response to intelligence indicating that Iran was plotting attacks on US interests in the region.
The exact nature of the threat posed by Iran and its proxies is unclear, although Vice Adm. Michael Gilday recently told reporters at the Pentagon that the Iranian leadership has repeatedly made threats backed up by changes in their force posture.
Furthermore, there have been a string of attacks in recent weeks — including attacks on tankers in UAE waters, a drone strike on a Saudi pipeline, and a rocket attack in the Green Zone in Iraq — that have reinforced the US military’s view that Iran is involved in or plotting nefarious activities.
A bomber with fighter escorts fly above the USS Abraham Lincoln.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)
B-52H Stratofortress bomber escorted by F/A-18E Super Hornets.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Wilbur)
Bombers and fighters supported by an early warning aircraft fly above the USS Abraham Lincoln.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley)
Fighters and bombers fly over the Arabian Sea during combined arms exercises.
(US Navy photo by Lt. Brad Kerr)
F/A-18E Super Hornet on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Matt Herbst)
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A VA Million Veteran Program study identified locations in the human genome related to the risk of re-experiencing traumatic memories, the most distinctive symptom of posttraumatic stress disorder.
Researchers from the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, Yale University School of Medicine, the VA San Diego Healthcare System, and the University of California San Diego collaborated with colleagues on the study of more than 165,000 veterans.
The results appeared in the journal Nature Neuroscience.
PTSD is usually considered to have three main clusters of symptoms: re-experiencing, avoidance, and hyperarousal. Avoidance and hyperarousal are common to other anxiety conditions as well, but re-experiencing is largely unique to PTSD. Re-experiencing refers to intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks.
The researchers compared the genomes of 146,660 white veterans and 19,983 black veterans who had volunteered for MVP.
The study revealed eight separate regions in the genome associated with re-experiencing symptoms among the white veterans. It did not show any significant regions for black veterans, considered separately as a group, because there were far fewer black study participants available, making it harder to draw conclusions.
(Department of Veterans Affairs)
Results were replicated using a sample from the UK Biobank.
The results showed genetic overlap between PTSD and other conditions. For example, two genes previously linked to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder were implicated. This could mean that the hallucinations experienced in schizophrenia may share common biochemical pathways with the nightmares and flashbacks of people with PTSD.
The study also revealed genetic links to hypertension. It is possible that hypertension drugs that affect these same genes could be effective for treating PTSD.
Taken together, the results “provide new insights into the biology of PTSD,” say the researchers. The findings have implications for understanding PTSD risk factors, as well as identifying new drug targets.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
We don’t know when and where it was filmed, but the following video surely shows a pretty weird accident occurred to a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter. Indeed, the short clip shows the heavy Marine chopper (whose empty weight is more than 10 tons – 23,628 lb) with folded tail boom being towed aboard a ship using a “system” made of a tug towing another tug coupled to a tow bar attached to the Super Stallion’s nose landing gear.
At a certain point, the tow bar disconnects from the helicopter that starts to slide backwards towards the pier. The end of the story is that no one seems to be hurt by the giant chopper that comes to a stop when the folded tail hits the ramp that was being used to board it.
Here’s the video, shared by the always interesting Air Force amn/nco/snco FB page:
Many have criticized the way used to board the helicopter, saying that the one shown in the footage is not a standard procedure. Others have highlighted the fact that no one was in the cockpit riding the brakes during the operation. We don’t know what the procedure called for in this case, whatever, based on the footage, it is safe to say that the ending could have been worse: despite a significant risk for all those involved or observing the boarding, perhaps the Super Stallion got (minor?) damages and an unscheduled inspection…
Thanks to its impressive lift capacity the Super Stallion is able to carry a 26,000-pound Light Armored Vehicle, 16 tons of cargo 50 miles and back, or enough Marines to lead and assault or humanitarian operation. For this reason it is used for a wide variety of tasks.
The latest version of the iconic CH-53, designed CH-53K King Stallion, will replace the current E variant in the coming years and will feature a lift capacity three times that of the Super Stallion retaining the same size of its predecessor.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
The U.S. Space Force‘s first commercial has a message for its new troops and potential recruits: “Maybe your purpose on this planet isn’t on this planet.”
It’s the closing line in the 30-second commercial, which gives viewers a glimpse into what a Space Force job might look like. That could mean protecting U.S. satellites in ground operations centers, overseeing rocket launches to deploy satellites in orbit, or perhaps recovering the super-secret X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, according to the imagery seen in the video.
“Some people look to the stars and ask, ‘What if?’ Our job is to have an answer,” the commercial states as a young man sporting a fresh haircut looks up toward the stars.
“We would have to imagine what will be imagined, plan for what’s possible while there’s still impossible. Maybe you weren’t put here just to ask the questions. Maybe you were put here to be the answer,” it says.
The commercial is the first promotional video for the new service, an effort to attract recruits to join the military’s sixth branch.
The opening of applications means the eventual, “physical act of [commissioning] into the U.S. Space Force,” Gen. David “DT” Thompson, vice commander of Space Force, said April 23. Enlisted members would re-enlist directly into the Space Force, he said during a webinar, hosted by Space News.
“The window for airmen to volunteer to transfer to the USSF opened on Friday, May 1, and we have already received several hundred applications,” a Space Force official told Military.com on Wednesday.
The commercial also closely follows the full trailer for Steve Carell’s new Netflix comedy “Space Force” set to premiere on the streaming service May 29.
Sitting alongside Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett during a webinar Wednesday, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, chief of space operations and head of U.S. Space Command, remarked on Carell’s upcoming show.
“The one piece of advice that I would give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said during the chat, hosted by the Space Foundation. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”
Barrett added, “It seems to me that it’s just further evidence that space is where things are happening. Whether it’s Netflix or in the United States Pentagon, space is where things are happening.”
Speaking about the commercial, Barrett said she hopes it will inspire “Americans to find their purpose in the nation’s newest service.”
Miller at one point drew his sidearm during the attack, but did not fire, according to CNN.
The attack took place in Kandahar, and led to the death of Gen. Abdul Raziq, a powerful Afghan police chief.
Several other Afghan police and officials were killed or wounded, and three Americans were wounded in the incident as well. The assailant was reportedly killed in the firefight.
Army Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smiley was among the Americans wounded in Oct. 18, 2018’s incident and is recovering from a gunshot wound, a NATO spokesman confirmed to CNN on Oct. 21, 2018. Smiley is in charge of the NATO military advisory mission in southern Afghanistan.
The attack highlights just how insecure Afghanistan is, and came just two days before the country held national elections.
It was an astonishing moment in a conflict that recently entered its 18th year, and perhaps the most embarrassing piece of evidence yet the US is badly losing the war.
The Taliban hoped to kill a US general to get America to leave Afghanistan
A Taliban commander told NBC News if it had been successful in killing Miller, who emerged from the attack unscathed, that President Donald Trump would’ve withdrawn the roughly 15,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan. The Taliban still feels the attack was a “major success” due to the death of Raziq.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday described the loss of Raziq, whom the Taliban attempted to kill dozens of times, as the “tragic loss of a patriot.” But Mattis also said the attack hasn’t made him less confident in the ability of Afghan security forces to take on the Taliban.
Despite the Pentagon’s efforts to downplay the significant of this attack, it’s a sign of how emboldened the Taliban has become via major gains over the past year or so.
The war has reached its deadliest point in years as the Taliban gains ground
At the moment, the Taliban controls or contests roughly half of all the country’s districts, according to the US military. But many military analysts claim approximately 61% of Afghanistan’s districts are controlled or threatened by the Taliban.
There have been eight US military deaths in Afghanistan in 2018. This is a far-cry from the deadliest year of the war for American in 2010, when 499 US troops were killed.
But civilian casualties are reaching unprecedented levels in Afghanistan, a sign of how unstable the country has become over the past year or so. The war is on track to kill over 20,000 civilians in Afghanistan this year alone, according to data from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, meaning the conflict has reached its deadliest point in years.
America’s ‘forever war’
There is still no end in sight to this war, which costs US taxpayers roughly billion per year, and the US government is running out of answers as to why American troops are still fighting and dying there.
The conflict began as a reaction to the 9/11 terror attacks and the Taliban’s close ties to Osama bin Laden, who has since been assassinated by the US.
At this point, Americans born after 9/11 are old enough to enlist in the military with parental consent, and will have the opportunity to fight in a conflict sparked by an event they couldn’t possibly remember.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On Christmas Eve, Soldiers in Staff Sgt. Johnathan Walker’s section shiver as freezing rain falls upon their position.
U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, load a round into M777 artillery piece to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)
“Fire!” yells Walker as he makes a cutting motion through the rain with his hand. A round leaves the tube of the M777 artillery piece with its trademark boom and smoke, and the artillerymen begin to move again. The sounds of their boots impacting the mud and gravel echo through the gun pit.
It may be the holiday season, but the mission for the Soldiers of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, continues. The Iraqi Security Forces are battling ISIL in Mosul, and the artillerymen are supporting them with indirect fires.
U.S Army Soldiers with Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, execute a fire mission to support the Iraqi security forces during the Mosul counter-offensive, Dec. 24, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against the ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)
“We provide overmatch capability to the maneuver commander,” explained Sgt. 1st Class Scott Young, the platoon sergeant of 2nd Platoon, Battery C, during his rounds of the gun line. “When air support isn’t available, either due to weather or not having the assets in the area, we can bring effects onto targets. As long as there is an observer out there, we can shoot.”
“Task Force Top Guns” has provided fire support for the Iraqi Security Forces ever since arriving in early May. The battery has fired more than 4,000 rounds in support of their maneuvers.
They’re also credited with conducting the first conventional air assault mission during Operation Inherent Resolve, during which they rapidly moved artillery pieces by air to establish a new firing position. At the completion of the fires, the guns were moved back to their starting location.
“We’ve denied territory so the enemy can’t maneuver, obscured friendly movements, and we have precision capability, which is critical in this fight,” Young said, pointing in the direction of Mosul to emphasize his point.
“If there is a target in a built-up area, we can hit it while minimizing damage to the surrounding area. We pride ourselves on our accuracy.”
U.S. Army Sgt. Scott Martineau, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, Task Force Strike, moves towards his position on an M777 howitzer during a fire mission to support the security forces during the Mosul counteroffensive, Dec. 25, 2016, in northern Iraq. Battery C is supporting the ISF with indirect fires in their fight against ISIL. (Photo Credit: 1st Lt. Daniel Johnson)
The rain picks up and a slight fog takes shape in the distance as Walker’s crew awaits their next command. The weather has changed in Iraq, and the Soldiers have switched from their summer lightweight combat shirts to multiple layers in an attempt to stave off the wind-chill.
“Fire mission at my command,” comes the transmission over the radio, and the artillerymen spring into action, beginning the crew drill to load the artillery piece, just as they have done for the past eight months. The Soldiers move quickly through their tasks, and Walker gives the signal once more. Another boom reverberates in the pit.
“It feels good to know that we’re being called on to support the fight and we’re having an effect,” Walker said in between missions. During each crew drill, he encourages his men to keep up the effort. “That’s the reason why we’re out here. We do everything with a sense of urgency and there’s no room for mistakes.”
Battery C has received multiple calls for fires as the Iraqi Security Forces have moved deeper and deeper into Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and the site of a major operation with the goal of liberating the city. ISIL has been dug into the city for two years.
“There’s a lot more variables in weather like this,” said Walker. “People move a little slower, the rounds are slippery, and morale may drop. It’s the job of crew chiefs on the line to keep on pushing the sections to complete the mission. Rain or shine, when we get the call, we have to react.”
The radio sounds soon after, and the artillerymen are once again called to action.
Veterans are likely to play a significant part in what has been called “the Moon shot” in cancer research — the plan announced by President Barack Obama last week for a cancer fight effort to equal the country’s determination to put a man on the moon during the 1960s.
Fittingly, the veterans’ role in the cancer Moon shot, as well as in scores of other research projects into illnesses that impact vets and non-vets alike, will be doing something they were prepared to do back in their active duty days: shed some blood.
“When they realize that this could help other veterans most of them volunteer right away” when asked, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said during a visit to the VA Medical Center in Boston on Friday, when he toured the lab and growing biorepository.
The VA project, called the Million Veterans Program, predates the cancer Moon shot by six years. Its goal is to collect blood samples — and with it the DNA — of at least a million veterans, and use it to research illnesses, including at the genetic level.
“This is fascinating what they’re doing here,” McDonald said. “The whole role of genomics will be huge in, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted you to see this, because I think the work of the Million Veteran Project underscores the importance of genomics in the Moon Shot in eradicating cancer.”
It is veteran-centric, for sure, and already is being used in alpha and beta projects that focus on veteran issues, according to the VA.
The veterans’ blood samples, informed by medical health records that, depending on the veteran, may go back 20 or more years, could hold the key to understanding causes and discovering treatments and cures for myriad illnesses. The VA is looking at some 750,000 genetic markers that medical researchers believe could be linked to illnesses that plague veterans, ranging from cancers to heart disease, kidney disease to post-traumatic stress disorder.
To date, the effort has collected close to 445,000 vials of blood, each one spun in a centrifuge prior to storing to divide red cells, white cells and plasma. The vials are kept in an oversized refrigeration unit within a lab at the hospital.
Although the project name suggests it will store a million samples, it will continue to grow the biorepository as long as there is funding support and vets who volunteer. There is storage space for several million samples. During a tour of the lab, McDonald climbed a ladder to look into the storage site, where a robotic arm, kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, plucked newly deposited vials one at a time from small containers and moved them into trays that were then automatically transferred into the unit and stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius.
“When I do my recruiting speech to try to attract people to VA, this is exactly the issue — come be on the cutting edge, the tip of the spear [in medical research] that can make a difference in so many people’s lives,” McDonald said.
The department has spent about $130 million on the program since it began laying the foundation for it in 2010. Its nearly 445,000 samples have come from nearly 245,000 veterans. It currently is getting in about 100,000 samples per year, which means it will hit the million mark around 2022.
They hope the speed that up by opening the program to active-duty personnel. The VA estimates that would add an additional 25,000 samples a year to the collection and perhaps allow them to reach one million by 2020, said Dr. Mary Brophy, director of the biorepository.
Because the donations are for research purposes, neither the VA nor the Defense Department can simply request use of a veteran’s or service member’s blood for the project.
Donors — strictly veterans right now — may volunteer for the project at a number of VA sites across the country. In signing up, they are told their blood and medical information will be shared with researchers and that they may not benefit directly or immediately from any of the research.
But their identities are masked on the samples, so that researchers do not know whose blood or DNA they are working with. For its part, the VA does retain a link between the sample code and the veteran so that changes in health or long-term effects of drugs and medications can be incorporated into the veteran’s research profile.
While Britain began building its own biorepository before the U.S. and currently has more samples –about 500,000 — the VA is quickly catching up and will pass that number.
It’s not only because the veterans have volunteered in such large numbers, but because VA has been able to build the computing capacity to handle the data.
“It’s not just the samples, it’s the informatics platform. The reason VA can do that better than anyone … is that we have an electronic health record,” she said. “We have the health record already in a data base, and it’s been around for 20-30 years.”
The British Health System — it does not have a separate system for veterans – is largely decentralized, with many medical records still in paper form and residing in doctor’s offices across the country.
Not only has an existing data base of electronic records and a willing veteran population allowed VA to rapidly build its biorepository, it has already provided the VA enough samples and data to launch several research studies of benefit to veterans.
The projects include cardiovascular risk factors among African American and Hispanic Americans, to determine how genes influence obesity and lipid levels affect the heart; an examination of genetic risk from chronic use of alcohol, tobacco and opioids; and a study into how genes affect the risk and progression of kidney disease — a major risk factor for veterans, according to researchers.
The biorepository is essentially one-stop shopping for a specific patient cohort and control group for any research institution wanting to investigate an illness or try out a new drug, according to Brophy.
“If I want to do a study in Gulf War Illness, before I would have to go out and find all these patients with Gulf War Illness, do it myself, Then get the samples, store it and send it out” to research lab, she said. The biorepository eliminates those time-consuming steps, she said, by making VA the go-to place for medical researchers.
Now, she said, if a research lab needs 5,000 patients with Gulf War Illness, it can get that cohort from the VA, as well as a control group without Gulf War Illness.
“The infrastructure is there to do key PTSD research, Gulf War Illness research. The hard work of getting people together, knowing who has Gulf War Illness [is done],” she said.
After watching this compilation of crooks-meet-veterans, it’s easy to see why veterans are the last people you want to mess with.
Here’s our list of awesome veterans that were caught on camera making short work of criminals:
Kendrick Taylor (Navy Veteran) vs. Purse Snatcher
Taylor was on his way to the gym in Orange County, Florida when he saw a man attacking an elderly woman and trying to steal her purse. Without thinking twice, Taylor sprung into action. The purse snatcher tried to get away, but Taylor was just too fast and too big.
Zach Thome (Army Veteran Amateur MMA Fighter) vs. Party Store Robber
Thome stopped an armed robber by applying a rear naked choke hold. “It’s kind of my hometown,” Thome said. “I live right next to the place, you know, I’m in there every day. I think if it was the other way around, if I worked there and the guy at the register was there, he would have done the same thing.”
David (Homeless Veteran) vs. Assailant
Two homeless men – who wished to remain anonymous – helped a stranger from a vicious robbery in Cincinnati, Ohio. David, who’s a veteran, said, “He was trying to rob him. The guy started screaming for help at that time. It’s my natural instinct to help somebody.”
Arthur Lewis (Army Veteran) vs. Jewelry Thief
Lewis proves that you’re never too old to win a gunfight. The 89-year-old World War II veteran foiled an armed robbery attempt of his jewelry shop that left the suspect with a gunshot wound and no loot, according to an interview by local news station WPTV.
John Alexander (Army Veteran) vs. Armed Robber
Alexander was unusually calm and collected when a thief tried to rob his store at gunpoint. His military experience clicked into place, and he drew his own gun. The thief quickly realized he was messing with the wrong guy.
Andrew Myers (Army Veteran) vs. Home Invader
Meyers can lay down a beating when the moment calls for it. Case in point comes from the awesome footage captured by his home security camera; the robber didn’t have a chance. A believer of service dogs to help troops overcome PTSD, Mr. Wronghouse is using his beat down video to help raise funds for Paws And Stripes. Visit mrwronghous.com to see how you can help.
Eddie Peoples (Army Veteran) vs. Bank Robber
Peoples stopped at a Bank of America on his way to a fishing trip with his kids when a gunman walked in demanding cash from the tellers. The robber nervously eyed the thick-necked Peoples and pointed his pistol at him, warning the “big black guy” not to be a hero, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported. Peoples played it cool until the gunman threatened his son.
A US Navy flattop deployed to the Pacific has been flying a battle flag featuring Captain America’s iconic red, white and blue shield, photos from the ship’s deployment show.
The USS America (LHA-6), the first of a new class of amphibious assault ship, chose its battle flag, also known as a house flag, just before it deployed to the Indo-Pacific late last year.
The ship, the fourth to bear the name America, went for the superhero treatment.
“The iconic Captain America symbol — the First Avenger for this first-in-class fifth-generation amphibious assault ship — was the perfect fit,” Capt. Luke Frost, the ship’s commanding officer, told Insider.
Frost said the flag choice was “bold, graphic, with a clear patriotic and easily-identifiable association with the name ‘America.'”
In the vast Marvel Comics universe, Captain America, whose alter ego is Steve Rogers, is a patriotic supersoldier who fought the Axis Powers before being trapped in ice and revived in the modern age.
An experimental serum gave the Army soldier his power, but it is his almost-indestructible circular vibranium shield that is most representative of the character created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby in the 1940s.
Captain America is more than just Rogers. Others, such as close friend and Air Force veteran Sam Wilson, aka The Falcon, have also taken up the shield and the captain’s mantle to carry on the fight. And now, a ship filled with Navy sailors and Marines have made the fictional weapon its emblem in a show of joint warfighting at its best.
The first US naval vessel to bear the name “America” was a 74-gun ship of the line, the first ordered for the Continental Navy. The name was passed on to a troop transport vessel and later to a Kitty Hawk-class aircraft carrier.
The current USS America, which was commissioned in 2014, is different from other amphibious assault ships in that it lacks a well deck and features increased space for aviation assets.
The Navy and the Marines have used the ship for “Lightning Carrier” experiments, which have involved loading the ship up with a heavy configuration of around a dozen F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.
In photos from the amphibious assault ship’s recent deployment, a lighter configuration of the fifth-generation fighters can be seen on the America’s deck as the new battle flag flies above.
Battle flags are a Navy tradition with a long history.”From Oliver Hazard Perry’s ‘Don’t Give Up the Ship’ flag at the Battle of Lake Erie to George Dewey’s ‘FIGHT!’ flag in the Battle of Manila and into the modern era, battle flags or ‘house flags’ have been used to motivate, rally, and inspire ship’s Sailors and Marines,” the America’s CO told Insider. “These flags express unit pride and the fighting spirit of the crew.”
In addition to its new flag, the America also features a number of other star-spangled decorations, such as the doors of the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) launcher cells, The Drive, which first reported the ship’s new flag, noted.