Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Obesity is not only a health crisis for this country as a whole – it’s also deeply affecting the military’s mission readiness. The majority of young America is unfit to serve in the United States Armed Forces.

Major General Michael Hall (ret.) has watched in alarm as the negative impacts from the rise in obesity overtook the country as he served in the Air Force from 1968-1995. As rates continued to climb, he saw how simultaneously the military itself became less fit and there began to be less viable candidates for a critically important service.


“I think if you go to the overarching issue, 71 percent of our young people are not qualified to serve in the military. That begs the question, ‘If you aren’t qualified to serve in the military, why? And what else does that keep you from doing because the military is a very broad based workforce,”‘ Hall said. “Obesity is a significant part of the failure to qualify.”

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Although finding people able to serve is a struggle for the military, maintaining a fit and ready service is also becoming much more difficult. “Around a sixth of the military itself is obese so this problem doesn’t go away even if they were able to get into the military and then the epidemic continues to affect military readiness,” Hall explained.

In America’s military, obesity in its service members rose 73 percent from 2011 to 2015.

Quite literally, obesity is affecting our national security. When service members are unfit to deploy, there’s either a shortage in a unit causing safety concerns or it leads to continuous redeployments for others. Both outcomes impact the health and wellness of service members but also severely impact mission readiness as a whole.

It starts all the way at the beginning. Hall didn’t hold back as he addressed the true elephant in the room; the inability for a large portion of America’s children to get nutritious meals. “The bottom line is that there are many people in our society that don’t have ready access to nutritious meals,” he said.

In the 1960s and 1970s, only around 5 to 7 percent of children qualified as obese. Now, that number is around 17 percent, according to the American Psychological Association. Research has demonstrated that socioeconomic status plays a significant part in the rising rates of obesity in America. The CDC found that children within a household that had a higher education level and income had lower rates of obesity.

“It starts with awareness,” Hall said. “I think where we are right now is to help the broader population understand that there is a problem and that problem is being exacerbated.” It is his hope that communities will begin asking what they can do to tackle this issue and help young people not only develop good nutrition habits, but receive access to it as well – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

“I think we were in crisis before, that crisis has been a battle that over the past few years has stayed static… now we’ve got significant more challenge facing us,” Hall said. “We have to remember that there is a very fundamental societal health and service value associated with nutrition. All the programs put together to improve nutrition are stressed right now and unable to function as they were originally intended.”

With COVID-19 causing widespread quarantine-like policies to be put in place, it also means many children are losing their access to more nutritious food. Although states and communities have rallied to develop programs to get food to families in need, more needs to be done.

“I think a big part of this is that this message gets back to Congress, saying, look we are making a lot of choices now about what we support, but let’s not forget early childhood nutrition when we make these decisions,” Hall explained. “The lifecycle of the cost of obesity in America is huge.”

Obesity-related costs in this country skyrocketed to 7 billion in 2008. The Department of Defense spends id=”listicle-2647430404″.5 billion a year alone. Those who are active duty and obese are more likely to sustain injuries as well. In many cases, obesity starts with poor nutrition in childhood, leading to habits in adulthood that causes a catastrophic health domino effect. This epidemic is severely impacting the country’s health outcomes and its national security.

“I think that helps crystalize people’s thinking and understanding that this is a national challenge that also affects military readiness, but is far more than that,” Hall implored. “It’s important that people step back and look at this as a pandemic, a pandemic of obesity.”


Humor

5 things service members hate on that are actually useful

The U.S. Military is full of rules and regulations, so much so that it gives the lower enlisted plenty to complain about. But some of the things that seem like annoying POG tasks actually make a lot of sense and, in some cases, could be lifesaving.


Here are some of the tasks service members complain about doing that, realistically, make good sense.

Related: 6 ways to be successful in the Marine infantry

5. Boot blousing

This often feels like an annoying task only POGs worry about but, when you think about it, the purpose is to keep dirt and other unwanted particles from getting inside one’s boot.

It gets stupid, though, when higher-ups prefer to see them sit near or at the top of the boot, which may look good, but ultimately defeats the purpose.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Airmen don’t really have to worry about dirt getting in their boots, though. (Image via Citizen Airman Magazine)

4. Buckling the chin strap of a helmet

When troops of the modern age wear their combat gear, they like to call back to times of World War II and Vietnam, when troops would go on patrols with the chin strap of their helmets unbuckled.

But, when you look at why those troops did that, it becomes clear that, with the modern helmets and straps, it makes more sense to buckle up.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Would you rather be comfortable and lose your helmet or have something to protect your head from incoming shrapnel? (Image via Reddit user 4noteprogression)

3. Police call

This is the practice of picking up every little piece of trash in front of the battalion headquarters until it looks pretty for the base commander — what a beautiful practice. After all, who doesn’t like standing in a straight line and combing the lawn for used gum and cigarette butts? But, when you think about it, this is good practice for when you’re leaving a bivouac site or sleeping area.

You want to pick up every piece of trash — yes, even the gum and cigarette butts — to make sure there’s little to no evidence of human occupation because it makes your unit harder to track.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Remember, if you bring it in, you take it out. (Image via Duffleblog)

2. Shaving

This is a common complaint because everyone just wants to be an operator. But the truth is, having a clean shave can save your life. The requirement started during World War I to ensure a perfect seal when the gas masks go on to prevent, you know, dying from a cloud of mustard gas.

These days, having a clean shave is a part of military uniformity and discipline. It takes some discipline to wake up and shave every morning and takes no effort to just let it grow.

On the other hand, special operators are allowed to grow beards because they’re immune to chemical weapons and don’t need gas masks.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Shave your face, nasty! (Image via Reddit user SenorWorkman)

Also read: 6 easy ways for a grunt to be accepted by POGs

1. Stand-to

“Stand-to” is a command that means to stand guard or be prepared for an enemy attack. This is especially annoying since it usually happens from before until after dusk, and before until after dawn.

No one likes being woken up half an hour before the sun rises to stand guard but, realistically, these are the times where attacks have been known to happen. The enemy likes to strike when you’re either focused on going to bed or getting up.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Marines around their fighting positions as the sun rises (Image via Army Times)

Military Life

6 ways your combat instructors were worse than your DIs

Every Marine alive will talk about their drill instructors from boot camp because they’re they’re the ones who turned them into Marines. But you’ll rarely ever hear about their combat instructors, which is strange considering that the School of Infantry is much more difficult than boot camp.


You meet your combat instructors when you report to Camp Lejeune or Pendleton. The Marines bound for the infantry go to the Infantry Training Battalion and the POGs go to Marine Combat Training. Infantry Marines will, without exception, look back on this training as the worst they’ve experienced — and part of that is because of the instructors.

These are reasons why combat instructors are actually tougher than your drill instructors.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

You may want to listen up to what they’re trying to tell you.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin)

They’re all combat veterans

Not all drill instructors are combat veterans. In fact, for some, the only Iraq or Afghanistan they saw was in pictures.

This is absolutely not the case with combat instructors. Alpha Company at the west coast SOI in 2013 had an instructor cadre with in which every single one had done multiple deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan.

They’ll break you off but the key is to not quit.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ashley D. Gomez)

They don’t care about numbers

Drill instructors in boot camp will talk all day about how you can’t quit, but the truth is that you can — and plenty of people do. The fact is, drill instructors are out to keep as many recruits as they can.

Your combat instructors, on the other hand, will actively do everything they can to make your life a living hell to weed out the weaklings. Some slip through the cracks, but not many.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

The look in their eyes will tell you everything you need to know.

(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachery B. Martin)

They were all infantry Marines

To teach the next generation of grunts, you have to be one yourself. This makes them a lot scarier than a drill instructor who spent their entire career sitting behind a desk, eating hot meals three times a day. Infantry Marines live a life that revolves around the elimination of the enemy and breaking their things. They spend most of their day at least thinking about how to do this to the best of their ability.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

If you keep your mouth shut, you’ll probably make it through training.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Lukas Kalinauskas)

They aren’t afraid to haze you

This never officially happens, but if you f*ck up at SOI, your combat instructor will make sure you pay for it accordingly. They’re training the next generation of hardened war fighters, so they have to know you can handle a few push-ups with a big rock on your back.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

You’ll just feel like you disappointed your dad who didn’t really like you to begin with.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Carlin Warren)

They never had to use a frog voice

Combat Instructors rarely yell at people and that’s terrifying in its own right. But, when they do, they don’t change their voice to sound more intimidating — they know you’re already afraid of them, so they take advantage of that. They’ll yell at you at a lower volume and dismantle the fiber of your being.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

You laughed at it, don’t lie.

(U.S. Marine Corps)

They encourage others to join in on the berating

If a drill instructor is tearing someone apart and the platoon laughs at something they say, everyone might get punished. A combat instructor will use it to add to what they’re telling you. They practically encourage others to join in on the insulting.

At the end of the day, though, they’re trying to make sure you have what it takes to be an infantry Marine. This means you have to prove your physical and mental fortitude.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Trump orders immediate deployment of hospital ship to Los Angeles, anticipating ‘hotbed’ surge of coronavirus cases in California

President Donald Trump has approved the US military’s deployment of a Navy hospital ship to Los Angeles, California, to bolster coronavirus response efforts.


During a press conference on Sunday afternoon, Trump confirmed that the USNS Mercy, a hospital ship docked in San Diego, will be “immediately” deploying to the port of Los Angeles within a week. Trump and his administration described California as a “hotbed” for potential coronavirus cases in the coming days.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

FEMA administrator Peter Gaynor in the press conference that despite earlier indications the Mercy was deploying to Washington, the ship would have the “greatest impact” in California based on the potential need for hospital beds there. As of Sunday, Washington state has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the US, behind New York.

California ranks fourth as of Sunday, with nearly 1,500 cases. Gov. Gavin Newsom, asked Trump in a letter on Thursday to “immediately deploy” the Mercy. Newsom cited the state’s 126 new positive cases at the time, a 21% increase within one day. Newsom’s office has estimated that 56% of Californians, or 25.5 million people, will test positive within two months.

Gaynor reiterated that the Mercy will focus on alleviating the burden from local hospitals dealing with coronavirus patients. Like the USNS Comfort, which is deploying to New York in the coming weeks, the Mercy will intake trauma cases, according to Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

“Even though there are more cases right now in Washington, the projected needs for beds in California is five times more [than] that of Washington,” Gaynor said. “The Mercy will be used to take pressure off of local hospitals, other medical needs — and not for treating COVID-19 cases.”

The ships have made several humanitarian deployments, including to Puerto Rico for relief efforts after Hurricane Maria in 2017, and to Indonesia after a devastating earthquake in 2005.

The ships are staffed by dozens of civilians and up to 1,200 sailors, according to the Navy. Both ships include 12 fully equipped operating rooms, a 1,000-bed hospital, a medical laboratory, and a pharmacy. The ships also have helicopter decks for transport.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea snubs Trump on returning Korean War dead

North Korean officials did not show up to meet US officials to discuss returning the remains of US soldiers killed in the Korean War on July 12, 2018, and it’s essentially a slap in the face to President Donald Trump.

When Trump made history by meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June 2018 under the stated aim of denuclearizing the rogue state, Trump didn’t get many concrete promises out of Pyongyang.

But one thing Kim agreed to in writing was “recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.”


“The repatriation of the Korean War remains is significant in that it partially closes a painful chapter in US-Korea relations,” Benjamin Young, a North Korea expert from George Washington University told Business Insider. “It’s significant from a historical perspective and is symbolic. “

But North Korea did not immediately repatriate any bodies. By blowing off the meeting, as South Korea’s Yonhap News reported, North Korea has shown it can be difficult even over symbolic gestures of kindness.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Thousands of 100-year-olds asked Trump to get the bodies back?

After the summit, Trump really pressed the idea that returning the bodies was a significant achievement by making some dubious claims.

Trump said “thousands” of parents of Korean War soldiers asked him to get the remains back, but the Korean War took place from 1950-1953, meaning those parents would have been born around the 1920s, and approaching 100 years old today; it seems likely this figure includes surviving relatives of the deceased who are still seeking closure.

Later in June 2018, he claimed 200 bodies had been returned, but provided no evidence. North Korean officials have said they have identified the remains of about 200 US soldiers, so it’s unclear why North Korea would still be meeting if it had returned the bodies.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

North Korea leader Kim Jong Un inspects Chunghung farm in Samjiyon County.

(KCNA)

North Korea sticking it to Trump

North Korea’s latest snub follows Kim Jong Un electing to go to a potato farm rather than meet with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and North Korean media bashing the US’s stance on denuclearization as “gangster-like.”

While Trump likely played up the demand by living US parents of Korean War veterans for their remains, returing the bodies would undoubtedly improve relations and build trust.

Kim has not agreed to take any steps towards denuclearization, and there’s ample signs that North Korea has continued to pursue nuclear weapons.

But Kim did agree to bring back the bodies. Sending the bodies back would demonstrate that North Korea can be trusted to some degree, and cost Pyongyang nothing in terms of military posture.

North Korea called for a US general to negotiate with them the return of the remains of US soldiers as soon as July 15, 2018, Yonhap reported.

If North Korea drags its feet on making good on an explicit promises to deliver a symbolic and kind gesture, it doesn’t bode well for the larger goal of denuclearization.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Civil War vets wanted to invade Canada to liberate Ireland

In the years following the American Civil War, Canada was still very much a possession of the British Empire. As such, it had a number of official fortifications and other important areas along its border with the United States. One of those was Fort Erie, directly across the Niagara from the American city of Buffalo, New York. In June 1866, some 850 men crossed the Niagara from Buffalo, intent on capturing the fort.

They were Irishmen, and they were going to conquer Canada to free their home country.


Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Irish immigrants flowed into the United States in droves following the Acts of Union that saw British domination of Ireland since the early 1800s. The Great Irish Famine of the late 1840s also saw a huge emigration of Irish people to the United States. By 1860, there were more than 1.6 million people of Irish descent who called themselves American – and upwards of 175,000 of them were about to serve in the Union Army.

The Irish made-up 40 percent of foreign-born enlistments in the Civil War, and were 17 percent of the overall Union force. When these battle-hardened veterans returned home after the war, many of them were headed to New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New England. It was there that Irish National leaders were waiting to use the veterans’ new talent for combat.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

To be fair, when this plan was hatched, there were upwards of 10,000 Fenians.

Called the Fenian Brotherhood, its original aim was to send money, arms, and supplies to Irish rebels in Ireland via Irish émigrés living in the U.S. Many in the movement were soon convinced that liberating Ireland through a direct uprising was impossible, so they decided to step up their game a bit. If the Irish couldn’t mount an invasion of Ireland, then they would mount an invasion of Canada, the nearest British-held country and trade it for Irish independence.

T.W. Sweeny a former Union general who also served in the Mexican War hatched a three-pronged plan to invade Canada, set up an Irish government-in-exile, and pressure Britain to release Ireland to the Irish. It called for multiple incursions into Ontario in an effort to draw the main British force out of Quebec. With that done, the main Fenian force would invade Quebec, cutting off lines of communication and supply.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Noncommissioned officers of the 10th Royal Regiment of Toronto Volunteers, circa 1870.

On June 1, 1850, a force of Irish-American members of the Fenian Brotherhood landed in Ontario and planted the Irish flag. They tore up railroads and cut the telegraph wires, effectively cutting Fort Erie off from the rest of Canada. Then, 600 Fenians marched westward. At the same time, the commander of British forces in Canada activated upwards of 22,000 troops to put the insurrection down. While the larger force formed up, 850 men under Lt. Col. Alfred Booker were dispatched to pin the Irish down and keep them from wreaking any more havoc.

The two forces met at Ridgeway in Ontario, Canada. It was the first time an all-Canadian force was led by a Canadian commander. Unfortunately for the Canadians, the Fenians were well-armed and skilled fighters, having just braved the battlefields of the American Civil War. The Canadians were soon reinforced, and the superior numbers caused the Fenians to retreat.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

No. 5 Company of the Queen’s Own Rifles.

The Fenians were repulsed elsewhere along their proposed lines of attack. Having assumed that Irish Canadians would join the uprising, they were surprised at how the Canadians responded to their invasion. By the time British forces mounted a full response, many of the Fenians had retreated back across the river, the United States Navy was stopping Fenian barges from bringing reinforcements, and the U.S. declared total neutrality in Canadian affairs.

There would be more Fenian uprisings in later years, but for the time being, the push to trade Canada for Ireland would not come to pass.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban claims responsibility for deadly bomb blast in capital

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for a bombing in Kabul that killed at least four people.

The explosion near a fortified foreign compound late on Jan. 14, 2019, also wounded 113 people, according to the Health Ministry.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant group, said on Jan. 15, 2019, that four attackers blew up an explosives-packed truck before entering Green Village and “killing many” foreigners.


The Interior Ministry said three military personnel and one civilian were killed in the bombing, while 12 women and 23 children were among those wounded.

Authorities were investigating if any foreigners were among the casualties, it also said.

Until recently, some UN staff lived and worked at Green Village, but officials said the area was now largely empty and “only a number of guards” were left.

The latest attack comes as U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is touring the region for meetings aimed at bringing an end to the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Zalmay Khalilzad.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The Taliban controls or contests nearly half of Afghanistan, where it is waging a deadly insurgency against the Western-backed Kabul government and government security forces.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans

For active duty military members, playing video games can help release stress, build camaraderie and offer comforting familiarity in foreign environments. For veterans returning from combat, gaming can reduce isolation, renew connections with fellow service members and provide therapeutic benefits.

Recognizing the unique value of gaming for the military community, Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide Xbox Adaptive Controller units to 22 initial VA rehab centers across the U.S.

Launched in 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was created to make gaming accessible to players with limited mobility by enabling them to customize their setups and connect with external devices like buttons, switches and joysticks that accommodate their playing. The controller, which can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games, was developed after extensive consultation with gamers, accessibility advocates and nonprofits that work with gamers with limited mobility, including veterans.


Ken Jones, the founder of Warfighter Engaged, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides gaming devices to wounded vets, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes gaming accessible to a broader range of veterans.

“People just want to participate, and it’s going to allow them to do that,” he says. “It allows for a much bigger population of people to be included in gaming.”

Microsoft and VA partner to bring Xbox Adaptive Controller to Veterans with limited mobility

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Gaming is a popular activity among the military community, but navigating a traditional controller can be difficult or impossible for injured veterans. The inability to game can mean the loss of connection to veterans’ military communities and to an activity that was a significant part of their lives during service.

The partnership with Microsoft aims to give veterans with limited mobility the opportunity to game again, get them more involved with their rehabilitation and increase social interaction, says Dr. Leif Nelson, director of National Veterans Sports Programs Special Events for the VA.

“We’re looking for platforms for veterans to interact with each other, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be that access point to get involved in this world and in the gaming community,” Nelson says. “Gaming is now everywhere in the world, and while people tend to think of it as isolating, we’re finding that it actually has the opposite effect and can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans. I think this can be a tool in the rehabilitation process to achieve a lot of different goals.”

For Jeff Holguin, gaming was a way to cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced after being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2003 following an injury. He’d planned on a career in the military, but that identity was suddenly gone. Facing a series of surgeries and feeling adrift in the civilian world, Holguin isolated himself. He turned to gaming, an activity he’d enjoyed since childhood, and found the sense of inclusion he was craving.

“It gave me an outlet, a virtual efficacy within a world that I didn’t feel like I had a place in anymore,” says Holguin. “I made a lot of social connections and friends through that virtual space.”

Holguin went back to school, studying clinical psychology with a focus on trauma and PTSD. He has designed research for Microsoft around mixed-reality devices and learning outcomes and is also a clinical psychology doctoral intern at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott, Arizona. For Holguin, gaming provided a space where he could gradually reintegrate into post-military life.

“It was a sense of belonging and a sense of safety,” he says. “When you have trauma and you’re depressed, sometimes even just a little bit of stimulation is too much and you just don’t have the cognitive or emotional resources to deal with other people’s well-meaning interactivity.

“Gaming gives you what we might call exposure therapy, meaning you get a little bit of socialization, but when you’re ready to turn it off you can turn it off,” Holguin says. “Gaming provided some significant therapeutic value for me.”

Jamie Kaplan, a recreation therapist at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, has been using gaming as therapy with his patients — about 25 percent of whom have had traumatic spinal injuries — for seven years.

Kaplan, himself an avid gamer, says gaming provides a range of therapeutic benefits. Manipulating a controller and pressing buttons, for example, can help with motor skills. Decisions made throughout a game, from choosing which character to play to which moves to make, requires cognitive processing and visual processing, he says.

“It’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, decision-making ability, information processing, cognitive processing,” Kaplan says. “We can assign a number of therapeutic values to gaming.”

Introducing the Xbox Adaptive Controller

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Kaplan used various gaming systems and consoles with patients before getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller last fall. He particularly likes the Copilot feature, which was developed for Xbox One and links two controllers as if they were one, allowing players to team up on a game and share controls. The feature quickly became one of Xbox’s most popular ones and was built into the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

One of his patients, Kaplan says, was able to play with his brother for the first time in three years by using Copilot. “It’s amazing,” Kaplan says. “It allows me as the therapist to make up for whatever deficit the patient has in utilizing a regular controller or the adaptive controller.”

Kaplan uses games ranging from sports and racing games to virtual reality games and programs that allow veterans with limited mobility to try activities such as scuba diving, fishing or hiking. VR is useful for helping amputees work on balance, Kaplan says, and VR guided relaxation and meditation programs can help veterans reduce stress and anxiety — and potentially reduce reliance on pain medications such as opioids.

“I see chronic pain patients every day and tell them, ‘I’m not going to cure your pain; we’re just hoping to trick it for a little while,'” he says. “You’re distracting them from the pain by engaging them in gaming.”

Gaming has been part of Mike Monthervil’s life since his childhood growing up in Carrefour, Haiti, a suburban area southwest of Port-au-Prince. Monthervil’s family was one of the only ones in the neighborhood with a gaming system, but electricity was only available for part of each day. When the lights would come back on, Monthervil recalls, “every kid would be banging on our door to come and play a game.”

For Monthervil, gaming was a passion that also provided an escape from a challenging environment. “It was a very tough place to live. Kids don’t have a lot to do there,” he says. “Gaming made my childhood better. It took a lot of stress out for me.

“To this day, I still talk to the guys who are over there that I grew up with, that are still going through the hardship of being there,” he says.

Monthervil continued gaming after moving to the United States and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. Stationed in Afghanistan, he passed time playing games with his fellow soldiers between missions. But in July 2014, Monthervil sustained a serious spinal cord injury after falling backward into a ditch during a training session, leaving him unable to use his legs. He underwent surgery and spent nine months at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. There he met Kaplan, who helped him adapt his gaming to accommodate the dexterity limitations caused by his accident.

Kaplan gave Monthervil an adaptive controller to try several years ago, but it was cumbersome and difficult for him to use. After getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller, Kaplan created a custom set-up for Monthervil by adding a few additional buttons. Monthervil recently got one of the controllers at home and says it works better for him than any device he’s tried since his injury.

“Of all the adaptive stuff I’ve tried, it’s by far the best one,” says Monthervil, who’s 26.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Photo of Mike Monthervil gaming with the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

(Microsoft)

The Xbox collaboration is part of a strategic partnership between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dating back more than 20 years. Recent efforts under the partnership have focused on equipping VA employees with productivity and collaboration technologies, migrating VA legacy systems to the cloud and using advanced analytics in VA call centers to give veterans better information to make decisions about their benefits and medical care.

Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. Regulated Industries at Microsoft, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller collaboration is part of a broader effort to improve therapeutic and clinical care for veterans. But its fundamental goal is to harness technology to improve veterans’ lives, she says.

“It’s an example of using technology as a means to a much more significant end, which is a sense of belonging, being part of a team, a sense of reconnection, a sense of family,” she says.

Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, sees the collaboration as an ideal pairing of Microsoft’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in gaming with the vast reach of the VA, which serves more than 9 million veterans nationwide in its health care system.

“Everyone can play games, and we really focus on that as an organization,” he says. “With the VA being the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., we thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring our focus on gaming and the great work that the VA is doing together.”

Microsoft will use feedback and data collected by the VA centers to determine how effective the Xbox Adaptive Controller is in serving veterans and how the device might be improved going forward, Townes-Whitley says. Nelson believes the initiative will serve not just existing gamers, but also veterans who weren’t previously into gaming.

“If we do our job well and we’re able to expose veterans to (the Xbox Adaptive Controller) as a possible tool or intervention in their rehab process, I expect to find successes even in those folks who have never gamed before in their lives,” he says.

A 2018 study found that gaming can relieve stress for veterans, help them cope with moods and provide a way to connect. Kaplan also sees the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an equalizer for veterans and others with disabilities.

“One of the biggest things kids and adults with disabilities face is the stigma of being different. Online, we’re all the same,” he says. “I could be missing my arms or my legs and you wouldn’t know it. Gaming really helps to promote that feeling of normalcy and feeling of belonging.

“I have a lot of respect for Xbox seeing and filling a need for making something that allows military members and anyone who has a disability to be able to game,” Kaplan says.

“I think it’s great for a mainstream company like Microsoft to be the one to take the first step. I hope it encourages other companies to do that.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force pilots ready to replace UH-1N Huey helicopter

Pilots from the 413th Flight Test Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, recently received the certification they need to fly the MH-139 helicopter, scheduled to replace the Air Force’s UH-1N Huey.

Maj. Zach Roycroft and Tony Arrington, an Air Force civilian pilot, completed the five-week course on the AW-139, Leonardo-Finmeccanica’s commercial version of the helicopter, according to a news release.

Roycroft and Arrington both received their “type certification,” a Federal Aviation Administration qualification that requires specialized training for a specific aircraft, the service said. They earned the certification in Whippany, New Jersey, on July 29, 2019.


The FAA type rating is a standard qualification to become mission-ready on an airframe, but pilots will receive further Air Force-specific training for the MH-139.

“Test pilots and initial cadre are qualified to fly both the AW-139 and MH-139 after having received this training,” Roycroft told Military.com in a statement.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

A SASEMAR AW-139 during a helihoisting exercise.

“This puts our team one step closer to flight testing the new aircraft when production is completed,” said Roycroft, the MH-139 lead test pilot, in the release. “Ultimately, it puts the Air Force one step closer to delivery of a much-needed increase in capability.”

The 413th has kept busy: Last month, pilots from the unit conducted the first test flight of the HH-60W combat rescue helicopter, meant to replace the service’s current HH-60G Pave Hawk fleet.

Additionally, maintenance airmen from the 413th and Air Force Global Strike Command have completed a technician course for the AW-139/MH-139 to familiarize themselves on new systems unique to the aircraft, the release states.

“Every engineer, pilot and [special missions aviator] is dedicated to ensur[ing] the UH-1N community receives the most capable replacement aircraft to defend our nation’s assets,” Roycroft said.

In September 2018, the service picked Boeing Co. to build the replacement for its UH-1N Huey helicopter at a cost of approximately .38 billion.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

A UH-1N Huey helicopter.

The award contract stipulates approximately 5 million for the first four MH-139 helicopters, manufactured in partnership with Leonardo-Finmeccanica, and includes equipment integration.

The service said receiving the helicopter will mark “the first time in recent history” that the Air Force will have a rotary-wing aircraft “not previously used in another branch of the military,” according to the release.

The first MH-139 aircraft delivery to the 413th is expected in late November 2019.

The UH-1Ns — some of which entered the Air Force’s inventory in 1970 — will continue to support five commands and numerous missions, including operational support airlift, test support and Intercontinental Ballistic Missile security support, until the replacements are ready.

The Air Force plans to purchase 84 MH-139 helicopters, along with maintenance and support equipment, over the next decade.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army bars soldiers from using TikTok on government phones

The US Army has barred its soldiers from using TikTok following mounting fears from US lawmakers that the Chinese tech company could pose a national security threat.

Military.com was the first to report the new policy decision, which is a reversal of the Army’s earlier stance on the popular short-form video app.


A spokeswoman told Military.com that the US Army had come to consider TikTok a “cyberthreat” and that “we do not allow it on government phones.” The US Navy took a similar decision to bar the app from government phones last month.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

(U.S. Navy Photo by Gary Nichols)

TikTok is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, and its links to Beijing have prompted intense scrutiny from US politicians as the app’s popularity has skyrocketed. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York successfully requested an Army investigation into the app’s handling of user data in November, and numerous reports have emerged of the platform censoring content it thinks could anger the Chinese government.

TikTok has strenuously denied any allegations of Chinese state influence, and in its first transparency report claimed that China had made zero censorship requests in the first half of 2019.

Numerous reports have surfaced that the company is exploring strategies for distancing itself from its Chinese roots, including a US rebrand, building a headquarters outside China, and selling off a majority stake in its business.

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

Articles

This is the real Sgt. Pepper from the Beatles album cover

Long story short, the 20th Century’s most widely-known British non-commissioned officer was real. Only his name wasn’t Pepper, it was Babington. And he was a Lieutenant General.


Paul McCartney chose the image of Gen. Sir James Melville Babington as the real-life visage of the fictional Sgt. Pepper for the Beatles 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For most people, being on a Beatles album would be the highlight of their life. Not so for one of the British Empire’s decorated officers.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Ringo was just happy to be there.

The Scottish-born Babington came up in the ranks of the British Imperial military through the Boer War of the 19th century, spending decades fighting insurgencies against the Dutch descended residents of the southern tip of Africa. He scored a number of decisive wins there, becoming a feared opponent of the rebels. He left just before the end of the war, which went just about as well as you think it might when a bunch of farmers take on the largest empire on earth.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Sorry, fellas. There’s only one America.

After laying the smack down on the Boers in South Africa, he did a brief stint in England before being transferred to take command of the New Zealand Defence Force in 1902. After five years, he was sent back to London, where he stayed until World War I broke out.

From there, he took command of the British 23rd Division under the New Army. Described as “elderly but fearless” he spent a lot of effort and Crown funds on outfitting his men, unlike many other commanders. As a result, his men loved him and fought so hard at legendary WWI battles like the Somme and Ypres. He also led men along the fronts that aren’t as talked about in history books, like Italy and the Asiago Plateau.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
Just Sgt. Pepper, doing Sgt. Pepper things.

When he retired, he was Lieutenant General Sir James Melville Babington KCB, KCMG, commander of British Forces in Italy. He died in 1936, and would never know that his face finally achieved worldwide fame, probably even in South Africa.

Articles

This Air Force general could be the first female chief of staff

General Lori Robinson experienced a meteoric rise through the ranks of the U.S. Air Force. From 2012-2014, she added a star per year to her epaulets. She was the deputy commander of the USAF’s CENTCOM area of responsibility and the vice commander of the U.S. Air Force’s global strike force. She became the first female to command USAF combat forces when she took over Pacific Air Forces, which controls Air Force operations from the United States to the east coast of Asia and from Antarctica to the Arctic Ocean.


Now, she’s poised to make history again in 2016.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness
We assume she drops the mic at the end of her speeches. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. James Stewart/Released)

The current Air Force Chief of Staff (CSAF), General Mark Welsh III, is set to retire in the summer, and Robinson is on the short list to replace him.

She’s also in the running to head the U.S. Northern Command, which would make her the highest ranking combatant commander, tasked with defending the contiguous United States, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico.

Obesity severely impacting military mission readiness

Robinson is also a unique choice because she would be the first non-pilot to be named CSAF. Her experience, however, includes more than 900 flight hours as a “senior battle manager” in the E-3B/C and E-8C aircraft.

“As far as the woman part of it all, I’m the commander at Pacific Air Forces,” Robinson recently said during an interview. “I’m a general of the United States Air Force; I’m an airman, and I happen to be a woman.”

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