Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TACTICAL

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

Since being paralyzed almost three decades ago, Dean Juntunen has competed in more than 90 wheelchair marathons, continued snowmobiling and four-wheeling, and taken up kayaking.

Now, Juntunen is taking another significant step. And then another step. And then another.

“Just standing talking to you is interesting,” Juntunen said. “I had not gone from a sitting position to a standing position in 27 years. I got injured in ’91, so just standing is fun. I like just standing up and moving around.”


The medically retired Air Force captain is walking with the aid of a wearable exoskeleton robotic device as part of a study at the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

About 160 veterans are participating in the program at 15 VA Centers across the country. After completing a series of rigorous training sessions, veterans in this study will take the exoskeleton home for use in everyday life.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

Juntunen executes a challenging 180-pivot with the aid of VA trainers Cheryl Lasselle (left) and Zach Hodgson.

Participants must meet certain criteria, including bone density. Users should be between about 5-foot-3 and 6-foot-3 and cannot weigh more than 220 pounds.

“Most paralyzed people, if not all, lose bone density,” Juntunen said. “So, you have to pass a bone density scan to qualify for this program. I happen to have unusually good bone density and I’ve been paralyzed for 27 years.”

Juntunen was on active duty when he was injured in between assignments from Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls, Montana, to Wright-Patterson AFB in Dayton, Ohio, when his life changed.

Fell 30 feet, broke spinal cord in two places

An avid hiker and outdoorsman, Juntunen’s life changed when a tree branch gave way and he fell 30 feet to the ground.

“I landed on my back in a fetal position,” said Juntunen, who lives near Mass City in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. “Spine folded in half, broke five vertebrae, wrecked my spinal cord in two spots.”

“Well, I have a hard time saying no and they strongly asked me to do it. So, I decided, that’s probably going to be fun playing with that robot. I guess I’ll make a bunch of trips to Milwaukee.”

Juntunen, who has an engineering degree, said the hardest part of mastering the robotic device was developing balance.

“One of the hardest things about getting paralyzed is relearning your sense of balance because you can’t feel anything through your butt,” he said. “I’m paralyzed from the base of the rib cage down, so it’s like I’m sitting on a stump all the time.”

Turns and pivots presented challenges, as did going up an incline, he said.

“I liken this to walking on stilts for an able-bodied person because you have to feel the ground through wooden or metal legs. That’s basically what I’m doing in this thing.”

“I don’t really describe this as walking, more like riding the robot,” he said. “The interesting thing is, my brain feels like it’s walking. I’m a complete injury, so I can’t feel anything. My brain has no idea what my legs are doing, but nonetheless, it feels like I’m walking in my head.”

Not all participants are able to sufficiently master the nuances of the 51-pound device to meet the requirements of the study.

Basic training needed to master balance skills

“Some people don’t get past what we call the basic training,” said Joe Berman, Milwaukee VA project manager. “To be eligible to go into the advanced training, you have to be able to master some balance skills and do five continuous steps with assistance within five training sessions. That’s been shown by previous research to be a good predictor of who is going to succeed in passing the advanced skills that we require to take the device home.”

The training sessions at Milwaukee last about two to two-and-a-half hours, usually twice a day. With the aid of certified trainers, Juntunen walked up to a quarter mile, starting with the lightly trafficked tunnel between the main hospital and the Spinal Cord Injury Center.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

When Juntunen takes the device home, companions trained to assist will replace the VA trainers.

He eventually progressed to one of the main public entries to the hospital, which had inclines, carpeted areas, and pedestrian traffic.

“The inclines are harder,” Juntunen said. “Here, you’ve got short incline, then flat, then incline, so the transitions are harder. You’re in balance going down and when it flattens out, you have to change where your balance is, so the transition is a little trickier. Coming up is the worst, up the ramps is the hardest. You kind of have to reach behind you with the crutches. It’s more exertion and more difficult on the balance because the robot is always perpendicular to the surface.”

Mastering use of the device in the public space was part of the requirement before Juntunen can take it home.

“In order to take the device home, they need to be able to navigate up and down Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)-compliant ramps and go through doorways,” said Zach Hodgson, a physical therapist at the Milwaukee VA and part of the certified training team. “Right now, we have three trainers, but at home, he’ll need a companion to walk with him at all times. It’s looking at all those skills we need to get to and then making plans based on how he’s progressing.”

“He’s going to use this device in his home and community so we really get a good idea about how useful these devices are,” Hodgson said.

At home, companions replace the VA trainers to help with the device. In Juntunen’s case, he’s getting help from his kayaking buddies.

“They’ve seen me transferring and stuff,” he said. “They know I can sit and balance, sit on the edge of my kayak before I transfer up to the seat. So, that’s all normal for them.”

After completing training in Milwaukee, Juntunen is scheduled to have another session at a shopping mall in Houghton, Michigan, tentatively followed by another session in the atrium of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the first all-female spacewalk isn’t gonna happen

With the first in a series of three spacewalks successfully completed at the International Space Station, NASA has updated astronaut assignments for the remaining two spacewalks and will preview the third in an upcoming news conference on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA astronauts Nick Hague and Anne McClain conducted the first spacewalk in this series on March 22, 2019. Hague and fellow NASA astronaut Christina Koch now are preparing to conduct the second spacewalk Friday, March 29, 2019, during which they will continue work started on the first spacewalk to install powerful lithium-ion batteries for one pair of the station’s solar arrays.


Koch had been scheduled to conduct this spacewalk with astronaut McClain, in what would have been the first all-female spacewalk. However, after consulting with McClain and Hague following the first spacewalk, mission managers decided to adjust the assignments, due in part to spacesuit availability on the station. McClain learned during her first spacewalk that a medium-size hard upper torso – essentially the shirt of the spacesuit – fits her best. Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday, March 29, 2019, Koch will wear it.

Mission experts previewed the tasks for the first two spacewalks during a March 19, 2019 news conference.

McClain now is tentatively scheduled to perform her next spacewalk – the third in this series – on Monday, April 8, 2019, with Canadian Space Agency astronaut David Saint-Jacques. Assignments for this spacewalk will be finalized following completion of the second spacewalk.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

Astronauts (from left) Anne McClain and David Saint-Jacques are pictured in between a pair of spacesuits that are stowed and serviced inside the Quest airlock where U.S. spacewalks are staged.

(NASA)

Experts will discuss the work to be performed on the April 8, 2019 spacewalk during a news conference at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday, April 2, 2019, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Live coverage of the briefing and spacewalks will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Media wishing to attend the briefing in person must request credentials from the Johnson newsroom at 281-483-5111 no later than 4 p.m. Monday, April 1, 2019. Media interested in participating by phone must contact the newsroom by 1:45 p.m. April 2, 2019.

Participants in the briefing will be:

  • Kenny Todd, International Space Station manager for Operations and Integration
  • Rick Henfling, spacewalk flight director
  • John Mularski, lead spacewalk officer

McClain and Saint-Jacques will lay out jumper cables between the Unity module and the S0 truss, at the midpoint of the station’s backbone, during their April 8, 2019 spacewalk. This work will establish a redundant path of power to the Canadian-built robotic arm, known as Canadarm2. They also will install cables to provide for more expansive wireless communications coverage outside the orbital complex, as well as for enhanced hardwired computer network capability.

Live coverage of both spacewalks will begin at 6:30 a.m., and each is expected to last about 6.5 hours. The March 29, 2019 spacewalk is scheduled to start at 8:20 a.m., while the April 8, 2019 spacewalk is set to start at 8:05 a.m.

These will be the 215th and 216th spacewalks in the history of International Space Station assembly and maintenance. During the first spacewalk of the series, on March 22, 2019, McClain became the 13th woman to perform a spacewalk. Koch will become the 14th on March 29, 2019.

Learn more about the spacewalks and the International Space Station at: https://www.nasa.gov/station

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what Boeing’s new stealth tanker looks like

The Navy wants a drone tanker that can launch from ships. And Boeing Co. has thrown its hat in the ring with a futuristic design.


On Dec. 19, Boeing offered a public peek at its design for what the Navy is calling the MQ-25 Stingray: an unmanned aircraft system that can offer in-air refueling to the service’s fighters, including the F-35C.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton
A Navy F-35C Lightning II is drogue refueled by a KC-10A during a training mission near Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., April 10, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Kelly)

General Atomics revealed concept art of its proposal for the MQ-25 earlier this year, publishing photos of an aircraft with wide wings, almost fighter-like in silhouette. The prototype aircraft Boeing revealed today has a domed top and thicker body.

In all, four companies were expected to compete for the MQ-25 contract, including Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. However, Northrop, expected to compete with its X-47B blended-wing-body UAS, dropped out of consideration in October.

To date, Lockheed has only published teaser images of what its unmanned tanker prototype would look like.

“Boeing has been delivering carrier aircraft to the Navy for almost 90 years,” Don ‘BD’ Gaddis, the head of the refueling system program for Boeing’s Phantom Works, said in a statement. “Our expertise gives us confidence in our approach. We will be ready for flight testing when the engineering and manufacturing development contract is awarded.”

Also Read: The Navy wants this drone to extend its fighter range beyond 1k miles

According to the Boeing’s announcement, the prototype aircraft is now completing engine runs and had yet to take its first flight. Deck handling demonstrations are set to begin in early 2018.

The Navy’s unmanned tanker program had been renamed and re-envisioned multiple times as officials juggle requirements and capabilities. The program was formerly called CBARS, Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System, before being renamed the MQ-25.

According to Naval Air Systems Command, the MQ-25 will not only deliver “robust organic” refueling capability, but will also interface with existing ship and land-based systems, including those providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.

The competing companies have until Jan. 3 to get their full proposals in; Boeing expects to pick a design in the second quarter of 2018.

Humor

7 dumb things troops do the first week home after a deployment

It’s the moment troops have been waiting for. They’ve counted down the days until this moment since they first arrived in-country. The second those wheels touch the ground, families rush towards their loved ones and fill them with all the love they’d missed while deployed. After that sweet moment, the week goes downhill fast.


NCOs with several deployments under their belt will offer warnings to troops regarding their first reintegration. They’ll impart every grain of wisdom they can, hoping their troops don’t make the same mistakes as so many have before them. But, chances are, NCOs will sit back and watch their troops go through a second round of boot mistakes — like these:

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

Who says we can’t get a year’s worth of sleep in seven days?

(Via Navy Memes)

Wanting to sleep the entire time

Everyone comes out to welcome you back to the States. They’ll probably have all these grandiose plans centered around how to “best” welcome you home. They’ll fail to take into account the fact that you’re jetlagged having come from half a world away.

Try to get some sleep. Even if you overdo it the first few nights, it’s well earned. Just don’t forget that you have to deal with people while you’re awake.

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Freaking out over “losing” their weapon

While on deployment (in-country deployments. Not a “deployment at sea” or Kuwait tour), troops need to have their weapon at all times. There is no Hell like the one that would be brought upon you if you lost it.

That’s why it takes a few weeks for us to process the fact that it was turned into the arms room for good. Just try not to scream, “where the f*ck is my weapon!?” in the middle of a crowded mall cafeteria.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

You’ll never trust the cleanliness of a shower again.

(Photo by Sgt. Randall Clinton)

Showering with sandals

After a while, anything “communal” becomes disgusting. This is because everyone who uses it automatically assumes it’s the next person’s turn to clean it. Nowhere is this more evident than in the already-disgusting communal showers.

Upon returning home, many troops they instinctively wear them, even in their own homes, because, at this point, it’s just too weird not to.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

If it seems like a dumb idea, but it works, it ain’t dumb…

(Meme via Dysfunctional Veterans)

Drinking like they did before the deployment

The funny thing about tolerances is that they’re perishable. Right before a deployment, a troop could down an entire bottle of whiskey to themselves and maybe get a buzz going. Afterwords, one sniff of beer might knock that same troop out.

Take things easy. Download a ride-sharing app or have a taxi on speed dial. Don’t expect your NCO to come play designated driver for you because they’re probably drunk after a single sniff of beer, too.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

“I’m a go**amn war hero. I can binge-watch Netflix my entire leave and no one can stop me!”

Trying to catch up on TV shows and films (all at once)

If the troops didn’t get the chance to binge watch everything at the MWR or get lucky with advanced deployment screenings, they’re going to be laser-focused on trying to find out what happened while they were gone.

This is extra applicable for TV series that are vulnerable to spoilers on the internet.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

…even you can afford the 39% interest rate.

(Via /r/Justbootthings)

Wasting so, so much money

The thing about deployments is that troops will still make money while they’re gone and have nothing to spend it on. All that tax-free combat pay just keeps piling up — even more so if they’re single.

It may seem like you’re rich enough to drop all that cash on the Corvette you wanted as a private, but you’re still making a boot mistake…

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

I’m not stopping you, by any means. Just advising you.

(via Pop Smoke)

Forgetting civilians aren’t fans of our humor

There really isn’t much to do overseas except hang out with the platoon. Everyone has told their jokes a hundred times over. The only way to keep things funny is to take it to the next level. Sooner or later, the jokes enter a realm that makes all of our grandmothers want to whoop our grizzled, war-fighting asses for even thinking it’s funny.

Just remember, there are now kids around as you tell stories about your scorpion death fights.

Articles

This vet taught himself to play the piano in Saddam Hussein’s bombed out palace

In December 2003, Michael Trotter, Jr. was a soldier stationed in Baghdad, Iraq. His unit was camped out in one of Saddam Hussein’s bombed-out palaces when his commanding officer discovered a piano and suggested Trotter, who enjoyed singing, check it out.


“You had to crawl over soot and rut and rock and rubble from the war to get to this piano; it was like one of those dramatic movie scenes,” Trotter told Real Clear Life.

It’s common for troops to play the easier-to-transport guitar while deployed, but not many get the chance to tickle the ivory. Trotter didn’t know how to play piano, but he began to teach himself. Music became an outlet and an escape from the stress of combat.

When his friend, Army Captain Robert C. Scheetz, Jr., was killed by an IED, Trotter wrote a song called “Dear Martha,” which he then performed at Scheetz’s memorial service. Trotter would go on to sing at many more memorials, providing solace for those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Dear Martha” is about the letters written between loved ones divided by war. Trotter recorded the song with his wife, Tanya Blount, as part of their musical duo, The War and Treaty, which explores the concept of creating music out of darkness and despair to find peace, tranquility, and a higher purpose.

While this video doesn’t include any visuals, you can hear their tranquil notes and haunting harmonies by clicking play below — and you really, really should:

(The War and Treaty | YouTube)
MIGHTY TRENDING

How USNS Comfort went from a symbol of hope with the president’s blessing, to heading back from NYC having treated fewer than 180 patients

Earlier this week President Donald Trump announced he would be sending the Navy hospital ship Comfort home from New York City, cutting short a highly-touted but anticlimactic mission.

USNS Comfort arrived in New York City — the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak — on March 30 to aid the city’s hospitals by taking all of their non-coronavirus patients.


But it turned out that the city didn’t have many non-coronavirus patients to take, with only 20 patients were admitted to the 1,000-bed hospital ship in its first day. Meanwhile, New York City hospitals were still struggling to make space for a surge of patients.

The Comfort eventually reconfigured itself into a 500-bed ship to take coronavirus patients, but never came to reaching capacity — by April 21, it had treated just 179 people.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the city no longer needed the ship, and the Comfort is now ready to sail home to Virginia for a new mission.

Scroll down for a timeline of the ship’s short-lived mission.

March 17: New York City was quickly becoming a hot zone in the US coronavirus outbreak. The US Navy dispatched one of its hospital ships, USNS Comfort, to aid the city’s overwhelmed medical centers.

During a March 17 press conference, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said he had ordered the Navy to “lean forward” in deploying the Comfort to New York “before the end of this month.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo welcomed the help as hospitals braced for a tidal wave of coronavirus patients.

“This will be an extraordinary step,” Cuomo said the following day. “It’s literally a floating hospital, which will add capacity.”

The Comfort is a converted super tanker that the Navy uses to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Its prior postings had taken it to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, and to New York City in 2001 to treat people injured in the September 11 attacks.

The ship includes 12 fully-equipped operating rooms and capacity for 1,000 beds. It is usually manned by 71 civilians and up to 1,200 Navy medical and communications personnel.

March 29: President Trump saw off the Comfort as it left its port in Virginia to sail up to New York City. He remarked that it was a “70,000-ton message of hope and solidarity to the incredible people of New York.”

Source: Military.com

March 30: The Comfort arrived in New York City the next day, a white beacon of hope for a city that had at the time seen more than 36,000 cases and 790 deaths. That number has since grown to more than 138,000 cases and 9,944 deaths.

Source: NYC Health

Throngs of New Yorkers broke stay-at-home orders to watch the massive former tanker come into port.

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Sailors work in the ICU unit aboard USNS Comfort in New York City on April 20, 2020.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

April 2: The ship is up and running. The New York Times reported that it had accepted just 20 patients on its first day and that it wasn’t taking any coronavirus patients.

Michael Dowling, the head of New York’s largest hospital system, called the Comfort a “joke.” He told The Times: “It’s pretty ridiculous. If you’re not going to help us with the people we need help with, what’s the purpose?”

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Cmdr. Lori Cici, left, and Lt. Akneca Bumfield stand by for an inbound ambulance carrying a patient arriving for medical care aboard aboard the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort on April 9.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

Source: The New York Times, Business Insider

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The crew of the comfort practice how to bring patients on board the ship after docking in New York City on March 31, 2020.

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman

April 6: Following the outrage, Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked Trump for permission to let the ship take coronavirus patients.

Source: New York Post

Trump agreed and the Navy reconfigured the ship into a 500-bed hospital to space out patients and lower the risk of spreading the highly-infectious virus.

Source: CBS News

That same day, before the ship started taking coronavirus patients, a crew member tested positive for the disease. This is despite the fact that the crew was ordered to quarantine for two weeks before their departure.

That number grew to four in the following weeks. All of the sick crew members have since recovered and are back to work, a Navy spokesman later told The Virginian-Pilot.

Source: Business Insider

April 21: Even after moving to take coronavirus patients, the Comfort didn’t come close to reaching capacity — even as the city’s hospitals remained overwhelmed. As of Tuesday, the ship had treated a total of 179 patients.

During a meeting with the president, Cuomo said that New York no longer needed the Comfort and said it could be sent to a more hard-hit area.

Trump said he had taken Cuomo up on his offer and would recall the Comfort to its home port in Virginia, where it will prepare for its next posting. The new mission remains unclear.

Trump admitted during a White House briefing that part of the reason the ship was never put to much use in New York City was because its arrival coincided with the opening of a temporary hospital in the Javits convention center.

Source: Business Insider

April 24: The Comfort is still in port in New York City, even though Trump said it will be leaving as soon as possible.

Source: Business Insider, Maritime Traffic

Meanwhile, the situation in New York appears to be improving. Last Saturday Cuomo said New York may be “past the plateau” with hospitalizations on the decline. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he’s seeing “real progress.”

Source: New York Times, New York Daily News

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Green Berets in Yemen destroy missile sites for Saudi Arabia

US Green Berets are helping Saudi Arabia locate and destroy Iranian-backed Houthi ballistic missiles and launch sites in Yemen, according to The New York Times.

About 12 Green Berets were deployed to the Saudi border with Yemen in late 2017, but do not appear to have entered the country, The Times reported. They were deployed shortly after the Houthis fired a Burkan H-2 short-range ballistic missile at Riyadh in November 2017, which the Saudis claimed to have shot down, possibly with a US-made Patriot missile defense system.


The Saudi-led coalition began striking the Shiite Muslim Houthis in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis overthrew the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi from the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in 2014.

The Saudi-led coalition has since been accused of conducting unlawful and indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen, as well as blocking food, fuel, and medicine into the country. Images of emaciated Yemeni adults and children have abounded, and at least eight million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine and one million children are infected with cholera, according to Human Rights Watch.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton
The Saudi-led coalition’s restrictions on imports to Yemen have worsened the dire humanitarian situation of Yemeni civilians.

In a recent strike, the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding in a village in northwestern Yemen, killing at least 20 civilians and wounding 45 more. The bride in the wedding was among those killed, and the groom was also wounded.

A number of countries are part of the Saudi-led coalition, including the US, but Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the main actors conducting airstrikes in the wartorn country.

A Pentagon spokesperson, Major Rankine-Galloway, previously told Business Insider that the US sells weapons to countries in the Saudi-led coalition, as well as provides “limited intelligence sharing,” aerial refueling for coalition jets, and training to make coalition airstrikes more precise.

In late January 2018, Germany and Norway announced that they would stop selling weapons to countries in the Saudi-led coalition over the war in Yemen.

Rankine-Galloway told Business Insider on May 3, 2018, that he could not confirm the Times report “about the deployment of special operations forces,” but provided the following statement:

“The U.S. military has had a mil-to-mil relationship with Saudi Arabia for decades which includes military personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Special Operation Forces providing training, advising, and assisting in a variety of mission areas.
The DOD’s limited non-combat support, such as intelligence sharing, focuses on assisting our partners in securing their borders from cross-border attacks from the Houthis and improving coalition processes and procedures, especially regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties.
Due to operational security, we cannot comment further on the makeup of forward-deployed forces.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US, British navies join up in South China Sea

The US and British navies have conducted their first joint military drills in the South China Sea, where a rising China is tightening its grip.

The US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll have spent the past six days training together in the South China Sea.

Their mission was to address “common maritime security priorities, enhance interoperability, and develop relationships that will benefit both navies for many years to come,” the US Navy said in a press statement Jan. 16, 2019.


“We are pleased with the opportunity to train alongside our closest ally,” Cmdr. Toby Shaughnessy, the commanding officer of the Argyll, said.

The exercise follows an earlier trilateral drill in the Philippine Sea focused on anti-submarine warfare and involving the US Navy, Royal Navy, and Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Both the US and British navies have run afoul of Beijing in the contested waterway.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

The guided-missile destroyer USS McCampbell.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication 1st Class Bobbie G. Attaway)

Following a freedom-of-navigation operation carried out by the USS McCampbell near the Chinese-occupied Paracel Islands on Jan. 7, 2019, Beijing accused the US of trespassing in Chinese waters.

The following day, Chinese media warned that the Chinese military had deployed “far-reaching, anti-ship ballistic missiles” capable of targeting “medium and large ships” in the South China Sea.

In September 2018, a Chinese warship challenged the destroyer USS Decatur during a FONOP in the Spratlys, nearly colliding with the American vessel and risking a potentially deadly conflict.

Earlier that same month, the Chinese military confronted the Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed close to the Paracel Islands.

China sharply criticized the British ship, asserting that the vessel “violated Chinese law and relevant international law and infringed on China’s sovereignty.”

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

MUSIC

Listen to the US Army’s bluegrass cover band

Military members and veterans had a field day when they discovered the Air Force’s Max Impact Band and their highly produced music video but it turns out the Army has a few touring bands of its own – all part of the United States Army Field Band.


The Army fields a number of official touring bands, all comprised of active soldiers. But the members of the U.S. Army’s Field Band are considered “The Musical Ambassadors of the Army,” going around to play for civilians and military installations alike. The unit has four touring sub-bands: The Concert Band, The Soldiers’ Chorus, the Jazz Ambassadors, and the Six-String Soldiers — its bluegrass-country cover band.

The “Six-String Soldiers” were “The Volunteers” — a rock cover band — until a few short years ago; they now no longer perform rock music (but you can still listen to their old cover songs on their SoundCloud page).

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton
(U.S. Army photo)

The Volunteers seamlessly transitioned between rock, pop, and country music from all decades. The band was as old as the concept of an all-volunteer force, formed in 1981, just a few years after the draft disappeared from daily American life. Like most cover bands (presumably), The Volunteers wanted to one day perform their own original material for audiences. They never got the chance, but the Six String Soldiers keep their spirit alive and well.

These days you can find all of the Army’s versatile musical soldiers performing on military bases, at VA hospitals, music festivals, and special events. They aren’t limited to the military-veteran community – that’s the whole point of their mission. They want to reach out to the public and show the diversity and vast scope of the U.S. Army.

Give a listen to The Six-String Soldiers cover Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel” in the video below.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How YouTube’s obsession with Marvel Easter eggs creates global events

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment the algorithm picked you. Maybe it was after a casual viewing of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2,” when you decided to search how many post-credit scenes you had to sit through. A YouTube video says there are five.

Who is Howard the Duck? You don’t know, but he makes a cameo, so you watch another video explaining his significance. This will be the last Marvel movie for two months, but each video helps extend the dopamine rush that comes with watching Iron Man and the guy from “Parks and Recreation” work out their issues through CGI explosions. Instead of mukbangs and ASMR, you start getting videos titled “The Ending Of Spider-Man: Homecoming Explained” and “BLACK WIDOW Trailer Breakdown” in your recommended section.


After only a few videos, YouTube’s algorithm has siphoned you into the Marvel Theory-Industrial Complex, an ecosystem of video creators, fueled mostly by “details you might have missed” and secondhand information surrounding the Marvel Cinematic Universe. An MCU movie’s release is only part of the spectacle, with speculation coming before and explanation after. Everything including the set, cast, and plot is up for deliberation. Trailers are dissected. Actors get interviewed. Leaked scripts are faked.

20 Avengers: Endgame Theories That Could Be True

www.youtube.com

In July, Marvel Studios announced its “Phase Four” timeline for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, laying out 10 movies and shows from now until 2021. The details in the timeline are limited, giving only titles, release dates, and logos for each film. The Phase Four timeline, like the three before it, lays the groundwork for all of the predictions in the Marvel Theory-Industrial Complex: what characters will appear, which comic book will be used as inspiration, and the overarching plot of the phase. Any theory video has to work with this timeline.

To make it into a video, a theory doesn’t have to be right; it just has to make enough sense to be plausible. One video, covering “Avengers: Endgame” just two months before release, listed 20 predictions. The description says that Screen Rant “gathered together some of the top Avengers: Endgame theories and check this out: a majority of them could be true!” Only six turned out to be correct.

Easter egg videos give viewers the payoff without the work

In 2019, Disney made up almost 40% of the US box office, with “Avengers: Endgame” becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time. The theory videos within the Marvel Theory-Industrial Complex are essentially free advertising for Disney, as channels often upload multiple videos a day with view counts in the hundreds of thousands or more.

New Rockstars, a single channel with over 2 million subscribers, has published almost 100 videos about the MCU since the most recent movie was released. Some of them are as short as five minutes, like one discussing deleted scenes from “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” Others cover a range of topics and can be almost an hour long, about half the time of a Marvel movie.

Spiderman Far From Home EXTENDED Cut Deleted Scenes!

www.youtube.com

The second cycle of a comic book movie, explanation, begins after the movie hits theaters. Channels will rush to get their video out as soon as possible, while simultaneously attempting to catch every detail. Marvel purposefully adds “Easter eggs” for fans to discover upon rewatches. Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, said that some Easter eggs “tie back to 10 movies ago” and can be noticed only “if you’ve been tracking them very closely.”

Watching an Easter egg explanation video acts as a shortcut to that process, making the movie feel rewarding without having to find all the hidden moments yourself. A video from ScreenCrush with almost 12 million views, released the same day as “Avengers: Endgame,” showcased 209 Easter eggs.

The Marvel Theory-Industrial Complex will frequently overcompensate during this process, “finding” Easter eggs in places where there are none. For years, there have been rumors surrounding Nova, a fan favorite from the comics who has yet to appear on the screen. The rumors consistently say he will make his appearance in the next movie, from “Guardians of the Galaxy,” to “Captain Marvel,” to “Endgame,” yet he never does. After the release of “Endgame,” the directors joked that you could see Nova if you looked closely at the background of the final battle scene. Hundreds of videos were made about his secret cameo, with many claiming to find him. When the directors later clarified that no such cameo existed, more videos were made to explain why.

31 Details You Might Have Missed In ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (Spoilers!)

www.youtube.com

YouTube videos hyping and dissecting Marvel movies turn them into events

The constant obsession over the minutiae of the franchise echoes recent criticisms from Martin Scorsese, who called Marvel movies “worldwide audiovisual entertainment” to be seen as events, rather than cinema. In addition to the regular prediction and explanation videos about the MCU, channels started posting videos explaining Scorsese’s criticism. Most of them, for obvious reasons, thought he was wrong.

But within the Marvel Theory-Industrial Complex, viewing a movie as an event is a plus. The wait time until the next movie is usually the first thing a video will discuss, counting down the days until everyone finally gets to know what happens. If a Marvel movie is a ride at a theme park, as Scorsese has compared them, the theory videos are chatter from other people standing in line. You talk about what you have heard, get excited for how great the ride will be, and all finally get on together. The difference is, the Marvel line takes months to get through, and once you reach the end you start standing in a new one.

That feeling is part of the reason critics thought “superhero-movie fatigue” was on the horizon for years, but the pendulum has failed to swing in the opposite direction. Instead, the videos keep fans invested even when there is nothing to discuss, and some fans are prepared to wait in lines for the rest of their lives.

Every Marvel Studios MCU Film in Development From 2020 to 2028

www.youtube.com

A video titled “Every Marvel Studios MCU Film in Development From 2020 to 2028” shows the host sitting in a gaming chair, with the screens for both his PC and PlayStation glowing behind him. The channel has almost half a million subscribers and talks exclusively about comic book movies. “Let’s go over everything we know is coming, what I think is going to happen, and how much bigger the MCU is going to get in the next decade,” he says.

This is the logical endpoint of the Marvel theory phenomenon, stretching the prediction timeline so far into the future that the year itself seems like science fiction. To put these predictions into perspective, a baby born tomorrow would be in the second grade in 2028, just in time to see the Silver Surfer reboot the video envisions. After two more presidential terms, fans expect to see the Marvel machine still running as it always has.

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

Read more:

Articles

As North Korea gets more ambitious with missiles, Japan looks to US for backup

WASHINGTON, DC — The tensions that led to calls for THAAD deployment to South Korea are also helping make the case for sending the missile-interceptor system to the US’s other major ally in the region — Japan.


“Japan’s proximity to the growing North Korean threat surely contributes to an urgency to deploy medium-tier defenses with longer ranges than Patriot,” Thomas Karako, director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider.

“If we lived as close to Mr. Kim as they do, we’d probably feel the same way.”

Also read: What North Koreans really think of their supreme leader

So far this year, the Hermit Kingdom has conducted two nuclear device tests and more than 18 ballistic missile tests.

Of those missile tests, Pyongyang has conducted seven Musudan launches. The Musudan is speculated to have a range of approximately 1,500 to 2,400 miles, capable of targeting military installations in South Korea, Japan, and Guam, according to estimates from the Missile Defense Project.

And while all Musudan launches except the sixth one on June 22 were considered to be failures, the frequency in testing shows the North has developed something of an arsenal.

What’s more, on August 3, North Korea fired a ballistic missile near Japanese-controlled waters for the first time.

The simultaneous launch of two “No Dong” intermediate-range ballistic missiles near the western city of Hwangju was detected by US Strategic Command.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton
The THAAD missile system. | Lockheed Martin photo

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the launch as a “grave threat” to Japan and said Tokyo “strongly protested.”

Japan also said its self-defence force would remain on alert in case of further defiant launches from the rogue nation.

Adding to the growing tension, on August 24, the Hermit Kingdom successfully launched a missile from a submarine with a range capable of striking parts of Japan and South Korea.

This was the first time a North Korean missile reached Japan’s air-defense-identification zone, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said during a briefing.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

“A submarine launch poses an especially grave threat since it could catch the United States and allies by surprise,” Rebeccah Heinrichs, a fellow at the Hudson Institute specializing in nuclear deterrence and missile defense, told Business Insider in a previous interview.

Pyongyang first attempted a submarine-based missile launch last year and again at the end of April 2016 .

In his four-year reign, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has conducted more than twice as many missile tests as his father, Kim Jong Il, did in 17 years in power.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton
(North Korea State Media)

During a Pentagon press briefing, spokesman Peter Cook declined to comment on reports of Japanese interest in acquiring THAAD.

Meanwhile, preparations to deploy THAAD to South Korea continue. Army General Vincent Brooks, commander of US Forces Korea, said deployment will occur within the next eight to 10 months.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The pressure is on for Army’s newest command

When the idea for an Army Futures Command was first broached by Chief of Staff General Mark Milley and then acting Secretary Ryan McCarthy at the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army, it was part shock and part thrill. The civilian and military leadership of the Army was united in their intention to radically change the service’s approach to acquisition.

The centerpiece of their strategy for change was the creation of a Futures Command. The goal of the new command, according to the Vice Chief of Staff General James McConville, is to kickstart Army modernization by starting with a vision of the future, imagining the world you want and then working backward to figure out what it would take to get there. This approach is much more likely to produce revolutionary change, and it’s the one Army Futures Command will adopt.


In recent public statements, General John Murray, the newly-confirmed commander of the Army’s fledgling Futures Command, has been downplaying expectations for his new organization. He has cautioned listeners not to expect miracles from the new organization. In fact, in General Murray’s estimation, it will take the next three to five years to achieve buy-in from the Army and Congress for Futures Command. According to him, buy-in is achieved “by being a little bit disruptive, but not being so disruptive you upset the apple cart.” So much for the goal of revolutionary change.

The trouble with this perspective is that the current state of the Army requires some miracles. Virtually the entire array of Army ground and aerial platforms is in serious, in some cases desperate, need of modernization. Also, at the end of the Cold War, the Army essentially abandoned several capability areas, most notably tactical air defense, electronic warfare and chemical-biological defense, that it now is scrambling to resurrect. Then there are the emerging areas such as cyber warfare and robotics which the Army and the other services are struggling to master.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton

General John Murray, the newly-confirmed commander of the Army’s fledgling Futures Command.

The Army leadership may not believe in miracles. However, they do seem to be indulging in wishful thinking. By locating Futures Command in Austin, a city with a reputation as a hotbed of innovative thinking regarding technology, they believe that a staff composed largely of mid-career Army officers and government civilians can be magically transformed into a cohort of Steve Jobs, Peter Thiel and Bill Gates. Army secretary Mark Esper described their intentions this way: “We needed to immerse ourselves in an environment where innovation occurs, at speeds far faster than our current process allows.”

Neither Silicon Valley nor Austin created the innovative culture that has become so attractive to defense leaders. There is nothing in the air or water in either location that promotes creative thinking or an entrepreneurial spirit. There are many cities in the United States that possess the combination of characteristics that Army leaders said they wanted in the place that would house Futures Command: academic talent, advanced industries, and an innovative private sector. Army leaders initially had a list of thirty potential candidates. The five finalists, Austin, Boston, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Raleigh, are spread across the United States.

Department of Defense and Army leaders have it exactly backward. Innovators created Silicon Valley, Austin and the other locations that were identified as prospective homes for Futures Command. Moreover, innovators are not made, they are born. They begin by seeing the world differently than conventional thinkers. They don’t learn to take risks; it is part of their DNA.

This is, even more, the case for entrepreneurs, those who successfully translate the innovator’s creations into marketable products. Entrepreneurship is inherently about using the products of innovation to destroy old devices, systems and ways of behaving. Can one imagine Steve Jobs’ response if he had been told to restrain himself to being just a little disruptive?

If immersion in a “hothouse” environment of innovation is necessary in order for the Pentagon to produce cutting-edge military capabilities, how does one account for the successes of Kelly Johnson, Hyman Rickover, Donn Starry and the other defense innovators in the decades before Silicon Valley emerged? How do we explain the stream of innovations that have emerged from the Lockheed Martin Skunkworks, the Boeing’ Phantom Works and BAE Systems’ state-of-the-art Integration, Assembly and Test facility?

It is unclear how Futures Command is going to infuse the rest of the Army’s acquisition system with the spirit of innovation and the drive of entrepreneurship. There is an urgent need to get control over the requirements process that can often take five or more years to develop a set of validated requirements. But this is only a palliative measure.

What must be disrupted, even destroyed, is the risk-averse, do it by the books, write iron-clad contracts mentality that afflicts much of the acquisition system. There is also an imperative to change the risk-averse mindset of many Program Executive Officers and Program Managers.

Futures Command could be most useful, at least initially, by focusing on removing impediments to innovation and entrepreneurship rather than searching for new and potentially exciting technologies. It could focus on deregulation and retraining contracting officers so that they are supportive of the process of innovation. Then the Command could look for law schools that teach their students how to find ways to change policies and procedures rather than identifying all the reasons why it can’t be done. Building a flexible acquisition system with a culture supportive of innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit would be a miracle. But this is what the Army needs.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A Bataan Death March survivor just died at 100

A San Francisco Bay Area man who survived the infamous 1942 Bataan Death March and symbolized the thousands of unheralded Filipinos who fought alongside American forces during World War II has died. He was 100.


Ramon Regalado died Dec. 16 in El Cerrito, California, said Cecilia I. Gaerlan, executive director of the Bataan Legacy Historical Society, which has fought to honor Regalado and others. She did not have a cause of death.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton
U.S. Army National Guard and Filipino soldiers shown at the outset of the Bataan Death March. (Image from The National Guard Flickr)

“He really embodied the qualities of the greatest generation and love for country,” she said.

Regalado was born in 1917 in the Philippines. He was a machine gun operator with the Philippine Scouts under U.S. Army Forces when troops were forced to surrender in 1942 to the Japanese after a grueling three-month battle.

The prisoners were forced to march some 65 miles (105 kilometer) to a camp. Many died during the Bataan Death March, killed by Japanese soldiers or simply unable to make the trek. The majority of the troops were Filipino.

Also Read: This POW led over 3,000 guerrillas after escaping the Bataan Death March

Regalado survived and slipped away with two others — all of them sick with malaria. They encountered a farmer who cared for them, but only Regalado lived.

Afterward, he joined a guerrilla resistance movement against the Japanese and later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to work as a civilian for the U.S. military.

In his later years, he gave countless interviews to promote the wartime heroics of Filipinos, who were promised benefits and U.S. citizenship but saw those promises disappear after the war ended.

More than 250,000 Filipino soldiers served with U.S. troops in World War II, including more than 57,000 who died.

Paralyzed for 27 years, veteran walks with exoskeleton
POWs on the Bataan Death March. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The veterans have won back some concessions, including lump-sum payments as part of the 2009 economic stimulus package.

In an October ceremony in Washington, D.C., remaining Filipino veterans of World War II were awarded the coveted Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian award.

Gaerlan said Regalado did not make the trip due to poor health, but he got his medal in December in an intensive care unit in Richmond, California.

He is survived by his wife, Marcelina, five children, and many grandchildren.

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