This month is Mental Health Month, so we sat down the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Director of Innovation and Collaboration for the VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, Dr. Wendy Tenhula. The good doctor was very outgoing in explaining how to spot trouble signs of mental health issues and answering our podcast listeners’ burning questions about the use of recreational drugs to treat PTSD.
The VA healthcare system is the largest in the United States. The Department of Veterans Affairs is the second largest cabinet-level office in the U.S. government — just behind the Pentagon.
Those of us who require the services of the VA healthcare system know that navigating it can be a daunting task. Do you need a psychiatrist or a psychologist? What’s the difference between the two? Which is better for your situation? Do you have to take drugs? Do I even have a choice?
The answer to the last question may surprise you: yes, you do.
But first it’s important to realize if you have a mental health condition. Or perhaps you see problems in a loved one that didn’t exist before their deployment or separation from the military. It’s harder to recognize a mental health condition than it is to recognize a physical condition. Everyone is different and the unique ways in which we internally respond to external problems makes it difficult to categorize ourselves. How do you know when you have a mental health issue and when you’re just having a bad day?
“If it’s getting in the way of your life,” says Dr. Tenhula. “Things like going to school, getting a job, maintaining relationships — then that’s a clue that you may have a mental health condition. It’s not necessarily a bad day.”
If identifying that you have a problem is the first step, where do we go from there?
There are a number of specialized, professional counselors that can help with your specific condition. But where the VA has started truly innovating is through the use of peer specialists — veterans who have had mental health struggles of their own. They know, first-hand, what a returning veteran is going through and they know the system.
Mental health treatments can often take time and some individual sessions can make veterans feel worse than when they came in. Treatment for post-traumatic stress often requires painfully and honestly revisiting traumatic experiences — and that’s hard. The VA’s peer specialists are also there to keep vets from getting discouraged.
(VA photo by Tami Schutter)
There is always more than one treatment option available and veterans have a choice to make — but it takes work, honesty, and a real partnership with your practitioner.
For more about the VA’s renewed push to reach more veterans through Mental Health Month and its Make the Connection campaign, listen to this episode of WATM’s Mandatory Fun podcast. Then, check out the Make the Connection website.
Audible: For you, the listeners of the Mandatory Fun podcast, Audible is offering a free audiobook download with a free 30-day trial to give you the opportunity to check out some of the books and authors featured on Mandatory Fun. To download your free audiobook today go to audibletrial.com/MandatoryFun.
The United States Navy commissioned the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) this past weekend. The ship is noted for many advanced technologies on board, but what is also notable is what the ship doesn’t have.
According to a Navy Times report, though the Ford has a compliment of America’s most advanced fighters, it’s missing urinals in the men’s head.
The Navy claimed that the elimination of the urinals increase flexibility when it comes to shifting berthing arrangements for the crew on board the $13 billion vessel. However, there are some drawbacks to this new arrangement, according to experts.
Chuck Kaufman, president of the Public Restroom Company, is among those critical of the design change. The Public Restroom Company specializes in designing public restrooms that have been used in parks, rest areas, playgrounds – just about anywhere.
“[A toilet is] by far a less clean environment than a urinal. By far,” Kaufman told the Navy Times, citing the fact that men tend to miss normal toilets more often than they miss urinals.
“What is a problem is [with a water closet] you have a very big target and we can’t aim very quickly,” he added, noting that the only way to ensure men didn’t miss was to make them sit down. Furthermore, Kaufman explained, toilets take over twice the space of urinals. The Navy Times noted that about 18 percent of the Navy’s personnel are women.
The Gerald R. Ford replaced the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), which was taken out of service in 2012.
Time for another round of memes. This week we’re doing something a little different by highlighting the infamous urinalysis. That’s right, the pee test. They say it’s necessary for a sober military, but it’s really more like a creepy invasion of privacy. What, they don’t trust us?
Urinalysis is the fastest way to get everyone on pins and needles.
You know it’s going to be a long day when it starts like this …
That reaction to urinalysis raises suspicions.
Meanwhile, across the room, there’s downer Dave with a lot on his mind.
And why are urinalysis observers people you rarely see in your unit?
Oh yea, that’s why.
There’s a fine balance between going on demand and holding it.
James Ruvalcaba was the lead operational planner and Joe Plenzler was the public affairs officer for III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa, Japan. They were responsible for authoring the III MEF CONPLAN 5003 to protect all U.S. forces, their families, and Defense Department personnel in Japan. They are both retired Marine lieutenant colonels.
As former lead operational planners for the Biohazard Defense Contingency Plan for all military service members, their families and Defense Department employees in Japan, we noticed the strong possibility of a COVID-19 pandemic in early February of this year.
There are lessons to be learned from an earlier viral outbreak.
In response to the H5N1 or “bird flu” outbreak in 2005, President George W. Bush issued a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza (PI) that November.
Thirteen days later, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Peter Pace issued a planning order (PLANORD) directing all combatant commanders to conduct execution-level planning for a DoD response to pandemic influenza.
The guidance was clear and broad: Develop a contingency plan that specifically addressed the three major missions of force health protection, defense support for civil authorities, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
As leaders of the planning efforts, we recruited medical experts and researched preventive health materials from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute of Health, and disease exposure control studies from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This 18-month planning effort included tabletop exercises with State Department officials and local government officials and resulted in a 650-page biohazard response plan for all Marine Corps forces in Japan.
The plan also involved the additional major mission of continuity of operations to ensure that local governments and military installations continued to provide essential and emergency services during a pandemic.
The plan required all units and critical support agencies and businesses to classify their employees or service members as nonessential, essential or emergency-essential personnel.
The lessons we learned in this comprehensive 2005 planning effort are extensive, but they have not been fully implemented in response to COVID-19.
So what can policymakers, emergency medical responders and today’s planners learn from our plan?
Expect a “new normal” until a proven vaccine is developed. Social distancing measures and restrictions on mass gatherings must continue until the population has been vaccinated and the current COVID-19 virus is no longer a threat.
Just like we adapted to the post-9/11 terrorist attacks by instituting new security measures, we must also adapt to the pandemic by continuing social distancing measures until a proven vaccine has been developed, tested and administered to the entire global community. We must do this to avoid subsequent pandemic waves.
Our plan operated under the advice from health experts that a vaccine may take about a year to develop and that it will take months more for it to be readily available to the entire population. We recommend that the vaccine be prioritized and allocated first to medical responders and other personnel designated as emergency-essential responders. Local public health experts should draft immunization plans, to include the prioritization of immunizations to emergency-essential personnel.
The public should expect to experience additional shortages of medical equipment. We’ve seen the shortages of N95 masks, ventilators and ICU beds in hospitals; however, when restrictive measures are eased or lifted, our planning revealed that there will be a huge demand for infrared thermal detection systems (IR thermometers) in order to conduct public health febrile surveillance — especially prior to boarding flights or mass transportation. The post-pandemic environment will most likely involve febrile screenings to ensure viral threats are contained.
Ongoing surveillance and contact tracing are extremely critical after the first pandemic wave is contained to a manageable level, in order to prevent a second wave or spreading it to another region. We should leverage technology in our smartphones to self-report if we have been in contact with infected people. China successfully implemented these protocols in Wuhan province through a phone app.
The demand for mortuary services may exceed available capacity. Additionally, new protocols must be established for conducting funerals.
Public Service Announcements are critical to shape public action to comply with evolving restrictive measures implemented by public health officials. Additionally, PSAs alleviate fear and anxiety by providing reassurance and critical educational material to assist the public in helping to contain and reduce the pandemic. Simply stated, PSAs help to reset the expectations of the evolving crisis and the associated escalatory or de-escalatory restrictive measures.
A pandemic may produce a second wave after the first outbreak, and sometimes even a second cycle outbreak after a few seasons. This is due to previously undetected pockets of viral outbreaks, a lapse in compliance to restrictive measures, the reintroduction of the virus from an external source, or the possibility of the virus mutating gradually by antigenic drift, or abruptly by antigenic shift. It is important for medical responders, public officials and the public to understand that we must not let our guard down when we start seeing a reduction in the transmissibility of the COVID virus or a reduction in the number of people infected.
We cannot lean on unfounded messages of hope; rather, we should look to science and condition-based assessments to decide when to ease or lift restrictive measures. The message to policymakers and high-ranking preventive health officials is clear: Demand science-based justifications for lifting restrictive measures.
For all that have closely tracked the evolution of this COVID-19 virus from its initial outbreak to a pandemic, the writing on the wall is obvious: National leaders made grave mistakes by not taking the threat seriously.
The lack of early mitigation has now cost us more than 427,000 sick Americans, more than 14,000 deaths and more than .3 trillion.
Our nation is paying a terrible cost for not taking this pandemic seriously enough, early enough. We must act in earnest to implement these lessons to help contain the viral spread so we can safely ease the restrictive measures while preventing a second pandemic wave or subsequent pandemic cycle.
U.S. Air Force fighters and Army helicopter gunships have attacked and killed more than 220 Taliban forces in Ghazni over the past several days after militants launched a massive attack on the Afghan city less than 100 miles from Kabul.
“Ghazni City remains under Afghan government control,” Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for Operation Resolute Support and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, told Military.com on Aug. 14, 2018.
Afghan forces are conducting clearing operations in the city, but hundreds of civilians have fled, trying to escape the fierce fighting, The Associated Press reported Aug. 14, 2018.
“The Afghan National Army’s 203rd Corps, the Afghan National Police’s 303rd Zone and Afghan Special Security Forces are rooting out the remnants of the Taliban within the city,” O’Donnell said. “What we observed, as these Afghan-led operations drove a large portion of Taliban from the city over the last day or so, was the retreating Taliban attacking the more vulnerable surrounding districts, which Afghan forces are reinforcing.”
Residents of Ghazni City walk past gates and monuments in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, April 20, 2018.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Jerry Griffis)
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid denied that insurgents had been driven from Ghazni and said the Taliban destroyed a telecommunications tower on the city’s outskirts during the initial assault, cutting off landline and cellphone links to the city, the AP reported.
O’Donnell said the Taliban who remain in Ghazni “do not pose a threat to the city’s collapse … however, the Taliban who have hidden themselves amongst the Afghan populace do pose a threat to the civilian population, who were terrorized and harassed.”
U.S. Special Forces and 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade advisers are providing advice to Afghan forces on how to effectively conduct clearance operations and combined-arms integration, he added.
“U.S. airpower has killed more than 220 Taliban since Aug. 10, 2018,” O’Donnell said. “In addition to the initial strike on Aug. 10, 2018, U.S. forces conducted five strikes Aug. 11, 2018, 16 strikes Aug. 12, 2018, 10 Aug. 13, 2018 and none Aug. 14, 2018.”
AH-64 Apache helicopters from the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Combat Aviation Brigade provided close-air support for Afghan forces, he said, adding that Brig. Gen. Richard Johnson, deputy commander of the 101st and commander of Task Force South East, advised Afghan leaders in an operational command-and-control center.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Stokes said he chose to include Henline alongside amputee vets in response to Facebook comments he received about his earlier work, “Always Loyal.”
“One comment I got was ‘Hey, you’re hand-picking these gorgeous men [for the photos], why don’t you feature someone who’s burned?’ ” Stokes said. “Bobby and I had already been talking for six months at that point, so I thought it was a great opportunity to follow up and … do something a bit different.”
Check out Henline’s pose below:
“Bobby is very popular and is able to stand alongside any of these guys and pull off the photo shoot,” Stokes said. “He pulls off sexy. He looks great.”
Stokes said that the goal of projects like “Invictus” is to give veterans a platform that could jumpstart modeling careers and lead to mainstream campaigns.
This dream came true for double-amputee veteran and “Always Loyal” alum Chris Van Etten, who recently landed a Jockey underwear campaign after a Stokes photo shoot.
“When the Jockey campaign launched, I had all of these people tagging me on Facebook saying ‘You made this possible, you led the way on this, you broke the ice on this.,’ ” Stokes said. “And all of these people were giving me credit for making it not taboo for a corporation to do a campaign and photo shoots like this.”
“This is evidence that people are happy that these guys are getting exposure and getting mainstream gigs,” he added.
Despite enthusiasm from both within and outside of the military community, Stokes said there are still those who are uncomfortable with his “cheeky” shots of wounded vets.
“When you have a photo that goes viral, that’s when you hear negative comments,” Stokes said. “Some people have said things like ‘This is not respectful to the uniform; this is not dignified.’ … [But] they’re definitely the minority voice.”
Stokes said he doesn’t focus on his critics, but on the experience of his models in front of the camera.
The photo shoot “is different with each model,” Stokes said.
“One of the models is a double amputee — and way high up. And during the shoot he said ‘I didn’t know I looked like that from behind,’ ” Stokes explained. “He’s missing part of his hip … and he didn’t know he had such a nice butt.”
Stokes hopes “Invictus” will continue to change public perceptions and normalize glamour shots of amputee models.
“We will never tolerate threats from anybody. Rule of law is for everyone; no exception,” he wrote.
Trump’s comments come an hour after Vice President Mike Pence issued a similar threat, warning of “significant sanctions” against Ankara.
“To President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and the Turkish government, I have a message on behalf of the president of the United States of America: Release Pastor Andrew Brunson now or be prepared to face the consequences,” Pence said, speaking at a State Department event in Washington to advance religious freedom.
Brunson, who has worked in Turkey for more than 20 years, was jailed in 2016 and was indicted a year later on terrorism and espionage charges, accused of aiding groups Ankara alleges were behind a failed military coup in 2016.
Brunson was held in custody until July 25, 2018, when he was transferred to house arrest.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the move to house arrest was “not enough” and that he should be allowed to leave Turkey.
Featured image: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu
In support of on-going efforts to make command posts more resilient, mobile, and survivable, the Army is pushing to get secure Wi-Fi to the field to help gain an operational edge against potential peer and near-peer adversaries.
Following the relocation of a command post on the battlefield, referred to as a “jump,” secure Wi-Fi enables critical network and mission command systems to come up online in minutes, versus waiting many hours for Soldiers to wire a command post for network connectivity.
The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division successfully piloted this secure Wi-Fi capability for a second time during decisive action training at the National Training Center, or NTC, on Fort Irwin, California, which concluded in November 2017. During this realistic combat training event, the unit fought against a capable adversary and used secure Wi-Fi extensively throughout its brigade command post to speed maneuver, provide continuity of mission command and remain a step ahead of enemy forces.
“The key benefit provided by secure Wi-Fi is the velocity that it brings to [the set up of] my mission command systems,” said Col. Michael Adams, commander of 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division. “Near-peer adversaries are much more capable than enemies we trained against previously. In a decisive action training environment, [armed with secure Wi-Fi], we are much faster and more mobile, and that equates to survivability.”
The unit successfully used secure Wi-Fi to provide untethered network connections to enable secure wireless voice, video, and data exchange on more than 60 unclassified computers and 100 classified computers and mission command systems, such as Command Post Of the Future. At any given point during this event, there were at least 60 active secure Wi-Fi users inside the brigade main command post, known as the Tactical Operations Center, or TOC, Adams said. The only wired systems that were not allowed to be wired were those Army mission command systems that were waiting to receive Army authority to operate on secure Wi-Fi.
“The win was that once the Wi-Fi system was up, I could get everyone up at the same time across the entire staff,” Adams said. “It’s a colloquialism; many hands make light work, but it’s also an ability to fuse the actions of the entire brigade combat team across all warfighting functions.”
Similar to the Wi-Fi used in most homes, the Army’s National Security Agency-accredited solution provides wireless network connectivity inside the command post, with added layers of security. secure Wi-Fi is managed by the Army’s Product Manager Network Modernization, assigned to Project Manager Tactical Network.
Without wireless capability, establishing a network in a typical brigade command post takes many hours and requires dozens of boxes of expensive CAT 5 network cable that weigh hundreds of pounds. Every time a command post is jumped, the cables have to be cut, laid out, configured and plugged in, and often replaced because of damage and continual wear and tear. Protective flooring has to be laid over the wiring, making it difficult to troubleshoot network issues. Secure Wi-Fi can eliminate these hurdles since its small remote access points provide quick and easy network connections throughout the entire command post within minutes.
“Secure Wi-Fi also speeds our mission military decision-making process,” Adams said. “If I know that something is going on and I can get ahead of the enemy commander, then I can set the conditions so that he is fighting from a position of disadvantage. With secure Wi-Fi, I gain an exponential increase in velocity, and the deeper the Wi-Fi capabilities in the formation, the more we are able to do.”
To outmaneuver its near-peer adversary at the NTC, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division had to jump its brigade TOC several times during the realistic field exercise. These massive relocation efforts in the harsh terrain of the Mojave Desert were sometimes conducted in the dark of night, and because of mock threats of chemical and biological warfare, Soldiers were required to wear protective gear, making it more difficult to set up and wire a large brigade command post. Secure Wi-Fi made it much easier and faster to set up the network (from hours to minutes) under these extreme conditions, and users were able to connect to the network and use their mission command systems earlier and stay connected longer prior to the next jump, Adams said.
“Without Wi-Fi, users were often waiting (depending on position or rank) for wire to be run,” said Maj. Michael Donegan, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division communications officer (S6). “This proves wildly inefficient, as everyone on a TOC floor has an immediate and uniquely important job to accomplish. The ability to rapidly collaborate in planning is critical in order to defeat a near-peer threat. With the introduction of Wi-Fi, you don’t have to choose or prioritize which users get access first.”
Secure Wi-Fi decreased the brigade’s TOC relocation time dramatically, with the unit able to be up on all Army mission command system services simultaneously much sooner after arriving on site. It also enabled the commander to set up the TOC in different configurations to support new locations or mission requirements without having to cut new lengths of wire, Donegan said.
“The ability to have a mobile command post and exercise mission command with secure Wi-Fi continues to be a force multiplier,” Donegan said.
Adams said he is looking forward to seeing secure Wi-Fi eventually implemented at battalion-level command posts as well, to further increase his brigade’s speed of maneuver. The Army has recently developed a smaller version that reduces the footprint of the server stacks by 60 percent, to support smaller echelon command posts requiring fewer users. The Army plans to demonstrate this small form factor secure Wi-Fi capability during a risk reduction event in spring 2018 as a rapid acquisition initiative.
The Army continues to use Soldier feedback from pilots, user juries, and training events such as NTC rotations to continuously improve and provide the best capability possible, as part of an iterative process where lessons are always being learned and technology continuously is adapted to the way the Army needs to fight.
In December 2017, the Army issued a Command Post Directed Requirement, intended to enable experimentation and rapid prototyping to better inform command post requirements. The directed requirement is closely nested with the draft Command Post Integrated Infrastructure, or CPI2, capability development document, which would create a new program of record to provide mobile command post solutions to Corps, Division, and Brigade Combat Teams.
The directed requirement calls for the Army to leverage wireless technology capabilities to facilitate rapid connectivity and displacement. Secure Wi-Fi is proving to be a vital element in the Army’s acquisition of new integrated expeditionary command posts solutions, said Lt. Col. Mark Henderson, the Product Manager for Network Modernization who manages secure Wi-Fi for the Army. Henderson is a member of Project Manager Tactical Network, PEO C3T.
“Lack of mobility and agility are amongst the biggest factors making today’s large command posts vulnerable in near-peer threat environments,” Henderson said.” Secure Wi-Fi increases mobility and operational flexibility, and better enables mission command so commanders can do what they do best — fight and win!”
Recently, Army pilots got to tool around with an autonomous helicopter kit that could one day make all Army rotorcraft capable of autonomous flight, completing tasks as varied as take off and landing, flying across the ground and behind trees, and even selecting its own landing zone and landing in it with just a simple command.
US Army Pilot Tests ALIAS’ Autonomy Capabilities in Demonstration Flight
The pilots were given access to the Sikorsky Autonomy Research Aircraft (SARA), an optionally-piloted helicopter filled with tech being developed under a DARPA grant. The idea isn’t to create a fleet of ghost helicopters that can fly all on their own; it’s to give pilots the ability to let go of the stick for a few minutes and concentrate on other tasks.
During the hour-long flight demonstration, [Lt. Col. Carl Ott, chief of Flight Test for the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Aviation Development Directorate] interfaced with the autonomous capabilities of the system to conduct a series of realistic missions, including aircrew tasks such as low-level terrain flight, confined area takeoffs and landings, landing zone selection, trajectory planning, and wire-obstacle avoidance.
Lockheed Martin’ MATRIX Technology is created to help pilots by allowing them to focus on complex tasks while the helicopter pilots itself.
“The Army refers to this as Mission Adaptive Autonomy. It’s there when the pilot needs the aircraft to fly itself and keep it free of obstacles, so the pilot can focus on more of the mission commander type role. But the pilot is able to interact with the system to re-suggest, re-route or re-plan on the fly,” said Ott.
But SARA has a pretty robust bag of tricks. When pilots call on it, the helicopter can land or take off on its own, select its own safe landing zones using LIDAR, avoid obstacles including wires and moving vehicles, and can even fly across the ground and behind obstructions, like trees, to hide itself.
A U.S. Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter lands during training with U.S. Marines.
(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Rachel K. Young)
Of course, the Army needs the technology from SARA to be ported over to Army helicopters, like the UH-60 Blackhawk, and that’s coming in the next few months, according to Sikorsky. The package, known as MATRIX Technology, should theoretically work on any aircraft, and porting it to rotary aircraft should be fairly easy.
“We’re demonstrating a certifiable autonomy solution that is going to drastically change the way pilots fly,” said Mark Ward, Sikorsky Chief Pilot, Stratford, Conn. Flight Test Center. “We’re confident that MATRIX Technology will allow pilots to focus on their missions. This technology will ultimately decrease instances of the number one cause of helicopter crashes: Controlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT).”
An optionally piloted UH-1H helicopter drops off supplies during a May 2018 exercise at Twentynine Palms, California.
(Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Matt Lyman)
The Marine Corps has been doing its own experiments with autonomous rotary flight. Their primary program is the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System on the Bell UH-1H platform, which can take off, fly, land, plan its route, and select landing sites on its own using LiDAR. So, similar to the MATRIX platform.
The Jordanian government released a video on July 24 depicting an insider attack that killed three US Special Forces in Jordan.
The video shows the soldiers pulling up to the King Faisal Air Base to participate in a training exercise in November. Upon reaching the entrance, Jordanian guard Cpl. M’aarek Abu Tayeh opened fire on the trucks carrying the soldiers. Staff Sgt. Kevin McEnroe was killed instantly and Sgt. First Class Matthew Lewellen was wounded, later dying from his injuries.
Staff Sgt. James Moriarty was in the truck behind the first, and was able to exit the vehicle, along with another soldier from a different truck. The soldiers attempted to speak with Tayeh in Arabic, but were ignored. Tayeh kept firing, eventually killing Moriarty before the fourth soldier was finally able to shoot the assailant.
None of the Jordanian soldiers nearby appeared to aid the Americans. The video clearly shows one man who opened the gate running away as soon as shots were fired.
Jordan, a US ally in the ongoing war on terrorism, initially denied responsibility for Tayeh’s attack, placing blame on the US for failing to follow proper protocols when entering the base. US Special Operations Command found “no evidence that US forces failed to fully comply with Jordanian base procedures.”
In fact, SOCOM reported that the troops “demonstrated valorous conduct and extraordinary heroism” in taking down Tayeh, who was armed with an M-16 rifle and body armor. The Special Forces soldiers had only sidearms.
The families of the dead soldiers vocally condemned the Jordanian government in March for its failure to properly look into the incident.
The government eventually charged Tayeh with murder in June. He was found guilty and received life in prison with hard labor, though some relatives of the deceased were hoping for a death sentence.
The three members of Army Special Forces who were killed earlier this month outside a Jordanian military base were working for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to a report in The Washington Post.
The three soldiers with the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, 5th Special Forces Group were killed while entering a military base in Jordan on November 4. The soldiers, Staff Sgts. Matthew C. Lewellen, 27; Kevin J. McEnroe, 30; and James F. Moriarty, 27, were apparently fired upon by Jordanian security forces at the gate to King Feisal Air Base, where they were deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
According to The Post, the soldiers were working on the CIA’s program to train moderate Syrian rebels. It’s still unclear what the circumstances were surrounding their deaths.
Jordanian military officials said that shots were fired as the Americans’ car tried to enter the base, and a Jordanian military officer was also wounded, according to Army Times. Reporting from the Post seems to suggest that an accidental discharge from the Green Berets inside their vehicle may have led to a shootout, which an official called a “chain of unfortunate events.”
The loss of the three soldiers may be the deadliest incident for the CIA since 2009, when a suicide bomber killed seven members of a CIA team in Khost, Afghanistan.
The CIA often “details” special operations units to operate within its paramilitary force, called Special Activities Division. Some notable examples include the use of Army’s Delta Force in the 2001 US invasion of Afghanistan and the operation to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, which was carried out by Navy SEALs assigned to the CIA.
It has been particularly rough time for the Army Special Forces community. Besides the three soldiers killed in Jordan, there were two others killed in Afghanistan and another killed during scuba training this month.
“Welcome to another exciting episode of when is America gonna start acting like the great country we keep telling ourselves we are?” asked Jon Stewart in a press conference in September. He went on to remind the crowd that he’d spent the previous fifteen years trying to get Congress to support 9/11 first responders who were sick as a result of their heroism that day.
“When it was done, we thought it was done, but it turns out that the warfighters that were sent to prosecute the battle based on the attack of 9/11 now suffer the same injuries and illnesses that the first responders suffered from. And they’re getting the same cold shoulder from Congress,” he declared.
The speech came with announced legislation that would deliver care for veterans who suffered from health problems directly related to burn pits, open air fires that were commonly used to dispose of waste at military sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to The Washington Post, “the legislation would declare certain illnesses among combat veterans as linked to toxic burn pits, removing barriers of proof of exposure that advocates have said are too high.”
As of Sept. 11, 2020, the VA claimed that “research does not show evidence of long-term health problems from exposure to the burn pits.”
The VA does, however, acknowledge the following:
“Toxins in burn pit smoke may affect the skin, eyes, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, gastrointestinal tract and internal organs. Veterans who were closer to burn pit smoke or exposed for longer periods may be at greater risk. Health effects depend on a number of other factors, such as the kind of waste being burned and wind direction. Most of the irritation is temporary and resolves once the exposure is gone. This includes eye irritation and burning, coughing and throat irritation, breathing difficulties, and skin itching and rashes. The high level of fine dust and pollution common in Iraq and Afghanistan may pose a greater danger for respiratory illnesses than exposure to burn pits, according to a 2011 Institute of Medicine report.” According to the Washington Post, U.S. contractors and military veterans destroy enormous amounts of waste, including vehicle parts, lithium-ion batteries, solvents, and amputated limbs, by soaking them in jet fuel and burning them in open-air pits, “some larger than a football field.”
In his speech, Stewart pointed out the similarities between the contamination on 9/11 and the burn pits overseas — especially the use of jet fuel as an accelerant. “Jet fuel as the accelerant at Ground Zero and jet fuel as the accelerant in these burn pits. So our veterans lived twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week next to toxic smoke, dioxins, everything. And now they’re being told, ‘Hey man, is that stuff bad for ya? I don’t know. We don’t have the science.’ It’s bullsh**. It’s bullsh**. It’s about the money.”
Hundreds of thousands of veterans are left to advocate on their own, Stewart explained, which is why he and a team of lawmakers have stepped up to demand that Congress go on record and be held accountable for their decisions in this matter.
The legislation was proposed to Congress by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.). The measure would grant presumption of exposure to veterans with certain conditions and who served in one of 33 countries where troops were deployed after the 9/11 attacks, Gillibrand said.
The VA opened a burn pit registry which allows eligible veterans and service members to document their exposures and report health concerns through an online questionnaire. Over 200,000 participants have already completed and submitted the registry questionnaire.
Miami-based DJ and Air Force veteran Rodrigo Arana – AKA DJ KA5 – is cooking up something special for his featured guest appearance in the USAA Lounge at BaseFEST this weekend. But don’t expect him to just cue up a list of Top 40 hits and fire them off, one after another. He approaches deejaying the way a trained specialist approaches a mission: he plans, he prepares, he drills, and then, when he’s got you captive on the dance floor, he executes.
Result: the beat drops and you lose your mind.
“I’m always about bringing those vibes that are taking you back to that certain time that was good for you [and] I’m always about trying to perfect my craft. That’s something that the military taught me: you can always do better.”
BaseFEST Powered by USAA kicked off in 2017 with two huge festival dates at Camp Lejune and NAS Pensacola, gathering over 20,000+ fans for each and creating a fun atmosphere of appreciation and support for servicemembers, their families, and friends.
(Photo by USAA)
The mission of the festival is “to provide a platform to give back to family programs on base, boost morale for troops and their families, and build strong base communities that are the backbone of our military.” Musical acts like DNCE, Dustin Lynch, Ha Ha Tonka, and DJ KA5 provide a live and lively soundtrack to a wide variety of activities, games, exhibits, and dining.
For Arana, playing BaseFEST is a chance to reconnect with his veteran family, to celebrate the military education that helped set him on the path to doing what he loves.
“Deejaying is about creating a vibe and creating a feeling. You’re painting. A different song is a different color and you’re creating a masterpiece. So by the end of the night, you step back and you look at the whole paining and you realize how you did this for somebody else.”