Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast - We Are The Mighty
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Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast

Pirates have returned to the waters off Somalia, but the spike in attacks on commercial shipping does not yet constitute a trend, senior U.S. officials said Sunday.


The attacks follow about a five-year respite for the region, where piracy had grown to crisis proportions during the 2010-2012 period, drawing the navies of the United States and other nations into a lengthy campaign against the pirates.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters at a military base in the African nation of Djibouti, near the Gulf of Aden, that even if the piracy problem persists, he would not expect it to require significant involvement by the U.S. military.

At a news conference with Mattis, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said there have been about six pirate attacks on vulnerable commercial ships in the past several weeks.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Cassandra Thompson

“We’re not ready to say there’s a trend there yet,” Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said, adding that he views the spurt of attacks as a response to the effects of drought and famine on the Horn of Africa.

He said he was focused on ensuring that the commercial shipping industry, which tightened security procedures in response to the earlier piracy crisis, has not become complacent.

Navy Capt. Richard A. Rodriguez, chief of staff for a specially designated U.S. military task force based in Djibouti, said piracy “certainly has increased” in recent weeks. But he said countering it is not a mission for his troops, who are focused on counterterrorism in the Horn of Africa and developing the capacities of national armies in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.

Anti-piracy patrolling is among several missions China cited for constructing what it calls a naval logistics center in Djibouti. The base is under construction, and U.S. officials say they don’t see it as a major threat to interfere with American operations at Camp Lemonnier.

Several other countries have a military presence on or near that U.S. site, including France, Italy, Germany and Japan. This reflects Djibouti’s strategic location at the nexus of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Mattis made a point of spending several hours in Djibouti during a weeklong trip that has otherwise focused on the Mideast. As a measure of his concern for nurturing relations with the Djiboutian government, he flew four hours from Doha, Qatar, and then flew right back.

At his news conference, Mattis praised Djibouti for having offered U.S. access to Camp Lemonnier shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast
Lance Cpl. Spencer Cohen, rifleman with 1st platoon, Alpha Company, Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, traverses a path for his team through rocky terrain during a mechanized assault as part of a live fire range in Djibouti, Africa, March 29. (Photo by Sgt. Alex C. Sauceda)

“They have been with us every day and every month and every year since,” he said.

The U.S. rotates a range of forces through Lemonnier and flies drone aircraft from a separate airfield in the former French colony. U.S. special operations commandos are based at Lemonnier for counterterrorism missions in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.

During Mattis’ visit, elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, including V-22 Osprey aircraft and Harrier attack jets were visible on Lemonnier’s airfield.

The U.S. military presence has grown substantially in recent years, as reflected by construction of a new headquarters building, gym, enlisted barracks and other expanded infrastructure.

Djibouti has a highly prized port on the Gulf of Aden. The country is sandwiched between Somalia and Eritrea, and also shares a border with Ethiopia.

Mattis is using the early months as defense secretary to renew or strengthen relations with key defense allies and partners such as Djibouti, whose location makes it a strategic link in the network of overseas U.S. military bases.

Djibouti took on added importance to the U.S. military after 9/11, in part as a means of tracking and intercepting al-Qaida militants fleeing Afghanistan after the U.S. invaded that country in October 2001.

The U.S. has a long-term agreement with Djibouti for hosting American forces; that pact was renewed in 2014.

Over the past week Mattis has met with leaders in Saudi Arabia, Israel, Egypt and Qatar.

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This is what battle was like for airmen during World War II

 


The Air Force today takes a ribbing from the other services for being soft, so it’s easy to forget that historically their mission has been one of the most dangerous. This was on display in World War II when Allied aircrews were tasked with bombing Nazi-occupied Germany and Imperial Japan.

In this clip, a World War II Royal Air Force veteran discusses what it was like flying bombers to Berlin through a wall of flak so thick that, as he describes it, it sounded like driving a car through a hailstorm. He also tells of the mission where their bomber was chased down by German fighters and forced to crash land.

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Navy puts plans to buy more ships and planes on hold

The Navy’s 2018 budget request is out – and it looks like more new ships and aircraft are going to be on hold for at least a year. However, if this proposal holds up, the recent trend of short-changing training and maintenance will be reversed.


According to a report by BreakingDefense.com, the Navy will get eight ships: A Ford-class aircraft carrier (CVN 80, the new USS Enterprise), two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, a littoral combat ship (or frigate), two Virginia-class submarines, a salvage tug, and an oiler.

Aircraft procurement will include two dozen F-35B/C Lightning II multi-role fighters and 14 F/A-18E/F Hornets. Despite reducing the F-35C buy by two aircraft, the Navy still expects to be on pace to achieve initial operating capability with the carrier-based variant of the Joint Strike Fighter in 2019.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stethem (DDG 63) receives fuel from the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in the western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey L. Adams/Released)

The big focus on the fiscal 2018 budget, though, is restoring readiness. The Navy is getting a $1.9 billion increase in a category known as “Other Procurement, Navy.” This fund is used to purchase new electronic gear, and more importantly, spare parts for the Navy’s ships and aircraft.

The biggest winner in the budget is the operations and maintenance account, which is getting a $9.1 billion boost to a total of $54.5 billion. This represents roughly a 20 percent increase, with no category getting less than 87 percent of the stated requirements. Most notable is that Navy and Marine Corps flight hours have been funded to “the maximum executable level” – breaking a cycle of shortchanging training.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast
A F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 conducts a touch-and-go landing on Iwo To, Japan. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. James A. Guillory)

The Navy and Marines have been hard-hit with readiness issues, particularly in terms of aviation. Last year, the Marines had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to have enough airframes for training. The Marines also had to carry out a safety stand-down after a series of mishaps in the summer of 2016. Even after the stand-down, the Marines lost four Hornets from Oct. 1, 2016 to Dec. 7, 2016.

“We tried to hold the line in our procurement accounts,” Rear Adm. Brian Luther, the Navy’s top budget officer, told BreakingDefense.com. He pointed out, though, that under Secretary of Defense James Mattis, “the direction was clear: fill the holes first.”

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4 schools the GI Bill pays for other than traditional college

Everybody knows that the GI Bill is for college, but did you know you can use it for things other than a typical brick-and-mortar institution of higher learning? Here are four VA-approved ways you can use that benefit to better fit your goals in life.


*Note: While Veterans Affairs has confirmed that each of the schools listed here are approved institutions for using the GI Bill, you should always consult with your VA representative before making decisions regarding benefits.

1. Be the best bartender you can be!

While the GI Bill itself does not actually cover bartending school, try to find an accredited school with degree programs in culinary arts. If you can manage that, your course load will most likely include classes that involve various aspects of drinkology, an academic counselor at Culinary Institute of America told WATM.

The institute- which is best known as the CIA- is a VA-approved school.

2. Make Mary Jane your money making biotch

With the rise in the legalization of cannabis — both for medicinal and recreational purposes — across the country, professionals within the cannabis industry are going to be in high demand.

There are three different areas within the weed world to look at: chemists, horticulturist and dispensary managers.

Chemists and dispensary managers can be made through any traditional college route, but to be a cannabis grower, you can attend an horticulture school that offers degrees or certificates in horticulture.

Southeast Technical Institute offers an associate’s degree in horticulture and it is a VA-approved school.

3. Show everyone that you have the perfect face for radio

The Academy of Radio and Television Broadcasting offers an intensive course of study in radio and television broadcasting. Students at the Academy learn everything a normal college student learns in a four-year broadcasting degree- but in a much shorter time and without the requirement to invest in typical “core” classes. Core classes in math and science don’t typically translate into radio and television broadcasting, so the concept behind the school is to focus solely on broadcasting.

This cuts the typical four year program down to a mere seven months.

Tuition for the entire program is roughly $15,000.

4. Dive for buried treasure.

Well, be a commercial diver, anyway. The Divers Institute of Technology actually prefers veterans, and it is (and always has been) owned and operated by veterans.

The Divers Institute’s website claims, “you’ll get lots of hands-on, in-the-water training during your seven month program. We’ll teach you surface and underwater welding, cutting, and burning. You’ll learn diving physics and medicine, safety, rigging, salvage, hazmat, inland and offshore diving and more.”

The kicker? Some commercial divers like underwater welders can reportedly make upwards of $300,000 a year. Suit up. And make sure you aren’t barefoot.

The institute is a VA approved school.

For more information on exactly what the GI Bill will cover, check out the VA’s website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This ‘Star Wars’ prosthetic helps amputees touch and feel again

New technology from engineers at the University of Utah is changing the lives of amputees. The robotic arm, which is being called Luke in honor of Luke Skywalker’s artificial hand in The Empire Strikes Back. The robotic arm enables recipients to touch and feel again. The device consists of a prosthetic hand and fingers that are controlled by electrodes implanted in the muscles.

A prototype has been given to Keven Walgamott, an estate agent from Utah who is one of seven test subjects. He lost his hand and part of his left arm in 2002 after an electrical accident. With the arm, Walgamott has been able to complete tasks that were previously very difficult, such as put a pillowcase on a pillow, peel a banana, and even send text messages. Study leader and University of Utah biomedical engineer Professor Gregory Clark told the Independent that one of the first things Walgamott wanted to do was put on his wedding ring. “That’s hard to do with one hand,” Clark said. “It was very moving.”


https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/robotic-arm-named-after-luke-skywalker-lets-amputee-feel/ … Amazing #Technology #USA

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Engineers have named the groundbreaking device Luke after the prosthetic arm worn by Luke Skywalker at the conclusion of the Star Wars film The Empire Strikes Back.

Also read: This female amputee led French commandos behind Nazi lines

Walgamott can even feel sensations like touching his wife’s hand, as well as distinguish between different surfaces. This is not only a major scientific breakthrough, but an emotional moment for Walgamott, who’s been without his left hand for nearly 20 years. “It almost put me to tears,” he said of using Luke for the first time. “It was really amazing. I never thought I would be able to feel in that hand again.”

Now the next step is if this technology can incorporate what this real-life amputee did with her own lightsaber!

Whoa!

Real amputee Jedi?! YES! #cosplay LOVING my lightsaber attachment for my bionic arm while trying to safely keep my fingers crossed for an audition for @starwars one day. #BionicActress Spent my whole life wanting to be Luke AND Leia @HamillHimself #RepresentationMatterspic.twitter.com/eB0mZ3Xuyr

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This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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World War I’s bloodiest front is one you’ve never heard of

The Isonzo campaign, fought in present-day Slovenia from June 1915 to November 1917 between Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is one of the bloodiest series of battles during World War I, yet is hardly remembered outside of the countries involved. A dozen engagements that often ran into each other ended up costing 1.7 million casualties, and the stalemate was only ended with the disastrous Italian defeat at Caporetto.


After Italy entered the war in May 1915, the Isonzo Valley presented the only real option for serious offensive operations into Austria, since the remainder of the front was mountainous terrain heavily fortified by the Austro-Hungarians. But the Isonzo River, called the Sloca River today, presented a formidable obstacle, and the fortifications in the hills overlooking the river made any crossing almost impossible.

The Italian Army’s Chief of Staff, Luigi Cadorna, believed that a determined attack could break through the enemy lines, seize the strategic towns of Gorizia and Trieste, and set the stage for a march on Vienna. He assembled two field armies for the offensive, and the Austro-Hungarians, despite disastrous losses in the fighting in Serbia and Galicia, foresaw the coming attack and assembled 100,000 men for the defense.

Cadorna, like many of his contemporaries, was a firm believer in the offensive and the frontal assault, but operations in the area would not be easy. The Isonzo River was prone to flooding, and the terrain difficulties surrounding it were extreme, with enemy fortifications dug in atop steep rocky slopes. The Italian army was also suffering from a shortage of modern artillery, making a direct attack even more hazardous.

The Italian offensive began on June 23, sparking the First Battle of Isonzo. Italian soldiers found themselves charging head-long uphill into barbed-wire and fortifications that their artillery had been unable to break up, and attempting to cross the Isonzo while under ferocious Austro-Hungarian counter-barrages. The fighting raged until Austro-Hungarian reinforcements arrived and stopped the offensive in its tracks. The Italian Army had suffered nearly 15,000 casualties, nearly double the enemies, while achieving practically no real gains.

This was a pattern that was to repeat itself throughout 1915 in three more failed Italian assaults, resulting in a quarter of a million casualties with no significant success. Cadorna showed himself particularly incapable of learning from the carnage, and was himself usually as far as 50 kilometers behind the front lines. He was also a savage disciplinarian, routinely ordering the execution of soldiers for cowardice and straggling.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast
Captured Italian soldiers are escorted to the rear by German soldiers during the Battle of Caporetto.

A fifth attack in March of 1916 also failed, but then an opportunity seemed to present itself. After appeals from the French to lessen the pressure they were feeling at Verdun from the Germans, the Russians launched a massive offensive under General Aleksei Brusilov against the Austro-Hungarians at Lusk in modern day Ukraine. The Austro-Hungarians desperately shifted troops north from the Italian front, and Cadorna took advantage of this weakness. The sixth attack launched on August 6 was the Italian’s only real success of the entire campaign, seizing territory along a 20-km front and the town of Gorizia, but at the cost of over 50,000 Italian casualties.

The Italians continued to launch offensives into 1917, and despite Italy’s terrible losses the Austro-Hungarians were beginning to feel the war of attrition. They simply did not have the manpower the Italians had, and and their lines near Gorizia were on the brink of collapse. At last, appeals to Germany for reinforcements were answered, and a combined offensive was launched against the Italians at Caporetto, who were all forward deployed with no reserves for a defense in depth.

At 2 a.m. on October 24, a massive artillery barrage featuring high explosives, smoke, and huge quantities of chemical weapons caught the Italian 2nd Army completely by surprise. Their lines were broken almost immediately by special German stormtrooper units practicing new assault tactics featuring flamethrowers and the mass use of hand grenades. By October 30 the Italians had withdrawn past the Tagliomento river. Italy had lost over 300,000 men in a week, most of them taken prisoner.

The scale of the disaster led to the dismissal of Cadorna, shook the Allied governments, and led to France and England hurriedly rushing reinforcements to Italy. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians could not sustain the offensive, but Isonzo as a viable front for the Italians was essentially gone. Two and half years and more than a million and a half casualties from both sides had resulted in no gains to speak of.

Even in the carnage of World War I, the Isonzo campaign stands out for bloodshed concentrated in a single sector. Cadorna in particular was one of the most callous, stubborn, and unimaginative generals in a war noted for such leaders, and the Italian Army paid a terrible price for his ruthlessness and incompetence. The Isonzo and the disaster at Caporetto became a byword for failure in Italy, and the disillusionment caused by Italy’s massive losses in the war with little to show for it played a large role in the rise of fascism and dictator Benito Mussolini. Like so much of World War I, the Isonzo campaign played its own role in sparking World War II over 20 years later.

MIGHTY GAMING

This is what class an infantry rifleman would be in a tabletop RPG

A Marine Rifleman is a jack of all trades. While our job is to focus on closing with and destroying the enemy, it doesn’t stop us from learning the basics of other jobs. Some times, sure, it’s to fill up training time slots but, why not learn how to use machine guns or mortars? Learning a little bit of everything is exactly why the infantry rifleman would fall under the class of “fighter” when it comes to table-top RPGs.

“Fighters learn the basics of all combat styles…” Is a sentence you’ll find if you look at the Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook if you look under the class of “Fighter.” The writers of the handbook may not have intended for this sentence to also describe the Marine Corps’ main attack force but, it does a nice job of summing it up. But we’re not going to stop there.

Here’s why the infantry rifleman would be a fighter:


Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast

Notice how one Marine has a SAW and the other has a standard M16.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Brian M. Henner)

Weapon versatility

Riflemen are taught to be able to use every weapon on the battlefield. This means we’re meant to be able to pick up anything and know how to use it. Similarly, a Fighter is capable of using most weapons; whatever works.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast

Even prepared in the case of getting grappled.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Cruz Jr.)

Diverse training

Fighters can be used in a number of any kind of situations. Some can be defenders of a city or sent to combat in a distant land. Whatever the case is, a fighter is trained for it. Infantry riflemen are the same, there are very few situations that we are not trained for.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast

Any clime and place, right?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Charles Santamaria)

A thirst for adventure

Whether it is trekking through a jungle with thick vegetation or across knee-deep snow on a mountain, you bet an infantry rifleman will find their enemy where they live and break everything they own. There is a slight difference here since, in reality, we have rules where players of a table-top don’t necessarily have that.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast

Look how they’re just charging in, ready for anything.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Dengrier M. Baez)

Fearing no enemy

Fighters are capable of facing down dragons and all sorts of beasts fearlessly, depending on how you’re playing. Dragons, in the sense of a table-top RPG, may not exist (for all we know) in our world. But that doesn’t mean an infantry rifleman couldn’t fight one if they did. Hell, there was even a recruiting ad that depicted Marines slaying a volcano monster… You know the one.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

First she invented tech to help amputees — now she’s giving it to veterans

Amira Idris Radovic is a biomedical engineer who developed a device that helps amputees manage phantom limb pain — now, she helps provide them for free to veterans.

She has managed to provide veterans with over 50 ELIX devices, each from a $210 donation, and now she’s eligible for an Amber Grant that would award her $25,000. All you have to do is click to vote — no sign-ups, no e-mails. Just click to support.

Idris is giving back to the military community — let’s show her we’ve got her six.


TheraV Our Story

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How it works:

“We’ve learned that the reason people suffer form this pain is because of mixed signals that are being relayed to the nerve endings of the remaining limb and we found that we are able to overcome those mixed signals and disrupt them by using vibration technology,” she reported.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast

According to a recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Amputation System of Care, nearly 90,000 veterans with amputations were treated in Fiscal Year 2016.

“Phantom limb pain (PLP) refers to ongoing painful sensations that seem to be coming from the part of the limb that is no longer there. The limb is gone, but the pain is real. TheraV’s ELIX wearable specifically addresses phantom limb pain by stimulating periphery sensory nerves with vibrations. The vibrations activate large sensory nerve fibers, which carry touch and pressure stimulation to the brain. Activation of these large sensory nerve fibers closes the pain gate, thus inhibiting pain signals from reaching the brain.”

The Amber Grants began in 1998 to support women entrepreneurs. They have grown to a ,000 monthly grant and a ,000 annual grant. In March 2019, Amira won the Amber Grant and is now competing for the annual award.

With just two clicks, you can help her provide more devices for veterans with amputations.

Amira wants veterans to know that they can sign up on her website to get the device and is adamant about spreading the message that amputation doesn’t have to mean losing quality of life.

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This defense contractor wants to ‘grow’ drones in high-tech liquid ooze

A new initiative from BAE Defense Systems wants to create a system for “growing” drones in vats in a next-generation version of 3-D printing.


The process would be very quick, allowing military planners to manufacture new drones only weeks after a design is approved. That would allow custom aircraft to be grown for many major operations.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast
GIF: YouTube/BAE Systems

If the Air Force needed to get bombers past next-generation Russian air defenses, they could print drones specifically designed to trick or destroy the new sensors. If a group of troops was cut off in World War III’s version of the Battle of the Bulge, the Army could resupply them with custom-designed drones carrying fuel, batteries, ammo, and more. Different designs could even be grown for each payload.

The drones would grow their own electronics and airframes, though key parts may need to be manufactured the old fashioned way and plugged into new drone designs. BAE’s video shows a freshly grown aircraft receiving a final part, possibly a power source or sensor payload, on an assembly line after the craft leaves its vat and dries.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast
GIF: YouTube/BAE Systems

The 3-D printer that would be used, dubbed the “Chemputer” and trademarked by BAE, could potentially even recycle some of its waste and use environmentally friendly materials.

Since each aircraft is being custom built for specific missions or niche mission types, they can be highly specialized. One vat could print an aircraft optimized for speed that needs to outrun enemy missiles while the one next to it needs to act as a radio relay and has been optimized for loiter time.

The project is headed by University of Glasgow Regius Professor Lee Cronin. Cronin acknowledges that roadblocks exist to getting the Chemputer up and running, but thinks his team is ready to overcome them.

“This is a very exciting time in the development of chemistry,” Cronin said. “We have been developing routes to digitize synthetic and materials chemistry and at some point in the future hope to assemble complex objects in a machine from the bottom up, or with minimal human assistance. Creating small aircraft would be very challenging but I’m confident that creative thinking and convergent digital technologies will eventually lead to the digital programming of complex chemical and material systems.”

For more information, check out BAE’s video above or read their article on the program here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 reasons vets who never served together still make great friends

It’s a bitter-sweet day when troops leave the service. It’s fantastic because one book closes and another opens. Yet saying goodbye to the gang you served with is hard. Vets always keep in contact with their guys, but it’s not the same when they’re half way around the country.


Instead, vets have to make new friends in the civilian world. Sure, we make friends with people who’ve never met a veteran before, but we will almost always spot another vet and spark some sort of friendship.

They get our jokes

Put just plain and simply, vets generally have a pretty messed-up sense of humor. The jokes that used to reduce everyone to tears now get gasps and accusations that we’re monsters.

There’s also years of inside jokes that are service wide that civilians just wouldn’t get.

They can relate to our pain

No one leaves the service without having their body aged rapidly. Your “fresh out the dealership” body now has a few dings in it before heading to college.

Civilian classmates just don’t get how lucky they are to have pristine knees and lower back.

They side-eye weakness with us

Military service has taught us to depend on one another in a life or death situation. If you can’t lift something like a sandbag on your own, your weakness will endanger others. If you can’t run a minimum of two miles without tiring, your weakness will endanger others.

The people we meet in the civilian world never got that memo. Together, we’ll cull the herd the best way we know how as veterans — through ridicule. Something only other vets appreciate.

They can keep partying at our level

If there is one constant across all branches, it’s that we all know how to spend our weekends doing crazy, over-the-top things with little to no repercussion.

Civilians just can’t hang with us after we’ve downed a bottle of Jack and they’re sipping shots.

They share our “ride or die” mentality

Veterans don’t really care about pesky things like “norms” if one of our own gets slighted in any way. Some civilian starts talking trash at a bar? Vets are the first to thrown down. Some piece of garbage lays a hand on one of our own? Vets’ fists will be bloodier.

All jokes aside about scuffing up some tool, this doesn’t just lend itself as an outlet for unbridled rage. Back in the service, we all swore to watch each other’s backs on an emotional level too. Your vet friend will always answer the call at three AM if you just can’t sleep.

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Aaron Rodgers surprises four kids whose dads died while serving in the military

Four kids got an awesome surprise from NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers they’ll never forget.


The Packers all-star teamed up with Camp Hometown Heroes for a day on a boat with kids whose dads died while serving in the military.

Also Read: Here’s How A Combat Wounded Veteran Got His Dream Shot At College Football

“My dad’s name is Chad J. Simon, he was a staff sergeant, and I can’t say I can remember anything about him, I just wonder if he was the one who taught me how to tie my shoes,” said Dylan, who lost his father when he was too young to remember. Also on the boat were three sisters, Alexis, Starr and Kylee, who lost their dad, Spc. Grant Dampier.

Camp Hometown Heroes is a non-profit organization dedicated to counseling kids ages 7 through 17 who’ve lost loved ones while serving in the military. According to Dylan, the week-long camp is raising money to spread the organization to other locations where it can continue to serve kids for free.

itsaaroncom, YouTube

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The US Air Force may make history and buy this ridiculously cheap jet

Years after initial development, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II finally seems like it’s well on its way to enter the US’s fleet of fighter jets. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the DoD isn’t seeking alternative jets to supplement their squadrons.


According to Defense News, the US Air Force announced that it would begin testing aircraft that were not currently planned to be in its inventory. After signing a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Textron AirLand, the Air Force will begin a series of tests to determine if Textron AirLand’s flagship jet, dubbed “Scorpion”, will be airworthy.

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast
Textron AirLand’s Armed Scorpion | Photo courtesy of Textron AirLand

“This is the first of its kind, we have not done a CRADA like this before and we have never had a partnership with industry to assess aircraft that are not under a USAF acquisition contract,” an Air Force representative explained in a statement from Defense News.

The Scorpion is a different beast compared to the other jets around the globe. Starting with its cost, Textron AirLand’s President Bill Anderson explained in a Bloomberg video, “The Scorpion … was designed to be very effective and very affordable.”

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast
Photo courtesy of Textron AirLand

“The goal was to create a very mission-relevant aircraft for today’s security environment that’s below $20 million in acquisition costs, and below $3,000 an hour to operate.”

By comparison, a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) costs about $13 million and $1,500 per hour to operate, while the conventional F-35A costs $98 million per unit and $42,200 an hour in 2015.

The Scorpion features a tandem cockpit and a composite airframe in order to keep its weight and costs down. In addition to its twin turbofan engines that are able to achieve a flight speed up to 517 mph, it houses an internal payload bay that’s capable of holding 3,000 pounds.

“It’s quite maneuverable,” explained Scorpion test pilot Andy Vaughan. “It reminds me of my days when I used to fly the A-10 in the US Air Force.”

Pirates are back to terrorizing shipping off the Somali coast
Courtesy of Textron AirLand

From start to finish, the construction of the Scorpion was kept secret to maintain a competitive advantage. Nevertheless, the secret wasn’t kept very long — Textron AirLand was able to conduct testing soon after the aircraft’s conception.

“In a classic DoD acquisition program, they can spend up to 10 years just developing and fielding an aircraft — and we’ve done it in less than 2,” Anderson said.

However, it’s still too early to determine whether this move by the Air Force will also move the sale of Scorpion units both in the US and abroad — according to Defense News, the program has attracted only one potential customer.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Support for Veterans facing homelessness

Having to stay home for your health is challenging enough. Imagine being told to stay home when you had no home or were worried about losing it. What would you do? Where would you turn?

Tens of thousands of Veterans in the United States live that reality. In January 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) counted more than 37,000 Veterans living in emergency shelters, in transitional housing, or without any housing at all. Many more Veterans are at imminent risk for losing their housing in the coming months. Precise data is nearly impossible to collect because the population is transient by definition.

We do know that too many Veterans experience homelessness.


Any effort to help these Veterans must address not only their housing but also their mental health. The relationship between homelessness and mental health challenges is complicated, with each potentially impacting the other. For example, mental health issues might prevent a Veteran from holding a job that would allow them to afford stable housing. Similarly, homelessness is considered a traumatic event that can worsen mental health; it’s associated with issues such as increased alcohol use and lower recovery rates from mental illness.

As part of its commitments to improve Veterans’ mental health and relieve housing instability, VHA has developed a guidebook to provide Veterans facing homelessness with information about local resources and options.

“Connecting Veterans With VHA Homeless Programs: A Patient-Centered Booklet to Help Veterans Navigate VHA Resources” isn’t your typical informational resource. It’s a “graphic medicine” booklet, with information presented in graphic novel style, using stories and illustrations to convey important messages that makes the guidance easy to follow.

Because VA facilities vary in scope and size, the printable, 10-page booklet is designed to be customizable. Each facility can include local contact information for asking questions about program eligibility and how to access VHA and community-based services for Veterans who are homeless.

A VHA homelessness program manager said the booklet “gives providers another way to put a tangible reminder in a Veteran’s hand,” showing that VA has something for them.

One Veteran described the booklet as “in-depth and helpful” and noted that “everything is useful if you need the services.”

Why a graphic booklet?

The use of comics in graphic medicine guides has been around for decades. Today’s versions are in the graphic novel style, which gives room for the content writers to tackle more-serious-than-traditional comic books in both their topics and tone.

The combination of storytelling and expressive art can convey complex, layered ideas and information that neither writing nor pictures can achieve alone. With graphic medicine, the comic style can give even bland clinical data a familiar, approachable feel. Plus, its unique appearance stands out among VA waiting room pamphlets and may attract those who either need housing support or know a Veteran who does.

This patient-centered form of communication is gaining wider acceptance in the medical community, in part because it works. A study found that in one hospital’s emergency room, 98% of patients who received their discharge instructions in comic form read them, while only 79% read their traditional discharge instructions.

Experts also say graphic medicine books can have an emotional impact on readers because they often include authors’ personal experience with the issue at hand. In the case of “Connecting Veterans,” members of the book’s advisory committee at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System included Veterans — some with firsthand experience of housing challenges — and professionals from VA’s homelessness programs.

Ray Facundo, a social worker, researcher and Army Veteran, played an integral, hands-on role in developing the booklet. He explained that it was important to include input from other Veterans: “We should never do something for them without them.”

Integrating a range of resources

VHA took the lead in creating the guide because homelessness is associated with health concerns — some that one might expect, such as exposure, untreated injuries or being subjected to violence, as well as a suicide risk that’s 10 times that of the general population.

Even though “Connecting Veterans” is distributed by VHA providers, the booklet combines resources from VA offices that are often viewed as separate entities. The booklet takes a team approach in working toward improving stability and mental well-being through a range of programs and services, including:

Independently and in collaboration with federal and community partners, VA programs provide Veterans with housing solutions, employment opportunities, health care and justice- and reentry-related services.

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