Graduating with a degree or certification is an important milestone and a huge accomplishment. Right now, though, you may be facing some economic challenges as you look for a job during a time of fierce competition and high unemployment rates.
Good news: VA is still hiring. New, open positions are posted daily on our career site, www.vacareers.va.gov.
“VA is always looking for motivated, highly qualified candidates in direct patient care and support positions to help us achieve our mission of providing the very best health care to our nation’s Veterans,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing at VA.
At VA, we support new graduates through tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs, and provide pathways to continue your education if you choose.
Pay off your loans faster
At VA, you don’t have to let student loan debt hold you back. We provide many programs to help you pay off your debt faster, from several types of tuition reimbursement to federal loan forgiveness for those working in the public sector.
Through the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), some employees may be eligible for up to ,000 in debt repayment assistance. Be sure to ask about eligibility for SLRP when submitting your application.
Medical professionals in hard-to-fill direct patient care positions might be able to receive up to 0,000 in student loan repayment through the Education Debt Repayment Program. Check job descriptions to see if positions are eligible.
Federal jobs, like those at VA, are also eligible for loan forgiveness. After making 120 payments on your loans while employed full time in public service, you could have your remaining debt balance waived.
Continue your education
Gain marketable skills, valuable training and hands-on work experience through the Pathways Recent Graduates Program. You’ll receive a mentor and a supervisor for dedicated guidance and support, and once you successfully complete the program, you may be eligible to convert to a full-time position.
We also provide scholarships to some full- and part-time employees who pursue degrees in health care. As a VA employee, you can sign up for general or specialized courses from nearby colleges and universities or broaden your work experience through temporary assignments to other agencies.
Enjoy other generous benefits
In addition to education support, you’ll receive competitive pay and performance-based salary increases.
Want to explore another part of the country? We have facilities across the United States and its territories.
Other perks include:
Up to 49 days of paid time off each year.
Paid vacation that accrues right away, unlimited accumulated paid sick leave and 10 paid federal holidays.
Premium group health insurance effective on the first full pay period after start date.
A robust federal retirement package.
Work at VA
Consider making a VA career your first career. Help care for those who have bravely served their nation.
The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation hosted a festival on Feb. 10, 2018, to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the lighthouse at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
The festival, celebrating the only fully operational lighthouse owned by the Air Force, included door prizes, food and beverages, a raffle, lighthouse tours, and live musical entertainment.
The lighthouse was originally built in January of 1894, at a height of 65 feet, but mariners at the time were worried that the height could not allow the lighthouse to sufficiently warn ships of the abundance of shoals offshore; so the lighthouse was moved further inland and was reconstructed to a new height of 151 feet tall. The move and reconstruction took ten months and the lighthouse was relit in July of 1894 at its present location.
“It’s a wonderful day to be at the lighthouse,” said Jimmy, an event-goer who did not wish to provide his last name. “It’s great that the foundation made a way to get all of us in the community together and enjoy a day of celebration while learning the lighthouse’s history.”
Rocky Johnson, president of the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse Foundation, said the community was invited to join the celebration and help support the foundation’s mission to promote and continue to provide public access to this much treasured local historical site.
Not only was the festival meant to support the lighthouse itself, but also supported the relationship between the foundation, the community and the 45th Space Wing, according to Johnson.
“The intent has not changed, our mission is to support the wing and what they’ve done for the community,” said Johnson. “This lighthouse is what started everything — without it, nothing would be here.”
Event-goers had the opportunity to travel up the first five floors of the black-and-white building’s winding staircase. Visitors could also immerse themselves in the rich historical background of the lighthouse, as each floor was home to carious exhibits and stories from the past.
“The foundation opening the lighthouse to the public is parallel to the goals and vision of Brig. Gen. Monteith,” said Johnson. “A symbiotic relationship between the community and the 45th Space Wing is very important in preserving the history of not only our lighthouse, but the Cape itself. Today is a demonstration of the wing’s confidence and trust within the community to open the lighthouse to the public and celebrate together.”
Attending military balls is one of those things that everyone has to do. Sure, they’re occasionally mandatory, but it’s great to see everyone in the unit unwind for a single night. Your first sergeant can get roaring drunk and tell everyone stories of when they were a young, dumb private and the specialist can flex on the butterbar for their lack of medals.
The one thing that everyone secretly dreads, however, is the grog bowl. It’s hilarious watching everyone in the unit have to stomach what is, essentially, the bottom-dwelling juices of a trash compactor, but no one actually wants to be the person next in line to grab a glass.
In essence, it’s a concoction of random things that are poured into a giant punch bowl (or, occasionally, an unused toilet). The chain of command usually grabs some random thing off the shelf and pours it in. Each addition is followed by some BS excuse — there’s a symbolic reasoning behind every addition.
For example, a unit at Fort Campbell might add in some Jack Daniel’s because the distillery isn’t too far from post and it’s kind of the unofficial drink of the 101st Airborne. You might also see someone throw coffee into the mix because of the many sleepless nights endured by troops in the unit. Those are awesome, fun additions — but you’ll you have to bite your tongue when something gross gets tossed in.
That’s all you, buddy.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Robin Cresswell)
Tabasco — to represent the blood shed by troops
This is the go-to mixer that seems to find a place in every unit’s grog bowl. If you’re a fan of spicy foods, it’s not that bad… in small doses, that is.
Unfortunately, the person adding the Tabasco won’t just add a few drops like they’re making a Bloody Mary. It’s almost always the entire bottle. Thankfully, just as it does with undesirable MREs, the taste of Tabasco will overpower the taste of the rest of the garbage — that’s why Tabasco is the best of the worst things in the grog.
Yep. It tastes like nothing.
(U.S. Army photo by Spc. Jacob Massey)
Water — to represent the seas
On one hand, it’s great because the water is going to dilute whatever crap is in the bowl already. Each ounce of water offsets an ounce of garbage. On the other hand, it’s freakin’ water. It’s also going to dilute the good stuff that kind souls put in there.
There are kind souls out there that take pity on everyone who has to drink from the bowl and you’ll, on rare occasions, get a grog bowl that isn’t going to unintentionally poison the unit. Putting water in there is just going to ruin what was otherwise a reasonable sip.
Everything is forgiven if the salt is added in the style of Salt Bae.
A bunch of salt — to represent sweat
Just like Tabasco, salt would be fine in small doses but, just like Tabasco, salt is almost always poured in en masse. And, as you’ve probably guessed, it just makes everything salty.
This one is just lazy. At least you have to go to the store to buy a bottle of Tabasco. Usually, people just grab the salt shaker off the table in front of them and head up to the bowl.
Just because we ate our fair share of sand while deployed doesn’t mean we want to eat more of it stateside.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lt. Dave Hecht)
Sand — to represent the wars in the deserts
The rules dictating what kind of garbage you can put in the grog bowl typically limits the selection to things you’re willing to actually drink. This rules out, thankfully, things like battery acid. However, for some reason, this same logic doesn’t rule out sand.
Why? Because in the sandstorms of Iraq and Afghanistan, you’re going to unintentionally eat a lot of sand. Therefore, it must be okay to just drink sand, right? Wrong. Thankfully, if you’re just trying to screw everyone over, know that the sand will just sink to the bottom of the bowl and nobody will actually have to drink it.
At least pretend like you’re making an effort to be an asshole.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jacob Andrew Goff)
Milk — to represent… who knows, f*ck it.
There’s rarely any actual reasoning behind adding milk to the bowl. Now, if anyone were to say something along the lines of, “this is for the mothers that are waiting for us,” it’d make a little sense — but I just made that one up on the spot and have never heard it actually uttered at a ball.
It’s typically just tossed in because it’s readily available and someone didn’t want to spend time and effort on screwing everyone else over.
Same goes for putting old socks in it… jerk.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Adelita Mead)
A boot — to represent… hard work?
Come on. This one is just plain unhygienic. It’s rare that someone will spend the effort (or cash) to buy a fresh, never-worn, boot just to plop it in the grog bowl.
Sometimes, justice intervenes and whoever put their boot in the bowl will have to drink from their own footwear. Believe me, when that jerk ends up at sick call the next week, nobody’s shedding a tear.
The Marine Corps presented the Air Medal to three U.S. Marines on July 24, 2018, at Marine Air Station Miramar, California, for their actions while crewing a CH-53E Super Stallion that caught fire off the coast of Okinawa, Japan, during aerial refueling operations.
Capt. Molly A. O’Malley stands during an award ceremony where she and two other Marines received the Air Medal.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
The awards were presented to Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills of Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron (HMH) 462, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 16. The Marines were serving in Japan last year and were conducting operations near Okinawa’s Northern Training Area, an area often used for jungle training.
The helicopter itself was almost completely destroyed by the fire. The engine, most of the rotor blades, and the fuselage are visible as just a pile of slag in the Japanese field in images and video released by Japanese media after the crash.
Additional helicopters rushed to the scene to secure the crew and passengers and another CH-53 came on station with a helibucket to drop water and control the flames until Japanese firefighters and American first-responders from the nearby base could respond.
The quick actions of the crew and first responders prevented any property damage to anything except the plants directly under the burning helicopter.
This success by the crew and emergency workers had positive consequences beyond protecting the life and health of the passengers and local population. American military aviation in the area is extremely controversial, and nearly all incidents on the island trigger local protests and condemnation from politicians. Limiting the property damage and protecting all human life reduces the amount of backlash.
Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills pose with their air medals and a CH-53 Super Stallion after their award ceremony.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
The Marine Corps’ fleet of CH-53E Super Stallions are quickly becoming obsolete as their heavy rate of use in ongoing conflicts across the world — as well as normal operations and training — take a toll. The average CH-53E is 15 years old.
The aircraft is being replaced by the CH-53K, a very similar version of the helicopter but with a significantly more capability.
See more photos from the award ceremony below:
A U.S. Marine receives the Air Medal from Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams during a July 24 ceremony honoring three Marines’ quick actions during an Oct. 11, 2017 in-flight fire.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills stand during an award ceremony as Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams gives his remarks.
(U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Dominic Romero)
Capt. Ryan J. Boyer, Capt. Molly A. O’Malley, and Sgt. Garrett D. Mills stand in front of Maj. Gen. Kevin M. IIams during a July 24 award ceremony honoring their actions during an Oct. 11, 2017 fire in their CH-53E Super Stallion.
According to press reports and official reports, two drones armed with explosives detonated near Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Aug. 4, 2018, in an apparent assassination attempt that took place while he was delivering a speech to hundreds of soldiers, live on television.
The assailants flew two commercial drones each packed with 1 kilogram of C-4 plastic explosive toward Maduro: one of the drones was to explode above the president while the other was to detonate directly in front of him, said Interior Minister Nestor Reverol who also added the military managed to divert one of the drones off-course electronically whereas the other one crashed into apartment building two blocks away.
After a series of conflicting reports (the thruthfulness of the official claims is still debated), a video allegedly showing the detonation of the second of two commercial drones carrying explosive was published by Caracas News 24 media outlet:
Whilst some sources have contested the official line on the event saying the Venezuelan president might have staged the attack to purge disloyal officials and journalists, David Smilde of the Washington Office on Latin America said the amateurish attack doesn’t appear to be staged by Maduro’s government for political gain. This would confirm the one in Caracas on Aug. 4, was the first use of drone on a Head of State.
“The history of commercial drone incidents involving heads of state goes back to September 2013 when the German Chancelor Angela Merkel’s public appearance was disrupted by a drone, which was apparently a publicity stunt by a competing political party,” says Oleg Vornik, Chief Executive Officer at DroneShield, one of the companies that produce counterdrone systems, in an email. “Yesterday’s apparent drone assassination attempt on Venezuelan President Maduro is the first known drone attack on a head of state. An attempted drone assassination of a sitting sovereign leader demonstrates that, sadly, the era of drone terrorism has well and truly arrived”, Vornik comments.
Currently available counterdrone (C-UAS) systems provide early detection, analysis and identification, alerting and termination of the threatening drones by means of portable or highly mobile solutions (even though there are also C-UAS systems in fixed configuration). The drone is usually disabled by means of EW (Electronic Warfare), by disrupting multiple RF frequency bands simultaneously denying radio signals from the controller, making Live Video Feed and GPS signal unavailable to the remote operator.
Distant footsteps lightly echo through the empty passageway. Two figures of different height walk briskly through the hall toward a heavy steel door labeled “General Surgery: Authorized Personnel Only.” Attached at the hand, the smaller of the two, stops abruptly pulling his mother to a halt.
She sharply whispers something in Spanish to her frightened son. The boy inches toward the now-opened door, as the bright lights expose the sweat on his sun-kissed forehead. What the anxious boy doesn’t realize is that this room has a familiarity to him. He was a patient in it once before — when he was only 8 months old. And now, same as then, he is in good hands.
Pedro Daniel Anton, 8, returned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) to receive further care for his cleft lip and palate. His mother, Petronia Eche, reflects on her first experience with the Comfort caring for her son during Continuing Promise 2011, in Peru.
“In 2010, he was born with a cleft palate and when he was 8 months old and the ship came to provide care, we came for his surgery,” said Petronia, translated from Spanish. “They were very helpful, we received so much support when we had his first surgery. It was a great surgery, we were very well attended and my son came out well.”
Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt, an oral surgeon from Pembroke, Ontario, performs surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
After his initial surgery, Petronia knew he needed more surgery to improve his quality of life, but had little to no success in getting the follow-up, in Peru.
“I have tried in the past to get his follow-up surgery done but we have been denied continuously,” said Petronia. “But I never gave up. As a mother I knew I needed to be there with him, I never gave up on this because I only want the best for my son.”
After more than seven years from his initial surgery, Comfort returned to Paita, Peru. Petronia’s prayers were answered and she knew he needed to get aboard to get the care he needed.
“What a coincidence, it must be fate that we are here again,” said Petronia, on the verge of tears. “We were in such a long line, sleeping outside in the lines. I was losing my spirits in the wait, but I decided to keep waiting. And out of so many people, we are here.”
Pedro and his mother arrived to the ship under the impression that he was going to have surgery on an umbilical hernia in his abdomen. When the doctors looked at his cleft lip, they realized that they had an opportunity and the resources to give him further care.
Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt (left), an oral surgeon from Pembroke, Ontario, and Capt. Michael Carson, an oral surgeon from Portsmouth, Va., perform surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
“Initially, I came because he has an umbilical hernia, but the doctors told me that he needed both surgeries,” said Petronia. “Knowing that made me nervous, but I have trust in the doctors and in God. Many of the doctors here in Paita tell me they can’t help my son but here they said they can do it.”
When the call came in to the medical ward that Pedro and his mother were in, they were overcome with emotion. They both found the courage and strength to stand, take each other’s hand, walk up to surgery to complete the journey, and fulfill the reason why they were on the Comfort.
“I’ve told the doctors, that my son’s life is in their hands,” said Petronia, overcome with emotion and tears flowing down her cheeks. “I’m so appreciative of this because, here in Peru, we don’t have the money to pay for these surgeries, I have tried but we just don’t have enough. But, as a mother, I kept trying to find a way for him to get the surgery. I had faith in God and I would tell my husband that one day—someone would come to help us.”
Canadian Forces Maj. Davin Schmidt, an oral surgeon aboard Comfort, was the attending surgeon with Pedro for his cleft lip operation. He said it is common for a cleft lip and palate patient to return for further surgeries as they grow and start cutting teeth and forming a stronger jaw. He was also glad to see a repeat patient because it is a rarity that the Comfort’s doctors are ever able to follow up with the patients they treat.
Capt. Michael Carson, an oral surgeon from Portsmouth, Va., performs surgery on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
“It was very rewarding to see him here again,” said Schmidt. “I wasn’t personally involved with his care the first time, but cleft lip and palate are complicated cases that need follow-up and repeated procedures over time in a staged manner. Without this, he would not have been able to return to full function. He wouldn’t be able to eat normally, he wouldn’t be able to have normal speech and he would be at higher risk for health issues such as infections in his sinus.”
When Pedro was brought to the operating room, the surgeons and staff operated on his umbilical hernia first, completing the operation in about 20 minutes. Then, Schmidt and his staff took over for the next part of his surgery, which was very complex and took much longer.
“The patient had an alveolar cleft*, so basically what has happened in that case, is that the upper jaw of the maxilla** didn’t have bone connecting it all the way through and there was a hole where that should have been extending from the mouth to the nose,” said Schmidt. “So what we did, is we opened up that area, reconstructed the gums in that area to create a new floor of the nose.”
“We made sure there was a good seal on the palate side,” continued Schmidt. “And then we used some bone from his hip so that we can reconstruct it. We brought that bone and then we placed it into the defect that was there so that we could grow new bone and create a new full shaped maxilla that will be able to support teeth and have teeth erupt through there.”
Pedro’s surgery was a success and the hole connecting his mouth and nose, including the gap in the bone, was repaired.
“We are very excited about the procedure and I feel we got a really good result,” said Schmidt. “Checking up with Pedro right before he left the ship, he seemed to be in good spirits, and we are expecting a very good recovery for him.”
Oral surgery is performed on Pedro Anton, 8, in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kris R. Lindstrom)
Feeling jubilant and blessed, Pedro and his mother made their way to disembark Comfort. With their journey one step closer to its completion, Petronia embraced many doctors, nurses and staff before heading back to Paita. With her heart full of graciousness and exuberance, her and her son boarded a small boat to go back ashore.
“I have to be strong for my children,” said Petronia. “I encourage them to be strong, we have suffered together throughout his journey and I am thankful to God that he is going to be okay now.”
Comfort is on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, the embarked medical team will provide care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused partly by an increase in cross-border migrants. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership, and solidarity with the Americas.
*An Alveolar Cleft is an opening in the bone of the upper jaw that results from a developmental defect and is present at birth. This area of the jaw that is missing bone is otherwise covered by normal mucosa and may contain teeth. (dcsurgicalarts.com)
**The maxilla forms the upper jaw by fusing together two irregularly-shaped bones along the median palatine structure, located at the midline of the roof of the mouth. The maxillary bones on each side join in the middle at the intermaxillary suture, a fused line that is created by the union of the right and left ‘halves’ of the maxilla bone, thus running down the middle of the upper jaw.(healthline.com)
The Marine Corps has to recruit a bunch of teens and young twenty-somethings in order to keep recruits flowing in. And they sponsored four YouTubers to come and spend three days in basic training. The main star of the resulting video is Michelle Khare, a BuzzFeed.News journalist whose YouTube is pretty much all videos about her trying on other people’s lives like the ultimate tourist.
So when the Marine Corps asked her to try out their training, it was a pretty perfect fit.
But it’s easy to see the difference between basic training for YouTubers and people really entering the service. This author went through Army basic, but he still feels pretty certain that real Marines gets yelled at harder than this. And he definitely doesn’t remember the flock of camera people and producers who accompanied a “platoon” of about a dozen people.
But the YouTube recruits do go through some of the physical and mental challenges that break real recruits. And they made it through, partially thanks to the help of drill instructors who spurred them on even as they got too afraid. The A-Tower, familiar to most soldiers from the “confidence course,” nearly takes our friend Michelle out before the DI helps her master the fear.
The personalities go through some other fun staples of basic training, like breaking the seals on their gas masks in the chamber and firing M16s. Of course, the YouTubers get new or nearly new rifles with ACOGs, but no one said life is fair. And we don’t really need them to fire in combat successfully with iron sights anyway.
Oh, and that was the first day. And one dude literally dropped out after just that.
Like, dude, you’re doing the tourist version. It’s only three days long. Real Marine basic training is 13 weeks.
The rest of the personalities pushed on through physical training to muscle failure, drill instruction, rappel training, more obstacles, and a ruck march.
One thousand additional troops are being sent to the Middle East to deal with the threat from Iran, the Pentagon announced June 17, 2019, in an emailed statement to Pentagon reporters.
The US military began moving troops and warfighting platforms into the US Central Command area of responsibility early May 2019 in response to intelligence reports pointing to possible Iranian aggression against a variety of potential targets, including commercial shipping.
The US sent the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group, a bomber task force, a Patriot air-and-missile defense battery, fighters, and thousands of troops into the Middle East to deter Iran. White House National Security Advisor John Bolton released a strongly-worded statement May 2019 warning that Iranian aggression would be “will be met with unrelenting force.”
CENTCOM is now requesting additional forces.
“With the advice of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in consultation with the White House, I have authorized approximately 1,000 additional troops for defensive purposes to address air, naval, and ground-based threats in the Middle East,” acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said June 17, 2019.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan
(DoD Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The move comes less than a week after attacks on two oil tankers — attacks the US has blamed on Iran. The US military argues that Iranian forces used limpet mines, explosives that can be attached to the hulls of ships with magnets, to attack the tankers.
The US also blamed an attack on four tankers in May 2019 on Iran.
“The recent Iranian attacks validate the reliable, credible intelligence we have received on hostile behavior by Iranian forces and their proxy groups that threaten United States personnel and interests across the region,” Shanahan explained, adding that the US does not want conflict with Iran.
“The action today is being taken to ensure the safety and welfare of our military personnel working throughout the region and to protect our national interests,” he added, explaining that force levels will be adjusted as necessary.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Fort Carson’s newest weapon is also its most revolutionary, allowing ground-pounding units to strike targets hundreds of miles behind enemy lines and giving commanders an unprecedented view of enemy movements.
All without risking lives.
Meet the Gray Eagle, a hulking drone with a 56-foot wingspan that packs four Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and can stay aloft for a full 24-hours with its thrumming diesel power plant. Fort Carson has authorization for a dozen of the drones and they will soon be ready for war.
“We are reaching full-operational capability,” said Col. Scott Gallaway, who commands the post’s 4th Combat Aviation Brigade.
The Gray Eagle is similar to drones in use by U.S. intelligence agencies and the Air Force. But how they’re used by the Army will be different.
In Iraq and Afghanistan, armed drones have targeted insurgents and been flown by operators half a world away.
The Army envisions its drones as a way to give combat commanders the capability of striking deep, with drone operators sticking close to the battlefield. While the Air Force relies heavily on officers to fly drones, the Army will lean on its enlisted corps to do most of the flying.
Gallaway said the drones are a tool for a “near-peer competitive environment” – a battle against a well-armed and organized enemy.
The Army has gone to war with drones for nearly two decades. But those drones have been toys compared to the Gray Eagle.
The biggest was the Shadow – with 14-foot wings. It had a range of 68 miles, compared to the Gray Eagle’s more than 1,500 mile range. The small one was the Raven – with a 4-foot wingspan and a range of 6 miles.
Those drones gave commanders a limited view of the battlefield for short periods of time. They’re unarmed, but tactically useful when confronting nearby enemies.
The Gray Eagle, with sophisticated cameras and other intelligence sensors aboard, is strategic, Gallaway said.
“It gives us reconnaissance and security,” he said.
Training with the Gray Eagle at Fort Carson, though, is challenging.
The 135,000-acre post has limited room to use the drones, and it is difficult to simulate how they would be used in war without vast tracts of land. On Fort Carson, the drones look inward to the post’s training area and aren’t used to spy on the neighbors, Gallaway said. The drones, though armed in battle, don’t carry missiles in training.
The small training area denies operators experience that will prepare them for combat.
To overcome that, the post is asking the Federal Aeronautics Administration to create a corridor between Fort Carson and the 235,000-acre Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site east of Trinidad. That would give the drone’s operators experience with long-distance flights while keeping the drones safely separated from other aircraft with a dedicated flight path.
“We want to be able to operate out of Piñon Canyon,” Gallaway said. “We see it as fundamentally important to our readiness.”
The need for that kind of room to fly also speaks to the Gray Eagle’s game-changing battlefield role.
The drone can sneak behind the lines and gather intelligence on enemy movements, sharing the enemy’s precise location with computers mounted on American vehicles across the battlefield.
It can also be used to target enemy commanders, throwing their units into chaos with a precision strike.
“We see them as a combat multiplier,” Gallaway said.
The drones can also be used in new ways the Army is beginning to explore. Pilots aboard the aviation brigade’s AH-64E attack helicopters can view the drone feed in their cockpit and control the Gray Eagle in flight.
“Manned-unmanned teaming brings synergy to the battlefield where each platform, ground or air, uses its combat systems in the most efficient mode to supplement each team member’s capabilities in missions such as overwatch of troops in combat engagements, route reconnaissance, and convoy security,” Lt. Col. Fernando Guadalupe Jr. wrote in the Army’s Aviation Digest.
Translated: Using drones, the Army can overwhelm an enemy like the Martians in War of The Worlds.
Gallaway, an attack helicopter pilot, said he’s been watching the rise of drones in warfare for years.
It will change warfare. And America is in the lead.
A Puerto Rico National Guard member takes the temperature of an incoming traveler at Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Photo by Staff Sgt. Marimar Rivera.
A deadly pandemic, a Category 5 hurricane and two earthquakes. While this sounds like cataclysms from the Old Testament — it’s not. Puerto Rico has been dealing with a range of natural disasters for the past three years.
In the center of them all is the Puerto Rico National Guard, stepping up to the challenges each provides.
“It’s certainly showing that the Puerto Rico National Guard is a flexible and adaptable force,” Maj. Gen. José Reyes, adjutant general, said.
The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the lives of just about every American. The mantra of elected officials has been, “Flatten the curve,” meaning stop the spread of the virus. PRNG is doing its part to accomplish that by conducting medical evaluations of everyone entering Puerto Rico.
Earlier this year, PRNG and other federal and state agencies started screening incoming passengers at the international airport in San Juan by installing 11 infrared cameras that measure a person’s body temperature.
If a passenger has a temperature of 100.3° or over, they are immediately taken to a triage area and tested for COVID-19.
This is a 24/7 operation with about 260 PRNG members participating — roughly 60 are assigned to each six-hour shift.
Laiza Rivera, a medical student at Central Caribbean University, took the oath of office to become a 2nd Lt. in the Puerto Rico National Guard on April 2. Here she signs her enlistment contract as Gen. José Reyes looks on. Photo by First Sgt. Luis E. Orengo.
In addition to military personnel, 150 students from Puerto Rico’s four medical schools have volunteered for this mission as well.
This actually worked as an unintentional recruitment campaign when four of them decided to join the PRNG. One of them is 2nd Lt. Laiza Rivera.
The 27–year-old says she was going stir-crazy being home all day because of the lockdown so she decided to volunteer at the airport. Rivera, whose major is ophthalmology, was already in the process of joining but inspired the other three student-volunteers to join as well.
PRNG has similar operations at other ports of entry.
PRNG’s ability to adapt is illustrated in its revised plan for annual training. Ordinarily, large groups of personnel would attend exercises at the national training center in California, as well as another location in Louisiana. Not this year. In an effort to practice social distancing, those exercises will be modified to be conducted in smaller groups at Camp Santiago in Puerto Rico.
Additionally, classes that would normally be held in a conference room have switched to video conferencing.
In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.
Under Reyes’ command, the island’s combined military forces provided its residents with just about everything they needed.
They provided MPs to the local police departments to maintain law and order; engineers cleared hundreds of miles of debris from roadways; and they conducted search and rescue operations in flooded communities and evacuated stranded citizens. The Army aviation unit conducted countless flights to and from the center of the island (its most rural and isolated area) to deliver food, water and emergency supplies.
Puerto Rico still hasn’t fully recovered from the hurricane and the 56 year-old general predicts that won’t happen for another 10 to 12 years.
If the hurricane wasn’t bad enough, Puerto Rico was shaken by two major earthquakes in January. There were 10,000 people who either partially or completely lost their homes.
Reyes, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, presented a plan to Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to relocate these refugees. PRNG then established five major camps, each with a capacity of about 1,700. In partnership with FEMA and other agencies, they relocated over 10,000 people in 56 days.
While no one can predict when an earthquake will occur, there is an established hurricane season for the Caribbean and it’s happening now.
Under Homeland Security Presidential Directives Nos. 8 and 9, states and territories are required to conduct preparatory training in response to the threats that pose the greatest risk to national security, including natural disasters.
PRNG is on it conducting emergency management exercises for hurricanes, earthquakes, pandemics and even tsunamis with all 78 municipalities on the island. Until last year, exercises were only for Category 5 hurricanes. The new exercises anticipate all these disasters happening concurrently.
Puerto Rico has had a lot thrown at it over the past three years and, in theory, it all could happen again. PRNG will be ready if it does.
Additionally, Reyes knows Guard units from other states, as well as additional DOD personnel, has Puerto Rico’s back and will be there to support him.
Reyes came out of retirement to take on this command and he’s glad he did.
“It’s a tremendous honor to command the Puerto Rico National Guard, eight-five hundred strong, fully committed men and women with an unbreakable sense of service towards the people of Puerto Rico and our nation,” he said. “I’m very proud of each one of them.”
Three Silver Stars were earned during a hard fight in Afghanistan last year. Two Army Special Forces soldiers and one Air Force Pararescueman received the nation’s third-highest award for extreme valor while under fire in Afghanistan.
The 7th Special Forces Group team fought against what Army officials described as an elite Taliban unit, which they encountered by accident in a small Afghan village. During the ensuing eight-hour engagement, the American team lost its contact with its supporting element, which operated the vehicles, and had to walk for almost a mile while under constant enemy fire before reaching relative safety. The three commandos who received the Silver Stars were pivotal in saving the lives of their teammates during the firefight.
The three Silver Stars weren’t the only medals awarded. Troops from the 7th SFG’s 1st Battalion also received six Bronze Stars for Valor, three Army Commendation Medals with Valor devices, and four Purple Hearts. The Battalion itself received the Meritorious Unit Citation for its contribution in the fight against the Taliban during that six-month deployment (July 2019-January 2020).
Command Sergeant Major Brock Buddies, the senior enlisted leader of 1st Battalion, said that “the event is humbling. Every year we remember the men and women of this formation, their legacy and acts of heroism.”
Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, pins a medal on an unnamed member of 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), during a memorial and awards ceremony at 7th Group’s compound on Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. (US Army).
Congress established the Silver Star in the closing months of the First World War.
Don’t be surprised that and Air Force Pararescueman was on an Army Special Forces team. After Pararescuemen finish their selection and training pipeline – a more than two-years affair – they get assigned to either a Guardian Angel or Special Tactics/Warfare squadron. Guardian Angel squadrons primarily focus on combat search and rescue (CSAR) and personnel recovery (PR). Indeed, PJs are the only unit in the Department of Defense to be specifically trained and equipped for those mission sets. On the other hand, Pararescuemen who get assigned to a Special Tactics/Warfare squadron are often individually attached to other Special Operations units. PJs, being world-class combat medics, often fill out or complement the combat medic spot on Navy SEAL platoon, Ranger platoon, or, as in the case of this action, a Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA).
A Special Forces ODA getting ready to go outside the wire in Afghanistan (US Army).
The past year had been quite tough on the 7th SFG. In February, an ODA from the 7th SFG was ambushed, suffering two killed in action and several wounded. The action took place a few weeks before the signing of the peace treaty with the Taliban.
Lieutenant General Francis Beaudette, the commanding officer of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) presented the awards.
“The actions of the warriors we are recognizing today speak volumes about them as individuals,” he said during the ceremony. “They also clearly reflect the families and communities that shaped these men,” he was quoted saying during the closed event. “Even if they cannot be here physically — thank you for what your families do to support you every day.”
The 7th SFG operates mainly in Central and South America. Green Berets assigned to the “Red Legion,” the nickname of the unit, become experts in the cultures and countries of their area of operations. This is key to mission success since Special Forces soldiers work with and through their partner forces.
Each Special Forces group, there are seven, is focused on a region. 1st SFG is responsible for East Asia; 3rd SFG is focused mainly on Africa; 5th SFG on the Middle East, Horn of Africa, and Central Asia; 7th SFG is dedicated on Latin America; 10th SFG is concentrated primarily on Europe; and the 19th SFG and 20th SFG, which are National Guard units, complement their active-duty counterparts around the world.
“Remember everyone deployed” isn’t just a catchphrase for the Maryville University Men’s Lacrosse Team. It might seem counterintuitive for a team that wants to raise money for its upcoming season to spend part of that money on another good cause, but that’s just one more reason Maryville University athletes are known as the Saints.
Maryville, a small, private university just 22 miles from St. Louis, Mo., is one of the best-run colleges financially, known for making their dollars go far. This frugality means the students in its athletic programs need to raise a little money on their own to make their seasons a reality.
This is no problem for the men’s lacrosse team. They started a crowdfunding project to get the money they need, but the reward for their hard work is more than just a third season in the Great Lakes Valley Conference. With money raised, they intend to send care packages to US troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. For every $100 raised, they will send out a gift to the men and women overseas.
As of this writing, the team has raised just shy of 20 percent of their ,000 goal. This means that, so far, they’re set t send out 19 care packages to U.S. troops with another just around the corner. And this isn’t the first year of their patriotic efforts. Last year’s crowdfunded lacrosse team-care package effort saw 52 care packages shipped overseas from the Maryville Saints.
The Saints are accepting donations in any amount – and look forward to doubling their output from last year. What’s really great about their efforts is that the Saints don’t just give when raising money, they can be found at the St. Louis VA year round, donating their time and effort to veterans.
The Maryville University Saints Lacrosse team at the St. Louis, Mo. VA hospital on Veterans Day, 2018.
The NCAA Division II school crowdfunds many of its athletic programs. The Swimming and Diving team, the Women’s Bowling team, and even the Men’s Basketball team all crowdfund their programs through the Maryville University site — and the campaigns don’t require offering rewards to donors, like many crowdfunding websites.
Only the Men’s Lacrosse team gives something back in exchange for their good fortune — and it’s purely because they want to give to American troops. For some of these lacrosse players, playing university sports is akin to being part of a family, something to which deployed military members can certainly relate.
“I enjoy being at Maryville University because it’s like my second home,” said lacrosse player Darrius Davenport. “We are brothers with an unbreakable bond.”
Mylee Cardenas had a plan: stay in the Army until they told her to leave. But her dreams of becoming a career soldier were derailed by cancer. Instead, she found her second wind in life as a model and actress.
Without any money in the family to afford college, Mylee had intended to use the military to become a doctor, joining at seventeen as soon as she finished high school. Once she was in, however, her plan quickly changed to be a career soldier. She deployed to Northern Afghanistan, where her unit was responsible for all nine provinces in the region. However, while she was there, things changed.
When she was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer, she had every intention of defeating it and throwing herself straight back into the fight. The medical board reviewing her case had other ideas. After a lengthy process, she was declared unfit for duty, and retired due to both the breast cancer and severe combat-related PTSD.
She lost her uniform, which she considered her shield and strength overnight, but she gained so many new opportunities. Through motivational speaking, she was able to inspire people, especially veterans, around the country with her story. She now models, acts, and is a fitness coach on the side while she goes to school in the hopes of becoming a physical therapist.
Although she still comes home with the muscle memory of waiting for a phone call telling her she can return to duty, she now has other plans in place. While her circumstances of leaving the military were sad, she also came out with the feeling of suddenly being free.