Fitness. The word conjures mental images of tight lycra clothing, 5K finish lines, and overcrowded rooms filled with clanking weights and the pungent odor of sweat. Fitness, however, is much simpler than what is being sold to you. Fitness is health, plain and simple — the pursuit of which is a lifetime endeavor.
The concept of improving fitness almost always focuses directly on the improvement of the physical body. However, mental and spiritual health play equally important parts in the equation. Setting the proper intention — the purpose of one’s physical pursuit is as important, if not more so, than the physical movement itself.
When it comes to fitness, goals are paramount. There are three simple questions you need to ask yourself:
Where do I want to be?
Where am I currently?
What is the healthiest path from No. 2 to No. 1?
(Photo by Marty Skovlund, Jr./Coffee, or Die Magazine)
Your goals are your own. They should not exist for anyone else, and should be clearly identified so a path to achievement can be established. Let’s say your goal is to squat 200 pounds. Why? How does that number improve your quality of life? Numerical goals are not wrong so long as you can identify the reason. For example, if you aspire to be an EMT who will regularly need to hoist a 200-pound person, the goal serves you well.
Take an honest, comprehensive look at your current fitness level. Avoid self-criticism and identify the areas which can use the most improvement. Can you push and pull your body weight through various planes of movement repetitively and with ease? Does each of your joints flex and extend to an appropriate degree without pain? I know blood pressure and cholesterol levels aren’t as sexy to consider as what your abs look like, but they are undeniably factors that will sooner inhibit your quality of life than any aesthetic variance will.
Identify your weakness, then attack it with verve. Experienced triathletes know this concept well. For those with a strong swim and a weak run, it is much more enjoyable to practice swimming. This does little to improve race results or fitness in general though. That weakness may be flexibility, balance, or elevated levels of stress.
Knowing where you are and where you want to be doesn’t mean anything without establishing a reasonable path from one to the other. This is the angle of the ladder you will climb to your goal. Time plays a crucial factor in this. If your goal is to squat that 200 pounds but you currently have physical difficulty getting off the couch, the goal is still achievable when the proper number of rungs are implemented at appropriate intervals.
Does the pursuit of your goal require detriment to other aspects of your health? If your goal is to complete a marathon for the sake of doing so and your training plan omits components of strength, power, speed, or agility, you may get to the finish line a little faster — but you are ultimately working against your own fitness.
If you can identify where you currently are and where you want to be but are unsure how to get from one to the other, fear not. In the coming weeks and months, I will address pertinent aspects of fitness programming, equipment, and ideology. Wherever you may be, let’s improve our fitness — and our quality of life, together.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
Two U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighters intercepted two Russian Su-25 fighter jets Dec. 13, conducting multiple maneuvers, firing warning flares, and, in one instance, aggressively flying to avoid colliding with one another, U.S. officials tell Military.com.
The Su-25s — single-seat, twin-engine aircraft — “flew into coordinated coalition airspace on the east side of the Euphrates River near Abu Kamal, Syria, and were promptly intercepted,” Air Forces Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told Military.com in an email.
The F-22s, the U.S.’ most advanced fighter aside from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, were in the area providing air cover for partner ground forces conducting operations against the Islamic State, he said.
“The F-22s conducted multiple maneuvers to persuade the Su-25s to depart our deconflicted airspace, including the release of chaff and flares in close proximity to the Russian aircraft and placing multiple calls on the emergency channel to convey to the Russian pilots that they needed to depart the area,” Pickart said.
During one maneuver, a Su-25 flew so close to an F-22 “that it had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision,” he said.
The F-22 also trailed a Su-35 after it flew across the river into territory deemed unsafe to coalition aircraft.
“The incident lasted approximately 40 minutes before the Russian aircraft flew to the west side of the river. During and following the encounter, coalition leaders at the [Combined Air Operations Center in Al Udeid, Qatar] contacted the Russians on the deconfliction line to de-escalate the situation and avert a strategic miscalculation,” Pickart said.
AFCENT officials said the Russians had “verbally agreed” in November through the deconfliction line that they would remain west of the Euphrates River, and the coalition would operate to the East, he said.
“Since agreeing to this deconfliction arrangement, the Russians have flown into our airspace on the east side of the river 6-8 times per day, or approximately 10 percent of the Russian and Syrian flights,” Pickart noted.
“If either of us needs to cross the river for any reason, we’re supposed to first deconflict via the line,” he said. “It’s become increasingly tough for our pilots to discern whether Russian pilots’ actions are deliberate or if these are just honest mistakes.”
Officials have said recently that coalition aircraft — more than a dozen air forces cooperating to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria — are concerned about the shrinking airspace.
“The coalition’s greatest concern is that we could shoot down a Russian aircraft because its actions are seen as a threat to our air or ground forces,” Pickart said. “We train our aircrew to take specific actions and to make every attempt possible to de-escalate the situation wherever possible.”
He continued, “We are not here to fight the Russians and Syrians — our focus remains on defeating ISIS. That said, if anyone threatens coalition or friendly partner forces in the air or on the ground, we will defend them.”
If the idea of spending 12 weeks in boot camp is what keeps people from joining the Marine Corps, they should be thankful that it’s only that long. It could always be worse — like in the French Foreign Legion’s four month basic training.
The first four weeks are an introduction to military life. They train at the 4th Foreign Infantry Regiment near Castelnaudary, a country town in Southern France. They also call it “The Farm.”
At the end of this, recruits receive the iconic white Kepi hat that is synonymous with the Foreign Legion in a special ceremony. But basic is far from over. From there, they move on to field training for three weeks, both in and out of the barracks. New Legionnaires spend a week in mountain training as well, high in the French Pyrenees.
Next, the newly-minted Legionnaires will finish a final 75 mile march that must be completed within three days. From there, they take basic educational courses and learn to drive military vehicles. On top of the rigorous training schedule, the non-French speakers will also have to learn basic French every day during training.
As far as the physical demand, the Legion’s rigorous training schedule can take its toll on a recruit. One Quora user, Kjell Saari, who joined the Legion in 1993, said he lost 22 pounds at the Farm, even though he had just been in Afghanistan fighting the Soviets — and he wasn’t eating much there.
“I was at the farm during the late fall/ early winter you realize that hell did freeze over and you died and ended up in hell. I like everyone else got sick as hell well guess what too damn bad, get up and become what you signed up for,” he wrote.
Mentally it can be just as rigorous. Due to the international nature of the group, few of the recruits can communicate at first — and forget about communicating with the instructors. But a “slap in the head makes you remember 100% of the time.” Former Legionnaires say it is important to not give up on yourself and to remember why you came to the Legion in the first place.
The Legion does not get hung up on the things people argue about in the U.S. military. Their tattoo policy actually welcomes tattoos. The only forbidden tattoos are Nazi and other racist art, as well as anything “stupid on your face.”
They don’t care if you’re gay or straight, trans, or married. They don’t care about your race, education, or religion. They don’t even care if you speak French. Once you’re in and past basic training, you can expect that food, clothing, and shelter will be provided, along with a salary on par with American soldiers and 45 days of leave per year.
From there, Legionnaires are shipped off to join the 8,000-plus others deployed throughout France, Africa, Afghanistan, and the Balkans to finish their five-year contract.
The FFL has its own culture — not French culture, Legion culture, as Saari puts it.
“Being in the legion was like being bipolar for 5 years,” Saari says. “Wild highs and bottom of the sea lows. Oh you better like to drink and you better be man enough to get your ass up the next morning and do what’s expected of you no matter how hung over or still drunk you are.”
Suicide is one of the most challenging societal issues of our time, and sadly, one that affects those who served our Nation at alarming rates. For Veterans, the suicide rate is 1.5 times higher and the female Veteran suicide rate is 2.2 times higher than the general population.
There is good news: suicide is preventable and working together, we can create change and save lives.
On March 5, 2019, President Trump signed Executive Order 13861 establishing a three-year effort known as the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS). Under the leadership of The White House and VA, the PREVENTS Office and cabinet-level, interagency task force were created to amplify and accelerate our progress in addressing suicide. The roadmap was released on June 17, 2020.
In July, PREVENTS launched a centerpiece of the initiative: the Nation’s first public health campaign focused on suicide prevention, REACH. This campaign is for and about everyone because we all have risk and protective factors for suicide that we need to recognize and understand. REACH provides the knowledge, tools, and resources that we need to prevent suicide by educating ourselves so that we can REACH when we are in need – so that we can REACH to those who feel hopeless. REACH empowers us to reach beyond what we have done before to change the way we think about, talk about, and address emotional pain and suffering.
As a member of the VA community, you are in a position to REACH out to Veterans who may be at risk during this difficult time. We all need support – sometimes we need more.
How can you get involved?
Take the PREVENTS Pledge to REACH: Make a commitment to increase awareness of mental health challenges as we work to prevent suicide for all Americans. Visit wearewithinreach.net to sign the pledge and challenge your friends and colleagues to do the same. PREVENTS is planning a month-long pledge drive during September, Suicide Prevention Month. Please join us!
Veterans can also help lead the way as we work to change the way we think about, talk about and address mental health and suicide. Veterans can give us their perspective and provide guidance as we reach out to those in need. To that end, the PREVENTS Office is launching a first-of-its kind, national survey on Sept. 2, 2020, that will give us invaluable feedback from Veterans and other stakeholders, including Veterans Service Organizations, Veterans’ families and community organizations. The survey will help us learn what are our Veterans’ most pressing needs. In addition, the answers we receive will help us understand how Veterans want to receive important information on mental health services and suicide prevention.
Please help us by taking the survey at PREVENTS Survey and encourage everyone you know to take it. Filling out the survey takes less than 5 minutes! The PREVENTS survey will be available from Sept. 2-30.
The Army is now seeking to finesse a careful and combat-relevant balance between upgrading the current Abrams and Bradley to the maximum degree while also recognizing limitations and beginning conceptual work on a new platform called Next-Generation Combat Vehicle.
While the Army is only now in the early stages of concept development for this technology, Maj. Gen. David Bassett, Program Executive Officer, Ground Combat Systems, told Scout Warrior that it may indeed evolve into a family of vehicles.
A fleet of similarly engineered vehicles would be designed to allow each vehicle to be tailored and distinct, while simultaneously improving maintenance, logistics, and sustainment by using many common parts; the objective would, of course, be to lower long-term lifecycle costs and extend the service life of the vehicles. However, of potentially much greater significance, similar engineering, vehicle structures, and configurations could definitely expedite upgrades across the fleet as enabled by new technology. This could include new sensors, sights, electronics, force tracking systems, and a range of C4ISR technology.
Many Army comments have indicated that the configuration of the new vehicles may resemble hull forms of an Abrams, Mobile Protected Firepower vehicle, Bradley, or even elements of a Stryker vehicle. However, it is without question that, whatever NGCV evolves into, it will be built to consistently accommodate the best emerging technologies available.
For instance, Army developers explained that some early developmental work inolved assessing lighter weight armor and hull materials able to provide the same protection as the current vehicle at a much lower weight.
“We could look at some novel material, such as lightweight tracks or a hull replacement,” Lt. Col. Justin Shell, the Army’s product manager for Abrams, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
Key parameters for the NGCV will, among other things, include building a lighter-weight, more mobile and deployable vehicle. Weight, speed, and mobility characteristics are deemed essential for a tank’s ability to support infantry units, mechanized armored units, and dismounted soldiers by virtue of being able to cross bridges, rigorous terrain, and other combat areas less accessible to existing 70-ton Abrams tanks.
Bassett explained that specific cross-functional team leads have begun to explore concepts and early requirements for the NGCV effort to, among other things, look for common, cross-fleet technologies and build in flexibility.
“Cross functional teams are defining the art of the possible as we look at what technologies are available,” Bassett said in an interview with Scout Warrior. “We could change some assumptions. We want to give the Army some flexibility.”
One possibility now receiving some attention, Army senior leaders say, is that the NGCV may implement a lightweight 120mm cannon previously developed for one of the Manned-Ground Vehicles developed for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems program. The vehicle, called the Mounted Combat System, was built with a two-ton 120mm cannon roughly one-half the weight of the current Abrams cannon.
The Army’s MCS program developed and test-fired a super lightweight 120mm cannon, called the XM360, able to fire existing and emerging next-generation tank rounds.
The MCS was to have had a crew of two, a .50 caliber machine gun, and a 40mm automatic grenade launcher.
The Army’s recent Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically mentions the value of adapting the XM360 for future use.
“Next-Generation Large Caliber Cannon Technology. The XM360 next-generation 120mm tank cannon integrated with the AAHS will provide the M1 Abrams a capability to fire the next generation of high-energy and smart-tank ammunition at beyond line-of-sight (LOS) ranges. The XM360 could also incorporate remote control operation technologies to allow its integration on autonomous vehicles and vehicles with reduced crew size. For lighter weight vehicles, recoil limitations are overcome by incorporating the larger caliber rarefaction wave gun technology while providing guided, stabilized LOS, course-corrected LOS, and beyond LOS accuracy.”
Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.
Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.
While not specifically referring to a T-14 Armata’s unmanned turret or Russian plans for an autonomous capability, Basset did say it is conceivable that future armored vehicles may indeed include an unmanned turret as well as various level of autonomy, tele-operation, and manned-unmanned teaming. The prospect of integrating “autonomous vehicles” into future armored platforms is, as noted above, also specified in the Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization strategy.
Accordingly, Basset also emphasized that the future NGCV vehicles will be designed to incorporate advanced digital signal processing and machine-learning, such as AI technologies.
Computer algorithms enabling autonomous combat functions are progressing at an alarming rate, inspiring Army and General Dynamics Land Systems developers to explore the prospect of future manned-unmanned collaboration with tank platforms. It is certainly within the realm of the technically feasible for a future tank to simultaneously control a small fleet of unmanned robotic “wing man” vehicles designed to penetrate enemy lines while minimizing risk to soldiers, transporting ammunition, or performing long-range reconnaissance and scout missions.
CINCU, Romania – Tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles from 1st Battalion, 163rd Infantry Regiment, Montana Army National Guard, take up defensive while participating in Exercise Saber Guardian 16 at the Romanian Land Force Combat Training Center. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Corey Baltos, 24th Press Camp Headquarters).
“The Chief has stated that all future vehicles will be tele-operated. We take those things into account and we’re are going to get some great experimentation in this area,” Bassett said. “There are things you can do in a next-gen vehicle which you cannot do in a current vehicle due to physical requirements.”
Levels of autonomy for air vehicles, in particular, have progressed to a very advanced degree – in part because there are, quite naturally, fewer obstacles in the air precluding autonomous navigation. GPS-enabled waypoint technology already facilitates both ground and air autonomous movement; however, developing algorithms for land-based autonomous navigation is far more challenging given that a vehicle will need to quickly adjust to a fast-moving, dynamic, and quickly-changing ground combat environment.
“There is a dramatic difference in size, weight, and power performance if you make something tele-operated,” Bassett said.
A notebook written in English that may have belonged to an ISIS fighter was reportedly found in a jail in Raqqa, according to the National, which exclusively obtained the notebook from an unnamed source.
The notebook reportedly details the inner workings of the militant group, including their future plans, military shortcomings, and issues foreign fighters faced within the group.
According to pictures of the purported notebook provided by the National, the pages appear to be written in English by one author who used American spelling of words and numbers. A second author wrote in French, and Arabic was used in some of the text as well.
The author details ISIS’s core strategies for maintaining control in the region.
On one page, the author describes how to prevent defectors from leaving ISIS territory: “We should push civilians who want to flee to our centers of gravity in Mosul and Raqqa.” The author added: “The enemy might try to break our control over an area and allow civilians to escape.”
The notebook describes a solution, written in large letters “THE BIG SOLUTION” which explains that ISIS should not use “conventional military power against a much stronger foe,” and suggests the group focus on “insurgency” until their “political situation allows for a more conventional approach.”
Another page compares several types of guns and their cost in dollars using hand drawn pictures.
The author also discusses expanding efforts to other countries, including Saudi Arabia. A page reportedly questions: “How to make Saudi like Syria? Can we get people to hate Their [sic] rulers?”
The author continues: “Mecca and Medina are a priority for the [caliphate] to actually influence world Muslims. But to get there we need to destabilize Al-Saud. Direct action against Al-Saud from Iraq will likely fail militarily and attract US ground troops so the best way to do this is internally, with the support for Yemen and Iraq.”
The writings also appear to show that ISIS fighters kept up with international news, and often monitored global political cycles.
The author offers suggestions on how to pull “the USA to another major war to exhaust its economy.” The writer also extensively followed the US presidential elections, and said key decisions would depend on US political action.
“The US decisions are very important, and they depend on the Presidential elections.”
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
“However, if democrats lose, a Republican administration would be more likely to bring US boots on the ground, and cooperation with Iran will likely stop,” the author reportedly wrote.
The journal also reportedly layed out a strategy for confronting the US on the battlefield: “Fighting the USA might be more dangerous militarily, but it will grant IS respect in muslim [sic] eyes.”
The notebook also reveals the innermost thoughts of what appears to have been a foreign ISIS fighter. At the bottom of a page detailing “important” military issues “to study,” the author asks himself: “Who am I? What should I do? Why am I here? How did I reach this place?”
According to the report, the author bemoans several limitations within the group, including lack of training time to militant fighters and notes there were “problems created by different languages.”
Associate Professor at the Naval War College Monterey, Dr. Craig Whiteside, told the National that there were notable similarities between the strategies laid out in the book and the strategies taught in western military training.
“The author has studied topics we study in a war college, such as the differences between policy and strategy.”
“If this is a foreign fighter, not studying their own country for military facilities but instead learning about Iraq and Syria, the goal is to encourage them to stay,” he added.
Figures from October 2017 show more than 40,000 fighters from more than 110 countries flocked to Syria and Iraq after its establishment in 2014. Reports indicate that roughly 129 US nationals joined the caliphate. Of those foreign fighters, at least 5,600 citizens or residents from 33 countries who have returned home.
North Korea has been quietly soliciting coronavirus aid from other countries even though it has publicly denied the existence of any cases on home soil, according to a new report.
Officials in the isolated country have privately reached out to their counterparts in other countries asking for urgent help in fighting the outbreak, the Financial Times reported, citing several people familiar with the matter and an unidentified document.
The country has also asked hospitals in South Korea and several international aid agencies for masks and test machines, Reuters reported last Friday, citing two sources with knowledge of the matter.
“There’s not enough medicine for the country. I’m really concerned about them facing an outbreak,” Nagi Shafik, a former World Health Organization and UNICEF official in Pyongyang, told Business Insider.
The country currently fears it doesn’t have enough testing kits for its citizens, the FT reported.
“The government has testing kits for COVID-19 and they know how to use them, but [the number of kits are] not sufficient, hence, [officials are] requesting all organizations … to support them in this regard,” a source told the FT.
Non-governmental aid agencies have also been trying to help North Korea prepare for an outbreak, but are struggling to get supplies across its shuttered border with China, Reuters reported.
Médecins Sans Frontières told the news agency that emergency supplies bound for North Korea were currently in Beijing and Dandong, a Chinese city bordering North Korea, and that officials were working to get the kit across the border despite the closure.
In a rare admission of weakness, Kim acknowledged on March 18 that his country did not have enough modern medical facilities and called for improvements, the Associated Press reported, citing the state-controlled Korea Central News Agency (KCNA).
On the orders of Kim, construction began on the new Pyongyang General Hospital on Wednesday, according to KCNA.
On July 25, 1953, seven Czechoslovakians rolled across one of the most heavily guarded borders in the world to freedom in the West. They rolled over three rows of barbed wire, land mines, and guard towers on their way into West Germany. The Czech border guards didn’t even try to stop them. No one fired a shot. They all just watched in stunned disbelief as the Nazi armored personnel vehicle just tore its way across the Iron Curtain.
The story of Vaclav Uhlik is a success story for American soft power, specifically the Cold War-era broadcasts of Radio Free Europe. Uhlik was an engineer in the new, Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia following the end of World War II. He was a concentration camp survivor, a fighter for the Czech Underground, and mechanic who hid a big secret from the new Communist authorities in his country: there was an armored vehicle in his backyard – and he was rebuilding it.
For three years, he listened to the broadcasts of Radio Free Europe as he gathered parts and materials needed to get the APC operational again. The broadcasts gave him hope. His progress gave him patience. He was assisted by former Czech soldiers Walter Hora and Vaclav Krejciri in his efforts, and they were rewarded by riding in the vehicle the night it was to drive to the West.
The Czech-West German Border in 1980.
(Photo by Alan Denney)
Starting nearly from scratch, the men slowly reconstructed a battered Nazi Saurer RR-7 Artillery Tractor. Vaclav Uhlik, the engineer, rebuilt the vehicle as an armored personnel carrier. He made it large enough to carry himself, his wife and two children, the two veterans, Josef Pisarik, and Libuse Hrdonkova, a Czech woman who married an American after the war. Since he could only stay with her for three months, she decided to come to him in Iowa.
After years of tinkering and preparation, the modified RR-7, covered in the brush and foliage that hid it from Czechoslovakian authorities for so long, rumbled its way to the West German border. They drove through the Bavarian forest to the Wald-München (near Nuremberg) border crossing. And he did cross the border, except he didn’t go through the gates, instead opting to go right through the rows of barbed wire between guard towers and minefields.
The border guards just watched in awe, as they thought the APC was a friendly army vehicle. The Czechs inside had only what they wore with them, but they were on the right side of the Iron Curtain.
The seven Czechs drove the APC for several miles into West Germany and away from the border until they were stopped by West German police, taken to an American installation to be interviewed by intelligence officers, and then welcomed to their new home in the West. They would eventually be resettled in Springfield, Mass. – all except Hrdonkova. She would move to Sioux City, Iowa, to be with her long-separated husband.
FORT ASHBY, W.Va. — It can be a challenge to reintegrate from the military into civilian life, especially if you’ve lost a limb and your former toe is now your thumb, Mike Trost said.
And he would know.
Trost, 53, of Maryville, Tennessee, served in the U.S. Army for 32 years until he suffered serious injuries in 2012.
“I was shot with a machine gun in southeastern Afghanistan,” he said of being hit in both legs, buttocks and his right hand.
Trost lost a leg and fingers, but via modern medical technology, he gained a toe for a thumb.
While he talks casually about his hand and refers to his new thumb as “Toemos,” Trost knows all too well recovery can be a physically and emotionally painful, long journey.
“It’s good to be around like company,” Trost said of spending time with veterans who sustained traumatic experiences during their time in the military. “There’s a bond. It’s different than you have with regular friends.”
Trost on Friday was in Fort Ashby for a turkey hunt that’s part of Operation Heroes Support — a local veteran-operated, nonprofit that provides outdoor experiences for disabled veterans, firefighters, police officers and first responders.
“The whole thing with the hunts is just to make you feel, even for one day, that there’s … nothing wrong with you,” he said. “And the people here are fantastic. They give a lot of time and energy.”
Trost and several other veterans from Wednesday through Sunday were at the residence of Bruce Myers and his wife Judy, located in rural West Virginia.
In addition to hunting, the group fished in a lake owned by Dave and Joyce Cooper — neighbors of the Myers couple. Skeet shooting was also on the agenda.
The Myers’s hosted a similar event last year and hope to continue the tradition.
“The veterans, they deserve it … they sacrificed,” Bruce Myers said of the former military members who were injured during their service to country.
Steven Curry, 33, of Nokesville, Virginia, was new to this year’s Fort Ashby hunt and killed his first two turkeys — a 19-pounder on Thursday and a bird that weighed over 20 pounds on Friday.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said of his hunting success. “We were only in the woods about 20 minutes when I shot the first turkey.”
Curry was in a U.S. Army infantry unit from 2003 to 2008. During his service, he was hit by an improvised explosive device while in Iraq.
As a result, his left leg was amputated below his knee, he had a mild brain injury and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Brandon Rethmel, 30, of Pittsburgh, brought his wife and three young children to the event.
Rethmel was in the U.S. Army from 2006 to 2012. During that time, he was injured by a rocket in Afghanistan.
“I lost my leg below the knee,” he said. His right tricep was also destroyed and he suffered other shrapnel wounds.
“When I got out (of the military) I didn’t connect with people,” he said. “I isolated myself … It was really hard.”
Rethmel said Operation Heroes Support and events including the hunt, as well as support from his family, helped him reclaim his purpose.
“It’s saved my life,” he said. “It’s just really a great program and I hope more (veterans) get involved.”
Greg Hulver, 49, of Kirby, West Virginia, specialized in communications for the U.S. Navy from about 1985 to 1997. Today, he suffers from back injuries and other ailments including PTSD. The hunting events offer him a way to give and receive help, he said
“My military bond is what I have with these guys and that means the most to me,” he said. “There’s just something between us you can’t replace and you can’t get it anywhere else.”
Brady Jackson, 32, of Bristol, Virginia, returned to the event this year to help other veterans.
“I’d never gotten a chance to turkey hunt,” he said of his first experience at the Fort Ashby event last year. “I just had an absolutely amazing time.”
He started volunteering to help get donations for Operation Heroes Support in the fall.
“It’s honestly changed my life,” Jackson said of working with other veterans. “It’s given me a sense of purpose since I got out of the military.”
Jackson was in the U.S. Army for nine years. He was deployed to Iraq where he sustained minor blast trauma, burns and cuts from an explosion. While he knows he was lucky to survive that incident without serious injuries, he needed to spend time with others who understood his experiences.
That’s where Operation Heroes Support came in, he said.
“It’s more about campfire therapy than it is about hunting,” he said. “It’s about building relationships.”
Charles Harris, 26, a native of Placerville, California who now lives in Romney, West Virginia, lost his legs after being injured in 2012 while in a U.S. Army infantry unit.
Today, Harris is the president of the local Operation Heroes Support organization.
“It’s given me the ability to give back,” he said of his work with the group. “It’s like we’re back in the military (because) you can count on these guys … It’s like family.”
Harris said the group hopes to grow, include more public servants such as firefighters and police as well as military veterans. To make that happen, donations of cash, meals, airline tickets and other items and services are needed.
U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, today, in support of theater requirements and Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate Da’esh and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria and the wider international community.
“The B-52 will provide the Coalition continued precision and deliver desired airpower effects,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander, U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component. “As a multi-role platform, the B-52 offers diverse capabilities including delivery of precision weapons and the flexibility and endurance needed to support the combatant commander’s priorities and strengthen the Coalition team.”
The 19-nation air coalition consists of numerous strike aircraft and the B-52s will bring their unique capability to the fight against Da’esh.
The B-52 is a long-range heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions including strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, and maritime operations.
Crews will be available to carry out missions in both Iraq and Syria as needed to support Air Tasking Order requirements.
“The B-52 demonstrates our continued resolve to apply persistent pressure on Da’esh and defend the region in any future contingency,”said Brown.
This deployment is the first basing of the B-52s in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility in 26 years. The B-52s were based in Saudi Arabia supporting Operation Desert Storm. The B-52s were last flown operationally during Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2006, and during Exercise Eager Lion – a USCENTCOM- led multilateral exercise in Jordan in May 2015.
The coalition conducted more than 33,000 airpower missions in support of OIR. Since the beginning of the operation, the Coalition struck about 459 VBIEDs, 776 mortar systems, 1,933 logistics buildings housing these weapons, 662 weapons caches, and 1,341 staging areas.
Just as dust gathers in corners and along bookshelves in our homes, dust piles up in space too. But when the dust settles in the solar system, it’s often in rings. Several dust rings circle the Sun. The rings trace the orbits of planets, whose gravity tugs dust into place around the Sun, as it drifts by on its way to the center of the solar system.
The dust consists of crushed-up remains from the formation of the solar system, some 4.6 billion years ago — rubble from asteroid collisions or crumbs from blazing comets. Dust is dispersed throughout the entire solar system, but it collects at grainy rings overlying the orbits of Earth and Venus, rings that can be seen with telescopes on Earth. By studying this dust — what it’s made of, where it comes from, and how it moves through space — scientists seek clues to understanding the birth of planets and the composition of all that we see in the solar system.
Two recent studies report new discoveries of dust rings in the inner solar system. One study uses NASA data to outline evidence for a dust ring around the Sun at Mercury’s orbit. A second study from NASA identifies the likely source of the dust ring at Venus’ orbit: a group of never-before-detected asteroids co-orbiting with the planet.
“It’s not every day you get to discover something new in the inner solar system,” said Marc Kuchner, an author on the Venus study and astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is right in our neighborhood.”
In this illustration, several dust rings circle the Sun. These rings form when planets’ gravities tug dust grains into orbit around the Sun. Recently, scientists have detected a dust ring at Mercury’s orbit. Others hypothesize the source of Venus’ dust ring is a group of never-before-detected co-orbital asteroids.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith)
Another ring around the Sun
Guillermo Stenborg and Russell Howard, both solar scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., did not set out to find a dust ring. “We found it by chance,” Stenborg said, laughing. The scientists summarized their findings in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal on Nov. 21, 2018.
They describe evidence of a fine haze of cosmic dust over Mercury’s orbit, forming a ring some 9.3 million miles wide. Mercury — 3,030 miles wide, just big enough for the continental United States to stretch across — wades through this vast dust trail as it circles the Sun.
Ironically, the two scientists stumbled upon the dust ring while searching for evidence of a dust-free region close to the Sun. At some distance from the Sun, according to a decades-old prediction, the star’s mighty heat should vaporize dust, sweeping clean an entire stretch of space. Knowing where this boundary is can tell scientists about the composition of the dust itself, and hint at how planets formed in the young solar system.
So far, no evidence has been found of dust-free space, but that’s partly because it would be difficult to detect from Earth. No matter how scientists look from Earth, all the dust in between us and the Sun gets in the way, tricking them into thinking perhaps space near the Sun is dustier than it really is.
Stenborg and Howard figured they could work around this problem by building a model based on pictures of interplanetary space from NASA’s STEREO satellite — short for Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory.
Scientists think planets start off as mere grains of dust. They emerge from giant disks of gas and dust that circle young stars. Gravity and other forces cause material within the disk to collide and coalesce.
(NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory)
Ultimately, the two wanted to test their new model in preparation for NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which is currently flying a highly elliptic orbit around the Sun, swinging closer and closer to the star over the next seven years. They wanted to apply their technique to the images Parker will send back to Earth and see how dust near the Sun behaves.
Scientists have never worked with data collected in this unexplored territory, so close to the Sun. Models like Stenborg and Howard’s provide crucial context for understanding Parker Solar Probe’s observations, as well as hinting at what kind of space environment the spacecraft will find itself in — sooty or sparkling clean.
Two kinds of light show up in STEREO images: light from the Sun’s blazing outer atmosphere — called the corona — and light reflected off all the dust floating through space. The sunlight reflected off this dust, which slowly orbits the Sun, is about 100 times brighter than coronal light.
“We’re not really dust people,” said Howard, who is also the lead scientist for the cameras on STEREO and Parker Solar Probe that take pictures of the corona. “The dust close to the Sun just shows up in our observations, and generally, we have thrown it away.” Solar scientists like Howard — who study solar activity for purposes such as forecasting imminent space weather, including giant explosions of solar material that the Sun can sometimes send our way — have spent years developing techniques to remove the effect of this dust. Only after removing light contamination from dust can they clearly see what the corona is doing.
The two scientists built their model as a tool for others to get rid of the pesky dust in STEREO — and eventually Parker Solar Probe — images, but the prediction of dust-free space lingered in the back of their minds. If they could devise a way of separating the two kinds of light and isolate the dust-shine, they could figure out how much dust was really there. Finding that all the light in an image came from the corona alone, for example, could indicate they’d found dust-free space at last.
Mercury’s dust ring was a lucky find, a side discovery Stenborg and Howard made while they were working on their model. When they used their new technique on the STEREO images, they noticed a pattern of enhanced brightness along Mercury’s orbit — more dust, that is — in the light they’d otherwise planned to discard.
“It wasn’t an isolated thing,” Howard said. “All around the Sun, regardless of the spacecraft’s position, we could see the same five percent increase in dust brightness, or density. That said something was there, and it’s something that extends all around the Sun.”
Scientists never considered that a ring might exist along Mercury’s orbit, which is maybe why it’s gone undetected until now, Stenborg said. “People thought that Mercury, unlike Earth or Venus, is too small and too close to the Sun to capture a dust ring,” he said. “They expected that the solar wind and magnetic forces from the Sun would blow any excess dust at Mercury’s orbit away.”
With an unexpected discovery and sensitive new tool under their belt, the researchers are still interested in the dust-free zone. As Parker Solar Probe continues its exploration of the corona, their model can help others reveal any other dust bunnies lurking near the Sun.
Asteroids hiding in Venus’ orbit
This isn’t the first time scientists have found a dust ring in the inner solar system. Twenty-five years ago, scientists discovered that Earth orbits the Sun within a giant ring of dust. Others uncovered a similar ring near Venus’ orbit, first using archival data from the German-American Helios space probes in 2007, and then confirming it in 2013, with STEREO data.
Since then, scientists determined the dust ring in Earth’s orbit comes largely from the asteroid belt, the vast, doughnut-shaped region between Mars and Jupiter where most of the solar system’s asteroids live. These rocky asteroids constantly crash against each other, sloughing dust that drifts deeper into the Sun’s gravity, unless Earth’s gravity pulls the dust aside, into our planet’s orbit.
At first, it seemed likely that Venus’ dust ring formed like Earth’s, from dust produced elsewhere in the solar system. But when Goddard astrophysicist Petr Pokorny modeled dust spiraling toward the Sun from the asteroid belt, his simulations produced a ring that matched observations of Earth’s ring — but not Venus’.
This discrepancy made him wonder if not the asteroid belt, where else does the dust in Venus’ orbit come from? After a series of simulations, Pokorny and his research partner Marc Kuchner hypothesized it comes from a group of never-before-detected asteroids that orbit the Sun alongside Venus. They published their work in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on March 12, 2019.
“I think the most exciting thing about this result is it suggests a new population of asteroids that probably holds clues to how the solar system formed,” Kuchner said. If Pokorny and Kuchner can observe them, this family of asteroids could shed light on Earth and Venus’ early histories. Viewed with the right tools, the asteroids could also unlock clues to the chemical diversity of the solar system.
Because it’s dispersed over a larger orbit, Venus’ dust ring is much larger than the newly detected ring at Mercury’s. About 16 million miles from top to bottom and 6 million miles wide, the ring is littered with dust whose largest grains are roughly the size of those in coarse sandpaper. It’s about 10 percent denser with dust than surrounding space. Still, it’s diffuse — pack all the dust in the ring together, and all you’d get is an asteroid two miles across.
Using a dozen different modeling tools to simulate how dust moves around the solar system, Pokorny modeled all the dust sources he could think of, looking for a simulated Venus ring that matched the observations. The list of all the sources he tried sounds like a roll call of all the rocky objects in the solar system: Main Belt asteroids, Oort Cloud comets, Halley-type comets, Jupiter-family comets, recent collisions in the asteroid belt.
“But none of them worked,” Kuchner said. “So, we started making up our own sources of dust.”
Perhaps, the two scientists thought, the dust came from asteroids much closer to Venus than the asteroid belt. There could be a group of asteroids co-orbiting the Sun with Venus — meaning they share Venus’ orbit, but stay far away from the planet, often on the other side of the Sun. Pokorny and Kuchner reasoned a group of asteroids in Venus’ orbit could have gone undetected until now because it’s difficult to point earthbound telescopes in that direction, so close to the Sun, without light interference from the Sun.
Asteroids represent building blocks of the solar system’s rocky planets. When they collide in the asteroid belt, they shed dust that scatters throughout the solar system, which scientists can study for clues to the early history of planets.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Conceptual Image Lab)
Co-orbiting asteroids are an example of what’s called a resonance, an orbital pattern that locks different orbits together, depending on how their gravitational influences meet. Pokorny and Kuchner modeled many potential resonances: asteroids that circle the Sun twice for every three of Venus’ orbits, for example, or nine times for Venus’ ten, and one for one. Of all the possibilities, one group alone produced a realistic simulation of the Venus dust ring: a pack of asteroids that occupies Venus’ orbit, matching Venus’ trips around the Sun one for one.
But the scientists couldn’t just call it a day after finding a hypothetical solution that worked. “We thought we’d discovered this population of asteroids, but then had to prove it and show it works,” Pokorny said. “We got excited, but then you realize, ‘Oh, there’s so much work to do.'”
They needed to show that the very existence of the asteroids makes sense in the solar system. It would be unlikely, they realized, that asteroids in these special, circular orbits near Venus arrived there from somewhere else like the asteroid belt. Their hypothesis would make more sense if the asteroids had been there since the very beginning of the solar system.
The scientists built another model, this time starting with a throng of 10,000 asteroids neighboring Venus. They let the simulation fast forward through 4.5 billion years of solar system history, incorporating all the gravitational effects from each of the planets. When the model reached present-day, about 800 of their test asteroids survived the test of time.
Pokorny considers this an optimistic survival rate. It indicates that asteroids could have formed near Venus’ orbit in the chaos of the early solar system, and some could remain there today, feeding the dust ring nearby.
The next step is actually pinning down and observing the elusive asteroids. “If there’s something there, we should be able to find it,” Pokorny said. Their existence could be verified with space-based telescopes like Hubble, or perhaps interplanetary space-imagers similar to STEREO’s. Then, the scientists will have more questions to answer: How many of them are there, and how big are they? Are they continuously shedding dust, or was there just one break-up event?
In this illustration, an asteroid breaks apart under the powerful gravity of LSPM J0207+3331, a white dwarf star located around 145 light-years away. Scientists think crumbling asteroids supply the dust rings surrounding this old star.
(NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessinger)
Dust rings around other stars
The dust rings that Mercury and Venus shepherd are just a planet or two away, but scientists have spotted many other dust rings in distant star systems. Vast dust rings can be easier to spot than exoplanets, and could be used to infer the existence of otherwise hidden planets, and even their orbital properties.
But interpreting extrasolar dust rings isn’t straightforward. “In order to model and accurately read the dust rings around other stars, we first have to understand the physics of the dust in our own backyard,” Kuchner said. By studying neighboring dust rings at Mercury, Venus and Earth, where dust traces out the enduring effects of gravity in the solar system, scientists can develop techniques for reading between the dust rings both near and far.
This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has reiterated that Kyiv is seeking a Membership Action Plan (MAP), a formal step toward joining NATO.
Poroshenko, in a post on Facebook on March 10, 2018, said a MAP was Ukraine’s “next ambition” on the path toward eventual membership in the 29-country Western alliance.
“This is what my letter to Jens Stoltenberg in February 2018 was about, where, with reference to Article 10 of the North Atlantic Treaty, I officially [set out] Ukraine’s aspirations to become a member of the Alliance,” Poroshenko wrote.
A Membership Action Plan is a multistage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a country in line with NATO standards and to eventual membership. The process can take several years.
Poroshenko’s comments came after NATO updated its website to include Ukraine alongside three other countries — Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, and Macedonia — that have declared their aspirations to NATO membership
“Countries that have declared an interest in joining the Alliance are initially invited to engage in an intensified dialogue with NATO about their membership aspirations and related reforms,” the NATO website said.
The next step toward possible membership is a MAP. But a NATO official told RFE/RL that the alliance has not changed its position on Ukraine.
“NATO’s policy remains the same,” the official said. “There has been a change in Ukraine’s policy, which the website reflects.”
Under former President Viktor Yanukovych, Kyiv said it was not interested in joining NATO. But Kyiv has sought NATO membership since the 2014 antigovernment Maidan protests that toppled Moscow-friendly Yanukovych and ushered in a pro-Western government.
Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada on June 8, 2017, passed a law making NATO integration a foreign policy priority.
In July 2017, Poroshenko announced that he would seek the opening of negotiations on a MAP with NATO.
Ukraine is currently embroiled in a war with Russia-backed separatists in part of its eastern regions that has killed more than 10,300 people and displaced hundreds of thousands since April 2014.
A Mexican drug cartel, the Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación, or CJNG, has been caught with a kamikaze-style drone, marking an escalation of the threat posed by the non-state actors. The drone was discovered when Mexican police arrested four men in a stolen pickup truck.
The United States has been pursuing a number of counter-UAV technologies. One, the Battelle DroneDefender, can end drones running back to their home base. This could prove a nasty surprise for some bad guy using a drone with an IED. Nammo has developed programmable ammo to shoot down enemy drones. Another promising approach had been to use lasers. Last month, Lockheed and the Army tested the ATHENA laser system against five MQM-170C drones.
In any case, some of those counter-drone systems could very well find themselves being deployed on the southern border of the United States to counter the threat of cartel drones. The scary thing is, the cartels may not be the only folks using drones.