A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY GAMING

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

For the first time, a soldier is being brought up on real-world charges for battlefield offenses committed during a video game. A UK troop stationed in Edinburgh, frustrated at the lack of real training took that frustration out in the combat simulator in which he and his squad were training.


He wasn’t charged with murder, according to the Telegraph, he was charged with disobeying a direct order and reprimanded. The infantry rifleman told members of his unit he just wanted to be training outside and was fed up with being on a laptop. He will spend the coming weekend on guard duty as part of his punishment.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

“Guys, take this seriously, okay??”

Members of his unit told the Telegraph they had been training on the laptop computers for at least three weeks and were anxious to go outside and do real-world training. They also challenged anyone else to do the same thing for that long without needing to vent some kind of frustration.

“All this was taking place in an office at our headquarters, when we’d rather be doing real-life soldiering outside in the fresh air. But there’s less of that sort of exercise these days because the Army has committed to Unit-based Virtual Training.”
A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

Like training for, say, World War III.

The unit was training on what to do in an armored convoy in a hostile environment, filled with enemy forces. That’s when the soldier in question “lost his rag” and went on a Grand Theft Auto-level virtual spree, which started with killing the soldier next to him. He then stole one of the armored vehicles and drove it down the street to deliberately smash into local nationals’ cars.

His comrades thought the behavior was extremely funny, his superior officers did not.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

Pictured: British Army convoy training.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence defended the reprimand, saying “We take the training of our service personnel very seriously and anyone who is disruptive to this training will receive disciplinary action..

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 myths about the Air Force people can’t stop believing

The Air Force has enough people from other branches making fun of it. Airmen don’t need to be the subject of ridicule for things they don’t deserve. The facts people can use to poke fun at the Air Force are so plentiful, why go through all that extra effort to make stuff up? Just because it seems like something the Air Force would do doesn’t make it real.

The chocolate fountain inside a DFAC in Iraq? Yes, that existed. I can say I saw it with my own eyes. To be fair, there was one in the Army chow hall on Camp Victory, too, but I’ll let the Air Force take the heat for it. Dining facilities with made-to-order omelets and a salad bar? The Air Force has that, too. And yes, it was not too long ago the Air Force did its annual PT test on a stationary bike.

The reasons to poke fun are plentiful.


Related: The complete hater’s guide to the Air Force

There’s no need perpetuate myths about airmen. Forget, for a moment, that Air Force “barracks” are nicer than most Holiday Inns (no, airmen do not get swimming pools… not at their living quarters, anyway) and help us debunk these continuously repeated myths that are both untrue or unjustly attributed to the Air Force.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

How’s that taste, shipmate?

1. The Stress Card Myth.

This has been debunked on We Are The Mighty before, but it’s important enough to reiterate here. For anyone joining the military, no, you will not be issued a Basic Training “Stress Card” that allows you to take a “break” from training if your nerves get a little frayed. The Air Force is still very much a military branch and, while the Air Force might have the “easiest” time in Basic Military Training, you will still get yelled at, still do PT ad nauseam, and it will all be very stressful.

That’s the point.

If anything, BMT is only getting more difficult as time goes on. Where it was once a six-and-a-half week course, it’s now eight weeks. Now that airmen spend more time in joint-service operations — and thus become “battlefield airmen” — it’s important that they be able to handle themselves under stress, which can often mean under fire.

Besides, it was the Navy who had the closest thing to a Stress Card.

Related: The truth behind basic training “Stress Cards”

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

Tech. Sgt. Zachary Rhyner medically retired in 2015 due to wounds sustained in combat that prevented mobility below the knee. Rhyner is an Air Force Cross recipient and Special Tactics combat controller attached to the 24th Special Operations Command. Rhyner served 11 years, earning three Purple Hearts in six deployments.

(U.S. Air Force)

2. The Air Force has no enlisted warfighters.

The Air Force’s enlisted troops are mostly happy with rendering a sharp salute to our officers as they taxi out on their way to the wild blue yonder, the battlefield the Air Force controls with unrelenting hostility toward would-be interlopers both on the ground and in the air.

But there are many Air Force specialties that have nothing to do with simply letting others go into combat while waiting on the flight line. The Air Force’s battlefield airmen aren’t limited to conventional forces, like Security Forces Phoenix Ravens, the airmen who protect aircraft on the ground in a hostile environment. USAF Combat Controllers, TACPs, Weather Technicians, and Combat Rescue Officers will all deploy anywhere in the world with the best special operators from any branch. And when the sh*t hits the fan, you will be happy to know that Air Force Pararescue Jumpers are on their way to bail you out.

Fun Fact: When Air Force PJs go into action, their alarm is the Leeroy Jenkins battle cry.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

The closest any of these guys will get to the stick is flying a drone.

(U.S. Air Force)

3. We all fly planes.

This one is mainly for civilians. Anyone who’s met the average junior enlisted airman will be happy to know that flying a plane, especially for the United States Air Force, is not something you can just sign up to do. As a matter of fact, it’s incredibly difficult to get behind the stick of any Air Force aircraft anywhere.

That includes training aircraft.

The closest enlisted airmen will get to being in the cockpit’s hotseat aboard a USAF aircraft is either in a simulator or stealing one off the flightline. And before you scoff at the last part, it happens a lot more than anyone might expect.

Now read: That time a Marine mechanic took a joyride in a stolen A4M Skyhawk

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

(Laughs in Coast Guard)

4. The Air Force is the “smartest branch.”

I hate to debunk this one because it saves me so much stress and hassle whenever a bunch of veterans are at the bar comparing the size of their brains based on branch of service. Eventually, someone pats the airman on the back and says, “Hey! At least you’re the smartest branch!”

This myth transcends every branch and era. Inevitably, some Facebook commenter, veteran or civilian, will remark on how the Air Force is the smartest without actually reading this article and the myth will perpetuate itself. While the Air Force handles a lot of high-tech equipment and research laboratories, the people who handle that aren’t taking the ASVAB. And if they were, they would probably ace it for any branch they were going into.

Sure, the Air Force works on satellites, the Navy works on nuclear reactors, the Army operates geospatial imaging systems, and the Marines have to at least know enough to pick up Air Force women at the bar. The actual branch that is the most difficult to get into is – wait for it – the Coast Guard.

The military divides enlisted candidates into three tiers, with the top tier being those with a high school diploma and tier two being recruits with a GED. The Air Force recruits 99 percent tier one candidates, but the Coast Guard won’t even look at anything other than tier one unless they’ve been in the military before. If you prefer to judge by using minimum ASVAB score, the lowest the Air Force will go is 36, while the Coast Guard’s minimum is a solid 40.

The Coast Guard is also the smallest branch of the military, but has no trouble recruiting new Coasties. This means they’d rather send you down the street to the Army than let a substandard Coast Guardsman slip through the cracks. Meanwhile, in the Air Force, they say, “there’s a waiver for everything.”

MIGHTY MOVIES

Got Your 6 came to Los Angeles to showcase inspiring veteran success stories

Got Your 6 Storytellers came to Los Angeles to host a showcase of talent from some our country’s brightest, finest, and most groundbreaking veterans.


The event gave an opportunity to the veterans that are making a change in the military community to share their journey, and for the community to celebrate their success and accomplishments.

So watch it and get #VetInspired.

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This is why soldiers wear unit patches

Each branch of the military has a different way to show their unit pride. U.S. Army soldiers wear easily identifiable patches (a shoulder sleeve insignia) on the left shoulder of their combat uniform.

The SSI shows the current duty station that the soldier is attached to. If the soldier has deployed to a designated combat zone, they can also slap that unit patch onto the right shoulder to wear for the rest of their career.

This leads to a little game soldiers play, reminiscent of kids playing with trading cards, where they trade unit patches with one another or leave one with the Bangor Troop Greeters.

Depending on the unit, this may be for regiment, brigade, or division — with the patch being from the highest distinct echelon (so if you were in the 101st Airborne, you would wear the 101st patch and not the XVIII Airborne Corps patch).

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

The patch was conceived to inspire unit pride and to identify other soldiers in the unit. The first to adopt a shoulder patch was the 81st Infantry Division in 1918. When they deployed to France shortly after adopting it, their patch drew much disdain from other units in the American Expeditionary Force.

Also read: 13 of the best military morale patches

The “Wildcat” Division’s unit patch was brought to the attention of Gen. John J. “Blackjack” Pershing by a fellow officer because it was unbecoming of the uniform. After some consideration, the only American to be promoted to General of the Armies in his lifetime decided that the 81st should keep their unit patch and suggested other divisions to follow suit. The patch became officially recognized on Oct. 19, 1918, and many more followed shortly after.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
We can only assume he made his mind up fast because he had much bigger things to worry about than someone adding a patch to their uniform. (Image via Wikicommons)

Ever since then, soldiers have a treasured relationship with their unit patches (and even more if they deployed with them.)  Through their patch, they stand tall among their brothers in arms of the past — adding to their legacy.

Related: 13 more of the best military morale patches

MIGHTY TRENDING

A gymnast just defected from North Korea by ‘vaulting a 12 foot border wall’

Just in time for Thanksgiving, WATM brings you breaking news to remind you to to feel especially grateful: North Korea is the worst. Sure, America might have super high COVID rates and a little election chaos, but at least you don’t feel the need to defect by vaulting a 12′ barbed wire fence to your freedom. That’s right, a North Korean gymnast mustered all of his talent and courage combined with a healthy amount of desperation and hope, and vaulted a border wall into South Korea to seek asylum.

According to the Chosun Ilibo, the 20-something man climbed an iron pole and used the height to jump over the border fence. He was then spotted about a mile south of the border by South Korean forces using a thermal observation device. The man was promptly detained, identified himself as a former gymnast and reportedly requested political asylum.

Officials were so taken aback by his feat that they asked him to demonstrate twice how he was able to jump over the three-meter fence, according to the BBC’s Seoul correspondent. Authorities vowed to investigate why hi-tech security systems did not work.

According to the London Telegraph, “the audacious defection sparked alarm that the high security demilitarized zone, separating North from South, had been successfully crossed. The four-kilometre-wide, 250-kilometre-long strip is fortified by fences, minefields and armed sentry posts. Few defectors take the dangerous option of trying to break through, with most of the 33,000 who have fled North Korea since the ’90s opting for risky but more achievable routes through China.”

And, just because we love you and know how much you love reading about North Korea, here are 7 facts about North Korea from our good friends at Business Insider:

1. North Korea ranks 51st in population, but has one of the largest standing militaries

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
The North Korean military. 

CIA data ranks North Korea’s estimated 25 million-person population 51st out of the world’s nations. North Korea’s outsized military is among the most powerful in the world, boasting approximately 1,190,000 active-duty troops, according to Newsweek.

China, the world’s leader in both population (over 1.3 billion) and military size (2.3 million), has a military that employs about 0.18% of the population.

North Korea’s military, on the other hand, employs about 4.7% of the total population.

CIA data ranks North Korea’s estimated 25 million-person population 51st out of the world’s nations. North Korea’s outsized military is among the most powerful in the world, boasting approximately 1,190,000 active-duty troops, according to Newsweek.

China, the world’s leader in both population (over 1.3 billion) and military size (2.3 million), has a military that employs about 0.18% of the population.

North Korea’s military, on the other hand, employs about 4.7% of the total population.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
Two North Korean children rollerblade. 

According to National Geographic photographer David Guttenfelder, rollerblading is popular “all over the country.” He reported that he couldn’t “count the number of rollerblading locations there are in the capital city [Pyongyang],” in particular.

3. Drugs are common and largely unregulated

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
Kim Jong-Un visiting Ryuwon Footwear Factory in Pyongyang. 

Drug use in North Korea is largely unregulated and quite common, with an estimated 30% of North Koreans using drugs, UPI reports. Known locally as yeoksam, marijuana is grown in such quantity that smugglers sneak it across the border into China for foreign sale, according to Radio Free Asia.

Public Radio International reports that methamphetamines, and specifically highly potent crystal meth, are also common in the DPRK, and though these drugs are not as openly permitted as pot, their use is widespread. Meth is often used less for recreational purposes and more as an appetite suppressant and to help workers toiling away for long hours at farms, factories, and in other trades.

4. North Korea is home to the world’s largest stadium

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
The May Day Stadium in Pyongyang. 

Not only is the DPRK home to the biggest stadium in the world in terms of seating capacity, but it holds that distinction by a massive margin. The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium (also known as May Day Stadium) has a total capacity of 150,000 people.

It dwarfs the next largest stadium, which is Ann Arbor’s Michigan Stadium, which accommodates 107,600 people. The venue is used for occasional sporting events, but its primary purpose is to host the annual Arirang Festival, a massive affair held each August and September that celebrates North Korean history, culture, and achievements.

5. North Korea holds political elections every five years

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
North Koreans clap during a mass rally organized to celebrate the re-election of Kim Jong Un as First Chairman of the ruling National Defense Commission, 2014. 

Strange as it might seem for a dictatorship to hold elections, North Korean citizens go to the polls every five years. However, the ballots they receive only list one candidate name, for the office of Supreme People’s Assembly deputy in their district, according to The Economist.

The only decision the voters have to make is whether to vote for the sole candidate listed or to vote against them, which involves placing their ballot in a separate box from the positive votes and having their identity noted, which could be considered an act of treason, The Economist reports.

6. North Korea exists in its own time zone

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
A clock hangs above chairs inside a waiting room at the Pyongyang Maternity Hospital. 

As of August 15th, 2015, North Korea exists in its very own time zone, shifted at least a half-hour apart from any other place on earth, CNN reports. Pyongyang time is GMT+08:30, to be precise, and was adopted in an apparent return to the time the nation used prior to twentieth-century Japanese colonization.

7. For some North Koreans, life is improving

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
Munsu Water Park, North Korea. 

To be clear, for many North Koreans almost every day is a struggle where food shortages, horrid work conditions, and government oppression define life. But for some DPRK citizens, everyday life bears some similarities to the rest of the world, NPR reports.

More and more North Koreans have access to mobile phones, DVD players, and other devices that were virtually unknown less than a generation ago, according to NPR. Recreational opportunities including movie theaters, amusement and water parks, and more are common in Pyongyang and a handful of other population centers, and influence from the wider world increases more with each passing year, NPR reports.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The ex-slave who disguised herself as a man to enlist

Members of the Armed Forces will be familiar with the term “contraband.” In basic training, it was civilian clothing. On deployment, it was alcohol. For the Union soldiers that occupied Jefferson City, Missouri, in 1861, contraband referred to the slaves they captured. These captured slaves were pressed into service as cooks, laundresses or nurses to support the Union war effort. Among these captured slaves was 17-year-old Cathay Williams, who worked as a cook and washerwoman and eventually, as a soldier.


In September 1844, Williams was born in Independence, Missouri, to a free man and an enslaved woman. This made her legal status that of a slave. She worked as a house slave on the Johnson Plantation outside of Jefferson City, Missouri.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

Painting of Cathay Williams by Williams Jennings (U.S. Army Profiles of Bravery)

After she was pressed into service, Williams served under General Philip Sheridan and accompanied the infantry on campaigns around the country, including the Red River Campaign, the Battle of Pea Ridge, and the Shenandoah Valley Raids in Virginia. Her extensive travels during the war influenced her decision to enlist afterwards.

On November 15, 1866, Williams enlisted in the 38th Infantry Regiment (“Rock of the Marne”). Because women were prohibited from military service, Williams disguised herself as a man and enlisted under the name “William Cathay”. At the time, the Army did not perform full medical examinations on enlistees, so Williams was able to maintain her cover. Only two people in the regiment, a cousin, and a friend, knew Williams’ true identity. “They never blowed on me,” Williams said. “They were partly the cause of me joining the Army. The other reason was I wanted to make my own living and not be dependent on relations or friends.”

Williams was able to keep her secret despite a case of smallpox shortly after her enlistment. After her hospitalization, Williams was able to rejoin her unit at Fort Bayard in the New Mexico territory, helping to secure the construction of the transcontinental railroads. However, a case of neuralgia (intermittent nerve pain) sent her to the post surgeon who uncovered Williams’ secret and reported her to the post commander. On October 14, 1868, she received an honorable discharge with the legacy of being the first and only female Buffalo Soldier.

Williams went on to work as a cook, laundress, and part-time nurse in New Mexico and Colorado. Years later, her declining health led to a hospitalization from 1890 to 1891. In June 1891, Williams applied for a military disability pension. A doctor concluded that she did not qualify, and the Pension Bureau cited the fact that her Army service was not legal. It is estimated that Williams died between 1892 and 1900. Her final resting place is also unknown.

American women have disguised themselves as men in order to serve since the Revolutionary War. Williams, however, was the first known African-American to do so. She is also the only known woman to disguise herself as a man during the Indian Wars. Her fierce independence and determination to serve are hallmarks of the American spirit that she, and so many others before and after her, have sought to defend.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

Bronze bust of Cathay Williams at the Richard Allen Cultural Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee)

MIGHTY HISTORY

An Army astronaut may be first prosecuted for space crime

The legal community is getting geared up for what might be the first trial involving criminal activity in space as a decorated Army officer and astronaut faces accusations of identity theft after she accessed a bank account belonging to her former spouse while on the International Space Station. If formal charges are filed, it would be the first prosecution of a space crime.

(Yeah, we were hoping that the first space crime would include theft of a rocket or mounting a laser on the Moon, too. But this is the world we live in.)


The World’s First Space Crime? IN SPACE! (Real Law Review)

www.youtube.com

First, a quick rundown of the facts: Lt. Col. Anne McClain acknowledges that she used the login credentials of her former spouse, fellow Army veteran Summer Worden, to access their shared finances from the ISS. Technically, that act could constitute identity theft, but McClain says her actions were a continuation of how the couple managed finances while married.

The two women are going through a divorce that also includes a contentious custody dispute.

You may know McClain’s name from the planned all-female spacewalk in March 2019 that was canceled because there was only one spacesuit that would fit the two women scheduled for the spacewalk. Fellow astronaut Nick Hague took McClain’s place on the spacewalk, and Saturday Night Live did a fake interview with McClain the same week.

When it comes to the law that pertains to McClain in space, it does get a little murky. According to attorney Devin Stone, a practicing lawyer who runs the YouTube channel LegalEagle took a look at what laws could be brought to bear on McClain if it’s deemed that she committed a crime.

Well, for that, Stone points to the Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies of 1967. (It’s more commonly known as the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.)

Article VI of that treaty says that governments are responsible for ensuring that all activities undertaken by their representatives or nationals conform to the rules of the treaty. The treaty also charges national bodies with creating the laws necessary for controlling their nationals’ conduct in space.

And Article VIII of the same treaty says that each state that is a party to the treaty will retain jurisdiction and control of any object that state launches into space as well as any personnel it sends into space.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

(NASA/Roscosmos)

And, as Stone points out in the video above, the ISS is controlled by another agreement signed in 1998 that further defines criminal jurisdiction aboard the ISS. Basically, Article 22 of that agreement states that any governments that are part of the ISS program retain criminal jurisdiction of their nationals while that national is aboard the ISS.

So, those articles together mean that McClain was subject to all applicable U.S. laws while in orbit. And presenting the digital credentials of another person in order to gain access to their financial information is identity theft.

If a U.S. attorney brings charges against McClain, it would be under Title 18 U.S. Code § 1028 Fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and information. The maximum punishment for a single offense under that law is 30 years, but McClain’s actions, as reported in the press, would constitute a relatively minor offense under the code.

If McClain did not remove any money and only presented one set of false identifying documents—if she just logged in with Worden’s username and password, but didn’t create a false signature or present other false credentials—then the maximum punishment for each false login would be five years imprisonment.

And even then, the law allows for judges to assign a lower sentence, especially if there are mitigating factors or if the defendant has no prior criminal history.

But there are still some potential hiccups in a potential prosecution of McClain. As Stone discusses in his video, a murder investigation in Antartica was derailed after competing investigations and jurisdictional claims prevented a proper inquiry into the crime. The rules governing space jurisdiction has a strong parallel in the treaties and laws governing conduct in Antartic research stations.

Hopefully, for McClain and the Army’s reputation, no charges are filed. But if charges are filed, someone gets to become the first space lawyer to argue a space crime in space court. (Okay, it would just be normal federal court, but still.)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Make your smartphone safer with these 5 simple steps

We use our smartphones for just about everything, from mobile banking to hailing a cab, capturing and sharing photos, ordering food, and staying in touch with friends and family. As such, it’s important to make sure that the information on your phone remains secure and is only accessible to the people and apps you intend to share it with.

As data leaks become all the more common, with social apps like Instagram and Facebook, hotel chains like Marriott Starwood, and credit bureau Equifax all falling victim to breaches in recent years, keeping your web activity safe can be all the more critical.

Here’s a look at a few easy steps you can take to make using your smartphone more secure.


A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

(Photo by Jamie Street)

1. Use secure apps for communication.

Using secure apps that employ techniques like encryption to protect your data can reduce the chances of intruders snooping on your conversations. Encryption is a process that makes information appear unintelligible when it’s being transferred from the sender to the recipient, increasing the likelihood that only the intended parties can see your text messages or emails.

Both Gmail and Outlook use encryption so long as the recipient is also using an email provider that supports it. Those who are dealing with extra sensitive information could also try Proton Mail, which doesn’t monitor web activity like large firms such as Google and only stores data in countries with strong privacy protections, such as Switzerland.

When it comes to messaging, the best choice for privacy-oriented users is Signal, which is available for iOS and Android and supports end-to-end encryption in addition to other security-centric features, like the ability to set your chat history to disappear. Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s WhatsApp also support end-to-end encryption by default.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

(Apple)

2. Keep your phone’s software up to date.

Keeping your smartphone up to date is important for several reasons.

Not only does it often bring new features to your device, but it ensures that you’re running on the most secure version of Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android operating system. That’s because operating system updates sometimes include fixes for vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious actors if left unattended.

To see if your iPhone software is up to date, open the “Settings” menu, tap “General,” and choose “Software Update.” You can also choose to have updates installed automatically by tapping the “Automatic Updates” option in the “Software Update” settings.

On an Android phone, open the “Settings” menu and tap the “System” option to check whether an update is available for your device. Then choose, “Advanced” and select “System update.” If you don’t see the “Advanced” button, press “About phone.” These steps can vary depending on the Android device you’re using.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

(Photo by Sara Kurfeß)

3. Limit which apps have access to your device and personal information.

From your location to the contacts in your phone book, apps can gather a broad array of data from your mobile device.

The best and most efficient way to cut down on the number of companies that may have access to your personal information is to delete any apps and their respective accounts you don’t use. Purge your app library and get rid of programs you haven’t opened in a while, especially apps you have may have downloaded for a specific event like a festival or a conference.

You can also manage which apps have access to certain aspects of your phone through the settings menu on iOS and Android.

On your iPhone, you can get started by launching “Settings” and scrolling all the way down to view the apps installed on your phone. Tapping an app will display what types of data and parts of your phone that particular app has permission to use. From there, you’ll be able to enable or revoke access. For example, tapping Google Maps will list the permissions that it requests, such as your location, Bluetooth sharing, microphone, and cellular data among others.

The process is similar for Android devices, although Google presents it differently. Open the “Settings” menu, choose “Apps notifications” and press the “Advanced” option. Then choose “App permissions” to see a list of all the different permissions apps can request access to. This includes data and components such as your contacts, calendar, call logs, and location, among others. Tapping each category will allow you to see which apps have access to that information and revoke access if desired.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

(Photo by Markus Spiske)

4. Use a password manager.

Memorizing individual passwords for all of your online accounts can be difficult. And re-using the same password for multiple accounts is never a good idea.

That’s why apps like LastPass,1Password, and Keeper can be very useful. These apps generate complex random passwords and can automatically log you into websites. All you have to do is remember your master password for the service.

And when creating a master password — or any password — remember to create one that’s unique and difficult to guess.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

(Photo by Bernard Hermant)

5. Use a virtual private network when connecting to Wi-Fi in public.

We transfer sensitive information over Wi-Fi networks every day, which is why it’s critical to make sure you’re doing so in a secure and private way. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, can help with that.

A VPN establishes a secure Wi-Fi connection that masks your device’s internet protocol address, therefore hiding your phone’s location and identity. That extra layer of security also makes it far less likely that intruders will gain access to sensitive information being shared over Wi-Fi than if you were to use a regular public network. Some popular VPN services include NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and PureVPN.

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

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Actually, the Maginot Line was a good idea

The Maginot Line is a historic meme, a shrine to the failure of fixed defenses in the age of tanks and planes. But modern historians are increasingly making a bold claim: It wasn’t the Maginot Line that failed, it was diplomacy and French armored tactics.


The Maginot Line: Actually a Good Idea
www.youtube.com

YouTube channel Historigraph has a pretty great primer on this concept that you can check out above, but we’re going to go over his arguments and that of historians below.

The purpose of the Maginot Line was to secure France’s border with German so well that, even accounting for Germany’s much larger population and birth rate, no attack over the border could succeed. This was to be achieved with strong defenses and massive concentrations of artillery.

And so it was constructed with thick concrete — reaching 12-feet thick in the most secure bunkers — and artillery and machine guns with overlapping fields of fire along a 280-mile front. The defenses were so imposing that military planners counted on second-rate troops to man them in case of a war.

But why would French planners place second-rate troops on the border with their greatest nemesis, even if they had great defenses? Because the French knew that Germany wasn’t limited to attacking over its shared border with France. And the military wanted its best troops available to fortify the less built-up grasslands in Belgium.

France had a deal with Belgium that, in case of a likely or actual invasion by a foreign army, would allow French troops to operate on Belgian soil. The plan was for the best French divisions to form a battle line with their Belgian counterparts along the River Meuse and Albert Canal.

The River Meuse was a great, natural bit of terrain for defenders that, when combined with the Albert Canal, would allow Belgian and French forces to hold back an attacking army for an extended time. It had seen fighting in World War I, and it always went bad for the attacker.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
A French Char B1 tank destroyed by its crew. The Char B1 was a good tank with thick armor, a strong 75mm gun, and acceptable speed. But French armor was not used effectively in the defense of France despite France having about as many tanks as Germany did.
(Bundesarchiv Bild)

Nearly all of France’s tanks and most of her best troops would man this barrier and prevent a German invasion from the north. But, German forces would be forced to come against this defensive line because the only alternative was attacking against the Maginot Line — suicide.

But there were two flaws in France’s assumptions that wouldn’t be revealed until too late. The first was that Belgium was a neutral state in Europe prior to 1914. When Belgium was formed in 1830, it was as a neutral buffer state and all the major European powers gave some guarantee towards that neutrality. Most of the pledges stopped short of saying they would necessarily defend Belgium if it were invaded, but that was the general understanding.

So, Belgium was not actuallysuper comfortable with being an ally of a major European power in case of war. The country preferred neutrality instead. The other big problem was that Belgium in 1936 had a young and inexperienced king who headed a small military. King Leopold III needed strong guarantees of French resolve.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
A Panzer IV pushes through France in 1940.
(Bundesarchiv Bild)

And so when Germany violated the Treaty of Versailles by moving their own troops into the Rhineland, German territory that was off limits to its military under the terms that ended World War I, Leopold III became scared. Rather than count on France to hold up its end of the bargain, he broke the pact with France and reasserted Belgian neutrality.

And that is what made the Maginot Line suddenly much less useful. Sure, it would still force the Germans to go around it, allowing 943 miles of border to be guarded with lower-tier troops. But France now had hundreds of miles of border, most of it bare plains, that were guarded by nothing but Belgian hopes and dreams.

Hitler invaded and France raced to set up a defensive line as deep into Belgium as they could. But the Germans broke through Belgian defenses even more quickly than anyone could have guessed, partially because the Belgians had under-supplied one of the world’s best forts.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
The Fort Eban Emael as it was captured by German troops.

Fort Eban-Emael was the anchor of defenses on the Albert Canal, but Germany landed a bare 87 paratroopers on top of the fort, which was built into a hill, and captured it. The defenders had machine guns and artillery that could sweep the top of the hill, but their weapons maintenance was shoddy and the artillery lacked the canister shot that would have been most effective.

The fort fell in the first day, and the three bridges it guarded were soon lost as well. The Germans swept east and finally encountered the French digging in on the River Dyle. And here was where French armored doctrine failed. French tanks were only slightly outnumbered, but were committed to battle piecemeal while German armor was formed into strong columns capable of forcing opening in French lines and then exploiting them.

And the French also underestimated the ability of modern tanks to navigate the tough terrain of the Ardennes Forest, failing to send either a counterattack or bombers to the forest despite multiple reports that German armor was making its way through.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
American troops look at Maginot Line defenses during the drive to Berlin in 1944.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps)

And so, the Maginot Line stood, strong and proud and funneling German troops north just like it was supposed to. The Maginot Line allowed France to choose its ground. But because of diplomatic missteps and a failure by French generals to understand the changing role of the tank, the defensive lines to the north failed.

The general argument against the Maginot Line is that the money should have spent on tanks, planes, and other modern equipment instead, but those were the exact assets which France failed to properly employ.

Today, fixed defenses are out of vogue as strategic bombing and bunker busters have made them nearly impossible to man for long. But they had one last hurrah in them in the Battle of France — if only their successes had been combined with good combined arms maneuvering.

MIGHTY SPORTS

This bilateral amputee is a force to be reckoned with

Dave Nichols has been a bilateral amputee for nearly half a century. He’s fluid in his walk, with full range of motion in his knees, although his legs were blown off below the knee in a landmine explosion during his tour in Vietnam in 1970.

At the same time, the Army veteran feels it is unfair for him to tell other amputees how to live their lives, especially if he doesn’t fully understand their physical and emotional challenges. But if he did give advice to a fellow disabled vet, he would say there are many adaptive programs they can take advantage of to stay active.

“After years of being like this, I look at my disability more like a job,” Nichols says. “I take the emotional aspect out of it. You want to do the best job you can. It’s a job with no vacation. It’s about being innovative. It’s about adapting to equipment or keeping yourself in shape, making sure you work out.


“The biggest thing is the living room couch. If you don’t get off the couch, you’re done. Once you get out and about, you find that people will look at you as just another person. They’re going to look at you as somebody out there doing your best. People sometimes are afraid to approach you. But with a little nonverbal communication, you keep a smile on your face. Don’t walk around like you don’t want to talk to anybody.”

Nichols has been incredibly active. He’s been an avid golfer, a skier and ski instructor, and a boxing coach who has sparred. He recently took up pickleball, which includes elements of tennis, table tennis, and badminton.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

A year-round special events competitor, Nichols at VA’s Summer Sports Clinic.

He’s looking forward to participating in the VA 2019 National Veterans Golden Age Games, June 5-10, 2019, in Anchorage, Alaska. At 69 years old, he’ll be competing in golf, pickleball, badminton, and the javelin throw. He’s taken part in the Golden Age Games for nearly a decade and has won medals in golf and javelin.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Nichols says. “I like to compete. But more than anything, I like the social interaction. I want to get out there and do my very best. Being an amputee motivates me a little bit. But if I don’t win, I’m not upset. At my age, I’m just lucky I’m out there doing it.”

In 1970, Army private first-class Nichols was with the 173rd Airborne Brigade as it cleared out an enemy base camp in the Central Highlands region of Vietnam when enemy fighters detonated a landmine. The explosion left Nichols with what he describes as an “out-of-body experience.”

“One second, you’re walking and talking to infantrymen and you feel confident,” explains Nichols, who received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service. “The next thing, you’re on the ground without any feet. You feel like, `What now?’ It’s like you have to create a whole new image of yourself. You don’t know who you are anymore.”

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

Nichols in Vietnam.

Nichols spent nine months in the hospital. Having suffered no nerve or muscle damage in his knees in the explosion, he was able to retain a lot of his balance and the ability to climb ramps and stairs.

“I’ve been walking with prosthetics now for 48 years,” he says. “I’m ambulatory. I don’t have a wheelchair or anything like that.”

Today, Nichols is in great shape at 5 feet 9 inches, and 150 pounds. A resident of Stone Ridge, New York, he golfs in the Eastern Amputee Golf Association. He’s up to about a 14 handicap, after once being between an eight and nine. He chalks up the decline to not playing much recently because of his involvement with other sports like skiing.

He skis in Windham, New York, and teaches people with disabilities how to ski.

With a wife, three kids, and three grandchildren, he finds that life has been good to him.

“There are days when I get up and go, `It’s going to be a rough day,'” he says. “But normally everything is fine. I’m going all day. I’ve been very fortunate because my disability is manageable.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

How this World War II icon measures up to the Humvee

The High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle, better known as the Humvee, is one of the most ubiquitous and iconic vehicles in military history. Between 1984 and 2012, 281,000 Humvees have been produced and the line is still running. This vehicle does everything, from evacuating the wounded to taking out enemy tanks.

But as impressive as the Humvee’s 30+ year production run is, it still only accounts for about 85 percent of the 335,531 Willys MB, better known as the jeep, manufactured in just four years. So, numbers aside, how do these versatile, wheeled vehicles stack up?


A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

Two World War II icons on Guam: a Jeep and a M4 Sherman tank.

(USMC)

The Willys MB had a top speed of up to 65 miles per hour and could go 300 miles on a single tank of gas. It had a crew of two and could carry another three additional personnel. It could carry up to 800 pounds of cargo and tow 1,000 pounds. This vehicle saw action all over the world. Two major variants, the “slat” and the Sea Jeep (“Seep”) were also produced, which accounted for over 38,000 of the MB’s already-massive production total.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

The HMMWV is capable of firing TOW missiles to kill enemy tanks.

(U.S. Army)

The HMMWV can go as fast as 70 miles per hour. Some variants can haul nearly 5,000 pounds of cargo or eight troops. It can get as far as roughly 250 miles on a tank of diesel. The use of diesel fuel is an important detail — it’s less flammable than gasoline. The HMMWV was also capable of mounting a wide variety of weapons, including the BGM-71 TOW missile.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game

This Jeep is packing a 37mm gun and a .30-caliber water-cooled machine gun,

(U.S. Army)

One could argue that the HMMWV is three times the vehicle than the classic Jeep. That said, one HMMWV can’t be in three places at once. So, would you rather have had three Jeeps or one HMMWV?

Before you make up your mind, watch the video below and learn a little more about the iconic World War II Jeep.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5buMTtEdw8

www.youtube.com

Articles

Why Iran’s favorite weapon is the cyber attack

In a piece written for The Cipher Brief, Michael Eisenstadt of the Washington Institute details Iran’s weapon of choice for imposing its will on domestic and foreign threats alike — cyber attacks.


Eisenstadt, as well as experts contacted by Business Insider, say that Iran has a weak conventional military that couldn’t possibly hope to push around stronger countries. For that reason, cyber attacks represent the perfect weapon.

Related: US may have to consider firing on Iranian boats after latest attack

Cyber attacks are cheap, ambiguous, hard to pin on any one actor, and almost completely without precedent when it comes to gauging a military response.

Cyber attacks allow Iran “to strike at adversaries globally, instanta­neously, and on a sustained basis, and to potentially achieve strategic effects in ways it cannot in the physical domain,” writes Eisenstadt.

Unlike the US, which wields nuclear weapons and the world’s finest military, Iran relies on its ability to potentially wreak havoc in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s busiest oil shipping routes, its funding of terrorist organizations, and its arsenal of ballistic missiles to deter attacks, according to Eisenstadt.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
“Hack those guys over there.” | Creative Commons photo by Mohammad Sadegh Heydari

However, Tehran cannot hold the Strait of Hormuz in an outright confrontation, its terrorist allies have become increasingly vulnerable and targetable by world powers, and if Iran ever used a ballistic missile, it would soon find itself on the receiving end of a blistering counter attack.

Therefore cyber attacks give Iran a fourth kind of deterrence, one which the US has repeatedly failed to punish. Indeed, cyber attacks are new territory, and the US still hasn’t found an appropriate and consistent way to deal with cyber attacks, whether those attacks come in the form of Russian meddling in the US election, North Korea’s hack of Sony, or China’s stealing valuable defense data.

Eisenstadt addresses this lack of US response as a “credibility gap,” which the US must somehow fill.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How one US amputee is making his way back into an elite fighting force

When August O’Niell, a member of an elite special forces group, woke up from routine surgery, it only took one look at his mother’s face to tell something went horribly wrong.


She was with the doctor. “Are you awake? Are you able to talk now?” the doctor asked. “I have woken you up halfway through the surgery. There was so much scar tissue …”

O’Niell had already endured 19 grueling surgeries in the three-and-a-half years since a rifle round mangled his leg while he was on deployment in Afghanistan. He woke up hoping this 20th surgery would finally allow him to have a functional knee. But he quickly learned his left leg would never fully function again.

The entire left side was mostly scar tissue. The skin, tendons and muscle were all adhered straight to the bone in one solid layer. Given the extent of the damage, a knee replacement was going to give him less than 14 degrees of movement.

“You will be in less pain, and I can put it in there if you tell me that’s what you want,” the doctor told him. “But I didn’t feel right putting that in there without telling you that it wasn’t going to be what we thought it was going to be at first.”

“There’s so much scar tissue in there, it’ll be impossible for you to have a functional knee.”

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
Staff Sgt. August O’Niell, a pararescueman in the Air Force Wounded Warrior program, waits to take-off in a UH-60 Black Hawk from the 66th Rescue Squadron Feb. 27, 2015 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. O’Neil delivered the Air Force Wounded Warrior flag to the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials.The 66th RQS along with the 58th Rescue Squadron assisted in the opening ceremonies of the 2015 Air Force Wounded Warrior Trials. The Air Force Trials are an adaptive sports event designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of seriously ill and injured military members and veterans. More than 105 wounded, ill or injured service men and women from around the country will compete for a spot on the 2015 U.S. Air Force Wounded Warrior Team which will represent the Air Force at adaptive sports competitions throughout the year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss/Released)

O’Niell was an Air Force pararescueman, a para-jumper or “PJ,” as they are known in the service. He was the elite of the elite, in charge of rescuing the most drastically injured troops, and even top special operators, in dire circumstances. He loved being a PJ, and wanted nothing more than to be back in the field, jumping out of helicopters and saving wounded comrades. The diagnosis he now faced was tough, but without missing a beat, he made up his mind.

“Don’t worry about it, I’m gonna have it amputated,” he said.

Dumbfounded, the doctor asked if he was sure. O’Niell was sure. After 20 surgeries and years of unsuccessful treatment, he was done with experiments.

He allowed himself what he called a “ten minute boo-hoo session.” It wasn’t so much about losing the leg, as it was learning this particular surgery was a fail. He had been looking forward to some relief from the constant pain of his injury.

But none of that mattered now. It was time to move on. He had seen troops with major amputations make remarkable progress on prosthetics in a little as six months while he was in rehab, and here he was after more than three years barely hopping along on crutches. He thought of the amputees he had seen running on prosthetic legs and had a moment of inspiration, and it occurred to him that if he could run again, he could be a PJ again.

That was all the motivation he needed to greenlight the removal of his leg.

A Faucet Of Blood

It happened when O’Niell was halfway through his deployment to Afghanistan on July 15, 2011. The U.S. had begun drawing down forces two days before, but the notoriously violent Sangin Valley was as deadly as ever. O’Niell and his team got a call that a group of Marines were under fire. Two were injured, one critically, after taking a shot in the chest. O’Niell’s team was headed back to base after working all day, but immediately turned around to rescue the injured Marines.

The PJs came onto the scene in two Pavehawk helicopters, one leading the other. They circled in shifts. One would provide watch and draw the enemy’s attention, while the other went into the zone to rescue the wounded.

As O’Neill’s helicopter was about to take a turn going in for the wounded, his team got word that another Marine had been hit. O’Niell was lead medic for the operation, and told his team leader to let the team in the helicopter behind them go into the zone, since it had three PJ medics on board, while they provided cover.

“So it’s better patient care, you know, one medic per patient,” O’Niell told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

O’Niell’s helicopter then flew over the zone, dropped smoke grenades and popped back up so the second helicopter knew where to land. The tactic has the dual purpose of attracting enemy fire, and was successful in doing so.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Niell, Team U.S. athlete, and Airmen with the 301st Rescue Squadron, approach the landing zone in an HH-60G Pave Hawk at Discover Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports during the Invictus Games 2016 opening ceremony in Orlando, Fla., May 8, 2016. O’Niell delivered the Invictus Games flag after hoisting down from the helicopter. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Matthew J. DeVirgilio/Released)

“It works like a charm,” O’Neill said. “We came up over the smoke and popped up and we caught all that fire. They started shooting up at our bird, and one of the rounds, when they shot up, bounced off the door where I was sitting in the left door. [It] bounced off the doorway and then went through both of my legs.”

O’Niell initially he thought a flare had bounced off the door and hit his knee. He looked over the edge of the chopper, and then the pain hit him.

“Ah, they shot me!” he yelled while grabbing the top of the Pavehawk to pull himself back. He saw a hole in the side of the leg of his pants where the bullet had entered. “It just looked like someone had turned a faucet on, it was pouring blood,” he said.

His team leader instinctively jumped towards him, putting one of O’Niell’s tourniquets on his legs. He was in critical condition, forcing the helicopter to return home. Fortunately, a second PJ team was deployed with Apache helicopters in tow when O’Niell returned. They were able to extract the Marines and take out the enemy forces in the area.

O’Niell was well known to the medical staff at the base. He and his fellow PJs would often help out with the injured between shifts in order to keep their medical skills sharp. The hospital pulled a surgeon to try to save O’Neill’s leg. He was woken up after the doctors fixed an artery, and informed he would be moved to Bagram air base.

“Not until I get my re-enlisting paperwork,” O’Niell said.

“Now that’s the type of dude we need!” a nearby officer said excitedly. O’Niell was told it was an Army general. The paperwork was there waiting for him when he got to Bagram. His brother, an Air Force officer who is now also a PJ, swore him back in while he was in Landstuhl, Germany for another round of surgeries.

“The Pipeline”

O’Niell wasn’t sure what he wanted to do when he joined the Air Force in 2005, but he was certain he didn’t want to be behind a desk. The Air Force occasionally gets chided as the “Chair Force” by the other services, and O’Niell knew he wanted to be doing something active. He became interested in the pararescue and combat controller jobs. A recruiter warned him that either would be tough, but assured him he wouldn’t see much of a desk.

The medical aspect of the PJs also appealed to O’Niell. His father, a retired Air Force major, had encouraged him to stay in college and become a doctor. He figured the PJs would keep him from a desk job and make his father happy.

“I just went with it,” O’Niell explained. “I joined it not really knowing anything about it except for we jump out of planes and do cool guy stuff.”

Most people have never heard of the PJs, even inside the special operations community. It’s a remarkably small force whose work is often overlooked.

They’re are a remarkable combination of expert shooters, skydivers and medics. A PJ can shoot with the top Marines, save lives like the best Navy medical corpsmen and jump out of planes like an Army Ranger. They even do their fair share of diving. This remarkable combination is why becoming a PJ is one of the hardest things you can do in the military.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Marianique Santos

“You need to be able to deal with all situations between the top of Mount Everest and 130 feet below the ocean — and in all environments, all weather conditions, all light conditions,” Nic McKinley, a former PJ, told TheDCNF. “And you need to be able to deal with them in a way that mitigates risk to the extent that you will live through those missions, because, you know, there is nobody to go get the PJs if the PJ’s gonna patrol.”

Training for the group, known as “The Pipeline,” has one of the highest attrition rates of any program in the armed forces. O’Niell started training in a class of 110. Nine would make it through. For McKinley, that was a big draw factor.

“I’m a big data guy,” he told TheDCNF. “I really like the numbers and the facts, and I don’t like your opinion.”

On the basis of data, McKinley found the PJs to be the toughest. “You know, they can get into arguments about why, or any of the subjective stuff, but the objective data shows that it’s harder,” he told TheDCNF.

Special operators often debate about who is the toughest, but one thing is clear: when the SEALs, Green Berets and Marines need saving in the worst conditions, they call the PJs.

The training puts a massive strain on your mental strength.

“You can’t just have a high level physical performance and ride on that, you also have to be able to think at a high level,” McKinley said. “Pararescue teams expect you to be able to do everything, and if you can’t do it at a high level, you need to go succeed elsewhere.”

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
Emerald Warrior 2017-special-operations-rapid-deploymentA U.S. Air Force pararescueman assigned to the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron conducts a combat search and rescue training mission during Emerald Warrior 17 at Hurlburt Field, Fla., March 4, 2017. Emerald Warrior is a U.S. Special Operations Command exercise during which joint special operations forces train to respond to various threats across the spectrum of conflict. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Haley D. Phillips)

The entire process takes between two and three years. After basic training, a would-be PJ starts “The Pipeline” with an indoctrination course at Lackland Air Force Base, which consists of ten weeks of intense physical training including obstacle courses, running and swimming.

“That’s where they test your mental and physical limits … push every button they can,” O’Niell told TheDCNF.

No aspect of indoctrination training so utterly punishes the mental toughness of a PJ than “The Pool.” Technically known as “water confidence training,” the Pool is known for chewing up even the most elite athletes in the program.

Would-be PJs are expected to swim laps under water, tie complex knots at the pool bottom, bob up and down with hands and ankles tied (an exercise known as “drown proofing”) and wrestle underwater with an instructor while not being allowed to fight back, according to former PJ Matt White. His solution? Just don’t breathe.

“When your fingers go number tying a knot, you can panic,” he wrote in a piece for Task and Purpose. “Or you can relax. When an instructor pushes you to the bottom of the pool and stands on your head, what can you do? You can quit. Or you can relax.”

PJs who survive indoctrination go on to a combat diver course in Panama City, Florida for six weeks, then to survival school in Spokane, Washington. Next they pay a visit to Army Airborne School, where they learn to jump out of planes, before heading to either Army or Navy free-fall skydiving school, located in Yuma, Arizona and San Diego, California respectively.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Callaghan

Once a PJ candidate is a honed warrior they attend 37 weeks of various medical courses. Trainees are expected to get their national paramedic certification within two months of medical training, a task which normally takes six months.

The Pararescue Recovery Specialist Course puts everything a PJ trainee has learned together in a 24-week course which includes shooting, jumping and full mock mission profiles. Upon completion, a PJ is given a maroon beret and assigned a team. A PJ is then expected to to do on the job training with his team to become mission qualified.

O’Niell deployed to Afghanistan with about 20 people rotating in six man teams. He recalled flying approximately eight missions per shift, all of them being worst case scenarios. He acknowledged that war is terrible, but said he loved Afghanistan because he got to do his job.

“It’s very satisfying when you have a guy [that] easily ten minutes later … would’ve been just dead, and you were able to get him, get pain meds onboard, get blood onboard, and see this guy who wasn’t even responding all of a sudden start blinking up at you and you’re like: ‘Hey man, you’re going to be good,'” said O’Niell. “And then you go and check with the hospital, they’re like ‘Yea, he’s on his way home,’ and it’s just awesome.”

When asked how many people he’s saved, O’Niell said he never kept count.

Road To Recovery

His job cost him a leg and years of pain and surgeries, but O’Niell is laser focused on returning to the fray. There was not a hint of regret or doubt in his voice when he recalled his harrowing experience to TheDCNF. He detailed his injury like the challenges presented by one of his missions, by focusing on solutions to problems.

Step one of O’Niell’s road back to the PJ teams was to get acquainted with his new prosthetic leg. Fortunately, the Center for the Intrepid fitted him with one of the most advanced models available.

“It’s an Ottobock X3, and it’s awesome,” he said.

The leg is completely waterproof, and comes with an app that lets O’Niell switch between four modes suited for various kinds of situations. He detailed it like a piece of high-tech military equipment.

“I’ve got a boxing mode, which basically doesn’t allow the knee bend more than 14 degrees, that way I can throw a punch and don’t have to worry about the knee buckling. And I can, you know, bob and weave on it,” O’Niell said. “I’ve got a running mode, I’ve got the basic walking mode which is just the everyday mode, and I’ve got a jump mode, which keeps the knee from bending past ninety degrees while I’m jumping so that way I can fly flat dumb and happy, as we say, and not worry about backsliding.”

WATCH:

His injury was not the least bit apparent when I met him for the first time in an Air Force office in Manhattan, except for the presence of his service dog, Kai. O’Niell walked through the door and shook hands much like he probably did before the injury.

Most amputees usually require approximately six weeks of walking on their new prosthetics before they take them home. But O’Niell was taking his home in only two. He noted that’s because most amputees have trouble trusting the devices to hold their weight.

“I attribute it to the fact that I’ve trusted my life on much sketchier pieces of equipment,” O’Niell joked. Falling to his knees due to a prosthetic is nothing when you’re used to jumping from planes with parachutes made by the lowest bidder.

O’Niell’s sense of relief after the amputation and prosthetic was practically immediate. Even before the prosthetic was fitted, he recalled his fellow PJs looking at him strangely after the amputation when they found him moving around his thigh. He hadn’t been able to move the leg for years before, so this was a victory.

“The pain I was living with was awful,” he said. “I don’t take pain meds so it became a normal way of life, just living with pain all the time and it’s miserable. It’s miserable. So yeah, it was definitely awesome waking up and immediately not feeling that pain.”

The next step to getting back to the job he loved was requalification. By November 2016, O’Niell had qualified in calisthenics, swimming, parachuting, ropes, alternative insertion, diving and was close to reaching the requisite run time. He has been working on mission profiles as well, in order to learn how to adjust to his new leg.

O’Niell’s fellow PJs have been extremely supportive during his recovery. They’ve kept him up to date on any new tech or kit that has been incorporated since his injury, and asked him when he is coming back to the teams. He even had training plan offers from five or six team chiefs. He noted he’s unsure about their motivations, but nevertheless, he remains focused on his goal.

Fellow injured airmen have also been a source of strength and friendship. Thanks to the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, O’Niell has developed a close-knit group of friends who refer to themselves as “The Order of the Pineapple.” He noted the origin of the name is a long story, but that not a day goes by that they don’t talk to each other.

Additionally, his service dog Kai has served a crucial role in his recovery. K9 Soldiers in New Jersey gave him the German Shepherd on Veteran’s Day 2013, and he has relied on him ever since.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. August O’Niell’s service dog, Kai, runs out to meet him during the opening ceremony of Invictus Games 2016 in Orlando, Fla. May 8, 2016. O’Niell delivered the Invictus Flag after hoisting down from a 920th Rescue Wing HH-60G Pave Hawk.(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Joshua L. DeMotts/Released)

“Mentally, I was in a real crappy place when I started reaching out to get him, and then after getting him, he’s just made my outlook almost one-eighty,” explained O’Niell. “I’m inherently a really happy person anyway, so when I’m depressed, I’m very depressed … because a lot of things have happened to make me very depressed.”

Kai can sense when O’Niell is depressed or angry, and will come put his head on his lap or go for a walk with him, immediately putting O’Niell in a better mood. He also helps with bracing and stability and will block people from invading his personal space. Kai also can do smaller tasks, like getting O’Niell his phone and keys when he doesn’t have the prosthetic attached.

“He’s not a retriever and he absolutely hates doing it, but he will do it,” joked O’Niell.

Kai goes to work with O’Niell, and has become a big hit with the other PJs. He inspired a team in Alaska to buy their own dog so they can keep up morale abroad. O’Niell hopes to bring Kai on his next deployment. The German Shepherd won’t be tagging along on missions, but he would be waiting for him when he gets home.

The First Of His Kind

Other special operations forces have rejoined their units after an amputation, including members of the Army Special Forces, Marine Special Operations Command and Navy SEALs. Advances in medical science and prosthetics have allowed many troops to return to duty after amputations. More than 16 percent of amputees had returned to combat in the early 2000s, up from 2.3 percent in the 1980s. But O’Niell would be a first for the PJs and the Air Force.

He has every intention of getting back in, and he doesn’t plan to leave any time soon. He reenlisted in the beginning of 2015, and plans to do at least another five years after his contract runs out.

“The majority of people who want an amputation, they aren’t very crazy like I am, so they’re just kind of like ‘Yeah, I’m done,’ and rightfully so,” he said.

A soldier is up on real-life charges for killing comrades in a video game
August O’Niell 2014 Warrior Games athlete profile trading card. The Air Force designed these player cards to highlight the participants in the 2014 games. Warrior Games is a competition for wounded, injured and ill service members and veterans to create competitive sports opportunities for injured service members. The games will take place Sept. 28 – Oct. 4 utilizing venues at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. View each athlete’s full profile and other Warrior Games news on www.af.mil. (U.S. Air Force graphic/Corey Parrish)

O’Niell’s remarkable story has also come with a great deal of unexpected fame. He has competed in both the Warrior Games and Invictus Games, the latter of which earned him a profile in ESPN. He also led the Atlanta Falcons onto the field during the Super Bowl, carrying an American flag as he ran in front of thousands on his prosthetic. And Paramount Pictures bought a pitch on O’Niell’s story in March, so a feature film could be in the works.

O’Niell told TheDCNF he’s “excited” for the press coverage to end, but he’s also pleased his story brings attention to PJs. “I don’t mind doing this type of stuff because it highlights the career field and that’s awesome,” he said.

For now, he is continuing strength training and Pararescue qualification training at Hurlburt Field Air Force Base in Florida, where he is expected to join a team sometime next year if all goes well.

has been sent to begin requalifications so he can join a team at Hurlburt Field AFB, hopefully sometime next year. Assessments with the teams have been positive, and aside from some issues with stress fractures, he has no complaints.

O’Niell hopes to be back to jumping out of planes and saving lives as early as the end of 2017.

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