The Syrian military said it has taken an enclave in Damascus from Islamic State (IS) militants that gives it full control of the capital for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.
The recapture of IS-held pockets in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk and the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district in southern Damascus on May 21, 2018, came after a massive bombing campaign that decimated the remains of the residential area where about 200,000 Palestinian refugees used to live.
The camp has been largely deserted following years of attacks and the last push on the Yarmuk camp came after civilians were evacuated overnight.
State TV showed troops waving the Syrian flag atop wrecked buildings in a destroyed neighborhood.
The gains by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces also allowed allied militia groups to secure areas outside the city near the border with Israel.
The Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been key — along with Russian air power — in aiding Syrian government forces to recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country’s northern and central areas.
Iranian officials have pledged to remain in Syria despite calls by the United States, Israel, and others for it to remove its fighters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Assad at a meeting in Sochi in May 2018, that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops from Syria.
Putin’s envoy to Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev, said Putin was referring to, among others, Iranian forces.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran on May 21, 2018, with the “strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran doesn’t change course and end its military involvement in other Middle East countries.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters shortly before Pompeo spoke that Iran’s presence “in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants.”
Taliban rebels killed seven people and kidnapped another six along a highway in western Afghanistan, official sources told EFE Ingles July 12.
The incident, in which 10 rebels were also killed, took place on July 11 along a national highway near Farah, capital of a province by the same name, when the Taliban stopped several vehicles and captured more than 10 people, according to Nasser Mehri, spokesperson for the provincial governor.
“According to initial information, they killed seven of the kidnapped passengers,” explained Mehri, adding that five of the victims were former members of the Afghan security forces.
Mehri added the insurgents were planning to capture more people when the Afghan troops arrived and there was a shootout.
A police official from the province, who asked not to be named, told EFE that at least seven passengers are still being held hostage by the Taliban, and that security forces have launched a rescue operation in areas around the incident spot.
In 2016, the Taliban abducted hundreds of people from the country’s unsafe highways, including members of the security forces traveling in buses or in specific vehicles.
Afghanistan is witnessing its most violent phase since 2001, when the Taliban regime was overthrown with the help of the United States.
Since then, insurgents have been gaining ground in various parts of Afghanistan and currently control, influence, or are in dispute with the government over at least 43 percent of the territory, according to the US.
The U.S. Army is investing $72 million in a five-year artificial intelligence fundamental research effort to research and discover capabilities that would significantly enhance mission effectiveness across the Army by augmenting soldiers, optimizing operations, increasing readiness, and reducing casualties.
Today, the Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory, the U.S. Army’s corporate laboratory (ARL), announced that Carnegie Mellon University will lead a consortium of multiple universities to work in collaboration with the Army lab to accelerate research and development of advanced algorithms, autonomy and artificial intelligence to enhance national security and defense. By integrating transformational research from top academic institutions across the US with the operational expertise and mission-focused research from within CCDC, the Army will be able to drastically accelerate the impact of Battlefield AI.
“Tackling difficult science and technology challenges is rarely done alone and there is no greater challenge or opportunity facing the Army than Artificial Intelligence,” said Dr. Philip Perconti, director of the Army’s corporate laboratory. “That’s why ARL is partnering with Carnegie Mellon University, which will lead a consortium of universities to study AI. The Army is looking forward to making great advances in AI research to ensure readiness today and to enhance the Army’s modernization priorities for the future.”
(U.S. Dept of Defense photo by Peggy Frierson)
This Cooperative Agreement for fundamental research was formed as a result of collaboration that initially started between the Army Research Laboratory and Carnegie Mellon under ARL’s “Open Campus” initiative, which Carnegie Mellon joined earlier in 2018. Carnegie Mellon and the team of academic research institutions will focus on fundamental research to develop robust operational AI solutions to enable autonomous processing, exploitation, and dissemination of intelligence and other critical, operational, decision-support activities, and to support the increased integration of autonomy and robotics as part of highly effective human-machine teams.
“For almost 30 years, the Army Research Laboratory has been at the forefront of bold initiatives that foster greater collaboration with U.S. universities,” said CMU President Farnam Jahanian. “At this time of accelerating innovation, Carnegie Mellon is eager to partner with ARL and with universities across the nation to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and better serve the Army mission in the 21st century.”
In support of Multi-Domain Operations (MDO), AI is a “crucial technology to enhance situational awareness and accelerate the realization of timely and actionable information that can save lives,” said Andrew Ladas, who leads ARL’s Army Artificial Intelligence Innovation Institute (A2I2). Through this work, he said researchers expect to achieve automated sense making, or the ability for AI to recognize scenes and generate real-time, actionable correlations, insights and information for humans.
An adversary with AI capabilities could mean new threats to military platforms including human-in-the-loop platforms, or technologies that require human interaction, and autonomous platforms.
“The changing complexity of future conflict will present never-seen-before situations wrought with noisy, incomplete and deceptive tactics designed to defeat AI algorithms,” said Ladas. “Success in this battlefield intelligence race will be achieved by increasing AI capabilities as well as uncovering unique and effective ways to merge AI with soldier knowledge and intelligence.”
For the Army, advances in fundamental research in AI will enable distributed shared understanding and autonomous maneuver, and facilitate human-AI teaming that can jointly and rapidly respond to dynamic adversarial events while retaining human-like adaption; adversarial learning to defeat the enemy’s AI; autonomous networking that adapts to electromagnetic/cyber events; analytics that rapidly learn/reason for situational awareness with uncertain/conflicting data; and autonomous maneuver/teaming behavior and decision-making that increases survivability in a highly contested environment.
Every four years, we have the opportunity and responsibility to make our voices heard. While elections are always important, this year feels particularly critical. A global pandemic. Heightened racial tensions. Upholding or repealing Supreme Court decisions. New and old military adversaries. Economic impact… the list goes on. While military families are concerned with the macro issues facing the country, they’re also incredibly concerned about the “micro -” those issues that many Americans can’t understand because they don’t live it – things like military spouse employment, PCSing and base housing. In just a few weeks, Americans will determine our next commander in chief.
The need for and reliance on mental health care was a common thread throughout the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey. However, the greatest obstacle to accessing mental health care was the ability to get appointments. Those who left military service within the past 10 years were more likely to have accessed mental health care for themselves or members of their families. The more recently they left service, the more likely they were to have accessed mental health care. About 14.6% of respondents said they had accessed mental health crisis resources for themselves or their families. They expressed a need for emergency mental health care for the following reasons: specific mental health diagnoses; suicidal ideations and attempts; and feelings of stress, grief, and hopelessness. They also described difficulty receiving care, such as long wait times and less attentive medical personnel. When asked if participants themselves had thoughts of suicide in the past two years, one in eight respondents to this question responded affirmatively.
Most respondents, 77%, said they have debt. The amount of emergency savings varied significantly depending on demographics: 27.4% of currently serving military family respondents said they have less than 0 in emergency savings, while 49.2% of veteran family respondents (those without a military pension) and 22.2% of military retiree family respondents (those with a military pension) reported having less than 0. Nearly a quarter (23.5%) said they do not have a practical or viable plan for seeking assistance in a financial emergency.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas/Released)
Moves are expensive for military families, and they are causing long-term financial strain for some. On average, families are losing about ,000 per move in out-of-pocket costs and losses and damage to their household goods. The average unreimbursed out-of-pocket expense during a move was id=”listicle-2648395695″,913, and the average financial loss over and above claims for lost and damaged items during the move was ,920. The majority of respondents, 68.2%, said they experienced loss or damage during their most recent moves. Respondents said the moving support they need the most is financial.
Choosing a place to live is an essential process during a move, and the choice can affect families’ lives for the course of their tours. Exploring military families’ housing choices and experiences has been a perennial topic in MFAN’s support programming surveys. Between the 2017 survey and the 2019 survey, MFAN fielded a study on the state of privatized housing that was a catalyst to an overhaul of the system, a budget increase, and the Tenant Bill of Rights. The current research showed that concerns about privatized housing still linger, making it the number one reason families choose to live on the economy. Those who choose military housing do so for financial reasons and because of base amenities. Among the respondents living in military housing, those in lower enlisted ranks were more likely to have negative satisfaction rates, and the least satisfied respondents were those ranked E4 to E6. There was a very clearly statistically significant relationship with those ranked E4 to E6—they were more likely than any other group to rate their experiences as very negative across all areas of satisfaction rates measured.
Employment and Entrepreneurship
MFAN has explored military family employment needs and transition experiences in every support programming survey. Many of the responses have not changed. For example, in 2013, military spouses said they needed more assistance, specifically for spouses trying to build and maintain careers. In 2017, respondents said their job search experiences were generally negative, and they said they had difficulties with employer bias, location obstacles, child care, and unsuccessful searching. These themes emerged again this year.
Active duty military spouses are still struggling to find employment. Respondents said that the demands of military life, being the primary caretaker to children and needing flexible schedules, are obstacles to finding gainful employment. They are looking for remote and portable work that will help them build lasting careers. They were more likely than any other demographic group to have given up trying to find work. Meanwhile, those who had transitioned from service told a very different story. Veterans and retirees said their greatest obstacle is an employer who is willing to hire them. They would like assistance preparing for interviews and marketing themselves effectively with polished resumes.
Both groups placed a priority on assistance that would help them find open positions, and they have not been able to receive support. Nearly one-third of respondents said they can’t find effective support, and an additional 22.8% said they needed more information about available resources. 05 Active duty military spouses were statistically more likely than other demographics to consider entrepreneurship. Of those who do not currently have a business, 33% said they would consider starting one. However, entrepreneurial spouses of active duty service members reported low earnings, with 70.5% earning ,000 or less and 53.2% making ,000 or less. The most common reasons entrepreneurs chose for building their own businesses were flexible hours and to balance work and family life.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff. Sgt. Austen Adriaens/Released)
Child care and education
Child care and school-related support are the top two supports that military families with children wish they had. Child care priorities change based on the age of children; however, respondents with children ages 0 to 12 agreed that hourly care, both in-home and outside of the home, was a top priority. Those with children younger than 5 years old prioritized full-time child care, while after-school care was a priority for those with children between the ages of 6 to 12.
In alignment with their top priority for care they seek, almost two-thirds (64.1%) of actively serving military family respondents said they had to forego a medical appointment due to lack of child care in the past two years. When asked to identify helpful educational support programming for military children, 40.5% of respondents could not think of any that they were aware of or used. The top missing educational supports included special needs support; learning support, such as tutoring and personalized support to fill learning gaps; and transition support to aid military-related adjustment.
Razsadin said: In the 2019 Military Family Support Programming Survey, military families shared with us the issues that are the greatest challenges to them. They told us that they have difficulty accessing health care appointments. That they need additional assistance as caregivers. That mental health care is critical, but difficult to access. They shared that many of them experience food insecurity. And that many feel lonely and disconnected from their communities. They disclosed that military moves are expensive and cause long-term financial strain. And that putting aside emergency savings is difficult. They talked to us about difficulties finding child care. And how hard it can be to secure (and keep) employment.
In many different areas, military families trusted us with their struggles and shared what makes military life difficult sometimes. And MFAN is committed to moving the needle on those critical areas they’ve identified. But Election Day is an opportunity for all military families to directly use their voices to address the issues that are most important to them. To speak up about what matters to them. And to vote so their voices are counted.
The people and issues military families vote for are up to them. That military families vote means our election results reflect the beautiful diversity of our force.
1977 was a big year for Chicago’s Walter Payton. After two years in the NFL, he was the league’s leading rusher and was selected to play in the 1977 Pro Bowl, where he was named the Pro Bowl MVP. His on-the-field performance turned the struggling Bears franchise around, but his off-the-field performance would earn him the NFL’s Man of the Year Award, an honor that would later bear his name.
Throughout his 13-year career, Payton was an exceptional member of his team, the example by which all team members should follow – in any kind of group, setting, or sport. He only missed one game in that entire span and, despite being the league’s premier running back, he was able to do anything the team asked of him, throwing eight touchdown passes and even setting a game rushing record with a 101-degree fever.
“Heck, he wanted to kick,” Bears Head Coach Mike Ditka told ESPN. “We wouldn’t let him kick.”
“Never Die Easy” was Walter Payton’s motto.
But it wasn’t his football performance that prompted the NFL to name its prestigious award after him. What he did in his spare time left a legacy of humanitarianism and generosity that prompts NFL players to use their high earnings to good works within their local communities to this day.
As a young black man in Mississippi, Payton helped integrate his local high school and its football team. From there, he would go on to play at tiny Jackson State University, but his determination at running back caught the NFL’s eye, earning him his spot in the 1975 NFL draft. He didn’t make waves in his first season with the Bears, but he would soon be one Chicago’s — and professional football’s — most legendary athletes.
He founded the Walter Connie Payton Foundation to give back to the city that gave him so much. Though Payton died of a rare liver disorder that led to bile duct cancer, his legacy lives on through his foundation.
Walter Payton with beneficiaries of his foundation’s support.
What began as an effort to help Chicago’s children now includes Chicago’s homeless veteran population. The foundation works with the Northlake, Ill. Concord Place Assisted Living Community in providing veterans with everything they need to live with dignity and pride.
Concord Place Assisted Living is a 55-and-older community, but homeless veterans can live there thanks to Walter and Connie Payton’s foundation. The new homes include food, health care, and physical activities. It keeps them off the cold streets of Chicago while offering them a chance to build new lives. The project is so close to the foundation’s heart that 100 percent of donations for vets will go to the project.
The foundation is now run by Payton’s widow, Connie, to whom he was married for 23 years.
“I had no idea how many veterans had no place to go,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “They serve us knowing there might be a chance that they’ll never come home. … I wanted to find a way to do something to help.”
They turned the entire 15th floor of the assisted living community into veteran housing. A mere ,500 funds a room for a vet, complete with bed, TV, food, health care – the works. Once the 15th floor was filled, they started on the 14th. The foundation continues to fund the rooms using its other charitable works.
“[Walter] was a kind, genuine person, and the foundation was important to him,” Payton said. “We always felt that when you’ve been blessed, why not learn to give back to other people and bless them, and hopefully someday they can bless someone else.“
Walter and Connie Payton Foundation President Connie Payton oversee the renovation of the Northlake, Ill. Concord Place Assisted Living Community.
(WLS ABC 7 Chicago)
Today, the NFL’s Man of the Year Award is named for Payton, honoring players who display Walter Payton-level excellence in every aspect of their lives. The award for 2017 went to the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, an outstanding defender who raised million for those in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey.
The frontrunners for the 2018 award are the Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph, the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, and Robbie Gould of the San Francisco 49ers.
Saudi forces who have been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen will now have to find some alternative sources for precision-guided munitions and intelligence.
That’s because the United States is cutting back on some support for Riyadh due to high-profile strikes that have caused civilian casualties.
According to a report by CBSNews.com, the United States will continue to provide aerial refueling assets for the Saudi-led coalition, and will step up intelligence sharing on threats to the Saudi border.
American training for the Saudi-led coalition is also being adjusted to address concerns about the civilian casualties in the war, which has been raging since March 2015. Other military sales, including a sale of CH-47 Chinook helicopters, will be proceeding as well.
The decision to reduce American support for the Saudi-led coalition came about after the White House ordered a review in the wake of reports that an air strike hit a funeral hall, killing over 100 civilians. Last month, a professor at Columbia University claimed that US personnel aiding Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition could be guilty of war crimes.
This past October, Houthi rebels were responsible for threeattacks on the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) using Noor anti-ship missiles, an Iranian copy of the Chinese C-802 anti-ship missile. The destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) fired Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles at radar stations controlled by the Houthi in response to the attacks on USS Mason.
The former U.S. Navy ship HSV 2 Swift was damaged in an attack off Yemen as well, prompting the deployment of USS Nitze, USS Mason, and USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) to the waters off Yemen.
Eric Viitala, 49, is an Air Force veteran of the Gulf War who lives in Maine. He experienced low levels of energy and concentration for years after his service. He had headaches, couldn’t finish projects, and was losing interest in things.
“My wife would tell me I left the cupboard doors open and she would walk into them. Or I’d put the recycling in the trash.”
Shortly after the Gulf War, Viitala hit his head in an accident in Saudi Arabia. When he visited the War Related Illness and Injury Study Center (WRIISC) in East Orange, NJ, he was diagnosed with traumatic brain injury. At the WRIISC, a doctor referred him to the VA Boston Healthcare System’s light-emitting diode (LED) therapy program.
VA’s Center for Compassionate Care Innovation has been working with VHA staff in Boston to explore the use of in-home LED treatment since 2018.
Last year, Viitala completed a 12-week course of in-home LED treatment while in communication with his VHA health care provider. He still uses the treatment at least twice a week.
Improvements in memory and energy way up
“There were huge improvements in my memory and concentration. My energy was way up. I’d pop up in the middle of the night and go clean the garage,” said Viitala. “It’s amazing because I have been dragging for years, but now I have the energy to go do things.”
During LED treatment, patients wear a lightweight headset affixed with light-emitting diodes. The arrangement of LEDs is customized for each person. The diodes do not generate heat and the treatment is painless and noninvasive. Each session lasts only 25 minutes. There is evidence to suggest that LED therapy promotes a healing response at the cellular level, due in part to increased blood flow.
When Viitala uses the LED equipment, he simply sits and relaxes with the LED headset on. The equipment was provided by VHA at no cost to the veteran and belongs to him permanently. He went to Boston for one round of treatment at the medical center and to pick up the equipment. But he communicated with his health care provider by phone during treatment.
“It’s worth every second.”
“That was really helpful and beneficial for her to call and keep encouraging me. She would ask how it’s going. It helped remind me to do it.”
Viitala credits the staff members at the New Jersey WRIISC for validating what he was feeling and referring him to the LED clinic in Boston. He encourages fellow veterans with similar symptoms to ask their providers about LED therapy.
“Don’t be afraid to speak out. There’s nothing to lose with LED. Nothing hurts. They don’t have to go inside your body. There’s no drugs, no side effects. It’s worth every second.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
President Xi Jinping said China will “fight the bloody battle against our enemies” in a speech on March 20, 2018, striking a nationalistic and hawkish tone.
In his closing speech of the country’s annual legislative meeting, Xi discussed the benefits of China’s socialism, the Belt and Road initiative, and a string of domestic policies, zeroing in on Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“We are resolved to fight the bloody battle against our enemies … with a strong determination to take our place in the world,” Xi said, according to CNN.
Xi also said any separatist action to seek independence in these territories would be doomed to fail.
“The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence, and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China,” Xi said.
While it was not clear if China’s president was referring to any particular incident, state-run media one day earlier threatened “military pressure” and drills would resume if US and Taiwanese officials began visiting one another under the new Taiwan Travel Act.
China considers the self-ruled, democratic island to be a province of China that will one day be reunified with the mainland. Beijing refuses to have diplomatic relations with any nation that treats Taiwan as a country, and relations between China and Taiwan worsened since Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan’s independence-leaning leader, became president in 2016.
Xi, who oversees all Taiwan affairs, also focused on reunifying Taiwan and China during a major speech to the Communist Party in 2017. Analyzing that speech, some experts estimate that Xi’s is hoping for reunification by 2050 — by peaceful means, or by force, if necessary.
In 2013, Xi said the issue needed to be resolved, and couldn’t be passed on “from generation to generation.” Even still, Taiwan has noticed a tougher stance coming from Xi of late as he begins to focus on his goal of “national rejuvenation.”
Xi also focused on increasing the “national identity” and patriotism of citizens in Hong Kong and Macau.
On March 20, 2018, Human Rights Watch issued a report on plans for Hong Kong legislators to discuss a law that criminalizes the insulting of the Chinese national anthem. The punishment for those who alter the lyrics, score, or sing in a derogatory manner, could be up to three years in prison.
“Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam has played down fears the bill could be politicized, saying it merely aims to encourage ‘respect’ for the anthem. Yet she has not acknowledged citizens’ concerns about forcing their political loyalty to Beijing, or how mainland authorities’ frequently jail people for peaceful criticism,” Maya Wang, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher on China.
“Enacting this law will merely remind Hong Kong people just how tenuous their rights to free speech are.”
An excerpt of Xi’s speech:
“We will continue to implement One Country, Two Systems principle: Hong Kong people governing Hong Kong, Macau people governing Macau, and a high degree of autonomy in the Special Administrative Regions (SARs). We will continue to stick to the constitution and basic laws in governing the two regions and support the SARs and its chief executives in implementing its functions and supporting Hong Kong and Macau in integrating into the larger picture of the country.
We will continue to strengthen and foster the national identity and patriotism of people in Hong Kong and Macau SARs and maintain long-term stability and prosperity in Hong Kong and Macau SARs.
We should continue to stick to the One China principle, 1992 consensus, advance the development of cross-strait relations, and expand the economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides. By doing so, we will make sure that people both in Taiwan and the mainland will share in the development and improve its well-being and also advance the unification of the country.
We should safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country and achieve full reunification of the motherland. This is the aspiration of all Chinese people and this is also in line with the fundamental interests of the Chinese nation. Faced with this very important question of our nation and history, any action that aims to separate the country is doomed to fail.
And these separatist actions will be met with the condemnation of the people and the punishment of the history. The Chinese people have strong determination, full confidence and every capability to triumph over all these separatist actions. The Chinese people and the Chinese nation have a shared conviction which is not a single inch of our land will be and can be ceded from China.”
The service announced in May 2018, it will adopt the Army Combat Uniform, known as the ACU, which sports the Operational Camouflage Pattern, or OCP. The Air Force plans to have all airmen wearing the new uniform by April 2021.
“The decision to move to this new uniform outfits our airmen in the best utility uniform available in the inventory,” Maj. Kathleen Atanasoff said in a statement.
So far, the Air Force is calling the uniform the OCP.
“The [OCP] is proven for better form, fit and function and will be an important part in preserving our service and squadron identities,” Atanasoff said
Here’s a look at the different features of the new Air Force Uniform:
The OCP has two slanted front chest pockets compared to the ABU‘s four pockets on the blouse, which date back to the Battle Dress Uniform design. It has two shoulder pockets, with side zippered closures and Velcro for mounting unit patches.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
The rank identification patch for both officers and enlisted personnel is located in the center of the chest instead of on the sleeves for enlisted and collars for officers on the ABU. Name and service tapes, rank and patches are all attached with Velcro.
Airmen will have the option to sew on their name tape and service tape, Air Force officials say.
Officers will wear their rank on their patrol caps. The OCP’s patrol cap features a Velcro-mounted name tape on the back.
The Air Force uniform will differ from the Army’s in Velcro patches, name tape and insignia by using a “spice brown” color, service officials said. The Air Force will redesign patches used for commands down to the squadron level so they incorporate the spice brown color.
The OCP’s blouse has a front zippered closure instead of the ABU’s buttons. Similar to the ABU, the OCP has a two pen slots on the blouse sleeve.
The OCP’s trousers feature slanted cargo pockets as well as smaller pockets above each ankle.
For female airmen, the OCP is less boxy and includes multiple sizes for women.
Airmen will also be required to wear the same coyote brown boots as the Army, Air Force officials said.
Both the OCP and the ABU fabric weight and same 50/50 percent nylon-cotton blend, Atanasoff said. There is no permanent press treatment on the OCP like the ABU. In addition, the OCP has an “insect shield” permethrin treatment.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Not many people could recognize Carly Schroeder June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson’s Hilton Field. The blonde-haired, blue-eyed “Lizzy McGuire” and “General Hospital” actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, blended into the crowd of roughly 450 other identically dressed soldiers as they walked across the field during their Basic Combat Training graduation ceremony.
“Army life is very different from Hollywood,” Schroeder said. “There are some similarities, but Army life is very uniform. Everyone is very disciplined and everyone is treated equally.”
No stranger to weapons training and the physicality of stunt work, Schroeder faced a new set of challenges during BCT. She faced marksmanship courses with the Army’s M4 rifle, daily physical fitness workouts, ruck marches, obstacle courses, learning to work with others as a team and a culminating event that tests the abilities and strengths of fellow soldiers to work together to successfully complete a set of missions — The Forge.
“The most difficult thing has to be between the ruck marches and food,” Schroeder said. “Before I came here I was vegan.”
Schroeder lived the vegan lifestyle for quite some time before enlisting, but adapted to a vegetarian diet to take in additional protein during training. While the military has always offered alternate meals to those with dietary needs, it can be challenging to find a wide variety of those foods within the BCT environment.
“It was quite an adjustment,” said Schroeder. “There was only one MRE I could eat, veggie crumbles.”
Spc. Carly Schroeder, center, the actress who traded her red carpet heels for combat boots, embraces her newly made friends during her Basic Combat Training graduation at Fort Jackson June 26, 2019.
(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)
An MRE, or Meal, Ready-to-Eat, are daily rations that contain about a day’s worth of calories in a convenient to carry and store pouch. The MRE mentioned is Menu 11 — Vegetable Crumbles with Pasta in Taco Style Sauce. With a little help from some new friends, she “fare-d” well with field rations.
“My team mates really made sure they had my back and got the veggie crumbles for me every time,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder, like all trainees to pass through BCT, learned not only the basics of making a soldier physically but also social skills that allowed her to adapt and overcome in stressful situations and when finding herself in a foreign environment with new people. These skills empower soldiers to build personal and professional relationships quickly and units to build a cohesiveness that helps ensure successful future missions.
“Basic Combat Training was fun but hard too,” said Pvt. Mylene Sanchez, a fellow unit member. “The ruck marches were really hard, Schroeder really helped me a lot with them. She helped take some of the weight for me.”
Actions such as helping a buddy out with a few pounds during a ruck march exemplify one of the seven Army core values — selfless service. These values are instilled in each soldier from day one of training and they use them to build strong teams.
“Teamwork was the biggest obstacle for everyone to overcome,” said another unit member Spc. Joel Morris. “As long as you push forward and kept trying, it was a breeze.”
Schroeder easily cultivated relationships, even with those who knew of her silver screen time.
A camera crew from a nationally syndicated TV program interviews Spc. Carly Schroeder and some of her newly-made friends during their Basic Combat Training graduation June 27, 2019, at Fort Jackson.
(Photo by Ms. Alexandra Shea)
Schroeder explained how she didn’t talk about her time as an actress and how she wanted to blend in so people wouldn’t treat her differently. Eventually, word spread about her acting career, but her relationships with her team members was already cemented.
“She was an amazing leader,” said Pvt. Cindy Ganesh, another unit member who trained alongside Schroeder. “She took the time to go and help and teach. She was a friend, a real friend.”
Morris said, “she would kick everyone’s butt in combatives.”
As the 10-weeks of training came to an end with the graduation ceremony, the soldiers now face Advanced Individual Training. Some of the soldiers who met in training will continue on with fellow graduates depending on the location of their AIT training and their occupational specialty. Schroeder is a 09S — Commissioned Officer Candidate who will attend 12 weeks of tactical and leadership training at Fort Benning, Georgia before she is officially commissioned.
While the former actress is on her way to the next chapter of her military career, she is not likely to forget soon the friendships she built in BCT.
“They’re not my team members anymore, we became Family” Schroeder said. “We worked through 10 hard weeks together. It was brutal but it’s what we bonded over.”
U.S. Special Operations Command and sub-maker Electric Boat have partnered up to develop a dry submersible mini-submarine designed to more safely and efficiently deliver Navy SEALs into hostile, high-threat areas beneath the surface of the ocean.
The 31-foot long underwater vehicle, called the User Operational Evaluation System 3, can carry as many as six people. It is currently being tested and developed through a three-year, $44 million U.S Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, firm-fixed-price design, build and deliver contract with Groton, Conn.-based General Dynamics Electric Boat.
USSOCOM has a long-term goal to develop an affordable dry combat submersible system that satisfies current SOF (Special Operations Forces) maritime mobility requirements,” a SOCOM spokesman said. “Combat submersibles are used for shallow water infiltration and exfiltration of special operations forces, reconnaissance, resupply, and other missions in high threat, non-permissive environments.”
The pressure hull and motor of the User Operational Evaluation System 3, or UOES 3, have already been built and have undergone key tests, Electric Boat officials said. Engineering plans call for the inclusion of a standard suite of submersible navigation systems, gyroscopes, sonar and obstacle avoidance technology, according to mission systems and business development officials with General Dynamics Electric Boat.
The idea with the dry submersible is to minimize risk and fatigue for special operations forces, such as SEALs, who are adept at quietly swimming into hostile areas to complete high-risk missions.
“Right now when we deploy SEALs they typically go in what’s called a wet boat – so they are in the ocean breathing through scuba gear. What the SEALs really want is something where they can get the guys to their objective dry, so they don’t have to endure this harsh water environment,” an Electric Boat official said.
While SEALs are known for their training and long-distance swimming abilities, a dry submersible could lessen mission- fatigue and reduce their exposure to harsh elements such as cold or icy water. Therefore, the UOES 3 would seem to be of particular value in cold or stormy waters given that it would protect them from the elements.
It is not yet clear whether the 19-ton dry submersible will be launched from a submarine or from a surface ship, however those questions are now being explored, SOCOM and Electric Boat officials said.
The dry submersible was slated to undergo developmental testing and early operational assessment through fiscal year 2015, Special Operations Command officials said.
The idea is to use UOES 3 progress as a “technology development” effort to prepare for what will become a more formal effort to build a dry semi-submersible for SEALs.
The UOES 3 is currently being built to commercial specifications through a partnership between General Dynamics Electric Boat and an Italian firm called Giunio Santi Engineering, or GSE, Electric Boat officials explained. The idea behind using commercial specifications is to leverage the best and most cutting-edge existing technology while working to keep costs lower, he said.
Some of the navigational technology includes a sonar Doppler velocity log which bounces a signal off the bottom of the ocean to help provide essential mission-relevant location information, an Electric Boat official added.
“After bouncing off the bottom, a signal comes back to an array which tells you how far you are moving,” he said.
One analyst said such a technology could bring great advantage to the SEALs.
“It is sensible that they would want to deploy in the stealthiest way available. It is something that fits with the traditional missions of the SEALs,” said Benjamin Friedman, research fellow in homeland defense and security studies, Cato Institute, a Washington-based D.C. think tank.
This week’s Borne the Battle podcast features Marine Corps veteran Chris Burke and the youngest head coach in NCAA Lacrosse, Mitch Shafer.
Burke discussed his service in the Marines, including his injury and recovery from an IED explosion in Afghanistan. However, Burke’s real story begins on what he did after serving in Afghanistan.
When Burke left service, he went back to school, where he planned on joining the lacrosse program in hopes of playing with his younger brother. But his plans didn’t go the way he had hoped. Instead, he found a new sense of purpose, one that reminded him of the camaraderie that he experienced in the Marines. In time, that new sense of purpose led to Burke accepting the position of defensive coordinator at Maryville University.
Marine Veteran Chris Burke is now mentoring youth as a the defensive coordinator for the Maryville Lacrosse Program.
Now, at Maryville, with Shafer’s help, Burke uses his Marine Corps leadership experience to to mentor and coach his college lacrosse players for more than just on the field. From visiting local VA hospitals to sending care packages overseas, Burke and Shafer lead the lacrosse team in bridging the military-civilian gap.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.