For Veteran and VA employee Martin Allen, the Burn Pit Registry has been both an inspiration and a way to help other Veterans. For six months, he has been charged with eliminating the backlog of Veterans waiting for confirmation of their eligibility to join the Burn Pit Registry through a manual check of their deployment history.
“It wasn’t until I became familiar with the registry and saw other Veterans who served in the same deployment areas as myself and served during the same time that I realized I was eligible for participation in the registry,” said Allen. “I had heard of the registry but didn’t think much of it because I thought it was primarily for the Veterans serving after 9/11.”
Allen is a Navy and Air Force Veteran who deployed to the Persian Gulf on a naval ship in 1990. He admits the shortened, everyday name of “Burn Pit Registry” reinforced the erroneous idea that the Burn Pit Registry wasn’t for Gulf War Veterans like him. The full name of the registry is the “Airborne Hazards and Open Burn Pit Registry.”
“Once I found out that I could join, I really wanted to be a part of the registry so I could understand the Veteran participant experience,” said Allen. “Joining the registry has been really helpful. Not only do I help Veterans with their eligibility checks, I sometimes walk them step-by-step through the process of signing up.”
Many Veterans who deployed after 1990 can join the registry. The registry is a way for these Veterans to document their concerns about exposures to burn pits and other airborne hazards. For Post-9/11 Veterans, joining the registry is easier than ever. The registry is linked to more current and complete DoD deployment records. This enhancement reduces or eliminates possible delays in joining the registry resulting from the performance of manual checks of deployment histories for Pre-9/11 Veterans by VA to confirm a Veterans’ eligibility to join the registry.
The Burn Pit Registry is also a way for Veterans to be evaluated for any concerns that they might have related to exposures. Despite the opportunity of a free medical evaluation after completing the registry questionnaire, less than four percent of registry participants have been evaluated by a provider. The reasons for the low uptake are unclear, but may indicate Veterans are waiting to be contacted by VA.
“Don’t wait. Once Veterans have submitted their questionnaire, they can immediately schedule a medical evaluation for the registry,” said Allen. “This evaluation is different than a compensation and pension exam for disability claims. Veterans shouldn’t confuse the two.”
Participants who wish to have an exam should contact a local Environmental Health Coordinator to schedule an appointment. These coordinators will guide registry participants through the next steps and work with VA’s environmental health clinicians to address any exposure-related health concerns.
In many ways, the initial in-person registry evaluation is similar to any encounter between a clinician and a Veteran. The evaluation is tailored to each Veteran. To help you prepare for your visit, use these tips:
• Bring a copy of your completed Registry Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ) to your visit;
• Have your questions written down;
• Tell your provider and team why you are in the clinic;
• Be prepared to discuss:
◦ Important deployment history and exposures of concern
◦ Important symptoms and health history
◦ Current symptoms-intensity, duration, onset, what makes them better or worse
◦ How the symptoms interfere with daily life
◦ Established health conditions, including onset and work up to date
◦ Concerns about the possible causes
◦ Other factors that may affect the management plan or overall health or mental health concerns such as tobacco, alcohol, or other substance use and family history
At a White House briefing on Sunday, March 22, President Trump stated that the National Guard would be stepping up to assist three states that have been hit the hardest to date by the novel coronavirus: California, New York and Washington state.
President Trump explained that the Guard activation was to help effectively respond to the crisis. This certainly isn’t unprecedented — the National Guard is frequently used in emergency situations. But this definitely got people talking: Are we heading toward martial law? And what does that mean?
Trump Deploys National Guard To Help States Respond To The Coronavirus | NBC News
In a press release issued by the National Guard Bureau, a spokesperson said, “The National Guard is fully involved at the local, state and federal level in the planning and execution of the nation’s response to COVID-19. In times of emergency, the National Guard Bureau serves as a federal coordinating agency should a state require assistance from the National Guard of another state.”
Additionally the release explained, “At the national level, Guard members are training personnel on COVID-19 response, identifying and preparing National Guard facilities for use as isolation housing, and compiling state medical supply inventories. National Guard personnel will provide assistance to the states that include logistical support, disinfection/cleaning, activate/conduct transportation of medical personnel, call center support, and meal delivery.”
New York Army National Guard Soldiers move a floor during the placement of tents at the New York-Presbyterian-Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y., as medical facilities prepare for the response to the outbreak of COVID 19 patients March 20, 2020. The Soldiers are part of the statewide effort to deploy National Guard members in support of local authorities during the pandemic response. U.S. Army National Guard/Richard Goldenberg.
So that’s what the National Guard does and is doing in this situation … but what does “federalized” actually mean?
Under Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the National Guard can be federalized, meaning that the Guard still reports to the respective state’s governor but the federal government picks up the associated costs. In his briefing, President Trump remarked that he had spoken with the governors of the three states that were impacted.
“We’ll be following them and we hope they can do the job and I think they will. I spoke with all three of the governors today, just a little while ago and they’re very happy with what we’re going to be doing.” Trump said. “This action will give them maximum flexibility to use the Guard against the virus without having to worry about cost or liability and freeing up state resources.” He added, “The federal government has deployed hundreds of tons of supplies from our national stockpile to locations with the greatest need in order to assist in those areas.”
See, that’s nice. They’re going to help build temporary hospitals and coordinate logistics and resources. They’re not going to be driving tanks up and down the streets to make sure people stay in their homes.
In a call with reporters Sunday night, Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said, “There is no truth to this rumor that people are conspiring, that governors are planning, that anyone is conspiring to use the National Guard, mobilized or not, Title 32 or state, to do military action to enforce shelter in place or quarantines.” He did say that he expected more states would move to Title 32 as the need developed.
Military action enforcing shelter in place or quarantines would be considered martial law.
In dictionary terms, martial law is the suspension of civil authority and the imposition of military authority. The military is in control of the area; it can act as the police, the courts, even the legislature. Martial law is enacted when civilian law enforcement agencies are unable to maintain public order and safety.
Sounds reasonable and fine, right? Wellll, until you start really digging into what martial law can include, like a suspension of parts of the Constitution, namely the Bill of Rights. In previous uses of martial law, we’ve seen confiscation of firearms (remember Hurricane Katrina? The government seized firearms and supplies when deemed necessary and acceptable, which at the time, they stated was when citizens were resisting evacuation or when a firearm was found in an abandoned home). Other suspensions include due process (Habeas corpus), road closures and blockades, strict zoning regulations (quarantine anyone?) and even automatic search and seizures without warrants (who can forget the images of SWAT teams running through houses in Boston searching for the bombers after the marathon? Do you think they stopped to get a warrant before they went into each one? Spoiler alert: no.).
Martial law has happened in the United States before and someday, it very well may happen again.
But for now, the Guard is just doing what they do best: bringing some much-needed logistics support and maybe even a little hope.
Syrian state media is blaming explosions hitting the capital city of Damascus on Israeli missile strikes as the Israel Defense Forces sound the alarm in the northern part of the country — the part that borders Syria and Lebanon.
SANA, Syria’s government mouthpiece, says the strikes hit Syrian government forces in Kisweh, a city to the south of Damascus. The attack came just an hour after U.S. President Donald Trump announced the end of American participation in the Iranian nuclear deal. SANA also reports the Syrian military was able to shoot two more incoming missiles down.
The Times of Israel reported a statement from Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, who said the target of the strike was an arms and ammunition depot for Iranian-backed militias, namely Hezbollah. Kisweh was also the site of a permanent Iranian base, struck by Israel in the December 2, 2017, attack.
The base is just 31 miles from the Israeli border. On Sunday, Iranian Maj. Gen. Mohammad Bagheri said Iran would retaliate for the December strikes and any new strikes when deemed suitable.
“If the enemy casts a covetous eye on our interests or conducts [even] a slight act of aggression, the Islamic Republic will give an appropriate response at an appropriate time,” Bagheri said according to Press TV, media associated with the Iranian regime.
In a statement, Trump cited the reason for pulling out of the Iranian nuclear agreement — signed in 2015 — was Iranian influence in the region, calling the regime an exporter of terrorism. The BBC reports the President calling the deal “decaying and rotten… an embarrassment.”
As for restarting production on enriching uranium, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani said he would consult with other signatories to the deal, including France and Germany who vowed to remain committed to the agreement, before moving forward. In the meantime, he ordered preparations to begin.
“I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels,” he said in response to the American withdrawal.
A senior official with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara was killed in a strike on a terrorist camp in Mali involving French warplanes and commandos, the French defense ministry confirmed Aug. 27, 2018.
The lifeless body of Mohamed Ag Almouner, a senior leader for the ISIS affiliate that claimed responsibility for a deadly ambush that left four American Green Berets dead in Niger in 2017, was found on the battlefield by a French-led unit after an airstrike by two Mirage fighter jets Aug. 26, 2018, according to a report from Stars and Stripes, which cited a statement from the French military.
An unidentified member of the group was also killed.
In October 2017, armed Islamic State in the Greater Sahara militants ambushed US and Nigerien troops. Five Nigeriens and four Americans were killed while another ten people were wounded. During the firefight that ensued, US and Nigerien forces managed to kill nearly two dozen terrorists.
The four American special operations soldiers who lost their lives in the fight were: Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, and Staff Sgt. Bryan Black. The US Army Special Forces team leader Capt. Michael Perozeni, who was singled out for blame in an investigation into the ambush during which he was wounded, is reportedly being considered for a silver star, the military’s third-highest valor award for gallantry.
Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, Sgt. La David T. Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson.
(US Army photos)
The US military maintains a presence in Niger to “provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces, including support for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance efforts, in their efforts to target violent extremist organizations in the region,” US Africa Command spokesman US Navy Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Falvo told CNN after the incident in 2017.
France has deployed thousands of troops to West Africa for Operation Barkhane, an effort to eradicate Islamist militants in the region.
Aug. 26, 2018’s airstrike also ended the lives of two civilians. “The French criteria for opening fire are particularly strict and aim at avoiding civilian casualties,” the French military said in a statement, “The proven presence of civilians near the target would have led to the cancellation of the mission. An investigation is underway to determine how civilians were hit during this strike.”
US Africa Command said that it “routinely works with our French partners in the Sahel region, who provide a bulk of the force with more than 4,000 military forces,” adding that the US remains ” committed to assisting the French-led operations to degrade violent extremist organizations and to build the defense capacity of … Mali and its neighbors.”
Featured image: A French Air Force Mirage F1CR.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The nation, writ large, has a moral responsibility to ensure the needs of veterans are met, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said at a ceremony where the Newman’s Own Foundation distributed funds to charities serving service members, their families and veterans.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford praised Newman’s Own for its dedication to service members, veterans and their families. The group distributed $200,000 to five organizations during the Oct. 5, 2018 ceremony in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.
Actor and World War II veteran Paul Newman founded Newman’s Own in 1982 with the goal of donating all of the company’s after tax profits to charities. In the years since, Newman’s Own has donated more than $530 million to thousands of charities. In 1999, the company partnered with the Fisher House Foundation and Military Times publications to aim donations at innovative groups that improve the quality of life for service members, veterans and their families. Since it started, Newman’s Own has recognized 179 programs with awards totaling $1,925,000.
Quality service members
“The reason the United States military has been able to do the things it does … throughout my career is because of the quality of young men and women we’ve been able to recruit over time,” the general said at the ceremony.
When Dunford entered the military, the all-volunteer force, which began in 1973, was in its infancy. There were many critics who believed the force would fail. The all-volunteer military has become the superb force of today.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks to James Ferguson, founder of the Warrior Reunion Foundation of Cockeysville, Maryland, during the 2018 Newman’s Own Awards at the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon, Oct. 5, 2018.
(DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
The American people do appreciate the military and the sacrifices military families make, Dunford said. “But I am concerned about keeping this up,” he said. “It goes back to something George Washington said … ‘The manner in which we treat our veterans will determine the willingness of future generations to serve.'”
He said the recipients of the Newman Own Awards this year cover the full spectrum of services Americans want their vets to have. “We would want them to have housing. We would want them to have a job. We would want them to have health care, and a piece of that is we would want them to be connected to men and women with which they served so they don’t feel isolated when they leave active duty,” he said.
Appreciation of troops’ service
What these groups — and many more like them across the nation — do “really does send a loud and clear message that we really do respect, we value, we appreciate the service of those in uniform,” he said.
In 2018, the Warrior Reunion Foundation of Cockeysville, Maryland, received a ,000 grant from Newman’s Own. The group looks to help combat vets reconnect with their comrades they served in combat with. It lets veterans sit down with each other knowing that they experienced the same conditions, same uncertainties and sometimes the same traumas.
The Vets on Track Foundation of Garrisonville, Virginia, received a grant of ,500. The foundation furnishes homes for vets and their families who were previously living in shelters or the streets.
Code Platoon of Chicago received ,500 to educate vets and spouses to become software developers.
The West Virginia Health Right of Charleston received ,500 to provide free dental care for West Virginia vets without dental coverage.
And finally, Healing Warriors Program of Boulder, Colorado received ,500 to help provide non-narcotic therapies for the treatment of pain and symptoms of post-traumatic stress for vets.
Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.
“Until America is prepared to have its grandchildren stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our grandchildren, we won’t be successful,” — Mullah Ghafoordai – tribal elder in Eastern Afghanistan
It was a profound and decisive moment – which seemed to reverberate throughout mountain villages in Eastern Afghanistan…… an anti-Taliban Afghan tribal elder told Green Beret Michael Waltz he could no longer cooperate with US Special Forces in the fight against insurgents in his country.
Waltz had spent months having tea with friendly Afghans and tribal leaders in the area and, he reports, made great progress with efforts to collaborate against the Taliban. They shared information, allowed US allied Afghan fighters to be trained by Green Berets and, in many cases, joined US forces in the fight.
The tribal elder’s comments were quite a disappointment for Waltz, who vigorously argues that the fight against the Taliban, terrorists and many insurgent groups around the world – will take 100 years to win.
Waltz recalled that President Obama’s 2009 announcement that the US would be withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2011, engendered new risk and danger for Afghans cooperating with US forces.
Although, in the same speech, Obama announced US troop numbers would increase by thousands in the near term, a declaration of an ultimate withdrawal created a strong impact upon friendly Afghans, Waltz said.
Obama’s announcement, which has been followed by subsequent efforts to further draw-down the US presence, changed the equation on the ground in Afghanistan, compromising the long-standing cooperation between the friendly Afghan tribal elder and Waltz’s team of Green Berets in fight against the Taliban, Waltz argued.
“It is going to take multiple generations of winning hearts and minds,” Waltz recalled, explaining his frustration and disappointment upon seeing a long-standing collaborative partnership collapse amid fear of Taliban retribution.
Although much has happened regarding permutation of the US-Afghan strategy since that time, and specifics of Obama’s intended withdrawal date subsequently changed, there has been an overall systematic reduction of US troops in recent years.
During July 6, 2016 U.S. President Obama said he would draw down troops to 8,400 by the end of his administration in December 2016; this approach greatly increased pressure on US Special Forces, relying even more intensely upon their role as trainers and advisors.
Green Berets had already been among the most-deployed US military units, often deploying as many as 10-times throughout the course of their career.
“Green Berets don’t easily ask for help and do not easily identify themselves as having an issue, but it is OK to say you have a problem. The Green Beret Foundation understands the mindset of “America’s Quiet Professionals”, and because of this, we are in a good position to help identify needs and render assistance,” Ret. Maj. Gen. David Morris, Chairman of the Board of the Green Beret Foundation, told Scout Warrior.
While there have been many who both supported and opposed Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, sparking years of ongoing debate, Waltz maintains that impact of the 2009 announcement upon the US Special Forces’ effort in Afghanistan brought lasting implications and spoke to a larger issue regarding US-Afghan policy.
“We are in a war of ideas and we are fighting an ideology. It is easy to bomb a tank, but incredibly difficult to bomb an idea. We need a long-term strategy that discredits the ideology of Islamic extremism,” Waltz added. “We are in a multi-decade war and we are only 15-years in.”
Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.
“This was kind of the premise behind George W. Bush’s freedom agenda. These ideologies have narratives that specifically target disaffected young men who see no future for themselves or their families,” Waltz explained.
Some of the many nuances behind this approached were, quite naturally, woven into a broader, long-term vision for the country including the education of girls and economic initiatives aimed at cultivating mechanisms for sustainable Afghan prosperity.
The reality of a multi-faceted, broadly oriented counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is the premise of Waltz’s book – “Warrior Diplomat,” which seeks to delineate key aspects of his time as a Green Beret.
The book chronicles this effort to attack Taliban fighters with so-called “kinetic” or intense combat techniques – alongside an equally intense commensurate effort to launch an entirely different type of attack.
Diplomatic or “non-kinetic” elements of the war effort involved what could be referred to as war-zone diplomacy, making friends with anti-Taliban fighters, learning and respecting Afghan culture, and teaching them how to succeed in combat.
“While Green Berets perform direct combat missions, their core mission as the only Unconventional Warfare unit in the US inventory, is to train, coach, teach and mentor others. A 12-man A-Team can train a force of 1,000 – 2,000 fighters and bring them up to an acceptable measure of combat readiness. If you stop and think about it, that is 1,000 to 2,000 of our sons and daughters who do not have to go to war because of this training,” Morris said.
Addressing the issue of cultural sophistication, Morris explained how Green Berets are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language.
Citing the Taliban, ISIS and historic insurgent groups such as Peru’s Shining Path – and even the decades-long Cold War effort to discredit communism, Waltz emphasizes that the need for a trans-generational, wide-ranging approach of this kind is by no means unprecedented.
1:23 a.m. It’s pitch black in Ramadi, Iraq, except for the cold moon above.
Staff Sgt. Ryan Major and his squad creep silently closer.
The enemy has already killed and maimed American troops with roadside bombs. Intel says the largest cache of explosives is right here. Major is part of the late-night raid to bring them down. This is where he wants to be.
“I was a junior in high school when the Towers were hit. I knew I wanted to do something then. And when it came time to choose college or something else, I wanted to get my hands dirty. It all stemmed from the Towers. I wanted to do my part.”
He’s in the desert as part of a light infantry unit. As he and his team get closer, the insurgents wait.
“We were two or three blocks away and I watched two squads cross that intersection,” he says.
He’s only a couple feet away now.
“I took like five steps … “
Major steps down with his right leg.
The enemy pushes the remote control.
The bomb explodes with a deafening roar, and fills the air with a lethal mix of fire and shrapnel.
“I was awake for the whole thing,” he said. “I remember going up and facing the stars.”
Major, 22, is blown up and over a steel gate and six-foot concrete wall.
Ryan Major loves rugby because it’s loud, fast and has lots of crashes. He is hoping for gold at this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
His team, many with shrapnel injuries themselves, jump into their armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle, smash through the concrete and rush him back to the base camp.
“My guy, he had me laying on the floor and he is covering my leg. I’m losing blood like crazy. Trying to go to sleep. He smacks the p— out of me a couple times. I knew I was in a bad situation.”
“Read me my Last Rites. Tell my mom I love her,” Major says to his soldier.
“No! Wake your b— ass up! I’m not telling her anything! You’re telling her!”
They make it back to base.
“The surgeons and the doctors, they did their thing. Then they induced me into a coma.”
Doctors cut off his right leg and right thumb in Iraq. An infection while he was still in the coma took his left leg, two fingers on his right hand, his thumb on his left, part of his elbow and forearm.
Major wakes up six weeks later, December 26, in a hospital room inside Walter Reed.
“Hey, it’s sports. I’m a competitor. I was competing in the military. I’m competing still. It’s fast and I like to go fast.”
Major whips around with a white ball in his hand. A wheelchair cracks into him from behind and throws him from the chair and to the ground. He gets helped back in and shakes it off. Another chair crashes into him from the side as Major smacks down on his wheel into a backspin and then scores.
He crosses his arms, leans back his head and howls to the rafters.
He makes it look easy, but it wasn’t always this way.
Ryan Major races down the court on the way to a score.
“Dude, it was rough,” he said. “So rough, and I was in a really dark spot. A deep, weird depression. It was a lot of self-doubt and being hard on myself. It’s typical, going from a 100 percent independent man, having to depend on everybody for everything. That took a really big shot to my pride.
“It took me so long. I don’t have my legs. I can’t play football or anything I used to do and love. I used to play football. I wrestled. I did track and field. Now I can’t do any of that.”
Days turned into weeks, months and years.
His mom, Lorrie Knight-Major, said she and his brothers — Michael and Milan — along with Ryan’s friends, rallied to do whatever needed done.
“I credit his brothers, his family and his amazing friends who have been there all the way for him, and for all of us,” Knight-Major said. “To this day, he has a great support system. I wished every veteran and every person recovering had that kind of love.”
Corey Fick, Ryan’s best friend since the 6th grade, visited him almost every day in the hospital and made him get out and about.
“Everybody was crying when we found out he got hurt, but he is a soldier through and through,” Fick said. “He is a soldier through and through, and whatever his cause, he’ll die for it. There’s no fight he’s not going to win. I think he had a 4 percent chance of making it out of Ramadi alive.
“If this happened to anyone but Ryan, I don’t think they could do what he is doing. He has no fear and is living life to the fullest.”
As Major watched others in a wheelchair living their lives, that’s when he knew he had to do it, too.
“I’m watching other vets in my situation who had been hurt for a few years. They’re walking and talking and out having fun and I’m overhearing them. Why am I moping around when you got other amputees going out and having the time of their life?
“It was time for me to get my ass out of this bed and start getting active.”
Besides quad rugby, you can find Ryan Major kayaking and even skiing.
The first thing he did was the Hope and Possibilities handcycle race around Central Park.
“You hear people cheering you and that started to boost me back, but it was easy. I went back to my therapist and said, ‘What’s next?'”
“There’s an Army 10-miler,” the therapist said.
He did it and wanted more. So he did the New York Marathon — 26.2 miles on a hand cycle.
“I went from a 5K to a 10-miler to a marathon all in a year,” Major said. “The best part of a marathon, is all the fans on the side, yelling at you and telling you you’re doing awesome. The worst part of a marathon, in my opinion, are those last two miles. Those last two miles were the longest two miles ever.
“I was hurting bad. My fingers were cramped and locked in place. But I crossed that finish line and said, ‘God, I am a freaking trooper. I am the biggest bad ass in this whole, entire race!”
He hasn’t stopped since.
“I found out I can still do sports. I didn’t ski before I was injured. I had my first skiing experience in Colorado and didn’t anticipate liking that. They had me going down that mountain fast and I fell in love with it. I’m kayaking. I’ll do anything.”
Besides rugby, Major is competing in javelin, table tennis and even bowling this year.
“But I want that gold in rugby,” he said. “That’s the goal. Haven’t gotten it yet. Got close and made it to the final round once. I’ll get it.”
“I am so very proud of him,” his mom said. “I am amazed at the adversity he had to overcome. Ryan has always been a fighter. He wakes up every morning happy, and makes the most out of each day of his life.”
He sometimes thinks back on that day when everything changed, but doesn’t stay in that place too long.
“Those thoughts creep in my head every once in awhile. The what ifs, the woulda, coulda thing. Those are never good,” he said. “There are positives and negatives to every situation. If I wouldn’t have joined the military, wouldn’t have met my brothers in arms, who are a huge part of my life. I never would have had that experience. I never would have traveled. I never would have had those life experiences.
“I still keep in touch with those guys from Walter Reed and with some of the staff. All these years back, and we still talk.”
It’s that brotherhood, he said, that makes these Games so important.
“I like to be loud out there and have fun. Other vets look at me and that makes them proud. They say it inspires them. Well, they inspire me.”
Major just has one request if you see him on the street. Don’t call him disabled.
“I’m an athlete. And I hope when they look at me, they think I’m a good athlete. That’s what they can call me.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
U.S. Navy SEALs — the elite Special Operations group with a name that has earned its reputation around the world. If people know the name of one elite unit, it’s probably the Navy SEALs.
U.S. Army Rangers — as old as American history itself, they have presented themselves as masters of both conventional and unconventional warfare time and time again. During the Global War on Terror (GWOT), they have evolved into a precision special operations force (SOF) and gained extensive combat experience, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Both are intensely involved in the GWOT, and both have had resounding successes and serious losses. As modern warfare continues to evolve, which one of these SOF units has delivered more impact in the War on Terror?
Navy SEALs train at the John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
(Photo by John Scorza, courtesy of U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
When discussing the U.S. Navy SEALs, it’s important to distinguish between the SEAL Teams and SEAL Team Six. SEAL Team Six (sometimes referred to as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU) belongs to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and is tasked with executing a broad scope of special missions that often have a direct impact on the United States’ foreign policy and national security strategy. Most notably, they were responsible for killing Usama Bin Laden in 2011.
The other SEAL teams are under the purview of the Naval Special Warfare Command (NSWC) and conduct special operations, often against terrorists and insurgents. This can be confusing since the vast majority of U.S. troops in foreign engagements from Afghanistan to Syria are fighting “terrorists,” but SEAL Team Six specializes in it.
Navy SEALs conduct operations in Afghanistan alongside Afghan partners.
(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
In short, SEAL Team Six is conducting complex missions like hostage rescue; high-level, low-visibility reconnaissance; and direct-action raids against high-value targets (more in the vein of Delta Force, their Army counterpart). The other SEAL Teams have a different overall mission, though overlap does exist. The clear-stated mission on paper is to conduct maritime-based missions, but that is certainly not the end of it. Special operations units are versatile, and today’s SEALs are often training friendly foreign forces, conducting direct-action raids in and outside of large American engagements, or performing their legacy mission of carrying out maritime missions.
SEALs are currently conducting operations in war zones around the world; not all of the teams are relegated to Afghanistan and Syria. They have recently worked in the Philippines, Djibouti, Central America, and South America, to name a few places. They are not necessarily running direct-action raids in all these places. For example, conducting FID (Foreign Internal Defense) with a host nation could mean accompanying local groups on missions, or it could simply mean training them on basic infantry tactics and calling it a day.
A Navy SEAL conducts training with a SEAL Delivery Vehicle (SDV).
(U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command)
Rangers, on the other hand, are more specific when it comes to geography. You’re not going to run into a Ranger platoon in the middle of Ethiopia, and Rangers aren’t going to be the ones tasked with hostage rescue missions off the Ivory Coast. For the most part, they go to places where there is a large American presence (or where the military wants there to be one), where the fighting is heavy and the missions are frequent, and they can roll up their sleeves and get busy. They are a precision strike force, but they are precise amid large military efforts.
While Rangers also conduct FID missions, especially in Afghanistan, their purpose revolves around kill/capture missions on a day-to-day basis.
Rangers from the 75th Ranger Regiment prepare to conduct an airfield seizure.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
Seizing an airfield is to Rangers as a maritime raid is to the SEALs. The 75th Ranger Regiment is known for its ability to take an airfield from enemy control, though this hasn’t actually been conducted for years. Most of the time, Rangers are conducting kill or capture raids in Afghanistan. In fact, they were credited with killing or capturing over 1,900 terrorists during a recent deployment to Afghanistan. They have had a presence in Syria as well.
As terrorism and insurgent-type tactics have been more common among the enemies of the United States (in contrast to conventional military tactics), the need for special operations units has skyrocketed. Rangers, SEALs, and other elite groups have found themselves bearing that weight, evolving rapidly, and fulfilling the needs of a constantly changing battlefield.
A Ranger from the 75th Ranger Regiment conducts close quarters combat training.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
These units are required to have a breadth of skillsets, intensive training, and a specific state of body and mind — however, that doesn’t mean that every deployment is rife with firefights and explosions. Many Ranger deployments to Afghanistan have ended with no shots fired; many SEALs will deploy to countries around the world without conducting any raids.
So, who has the greatest impact on the GWOT?
Rangers often use helicopters to get to their objective.
(75th Ranger Regiment)
Many of these conversations — Rangers versus SEALs versus MARSOC versus PJs versus Green Berets — devolve into a “which one is better” conversation. However, each has their task and function, and asking whether one is better than the other is like asking if a cardiac surgeon is “better” than a neurosurgeon — it depends on if you need heart surgery or brain surgery. The better informed find themselves asking: “Who is better at a maritime interdiction?” “Who can take this airport?” “Who has a presence in this area?” These are the practical questions that warrant practical answers, and those are the ones that matter on the practical battlefield.
This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) reportedly took on the US Navy in a South China Sea showdown on Sept. 30, 2018, during a freedom-of-navigation operation involving the USS Decatur.
A Chinese Luyang-class destroyer steered within 45 yards of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer near the Spratly Islands this in a confrontational exchange that US officials deemed “unsafe,” CNN first reported. The US Navy ship was forced to maneuver to prevent a collision.
The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” engaging in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for the Decatur to depart,” Pacific Fleet said in a statement.
“US Navy ships and aircraft operate throughout the Indo-Pacific routinely, including in the South China Sea,” the US military explained, adding, “As we have for decades, our forces will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”
The incident comes as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing over a wide range of issues, including, trade, Taiwan, sanctions, and increased American military activity in an area Beijing perceives being its sphere of influence.
US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress heavy long-range bombers flewthrough both the East and South China Sea late September 2018. Beijing called the flights “provocative” and warned that it would take “necessary measures” to defend its national interests.
A US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress.
China conducted “live-fire shooting drills” in the South China Sea over the weekend in a show of force in the contested region.
The recent showdown between the Chinese military and a US warship follows a similarly tense incident in the South China Sea involving a British warship.
The UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albionchallenged China’s excessive claims to the contested waterway by sailing near the Paracel Islands. In response, the Chinese PLAN dispatched a frigate and two helicopters to confront the British ship.
The Chinese military has also repeatedly issued warnings to US and other foreign aircraft that venture to close to its territorial holdings in the region, many of which have been armed with anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles, among other weapons systems.
China has canceled two high-level security meetings with US defense officials in late September 2018 as tensions between the US and China rise.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Oct. 20 there is a place for moderate elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan’s government as long as they renounce violence and terrorism and commit to stability. He also delivered a blunt warning to neighboring Pakistan, insisting Islamabad must step up action against terrorist groups that have found safehaven within its borders.
Speaking on an unannounced trip to Afghanistan where he met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, and other senior officials at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul, Tillerson said the Taliban must understand that they will never win a military victory and should prepare to negotiate with the government.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah. Photo from US Department of State.
“Clearly, we have to continue to fight against the Taliban, against others, in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory,” Tillerson told a small group of reporters allowed to accompany him from the Qatari capital of Doha. “And there are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever. So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government.”
“There’s a place for them in the government if they are ready to come, renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson outlined to Ghani and Abdullah the Trump administration’s new South Asia policy, which the president rolled out last month and views the region through a lens that includes Afghanistan as well as Pakistan and India, both of which he will visit later this week. The approach is heavy on combatting and beating extremist groups in all three countries.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photo from US Embassy Consulate in Korea.
“We also want to work with regional partners to ensure that there are no threats in the region,” he said. “This is very much a regional effort as you saw. It was rolled out in the strategy itself, demanding that others deny safehaven to terrorists anywhere in the region. We are working closely with Pakistan as well.”
Tillerson will visit Islamabad on Oct. 21 and said he would be telling Pakistani officials that their cooperation in fighting extremists and driving them from hideouts on their territory is imperative to a good relationship with the US.
“It will be based upon whether they take action that we feel is necessary to move the process forward for both creating opportunity for reconciliation and peace in Afghanistan but also ensuring a stable future Pakistan,” he said. ” Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safehaven inside of Pakistan. So we want to work closely Pakistan to create a more stable and secure Pakistan as well.”
The administration’s strategy for South Asia envisions it as part of what Tillerson referred to in a speech last week as Indian-Pacific Ocean platform, anchored by four democracies: India, Australia, Japan, and the United States. The US is placing high hopes on India’s contributions in South Asia, especially in Afghanistan where Tillerson said New Delhi could have significant influence and presence by creating jobs and “the right environment for the future of Afghanistan.”
Gen. John Nicholson. Photo from Dept of Defense.
Tillerson also met at Bagram with senior members of the US military contingent, including Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan. He underscored the ongoing US commitment to stabilizing Afghanistan but stressed it is “conditions based,” meaning that the government must meet certain benchmarks. He praised Ghani for his efforts to curb corruption and prepare for the country parliamentary elections next year.
“It is imperative in the end that we are denying safehaven to any terrorist organizations or any extremists to any part of this world,” Tillerson said.
He arrived in Afghanistan cloaked in secrecy and under heavy security. He had slipped out of Qatar in the pre-dawn hours and flew a gray C-17 military plane to Bagram, jettisoning his public schedule, which had him meeting with staffers at the US Embassy in Doha.
Tillerson, a one-time private pilot, rode in the cockpit wearing a headset and chatting with the crew as the plane took off from the Al-Udeid Air Base outside Doha.
U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor pilots in Hawaii are some of the first to try out the service’s new integrated aircrew ensemble (IAE) flight suit and gear.
Active-duty and Air National Guard pilots from the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will sport brand-new, custom-fit gear on stealth fighter missions next year, according to a recent Air Force news release.
Representatives from the Human Systems Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — home to Air Force Material Command — gave pilots the rundown on how to make the most of the upgraded and consolidated flight suits.
“It’s all strategically placed so items are not on top of each other, [and] it minimizes the occurrence of friction, hot spots or wear-down on the system,” Carl Medeiros, IAE program manager, said in the release.
Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen from the 154th and 15th Operations Support Squadrons conduct a trial-fitting of the integrated aircrew ensemble July 8, 2019 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Program managers from Write-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, introduced the gear to the Airmen, which offers a spectrum of improvements over the currently used equipment. F-22 Raptor pilots from JBPH-H have been selected to be the first aviators to bring the ensemble into an operational capacity.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)
“The material is also moisture-wicking, so it pulls moisture away from the body, removing and reducing thermal burden, while increasing mobility and comfort levels,” he added. “When it all comes together, there’s a direct correlation and improvement to the physiological effects on the pilot.”
Typically, aircrew in bombers or fighters — or anything with an ejection seat — have layers of add-ons to their flight suits for a variety of contingencies. The Air Force is still offering options, but with a more streamlined and less bulky approach.
Depending on the mission, pilots can choose a combination of seven configuration items including a coverall, which provides heat and flame protection; survival vest; pressure vest; life preserver unit; a chemical, biological and radiological layer; thermal undergarment; and environmental protection layer, the Human Systems Program Office told Military.com.
IAE was tested and approved for all ejection seat aircraft, and the program is “currently in the production phase with the first scheduled roll-out to the F-22 fleet,” the office said in an email.
“Unlike the currently used legacy equipment, which had been piecemealed with additional support items over several decades, each component of the IAE has been designed to complement all other items,” according to the release. “Its material has been influenced by recent advancements in sports technology to aid aviators who endure harsh flight conditions.”
The upgrades have been long in the making. According to an earlier Air Force news release, B-52 Stratofortress bomber crews began experimenting with a version of IAE in 2013. In 2016, the Defense Department awarded TIAX LLC of Lexington, Massachusetts, a .7 million contract delivery order on a previously awarded contract for initial operational test and evaluation (IOTE) for IAE. The Pentagon at the time said that .6 million from fiscal 2015 research, development, test and evaluation (RDTE) funds had also been allocated toward the effort.
In recent years, flight suits and better-fitting uniforms have become a priority for the service.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety. Teams of airmen began reviewing not only flight suits, but all the gear needed to fly for hours on end.
Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the Human Systems Program Office, recently told Military.com that she and her team had been working a number of initiatives — some tailored toward men, others to women — to get aviators better equipped before takeoff.
“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said during an interview in April. That includes flight vests; G-suits, which prevent the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and other gear, such as a bladder relief apparatus.
The service in April approved the use of two-piece flight suits while on duty as an option to the one-piece flight duty uniform.
Raptor pilots are scheduled to receive the IAE uniform during the first half of 2020, the release states.
The Human Systems Program Office team has also visited Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and the team is scheduled to visit Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, next month, officials said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Pentagon is injecting $440 million more into missile defense, including yet another expansion of its fleet of missile interceptors, to counter North Korea’s accelerating push for a nuclear-armed missile capable of hitting the United States.
As a reflection of its urgency, the Pentagon asked Congress to let it shift funds from the current budget rather than wait for the next defense budget. The Pentagon already had $8.2 billion in its missile defense budget prior to the add-ons.
The Pentagon on Oct. 4 spelled out $367 million of the shifted money, with the rest expected to be announced later. The spending has come under increased scrutiny as North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs have progressed and critics have questioned whether the Pentagon has developed missile defenses that would work in combat.
Some of the additional $440 million is for projects that are classified secret, including $48 million more for development of technology for cyber “operations,” according to a breakdown of the spending by the Pentagon’s budget office.
The Pentagon has never acknowledged that it has engaged in cyber operations against North Korea’s nuclear or missile programs. The New York Times earlier this year reported that in 2014, then-President Barack Obama ordered Pentagon officials to step up their cyber and electronic strikes against North Korea’s missile program in hopes of sabotaging test launches.
The more conventional approach to countering North Korea’s missiles is what the Pentagon calls ground-based interceptors, which are anti-missile missiles that would be launched from underground silos at Fort Greely in Alaska in the event the US decided to try to shoot down a North Korean missile aimed at the United States. The interceptors are designed to slam into an incoming enemy missile outside the Earth’s atmosphere, obliterating it by the force of impact.
The $440 million in extra funds for missile defense include $128 million to begin a new expansion of the missile interceptor force in Alaska. That includes $81 million to begin increasing the number of interceptors from 44 to 64, and $47 million to begin buying parts for 10 of the additional 20 underground silos in which the interceptors are installed.
The Pentagon had not publicly announced that it plans to increase the interceptor force by 20. The decision reflects concern that the current force is inadequate to face a North Korean nuclear and missile threat that is growing faster than anticipated.
The UK Foreign Office has issued a bizarre terrorism warning for citizens wishing to travel to its territory in Antarctica – a security chief has criticized the move as “pointless back covering”.
The message on the department’s foreign travel advice section reads: “Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the British Antarctic Territory, attacks can’t be ruled out.
“There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”
The British Antarctic Territory is a 660,000 square mile stretch of the icy continent that includes the South Pole. It is uninhabited, except for two scientific research stations – and several species of penguin.
Colonel Richard Kemp, who led the British Army into Afghanistan in 2003, told The Sun: “MI5’s then-director-general once said there was a terror threat almost everywhere except Antarctica. Now they’ve put Antarctica on the list.
“We expect guidance based on intelligence, not a pointless exercise in back-covering – unless I’ve missed the Islamic State Polar Brigade.”
The British Antarctic Territory is the largest of the 14 British Overseas Territories, which include the tiny Carribbean islands of Bermuda and The Bahamas.
Similar advice concerning terrorist attacks has also been issued for these paradise holiday destinations.