The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

You’re throwing a football around in the yard with your neighbors. While stretching out as far as you can to catch the pass, you slam your head hard against a pole going for the ball. Seeing stars and feeling confused, you take a seat. Wouldn’t it be nice if a test could say whether you have a brain injury?


Brain injury can happen from a fall, while in combat, or during training exercises. Thanks in part to research funded by the Dept. of Defense and the U.S. Army, Banyan Biomarkers has created the first-ever brain trauma blood test. On Feb. 14, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration cleared marketing of the Banyan Biomarkers’ Brain Trauma Indicator, or BTI™.

Also read: Major advances occurring in traumatic brain injury care for veterans

The BTI can identify two brain-specific protein markers, called UCH-L1 (Ubiquitin Carboxy-terminal Hydrolase-L1) and GFAP (Glial Fibrilliary Acidic Protein). These proteins rapidly appear in the blood and are elevated 12 hours following an incident where a head injury occurs and can signify if there is bleeding in the brain. The two protein markers won’t be elevated if your brain is uninjured or if you have a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), otherwise known as a concussion.

“When these proteins are elevated, there may be blood in the brain,” said Kathy Helmick, acting director of the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center (DVBIC). “A hematoma, or blood in the brain, may indicate a more serious brain injury has occurred, which could require rapid evacuation for neurosurgery to remove a clot in the brain.”

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

The first thing a doctor tries to rule out with suspected brain injury is the potential for serious complications, like losing consciousness, going into a coma, or death. According to the research results and FDA clearance, the blood test can help medical professionals determine the need for computed tomography (CT) scans in patients suspected of having a concussion. It also can help prevent unnecessary radiation exposure for patients.

Related: Here’s how this Marine learned to cope with traumatic brain injury

Prior to discovering these biological protein markers, medical professionals had to rely on symptom reporting and other more subjective means to evaluate patients with few signals of more serious head injury.

“This technology helps us identify red flags after you suspect a head injury so that you can get the person to definitive care,” Helmick explained. “Most times, the blood test will be negative and the medical provider will continue with a concussion evaluation.”

Lt. Col. Kara Schmid said U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command will “begin limited user testing with the device in the first quarter of fiscal year 2019.” Schmid is a project manager for the Neurotrauma and Psychological Health Project Management Office at the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity. “Improvements could make the device more supportable by the military health system.”

The Department of Defense has been seeking a method for diagnosing and evaluating TBI in service members for over a decade. According to DVBIC, over 375,000 service members have been diagnosed with TBI since 2000. Approximately 82 percent of those TBI cases are classified as a concussion.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
More than 294,000 military service members have suffered from traumatic brain injury. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Hubenthal)

According to Kelley Brix, MD – who is a branch chief for interagency research and development at the Defense Health Agency – the need for diagnosing milder forms of brain injury sparked research questions that were funded as part of a greater TBI research portfolio.

“The research question became centered on if the brain releases anything detectable into the blood stream when there is damage,” said Brix. “The answer is yes. This is a big project with a successful outcome. But, it’s only part of our large portfolio looking at improved ways to diagnose and treat TBI.”

Helmick says knowing whether blood, swelling, or bruising on the brain has taken place helps with understanding the severity of the TBI.

More: Helmets just got new technology to protect your brains

“These two proteins give us a window of insight into what is going on in the brain,” said Helmick. “We have lacked objective devices and data in TBI, especially with concussion. The reason biological markers are so important is because they are accurate, sensitive, and objective.”

Making the machine required to run the blood test smaller and more portable is a work in progress, as currently it’s intended for use in a laboratory. Logistical constraints of the BTI device make deployment to the force a challenge.

“There is active work going on to reduce the 3-4 hour timeframe for getting test results, which could make it even more usable for austere environments,” Helmick said. “This blood test is an example of a significant public-private success and a huge advancement in the field of TBI.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Check out these great camo patterns from around the world

Militaries around the world use camouflage to evade detection by the enemy in all kinds of environments, from jungle and desert to city streets.

Avoiding detection is often a matter of life and death, and the patterns and colors are dictated by the environment where troops expect to operate.

Some work better than others, but all patterns are designed to help troops blend in with their surroundings.


The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

British Soldiers use a compound as shelter during an operation in Afghanistan.

(Photo by Cpl. Daniel Wiepen)

1. Desert camouflage

Desert camouflage has gone through a host of updates since the war in Iraq began, in an effort to make troops harder to spot in sandy and dusty environments there.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert B. Neller speaks to Marines during a town hall in Shorab, Afghanistan, June 28, 2018.

(Photo by Sgt. Olivia G. Ortiz)

2. US Marines wear a digital pattern with small pixels.

MARPAT, as the camo pattern is known, is widely viewed as one of the best concealment patterns because of the small, digitized pixels.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

US and Romanian soldiers discuss an operation during a multinational exercise in Poland in June 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Hubert Delany)

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

A Russian soldier participates in an exercise in February 2018 in Belarus.

(Russian Ministry of Defense)

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

Dutch troops pictured during NATO exercise Trident Juncture.

(Photo by Hille Hillinga)

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

Belgian and German soldiers conduct weapons proficiency training in Norway during Exercise Trident Juncture.

(Allied Joint Force Command Naples)

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

Sailors from the HMAS Warramunga pictured during an interception of a suspect vessel in the Arabian Sea, where they seized approximately 100kg, or 220 pounds, of heroin.

(LSIS Tom Gibson Royal Australian Navy)

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

Sailors attached to the USS Blue Ridge fire M16 rifles during qualification training at Camp Fuji.

(Photo by Mass Communications Specialist Seaman Ethan Carter)

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

Army students in a cold weather operations course prepare for training in Wisconsin.

(Photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

Army students in cold weather operations course prepare for training in Wisconsin.

(Photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

A camouflaged Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle sits under a tree in Poland.

(Photo by Spc. CaShaunta Williams)

11. Militaries have creative ways of concealing vehicles, like this infantry carrier.

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

Articles

Mattis taps former Army colonel for defense position

One of the more important national security jobs in Washington, D.C. — Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for South and Southeast Asia — will be filled by a former Army officer with extensive foreign affairs and counterinsurgency experience, reports Breaking Defense.


Retired Col. Joe Felter, who now works at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, “led the International Security and Assistance Force, Counterinsurgency Advisory and Assistance Team, in Afghanistan, reporting directly to Generals Stanley McChrystal and and David Petraeus and advising them on counterinsurgency strategy,” his bio says.

According to Breaking Defense, he also performed counterterrorism work in the Philippines, experience that may be crucial in coping with the unpredictable populist, Rodrigo Duterte.

Mattis reportedly knows him well, so he’ll be able to reach out to him should it become necessary and has that extra credibility going in.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
U.S. Marine military police conduct immediate action drills alongside Philippine Marines at Colonel Ernesto Ravina Air Base, Philippines, Oct. 7, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Tiffany Edwards)

Felter’s nomination would mark the addition of another American soldier whose primary experiences are in counterterrorism, which, while sometimes global in reach, is largely confined to certain regions and rarely requires knowledge or experience of great power politics.

This new job does.

Felter’s new job copes with an immense swath of geography and enormous challenges:

South and Southeast Asia (SSEA): India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Diego Garcia, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Island nations.

He’s familiar with quite a few of the region’s hottest spots, having “conducted foreign internal defense and security assistance missions across East and Southeast Asia,” the Hoover bio says.

The Chinese will be watching Felter closely as he will be the lead in the Pentagon on India, Australia, Vietnam, and a host of other countries warily watching the rising Pacific power.

Articles

Beijing lambastes US warship patrol in South China Sea as tensions rise over waterway, North Korea

Beijing issued a scathing rebuke on July 3 of a US warship’s patrol a day earlier near a contested island occupied by Chinese troops in the South China Sea — the latest irritant in the two powers’ increasingly fraught relationship.


The patrol, the second known “freedom of navigation” operation under the administration of US President Donald Trump, came as the White House appeared to grow ever more frustrated with China over its moves in the waterway and lack of progress on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Sunday’s operation, which involved the Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture-based USS Stethem guided-missile destroyer, was conducted within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of Triton Island in the Paracel archipelago, a US defense official confirmed to The Japan Times.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
USS Stethem. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian A. Stone

China’s Defense Ministry lambasted the move in a statement, issuing what appeared to one of the strongest condemnations yet of the US operation which Washington says is aimed at affirming its right to passage.

The US “actions seriously damaged the strategic mutual trust between the two sides” and undermined the “political atmosphere” surrounding the development of Sino-US military ties, the statement said. The Chinese military, it added, would take bolstered measures in the waters, including “an increase in the intensity of air and sea patrols.”

The tiny islet is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam, and is not one of the seven fortified man-made islands located in the South China Sea’s Spratly chain, which is further south.

Late July 2, China’s Foreign Ministry said that it had dispatched military ships and fighter jets in response to warn off the Stethem, which it said had “trespassed” in “the country’s territorial waters.”

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

“Under the pretext of ‘freedom of navigation,’ the US side once again sent a military vessel into China’s territorial waters off the Xisha Islands without China’s approval,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in a statement using the Chinese name for the Paracel Islands.

The US, he said, “has violated the Chinese law and relevant international law, infringed upon China’s sovereignty, disrupted peace, security, and order of the relevant waters, and put in jeopardy the facilities and personnel on the Chinese islands.”

Lu said the US “deliberately stirs up troubles in the South China Sea” and “is running in the opposite direction from countries in the region who aspire for stability, cooperation, and development,” adding that the patrol “constitutes a serious political and military provocation.

FONOPs represent “a challenge to excessive maritime claims,” according to the US Defense Department. The significance of the distance of 12 nautical miles derives from the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which generally grants coastal states jurisdiction over seas within 12 nautical miles of land within their territory.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Paracel Islands, as seen from above. Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The patrol was believed to be the second near Triton Island, after a similar FONOP under the administration of President Barack Obama in January 2016. The July 2 operation was first reported by Fox News.

Ahead of the patrol, there has been growing speculation that the White House is frustrated not only with Beijing’s moves in the strategic waterway, but also its failure to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

This frustration was seen in a tweet sent by Trump late last month, when he wrote: “While I greatly appreciate the efforts of President Xi  China to help with North Korea, it has not worked out. At least I know China tried!”

And on June 30, in a step that the White House said was not aimed at Beijing, the Trump administration unveiled new sanctions against a Chinese bank linked to North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. The sanctions came just a day after the US announced a new $1.4 billion arms sale to Taiwan.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by George Skidmore)

Earlier last week, the US State Department also listed China among the worst human-trafficking offenders in an annual report.

According to Mira Rapp-Hooper, an Asia expert at the Center for a New American Security think-tank in Washington, the July 2 FONOP was “not particularly provocative,” and was “basically a repeat of an earlier one.

“But given that the administration also announced North Korean sanctions and a Taiwan arms package, it’s hard to see the timing as pure coincidence,” Rapp-Hooper said. “This may not be an effort to pressure China to specific ends, rather a ‘snap back’ in Trump administration foreign policy, which was solicitous of Beijing for several months as it sought help on North Korea.”

“The White House now understands that Beijing will not solve this problem for it,” she added.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Photo from The Moscow Kremlin

Zack Cooper, an Asia scholar with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, noted the timing between previous FONOPs and the rapid-clip announcements of recent US actions against China.

“These four actions have come in just five days,” he said, adding that the last FONOP was just under 40 days ago, while the one before that took place more than 215 days earlier.

However, Lt. Cmdr. Matt Knight, a spokesman for the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet, said in a statement that “FONOPs are not about any one country, nor are they about making political statements.”

“US forces operate in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis,” Knight said. “All operations are conducted in accordance with international law and demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Photo from US Navy

“That is true in the South China Sea as in other places around the globe,” he added.

China has continued to militarize its outposts there — despite a pledge to the contrary — as it seeks to reinforce effective control of much of the waterway, through which $5 trillion in trade passes each year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Brunei also have overlapping claims.

Now, with fewer constraints on a tougher approach to China across the board, experts say Trump could butt heads with Beijing over a number of issues.

“What we know for sure is that the Trump administration is now more comfortable with higher levels of friction with China than in previous months,” said Ely Ratner, a former deputy national security adviser to US Vice President Joe Biden and current senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

MARSOC gets more lethal with this new sniper rifle

The Marine Corps is adopting a new precision sniper rifle to increase the lethality and combat effectiveness of scout snipers on the battlefield.

The Mk13 Mod 7 Sniper Rifle is a bolt-action rifle that offers an increased range of fire and accuracy when compared to current and legacy systems. It includes a long-action receiver, stainless steel barrel, and an extended rail interface system for a mounted scope and night vision optic.


The Mk13 is scheduled for fielding in late 2018 and throughout 2019. Units receiving the Mk13 include infantry and reconnaissance battalions and scout sniper schoolhouses. This weapon is already the primary sniper rifle used by Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.

Fielding the Mk13 ensures the Corps has commonality in its equipment set and Marine scout snipers have the same level of capability as North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, said Master Sgt. Shawn Hughes from III MEF.

“When the Mk13 Mod 7 is fielded, it will be the primary sniper rifle in the Marine Corps,” said Lt. Col. Paul Gillikin, Infantry Weapons team lead at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The M40A6 will remain in the schoolhouses and operating forces as an alternate sniper rifle primarily used for training. The M110 and M107 will also remain as additional weapons within the scout sniper equipment set.”

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
The M110 Semi-Automatic Sniper System

The Marine Corps identified a materiel capability gap in the maximum effective ranges of its current sniper rifles. After a comparative assessment was conducted, it was clear that the Mk13 dramatically improved scout sniper capabilities in terms of range and terminal effects.

The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines Scout Sniper Platoon used the weapon for over a year (including during a deployment) in support of the 2025 Sea Dragon Exercise. Feedback from MCSC’s assessment, MARSOC’s operational use, and 3/5’s testing of the weapon system led to its procurement of the Mk13 for the Corps.

The Mk13 increases scout snipers’ range by roughly 300 meters and will use the .300 Winchester Magnum caliber round, a heavier grain projectile with faster muzzle velocity — characteristics that align Marine sniper capability with the U.S. Army and Special Operations Command.

“The .300 Winchester Magnum round will perform better than the current 7.62 NATO ammo in flight, increasing the Marine Sniper’s first round probability of hit,” said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Tony Palzkill, Battalion Gunner for Infantry Training Battalion. “This upgrade is an incredible win and will allow snipers to engage targets at greater distances.”

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
.300 Winchester Magnum (center) flanked by its parent cartridges.

The Mk13 will also be fielded with an enhanced day optic that provides greater magnification range and an improved reticle.

“This sniper rifle will allow Marines to reengage targets faster with precise long-range fire while staying concealed at all times,” said Sgt. Randy Robles, Quantico Scout Sniper School instructor and MCSC liaison.

“The new day optic allows for positive identification of enemies at greater distances, and it has a grid-style reticle that allows for rapid reengagement without having to dial adjustments or ‘hold’ without a reference point,” he said. “With this type of weapon in the fleet, we will increase our lethality and be able to conceal our location because we are creating a buffer between us and the enemy.”

MCSC completed New Equipment Training for the Mk13 with a cross section of Marines from active-duty, Reserve and training units in early April 2018.

“The snipers seemed to really appreciate the new capabilities that come with this rifle and optic,” said project officer Capt. Frank Coppola. “After the first day on the range, they were sold.”

In a time where technology, ammunition and small arms weapon systems are advancing at an increasingly rapid rate, it is extremely important to ensure the Marine Corps is at the forefront of procuring and fielding new and improved weapon systems to the operating forces, said Gillikin.

“Doing this enables the Corps to maintain the advantage over its enemies on the battlefield, as well as to secure its trusted position as the rapid crisis response force for the United States,” he said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Marine Corps. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatens to arm secret submarine with nuclear ‘doomsday device’

Russia will deploy what’s been described as the deadliest nuclear weapon ever aboard mysterious submarines by 2020, Russian state media said, citing a Russian defense-industry source.

The “Poseidon” nuclear-powered torpedo — reputed to carry a 100 megaton nuclear warhead and meant to erupt underwater for maximum effect — will reportedly deploy aboard the Project 09852 sub Belgorod, which is a converted nuclear-powered cruise-missile sub expected to go on combat duty in 2020.


The Russian state news agency TASS said the new Belgorod subs could carry six of the Poseidon nuclear torpedoes, which are sometimes described as drones.

But Russia will reportedly not operate the mysterious submarine alongside its regular armed forces or other nuclear-powered subs. The Main Directorate of Deep-Sea Research will run the ship, according to H.I. Sutton, who said the Belgorod would conduct covert missions with a smaller submarine in tow.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

Silhouette of soviet Oscar-II class guided-missile submarine, or Project 949A, “Antey.”

“Russia operates a small number of very small, nuclear-powered submarines that are capable of diving in excess of several thousand meters,” Andrew Metrick, a research associate in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in 2016.

“It’s probably the most shadowy part of the Russian undersea apparatus,” he added.

The new Belgorod submarine is “not operated by their navy. It’s operated by a separate branch of their ministry of defense,” Metrick said.

In addition to six Poseidon torpedoes that experts say could wipe out almost all life on earth, Metrick and Sutton speculated the Belgorod could carry a smaller sub that could dive deeper to cut undersea cables and dramatically disrupt international communications and national economies.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

A briefing slide of the alleged Status-6 nuclear torpedo seen on Russian television in 2015.

Unstoppable 3rd-strike vengeance weapon

Russian President Vladimir Putin initially announced the Poseidon in a March 1, 2018, speech, in which he said US defenses could not stop it. Of course, the US has no defenses against any full-scale Russian nuclear attack, but in the case of undersea defenses, the US appears not to have even explored this avenue.

In that speech, Putin confirmed the existence of the Poseidon, which has horrified experts since images of it first leaked in 2015.

The US and other countries field nuclear-powered submarines capable of firing nuclear missiles, but the Poseidon represents a unique danger to life on earth. Most nuclear weapons seek to minimize radioactive fallout and simply destroy military targets. Russia took the opposite approach with the Poseidon.

The weapon is said to use a warhead, perhaps the strongest ever, designed to come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea, and render them uninhabitable for decades.

In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia’s Poseidon could end a continent.

Russia has also repeatedly threatened the US and Europe with the weapon, which it said it could park off a coast and detonate at a time of its choosing.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

(Screenshot/YouTube via Russian Defense Ministry)

Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, previously told Business Insider that rather than a first- or second-strike weapon, he sees Russia’s new torpedo as a “third-strike vengeance weapon” designed to shatter NATO.

While a nuclear exchange between the US and Russia would cause incredible death and destruction, and plunge much of the world into the dark ages, a stealthy submarine designed to launch six “doomsday” devices would be the most deadly weapon in human history and pose a direct threat to life on earth.

The inclusion of a mini-sub, which experts speculate could destroy vital undersea cables and is operated by a shadowy branch of Russia’s military, suggests another clandestine purpose for this weapon.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA targets Saturn’s moon with new drone missions

NASA has selected two finalist concepts for a robotic mission planned to launch in the mid-2020s: a comet sample return mission and a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore potential landing sites on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.


The agency announced the concepts Dec. 27, following an extensive and competitive peer review process. The concepts were chosen from 12 proposals submitted in April under a New Frontiers program announcement of opportunity.

“This is a giant leap forward in developing our next bold mission of science discovery,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. “These are tantalizing investigations that seek to answer some of the biggest questions in our solar system today.”

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return, or CAESAR. (Image from NASA)

The finalists are:

Comet Astrobiology Exploration Sample Return (CAESAR)

The CAESAR mission seeks to return a sample from 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet that was successfully explored by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta spacecraft, to determine its origin and history. Led by Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, CAESAR would be managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly is a drone-like rotorcraft that would explore the prebiotic chemistry and habitability of dozens of sites on Saturn’s moon Titan, an ocean world in our solar system. Elizabeth Turtle from the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Maryland, is the lead investigator, with APL providing project management.

The CAESAR and Dragonfly missions will receive funding through the end of 2018 to further develop and mature their concepts. NASA plans to select one of these investigations in the spring of 2019 to continue on to subsequent mission phases.

The selected mission will be the fourth in NASA’s New Frontiers portfolio, a series of principal investigator-led planetary science investigations that fall under a development cost cap of approximately $850 million. Its predecessors are the New Horizons mission to Pluto and a Kuiper Belt object known as 2014 MU69, the Juno mission to Jupiter, and OSIRIS-REx, which will rendezvous with and return a sample of the asteroid Bennu.

NASA also announced the selection of two mission concepts that will receive technology development funds to prepare them for future mission competitions.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
The drone-like rotorcraft, Dragonfly. (Image from NASA)

The concepts selected for technology development are:

Enceladus Life Signatures and Habitability (ELSAH)

The ELSAH mission concept will receive funds to develop cost-effective techniques that limit spacecraft contamination and thereby enable life detection measurements on cost-capped missions. The principal investigator is Chris McKay of NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, and the managing NASA center is Goddard.

Venus In situ Composition Investigations (VICI)

Led by Lori Glaze at Goddard, the VICI mission concept will further develop the Venus Element and Mineralogy Camera to operate under the harsh conditions on Venus. The instrument uses lasers on a lander to measure the mineralogy and elemental composition of rocks on the surface of Venus.

Also Read: NASA has a SWAT team, and they’re good

The call for concepts was limited to six mission themes: comet surface sample return, lunar south pole-Aitken Basin sample return, ocean worlds (Titan and/or Enceladus), Saturn probe, Trojan asteroid tour and rendezvous, and Venus in situ explorer.

New Frontiers Program investigations address NASA’s planetary science objectives as described in the 2014 NASA Strategic Plan and the 2014 NASA Science Plan. The program is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, for the agency’s Planetary Science Division in Washington.

Articles

This single Afghan battle resulted in 10 Silver Stars and an Air Force Cross

On April 6, 2008, two Special Forces operational detachments and more than 100 Afghan commandos began an air assault into a mountain fortress above the Shok Valley.


Six and a half hours later, two members of the assault were killed and nine seriously wounded, over 100 enemy fighters were dead or captured, and eleven men had earned some of the nation’s highest awards for valor. This is what happened.

Entering Shok Valley

The assault was to capture leaders in Hezeb Islami al Gulbadin, a regional insurgent group in Afghanistan. The targets were holed up in a mountain top village surrounded by farm terraces and tall cliffs, providing tough ground for an assaulting force to cover. The village itself was made of strong, multistory buildings that would provide defenders cover while allowing them to fire out.

The American and Afghan force flew to the valley in helicopters. Their initial plan called for a quick insertion close to the village so they could assault while they still had the element of surprise. Their first landing zone was no good though, and so they were dropped into a nearby river and forced to climb up from there. The delay allowed insurgent forces to set up an ambush from the high ground.

Combat breaks out

After the helicopters departed, enemy fighters directed automatic weapon and rocket fire on the American and Afghan National Army soldiers. Their interpreter was killed almost immediately and the communications sergeant, Staff Sgt. Dillon Behr, received a life-threatening wound to his leg. He continued fighting, attempting to suppress some of the incoming fire.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin

Meanwhile, the assault team had already reached the village, and so found themselves cut off when the forces behind them began taking fire. Despite the precarious position he and the lead Afghan commandos were in, Sgt. David Sanders began relaying the sources of incoming fire to the Air Force joint tactical air controller on the mission.

The mission commander, Capt. Kyle Walton, told an Army journalist later that year about the initial bombings on the target. They were all danger close, meaning friendly forces were within range of the bombs’ blast.

“I was standing next to the combat controller, and when we got to a place where we could talk, he called in close air support, and the F-15s rolled in immediately. I knew my guys were up there, and I know that when you call in danger close air, you are probably going to get injured or killed. I called back to Sanders and asked if he was too close. He said, ‘Bring it anyway.’ Bombs started exploding everywhere. When I called to see if he was still alive, all I could hear him saying was, ‘Hit them again.’ ”

The Air Force JTAC, Airman Zachary Rhyner, would go on to call over 70 danger close missions that day, using eight Air Force planes and four Army attack helicopters to achieve effects on the target.

Three-story explosion and sniper warfare

As the battle continued to rage, both sides were using controlled, focused fire to wound and kill enemies. But a massive explosion after an American bomb hit a three-story building in the village brought on a brief lull in the fighting.

“Good guy or bad guy, you’re going to stop when you see that,” Staff Sgt. Luis Morales, a Special Forces intelligence sergeant, told the Army. “It reminded me of the videos from 9/11 — everything starts flushing at you, debris starts falling — and everything gets darker.”

The Americans and Afghan commandos used this time to consolidate some of their forces.

Enemy fighters began closing on the command node, eventually drawing to within 40 feet of it. Walton had the tip of his weapon shot off and was struck twice in the helmet by enemy rounds.

Both before and after the explosion, snipers on each side were playing a key role. For the Americans, one of their top assets was Staff Sgt. Seth E. Howard, a Special Forces weapons sergeant.

Near the command node, Howard was well-positioned to see the enemy fighters draw close to Walton and the JTAC. To prevent them being killed or captured, Walton stepped away from his position and moved into the open to engage the advancing fighters. He halted their advance, allowing Rhyner to continue calling in bombs.

Rhyner’s bombs would also be instrumental in protecting the command node. He sometimes had to order bombs within 100 meters of his and Walton’s position.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Airman Zachary Rhyner in an undated Air Force photo from another operation.

Planning to leave

American forces and Afghan commandos had more problems as the day wore on. The weather at the outset of the mission had been tricky, but the team was getting reports that a dust storm was getting worse and would stop air support before nightfall. That would leave them without bombs, helicopters, or an exit strategy. Meanwhile, surveillance platforms showed another 200 enemy fighters moving to the battlefield.

Walton had requested medical evacuation multiple times, but enemy fire made it impossible. And with six seriously wounded men, a closing window to exit the battlefield, and the serious danger of being overrun, Walton began looking at pulling the team out. But there was a problem. The initial plans had called for the team to leave by descending back down the terraces, a route now closed due to intense enemy fire.

Sanders had managed to break out of his besieged position in the village when another green beret forced a route open. Now, Walton asked him to recon a route down the sheer cliffs to the north of the village.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Betty R. Chevalier

Sanders told the commander that the route was bad and it was possible that some climbers might break their backs or necks attempting it, but they’d probably live. The situation was so dire, Walton approved it as an exit strategy.

Leaving Shok Valley under heavy fire

Team Sergeant Master Sgt. Scott Ford led the organization at the top of the cliffs. He had less wounded team members carry the more seriously wounded down. One team member made the climb while carrying his leg that had been amputated by a sniper round early in the battle. Others were nursing wounds sustained from both insurgent fire and the effects of all the “danger close” bomb drops.

Ford was defending the top of the cliff other soldiers were climbing down when he was struck in the chest plate by a sniper round. He jumped up and continued fighting, but he was struck again. This time, his left arm was nearly amputated. Ford then finally began his own climb down the mountain, continuing to lead his men as he did so.

Howard, the sniper from above, stayed until all the other Americans and the Afghan commandos had left the mountain. He defended the top of the cliffs with his last magazine before pulling out.

One Afghan commando and an interpreter died, but all of the Americans survived the battle. The Army estimated the insurgents suffered over 150 dead and an untold number of wounded, according to an Army article. Eight insurgents were captured.

After the battle

Many of the wounded members of the team returned to service, including Ford and Sgt. 1st Class John Walding, the team member who lost his leg early on and carried it down the cliffs. Walding is attempting to return to his team, an ambition he describes near the end of this Army video about the battle. He later became the first amputee to graduate the Special Forces Sniper Course.

In a ceremony on Dec. 12, 2008, 10 members of the team were awarded Silver Stars. Rhyner was awarded the Air Force Cross during a separate ceremony in 2009.

NOW: Medal of Honor: Meet the 16 heroes of Iraq and Afghanistan who received the nation’s highest honor

OR: The definitive guide to US special ops

MIGHTY CULTURE

Congressman calls on Marines to relax haircut rules during pandemic

When Marine Corps family members in Maryland reached out to their congressman with concerns about crowded base barber shops, Rep. Jamie Raskin said that — of all the challenges the country faces during the coronavirus pandemic — this was an easy one to solve.

“The people who joined the Marines are protecting us and we have an obligation to protect them,” Raskin, a Maryland Democrat, told Military.com. “[Grooming standards] can be relaxed in a way that does not endanger our national security.”


Raskin, who wrote a letter to Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger on Tuesday, is the latest to question the service’s adherence to strict grooming standards during the global pandemic. A video shared on social media that showed Marines without masks lined up to get their hair cut prompted Defense Secretary Mark Esper to ask, “What don’t you guys understand?”

In his letter, Raskin urged Berger to relax Marine Corps grooming standards temporarily “to protect both Marines and the barbers and hairdressers who serve them.”

Berger has received the letter but wishes to keep private his communication with lawmakers, Maj. Eric Flanagan, the commandant’s spokesman, said.

The commandant has left decisions about relaxing standards to stem the spread of coronavirus up to commanders, but Raskin said the massive health crisis the pandemic presents calls for top-down guidance.

“This calls for precisely the kind of institutional leadership and cohesion that the Marines are famous for,” he said. “The commandant can act here to prevent high-risk situations from materializing.”

I’m asking the @USMC Commandant to temporarily relax grooming standards in the Marine Corps during the COVID19 pandemic to avoid putting Marines base barbers at unnecessary risk of infection. Our fighting forces protect us we must protect them (with no risk to nat. security).pic.twitter.com/meuZG9ToOv

twitter.com

Having Marines wait in lines for haircuts as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in the military ranks is unnecessary, Raskin said. The ongoing public health struggle against coronavirus, he said, requires leaders to help reduce any unneeded close physical contact.

Each of the military services has issued its own guidance on how to enforce grooming standards during the pandemic. The Navy, the service hit hardest by the coronavirus crisis, was the first to give commanders the authority to relax male and female hair-length rules on March 18.

The Air Force also issued guidance last month to commanders about relaxing grooming standards. Soldiers have been told to follow the service’s hair regulations, but not to be overboard with extra cuts to keep it super short during the outbreak.

In his letter, Raskin stressed that it only takes one infected Marine or barber to spread COVID-19. That could lead to a chain reaction of COVID-19 cases in the ranks, he warned.

The congressman acknowledged that military leaders have a lot to consider when it comes to new policies during the unprecedented situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But if family members are worried about their Marines’ safety, public leaders have an obligation to consider their concerns, he said.

“I hope the commandant can strike the right balance,” Raskin said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US envoy doubts Taliban is really seeking peace

The U.S. special peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has questioned the Taliban’s determination to end the 17-year war, after the group’s representatives refused to meet with an Afghan government-backed negotiating team.

“We have to wait and see their forthcoming steps,” Khalilzad told Afghan news agency Ariana News on Dec. 20, 2018, according to a translation of the interview provided by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Khalilzad said that, while he was certain the Afghan government wanted to end the conflict, it was unclear whether the Taliban were “genuinely seeking peace.”


Khalilzad’s remarks came after his latest face-to-face meeting in December 2018 with the Taliban, which was held in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates and was also attended by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The U.A.E. hailed the talks as “positive for all parties concerned.”

And the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Khalid bin Salman, said that the meetings will produce “very positive results by the beginning of next year.”

But the Taliban would not meet with a 12-person Afghan delegation, Khalilzad said, describing the decision as “wrong.”

“If the Taliban are really seeking peace, they have to sit with the Afghan government ultimately to reach an agreement on the future political settlement in Afghanistan,” the former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan said.

The Taliban has refused direct talks with the Afghan government, which it says is an American puppet.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

Articles

Trump proposes budget cut from already-besieged Coast Guard

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget guidance is asking for $1.3 billion in funding cuts to the U.S. Coast Guard at a time when the service is doing more than ever, and is already severely under-resourced.


Trump’s budget would cancel a $500 million ship that is already in production, and would likely hit other areas of the Guard, which specializes in interdicting drugs, human trafficking, and keeping a close eye on what Russia is doing in the Arctic.

“Last year, we removed more cocaine than any other year in history — well over 200 metric tons — and by all accounts, it looks like this year we are on target to at least reach, if not exceed, last year’s total,” Adm. Paul Zukunft, the commandant of the Coast Guard, told Business Insider in a phone interview, adding that even with its success and consistent operational tempo, the service is strained.

“With all the success we had last year, there were over 500 events that we had great information on, but we just did not have enough planes, enough ships, to target all 500-plus events,” Zukunft said. “We are really besieged down there,” he added, referencing Coast Guard operations off the coast of Colombia.

Also read: The state of Coast Guard icebreakers

In addition to its operations targeting drug smugglers and human traffickers, the Coast Guard has been in and out of the Arctic region with its ice-breaking ships, especially as Russia attempts to claim parts of the region, and its rich resources, for itself.

The Arctic, which has roughly 13% of the world’s oil and about one-third of its natural gas, could potentially turn into a South China Sea-like situation. That’s because, like China has done with its creation of artificial islands in that region to gain control of shipping lanes, Russia and its fleet of 40 icebreakers has exerted itself in the Arctic to become the dominant player.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
The Polar Start icebreak. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

“We’re starting to see militarization of some of their outposts,” Zukunft said.

The Coast Guard has only two icebreakers, one medium and one heavy — the latter being nearly 40 years-old.

“We’re challenged in our ability to exert leadership when, you’re the world’s most prosperous nation, yet we can only seem to afford two icebreakers,” Zukunft said. He said that ideally, the service would need a fleet of 3 heavy and 3 medium icebreakers to remain competitive.

Cuts to the budget are likely to strain other parts of the Guard, such as its coastal maritime security teams, which help to the protect the president when he’s near the shore in Mar-a-Lago, and the service’s inland fleet that maintains navigational aides and markers on waterways and in ports.

“That’s been neglected probably for a half-century,” he said of infrastructure which sees roughly $4.5 trillion in commerce pass through.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Cory Langston fights the boat fire from the Coast Guard 29-foot response boat in Hopkins Point Marina in Jonesport, Maine on Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016. The was no one aboard at the time of the fire. (Photo by U.S. Coast Guard/Petty Officer 3rd Class Stephanie Horvat)

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) said in a letter to President Trump that such cuts “egregiously” conflict with his stated goals to strengthen national security.

“These proposed cuts … will guarantee negative consequences,” Hunter wrote, adding that it would “create exposures that will most certainly be exploited by transnational criminal networks and other dangerous actors.”

The Coast Guard occupies a unique role as a military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. President Trump is seeking to up the Pentagon’s budget by $54 billion by taking money from non-defense areas, such as the State Department.

Since the budget has not been finalized, a spokesman for the Coast Guard declined to comment on the matter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors, like cost, medical science, and politics, still stand in the way.


Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on March 21, 2018, that he made recommendations to White House budget officials in 2017 on whether to add up to four more conditions — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors, and hypertension (high blood pressure) — to the VA list of 14 illnesses presumed caused by exposure to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

Also read: VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

“I have transmitted my recommendations to the [White House’s] Office of Management and Budget. I did that by Nov. 1, 2017, Shulkin said. “And we are in the process right now of going through this data. In fact, we met with [OMB officials] on March 26, 2018. They asked for some additional data to be able to work through the process and be able to get financial estimates for this. So, we are committed to working with OMB to get this resolved in the very near future.”

Shulkin didn’t say which of the four conditions, if any, he wants added to the presumptive list, if and when cleared by the White House.

At the same hearing, the VA chief was asked his position on Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War who also suffer from illnesses on the VA presumptive list but aren’t eligible to use it to facilitate claims for care and compensation.

They “have waited too long for this,” Shulkin agreed, but then suggested the solution for these veterans is blocked by medical evidence or swings on the will of the Congress.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll.

“I would like to try to find a way where we can resolve that issue for them, rather than make them continue to wait,” Shulkin said. “I do not believe there will be scientific data [to] give us a clear answer like we do have on the Agent Orange presumptive” list for veterans who had served in-country. “For the Blue Water Navy… epidemiologic studies just aren’t available from everything I can see. So, we’re going to have to sit down and do what we think is right for these veterans.”

Vietnam veterans who served even a day in-country who have illnesses on the presumptive list can qualify for VA medical care and disability compensation without having to show other evidence that their ailments are service-connected.

Shulkin said VA “recently” received the last report of the National Academy of Medicine, which found a stronger scientific association than earlier studies between certain ailments and herbicide exposure. In fact, however, the VA has had the report, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, for two years.

More: 5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It was written by a committee of medical experts that reviewed medical and scientific literature on select ailments and herbicide exposure published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014. Released in March 2016, the report found evidence to support raising the strength of association between herbicide exposure and bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. The report upgrades the link from “inadequate or insufficient” evidence to “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association.

In years past, VA decided that for some ailments, such as Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease, “limited or suggestive evidence” was enough to add these illnesses to the Agent Orange presumptive list. For others, including hypertension, a more common disease of aging, VA deemed it wasn’t enough.

This last NAM report, however, looked again at cardiovascular conditions and herbicide exposure. It didn’t upgrade the link to heart ailments but it did affirm limited or suggestive evidence that hypertension is linked to herbicide exposure.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA
U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

It also studied whether Parkinson’s-like symptoms should fall into the same limited or suggestive category as Parkinson’s disease itself. The 2016 report found “no rational basis” to continue to exclude Parkinson-like symptoms from the same risk category. Parkinson’s disease itself was added to presumptive list in 2010.

VA secretaries under both the Obama and Trump administration reacted more slowly on the last NAM perhaps, by law, they could. Congress in 2015 let a portion of the Agent Orange law expire, language that required the VA Secretary to decide on new presumptive conditions within 180 days of accepting a NAM report.

The impact was immediate. Though a senior VA official tasked with reviewing this last NAM report said then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald would make his decisions within three months, it didn’t happen. McDonald left it to his successor. Shulkin waited more months and, in July 2017, vowed to decide by Nov. 1, 2017 OMB blocked an announcement, however, presumably over projected costs.

Related: A Vietnam veteran is returning to thank the doctors who saved his life

Cost has been a factor, too, in Congress not passing legislation to extend VA benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans diagnosed with illnesses on the presumptive list. Budget analysts a few years ago estimated a cost of $1.1 billion over 10 years.

Also, NAM did conduct a review of medical and scientific evidence regarding Blue Water Veterans’ possible exposure to herbicides and concluded in a May 2011 report that “there was not enough information… to determine whether Blue Water Navy personnel were or were not exposed to Agent Orange.”

Blue Water Veterans remain ineligible to use the Agent Orange presumptive list. A lone exception is granted for veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Vietnam veterans with this ailment may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in-country.

The first blood test for detecting brain injury is cleared by FDA

In every session of Congress, going back years, Blue Water Navy bills have been introduced. They would, if passed, “include as part of the Republic of Vietnam its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure [to] herbicide agents while in Vietnam.”

The current House version of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), introduced in January 2017 by Rep. David Valado (R-Ga.), has 327 co-sponsors. Yet prospects of passage remain dim. Valado reminded Shulkin at a mid-March 2018 hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that, six months ago, Shulkin said he was seeking more recommendations from “subject matter experts” on the issue and would be ready to update Congress in the coming months.

“Have you come to a decision on Blue Water Navy veterans?”

Also read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

“I am aligned with you that these veterans have waited too long,” Shulkin said, “and this is a responsibility that this country has. And, as our veterans get older, it’s unfair.…I believe it is imperative upon us to resolve this issue.

“I also believe,” Shulkin continued, “that there will not be strong scientific data to help resolve this,” in other words to justify benefit expansion. “This is going to be an obligation that we feel as a country, that these veterans shouldn’t be waiting any longer. And I am on the side of trying to find a way to resolve this for the Blue Water Navy veterans.”

Shulkin said his staff is “working hard to look at offsets” which means cuts to other parts of the VA budget to pay for Blue Water Navy benefits, or to find “other ways to be able to do that. And it is a high priority for us.”

Reminded by Valado that “with these types of cancers, time is of the essence,” Shulkin replied, “Absolutely.”

The Senate version of Blue Water legislation, S 422, was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), has 49 co-sponsors and, so far, equally dim prospects of passage.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information