A (NYSE: LMT) prototype laser weapon system proved that an advanced system of sensors, software, and specialized optics can deliver decisive lethality against unmanned aerial vehicle threats.
In tests conducted with the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command in August, the 30-kilowatt class ATHENA (Advanced Test High Energy Asset) system brought down five 10.8′ wingspan Outlaw unmanned aerial systems at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. ATHENA employed advanced beam control technology and an efficient fiber laser in this latest series of tests of the prototype system.
“The tests at White Sands against aerial targets validated our lethality models and replicated the results we’ve seen against static targets at our own test range,” said Keoki Jackson, ‘s Chief Technology Officer. “As we mature the technology behind laser weapon systems, we’re making the entire system more effective and moving closer to a laser weapon that will provide greater protection to our warfighters by taking on more sophisticated threats from a longer range.”
partnered with Army Space and Missile Defense Command on a cooperative research and development agreement to test ATHENA.
The system defeated airborne targets in flight by causing loss of control and structural failure. and the Army will conduct post mission reviews, and data collected will be used to further refine the system, improve model predictions and inform development of future laser systems.
ATHENA is a transportable, ground-based system that serves as a low-cost test bed for demonstrating technologies required for military use of laser weapon systems. funded ATHENA’s development with research and development investments. It uses the company’s 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) that provides great efficiency and lethality in a design that scales to higher power levels. ATHENA is powered by a compact Rolls-Royce turbo generator.
is positioning laser weapon systems for success on the battlefield because of their speed, flexibility, precision and low cost per engagement.
The video first appeared in December 2017, and shows Saudi forces single-handedly destroying Iran’s military and nuclear program in an all-out invasion involving an amphibious assault and paratroopers.
While the video certainly exaggerates on a lot of details and the power of the Saudi military, its release says a few things about Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s attempts to make Saudi Arabia into a more important player in the region.
“The video is a basic first effort at creating nationalist military propaganda to counter similar (slicker) Iranian versions we have seen,” Michael Knights, a Lafer fellow at The Washington Institute who specializes in the security affairs of Iran, Iraq, and the Persian Gulf, told Business Insider in an email.
Knights pointed to this weekend’s missile attacks launched by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, and the rather embarrassing failures of Saudi missile defenses filmed by witnesses.
“Saudi Arabia needs reassurance that their country can strike back if this gets out of control,” he said. “That was the point of the video: to demonstrate retaliatory capabilities.”
While the video predates the March 2018 attacks by almost three months, the Saudi military’s inferiority when it comes to facing off against the Iran threat is well known.
The video, however, shows Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, surrendering to Saudi soldiers. Iranian civilians are also seen waving Saudi flags and holding pictures of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman while cheering for their Saudi liberators in Tehran.
Saudi Arabian outlets reported that the video was “produced by young people from Saudi Arabia,” and an official from the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Washington said that the crown prince was not involved in the video.
But the six-minute video shows an advanced knowledge of Iranian and Saudi weaponry and looks strikingly similar to what a state-sanctioned propaganda video would look like. It notably received instant promotion by Saudi media, which is mostly owned by the royal court.
It even opens with a quote from the crown prince: “To reach the Qibla of the Muslims is a main target for the Iranian regime. We will not wait until the fight is in Saudi Arabia, we will bring the fight to Iran,” and labeled the Persian Gulf as the “Arabian Gulf.”
There are actually elements in the video that are understated, according to Knights, like Saudi Arabia’s fixed-wing strike capacity.
“If Saudi Arabia chose to engage in punitive strikes it could, at the risk of Iranian retaliation, destroy any surface infrastructure along Iran’s coast, including all oil and gas export facilities, ports, power stations and industrial ventures, as well as many further inland,” he said.
Knights did point out though that the Saudi medium-range ballistic missiles featured in the video are “not useful for much except carrying weapons of mass destruction,” which although Saudi Arabia currently lacks, may be pursued.
In late October, two inaugural events brought members of the military entrepreneurial community together in Dallas and the Bay Area. On Oct. 23-24, the Military Influencer Conference hosted hundreds of veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs and community leaders that are dedicated to supporting the military. Just a day later, on Oct. 25, Bunker Labs hosted their inaugural Bay Area Muster as part of their Muster Across America Tour.
I had the opportunity to attend the stand-out session of each event, the Shark Tank Survivors Panel. The panels consisted of veterans and military spouses who not only lived to tell the tale of surviving ABC’s Shark Tank, but also walked away with a partnership agreement with business legend, Mark Cuban.
Members of the Shark Tank Survivor Panel at the Military Influencer Conference Oct. 23 included veterans Eli Crane, Founder of Bottle Breacher, Matthew “Griff” Griffin, Founder of Combat Flip Flops, and military spouses Cameron Cruse and Lisa Bradley, Co-Founders of R. Riveter. Glenn Banton, CEO of Operation Supply Drop, moderated the panel. Two days later, at the Bay Area Muster hosted by Bunker Labs on Oct. 25, I saw Eli and Griff at it again along with and an additional veteran entrepreneur, Kim Jung, CEO of Rumi Spice. Tristan Flannery, co-founder of Zero Hour Media, moderated the Bay Area panel.
Post Shark Tank Success
All four of these start-ups enjoyed wild success after they struck deals on their episodes of ABC’s Shark Tank. However, their AARs of Shark Tank ran deeper than just telling the audience about the deals they landed or how intimidating Mark Cuban can be when he peppers you with questions.
Instead, the Shark Tank Survivors shared their intimate stories with the audience. They shared how they bootstrapped their companies from the ground up in their garages and basements. They explained the realities of entrepreneur life and described their after-show successes. While panel members shared their successes with the audience, they also shared failures and what they learned along the way. Matt “Griff” Griffin, CEO of Combat Flip Flops, revealed supply chain issues he had even after the show.
“Being a part of the panel enables several veteran-owned businesses to share those lessons in the hopes of propelling other veteran entrepreneurs to success,” he said. He expanded, “Shark Tank pushes the limits of any business–marketing, sales, and operations. Through that experience, we learned many lessons, enabling us to be more effective leaders.”
The Warrior Class has what it Takes to Succeed
The back-to-back Shark Tank panels demonstrated how the climate of the military entrepreneurial community is changing. Veterans and military spouses experience adversity, each in their own way. However, when they come out on the other end, they’ve grown, they’ve learned, and they’re poised to do big things. These panels were a perfect example of veteran entrepreneurs showing future entrepreneurs of the military community that they are capable of going after their dreams.
Eli Crane, CEO of Bottle Breacher shared his thoughts on the Military Influencer Conference. “I think it was a great conference. They definitely brought in some serious firepower in various verticals.” He added, “all boats rise with the tide and I personally think this country could use way more veterans in influential positions.”
The Shark Tank panelists embody exactly what Crane mentions above. They are showing the American public that veterans and military spouses have what it takes to be successful as entrepreneurs. Hand-outs and sympathy are not what they need; they want a chance to put their skills to the test. They’re not just satisfied with their own personal successes either. They are supporting their peers and showing that the military community is strongest when it works together.
Eli Crane stressed the importance of veteran entrepreneurs mentoring within the military community. He said, “when we exit the service and become successful, it’s imperative that we turn around and guide our brothers and sisters who are behind us looking to do the same.”
Innovating Giving Back
All four of these companies share another unique trait in that they are impactful beyond just the success of their physical products. Their products are unique and innovative, but they are literally changing lives at home and around the world.
Two of the Shark Tank survivors are changing the way people look at American manufacturing. When things get stressful, Eli from Bottle Breacher explained, “we don’t just call up China and increase our order.” Bottle Breacher products are 100% made in the United States and have a 25% veteran hiring rate. Likewise, every R. Riveter bag creates mobile and flexible income for military families through their network of military spouse “riveters.”
Similarly, two other panelist saw the opportunity to manufacture commercial products for peace, where there had once been war. For every pair of Combat Flip Flops sold, a girl in Afghanistan goes to school for a day. Rumi Spice employs private farmers to grow their saffron. They are currently the largest private employer of Afghan women in the world.
Respect, commitment, and working towards a higher purpose are standard behaviors among the military community. These Shark Tank survivors demonstrated to the audience exactly what can happen with persistence, passion, and a lot of grit.
There have been calls to award a Nobel Peace Prize to everyone involved with ending the Korean War, including President Donald Trump. Given that the award has a broad selection process, it’s much more competitive than you’d think and the specifics about the process are often kept secret for fifty years.
Any person, group, or organization can be nominated after doing, in accordance to Alfred Nobel’s will, “the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” The only officially recognized nominators include heads of state, former Nobel Peace Prize laureates, and current or former members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
Any submissions must be done begin in September and the absolute cut-off is February 1st. Between the beginning of February and the end of March, the list is combed through and a short list is prepared for April.
In 2018, there were 328 candidates and each of the five members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee usually pick five nominees. Because of the secrecy around the process, the Nobel Committee combs through the maybe twenty-five candidates until September.
(United States Agency for International Development)
In October, the voting between the members begins and the winner is chosen. The decision is final and there are no appeals. Hence the secrecy. No one can be upset that they weren’t picked if they didn’t know they got that far. Once the voting has finished, it’s announced to the world who the winner for that year will be.
Then comes the big day on December 10th. The new laureate receives their shiny golden award, a diploma, and a monetary prize. The prize money in 2017 was 9 million Swedish Kronas, which is $1,028,655 US Dollars. The prize money is often donated to which ever cause the recipient championed.
Marine Wing Support Detachment 31 conducted an aircraft recovery convoy exercise during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort Aug. 2, 2018.
The exercise prepared the Marines for an aircraft mishap and ensured they were properly trained to recover personnel and equipment if called on.
“We used our own vehicles to conduct the convoy and assisted with the recovery process,” said Staff Sgt. Joel Contreras, the motor transportation operations chief with MWSD-31. “There were multiple training evolutions that pertained to different parts of the convoy.”
During the course of the exercise, MWSD-31 conducted convoy and sweeping operations by planning a route to the downed aircraft and back while simultaneously sweeping the area with combat mine detectors for explosive threats. Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Marines from Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron also aided in the training by salvaging the aircraft while also defueling the fuselage of the simulated aircraft to prevent fires and fuel leaks.
“I’m just one piece of the puzzle when we’re doing these kinds of events,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Moody, a combat engineer with MWSD-31. “Once we get to a site, everyone has a job to do. We could be sweeping up and looking for ordnance while AARF Marines are defueling a gas tank. This exercise really painted a picture on how important teamwork is to mission accomplishment.”
Cpl. Danny L. Clark and Sgt. Jose R. Trujillovargas help to guide a downed F/A-18 Hornet into a secure position during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)
MCAS Beaufourt is unique because it has the ability for Marines to conduct this type of training on base as opposed to having to go to another Marine Corps base in the fleet.
“Some of the Marines here only have the ability to do exercises like this during Integrated Training Exercise at Twentynine Palms, California and other places,” Contreras said. “If they don’t have the ability to do it there, we can do it here. We were fortunate that one of the squadrons gave us a retired aircraft to allow us to conduct this training.”
ITX is a month-long joint exercise that trains Marines so they can merge more easily into a Marine Air Ground Task Force, as well as, to maintain familiarity with basic military requirements.
Cpl. Tristin L. Hoffmaster inspects a simulated downed F/A-18 Hornet to ensure it’s secured properly during a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation aboard Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
(Photo by Lance Cpl. Erin Ramsay)
The mission of MWSD-31 is to provide all essential aviation ground support to designated fixed-wing component of a Marine Aviation Combat Element and all supporting or attached elements of the Marine Air Control Group. They offer support with airfield communications, weather services, refueling, and explosive ordinance disposal.
“I’m not sure if most Marines are familiar with what we do,” Moody said. “We’re here to support the wing units when stuff like this actually goes down. At the end of the day, if MCAS Beaufort needs something done, they can always rely on us.”
The deceased include Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, of Lexington, Virginia; Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, of Brush Prairie, Washington; and Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, of Hookstown, Pennsylvania.
“Dylan had an unusual drive to succeed and contribute to the team. He displayed maturity and stoicism beyond his years, and was always level-headed, no matter the situation,” said Lt. Col. Gregory Walsh, commander of the 26th Special Tactics Squadron. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to Dylan’s family, fiancé, and friends. He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.”
“Andrew and Eric were invaluable members and leaders in 3rd Special Forces Group and the special operations community. Our most heartfelt condolences go out to the families of these brave men,” said Col. Nathan Prussian, commander of 3rd Special Forces Group, in an Army Special Operations Command press release.
The city of Ghazni, the capital of the province of the same name, has been heavily contested in the past year as Taliban militants have asserted themselves there. Earlier this year, militants managed to take the city, forcing Afghan security forces and U.S. allies to retake it.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan Elchin, a Special Tactics combat controller with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, was killed when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force courtesy photo)
Approximately 14,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Afghanistan in support of that country’s security forces. While U.S. and Afghan leaders are quick to point out that Afghan forces are in the lead and are taking the brunt of the casualties in fighting, the country is still reliant on American partners for some capabilities and help in others.
While Afghanistan has set up its own air support, intelligence networks, and even contracted for air ambulance services last year, some of the Afghan-led services have shown shortcomings. District centers have fallen every few weeks or months, though they often are retaken soon after.
The U.S. Army announced that the 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Armored Division (1/1 AD) stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, will convert from a Stryker brigade combat team (SBCT) to an armored brigade combat team (ABCT); and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 4th Infantry Division (2/4 ID) stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado, will convert from an infantry brigade combat team (IBCT) to an SBCT.
“Converting a brigade combat team from infantry to armor ensures the Army remains the world’s most lethal ground combat force, able to deploy, fight, and win against any adversary, anytime and anywhere,” Secretary of the Army Mark T. Esper said.
This conversion contributes to Army efforts to build a more lethal force and is an investment to increase overmatch against our potential adversaries — one more critical step to achieving the Army Vision. This effort also postures the Army to better meet combatant commander requirements under the 2018 National Defense Strategy.
“The Army leadership determined that we needed to covert two brigade combat teams to armor and Stryker in order to deter our near-peer adversaries or defeat them if required,” said Maj. Gen. Brian J. Mennes, director of force management.
A Stryker Infantry Carrier Vehicle.
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Ellen Brabo)
Conversion of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, and the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, will begin in the spring of 2019 and spring of 2020 respectively.
This will provide the nation a 16th ABCT bringing the total number BCTs in the Regular Army (RA) and Army National Guard (ARNG) to 58. There will be a total of 31 BCTs in the RA, to include 11 ABCTs, 13 IBCTs and seven SBCTs. The ARNG will have a total of 27 BCTs, to include five ABCTs, 20 IBCTs and two SBCTs, ensuring a more balanced distribution between its light and heavy fighting forces.
The Armata family of vehicles, with the flagship T-14 main battle tank, were supposed to be the future of armored warfare, tipping the balance of conventional forces in Europe back towards Russia and ensuring the country’s security and foreign might. But now, Russia has announced that it will be buying only 100 of them, far from the 2,300 once threatened and a sure sign that crippling economic problems are continuing to strangle Putin’s military.
Russia’s T-14 Armata main battle tank was supposed to put Russian armor back on top, but the design and tech are still questionable and Russia is only buying 100 of them, meaning very few of them will be available for operations at any one time.
(Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin)
All of this will likely be welcome news for U.S. armored forces who would have faced the T-14s in combat if Russia used them against American allies and NATO forces.
The signs of trouble for the Armata tank were hidden in the project’s debut. It’s always suspicious when a tank or other weapon project seems too good to be true. Snake oil salesmen can profit in the defense industry, too. And there were few projects promising more revolutionary breakthroughs for less money than the T-14.
It is supposed to weigh just 70 percent of the Abrams (48 tons compared to the Abrams’ 68) but still be able to shake off rounds from enemy tanks thanks to advanced armor designs. Its developers bragged of an extremely capable autoloader, a remote turret, and an active protection system that could defeat any incoming missile.
When something sounds too good to be true, maybe check the fine print.
Still, it wouldn’t have been impossible to come up with a breakthrough design to shake up the armored world. After all, while the Abrams was expensive to develop, it featured some revolutionary technology. Its armor was lighter and more capable thanks to ceramic technology developed in Britain, and its engines, while fuel-hungry, delivered massive amounts of power. These factors combined to create a fast, agile beast capable of surviving nearly any round that enemy tanks could shoot at it.
Russia’s Su-57 has design flaws and under-strength engines, causing many to wonder if it would really rival American fifth-generation fighters if it even went into serial production.
(Photo by Anna Zvereva)
None of this money problem is a surprise. Russia is subject to a slew of international sanctions resulting from actions like the invasions of Georgia and Ukraine and meddling in European and U.S. elections. While sanctions generally act as a minor drag on healthy economies, they have a compounding effect on weak economies.
And make no mistake: Russia’s economy is weak. It is heavily tied to oil prices which, just a few years ago, would’ve been great news. From 2010 to 2014, oil often peaked above 0 per barrel for days or weeks at a time and was usually safely above a barrel. Now, it typically trades between and a barrel and has slumped as low as .
Keep in mind that, typically, military strength trends with economic strength; more money, more might. But Russia has struggled to maintain its world-power status after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Its annual GDP is actually smaller than that of Texas, California, or New York. That’s right. If Russia was a state, it would have the fourth largest economy in the country.
Still, Russia can’t be written off. It’s either the second or third most powerful military in the world, depending on who you ask. And the other slot is held by China, another rival of American power. With thousands of tanks and fighters in each country’s arsenal, as well as millions of service members, both countries will remain major threats for decades or longer.
U.S. Army Specialist Jay Strobino was with his team in Rushdi Mullah, a small farming village in Iraq’s infamous Triangle of Death, on Feb. 1, 2006. They were there on a mission to grab a suspected enemy insurgent. Everything was going according to plan as they searched the house — no surprises.
That all changed when a truck full of insurgents rolled into the opposite side of town and pinned down a corner of their outer cordon. Strobino was about to be in the firefight of his life.
The “Triangle of Death” became infamous during the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
(Image courtesy of the US Army Center for Military History.)
Strobino, along with three others, made their way to the corner. He killed one of the insurgents who was trying to make it across the road; the resulting break in fire allowed him and his team to run across the street, closer to where the other enemy combatants were.
His team snuck behind a row of houses, where Strobino shot another insurgent through a window of an adjacent house. They then moved to the house that the remainder of the insurgents were behind. With his SAW gunner on the rooftop of the last building, Strobino and two others maneuvered to the back of the property.
Behind the house, there was a shed and a fence surrounded by bushes. Strobino was the first to scale it but not without some difficulty.
“When I got over, I saw two insurgents spaced about 10 to 15 feet apart, facing away from me. I held my aim but didn’t want to fire because everyone else I shot that day wouldn’t die, and we were taking up to 15 rounds to stop [them from] advancing or firing,” he said. Insurgents in Iraq were known to take drugs before going into battle that would often allow them to keep fighting even after suffering mortal wounds.
U.S. Army Specialist Jay Stobino in Iraq.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)
So he stayed put for the moment, waiting on his teammate to get over the fence, but his teammate kept getting caught. The two insurgents Strobino had zeroed in on turned to face him, and he was forced to fire. Fortunately, his squad leader soon made it over the fence and was able to join in the fight.
There was still another insurgent left, though. He was aiming his AK-47 around the front corner of the house, firing back at Strobino and his squad leader. In response, his squad leader threw a grenade, and their team followed after.
“I ran to the front corner of the building and peered around. His weapon was up and out of the front doorway. I put my weapon on burst and turned the corner, hoping to grab his barrel,” he said.
The enemy fighter heard them coming and had already started moving toward Strobino and his other teammates when he came around the corner. Strobino pulled the trigger, sending the target to the floor; however, the target fired back.
Strobino was hit, and it was bad.
“My leg was broken and my ulnar nerve was hit in my arm,” he said, “and I lost control of my right hand.”
Strabino in the hospital after suffering 13 bullet wounds in a firefight in Iraq.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strabino.)
The two soldiers with him had taken cover behind a truck, and Strobino planned to throw a grenade. But the moment he pulled it out, the insurgent threw his own over the truck where his team was positioned and came out firing. He sprayed his weapon again, hitting Strobino a second time.
“At this point, I thought everyone was dead and I was immobilized. But my squad leader called out my name — I couldn’t believe it. I threw my grenade over to him so he could arm it and toss it around the corner,” Strobino said.
But the grenade didn’t kill the insurgent, and with his condition quickly deteriorating, getting Strobino out of there became the priority. The other members of his team pulled him behind the building. His platoon sergeant and his radiotelephone operator (RTO) moved up, bandaged him, pulled security, and called for a medevac.
The insurgent was still in the house. A second team threw multiple grenades into the home before going in. Two of those soldiers took rounds; one of them died on the medevac back to Baghdad. After that, they called in Apaches to finish the job, blowing up the house.
Strobino’s condition was so dire that his parents were nearly summoned in fear that he wouldn’t make it home. He immediately went under the knife and had surgeries every 12 to 24 hours. From Iraq, he was flown to Germany for two weeks and eventually back to the U.S., where a long road of recovery awaited him.
Strobino had been shot a total of 13 times, and it cost him more than just blood. “I lost a large portion of my right femur and couldn’t walk on that leg for six months,” Strobino said. “I lost a lot of that quad group as well.”
A portion of the wounds Strobino received during the firefight.
(Photo courtesy of Jay Strobino.)
He had to teach his brain how to perform small physical tasks again. He got winded standing at the side of his bed while two people held him. Fortunately, the great people at places like the VA hospital in Augusta, Georgia, and the Fisher House helped him pull through.
“The Fisher House is like a Ronald McDonald house for wounded vets,” Strobino said. “It’s practically five-star accommodations for the family members of a wounded veteran that are recovering at the adjacent hospital. The family has their own private room. There’s a huge shared kitchen, laundry room, dining rooms, relaxing rooms. Everything is handicap accessible. And the families stay there free of charge.
“It helps the veteran because they can have family there while they are trying to recover,” he continued. “And it also helps the families because they are living in an area with other families going through similar situations. They can all empathize and help each other out.”
At the end of 2006, Strobino was awarded a Silver Star for his valor in combat. The citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Specialist Jay Christopher Strobino, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious achievement and exemplary service as a Team Leader in 3d Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 502d Infantry Regiment, 2d Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), attached to the 4th Infantry Division, during combat operations in support of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, on a mission on 1 February 2006 in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq. Specialist Strobino’s exceptional dedication to mission accomplishment, tactical and technical competence, and unparalleled ability to perform under fire and while injured, contributed immeasurably to the success of his unit in Rushdi Mulla, Iraq, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the United States Army.
“The absolute biggest thing is to stay positive,” he said, in regard to facing an unexpected challenge. “Surround yourself with positive people and feed off each other’s energy. Know that you’re not going to be able to do it alone, and it’s not going to be easy. But be sure to celebrate each small victory.”
If you’ve had difficulty recovering from combat trauma, Captain Danny Maher, USMC (Ret), and best friend, Sergeant Ryan Loya, USMC have a prescription: camping, karaoke, and going on a 22-mile hike in your underwear.
Really? Let’s back up.
Ryan’s comrade in arms Sgt. Jeremy Sears committed suicide on Oct. 6, 2014 and six months later, Danny’s good friend L.Cpl. Artem Lazukin took his own life on March 29, 2015. Both men suffered from combat PTSD.
The loss of these two brave souls was profound, but in typical military style, Ryan and Danny decided to go to work. The conclusion that they came to: hanging out with guys who have experienced war and having a good belly laugh in the face of adversity is damn fine medicine.
What started as the “Silkies Hike, 22, with 22, for the 22”, a 22-mile hike for vets on July 25, 2015, has become a nationwide community 20,000 strong. The number 22 is significant because it is estimated that 22 vets commit suicide each day in the US.
Sporting official Irreverent Warriors “ranger panties”, these guys go on excursions that take them out into nature (or sometimes right through the city) where they can goof off, bond, and get a little respite from the demands of civilian life.
To get a sense of just how outrageous these guys are, check out this video:
While the event is high-spirited, the goal is a serious one: to let other vets know that they are not alone, that help is available, and that suicide is not the answer. It also helps spread awareness among the civilian population to ensure these brave men and women get the support they need.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD affects 31% of veterans and there is a substantial link between combat injuries, PTSD and suicide.
There are many things you can do if you experience PTSD symptoms, which include:
Reliving the trauma
As one vet put it, “You forget how to have fun.”
The first step in conquering PTSD is knowing that there is no way to think your way out of it. It’s actually your body’s sophisticated method of protecting you, a response known as “fight, flight, or freeze”. It’s got nothing to do with bravery and everything to do with having a fully functioning parasympathetic nervous system.
Though we have made remarkable headway as a nation in understanding the threat of PTSD and its relationship to suicide, often, family members do not grasp the effects combat has on our minds and bodies. What starts off as a legitimate medical condition can spiral out and destabilize the dynamics of our homes.
The Irreverent Warriors are not just a good group of guys willing to help and have fun, they also partner with other military-friendly organizations that supply vets with much-needed services, everything from buying a home to starting a business.
Brotherly love and humor is not the cure-all for PTSD, but it can go a long way in speeding up the healing process and preventing tragedy. If you or a veteran family member is exhibiting symptoms of PTSD, reach out to the big-hearted guys at Irreverent Warriors.
The fight between Turkish forces and US-backed SDF fighters in northwest Syria’s Afrin province appears to be in a tailspin.
Turkish forces have reportedly killed more than a hundred civilians, mutilated U.S.-backed SDF fighters, and even indiscriminately shot at displaced civilians attempting to flee into Turkey.
Ankara launched a massive ground and air campaign, code-named “Olive Branch,” against the U.S.-backed SDF forces in Afrin on Jan. 20 2018 in response to the U.S.’s announcement that it would train and maintain a 30,000-strong, predominately Kurdish force in the region.
Turkey views the Kurdish YPG as a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has carried out a deadly, decades-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.
But in the last two weeks, Turkish forces have made only limited gains in Afrin, as SDF fighters, including the YPG and all-women YPJ, appear to have put up rather stiff resistance.
At least 20 videos have surfaced showing YPG forces targeting, and in many instances destroying, invading Turkish tanks and armored vehicles with anti-tank guided missile systems. Freelance journalist Aris Roussinos compiled a Twitter thread of those videos here.
On Feb. 03 2018, YPG fighters killed seven Turkish soldiers, including five in one attack on a tank, according to The Guardian.
SDF fighters have also responded with occasional rocket fire across the border into Turkey, according to The Washington Post. One of those attacks killed a teenage girl and wounded another civilian in the Turkish town of Reyhanli.
But these attacks appear to have only incensed Turkish forces.
A number of graphic videos have appeared on social media showing Turkish-backed rebels mutilating dead YPG fighters.
On Feb. 01 2018, videos emerged showing Turkish-backed rebels kicking the dead corpse of a female YPG fighter named Barin Kobani and discussing whether she was attractive after stripping off her clothes and cutting off her breasts.
A YPJ spokeswoman told AFP that Kobani and three other female fighters were battling Turkish-backed forces, refused to withdraw, and “fought until death.”
“I swear to God, we’ll avenge you,” Kobani’s brother, 30-year-old Aref Mustafa Omar, cried out at her funeral, AFP reported.
Another incredibly graphic video appeared on Twitter apparently showing Turkish forces kicking and stepping on the body of a dead male YPG fighter.
These disturbing instances have coincided with a Human Rights Watch report released on Feb. 03 2018 saying that Turkish border guards are indiscriminately shooting at civilians trying to flee Afrin and returning the asylum-seekers.
Turkish border guards are also reportedly beating detained asylum-seekers and refusing them medical care, Human Rights Watch reported. Between Dec. 15 2017 and Jan. 22 2018, more than 247,000 Syrians in Afrin were displaced to the border, according to the UN.
On Feb. 04 2018, thousands of people reportedly gathered in the Afrin town of Kobane and are currently traveling to the city of Afrin in support.
Kurds in other countries around the world, such as Lebanon and Germany, are also protesting Turkey’s operations in Afrin.
Turkey itself has even detained nearly 600 people for social-media posts criticizing the invasion, according to Reuters.
Times are tough right now for the Coasties. Since they’re essential personnel, they have to work but, apparently, they’re not essential enough to get paid during this government shutdown. They got lucky with the December 31st paycheck, but things aren’t looking so good for the mid-January paycheck.
Missing even a single paycheck is going to cause massive ripples that will unceremoniously toss many of them into unnecessary debt. This is a serious problem for our brothers and sisters who serve in the Coast Guard, and there’s no amount of “nice words” that can smooth over the pain they’re feeling — only paying their rent can do that.
To make matters even more awkward, the Coast Guard officially put out a five-page sheet on how to “help” their troops. It has since been rescinded and taken down, probably because it felt a lot like putting salt on the wounds.
Plus, I think most people use social media or websites to sell old stuff nowadays, so you might get a better deal there instead of spending your weekend in the driveway.
(Photo by Bob N. Renee)
Now, in defense of the author of that five-pager, it does have some good (albeit basic) information that could help the furloughed Coasties. Step one details that should the mid-month paycheck get missed, their first line supervisor will discuss possible options for getting through the resulting sh*tty situation. Chances are, the leaders will understand that this is far above anyone’s control and won’t hold them back from taking reduced days.
Offering “reduced days” implies that the Coast Guard is expecting troops to make ends meet through alternative measures — as indicated by step four on the document, which was “supplement your income.”
Literally the first thing (in step four) it suggests is to hold a garage sale. Honestly, though, the logistics of throwing a garage sale often cost you more money than you make. If you were already planning on getting rid of that old TV sitting in the guest room, by all means, go for it. But if you’re selling your beloved Xbox for quick cash only to buy the exact same thing later on, you’re throwing money down the drain. Think ahead is all I’m saying.
I recommend staying close to the CGX.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Rebecca Amber)
The rest of the document goes into detail about learning about your personal situation and how to manage your debt. It also says you should avoid using credit to supplement your income. That’s fantastic advice but, realistically, it’s a rule that may have to be broken.
Do not go out and get a credit card to make up for all the wasteful spending you’d normally do. Do not use credit to run up a bar tab because you’re short on actual cash. That’s a terrible idea regardless of the furlough.
The fact is, however, that children need to be fed and heating bills still need to be paid. A credit card may help in that moment, but use them with extreme caution and don’t forget to pay it back when this blows over.
The document offers up, as a final option, bankruptcy. For the love of Uncle Sam, do not go into bankruptcy on a whim because of a momentary, terrible situation. There will be a light at the end of this tunnel.
There are organizations out there that can help. Don’t ever feel like you’ve been thrown to the wolves. The military is a giant family, and we look after our own. Ask for help if you need it and help others if you don’t.
For a complete look at the “Managing Furlough” document, check it out below.