This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

It happened in a flash and changed Jason Redman’s life forever.


Redman — a lieutenant on a Navy SEAL team — and his assault squad were searching for an Al-Qaeda operative in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2007 when they were ambushed. Redman’s left elbow nearly exploded when two rounds tore through his arm. As the team retreated for cover, another round tripped through the right side of his face, shattering his jaw and tearing off half his nose as it exited.

Nobody would have questioned Redman had he chose to let that moment ruin his life.

Instead, Redman pushed forward and started several organizations designed to help wounded veterans.

Now, he’s receiving the Red Bandanna Hero Award for his efforts.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
The American Heroes Channel Red Bandanna Hero Award. Logo from AHCTV.com.

Named for Welles Remy Crowther — “The Man in the Red Bandanna” who rescued more than a dozen victims of the World Trade Center attacks — the award pays tribute to the “everyday hero who exemplifies the American Spirit and defines us as a nation,” according to a news release. It is given by the American Heroes Channel and the Welles Remy Crowther Charitable Trust, and the winner gets to donate $10,000 to the charity of his or her choice.

Redman will receive the honor during an Oct. 27 ESPN broadcast of the Boston College-Florida State football game. And he will be featured on an American Heroes Channel story about the award on Oct. 28.

“Before I was wounded, I wanted to stay in the Navy for 30 years and become the commander of a SEAL Team,” said Redman, who lives in Virginia Beach. “It’s amazing how life turns on a dime and unfolds right in front of you.”

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
Retired Lt. Jason Redman, U.S. Navy SEAL, exits Malmstrom Air Force Base’s auditorium to a standing ovation after his presentation. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Collin Schmidt.

Redman is the CEO and founder of Combat Wounded Coalition and Wounded Wear. He also has a speaking and consulting firm called SOF Spoken. With Old Dominion University he is creating the Overcome Academy, which will help military men and women returning to civilian life. All operate under the Combat Wounded Coalition umbrella, which he started with his wife, Erica.

“If anybody should have the light shine on them, it’s him,” said Kevin Gaydosh of O’Brien et al. Advertising in Virginia Beach, which supports Redman on some of his projects. “Talk about an inspiration. We certainly believe in him and what he’s trying to do.

“You have to admire a guy like this.”

Also Read: Everyone should see these powerful images of wounded vets

Redman, 42, also has written a book, “The Trident: The Forging and Reforging of a Navy SEAL Leader,” and will appear in an upcoming film about Navy SEALS. He recently had a role in an episode of the Hawaii Five-O television series.

“Some people suffer through a bad event and stay in that spot,” said Redman, who joined the Navy in 1992 and finished SEAL training three years later. “Others push and drive forward by learning and growing.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

“But no, if you told me after I was wounded that I would have a book, a non-profit, that I’d be speaking and acting, I would say no and that you needed an instant drug test.”

Redman barely survived his injuries because of blood loss, and doctors initially thought he would lose his arm because of the injuries to the elbow. Forty surgeries, thousands of stitches, hundreds of staples, and countless hours of rehabilitation helped him regain some normalcy.

But progress was slow.

“Like so many wounded warriors, I was broke,” said the father of three children. “I was used to making things happen, and it wasn’t as fast as I wanted.”

Redman admits that he let himself go. He stopped working out and wasn’t eating right. He drank more than he should have. But a visit to the doctor changed all that.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
Retired Marine Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, right, and retired Navy Lt. Jason Redman, left, pose for a photo following the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society Ball in Washington, D.C., March 22, 2014. USMC photo by Cpl. Tia Dufour.

“He told me I would die of a heart attack,” Redman said. “My family has a history of heart disease and high cholesterol, so it was all there.”

“Now I’m pretty much on a fitness quest.”

Back on track, Redman is excited about the award he said belongs to all those he’s trying to help.

“Every morning I wake up I’m thankful I have another day,” said Redman, who retired from the Navy in 2013. “If I die today, because I’m already living on borrowed time, I know that I did it right today.

“Most of us have one shot in this life. I got a second chance.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now there’s some doubt about whether Iran really tested a new long-range missile

The latest Iranian ballistic missile test, which was condemned by US President Donald Trump, never happened and the images that were released of the supposed test were actually taken more than seven months ago, Fox News reported Sept. 25.


The conservative cable news channel, citing as its sources two US officials who requested anonymity, said that the launch was “fake” and that Iran released video images of a failed missile launch that it conducted in late January.

Trump originally had reacted to the claimed launch on Twitter on Sept. 23 evening, saying, “Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel. They are also working with North Korea. Not much of an agreement we have!”

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
Photo by Michael Vadon

When asked about the matter by EFE, a State Department official said that the US “is evaluating the reports” that Iran launched a ballistic missile Sept. 22 and refused to comment on “intelligence matters,” including the authenticity of the launch.

CNN reported that a Trump administration official familiar with the latest US assessment of the supposed test said that US intelligence radars and sensors “picked up no indication” of any Iranian missile launch.

So far, it would seem, the Iranian reports of the “successful” missile test do not appear to be true, the official added to CNN, saying “As far as we can see, it did not happen.”

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

Iran’s English-language television channel Press TV broadcast a video Sept. 22 of the allegedly successful launch of a new medium-range ballistic missile called the Khorramshahr which, according to the Iranian military, has a range of 2,000 kilometers (about 1,250 miles) and is capable of carrying multiple warheads.

Trump said last week that he had made a decision on whether the US will continue to abide by – or withdraw from – the nuclear pact with Iran that put an end to 12 years of diplomatic conflict over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program, but he has not yet revealed what that decision is.

In his speech before the United Nations General Assembly almost a week ago, Trump declared the nuclear pact to be an “embarrassment” that his government could withdraw from if it suspects that Iran was using the accord as a shield to ultimately be able to build a nuclear bomb.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
United Nations General Assembly hall in New York, NY. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Avala.

“We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program,” he said.

Regardless of whether the latest launch was faked or not, the US feels that the Iranian ballistic missile program and its “support for terrorism” constitute “provocative” behavior that undermines regional security, prosperity, and stability, the State Department officials told EFE.

“We will continue to carefully monitor these actions and we will use all the tools we have available to counter the threats of the Iranian missile program,” one of the sources added.

According to experts, Iran is the Middle Eastern nation with the largest arsenal of ballistic missiles – more than 1,000 short- and medium-range rockets.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These Army docs are revolutionizing pain management – especially for burns

Doctors at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston are utilizing a novel method of administering pain medication to burn patients in the burn intensive care unit in hopes to mitigate opioid addiction and other complications associated with burn care.


“It’s something different,” said Dr. Clayne Benson, assigned to Brooke Army Medical Center, collocated with the USAISR Burn Center. “But the promise and benefits are huge.”

The pain medication is managed with the placement of an intrathecal catheter and infusion of preservative-free morphine. The concept is similar to epidural anesthesia used during labor for pain relief, except the catheter resides in the intrathecal space where the cerebrospinal fluid resides instead of the epidural space.

The catheter used is exactly like an epidural catheter used for laboring women.

“It’s an FDA-cleared device for a procedure that a lot of anesthesiologists have done for other reasons,” Benson said. “It had never been done on burn patients and we presented the idea of the study to the burn center leadership [Drs. Booker King, Lee Cancio, Jennifer Gurney, Kevin Chung and Craig Ainsworth] and they agreed to try this initiative.”

Read Now: 8 new projects that will revolutionize military medicine

Benson, an Air Force Reserve lieutenant colonel, got the idea of using this technique in the intensive care unit while taking care of polytrauma soldiers at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany from 2009-2012. Benson said he is excited about the potential of this new pain management for burn patients.

“The results are amazing,” he said. “The best thing about it is that it only uses one-one hundredth of the amount of pain medication used with the traditional [intravenous] method.”

Intrathecal medication is delivered straight to where it is effective, the spinal cord, thereby minimizing systemic complications of IV medications.

Intravenous medication disperses pain medication throughout the entire body and only a tiny percentage of it gets to where it is needed.  This is especially beneficial for burn patients who require numerous painful operations and traditionally require being placed on a ventilator, with one of the reasons being pain control.

Longer ventilator times lead to complications like deconditioning, delirium, and pneumonia, which all impact quality of life and time in the Burn Intensive Care Unit.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
Dr. Richard Erff, chief of the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Pain Clinic, administers cervical epidural steroid injections to a Soldier who suffers from chronic neck and back injuries stemming from his deployment to Iraq. (Army Photo by Patricia Deal)

“Also, the majority of patients who are mechanically ventilated are diagnosed with delirium and are likely to have increased length of hospitalization, increased ventilator days, and higher rates of long-term cognitive dysfunction,” Benson said.

Delirium is another complication burn patients experience with exposure to sedatives and pain medications.

“Delirium is when a patient’s awareness changes and they become confused, agitated, or they completely shut down,” said Sarah Shingleton, chief wound care nurse and clinical nurse specialist at the USAISR Burn Center Intensive Care Unit. “It can come and go, and is caused by a number of things to include different pain medications, pain, infections, a disturbed sleep cycle, or an unfamiliar environment.”

Members of the USAISR Burn Center Intensive Care Unit will present the data of the initiative at the 2018 American Burn Association meeting in April 2018. The presentation will describe a patient who sustained 45 percent burns to her body and had her pain and sedation managed with the placement of the intrathecal catheter.

The abstract prepared for the ABA meeting states, “During intrathecal administration of morphine, IV infusions of ketamine, propofol, and dexmedetomidine were discontinued. The patient was awake and responsive, reporting adequate pain control without systemic opioid administration. Following removal of the intrathecal morphine infusion, the patient’s opioid requirement remained lower than prior to catheter placement despite repeated surgical interventions.”

Also Read: This is why wounded troops don’t spend entire wars in field hospitals anymore

“This novel way of achieving pain control helped us get our patients off mechanical ventilation faster and shorten the time they needed to be in the [intensive care unit],” said Maj. (Dr.) Craig Ainsworth, Burn Intensive Care Unit medical director. “We are excited to share this treatment option with other members of the burn care community so that we can better care for our patients.”

Benson’s goal is to someday apply this type of pain management to patients with polytrauma to reduce pain and the amount of pain medication which could potentially lessen addictions to pain medication.

“It’s a new approach and I hope that eventually it becomes the main mode of pain control for burn and polytrauma patients,” Benson said. “It has been a good team effort with the burn staff and their ‘can do’ attitude. I’m looking forward to where this leads. I believe it will change pain management as well as help to prevent opioid addiction in patients who have suffered from polytrauma and burns.”

Articles

The US Navy set off explosives next to its new aircraft carrier to see if the ship can handle the shock

The US Navy’s new supercarrier is going through shock trials, and that means setting off live explosives near the warship to simulate aspects of actual combat conditions.

USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), the first of a new class of aircraft carriers, completed the first explosive event of the ongoing full-ship shock trials on Friday off the US East Coast, where the Navy detonated explosives near the carrier.

The Navy said in a statement the aircraft carrier was “designed using advanced computer modeling methods, testing, and analysis to ensure the ship is hardened to withstand battle conditions, and these shock trials provide data used in validating the shock hardness of the ship.”

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed the first scheduled explosive event of Full Ship Shock Trials while underway in the Atlantic Ocean on June 18, 2021. 

The official Twitter account for USS Gerald R. Ford tweeted Saturday that “the leadership and the crew demonstrated Navy readiness fighting through the shock, proving our warship can ‘take a hit’ and continue our mission on the cutting edge of naval aviation.”

Though the Navy has conducted shock trials with other vessels, the latest trials with the Ford, the service’s newest and most advanced carrier, mark the first time since 1987 the Navy has conducted shock trials with an aircraft carrier.

The last aircraft carrier shock trials involved the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, according to the Navy.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed the first scheduled explosive event of Full Ship Shock Trials while underway in the Atlantic Ocean on June 18, 2021. 

Shock trials are designed to test how Navy warships hold up against severe vibrations and identify potential shock-related vulnerabilities in a combat vessel.

A 2007 study, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and conducted by the MITRE Corporation’s JASON program, suggested US Navy shock trials have their origins in observations from the Second World War.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed the first scheduled explosive event of Full Ship Shock Trials while underway in the Atlantic Ocean on June 18, 2021. 

Nearby explosions, even when vessels were not taking direct hits, would send destructive, high-pressure waves toward them.

During the major global conflict, “it was discovered that although such ‘near miss’ explosions do not cause serious hull or superstructure damage, the shock and vibrations associated with the blast nonetheless incapacitate the ship, by knocking out critical components and systems,” the study said.

“This discovery led the Navy to implement a rigorous shock hardening test procedure,” the report said, referring to shock trials.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) completed the first scheduled explosive event of Full Ship Shock Trials while underway in the Atlantic Ocean on June 18, 2021. 

The Navy said that the trials are being conducted in a way that “complies with environmental mitigation requirements, respecting known migration patterns of marine life in the test area.”

The service further stated that it “also has employed extensive protocols throughout [full-ship shock trials] to ensure the safety of military and civilian personnel participating in the testing evolution.”

After completing full-ship shock trials, the aircraft carrier will return to the pier at Newport News Shipbuilding for its first planned incremental availability, a six-month period during which the ship will undergo “modernization, maintenance, and repairs prior to its operational employment,” the Navy said.

As a first-in-class ship, USS Gerald R. Ford has experienced cost overruns, developmental delays, and technological setbacks, but the Navy is moving forward with the project.

The Navy planned to have the carrier ready for deployment by 2024, but in May, Rear Adm. James Downey, program executive officer for aircraft carriers, suggested the service might be able to get there sooner.

There are three other Ford-class carriers in various stages of procurement and development, namely USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), USS Enterprise (CVN-80), and USS Doris Miller (CVN-81).


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

Feature image: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Riley B. McDowell

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons why the ‘Florida Man’ is definitely a drunk Marine

We’ve all seen “Florida Man” show up in ridiculous headlines. You know the ones: “Florida man calls 911 over missing beer so many times he gets arrested.” Or how about, “Florida man claims wife was kidnapped by holograms.” The list goes on. In fact, headlines coming out of Florida are so often outrageous that “Florida Man” has become something of a pop culture myth, known for getting into trouble in the most ridiculous ways — ways that only someone in an altered state of mind to conjure up.

Alcohol is undeniably a big part of military culture. Troops are constantly pushing the boundaries of what defines alcoholic behavior. The most prolific offender among the branches is, without a doubt, the Marine Corps. Drunk Marines are notorious for getting into trouble and, by now, it’s practically expected because it happens so often.

At the end of the day, the “Florida Man” has a lot in common with a drunk Marine. Here’s why:


This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

Then the Army has to come clean up the mess.

(U.S. Army)

1. The antics are surprisingly similar

For some reason, “Florida Man” is always noted for his intoxication — and even if it doesn’t make the headline, you can safely assume his state of mind. Drinking, getting rowdy, and stripping in public are some of Florida Man’s favorite pastimes — just like Marines! In fact, if you were to take some of his greatest works and replace “Florida Man” with “drunk Marine,” nobody would bat an eye at it.

No, really. Try it with us:

“Naked Florida Man drinks 2 liters of vodka, burns down house baking cookies on George Foreman Grill”

And make these changes:

Naked, drunk Marine drinks 2 liters of vodka, burns down barracks baking cookies on George Foreman Grill

Seamless, right? That’s why we’re not allowed to have toasters in our rooms.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

Seriously? Over chicken?

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. They both exhibit aggressive tendencies

Drunk Marines are, quite possibly, the most irritable people on the planet. Making simple requests or doing anything that might accidentally upset one will likely result in violence.

Tell me, which of these is the real headline?

Florida Man swings anchor at beachgoers because they ruined his chicken

Drunk Marine swings anchor at beachgoers because they ruined his chicken

Can’t tell? Us neither. This is what happens when you don’t have a battle buddy.

3. Playing with dangerous, live animals

Both Marines and Florida Man have a penchant for messing with whatever wildlife happens to share their environment. Add a little bit of alcohol to the situation, and you might end up with this:

Florida Man enters convenience store carrying live gator, chases customers

That could easily be this:

Drunk Marine enters PX carrying live gator, chases customers

I feel like I’ve seen both of these before…

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

Why do drunk people always want to fight cops?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)

4. Trying to fight cops

To be fair, drunk Marines will fight anyone when given the chance. But, of course, any challenge of authority will result in direct confrontation. That’s how you get headline swaps like this:

“Florida Man trashes McDonald’s, challenges cops to fight him at jail”

“Drunk Marine trashes chow hall, challenges PMO to fight him”

After evaluating the evidence, we can conclude with near certainty that Florida Man is indeed a US Marine.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Top officers look into in-flight issues plaguing pilots

Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan is the Air National Guard Special Assistant to Maj. Gen. Scott F. Smith, the Director of Training and Readiness, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, Arlington, Va. The directorate, encompassing seven divisions and the Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation, is responsible for policy, guidance and oversight of Air Force operations.

General Vaughan also serves as the lead for the Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team (AF-PEAT) and co-leads the ad hoc Joint-PEAT, along with Navy Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman.


General Vaughan completed Reserve Officer Training Corps at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and received his commission as honor graduate from ANG’s Academy of Military Science. He previously served in leadership roles at the squadron, group, wing and higher headquarters levels in both the mobility and combat air forces. General Vaughan commanded the 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico, and Detachment 1 of the 13th Air Expeditionary Group (formerly the 13th Expeditionary Support Squadron), Antarctica.

During an interview with Airman Magazine, Gen. Vaughan discussed his new post leading the joint investigation of Unexplained Physiological Episodes (UPEs) and his experiences as a mobility and combat airman and safety officer.

Interview Topic Navigator

1. What is the PEAT?
2. Physiological Episode Symptoms
3. Physiological Data
4. Pilot Physicians
5. Big Data
6. RPA and Cyber Communities
7. Message to airmen

Airman Magazine: Please tell us about your new job investigating Unexplained Physiological Episodes.

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: As part of my role working in A3T, I’ve been tasked by the A3 Lt. Gen. Mark Kelly to lead the Physiological Episodes Action Team, also known as the PEAT.

PE stands for physiological episode or event. Essentially it’s any anomaly in the interaction among the aircrew, equipment, and environment that causes adverse physical or cognitive symptoms, which may impede the ability to fly..

What we’ve done across the Air Force and all aircraft, but most recently with the T-6 fleet, is to investigate what causes PEs. In some cases an Unknown PE will immediately reveal to us what happened. Maybe there was some sort of contamination in the cockpit due to an oil leak or some other fumes, so we’re able to identify it as a known physiological event.

In other cases, pilots will experience symptoms, come down and land, report them and we don’t know exactly what the cause is until we investigate further.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

Members of the Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team and Air Force PEAT listen to a discussion between Rear Adm. Fredrick R. “Lucky” Luchtman (left) and Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward L. “Hertz” Vaughan (right) as they lay the ground work for the Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team, or J-PEAT.

(Photo by Scot Cregan)

Airman Magazine: Tell me about the PEAT. What is the structure and objective of the team?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: The AF-PEAT is Air Force Physiological Episodes Action Team. Now, previously this has been known as the UPE IT or Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team.
We’re working very closely with our Navy partners and they came up with a pretty good name – Physiological Episodes Action Team. In the interest of both jointness and keeping it simple for all the flying community, we’ve aligned names with the Navy.

Of course, that’s not the only thing we’ve learned from the Navy. The Navy’s had some great success in exploring what happens in physiological episodes, what happens to aviators, and we’ve been able to learn a lot from them and they’ve learned from us as well.

Airman Magazine: How does the PEAT operate?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We have two meetings per week. Every Friday the Air Force PEAT meets. Who is on this action team? The answer is those people who are required for that particular meeting.

We’ll have the topics of the week, sometimes we’re looking at specific incidents with airplanes, specific episodes, and other times we may be investigating new equipment that’s coming out, new procedures, new training or maybe there’s the results of an investigation that we’ll need to review. We have standing members of the team, about half a dozen, that are there at every meeting.

Then we have another kind of a second layer of folks, which gets us up closer to 20 people, who come in as needed. That second layer includes folks from the acquisition community or the 711th Human Performance Wing. We don’t necessarily need to have them come to every meeting, but there’s times we really need somebody from human performance wing present. That’s one meeting.

Then immediately following that meeting, we have, what I call the Joint-PEAT. It’s really an ad hoc Joint Physiological Episodes Action Team with the Navy. It is very much a joint effort in that we work closely together and meet weekly to keep a steady battle rhythm so as things come up during the week, if they’re not an emergency or if it’s not something that we’ve got to address right at that minute, we’ll be able to put it together on Friday. We know that once a week we’re going to have a meeting where we can sit down face-to-face and hash these things out.

My Navy counterpart is Rear Adm. Frederick Luckman, he goes by “Lucky”. My call sign is “Hertz”. We immediately got to a Hertz-Lucky professional friendly demeanor. We go through an awful lot of coffee. He and I meet as often as we can to share data. Like I said, we cannot share the information fast enough.

The Navy is doing a lot of good work. They had a series of issues with physiology not only in the F-18, but T-45s, and they’ve had very good success in their T-6 fleet. They have a T-6 fleet that’s about half the size of the Air Force’s. They have slightly different models, some of theirs are newer models, but the oxygen systems are very similar.

The Navy adopted early on, in response to some of the lessons they learned from other airframes, significant maintenance practices in their T-6 oxygen system that we found very useful. We watched the Navy adopt those, saw the results of it and in those cases we’ve been able to adopt it exactly the same way that they have.

(Top)

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

Brig. Gen. Edward L. Vaughan, head of the Air Force Unexplained Physiological Events Integration Team, and Rear Adm. Fredrick R. Luchtman, Navy Physiological Episodes Action Team lead, discuss ongoing efforts to minimize the risk of Physiological Episodes.

(U.S. Navy photo by Cmdr. Scot Cregan)

Airman Magazine: How does the timely resolution of PEs, affect training and readiness?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Looking at the National Defense Strategy, lethality is the primary objective and, for the Air Force, that equates to readiness. Are we ready to fight? You know, the question is readiness for what? Ready to do what? It’s ready to prosecute the war, ready to fight. In some cases, being ready to go out and influence and be that presence where we need to be.

If we’re having equipment struggles, delays in our programs, or we’re having to stand-down aircraft or cancel missions because of physiological episodes that will get in the way of us being ready. It will get in the way of us executing any plans we may have out there. So it’s important for us to get the information back, put the fixes in, get those funded, fielded and executed as quickly as possible. Once we do that, we’re going to enhance readiness and capability as we grow toward the Air Force We Need.

It also eliminates a distraction. Anytime you have aircraft mishaps of any kind, anytime you have a cluster of these PEs, it’s going to create a distraction, not just for the frontline airman, but for their families, and anybody else associated with it. Anybody involved with the operation and maintenance will have a distraction. That distraction takes our eye off the readiness ball. That’s one of the reasons that you’ll see the PEAT, Physiological Episodes Acting Team, embedded right in A3T. A3T’s tasking is training and readiness.

Airman Magazine: What types of symptoms are commonly associated with PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Symptoms span the spectrum of what can happen to people on airplanes. I’ll caveat this with Air Force aviators receive extensive training in physiology and what may happen to them in tactical aviation. All pilots and other aircrew going through their initial training, experience the hypobaric chamber, we call it the altitude chamber. They get used to what it’s like to operate at high altitudes and what happens during decompression. They also have routine refresher training in all aspects of aviation physiology.

One of the main reasons for doing that training is so that each aviator can learn what their individual symptoms will be. No two people will react the same to an aircraft or environmental stimulus and, in fact, the same person may have different reactions on different days based on fatigue, fitness, nutrition, or other personal factors.

It’s important for each aviator to have a sense of what symptoms they might have, especially the early onset symptoms, so they can take early appropriate action to safely recover the aircraft or get out of the environment that’s causing the problem.

Some of these symptoms can range from things like tingling in the extremities, fingers and toes, headaches or nausea. There are actually cases of folks having euphoria, while other folks may become belligerent. They know if you’re flying along and all of a sudden you just feel a little irritated for no particular reason it may be time to check your oxygen system, look at the environment you’re in or determine if that’s caused by something else. Then take appropriate action to mitigate the risk.

(Top)

Airman Magazine: You have said that when investigating and mitigating PEs, “We can’t share information fast enough.” Describe what you mean and how that process can be improved?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Sharing the right information and then making sense of the information is very important in dealing with this phenomenon. What we do right now in the Air Force is we listen to the pilots. Pilots will land and give us a debrief – What happened? When did it happen? What types of conditions were going on in the airplane?

You’ll find that in the Air Force fleet, and the Navy fleet as well, most of the aircraft have pretty sophisticated sensors when it comes to their engines and other aircraft systems. When they land that information is downloaded, aggregated, and acted upon. Much of the critical data is available real time and available to the pilot for immediate action. Each aircraft is slightly different as technology improves, but the amount of data that we’re able to download from a given flight is enormous. But hard data on the human weapon system is slim to none.

This gets into right into some of the themes of Secretary of the Air Force has talked about going into artificial intelligence, big data analytics. How do we deal with all this data, make some sense of it and not run down the wrong path to get a wrong conclusion?

I will tell you one area though, where we’re still struggling, not only the Air Force, but also the Navy and our colleagues at NASA, is collecting data from the actual human weapon system.

We want to know things like pulse rate, oxygen content in the blood, cognitive functions, any anomalies with eyesight, but these are very hard things to sense independently without interfering with the aviators while they conduct their mission.

That’s a fascinating area of research that’s happening out at the 711th Human Performance Wing at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in conjunction with the Navy Medical Research Unit Dayton. What they’ve started to do, both those labs working together and along with some NASA support, is fielding some prototypes, such as sensors that might go, for example, in the (oxygen) mask or on the pilot’s helmet.

We actually know real-time information about the oxygen system in an airplane. We have sensors on the actual system to know the content of oxygen and other gases that might be presented to the aviator. What we don’t know is what happens in system losses; what happens between the actual oxygen production or the oxygen source and the pilot’s breathing. Furthermore, we don’t know the pilot’s ability to uptake that oxygen. There’s a lot of medical and physiological processes that we need to monitor better.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

A technique called Hybrid 3D Printing, developed by AFRL researchers in collaboration with the Wyss Institute at Harvard University, uses additive manufacturing to integrate soft, conductive inks with material substrates to create stretchable electronic devices.

(Wyss Institute photo)

Airman Magazine: What does the end state of this research look like? Are you talking about monitoring physiological responses of pilots during missions in real time?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: That’s absolutely correct. We’d like to get to an end state where the human weapon system is instrumented in such a way that’s noninvasive and nonintrusive. The aviators won’t feel the sensors and it doesn’t interfere with their duties at all, but that that data is available just like you would read all the instruments on an engine. We’re trying to figure out, is that five years from now, two years from now or 20 years from now?

If you think of the human on the loop or in the loop going forward, especially in cyber systems and integrating across all-domain operations, it’s going to be more important than ever to make sure that the human weapon system is keeping up and that we’re able to monitor that.

So we’re looking at sensors that might be wearable. A lot of folks out in the community are familiar with wearable fitness monitors and the chips that go in your shoes if you’re going to run a race to keep track of where you are. One of the challenges we have in aviation is the sensors that might be worn in commercial practice that people might buy at a local store are not suitable for the aviation environment, particularly tactical aviation.

Not only do you have the pressure and temperature anomalies that occur as airplanes travel up and down, but in tactical aviation, fighters, bombers and training aircraft, there’s an awful lot of G-loading. There can be anomalies that go from high altitude to low altitude in very short order and that has a lot of wear and tear on the sensors.
Some sensors are embedded in clothing and depend on contact with the skin. For example, in order to prepare themselves for a mission, aviators will strap down tighter than you might in an automobile to keep them safe, but that may also cause bulges in the clothing that interferes with sensory contact. There’s a lot of research yet to be done and a lot of development ahead of us.

I’m looking forward to the Air Force potentially investing more in that research. I’m especially impressed with our ability to work with our joint partners with the Navy and the Army, which is coming on board later this month, in this PEAT effort. They’ve got a lot of exciting things happening in their aerospace medicine field and then NASA has been a partner throughout. You really can’t beat, from an intellectual capacity standpoint, having partners like the 711th Human Performance Wing and NASA. We’ve got the best partners in the world.

Airman Magazine: Are there other interagency or commercial partners in the research and investigation of PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Absolutely. Some of the companies that produce our aircraft have divisions dedicated to human physiology and enhancing the ability of the human to perform in or on the loop. They provide enhancements such as providing sensors and digital displays. In some cases, even an augmented reality display, which we have in many aircraft, where there’s a lens that comes over one eye and not only can you see your environment, but that lens will produce a heads-up display of images that will help you interpret what you’re seeing on the ground.

Not only do we have industry partners that helping us with this, we also have universities and some international partners. Primarily we’re working through the Navy to access the folks that are doing that work on the outside, but we’re going to start working a little more with our international affairs group here in the Air Force to foster those partnerships.

Airman Magazine: Do you see a time when human sensor capability will be baked in rather than bolted on?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I think we’re going to get to that point. Right now, we’ve got to be sensitive to the fact, that if we start utilizing every sensor that’s available commercially, we run the risk of interfering with the mission and maybe causing a distraction. The last thing we want to do is have sensors be the cause of problems. We want the sensors to help us solve those problems.

We’re looking at ways to prototype these things. Edwards Air Force Base, for example, where we do a lot of research and development flight testing, has been very instrumental in working with the 711th Human Performance Wing and the system program offices for the airplanes, to include the T-6, F-15, F-16 and others, in doing some remarkable testing that gives us great foundational data. That foundational data is important to determine where we do the development going forward. Also, we recently shook hands on an agreement with the Civil Air Patrol to help us collect, assess, and sort through the many commercially available wearable sensors.

Airman Magazine: What’s the benefit to the force of being able to process and utilize PE data faster?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So for example, right now if we have a physiological event in the aircraft, we typically execute emergency procedures, get to a safe backup source of oxygen if it’s available, descend to an altitude where it’s safe to breathe ambient air and then land as soon as possible at the nearest suitable airfield.

Perhaps what will happen in the future, with sensors on board, you may be able to head off that emergency. Sensors may alert the pilots to the fact that they are entering a phase of flight or a set of activities or an environment, where they’re at higher risk of these kinds of anomalies. By alerting the pilot to that, they may be able to mitigate it or avoid a physiological event.

Furthermore, if there is a situation in flight, the sensors on board that gives them real time readings may enable them to do a better job of assessing what’s going on.

But this is where it gets insidious. With physiological events, one serious possible symptom is an inability to assess the situation.

Now that’s a pretty extreme symptom, but you may have those situations come up. In which case, presenting the data to the pilot as numbers or another traditional data format might not be as useful as, maybe, an alert light. There are some programs out there that cause the oxygen mask to vibrate a little bit. We do this with the control stick in airplanes as well. With such an equipped aircraft if you were to get into a stall, the control stick vibrates, They call it a stick shaker. Applying these proven technologies to other areas are all in prototype and being tested.

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Zach Demers, an aerospace engineer, demonstrates the Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System (Auto GCAS) in an F-16 flight simulator at the Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Airman Magazine: Weren’t you involved in the adoption of another pilot safety system?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Formerly, I served as the Air National Guard’s national director of safety. Part of our safety portfolio is flight safety and in that we have some advanced fourth and fifth- generation aircraft, but we also have legacy systems out there. Systems that don’t have baked-in ground collision avoidance systems.

We worked very hard with the system program office and the Pilot Physician program in the United States Air Force to bring on board these Auto G-CAS systems (Automatic Ground Collision Avoidance System). We have confirmed saves in situations where the pilot may have lost awareness. It doesn’t have to be a physiological event. It can be task saturation or other things that cause the pilot to lose awareness of proximity to the ground. Traditional GCAS systems will alert the pilot, such as an X symbol in the heads-up display, letting them know they’re near the ground and need to pull back on the stick.

In the Auto G-CAS, the aircraft sensors can actually determine the point where the pilot can no longer recover, due to the limits of human reaction time, and the system takes over the jet and recovers it for the pilot. As soon as the aircraft is in a safe regime, it returns the control back to the pilot. And that’s also had a couple of great saves for us.

Airman Magazine: You mentioned the Pilot Physician program, what is that and are they involved in the J-PEAT and investigating of UPEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Pilot Physician is a very unique program in the Air Force and its highly specialized. These are individuals are rated aviators of all sorts, but primarily pilots. Then they go to medical school and change their job category. So they’re no longer primarily pilots for the Air Force, they’re now physicians for the Air Force.

They’ve enabled to help us understand what’s going on both operationally and medically and where those two things meet. In other situations, you have pilots who were trying to describe what’s happening to them in the airplane and then you have medical doctors trying to understand that description. There can be things lost in translation between the communities.

The Pilot Physicians speak both aviation and medicine fluently, are able to identify with the pilots and, in many cases, have flown that exact aircraft being investigated.

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Lt. Col. Jay Flottmann, pilot physician and 325th Fighter Wing chief of flight safety, explains how a valve in the upper pressure garment and the shape and the size of oxygen delivery hoses and connection points contributed to previously unexplained physiological issues during F-22 flights.

(Photo by Senior Airman Christina Brownlow)

Airman Magazine: Are there specific examples of investigations that benefitted from Pilot Physician experience and expertise?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Lt. Col. James “Bones” Flottman was the Pilot Physician directly involved in the F-22 investigation that we did a few years ago. The F-22 had a series of physiological episodes. He was the one that was able, as an F-22 pilot and a physician, to credibly determine that it was a work of breathing issue.

It was a combination of factors, we don’t need to go into all the specifics right here, but he was able to bridge the gap between pilot practices, things they’ve been taught to do and things they did through experience, and what was happening medically. That resulted in improvements in the whole system – improvements in some of the hardware and improvements in the pilot practices. Not only was he able to help the investigation team solve that, he was able to then go back and credibly relate this to the pilots, restoring faith both in the system, in the Air Force process.

There’s another one that is a friend of mine, retired Col. Peter Mapes. Dr. Pete Mapes is a classic Pilot Physician. He was a B-52 pilot and a fantastic doctor, as are all of them. He and I worked closely together on Auto G-CAS, as well as several key people in engineering and operations. He was really the driving force, along with Lt. Col. Kevin Price, at the Air Force and the OSD level to push that development and production through, especially for the legacy aircraft.

He also had a role in many other aviation safety improvements to include helicopters, specifically wire detection. A lot of helicopters have mishaps because they strike power lines. He was instrumental in getting some of those systems put into helicopters and out into the fleet.

He was also instrumental in improving some of the seat designs and some of the pilot-aircraft interface designs as well. Really too many to mention.

Another great a success story for the Air Force, when it comes to the Pilot Physician program is Col. Kathy Hughes, call sign “Fog”. She’s flown the T-38 and A-10, a great flying background, and has been a wonderful physician for the Air Force. She really explored the use, the application and the design of our G-suits and was able to help the Air Force evolve into a full coverage G-suit. So now the G-suits that our fighter aviators fly are more standardized and more effective than the previous generations of flight suits. Thanks, in large part, to her work. I recently met her at aviation safety conference where she is helping commercial interests design better ejection seats.

That’s just three examples. There’s a whole laundry list.

We also have advising both the Navy and Air Force PEAT, Col. William P. Mueller; call sign “Ferris”. Col. Mueller was an F-4 fighter pilot and now one of the top physicians in aerospace medicine. He’s been absolutely invaluable in helping us understand what’s going on with the physiological episodes. He not only sits on the Air Force PEAT, but he also has a permanent membership sitting on the Navy’s PEAT. So he’s part of that joint interaction and offers a fearless perspective on improving training.

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Col. Kathryn Hughes, a pilot-physician and director, Human Systems Integration, 711th Human Performance Wing, sits on the stairs of a centrifuge at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, April 22, 2016.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Brian Ferguson)

Airman Magazine: Could research into making Big Data more easily utilized by the warfighter have an application in investigating and mitigating PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I like using the email analogy. So most of us have email. Those that work in an office may have one for work and one for personal use, or maybe even more than that. If you’re like me at all, if you skip checking your emails for even one day, you find yourself in a huge email deficit. Now imagine all the sensors, whether it’s a cyber system, aircraft systems, space system, and each piece of all the data being collected as an email coming to you. Within minutes you would be completely overwhelmed with data. So we’re going to rely on systems to help us sort through the data and present those things that are most important now for decision making.

Those other pieces of information that we might want later for analysis, it will store those and present them at the appropriate time. So that gets after artificial intelligence. We need these systems to work with the human in the loop. We don’t necessarily want it to be standalone. We want it to be integrated with humans and that’s where the real challenge comes in, because as an aviator flying an airplane, the data I want right at that moment to prosecute the fight, may be different than the data a cyber operator working with me in that operation may need at that same moment. Artificial Intelligence or underlying data systems will have to be smart enough to give the data to the operator that’s needed to make the right decision.

I recently spent some time with Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. I asked him about this wicked technology problem of applying artificial intelligence on the tactical edge. His advice about leveraging cloud technology to perform advanced operations on big data, where and when needed, has been invaluable.

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Airman Magazine: How does recorded data on individual pilots allow you establish baseline physiology and find relationships between PEs that may occur in aircrew from different units and bases?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: We’re already finding benefit from that data, so the 711th Human Performance Wing is working very closely, in this case with the T-6 system program office, and some big data analytic gurus. These folks will take large volumes of data and slice and dice it to find where there might be some differences from what would be considered a baseline or normal.

Then they can dig into those differences and see if there is something to learn. They’re finding a lot of great results that help us improve the systems. Because physiological events involve humans and each human has such a different reaction and an individual person will have a different reaction on a different day, it can be difficult to look at a small sample size and draw any big lessons. We need large sample sizes and that’s where you can start to kind of tease out the pieces of the data that are going to move us forward.

As we worked with the Navy on the Physiological Episode Action Team we have found that pilots in the Air Force and the Navy are more informed than ever. They know people in the tech business and the pilots talk amongst themselves and share information and they’re finding these wearable sensors.

Most of the wearable sensors are not suitable for aviation use. They just can’t provide good data under those conditions, but it’s worth exploring. Talking to Admiral Luckman, we wanted to find a way to get these sensors, and most of them are small things like fitness monitors, that just aren’t allowed in our environment right now, into the cockpit just to see how they survive a flight. The Civil Air Patrol, which flies general aviation aircraft, fly with their smart phones and other types of equipment.

They have a tremendous safety record, but they also have a completely different set of rules than we do. They typically just follow the AIM and the FAA civilian flight rules. Most of those flight rules don’t have any prohibitions on bringing equipment in your pocket or your flight bag.

So recently we sat down with some of the leaders of the Civil Air Patrol to work out a memorandum of understanding whereabouts we’ll get these ideas and sensors to our pilots in the fleet. Some of them will appropriately go through Air Force and Navy channels and may end up being something of a program of record in the long term.

Others that we can’t cross that gap and into the system, we’ll offer those to Civil Air Patrol and, at their option, they can start flying those. It’s not official flight test, but they can at least tell us, does this thing survive a flight up to 10,000 feet and back. And that piece of information might be just enough. That then allows our system program office with the labs to start taking a closer look.

Airman Magazine: This may seem like an odd question, but do PEs occur within the RPA or cyber communities where the ops tempo is so extreme?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: So that’s a great question and that’s why I think the development of sensors and better understanding of baseline human physiology is so important.

The RPA environment is just the tip of the iceberg. As we look at humans in the loop or on the loop, human physiology, whether it’s in cyber, RPAs, intel, space, any of the other missions that we’re doing, is a very important consideration.

What we don’t have yet is a tremendous amount of baseline data. What’s physiology supposed to look like in those situations? So when it’s different, how would we know it? That’s some of the work that’s going on right now at the labs is base-lining that data.

I will tell you that while the environment of RPAs is uniquely different than the environment in airplanes, but it’s not always easier. You have a lot of folks that are out there engaged in very serious operations, life and death situations, that they are dealing with for hours on end and then go home every night to their families and to would be a normal environment. Most people have coping mechanisms to deal with that. But that’s one of the areas of research that folks are looking at in the labs – how do we better prepare people to go back and forth between these kinds of environments?

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Maj. Bishane, an MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. RPA personnel deal with the stressors of a deployed military service member while trying to maintain the normalcy of a day-to-day life.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Airman Magazine: Let’s shift gears and talk about your career history. How does leading PEAT differ from your past experiences as a safety officer at a wing or a squadron?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: Prior to this, I worked for Secretary Mattis in OSD reserve integration. We basically informed OSD policy relative to the seven different reserve components out there to include the Air National Guard.

Before that, I served as commander of the 156th Airlift Wing. As a wing commander, it is a minute-by-minute duty to make risk decisions and it’s very important to realize the consequences of those decisions and understand that whole risk matrix.

In my current position, I’m not a commander of anything. I’m not really in charge of folks specifically. We have a team, but we come together as required. So this job is more informative. One of our primary roles is to inform commanders. As they give us data, we give them back context so they can make better risk decisions.

It also allows the labs to put a focus on their studies enabling the system program offices to acquire and improve systems to support the mission. So this job is very different in that respect.

I think having been a commander previously helps me understand what these commanders they need to hear and how they want to receive that data so it doesn’t overwhelm them.

Airman Magazine: What is it you would like the pilots and aircrew to know about you, the PEAT and their part in preventing and mitigating PEs?

Brig. Gen. Vaughan: I traveled to Randolph Air Force Base and I had the opportunity to meet with some of the higher headquarters staff. I met with the commander of 19th Air Force and I was very encouraged and reassured with everyone’s openness to really solving this problem as aggressively and quickly as possible, talking about physiological episodes, but also, in a broader sense, the sustainment of the T-6 and sustainment of other airframes for which people might be interested.

I feel good about where that’s going. I also had a real eye-opener when I had an opportunity to meet with some of the T-6 pilots. We met off base. We decided to meet in a restaurant in a casual environment. We wanted that format because I wanted to hear really unfiltered what some of these T-6 pilots, who are some of the most experienced pilots in the Air Force flying that mission, that airframe. I was able to learn a lot. They have great faith in their chain of command and leadership. They have valid and serious concerns about physiological episodes, as does the commander all the way up to the chief of staff and the Secretary.

I think being able to hear their perspective, share with them my firsthand knowledge of meeting with senior level commanders in the Air Force bridged some gaps. I also was able to hear some very specific engineering questions and connect some of those pilots directly with some of the engineers at the system program office and some folks within their own chain of command that they just haven’t connected with yet. Just trying to get those dialogues going, because the solutions that the air Force is putting into place, whether it’s T-6 or any other airframe, are usually phased. Some of them require major investment, money and time-wise, and those take a little longer to accomplish.

So how do you bridge the gap between today and when we get to that promised land if some of those bigger fixes and it comes down to some solid risk management? In the case of the T-6, there’s a whole list of maintenance protocols that we handle and emergency procedures for the pilots that don’t necessarily reduce the number of these events, but they can reduce the severity and certainly mitigate the consequences. That’s what we’re trying to do. We don’t want a situation where any physiological episode goes far enough to lead to a permanent injury or harm of an aviator destruction of property. We want to catch those things as early as possible through these mitigation techniques.

Another thing I got to do when I was at Randolph was shadow the maintainers as they did maintenance on a T-6 that had a physiological episode. In the past, when these things would happen, there wasn’t a specific protocol. They would do their very best to look at the oxygen system, but there wasn’t a protocol on how to do that.

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T-6 Texans fly in formation over Laughlin AFB, TX.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Over the last year, with the help of a lot of the pilots, doctors, chain of command folks, human performance wing – a big team effort, when the airplane lands after one of those instances it’s an automatic protocol for that oxygen system.

In most cases it’s removed and a new one is put in and the suspect system then gets this thorough going over at the depot level and not only do we fix that, that particular system and return it to service. We’re able to learn a lot and collect data points. In some cases, we don’t find the specific cause in that system and then we look elsewhere – maybe more pilot interviews, talking to the doctors and trying to piece it together.

The protocols that are out there now not only helped mitigate the consequences of these events until we field new equipment, but they also help us in collecting data that will inform better decisions going forward.

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This article originally appeared on Airman Magazine. Follow @AirmanMagazine on Twitter.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Navy carrier Ford’s high-tech EMALS Catapult System breaks during sea trials

Flight operations on the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier were cut back during recent at-sea trials after the new high-tech system that launches aircraft from the flattop’s flight deck went down.

The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford‘s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, known as EMALS, broke June 2 during the ship’s biggest carrier air wing embark to date. The Ford’s leaders had just announced the carrier was underway when EMALS went down.


There were about 1,000 members of Carrier Air Wing 8 aboard the ship as the Ford ran post-delivery test and trials operations in the Atlantic. In a call with reporters the day before the EMALS went down, Capt. J.J. Cummings, the ship’s commanding officer, called the air wing embark a historic moment for the Ford.

The air wing qualified more than 50 fleet and student pilots, he said, and launched and trapped hundreds of flights from the flattop while operating at sea.

But the next day, the EMALS went down, according to a Navy news release that was issued late Sunday night. That “curtailed flight operations to some extent.”

“But the Strike Group, ship, and air wing team still accomplished significant goals scheduled for the Ford-class aircraft carrier,” the release added.

The root cause of the EMALS failure remains under review, said Capt. Danny Hernandez, a Navy spokesman at the Pentagon.

“The fault appeared in the power handling system, during a manual reset of the system,” he said. “This section is independent of the high pulsed power section to launch aircraft and is not a safety of flight risk. The Navy is reviewing procedures and any impacts on the system.”

Any findings and corrective actions they take will be key to ensuring the Ford is ready to support the warfighter when it enters the fleet, Hernandez added.

The Navy has faced pressure from politicians — on Capitol Hill and the White House — on delays in getting several new systems running smoothly, including the EMALS. President Donald Trump once called the system the “crazy electric catapult” and said sailors he spoke to on the Ford complained it wasn’t reliable.

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media.defense.gov

“I’m just going to put out an order — we’re going to use steam,” Trump said last year, referring to the legacy system used to launch aircraft on older carriers.

The Ford returned to port Sunday, and Hernandez said the crew was supported by a team of experts who developed an “alternative method to launching the air wing off” the ship.

The Ford has completed nearly 3,500 launches and recoveries using the EMALS. Hernandez called that quite an achievement, but added that it’s an insufficient number to draw conclusions about the system’s reliability.

“As flight operations on [the new carrier] continue, interruptions will be tracked, systematically reviewed and addressed with design and procedural changes aimed at achieving operational requirements for the rest of the Ford class,” he said.

James Geurts, assistant Navy secretary for research, development and acquisition, said shipbuilders remain on the Ford, working to resolve problems with new systems. That includes getting all the Ford’s 11 weapons elevators up and running. Five are now working.

The Government Accountability Office noted the Navy’s struggles to demonstrate reliability of the Ford’s key systems, including the EMALS, in a recent report.

“Although the Navy is testing EMALS and [the advanced arresting gear] on the ship with aircraft, the reliability of those systems remains a concern,” the report states. “If these systems cannot function safely by the time operational testing begins, [the Ford] will not be able to demonstrate it can rapidly deploy aircraft — a key requirement for these carriers.”

— Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Everything the Soviets did wrong in Afghanistan

There is no greater historical example of an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object than the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a mountainous, landlocked, harsh country that makes it very difficult for a great power to bring the full might of that power to bear against the locals. Naval forces are out and, in some area, so is air support. The harsh climate and vast nothingness and remotely populated areas makes supply lines difficult to establish and even harder to defend. But the Soviet Union opted to try anyway, invading in force in 1979.

Under Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, the country was actually developing and modernizing fairly well… until his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew him in 1973. He established an Afghan Republic and everything went to hell — for many reasons. Five years later, the Pashtun Nationalist government was overthrown in favor of a Communist regime and Afghanistan became a Cold War battlefront.


Communism did not sit well with the people in rural areas, who weren’t used to the control (and taxes and land reforms) of a Communist central government. So, they started fighting back. Then-President Nur Mohammed Taraki asked the Soviet Union to help quell angry protests against a government that suddenly decided to execute so many of them for failing to comply with Communist reforms. That’s when Hafizullah Amin, the Communist Prime Minister, killed Taraki and seized power.

Then, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev stepped in.

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He came in like a wrecking ball.

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People like this.

Seeing Afghanistan descending into chaos and worried that the Islamic Revolution in Iran might spread to Afghanistan and other traditionally muslim Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR decided to move in — and pretty much failed from day one, which was Christmas Day, 1979.

At this point, the Soviets needed to do four things: legitimize the Communist central government in Kabul, rebuild the Afghan Army, destroy resistance to the new government, and win the hearts and minds of the common people they couldn’t directly control.

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“Ownership” being the operative word.

1. They could not establish the Communist government’s legitimacy

Failure was immediate, beginning with the man at the top. After just months in power, Amin was out. Literally. One of the first governmental changes the Soviets made was to kill Amin and replace him with Babrak Kamal. This turned the image of the Soviet invasion from one of an intervention to stabilize the government to one of ownership over Afghanistan.

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These guys, remember?

2. They did not break the back of the resistance

While they were able to take the major cities, as well as transportation and communications centers, the Red Army quickly pushed tribal warlords into the mountainous regions, where they resolved to begin the Islamic Revolution that nobody had thought about until the Soviets invaded in the first place. Instead of conquering the country, they managed to unite Afghanistan’s disparate population against them.

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There’s no Russian translation for “off the beaten path.” Apparently.

The one advantage the Red Army had over mujahideen fighters was their fleet of Hind helicopters. These allowed the Soviets to move people and equipment fast over long distances and into the high mountains. This silver lining lasted until the mid-1980s, when Stinger missiles began to appear in jihadi arsenals. With accurate anti-aircraft missiles, the mujahideen now had the ability to protect their mountainous hiding places and forced the Soviet Union to switch to a tactic of conducting nighttime raiding on enemy targets.

Soviet forces were concentrated in a mass along major highways in the country and in a series of fortified positions throughout their controlled areas. Outside of those areas, neither economy of forces nor consistent supply lines were ever established.

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A map of areas controlled by insurgent groups in Afghanistan in 1985.

In places like Khost, Soviet dominance was never even established. The Red Army established a helicopter base on the outskirts of the city, but the city itself spent 11 years under siege from the Mujahideen forces, cut off from the rest of Soviet operations. When a relief column came to the base in 1987, they reset the siege as soon as the Russians left.

The Soviet Union’s previous experience with invading other countries was limited to East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Afghanistan and its people have little in common with the methods of fighting that work in Europe. The tactics employed by the Soviets were mostly of overwhelming firepower, including scorched-earth policies, carpet bombing, and the use of chemical weapons, none of which won them many friends among the people of the country they were trying to win over.

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Soviet ground forces in action while conducting an offensive operation against the Islamist resistance, the Mujahideen.

3. The Soviets did not win over the hearts and minds of Afghan people

A narrative quickly formed that atheist Communists and traditionally Orthodox Christian Russian invaders were on a mission against Islam. Those Afghan warlords that were pushed out of major urban centers and villages came down from the mountains as a united Islamic front, the mujahideen. With the Cold War in full swing, the United States decided to help fuel the fire by supplying the mujahideen with weapons and equipment to help their jihad against the USSR.

Fighters and money flowed into the mujahideen’s ongoing guerrilla war against the Soviet Union from all corners of the Islamic world. Between 1980 and 1985, the Red Army stomped the mujahideen in a series of battles in the Panjshir Valley against the forces of rebel leaders like Ahmad Shah Massoud. But Massoud would always live to rebuild his forces and come back at the Russian bear.

The Soviets could win as many pitched battles as they wanted, kill as many Afghan fighters as possible, but the endless tide of money and men would mean that the battles would just be fought over and over. Search-and-destroy missions were not going to pacify Afghanistan. In fact, all it did was either kill the population or turned them into refugees — a full one-third of Afghanistan’s population was killed or fled during the Soviet occupation.

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“Set it up like this, it goes bang. Good work, comrade.”

4. The Afghan Army was never an effective force

The Red Army brought in allied advisors from friendly countries to train the Afghan Army in warfighting methods more appropriate than the methods they actually used. Cuban troops who were familiar with insurgency operations from places like Angola and Ethiopia trained the burgeoning Afghan government troops, but the consistent lack of actual combat experience in these tactics wasted a lot of the time they could have spent creating a veteran fighting force.

Furthermore, the inefficient communications and logistics involved with large-scale Soviet operations did little to convince the nascent Afghan troops that their training methods and lessons had any real applicability in real-world fighting. When the Russians left and the Soviet Union fell, many of these trained fighters defected to the mujahideen, leading to the fall of the Afghan Communist regime.

The Soviet Union would stay in Afghanistan until February 1989. They still supported the Communist Afghan government against the mujahideen, which continued until the USSR collapsed in on itself in 1991. In April 1992, mujahideen troops under Ahmad Shah Massoud captured Kabul. But the factional violence within the jihadists didn’t stop and another civil war began.

This time, the victors were an upstart group of hardline Islamists, known as the Taliban.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un may really want to end his nuclear aggression

Kim Jong Un has reportedly said he is committed to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.


In a historic visit to meet President Xi Jinping in China, the North Korean leader’s first overseas visit since assuming power in 2011, Kim confirmed denuclearization is a goal of his.

“The issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula can be resolved — if South Korea and the United States respond to our efforts with goodwill — create an atmosphere of peace and stability while taking progressive and synchronous measures for the realization of peace,” said Kim, according to China’s state-run outlet Xinhua.

Also read: Why a war on the Korean Peninsula might be a bad idea for America

Kim also said that the situation on the Korean Peninsula is developing rapidly and getting better, and that denuclearization was a wish of his father and grandfather.

“It is our consistent stand to be committed to denuclearization on the peninsula, in accordance with the will of late President Kim Il Sung and late General Secretary Kim Jong Il,” he said.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
A map of the Korean Peninsula and the surrounding region.

This supports claims by South Korea’s envoy, who met with Kim in Pyongyang early March 2018.

“What drew our attention, in particular, is that he made clear that achieving denuclearization is his father’s dying wish and that it has not been changed at all,” a Blue House spokesman said, according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap.

But there was suspicion among experts that South Korea may have embellished Kim’s words, and that the North Korean was unlikely to be open to denuclearization or would have even used the word.

Related: The US just sent supersonic bombers to the Korean peninsula

“South Korea has an innate interest to provide the most benevolent interpretation of what North Korea said,” Yun Sun, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Center, told Business Insider. “If North Korea comes out and corroborates, watch the language it uses and what it really means in terms of North Korea’s position.”

Well, according to China’s media reports, Kim used “denuclearization” at least twice, which should give hope to both the US and South Korea who are hoping to hold talks with Kim in the next two months.

Articles

How some special operators are turning to illegal drugs to deal with deployment stress

They have achieved cult hero status for their exploits since 9/11, but their success on the battlefield is taking a personal toll on Navy SEALs and members of other US special operations elite forces.


Reports of rampant illicit drug abuse by special operators — while on deployment and at home — have prompted congressional lawmakers to call for an accountability review of the “culture” inside special operations units.

Drug and alcohol use by some members of special operations units is nothing new to the culture within the teams, who see such behavior as a coping mechanism in response to the unforgiving tasks these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been asked to carry out.

“They are pretty much out there on a daily basis in very dangerous situations and working with [partners] who you don’t know if they are going to put a bullet in your back,” one former team member with knowledge of personnel issues told The Washington Times. “The level of stress these people are experiencing is off the charts,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The unprecedented pace and tempo in which US special operations forces have been used in the post-9/11 global war on terrorism, beginning with al Qaeda and the Taliban and now encompassing Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other groups, has exacerbated those stress levels, leading to even riskier coping behaviors.

“Kill/capture” missions by US special operations units combined with clandestine drone strikes formed the backbone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism doctrine. Six months into his term, President Trump has shown little sign of abandoning that strategy. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in May that the United States is entering an era of global conflict defined by protracted small wars with extremist militant groups.

“This is going to be a long fight,” Mr. Mattis said.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

Aside from deploying hundreds of special operations military advisers to the front lines of the Islamic State fight in Syria and Iraq, the Trump administration has ordered the expansion of US Special Operations Command’s mission in Africa, battling the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab.

“You see our forces engaged in that from Africa to Asia. But, at the same time, this is going to be a long fight. And I don’t put timelines on fights,” Mr. Mattis told CBS News.

‘Something has to give’

The operational tempo for Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other “Tier One” US special operations forces units, which spend a majority of their time overseas on deployment, is a vicious cycle but a prerequisite for the job, the former team member said.

“We’re not talking about 18-, 19-year-old kids. You have to have a level of resilience to get where they are,” he said. But even with the most seasoned and battle-hardened veterans, “something has to give” from the relentless demands to deploy.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed

A pair of random, command-wide drug screenings conducted from November through February uncovered a total of 59 cases of illicit drug use among sailors serving in Naval Special Warfare Command.

Seven command members tested positive for illicit drug use from among more than 6,300 subjected to a sweep of random tests late last year, according to figures that command officials provided to The Times. The command also uncovered 52 cases of illegal drug use among 71,000 tests carried out since August 2014.

Of the 52 command members who tested positive for illegal drug use during the most recent round of tests across the Navy command, 10 were SEAL team members. Command officials could not confirm how many SEAL members were part of the seven positive drug tests found during a round of testing in November and December.

Drug abuse, domestic abuse, or other behaviors tied to the seemingly constant rotations to conflict zones are “endemic of what these people are going through,” the team member said. “These are your franchise players. They want to be the best of the best. It’s a quality you need but also makes it hard to disengage. A lot of it is just coping just the physical toll [the job] takes on you. You have to find an outlet.”

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
USAF photo illustration by Senior Airman Chad Strohmeyer

The problem of drug use within the special operations community gained unwanted attention in April when news leaked of a closed-door speech by Capt. Jamie Sands, head of all East Coast-based Navy SEAL teams. The captain warned all 900 Navy special operators in the command about cracking down on the use of illicit drugs — including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy — among the SEAL teams that went public.

One active-duty SEAL attached to the East Coast teams told CBS News at the time that a number of his team members had tested positive for illegal drugs multiple times but remained on active duty since the Navy was unable to monitor their drug usage on a regular basis. Their frequent, extended deployments overseas allowed team members to avoid regular drug screenings.

Capt. Sands said that would no longer be a loophole in the command.

“We’re going to test on the road,” the officer said. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, then you will be caught.”

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
DoD Photo by Maj. Will Cox

Accountability review

Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, in June pushed for legislation requiring US special operations command and the head of the Pentagon’s special operations directorate to conduct an accountability review of the military’s elite units amid reports of heavy drug abuse within the teams.

The review was included in the House draft version of the Pentagon’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which sets aside $696 billion for military programs and operations. The full House overwhelmingly approved the defense spending package this month.

The measure would require Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, as well as top brass from Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, “to provide a briefing regarding culture and accountability in [special operations forces].”

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley Gardner

Critics say the Pentagon’s policies do not properly address the problem of illicit drug use among special operators, a claim US Special Operations Command officials vehemently deny.

“No one has turned a blind eye to the challenges special operations forces face after a decade and a half of continuous combat operations,” command spokesman Kenneth McGraw said in a statement to The Times.

Command officials and their counterparts in the services’ special operations directorates formed a task force to address issues such as drug use and other symptoms related to prolonged deployments of the elite US troops. The task force takes a “takes a holistic, integrated approach” to post-deployment issues unique to Special Forces units “designed to maximize access to treatment and minimize any stigma associated with seeking help,” Mr. McGraw said.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay

Despite the command’s task force and other associated efforts, lawmakers are pressing command officials on the problem of drug use inside the teams.

Ms. Speier’s office declined repeated requests for comment on the legislation and the level of cooperation House members are receiving from command officials and the Pentagon. But her characterization of the need for accountability within the special operations teams to address drug use is the wrong way to view the problem, the former team member said.

“I do not know if this is an accountability issue. It is not just about bad people. I think a lot of it is just what they have been through,” he said. “You have to realize you are not going to eradicate this [problem]. You cannot eradicate those experiences” of war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Comedy Bootcamp helped this Army vet hone her standup routine

Isaura Ramirez is an Army veteran and alumna of the Armed Services Arts Partnership (ASAP) Comedy Bootcamp program. ASAP is an organization based in Virginia that builds communities for veterans, servicemembers, and military families through classes, performances, and partnerships in the arts. As part of their mission, ASAP offers a Comedy Bootcamp for veterans to explore and develop their comedic abilities.


Isaura served in the Army for 13 years before seizing the opportunity to attend the ASAP Comedy Bootcamp. Isaura has approached comedy as a way of expressing her unique perspective of being a veteran. Comedy has helped her, as she put it, “direct her anger and frustration into something positive.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Second Novichok suspect was allegedly named ‘Hero of Russia’

Cybersleuthing group Bellingcat says it has found that two men that Britain suspects of poisoning former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were awarded Hero of the Russian Federation medals by President Vladimir Putin four years ago for conducting covert operations in Ukraine.

Releasing details about its latest findings on Oct. 9, 2018, Bellingcat said that Aleksandr Mishkin was decorated at around the same time as Anatoly Chepiga in 2014 — the year Russia seized Crimea and fomented separatism in eastern Ukraine, helping start a war that has killed more than 10,300 people.


A day earlier, Bellingcat said it determined that the suspect who traveled to Britain in March 2018 on a passport under the name Aleksandr Petrov is actually Mishkin, a military doctor employed by Russia’s military intelligence agency, widely known as the GRU.

The British-based open-source investigation group’s founder, Eliot Higgins, and researcher Christo Grozev told reporters at an event at the British Parliament that they found out that Mishkin had participated in covert operations in Ukraine and Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniester.

People acquainted with his family said they thought the hero award was given for activities “either in Crimea or in relation to [former Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanukovych,” according to the Bellingcat report.

This Navy SEAL has dedicated his life to helping wounded vets

A CCTV image issued by London’s Metropolitan police showing the two suspects at Salisbury train station.

Bellingcat said it sought out hundreds of Mishkin’s fellow graduates at the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, and that two remembered Mishkin, but they said that all members of the class had been contacted recently and told not to speak about him.

The organization added that The Insider, Bellingcat’s investigative partner in Russia, sent a reporter to the northern Russian village of Loyga, where at least seven people recognized photos of the man identified initially as Petrov as “our local boy” Mishkin.

The reporter heard that a woman identified as Mishkin’s grandmother had shown many villagers a photograph of Putin shaking hands with her grandson and was very proud of it.

Bellingcat said the reporter was not able to talk directly to the grandmother.

Bellingcat made waves in September 2018 when it said that Chepiga was the true identity of the other suspect, who had a passport in the name of Ruslan Boshirov, and that he was a GRU colonel decorated with the Hero award.

British authorities allege that the two Russians smeared a Soviet-designed nerve agent called Novichok on the front door of Skripal’s home in the English city of Salisbury on March 4, 2018, the day the former spy and his daughter were found incapacitated on a bench and rushed to the hospital.

Both survived after weeks in critical condition, but Dawn Sturgess, a woman who authorities said came in contact with the poison after her boyfriend found a fake perfume bottle containing it, died in July 2018.

The poisonings have added tension to already severely strained ties between Russia and the West, leading to additional U.S. and European Union sanctions on Moscow and to an exchange of diplomatic expulsions.

Russia denies involvement, but Bellingcat’s findings have added to the evidence against Moscow and exposed the GRU to ridicule.

Putin has insisted that the two men identified by Britain as poisoning the Skripals were ordinary Russian civilians.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Un tasted a K-pop show for the first time – and liked it

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made a surprise appearance at a K-pop concert in Pyongyang after some speculation over whether or not he’d actually show up — and he reportedly loved it.

Kim and his wife, Ri Sol Ju, saw South Korean K-pop group Red Velvet, Girls’ Generation member Seohyun, and many others play at a “Spring is Coming” concert that appears to have captured his imagination.


“When such good atmosphere is preserved carefully and continuously, only the beautiful spring when new buds sprout, and flowers blossom and the rich autumn when the crops are abundant will always be in the way of our fellow countrymen,” Kim said, according to North Korean media.

Kim even told a South Korean performer he’d like to return the favor with a show in South Korea called “Autumn is Coming,” according to NK News.

“Please tell [South Korean President Moon Jae-in] that how great an event like this is,” Kim reportedly said, also explaining that he reworked his busy schedule to see Red Velvet.

Kim, and his wife watched the performance with South Korean officials including Minister Do Jong-whan of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, who said Kim “showed a lot of interest while asking about songs and lyrics during the South’s performance,” according to NK News.

The performance also included some North Korean songs which were greeted with loud applause. And, as the event took place in Pyongyang, Kim himself was loudly applauded by the crowd.

Kim’s surprise visit to the show underscores a massive change in North and South Korean relations. Under Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, North Korea kidnapped South Korean artists to help film propaganda movies.

In North Korea, citizens can be sentenced to death for simply possessing South Korean media. When South Korea used to air drop in media like DVDs, North Korea would respond extremely harshly.

But now, as tensions begin to thaw and Kim goes on a diplomatic offensive meeting with heads of state for the first time, his tone seems to have shifted.

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