VA Office of Connected Care to share solutions to enable veterans to receive the care they need
SAN ANTONIO – USAA and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will host a free, Facebook Live event at 12 p.m. ET on Tuesday, Feb. 23 to discuss how VA telehealth technologies and initiatives are helping bring care to Veterans lacking necessary resources to connect with medical professionals. The use of telehealth services has risen significantly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but for many Veterans in rural areas, or with limited broadband connectivity, accessing these services can be challenging.
“Veterans should have access to high quality VA health care regardless of where they choose to live,” said Dr. Leonie Heyworth, VA’s National Synchronous Lead for Telehealth Services, and a participant in the virtual event. “We look forward to highlighting initiatives that have been created to increase access to care for Veterans everywhere.”
The use of VA telehealth has increased by 1,180% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Jan. 6, the VA provided more than 20,000 Digital Divide Consults enabling more than 12,000 Veterans to receive internet access or a video-enabled device for their care needs.
“Bridging the Digital Divide” will be hosted on USAA’s Facebook page for Veterans, their families and caretakers, and feature leaders from VA’s Office of Connected Care and Office of Rural Health. The discussion will highlight VA technologies that enable Veterans to receive care when they need it and regardless of where they live. The discussion also will cover what the VA is doing to address broadband connectivity issues and provide specific instructions on where Veterans and their families can go for assistance.
“USAA and the VA have worked together for years and believe it’s very important to make Veterans and their families aware of available resources and technology to receive the care they need in these challenging times,” said Mike Kelly, assistant vice president of Military Affairs at USAA and moderator for the virtual event.
VA’s partnership with USAA does not imply endorsement of USAA or its products.
Founded in 1922 by a group of military officers, USAA is among the leading providers of insurance, banking and investment and retirement solutions to nearly 13 million members of the U.S. military, veterans who have honorably served and their families. Headquartered in San Antonio, Tex., USAA has offices in seven U.S. cities and three overseas locations and employs more than 35,000 people worldwide. Each year, the company contributes to national and local nonprofits in support of military families and communities where employees live and work. For more information about USAA, follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@USAA), or visit usaa.com.
There are few things I love more than seeing badass women breaking barriers and proving to the world that powerful women are a force to be reckoned with. Women in the military have fought long and hard for equality, respect and recognition. While I feel like I could spend months researching and compiling lists of all of the amazing women who have served our country, I decided to start with these four, who proved that nothing is impossible.
Maj. Katie Higgins Cook
Like many service members, Maj. Cook’s calling to the military was a family affair. A third generation pilot, Cook has followed in the footsteps of both of her grandfathers, who served in both the U.S. Army Air Corps as well as the Air Force, and her father, who had a 26 year long career in the Navy. In an interview in Risen Magazine, she said of her paternal grandfather:
“He instilled in us this idea, because his parents were immigrants to this country from Sweden. The American dream in this country gave us all these opportunities and we needed to give back.”
Graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2008, she made the choice to go into the Marine Corps, after spending time training with Marines in Quantico, Virginia.
During her time in the Marine Corps, she was one of the few female pilots to fly combat missions during her deployment to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom. After that, she spent time on assignment in Uganda, and had already accrued over 400 combat flight hours. It was during her time in Africa that she was approached by a Blue Angel pilot, who encouraged her to apply for the coveted flight demonstration team. Following an extensive interview process, Maj. Cook was officially the first female Blue Angel, and became the pilot of the Lockheed C–130 Hercules named “Fat Albert.”
While Maj. Cook takes pride in her contribution to history, she stands firm on the fact that she was chosen due to her ability to perform, not because of her gender. She is also quick to remind those who praise her of all of the women who came before her, who paved the way for her and fellow female service members. Becoming a role model for young girls is something she takes great pride in, and she highlights the importance of hard work and dedication. She has garnered a respectable social media following, and has coined the hashtag “#flylikeagirl” — in order to encourage young girls to dream big.
When asked about the phrase, Cook explained, “The hashtag ‘fly like a girl’ is empowering. It’s positive. And being able to fly to the caliber of a female pilot is something to strive for. To me, it shows that the cockpit is a great equalizer. Both men and women can do equally awesome jobs, and in the end, there is no distinction between genders when it comes to performance. All of us are pilots with the same goal: get as many landings as take-offs.”
Gen. Ann E. Dunwoody
Gen. Dunwoody has had a career full of firsts. While the one that sticks out the most in recent memory is her becoming the first woman to reach the rank of four-star general in the history of the U.S. military, this wasn’t the first time Dunwoody had helped pave the way.
Another service member coming from military lineage, Dunwoody’s father was a decorated Army Veteran, and much of her life was spent moving from base to base. Her own career in the Army began in the mid-70’s, and after receiving a two-year commission as a second lieutenant at Fort Sill, she fell into the groove of military life and ultimately decided to dedicate the next few decades to serving. By 1992, she had become the first female battalion commander for the 82nd Airborne Division, and in 2000, was named the first female general at Fort Bragg. Throughout her career she was also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal and the Defense Superior Service Medal.
After over 30 years of service, Dunwoody made history in 2008 with her promotion to four-star general.
When speaking on her promotion, Dunwoody said “I have never considered myself anything but a Soldier. I recognize that with this selection, some will view me as a trailblazer, but it’s important that we remember the generations of women, whose dedication, commitment and quality of service helped open the doors of opportunity for us today.”
Prior to beginning her own career in the military, Michelle Howard already knew the road would not be easy. Joining the service was something Howard thought about often, even as a child. Her father, an Air Force master sergeant, was largely what influenced her to embark on her own journey in the service.
Luckily for Howard, just two years prior to her being old enough to enlist, President Ford signed the Military Procurement Bill which, beginning in 1976, allowed for the admission of women into military academies. Howard was accepted into the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis in 1978 and was one of only seven black women in her class of over 1,300. It was during her sophomore year that she first piloted a ship, and soon went on to distinguish herself as a bold and respected leader. After taking command of the USS Rushmore in 1999, Howard became the first Black woman to command a ship in the U.S. Navy.
Remember the 2013 movie Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks? Howard played a huge part in the real life story. She had taken the position of commander of an anti-piracy task force in the Gulf of Aden just three days before Captain Richard Phillips was kidnapped by Somali pirates. The movie doesn’t do justice to the real world nuances and complexities of Howard’s involvement. In an interview she shared that:
“The pirates were using the fuel in the life raft to steer toward shore–and it was obvious that if they got to shore with Captain Phillips, we were probably not going to get him back.”
She was integral in the four days of hostage negotiations that led to the successful rescue.
It was in 2014 that Howard made history again, when she was promoted to the rank of four-star admiral, the first woman in the Navy to do so. That same day she was also appointed as the 38th vice-chief of naval operations, which made her the second highest ranking officer in the Navy. As if that wasn’t already impressive enough, two years later she went on to become commander of naval forces in both Europe and Africa. She concluded her career as the Commander of Allied Joint Force Naples. Following her retirement in late 2017, she went on to teach cybersecurity and international policy at George Washington University.
Lieutenant General Nina Armagno
The end of 2019 brought the announcement of the inception of the United States Space Force. Aside from appealing to virtually every sci-fi fan in the country, the Space Force also started to assemble its ranks soon after it was officially unveiled. Among them was Major General Nina Armagno. Prior to her being promoted to Lieutenant General upon her transfer in the Space Force, Armagno had just over 30 years of experience in the Air Force as well as space systems operations, specifically.
Graduating from the USAF Academy in 1988, Armagno has gone on to have an impressively full military career, as well as picking up three degrees and numerous certifications along the way (including a Bachelors in Biology and two Masters degrees, in both Education Administration and National Securities Studies). She was also the only Air Force officer to command both East and West U.S. space launch facilities. Along with the completion of over 20 assignments and almost a dozen awards and decorations, she is also the recipient of the 2010 Women of Influence Award as well as the 2014 Gen. Jerome F. O’Malley Distinguished Space Leadership Award.
Upon her commission in the Space Force, Armagno was promoted to three star general on August 17th, 2020. She will be serving as staff director, and overseeing Space Force headquarters daily operations. Not only does this make her the Space Forces first female general officer, she’ll also be playing an integral role during the earliest years of the history making organization. In a statement, Armagno remarked, “We’re going to be agile, we’re going to be nimble, and we’re going to bring the best of everything into the Space Force”.
A United States Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian government Su-22 Fitter near the village of Ja’Din. The incident was first reported by a Kurdish official on Twitter.
Tom Cooper, a freelance military aviation analyst and historian, told WATM that it would mark the first kill for the Super Hornet and the first Navy kill since Operation Desert Storm in 1991 “if I didn’t miss any UAV-kills.” In 1981, the F-14 scored its first kills for the United States Navy by shooting down Libyan Su-22 Fitters.
According to a release by Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, the incident occurred roughly two hours after Syrian government forces had fired on pro-democracy rebels, driving them from Ja’Din. Coalition aircraft carried out “show of force” missions to halt the firing. The coalition contacted Russian forces through a de-confliction line in the wake of that incident.
Roughly two hours later, the Syrian Su-22 Fitter attacked, dropping bombs near the position. A Navy F/A-18E responded by shooting down the Syrian plane. The Syrian Ministry of Defense admitted to the loss of the plane, calling it an “act of aggression” by the United States on behalf of Israel.
There have been past incidents where American forces have fired on pro-government forces to protect pro-democratic rebels. One notable incident took place June 8, when an F-15E Strike Eagle shot down an Iranian drone after it attacked pro-democracy rebels.
The Su-22 was the primary target of a Tomahawk strike on Shayrat air base this past April after the Syrian government used chemical weapons. The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Porter (DDG 78) and USS Ross (DDG 71) fired 59 missiles in the strike.
According to a United States Navy fact sheet, the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet entered service in 2001 with Strike Fighter Squadron 115. It has a top speed in excess of Mach 1.8, a range of 1,275 nautical miles, and can carry a wide variety of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.
Mattis spoke alongside Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman. “There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all,” said Mattis.
He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has in order to avoid revealing sources of intelligence.
“I can say authoritatively they have retained some, it’s a violation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions and it’s going to have to be taken up diplomatically and they would be ill advised to try to use any again, we made that very clear with our strike,” he said.
Israeli defense officials said this week that Syria still has up to three tons of chemical weapons in its possession. It was the first specific intelligence assessment of President Bashar Assad’s weapons capabilities since a deadly chemical attack earlier this month.
Lieberman also refused to go into detail but said “We have 100 percent information that Assad regime used chemical weapons against rebels.”
Assad has strongly denied he was behind the attack in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Syria’s northern Idlib province, and has accused the opposition of trying to frame his government. Top Assad ally, Russia, has asserted a Syrian government airstrike hit a rebel chemical weapons factory, causing the disaster.
Before meeting with Mattis in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters that Israel is encouraged by the change of administrations in Washington.
“We sense a great change in the direction of American policy,” Netanyahu said. He referred to the U.S. cruise missile strike in Syria as an important example of the new administration’s “forthright deeds” against the use of chemical weapons.
The Syrian government has been locked in a six-year civil war against an array of opposition forces. The fighting has killed an estimated 400,000 people and displaced half of Syria’s population.
Israel has largely stayed out of the fighting, though it has carried out a number of airstrikes on suspected Iranian weapons shipments it believed were bound for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Iran and Hezbollah, both bitter enemies of Israel, along with Russia have sent forces to support Assad.
Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons arsenal to avert U.S. strikes following a chemical weapons attack in opposition-held suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 that killed hundreds of people and sparked worldwide outrage.
Ahead of that disarmament, Assad’s government disclosed it had some 1,300 tons of chemical weapons, including sarin, VX nerve agent and mustard gas.
The entire stockpile was said to have been dismantled and shipped out under international supervision in 2014 and destroyed. But doubts began to emerge soon afterward that not all such armaments or production facilities were declared and destroyed. There also is evidence that the Islamic State group and other insurgents have acquired chemical weapons.
Associated Press writer Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this story.
The chief of Naval Operations said today that the collisions in the Pacific that killed 10 sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald and seven sailors aboard the USS McCain were entirely preventable, and the service is committed to correcting the actions that led to the accidents.
Navy Adm. John Richardson told Pentagon reporters that many aspects combined to cause the accidents, including lack of training, hubris, sleep deprivation, failures in navigation, and failures in leadership.
The guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS McCain sailed when they shouldn’t have, he said, and that decision falls on the commanders, who are responsible for conducting risk assessments.
The demand for ships, or any military capability, is defined by the security environment, Richardson said, adding that the Pacific has been a very demanding environment of late.
The demand of the security environment must match against the resources that can be applied. “When you have a gap between those two, that’s risk,” the admiral said. “It’s all part of that … day-to-day assessment. Every commander has to wake up each day at their command level and say, what has changed in my security environment? What is my new risk posture? And how am I going to accommodate or mitigate that risk?”
At some point, commanders cannot mitigate the risk, and they should say no to the mission, he said, but the present culture is such that commanders will assess the risk to be acceptable when it is not.
Changing that culture is one goal for the chief — he wants commanders to be honest about assessments and the shortfalls they have.
While the changes are in the 7th Fleet area, the Navy is on all the seas. “A review of your Navy today shows that this morning there are 100 ships and 64,000 sailors and Navy civilians who are deployed,” Richardson said.
“This includes three carrier strike groups and their embarked air wings, three amphibious readiness groups, and their embarked Marine expeditionary units, six ballistic missile defense ships on station, 11 attack submarines, five [ballistic missile submarines],” he said. “The vast majority of these ships are conducting their missions, some of them extremely difficult, effectively and professionally, protecting America from attack, promoting our interests and prosperity, and advocating for the rules that govern the vast commons from the seafloor, to space, and in cyberspace.”
The Navy and its sailors are busy, and they have been integral to the wars America has fought since 9/11. “Recent experience has shown that if we’re not careful, we can become overstretched, overextended. And if we take our eye off the fundamentals, we become vulnerable to mistakes at all levels of command,” the admiral said.
To address this, the Navy has taken some immediate actions, including restoring a deliberative scheduling process in the 7th Fleet, conducting comprehensive ready-for-sea assessments for all Japan-based ships, establishing a naval service group in the Western Pacific — an independent body in Yokosuka, Japan that will keep their eye on readiness generation and standards for the Pacific Fleet commander — establishing and using a near-miss program to understand and disseminate lessons learned, and establishing policies for surface ships to routinely and actively transmit on their automatic identification system, Richardson said.
Midterm actions will emphasize training, establishing comprehensive policies on managing fatigue and accelerating some of the electronic navigation systems upgrades, he said.
“Long-term actions include improving individual and team training skills, with an emphasis on basic seamanship, navigation and integrated bridge equipment; evaluating core officer and enlisted curricula with an emphasis on fundamentals [and] navigation skills,” the admiral said.
“I have to say that fundamental to all of this is how we prepare leaders for command,” Richardson said. “We will deeply examine the way that we prepare officers for increasing leadership challenges, culminating in assumption of command with the capability and the confidence to form, train and assess warfighting teams on the bridge, in the combat information center, in engineering and throughout their command.”
All five branches of the U.S. military have earned high marks from American adults, according to a Gallup poll.
More than three in four of Americans surveyed who know something about the branches have overall favorable views of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, according to Gallup. More than half have a strongly favorable opinion.
In Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll released May 26, at least 72 percent of participants expressed “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the military in the past eight years.
“This Memorial Day, Americans will once again have the opportunity to honor those who fought and died in service of their country,” Gallup’s Jim Norman said. “It comes at a time when the percentage of Americans who are military veterans continues to shrink, even as the nation moves through the 15th year of the Afghanistan War — the longest war in U.S. history.”
Broken down by branch, Air Force had the highest favorability rating of 81 percent — 57 percent “very favorable” and 24 percent “somewhat favorable” rating. Other branches were Navy and Marines each at 78 percent, Army at 77 percent, and Coast Guard at 76 percent.
Differences exist by political party, race, and age.
The biggest gap is among Republicans and Democrats with about a 30 percentage point difference. The largest is for the Navy with 74 percent favorability rating by Republicans and 39 percent among Democrats.
Republicans, non-Hispanic whites, and those aged 55 have more favorable views of each of the five branches than Democrats, non-whites, or those younger than 35.
Those surveys also were asked to list the most important branch. Air Force was No. 1 (27 percent) followed by the Army (21 percent), Navy and Marines (20 percent each), and 4 percent say the Coast Guard is the most important branch to national defense.
Gallup conducted telephone interviews April 24-May 2 with a random sample of 1,026 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is 4 percentage points.
The U.S. Air Force has grounded the entire B-1B Lancer bomber fleet, marking the second fleetwide stand-down in about a year.
Officials with Air Force Global Strike Command said that, during a routine inspection of at least one aircraft, airmen found a rigged “drogue chute” incorrectly installed in the ejection seat egress system, a problem that might affect the rest of the fleet.
“The drogue chute corrects the seat before the parachute deploys out of the seat,” said Capt. Earon Brown, a spokesman with Air Force Global Strike Command.
The issue is “part of the egress system,” or the way airmen exit the bomber in an emergency, Brown told Military.com on March 28, 2019. The problem does not appear to be related to the issues that occurred last year, AFGSC said.
“There are procedural issues of how [the drogue chute is] being put into place,” Brown said.
Officials will “look at each aircraft [para]chute system and make sure they are meeting technical order requirements to employ” the drogue chute appropriately, he added. The B-1 has four seats, for the pilot, co-pilot and two weapons systems officers in the back.
A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Squadron, Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, maneuvers over New Mexico during a training mission on Feb. 24, 2010.
(U.S. Air Force photo/ Master Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald)
AFGSC commander Gen. Timothy Ray on March 28, 2019, directed the stand-down for “a holistic inspection of the entire egress system,” according to a press release. “The safety stand-down will afford maintenance and Aircrew Flight Equipment technicians the necessary time to thoroughly inspect each aircraft.”
Brown said the Air Force does not have a timeline for when fleet will be back in the air, but said the fixes are a “high priority.”
In 2018, the command grounded the fleet over safety concerns related to the Lancer’s ejection seats. The stand-down was a result of an emergency landing by a B-1 on May 1, 2018, at Midland Airport in Texas.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson confirmed speculation at the time that the B-1, out of Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, had to make an emergency landing after an ejection seat didn’t blow.
A B-1B Lancer.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Brian Ferguson)
The B-1 crew “were out training,” she said during a May 2018 speech at the Defense Communities summit in Washington, D.C.
Local media reported at the time the B-1B was not carrying weapons when it requested to land because of “an engine flameout.” Weeks later, images surfaced on Facebook purporting to show the aircraft with a burnt-out engine. Photos from The Associated Press and Midland Reporter-Telegram also showed the B-1B, tail number 86-0109, was missing a ceiling hatch, leading to speculation an in-flight ejection was attempted.
Officials ordered a stand-down on June 7, 2018, which lasted three weeks while the fleet was inspected. Months after the incident, UTC Aerospace Systems, manufacturer of the bomber’s ACES II ejection seat, said the seat itself is not the problem.
After coordinating with the Air Force, UTC determined “there’s an issue with the sequencing system,” said John Fyfe, director of Air Force programs for UTC.
It had been implied “that the ejection seat didn’t fire, when in fact the ejection seat was never given the command to fire,” Fyfe told Military.com in September 2018.
“This particular B-1, [the sequence system] was not ours,” he said, adding that there are multiple vendors for the sequencing systems.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Navy‘s newest combatant command will be “leaner, agile and more expeditionary” than the U.S. 2nd Fleet that was deactivated in 2011, Rear Adm. John Mustin, the fleet’s deputy commander, told attendants Jan. 16, 2019, at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.
The 2nd Fleet, which the Navy re-established in May 2018, is designed to assert U.S. presence in the Atlantic and support operations in the North Atlantic and Arctic. While its actual makeup is still in the works, it is expected to reach initial operational capability summer 2019.
When it does, it will be a small fighting force that has taken lessons from the service’s overseas fleets and II Marine Expeditionary Force, Mustin said.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Laird)
“The focus of 2nd Fleet is to develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic,” he said.
According to the service, the fleet will serve as the maneuver arm for U.S. Navy North in the Western Atlantic, “ensuring freedom of the sea, lines of communication and executing operational missions and exercises as assigned.”
It also will serve as a maneuver arm for U.S. Naval Forces Europe in the Eastern and North Atlantic.
The idea is that the fleet will focus on force employment, capable of deploying rapidly, regardless of area of operations.
“When I say lean, what does that mean? The staff complement is organized and billeted to be operational. The majority of staff will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training,” Mustin said.
The Navy first established the 2nd Fleet in the 1950s, a response to deter Soviet interest in the Atlantic, especially Europe. It was disbanded in 2011, and most of its assets and personnel were folded into Fleet Forces Command.
But growing concern over potential Russian dominance in the North Atlantic and Arctic prompted Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson to reactivate the unit.
2nd Fleet version 2.0, however, won’t look much like its historic predecessor.
Mustin said the command staff will be small, currently consisting of 85 members. The full number is still being determined, a 2nd Fleet spokeswoman said.
And while technically it will be headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, Mustin said sailors can expect that it will have the ability to deploy its command-and-control element forward, with a small team operating forward from a command ship or “austere offshore location.”
Naval Station Norfolk.
(Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ernest R. Scott)
The command also will integrate reserve forces on an as-needed basis and bolster its staff with personnel from allied nations, he added.
“This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet or, as my staff likes to point out, my father’s 2nd Fleet,” Mustin said.
It will resemble overseas fleets, he said, which means it will become responsible for forces entering the integrated phase of composite unit training exercises, and “we will own them through deployment and sustainment.”
The ships will fall under operational control of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, but tactical control will be delegated to 2nd Fleet.
Standing up a fleet within a year has been a challenge, Mustin said, but there’s excitement surrounding the concept. He noted that many surface warfare officers interested in being assigned to the command had approached him at the symposium.
“It’s fast and furious, but we are getting there,” he said.
At the symposium, some observers questioned how integration will work with other naval fleets with overlapping areas of responsibility.
Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of 6th Fleet, said the integration will be seamless.
“Our idea is not to make a line in the water. When you make lines, adversaries exploit them. Our idea is to figure out how to flow forces and how to address anything that flows our way,” she said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Two government agencies have teamed up to provide teachers with a unique education in the wake of increased school shootings.
The United States Army and Homeland Security Department are in the midst of creating a virtual reality experience they hope will help train educators on how to react in the event of a school shooting, according to Gizmodo.
Users can take on three roles in the virtual reality experience: teacher, shooter, and officer.
Teachers in the simulation must gather nervous pupils and find shelter. Those playing as the shooter are able to navigate the virtual school and kill at random. Officers in the virtual reality simulation must aim to find and kill the shooter.
The simulation is being developed as part of the $5.6 million Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) initiative, which is an “online training environment for first responders.”
In 2016, the Army and HSD released a similar virtual reality experience aimed to train first responders to handle hostile situations.
They’ve created simulations for both fire and police departments regarding school shooting response.
“The more experience you have, the better your chances of survival are,” Tamara Griffith, a chief engineer for EDGE, told Gizmodo.
“So, this allows you to practice and have multiple experiences (and) know what works and what doesn’t work.”
To create the most realistic scenario possible, EDGE engineers listened to dispatch audio from both the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings. This allowed them to incorporate the most gruesome realities into the simulation.
It also helped them zero in on specific survival tactics and best practices for such scenarios, including locking doors, avoiding windows, ordering students to line up against walls, and finding items to use as barricades.
According to Gizmodo, administrators in the simulations can enable different tools, including an intercom system and automated locks.
Griffith told the publication she’s hopeful that using the simulation in varying roles within the school will allow educators to stay calm should such a real-life situation arise.
“With teachers, they did not self-select into a role where they expect to have bullets flying near them. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a reality,” she said.
“And so we want to give them the chance to understand what options are available to them and what might work well for them.”
The updated virtual reality simulation aimed at teachers will be released in the spring.
Senior Afghan officials have praised voters who cast ballots in parliamentary elections that were plagued by violence and organizational problems, saying the turnout shows that Afghans are rejecting the ideology of Taliban militants.
“The Taliban wanted to build a stream of blood, but the Taliban was defeated and the Taliban’s thoughts and ideas were rejected,” Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told a cabinet meeting on Oct. 22, 2018.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
(US Department of State)
Around 4 million out of 8.8 million registered voters in a country of more than 30 million cast their ballots over the two-day voting at more than 4,500 polling centers across the country, according to election authorities, despite deadly militant attacks in which dozens of people were killed and delays caused by technical and organizational problems.
The Taliban had issued several warnings in the days leading up to the poll demanding the more than 2,500 candidates for the lower house of parliament withdraw from the race and for voters to stay home.
(US Department of State)
Preliminary results of the parliamentary elections, which were seen as a key test of the government’s ability to provide security across the country, were expected to be released on Nov. 10, 2018, at the earliest. Final results will likely be out sometime in December 2018, an election commission spokesman has said.
Originally scheduled for 2015, the vote was delayed for three years amid disputes over electoral reforms and because of the instability following NATO’s handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces at the end of 2014.
“The Afghan people want a system based on the people’s vote, and in fact, we have witnessed a historical moment,” said Abdullah, who also admitted there were shortcomings during the vote.
Voting was extended to a second day on Oct. 21, 2018, after hundreds of polling stations were closed on the first day of voting due to technical and security issues.
But only 253 of the 401 polling centers that were scheduled to be open on Oct. 21, 2018 were operational, with the remainder closed for security reasons, election authorities said.
An Afghan man prepares to vote in a villiage near Kabul, Afghanistan Sept. 18, 2010
(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Gloria Wilson)
At some of the centers that opened for voting, there were insufficient ballot papers and voter rolls were “either incomplete or nonexistent,” Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) spokesman Ali Reza Rohani said, adding, “most of the problems we had yesterday still exist today.”
The ECC said it had received more than 5,000 complaints of irregularities from voters and candidates, and the Interior Ministry said 44 people had been charged with “illegal interference in the election and fraud.”
However, President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised address to the nation after polls closed on Oct. 21, 2018, that the election turnout showed that voters “have the power and will to defeat their enemies.”
Ghani also challenged the Taliban to “show if your way or the way of democracy is preferred by the people.”
In a tweet on Oct. 21, 2018, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg commended “the millions of Afghan men women who have exercised their democratic right to vote the Afghan security forces who have provided security for the elections despite great challenges.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a statement released on Oct. 20, 2018, that it was “encouraged by the high numbers” of Afghans who braved security threats and waited long hours to cast their votes.
UNAMA said the elections, which it described as “the first completely run by Afghan authorities since 2001,” were an “important milestone in Afghanistan’s transition to self-reliance.”
The Navy recently approved low-rate initial production (LRIP) for a special, underwater drone system designed to conduct counter-mine operations for the service’s littoral combat ship.
Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants recently granted Milestone C approval to the Knifefish Surface Mine Countermeasure Unmanned Undersea Vehicle Program, according to a news release from Naval Sea Systems Command.
The Navy is expected to award an LRIP contract to Knifefish prime contractor General Dynamics Mission Systems, the release states.
The Knifefish system is designed to deploy from an LCS as well as from other offshore vessels to detect and classify “buried, bottom and volume mines” in highly cluttered environments, according to the release.
Knifefish consists of two unmanned undersea vehicles, along with support systems and equipment. It uses cutting-edge low-frequency broadband sonar and automated target recognition software technology to act as an off-board sensor while the host ship stays outside the minefield boundaries, the release states.
A Knifefish unmanned undersea vehicle training model undergoes crane operations aboard the Military Sealift Command expeditionary fast transport vessel USNS Spearhead as part of a training exercise enabling mine countermeasure missions from an EPF as a Vessel of Opportunity.
(U.S. Navy photo by Master-at-Arms 1st Class Alexander Knapp)
The Navy hopes to approve a full-rate production decision for the system in fiscal 2021 after additional testing of LRIP systems, according to the release. The service plans to buy 30 Knifefish systems in all — 24 in support of LCS mine countermeasure mission packages and an additional six systems for deployment from other vessels.
The Navy conducted formal developmental testing and operational assessment from January through May 2019 in multiple locations off the coast of Massachusetts and Florida, according to the release. The Knifefish tests involved operational mine-hunting missions against a simulated target field.
The Knifefish was developed from technology designed for General Dynamics’ Bluefin Robotics Bluefin-21 deep-water Autonomous Undersea Vehicle, a system that was involved in the unsuccessful search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
NASA Astronaut and U.S. Army Lt. Col. Anne McClain took to Twitter to share the official training astronauts use for living in confined spaces for long periods of time. Afterall, the International Space Station has been operating for nearly 20 years, giving NASA astronauts and psychologists time to examine human behavior and needs when living and working remotely.
They narrowed the behavior skills down to five general skills called “Expeditionary Behavior,” or “EB” because the military just loves a good acronym.
Built from 1998 to 2001, the International Space Station usually holds crews of between three and six people who will spend about six months there at a time, though mission lengths can vary. During that time, the astronauts perform experiments and spacewalks, maintain the space station, conduct media and education events and test out technology.
Also during this time, they are allocated at least two hours a day for exercise and personal care.
According to NASA, the living and working space in the station is larger than a six-bedroom house (and has six sleeping quarters, two bathrooms, a gym and a 360-degree view bay window). Still, six months in a space bucket with two to five other people can give some perspective to anyone feeling confined.
This is the “GoodEB” that helps astronauts:
4/ Skill 1, Communication:
Def: To talk so you are clearly understood. To listen and
question to understand. Actively listen, pick up on non-verbal cues. Identify,
discuss, then work to resolve conflict.
“Share info/feelings freely. Talk about intentions before taking action. Use good terminology. Discuss when your or others’ actions were not as expected. Debrief after success or conflict. Listen, then restate message to ensure it’s understood. Admit when you’re wrong,” McClain tweeted.
It’s common for humans to have strong emotional responses and act on them before they fully understand them. Honest communication is critical in a confined space or during heightened stress.
6/ Skill 2, Leadership/Followership:
Def: How well a team adapts to new situations. Leader enhances the group’s ability to execute its purpose through positive influence. Follower (aka
subordinate leader) actively contributes to leader’s direction. Establish
environment of trust.
“Accept responsibility. Adjust style to environment. Assign tasks, set goals. Lead by example. Give direction, info, feedback, coaching + encouragement. Ensure teammates have resources. Talk when something isn’t right. Ask questions. Offer solutions, not just problems,” urged McClain.
For anyone confined with family or roommates, it can be an adjustment to share personal space and limited supplies for a prolonged period of time. Shifting to a team dynamic can bring a new perspective to everyone’s roles within the home. If you weren’t already doing this, now is the time to share the household chores, the cooking, the supply runs, and, for many families, the education responsibilities.
8/ Skill 3, Self-Care:
Def: How healthy you are on psychological and physical levels, including hygiene, managing time and personal stuff, getting sleep, and maintaining mood. The ability and willingness to be proactive to stay healthy.
“Realistically assess own strengths and weaknesses, and their influence on the group. Learn from mistakes. Take action to mitigate stress or negativity (don’t pass on to the group). Be social. Seek feedback. Balance work, rest, and personal time. Be organized,” suggested McClain.
There’s a quote I’ve always liked that says, “Please accept responsibility for the energy you are bringing into this space,” and it feels especially relevant now. We must each stay in touch with ourselves so we can identify rising stress and mitigate it with self-care.
Self-care can be anything from calling a friend to a work-out session from YouTube to releasing expectations of perfection and taking the time to enjoy some relaxation with a book or movie.
10/ Skill 4, Team Care:
Def: How healthy the group is on psychological, physical, and logistical level.
Manage group stress, fatigue, sickness, supplies, resources, workload, etc. Nurture optimal team performance despite challenges.
“Demonstrate patience and respect. Encourage others. Monitor team for signs of stress or fatigue. Encourage participation in team activities. Develop positive relationships. Volunteer for the unpleasant tasks. Offer and accept help. Share the credit; take the blame,” said McClain.
I’ll really highlight one of these tips from McClain: Monitor team for signs of stress or fatigue. Teaching ourselves this skill will intrinsically build compassion and problem-solving into relationship skills, not just now, but going forward. It’s about looking out for each other and anticipating the needs of others. This is a critical skill for any member of the team.12/ Skill 5, Group Living:
Def: How people cooperate and become a team to achieve a
goal. Identify and manage different opinions, cultures, perceptions, skills, and
personalities. Individuals and group demonstrate resiliency in the face of difficulty.
“Cooperate rather than compete. Actively cultivate group culture (use each individual’s culture to build the whole). Respect roles, responsibilities, and workload. Take accountability, give praise freely. Work to ensure positive team attitude. Keep calm in conflict,” suggests McClain.
Parents are learning how to homeschool. Partners are sharing household responsibilities like cooking and cleaning. More people are sick and being cared for by their roommates.
All the while, we are each learning how to restrict our movements while maintaining our health and vitality. The key points throughout NASA’s Expeditionary Behaviors are to take care of each other and ourselves by working together.
And just remember, Scott Kelly set the record for most consecutive days in space by an American by living for 340 days during a one-year mission aboard the International Space Station, proving that humans are pretty remarkable when it comes to adapting to our environment!
If you need any advice on thriving from home, here are a few We Are The Mighty articles that can help: