Army Veteran Kenneth Augustus loved adventure. He loved to rock climb, and scuba dive, and always had a longing for falling hundreds of feet per second from an airplane.
VA Salt Lake City Recreation Therapist Lili Sotolong knew skydiving was a lofty goal considering his condition, but she was determined to make that dream come true.
“I got a call out of the blue to come work with this Veteran,” Lili said. “I was told he only had a few months to live but when I got there he was beyond positive, and so easy to work with. He had made peace with what was happening to him and was really preparing himself for the inevitable; he just had some things he wanted to experience first.”
Lili made several calls and finally arranged the jump through two very generous community partners: Skydive Utah and the Elks Lodge. It was go-time!
“He got to jump with his brother and his son, and they wanted me to do it with them! We had a group hug and were all fist-pumping in the plane prior to the jump. It really was an extraordinary experience.”
On Veterans Day 2017 Kenny Augustus fulfilled his dying wish. Attached to a highly-experienced instructor and with a big smile on his face, he dove out of a prop plane at 13,500 feet. Imagine a free fall at 120 miles per hour for 60 seconds. Moments later, the jolt of a chute opening was followed by a peaceful glide to the ground. Lili remembers Kenny’s smile and a big thumbs-up.
From one extreme to the next: scuba diving one last time (check)
Later that evening, Kenny went scuba diving with his son via virtual reality goggles at the Crater in Midvale, Utah. He was too sick to go in the water, but enjoyed the next best thing. Using a drone especially equipped for water, Kenny followed his son underwater and experienced everything his son was seeing. Kenny was hoping for the real thing, but just being there, surrounded by the love and support of his family, was thrill enough.
A week later, Kenny passed.
“I went to my supervisor and I just broke down,” Lili said. “I am touched and hurt all at the same time. I really got to know him and his family over a short time. I just never thought it would hurt this much.”
Lili agreed to tell this story because of this extraordinary Veteran she came to admire. His spirit and positivity in the face of such pain and uncertainty impacted her in ways she never imagined.
Over years of watching war films, hearing grandpa’s stories, poring over documentaries, and hanging on the every word of your local veteran bullsh**ters, you built up an expectation of military service that couldn’t possibly be met.
So, by the end your enlistment comes to a close, it’s safe to say that the time spent in uniform did not go as expected. Honorable service? Yes. High standards of professionalism? Absolutely. Reaching a physical apex never before thought reasonable or possible? Check marks the box. But was it anything like the Space Marines in Aliens? Not even close. Did you single-handedly hold off an entire battalion of enemy soldiers? Probably not.
So, now you want out — but be careful what you wish for, because if you thought life on the inside wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, then you’re in for a real surprise once you get out.
These are the seven stages of separation that all veterans go through after getting that DD-214. It’s the response to the physical, mental, and emotional letdown endured when civilian life doesn’t match our high expectations. It’s the process of realizing that maybe — just maybe — leaving the finest fighting force this planet has ever known wasn’t the best idea. At least not yet.
They are as follows:
“You mean I can just… go? Just like that?!”
Terminal leave is approved, you’ve had your final physicals, so it’s time to pack up your sh*t and run! Armed with a DD-214 and a dream, you flee from the nurturing embrace of your second parental institution to pursue all the things you shoulda, woulda, coulda done if it weren’t for that pesky contract.
Growth patterns, colors, and thickness may vary.
(“You Were Never Really Here” / Amazon Studios)
When one is held to a military standard for so long, it is only natural to act out. Separation is furry-faced freedom at its finest. This is a time of discovery for any former service member. Personally, I never knew I could grow a blood-red war beard that doesn’t quite flourish in specific spots. Now, after having experienced this second stage of separation, I know much more about myself, which is what it’s really all about.
(“Captain America” / Marvel)
Delusions of grandeur
Time makes the heart grow fonder — and it also makes you exaggerate the impact you had during your time in. Yes, your service is appreciated and you were definitely an essential cog in the machine, but don’t worry, the military will do fine in your absence. Most of the branches have been around for well over two-hundred years.
That’ll do, warrior. Let the next generation take it from here.
Add some cargo pants/shorts, flip flops, way more tattoos and BOOM!
We know, we know. Everything sucks. Civilians are all lazy and have no concept of discipline. Hollywood movies won’t stop messing up uniforms and military terms and Brad Pitt’s combat tactics are all wrong!
And don’t get us started on these crazy posts on Facebook. It’s up to you to correct the world and set things right.
We call this one, “gettin’ back into it.”
There’s no way around this one: you’ll gain weight. You might lose it later, but you’ll sure as hell gain it first. You will no longer be forced to PT, but you will swallow the same trash calories you did when you were a teenage warrior. The results may upset you.
Have some fun, my brothers and sisters. Life’s too short for your best years to be behind you. Sure, the military was an amazing experience and you earned your memories through by sharing suffering with some of the best friends you could ever have, but now is your time to make an impact on your own terms. Cultivate a strong sense of humor, try not to sweat the small stuff, and remember, it’s all small stuff.
Marines assigned to Marine Wing Support Squadron 271, Marine Aircraft Group 14, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing fill sand bags during a field exercise aboard Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, N.C., Nov. 30, 2016. MWSS-271 conducted a two-week field exercise that focused on maintaining the squadron’s expeditionary mindset and included an evaluation by the Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation system. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. N.W. Huertas/ Released)
Let’s face it; no one actually likes going to the field. Round-the-clock operations, sleeping on the ground, and spending way too much time with the people you work with can take its toll. Next time you prep for the field, be sure to consider bringing these items to make your field experience a little more bearable. Just be sure that they’re not contraband. Sergeant Major yelling at you is the opposite of what we’re trying to achieve here.
In most cases, a portable stove is an approved item to bring to the field. One of the most common stoves is the convenient Jetboil. Available in a variety of sizes and powered by easily-packed fuel canisters, Jetboil stoves can be used to boil water to warm MREs, cook instant ramen, make coffee, and even shave with (just be sure to boil more water and wash it out afterwards). Also, be careful operating it so that you don’t end up like Cpl. Ray Person after Rudy’s espresso machine went off like a 40 mike mike (if you know, you know).
They fold flat and can easily be stuffed in an assault pack (Rothco)
2. Folding stool
Look, laying in the prone for hours sucks, especially if the ground is cold, wet, and full of bugs. Some grunts and snake eaters live for that sort of thing, but for those of us that don’t, there’s the folding stool. When you come off the line and into the center of the patrol base for some chow, a stool to sit on is a simple luxury that can make all the difference. Plus, you won’t have to fight with your buddies over who gets to sit on the few remaining unopened MRE boxes. You didn’t hear it from me, but you might even consider popping a squat on your folding stool while pulling security. Just don’t get caught.
Maybe bring a spare pack for your buddies (Pampers)
3. Baby wipes
This one is almost a given, but you’d be surprised how often troops forget their baby wipes. If you do forget them, you’d better hope your buddies are willing to share theirs. Otherwise, it’s the MRE napkins for you. Aside from helping you answer nature’s call, baby wipes also provide the cooling relief of a “field shower”, which can be all you need to unwind after a day of patrols. If you’ll be wearing face camo during your time in the field, consider packing makeup wipes as well. They’re better suited for cutting through the thick and waxy face paint than regular baby wipes.
The Iceman knows the value of a can of Beefaroni (HBO)
4. Civilian food
Again, this one is almost a given. That said, packing lists can sometimes explicitly forbid bringing any type of food, so read yours carefully…or just hide your food well. Sunflower seeds can help relieve boredom when you’re static for hours on end, beef jerky can keep you going during those long foot patrols, and a can of Chef Boyardee (heated with your portable stove) might be the morale boost you need to make it through the final days of your op. Need a convenient way to carry your food while having it easily accessible? Consider adding a magazine dump pouch to your kit. Just don’t let First Sergeant catch you pulling gummy worms out of it.
The famous Gulf War Gameboy is completely original (Nintendo)
5. Nintendo Gameboy
Or really, whatever portable game system you want. I’ve seen everything from PSPs in sunglasses cases to a Switch stuffed in a Crown Royal bag. That said, an old-school Gameboy offers you an easily concealable platform, absurdly long battery life, and the chance to beat the Elite Four again. A Gameboy can also be quickly switched off and shoved into your pocket or an empty mag pouch if you see your squad leader coming towards your position.
By no means is this an all-encompassing list. Really, the best items to bring with you on a field exercise are the things that will make you happy, whether that be a book, a photograph, or fuzzy socks to sleep in. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, pay attention to your packing list…and your surroundings.
First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.
Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.
So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?
High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.
A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.
(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)
So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.
And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.
An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.
But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.
And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.
But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.
A U.S. Coast Guard crew based in Astoria, Oregon, returned after a 2.5-month deployment that yielded the seizure of $11 million in cocaine and marijuana, officials said.
The Steadfast, which earned the nickname “El Tiburon Blanco,” or the white shark in English, returned April 23 after seizing 700 pounds of cocaine and 170 pounds of marijuana. The cutter’s deployment included a 69-member crew, plus helicopter personnel from the Air Station Humboldt Bay and a law enforcement team, said spokeswoman Senior Chief Rachel Polish.
The crew patrolled the eastern Pacific Ocean and seized the drugs from two smuggling incidents off the Central American coast, according to a news release. The crew unloaded the drugs April 20 during a port call in San Diego.
Polish said she could not disclose, for security reasons, the specific locations and general trajectory taken by the Steadfast for those operations. However, the crew traveled 12,000 miles that began with a training stop at a U.S. naval station in Washington before heading south, according to the news release. The crew also stopped in Mazatlan, Mexico, with $2,500 in supplies and equipment, and guardsmen helped repair and paint a classroom and exterior of a school.
Polish said the deployment was part of the broader Operation Martillo — Spanish for hammer. Since its launch in 2012, the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and other agencies have seized 693 metric tons of cocaine, $25 million in cash, and hundreds of vessels and aircraft, and they have arrested 1,863 people, according to the U.S. Southern Command website.
Drug smugglers off the Florida coast called the Steadfast “El Tiburon Blanco” when she was based in St. Petersburg, according to the news release. The vessel’s reputation for busting up smugglers made her the first cutter to be awarded the “gold marijuana leaf, indicating one million pounds of marijuana seized,” officials said.
The 49-year-old Reliance Class Cutter made her home in Astoria in 1994.
On September 22nd, thousands of fans poured into Lance Corporal Torrey Gray Field at Twentynine Palms, California for the final stop on USAA’s months-long BaseFEST tour. The all-day festivals brought together the military community at the country’s largest bases and offered free food, fun, and some great, live music — featuring larger-than-life bands, like The Offspring.
But veterans got in on the entertaining, too. Marines, troops, and their families were warmed up by Twentynine Palms’ own Matt Monaco, better known by his stage name, Modest Monaco.
Not a bad side-hustle if I do say so myself.
Monaco comes from a Marine family. His grandfather served for over 33 years in the Marine Corps and fought in three separate wars.
“Honor, courage, and commitment. That is who he was. Seeing that in him inspired me to want to be like him,” says Monaco.
And, in 1997, he did just that. “I’ve only seen my grandpa cry twice in his life. Once was at his 50th wedding anniversary and once was at my graduation for the Marines.”
As a Marine, he spent his days serving our country — his nights, however, were reserved for working on drift cars at his own shop. This side gig opened the door for him to become a DJ. Once he put it out there that he wanted to learn to produce electronic music, DJs would bring their cars to him and he’d pick their brains. Two years and a complete album later, he’s on stage at BaseFEST.
Modest Monaco is no stranger to Twentynine Palms. It was, after all, where he trained. But instead of embracing the suck, as Marines tend to do, he instead kicked ass on stage.
The night also featured Nombe, Carlton Zeus, Haha Tonka, and The Offspring. Sadly, the Southern California festival concluded this year’s BaseFEST tour. But if you missed it this year, don’t sweat it — BaseFEST was a resounding success, so fans can probably expect bigger and better things to come next summer!
To hear former Marine Corps Sergeant Matt Monaco, aka Modest Monaco, share his experiences in his own words, check out the video below.
The Army and General Dynamics Land Systems are developing a Stryker-mounted laser weapon aimed at better arming the vehicle to incinerate enemy drones or threatening ground targets.
Concept vehicles are now being engineered and tested at the Army’s Ft. Sill artillery headquarters as a way to quickly develop the weapon for operational service. During a test this past April, the laser weapons successful shot down 21 out of 23 enemy drone targets.
The effort marks the first-ever integration of an Army laser weapon onto a combat vehicle.
“The idea is to provide a solution to a capability gap which is an inability to acquire, track and destroy low, slow drones that proliferate all over the world,” Tim Reese, director of strategic planning, told Scout Warrior in an interview.
The weapon is capable of destroying Group 1 and Group 2 small and medium-sized drones, Reese added.
The laser, which Reese says could be operational as soon as 11-months from now, will be integrated into the Fire Support Vehicle Stryker variant designed for target tracking and identification.
General Dynamics Land Systems is now working on upgrading the power of the laser from two kilowatts of power to five kilowatts. The laser weapon system uses its own tracking radar to acquire targets in the event that other sensors on the vehicle are disabled in combat and has an electronic warfare jamming system intended to jam the signal of enemy drones. Boeing is the maker of the fire-control technology integrated into the laser weapon. The laser is also integrated with air-defense and field artillery networks
“The energy of the laser damages, destroys and melts different components of the target,” Reese explained.
The Army is now in research and test mode, with a clear interest in rapidly deploying this technology. Reese added that GDLS anticipates being able to fire an 18-kilowatt laser from the Stryker by 2018.
One of the challenges with mobile laser weapons is the need to maintain enough exportable power to sustain the weapon while on-the-move, developers have explained.
“As power goes up, the range increases and time to achieve the melt increases. You can achieve less than one-half of the burn time,” he said.
This initiative is of particular relevance given the current tensions in Europe between Russia and NATO. US Army Europe has been amid a large-scale effort to collaborate with allies on multi-lateral exercises, show an ability to rapidly deploy armored forces across the European continent and up-gun combat platforms stationed in Europe such as the Stryker.
Lasers at Forward Operating Bases
The Army is planning to deploy laser weapons able to protect Forward Operating Bases (FOB) by rapidly incinerating and destroying approaching enemy drones, artillery rounds, mortars and cruise missiles, service leaders told ScoutWarrior.
Forward-deployed soldiers in places like Afghanistan are familiar with facing incoming enemy mortar rounds, rockets and gunfire attacks; potential future adversaries could launch drones, cruise missiles, artillery or other types of weapons at FOBs.
Adding lasers to the arsenal, integrated with sensors and fire-control radar, could massively help U.S. soldiers quickly destroy enemy threats by burning them out of the sky in seconds, Army leaders said.
Laser weapons have been in development with the Army for many years, Mary Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Research and Technology, told Scout Warrior in an interview several months ago.
“We’ve clearly demonstrated you can takeout UAVs pretty effectively. Now we are not only working on how we take out UAVs but also mortars and missiles–and eventually cruise missiles,” she said.
The emerging weapons are being engineered into a program called Indirect Fire Protection Capability, or IFPC Increment 2. Through this program, the Army plans to fire lasers to protect forward bases by 2023 as part of an integrated system of technologies, sensors and weapons designed to thwart incoming attacks.
At the moment, Army soldiers at Forward Operating Bases use a system called Counter Rocket, Artillery, Mortar – or C-RAM, to knock down incoming enemy fire such as mortar shells. C-RAM uses sensors alongside a vehicle-mounted 20mm Phalanx Close-in-Weapons-System able to fire 4,500 rounds per minute. The idea is to blanket an area with large numbers of small projectiles as a way to intercept and destroy incoming artillery, rocket or mortar fire.
Also, lasers bring the promise of quickly incinerating a wide range of targets while helping to minimize costs, Miller explained.
“The shot per kill (with lasers) is very inexpensive when the alternative is sending out a multi-million dollar missile,” Miller said.
Boeing’s Avenger Laser weapon successfully destroyed a drone in 2008 at White Sands Missile Range. Army weapons developers observed the test.
The Army is also developing a mobile high-energy solid-state laser program called the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD. The weapon mounts a 10 kilowatt laser on top of a tactical truck. HEL MD weapons developers, who rotate the laser 360-degrees on top of a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, say the Army plan is to increase the strength of the laser up to 100 Kilowatts, service officials said.
“The supporting thermal and power subsystems will be also upgraded to support the increasingly powerful solid state lasers. These upgrades increase the effective range of the laser or decrease required lase time on target,” an Army statement said
In November of 2013, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command used the HEL MD, a vehicle-mounted high energy laser, to successfully engage more than 90 mortar rounds and several unmanned aerial vehicles in flight at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
“This was the first full-up demonstration of the HEL MD in the configuration that included the laser and beam director mounted in the vehicle. A surrogate radar (Enhanced Multi Mode Radar) supported the engagement by queuing the laser,” an Army statement said.
Miller explained how the Army hopes to build upon this progress to engineer laser weapons able to destroy larger targets at farther ranges. She said the evolution of laser weapons has spanned decades.
“We first determined we could use lasers in the early 60’s. It was not until the 90’s when we determined we could have the additional power needed to hit a target of substance. It took us that long to create a system and we have been working that kind of system ever since,” Miller added.
After three combat deployments to the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, something as simple as the smell of hay could trigger Rick Burth’s post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.
The smell of gunpowder and jet fuel put him on edge, too. He’d known he had PTSD for a long time, but he never talked about it.
“There was this stigma, so you didn’t want to say anything,” said Burth, 49, a Roseville resident and threat assessment specialist with the state Office of Emergency Services. “You just kept your head down and kept doing your job, but after awhile, it just got bad.”
Other treatments hadn’t worked, so Burth opted for a novel procedure that some say is a quick and effective way to quiet the anxiety and agitation that PTSD patients frequently experience. He traveled to the Chicago area, where a doctor injected a local anesthetic into his neck, targeting the nerves that regulate the body’s “fight-or-flight” response to perceived threats.
The treatment, called stellate ganglion block, has typically been used for pain management, but Dr. Eugene Lipov, an anesthesiologist, said he discovered in 2005 that it has the potential to relieve PTSD symptoms.
The 10-minute procedure halts the nerve impulses to the brain that trigger anxiety and jitters in trauma victims, Lipov contends.
Experts disagree on its effectiveness, but some doctors and patients say it seems to be a useful tool in combination with therapy and other medications, which may not always provide relief.
Burth said it helped calm his mind to the point where he could think more rationally about the traumatic events in his past.
The former Marine said he started noticing symptoms after returning from the Gulf War in 1991, and that his symptoms grew worse when he went to Iraq, where he was part of the anti-terrorism team for the California Army National Guard.
“The day-in, day-out fighting — getting shot at, shooting back, things blowing up around us — that compounded the issue,” he said.
When Burth came home, he couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t stand being in crowds. He was abusing alcohol. And it was all wearing on his wife and two young sons, he said. He’d been on anti-anxiety medication for years but never noticed much difference, he said.
“I was just really short-tempered. Always go, go, go. Didn’t have time to stop and listen to folks because I was always so anxious,” he said.
There are nearly 8 million Americans like Burth suffering from PTSD, many of them military veterans, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. PTSD is the third most common psychiatric diagnosis in the Veterans Health Administration.
People can develop PTSD months after they experience a life-threatening event or trauma such as a mugging, sexual assault, or the sudden death of a loved one. Its symptoms are broad because everyone’s PTSD manifests differently, said Dr. David Schafer, acting associate chief of staff for mental health at the Sacramento VA Medical Center.
People can relive a traumatic event such as an ambush or bomb attack in nightmares or flashbacks. They might also avoid places and situations that remind them of the trauma. Feeling anxious, jumpy, and experiencing panic attacks are common symptoms.
Burth, for instance, would become agitated at the smell of hay because he’d been in gunbattles in fields and orchards.
“For many, the easiest and safest thing to do is stay home with the door locked, sleeping on the floor by the closet,” Schafer said. “The challenge with avoidance is that it works.”
Approved treatments of PTSD include reintroducing patients to the people, places, and things they might find distressing. To work through the trauma, they attend therapy sessions for 10 to 15 weeks as they try to understand their reactions to events. Medications may also be prescribed to help take the edge off, Schafer said.
Burth had gone through months of therapy, including a month-long stint in a Texas rehabilitative treatment center, but his PTSD symptoms always returned, he said.
“It was helpful,” he said, “but after you get back home and get back into the same old routine, things pop up again, and you try to remember how to work through it on your own.”
Burth learned of stellate ganglion block through his mother-in-law, who volunteers with the Global Post Traumatic Stress Injury Foundation, which pays for veterans to receive the $1,600 treatment because it isn’t recognized or covered by the VA. The foundation is having a fundraiser at the Granite Bay Golf Club on Sept. 11.
Chris Miller, a local developer and philanthropist, was moved by the testimonials he heard at a foundation event in Washington, DC, last year, where soldiers and veterans spoke of their symptom relief after receiving the anesthetic treatment. Because there is a large military population in the Sacramento area, he decided to host his own fundraiser for the foundation, he said.
In March, helped by the foundation, Burth went to Lipov’s clinic near Chicago. After the first injection, he said he didn’t feel much different.
If patients don’t feel relief after the first injection, Lipov said, he’ll give them another injection higher in the neck. The second injection has a 90 percent success rate, he said.
After the second injection, “I didn’t feel different physically, but I felt different mentally,” Burth said. “Things slowed down. I didn’t have a million thoughts. I didn’t have that anxious and paranoid feeling, always looking over my shoulder. All of that kind of dissipated.”
Lipov said he’s performed stellate ganglion block procedures on 500 veterans with a 70 to 75 percent success rate.
So far, the anecdotal evidence about the procedure is mainly positive, but the scientific data is inconclusive as to whether stellate ganglion block is widely effective at treating PTSD, said Dr. Michael Alkire, an anesthesiologist at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System, who is studying the treatment with Dr. Christopher Reist, a psychiatrist.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched studies into the procedure because the long-term side effects remain unknown. One study is being conducted at the VA Long Beach Healthcare System.
In February, the VA Portland Health Care System found there was insufficient evidence to say stellate ganglion block was an effective treatment for PTSD. In trials, at least 75 percent of the subjects reported improvement. But when the treatment was tested against a placebo, a shot of the local anesthetic fared no better than a saline injection.
“The pattern suggests that, while it is possible that some patients benefit, the response rates seen in case series will not hold up in actual practice,” the researchers said. “Substantial uncertainty remains about the potential harms of (stellate ganglion block) as well.”
At VA Long Beach, Reist and Alkire have been performing stellate ganglion blocks to collect better data and understand when it can be effective. Their research has included 17 patients who are selected according to whether they’ve tried medication or psychotherapy without improvement. Of the 17 subjects, 13 reported immediate or gradual relief from their symptoms, the doctors said.
While the sample size is small, Reist and Alkire have found the blocks are most successful for patients who have symptoms of hyperarousal, which is like being in a constant state of fight or flight. The stellate ganglion block eases the patients’ tension and anxiety so they can engage in traditional therapies for PTSD, Reist said.
Alkire said it’s important to note that the treatment doesn’t work for everyone. He recalled the case of one patient who wanted it to work so badly that, when it didn’t, he spiraled into a deeper depression.
No treatment erases the memory of trauma, Schafer said. “Part of trauma-focused work is walking through the trauma and putting it in context, expanding people’s understanding of what happened.”
Burth agreed. “This is not a be-all, cure-all,” he said. “This is something that calms your mind and allows you to deal with the memories that are always there.”
“Since the injection, I can look at things in a different light and deal with it. I had someone ask me if this is a miracle, and I said, I don’t know if it’s a miracle, but it’s working for me.”
We live in a time when anyone with a smartphone can become a viral internet star. The technology is literally in the palm of your hand. Hit “record,” hit “upload,” and you’ve got a potential audience numbering in the millions.
Few people understand that power better than Graham Allen, a 12-year U.S. Army veteran who has made a name for himself with his “daily rant” videos on social media. In a little more than two years, he’s released dozens of videos, racked up over 1 billion views, and landed a show on Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV.
Allen said that while ranting has brought him success, that is only one side of who he is. In addition to being “much quieter in person,” he enjoys spending time helping others in his community.
“It’s more fun to me to go feed the police departments working the night shift than it is to get a 100-million-view video,” Allen said.
Graham Allen displaying his love for America.
(Photo courtesy of Graham Allen’s Instagram)
Not that he took the videos all that seriously when he first started making them in 2016 while on a recruiting tour in Anderson, South Carolina. He’d gotten run off the road by an elderly person and pulled over to rant about bad drivers. He posted it, and it resonated well with a few people, so he kept at it.
“The rants kind of started off as a joke,” Allen said. The topics ranged from making fun of people at the gym to parents with bad kids to Hillary Clinton to teenagers. Then Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, knelt during the national anthem, and Allen’s videos took a turn toward the political — and many would say, the divisive.
“I made a video about that because it legitimately was something that I cared about, and that’s when everything kind of changed,” Allen said. “It went from a gag into this ‘Dear America, I’ll say it for you’ kind of thing.”
That was two years ago. Now, Allen has his own show, “Rant Nation,” on BlazeTV. Although he is the host of the show, he is very clear that he’s not a news anchor, journalist, or political commentator.
“I’m just a guy who believes what I believe and thinks what I think. […] I like to look at things from my own worldview and my own value standpoint,” he said. “So, I take things that people are talking about and things that people are passionate about, and instead of just repeating it, I really try to put the moral value around it.”
The success of the rant videos and landing a TV show have increased the pressure for Allen, but he’s taken steps to try to keep things moving in the right direction. One of those decisions was moving back to his home state of Mississippi, to a “nowhere” small town where he can stay connected to his roots.
“This thing is really starting to go, and I just really felt that if we move to these bigger places like all these other people do, then we would lose what it is that apparently people are latching onto,” Allen said.
He acknowledges that he entered the social media personality game at the right time — people like Mat Best had already successfully paved the way, and enough others had come before Allen and failed that he could see what worked and what didn’t.
And when he does something that doesn’t work — or if he realizes he was flat-out wrong about something — he’s not afraid to correct his error.
“I think that’s something that hardly anyone does,” Allen said, “because I don’t know everything, and I feel like I’ve been very open and honest about that, that I’m not the end-all, be-all on this thing, this is just what I think and what I feel.”
Graham Allen with his wife and daughter.
(Photo courtesy of Graham Allen’s Instagram)
By that same logic, he’s also never regretted any videos or opinions he’s put out — even when they’ve drawn heavy criticism.
“One thing that I’ve done that I think is very different than anybody else is I don’t respond — I don’t get into battles with people, I don’t block comments, I don’t do any of that stuff,” Allen said. “If people want to say that I’m the worst person in the history of the world, I let them do it because if I didn’t, I would be a hypocrite, right?”
In terms of whether Allen considers himself a divisive figure, he contests that division is a sign of the times.
“We live in a culture now where you’re either left or you’re right, and, unfortunately, we can’t be friends, so that means we’re enemies now,” Allen said. “I don’t believe that, but there’s a lot of people that do. And so, because I’m very conservative — I’m a Southern-born and raised, gun-loving, freedom-loving, Christian conservative, that is who I am. Oh, and I’m a white guy at the same time. So, some people view me as the absolute worst thing that this country has to offer — I don’t think there’s any way for some people to not view me as divisive.”
The United States has substantial air, land, and sea forces stationed in South Korea
As well as several units based in Japan and the western Pacific earmarked for a Korean contingency. Together, these forces far exceed the firepower of North Korea’s armed forces and represent a powerful deterrent not just against Pyongyang but any potential adversary in the region.
A U.S. Army M109A6 Paladin deployed in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Christopher Brecht)
The first U.S. forces that would be involved in a North-South Korean conflict are those currently based in South Korea. On the ground, the U.S. Army rotates a new armored brigade into South Korea every nine months — currently the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division. Each brigade is manned by 3,500 soldiers and consists of three combined arms battalions, one cavalry (reconnaissance) battalion, one artillery battalion, one engineer and one brigade support battalion. Armored brigade combat teams typically consist of approximately 100 M1A2 Abrams tanks, 100 M2A3 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and eighteen M109-series self-propelled howitzers.
The army in South Korea also maintains the 2nd Infantry Division’s Combat Aviation Brigade, equipped with approximately sixty Apache attack helicopters, Blackhawk, and Chinook transports. The 210th Artillery Brigade, equipped with M270 Multiple Launch Rocket Systems provides long-range artillery fire, while the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade provide Patriot missile coverage of Osan and Suwon Air Force Bases. The 35th Brigade also operates the AN/TPY-2 missile defense radar and six Theater High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) launch vehicles recently sent to the country to beef up anti-missile defenses.
The other major component of American power in Korea is U.S. tactical aviation. The U.S. Air Force maintains the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base, consisting of the 25th Fighter Squadron at equipped with A-10C Thunderbolt II ground attack jets and the 36th Fighter Squadron with F-16C/D Fighting Falcon fighters (about forty-eight aircraft in all). The 8th (“Wolfpack”) Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base consists of the 35th and 80th Fighter Squadrons, which fly a total of forty-five F-16C/Ds. The A-10Cs have the mission of close air support, while the F-16C/Ds are responsible for air interdiction, close air support, and counter-air.
Beyond the Korean Peninsula, the United States maintains an array of forces ready to intervene. U.S. military forces in Japan include the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, two guided missile cruisers and seven guided missile destroyers. Many of the cruisers and destroyers have ballistic missile defense capability although two of the destroyers, Fitzgerald and McCain, are out of action due to collisions with civilian merchantmen. The Reagan and surface warships are all based at Yokosuka, Japan.
Further south, Sasebo, Japan is the home of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and the ships of its amphibious task force. Together, this amphibious force can lift a marine infantry battalion reinforced with armor, artillery and aviation assets collectively known as Marine Expeditionary Unit. Sasebo is also the home of the 7th Fleet’s four minesweepers. The result is a well-balanced force that can execute a wide variety of missions, from ballistic missile defense to an amphibious assault.
Farther north in Japan, the U.S. Air Force’s 35th Fighter Wing is located at Misawa, Japan. The 35th Wing specializes in suppressing enemy air defenses (SEAD) and is trained to destroy enemy radars, missile systems, and guns to allow other friendly aircraft a freer hand in flying over the battlefield. The wing flies approximately forty-eight F-16C/Ds split among the 13th and 14th Fight Squadrons. Near Tokyo, the USAF’s 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base flies C-130 Hercules, C-130J Super Hercules, UH-1N Huey and C-12J Huron aircraft.
Marine Corps units are spread out across Japan, with Marine fixed-wing aviation, including a squadron of F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, tankers, and logistics aircraft stationed at MCAS Iwakuni, the only Marine Corps air station on mainland Japan. Three squadrons of Marine helicopter units are stationed at MCAS Futenma on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Marine ground forces include the 4th Marines, a marine infantry regiment with three battalions, and the 12th Marines, an artillery regiment with two battalions of artillery.
Also on Okinawa is the sprawling Kadena Air Base, home of the 44th and 67th fighter squadrons, both of which fly the F-15C/D Eagle fighter. Kadena is also home to a squadron of K-135 Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft, a squadron of E-3 Sentry airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft, and two rescue squadrons. Farther from a potential Korean battlefield (but still in missile range) Kadena would act as a regional support hub for American airpower, with AWACS aircraft monitoring the skies and controlling aircraft missions while tankers refueled bombers, transports, and aircraft on long-range missions.
The next major American outpost in the Pacific, Guam, is home to Submarine Squadron 15, four forward-deployed nuclear attack submarines supported by the permanently moored submarine tender USS Frank Cable. Naval special warfare units are also based on the island. An army THAAD unit was deployed to the island in 2013 to protect against North Korean intermediate range ballistic missiles.
Guam is also home to Andersen Air Force Base. Andersen typically hosts a variety of heavy aircraft, including B-1B Lancer strategic bombers from Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence Mission, KC-135 tankers and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones. Andersen served as a jumping off point for bomber raids against North Vietnam and today would see a surge of B-1B, B-2A and B-52H bombers from the continental United States in the event of a flare-up in Korea.
U.S. forces in the northwest Pacific are considerable, amounting to two ground combat brigades, approximately seven wings of fighters and attack aircraft, a handful of strategic bombers, an aircraft carrier, submarines, hundreds of cruise missiles and an amphibious assault task force. That already formidable force can be swiftly augmented by even more combat forces from Hawaii, Alaska, and the continental United States, including F-22A Raptors, airborne troops, and more aircraft carriers, submarines, and bombers. It is a robust, formidable, adaptable force capable of taking on a variety of tasks, from disaster relief to war.
WWC Global is a leading women and military spouse owned small business that supports the management and operational needs of government agencies. WWC was also one of the first businesses to focus on military spouse employment, over a decade before it became a hot topic.
In 2004, Lauren Weiner found herself living in Italy and unemployable, despite an impressive resume. She left her position with the White House to follow her husband on his Department of Defense civilian assignment in Italy, when she quickly discovered spouses were not eligible for most government civilian positions. A few weeks after her arrival in Italy, she signed up for a bus tour to the Amalfi Coast. She had no clue that tour would change the trajectory of her entire life.
After overhearing Donna Huneycutt asking the tour guide if she could get coffee before the bus departed, she decided to follow her to get some too. “We started talking on the way over there and became fast friends within five minutes,” Weiner shared. She quickly discovered that Huneycutt had left her job in corporate law to follow her husband to Italy, who was a Naval officer. She too was struggling with the lack of opportunities.
The pizza place in Italy where many meetings took place.
“We jokingly say that the company was started over coffee,” Weiner shared with a laugh. Huneycutt echoed her sentiment and added that “we owe MWR for the founding of the company” since they provided the tour where the two met.
“The initial mission of the company was to provide employment for Lauren and enough employment for me so I could get some child care assistance. Shortly after that, the mission of the company was to find as many talented military spouses as possible and match them with the critical needs within the Department of Defense,” said Huneycutt. “Then it evolved to finding qualified and outstanding people in different, under-tapped labor pools such as veterans, retirees and State Department spouses, aligning them with critical needs of the government. That mission still hasn’t changed in the 15 years we’ve been doing this.”
When Weiner was asked if they had ever anticipated their company growing as large as they have, she laughed and quickly said, “Definitely not!” Weiner explained that Huneycutt initially just planned to incorporate the company for her and then go on to write a novel, but they received their first contract and then another came along. They found themselves hiring their first military spouse, a Harvard trained lawyer, Jeanne McLaine. She was only being offered paralegal positions at the base, despite her background and extensive experience. McLaine still works for the company today.
“I was told I could be a secretary. There was actually a policy against anyone who was a dependent applying for a position above a GS-9 at the base at the time … I was told I could not have a GS-13 or GS-14 job because I was a trailing spouse,” shared Weiner. “It was eye-opening and it was rough.”
By the end of their first year in business, they had seven employees. Weiner shared that she actually never wanted to grow over 50 employees, thinking it could cause them to “lose who we are.” But after a few years, they were well over that number. “The military spouse community is what built us in the first place and what supported us and sustained us,” shared Weiner.
Currently, over 74% of their employees are military spouses and/or veterans.
With their continued success, they are often asked what their next big plan or idea is. “We never want to lose sight of the things that led to our success. Our commitment to honesty and credibility have continued to open doors for us. We measure our accomplishments by the success of our clients and our staff. We will continue to do this in the future,” said Huneycutt.
Their firm is dedicated to leverage their expertise to serve their customers in various stages of policy design, exercise training, financial management, IT support and strategic management. Some of their clients include the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the United States Agency for International Development.
“Our mission is and has always been to help make government more effective and efficient, because it impacts our own lives,” explained Weiner.
Initially, the response to their firm successfully obtaining and running these large government contracts was one of disbelief. Disbelief in the fact that they were awarded the work and that they could do it. Weiner and Huneycutt were often asked if they were “doing this as a side business” until they became mothers to children. Or, it was assumed their husbands had established the company, although their husbands have absolutely no role in it. “We changed the dynamic and the conversation, very quickly,” Weiner shared.
When Weiner was asked what advice she would give military spouses who want to start their own businesses, she offered, “Put your head down and do it. People are going to tell you that you shouldn’t and give you every reason why it won’t work. Do not believe them. It is really hard work and you have to work harder than anyone else, but you can do it,” she said.
Their hard work has paid off. They now boast over 24 locations and their employees span four continents and 13 time zones. In the last two years alone, their operations have tripled. All of that growth led to their newly announced name change from WWC to WWC Global. They’ve also redesigned their logo to incorporate their history of its founding in Italy and their first client: the U.S. Navy.
“There have been many milestones that have made me pause and reflect. One of my favorites is the work we have done to provide meaningful employment to 170 military spouses,” said Huneycutt.
“We were able to build this and we are going to continue to build it further,” said Weiner. “Every once in a while, I stop and go… wow.”
To learn more about WWC Global and what they do, click here.
The aircraft, which have been launching strikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria since July, are now conducting high-intensity, seven-day-a-week operations to protect the ground forces moving into Mosul.
Rear Adm. James Malloy, the commander of the Eisenhower carrier strike group, told Military.com in an exclusive interview this week that the crew of the carrier has been tireless as conditions on the ground intensify.
“The sailors are motivated and focused and understand the sense of urgency with this enemy,” he said. “And the ground [conditions are] a direct result of naval power projected ashore. So it’s pretty easy to explain to them both what they’re doing and the effect that they’re having on the enemy.”
The carrier, which deployed in June, launched about 116 airstrikes on Islamic State targets during its transit through the Eastern Mediterranean sea, and more than 1,330 since its arrival in the Arabian Gulf as of Sunday, Malloy said. But these numbers, he noted, did not take into account the aircraft that were at that moment in the air over Mosul.
While strikes have been ongoing in and around Mosul for months in anticipation of the last major offensive into the city, operations have changed in recent weeks as the assault began.
Navy pilots are destroying fewer deliberate targets — fixed objectives they’re assigned to hit before they launch from the carrier deck — and more dynamic targets, often moving objectives that they are assigned after they arrive in the region and check in with the air controller.
Nearly 90 percent of strikes launched from the Eisenhower are now assaulting dynamic targets, Malloy said.
“The reason why [dynamic] targeting is much more critical now is because that is in direct support of troops on the ground moving against the enemy,” he said. “So by the time the pilots get to their targets from the carrier, the forward line of troops may have moved and the surgical precision of Navy air is critical to be able to impact the battle as it is occurring.”
Typical dynamic targets are command and control nodes and key areas where Islamic State militants will attempt to conduct resupply and ground maneuver in response to being attacked.
“They are being targeted as they try to do that, so we are accelerating the ground campaign with the airstrikes,” Malloy said.
The Eisenhower will likely remain in the region for several more months until its deployment concludes. On Thursday, multiple media outlets reported that Iraqi and Peshmerga troops, shored up with a small contingent of U.S. advisers, had finally breached the limits of Mosul.
For the Super Hornets, known for speed, precision and maneuverability, it’s an opportunity to show off what they can do.
“As a major offensive is occurring, the dynamic targeting capability of the aircraft come to fore,” Malloy said. “And that is where they shine for the most part: their responsive capability from the air.”
The Arctic could become the location of the next phase of an arms race between the United States and Russia – and the Russians have taken an early lead.
According to a report by Reuters, Russian military assets, including Cold War-era bases in the Arctic, are being brought back into service as Vladimir Putin makes a play to control what could be massive reserves of oil. The Russian build-up reportedly includes effort to winterize modern weapons, like the Su-34 “Fullback” strike aircraft and the MiG-31 “Foxhound” interceptor.
According to Globalsecurity.org, the Su-34 is capable of carrying up to eight tons of weapons or a dozen air-to-air missiles, has a crew of two, and saw some combat action over Syria. The Fullback is slated to replace Su-24 Fencers currently serving with the Russian Air Force and Russian Naval Aviation. That site also notes that the MiG-31, an improved development of the MiG-25 Foxbat interceptor, also has a two-person crew, and is capable of firing the AA-9 “Amos” air-to-air missile, which has a range of just under 100 miles. The Foxhound has been upgraded with a new radar.
Also included in the buildup are new icebreakers – including three nuclear-powered icebreakers according to a 2014 World Nuclear News report. In 2015, Port News reported that construction had started on two conventionally-powered icebreakers, while the Barents Observer reported in 2014 that the LK-25 would be delayed by up to two years from a planned delivery date of 2015.
Port News reported in December 2016 that the vessel, now named Viktor Chernomyrdin, wouldn’t be completed until sometime in 2018.
The British news agency noted that the push comes even though a combination of economic sanctions and low oil prices have shelved Russian plans to explore for some of the massive oil and natural gas reserves in the Arctic.