Veteran Tom Zurhellen was hoping to write a novel this summer. Instead, he’s walking 22 miles a day across the U.S. to raise awareness about veteran homelessness and suicide.
Zurhellen is a Navy veteran who teaches English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He’s breaking his journey of about 2,860 miles into segments of 22 miles a day. The daily goal matches an [outdated] number of veterans who commit suicide each day.
“I had a year off [for] sabbatical and I was just going to write another novel,” he said. “But then I got this commander job at the Poughkeepsie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 170. I’m a veteran, but I had no idea how much support was needed by our local veterans with mental health and homelessness.
“I figured if that was happening in my hometown, it had to be happening all across the country. So instead of writing just another silly novel, I decided to use my sabbatical to embark on this crazy adventure.”
Air Force Veteran Erin Ganzenmuller and Zurhellen.
Maintaining the pace
Since leaving Oregon in mid-April 2019, Zurhellen has doggedly maintained his 3-mph pace through all kinds of weather.
“It was 100 degrees in Sioux City, 98 degrees in Beloit, I hit a snowstorm three or four times, sub-freezing temperatures, so yeah, I’ve seen it all,” said Zurhellen.
His journey brought him along the Hank Aaron Trail, which winds through the campus of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.
He kicked off his walk through the Milwaukee metro area in a local coffee shop.
On hand to offer support was Navy veteran Mike Waddell, who said he had learned of Zurhellen’s walk that morning on Facebook.
“I just figured I’d come down and show him a little love and encourage him, keep him going,” Waddell said. “I think what he’s doing is great.”
Erin Maney, a social worker at the Milwaukee VA, said raising awareness with a goal of prevention is extremely important.
“I think there’s a lot of media coverage when, unfortunately, there’s a veteran death by suicide,” Maney said. “But there’s not always coverage when every day, Veterans are coming in asking for help, getting the help that they need, and going on to live meaningful lives. What he’s doing is extraordinary.”
Erin Ganzenmuller, an Air Force veteran and environmental consultant, thanked Zurhellen.
“I think it’s an incredible journey to raise awareness for struggles that our veterans face,” said Ganzenmuller, who also volunteers at Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “It’s awesome that he came to Wisconsin.”
Zurhellen at the Milwaukee VA greeted by employees and well-wishers.
Never giving up
“There was a time up until about a month ago, I was hitting the wall at about mile 15. And I thought, ‘What am I doing, experiencing pain? It would be so easy to go home.’
“But then I remembered the pain of the veterans I’m walking for. The people who are dealing with mental health issues. The people who are dealing with homelessness.
“Their pain’s a lot worse than mine. I can go home anytime. It’s like I’m just playing at being a homeless veteran, but they’re doing it for real. So, when I put in that perspective, it gets a lot easier.”
And with that, it was time for Zurhellen to hit the road and walk another 22 miles — a distance that to him means something far greater than just a number.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
In one city block, future soldiers could find themselves in an intense gunfight with enemy militants. In another, soldiers might crawl through debris to rescue trapped residents or deliver needed supplies. At the city’s opposite end, U.S. troops could be attempting to quell a civilian riot.
As urban populations worldwide continue to rise, the probability of these scenarios increases.
From the metropolitan sprawl of Tokyo with its 36 million inhabitants, to the massive clutter of rush hour traffic in Seoul, mega cities present a jarringly daunting obstacle to the future of world combat operations, Army senior leaders said at the 2018 LANPAC conference.
“The complexities that go on in this scale almost are unimaginable,” said retired Lt. Gen. James Dubik, former commander of the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq.
Additionally, if current trends continue, two thirds of the world’s population will reside in large, metropolitan areas, according to United Nations projections. Threats to megacities take increased importance in the Asia-Pacific, where a majority of the world’s megacities are concentrated.
Making matters worse, many of the cities sit inside the Ring of Fire, a 25,000-mile chain in the Pacific basin rampant with volcanic eruptions and unpredictable seismic activity. Some nations, such as Japan, sit on one of the most active tectonic plates in the world. Densely populated cities that include Bangkok and urban centers in Bangladesh are prone to natural disasters.
(Photo by Spc. John Lytle)
U.S. forces scarcely encountered operations in megacities in World War II, or the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
“The challenge of megacities is unlike (anything) we’ve had to deal with in history,” said Dr. Russell Glenn, G-2 director of plans and policy at the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
With so much of a nation’s population contained in a compact, urban space, megacities pose a vastly different challenge from the deserts of the Middle East soldiers have grown accustomed to.
“Every act you do in a city reverberates,” said Gen. Stephen Townsend, TRADOC commander, who spoke via video teleconference at LANPAC.
Military units in rural areas, deserts and small villages can contain the aftereffects of combat. In a large urban environment, skyscrapers, large structures and traffic can cause a domino effect that spread throughout a city.
Glenn added that smaller subsystems comprise a megacity that in turn is part of a much larger system that can extend worldwide.
A new kind of war
To prepare for the complexities of urban warfare, TRADOC has created simulations for soldiers to prepare for urban terrain. Weeks of coordination and planning must be implemented for a few hours of training, but Army leaders believe it will prepare soldiers for future conflicts. Townsend said the Army has considered increasing the scale and size of their urban-simulated training centers. He added facilities can never match the scale needed to truly simulate warfighting in a megacity environment.
“Our simulations have not kept up with changes in our formations — changes in warfare,” Townsend said. “So we’ve got to advance our simulations.”
(Photo by Joe Lacdan)
In March 2018, paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division spent close to a month training for combat in underground tunnels and structures at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia. They simulated chemical attacks. Soldiers learned to spontaneously alter current operating procedures to adapt to a city environment.
The Army has been working on a synthetic training environment to bolster its capabilities, while also incorporating space and cyber capabilities more than before. Multi-domain operations will be crucial, commanders said.
No amount of planning, study or preparation can prepare a military unit for the unique rhythm of a major city or what Townsend labeled the “flow.” The city’s flow can’t be clearly defined but its impact can never be understated, the general said. It can be felt during rush hour traffic or by careful observation over time. A city’s social infrastructure carries more importance than its physical infrastructure, noted Glenn. But understanding how a megacity’s population moves and lives can provide valuable insight for learning a city’s unique intricacies.
To better understand a city’s flow, Townsend said the Army must consult with a city’s police force, fire department and its citizens. In April 2018, the Army held a panel discussion in New York City to discuss logistics and how through interagency cooperation a force might handle the environment’s unique challenges. Gen. Robert Brown, U.S. Army Pacific commanding general, Townsend and New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill joined the panel.
“The point that came through … more clearly emphasized more than any other was the need to understand our partnership,” Glenn said. “Take advantage of those military and civilian (relationships), only then can we fully understand the environment that we’re working in.”
Glenn said that if wartime conditions necessitate it, a military unit can impose or alter flow, so long as it benefits the friendly population and minimizes friction.
Mosul opened the door
The July 2017 re-capture of Mosul from ISIS forces presented perhaps a blueprint for the future of urban warfare.
As the commander of the Combined Joint Task Force in Iraq, Townsend said he observed firsthand strategies deployed by the Iraqi army to regain control of the city.
“I think the enemy has watched Mosul,” the general said. “I think they will deliberately go to the cities and dig in there to fight because they know it takes away a lot of our technological advantages … the range of our weapons is degraded — the effects of our weapons are degraded.
(Photo by Joe Lacdan)
“So I think we’re going to see battle in megacities and there’s little way to avoid it.”
Townsend saw the difficulties of urban warfare in the northern Iraqi city which has a population of less than one million. His unit’s command control systems lagged and struggled to keep pace with the conflict. He said digital maps and imagery were impacted.
“The urban landscape changes so rapidly,” Townsend said. “Our C2 systems, our targeting systems … became outdated quickly because the urban landscape was changing faster than we could update our imagery.”
By 2030, the UN predicts the world’s 30 mega cities will also double to 60. Large-scale cities will increase from 45 to 88. America’s potential enemies, China, Russia and North Korea will take advantage of this trend.
“Wars are basically won or lost where the people are — where the population is,” Townsend said.
The Army’s solution: better training, preparation and greater trust. At TRADOC, more soldiers are receiving training in an urban environment. Soldiers must also learn to trust, not only first-responding agencies but accepting greater responsibility, Townsend said.
“As powerful as our mission command systems are, they are all challenged by the environment — the complex terrain that is a city … modern city,” Townsend said.
“You can’t go more than one floor deep without losing (communication) with everybody who’s up on the surface.
“So this whole notion of conveying commanders’ intent, and empowering subordinates … to achieve that commanders’ intent, and trusting them to do that is exactly how we’ll have to fight in even small cities.”
Veteran actor and former Marine Corporal Joe Lisi gives us a no-holds-barred interview about his life before the Corps, times on the streets with the NYPD and what he holds true to today about his service. We Are The Mighty spoke with Lisi on growing up in NYC, serving there as a police officer in elite units and then moving on to show business based on his childhood dream.
Lisi was born in Brooklyn and raised in NYC by a native-born family of the city. His father was Italian, his mother was Irish and both were in the Navy during World War II. His dad came back home from the Navy and had married his mom during the war. The Lisi family settled in Queens and Lisi went to a parochial elementary school. The family was a household of eight. As siblings they played in the neighborhood with kids of Irish, Italian, Jewish, Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage. His family then sent him to public high school which he graduated from in June 1968. In August of that year, he went to work for NYPD. There were a lot of Vietnam Veterans in his academy class in ’68 and they were early veterans of the war. Lisi was officially hired into the police trainee program.
Lisi joined the department as a civilian employee in his trainee capacity. He shared, “The only thing that kept us from being cops was we were 18 where you had to be 21 to be a cop. We were cocky then too.” He did clerical work and met an administrative aid that only had one leg. The disabled individual was dependable, low-key, didn’t have much of an ego and was driven. Lisi found out he was a Vietnam veteran and a Marine and his name was John Devine. Lisi said, “I just admired him and the way he composed himself. I decided I wanted to be like him and I had to get permission from the police commissioner to enlist in the reserves.” There was a noticeable difference between Lisi before and after. “I was told by an NYPD Sergeant that the difference was stark, where before I went to Parris Island and after where the sergeant couldn’t believe the change in me. The Sergeant was impressed with my work ethic and character even more so upon my return.” The NYPD Sergeant was a World War II veteran as well.
Lisi went to boot camp that was only eight weeks long because of Vietnam. He was promoted to PFC out of boot camp and his MOS was as a Radio Relay Operator since he was joining the 11th Communications Battalion in NYC. It is currently the 6th Communications Battalion in the Marine Corps Reserves. He went to radio school at the original Montford Point, worked in the motor pool for 8th Marines in CLNC on vehicles and drove Marines around the base. He stated, “I remember walking around Manhattan in my Alphas and having people spit at me. Thankfully, that has changed due to President Reagan reinstilling pride in the military.” Lisi stayed in the Reserves for three years.
He was called to active duty for the 1970 Postal Strike, “We protected the mail and did an outstanding job. My Marine friends call me the postal warrior.” There was a point where Lisi had to do undercover work for the NYPD and ran into an issue with the Marine Corps Reserve. “I had to do an undercover assignment and needed to keep my long hair, where the Marines said that wasn’t going to be allowed and they honorably discharged me. I got a letter from my police commanding officer asking my battalion commander for lax grooming standards.” He goes on further, “I also offered to go to drills in my civilian clothes to keep my hair long for police work and keep the honor of the Marine uniform. The battalion commander said no and the Marines needed to downsize post the war anyways.”
Lisi said, “I wanted to be an NYPD officer and an actor when growing up. I was inspired by The Untouchables TV series with Robert Stack as Elliot Ness. We used to play The Untouchables in the street as kids where I was the only kid that wanted to be Elliott Ness.” He stated, “I asked my father for his blessing to be a cop where I told him, ‘If I don’t become a cop then who will?’ He understood that and gave me his blessing.”
Many values carried over from his service in the Corps to the NYPD. He stated, “Honor, courage and commitment are hallmark traits that go in hand with integrity, perseverance, honesty and always doing the right thing. Even if no one is looking at you. Be goal-oriented as well.” Lisi goes into troop welfare with, “The most important thing is to take care of your Marines first. I ran my undercover units the same way, I took care of my officers. I grew the unit based on being tough, fair and taking care of my officers where I credit the Corps with those standards.” He ran the undercover unit for the NYPD for a while and the special projects unit in the narcotics division. He grew the unit from five officers to over forty officers. He believes his reputation was as a “tough and fair boss based on (his) Marine Corps training.”
His first acting role came in the stage play Arsenic and Ole Lace and he auditioned for a role. He got the part of a small role of a uniformed cop. Lisi didn’t know much about acting and he learned a lot from being part of the production. He said, “I had such a great time and loved it so much. My wife at the time encouraged me to be an actor because of my experience.” He studied acting at the HB Studio, Stella Adler and with Bill Esper at the Neighborhood Playhouse. He would go to an audition during lunch and run lines with a fellow detective while driving to the appointment. Lisi was a Captain in the NYPD in 1989 and was cast as a Captain in a police TV show set in NYC at the same time. The show was called True Blue. He said, “I had a lot of responsibility as a police officer running different divisions to include a narcotics unit where I made more money in a day playing a TV cop than I did in a week as a real police officer.”
Lisi was given his break by a fellow police officer and retired detective Sonny Grosso as he hired Lisi on his first job which got him his SAG card. Grosso is most known for being the basis for, and an advisor, on the book turned film The French Connection. Grosso was a Korean War veteran and worked on The Godfather as an advisor and he then turned to producing in his later career. Lisi met Sonny in the 1970s before Lisi had started moonlighting as an actor and then they reconnected in the 1980s when Grosso was producing TV and he was acting.
He said, “Being on set and working with the crew you become close. It has similarities to a unit or my time in the Corps.” Lisi said his favorite projects include The Sopranos, Third Watch and Take Me Out, for which won the Tony Award for Best Play, in London and on Broadway. Lisi shared that the most fun project he has worked on was Almost Home on 32nd street written by a Marine named Walter Anderson. It was about a Marine coming home from Vietnam. “I played the alcoholic father and a World War II veteran. It was a wonderful play with great reviews.”
He shared about hiring veterans if given the opportunity: “Absolutely, running police department units I definitely wanted veterans, especially Marines where they already had a leg up. I knew veterans were dependable and we could count on them. I had a bunch of Marines in my unit in the department. One of my best detectives was an Army Airborne Vietnam veteran. We know they know how to be part of a team. Veterans are more reliable and responsible where even if things go awry you will get the truth from them in most cases.” He further elaborated, “Veterans are also usually loyal people who are truthful. If the boss needs to know something you have to tell them the tough news. Marines are definitely like that with the boss and will tell them the real deal even if it’s not pretty.” He shared emphatically, “If the differentiator is military or not, you have to go with the veteran. On Third Watch, my stand-in John on the show was a Vietnam veteran where he was the first guy in and last guy out. A stand-in job can be very tedious where he was the best.”
He is very proud of his continued friendship with fellow veteran and Medal of Honor recipient, Colonel Jack Jacobs, U.S. Army (ret.). He stated, “Jack hangs out with a lot of Marines. He loves Marines and comes to all of our dinners. I recommended he be made an honorary Marine. It went up to all the channels and came back denied, unfortunately.” Lisi has now been retired from the NYPD for over 30 years and he still keeps in touch with some of his friends from the department, especially the veterans. He also speaks with the local officers at a station that is right on his block. A lot of Marines are on the local station’s force and he has relationships with them.
Lisi believes we need more Marines in show business and publications. He shared, “Marines need to write their stories and do the veteran writing workshops. Fordham University offers a veteran writing workshop. Today there are more ways to get it out than ever before. Once you have a story, it needs to get sent to a studio or development house by an agent. Marines have to learn how to write, write with them or for them where it’s all about exposure. There are a lot of military shows and special ops shows that need Marine writers.” He said about hosting an Iwo Jima dinner every year in Queens, “We get about 85 Marines there and we still have a few Iwo Jima survivors. I got to tell you, these Iwo Jima survivors come in hunched over and using canes where we have two Marines helping them to their table. Once they are in the presence of those young Marines for about 10 minutes, they turn back to being 20 years old again. You get to see them come to life!” He said, “The young Marines are like in awe of them.”
He shared about his next goals with, “I never want to retire from acting. I am going to be 70 in November and want to just keep working.” Lisi talked about his new business venture with, “My current entrepreneurial pursuit outside of acting is where I am involved in a cocktail lounge that serves pizza named Bar Dough in NYC. The opportunity was offered to me while driving back from Camp Lejeune North Carolina with Pete Fitzpatrick who was a corporal of Marines.” Fitzpatrick was in Beirut when the barracks were bombed. He shared, “Pete says we’re gonna open a bar and I said, ‘Okay.’”
He stated, “A lot of Marines go there where we had a two-star Marine General come in who enjoyed the place.” Lisi is thrilled about the restaurant and the clients it attracts, “I am getting fan mail from people that remember Third Watch‘ and The Sopranos where they are sending the fan mail to Bar Dough, so it’s kind of a revival! I am getting three or four letters a week with some of it coming from overseas.” He shared about the bar’s charitable work as well with, “We sent 500 pizzas to USNS Comfort while in port, we sent pizzas to Sloan Kettering and the Army units in town staying in the hotels, we sent pizzas to the Army mortuary soldiers at Bellevue dealing with like 300 deaths a day. A lot of friends and fellow Marines made those donations possible.”
The Corps made a strong imprint on Lisi’s mind, body and soul — it has made a lasting overall effect on his life and for those around him.
“Our job as parents isn’t to provide certainty in a time of uncertainty. Our job is to help kids tolerate the uncertainty,” explains Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute.
Kids aren’t stupid. Nor are they obtuse. They hear you discussing the increasingly dire COVID-19 news, they see headlines on your social media feed, and they understand that to a large extent, the stuff they once enjoyed doing is no longer in play. Playing epidemiologist isn’t going to work. Kids don’t need specific answers, they need broader certitude that they are loved and will be taken care of — certitude that makes the ambiguity of the moment manageable.
“We want to teach them how to tolerate not knowing. You should let them explain how they’re feeling and why, and you can help them validate those feeling by saying things like, ‘I have similar worries. Let’s brainstorm ideas on how we can make things better.’ Instead of just giving answers, you want to have a conversation and compare notes,” says Bubrick.
Getting kids, regardless of age, involved in problem-solving makes them feel empowered and like they’re part of the solution. But as Bubrick points out, if you ask vague questions, you’ll get vague answers, including the dreaded “I’m fine” (the quintessential conversational dead end). Bubrick’s advice is to lead with curiosity and ask open-ended yet specific questions:
What did you learn about today?
What is something interesting or funny you heard about today?
What was the most fun thing you did today?
What are you most looking forward to tomorrow?
What was the toughest part of your day today?
What was something you didn’t like about your day?
What got in the way today of you having a fun day?
What can we do together to make it better?
I read something interesting today and wanted to know if you had a reaction to it?
As with most things in life, timing is everything.
“Bedtime is not the right time. Kids are starting to wind down for the day. Anxious kids have more worries at night. Don’t lead them down the path of more worry. And don’t talk to them about this when they first wake up. Find a time, a neutral time, when there hasn’t been a big argument. Look for a calm moment,” says Bubrick.
He suggests having laid-back discussions either during dinner, or while taking a family walk. And he relies on a simple yet clever approach that gets people to open up.
“With my kids, I suggest a game: Like a rose. It’s an icebreaker and it’s our thing. You start and model the game. There are three components to the rose. The petal: ‘Tell me something you liked about today.’ The thorn: ‘Tell me something you didn’t like.’ The bud: ‘Tell me something you’re looking forward to in the future.’ You have to model it to get a response.”
If your children aren’t able to articulate how they’re feeling, use a feelings chart and work your way from there. Some 5-year-olds can explain, with total clarity, what upended their emotions and why. Some teens, meanwhile, can barely manage a two-word response and won’t dig deeper without gentle prodding. You want to have children be as specific as possible about what exactly they’re feeling.
“If you can name it, you can tame it,” says Bubrick.
His final note is just as applicable to kids as to their adult minders. Don’t spin out. Don’t catastrophize. And remind kids that no, their friends aren’t having secret sleepovers or hitting the playground. We’re all stuck at home together.
“We want to help kids stay in the moment. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the unknown. All we know is what’s happening to us right now. We have each other. We’re connected to our friends. Let’s focus on that. We’ll deal with tomorrow, tomorrow,” he says.
What holiday gifts do you buy the whiskey — or whisky — lover, the one who knows their Bokers from their Basil Haydens, their Islay versus Highland? Glad you asked. From bourbon and rye to single malt and some damn fine barware, here are the gifts we think whiskey lovers will be happy with any of these gifts.
1. “Nightcap” by Kara Newman
Featuring more than 40 cocktails expertly assembled by Kara Newman, the spirits editor at Wine Enthusiast magazine, and beautifully photographed Antonis Achilleos, Nightcap makes for great inspiration whether you’re whipping up the final cocktail of the evening or just getting the party started. Try the Storm King, a fun play on the classic Rob Roy.
2. Glenmorangie Signet
Not only is Glenmorangie Signet one of our go-to special occasion whiskies, but it’s also simply one of our perennial favorites. This deep amber whisky is beautifully complex thanks in part to the roasted chocolate barley used in the distilling process. After a lengthy time maturing in virgin American oak, the result is flawless — and like all great whisky there is something new to discover in every bottle.
3. Lagavulin 11 Nick Offerman Edition
Well it was bound to happen. Lagavulin gave Nick Offferman his own expression. Big and complex, like the actor/woodworker’s beard, the whisky features notes of toasted marshmallow, banana, and caramel charge that through the intense smoke.
4. Wild Turkey 101
Iconic and affordable, the classic Wild Turkey 101makes a great stocking stuffer for your bourbon lover or cocktail enthusiast. Sweet notes of vanilla and caramel play off the oak and char for balance and you’ll find a pinch of mint on the finish adding another layer of depth.
5. Death Star Ice Cube Mold
We love a big old rock in an old fashioned and this one that molds the ice into the shape of the Death Star is sure to bring a smile to Star Wars fans no matter what their favorite cocktail might be.
6. Laphroaig Cairdeas Triple Wood Cask Strength
Cairdeas, which means friendship in Gaelic, is an annual release from the venerable Islay maker. This year’s bottling features juice that’s been aged in ex-bourbon barrels, then in quarter casks and wood that was used to make oloroso sherry, giving the whisky layered notes of honey, fudge, nuts and spice. Of course, it’s a sweaty dram, so share this with loved ones who enjoy that classic Islay smoke.
7. Basil Hayden Caribbean Reserve Rye
A blend of Kentucky rye and Canadian rye, plus a touch of black strap Caribbean rum, Basil Hayden Caribbean Reserve Rye is one of our favorite new whiskies of 2019, perfect for sipping or creating slightly new twists on old fashioned cocktails. That small portion of rum goes a long way, giving the juice strong notes of burnt sugar and rum spice, that plays nicely with the rye’s vanilla and oak.
8. Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19
Despite the fact that Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 (named after a local Islay beach) is a new addition to the brand’s core range, it’s a staggeringly hard bottle to find at your local shop (it’s an annual release). But if you happen across one of this year’s batch, we highly recommend you grab it and don’t let go till it’s safely stashed on your bar. Through the signature Ardbeg smoke, a radiant note of juicy pineapple arrests your palate in a way that will alter the way you think about whisky.
9. Dorset Crystal Triple Old Fashioned Glasses
These glasses from William-Sonoma have a weight that feels substantial in the hand and will add a touch of gravitas to every sip, even if your whiskey lover is pouring from the bottom shelf. Set of four.
10. The Macallan 12 Sherry Oak Cask
Accessible, approachable and classic, The Macallan 12 Sherry Oak Cask is a sumptuous whisky at a reasonable price. This Speyside juice ages for a dozen years in Spanish Sherry casks sourced from bodegas in Jerez giving it lovely notes of oak, fruit, and spice as well as a luscious sweetness.
11. Old Forester Rye
This rye from Old Forester is a big, flavorful whiskey with peppery spice for days, notes of vanilla, buttered rye toast, and a hint of molasses. Not to mention it retails for a mere – a perfect secret Santa gift.
12. Booker’s Bourbon
If you have a bourbon lover on your list for the holidays, there’s a 124-proof chance Booker’s is on their wish list. The label is known for its thick and intense releases. True to form the current bottling, Beaten Biscuits, is a rich, luscious mouthful, loaded with Booker’s hallmark vanilla sweetness.
13. CB2 Stud Decanter
Sometimes it’s just a little more fun for your whisky drinker to pour their daily sipper from a decanter. The act and the presentation adds something special to the ritual.
14. Whisky Tasting Weekend at Glenmorangie House
Want to treat a whisky lover to a bucket-list experience? Consider springing for a whisky tasting weekend at the Glenmorangie House in the Scottish Highlands. Nestled amidst tender fields of farmland only a short walk from a stunning beach on the Moray Firth, this posh hotel offers a two-night stay filled with sampling curated drams from the storied brand, stellar food, and a tour of the distillery in Tain.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
In a move geared to reduce the bureaucratic overhead for soldiers who’re supposed to get straight to the business of fighting wars, Sec. of the Army Eric Fanning and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley announced a plan to cut down on PowerPoints and other mandatory briefings suffered by soldiers throughout the world.
Federal News Radio originally reported the top Army leaders’ comments during the 2016 Association of the U.S. Army annual meeting in Washington, D.C.
“We essentially made a decision that if it’s Army-directed — which, unfortunately, a lot of it is — then we’re going to leave it up to the commanders to figure out how to get their soldiers trained,” Fanning said, “rather than have them walk through the mandatory PowerPoints we create at headquarters and send out to you in the field.”
So local commanders would get the option of skipping certain training classes to focus on preparing for war. This wouldn’t necessarily result in less training for soldiers, but it would result in more targeted training. An infantry squad would be more easily found in the field than a classroom.
And anyone in the Army could testify that units spend too much time in briefing halls, theaters, and chapels doing PowerPoints. Yes, there are so many troops who need so many classes that it is routine for chapels to be used for briefings and PowerPoint presentations.
Milley shared how bad the list of required classes had grown.
“At the end of the day, the last document I saw was 12 pages of single-spaced, nine-point type listing all of the activities a company commander and a first sergeant have to do, mandated by us. It’s nuts. It’s insane,” he said.
Unfortunately for company commanders, Milley and Fanning seem to have been specifically discussing requirements from the Department of the Army and made no mention of requirements from other levels of command.
An Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 hovers near Bus 142 during the airlift operation (Alaska Department of Natural Resources/Handout)
In 1990, Chris McCandless graduated from Emory University and set to begin an itinerant life traveling across America. He moved from California to Arizona, and eventually South Dakota where his car was disabled in a flash flood. McCandless packed up what he could carry and continued his journey on foot. In April 1992, he hitchhiked from South Dakota to Fairbanks, Alaska, where he set out on an old mining road called the Stampede Trail.
After hiking roughly 28 miles through the snow, McCandless came upon an abandoned bus, Fairbanks Bus 142. With thick vegetation deterring further progress, he set up camp in the bus and attempted to live off of the land. His journal documents that he spent 113 days in the area where he foraged for food and hunted animals. In July, after a little over two months of living in the bus, McCandless decided to return to civilization. Unfortunately, the trail was blocked by a swollen river, trapping McCandless in the wild.
On September 6, 1992, a group of hunters came upon McCandless’ bus and discovered his decomposing body in his sleeping bag. The prevailing theory regarding his death is that he died of starvation about two weeks before his body was discovered. McCandless’ story has been immortalized in Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book Into the Wild and its 2007 film adaption of the same name directed by Sean Penn.
McCandless in front of Bus 142 (Photo by Chris McCandless)
The 1940’s-era bus that McCandless took shelter in has since become an object of intrigue, attracting tourists from around the world. However, the trek to reach the bus and the surrounding wilderness is notoriously perilous and many tourists have taken unnecessary risks to see the famous bus. Last year, a woman from Belarus drowned trying to cross the river that prevented McCandless’ return. In February of this year, five Italian tourists had to be rescued on their pilgrimage to the bus, one of them suffering from severe frostbite. As recently as April, a stranded Brazilian tourist had to be rescued after he became stranded trying to return from seeing the bus. Between 2009 and 2017, the state has carried out 15 bus-related search and rescue operations.
Out of growing safety concerns, Alaska state officials decided to remove the bus from its location on the trail outside of Denali National Park. In a joint effort between the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and the Alaska Army National Guard, Bus 142 was airlifted on June 18, 2020 by a CH-47 Chinook of the 1st Battalion, 207th Aviation Regiment. Bus 142 was flown to Healy where it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and taken to a secure location for storage. Officials have not yet decided the bus’s fate, but it may be put on public display in the future.
Bus 142 rigged and ready to be airlifted (Alaska National Guard photo by Sgt. Seth Lacount)
The removal of the bus is sad for many people who had hoped to one day make the trek out to see it. However, the safety concerns and the costly search and rescue operations it created made Bus 142 “a perilous attraction” in the words of Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker. “For public safety, we know it’s the right thing,” Mayor Walker said. “At the same time, it is part of our history and it does feel a little bittersweet to see a piece of our history go down the road.”
The grassy hill surrounding the arena is packed full of spectators and family members. The emcee calls out a dancer’s name; there’s movement in the crowd. The competitor makes it into the arena, throws out his hoops for his sequence.
Upon the dancer’s cue, the drum starts singing. Bells on his ankles sing in time with each beat of the drum and each step he makes.
He has five minutes to convey a story, using small hoops as his medium to paint each scene, as part of the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest held in Phoenix in 2018.
“The competition opens everyone’s eyes to the Native American culture,” said Timothy Clouser, the museum’s facilities director and a Navy veteran. “I find it very fascinating how each dancer puts their own artistic expression in their dance and story they are trying to convey. Not one dance is the same.”
Brian Hammill, an Army veteran of the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin and a previous World Hoop Dance champion, competed in Phoenix. He uses his dancing to help bridge the cultural gap between Native Americans and non-natives, sharing his culture everywhere he goes.
“As native people, we don’t give gifts of objects because an object goes away, but we give the gift of a song, or a dance,” Hammill said. “When you do that, if you give somebody a song, and you tell them, ‘Every time you sing this song, you tell the story,’ or ‘Every time you do this dance, you tell the story and you give it away,’ that dance will last forever. That’s how this hoop dance carries on; it’s given from one person to the next.”
Army veteran Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation applies face paint before grand entry at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, Feb. 10, 2018.
(Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)
The hoop dance is different than other Native American dances, such as powwow dancing. Powwows are inter-tribal celebrations of Native American culture. Tribal affiliation doesn’t matter, nor does what region someone is from. It doesn’t even matter if someone is native or non-native.
Powwow dancing consists of at least six categories. Men’s categories include the fancy dance, grass dance and traditional dance. Women’s categories are the fancy dance, jingle dress and traditional dance.
The hoop dance regalia is minimal compared to that of the powwow dances. Typically, a hoop dancer will wear a shirt, breechcloth, side drops, sheep skin, bells (or deer hooves) and moccasins. The colors and designs are specific to each person. The hoops are small and vary in size, typically depending on the height of the dancer. Sometimes they have designs on them, again, specific to each dancer.
“Traditionally, the hoops were made out of willow, depending on where the tribe was located,” Hammill said. “I make mine out of a very exotic wood called plastic.”
The hoop dance has different origin stories with a common thread that it originated in the Southwest. To some native nations, the hoop dance is a healing dance, Hammill said. A hoop would traditionally be passed over an afflicted person, then the dancer would break that hoop and never use it again.
“Basically, it was a way of taking away all that pain or sickness away,” Hammill said. “That’s not done in public. There is also a story of the children, the Taos Pueblo children. It is said that the children saw this ceremony taking place and began to emulate what they saw. Instead of telling the kids, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ the adults encouraged them. They began to sing songs for them. They took what was a prayer and made it something the kids could do. So, basically, the dance changed, it evolved.
“In the north, it tells of a warrior’s journey,” he continued. “As you see these hoops come together, they start to make formations. You’ll see the eagle, the butterfly, the warrior on the battlefield defending his family, the clouds in the sky.”
Each person, he explained, will see that dance in a different way, interpret the story differently. There are hundreds of hoop dance stories, but each one revolves around the sacred circle of life.
“The significance of the hoops is that it represents the circle of life. There’s no beginning and no ending,” Hammill said. “We are taught that each and every one of us — doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from, the color of our skin — we are all created equal in that sacred hoop.”
Another part of Hammill’s culture that he lives every day is the tradition of service.
“The way I was always taught is, as a native person, we are always here to serve the people,” he said.
U.S. Army veteran, Brian Hammill of the Ho-Chunk Nation, competes at the 28th Annual Heard Museum World Championship Hoop Dance Contest at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona on Feb. 10, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Anita C. Newman)
“We serve them by cooking and providing food for them. We teach them, or protect them. One of the greatest things I was always taught that we do, is we put ourselves in harm’s way to protect our families and our identity. It was something I’ve always wanted to do, I felt I needed to do.”
Hammill enlisted in the Army while still in high school. He went to basic training during the summer between his junior and senior years, and went on active duty after graduation.
“It’s just something that we do,” he said. “You’ll find that throughout the United States, there are a higher percentage of native veterans per capita than any other race.”
While he was stationed in South Korea, one of his first sergeants learned that he had danced while growing up, and asked Hammill to share his culture with everyone. He performed the men’s fancy dance for his fellow soldiers.
“A lot of these soldiers weren’t exposed to different cultures, so he had me do one of my first presentations there,” he said. “I called my dad in Wisconsin, and he shipped all of my dance regalia to me. I started doing presentations for the people I was stationed with, and in different areas throughout the Korean theater. That’s where I really got the passion to share the story, and I found out how important it is.”
Hammill was introduced to the hoop dance prior to his transition out of the military in 1994. Back then, he would travel about 120 miles from Fort Polk, Louisiana, to Livingston, Texas, where he performed and danced with the Alabama-Coushatta tribe.
“A good friend of mine, Gillman Abbey, basically gave me this hoop dance,” he said. “He told me the story. He told me every time I dance, to always make sure I share the story, and give the dance.”
He said the hoop dance helped him heal from his time in service. Still brand new to hoop dancing, Hammill actually competed in the World Hoop Dance Championship for the first time about six months after he got out of the military.
“I was 24, in the adult division,” he said. “I remember I was scared because this is a huge competition. Some of the dancers I’m still dancing with today pulled me aside, said to me, ‘Hey, you’re doing good. Let me show you some different moves. Let me help you.’ I’ll never forget that because that’s what really kept me coming back. Being here, feeling that hoop and how it affects people, it keeps me coming back. It took me a long time, about 15 years, until I won my first world title. I moved to the senior division and won four more. But it’s a family. It really is something we all have in common.”
This is not the first time this year that B-1s have participated in drills on the peninsula. Similar exercises took place in May and July. North Korea blustered then, too. So, why are the B-1Bs such a big deal to the belligerent state?
Maybe the North Koreans know that, despite what they tell people about Kim Jong Un, there’s no way he can keep the Lancer from inflicting a lot of hurt. You see, next to the A-10, the B-1B Lancer could possible be the most effective weapon against North Korea’s army. GlobalSecurity.org estimates North Korea has over 3,500 main battle tanks and 560 light tanks.
But the B-1B Lancer has a way of dealing with a lot of tanks: It’s called the CBU-97. This is the weapon that enables the Lancer to protect the Baltics from Russian aggression. A B-1B can carry up to 30 of these internally, plus at least 14 more on rarely-used, external pylons.
Here’s a little math: Each CBU-97 has 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each with four “skeets” that fire an explosive projectile capable of going through the top of an enemy tank. A single B-1B carrying 30 of these can, therefore, deliver 1,200 “skeets” in one sortie. Each B-1B Lancer has the potential firepower to handle about 30 percent of North Korea’s tank force.
And you can safely bet it wouldn’t be just a single B-1B. Other B-1B Lancers might carry CBU-89 cluster bombs, which dispense GATOR mines in a mix of anti-tank and anti-personnel varieties. Others still might the CBU-87 cluster bomb, containing 202 BLU-97 bomblets. The fact is, North Korea’s army is primarily made up of massed ground forces — the kind of target that cluster bombs are really good at dealing with.
A military K-9 injured in a bomb explosion in Afghanistan along with his military police officer partner now has a lot of support after a photo of the dog wearing a Purple Heart Medal in a hospital in Germany has gone viral, the Killeen Daily Herald reports.
Spc. Andrew Brown, 22, and his military dog, Rocky, were searching a structure for explosive materials in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province Dec. 3 when the bomb exploded, the Texas newspaper reported Friday.
“They were working with Special Operations Forces in an effort to identify explosive materials,” Army spokesman Sgt. Michal Garrett told the paper.
Brown and Rocky survived the blast and were taken to a military hospital in Germany. There, a photo was taken of Rocky wearing the Purple Heart and posted on the Facebook page of Fort Hood’s 89th Military Police Brigade. Brown is assigned to the brigade.
The photo had more than 89,000 likes, 118,000 shares and more than 9,500 comments as of Sunday morning.
“The Army typically does not process awards for our working dogs the same way we do for our other soldiers,” Garrett told the Daily Herald. “The Purple Heart in the photo was placed on Rocky as a sign of respect and solidarity between him and Brown during their recovery.”
Two days ago the brigade posted another photo of Brown and Rocky in a hospital room on Facebook that said, “They are both very thankful for your thoughts and prayers and are in the process of heading back home.
The post said Brown had arrived earlier Friday at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Hospital in Washington where he was met by his waiting family.
The Daily Herald reported that Brown, of Eliot, Maine, suffered non-life threatening injuries and will undergo a series of tests for traumatic brain injury. The tests are routine for soldiers injured by roadside bombs.
Rocky is expected to return to Fort Hood in the coming weeks. The canine suffered shrapnel wounds and a broken leg.
The first operational KC-46A Pegasus — the tanker being designed by Boeing to replace the aging KC-135 — took its maiden flight on Dec. 5.
That flight came after numerous delays and cost overruns that have stymied the tanker’s development over the past several years. Even though it got off the ground in December, Boeing admitted at the time that it would miss a self-imposed deadline to give the Air Force the first operational KC-46 by the end of 2017.
Now the Air Force expects to receive the first operational KC-46 by spring 2018, and Boeing is obligated to deliver 18 of the new tankers by October. But major defects remain unresolved, according to Aviation Week.
The most worrying deficiency is the tendency of the tanker’s boom — where the fuel flows — to scrape the surface of the aircraft receiving fuel.
The problem could endanger the aircrews involved and risks compromising the low-observable coating on stealth aircraft like the F-22 and F-35 fighters. A KC-46 with a refueling boom contaminated by stealth coating may also have to be grounded.
Representatives from the Air Force and from Boeing told Aviation Week that they are working on the problem, with personnel from the government and industry reviewing flight data to assess such incidents and compare them to international norms.
Their assessments will help decide whether changes are to be made to the camera used for refueling on the KC-46. The Pegasus’ boom operator sits at the front of the aircraft while directing the boom, relying heavily on the camera. Older tankers have the boom operator stationed at the back of the plane to guide the boom in person. A decision on the camera is expected by March.
A Boeing spokesman said similar contact between the boom and the receiving aircraft happens with the Air Force’s current tankers as well.
A Boeing spokesman also told Aviation Week in December that an issue with the KC-46’s high-frequency radio had been resolved, but an Air Force spokeswoman said the force was still working on it, expecting to have options to address it by January.
The radios use the aircraft’s frame as an antenna, which sometimes creates electrical sparks. The Air Force wants to ensure they can never broadcast during refueling in order to avoid fires.
Issues with uncommanded boom extensions when the refueling boom disconnects from the receiving aircraft with fuel flowing have been reduced to a Category Two deficiency, an Air Force spokeswoman told Aviation Week. The solution to that problem is expected to be implemented in May, the spokeswoman said.
The Air Force still expects the first operational KC-46s by late spring, arriving at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma and McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas.
Air Force Gen. Carlton Everhart, chief of Air Mobility Command, told Air Force Times that once testing is finished and the new tankers start to be delivered, he expects “they’re going to clear out pretty quick” to Air Force bases.
Boeing won the contract to develop the new tanker in 2011, and the Air Force expects to buy 179 KC-46s under the $44.5 billion program. Under the contract, Boeing is responsible for costs beyond the Air Force’s $4.82 billion commitment. As of late 2017, the defense contractor had eaten about $2.9 billion in pretax costs.
Despite his limited involvement in the Pentagon’s weapons programs, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a stark warning to acquisition officials in November, telling them he was “unwilling (totally)” to accept flawed KC-46 tankers.
The US Navy broke with its tradition of hyping up F-35 deployments when it sent the USS Essex jump-jet carrier into the Western Pacific with a deck full of the revolutionary fighter jets this week — and it could signal a big change in how the US deals with its toughest adversaries.
When the USS Wasp became the first small-deck aircraft carrier to deploy with US Marine Corps F-35Bs in early 2018, the media was in on it. But the Essex’s departure marks a change, as the Navy announced the deployment only after the ship departed, USNI News noted.
The Navy regularly deploys capital ships like small- and large-deck carriers for patrols around the world but has only twice deployed ones like these.
The F-35 has become the most expensive weapons system in history and earned its share of criticism along the way as costs ballooned and deadlines fell through. The Marine Corps’ F-35B is designed to land vertically and take off from short runways, like an amphibious assault ship, and will replace the AV-8B Harrier in ground and air attack missions; the Navy’s F-35C has a tailhook to snag an arresting cable and land on an aircraft carrier.
The Navy wants to change the media’s expectations regarding ship deployments to the Pacific, sources told USNI News.
The US military usually prides itself on publicizing its ship deployments and often says its carrier deployments are drawn up apolitically and months ahead of time, but insisting on some level of secrecy betrays that.
The flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in the Luzon Strait.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane)
What does the US Navy have to hide in the Pacific?
The US has major adversaries in the Pacific — namely China and, to a lesser extent, North Korea.
It makes sense that with dialogue underway with North Korea, the US would want to quiet big deployments to the Western Pacific, and a high-profile deployment of next-generation stealth jets could seriously spook North Korea.
But it’s China’s navy that poses the biggest threat to the US, and it’s possibly the reason the US is staying quiet.
When the USS Ronald Reagan, the US’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier in Japan, patrolled the South China Sea, which China unilaterally claims as its own in defiance of international law, the US said very little about it. Repeated requests for comment from Business Insider went ignored.
The US uses its Navy to challenge what it calls excessive maritime claims of dozens of nations around the world in passages called “freedom of navigation” operations. Basically, if a country claims an excessive amount of maritime territory, the US usually sails a destroyer through to inform it that its claims are not recognized.
China views these patrols as a challenge to its sovereignty and makes a big deal out of them. For the US, it’s better if the challenges to China’s claims are the norm and not a news story. Some observers have speculated that the US wants to send a message to China’s military leadership without the publicity that may compel them to escalate.
By keeping quiet high-profile deployments to the Pacific, the US could be signaling that it’s getting ready to put the ball back in China’s court, with high-end military hardware checking it and disputes handled between navies rather than via press releases.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
An Italian woman was in a severe car collision in Niger and staff at the local hospital realized they couldn’t treat the woman properly with the equipment they had on hand. What followed was an 18-hour odyssey that relied on medical staff from six countries and U.S. Special Operations Command Forward, a pop-up blood bank, and a doctor translating medical jargon between four languages.
It all started when an Italian woman and her male passenger were driving near Nigerien Air Base 101 in Niamey, capital of Niger. The ensuing wreck injured them both. Nigerien ambulance services moved them to the local hospital where doctors made the call that the woman needed to go to a more advanced facility.
The hospital said the woman had a liver bleed, a life-threatening condition that requires surgery. The case was referred to Italian military doctors nearby who asked the American surgeons of SOCFWD — North And West Africa for help. The ground surgical team quickly discovered that the liver bleed wasn’t the only problem.
Three doctors, U.S. Air Force Capts. Melanie Gates, left, Nick McKenzie, and Richard Thorsted, all with Special Operations Command Forward — Northwest Africa ground surgical team, gather for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey, Niger, on June 21, 2018. The doctors were all involved in an emergency surgery which successfully saved the life of an injured Italian woman.
(U.S. Air Force)
“Upon reviewing the CT scans, there was also evidence of free air in the abdomen, concerning for a small bowel injury,” U.S. Air Force Capt. Melanie Gates, GST emergency medical physician, told an Air Force journalist. “When the patient arrived, her skin was white and she was in serious pain with minimal responsiveness. Her vitals were much worse than previously reported.”
“First thoughts upon seeing patient … she wasn’t doing well,” said U.S. Air Force Capt. Richard Thorsted, GST anesthesiologist. “She arrived to us in critical condition with a high fever.”
Italian military members, left (sand-colored uniforms), Special Operations Command Forward Northwest Africa ground surgical team members, middle (in civilian clothes), and members from the 768th EABS, right (in multi camo-patterned uniforms) gather for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey, Niger, on June 4, 2018. A multinational team of medical practitioners on the base saved the life of an Italian civilian injured outside by patching together a team of doctors and other medical personnel from six nations and multiple military branches.
(U.S. Air Force)
The doctors initiated two important actions as they prepared to conduct the surgery; coordination for an airlift to take the patient to Senegal once the surgery was finished, and the collection of A-positive blood to keep the patient going during surgery and airlift.
Both requests would require more work and luck than expected.
First, the major stakeholders needed to ensure the aeromedical evacuation took place included French personnel who controlled a lot of the coordination in the area, Senegalese personnel who would receive the patient into their care, Germans who would conduct the evacuation if civilian personnel could not, Americans who were performing the first surgery, and Nigerians who had originally secured the patient and whose country was hosting her first surgery.
Luckily, Italian military doctor Valantina Di Nitto spoke at least three languages and was able to pass critical patient information and medical plans of action between all the stakeholders. She created a road map for medical care, from the surgery in Niger to Senegal and, eventually, to Italy.
At the same time, base personnel needed to immediately procure five units of A-positive blood. Unfortunately, the medical personnel who knew how to draw the blood weren’t yet familiar with the equipment available on the base.
Lt. Col. Justin Tingey, 768th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron flight doctor, and Master Sgt. Melissa Cessna, 768th EABS independent duty medical technician, pose for a photo at Nigerien Air Base 101, Niamey, Niger, on June 21, 2018. The team recently set up a walking blood bank to enable life-saving surgery to an Italian woman who nearly died in a car accident outside the base. The patient is now in good condition and recovering in Italy.
(U.S. Air Force)
In a weird coincidence, U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Bryan Killings did know how to use the equipment, and he was passing through the base en route to another destination. He got a text message from his bosses while at dinner.
“My leadership told me they had a patient coming through and they needed me to assist them,” Killings said. “They said they needed A-positive blood.”
Killings rushed to the walking blood bank and trained Army and Air Force personnel on how to use the equipment, then assisted in the collection of blood from five donors.
In the operating theater, a team of Air Force doctors took the blood and got to work. The three doctors, Air Force Capts. Melanie Gates, Nick McKenzie, and Richard Thorsted, were all recent graduates of medical school.
Luckily, after completing their residency programs, all three had undergone special military training before heading to Africa that included clinical scenarios in austere conditions.
“Our training kicked in. We all knew our roles and worked well together,” Gates told Tech Sgt. Nick Wilson. “I believe our training was crucial for our development as a team and ability to handle situations like this.”
In the end, the amalgamation of civilian and military medical personnel pulled it off, and the patient is recovering Naples, Italy. She is currently in good condition.
(H/t to Tech Sgt. Nick Wilson who wrote a three-part series on this story for the Air Force. To learn more, you can read his full articles here, here, and here.)