Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.
The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.
VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.
Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.
Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.
Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.
These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.
Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
But North Korea does not sell, export, or use such nuclear devices on anyone because if they did, the consequences would be phenomenal.
“North Korea sells all kinds of weapons” to African countries, Cuba, and its Asian neighbors, according to Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst at Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm.
“The most dangerous aspects of that trade has been with Syria and Iran in terms of missiles and nuclear reactors they helped the Syrians build before the Israelis knocked that out with an airstrike,” said Lamrani. “The most frightening is the potential sale of nuclear warheads.”
With some of the harshest sanctions on earth imposed on North Korea, it’s easy to imagine the nation attempting to raise money through illegal arms sales to the US’s enemies, which could even include non-state actors, like al Qaeda or ISIS.
While procuring the materials and manufacturing a nuclear weapon would represent an incredible technical and logistical hardships for a non-state actor, a single compact warhead could be in the range of capabilities for a non-state actor like Hezbollah, said Lamrani.
Furthermore, the US’s enemies would see a huge strategic benefit from having or demonstrating a nuclear capability, but with that benefit would come a burden.
If US intelligence caught wind of any plot to arm a terror group, it would make every possible effort to rip that weapon from the group’s hands before they could use it. News of a nuclear-armed terror group would fast-track a global response and steamroll whatever actor took on such a bold stance.
And not only would the terror group catch hell, North Korea would, too.
“North Korea understands if they do give nuclear weapons, it could backfire on them,” said Lamrani. “If a warhead explodes, through nuclear forensics and isotope analysts, you can definitely trace it back to North Korea.”
At that point, North Korea would go from being an adversarial state that developed nuclear weapons as a means of regime security to a state that has enabled and abetted nuclear terrorism or proliferation.
This would change the calculus of how the world deals with North Korea, and make a direct attack much more likely.
Right now, North Korea has achieved regime security with long-range nuclear arms. If they sold those arms to someone else, they would effectively risk it all.
Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Globally, 2018’s temperatures rank behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.
“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.
Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). This warming has been driven in large part by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases caused by human activities, according to Schmidt.
Weather dynamics often affect regional temperatures, so not every region on Earth experienced similar amounts of warming. NOAA found the 2018 annual mean temperature for the contiguous 48 United States was the 14th warmest on record.
Warming trends are strongest in the Arctic region, where 2018 saw the continued loss of sea ice. In addition, mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continued to contribute to sea level rise. Increasing temperatures can also contribute to longer fire seasons and some extreme weather events, according to Schmidt.
“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” said Schmidt.
NASA’s temperature analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations.
This line plot shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2018, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean, as recorded by NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK). Though there are minor variations from year to year, all five temperature records show peaks and valleys in sync with each other. All show rapid warming in the past few decades, and all show the past decade has been the warmest.
These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heat island effects that could skew the conclusions. These calculations produce the global average temperature deviations from the baseline period of 1951 to 1980.
Because weather station locations and measurement practices change over time, the interpretation of specific year-to-year global mean temperature differences has some uncertainties. Taking this into account, NASA estimates that 2018’s global mean change is accurate to within 0.1 degree Fahrenheit, with a 95 percent certainty level.
NOAA scientists used much of the same raw temperature data, but with a different baseline period and different interpolation into the Earth’s polar and other data poor regions. NOAA’s analysis found 2018 global temperatures were 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit (0.79 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century average.
NASA’s full 2018 surface temperature data set — and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation — are available at:
GISS is a laboratory within the Earth Sciences Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.
NASA uses the unique vantage point of space to better understand Earth as an interconnected system. The agency also uses airborne and ground-based monitoring, and develops new ways to observe and study Earth with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. NASA shares this knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.
For more information about NASA’s Earth science missions, visit:
Two US Navy destroyers challenged China’s excessive maritime claims in the South China Sea May 6, 2019, angering Beijing.
The guided-missile destroyers USS Preble and USS Chung-Hoon conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation, sailing within 12 nautical miles of two Chinese-occupied reefs in the Spratly Islands, the US Navy 7th Fleet spokesman Commander Clay Doss told Reuters.
The operation, the third by the US Navy in the South China Sea this year, was specifically intended “to challenge excessive maritime claims and preserve access to the waterways as governed by international law,” he said.
Beijing was critical of the operation, condemning it as it has done on previous occasions.
“The relevant moves by the U.S. warships have infringed on China’s sovereignty and undermined peace and security in relevant waters. We firmly oppose that,” Geng Shuang, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, told reporters at a press briefing May 6, 2019.
“China urges the United States to stop these provocative actions,” he added.
China bristles at these operations, often accusing the US of violating its sovereignty by failing to request permission from China to enter what it considers Chinese territorial waters. The US does not acknowledge China’s claims to the South China Sea, which were discredited by an international tribunal three years ago.
The 7th Fleet said that these operations were designed to “demonstrate that the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy identified and warned off the US Navy vessels. The ships do not appear to have encountered anything like what the USS Decatur ran up against last September, when a Chinese destroyer attempted to force the ship off course, risking a collision.
The US Navy is not only challenging China in the South China Sea, though. It is also ruffling Beijing’s feathers by sending warships through the closely watched Taiwan Strait on the regular. The US has conducted four of these transits this year, each time upsetting Beijing.
The latest operation in the South China Sea comes as trade-war tensions are expected to rise in the coming days. US President Donald Trump is said to be preparing to significantly increase trade penalties and tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of Chinese exports in response to Beijing’s unwillingness to bend on trade.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The United States and Israel are putting on a large-scale joint exercise — one with high stakes in the Middle East. Right now, the two countries are rehearsing defense against a ballistic missile attack.
According to a report by the Jewish Press, Juniper Cobra, an exercise held every two years, is underway. This time, the exercise is simulating a massive, two-front attack against Israel, which, historically, has been no stranger to hostile ballistic missiles landing in its territory.
During Operation Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein launched dozens of modified SS-1 “Scud” missiles at Israel. A total of 39 missiles landed on Israeli territory, causing two deaths and substantial property damage. That number would have been higher had the United States not deployed batteries of MIM-104 Patriot surface-to-air missiles to Israel.
The stakes for this exercise are high and have increased as tensions mount over Israeli allegations of Iranian actions in Syria and Lebanon. Iranian leaders have vowed in the past to wipe Israel off the map. An American missile-defense test in Hawaii ended in failure when a RIM-161 Standard SM-3 Block IIA missile missed a target late last month. Let’s hope this exercise proves to be more successful.
Recent changes in tax law mean that many in uniform could see big returns when they file their 2018 taxes.
“This last tax year has been quite exciting with all of the changes that occurred to it,” said Army Lt. Col. David Dulaney, executive director of the Armed Forces Tax Council. “The good news is that most of our service members should see a substantial reduction in their overall federal taxes for 2018.”
One way service members can maximize their tax refund is to log onto Military OneSource and take advantage of MilTax, a free suite of services designed specifically for service members. MilTax includes personalized support from tax consultants and easy-to-use tax preparation and e-filing software.
(Photo by Mike Strasser, Fort Drum Garrison Public Affairs)
• MilTax is available to active-duty, reserve and National Guard service members. Additionally, thanks to new language in the National Defense Authorization Act, “service” has been expanded to included transitioning service members — those who have separated or retired will be able to make use of MilTax for up to a year after leaving the military.
• MilTax is available through www.militaryonesource.mil and includes online tax preparation software designed specifically for military personnel and the unique circumstances that surround military life.
• Through Military OneSource and MilTax, service members have access to expert tax consultants specially trained to address tax issues related to military service. During tax season, consultants are available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in the Eastern time zone at 800-342-9647.
• Using MilTax, eligible individuals can file one federal and up to three state tax returns through the Military OneSource website. The service is available now through Oct. 15, 2019, for extended filers.
• At some installations, the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, or VITA, allows service members to sit down face to face with a tax professional to help prepare their tax forms.
• All service members are required to pay taxes. Military service doesn’t mean service members don’t have to pay. Fortunately, MilTax is free to those eligible to use it.
“One of the worst things we can hear is a military service member went out and paid for tax services that we provide for free through the DOD,” said Erika R. Slaton, program deputy for Military OneSource. “We want to ensure our service members and families know they are supported and we provide the best possible support for them in completing their tax services.”
President Donald Trump said he plans to increase the number of US troops in Afghanistan in a speech August 21 and continue the longest-running war in American history.
Currently, there are about 9,800 US troops stationed in Afghanistan and more than 26,000 contractors.
The Pentagon defines a defense contractor as “any individual, firm, corporation, partnership, or other legal non-federal entity that enters into a contract directly with the DOD to furnish services, supplies, or construction.”
US defense contractors versus US troops deployed to Afghanistan in last decade. Image by Skye Gould via Business Insider.
This also includes intelligence analysis, translation and interpretation, as well as private-security contractors — who began taking over roles once held by uniformed soldiers after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The defense industry has also made incredible profits since 2001, including nearly $100 billion in Afghanistan since 2007.
The graphic above compares the number of US troops and defense contractors in Afghanistan over the last decade.
Reports and rampant speculation regarding Russia’s announcement of a new, high-threat nuclear cruise missile have many asking questions about the ultimate aims of the Pentagon’s recently released Nuclear Posture Review.
The Pentagon’s accelerated development of a “nuclear-armed” F-35 Joint Strike Fighter attack envelope, and other new nuclear weapons, is of critical importance to a new sweeping strategic nuclear weapons modernization and development strategy aimed at countering Russia, China, and North Korea — and addressing a much more serious global nuclear weapons threat environment.
Adding a nuclear-capable F-35 to the air portion of the nuclear triad — to supplement the existing B-2, B-52, and emerging B-21 — will bring a new dimension to US nuclear attack options and place a new level of pressure upon potential adversaries.
Discussion of the F-35’s role in nuclear deterrence emerged recently during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the Pentagon’s recently published Nuclear Posture Review.
In written testimony, Defense Secretary James Mattis cited the F-35 as an indispensable element of US and NATO nuclear deterrence.
“Modernizing our dual-capable fighter-bombers with next-generation F-35 fighter aircraft will maintain the strength of NATO’s deterrence posture and maintain our ability to forward deploy nuclear weapons, should the security situation demand it,” his testimony states.
Mattis also cited the emergence of the F-35 as a “nuclear delivery system” in the context of expressing grave concern that US nuclear weapons modernization has not, in recent years, kept pace with a fast-changing global threat environment.
“Nuclear delivery system development over the last eight years shows numerous advances by Russia, China, and North Korea versus the near absence of such activity by the United States, with competitors and adversaries’ developing 34 new systems as compared to only one for the U.S. — the F-35 aircraft,” Mattis said in written statements.
Officials with the Office of the Secretary of Defense confirmed to Warrior Maven that Mattis here is indeed referring to an emerging “nuclear variant” of the F-35. Multiple news reports, such as Business Insider, cite senior officials saying a nuclear-armed F-35 is slated to emerge in the early 2020s, if not sooner. The F-35 is equipped to carry the B-61 nuclear bomb, according to a report in Air Force Magazine.
It makes sense that the F-35 would increasingly be called upon to function as a key element of US nuclear deterrence strategy; in recent months, F-35s deployed to the Pacific theater to participate in military exercises over the Korean Peninsula. The weapons, ISR technology, and multi-role functions of the F-35 potentially provide a wide range of attack options should that be necessary in the region.
Utilizing speed, maneuverability, and lower-altitude flight when compared to how a bomber, such as a B-2, would operate, a nuclear-capable F-35 presents new threats to a potential adversary. In a tactical sense, it seems that a high-speed F-35, fortified by long-range sensors and targeting technologies, might be well positioned to identify and destroy mobile weapons launchers or other vital, yet slightly smaller, on-the-move targets. As part of this equation, an F-35 might also be able to respond much more quickly, with low-yield nuclear weapons in the event that new intelligence information locating a new target emerges.
The F-35 recently completed a series of weapons separation tests and is currently able to be armed with the AIM-9X, AIM-120, AIM-132, GBU-12, JDAM, JSOW, SDB-1 and the Paveway IV, Lockheed Martin data states. While it is not yet clear exactly how a nuclear weapon might integrate onto the platform, the F-35 is configured to carry more than 3500 pounds of ordnance in stealth mode and over 18-thousand pounds uncontested.
While senior Pentagon leaders are understandably hesitant to discuss particular contingencies or attack scenarios, the NPR is quite clear that a more pro-active nuclear weapons posture is aimed at strengthening “deterrence.”
After analyzing the global threat calculus, the NPR calls for rapid inclusion of two additional nuclear weapons options — to include a sea-launched, nuclear-armed cruise missile.
“A nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile and the modification of a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missile warheads to provide a low-yield option – will enhance deterrence by ensuring no adversary under any circumstances can perceive an advantage through limited nuclear escalation or other strategic attack,” Gen. Paul Selva, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters.
Senior Pentagon leaders stress that neither of these new nuclear weapons recommendations in the NPR require developing new nuclear warheads or will result in increasing the size of the nuclear stockpile. NPR DoD advocates further stress that the addition of these weapons does align with US non-proliferation commitments.
Mattis and other senior leaders seem aware that elements of the NPRs strategic approach may reflect a particular irony or paradox; in response to questions from lawmakers about whether adding new low-yield nuclear weapons could “lower the threshold” to nuclear war and therefore introduce new elements of danger, Mattis told Congress that increasing offensive nuclear-weapons attack capability will have the opposite effect, meaning the added weapons would improve deterrence and therefore enhance prospects for peace.
Specifically, Mattis explained that a new, low-yield, submarine-launched ballistic missile could likely provide pressure on Russia to a point where they might be more inclined to negotiate about adhering to the INF treaty they have violated.
“We have an ongoing Russian violation of the INF. We want our negotiators to have something to negotiate with because we want Russia back in compliance,” Mattis told lawmakers.
Alongside this strategic emphasis, Mattis also stressed that the NPR stipulates that nuclear weapons will only be used in the most extreme cases, adding that the “use of any nuclear weapon is a strategic game changer. Nuclear deterrence must be considered carefully.”
Citing the rapid technological progress of adversary air-defense systems, Mattis further elaborated that a sea-launched cruise missile option might be necessary to hold potential enemies at risk in the event that air-dropped low-yield weapons were challenged to operate above necessary targets.
“To drop a gravity bomb that is low-yield means a bomber would have to penetrate air defenses. Air defenses are very different than they were 20 years ago,” Mattis told Congress.
For instance, Russian-built S-400s and an emerging S-500 are potentially able to detect aircraft at much further ranges on a larger number of frequencies. Furthermore, faster computer processing and digital networking enable dispersed air defenses to hand off targets quickly across wide swaths of terrain.
This phenomenon also provides indispensable elements to the argument in favor of the Pentagon’s current development of a new nuclear-armed, air launched cruise missile – the Long Range Stand-Off weapon (LRSO). In similar fashion, a nuclear cruise missile could hold enemy targets at risk in a high-tech threat environment where bombers were less able to operate.
Some critics of the LRSO maintain that the introduction of the LRSO brings a “destabilizing” effect to the possible use of nuclear weapons. In a manner quite consistent with the current NPR, senior Air Force weapons developers told Warrior Maven over the course of several interviews that, by strengthening deterrence, the addition of a new LRSO is expected to have the reverse – or “stabilizing” – effect by making it more difficult for a potential adversary to contemplate a first strike.
NPR proponents say a strengthened and more wide-reaching nuclear weapons approach is necessary, given the current threat environment which does, without question, seem to be raising the possibility of nuclear confrontation to a level not seen in years.
“We’re concerned about: some of the adjustments in potential adversaries’ thinking about nuclear weapons. With a greater reliance on nuclear weapons, a featuring of them, in some cases — for example, in the Russian nuclear doctrine, called “Escalating to De-escalate.” John Rood, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy told reporters when discussing the NPR.
From the Nuclear Posture Review
Russia’s belief that limited nuclear first use, potentially including low-yield weapons, can provide such an advantage is based, in part, on Moscow’s perception that its greater number and variety of non-strategic nuclear systems provide a coercive advantage in crises and at lower levels of conflict. Recent Russian statements on this evolving nuclear weapons doctrine appear to lower the threshold for Moscow’s first-use of nuclear weapons.
The text of the report specifically cites the importance of dual-capable aircraft (DCA) in Europe and states that the F-35 is fundamental to deterring Russia.
“We are committed to upgrading DCA with the nuclear-capable F-35 aircraft. We will work with NATO to best ensure — and improve where needed — the readiness, survivability, and operational effectiveness of DCA based in Europe,” the Nuclear Posture Review states.
The NPR also seeks to accelerate ongoing efforts to modernize the air, sea and ground portions of the nuclear triad. DoD is immersed in current efforts to fast-track development and prototypes of a new ground-based strategic deterrent ICBM, Air Force developers have told Warrior Maven.
Early prototyping, including expected prototype “shoot off” testing is slated for 2020, service developers have told Warrior Maven in recent interviews. Northrop Grumman and Boeing are both now under contract to build the new weapon. The Air Force plans to build at least 400 GBSDs, Air Force senior leaders have said.
Critical elements of the new ICBM, developed to replace the decades-old Minuteman IIIs, will feature a new engineering method along with advanced command control, circuitry, and guidance systems, engineers have said.
Regarding the air component, the Air Force recently completed a critical design review of its new B-21 Raider nuclear-capable stealth bomber. As is often the case with nuclear weapons, many of the details regarding the development of this platform are not available, but there is widespread discussion among US Air Force leaders that the bomber is expected to usher in a new era of stealth technology; much of the discussion focuses upon the bomber’s ability to operate above advanced enemy air defenses and “hold any target at risk anywhere in the world,” the Air Force Military Deputy for Acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch has told Warrior Maven in past interviews.
Early available renderings of the bomber show what appears to be an advanced B-2 like design, yet possibly one with a lower heat signature and improved stealth properties. However, service leaders are quick to point out that, given advancements in Russian air defenses, stealth will surge forward as “one arrow in a quiver” of nuclear attack possibilities.
Concurrently, the Air Force is surging forward with a massive B-2 modernization overhaul, involving new digital nuclear weapons capability and the integration of a developing system called the Defensive Management System. This enables the B-2, which Air Force developers acknowledge may indeed be more vulnerable to advanced air defenses than in earlier years when it was first built, to more quickly recognize locations of enemy air defenses at safer ranges as a means to avoid detection.
New nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine
Finally, shifting to a program widely regarded as among the most significant across the DoD enterprise, the Navy is already underway with early development of the new nuclear-armed Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. Several key current efforts with this, including early “tube and hull” forging of missile tubes, work on a US-UK common missile compartment, and little-discussed upgrades to the Trident II D5 nuclear missiles.
Undersea strategic deterrence, as described by Navy and Pentagon leaders, offers a critical means to ensure a second strike ability in the event of a catastrophic first-strike nuclear attack impacting or disabling other elements of the triad.
While it may seem obvious, nuclear deterrence hinges upon a recognizable, yet vital contradiction; weapons of seemingly limitless destructive power are ultimately employed to “keep the peace” and save lives. Along these lines, Senior Navy and Air Force nuclear weapons developers routinely make the point that, since the advent of nuclear weapons, the world has managed to avoid massive, large-scale major power force on force warfare.
While Pentagon leaders rarely, if ever, offer a window into current nuclear-strike capabilities, it is widely discussed that the current North Korean nuclear threat is leading US military planners to envision the full spectrum of nuclear weapons contingencies. Even further, the US did recently send B-2 bombers to the Asian theater — stationing them in Guam.
If you’re familiar with the phrase “rock or something,” then you’ve probably used a Flameless Ration Heater to warm up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat.
To this day, the phrase remains part of a pictogram on the package of the heater, known as the FRH, which was developed at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center’s Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate and is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013. It refers to directions that advise warfighters to place the FRH at an angle when heating up a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, commonly known as an MRE.
“The term ‘rock or something’ has now reached cult status,” said Lauren Oleksyk, team leader of the Food Processing, Engineering and Technology Team at Combat Feeding. “It’s just taken on a life of its own.”
Oleksyk was there at the beginning with colleagues Bob Trottier and now-retired Don Pickard when the FRH and that memorable phrase were born in 1993.
“We were designing the FRH directions and wanted to show an object to rest the heater on,” Oleksyk recalled. “(Don) said, ‘I don’t know. Let’s make it a rock or something. So we wrote ‘rock or something’ on the object, kind of as a joke.”
The joke has legs. As Oleksyk pointed out, there now are T-shirts and other items for sale that bear those words. “Rock or something” even has its own Facebook page.
Introduced to the heater years ago, famed chef Julia Child insisted on following the package directions and activating it by herself. With no rock handy, she decided to employ a wine glass stem.
(Photo by David Kamm)
“Which is so classic Julia,” Oleksyk said, laughing. “So there have been many things other than the rock or something that have been used. There are many, many Soldiers over the years that have their own personal joke about what they might use in place of a rock.”
The FRH is no joke, however. Adding an ounce and a half of water to the magnesium-iron alloy and sodium in the heater will raise the temperature of an eight-ounce MRE entrée by 100 degrees in about 10 minutes.
“Some of the challenges were keeping it lightweight and low volume, and not requiring a lot to activate it,” Oleksyk said.
The heater’s arrival gave warfighters the option of a hot meal wherever they went and whenever they wanted.
“I’ve heard more feedback on this item than any other item I’ve ever worked on in my career here,” said Oleksyk, who has been at Natick nearly 30 years. “They’re so grateful to have this heater in the MRE. It’s almost always used whenever they have 10 minutes to sit down for lunch.”
Prior to the FRH, warfighters used Trioxane fuel bars with canteen cups and cup stands to heat their MRE entrees. As Oleksyk pointed out, the fuel bars couldn’t be packed alongside food in the MRE package.
“So if the fuel bar and the MRE didn’t marry up in the field,” said Oleksyk, “they really had no way to have a hot meal.”
The FRH has remained essentially the same over the past two decades because, as Oleksyk put it, “it’s tough to find a better chemistry that’s lighter in weight, lower in volume and that heats as well.” A larger version has been developed, however.
“We’ve expanded it to a group ration,” Oleksyk said. “So now we have a larger heater that is used to heat the Unitized Group Ration-Express. We call that ration a ‘kitchen in a carton.’ It serves 18 Soldiers.”
The next-generation MRE heater is being tested now, and it will eliminate the need to use one of the most precious commodities in the field.
“The next version of this is a waterless version,” Oleksyk said. “It’s an air-activated heater, so you wouldn’t have to add any water to activate it at all, but that’s still in development and will have to perform better than the FRH overall if it’s ever to replace it.”
Oleksyk remembered sitting on a mountain summit one time during a weekend hike with friends. Suddenly, she heard laughter behind her.
“I hear a guy — sure enough, he says, ‘Yeah, I need a rock or something,'” said Oleksyk, who turned to see him wearing fatigues, holding a Flameless Ration Heater, and telling his buddies how great it was.
“So it’s far reaching,” Oleksyk said. “It really had an impact on the warfighter.”
That chorus grew louder following news that Russia sent masks and medical equipment to the hard-hit United States on April 1.
Russia is not alone in sending aid abroad. The United States, Germany, and France have also sent supplies despite dealing with their own domestic outbreaks. And China — where the outbreak originated — has sought to reverse the negative fallout by providing expertise and equipment to other countries, although the delivery of faulty equipment and questionable data has been criticized.
But for Russia, such missions prove a belabored point. Since its relations with the West soured amid the Ukraine crisis in 2014, and Moscow was placed under economic sanctions by much of the world, President Vladimir Putin’s government has lobbied for the world to see it as a force for good, with a crucial role to play in the international arena.
It has not been an easy sell.
Aid … But With Strings?
While a convoy of whitewashed military vehicles containing clothes and medicine that the Kremlin sent to eastern Ukraine in 2014 was shown on loop on state TV, others saw the purported humanitarian effort as a way of secretly supplying weapons to the Moscow-backed separatists fighting Kyiv’s forces.
And Russia’s military operation in Syria, launched in 2015 with the declared aim of driving out the Islamic State extremist group from the region, was presented by federal channels as a peace mission to liberate the war-ravaged Middle Eastern state. But while Russian soldiers were shown handing out food packages to Syrian children, critics accused Russia of bombing hospitals and targeting rebel forces fighting against Syria’s Kremlin-backed President Bashar al-Assad.
For some, Russia’s latest missions have also led to questions.
The La Stampa newspaper on March 25 cited unnamed officials in Rome saying that 80 percent of Russia’s aid package was “totally useless.” Moscow was in an uproar about the claims, which were shared widely. “The aid given to Italy is selfless,” Russia’s ambassador to Italy Sergei Razov told the RIA news agency. “Not subject to a trade-off, a settling of bills or anything of the kind.”
Then there was that video of the Russian anthem being played on an Italian street. The video originated as a post to the Telegram messenger app by a Russian journalist working for the Daily Storm outlet. “Who would have thought that our Russian hymn will play on the streets of Italy?” wrote Alyona Sivkova on March 25, in a caption to the video.
The following day, after the video had been featured in various Russian reports as evidence of ordinary Italians’ gratitude to Russia, Sivkova posted an angry Telegram post alleging that Russian state media had “stolen” the video — which was recorded by the Italy-based mother of a Russian colleague — for their own purposes.
Ilya Shepelin, who leads a program debunking fake news on independent Russian TV channel Dozhd, told the BBC that Italians who have publicly praised Russia’s aid to their country are mostly people with close business ties to Russia.
“We’re not dealing here with a pure fabrication, but manipulation,” he said of the Russian TV reports. “Hybrid lies, or hybrid truth.”
Iranian officials knew their military had shot down a passenger jet and lied about it for days, Ukraine said Sunday, citing a leaked audio recording of an Iranian pilot communicating with air-traffic control in the capital Tehran.
In the leaked audio recording — said to be from the night in January when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down — a pilot for Iran Aseman Airlines radioed the air-traffic control tower to say he saw the “light of a missile,” Reuters reports.
The control tower can reportedly be heard trying, unsuccessfully, to reach the Ukrainian passenger aircraft on the radio as the Iranian pilot says he saw “an explosion.”
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
Aseman Flight 3768 was close enough to the airport in Tehran to see the blast, the Associated Press reported, citing publicly available flight-tracking data.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a television interview that the recording “proves that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane had been hit by a missile.”
Ukraine International Airlines said, according to Reuters, that the audio was “yet more proof that the UIA airplane was shot down with a missile, and there were no restrictions or warnings from dispatchers of any risk to flights of civilian aircraft in the vicinity of the airport.”
UIA Flight 752 was flying from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on January 8 when it was shot down shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 people on board. The incident happened just hours after Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and the country’s air-defense systems were on high alert.
Though it blamed “human error,” Iran also sought to cast responsibility with the US, arguing that the killing of Soleimani had led to a dangerous spike in tensions that resulted in the accident. Still, Iranian citizens and international observers questioned why Iran didn’t ground civilian air traffic after its missile attack on US-occupied bases in Iraq.
Iran said it mistook the airliner for an enemy missile. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident a “grave tragedy” and an “unforgivable mistake.”
Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization is in charge of investigating aviation incidents, with one official saying Ukraine’s decision to release the confidential recording, which aired on Ukrainian television, had “led to us not sharing any more information with them.”
“On a dusty road in western Iraq, Corporal Dunham gave his life so that others might live.”
Those words were spoken by President George W. Bush during the Medal of Honor ceremony for Corporal Jason Dunham, who became the first Marine honored with the MOH since the Vietnam War.
After years of friendship with the family and friends of Dunham, Navy veteran David Kniess has joined with Army vet Vince Vargas to tell the story of the men of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines — and the story of how Dunham sacrificed himself for his brothers.
“This film truly is by veterans, for veterans,” shared Kniess, stressing the significance that “all of them understand the importance of telling this story.”
“Many years ago, I had a chance meeting with Corporal Dunham before he went to Iraq. That chance meeting led to life-long friendships with the Dunham Family and a core group of Marines who served with Corporal Dunham. I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly over the past 15 years… PTS, drug and alcohol abuse, and in some cases suicide. It’s been an extremely hard road for some of them,” he said.
This is why he has chosen to create this film, one that will feel very familiar to those who have lost someone to war.
“What do you say to the parents of the guy who gave his life for you? What do you tell them?” asked Cpl Kelly Miller, who served with Dunham.
Kniess has tried to make the film before, “but the Marines of Kilo weren’t ready, and quite frankly, neither was I. It was too soon. Every year during the month of April and the anniversary of Corporal Dunham’s death, I would remind myself of the story I needed to finish. 15-years later that time is now.”
On Nov. 10, 2019, Kniess and 4 Kilo Marines went to San Diego to record Jocko’s Podcast, episode 203, One Man Can Make a Difference. The next day, they launched an Indiegogo campaign to try and raise more funding to keep the project moving forward.
“The story will be told through present day interviews with the Dunham family as well as the Marines who served with Corporal Dunham, including Kelly Miller and Bill Hampton whose lives he saved. You will learn the circumstances surrounding Corporal Dunham’s sacrifice and the tragic outcome of his actions.”
To learn about the day Dunham was attacked in Western Iraq, including images of the team and first-hand reporting, check out their indiegogo campaign. If you feel moved to contribute, great. If you can share their story, that’s important, too.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B5vdtZQJmTi/ expand=1]The Gift on Instagram: “A decision… Do nothing and we all die… do something and my Marines will live. This is what was left of Corporal Dunham’s Kevlar helmet…”