Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer - We Are The Mighty
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Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

Veterans are likely to play a significant part in what has been called “the Moon shot” in cancer research — the plan announced by President Barack Obama last week for a cancer fight effort to equal the country’s determination to put a man on the moon during the 1960s.


Fittingly, the veterans’ role in the cancer Moon shot, as well as in scores of other research projects into illnesses that impact vets and non-vets alike, will be doing something they were prepared to do back in their active duty days: shed some blood.

“When they realize that this could help other veterans most of them volunteer right away” when asked, VA Secretary Bob McDonald said during a visit to the VA Medical Center in Boston on Friday, when he toured the lab and growing biorepository.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer
Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham | U.S. Navy

The VA project, called the Million Veterans Program, predates the cancer Moon shot by six years. Its goal is to collect blood samples — and with it the DNA — of at least a million veterans, and use it to research illnesses, including at the genetic level.

“This is fascinating what they’re doing here,” McDonald said. “The whole role of genomics will be huge in, and that’s one of the reasons we wanted you to see this, because I think the work of the Million Veteran Project underscores the importance of genomics in the Moon Shot in eradicating cancer.”

It is veteran-centric, for sure, and already is being used in alpha and beta projects that focus on veteran issues, according to the VA.

The veterans’ blood samples, informed by medical health records that, depending on the veteran, may go back 20 or more years, could hold the key to understanding causes and discovering treatments and cures for myriad illnesses. The VA is looking at some 750,000 genetic markers that medical researchers believe could be linked to illnesses that plague veterans, ranging from cancers to heart disease, kidney disease to post-traumatic stress disorder.

To date, the effort has collected close to 445,000 vials of blood, each one spun in a centrifuge prior to storing to divide red cells, white cells and plasma. The vials are kept in an oversized refrigeration unit within a lab at the hospital.

Although the project name suggests it will store a million samples, it will continue to grow the biorepository as long as there is funding support and vets who volunteer.  There is storage space for several million samples. During a tour of the lab, McDonald climbed a ladder to look into the storage site, where a robotic arm, kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius, plucked newly deposited vials one at a time from small containers and moved them into trays that were then automatically transferred into the unit and stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius.

“When I do my recruiting speech to try to attract people to VA, this is exactly the issue — come be on the cutting edge, the tip of the spear [in medical research] that can make a difference in so many people’s lives,” McDonald said.

The department has spent about $130 million on the program since it began laying the foundation for it in 2010. Its nearly 445,000 samples have come from nearly 245,000 veterans. It currently is getting in about 100,000 samples per year, which means it will hit the million mark around 2022.

They hope the speed that up by opening the program to active-duty personnel. The VA estimates that would add an additional 25,000 samples a year to the collection and perhaps allow them to reach one million by 2020, said Dr. Mary Brophy, director of the biorepository.

Because the donations are for research purposes, neither the VA nor the Defense Department can simply request use of a veteran’s or service member’s blood for the project.

Donors — strictly veterans right now — may volunteer for the project at a number of VA sites across the country. In signing up, they are told their blood and medical information will be shared with researchers and that they may not benefit directly or immediately from any of the research.

But their identities are masked on the samples, so that researchers do not know whose blood or DNA they are working with. For its part, the VA does retain a link between the sample code and the veteran so that changes in health or long-term effects of drugs and medications can be incorporated into the veteran’s research profile.

While Britain began building its own biorepository before the U.S. and currently has more samples –about 500,000 — the VA is quickly catching up and will pass that number.

It’s not only because the veterans have volunteered in such large numbers, but because VA has been able to build the computing capacity to handle the data.

“It’s not just the samples, it’s the informatics platform. The reason VA can do that better than anyone … is that we have an electronic health record,” she said. “We have the health record already in a data base, and it’s been around for 20-30 years.”

The British Health System — it does not have a separate system for veterans – is largely decentralized, with many medical records still in paper form and residing in doctor’s offices across the country.

Not only has an existing data base of electronic records and a willing veteran population allowed VA to rapidly build its biorepository, it has already provided the VA enough samples and data to launch several research studies of benefit to veterans.

The projects include cardiovascular risk factors among African American and Hispanic Americans, to determine how genes influence obesity and lipid levels affect the heart; an examination of genetic risk from chronic use of alcohol, tobacco and opioids; and a study into how genes affect the risk and progression of kidney disease — a major risk factor for veterans, according to researchers.

The biorepository is essentially one-stop shopping for a specific patient cohort and control group for any research institution wanting to investigate an illness or try out a new drug, according to Brophy.

“If I want to do a study in Gulf War Illness, before I would have to go out and find all these patients with Gulf War Illness, do it myself, Then get the samples, store it and send it out” to research lab, she said. The biorepository eliminates those time-consuming steps, she said, by making VA the go-to place for medical researchers.

Now, she said, if a research lab needs 5,000 patients with Gulf War Illness, it can get that cohort from the VA, as well as a control group without Gulf War Illness.

“The infrastructure is there to do key PTSD research, Gulf War Illness research. The hard work of getting people together, knowing who has Gulf War Illness [is done],” she said.

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A videogame set in the trenches of World War I is surprisingly awesome

World War II has given the video game industry plenty of material, but a good World War I game is pretty hard to find.


Not anymore. A recently-released game set on the early 20th century battlefields puts players into the trenches, and it’s surprisingly good.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

The first World War was a very different kind of war. Soldiers often served in long stalemates between trench lines, or “went over the top” to attack the enemy. It was often a battle for just inches of more ground, and not allowing game players to move very far seems a bit counterintuitive in a game.

With the game “Verdun,” the developers took an innovative approach to this problem, and made a World War I game actually worth playing. The developers went to great lengths to use historically accurate equipment, uniforms, and weapons, and they used reconnaissance photos — and in some cases walked the ground — to recreate the landscape of 1914-1918 France.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

Still, a game that looks realistic could still turn out to be terrible. The gameplay is important, and “Verdun” excels in this area. While it’s a first-person shooter game, “Verdun” requires players to work along with their squad, much like they would if they really were in an infantry unit.

From Polygon:

What makes Verdun so different from other first-person shooters is the way battles ebb and flow. Some players are instructed to assault individual enemy strongpoints, while others are told to defend. Anyone who disobeys an order by moving outside the engagement area is killed — effectively shot on the spot for cowardice.

“The maps are a composition,” Hoebe said. “This imagery can all be found through Google. There are large collections of postcards on Flickr, but also Belgian towns post their historical collections online. I pretty much went through the extent of what could be found … and compressed this into on overall image.

The gameplay is unlike your typical World War II shooter or, any modern shooter for that matter. If you enjoy running around blasting the bad guys in “Call of Duty” while enduring quite a few hits, the realism of this game will certainly be a surprise.

“If you’re going into Verdun with a mind to cut about the place, emptying hot lead into the faces of all and sundry with reckless abandon, then you can quite rightly expect to be put into the ground very quickly. And many, many times, too,” writes Game Watcher.

There are three game modes: Frontlines, Attrition and Rifle Deathmatch. Deathmatch is the multiplayer slugfest you’d come to expect from most first-person shooters, except this one features no rocket launchers (sorry Doom fans) and only bolt-action rifles.

Frontlines is the game’s “campaign mode,” where you team up with your squad, ordered to capture or defend your ground. Attrition is centered around a single battle, with each side’s manpower levels being depleted as the player is killed and re-spawns.

“If nothing else, Verdun‘s given me an excellent understanding of what a mess World War I was,” Hayden Dingman wrote at PCWorld. “The game doesn’t have the best graphics, the best sound, the best character models, or what have you—and yet few games have so consistently stressed me out like Verdun.”

Here’s how the multiplayer gameplay looks:

NOW: These rare colorized photos show World War I like never before

MIGHTY TRENDING

Indian Prime Minister appears with Bear Grylls on ‘Man vs. Wild’

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on “Man vs. Wild,” the British survivalist Bear Grylls’ show, while his country continues to choke off Kashmir’s access to food and the internet for the ninth consecutive day.

On the episode, broadcast by Discovery Channel India on Aug. 12, 2019, Modi built makeshift rafts and discussed growing up in a poor family as he and Grylls crossed a river at the Jim Corbett National Park in northern India, The Guardian reported.

While it’s not clear how far in advance the episode was filmed, its Aug. 12, 2019 airing seems like an untimely publicity stunt as Modi’s government continues to cut off Kashmir from the rest of the world.


Indian security forces have blocked off most major roads and cut off phone and internet lines around the region — a common strategy to prevent large protests and the spread of information critical of authorities.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

Modi and Grylls in a promo for Aug. 12, 2019s episode.

(Discovery Channel India/YouTube)

Some journalists there have been offered satellite phones for 100,000 rupees (id=”listicle-2639804307″,400) so they can keep reporting.

This crackdown came after the Indian government earlier this month removed a constitutional provision that guaranteed the independence of the Jammu and Kashmir region to make its own laws and prevented outsiders from buying property or seeking government jobs in the mostly-Muslim region.

Critics think that India’s move would allow Indian Hindus to alter the state’s ethnic and religious makeup.

Indian security forces have also sent thousands more troops to the region, already one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world.

The roadblocks have prevented food supplies from entering the region, and sick people are struggling to get to hospitals because of faulty phone lines and the police blocking ambulances from moving around.

The Guardian described a man named Syed Asim Ali as saying that his family in Srinagar, the largest city in Jammu and Kashmir, had been eating dried vegetables because of the food shortage.

Other residents were stockpiling medicine and food to prepare for further disruptions amid the Eid al-Adha festival this week, The Associated Press reported over the weekend.

Pakistan, which also claims Jammu and Kashmir as its own territory, has appealed to the US and the UN for help to mediate the Kashmir crisis, while India has maintained that this is a regional issue.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The cult of Modi

Aug. 12, 2019’s “Man vs. Wild” episode appears to be another attempt by Modi to build his cult of personality in the country and drum up nationalistic support.

The strongman leader has participated in multiple photo ops to boost his image and that of his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party since becoming prime minister in 2014.

His government has spent more than 52 billion rupees (8 million) in pro-BJP ads and social-media posts since 2014, India’s Economic Times reported last year.

The BJP also hires hundreds of thousands of people to recruit voters via phone and door knocks, ultimately helping build “the most extraordinary personality cult in modern Indian history,” the Indian politician and prominent Modi critic Shashi Tharoor said.

And earlier this year, Rajini Vaidyanathan, the BBC’s South Asia correspondent, even likened Modi rallies to those of US President Donald Trump.

The strongman image, a persona adopted by world leaders throughout history, has been deployed to great effect by Modi’s counterparts Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Putin has taken advantage of numerous publicity stunts to assert his macho image, famously riding shirtless on horseback while on holiday in Siberia.

Bear Grylls’ press team has yet to respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch the Maple Leafs’ tribute to the victims of the Toronto van incident

The Toronto Maple Leafs held a stunning tribute to the victims that died after a van rammed through several pedestrians in Toronto on April 23, 2018.

During the hockey match against the Boston Bruins, the Maple Leafs’ announcer referenced the incident in which a van hit and killed at least 10 people and injured 15.


“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, our first responders, and to all those affected,” the announcer said during the game. “All of Toronto is with you.”

After observing a brief moment of silence, the crowd cheered and sang along in unison with singer Martina Ortiz-Luis for the national anthem.

Around 1:30 p.m. local time, a van jumped the sidewalk and plowed through a busy intersection in downtown Toronto.

Police arrested a male suspect who is believed to have been previously known to Toronto officials. The suspect, identified as 25-year-old Alek Minassian, was arrested after threatening to brandish a firearm. According to law enforcement officials, the incident is believed to have been deliberate.

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

Articles

7 ways to use a uniform inspection as a statement of individuality

No matter what branch of service you are in, uniform inspections are routine, and there’s no real trick to passing them. Just follow the regs to the letter. What’s hard about that?


No, those who truly desire to make their mark in this world choose a different path, and (they won’t tell you this) but that’s what the higher ups are really looking for in their subordinates.

WATM is here to light the fuse of your rocket to greatness. Here are 7 ways to use uniform inspection as a statement of individuality, thereby demonstrating the kind of breakout leadership traits the chain of command loves:

Bust out some innovative grooming

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

SEALs already know this. You think they grow their hair out and rock killer beards to blend in with the Afghan locals? No way. It’s all about staying ahead of the “lumbersexual” trend stateside, and when the admirals see that they’re like, “Man, that’s some awesome leadership stuff going on there.”

Sport an Irish Pennant or two

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

Attention to detail is a must and having loose strings and threads sticking out of your uniform is a clear sign that you have it. Gunnys won’t say this, but they love when their charges show this kind of initiative.

Show your fun side with your military bearing

Cracking a smile, smirking, or making any other expression other than a stoic and fearless look will convey that you’re a professional warfighter who won’t crack under pressure. Demonstrate this sort of lighthearted manner at every opportunity, especially if the inspecting officer is an O-6 or higher.

Cultivate beaucoup wrinkles in your uniform

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

No steaming, pressing, starching, or ironing your uniform. The presence of lots of wrinkles tells leadership that you accept that military life is imperfect and you won’t let that fact get you down.

Misplace your ribbons and badges

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer
(WARNING: Following this recommendation could lead to stolen valor guy responses from zealous vets with YouTube accounts. Avoid public places, especially sporting events or shopping malls or country music concerts.)

What kind of lemming needs a chart to show him or her where ribbons and badges are supposed to go on the uniform? Feel the power of the designer within you and organize all of that stuff in a way that seems right for YOU. This’ll be a real eye-opener for superiors.

Make sure your uniform doesn’t fit

Superiors may tell you that they don’t like the “jeans around the ass with the underwear showing” look, but they’re actually intrigued by it and maybe even a little jealous they didn’t come up with the idea. Once again, don’t be afraid to make a statement that says, “I don’t follow, I lead.”

Wear too much of your signature fragrance

It takes more than clothes and demeanor to leave that lasting impression on those who control your fate. Leverage the sense of smell to your professional advantage.

Dirty up your shoes / boots

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer
(Photo: USMC)

It’s true that your shoes say a lot about you, and this is especially true during a uniform inspection. Dirt on your boots screams “I’m totally focused on the mission, dammit, and have no desire to waste this command’s time.” Higher ups might not say it, but trust us, they love that sort of statement.

Good luck, friends. And welcome to the fast track.

NOW: 7 Things people use every day that originated in the military

OR: 9 Military movie scenes where Hollywood got it totally wrong

Articles

This is how piracy became totally legal during wartime

What’s the difference between pirates and patriots? A government to be loyal to, of course. Such was the case during the age of sail, when warring nations would literally hire pirates and other captains to raid enemy shipping.


When officially endorsed by a belligerent nation, pirates were issued a Letter of Marque – the marque being a pledge to fight for one nation…at least for the time being.

Such was the case with England’s “Sea Dogs,” hired by Queen Elizabeth I to raid gold-laden Spanish treasure fleets sailing from the New World. Capturing a ship meant money for both the ship and her crew as well as the Marque-issuing government.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

The Catholic King Philip of Spain was determined to flip Protestant England back to Catholic control. The English Protestants and their Queen were having none of it. For some 19 years, the two countries were bitter rivals, fighting a series of battles on both land and sea that saw little else but money change hands.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

For the crews who shared the prize money, life was harsh. Disease and starvation were common among sailing crews at the time. For the Sea Dogs’ commander, a few good prizes could make them rich. One pirate would become the second highest-earning pirate of all time.

That Sea Dog was Sir Francis Drake, a Protestant captain with a distaste for Spanish Catholics. Perhaps one of the greatest English leaders of the age, Drake led the expedition that defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588 and took his piracy tour to the Pacific for the first time in history.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer

The Spanish put a price on his head that would be the modern equivalent of almost $7 million.

Queen Elizabeth died in 1603 and the war ended the next year. Drake would also not survive the war, dying of dysentery after attacking Puerto Rico. Though the peace restored the status quo, the war was a disaster for Spain.

Embracing the Sea Dogs was a disaster for England as well. After the war, they joined the raiders of the North African coast, continuing their anti-Catholic piracy careers alongside the Turkish corsairs of the Barbary States.

Watch more Elite Forces:

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This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

These are the slave soldiers that defeated the Mongols

4 awesome facts about Shaolin Kung Fu

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Air Force is preparing to fight in space ‘in a matter of years’

The Air Force already faces extensive operational obligations on Earth, but the service is shifting focus to prepare for what many see as the growing potential for conflict in space.


In a speech at the Air Force Association’s air-warfare symposium in Florida in late February 2018, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said it was, “time for us as a service, regardless of specialty badge, to embrace space superiority with the same passion and sense of ownership as we apply to air superiority today.”

It’s not the first time Air Force leadership has underscored the importance of space.

Also read: Classified US spy satellite is missing after SpaceX mission failure

Goldfein outlined the Air Force’s preparations for space operations in a February 2017 op-ed. In October 2017, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson emphasized the interests the US has in space and stressed the Air Force’s obligation to prepare for conflict there.

“We are the ones, since 1954, who are responsible for everything from 100 feet below the earth in missile silos all the way up to the stars,” she said at an event in Washington, DC. “We need to normalize space from a national-security perspective. We have to have all of our officers who are wearing blue uniforms more knowledgeable about space capabilities and how it connects to the other domains.”

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer
The Air Force’s 45th Space Wing supported NASA’s launch of Orbital ATK’s Cygnus spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, April 18, 2017. (US Air Force)

US national-security officials have said space will become a venue for a range of state and non-state actors with the continued expansion of the space industry and increased availability of technology, private-sector investment, and proliferation of international partnerships for shared production and operations.

“All actors will increasingly have access to space-derived information services, such as imagery, weather, communications, and positioning, navigation, and timing for intelligence, military, scientific, or business purposes,” Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, said in a Worldwide Threat Assessment delivered to the Senate Intelligence Committee early 2018.

Further reading: How the US is vulnerable to space-based attacks

“As if we don’t have enough threats here on Earth, we need to look to the heavens — threats in space,” Coats told the committee.

In his February 2018 speech, Goldfein said the question was not if, but when the US will be fighting outside Earth’s atmosphere.

“I believe we’re going to be fighting from space in a matter of years,” he said, according to Space News. “And we are the service that must lead joint warfighting in this new, contested domain. This is what the nation demands.”

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein prepare to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee, June 6, 2017. (US Air Force/Scott M. Ash)

Goldfein has been a proponent of multi-domain operations, which draw on air, cyber, ground, sea, and space to provide a full picture of the battlefield. Fighting outside the earth’s atmosphere will require new training as well as investment in new technologies, he said.

“We must build a joint, smart space force and space-smart joint force,” he told the audience in Florida.

Related: This is what happens to your body if you die in space

Asked March 2018 about congressional concerns over the Air Force’s preparations for operations in space, Wilson outlined specific moves the force is making to ready itself.

“I think it’s harder for people to understand [space] because it’s not where we normally breathe and live, but for the Air Force it is an area of tremendous emphasis — just look at the budgets,” she said at the Heritage Foundation.

The fiscal year 2018 budget had a 20% increase in funding for space programs, Wilson said, and the fiscal year 2019 budget proposal — which requests $8.5 billion for space programs — added more than 7% on top of that.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer
The Air Force launched the ninth Boeing-built Wideband Global SATCOM satellite on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, March 18, 2017. (US Air Force/United Launch Alliance)

“We have shifted to next-generation missile warning — so a rapid change there to cancel two planned satellites and shift to a defendable missile-warning architecture. Jam-resistant GPS, so GPS III, is in this budget,” Wilson said, referring to the next set of satellites needed to keep the global positioning system operational.

The “National Space Defense Center is now set up and established so that we have a common operating picture of what’s going on in space, because unless you known what’s going on you can’t defend it,” she added. “Our budget also includes simulators and war-gaming to train space operators to operate in a contested environment. So there is a lot in this budget.”

More: SpaceX launching a third top-secret satellite

In the next five years, the Air Force plans to put $44.3 billion toward space systems, according to Space News — about an 18% increase over the five-year plan submitted in 2017. The new total includes $31.5 billion for research and development and $12.8 billion for procurement.

“The top-line numbers, I think, tell a story,” Wilson said at the Heritage Foundation. “But I think when you get down into the programs, there’s a real recognition that space will be a contested domain and that we are developing the capability to deter and prevail should anyone seek to deny the United States operations in space.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Army wants to extend basic training for a new fitness plan

Senior U.S. Army leaders are pushing a campaign to enhance recruiting, toughen physical fitness training, and extend Basic Combat Training to prepare soldiers for a major future conflict.


Secretary of the Army Mark Esper spoke March 26, 2018, at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium about his vision for the Army of 2028 that calls for a larger, more physically fit force.

“To meet the challenges of 2028 and beyond, the total Army must grow,” Esper said. “A decade from now, we need an active component above 500,000 soldiers with associated growth in the Guard and Reserve.”

Also read: 5 ethical ways to make Basic Training easier

The Army requested 4,000 soldiers be added to the active force as part of the proposed fiscal 2019 budget. The increase would boost the active-duty ranks from 483,500 to 487,500.

The Army must focus on “recruiting and retaining high-quality, physically fit, mentally tough soldiers who will deploy and fight and win decisively on any future battlefield,” he said.

“A decade from now, the soldiers we recruit today will be our company commanders and platoon sergeants. That’s why we are considering several initiatives, to a new physical fitness regime to reforming and extending basic training in order to ensure our young men and women are prepared for the rigors of high-intensity combat,” he added.

Esper did not give details about extending Basic Combat Training, which currently lasts 10 weeks. But the Army has already begun reforming BCT.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer
(Photo by Spc. Madelyn Hancock)

By early summer 2018, recruits will go through a new Army BCT, redesigned to instill strict discipline and esprit de corps by placing enhanced emphasis on drill and ceremony, inspections, and pride in military history while increasing the focus on critical training such as physical fitness, marksmanship, communications, and battlefield first aid skills.

The new program of instruction is the result of surveys taken from thousands of leaders who have observed a trend of new soldiers fresh out of training displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic, as well as being careless with equipment, uniforms, and appearance, according to Army Training and Doctrine Command officials.

Related: Bad discipline forced the Army to redesign basic training

The Army has also been considering adopting the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test: A six-event fitness test designed to better prepare troops for the rigors of combat than the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.

The ACRT was developed, at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to better prepare soldiers for the physical challenges of the service’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to help them survive in combat.

Gen. James McConville, the Army’s vice chief of staff, said that the service is also considering improving the screening processes it uses to better prepare recruits coming into the Army.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Melissa Marnell)

“We are going to put more screening systems in place to make sure that when young men and women enter the Army, they are ready to meet the standards,” McConville said.

Training and Doctrine Command has done a “great job of implementing the Occupational Physical Assessment Test, which is a four-event physical-fitness test to make sure that young men and women get in shape before they go to initial military training,” he said.

More: This is why the Army is taking a fresh look at basic training

“Then once they get into initial military training, we are screening them again to meet the physical demands of being in the Army,” McConville said.

The Army is also testing a concept that involves assigning fitness experts to two Army divisions, he said.

“We are putting physical therapists, we are putting strength coaches, we are putting dieticians into each of the units so when the [new] soldiers get there, we continue to keep them in shape as they go forward,” McConville said.

“We are going to have to take what we have, we are going to have to develop that talent and we are going to bring them in and make them better,” he added.

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said the service is also going to have to get better at how it approaches recruiting.

“When 87 percent of the people we recruit have someone in their family that has been in the military, it starts to beg the question, ‘Are we expansive enough in our recruiting efforts?’ ” McCarthy said.

“Are we sophisticated enough in the way we communicate to the entire country and recruit the best quality individuals?” he said. “So our sophistication has got to get better, from the tools that we have to find the people to the manner in which we communicate.”

MIGHTY SPORTS

How the national anthem came to sports

On May 15, 1862, “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played at the inauguration of the Union Base Ball and Cricket Grounds in Brooklyn. Of course, the song wasn’t the national anthem at the time and was played as a patriotic tune in the midst of the Civil War. The band commenced the proceedings with “The Star-Spangled Banner” and continued to play at intervals throughout the opening game. After this, the song was played at baseball games throughout the rest of the 19th century, but only on opening day. It was over 50 years later, during another horrific war, that the future anthem became forever connected to baseball.


The 1918 World Series saw Babe Ruth and the Boston Red Sox taking on the Chicago Cubs. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, American troops were fighting tooth and nail in the muddy trenches of Western Europe. In addition to the daily names of war dead in the papers, September 4 saw Game 1 in Chicago rained out as well as a deadly bombing by the radical Industrial Workers of the World labor union at the Chicago Federal Building. The next day wasn’t much better; the weather was still unfavorable and the Cubs were playing poorly.

The crowd of just over 19,000 was unimpressed by the game, with one New York Times reporter recalling that the people in the stands were yawning. The mood at Comiskey Park completely changed during the seventh-inning stretch, however, when the band started to play “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Though it was still 13 years off from becoming the national anthem, the song was familiar to most American ears and ignited a surge of patriotism in the crowd and on the field.

All the ballplayers took off their caps and faced the flag save for one. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas was an active-duty sailor on furlough from Naval Station Great Lakes to play in the World Series. Thomas kept his cap on, snapped to attention, faced the flag and rendered it proper honors with a crisp salute. Thomas’ actions inspired the rest of the stadium as the crowd sang along, reinvigorated with patriotic fervor.

Veterans (and the VA) are playing a key role in the war against cancer
Third Baseman Fred Thomas (Society for American Baseball Research)

The Navy band played the song again during Games 2 and 3 in Chicago. The wave of patriotism followed the Series to Boston and Fenway echoed to the sound of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during Games 4, 5 and 6. Wounded troops in the crowd, returned from the frontlines, were cheered by the people around them who helped them to their seats; some troops were even given seats and carried to them. The Red Sox won the Series 4-2, but the song won the hearts of a war-weary nation.

Over the next two decades, the song became a regular occurrence in baseball as well as hockey and football. In 1931, “The Star-Spangled Banner” became the official national anthem, playing in newsreels before feature films in movie theaters. During WWII, all but one Major League club was playing it before the start of every game, with the Cubs being the lone holdout for over 20 years. Following the war, the anthem became something that people expected and insisted on before a game of any sport.

While the national anthem in sports originated as a show of support, it has also been used as a platform for protest. From the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Black Power protest to today’s Black Lives Matter movement, demonstrators have used the anthem as a challenge to the state of the country.

While people’s actions during the anthem remain a subject of debate, “The Star-Spangled Banner” persists like the flag for which it’s named and continues to be played before the start of sporting events across the nation.

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A Marine Color Guard displays the flag during the national anthem at Petco Park (US Navy)

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North Korea tried to launch a missile, but couldn’t get it up

North Korea attempted to fire a missile April 16, the day after the anniversary of its founding, but it blew up within seconds.


While North Korea’s missile program may be the shadowiest on earth, it’s possible U.S. cyber warriors were the reason for the failed launch.

A recent New York Times report uncovered a secret operation to derail North Korea’s nuclear-missile program that has been raging for at least three years.

Essentially, the report attributes North Korea’s high rate of failure with Russian-designed missiles to the U.S. meddling in the country’s missile software and networks.

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The North Korean Hwasong missile has been tested with varying success, most recently in February 2017. (Photo: KCNA)

Though North Korea’s missile infrastructure lacks the competence of Russia’s, the Soviet-era missile on which North Korea based its missile had a 13% failure rate, while the North Korean version failed a whopping 88% of the time, according to the report.

Also read: This is what a war with North Korea could look like

While the missile failure on April 16 could have just been due to poor workmanship, U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland seemed to leave room for speculation about espionage, telling Fox News: “We can’t talk about secret intelligence and things that might have been done, covert operations, so I really have no comment.”

On April 17, Vice President Mike Pence  visited the demilitarized zone between the Koreas, saying that “all options are on the table to achieve the objectives and ensure the stability of the people of this country,” and that “the era of strategic patience” with North Korea “is over.”

To those in the know, the campaign against North Korea came as no surprise. Ken Geers, a cybersecurity expert for Comodo with experience in the National Security Agency, told Business Insider that cyberoperations like the one against North Korea were the norm.

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These aren’t the guys who hacked North Korea…but they could be. (U.S. Air Force photo)

While the U.S. hacking another country’s missile program may be shocking to some, “within military intelligence spaces, this is what they do,” Geers said. “If you think that war is possible with a given state, you’re going to be trying to prepare the battle space for conflict. In the internet age, that means hacking.”

North Korea’s internal networks are fiercely insulated and not connected to the internet, however, which poses a challenge for hackers in the United States. But Geers said it was “absolutely not the case” that hacking requires computers connected to the internet.

A recent report in The New Yorker on Russian hacking detailed one case in which Russia gained access to a NATO computer network in 1996 by providing bugged thumb drives to shops near a NATO base in Kabul, Afghanistan. NATO operators bought the thumb drives, used them on the network, and just like that, the Russians were in.

“That’s where SIGINT (signals intelligence) or COMINT (communications intelligence) comes into collaboration with HUMINT (human intelligence),” Geers said.

Related: North Korea threatens a pre-emptive nuclear attack

He described the present moment as the “golden age of espionage,” as cyberwarfare remains nonlethal, unattributable, and almost completely unpunished.

But a recent missile salvo from North Korea suggests that even a prolonged, sophisticated cyberattack can’t fully derail its nuclear-missile program.

“Imagine you’re the president. North Korea is a human-rights abuser and an exporter of dangerous technology,” Geers said. “Responsible governments really need to think about ways to handle North Korea, and one of the options is regime change.”

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The test-fire of Pukguksong-2 in February 2017. (KCNA/Handout via Reuters)

Furthermore, Geers said, because of the limited number of servers and access points to North Korea’s very restricted internet, “if it ever came to cyberwar between the U.S. and North Korea, it would be an overwhelming victory for the West.”

“North Korea can do a Sony attack or attack the White House, but that’s because that’s the nature of cyberspace,” Geers said. “But if war came, you’d see Cyber Command wipe out most other countries pretty quickly.”

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This artist brought together Iraq refugees and war veterans for a pretty cool radio project

In 2016, an Iraqi-American artist sat down with Bahjat Abdulwahed — the so-called “Walter Cronkite of Baghdad” — with the idea of launching a radio project that would be part documentary, part radio play, and part variety show.


Abdulwahed was the voice of Iraqi radio from the late 1950s to the early 1990s, but came to Philadelphia as a refugee in 2009 after receiving death threats from insurgents.

“He represented authority and respectability in relationship to the news through many different political changes,” said Elizabeth Thomas, curator of “Radio Silence,” a public art piece that resulted from the meeting with Abdulwahed.

Thomas had invited artist Michael Rakowitz to Philadelphia to create a project for Mural Arts Philadelphia, which has been expanding its public art reach from murals into new and innovative spaces.

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Bahjat Abdulwahed, Michael Rakowitz, and Hayfaa Ibrahem Abdulqader. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

After nearly five years of research, Rakowitz distilled his project into a radio broadcast that would involve putting the vivacious and caramel-voiced Abdulwahed back on the air, and using Philadelphia-area Iraqi refugees, and local Iraq war veterans as his field reporters. It would feature Iraqi music, remembrances of the country and vintage weather reports from a happier time in Iraq.

“One of the many initial titles was “Desert Home Companion,” Rakowitz said, riffing on “A Prairie Home Companion,” the radio variety show created by Garrison Keillor.

Rakowitz recorded an initial and very informal session with Abdulwahed in his living room in January 2016. Two weeks later, Abdulwahed collapsed. He had to have an emergency tracheostomy and was on life support until he died seven months later.

At Abdulwahed’s funeral, his friends urged Rakowitz to continue with the project, to show how much of the country they left behind was slipping away and to help fight cultural amnesia.

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Michael Rakowitz. Courtesy photo via VOA News.

Rakowitz recalibrated the project, which became “Radio Silence,” a 10-part radio broadcast with each episode focusing on a synonym of silence, in homage to Abdulwahed.

“The voice of Baghdad had lost his voice,” Rakowitz said, calling him a “narrator of Iraq’s history.”

It will be hosted by Rakowitz and features fragments of that first recording session with Abdulwahed, as well as interviews with his wife and other Iraqi refugees living in Philadelphia.

Rakowitz and Thomas also worked with Warrior Writers, a nonprofit based in Philadelphia that helps war veterans work through their experiences using writing and art.

The first episode, on speechlessness, will launch Aug. 6. It will be broadcast on community radio stations across the country through Prometheus Radio Project.

One participant is Jawad Al Amiri, an Iraqi refugee who came to the United States in the 1980s. He said silence in Iraq has been a way of life for many decades.

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Radio Silence Session with Michael Rakowitz, April 2017, Philadelphia, PA. Photo via Warrior Writers.

“Silence is a way of survival. Silence is a decree by the Baath regime, not to tell what you see in front of your eyes. Silence is synonymous with fear. If you tell, you will be put through agony,” he said at a preview July 25 of the live broadcast. He said he saw his own sister poisoned and die and wasn’t allowed to speak of it.

When he came to the US in 1981, his father told him: “We send you here for education and to speak for the millions of Iraqis in the land where freedom of speech is practiced.”

Lawrence Davidson is an Army veteran who served during the Iraq War and works with Warrior Writers also contributed to the project. He said the project is a place to exchange ideas and honestly share feelings with refugees and other veterans.

The project kicks off on July 29 with a live broadcast performance on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall — what Rakowitz calls the symbolic home of American democracy. It will feature storytelling, food from refugees and discussions from the veterans with Warrior Writers.

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This could be the new replacement for the US Army’s Blackhawk helicopter

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Bell’s V-280 Valor | Bell Helicopter Textron Inc.


After several decades of service, the US Army might finally replace their lineup of UH-60 Blackhawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters.

Unveiled at the Farnborough Air Show in England, Bell Helicopter — in conjunction withLockheed Martin — debuted their latest creation, the V-280 Valor.

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Bell Helicopters

Similar to the V-22 Osprey currently in service by the US Marine Corps and Air Force, the V-280 applies a tiltrotor mechanism to fly similar to normal helicopters and aircraft. However, the similarities seem to end there, as significant upgrades look to eclipse its predecessor’s capabilities.

Bell claims that the new V-280 will now be capable of flying at twice the speed and range of current helicopter platforms. Features of the helicopter include a 500-800 nautical miles range, aerial refueling, a crew of 4 and 14 troops, carrying capacity of 25% more cargo than a Blackhawk, and its signature 280 knots true airspeed (KTAS).

According to Aviation Week, the Valor will also have a forward-firing capability and a technologically advanced glass cockpit — like Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

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Bell Helicopters

In addition to its performance, the V-280 will be more affordable than the V-22: due to the nature of its straight wing design, the V-280 would not only take half the time to construct compared to the V-22’s swept wing, but also half as cheaper — costing about $20 million, similar to the UH-60.

Other nations, such as Australia, UK, and Canada, have also followed suit in expressing interest in the helicopter. So far, the construction of the helicopter is about 60% completed and is slated to take its inaugural flight on September 2017.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Call of Duty has a nonprofit that helps veterans in a big way

Call of Duty is one of the biggest first-person shooter franchises in the world. Starting with World War II scenarios, this video game franchise has honored those who fought for freedom and against evil-doers for over a decade.


What you may not have known is that there is also a Call of Duty Endowment, which helps to support non-profits that are effective at helping the real-life heroes who have served make the transition from military life to civilian life. Yesterday, that endowment gave three such charities its Seal of Distinction, and announced plans to expand its recognition to charities in the United Kingdom.

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Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard and Founder/Co-Chairman of the Call of Duty Endowment. (Call of Duty Endowment photo)

The first charity recognized by the Endowment was Goodwill Southern California. In 2016, they placed 752 veterans in civilian jobs at a cost of $1,022 per placement, while still providing job placement, work experience, education, and training.

Goodwill of the Olympics and Rainier Region was also honored by the Endowment for their Military and Veteran Services team’s ability to place 208 veterans into jobs at a cost of $1,076 per placement. This charity provides “individualized, holistic plans to help each participant succeed with the goal of achieving career placement, retention, and long-term financial education and stability.”

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(Image of Call of Duty Modern Warfare remastered. Video Game developed by Infinity Ward and published by Activision)

The third charity honored was Houston-based NextOp, Inc. Since its founding in March 2015, it has placed over 1,000 vets at a cost of $1,599 per placement. This charity specializes in placing “middle-enlisted military leaders” into industrial careers in the Houston region.

The charities supported by the Call of Duty Endowment have a strong record of delivering results. According to the endowment’s web site, the average cost per placement is less than $619, while the federal government spends almost $3,100. The average salary for the vets placed by charities supported by the endowment is $57,000, compared to just over $30,000 for those placed via government programs. The endowment has placed over 37,000 veterans into jobs since 2009.

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