From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

Five years ago, Marine Corps Veteran Frederick Nardei returned to service, but not the military. He became a certified peer support specialist, dedicated to helping fellow Veterans whose futures were as uncertain as his had once been.


Nardei served as a peer specialist for a recent study at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, helping Veterans enrolled in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) manage their mental health and substance misuse challenges. The study was also conducted at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, Mass., where it was led by Dr. Marsha Ellison.

Actively and significantly engaged in their own recovery from mental health issues, VA peer specialists serve as success stories for their fellow Veterans. Their experience using mental health services, combined with their VA training and certification, have made them valuable additions to VA’s mental health offerings.

“My own experiences with homelessness, drug abuse and mental illness had prepared my heart to serve in ways that the Veterans could easily relate to… When I share my recovery story, they say that they are inspired and empowered because they can see that I am the evidence that recovery is possible and achievable,” said Nardei.

The study, led by Pittsburgh VA’s Dr. Matthew Chinman, found that formerly homeless Veterans who worked extensively with peer specialists had greater improvements in their symptoms than those who did not work with a peer specialist. When asked about their work with a peer specialist, both the Veterans and the other HUD-VASH staff expressed great satisfaction. Veterans reported being less isolated, more integrated into their community, and more involved in recovery activities as a result of their work with a peer specialist.

Who better to help other Veterans on their recovery journey than someone who has been in their shoes?

“The Veterans who struggled with the shame and stigma of being homeless were able to overcome those barriers… because I was able to share with them my own experience with being homeless for seven months after my wife left, because of my heroin addiction,” said Nardei, one of an estimated 1,100 Veterans serving as VA peer specialists.

Recover, heal, grow

The peer support program inspires and empowers participants to recover, heal and grow. Nardei believes that there is nothing more powerful than seeing someone accomplish the things that once seemed impossible.

He’s the proof he inspires in others.

To become a VA-trained peer specialist, visit the VA Careers webpage for details.

To learn more about peer specialists and their how they improve Veterans’ lives, download the Peer Support Toolkit.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

McCain’s latest Pentagon pitch puts Russia in the crosshairs

GOP Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he wants the U.S. to consider stationing troops permanently in Estonia, which borders Russia.


While on a tour of Baltic nations wary of the prospect of Russian aggression, McCain said stationing troops permanently in Estonia, in addition to fulfilling existing obligations to NATO, would increase military ties with the country, The Associated Press reports.

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support
A U.S. Soldier assigned to 2nd Cavalry Regiment speaks with an Estonian soldier in Sillamae, Estonia, June 11, 2016. During exercise Dragoon Ride, Soldiers conduct static displays to validate our partnering allies’ abilities to assemble forces rapidly, deploy them on short notice and improve the ability to shoot, move and communicate as a multinational alliance. Soldiers are also given the opportunity to play sports with the local citizens to build team cohesion. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nikayla Shodeen/Released)

Part of the reason for McCain’s visit to the region is to reassure Baltic countries like Lithuania and Latvia that even though GOP President-elect Donald Trump has somewhat soured on NATO, the U.S. will nevertheless maintain its security commitments. During his presidential campaign, Trump said he’d think about withdrawing from NATO because the “obsolete” institution costs the U.S. a lot of money

“I think the presence of the American troops here in Estonia is a signal that we believe in what Ronald Reagan believed, and that is peace through strength,” McCain said in Tallinn, Estonia’s capital.

“And the best way to prevent Russian misbehavior is by having a credible, strong military and a strong NATO alliance,” McCain added.

Additionally, McCain has taken special interest in the area because he’s a trenchant critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has blasted Russia’s military incursions in Ukraine. McCain noted he doesn’t expect U.S. sanctions on Russia to lift anytime soon.

He’s also pushed for a congressional panel to examine Russia’s reported attempts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

However, McCain downplayed the idea that the U.S. can say with any certainty that Russian interference changed the course of the election.

“There is no doubt that the Russians were hacking, but there is doubt whether it had any effect on the outcome of the election,” McCain said. “There is no evidence right now that indeed the Russian cyber attacks and the leaking of the information had any tangible effect on the outcome of the American election.”

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines and airmen train together for the first time

Sunbaked skin presses against the butts of rifles, as sweat runs down foreheads, brimming along chin straps and soaking into shirt collars. Their eyes scan the urban terrain, searching for enemies from the surrounding grassy hills of Camp Guernsey, Wyoming.

Marines and airmen from around the globe trained together for the first time in the advanced tactical course from June 9-20, 2019.

“Move, I have you covered,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Justin Roman, Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company instructor.

Shots ring out and echo through a desolate neighborhood of tan shipping containers stacked and strewn about. Feet pound and guns sway as a small-fire team run to their next sheltering place. A cadre calmly walks behind, eyes watching for mistakes.


“A small mistake in training could cost you your life in a real-world situation,” said Staff Sgt. Jesse Koritar, 90th Ground Combat Training Squadron training instructor. “Correcting mistakes in a controlled environment will instill muscle memory and effective tactical decision making will become normal.”

A machine gun lets loose from a dark window aimed for a dilapidated shack near their shelter. The sound reverberates through their rib cages as they press forward to their objective.

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Nicholas Ponce, 90th Security Support Squadron tactical response force member, holds down a tactical angle during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)

“It’s important to break their fears,” Koritar said. “When it comes to ‘the moment’ we don’t want them to freeze and cause the potential death of others.”

Getting the students into a normalcy of hearing gunfire and moving forward, despite inner fears, is paramount to molding a successful tactical response force and is one of the goals of ATC.

The team stacks up for their next move, communicating each other’s positions. All the while, covering down on different tactical angles, with their M4 carbine, watching for a shooter.

From a window overlooking an open courtyard, shots are fired. With the distraction from another fire team, they can move towards their objective. Passing by windows, one member scans for possible targets, while his partner watches their back.

“Clear. Move,” Roman said after each window.

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

Marine Corps Sgt. Spencer Hockaday, Marine Corps Security Forces Training Company instructor, rappels Aussie-style down the Cheyenne Fire Department training facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., June 17, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)

The modified shipping containers now tower overhead, blocking them from view of their counterparts in the courtyard windows.

They clear out a makeshift building, planning to move farther into the city. Lined up at the door, an airman sends out cover fire as the team makes a run for shelter.

Pop! A plume of white smoke escapes a training improvised explosive device set off by the first airman’s advance between two buildings.

“The first two,” said Staff Sgt. Mathew Nason, 90th GCTS training instructor. “You’re dead.”

The mission must press on.

“We get them exposed in the urban environment or with the payload transporter van so they know what to look for,” Koritar said. “The trip wire and IED training is important, it’s a simple attack and the threat is real.”

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Ryan Mason II, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force member, and Senior Airman Kevin Freese, 341st Security Support Squadron TRF, navigate terrain during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)

In the clouds a UH-1 Huey from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, banks to land in an open field for infiltration and exfiltration exercises down the road. Another team runs, heads tucked down, below swishing blades to load up.

Over the course of 11 days, the students learned a multitude of skills, including: urban operations, rappelling down a 56-foot rappel tower, helicopter operations, close quarters combat and PT van and vehicle assaults.

“I am learning a lot of new stuff I haven’t seen before and the stuff I already know, I am just practicing and getting better at it,” said Airman 1st Class Jose Villalvazo-Vazquez, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force member. “At the end, no matter if you know it or not, practice is what helps you perfect it.”

Not only does every student need to polish their individual skills, they also learn to work as a cohesive team.

“At the beginning of this course one of the classes’ weaknesses was team cohesion,” Koritar said. “We have guys who come from different bases, who have never worked together. When they walk into our door we teach them to have accountability, to take care of their people and to meet and rise to a higher standard every day.”

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

Airman 1st Class Benjie Phillips and Senior Airman Alvaro Aguilera, 91st Security Support Squadron tactical response force members, clear a multi floored building during training at the Cheyenne Fire Department training facility in Cheyenne, Wyo., June 17, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)

The course mixes the members into groups and expects them to quickly learn how to communicate and work as a cohesive team. Communication is important during combat situations; however, there is a more prominent reason for a team like this to bond together.

“I tell these guys, you’re going to eat together, sleep together, you’re going to hang out on your off time together, to build that foundation to trust their buddy,” Koritar said. “You want all of your guys on the same page, that tight-knit community where they are ready to die for their buddy if need be.”

Creating a team that would walk through hell together isn’t a tranquil task. It leaves sweat stains, dirt-streaked faces and bruised and bloody limbs.

“We have been failing, we’ve been growing, we’ve been getting to know each other. That’s what it means to learn,” said Villalvazo-Vazquez.

To protect one of America’s greatest assets, it takes dedication, pride and a well-taught team. The perfect team is constantly looking for improvements, budding to be the best and is willing to train and work in the most grueling of conditions.

“The goal is to take a trained member from any base and have the tactics across the board to be the same throughout,” Koritar said.

The ATC had their first blend of students including Marines and airmen from around the globe; some traveling from as far as, Aviano Air Base, Italy and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

U.S. Air Force Airmen disembark a UH-1 Iroquois, during the advanced tactical course at Camp Guernsey, Wyo., June 19, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley N. Sokolov)

“Integration of different people including Marines, allows us to see different aspects in training,” said Airman 1st Class Damion Rodriguez, 91st SSPTS TRF member. “The mixed course forces us to get to know other people, how they see things, and how they work and cope with responsibilities and tasks given.”

The learning and improvement observed throughout the training wouldn’t be a possibility without a central location and experienced cadre shaping members to TRF standards.

“These exercises are beneficial to the students because they don’t always have the training areas or the equipment and resources to actually make these complex scenarios happen,” Koritar said. “At Camp Guernsey we have the training ranges, time and cadre to help evaluate and mold these guys and help them become successful and do the TRF mission.”

After gallons of water have been converted into sweat and uniforms abused by rocks and dirt, the students skilled in all areas of the TRF mission earn the right to graduate. Thus allowing them to be placed on any fire team and not miss a beat, ensuring America is continuously under protection from adversaries around the globe.

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Watch: California firefighters go toe-to-toe with wildfire

Firefighter helicopters, bulldozers, and airplanes —oh my! When a wildfire sparked in the scrubby hills outside Sacramento, California, on May 1, Cal Fire sent ground crews, machinery, and multiple aircraft after it, in what was both a rapid response and an early season warmup for what authorities expect to be a fire-heavy summer. Cal Fire officials from Butte addressed the need to pre-position equipment and personnel during a May 5 press conference for fire preparedness week.

Dubbed the Salmon Fire, the blaze that sparked on May 1 was 100% contained by May 4, burning only 32 acres.

Watch the video below to see how they did it:

The video covers nearly every element of wildfire attacks.

Field crews chop and cut trees near the fire to limit fuel with chain saws and hand tools, within feet of the blaze. There are also specially equipped fuel-clearing bulldozers on hand.

Overhead, helicopters circle to dump water, including both California’s new Fire Hawk H-60s (modified versions of the military H-60 Black Hawk), which use internal water tanks, and older helicopters carrying so-called “Bambi Buckets.” The video captures the helicopters refilling with water from a pond.

Above the helicopters, Grumman S-2T aircraft (former Navy submarine hunters) orbit and wait their turn to dive over the flames to release chemical retardants.

During the Cal Fire Butte Unit event on May 5, the California Office of Emergency Services Fire Chief Brian Marshall said that pre-positioning personnel and equipment enables them to catch the fires when they are small and more easily extinguished.

“To date, we’ve spent almost $24 million in pre-position funding to make sure that local jurisdictions have the resources available to have the capacity available to stop the fires when they’re small,” Marshall said. “Because when they’re a million acres — it’s difficult, it’s time-consuming, but if we can jump on that fire when it’s small, we will be highly successful.”

YouTube user Max McGregor posted the video of the Salmon Fire operations.


This article by Joshua Skovlund was originally published by Coffee or Die. Follow Coffee or Die on Facebook.

-Feature image: Screen capture from YouTube video above

Articles

Taiwan is arming up as China flexes its muscles in the region

Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.


Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.

Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.

Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.

Also Read: China’s trying to push around American bombers flying in international airspace

Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.

The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.

“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”

Separately, U.S. President Donald Trump may approve a sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the first half of the year according to media reports from Washington.

“Without speaking to any specific cases, we can say that under long-standing U.S. policy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are … based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs,” said Sonia Urbom, spokesperson for The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei.

“Defensive arms are helpful for Taiwan’s security,” Lee said. “We hope for them and welcome them. We also all hope the United States can have a closer military dialogue and that the United States will approve this package as soon as possible and let Taiwan process it as soon as possible.”

Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Monday the government would urge Washington to make the arms sale.

The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama stopped an arms sale to Taiwan in December. Some analysts expect Trump at least to unblock it. The United States may sell advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in the next package, news reports from Washington say.

“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as urgency,” said Ross Feingold, Taipei-based analyst with an American political consultancy. “The time has come to make a decision and the Obama Administration decided to punt, and now the Trump Administration is following up in a reasonable and appropriate time frame.

“A better question would be what’s going to come next because we are simply approving things that were on the table and under discussion already,” he said.

Chinese officials fume when other countries, especially the United States, sell weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan is looking to Trump because he risked China’s anger by speaking to Tsai by phone in December and his staff has taken a tough line against Beijing’s military expansion at sea.

China temporarily cut off some exchanges with the United States in 2010 when Obama approved a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan. After Washington announced a $1.83 billion package in 2015, China formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.

Some see Obama’s decision to stop an arms deal in December as a goodwill gesture toward China, and say approval by Trump would risk China calling off any cooperation with the United States on containing North Korea.

People in Taiwan have been particularly on guard since the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the only ship of its type in the Chinese navy, sailed around Taiwan in December and January. Taiwan is just 160 kilometers away from China at its nearest point.

This month China flew 13 aircraft east of Taiwan, near Okinawa. Taiwan’s defense ministry is also watching as Beijing builds military infrastructure in the disputed South China Sea.

“China is doing some activities in the South China Sea recently, and even though they’re not always directed toward Taiwan, in the Pacific region it’s stronger and stronger, so people in Taiwan feel that without the ability to resist we will be diminished in terms of bargaining position,” said Ku Chung-hua, a standing board member in the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch.

Taiwan frets because the Communist leadership claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island despite opinion polls showing most Taiwanese oppose China’s goal of eventual unification. The two sides talked regularly from 2008 to 2015 but stopped after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.

Tsai takes a more guarded view of relations with China than her predecessor and Beijing is seen using military displays as well as diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Taiwan back into talks. China has not renounced the use of force, if needed, to reunify with the island.

Taiwan’s parliament would need to allocate money separately for a U.S. arms package, but the China threat is marshaling public support in favor, analysts say. The existing military budget for this year comes to $10.24 billion, or 2.05 percent of the Taiwan GDP.

“With the cross-Strait situation not only stagnant, but in some respects deteriorating, this is as good a time as any both to garner domestic support within Taiwan to purchase weapons and to hope for a sympathetic ear in Washington,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank The Stimson Center.

MIGHTY CULTURE

PCS life hacks I learned from watching ‘Tidying Up’ on Netflix

As military spouses, when our husbands or wives announce they finally put in for orders, our minds drift in one direction after we’ve learned possible locations…

Prepping for our PCS

As we have moved from duty station to duty station, our family has collected PCS purges from other families, thrift store finds we needed while waiting for our own household goods to arrive, souvenirs and other mementos, and of course, boxes from three duty stations ago that we’re too afraid to even open and sort through.


Every PCS ends up the same way – we’re stressed out, frustrated about going through our stuff and hoping we’re still under the maximum weight allowance, and then we’re passing our stress, anxieties, and frustration onto our children because we’re now trying to do a million things before the movers arrive.

But what if I told you that it could be different? What if we didn’t have a million things to sort through? What if our homes were already pretty much prepped for the next PCS, no matter what time of the year it is? When I stumbled across Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, I was skeptical. I hadn’t heard of her before and I hadn’t read her books, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy, though I had learned about how people within the Japanese culture often purge any objects within their homes that do not bring them joy on a regular basis.

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

(Flickr photo by TheMuuj)

Like many other military families, we start sifting through our stuff months in advance of a PCS to get rid of what we don’t want or need anymore, and I wasn’t quite sure that anyone could make it easier than going systematically from room to room, starting with our storage.

And yet, as I watched, I was quickly sucked in because you could actually see the joy she experienced teaching people how to become more tidy, and she even has a system, which she calls the KonMari Method, which is to organize by category rather than by location, and also to tidy the five categories in the home in a specific order:

  1. Clothing
  2. Books
  3. Paper
  4. Komono (Kitchen, Bathroom, Garage, and anything miscellaneous)
  5. Sentimental Items

According to the KonMari Method, you should hold each item individually and ask if it brings you joy. If it does not spark joy, it should be given to a friend or donated (check out your local installation thrift store information and how to donate!) However, if it is an item that is well used but does not spark joy (I’m sure my garage tools would fall under this), you can keep the item and try to change the way you feel about those items.

If you’ve been holding onto clothes that don’t fit, Marie says you should ask: do those clothes inspire you to work out so that you fit back into them or do they make you dread exercise because you don’t fit into them anymore? Marie also believes that folding your clothes is another way to show love and appreciation to your clothes, and to maximize storage space, she has a method of folding your shirts and pants into thirds so they can stand upright, which is similar to how servicemembers learn how to fold in bootcamp.

So what does it feel like for an item to bring you joy?

Marie says that the item should spark the same feeling as holding a puppy or wearing your favorite outfit, giving you a warm, positive feeling. If you do not get that feeling and it is not something that you use regularly, you should let the item go and thank each item before you donate or give it away.

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

After you sort through the first three categories by taking everything out and touching each item, the next step is sorting through the Komono category, which includes all of your miscellaneous items (everything in your home that is not clothes, books, and papers (such as legal documents, orders, and military records) as well as the garage and kitchen.

Marie is a huge fan of using boxes to store items that are of like-size as well as sorting items into categories. She recommends standing items up when possible, designating spots for everything, and using tiny boxes in the kitchen to give everything a “home.”

For the final category, Sentimental items, there are many categories – memorabilia, old letters, photos, and even old medals, challenge coins, and uniform items could be considered to have sentimental value. Marie challenges you to store your sentimental items where you can view them, such as putting photos into frames and coffee table albums so that they can be more easily viewed. Military families could utilize shadow boxes for our uniform items and/or medals to display them, and there are also great challenge coin holders available on websites like Etsy.

Can our next PCS move be different?

The best thing about the KonMari Method is that she doesn’t expect you to complete this in a day – you are literally touching every item in your home and purging the items that do not bring you joy. Our family’s goal will be to use the KonMari Method in the spring and late fall so that the next time we need to move, it won’t be such an overwhelming process to purge all of the things we hadn’t been using in the past 2-3 years.

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Calls grow for U.S. to lift Iran sanctions due to coronavirus crisis

There are increased calls for the United States to suspend economic sanctions against Iran, which some believe hamper Tehran’s ability to contain the deadly outbreak of coronavirus that has officially killed nearly 2,000 people.


The United States has offered to help Iran but has shown no desire to ease crippling sanctions reimposed on Tehran shortly after U.S. President Donald Trump exited the 2015 landmark nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018.

Trump said on March 22 he had offered to help the Islamic republic in its fight against the coronavirus, saying that “Iran is really going through a difficult period with respect to this, as you know.”

Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rohani, have long called for the lifting of the sanctions, while dismissing Washington’s humanitarian offer as dishonest. “They offer a glass of muddy water but they don’t say that they’ve blocked this nation from [accessing] the main [water] springs,” Rohani said on March 23.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei went as far as suggesting that the United States might be behind the pandemic and therefore the offer cannot be trusted. “You are accused of creating this virus; I don’t know if this is true, but amid such an allegation, how can a wise person trust you and accept your offer of help?” he said in a speech on March 22. “You could be giving medicine to Iran that spread the virus or cause it to remain here permanently.”

In a statement issued on March 23, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Khamenei’s “fabrications” put Iranians and people around the world at greater risk. He also reiterated that U.S. sanctions did not target imports of food, medicine, or other humanitarian goods.

Iran has said it asked the International Monetary Fund for billion in emergency funding to battle the coronavirus outbreak that, according to Iran’s Health Ministry, is killing one person nearly every 10 minutes.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan also appealed on March 22 for Trump to lift the sanctions — which prevent banking transactions well as the export of oil — on humanitarian grounds until the COVID-19 pandemic is over. “The people of Iran are facing untold suffering as sanctions are crippling Iran’s efforts to fight COVID19,” Khan said on Twitter. “Humanity must unite to fight this pandemic.”

‘Maximum Pressure’ To Continue

While continuing to pressure Tehran amid the pandemic, U.S. officials have blamed much of the crisis on mismanagement by Iranian leaders, who are accused of a slow initial response.

Criticism also came for the failure of Iranian officials to quarantine the city of Qom, the epicenter of the outbreak in Iran and from where the virus is believed to have first spread to the rest of the country.

“Our policy of maximum pressure on the regime continues,” Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iranian affairs, told reporters last week. “U.S. sanctions are not preventing aid from getting to Iran.”

China and Russia, allies of Tehran and signatories to the 2015 nuclear accord, have also made a similar appeal for the lifting of U.S. sanctions. “We called and are calling on the United States to abandon the inhumane practice of applying unilateral sanctions against Iran, which has an acute shortage of means to solve urgent health issues in the current situation of the spread of the coronavirus,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said last week.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry made a similar demand on Twitter. “Continued sanction on Iran was against humanitarianism and hampers Iran’s epidemic response delivery of humanitarian aid by the UN and other organizations,” it tweeted on March 16.

The Guardian reported on March 18 that Britain was also privately pressing the United States to ease sanctions on Iran to allow it to help fight against the coronavirus, which, according to figures released by Iran’s Health Ministry on March 24, has infected 24,811 Iranians. The official death toll — which has been criticized by many as being underreported — stands at 1,934.

On March 20, some 25 organizations in the United States, including the International Crisis Group, Oxfam America, and the National Iranian American Council, called on U.S. leaders to lift the sanctions for 120 days to offer Iranians relief at this critical time.

“Sanctions have harmed the public health sector in Iran by slowing or entirely blocking the sale of medicine, respirators, and hygienic supplies needed to mitigate the epidemic, and broad sectoral sanctions continue to negatively impact ordinary Iranians by shuttering civilian-owned businesses and decimating the value of the rial, making it harder to procure food, medicine, and other basic needs,” the organizations said in a joint online statement.

There have also been calls on social media by U.S. lawmakers, including Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Iran is facing a catastrophic toll from the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. sanctions should not be contributing to this humanitarian disaster,” he tweeted on March 18. “As a caring nation, we must lift any sanctions hurting Iran’s ability to address this crisis, including financial sanctions.”

Human Rights Watch said in an October 2019 report that U.S. sanctions have drastically constrained Iran’s ability to finance humanitarian imports, including vital medicines and medical equipment.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army issues tips for operating weapons in extreme cold

The U.S. Army recently put out a reminder to soldiers on how to make sure their weapons continue to function when temperatures dip below freezing.


“Cold temperatures can greatly affect the maintenance, functioning, and employment of infantry weapons,” according to a Jan. 2 Army press release. “The Army will continue to operate in cold weather environments worldwide, so we must be able to maintain our weapons in any climate.”

Condensation is a killer.

From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support
A Special Forces Operator assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) fires a round at a target hundreds of meters away during sniper training Feb. 8, 2017 at Limestone Hills Training Area at Fort Harrison, Montana. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Craig Cantrell)

Also known as sweating, condensation forms on weapons when troops move them from freezing temperatures into a warm shelter. Taking weapons dripping with condensation back out into the cold will result in the internal mechanisms freezing together, causing stoppages, the release states.

If possible, keep weapons outside during extremely cold weather. When left outside, weapons should be readily accessible, guarded, and sheltered to keep ice and snow from accumulating in the working mechanisms, sights, or barrel, according to the release.

If weapons must be kept inside a shelter, keeping them near the floor will reduce the chance of condensation. Keeping the inside temperature of the shelter close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit will also cut down on condensation, according to the release. Condensation will continue to form for about an hour after bringing weapons into a shelter, so wait until it stops before wiping weapons down.

Also Read: Silver coating may be the future of military cold weather clothing

Upon leaving the shelter, take a few minutes to pull the charging handle to the rear and drop the magazine several times to prevent parts from freezing, the release states.

Also, use “Lubricant, Arctic Weapon” on all weapons except the M249 squad automatic weapon and the M2 .50 caliber machine gun instead of Break-Free CLP, which can thicken and cause weapons to operate sluggishly or jam, the release states.

What else? How do you keep your gear ready for cold-weather environments?

MIGHTY MOVIES

Arnold Schwarzenegger got drop kicked while watching athletes perform in Africa

On Saturday, Arnold Schwarzenegger was going about his business, recording a Snapchat video on the sidelines of the Arnold Classic Africa, when a man emerged from the crowd and attacked the former California governor with a jumping, two-footed drop kick to the back.

While your average 71-year-old would probably suffer a broken hip or worse if they found themselves taking that sort of kick from a random stranger out of the crowd at a public event, for the Terminator, it was hardly a concern.


From homeless to hopeful: Veterans thrive with peer specialists’ support

Schwarzenegger posted this image of him visiting with a friend on Twitter less than a day after the attack, showing it’ll take more than a random crazy person to hurt the Terminator.

(Arnold Schwarzenegger via Twitter)

“Thanks for your concerns, but there is nothing to worry about. I thought I was just jostled by the crowd, which happens a lot,” Schwarzenegger tweeted. “I only realized I was kicked when I saw the video like all of you. I’m just glad the idiot didn’t interrupt my Snapchat.”

Video of the attack clearly shows Schwarzenegger engaging with fans and recording a video with his phone as an unidentified assailant approached from behind and quickly sprung into the double-foot kick. Schwarzenegger was clearly knocked off balance by the kick, but in perhaps the most impressive testament to the man’s continued fitness, the actor kept his feet as he stumbled forward. In the end, the attacker found himself in a pile on the floor, while the seven-time Mr. Olympia quickly regained both his balance and his sense of humor.

And if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight. By the way… block or charge?pic.twitter.com/TEmFRCZPEA

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In a follow-on tweet, Schwarzenegger referenced the popular “block or charge” memes originated by former NBA star Rex Chapman. Chapman was inspired to create the meme when he saw a video of a dolphin diving out of the water and into a stand-up paddle boarder.

“I saw it and thought, ‘that’s a charge,'” Chapman explained earlier this year. “People thought it was really funny, I guess.”

Schwarzenegger was clearly among them, writing “By the way … block or charge?” on Twitter. He went on to call on the thousands of people sharing the video to use versions that don’t include the man shouting in the aftermath of the attack, saying, “if you have to share the video (I get it), pick a blurry one without whatever he was yelling so he doesn’t get the spotlight.”

It seems that the attacker was shouting, “Help me! I need a Lamborghini!” repeatedly as he was dragged away.

Update: A lot of you have asked, but I’m not pressing charges. I hope this was a wake-up call, and he gets his life on the right track. But I’m moving on and I’d rather focus on the thousands of great athletes I met at @ArnoldSports Africa.

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Despite Schwarzenegger’s good spirits following the attack, MMA fighter and Green Beret Tim Kennedy took to Twitter to voice his frustrations with Schwarzenegger’s security detail.

“This is infuriating. I have spent a bit of time with Governor Schwarzenegger. He is an incredible human,” Kennedy wrote on Twitter. “Unforgivable lapse by his protective detail.”

Nonetheless, Schwarzenegger has stated that he has no intentions of pressing charges against that man that he considers a “mischievous fan.” He also made it clear that he doesn’t want the attack to become to focal point of the event.

“We have 90 sports here in South Africa at the @ArnoldSports, and 24,000 athletes of all ages and abilities inspiring all of us to get off the couch. Let’s put this spotlight on them.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

6 things that you think will sober you up but won’t

For some people, there’s nothing like the taste of a loaded bagel and the caffeinated buzz of an extra-large coffee after a night of drinking. Others would rather stick to gulping down bottles of water and popping ibuprofen as soon as they wake up to ward off symptoms of a hangover.

But here’s the thing: While there are a handful of quick-fix “tricks” said to sober you up fast after a night of drinking, most of the so-called “tried and true” methods don’t actually work. The only true way to sober up after a cocktail or five, is to, unfortunately, wait it out.

Ergo, if you thought these things would sober you up in a hurry, they won’t.


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(Photo by Christopher Flowers)

1. Greasy meals won’t rebalance your blood sugar levels

If your go-to breakfast after a night of drinking is bacon, egg, and cheese on a bagel, or order of french fries dipped in a chocolate shake, here’s some bad news.

If you’re going to treat yourself to a slice of pizza or to-go burrito, the right time to do so is actually prior to drinking, Alexis Halpern, MD, emergency medicine physician at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center told Refinery 29. Heavier meals make it so that the body has to spend more time and energy breaking up the food, Halpern explained, meaning the alcohol you drink after the fact will take longer to settle into your bloodstream.

However just because junk food is definitely heartier than, say, a salad, that doesn’t necessarily mean before a night of drinking you shouldn’t at least try to work in some nutritious options.

“If you give your body back the things that it needs and the things that it loses when you drink, you’re going to feel better no matter what,” Halpern said, so foods that are high in protein, zinc, vitamin B, potassium, and even foods that have a high water content are great options.

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(Flickr/Rachel Johnson)

2. Sugary sports drinks aren’t super helpful, either

Samir Zakhari, Ph.D., director of the Division of Metabolism and Health Effects at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism told Men’s Health that even though your body loses electrolytes when you drink, there’s really no dire need to replenish them ASAP post-partying.

But if you’re not the type of person who enjoys drinking a ton of water, and is willing to spend a little extra cash, Robert Glatter, M.D., an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, Northwell Health, told INSIDER that Pedialyte helps “replenish lost electrolytes including sodium, potassium as well as keep your blood sugar level up, since heavy alcohol consumption could lead to low blood sugar, known as hypoglycemia.”

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3. Painkillers can cause an upset stomach when mixed with lingering alcohol in the body

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), mixing alcohol with painkillers can lead to a variety of symptoms, but the severity of these symptoms depends on the type of medication you take.

Oftentimes people will pop a pill after a night of drinking to nurse a hangover headache, but according to the NIH, many pain relievers can cause “stomach upset, bleeding and ulcers, liver damage (acetaminophen), and/or rapid heartbeat.”

Before mixing alcohol with any medicine (or taking them right after drinking), it’s important to do your research and speak with a medical professional.

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(Photo by Tyler Nix)

4. Coffee will make you even more dehydrated

How your body responds to caffeine after a night of drinking will ultimately depend on how much you regularly drink it sober.

If you’re a routine coffee drinker, Grace Derocha, a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and certified health coach at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, told INSIDER drinking about 24 oz of coffee can help avoid withdrawal symptoms.

However, if you’re not a routine coffee drinker, downing a large cup or two of the stuff could worse or cause headache, and may also lead to increased dehydration as coffee is a mild diuretic.

In the Channel 4 program Food Unwrapped, Tony Moss, a professor of addictive behavior science at London South Bank University, reiterated this point and said that coffee will not help you sober up.

“We know from wider research that coffee isn’t an antidote to alcohol,” he said. “Taking coffee is a stimulant that will reverse that feeling of being slightly tired as your blood alcohol is coming down. The only thing that’s going to sober you up in that respect is a bit of time.”

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(Photo by Markus Spiske)

5. Too much protein can lead to headaches

If you only eat foods high in protein, without including any complex carbohydrates, Derocha said this will “negatively affects an already low blood sugar level,” leading to “a headache or make an existing headache worse.”

Rather than clinging to one food group to sober you up, Derocha told INSIDER it’s important to eat well-balanced, healthy meals after consuming alcohol, as your body needs a slew of nutrients that work together to help it recover.

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(Photo by John Fornander)

6. Cold showers slow down the sobering process

Cold showers might wake you up, but they won’t sober you up. Think of it this way: In order to sober up, your body needs to relax. Dousing yourself in cold water accomplishes the exact opposite.

Dr. Niket Sonpal, a New York-based internist, gastroenterologist, and an adjunct professor at Touro College told INSIDER cold showers “raise your awareness and alertness by shocking your body with ice-cold water sending signals to your brain to wake up.” When this happens, he explained, your brain and body become stressed, making you feel worse.

“Instead, take a shower with warm water and relax,” he said. “Your body will need to run its process to process all the alcohol in your bloodstream.”

This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The reason why Saudi Arabia is buying so many Blackhawks

Saudi Arabia has been buying a lot of weapons in recent years. So much so that a recent purchase of 17 Sikorsky UH-60M Blackhawks went by almost unnoticed. What’s most interesting about this sale, though, is not just the fact that the Saudis have acquired some very versatile helicopters, but rather who the Blackhawks were bought for.


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A Soldier is lowered from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during the Gowen Thunder open house and air show at Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho, Oct. 14, 2017. Saudi Arabia recently purchased 17 UH-60M Blackhawks for the Saudi Arabian National Guard and the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Force. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Becky Vanshur)

According to a Lockheed Martin brochure, the UH-60M has a crew of four and can hold 11 troops. It has a cruising speed of 151 knots and can haul 9,000 pounds of cargo on an external hook. Versions of the UH-60 have handled everything from packing weapons to medevac missions to firefighting.

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A UH-60 Blackhawk flies overhead during an exercise at Tactical Base Gamberi. (Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Randall Pike)

The Saudi military has six armed services: The Royal Saudi Land Forces, the Royal Saudi Navi, the Royal Saudi Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Defense, the Royal Saudi Strategic Missile Force, and the Saudi Arabia National Guard. Two of these services will split the 17 Blackhawks: The Saudi Arabia National Guard is buying eight, while the other nine will go to the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces.

The Saudi Arabia National Guard is nothing like the U.S. National Guard. In the United States, the National Guard does everything from disaster relief to fighting in combat alongside active forces. It serves both the state and federal governments. The Saudi Arabia National Guard, conversely, is meant to protect the Saudi Royal Family from coups. It is very likely that the eight Blackhawks they’re acquiring will be used as troop transports.

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A pair of U.S. Army MH-60M Blackhawks fly in formation with a U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion. There is a chance that the nine Blackhawks being purchased by the Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces could be equipped with some of the same technologies in the MH-60s used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Allison Lotz)

The Royal Saudi Land Forces Airborne Special Security Forces, on the other hand, are elite troops with the Royal Saudi Land Forces, Saudi Arabia’s regular army. The Royal Saudi Land Forces website states that personnel who join the Airborne Special Security Forces are “qualified to carry out the most intricate and sensitive missions and complete them with highest speed, swift movement, and maximum accuracy.” The nine Blackhawks going to this elite unit are likely to be used for troop transport missions, but they could very well have modifications similar to those used by the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, better known as the Nightstalkers.

A representative for Sikorsky pointed WATM to the company’s website on the UH-60 when asked for comment. Either way, the Saudis have acquired a number of highly versatile helicopters that have served a number of countries very successfully over the years. Exactly what the Saudis intend to do with these choppers remains to be seen.

Articles

3 at defense firm admit defrauding US by $6M on Humvee parts

Two brothers who formerly owned a Pennsylvania defense contractor and their former chief financial officer have pleaded guilty in a $6 million scheme to overcharge the U.S. Defense Department for Humvee window kits.


The Butler-based contractor, Ibis Tek LLC, removed the former co-owners, Thomas Buckner, 68, of Gibsonia, and John Buckner, 66, of Lyndora, in January along with former CFO Harry Kramer, 52, of Pittsburgh.

The three pleaded guilty on May 31st in Pittsburgh to charges of major fraud against the government and income tax evasion for filing returns that didn’t include the illegal income, and other irregularities. The Buckners will be sentenced Oct. 10 and each faces a likely prison sentence of 41 to 51 months, while Kramer will be sentenced Oct. 18 and faces a likely sentence of 24 to 30 months, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen told the judge.

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DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Teresa Cleveland

“Ibis Tek was not and will not be charged” in the scheme, Cohen said. The company released a statement when the criminal charges were announced in March, saying, “Our company was cleared in the related investigation which dates back to activities eight years ago and we, the over 250 employees of the new Ibis Tek, continue forward on our mission, which is to proudly serve the warfighter and our various government customers.”

The Buckners have agreed to repay more than $6 million to the government, and have already repaid nearly $900,000 in income tax losses, according to their attorneys who spoke in court, but declined comment after May 31st’s proceedings. Thomas Buckner has agreed to forfeit $5,085,709 to cover his share of the losses and has already paid $1 million of that debt, defense attorney Alexander Lindsay Jr. said. John Buckner will repay the government $1 million.

Additionally, Thomas Buckner has already repaid more than $423,000 in federal income tax losses, and John Buckner has repaid nearly $457,000, their attorneys said.

The target of the fraud was the Warren, Michigan-based U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, or TACOM, an arm of the Defense Department which procures military vehicles from contractors.

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DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Natalia Murillo

The brothers scammed the government by purchasing emergency escape window kits for $20 each from a Chinese firm, but selling them to TACOM through a shell company they created called Alloy America, Cohen said. Alloy America was located at Ibis Tek’s address and “served little purpose other than to commit this fraud,” Cohen said. Kramer kept the books for Ibis Tek and Alloy America, Cohen said.

The Buckners and Kramer not only passed on the bogus $70-per-frame cost to TACOM, they also sold scrap aluminum relating to the manufacture of the frames, but kept the money. The Buckners and Kramer were supposed to credit the scrap revenue to TACOM as a way of helping the government agency control costs, Cohen said.

Kramer was charged because he helped the Buckners by filing false tax returns that understated Ibis Tek’s income in 2009 and 2010. The Buckner brothers’ personal tax returns for those years also understated their income because they owned the company 50-50 at the time, Cohen said.

Ibis Tek was sold in February to investors who say the new company had nothing to do with the scam.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban launches new attacks despite peace discussions

Taliban militants killed dozens of Afghan security forces in fresh attacks on several government targets, according to officials.

Safiullah Amiri, deputy chairman of the regional council in the northern Kunduz province, told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan that 15 Afghan military personnel were killed in an attack in the Dashti Archi district that began late on Sept. 9, 2018.

Amiri said that another 18 security personnel were injured in the attack.

A security source in Dashti Archi said Taliban militants attacked several security teams in the district.


Meanwhile, in the northern province of Jawzjan, provincial police chief Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani said at least eight police were killed in early-morning fighting with the Taliban in the Khamyab district on Sept. 10, 2018, the Associated Press reported.

Jawzjani told the AP that Afghan troops were forced to retreat from a headquarters in the district in order to prevent civilian casualties. He said seven Taliban militants were killed and eight others wounded.

“There was intense fighting and we didn’t want civilian houses destroyed, or any civilian casualties,” Jawzjani said.

In the northern city of Sar-e-Pul, the capital of the Afghan province of the same name, the Taliban carried out overnight attacks on military and police installations, officials and security sources said.

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Taliban Militants.

Provincial council member Asif Sadiqi was quoted by the dpa news agency as saying that at least 17 soldiers were killed in the attacks in Sar-e-Pul, which he said the militants launched from three directions.

Taliban militants reportedly seized control of several military bases and police checkpoints in Sar-e-Pul, and provincial council member Reza Alimzada said that several security personnel were taken hostage.

Meanwhile, Taliban fighters killed another 14 local Afghan security-force members and government-loyal militiamen in the Dara Suf district of the northern Samangan Province, provincial spokesman Sediq Azizi said.

Azizi said that that six others were wounded.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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