This year's Wheelchair Games 'makeover' will really put participants to the test - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SPORTS

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games are getting a makeover in their 39th year, with a sport that will test brute strength, leadership, skill, and a little brain power.

The team relay, which includes a “grenade toss,” and “shooting,” may feel like a return to basic training, but Troy Colón, who put together the event, said it’s just to add some military flair for the veteran-athletes.

“This is a throwback to their military days and that military camaraderie, but it is a thinking game,” he said. “Think before you act, and you may want to choose finesse over strength.”


The 39th Annual Wheelchair Games — a partnership with VA and the Paralyzed Veterans of America — takes place July 11 to 16, 2019, in Louisville, Kentucky. The Games feature a variety of competition for wheelchair veterans from VAs across the nation, as well as Puerto Rico and a team from Great Britain.

Some events include wheelchair rugby, power soccer, handcycling, and other track and field events.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

The new team relay will have a military theme at this year’s Wheelchair Games, like shot put grenades. If the shot put grenade makes it to a bunker, the team gets double points.

Colón, an assistive technology professional from the Louisville VA Medical Center in Kentucky, said the team relay takes a little bit from different parts of the Games.

25 teams — made up of five athletes each — will participate in this year’s relay. Each team must have at least one quadriplegic. Once one athlete completes a station, he or she will have to wheel over to the next station in the relay.

Here’s how the relay is set up:

  • Powerlifting: This is the first station and any of the five team members can participate. The higher the weight, the more points the team receives, but they only have two minutes.
  • Shot put grenades: After powerlifting, the team makes their way to the second station. Like in a traditional shot put, the further the distance, the more points. But if the athlete gets this shot put in one of the bunkers, they will get double points for that distance.
  • Laser tag shooting: Again, speed is a factor. “I’m going to make the shooters race over,” Colón says. “They’re going to be out of breath, they’re going to be shaky. It’s about trigger control and breath control. You might be racking up points by hitting the target, but taking longer and getting points deducted there. What are you willing to risk?”
  • Sled pool: “This could be the most grueling part if the best decisions aren’t made,” Colón said. Like an adaptive version of a crossfit exercise, one person must pull a certain amount of weights from Point A to Point B. “There’s a smart way to do this,” Colón said. “Team captains should think outside the box.”
  • Rock climbing: The final leg of the relay will add the “shock and awe,” Colón said. The last person on the team will be staged and ready to go, but can’t climb until the person on the sled pull makes it up the hill to the final station.

The team with the highest overall points — not necessarily the fastest time — will win the relay.

“People are intimidated by what they can and can’t do, but just like the military, if everybody could do everything, everybody would have a patch. For the relay, it’s easier if you read the rules, and intelligently think about it. Think about the best place for all your team members,” Colón said.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

“The team captain needs to read my rules very, very carefully because I purposely wrote the rules to trick people,” he added. “It’s one of those things like the military, where you’re only as good as your intel. You have to be adaptive when you are doing missions. You can’t always go by the textbook.”

However it’s played, Reese Levasseur, a Marine Corps veteran from the Palo Alto VA Medical Center, said he’s ready.

“The funny thing is, I’ve been practicing the sled pull for training at our local adaptive gym, so I’m ready for this,” he said. “It’s going to be a great experience, and being a Marine, we’re just super competitive in nature.”

But if super competitive doesn’t equal best score, he’s OK with that, too.

“Hopefully I’m not the one who screws it up too bad,” he laughed. “I’m laid back, but we’re all about enjoying ourselves out there. We hope to be top dogs, but it’s more about being together and doing things in a chair instead of sitting on a couch at home.”

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

Articles

Navy’s destroyers and cruisers get massive tech overhaul

The Navy is modernizing its destroyers and cruisers with Aegis technology equipped with new multi-mission signal processors, kill assessment systems, radio frequency upgrades and various on-board circuits, service officials said.


The upgrades are part of an intense service effort to better arm its fleet of destroyers and cruisers with modernized Aegis radar technologies engineered to both help the ships better attack adversaries and defend against enemy missiles.

Also read: The Navy just named a destroyer after this Marine Corps hero

Aegis radar, a technology now on destroyers and cruisers, is aimed at providing terminal phase ballistic missile defense and an ability to knock out or intercept attacking enemy cruise missiles.

Raytheon has been awarded a $20 million deal extension to perform these Aegis upgrades.

The Navy is both modernizing current Aegis technology on board existing ships and also building upgrades into ships now under construction. These new upgrades are designed to build upon the most current iteration of Aegis technology, called Baseline 9.

The Aegis modernization program hope to achieve combat system upgrades that will enhance the anti-air warfare and ballistic missile defense capabilities of Aegis-equipped DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and CG 47 Ticonderoga-class cruisers.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG-94) steams through the Atlantic Ocean. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jeremy L. Grisham

“Over the years, we’ve added capabilities (helicopters, increased VLS – vertical launch systems -lethality, improved Aegis weapon system performance, SeaRAM) without the need for a new ship program and associated delays,” Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of surface warfare, said in a statement.

The next step in this continuum of modernization is equipping the next-generation DDG Flight III destroyers with the SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar, Boxall added.

The Navy’s new SPY-6 is 35-times more powerful than existing ship-based radar.

Compared to the legacy SPY-1 radar, Air and Missile Defense Radar will be able to see an airborne object half as big and twice as far – and testing is proceeding apace at Pacific Missile Range Facility, where we have radiated at full power and cycle, Boxall added.

Boxall added that all new construction DDG Flight IIA ships, beginning with DDG-113, will be delivered with Aegis Baseline 9C.

This includes “identification Friend or Foe Mode 5, Close-In Weapons System Block 1B, Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block II, and the SQQ-89A (V) 15 Integrated Undersea Warfare Combat System Suite. Delivery of these capabilities will extend into the mid-term (2020-2030) and beyond,” Boxall said.

NIFC-CA New Navy Destroyers

Baseline 9 Aegis radar also includes a new fire-control system, called Naval Integrated Fire Control – Counter Air, or NIFC-CA. It has already been deployed on a Navy cruiser serving as part of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the Arabian Gulf, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.

The technology enables ship-based radar to connect with an airborne sensor platform to detect approaching enemy anti-ship cruise missiles from beyond the horizon and, if needed, launch an SM-6 missile to intercept and destroy the incoming threat, Navy officials said.

“NIFC-CA presents the ability to extend the range of your missile and extend the reach of your sensors by netting different sensors of different platforms — both sea-based and air-based together into one fire control system,” a senior Navy official said.

So far, NIFC-CA has been integrated and successful in testing with both E2-D Hawkeye surveillance aircraft and F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

The Navy’s current plan is to build 11 Flight IIA destroyers and then shift toward building new, Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers with the new SPY-6 massively more powerful radar system. Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are slated to be operational by 2023, Navy officials said.

There are at least Flight IIA DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers currently under construction. DDG 113, DDG 114, DDG 117 and DDG 119 have been underway at a Huntington Ingalls Industries shipbuilding facility in Pascagoula, Mississippi and DDG 115, DDG 116 and DDG 118 are being built at a Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine.

Existing destroyers, such as the USS John Finn and all follow-on destroyers, will receive the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade, which includes NIFC-CA and other enabling technologies. Baseline 9 contains an upgraded computer system with common software components and processors, service officials said.

In addition, some future Arleigh Burke-class destroyers such as DDG 116 and follow-on ships will receive new electronic warfare technologies and a data multiplexing system which controls a ship’s engines and air compressors, Navy developers have said.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
A Tactical Tomahawk Cruise Missile launches from the forward missile deck aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99) during a training exercise. | US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Leah Stiles

The NIFC-CA technology can, in concept, be used for both defensive and offensive operations, Navy officials have said.

Having this capability could impact Pentagon discussion about how potential adversaries could use long-range weapons to threaten the U.S. military and prevent its ships from operating in certain areas — such as closer to the coastline.

Having NIFC-CA could enable surface ships, for example, to operate more successfully closer to the shore of potential enemy coastlines without being deterred by the threat of long-range missiles.

Defensive applications of NIFC-CA would involve detecting and knocking down an approaching enemy anti-ship missile, whereas offensive uses might include efforts to detect and strike high-value targets from farther distances than previous technologies could.

The possibility for offensive use parallels with the Navy’s emerging “distributed lethality” strategy, wherein surface ships are increasingly being outfitted with new or upgraded weapons.

The new strategy hinges upon the realization that the U.S. Navy no longer enjoys the unchallenged maritime dominance it had during the post-Cold War years.

During the years following the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy shifted its focus from possibly waging blue-water combat against a near-peer rival to focusing on things such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and Visit, Board Search and Seizure, or VBSS, techniques.

More recently, the Navy is again shifting its focus toward near-peer adversaries and seeking to arm its fleet of destroyers, cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships with upgraded or new weapons designed to increase its offensive fire power.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Competition pits brother against brother

When Lt. Col. Eric Palicia saw a flyer for an Alpha Warrior qualifier in May 2019, he decided to throw his name in the hat for a chance to go head to head with last year’s overall winner — his younger brother.

In this year’s Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle, soldiers, airmen, and sailors completed more than a dozen obstacles that tested their strength, agility and endurance, in a timed race Sept. 14, 2019, in San Antonio.


“I thought, ‘if I could earn a slot, I could compete against my brother,'” said the U.S. Army Europe headquarters engineer, who went on to surprise himself when he passed two more rounds of qualifiers to make it to the competition.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia (left), U.S. Army Germany, Wiesbaden, Germany, competes against his brother, U.S. Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia (right), 374th Operations Group C130J instructor pilot, Yokota Air Base, Japan, in the 2019 Air Force and Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Battles Sept. 14, 2019, at the Alpha Warrior Proving Grounds, Selma, Texas.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

Palicia earned the top spot among Army competitors and second place overall — right behind his brother, Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia.

Eric Palicia credits bodyweight exercises and running for his success in preparing for the competition.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia (left), U.S. Army Germany, Wiesbaden, Germany, competes against his brother, U.S. Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia (right), 374th Operations Group C130J instructor pilot, Yokota Air Base, Japan, in the 2019 Air Force and Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Battles Sept. 14, 2019, at the Alpha Warrior Proving Grounds, Selma, Texas.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

“You have to have endurance,” he said. “Cardiovascular fitness is the cornerstone of everything I’ve ever done athletically my whole life.”

Despite that, Palicia said the wins had little to do with him and much more to do with being a positive example.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia (left), U.S. Army Germany, Wiesbaden, Germany, competes against his brother, U.S. Air Force Capt. Noah Palicia (right), 374th Operations Group C130J instructor pilot, Yokota Air Base, Japan, in the 2019 Air Force and Inter-Service Alpha Warrior Battles Sept. 14, 2019, at the Alpha Warrior Proving Grounds, Selma, Texas.

(Photo by Sarayuth Pinthong)

“Before the competition started, there were 60 brand new enlistees who did their oath,” he said. “All their families came out, and we had a chance to talk to them, and they asked us what we’d done so far in the military. If they can look at me and see what we’ve done, the whole swath of ranks and ages and everybody gets along, right off the bat those 60 sons and daughters see the organization they’re going into. They see all of us together doing this competition — there’s no ego or animosity. We’re all in it together.”

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

Army Lt. Col. Eric Palicia holds a medicine ball over his head during a strength challenge at the 2019 Alpha Warrior Inter-Service Battle, while a crowd cheers him on at Retama Park, Selma, Texas, Sept. 14, 2019.

(Photo by Debbie Aragon)

Next up for Palicia is the Army 10-miler, Oct. 13, 2019, in Washington, D.C.

Palicia said he feels lucky to be supported in his fitness endeavors.

“It’s wonderful to be a part of a command climate that realizes the importance of a competition like this and the importance of leaders doing it,” he said.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

You can soon sail on the Titanic II, here’s how that could end in disaster

Long ago, ancient Greeks told the tale of the titan, Atlas, who once tried to defy Zeus. He failed spectacularly and, for his hubris, was doomed to carry the sky for eternity as punishment. Later, Atlas tried to defy the gods once more by attempting to trick Hercules into taking on his punishment. He was fooled by the intrepid demigod and wound up shouldering the heavens all over. In short, he gambled with the gods and he lost.

It was only fitting that the largest ship of its time, the Olympic-class liner, RMS Titanic, whose name was rich with Classical symbolism, would suffer such a grim ending after spitting in the face of fate. A shipwright once famously said, “God himself couldn’t sink this ship!” Unfortunately for the shipwright (and all those aboard), the powers that be (perhaps those atop Mt. Olympus) were ready to call his bluff.

Just like Atlas, Sisyphus, Midas, Arachne, and Icarus all learned, it’s really not a good idea to keep trying to tempt fate. Blue Star Line Pty. Ltd, an Australian passenger and cargo shipping company, disagrees. They’re currently in the process of building the Titanic II, a near-identical replica of the famous, doomed Olympic-class liner, as their new flagship.


This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

Logically speaking, you’d think that if they model it after a ship that sank due to striking an iceberg, they’d have a few safety precautions in place for when they sail directly through an area full of them.

(“Sinking of the Titanic,” Willy Stower, 1912)

To be entirely fair, the latest iteration will feature some serious 21st-century upgrades: The hull will be welded instead of riveted, a diesel-electric engine will replace the steam engine, and wooden panels will be replaced with a veneer to keep up with modern fire regulations while maintaining an authentic appearance. Oh, and, of course, it’ll have the proper amount of lifeboats.

As one of its first voyages, the Titanic II will travel the same waterways as did the RMS Titanic, cruising along a route from Southampton to New York City. The path will still go through an area thick with icebergs, but given that it isn’t 1912, they’ll have better technology to spot and avoid them. Icebergs will, at most, probably just inspire tourists to take drunken selfies.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

You can only do the “I’m flying, Jack!” once before realizing the bow of the ship is friggin’ cold.

(National Park Services)

With the threat of icebergs (hopefully) neutralized, there are three main areas in which things could go wrong for the ship.

The first (and most obvious) threat is financial. The project has been the longtime dream of South African businessman, Sarel Gous. He first announced his venture back in 1998, around the time the Academy Award-winning film, Titanic, hit theaters.

Since then, the project has been on and off. There have been reports that the Titanic II would finally set sail in 2001, then again in 2008, 2012, 2016, 2018, and now, finally, in 2022. It’s been a repeating cycle: They’ll find an investment company willing to foot the bill, that company realizes it’s a pipe dream, and then they abandon the project.

Why are investors backing out? Well, since the new Titanic II will sport the same number of passengers as the original vessel, tickets for the maiden voyage will need to be insanely expensive — from around K to id=”listicle-2614623238″.2 million each — just to dream of making a profit. And, after the initial “cool factor” of being on the Titanic II fades, you’re left with the average, cruise-going crowd who won’t be able to afford tickets.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

The headlines would just write themselves if the Titanic II were to sink immediately upon hitting the water.

(NOAA)

The next threat to second unsinkable will come the moment the ship is first released into the water. The shipyard constructing the Titanic II, the state-owned CSC Jinling, has no drydock. They intend to side launch the 269m-long, 56,000 gross tonnage vessel directly into the Yangtze River.

This will make it the largest side-launched ship in history by an astronomical margin. When side-launching a vessel, extra care is taken to prevent it from capsizing the very moment it touches water. Weights are added to the ship to make its entry as gentle as possible. It’s fine for more balanced ships, but the Titanic II is extremely top-heavy.

They’re likely addressing this issue behind closed doors, but for the moment, it feels a lot like we’re looking at imminent disaster.

Finally, the Titanic could end in disaster (again) during its maiden voyage — but not due to icebergs. The trip recreating the original route from England to the US is actually the second voyage planned for the Titanic II. The maiden voyage will go from Dubai, UAE, to Southampton, UK, sailing directly through the Horn of Africa.

This is a Somali pirate’s wildest dream. Thousands of millionaires and billionaires are going to sail right through their backyard. You can bring security alongside the vessel while sailing through the region, but that won’t stop pirates from trying to take what’s not theirs.

Obviously, it’d be fantastic if the Titanic II actually manages to set sail and prove naysayers wrong. But unless they’re keeping a lot of solutions secret, it doesn’t seem likely. At the same time, people are genuinely excited for the chance to sail on the Titanic II.

I think most people want to go to enjoy a sense of danger — they may be disappointed when things go well.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers at the border are doing grunt work to stay out of trouble

National Guard troops deployed to the border in Arizona are puttering around doing administrative and maintenance work in order to keep them out of potentially dangerous situations and to allow the border patrol to focus on working in the field.

Troops have been deployed to the border in the past — both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent troops there under similar circumstances — but the ones currently stationed in Arizona are even farther from the border than past deployments, according to a Politico report, and have no involvement in law-enforcement activity there.

President Donald Trump has called for up to 4,000 troops from various states to deploy to the border from Texas to California. Only about 200 Arizona National Guard soldiers have been put to work there, less than one-third of the 682 who have been authorized to deploy.


The troops are not allowed to join patrols or operations to detain people trying to cross the border undetected.

“There is a false narrative that we are doing ride-alongs,” Capt. Macario Mora of the Arizona National Guard told Politico. The troops also are not armed, Mora said, “and there is no anticipation that will change.”

Feeding horses and shoveling manure

Many have been pressed into service providing administrative support and doing upkeep, including feeding horses and shoveling manure out of stables, office work, and basic repairs and maintenance work on border patrol facilities and vehicles. “We fix flats,” one sergeant, a cook, told Politico.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
U.S Army Soldiers install steel runway planking for fence along the U.S./Mexico border in Naco, Ariz., June 28, 2007,
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. John Nimmo, Sr.)

Troops in Arizona are kept far from the border, though some have been given training to monitor the remote cameras the border patrol has set up along the frontier. In Texas, troops are allowed to visually monitor the border, but the ones tasked with surveillance are not allowed to look into Mexico. Those troops are also performing maintenance and doing repairs on roads and vehicles.

Jurisdictional issues and legal restrictions are part of the reason troops are tasked with such a narrow range of duties, but there is also an effort to keep the soldiers out of trouble, particularly in areas where they could encounter criminal groups along the border.

The soldiers are not really trained or equipped for law-enforcement duties, and officials are still wary of the potential risks involved in them interacting with civilians. Officials are still mindful of the 1997 killing of an 18-year-old by marines who were patrolling along the Rio Grande River in Texas as part of a drug-surveillance patrol.

Esequiel Hernandez was shot and killed within sight of his home by marines who had followed him as he herded goats along the river. The marines, who had been deployed to the area secretly days before, said Hernandez pointed his .22 rifle at them fired twice in their direction. A prosecutor and Texas Rangers doubted that story but were unable to indict the marines on a murder charge, leaving locals bitter.

Mora, the Arizona National Guard captain, told Politico that the troops were in a “much safer environment” miles away from the border. “It definitely helps mitigate the risk of the National Guard running into conflict,” he said.

The troops’ muted presence stands in contrast to Trump’s rhetoric about the threats posed by border crossers and about his administration’s response.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
President Donald Trump
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Both the Border Patrol and the American Civil Liberties Union have criticized the deployments, the former regarding them as a misuse of resources and latter seeing it as unneeded. Military officials have also criticized the deployments, viewing them as a distraction and a needless strain on US-Mexico relations.

The deployments, paid for by the Pentagon, are only funded through September 2018, the end of the fiscal year. It’s not clear if funding will be extended beyond that, and other events may limit or curtail the deployments going forward.

Governors from at least eight states have said they withhold or withdraw their states’ National Guard troops from the border, many of them citing dismay over the Trump administration’s now-rescinded policy of separating children from their parents as they cross the border.

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

Articles

Watch the Air Force launch a Minuteman missile

The U.S. Air Force released test-launched an unarmed Minuteman III missile Feb. 25 in order to test the reliability of the Cold War-era, nuclear-capable weapons. The Minuteman III is an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads.


“This is the second ICBM launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in the past 5 days and while it may seem routine, a tremendous amount of effort is required to safely assess the current performance and validate the security of the nation’s fielded ICBM force,” said Col. J. Christopher Moss, 30th Space Wing commander. “Our teams are made of dedicated Airmen who make a difference for the Air Force and the nation and I am proud to be a part of this team.”

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
A Minuteman III missile streaks across the sky in a 2013 test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales

The tested missile flew 4,000 miles over the Pacific to a test area in the Marshall Islands which opened up speculation that the missile test may have been a reminder to North Korea that the U.S. can hit it at any time. North Korea recently launched a failed satellite that some say was a camouflaged test of its own ballistic missiles and a threat to the U.S.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
A rocket lifts off from its launch pad in Musudan-ri, North Korea (DPRK State Media)

Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said the test was necessary to remind rival nations that the aging U.S. nuclear missiles are still very capable, but he didn’t mention North Korea.

“We and the Russians and the Chinese routinely do test shots to prove that the operational missiles that we have are reliable,” he told journalists at the launch. “And that is a signal … that we are prepared to use nuclear weapons in defense of our country if necessary.”

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
Photo: US Air Force via Wikipedia

Each Minuteman III missile can carry up to three nuclear warheads which each strike different targets. Each warhead packs a 300-500 kiloton yield, about 20-33 times the strength of the bomb that struck Hiroshima. The missile tested Feb. 25 carried a test version of the re-entry vehicles which steer nuclear warheads.

The Air Force has had to reduce its number of ICBMs to meet the requirements of the New START treaty which caps the number at 400 armed missiles and 50 unarmed reserves. The Minuteman III missile is the only U.S. land-based ICBM currently in service.

Articles

China is close to entering the ‘war on terror’ — and they won’t be on our side

By now, everyone who follows the fight against terrorism will know that there was an unsuccessful VBIED attack on Aug. 30 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in which a suicide bomber attempted to ram the embassy gates before detonating. This attack only managed to kill one person – the bomber – though it wounded several others. In the past year, Kyrgyzstan’s authorities have successfully foiled multiple alleged plots and an estimated 500 of its citizens are believed to be in territory controlled by ISIL. Whether or not ISIL eventually claims credit for this attack, it will likely have been carried out by ethnically Uighur separatists from Western China – a population that not only has a presence in ISIL’s ranks, but also is actively being trained for attacks on Chinese targets by Dutch jihadi Israfil Yilmaz.


The ongoing conflict between East Turkestan separatists/Uighur jihadists and the Chinese government has been at a low-broil for decades. Strict movement controls, an intense intelligence collection apparatus with an emphasis on big data analysis, and a heavy occupying presence in Muslim majority areas of China will largely continue to prevent successful mass casualty attacks against prestige targets. However, small-scale incidents, such as stabbings and rudimentary IED attacks, continue to affect cities in Western China from time to time – probably more than is possible to independently verify, given the inability of Western journalists to report in these areas.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
An anti-China, pro-Uighur protest outside the White House. Photo from Flickr user Malcolm Brown.

In the meantime, at risk of sounding cliché, China is rising. President Xi Jinping has embarked on a well-known effort to modernize China’s oversized, lumbering, corrupt, Cold War-era military into an efficient, combat-ready force ready for contingencies wherever they occur – from the South China Sea to the transportation infrastructure in its Western near-abroad known as the New Silk Road. This “Silk Road” seeks to modernize the ancient trade route of the same name and will undoubtedly re-orient Central Asian economies towards China.

These Central Asian countries, run by aging autocrats, are universally known as some of the least free nations in the world and are potential tinderboxes. They clamp down heavily on religion (the local religion is largely Sunni Islam). They rely on trade with Russia and high energy prices – and energy prices have been low for a while now. They have restive and young populations. Saudi Wahhabis fund unemployed youths’ spiritual journeys, and some of these very youths are already trained and combat-experienced from battlefields in Syria, Iraq, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Expect more attacks against Chinese targets where and when possible.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
Soldiers with the People’s Liberation Army at Shenyang training base in China, March 24, 2007. DoD photo by Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen, US Air Force.

So what does this imply for the United States? Several things, but it does not mean a straightforward area of potential military and diplomatic cooperation. China will likely reluctantly find itself more combat-experienced than it currently is (it last fought a war in 1979 against Vietnam – it did not go well for China). It will bring China to the world stage like never before as it picks up the slack it previously left for the US alone. However, China has signaled strongly that is not aligned with US counter-terrorism policy. When the heartbreaking video of wounded Syrian child Omran Daqneesh emerged, Chinese state-media ridiculed it as faked, saying that he was “eligible for an Oscar.” The People’s Liberation Army has instituted a training mission for Syrian forces (taking place safely in Mainland China). In other words, China is stepping up – and will continue to step up – but it will do so in a manner more aligned with Russia and Iran than with the United States and NATO.

Many Western analysts believe that for a country of its size, China really ought to do more to stabilize the world. Given what we know about the Chinese government and Xi’s modus operandus, and given the pressure China will be under from its nationalist netizens should a more successful attack against Chinese interests occur, we should be careful what we wish for. China stepping up will not mean closer partnership with the United States.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Britain’s new carrier just set sail on its first ever mission

The Royal Navy’s largest-ever warship is taking another step towards deploying on operations, and is training at sea with military aircraft for the first time.


HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first in a new class of British military vessels, sailed out of Portsmouth Naval Base on Feb. 2, 2018, to learn how to work with helicopters on the open waters.

The huge ship, which weighs 65,000 tonnes, is undergoing tests and training in pursuit of its ultimate aim of launching F35-B Lightning jets from its 280-meter flight deck.

Here are the best images of the departure, and its voyage so far:

This is HMS Queen Elizabeth, making its first voyage as an official member of the Royal Navy. Tugboats steered her past the Round Tower which guards the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour. At 56m tall, the carrier dwarfed it.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Crown Copyright)

The carrier has sailed before, but only joined the Navy for keeps in December, when it was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II in a grand ceremony.

The highlight was an enormous cake shaped exactly like the ship.

Also read: The Royal Navy just commissioned its biggest ship ever

Here’s the carrier heading past Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower, with tugboats and a police escort.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Crown Copyright)

This is the view of the Queen Elizabeth and the other ships from behind.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Crown Copyright)

It’s an impressive piece of hardware — here’s a visual rundown of its stats from the manufacturers.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Aircraft Carrier Alliance)

The stern of the ship flew Britain’s Naval Ensign, a flag used by military ships at sea.

 

 

And the Royal Navy uploaded social media video of the carrier in transit.

 

 

Ahead of the departure, two twin-engine Chinook transporter helicopters landed on board, and will take part in the trials.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Crown Copyright)

Here’s how the Royal Navy described the purpose of the exercise:

“The aim of the trials is to work out the conditions that the aircraft can operate in while at sea on the carrier.”

“They will collect data about the landings, take-offs and manoeuvres in different wind and sea conditions, before processing the information and ultimately declaring that the ship can safely operate the aircraft.”

Related: Queen Elizabeth II’s time in WWII makes her the most hardcore head of state

Here’s another view of the choppers.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Crown Copyright)

Chinooks are a mainstay of British air power, and have been in service since 1980.

The 30 metre-long tandem helicopters can carry around 55 people, or 10 tonnes of freight, and fly at around 180mph.

They are not combat craft, but can be equipped with two miniguns and a machine gun.

A few days after, Merlin helicopters flew out to join in, dispatched from Culdrose Royal Naval Air Station in Cornwall.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Crown Copyright)

Merlins are a medium-sized transport helicopter. They can carry around 30 troops each and fly at speeds in excess of 190mph.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Crown Copyright)

As well as carrying people, they can also carry weapons, such as torpedos and depth charges.

They can also act as scouts, thanks to advanced sensor systems onboard. Each one can scan the seas and send information back to the Queen Elizabeth from hundreds of miles away.

More: How the Indian Navy suddenly became a major power

Eventually, 14 Merlins will be stationed on the Queen Elizabeth full-time.

The Queen Elizabeth is the first “twin-island” aircraft carrier in the world. Most carriers have one tower on deck to steer the ship and handle the aircraft, but the Queen Elizabeth split the tasks. They tweeted a view of the assembled helicopters for the read tower, used for flight.

 

Eventually, HMS Queen Elizabeth ship will carry F-35B Lightning fighter jets, which will launch from its ski jump-style ramp. Here’s an F-35B in action.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Carlos Jimenez)

In the future, the Queen Elizabeth could also be a platform for drones. Here’s a Northrop Grumman X-47B.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Photo: Northrop Grumman)

Captain Jerry Kyd, the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, told Business Insider in an interview last year that “it’s an absolute inevitability that [drones are] going to be embarked on this ship in the near future.”

The carrier was last seen off the coast of Cornwall, the southwestern tip of the UK. This photo was taken by a local newspaper photographer, showing the ship near the St Michael’s Mount landmark.

 

 

HMS Queen Elizabeth’s next stop is reportedly Gibratlar, a British territory bordering Spain.

Articles

The surprising link between spirituality and performance

Throughout history, humans have often weaponized faith. This makes any discussion of the intersection between wellness and spirituality especially tricky because it can be divisive – which is counterintuitive to our relatively inclusive military and veteran cultures.


However, as a Marine I’m always ready to tackle tough things, and as a social scientist invested in teaching veterans how to optimize their performance at home and work, I cannot ignore the compelling data surrounding the positive effects of spirituality.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
Maj. Alejandro Sanchez, chaplain, Puerto Rico Army National Guard, says a prayer during the ceremony that marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (U.S. Army photo)

What does spiritual fitness have to do with anything?

There are explicit, direct, trackable ties between resilient trait cultivation and spirituality. These ties include common-sense connections to things like behavioral health, social support, and philanthropic leanings, and the more mysterious connection between positive thoughts and their impact on us at a cellular level.

From Stanford to Duke University to Oxford, some really interesting research is being conducted globally on the ways in which spirituality and religiosity (self-reported connection to organized religion) can improve everything from healing and recovery time to pain tolerance and longevity. The protective effects faith offers when it comes to depression and anxiety conditions are especially significant.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
U.S. Army paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division, pray before the Chaplain’s Anniversary Jump onto Sicily Drop Zoneat Fort Bragg, N.C., July 25, 2013. Deputy Chief of Chaplains, Brig. Gen. Charles R. Bailey led the prayer. Fort Bragg Chaplains celebrated the 238th anniversary of the Chaplains Corps with an airborne operation. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian P. Glass/Released)

Many scholars and scientists who are not religious do believe that at some level we’re wired for spirituality. For example, at the top of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs sits transcendence – or the human need to connect with something bigger and outside of ourselves.

The protective factors offered by spirituality and religiosity are very powerful – even more powerful than many of the behavioral health practices that the military currently invests in financially. Because of this, the topic deserves a closer look in any honest conversation about building resilience.

So what’s the tie-in to resilience?

The links between spirituality, religiosity, and resilience can be found in three main areas that are significant not only statistically, but also practically in terms of health benefits.

1. Behavioral Health

People who identify as individually spiritual enjoy a number of benefits at the psychological and neurological levels. However, these health benefits are amplified and extended with higher levels of subjective religiosity – in particular when people take their spirituality a step further and practice it with some kind of community.

For example, binge drinking and promiscuous sex – which are high-risk for our bodies – are generally discouraged by major world religions. Religious people across demographics and age exhibit lower rates of smoking, alcohol abuse, drug use, and almost all risk-taking behaviors than their nonreligious peers. They also enjoy lower rates of depression and anxiety, better mental health, and even a slower progression of dementia.

In short, people who gather around an idea of virtue and live it out with community support are less likely to engage in physiologically high-risk behaviors. This tendency toward healthier living results in better long term health outcomes.

2. Social Support

People who are very religious tend to be members of a faith community and enjoy strong social ties as a result.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
Chaplain Commander Dale Marta of the 14th Marine Regiment, HQ Battery leads a memorial service, in Agadir, Morocco, in honor of those that lost their lives on April 18 at the West Fertilizer Plant. A similar ceremony was held two days prior in honor of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Many faiths encourage both the practice of gratitude and giving to others outside of the social contract (which is essentially the idea that if I do something nice for you, you’ll do something nice for me). They prompt members to give to people who can’t fulfil their end of the social contract. This is the essence of philanthropic giving, which has demonstrated physical, mental, and emotional health benefits.

Of course, you needn’t be spiritual to give generously, but religious Americans give significantly more both financially and in terms of volunteer hours than their nonreligious peers.

3. Positive Thought

Researchers have found an inexplicable link between the practice of prayer and lowered blood cortisol levels and increased high-level cognitive capabilities. Because the brain influences bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and the immune system, shifting what happens in the brain through spiritual practice can have significant physical impacts.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
U.S. Marines participate in a formation run prior to a physical-training competition. Elements of the 15th MEU are ashore in Djibouti for sustainment training to maintain and enhance the skills they developed during their pre-deployment training period.  (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jamean Berry)

In fact, in prayer (unlike in meditation) the relationship centers of the brain light up. The parietal lobes light up too. These lobes are on the side of the brain and allow you to experience feelings of empathy. In the Christian tradition there’s a sacred text that speaks to being transformed by the renewal of your mind, and today we’re understanding that spiritual practice can actually grow your empathy and increase your ability to connect deeply with others.

Aren’t there downsides to religion?

It’s true that all of the benefits of a beloved social community can also turn negative. If acceptance lowers blood cortisol levels, rejection raises it. So many people have been battered by faith communities around the world. However, although finding an affirming community of faith is a complicated process, it is also important because it reinforces the helpful behaviors and activities listed above.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
U.S. Army Capt. Christopher Butera (left), chaplain of the Fires Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, receives ashes from Capt. Robert Allman, chaplain of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. The Regiment hosted a prayer breakfast in observance of Ash Wednesday. (U.S. Army Photo by Spc. Joshua Edwards)

If you’re curious, but don’t have a tradition you feel drawn to, commit to doing some research. Maybe take a cultural literacy course on world religions to orient yourself. Then, carve out time to ask yourself big questions in a sincere way. Do some research, some learning, and look for an affirming faith community that feels like an authentic choice and fit.

The three pillars of a resilient life are social support, self-care, and spirituality. The individual value of these pillars is backed irrefutably by science, and – when practiced together – their benefits increase exponentially.  

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

Resources

This PTSD and trauma-engagement program welcomes veterans of all faith backgrounds. It provides resource for active duty servicemembers and veterans looking to bring spirituality to their day to day.

  • Big Question Inspiration
  • What has “faith” or “spirituality” looked like in my past? What does it mean to me?
  • How would I assess my current spiritual health? Do I spend time on it? Do I think about it at all?
  • What do I believe?
  • Where do I need to go to learn more?
  • Who can I reach out to as I figure this out?

About the Author

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
Dr. Kate Hendricks Thomas is a U.S. Marine veteran and wellness coach who writes about resilience building, creating strong communities, and the science of spirituality. You can find her new book, “Brave, Strong, True: The Modern Warrior’s Battle for Balance”, here.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Even more Russian ships are relying on tugs for breakdowns

In 2000, an explosion in the Russian submarine Kursk sent the vessel to the ocean floor, killing all 118 of its crew.

In the decade that followed, at least four fires broke out at Russian shipyards.

In 2009, Russia’s Admiral Kuznetsov — which has been labeled one of the worst aircraft carriers in the world — lost a sailor when a fire broke out due to a short circuit.


And in 2016, the Kuznetsov cruised through the English channel belching black smoke on its way to the Mediterranean.

This series of accidents and problems leads to one inevitable conclusion: The Russian Navy has a maintenance problem.

Bryan Clark, senior fellow for the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Studies, said that when it comes to maintenance, “You can’t live on older ships. After 20 to 25 years, all you have is what’s left on the shelf.”

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

The Admiral Kuznetsov.

Though many of the incidents plagued their submarine force, even more telling than its history of catastrophes is the routine reliance on oceangoing tugs, which accompany its surface vessels on every deployment.

On Oct. 22, 2018, two Russian corvettes, a tanker, and a tug set sail for the North Atlantic.

Experts say Russia’s dependence on tugs is an indication of an aging, insufficient surface fleet.

While Russia can boast impressive littoral capabilities, for blue-water operations it leans heavily on its Cold War-era platforms, an influential naval expert said.

This is problematic for several reasons, according to Clark. Maintenance becomes more difficult as ships age, and as decades pass their parts become harder, if not impossible, to obtain. It is impossible, then, to manage the eventual breakdown of equipment, which results in a loss of redundancy for crucial systems.

This redundancy — secondary, tertiary and even quaternary systems — is what keeps ships afloat and ready to fight.

For the Russian Navy, the idea of tug as escort has become standard. For the rest of the world, Clark thinks there is a lesson to be learned.

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

Articles

First female Marine to attempt infantry course dropped on final attempt

The first female Marine to try to become an infantry officer has been reclassified to a different military occupational specialty after failing her second attempt at the grueling Infantry Officer’s Course, Military.com has learned.


The officer, who has not been publicly identified, began the 84-day course July 6 and was dropped July 18 after failing to complete two conditioning hikes, Capt. Joshua Pena said.

“IOC students may not fall out of more than one hike during a course,” Pena said.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
U.S. Marines from Delta Company, U.S. Marines from Delta Company, Infantry Training Battalion (ITB), School of Infantry-East (SOI-E) listen to a combat order brief before stepping off on a raid, which is part of the Infantry Integrated Field Training Exercise aboard Camp Geiger, N.C. | U. S. Marine Corps photo by CWO2 Mancuso, Paul S. Combat Camera

In all, 34 of the 97 officers who began the course have been dropped. Nine, including the female officer, were recommended for MOS redesignation, meaning they will be placed in a non-infantry job within the Marine Corps.

The female officer first attempted the course in April, just months after Defense Secretary Ashton Carter declared all previously closed ground combat jobs open to women and ordered the services to design plans for integration. She was dropped on the 11th day of that attempt, after failing to complete a second hike.

Notably, the officer passed the notoriously challenging first day’s combat endurance test both times she attempted the course.

While 29 female officers had attempted the IOC on a test basis in a three-year period before the integration mandate was handed down, none would have had the chance to enter infantry jobs upon passing the course.

And because all but one of the female officers were volunteers attempting the course for personal improvement and Marine Corps research purposes, they were not guaranteed a second shot at the course the way male officers were. (The other female Marine was attempting to become a ground intelligence officer, a job that opened before other infantry jobs.)

For that reason, female officers now have their fairest shot at passing the course as the Corps looks to integrate previously male-only units.

But it remains to be seen how many women will attempt to enter these formerly closed positions.

Pena said there are now no female officers enrolled or slated to participate in future IOC classes. The current class will conclude Sept. 20.

In April, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said the Marine Corps would not change its physical standards in an attempt to help its first female infantry officers enter the fleet.

“One of the questions I got at IOC was, ‘OK, five years from now, no woman had made it through IOC. What happens?’ ” Mabus said at Camp Pendleton on April 12. “My response was, ‘No woman made it through IOC. Standards aren’t going to change.’ “

Humor

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of March 2nd

Ah, springtime. It’s almost that beautiful time of year again.


Junior enlisted are happy, NCOs are yelling at them to downgrade to the summer PT uniform, and sergeant majors can finally see their beloved grass before a dumb butter bar walks on it. Rumor has it that the warrant officer might have even come out of hibernation!

For once, things are optimistic. Pizza MREs are coming, the Army is getting its Pinks and Greens back, and a sweet pay increase is coming. So, take it easy. Relax. Enjoy the smell of freshly cut memes.

13. Every. Single. Time.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

12. “What are they going to do? Kick me out — oh…”

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

11. Holding random clipboards or putting your cellphone up to your ear also works.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
Walk with a sense of purpose and people will think you’re doing things. (Meme via Air Force Nation)

10. We get enough opinions from the “Good Idea Fairy;” we don’t need anymore.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
Anyone who thinks any troops have feelings immediately loses their right to be heard. (Meme via Decelerate your Life)

9. The beard comes standard with every DD-214.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
The alcoholism never fades, though. (Meme via Reddit)

8. Any troop who says they haven’t had to open an MRE packet with their mouth is a damn liar.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Meme via Reddit)

7. Perfect, until you drop something…

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Meme via Reddit)

6. Will Gunny ever relax? Will we ever find the WO? Tune in next week.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Meme via Reddit)

5. They’re not mutually exclusive.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

4. Eye for an eye. Next time they try to miss formation and lie about being “at dental,” get their asses.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Meme via Pop Smoke)

3. If Big Army took the same approach, maybe everyone would get their SSD1 done.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

2. Roger. We get it. Can we go home already?

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
(Meme via The Salty Sailor)

1. POG is a state of mind, not an MOS.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test
Shots fired. (Meme via Untied Status Marin Crops)

MIGHTY TRENDING

President Trump signs executive order invoking Defense Production Act

On March 18, 2020, President Trump signed an executive order to address the national shortages of vital resources to combat the novel coronavirus or COVID-19. Within this executive order, he invoked rights under the Defense Production Act of 1950. So, what is it?


The Defense Production Act was enacted on Sept. 8, 1950, by President Harry Truman, during the beginning of the Korean War. The premise of it was to create a way for the president to gain a measure of control within the civilian economy in the name of defending the nation. This was largely due to concerns about equipment and supplies during the Korean war. This act gave the president the ability to enforce things in the name of national security.
This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

The act was created during the Korean War, mainly due to the lessons of World War II. It was during WWII that we saw a massive mobilization of the country to support the war efforts. This act ensured that President Truman could do the same without issue.

The act gives the president the broad authority to mandate that industries increase production of vital resources. It also allows the control of prices and wages. Other authorities included in the act involve the ability to settle labor disputes, real estate credit, and the ability to control contracts given to private organizations. When this act is invoked, the administration is required to submit an annual report to Congress.

With COVID-19 causing resource scarcity amid the pandemic, it was expected that President Trump would take this action.

The Center for Disease Control has been continually encouraging people to practice social distancing to prevent widespread critical cases. Without these measures, the results would be catastrophic, as we are seeing with the deaths mounting daily in Italy. One week ago, on March 12, 2020, the positive cases of COVID-19 were 1,663 for the United States.

It’s now over 10,000 cases with every U.S. state reporting incidents.

As the number of cases of COVID-19 continues to rise, concern has been increasing within the medical community. This is because, as a nation, we do not currently have the equipment to sustain critical patients nor the resources to treat them. The powers within this act will allow the president to swiftly order the production of more personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and other vital resources to combat COVID-19.

This year’s Wheelchair Games ‘makeover’ will really put participants to the test

It is anticipated that President Trump will quickly utilize the powers within the Defense Production Act to obtain “health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19,” according to his executive order. He utilized this act once before in 2017 to provide specific technology within the space industrial base.

The Defense Production Act has been amended a number of times over the years. It now contains language that allows control in areas related to homeland security or emergency relief efforts. Many presidents have utilized this act throughout the last seventy years during times of need for increased defense capabilities or for emergency response.

With this act, companies are absolutely required to prioritize contracts from the government and accept them, all in the name of national security or emergency.
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