This isn’t the first time troops and veterans have rushed head-first into danger to aid civilians. During the horrific Las Vegas shooting in October, many veterans risked their lives to bring innocent people to safety and treated their wounds. In 2015, two Marines overpowered a gunman on a train in France. There are many examples of troops and veterans going above and beyond for citizens; but today, Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy, this one goes out to you.
Around 7:40 a.m. Dec. 18, an Amtrak train took a turn too fast, going 80 mph (129 kph) in a 30 mph (48 kph) zone, and derailed, plunging into the Southbound I-5 outside of Tacoma, Washington. On the scene was Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, just next to the derailment site.
“I saw many people that were just paralyzed with fear and I don’t blame them at all. I mean, it was kind of a hard situation to watch unfold.” He tells KCPQ of Dupont, Washington. “The train is going south and I’m just kind of driving, just driving, and I hear a loud noise and I look up and I see the train and it hits the concrete walls on the side and when it hits the walls — the walls kind of exploded— and the train just falls off. I see the train fall and it kind of falls on itself… and it hits three vehicles that were in front of me — a semi, an F-150, and a Kia Soul.”
“I couldn’t afford to be scared, I couldn’t afford to be shocked. I had to do what I am called to do and focus and channel that and help these people around me get to safety as best as possible.”
He grabbed what gear he had in his truck — tourniquets and a CPR mask — and rushed to the teetering train cars. He and another volunteer climbed on a damaged semi-truck to reach survivors. They carried people who were ejected from the train to safety, away from the highway. Next, he noticed a woman dangling out of a train. Her daughter was trying to bring her back in so McCoy picked her up and brought her to a safe spot.
Second Lieutenant Robert McCoy saved 15 people before the police and firefighters arrived.
Aliens have had a constant home in the minds of sci-fi enthusiasts and space nerds. The concept of extraterrestrial contact has been the centerpiece of many great movies, books, and games. Inevitably, if you’re talking about the arrival of an alien life form, the conversation turns itself toward a single question: How would Earth defend against an alien invasion?
Yes, Earth is home to the United States Marines, but we certainly can’t rely on a fighting force using broken, outdated equipment to take on a technologically superior race that has figured out faster-than-light travel. But just because we’re outgunned doesn’t mean we’ll ultimately fail.
That’s where The Infographics Show comes in. Not only have they created a solid defense strategy, they’ve also broken it down into three phases — a whole two phases shy of your brand new lieutenant’s plan to raid a single compound. The best part is, their plan revolves around something we’ve learned from history — if you don’t have the tech to fight even, just fight dirty.
Here’s how they break it down:
Would you believe that these expensive pieces of technology can be destroyed by an object as small as a paint chip?
Phase 1 — Using space debris
Essentially, a piece of space debris as small as a screw could destroy non-shielded spacecraft just coming out of light-speed to enter Earth’s orbit. We could send missiles to destroy our own satellites to create a shield of debris around the planet, which will either destroy a large amount of alien spacecraft or, at the very least, hinder their ability to enter orbit, which would buy us enough time to prepare for the second phase.
Give ’em the ol’ razzle dazzle.
Phase 2 — Attack during entry
When a shuttle re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, it experiences heat of up to 21,140 degrees Fahrenheit due to friction with the air. The extreme heat and thermal energy disrupts many communications devices and on-board sensors.
If an alien spacecraft experiences those same effects, the moment of entry into our atmosphere would be a great time to use a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, intercepting incoming spacecraft that, without sensors, would be difficult to see coming.
Then, we prepare for phase three.
This wouldn’t be our first choice if our aim is to survive.
(U.S. Department of Defense)
Phase 3, Option 1 — Nukes
If the invading aliens are anything like us, they’re probably coming to Earth to colonize it. In that case, we could prepare all of our nuclear weapons and hold our own planet hostage.
If these aliens are, in fact, hostile and wish to cleanse the planet of our filthiness, then we threaten to detonate the nukes, which would render the planet uninhabitable and many of our resources unusable.
If our invaders are coming from a distant planet, light years away, their continued siege might prove very costly. After all, interstellar logistics are probably pretty complex. So, humans could resort to making life on Earth as nightmarish as possible by operating as small, guerrilla outfits.
It’d be something like the Vietnam War. Over time, the cost of war may eclipse any potential rewards, and the aliens will withdraw… hopefully.
In combat, logistic resources are arguably the most important assets needed to sustain soldiers. “Beans and Bullets” is a common Army phrase utilized for decades that puts a special emphasis behind the importance of logisticians and their capabilities.
Since arriving into theater soldiers of the 824th Rigger detachment, North Carolina National Guard, and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade have teamed up to tackle the demanding requirements of rigging equipment and air dropping resources to sustain the warfighter.
Aerial resupply operations is a valuable asset to U.S. and NATO Coalition Forces in Afghanistan. It is the most reliable means of distribution when ground transportation and alternate means have been exhausted. Aerial resupply enable warfighters in austere locations to accomplish their mission and other objectives.
“Aerial delivery is extremely vital and essential to mission success,” said Chief Warrant Officer Two Freddy Reza, an El Paso Texas native, and the senior airdrop systems technician with the 101st RSSB. “Soldiers in austere environments depend on us to get them food, water, and other resources they need to stay in the fight.”
Soldiers of the 824th Quartermaster Company and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade load rigged pallets of supplies on to a C-130 aircraft. Soldiers conduct their final aerial inspection with Air Force loadmasters before delivery.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford)
All airdrop missions require approval authority through an operation order. Once approved, parachute riggers from both units work diligently to get the classes of supplies bundled and rigged on pallets for aerial delivery in under hours 24 hours.
Since arriving to Afghanistan, this team has delivered more than 150,000 pounds of supplies varying from food, water, and construction material. Mission dependent, sometimes the rigger support team is responsible for filling the request of more than three dozen bundles, carefully packing the loads and cautiously inspecting the pallets before pushing them out for delivery.
Aerial delivery operations have substantially contributed to the success of enduring expeditionary advisory packages and aiding the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade while they train, advise, and assist Afghan counterparts.
“This deployment has helped developed me to expand my knowledge as a parachute rigger,” said Spc. Kiera Butler, a Panama City, Florida native and Parachute Rigger with the 824th Quartermaster Company. “This job has a profound impact on military personnel regardless of the branch. I take pride in knowing I’m helping them carry out their mission.”
Item preservation is important; depending on the classes of supply, some items are rigged and prepared in non-conventional locations. Regardless of the location the rigger support team does everything in their power to ensure recipients receive grade “A” quality.
“During the summer months it would sometimes be 107 degrees, with it being so hot we didn’t want the food to spoil so we rigged in the refrigerator. This allowed the supplies to stay cold until it was time to be delivered,” said Butler. “It was a fun experience and we want to do whatever we can to preserve the supplies for the Soldiers receiving it.”
Soldiers of the 824th Quartermaster Company and the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade rigged several bundles of food and water at the Bagram, Afghanistan rigger shed. The rigged supplies will be loaded on to an aircraft and delivered to the requesting unit.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford)
The rigger support team continuously strives for efficiency. Through meticulous training, they have been able to execute emergency resupply missions utilizing Information Surveillance Reconnaissance feed. This capability allows the rigger support team to observe the loads being delivered, ensuring it lands in the correct location.
When they are not supplying warfighters with supplies, Reza and his team conduct rodeos to train, advise and assist members of the Afghan National Army logistical cell, and NATO counterparts on how to properly rig and inspect loads for aerial resupply.
“During training we express how important attention to detail is, being meticulous is the best way to ensure the load won’t be compromised when landing,” said Reza. “Overall it was a great opportunity to train and educate our Afghan National Army counterparts on aerial delivery operations.
This training will enable the Afghan National Army logistics cell to provide low cost low altitude — LCLA loads to their counterparts on the ground, utilizing C-208 aircrafts. This training is vital to the progress of the ANA logistics cell as they continue to grow and become more efficient.
QUANTICO, Va. — The Marine Corps has released a bold new operational document that projects a future fight against a high-end adversary that could nullify many of the advantages U.S. forces have enjoyed for decades, and proscribes an extensive series of actions the Marines must take to prepare for that conflict.
The Marine Corps Operating Concept is subtitled “How an Expeditionary Force Operates in the 21st Century,” and strongly reaffirms the Corps’ traditional ties with the Navy.
It also revitalizes the post-Vietnam concept of “maneuver warfare,” but modernizes it by adding cyber and information operations to the use of rapid movement around enemy strong points and employment of kinetic force to confound the adversary’s command and control.
U.S. Marines with Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Europe laugh during down-time, after completing an M240B machine gun range as part of Exercise Platinum Lynx at Babadag Training Area, Romania, Sept. 27, 2016. Multiple nations from across Eastern Europe, and the U.S., participated in the exercise designed to enhance warfighting capabilities and build relationships from an international level, all the way down to a platoon level. (Photo from U.S. Marine Corps)
Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller ordered the new strategic look, which was released Sept. 28 at the 2016 Modern Day Marine Expo here, and said its primary goal was to assure that any future Marine “doesn’t have a fair fight,” but is dominant.
The MOC is a replacement for the Expeditionary Force 21 operational guide released in 2014 under then-Commandant Gen. James Amos. But the officers at the forward-looking Ellis Group who crafted it and those who will have to implement it said it goes far beyond EF21.
It envisions a Marine Corps that is able to operate in what Neller called the “six domains,” of land, sea, air, space, cyberspace and information, is prepared to help the Navy retain sea control and the ability to project power in contested littoral regions and makes extensive use of unmanned systems.
“My goal by next year is, every deployed infantry squad will have a quad copter” unmanned aircraft, Neller told a packed audience at the Modern Day Marine exposition.
Neller assured the assembled Marines that the new document does not mean they are “fixing something” or the Corps is “broken.”
But, he reminded them, since 2001 “we have been fighting an insurgency.” Although those insurgents were brave and tenacious, they did not have electronic warfare capabilities, or an air force or armor. And “they didn’t have the ability to take down our networks, to deny our comms” and they “didn’t have a sophisticated information operations plan to deceive not only us, but our citizens.”
“What we’re trying to do with the MOC,” Neller said, is to look at their organization, training and warfighting doctrine and make the changes so “if we’re going to fight somebody that has this capabilities set” the individual Marine has what is needed “to make sure it’s not a fair fight.”
The MOC contains a lengthy list of future capabilities the Corps is expected to require for that future high-end fight. It includes the ability to fight in “complex terrain,” which includes congested urban settings; can match the global technology proliferation; can use information as a weapon and can win the “battle of signatures,” which means controlling its own electronic emissions to avoid being detected and finding and countering the enemy’s.
The MOC supports a point Neller has stressed, that future Marines be prepared to operate without sophisticated long-range communications, intelligence support and navigation aids because a high-tech enemy could disrupt them.
That could complicate some of the missions the MOC, including distributed operations by small units, or using landing forces to seize and hold “expeditionary advanced bases” on an enemy’s coast line to disrupt the sensors and weapons that could deny naval forces access.
The document also emphasizes the need to integrate Marine capabilities and operations with the Navy, Special Operations Command and the joint force.
And it sets out a list of “critical tasks” required to prepare the Corps for the future.
Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, the deputy commandant for combat development and integration, said his command, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, the training and education and acquisition commands all will have major challenges in executing the MOC’s vision.
Neller urged the Marines in the audience to read the MOC and provide feedback and criticism. He acknowledged that the document may not have all the right answers and he expects they will have to make changes to it.
But, he said: “What we won’t do is stay the same. The world is changing too fast.”
A “ridiculous mistake” is believed to have compromised the security of South Korea’s defense network, exposing critical military secrets, a South Korean lawmaker revealed Wednesday.
North Korean hackers are suspected to have been behind the theft of a massive cache of classified military documents late last year, including allied war plans. The plans detailed strategic operations to eliminate North Korean leadership in the event of a conflict, among other things, Minjoo Party Rep. Rhee Cheol-hee revealed Tuesday. The South Korean defense ministry initially claimed that nothing important had been compromised.
The hackers first breached the South Korean firm Hauri, Inc., which makes the antivirus software used by the South Korean military, The Wall Street Journal reports. The North’s cyber warriors then embedded malware into the antivirus software, facilitating access to military servers. The security breach was also possible because a connector jack connecting the secure military intranet to the internet was accidentally left in place after maintenance work at South Korea’s new military data center, Rhee explained.
The intranet was connected to the internet for more than a year, leaving secure networks exposed and vulnerable to attack. “It’s a ridiculous mistake,” Rhee stressed to the WSJ Wednesday. “They should have removed the connector jack immediately after maintenance work.”
North Korea has invested in asymmetric warfare capabilities, such as cyberwarfare, to give it a fighting chance against the superior conventional military capabilities of the U.S. and its allies. The North is believed to have several thousand hackers and support staff in its cyber divisions.
The rogue regime reportedly tried to infiltrate the networks of American power companies through peculiar “spearphishing” attacks, NBC reported Wednesday.
The North is believed to have perpetrated the infamous Sony Pictures hack, incapacitated and stolen millions of dollars from top banks, negatively impacted hundreds of thousands of computers worldwide through the spread of ransomware, and disrupted numerous systems across South Korea.
The attacks linked to North Korea appear to have been designed for interference with the distribution of noticeably anti-North Korea productions, the acquisition of funds as the international community increases economic pressure on the regime, espionage, and possible retaliation.
To better counter North Korean cyber threats and avoid costly mistakes like the one that led to the loss of important war plans, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo has ordered the military to take additional precautions. he shifted the blame to the previous administration and announced that the military will complete a review of the situation.
So, check out six things officers love but enlisted troops can’t stand:
6. Taking orders from an officer we don’t trust
Yes, we understand we swore an oath to obey the orders of those appointed over us — but holy sh*t have we taken some lousy orders from officers.
5. Officer-led PT
It’s no secret that when a commanding officer wants to lead morning PT, morale lowers until the session is over. In a grunt platoon, we like to sh*t talk one another as motivation to gain that extra push-up or pull-up.
But, once the “brass” is on deck, the verbiage changes and the enlisted just want to finish up the mandatory run so they can go eat chow and play Call of Duty in their barracks.
4. When a boot officer wants to be included in every single detail
Newbie officers typically want to learn every aspect of their job — which is a good thing. But, something this means they want to be involved in every meeting and a double check everyone’s work.
3. Army-Navy games
Active duty enlisted troops don’t truly want to cheer for a cadet or a midshipman who they could have to potentially have to answer to one day.
2. Having their sh*t pre-staged for them
At times, enlisted troops become personnel assistants even though it’s not in their job description. When grunts head out to the field, some officers require their tents and other amenities be set up prior to their arrival — and guess who is called upon to set that sh*t up?
“A U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian Su-27,” the Navy statement read.
“This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the Su-27 closing to within five feet and crossing directly through the EP-3’s flight path, causing the EP-3 to fly through the Su-27’s jet wash. The duration of the intercept lasted two hours and 40 minutes.”
The intercept is the latest in a string of “unsafe” intercepts that the Russian military has conducted.
In November 2017, a Russian Su-30 fighter flew as close as 50 feet before turning on its afterburners while intercepting a US Navy P-8A Poseidon anti-submarine warfare aircraft over the same area, and in December 2017, two US Air Force F-22s were intercepted by Russian Su-25 and Su-35 jets.
The US Aircraft had to fire flares as warnings to the Russian jets, one of which “had to aggressively maneuver to avoid a midair collision.” Russia has denied the incident in Syria took place.
Check out the footage from the Jan. 29 intercept here:
Saucier has said he merely wanted service mementos. But federal prosecutors said he was a disgruntled sailor who compromised national security and then obstructed the investigation by destroying a laptop and camera.
The news was announced by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee at a briefing March 9, 2018. It is only Trump’s second pardon, after the president pardoned Joe Arpaio, an ardent Trump supporter and former Phoenix sheriff who was convicted of criminal contempt in August 2017.
The investigation began in March 2012, when Saucier’s cellphone, with pictures of the submarine still on it, was found at a waste-transfer station in Connecticut. Saucier was charged with taking photos of classified spaces, instruments, and equipment in July 2015 and pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorized possession and retention of national defense information in May 2016.
In addition to a year in jail, he was given an “other than honorable” discharge from the Navy.
Trump referenced Saucier’s case numerous times during his campaign — in one speech, Trump referred to Saucier, a 22-year-old sailor at the time the photos were taken, as “the kid who wanted some pictures of the submarine.”
Vice President Mike Pence also said during an October 2016 debate that a service member who handled classified information the way Clinton did would “absolutely” face court-martial, though The Washington Post found it was far from clear that would happen. Saucier’s lawyer also compared the six photos his client took to the 110 classified emails the FBI found were on the private email server Clinton used while she was secretary of state.
The judge in the case appeared to dismiss the comparison, as well as the argument that Saucier was being treated differently, saying “selective enforcement is really not a good argument” that didn’t “really carry much water.”
Saucier was released to house arrest at the end of summer 2017 and said later that year he thought “punishment isn’t doled out evenly” and that he hoped Trump would “make right by it.”
On March 10, 2018, hours after Huckabee said the president was “appreciative” of Saucier’s service to the country, Trump tweeted his congratulations to the former sailor, calling him “a man who has served proudly in the Navy.”
“Now you can go out and have the life you deserve!” Trump said.
President Trump has officially signed the order to begin the process of developing the Space Force. The logical side of all of our brains is telling us that it’s just going to be an upgraded version of what the Navy and Air Force’s respective Space Commands currently do… but deep down, we all want to sign up.
I mean, who wouldn’t immediately sign an indefinite contract to be a space shuttle door gunner? It represents that tiny glimmer of hope in all of us that says we, one day, can live out every epic space fantasy we’ve ever dreamed up.
The sad truth is that the first couple decades (if not centuries) of the Space Force will involve dealing with boring human problems, not fighting intergalactic aliens bent on destroying our solar system. Oh well.
Hey, while you wait for the army of Space Bugs to start invading, kill some time with these memes.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect that the event occurred on a test vessel, not aboard the Ford as previously stated.
The Navy recently got a step closer to getting the first ship in its new class of aircraft carriers ready for combat missions with a live-fire test off the coast of California.
A drone was taken out by Raytheon’s latest integrated combat system that’s being developed for the supercarrier Gerald R. Ford, Raytheon announced Feb. 5, 2019. The event took place on a test vessel off the coast of California, said Ian Davis, a Raytheon spokesman.
The system the Navy used to take down the drone is called the Ship Self-Defense System. It integrates a myriad of equipment that will be used aboard the Navy’s first Ford-class carrier, such as sensors, missiles and radars.
Raytheon program manager Mike Fabel said in a release that the new system allowed for “seamless integration” when its sensors and missiles were put to the test.
Aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford.
(U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Christopher Delano)
“This first-of-its-kind test [proves] the ability of the system to defend our sailors,” Fabel said. “This integrated combat system success brings Ford [herself] one step closer to operational testing and deployment.”
At least five of the integrated-combat system’s capabilities, which are also used on amphibious assault ships, were used during the live-fire event, according to the release detailing the test.
That included a radar that searched for, tracked and illuminated the target; the Ship Self-Defense System, which processed the data and passed launch commands to the missile; and missiles that took out the targeted drone.
The Ford, which is the first in its class of next-generation carriers, is expected to deploy in 2022.
The first in the new generation of carriers, the flattop has faced a series of mechanical and technological setbacks. That has left lawmakers and the commander in chief pressing Navy officials to explain the issues, including those with the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System and advanced weapons elevators.
The US military is researching ways to capture moisture in the air and deliver it to troops as drinking water in arid environments, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) revealed in a recent statement.
DARPA, the Pentagon’s research arm, has launched the Atmospheric Water Extraction (AWE) program to explore ways to extract potable water from the air in quantities sufficient to meet troop’s demands for drinking water in less hospitable areas, such as desert regions.
The US military has troops serving across the Middle East in countries like Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Africa. The military currently relies on deliveries of bottled water or the purification of fresh and salt water sources for drinking water in these locations.
Neither “are optimal for mobile forces that operate with a small footprint,” Seth Cowen, the AWE program manager at DARPA, said in a statement, adding that “the demand for drinking water is a constant across all Department of Defense missions, and the risk, cost, and complexity that go into meeting that demand can quickly become force limiting factors.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway)
The new AWE program will focus on developing a compact, portable device designed to provide an individual soldier with a daily supply of potable water, as well as a larger device that can be transported on a standard military vehicle and meet the demands of an entire company.
DARPA is putting an emphasis on advanced sorbents, materials able to absorb liquids, that can rapidly pull water from the air over thousands of repetitions and quickly release it without requiring significant amounts of energy, the agency said in a statement. Additionally, AWE solutions will need to be suitable for highly-mobile forces.
“If the AWE program succeeds in providing troops with potable water even in arid climates, that gives commanders greater maneuver and decision space and allows operations to run longer,” Cohen said, adding that this technology could potentially “diminish the motivation for conflicts over resources by providing a new source of drinking water to stressed populations.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
For active duty military members, playing video games can help release stress, build camaraderie and offer comforting familiarity in foreign environments. For veterans returning from combat, gaming can reduce isolation, renew connections with fellow service members and provide therapeutic benefits.
Recognizing the unique value of gaming for the military community, Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide Xbox Adaptive Controller units to 22 initial VA rehab centers across the U.S.
Launched in 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was created to make gaming accessible to players with limited mobility by enabling them to customize their setups and connect with external devices like buttons, switches and joysticks that accommodate their playing. The controller, which can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games, was developed after extensive consultation with gamers, accessibility advocates and nonprofits that work with gamers with limited mobility, including veterans.
Ken Jones, the founder of Warfighter Engaged, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides gaming devices to wounded vets, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes gaming accessible to a broader range of veterans.
“People just want to participate, and it’s going to allow them to do that,” he says. “It allows for a much bigger population of people to be included in gaming.”
Microsoft and VA partner to bring Xbox Adaptive Controller to Veterans with limited mobility
Gaming is a popular activity among the military community, but navigating a traditional controller can be difficult or impossible for injured veterans. The inability to game can mean the loss of connection to veterans’ military communities and to an activity that was a significant part of their lives during service.
The partnership with Microsoft aims to give veterans with limited mobility the opportunity to game again, get them more involved with their rehabilitation and increase social interaction, says Dr. Leif Nelson, director of National Veterans Sports Programs Special Events for the VA.
“We’re looking for platforms for veterans to interact with each other, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be that access point to get involved in this world and in the gaming community,” Nelson says. “Gaming is now everywhere in the world, and while people tend to think of it as isolating, we’re finding that it actually has the opposite effect and can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans. I think this can be a tool in the rehabilitation process to achieve a lot of different goals.”
For Jeff Holguin, gaming was a way to cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced after being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2003 following an injury. He’d planned on a career in the military, but that identity was suddenly gone. Facing a series of surgeries and feeling adrift in the civilian world, Holguin isolated himself. He turned to gaming, an activity he’d enjoyed since childhood, and found the sense of inclusion he was craving.
“It gave me an outlet, a virtual efficacy within a world that I didn’t feel like I had a place in anymore,” says Holguin. “I made a lot of social connections and friends through that virtual space.”
Holguin went back to school, studying clinical psychology with a focus on trauma and PTSD. He has designed research for Microsoft around mixed-reality devices and learning outcomes and is also a clinical psychology doctoral intern at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott, Arizona. For Holguin, gaming provided a space where he could gradually reintegrate into post-military life.
“It was a sense of belonging and a sense of safety,” he says. “When you have trauma and you’re depressed, sometimes even just a little bit of stimulation is too much and you just don’t have the cognitive or emotional resources to deal with other people’s well-meaning interactivity.
“Gaming gives you what we might call exposure therapy, meaning you get a little bit of socialization, but when you’re ready to turn it off you can turn it off,” Holguin says. “Gaming provided some significant therapeutic value for me.”
Jamie Kaplan, a recreation therapist at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, has been using gaming as therapy with his patients — about 25 percent of whom have had traumatic spinal injuries — for seven years.
Kaplan, himself an avid gamer, says gaming provides a range of therapeutic benefits. Manipulating a controller and pressing buttons, for example, can help with motor skills. Decisions made throughout a game, from choosing which character to play to which moves to make, requires cognitive processing and visual processing, he says.
“It’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, decision-making ability, information processing, cognitive processing,” Kaplan says. “We can assign a number of therapeutic values to gaming.”
Kaplan used various gaming systems and consoles with patients before getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller last fall. He particularly likes the Copilot feature, which was developed for Xbox One and links two controllers as if they were one, allowing players to team up on a game and share controls. The feature quickly became one of Xbox’s most popular ones and was built into the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
One of his patients, Kaplan says, was able to play with his brother for the first time in three years by using Copilot. “It’s amazing,” Kaplan says. “It allows me as the therapist to make up for whatever deficit the patient has in utilizing a regular controller or the adaptive controller.”
Kaplan uses games ranging from sports and racing games to virtual reality games and programs that allow veterans with limited mobility to try activities such as scuba diving, fishing or hiking. VR is useful for helping amputees work on balance, Kaplan says, and VR guided relaxation and meditation programs can help veterans reduce stress and anxiety — and potentially reduce reliance on pain medications such as opioids.
“I see chronic pain patients every day and tell them, ‘I’m not going to cure your pain; we’re just hoping to trick it for a little while,'” he says. “You’re distracting them from the pain by engaging them in gaming.”
Gaming has been part of Mike Monthervil’s life since his childhood growing up in Carrefour, Haiti, a suburban area southwest of Port-au-Prince. Monthervil’s family was one of the only ones in the neighborhood with a gaming system, but electricity was only available for part of each day. When the lights would come back on, Monthervil recalls, “every kid would be banging on our door to come and play a game.”
For Monthervil, gaming was a passion that also provided an escape from a challenging environment. “It was a very tough place to live. Kids don’t have a lot to do there,” he says. “Gaming made my childhood better. It took a lot of stress out for me.
“To this day, I still talk to the guys who are over there that I grew up with, that are still going through the hardship of being there,” he says.
Monthervil continued gaming after moving to the United States and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. Stationed in Afghanistan, he passed time playing games with his fellow soldiers between missions. But in July 2014, Monthervil sustained a serious spinal cord injury after falling backward into a ditch during a training session, leaving him unable to use his legs. He underwent surgery and spent nine months at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. There he met Kaplan, who helped him adapt his gaming to accommodate the dexterity limitations caused by his accident.
Kaplan gave Monthervil an adaptive controller to try several years ago, but it was cumbersome and difficult for him to use. After getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller, Kaplan created a custom set-up for Monthervil by adding a few additional buttons. Monthervil recently got one of the controllers at home and says it works better for him than any device he’s tried since his injury.
“Of all the adaptive stuff I’ve tried, it’s by far the best one,” says Monthervil, who’s 26.
Photo of Mike Monthervil gaming with the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
The Xbox collaboration is part of a strategic partnership between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dating back more than 20 years. Recent efforts under the partnership have focused on equipping VA employees with productivity and collaboration technologies, migrating VA legacy systems to the cloud and using advanced analytics in VA call centers to give veterans better information to make decisions about their benefits and medical care.
Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. Regulated Industries at Microsoft, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller collaboration is part of a broader effort to improve therapeutic and clinical care for veterans. But its fundamental goal is to harness technology to improve veterans’ lives, she says.
“It’s an example of using technology as a means to a much more significant end, which is a sense of belonging, being part of a team, a sense of reconnection, a sense of family,” she says.
Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, sees the collaboration as an ideal pairing of Microsoft’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in gaming with the vast reach of the VA, which serves more than 9 million veterans nationwide in its health care system.
“Everyone can play games, and we really focus on that as an organization,” he says. “With the VA being the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., we thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring our focus on gaming and the great work that the VA is doing together.”
Microsoft will use feedback and data collected by the VA centers to determine how effective the Xbox Adaptive Controller is in serving veterans and how the device might be improved going forward, Townes-Whitley says. Nelson believes the initiative will serve not just existing gamers, but also veterans who weren’t previously into gaming.
“If we do our job well and we’re able to expose veterans to (the Xbox Adaptive Controller) as a possible tool or intervention in their rehab process, I expect to find successes even in those folks who have never gamed before in their lives,” he says.
A 2018 study found that gaming can relieve stress for veterans, help them cope with moods and provide a way to connect. Kaplan also sees the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an equalizer for veterans and others with disabilities.
“One of the biggest things kids and adults with disabilities face is the stigma of being different. Online, we’re all the same,” he says. “I could be missing my arms or my legs and you wouldn’t know it. Gaming really helps to promote that feeling of normalcy and feeling of belonging.
“I have a lot of respect for Xbox seeing and filling a need for making something that allows military members and anyone who has a disability to be able to game,” Kaplan says.
“I think it’s great for a mainstream company like Microsoft to be the one to take the first step. I hope it encourages other companies to do that.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Over the last 40 years, some classic American fighters have been sold to Israel. These jets, which include the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon, have been the backbone of the Israeli Air Force for a while. It seems that fighters sent to Israel are much more likely to be put through the crucible of combat.
That tradition has held true with the F-35 as well.
“I think that we are the first to attack with the F-35 in the Middle East,” Israeli Air Force commander, Major General Amikam Norkin, said during the conference. Norkin also noted that over 100 missiles had been fired at the Israeli planes, which suffered no losses.
Israeli pilots were also the first to take the F-16 Fighting Falcon into combat. This plane has killmarks for six and a half enemy planes and one Iraqi reactor.
(Photo by Zachi Evenor)
The fighting between Israel and the Syrian regime also paved the way for the much-less-successful combat debut of the Russian-designed Pantsir missile system. In what also seems like tradition, Russian systems find a testing grounds in the Middle East — and fail miserably. In 1982, the Syrian military used T-72 main battle tanks in an effort to halt Israeli operations in Lebanon. The T-72s fared poorly in the battle, an initial indication that they would not live up to the hype.
The Israeli use of the F-15 and F-16, however, portended American success in Desert Storm. Could the F-35’s success be the same sort of harbinger as well? Hopefully, we’ll never find out.