Here’s a question that could change your life: What matters most to you in your life? The answer can start you on the path to Whole Health.
Whole Health puts the focus of health care on the veteran rather than just the veteran’s illnesses and symptoms. It’s a patient-centered approach that considers the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental factors that can influence your health. Veterans examine these areas of their lives and set goals based on what matters most to them. In turn, those goals drive the health planning decisions they make with their VA care team.
All VA medical centers and clinics now offer training in Whole Health and personal health planning, as well as a range of well-being programs.
There is perhaps no photo more iconic to the Post-9/11 generation of warfighters than the one that graced the cover of a Stars and Stripes article in 2011. The article, which was about how MEDEVAC pilots have a single hour to get wounded troops to medical facilities, went viral arguably because of the this photo. The powerful picture was of a critically wounded Pfc. Kyle Hockenberry and the tattoo across his ribs, which reads, “For those I love I will sacrifice.”
The photo quickly spread across both social and print media and his ink became the rallying cry for all American troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It just so happened that Stars and Stripes journalist Laura Rouch was also on this flight.
(Photo by Laura Rouch, Stars and Stripes)
Kyle Hockenberry had always wanted to serve in the U.S. Army. From the time he joined, he had one phrase in the back of his head that he felt compelled to have permanently etched on himself. He graduated basic training in January 2011 and was assigned to the 1st Infantry Division’s 4th Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment “Pale Riders” who would deploy to Afghanistan the following month.
As many troops tend to do right before shipping out, he got some ink. He had the iconic phrase tattooed onto his ribs. By February, he was at Forward Operating Base Pasab outside of Haji Rammudin.
Then, on the 15th of June, 2011, a pressure plate triggered an IED while Pfc. Hockenberry was moving to cover. It would take both of his legs above the knee and his left arm above the elbow. The blast would also take the life of his friend, Spc. Nick Hensley. He was immediately rushed to the medical facility at Kandahar Air Field.
Laura Rouch of Stars and Stripes was on-site with the crew of Dustoff 59 for her article. Saving Hockenberry was no easy feat.
“They began working on him immediately. They started cutting his clothing off and as they’re getting tourniquets on, they cut away his uniform and this tattoo emerged. I saw the tattoo and it just reached up and grabbed me.” explained Laura Rauch to the Marietta Times.
The severity of the blast and commitment of the flight medics were in constant conflict. Hockenberry’s heart stopped three times and each time the crew pulled him from the brink. He entered a coma as he reached the hospital. Rouch held hold onto the article until Hockenberry recovered enough to give his blessing for publication.
And of course, the still proudly rocks the hell out of the greatest military tattoo.
(Vanilla Fire Productions)
Hockenberry was then transported to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas to begin walking the long road to recovery. In time, he would marry his loving wife, Ashley, and be promoted to corporal before being medically discharged in 2013. The pair welcomed a happy baby boy, Reagan, in 2016.
Recently, he has been working closely with documentary filmmakers Steven Barber and Paul Freedman on an upcoming documentary, World’s Most Dangerous Paper Route. The film is an inside look and history of Stars and Stripes. Heavily featured in this film is the iconic photo and the incredibly badass life of Kyle Hockenberry.
In the lead up to American involvement of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt committed his administration to a “Germany-First” policy if the U.S. entered the war. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it shook his commitment, but he stuck to it. Although, in his rush to take the pressure off the U.K. and the Soviet Union, he almost pressed American forces into a doomed invasion.
Workers assemble fighter aircraft at Wheatfield, New York.
The American war machine had to shake itself awake at the start of 1942. While the industrial base had achieved some militarization during Lend-Lease and other programs, it would need a lot more time to produce even the tools necessary to make all the vehicles, uniforms, and even food necessary to help the troops succeed in battle.
And those troops needed to be trained, but almost as importantly, many of the military leaders needed to get seasoned in combat. There were generals with limited experience from World War I and plenty of mid-career officers and NCOs who had never fought in actual battle.
But there was limited time to ramp up. England was barely staving off defeat, beating back German attack after attack in the air to keep them from crossing the English Channel. And the Soviet Union was facing 225 German divisions on the Eastern Front. According to Rick Atkinson’s An Army at Dawn:
If Soviet resistance collapsed, Hitler would gain access to limitless oil reserves in the Caucasus and Middle East, and scores of Wehrmacht divisions now fighting in the east could be shifted to reinforce the west. The war could last a decade, War Department analysts believed, and the United States would have to field at least 200 divisions….
Russian anti-tank infantrymen in the important Battle of Kursk. Soviet troops were reliant on American arms for much of World War II, but there sacrifice in blood inflicted the lion share of casualties against Nazi Germany.
(Cassowary Colorizations, CC BY 2.0)
To get the pressure off the Soviet Union and ensure it survived, thereby keeping hundreds of German divisions tied up, Roosevelt committed U.S. forces to a 1942 invasion. And his top officers, especially the new Commander in Chief, United States Fleet, Adm. Ernest J. King, told Roosevelt that the American invasion had to be made at France.
And this made some sense. While Great Britain was lobbying for help in North Africa in order to keep Italy from taking the oil fields there, invading North Africa would pull few or no troops from the Eastern Front. And while the oil fields in North Africa were important, the Italian military hammering there was less of a threat than the German attacks on the Soviet Union.
And attacks into Europe could be driven home straight into Berlin. A landing in France or Denmark would be about 500 miles or less from Hitler’s capital as soon as it landed, a serious threat to Germany. But a landing in Africa would be 1,000 miles or more away and would require multiple amphibious landings to get into Africa and then on to Europe.
King and other senior leaders like Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. George C. Marshall thought it would be a waste of time and resources.
And so planning went into effect for Operation Sledgehammer, the 1942 Allied invasion of France. But the British officers immediately started to campaign against the attack. They had already been pushed off the continent, and they knew they didn’t have the forces, and that America didn’t have the forces, to take and hold the ground.
Germany had over 24 divisions in France. For comparison, the actual D-Day landings and follow-on assault in 1944 were made with only nine divisions with additional smaller units. And that was after the military was able to procure thousands of landing craft and planes to deliver those troops. In 1942, many of those tools weren’t ready.
And, the timeline forced planners to look for a Fall landing. The Atlantic and the English Channel in the Fall are susceptible to some of the worst storms a landing could face. High winds and surging seas could swamp landing craft and destabilize the naval artillery needed to support landings.
Worse for Britain: a failed landing across the channel in 1942 would result in bodies floating in that body of water by the thousands or tens of thousands. And if Germany successfully bottled the landing up and then slaughtered the Allied troops day by day, then those bodies could have been visible on the English coast for days and weeks.
Americans with the 45th Infantry Division prepare equipment in Sicily for movement to Salerno.
(U.S. National Archives)
So Britain renewed its lobbying for an invasion of Africa, instead. Churchill led the campaign, pointing out that German troops there could be bottled up and potentially even captured, the Suez Canal would be re-opened, and Americans could get combat experience in a theater where it would have a balance of forces in its favor rather than fighting where it could be overwhelmed before it could learn valuable lessons.
And so Operation Sledgehammer was shelved in favor of Operation Torch, the November 1942 invasion that landed on multiple beachheads across the northern coast of Africa. America would learn tough lessons there, but was ultimately successful.
Unfortunately, that hope of isolating and capturing the German force would be partially prevented by a German escape at Messina where many Nazi troops made it across to Sicily. But the Allies took the oil fields in Africa, took Sicily, and landed in Italy, building the experience needed to land in France in 1944.
Meanwhile, America sent as much industrial support to the Soviet Union as it could to keep it from falling, and it was successful, largely thanks to the heroic sacrifices of the Communist troops who turned back the Axis troops at Stalingrad, Kursk, and other battles.
US intelligence officials are under pressure from the White House to produce a justification to declare Iran in violation of a 2015 nuclear agreement, in an echo of the politicization of intelligence that led up to the Iraq invasion, according to former officials and analysts.
The collapse of the 2015 deal between Tehran, the US, and five other countries – by which Iran has significantly curbed its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief – would trigger a new crisis over nuclear proliferation at a time when the US is in a tense standoff with North Korea.
Intelligence analysts, chastened by the experience of the 2003 Iraq war, launched by the Bush administration on the basis of phony evidence of weapons of mass destruction, are said to be resisting the pressure to come up with evidence of Iranian violations.
“Anecdotally, I have heard this from members of the intelligence community – that they feel like they have come under pressure,” said Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who also served as a national security council spokesman and special assistant to Barack Obama. “They told me there was a sense of revulsion. There was a sense of déjà vu. There was a sense of ‘we’ve seen this movie before’.”
However, Donald Trump has said he expects to declare Iran non-compliant by mid-October, the next time he is required by Congress to sign a three-monthly certification of the nuclear deal (known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA). And the administration is pursuing another avenue that could trigger the collapse of the deal.
David Cohen, a former deputy director of the CIA, said it was “disconcerting” that Trump appeared to have come to a conclusion about Iran before finding the intelligence to back it up.
“It stands the intelligence process on its head,” Cohen told CNN. “If our intelligence is degraded because it is politicized in the way that it looks like the president wants to do here, that undermines the utility of that intelligence all across the board.”
In another move reminiscent of the Iraq debacle, the US administration is putting pressure on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to be more aggressive in its demands to investigate military sites in Iran, just as George W Bush’s team pushed for ever more intrusive inspections of Saddam Hussein’s military bases and palaces.
The US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, visited IAEA headquarters in Vienna to press the agency to demand visits to Iran’s military sites. Haley described IAEA inspectors as “professionals and true experts in their field”.
US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
“Having said that, as good as the IAEA is, it can only be as good as what they are permitted to see,” Haley told reporters on her return to New York. “Iran has publicly declared that it will not allow access to military sites, but the JCPOA makes no distinction between military and non-military sites. There are also numerous undeclared sites that have not been inspected yet. That’s a problem.”
Unlike the case of Iraq and the Bush administration, where there were deep divisions in the US intelligence community over the evidence for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, there is now a general consensus among US intelligence and foreign intelligence agencies, the state department, the IAEA and the other five countries that signed the JCPOA, as well as the European Union, that there is no significant evidence that Iran has violated its obligations under the deal. Tehran scaled down its nuclear infrastructure and its nuclear fuel stockpiles soon after the deal was signed in Vienna.
However, Trump, who denigrated the agreement throughout his election campaign, has appeared determined to torpedo it.
On July 17, the latest deadline for presidential certification of the JCPOA deal required by Congress, the announcement was postponed for several hours, while Trump’s senior national security officials dissuaded the president from a last-minute threat not to sign.
“If it was up to me, I would have had them non-compliant 180 days ago,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal on July 25. He hinted it was his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who had persuaded him to certify the agreement.
“Look, I have a lot of respect for Rex and his people, good relationship. It’s easier to say they comply. It’s a lot easier. But it’s the wrong thing. They don’t comply,” the president said. “And so we’ll see what happens… But, yeah, I would be surprised if they were in compliance.”
Trump said his administration was doing “major” and “detailed” studies on the issues.
Richard Nephew, who was principal duty coordinator for sanctions policy in the Obama administration state department and a member of the team that negotiated the JCPOA said government agencies were producing such studies all the time. He said the difference under the Trump administration was that they were being told the conclusions should be.
“Behind the scenes, there is a huge machine that is pumping up reports and updates and status checks for the administration and Congress,” Nephew, now at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said. “You have intelligence officers and analysts in a bunch of agencies who spend literally every day scrubbing every single report they have got of what is going on inside Iran trying to find instances of non-compliance.
“What I suspect is happening now is that those intel officers have been asked to go to the cutting room floor, [and are being asked:] ‘What have you forgotten? What have you discounted? What have you said doesn’t really fit and not really relevant?’
“I actually think that’s healthy if it’s an honest question,” Nephew said, but he added: “It seems there is a faction within the administration that is trying to lay the basis for getting out [of the agreement] on the basis of cooked books.”
He predicted that intelligence analysts would resign if they were pushed too hard.
“The intelligence community learned the lessons of Iraq hard,” Nephew said. “And the analysts I know who are attached to this effort I am quite convinced would resign and resign loudly before they would allow… their words to be twisted and turned the way it happened with Iraq.”
Robert Malley, who was a senior US negotiator at the nuclear talks with Iran, said that the Trump administration was discounting the information it was getting from its agencies because it viewed them as the “deep state” or “Obama holdovers.” But Malley predicted it would be harder for Trump to ignore the reservations of US intelligence and US allies and drive towards confrontation with Iran than it was for George Bush to go to war in Iraq.
“The main difference is that Iraq has already happened, which means that both the American public and the international community have seen a similar movie before, and therefore might well react differently than the way they reacted the last time around,” he said.
The other principal avenue of attack on the JCPOA being pursued by the Trump administration has focused on the question of inspections of Iranian military sites. Under the agreement, the IAEA can present evidence of suspect activity at any site to Iran and ask for an explanation. If the explanation is not accepted by the IAEA, Tehran would have two weeks to negotiate terms of access for the agency inspectors. If the Iranian government refuses, a joint commission of JCPOA signatories could vote to force access, andIran would have three days to comply.
“There is a mechanism, a very detailed one and one of the issues we spent the most time on in negotiation,” Malley said. But he added: “There are people on the outskirts of the administration, and who are pushing hard on the Iran file, saying they should be allowed to ask for inspection at any sensitive site for no reason whatsoever, in order to test the boundaries of the agreement.”
During her visit to Vienna, Haley suggested that Iran’s past practice of using military sites for covert nuclear development work was grounds for suspicion. But Laura Rockwood, a former legal counsel in the IAEA’s safeguards department (which carries out inspections), said the US or any other member state would have to provide solid and contemporaneous evidence to trigger an inspection.
“If the US has actionable intelligence that is useful for the IAEA to take into account, and I mean actual and honest intelligence, not fake intel that they tried to use in 2003, then I think the agency will respond to it,” Rockwood, who is now executive director of the Vienna Centre for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, said. “But if they try to create evidence or if they try to pressure the agency into simply requesting access because they can, I think it will backfire.”
Some analysts, however, believe that the Obama administration was too willing to let Iranian infractions slide and that a more skeptical view of the agreement and implementation is overdue.
“Asking the system for knowledge of violations is different than asking anyone to falsify them,” said David Albright, head of the Institute for Science and International Security. “This is a highly technical subject and the Obama administration downplayed and even hid violations and problems. So, there is a need to establish the true situation and ensure decision makers understand these issues. Spinning this as equivalent to Iraqi WMD claims is not only unfair but highly inaccurate. Certainly, the pro-JCPOA advocates would love to do that.”
Any Iranian objections to new inspections could be cited by Trump if he carries out his threat to withhold certification of the JCPOA in October. It would then be up to the US Congress whether to respond with new sanctions, and then Trump would have to sign them into law, in potential violation of the agreement. The Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, said this week that elements of the program that had been stopped under the agreement could be resumed “within hours” if the US walked out.
Ultimately, Tehran and the other five national signatories to the agreement would have to decide whether to try to keep the deal alive without US participation. The head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organisation, Ali Akbar Salehi, suggested over the weekend that if the other signatories remained committed, Iran would continue to observe the deal. It is an issue that would split Europe from the US, likely leaving the UK perched uneasily in the middle.
“As a practical matter, you’re not going to have the rest of the international community, you’re not going to have our allies in Europe, you’re certainly not going to have the Russians and the Chinese coming along with us to reimpose real pressure on the Iranians,” Cohen said. “So you’ll have this fissure between the United States and essentially the rest of the world in trying to reinstate pressure on Iran.”
As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get caught up in what we see as the success of others, but if social media has taught us anything, it’s that perception and reality are often quite different. Air Force veteran and founder, Charlynda Scales, wants more entrepreneurs to realize this.
From Scales’ experience, when we see someone achieve what appears to be significantly more than what we’ve accomplished, it sometimes makes us think we must be doing something wrong. Or maybe we aren’t smart enough or working hard enough. But more often than not, it’s none of that. It’s simply the fact that we’re only seeing the carefully crafted picture that person wanted you to see.
She says that despite her success, the reality of her situation behind the scenes was often far different than what other people assumed. They would see her activity on social channels, speaking at events and being featured by the media, and assume that her company was larger and generating significantly more revenue than it was.
She recalls a particular situation that exemplified this when she was asked to participate in an event hosted by Hill Vets. She had just left an unhealthy relationship taking only her clothes with her, was sleeping on a cot in an unfurnished apartment, and got a free makeover at the makeup counter in the mall before the event. She even wore a dress that she bought for $700, carefully tucking the tag away so that she could later return it after the event.
Seasoned entrepreneurs can relate to this experience, but many new founders don’t yet understand that the reality of entrepreneurship is often nothing like the glossy image we see on the surface.
There’s a lot of hard work, failure, challenges and disappointment behind the scenes. In many ways, it’s a lot like the military in that you need to be there for the right reasons. You need a powerful “why” to drive you through the hard times.
“You don’t have to feel qualified to be qualified to accomplish a goal or carry out a mission.”
Scales’ path was no surprise to anyone who knew her—after ROTC at Clemson University, she commissioned in the Air Force and became the fourth generation of veterans in her family. In fact, her company was named in honor of her grandfather, Charlie “Mutt” Ferrell Jr., who was also an Air Force veteran and served in Vietnam and Korea.
Scales then started Mutt’s Sauce while stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, with the only remaining copy of a recipe that had been handed down by her grandfather.
Her business grew rapidly from there, but her journey also included a number of challenges along the way.
Initially, she started by working with the local Amish community to handle contract manufacturing for her products in batches of 700-1000 bottles at a time, which she would then pick up and deliver herself. She quickly outgrew their capabilities and began seeking manufacturers who could handle a larger volume. Since then, she’s had to switch manufacturers three times to handle her consistently growing volume.
She sold just 18,000 bottles in 2018, followed by 36,000 in 2019, and then like most of us, was blindsided in 2020 by COVID. While she was already working on building a stronger online presence, this global event forced her to make a massive and immediate pivot, going all-in on e-commerce. Today, her products can be found on her own website and in several retail stores.
But Scales doesn’t attribute her success only to herself—she says she had a lot of help along the way, and she’s a huge believer in collaboration and mentorship because she’s experienced the leverage they create first-hand.
Unsurprising to most veterans, upwards of 90% of her collaboration comes from fellow veterans, many of whom she met through the Military Influencer Conference. But she has also collaborated with and received mentoring from industry titans like Daymond John, who was so impressed with what she had accomplished that he made her a Rise and Grind ambassador and included her in his latest book, Powershift.
In 2017, she learned about another opportunity for collaboration—the Heroes to CEOs grant, run by Bob Evans Farms. Candidates had to submit a video telling a compelling story about their business’s veteran backstory for a chance to win a $25,000 grant.
Mike Townsley, CEO of Bob Evans Farms, explained that the program is their way to carry on the spirit of Bob Evans, the company’s late founder. “He had a soft spot for the military and veterans because he served in the Army,” Townsley said.
For the second annual Heroes to CEOs contest, in addition to the grant, three finalists won a trip to New York City where they also received mentoring from Bob Evans Farms executives and a half-day coaching session with Shark Tank judge Daymond John. “He’s equipped to teach them ways to gain momentum that are unique to an entrepreneur,” Townsley said. “It’s so much more different starting a small business wearing many hats, versus a large corporation that I run.”
Scales, who was an Air Force Reservist at the time, was one of the finalists.
“I answered a call from an unknown number,” she said, “and it was Daymond John telling me I won the contest. I just lost it. I cried.”
But she’s most passionate about collaborating with fellow veterans.
One of those veterans was Molly Mae Potter, who won Ms. Veteran America in 2016, a contest where Scales was 2nd Runner Up. Potter and Scales attended the Military Influencer Conference together and served as ambassadors for Final Salute, an organization that helps house homeless female veterans.
“My grandfather taught me humility will take you further than money,” Scales said.
With her tenacity, collaboration with fellow veterans, mentorship from entrepreneurs like Daymond John and grant money from Bob Evans Farms, Charlynda managed to scale her company from a meager $30,000 its first year to almost $80,000 in 2019.
“I do it because my grandfather sacrificed so much for his family — because I’m fourth-generation military, and that means something. Because my mother gave up everything so I could get an education. Because everything is connected and things happen for a reason. I tell people all the time they need to spend some time understanding that reason – to harness their why – so that they can walk in their purpose.”
Almost 70% of Americans surveyed in a recent online poll said soldiers are more trustworthy than judges, police and Transportation Security Administration agents.
SafeHome.org, a company that researches and reviews security products and services, conducted the survey of more than 1,000 Americans through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), a virtual job outsourcing platform often used to conduct studies. Survey recipients were asked specifically about soldiers, but the word was intended to represent all U.S. troops.
Gesa Pannenborg, the survey’s project manager, said SafeHome.org wanted to study how people relate to those in authority or power positions during this “particularly divisive time” in American history.
“We were surprised by the extent to which our politics may influence how we interact with authority figures in our daily lives — perhaps more than we realize,” she wrote in an email.
Soldiers had the sixth-highest trustworthy rating by those surveyed, following top picks of paramedics, firefighters, doctors, teachers and professors, in that order.
“I think we as a country have always held soldiers in high regard, as the brave men and women who protect us and risk their lives for our freedom,” Pannenborg said. “It’s encouraging to see that, while politicians or wars can be unpopular, people, both left- and right-leaning, are pretty uniformly unwavering in their deference for those we entrust to carry on with the fighting.”
The study found 63% of Democrats surveyed thought of soldiers as trustworthy compared to 82% of Republicans. Professors had a similar 20% trustworthy disparity, though they rated higher with Democrats.
Republicans also had significantly more trust in police than Democrats did, but overall, the police fared worse than company supervisors and security guards.
“In recent years, there have been numerous highly publicized, controversial incidents involving police officers,” Pannenborg said. “Some of the results we found were likely a response to that press coverage, and it’s clear that Republicans and Democrats are more divided in their perception of the trustworthiness of police officers.”
Soldiers had the sixth-highest trustworthy rating by those surveyed, following top picks of paramedics, firefighters, doctors, teachers and professors, in that order.
Survey takers’ ages ranged from 19 to 83. Nearly 450 of them were Democrats, about 240 were Republicans and 264 Independents. They took about three minutes on average to complete the study and were paid .43 for their responses.
While widely used for studies, MTurk has been criticized within the last two years for taking advantage of rural workers, and there’s been skepticism about whether robots or people are filling out the surveys.
Army researchers recently tested ground robots performing military-style exercises, much like soldier counterparts, at a robotics testing site in Pennsylvania recently as part of a 10-year research project designed to push the research boundaries in robotics and autonomy.
RoMan, short for Robotic Manipulator, is a tracked robot that is easily recognized by its robotic arms and hands — necessary appendages to remove heavy objects and other road debris from military vehicles’ paths. What’s harder to detect is the amount of effort that went into programming the robot to manipulate complex environments.
The exercise was one of several recent integration events involving a decade of research led by scientists and engineers at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory who teamed with counterparts from the NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Washington, University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University and General Dynamics Land Systems.
As part of ARL’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance, the work focused on state-of-the-art basic and applied research related to ground robotics technologies with an overarching goal of developing autonomy in support of manned-unmanned teaming. Research within the RCTA program serves as foundational research in support of future combat ground vehicles.
An Army robot plans what to do to address a debris pile, full of objects.
(U.S. Army photo)
The recent robot exercise was the culmination of research to develop a robot that reasons about unknown objects and their physical properties, and decides how to best interact with different objects to achieve a specific task.
“Given a task like ‘clear a path’, the robot needs to identify potentially relevant objects, figure out how objects can be grasped by determining where and with what hand shape, and decide what type of interaction to use, whether that’s lifting, moving, pushing or pulling to achieve its task,” said CCDC ARL’s Dr. Chad Kessens, Robotic Manipulation researcher.
During the recent exercise, RoMan successfully completed such as multi-object debris clearing, dragging a heavy object (e.g., tree limb), and opening a container to remove a bag.
Kessens said soldier teammates are able to give verbal commands to the robot using natural human language in a scenario.
“Planning and learning and their integration cut across all these problems. The ability of the robot to improve its performance over time and to adapt to new scenarios by building models on-the-fly while incorporating the power of model-based reasoning will be important to achieving the kinds of unstructured tasks we want to be able to do without putting soldiers in harm’s way,” Kessens said.
More than a year after a mandate for the Pentagon opened previously closed ground combat and special operations jobs to women, officials say the Navy has its first female candidates for its most elite special warfare roles.
Two women were in boot camp as candidates for the Navy’s all-enlisted Special Warfare Combatant-Craft Crewman program, Naval Special Warfare Center Deputy Commander Capt. Christian Dunbar told members of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service in June.
Another woman, who sources say is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, has applied for a spot in the SEAL officer selection process for fiscal 2018, which begins Oct. 1, and is set to complete an early step in the pipeline, special operations assessment and selection, later this summer, he said.
“That’s a three-week block of instruction,” Dunbar said. “Then the [prospective SEAL officer] will compete like everyone else, 160 [applicants] for only 100 spots.”
A spokesman for Naval Special Warfare Command, Capt. Jason Salata, confirmed to Military.com this week that a single female enlisted candidate remained in the training pipeline for Special Warfare Combatant Crewman, or SWCC. The accession pipeline for the job, he added, included several screening evaluations and then recruit training at the Navy’s Great Lakes, Illinois boot camp before Basic Underwater Demolition School training.
Salata also confirmed that a female midshipman is set to train with other future Naval officers in the SEAL Officer Assessment and Selection, or SOAS, course this summer.
“[SOAS] is part of the accession pipeline to become a SEAL and the performance of attendees this summer will be a factor for evaluation at the September SEAL Officer Selection Panel,” he said.
Because of operational security concerns, Salata said the Navy would not identify the candidates or provide updates on their progress in the selection pipeline. In special operations, where troops often guard their identities closely to keep a low profile on missions, public attention in the training pipeline could affect a candidate’s career.
It’s possible, however, that the first female member of these elite communities will come not from the outside, but from within. In October, a SWCC petty officer notified their chain-of-command that they identified as being transgender, Salata confirmed to Military.com.
According to Navy policy guidance released last fall, a sailor must receive a doctor’s diagnosis of medical necessity and command approval to begin the gender transition process, which can take a variety of different forms, from counseling and hormone therapy to surgery. Sailors must also prove they can pass the physical standards and requirements of the gender to which they are transitioning.
These first female candidates represent a major milestone for the Navy, which has previously allowed women into every career field except the SEALs and SWCC community. A successful candidate would also break ground for military special operations.
Army officials said in January that a woman had graduated Ranger school and was on her way to joining the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, but no female soldier has made it through the selection process to any other Army special operations element. The Air Force and Marine Corps have also seen multiple female candidates for special operations, but have yet to announce a successful accession.
The two women now preparing to enter the Navy’s special operations training pipeline will have to overcome some of the most daunting attrition rates in any military training process
Dunbar said the SEALs, which graduate six Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL classes per year, have an average attrition rate of 73 to 75 percent, while the special boat operator community has an average attrition rate of 63 percent. The attrition rate for SEAL officers is significantly lower, though; according to the Navy’s 2015 implementation plan for women in special warfare, up to 65 percent of SEAL officer candidates successfully enter the community.
But by the time they make it to that final phase of training, candidates have already been weeded down ruthlessly. Navy officials assess prospective special warfare operators and special boat operators, ranking them by their scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, physical readiness test, special operations resiliency test, and a mental toughness exam. The highest-ranking candidates are then assessed into training, based on how many spots the Navy has available at that point.
“We assess right now that, with the small cohorts of females, we don’t really know what’s going to happen as far as expected attrition,” Dunbar, the Naval Special Warfare Center deputy commander, told DACOWITS in June.
Dunbar did say, however, that Naval Special Warfare Command was considered fully ready for its first female SEALs and SWCC operators, whenever they ultimately arrived. A cadre of female staff members was in place in the training pipeline, and the command regularly held all-hands calls to discuss inclusivity and integration.
“All the barriers have been removed,” he said. “Our planning has been completed and is on track.”
Salata said the Navy had also completed a thorough review of its curriculum and policies and had evaluated facilities and support capabilities to determine any changes that might need to be made to accommodate women. As a result, he said, minor changes were made to lodging facilities and approved uniform items.
Nonetheless, Salata said, “It would be premature to speculate as to when we will see the first woman SEAL or SWCC graduate. Managing expectations is an important part of the deliberate assessment and selection process; it may take months and potentially years.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated in the third paragraph to correct the school the SEAL officer candidate attends. She is a junior in an ROTC program at an unnamed college, not the Naval Academy.
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday urged countries to immediately stop waging conflicts around the world in light of a “common enemy.”
“It is time to put armed conflict on lock-down and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” Guterres said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic that has placed numerous countries on lockdown. “The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly.”
“Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world,” Guterres said, adding that health networks in “war-ravaged countries” have since collapsed.
Due to the pandemic that has killed over 16,100 people and infected more than 367,000, Guterres said it was “time to put armed conflict on lockdown” and called for an “immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.”
The novel coronavirus spread across the world from China sometime late last year, according to health officials. At least 168 countries and territories reported cases of the coronavirus, prompting the World Health Organization to label it a pandemic on March 11.
China, where the epicenter of the coronavirus took root, appeared to make progress in stemming the number of infections by imposing strict lockdowns, according to its government. The country reported 39 new cases on Sunday, seven fewer cases from the day before.
In other parts of the world, however, the number of cases continues to increase. Italy saw the highest number of coronavirus-related fatalities, surpassing China, with 6,077 deaths. The US reported 483 deaths as of Monday afternoon.
“To warring parties, I say, ‘Pull back from hostilities. Put aside mistrust and animosity. Silence the guns, stop the artillery, end the airstrikes,'” Guterres said.
“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” he added. “It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now.”
The Sikorsky-Boeing SB1 Defiant helicopter program will miss its first scheduled flight tests due to “minor technical issues” discovered during ground power tests, officials involved in the program revealed Dec. 12, 2018. The tests were originally scheduled for 2018.
While the aircraft “has been completely built,” discoveries were made in recent weeks during Power System Test Bed (PSTB) testing, said Rich Koucheravy, Sikorsky director of business development for future vertical lift. Sikorsky is partnered with Boeing Co. on the project.
“We’re working those fixes, and our goal will be to get the PSTB back in operation shortly…within the next week or two,” Koucheravy said in a phone call with reporters. Because of the prolonged PSTB tests, the Defiant flight will be pushed back into early 2019, he said.
Randy Rotte, Boeing director of global sales and marketing for cargo helicopters and FVL, said the program must also be certified in 15 unblemished hours within PSTB — which collectively tests the aircraft as a system — before it’s cleared for first flight.
U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno is briefed about the newest invitation, the SB1 Defiant by a Boeing representative at the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) Convention and exposition show in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14, 2014.
(U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Mikki L. Sprenkle)
The two officials said the unspecified, mechanical issues have not and will not impact or alter the design or configuration of the aircraft, nor should they impact the supply chain.
Program officials previously reported problems with the transmission gearbox and rotor blades.
“Those issues are behind us,” Rotte said Dec. 12, 2018.
The co-developers have been transparent with the Army with the delays, they said. “Only time will tell” if other discoveries during prolonged ground testing will dictate when the flight tests occur, Rotte said.
The news comes one year after Defiant’s competitor, the Bell Helicopter-made V-280 Valor next-generation tilt-rotor aircraft, made its first flight.
In October 2018, the head of the Army’s Future Vertical Lift effort said the service was not worried that the Sikorsky-Boeing SB1 Defiant had not conducted its first test flight yet.
A mock-up of a Bell V-280, exhibited at HeliExpo 2016 in Louisville, Kentucky.
But, he added, “we have been in close communication with the Defiant team and understand where they are at and what they are doing.”
Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin Corp., and Boeing Co. built the SB1 Defiant, which is based on Sikorsky’s X2 coaxial design.
The Defiant was expected to conduct its first test flight in 2017, but Sikorsky-Boeing officials predicted it would instead conduct its maiden flight in late 2018 at the Sikorsky Development Flight Test Center in West Palm Beach.
Rugen at the time said it was still too early to say whether the service will lean toward the Valor’s tiltrotor or the Defiant’s coaxial rotor design.
“We want the most efficient and the most capable platform,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Young Ethan Larimer has always dreamed of joining the Army and following in the footsteps of his father, Daniel Larimer, who was a “Blackhorse Trooper,” as soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment are known.
However, Ethan has a unique neurological disorder — Charcot-Marie-Tooth neuropathy type 4J, or CMT4J — that will prevent him from joining the military. Because of his medical condition, Ethan has difficulty with motor functions and uses a wheelchair.
“Ethan has dealt with his disease very well,” said Daniel Larimer. “He has been hospitalized for weeks on end at times as well as continuous physical therapy. One thing Ethan has taught me is that even if you have some barriers or limitations, that doesn’t need to be your life.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Though Ethan will never be able to serve in the Army due to his disability, he still dreams of riding into battle on the back of tanks. When Ethan’s mother, Victoria Perkins, contacted the 11th Armored Cavalry about fulfilling Ethan’s dream, the famed Blackhorse Regiment was happy to oblige.
Ethan recently spent a day with soldiers of the 11th Armored Cavalry, who helped Ethan check off all the items on his bucket list. Upon arrival to Regimental Headquarters, Ethan was inducted into the Blackhorse Honorary Rolls, an honor set aside for those who have served the regiment above reproach. The regimental commander then presented Ethan with the Regimental Command Team coins.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Ethan was able to see demonstrations of several guns, including the M240B Machine Gun, Browning M2 .50 Cal. Machine Gun, M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and M4A1 Carbine. He also got to drive his wheelchair into a tank and see a helicopter.
“Through his diagnosis and living with CMT4J, Ethan has shown great resiliency,” said Col. Joseph Clark, Regiment Commander, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment. “My interaction with Ethan was inspiring, because he maintains positivity, and refuses to allow his disability to stop him. Throughout the day, he was curious and asked many questions about what we do. His personality, his drive, and his grit is exactly what I look for in my troopers, and I am honored to have made him a Blackhorse Trooper.”
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Ethan was given a personal “Box Tour,” an event where people are shown the ins and outs of training and battles at the National Training Center in Irvine, California. Then he led a platoon during building clearance drills through the streets of “Razish,” a simulated town at NTC.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
Later the 11th Armored Cavalry’s Horse Detachment gave Ethan a tour of the stables and brought some of the horses out to greet the young Blackhorse Trooper. The Horse Detachment conducted a special demonstration for Ethan and his family to mark the end of Ethan’s day.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin May)
“Even though I am no longer a service member, the post and the unit I was a part of really pulled out all the stops to accommodate my son,” said Daniel. “We are all really grateful to come back and see what the Blackhorse has become and to hear ‘Allons’ again.”
A mysterious explosion at a Russian weapons testing site August 2019 released various radioactive isotopes, creating a cloud of radioactive gases that swept across a nearby town, the country’s state weather agency said Aug. 26, 2019, and experts said the mixture removes all doubt about what blew up.
The deadly Aug. 8, 2019, blast at the Nyonoksa military weapons testing range released a handful of rapidly decaying radioactive isotopes — strontium-91, barium-139, barium-140, and lanthanum-140 — which have half-lives ranging from 83 minutes to 12.8 days, the Roshydromet national weather and environmental monitoring agency said in a statement.
“These are fission products,” Joshua Pollack, a leading expert on nuclear and missile proliferation, told Insider. “If anyone still doubts that a nuclear reactor was involved in this incident, this report should go a long way toward resolving that.”
Alexander Uvarov, the editor of the independent news site AtomInfo.ru, told the news agency RIA Novosti that these isotopes were products of nuclear fission involving uranium, Agence France-Presse reported Aug. 26, 2019. This collection of radioisotopes could be released by a reaction involving uranium-235.
Russia Missile Explosion: Govt tells Nyonoksa residents to leave village
Nils Bohmer, a Norwegian nuclear-safety expert, told The Barents Observer that “the presence of decay products like barium and strontium is coming from a nuclear chain reaction,” adding that it was evidence that it “was a nuclear reactor that exploded.”
Edwin Lyman, an expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told The Guardian that the fission products detected pointed to a reactor release.
Russia has been cagey with the details of the accident, which killed at least five and as many as seven people and triggered a radiation spike in nearby Severodvinsk, a detail Russia has flip-flopped on acknowledging.
In the aftermath of the explosion, Russia’s explanation of the accident and its risks varied, several nuclear monitoring stations in Russia mysteriously went offline, doctors treating the wounded said that they were forced to sign nondisclosure agreements and that hospital records were destroyed, and one doctor was found to have a radioactive isotope in his muscle tissue. Russia has insisted that the cesium-137 detected was the result of something the doctor ate.
Russian authorities claimed that the incident happened “during tests of a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes,” but Bohmer argued that short-lived radioactive isotopes would not have been produced by that sort of test.
Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear agency, said Russia was working on new weapons when the explosion occurred, but it did not offer any details, simply saying that tragedy sometimes “happens when testing new technologies.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said that Russia was not hiding the details of the accident. He then said that “this is work in the military field, work on promising weapons systems,” adding that “when it comes to activities of a military nature, there are certain restrictions on access to information.”
US experts and intelligence officials suspect that Russia tested the 9M730 Burevestnik nuclear-powered cruise missile, a superweapon that NATO calls the SSC-X-9 Skyfall. In a tweet about the incident, President Donald Trump called it the “Skyfall explosion.”
Andrei Zolotkov, a chemist who spent more than three decades working on Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet, told the Guardian that the nuclear reactor involved in the recent failed test appeared to be an unusual reactor, which would make sense if Russia was, as is suspected, working with a compact reactor for a new nuclear-powered missile.
Putin has boasted that the Burevestnik will be “invincible,” with “an unlimited range, unpredictable trajectory and ability to bypass interception.” But right now, it doesn’t actually work and might be a greater threat to the people of Russia than any adversary.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.