The Travis Mills Foundation is renovating a massive and historical spa in Central Maine to serve as a retreat for veterans and their families.
The Maine Chance Lodge Retreat was originally built by cosmetics mogul Elizabeth Arden and served distinguished guests like former First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, Judy Garland, and Ava Gardner, according to The Travis Mills Foundation. Soon, it will serve veterans.
The Travis Mills Foundation is a nonprofit founded by Retired Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills who began inspiring other wounded veterans while he was being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after an IED strike amputated all four of his limbs. He and his foundation have continued to help wounded veterans ever since.
Christine Toriello, executive director of the Travis Mills Foundation, told the newspaper Central Maine that when renovations are complete, the resort will have smart home features like voice controls and automated systems to make it simple for disabled veterans to use during their stay.
Mills told the Kennebec Journal that one of the goals of founding the retreat is to help wounded veterans get outdoors. He told Central Maine Cable TV that recreational sports are an important activity he does with his own family, and he hopes that the retreat can give that experience to other veterans. In addition to the main house, the property includes 17 acres of Maine wilderness and horse stables.
Renovation plans call for a crafts room and areas for massage therapy, boating, and other water and adaptive sports, Toriello said. Once it is running at full capacity, the retreat is expected to host 30-45 people per week.
This post is reprinted with permission from NationSwell, new digital media company focused on American innovation and renewal.
Phil Ruddock had trouble adjusting when he returned home to rural Louisiana, disabled by a traumatic brain injury he received during an Air Force tour of duty during Desert Storm. He had all the classic symptoms of PTSD: “I drank all the time, I couldn’t get along with anyone, I kept checking every room in the house to make sure it was clear every time I came home, I got up and checked the locks on the doors and windows too many times to count, I was always depressed and pissed at the world, and I never slept. I drove my family so crazy that they wanted to leave,” he says with a country twang. “I still do some of those things,” he adds, “but it’s getting better.”
Sit. Stay. Lie down. They’re the words that helped him through his recovery.
Ruddock’s now assisting other veterans afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan the same way he survived his night terrors and flashbacks — with service dogs. His nonprofit Brothers and Sisters in Arms is a boot camp of sorts based out of central Louisiana, where he’s teaching veterans to train their own service dogs, all adopted from shelters. The repetitive learning of commands works like physical therapy for disabled vets and gives them something to work towards. Once they’ve completed the program, they gain a loyal companion and a sense of accomplishment, “a pride that you can’t imagine,” Ruddock says.
“When a soldier is deployed or on base, they feel secure because they have all the other soldiers there watching their back. But when they are out of the military, when their spouse goes to work, their kids go to school and they’re left alone, they have nobody watching their back,” Ruddock says. “It makes them very anxious, paranoid. A dog turns out to be their battle buddy and watches their back. It never leaves them, it never judges them, it never asks questions that they don’t want to answer. It gives them unconditional love,” Ruddock explains.
A program connecting veterans and rescue dogs may sound cutesy, almost saccharine, but for Ruddock, it’s serious — vital even. He asks the veterans to list Brothers and Sisters in Arms as the primary contact associated with the animal’s microchip, rather than the owner’s home phone. “The suicide rate for veterans is 22 per day,” Ruddock says, about 8,000 every year. “If that dog would show up at a shelter and they ran the microchip, chances are that veteran is not going to answer his phone.”
Ruddock started the nonprofit in November 2012 after his personal experience with an abandoned pit bull. Following a nervous breakdown, he lost his job as lead clerk at the local VA outpatient clinic. His spent his days walled alone up on his remote property, until a friend arrived with a pit bull for him to train. “She was as beat up and as messed up as I was,” he remembers of his white-faced, brown-eared dog, Mia. “She kind of rescued me.” The dog sat in the passenger seat of his truck on rides into a nearby village and eventually gave him confidence to travel farther.
Within the past couple months, Ruddock logged more than 20,000 miles in his sojourns across the Sugar State, from Slidell, a town across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans that butts up against Mississippi, all the way out west to Fort Polk, an Army installation near the Texas border. Last year, he certified 31 service dogs, which are specially licensed after 120 hours in public, and 15 companion dogs.
At the pound, Ruddock seeks out the calmest dogs. “We look for dogs with a good disposition. We don’t want the ones that jump and bark and get with the other dogs,” he says. He generally avoids puppies — too much added stress — and certain breeds like German shepherds that can become overprotective if they’re not socialized regularly, but otherwise he’ll take every breed from a 20-pound Jack Russell terrier to a 200-pound mastiff.
Training sessions run one hour a week for roughly eight weeks, though he’s come to expect a few absences. “A veteran may have problems one day. Some demons may come up and he may not be able to show up. It may take a little longer,” he says.
Besides the essentials — what Ruddock calls good citizenship for canines (think: table manners for children) — the service dogs learn three main commands that are unique for handlers who still carry wounds from the battlefield. The dog learns to “block,” inserting itself into the space between the owner and somebody else so that a person keeps their distance. “Cover” sends the pup to its owner’s back or side, facing away as a kind of lookout that allows a vet to relax at, say, a counter or cash register. The last is “grounded.” If the soldier faints or has a nightmare, the dog lays on top of the owner and licks his face, prompting a welcome (if wet) return to reality.
Brothers and Sisters in Arms is different from many other groups that provide service dogs. For one, Ruddock doesn’t charge for his services or the animal. His operation is funded entirely by donations; the bill from other groups can run as high as $25,000. (“These guys get out of the military, and they’re just above poverty level. They can’t afford that,” he says.) His classes are all one-on-one, making it easier for vets who can be skittish around crowds, nervous about competition and failure. And every instructor is a former soldier, because, as Ruddock says, “There’s no better therapy than a veteran talking to another veteran.”
Ruddock wants to see the program expand across Louisiana. He’s already processing five to 10 applications a week, and he’s starting to get referrals from VA psychiatrists who can’t officially recommend a service dog but still send warriors his way. “It’s not about the fame or fortune. It’s about that feeling you get when you help somebody. The warm fuzzies, the goosebumps, whatever you want to call it,” he says of his motivations. “It’s about doing what’s right.”
It’s for the men and women, his brothers and sisters, that Ruddock keeps trekking across the bayous, working with soldiers, like the young man he met last month. “You can tell he’s had it rough,” Ruddock says. “He couldn’t even stand the sound of a loud car going by. He kept moving around and shaking. He couldn’t look you in the eye. He constantly looked down, and if he did catch your eye, it was a white stare like he could see right through you.” The man expressed no emotion, until Ruddock brought out a puppy. As if he was emerging from a daze, the man started petting the dog. He smiled, and Ruddock knew another soldier was safe.
The whole idea behind the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was for it to be, you know, joint. That is to say, the same basic plane would work for the U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and foreign countries.
Lockheed Martin is designing the F-35 to meet all the requirements of all three U.S. military branches from the outset, with — in theory — only minor differences between the Air Force’s F-35A, the Marines’ F-35B and the Navy’s F-35C.
The variants were supposed to be 70-percent common. But Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, head of the JSF program office, told a seminar audience on Feb. 10 that the three F-35 models are only 20- to 25-percent common, mainly in their cockpits.
In other words, the F-35 is actually three different warplanes. The F-35, F-36 and F-37.
There are very few examples of plane designs that effectively meet the requirements of all three American armed services that operate fighters. The F-4 Phantom was a successful joint fighter, but only because McDonnell Douglas developed it for the Navy — and the Marines and Air Force adopted it after the fact without complicating the design process.
By contrast, the JSF’s design has taken the services’ competing, even contradictory, needs into account from the outset. The F-35A is supposed to be able to pull nine Gs. The B-model has a downward-blasting lift fan to allow it to take off and land vertically. The C-variant has a bigger wing and systems for operating from aircraft carriers. Even trying to bend each variant toward the same basic airframe resulted in a bulky, blocky fuselage that limits the F-35’s aerodynamic performance.
And the compromise didn’t result in a truly common design. It’s “almost like three separate production lines,” Bogdan said, according toAir Forcemagazine. A real joint fighter, the program boss said, is “hard” because each branch is adamant about its requirements. “You want what you want,” Bogdan said.
Bogdan declined to say whether the Pentagon’s next generation of fighters should be joint. But Lt. Gen. James Holmes, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for plans and requirements, said in mid-February 2016 that the Navy and Air Force would probably design their next fighters separately.
For many women, their newfound freedom signals an evolving paradigm for women in the country.
“We need the car to do our daily activities. We are working, we are mothers, we have a lot of social networking, we need to go out — so we need transport,” Amira Abdulgader told Reuters. “It will change my life.”
Women can now pursue jobs that require the use of a car, like any number of the popular ride-hailing services.
“It’s not only equality, it’s about building our country together,” said Enaam Gazi Al-Aswad, who had been poised to become the nation’s first female driver for ride-hailing app Careem, according to CNBC.”It’s about community … Women and men equally now in Saudi Arabia, not like before.”
While the nation is celebrating the historic moment of progress, May 2018 the government doubled down on activists who had been campaigning for the right to drive. At least 12 prominent women’s rights activists were arrested since May 15, 2018, according to Human Rights Watch. The organization said some of the activists were held on charges similar to those for which other activists are serving long prison sentences.
Women have risked fines and imprisonment for decades
Women have been barred from driving since 1957, as part of the country’s strict interpretation of Islam. While there was no formal law against it, women who drove in public faced fines and could be arrested. While there no clear explanation for why women shouldn’t drive, supporters of the rule argued that driving could lead to women socializing with men, which was seen as potentially disrupting the established order inside Saudi’s patriarchal society.
But activists have been campaigning against the policy for years.
In 1990, 47 women were arrested after driving through the streets of Riyadh in defiance of the ban. The movement grew stronger in 2007 when a group calling itself the Association for the Protection and Defense of Women’s Rights in Saudi Arabia petitioned then-King Abdullah to repeal the rule. On International Women’s Day in 2008, the movement’s cofounder Wajeha Huwaider filmed herself driving and posted the video on YouTube, which received international media attention.
(Photo by Andrew A. Shenouda)
The movement has continued to grow over the years.
Because of her activism, Al-Sharif was detained and released several times, and told not to drive or discuss her situation with the media. Manal has written several books, including Daring to Drive: a Saudi Woman’s Awakening. She is seen as one of the world’s most influential women on the subject. She now resides in Australia and remains an active critic of the Saudi government, using her experience to push for change.
“I got involved with the [Women2Drive] campaign because women were invisible. It almost feels like women don’t exist in Saudi Arabia,” she told Business Insider.
She says many factors have influenced the way women are treated in Saudi Arabia.
“It is institutional oppression, and it’s carried out not only through policy, but also a general attitude that men have towards women,” she said. “We are faced with two evils: The government restricts women with policy, and male guardians restrict women through culture.”
She said a woman’s place in society starts young, with young girls going through “systematic humiliation” from primary school through college. She says girls should be nurtured to become confident leaders, not mired in shame.
Still, Al-Sharif says she has been amazed by the pace of change in Saudi Arabia over the last year. Since Mohammed Bin Salman ascended to power, the country has lifted its ban on cinemas, appointed women to positions of power, and allowed women to attend soccer matches at major stadiums.
“King Abdullah wanted to make changes for women but wasn’t able to do a lot because of internal politics,” she said. “Mohammed Bin Salman has been pushing real change, and has been paving the way for full inclusion of women in the economy and society.”
The 32-year-old Crown Prince has been pushing for modernization and a complete economic and cultural overhaul in the country through his Vision2030 program. Al-Sharif says Prince Mohammed’s desire to revamp the economy has resulted in major policy changes for women.
“The government is realizing how important it is to the economy to educate and include women,” she said. “They have no choice — the economy is our best reformer.”
But Al-Sharif says there is a lot of work to do.
“Lifting the ban on women’s driving didn’t come overnight, it’s been consistent campaigning to change people’s consciousness.”
Al-Sharif says change needs to happen in “all facets of society,” from education to policy to media, and even home life.
She is now campaigning to end Saudi Arabia’s restrictive guardianship laws, which require men to make decisions for women on matters including education, health care, and travel.
“Destructive behavior needs to end and we need to create a culture of respect. Policy can change, but its the attitude that is the real obstacle.”
A bright future for Saudi women, but a long way to go
Dr. Lina Abirafeh, the director at the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, told Business Insider that she has seen surface-level changes enhancing women’s rights, but Saudi society has some work left to do.
“Positive steps are being taken but Saudi Arabia still lags behind in terms of women’s rights. Saudi Arabia ranks very low in measures for gender equality compared to other countries.”
She noted that in the 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, ranking health, education, economic, and political engagement, Saudi Arabia ranked at 141 out of the 144 countries listed.
Abirafeh said small changes in the last year have impacted women’s quality of life, and signal positive change to come.
“The ban on driving had long served as a symbol of the country’s repressive attitude towards women and their denial of women’s rights and fundamental freedoms,”Abirafeh said, adding that there are many other inequalities that need to be addressed.
“Driving is clearly the most symbolic — and visible. This in a society where men and women hardly interact, and where women need a male guardian to make decisions and give permissions on their behalf.”
“These recent changes are important, but they come with many conditions and caveats. There might be a strategy to appear liberal in the global arena but it is hard to tell if there is genuine intention for real change within the society — or if these are tokenistic,” she said.
She believes Saudi Arabia can do much more for reform at all levels, including repealing laws that discriminate against women, reviewing the country’s extreme interpretations of religious texts that deny women freedom of mobility and bodily autonomy, and reaching out to communities to change the patriarchal ethos that exists.
“There is a need to progress gradually but also to be clear that the goal is full equality — without exceptions,” Abirafeh said.
She remains hopeful for the future, but is not convinced that Saudi society is prepared for full equality and the implications that come with it.
“Inequalities are many, and attitudes will take a long time to change. It doesn’t seem that there is broad-based buy-in to women’s rights among the population — yet. And as long as patriarchy prevails, this is a clear impediment to women achieving full rights and equality.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Amid increased Russian aggression, including the Kremlin’s unveiling a new “Satan 2” nuclear missile, NATO forces announced on Oct. 27 that they were increasing deployments of troops to nations most likely to suffer an attack if Russia goes on the offensive.
A Romanian soldier of the 33rd Mountain Battalion Posada fires a semi-auto PKM while conducting a simulated attack during exercise Combined Resolve VII on Sept. 11, 2016. (Photo and cutline: U.S. Army Spc. Nathaniel Nichols)
Russia has consolidated its military control and NATO believes it has 330,000 troops massed near Moscow. NATO has described its new deployments as a measured response. NATO’s new deployments consist of only about 4,000 soldiers.
The alliance will send a previously agreed upon four multinational battalions to its borders with Russia. A German-led battalion is headed to reinforce Lithuania, a Canadian-led battalion is reporting to Latvia, a British-led battalion is deploying to Estonia, and a U.S.-led battalion is protecting Poland. Most of the forces will arrive at their destinations in 2017.
Britain had originally pledged 650 men for the battalion in Estonia, enough for a headquarters and a few companies of frontline fighters. But the British Secretary of State for Defence, Sir Michael Fallon, announced on Oct. 26 that Britain would deploy 800 troops instead. Those 800 soldiers will sport tactical drones and Challenger 2 main battle tanks.
All of the NATO battalions being deployed are made up of multinational forces led by a battalion headquarters from a single nation, according to IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly. The U.S.-led battalion going to Poland is the largest force planned in the agreement.
The U.S. also agreed to a deal with Norway that calls for 330 Marines to deploy to that country. The Marines have previously cooperated with Norway in NATO training exercises set in that country, says CNN.
America has pledged $3.4 billion to increasing defensive measures in Europe in 2017. A portion of the money will go to staging more military equipment near vulnerable NATO areas.
All of this activity comes amid continuously heightening tensions in Europe. Russia has continued to invest heavily in military infrastructure and exercises despite tightening budgets in Moscow.
And while you might think it was cause to spool up the THAAD and drop that plane in its tracks, believe it or not, they were allowed to by a 25-year-old treaty based on an idea that was nearly four decades old at the time.
The Treaty on Open Skies was first proposed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1955. Cold War paranoia meant it went nowhere for 37 years. After the coup that proved the end of the Soviet Union, the treaty was eventually signed by President George H. W. Bush and ratified in 1992. But it didn’t enter into force until 2002.
The treaty allows the U.S. and Russia — as well as a number of other NATO and former Warsaw Pact countries — to make surveillance flights over each other’s territory.
According to a letter to the Senate included with the treaty, this is to “promote openness and transparency of military forces and activities.” Certain planes are equipped with four types of sensors, optical panoramic and framing cameras, video cameras with real-time display, infra-red line-scanning devices, and sideways-looking synthetic aperture radar. These suites are used to monitor military forces, and are certified by observers.
Which aircraft is used can vary. The United States uses the OC-135B Open Skies aircraft for this mission. Canada uses a modified C-130. Russia has a version of the Tu-154 airliner. The United Kingdom has used a mix of planes.
The exact number of flights a country may have varies, but the United States and Russia each get 42 such flights a year.
They can fly any sort of flight plan – as long as they give 72 hours notice prior to the arrival. The flight must be completed in 96 hours from the time that the plane arrives. The plane on the Open Skies mission also must embark observers from the host nation on board.
So that’s why a lot of people in the Virginia, Maryland, and DC area got a good look at a Russian Tu-154 — and may still see more if Putin wants another closer look.
War correspondents put their lives on the line to document the evolution of conflict wherever it unfolds. This dangerous profession built on the ethos of truth has claimed many brave souls the world over. Between 1992 and 2018, 299 journalists have died in the midst of firefights, 170 died on dangerous assignments, and 849 were assassinated — too commonly by their own governments.
We as warfighters are groomed for the trials of combat with training, weapons, and a band of brothers. However, these civilians dance with death untrained, unarmed, and relatively alone. It is difficult for civilians to earn the respect of seasoned veterans, but these reporters do not have that problem. This list is of the lucky ones, the ones who went all in at the roulette wheel of life and broke even.
When you dance with the devil, you don’t get to choose when the song ends.
Ben Wedeman is caught in the middle of a counter attack
Ben Wedeman from CNN was reporting in Qawalish, Libya during the Libyan Civil War. The conflict started on Feb. 15, 2011, and ended with the assassination of Muammar Al Gathafi in the city of Sirte on Oct. 20, 2011. It was a full-scale civil war between Muammar Gaddafi’s government and the anti-Gaddafi forces sparked by protests.
The footage seen here is from a rebel offensive in an attempt to reclaim al-Qawalish. Rebel forces closed in on Brega, supported by NATO air and sea strikes aimed at government targets. Gaddafi’s forces engaged the rebel counterattack with a flanking maneuver pinning Ben Wedeman in the crossfire. The bombardments mentioned in the video are from NATO hitting targets in the vicinity of Brega, Gharyan, Sirte, Tripoli, Waddan, and Zliten during this time as well.
Sam Kiley survives a VBIED attack
A vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) has enormous destructive potential and is the preferred weapon of the Islamic State. In March 2017, the third phase of the battle for Mosul, Iraq was underway. Fierce house to house fighting had turned the city into a graveyard of twisted metal. Up to this point, more than 3,500 civilians had been killed since the beginning of the assault on western Mosul.
Inclement weather slowed the advance of Iraqi troops, but they could take solace that the major districts in the city were now under their control. However, these victories did not mean safety. ISIS was determined to keep the city, and deployed their suicide bombers. Sam Kiley narrowly survived a VBIED attack because, luckily, someone parked a bulldozer next to his vehicle.
Steve Harrigan is attacked by the defeated Georgian army
Between Aug. 7 and Aug. 12, 2008 The Russo-Georgian War took place between Georgia, Russia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia. Russian troops marched on the city of Gori, Georgia after the capture of Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital. In these 5 short days, over 1,500 civilians were killed before a ceasefire was called. Georgian troops, frustrated with the outcome of the conflict, continued to shoot at Russians and any civilians in their path.
Fox News’ Steve Harrigan is at the wrong place but luckily gets out at the right time.
Ian Pannell caught between artillery fire during ceasefire
On Feb. 20, 2014, Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian soldiers without insignias captured strategic locations and infrastructure in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Russia then annexed Crimea after a corrupted vote to join the Russian Federation. Friction and intense fighting evolved from the mixed reaction to the new Russian presence.
A year later, on Feb. 14, 2015, the second Minsk ceasefire came into effect between Russia and Ukraine.
The following were the terms that were agreed upon:
1. Immediate and full bilateral ceasefire 2. Withdrawal of all heavy weapons by both sides 3. Effective monitoring and verification regime for the ceasefire and withdrawal of heavy weapons 4. From day one of the withdrawal begin a dialogue on the holding of local elections 5. Pardon and amnesty by banning any prosecution of figures involved in the Donetsk and Luhansk conflict 6. Release of all hostages and other illegally detained people 7. Unimpeded delivery of humanitarian aid to the needy, internationally supervised 8. Restoration of full social and economic links with affected areas 9. Full Ukrainian government control will be restored over the state border, throughout the conflict zone 10. Withdrawal of all foreign armed groups, weapons, and mercenaries from Ukrainian territory 11. Constitutional reform in Ukraine, with adoption of a new constitution by the end of 2015
No provision has been fully upheld in the Minsk II treaty. Thus, to this day the region is plagued by conflict and the growing threat of the former Soviet Union returning under Vladimir Putin.
One of the most dangerous missions for an Army Air Forces pilot during World War II was a trip flying over “The Hump” – a flight between India and China over the Himalayas. This was true for any aircraft of the era, whether it was a fighter, bomber or transport plane.
More than a thousand airmen aboard more than 600 planes went down in the Himalayas during World War II, but that’s just an estimate. So many were lost flying over the top of the world, the Army Air Forces couldn’t count them all.
If a plane did go down in the Himalayas, rescue was uncertain at best. Search and rescue missions were described at worst as “spasmodic,” and at best, “negative.” The presence of Japanese fighters only made it more dangerous
One transport-pilot was so determined not to get shot down in the Himalayas that he shoved a machine gun out his cockpit window and shot an enemy fighter down.
Gen. George C. Marshall hated the The Hump, claiming it bled the Army of its necessary transport planes and may have prolonged the war in the Pacific by nearly a year. He had every right to be skeptical.
The primary dangers associated with “Flying the Hump” didn’t even register a loss to the enemy. The air up there was just so bad and the flights so long that any pilot – even an experienced one – risked their lives just to fly it. So when an actual enemy fighter did show up, it was bad news for the Air Transport Command.
That’s what happened to Capt. Wally A. Gayda during one flight over the Himalayas. Gayda was a C-46 Commando transport plane pilot in the USAAF Air Transport Command flying from India to China. He was on his way to Chunking to drop off supplies for Chinese Nationalists fighting the Japanese.
His trip was already hazardous for the reasons mentioned above but the weather soon turned harsh, the winds picked up and his crew had trouble operating the aircraft. The Curtiss C-46 was already a whale of a plane. At the time, it was the largest transport aircraft in the world and many pilots wanted nothing to do with it.
Curtiss’ behemoth transport plane also had a snag for wartime pilots: it was unarmed. So when Capt. Gayda saw a Japanese Nakajima Ki.43 Oscar fighter out the side of his cockpit window, he needed to do something about it in a hurry. Luckily, he had a Browning Automatic Rifle handy.
The BAR in the cockpit of his C-46 was the same kind used by the Army infantry in small formations. The Browning Automatic Rifle was a compact light machine gun that could be used by just one soldier, as it was designed to be fired from the hip, while walking. That was all the pilot needed. Gayda stuck the BAR out of his cockpit window and shot the enemy pilot, downing the plane immediately.
It was the first air-to-air kill by the C-46 in World War II. The C-46 would go on to have a long and mixed career in the U.S. Air Force and elsewhere, no matter what pilots thought about it.
Featured image: A C-46 tackles its most famous challenge, the “Hump” route through the Himalayan between India and China. (National Archives)
U.S. Army soldiers descending on a field outside Mont Saint Michel.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Avery Cunningham)
The jump celebrated the 75th anniversary of jumps by three-man “Jedburgh” teams ahead of the Allied invasion of Normandy during WWII. Around 300 Allied troops dropped behind enemy lines to train and equip local resistance fighters.
The “10th SFG(A) draws [its] lineage from the Jedburghs. We’re celebrating their combined effort to liberate Western Europe with local forces,” a senior enlisted soldier assigned to 10th SFG (A) said in a statement.
A US soldier collecting his parachute after landing.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Alexis K. Washburn)
“Overall it was a great jump. It was smooth and went as planned,” one soldier who made the jump explained, adding, “It’s an outstanding experience to be able to honor the paratroopers who jumped into France during World War II.”
The M16/M4 rifle platform, long the standard for the US Army and Marine Corps, could soon be set aside, as officials in both service branches are looking at new options for both weapons and ammunition.
Army researchers are reportedly looking at six different types of ammunition of “intermediate calibers,” according to Army Times.
Those calibers fall between the current 7.62 mm and 5.56 mm rounds and include the .260 Remington, the 6.5 Creedmoor, and the .264 USA, as well as other variants that aren’t available commercially, Army officials told the Times.
The search for alternatives for both weapons and ammo comes in response to concerns with the 5.56 mm round and about the M16 and the M4, which has been continuously upgraded and modified since being first introduced in the 1960s.
The M16 and M4 and their variants continue to have problems with jamming, an issue the system has dealt with since its introduction. Improvements in body armor have lessened the lethality of the 5.56 round. Groups like ISIS have also made use of large rounds that outperform the US military’s ammo. (Russia is reportedly working on its own assault rifle using a 6.5 mm round.)
According to some research, Army firefights in Afghanistan, where the US has been engaged for more than 15 years, have mostly taken place at distances of more than 300 meters, or about 1,000 feet. At that range, the 5.56 mm round is far less lethal.
At least two studies presented to the US Army have pointed to rounds in the 6.5 mm to 7 mm range as better options.
“Right now the [M16/M4] platform we have is a workhorse and very effective in the hands of a trained soldier or Marine,” Maj. Jason Bohannon, the lethality branch chief at Fort Benning’s US Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, told Army Times.
Going forward, Bohannon said, the Army wouldn’t be able to get more out of the platform and would likely look for a new one.
A report last month from the Marine Corps Times also indicates the Corps is looking to replace the M4 carried by almost every infantry rifleman with the M27, the infantry automatic rifle first introduced in 2010 to replace the aging M249 Squad Automatic Weapon.
Currently, each Marine Corps infantry fire team is equipped with one M27, carried by the automatic rifleman.
“Most Marines like it, and so do I,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marine Corps Times in April, saying M27s have been “the most reliable, durable, and accurate weapons” carried by rifle squads.
Expanding the use of the M27 would be the most recent of several weapons changes.
In late 2015, Neller approved the move from the M16 to the M4 carbine as the primary weapon for Marine Corps infantry. About a year later, the Corps started testing the M27 infantry assault rifle, which offered a longer effective range, better firing, and more resistance to wear.
A senior Marine officer noted the M27’s rate of fire as a point of concern, suggesting the weapon, which carries 30 rounds and can be fired in full-automatic mode, could lend itself to ammo overuse. (Both the M4 and the M27 use the 5.56 mm round, and the US and NATO militaries have an abundance of that caliber stockpiled.)
One drawback to the M27 is the cost of the rifle, which is produced by German gunmaker Heckler Koch and runs about $3,000. The M4, built by Colt Defense and FN America costs less than $1,000.
Outfitting the 11,000 Marines — members of companies and fire teams, but not squad or platoon leaders — who would get the M27 under the new plan would cost roughly $33 million, though a Marine Corps official told the Marine Corps Times that cost was not a primary concern during the evaluation process, and the price may change as the Corps continues to inquire with weapons makers.
“I am considering it,” Neller told the Marine Corps Times of the possible change, “but we have to balance improved capabilities and increased lethality with cost.”
As soon as licensed massage therapist Terry Smith starts to knead veteran James Davis’s neck and shoulders, Davis begins to relax.
“That feels so good,” says Davis, a patient in the Community Living Center (CLC) of the Columbia VA Health Care System.
Smith, a U.S. Army veteran, volunteers her hours at the Columbia VA Medical center. She is known as the massage therapist with the “healing hands.”
“It’s amazing what that sense of touch can do for a person. Especially when they don’t get to experience it much anymore,” Smith said.
One veteran in the CLC, a diagnosed Alzheimer’s patient, kept his hands tightly clenched. As Smith began to massage his hands and wrists, the patient slowly began to release his fingers. Another veteran seemed to be asleep in his wheelchair. As Smith massaged his shoulders, arms, and hands, the patient started to wake up and said that he thought he was dreaming about Smith’s touch.
Smith, a Desert Storm veteran from Mount Vernon, New York, joined the military to travel and see the world. Eventually, she found a career path as a medic in nutritional care at West Point.
“This is the type of treatment that gets to the heart of a person”
(Photo by Jennifer Scales)
“Even though I am from New York, I had no clue about West Point or any other type of military posts or bases that were in my state,” Smith said. “Plus, not knowing a lot about the military before I enlisted made each assignment that I had a new experience for me.”
After a varied post-military career, Smith decided to use the GI Bill to study massage therapy. By 2012, when she obtained her license, she knew she had found her calling.
“I love what I do,” Smith said. “This is the type of treatment that gets to the heart of the person. I can oftentimes feel the stiffness in their muscles when I begin my massage, and it is my goal to work it out.”
Carrie Jett, a Columbia VA recreation therapist, notes that Smith is the facility’s only volunteer massage therapist. “The patients really appreciate what she does, and the word is spreading,” said Jett. “Even those veteran patients here who don’t participate in other therapeutic events eagerly await the day and time of Smith’s arrival to get a massage.”
When asked what makes her massages so special for veterans, Smith replied, “I touch them with the spirit of love.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
‘Tis the season for the giving of gifts. ‘Tis also the season of FOMUG (Fear Of Messed Up Gifting). We get it. It’s hard out there for an elf. Team WATM would like to offer you some guidance.
For you, The Mighty:
~ Our top picks for veteran-positive holiday giving ~
12. Combat Flip Flops
For flip flops and sneakers handmade in international combat zones, talk to Combat Flip Flops. Everything they sell empowers local entrepreneurs seeking to resurrect their communities from the cycle of poverty-bred violence and extremism. Seems like a heavy burden for a humble thong sandal to bear, but founder Matthew Griffin has the humor and the heart to pull it off.
11. Heroes Vodka
For the most patriotic, pro-veteran martini you’ll ever have six of, you need a bottle of Heroes Vodka. Founder Travis McVey sought to make the clear spirit of America and hit it out of the park on his first try. A portion of his yearly profits goes directly to AMVETS. Try sipping. You’ll be shaken and stirred.
10. Down The Road Beer Co.
For a 4 pack of the most artfully brewed craft beer ever to emerge from the 3rd Armored Cav, seek out Down the Road Beer Co. Founder and veteran brewmaster, Donovan Bailey, has a winning formula at work in his Greater Boston brewery and now you can sample every variety he makes at his brand new taproom.
9. Alpha Outpost
For a tactical subscription box of uncommon design and curation, check out Alpha Outpost. Every box has a theme and every theme gives rise to a new cache of gear that will inspire you to get out there and use your free time for kicking ass.
8. Black Rifle Coffee Co.
For small batch, veteran-roasted coffee with three heaping teaspoons of patriotic sass, chase down a bag of Black Rifle Coffee Co. Their beans yield a cup of joe so black, a sip is like a sniper round to the dome. Lovely.
7. Ranger Up
For big-hearted, patriotic message tees and lighthearted youtube tomfoolery, look no further than Ranger Up. Founder Nick Palmisciano is a vocal advocate of remembering where you came from and the values for which you fought. And in his spare time, he dabbles in action cinema.
6. Stella Valle
For Modern Day Charm Jewelry made by and for #WomanWarriors, give Stella Valle a look. The Dellavalle sisters went to West Point, served tours in Afghanistan, and took Shark Tank by storm in their quest to forge a successful jewelry brand in their own image.
5. Sword & Plough
For fashionable bags made from military surplus by veteran manufacturers, check out Sword & Plough. The Nuñez sisters went to West Point, served with the 10th Special Forces Group, and took Kickstarter by storm in their quest to make an ethical, feminist, pro-veteran fashion accessories brand that gives back as much as it takes.
4. stubble & ‘stache
For the premium beard oils, mustache lotions and mutton chop tinctures favored by U.S. Special Forces, you need to track down stubble & ‘stache. Founder Nicholas Karnaze started the company in honor of a fallen brother and grooms a war beard for civilian application to this day.
For the best designed, most soundly equipped bug out bag on the market, seek out Uncharted Supply Co. Their seventy2 survival bag gives you everything you need to ace the first 72 hours of an emergency, all in one seriously svelte package.
2. Cappy’s Dry Rub
For a tactical array of spices that will 10x your flame-grilling game, load up on Cappy’s Dry Rub. LA-based Vietnam vet, Gene “Cappy” Holmon takes his meat seriously and so should you, especially considering how much cooking you’re likely to be doing this holiday season.
For all the operationally-perfected tactical wear you could ever need for deployment or rugged homeland applications, pay a visit to Propper. They’ve been supplying the U.S. military since 1967, including garments, tac bags and body armor. Their spill-proof tactical pants are a godsend around the WATM offices…
For the perfect, vet-sensitive stocking stuffer, optimize his beer with Bottle Breacher. Former Navy SEAL Eli Crane took his garage-mod ammo onto ABC’s Shark Tank and walked away with a deal. Almost two years later, there doesn’t appear to be a limit to Crane’s artistic inventiveness with the .50 caliber shell.
For a thorough schooling in the tactical skills and, more crucially, the head game of survival, enroll in a course at Fieldcraft Survival. Former Green Beret Mike Glover will guide you toward competence in the honorable art of self-reliance and you’ll probably only cry a little bit.
For a digital solution to the analog task of getting morale-boosting mail to your loved ones in the field, sign up for Sandboxx. The app-based communications platform transforms your 140 character missives and sentimental selfies into physical letters, and then sends them to servicemembers with a postage-paid, return envelope included.
The Mission Continues
For renewed purpose and service-oriented deployment on the homefront, volunteer with The Mission Continues. They take your hard-won leadership skills and put them to good use in the many American communities badly in need of rebuilding.
Speaking of Propper, they’re giving away twelve tactical packs filled with gear from our Holiday Gift Guide. Click this link to enter.
Attorneys for Taya Kyle have asked a federal appeals court judge to toss a lower court’s $1.8 million defamation judgment awarded to Jesse Ventura, AP is reporting.
The former Minnesota governor emerged victorious in his lawsuit against “American Sniper” Chris Kyle in July 2014, in which he alleged Kyle lied in his book and in subsequent interviews that he had punched Ventura because he made disparaging remarks about troops in Iraq. The jury sided with Ventura in the matter.
Chris Kyle died before the verdict in Feb. 2013, and the $1.8 million judgment was passed on to his estate.
Though the jury sided with Ventura, Taya Kyle’s attorneys argue that Ventura’s side acted improperly by telling them the book’s insurance would be “on the hook” for the damages, and not the estate.
Taya Kyle’s attorney argued that line from Olsen’s closing argument is one of the reasons the appeals court should throw out the award and order a new trial. And on this issue in their questioning, the appeals court appeared to side with Kyle. Chief Judge William Jay Riley even said, “In my experience that was over the line, tell me why we shouldn’t grant a mistrial over that.”
Thirty media companies, including the Washington Post and the New York times, have filed a brief in support of Taya Kyle, arguing the $1.8 million award is excessive and that mistakes were made during jury instructions. In their arguments, Ventura’s attorney stressed that the jury believed Ventura’s witnesses and did not believe Kyle’s.
CBS Local reports there is no time limit for when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals could make its ruling, but they are usually made within a few months.
“It’s my name and my reputation that I’ve spent 40 years building,” Ventura, a former Navy SEAL, told the Star-Tribune. “If they order a new trial, we’ll go at it again.”
A member of the Navy’s SEAL Team 3, Chris Kyle is considered the deadliest sniper in U.S. history, with more than 160 confirmed kills. He wrote about his life, training, and multiple deployments as a Navy SEAL in his book “American Sniper,” which inspired a movie of the same name released in 2014.