Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans

For active duty military members, playing video games can help release stress, build camaraderie and offer comforting familiarity in foreign environments. For veterans returning from combat, gaming can reduce isolation, renew connections with fellow service members and provide therapeutic benefits.

Recognizing the unique value of gaming for the military community, Microsoft is partnering with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to provide Xbox Adaptive Controller units to 22 initial VA rehab centers across the U.S.

Launched in 2018, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was created to make gaming accessible to players with limited mobility by enabling them to customize their setups and connect with external devices like buttons, switches and joysticks that accommodate their playing. The controller, which can be used to play Xbox One and Windows 10 PC games, was developed after extensive consultation with gamers, accessibility advocates and nonprofits that work with gamers with limited mobility, including veterans.


Ken Jones, the founder of Warfighter Engaged, a New Jersey-based nonprofit organization that provides gaming devices to wounded vets, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes gaming accessible to a broader range of veterans.

“People just want to participate, and it’s going to allow them to do that,” he says. “It allows for a much bigger population of people to be included in gaming.”

Microsoft and VA partner to bring Xbox Adaptive Controller to Veterans with limited mobility

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Gaming is a popular activity among the military community, but navigating a traditional controller can be difficult or impossible for injured veterans. The inability to game can mean the loss of connection to veterans’ military communities and to an activity that was a significant part of their lives during service.

The partnership with Microsoft aims to give veterans with limited mobility the opportunity to game again, get them more involved with their rehabilitation and increase social interaction, says Dr. Leif Nelson, director of National Veterans Sports Programs Special Events for the VA.

“We’re looking for platforms for veterans to interact with each other, and the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be that access point to get involved in this world and in the gaming community,” Nelson says. “Gaming is now everywhere in the world, and while people tend to think of it as isolating, we’re finding that it actually has the opposite effect and can increase interactions with other veterans and folks who are non-veterans. I think this can be a tool in the rehabilitation process to achieve a lot of different goals.”

For Jeff Holguin, gaming was a way to cope with the depression and post-traumatic stress disorder he experienced after being discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard in 2003 following an injury. He’d planned on a career in the military, but that identity was suddenly gone. Facing a series of surgeries and feeling adrift in the civilian world, Holguin isolated himself. He turned to gaming, an activity he’d enjoyed since childhood, and found the sense of inclusion he was craving.

“It gave me an outlet, a virtual efficacy within a world that I didn’t feel like I had a place in anymore,” says Holguin. “I made a lot of social connections and friends through that virtual space.”

Holguin went back to school, studying clinical psychology with a focus on trauma and PTSD. He has designed research for Microsoft around mixed-reality devices and learning outcomes and is also a clinical psychology doctoral intern at the Northern Arizona VA Health Care System in Prescott, Arizona. For Holguin, gaming provided a space where he could gradually reintegrate into post-military life.

“It was a sense of belonging and a sense of safety,” he says. “When you have trauma and you’re depressed, sometimes even just a little bit of stimulation is too much and you just don’t have the cognitive or emotional resources to deal with other people’s well-meaning interactivity.

“Gaming gives you what we might call exposure therapy, meaning you get a little bit of socialization, but when you’re ready to turn it off you can turn it off,” Holguin says. “Gaming provided some significant therapeutic value for me.”

Jamie Kaplan, a recreation therapist at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida, has been using gaming as therapy with his patients — about 25 percent of whom have had traumatic spinal injuries — for seven years.

Kaplan, himself an avid gamer, says gaming provides a range of therapeutic benefits. Manipulating a controller and pressing buttons, for example, can help with motor skills. Decisions made throughout a game, from choosing which character to play to which moves to make, requires cognitive processing and visual processing, he says.

“It’s fine motor skills, gross motor skills, decision-making ability, information processing, cognitive processing,” Kaplan says. “We can assign a number of therapeutic values to gaming.”

Introducing the Xbox Adaptive Controller

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Kaplan used various gaming systems and consoles with patients before getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller last fall. He particularly likes the Copilot feature, which was developed for Xbox One and links two controllers as if they were one, allowing players to team up on a game and share controls. The feature quickly became one of Xbox’s most popular ones and was built into the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

One of his patients, Kaplan says, was able to play with his brother for the first time in three years by using Copilot. “It’s amazing,” Kaplan says. “It allows me as the therapist to make up for whatever deficit the patient has in utilizing a regular controller or the adaptive controller.”

Kaplan uses games ranging from sports and racing games to virtual reality games and programs that allow veterans with limited mobility to try activities such as scuba diving, fishing or hiking. VR is useful for helping amputees work on balance, Kaplan says, and VR guided relaxation and meditation programs can help veterans reduce stress and anxiety — and potentially reduce reliance on pain medications such as opioids.

“I see chronic pain patients every day and tell them, ‘I’m not going to cure your pain; we’re just hoping to trick it for a little while,'” he says. “You’re distracting them from the pain by engaging them in gaming.”

Gaming has been part of Mike Monthervil’s life since his childhood growing up in Carrefour, Haiti, a suburban area southwest of Port-au-Prince. Monthervil’s family was one of the only ones in the neighborhood with a gaming system, but electricity was only available for part of each day. When the lights would come back on, Monthervil recalls, “every kid would be banging on our door to come and play a game.”

For Monthervil, gaming was a passion that also provided an escape from a challenging environment. “It was a very tough place to live. Kids don’t have a lot to do there,” he says. “Gaming made my childhood better. It took a lot of stress out for me.

“To this day, I still talk to the guys who are over there that I grew up with, that are still going through the hardship of being there,” he says.

Monthervil continued gaming after moving to the United States and later enlisting in the U.S. Army. Stationed in Afghanistan, he passed time playing games with his fellow soldiers between missions. But in July 2014, Monthervil sustained a serious spinal cord injury after falling backward into a ditch during a training session, leaving him unable to use his legs. He underwent surgery and spent nine months at James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, Florida. There he met Kaplan, who helped him adapt his gaming to accommodate the dexterity limitations caused by his accident.

Kaplan gave Monthervil an adaptive controller to try several years ago, but it was cumbersome and difficult for him to use. After getting an Xbox Adaptive Controller, Kaplan created a custom set-up for Monthervil by adding a few additional buttons. Monthervil recently got one of the controllers at home and says it works better for him than any device he’s tried since his injury.

“Of all the adaptive stuff I’ve tried, it’s by far the best one,” says Monthervil, who’s 26.

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans

Photo of Mike Monthervil gaming with the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

(Microsoft)

The Xbox collaboration is part of a strategic partnership between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dating back more than 20 years. Recent efforts under the partnership have focused on equipping VA employees with productivity and collaboration technologies, migrating VA legacy systems to the cloud and using advanced analytics in VA call centers to give veterans better information to make decisions about their benefits and medical care.

Toni Townes-Whitley, president of U.S. Regulated Industries at Microsoft, says the Xbox Adaptive Controller collaboration is part of a broader effort to improve therapeutic and clinical care for veterans. But its fundamental goal is to harness technology to improve veterans’ lives, she says.

“It’s an example of using technology as a means to a much more significant end, which is a sense of belonging, being part of a team, a sense of reconnection, a sense of family,” she says.

Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft, sees the collaboration as an ideal pairing of Microsoft’s efforts to increase diversity and inclusion in gaming with the vast reach of the VA, which serves more than 9 million veterans nationwide in its health care system.

“Everyone can play games, and we really focus on that as an organization,” he says. “With the VA being the largest integrated health care provider in the U.S., we thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring our focus on gaming and the great work that the VA is doing together.”

Microsoft will use feedback and data collected by the VA centers to determine how effective the Xbox Adaptive Controller is in serving veterans and how the device might be improved going forward, Townes-Whitley says. Nelson believes the initiative will serve not just existing gamers, but also veterans who weren’t previously into gaming.

“If we do our job well and we’re able to expose veterans to (the Xbox Adaptive Controller) as a possible tool or intervention in their rehab process, I expect to find successes even in those folks who have never gamed before in their lives,” he says.

A 2018 study found that gaming can relieve stress for veterans, help them cope with moods and provide a way to connect. Kaplan also sees the Xbox Adaptive Controller as an equalizer for veterans and others with disabilities.

“One of the biggest things kids and adults with disabilities face is the stigma of being different. Online, we’re all the same,” he says. “I could be missing my arms or my legs and you wouldn’t know it. Gaming really helps to promote that feeling of normalcy and feeling of belonging.

“I have a lot of respect for Xbox seeing and filling a need for making something that allows military members and anyone who has a disability to be able to game,” Kaplan says.

“I think it’s great for a mainstream company like Microsoft to be the one to take the first step. I hope it encourages other companies to do that.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just announced the 2018 global temperatures – and it’s not good

Earth’s global surface temperatures in 2018 were the fourth warmest since 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Global temperatures in 2018 were 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.83 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 1951 to 1980 mean, according to scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York. Globally, 2018’s temperatures rank behind those of 2016, 2017 and 2015. The past five years are, collectively, the warmest years in the modern record.


“2018 is yet again an extremely warm year on top of a long-term global warming trend,” said GISS Director Gavin Schmidt.

Since the 1880s, the average global surface temperature has risen about 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius). This warming has been driven in large part by increased emissions into the atmosphere of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases caused by human activities, according to Schmidt.

2018 Was the Fourth Hottest Year on Record

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Weather dynamics often affect regional temperatures, so not every region on Earth experienced similar amounts of warming. NOAA found the 2018 annual mean temperature for the contiguous 48 United States was the 14th warmest on record.

Warming trends are strongest in the Arctic region, where 2018 saw the continued loss of sea ice. In addition, mass loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continued to contribute to sea level rise. Increasing temperatures can also contribute to longer fire seasons and some extreme weather events, according to Schmidt.

“The impacts of long-term global warming are already being felt — in coastal flooding, heat waves, intense precipitation and ecosystem change,” said Schmidt.

NASA’s temperature analyses incorporate surface temperature measurements from 6,300 weather stations, ship- and buoy-based observations of sea surface temperatures, and temperature measurements from Antarctic research stations.

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans


This line plot shows yearly temperature anomalies from 1880 to 2018, with respect to the 1951-1980 mean, as recorded by NASA, NOAA, the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Berkeley Earth research group, and the Met Office Hadley Centre (UK). Though there are minor variations from year to year, all five temperature records show peaks and valleys in sync with each other. All show rapid warming in the past few decades, and all show the past decade has been the warmest.

These raw measurements are analyzed using an algorithm that considers the varied spacing of temperature stations around the globe and urban heat island effects that could skew the conclusions. These calculations produce the global average temperature deviations from the baseline period of 1951 to 1980.

Because weather station locations and measurement practices change over time, the interpretation of specific year-to-year global mean temperature differences has some uncertainties. Taking this into account, NASA estimates that 2018’s global mean change is accurate to within 0.1 degree Fahrenheit, with a 95 percent certainty level.

NOAA scientists used much of the same raw temperature data, but with a different baseline period and different interpolation into the Earth’s polar and other data poor regions. NOAA’s analysis found 2018 global temperatures were 1.42 degrees Fahrenheit (0.79 degrees Celsius) above the 20th century average.

NASA’s full 2018 surface temperature data set — and the complete methodology used to make the temperature calculation — are available at:

https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp

GISS is a laboratory within the Earth Sciences Division of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. The laboratory is affiliated with Columbia University’s Earth Institute and School of Engineering and Applied Science in New York.

NASA uses the unique vantage point of space to better understand Earth as an interconnected system. The agency also uses airborne and ground-based monitoring, and develops new ways to observe and study Earth with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. NASA shares this knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science missions, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/earth

The slides for the Feb. 6 news conference are available at:

https://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/atoms/files/noaa-nasa_global_analysis-2018-final_feb6.pdf

NOAA’s Global Report is available at:

http://bit.ly/Global201812

MIGHTY CULTURE

Inside the 8,000-mile race to save a wounded soldier’s life

It all had to sync up perfectly.

As the heavy C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft departed Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, and raced to its first aerial refueling point off the coast of England, more than a dozen U.S. airmen watched the clock, knowing the life of a badly wounded U.S. soldier hung in the balance.

The circumstances were dire. The special operations soldier, unidentified for privacy reasons, had been hit when an improvised explosive device detonated, fracturing his pelvis and gravely injuring his abdomen, arms and legs. It took three aircraft, 24,000 gallons of fuel and about two dozen gallons of blood to sustain the soldier during the 8,000-mile non-stop journey back to the U.S., where he required specialized care.


Nearly a month after the mission, the troops who participated in it are still in awe they were able to get the soldier home alive.

Also amazed is Asia, the special operator’s wife, who is eternally grateful at the way the military mobilized not for combat, but for her husband.

“I knew that they flew straight over, and I knew that they weren’t gonna stop — unless they absolutely had to,” Asia said in an interview with Military.com on Sept. 25, 2019. “They commit 110%.”

A Bona fide bloodline

Early on a Friday morning, Asia was getting ready to take her son to school in Savannah, Georgia, when she got a phone call.

For a moment, time stood still, she said.

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans

Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, 59th Medical Wing trauma surgeon, and Lt. Col. Scott King, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care air transport team physician, perform an ultrasound on a critically wounded service member during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

“At first, I just stood there, and then I started crying,” said Asia, who asked to be identified by only her first name. “You’re not prepared for this, if you understand what I’m saying. You’re more prepared for a death.”

She snapped back to reality, knowing she’d be waiting for any type of answers the military could provide for the next few days until her husband was back on U.S. soil.

Asia had been with her husband for nine years and married to him for seven. Eight of those years, he had been in the Army.

She knew he’d been hurt, and doctors in Afghanistan called or sent a text message any time they had an update.

Maj. Charlie Srivilasa, a trauma surgeon with the 455th Expeditionary Medical Group at Craig Joint Theater Hospital in Bagram, had already had a busy morning with multiple casualties coming in when the soldier arrived at the facility.

Grievously injured, the operator immediately became a priority.

“We probably had about five or six surgeons working on him at any given time,” Srivilasa said. In the three days before the soldier was transported, Srivilasa and his team performed four operations, including amputations of his right arm and lower right leg.

The frequent surgeries meant the patient needed a steady supply of fresh blood.

Roughly 100 troops stood in line to donate blood outside the hospital quarters.

Over the course of treatment at Bagram, the soldier received more than 195 units of transfused blood, including whole blood and plasma — some 16 times the volume of blood in the average person’s body.

A side effect of the massive transfusions was the possibility that his lungs could fail, said Srivilasa. The soldier also could have succumbed to infection from his wounds, he said.

“He was by far the most critically ill patient [we’ve] seen here in theater [in my] four months,” he said. Doctors knew the best thing was to put him on a plane to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, where specialized care would be waiting for him.

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans

Service members wait in line to donate blood at Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, on Aug. 18, 2019, as part of a “walking blood bank” for a fellow service member being transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

Up in the air

Maj. Dan Kudlacz, a C-17 evaluator pilot with the 436th Airlift Wing out of Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, was at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, with a planned stop at Bagram that August weekend when he got word the mission would no longer mean picking up basic cargo. Kudlacz was the commander of REACH 797, the call sign for the mission, and one of four pilots and three loadmasters. One of the pilots in the group was also in training, meaning Kudlacz was working on certifying his fellow pilot in addition to keeping the aircraft steady.

At Ramstein, 18 medical professionals came on board, including personnel from Aeromedical Evacuation (AE) and Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT), as well as a team out of San Antonio’s 59th Medical Wing. Members of the 59th specialize in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, known as ECMO.

ECMO machines oxygenate the blood and simultaneously removed carbon dioxide, explained Air Force Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, a trauma surgeon and one of the specialists dispatched for the flight.

“The ECMO team here in San Antonio is the only DoD team,” she said.

By the time the specialists arrived, fortunately, ECMO was no longer needed, she said. But kidney dialysis was.

“His kidneys did not recover immediately, so in order to stabilize him … we had to have dialysis continuously,” Sams said. The teams borrowed one of Craig Joint Theater Hospital’s dialysis machines for the return home.

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans

Capt. Natasha Cardinal, 86th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron critical care nurse, monitors her patient during a flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

Finishing up their necessary crew rest in Afghanistan, the personnel geared up for the 19-hour flight. Another patient also came on board; that service member was ambulatory, able to move about for the duration of the flight, Sams said.

Kudlacz said the aircrew consistently monitored speed and altitude, knowing there were sensitive medical machines on board keeping the soldier alive. The pilots kept a cruise altitude of 28,000 feet, a few thousand feet lower than expected. “Over a 19-hour flight, [that] can make a considerable change in your total fuel,” he said.

He added that, had the critical soldier taken a turn for the worse, the plan was to divert back to Germany.

Asia, the soldier’s wife, was praying that wouldn’t happen.

“I was told that, if they would have had to stop in Germany, it was because something medically was going wrong,” she said. Air Mobility Command’s 618th Air Operations Center, also known as the Tanker Airlift Control Center (TACC), stood by to provide backup assistance.

During the first refuel near England, there was a close call.

Connecting the C-17 to the KC-135 Stratotanker refueling boom almost sent the two aircraft bobbing and weaving. The KC-135, flying on autopilot — which controls the trajectory of the aircraft — started to change the plane’s pitch, which moves the nose up or down.

Kudlacz and his co-pilot disconnected, backed off and tried again.

“To make the situation even more challenging, it was at night, so you don’t have all the visual cues of a horizon. And then we just happened to be right at the top of a cloud layer,” he said.

In the back of the aircraft, the medical teams were monitoring the soldier’s oxygen level, ventilation, blood pressure and kidney function.

“Regular AE and CCATT [teams] cannot do renal replacement therapy; maybe there are some that have just isolated familiarity with the renal replacement machine,” said Lt. Col. Scott King, CCATT physician with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight at Ramstein.

With the help of the ECMO team, “I think it was a coordinated and collaborative effort among all of the members that brought in different pieces together to allow this mission to be accomplished,” King said.

The C-17 had eight hours until its next refuel near Bangor, Maine. Meanwhile, maintenance crew chiefs with the second KC-135 hurried to get the aircraft, which had a gauge problem on one of the engines, ready to fly, said Maj. Jeffery Osgood, chief of 6th Operations Group training and the aerial refueling mission commander from MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

“Adapting to the mission is probably the biggest takeaway. It’s just making sure you have everything ready to go with all the people that you need and all the support from leadership,” Osgood said. A backup tanker was on standby just in case, AMC officials said.

The second tanker caught the C-17 around 2 a.m. Monday morning. Together, the two tankers offloaded 24,000 gallons of fuel.

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans

Lt. Col. Valerie Sams, 59th Medical Wing trauma surgeon, performs an ultrasound to monitor a patient during a direct flight from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to San Antonio on Aug. 18, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ryan Mancuso)

“I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and this [is] not something I’ve ever experienced,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Smith, an AE member with the 10th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Flight. The duration and double refuel was not an easy task for the parties involved, he said.

With the amount of equipment and coordination needed, “rarely does it ever work out so perfectly,” he said.

The next journey

Sams, the trauma surgeon, said she’s hopeful the soldier — who has required orthopedic treatment as well as treatment in the burn unit — will be out of intensive care soon. He has months of physical therapy ahead, she said.

Asia is relocating her family to Texas to be closer to her husband as he goes through treatment.

This “is a new normal,” she said. “It’s about four to five months inside the hospital, and then, after that, I would say it’s another six months. So I would say it’s [going to be] a year total.”

Their son will stay with family and friends in Illinois for the next few weeks until Asia and her husband feel he’s ready.

“It’s just a process,” she said. “[But] I feel as though his determination to live and to fight, to come back home, to see me and to see his son has been the number one thing that has kept him alive; and then the good Lord and all the doctors and the medical team.”

She’ll never forget their persistence to save his life.

“They literally put their whole heart in it, their body and soul, and they do what they need to do to get loved ones back [home],” Asia said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Marines will get a psychological operations MOS

Just months after the Marine Corps announced the creation of a new cyberwarfare family of military occupational specialties, the service is once again giving another highly specialized community its own MOS.

Officials here at the Marine Corps Information Operations Center told Military.com they planned to announce the creation of a new primary MOS, 0521, for Military Information Support Operations. With a new career field that will allow MISO Marines to continue through the rank of E-9, officials said they also plan to grow the ranks of the community to more than 200 Marines in the near future.


MISO, known in the Army as psychological operations, or PsyOps, focuses on influencing the mindset and decision-making of a target audience that may consist of enemy militants or a local civilian population.

It’s a skill set the Marine Corps is leaning into in future planning and strategy documents. The Marine Corps Force 2025 strategy includes plans to grow MISO to 211 Marines by 2024, said Col. William McClane, the commanding officer at MCIOC.

The current effort to turn MISO into an MOS has been under discussion for several years; Military.com first reported that briefings were underway on the topic in 2016.

“[Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller] speaks a lot about adversary … perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and how that’s important,” McClane said. “The understanding of the cognitive dimension, how to affect and change behaviors and adversary target audience decision-making where you may not even have to fire a shot — you may be able to influence your adversary and reach that end state without doing that.”

While MISO or PsyOps capabilities are not new to the battlefield, McClane acknowledged that reviews of recent conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan may have caused military brass to realize more effective use of the skill set could have yielded different outcomes.

“I think that’s a good assumption, absolutely,” he said.

As the Marine Corps looks to the future, troops may also find themselves fighting in increasingly complex battlespaces and in a broad range of environments.

“It all depends on the target audience, how they receive communication,” McClane said of the methods that might be employed to influence mindsets and decision-making. “It might be different in parts of Africa versus eastern Europe.”

A new career path

For Marines, MISO is currently a free, or additional, MOS, meaning troops come from other specialties to spend time in the community. Typically, a Marine deployed with a MISO element and then returned to his or her original unit, with no option to continue in the field, McClane said.

“There was no real return on investment,” he said.

What’s worse, McClane said, officials noticed that a number of MISO Marines would opt to leave the service soon after their tour, preferring to practice their MISO skills in the civilian sector rather than returning to their original military job.

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans
Marine Corps Information Operations Center (MCIOC), conducts training for Military Information Support Operations (MISO), at MOUT site, Quantico, Va., Feb. 11, 2014.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexander Norred)

For the Marine Corps, this meant not only that MISO Marines couldn’t develop further in their skill sets, but also that the time and money invested in these troops — reportedly more than $600,000 per Marine including clearances and a specialized training course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina — would not yield long-term gains.

Under the new plan, a company-sized MISO element will be set up under each of the three recently established Marine Information Groups on the East Coast and West Coast in the Pacific. A separate element will remain at MCIOC, focusing primarily on supporting special operations.

While the first additional MISO Marines will start arriving this summer, the plan is to have the elements established at each MIG by 2022, McClane said.

The roughly 60 Marines who already have MISO as a free MOS have the first opportunity to join the new full-time career field, officials said. And they estimate some 35 will make that decision.

Cpl. Anjelica Parra, 21, a Motor Transportation Marine who has the free MOS, said she knew right away she wanted to make the move once it became an option.

“I wasn’t really relied on heavily [in Motor T] as I am now coming to this MOS,” she told Military.com. “It’s a different playing field, because as a corporal I’m looked upon and relied on to act as a lot higher than what my rank is. I have to hold myself to a higher standard.”

Parra said she had to develop her communication skills in order to brief more senior Marines on the capabilities of MISO and enjoyed the other challenges that came with the job. She looks forward to deploying as part of a MISO element with a Marine expeditionary unit in the near future.

For those not in the community, a Marine administrative message will come out soon with details on how to apply, said Maj. Jonathan Weeks, commander of the MISO Company at MCIOC.

“Those that are successful in this type of a job are going to be your self-starters, the people who are able to think and act independently and have the ability to think outside the box and create solutions,” he said. “Those who have a sense of the Marine Corps planning process and how stuff works.”

Enlisted Marines in the rank of corporal and above are eligible to apply, officials said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Syracuse University just changed military education forever

For years, there was one benefit the Air Force had over all branches of the military, the one thing you could only get by crossing into the blue: an associate’s degree from the Community College of the Air Force, a two-year, accredited degree program that integrates all your military training with the addition of just a few general courses. You couldn’t get it with the Army or Navy.

Now, members of any branch can start a similar program to earn a degree from Syracuse University – for free.


In an age of skyrocketing tuition that has Presidential candidates debating if colleges and universities have gone too far, Syracuse University is opening its doors to more and more people, especially America’s active duty troops, reservists, National Guard members, and veterans.

With part-time learners like U.S. military members in mind, the school has created a way for the entire armed forces to go Orange. Syracuse University has aligned the part-time tuition rates it charges active duty members enrolled in online classes to match the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) reimbursement. This means no matter where they’re stationed, if they want a degree from a top-tier four-year university, they can have it without ever touching GI Bill benefits.

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans

The move is part of Syracuse University’s and Chancellor Kent Syverud’s dedication to the U.S. military, its veterans, and their families. Since Syverud took his post in 2014, his administration has taken enormous steps to further serve veteran students and their families. The number of military-connected students at the university has skyrocketed more than 500 percent in five years. The school even employs veteran admissions advisors who help military members transition from the service to student life, assisting with GI Bill and other Veterans Affairs processes. Syracuse even has a number of special programs dedicated to veteran student successes – including veteran-only offices, study areas, advisors, immersion programs, and even legal clinics.

It’s no wonder Military Times voted Syracuse the number one private school for veterans.

Xbox is helping VA medical centers support veterans

Syracuse University’s 2019 Veterans Commencement Graduates.

Syracuse has a long history of supporting American veterans. While the school recently established the interdisciplinary Institute for Veterans and Military Families, an on-campus non-profit that works to advance veterans’ post-military lives nationwide (not just at Syracuse), the school’s commitment to vets dates back to the end of World War II, when the school guaranteed admission for all veterans. Its university college for part-time students was initially created for veterans who couldn’t study full-time. Since then, the school has specially trained thousands of the Pentagon’s officers, photojournalists, and other disciplines in the military. Syracuse even allowed Marines deployed to the 1991 Gulf War to continue their studies independently.

Their work continues, with partnerships to train entrepreneurial military spouses backed by Google, conducting studies to tackle veteran unemployment and homelessness, and even testifying before the Senate Veteran Affairs Committee, no one is more dedicated to the post-military success of American veterans. If you’re looking for a powerful, positive community of veterans to join when leaving the military, look no further.

Articles

This veteran’s PTSD recovery story is the most uplifting video we’ve seen all day

PTSD is the slow, silent killer crippling many of our returning veterans.


It is a serious public health challenge affecting 8 million people — 2.5 percent of the total population — every year, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Related: Every warrior should have access to this PTS healing experience

Individuals suffering from PTSD may lose their families, careers, or even commit suicide. These were the challenges JJ Selvig was facing as it crept into his life seven years into his service.

And the death of his friend put Selvig over the edge.

“An unauthorized absence and an other than honorable discharge, I went home,” Selvig said in the video below. “I blamed the Marines, my family, myself, my destroyed relationships; then Sam committed suicide, and my narrative changed.”

Building on his military service as a foundation, he deployed to Hurricane Sandy with Team Rubicon to honor his friend’s death.

“The cuts and scrapes from broken wood and shingles covered me while uncovering me at the same time, a light began to flicker inside,” he said.

With each Team Rubicon deployment, the feelings of sadness and anger faded as he as he became a leader again. He was creating positive change in people’s lives, and it was helping him become a better person inside and out.

“I’m still human; I’m never going to not have rough edges,” he said. “But Team Rubicon helped sand them down as much as possible.”

Watch Selvig tell his uplifting story in this short three-minute video:

Team Rubicon, YouTube
MIGHTY CULTURE

52 years later, rock legend remembers time in Army

While marching back and forth on a hot Kentucky asphalt parade field in the spring of 1967, musical lyrics began to dance around inside John Fogerty’s head —

“It’s been an awful long time since I been home …”

What he recently described as a kind of transcendental meditation, or delirium, would sweep over him during those long hours marching at Fort Knox, a delirium that afforded him time to think about his life, and his dreams —

“But you won’t catch me goin’ back down there alone …”


More than 50 years later, Fogerty is celebrating a half-century of powerful rock music he has created, music that critics often agree helped shape the mindset of many young men and women during and after the Vietnam War era. Before there was Credence Clearwater Revival, however, there was a 20-year-old man trying to make his way on a very different path.

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Quite possibly his only military photo, rocker John Fogerty poses in his Army uniform in 1967 prior to becoming a supply clerk.

(U.S. Army photo courtesy of Melissa DragichCordero)

“I was internationally unknown back then,” said Fogerty earlier this month, during a short break in his “John Fogerty: My 50-Year Trip” North American tour, including a stop in Louisville Sept. 20 to perform in the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center at Bourbon Beyond 2019.

As a war in Vietnam was beginning to ramp up in 1966, Fogerty walked into a recruiter’s office around the same time his draft number came up. Whether as a draftee or volunteer, he expected that he would be joining the military. When he left the recruiter’s office, he signed on with the U.S. Army Reserve as a supply clerk.

“I was on active duty for six months, but I was in the Reserves between 1966 and 1968,” said Fogerty.

Soon after enlisting, he went through basic training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Between his time at Fort Bragg and advanced individual training at the Quartermaster School in Fort Lee, Virginia, he found himself stationed at Fort Knox.

“It was pretty intense because this was right at the height of the Vietnam War,” said Fogerty. “Every young man’s clock was running pretty fast.”

As he talked about his time at Fort Knox, memories bubbled up to the surface.

“At various times, we had a kind of special guard duty for 24 hours straight,” said Fogerty. “We had to polish all our brass and our boots were highly spit-shined. Your uniform had to be perfect. We went to a different place where we were on for two hours and then off for about eight.”

He said one particular guard duty shift left a mark on him.

“After I had been there only about five or 10 minutes, I had just walked in, there were two or three guys crowded around this one wall. They were looking at Elvis Presley’s signature — It said, ‘Elvis Presley ’58,'” said Fogerty. “I wish I’d had a camera. Back in those days, we didn’t have phones with cameras in them.”

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While on tour with Credence Clearwater Revival sometime between 1968 and 1972, John Fogerty wows the crowds at a concert.

(Baron Wolman photo courtesy of Melissa DragichCordero)

He remembered another time when he decided against going into Louisville on a weekend pass. That same weekend was Kentucky Derby weekend, and he gave a friend of his money to place a bet on a horse in the race — a horse named Damascus.

“I had given my friend but I was always conservative, so I wanted him to make the safest bet, which was for the horse to come in third,” said Fogerty.

Damascus did come in third, but Fogerty didn’t receive any prize money.

“He had bet on that horse to win,” said Fogerty, laughing.

Fogerty shares the Fort Knox alumni stage with another musical great — 1950s rocker Buddy Knox. While stationed at the installation in 1957, Knox was sent to the Ed Sullivan Show to perform two of his big hits at that time.

Fogerty remembered watching that show.

“I saw him on TV wearing his military uniform. He had a heck of a year in ’57. He was part of three different singles that each sold a million,” said Fogerty. “He was with a guy named Jimmy Bowen. On Jimmy Bowen’s record it reads, ‘Jimmy Bowen and the Rhythm Orchids,’ and you assume that was some backing band.

“Well, on Buddy Knox’s record, it reads, ‘Buddy Knox and the Rhythm Orchids,’ and that meant the other person was Jimmy Bowen. [Buddy Knox] had one of the biggest careers of anybody, all in that year.”

While music has played a big role throughout Fogerty’s life, he said no matter how far he travels to perform for others, he is never far away from his military identity.

“Sometimes it shows up in ways you can identify, and you’re really proud of that, especially personal discipline,” said Fogerty. “At other times, it’s just part of what makes you you. I think almost anybody who’s been in the military realizes that there’s a certain amount of maturity you have. You can’t help it; you either shape up or ship out — most of us choose to shape up.”

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John Fogerty takes a break to wipe down his guitar. He attributes his brief military service with teaching him about discipline and teamwork as well as influencing some of the music he has written over the past 50 years.

(Melissa DragichCordero)

His military experience is not one he shies away from admitting.

“Life is what it is so you can’t change it, but I certainly am proud of that time,” said Fogerty. “There’s a lot of insight that you learn about getting along with people and what is the mindset inside the military, and I’m not talking about people who make policy. I mean grunts like who I was who are cogs in the wheel.

“You really do learn how to discipline yourself and be part of a team that helps make things flow because that’s part of your job.”

Fogerty said his military identity also comes out from time to time in his songs. While the most famous of these is the hit “Fortunate Son,” there are others.

“I have a song called ‘Wrote a Song for Everyone.’ It’s a bit mysterious, but it comes from a guy who went through the military at a very emotional and volatile time in history,” said Fogerty. “And a lot of the songs that talk about, or are reflective of my personality — taking note of class structure or the inequality of the way society works — certainly, those are references to my time in the military.”

Some of the songs have a more direct tie to his military background —

“They came and took my dad away to serve some time, but it was me that paid the debt he left behind …”

A lesser-known hit penned by the man Rolling Stones magazine named the 40th Greatest Guitarist and 72nd Greatest Singer of all time, “Porterville” became the first song the Golliwogs released after they changed their name to Credence Clearwater Revival.

The song was conceived in the heat of central Kentucky, according to Fogerty, forged by a young soldier marching for countless hours on a 1-mile square asphalt parade field, dreaming of someday becoming a rock star.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

41 small, nice things to do for an overwhelmed partner

In times of stress, it’s the little things that make a difference. They always are, but they’re particularly important now, as the coronavirus pandemic looms, we’re more or less housebound, and levels of anxiety, fear, and grief mix together into a strange emotional slurry. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and, if you sense your husband or wife might be feeling a bit more stressed than normal because of the kids and well, everything, noticing that and making some small, thoughtful gestures can go a long way. Things like giving them the time and space to take a Zoom fitness class, getting the kids out of the house for a few hours, ordering from that takeout place they love, and validating their emotions. The little things always matter, but in times of crisis they matter even more. So, to offer some assistance, here are 43 small, nice things to do for a partner who’s feeling overwhelmed. This pandemic isn’t going anywhere. Doing what we can to help our loved ones, well, feel loved and appreciated will help us all get through it.


  1. Take the kids to the park for two hours. And don’t sit on your phone for those two hours: Ride bikes, kick the ball, play games — the goal is to tire them out. Give them a solid block of time during the day when they can make calls, uninterrupted, and you deal with the kids. And by dealing with them, you keep them quiet and occupied and tend to their needs.
  2. Create space to let them get their ‘me-time’ — is it exercising? a nap on a Saturday? Sleeping in? Meditation? — and don’t make a big deal out of it.
  3. Get wine and lug it home. Do laundry. All the laundry. Dry it. Fold it. Iron it if needed. Put it away. And do it without telling them.
  4. Fix that thing that’s adding minor annoyances to their day. Are Internet dead zones around the house making their Zoom or Facetime calls all the more frustrating? Fix it. Does the front door sound like a cackling spirit every time it shuts? Fix it.
  5. Take turns making dinner. If you already do so, great. If not, start now. And by doing dinner, we mean cleaning up afterwards, too.
  6. Instead of asking how you can help, offer to help with a specific thing you have noticed they’re struggling with.
  7. Pour coffee for them on busy mornings.
  8. Don’t take longer in the bathroom than you need to.
  9. Tell them you believe in them. Just remind them how strong they are
  10. Give them a hug every day. Don’t forget it.
  11. Rub their shoulders. Or their feet. Or their hands. Actually, whatever they need rubbed, rub it.
  12. Protect their space from intrusions when they need to focus on something.
  13. Plot out an after-dinner walk. Even if the destination is the Old Oak Tree, it’s getting away.
  14. Take something small off their plate — a chore, a bill — without telling them first. Just do it.
  15. Sneak out of bed in the morning. Tidy up while they rest.
  16. Appreciate them professionally by paying attention to how they work — and how they work well.
  17. Don’t try to make them rationalize why they’re overwhelmed. just let them be stressed, complain, and say ‘that sucks.’
  18. When it’s happy hour, ask them what they want to drink. Make them that drink
  19. Ask them if they want to watch their favorite show. Especially the one that you don’t like all that much.
  20. Validate their emotions. Don’t say that they’re “freaking out over nothing.” Whatever it is, it’s important to them. Listen. Understand.
  21. Draw them a bath. Fill it with the nice smelling bath bomb and fancy soap. Yeah, that one. Light some candles. Give them however long to be in it.
  22. Figure out their love language — and then speak it. Even if you think that love languages are stupid and wrong, it will help you think about how best to communicate your affection. Does your partner tend to give you gifts? Or compliments? Do they seem particularly moved by affection? Think about it, then do it, even and especially if it feels awkward.
  23. Let. Them. Sleep. Do whatever needs to be done to make that happen.
  24. Is a family outing you suggested adding more stress to their world? Cancel it. Schedule something else. There’s a lot going on right now and more to plan means more to think about.
  25. Listen actively. That is, ask them a question, let them speak without interruption, and ask questions to help them say more. Listen again. Only offer guidance if they ask for it. Otherwise, just listen.
  26. Do they need you to just leave them alone for a half hour? Sometimes, this can feel rude. It doesn’t matter. They need it. Give it to them.
  27. Sing them a song. If that feels too weird, sing it and record it and send them the recording when you’re not around. If that still feels too weird, send them a song with meaningful words at an unexpected time.
  28. Order food from their favorite take-out spot, even if it’s a spot that you hate.
  29. If your kid is old enough, teach them to sing your partner’s favorite song/draw their portrait/say a favorite movie line/do a dance/etc. and then surprise them with it.
  30. Text them to say you’re thinking of them. Text them a compliment. Text them something whose sole purpose is just affection, at a time when they’re not expecting it. Even if you’re just in the other room.
  31. Say sorry — an actual sorry, where you mention specific failings, not a half-assed one — for something you fucked up that you never said sorry for. It’s never too late. They haven’t forgotten.
  32. Do whatever sex thing they like that you don’t. Prioritize their pleasure.
  33. Better yet, tell them that they are always so good at giving you what you need in bed and that, tonight, it’s all about them. A compliment and a complete night of pleasure? Smooth.
  34. This one sounds really weird, but it’s surprisingly nice: Read to them in bed.
  35. Order from or go to their favorite coffee place/lunch place/cupcake place, order what they normally order, and bring it home to them. We’re all grieving the routines we once had.
  36. Is the state of the world adding to their state of mind? Suggest some house rules around phone usage. Set them together. Follow them together. Help one another when it’s hard.
  37. Speaking of phone usage, restrict your own. Do you find yourself spacing out on your phone too much? Reading too much news? Phubbing — aka phone snubbing — your partner? Take measures to hold yourself accountable.
  38. Set up a Zoom call with friends they haven’t seen in a while. Call their friends. Make sure everyone can attend. Surprise them with it.
  39. When they’re waffling on whether or not they want to take a mental health day, tell them to do it. Back them up.
  40. Do everything you can to make sure they have the time — and space — to do their weekly Zoom workout class without interruption. If you have to, schedule the workout class for them.
  41. Tell them you love them and that you’ll get through this together.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

5 veteran entrepreneurs you need to check out this Veterans Day

Anyone who has served in the military for more than a day can tell you about all the times they were given minimal to no guidance before going out to execute a mission. Whether it was supervising the extra duty privates on police call, or heading out on a no-notice mission with nothing more than a name and an eight-digit grid, many have had to go forward and just “make it happen.”


This is also why almost all veterans have a little bit of entrepreneur in them — and the Small Business Administration has the stats to back that up: There are over 2.5 million veteran-owned small businesses in the U.S., and they employ more than 5 million people, generate annual revenue north of 1 trillion dollars, and pay an annual payroll of 195 billion dollars.

But some of these veteran entrepreneurs are making waves and innovating in a way that we can’t help but respect. This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran small business owners that we think you should really be paying attention to — make sure you check them out!

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Dale King, left, pitching Doc Spartan on Shark Tank.

(Doc Spartan)

Dale King, Doc Spartan

If you’re a fan of Shark Tank, maybe you remember that veteran that came on the show in Season 8 sporting a beautiful beard and a pair of freedom panties. Apparently, Ol’ Glory gracing his thighs did the trick, because Dale “Doc Spartan” King walked away with a deal with shark Robert Herjavec for his line of ointments made from essential oils.

That deal changed the game for Dale, an Iraq combat veteran and former Army intelligence officer, and his business partner Renee. Within a week of the show airing, they processed over 4,000 orders! They still manufacture, label, and ship all of their products from small-town Portsmouth, Ohio, where they even have programs in place to give back to the community.

So, just to summarize here, we’ve got a GWOT combat vet who wears short shorts and sells quality products that he makes right here in America — what’s not to love?

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Marjorie Eastman, left, showing off her Bicycle Deck of Cards.

(Marjorie Eastman)

Marjorie Eastman, Bicycle Deck of Cards

Marjorie Eastman served as a U.S. Army intelligence officer for ten years, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan — but don’t worry, she started off enlisted! These days, she’s an award-winning author (her book is actually on the reading list for the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Center of Excellence) and veterans advocate who has recently taken on a new mission: playing cards.

She is the creator of the 2019 Bicycle Collector’s Item: the Post 9/11 Deck of 52. This limited-edition collectible from the infamous playing card company shines a spotlight on 52 post 9/11 businesses and charities that have been launched by the military community. If this sounds like a familiar concept, you’re not wrong: it’s a spin-off of the 2003 “Most Wanted” cards issued to service members during the invasion of Iraq.

Eastman is “flipping the script” on that concept in order to “bring awareness and highlight the post 9/11 military community as a positive force in American culture and economy.” We can’t wait!

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Bert Kuntz, right, with Bison Union, showing off their merch.

(Bison Union)

Bert Kuntz, Bison Union

You may recognize him from his time as a cadre member on History Channel’s “The Selection”, but before that, Bert Kuntz served a career as a green beret in the U.S. Army Special Forces, going around the world on behalf of his nation to “free the oppressed” … or in some cases, oppress some bad guys. But that was a different life.

These days, Kuntz runs the rancher-oriented Bison Union Company up in Sheridan, Wyoming, with his wife Candace and their four dogs. As he puts it, “[I] traded my cool-guy guns and Green Beret for Muck Boots and flannels.”

Bison Union might just be one of the most authentic brands out there. Sure, they sell t-shirts and coffee, not unlike a myriad of other vet-owned companies these days, but there’s something about the way they do it … the heart behind it, that caught our eye. They encourage their followers to enjoy breakfast, work hard, and generally, “Be the bison.” Their shirts feature art that makes us nostalgic for simpler times, and their custom hand-made bison leather cowboy boots set them apart as a company that truly cares about a quality product.

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Panelists at the 2019 Military Influencer Conference, held in Orlando, Florida.

(Military Influencer Conference)

Curtez Riggs, Military Influencer Conference

Curtez D. Riggs grew up in Flint, Michigan, where he had three options after high school: School, the streets, or the military. He chose the U.S. Army, where he recently retired as a career recruiter.

The nice thing about spending time as a recruiter? It allows you to hone your “people” skills, as well as learning and testing the leading marketing, social media, and business practices of our generation. Curtez leveraged those skills to found the Military Influencer Conference, a three-day event he started in 2016 that connects business executives and brands with influencers in the military community.

The conference is usually held in Washington, D.C., but will now be moving to a different region of the country each year. And with eight different tracks for attendees, there’s something for everyone:

  • “Going Live” – Podcasters and Video
  • Real Estate
  • Founders and Innovators
  • Social Impact
  • Content Creators
  • Empower – Milspouse Track
  • Workshops
  • Mighty Talks

Keep an eye out for the 2020 conference, which will be held in San Antonio, Texas, from September 23-26.

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Uncanna founder Coby Cochran, former Army Ranger.

(Uncanna)

Coby Cochran, UnCanna

Coby Cochran is a 10 year veteran of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, and the founder of what we think might be the most well-known veteran-led CBD oil company in the game: Uncanna.

Cochran has only been in business since his departure from the military in 2018, but has grown the company steadily and organically to the point where it is now widely recognized as one of the most trusted brands for veteran wellness. And that was no accident: Cochran himself used CBD to get himself off of over 13 prescription medications while in the military, and now ensures the quality of his product.

According to the Uncanna website, “We have direct oversight of our vertically integrated operations, from seed to sale resulting in exceptional quality control and low prices. Every batch is third-party lab tested, with full panel labs, guaranteeing safety, purity, and potency.”

We’re excited about the business and mission Cochran has taken on, and are looking forward to what he may be able to do to further healthier ways for veterans to cope with their injuries.

Veterans

‘The League of Wives’ captures untold story of fight to bring POW husbands home

In her book, “The League of Wives,” historian Heath Hardage Lee captures the fighting spirit of military spouses who took on the U.S. government to bring their POW husbands home. 

Lee, a civilian historian and museum curator, saw a diary of a family friend, Navy POW wife Phyllis Galanti. Through her papers, Lee unearthed a network of women who formed the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia in the 1960s. These women, led by Sybil Stockdale, put pressure on the U.S. government to get their husbands home from Vietnam.

“They have to fight not only the North Vietnamese Communists who are torturing their husbands but their own government, their own military institutions to get justice,” Lee said. 

Many Americans are familiar with the harrowing tales of torture faced by military POWs like Adm. James Stockdale and former presidential candidate John McCain, at the hands of the Northern Vietnamese during their stay in the Hanoi Hilton. What is less known is the revolution that was taking place on the home front.

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POW James Stockdale reunites with family. Image courtesy of the Stockdale Family collection.

Finding a voice

Told from the point of view of these women, “The League of Wives” showcases the tearful goodbyes to learning their husbands had been shot down. At first, the women responded as expected, relying upon the advice from Department of Defense leaders, while leaning on each other for support. As the story progresses, these accidental feminists find their voices and no longer remain quiet. 

According to Lee, what pushed these wives over the edge was the Johnson administration’s refusal to acknowledge that their husbands were being tortured by the Northern Vietnamese. 

“By 1966, they [government] fully knew what was happening,” said Lee. “And by 1967 Sybil [Stockdale] was sending coded letters to her husband, working with the Navy, and discovered they were all being tortured.” 

Path to advocacy

According to Lee, instead of getting these men out of harm’s way, politicians focused on optics-first policies, not people-first. The spouses featured in the book knew their husbands were being tortured. The government’s policy of silence felt like abandonment.

Ultimately, they reached out to the media, which was the only advocacy avenue left to them. By sharing their stories with the world, they found a way to leverage public outrage, and helped to bring an end to the unpopular war in the process.

“When history is happening to you, you really don’t know it,” Lee said when asked if the League knew the long-lasting impact of their advocacy. “Particularly when you are a woman in the ‘60s, when you’re taught you’re invisible. So, none of these ladies really thought at the time they were doing anything but absolutely what they should be doing to get their husbands out.”

“When you are fighting for something that is so precious, you’re willing to do almost anything,” said Louise Mulligan, a POW wife featured in the book.  

Hidden figures no longer

Actress and producer Reese Witherspoon read the book before it was published. Her production company Hello Sunshine intends to make the book into a film, commemorating the lives of Sybil Stockdale and her fellow POW-MIA wives.

Read: Vietnam veteran: “Your country call you to war. You go.”

“From the minute I heard about this inspiring true story, I knew it was a perfect fit for us. I’m excited to … be giving audiences a glimpse at this meaningful moment in American history,” Witherspoon said in a statement.

Preserving their legacy

The book opens in the picturesque southern California town of Coronado. Known as the birthplace of naval aviation, the town was home to Sybil Stockdale and other members of their group. The League of Wives Memorial Project hopes to erect a statue commemorating these women and their role in bringing their spouses home. 

“The League’s efforts ultimately helped facilitate the release of 591 prisoners of war,” said retired war correspondent Brad Willis, creator of the project. “We feel that honoring these courageous and committed women who changed the course of history will serve as an important historical memorial for the Coronado community and its future generations as well.”

More information about the memorial can be found here: https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/leagueofwives.


This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

Articles

How a one-armed Gurkha fought 200 Japanese troops with a bolt-action rifle

The martial tradition, training, and dominating warrior spirit of Gurkhas means they will do things in a fight that wouldn’t occur to even the most seasoned combat veterans. Gurkhas will fight outnumbered; they will fight outgunned. They hold their positions against impossible odds and often come out on top.


One of these stories of Gurkha heroism comes from Lachhiman Gurung in Burma after he was taken by surprise when Japanese troops opened up on him and his men and lobbed some grenades into their trench. Gurung picked up two of the grenades and threw them back to the 200 Japanese soldiers waiting in the darkness.

The third grenade blew up in Gurung’s hand.

Related video:

He lost a few fingers, most of his right arm, and took shrapnel in his face and leg. Partially blind, bleeding profusely, and struggling to move, Gurung did something only a Gurkha would do: he pulled his Kukri knife with his good hand, stabbed the ground, and told the Japanese in a booming voice that none of them would make it past that knife.

Related: The Gurkha Kukri is designed for absolute devastation

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He then picked up his rifle — a bolt-action Lee-Enfield Mk. III — chambered a round, and invited the enemy to “come fight a Gurkha.”

With his friends dead or dying, Gurung fought for hours, firing his bolt-action Lee-Enfield with one hand and killing anyone who entered his trench. He would lie down until the Japanese were on top of his position, kill the closest one at point-blank range, chamber a new round with his left hand, and then kill the enemy’s battle buddy.

Gurung killed 31 Japanese soldiers this way, fighting until morning the next day.

At the end of the battle, he was shouting “Come and fight. Come and fight. I will kill you!”

Gurung was hospitalized through the end of the war, losing partial vision in his right eye and the use of his right arm. He was awarded the Victoria Cross, Great Britain’s highest military honor, and was the only recipient still alive when his command presented medals for the battle.

Gurung’s only complaint after the fighting was that his wounded arm had flies swarming around it.

He eventually moved to the U.K. to live out his life in peace. But he reemerged in 2008 when a controversial policy revoked the rights of some Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 to live in the country. The government said the Gurkhas failed to “demonstrate strong ties to the U.K.”

Lachhiman Gurung put on his medals rack, went over to Britain’s High Court, and made another “last stand” — this time for his fellow WWII-era Gurkhas, and he pleaded to the Court and to the Queen to be allowed to stay.

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In a yet another demonstration of Gurkha tenaciousness, the British high court struck down the law that same year. It turns out Gurkhas have a special place in British hearts.

Lachhiman Gurung died 2010. He was 92.

MIGHTY TRENDING

3 countries that buzzed the US in 2017

One thing that has happened a number of times this year are close encounters. Or, to put it bluntly, times where the U.S. military got buzzed. Three countries were major offenders: Russia, China, and Iran. Here’s a breakdown of the incidents by country.


3. Russia

There were at least four major incidents where Russia buzzed American forces. On Feb. 10, an Ilyushin Il-38 “May” maritime patrol aircraft and three Sukhoi Su-24 Fencers carried out multiple passes on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78). In May, a Su-27 Flanker came within 20 feet of a P-8 Poseidon. The following month, an Air Force RC-135 was buzzed by another Flanker. In November, another P-8 Poseidon had a Russian fighter come within 50 feet.

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Not cool, Russia. Not cool. (A Su-24 Fencer buzzes USS Porter (DDG 78) in the Black Sea on Feb. 10, 2017 | YouTube Screenshot)

2. China

The Chinese have been major offenders in unsafe encounters. In 2001, one of their fighter pilots collided with a Lockheed EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane. The crew of the EP-3E made it, but the Chinese pilot was killed. In May, there were two incidents, starting with a Su-30 doing a Top Gun stunt. About a week after that, two Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters buzzed a P-3. In July, there was a near-collision between a J-10 and an EP-3E.

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A Chinese Su-27 Flanker fighter makes a fly by, March 24, 2007. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen)

1. Iran

The Iranians have had their history of unsafe interactions and picking fights. These are not just limited to aerial incidents, either. In January and April, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) was harassed by Iranian “fast attack craft” in the Straits of Hormuz. A third incident involving the Mahan took place in May.

In June, an Iranian vessel aimed a laser at a Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion. July saw the Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Thunderbolt (PC 12) forced to fire warning shots at Iranian speedboats. August saw two incidents where Iranian drones buzzed a carrier. The first incident, on August 8, nearly caused a mid-air collision with a F/A-18E Super Hornet. An Aug. 15 incident saw a close pass on the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68).

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An Iranian drone in flight. (Image: IRNA)

Hopefully, 2018 will not see more of these passes, but these three countries do seem to make it a habit.

Articles

Navy advances plans for futuristic ‘Ghost Fleet’

The Navy is working hard to advance an emerging “ghost fleet” concept wherein multiple surface, air and undersea drones operate in a synchronized fashion to conduct a wide-range of combat missions without placing sailors and marines at risk.


“We want to have multiple systems teaming and working together, surface, air and undersea,” Capt. Jon Rucker, program manager, Unmanned Maritime Systems, PEO LCS, said at the recent Surface Navy Association.

Rucker explained that the Pentagon and Navy are advancing this drone-fleet concept help to search and destroy mines, swarm and attack enemies, deliver supplies and conduct intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, among other things.

Also read: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

Swarms of small aerial drones, engineered with advanced computer algorithms, could coordinate with surface and undersea vehicles as part of an integrated mission, he explained.

As communications and networking technologies continue to evolve rapidly, drones will increasingly be able to function in a cross-domain capacity, meaning across air, sea, land and undersea operations.

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Better learn how to swim, big guy. | US Air Force photo

Aerial swarms, for instance, could detect an enemy surface vessel and relay information to unmanned surface vessels or undersea drones to investigate or even attack. All of this could operate in a combat circumstance while needing little or no human intervention.

Rucker explained that the Navy, and its Office of Naval Research (ONR), has been working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this kind of technology into operational service.

The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war.

Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters last year.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has demonstrated technological advances in autonomy with groups of swarming Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) designed to detect enemy ships, perform surveillance missions or even launch attacks, service officials said.

Algorithms governing autonomous maritime navigation have progressed to the point where USVs can more effectively “perceive” and respond to their surrounding environment while in transit, Robert Brizzolara, program manager, Sea Platforms and Weapons, ONR, recently told reporters.

During a recent “swarm” boat demonstration in the lower Chesapeake Bay, ONR-developed boats achieved a key milestone in the area of autonomous control.

“Unlike purely remote controlled boats, these boats are able to perceive their environment and plan their routes without human intervention. The role of the human is supervisory control,” Brizzolara said.

A human at a control station, using a low bandwidth connection, can perform command and control functions without needing to actually drive the vessels.

The demonstration used four USVs, working in tandem to perform a range of potential maritime combat operations. All four of the boats were able to see and sense a common picture for route planning, hazard avoidance and collision prevention, developers said.

“We are using a first-of-its-kind sophisticated perception engine which senses the presence of other vessels using a combination of sensors, radar, cameras and processing algorithms,” Brizzolara explained.

The ONR demonstration used 7-to-11 meter boats already in the Navy inventory as manned boats, and configured them with an autonomy “kit” enabling a range of unmanned mission possibilities.

The kits, called Control Architecture for Robotic Agent Command and Sensing, or CARACaS, are engineered to provide USVs with an ability to handle dynamic operational situations; this can include the execution of search patterns, harbor defenses, surveillance or even swarm boat attacks. Other possibilities among a wide range of uses include using autonomous USVs for supply and weapons transport, countermine operations, electronic warfare and amphibious operations.

The USVs are programmed with sensors linked to an established database of known threats such as enemy boats; they are also linked to one another with an ability to detect, track and trail “unknown” boats, Brizzolara said.

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Creative Commons photo

ONR is working closely with the Pentagon’s once-secret Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, in an effort to fast-track this technology into operational service.

The Strategic Capabilities Office is a special DoD-level effort to harness, leverage and integrate near-term emerging technology for faster delivery to combatant commanders at war. Much of this involves merging new platforms, weapons and technologies with existing systems in a manner that both improves capability while circumventing a lengthy and often bureaucratic formal acquisition process, Dr. William Roper, SCO Director, told a small group of reporters.

A key advantage of using remotely-controlled drone ships is that, quite naturally, they can save sailors and marines from being exposed to enemy fire during an attack operation. In fact, Roper maintained that USV autonomy brings the potential of substantially advancing amphibious warfare tactics.

“This can greatly help expeditionary logistics for a ship that is standing off from the shore. Instead of having to use an amphib manned by a lot of people – you have an unmanned supply boat,” Roper explained.

Fast-moving USVs could indeed lower risk and increase efficiency for a large number of missions, to include Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), countermine operations, search and rescue, electronic warfare, supply and weapons transport and amphibious assaults.

Higher tech enemy sensors and longer range surface and land-fired weapons have drastically increased the vulnerability of approaching amphibious assault operations, making them more susceptible to enemy fire; as a result, the Navy and Marines have been evolving amphibious tactics to include more dis-aggregated approaches designed to spread out an approaching force – making it more difficult for enemy weapons to attack an advancing assault.

For example, the Iwo Jima attack in the Pacific during WWII, an historic amphibious assault, involved a group of Marines approaching enemy shores in close proximity to one another; weapons, Marines, equipment and attacking infantry all came ashore in rapid succession.

Modern threats, are changing amphibious tactics to succeed against higher tech more lethal enemy weapons.

“Instead of having to land as a single unit, they can now break out. There is safety in numbers and they can redistribute,” Roper explained.

When it comes to offensive surface operations, unmanned boats could form a swarming of small attack craft designed to overwhelm and destroy enemy ships with gunfire, explosives or even small missiles.

Roper explained that this strategic and tactical trajectory is greatly enhanced by the possible use of USVs. The Navy’s current inventory includes ship-to-shore amphibious craft called Landing Craft Air Cushions, LCACs, and Landing Craft Utility Vehicles, LCUs; these platforms, now being upgraded by newer transport boats able to move faster and carry more payload (such as Abrams tanks), are manned and therefore involve the use of a crew.

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Textron Systems photo

LCACs require a crew of 13, and LCACs use a crew of 5. New high tech LCAC replacements, called Ship-to-Shore Connectors, are already being developed and delivered to the Navy by Textron.

The Navy and ONR are already immersed in the development of a variety of USVs, including a mine-detecting Unmanned Influence Sweep System, or UISS, for the Littoral Combat Ship. The UISS is carried by a Textron-developed Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, or CUSV.

The CUSV, in development since before 2009, can travel for more than 20-hours carrying up to 4,000-pounds at speeds of up to 20-knots, Textron information states. Also, it is engineered to withstand waves up to 20-feet.

The UISS is engineered to find and detonate undersea mines in order to save sailors and manned vessels from a potentially deadly explosion.

The Navy’s UiSS will be towed behind the unmanned vehicle and will emit sounds and magnetic signatures that mimic a ship – setting off nearby mines that listen for passing ships, according to a report from the US Naval Institute.

Sub-Hunting Drone Ship

The Navy is also advancing its recently christened Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, inspired submarine-hunting unmanned ship called Sea Hunter; the ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate enemy submarines. A high-frequency sonar will send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.

The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 6.5 feet.

The effort began in 2010 as an anti-submarine ship called “ASW Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel,” or ACTUV. The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. Also, it is possible the Sea Hunter could be armed with lethal weapons in the future, a scenario which current Pentagon doctrine says much hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.

The Sea Hunter can be controlled by a human “tele-operator” able to maneuver the ship with a joystick. However, the progress of the platform’s technology, and the rapid advancements of algorithms enabling greater levels of autonomy, have inspired the Navy to begin thinking about additional missions for a drone that was initially conceived as a sub-hunting vessel.

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US Navy photo

“Right now, the sky is the limit, but, before we even get to that, we need to be able to have a more autonomous system that can steer and reposition itself,” Rucker said.

The ship is built to travel up to 10,000 miles while using sonar and other sensors to locate mines and even the quietest enemy submarines.

The Sea Hunter’s high-frequency sonar can send acoustic “pings” into the ocean before analyzing the return signal to determine the shape, size, speed and characteristics of any undersea enemy activity.

The 135-ton ship is engineered to withstand rough seas up to Sea State 5 – or waves up to 13 feet.

The 132-foot drone uses advanced hydro-acoustics, pattern recognition and algorithms for unmanned navigation to locate and shadow diesel-electric enemy submarines.

The idea is to track them, if necessary, over a period of months so they are compelled to stay away from strategically vital areas.

As technology evolves, the Navy plan is to rapidly migrate the system from something that is tele-operated to something that can increasingly perform a wider range of functions without needing human intervention.

“We are not yet at the point where we don’t have an operator supervising it,” Rucker explained.

Progress with the Sea Hunter will also involve replacing a turret on top of the drone with a range of sensors for ISR, surface-oriented technologies, weapons and electronic warfare systems, Rucker said.

“It will have an ability to work with the surface force, do command and control and go investigate,” Rucker added.

If the Sea Hunter is both more autonomous and armed with lethal weapons in the future, it will be engineered to align with current Pentagon doctrine which says any use of lethal force must hinge upon a human decision-maker in the role of command and control.

The Pentagon’s research arm is also extending testing of its sub-hunting drone able to travel autonomously for up to 90 days using sensors and sonar technology to search for enemy submarines and other airborne and undersea threats such as mines.

Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan

Meanwhile, the Navy is also developing refueling Unmanned Surface Vehicles that are launched and recovered from a host ship. A refueling and data transfer system that is remote from the host ship and proximate to the USV operating area will allow a substantially greater fraction of a Navy USVs’ endurance to be spent on performing the mission rather than on non-mission activities associated with refueling, including transiting to and from the host ship and being deployed and recovered on the host ship.

This effort, asking industry to design, build, test and demonstrate a prototype USV to be called Offboard Refueling and Data Transfer System, or ORADTS. It will be designed to be more rugged and survivable than existing USVs and travel at longer ranges to extend mission possibilities.

“The ORADTS design must improve on previous designs by providing a more robust system that enhances system usability in higher sea states, reliability, and maintainability for implementation in Navy operations,” a Navy Broad Area Announcement states.

This initiative represents a portion of the execution or operational manifestation of a 2007 service roadmap called “The Navy Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan,” which calls for the eventual combat deployment of a broad range of USVs to include ships for countermine missions, surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, Special Operations support and electronic warfare, among other things.

Plans for USVs include a small “X-class” of boats, a 7-meter “Harbor Class,” a “Snorkeler-Class” and an 11-meter “Fleet-Class” boat, the master plan states.

The currently-sought after ORADTS refueling USV is slated to be a larger “Fleet-Class” USV.

“It is approximately 38.5 ft in length, 10.5 ft beam and full load displacement 21,400 lbs. It can carry between 400 and 650 gallons of diesel fuel marine (DFM) and uses fuel at a rate between 25 and 40 gallons/hr.,” Navy documents describe.

The refueling port of the USV is located on the starboard side of the craft, above the waterline, about midship. There will be up to 2 terabytes of data to be offloaded from the USV, per refueling iteration, the documents add.

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