Air Force Tech. Sgt. Robert Gutierrez is a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) who was awarded the Air Force Cross for heroism during an intense firefight in Afghanistan in 2009.
JTACS are military personnel who direct combat support aircraft like the A-10, calling in air strikes to support ground operations.
Gutierrez was part of a nighttime raid with an Army special forces detachment to capture a high-value Taliban target, a “brutal” man living outside of the city of Herat in Western Afghanistan.
The team was attacked with heavy fire from a numerically superior and battle-hardened enemy force. Gutierrez was shot in the chest, his team leader was shot in the leg, and the ten-man element was pinned down in a building with no escape route.
“We were just getting hammered, getting peppered,” he recalls in a six-minute interview. He talked to his team’s leader who wanted to drop bombs on the enemy targets.
“If you put a bomb on that it’ll kill us all,” he told his leader. “Guys are getting wounded. Our best chance is a 30mm high-angle strafe.”
Gutierrez is having this discussion as bullets pepper the walls behind him, as a medic works on his chest wound, a through-and-through which the medic couldn’t find the entrance wound. He is also still holding off Taliban fighters with his M4 rifle.
“This is danger close, I need your initials,” he told his team lead.
“Less than 10 meters.”
Gutierrez needed the support of an A-10 Thunderbolt II, aka “Warthog,” whose 30mm GAU-8 Cannon rounds are the size of beer bottles, to make a precision strike on the attacking insurgents.
Capt. Ethan Sabin, an A-10 pilot based at Kandahar Airfield, asked a nearby F-16 pilot to mark the target with the laser on his targeting pod.
The A-10 attack was so close, Gutierrez’s right eardrum burst and his left eardrum was severely damaged from the noise. He lost five-and-a-half pints of blood getting away from the combat zone.
After the first A-10 strafing, the medic had to re-inflate Gutierrez’ collapsed lung so he could direct two more strafing runs. For four hours, the team held off the enemy fighters and escaped the battlespace.
To give an idea of the kind of interactions JTACs have with close-air support pilots in the heat of the moment, the video below is a prime example of the extraordinary actions Gutierrez and airmen like him perform on the battlefield every day.
Stasia Foley lived a beautiful life. She was born on May 22, 1916, in Connecticut, right before World War I began. She vividly remembered being a teenager during the Great Depression and the hardship that came with it. She left school at just 13 years old to support her family. With five brothers and sisters, everyone had to pitch in. Stasia spent her days on a farm planting and harvesting crops to help feed her family.
Family was everything to her.
Stasia was highly athletic and was a part of the Hazardville R.C.A. Girls Baseball team, a team that would go on to win numerous championships. This eventually led her to being inducted into the Enfield Sports Hall of Fame. Throughout her life, she watched some of the sport’s giants play, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig in Yankee Stadium. Stasia received signed baseballs and loved to tell stories both about her time in the dugout and in the stands.
Stasia met the love of her life, Edward Foley, and married him on Oct. 8, 1938. Life was good, for awhile. World War II would soon come calling.
Edward was drafted into the Army as a medic on Feb. 7, 1942, and was quickly sent to Europe – right in the middle of combat. She missed him desperately and relied on infrequent postcards and letters from his stops throughout the war.
Edward assisted in the liberation of Auschwitz and Dachau Nazi concentration camps.
While Edward was gone, Stasia went to work for Colt Firearms in Hartford. The company’s workforce grew by 15,000 in three separate factories to keep with the demand for the war effort.
Eventually, the war ended and Edward came home safely toward the end of 1945. The couple had two children, Gail and Daniel. Stasia worked for aerospace companies and spent 25 years working for Travelers Insurance Companies until her retirement. Stasia and Edward were married 51 years before her soulmate died in 1989.
Stasia loved her family, especially her three grandchildren. One of her grandsons would go on to serve in the United States Coast Guard. Sunday dinners in her home, surrounded by all, were the highlight of the week. In 2001, Stasia’s son Daniel and his family moved to Texas. Eventually, Stasia moved in with her daughter, Gail and her husband, William.
When Stasia turned 100, she was still highly independent, active and as sharp as ever. She had just started using a cane at her family’s insistence. At 102, things started to slow down. Her granddaughter, Tara Bars, decided to make a legacy video.
“She had always been such an important woman in my life,” Bars explained. “I feel like the time in her life that she lived, she saw so much. Living through the wars, the Great Depression – it has always fascinated me but the fact that my Nana lived that, saw that, witnessed it and was part of it… Once that line is gone, it’s very difficult to ever figure out or hear those family stories,” she said.
Following the completion of that video, Bars saw how frail her grandmother was becoming. In December of 2018, congestive heart failure made its presence known, causing her once-independent grandmother to become weak and easily winded. Stasia was with her daughter and her husband in their Florida winter home when she was eventually put on hospice care. When the nurses met with her in the home, they asked her what her goals were.
She told them her dream was to go to Tara’s wedding.
“When I heard that, it just broke my heart to pieces because I just knew she wouldn’t make it,” Bars said in between tears. Bars’ wedding was set for June 1, 2019, and Stasia was medically unable to fly, with her health rapidly deteriorating. Bars said she turned to her fiancé one day in January and told him she was going to Florida.
She would make her part of her grandmother’s wish come true.
“I looked up photographers and the first one I talked to on the phone was Red Door Photography and they just made me feel like it was going to be perfect,” she shared. Bars then went on to book hair and makeup, keeping everything a secret from her family. She made up a story about needing one last interview with Nana for the legacy video so her aunt and uncle wouldn’t suspect anything. They got Stasia ready and downstairs – telling her there was a surprise. When the doors opened, her beloved granddaughter was waiting for her.
In the car as they were driving to the surprise, she told her grandmother that she knew how much she wanted to be at her wedding and so she decided to bring the moment to her.
The memory of Stasia’s face lighting up with joy is one Bars will carry with her forever.
They arrived at the location and Bars went to change into her wedding dress. She said as she came around the corner, she could see her grandmother sitting in the chair, her arms opening as soon as she saw her. “She held her arms out to me so I just plopped down right there. She kept hugging me and kissing me and telling me how beautiful I looked. It absolutely meant everything to me that it meant everything to her,” Bars shared through tears.
Bars said that as soon as the photography session started, something changed. It was like her grandmother became a young woman again, said Bars, “She was no longer the fragile and frail Nana I saw a moment before. Something inside of her just lit up, it was incredible.” She continued, “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my last day with her. Our hearts spoke together that day.”
Stasia passed away at 102; only 27 days after that beautiful photoshoot with her granddaughter in her wedding gown.
On her wedding day, Bars finally revealed the photoshoot surprise to her family. The tears and joy were overflowing. Her wedding photographer was there to capture the moment and shared it on social media. It went viral.
“Don’t be scared to show your love and express it. We’re losing this generation. Once they are gone you can’t go back,” said Bars.
In a world where everything moves so fast; take a moment to pause. Savor the special moments and people in your life. You never know how much time you’ll have left.
All across the nation everyone is dealing with the Polar Vortex. It’s colder than balls outside for everyone in the military. That is unless you’re one of the lucky bastards stationed in Hawaii.
No. I get it. “The grass is always greener” or whatever nonsense the retention NCO tried to peddle off to you before they sent you to Fort Bumpf*cknowhere. I don’t care if the cost of living is slightly higher in Hawaii.
At least the troops there aren’t dealing with hearing their salty platoon sergeant try to “well back in my day” every complaint about it being below negative twenty degrees. I’ll pay that extra dollar for a Big Mac if it gets me out of that.
Anyways, stay warm out there guys. Thankfully the Coast Guard has money to pay their heating bills.
The Supermarine Spitfire ranks up there with the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the Messerschmitt Bf-109, and the P-51 Mustang as one of the most iconic planes of World War II. But all aircraft have their flaws — even when they’re at the top of their game.
The Zero’s flaw is well-known. It had no armor to speak of, making it very vulnerable to even the F4F Wildcat when tactics like the Thach Weave were implemented across the U.S. military.
The Spitfire’s problem was in its engine.
The Rolls Royce Merlin was a great motor, but the real problem was how the Spitfire got the fuel to the engine. The Spitfire used a carburetor, which is fine for straight and level flight, but when does a dogfight involve staying straight and level?
The Spitfire’s carburetor would, in the course of maneuvering, cause the engine to cut out for a lack of fuel. When it returned to straight and level flight, the Spitfire would have an over-rich fuel mixture, which ran the risk of flooding the engine. It would also create a huge cloud of black smoke, that the Nazis quickly realized as a tell-tale sign of a sitting duck.
So, what did work? The fuel-injection system used by the Nazis in the Me-109. This gave the Nazis a slight edge in the actual dogfights. This could have been a disaster for the Brits, but when their pilots bailed out, they were often doing so over home territory, and a new Spitfire was waiting for them. German pilots who lost dogfights over England were POWs.
The problem, though, proved to be very fixable. Beatrice Schilling, an engineer, managed to come up with a workaround for the over-rich problem that removed the black cloud of smoke and prevented the engine from flooding. That stop-gap helped the RAF stay competitive until a more permanent fix came in 1942.
First released in 1995 as Air Combat, the Ace Combat franchise has taken gamers to the skies at the speed of sound for over two and a half decades. As of July 2020, the franchise has sold over 16 million copies, making it one of Bandai Namco’s most successful franchises, among legends like Tekken and Pac-Man. The arcade-style flight simulator puts gamers in the cockpit of real-life aircraft, along with a few fictional ones, to engage in high-speed aerial combat.
Coming a long way from its humble and pixelated origins on the original Playstation, Ace Combat now provides players with the most immersive experience yet using the power of Playstation VR. Though the planes recreated in the virtual world are highly detailed thanks to licensing and support from the real-world manufacturers, the paint schemes and designs available to players to customize their aircraft in Ace Combat 7 are all fictional—until now.
To celebrate 25 years of Ace Combat, the liveries of two iconic squadrons have been added to the game. On August 20, 2020, a new package of aircraft skins and emblems was released containing different variations of the US aircraft national insignia and the liveries of Strike Fighter Squadron 103 (VFA-103), the “Jolly Rogers,” and Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 (VMFA-232), the “Red Devils.” Previously featured in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon and Ace Combat Infinity, the “Red Devils” livery is only available on the F/A-18F Super Hornet while the “Jolly Rogers” livery is available on both the F-14D Tomcat and the F/A-18F Super Hornet.
“‘Jolly Roger’ logo and aircraft paint pattern used with permission of the United States Department of Defense” (Bandai Namco)
Based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar under the command of Marine Air Group 11, the “Red Devils” are the oldest and most decorated fighter squadron in the Corps. The squadron can trace its lineage back to VF-3M, which was commissioned at Naval Air Station San Diego on September 1, 1925. The “Red Devils” went through seven redesignations and eight different aircraft until they were temporarily decommissioned on November 16, 1945.
“‘Red Devil'” logo and aircraft paint pattern used with permission of the United States Department of Defense.” (Bandai Namco)
The squadron was reactivated on June 3, 1945 with its current designation. VMFA-232 did not deploy to Korea but saw heavy combat in Vietnam. In September 1973, the “Red Devils” became the last Marine squadron to leave the Vietnam War. Today the squadron flies the F/A-18 Hornet in support of the Global War on Terror. Their livery is erroneously applied to the F/A-18F Super Hornet as it is the only Hornet variant in Ace Combat 7.
The “Jolly Rogers” have a more complex lineage. Currently, the skull and crossbones insignia flies with VFA-103. However, the squadron adopted the insignia from VF-84 who adopted it from VF-61. VF-61 was originally established as VF-17 on January 1, 1943 at NAS Norfolk. The squadron’s commander, Lt. Cdr. John T. “Tommy” Blackburn, wanted the insignia to have a piratical theme that matched to mirror the Corsair name of their F4U fighters; and thus, the skull and crossbones was born. Over the course of two combat tours, the squadron was credited with 313 aerial victories and produced 23 aces, making it the most successful US Navy squadron of WWII. The “Jolly Rogers” were redesignated twice after the war before they were disestablished on April 15, 1959.
In 1959, VF-84’s commander, who had previously flown with the VF-61, requested to change his squadron’s name and insignia to that of the “Jolly Rogers.” His request was approved on April 1, 1960 and the skull and crossbones was revived. The planes of VF-84 proudly flew the insignia until the squadron was disestablished on October 1, 1995. It was then that the insignia’s current bearers, VFA-103, adopted the “Jolly Rogers” name and insignia. Though the “Jolly Rogers” insignia and livery was never applied to the F-14D like it is in Ace Combat 7 (VFA-104 did not fly this variant), the squadron does currently fly the F/A-18F that bears the livery in the game.
Whether you’re an enthusiast or a past or current member of the “Red Devils” or “Jolly Rogers,” Ace Combat’s addition of their liveries is a fitting celebration for its 25th Anniversary. Did we mention that the aircraft skins are free? Simply install the latest game update and you’ll have them. Good hunting.
Pranking your buddy in war has been a pastime of bored soldiers since Gen. George Washington slipped Maj. Gen. Benedict Arnold’s hand in warm water while he slept. (Arnold got back at him by selling the plans to West Point’s defenses).
A Middle Eastern fighter got in on the action by dropping a – hopefully fake – mortar round next to his buddy while the other guy was focused on his smartphone.
Check out the action (and the phone junkie’s hilarious reaction) in the video below:
The Israeli military has bought some copter drones that can carry some serious firepower – up to and including 40mm grenade launchers.
According to a report from DefenseOne.com, the Israeli Defense Forces are buying a number of TIKAD drones from Duke Robotics. The company, founded by Raziel “Razi” Atuaran — an Israeli special forces veteran who still serves as a reservist — is also pitching this drone to the U.S. military.
“You have small groups [of adversaries] working within crowded civilian areas using civilians as shields. But you have to go in,”Atuar explained. “Even to just get a couple of guys with a mortar, you have to send in a battalion and you lose guys. People get hurt.”
Sick of seeing civilians and fellow Israeli troops get killed, Atuar sought a way to deal with enemy forces in urban areas that would greatly reduce the risks. One way to do that is not to send a person in to clear a building, but to instead send a robot.
The use of a helicopter drone to carry firepower isn’t a new idea. A viral Youtube video showed how a typical drone one buys from Amazon can be rigged to carry a pistol.
But accuracy from such a platform is dubious at best. Payload from a drone can be an issue. The Israelis have used an off-the-shelf drone to haul a sniper rifle that had a maximum of five minutes of flight time. That’s not very useful in a pitched urban fight.
The TIKAD drone, though, fixes those problems by setting up a gimbaled platform that can hold up to 22 pounds. This provides a stable platform that ensures accurate fire.
The Israelis have not revealed how many TIKAD drones they are buying. The company, though, has moved to Florida, where U.S. Special Operations Command and Central Command are both headquartered.
You can see a jury-rigged armed drone using a pistol — an example of how not to arm a drone — below.
Designed by a former toy maker, the Black Hornet UAV fits in a human palm and weighs the same as three pieces of paper. But don’t be fooled by its size. It has impressive capabilities as a reconnaissance drone, which is why Special Forces and U.S. infantry have begun testing it.
The tiny drone feeds surprisingly clear video to the pilot from as far as kilometer away and can bear different sensors including thermal cameras for night assaults. The video is stored on the small user station on the operator’s belt, so enemies lucky enough to catch the Hornet will not be able to see what video the pilot has captured.
See this amazing little drone in action in this video:
China may have released a video teaser of its H-20 stealth bomber and trolled the US’s stealth bombers in the process, according to The Drive.
China’s state-run aviation and defense company, Aviation Industry Corporation of China, recently posted a video celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of Xi’an Aircraft Industrial Corporation, a subsidiary of AVIC, The Drive reported.
The video, which China Daily tweeted, ends with a shadowy wide shot of bomber-looking aircraft covered in a sheet with text reading “The Next” appearing on the screen.
The shot looks eerily similar to a Northrop Grumman advertisement of the B-21 Raider, which ran during the 2015 Super Bowl, The Drive reported, adding that China Defense Online may have also added the ending itself. As such, it’s unclear if it’s legit.
Still, China has been in search of a long-range bomber.
In 2015, Chinese defense experts said China needed to develop a long-range bomber that could strike targets far from its coast, AFP reported at the time.
Then in 2016, General Ma Xiaotian, a PLA Air Force commander, said China was researching the development of such a bomber, according to Popular Science.
The Drive also reported that conception of the H-20 may have even come before that, citing Airforce Monthly as saying that XAC had built small models of it, but in 2011, the program came to a halt.
In any event, the Pentagon confirmed in 2017 report that China was “developing a strategic bomber that officials expect to have a nuclear mission,” also noting that “[past] PLA writings expressed the need to develop a ‘stealth strategic bomber,’ suggesting aspirations to field a strategic bomber with a nuclear delivery capability.”
To that end, the H-20 needs to be capable of carrying a 10 ton payload and have a range of 5,000 miles, The Drive reported.
Popular Science reported that the H-20, in order to strike different continents, needs a 6,200 mile range and carry a 10-20 ton payload, which would most likely require four WS-10 turbofan engines.
Whatever the specifications would be, a researcher working with the US Air Force told Business Insider that the H-20 is a four engine stealth bomber and that the details have not been “revealed except it is to have a dual [nuclear and conventional] role.”
The researcher also said that China has built three static H-20 airframes without electronics and engines.
The Drive reported that the H-20’s main weapon would probably be KD-20 cruise missiles, and Popular Science reported that it would carry the KD-20s in its internal weapons bays.
The H-20 might eventually even carry “GB-6A stealth cruise missiles and hypersonic scramjet missiles,” and act as a command and control aircraft, Popular Science reported.
The “deployment and integration” of a nuclear bomber “would provide China with its first credible nuclear ‘triad’ of delivery systems dispersed across land, sea, and air,” the 2017 Pentagon report on China’s military said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Army’s new body armor designs — slated for fielding in 2019 — include a new protector for soldiers’ most sensitive parts. The harness system protects the femoral arteries, pelvis, and lower abdomen.
The Blast Pelvic Protector will replace the Protective Outer Garment and Protective Under Garment, a two-piece system known as the “combat diaper” that was infamous for the chafing it caused in sensitive areas.
The POG and PUG have other issues besides causing chafing.
“The protection that existed before was letting debris in because it wasn’t fitted close enough to the body,” Cara Tuttle, an Army clothing designer and design lead for the harness said in a press release. “Soldiers weren’t wearing it often enough, and it didn’t come down inside of the leg to protect the femoral artery.”
Surgeons then had to attempt to remove as many small particles from wounded soldiers as they could, increasing the chances of an infection or other complications from surgery.
The new Blast Pelvic Protector covers troops from the waist, down the inner thighs, and around the back to the buttocks. This allows it to guard most of the vulnerable soft tissue in the thighs and provides much more protection for the arteries. Overlapping layers make the fabric protection very effective.
“A layer overlaps in one direction, then the next layer overlaps in the opposite direction, and it keeps alternating,” Tuttle said. “This creates a better barrier for small [debris fragments], which would have to zig-zag through all these layers to get through.”
And the BPP was designed for combat operations.
A series of buckles along the outside of the thighs and a waist strap hold the device in place while providing freedom of movement. Hopefully, the system will also do away with the discomfort of the combat diaper.
World War I, The Seminal Catastrophe of the 20th Century, hasn’t spawned nearly as many films as did the Second World War that was to follow only 20 years later. For every Warhorse, Lawrence of Arabia, and All Quiet on the Western Front, there are troves of iconic films like Schindler’s List, Dunkirk, Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, Sands of Iwo Jima, The Longest Day, etc…
Perhaps this is related to the good versus evil rationale on which WWII was fought, whereas WWI had a much more nuanced and convoluted reason for its existence, i.e. a series of binding treaties that exploded into a global war.
In the newest WWI film, 1917, the overarching causes behind why the soldiers are in trenches become irrelevant thanks to an expertly-crafted, human story that envelops the viewer with a common principle found in all wars and in the films that depict it; you fight for the soldiers next to you. Along with sharp performances and thoughtful writing, the filmmakers enlist a technique as difficult to achieve as it is powerful in its reception; a simulated single camera shot following the action from mission-start to mission-finish.
The film’s use of one continuous shot (or perhaps a few hundred stitched-together shots) is designed for one specific reason; to put the audience in the shoes of two young British soldiers, tasked with carrying an urgent message of life or death to the frontlines. Effectively nullifying the safety blanket of the traditional editor where multiple shots can be combined into a film, 1917’s continuous shot leaves very little room for error with the director, cinematographer, and other crew on set. In military terms, to make this film a blockbuster, Director Sam Mendez took a chance with a 0 million sniper shot, and he nailed it.
When Mendez and cinematographer Roger Deakins (both Oscar winners) decided to craft 1917 using only one shot and rely on the edit only to mask or stitch the various sequences together, they set out to bring the audience into the world of frontline war-fighting. There are no breaks. There are no pauses between frames or shots or scenes to give your brain time to catch up. The viewer is embedded with these men from mission-start to mission-finish and thus given a proximity not often afforded to audiences. The result is a visceral and captivating glimpse into the heartbreakingly painful agonies of war; especially a war as devastating as WWI. Yet, in doing so, it also provides the audience with a heightened sense of triumph as the young soldiers conquer insurmountable odds.
Whereas the creative choice of using one shot adds elemental gravitas and depth to 1917, it’s execution also proves the filmmakers’ dedication to this story. Due to the complexity and continuous nature of the one-shot format, the planning of every shot, performance, movement, light, wardrobe detail, effect, etc. called for the utmost military precision.
Employing the preparation, foresight, ingenuity, and assiduousness needed to lead an army into battle, Mendez and his lieutenants triumphed.
There are things that can annoy you during your time in uniform, like PowerPoint presentations, waiting to be released for the weekend, and that private who clearly needed a waiver to get in. Wait, that’s not a private, that’s a lieutenant!
And then there are things that can kill you.
The US military has been at war for nearly 20 years, and anyone who has wanted to test their mettle in combat has had the chance. Thanks to modern battlefield medicine and overwhelming fire superiority in most situations, American service members are coming home alive at rates that have never before been seen in the history of warfare.
US Army soldiers fire 81mm mortars during a fire mission in an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia, Nov. 6, 2019. US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne.
Unfortunately, it’s not just bullets and IEDs that can — and do — kill our men and women in uniform. In fact, 74% of all US military deaths since 2006 have had nothing to do with combat.
1. Training. Train like you fight, fight like you train. It’s a good ethos to have in the business of war, but unfortunately, realistic training can have unintended consequences. Most recently, eight Marines and one US Navy sailor were killed when their Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAV) sunk during training off San Clemente Island. This isn’t a common occurrence, but in 2017, 14 Marines and one sailor were hospitalized after their AAV hit a natural gas line. The last death occurred in 2011 after a Marine died while trapped in a sunken AAV in Oceanside Harbor.
Training accidents happen on land and in the air, too.
Special Forces Soldiers from the US Army’s 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) conduct an AAR after Counter Improvised Explosive Device training at Panzer Local Training area near Stuttgart, Germany, June 10, 2020. Photo by Sgt. Patrik Orcutt, courtesy of DVIDS.
Between 2015 and 2018, the US Army suffered 14 fatalities from vehicle rollovers. That number spiked in 2019, with eight soldiers killed in rollover accidents. According to a US Army safety brief video, vehicle training accidents kill more on-duty soldiers than any other single reason, with inadequate unit driver training programs contributing to 68% of these mishaps.
Airborne operations are inherently risky and are considered the most dangerous training the military conducts on a regular basis despite rigorous risk mitigation procedures. So far in 2020, there have been at least two deaths, preceded by four in 2019. The fatalities affect conventional and special operations troops alike while conducting both static line and military free fall training across the US Army, US Navy, US Marine Corps, and US Air Force.
Training accidents are readily apparent in how they impact the force, while other issues are not so obvious — or forgivable.
Senior Airman Frances Gavalis, 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron equipment manager, tosses unserviceable uniform items into a burn pit, March 10, 2008. US Air Force photo by Sr. Airman Julianne Showalter.
2. Toxic exposure. Although burn pits have been reduced to an oft-joked about condition of wartime service, their impacts on service members who served overseas are real. Toxic exposure from burn pits is difficult to track, but one organization says they have recorded at least 130 deaths from the more than 250 burn pits that were used across Iraq and Afghanistan. Many compare the issue to how Agent Orange afflicted veterans of the Vietnam War. Like Agent Orange, the full effects of burn pits will likely take decades of research before it’s impact on veterans is fully understood.
If you’ve deployed to Afghanistan, you’ve probably heard about “Mefloquine Monday” and the nightmares it causes. Due to the areas of the world the US military regularly deploys to, a variety of malaria medications have been used for decades, with some having detrimental effects on service members. Mefloquine, in particular, was considered so dangerous that the FDA put a “black box” warning — its most strict measure — on the drug in 2013. It’s difficult to attribute how many deaths are a result of the drug, but the drug’s effects on the brain may be contributing to suicide rates.
Military housing has come under fire in recent years for failing to address issues ranging from black mold to lead poisoning and even asbestos poisoning. The problem affects everyone in the military umbrella, from junior enlisted soldiers in barracks to families living in on-base housing. Despite multiple lawsuits, the US military still grapples with some leaders not taking the issue seriously — even though it’s now affecting service members’ children.
Members of the Uzbekistan National Guard show a US special operator de-mining techniques during exercise Invincible Sentry in the Tashkent region of Uzbekistan, Feb. 22, 2020. Photo by Staff Sgt. Steven Colvin, courtesy of DVIDS.
Depleted uranium has also affected multiple generations of US military personnel, with many suffering through cancer and other afflictions after being exposed.
Most recently, government documents revealed that the military knew Uzbekistan’s K2 airbase was poisoning service members stationed there.
“Ground contamination at Karshi-Khanabad Airfield poses health risks to U.S. forces deployed there,” said the classified report obtained by McClatchy dated Nov. 6, 2001. According to a 2015 Army investigation, at least 61 service members have been diagnosed with cancer or died after serving there, but that number does not include special operations troops at the secretive base.
There are many organizations available to help service members who have been impacted by toxic exposures. Veterans who are experiencing unexplained health issues are encouraged to reach out for help.
Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, III Corps and Fort Hood commanding general, and US Senator John Cornyn take questions from reporters during a press conference outside the main gate at Fort Hood, Texas, April 3, 2014. US Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar, 7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.
3. Fort Hood. K2 isn’t the only base responsible for death in the military. Fort Hood is quickly becoming known as one of the most dangerous places to be stationed in the US Army after a rash of murders and busted prostitution rings have been exposed. Twenty-three soldiers assigned to the Texas base have died this year alone; only one of those deaths happened in combat. The murder and dismemberment of Spc. Vanessa Guillen thrust Fort Hood’s issues into the national spotlight this year, and now multiple investigations have been initiated to find answers about why the base has devolved.
4. Suicide. Suicide afflicts both active duty troops and veterans alike. Between 2006 and 2020, 4,231 active service members died of self-inflicted wounds. In 2017, 6,139 veterans committed suicide, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. The reasons for taking one’s life vary, but over-prescription of opioids, toxic leadership, marital problems, and financial problems are all common reasons cited. Fortunately, the military has started to take the mental health crisis more seriously in recent years, with many senior leaders stepping forward to talk about their own struggles and encouraging troops to reach out for help if they need it.
Many of these issues can only be mitigated by calling out problems when they happen and being proactive about avoiding safety shortfalls. If you see something, say something. These problems won’t go away on their own.
According to a report from the Washington Free Beacon, the dictator requires that applicants to the highly-respected Pyongyang traffic cop corps must be between 16 and 26-years-old, at least 5-feet, 4-inches tall, a high school graduate, and not married.
Attractiveness and health are also job requirements. Successful applicants will get about 3,500 North Korean won per month – a good salary by North Korean standards but which amounts to about $30.
The status of those women goes beyond their high pay. They reportedly are given preference for careers and post-graduate studies, free housing and health care, and about 60 percent more food than the average North Korean citizen.
Men in North Korea compete fiercely for the affections of the Pyongyang Traffic Girls, or “PTGs,” and there is even a website devoted to them.
Why these women get such solicitude is unknown. The London Daily Star reported that speculation centers around an incident three years ago when one traffic cop reportedly saved the life of the “tubby tyrant.”
The cop was reportedly named a Hero of the Republic, the highest honor North Korea can give, but the North Korean government has refused to explain the circumstances, leading to speculation that the incident involved either a traffic accident or an assassination attempt.
The traffic cops man about 50 posts in the North Korean capital.