A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

It was an exceptionally hot September day in Twentynine Palms, California, and I was sitting in the waiting room of the physical therapist’s office, waiting for my initial appointment. I was there for an injury I’d acquired rappelling in the Marine Corps in 2002 that never properly healed. Two years later I was finally getting in for physical therapy.


The only other person in the waiting room with me was a gentleman, probably about 250lbs, with a beard down to his chest and an old ball cap with a fishing hook stuck through the bill. He looked (and smelled) like he hadn’t showered in weeks. I was pretty sure he was homeless, and had just ducked into the office for a moment of shade and relief from the 120 degree temps outside. In tattered jeans, tennis shoes with holes in them, and at least 3 shirts, he clearly wasn’t ready for physical therapy.

After what seemed forever, a receptionist poked her head into the waiting room, looked directly at the man next to me, and said “Mr. Foley? We’re ready for you.”

The man just stared at her and then looked at me, confused. “I think she means you,” he muttered.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
Photo: Wikipedia/Rose Physical Therapy Group from United States

“I’m Foley,” I told the woman.

“Oh. Our paperwork says you’re the veteran. I’m so sorry, we’ll fix that to reflect the dependent of the veteran. Come on back,” she pushed the door open for me, barely pausing to breath as she went on. “I really hate it when they mess up this stuff. You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to write ‘spouse’ in the margins or something!” The woman laughed at her brilliance, going on. “Anyway, I’m sorry. We’ll fix it. How are you today?”

“I’m the veteran,” was all I said.

The woman stopped walking, shocked. “Oh. I didn’t…uh…I didn’t realize girls got injured in the military,” she offered weakly, her voice trailing off in complete confusion.

“Yeah. It happens.” That’s all I could think to say.

Thus was my introduction to life as a female veteran.

Also Read: 4 most annoying regulations for women in the military

Once, during a ceremony at Mount Rushmore, the tour guide asked the veterans in the group to raise their hands. When I raised my hand, he glared at me and practically spat out “Darlin, I mean military veterans. Not their wives. You don’t serve.”

Another time, I sat in a pre-deployment brief filled to the brim with wives when the fiery boot lieutenant fresh from IOC and heading up the Remain Behind Element demanded that all the staff sergeants stand up. Then the sergeants. Then the corporals and so on and so forth. Confused, all kinds of wives stood up when their husband’s ranks were named. Then he shouted for everyone to sit down because none of them had earned any rank. I stayed standing.

He raced up to me and screamed right in my face to sit the f*ck down because I’d never served a day in my life. When I simply told him I was in the Marines, he walked away and never spoke another word to me.

It’s a thing, and it’s a fairly common thing that every female service member and veteran will experience, and often.

In fact, it’s such a common situation that female veterans and service members barely blink when it happens, and male veterans and service members don’t even realize it’s happening.

Recently, I asked some of my female veterans and active duty service member friends to share their experiences on being female veterans with me. I wasn’t at all surprised by some of the responses.

There is a female pilot that works with my husband. Every time she calls somewhere, she gets asked for her husband’s social. Prior to the Marines, she was a cop, so you’d think she’d be used to it and have found a solid way to avoid this. No. Even my own husband used to refer to her as “the female pilot” instead of just by her name like the rest of his buddies. It’s annoying as hell. Also, she isn’t even married.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
A female pilot smiles for the camera. (Image used with permission)

Another friend, who went into finance post-Army, spoke about how, in the military, we are taught that we have to work twice as hard to appear to be half as professional as our male counterparts. It sucks but it’s true. We had an entire period of instruction in Marine bootcamp about having to hold ourselves to a far higher standard in order to be seen as even remotely equal to our male peers. But in the civilian world, doing that makes her seem “unapproachable” or “too intimidating,” and she gets told to “be more feminine.” How civilians equate “be more feminine” with “don’t be as professional as your male counterparts” is beyond me, but it’s a thing.

Then there is the female pilot who was told she probably should find a way to get out of SERE school (it’s required for all pilots) because what if she has her period during SERE? Sorry to break it to you, dudes, but periods happen. And, in case you didn’t know, our periods don’t alert bears or the Taliban to our presence.

Or the female who got promoted meritoriously to corporal and staff sergeant (in different commands, several years apart) and got asked several times (in complete seriousness) after each promotion who she sucked off to get the promotion. How many male service members get asked that after a feat like TWO meritorious promotions?

There is the reservist, who is also a new mother. At her last battle assembly, she inquired about where she could go to pump. Her commander stared at her like she’d grown three heads and refused to speak to her for the rest of the time. Also note, men: women have breasts, and after a baby, they require pumping. No one is asking for special treatment, just directions to the nearest head to dump some of her milk into a freaking bag.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Joe W. McFadden

That’s part of the problem. If a female asks to be treated with an ounce of respect, she’s accused of trying to get special treatment, so she doesn’t ask. She doesn’t demand or insist. For the most part, the female service members and veterans just suck it up and accept it as part of being a girl; they have to be careful around the fragile egos that might get offended if she acts like she might be an equal.

And if she has the audacity to, say, write a noncontroversial article about female grooming standards in the military? She gets ripped to shreds and accused of not even being a veteran based on her photo next to her byline.

Because we all know female veterans don’t color their hair. And male veterans don’t put on 50lbs and grow beards when they get out.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This Navy SEAL wants to inspire kids to reach their full potential

Marc Lonergan-Hertel grew up in Massachusetts with the dream of becoming a Navy SEAL — a dream he made into a reality. But he had a long way to go before achieving such a feat. He decided he needed to toughen up first, so he joined the Marine Corps, where he eventually found himself in Force Recon.

His military career took him through some of the toughest training the military has to offer. And he wrote about it in his memoir, Sierra Two: A SEAL’s Odyssey in War and Peace.

But Lonergan-Hertel didn’t stop there. He continued a life of adventure and service after leaving the military and today, he wants to call attention to real-world heroes he met along the way. He wants his transformative journey to help inspire others — namely, our nation’s youth — so they can maximize their full potential and achieve their dreams.

He calls himself a Protector.


A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
Lonergan-Hertel’s Book is available on Amazon.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

Lonergan-Hertel and 1st Force Recon.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

Those who fight monsters inevitably change,” Lonergan-Hertel says, explaining what he means by the title “Protector.” It’s from a popular saying about post-traumatic stress, written by an unknown author. The quote goes on to note that if you stay in the fighting long enough, you will eventually become the monster. The former Navy SEAL wants to keep Protectors from getting that far.

“There is a cost to being a protector. Love is the only way to heal the wounds [that change you]. Remember this: As a protector, you run toward the things that others run away from. You go out to fight what you fear. You stand between others and the monsters on the other side of the wall.”

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

Lonergan-Hertel in his world-record paraglider flight, 70 South Antarctica.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

You can read about his adventures fighting monsters in his book, Sierra Two. After his time in Force Recon, he left the military and worked as a Emergency Medical Technician in Los Angeles as well as a hunting guide in Colorado. Eventually, he decided to explore the Army and join the Special Forces. Shortly after joining the California National Guard, he was able to wear a maroon beret in support of 19 Special Forces Group and prepared to try out for Delta Section. He didn’t make Delta, but it did prepare him a selection packet he could submit to the Navy. He graduated from BUD/S in 1996 and joined SEAL Team Four. He left the military in 2000, but didn’t leave behind the adventurer’s life.

“My platoon chief recommended me for an around-the-world expedition through the Cousteau Society,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “I ended up getting the position as a team member and expedition leader and scout for NatGeo and Discovery Channel programs to Antarctica the Amazon jungle, where I had experience as a SEAL.”

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

Lonergan-Hertel and his NatGeo Team. Lonergan-Hertel is center, in the cowboy hat.

(Courtesy of Marc Lonergan-Hertel)

During his military career and post-military adventuring, he began to question what he valued most in life. He began to look for his true purpose. As his journey sharpened his self-awareness, he was soon transformed into a new person. He became a Protector – and wanted to be the best Protector he could be. His life took him to rescue hurricane victims, assess the environment in Antarctica while diving under the ice shelves, hike up the Amazon River Basin alone and encounter endangered tribes along the way — he even lost his best friend to pirates along the same river.

“I wrote my book because I realized how much our life journey sharpens our awareness of what really matters in life,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “Real life experiences transform us as human beings and gives us an understanding of risk and sacrifice.”

He even has a line of survival gear, that includes a heat reflective thermal field blanket sleep system, called First Line Survival. Lonergan-Hertel calls it “base camp in a bag” and all the proceeds from First Line Survival benefit his Protectors tour.

But the longtime adventurer is more than just an author. He’s crossing the country with fellow Protectors to tell their stories in stage presentations, meant for school-age children but meaningful to parents as well. He wants children to grow up with the confidence to realize their abilities and potential, to see a personal path toward a positive future, and realize they have the power to do this within themselves at all times.

“I understand very clearly that the gift of life can be away very quickly,” Lonergan-Hertel says. “The best thing I can leave behind is to inspire others to have confidence in themselves and to help others who have a more difficult journey in life.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Did admirals conspire to falsely punish a Navy SEAL?

A military judge ruled Oct. 24 that the Navy Judge Advocate General illegally intervened in the sexual assault trial of a decorated Navy SEAL.


Air Force Col. Vance H. Spath ruled Oct. 24 that Vice Adm. James Crawford, the Navy’s top lawyer, exerted unlawful command influence in the case of Senior Chief Keith E. Barry in 2015.

The naval officer overseeing Barry’s judge-only court-martial had planned to overturn his 2014 conviction, having decided the SEAL was not guilty of sexual assault against a girlfriend with whom he had an intense sexual relationship.

But the now-retired Rear Adm. Patrick Lorge was persuaded not to act by Adm. Crawford, who was the Navy’s second-ranking lawyer at that time.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
Vice Admiral James W. Crawford III, Navy Judge Advocate General. Photo from US Navy.

“Actual or apparent unlawful command influence tainted the final action in this case,” Col. Spath wrote in his opinion Oct. 24.

The Air Force judge also bemoaned the effect the intervention has brought to the military justice system.

“As the judge who conducted the … hearing, it appears the final action taken in this case is unfortunate as it does not engender confidence in the processing of this case or the military justice system as a whole,” said Col. Spath, the Air Force’s chief trial judge.

Mr. Lorge, who was the convening authority in the Barry case in San Diego, stayed silent for two years. But last summer he swore out an affidavit saying he was riven by guilt and should have stuck by his guns.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kiona Miller.

The Washington Times first reported on the extraordinary action by Mr. Lorge, a former combat pilot.

David Sheldon, Chief Barry’s civilian defense counsel, said: “This morning a Military Judge made extraordinary findings in a case that will shake the very foundations of the military and the Navy JAG Corps. The court found that the current Judge Advocate General of the Navy committed unlawful command influence when he advised and persuaded a Convening Authority to approve the findings of a court-martial against a US Navy SEAL for political reasons, despite the Convening Authority’s firm belief the SEAL was not guilty of the charge and had not received a fair trial.”

Also Read: Reports of sexual assault in the military increase

The military justice system has been under intense political pressure from Congress to convict those charged with sexual assault.

The next step is for the case to go back to the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, which had ordered the inquiry by Col. Spath. The military’s highest court decreed that no Navy or Marine Corps judge be involved.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
A gavel sits on display in a military courtroom Jan. 29, 2014, at Dover Air Force Base. USAF photo by Airman 1st Class William Johnson.

Col. Spath oversaw a two-day hearing last month at the Washington Navy Yard. His opinion depicts an anguished Adm. Lorge wanting to overturn the conviction but being pushed by his legal adviser to affirm it and being persuaded by Adm. Crawford.

Then-Adm. Lorge reviewed the trial record in April and June 2015.

“RAM Lorge developed significant concerns about the case,” Col. Spath wrote. “His particular concerns were related to his perception the trial judge was not objective, his belief that the appellant may not have committed the crime for which he stood convicted, and his belief that the appellant had not received a fair trial.

During Adm. Lorge’s deliberations, Adm. Crawford had two conversations with him, one by telephone the other in person.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Samuel Morse.

Col. Spath wrote about the first conversation: “RADM Lorge’s ultimate impression was that VADM Crawford believed RADM Lorge should approve the findings and sentence in the case. While VADM Crawford may not have said these actual words, based on the conversations during the meeting, RADM Lorge was clearly left with that belief after the meeting. The meeting confirmed the pressures on the system at a minimum.”

“What seems evident is RADM Lorge believes pressure was brought to bear on him to take particular action in this case,” the colonel wrote.

Related: Anonymous reports reveal military sexual misconduct truths

The Navy Judge Advocate General at that time, Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi, also spoke to Adm. Lorge, but well before the Barry court-martial. She talked about the intense pressure the Navy was under from Congress in sexual assault cases.

Col. Spath explained her discussion: “She told RADM Lorge that every three or four months decisions were made regarding sexual assault cases that caused further scrutiny by Congress and other political and military leaders. She also told RADM Lorge that a good deal of her time was being taken up with testimony and visits to both Capitol Hill and the White House.”

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi (right), US Navy’s judge advocate general, talks to sailors who work at the Justice Center in Parwan, Nov. 6, 2012. DOD photo by Army Sgt. Katie D. Summerhill.

President Obama had ordered the Pentagon to launch a comprehensive campaign to wipe out sexual harassment and assault.

“VADM DeRenzi was simply discussing the realities of the current environment in which she and commanders were operating at the time, particularly in relation to sexual assault,” Col. Spath wrote.

“RADM Lorge did not take the action he wanted to take in this case; RADM Lorge was influenced by conversations with senior military leaders; specifically VADM DeRenzi and VADM Crawford when taking action in this case,” the Air Force judge concluded.

Patty Babb, a spokeswoman for Adm. Crawford, issued a statement: “On October 24, 2017, the military judge presiding over the DuBay hearing in US v. Barry issued findings of fact in the case. Those findings will now be considered by the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. As always, the Navy wishes to preserve the integrity of the court’s deliberation, and it will therefore refrain from commenting on matters related to the case at this time.”

Articles

Military applicants will now take same drug tests as active duty members

Drug testing for all applicants for military service is expanding to include the same 26-drug panel used for active military members, the Defense Department’s director of drug testing and program policy said.


The change, effective April 3, 2017, is due to the level of illicit and prescription medication abuse among civilians, as well as the increase in heroin and synthetic drug use within the civilian population, Army Col. Tom Martin explained.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
Army Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, commander, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, performs a ceremonial swearing-in of Delayed Entry Program enlistees at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., Jan. 11, 2017. (U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)

Currently, military applicants are tested for marijuana; cocaine; amphetamines, including methamphetamine; and designer amphetamines such as MDMA —also known as “Molly” or “Ecstasy” — and MDA, also known as “Adam,” he said.

The expanded testing will include those drugs as well as heroin, codeine, morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone, and a number of synthetic cannabinoids and benzodiazepine sedatives, Martin said.

Related: 13 hilarious urinalysis memes every troop will understand

The new standards apply to all military applicants, including recruits entering through military entrance processing stations, as well as appointees to the service academies, incoming members of the ROTC, and officer candidates undergoing initial training in an enlisted status.

Ensuring the Best Enter Military

With drug use incompatible with military service, the expanded testing is meant to ensure readiness by admitting only the most qualified people, Martin said. Incoming service members will be held to the same standards as current military members, who are subject to random drug testing up to three times a year, he added.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
It’s not like at the doc’s office. It’s so much more than that.

“Military applicants currently are tested on a small subset of drugs that military members are tested on,” Martin said. “Applicants need to be aware of the standard we hold our service members to when they join the service.”

About 279,400 applicants are processed for entry into military service each year, with roughly 2,400 of them testing positive for drugs, Martin said. Data indicates that about 450 additional people will test positive using the expanded testing, he said.

Policy Details

The updated policy allows applicants who test positive to reapply after 90 days, if the particular service allows it, Martin said. Any individual who tests positive on the second test is permanently disqualified from military service, he said, but he noted that the services have the discretion to apply stricter measures and can disqualify someone after one positive test.

Current policy allows for different standards for reapplication depending on the type of drug, Martin said. The updated policy is universal and allows only one opportunity to reapply for military service regardless of drug type, he said.

The update to Department of Defense Instruction 1010.16 was published Feb. 27.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia announced it will test its ‘unstoppable’ Satan missile

A top Russian General announced on March 13, 2018, that Russia’s military will conduct a second test of its new, most powerful nuclear intercontinental ballistic missile amid rising tensions with NATO.


“The first launch of this missile took place at the end of December 2017. At the moment, preparations are in full swing at the Plesetsk cosmodrome for another pop-up test,” Russian General Valery Gerasimov told state-run media, referring to testing the missile’s systems used to eject from its silo as a “pop-up” test.

Also read: The 20 coolest artillery pieces in history

During Putin’s State of the Nation speech on March 1, 2018, he talked up the new system, called the RS-28, or the “Satan 2” by NATO members, while showing footage of its testing.

But like much of Russia’s military hardware, the actual footage only showed an ejection test, and then a computer animation took over to demonstrate the missiles flight path, which has not yet been tested.

When discussing the missile, both Putin and Gerasimov discussed how it could defeat missile defense systems, without mentioning that no one has yet built missile defense systems designed to counter a Russian ICBM attack.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The RS-28 can carry as many as 16 nuclear warheads, or fewer, heavier warheads and possibly decoys or countermeasures, The Diplomat’s Franz Gady reports.

Putin, during his speech, also mentioned that the missile can pair with a hypersonic glide vehicle that would further complicate any attempts at interception.

Putin’s talk of Russia’s new offensive nuclear weapons comes as he seeks re-election on March 18, 2018. Though nobody seriously expects Putin to lose the election where no meaningful opposition is running and he has controlled the media throughout, experts have told Business Insider he’s under pressure to deliver tangible results of his leadership.

Related: This is how Russia’s ‘unstoppable’ nuclear weapon works

Both the US and UK have called Putin’s talk of new nuclear systems “irresponsible,” while both countries stand ready to condemn Moscow if authorities can prove that a nerve agent attack carried out against a former spy in the UK can be traced back to the Kremlin.

The UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May said it was “highly likely” that the attack was Russian in origin, and that the UK would retaliate if it proved true.

Additionally, Gerasimov said in separate comments that he believes the US will try to blame a chemical weapon attack on civilians on Syria, and use that to launch an attack against the country, against which Russia would retaliate.

Articles

Iran plans post-2020 naval expansion

Iran is planning for a bigger navy as soon as provisions of the 2015 nuclear deal expire. Planned purchases include new warships and submarines much more advanced than vessels currently in the theocracy’s inventory.


According to the Times of Israel, the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Intelligence issued a report on Iran’s naval strength. The SS-N-26 Yakhont, already in service with Russia, was mentioned as one system Iran was seeking to acquire.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. (Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi)

According to a website maintained by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Yakhont, which has a range of just under 162 nautical miles, has already been exported to Indonesia, Vietnam, and Syria. A variant of the SS-N-26, the BrahMos, is in service with India. CSIS noted that most of Syria’s missiles were destroyed in a July 2013 air strike by the Israeli Defense Force.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
SS-N-26 at at MAKS Airshow in Zhukovskiy, 1997. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World, Iran’s most modern combat vessels are three Kilo-class submarines acquired from Russia in the 1990s. The Kilos have six 21-inch torpedo tubes and can hold up to 18 torpedoes.

Modern versions of that sub in service with the Russian Navy can fire the SS-N-27/SS-N-30 Sizzler cruise missile. The SS-N-26, SS-N-27, and SS-N-30 have both land-attack and anti-ship variants.

The Times of Israel report comes just as the United States Navy announced a close encounter between a Military Sealift Command vessel and an Iranian frigate. According to CBSNews.com, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the missile range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (AGM 24).

The encounter was described as “unprofessional, but not unsafe” due to the fact that the frigate was not approaching the MSC vessel, but was instead on a parallel course.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
USNS Invincible (T AGM 24). (MSC photo)

The Military Sealift Command website notes that USNS Invincible displaces 2,285 tons, has a top speed of 11 knots, and a crew of 18. The vessel is unarmed, and is used for collecting data on missile launches. It is one of two in service.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines may have to fight all of America’s low-intensity wars

Buried nearly 500 pages into the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2019 , Senate Bill 2987, is an interesting directive: “No later than February 1, 2019, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the congressional defense committees a report setting forth a re-evaluation of the highest priority missions of the Department of Defense, and of the roles of the Armed Forces in the performance of such missions.” Despite receiving passing attention in the media, this small section of a large bill has potentially enormous long-term repercussions.


The Senate NDAA passed by a vote of 85–10 on June 19, 2018. Much of the re-evaluation that the Senate Armed Services Committee calls for in S.2987 is justified and indeed overdue. There is a glaring need to take a new look at issues such as:

  • Future ground vehicles that are not optimized for high-end conflict
  • The advantages of carrier-launched unmanned platforms over our short-legged manned Navy strike aircraft
  • The ways in which swarms of cheap drones can impact the United States’ ability to project power
  • Our overstretched special operations forces

Alongside these necessary inquiries, the requested report also asks a much bigger question: “whether the joint force would benefit from having one Armed Force dedicated primarily to low-intensity missions.” The bill tells us which Armed Force this would be: the United States Marine Corps.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Joseph Jacob)

The Trump Administration’s National Defense Strategy rightly seeks to reorient America’s military on the most difficult task it can face: deterring or winning a large-scale modern war against a peer competitor. The Senate NDAA seems guided by that same logic.

The military and its civilian overseers have picked up some bad habits from the past two decades of low-intensity operations. At least one prominent retired general questions whether the US military still knows how to fight a major war. Counterinsurgency may be “eating soup with a knife,” but it is not “the graduate level of warfare.” No matter how vexing armed anthropology and endless cups of tea may be to soldiers, the challenges of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism do not compare to those of a high-tempo, high-casualty modern war. This should be obvious to even a casual student of military history, but the post-9/11 wars have generated an enormous amount of woolly thinking among both soldiers and civilians.

There are also justifiable concerns about the viability of forcible entry from the sea, the Marine Corps’ traditional mission. Since the Falklands invasion in 1982, we have seen that modern missiles will make amphibious power projection increasingly costly. The Marine Corps has taken note and for decades now has quietly been renaming schools, vehicles, and probably marching bands “Expeditionary” instead of “Amphibious.” However, America will always be a maritime nation, and “game-changing” military technologies have a mixed record.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by LCpl. Angel D. Travis)

Yet while the Senate’s requested report is asking the Secretary of Defense many of the right questions, its one attempt at an answer should be rejected outright.

A high/low mix of platforms is worth examining. Going high/low with our military services is another matter altogether.

The Army and Air Force undoubtedly want to get back to preparing to fight major wars, as they should. Relegating the Marine Corps to second-tier status as a counterinsurgency and advising force, however, is not in the national interest.

Militaries have historically understood that they must prepare primarily for the most dangerous and difficult operations they could face. It is far easier to shift a trained force down the range of military operations than up. The Israelis offer the most vivid recent illustration of this truth.

Before the 2006 Second Lebanon War with Hezbollah, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had been focused on operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, with 75 percent of training devoted to low-intensity conflict (LIC). When this counterinsurgency force confronted well-armed, well-trained, and dug-in Hezbollah militiamen, it received a nasty wake up call: the IDF took relatively heavy casualties and was unable to decisively defeat Hezbollah or halt rocket attacks into Israel, which continued until the day of the ceasefire. The IDF quickly returned to training for stiffer fights, devoting 80 percent of its training to high-intensity conflict (HIC) after the 2006 war.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
An Israeli soldier tosses a grenade into a Hezbollah bunker.

America already has a tradition of early bloody noses in major wars, from Bull Runto Kasserine Pass to Task Force Smith. Unless we want an even more catastrophic shock in our next major war, we must focus all four of our military services on major combat operations and combined arms maneuver. We should not forget the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, such as they are. But it is the height of folly to turn our most expeditionary and aggressive military service into a corps of advisors and gendarmes.

Instead of continuing to throw lives and money at the intractable — and strategically less important — security problems of the developing world, perhaps we should spend more time and effort avoiding such military malpractice. Let’s hope the Department of Defense concurs.

This article originally appeared on Real Clear Defense. Follow @RCDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

For US troops, service-connected hearing loss is a big problem

Ed Timperlake was VA assistant secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs from 1989 to 1992, and served in the U.S. Marine Corps as a fighter pilot and squadron commander.

One of the little-known facts of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is that the nature of combat wounds has changed dramatically.


For most of human history, the most common combat wound was a piercing injury. Primitive spears, the Roman gladius, medieval lances and bullets all create piercing wounds, and battlefield medicine was largely focused on treating these types of injuries.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

As an assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs during the George H. W. Bush administration, I saw up close how VA health care responded to the after-effects of these combat wounds. But in the years since, veteran care reflects an entirely new and complex type of injury.

A study published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery in 2012 noted that between 2005 and 2009 — the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — nearly three in four combat wounds were the result of “explosive mechanisms.” This fact was reflected in the Iranian missile attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq last month, which resulted in 109 troops sustaining varying degrees of head injuries.

Most of these troops have returned to duty, but one of the most common and least seen aspects of these injuries is hearing loss. The auditory sense is highly vulnerable to explosive mechanisms and, unlike most of the human body, many tissues associated with hearing do not regenerate themselves. When they are destroyed, they are destroyed forever. Tinnitus, otherwise known as ringing in the ears, while less serious than absolute hearing loss, is still harmful in the long term and is pervasive among troops serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hearing loss is personal for my family. One of my nieces was born with significant hearing loss, and another is pursuing her doctorate at Gallaudet University, developing better ways to accurately test and address hearing loss. My own hearing has been degraded due to military noise. I can never forget the roar that reverberated through my head the first time I was catapulted from the deck of an aircraft carrier. As a young Marine Corps fighter pilot, the “scramble orders” I and my squadron mates received in response to threats from Cuban MiGs resulted in ear-shattering experiences with every sortie, for months at a time.

Today, more than 1.25 million veterans suffer from hearing loss, with nearly two million suffering from tinnitus. Combined, they represent the top two service-connected disabilities addressed by the VA. To its credit, the VA is doing a good job of addressing the problem with hearing conservation programs and high-tech hearing aids.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

But the Defense Department is playing catch-up on the issue. After having issued faulty hearing protection to active-duty forces over the past decade, leading to countless cases of unnecessary hearing loss, the Pentagon is now testing several different styles of hearing protection for troops in the field, and confidence is high that the next generation of combat hearing protection will represent a substantial improvement.

Once these troops muster out of uniform and transition to veteran status, a large part of the challenge in helping these vets with hearing loss is technological. Low-cost hearing aids that simply amplify sound do little good, often making background noise too loud to provide any meaningful improvement in hearing conversation, music and other audible intelligence.

The private sector is making good progress on developing and improving this technology with Bluetooth capabilities and even fitness trackers, offering hope to veterans with hearing loss as they re-acclimate to civilian life.

The prospects for better hearing protection and improved service to veterans with hearing loss and tinnitus is encouraging. But we have to keep our eye on the ball to make sure our warfighters get the combat gear they need, and that veterans receive the care they earned through their sacrifice.

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

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.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

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.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

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.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

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.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

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 HISTORY

Real declassified CIA docs provide guidance for ‘UFO Photographers’

The past few years have seen a massive resurgence in UFO research and discussion, both throughout the media and, publicly speaking, from elements of the nation’s own defense apparatus. From 2017’s revelation that the Pentagon had been directly funding investigations into unusual sightings (along with a litany of other unusual phenomena) to last month’s announcement that the U.S. Navy was formalizing UFO reporting procedures, it seems clearer now than ever that something unusual is going on in the skies above our pale blue dot, and that Uncle Sam wants to know what it is.


Of course, for those that have served in high ranking positions throughout America’s defense and intelligence apparatus over the decades, that comes as no revelation at all, as the U.S. Government actually has a long and illustrious history of covert and semi-covert investigations into the unknown.

Some of these efforts, like Project Blue Book, aimed to explain away sightings of strange lights in the skies, while others, like these declassified documents from the CIA’s archive, had a different aim. These documents were meant to serve as a how-to manual to capture the best possible images of flying saucers (or whatever they may be) for further examination. These documents may not prove the existence of alien visitors, but they certainly prove that even America’s foreign intelligence service has long had their eye on the skies.

The CIA readily acknowledges its involvement in UFO investigations dating all the way back to its very inception in 1947, which UFO buffs will be quick to note was the same year as the now-legendary Roswell incident. According to the CIA, they closely monitored Defense Department UFO initiatives throughout this era, even going so far as to draft up the document shown below offering ten tips to UFO investigators who had been struggling to capture clear images of the strange phenomena. This included an attached “UFO Photographic Information Sheet” to be filled out by the photographer whenever a sighting occurred.

The CIA’s guidance for UFO Photographers was, according to the CIA, first published in 1967 and remained classified until December of 2013, though it wasn’t until three years later that the document was uploaded to the CIA’s digital archive, making it readily available to readers from all over the world.

According to the CIA, these are the tips you need to follow in order to get the best possible evidence of your UFO encounter:

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

“Guidance to UFO Photographers” was first published in 1967 and declassified in 2013.

(Courtesy of the CIA Archive)

1. Have camera set at infinity.

2. Fast film such as Tri-X, is very good.

3. For moving objects shutter speeds not slower than one hundredth of a second should be used. Shutter and f-stop combination will depend upon lighting conditions; dusk, cloudy day, bright sunlight, etc. If your camera does not require such settings, just take pictures.

4. Do not move camera during exposure.

5. Take several pictures of the object; as many as you can. If you can, include some ground in the picture of the UFO.

6. If the object appears to be close to you, a few hundred feet or closer, try to change your location on the ground so that each picture, or few pictures are taken from a different place. A change in position of 40 or 60 feet is good. (This establishes what is known as a base line and is helpful in technical analysis of your photography.) If the object appears to be far away, a mile or so, remain about where you are and continue taking pictures. A small movement here will not help. However, if you can get in a car and drive l/2 to a mile or so and-take another series of pictures this will help.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

Single images of UFOs don’t offer much in the way of context (the photographer of this UFO believes it may be a bird)

(Image captured by James Havard on Flickr)

7. After pictures of UFO have been taken, remain where you are: now, slowly, turning 360 degrees take overlapping, eye level, photography as you turn around. By this technique the surrounding countryside will be photographed. This photography is very valuable for the analysis of the UFO you have just photographed.

8. Your original negative is of value. Be sure it Is processed with care.

9. If you can, have another negative made from the original.

10. Any reproductions you have made for technical study and analysis should be made from the original negative and should be printed to show all the picture including the border and even the sprocket holes, if your film has them.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Veteran is unsung hero in COVID-19 battle

Army Veteran Kolan Glass is not a doctor or a nurse. Still, in the battle against COVID-19, he is one of the most critical employees at North Las Vegas VAMC. Glass is the primary housekeeper in the emergency department. After a Veteran has been released, Glass ensures the room is sanitized and prepared for the next patient.


“I clean every room as I would want it if I was the next patient to be staying in it,” says Glass. “I sanitize each room with my full attention.”

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran

North Las Vegas VA housekeeper and Army Veteran Kolan Glass sanitizes the emergency department.

Using technology to ensure safety

Glass and his fellow housekeepers employ the latest technology to prevent infection. This includes a remote-controlled system that uses ultraviolet light to purify equipment, room surfaces and objects.

“Probably about 90 percent of us [housekeepers] are Vets,” he says. “That means we talk and we don’t panic. Sure, we’re dealing with a pandemic, but we still have to get the job done and keep everybody safe.”

Glass experienced first-hand how a viral outbreak can test the emergency department. In March, Glass came in contact with a COVID-19-positive patient. He and other employees were placed on a 14-day quarantine.

“I didn’t get nervous,” Glass says. “I understood it was a precautionary measure, but I was ready to get back to work.”

Glass’s supervisor recognizes his dedication and leadership.

“Even after he had to self-isolate from his family, and with the stress of waiting for testing results, he immediately picked up right where he left off,” says Jesse Diaz. Diaz is chief of environmental management safety (EMS) at North Las Vegas VAMC. “He’s been very vocal in educating the staff and his housekeeping peers in his area. He wants to develop a partnership with the clinical staff and EMS to help reduce the chances of COVID-19 infecting or impacting others.”

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

Articles

Is the military researching an ‘anti-aging’ pill?

When it sounds too wild to be true, it’s likely a plot put into place by the U.S. military. Such is the case with one of their latest plans, researching an anti-aging pill. U.S. Special Operations Command, or SOCOM, recently stated that they are researching a pill that could help pause some natural aging processes. 

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
Sounds like an origin story…

The thought of anti-aging technology is nothing new. It’s an idea that’s graced books and the big screen alike with fancy medicines or machines that were seemingly a cure-all. Of course, those were all fictional. But in real life, skin-care products of all kinds boast anti-aging abilities, as do particular diets. However, this is likely the first time we’ve seen something to this degree, or on this scale. Let alone put forth by the U.S. military. 

The anti-aging pill’s research 

After years of clinical and trials researching safety precautions, SOCOM plans to start “performance testing” for the fiscal year 2022, a spokesperson recently announced. They are partnering with a private firm, Metro International Biochem, a biotech lab company out of Michigan.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
Well, it’s not the worst idea to keep troops like this in top shape a few more years
(U.S. Navy/ Seaman Richard Miller)

Consisting of a literal pill, the goal is to add human performance to the body, enhancing the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Essentially, they are focusing on a “human performance small molecule” and turning it into a “nutraceutical form,” according to the spokesperson, Navy Commander Tim Hawkins. 

“These efforts are not about creating physical traits that don’t already exist naturally. This is about enhancing the mission readiness of our forces by improving performance characteristics that typically decline with age. Essentially, we are working with leading industry partners and clinical research institutions to develop a nutraceutical, in the form of a pill that is suitable for a variety of uses by both civilians and military members, whose resulting benefits may include improved human performance — like increased endurance and faster recovery from injury,” he said.

How it works

The molecule is said to be nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+). The research has shown that a reduction in NAD+ is shown in many aging-based diseases or ailments. 

At this time, nutraceuticals are not regulated by the FDA. The pill, once regulated, is planned to be available for military members and civilians alike. 

Other announcements mirrored the above, stating that the pill is meant to help prevent injuries, especially as people get further in age. Some preventable injuries include loss of eyesight and blindness, cramps and muscle weakness, diabetes, intestinal issues, liver failure, problems with the kidneys, certain heart conditions and nervous system diseases, such as dementia, strokes, seizures and spasms. 

This testing and research has been going on since 2018. In total, about $2.8 million has gone into biotechnology data and studies and the potential effects of NAD+.

The results of the upcoming trial will determine SOCOM’s next moves for their pill. To learn more about the upcoming trial and any potential availability with the military’s anti-aging pill, follow their progress on SOCOM’s website, or by following Metro International’s website.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Air Force killed a combat demo for light attack aircraft

The OA-X program will not be seeing how its top contenders fare in combat. That is the decision the Air Force made as two of the planes failed to make the cut for the next round of evaluations.


According to a report from CombatAircraft.net, the Textron Scorpion and the AT-802U Longsword were given the chop by the Air Force. The AT-802 is a modified cropduster that’s been equipped with two .50-caliber Gatling guns. The Scorpion is a twin-engine jet that’s capable of carrying up to 9,000 pounds of ordnance.

The Air Force has been running the OA-X program to find a new close air support aircraft. Previously, the Air Force had planned to take designs that made the cut, the AT-6 Wolverine and the A-29 Super Tucano, and put on a real-world combat demonstration. This demonstration has been canceled. Instead, the U.S. Air Force plans to “work closely with industry to experiment with maintenance, data networking, and sensors with the two most promising light attack aircraft,” according to the Secretary of the Air Force, Heather Wilson.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
An Afghan Air Force A-29 Super Tucano. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Nardisoero)

Even though the Scorpion is officially out of contention, Textron is not entirely out of the running, as it also produces the AT-6 — a version of the T-6 Texan II. The T-6, though, was recently reported to be causing in pilots what the Air Force describes as “unexpected physiological events,” a term that’s been recently used to describe incidents where aircrew experience symptoms of hypoxia. The 19th Air Force has ordered an “operational pause” for the Texan II while the issues are addressed.

A few of the unique challenges of being a female veteran
The T-6A Texan II is phasing out the aging T-37 fleet throughout Air Education and Training Command. (Air Force photo by Master Sgt. David Richards)

If this same problem plagues the AT-6, we’re likely to see the A-29 Super Tucano win the OA-X competition. The A-29 has already proved itself in action with the Afghan Air Force and has also been sold to Nigeria and the Philippines.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information