By Mark Cantrell
This article was originally printed in the March issue of Military Officer magazine.
Costing as little as $1, a single land mine can require a thousand times that amount of money to detect and clear. Once placed, mines can operate autonomously for decades, creating significant humanitarian crises after a war has ended.
To mitigate the danger, researchers are improving mine-detection and clearing techniques. In Croatia, researchers are training bees to detect mines by scent, while a Belgian firm is using giant African rats (right).
The most promising solutions employ advanced technology. In Egypt, a multinational robotic mine-clearing contest has been held since 2012 to develop new devices for the task. In the U.S., DoD’s Idaho National Laboratory has developed a robotic operating system called Robot Intelligence Kernel (RIK), which gives automatons a high degree of situational awareness, allowing them “capabilities that are analogous to that of a highly trained police dog.”
Recently, a robot equipped with RIK and a marking system developed by the Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego was able to detect 130 of 135 mines buried along a road, marking with dye both the location of each mine and a safe path through them.
Cover of the February National Geographic magazine. © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic
National Geographic has put our servicemembers front and center on their February 2015 magazine cover, with their latest feature, “Healing Our Soldiers“ – a two part article on Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and how it affects the lives of veterans.
Writer Caroline Alexander’s piece The Invisible War on the Brain takes a close look at the signature injury of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars—traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) caused by the shock waves from explosions. TBIs have left hundreds of thousands of U.S. veterans with life-altering and sometimes debilitating conditions, the treatment of which can be extremely complicated.
Photographer Lynn Johnson’s images Revealing the Trauma of War depict veterans who have taken part in a unique program at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. There, soldiers paint masks to help them cope with daily struggles and express their emotions. As one veteran says, the artwork “is a silent testimony to pain that speaks volumes, yet has the capacity to heal.”
Great, in-depth feature on what our servicemembers and their families may be dealing with when they come home.
For more on this topic, visit www.moaa.org/wfs for information on MOAA’s annual Warrior-Family Symposium. This year’s event will be held in September – details coming soon.
Marine Cpl. Chris McNair (Ret.) – Afghanistan 2011-12
Impeccable in his Marine uniform and outwardly composed, McNair sits on the porch of his parents’ home in Virginia, anonymous behind a mask he made in an art therapy session. “I was just going through pictures, and I saw the mask of Hannibal Lecter, and I thought, ‘That’s who I am’ … He’s probably dangerous, and that’s who I felt I was. I had this muzzle on with all these wounds, and I couldn’t tell anyone about them. I couldn’t express my feelings.” © Lynn Johnson/National Geographic.
Are you a veteran with a severe service-connected disability that affects your mobility? Do you know someone who is? The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the Specially Adapted Housing program, designed to help severely disabled veterans and servicemembers purchase or construct an adapted home, or modify an existing home to accommodate a disability. Two grant programs exist:
- the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grant
- the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) grant
The SAH grant is designed to help disabled veterans and servicemembers by providing a barrier-free living environment, such as a wheelchair accessible home, that affords veterans a level of independent living they may not otherwise enjoy. Veterans and servicemembers with specific service-connected disabilities (including loss/loss of use of both lower extremities) may be entitled to a grant for the purpose of constructing or modifying a home to meet their adaptive needs, up to the current maximum of $70,465.
The SHA grant can be used to increase the mobility of eligible veteran and servicemembers throughout their residences. Veterans and servicemembers with specific service-connected disabilities (including severe visual impairment or loss/loss of use of both hands) may be entitled to this type of grant, up to the current maximum of $14,093.
For those who do not yet own a home, a temporary grant may be available to SAH/SHA eligible veterans and servicemembers who are or will be temporarily residing in a home owned by a family member. The maximum amount available to adapt a family member’s home for the SAH grant is $30,934 and for the SHA grant is $5,523.
VA has staff located nationwide to assist individuals in applying for and receiving these grants.
By Cpl. Joey Holeman, USMC
Originally published in the February 2015 issue of Military Officer magazine
When U.S. Marines stormed the beaches of Okinawa, Japan, toward the end of World War II, they survived by any means necessary, including hand-to-hand combat. Today, hand-to-hand combat still is emphasized in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, which held its instructor course in Okinawa in late November 2014.
Students participating in the class endured a long, strenuous day starting with an endurance course and ending with shallow-water grappling. The instructors wanted the students to grasp the history behind close-quarter combat and Okinawa.
“For them to understand what Marines went through arriving on theses beaches, hitting the shores, running, and having that hand-to-hand combat is an incredible realization for them,” says Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Rafael Garcialopez, chief instructor.
Marines from each base on Okinawa and various combative and noncombative specialties participated. The course brought together all aspects of the Marine Corps, emphasizing the importance of a warfighting mindset. The martial arts program has existed since 2001.
Photo caption: Marines assigned to Fleet Anti-Terrorism Security Team Pacific (FASTPAC) practice proper knife wielding techniques during a 12-day Marine Corps Martial Arts Program course at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. FASTPAC companies maintain forward-deployed platoons at Navy installations around the Indo-Asia-Pacific region to provide crises-response capabilities and anti-terrorism and weapons training to security personnel. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amanda S. Kitchner/Releases)
Apply now for the 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games. Registration goes from now until April 15.
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a sports and rehabilitation program for military service Veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems. Each year, hundreds of disabled veterans travel from around the country to compete in the Games, which is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. With them, they bring the fighting spirit and tenacity that defines the veterans of our armed forces.
Competitive events at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games include:
- air guns,
- field events,
- hand cycling,
- a motorized wheelchair rally,
- power soccer,
- quad rugby,
- table tennis,
- and weightlifting.
The 2015 National Veterans Wheelchair Games will take place in Dallas, Texas, from June 21-26. For more information, visit www.wheelchairgames.org and follow VA Adaptive Sports on Twitter at @VAAdaptiveSport.