Staff at the Bay Pines Veterans Healthcare System left a deceased veteran in a shower room for over nine hours, increasing the risk of decomposition.
That is among the findings of a 24-page report issued by investigators into the incident, news outlets say.
According to reports from the Tampa Bay Times and Fox13News.com, documentation concerning the post-mortem care was falsified to cover up the incident.
The report, heavily redacted by the Department of Veterans Affairs due to confidentiality rules, revealed massive failures in the incident.
Hospital spokesman Jason Dangel told the Tampa Bay Times “appropriate personnel action was taken” in addition to carrying out a combination of retraining staff and changing procedures. The report, while heavily redacted to protect the confidentiality of the staff who allegedy left the deceased veteran lying around for nine hours, did list the procedures that should have been followed.
In a lengthier statement released to Fox13news.com, an unidentified spokesperson with the VA hospital noted, “As reflected in the outcomes of our thorough internal reviews, it was found that some staff did not follow post mortem care procedures. We view this finding unacceptable, and have taken appropriate action to mitigate reoccurrence in the future.”
The staff will be retained, sign a written commitment to maintain VA core values and nurses will be on staff to make sure the procedures are followed, the official said.
“We feel that we have taken strong, appropriate and expeditious steps to strengthen and improve our existing systems and processes within the unit,” the official said.
In a stinging statement on the incident also delivered to Fox13news.com, Florida Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis said, “I am deeply disturbed by the incident that occurred at the Bay Pines VA hospital, and even more distressed to learn that staff attempted to cover it up. The report details a total failure on the part of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and an urgent need for greater accountability.”
“Unsurprisingly, not a single VA employee has been fired following this incident, despite a clear lack of concern and respect for the Veteran,” Bilirakis added. “The men and women who sacrificed on behalf of our nation deserve better.”
In the years immediately following World War II, based on the idea that the war was over and the world was a more peaceful place, Capitol Hill and the White House were putting pressure on the Pentagon by reducing the defense budget. President Truman believed the military could cut costs by taking redundant efforts across all the branches and combining them into unified commands. The most radical of these ideas was taking the Department of War and the Department of the Navy and placing them under a new command known as the Department of National Defense.
The Army had actually teed up the idea of the Department of National Defense, yielding to the fact that they were about to lose the Army Air Corps, which was morphing into the U.S. Air Force, a branch of its own. The Navy fought the notion of the Air Force having service branch status, pointing to the fact that they’d just won a world war and everything was just fine as it was. The Navy had no desire to be anything other than completely independent from the Army, and the idea of a new branch with cognizance over air power made the admirals paranoid that they’d lose control of their sea-based air power in time.
But military technology was changing fast, particularly that designed to conduct nuclear warfare, and Air Force leaders actively socialized an agenda that conventional assets — like aircraft carriers and other surface combatants — were increasingly irrelevant on the battlefields of the future.
For its part, the Navy’s leadership believed that wars could not be won by strategic bombing alone, with or without the use of nuclear weapons. The Navy also held a moral objection to relying upon the widespread use of nuclear weapons to destroy the major population centers of an enemy homeland. The Navy’s signature platform for sea service relevance in wars to come was the USS United States (CVA 58), a new generation of aircraft carrier that could launch airplanes that weighed as much as 100,000 pounds, the kind that would be able to carry the nuclear payloads of the day.
The Navy had an ally in the form of the first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, who had previously been Secretary of the Navy. He authorized production of the United States class of carriers with a run of five ships. But when Truman got elected in 1948 he immediately replaced Forrestal with Louis Johnson, who had previously been an assistant secretary of War and, more importantly, perhaps, had been a major fundraiser for the Truman campaign.
Johnson did little to calm the ever-growing inter-service rivalries when he said this:
There’s no reason for having a Navy and Marine Corps. General Bradley tells me that amphibious operations are a thing of the past. We’ll never have any more amphibious operations. That does away with the Marine Corps. And the Air Force can do anything the Navy can do nowadays, so that does away with the Navy.
Johnson canceled the construction of the United States class of carriers without any warning to the Navy or Congress. The blow to the morale of the Navy was substantial. The Secretary of the Navy, John Sullivan, and several high-ranking admirals resigned in protest. A few days later, Johnson shocked another branch of the military by announcing that Marine Corps aviation assets would be transferred to the brand-new U.S. Air Force. (The Marines flexed their own congressional muscles, and the measure was quietly reversed.)
Johnson continued to provoke the Navy, replacing Sullivan as SecNav with former USO director and fellow Truman fundraiser Francis P. Matthews, who admitted the closest thing he had to maritime experience was “rowing a boat on a lake.”
One Navy leader took to the press. Rear Admiral Daniel Gallery wrote a series of articles for the Saturday Evening Post, a popular weekly magazine, the last of which was titled “Don’t Let Them Scuttle the Navy!” That article angered Johnson to the point he called for a court-martial for Gallery on the grounds of gross insubordination. The court-martial never happened, but Gallery was passed over for another star and retired.
Meanwhile, Congress decided they had had enough of the inter-service bickering. The House Armed Services Committee held hearings in an attempt to get to the bottom of the tension, but the lawmakers’ attempt to settle the feud threatened to make it worse. During the hearings, the Navy admirals gathered accused Secretary of Defense Johnson of favoring the Air Force’s procurement of the B-36 bomber over the new aircraft carriers because he had previously been on the board of directors of Convair, the manufacturer of the B-36.
The previously anonymous author of the original paper accusing Johnson of a conflict of interest was called to testify. That author, Cedric Worth, a retired commander and a staffer to an undersecretary of the Navy, provided uncompelling testimony against Johson and was ultimately fired from his position, which further embarrassed the Navy.
A second set of hearings focused on the cancellation of the United States class of aircraft carriers. The Army and Air Force commanders testified that naval aviation should be used to reinforce the Air Force, but could not be used for sustained actions against land targets.
The new Secretary of the Navy, Francis Matthews, announced that no Navy man would be censored or penalized for the testimony he offered at the hearing. The naval officers called to testify were expected to support Secretary Matthews, but instead, they all testified that the Air Force reliance on the B-36 was inadequate and that the entire strategy of atomic bombing was misguided. The Navy leaders who came before the committee were basically a World War II all-star team: King, Halsey, Nimitz, and Spruance, along with a captain named Arleigh Burke, later the father of undersea ballistic missiles and other Navy-based nuclear deterrent capabilities.
Burke testified that the Navy had done successful tests that showed their F2H Banshee bomber could launch off of an aircraft carrier, reach 40,000 feet and destroy a bomber. He also assumed the Soviet Union had such an airplane, and therefore U.S. Air Force bombers like the B-36 would need Navy fighter escort since they didn’t have an airplane that could perform like that.
The congressional committee disapproved of Johnson’s “summary manner” of terminating the United States and his failure to consult congressional committees before acting. The committee stated that “national defense is not strictly an executive department undertaking; it involves not only the Congress but the American people as a whole speaking through their Congress. The committee can in no way condone this manner of deciding public questions.”
The committee expressed solid support for Truman’s plan for budget reduction by effective unification, but stated that “there is such a thing as seeking too much unification too fast” and observed that “there has been a navy reluctance in the inter-service marriage, an over-ardent army, a somewhat exuberant air force . . . It may well be stated that the committee finds no unification Puritans in the Pentagon.”
The Navy icons from World War II were bulletproof with respect to the ire of Secretary of the Navy Matthews, but some of the lower ranking admirals paid for their candid testimony with their careers. Matthews attempted to block the promotion of Burke, but his reputation as a fast-track innovator had made it all the way to the White House, and Truman himself stepped in and put him back on the list.
In spite of the keen inter-service rivalry at the time, the arguments were ultimately settled by history. The Soviet threat underwrote the funding of the Air Force’s nuclear arsenal along with the requisite platforms to deliver it. At the same time, the Korean War demonstrated that the threat to the United States was not singular, as some Air Force leaders had asserted, and that carrier air power was still an important part of America’s defense capability. The Navy moved on to the Forrestal class, the first line of supercarriers, and since that time the first question every Secretary of Defense has asked during a time of crisis is, “Where are the aircraft carriers?”
The Army recently demonstrated extended ranges for the guided multiple launch rocket system, and two 155mm cannon artillery precision munitions.
Aligning with the Army’s top priority — Long-Range Precision Fires — these changes support the force’s need for both close and deep-strike capabilities against a near-peer adversary.
Last fall, the Army conducted demonstrations of the new XM1113 and Excalibur M982 munitions from a prototype Extended Range Cannon Artillery, or ERCA self-propelled howitzer
The XM1113 Insensitive Munition High Explosive Rocket Assisted Projectile is slated to replace the Army’s aging M549A1 rounds. Currently, the M549 rounds can reach about 30 km.
The XM1113 reached 72 km during a demonstration, said Rich Granitzki, Long-Range Precision Fires Science and Technology Advisor for Combat Capabilities Development Command, or CCDC, at Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey.
The XM1113 consists of a high fragmentation steel body with a streamlined ogive, the curved portion of a projectile between the fuze well and the bourrelet, and a high performance rocket motor. The projectile body is filled with insensitive munition high explosive and a supplementary charge. On gun launch, propellant gases initiate a delay device that will ignite the rocket motor, boosting velocity at an optimal time in the trajectory to maximize range.
(US Army photo)
Similarly, the Excalibur M982 is a Global Positioning System-guided, extended-range artillery projectile, supporting the Army’s next generation of cannon artillery.
During a limited-range test, the M982 exhibited an increase in range, going from 40 to 62 km, Granitzki added.
Moving forward, ammo modernization and improvements to cannon technologies will play a vital role in optimizing these and other armaments technologies to reach “extended ranges and to get increased rates of fire,” Granitzki said.
“We are still maturing our demonstrators, component technology and subsystems, in advance of future demonstrations to transition our systems to programs of record,” he added.
The Army has also made improvements to the XM30 Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or GMLRS, nearly doubling its range.
The current XM30 rocket is a GPS-guided high-speed rocket equipped with small wing-like controls on the nose of the projectile to enhance accuracy. The XM30 system has an advertised range of 70 km, said Mike Turner, fire support capability area lead supporting CCDC Aviation Missile Center.
To extend the XM30’s range, the Army moved the control fins to the rear of the device, Turner said. In addition to the tail controls, the Army redesigned the nose of the rocket to make it aerodynamic, equipped the device with a light-weight composite motor, and added propellant.
Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System.
(US Army photo)
In result, the new Tail Controlled Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, or TC-G, reached 139 km during a demonstration at altitude.
“This takes a product that exists in the Army’s inventory and nearly doubles the range,” he said. “By moving the control surfaces to the rear, we’re giving it more control, maneuverability, and range.”
To support the new device, the Army fabricated a composite smooth-bore tube, ensuring a clean launch for the guided rocket,” said Brett Wilks, a TC-G program manager.
In theory, these tubes could be retrofitted to existing launch systems, resulting in no significant impact to current Army software or hardware, he added
CCDC completed the science and technology phase of the program in September 2018. The Army looks to transition the program to an initial operating capability in the next couple of years, Turner said.
“It is our mission at CCDC AvMC to look at future concepts and reduce risk. We showed the Army what’s capable for long-range missile systems,” he added.
Towards the end of WWII, allied forces gained much-needed ground on diminished German forces while Adolf Hitler was carefully concealing a dark secret from his devoted followers.
Years prior, Hitler was seen in several propaganda films walking tall and strong. As time progressed, detailed media footage was limited as the Führer showed signs of a major debilitating disease.
The German leader tried to hide his declining posture, stumbling walk and hand tremors during his public appearances. Theodore Morell was Hitler’s devoted personal physician for nine years but missed the critical condition — Parkinson’s disease.
Breastfeeding moms who also work face plenty of challenges, from a lack of dedicated pumping areas to unsupportive supervisors and colleagues. Things can be even tougher if your job is as a member of the armed forces, as Robyn Roche-Paull learned firsthand.
Per Romper, Roche-Paull was in the Navy when she had her baby in the 1990s, an era in which there were no breastfeeding policies, no deployment deferments, and just six weeks of maternity leave. When she returned to work, she had no time or place to pump, and she resorted to using dirty, chemical-filled supply closets that often didn’t lock.
A female supervisor even told here that she was “making all the women look bad with me asking for time to pump every three to four hours.” Yikes.
“There were no books on this subject, and no one to talk to about the questions and struggles I was facing,” she recalls, so when she left the Navy in 1997 she decided to fix that. She became a lactation consultant and created a Facebook group to collect stories from military moms that eventually became a book, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots.
“The page was way more successful than I ever dreamed, which in turn made me realize that I could have a website with all this information freely available to the public.”
The project morphed into a non-profit organization, also called Breastfeeding in Combat Boots, that provides resources to moms struggling to breastfeed while enlisted.
“Being successful with breastfeeding is a challenge. They have to overcome not only cultural issues, but finding time and place to pump, how to ship milk home from overseas, travel, deployments, and possibly exposure to hazardous materials, not to mention maintaining weight and physical fitness standards.”
And just as importantly, it’s a supportive community that can help moms realize that it is possible to balance the obligations of military service and motherhood, often through simply sharing photos of breastfeeding or pumping in uniform.
“These are moms who have decided that serving their country — a sacrifice in itself — is very important, but so is making sure that their babies receive their breast milk even if that means shipping their milk home from Afghanistan for six months,” Roche-Paull says.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
In case you haven’t heard yet, six Marine Corps lieutenants are facing separation after they were allegedly caught cheating on a land-nav course. That’s right — this isn’t something you’re reading on Duffel Blog. This actually happened, and it’s being reported on by the Marine Corps Times.
Now, I understand the whole “if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying” mentality of the military (I, too, was once in the E-4 Mafia), but come on! If you know that whatever you’re about to do might forever get you forever laughed at while reinforcing stereotypes that have existed since the military first gave a lieutenant a compass, you might want to think twice.
Now, these memes may not be as funny as that, but they’ll elicit a chuckle or two.
You might know Alex Haley from his works of historical fiction: Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. Maybe you know him as the person who helmed a series of Playboy interviews and later earned a Pulitzer Prize. Or perhaps, you know him as the retired Coast Guard veteran who got his earliest start writing for newspapers in the military. No matter what you know about Haley, we’re sure there’s more for you to learn.
Who was this dynamic man?
Alex Haley was born in 1921 in Ithaca, New York. His father, Simon, was a WWI veteran. At the time of Alex’s birth, his father was a graduate student at Cornell, studying agriculture. His mother, Bertha, was a musician and teacher of both elementary and high school students.
During his early years, Alex, who was called Palmer, lived with his grandparents Will and Cynthia in Henning, Tennessee, so his father could concentrate on finishing his graduate work. However, when his grandfather died, Haley’s parents returned from Ithaca. There, Simon resumed his studies at Lane College.
An early achiever
With two stellar role models, Alex grew up understanding the value of education. He graduated from high school at 15 and enrolled directly at Alcorn AM College in Mississippi. After a year there, he transferred to Elizabeth City State Teacher’s College in North Carolina. His early successes at school did not transfer to collegiate life, and Alex had a difficult time keeping his grades up.
USCG Alex Haley (Wikimedia Commons)
Writing with the Coast Guard
Three years later, in 1939, Alex quit school and joined the Coast Guard. He enlisted as a seaman, but because of the rife discrimination present in the Coast Guard’s ranks, Alex was forced to work as a mess attendant. To relieve his boredom on ship, Haley brought a typewriter onboard and typed letters for his shipmates. It was at that time Alex also started writing short stories and articles, which he then sent out for publication to magazines and newspapers. As with most writing endeavors, Alex’s attempts at publication were largely met with rejection letters, but a handful did manage to place in reputable journals. This early encouragement reinforced Alex’s passion to continue writing.
By 1949, Haley was permitted to transfer into the field of journalism with the Coast Guard and had achieved the rank of First Class Petty Officer. He was soon promoted to Chief Journalist with the Coast Guard. This is the position he held until his retirement in 1959 after 20 years of service.
During his time in the Coast Guard, Haley received the American Defense Service Medal, the WWII Victory Medal and an honorary degree from the Coast Guard Academy. Later, a Coast Guard cutter was named for him: the USCGS Alex Haley.
After the Coast Guard
After retiring from the Coast Guard, Haley set out to make his way as a freelance writer and journalist. It took three years for Haley to get his break when he interviewed famous trumpet player Miles Davis. The interview was published in Playboy, and the piece was so successful that Playboy commissioned Haley to write a series of pieces that would eventually be known as “The Playboy Interviews.”
This collection of work featured an interview with prominent Black activists, musicians, actors and others. Following an interview with Malcolm X, Haley got the idea to write a book about the famous activist. Two years later, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, was released. This seminal book of the Civil Rights Movement helped memorialize the life of Malcolm X, thanks in part to Haley’s efforts.
The success of The Autobiography of Malcolm X transformed Haley’s role as a writer. He began to receive offers to lecture at universities and write. Instead, he chose to embark on a new project that aimed to trace and retell the story of his ancestors’ journey from Africa to America as slaves.
It took Haley a decade to research the book. During that time, he traveled back and forth to three continents, examining slave ship records at archives in the United States, England and Gambia. Despite his strong journalism experience as a Coast Guard journalist, Haley later said that it would have been impossible for him to completely recapture the true spirit and harrowing experience of those aboard the slave ship. Roots was finally published in 1976 and went on to sell millions of copies.
The Kurdish Peshmerga has been battling the ISIS terror group since it swept through much of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and one of its most unique aspects has been the use of female fighters on the front lines.
Unlike most other militaries, the Peshmerga not only allows women within its ranks, but they also serve shoulder-to-shoulder with men in combat. According to Zach Bazzi, Middle East project manager for Spirit of America, there are about 1,700 women serving in combat roles within the Peshmerga.
“We are not meant to sit at home, doing housework,” says Zehra, a commander who has served for 8 years. “We are on the frontlines, fighting to defeat ISIS.”
In partnership with The Kurdish Project, Spirit of America recently profiled female fighters serving on the front lines with the Peshmerga — a Kurdish word for “those who face death.” The video interviews were published on a new website called “Females on the Frontline.”
“From what I have observed, these women are patriots fighting to defend their families and their homelands from the threat of ISIS,” Bazzi told Business Insider. “But there is no doubt that they also want to send an unmistakable message, that, as women, they have a prominent and equal role to play in their society.
Bazzi told Business Insider that it depends on the policies of individual Peshmerga units for the mixing of male and female fighters. Still, he said, most women are accepted and fully integrated into the ranks.
“As a matter of fact, people in the region view it as a point of pride that these women share an equal burden in defense of the homeland,” he said.
The Females on the Frontline site features short interviews with Sozan, Nishtiman, Kurdistan, and Zehra, four Peshmerga soldiers who have served in different roles and in varying lengths of duty.
“On our team, we women are fighting along with the men shoulder to shoulder on the front lines,” says Nishtiman, a 26-year old unit commander who has served for four years in the Peshmerga. She fights alongside her alongside her husband and brother, according to the site.
As the United States shifts its posture away from ongoing counter-terror operations and back toward great power competition with nations like China, the U.S. is being forced to reassess it’s aircraft carrier force projection strategy. If U.S. carriers find themselves on the sideline for such a conflict, it may be worth revisiting the idea of a different kind of aircraft carrier: the flying kind.
China’s arsenal of hypersonic anti-ship missiles have created an area denial bubble that would prevent American carriers from sailing close enough to Chinese shores to launch sorties, effectively neutering America’s ability to conduct offensive operations against the Chinese mainland. Without the ability to leverage the U.S. Navy’s attack aircraft, combat operations in the Pacific would be extremely difficult. It is, however, possible (though potentially impractical) to develop and deploy flying aircraft carriers for such a conflict–the United States has even experimented with the concept a number of times in the past, and is continuing to pursue the idea today.
DARPA’s Gremlins Program
The most recent iteration of a flying aircraft carrier comes from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, and has seen testing successes as recently as January of this year.
In January, DARPA successfully launched a Dynetics’ X-61A Gremlin UAV from the bay of a Lockheed Martin C-130A cargo aircraft. The program is aiming to demonstrate the efficacy of low-cost combat-capable drones that can be both deployed and recovered from cargo planes. DARPA envisions using cargo planes like the C-130 to deploy these drones while still outside of enemy air defenses; allowing the drones to go on and engage targets before returning to the airspace around the “mother ship” to be recaptured and carried home for service or repairs.
The test showed that a drone could be deployed by the C-130, but the drone itself was ultimately destroyed when its parachute failed to open after the completion of an hour-and-a-half flight. A subsequent test that would include drone capture was slated for the spring of this year, but has likely been delayed to due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Between the success of this test and other drone wingman programs like Skyborg, the concept of a flying aircraft carrier has seen a resurgence in recent years, and may potentially finally become a common facet of America’s air power.
The plan to turn a Boeing 747 into a flying aircraft carrier
The Boeing 747 has already secured its place in the pantheon of great aircraft, from its immense success as a passenger plane to its varied governmental uses like being a taxi for the Space Shuttle or as a cargo aircraft. The 747 has proven itself to be an extremely capable aircraft for a wide variety of applications, so it seemed logical when, in the 1970s, the U.S. Air Force began experimenting with the idea of converting one of these large aircraft into a flying aircraft carrier full of “parasite” fighters that could be deployed, and even recovered, in mid-air.
Initial plans called for using the massive cargo aircraft Lockeed C-5 Galaxy, but as Boeing pointed out at the time, the 747 actually offered superior range and endurance when flying with a full payload. According to Boeing’s proposal, the 747 could be properly equipped to carry as much as 883,000 pounds.
The idea behind the Boeing 747 AAC (Airborne Aircraft Carrier) was simple in theory, but incredibly complex in practice. Boeing would specially design and build fighter aircraft that were small enough to be housed within the 747, along with an apparatus that would allow the large plane to carry the fighters a long distance, drop them where they were needed to fight, and then recover them once again.
Boeing’s 60-page proposal discusses the ways such a program could be executed, but lagging questions remained regarding the fuel range of a 747 carrying such a heavy payload and about how the fighters would fare in a combat environment. Previous flying aircraft carrier concepts showed that the immense turbulence from large aircraft (and their jet engines) made it extremely difficult to manage the fighters they would drop, especially as they attempted to return to the aircraft after a mission.
Further concerns revolved around how well these miniature “parasite” fighters would fare against the top-of-the-line Soviet fighters they would conceivable be squaring off with.
Ultimately, the proposal never made it off the page — but it did establish one important point for further discussion on this topic. According to the report, Boeing found the concept of a flying aircraft carrier to be “technically feasible” using early 1970’s technology. Technically feasible, it’s important to note, however, is not the same as financially feasible.
The insane Lockheed CL-1201: A massive, nuclear-powered flying aircraft carrier
The Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin have been responsible for some of the most incredible aircraft ever to take flight, from the high-flying U-2 Spy Plane to the fastest military jet ever, the SR-71. But even those incredible aircraft seem downright plain in comparison to Lockheed’s proposal to build an absolutely massive, nuclear powered, flying aircraft carrier–the CL-1201.
The proposal called for an aircraft that weighed 5,265 tons. In order to get that much weight aloft, the design included a 1,120 foot wingspan, with a fuselage that would measure 560 feet (or about two and a half times that of a 747). It would have been 153 feet high, making it stand as tall as a 14-story building. According to Lockheed, they could put this massive bird in the sky using just four huge turbofan engines which would be powered by regular jet fuel under 16,000 feet, where it would then switch to nuclear power courtesy of its on-board reactor. The flying aircraft carrier could then stay aloft without refueling for as long as 41 days, even while maintaining a high subsonic cruising speed of Mach 0.8 at around 30,000 feet.
The giant aircraft would carry a crew of 845 and would be able to deploy 22 multirole fighters from docking pylons installed on the wings. It also would maintain a small internal hangar bay for repairs and aircraft service while flying. Unsurprisingly, this design didn’t make it past the proposal stage, but the concept itself stands as a historical anomaly that continues to inspire renewed attention to this day.
The B-36 Peacemaker
This massive bomber weighed in at an astonishing 410,000 pounds when fully loaded with fuel and ordnance (thanks to its large fuel reserves and 86,000 weapon capacity). Development of the B-36 began in 1941, thanks to a call for an aircraft that was capable of taking off from the U.S., bombing Berlin with conventional or atomic ordnance, and returning without having to refuel. By the time the B-36 made it into the air, however, World War II had already been over for more than a year.
The B-36 had a massive wingspan. At 230 feet, the wings of the Peacemaker dwarf even the B-52’s 185-foot wingspan. In its day, it was one of the largest aircraft ever to take to the sky. Despite it’s incredible capabilities, the B-36 never once flew an operational mission, but the massive size and range of the platform prompted the Air Force to consider its use as a flying aircraft carrier, using Republic YRF-84F Ficon “parasitic” fighters as the bomber’s payload.
The idea was similar to that of the later proposal from Boeing, carrying the fighters internally to extend their operational range and then deploying them via a lowering boom, where they could serve as protection for the bomber, reconnaissance assets, or even execute offensive operations of their own before returning to the B-36 for recovery.
The U.S. Air Force ultimately did away with the concept thanks to the advent of mid-air refueling, which dramatically increased the operational range of all varieties of aircraft and made a flying aircraft carrier concept a less cost effective solution.
Using rigid airships as flying aircraft carriers
Although we very rarely see rigid inflatable airships in service to national militaries today, things were much different in the early 20th century. Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin’s airships (dubbed “Zeppelins”) were proving themselves to be a useful military platform thanks to their fuel efficiency, range, and heavy payload capabilities. These massive airships were not only cost-effective, their gargantuan size also offered an added military benefit: their vast looming presence could be extremely intimidating to the enemy.
However, as you may have already guessed, it was that vast presence that also created the rigid airship’s massive weakness: it was susceptible to being shot down by even the simplest of enemy aircraft. England was the first nation to try to offset this weakness by building an apparatus that could carry and deploy three Sopwith Camel biplanes beneath the ship’s hull. They ultimately built four of these 23-class Vickers rigid airships, but all were decommissioned by the 1920s. The U. S. Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics took notice of the concept, however, and set about construction on its own inflatable airships, with both the USS Akron (ZRS-4) and USS Macon (ZRS-5) serving as flying aircraft carriers.
The airships were built with an apparatus that could not only deploy F9C-2 Curtiss Sparrowhawk biplanes, they could also recover them once again mid-flight. The airships and aircraft fell under the Navy’s banner, and the intent was to use the attached bi-planes for both reconnaissance (ship spotting) and defense, but not necessarily for offensive operations.
The biplanes were stored in hangars on the airship that measured approximately 75′ long x 60′ wide x 16′ high — or big enough to service 5 biplanes internally.
After lackluster performance in a series of Naval exercises, the Akron would crash on April 4, 1933, killing all 76 people on board. Just weeks later, on April 21, its sister ship, the USS Macon, would take its first flight. Two years later, it too would crash, though only two of its 83 crew members would die.
The brain cancer that killed former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Maj. Beau Biden, might have been caused by burn pit exposure in Kosovo and Iraq, Biden said in a recent interview.
“Science has recognized there are certain carcinogens when people are exposed to them. Depending on the quantities and the amount in the water and the air, [they] can have a carcinogenic impact on the body,” he said in a PBS NewsHour interview early this month.
Beau Biden, a judge advocate general (JAG) officer in the Delaware National Guard, died from brain cancer in 2015. He had been deployed to Iraq in 2009, and worked as a civilian lawyer with the U.S. attorney’s office in Kosovo.
A book published last year, The Burn Pits: The Poisoning of America’s Soldiers, by former Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Hickman, includes a chapter on Beau Biden’s cancer and its possible links to burn pit exposure.
In the interview, Joe Biden said he had been unaware of any potential link before reading that book.
“There’s a whole chapter on my son Beau in there, and that stunned me. I didn’t know that,” he said in the interview.
Burn pits were routinely used in Iraq and Afghanistan to dispose of waste. Although government officials have declined to establish a firm link between burn pits and veterans’ health problems, including rare forms of cancer and respiratory diseases, the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014 established a registry for veterans to log their exposure and complaints.
More than 120,000 veterans have logged themselves in the registry. An estimated three million are eligible to join, according to the VA.
A federal judge last year dismissed a major lawsuit by veterans, contractors and their families against KBR, a defense contractor, for operating burn pits they claimed caused deadly respiratory diseases and cancer.
But the judge dismissed the suit, saying that KBR cannot be held liable for a Pentagon decision to use burn pits for waste disposal.
Following their meeting in Helsinki, Donald Trump hailed Vladimir Putin as a potential partner in Syria, who can provide humanitarian relief and preserve Israeli security. But if the United States hopes to deny Iran “open season to the Mediterranean,” as the President previously said, Russia is anything but an ally. Putin has no interest in pushing out the Iranian forces that defend the Assad regime by taking heavy casualties on the ground while Russia fights mainly from the air. Rather, the most recent offensive by pro-regime forces — a sprint towards the Israeli and Jordanian borders — demonstrates that Russia enables Iranian operations in Syria.
In late June 2018, Russia began to unleash hundreds of airstrikes on Deraa, a flagrant violation of the U.S.-Russian ceasefire agreement that Trump and Putin personally endorsed November 2017. While Russia struck from the air, forces nominally under the control of Damascus conducted a major ground offensive.
Closer examination shows that the dividing line between Assad’s military and Iranian-aligned forces has become ever blurrier. Before the offensive began, Lebanese Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militias staged apparent withdrawals from the region, only to return after donning regime uniforms and hiding their banners and insignia. Tehran is also directly involved. On July 2, 2018, a senior commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) died in Deir al-Adas, a village in northern Deraa province along the strategic M5 highway. Persian sources describe him as the commander for Deraa province.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps tank in 2012 in Tehran.
Two Iranian-aligned militant groups comprised of Iraqi Shias, Liwa Abu al Fadl al Abbas (LAFA) and Liwa Zulfiqar, have also participated in the offensive. LAFA was one of the original foreign Shia militias to deploy to Syria in 2012, ostensibly to defend the Sayyida Zainab mosque in Damascus, a major Shiite religious site. Since then, however, the group has integrated into the Syrian Republican Guard, even to the point where it openly identifies as a Republican Guard unit. LAFA’s trajectory illustrates how forces nominally under the control of Damascus are permeated with troops that are at least as close to Tehran.
Since the current offensive began, LAFA has posted numerous photos and videos on its Facebook page showing its men alongside regime troops in Deraa. Its leader, Abu Ajeeb, has also been pictured with Syrian military officers in several of the photos. Opposition sources report that a LAFA commander met with Russian military officers in Deraa.
Liwa Zulfiqar has also confirmed its involvement in the offensive, as well as its integration into the regime’s military. The militia, which has been fighting alongside Syrian regime troops since 2013, posted several photos from the town of Busra al Harir in which it asserted it was participating in the offensive. The militia’s leader, Haidar al Jabouri, appeared in a video shot inside the Syrian 4th Division’s military operations command room, demonstrating Zulfiqar’s integration into the Syrian command structure.
Reports have also suggested that other militias, including Lebanese Hezbollah, have been taking part in the offensive, sometimes disguised as Syrian troops. In late June 2018, the Washington Postbriefly noted Hezbollah’s participation. Quoting an official in Damascus, Reuters reported that “Hezbollah is a fundamental participant in planning and directing this battle.” Another pro-regime source reportedly confirmed the use of Syrian military uniforms by Hezbollah and other militias to the wire service.
Hizbollah flag in Syria.
It’s also becoming clear that Russian aircraft are supporting the efforts of Iranian-backed units nominally under the control of Damascus. On June 24, 2018, Russian warplanes conducted at least twenty strikes on Busra al Harir, spurring on a stalled regime offensive. Within two days, Liwa Zulfiqar announced its participation in operations there. On July 4, 2018, Russia hit Saida and Tafas, supporting offensives involving Zulfiqar and LAFA, respectively. Russia has also now deployed military police to hold terrain captured by Iranian-aligned forces, demonstrating a level of coordination as well as Russia’s unwillingness to use its forces for more dangerous offensive operations. These terrain-holding forces free up Iran-aligned actors to continue undertaking offensives toward the Golan.
Reported meetings between militia commanders and Russian officers suggest these operations are coordinated. But even without formal coordination, Russian air cover and Iranian ground offensives are mutually dependent and reinforcing. Iran can’t be in the sky, and Russia refuses to put significant forces on the ground, lest too many return home in body bags. Thus, Putin requires Iran’s forces on the ground to secure his ambitions in Syria.
Trump should remain highly skeptical of Putin’s interest and ability to serve as a partner in Syria. The humanitarian relief Putin proposes is designed to fortify the regime, not rehabilitate children brutalized by Assad. Putin also has limited interest in curtailing Iran’s deployment. Russia itself admits that Iran’s withdrawal is “absolutely unrealistic.” Trump should not concede American positions, notably the strategic base at Tanf which blocks Iran’s path to the Mediterranean, for empty promises from Russia. Putin can afford to lie to America, but he can’t afford to control Syria without Iranian support.
For the first time in nearly 15 years, 7th Army Training Command’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center will soon begin observing, coaching, and training Soldiers using the FIM-92 Stinger Man-Portable, Air Defense Missile System during future exercises. In preparation for this, approximately 50 Observer Coach/Trainers, known as OC/Ts, attended their own training on the Stinger system at the Hohenfels Training Area, Jan. 10.
Based on the Chief of Staff of the Army’s initiative, getting Europe stood up with short-range air defense (SHORAD) Stinger teams is his first priority inside the initiative of getting Stinger teams back online,” said Lt. Col. Aaron Felter, the director of training and doctrine for the Air Defense Integrated Office. “We’re going to go to the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center, however, the immediate focus is Europe and getting Europe ready to fight tonight and defend Europe against any adversary.
Instructors from the Fires Center of Excellence in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, traveled to Germany on a whirlwind excursion to offer their expertise with the Stinger system. Chief Warrant Officer 2 Stephen Ford and Sgt. 1st Class Edward Goldman, both instructors with the 30th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, joined Felter to provide hands-on instructions for the system that is now being reintroduced to brigade combat teams across the U.S. Army.
JMRC was the first combat training center to receive this Stinger training for OC/Ts.
In the past 15 years, the Army slowly drifted away from the FIM-92 Stinger — which is an infrared, homing, surface-to-air missile that has been around since the late 1970’s — as it focused on counterinsurgency tactics. However, now it is one of the Army’s main focal points, Felter said.
“Bringing back the Stinger addresses a self-identified gap that the Army created and has recognized,” added Felter. “We’re getting back to the basics and providing short-range air defense to maneuver units.”
One of three air defense officers at JMRC, Capt. Richard Tran, who is the Headquarters and Headquarters Company OC/T for the Warhog Team, is prepared to share his knowledge with the rest of the OC/T teams at JMRC who could not attend the training.
“I have a much better picture of how to go about observing, coaching and training Soldiers,” said Tran. “I’m better equipped after this class. Initially, some of these Stinger teams who rotate through JMRC won’t be completely up to speed with the Stingers. They’re riflemen who cross-trained to operate the system, and it will be our job to help guide them along this learning process.”
Though the Avenger and other variants may be seen and used from time to time, JMRC will primarily observe, coach and train the individual two-man Stinger teams using the shoulder-fired configuration.
While in the field at JMRC, the Stinger teams will be evaluated on the mission-essential tasks of site placement, determining air avenues of approach, defending a critical location, de-conflicting engagements of enemy aircraft based on sector of fire, and proper operation of the FIM-92 Stinger.
“In parallel efforts, the goal is to get 62 Stinger teams into the operational force as soon as possible,” added Felter. “In concert with that, additional SHORAD battalions are being stood up, which will result in aligning one SHORAD battalion with each division.”
Some of the Soldiers who have received this training include personnel from 173rd Airborne Brigade and 2nd Cavalry Regiment who recently took a five-week Stinger course with the 7th Army Training Command at Grafenwoehr, Germany. Soon, many of those same Soldiers and others will be observed, coached and trained during their participation in future exercises at JMRC.
Acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian says he made clear to U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton that Armenia will pursue its national interests and maintain “special relations” with its neighbor Iran.
Addressing the Armenian parliament on Nov. 1, 2018, Pashinian said he told Bolton when he visited Yerevan in October 2018 that Armenia is a landlocked nation that does not have diplomatic relations with either neighboring Turkey or Azerbaijan, so it must retain “special relations” with its other two neighbors — Iran and Georgia — which he said are Armenia’s only “gateways” to the outside world.
“I reaffirm the position that we should have special relations with Iran and Georgia that would be as far outside geopolitical influences as possible. This position was very clearly formulated also during my meeting with Mr. Bolton, and I think that the position of Armenia was clear, comprehensible, and even acceptable to representatives of the U.S. delegation,” the Armenian leader said.
Bolton visited the Caucasus nations of Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan in October 2018 in part to push for compliance with the sanctions that the United States is reimposing on Iran’s oil and financial sectors on November 5 after withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in April 2018.
U.S. national-security adviser John Bolton.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
In an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Oct. 25, 2018, Bolton said he told Pashinian that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will enforce sanctions against Iran “very vigorously.” For that reason, he said, the Armenian-Iranian border is “going to be a significant issue.”
“Obviously, we don’t want to cause damage to our friends in the process,” Bolton added.
Pashinian told the parliament that his response to Bolton was: “We respect any country’s statement and respect the national interests of any country, but the Republic of Armenia has its own national and state interests, which do not always coincide with the interests and ideas of other countries, any other country.
“Let no one doubt that we are fully building our activities on the basis of Armenia’s national interest – be it in our relations with the United States, Iran, Russia, all countries.”
Pashinian made his remarks in response to a lawmaker’s question about what effect the U.S. sanctions on Iran would have on Armenia.
Days after his talks with Pashinian and other foreign leaders, Bolton conceded that the White House is unlikely to achieve its stated goal of reducing Iran’s oil exports to “zero” under the sanctions.
“We understand, obviously, [that] a number of countries — some immediately surrounding Iran, some of which I just visited last week, others that have been purchasing oil [from Iran] — may not be able to go all the way to zero immediately. So, we want to achieve maximum pressure [on Iran], but we don’t want to harm friends and allies either, and we are working our way through that,” Bolton told the Alexander Hamilton Society in Washington on Oct. 31, 2018.
A hard-liner who has pushed for the toughest possible sanctions on Iran, Bolton’s remarks suggested for the first time that the White House may be preparing to grant waivers from the sanctions to some countries like India, Turkey, and South Korea that have requested them.
Still, Bolton insisted that the sanctions already are having a powerful effect on Iran’s economy, in particular helping to cause a collapse in Iran’s currency, the rial, in 2018.
“Already, you see reduction in purchases in countries like China that you would not have expected — countries that are still in the nuclear deal [with Iran]. We have also seen Chinese financial institutions withdrawing from engaging in transactions with Iran. European businesses are fleeing the Iranian market. Most of the big ones are already out,” he said.