Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone - We Are The Mighty
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Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons


China’s submarine fleet made its first known trip into the Indian Ocean, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. A Chinese attack submarine passed through the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia with sightings near Sri Lanka and the Persian Gulf.

It’s the latest report of the significant steps forward the Chinese navy has taken in advancing its submarine fleet.

Earlier this year, a US Navy report estimated that the Chinese navy has nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines able to launch strikes against the United States from the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

The Chinese navy has ambitious plans over the next 15 years to rapidly advance its fleet of surface ships and submarines as well as maritime weapons and sensors, according to a report by the Office of Naval Intelligence.

Earlier this year, ONI issued an assessment on the Chinese navy as part of testimony to the US China Economic and Security Review. ONI leaders found that China’s navy has evolved from a littoral force to one that is capable of meeting a wide range of missions to include being “increasingly capable of striking targets hundreds of miles from the Chinese mainland.”

The Chinese navy has 77 surface combatants, more than 60 submarines, 55 amphibious ships and about 85 missile-equipped small ships, according to the report first published by the US Naval Institute.

ONI raised concerns about China’s fast-growing submarine force, to include the Jin-class ballistic nuclear submarines, which were expected to commence deterrent patrols in 2014. The expected operational deployment of the Jin “would mark China’s first credible at-sea-second-strike nuclear capability,” the report states.

The submarine could fire the JL-2 submarine launched ballistic missile, which has a range of 4,000 nautical miles and would “enable the Jin to strike Hawaii, Alaska and possibly western portions of CONUS [continental United States] from East Asian waters,” ONI assessed.

In addition, a 2014 Pentagon Annual Report to Congress on military and security developments said the Chinese have three operational Jin-class SSBNs (ballistic missile submarines) and up to five may enter service before the Chinese proceeds toward a next-generation SSBN.

The ONI report says the Chinese currently have five nuclear attack submarines, four nuclear ballistic missile submarines and 53 diesel attack submarines.

Overall, China’s fleet of submarines has quickly increased in offensive weapons technology over the last 10 years. A decade ago, only a few Chinese submarines could fire modern anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). Now, more than half of the conventional attack submarines are configured to fire ASCMs, the ONI report states.

“The type-095 guided missile attack submarine, which China will likely construct over the next decade, may be equipped with a land-attack capability,” the assessment explains. This could enable Chinese submarines with an enhanced ability to strike U.S. bases throughout the region, the report adds.

The Pentagon’s China report affirms that the expected deployment of nuclear-armed JL-2s will, for the first time, give China an at-sea nuclear deterrent capability.

One analyst said the Chinese appear to be trying to position themselves as a nuclear global super power able to both assert regional dominance and project power around the world.

“China clearly appears to be pursuing a great power nuclear-deterrence strategy. They are making progress but it is not fast paced. It is kind of appropriate for a military that has two missions, guaranteed deterrence and an interest in showing its ability as a superpower,” said Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a Va.-based think tank.

In recent decades, the Chinese military has had more of a regional focus instead of ICMBs, something which may now be changing in light of growing ambitions, continued rapid technological expansion and military modernization, Goure explained.

“We know from watching the Soviets how hard it is for these countries to build western-equivalent militaries and nuclear enterprises. The Russians almost broke trying to build a Navy that would out do us,” he added.

However, Goure added that the Chinese navy has a long way to go before it could emerge as a credible competitor to the US Navy.

“Are they really going to go the route of building their own kind of competitor to the US Navy? That is expensive and difficult – at a time when their economy is slowing down,” Goure said.

The Navy’s Atlantic Fleet submarine commander recently voiced concern about China’s submarine modernization efforts.

“The world has become multi-polar and we have competition for global influence and power from a rising China – which is very much on our mind. The Chinese have had ballistic missile submarines in some form for a while. Their pace has accelerated and they have several nuclear ballistic missile submarines and are continuing to build more,” said Vice Adm. Michael Connor.

This article originally appeared at Military.com Copyright 2014. Follow Military.com on Twitter.

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5 of the worst US Navy ship collisions in history

The recent collisions involving the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) have generated a lot of headlines.


But there have been other collisions – though they are certainly rare events, according to a June USA Today article. But even one is far too many, and some have been even worse than that suffered by those two destroyers.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Wasp (CV-18) in drydock at Bayonne, New Jersey, showing the damage to the carrier’s bow from her 26 April 1952 collision with USS Hobson (DMS-26). Wasp collided with Hobson while conducting night flying operations in the Atlantic, en route to Gibraltar. Hobson was cut in two and sank, 61 men of her crew could be rescued, but 176 were lost. (US Navy photo)

April 26, 1952: The USS Wasp (CV 18) collides with the USS Hobson (DD 464)

While making her way to the Mediterranean Sea, the Wasp was conducting night-time flight operations when she made a course change. A deadly combination of a surface-search radar and a poorly-thought out course-change by the destroyer caused the Wasp to ram the Hobson. The impact broke the Hobson in half and killed 176 sailors, including the Hobson’s captain.

The Wasp was repaired and back in action within 10 days. The Navy ultimately blamed the commanding officer of the Hobson for the collision.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
What was left of USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754) after her collision with the aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne. (US Navy photo)

June 3, 1969: The HMAS Melbourne rams the USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754)

For over two decades, the United States was a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. This alliance also included Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, France, and the United Kingdom. SEATO was hoped to be a NATO for the region, but it never reached that potential — although allies did hold exercises.

Five years previously the Melbourne had rammed and sunk an Australian destroyer.

During an anti-submarine warfare exercise, there was a near-miss between the Melbourne and the destroyer USS Everett F. Larson (DD 830). Despite that near-miss, tragedy struck when in the early-morning hours of June 3, the Frank E. Evans cut in front of the Melbourne. Her bow was sheared off and sank, causing the deaths of 74 American sailors.

The collision resulted in a Navy training film, “I Relieve You, Sir,” or “The Melbourne-Evans Incident,” that was used to disseminate the lessons learned from this tragedy.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
Damage done to USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) after her collision with USS Belknap (CG 26). (US Navy photo)

November 22, 1975: The USS Belknap (CG 26) collides with the USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67)

This collision is notable for the extensive damage the Belknap sustained. During operations in the Ionian Sea, the Belknap and John F. Kennedy collided. A burst pipe sent fuel onto the guided-missile cruiser, and a massive fire melted the Belknap’s aluminum superstructure.

Eight sailors died, and 48 were injured. This collision actually has shaped the ship that is the backbone of the fleet today. After studying the collision and fire, the Navy decided to make the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers out of steel.

The Belknap was rebuilt over the course of four years, and served as the flagship of the Sixth Fleet from 1986 to 1994, before she was sunk as a target in 1998.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
USS Greeneville (SSN 772) in dry dock after her collision with the Japanese fishery training ship Ehime Maru. (US Navy photo)

February 9, 2001: The USS Greeneville (SSN 772) rams the Ehime Maru

The Improved Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine USS Greeneville collided with the Ehime Maru, a fishery training ship for a high school while surfacing. The Ehime Maru sank very quickly, with nine people dead as a result.

A number of civilian visitors were aboard the sub at the time, and the failure of the Greeneville’s captain to ensure that their presence didn’t hamper military operations was a contributing factor to the fatal incident.

The next year, the Greeneville would collide with the amphibious transport dock USS Ogden (LPD 5), and suffer minor damage.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
Sailors aboard the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768) wait for the brow to be lowered during the ships return home to Submarine Base New London after a month-long surface transit from Bahrain in 2009. The sub’s sail is askew as a result of her collision with USS New Orleans (LPD 18). (US Navy photo)

March 20, 2009: The USS Hartford (SSN 768) collides with the USS New Orleans (LPD 18)

Navigational chokepoints are called that because maritime traffic has to go through them, and they are very narrow. This doesn’t leave a lot of room for error or complacency.

According to a 2009 Military Times report, though, the crew of the Hartford got complacent, and the Los Angeles-class submarine and the San Antonio-class amphibious transport collided.

The Hartford suffered over $100 million in damage, while the New Orleans had a ruptured fuel tank and spilled 25,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the sea. There were 15 sailors injured on the Hartford, which was almost knocked onto its side.

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Syrian militia launches offensive to capture Raqqa

The US-led international coalition said the Syrian Democratic Forces militia launched a ground offensive to capture the Islamic State’s stronghold of Raqqa, the US military said.


The SDF’s offensive began on June 6th after efforts to capture the city’s surrounding territory began in November.

The US-led anti-Islamic State international coalition called the Combined Joint Task Force: Operation Inherent Resolve said the SDF has been “rapidly tightening the noose around the city since their daring air assault behind enemy lines in coalition aircraft in March to begin the seizure of Tabqah.”

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
DoD Photo by Spc. Ethan Hutchinson

US Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of the coalition, said the fight for Raqqa will be long and difficult, but victory will deliver a decisive blow to the idea of the Islamic State as a physical, ruling entity.

The offensive in Raqqa comes as Iraqi security forces near victory in west Mosul, though progress has been slow in the densely populated areas of Iraq’s second-largest city. The SDF’s assault also follows the attacks in London and Manchester for which theIslamic State, also known as ISIL, Daesh, and ISIS, took credit.

“It’s hard to convince new recruits that ISIS is a winning cause when they just lost their twin ‘capitals’ in both Iraq and Syria,” Townsend said in a statement. “We all saw the heinous attack in Manchester, England. ISIS threatens all of our nations, not just Iraq andSyria, but in our own homelands as well. This cannot stand.”

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone

The SDF has called on Raqqa residents to evacuate so they do not become trapped, are not killed by Islamic State snipers and are not used as human shields

The US-led coalition supports the SDF by providing equipment, training, intelligence and logistics support, airstrikes and battlefield advice.

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15 of the most expensive projects abandoned by the US military

The US military is unquestionably the world’s strongest force with the world’s largest defense budget.


But throughout the 2000s, the Pentagon spent $51.2 billion on 15 major programs “without any fielded systems to show for it,” according to a new Center for Strategic and International Studies report.

The abandoned projects are largely due to a lack of funding attributed to the Budget Control Act and sequestration.

Sequestration, which is indiscriminate budget cuts across the board that affect every portion of the military equally, is the greatest threat to the US military currently, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Business Insider.

Below are a series of the military’s modernization projects that were canceled partially due to a lack of funds.

Future Combat Systems

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Army

A prototype of the Non-Line-of-Sight-Cannon, a component of the Future Combat Systems.

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $18.1 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Ground Combat Vehicle Program. This program was also ultimately canceled.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

RAH-66 Comanche Armed Reconnaissance and Attack Helicopter

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $7.9 billion

Follow-On: The helicopter was superseded by the later canceled Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter project.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

An artist’s concept drawing of the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System.

Branch: Air Force and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Sunk-Costs: $5.8 billion

Follow-On: The program was replaced by the now canceled Defense Weather Satellite System (DWSS). The DWSS is slated to be restarted as the Weather Satellite Follow-On.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Airborne Laser

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
US Missile Defense Agency

The Airborne Laser in flight with the mirror unstowed.

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $5.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was canceled without an identified replacement.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

VH-71 Presidential Helicopter

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
Sikorsky

A conceptual drawing of the VH-71 helicopter.

Branch: Marine Corps

Sunk Costs: $3.7 billion

Follow-On: The project was restarted as the VH-92A Presidential Helicopter.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Marine Corps

Branch: Marine Corps

Sunk Costs: $3.3 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately superseded by the Amphibious Combat Vehicle program.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

XM2001 Crusader Self-Propelled Howitzer

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $2.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was superseded by the Non-Line-of-Sight Launch System, which was also then canceled.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

E-10 Multi-sensor Command and Control Aircraft

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Air Force

An E-8, which was intended to be replaced by the E-10.

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $1.9 billion

Follow-On: The program was superseded by the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Replacement Program.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Space Based Infrared Systems — Low

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Air Force

An artist’s rendition of the Space-Based Infrared System — Low

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $1.5 billion

Follow-On: The program was superseded by the Space Tracking and Surveillance System.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Advanced SEAL Delivery System

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Navy Photo

An SDV is docked into place by Navy SEALs.

Branch: Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.6 billion

Follow-On: The project was superseded by the later canceled Joint Multi-Mission Submersible.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Army

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $0.5 billion

Follow-On: The project was deferred following the Army’s decision to field a mix of drones and AH-64Es instead.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Aerial Common Sensor

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Navy

The Aerial Common Sensor was replaced with the P-8 (pictured).

Branch: Army/Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.4 billion

Follow-On: The project deferred in favor of the Navy’s P-8 program and upgrades to Army aircraft.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

CG(X) Next Generation Cruiser

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Navy

Pictured above are two DDG 51 destroyers, which were purchased instead of the CG(X).

Branch: Navy

Sunk Costs: $0.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was deferred, and the Navy purchased additional DDG 51 destroyers instead.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

CSAR-X Combat Rescue Helicopter

The HH60 Pave Hawk, which was produced as part of the Critical Rescue Helicopter program.

Branch: Air Force

Sunk Costs: $0.2 billion

Follow-On: The project was ultimately restarted as the Combat Rescue Helicopter.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

Next Generation Bomber

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
Nothrop Grumman

Concept art for the Long Range Strike-Bomber that replaced the Next Generation Bomber project.

Branch: Army

Sunk Costs: $18.1 billion

Follow-On: The project was restarted as the Long Range Strike-Bomber.

Source: Center for Strategic and International Studies

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These elite Russian special forces want to take over Aleppo

The elite Russian special forces who took over Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 are now doing the same thing in Aleppo, Syria.


The number of Russian special ops troops in Syria is likely in the “low hundreds,” but they are the eyes and ears on the ground to carry out precision airstrikes, and have been used to directly target rebel leaders, according to experts who spoke with the Wall Street Journal.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
Russian Special Forces. (Photo: The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)

Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, has been the site of a bitter battle for control between pro-government forces and rebels since the war broke out in 2011. Meanwhile, millions of innocent civilians have been caught in the middle, recently cut off from receiving aid such as food, water, and medicine, as Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies besieged the city.

There are also anywhere from 100 to 300 US special operations forces operating in Syria and Iraq, though they are focused on advising Iraqi army forces in Mosul, and targeting ISIS leadership.

According to the Journal, Russian military chief Gen. Nikolai Makarov visited the headquarters of US Special Operations Command in 2012 for a meeting, intent on learning how Russia could build a special operations force similar to the United States’.

Makarov previously signed a framework of understanding with then-Navy Adm. Mike Mullen in 2009 that offered military-to-military exchanges and operational events, orientation at the West Point military academy for Russian cadets, and sharing of ideas among both countries’ combined arms academies.

At the time, US military officials were hopeful for the reestablishment of military-to-military bonds with Russia. Four years later, however, that framework and sharing of information may come back to haunt them.

“From the helmets to the kit,” the Russian special forces “look almost identical” to their US counterparts, a US military official told the Journal.

In early 2014, Russian special forces infiltrated Ukraine’s Crimea region and seized control after the pro-Russian government was ousted from power in Kiev. The heavily-armed men — which some nicknamed “little green men” — wore no identifying insignia and denied that they were Russian.

Russian President Vladimir Putin later acknowledged he had deployed the Russian soldiers, and Russia instituted a national holiday called “Special Forces Day” to commemorate the invasion the following year.

Read the full story at the Wall Street Journal

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The insane military legacy of the Roosevelts

Everyone knows that the Roosevelt family held a political dynasty for decades; fielding two presidents of the United States and a first lady in 50 years is a pretty impressive record, and that’s without mentioning all the other jobs like assistant secretary of the Navy (Theodore and Franklin) and Governor of the State of New York (Franklin).


But the Roosevelts actually have a strong claim to a military dynasty as well with three Medals of Honor, a Navy Cross, 11 Silver Stars, and a slew of other awards from the U.S., France, and Britain, all in 100 years.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
American troops march in the Kasserine Pass in Tunisia. Three of the Roosevelt family’s Silver Stars were a result of actions in North Africa. (Dept. of Defense photo)

So, you know, awkward Christmases for the cousin who went into finance.

The Roosevelt military legacy dates back to the Revolutionary War when Henry Rutgers (a descendant of Elsie Roosevelt) and Nicholas Roosevelt served on the American side. But it really got steaming in the Civil War when two of Theodore Roosevelt’s uncles served the Confederate Navy.

While the Roosevelt family was based in New York, Theodore’s father had married Martha Bulloch, a Souther belle whose family had deep ties to what would become the Confederacy. When the war broke out, two of her brothers volunteered for service.

James and Irvine Bulloch became naval officers, and both brothers were involved in launching the CSS Alabama, one of the most feared Confederate commerce raiders in the war. James, by that point assigned to secretly buying ships for the Southern Navy from English shipyards, commissioned the ship and supervised its construction.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
Confederate officers aboard the CSS Alabama, 1863. (Photo: Public Domain)

But the Union State Department was working feverishly to get the future Confederate ships in England seized, so Irvine led a “sea trial” of the Alabama before stealing away with it to the Azores to receive its crew and weapons. Irvine would serve on the vessel for most of the war as a midshipman and is credited with firing the Alabama’s last shot before it was sunk at Cherbourg, France, in battle against the USS Kearsarge.

All of this had an effect on the brother’s nephew, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who, from the age of 5, was noted as having idolized the Bulloch side of the family and their sense of adventure. He loved his father, but is thought to have been deeply embarrassed about his father’s having purchased a substitute for his place in the Civil War.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
First Sgt. George Washington Roosevelt, Medal of Honor recipient. (Photo: Public Domain)

One of Theodore’s cousins did distinguish himself in the war, though. First Sgt. George Washington Roosevelt received the Medal of Honor for recapturing his unit’s colors and capturing a Confederate color bearer at the Second Battle of Bull Run.

While young Theodore grew up with the New York side of the family and entered politics, those stories from his uncles were still rattling around his head when the U.S. entered the Spanish-American War.

Theodore resigned his position as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy to form the First U.S. Volunteer Cavalry, “Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.” They participated in two major battles. The first was the Battle of Las Quasimas and the Battle of San Juan Heights where, on July 1, 1898, Theodore Jr. led multiple charges for which he would posthumously receive the Medal of Honor in 2001.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone

When the Lusitania was sunk and America finally entered World War I, Theodore Jr., a former president by that point, was turned down for service. But three of his sons were accepted into the U.S. Army and a fourth, Kermit, volunteered for service in the British army where he was accepted and rose to captain.

Capt. Quentin Roosevelt was the youngest of the four brothers and the only one who died in the conflict. He trained hard as a pilot, rose to squadron commander, and had one confirmed kill before being engaged by three enemy planes and killed during the Second Battle of the Marne. He was awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
Then-Lt. Quentin Roosevelt in the Nieuport trainer in France. (Photo: Public Domain courtesy of the Roosevelt family)

Theodore III, and Archibald Roosevelt were commissioned as a, Army major and lieutenant, respectively, and joined the 1st Infantry Division. Kermit accepted a commission as a captain in the British army.

Kermit was sent to the Middle East where he earned a British Military Cross for bravery after capturing Turkish soldiers in the Battle for Baghdad. Archibald received two Silver Stars and a Croix de Guerre, and Theodore received the Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, the Croix de Guerre, and the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur, all awards for high valor. Theodore was gassed once and Archibald was crippled by shrapnel.

After America entered World War II, Theodore III returned to service as a colonel. He rejoined the 1st Infantry Division where he was joined by his youngest son, Capt. Quentin Roosevelt II. They were sent first to North Africa.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
A U.S. ship is destroyed during the Invasion of North Africa. (Photo: U.S. Army Lt. Longini)

It was there that the men earned three Silver Stars. Quentin earned the first at the Battle of Kasserine Pass when he manned an artillery observation post under fire and used it to help hold back German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel’s attack until a Messerschmitt shot him through the back.

Theodore, a brigadier general by that point, then earned two more. His first World War II Silver Star came when he manned an observation post under attack from German dive bombers, fighter planes, and artillery. He earned his next Silver Star, his fourth overall, the next day when he led a reinforced combat team against enemy machine gun positions.

Quentin was sent to recover from his wounds but the men were reunited at D-Day when Quentin hit Omaha Beach and Theodore personally directed the 4th Infantry Divisions landings at Utah Beach, redrawing the division’s attack plans while under fire. He would later receive a Medal of Honor and recommendation for promotion to major general, but he died before he received either.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Army Gen. George S. Patton, Jr., and Brig. Gen. Theodore Roosevelt III talk in North Africa during the invasion in World War II. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Quentin II would receive the Croix de Guerre before the war ended.

Archibald, meanwhile, had received full disability after World War I but returned to the Army for World War II and once again received two Silver Stars and was wounded. According to Military Times’ Hall of Valor, that made him the only U.S. service member to receive full disability for two different wars.

Meanwhile, two sons of then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt and distant cousins to Theodore’s family also distinguished themselves in World War II. James R. Roosevelt received a “SPOT AWARD” of the Navy Cross for his leadership under fire with the Marines on Makin Island during a 1942 raid. A year later, he received a Silver Star as a lieutenant colonel for leading assaults to capture the same island.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
U.S. Marine Corps Raiders hit the island of Makin in World War II. (Photo: Public Domain)

Navy Lt. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., received the Silver Star in 1943 for rendering aid and rescuing two men wounded by shrapnel during an air raid in Palerno, Sicily.

Finally, in 1955, Air Force Capt. Theodore S. Roosevelt, named for the president but descended from a separate line of the family, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1955 for successfully conducting an emergency landing in California after his C-124 loaded with 79 combat-equipped personnel lost two engines while flying over the Pacific, 300 miles from land.

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Louie Zamperini: The Man Who Was Unbroken

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone


Seven years ago, Louie Zamperini had just concluded a presentation on a cruise ship when a man in his 60s raised his hand and said, “Mr. Zamperini, I was in your camp in 1957. And several years later, I remember what you had taught me and told me. I came to my own decision to come to the Lord, and my life has been turned around.”

Zamperini’s son, Luke, pauses as he shares the cruise-ship anecdote about Victory Boys Camp, which his late father established for troubled inner-city youths in 1952. “Then another man gets up and says, ‘Mr. Zamperini, I was in your camp in 1961.’ … We saw my father’s redemption and resilience all the time.”

For 60 years, the elder Zamperini shared his inspiring story with church groups, community organizations, and those he would meet and befriend instantly. There was even a Sunday school comic book about him: “The True Story of Capt. Louis Zamperini,” adapted from the 1956 book “Devil at my Heels,” co-authored by Zamperini and Helen Itris.

“Back in the 1950s, we couldn’t go anywhere without him being approached by somebody who knew his story and wanted to talk to him,” Luke remembers. “He was very popular back then. It got a little resurgence when CBS Sports featured him in the 1998 Nagano Olympics. That kind of re-established interest in him. And, of course, when Laura Hillenbrand discovered his story, that brought us to the state we’re in today.”

On Christmas Day, the story of Zamperini’s life – troubled youth, high school track star, Olympic runner, prisoner of war – debuts in movie theaters across the United States. Directed by Oscar-winning actress Angelina Jolie, the film is based on Hillenbrand’s best-selling book “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.”

For years, Zamperini fought to come to grips with his World War II experience. Surviving the crash of his bomber, the Green Hornet. Floating through shark-infested waters for 47 days. Nearly three years of torture at a Japanese prison camp.

With the end of the war and his release came a euphoria, followed by anger, depression, nightmares and alcoholism. For Zamperini, time did not not heal his wounds.

“He was still deeply troubled,” says his daughter, Cynthia Garris. “They didn’t know what (post-traumatic stress disorder) was; there wasn’t a clinical name for it back then.”

“I had a bit of a rough beginning,” she continues. “While I was still an infant, he went through his conversion under Billy Graham. And I can attest to the fact that he didn’t drink or have these nightmares as far back as I can remember.”

Sparked by his initial meeting with Graham, Zamperini’s transformation continued when he returned to Japan in the early ’50s to speak to 850 prisoners held for war crimes. He forgave and hugged his captors, including those who had tortured him. Though Zamperini wanted to meet and forgive Mutsuhiro Watanabe – “The Bird” – in person, the notoriously abusive POW camp officer declined.

Seemingly overnight, Zamperini emerged from his darkness to shine a light wherever he went. Once he forgave his captors, he said, he never again had a nightmare.

A NEW OUTLOOK

Reinvigorated and full of love, Zamperini turned his attention to raising his kids, teaching them life lessons and playing practical jokes. He was the parent who soothed the sore throats, mended the broken toys and tended to the pets – even rats.

“To me, the rats were wonderful,” Luke says, laughing. “To him, they were disgusting. I mistakenly left their cage outside one night, and in the morning, they appeared to be dead. I was heartbroken. He nursed them back to health, staying up all night and feeding them honey and sugar water. The next morning, here was this exhausted father with these rats seemingly returned from the dead. No one asked him to do that. He just knew it would make me happy.”

Zamperini would unleash his sense of humor anytime, anywhere. “One time, Mom, Luke and I were watching TV in the evening,” Cynthia recalls. “Often Dad would go downstairs to his workshop, so we didn’t think it was unusual. All of a sudden he came streaking through the TV room, and he was dressed like a sumo wrestler, with a Japanese cloth around his loins, running through the room, just to make us laugh. He had a wonderful sense of humor.”

Zamperini would engage anyone; he was always happy to hear someone’s story and, of course, to share his own.

“He would be out watering his plants in the front yard, and some jogger would be jogging by,” Luke says. “He would turn around and say, ‘Hey, I’ll race you to that mailbox up there.’ Of course, he was pretty slow in his later years. So when the other person would reach the mailbox first, he would say, ‘Well, now you can say that you beat an Olympian.’ That would usually make them stop, turn around and come back to talk. It’s just the way he would make friends.”

Zamperini stayed active, though he had to give up jogging at 87 and skiing at 91 when he cracked his clavicle.

“I’d look up and he’d be gone,” Cynthia says of their skiing trips, one of which was a perfect example of Zamperini’s outgoing nature. “Some pretty girl had fallen on the other side of the slope, and he had made a beeline over there to give her lessons on how to ski. And this is when he was in his late 80s or 90s. He just made friends wherever he went.”

“ALWAYS LAUGHING”

While researching for her 2001 book “Seabiscuit: An American Legend,” Hillenbrand learned of Zamperini’s high school athletic exploits – how he’d set a world interscholastic record by running a 4:21 mile. Once she learned about his war experience, she says she “knew this was my next book.”

She began meeting with him. “He was always laughing, always happy, always upbeat,” says Hillenbrand, who spoke with Zamperini almost daily during the seven-year process of researching and writing “Unbroken.”

“He loved being alive. He told these stories of the most harrowing experiences and did so in an almost singsong voice because he had let it all go … the pain of it was gone for him. That was inspiring. I had never met anyone who had suffered as Louie had who could maintain an outlook … that everything is a gift. He was a wonderfully happy man.”

His sense of humor surfaced when Hillenbrand least expected it. “I called him one day and told him how far deep his plane was in the ocean,” she says. “And he responded very quickly, ‘Well, I should go down and get it.’ I just loved that. We’re talking about a plane crash that put him in these dire circumstances for years. But he could joke about it.”

Zamperini’s story is full of tragic moments, such as his captivity on the island of Kwajalein, where he contracted dengue fever and was the subject of medical experiments. “His voice became solemn when he spoke about that,” Hillenbrand says. “He would make little noises one makes when there is something hard to say. He was struggling to push through it.”

While Zamperini was able to talk about the abuses he suffered, one episode proved especially challenging to recount. “The thing he said was the most painful memory of all the war was the killing of Gaga the Duck,” Hillenbrand says. “It was sort of a pet of the prisoners of war. He said it was the worst thing – the innocence of that animal and what was done to him.”

“FULL OF LOVE”

Jack O’Connell, who plays Zamperini in the movie, met him several times before and after filming. O’Connell was most impressed with Zamperini’s decision to forgive those who had done him great harm. “The solace you gain from forgiveness eventually helps take you to a better place,” he says.

That’s what enabled Zamperini to emerge from the darkness of his postwar years and embrace life. “You would never know the torment he went through,” Cynthia says. “Many men have gone through wars like that. They are bitter and not very talkative. They can be angry. He was such a happy-go-lucky man. Just full of love, full of life.”

When making public appearances or going out to eat, Zamperini always wore his “uniform” – beige pants with the belt he wore all the way through the war, blue Olympic windbreaker and University of Southern California cap. He had a half-dozen USC caps and was rarely photographed in his last years without one. “I have one sitting on an easy chair where he liked to sit,” his daughter says. “It looks like Dad’s here.”

Zamperini died July 2 at 97.

Initially, Luke was disappointed that his father didn’t live long enough to see the completed film of “Unbroken.” But Jolie told him, “Oh, yes he did. I took my laptop to the hospital, sat on his bed with him, and we watched it.”

Thanks to the “Unbroken” book and film, Zamperini’s legacy will endure, educating millions more on his story of courage, redemption, struggle, forgiveness and faith.

The Victory Boys Club lives on, too. The family had planned to disband the camp since it’s not at a set location anymore. But earlier this year, Zamperini reached out and shared his story one last time to a troubled 20-year-old man addicted to heroin.

“We took him to see Louie, and Louie was able to finance this guy getting to a mission group in Australia that would accept him in his state and try to help him,” Luke says. “It turned this guy around. He spoke at both the private and public memorials we had for my dad. We realized we were able to help this one guy with Victory Boys Camp, so we wanted to keep this charity going to benefit the lives of young people.”

The author of this story, Henry Howard, is deputy director of magazine operations for The American Legion.

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The US Air Force really did try to suppress an amazing A-10 video

The John Q. Public blog, run by retired Air Force officer Tony Carr, came across a video he suspects was produced by the Air Force’s Combat Camera units, lauding the A-10, its crews, its pilots, and the capabilities of its support for ground troops.


“ComCam is perhaps alone in its possession of the unique combination of access and capability to create something this close to the mission with such superior production values,” Carr writes. “A ComCam airman risked mortal danger to make this film and tell this story, getting immersed in a firefight along the way (you’ll see him drop his camera and hear him discharge his weapon in the video).”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L_TjXXx7eQ

Carr published the video, called Hawg (above), on his blog’s YouTube page and hit more than 935,000 views since it went live on September 4. Its popularity is related to how much the A-10 is beloved by airmen who work and fly the airframe, as well as troops on the ground who need it for close air support. It’s also a really good documentary about the A-10’s combat role. So why would the Air Force not release it?

He suspected the USAF tried to suppress the documentary for political reasons, chiefly the effort by the Air Force to mothball the A-10 in favor of developing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. He tried to get a statement from the Air Force before  releasing it, but received none. After its release, he received a statement from a USAF spokesman explaining the role of Combat Camera and uses of its imagery:

“The documentation was captured by Combat Camera.  The primary intent of Combat Camera missions [is] to ensure documentation of military activities during wartime operations, worldwide crises, and contingencies. The foundational mission of Combat Camera was achieved.  The documentation aided mission assessment. However, the video in your possession never entered the security and policy review process because it was not finalized for any other purpose.”

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Carr found another video, a more polished version of Hawg, called Grunts in the Sky, which contained graphics, music, and credits, which Carr believes is evidence of editorial discretion to get the video through an approval process. That the Hawg video includes unblurred faces of USAF JTAC operators and doesn’t have name titles of the A-10 pilots interviewed there might be some truth to the official statement, as far as COMCAM is concerned. Carr recently learned from sources inside the Air Force the video was approved through its normal process but once it hit a certain staff level, was shot down.

Officers close to the situation said that the wing commander at Bagram threatened UCMJ action against anyone who leaked the video, going so far as invoking the word “mutiny” in his warning.

The Air Force Public Affairs website describes Combat Camera’s mission: “COMCAM imagery serves a visual record of an operation and is of immeasurable value to decision makers in the OSD, Joint Staff, and combatant commands. COMCAM imagery is also significant for public affairs, public diplomacy and psychological operations.

Combat Camera imagery is painstakingly reviewed and released (or not) by Public Affairs Officers while in the field and then back at their home units when other products are created from existing imagery. The Hawg video would have to have been reviewed before its release, including each clip used in its final form.

NOW: BRRRRRT: Congress wants the Air Force to keep the A-10 aircraft that troops totally love

OR: Why the A-10 is the best CAS platform

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Chinese fighters buzz US patrol plane off Hong Kong

A United States Navy P-3 Orion was buzzed by Chinese fighters while in international airspace off Hong Kong. This is the second time that an American plane has had a close encounter in the last two weeks.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the Chinese Chengdu J-10 “Firebird” fighters came within 200 yards of the P-3, with at least one of the planes making slow turns in front of the American maritime patrol aircraft. The action was considered “unsafe” by the crew.

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A P-3 Orion flies over Japan. (US Navy photo)

“You don’t know what the other person is doing,” a defense official told FoxNews.com under the condition of anonymity while explaining the characterization of the incident.

Last week, Chinese J-11s pulled a “Top Gun”-style intercept on an Air Force WC-135W Constant Phoenix radiation surveillance plane — an encounter deemed “unprofessional” by American officials. Encounters like this have been frequent in recent months, and in 2001, a Navy EP-3E Aries II electronic surveillance plane collided with a Chinese J-8 “Finback” interceptor. The Chinese pilot was killed.

The day after the incident involving the J-10s and the P-3, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) passed within six miles of Mischief Reef, one of the artificial islands China has built in the South China Sea. The United States has been asserting freedom of navigation in the disputed waters, even in the face of Chinese threats to impose fines on American ships that don’t comply with their edicts in the maritime flashpoint.

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Chengdu J-10 taking off. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Military-Today.com reports that the J-10 is a single-engine fighter that was developed during the late 1980s and early 1990s to counter Russian fighters like the Su-27 Flanker and the MiG-29 Fulcrum. According to some reports, the design was based on the Israeli Aircraft Industries prototype multi-role fighter known as the Lavi, an effort by the Israelis to develop an aircraft comparable to the F-16.

The J-10 has a top speed of Mach 2.2, and can carry PL-12 and PL-8 air-to-air missiles, while also having the ability to drop bombs and fire unguided rockets. GlobalSecurity.org reports that the Chinese have at least 240 on inventory with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Pakistan also signed a deal to buy 36 of the J-10B multi-role fighter in 2009, according to FlightGlobal.com.

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The U.S. Air Force’s next fighter could be a stealthy drone

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F-22 Raptors from Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, fly over Alaska May 26, 2010. | U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson


Four years after the 195th and final F-22 Raptor stealth fighter rolled out of Lockheed Martin’s factory in Marietta, Georgia, the U.S. Air Force still hasn’t committed to developing a new manned air-superiority fighter.

But the world’s leading air arm is proposing to develop some kind of new aircraft to complement, and perhaps replace, the F-22 on the most dangerous air dominance missions in heavily defended territory.

Noting that enemy air defenses are developing faster than the Air Force can counter them, the flying branch’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan,”published in May, warns that “the Air Force’s projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning.”

“Developing and delivering air superiority for the highly contested environment in 2030 requires a multi-domain focus on capabilities and capacity,” the flight plan notes. To that end, it calls for the Air Force to begin developing, as early as 2017, a new “penetrating counterair” system, or PCA.

“Capability development efforts for PCA will focus on maximizing tradeoffs between range, payload, survivability, lethality, affordability, and supportability,” the flight plan explains.

Studiously avoiding specificity with regard to the PCA, the plan leaves open the possibility that the new penetrating counterair system could be manned or unmanned. In any event, the PCA will be part of a network of systems.

“While PCA capability will certainly have a role in targeting and engaging, it also has a significant role as a node in the network, providing data from its penetrating sensors to enable employment using either stand-off or stand-in weapons,” the plan explains.

“The penetrating capabilities of PCA will allow the stand-in application of kinetic and non-kinetic effects from the air domain.” In other words, the PCA could be a highly stealthy manned fighter or drone whose main job is find targets for other systems to attack.

Not coincidentally, the Pentagon has studied modifying existing large aircraft — most likely B-52 and B-1 bombers — to serve as “arsenal planes,” carrying large numbers of long-range munitions and firing them, from safe distance, at targets designated by stealthy aircraft flying much closer to enemy territory.

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A Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor. | Photo by Rob Shenk

Along the same lines, the U.S. military is developing a wide range of new munitions, including hypersonic rockets, lasers and microwave weapons. It’s possible to imagine that, around 2030, the Air Force will deploy teams of systems to do the same job the F-22 does today. A team could include a stealthy drone communicating with a distant B-1 arsenal plane hauling a load of hypersonic missiles.

Of course, it’s also possible that the penetrating counterair system could be an existing fighter. The new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter possesses some air-to-air capability plus a higher degree of stealth than do most planes.

But even the Air Force admits that the F-35 isn’t a suitable replacement for the F-22. “It’s not that it can’t do it, it’s just that it wasn’t designed to be a maneuvering airplane,” Gen. Hawk Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, said in late 2015.

More likely, today’s F-22s could give way to … tomorrow’s F-22s. Seven years after then-defense secretary Robert Gates cancelled F-22 production, the U.S. defense establishment has concluded that 195 F-22s is not enough.

The U.S. Congress has pressured the Air Force to at least consider plans for more F-22s. And Air Force leaders are warming up to the idea, despite the high cost. The RAND Corporation, a California think-tank, estimated that 75 new F-22s would cost $19 billion in 2016 dollars. Even so, an F-22 restart is “not a crazy idea,” Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, said in May.

Fortunately, the Pentagon had the foresight to order Lockheed to preserve the F-22’s tooling and document production processes. More problematic is the limited networking capability of the current F-22 design. A Raptor’s datalink is compatible only with other Raptors, complicating the F-22’s participation in a network of systems. If a Raptor can’t talk to other aircraft, it certainly can’t designate targets for them.

But again, there are solutions in the works. The U.S. government’s tiny fleet of Battlefield Airborne Communications Node aircraft — a mix of Global Hawk drones, business jets and old B-57 bombers — carry radio gateways that can “translate” datalinks in order to link up disparate aircraft.

More elegantly, Boeing has developed a scab-on datalink system called Talon HATE that, installed on an F-15, allows the older fighter to securely exchange data with an F-22. Talon HATE is still in testing, but could find its way to the frontline F-15 fleet in coming years.

It’s not clear whether the Air Force’s top leadership — to say nothing of Congress and the White House — will follow the air-superiority flight plan’s recommendation and begin development of a penetrating counterair system in the next year or so. But if the stars align, the Air Force could soon, however belatedly, have a replacement for the F-22.

And it might even be a version of the F-22.

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This is why Morgan Freeman is Russia’s newest target

Morgan Freeman is the latest target of Russian ire. The 80-year-old actor is in a video from The Committee to Investigate Russia, warning Americans that Russia is at war with the U.S. and that Americans should respond “before it’s too late.”


“We have been attacked,” the video begins. “We are at war.”


The CIR website is a repository of information and stories concerning Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential election. It details the investigations, the investigators, media coverage, and the players surrounding the incidents. Freeman’s part is the voice and face of the video urging Americans to take a more concerned stance and demand the U.S. government admit the meddling that took place.

Russia isn’t happy about the video or Freeman’s participation in it.. State-run media outlet Russia Today said the video shouldn’t be taken seriously.

“Many creative people easily become victims of emotional overload while not possessing credible information about the true state of things,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told RT, calling CIR’s effort a “follow-up to McCarthyism.” Peskov went on to say these things eventually fade away and that statements like Freeman’s “are not based on real facts and are purely emotional.”

“Imagine this movie script,” Freeman continues in the video, “A former KGB spy, angry at the fall of his motherland, plots a course for revenge. Taking advantage of the chaos, he works his way up through the ranks of a post-Soviet Russia and becomes president. He establishes an authoritarian regime and then sets his sights on his sworn enemy, The United States. And like the true KGB spy he is, he secretly uses cyber warfare to attack democracies around the world. Using social media to spread propaganda and false information, he convinces people in democratic societies to distrust their media, their political processes, even their neighbors. And he wins.”

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone

Maria Zakharova, the spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, says Freeman is being used the way Colin Powell was in the lead-up to the 2003 U.S.-led Invasion of Iraq.

“We’ll find out who stands behind this story faster than we learned about the contents of the vial,” Zakharova said, referring to a vial Powell held up in a speech as he made the American case for war to the United Nations. “The finale will be spectacular, I can’t wait to see it.”

Meanwhile, Russian media called Freeman “hysterical,” even going so far to bring a panel of psychiatrists on to question the Oscar-winner’s state of mind. A weatherman even chimed in, saying the actor is overworked and smokes too much marijuana. Russian psychological experts say he may be subject to a Messianic complex from playing God and the President of the United States in so many movies.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
To be fair, I also think of Morgan Freeman as God.

The video ends with Freeman calling on President Trump to address Americans from the Oval Office:

“My fellow Americans, during this past election, we came under attack by the Russian government. I’ve called on Congress and our intelligence community to use every resource available to conduct a thorough investigation to determine exactly how this happened.”

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This simple exercise will help determine if you really want to be a sniper

Quora is the ultimate resource for crowdsourcing knowledge. If you’re unfamiliar, you ask the Quora world a question and anyone with expertise (and some without it) will respond. One user asked the world what service he should join if he wanted to be a sniper. One Marine veteran gave him some necessary information.

Choosing what branch to join can be tough for anyone. Different branches have different lifestyles, they come with different job opportunities, and they each have their own difficulties. If you’re 100-percent sure you want to be a sniper, that doesn’t narrow your selection. At all.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
Yes, the Air Force has snipers.

To be fair, the asker asked, “Which branch is better?” Many users thoughtfully answered his question with answers ranging from the Coast Guard’s HITRON precision marksmen to arguing the finer points about why Army snipers are superior to SEALs and Marine Scout Snipers (go ahead and debate that amongst yourselves).


Many answering users wondered if the original asker really wanted to be a sniper. Some answers were condescending, some were went as far as accusing him of simply wanting to kill people (this is still the internet, after all). But one Marine veteran gave the young asker an exercise. One that would help him see if it was something he really wanted to do.

Chinese Submarines Just Reached Another Alarming Milestone
Gunny Hathcock approves.
(Hathcock Family photo)

That Marine was a trucker, an artilleryman, and a Desert Storm veteran. He “wasn’t a sniper, but I served with them, and listened in awe to how they train.” He then gave the asker a 15-step exercise to see if sniper training was something he really wanted to do:

  1. Wait until the middle of summer.
  2. Get a wool blanket and three quart-size ziplock bags.
  3. Fill the bags with small meals.
  4. Get two one-quart canteens and plenty of water purification tablets.
  5. Locate a swamp that is adjacent to a field of tall grass
  6. Before the sun comes up on day one, wrap yourself in the wool blanket.
  7. Crawl through the swamp, never raising any part of your body above the one-foot level.
  8. Lay all day in the field with the sun bearing down on you.
  9. Eat your food while never moving faster than a sloth.
  10. If you need water, crawl back to the swamp, fill the canteens, and use your water purification tablets to hopefully not get sick.
  11. Put any bodily waste in the zip-lock bags as you empty them of food. This includes any vomit if you didn’t decontaminate your water well enough.
  12. Bees, fire ants, and any predatory animals are not a reason to move faster than a sloth or move any part of your body above the one-foot level.
  13. Sleep there through the night.
  14. When the sun rises crawl back through the swamp.
  15. Just before you stand up and go home, ask yourself if you want to be a sniper.

Always remember: If you use the Quora world for advice, be sure to consider your source.

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VA chief says he’d stay if Trump wants him

As a new administration prepares to take charge in late January, the man who’s lead the Department of Veterans Affairs through nearly three years of turbulence says if President-elect Donald Trump wants him to stay aboard, he’ll keep working to reform the sprawling agency.


“I haven’t yet received a call,” says Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald. “But I would never turn my back on my duty.”

Trump has reportedly looked into several candidates for the post, including former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown and former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, but some are calling for McDonald to stay on.

During a recent “Town Hall”-style meeting at the West Los Angeles VA Jan. 4, McDonald fielded questions from the veteran audience that touched on service lapses and recent scandals, including accusations and fraud within the VA and a perceived lack of accountability.

“A certain employee here lost 30 vehicles and still drew a $140,000 salary,” one veteran and VA employee complained. “There’s no accountability with people in management.”

McDonald agreed he inherited a VA plagued with bad actors, but said most of the local VA leaders who were in office when he took over are no longer employed by the VA.

For McDonald the changes haven’t happened fast enough. Speed, he laments, is his greatest challenge. Future VA Secretaries will feel the need for speed as well.

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Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. James A. Winnefeld, Jr. and (left) Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald (center) receive a brief on a firearms training driving simulator during a tour of the Center for the Intrepid, Dec. 19, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

“One of the things I talk about in my top 10 leadership principles is the need to get the right leaders in place,” McDonald told WATM in an exclusive interview. “I changed 14 of my 17 top leaders, but it’s two and a half years later, and we’re not done yet.”

Many of the veterans at the town hall meeting asked McDonald to address problems specific to them — bad record keeping or missed appointments. While the VA secretary said he’d get those problems fixed, he argued its a good sign the complaints focus on the tactical rather than larger systemic problems.

“Two and a half years ago, many of the comments I got were things like, ‘it’s too hard to get an appointment,’ ” he says. “Now, more and more, we’re hearing about individuals and that individual service.”

When you run a large customer service organization, you want to get from anecdotes to specific situations so you can deal with them,” he added.

Talking to McDonald, you can hear how his time as CEO of Procter  Gamble colors his view of running the VA.

“The brands you like the most, ones you can’t do without, you feel like you have an intimate relationship,” he says. “That intimacy leads to trust. What you want to do is measure the trust and measure the emotion that comes out of the experience that you have.”

Those are the metrics that he says matter.

“The fact that trust of the VA has gone up from 47 percent to 60 percent, it’s not where we want it to be, but the fact that it’s gone up says the veterans are seeing a difference,” he said. “What we’ve seen is ease of getting care has gone up 20 points, and the effectiveness of care has gone up about 12 points. Trust, then, has gone up 13 points.”

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(VA photo)

While veterans’ trust in the system has gone up, McDonald said, there are still calls for more services to be transitioned to private organizations. Many argue private doctors and specialists are more efficient and provide a quicker turnaround for vets in need, while others say moving toward privatization is a bad idea.

For McDonald, a careful mixture of both is the right way forward.

“Since I’ve been the secretary, we’ve gone from 20 percent of our appointments in private medicine to now 32 percent in the private sector, so there has been some degree of privatization,” he says. “We’ve done that in a very evolutionary way, where if we didn’t have a skill, specialty, or a location, we would send people into the community.”

“As I looked at this, privatizing VA services wholesale didn’t make sense to me,” he added.

He explained what he calls the “three-legged stool” of the VA: valuable medical research (to the tune of $1.8B per year), training 70 percent of doctors in the United States, and providing the “best patients” for clinical work – patients with unique situations.

He also said many veterans organization don’t want total privatization.

“They like the integrated care that the VA provides, and they like having medical providers who are familiar with their unique situations,” McDonald says. “They typically have a number of issues that need to be resolved simultaneously.”

Whether he stays in the job or not, McDonald feels it’s important the next VA secretary has a similar pedigree to his — one that combines military experience with top-line business credentials.

“It’s important to have somebody who’s a veteran, obviously, because they have to have credibility with the veteran population, but somebody who’s also run a large organization,” he says. “I think it’s advantageous to have somebody who’s run a large organization and understands the importance of getting the right leaders in place, of setting the right strategies, of making sure the system’s robust, of setting the right culture.”

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