ISIS is using 'Mad Max'-style vehicle bombs in Iraq - We Are The Mighty
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ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

ISIS fighters are using heavily-armored ‘Mad Max’-style vehicles to deliver suicide bombs to targeted Iraqi and Peshmerga forces in Mosul.


Col. John Dorrian, spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve, showed off a photo of one of the vehicles the terrorist group has been using in Mosul for vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or VBIEDs.

Also read: Iraqi troops reveal more gruesome ISIS handiwork in Mosul

“It’s reminiscent of a Mad Max vehicle, with armored plating in the front to protect the driver until he can detonate the explosives he’s carrying on board,” Dorrian said in a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday, according to The Washington Examiner.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
DoD

As the photo shows, a driver and the vehicle’s engine block are very well-protected from small arms fire due to thick armor plating and what appears to be bulletproof glass. Since they are much tougher to take out by ground forces, Dorrian said that more than 60 of the vehicles have been taken out by US airstrikes.

US forces took out at least three VBIEDs on Wednesday alone. Despite what Dorrian describedas “extremely tough fighting,” ISIS has lost a number of surrounding towns in the fight since the offensive began in October.

Iraqi and Peshmerga forces have made steady gains in and around Mosul since then, and they are now roughly six miles from the city’s Government Center, according to the latest report from the Institute for the Study of War.

“We are advancing steadily,” Lt. Gen. Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, a commander in Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces, told USA Today. “We are taking in civilians fleeing [ISIS-controlled] areas while prioritizing protecting residents inside the city.”

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LA vets concerned history repeating itself as the VA negotiates stadium deal with UCLA

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
VA Secretary Bob McDonald in Los Angeles. (Photo: VA blog)


On January 28 Secretary Bob McDonald put his name to the draft master plan for the future of the West Los Angeles VA campus, a year after the agency won a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought before the courts to reverse years of encroachment on the campus. In his remarks at a ceremony marking the signing, McDonald spoke about the accomplishments of those involved in crafting the plan, crediting the veterans who’d assisted along the way.

“We know this is a team sport,” McDonald said of the process.  “It has to be done collaboratively.”

The effort that gave McDonald confidence that the master plan he was signing incorporated enough input from local vets involved collaboration on a massive scale. Marine vet Mike Dowling, We Are The Mighty‘s director of outreach, and Anthony Allman of Vets Advocacy helped organize a number of veteran service organizations to get membership mobilized to create the focus of the draft master plan.

Under the guidance of Dowling and others, dozens of VSO reps met weekly after work for six months hammering out formal comments while carrying the message back to their membership to make sure the direction behind the plan was as comprehensive as possible.

Vets Advocacy, the organization formed to settle the litigation and implement the settlement agreement, created a website, www.vatherightway.org, as the primary tool to inform veterans and get their input. The site allowed veterans to learn the history of the campus and the associated encroachment issues, see the schedule of the 12 town hall events, and — most importantly — conduct a survey that asked veterans for their opinions about how the campus could better serve the veteran community. More than 1,000 vets commented and those recommendations were filed to the Federal Register, the official government record of the plan.

That result was no small feat. Veterans answered the call to see to their own well-being in the same way they might have tackled an objective during their time on active duty. It was hard work, and the vets were proud of the fact that they might actually make a difference and be part of the solution.

But during his speech McDonald also credited the leadership of UCLA for their part in making the campus better for veterans, which struck many of the veterans in attendance as odd.  The university was arguably the worst offender in terms of encroachment by virtue of the fact that Jackie Robinson Stadium — home to the Bruins’ baseball team — was illegally built on VA property. What those vets didn’t know at the time was that McDonald was about to sign a document that outlined the terms of an “enhanced use” land agreement that would allow UCLA to continue to use the stadium for another 10 years, at least.

Curiously, the VA remained mum while UCLA issued a press release that outlined several million dollars worth of veteran initiatives that the university intends to carry out in the years to come in return for keeping the stadium.

Some veterans who were active in the draft master planning process expressed concerns that history is in danger of repeating itself by allowing the VA to sign deals with third parties without oversight or veteran buy-in for reasons that have no bearing on the VA’s mission.

“It feels like the VA put the cart before the horse by agreeing to terms before the enabling legislation passes and before any vets saw the deal,” said Seth Smith, a UCLA alumnus and Navy vet. “That timing leaves a bad taste in vets’ mouths. It’s a step in the wrong direction in terms of regaining the Los Angeles community’s trust.”

Richard Valdez, a Marine veteran and chairman of the VSO coalition in Los Angeles, said concerns from vets like Smith are premature because the agreement between the VA and UCLA is not legally effective and requires passage of the Los Angeles Homeless Veterans Leasing Act, which is expected this spring.

“Veterans need to understand that what was just signed isn’t a contract,” Valdez said. “It’s merely an agreement in principle.”

That fact notwithstanding, vet advocates who put a lot of work into the draft master plan question the VA’s timing and wonder why they weren’t given a heads up that the signing of terms with UCLA was going to happen. But VA officials were unflinching when asked about the circumstances surrounding the arrangement.

“We do everything with veterans in mind,” said Vince Kane, the director of the VA’s National Homeless Center. “And we got a good deal for them.”

Veteran expectations about the magnitude of change on the campus may have also been shaped by the language in the federal court’s findings in the original lawsuit (Valentini v. McDonald), which stated that all of the enhanced use land agreements on the VA campus were illegal. That may have led veterans to believe that the agreements would be terminated indefinitely (and even that the stadium might be demolished) in favor of more pressing priorities. After all, where does a Division I baseball stadium fit among the needs of homeless veterans and patients?

Valdez thinks that those who thought that would happen were naive. “Enhanced use leases are a fact of life, and that’s not going to change,” Valdez said. “If we have an issue within that reality, that’s where the vet community needs to focus.”

Dr. Jon Sherin, a physician who ran mental health services for the West Los Angeles VA hospital and serves as a senior member of the Vets Advocacy team, recommended that veterans remain vigilant and not grow cynical. “The work isn’t over,” he said.

“The master plan itself is a monumental achievement on behalf of the vet community,” Dowling said.  “No matter what happens, vets in LA set an example for communities across the nation in coming together to take our future in our own hands.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is the story behind the pre-inauguration wreath laying ceremony

President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Thursday afternoon.


The ceremony took just under 13 minutes, according to video of the event available at CSPAN.org. Neither the president-elect nor vice-president elect chose to speak at the event.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
President-elect Donald J. Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, Jan. 19, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Trump will be sworn-in as the 45th president of the United States during the Inauguration Ceremony Jan. 20, 2017, in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue/Arlington National Cemetery/released)

According to a report by Bloomberg, the ceremony is one of the first of the series of events that will culminate in Trump and Pence taking their oaths of office on the West Front of the Capitol Building on Jan. 20.

A 2013 report by EverythingLubbock.com notes that President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden took part in a similar ceremony on Jan. 20, a day prior to their second public inauguration, and C-SPAN.org has video of Obama and Biden taking part in a 2009 ceremony prior to taking office on Jan. 18 of that year. The ceremony honors military personnel who have “served and sacrificed” according to EverythingLubbock.com.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
Gary S. Davis, second left, deputy director ceremonies and special events/chief of ceremonies, U.S. Army Military District of Washington, and Maj. Gen. Bradley A. Becker, right, Commanding General, Joint Task Force-National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington, brief President-elect Donald J. Trump, third from left, and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, left, prior to a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, Jan. 17, 2017, in Arlington, Va. Trump and Pence placed a wreath at the Tomb. (U.S. Army photo by Rachel Larue/Arlington National Cemetery/released)

The ceremony takes place at the Tomb of the Unknowns. According to the website of Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb was first built to honor an unknown serviceman who fell during World War I. It was dedicated on Armistice Day, 1921 (Nov. 11, now Veterans Day).

In 1958, unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were interred on May 30. On May 28, 1984, the Vietnam Unknown was interred. According to homeofheroes.com, all four Unknowns were awarded the Medal of Honor. An official Army website notes that unknown Belgian, British, French, Italian, and Rumanian soldiers from World War I were also awarded the Medal of Honor.

In 1998, the Vietnam Unknown was exhumed. DNA testing later identified him as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie. CNN reported that Blassie was returned to his family and buried at the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.

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This is how the US military would put down an armed rebellion

What if the “2nd amendment people” Donald Trump mentioned recently during a campaign rally were actually able to spark an armed rebellion to overthrow the United States?


In a 2012 article for the Small Wars Journaltwo academics took a stab at such a scenario and tried to figure out how state and federal authorities would likely respond to a small force taking over an American town.

In their paper, retired Army colonel and University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies professor Kevin Benson and Kansas University history professor Jennifer Weber wargamed a scenario where a Tea Party-motivated militia took over the town of Darlington, South Carolina.

The circumstances may seem far-fetched, but in today’s deeply partisan political environment, it’s at least worth looking into how the feds would respond if an American town tried to go it alone.

Precedents for fighting an insurrection

Benson and Weber cite Abraham Lincoln’s executive actions during the Civil War and Dwight Eisenhower’s 1957 intervention in Little Rock, Arkansas as precedents for the executive use of force in crushing a rebellion. The President would be able to mobilize the military and Department of Homeland Security to recapture a secessionist city and restore the elected government.

The government would invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to form a response.

From Title 10 US Code the President may use the militia or Armed Forces to:

§ 331 – Suppress an insurrection against a State government at the request of the Legislature or, if not in session, the Governor.

§ 332 – Suppress unlawful obstruction or rebellion against the U.S.

§ 333 – Suppress insurrection or domestic violence if it (1) hinders the execution of the laws to the extent that a part or class of citizens are deprived of Constitutional rights and the State is unable or refuses to protect those rights or (2) obstructs the execution of any Federal law or impedes the course of justice under Federal laws.)

The Insurrection Act governs the roles of the military, local law enforcement, and civilian leadership inside the U.S. as this type of scenario plays out.

How it could go down

An extreme right-wing militia takes over the town of Darlington, South Carolina, placing the mayor under house arrest and disbanding the city council. Local police are disarmed or are sympathetic to the militia’s cause and integrated into the militia.

The rebels choke traffic on interstates 95 and 20, collecting “tolls” to fund their arsenal and operation. Militiamen also stop rail lines and detain anyone who protests their actions.

The insurgents use social media and press conferences to invoke the Declaration of Independence as their rationale, arguing they have the right to “alter or abolish the existing government and replace it with another that, in the words of the Declaration, ‘shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.’ ”

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
Many states have militia groups formed by citizens. This is a gathering of the Southeast Michigan Volunteer Militia. (SMVM photo)

Because of this, they enjoy a “groundswell” of support from similarly-minded locals throughout the state. The mayor contacts the governor and his congressman. The governor doesn’t call out the National Guard for fear they’d side with the militiamen. He monitors the situation using the State Police but through aides, he asks the federal government to step in and restore order, but cannot do so publicly.

The President of the United States gives the militia 15 days to disperse.

Mobilizing a response

The executive branch first calls the state National Guard to federal service. The Joint Staff alerts the U.S. Northern Command who orders U.S. Army North/Fifth U.S. Army to form a joint task force headquarters. Local units go on alert – in this case, the U.S. Army at Forts Bragg and Stewart in North Carolina and Georgia, respectively, and Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

The Fifth Army begins its mission analysis and intelligence preparation of the battlefield. This includes locating enemy bases, critical infrastructure, terrain, potential weather, and other important information.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
The federal government’s use of Active Duty troops against the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas sparked controversy. (FBI photo)

Once the Fifth Army commander has a complete picture of the militia’s behavior patterns, deployments of forces, and activity inside the town, he begins a phased deployment of federal forces.

Civilian control of the military

The Fifth Army is in command of the military forces, but the Department of Justice is still the lead federal agency in charge on the ground. The Attorney General can designate a Senior Civilian Representative of the Attorney General (SCRAG) to coordinate all federal agencies and has the authority to assign missions to federal military forces. The Attorney General may also appoint a Senior Federal Law Enforcement Officer to coordinate federal law enforcement activities.

It’s interesting to note that many of the Constitutional protections afforded to American citizens still apply to those in arms against the government. For instance, federal judges will still have to authorize wiretaps on rebel phones during all phases of the federal response.

Troops on the ground will be aware of local, national, and international media constantly watching them and that every incidence of gunfire will likely be investigated.

Beginning combat operations

Combat units will begin show of force operations against militiamen to remind the rebels they’re now dealing with the actual United States military. Army and Marine Corps units will begin capturing and dismantling the checkpoints and roadblocks held by the militia members.

All federal troops will use the minimum amount of force, violence, and numbers necessary. Only increasing to put pressure on the insurrectionist leaders.

After dismantling checkpoints, soldiers and Marines will recapture critical infrastructure areas in the city, such as water and power stations, as well as TV and radio stations and hospitals.

Meanwhile, state law enforcement and activated National Guard units will care for the fleeing and residents of the city. This is partly for political reasons, allowing the government most susceptible to local voters to be seen largely absent from being in direct, sometimes armed conflict with their own elected officials.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
Shays Rebellion monument

Restoring government control

Federal troops will maintain law and order on the streets of the city as elected officials return to their offices. Drawing on U.S. military history, the government will likely give individual members of the militia a general amnesty while prosecuting the leaders and those who broke the law during the uprising.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army wants to know how a soldier was shot during expert test

Army officials at Fort Polk, Louisiana, are trying to determine how a soldier was shot during training in October 2018 since the incident did not occur during a live-fire event.

The soldier from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was shot accidentally while going through Expert Infantryman Badge (EIB) testing at 2 p.m. Oct. 26, 2018, according to Kim Reischling, a spokeswoman for Fort Polk.


The Army did not release the soldier’s name, but Reischling said he is in stable condition.

Infantry soldiers participate in testing each year to show they have mastered their core infantry skills and to earn the EIB, a distinctive badge consisting of a silver musket on a blue field.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

Expert Infantryman Badge candidates wait at the start of the 12-mile foot march before the sun rises, April 3, 2014.

The testing requires soldiers to pass a day-and-night land navigation course; complete a 12-mile road march with their weapon, individual equipment and a 35-pound rucksack within three hours; and pass several individual tests involving weapons, first aid and patrolling techniques.

Soldiers are required to have their weapons with them during EIB testing, but there “shouldn’t have been live rounds” present when the soldier was shot, Reischling said.

The incident remains under investigation, she said.

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

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US-led forces executed the largest single airstrike of the year against ISIS’ oil business

In one fell swoop, a series of aerial strafing and bombing runs destroyed 83 oil tankers belonging to ISIS forces in Syria.


USA TODAY reports that after a pilot witnessed a gaggle of vehicles in the oil-rich, ISIS-held region of Deir ez-Zor province, US-led coalition forces sent a surveillance aircraft to provide intelligence on the area. After confirming the targets, A-10s and F-16s were scrambled to dispense more than 80 munitions against the vehicles.

After the dust settled, an estimated $11 million worth of oil and trucks were destroyed in the largest single airstrike against ISIS forces in Syria this year.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
A convoy of ISIS-owned fuel tankers burn after being targeted by a Russian airstrike. | Screenshot via Guerrilla TV/YouTube

“You’re going to have multiple effects from this one strike,” said Air Force commander Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Harrigian.

The vehicles, which were reported to have been out in the open, may be indicative of the declining state of ISIS’ leadership and control. After a series of devastating airstrikes from both coalition and Russian forces, ISIS militants have grown accustomed to evade aerial threats by avoiding traveling in large convoys; however, this latest lapse in judgment could be a sign of worse things to come for the militants.

“This is a very good indication that they’re having trouble commanding and controlling their forces,” Harrigian explained to USA TODAY.

The bombing campaign, otherwise known as Tidal Wave II, was enacted to wipe out ISIS’ oil market that was generating more than $1 million a day during its peak.

At the beginning of this operation, coalition aircraft would drop leaflets on the oil tankers prior to their bombing runs to provide the option for drivers to escape. However, after new military rules were implemented, leaflets are no longer required to be dropped.

Instead, pilots are now firing warning shots to indicate their arrival.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These U.S. pilots are flying security missions over Iceland

Air Force F-15 Eagle pilots are helping to guard the skies over Iceland for the eleventh time since NATO’s Icelandic Air Surveillance mission began.

The 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron began flying operations here this week in support of the mission, highlighting America’s commitment to NATO and the strength of its ties with Iceland. The squadron is tasked with supplying airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet its host’s peacetime preparedness needs and bolster the security and defense of allied nations.


During their rotation, the squadron will maintain an alert status 24 hours a day, seven days a week as part of their peacetime mission. This means they are ready to respond within minutes to any aircraft that may not properly identify themselves, communicate with air traffic control or have a flight path on file.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

(USAF)

Strengthening NATO Partnerships

“This deployment gives us the opportunity to strengthen our NATO partnerships and alliances and train in a different location while continuing to improve our readiness and capability for our alert commitment,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Cody Blake, 493rd EFS commander. “Our overall expectation is to maintain a professional presence in everything we do.”

To remain vigilant, the squadron performs daily “training scrambles” in which they simulate real-world alert notification and execute planned protocols to ensure a speedy response.

More than 250 airmen assigned to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa and 13 F-15C/D Eagles deployed from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, with additional support from U.S. airmen assigned to Aviano Air Base, Italy. Four of the aircraft are tasked with direct support of the Icelandic Air Surveillance mission, while the additional nine aircraft will conduct training missions, providing pilots invaluable experience operating in unfamiliar airspace.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

An F-15C Eagle flies over Iceland during a flight in support of the Icelandic Air Policing mission Sept. 15, 2010. The IAP is conducted as part of NATO’s mission of providing air sovereignty for member nations and has also been conducted by France, Denmark, Spain and Poland.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Andrew Rose)

While providing critical infrastructure and support, Iceland has looked to its NATO allies to provide airborne surveillance and interception capabilities to meet its peacetime preparedness needs since 2008.

“Every year, we experience how qualified the air forces of the NATO nations are and how well trained they are to conduct the mission,” said Icelandic Coast Guard Capt. Jon B. Gudnason, Keflavik Air Base commander. “This is what makes NATO such a great partner.”

NATO allies deploy aircraft and personnel to support this critical mission three times a year, with the U.S. responsible for at least one rotation annually. So far, nine nations have held the reigns in support of Iceland: Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Portugal and the U.S.

MIGHTY TRENDING

4 problems the VA secretary wants associated with Agent Orange

VA Secretary David Shulkin suggests he favors expansion of Agent Orange-related health care and disability compensation to new categories of ailing veterans but that factors, like cost, medical science, and politics, still stand in the way.


Shulkin told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on March 21, 2018, that he made recommendations to White House budget officials in 2017 on whether to add up to four more conditions — bladder cancer, hypothyroidism, Parkinson-like tremors, and hypertension (high blood pressure) — to the VA list of 14 illnesses presumed caused by exposure to herbicides used during the Vietnam War.

Also read: VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

“I have transmitted my recommendations to the [White House’s] Office of Management and Budget. I did that by Nov. 1, 2017, Shulkin said. “And we are in the process right now of going through this data. In fact, we met with [OMB officials] on March 26, 2018. They asked for some additional data to be able to work through the process and be able to get financial estimates for this. So, we are committed to working with OMB to get this resolved in the very near future.”

Shulkin didn’t say which of the four conditions, if any, he wants added to the presumptive list, if and when cleared by the White House.

At the same hearing, the VA chief was asked his position on Blue Water Navy veterans of the Vietnam War who also suffer from illnesses on the VA presumptive list but aren’t eligible to use it to facilitate claims for care and compensation.

They “have waited too long for this,” Shulkin agreed, but then suggested the solution for these veterans is blocked by medical evidence or swings on the will of the Congress.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
Barrels of Agent Orange being stored at Johnston Atoll.

“I would like to try to find a way where we can resolve that issue for them, rather than make them continue to wait,” Shulkin said. “I do not believe there will be scientific data [to] give us a clear answer like we do have on the Agent Orange presumptive” list for veterans who had served in-country. “For the Blue Water Navy… epidemiologic studies just aren’t available from everything I can see. So, we’re going to have to sit down and do what we think is right for these veterans.”

Vietnam veterans who served even a day in-country who have illnesses on the presumptive list can qualify for VA medical care and disability compensation without having to show other evidence that their ailments are service-connected.

Shulkin said VA “recently” received the last report of the National Academy of Medicine, which found a stronger scientific association than earlier studies between certain ailments and herbicide exposure. In fact, however, the VA has had the report, Veterans and Agent Orange: Update 2014, for two years.

More: 5 life lessons today’s troops could learn from Vietnam vets

It was written by a committee of medical experts that reviewed medical and scientific literature on select ailments and herbicide exposure published from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2014. Released in March 2016, the report found evidence to support raising the strength of association between herbicide exposure and bladder cancer and hypothyroidism. The report upgrades the link from “inadequate or insufficient” evidence to “limited or suggestive” evidence of an association.

In years past, VA decided that for some ailments, such as Parkinson’s and ischemic heart disease, “limited or suggestive evidence” was enough to add these illnesses to the Agent Orange presumptive list. For others, including hypertension, a more common disease of aging, VA deemed it wasn’t enough.

This last NAM report, however, looked again at cardiovascular conditions and herbicide exposure. It didn’t upgrade the link to heart ailments but it did affirm limited or suggestive evidence that hypertension is linked to herbicide exposure.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

It also studied whether Parkinson’s-like symptoms should fall into the same limited or suggestive category as Parkinson’s disease itself. The 2016 report found “no rational basis” to continue to exclude Parkinson-like symptoms from the same risk category. Parkinson’s disease itself was added to presumptive list in 2010.

VA secretaries under both the Obama and Trump administration reacted more slowly on the last NAM perhaps, by law, they could. Congress in 2015 let a portion of the Agent Orange law expire, language that required the VA Secretary to decide on new presumptive conditions within 180 days of accepting a NAM report.

The impact was immediate. Though a senior VA official tasked with reviewing this last NAM report said then-VA Secretary Bob McDonald would make his decisions within three months, it didn’t happen. McDonald left it to his successor. Shulkin waited more months and, in July 2017, vowed to decide by Nov. 1, 2017 OMB blocked an announcement, however, presumably over projected costs.

Related: A Vietnam veteran is returning to thank the doctors who saved his life

Cost has been a factor, too, in Congress not passing legislation to extend VA benefits to Blue Water Navy veterans diagnosed with illnesses on the presumptive list. Budget analysts a few years ago estimated a cost of $1.1 billion over 10 years.

Also, NAM did conduct a review of medical and scientific evidence regarding Blue Water Veterans’ possible exposure to herbicides and concluded in a May 2011 report that “there was not enough information… to determine whether Blue Water Navy personnel were or were not exposed to Agent Orange.”

Blue Water Veterans remain ineligible to use the Agent Orange presumptive list. A lone exception is granted for veterans with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Vietnam veterans with this ailment may be granted service-connection without showing inland waterway service or that they set foot in-country.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

In every session of Congress, going back years, Blue Water Navy bills have been introduced. They would, if passed, “include as part of the Republic of Vietnam its territorial seas for purposes of the presumption of service connection for diseases associated with exposure [to] herbicide agents while in Vietnam.”

The current House version of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (HR 299), introduced in January 2017 by Rep. David Valado (R-Ga.), has 327 co-sponsors. Yet prospects of passage remain dim. Valado reminded Shulkin at a mid-March 2018 hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee that, six months ago, Shulkin said he was seeking more recommendations from “subject matter experts” on the issue and would be ready to update Congress in the coming months.

“Have you come to a decision on Blue Water Navy veterans?”

Also read: This is what the average ‘doc’ carried on patrol in Vietnam

“I am aligned with you that these veterans have waited too long,” Shulkin said, “and this is a responsibility that this country has. And, as our veterans get older, it’s unfair.…I believe it is imperative upon us to resolve this issue.

“I also believe,” Shulkin continued, “that there will not be strong scientific data to help resolve this,” in other words to justify benefit expansion. “This is going to be an obligation that we feel as a country, that these veterans shouldn’t be waiting any longer. And I am on the side of trying to find a way to resolve this for the Blue Water Navy veterans.”

Shulkin said his staff is “working hard to look at offsets” which means cuts to other parts of the VA budget to pay for Blue Water Navy benefits, or to find “other ways to be able to do that. And it is a high priority for us.”

Reminded by Valado that “with these types of cancers, time is of the essence,” Shulkin replied, “Absolutely.”

The Senate version of Blue Water legislation, S 422, was introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), has 49 co-sponsors and, so far, equally dim prospects of passage.

MIGHTY FIT

Hump Day: Games I would play in my head while hiking

Humping is a reality for many of us, and I’m not talking about the kind that has a happy ending. In my Marine Corps career, I estimate that I easily hiked 1,000 miles with a full pack — between 50 and 150 lbs. At a minimum speed of 3 miles an hour, that’s over 300 hours of time for the mind to go to dark or funny places.


ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

Maybe slip on some ice…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Will Perkins)

Going internal

On a long hump, the mind so often goes dark. I remember envisioning the sweet relief of rolling an ankle so I could ride in the safety vehicle, even picking out the exact rock I was planning to eat shit on.

“That one….seriously, that one. Okay, fine, the next one… Ah, fine, I don’t wanna cause any serious damage. I’ll just take a header into that ditch and cause a concussion instead.”

On my 23rd birthday, I was on an 8-mile movement to a range for a live fire event. It was the second day in a row we were humping, and the entire epidermis of my right foot was already falling off, from the ball of my foot to the start of my heel, from the previous day’s movements. I had spent the previous weekend in Virginia beach drinking homemade Sangria, and the effects were still very much present.

I spent that entire hump in my own head questioning all of my life decisions.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

You know he’s thinking about the next ‘Avengers’ movie.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Careaf L. Henson)

Making it fun

Eventually, I got to the point in my career where I just accepted that I would be walking for the next 8 hours and decided to make it fun. Games I played:

  • Reliving every fight I’ve ever been in and how I would Jason Bourne my way to victory if it happened again.
  • During daylight hikes I would make up fake hand and arm signals and try to confuse people who took things too seriously.
  • I would secretly listen to music on my iPod (I’m old) through a strategically placed earbud. #combathunter
  • My roommate would use hikes as an opportunity to eat as much as he could; it was one of the few times you had enough “free time” to eat a full meal. The trick would be to figure out a way to use the heater packet while hiking. You need to jam it between your pack and back and focus on walking level, so it doesn’t fall out. Beware of the high potential for second-degree burns.
ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

“Hey! What was the name of the fat guy in The Office?”…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jessika Braden)

  • At one point, I wrote a new phonetic alphabet with just profanities. You can imagine what replaced Foxtrot. It was enlightening.
  • “A cougar is following you.” That’s just a game where you pretend a cougar is going to rip out your jugular as soon as you stop. The trick to this one is to think one step ahead of the mountain cat.
  • I would replace famous movie characters with my mom and see how the story would play out. It was never as entertaining, but always much more satisfying. If my mom took the place of Frodo in Lord of The Rings the opening scene would have also been the closing scene.
    • Gandalf shows up at night after dinner. Mom says, “What are you doing here? I’m busy, get out.” He counters “Lisa, you need to take the ring to Mordor to destr–” And, in classic Lisa fashion, she cuts him off mid-sentence with “That’s not my problem, now is it? Take it yourself.”
    • Roll credits.
ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

Humping is a profession nearly as old as prostitution…

(Photo from the Thayer Soule Collection (COLL/2266) at the Archives Branch, Marine Corps History Division)

The right answer

Once I matured, I realized the right answer is to become externally motivated. I believe the jobs of the Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant are easier than the rifleman, because you are concerned with your Marines, rather than yourself. When your focus is pointed outward, time flies.

This lesson applies to every kind of difficult situation. Caring for others is one of the most selfish and least selfish things you can do. When it comes to hiking, if you focus externally, you get to push your own ailments aside until you are alone in your room, crying like a big dumb baby.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

Keep moving forward…

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Aaron S. Patterson/Released)

In the gym, you are forced to confront your demons directly; there are no troops for you to look out for.

But in actuality, everything you do to make yourself better is also making the lives of those around you better. So, in a way, finishing a workout for your spouse or kids is no different than completing a movement for your unit.

Where are you in your hump day progression? Are you living in a world of regret and grief? Are you writing the next great American novel in your head? Or have you reached the point of hiking enlightenment and started checking on your guys and planning for their success when you reach your objective?

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
MIGHTY TRENDING

Former SEAL resigns following comments he made about vets with PTSD

Carl Higbie, the chief of external affairs for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) — a U.S. federal organization that promotes volunteer services like AmeriCorps — has resigned, following the backlash over previous comments he made on radio shows, according to a CNN investigation.


The remarks, which were made on various radio programs and spanned several years, targeted a number of groups, including veterans with PTSD, people of color, and the LGBT community.

When speaking about veterans diagnosed with PTSD, Higbie reportedly said, “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, and a lot of people are going to disagree with this comment… Severe PTSD where guys are bugging out and doing violent acts is a trait of a weak mind.”

Higbie reportedly made those remarks during on the internet radio program, “The Sound of Freedom,” a conservative radio show.

Higbie, a former Navy SEAL, qualified his comment by saying that in cases where PTSD-afflicted service members “were legitimately blown up,” it was “completely understandable.”

Also Read: This veteran’s PTSD recovery story is the most uplifting video we’ve seen all day

“But when someone performs an act of violence, that is a weak mind, that is a crazy person, and the fact that they’re trying to hide it behind PTSD makes me want to vomit,” Higbie said.

Another member of the panel took issue with the comment, after which Higbie continued to qualify his remark.

“People who perform violent acts and blame it on PTSD, you know, people who act crazily behind PTSD, is because they have a weaker mind,” Higbie said. “And that mind has been weakened by that experience.”

“I think it is a breakdown of the mind,” Higbie continued. “I really do. It’s not an individual hit on any one soldier, it’s the fact that they’re mind has been weakened by their traumatic experience, and it needs to be addressed.”

According to the National Center for PTSD, 11-20% of veterans who served during Operation Iraqi or Enduring Freedom are afflicted within a given year.

 

 

Critics also took exception to comments Higbie made that were seen as racist, including an anecdote based on an experience in which he put out an advertisement offering free firewood.

“Of the 25 or so white people that came by, not a single one asked me to help load the firewood in their car, to do anything for them, to split it for them, or anything,” Higbie said. “So I was very happy.”

“Now on the other hand, out of the 25 or so black people, only one, only one person, was actually cordial to me,” Higbie claimed. “Every other black person was rude. They wanted me to either load the wood, completely split it for them, or some sort of assistance in labor,” he said.

Higbie then cited long-debunked, baseless claims in which he suggested black people were morally inferior. He had similarly disparaging comments about Muslims and LGBT people according to CNN’s report.

 

 

Higbie became a conservative ally during President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and made several cable news appearances, according to CNN. He was appointed to lead the CNCS in 2017.

You can hear Higbie’s comments here:

 

Articles

Today in military history: USS Indianapolis is bombed by Japanese sub

On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, sinking within minutes.

In the first minutes of July 30, 1945, two torpedoes fired from Japanese submarine I-58 struck the starboard side of USS Indianapolis (CA 35). One ripped off the ship’s bow, followed by another that hit crew berthing areas and knocked out communications.

In the dead of night, chaos ensued. It took only 12 minutes for the decorated warship that had carried President Roosevelt in the interwar years and earned ten battle stars for its World War II service up to that point to begin a descent to the bottom of the Philippine Sea.

The Indianapolis had just completed a top secret mission in the Pacific and was preparing for the invasion of Japan when she was struck. The ship sank almost immediately, trapping 300 men inside. Another 900 went into the shark-infested waters, where many died from drowning, dehydration, or injuries from the explosion. 

Surviving Sailors and Marines were adrift for four days before the pilot of a U.S. Navy Lockheed PV-1 twin-engine patrol bomber located them. It was by pure chance that, on the afternoon of August 2, that the bomber spotted an oil slick while adjusting an antenna.

A massive air and surface rescue operation ensued that night and through the following day.

Of the 1,196 crewmen aboard, only 317 survived.

Indianapolis had completed a top-secret delivery of atomic bomb components to Tinian, an island in the Northern Marianas, days earlier. Unbeknownst to the crew at the time, this mission would in the weeks to come contribute to the end of the war.

Articles

The Army experimented with bio weapons on conscientious objectors

Ask around Fort Detrick and you’ll probably learn more about Operation Whitecoat — an Army program that exposed human participants to infectious pathogens. But outside the base, the experiments are virtually unheard of, according to Randy Larsen, a former Air Force pilot turned documentary filmmaker.


“I found there are very few people who have ever heard of Whitecoat, which is why there’s a good reason to tell the story,” Larsen said.

Larsen himself became fascinated with the program — which recruited more than 2,300 noncombatant conscientious objectors from the Seventh-day Adventist Church — after a friend suggested it as a documentary topic.

What he anticipated would be a five- to six-month hobby project eventually turned into a 20-month film production, culminating in an eponymously named documentary on the operation and its volunteers.

Operation Whitecoat (2017) Trailer from Randall Larsen on Vimeo.

 

The film “Operation Whitecoat” made its debut in Frederick on May 30 at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the agency that conducted the tests from 1954 to 1973. But Larsen will also hold two public screenings on June 3 at the Frederick Seventh-day Adventist Church on Jefferson Pike.

Gary Swanson and Ken Jones, two Whitecoat participants who attended the screening on May 30, said outreach to the church was especially important. Despite the huge role played by Seventh-day Adventists, knowledge of the project has faded among church members.

“It’s very little-known, I’ve found that to be true,” Swanson said. “Even in the church, it doesn’t come up very often.”

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases

A lasting legacy

Despite the relative obscurity of Operation Whitecoat, civilians around the country — and around the world — can thank the program for the development of several widely used vaccines. Tularemia, yellow fever, and hepatitis vaccines were all tested on participants in the project, Larsen said.

“That’s why I found it interesting to see that the yellow fever outbreak was a front-page story today,” he added at the May 30 screening, pointing out a USA Today article on the spread of the disease in Brazil. “Because the vaccine was developed here at Fort Detrick with the Whitecoat program.”

To research for his documentary, Larsen interviewed participants all across the country and dug deep into the documentation of the program.

Letters between military and church leaders indicate that the Army considered the program a viable alternative to battlefield service for church members, whose religious beliefs urge against combat.

“The general consensus is that it is just not morally responsible to bear arms,” said Swanson, who later worked in publishing for the Adventist church. “That the taking of life is not the business of a Christian.”

There is, however, strong scriptural support for serving one’s country in a peaceful capacity, he added. As a result, most church members served the U.S. either as medics or as Whitecoat volunteers once the program became an option.

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
Operation Whitecoat consent letter

While both Swanson and Jones participated in the program, their experiences were slightly different. Jones, 83, served from 1954 to 1955 and then worked as a corpsman for the program until September 1958.

As one of the inaugural volunteers, he distinctly remembers walking across a catwalk at Fort Detrick — then called Camp Detrick — to the “Eight Ball,” where participants were exposed to the pathogens.

He and the other men in his group were dosed with Q fever, a relatively common bacterial disease with flu-like symptoms. None of them got sick, Jones said, but the experiment did help researchers adjust the dose for future volunteers.

“It’s like this — when you start your car, you take little steps to get there,” he explained. “You don’t take one big step and just jump in. Well, the amount they gave us, they knew we handled it OK. Now, the next three that came up, they did get sick.”

Swanson served later, and was part of an even lesser-known aspect of the program — one that benefited scientists at NASA. He reported for service in October 1969, and was part of an experiment to determine how well astronauts could function should they became sick while on a mission.

In his study, teams of five men were exposed to sandfly fever and then trained on a simulated spacecraft console. Eight hours a day, three days a week, the teams pretended to operate the consoles, even while some of them developed nausea and fevers of up to 104 degrees.

“You had to keep calibrated and you had to keep it set,” Swanson said. “When you saw it going wrong, you had to figure out how to fix it. And we were told it was part of a study underwritten by NASA to anticipate astronauts’ ability to operate sophisticated equipment if they were sick.”

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq
Operation Whitecoat helped improve the use of gas masks and biohazard suits

Beyond the benefit to NASA, USAMRIID still attributes the development of essential safety gear — including gas masks and biohazard suits — to Operation Whitecoat.

The program even played a small role in the Camp David Accords. In 1977, an outbreak of Rift Valley fever in Egypt killed thousands of residents and animals. The vaccine for the disease — tested by Whitecoat volunteers — was a major bargaining chip for both Egypt and Israel when leaders met with President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

“That was such a little-known piece of history that the people at USAMRIID didn’t even know about it,” Larsen said.

Ethical implications

Larsen and researchers at USAMRIID also tout the program as the harbinger of stringent standards for human testing. Operation Whitecoat set a precedent for informed consent — the policy of clearly educating human test subjects on the details and risks of research experiments — and served as a foil to other horrific experiments conducting on unknowing subjects, including the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and human radiation exposure by the Atomic Energy Commission.

“It’s a story that all Americans can be proud of,” Larsen said. “The fact is, Operation Whitecoat is one of the highest standards of ethical research out there.”

One of the most striking details of the project, he added, is that military leaders and researchers at USAMRIID exposed themselves to the pathogens before subjecting their participants. Both Jones and Swanson said that it was strong leadership that prevented real fear among the volunteers.

“I’ve thought about this many times, and I can’t give you an answer on what went through my mind as I went across that catwalk,” Jones said. “I was 21 years old. We felt like we had good leadership. We trusted what they were telling us, and we followed.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marine recruiters go hi-tech with new app

Marine Corps Systems Command has partnered with Marine Corps Recruiting Command to develop a new tool with the goal of making the job of recruiters a little easier. The launch is part of a strategic initiative to modernize the tools and technologies available to the recruiting force.

The Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System II, or MCRISS II, is a mobile platform that provides Marines with all of their recruiting needs from the moment they meet an applicant to the time they leave boot camp.


MCRISS II features a customizable platform where recruiters can tailor their dashboards to help them perform their daily tasks. They can also access the platform while offline in airplane mode when connections are unreliable. The application uses cloud technology and can be accessed using government-issued cellphones, laptops, and tablets.

“The dynamics of having Marines work directly with MCSC software developers from the beginning was invaluable because we were able to adequately describe and display exactly what Marine recruiters wanted in the new system,” said Chief Warrant Officer Christopher Mayfield, MCRISS operations officer for MCRC. “As the project progresses, we have a sufficiently staffed cadre of Marines who gather input from users to keep that line of communication open, so it will help us enhance MCRISS II with more capabilities in the future.”

ISIS is using ‘Mad Max’-style vehicle bombs in Iraq

Marines with Marine Corps Recruiting Command G3 Team develop user stories for the Marine Corps Recruiting Information Support System II Feb. 8, 2019, in Stafford, Virginia.

Recruiters gather the applicants’ personal information, background history, goals, and other details to assess if they will meet the standards of a Marine and possibly serve for more than four years. The tool also helps recruiters compare applicants.

“MCRISS II offers greater convenience and helps Marine recruiters maintain their availability and responsiveness, so they can be successful recruiting the next generation of Marines,” said Jason Glavich, MCRISS project Manager in Supporting Establishment Systems at MCSC. “Now that we are using the commercial cloud, our system is more secure, fast and reliable.”

Currently, the MCRISS II team is working on minimal viable product releases that will launch in March 2019. Small capabilities will be released every two to four weeks, so recruiters can receive the benefits of updates to the platform without having to wait the standard time it takes for an entire system to be fielded, Glavich said. The entire rollout will most likely take a little more than 12 months.

“We are leveraging industry best practices and their ability to innovate, and we’re taking those innovations and applying them without having to spend program dollars,” said Glavich. “Because this new technology is more secure and it is built on a low-code platform instead of using traditional computer programming, it allows us to provide recruiters with new capabilities at a much faster pace.”

In the future, the team will use artificial intelligence and new technologies to look at data sets and predict an exact outcome based on previous outcomes and future conditions.

“This predictive analysis will give us a better understanding to determine what’s going to happen, which will help us enhance MCRISS II even more in the future,” said Glavich.

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