This K-9 'battle buddy' is helping a Marine veteran at home - We Are The Mighty
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This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home

Kenny Bass liked his job. As a 22-year-old Marine participating in the initial invasion of Iraq, life couldn’t have been more exciting.


“I was part of the combined anti-armor platoon,” he explained. “It was the ‘CAAT platoon.’ We were doing a lot of counter-ambush patrols, the insurgents were attacking Red Cross personnel, civilian contractors and other non-combatants. So we were tasked with going out and trying to solicit an attack. We were Infantry Marines, and young, so most of us were pretty excited about doing that kind of work. We had heavy-duty machine guns and anti-tank missiles.”

Nothing Major

About four months into his tour, the odds caught up with the young Infantry Marine. The unarmored Humvee he was riding in struck an IED.

“I was sitting in the passenger side rear, and the IED blew up by the right front bumper,” he said. “Nobody got killed, and I just took a couple pieces of shrapnel to my face, nothing major. I think the blast wave injury was the major thing.”

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
When Veteran Kenny Bass was at the Dayton VA, receiving medical attention for a kidney stone, Atlas was there by his side.

Nevertheless, by the time he returned home from Iraq in early 2004, Bass was a different man.

“My friends noticed a change in me,” he said. “I was depressed. And I was anxious. I remember going to a flea market one time and that’s when I had my first panic attack, because of all the people there. It was like I was still in Iraq, where just about everyone you see is a potential threat. I hated going out to eat or going to the mall or anything like that.”

104 in a 65 Zone

As if depression, anxiety and panic weren’t enough, another symptom began to surface.Anger.

“I was walking around with an anger level of about seven or eight,” Bass explained. “One time I got pulled over by the California Highway Patrol for doing 104 mph. I got mad at the cop for pulling me over. I was such a jerk. It didn’t take much to tip me off.”

At home, the 33-year-old Veteran’s garage became his haven.

“I’d sit out there all day smoking cigarettes,” he said. “I could see the street from there, which made me feel safe, and I could also hear what was going on in the house. So I had everything covered.”

From Bad to Worse

To dull the anxiety and the fear, the former Marine turned to alcohol.

I started drinking a lot,” he said. “Of course the alcohol just made things worse. I got to the point where I hated to wake up in the morning. I hated my life. I wanted to be healthy again. I wanted to work again and not be on disability.”

In an effort to get his life back, Bass headed over to the Dayton VA Medical Center in 2007. There he began therapy sessions with Bill Wall, a clinical social worker who had served in the military for 30 years.

“Kenny went through our therapy program here at Dayton,” Wall explained, “but it was clear that he was still having some issues with personality changes, hyper-vigilance, anxiety, depression, anger and other symptoms related to post traumatic stress. When he would go out in public, he just didn’t feel safe or in control. I thought maybe a psychiatric service dog might be a good next step for him, so I recommended he look into it.”

Safety Net

Wall, a Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, had good reasons for thinking a service dog might be the game-changer Kenny Bass was desperately in need of.

“You can feel a lot more safe with a dog around you,” the social worker observed. “The dog has been trained to pick up on any fear or anxiety you might be feeling. They can actually smell it. The dog then does something to distract you or make you feel less anxious. When you become overloaded, the dog knows it and helps you refocus. Even before you realize you’re overloaded, the dog will pick up on it. For example, if you’re in a crowd of people and you begin showing subtle signs of distress, your dog will try to create a buffer zone around you. The dog is trying to give you a sense of safety.”

“A psychiatric service dog is…always focused on taking care of you.”

And when the world seems like a safer place, chances are you’re more likely to get out there and participate in it, Wall observed.

“The dog can help you have successful outings,” he said, “and the more successful outings you experience, the better you get at it. Your new experiences gradually begin to replace your old, traumatic experiences. You’re re-learning your behavioral script.”

Back From the Brink

In 2012, after doing a little research, Kenny Bass was able to get himself paired up with an 18-month-old German Shepard named Atlas, a highly-trained service dog provided by a non-profit called Instinctive Guardians.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
Kenny Bass and his dog Atlas

“If you’re a Veteran, and suicidal, a little thing like that can be lifesaving,” Bass continued. “Atlas definitely brought me back from the brink. He’s such a character now. He gets me laughing.”“Atlas became my support system,” Bass said. “He could tell when I was having nightmares. He’d jump on the bed, lick my face and wake me up. A few weeks after I got him I was sitting alone in my garage, as usual. He came over and dropped his ball in my lap. Five minutes later I was out in the backyard with him, in the sunshine, throwing the ball for him.

The Watcher

Aside from being a natural comedian, Atlas also serves as a competent body guard.

“When we’re out, I can trust Atlas to be vigilant for me,” Bass said. “I’m experiencing more things now because of him. When we’re somewhere crowded, he’ll block for me. He’ll walk back and forth behind me to keep people from getting too close.

“And when I tell him to ‘post,’ he sits down on my right side, facing the other way. If somebody approaches me from behind, he’ll nudge me. He’s alerting me. It’s a good feeling knowing he’s watching and that I don’t have to.”

Having turned his life around two years ago with the help of Atlas, Bass decided it was time to start giving back. In 2013 he helped found The Battle Buddy Foundation, a non-profit that trains service dogs for Veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress.

“When you’re in combat, you don’t go anywhere without a buddy, someone to watch your back,” Bass said. “That’s where the term ‘Battle Buddy’ comes from.”

He added: “It’s a good feeling to know someone always has your back.”

To learn more about how VA is helping Veterans with PTSD, visit the VA National Center for PTSD Website at www.ptsd.va.gov

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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.”

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home

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.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
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 newspaper legend and veteran Navy officer savaged a reader for questioning his patriotism

Benjamin C. Bradlee was a legendary newsman who led The Washington Post through the Pentagon Papers Affair and the Watergate Scandal, stories that cemented the publication’s world-class status. He set the standard for excellence in journalism and organizational leadership. He also had a legendary sense of humor.


This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home

He studied at Harvard, where he was a member of the university’s Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps detachment. Shortly after graduating in 1942, he was sent to the Pacific Theater as a newly-minted ensign. At 20 years old, he was made officer of the deck. At 21, he was, as he put it, “driving a ship around the Pacific Ocean.” He chose the Navy for a reason.

“That was such a “good war,”  he told the U.S. Naval Institute’s Naval History magazine. “And serving in the Navy was such a guarantee of action. You weren’t going out to the Pacific Ocean in a destroyer or cruiser without being in the middle of it all.” He was onboard the USS Philip, a destroyer in the Solomon Islands campaign.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
USS Philip (U.S. Navy photo)

In that same 1995 interview, he recalled a time when a reader questioned his patriotism, loyalty, and integrity.

“A guy once wrote a letter to me that started off, ‘Dear Communist,'” Bradlee said. “He impugned my patriotism and certainly impugned my war. I promptly wrote back, ‘Dear A-hole. This is what I did during the war, so don’t give me any sh-t.’ It turned out that he had been in the Marine Corps during the war. We had taken his division to Bougainville and then to Saipan. We had been in some of the same battles. He wrote back, saying I wasn’t such a bad guy after all, and we started a great correspondence.”

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
President Barack Obama awards the 2013 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Ben Bradlee during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Nov. 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

His obituary, written by the 50-year veteran Post reporter, Robert G. Kaiser also remembered Bradlee’s patriotism in the same vein:

“Mr. Bradlee’s wartime experience left him an unabashed patriot who bristled whenever critics of the newspaper accused it of helping America’s enemies. He sometimes agreed to keep stories out of the paper when government officials convinced him that they might cause serious harm.”

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
The President and Mrs. Kennedy with Mr. Mrs. Benjamin C. Bradlee in May 1963. (Kennedy Presidential Library photo)

He became the leader of The Washington Post newsroom in 1965, transforming it in what his Washington Post obituary describes as “combining compelling news stories based on aggressive reporting with engaging feature pieces of a kind previously associated with the best magazines… charm and gift for leadership helped him hire and inspire a talented staff and eventually made him the most celebrated newspaper editor of his era.”

He was almost awarded a Purple Heart for taking a piece of Japanese shrapnel in rear — his rear, not the ship’s — a piece he kept for most of his life.

“It must have hit the deck first or maybe even the stack, then the deck, and then bounced up and hit me in the ass. It was hot when I picked it up. I had it here on my desk, but one of the kids took it to school for show-and-tell and never brought it back.”

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
(Photo by Miguel Ariel Contreras Drake-McLaughlin)

For his life’s work, Bradlee was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor the United States can give a civilian, in 2013. He died the next year at age 93.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy chief says crew fatigue may have contributed to recent spate of ship collisions

The US Navy is blaming the high pace of operations, budget uncertainty, and naval leaders who put their mission over safety after multiple deadly incidents at sea.


The destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker last month off the coast of Singapore, leaving 10 US sailors dead and five injured. And the USS Fitzgerald, another destroyer, collided with a container ship in waters off Japan in June, killing seven sailors.

The collisions are still under investigation, but at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Sept. 19, the chief naval officer, Admiral John Richardson, said a failure of leadership throughout the service was the main contributing factor in the Navy’s lack of readiness.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
Adm. John Richardson testifies before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Defense about the Department of Navy’s fiscal year 2017 budget and posture. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Armando Gonzales.

“I own this problem,” Richardson testified.

He vowed to make safety the most important goal of the Navy in the wake of recent events, acknowledging that commanders of vessels on forward deployments too often put the mission first, at the expense of safety.

“Only with those [safety certifications] done and the maintenance properly done can we expect to deploy effectively and execute the mission,” he said.

At the start of the Sept. 19 committee hearing, US Senator John McCain extended his “deepest condolences” on behalf of all Americans to the family members of those killed, some of whom sat in the hearing room. The USS John S. McCain was named in honor of the Arizona Republican’s father and grandfather, both of whom were Navy admirals.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
Senator John McCain. Image from Arizona Office of the Governor.

John Pendleton, an expert on defense readiness issues with the Government Accountability Office, told lawmakers reductions in ship crew sizes had led to longer working hours for sailors – up to 100 hours per week in some cases.

Pendleton said he was skeptical that the Navy would be able to increase readiness until aggressive deployment schedules and other demands on the force were decreased.

Richardson said the Navy was closely investigating sleep deprivation among crews, causing McCain, the chairman of the committee, to question why the Navy was not making immediate changes.

“I think I know what 100 hours a week does to people over time,” McCain said. “I’m not sure you need a study on it.”

Richardson also warned that the increased deployment tempo frequently leaves sailors with insufficient time to prepare for missions, and it leaves the Navy with too few vessels. According to the Navy, the service has been trying to fulfill duties that require more than 350 ships with only about 275 ships available.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer speaks during an all-hands call at Naval Station Mayport. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Schumaker.

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer likened the situation to a balloon that has been filled with too much air and cannot be stretched any further.

“If you squeeze it, it pops,” he said.

There have been two additional Navy incidents in the Pacific region this year.

The USS Antietam ran aground near Yosuka, Japan, in January, and the USS Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing vessel in May.

Articles

The key to better pull-ups

Of all the exercises, the one with the largest mind game attached to it is the PULL-UP. One thing I have learned is that women AND men CANNOT do pull-ups IF they do not PRACTICE pull-ups.


On the flip side, the common denominator among those men AND women who can do dead-hang pull-ups, are those who practice pull-ups.

In my personal opinion, one of the worst things we ever developed in physical fitness classes were the “girl pull-up” or flexed arm hang. At an early age, we have been telling young girls, that they cannot do regular pull-ups because they will never be as strong as boys. Well, part of that statement is true – the strongest woman will NEVER be stronger than the strongest man – but I have seen 40-50-year-old mothers of three do 10 pullups. How is that? They practice pull-ups as well as the auxiliary exercises that work the muscles of the back, biceps, and forearms – the PULL-UP muscles! Anybody can do pull-ups, but it helps to not be 40-50 lbs. overweight and to follow a program that places pull-ups and the following exercises in your workouts at least 3 times a week.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home

The Proper Pull-up (Regular Grip)

Grab the pull-up bar with your hands placed about shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you. Pull yourself upward until your chin is over the bar and complete the exercise by slowly moving to the hanging position.

Pull-ups (Negatives)

If you cannot do any pull-ups, you should try “negatives”. Negatives are half pull-ups. All you have to do is get your chin over the bar by standing on something or having spotter push you over the bar. Then, you slowly lower yourself all the way down – let your arms hang grasping the bar fully stretched. Keep your feet up and fight gravity for a count of 5 seconds. This will get your arms used to supporting your weight.

Assisted Pull-ups

This is the first step to being able to perform pull-ups. Using the bar that is 3-4 feet off the ground, sit under it and grab with the regular grip. Straighten your back, hips, and slightly bend your knees while your feet remain on the floor and pull yourself to the bar so that your chest touches the bar. Repeat as required. This is a great way to start out if you cannot do any pull-ups at all. You can also do this on a pair of parallel bars that are used for dips. These are also great to do after you can no longer perform any more dead-hang pull-ups. This is a good replacement for the Lat Pulldown machine as well.

Pulldowns

Using a pulldown machine, grab the bar, sit down and pull the bar to your collar bones. Keep the bar in front of you. Behind the neck pulldowns are potentially dangerous to your neck and shoulders.

Dumbell Rows

Bend over and support your lower back by placing your hand and knee on the bench. Pull the dumbbell to your chest area as if you were starting a lawnmower. Muscles worked: Back, forearm grip, Bicep muscles.

Biceps Curls

Place dumbbells or bar in hands with your palms facing upward. Use a complete range of motion to take the weight from your shoulders to your hips by bending and straightening the elbows. Keep it smooth. Do not swing the weights.

You can build up your strength and within a few months of this workout, you will have your first pull up in years – maybe ever! If weight loss is needed, naturally find a plan that incorporates cardiovascular exercise, diet and nutrition tips and weights and calisthenics if your next goal is to do a pull-up one day! Good luck and always remember to consult with your doctor before starting any fitness program.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle – check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at stew@stewsmith.com.

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Hundreds of VA employees get pink slips over White House pledge to clean up agency

Five hundred and forty-eight Department of Veterans Affairs employees have been terminated since President Donald Trump took office, indicating that his campaign pledge to clean up “probably the most incompetently run agency in the United States” by relentlessly putting his TV catch phrase “you’re fired” into action was more than just empty rhetoric.


Another 200 VA workers were suspended and 33 demoted, according to data newly published by the department as part of VA Secretary David Shulkin’s commitment to greater transparency. Those disciplined include 22 senior leaders, more than 70 nurses, 14 police officers, and 25 physicians.

Also disciplined were a program analyst dealing with the Government Accountability Office, which audits the department, a public affairs specialist, a chief of police, and a chief of surgery.

Many housekeeping aides and food service workers — lower-level jobs in which the department has employed felons and convicted sex offenders — were also fired.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin. DoD Photo by Megan Garcia

Scores of veterans have died waiting for care while VA bureaucrats falsified data to procure monetary bonuses, but fixes have been slow to come by largely because the union that represents VA employees has used its political muscle with Democrats to emphasize job security for government employees.

Former President Barack Obama originally appointed Shulkin as a VA undersecretary. By the end of the Obama administration, however, Shulkin had grown increasingly frustrated with the American Federation of Government Employees union and other groups defending bad employees’ supposed right to a government check even when they hurt veterans.

“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.

In addition to reluctance by managers to vigorously pursue firings, the overturning of firings after the fact by the Merit Systems Protection Board — often with little public acknowledgment — has been a longstanding problem.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
President Donald Trump. DoD Photo by Maj. Randy Harris

Shulkin asked for new legislation that reduces the role of MSPB, especially when firing senior leaders. Congress passed the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act in answer, and Trump signed the bill in June.

The published data predates those new powers, and does not note which disciplinary actions were later overturned.

One record shows a “senior leader” being removed January 20, while another record shows a “senior leader” being demoted April 21. Those appear to refer to the same person — disgraced Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin — who returned to work in a lesser job after he appealed to the MSPB.

Former Obama Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald seemed to have so little grasp on firing employees that in August 2016, he said that he had fired 140,000 employees, a figure that made little sense since that would be nearly half the workforce.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
Former Puerto Rico VA director DeWayne Hamlin. DoD Photo by Joseph Rivera Rebolledo.

He said “you can’t fire your way to excellence” and blamed “negative news articles” for a morose culture, rather than the individuals perpetrating the misconduct described in those articles.

Though high-level hospital officials were affected, according to the data covering the first six months of the Trump administration, relatively few disciplinary actions occurred in the central offices where Washington bureaucrats work. Those employ fewer people than the hospitals, but repeated scandals have also shown such employees looking out for one another to preserve each others’ jobs.

There were five firings in the Veterans Health Administration Central Office, including one senior leader. There were also two in the Office of General Counsel, and one in the office of Congressional and Legislative affairs.

The data does not include employees’ names, and does not show which employees were on new-employee probationary status. Employees can be fired much more easily during their first year.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
Former Obama Secretary of Veterans Affairs Bob McDonald. Photo from US Department of Veterans Affairs.

During the Obama administration, McDonald lamented that in the private sector “you cut a deal with the employee and you’re able to buy them out,” but said you cannot do that in government.

Yet VA repeatedly made five and six-figure payments to bad employees to get them to quit after they threatened to gum up the works by appealing disciplinary actions. The department even allowed Hamlin to offer a low-level employee $300,000 to quit after she refused to help management retaliate against a whistleblower who exposed Hamlin’s arrest.

The agency paid more than $5 million in settlements to employees under McDonald, which had the effect of encouraging bad employees to relentlessly appeal and make unsupported charges of discrimination when they were targeted for discipline, in an often-successful attempt to convert punishment into reward.

Shulkin said he “will look to settle with employees only when they clearly have been wronged … and not as a matter of ordinary business.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thousands of soldiers in training head home for the holidays

Thousands of Soldiers and their families are traveling home for the holidays, including about 44,000 trainees and cadre from initial-entry training centers.


The Soldiers are participating in a two-week Holiday Block Leave beginning Dec. 18, said Michael Brown, a training analyst at the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training’s Initial Entry Division.

These Soldiers are in various training sites across the U.S., going through Basic Combat Training, One Station Unit Training, Advanced Individual Training, the Basic Officer Leadership Course, and Warrant Officer Basic Course, he said.

Normally, about 3 to 5 percent of these Soldiers choose to remain at their installation and not travel home, he added. For those who stay behind, units coordinate several Morale, Welfare, and Recreation activities for them, including attending professional sporting events.

Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson, commander, U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson, South Carolina, was at Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina Dec. 18, granting media interviews about the holiday travel. Around him were thousands of Soldiers trainees awaiting flights.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home

Holiday Block Leave gives Soldiers a chance to reconnect with their families, he said. About 7,000 Soldier trainees were traveling out of Fort Jackson on Dec. 18, “by trains, planes, and automobiles” and by buses, too, he added.

Planning for this mass exodus is like planning for the D-Day landings, he added, describing the logistical challenges of packing all the Soldiers out, giving them their safety and Army Values briefings, and getting them to their preferred modes of transportation.

Most of those Soldiers will be telling the Army story back home, he said, and some will even have “embellished war stories.”

Most of them are young, as young as 17, he noted, but sprinkled among them are “elder statesmen,” some as old as 39. They are from every state in the Union.

Johnson praised the volunteers at the airport’s USO lounge, who are particularly busy this time of year giving Soldiers a place to relax while awaiting their flights.

Also Read: Watch Stephen Colbert’s Hilarious Stint In Army Basic Training

Pvt. Seth Akavickas was at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18, waiting for a flight to take him home to Wausau, Wisconsin.

Soldiers in training at Fort Jackson were given personalized assistance getting home by ticket vendors, Akavickas said. His ticket vendor got him discounted round-trip tickets for $480, which was a good deal, he noted.

Feb. 28 is when Akavickas began his Basic Combat Training, so he’s experienced life in the Army for some time now. Currently, he is in Advanced Individual Training and will graduate Feb. 1.

Akavickas said he has mixed feelings about Holiday Block Leave. On the one hand, he’ll be able to spend time with his family over the holidays. But on the other hand, he said he’d kind of like to stay and finish training.

However, he added, the vast majority of Soldiers in training whom he’s spoken with are delighted for the break.

After AIT, Akavickas will return to Wisconsin to work as a human resource specialist in the National Guard. He said he plans to attend college through the ROTC program and then try to get commissioned in four years. He wants to make a career in the Army.

Pfc. Madeline Sallee was also at the Charlotte airport Dec. 18. She was heading home to Minnesota, on leave from Basic Combat Training and very happy to see her friends and family.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
New U.S. Army soldiers in basic combat training wait for further in-processing after receiving their initial haircuts January 16, 2008, at Fort Jackson, S.C. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Micky M. Bazaldua)

Sallee said the rest over break will be very good, particularly after some arduous training that included a 15-kilometer rucksack march and a lot of other physical activity.

The hardest part of training, she said, was spending the night outside when the temperature got down to 16F. “We were all shivering,” she added, despite being used to cold in her home state.

Sallee will graduate Feb. 1 and will become a logistical specialist. She said one of the benefits about basic was making a lot of new friends.

Staff Sgt. Domenic Buscemi, a drill sergeant from Fort Jackson, was also at the airport in Charlotte Dec. 18. He said drill sergeants accompany their Soldiers to help facilitate movement through the airport and to ensure standards of discipline are adhered to at all times.

Soldiers in training are required to travel in uniform, which means they are still representing the Army even while they are away, he said.

Buscemi also relayed some of the benefits of Holiday Block Leave. It serves to boost morale and motivation and gives Soldiers a chance to recharge.

It also gives them time to reflect on their experiences and spread their short-but-memorable Army story back in their communities, he said.

When the Soldiers return, Jan. 3, they will have retained about 70 percent of their basic military knowledge, so there will be some re-learning, he said, along with re-establishing their military discipline.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
(U.S. Army National Guard photo by Pfc. Andrew Valenza)

Soldiers don’t get to travel home in the middle of their training cycle during the rest of the year, he noted. On Thanksgiving, they’re given one day off, but that’s not time enough to travel home for most.

Fifteen years ago, Buscemi was a Soldier in training at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was summer and it was hot, he said, much tougher than winter training weather-wise.

Buscemi said he’ll return to Fort Jackson today, take a day of rest, then pile into the car with his wife and drive to her family’s home in Oklahoma where they will spend the holidays.

Brown admitted that the break in the training cycle is tough on drill sergeants, who have to re-teach numerous tasks, including discipline and customs and courtesies, when the Soldiers return from leave.

However, he said “the break is also good for trainees who come back with a little more pride about training to be a Soldier.”

Articles

VA chief asks Senate for help to fire ‘terrible managers’

Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday the civil service appeals process prevents the agency from firing “terrible managers,” and that the Senate must act to reduce the impact of the Merit Systems Protection Board and excessive government employee union-backed due process requirements.


“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence. … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.

Shulkin was promoted to VA’s top job by President Donald Trump after being appointed by former President Barack Obama as undersecretary. Those positions have given Shulkin direct experience with the extent to which union-backed rules block the firings of poor performing employees.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
VA Photo by Robert Turtil

“We had to wait more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught on camera watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a patient,” he said. “Because of the way judges review these cases they can force us to take terrible managers back who were fired for poor performance, we recently saw that with one of our executives in San Juan.”

Shulkin was referring to DeWayne Hamlin, a corrupt hospital director and whistleblower retaliator, who was fired Jan. 20 but was then quietly returned to work, as the The Daily Caller News Foundation reported exclusively Monday.

“We need new accountability legislation and we need that now,” Shulkin said. “The House has passed this and we’re looking forward to the Senate considering this.”

The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs reported the “VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 earlier this week for a vote by the full chamber. The measure is co-sponsored by senators Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, and Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
DeWayne Hamlin. DoD Photo by Joseph Rivera Rebolledo

“We currently have 1,500 disciplinary actions pending, people that either need to be fired, demoted, suspended without pay for violating our core values,” Shulkin said.

“The expedited senior executive removal authority given to us in the Choice Act isn’t working, we weren’t able to use that because of constitutionality issues.”

“The accountability bill we are seeking that we hope the Senate authorizes still maintains due process for employees but shortens to the time and gives more authority to the secretary’s decision on why these accountability actions are being taken so the courts will be more deferential to the secretary’s opinion.”

In addition to the Hamlin controversy, a federal appeals court ruled that the VA may not even be able to fire Sharon Helman, who is a convicted felon for her misconduct as the head of the Phoenix VA, where dozens died waiting for care as managers reported false data on wait-times in order to get bonuses.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
Sharon Helman (Right). (DoD Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Lewis Hunsaker)

Helman is represented by the law firm of Shaw, Bransford  Roth (Roth), which makes its living trying to block employees of all levels from being fired. Employees are encouraged to appeal any discipline, however well-deserved, because a former Roth lawyer created an insurance company that pays for fired employees to hire Roth.

The premiums on that insurance plan are billed to taxpayers, thanks to a law pushed by the firm’s lobbyists.

Concerned Veterans of America Policy Director Dan Caldwell also encouraged the Senate to approve the accountability measure, saying Shulkin “is working to move the VA in a better direction, but the problems will not be solved until Congress takes action. They should also remember that the VA’s problems are not due to a lack of resources.”

Featured

Quarantine can’t stop this 97-year-old WWII pilot from dancing to Justin Timberlake outside in socks

A video has gone viral of 97-year-old World War II veteran Chuck Franzke stepping outside on his front porch to do a little quarantine dance to none other than Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling.


Franzke, more affectionately known as “Dancing Chuck,” has been dancing for years. In an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal in 2017, he said, “Some music starts playing and I just start bouncing around. When the music stops, I go back and sit down. I’m just an average guy. I figure I’ve got a soft floor to land on and I just go where I go.”

His video has inspired countless people to get out and move and praise for him poured in from across the world. But no tribute was more touching than the words from the one and only, Justin Timberlake.

Timberlake shared that he actually got really choked up watching it. “I’ve had so many different friends of mine that texted me about Chuck, and so Chuck.. he’s a certified badass already because of his vet status, but 97? I hope I’m like that when I’m 57.”

Justin Timberlake is Blown Away by Viral Dances to His Songs

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Justin Timberlake is Blown Away by Viral Dances to His Songs

Timberlake reacts to Doja Cat and WWII Veteran Chuck Franzk sharing videos dancing to his music.

Franzke was a Navy pilot in World War II and married his high school sweetheart. The couple was recently interviewed by WTVR about celebrating their 80th anniversary together. In that interview, wife Beverly said, “I would marry him all over again.”

“Well I would ask you,” Chuck replied.

“She’s a good girl and a good woman,” Chuck said.

Franzke served as a U.S. Navy pilot from 1943-1945, flying Avenger torpedo bombers off of the USS Saginaw Bay in the Pacific Theater.

Keep dancing, Chuck. What a bright spot in quarantine!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch these wounded warriors take on NFL alums in the ‘Super Bowl’ of flag football

This past weekend, Kaplan University invited WATM to join them at Radio Row for some of the Super Bowl 50 festivities. Kaplan was there in support of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Flag Football Team in their celebrity game with NFL alumni.


Adding their support to the event were such NFL greats as Rocky Bleier, Bob Golic, Tim Krumrie, Jackie Slater, Bill Romanowski, and Ed “Too Tall” Jones – just to name a few. Veterans from every branch came together in an inspiring display of solidarity, sportsmanship, and the drive to overcome all.

Articles

The SAS knew how to take out the Luftwaffe in spectacular fashion

Britain’s Special Air Service is full of elite special operators who know how to get the job done. In World War II, one of their tasks was breaking the back of the Luftwaffe in North Africa, and they did so in spectacular fashion.


The top-tier warriors of the SAS bolted a bunch of weapons, sometimes as many as 10 Vickers machine guns with a .50-cal. kicker, to Willy Jeeps and then conducted lightning raids through German airfields, hitting grounded planes with incendiary rounds.

See how the fights worked in the video below:

Video: YouTube/LightningWar1941
MIGHTY TACTICAL

U.S. F-16s from Aviano take part in exercise “Agile Buzzard”

U.S. Air Force F-16s belonging to the 31st Fighter Wing rapidly deployed to Decimomannu Air Base, Italy as part of an exercise incorporating elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment.

Several F-16s belonging to the 510th Fighter Squadron from Aviano Air Base, northeastern Italy, deployed to “Deci”, Sardinia, between Jan. 13-16, for Agile Buzzard, a bilateral training exercise with the Italian Air Force.


This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home

One of the F-16s involved in Agile Buzzard exercise takes off from Decimomannu Air Base. (Image credit: Alessandro Caglieri).

Agile Buzzard was one of the first exercises to incorporate elements from the developing operational concept known as Agile Combat Employment, or ACE.

According to the U.S. Air Force, this new ACE concept calls for forces to operate more fluidly in locations with varying levels of capacity and support. “This ensures U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa are ready for any potential contingencies.” In short, within ACE, combat aircraft take off from their bases and deploy to airfileds where they can’t count on all the “accomodations” they can find at their home station. Over there, they must prove their ability to service aircraft and make them ready for combat.

“Training exercises like Agile Buzzard enhance the wing’s ability to take command and control of a region, as well as deliver lethal airpower more effectively and efficiently anywhere in the world. Additionally they are designed to enhance partner interoperability, maintain joint readiness, and assure U.S. regional allies,” says an official USAF release.

Agile Buzzard was a low intensity exercise: each day a wave made of 3-4 aircraft launched from Aviano, landed in Decimomannu, where they were hot-refueled and armed with Mk-82/BDU-50 500-pound inert dumb bombs, then took off again to engage the Capo Frasca firing range for air-to-ground training before returning to Aviano.

For their mission, the Aviano Vipers carried two AIM-120 AMRAAM, one AIM-9X Sidewinder, an AN/ASQ-T50(V)1 AIS pod, a SNIPER ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod) along with the BDU-50 and two fuel tanks.

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Pentagon wants AI on fighters to predict mechanical failures

The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) is working with industry to implement AI, automation and machine-learning technology into aircraft as a way to anticipate and predict potential maintenance failures, service and industry officials said.


In a collaborative effort with DOD and the Air Force, C3 IoT is working on a deal to integrate AI-driven software into an F-16 and an E-3 Sentry AWACS surveillance aircraft, industry developers explained.

Developers say the new software should be operational on the aircraft within six months.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visits Defense Innovation Unit Experimental at Moffett Field, Calif., to deliver remarks at DIUx May 11, 2016. (Photo by Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

The plan is to gather and analyze data, such as operationally relevant maintenance information during or after missions so that crews and service engineers can utilize predictive maintenance.

“F-16s will benefit from predictive maintenance as a way to inform pilots of which aircraft are at the highest risk in terms of being unreliable. We pinpoint systems such as engines and subsystems such as the propulsion,”  said Ed Abbo, president and CTO of C3 IoT.

The C3 IoT Platform enables the DOD to aggregate and keep current enormous volumes of disparate data, including both structured and unstructured datasets, in a unified cloud-based data image, running on Amazon Web Services, company statements said.

Also Read: F-35s, F-22s will soon have artificial intelligence to control drone wingmen

AI can draw upon all available information and assess on-board systems to know when a given component might fail or need to be replaced, bringing logistical advantages as well as cost-savings and safety improvements.

“If a machine fails during a desert landing, then algorithms can recognize that from analyzing other failure cases. We are looking at different properties and looking at prior failure cases so algorithms can determine when something like a propulsion system is likely to fail,” Abbo said.

Depending upon the kind of avionics in an aircraft, on-board sensors can collect essential maintenance data and either download telemetry upon landing or process information right on the aircraft, Abbo explained.

This K-9 ‘battle buddy’ is helping a Marine veteran at home
An F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot, assigned to Detachment 1, 138th Fighter Wing, dons his helmet in preparation of a barnstorming performance for reporters, Feb. 1, 2017, in Houston. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Tech. Sgt. Drew A. Egnoske)

“LINK 16 can transmit data coming directly from on-board sensors, allowing information to be analyzed in real-time during flights by using machine learning and analytics,” Abbo said.

Some aircraft, for instance, have newer sensors able to perform on-board analytics and, in some instances, even record a pilot’s voice as a way to process language information.

This initiative is entirely consistent with a broad service-wide Air Force effort to extend data security beyond IT and apply AI, automation and machine learning to larger platforms.

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