The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans - We Are The Mighty
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The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

The American Legion is calling on Congress to reconsider its position on marijuana, asking lawmakers to remove the drug from Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act and reclassify it as a drug with “potential medical value.”


The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans
(American Legion Photo by Amy C. Elliott)

In a resolution passed at the 98th National Convention of the American Legion on Sept. 1, the Legion’s Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Convention Committee unanimously recommended the delegates pass a resolution urging the DEA to “license privately-funded medical marijuana production operations in the United States to enable safe and efficient cannabis drug development research.”

Officials with the American Legion say there’s some evidence marijuana helps in the treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury and PTSD. Research conducted by the Legion’s Ad Hoc Committee on TBI/PTSD found that the conditions cost the economy $60 billion.

“The response of the membership has been very positive,” says William Detweiler, the chairman of the Legion’s Ad Hoc Committee on TBI/PTSD. “Our veterans deserve the best medical care that we can offer. We believe that funding additional medical research in this field will provide another ‘tool’ in the physician’s toolbox for treatment.”

In 2011, the Ad Hoc Committee was formed to look into the issues surrounding the treatment of veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress. The goal was to determine what treatments are being employed by VA and DoD currently and what other treatments and protocols that may be available that are not being currently used or approved.

Schedule 1 of the federal Controlled Substances Act includes drugs like marijuana, heroin, and LSD while Schedule 2 includes oxycodone, morphine, and Ritalin.

Now that the national convention passed the resolution supporting medical marijuana research for veterans with certain conditions, the National Commander of the American Legion and the staff can urge Congress and the DEA to provide funds for research on medical cannabis.

Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Nadja West said marijuana is still an illegal drug and soldiers using it will face discipline, but she sees some benefit to using chemicals within pot to treat PTSD and TBI.

“Using marijuana has a lot of adverse health effects, it’s surprising that’s not brought out when they’re trying to legalize it. … It’s more dangerous that some of the carcinogens that are in tobacco,” West said during a media roundtable in Washington. “But if there’s some component of [marijuana] that can be useful to treat our service members, anyone who has post-traumatic stress disorder … I’m for that.”

The American Legion did not survey the 2.4 million veterans it represents to find their feelings on medical marijuana but has found their constituents to be generally receptive to the idea.

“Veterans are exhausted and feel like guinea pigs; they’re getting desperate,” said Dr. Sue Sisley, a researcher from Arizona who spoke at the Legion’s National Convention. “It’s a big breakthrough. While I can’t say definitively that medical marijuana works for PTSD – we are three years away from published data – we owe it to veterans to study this plant.”

Articles

This SEAL Team 6 vet idolizes ‘Rough Rider’ Teddy Roosevelt

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans
Official portrait of Representative Ryan Zinke (R-MT) (Photo by United States Congress)


Inter-service rivalry is very common in the military. But one Navy SEAL Team 6 vet with a long service record is openly admiring an Army hero.

According to the blog of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Montana Republican Rep. Ryan Zinke, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Interior, applauding the values former President Theodore Roosevelt brought to conservation and land management.

“I am an unapologetic admirer of Teddy Roosevelt and believe he had it right when he placed under federal protection millions of acres of federal lands and set aside much of it as National forests,” Zinke said during his confirmation hearing.

Zinke, who spent 23 years in the Navy, was the first SEAL to win a seat in the  House of Representatives according to law360.com. The San Diego Union-Tribune noted when his nomination was announced that he would also be the first SEAL to hold a Cabinet position. According to his official biography on his congressional web page, Zinke’s decorations include two awards of the Bronze Star for service during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which included a stint as acting commander of Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula. Among the SEALs who served under him were Marcus Luttrell (of “Lone Survivor” fame), Rob O’Neill (who claims to have killed Osama bin Laden), and Brandon Webb (founder of SOFREP.com).

Like Zinke, Teddy Roosevelt was an avid hunter and outdoorsman, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Association. Roosevelt was also a military badass, receiving the Medal of Honor for his actions on San Juan Hill during the Spanish-American War.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

Roosevelt, though, also had a keen interest in naval affairs before serving with the Army. Prior to becoming Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President William McKinley, the Theodore Roosevelt Association noted that he wrote a history of the War of 1812, publishing it at age 24. Roosevelt would help turn the United States Navy into the global instrument of power projection it is today.

So, yeah, while inter-service rivalry has its place, in this case, we can understand – and approve – of a SEAL admiring a soldier like Teddy Roosevelt.

Articles

Congress just made it a crime to post nude photos of troops without permission

The House has unanimously approved legislation that makes it a crime for U.S. service members to distribute intimate photos or videos of people without first getting their consent.


The measure is a direct response to a nude-photo sharing scandal that has rocked the Marine Corps. Lawmakers voted 418-0 to pass the bill Wednesday.

The scandal came to light after it was discovered that sexually explicit photos of female and male Marines were being shared on a secret Facebook page.

Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, the bill’s sponsor, says the “Neanderthals” who posted the photos aren’t emblematic of the vast majority of U.S. troops. But she says the idea that any one in uniform thinks it’s acceptable to upload and comment on nude photos is a problem that must be fixed.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How these soldiers survived the Tet Offensive

The screams of a fellow soldier trapped inside his armored vehicle pierced through the radio.

Apparently surrounded by the enemy with no more ammunition, the soldier cried for help saying his crew had all been killed.

But with his radio keyed open and no one able to talk back to him, then-Spc. 4 Dave Garrod and others in Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, could only listen to the desperate pleas.


“It was a knee knocker,” Garrod recalled as his 25th Infantry Division unit raced down to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which was under siege by enemy forces. “I had no idea what we were driving into.”

Tet Offensive 

On Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietnam War escalated as enemy forces launched surprise attacks during the country’s New Year holiday.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

Then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell, middle, seen on top of a tank during the Vietnam War. Birdwell and other Soldiers with the 25th Infantry Division’s 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment helped defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base in a Tet Offensive attack Jan. 31, 1968.

About 85,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese army fighters rushed across the border to attack over 100 cities and towns in southern Vietnam in an attempt to break a stalemate in the war.

Weeks of intense fighting ensued causing heavy losses on both sides.

Before they could repel many of the attacks, thousands of U.S. and South Vietnamese troops would die. Tens of thousands of enemy fighters were also killed.

While not largely deemed a victory for the enemy forces, which suffered a greater toll, the attacks did trigger many in America to rethink U.S. involvement in the protracted war.

Tan Son Nhut

One of the enemy’s main targets was Tan Son Nhut, a key airbase near Saigon where the Military Assistance Command Vietnam and the South Vietnamese air force were headquartered.

After reports of Viet Cong fighters attempting to invade the airbase on Jan. 31, 1968, soldiers with 3rd Squadron’s Charlie Troop responded to the call.

As they drove toward the airbase in the early morning hours, then-Spc. 5 Dwight Birdwell remembers seeing no civilians along the highway — typically a bad omen.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

Photos of Dwight Birdwell before he deployed to Vietnam.

Birdwell had seen attacks before during his tour, he said, but they were mainly mines or other small arms weapons fired by a hidden enemy. This day would be different.

When they arrived just outside the airbase, his unit’s column of tanks and armored personnel carriers suddenly stopped.

As if on cue, thousands of tracer rounds began to pepper the vehicles in front of his tank from both sides of the highway. Enemy fighters then jumped onto the vehicles, shooting inside of them.

“All hell broke loose,” Birdwell recalled.

A bullet then struck Birdwell’s tank commander right through the head and he collapsed inside the tank. Birdwell pulled him out, he said, and passed him over the side for medical treatment, which kept him alive.

Birdwell took command of the tank. By that time, all the vehicles ahead of him had been wiped out or were unable to return gunfire. Enemy fighters also set some ablaze after they failed to drive off with them.

“There was a lot of confusion and pandemonium,” he said.

His tank fired its 90 mm cannon toward the enemy while he shot off rounds from the .50-caliber machine gun to hold the enemy back.

Birdwell’s unit was stuck in the middle of an enemy invasion as hundreds of fighters had already crossed the highway and penetrated the airbase to his left. On his right side, even more fighters — some just 50 feet away — prepared to join the assault.

“They were getting close,” he recalled. “I could see their faces quite well.”

Around the same time he ran out of ammunition, a U.S. helicopter was hit and made an emergency landing behind his tank.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

Spc. 4 Dave Garrod, left, poses for a photo with Spc. 5 Ed McKenna and Spc. 4 Joe Carlton during their tour in the Vietnam War.

“I thought that this is unreal,” Birdwell said. “Somebody is filming a movie.”

He jumped down from the tank and ran toward the helicopter. Once there, he grabbed one of the helicopter’s M-60 machine guns the door gunners had been using and returned to his position.

After a few minutes of firing rounds at the enemy, something hit the machine gun — likely an enemy bullet. The impact, he said, sprayed shrapnel up into his face and chest.

With the M-60 now destroyed, Birdwell said he took cover in a nearby ditch. He and a few soldiers then grabbed some M-16 rifles and grenades and moved to a closer position behind a large tree.

There, they exchanged gunfire and tossed grenades over the road until the enemy started to fire a machine gun at them.

As the barrage of bullets cut into the tree, it sounded like a chainsaw chewing it down.

“We were in a very desperate situation,” he said.

Reinforcements

Around that time, Garrod’s Bravo Troop began to roll into the area.

Soldiers in a different platoon within Charlie Troop also arrived to suppress the attack from inside the base.

“After pulling on line we started laying down fire,” Garrod recalled, “and trying to keep it as low as possible so as not to fire on Charlie Troop on the road.”

Garrod and other soldiers were then pulled away to help wounded crewmen near a textile factory from which the enemy had been commanding its attack.

Once there, he ran over to a tank that had been hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. Inside, he could see the tank’s loader who could not move due to his legs being seriously wounded.

“Being a small, skinny guy, I jumped down in the hatch and without thinking put him on my shoulders and stuck him up through the hatch,” he said.

Later that day, the intensity of the battle hit home for Garrod as he rested in the shade of his vehicle.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

Dave Garrod, fifth from right, poses for a photo in front of a Vietnam War memorial near where the Tan Son Nhut Air Base attack occurred on Jan. 31, 1968.

He lifted his canteen up to take a drink when an awful smell overcame him.

“When I looked down on my flak jacket, there was a hunk of flesh from that loader,” he recalled. “It’s something that’s etched into your mind forever.”

Almost 20 soldiers from the squadron were killed and many more wounded as they defended the airbase that day. About two dozen South Vietnamese troops were also killed along with hundreds of enemy fighters.

Garrod earned an Army Commendation Medal with valor device for his actions and a Purple Heart in another mission a few days later. Birdwell earned a Silver Star and a Purple Heart.

The squadron was also awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.

Thirty years later, Garrod and other veterans traveled back to the site on the anniversary of the offensive as a way to find closure for what they saw that day.

They also visited a statue in a nearby park that honors those who were lost or suffered as a result of the battle.

Because of the devastation the war had caused, Garrod expected to see animosity on the faces of the Vietnamese people.

“Instead we found gracious, friendly people,” he said. “Even the veterans from the north whom we met … greeted us with hugs. It was very surprising. They had definitely moved on.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

After lost court battle, U.S. ends friendship treaty with Iran

The United States says it is canceling a decades-old friendship treaty with Iran after Tehran cited it in an international court case against Washington’s sanctions policy.

“I’m announcing that the US is terminating the 1955 Treaty of Amity with Iran. This is a decision, frankly, that is 39 years overdue,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Oct. 3, 2018, referring to the year of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

After the announcement, Tehran slammed the United States as an “outlaw regime.”


The U.S. move came after the top UN court ordered the United States to ease sanctions it reimposed on Iran following Washington’s withdrawal from the 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers in early 2018.

The 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations, and Consular Rights called for “friendly relations” between Iran and the United States, encouraged mutual trade and investment, regulated diplomatic ties, and granted the International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction over disputes.

It was signed at a time of close relations between Washington and Tehran, long before the 1979 revolution brought about decades of hostility between the two.

In August 2018, Washington slapped a first round of punitive measures on Iran after President Donald Trump in May 2018 pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear deal aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

The U.S. moves sent Iran’s economy into a downward spiral with the national currency, the rial, hitting record lows.

Iran challenged the reinstatement of sanctions in a case filed in July 2018 at the ICJ in The Hague, arguing that it breaches the friendship treaty between the two countries and accusing the United States of “economic aggression.”

U.S. lawyers responded by saying the reimposition of the sanctions was legal and a national security measure that cannot be challenged at the UN court.

In a preliminary ruling in the case, the ICJ said earlier on Oct. 3, 2018, that exports of “humanitarian” goods such as medicines and medical devices, food, and agricultural commodities” should be allowed, as well as aviation safety equipment.

It said the U.S. sanctions on such goods breached the 1955 treaty between Iran and the United States.

Announcing the decision, the court’s president, Judge Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, said U.S. sanctions on goods “required for humanitarian needs…may have a serious detrimental impact on the health and lives of individuals on the territory of Iran.”

Sanctions on aircraft spare parts, equipment, and associated services have the “potential to endanger civil aviation safety in Iran and the lives of its users,” he also said.

The ruling is a decision on so-called provisional measures ahead of a final decision on the matter, which may take several years, according to experts.

Speaking to reporters, Pompeo said the ruling “marked a useful point for us to demonstrate the absolute absurdity of the Treaty of Amity between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

He also said the United States was “disappointed” that the ICJ “failed to recognize that it has no jurisdiction to issue any order relating to these sanctions measures with the United States, which is doing its work on Iran to protect its own essential security interests.”

The secretary of state said that Iran’s claims under the treaty were “absurd,” citing Iran’s “history of terrorism, ballistic-missile activity, and other malign behaviors,” and accused Tehran of “abusing the ICJ for political and propaganda purposes.”

Pompeo added that the United States will work to ensure it is providing humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people.

“Today US withdrew from an actual US-Iran treaty after the ICJ ordered it to stop violating that treaty in sanctioning Iranian people. Outlaw regime,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later tweeted.

Earlier, Zarif called the court decision “another failure for sanctions-addicted” U.S. government and “victory for rule of law.”

And the Foreign Ministry said the ruling “proved once again the Islamic Republic is right and the U.S. sanctions against people and citizens of our country are illegal and cruel.”

The U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Hoekstra, said it was “a meritless case over which the court has no jurisdiction.”

He added that the ruling did not go as far as Iran had requested, saying the court “issued a narrow decision on a very limited range of sectors.”

The ICJ rules on disputes between UN member states. Its decisions are binding and cannot be appealed, but it has no mechanism to enforce them.

Both Washington and Tehran have ignored ICJ decisions in the past.

Later in the day, U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that the administration was pulling out of an amendment to the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations that gives the ICJ jurisdiction to hear disputes between states.

Bolton also told a White House briefing that Washington will review all international agreements that “may still expose the United States to purported binding jurisdiction, dispute resolution” in the ICJ.

“We will not sit idly by as baseless politicized claims are brought against us,” he said.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

U.S. Air Force relief mission to COVID-19 crisis in Italy begins from Ramstein AB

USAF C-130s Flew Self-Contained Care Unit to Aviano Air Base in Italy on Friday.


The U.S. Air Force has deployed a C-130J Hercules transport from the 86th Airlift Wing from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to Italy’s Aviano Air Base in the ongoing coronavirus relief mission. The U.S. aircraft arrived on Mar. 20, 2020, and joins other relief aircraft in the region, including a number of Russian Aerospace Forces Il-76 transports that departed Russia earlier today.

Photos released by the USAF show Airmen from the 721st Aerial Port Squadron loading pallets of medical equipment on board a Lockheed C-130J Super Hercules transport.

Part of the cargo deployed to Italy in the U.S. relief mission is the En-Route Patient Staging System, or “ERPSS”. The system can support the medical transport of up to 40 patients in a 24-hour period. It is equipped with 10 patient staging beds for treatment of patients.

Commander of U.S. Air Force, Europe (USAFE-AFAFRICA), General Jeff “Cobra” Harrigian, told reporters, “The COVID-19 pandemic requires that we work with our allies and partners to [meet] the challenges together. This effort demonstrates our mutual support as we team together in response to this public health crisis. We are working closely with our Italian friends, the U.S. Department of State, and U.S. European Command (EUCOM) to ensure we provide the right equipment in a safe and timely manner. It’s our privilege to support the Italian response, and our continued commitment reflects the values of the American people to provide to whenever and wherever it is needed.”

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

A USAF Airman assigned to the 721st Aerial Port Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, loads pallets of medical supplies and equipment onboard a C-130J Super Hercules in preparation for relief flights to Aviano Air Base in Italy on March 20, 2020 in support of the COVID-19 relief effort.

(Photo: USAF Airman 1st Class John R. Wright)

The 86th Airlift Wing received one of their most recent, new C-130J Super Hercules transports from Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Marietta, Georgia in early December, 2017. The C-130J Super Hercules is the most advanced version of the celebrated C-130, which first flew over 65 years ago in 1956. The C-130J is the only version of the C-130 that remains in production today. The aircraft features a fuselage that is 15-feet longer than previous versions of the C-130. The aircraft is also designed to work with advanced loading/unloading equipment for specialty palletized cargo like the En-Route Patient Staging System.

The aid from the U.S. military several days ago, and Russia’s air force beginning today, along with missions from China, Cuba and other nations, support the Italian government’s escalating response to the COVID-19 crisis. The Italian government has deployed troops in some areas to monitor quarantine and help slow the spread of the deadly disease.

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

Articles

Former Delta Force officer says the elite military unit taught him you only have to be 70% certain before you act — here’s why

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans


Over more than 20 years in United States Army special operations, first as a Ranger and then a Delta Force operator, Dalton Fury learned that effective leaders never wait for perfect certainty to act.

Fury is the pseudonym he uses for both his nonfiction and fiction writing, since his time in the highly secretive Delta Force has required him to conceal his true identity.

In an emailed list of leadership lessons sent to Business Insider, Fury posited a hypothetical question before giving a surprising answer: “How much information or intelligence does a special operations unit need before they launch a high-risk kill or capture mission? I argue that very rarely will the intelligence picture be better than a 70% solution, and at that point action should be taken.”

Waiting for that extra 5-10% closer to 100% clarity only further closed the window of opportunity.

Fury argued that only after the American special forces and their elite allies adopted this 70% mentality were they able to finally take the steps that led to eliminating Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

And though Fury operated in extreme situations on a battlefield, he said the “pull the trigger” mentality is as necessary in an office.

To Fury, leaders of special operators (spec ops troops) and corporate managers are placed in the same situation, where they need to make decisions with limited data, resources, and time.

“Special operators aren’t required for every problem set,” he wrote. “But, special operators are expected to manage risk, get on target, figure it out, and run it down even when the picture is sketchy.”

Articles

VA chief says he’d stay if Trump wants him

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those are the metrics that he says matter.

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

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans
(VA photo)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines in Afghanistan will get Reaper drone support

General Atomics-Aeronautical Systems has received a $39.6 million contract to provide MQ-9 Reapers to a Marine advisory unit in Afghanistan for air overwatch and reconnaissance, according to Pentagon announcements.

The Reapers, the first Group 5 unmanned aerial systems to be assigned exclusively to a Marine unit, may arrive in theater very soon, documents show. Group 5 is the largest class of UAS and includes platforms such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-4C Triton.


According to the contract announcement, General Atomics contractors, not Marines, will operate the systems in Afghanistan. The award was first reported June 27, 2018, by The Drive.

While Task Force Southwest, a small contingent of several hundred Marines on the ground in Helmand Province, Afghanistan is primarily charged with providing advice and assistance to Afghan National Security Forces in their fight with local Taliban elements, a significant portion of the unit’s work involves coordinating strikes on enemy targets using UAS.

When Military.com visited the unit in December 2017 and toured its operations center, Marines coordinated three deadly strikes in a single morning, using small ScanEagle drones to identify targets and Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons to drop ordnance to take them out.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans
F-16 Fighting Falcon

“This is what we do on a daily basis, is provide overwatch,” Capt. Brian Hubert, battle captain for Task Force Southwest, told Military.com at the time. “And then also, there’s a little bit of advising, because we will call them and say, ‘Hey, think about doing this, or we see you doing this, that looks good, you should go here.’ We’re trying to get them to the point where eventually, with their Afghan Air Force, they can do all themselves.”

Having Reapers, which can fly at top speeds of 300 miles per hour and can carry more than 3,700 pounds of ordnance, including Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II bombs and GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, would allow the Marine task force to operate more independently rather than depending on other units for deadly force from the air.

“Task Force Southwest currently uses Group 5 [Unmanned Aerial Systems] extensively when they are provided from available assets in theater,” Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, commander of the task force, told Military.com in January 2018. “An organic Group 5 UAS capability will give us more capacity to assist our Afghan partners as they conduct continuous offensive operations against the enemy in Helmand province.”

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans
An MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan.
(U.S. Air Force photo)

As an additional benefit, having the Reapers available may help the Marines prepare to receive and operate their own Group 5 drone, the MUX, which is now in the requirements phase.

That system, which will be designed to take off vertically from a ship and provide surveillance and network capabilities from the air, is planned to reach initial operational capability around 2027.

The contract award notice for the Reapers does not specify when the systems will arrive in Afghanistan. Earlier solicitations called for the capability by March 2018. But all work on the contract is set to be completed by November 2018, the announcement states.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

The art of the rant according to Graham Allen, host of ‘Rant Nation’

We live in a time when anyone with a smartphone can become a viral internet star. The technology is literally in the palm of your hand. Hit “record,” hit “upload,” and you’ve got a potential audience numbering in the millions.

Few people understand that power better than Graham Allen, a 12-year U.S. Army veteran who has made a name for himself with his “daily rant” videos on social media. In a little more than two years, he’s released dozens of videos, racked up over 1 billion views, and landed a show on Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV.


Allen said that while ranting has brought him success, that is only one side of who he is. In addition to being “much quieter in person,” he enjoys spending time helping others in his community.

“It’s more fun to me to go feed the police departments working the night shift than it is to get a 100-million-view video,” Allen said.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

Graham Allen displaying his love for America.

(Photo courtesy of Graham Allen’s Instagram)

Not that he took the videos all that seriously when he first started making them in 2016 while on a recruiting tour in Anderson, South Carolina. He’d gotten run off the road by an elderly person and pulled over to rant about bad drivers. He posted it, and it resonated well with a few people, so he kept at it.

“The rants kind of started off as a joke,” Allen said. The topics ranged from making fun of people at the gym to parents with bad kids to Hillary Clinton to teenagers. Then Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, knelt during the national anthem, and Allen’s videos took a turn toward the political — and many would say, the divisive.

“I made a video about that because it legitimately was something that I cared about, and that’s when everything kind of changed,” Allen said. “It went from a gag into this ‘Dear America, I’ll say it for you’ kind of thing.”

That was two years ago. Now, Allen has his own show, “Rant Nation,” on BlazeTV. Although he is the host of the show, he is very clear that he’s not a news anchor, journalist, or political commentator.

“I’m just a guy who believes what I believe and thinks what I think. […] I like to look at things from my own worldview and my own value standpoint,” he said. “So, I take things that people are talking about and things that people are passionate about, and instead of just repeating it, I really try to put the moral value around it.”

The success of the rant videos and landing a TV show have increased the pressure for Allen, but he’s taken steps to try to keep things moving in the right direction. One of those decisions was moving back to his home state of Mississippi, to a “nowhere” small town where he can stay connected to his roots.

“This thing is really starting to go, and I just really felt that if we move to these bigger places like all these other people do, then we would lose what it is that apparently people are latching onto,” Allen said.

He acknowledges that he entered the social media personality game at the right time — people like Mat Best had already successfully paved the way, and enough others had come before Allen and failed that he could see what worked and what didn’t.

And when he does something that doesn’t work — or if he realizes he was flat-out wrong about something — he’s not afraid to correct his error.

“I think that’s something that hardly anyone does,” Allen said, “because I don’t know everything, and I feel like I’ve been very open and honest about that, that I’m not the end-all, be-all on this thing, this is just what I think and what I feel.”

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Graham Allen with his wife and daughter.

(Photo courtesy of Graham Allen’s Instagram)

By that same logic, he’s also never regretted any videos or opinions he’s put out — even when they’ve drawn heavy criticism.

“One thing that I’ve done that I think is very different than anybody else is I don’t respond — I don’t get into battles with people, I don’t block comments, I don’t do any of that stuff,” Allen said. “If people want to say that I’m the worst person in the history of the world, I let them do it because if I didn’t, I would be a hypocrite, right?”

In terms of whether Allen considers himself a divisive figure, he contests that division is a sign of the times.

“We live in a culture now where you’re either left or you’re right, and, unfortunately, we can’t be friends, so that means we’re enemies now,” Allen said. “I don’t believe that, but there’s a lot of people that do. And so, because I’m very conservative — I’m a Southern-born and raised, gun-loving, freedom-loving, Christian conservative, that is who I am. Oh, and I’m a white guy at the same time. So, some people view me as the absolute worst thing that this country has to offer — I don’t think there’s any way for some people to not view me as divisive.”

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A tunnel just collapsed at the site of North Korea’s most powerful nuclear test

Japan’s TV Asahi reports that about 200 North Koreans have died in a tunnel collapse at a nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, in North Korea’s northeast.


In early September, North Korea conducted its most powerful nuclear test there, detonating a nuclear device under a mountain. Experts have said it was a hydrogen bomb about 10 times as powerful as the first atomic bombs dropped on Japan at the close of World War II.

Satellite imagery has revealed that the mountain above the test site has since suffered a series of landslides and seismic aftershocks thought to have resulted from the blast.

North Korean sources told TV Asahi that a tunnel collapsed on 100 workers and that an additional 100 who went in to rescue them also died under the unstable mountain.

Using the slider below, you can see the affects of the test detonations, especially along the mountain ridges:

Open California Satellite Imagery © 2017 Planet Labs Inc. licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. Comparison tool from 38 North.

The tunnels in and out of the test site had been damaged, and the workers may have been clearing or repairing them to resume nuclear testing.

If the test site is compromised, hazardous radioactive material left over from the blast may seep out.

If that debris were to reach China, Beijing would see that as an attack on its country, Jenny Town, the assistant director of the US-Korea Institute and a managing editor at 38 North, previously told Business Insider.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The threatened Philippine war over trash would be hilarious

The Philippine president and authoritarian strongman Rodrigo Duterte has threatened war with Canada over a festering trash debacle. That would be an amazing overreach by the bombastic leader, and it would result in one of the most mismatched military engagements in modern history, if the two sides could even manage to hit each other in any real way.


Before we get into why the fight would be so funny, let’s just take a moment to say that there’s almost no chance that a war would break out. The whole argument centers over a mislabeled batch of trash that Canada paid to send to the Philippines. It was supposed to be filled with recyclables, but someone lied on the paperwork and filled it with municipal trash, including food and used diapers, instead.

That meant that it was hazardous waste, and there are all sorts of rules about shipping that stuff. Canada is working with diplomatic staff from the Philippines on how to bring the material back to Canada. But, for obvious reasons, the people on the islands are angry that Canadian trash has sat in the port for years as Canada tried to ship it back.

But the process is underway, Canada has said it will take the trash back, and there would be no good reason to go to war over the trash even if it was destined to stay there. But Duterte is not that logical of a leader, and he threatened war over the issue even though his staff was already working a fix. His military is, to put it mildly, not ready for that conflict.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

Philippine Marines storm the shore during an exercise.

(Petty Officer 1st Class Nardel Gervacio)

First, let’s just look at what forces the two countries can bring to bear. Assuming that both countries were to meet at some unassuming, neutral field, Duterte would still struggle to even blacken Canada’s eye.

Canada is not the military power it once was, but it still has serious assets. Its military is comprised of about 94,000 personnel that operate 384 aircraft; about 2,240 tanks, armored vehicles, and artillery pieces; and 63 ships and boats including 12 frigates, 4 submarines, and 20 patrol vessels.

So, yeah, the top six state National Guards would outnumber them and have similar amounts of modern equipment, but Canada’s military is still nothing to scoff at.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has a larger but much less modern military. Its 305,000 troops operate only 171 aircraft of which zero are modern fighters, 834 armored vehicles and towed artillery pieces, and 39 patrol vessels that work with three frigates, 10 corvettes, and 67 auxiliary vessels.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

So, you don’t want to get in a bar brawl with the Philippine military, but you’d probably be fine in a battle as long as you remembered to bring your airplanes and helicopters.

Canada has pretty good fighters, CF-18 Hornets based on America’s F/A-18 Hornet. So we would expect their unopposed fighter sweeps against Philippine forces to go well, allowing them to progress to hitting artillery pieces pretty quickly.

And Canadian ground forces, while small, are not filled with slouches. Their snipers are some of the best in the world, and their infantry gets the job done.

It sort of seems odd that Duterte thinks this would be a good idea. But, if war between two American allies seems scary to you, even if the closer ally is very likely to win, we have more good news for you.

There is essentially no way that Canada and the Philippines can effectively go to war against each other.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

We’ll grant that the Republic of the Philippines Navy ship BRP Apolinario Mabini looks cool sailing in an exercise, but if it shows up off your shore, you just remove its batteries and wait it out.

(U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark R. Alvarez)

The Philippines are the ones threatening the war, so they would most likely be the ones who would need to project their military across the Pacific.

They, charitably, do not have the ability to deploy significant numbers of their troops across the ocean to Canada, let alone to open a beachhead against Canadian defenders.

And if Canada decided to launch a preemptive strike against the Philippines after Duterte declared war, even it would be hard pressed to do so. Those 63 boats and ships Canada has? None of those are carriers or amphibious assault ships. None of them are designed to project significant force ashore.

And all of this is without getting into the fact that Canada is a member of NATO. No one in NATO really wants to go to war against the Philippines, but, in theory, Canada could invoke Article 5 and call on the rest of the alliance.

Since the world’s most powerful military is part of that alliance, NATO would probably win a larger war against the Philippines.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Soldiers share marksmanship tips with Iraqi forces

For soldiers worldwide, rifle marksmanship is one of the most basic skills each and every soldier must possess.

Iraqi soldiers are learning how tedious the training can be and what it takes to become an expert marksman.

Mississippi Guard members of Task Force India Bravo instructed Iraqi army soldiers assigned to the Supply and Transportation Regiment on basic marksmanship in a weeklong primary marksmanship instruction class.


The Iraqi soldiers were fully engaged with the essential training.

“Training like this is going to give knowledge to the soldiers. In this way he can know everything he needs and that will make him a better soldier,” said one Iraqi company commander with the Supply and Transportation Regiment.

Though the soldiers may not be infantry, marksmanship skills are important to them.

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U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Garner, right, security forces platoon sergeant assigned to Task Force India Bravo, teaches an Iraqi army primary marksmanship instruction course at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec.19, 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

“Each and every soldier is supposed to know how to be a soldier first, so anything that he could learn is important,” he said. “When we do our jobs we face many things, mechanical problems, casualties, and even death. If we can prepare our soldiers for this, they will be better.”

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Driskill, left, a cavalry scout assigned to Task Force India Bravo, assists an Iraqi soldier with a dime/washer drill as part of a primary marksmanship instruction course at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec.19, 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

Though marksmanship is a basic skill universal to all services, the evaluation of marksmanship skill varies.

“Their weapons qualification is completely different than ours, but that doesn’t matter when we teach basic marksmanship fundamentals — it is universal,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael Garner, security forces platoon sergeant assigned to Task Force India Bravo.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Driskill, left, a cavalry scout assigned to Task Force India Bravo, assists an Iraqi soldier with a dime/washer drill as part of a primary marksmanship instruction course at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec.19, 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

The training was tailored to the needs of the Iraqi soldiers.

“Prior to beginning training we assessed them on their skills, then we developed our training course based on a NATO Primary Method of Instruction,” he said.

The course layout mirrored the way the U.S. Army trains its soldiers.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

An Iraqi soldier conducts a dime/washer drill as part of a primary marksmanship instruction course at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec.19, 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

“We taught a course including both classroom and practical exercises and we went from less than 10 percent to more than 75 percent being able to demonstrate weapons proficiency,” said Garner.

The American Legion wants medical marijuana research for veterans

An Iraqi soldier conducts a dime/washer drill as part of a primary marksmanship instruction course held at Camp Taji, Iraq, Dec.19, 2018.

(Photo by Spc. Jovi Prevot)

“We saw a drastic change in their accuracy of their marksmanship, after teaching the class,” he said. “There was a 75 percent improvement from pre- to post-assessment.”

“To date we have trained approximately 500 soldiers,” said Garner. “In the near future we will teach courses on advanced marksmanship techniques.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

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