The VA can't track how much time employees spend on union business - We Are The Mighty
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The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

You’d think that employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs would be spending every bit of their time on the job helping America’s veterans. But that may not be case — some of them may instead be working on “union business.”


Worse, there may be no way to know how much time they have spent on their outside work for federal employee unions.

According to a report by Government Executive, the VA has no standardized method of tracking how much “official time” is spent by government employees on union activities like mediation. The Office of Personnel Management website defines “official time” as “paid time off from assigned Government duties to represent a union or its bargaining unit employees.”

The report noted that 350 of those employees are working full-time on union activities, and that almost 1.1 million man-hours were spent on official time in Fiscal Year 2012.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
The Tomah, Wisconsin VA hospital.

A 2015 Government Accountability Office report done at the request of House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN) casts doubt on those reported figures.

The GAO said, “the data VA provided were not sufficiently reliable to determine the amount of official time used by VA employees and the purposes for which it was used for the period of our review.”

The biggest reason for the lack of reliability was due to the fact that the VA had no standardized means to track the amount of “official time” used by employees of that agency.

The report noted that the VA had arrangements with five unions: the National Association of Government Employees; the American Federation of Government Employees; National Nurses United; the National Federation of Federal Employees; and the Service Employees International Union.

Government Executive reported that the VA had agreed to resolve the time-tracking issues.

The VA has been hit with a number of scandals, including one case where a deceased veteran was left lying around for nine hours in a Florida VA facility and another case in a Wisconsin VA hospital where a dentist may have infected hundreds of veterans with HIV and hepatitis.

Those cases came on the heels of a VA hospital using “separate waiting lists” to conceal a backlog of cases, a practice that is believed to have lead to over 200 deaths.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
Palo Alto VA hospital. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

The Florida incident drew the wrath of Rep. Gus Biliakis (R-FL), who angrily noted that nobody had been fired over the improper treatment of a veteran’s corpse.

Articles

20 technical mistakes (and 3 fun facts) in ‘The Hunt for Red October’

The Tom Clancy brand was launched both in print and on the big screen with “The Hunt for Red October,” a Cold War nail-biter that more or less created the technothriller genre. The movie, released by Paramount in 1990, features a young Alec Baldwin as protagonist Jack Ryan who amazingly makes intel officers look cool. The movie remains an exciting romp 25 years on . . . but it also falls victim to the Hollywood trap of associated technical mistakes. (And we’ll skip the fact the Soviet captain has a Scottish accent while the rest of his crew have British accents to represent the fact they’re speaking Russian.) Here are 20 of them (with exact time stamp where applicable):


1. (2:55) Red October is being escorted out of the Russian harbor by a United States Coast Guard Cutter and U.S. Navy sea tugs.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

2. (2:50) As Red October heads out of the channel the flat sides of the fake sub are visible at the waterline.

3. (5:24) Jack takes off from Heathrow in the dark for a six hour flight to DC (five time zones behind), but it’s light when he arrives and is driven to Langley.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

4. (19:41) Patuxent, Maryland is home to the Naval Air Systems Command, not a Naval Shipyard.

Fun Fact: (20:01) Jeffrey Jones, who plays the engineer at the shipyard, also played Principal Rooney in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

Fun Fact: (23:03) Tim Curry, who plays Petrov, Red October‘s doctor, also played Frank N. Furter in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(20th Century Film Corp.)

5. (35:11) When the Red October‘s Political Officer reads the orders, he reveals they’re supposed to test the silent drive and return home “on or about the 16th of this month.” Shortly afterwards, Jack Ryan is briefing Jeffrey Pelt and asks “isn’t it the 23rd?” which means the 16th of the month has already past.

6. (35:15) Jack Ryan’s brief to Jeffrey Pelt and the Joint Chiefs ignores the fact that ICBMs could be fired from pretty much anywhere around the globe.  Why would a “madman” drive within 500 miles of the coast to do what could be done from the Iceland-UK Gap or wherever?

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

7. (51:10) COD turns into an E-2 Hawkeye as it lands aboard the USS Enterprise off of Nova Scotia.

8. Jonesy identifies the sonar contact as a Typhoon-class ballistic missile submarine, and they label it the Typhoon-7 as they have six other Typhoon submarines recorded in the computer. However, in November 1984, which is when this is supposed to happen, only two had been commissioned and the third was near completion. As a result the Dallas couldn’t have had six Typhoons in its computer at the time, only two.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

9. (1:14:26) Tomcat turns into a Korean War-era Panther during ramp strike. (See more detail about this egregious error here.)

Fun Fact: Fred Thompson, who plays the admiral aboard the Enterprise, was also a U.S. Senator from Tennessee between 1994-2003.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

10. (1:23:20) Helicopter pilot randomly switches from right seat to left and then back again while ferrying Ryan to the USS Dallas.

11. (1:23:55) Helo crewman spots the Dallas at “three o’clock” and the pilot turns left in response, which would take the aircraft away from the sub not put it closer to it.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

12. (1:26:00) Helicopter doesn’t have windshield wipers going in a torrential rain storm.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

13. (1:28:52) Once aboard the Dallas Ryan shows no signs of hypothermia (shivering, for instance) after releasing himself from the helo hoist and spending several minutes in near-freezing water.

14. Same footage used twice to show a torpedo hitting the water –one from a Russian Bear bomber and one from an American asset.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

15. (1:44:52) Reuben James (FFG-57) was not commissioned until March 22, 1986 therefore couldn’t have been around during 1984, the period in which “The Hunt for Red October” is set.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Photo: U.S. Navy)

16. (1:45:52) Movie crew (holding camera and wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes) visible on deck as crew abandons Red October because of bogus nuclear reactor leak.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

17. (1:53:30) When the members of the Dallas crew arrive aboard the Red October, Ramius asks Ryan if he speaks Russian (in Russian) but basic lip reading reveals he is actually saying “Do you speak Russian” in English.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

18. (2:01:27) As camera angles shift during this scene Ramius randomly switches which hand he’s using to cover his gunshot wound and hold his weapon.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

19. (2:06:42) A submarine would only “rig for red” if it was going to periscope depth, which the Dallas never does throughout “The Hunt for Red October.”

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
(Paramount Pictures)

20. (2:07:32) Surface view of the supposed underwater explosion shows the pyrotechnic flash that triggered it (at time 2:05 in the YouTube clip below).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxO8_lOOra8

(h/t: Movie Mistakes)

Now: 62 glaring technical errors in ‘The Hurt Locker’

And: 79 Cringeworthy Technical Errors In The Movie ‘Top Gun’ 

 

Articles

Veterans clap back at those demanding Starbucks hire 10,000 vets

Starbucks Armed Forces Network, a private group within the company of Starbucks, released a statement yesterday asking that those calling for Starbucks to hire 10,000 veterans instead of refugees check their facts.


Recently, Starbucks came under fire for announcing that they would hire 10,000 refugees. The general reaction was anger and calls for boycotts of Starbucks until they vowed to also hire 10,000 veterans.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
Devin Craig (second from right), a district manager for Starbucks Coffee Company, Wash., and his team talk to Soldiers and Veterans during the Boots 2 Work Military Career Fair at Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Wash., Aug. 27. The career fair gave Soldiers the opportunity to meet with local businesses and learn job hunting skills. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Cody Quinn, 28th Public Affairs Detachment/Released)

The problem with that? Starbucks vowed to hire 10,000 veterans in 5 years way back in 2013. And they’re ahead of schedule.

One of the many internal groups at the coffee giant, Starbucks Armed Forces Network, penned a note to their customers to explain why the anger at the refugee program was misdirected.

The note, simply signed by The Men and Women of Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN), began, “We write to you today as representatives of the thousands of veterans and spouses who currently work for Starbucks Coffee Company.”

The writers went on to express their gratitude to their customers and then they moved right into addressing the refugee and veteran initiatives.

“The false and inaccurate statements [about the veteran hiring initiative were] deeply troubling to those of us who’ve served,” the group wrote.

The statement described how the CEO and his wife, Howard and Sheri Schultz, had visited military installations around the country to learn more about how they could advocate better for veterans and military spouses after announcing the veteran hiring initiative in November 2013. The couple invested their own personal funds into “plans for transitioning service members,” according to the group.

“We respect honest debate and freedom of expression,” the statement read. “But to those who would suggest Starbucks is not committed to hiring veterans, we are here to say: check your facts. Starbucks is already there.”

The 5 year initiative has only used about 60 percent of its time, but has met 88 percent of its goal. This means that, if they continue at this rate, Starbucks will surpass their initial goal of hiring 10,000 veterans by 2018 by 4,600 veterans.

Starbucks operates 32 Military Family Stores near several major installations. Owned by veterans, military spouses, or family members, the stores participate in “Military Mondays.” Weekly, Starbucks partners with local Veteran Service Organizations to provide space for the organizations to offer pro-bono legal support and other services to the military community.

The company also offers Military Service Pay to employees who have to report for National Guard or Reserve assignments. Eligible partners can receive up to 80 hours of paid time to fulfill their reserve service obligations yearly.

Starbucks provides a Military Allowance to eligible employees that are called to active duty, as well.

Starbucks has made a name for themselves as a veteran friendly company, even being awarded Gold status by G.I. Jobs in this year’s annual “Military Friendly” list.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of June 28th

Next week is the Fourth of July and there’s countless celebrations planned all around the country. Of course, there’s the fireworks and the air shows, but we can’t forget about all the military parades. Speaking from personal experience, military parades for the general public are the worst.

You get there five hours in advance and your NCO is hounding you not to even make the slightest wrong move. Then when you’re actually marching in formation through the designated route, there’s always going to be those people in the crowds that try to jump to the “join” the formation.

I get it, if it’s a kid – I’ll smile down at them, tell them they’re getting it (regardless if they are or not) and keep moving. My problem is when the douche bag bros hop in the back and say some sh*t like “I’m just like you guys!” If this was just a one time thing, I would chalk it up as a bad encounter. But this happened three different times to me outside two different Army posts.


Anyways, here’s some memes while I wrap myself in my DD-214 blanket to forget about douchey civilians.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Not CID)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Call for Fire)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via PT Belt Nation)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

(Meme via The Salty Soldier)

Articles

America’s ‘concrete battleship’ defended Manila Bay until the very end

Before the advent of maneuver warfare, nations defended their territory with massive fortifications. This was particularly true of coasts and harbors, especially if a nation owned the finest harbor in the Orient. This was the case for the American port at Manila Bay.


After the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Board of Fortifications recommended that important harbors be fortified. This led to the development of defenses on several islands at the mouth of Manila and Subic Bays. One of these was El Fraile Island which would later become Fort Drum, America’s concrete battleship.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

While other islands were fortified by more conventional means, the plans for El Fraile were much more extensive. Construction began in 1909 and completed by 1916. What was originally a rocky outcropping of an island was excavated down to the waterline. From there, the concrete battleship began to take shape.

The new structure was 350 feet long and 144 feet at the widest point. The exterior walls of the fortification were constructed of reinforced concrete 25 to 36 feet thick and rising 40 feet above the water. The top deck of the structure was reinforced concrete 20 feet thick that mounted two turrets containing twin fourteen inch guns and a 60 foot fire control tower to complete the battleship look.

The fort’s armament was rounded out by dual six-inch guns in armored casemates on each side as well as three-inch anti-aircraft guns mounted on the top deck. The fort’s 240 officers and enlisted lived deep inside the impregnable walls of the concrete ship along with all the stores they would need to hold out against a siege.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

That siege came after the Japanese invaded the Philippines in December 1941. In January 1942, the Japanese began to target Fort Drum and the rest of the harbor defenses from the air and by February the concrete battleship was in range of Japanese artillery on shore. The fort endured bombing and shelling, destroying the anti-aircraft batteries, temporarily disabling a six-inch gun, damaging its casemate and searchlight, chipping away large chunks of concrete.

The whole time Fort Drum was under attack, it returned fire against the Japanese. The fort’s resistance continued even after the fall of Bataan on April 10, 1942 left Fort Drum and the other islands of the harbor defense as the last American forces in the Philippines. The guns of the concrete battleship dealt serious blows to Japanese forces assaulting the island of Corregidor, inflicting heavy casualties.

Unfortunately for the men of E battery, 59th Coastal Artillery, their efforts were not enough to halt the Japanese onslaught as General Wainwright made the decision to surrender the remaining U.S. forces in the Philippines. However, the fort was never taken and its main guns were still firing five minutes before the surrender was announced.

After capturing the Philippines, the Japanese manned all former American positions, including the concrete battleship. Eventually, American forces recaptured Manila and a daring assault by the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment U.S. forces recaptured Corregidor as well. That left Fort Drum once again as the last bastion of resistance. However, unlike the Americans some three years earlier, the Japanese had no intention of surrendering. This combined with the fact that the Americans had designed the fort to resist all manner of bombings and gunfire meant they would have to find another way to remove the defenders.

Unfortunately for the Japanese manning the concrete battleship, the idea the Americans came up with was rather grisly. The troops poured a mixture of two parts diesel oil and one part gasoline into the fort, lit it, and burned the defenders alive. The fire burned for several days afterwards but all the defenses of the harbor had been cleared of Japanese. The fort has never been reoccupied and still stands like a ghost ship in Manila Bay to this day.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

MIGHTY TRENDING

Airborne soldiers host podcast on Army’s Cold War history

Soldiers assigned to the XVIII Airborne Corps board a C-130 Hercules from the Rhode Island Air National Guard before an Airborne operation at Sicily Drop Zone on Fort Bragg, N.C., Feb. 23, 2017. (U.S. Army Photo by Hubert D. Delany III/22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)ShareTweetEmailWhatsApp

The XVIII Airborne Corps, stationed out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, has released the first episode of its new podcast, “The Doomsday Clock.” “The Doomsday Clock” features stories from the U.S. Army’s Cold War history from the close of World War II in 1945 through the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

The podcast will include American and British historians as special guests each week. Some of the guests include:

  • Joe Scarborough, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and author of the 2020 book “Saving Freedom: Truman, the Cold War, and the Fight for Western Civilization”;
  • Sir Max Hastings, British journalist, historian, and award-winning author;
  • American filmmaker Ken Burns;
  • Historian H.W. Brands;
  • Historian A.J. Bacevich;
  • Podcast legend Dan Carlin;
  • Actor Matthew Broderick, star of the 1983 film “War Games,” which influenced President Reagan’s national security policy.
  • Michael Dobbs, historian and author of the 2009 book “One Minute to Minute: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War.”

Col. Joe Buccino is the host of “The Doomsday Clock” podcast. He is also the XVIII Airborne Corps historian.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business
The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

“Think of this as part of an ongoing conversation with really cool, interesting historians about a fascinating period in our history,” Col. Buccino said in a press release.

“This is a glimpse into the bizarre and the fantastic. This is very serious material; some of it’s dark and apocalyptic, but some of the anecdotes are so strange it’s almost humorous.”

The U.S. Army’s XVIII Airborne Corps is also known as “America’s Contingency Corps.” They are responsible for rapid deployments on short notice to any area of operations or joint area of operations to support large-scale combat operations. They are based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and are currently commanded by Lt. Gen. Michael E. Kurilla.

In discussing why the XVIII Airborne Corps decided to start the podcast, host Col. Buccino said, “People crave stories … These are some of the best stories told by some of the best storytellers of our time.”

“The Doomsday Clock” podcast can be found on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Podbean. 

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

You can follow the XVIII Airborne Corps on Twitter at @18airbornecorps and on Facebook at @XVIII.Airborne.Corps

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Air Force Academy and the experiment of enlisted faculty

Enlisted airmen have been part of the Air Force Academy in both instructor and mentor positions. But now they have a chance to be considered full time accredited faculty teachers.

The Air Force Academy was established in April 1954 after several years of consideration. Long before the Air Force was its own branch of the military, senior leadership argued they needed a school that would be directly focused on the war in the air – they needed a place to train future airmen.


In 1948, a year after the formal establishment of the Air Force, the Stearns-Eisenhower Board was formed to study existing military academies. They concluded that the Air Force absolutely needed its own school and that at least 40 percent of all future officers should be service academy graduates.

It took seven years for leadership to reach a consensus on site location and to receive funding. In 1955, construction began on the Academy in Colorado Springs. That same year, the first class of 306 officers were sworn-in at a temporary site – Lowry Air Force Base in nearby Denver, Colorado. Lt. Gen. Hubert R. Harmon was recalled from retirement by President Eisenhower to become the Academy’s first superintendent.

Women were allowed to enter the Academy beginning in 1975, and the first women cadets graduated in 1980. That flagship-class included the Academy’s first woman, who would later be superintendent, Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson. To date, the Air Force Academy has graduated more than 50,000 officers.

Since its inception, the Air Force Academy has provided a corps of officers dedicated to upholding the standards of their profession and of the Air Force. In turn, the Academy offers cadets the right kind of access to a diverse and varied faculty. Now that faculty is even more diverse than ever.

After its first year, the Air Force Academy says that having noncommissioned officers serve as faculty shows real promise, but there needs to be further evaluation to decide if it’s worth keeping. The Academy is the first service academy that features enlisted service members as official faculty.

A report issued this summer, written by Chief Master Sgt. Sean Milligan and Senior Master Sgts. Ecaterina Garcia and Gloria Kuzmicki was released a year after the test pilot began. The Air Force reports that it will need several more years to explore the sustainability of the program, but initial findings are very promising – both for cadets and for the current faculty on staff.

The four enlisted Academic instructors, including the Chief mentioned above MSgt. Milligan, Senior MSgt. Garcia and Kuznicki, along with Senior MSgt. William Baez. Milligan manages the enlisted instructors and teaches part-time in the management department. Garcia teaches military strategy studies, Kuzmicki teaches leadership and behavior science, and Baez teaches intro statistics.

In a statement to Air Force Times, Milligan said that the program proves that the Air Force can select and hire appropriately qualified enlisted instructors to help increase faculty diversity. He went on to say that it seems like having an enlisted faculty component helps to have a positive effect on the cadets. The diversified faculty might also help cadets have a more collaborative learning environment, leading to greater career growth – not to mention significant experience with enlisted airmen.

The Air Force Academy created three enlisted teaching positions for the senior noncommissioned officers, all of whom hold advanced degrees.

After being hired, each instructor receives their department assignment and teaches classes relevant to their subjects of expertise. This initiative’s main goal is to provide enlisted airmen who have advanced degrees with a chance to put their education to work while continuing to serve the Air Force.

The report concludes that cadets will ultimately be better served with a more diverse staff. It still remains to be seen how the program will continue to unfold, but it seems clear the Air Force is committed to providing the right proving ground for America’s next generation of Air Force officers.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Veterans team up in zombie comedy ‘The Dead Don’t Die’

Marine veteran Adam Driver and Navy veteran Sturgill Simpson are joined by a host of stars in director Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die,” out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

Jarmusch is an arthouse director best known for underground hits like “Mystery Train,” “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Broken Flowers” and the recent vampire satire “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Actors love working with him, and he’s managed to also cast Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, Iggy Pop, teen star Selena Gomez and up-and-comer Austin Butler (who shined this summer in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and will next play Army veteran Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic).


That’s a lot of star power for an incredibly dry and low-key comedy about how small-town cops deal with a zombie invasion. The script beats its jokes into the ground, and how funny you find the movie is 100% dependent on how much you like that kind of humor.

YouTube

www.youtube.com

There’s no one better than Driver to deliver a deadpan joke, and he’s hilarious as the dim deputy who works for Murray’s police chief. Not much happens in Centerville (“A Nice Place to Live,” promises the sign on the edge of town) and Driver’s Officer Ronnie Peterson has obviously had plenty of time to read up on the particulars of zombie invasions.

Driver previously worked with Jarmusch on “Paterson,” a character study about a New Jersey bus driver. It focused on the small details of his life and is a celebration of working-class life. It’s slow but beautiful. And it’s the best performance of Driver’s career to date. (You can stream it if you’ve got Amazon Prime.)

The former Marine is having a huge year. He was Oscar-nominated for his outstanding performance in Spike Lee’s 2018 movie “BlackKklansman.” Driver is again on Oscar watch lists as he stars in “The Report,” an upcoming film in which his character leads an investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program. Finally, he repeats his role as Kylo Ren in this December’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the long-promised end to the original nine-movie Star Wars saga.

Sturgill Simpson – The Dead Don’t Die [Official Video]

www.youtube.com

Simpson wrote and recorded the theme song for “The Dead Don’t Die.” It’s a hard-core honky-tonk country song, and it’s constantly playing in the background during the movie, either on the radio or from a bootleg CD purchased from the town’s comic book shop. One of the movie’s running jokes is that one of the characters mentions the song and artist every time it’s heard in the movie. “Sturgill Simpson’s ‘The Dead Don’t Die'” is most definitely the phrase heard most often in the movie. Simpson also appears briefly as a guitar-dragging zombie.

Ironically, “The Dead Don’t Die” sounds like the throwback country hit that fans of his breakthrough 2014 album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” have long wanted to hear. Simpson won a Grammy for Best Country Album and was nominated for Best Album with the 2016 followup “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.”

SOUND & FURY (OFFICIAL TRAILER)

www.youtube.com

Simspon resumes his music career this Friday with the release of “Sound Fury,” an unapologetic rock album that leaves country music behind, possibly for good. A huge weekend profile in The New York Times suggests that Simpson became disillusioned with Nashville and unhappy with his own country material.

He served in Japan during his Navy stint and developed a love for the country’s manga (comics) and anime (animated films). He completed “Sound Fury” a couple of years ago and decided that he wanted anime films to go along with each song. Simpson enlisted top Japanese artists and sold the finished film to Netflix, where it will premiere Sept. 27, 2019, alongside the LP’s release.

Simpson is obviously both a restless soul and an ornery cuss. Will his country music fans follow him down this new path? It’s a huge and daring risk, one that doesn’t really have a parallel in country, rock, RB or pop music history.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

He also filmed a part in the satirical action movie “The Hunt,” which was also scheduled for theatrical release this weekend before the studio freaked out about recent mass shootings and pulled the movie from release. Will we ever see “The Hunt”? It seems likely that it’ll go straight to home video sometime next year, after everyone forgets the controversy.

Sept. 27, 2019’s still a big day for Sturgill with the album and Netflix film. In the meantime, fans of his earlier music should check out “The Dead Don’t Die” to hear those sweet country western sounds that made him famous.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why the returned Korean War troops were draped in a UN flag

This past week, the 65th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement, saw the return of 55 troops’ remains by the North Koreans to the United States. A U.S. Air Force C-17 flew into Wonsan, North Korea, to pick up the remains before returning them to Osan Air Base, South Korea.

The troops who received the remains wore white gloves and dress uniforms. The remains of the deceased were placed in boxes and each box was draped in the United Nations’ flag — not Old Glory. Now, before you get up in arms about it, know that there’s a good reason for using the UN flag.


The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

And so began the first of many wars between Capitalism and Communism.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. P. McDonald)

The Korean War began on June 25th, 1950, when the North sent troops south of the 38th parallel. Shortly after the invasion, the newly-formed United Nations unanimously opposed the actions of North Korea.

The Soviet Union would’ve cast a dissenting vote if they hadn’t been boycotting participation in the United Nations for allowing the Republic of China (otherwise known as Taiwan) into the security council instead of the People’s Republic of China (communist mainland China). Instead, the Soviets and the communist Chinese backed the fledgling communist North Korea against the United Nations-backed South Korea.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

The South Korean loss of life totaled 227,800 — quadruple every other nation combined.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Brian Gibbons)

Historically speaking, the United States was not alone in fighting the communists. Nearly every UN signatory nation gave troops to the cause. While America had sent in 302,483, the United Kingdom sent 14,198, Canada sent 6,146, Australia sent 2,282, Ethiopia sent 1,271, Colombia sent 1,068 — the list continues.

South Korea contributed almost doubled the amount of every other nation combined at 602,902, which doesn’t include the unknown number of resistance fighters who participated but weren’t enlisted. These numbers are astounding for conflict often called “the Forgotten War.”

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

Since then, nothing has really changed except the regimes.

United Nations troops fought en masse against the communist aggressors. The North had pushed the South to the brink, reaching the southern coastal city of Pusan by late August 1950. When United Nations forces entered the conflict at the battle of Inchon, the tides shifted. By late October, the battle lines had moved past Pyongyang, North Korea, and neared the Chinese border in the northwest.

It wasn’t until Chinese reinforcements showed up that the war was pushed back to where it all started — near the 38th parallel. These massive shifts in held territory meant that the dead from both sides of the conflict were scattered across the Korean Peninsula by the time the armistice was signed on July 27th, 1953.

The VA can’t track how much time employees spend on union business

North Korea hasn’t been much help as even they don’t always know which battle the remains were from. Which, you know, could have at least been a start.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kelsey Tucker)

The first repatriation of remains happened directly after the war, on September 1st, 1954, in what was called Operation Glory. Each side agreed to search far and wide for remains until the operation’s end, nearly two months later, on October 30th. 13,528 North Korean dead were returned and the United Nations received 4,167 — but these numbers were only a portion of the unaccounted-for lives. America alone is still missing over 5,300 troops. South Koreans and UN allies are missing even more.

Over the years, many more remains were found and repatriated. Throughout the process, South Korea was fairly accurate in the labeling and categorizing of remains. North Korea, however, was not. To date, one of the only written record of Allied lives lost behind enemy lines comes from a secret list, penned by Private First Class Johnnie Johnson.

His list — a list he risked his life to create while imprisoned — identified 496 American troops who had died in a North Korean prisoner-of-war camp. Though this list has been the basis for some identifications, it accounts for just one-fourteenth of American missing fallen.

Today, the names, nationalities, and service records of a still-unknown number of fallen troops have been lost to time.

Of the 55 remains transferred this week at Wonsan, none have been identified. There is no way of knowing who that troop was, which country they were from, or, to some degree, if they were even enlisted at all. Until they are properly identified, they will be covered by the United Nations’ flag to show respect, regardless of which nation they served.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The Navy is pursuing stealthier torpedoes for submarines

Navy weapons developers are seeking a high-tech, longer range, and more lethal submarine-launched heavyweight Mk 48 that can better destroy enemy ships, submarines, and small boats, service officials said.

The service has issued a solicitation to industry, asking for proposals and information related to pursuing new and upgraded Mk 48 torpedo control systems, guidance, sonar, and navigational technology.

“The Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) torpedo is a heavyweight acoustic-homing torpedo with sophisticated sonar, all-digital guidance and control systems, digital fusing systems, and propulsion improvements,” William Couch, Naval Sea Systems Command spokesman, told Warrior Maven in early 2018.


Naturally, having a functional and more high-tech lethal torpedo affords the Navy an opportunity to hit enemies more effectively and at further standoff ranges and therefore better compete with more fully emerging undersea rivals such as Russia and China.

The Mk 48 heavyweight torpedo is used by all classes of U.S. Navy submarines as their anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare weapon, including the Virginia class and the future Columbia class, Couch added.

A Mk 48 torpedo is 21 inches in diameter and weighs 3,520 pounds; it can destroy targets at ranges out to five miles and travels at speeds greater than 28 knots. The weapon can operate at depths greater than 1,200 feet and fires a 650-pound high-explosive warhead, available Navy and Lockheed data states.

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Mk-48 ADCAP torpedo aboard USS Louisville.

Navy efforts to pursue new torpedo technologies are happening alongside a concurrent effort to upgrade the existing arsenal.

For several years now, the Navy has been strengthening its developmental emphasis upon the Mk 48 as a way to address its aging arsenal. The service restarted production of the Mk 48 torpedo mod 7 in 2016.

An earlier version, the Mk 48 Mod 6, has been operational since 1997 and the more recent Mod 7 has been in service since 2006.

Lockheed Martin has been working on upgrades to the Mk 48 torpedo Mod 6 and Mod 7, which consist of adjustments to the guidance control box, broadband sonar acoustic receiver, and amplifier components.

“The latest version of the Mk 48 ADCAP (advanced capability) is the mod 7 Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System. The Mk 48 ADCAP mod 7 CBASS torpedo is the result of a Joint Development Program with the Royal Australian Navy and achieved initial operational capability in 2006,” Couch said.

With Common Broadband Advanced Sonar System, or CBASS, electronics to go into the nose of the weapon as part of the guidance section, Lockheed and Navy developers explained.

CBASS technology provides streamlined targeting, quieter propulsion technologies, and an ability to operate with improved effectiveness in both shallow and deep water. Also, the Mod 7 decreases vulnerability to enemy countermeasures and allows the torpedo to transmit and receive over a wider frequency band, Lockheed and Navy developers say.

The new technology also involves adjustments to the electronic circuitry to allow the torpedo to better operate in its undersea environment.

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Mk-48 ADCAP torpedo was loaded into USS California.

Modifications to the weapon have improved the acoustic receiver, replaced the guidance-and-control hardware with updated technology, increased memory, and improved processor throughput to handle the expanded software demands required to improve torpedo performance against evolving threats, according to Navy data on the weapon.

Improved propulsion, quieting technology, targeting systems, and range enhancements naturally bring a substantial tactical advantage to Navy undersea combat operations. Attack submarines are often able to operate closer to enemy targets and coastline undetected, reaching areas typically inaccessible to deeper draft surface ships. Such an improvement would also, quite possibly, enable attack submarines to better support littoral surface platforms such as the flat-bottomed Littoral Combat Ships. Working in tandem with LCS anti-submarine and surface warfare systems, attack submarines with a more capable torpedo could better identify and attack enemy targets near coastal areas and shallow water enemy locations.

A Military Analysis Network report from the Federation of American Scientists further specifies that the torpedo uses a conventional, high-explosive warhead.

“The MK 48 is propelled by a piston engine with twin, contra-rotating propellers in a pump jet or shrouded configuration. The engine uses a liquid monopropellant fuel,” the FAS analysis states.

Submarine operators are able to initially guide the torpedo toward its target as it leaves the launch tube, using a thin wire designed to establish and electronic link between the submarine and torpedo, the information says.

“This helps the torpedo avoid decoys and jamming devices that might be deployed by the target. The wire is severed and the torpedo’s high-powered active/passive sonar guides the torpedo during the final attack,” FAS writes.

In early 2018, Lockheed Martin Sippican was awarded a new deal to work on guidance and control technology on front end of the torpedo, and SAIC was awarded the contract for the afterbody and propulsion section, Couch explained.

The Mk 48, which is a heavy weapon launched under the surface, is quite different than surface launched, lightweight Mk 54 torpedoes fired from helicopters, aircraft and surface ships.

The Navy’s Mk 48 torpedo is also in service with Australia, Canada, Brazil, and The Netherlands.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Aegis shore defenses will protect the US from missile threats

Defense Secretary James Mattis told lawmakers that the emerging Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense system, established for Poland and Romania, could also now possibly help protect U.S. Pacific theater assets and allies from possible Chinese or North Korean attacks.


“We are looking at Aegis Ashore to protect our Pacific areas,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee, suggesting a fixed site could augment existing BMD-capable Navy ships on patrol in the region.

Aegis Ashore technology builds upon the success of Aegis missile defense at-sea by establishing land sites that can detect and destroy incoming enemy ballistic missile attacks. An Aegis Ashore site became operational in Romania in 2015, and another is slated to stand up in Poland sometime later this year. The system uses Aegis radar in tandem with SM-3 interceptor missiles to track and destroy ballistic missile attacks.

Adding a land-based Aegis BMD technology brings a potential range and target envelope advantage, as it could defend areas less reachable to Navy ships. While ship-fired Aegis BMD does have quite a range and is able to destroy approaching threats from beyond the earth’s atmosphere, a land site could naturally, in some circumstances, preclude a need for Aegis BMD capable ships from needing to patrol certain areas at certain times.

 

(USNI News Video | YouTube)

Thus far, going back to the Pentagon’s previously established European Phased Adaptive Approach Aegis Ashore has primarily been oriented toward protecting the European continent from potential future ballistic missile threats such as Russia and Iran, among others. Secretary Mattis is now suggesting the shore-based SM-3 interceptors could migrate to Aegis as a compliment to the existing Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon now protecting the region.

The prospect for Aegis Ashore in the Pacific emerged during a HASC hearing on the Pentagon’s newly released Nuclear Posture Review when Guam Congresswoman Rep. Madeleine Bordallo asked Mattis about plans to protect assets based in Guam such as B-2, B-52 and B-1 bombers.

“Guam holds vital strategic bases to aid our defense, and in your strategy, you call for investment in layered missile defense,” Bordallo said.

Bordallo’s concern resonates alongside of the consistently discussed threat that North Korean short and intermediate range ballistic missiles pose to the region; it is often cited as a reason to hesitate about striking North Korea given the knowledge that the North would be expected to immediately fire its arsenal of missiles toward South Korea and Guam.

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The Aegis Ashore Weapon System launched an SM-3 Block IB guided missile from the land-based Vertical Launch System during a Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Navy test from Kauai, Hawaii. (DoD photo by Chris Szkrybalo)

It was in response to this that Mattis raised the prospect of bringing Aegis Ashore to the Pacific to, along with THAAD and Navy Aegis BMD ships, provide the layered defense system Bordallo referred to.

Missile Defense Agency developers explain that the Aegis Ashore program, which has been successful thus far, is preparing to fire a longer-range and more advanced SM-3 IIA missile for the first time in coming months.

A follow on to the SM-3, the SM-3 IIA is a larger and more high-tech interceptor missile able to destroy threatening targets at longer ranges; the weapon, being developed as part of a cooperative arrangement between the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and Japan, is designed to work in tandem with Aegis radar systems to track and destroy approaching enemy missiles – by knocking them out of the sky.

Aegis radar works by sending electromagnetic “pings” into space to identify the location and trajectory of an approaching missile threat – and then works with an integrated fire control system to guide the SM-3 interceptor to its target, with the intent of destroying it or knocking it out of the sky.

At sea, integrated technologies and electronics on the ship, including fire control systems, link information from the Aegis radar with a ship’s vertical launch tubes able to fire out SM-3 interceptor missiles.

Also Read: The Aegis Combat System is successfully plucking enemy missiles out of the sky

In existence since 2004, Aegis BMD is now operating on 28 Navy ships and with a number of allied nations. U.S. allies with Aegis capability include the Japan Self Defense Forces, Spanish Navy, the South Korean Navy, the Royal Australian Navy, Italy, Denmark and others, MDA officials said.

Using various guidance technologies, the SM-3 flies up into space to destroy approaching ballistic missile threats. The SM-3 missile uses an enhanced two-color infrared seeker and an upgraded steering and propulsion capability, Raytheon weapons developers have told Warrior Maven. These technologies use short bursts of precision propulsion to direct the missile toward incoming targets, they added.

A Missile Defense Agency official told Warrior Maven that “the SM-3 Block IIA missile is a larger version of the SM-3 IB in terms of boosters and the kinetic warhead, which allows for increased operating time. The second and third stage boosters on the SM-IIA are 21″ in diameter, allowing for longer flight times and engagements of threats higher in the exo-atmosphere.”

The Pentagon is hoping to increase production quantities of the SM-3 IIA as well; they are waiting to see whether Congress succeeds in allocating additional funding for the missiles.

SM-3 IIA Technology

Now that it is being prepared for Aegis Ashore, it seems clear that a longer-range SM-3 IIA weapon could prove relevant in any defense against North Korean or Chinese ballistic missile attacks. The Missile Defense Agency and Raytheon have configured the emerging SM-3 IIA missile with a more “sensitive” seeker and software designed to accommodate new threat information.

Amy Cohen, SM-3 Program Director, told Warrior Maven in an interview a few weeks ago that the SM-3 IIA program is on track.

“We’ve also brought in some capability advancements into our kinetic warhead, so we now have higher sensitivity,” Cohen explained.

By adding new software, industry developers create the technical framework necessary to upgrade or “reprogram” new threat information into the missile over time, Cohen explained.

“We can improve the performance through software algorithms. We are not only able to increase the threat space but bring in new threats as they emerge through software upgrades,” Cohen added. “We work with the MDA to define how we’re going to make improvements and what threats we want to incorporate.”

The SM-3 IIA also incorporates sensor technology improvements designed to enable the missile to see or detect targets farther into space, developers explained.

 

(LockheedMartinVideos | YouTube)

The SM-3 is a kinetic energy warhead able to travel at more than 600 miles per hour; it carries no explosive, but instead relies on the sheer force of impact and collision to destroy an enemy target. While many details of the advanced seeker are not available, Cohen did say it includes infrared technology.

“We can see a threat that we are engaging much sooner. As soon as we open our eyes, we can see threats much earlier and we have the ability to track them. This helps us with how we need to maneuver the kinetic warhead to ensure that we have a kinetic engagement with the threats that we are flying against,” Cohen added.

The Aegis ashore deckhouse in Romania was engineered with Aegis BMD Weapons System 5.0 — an integrated suite of technologies which provide multi-mission signal processing capability, Lockheed officials said.

For instance, the multi-mode signal processor provides the ability to simultaneously track air and cruise missile threats as well as ballistic missile threats, officials added.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US extends its Pacific Command to include India

On May 30, 2018, during a change-of-command ceremony for US Pacific Command, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis announced that the command will change its name to US Indo-Pacific Command to better reflect what he described as linkages and values in the region.

“Relationships with our Pacific and Indian Ocean allies and partners have proven critical to maintaining regional stability,” Mattis said in prepared remarks during the ceremony, which marked Adm. Phil Davidson’s assumption of command from Adm. Harry Harris, who will take over as US ambassador to South Korea.

“We stand by our partners and support their sovereign decisions, because all nations large and small are essential to the region if we’re to sustain stability in ocean areas critical to global peace,” Mattis added. “Further, in recognition of increasing stability [between] the Indian and Pacific Oceans, today we rename the US Pacific Command to US Indo-Pacific Command. Over many decades this command has repeated adapted to changing circumstance, and today carries that legacy forward as America focuses west.”

US Pacific Command has about 375,000 civilian and military personnel assigned to it. It covers more of the world than any of the five over geographic combatant commands and shares a border with each of its counterparts.

The renaming does not mean more resources will be assigned to the command, and Abraham Denmark, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia under President Barack Obama, said the change would be “ultimately a symbolic act” unless the US pursues more investment and initiatives in the region.


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The area of responsibility for US Pacific Command, now known as US Indo-Pacific Command.
(U.S. Defense Department)

The change is meant to underscore the US’s growing military relationship with India, with whom the US has worked to counter growing Chinese influence in the region.


Davidson, the incoming head of the command, said during his confirmation hearing in April 2018, that the US-India relationship “is potentially the most historic opportunity we have in the 21st century, and I intend to pursue that quite rigorously.”

The phrase “Indo-Pacific” is not new in US foreign-policy discussions, but it has been embraced by President Donald Trump as a way to dilute China’s primacy by expanding the conception of the region.

“I don’t think that’s just a ploy by the US and others. I think it’s a reflection of reality,” Rory Medcalf, the head of the national security college at Australian National University who has written about the term, told Politico in 2017.

Some countries in Asia have grown concerned about Trump, believing his stated policy goals could mean a reduced US presence in the region at a time when China is seeking to expand its influence. (Some have sought alternatives to partnering with the US for defense.)

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President Donald Trump

The US, for its part, has continued to try to counter Beijing. During his hearing in April 2018, Davidson told senators that China has a particular focus on undersea warfare and was “stealing [US] technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage.”

China has also used its One Belt, One Road initiative to grow its sway in Asia and across the Pacific, offering loans and financing for an array of infrastructure and other development programs. Beijing has been criticized for using those economic relationships to gain leverage over smaller countries.

US Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said in March 2018, that China was “weaponizing capital” around the globe.

“Americans’ vision is shared by most nations in the region, where every state’s sovereignty is respected, no matter its size, and it’s a region open to investment in free, fair, and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion,” Mattis said May 30, 2018. “For the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

A day in the life of a military working dog

From detecting improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan to being on the front lines during World War I, military working dogs have been used to help service members win battles for generations. The same holds true today, as Cpl. Cody Hebert, military working dog handler, 2nd Law Enforcement Battalion and his military working dog, Ziggy, give us a look into their everyday lives.

“We start our daily duties when we come in every morning,” Hebert said. “Those duties include cleaning out the kennels and doing any tasks like preparing for any type of training that we might be doing that day.”

When it comes to training, there can be different variations that can influence the handlers and the dogs in order to become mission ready.


“Just like us, the dogs have training jackets for everything that they learn,” Herbert said. “This includes commands they know, training they have done, what they are good and bad at and even which handlers had them in the past.”

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U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Casey Deskins, with the Military Police Department at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay, plays with Ronnie, his military working dog partner.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Cohen A. Young)

For a MWD handler, it is important to know the history of who and what the dog knows and how they are currently performing. Each handler creates a special bond with their dog to instill confidence in both the dog and themselves.
“When you and your dog deploy, there should be confidence in everything you do,” Herbert said. “If you’re on patrol with an explosive detector dog, not only do you have to trust to follow him, but the unit also has to be able to trust you and your dog because they are going to follow every step that you take.”

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Cpl. Sean Grady, a dog handler and pointman with Echo Company, 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, and Ace, an improvised explosive device detection dog, pause for a break while sweeping a chokepoint during a patrol.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez)

Training can take on different types of aspects between the dogs and their handlers. Training can involve doing an agility course to recreate real life situations, practicing commands for listening and direction and physical training to build strength and stamina.

“We have the opportunity to spend time with the dogs after hours almost anytime,” Hebert said. “We’re given the chance to build a bond and reward the dogs for all that they do. If we are willing to do that, the dogs are willing to work with us by listening to the commands while working for longer periods of time as well.”

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Lance Cpl. Jeremy D. Angenend, combat tracker handler, Military Police, III Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Okinawa, Japan, and his dog Fito play around at Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan.

The best way for the dogs to learn is to let them know that they are getting rewarded by either a ball or positivity and sometimes even belly rubs from their handlers.

“These dogs get taken care of like us,” Hebert said. “They get attention, exercise, training and medical care. As handlers, we’re trained to know the information just like how the dogs know what they are looking and listening for.”
A MWD’s average military career is eight years before it can retire.

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Lance Cpl. Joseph Nunez from Burbank, Calif., interacts with Viky, a U.S. Marine Corps improvised explosive device detection dog, after searching a compound while conducting counter-insurgency operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 17, 2013.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Alejandro Pena)

“It just depends on the dog for when it retires,” Hebert said. “Most of the time they retire because of medical reasons. Going full speed and biting constantly puts a lot of strain on their bodies. Just like us, as the dogs get older their bodies aren’t able to do as much.”

Whenever a dog retires from the service, they have a chance to be adopted by their handlers.

Whether a MWD is spending time with its handler or training to protect Marines, they will always be rewarded for doing their job in every clime and place.