The VA might actually be getting its act together - We Are The Mighty
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The VA might actually be getting its act together

Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.


Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.

The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.

The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.

“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.

“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”

The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
Or her widow, Mr. President. Or her widow. (Photo: Veterans Affairs)

Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.

The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.

Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.

“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”

One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.

“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.

“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.

McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.

The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.

Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.

However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.

They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.

It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.

Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.

The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.

“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“You walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the country, there is something that looks and feels very familiar wherever you go.”

Also read: Starbucks donated free coffee to every US service member in Afghanistan

One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.

“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.

In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.

Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.

The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.

“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.

“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”

The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.

Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.

The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.

That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.

“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.

“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.

The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.

In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.

The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.

First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
We just wanna see more vets smiling. (Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.

All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.

Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.

San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.

Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.

Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.

Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”

“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”

They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.

Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.

The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.

The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”

“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”

MIGHTY MONEY

Army reports lack of training as biggest setback to readiness

Earlier this month, the Army’s top general in charge of supplying units with troops blamed a lack of readiness on limited time for training, adding that lack of funding isn’t the biggest challenge.


Head of Army Forces Command Gen. Robert Abrams said the lack of training stems from lawmakers making policy that commits the service to engagements around the world without an eye toward keeping the force healthy and trained up.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
U.S. Soldiers of Rider Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Brigade record information while conducting a brief during exercise Combined Resolve VII at the U.S. Army’s Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels Germany, Sept. 11, 2016. The exercise is designed to train the Army’s regionally allocated forces to the U.S. European Command. Combined Resolve VII includes more than 3,500 participants from 16 NATO and European partner nations. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Caleb Foreman)

Abrams explained that soldiers were expected to deploy more and have less time home because of downsizing.

“Our goal has always been … one month gone, two months back,” Abrams said, adding that the Army is currently experiencing a ratio of “deploy-to-dwell” that trends closer to one month gone, one month back.

“Our commitments worldwide across the globe in support of our combatant commanders remains at a very high level while we continue to simultaneously downsize the total force,” Abrams told an audience at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference in Washington.

“Our number one constraint for training is time available.”

Recent budget cuts have forced the Army to reduce its total active duty soldiers to 450,000 while still meeting its obligations worldwide. As a result, the operational tempo for soldiers is higher and more demanding — ultimately requiring soldiers to train more, for longer periods of time, in addition to more and longer deployments, Army officials say.

“The impact of non-standard missions continues to have a degrading effect across our force in being able to sustain proficiency in combined arms maneuver,” Abrams said.

Because soldiers are experiencing a minimal deploy-to-dwell time, there isn’t enough time for soldiers to maintain the training the Army requires.

“We struggle today to maintain and meet Department of the Army standards in our critical combat fleets,” Abrams explained before highlighting unmet requirements within the Army’s aviation and ground fleets. He was quick to explain that in aviation in particular, the problems do not lie with the aviators. The problem stems, instead, with plans to restructure the way the Army finances those fleets, impacting training requirements, upkeep on aircraft, and overall readiness of aviators.

While Abrams was very careful not to blame funding shortfalls for the readiness issues facing the Army, he did not hesitate to blame the readiness of the National Guard in particular on lack of money.

“We’ve dug ourselves this hole because of funding,” Abrams said.

Despite the tough times, Abrams said the Army has made tremendous strides in the last year in terms of readiness and overall capabilities.

“Last year at this exact forum, one of underlying themes was that as an army in terms of our joint war-fighting capabilities, we were pretty rusty,” he said. “I’m happy to report today that we have made progress in our ability.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Coast Guard thinks it can only stop 25 percent of cocaine

During fiscal year 2018, which ended Sept. 30, 2018, the US Coast Guard intercepted just over 458,000 pounds of cocaine. That was the second most in a year on record, behind fiscal year 2017, when 493,000 pounds were seized, which topped the previous record of 443,000 pounds in fiscal year 2016.

“The Coast Guard has interdicted more than … 1.3 million pounds of illicit cocaine in the last three years, and that rolls up to be about $18 billion of wholesale value on American streets,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said Nov. 15, 2018, aboard the cutter James, which was offloading nearly 38,000 pounds of cocaine seized in the eastern Pacific Ocean.


The pursuit of traffickers on the high seas, working with other US agencies and international partners, was part of what Schultz described as a “push-out-the-border strategy” to target the smuggling process at the point when the loads were the largest and most vulnerable.

The VA might actually be getting its act together

US Coast Guardsmen board a narco sub as part of a drug seizure in early September 2016.

(US Coast Guard photo)

“We’re pushing our land border 1,500 miles deep into the ocean here a little bit, and that’s where we find the success taking large loads of cocaine down at sea,” Shultz said aboard the James, which seized more than 19,000 pounds of the cocaine offloaded on Nov. 15, 2018.

“When we take down drugs at sea it reduces the violence. It maximizes the impact. When these loads land in Mexico, in Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, they get distributed into very small loads, very hard to detect, and there’s associated violence,” he added.

But the Coast Guard can see much more than it can catch.

In the eastern Pacific Ocean, where about 85% of the cocaine smuggling between South America and the US takes place, “We have visibility on about 85% of that activity,” Schultz said. “Because of the capacity — the number of ships, the number of aircraft — [we act on] about 25% to 30% of that,” he added.

The VA might actually be getting its act together

A suspected smuggler, who jumped from his burning vessel, is pulled aboard an interceptor boat from the USS Zephyr by members of the US Coast Guard and Navy in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean on April 7, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

Schultz is not the first Coast Guard official to note the gap between what the service can see and what it can stop.

In September 2017, Adm. Charles Ray told senators that the service has “good intelligence on between 80% and 90% of these movements,” referring to trafficking in the eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean.

But “we only have the capacity to get after about 30% of those” shipments, added Ray, who is now the Coast Guard’s vice commandant.

The eastern Pacific Ocean from the west coast of South America to the Galapagos Islands and up to waters off western Mexico and the southwest US is an area about the size of the continental US, Ray said.

“On any given day we’ll have between six to 10 Coast Guard cutters down here,” he added. “If you imagine placing that on [an area the size of] the United States … it’s a capacity challenge.”

The VA might actually be getting its act together

(Adam Isacson / US Southern Command)

Schultz’s predecessor, now-retired Adm. Paul Zukunft, noted a similar gap.

The Coast Guard provides the “biggest bang for the buck,” Zukunft told The New York Times in summer 2017. “But our resources are limited.”

“As a result, we can’t catch all the drug smuggling we know about,” Zukunft added. “Just last year we had intelligence on nearly 580 possible shipments but couldn’t go intercept them because we didn’t have the ships or planes to go after them.”

Schultz acknowledged that with more resources the Coast Guard could stop more, but said the service was getting the most out of its assets and its partners — including the Defense and Homeland Security departments and other countries in the region.

“We have DoD support, we have partner-nation contributions … so it’s that team sport, but there is a conversation about capacity,” Schultz said. “More Coast Guard capability, more enablers like long-range surveillance airplanes and … we’d take more drugs off the water.”

“What I’m proud about is we’re putting every ounce of energy we’ve got into this fight.”

The VA might actually be getting its act together

The Coast Guard cutter James interdicts a low-profile vessel in the eastern Pacific Ocean, Oct. 22, 2018.

(US Coast Guard photo)

A ‘resurgence’

Booming cocaine production in Colombia has kept a steady flow of drugs heading north. Smugglers use a variety of vessels, from simple outboard boats to commercial fishing vessels. The more frequent appearance of low-profile vessels, often called narco subs, points to traffickers’ increasing sophistication.

The Coast Guard has said it caught a record six narco subs in fiscal year 2016, which ended in September 2016. In September 2017, the service said it had seen a “resurgence” of such vessels, catching seven of them since June that year.

“We’re seeing more of these low-profile vessels; 40-plus feet long … it rides on the surface, multiple outboard engines, moves 18, 22 knots … and they can carry large loads of contraband,” Schultz told Business Insider in 2018.

Narco subs can cost id=”listicle-2620799501″ million to million but can carry multiton loads of cocaine worth tens of millions of dollars in the US.

Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, estimated Colombian traffickers were building 100 narco subs a year and said the DEA believed at least 30% to 40% of drugs coming to the US were moving on those vessels, but authorities were likely only intercepting 5% of them.

The VA might actually be getting its act together

A Coast Guard Cutter Stratton boarding team investigates a self-propelled semi-submersible interdicted in international waters off the coast of Central America, July 19, 2015.

(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class LaNola Stone)

The Coast Guard’s own estimate indicates that it can block only a sliver of the narcotics coming to the US by sea.

Asked what was needed to address the flow of narcotics, Ray in late 2017 pointed to the offshore-patrol-cutter program, which the Coast Guard has said will bridge the gap between national-security cutters like the James, which patrol open ocean, and fast-response cutters, which patrol closer to shore.

The first offshore-patrol cutter isn’t scheduled to be delivered until 2021.

Coast Guard officials have touted the capabilities of national-security cutters, like the James, which were introduced in 2008 and of which six are in service.

But the other cutters that seized drugs offloaded by the James on Nov. 15, 2018, were, on average, 41 years old, “and are increasingly more difficult to maintain and more costly to operate” Claire Grady, the Homeland Security Department’s chief of management, said on Nov. 15, 2018.

“For the Coast Guard to remain always ready to combat transnational crime and conduct its 10 other statutory missions,” Grady added, “it’s imperative to recapitalize its aging fleet.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US to establish its first permanent military base in Israel

Israel and the U.S. inaugurated the first American military base on Israeli soil on September 18th, which will serve dozens of soldiers operating a missile defense system.


The move comes at a time of growing Israeli concerns about archenemy Iran’s development of long-range missiles. Together with the U.S., Israel has developed a multilayered system of defenses against everything from long-range guided missile attacks from Iran to crude rockets fired from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip.

The base’s opening is largely symbolic and isn’t expected to bring operational changes. But the Israeli military says that along with other measures, it sends a message of readiness to Israel’s enemies.

“It’s a message that says Israel is better prepared. It’s a message that says Israel is improving the response to threats,” said Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, the commander of Israel’s aerial defense.

The base is located within an existing Israeli air force base and will operate under Israeli military directives.

Israeli and U.S. military officials cut a ribbon at the base Monday, where the American and Israeli flags flew side by side and soldiers from both countries commingled.

Israel’s multi-tier missile defense system includes the Arrow, designed to intercept long-range ballistic missiles in the stratosphere with an eye on Iran, and Iron Dome, which defends against short-range rockets from the Gaza Strip. David’s Sling is meant to counter the type of medium-range missiles possessed by Iranian-backed Hezbollah militants.

Israel considers Iran to be its greatest threat, citing the country’s nuclear ambitions, its development of long-term missiles, hostile anti-Israel rhetoric and support for anti-Israel militant groups. Israel has grown increasingly concerned about Iran’s involvement in the civil war in neighboring Syria, where its troops are supporting President Bashar Assad.

Israel is worried that Iran and its proxy Hezbollah will establish a long-term presence in Syria near the Israeli border.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This company owns a private fleet of aerial refueling tankers

The fact that there are some private air forces out there flying fighters to train American (and other) pilots may be a surprise. But did you know that there’s also a company that built its own tanker fleet?


Omega Air Refueling has been around for nearly 20 years and claims to be the only company that does commercial aerial refueling. The company was formed in 1999 as a subsidiary of Flight International prior to becoming independent in 2004, and has flown over 5,000 refueling missions since its formation.

According to company reps at the 2017 AirSpaceCyber expo at National Harbor, Maryland, those 5,000 missions have included over 21,000 refueling “plugs” involving over 12 million gallons of fuel.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
The Omega 707 tanker. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

The first plane the company acquired was a Boeing 707-300 that used to fly for Pan Am. Since then, it acquired two other 707s (losing one in a 2012 crash), and a DC-10. The company has not only provided commercial aerial refueling services to the United States Navy, but it also has helped Australian and British forces make long-range deployments.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
Omega’s KDC-10. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

All of Omega’s tankers use the probe-and-drogue system of refueling. The 707s and the DC-10 trail drogues at the end of hoses. Planes equipped with a refueling probe then fly in, and plug the probe into the drogue to refuel. This can lead to close calls, like some that WATM reported on.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
An Omega 707 refuels the X-47B over the Atlantic Ocean. (US Navy photo)

The company’s planes were used to help certify the Navy’s X-47 unmanned combat air vehicle for mid-air refueling. In 2010, Omega helped to fill in when Airbus missed a deadline to deliver KC-30s to the Royal Australian Air Force (the company also turned to the United States Air Force).

The VA might actually be getting its act together
A plane comes in to refuel from Omega’s KDC-10. Note the drogue at the end of the fuel hose. (Omega Air Refueling photo)

Ironically, while the company was founded to help support the Navy and Marine Corps, many of its tanker pilots come from the United States Air Force, which operates KC-135 and KC-10 tankers.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One surviving veteran of the ‘Mighty 8th’ remembers WWII

Sitting in his favorite chair at home in Edgewater, Maryland, only a shadow box of medals and patches on the wall offer a glimpse into Staff Sgt. Louis R. Perrone’s eventful past.


The VA might actually be getting its act together
A shadow box belonging to Luis Perrone, a B-17 ball turret gunner with the 533rd Bomb Squadron during World War II, at his home in Edgewater, Maryland. He completed 32 bombing missions over western Europe, represented by the five bronze oak leaf clusters on the blue and orange Air Medal for meritorious achievement in aerial flight. (Photo courtesy of Bennie J. Davis III) 

At 19, he went to war, and now at 94, he’s the only living member of his 10-man bomber crew who flew missions over Germany during World War II as part of the Eighth Air Force.

Also read: These are Britain’s most controversial World War II vets

He wanted to sit in the cockpit as a pilot, but a failed depth perception test found him sitting underneath the plane as a ball turret gunner on the B-17 Flying Fortress.

But while his view of the ground may have changed, his view of the bomber never waivered.

“The B-17 was the best airplane ever built, ’cause it brought you home,'” he said. “We’ve come home on a wing and a prayer, sometimes you come in on two engines, sometimes two engines and a half of a wing, but you got home.”

Many never did, however, as between 1942 and 1945 flying bombing missions for the “Mighty 8th” proved to be the most dangerous occupation in the U.S. Army Air Forces. Airmen were asked to complete a 25-mission quota at a time when the life expectancy of a crew didn’t surpass six missions. Casualty rates for heavy bomber crews also reached as high as 89 percent.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
A B-17 Flying Fortress of the Army Air Forces during a bombing mission over western Europe.

During his time at RAF Ridgewell, England from 1943 – 1945 Perrone flew 32 missions with the 533rd Bomb Squadron at the height of the aerial campaigns against the Third Reich. He is credited with 3.5 kills from the ball turret.

“You’re by yourself and it’s an odd feeling (shooting someone down). It’s been so long ago, I can’t think of all the ins and outs. I prayed a lot, I can tell you that,” said Perrone. “War, it’s a young man’s game.”

The VA might actually be getting its act together
Airmen of the 381st Bomber Group at Royal Air Force Ridgewell in Essex, England, during World War II.

“War, it’s a young man’s game.”

According to Perrone, the amount of bombers in the air during missions was mind-boggling. Most missions involved hundreds of B-17 and B-24 Liberator bombers targeting ball-bearing plants, rail yards, oil production facilities and aircraft manufacturing factories.

Nighttime area bombing attacks by the RAF complimented the daytime precision bombing raids by the U.S. Army Air Force. The bombers wreaked havoc on the German war machine, but allied casualties began to mount due to German 88mm anti-aircraft gun shells, commonly described as “flak,” and the vulnerability of the bombers to be attacked head-on by the Luftwaffe or German air force.

Bomber losses rapidly increased to a rate the Eighth could not withstand.

On Sept. 6, 1943, Perrone’s crew joined a raid on a German ball bearing production plant. Of the 400 Flying Fortresses launched for the mission, 60 were shot down and 600 Airmen were lost.

“The flak was so thick you could walk on it,” said Perrone. “During the ins and outs of the cities, through flak, was the only time I was scared. I always wanted to see those puffs of flak clouds below me, way below me.”

The VA might actually be getting its act together
B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 381st Bomb Group make their way through exploding 88mm anti-aircraft gun shells, commonly called flak, during a bombing mission over western Europe during World War II. (Courtesy photo)

“When the Germans look up to see all our bombers, better them than us, believe me when I tell you, it had to be tough on them, and as the war went along, we became stronger and stronger and stronger,” said Perrone. “There were some towns and cities in Germany we leveled. We broke the Germans’ backs. The British softened them and then we really gave it to them.”

The strength was provided by the long-range escort of P-38 Lightning and P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft outfitted with extra fuel drop tanks. Eventually, the employment of the P-51 Mustang allowed fighter escorts to reach Berlin.

The bombers and fighters together destroyed the Luftwaffe and air supremacy was gained over western Germany.

Also Read: This is what you need to know about the B-17 Flying Fortress

“My favorite memory; my last mission. I knew I was done and everything was okay,” said Perrone. “I was more scared on my last mission than my first.”

Perrone considers himself lucky, only one in five aircrew members of the 8th AF made the quota to end their tour of duty.

At the end of the war in Europe USAAF shifted focus to Japan with the deployment of the most technologically advanced aircraft, and the last bomber of World War II, the B-29 Superfortress.

The B-29 was designed as a high-altitude strategic bomber, but it was primarily used as a low-altitude night bomber in the Pacific theater. It was equipped with a pressurized cabin and had a central fire system of remotely controlled gun turrets each armed with .50 caliber machine guns.

The Superfortress also became the first nuclear capable aircraft.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
Boeing B-29 “Enola Gay” on Tinian in the Marianas Islands. (U.S. Air Force photo)

On Aug. 6, 1945, a B-29 named the “Enola Gay” deployed the world’s first atomic weapon on Hiroshima, Japan. Three days later a second B-29, “Bockscar,” dropped another atomic bomb on Nagasaki.

Six days later Japan surrendered, the war was over and the era of nuclear deterrence began.

With the advent of the nuclear weapon, bombers became the first vehicle to deliver apocalyptic devastation. Today’s strategic bombers provide one of the three delivery components of the nuclear triad along with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles, which make up our nation’s nuclear deterrence strategy.

“The capabilities of our nuclear deterrence are the bedrock of everything we do as a military,” said Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. “It’s the thing that keeps our adversaries from taking a step too far. Nuclear deterrence keeps the great power conflicts down and the horrible death and destruction, like what was seen during World War II, away from the world.”

In its infancy, the Air Force, then dubbed the Army Air Corps, lacked strategic bombing support while under Army control. The Army wasn’t convinced airplanes should be used for strategic bombing, but advocates like Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell argued bombers could replace traditional land and naval tactics as a dominant form by striking an enemy nation’s industrial complex and crippling its economic ability to fight. The Army’s prevailing view of the airplane, however, was as a reconnaissance and tactical bombing vehicle supporting ground troops on the front lines.

Despite the debate, the American bomber was born in 1934 and shepherded in a new era of aerial combat.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
1st Lt. Andy Alexander, weapons systems officer on the B-52H Stratofortress with the 2d Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, is a second-generation Òbomber crew dogÓ of the Eighth Air Force. His grandfather, Bill Alexander, was a co-pilot on a B-24 for the 489th Bombardment group out of Royal Air Force Halesworth, England.

 “World War II set the groundwork on how we employ, taking in collateral damage and validating how air power in so influential,” said 1st Lt. Andy Alexander, B-52H Stratofortress weapons systems officer at the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. “Strategic bombing doctrine of World War II continues today in terms showing how decisive air power is to the campaign picture. The wars we fight today cannot be fought without bomber airpower.”

Alexander is a second-generation “bomber crew dog” of the Eighth Air Force. His grandfather, Bill Alexander was a co-pilot on a B-24 for the 489th Bombardment Group out of RAF Halesworth, England.

“I can’t imagine what he and his crew went through,” said Alexander of his grandfather. “You are basically in a flying unpressurized beer can with a couple engines strapped onto it, a few guns and about 8,000 pounds of bombs. There’s no GPS, no inertial navigation system, it’s charts and a protractor getting you across the English Channel through clouds of German flak. It’s noisy and freezing 20 degrees below zero. Oh, and there’s like a 0.06 percent chance of survival over the course of 25 missions.”

“They were truly our greatest generation”

The VA might actually be getting its act together
The crew of Jack Goldstein’s B-17 Flying Fortress, the “Miasses Dragon.” From the back row, (L-R): Nelson Campagnano, radio operator; Robert McCluskey, top turret gunner; Troy Swope, ball turret gunner; Harry Sibila, tail gunner; Jack Goldstein, waist gunner. Front (L-R): Paul Stratton, co-pilot; Gordon Stickles, bombardier; Larry Smith, pilot; and Clifford Winslette, navigator.

“They were truly our greatest generation,” he added.

Alexander said the basics of bombing doctrine were established in World War II, but with a myriad of sensors helping deploy munitions with absolute precision, landing within inches from the target, the B-52, B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit have certainly come a long way.

Alexander explained what happened in the skies of Europe was absolutely instrumental. The losses were catastrophic, but at the time the USAAF had to launch 70 aircraft to take out a facility in the hopes one got lucky to peer through the clouds and strike a target. Nowadays one B-52 can take out that same facility, but from 1,000 miles away.

“They laid down the absolute fundamentals of what air power brings to the picture in terms of complete destruction of enemy objectives,” said Alexander. “We provide the same thing today in a much more non-contested environment.”

Alexander said the 8th AF is in demand by combatant commanders around the world. The strategic importance of bombers is even more important today than ever in terms of our posturing, projecting power, nuclear deterrence and assuring our allies.

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GRAPHIC BY CHRIS DESROCHER // ANIMATION BY MAUREEN STEWART

“Strategic bombers are also incredibly important to the nuclear triad. You have your intercontinental ballistic missiles and they stay in the ground all day. You have submarines, but it’s their job for you to not see them. The difference with the nuclear bomber is the visibility,” said Alexander. “If there’s a nuclear bomber in your yard, you know it’s there. It’s the most visible part of the triad.”

Alexander stated another importance of the bombers is their recall ability. The president has the ability to recall the aircraft before weapons are launched. It’s the flexibility the bomber brings to the triad.

“Strategic posturing sometimes is a greater deterrence,” said Alexander of what the nuclear bombers bring to the fight. “You can have the B-1s in Guam, but when the B-52 shows up it’s a different message … it’s the big stick. When that happens the tone does change. No one wants to go to war. Deterrence, that’s what we will be focusing on.”

Also Read: The B-17 Flying Fortress debuted exactly 80 years ago — here’s its legacy

Alexander said when he walks the halls of the Mighty 8th AF and sees the black and white photos of the bomber crews of World War II, he sees the pride and spirit of our crews today, a bond and dependence of each other knowing the guy or gal on the left or right of you would die for you to protect our freedoms.

“There is a great sense of camaraderie with bomber crews, because we have to work more as a team,” said Alexander. “Thanks to the Army Air Corps we have the most powerful and devastating Air Force the world has ever seen.”

Perrone isn’t too sure about all that. All he does know is he made his mission quota and did what he was asked to do.

Now he meets every Wednesday for lunch with a fellow World War II and Mighty 8th veteran Jack Goldstein. The two were stationed on the same base in England, but never met.

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Jack Goldstein, 93, a World War II veteran, at his home in Annapolis, Maryland. Goldstein was a waist gunner for the 535th Bomb Squadron on a B-17 Flying Fortress with the Army Air Forces from 1943 to 1945. He completed 25 bombing missions over western Europe. (Photo courtesy of Bennie J. Davis III) 

 Goldstein also completed his 25 missions as waist gunner on the B-17. He too is the last of his crew from the 535th Bomb Squadron.

“I was only there for the last six months of the war, but I completed my missions and we all went home together in 1945,” said Goldstein.

It took 40 years for Goldstein to open up and talk about the war. He now shares these stories with fellow veterans, but his family is unaware.

The pictures and documents stuffed away for decades in the back of his closet are now proudly displayed in his home.

“I now feel proud now when people come and thank us for our service,” said Goldstein. “There’s not too many of us kids left.”

Each of them outlived their crews, and most World War II veterans are the last remaining of a dying breed … a breed that helped shape the importance of aerial warfare and set the stage for the bomber crews of today.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Putin just signed a law making it illegal to insult government officials

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law that can jail citizens for insulting government officials — including him.

People who show “blatant disrespect” for the state, the government, the Russian flag, or the constitution can be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($1,550) under the new law, which Putin signed on March 18, 2019, Reuters reported.

Repeat offenders can be jailed for up to 15 days under the new law.

Punishments became more severe as the bill moved through Russia’s government. Earlier drafts of the law had proposed fining people 1,000 or 5,000 rubles, a fraction of the final figure.

Putin also signed that a law that mandates fine for people who spread what authorities deem to be “fake news.”


People can be fined up to 400,000 rubles (,100) for spreading false information online that leads to a “mass violation of public order.”

Authorities can also block websites that do not remove information which the state says is not accurate, according to Reuters.

Russian lawmakers say the law is necessary to fight fake news reports and abusive online comments, Reuters reported.

But critics say the law amounts to state censorship.

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Russian opposition figure Ilya Yashin.

British human rights organization Article 19, which focuses on issues of freedom of expression, said: “Allowing public officials to decide what counts as truth is tantamount to accepting that the forces in power have a right to silence views they don’t agree with, or beliefs they don’t hold.”

Sarah Clarke, the group’s head of Europe and central Asia, said before Putin signed the bill that it will be “another tool of repression to stifle public interest reporting on government misconduct and the expression of critical opinions, including the speech of the political opposition.”

Ilya Yashin, an opposition politician, told Reuters in January 2019, before the bills were signed, that these are both “crazy laws.”

“These are crazy bills. How can they prohibit people from criticising the authorities?” he said.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Japan’s F-35 aircraft carrier will be a Chinese navy killer

Japan on Dec. 18, 2018, announced what everyone had long suspected: Its Izumo-class “helicopter carriers” would host F-35B short-takeoff, vertical-launch stealth jets, and the platform will be transformed into a weapon Tokyo hasn’t wielded since 1945.

Japan announced on Dec. 18, 2018, that it would change its defense guidelines and buy 105 more F-35A stealth jets, as well as roughly 40 F-35Bs that can take off vertically from its flat-decked Izumo ships.


Japan said it would retrofit its two Izumo carriers to handle the extreme heat and pressure of the F-35B’s vertical launches from the decks in a pivot from its post-World War II pacifist stance, citing rising threats from China, Russia, and North Korea.

Japan has long sought a long-range, fifth-generation aircraft to defend its far-flung island claims as Russia and China routinely test its borders with fighter jets buzzing its borders, but the US hasn’t yet offered it anything that can do the job.

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F-35B prepares for a vertical landing.

(Photo by Lance Cpl. Dana Beesley)

The F-22, the US’ first fifth-generation fighter, came across as an ideal solution for Japan’s defense needs, but the US refused to sell, saying the cutting-edge technology was too critical to share.

The F-35, of which Japan wants to become the world’s second-largest buyer, has much of the F-22’s stealth and avionics prowess, but has much shorter range.

But according to Justin Bronk, an aerial-combat expert at the Royal United Services Institute, putting F-35s on a carrier at sea that can close range to island flash points, Japan may have finally solved its problem.

“This is about being able to put capable air power near some of their island possessions, especially given that there’s a lot of Chinese capability being specifically developed to hit forward air bases,” Bronk told Business Insider, referencing China’s growing rocket force.

“Having something mobile that’s harder to hit that can deploy fifth-generation air power makes a lot of military sense,” Bronk said of the carriers.

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The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter destroyer JS Izumo.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

Not just island defense, but a navy killer

Japan’s Izumo carriers occupy the traditional role of launching an amphibious attack to take or retake an island with while providing air power overhead, but the F-35s bring something that attack helicopters just can’t do.

China has deployed a “great wall” of missile defenses around the South China Sea and its mainland. China’s ever-growing navy also patrols the water with increasingly powerful air defenses.

“Basically, any naval task group worth the name is, from an airman’s perspective, a formidable mobile air defense network,” Bronk said. China’s navy ships have “powerful radars, very large interceptor missiles, and are designed to defend against swarming attacks,” he said.

Unlike air-to-air missiles limited in size by the jets that have to carry them, ship-based missile interceptors can measure more than 20 feet in length and have powerful boosters giving them better range and speed. Additionally, recent Chinese navy ships have emphasized these kinds of missiles and have deep magazines and many vertical launch cells for the aircraft-killing missiles.

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey with the JS Izumo (right) on the South China Sea.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kryzentia Weiermann)

But China’s navy likely has very little experience fighting stealth aircraft with its sea-based radars.

The stealth design of the F-35B will allow Japan’s military to “to operate at reasonable risk tolerance of advanced air defenses,” said Bronk, who called the jets “a lot more survivable in high-end warfare” than Japan’s fleet of F-15s.

In the future, Bronk said Japan will most likely leverage the F-35B’s extreme surveillance and recon capabilities to provide weapons-quality target information to other platforms, like Japanese or US warships, which can fire off their own missiles and allow the F-35Bs to stay in stealth mode without opening up the weapons bay.

For Japan, the new class of F-35B carriers signals a major shift in defense posture and the acknowledgement that defending their island claims may require high-end warfighting against China’s navy.

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

Mighty Moments

This guardsman saved a little girl’s life during a mall shooting

Pfc. Rashad Billingsly was shopping Black Friday at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover, Alabama, when he heard two distinct gunshots over the sound of the crowd.

A few seconds passed, then he heard two or three more.

“At that point, everybody was running and screaming,” Billingsly said. “It was chaotic. And that’s when I crossed [the injured girl’s] path. They were screaming ‘[she’s] hurt, [she’s] hurt,’ so I stopped and told them I could help.”


Hero Medic who helped 12-year-old in shooting speaks out

www.youtube.com

The 12-year-old girl, running with her sister and grandmother, had been shot in the back, though she hadn’t realized it at the time and only remarked that it “hurt.” Billingsley, however, recognized right away.

“I cleaned off as much of the blood as I could with what I had,” he said, “then a police officer came up and I asked him to grab me a shirt off a rack nearby and I used it to apply pressure and try to slow her bleeding.”

Billingsley said he kept her calm and stable, holding pressure on the wound until paramedics arrived to transport her to the emergency room. He also accompanied her sister and grandmother to the ambulance to shield their view from bodies on the floor nearby.

Billingsley’s parents and unit leadership at the 2025th Transportation Company in Jacksonville, said they were not surprised to hear how he responded in the moment.

“We’re very proud of him,” his mother, Amanda Billingsley, said, “but not surprised. That’s just the type of young man that he is, and we’re thanking God he was at the right place at the right time to help.”

Capt. Jody Harkins, commander of the 2025th Transportation Company, echoed the sentiment.

“When I got the call that he was the one involved in this incident, I was immediately proud to know him and share a unit with him,” he said. “Even from my first impressions of Pfc. Billingsley, he’s just been that kind of guy, but I think that would also be the reaction of most Alabama Guardsmen in that moment.

“That’s what we’re trained for, and that’s what these guys live to do. They’re always volunteering for any missions, they love their country, love their community, love to do their part and they love to serve the people around them. Pfc. Billingsley did a heroic and outstanding thing and, while I certainly can’t take any credit for it, I’m proud to be his commander.”

Billingsley, however, never used the word “proud,” saying, instead, that he is simply “grateful.”
“I’m just glad I could help her out,” he said, “glad God put me there in that moment, and glad I had the training I needed, so I could potentially help save this girl’s life.”

When he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard in March 2017 as an 88M Motor Transport Operator, Billingsly said he had dreams of following in his father’s footsteps as a truck driver. He planned to one day parlay his military training and certifications into a commercial driver’s license and profitable career, but said he never anticipated needing it to save a life near home.

Ultimately, he said, it was his military training that made the difference. He admitted he is not a medic or even Combat Life Saver-certified, but feels the Soldier-level combat casualty care training drilled into him since his first unit of assignment had “fully prepared” him to act quickly and appropriately.

“It was just natural,” he said. “It all clicked in the moment. I didn’t panic, I knew what to do, and I just acted.”

Billingsley said he is trying to stay humble in the midst of media attention and tries not to bring it up, but he is quick to encourage others to get the same training.

“A lot of people my age say, ‘oh, I’m gonna try to do this or that, but I’ll keep the military as a plan B,’ but I always tell them, ‘no, the military really can be plan A,'” said the 18-year-old.

“You get the best training on so many things; it really opens up a lot of opportunities to do good for yourself and maybe someone else, too.”

Billingsley said he has been in constant communication with the young girl he helped, as well as her family, and is happy to see her recovering and he looks forward to life returning to normal for himself and for her.

Harkins said Billingsley is expected to be promoted to the rank of specialist in January 2019, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see Billingsley receive official military recognition for his actions.

Articles

The 17 coolest DARPA projects

Since its founding in 1958, DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has kept the United States as a technological leader in robotics, electronics, communications, and combat. President Eisenhower first authorized what was then known as ARPA as a response to the Soviet launch of the Sputnik satellite in 1957, and the Agency quickly became known for its far-fetched research,  its startling advances, and its secrecy.


Inventions by DARPA have changed the way we communicate, work, and travel – both in peace and war. Our list of DARPA projects includes concepts crucial to the internet, GPS, interactive maps, advanced computing, and transportation. And DARPA researchers are currently working on an astounding array of projects, everything from robotic dogs to healing microchips. Much of it won’t work, and some of it won’t ever see the light of day – but everything DARPA does keeps the US on the forefront of technological dominance.

This DARPA projects list features some of the coolest, most attention-getting innovations DARPA has been involved with. Which inventions and breakthroughs do you think are the coolest in DARPA history? Vote them up below!

The Coolest DARPA Projects

Articles

6 jobs in the military that require insane brainpower

Not all military jobs are created equal. Some are dangerous, some are highly technical, and most fall somewhere in between.


Here are the 6 brainiest enlisted military jobs (in terms of ASVAB score and training):

1. Navy Electronics Technician Nuclear

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher K. Hwang/USN

These sailors test, calibrate, maintain, and repair reactor instrumentation and control systems on surface ships and submarines.

2. Navy Machinist’s Mate Nuclear

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Billy Ho/ USN

These are the guys who make the ship move. Their main job is to operate, maintain, and repair the steam plant that provides propulsion, electric power, potable water, and service steam to the ship.

3. Navy Electrician’s Mate Nuclear

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Achterling/USN

These sailors operate and perform maintenance on generators, switchboards, control equipment and electrical equipment. They direct electricity to all spaces on the ship.

Navy Nuclear Field (NF) Program

To qualify for the three rates (Navy jobs) above, applicants must meet at least one of these ASVAB score combinations. After qualifying, the sailor is placed in one of the three rates: Electronics Technician Nuclear, Machinist’s Mate Nuclear, or Electrician’s Mate Nuclear.

Upon completion, nuclear sailors move onto their designated “A” school where they get specific with their rate. No matter which rate they get, nuclear sailors must attend Nuclear Power School (NPS) in Charleston, South Carolina, where they learn the basics of nuclear power plants and associated equipment. The course is an intense study of nuclear physics and reactor engineering. A nuclear sailor’s average contract length is six years because their training takes about two years. Learn more about the Navy Nuclear Field.

4. Air Force Scientific Applications Specialist

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Photo: USAF

ASVAB Line Score: Air Force line scores of Mechanical 88 & Electrical 85 and above.

These airmen use classified techniques and tools to detect, gather, analyze, and report the use of weapons throughout the world. These include nuclear, chemical, biological, and other weapons. Basically, they’re like the CSI for weapons.

To become a Scientific Applications Specialist, applicants must have a high school diploma or GED with 15 college credits. Their skills are based on mathematics, electronics, physics, data analysis, and careful observation. Learn more about Scientific Applications Specialist.

5. Navy Cryptologic Technician – Networks

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Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Sabrina Fine/USN

To qualify for this rate, applicants must meet at least one of these ASVAB score combinations:

  • A combined score of 235 in subsections (AR) Arithmetic Reasoning, (MK) Mechanical Knowledge and (GS) General Science.
  • A combined score of 235 in subsections (VE) Verbal, (AR) Arithmetic reasoning, (MK) Mechanical knowledge, and (MC) Mechanical Comprehension.

These sailors collect, decipher and translate enemy communications. They provide computer network defense, access tool development, and computer network forensics.

Sailors who go into this field train for an additional 30 weeks after basic training. Learn more about the CTN rate.

6. Army Satellite Communication Systems Operator-Maintainer

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Photo: US Army

ASVAB Line Score: An Army electronics score of 117 or above.

These soldiers install, operate, and maintain satellite communications for the Army in remote locations around the world. They make sure the lines of communications are always running.

They also identify and report electronic jamming and deception and apply appropriate electronic retaliation on attackers. Learn more about Satellite Communication Systems Operator – Maintainer.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Spain just laid the foundation for Turkey’s new navy

Spain has long had a maritime tradition. For example, Christopher Columbus was sponsored by Spain for his fateful voyage that discovered America. There was also the Spanish Armada, which, well… didn’t turn out so well for Spain.


Now, Spain has built a relatively small but powerful navy — still called the Spanish Armada. These days, its flagship is the amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I, named after the king of Spain who brought the nation into the 21st century. Its hangar can hold a dozen helicopters or eight EAV-8B/B+ Harriers. This vessel weighs in at 19,300 tons, roughly the size of the Yorktown-class carriers that held the line in the early part of World War II, and has a top speed of 21.5 knots. It is capable of hauling just under a thousand troops and can also carry up to 110 vehicles.

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Australia has two Juan Carlos I-class amphibious assault ships in service. (Wikimedia Commons photo by printjockey)

In addition to being the flagship of the modern Spanish Navy, the Juan Carlos I-class design has been exported. Australia bought two of these vessels, naming them HMAS Canberra and HMAS Adelaide. Now, according to a report by NavyRecognition.com, the Turkish Navy is going to get one of these ships. The vessel, to be named TCG Anadolu, just had its keel laid. This is part of an expansion program which will give Turkey not just this amphibious assault ship, but an amphibious transport dock and some smaller landing craft.

The VA might actually be getting its act together
Three MV-22B Ospreys with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response-Africa participate in deck landing qualifications aboard a Spanish amphibious assault ship Juan Carlos I (L61) on the southern coast of Spain, Oct. 21. U.S. Marines and Spanish sailors practice deck procedures including tie-downs, taxiing and refueling the aircraft. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Vitaliy Rusavskiy)

The Turks are not the only country in the eastern Mediterranean to acquire such vessels. Egypt acquired two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships originally built for Russia from France after the French canceled the deal in the wake of Russia’s seizure of Crimea. The two vessels were purchased with financial assistance from Saudi Arabia.

MIGHTY TRENDING

No one in Iran cares about Trump’s threatening tweets

Iranians on July 23, 2018, shrugged off the possibility that a bellicose exchange of words between President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart could escalate into military conflict, but expressed growing concern America’s stepped-up sanctions could damage their fragile economy.

In his latest salvo, Trump tweeted late on July 22, 2018, that hostile threats from Iran could bring dire consequences.


This was after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani remarked earlier in the day that “America must understand well that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars.”

Trump tweeted: “NEVER EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKE OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Within hours, Iran’s state-owned news agency IRNA dismissed the tweet, describing it as a “passive reaction” to Rouhani’s remarks.

On Tehran streets, residents took the exchange in stride.

“Both America and Iran have threatened one another in different ways for several years,” shrugged Mohsen Taheri, a 58-year-old publisher.

A headline on a local newspaper quoted Rouhani as saying: “Mr. Trump, do not play with the lion’s tail.”

Prominent Iranian political analyst Seed Leilaz downplayed the war of words, saying it was in his opinion “the storm before the calm.”

Leilaz told The Associated Press he was not “worried about the remarks and tweets,” and that “neither Iran, nor any other country is interested in escalating tensions in the region.”

Citing harsh words the United States and North Korea had exchanged before the high-profile summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Leilaz said Trump and Kim got “closer” despite the warring words.

Trump’s eruption on Twitter came after a week of heavy controversy about Russian meddling in the U.S. 2016 election, following the Helsinki summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Meanwhile, the tweet was reverberating across the Mideast.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the U.S. president’s “strong stance” after years in which the Iranian “regime was pampered by world powers.”

In early 2018 Trump pulled the U.S. out of the international deal meant to prevent Tehran from developing a nuclear weapon and ordered increased American sanctions, as well as threatening penalties for companies from other countries that continue to do business with Iran.

With the economic pressure, Trump said in early July 2018 that “at a certain point they’re going to call me and say ‘let’s make a deal,’ and we’ll make a deal.”

Iran has rejected talks with the U.S., and Rouhani has accused the U.S. of stoking an “economic war.”

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Rouhani also suggested Iran could immediately ramp up its production of uranium in response to U.S. pressure. Potentially that would escalate the very situation the nuclear deal sought to avoid — an Iran with a stockpile of enriched uranium that could lead to making atomic bombs.

Trump’s tweet suggested he has little patience with the trading of hostile messages with Iran, using exceptionally strong language and writing the all-capitalized tweet.

“WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!,” he wrote.

Another Tehran resident, Mehdi Naderi, fretted that the U.S. measures and his own government’s policies are damaging the lives of the average Iranian.

“America is threatening the Iranian people with its sanctions and our government is doing the same with its incompetence and mismanagement,” said the self-employed 35-year-old.

Trump has a history of firing off heated tweets that seem to quickly escalate long-standing disputes with leaders of nations at odds with the U.S.

In the case of North Korea, the public war of words cooled quickly and gradually led to the high profile summit and denuclearization talks. There has been little tangible progress in a global push to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons program since the historic Trump-Kim summit on June 12, 2018.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo flew to Pyongyang for follow-up talks in early July 2018, but the two sides showed conflicting accounts of the talks. North’s Foreign Ministry accused the United States of making “gangster-like” demands for its unilateral disarmament.

Some experts say Kim is using diplomacy as a way to win outside concessions and weaken U.S.-led international sanctions.

Many in Iran have expressed frustration that Trump has seemed willing to engage with North Korea, which has openly boasted of producing nuclear weapons, but not Iran, which signed the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Since Trump pulled out of the deal, other nations involved — Germany, Britain, France, Russia and China as well as the European Union — have reaffirmed their support for the deal and have been working to try and keep Iran on board.

“Iran is angry since Trump responded to Tehran’s engagement diplomacy by pulling the U.S. out of the nuclear deal,” Iranian lawmaker Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh told the AP.

He added, however, the war of words between the two presidents was to be expected, since official diplomatic relations between the two countries have been frozen for decades.

“They express themselves through speeches since diplomatic channels are closed,” said Falahatpisheh who heads the influential parliamentary committee on national security and foreign policy.

On July 22, 2018, in California, Pompeo was strongly critical of Iran, calling its religious leaders “hypocritical holy men” who amassed vast sums of wealth while allowing their people to suffer.

In the speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Pompeo castigated Iran’s political, judicial and military leaders, accusing several by name of participating in widespread corruption. He also said the government has “heartlessly repressed its own people’s human rights, dignity and fundamental freedoms.”

He said despite poor treatment by their leaders, “the proud Iranian people are not staying silent about their government’s many abuses,” Pompeo said.

“And the United States under President Trump will not stay silent either.”

Lester reported from Washington. Associated Press writers David Rising in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, Aron Heller in Jerusalem and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.

This article was written by Will Lester and Nasser Karimi from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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