These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs - We Are The Mighty
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These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs

After colliding with a civilian cargo ship earlier this year, the USS Fitzgerald sustained over $500 million worth of damage to its structure and systems.


Though the Arleigh Burke-class warship was brought back to port at Yokosuka, Japan, it will likely be unable to transit the ocean in its current condition, officials say.

However, as the Navy and its contractors don’t maintain large maintenance facilities and dry docks in Japan capable of carrying out the repairs the Fitzgerald needs, it will have to somehow be delivered to the United States for fixing.

To bring the Fitzgerald home, the Navy will make use of massive heavy-lift ships, designed to hoist smaller vessels onto a platform and carry them across the world’s waterways. The alternate name of these unique ships — float on/float offs (FLO/FLO) — hints at how they’re able to load and carry ships weighing thousands of tons.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
MV Blue Marlin hauling the Navy’s Sea-Based X-Band Radar into Pearl Harbor (Photo US Navy)

To load a vessel aboard a heavy-lift ship, it takes on water into ballast tanks, submerging its main deck area enough that its cargo can be floated into position, sometimes onto a cradle which will keep it stabilized during transport. When its cargo is in place, the ship releases its ballast and is now able to move under its own power.

This won’t be the first time the Navy has had to use a civilian heavy-lift ship to bring one of its own back to American shores.

In 1988, the USS Samuel B. Roberts, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, was struck by an Iranian mine during Operation Earnest Will. The Roberts was marred with a 15-foot gash in its hull, and its engines were rendered inoperable.

To return the Roberts back to the US, the Navy contracted Dutch shipping firm Wijsmuller Transport to the tune of $1.3 million to provide a heavy-lift ship — MV Mighty Servant 2 —  that would carry the stricken frigate back to Newport, RI, where further damage assessments would take place.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
The USS Samuel B. Roberts aboard MV Mighty Servant 2 in 1988 (Photo US Navy)

Years later, in 2000, the USS Cole, another Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, was damaged on its port side at the waterline during a suicide attack which claimed the lives of 17 sailors and injured 39 more. Though the ship was still afloat in the aftermath of the attack, it was quickly determined that it would not be able to proceed back to mainland America under its own power for repairs.

As such, the Navy contracted a Norwegian company, Offshore Heavy Transport, to sail a heavy-lift vessel to Yemen where the Cole remained after the attack, in order to bring the warship home.

Offshore Heavy Transport provided the Navy with the MV Blue Marlin as part of the $4.5 million contract to bring the Cole stateside.

In addition to carting damaged warships around the globe, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command also charters heavy-lift ships to carry its smaller craft to various operating locations in foreign seas, including minesweepers and patrol boats.

A number of these heavy-lift ships are still in service today, save for the Mighty Servant 2, which was lost at sea near Indonesia in 1999. It’s possible that the vessel which brought the Cole back to the United States — the Blue Marlin — could be the same one to return Cole’s sister ship, the Fitzgerald, to America to begin the repair process.

It was recently reported that the move could begin as early as September, depending on when the contract for transport is issued and inked.

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Feds allege business scammed $100 million in TRICARE drug fraud case

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
An airman in the pharmacy at Ramstein Air Base in Germany mixes a compound drug. No military pharmacies were named in the fraud indictment.


More than a dozen civilians are accused of scamming over $100 million dollars from TRICARE by writing prescriptions that weren’t medically necessary and then overcharging for them.

Earlier this month the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that they had added 10 people to an indictment originally handed down in February.

Named in the updated indictment are two businessmen, three marketing specialists, two doctors, and five pharmacy owners.

Also Read: TRICARE beneficiaries have one month to transfer prescriptions

The 36 page indictment outlines a massive scheme to defraud the government through a series of kickbacks, money laundering, and medical malpractice.

The feds allege the conspiracy began in 2014 when Richard Cesario and John Cooper founded CCMGRX, LLC (later renamed CMGRX). The premise of the company was to market compounded prescriptions to service members, retirees, and their dependents, documents show.

Compound prescriptions are drugs which are mixed in an effort to provide a unique prescription that meets the specific needs of the patient. They are not approved by the FDA, but may be prescribed when a patient is unable to have a specific ingredient in a drug, or the drug is not available in a specific form, such as prescriptions for children who can’t swallow a pill and must have a liquid version of the medication.

Cesario and Cooper enlisted the help of three marketers, Joe Straw, Luis Rios, and Michael Kiselak, to recruit pharmacies and patients, the indictment shows.

The patients allegedly were oblivious to the scam, instead being told that they were taking part in a medical study being done by an independent non-profit organization, the Freedom From Pain Foundation. The company was operated by Cesario and Cooper, who used the company to launder the money they received from TRICARE, Justice says.

Money was allegedly paid to five different pharmacy owners and two doctors.

After paying beneficiaries for participating in the study, kickbacks were allegedly sent in the form of checks to the doctors, pharmacy owners, and marketers. The rest was pocketed by Cesario and Cooper, the feds say.

More than 30 separate counts were filed against the men, including conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud.

The indictment also outlines some of the punishment the men will face should they be found guilty, beginning with a list of properties in Texas, Florida, and Costa Rica that the men will have to turn over to the government.

Additionally, 32 vehicles, including Ferraris; Maseratis; Aston Martins, Corvettes; Mercedes-Benz; Jaguars; Porsches; Hummers; Cadillacs; BMWs and several trucks and SUVs will be seized by the government upon conviction of any single offense.

The indictment goes on to list multiple boats and recreational vehicles, bank accounts in the names of the men and family members, cash, investment accounts, firearms, jewelry, other property, and “working interest” in several oil companies, as well as a “money judgement” that could all be seized by the government in an effort to recoup the over $100 million scammed by the group.

According to the press release regarding the indictment, Cesario and Cooper, who were placed in custody earlier this year, are being held until trial. The other 10 men all made bail until their trial.

Each of the charges against the men is punishable by between 5 and 10 years, and a $250,000 fine.

The FBI and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service helped investigate and breaking up the alleged conspiracy ring.

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Army Captain saves 3 lives while wearing ‘Captain America’ t-shirt

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
Photo: ABC News/screenshot


A real-life Captain America saved the day after a car crash in North Carolina on Tuesday.

Capt. Steve Voglezon was driving down the road when he noticed a car on fire, so he did like any soldier/superhero would do: He sprang into action, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and helped rescue three people from the wreck.

KPLC-TV has more:

The catastrophic scene unfolded on a rural road. Heavy smoke and flames filled the air when three people were trapped inside two vehicles. John Spurrell lives nearby, and helped rescue one driver before shooting video on his smartphone.

“That’s the Army guy, Steve. He’s quite a hero,” Spurrell said as he points at his phone.

Quite fittingly, Voglezon can be seen in the video wearing a Captain America t-shirt. Because, of course he would.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs

“I grabbed one of the fire extinguishers and we smashed out on the back window and the driver’s side window. …. there wasn’t a real plan, I just had tunnel vision,” Voglezon told ABC News. “If I had not been a soldier, I would not have known what to do. The Army has helped a lot. I was just at the right place at the right time. People do this every day at the fire department. I wasn’t alone out there, there were at least 10 of us in the community working together.”

The three people who escaped the accident suffered only minor injuries.

Now watch the video:

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

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


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

Nothing Major

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

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

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
When Veteran Kenny Bass was at the Dayton VA, receiving medical attention for a kidney stone, Atlas was there by his side.

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

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

104 in a 65 Zone

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

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

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

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

From Bad to Worse

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

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

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

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

Safety Net

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

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

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

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

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

Back From the Brink

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

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
Kenny Bass and his dog Atlas

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

The Watcher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Articles

Now you can own an M249 Para

The folks at FN America just unveiled the latest model in their FN Military Collector Series, the FN M249S Para.


It is a civilian version of the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon developed for paratroopers and, like its full-sized brother, is certain to turn heads when it’s pulled out to send some rounds downrange.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
Sgt. Craig McComsey, a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard, serving with the Zabul Agribusiness Development Team, keeps a close watch from the roof of the district center, Shah Joy, Afghanistan. (Army photo)

The FN Military Collector Series is a line of faithful reproductions built to exacting standards by the same builders of the actual government-issue service rifles. While other black rifles look like M4s and M16s, FN America Military Collector Series guns are M4s and M16s, with the only meaningful difference the lack of select fire capability.

Read More: Now you can own the same rifle you carried in the military (almost)

While the two rifles in the series take “replica” to a whole new level, the  M249 SAW models take things a step farther. Though semi-automatics rather than machine guns, there just aren’t other guns like this available without signing up for a term of service.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
(Photo from FN America)

“The M249S Para is the fourth in our series of classic, semi-automatic FN military rifles and like the Standard, the Para is authentic to the last possible detail,” said John Keppeler, senior vice president of sales and marketing for FN America, LLC. “You’ll notice only two major differences between the semi- and full-auto versions — the barrel length and reconfigured internal components to change the rifle’s operation from open-bolt to closed-bolt.”

“Authenticity was critical in this series and we changed as little as possible,” he added.

The FN M249S Para has a machine gun grade 16.1-inch barrel, flip-up feed tray, integrated bipod, and the adjustable telescoping and rotating buttstock. It has an overall length of 31.5 inches to 37 inches and weighs in at a hefty 16 pounds — slightly lighter than the FN M249S Standard.

It can operate with linked ammunition or a standard M16 or M4/AR15 magazine.

Like the M249S Standard, the M249S Para has a top cover with an integrated MIL-STD-1913 rail for optics or other accessories, a folding carrying handle, crossbolt safety, non-reciprocationg charging handle, and quick-change barrel capability.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
(Photo from FN America)

While the military M249 Para was originally intended for use by airborne infantry, the weapon’s shorter length and lighter weight have made it popular with many gunners, particularly those who spend a lot of time getting in and out of vehicles and those deployed to urban combat zones where space is tight and ranges are often short.

The FN Military Collector Series guns are top-notch firearms and draw a lot of attention when they’re sighted, but that quality and near-military authenticity does not come cheaply.

The FN M249S Para has an MSRP of $8,799 in black and $9,199 in flat dark earth. But owning and shooting one of these guns, particularly with a belt of 5.56, could make the steep price seem like a good deal.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

The US and NATO are boosting their presence in a hotspot for military activity near Russia

The long-awaited announcement about the redeployment of thousands of US troops currently in Germany finally came at the end of July.

US officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Tod Wolters, who heads US European Command, outlined the moves and the strategic reasoning behind them. President Donald Trump immediately undercut their remarks, but their references to the Black Sea reflect how the region is a growing point of tension with Russia.


“We’re moving forces out of Central Europe, Germany, where they had been since the Cold War,” Esper said. “We’re following, in many ways, the boundary east [to] where our newest allies are, so into the Black Sea region” as well as Poland and the Baltics.

The shift means European Command will “now be able to rotate units in perpetuity in multiple locations,” including the Black Sea, which “dramatically improves our operational capability,” Wolters said.

‘The Kremlin sees that’

Moscow, the most powerful Black Sea state, invaded neighboring Georgia in 2008. Tensions have remained high since Russia’s 2014 seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

“The Black Sea region is what the Kremlin uses launch its operations in Syria and Libya and the Eastern [Mediterranean],” Ben Hodges, who commanded US Army Europe between 2015 and 2017, told Insider. “It’s how they influence everything that goes on in the Balkans and the Caucuses as well as obviously Ukraine and Moldova.”

Hodges is one of many who criticized the redeployment of European Command forces, arguing it doesn’t improve readiness and that the manner in which it’s being done hurts NATO.

“Having said that, I always welcome any additional focus on the Black Sea region, because I think that … needs to be a much higher priority,” Hodges said, adding that Esper’s suggestion that a Stryker brigade could be deployed to the region was “a very good idea.”

“Increasing [NATO] naval presence in the Black Sea region really is even more important,” as the Turkish, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian navies are “still not a match for the Russian Black Sea Fleet,” Hodges said.

Hodges cautioned that the coming months — with an ongoing drought in Crimea, US and Ukrainian elections, and Moscow’s major Kavkaz-2020 military exercise in southwestern Russia — could see more Russian action.

Concerns about more aggressive moves by Moscow have risen on other occasions since 2014, and experts have said seizing more Ukrainian territory now amid that drought doesn’t make much political or logistical sense for Moscow.

But the combination of factors creates an opening, Hodges said.

“Given the inconsistent response by this administration in the United States, and other than EU sanctions on Russia there hasn’t been that much in the way of real, firm response in the region” to Russian actions, Hodges said. “I think the Kremlin sees that.”

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs

Ukrainian navy ships during exercise Sea Breeze in the Black Sea, July 21, 2020. (US Navy/Courtesy of Ukrainian Navy)

‘The increasingly important Black Sea’

In June, Adm. James Foggo, outgoing commander of US naval forces in Europe, said eight US ships spent about 120 days patrolling the Black Sea last year and “routinely” conduct “complex exercises” like Sea Breeze with allies and partners.

The US military has increased its presence in the area in recent years, and the 20th iteration of Sea Breeze, a Ukrainian-US exercise with other Black Sea and NATO nations, was the latest example.

“Every visit to the Black Sea encompasses working together with our partners and growing our interoperability,” Cmdr. Craig Trent, commanding officer of Navy destroyer USS Porter, told Insider. “Together, we executed a complex, multi-warfare exercise all without stepping foot ashore for face-to-face planning due to COVID mitigations.”

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs

US sailors conduct simulated small boat attacks from USS Porter during Sea Breeze, July 22, 2020. (US Navy/Interior Communication Electrician 2nd Class Jeffrey Abelon)

This year it included more than 40 ships and aircraft from eight countries. The Porter was there on its third Black Sea patrol in five months.

The destroyer “conducted surface action group tactical maneuvering, over-the-horizon surface targeting, air defense, and anti-submarine operations,” Trent said.

The Porter worked with a US P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft “to share a common tactical maritime picture” and “with Ukrainian tactical aircraft during the air-defense exercises,” Trent said.

The P-8A worked with ships and aircraft, including Ukrainian Su-27 fighter jets, on undersea warfare and air-intercept training, Cmdr. M. Trever Plageman, head of Patrol Squadron 47, told Insider. (Russian planes frequently intercept US aircraft over the Black Sea, including during Sea Breeze.)

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs

USS Porter and an Air Force MC-130J exercise together during Sea Breeze, July 20, 2020. (US Navy)

The Black Sea “provides complex training opportunities, which enhance aircrew proficiency for littoral undersea warfare,” Plageman said. “Of equal importance was the cooperative interaction with allies and other partner nations, which improved our squadron’s interoperability within the increasingly important Black Sea region.”

The Porter also worked with the US Air Force on “air defense and surface-to-air integration of systems,” Trent said.

During Sea Breeze, US Air Forces Europe led a one-day mission with Navy and Space Command assets “to train US forces to integrate, operate, and communicate while executing all domain operations,” according to a release.

It included F-16s that “conducted training scenarios” using Joint Air-to-Surface Missile cruise missile tactics. The JASSM is a long-range “precision standoff missile” designed “to destroy high-value, well-defended targets.” US Special Operations Command Europe also sent an MC-130J aircraft “to exercise special operations forces insertion.”

Sea Breeze concluded on July 26, but on August 2, the Navy and Air Force conducted a similar exercise in the area — with live weapons.

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

Articles

Why alleged Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl doesn’t want a jury trial

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl has decided to be tried by a judge — not a military jury — on charges that he endangered comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan.


Bergdahl’s lawyers told the court in a brief filing last week that their client chose trial by judge alone, rather than a panel of officers. He faces charges of desertion and misbehavior before the enemy at his trial scheduled for late October at Fort Bragg. The latter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
Bowe Bergdahl in a photo after his capture by Taliban insurgents. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Defense attorneys declined to comment on the decision. But they previously questioned whether Bergdahl could get a fair trial by jury because of negative comments President Donald Trump made on the campaign trail.

Earlier this year the judge, Army Col. Jeffery R. Nance rejected a defense request to dismiss the case over Trump’s criticism of Bergdahl.

Potential jurors had already received a questionnaire including questions about their commander in chief, but defense attorneys weren’t allowed to ask jurors if they voted for Trump.

Rachel VanLandingham, a former Air Force lawyer not involved in the case, said defense attorneys likely felt limited in how they could probe juror opinions.

“They lost their ability to ask all the questions they wanted to ask, one of those being: ‘Did you vote for President Trump?'” said VanLandingham, who teaches at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles. “They felt that was very important … for fleshing out whether a panel member could be fair.”

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
Former President Obama and Bowe Bergdahl’s parents. (Photo from the Obama White House Archives)

Beyond concerns about jurors, she said Nance has so far demonstrated his objectivity.

“His pretrial rulings have shown that he’s fair,” she said.

Bergdahl was captured by the Taliban shortly after he left his remote post in 2009. The soldier from Idaho has said he intended to cause alarm and draw attention to what he saw as problems with his unit.

He was freed from captivity in 2014 in exchange for five Taliban prisoners. Former President Barack Obama was criticized by Republicans who claimed the trade jeopardized the nation’s security.

Bergdahl has been assigned to desk duty at a Texas Army base pending the outcome of his case.

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Here is how Soviet flight crews entered the Tu-22 bomber

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs


The Tupolev Tu-22 Blinder might just have been one of the least pilot-friendly aircraft ever built by the Soviet Union in the 1960s, and that’s saying something, considering that MiG fighters were notorious for their cramped quarters and poor pilot visibility. The very first supersonic bomber to enter service with the Soviet Air Force, around 311 models were produced with a number going to Iraq and Libya as part of large export deals brokered by the USSR in the 1970s. Not only did the Blinder look like something out of a space-age comic book, it seemingly functioned like one as well. I mean, at least with how its aircrew entered the aircraft. Its performance characteristics were anything but next-generation, far from what the Soviets had hoped to accomplish with such an aircraft.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs

The Tu-22 flew with a pilot, a navigator and a weapons officer as its full complement. Each crewmember sat in front of the other, and had to be “lifted” into the aircraft using a motorized chair. Unluckily for them, they were also firmly strapped to downward-firing K-22 ejection seats, which could not be used at altitudes below 820 feet. The runway handling dynamics of the aircraft were atrocious, leading to numerous mishaps without the Blinder even leaving the ground. But, at least it looked cool, right?

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans Affairs chaplain addresses holiday stress in sermon

Excerpts from a sermon by Chaplain Jonathan Landon, Eugene VA Health Care Center.

I’ve known for a long time that some men and women really don’t enjoy the holiday season. In recent years I’ve had encounters that really brought home to me how many people there are in this situation, and how deep is their pain.

I’ve been convicted that we – the VA – and we – the community of faith – really should find some way to address this deep, aching need that some of our brothers and sisters feel.

Planning this service brought home to me many reasons why people might suffer during the holidays.


  • The first one that comes to mind is grief — loss of a loved one or a friend — but it’s not the only reason.
  • Alienation from family or even geographic distance from them can do it.
  • Painful memories of events that happened in the holiday season might be a reason.
  • Some people are experiencing loss of a job or other economic difficulty.
  • Even good things might make the holidays difficult; think about retirement, empty nest, or moving to a new home.

Any big change that affects a strong part of your self-identity might cause loneliness and feelings of isolation.

Even the loss of what might have been can be so painful.

I’m supposed to say something helpful, here, but I don’t want to offer quick fixes or simple tips; What brings healing is going to be distinctive for each person. Still, there are some principles that can help many.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs

Chaplain Jonathan Landon.

We may suppress our painful feelings, because we don’t want to burden others, but giving ourselves freedom to acknowledge the pain may be helpful by itself. Concealing those feelings can leave us feeling lonelier, and leaves those who care about us helpless to comfort us. So if you need to cry, then cry. And if you need to be hugged, say that, and let your family members and friends reach out to you and meet your need.

I can’t be so presumptuous as to guarantee it, but if you acknowledge your pain, and people offer space to let it out, and make that giving of mutual support into a time for bonding, maybe you can let the pressure off a little bit. Maybe you can relieve the tension of those who care about you, who are trying to avoid stirring up painful feelings. Then you may just find that there’s some room for laughter, smiles, and enjoyment.

You see, what most of us really need is not the quick fix or the simple solution; it’s caring relationships. One of the key themes of the time leading up to Christmas is the prophecy that foretold the coming of Jesus, giving him the name or title of “Emmanuel”, which means, “God with us.” This Word teaches me that I am never alone in any loss or pain, no matter what my emotions may tell me.

But the message is not only about God being with us; we have the opportunity to show the presence of God to others, by living God’s love in truth and caring for them. Some people came here today because they’re struggling with the holidays. Some people came here because they care about who is struggling with the holidays. Some care because of their faith. Some of them just care because they see a human in pain and they don’t want anyone to suffer alone.

Don’t forget: in the midst of your own pain, you have opportunities to come alongside of others — to be with them, as God is with us.

In this fairly recent tradition, the Blue Christmas service usually happens on or close to the 21st of December, the night of the winter solstice, the longest and darkest night of the year.

It’s an appropriate symbol for a time when many people feel alone, lost and in pain. But that’s not the only meaning of the night of the 21st. Because what happens at sunrise on the morning of the 22nd?

The days begin to get longer. At first, it’s by tiny increments and you hardly notice it, and then it grows faster and faster and you can’t miss it. It’s inevitable. The light returns. That, too is part of the symbolism of this night and this service. The light returns. No matter how long the night will be — or has been — the light returns.

Chaplain Jonathan Landon is the chaplain at the Eugene VA Health Care Center.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

5 key differences between Delta Force and SEAL Team 6


SEAL Team 6, officially known as United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group (DEVGRU), and Delta Force, officially known as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D), are the most highly trained elite forces in the U.S. military.

Both are Special Missions Units (SMU) under the control of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), they perform various clandestine and highly classified missions around the world. Each unit can equally perform various types of operations but their primary mission is counter-terrorism.

So what’s the difference between the two? Delta Force recently took out ISIS bad guy Abu Sayyaf in Syria; DevGru took out al Qaeda bad guy Osama Bin Laden a few years ago. Same-same, right?

Wrong.

WATM spoke with former DEVGRU operator Craig Sawyer as well as a former Delta operator who asked to remain anonymous to uncover 5 key differences between the two elite forces.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs

1. Selection

Delta Force is an Army outfit that primarily selects candidates from within their own special forces and infantry units. However, they will also select candidates from all branches of service, including the National Guard and Coast Guard.

SEAL Team 6 selects candidates exclusively from the Navy’s SEAL team community. If a candidate does not pass the grueling selection process they will still remain part of the elite SEAL teams.

“It’s a matter of can candidates quickly process what they are taught and keep up,” Sawyer says.

2. Training

Both units have the most sophisticated equipment and are highly trained in Close Quarters Combat (CQB), hostage rescue, high value target extraction, and other specialized operations. The difference is the extensive training DEVGRU operators have in specialized maritime operations, given their naval heritage.

“Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, neither is better or worse,” according to our Delta operator source.

3. Culture

Delta Force operators can be vastly diversified in their training background since they can come from various units across different military branches (including DEVGRU). Delta operators will even be awarded medals of their respective branch of service while serving with the Army unit.

“No matter what your background is, everyone starts from zero so that everyone is on the same page,” says our former Delta operator.

DEVGRU operators come from the SEAL community, and while the training is intensified and more competitive, they all retain their roots in familiar SEAL training and culture.

“Candidates have proven themselves within the SEAL teams,” Sawyer says. “It’s a matter of learning new equipment, tactics, and rules of engagement.”

4. Missions

Generally speaking, both units are equally capable of executing all specialized missions that JSOC is tasked with. Again, because of DEVGRU’s extensive training for specialized maritime operations, they are more likely to receive missions like the rescue of Captain Phillips at sea. Delta’s known and successful missions include finding Saddam Hussein and tracking down Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.

“These are two groups of the most elite operators the military can provide,” says Sawyer.

5. Media exposure

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
Photo: YouTube.com

Members of both units are known as “quiet professionals” and are notorious for being massively secretive. Unfortunately, with today’s social media, 24-hour news coverage and leaks within the government, it can be difficult to keep out of the media no matter what steps are taken to ensure secrecy. While both units carry out high profile missions, SEAL Team 6 has gained much more notoriety and (largely unwanted) exposure in the media in recent years thanks to government leaks and Hollywood blockbuster films such as Zero Dark Thirty (photo above).

“We are very strict with our quiet professionalism. If someone talks, you will probably be blacklisted,” says our former Delta operator.

For more detailed differences between these elite forces check out this SOFREP article.

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The British soldier who used German air raids to become a serial killer

The bravery and resilience of most who survived the Luftwaffe attacks during Germany’s World War II Blitz over London is beyond reproach. But let’s face it, some people are a–holes. Gordon Cummins is one of those.


These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
Photo: Youtube

For the duration of the Blitz, the city’s populace was forced to shelter in darkness. Blackout curtains were placed over windows, smoking outside was banned in parts of the city, and the electricity was sometimes shut off to ensure no light could escape to provide German bombers a target.

For criminals with absolutely no patriotism or scruples, this was an ideal opportunity. Cummins was a Royal Air Force pilot in training in London in Feb. 1942 when something went sideways in his head and he began killing women in the blacked-out city.

The first victim was discovered on the morning of Feb. 9 in an air raid shelter in the West End area. Evelyn Hamilton was found gagged with a scarf and strangled to death. Her handbag and all her money were also stolen.

The very next day another woman was discovered. Evelyn Oatley was a prostitute and former chorus girl found in her apartment, nude, strangled, and viciously slashed across her abdomen with a can opener which was left at the scene.

Investigators didn’t find a new victim on Feb. 11, but any relief was short-lived as they found two on Feb. 13. Margaret Lowe had been missing since Feb. 10. Like Oatley, she was a prostitute and was discovered mostly nude, gruesomely mutilated, and thoroughly strangled.

The other victim found on Feb. 13 was Doris Jouannet. Jouannet was an elderly woman and prostitute. When her husband came home in the morning, he tried to enter their flat but it was barricaded from the inside. He called the police, who forced their way in to find Jouannet mostly nude, slashed with a razor, and dead from strangulation.

The London press knew of the murders and panic descended upon the city. Since three of the victims were prostitutes, it was assumed that group were the most at risk from “The Blackout Ripper.” While the blackouts protected most of the city from the worst of the German raids, it left the ladies of the night completely unprotected from Cummins.

Forced to continue earning a living, the women pressed on with their work. On Feb. 14, Cummins approached Greta Hayward and attempted to murder her in an alley, but as she was succumbing to his strangulation, a delivery boy happened by. He startled Cummins, who fled, accidentally dropping his gas mask as he ran.

Later that night, Cummins attempted to attack another prostitute, Kathleen Mulcahy. He solicited Mulcahy and followed her to her flat. When he attempted to kill her, she fought him off so hard and raised such a ruckus that he again had to flee into the night, this time dropping his belt. Oddly, he left an extra £5 because he may have been a serial killer, but he was also a good tipper.

Cummin’s gas mask was marked with the pilot’s serial number, so investigators proceeded to his lodging where they arrested the him. Cummins maintained his claims of innocence, but investigators found a number of mementos including a watch, a cigarette case, stockings from each victim, and more.

Cummins was tried for the murder of Evelyn Oatley on Apr. 27 and given the death penalty. Rather than try him for his other murders and attempted murders, the state executed him on Jun. 25. In a darkly humorous twist, he was executed during a German air raid.

(h/t Cracked podcast)

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Iran wants to join the ‘carrier club’

Iran has decided it wants to join the aircraft carrier club, with Tehran’s Deputy Navy Commander for Coordination making a statement to Iran’s Fars News Agency.


According to a report by the Times of Israel, Adm. Peiman Jafari Tehrani reportedly said, “Building an aircraft carrier is also among the goals pursued by the navy and we hope to attain this objective.”

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jason Noble

Currently, the United States, India, China, Russia, Brazil, and France operate conventional aircraft carriers. Spain, Japan, Italy, and Thailand operate aircraft carriers for short take-off, vertical landing aircraft — with the United Kingdom in the midst of building two. India also operates an old V/STOL carrier.

Iran has a substantial domestic arms industry and has built its own warships, including the Peykan-class missile boats and the Jamaran-class frigates.

Iran also claims to have deployed the Bavar 373, a knock-off of the SA-10 anti-aircraft missile, and to have copied the RQ-170, an example of which was captured in 2011. Iran also has built modified versions of the Northrop F-5, known as the Saeqeh.

These are the massive ships that can transport other ships for repairs
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. | Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has ordered the Iranian navy to look into constructing nuclear-powered military vessels, according to a report by the Daily Caller. Currently, only the United States, India, China, Russia, the United Kingdom, and France have such vessels in service.

2016 was notable for a number of incidents where Iranian forces harassed or threatened United States Navy personnel.

In January, Iran held a number of U.S. sailors for 15 hours after one of the boats there were on had engine trouble. This past summer, Iranian harassment reached the point where USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots.

United States Navy aircraft received threatening messages from Iran in September. The following month, Iranian-backed rebels damaged HSV 2 Swift, a former U.S. Navy vessel, then carried out multiple attacks on the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, prompting retaliation from the Mason’s sister ship, USS Nitze (DDG 94).

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The Army ROTC program is using Hollywood to train future officers

“The Princess Bride” is a cult classic – one of Robin Wright’s early roles, combined with a young Cary Elwes along with Mandy Patankin and Andre the Giant.


While it’s a satirical look at medieval fairy tales, could it play a role in training future combat leaders in the U.S. Army? Believe it or not, the answer may be “Yes.”

The proof is on Youtube, where the Army ROTC has a channel with dozens of videos of classic movies that hold a lesson for this generation of leaders.

As part of a course labeled MSL 101, Lesson 10, the “Battle of Wits” scene is used to discuss critical thinking. At the end of that video, a card comes up for about four seconds, asking, “What did you think of the clip?” The card goes on to ask, “What processes do you use when you are considering a situation/dilemma when you alone must make the decision?”

Here is that video:

 

Other videos used in that lesson plan include two clips from the Wile E. Coyote/Roadrunner cartoons in the “Looney Tunes” collection.

 

“The Big Bang Theory” also is mined for clips:

 

“Top Gun” adds one as well.

 

Stick around – there are two major productions that really get mined to illustrate lessons.