This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life - We Are The Mighty
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This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life

With most veteran service organizations, the only way to get in the door is to show your military cred — if you didn’t serve, they don’t serve.


And that’s great for some. But for groups like Team Red, White Blue, the whole point is to bring veterans and the civilian community together.

If you didn’t serve, we’re here to serve, they say.

And that proved a crucial difference for Mark Benson, a former Army fire direction specialist who left the military in 2004 after serving a tour during the invasion of Iraq. It was that civilian-to-military connection that attracted Benson to Team RWB, and it’s a distinction that he believes helps former service members survive in the civilian world.

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
(Photo courtesy of Rick Benson Facebook)

 

“Team RWB’s mission is also to help folks rejoin the civilian world. If you’re not engaged with civilians then how are you ever going to connect with the civilian world?” Benson said. “If you’re just hanging out with a bunch of veterans, then you just kind of have your own little microcosm.”

Living in the Los Angeles area is like living in a military veteran desert, he said, it’s hard to find folks who get what doing a combat deployment means. But through his work as a community liaison with Team RWB, Benson found that even those who didn’t serve have a lot of support to offer.

“Some of these non-veterans did experience things in their life where they had a hard time and they kind of can relate to a certain extent,” Benson said. “A lot of the people that are in the leadership in the LA chapter aren’t veterans, but they do have a story. And I think that’s important.”

Benson has been a community liaison for Team RWB for almost a year and helped run with the “stars and stripes” in this year’s cross-country Old Glory Relay. It was Benson’s first run and served as a poignant reminder of the service he and others gave of themselves and provided an outlet to show a new generation the meaning of patriotism and selflessness.

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
Support Team Red White, Blue by donating today!

During a stretch of the relay, Benson and his team of runners passed by an elementary school where the kids were lined up outside reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Later in the run, the Old Glory Relay team paid their respects with the flag at a veterans memorial cemetery.

“It was kind of cool to start out with the young future leaders of the world and then go pay our respects to those who gave their lives to help those young leaders live their lives in peace,” Benson said.

With just over a year being part of Team Red, White Blue, Benson sees his involvement deepening and the influence of his organization growing. Particularly in a non-military town like Los Angeles, it’s groups like Team RWB that bring veterans and their community together and help narrow that military-civilian divide.

“LA is probably one of those areas that has a larger civilian-military divide,” Benson said. “But it seems like in our area at least, there’s definitely a lot more understanding.”

There are many ways to get involved with Team Red, White Blue and the Old Glory Relay, so check out their website to get more information – or text ‘OGR’ to 41444 to learn more and donate! You can track the flag on its journey across America at the OGR Live tracking page.

 

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House panel seeks to increase Army ranks by 45,000 soldiers

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life


The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has introduced a defense bill that would increase the U.S. Army by 45,000 soldiers.

Rep. Mac Thornberry’s version of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Bill would provide money to add 20,000 soldiers to the active Army’s end-strength, bringing it to 480,000.

The bill would also add 15,000 to the National Guard and 10,000 to the Reserves, resulting in a Guard strength of 350,000 and a Reserve strength of 205,000. The panel was expected to approve the measure on Wednesday.

Under the President Barack Obama’s current proposed defense budget, the Army projects its end-strength to be at a total of 980,000 soldiers by fiscal 2018, including 450,000 for the active force, 335,000 for the Army National Guard and 195,000 for the Army Reserve.

“The Chairman’s Mark halts and begins to reverse the drawdown of military end strength, preserving the active duty Army at 480,000,” according to summary of the proposed bill.

The size of the Army has been a major concern among lawmakers, many of whom have stated that the active force is too small to deal with the growing number of threats facing the U.S.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has testified that there is a “high-military risk” if the service continues to operate at its current size, but also told lawmakers that growing end-strength without additional funding would lead to a hollow force.

Thornberry’s revised budget earmarks just over $2 billion in additional funding for the troop increase, according to language in the bill. That’s about $2.5 billion short of what the Army would need, according to Army senior leaders that have testified it will cost about $1 billion for every 10,000 soldiers.

“Where possible, Chairman Thornberry’s proposal cuts excessive or wasteful expenditures and rededicates those resources to urgent needs,” according to the bill’s summary. “Even with a vigorous re-prioritization of programs, the Committee was unable to make up essential shortages in the President’s budget and simultaneously provide a full year of contingency funding.

“The proposal is designed to restore strength to the force through readiness investments and agility through much needed reforms, while providing a more solid foundation for the next President to address actual national security needs,” it states

The proposal also would increase the strength of the Marine Corps by 3,000 and the Air Force by 4,000.

“Perhaps it is also true every year, that when it comes to overall spending levels for defense, we are presented with only difficult, imperfect options,” Thornberry said in his opening remarks at Wednesday’s committee-wide markup session within the House Armed Services Committee.

“But, the bottom line for me this year is that it is fundamentally wrong to send service members out on missions for which they are not fully prepared or fully supported,” he added. “For that reason, I think that it is essential that we begin to correct the funding shortfalls that have led to a lack of readiness and to a heightened level of risk that we have heard about in testimony and that some of us have also seen for ourselves.”

The bill, currently in its draft form, will have to be passed by both the House and the Senate. Obama could also choose to veto the bill after passage.

Articles

This teenage genius created the best prosthetic ever

Easton LaChappelle, a 19-year-old from Cortez, Colorado, has created the most technologically advanced prosthetic the world has ever seen.


LaChappelle began experimenting with robotics when he was 17, creating a moveable robotic arm out of legos and other equipment found in his bedroom. Since then, he and his friends have created Unlimited Tomorrows, a robotics company that specializes in 3D printed prosthetics.

LaChapelle’s prototype possesses a range of motion that is nearly identical to that of a human hand, all controlled by the user’s thoughts. With more than 1,500 military service members having had major limb amputations since 2001, this device may be a game-changer for wounded troops.

And the best part? While most prosthetic limbs cost around $60,000, Chapelle’s prototype was created for only $350. This kid is going places.

To see more of Chapelle and his prosthetic, watch the video below:

DON’T MISS: Forget The Terminator Arm — DARPA Wants An Implantable Hard Drive For The Brain

MIGHTY TRENDING

This WWII veteran played a song for the sniper trying to kill him

Just two weeks after American forces landed at Normandy on D-Day, Jack Leroy Tueller, one of those Americans, was taking sniper fire with the rest of his unit. Tueller played the sniper a beautiful song from his trumpet.

He was orphaned at age five, but before World War II, Jack Tueller would play first-chair trumpet in the Brigham Young University orchestra. After going to war as a pilot, his trumpet skills would serve him well, along with at least one German soldier and both their families.

Jack Tueller served in the Army Air Forces in the European Theater, flying more than 100 combat missions in a P-47 Thunderbolt. He earned the Silver Star and the Distinguished Flying Cross, among others. After the war, he became a missilier in the newly-formed U.S. Air Force and would serve in Korea and Vietnam as well. But his most memorable military moment would always be a night in Normandy when the power of music risked — and saved — his life.

It was a dark, rainy night in Northern France when then-Capt. Tueller decided to play his trumpet for everyone within earshot. The only problem was that not everyone in the area would be very receptive to a song in the dead of night — especially not the sniper trying to shoot him dead.


This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
Capt. Jack Tueller in 1943.

That wasn’t about to deter a man like Tueller, who took his trumpet on every combat mission. If he was ever shot down, he wanted to use it to play songs in the POW camps.

Tueller had been grounded for the night. His unit already cleared most of the area of snipers, but there was one left. Tueller’s commander told him not to play that night because at least one sniper was still operating in the area. The sniper had a sound aimer, which meant he didn’t have to to see his target, only hear it.

But the pilot insisted. He needed a way to relieve his own stress. His commander told him, “it’s your funeral.”

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
(WeDoitfortheLoveofMusic.com)

Jack Tueller thought to himself that the sniper, suddenly being on the losing end of World War II in Europe, was probably as scared and lonely as he was. And so he decided to play a German love song on the trumpet, Lili Marlene, and let the melody flow through Normandy’s apple orchards and into the European night.

The airman played the song all the way through and nothing happened.

Listen to Tueller, who would live on to be a Colonel in the Air Force after the war, play his version of the tune in the video below (58 seconds in).

The very next morning a U.S. Army Jeep leading a group of captured Wehrmacht soldiers approached Tueller and his cohorts. The military policemen told Capt. Tueller that one of the POWs, who was on their way to England, wanted to know who was playing the trumpet the night before.

The captured German, just 19 years old, burst into tears and into the song Tueller played the night before. In broken English, the man told Tueller he thought about his fiancée and his entire family when he heard his trumpet — and he couldn’t fire. It was the song he and his fiancée loved and sang together. The man stuck out his hand.

Captain Jack Tueller shook the hand of his captured enemy.

“He was no enemy,” Tueller says, looking back. “He was scared kid, like me. We were both doing what we were told to do. I had no hatred for him.”

Jack Tueller died in 2016 in his native state of Utah at age 95, still playing the same trumpet he carried on all of his World War II air sorties.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers to be issued locator beacons like the Coast Guard’s

The U.S. Army recently awarded a $34 million contract to McMurdo Inc. for personnel recovery devices that can be used to pinpoint a missing soldier’s location.

This PRD is a dual-mode personal locator beacon built to military specifications that will be integrated into the Army’s Personnel Recovery Support System, or PRSS.


“The PRD will be capable of transmitting both open and secure signals (training/combat dual mode) to alert and notify that a soldier has become isolated, missing, detained or captured,” according to an April 11, 2018 press release from Orolia, McMurdo’s parent company.

McMurdo was awarded a contract in 2016 to develop working prototypes of the PRD that could coordinate with the service’s PRSS.

“The Army recognized a need to complement its PRSS with a dual-mode, easy-to-use distress beacon to provide initial report/locate functionality, even in remote locations,” said Mark Cianciolo, general manager of McMurdo’s aerospace, defense and government programs, in a 2016 press release.

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
The McMurdo Inc. FastFind 220 personal locator beacon used by the Coast Guard. The U.S. Army awarded McMurdo a $34 million contract for similar personal recovery devices to be used for locating missing soldiers.
(McMurdo Group photo)

Commercially made personal locator beacons have become extremely popular with mountain climbers and other adventurers, who depend on them to send a signal to rescuers in the event they become injured in remote locations.

McMurdo’s positioning device has been designed to meet military standards and has improved accuracy. It also has decreased size, weight and power requirements, the release states.

“We are extremely proud and honored to have been selected by the U.S. Army as the provider of this critical positioning device for the safety of U.S. warfighters,” Jean-Yves Courtois, chief executive officer of Orolia, said in the April 11, 2018 press release.

The PRD is based on Orolia’s new rugged and small positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) platform, but the release did not specify the exact model being produced for the Army.

The Coast Guard awarded McMurdo a $3 million contract in 2016 for 16,000 FastFind 220 personal locator beacons.

The handheld FastFind 220 is used to notify emergency personnel during an air, land or water emergency in remote or high-risk environments. It uses a 406MHz frequency and transmits a distress signal containing unique beacon identification information and location data through the international search-and-rescue satellite system operated by Cospas-Sarsat, according to an Aug. 17, 2016, post on Intelligent Aerospace.

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

Articles

6 times America went to war since 9/11

The Trump administration opened a new military front April 6 when it ordered dozens of cruise missiles against a Syrian air base, adding to a growing list of recent U.S. military forays.


A look at where the United States has fought in the 21st century:

1. Afghanistan

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
U.S. Special Operations personnel take cover to avoid flying debris as they prepare to board a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter during a mission in Kunar province, Afghanistan, on Feb. 25, 2012. (Dept. of Defense photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Clayton Weiss, U.S. Navy)

After al-Qaida attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. led an invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban. Though the U.S. and NATO formally ended their combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the war — now in its 16th year — drags on.

Some 8,400 American troops are deployed in Afghanistan, where they train the country’s military and perform counterterrorism operations.

2. Iraq

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
An M2A2 Bradley in action during a mission in Iraq. (U.S. Air Force)

Under President George W. Bush, the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 and toppled Saddam Hussein. Bush’s successor, President Barack Obama, pulled U.S. troops out of Iraq in 2011 after failing to reach an agreement with Baghdad to leave a residual U.S. force behind.

But the U.S. sent troops back three years later after the Islamic State group, a successor to al-Qaida in Iraq, seized Iraqi territory and sought to declare an Islamic caliphate.

3. Drone Wars

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
Predator drone strike.

Under Obama, the U.S. dramatically increased the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones, to launch counterterrorism strikes without the need for a large U.S. military presence on the ground. The CIA and Defense Department have launched strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya, some of them covert.

Intense criticism from civil liberties advocates led Obama to create legal parameters for drone use that he hoped future presidents would respect. At least 117 civilians were killed from 2009 to 2016 by drone strikes outside of traditional warzones, the U.S. intelligence community has said. Other estimates place the toll higher.

4. Libya

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
A quick reaction force with Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response prepares to depart Naval Air Station Sigonella, Italy, in support of a military assisted departure from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 26, 2014. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by 1st Lt. Maida Kalic)

The U.S. and European allies launched an air campaign in Libya in 2011, aiming to prevent atrocities by strongman Moammar Gadhafi against Arab Spring-inspired opponents. The bombing campaign toppled Gadhafi, but Libya slid into chaos and infighting. The Islamic State group later gained a foothold.

The U.S. has continued to carry out airstrikes in Libya that Washington says has diminished the number of IS extremists operating there.

5. Islamic State Group in Iraq and Syria

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
U.S. Marines with Task Force Spartan, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), on Fire Base Bell, Iraq, fire an M777A2 Howitzer at an ISIS infiltration route March 18, 2016. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Andre Dakis)

After IS captured a wide swath of Iraq and Syria in 2014, Obama announced the U.S. could target the group “wherever they are.”

The U.S. started sending small numbers of military advisers to help Iraq’s weakened military fight IS. The number has crept up to around 7,500 U.S. troops. IS has lost much of its former territory.

In Syria, the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against IS since 2014. More recently, the U.S. has dispatched growing numbers of special operations forces to assist Kurdish and Arab forces fighting IS. Roughly 500 U.S. fighters are in Syria, plus additional, “temporary” forces that rotate through.

6. Syria

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
The guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG 78) is one of the two warships to fire 59 BGM-109 Tomahawks at the Syrian airfield on April 6, 2017. (U.S. Navy photo)

Even while fighting IS in Syria, the U.S. has avoided wading into Syria’s civil war by directly confronting Syrian President Bashar Assad — until now. On April 6, U.S. warships in the Mediterranean Sea launched some 60 Tomahawk missiles at an air base in response to a chemical weapons attack blamed on Assad’s forces.

The strikes mark the first direct U.S. attack on Syria’s government, which has waged a six-year civil war against opposition groups. It also puts the U.S. into a de facto proxy battle with Russia’s military, which is on the ground in Syria and has propped up Assad.

Articles

The US Air Force just sent this nuke-sniffer to Japan

The U.S. Air Force has deployed a nuke-sniffer aircraft at its base in Okinawa, Japan, according to multiple sources.


The Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix, capable of collecting samples from the atmosphere after a nuclear explosion, arrived at Kadena Air Base, Stars and Stripes reported.

The aircraft may be being deployed ahead of a possible sixth nuclear test in North Korea.

Recent satellite images indicate ongoing activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear site, where Pyongyang conducted its fifth nuclear test in September 2016.

Satoru Kuba, an Okinawan who keeps track of military aircraft activity at Kadena Air Base, and a senior Japan self-defense forces official, each confirmed the WC-135 aircraft’s arrival.

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
Dennis Wilder,a former CIA deputy assistant director for East Asia and the Pacific, posits that North Korea could have a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the US west coast within four years. (Image via The Heritage Foundation: 2016)

The Constant Phoenix jet touched down at the air base in Okinawa on April 7, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

The aircraft was scheduled to arrive earlier, on March 24, but engine problems resulted in its delay.

The WC-135 jet has been deployed before to Japan and has been carrying out missions in the region since October 2006, when North Korea conducted its first nuclear test.

The aircraft previously found radioactive debris consistent with a North Korea nuclear test during previous missions.

North Korea continues to allocate more than 15 percent of its national budget to defense expenditures, according to Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

“In order to handle the critical situation of the nuclear threat and endless war provocations of the United States and its followers, we will apportion 15.8 percent of all spending to defense expenditures, in order to strengthen the self-defense and pre-emptive capabilities centered around our nuclear armed forces,” Pyongyang stated April 12.

But North Korea also revived its foreign affairs committee during a meetings of its Supreme People’s Assembly the second week of April, a possible sign Kim Jong Un may be willing to take a step back from escalating tensions with the United States.

Articles

It’s almost time for Russia’s annual display of weapons and World War II pride

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life
T-72s roll along Red Square during last year’s Victory Day parade. (Photo: AFP)


It’s the biggest event that happens every year in Moscow, a Russian extravaganza that rolls out weapons new and old and continues the war of words between Russia and the United States.

On Monday, Russia will celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II – known there as The Great Patriotic War – with it annual Victory Day celebrations and parade.

More than just a commemoration of Russian sacrifices during the war, since Soviet times the celebration is part of a carefully crafted military spectacle intended to tell the U.S. and the West that Russia is a world power worthy of respect – and even fear.

That’s a message that Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin wants the United States to hear loud and clear.

“The Victory Day parade, with all its loudly trumpeted pomp and technology, is also a clear message to Russia’s perceived threats and enemies that Russia is not to be trifled with militarily,” Peter Zwack, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and former U.S. military attaché to Russia, told We Are The Mighty.

“The 71st anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany is the underlying theme, but in reality these recent parades are a robust display to the world and also Russia’s domestic population of Russia’s modern military might,” Zwack said.  “While initially there are vehicles and troops in commemorative World War II battle dress, overwhelmingly this is an aggressive assertion of today’s Russian military which has had recent, widely publicized successes in Syria.”

Russians hold the impressive parade in Moscow’s Red Square. Traditionally, the parade is in three parts: a procession of the Ground Forces, the “military hardware demonstration” that showcases weapons systems new and old, and the “fly-by of the air forces.”

One of the ways Russia asserts its might is the tradition of rolling out new hardware for the entire world to see. This year’s parade and aerial flybys will be no different – and the Kremlin uses its Twitter and Instagram presence to gain maximum publicity.

According to the Kremlin’s recent English-language social media postings, at least one new example of Russian military hardware will appear for the first time during the Victory Day celebration on Monday.

It is the Su-35s fighter, which is reportedly an upgraded version of the tried-and-true Flanker multirole air superiority fighter. Earlier this year, the Russian government placed a $1.4 billion order for 50 of the fighter planes to expand the Russian Air Force.

In February, the Russian military deployed four of the Su-35s to Khmeimim air base near Latakia for combat operations in Syria, according to a Russian news report.

The Kremlin says altogether 128 pieces of military equipment will participate in this year’s Victory Day parade. That also will include reappearances by hardware that debuted last year such as the T-14 Armata tank.

T-90 main battle tanks, BTR-80 armored personnel carriers, and several other classes of armored vehicles will also appear.

Zwack said that in recent years Putin revived much of the Soviet-era pomp associated with the celebration as part of a carefully orchestrated campaign to bolster Russian pride. But not only will rolling tanks and soaring aircraft be on display – so will the Russian political leadership.

“Vladimir Putin is always front and center of the Victory Day parade with his defense minister, Sergey Shoigu,” Zwack said “He is clearly the ‘Alpha Leader’ in charge, and he conveys that he will at all costs and any sacrifice protect and defend the Russian populace against all threats. In his mind he benefits internationally, and most importantly, domestically from this full blown display and resurgence of Russia’s military capability and competence.”

Celebrated since 1946, День Победы – Victory Day – displays the exceptional status that Russians believe they possess because of their sacrifices during the war. It is even celebrated on a different day than Victory in Europe Day – otherwise known as VE Day.

As far as most Russians are concerned, the celebration of their victory over Nazi Germany and the commemoration of the nearly 25 million soldiers and civilians who died during World War II is an affirmation of the eternal validity of Russian nationalism, the importance of Russian identity, and the necessity of Russia’s place in the constellation of “great power” nations.

Germany signed a surrender agreement in France with the Allied Powers on May 7, 1945 – but the Soviet Union wanted a separate peace with Nazi Germany for a variety of political reasons.

While the rest of the world celebrated VE Day on May 8, Nazi representatives and the Allies repeated the surrender in Berlin where supreme German military commander Wilhelm Keitel, Soviet Marshal Georgy Zhukov and others signed the instrument of surrender.  It was May 9 in the Moscow time zone when the agreement took effect – hence the date for Victory Day.

Since last year, one of the themes repeated by Moscow is the United States does not respect the sacrifice of the Russian people during World War II. It appears that is also a message that will accompany this year’s Victory Day celebration.

For example, the message from the Kremlin to the United States regarding the upcoming anniversary is bitter. Its English-language social media site recently published photographs of post-war banners that said in Russian “Americans will never forget the heroic deeds of Russians” and “America says ‘Hi’ to our valiant Russian allies.”

The Moscow-written tag-line to the recent post is: “How sad that you’ve already forgotten.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are the China and Taiwan dueling propaganda videos

Mainland China made a video of its fighter jets flying around Taiwan, so Taiwan returned fire with a video of its forces preparing to a repel a Chinese invasion.

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force released a music video titled “My War Eagles Are Flying Around The Treasured Island” on Feb. 3, 2019. The upbeat video released ahead of the Chinese New Year calls for reunification with Taiwan, a priority for the Chinese military.


Taiwan has formally protested. “This approach aims at reunifying Taiwan with force and will only have counterproductive results as Taiwanese will find it repulsive and distasteful,” Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council argued in a statement on the matter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zyFpYRyOY0
《我的战鹰绕着宝岛飞》

www.youtube.com

Watch Mainland China’s video below:

In addition to the sharp rebuke, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense released its own video, a 90-second video named “Freedom Isn’t Free” that features clips from 2018’s military exercises.

“Many men and women serving in the armed forces will miss New Year’s Eve dinners with their families, but they will not be absent from standing on guards to protect the country,” the ministry said in its statement on Facebook.

“Our resolve to protect every inch of the nation’s territory has never wavered, our constant efforts to strengthen the military’s combat ability has never changed.”


onstandby24/7

www.facebook.com

Watch Taiwan’s response video here:

In an earlier address, Chinese President Xi Jinping refused to rule out the use of force to secure the reunification of Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, a Chinese general warned a top US admiral that “if anyone wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will safeguard the national unity at all costs so as to protect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

The Chinese military regularly conducts so-called “encirclement drills” around Taiwan, a self-ruled democratic territory that Beijing perceives as a renegade province.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.


In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.

“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.

The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.

“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”

The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.

“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.

“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.

The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.

The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.

In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.

The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.

This former soldier says Team RWB helped him make the transition from service to civilian life

“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”

As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.

In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.

In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”

In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.

Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch this Russian fighter nearly collide with Navy plane

The U.S. Navy has released video of a Su-27, a Russian fighter, conducting an extremely dangerous maneuver against the crew of an EP-3 Aries plane taking part in Trident Juncture, the massive NATO war games that have sent the Russian military into a tizzy.


The depicted aerial maneuvers, which included the Russian plane flying within a few feet of the U.S. aircraft with engines roaring, were seemingly conducted solely with the intention of threatening the unarmed plane. The intercept included two passes and lasted for approximately 25 minutes. According to a Navy statement,

On Nov. 5, 2018, a U.S. EP-3 Aries aircraft flying in international airspace over the Black Sea was intercepted by a Russian SU-27. This interaction was determined to be unsafe due to the SU-27 conducting a high speed pass directly in front of the mission aircraft, which put our pilots and crew at risk. The intercepting SU-27 made an additional pass, closing with the EP-3 and applying its afterburner while conducting a banking turn away. The crew of the EP-3 reported turbulence following the first interaction, and vibrations from the second.

The Navy pushed the Russian forces to follow international agreements and cited the 1972 Agreement for the Prevention of Incidents On and Over the High Seas (INCSEA), an agreement originally between the U.S. and the Soviet Union which covers interactions between naval forces.

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A U.S. Navy EP-3 reconnaissance plane

(U.S. Navy)

Article IV of the agreement specifically calls for commanders of aircraft to “use the greatest of caution and prudence in approaching aircraft and ships of the other Party,” something that this November 5 incident seems to be a flagrant violation of. This follows a November 2 incident in which a Russian bomber flew nearly directly over a U.S. command ship, the USS Mount Whitney.

A Pentagon spokesperson told Business Insider that Russia failed to make radio contact with the plane before conducting its maneuvers, making this interaction especially dangerous.

This sudden increase in incidents is no accident. NATO’s Trident Juncture war games are a response to increasing Russian aggression, including the illegal annexation of Crimea and election meddling across the Europe and the U.S.

The military exercises have triggered a series of responses from Russia, which include the dangerous intercepts, a huge missile exercise announced and held in the middle of NATO’s training, and an increased naval presence in the waters in and around the exercise.

Russia’s concerns about the large exercise ring hollow, though, since Russia held the Vostock 2018 war games in September, which it claimed was its largest exercise since the Cold War. While Russia inflated the size of Vostock, claiming 300,000 troops where there may have been as few as 150,000, it was still much larger than Trident Juncture, which has only 50,000 participants.

But Trident Juncture is still frightening for Russia as 30 nations are taking part. Vostock had only three participants: Russia, China, and a small Mongolian force. And Trident Juncture includes nations that are Russian neighbors and either members of NATO or friends of the alliance, posing a big threat to Russia’s ability to push around its neighbors.

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This top secret mission kept the Nazis from getting Amsterdam’s diamonds

When Germany began its assault on Holland on May 10, 1940, the international community was not just worried about the lives of the Dutch people but also about the massive stocks of industrial diamonds in Amsterdam.


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The German invasion of Holland featured the use of paratroopers in costumes and Dutch uniforms. Photo: Dutch National Archives via Wikipedia

Industrial diamonds were used for many manufacturing purposes and the country that controlled the diamonds could create more weapons, vehicles, and sophisticated technology like radar.

That’s why two diamond traders in England, Jan Smit and Walter Keyser, offered their services to the British government. Jan’s father ran a large trading interest in Amsterdam and was friends with many more traders. Smit was certain that if he were allowed passage into and out of Amsterdam, he could get many diamonds out before the Nazis could seize them.

Approval for the mission went all the way to the new prime minister Winston Churchill himself. Churchill ordered a military officer to escort the two men and granted them the use of an old World War I destroyer, the HMS Walpole, to get them into the city. The Walpole had to thread a mile gap between German and British minefields at night under blackout conditions to get across the English Channel.

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The HMS Walpole Photo: Royal Navy

During the transit, the Walpole almost struck another British ship sneaking through the darkness. Those on the Walpole would learn years later that the other ship was evacuating members of the Dutch Royal family.

Keyser and Smit arrived in the harbor just before daybreak and spent the day working with Smit’s father to convince traders to release the diamonds to the Keyser and Smit. From their landing at the docks to their trips around the city, the men were driven by a Jewish woman, Anna, who protected them from possible German spies.

Throughout the men’s day in Amsterdam, Dutch police and soldiers were attempting to root out pockets of German paratroopers wreaking havoc in the city. Across the country, German forces were quickly taking over and quashing resistance. Gunfire interrupted a few of their meetings.

The Germans made quick progress and occupied the entire country within five days. Photo: German Army Archives via Wikipedia The Germans made quick progress and occupied the entire country within five days. Photo: German Army Archives via Wikipedia

Many of the diamond traders were Jewish and could have bribed their way out of the country with their stocks and possibly escaped the Holocaust. Instead, they took the chance to get them away from German hands. Most of the traders even refused receipts out of fear that the Germans would learn how many diamonds they had prevented the Third Reich from getting their hands on.

While the men gave many of their diamonds to the English agents, the attack had come during a bank weekend and many were in safes that couldn’t be opened for another day or more.

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Industrial diamonds are used in tools and manufacturing equipment because of their how hard they are. Photo: R. Tanaka CC BY 3.0 via Wikipedia

Luckily another British agent, Lt. Col. Montagu R. Chidson, made his way to the massive vault at the Amsterdam Mart and spent hours breaking into it, even as German paratroopers forced their way into the building. He escaped with the diamonds as the soldiers forced their way down the stairs.

At the end of the day, Chidson escaped on his own while Anna rushed Smit, Keyser, and their military escort back to the docks just in time to rendezvous with the HMS Walpole. Smit carried a thick canvas bag filled with the diamonds and forced a tug driver at gunpoint to take them to the British destroyer.

Chidson’s diamonds made their way to Queen Wilhelmina while the diamonds recovered by Smit and Keyser were held in London for the duration of the war.

(h/t David E. Walker for his 1955 book, “Adventure In Diamonds” where he recounts much of the first-hand testimony of the men who took part in the operations to recover diamonds ahead of the Nazi advance).

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The Air Force wants to roll out a cheaper attack aircraft to fly alongside the A-10

The hullabaloo surrounding the future of the US Air Force’s A-10 Thunderbolt II has been endless.


Its effectiveness on the battlefield has been proven with servicemembers on the ground going as far as calling it their “guardian angel” in the heat of battle. Equipped with an arsenal of weapons, including its notorious 30mm Gatling gun, it’s not hard to see why the A-10 commands such respect.

Also read: This 1973 war is why the Air Force thinks the A-10 can’t survive in modern combat

However, even with its impressive resume, the Air Force continues to float plans to replace the A-10 after 40 years of service.

Even so, a Defense News interview with a US Air Force official indicated that a compromise may be on the negotiating table.

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The A-10 shows off its non-BRRRRRT related talents during the 2011 Aviation Nation Open House on Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in 2011. | US Air Force photo by Tech Sgt. Bob Sommer

Lt. Gen. James M. Holmes, the US Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Plans and Requirements, explained that a new light attack aircraft could be introduced that would not outright replace the fleet of nearly 300 A-10s, but instead, supplement them starting as early as 2017.

In doing so, Defense News reports that this new light aircraft, called Observation, Attack, Experimental (OA-X), would give commanders a cheap alternative to fight insurgents, compared to the costs of operating the A-10 and other fighter aircraft.

“Do you believe that this war that we’re fighting to counter violent extremists is going to last another 15 years?” Holmes asked in the Defense News interview. “If you believe it does, and our chief believes it will, then you have to think about keeping a capability that’s affordable to operate against those threats so that you’re not paying high costs per flying hour to operate F-35s and F-22s to chase around guys in pickup trucks.”

However, that doesn’t necessarily preclude the A-10 being outright replaced. Defense Newsreported that the Air Force began floating an A-10 replacement possibility in July. Under the proposal, the Air Force would conduct close air support (CAS) missions with the A-10 with a supporting cheap OA-X in low-threat environments.

Under the proposal, the Air Force would at a later date also acquire a fleet of future A-X aircraft that would perform in medium-threat environments and eventually replace the A-10.

Also on the table was the possibility of pushing back the projected retirement date of the A-10 from 2022 due to the high operational costs of the Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighters.

It should be noted, however, that the annual cost of the A-10 program costs less than 2% of the Air Force’s budget. In 2014, it was also reported that the A-10 costed about $11,500 per hour to operate — about a third of the hourly cost of the military’s latest F-35 Lightning II.

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