An Army Ranger veteran who plays Santa was called for an emergency visit to a dying child in Tennessee, arriving just in time to present the boy with a present and hold him as he passed away.
Eric Schmitt-Matzen is a 60-year-old engineer and the president of Packing Seals Engineering, according to Fox News. He carefully cultivates Saint Nicholas’s appearance and performs at approximately 80 events throughout each year.
A nurse contacted him from a hospital near his home in Tennessee to ask that he rush over and comfort a dying child. According to the BBC, he was given a PAW Patrol toy by the child’s mother.
“She’d bought a toy from [the TV show] ‘PAW Patrol’ and wanted me to give it to him,” he told the Knoxville News Sentinel. “I sized up the situation and told everyone, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job.’ ”
Schmitt-Matzen told the sick boy that he was Santa’s “Number One Elf” and that no matter where the boy went next, that title would get him in. Schmitt-Matzen gave the boy the gift and the child asked, “Santa, can you help me?”
“I wrapped my arms around him,” Schmitt-Matzen said, according to the Independent. “Before I could say anything, he died right there. I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”
The Ranger veteran left the hospital in tears that any soldier could easily understand. Rangers Lead The Way.
For Dr. Stephen Gau, an emergency medicine physician at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Loma Linda Healthcare System, a recent encounter with a veteran confirmed a key benefit of his choice of a VA career: the ability to spend more time with patients.
Despite recently documented progress in reducing wait times since the Phoenix controversy erupted in 2014, Dr. Gau said his patients often voice concerns about VA care. One of Dr. Gau’s patients, frustrated and frightened after a diagnosis of metastatic cancer, even asked, “Is this going to be another Phoenix?”
Dr. Gau said VA Loma Linda’s relatively low doctor-patient ratio allowed him the time to thoroughly review the veteran’s medical record. He confirmed that follow-up appointments were scheduled and specialty care was coordinated. Dr. Gau discussed the cancer care process and answered the veteran’s many questions.
It was sea change compared with Dr. Gau’s experience in the private sector, and an eye-opener for the patient. “I don’t know if I would have had that kind of time in the community (hospital) — to really talk to a patient and really explain what was going on and relieve his fear,” he said.
Wait times are down, study shows
This anecdote shines a light on how VA’s effort to reduce patient wait times in primary care and other specialty care services — in part through increased access to care — can manifest at the patient level.
Broader data from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) confirm that service improvements are happening VA-wide. The study, released Jan. 18, 2019, found that, in 2017, VA physicians, including primary care doctors and cardiologists, saw patients 12 days sooner than their private-sector counterparts.
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the study results confirm that systematic changes are working. “Since 2014, VA has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care,” he said in a statement.
The study, “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and United States Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” looked at VA and private-sector hospital wait-time data across 15 major metropolitan areas. In 2017, average wait times were significantly shorter for VA compared with private hospitals, in primary care, cardiology and dermatology. (Orthopedic wait times were longer for VA in both 2014 and 2017, although they were down during the study period.)
VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
The study affirmed additional progress in cutting wait times since 2014 cited by Wilkie in December 2018 testimony before a joint session of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs’ committees.
“The average time it took to complete an urgent referral to a VA specialist has decreased from 19.3 days in FY 2014 to 3.2 days in FY 2017 and less than 2 days in FY 2018,” Wilkie testified.
Choose VA to prioritize patient care
Wilkie also credited VA’s workforce for improving services across the board and committed to using the tools of the VA MISSION Act to recruit and retain talented healthcare providers, including additional hiring resources and incentives.
Dr. Gau, who moved to VA from a private sector hospital, said it was the veteran-centric mission and the sizable benefits that ultimately lured him to government service. More time with patients has been an added benefit.
It’s a career choice he doesn’t regret. “I tell you what, it’s been a really positive experience for me,” he said.
Choose VA today
Physicians like Dr. Gau find that choosing a VA career means being able to deliver the highest quality healthcare in a time frame that works for veterans and providers. See if a VA career as a physician is the right choice for you, too.
A Department of Defense report released on May 2, 2019, paints a troubling picture of sexual violence in the US military, with an almost 38 percent rise between 2016 and 2018, according to a Pentagon survey reviewed by INSIDER.
The report, which surveyed men and women in the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force, reported that around 20,500 service members experienced sexual assault in the past year — a significant leap from around 14,900 members in 2016, when a similar survey was conducted.
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called the prevalence of sexual assault in the military “unacceptable” in a memorandum sent across the Department of Defense, and reviewed by INSIDER.
“To put it bluntly, we are not performing to the standards and expectations we have for ourselves or for each other,” Shanahan wrote. “We must improve our culture to treat each other with dignity and respect and hold ourselves, and each other, more accountable.”
U.S. Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan.
The Pentagon has grappled with preventing sexual assault in the ranks for decades, and the latest survey shows their policies have failed to stem the problem as more troops report sexual abuse, nearly 90 percent of which was reportedly perpetrated by another member of the military.
Women in the military, and particularly young women between the ages of 17 to 24, are most at risk of experiencing sexual assault, the report found. Sexual assault rates for women were highest in the Marines, followed by the Navy, Army, and Air Force. The rates among men remained similar to the 2016 report.
“The results are disturbing and a clear indicator the Marine Corps must reexamine its sexual assault prevention efforts,” the Marine Corps said in a statement in response to the findings.
The survey also found increases in sexual harassment and gender discrimination compared to 2016, behavior that could ultimately lead to sexual assault.
The memo described a list of steps that the Department of Defense plans to implement in response to sexual assault, such as launching a Catch a Serial Offender (CATCH) program so members can confidentially report offenders, bolstering recruitment efforts, and better preparing enlisted leaders and first-line supervisors to properly respond to sexual misconduct reports.
The Pentagon also established a sexual assault accountability task force last month, at the urging of Arizona Sen. Martha Mc Sally, the GOP lawmaker and 26-year military veteran who revealed in March that she had been raped in the Air Force by a superior officer.
Martha McSally with an A-10 Thunderbolt II.
“As a result of this year’s report, the Department is reevaluating existing processes used to address sexual assault and taking a holistic approach to eliminate sexual assault, which include taking preventative measures, providing additional support and care for victims, and ensuring a robust and comprehensive military justice process,” Department of Defense spokesperson Jessica Maxwell told INSIDER.
Lack of confidence
Thursday’s report hints at a culture in which members may be hesitant to come forward about their assaults, especially as the majority of alleged perpetrators are also in uniform.
In total, 89 percent of alleged offenders were service members, the report found, and 62 percent of assailants had been friends or acquaintances with the victim. Alcohol was involved in 62 percent of sexual assault situations.
For service members who did come forward to report sexual assault, 64 percent described a perceived negative experience or retaliation for speaking out. Maxwell, the spokesperson, told INSIDER that there were 187 allegations of retaliation against victims who reported sexual assault in the past year.
“No one in the Department of Defense should have to fear retaliatory behavior associated with a sexual assault report,” she said, adding that measures are being taken by the department to better respond to retaliation.
While sexual assaults in the military had been on the decline since 2006, when more than 34,000 members had reported misconduct, a 35 percent increase in assaults between 2010 and 2012 led military leaders in 2013 to declare “zero tolerance” for sexual abuse in the ranks. While the percentage of sexual assaults did decline in 2016, that trend reversed course in 2018.
“Collectively, we must do everything we can to eliminate sexual harassment and assault in the military,” Shanahan wrote in his memo. “Sexual assault is illegal and immoral, is inconsistent with the military’s mission, and will not be tolerated.”
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
The US Navy broke with its tradition of hyping up F-35 deployments when it sent the USS Essex jump-jet carrier into the Western Pacific with a deck full of the revolutionary fighter jets this week — and it could signal a big change in how the US deals with its toughest adversaries.
When the USS Wasp became the first small-deck aircraft carrier to deploy with US Marine Corps F-35Bs in early 2018, the media was in on it. But the Essex’s departure marks a change, as the Navy announced the deployment only after the ship departed, USNI News noted.
The Navy regularly deploys capital ships like small- and large-deck carriers for patrols around the world but has only twice deployed ones like these.
The F-35 has become the most expensive weapons system in history and earned its share of criticism along the way as costs ballooned and deadlines fell through. The Marine Corps’ F-35B is designed to land vertically and take off from short runways, like an amphibious assault ship, and will replace the AV-8B Harrier in ground and air attack missions; the Navy’s F-35C has a tailhook to snag an arresting cable and land on an aircraft carrier.
The Navy wants to change the media’s expectations regarding ship deployments to the Pacific, sources told USNI News.
The US military usually prides itself on publicizing its ship deployments and often says its carrier deployments are drawn up apolitically and months ahead of time, but insisting on some level of secrecy betrays that.
The flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan in the Luzon Strait.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan McFarlane)
What does the US Navy have to hide in the Pacific?
The US has major adversaries in the Pacific — namely China and, to a lesser extent, North Korea.
It makes sense that with dialogue underway with North Korea, the US would want to quiet big deployments to the Western Pacific, and a high-profile deployment of next-generation stealth jets could seriously spook North Korea.
But it’s China’s navy that poses the biggest threat to the US, and it’s possibly the reason the US is staying quiet.
When the USS Ronald Reagan, the US’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier in Japan, patrolled the South China Sea, which China unilaterally claims as its own in defiance of international law, the US said very little about it. Repeated requests for comment from Business Insider went ignored.
The US uses its Navy to challenge what it calls excessive maritime claims of dozens of nations around the world in passages called “freedom of navigation” operations. Basically, if a country claims an excessive amount of maritime territory, the US usually sails a destroyer through to inform it that its claims are not recognized.
China views these patrols as a challenge to its sovereignty and makes a big deal out of them. For the US, it’s better if the challenges to China’s claims are the norm and not a news story. Some observers have speculated that the US wants to send a message to China’s military leadership without the publicity that may compel them to escalate.
By keeping quiet high-profile deployments to the Pacific, the US could be signaling that it’s getting ready to put the ball back in China’s court, with high-end military hardware checking it and disputes handled between navies rather than via press releases.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
NASA legend, mathematician, race barrier breaker, women’s rights advancer, mother, military spouse: Katherine Johnson was truly out of this world. The once in a generation mind passed away at age 101 on February 24, NASA announced.
We’re saddened by the passing of celebrated #HiddenFigures mathematician Katherine Johnson. Today, we celebrate her 101 years of life and honor her legacy of excellence that broke down racial and social barriers: https://go.nasa.gov/2SUMtN2 pic.twitter.com/dGiGmEVvAW
Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. From an early age, she demonstrated a love of counting and numbers far beyond her peers and well beyond her years. By age 10, Johnson was already through her grade school curriculum and enrolled in high school, which she finished at 14. She enrolled in West Virginia State College at only age 15 and started pursuing her love of math.
According to NASA, while at WVSC, Johnson had the opportunity to study under well known professor Dr. William W. Schiefflin Claytor. Claytor guided Johnson in her career path, once telling her, “You’d make a great research mathematician.” He also provided her guidance with how to become one. In an interview with NASA, Johnson recalled, “Many professors tell you that you’d be good at this or that, but they don’t always help you with that career path. Professor Claytor made sure I was prepared to be a research mathematician.” Claytor’s spirit of mentorship was something that Johnson paid forward. “Claytor was a young professor himself,” she said, “and he would walk into the room, put his hand in his pocket, and take some chalk out, and continue yesterday’s lesson. But sometimes I could see that others in the class did not understand what he was teaching. So I would ask questions to help them. He’d tell me that I should know the answer, and I finally had to tell him that I did know the answer, but the other students did not. I could tell.”
Johnson became the first black woman to attend West Virginia University’s graduate school. Following graduation, she became a school teacher, settled down and married. She spent many years at home with her three daughters, but when her husband became ill, she began teaching again. In the early 1950s, a family friend told Johnson that NACA (the predecessor to NASA) was hiring. According to NASA, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics were specifically looking for African-American females to work as “computers” in what was then their Guidance and Navigation Department. In the 1950s, pools of women at NACA did calculations that the engineers needed worked or verified.
Johnson applied but the openings were already filled. The following year, she applied again, and this time she was offered two contracts. She took the one as a researcher. She started working at NACA in 1953. In 1956, her husband died of an inoperable brain tumor. In 1959, Johnson remarried James A. Johnson, an Army captain and Korean War veteran.
Johnson was a pioneer for multiple reasons. Not only was she a working woman in the 1950s, an era during which women were generally secretaries if they worked at all, she was also a black woman. In an interview for the book “Black Women Scientists in the United States,” Johnson recalled, “We needed to be assertive as women in those days – assertive and aggressive – and the degree to which we had to be that way depended on where you were. I had to be. In the early days of NASA women were not allowed to put their names on the reports – no woman in my division had had her name on a report. I was working with Ted Skopinski and he wanted to leave and go to Houston … but Henry Pearson, our supervisor – he was not a fan of women – kept pushing him to finish the report we were working on. Finally, Ted told him, ‘Katherine should finish the report, she’s done most of the work anyway.’ So Ted left Pearson with no choice; I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time a woman in our division had her name on something.”
If Johnson was intimidated, she never showed it. “The women did what they were told to do,” she explained in an interview with NASA. “They didn’t ask questions or take the task any further. I asked questions; I wanted to know why. They got used to me asking questions and being the only woman there.”
Johnson was so well known for her capabilities, that John Glenn personally asked for her before his orbit in 1962. According to NASA, “The complexity of the orbital flight had required the construction of a worldwide communications network, linking tracking stations around the world to IBM computers in Washington, Cape Canaveral in Florida, and Bermuda. The computers had been programmed with the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in Glenn’s Friendship 7 mission from liftoff to splashdown, but the astronauts were wary of putting their lives in the care of the electronic calculating machines, which were prone to hiccups and blackouts. As a part of the preflight checklist, Glenn asked engineers to ‘get the girl’—Johnson—to run the same numbers through the same equations that had been programmed into the computer, but by hand, on her desktop mechanical calculating machine. ‘If she says they’re good,” Katherine Johnson remembers the astronaut saying, ‘then I’m ready to go.’ Glenn’s flight was a success, and marked a turning point in the competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in space.”
Johnson was an instrumental part of the team and was the only woman to be pulled from the calculating pool room to work on other projects. One of those projects: putting a man on the moon.
Johnson lived a remarkable life and had a prestigious career. Her awards and decorations are numerous, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Congressional Gold Medal, honorary doctorate from William and Mary, a facility being named after her at NASA’s Langley campus and even a Barbie made in her image. She had a fervor for learning and a love of life.
“Like what you do, and then you will do your best,” she said.
The Afghan Air Force is scheduled to receive 150 new MD530 F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters by 2022.
By this, the total number of MD530 Fs operated by the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces will rise to almost 180.
The US Department of Defense announced on Sept. 5 that it has issued a $1.38 billion contract to MD Helicopters “for procurement of an estimated quantity of 150 MD 530F aircraft and required production support services to include program management, delivery support, pilot training and maintenance,” the Diplomat reported.
The estimated completion date of the contract is 2022.
According to a MD Helicopters press release, the first deliveries under the contract will be 30 MD 530Fs for an estimated $177 million. The first part of the order is expected to be completed by September 2019.
“Mission Equipment for these aircraft will include a ballistic crash worthy fuel system, consisting of a main fuel tank and a 38-gallon Auxiliary Fuel Tank, high capacity landing gear, FN Herstal Weapons Management System, DillonAero Mission Configurable Armament System weapons plank and Fixed-Forward Sighting System, Rohde and Schwarz M3AR Tactical Mission Radio, and FN Herstal .50 caliber HMP 400 Machine Gun Pods and M260 7-shot rocket pods,” MD Helicopters noted in a press statement released on Sept. 13.
Earlier this week, Gen. Phillip A. Stewart, commander of Train, Advise, Assist Command said in an interview with TOLOnews that $7 billion will be spent on the Afghan Air Force over the next four years.
“We expect the Afghan Air Force to be fully professional, sustainable, and capable and independent and that’s our whole goal here,” he said.
Under the new aid package, the number of aircraft owned by the AAF will be doubled in the next four years.
This comes after Major General Abdul Raziq Sherzai, the commander of Kandahar Air Brigade, last week said more military aircraft should be delivered to the hard-pressed Afghan security forces who have been battling insurgent groups in their traditional heartlands in Kandahar and Helmand provinces for weeks.
He said that the Kandahar Air Brigade, despite having inadequate facilities on hand, continue to back the ground forces in their campaign against the militants in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, where in recent months violence dramatically increased following the Taliban’s new attempt to seize control of the strategic province of Helmand in the south and infiltrate neighboring provinces.
The Kandahar Air Brigade that operates under the command of 205 Atal Army Corps has about 20 different types of aircrafts – a figure security officials claim is nothing near what they need to deal with the current scale of security issues that have undermined large swaths of land in the south.
A new breakaway Afghan Taliban faction that has close ties to neighboring Iran and opposes efforts aimed at ending the 18-year insurgency in Afghanistan has emerged.
The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami, or Party of Islamic Guardianship, is believed to have split from the mainstream Taliban soon after the United States and the militant group signed a landmark peace agreement in February.
The formation of the splinter group underlines the possible divisions within the Taliban, which has seen bitter leadership transitions and growing internal dissent in recent years.
It is unclear whether the new splinter group will rally broad support but its emergence could pose a new hurdle for the U.S.-Taliban deal, which has been undermined by violence, disputes, and delays.
Under that agreement, international forces will withdraw from Afghanistan by July 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Afghan government.
‘Early Stages Of Forming’
Antonio Giustozzi, a Taliban expert with the Royal United Services Institute in London, said it appears the new splinter group is based in Iran, which shares a 900-kilometer border with Afghanistan and has a sizeable Afghan population.
“It’s still in the early stages of forming,” said Giustozzi, adding that the military strength and the leadership of the faction is unknown.
An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFE/RL that the new splinter group has not been “officially announced.” The official said members of the group included radical Taliban commanders and members of small Taliban offshoots.
A new report by a United Nations monitoring team made public on June 1 said that “at least one group of senior Taliban” had “formed a new group in opposition to any possible peace agreement.”
The breakaway faction was “composed mainly of dissident senior Taliban members residing outside Afghanistan,” said the report, which was based on information provided by Afghan and foreign intelligence and security services, think tanks, experts, and interlocutors.
Iran Building Taliban ‘Combat Capabilities’
The Hezb-e Walayat-e Islami joins a growing list of Taliban factions that support continued fighting against Afghan and international troops.
“There are several Taliban leaders, fronts, and commanders who oppose peace and are linked to Iran,” said Giustozzi.
Among them, he added, is Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban and the head of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction that is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.
That is despite Haqqani’s op-ed in February in The New York Times, in which he voiced support for the peace deal with the United States.
Haqqani, who is the Taliban’s operational chief, has a million U.S. bounty on his head. He is the son of the late radical Islamist leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of the Al-Qaeda-linked network blamed for some of Afghanistan’s deadliest suicide attacks.
The Haqqani network has strong ties to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. But Giustozzi said the network is “getting closer” to Iran as Islamabad and Riyadh cut funding to it.
Other Iran-linked Taliban leaders who oppose peace efforts include Mullah Qayum Zakir, a powerful battlefield commander and the former military chief of the Taliban until 2014. A former inmate in the infamous U.S. prison at Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay, Mullah Zakir has the backing of hard-line field commanders.
Mullah Zakir leads a conservative Taliban faction along with Ibrahim Sadr, the Taliban’s former military commission chief. In October 2018, Sadr was among eight Taliban members designated global terrorists by the U.S. Treasury Department.
“Iranian officials agreed to provide Ibrahim with monetary support and individualized training in order to prevent a possible tracing back to Iran,” the Treasury Department said, adding that “Iranian trainers would help build Taliban tactical and combat capabilities.”
An Afghan intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the new splinter group included the followers of Sadr.
The officials said the new group also includes members of the Feday-e Mahaz (Suicide Brigade) a small, hard-core offshoot of the mainstream Taliban.
The group is believed to be led by Haji Najibullah, a loyalist to radical Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah, who was killed in a U.S.-led attack in Helmand Province in 2007.
Iran backed the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, when the Taliban controlled most of Afghanistan. Tehran also provided help to U.S. forces as they toppled the Taliban regime. But in recent years the Islamic republic and the Taliban have forged closer ties, with militant leaders even visiting Tehran.
Tehran has confirmed it has contacts with the Taliban but insists that it is aimed at ensuring the safety of Iranian citizens in Afghanistan and encouraging the Taliban to join peace talks.
But U.S. officials have accused Tehran of providing material support to the Taliban, an allegation it denies.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in January accused Tehran of “actively working” to undermine the peace process in Afghanistan, adding that Iran was supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network.
In a report released in November, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) said Iran provides financial, political, training, and material support to the Taliban.
“Tehran does not seek to return the Taliban to power but aims to maintain influence with the group as a hedge in the event that the Taliban gains a role in a future Afghan government,” the report said, adding that Iran’s support enabled it to advance its interests in Afghanistan and attain “strategic depth” in the country.
Taliban Divided Over Peace
The emergence of the Taliban splinter group has exposed serious divisions within the militant group.
The Taliban is believed to be divided over a peace settlement.
Its political leadership based in Pakistan is believed to be more open to a peace deal but hard-line military commanders on the battlefield in Afghanistan demand the restoration of the Taliban regime that ruled from 1996 to 2001.
Internal Taliban divisions have intensified after the death of founder and spiritual leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.
Some Taliban commanders accused his successor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, of covering up Mullah Omar’s death and assuming leadership of the extremist group without proper approval.
Mullah Mansur struggled to quell the internal dissent and reconcile feuding factions, with some commanders splitting from the group and challenging his leadership.
Mullah Mansur was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.
The succession of Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, a low-key Islamic scholar who was Mullah Mansur’s deputy, was also opposed.
But experts said the Taliban has overcome the succession crises, has fended off competition from the global appeal of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group, and has remained a relatively coherent fighting force despite a deadly war against foreign and Afghan forces.
Borhan Osman, an independent analyst and a leading expert on Islamic extremism and the militant networks operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, said divisions within the Taliban are not yet visible.
“So far the Taliban has been successful in spinning the agreement with the United States as an outright victory,” he said.
Osman said the Taliban’s unity will be tested during intra-Afghan talks, when Afghan and Taliban negotiators will discuss a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing deal.
The negotiations were scheduled to start in March but were delayed by disputes over the release of Taliban prisoners by the government and escalating militant attacks.
“The Taliban will be forced to come up with specific positions on issues and present their vision for a future Afghanistan,” said Osman.
The Taliban has been ambiguous on key issues, including women’s rights, the future distribution of power, and changes to the Afghan Constitution, reflecting the divisions within the group.
Many expect intra-Afghan negotiations to be complex and protracted, considering the gulf between the sides on policy and the sharing of power between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Internal rifts and rivalries have led to the emergence of various Taliban offshoots over the years, although many lack the military strength and support to pose a threat to the mainstream group.
The High Council of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — led by Mullah Mohammad Rasul — has been engaged in deadly clashes with fighters from the mainstream Taliban in southern and western Afghanistan since 2015, leaving scores dead on both sides.
The clashes have left the offshoot severely weakened, experts said, with many considering the group to be militarily irrelevant.
Mullah Rasul is believed to receive arms and support from Afghan intelligence in an attempt to divide the militant group.
“Secretary of Defense James Mattis” is going to be hard to type after he spent so many years as “Marine Corps Gen. and Angel of Death James ‘Chaos’ Mattis,” but we’re going to have to type it because he is now, officially, in place as the Secretary of Defense.
His public affairs staff recently saw fit to share images from Mattis’s first day with the rest of a grateful nation. Here are seven of the best:
1. Mattis emerges from his vehicle for his first full day and is met by his old peer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford.
2. Mattis and Dunford enter the Pentagon. Reports of them growling “urrr” to let everyone know that the Devil Dogs had arrived have not been confirmed.
3. Mattis was met by senior leaders of the military branches on his way to his office. At least two are rumored to have sworn fealty.
4. A bunch of senior staff lined the halls and were all, “Dude, it’s real. Mattis is back, and he’s in charge this time.”
5. They followed him towards his office, possibly worried that he would disappear in a poof of smoke if they looked away.
6. Mattis spoke with his undersecretary and the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Paul Selva, neither of whom were bitten during the encounter.
7. The Pentagon’s “Top 4” then met to discuss how totally sweet it will be to have Mattis in charge.
The world knows little of the Islamic State terror group’s brutal leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but a new article from counterterrorism expert Will McCants provides one of the most extensive accounts yet of his background.
McCants, director of the Project on US Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution, wrote an upcoming book on the Islamic State — aka ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh — and researched Baghdadi’s life to explain his rise to become one of the most wanted terrorists in the world.
Since Baghdadi became the self-proclaimed “caliph” of ISIS in 2014, he has only appeared in public once, at a mosque in Mosul, Iraq. He was rumored to have died in an air strike earlier this year, but ISIS subsequently released a statement from him along with proof that he was still alive.
Even with new information about his life tricking out in the press, Baghdadi — aka Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Al-Badri — remains a mysterious and reclusive figure.
Here’s what we know now about his background, as laid out by McCants in his Brookings essay:
Baghdadi was raised in a lower-middle-class family in Iraq. His relatives claimed to be descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
His father taught at a mosque. When Baghdadi was a teenager, he led neighborhood children in Quran recitations.
Baghdadi’s family had ties to late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party. Two of his uncles were involved with Saddam’s security services, and two of his brothers served in the military under Saddam. One died during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Members of Baghdadi’s family were also thought to be Salafis, who follow a strict form of Islam that has been associated with ISIS’ extreme interpretation.
Baghdadi was thought of as a quiet type, but when he read the Quran, his “quiet voice would come to life” and he would pronounce “the letters in firm, reverberating tones,” according to McCants.
He was also known for having a temper. Once, when he saw women and men dancing together at a wedding, he got upset and forced them to stop.
Even in his youth, Baghdadi developed a reputation for being pious and following a strict interpretation of Islam. His nickname was “The Believer,” and one of his brothers told McCants that Baghdadi “was quick to admonish anyone who strayed from the strictures of Islamic law.”
Baghdadi wasn’t a strong student in high school, but he went on to earn a doctorate degree in Quranic studies. He reportedly wanted to study law for his undergraduate degree, but his grades weren’t good enough, so he studied the Quran instead.
He became a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that seeks to establish Islamic states across the Middle East, but his views were more extreme than those of many of the others in the group. Baghdadi was reportedly drawn to the extremists, including his older brother, who wanted to overthrow un-Islamic rulers.
Outside his religious studies, Baghdadi was fond of soccer. He was the star of a soccer club at a mosque at which he taught, and people compared him to the famous Argentinian player Lionel Messi. (This fits with an interview published earlier this year with a man who said he knew Baghdadi before he became ISIS’ “caliph.”)
Baghdadi is thought to have two wives and six children. McCants reports that the caliph’s first wife, Asma, was the daughter of Baghdadi’s maternal uncle.
He was initially involved with al-Qaida, which sent him to Syria after he was released from his detainment at the US-run Camp Bucca in Iraq in the early 2000s. There, he was tasked with “ensuring that AQI’s online propaganda was in line with its brand of ultraconservative Islam,” according to McCants. Today, ISIS is known for its online propaganda that’s highly effective at recruiting young people to join the terror group.
After ISIS broke away from al-Qaida, he was put in charge of religious affairs in some areas of Iraq. He became valuable to ISIS because the group needed religious scholars to establish legitimacy.
This telling of Baghdadi’s background suggests that his radicalization began long before he was imprisoned at Camp Bucca in the early 2000s. Although he was captured as a “civilian detainee” while he was visiting a friend who was wanted by American authorities, it’s clear Baghdadi had already begun forming his extremist ideology by this point.
These details water down the notion that Baghdadi was radicalized while in American detention.
And Baghdadi likely knew what he was doing.
“For the ten months he remained in custody, Baghdadi hid his militancy and devoted himself to religious instruction,” McCants wrote.
He was also able to meet and befriend ex-Baathists who would later join him in ISIS. The group’s leadership is now thought to be made up largely of former Saddam loyalists, but that doesn’t mean Baghdadi isn’t devout or that he’s just a religious figurehead for the organization.
McCants concluded: “The bare facts of Baghdadi’s biography show an unusually capable man. … Although the New York Times recently reported that he himself is making arrangements for a succession in the event of his demise by devolving many of his military powers to subordinates, his blend of religious scholarship and political cunning won’t be easily replaced.”
Veterans will be able to go online and order their new identification cards next month, Congressman Vern Buchanan announced Oct. 12. Buchanan, whose Veterans Identification Card Act (H.R. 91) was signed into law in 2015, said official ID cards will be available to all veterans free of charge by visiting the Department of Veterans Affairs website.
“Every veteran – past, present, and future – will now be able to prove their military service without the added risk of identity theft,” Buchanan said, noting that millions of veterans are currently unable to document their service without carrying around official military records.
“These ID cards will make life a little bit easier for our veterans and serve as a constant reminder that our brave men and women in uniform deserve all the care and respect a grateful nation can offer.”
When ordering online, veterans will need to upload a copy of a valid government issued ID (drivers license/passport), a copy of a recent photograph to be displayed on the card, and will need to provide service-related details. Once ordered, the Veteran ID Card will be printed and mailed directly to the veteran.
Prior to Buchanan’s bill, the VA provided identification cards only to those who served at least 20 years in the Armed Forces or received care from the VA for a service-connected disability. Veterans who did not meet these qualifications had to carry around a paper DD-214 document to prove their military status. This form contains sensitive personal information including social security numbers and service details that put veterans at needless risk for identity theft if they lost or misplaced their documents.
The new identification card will also provide employers looking to hire veterans with an easier way to verify an employee’s military service.
Buchanan represents more than 88,000 veterans in Sarasota, Manatee, and Hillsborough Counties. He served six years in the Michigan Air National Guard and four years on the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
As Thanksgiving approaches, Navy Culinary Specialists (CS) around the world are preparing to serve sailors a healthy variety of traditional fare.
This year, the Navy plans to serve an estimated 105,000 pounds of roast turkey, 24,000 pounds of stuffing, 54,000 pounds of mashed potatoes, 20,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, 5,000 pounds of cranberry sauce, and 4,500 gallons of gravy.
In support of the Navy’s ongoing Go for Green nutrition awareness program, the food offered in shore and ship galleys during Thanksgiving will be labeled to encourage healthy food choices; green (eat often), yellow (eat occasionally), and red (eat rarely), along with a salt shaker graphic to measure sodium content. The food classification is based on calories, total fat, cholesterol, and sodium content. Go for Green encourages healthier food and beverage selections to support peak physical and cognitive performance of sailors. The Navy food service team takes professional pride in their quality service and important contributions to fleet health and readiness.
The combined leadership of Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, and U.S. Embassy Djibouti staff, serve a Thanksgiving meal to forward-deployed service members, civilians, and contractors, Nov. 22, 2018.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Shannon D. Barnwell)
About 7,000 Culinary Specialists serve in our Navy today. They receive extensive training in culinary arts, hotel management and other hospitality industry areas. Culinary Specialists provide food service, catering and hospitality services for sailors, senior government executives, and within the White House Mess for the President of the United States.
They are responsible for all aspects of the shipboard mess decks and shore duty living areas, and are vital to maintaining high crew morale on ships, construction battalions and shore bases.
The term “Broken Arrow” refers to more than a bad John Travolta movie. In military terminology, a Broken Arrow refers to a significant nuclear event — one that won’t trigger a nuclear war — but is a danger to the public through an accidental or unexplained nuclear detonation, a non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon, radioactive contamination from a nuclear weapon, the loss in transit of a nuclear asset (but not from theft), and/or the jettisoning of a nuclear weapon.
In 1980, the Department of Defense issued a report titled “Narrative Summaries of Accidents Involving U.S. Nuclear Weapons.” Keep in mind, this details eventsonly before 1980. There have been other incidents and scandals since then, not covered here.
The DoD report was released after public outcry following the 1980 Damascus Incident, covered in detail by Eric Schlosser’s 2014 book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Incident, and the Illusion of Safety. In this instance, DoD defined an “accident involving nuclear weapons” as:
An unexpected event involving nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons components that results in any of the following:
•Accidental or unauthorized launching or firing, or use by U.S. forces or supported allied forces of a nuclear-capable weapon system which could create the risk of an outbreak of war
• Nuclear detonation
• Non-nuclear detonation or burning of a nuclear weapon or radioactive weapon component, including a fully-assembled nuclear weapon, an unassembled nuclear weapon component, or a radioactive nuclear weapon component
• Radioactive contamination
• Seizure, theft, or loss of a nuclear weapon or radioactive nuclear weapon component, including jettisoning
• Public hazard, actual or implied
If the event occurred overseas, the location was not disclosed, except for the Thule, Greenland and Palomares, Spain incidents. There were no unintended nuclear explosions. The report included incidents from the Air Force and Navy, but not the Marine Corps, as they didn’t have nuclear weapons in peace time and not from the Army because they “never experienced an event serious enough to warrant inclusion.”
Somehow, the Army — of all branches — was the only branch not to lose a nuclear weapon over the course of 30 years.
1. February 13, 1950 – Pacific Ocean off the coast of British Columbia, Canada
A B-36 en route from Eielson AFB (near Moose Creek, Alaska) to Carswell AFB (Fort Worth, Texas) on a simulated combat profile mission developed serious mechanical difficulties six hours into the flight, forcing the crew to shut down three engines at 12,000 feet. Level flight could not be maintained due to icing, so the crew dumped the weapon from 8,000 feet over the Pacific Ocean. A bright flash occurred on impact, followed by the sound and shock wave. Only the high explosives on the weapon detonated. The crew flew over Princess Royal Island, where they bailed out. The plane’s wreckage was later found on Vancouver Island.
2. April 11, 1950 – Manzano Base, New Mexico
After leaving Kirtland AFB (Albuquerque, New Mexico) at 9:38 pm, a B-29 bomber crashed into a mountain three minutes later on Manzano Base, killing the crew. The bomb case for the weapon was demolished and some of the high explosive (HE) burned in the subsequent gasoline fire. Other HE was recovered undamaged, as well as four detonators for the nuclear asset. There was no contamination and the recovered components of the nuclear weapon were returned to the Atomic Energy Commission. The nuclear capsule was on board the aircraft, but was not inserted, as per Strategic Air Command (SAC) regulations, so a nuclear detonation was not possible.
3. July 13, 1950 – Lebanon, Ohio
A B-50 on a training mission from Biggs AFB, Texas flying at 7,000 feet on a clear day suddenly nosed down and flew into the ground near Mrs. Martha Bishop’s farm on Old Hamilton Road, killing four officers and twelve Airmen. The HE detonated on impact, but there was no nuclear capsule aboard the aircraft.
4. August 5, 1950 – Fairfield Suisun AFB, California
A B-29 carrying a weapon but no capsule experienced two runway propellers and landing gear retraction difficulties on takeoff from the base. The crew attempted an emergency landing and crashed an burned. The fire was fought for 12-15 minutes before the weapon’s high explosive detonated, killing 19 crew members and rescue personnel — including Brig. Gen. Robert F. Travis — who was flying the weapon to Guam at the request of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The base was renamed Travis AFB in his honor.
5. November 10, 1950 – “Over Water, outside United States”
Because of an in-flight emergency, a weapon with no capsule of nuclear material was jettisoned over water from an altitude of 10,500 feet. A high explosive detonation was observed.
6. March 10, 1956 – Mediterranean Sea
A B-47 was one of four scheduled non-stop deployment aircraft sent from MacDill AFB, Florida to an overseas air base. Take off and its first refueling went as expected. The second refueling point was over the Mediterranean at 14,000 feet. Visibility was poor at 14,500 but the aircraft — carrying two nuclear capsules — never made contact with the tanker. An extensive search was mounted but no trace of the missing aircraft or its crew were ever found.
7. July 27, 1956 – “Overseas Base”
A B-47 with no weapons aboard was making “touch and go” landings during a training exercise when it suddenly lost control and slid off the runway, crashing into a storage igloo containing several nuclear weapons. No bombs burned or detonated and there was no contamination.
8. May 22, 1957 – Kirtland AFB, New Mexico
A B-36 ferrying a weapon from Biggs AFB, Texas to Kirtland AFB approached Kirtland at 1,700 feet when a weapon dropped from the bomb bay, taking the bomb bay doors with it. The weapon’s parachutes deployed but did not fully stop the fall because of the plane’s low altitude. The bomb hit 4.5 miles South of the Kirtland AFB control tower, detonating the high explosive on the weapon, making a crater 25 feet in diameter and 12 feet deep. Debris from the explosion scattered up to a mile away. Radiological surveys found no radiation except at the crater’s lip, where it was .5 milliroentgens (normal cosmic background radiation humans are exposed to every year is 200 milliroentgens).
9. July 28, 1957 – Atlantic Ocean
Two weapons were jettisoned off the East coast of the U.S. from a C-124 en route to Dover AFB, Delaware. Though three weapons and one nuclear capsule were aboard at the time, nuclear components were not installed on board. The craft experienced a loss of power from engines one and two and could not maintain level flight. The weapons were jettisoned at 4,500 feet and 2,500 feet – both are presumed to have hit the ocean and to have sunk immediately. The plane landed near Atlantic City, New Jersey with its remaining cargo. The two lost weapons were never recovered.
10. October 11, 1957 – Homestead AFB, Florida
A B-47 leaving Homestead AFB blew its tires during takeoff, crashing the plane into an uninhabited area only 3,800 feet from the end of the runway. The B-47 was ferrying a weapon and nuclear capsule. The weapon burned for five hours before it was cooled with water, but the weapon was intact. Even after two low intensity explosions, half the weapon was still intact. Everything was recovered and accounted for.
11. January 31, 1958 – “Overseas Base”
A B-47 with a weapon in strike configuration was making a simulated takeoff during an exercise when its rear wheel casting failed, causing the tail to hit the runway and a rupture to the fuel tank. The resulting fire burned for seven hours. Firemen fought the fire for ten minutes, then had to evacuate the area. There was no high explosive detonation but the area was contaminated after the crash, which was cleared after the wreckage was cleared.
12. February 5, 1958 – Savannah River, Georgia
A B-47 on a simulated combat mission out of Homestead AFB, Florida collided in mid-air with an F-86 Sabre near Savannah, Georgia at 3:30 am. The bomber tried three times to land at Hunter AFB, Georgia with the weapon on board but could not slow down enough to land safely. A nuclear detonation wasn’t possible because the nuclear capsule wasn’t on board the aircraft, but the high explosive detonation would still have done a lot of damage to the base. The weapon was instead jettisoned into nearby Wassaw Sound from 7,200 feet. it didn’t detonate and the weapon was never found.
13. March 11, 1958 – Florence, South Carolina
In late afternoon, four B-47s took off from Hunter AFB, GA en route to an overseas base. When they leveled off at 15,000 feet, one of them accidentally dropped its nuclear weapon into a field 6.5 miles from Florence, South Carolina — detonating the high explosive on impact — then returned to base. The nuclear capsule was not aboard the aircraft.
14. November 4, 1958 – Dyess AFB, Texas
A B-47 caught fire on takeoff, with three crew members successfully ejecting and one killed on impact from 1,500 feet. The high explosive detonated on impact, creating a crater 35 feet in diameter and six feet deep. Nuclear material was recovered near the crash site.
15. November 26, 1958 – Chennault AFB, Louisiana
A B-47 caught fire on the ground with a nuclear weapon on board. The fire destroyed the weapon and contaminated the aircraft wreckage.
16. January 18, 1959 – “Pacific Base”
An F-100 Super Sabre carrying a nuclear weapon in ground alert configuration caught fire after an explosion rocked its external fuel tanks on startup. A fire team put the fire out in seven minutes, with no contamination or cleanup problems.
17. July 6, 1959 – Barksdale AFB, Louisiana
A C-124 on a nuclear logistics mission crashed on take-off and it destroyed by a fire which also destroys the nuclear weapon. No detonation occurred but the ground beneath the weapon was contaminated with radioactivity.
18. September 25, 1959 – Off Whidbey Island, Washington
A U.S. Naby P-5M was abandoned in Puget Sound, Washington carrying an unarmed nuclear antisubmarine weapon, but the weapon was not carrying nuclear material. The weapon was not recovered.
19. October 15, 1959 – Hardinsberg, Kentucky
A B-52 left Columbus AFB, Mississippi and 2:30 pm CST as the the second position in a flight of two. A KC-135 tanker left Columbus AFB at 5:33 pn CST as the second tanker in flight of two, scheduled to refuel the B-52s. On a clear night near Hardinsberg, Kentucky at 32,000 feet, the two aircraft collided. Four crewmen on the B-52 were killed and the two nuclear weapons were recovered intact.
20. June 7, 1960 – McGuire AFB, New Jersey
A BOMARC supersonic ramjet missile in ready storage condition was destroyed after a high pressure helium tank exploded and ruptured the missile’s fuel tanks. The warhead was destroyed by the fire but the high explosive did not detonate and contamination was limited to the area beneath the weapon and the area where firefighting water drained off.
21. January 24, 1961 – Goldsboro, North Carolina
A B-52 on an airborne alert mission experienced structural failure of its right wing, resulting in two weapons separating from the aircraft during breakup between 2,000 and 10,000 feet and the deaths of three crewmembers. The parachute of the first bomb deployed successfully, and it was lightly damaged when it hit the ground. They hit the ground full force and broke apart. One of the weapons fell into “waterlogged farmland to a depth of 50 feet” and was not recovered. The Air Force later purchased land in this area and requires permission before digging nearby.
22. March 14, 1961 – Yuba City, California
A suddenly depressurized B-52 forced to descend to 10,000 feet and caused the bomber to run out of fuel. The crew bailed out, except for the aircraft commander, who steered it away from populated areas and bailed out at 4,000 feet. The two weapons aboard were torn from the aircraft upon ground impact with no explosive or nuclear detonation or contamination.
23. November 16, 1963 – Medina Base, Texas
123,000 pounds of high explosives from disassembled obsolete nuclear assets exploded at an Atomic Energy Commission storage facility. Since the nuclear components were elsewhere, there was no contamination and, amazingly, only three employees were injured.
24. January 13, 1964 – Cumberland, Maryland
A B-52 flying from Massachusetts to Turner AFB, Georgia crashed 17 miles southwest of Cumberland, Maryland carrying two nuclear weapons in tactical ferry configuration, but without electrical connections to the aircraft and the safeties turned on. Trying to climb to 33,000 feet to avoid severe turbulence, the bomber hit more turbulence, destroying the aircraft. Only the pilot and co-pilot survived the event, as the gunner and navigator ejected but were killed by exposure to sub-zero temperatures on the ground. The radar navigator went down with the bird. The weapons were found intact, but under inches of snow.
25. December 5, 1964 – Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota
Two Airmen respond to a security repair issue on a Minuteman I missile on strategic alert. During their work, a retrorocket below the missile’s re-entry vehicle fired, causing the vehicle to fall 75 feet to the floor of the silo, causing considerable damage to the vehicle structure and ripping it from the electronics on the missile. There was no detonation or contamination.
26. December 8, 1964 – Bunker Hill (now Grissom Air Reserve Base), Indiana
An SAC B-58 taxiing during an alert exercise lost control because of the jet blast from the aircraft in front of it combined with an icy runway. The B-58 slid off the runway, hitting runway fixtures, and caught fire as all three crew members began to abandon the aircraft. The navigator ejected but didn’t survive, and five nuclear weapons on board burned and the crash site was contaminated.
27. October 11, 1965 – Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio
A C-124 being refueled caught fire, damaging the fuselage and the nuclear components the aircraft was hauling, contaminating the aircraft and the disaster response crews.
28. December 5, 1965 – “At Sea – Pacific”
An A-4 loaded with one nuclear weapon rolled off the elevator of an aircraft carrier and rolled into the sea. The pilot, aircraft and nuclear weapon were all lost more than 500 miles from land.
29. January 17, 1966 – Palomares, Spain
A B-52 bomber and KC-135 tanker collided during a routine high altitude air refueling operation, killing seven of the eleven crew members. The bomber carried four nuclear assets. One was recovered on land, another at sea, while the high explosive on other two exploded on impact with the ground, spreading radioactive material. 1400 tons of contaminated soil and vegetation were moved to the U.S. for storage as Spanish authorities monitored the cleanup operation. Palomares is still the most radioactive town in Europe.
30. January 21, 1968 – Thule, Greenland
A B-52 from Plattsburgh AFB, New York crashed and burned seven miles southwest of the runway while on approach to Thule AB, Greenland, killing one of its crew members. All four nuclear weapons carried by the bomber were destroyed by fire, contaminating the sea ice. 237,000 cubic feet of contaminated snow, ice, water, and crash debris were moved to the U.S. for storage over a four month cleanup operation as Danish authorities monitored the effort.
31. “Spring, 1968” – “At Sea, Atlantic”
“Details remain classified.”
32. September 19, 1980 – Damascus, Arkansas
During routine maintenance of a Titan II missile silo, an Airman dropped a tool, which fell and struck the missile, causing a leak in a pressurized fuel tank. The entire missile complex and surrounding area were evacuated with a team of specialists from Little Rock AFB called in for assessment. 8 1/2 hours after the initial damage, the fuel vapors exploded, killing one member of the team and injuring 21 other Air Force personnel. Somehow, the missile’s re-entry vehicle (and the warhead) was found intact, with no contamination.
Stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the global “Nuclear Club” of the U.S., Russia, the UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea number 15,600.
Below is a video detailing every nuclear blast ever detonated on Earth:
In early May, 2018, Tech. Sgt. Chance Cole, 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron flight line expediter, came up with an idea – and it’s going to save the Air Force a lot of money.
“We were wrapping up a twelve-hour shift, and two of my guys just spent nearly an entire day replacing a single part on the MQ-9 Reaper,” Cole said. “It was frustrating, because we knew there had to be a more efficient way of doing this job.”
Cole described the issue, saying the part they were replacing actually didn’t need to be replaced at all. The real culprit was just a $53 sub-component held within, named the “spline insert.”
According to Cole, each time maintenance personnel were unable to replace the insert, they actually had to remove and replace a much larger and more complex assembly, the Permanent Magnetic Alternator. This process had been accomplished multiple times in the past due to an inability to remove a damaged insert and it added unnecessary time and expense.
Cole asked co-worker Staff Sgt. Hermann Nunez, 386 EAMXS crew chief, to stay after his shift to help him create a solution. Mere hours later, they brought their idea to life and fabricated what they described as a crude prototype designed to remove the damaged insert.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)
Although the prototype was functional, Cole and Nunez concluded they needed assistance in creating a more-refined product to be used the next time the need arose. The next morning, they decided to bring the tool to the 386th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron Combat Metals Flight. There, Senior Airman Alex Young and Senior Airman Elio Esqueda, aircraft metals technicians, decided to take action.
“They brought their prototype to us and asked for some advice,” Young said. “One look at the tool and we knew exactly what to do – so we got to work.”
According to Young, the tool initially provided was simply a long bolt that matched the insert threads, which the crew chiefs used to extract the insert. However, use of the tool required a decent amount of strength – as the user had to physically pull the crude tool to remove the insert from the PMA.
Young and Esqueda fabricated something called a slide hammer, which provides the user a counter-weight to slide along the tool’s shaft in order to hammer the piece out with ease.
The device, which the four Airmen named the “Spline Insert Extractor,” was completed May 5, 2018. The four Airmen then routed the product through their chain of command before implementing its use. After passing multiple inspections and approval from their leadership, the tool was put into service locally.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz)
According to the maintainers, the finished product prevents at least four hours of maintenance each time they use the tool to replace the insert instead of replacing the PMA. Use of the tool is projected to save more than $123,000 annually – and that’s just at the 386th EAMXS.
According to Cole, the tool is currently in the process to be approved for use throughout the Air Force on all MQ-9 Block 5 Reapers. Once adopted by the enterprise, he expects the tool will be modified and adapted for usage on the MQ-9 Block 1, as well.
“When we first started the process to create the tool, we only had the intention of fixing a problem we were having here locally,” Cole said. “Thanks to Airmen like Staff Sgt. Nunez, Senior Airman Young and Senior Airman Esqueda helping me with this simple fix, we now have the opportunity to make a lasting impact for our peers across the globe.”