A VA hospital in Wisconsin is under scrutiny for potentially exposing hundreds of veterans to blood-borne diseases like hepatitis and HIV. The infections are being blamed on a dentist at the Tomah VA hospital.
According to a report by WEAU.com, 592 veterans are in the process of being informed about the potential exposure, brought about by the re-use of equipment from October 2015 to October 2016. A substitute for the dentist’s regular assistant noted the unidentified dentist’s actions and reported him.
The dentist has since been re-assigned to an administrative position. VA regulations require that equipment not be re-used.
“It was purposeful that he was violating VA regulations,” Victoria Brahm, the acting director of the medical center, told WEAU.com. “During all of the orientation, he used all of our equipment. He used it appropriately, so it was very purposeful from what we found in our investigation that he knew exactly what he was doing, and preferred to use his own equipment against procedure.”
The Tomah VA hospital came under fire in the past for allegedly over-prescribing painkillers. The hospital is providing free medical screenings and will also provide free treatment of any infections. The VA Inspector General has been notified and will be investigating to determine if criminal charges should be filed.
“We have clear evidence that we are moving forward and the people that remain here are very vested and here for the mission of taking care of veterans,” Brahm told WEAU.com. “There are pockets of improvement that need to occur they still need to I’ll be honest, and we are aware of where they are and we are dealing with them as quickly as we can.”
This is not the first VA medical center to have issues. A VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona, used “separate waiting lists” to hide a backlog of cases, leading to at least 200 deaths. A VA center in Chicago reportedly had a cockroach infestation that was so bad, some of the bugs got into food intended for the patients.
There’s a reverence that surrounds Memorial Day in the military community. A day that’s typically associated with summer barbecues and mattress sales has a very different meaning to those of us who understand that “the fallen” we’re all asked to honor are our brothers and sisters in arms, husbands, wives, mommies, daddies, friends.
It’s a day that feels heavy, weighted with nostalgia and fraught, wanting to honor their sacrifice by living, but wanting the rest of the world to pause alongside us, to bear some of the burden of the grief and to mourn our collective, irreplaceable loss.
This year, we’re asking you not just to pause, but to act.
In 2018, USAA, in partnership with The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, created the USAA Poppy Wall of Honor to ensure the sacrifice of our military men and women is always remembered, never forgotten. The wall contains more than 645,000 artificial poppies – one for each life lost in the line of duty since World War I. Red flowers fill one side while historic facts about U.S. conflicts cover the opposite.
The exhibit was installed on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over the Memorial Day weekend in 2018 and again in 2019. This year, USAA is making it available to more people by presenting the educational panels of the wall digitally. We encourage you to take the time to look at the wall, to teach your children and grandchildren about service and sacrifice. But more than that, we’re asking you to dedicate a poppy.
WATM had the opportunity to sit down with Wes Laird, Chief Marketing Officer at USAA, to talk about why this event matters, not just to the company, but to him.
“I tell people I grew up in a Ranger Battalion,” Laird said. “A long, long time ago in a land far, far away. Just eight and a half months after I enlisted, I was in combat on a tiny island called Grenada. I lost five people from my company, including a young man named Marlin Maynard, who was a PFC. When I got back, I was asked to eulogize PFC Maynard. I just turned 19 and I had to talk about the sacrifice he’d given. It was a very formative, impactful moment in my life.
Wes Laird in his Army days. Photo courtesy of Wes Laird.
“Every Memorial Day since, every 4th of July, every time I hear the National Anthem, I think about PFC Marlin Maynard. I think about how I went to college with my veteran benefits. I think about how I went on to have a family, to raise two boys — one who is in the Air Force — how I had a career and a whole life, and how he, and 645,000 other soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen, Coast Guardsman, how they didn’t. But that’s why this – why Memorial Day, and what we’re doing at USAA – is so important. I want Marlin’s family to know that he is remembered and honored. That his sacrifice, all these years later, has never been forgotten.
PFC Marlin Maynard, Grenada Company A, 1st Battalion (Ranger)
75th Infantry, kia October 25, 1983. Photo via Sua Sponte Foundation.
“This Memorial Day and every Memorial Day, I dedicate a poppy to him and the four others we lost in Grenada that day. What we’re doing at USAA with the USAA Poppy Wall is giving others an opportunity not just to honor, but to act. This year especially, with the COVID crisis, we are providing people the ability to come together, to unify around something we can all agree on — the importance of remembering the ultimate sacrifices of so many men and women.
“We are proud to partner with the incredible team at the Tragedy Assistance Survivors Program (TAPS) to provide meaningful opportunities for Gold Star families. You see these kids come in who have lost a parent, and the fact that we’re able to assist in their journey is so humbling. These kids need to know that their moms and dads are remembered and honored by all of us. Yes, it’s the right thing to do, but it’s also part of our DNA. We were formed by the military for the military. We say we know what it means to serve and we do know what it means to serve. It’s part of who we are, why we exist — to honor the great sacrifices of so many thousands of men and women who have served before us, alongside us and will continue to serve after us. Memorial Day is the most important day of the year for us. We hope you’ll join us this year by honoring through action.”
For more information about the USAA Poppy Wall, click here.
The Army National Guard is using new Hollywood special effects to transform Humvees into T-72 tanks and other Russian combat vehicles to amp up the realism in training exercises.
In 2018, the National Guard Bureau hired WestEfx Military Services in Sun Valley, California, to help improve its Exportable Combat Training Capability program and its 21-day exercises designed to ensure units are ready for mobilization, according to an Army news release.
WestEfx has provided special effects for big-screen movies such as “Taken” and “Men in Black II,” it added.
The firm’s special VisMod kits convert M1097 Humvees into realistic mock-ups of Russian T-72 main battle tanks and BTR-90 personnel carriers.
Military engineers and mechanics have helped WestEfx install 12 kits onto Humvees at the Idaho Army National Guard’s Orchard Combat Training Center, according to the release. The Guard and WestEfx plan to continue production of 48 more kits over the next three years, it adds.
The upgraded T-72A which appeared in 1979.
“We will be able to train against a realistic enemy,” Sgt. 1st Class Clinton Doramus, Idaho Army National Guard VisMod fleet manager, said in the release. “These kits aren’t going to look and act like a Humvee. They are going to look and act like T-72s and BTR-90s.”
The kits weigh about 1,700 pounds and fit over a Humvee’s chassis to resemble the size and silhouette of the tank or personnel carrier, but use an inflatable canvas-like frame.
Its gas-operated weapon systems simulate the firing of .50-caliber and 125 mm main guns that can be configured to multiple integrated laser engagement systems (MILES) for added realism, according to the release.
“No enhanced battlefield training simulators can compare with the functionality, realism, durability and cost-effectiveness of this new VisMod vehicle,” WestEfx owner and lead designer Erick Brennan said in the release. “They are pretty amazing, and we are really proud of them.”
Army brigade combat teams have used similar technology over the years to replicate enemy vehicles, but these new kits are the “first of their kind,” Maj. Aaron Ammerman, XCTC program manager for the Guard Bureau, said in the release.
“Taking a look at how VisMods are done across the Army, I think these are the best I’ve ever seen,” he said. “They will provide an exponentially more realistic threat signature for troops to train against as they do force-on-force exercises.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
The Syrian military said it has taken an enclave in Damascus from Islamic State (IS) militants that gives it full control of the capital for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.
The recapture of IS-held pockets in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmuk and the nearby Hajar al-Aswad district in southern Damascus on May 21, 2018, came after a massive bombing campaign that decimated the remains of the residential area where about 200,000 Palestinian refugees used to live.
The camp has been largely deserted following years of attacks and the last push on the Yarmuk camp came after civilians were evacuated overnight.
State TV showed troops waving the Syrian flag atop wrecked buildings in a destroyed neighborhood.
The gains by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces also allowed allied militia groups to secure areas outside the city near the border with Israel.
The Iranian-backed militias, including the Lebanese group Hezbollah, have been key — along with Russian air power — in aiding Syrian government forces to recapture huge areas around Damascus and in the country’s northern and central areas.
Iranian officials have pledged to remain in Syria despite calls by the United States, Israel, and others for it to remove its fighters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told Assad at a meeting in Sochi in May 2018, that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops from Syria.
Putin’s envoy to Syria, Aleksandr Lavrentyev, said Putin was referring to, among others, Iranian forces.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened Iran on May 21, 2018, with the “strongest sanctions in history” if Tehran doesn’t change course and end its military involvement in other Middle East countries.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi told reporters shortly before Pompeo spoke that Iran’s presence “in Syria has been based on a request by the Syrian government and Iran will continue its support as long as the Syrian government wants.”
We Are The Mighty is on the ground in Philadelphia with USAA at the Army-Navy Game. Down in “Military Alley,” some of the game’s alums and VIPs stopped by WATM to talk football, catch us up on their work, and – of course – give their predictions for who will win one of the oldest rivalries in college football.
1. Rob Riggle, Marine Corps Veteran / Actor
Army and Navy are coming into today’s game with winning records. And since both teams bested the Air Force Academy Falcons this season, the winner will go home with the coveted Commander-In-Chief Trophy and wins a trip to the White House.
2. Roger Staubach, Navy Veteran and 1963 Heisman Trophy Winner
Navy currently has 15 trophy wins, compared to Army’s six. The last time the Black Knights took the prize back to West Point, they met then-President Bill Clinton on their trip to the White House.
That was 1996.
3. Vice Adm. Walter Carter, 62nd Naval Academy Superintendent,
Army is coming off an upset win in last year’s game and no matter who wins today, both teams are bowl game-bound.
Navy could host the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the Military Bowl, while it looks like Army could meet San Diego State in the Armed Forces Bowl. Both games would be in January.
4. Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen, 59th West Point Superintendent
The 118th Army-Navy Game features a number of heavy-hitting players to watch, including both quarterbacks: Army’s Ahmad Bradshaw and Navy’s Malcolm Perry. Both players are sure to have a decisive impact on the outcome of today’s game.
5. Rick Neuheisel, CBS Sports College Football Analyst
Going into today’s game, Navy looks to stop Army from extending last year’s win to a two game streak. The all time series has Navy with 60 wins and Army with 50. The teams also tied seven separate times.
A tie is an unlikely outcome of today’s game.
6. Lt. Gen. Michael Linnington (Ret.), CEO, Wounded Warrior Project
Even though the tough talk is fierce and the rivalry doubly so, the two teams take part in a number of joint traditions, both before and after the game. The two schools’ glee clubs join together to sing the National Anthem before the game and will sing each other’s alma mater after the game.
7. Vince “Invincible” Papale, NFL Legend Travis Manion Foundation Supporter
Both teams will join to sing each other’s alma mater, but the big question is who will sing first. The winner of the game will serenade the losing team’s fans in the stands with their alma mater. Then they jointly turn to the winning team’s fans to sing the winner’s alma mater.
The goal is to “sing second.”
8. Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Pete Dawkins
The Army-Navy game’s importance in NCAA athletics has declined over the years, but its importance to the nation and to those who serve has definitely not. Army hasn’t been the AP National Champion since 1945 and Navy’s only championship was won in 1926.
9. Boo Corrigan Director of Athletics, West Point
The game continues to exemplify the often-misunderstood rivalries between the branches of the Armed Forces of the United States: taking the smack talk to the very brink of good taste while remaining polite – and always remembering that in the end, they’re all on the same team.
10. Andrew Brennan, Army Veteran Global War on Terrorism Memorial Foundation Founder
A missile defense test went awry last month after a Navy sailor accidentally pressed the wrong button, an investigation into the matter revealed.
The Missile Defense Agency conducted a test of the SM-3 Block IIA missile interceptor in late June. A medium-range ballistic missile was launched from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii, the MDA explained in a statement at the time. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS John Paul Jones detected and tracked the missile using the on-board radars and launched an SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which ultimately failed to intercept the target.
An MDA investigation into the failure revealed that a sailor pressed the wrong button, causing the missile to self-destruct. The MDA reported that there were no problems with either the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor or the Navy’s Aegis combat system, according to Defense News.
A tactical datalink controller mistakenly identified the incoming ballistic missile as friendly, causing the missile to unexpectedly self-destruct mid-flight, according to sources familiar with the recent missile intercept test.
The test in late June was the fourth flight test of the SM-3 Block IIA interceptor, which is being developed by Raytheon and is a joint missile defense project between the US and Japan. The new interceptor was developed to counter the rising ballistic missile threat from North Korea.
North Korea has tested a batch of new short-, medium-, intermediate-, and long-range missiles this year, increasing the threat to its neighbors and extending the danger to targets in the US.
The failed test was preceded by a successful test in May of the ground-based, mid-course defense system, which defends the US against intercontinental ballistic missiles. An interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California eliminated a mock long-range missile fired from the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. Earlier this month, the US successfully tested the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system against an intermediate-range ballistic missile, with a THAAD unit in Alaska eliminating a target missile launched from an Air Force Cargo plane to the north of Hawaii.
The failure of the SM-3 Block IIA, which was tested successfully in February, initially represented a setback. That the cause of the failure was likely human error may come as a relief for those involved in the weapon’s development.
But the motorcyclists may not have had the worst job supporting the fledgling tank corps in World War I. That award probably goes to the salvage corps whose members had to yank tanks from the battlefield.
Undaunted by the need for a proprietary algorithm and the fact that Twitter wasn’t founded until 2006, a group of military historians were able to dig up these tweets under the third ‘O’ of the HOLLYWOOD sign (just above WATM’s headquarters) after receiving a tip from the ghost of Jimmy Stewart in the American Legion Post 43’s men’s room. Like all important artifacts, these 9 tweets shed light on history (in this case in 140 characters or less):
In the cartooning world, Peanuts is the gold standard – the bar of humor and longevity every comic strip hopes to achieve. But even a great like Peanuts creator Charles M. Schultz has his heroes. Schultz went into the Army during WWII, and although his service wasn’t glamorous, he slogged through the mud like every other GI.
Schultz wasn’t a wartime correspondent, but his hero, Bill Mauldin, was. Because many WWII-era troops in Europe experienced hardships similar to Schultz’ – the mud and privation among others – it was no surprise that Mauldin’s comic lampooning of the situation (and not the war) caught on with the guys on the ground.
Mauldin became the hero for many GIs like Schultz fighting in Europe, but it was Schultz who honored Mauldin every Veteran’s Day by dressing Snoopy in his service blues to quaff a few root beers at Bill Mauldin’s place.
William Henry “Bill” Mauldin was a cartoonist and the creator of Willie Joe, the most beloved comic strip ever to come out of the war. It was featured in Stars and Stripes and read by just about every GI in the European Theater. Willie Joe was a single panel comic (think The Far Side and Ziggy) featuring two every day Joes living the daily life of troops fighting the Nazis. Before making it to Stars and Stripes Mauldin, “the fighting cartoonist,” was on the ground in Europe. He landed on the beaches of Sicily in 1943. This dedication to authenticity gave his work the realism with which every American soldier could relate.
His sketches appeared in his division paper before he became a full-fledged combat correspondent. He preferred to draw ideas from experience and stayed close to the front, to the Willies and Joes fighting the war. He was even on the sharp end of German mortars, wounded at Monte Cassino in 1943, which only lent more authenticity to Willie Joe.
There was one soldier who was less than a fan of Mauldin’s (to put it mildly). General George S. Patton frequently complained to Supreme Allied Headquarters about the cartoon and the cartoonist. He believed the unkempt appearances of Willie and Joe were a disgrace to the Army and subverted discipline. Patton repeatedly called for Mauldin’s dismissal, but luckily for Mauldin and the troops in Europe (and anyone who appreciates humor), the fighting cartoonist was protected from on high by General Dwight D. Eisenhower himself. Mauldin c to skewer anything and everything in his cartoons.
Eventually, Willie Joe became so popular that stateside newspapers began to feature the duo in regular publications. Civilians not only loved the comic, but it helped them understand the everyday struggles faced by troops fighting the war (at least the ones in Europe).
In 1945, Mauldin’s work earned him a Legion of Merit and the Pulitzer Prize. Willie Joe would grace the cover of Time magazine as Mauldin published a collection of 600 comics in a book called “Up Front.” The book was an instant best-seller. He kept writing comics right up until VE-Day.
After the war, Mauldin continued work as a writer and cartoonist, eventually going to the Chicago Sun-Times as a staff member. He won another Pulitzer in 1961 and penned more than one cartoon, including one on November 22, 1963. When he heard about Kennedy’s death, he rushed back to work and drew this iconic panel, depicting President Lincoln (with hair like Kennedy’s) mourning the loss.
Mauldin sketched Willie and Joe only a few times after the war. His work influenced many of the famous cartoonists of the 20th century, including Charles M. Schultz, who always referred to Mauldin as his hero. In fact, the last time Mauldin ever drew the dogface duo, they appeared in a Peanuts strip with Snoopy.
Bill Mauldin died in 2003 and the loss was felt (and depicted) by cartoonists all over the United States, a testament to the lasting memory of the fearless “Fighting Cartoonist.”
Concern is rising in Japan that the Chinese military may be training for a future mission in the disputed Senkaku Islands, where Beijing has been dispatching coast guard ships at increasing frequency in recent years.
Quoting the Pentagon’s 2017 survey of the Chinese military, Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun reported June 8 the People’s Liberation Army could be training for a raid of outlying areas, including the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands, also claimed by China and Taiwan.
In a section on China’s amphibious capabilities, the report from the U.S. Department of Defense states the “PLA Army focuses its amphibious efforts on a Taiwan invasion while the PLA Navy Marine Corps focuses on small island seizures in the South China Sea, with a potential emerging mission in the Senkakus.”
The Japanese military also may be concerned that, according to the report, China’s PLA Navy Marine Corps brigades conducted “battalion-level amphibious training at their respective training areas in Guangdong,” or the Southern Theater.
“The training focused on swimming amphibious armored vehicles from sea to shore, small boat assault and deployment of special forces by helicopter,” the report states.
In May, Taiwan’s Central News Agency reported China’s Navy Marine Corps is in the process of building a 100,000-strong military unit.
The Pentagon report states China has used “coercive tactics, such as the use of law enforcement vessels and its maritime militia, to enforce maritime claims.”
Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Mutual Security Treaty applies to the Senkakus, and the United States is obligated to defend the islands if they come under attack.
In May, four Chinese coast guard ships entered Japanese territorial waters near Okinawa and the Senkaku Islands and in 2016, more than 100 Chinese ships trespassed into Japan’s territorial waters, the second-largest annual number of Chinese ships entering disputed areas since Japan announced the nationalization of the Senkakus in September 2012.
As President Donald Trump touted a new era of diplomacy with the North Korean regime, a classified intelligence assessment appeared to tell a different story, according to several US intelligence officials.
The assessment revealed that, in recent months, North Korea had upped its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at several secret sites, according to over a dozen intelligence officials cited in an NBC News report published June 29, 2018. The officials said they believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be trying to conceal the secret facilities from the US.
“Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles,” one senior US intelligence official said to NBC News. “We are watching closely.”
According to five US officials cited by NBC News, the North Korean regime was increasing production of enriched uranium, even as relations with the US improved following the 2018 Winter Olympics. And since the leaders of both countries held a summit in Singapore in mid-June, 2018, the Trump administration has already delivered some concessions to the North.
Trump halted Ulchi Freedom Guardian, a major joint military drill with South Korea that was scheduled for August 2018. The military exercises have been a point of contention for North Korea, which sees them as a direct threat. The US and South Korea treat the drills as defensive measures.
During the US-North Korea summit, the first such meeting between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, the two men pledged to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” It was a vast departure from 2017 when both Trump and Kim were openly threatening nuclear war. But the broad and nondescript document fell short of a specific plan or goal, and was criticized by foreign-policy experts.
And though North Korea took several steps to indicate it was in the process of dismantling its weapons program, such as blowing up tunnels leading to a nuclear-test site, critics who monitored the development say it may have all been for show.
“There’s no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production,” a US official familiar with the intelligence report told NBC. “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the US.”
“There are lots of things that we know that North Korea has tried to hide from us for a long time,” another intelligence official added.
The intelligence report may also confirm the theory held by many arms experts: that North Korea possesses a second, undisclosed nuclear enrichment facility. In 2008, North Korea signaled it would curb its nuclear program by televising the destruction of a water-cooling tower at a plutonium extraction facility, only to announce that it would “readjust and restart” in 2013.
The report also calls into question Trump’s claim that North Korea no longer poses as a nuclear threat to the US: “There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea,” Trump tweeted in June, 2018, after returning from his meeting with Kim. “Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!”
For the last decade, Russian-made engines have been propelling US national security satellites into space.
While this has proven to be a good approach in the past, the time has come for a new breed of rocket engine that’s American-made.
On Feb. 29, the US Air Force — who runs the national security launch missions — announcedthat it will invest up to $738 million to put an end to America’s reliance on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engines.
RD-180 engines currently power the Atlas V rocket, which is owned and run by the United Launch Alliance (ULA) aerospace company.
And over the last 10 years, the Atlas V has helped ferry expensive and sensitive national security payloads into space for the Air Force.
But in recent years, as political tensions grew between the US and Russia, ULA’s use of the RD-180 engines has come under fire.
After the Crimean crisis in 2014,Congress called to permanently terminate the Air Force’s reliance on Russian-made rocket engines by building a program that would see functional, American-made rocket engines by the end of 2019.
Now is the right time
As part of its announcement on Feb. 29, the Air Force said it will award ULA up to $202 million, which will go toward the construction of ULA’s new Vulcan rocket — scheduled to launch for the first time in 2019.
Vulcan is expected to run on rocket engines designed and constructed by the American aerospace company Blue Origin, which is owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
But Blue Origin isn’t the only company working on taking back America’s role as a leader in rocket propulsion systems.
In direct competition is the rocket propulsion manufacturer company Aerojet Rocketdyne, which just got a major vote of confidence.
The rest of that $738 million the Air Force is willing to invest — which equates to a whopping $536 million — was dedicated to Aerojet Rocketdyne.
Right now, Aerojet is constructing its AR1 rocket engine, which the company says could be used to propel the Atlas V, Vulcan, as well as other rockets currently under development.
While ULA has contracted with Blue Origin to build its BE-4 rocket engines for the Vulcan rocket, ULA also has a contract with Aerojet, as back up.
If Blue Origin’s efforts to build the BE-4 rocket engine falter, then ULA will turn to Aerojet’s AR1 to power the Vulcan.
ULA and Aerojet have until Dec. 31, 2019 to design, build, and test its new engines.
“While the RD-180 engine has been a remarkable success with more than 60 successful launches, we believe now is the right time for American investment in a domestic engine,” Tory Bruno, ULA’s president and chief executive officer, said in a release.
Well, that’s something you don’t see everyday. A group of truckers in Kazakhstan were surprised when an Mi-8 helicopter with attached rocket pods landed on the road, halting traffic.
The drivers waited as one of the pilots climbed out and asked a quick question before waving, running back to the bird, and taking off again.
According to RT, the drivers are getting a good laugh on the radios after they realize what has happened:
“They were lost,” says a voice on the convoy radio, failing to suppress his laughter. “He came to ask which way to Aktobe.”
“How can you get lost in the steppe? How the hell can you get lost in the steppe?” says another incredulous voice.
According to the Kazakhstan Ministry of Defense, the pilots were on a planned visual-orienteering mission to test their navigation skills, including human survey. Since the pilots made it back after asking for directions, their mission was a success.
Even if it made them a bit of a joke between the truck drivers.