The anti-tank rifle is largely absent from modern combat because today’s tanks have advanced armor that can shrug off many tank rounds, let alone rifle rounds. But that wasn’t always the case.
Anti-tank rifles wreaked havoc on World War I tanks, and most World War II tanks had at least a few weak spots where a good anti-tank rifle could end the fight.
YouTube channel FullMag decided to see what one of these awesome weapons would do to a series of 1/4-inch thick steel plates — and the result is pretty great.
The shooter was using a 20mm anti-tank rifle with its original tungsten ammo. One of the best things about the video is that you can see what made an anti-tank rifle so dangerous for the crew.
When the 20mm round punches past the first few plates, it doesn’t just pass harmlessly through. Instead, shards of metal split off and turn white-hot thanks to the kinetic energy in the round changing to heat.
For the crew inside the tank, the white-hot slivers of metal and larger chunks of steel would be lethal, potentially getting rid of the crew even if none of them were hit by the round itself.
These awesome weapons saved the day for the Allies in a few battles, including Pavlov’s House in the Battle of Stalingrad, where a platoon of Soviet troops held off a Nazi siege for approximately two months thanks to their skillful use of an anti-tank rifle.
See FullMag’s entire video in the embed below. You can skip to 4:15 to just watch the shot and the effect on the steel plates:
For years, conservatives have assailed the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a dysfunctional bureaucracy. They said private enterprise would mean better, easier-to-access health care for veterans. President Donald Trump embraced that position, enthusiastically moving to expand the private sector’s role.
Here’s what has actually happened in the four years since the government began sending more veterans to private care: longer waits for appointments and, a new analysis of VA claims data by ProPublica and PolitiFact shows, higher costs for taxpayers.
Since 2014, 1.9 million former service members have received private medical care through a program called Veterans Choice. It was supposed to give veterans a way around long wait times in the VA. But their average waits using the Choice Program were still longer than allowed by law, according to examinations by the VA inspector general and the Government Accountability Office. The watchdogs also found widespread blunders, such as booking a veteran in Idaho with a doctor in New York and telling a Florida veteran to see a specialist in California. Once, the VA referred a veteran to the Choice Program to see a urologist, but instead he got an appointment with a neurologist.
The winners have been two private companies hired to run the program, which began under the Obama administration and is poised to grow significantly under Trump. ProPublica and PolitiFact obtained VA data showing how much the agency has paid in medical claims and administrative fees for the Choice program. Since 2014, the two companies have been paid nearly billion for overhead, including profit. That’s about 24 percent of the companies’ total program expenses — a rate that would exceed the federal cap that governs how much most insurance plans can spend on administration in the private sector.
According to the agency’s inspector general, the VA was paying the contractors at least 5 every time it authorized private care for a veteran. The fee was so high because the VA hurriedly launched the Choice Program as a short-term response to a crisis. Four years later, the fee never subsided — it went up to as much as 8 per referral.
“This is what happens when people try and privatize the VA,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the ranking Democrat on the Senate veterans committee, said in a statement responding to these findings. “The VA has an obligation to taxpayers to spend its limited resources on caring for veterans, not paying excessive fees to a government contractor. When VA does need the help of a middleman, it needs to do a better job of holding contractors accountable for missing the mark.”
The Affordable Care Act prohibits large group insurance plans from spending more than 15 percent of their revenue on administration, including marketing and profit. The private sector standard is 10 percent to 12 percent, according to Andrew Naugle, who advises health insurers on administrative operations as a consultant at Milliman, one of the world’s largest actuarial firms. Overhead is even lower in the Defense Department’s Tricare health benefits program: only 8 percent in 2017.
Even excluding the costs of setting up the new program, the Choice contractors’ overhead still amounts to 21 percent of revenue.
“That’s just unacceptable,” Rick Weidman, the policy director of Vietnam Veterans of America, said in response to the figures. “There are people constantly banging on the VA, but this was the private sector that made a total muck of it.”
A spokesman for the VA, Curt Cashour, declined to provide an interview with key officials and declined to answer a detailed list of written questions.
One of the contractors, Health Net, stopped working on the program in September 2018. Health Net didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The other contractor, TriWest Healthcare Alliance, said it has worked closely with the VA to improve the program and has made major investments of its own. “We believe supporting VA in ensuring the delivery of quality care to our nation’s veterans is a moral responsibility, even while others have avoided making these investments or have withdrawn from the market,” the company said in a statement.
TriWest did not dispute ProPublica and PolitiFact’s estimated overhead rate, which used total costs, but suggested an alternate calculation, using an average cost, that yielded a rate of 13 percent to 15 percent. The company defended the 5-plus fee by saying it covers “highly manual” services such as scheduling appointments and coordinating medical files. Such functions are not typically part of the contracts for other programs, such as the military’s Tricare. But Tricare’s contractors perform other duties, such as adjudicating claims and monitoring quality, that Health Net and TriWest do not. In a recent study comparing the programs, researchers from the Rand Corporation concluded that the role of the Choice Program’s contractors is “much narrower than in the private sector or in Tricare.”
Before the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net performed essentially the same functions for about a sixth of the price, according to the VA inspector general. TriWest declined to break down how much of the fee goes to each service it provides.
Because of what the GAO called the contractors’ “inadequate” performance, the VA increasingly took over doing the Choice Program’s referrals and claims itself.
In many cases, the contractors’ 5-plus processing fee for every referral was bigger than the doctor’s bill for services rendered, the analysis of agency data showed. In the three months ending Jan. 31, 2018, the Choice Program made 49,144 referrals for primary care totaling .9 million in medical costs, for an average cost per referral of 1.16. A few other types of care also cost less on average than the handling fee: chiropractic care (6.32 per referral) and optometry (9.25). There were certainly other instances where the medical services cost much more than the handling fee: TriWest said its average cost per referral was about ,100 in the past six months.
Beyond what the contractors were entitled to, audits by the VA inspector general found that they overcharged the government by 0 million from November 2014 to March 2017. Both companies are now under federal investigation arising from these overpayments. Health Net’s parent company, Centene, disclosed a Justice Department civil investigation into “excessive, duplicative or otherwise improper claims.” A federal grand jury in Arizona is investigating TriWest for “wire fraud and misused government funds,” according to a court decision on a subpoena connected to the case. Both companies said they are cooperating with the inquiries.
Despite the criminal investigation into TriWest’s management of the Choice Program, the Trump administration recently expanded the company’s contract without competitive bidding. Now, TriWest stands to collect even more fees as the administration prepares to fulfill Trump’s campaign promise to send more veterans to private doctors.
(US Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)
Senate veterans committee chairman Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said he expects VA Secretary Robert Wilkie to discuss the agency’s plans for the future of private care when he testifies at a hearing on Dec. 19, 2018. A spokeswoman for the outgoing chairman of the House veterans committee, Phil Roe, R-Tenn., didn’t respond to requests for comment.
“The last thing we need is to have funding for VA’s core mission get wasted,” Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat who will become the House panel’s chairman in January 2019, said in a statement. “I will make sure Congress conducts comprehensive oversight to ensure that our veterans receive the care they deserve while being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.”
Many of the Choice Program’s defects trace back to its hasty launch.
In 2014, the Republican chairman of the House veterans committee alleged that 40 veterans died waiting for care at the VA hospital in Phoenix. The inspector general eventually concluded that no deaths were attributable to the delays. But it was true that officials at the Phoenix VA were covering up long wait times, and critics seized on this scandal to demand that veterans get access to private medical care.
One of the loudest voices demanding changes was John McCain’s. “Make no mistake: This is an emergency,” the Arizona senator, who died in August 2018, said at the time. McCain struck a compromise with Democrats to open up private care for veterans who lived at least 40 miles from a VA facility or would have to wait at least 30 days to get an appointment.
In the heat of the scandal, Congress gave the VA only 90 days to launch Choice. The VA reached out to 57 companies about administering the new program, but the companies said they couldn’t get the program off the ground in just three months, according to contracting records. So the VA tacked the Choice Program onto existing contracts with Health Net and TriWest to run a much smaller program for buying private care. “There is simply insufficient time to solicit, evaluate, negotiate and award competitive contracts and then allow for some form of ramp-up time for a new contractor,” the VA said in a formal justification for bypassing competitive bidding.
But that was a shaky foundation on which to build a much larger program, since those earlier contracts were themselves flawed. In a 2016 report, the VA inspector general said officials hadn’t followed the rules “to ensure services acquired are based on need and at fair and reasonable prices.” The report criticized the VA for awarding higher rates than one of the vendors proposed.
The new contract with the VA was a lifeline for TriWest. Its president and CEO, David J. McIntyre Jr., was a senior aide to McCain in the mid-1990s before starting the company, based in Phoenix, to handle health benefits for the military’s Tricare program. In 2013, TriWest lost its Tricare contract and was on the verge of shutting down. Thanks to the VA contract, TriWest went from laying off more than a thousand employees to hiring hundreds.
Senator John McCain.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
McIntyre’s annual compensation, according to federal contracting disclosures, is .36 million. He declined to be interviewed. In a statement, TriWest noted that the original contract, for the much smaller private care program, had been competitively awarded.
The VA paid TriWest and Health Net 0 million upfront to set up the new Choice program, according to the inspector general’s audit. But that was dwarfed by the fees that the contractors would collect. Previously, the VA paid the companies between and 3 for every referral, according to the inspector general. But for the Choice Program, TriWest and Health Net raised their fee to between 5 and 0 to do essentially the same work on a larger scale, the inspector general said.
The price hike was a direct result of the time pressure, according to Greg Giddens, a former VA contracting executive who dealt with the Choice Program. “If we had two years to stand up the program, we would have been at a different price structure,” he said.
Even though the whole point of the Choice Program was to avoid 30-day waits in the VA, a convoluted process made it hard for veterans to see private doctors any faster. Getting care through the Choice Program took longer than 30 days 41 percent of the time, according to the inspector general’s estimate. The GAO found that in 2016 using the Choice Program could take as long as 70 days, with an average of 50 days.
Sometimes the contractors failed to make appointments at all. Over a three-month period in 2018, Health Net sent back between 9 percent and 13 percent of its referrals, according to agency data. TriWest failed to make appointments on 5 percent to 8 percent of referrals, the data shows.
Many veterans had frustrating experiences with the contractors.
Richard Camacho in Los Angeles said he got a call from TriWest to make an appointment for a sleep test, but he then received a letter from TriWest with different dates. He had to call the doctor to confirm when he was supposed to show up. When he got there, the doctor had received no information about what the appointment was for, Camacho said.
John Moen, a Vietnam veteran in Plano, Texas, tried to use the Choice Program for physical therapy in 2018 rather than travel to Dallas, where the VA had a six-week wait. But it took 10 weeks for him to get an appointment with a private provider.
“The Choice Program for me has completely failed to meet my needs,” Moen said.
Curtis Thompson, of Kirkland, Washington, said he’s been told the Choice Program had a 30-day wait just to process referrals, never mind to book an appointment. “Bottom line: Wait for the nearly 60 days to see the rheumatologist at the VA rather than opt for an unknown delay through Veterans Choice,” he said.
(Flickr photo by Rob Bixby)
After Thompson used the Choice Program in 2018 for a sinus surgery that the VA couldn’t perform within 30 days, the private provider came after him to collect payment, according to documentation he provided.
Thousands of veterans have had to contend with bill collectors and credit bureaus because the contractors failed to pay providers on time, according to the inspector general. Doctors have been frustrated with the Choice Program, too. The inspector general found that 15 providers in North Carolina stopped accepting patients from the VA because Health Net wasn’t paying them on time.
The VA shares the blame, since it fell behind in paying the contractors, the inspector general said. TriWest claimed the VA at one point owed the company 0 million. According to the inspector general, the VA’s pile of unpaid claims peaked at almost 180,000 in 2016 and was virtually eliminated by the end of the year.
The VA tried to tackle the backlog of unpaid doctors, but it had a problem: The agency didn’t know who was performing the services arranged by the contractors. That’s because Health Net and TriWest controlled the provider networks, and the medical claims they submit to the VA do not include any provider information.
The contractors’ role as middlemen created the opportunity for payment errors, according to the inspector general’s audit. The inspector general found 77,700 cases where the contractors billed the VA for more than they paid providers and pocketed the difference, totaling about million. The inspector general also identified .9 million in duplicate payments and .5 million in other errors.
TriWest said it has worked with the VA to correct the payment errors and set aside money to pay back. The company said it’s waiting for the VA to provide a way to refund the confirmed overpayments. “We remain ready to complete the necessary reconciliations as soon as that process is formally approved,” TriWest said.
The grand jury proceedings involving TriWest are secret, but the investigation became public because prosecutors sought to obtain the identities of anonymous commenters on the jobs website Glassdoor.com who accused TriWest of “mak[ing] money unethically off of veterans/VA.” Glassdoor fought the subpoena but lost, in November 2017. The court’s opinion doesn’t name TriWest, but it describes the subject of the investigation as “a government contractor that administers veterans’ healthcare programs” and quotes the Glassdoor reviews about TriWest. The federal prosecutor’s office in Arizona declined to comment.
“TriWest has cooperated with many government inquiries regarding VA’s community care programs and will continue to do so,” the company said in its statement. “TriWest must respect the government’s right to keep those inquiries confidential until such time as the government decides to conclude the inquiry or take any actions or adjust VA programs as deemed appropriate.”
The VA tried to make the Choice Program run more smoothly and efficiently. Because the contractors were failing to find participating doctors to treat veterans, the VA in mid-2015 launched a full-court press to sign up private providers directly, according to the inspector general. In some states, the VA also took over scheduling from the contractors.
“We were making adjustments on the fly trying to get it to work,” said David Shulkin, who led the VA’s health division starting in 2015. “There needed to be a more holistic solution.”
Officials decided in 2016 to design new contracts that would change the fee structure and reabsorb some of the services that the VA had outsourced to Health Net and TriWest. The department secretary at the time, Bob McDonald, concluded the VA needed to handle its own customer service, since the agency’s reputation was suffering from TriWest’s and Health Net’s mistakes. Reclaiming those functions would have the side effect of reducing overhead.
“Tell me a great customer service company in the world that outsources its customer service,” McDonald, who previously ran Procter Gamble, said in an interview. “I wanted to have the administrative functions within our medical centers so we took control of the care of the veterans. That would have brought that fee down or eliminated it entirely.”
The new contracts, called the Community Care Network, also aimed to reduce overhead by paying the contractors based on the number of veterans they served per month, rather than a flat fee for every referral. To prevent payment errors like the ones the inspector general found, the new contracts sought to increase information-sharing between the VA and the contractors. The VA opened bidding for the new Community Care Network contracts in December 2016.
But until those new contracts were in place, the VA was still stuck paying Health Net and TriWest at least 5 for every referral. So VA officials came up with a workaround: they could cut out the middleman and refer veterans to private providers directly. Claims going through the contractors declined by 47 percent from May to December in 2017.
TriWest’s CEO, McIntyre, objected to this workaround and blamed the VA for hurting his bottom line.
In a Feb. 26, 2018, email with the subject line “Heads Up… Likely Massive and Regrettable Train Wreck Coming!” McIntyre warned Shulkin, then the department secretary, that “long unresolved matters with VA and current behavior patterns will result in a projected million loss in 2019. This is on top of the losses that we have amassed over the last couple years.”
Officials were puzzled that, despite all the VA was paying TriWest, McIntyre was claiming he couldn’t make ends meet, according to agency emails provided to ProPublica and PolitiFact. McIntyre explained that he wanted the VA to waive penalties for claims that lacked adequate documentation and to pay TriWest an administrative fee on canceled referrals and no-show appointments, even though the VA read the contract to require a fee only on completed claims. In a March 2018 letter to key lawmakers, McIntyre said the VA’s practice of bypassing the contractors and referring patients directly to providers “has resulted in a significant drop in the volume of work and is causing the company irreparable financial harm.”
McIntyre claimed the VA owed TriWest million and warned of a “negative impact on VA and veterans that will follow” if the agency didn’t pay. Any disruptions at TriWest, he said, would rebound onto the VA, “given how much we are relied on by VA at the moment and the very public nature of this work.”
But when the VA asked to see TriWest’s financial records to substantiate McIntyre’s claims, the numbers didn’t add up, according to agency emails.
McIntyre’s distress escalated in March 2018, as the Choice Program was running out of money and lawmakers were locked in tense negotiations over its future. McIntyre began sending daily emails to the VA officials in charge of the Choice Program seeking updates and warning of impending disaster. “I don’t think the storm could get more difficult or challenging,” he wrote in one of the messages. “However, I know that I am not alone nor that the impact will be confined to us.”
McIntyre lobbied for a bill to permanently replace Choice with a new program consolidating all of the VA’s methods of buying private care. TriWest even offered to pay veterans organizations to run ads supporting the legislation, according to emails discussing the proposal. Congress overwhelmingly passed the law (named after McCain) in May 2018.
“In the campaign, I also promised that we would fight for Veterans Choice,” Trump said at the signing ceremony in June 2018. “And before I knew that much about it, it just seemed to be common sense. It seemed like if they’re waiting on line for nine days and they can’t see a doctor, why aren’t they going outside to see a doctor and take care of themselves, and we pay the bill? It’s less expensive for us, it works out much better, and it’s immediate care.”
The new permanent program for buying private care will take effect in June 2019. The VA’s new and improved Community Care Network contracts were supposed to be in place by then. But the agency repeatedly missed deadlines for these new contracts and has yet to award them.
The VA has said it’s aiming to pick the contractors for the new program in January and February 2019. Yet even if the VA meets this latest deadline, the contracts include a one-year ramp-up period, so they won’t be ready to start in June 2019.
That means TriWest will by default become the sole contractor for the new program. The VA declined to renew Health Net’s contract when it expired in September 2018. The VA was planning to deal directly with private providers in the regions that Health Net had covered. But the VA changed course and announced that TriWest would take over Health Net’s half of the country. The agency said TriWest would be the sole contractor for the entire Choice Program until it awards the Community Care Network contracts.
“There’s still not a clear timeline moving forward,” said Giddens, the former VA contracting executive. “They need to move forward with the next program. The longer they stay with the current one, and now that it’s down to TriWest, that’s not the best model.”
Meanwhile, TriWest will continue receiving a fee for every referral. And the number of referrals is poised to grow as the administration plans to shift more veterans to the private sector.
This story was produced in collaboration with PolitiFact.
This article originally appeared on ProPublica. Follow @ProPublica on Twitter.
The United States is withholding a $255 million military aid payment from Pakistan until it cracks down on what President Donald Trump has called “safe havens” for anti- Afghanistan militant groups, officials said.
State Department officials said on August 31 that the funds won’t be released from an escrow account until the United States sees that Pakistan is moving against the Afghan Taliban and allied groups like the Haqqani network that U.S. intelligence agencies say have resided for years withinPakistan’s borders.
Pakistan has denied that it harbors terrorists and has said the United States is using Islamabad as a “scapegoat” for its own failure to win the 16-year war in Afghanistan.
The new U.S. stance toward Pakistan prompted a protest resolution in the Pakistani parliament this week as well as anti- U.S. protests in the streets that Pakistani police had to disperse using tear gas.
In announcing the new strategy last week, Trump said “we have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting… That will have to change.”
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at the time that the administration was considering curtailing aid, severing Pakistan’s status as a major non- NATO ally, and even hitting Islamabad for the first time with sanctions, unless it tackles anti-Afghan militant groups within its borders.
“We’re going to be conditioning our support for Pakistan and our relationship with them on them delivering results in this area,” Tillerson said.
To Pakistan’s alarm, Trump also floated the possibility of inviting India – Pakistan’s archrival – to get more involved in Afghanistan unless Pakistan is more cooperative.
The administration’s notification to Congress of an indefinite “pause” in installments on a $1.1 billion military assistance package for Pakistan represented the administration’s first step to make good on those promised measures.
The United States has sought before to use aid to Pakistan as well as U.S. weapons sales as leverage to secure Islamabad’s cooperation onAfghanistan.
Pakistan maintains that it already is doing everything it can to eliminate terrorists in the country, and has been more successful at doing so than its next-door neighbor, Afghanistan, even with the help of thousands of NATO and U.S. troops.
Moreover, Pakistan has complained that the United States does not appreciate the sacrifices Islamabad has made by joining the U.S. antiterror campaign, which Islamabad said has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians and soldiers.
The HMS Thunderbolt was lost in combat on March 14, 1943, after a short but successful World War II career that saw it sink multiple Italian vessels, which might have been surprising to some since the submarine had actually sank three years prior in 1940 with a loss of nearly all hands.
That’s because the HMS Thunderbolt was once the HMS Thetis, or, more properly, it was almost the HMS Thetis. It was a submarine launched in 1938 as part of the interwar buildup of arms. The submarine was scheduled to become the HMS Thetis when it was commissioned.
But the planned commissioning didn’t happen. As the submarine went through its sea trials, a tragic accident occurred. Most torpedo tubes, then and now, work using two doors. One door opens to the sea when a torpedo is launched, one door opens into the sub when the crew needs to load a new torpedo. The best subs have mechanisms that make it physically impossible to open one door if the other isn’t closed.
But the N25 had an indicator instead, that was supposed to tell the crew the outer door was open so they wouldn’t open the inner door. But the indicator was really just a small hole in the door that would spurt water if the tube was flooded, and a painter had accidentally filled the small hole in.
During a dive on June 1, 1939, this resulted in the inner door being opened while the outer door was also open. The crew was able to seal a bulkhead after significant flooding, but the boat was filled with 53 members of the defense industry and public, and air was already in short supply in the flooded sub.
The crew managed to raise themselves back to the surface for a short period, and four crewmembers escaped, but it crashed back to the seafloor, and 99 people were killed.
The HMS Thunderbolt was successful, even though it seemed like it would be cursed. First, sailors don’t always like it when a vessel’s name is changed, an old superstition. And if any sub could be a ghost ship, the Thunderbolt was a top contender. Worse, Thunderbolt was, itself, an auspicious name for British vessels as two previous HMS Thunderbolts had been lost in crashes.
All of this likely weighed on the crew, especially when they saw the rust line on the walls of the sub from the original sinking. But it destroyed an Italian sub in the Atlantic on Dec. 15, 1940, and helped destroy an Italian light cruiser and a supply ship in early January 1943 in the Mediterranean.
The Cicogna forced the Thunderbolt under and, when the British crew tried to resurface for air, spotted the boat’s periscope and hit it with depth charges, ending the ill-fated sub’s career and killing its crew, the second time the submarine was lost with all hands.
One of the most effective hand-to-hand combat techniques taught today — and one that has become closely identified with the Jewish state that embraced it — Krav Maga – was a product of the Nazi-era streets of pre-World War II Czechoslovakia.
The martial art’s inventor, Imi Lichtenfeld was quite the athlete. Born in Budapest in 1910, he spent his early years training to be a boxer, wrestler and gymnast with his father. The elder Lichtenfeld was also a policeman who taught self-defense. Under his father’s tutelage, Imi won championships in all his athletic disciplines. But fighting in a ring required both people to follow certain rules. Street fights don’t have rules, Imi Lichtenfeld thought, and he wanted to be prepared for that.
At the end of the 1930s, anti-Semitic riots struck Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, where Imi and his family were then living. Like many large cities in the region, the rise of National Socialism, or Nazism, created an anti-Jewish fervor that took young men to the streets to assault innocent and often unsuspecting Jews.
When the streets of his neighborhood became increasingly violent, Lichtenfeld decided to teach a group of his Jewish neighbors some self-defense moves. It came in the form of a technique that would help them protect themselves while attacking their opponent – a method that showed no mercy for those trying to kill the Chosen People.
Young Imi taught his friends what would later be called “Krav Maga.”
Translated as “contact-combat” in Hebrew, Krav Maga is designed to prepare the user for real-world situations. The martial art efficiently attacks an opponent’s most vulnerable areas to neutralize him as quickly as possible, uses everything in arm’s reach as a weapon, and teaches the user to be aware of every potential threat in the area. It developed into one of the most effective hand-to-hand techniques ever devised.
Krav Maga’s widespread use began in the Israel Defence Force, who still train in the martial art. These days, Krav Maga is a go-to fighting style widely used by various military and law enforcement agencies. In 1930s Europe, it was a godsend. Lichtenfeld’s technique taught Bratislava’s Jews how to simultaneously attack and defend themselves while delivering maximum pain and punishment on their attackers.
Imi Lichtenfeld escaped Europe in 1940 after the Nazis marched into Czechoslovakia. He arrived in the British Mandate of Palestine in 1942 (after considerable struggles along the way) and was quickly inducted into the Free Czech Legion of the British Army in North Africa. He served admirably and the Haganah and Palmach – Jewish paramilitary organizations that were forerunners of what we call today the Israel Defence Forces – noticed his combat skill right away.
After Israel won its independence, Lichtenfeld gave his now-perfected martial art of Krav Maga to the IDF and became the Israeli Army’s chief hand-to-hand combat instructor. He even modified it for law enforcement and civilians.
Lichtenfeld taught Krav Maga until 1987 when he retired from the IDF. He died in 1998, after essentially teaching the world’s Jewish population how to defend themselves when no one would do it for them.
The commandant of the Marine Corps wants the service to come up with a strategy to give Marines more time at home between deployments before the end of the year and get new aircraft cranking off production lines ahead of schedule.
Those are two of the 25 time-sensitive tasks for service commanders published Tuesday alongside Gen. Robert Neller’s second major message to the force. In the task list, he calls on Marine Corps leadership to invest in people, build up readiness, and take training into the future.
Neller’s checklist tasks Marine Corps Forces Command and Manpower and Reserve Affairs with developing a plan to give Marines on average more than twice as much time at home than they spend deployed.
Increasing “dwell time,” as it’s called, from the current 1:2 ratio has long been cited by Marine Corps commanders as a goal at odds with the service’s high deployment tempo and ongoing force reductions. As leaders await approval of a defense budget measure that would modestly increase the size of the force for the first time in years, Neller’s order is a signal that times may be changing.
“The optimal deployment-to-dwell ratio will not be the same for all elements of the [Marine air-ground task force] and we must strike the right balance between risk-to-force, risk-to- mission, and risk-to-institution,” Neller cautioned in the document. “Potential factors to consider among others: increasing the end strength of the force, growing key Military Occupational Specialties (MOSs), and decreasing in Global Force Management (GFM) demands.”
Another goal dependent on budget decisions is the plan to accelerate aviation recovery for the service, which has seen aircraft readiness rates and pilots’ flight hours plummet and then begin to recover in the last two years.
In an interview this month in his office at the Pentagon, Neller said the Corps would try to buy new aircraft faster, including F-35B Joint Strike Fighters, to replace aging legacy platforms, and petition Congress to fully fund the service’s flight hour program and spare parts requirements so aviation readiness as a whole will improve.
“We’re going to be in a position where we’re fielding new aircraft and sustaining legacy aircraft for a number of years and it would be nice if the [operational] tempo would go down, but I don’t see that happening either. So we’ve got to do this all on the fly,” Neller said. “We’ve got to improve our readiness and continue to meet our requirements.”
Whether or not the extra money rolls in within future defense budgets, Neller is asking aviation leaders to come up with more efficient ways to accelerate the recovery plan.
He’s also calling for better training for aviation maintenance Marines, citing recent readiness reviews that highlighted a lack of training and standardization in these fields. By improving and standardizing the training pipeline for specialized aviation maintainers, he wrote, “We can improve overall readiness and performance of Marine Aviation.”
In parallel, Neller wants commanders to develop a comprehensive plan by the end of the year to modernize the Marine Corps ground combat element, allowing infantry Marines to fight with similar technological and training advantages to their aviation counterparts.
He reiterated his desire to get quadcopter drones fielded to each Marine rifle squad “immediately,” and said he wanted to see ground Marines take advantage of the 5th-generation platforms, sensors and networks that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will bring to the force.
Neller endorsed a growing trend in the Marine Corps to tailor equipment and gear to the specific needs of the ground combat Marine.
“While every Marine is a rifleman, not all Marines serve in or alongside ground combat units like the infantry as they actively locate, close with, and destroy enemies by fire and maneuver,” Neller wrote. “Their mission and risks are unique. From clothing and equipment to training, nutrition, and fitness, we must look at and develop the [ground combat element’s] capabilities differently than the rest of the MAGTF.”
It’s a fact of life; in war, troops sustain injuries — which can range from mild to severe. If the medics and aid stations can’t fully treat a wound on their own, troops are moved back from the front lines to more-equipped facilities to recover. Exactly how far back depends on how long the wounded service member needs to recover before returning to fighting shape.
The military once used the C-9 Nightingale for medical evacuations. This plane was designed based on the DC-9 airliner and is capable of hauling 40 litter patients. A total of 48 of these planes were built and two remain in service with the Marine Corps today. These planes were, in large part, phased out in the 2000s.
Staff Sgt. Vanessa Potchebski and Staff Sgt. Miguel Rodriguez, both 379th Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron medical technicians, unload medical equipment from a C-130 Hercules after a successful mission to pick up sick patients in Iraq.
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)
The current method of aeromedical evacuation involves putting a team of doctors and nurses on whatever cargo plane is available — be it a KC-135 Stratotanker, C-130 Hercules, C-17 Globemaster, or C-5 Galaxy. On one hand, this means that medical crews don’t have to wait for a dedicated plane to arrive — they simply load up and go. On the other hand, it may not be a bad idea to have a dedicated aeromedical evacuation aircraft, one that’s carefully set up to provide care for the wounded.
At the 2018 SeaAirSpace Expo, we learned that a dedicated aeromedical evacuation aircraft may be exactly what’s in store, and the potential contender for this role is a jet most associate with the rich and famous: The Gulfstream. Yes, that’s right, the jet that Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, and other Hollywood A-listers take to Cannes could now be hauling wounded American troops.
The Air Force operates nine C-37s, based on the Gulfstream V business jet.
Versions of the Gulfstream have been in service with the U.S. military for a while as the C-20 and C-37, which are designs based off of civilian Gulfstream aircraft. These jets feature a long range (of at least 4,000 miles, if not more) and are capable of reaching high subsonic speeds. This makes them very useful, especially in critical-care cases.
Currently, the Air Force has seven C-20 (Gulfstream III/IV) and nine C-37 (Gulfstream V) jets in service, mostly for VIP transport. The Navy presently operates the C-37 as well. But if the decision is made to press these jets into service for aeromedical evacuation, the military may see more of this celebrity transport.
A U.S. Air Force combat controller will receive the nation’s third highest award for valor for playing an essential role in two intense firefight missions against the Taliban in Afghanistan last year.
Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith, an airman with the 26th Special Tactics Squadron, 24th Special Operations Wing at Air Force Special Operations Command, will receive the Silver Star at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico on Nov. 22, 2019, the service announced Nov. 18, 2019.
AFSOC spokeswoman 1st Lt. Alejandra Fontalvo said the award is for his total service during a 2018 deployment alongside an Army special forces team in support of the Resolute Support mission and Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan.
Serving as the sole joint terminal attack controller, or JTAC, during a two-week long mission, Smith and the joint Army and Afghan teams were sent out to disperse Taliban forces that had created a stronghold in the Maymana village in northwest Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2018.
TSgt Cody Smith: Air Force Times Airman of the Year
En route to the area, the forces, which included Green Berets, lacked aerial cover due to poor weather conditions, but pressed on despite roadblocks and dozens of improvised explosive devices hidden within rubble along the path to slow their progress, according to Air Force Times.
The groups were immediately met with machine gun fire and rocket-propelled grenades when they got to the village.
Smith called in nearby AH-64 Apache helicopters, as well as F-16 Fighting Falcons that dropped “multiple precision guided 500-pound bombs engaging as close as 90 meters away,” Air Force officials said.
The firefight went on for nearly 10 hours.
Exactly one week later, pushing forward to Shirin Tagab just due north of Maymana, Smith and the teams were met by an overwhelming force — nearly 600 Taliban fighters amassing on the village’s southern flank. The fighters once again set up roadblocks and IEDs to slow the U.S. troops’ convoy before another fierce battle broke out — this time with mortars.
Smith told Air Force Times the scene turned to chaos as dozens of civilians ran up to the troops for help to save their children wounded in the firefight.
Air Force Tech. Sgt. Cody Smith.
(Air Force photo)
Smith tried to get medical aid all while protecting the convoy. First hit in his body armor, Smith kept firing.
Mortars rained down, and one exploded two meters away from his position, resulting in a severe concussion. When Smith awoke, he declined medical attention and fought for five more hours, Air Force Times reported, before an RPG hit his vehicle.
For a second time, he turned medics away to keep fighting, the paper said.
Smith called in 11 danger-close strikes amid the pandemonium during that Oct. 14 mission, resulting in 195 enemy fighters killed and 18 fighting positions destroyed. He aided in saving American and Afghan lives, and even helped medevac a wounded team member, Air Force Times said.
“[He] remained with his team for the 14-hour vehicle movement back to friendly lines to ensure their safety,” the Air Force said Monday.
The service has awarded 11 Air Force Crosses and 48 Silver Star Medals to Special Tactics airmen. Last year, President Donald Trump posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor to Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, also a combat controller, and promoted Chapman to master sergeant.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Only 55% of Americans know what Memorial Day is about, and only about one in five plan to fly a flag at half-staff or attend a patriotic event on May 27, according to a Harris poll survey commissioned by the University of Phoenix.
The survey, conducted April 9-11, 2019, among 2,025 adults, showed that only 28% had attended a local ceremony or patriotic event on a previous Memorial Day. It also found that only 23% had flown a flag at half-staff, while 22% had left a flag or flowers at a gravesite or visited a military monument.
Only 55% could correctly describe Memorial Day as a day to honor the fallen from all the nation’s wars, the Harris survey states, and 45% said they either always or often attended a commemoration activity.
About 27% of those surveyed thought Memorial Day honored all military veterans, 5% thought it honored those currently serving, and 3% thought the day marked the official beginning of summer, the survey states.
(U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser)
Of those who said they had participated in some form of commemoration activity on Memorial Day, 52% said they had thanked a veteran, 14% said they had worn a Memorial Day button, and 14% said they had joined in a National Moment of Remembrance, according to the survey.
Older adults are more likely to observe Memorial Day and describe it correctly, the survey found. About 53% of those aged 55-64 commemorated Memorial Day, compared with 40% of those aged 18-34, according to the survey’s findings.
Former Army Sgt. Brian Ishmael, director of Military and Veterans Affairs at the University of Phoenix, said in a phone interview that it is “a little bit disappointing” to know that so many Americans are unaware of the true meaning of Memorial Day.
Staff Sgt. Steve Sandoval of the 147th Combat Communications Squadron pays respects to his wife’s grandfather, James C. Peebles, U.S. Army, who served in World War II. Sandoval was among thousands of volunteers from the local community who placed flags on 67,000 grave sites at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in honor of Memorial day.
(Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Julie Avey)
Ishmael, who served two tours in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division, said that “being a combat veteran myself, that has to be a bit disappointing.”
At the University of Phoenix, “we put a lot of emphasis” on explaining the real meaning of Memorial Day, he said. For this Memorial Day, the mostly online university will continue a 10-year tradition of planting flags on the Phoenix campus.
This year, the university plans to plant 15,000 flags with the theme “Their Legacy Lives On,” Ishmael said.
However, the for-profit University of Phoenix has had a checkered history of serving veterans and its use of GI Bill funds for tuition.
Navy captain places flags at the grave of his uncle, who served during the Vietnam War.
(U.S. Navy photo by Greg Vojtko)
In 2009, the university agreed to a .5 million settlement with the federal government on allegations that it was illegally paying recruiters based on the number of students enrolled.
And in 2015, the Defense Department suspended the university from recruiting on military bases and accessing federal education funds.
It was alleged that the university had violated rules against for-profit colleges seeking to gain preferential access to potential students from the military. The suspension was lifted in 2016.
Ishmael acknowledged the allegations against the university but said they are dated, and the school is now “100% focused on our veterans” and their education.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
As COVID restrictions begin to lift and businesses implement new safety protocols, more and more service members are putting in leave or planning their next family vacations—goodness knows we could all use one after lockdown. Though many hotels are offering lower rates in order to entice tourists to return, there are still popular vacation destinations where lodging is at a premium. Luckily, there are some hidden gems to be found in these areas…as long as you have your military ID. Even if you’re not planning to travel soon, keep these locations in mind for your post-COVID vacations. Since international travel restrictions are still in place, this list will focus on accommodations in the United States. Overseas locations like Dragon Hill Lodge in Seoul, South Korea will not be included.
Hawaii doesn’t have to be expensive (Hale Koa—AFRC)
1. Hale Koa Hotel—Honolulu, HI
Situated in the heart of Waikiki, Hale Koa offers service members an affordable and high class aloha experience. Owned by the DoD, Hale Koa is part of a chain of Joint Service Facility resorts called Armed Forces Recreation Centers. Room rates range from 3 to 1 per night depending on the dates of your stay and your rank (try to find resort rates like that in Waikiki). In order to book a stay, guests must provide proof of eligibility like a CAC or DD Form 2. For a full list of eligibility, see the Hale Koa website. Reservations are accepted up to 365 days before your desired trip. Hale Koa notes that September to mid-December offers the most room availability.
Coronado offers two different locations (Navy Gateway)
2. NAB Coronado/NAS North Island Navy Gateway—Coronado, CA
Coronado in San Diego is a premiere resort city known for the grand Victorian Hotel del Coronado, world-class beaches, and hosting two Navy bases. Both bases offer service members lodging operated by the DoD Lodging Program under Navy Gateway Inns Suites. While the Navy Gateway at NAS North Island offers guests more luxurious accommodations, its location on the north end of the peninsula means that it is further from the shops and restaurants that visitors come to Coronado for. On the other hand, the Navy Gateway at NAB Coronado is just south of the heart of the city. In fact, the lodging is only 1.5 miles from “The Del” and the picturesque Coronado Yacht Club. Both locations offer easy and exclusive beach access. However, if you plan to take your four-legged friend(s) to Coronado’s famous white-sand dog beach, note that only the NAB Coronado location is pet friendly. Pricing and availability vary, but a standard room can usually be had for around 0/night.
A stay in the Magic Kingdom doesn’t have to break the bank (Shades of Green)
3. Shades of Green—Lake Buena Vista, FL
Like Hale Koa, Shades of Green is a Joint Service Facility resort under the AFRC program. Located on the grounds of Walt Disney World in between two PGA championship golf courses, the resort offers nearly 600 rooms and suites reserved exclusively for service members, families, and sponsored guests. A full list of eligibility is listed on their website. Accommodations range in price from a standard room at 9/night for E-1 through E-6, up to 9/night for their top-tier Palm and Magnolia Suites regardless of rank. Compared to Disney’s on-site resorts, Shades of Green is comparable to their Deluxe Resorts like the Polynesian Resort. Though resort guests cannot park for free at the Disney parks, Shades of Green does offer a complimentary bus service to and from the parks. That said, the resort does not provide transportation to or from the Orlando International Airport and on-site parking comes at the cost of /night.
(City of Cape May)
4. Coast Guard Guest Lodging—Cape May, NJ
Most people don’t know that Cape May, NJ hosts basic training for the U.S. Coast Guard. The city claims to be America’s original seaside resort. The pristine beaches, diverse dining options, and rich history make it a great choice for an east coast vacation on the water. While the city has plenty of hotels, bed breakfast inns, and guest houses, the Coast Guard Guest Lodging offers eligible service members lodging options in the form of six fully furnished two bedroom units. Each unit has a living room, kitchen, and full bathroom along with essential housing items. If you and your family are planning an extended stay in Cape May and/or want to visit the surrounding area, these Coast Guard accommodations might be for you. Reservations during the peak season of May 15-September 15 will cost you /night while the non-peak season of September 16-May 14 runs at /night. Two pet friendly units are available and will require a non-refundable pet fee of 0.
The club is located just a few blocks from the Empire State Building (SSMA Club)
5. Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast Guard & Airmen’s Club—New York, NY
Located on Lexington Avenue in the heart of Manhattan, the SSMA Club has been housing service members in the Big Apple since 1919. It is the only private organization in the New York area that provides accommodations at subsidized rates and club-type facilities to service members, veterans, retirees, and their families. The club rents by the bed rather than by the room; there are 21 rooms with two beds, six rooms with three beds, one room with four beds, and one room with six beds. Daily rates range from – per night depending on eligibility. There is also a single VIP Room that goes for 0/night for single-occupancy and 0/night for double-occupancy. Lavatories are communal and separated by gender. The club does not offer food service, but it does have kitchen facilities for guests to use. Common areas include the canteen, library, and two lounges.
Whether you’re looking to vacation at the beach, in a city, or at the happiest place on Earth, keep military-exclusive lodging options like these in mind. The eligibility and nightly rates for use of these facilities vary, so be sure to check their websites. Even if you’re not planning a trip to one of the locations listed, check to see if your vacation destination has a military-exclusive establishment. Service members and their families sacrifice so much for this country; accommodations like these offer a little bit in return.
After he parked and got out of his car, he didn’t introduce himself or offer any welcome. The unnamed instructor just said, “okay everybody get over here and sign your death waivers.”
This was my first introduction to a GoRuck Challenge, a team endurance event run by former U.S. military special operators. It was the 83rd challenge to take place in Dec. 2011 — running around Tampa, Fla. with 24 people. Since then, it’s grown to more than 2,500 events that now comprise various skill levels.
GoRuck Challenges usually attract a certain demographic of people: Former military personnel, law enforcement, and fitness enthusiasts. Especially with the ominous intro from our instructor, a former Green Beret, anyone taking part in a GoRuck event knows it will be rough, to say the least.
“We want to promote the sport of rucking,” Kit Klein, partnership manager for GoRuck based in Jacksonville, Fla., told The Tampa Bay Times. “We’re trying to put it on the map.”
The “sport of rucking” that GoRuck promotes now consists of “GoRuck Light,” a four to five hour challenge that covers seven to 10 miles, “GoRuck Tough,” a 10 to 12-hour challenge covering 15 to 20 miles, and “GoRuck Heavy,” a much more demanding 24-hour-plus challenge that can cover more than 40 miles.
But those times and distances can vary, as one of the company’s mottos is to “under-promise, over-deliver.” (For the GoRuck Tough challenge I was on in Tampa, we did roughly 23 miles over 15 hours).
“Your class is led from start to finish by a Special Operations Cadre whose job is to build a team by pushing you to overcome, together,” reads the description of the challenges on the GoRuck website. “You stay with your class the entire time aka a true team event, never in any way confused with a road race or a mud run. And no, your Cadre is not a drill sergeant and no, this is not bootcamp. That stuff belongs to the military, this is simply an event about your team.”
All of the challenges require participants to carry around weights or bricks in a backpack, which is why these events exist in the first place.
In 2008, GoRuck was a new company making rugged backpacks designed to withstand the rigors of military combat. Founded by former Special Forces soldier Jason McCarthy, he sent his bags to friends in the field to test out and he quickly realized selling backpacks may not be his only business.
McCarthy spent two years developing the bags that make up most of GoRuck’s product line (four styles, starting at $195). Early on, he battle-tested his prototypes, literally – sending them to Green Beret buddies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Then he grew concerned about sending unproven gear to men in danger, so he established another proving ground: the GoRuck Challenge. In these team-oriented endurance runs, which are led by combat veterans and incorporate Special Forces training, participants carry a GoRuck sack loaded with rocks or bricks.
“The original intent was very nearsighted,” McCarthy told The Cincinnatti Enquirer of starting his first challenges. “I had a bunch of inventory and wanted people to know about our bags.”
People did learn of GoRuck, and more: “People kept describing this as a life-changing event,” McCarthy told the Enquirer. “I got more and more and more requests to host events.”
An Iraq war veteran, McCarthy began the events in 2010 while attending business school at Georgetown University, according to The Washington Post. Beyond marketing his bags, he told The Post, his goal is “to build better Americans” with his challenges. He does this by promoting leadership, teamwork, and honoring the sacrifices of military service members.
“It’s spiritual, emotional experience they take away,” Derek Zahler, a GoRuck cadre and former Special Forces soldier, told News4Jax. “They get to learn a lot more about themselves. Especially their goals and what they perceive their ability to achieve those goals are.”
The company has moved beyond backpacks and challenging events, however. It now sells apparel, fitness items, and even firearms gear, which it developed in 2014. In that year, the company had $10.8 million in revenue — nearly 30 percent more than the previous year’s figures.