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What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet


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New York Times best-selling author of “American SniperScott McEwen joined us to discuss Ryan Zinke, the co-author, and subject of his latest book “American Commander.”

McEwen teamed with Zinke — a former SEAL Team Six Commander and the only US Navy SEAL in Congress — to write a book about the now-politician’s life.

Zinke is also Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of the Interior.

Zinke’s military career began in 1985 when he graduated from Officer Candidate School and attended SEAL training (BUDS class 136). He was first assigned to SEAL Team One in Coronado, California, then was later selected for SEAL Team Six where he was a Team Leader and a commander.

As McEwen tells it, after a decade of service, Zinke was assigned as Deputy and Acting Commander of Combined Joint Special Operations for Operation Iraqi Freedom where he led a force of over 3,500 Special Operations personnel. In 2006 he was awarded two Bronze Stars.

An author experienced in telling the stories of high-level special operators, McEwen goes on to explain how Zinke retired from active duty 2008 after serving 23 years as a Navy SEAL. Zinke later ran for Congress and was sworn into the House of Representatives on January 6, 2015, and became the first Navy SEAL in the House.

Hosted by:

Selected links and show notes from the episode:

  • [04:40] The general who wanted special operators to find out how many dogs were neutered before carrying out an operation.
  • [07:35] What the process for clearing a book through the Department of Defense is like.
  • [09:25] Why the book does not say “SEAL Team Six” even though it is referring to SEAL Team Six.
  • [11:50] Military family sacrifice.
  • [15:30] Common threads of special operators.
  • [17:30] The differences in Navy SEAL operators.
  • [19:30] Zinke and Gen. Mattis.
  • [25:35] What military veterans —like Zinke and Mattis— bring to U.S. politics.
  • [30:15] Defining Zinke through his relationship with his family.
  • [36:10] That time Navy SEALs were chastised by upper leadership for nabbing a bad guy.

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How this Vietnam War pilot survived captivity and torture

Flying missions out of Takhli Air Force Base, in Thailand, Maj. Harold Johnson served as an Electronic Warfare Officer of an F-105 Wild Weasel, which due to its dangerous, top-secret missions had about a 50 percent survival rate.


“Everyday you were shot at very severely,” Johnson states in an interview. “I’d have a lot of the electronics there and hopefully do the job that I’m supposed to do to protect the rest of the flights.”

In April 1967 — and just seven missions shy of rotating back home — the North Vietnamese fired a heat-seeking missile that struck Johnson’s Wild Weasel. While both crew ejected safely, they were later captured.

Related: Revenge and duty to country motivated this Vietnam War Marine

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
Johnson (right) with his F-105, Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, 1967. (Source: This Day in Aviation)

Before being taken to a POW camp, the Vietnamese paraded Johnson through a village where the locals poked and prodded him with sharpened bamboo sticks.

“I still got scars on my legs. The kids were the worst, they could slip through the guards and get at you,” Johnson calmly admits. “I had a lot of holes in me when I got to the camp.”

After eight days of intense daily beatings, torture, and hallucinations from lack of sleep, Johnson began falsely pointing out targets on a map.

Due to Johnson being constantly isolated in his cell, he learned to secretly communicate with other prisoners using an alphanumeric tapping system. “If you can picture a box with five units that you put your letters in, one would be your first line, and then you go ABCDE,” Johnson states.

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
The POW/MIA flag was created by the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.

After six long agonizing years, Harold Johnson was released from the prison camp and sent back to the US.

“Well, it finally happened, when you’re being interrogated that was the thing that gave us strength was you’re gonna to have to stay here, one of these days I’m going out of here.”

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
American hero and Vietnam Veteran Maj. Harold Johnson. (Source: Iowa Public Television/ YouTube/ Screenshot)

Also Read: Beware the American booby trap rigger in Vietnam

Check out Iowa Public Television‘s video for Harold Johnson’s heroic tale of surviving a nearly six-year stint in a Vietnamese POW camp.

(IowaPublicTelevision, YouTube)
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Special Forces are testing the tiniest drone ever

Designed by a former toy maker, the Black Hornet UAV fits in a human palm and weighs the same as three pieces of paper. But don’t be fooled by its size. It has impressive capabilities as a reconnaissance drone, which is why Special Forces and U.S. infantry have begun testing it.


The tiny drone feeds surprisingly clear video to the pilot from as far as kilometer away and can bear different sensors including thermal cameras for night assaults. The video is stored on the small user station on the operator’s belt, so enemies lucky enough to catch the Hornet will not be able to see what video the pilot has captured.

See this amazing little drone in action in this video:

To learn more, check out this article at Defense One.

NOW: DARPA is building a drone that can tell what color shirt you’re wearing from 17,500 feet

OR: The 9 weirdest projects DARPA is working on

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US Air Force Veteran Caught Trying To Join ISIS

An Air Force veteran has been caught and charged with trying to provide support to ISIS.


Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh, an American citizen, was a former avionics specialist and Air Force veteran.

“Pugh, an American citizen and former member of our military, allegedly abandoned his allegiance to the United States and sought to provide material support to ISIL,” Assistant Attorney General Carlin said in a press release from the Department of Justice.

“Identifying and bringing to justice individuals who provide or attempt to provide material support to terrorists is a key priority of the National Security Division.”

“As alleged, Pugh, an American citizen, was willing to travel overseas and fight jihad alongside terrorists seeking to do us harm,” said Assistant Director in Charge Rodriguez.

“U.S. citizens who offer support to terrorist organizations pose a grave threat to our national security and will face serious consequences for their actions.  We will continue to work with our partners, both here and abroad, to prevent acts of terrorism.  This investigation demonstrates the importance of law enforcement coordination and collaboration here and around the world.”

Pugh flew from Egypt to Turkey in order to cross the border into Syria; however, Turkish authorities denied him access to the country and he was forced to return to Egypt. He was subsequently deported from Egypt back to the US.

In the US, Joint Terrorism Task Force agents conducted a search of Pugh’s electronic devices on January 14, 2015. On his laptop, the agents found internet searches for information pertaining to how to cross into Syria, parts of the Turkish border controlled by ISIS, and downloaded ISIS propaganda videos.

Pugh was arrested on January 16, 2015 in Asbury Park, New Jersey. He has been in custody since his arrest.

The US has been leading a military coalition against ISIS since August 2014. The anti-ISIS coalition has carried out airstrikes against the militant organization in both Syria and Iraq.

ISIS has recorded brutal execution videos of its captives since it conquered vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq in June 2014. In August 2014, ISIS released a video showing the execution of US journalist James Foley. This was the first video the group released of the execution of a western hostage.

SEE ALSO: Lockheed Just Built A New Laser That Can Fry Large Targets From A Mile Off

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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North Korean fires missile over Japan’s airspace

North Korea has launched what appears to be a missile headed towards the northern end of Japan at around 5:58 a.m. local time, according to Japanese government officials.


Japan’s NHK News reported that the missile passed over Japan and warned people in northern Japan to take necessary precautions.

Although three missiles were fired, according to Japanese officials, it was not entirely clear if all of them were headed towards the same trajectory. NHK also reported that a missile broke off into three pieces before splashing down into the Pacific Ocean.

South Korean military officials have also confirmed reports of the missile launch and  said that it flew  for about  1677 miles.

During the tense moment, multiple prefectures in Japan were reportedly put on alert.

“We’ll take utmost efforts to protect the public,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said, shortly following the launch.

The latest act of provocation from North Korea comes amid a spate of questionable moves, despite regional leaders, including Russia, denouncing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in recently called for his county to prepare to “immediately switch to offensive operations” if the North makes a “provocation that crosses the line,” NK News reported.

On September 1, 1998, North Korea fired a missile towards Japan’s airspace, offering no explanation for the incident.

This story is developing. Check back for updates.

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Pentagon reportedly considering sending ground troops into Syria

The Defense Department is considering recommending the US send ground troops into Syria to fight the terrorist group ISIS, according to a source who spoke to CNN.


“It’s possible that you may see conventional forces hit the ground in Syria for some period of time,” a defense official told CNN.

There are currently hundreds of US troops in Syria offering training and assistance to US-backed local forces there. But conventional forces would likely be on the ground in larger numbers, according to CNN.

Related: General claims 60,000 ISIS fighters have been killed

CNN reported last month that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was taking control of a Pentagon review to determine which options the Defense Department would present to President Donald Trump on the fight against ISIS.

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Joel Salgado

The defense official CNN cites in Wednesday’s report stressed that any decision on Syria would ultimately be up to Trump.

Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute and an expert on Syria, said he’s “not surprised” to see that the US is considering ground troops in Syria to fight ISIS.

“Fits Trump desire for a rapid victory + withdrawal,” he tweeted.

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US sends two B-1 strategic bombers to Korean peninsula

The United States will send two strategic B-1 bombers to the Korean peninsula to take part in joint drills with the South Korean air force, a Defense Ministry spokesperson in Seoul confirmed to EFE on June 20th.


The B-1s will carry out the drills with two F-15K fighters from the Korean Air force, according to the spokesperson, who explained that these maneuvers are scheduled regularly.

The deployment of the bombers from the US Andersen air base on Guam island comes after the death of US student Otto Warmbier, who had been detained by North Korea last year and repatriated last week in a comatose state.

He fell into the coma shortly after his last public appearance during his March 2016 trial in Pyongyang, according to his family, who reported his death in his native Ohio on June 19th.

The North Korean regime maintains that Warmbier suffered an outbreak of botulism for which he was given a sleeping pill and did not wake up again.

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
USAF photo by Senior Airman Ethan Morgan

The last time the US sent B-1 bombers to the Korean peninsula was on May 29, just hours after the Pyongyang regime test-fired a ballistic missile.

Observers say North Korea uses American citizens arrested there to try and exert pressure for concessions from the United States.

The Kim Jong-un regime is currently holding three other American citizens, two of whom were detained in April and May.

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French train hero Spencer Stone hospitalized after being ‘repeatedly stabbed’ in Sacramento

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ryan Crane


Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone has been hospitalized in stable condition after being “repeatedly stabbed” in Sacramento, California on Wednesday night, NBC News is reporting.

“A1C Spencer Stone has been transported to a local hospital, and is currently being treated for injury,” Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Karns said in an email in Air Force Times. “The incident is currently under investigation by local law enforcement. He is currently in stable condition.”

The incident occurred around 12:45 a.m. between 20th and 22nd street in Sacramento. Stone was stabbed “multiple times” in the chest following an altercation, police told KCRA-TV. Sacramento Police reported the incident as not being terrorism-related, tweeting that alcohol was believed to be a factor since it happened near a bar.

The airman was one of three Americans who thwarted an attack on a French train in August. During the attack, Stone, 23, tackled and disarmed the gunman, who slashed him in the neck and nearly sliced off his thumb with a box cutter, according to NBC Bay Area.

The Air Force medic is originally from Sacramento and stationed at Travis Air Force Base, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Alek Skarlatos, Stone’s friend and fellow hero of the French train attack, tweeted his support:

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This is why ‘Star Wars’ is actually a series of WWII-style spy thrillers

People see the world through the lens of their own experiences. If you spent much of your career working and then studying intelligence, you may start to see potential spies everywhere.


What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
Nothing suspicious here, though. (20th Century Fox)

Also Read: Star Wars tech we could really use in Iraq and Afghanistan

Dr. Vince Houghton is a U.S. Army veteran and Historian and Curator of the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. He grew up watching and loving the original Star Wars Trilogy. While in the Army, he served in a sort of intelligence role and after leaving the military, he earned a Ph.D. in Intelligence History with a background in diplomatic military history.

Every year on May 4th, he gives a lecture at the museum, making the argument for Star Wars being a series of spy films.

“People always debate about it,” Houghton says. “Is this fantasy, is this sci-fi, is it a western in space? For whatever reason, I’ve always seen it as a spy movie.”

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
She has no idea what you’re talking about. She’s on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan. (20th Century Fox)

Houghton argues that the backbone of the original trilogy is a spy operation — a story made into the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. That story is the catalyst for Star Wars IV: A New Hope, which he sees as a classic spy movie.

“You could replace the death star with V2 or V1 or a German atomic bomb or the Iranian atomic bomb or any kind of scientific and technological intelligence and it becomes a spy movie,” he says. “Strip away all the science fiction and it’s a woman with stolen plans for a weapon trying to get them to a group of guerrillas fighting against this totalitarian empire — it could be the World War II resistance.”

But Houghton takes his argument further.

“With Empire Strikes Back, the whole thing is kicked off by the Empire attempting to use imagery intelligence, their drones, their probes, to locate the secret base of the rebels,” he says. “It’s still an intelligence operation, just a different kind.”

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

Houghton claims Return of the Jedi is a story based on intelligence gathering and counterintelligence.

“That’s also the catalyst behind Return of the Jedi,” Houghton says. “It’s stealing the plans for the second death star. It turns out, that’s actually a big deception operation — another key issue when it comes to intelligence.”

The Spy Museum Curator is talking about Emperor Palpatine allowing the Rebel Alliance to know the location of the second Death Star. Rebel Bothan spies capture the location and plans for the space station, but it’s a ruse for the Emperor to defeat the Rebel fleet on his chosen battlespace; it was a trap, a classic deception operation designed to hide the true strength of his forces.

“You could go all the way back to Mongolians in this case,” says Houghton. “Genghis Khan did everything from tying brooms to his horses’ tails so it would kick up a lot of dust and make sure it looked like there were thousands of soldiers instead of hundreds.”

In the case of Return of the Jedi, the Emperor’s plan just didn’t work because, you know, it’s Star Wars.

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
Everyone’s favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder. (20th Century Fox)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is in theaters Dec. 16th. You can catch more of Dr. Vince Houghton on the International Spy Museum’s weekly podcast, Spycast, on iTunes and AudioBoom.

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This was reportedly the youngest US serviceman killed in Vietnam

While most teenagers in the 1960s were worried about who they were going to take to the high school dance, Pfc. Dan Bullock was serving in Marine Corps and fighting against the communist guerilla army in North Vietnam.


At the age of 12, Bullock’s mother passed away forcing him and his sister to pack their North Carolina belongings and move up north to New York where they lived with their father and his new wife in Brooklyn.

But due to an unhappy home life, Bullock set his sights on joining the Marine Corps.

Related: Once upon a time, this ‘little kid’ was a lethal Vietnam War fighter

As other young men in those days decided to flee toward Canada to dodge the draft, Bullock decided to adjust the date on his birth certificate from Dec. 21, 1953 to Dec. 21, 1949, so he could enlist in the Marine Corps.

His newly revised birth certificate convinced Marine recruiters enough to let him join the Corps at the ripe age of 14.

In May of 1969, and within six months after graduating boot camp, Bullock arrived in Vietnam ready to fight with his platoon. He would be killed a month later.

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
Dan Bullock wearing his dress blue uniform. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

On June 7, 1969, Bullock suffered significant wounds from an enemy satchel charge while serving in the Quang Nam Province and passed away shortly after, making Pfc. Bullock the youngest American to lose his life in the multi-year skirmish.

But it wasn’t until reporters visited Bullock’s family home when they discovered the tragic news of Bullock’s exact age — he was only 15.

Also Read: 5 key pieces of military technology developed by the US to fight the Vietnam War

Pfc. Dan Bullock’s memory can be honored on Panel 23W, Row 96 of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial.

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‘107 feet of fire-breathing titanium’: A US Air Force major describes flying the fastest plane in history

In the 1960s, when a single military incident had the potential to spark a nuclear war, the US government needed a surveillance plane that absolutely could not be detected, intercepted, or shot down.


The answer was the SR-71.

The Lockheed Martin SR-71, or the “Blackbird” as it is commonly known, flew at the upper 1% of earth’s atmosphere at altitudes of 80,000 feet and speeds of over 2,000 mph — much faster and higher than any plane before it.

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet
Photo: YouTube screengrab

And every inch of the aircraft was meticulously designed to baffle radar detection.

The SR-71 was a marvel of engineering that flew in the US Air Force for more than 30 years. The plane holds records for speed and distance that stand to this day. It was so fast that the plane’s common protocol for avoiding missiles was to simply outrun them.

Former US Air Force Major Brian Shul describes his career as a pilot of iconic Blackbird in his book “Sled Driver.” He describes one incident in particular that he would never forget — something that reveals just how intense and difficult piloting the SR-71 could be.

As a Blackbird pilot, Shul is often asked about the plane’s top speed.

“Each SR-71 pilot had his own individual ‘high’ speed that he saw at some point on some mission,” Shul explains in the book.

Because the planes are so precisely engineered, and so costly, no pilot ever wanted to push the Blackbird to its absolute operating limits of temperature and speed. But you could fall short of those limits and still be going astonishingly fast: “It was common to see 35 miles a minute,” says Shul.

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

As far as his personal high speed goes, Shul says, “I saw mine over Libya when Ghaddafi fired two missiles my way, and max power was in order. Let’s just say that the plane truly loved speed and effortlessly took us to Mach numbers we hadn’t previously seen.”

Tales of the Blackbird’s speed and achievements in espionage are unsurpassed, but Shul’s most amazing anecdote in “Sled Driver” is the story of his slowest-ever run, which started off as a simple flyby to show off for friendly troops. It ended up the stuff of military legend.

While returning from a mission over Europe, Shul received a call from his home base in Mildenhall, England, requesting that he do a flyby of a small RAF base. An air cadet commander in that base was himself a former Blackbird pilot. Knowing what a spectacular sight the plane could be, he thought that a low-altitude flyby might give his troops a morale boost.

The Blackbird made its way to the RAF base, ripping through the skies over Denmark in just three minutes, and slowing down only to refuel midair.

Using the sophisticated navigation equipment aboard the Blackbird, Shul’s navigator, Walter, led him toward the airfield. He slowed the lightning-fast ship to sub sonic speeds and began to search for the airfield, which like many World War II-era British airbases had only one tower and very little identifiable infrastructure around it.

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

As the two got close, they were having trouble finding the small airfield. Shul describes the moments leading up to the flyby: “We got a little lower, and I pulled the throttles back from 325 knots we were at. With the gear up, anything under 275 was just uncomfortable. Walt (the navigator) said we were practically over the field — yet there was nothing in my windscreen.”

As the airfield cadets assembled outside in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the Blackbird, Shul and his navigator eased off the accelerator and began circling the forest looking for any sign of the base.

During the search, the Blackbird’s speed had fallen well below advisable or even safe levels.

“At this point we weren’t really flying, but were falling in a slight bank,” recalls Shul.

With the engines silent on the low-flying Blackbird, the cadets on the ground couldn’t see or hear anything. There was simply no way they could have expected what would happen next: “As I noticed the airspeed indicator slide below 160 knots, my heart stopped and my adrenalin-filled left hand pushed two throttles full forward.”

Shul describes what happened next as a “thunderous roar of flame … a joyous feeling.”

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

The cadets must have seen “107 feet of fire-breathing titanium in their face as the plane leveled and accelerated, in full burner, on the tower side of the infield, closer than expected, maintaining what could only be described as some sort of ultimate knife-edge pass.”

Shul and his navigator returned to base in silence. They were both shocked by the momentary lapse in speed that nearly saw their Blackbird plummeting towards the hard ground. They had come close to a full-on catastrophe — much too close for comfort.

The pair felt sure that their commander would have had a panic attack, and would be furiously waiting at base to ream the pilots and take their wings.

Instead, they were greeted by a smiling commander who told them that the RAF had reported “the greatest SR-71 fly-past he had ever seen.”

The spectators had taken their near-fatal mistake as an especially brave and well-executed stunt carried out by erudite professionals. The commander heard about the “breathtaking” flyby, and heartily shook both Shul and Walter’s hands.

Apparently, some of the cadets watching had their hats blown off from the extremely close passage of the Blackbird in full thrust. The cadets were shocked, but only the two pilots knew just how close a call the flyby had been.

As the pilots retired to the equipment room, they still looked at each other in a dazed silence. Finally, they broached the subject of the perilously low speeds.

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

“One hundred fifty-six knots (180 mph). What did you see?” The co-pilot Walter asked Shul, “One hundred fifty-two (175 mph),” he responded. These speeds are fast for a car, but in an aircraft designed to travel in excess of 2,000 mph, they are disturbingly slow and unsafe.

A year later, as Shul and Walter ate in a mess hall, he overheard some officers talking about the incident, which by then had become exaggerated to the point where cadets were being knocked over and having their eyebrows singed from the Blackbird’s raging thrusters.

When the younger officers noticed the patches on Shul’s uniform, indicating that he flew the SR-71, they asked him to verify that the flyby had occurred. Shul replied, “It was probably just a routine low approach; they’re pretty impressive in that plane.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

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US destroyer fires flares at Iranian attack boat

A U.S. Navy destroyer had a close encounter with an Iranian vessel Monday, just two days before a crucial Iranian presidential election.


An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) vessel came within 1,000 meters of the USS Mahan, forcing it to fire flares toward the IRGC vessel after attempting to turn away from it, according to the Associated Press. The encounter is the latest of the Navy’s close encounters with Iranian vessels in the Persian Gulf, coming two days before Iran’s radical conservative faction attempts to retake the presidency.

What you need to know about the Navy SEAL Trump picked for his cabinet

“[The] Mahan made several attempts to contact the Iranian vessel by bridge-to-bridge radio, issuing warning messages and twice sounding the internationally recognized danger signal of five short blasts with the ship’s whistle, as well as deploying a flare to determine the Iranian vessel’s intentions,” Lt. Ian McConnaughey, a 5th Fleet spokesman, told the AP in a statement Wednesday.

Iran’s leading conservative candidate, Ebrahim Raisi, is the supposed favorite of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate authority over the IRGC. It is unclear if the two events are related, but the timing of the event is telling. The IRGC’s provocation could be an attempt to exhibit the hardline faction’s strength against the U.S.

The Mahan had a previous encounter with Iranian vessels in January, at which time it was forced to fire warning shots at two patrol boats.

The IRGC has drastically increased its encounters with U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf. Many of the encounters occur near the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow channel through which 33 percent of the world’s oil passes. The U.S. Navy recorded 35 “unsafe and/or unprofessional” encounters with the IRGC in 2016, up from 23 in 2015. Seven such instances have been recorded in 2017, including Monday’s incident.

Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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This nonprofit partnered with Google to bring a tech solution to military & veteran families

Millions of Americans have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and personal disruptions it has caused this year. Particularly vulnerable are veterans who, despite their service to our country, continue to struggle with service-related conditions that increase their risk. The virus has exacerbated pre-existing conditions to include: physical/mental health, substance abuse as well as financial, food and housing insecurity. Tens of thousands of our military and veteran families are in crisis and slipping through the cracks – it is unacceptable. 

Most Americans believe that service members always receive the care and benefits they deserve once they leave the military. It is true that the branches of the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) play an invaluable role in providing support for those who have served: offering healthcare, educational assistance, home loans and other services. But even if these federal agencies were working perfectly, they do not have the capacity (or mandate) to provide the kind of wrap around and holistic coordination of care these families require.

The need for help is too great for any one entity, even part of the federal government, to fulfill on its own. Nonprofit organizations have identified this challenge and have done their best to fill the gap. However, the sheer number of organizations operating today, along with their varying qualifications and processes, makes navigating those resources almost impossible, particularly for those in crisis. For a military or veteran family, finding the resources you need from a nonprofit with a trusted track record can be frustrating or ultimately fruitless.  For a community that struggles with depression and suicide, hitting a dead-end in a seemingly endless search for help can be a death sentence.

It is imperative that we solve these persistent access issues and make good on our promises as a nation to those who have served our country. To do this, we must completely rethink how to meet these objectives. In service of that mission, part of the solution must be leveraging technology innovation to better reach and serve those who have served our country.  

Recently, my organization, the Code of Support Foundation (COSF), partnered with Google on their “Serving Veterans” initiative to remove barriers between veteran families and the resources they have earned. Google is leveraging PATRIOTlink®, our network of vetted, cost-free resources that offers tailored, hyper-local queries to meet the needs of our veteran community. In addition, COSF supplements the PATRIOTlink platform with individualized support through trained case coordinators, to help veterans find support every step of the way.

This partnership is part of a larger “Tech for Good” movement, wherein many tech companies work to resolve ongoing access issues for veterans. Salesforce announced their Vetforce Alliance initiative last year to boost veteran hiring. Amazon now provides a variety of resources to soldiers transitioning to civilian life. Cisco and others have developed CyberVetsUSA, which provides free cybersecurity training and certification to veterans and military spouses. And just last year, the Consumer Technology Association made Code of Support its first nonprofit member. Partnerships like these are critical, as we leverage powerful, dynamic, but easy-to-use technology that goes beyond point solutions to point problems to encompass the full scope of resources and opportunities that veterans and their families need. 

Beyond technology’s ability to help us achieve our mission, the participation of America’s leading tech companies in this mission helps shine a huge light on the reality facing many of those who have served. Since Google began leveraging its enormous platform to help direct more veterans to PATRIOTlink, we have responded to a more than 200% increase in demand for our services. Code of Support continues to see unprecedented levels of veterans experiencing food and housing insecurity, which will be compounded as the pandemic stretches into the winter months and well beyond the rent and eviction protections currently in place. Veterans have always struggled to access adequate mental healthcare – in this time of national quarantine, referrals from Code of Support to tele-health counseling have tripled. Technology solutions and the nonprofit-technology partnerships that drive innovation can and must serve as the blueprint for bringing real improvements in the lives of military families.

They stood for us, now it is time for us to stand with them. 

Kristina Kaufmann is the CEO of the Code of Support Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to changing the lives of military, veterans, caregivers, and their families by connecting them to the support they have earned through their service and sacrifice.

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