Two platoons were ordered to engage the enemy at once; the first stormed toward the Japanese at full force as the second gave “support-by-fire” position in the rear.
As Nett and the first platoon advanced, they slid Bangalore charges through the enemies’ barb wired defense system, clearing their path. The flamethrowers operators then crawled through the detonated gaps and incinerated the enemy forces, allowing allied troops to create a stable foothold for themselves.
Nett’s objective was to clear a sizeable fortified enemy building just up ahead. He called to the forward observer to light the area up with 105mm shells to break the structure’s exterior security.
Just as the shells struck the building, Nett took a surprising neck wound — his jugular vein had been nicked.
Ignoring the pulsating wound, Nett crawled from squad-to-squad while engaging enemy that appeared nearby. Nett decided that it was time for him and his men to fix their bayonets.
With adrenaline pumping through their veins, Nett and his fellow soldiers carefully dashed toward their objective. Nett moved his machine gun teams to their new fighting positions while dangerously engaging the enemy in close quarter combat along the way. At that time, he took another enemy round, this time to his chest — collapsing a lung.
Everyone has heard the old stories of judges forcing someone guilty of a small-time crime to choose between a hefty jail sentence or joining the Army. Or the Marine Corps. Or the Navy.
It seems like back in the old days, getting pinched for lifting car parts or selling bootleg cigarettes could end up with the defendant doing a two-year stint in Korea – which could be just as bad as jail, except you get paid.
The practice isn’t as common as it used to be as it turns out. The U.S. military isn’t engaged in a global effort to defeat communism anymore and the days of a peacetime draft are long gone. With the benefits set aside for people joining what is now an all-volunteer force, the military isn’t hurting for new employees.
At least for the most part. It definitely doesn’t require people who would be considered convicts if they hadn’t become soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines.
But in the courtroom, the judge is the absolute ruler. Ruling from the bench means ruling by decree and, within the limits of the Constitution and existing law, the judge can pronounce whatever sentence he or she deems fit.
For a long time, that meant the choice between military service or jail time. But the individual branches of service aren’t a part of the judge’s court and though the judge can order such a sentence on a defendant, that doesn’t mean the military has to take them.
The most recent and notable case of such a choice was that of Michael Guerra of Upstate New York. In 2006 Guerra was facing a conviction of aggravated assault. According to Stars and Stripes, the judge was willing to discharge Guerra if he joined the military. Guerra agreed. The Army did not.
Keep in mind, this was at the height of the Iraq War, when the Army needed soldiers more than anything. The Army preferred to take the PR hit of instituting stop-loss programs rather than take cons like Guerra.
The policy of not taking “jailbirds” is actually part of the Army’s recruiting regulations. Regulation 601-210, paragraph 4-8b reads:
“Applicants who, as a condition for any civil conviction or adverse disposition or any other reason through a civil or criminal court, is ordered or subjected to a sentence that implies or imposes enlistment into the Armed Forces of the United States is not eligible for enlistment.”
Although no one knows for sure what happened to the sub, a conspiracy has emerged painting the captain as a hero for sacrificing his ship and crew to divert the apocalyptic scenario.
According to Sewell, Soviet sub K-129 was hijacked by a band of rogue KGB commandos to provoke a war between America and China by making it appear like China attacked Hawaii á la Pearl Harbor.
“They did that to weaken the United States, to strengthen the Soviet Union. Get your two enemies to fight and you pick up the pieces,” Sewell said.
But when the captain realized the mutiny wasn’t authorized by the Soviet government, he gave the KGB operatives the wrong launch codes to his missiles, Sewell alleges.
“When you had an attempted launch with the wrong code it would detonate the warhead, which would cause the missile to explode, which sank the submarine,” Sewell said. “We owe him a really big debt of gratitude. He’s one of these unsung heroes of history that will never really get credit.”
An unmanned surface vehicle suddenly appeared on the Potomac River Test Range and, much like the ospreys that inhabit the area, it was on a mission to traverse the river – autonomously.
Nearby, an osprey watched the unusual sight from its nest as an array of autonomous guns and missile systems were lined up on a pier.
Distinguished visitors gathered on that pier to see the sight – a demonstration of Textron Systems’ Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle. They listened intently as Navy and corporate leaders discussed their collaboration to weaponize a CUSV capable of multiple missions.
“The reason we collaborate is because we as a nation find ourselves in a situation where we can no longer take time to deliver capability to our warfighters,” John Fiore, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division technical director, told government, defense contractors, and military personnel at the March 28, 2018 event. “We as a warfare center and you as industry are tasked to make sure our Sailors and Marines can deploy, execute their mission, and come home safely to their families and loved ones.”
NSWCDD engineers explained how the weapon technologies they developed will be evaluated for integration with Textron Systems’ CUSV to create a new modular autonomous weapon system to impact the Fleet’s maritime operations. There is currently no program or acquisition in place to implement these efforts, as they are in the early development stages without funding or planning to implement into the Fleet.
“Our first project is what we are calling a Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Mission Module which will consist of our engagement technology paired with our Battle Management System (BMS) controlling a Longbow Hellfire Missile,” said Chris Nerney, NSWCDD technical program manager for Unmanned Systems. “The idea is a mission package that could slide into the CUSV modular mission bay and provide a direct and indirect fire capability.”
(U.S. Navy photo)
The Navy and Textron Systems plan to prove the developmental concept that combines direct and indirect fire capability with a gunfire demonstration in late 2018, followed by a live missile shoot in 2019.
“We are creating a modular surface and expeditionary warfare payload with a gun and a missile weapon system to be evaluated for integration onto the common unmanned surface vehicle,” said Kevin Green, NSWCDD technical lead for Ship-to-Shore Precision Engagement Integration and Prototype. “This payload could enable warfighters to counter fast attack craft and fast inshore attack craft and it could provide ship-to-shore fire support for expeditionary and special operations forces. It also gives us a baseline development effort to operate and perform further research and development.”
Meanwhile, Nerney, Green, and their Textron Systems collaborators are envisioning how new payloads in the CUSV mission bay could benefit warfighters in various missions from maritime interdiction and special operations to surface warfare encounters that include engaging fast attack craft and fast inshore attack craft as well as other threats.
“We’re demonstrating the realm of the possible, proof of concept, and leveraging a Textron developmental craft and proven weapon systems with the Hellfire, BMS, and other capabilities,” said Wayne Prender, Textron Systems vice president of Control & Surface Systems. “Now, we’re bringing those technologies together and implementing them in an autonomous way that’s unique and new.”
For surface and expeditionary warfare missions, warfighters could use a modular, plug and play unit designed to fit the CUSV mission bay. This mission module includes sensors for targeting, a weapon station with a gun, and a launcher system for missiles. It could provide capabilities to enable a myriad of missions outlined in the Unmanned Surface Vehicle Master Plan.
NSWCDD engineers are creating the payload in response to guidance outlined in the Navy’s recent USV Strategic Roadmap and the Marine Corps Operating Concept. Moreover, they determined that weaponizing a USV with both direct and indirect fire capability could expand the USV mission portfolio to include surface warfare, maritime security, and maritime interdiction operations in addition to special operations forces and expeditionary forces support.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Scott Youngblood)
“We are developing automated weapon systems that provide tactically effective automation of the entire kill chain, and we’re doing so with minimal dependence on what is usually an unreliable datalink,” said Green. “Our experience integrating unmanned systems has taught us that the weapon systems must be just as automated as the platforms themselves in order to reduce the number of operators and operate reliably beyond line of sight.”
Specifically, Sailors and Marines could be able to use the Battle Management System to fire missiles and precision guided munitions from the CUSV. They would use the autonomous system for detection, tracking, and direct fire engagement.
“If the decision was made to outfit the CUSV with a variety of payloads, it could be deployed from nearly any large ship and could be deployed in significant numbers from a U.S. Navy ship or a Joint High Speed Vessel type platform to perform a variety of roles,” said Nerney. “We are focused on the Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Surface Vehicle today because it’s the Navy’s only program of record unmanned surface vehicle platform. It’s also our concept of modular plug and play weapon systems integrated onto a USV that can be scaled up or down as appropriate. If the Navy or Marine Corps decide to build big unmanned surface vehicles, we could scale the guns and missiles up. If the decision is to go with swarms of small USVs, then we could scale the system down accordingly.”
Between now and the live fire test, NSWCDD and Textron Systems will work together to rapidly develop and integrate as proofs of concept a variety of surface and expeditionary warfare payloads for the CUSV to include operations with unmanned air and subsurface vehicles.
“Our partnerships with industry allow us to move fast,” said Fiore. “If you’re the one that’s going to be giving this capability to warfighters, I want you to be effective in doing that. That’s what motivates us and that’s why we collaborate. That’s why it’s so important for us to have you here today with your equipment and have you partnering with us.”
The Navy’s collaboration with Textron Systems began in 2011 when the developmental Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle was developed and used in a variety of Navy demonstrations.
In December 2017, the company signed a cooperative research and development agreement with NSWCDD. The agreement covers the integration of missile, designator, and remote weapon station payloads to Textron Systems’ developmental CUSV with its 3,500-pound payload capacity on the deck and a payload bay measuring 20.5 x 6.5 feet.
(U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick W. Mullen III.)
The company previously contracted with the Navy to develop the new Unmanned Influence Sweep System – minesweeping units towed by the CUSV – which will perform a mine countermeasure mission in support of a littoral combat ship.
“Building on the UISS program as the foundation, we signed the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Dahlgren,” said Prender. “We began to prototype surface warfare packages and other payloads that will strengthen the flexibility and potential capability of our platform and continue to inform the Navy and Marine Corps and overall surface community what the realm of the possible can be as they begin to expand the use of unmanned systems – in this case unmanned surface vehicles.”
The CRADA points out that NSWCDD will develop a government-owned open architecture weapon control system to include both hardware and software. Implementations of this design will enable rapid development to support and control a variety of precision guided weapons. This open architecture concept will allow vendors to provide munitions and subsystems for future capabilities as long as the munitions and subsystems support the government owned interfaces.
“We are only limited by our imaginations,” said Nerney. “Other ideas in the works for mission packages include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. We can develop mission packages to support the carrying and launching of UAV’s – armed and unarmed. This will give us a hunter-killer over-the-horizon capability by pairing the armed common unmanned surface vehicle with an armed Firescout, laser weapon, or vessel-stopping equipment.”
While it’s a stereotype for grunts to be stupid, it’s rarely true. But in the rare event that a rifleman is dumb, it’s expected, so you get a free pass. But, if you’re not really dumb, don’t make a habit of playing pretend or else you’ll just be your battalion’s own village idiot.
2. Being incompetent with office tools
If you get sent to the company office to make a copy of some paperwork but you’re unfamiliar with how to use a copy machine, no one gets mad. Just expect to be treated like an idiot. (See point #1)
3. Going primal
The tribal mentality is encouraged in an infantry unit since the job is barbaric in nature. Higher-ups are surprisingly okay when the lower enlisted riflemen start acting like cavemen because it means they’re getting in touch with a more primitive side that can make them more efficient.
Don’t ask, don’t tell is dead and the LGBT community is very much a part of the military now. But you kinda have to be a grunt to truly understand the relationship grunts have with homosexuality. They’re not all gay, but sometimes you might think they lean that way.
When you spend all day, every day around other men, you learn to become comfortable enough with your sexuality to the degree that homoerotic behavior between heterosexual people is acceptable. In fact, the behavior is seen as humorous.
At the turn of the 20th Century, all of the great powers had converged on China seeking to curry favor and carve up the country for trade. This led a secret Chinese organization, the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists (known as the Boxers to the foreigners), to rise up in rebellion.
At the end of 1899, the Boxers rose up against the foreigners and Christians they felt were invading their country. Coming from the countryside, they met in Peking (now Beijing) with the intention of turning the Chinese imperial government to their cause and destroying the foreign presence.
As the situation deteriorated, foreign nationals and Chinese Christians sought refuge in the Legation Quarter of Peking. The increased presence of the Boxers led the international community to send a force of 435 men to guard their respective legations.
The American contingent joined the Marines already stationed there, including one Pvt. Dan Daly.
Throughout the spring, the Boxers gained strength and were actively burning churches, killing Christians, and intimidating Chinese officials who opposed them.
As the international community stepped up efforts to maintain their positions in China, they put the Imperial Chinese government and Empress Dowager Cixi in a bind. The Empress was being pressured to take the side of the Boxers by officials who felt exploited by foreign nations.
Finally, in June 1900, the Empress’ hand was forced by international attacks on Chinese forts as well as the presence of the Seymour Expedition sent to reinforce the Legation Quarter.
On June 19, she sent word for the international community to leave. The next day the Chinese military, along with Boxer supporters, laid siege to the Legation Quarter.
As the situation was deteriorating, America began planning its response.
Known as the China Relief Expedition the force that assembled in China consisted of the 9th Infantry Regiment, 14th Infantry Regiment, 6th Cavalry Regiment, and Battery F, 5th Field Artillery Regiment totaling some 2,500 men.
After brief fighting at Tientsin, in which Col. Liscum, commanding the 9th Infantry, was killed, the force marched on Peking to relieve the besieged Legation Quarter.
The pressure on the Legation Quarter had been steadily increasing. Through the night of Aug. 13 and into the morning of Aug. 14,Dan Daly was single-handedly holding off a determined assault by the Boxers. When Daly’s relief finally arrived, he inquired about the meaning of “Quon fay,” something the Chinese had been yelling at him all night.
He was amused to learn that it meant “very bad devil.”
Later in the day on Aug. 14, the first units of the Eight-nation Alliance reached the outer walls of Peking.
Leading the American units was the 14th Infantry Regiment.
When they arrived at their assigned gate, they found it already under attack by a Russian unit which was pinned down and taking heavy casualties.
The Americans moved south looking for an opening. The best they found was a lightly defended section of the Tartar Wall. The wall was some 30 feet high, and with no scaling ladders or grappling hooks, Col. Daggett, the regimental commander, asked for a volunteer to climb the wall.
Cpl. Calvin Pearl Titus, a bugler from Company E, stepped forward and said, “I’ll try, sir.”
With a rope slung over his shoulder Titus began to climb the wall. He grasped to the slightest of holds and he made his way up, undetected by the Chinese defenders.
“All below is breathless silence. The strain is intense.” Daggett would later write, “Will that embrasure blaze with fire as he attempts to enter it? Or will the butts of rifles smash his skull?”
As Titus cleared the wall, he found it undefended. He called down to his comrades, “The coast is clear! Come on up!”
Following Titus’ lead and using the rope he threw down, more soldiers followed. As the number of Americans on the wall increased, they were finally discovered by the Chinese.
The Chinese opened fire but it was too late — the Americans held the wall.
Shortly after 11am, the 14th Infantry planted the American flag atop the wall.
They then fought their way back to the gate to relieve the beleaguered Russians.
With the Chinese driven back, the American artillery arrived and blasted down the inner gate leading to the Legation.
The Americans then cleared the way to the Legation Quarter only to find that the British had beat them to it. Thanks to the confusion caused by the Russians and Americans, British Indian soldiers had snuck through a water gate and directly into the Legation relieving the siege.
The Americans consolidated their position while the rest of the relief force conducted mopping up operations throughout Peking.
For his heroism in breaking the siege, Cpl. Titus was awarded an appointment to West Point where, during his second semester in the spring of 1902, he was presented the Medal of Honor by president Theodore Roosevelt.
A fellow cadet approached Titus after he received his award exclaiming, “Mister, that’s something!” That cadet was Douglas MacArthur, who would receive his own Medal of Honor during World War II.
Titus went on to serve 32 years in the Army, rejoining his old unit, the 14th Infantry, before seeing action against Pancho Villa in 1916 and occupying Germany after WWI.
The iconic ‘BRRRRRT’ of the A-10’s GAU-8 30mm autocannon is created by its extremely high rate of fire. The gun is able to achieve this thanks to its multi-barrel Gatling design. Rather than firing all of its rounds from a single barrel, the gun uses seven barrels to distribute the heat created when it fires. This design is the brainchild of American inventor Dr. Richard J. Gatling.
Gatling was an creative southern man from North Carolina. At the age of 21, he invented a screw propeller for steamboats. However, he was beat to the invention by John Ericsson who patented the design just a few months before. Gatling worked as a merchant and teacher in North Carolina before he moved to Missouri at the age of 36. There, he continued working as a merchant and inventor. He created a rice-sowing machine and a wheat drill to aid in farming. Following a bout with smallpox, Gatling became interested in medicine.
Gatling attended the Ohio Medical College and graduated in 1850. Though he had his MD, he never actually practiced medicine. Rather, Gatling was more interested in inventing things. He continued to work in business and tinker with ideas until the outbreak of the Civil War.
At that time, Gatling lived in Indianapolis, Indiana. As Union soldiers returned from battle, Gatling noticed something about the war’s casualties. More soldiers were killed or taken out of action by battlefield illness than by bullets or shrapnel. Gatling deduced that if a weapon existed that reduced the number of men needed to fight a war, more men could be spared. “It occurred to me that if I could invent a machine—a gun—which could by its rapidity of fire, enable one man to do as much battle duty as a hundred, that it would, to a large extent supersede the necessity of large armies, and consequently, exposure to battle and disease [would] be greatly diminished,” he wrote.
During the Civil War, a highly trained soldier could fire five rounds a minute. Gatling concluded that his design needed to be simple to operate with very little training. The gun was powered by a crank shaft that was turned by hand. This allowed for a rate of fire of up to 200 rounds per minute with no skill required. Additionally, the gun was gravity-fed from a top-mounted reloader. This meant that the loader just needed to drop cartridges in from the top to keep the gun firing. Again, very little skill was required.
The Gatling gun made its combat debut at the Siege of Petersburg, Virginia in 1864. However, the gun was unproven and expensive. The 12 guns used at Petersburg were purchased personally by Union commanders. It was not until 1866 that the U.S. Army adopted the Gatling gun after a sales representative demonstrated it in combat.
To his’s dismay, his invention did little to reduce the casualties of human conflict. Rather, the gun was further refined with the inventions of newer, deadlier cartridges and smokeless gunpowder. While the Gatling gun was used until the late 19th century, its design gave rise to modern rotary guns like the aforementioned GAU-8 Avenger, the M61 Vulcan, and the M134 Minigun. Gatling’s legacy also includes a WWII Fletcher-class destroyer, USS Gatling (DD-671), as well as the slang word “gat” which is a shortening of the gun that’s named after him.
When a customer walks into the health and wellness section of the PX, it’s likely that a salesperson will try to sell them the most expensive brand of supplements on the shelf. You know, that name-brand stuff that’s covered in photos of some ripped fitness celebrity that’s fresh off a set of push-ups and covered in baby oil?
It’s a solid sales tactic. One that typically convinces the customer that, if they take these high-priced supplements, they, too, can get buff in no time.
There’s a long-standing debate over the benefits of drinking your proteins versus consuming enough in your daily meal intake. However, in reality, most service members drink protein shakes because it’s a fast, easy option for getting that much-needed nutrition after a workout when you can’t make it to the chow hall for a meal.
So, what’s so important about the type of protein you ingest post-workout? How does one type of powder compare to other, pricier options? We’re not here to do some product placement, we’re here to tell you that the difference in protein type is more important than selection any single brand.
By drinking a post-workout shake, you’ll cause a spike in insulin production within the body. This is because whey is filled with highly insulinogenic proteins. Insulin helps bring essential nutrients the muscles, making it very important to achieving a productive recovery.
Look for a grass-fed whey protein isolate the next time you’re in the market searching for a new supplement. Since we get whey protein from cow’s milk, going for the grass-fed option means the cattle were given exclusively grain-free food. To add to that, the “isolate” option is highly essential. This means that casein and the lactose portions of the protein were removed, leaving the purest form possible.
For all of our vegan fitness fanatics out there, look for a pea protein option. However, many military installations don’t have a fully stocked nutrition aisle, so plant protein options might be limited.
Service members from the Norwegian Armed Forces and US Air Force 352d Special Operations Wing participated in a week-long exercise Dec. 9-13, 2019, at Banak Air Station, Norway.
The training was part of a larger exercise that encompassed live ammunition fire, infiltration and exfiltration, and cold-weather training utilizing with the 352nd SOW’s CV-22B Osprey and MC-130J Commando II.
“This exercise is designed as a 352nd SOW Winter Warfare trainer, to test all aspects of the 352nd SOW mission, from the airside to the maintenance side, as well as exercising all logistical functions that we expect to use in future operations,” said US Air Force Lt. Col. Jonathan Niebes, 352nd SOW mission commander for the exercise.
A US Air Force MC-130J Commando II assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing refuels at Banak Air Station, Norway, in preparation for a week-long bilateral training engagement with the Norwegian Armed Forces, December 10, 2019
(US Air Force/1st Lt. Kevyn Stinett)
US Air Force members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing and Norwegian soldiers load ammunition onto snowmobiles prior to their range training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“The high north is unique because it is remote. It is sparsely populated. There aren’t a lot of built-up bases, and the weather is very extreme,” said US Air Force Maj. Shaun, CV-22 instructor pilot.
“The 352nd SOW brings a unique capability of long-range infiltration and exfiltration through low-level penetration in all weather conditions. Here in the Arctic, where half the year it is dark, and the weather is not the greatest, we can overcome those challenges through our unique tactics, techniques, and procedures. We’ve taken lessons learned elsewhere around Europe, Africa, and the Middle East and adapted them to the arctic environment.”
A Norwegian soldier prepares to fire an M72 Light Anti-Tank Weapon alongside special tactics operators from 352nd Special Operations Wing, during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
This training simultaneously gives Air Commandos from the 352nd SOW the opportunity to train missions in a challenging environment alongside their NATO partners as well as refining how to operate more safely and efficiently in day-to-day operations.
“As part of our standard equipment, our special tactics operators use ratchets in a variety of functions such as locking and securing objects. During this past week, we learned from the Norwegian ranger soldiers, that it is more effective to use ropes with friction knots for certain tasks as they don’t freeze over when you’re going through variables with the weather,” said a special tactics airmen with the 352nd SOW.
A Norwegian soldier during a live-fire training near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
These engagements are opportunities for Norway and the US, to steadily build upon a strong bond, founded on shared values and desires for a robust Trans-Atlantic unity and stability in the European theater and the Arctic region.
“When working with the host nation, it is important to accomplish our training objectives, but more importantly, we are strengthening our already close relationship with our Norwegian allies. These are the folks we are going to integrate with on the battlefield, so the comfortability with our two militaries is vital,” said Niebes.
US Air Force special tactics members assigned to the 352nd Special Operations Wing conduct cold-weather training on snowmobiles alongside members from the Norwegian Armed Forces near Banak Air Base, Norway, December 10, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
A US Air Force service member assigned to the 352nd Special Operation Wing based out of RAF Mildenhall refuels a CV-22B Osprey before a mission near Banak Air Station, Norway, December 12, 2019.
(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Pena)
“This is an environment like nowhere else in the world, it could very quickly become a battlespace that would be a reality to compete in, and as special operators who can be any place, any time, we must be proficient in every environment,” said Niebes.
“So for us to get the opportunity to train with experts in winter warfare is super important. The 352nd SOW truly appreciates the professional training with our Norwegian partners, and the increase of relationships and skill we collectively received this week. We look forward to coming back and building upon our combined training in the High North.”
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.
By 1944, the tides of the war in the Pacific had turned against the Japanese Empire. The United States and its allies repelled the Imperial Japanese Navy in critical battles like Midway, Milne Bay, and Guadalcanal. The stage was set for the U.S. to retake the Philippines in 1944, but the Japanese were getting desperate. Low on ships, manpower, and material, they turned to the one thing they had in abundance — zeal for the Emperor.
That zeal led to the surprise kamikaze attacks that have come to define the war in its closing days. The amazing video producers at AARP are dedicated to keeping the memory of veterans of every American war alive and their latest offering is the story of Phil Hollywood aboard the USS Melvin at the Surigao Strait in incredible 4K video.
The Melvin was a Fletcher-class destroyer, part of the U.S. 7th Fleet Support Force moving to help the Allied landing at Leyte. But first, they had to get through the 47-mile Surigao Strait. Waiting for them was a fleet of Japanese battleships ready to halt their advance and stymie the allied landing — and the famous return of General Douglas MacArthur to his beloved Philippine Islands.
Phil Hollywood was a young sailor who enlisted after Pearl Harbor at age 17. He was aboard the Melvin at Surigao and talked to AARP about his role as a Fire Controlman 2nd Class during what would become the last battleship-to-battleship combat in the history or warfare. The Melvin was his first assignment, a ship made of, essentially, engines, hull, and guys with guns.
“It was everything I ever wanted in a fighting ship,” he said. “Facing the enemy was everything. I didn’t think of anything else.”
Former U.S. Navy FC2 Phil Hollywood, a World War II Pacific veteran, looking at photos of destroyers from that era.
The Melvin was supposed to be looking for flights of Japanese planes via radar and alert the main landing area at Leyte. It was not safe to be on a destroyer in the Pacific during World War II, even by the standards of that war. Some 77 destroyers were lost in the war and 17 of those were from kamikaze attacks. Hollywood’s battle station was at the top of the director, moving guns on target.
“There were moments I was afraid, not sure if I was going to live or die,” he told AARP. “But one thing’s for certain, I wanted to fight and save our ship. The patriotism was raging in my blood.”
World War II veteran Philip Hollywood enlisted in the Navy when he was 17 years old. He was just 19 when he took part in one of history’s greatest naval battles.
Hollywood recalled what it was like to face the kamikaze pilots in battle. The pilots were not well trained. For many, it was their first and last flights, and the planes were loaded up with weapons so traditional flight profiles weren’t really able to be used by the enemy pilots. It was a frightening experience. It seemed like no matter how much they threw at the pilots, they kept coming.
“During a kamikaze attack, being in the main battery directory, we were on telescopes,” he recalled. “It looked like he was coming down our throats. I was frightened, my heart was pounding, one looked like it was gonna hit us. We kept hitting him and hitting him… until I could see the flex of his wings breaking up.”
That was the moment he looked death in the face. Luckily, the plane crashed into the ocean. For Hollywood, it was both a sigh of relief and a moment to think about. Maybe the first thought other than avenging Pearl Harbor – which says a lot for the salty combat sailor Hollywood was by this time.
“It was a new experience,” he said. “Trying to kill an opponent who only wanted to kill you and not survive. Anyone at that time who says they weren’t scared… I don’t think they’re telling the truth.”
The Destroyer USS Melvin.
The Battle of Surigao Strait was really a part of the greater Battle of Leyte Gulf, the largest naval battle in military history. It put 300 American ships against some 68 Japanese ships. The Japanese had always believed that one great naval battle could knock the United States out of the war and win it for Japan. This was a must-win battle for both sides, and it showed. The fighting at every level was intense but only one side could come out on top, and it wasn’t the Japanese.
Surigao was just the beginning of the greater battle, and sailors like FC2 Phil Hollywood and the crew of the Melvin started off the biggest naval battle of all time, a battle that would rage on for three full days.
The US Army sent 62 of its generals to an “executive health program” at a military hospital in Texas, where they spent three days undergoing medical examinations and receiving healthcare, according to a new report obtained by USA Today.
The program followed a military-wide sweep of the Army’s top brass and reportedly showed that only one in five of its generals was ready to deploy during 2016.
The report highlighted the Army’s struggle to get its troops ready to deploy, which has become one of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ top priorities. Conducted at the order of former Secretary Chuck Hagel, the report was completed in 2017 after Mattis had taken over.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis.
(DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Angelita Lawrence)
The generals and admirals who lead the US military have also seen their reputation suffer after years of scandals, corruption and ethical lapses. An investigation, also by USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook, found that military investigators documented 500 cases of serious misconduct by admirals and generals over a four-year period.
Only 83.5 percent of Army soldiers were able to deploy, USA Today reported. Other service branches reported higher numbers around 90 percent, the report showed.
But among Army generals, fewer than 80 percent were ready to deploy.
The report suggests this may be due to administrative rather than health reasons; most generals became deployable after receiving updated blood tests and dental exams, according to USA Today. The report recommended that generals take time to complete required examinations and necessary treatment.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Army will soon launch a redesign of Basic Combat Training intended to build more discipline after many commanders complained that new soldiers often show up to their first units with a sloppy appearance and undisciplined attitudes.
By early summer, new recruits will go through Army BCT that’s designed to instill strict discipline and esprit de corps by placing a new emphasis in drill and ceremony, inspections, pride in military history while increasing the focus on critical training such as physical fitness, marksmanship, communications, and battlefield first aid skills.
The program will also feature three new field training exercises that place a greater emphasis on forcing recruits to demonstrate Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills, the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.
The new program of instruction is the result of surveys taken from thousands of leaders who have observed a trend of new soldiers fresh out of training displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic as well as being careless with equipment, uniform, and appearance, Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training, told defense reporters on Feb. 9.
‘A sense of entitlement’
“What leaders have observed in general is they believe that there is too much of a sense of entitlement, questioning of lawful orders, not listening to instruction, too much of a buddy mentality with NCOs and officers, and a lot of tardiness being late to formation and duties,” Frost said. “These are trends that they see as increasing that they think are part of the discipline aspect that is missing and that they would like to see in the trainees that become soldiers that come to them as their first unit of assignment.”
As commanding general of IET, Frost was tasked with increasing the quality of training and reducing new soldier attrition.
After compiling the data from surveys of about 27,000 commissioned officers, warrant officers, and non-commissioned officers, the message was very clear, Frost said.
“The number-one thing that was asked for five-fold or five times as much as any of the other categories was discipline,” Frost said.
“First-unit-of-assignment leaders want Initial Entry Training to deliver disciplined, physically-fit new soldiers who are willing to learn, they are mentally tough, professional and are proud to serve in the United States Army.”
In addition to discipline and physical fitness, leaders also wanted technical and tactical proficiency in warrior tasks and battle drills.
Be a soldier
After working out the details in a pilot at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the Army has approved a new POI that Frost hopes will better instill into recruits exactly what it means to be a soldier.
“We really tried to attack it by getting after more discipline and esprit de corps,” Frost said.
One new aspect features a series of history vignettes of major battles that the Army has fought in, from Valley Forge in the Revolutionary War all the way to Iraq in Baghdad, Frost said.
“We highlighted those battles; we tied them to Army Values and the Soldier’s Creed and highlighted an individual who received the Medal of Honor or other valor award for actions during each battle,” Frost said.
“So soldiers will learn across all of Basic Combat Training at all the Army training centers what it means to be a soldier, the history of the United States Army through the battles and the campaign streamers and the wars that we have fought and they will be able to look to and emulate a soldier who executed a valorous act during that war.”
The new standardized booklet will be given to each recruit along with their Blue Book at the beginning of training.
Recruits will also learn discipline by doing more practice at a skill that may be as old as soldiering itself — drill and ceremony.
Drill and ceremony
When the war began after the attacks of 9/11, the Army decreased its focus on DC, inspections and other skills that stress attention to detail to make more time for combat skill training.
“There are a lot of folks that say ‘we need to go back to the drill and ceremony because we have lost a lot of the discipline aspect of what it means to be a United States Army soldier,'” Frost said.
“It’s not like they are going to be sitting out there just doing DC all the time. The drill and ceremony is going to be interwoven into when they move to and from places … so the movements won’t just be lollygagging, non-tactical movements, they will be actually executing some team drill and ceremony as they move to and from the chow hall and move to and from the barracks.”
But the new BCT isn’t all about spit and polish, Frost said.
Hammer, anvil, forge
“The other big piece we are doing in Basic Combat Training that helps with the esprit de corps and the discipline aspect and also lends a measure of grit and resilience to [BCT] is we have three major field training exercises that we are going to do now. We are calling them the Hammer, the Anvil, and the Forge,” Frost said, describing how the final Forge FTX is an homage to the Army’s historic ties to Valley Forge.
“That is going to be a culminating FTX which is a graduation requirement. It will be an 81-hour field training exercise with about 40 miles of tactical road marching that is conducted through a series of tactical events and mini field training exercises.”
The Forge will include a night infiltration course and a medical evacuation mass casualty exercise. There will be ethical dilemmas soldiers have to negotiate as well as a battle march and shoot, a resupply mission which involves moving supplies, ammo, water to a link-up point, patrol base activities, combat patrols as well as an obstacle course, Frost said.
“If you succeed in making it through the 81-hour FTX … then what will happen is you will earn the right to become a soldier,” Frost said. “You will earn your beret, you will earn a ‘soldier for life’ certificate, you will get your National Defense Service Medal and your uniform will look exactly like a United States Army soldier.”
‘Get after the basics’
The new BCT POI weeded out “a lot of redundant areas and areas that have crept in that did not get after the basics” — shoot, move, communicate and protect or survive, Frost said.
For weapons qualification, recruits will be required to qualify with backup iron sights instead of just on close-combat optic sights.
Physical fitness standards will also be increased, requiring each soldier to score at least 60 points on all three events of the Army Physical Fitness Test instead of 50 points on each as a graduation standard.
Each recruit will also receive 33 hours of combatives training instead of 22 hours, Frost said.
Recruits will receive an increased amount of tactical combat casualty care training such as basic combat lifesaver.
The course will also teach “some of the basics that we had kind of lost with respect to communications such as basic hand and arm signals, and we have doubled the amount of basic reporting on the radio communications” such as MEDEVAC and similar requests, Frost said.
Some qualifications nixed
The new BCT does, however, do away with hand grenade qualification and land navigation course qualification as graduation requirements.
“What we have found is it is taking far, far too much time. It’s taking three to four times as much time … just to qualify folks on the hand grenade course than we had designated so what is happening is it is taking away from other aspects of training,” Frost said.
“We are finding that there are a large number of trainees that come in that quite frankly just physically don’t have the capacity to throw a hand grenade 20 to 25 to 30 meters. In 10 weeks, we are on a 48-hour period; you are just not going to be able to teach someone how to throw if they haven’t thrown growing up.”
Recruits will still receive the same amount of training in these areas, Frost said.
“Just because we took it off as a graduation requirement does not mean they won’t be conducting hand grenade or land navigation training,” Frost said. “They are going to learn all the technical aspects of the hand grenade, and they are going to learn tactical employment and they will throw a live hand grenade.
“With land navigation, it’s the same thing they are still going to conduct land navigation training; they are still going to conduct the day course they are still going to conduct the night course.”
The new changes to BCT, Frost said, will hopefully make new soldiers better prepared for their advanced individual training, first unit of assignment and result in a lower, new-soldier attrition rate
“If we can get a more physically fit, better prepared, more-disciplined soldier in Basic Combat Training, AIT and [One-Station Unit Training] then we believe we will have less attrition in first unit of assignment,” Frost said.