This was the RAF's insane plan to steal a Nazi plane - We Are The Mighty
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This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

In early 1942, the British had a severe fighter problem. The German Focke-Wulf 190 had been cutting up Royal Air Force planes for nearly a year, and when the new A-3 model took to the skies, it dominated.


So the British began looking at some crazy plans to steal one for study.

The British relied heavily on the Spitfire, a capable design, and the Typhoon, which was visually similar to the 190 but was still outclassed. Neither of the fighters could hold up in aerial combat against the new German plane.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
The Spitfire was a capable fighter that struggled to keep up with the Fw-190 when it debuted over the skies of Europe. (Photo: Public Domain)

Royal Air Force pilots suffered heavy losses against the A-3 and immediately schemed to get one of their own. One early plan was probably the craziest.

Ace pilot Paul Richey proposed that a German-speaking British aviator be found. He would put on the uniform of a German fighter pilot and then take off in a captured Bf-109, decorated with battle damage, during a British fighter sweep.

After the British fighters engaged in heavy combat with a German formation, the Bf-109 and pilot would join the German forces headed home. He would land at a Fw-190 base and request a new plane so he could rejoin the fight. Since no Bf-109s would be available, he would accept an Fw-190 and then fly it low and fast back to England.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
Yeah, they were literally hoping that Germany was just giving these away like it was a bargain bin sale. (Photo: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force)

The plan glossed over a lot of potential problems. If the pilot screwed up any of his German or the base had a Bf-109 or it refused to let an emotional pilot take off in one of their cutting-edge machines, the pilot would’ve been stuck at a German base with a ticking clock counting until he was caught.

A more probable, but still gutsy, commando plan was laid out in June 1942. The operation, dubbed “Airthief,” was a repeat performance of a successful operation launched the previous February to steal a German radar station.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

In the late February operation, a British radar tech went with a group of commandos to a coastal radar station. As the commandos protected him, he grabbed the parts they wanted and then the group exfiltrated.

Airthief would work the same way but with a pilot instead of the radar tech.

Luckily for the British, the operation became unnecessary the same day it was supposed to be submitted for approval.

An aerial battle between Spitfires and Fw-190s ended with little damage to either side on June 23, but the Germans wanted another crack at the Brits before heading for home. The Fw-190 wing stalked the Spitfires back to Britain and then ambushed them from the clouds.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
Even Supermarine Spitfires struggled against the Fw-190 until new engines were incorporated. (Photo: Royal Air Force)

One of the pilots, Oberleutnant Arnim Faber, downed a Spitfire but became disoriented while maneuvering against him. As soon as he killed his enemy, he turned to follow what he thought was the English Channel south to France, but he was actually following the Bristol Channel north.

Desperate for fuel, he landed at the first airstrip he could find only to see a Royal Air Force officer sprinting towards him with his pistol drawn. Faber had landed at a British base and they were only too happy to take his plane for study.

Faber generously offered to show off what the plane could do if the British would be kind enough to refuel it for him, but the Royal Air Force decided to let their pilots do the flying instead. The British flew it on 29 short flights for just over 12 hours of total flight time before they disassembled it and subjected the pieces to destruction testing.

The destruction testing told the British the best vectors to attack the planes from and the flight testing told them where the Fw-190s’ weaknesses were. They found that the Fw-190’s performance suffered greatly at altitude, and so increased their operational heights to give some advantage back to the Spitfires.

They also incorporated elements of the Fw-190 design into future British planes, allowing later Spitfires and other planes to gain a quality edge.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Check out this Cold-War era abandoned military base in Vermont

North Concord Air Force Base located in East Mountain, Vermont used to be a radar base during the Cold War. The station opened in 1956, its purpose to provide early warning signs and protection in the event of a nuclear event. It also sent information to Strategic Air Command Bases. The spot was perfect, literally in the middle of nowhere in one of the most remote areas in all of Vermont. 

Keeping Watch For Nuclear Threats Was No Joke During the Cold War

Slightly lower on the mountain, the North Concord AFB housed around 174 servicemen who lived in tin and steel huts, called Quonset Village. They guarded the radar ears on giant steel and tin towers on East Mountain’s summit, always on the lookout for the Soviets up above in the sky. An inflatable white dome topped each tower to serve as protection for the radars. 

In the station’s early years, there was only one way to get to it: a treacherous, winding, one-lane dirt road that traveled along steep slopes. To put it lightly, Quonset Village was a harsh place to live in winter. Snowstorms could make the road down the mountain impassible, leaving its military residents stuck up there until it passed. For that reason, the village included all the basic necessities and more. It had a store, barbershop, mess hall, theater, and bowling alley. 

A Short-Lived Military Station Indeed

In 1962, North Concord AFB incurred a name change to Lyndonville Air Force Station. However, that didn’t last long, as the US government shut the whole place down a year later in 1963. It was just too expensive to keep up, especially considering that it quickly became obsolete as technology advanced. 

In 1961, not too long before it closed, the base reported a UFO sighting that lasted 18 minutes. Strangely, residents of nearby New Hampshire Barney and Betty Hill claim that they were abducted by aliens a couple of hours after the sighting. It remains unclear whether the abduction actually happened or not. 

Did Somebody Say UFOs Visited Vermont?

Today, the remains of the abandoned North Concord AFB are still there. Thanks to the UFO sighting and reported abduction, many local legends about the area have become part of its history. Stories about unknown characters lingering around and haunting it are commonplace. Because the US Military abandoned the station, its structural integrity has deteriorated over the years, making it pretty dangerous. In the 90s, someone roaming around a crumbling old tower, unfortunately, fell to their death. However, regardless of its dilapidated state, some might consider the North Concord Air Force Base an unofficial historical site and memorial to the Cold War.

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Today in military history: British Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps Established

On July 7, 1917, the British Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps was formally established, allowing women to directly support the war by serving in France. 

Due to labor demands, women were already working in weapons and munitions factories throughout Britain, but the establishment of the WAAC meant females could officially enlist in the army to perform non-combat support tasks — for a smaller salary than their male counterparts…

The harsh conditions in the factories contributed to dozens of deaths from poisoning, accidents, or explosions. Nonetheless, women weren’t deterred from doing their part. By 1917, the campaign to approve the formation of the WAAC meant that women could aid in the war effort more directly by fulfilling roles such as cookery, mechanics and clerical work, freeing up men to serve in the trenches.

By the summer of 1917, women were serving in France on the war front, even if they were restricted to menial work. The female volunteers were prohibited from becoming officers, but did rise in the ranks as “controllers” or “administrators.”

By the end of World War I, nearly 80,000 women wore the uniform as non-combatants, significantly contributing to the Allied war effort against the Central Powers in the three British women’s forces — the WAAC, the Women’s Relief Defense Corps and the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Warriors In Their Own Words: The sniper that scored 16 headshots in 30 seconds… at night

Charles “Chuck” Mawhinney was one of the most lethal snipers of the Vietnam War with 103 confirmed kills. In a particularly daring engagement, Mawhinney stopped a Viet Cong assault by hitting 16 headshots in 30 seconds at night in bad weather.

So, what does it take to be a precise, lethal sniper? Hear from the man himself as he describes his experience in the jungles of Vietnam.


“Chuck was extremely aggressive,” retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Mark Limpic, Mawhinney’s squad leader, later told LA Times. “He could run a half-mile, stand straight up, and shoot offhand and drop somebody at 700 yards.”

Mawhinney was operating out of a base near Da Nang in what the U.S. military called, “Arizona Territory.” A large North Vietnamese Army force was spotted moving its way south towards the U.S. base, but a monsoon shut down air support. So, Mawhinney volunteered to cover a river crossing where the force was expected to march.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
A US Marine Corps sniper in Vietnam.
(US Marine Corps archives)

Mawhinney left his sniper rifle at the base and moved forward with an M14 semiautomatic rifle and a Starlight scope, an early night-vision device.

The sniper and his spotter positioned themselves overlooking the shallowest river crossing. A few hours later, the NVA appeared.

A single scout approached the river first, but Mawhinney waited. When the rest of the NVA began to cross the river, Mawhinney kept waiting. It wasn’t until the men were deep into the river that Mawhinney began firing.

He engaged the enemy at ranges from 25 to 75 meters, nailing one man after the other through the head. As he describes it,

“They started across the river and as soon as the first one started up the bank on our side, I went to work. I got 16 rounds off that night as fast as I could fire the weapon, every one of them were headshots. They were dead center… …They never did cross the river that night.”

The two Marines then hastily fell back as the NVA tried to hit them with small arms and machine gun fire.

“To this day,” Mawhinney continues, “I’ve always wondered what their company commander’s report was of what happened to them… “

To hear more war stories from the men and women who were there, check out Warriors In Their Own Words.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why artillerymen should bring back their distinctive ‘Redlegs’

Every combat arms branch within the United States Army comes with a long legacy. And with that legacy comes an accompanying piece of flair for their respective dress uniforms. Infantrymen rock a baby blue fourragere on their right shoulder, cavalrymen still wear their spurs and stetsons, and even Army aviators sport their very own badges in accordance with their position in the unit.

But long before the blue cords and spurs, another combat arms branch had their own unique uniform accouterment — one that has since been lost to time. Artillerymen once had scarlet red piping that ran down the side of their pant legs. In fact, these stripes were once so iconic that it gave rise to a nickname for artillerymen: “redlegs.

Due to wartime restrictions, artillerymen stopped wearing the red piping during WWI — and it never made a comeback.


This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

If you ask any young artilleryman at Fort Sill why they’re called “redlegs,” they’ll probably just look at you funny.

(Department of Defense photo by Margo Wright)

This fact is especially tragic because artillerymen wearing red stripes is one of the oldest military traditions of its kind. The blue cord of the infantry can only be traced as far back as the Korean War and cavalry’s stetson wasn’t invented until 1865. Meanwhile, artillerymen were rocking that red piping as far back as the 1830s.

During the 1800s, the role of the artilleryman was much more complex than most other roles in the Army at the time. Not just any bum off the street could walk into a job that required precise calculations to load the proper amount of gunpowder and fire the cannon at the perfect angle to hit the intended target.

While cannons were way too massive to carry into many fights, seeing the arrival of artillerymen meant that the U.S. Army meant business. Just seeing that red piping as artillerymen arrived on the scene during the Civil War was enough to inspire friendly troops and strike fear into enemies. The role of the artillerymen was crucial in the battles of Buena Vista, Bull Run, Palo Alto, and San Juan Hill.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

I guess the only real debate here is if you give it to ADA as well or exclusively to field artillery.

Today, the role of the artilleryman has been reduced greatly. It’s not uncommon for artillerymen who were deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq to have more stories about their time on dismounted foot patrols with the infantrymen than ones about removing grid squares from the face of the Earth — after all, counter insurgency mostly forbids that level of wanton destruction.

Don’t get me wrong. There are still many artilleryman who’ve conducted fire missions into actual combat, but that number grows smaller and smaller with each passing year.

As field artillery units grow less common, their heritage is put at risk. At the same time, it seems as though the Army is increasingly leaning onto its historic roots for uniform ideas — as seen with the reintroduction of Army Greens.

Bringing back the distinctive red piping for artillerymen’s dress blues wouldn’t be that drastic of a change — or even that expensive — but it would be fitting. Dress blues are meant to honor the legacy of the soldiers of the American Revolution and Union Armies. What better way to do that than with an homage to the classic?

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Here’s how to make it to the CrossFit Games while on active duty

Think you can hack competing as a top CrossFit athlete while on active duty? Former Navy SEAL and top CrossFit athlete Josh Bridges thinks so, too.


Bridges, who while a member of SEAL Team 3 placed second in the 2011 worldwide CrossFit championship, known as the Games, told Military.com that given enough motivation, dedication and a friendly command, an active duty athlete could have what it takes.

“As long you had the right command who was willing to be like ‘yeah, we’ll let you train’ – as long as you’re doing your job and getting all that stuff done, why not?” Bridges told Military.com during a recent interview. “I think it’s doable.”

Since 2011 when he first competed while on active duty, Games-level CrossFit competition has shifted from a field of athletes who hold full time jobs outside of the sport, to athletes who train fulltime. That change, Bridges said, would undoubtedly make it harder for an active duty service member today to make it than it was for him in 2011.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
DoD photo by Sgt. Ruth Pagan.

Still, he said “If you really want to be a competitive athlete and be in the military at the same time, it’s doable. You’re going to have to put in long hours, and when your friends and buddies are going out to the bars on the weekends, you’re not going to be able to. … There’s going to be some sacrifices you’re going to have to be willing to make.”

To make the Games while on active duty he said he had to get permission from his Chief to miss some training. He also had to sacrifice a lot of time at home.

Also read: This former NFL player started a gym to help wounded warriors

“It was tough,” he said. “There were definitely days where I’d be out doing land warfare drills in 105 degree temperatures, and then on a one or two hour break in the middle of the day, I’d have to go into the gym and train. You definitely had to set your priorities right and just be like ‘this is what I have to do if I want to go to the Games. It is what it is.'”

Competing at Games level and successfully training as a SEAL share some of the same skills, Bridges said, in that sometimes you have to just “shut your brain off” about the physical demands.

“In CrossFit, at the Games, you’re going to be asked to do workouts that you’ve never done and movements that you’ve never practiced,” he said. “Being a SEAL is the same way – you almost have to shut your brain off and stop thinking. …You definitely have to be 110 percent into it.”

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
DoD Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Ross

Bridges, 34, finished first this year in CrossFit’s California regional Games qualifier and will compete in the Games in Madison, Wisconsin August 3 to 6. Bridges left the Navy in 2015 as an E-6, and spent the last three years of his active duty time in a training command as a master training specialist while rehabbing from knee surgery for a torn ACL, PCL and MCL sustained during deployment.

Anyone familiar with CrossFit knows that thanks to the sport’s focus on movements that rely heavily on knee strength and mobility, including heavy barbell and odd weight work, getting back into competition shape after a major knee injury is no small feat. But Bridges said he keeps the fire burning by focusing on his goals.

“It’s not easy, for sure, to sit there and go into the gym day in and day out and grind, and grind and grind,” he said. “When I went to start competing I had a goal to win the Games. I fell just short. After the injury I was like ‘hey, you can have same goes, it’s just really going to be hard. … I’m a little hard-headed sometimes, that once I have that goal, I’m going to make it happen no matter what.”
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That time the United States invaded Russia

The forced abdication of the Russian Tsar Nicolas II in 1917  sparked a civil war between the Bolshevik “Red” army fighting for Communism and various factions known as the “White” army, generally fighting against the Communists. In an effort to stop the Bolsheviks from taking control of the country, the World War I-era Allied forces invaded Russia near the end of the Great War.


 

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

For its part, America provided two contingents. The American North Russia Expeditionary Force was deployed to Arkhangelsk, while the second, called the American Expeditionary Force Siberia, was deployed to Vladivostok. The American North Russia Expeditionary force consisted of soldiers from the 85th Division’s 339th Infantry Regiment,consisting of about 5,000 Americans who were originally en route to France to fight on the Western Front. Due to the extreme climate in which they operated, they came to be known as the Polar Bears.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

 

The 339th began arriving in Russia in September 1918, shortly before the armistice would end World War I. Upon their arrival it was discovered that the allied war materiel supposedly stored at Arkhangelsk had been moved away by the Bolsheviks. Instead, ‘Detroit’s Own’, as the 339th was often known, went on the offensive against Bolshevik forces along the Dvina River and Vologda Railroad. The Americans advanced quickly and for nearly six weeks drove the Red Army back. By late October, the American force was holding two fronts well over 100 miles apart which created great logistical difficulties. To make matters worse, the brutal Russian winter was beginning. In order to hold their gains, the Americans turned to the defensive and set in for the winter.

 

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

 

The Red Army, accustomed to the icy winters of Russia, had no intention of letting up and began a winter offensive against the Allied forces. Though the Americans fought viciously, they were pushed back along the Dvina. Furthermore, the hope that the presence of the Allies would assist in raising local anti-communist forces turned out to be unfounded so the force began to find itself with little support.

 

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

 

When the war ended in Europe on November 11 of that year, the soldiers in Russia began to question why they were still fighting. As the winter went on, their willingness to fight deteriorated. The New York Times ran a scathing review of the expedition in February 1919. Combined with rumors of mutiny, this led to President Woodrow Wilson to order the unit’s withdrawal. On April 17, 1919 Brig. Gen. Wilds P. Richardson arrived in Arkhangelsk with orders to withdraw the Polar Bear Expedition. They were gone by June.

During their time in Russia, the Polar Bears suffered over 500 casualties. Due to the nature of warfare at the time, over 100 bodies were not recovered. A significant effort by veterans of the 339th led to the repatriation of nearly all lost or buried in Russia in the coming decades.

 

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
The Polar Bear Expedition’s unit patch.

 

Although the campaign did not meet its stated goals, it’s an interesting bit of history considering the United States and Russia would spend much of the 20th Century facing off against one another in the Cold War.

 

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An awful car killed more Nazi generals than World War II

The Czechoslovakian-built Tatra 87 was Hitler’s car of the future. With a top speed of more than 100 mph, it was a car destined for the Autobahn. Its sleek, futuristic design and high performance made it the vehicle of choice for Nazi officers. It was the Allies’ vehicle of choice for their enemy, too. They wanted all Nazis to drive one – because it would eventually kill them.


If 100 miles per hour doesn’t seem impressive by today’s standards, in 1935, it was a big deal. The car’s aerodynamic design helped it achieve these speeds. It didn’t hurt that the speed and design also made it seem like the future was coming, and the Nazis were leading the way. And it was coming, it was just a very short future. For most of the Nazi officers that pushed the limit in the car, their future usually consisted of wrapping themselves around a tree.

While the Tatra 87 has an incredible top speed, it seems it handles like a shopping cart. The death toll it took on Nazi officers was so bad, the Allies referred to the cars as their “secret weapon.” It even killed more of them than actual World War II combat – and these were the officers fighting the Soviet Union.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
There’s good, old-fashioned nightmare fuel in Stalingrad.

 

“These high-ranking Nazi officers drove this car fast, but unfortunately the handling was rubbish, so at a sharp turn they would lose control, spin out and wrap themselves around a tree killing the driver more often than not,” said author Steve Cole.

In the first week of its availability, seven officers took the 95 horsepower, 3.4-liter V8 engine for a spin and never came home after spinning it out of control. But there was a safer, more economical version. In 1939, the Volkswagen Beetle was introduced, which borrowed a lot of design elements from the Tatra, so much so that its designer, Porsche, had to pay Tatra for infringement.

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Congress shelves plans to have women register for draft

The Senate Armed Services Committee’s markup of the June 29 defense budget left out proposals to have women register for the draft.


The move essentially tabled the controversial issue following similar action June 29 in the House Armed Services Committee’s markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018. Proposals by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., and others to have women register for Selective Service were dropped from that bill.

Speier unsuccessfully argued for an amendment to the NDAA that would have required women to register for the draft. “It’s time to stop delaying the inevitable with parliamentary gymnastics,” she said. “If it does come to a draft, men and women should be treated equally.”

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
(USMC photo by LCpl. Nicholas J. Trager)

Her amendment failed by a vote of 33-28 in the committee.

Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, opposed Speier’s amendment, saying it was getting ahead of an ongoing review of the Selective Service System.

Last year, committee members approved a similar measure requiring women to register for the draft, but Republican leaders stripped the language on the House floor.

The Senate last year also backed the draft for women but dropped the issue in budget negotiations with the House.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
Women assigned to Malmstrom Air Force Base. USAF by Beau Wade.

Women have always been exempt from the law requiring all men ages 18 to 26 to register for possible military service with the Selective Service System. The main argument against women registering for the draft had been that they were excluded from serving in combat jobs. However, the Defense Department has since lifted combat restrictions.

At a May 22 Brookings Institution forum, Thornberry was asked to state his position on women and the draft.

He responded, “We have appointed a commission to look at this. We’ll see what they have to say,” but he gave no timeline for the study to be completed and no indication whether Congress would be prepared to act when the commission files a report.

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The VA might actually be getting its act together

Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.


Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.

The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.

The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.

“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.

“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”

The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
Or her widow, Mr. President. Or her widow. (Photo: Veterans Affairs)

Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.

The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.

Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.

“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”

One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.

“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.

“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.

McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.

The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.

Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.

However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.

They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.

It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.

Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.

The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.

“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“You walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the country, there is something that looks and feels very familiar wherever you go.”

Also read: Starbucks donated free coffee to every US service member in Afghanistan

One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.

“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.

In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.

Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.

The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.

“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.

“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”

The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.

Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.

The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.

That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.

“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.

“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.

The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.

In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.

The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.

First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane
We just wanna see more vets smiling. (Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.

All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.

Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.

San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.

Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.

Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.

Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”

“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”

They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.

Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.

The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.

The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”

“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”

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This Hornet pilot makes energy shots loved by special operators

Energy drinks are one of the staples of military service. They’re all around the combat zone, a must for going into the field, and a favorite in care packages.


Marine Corps Maj. Robert Dyer, now an instructor at the Naval Academy and a former member of Marine Special Operations Command, wanted an energy drink that his Marines and he could drink that was caffeine free and contained all the vitamins, minerals, and other supplements that they’d normally take a handful of pills to get.

When they couldn’t get it from the current supplement industry, they decided to make it themselves and created RuckPack, a 3-ounce shot designed to keep troops going without risking a caffeine or sugar crash. In addition to the vitamins and minerals, the shot features amino acids to promote awareness and muscle recovery. And for those who want their nutritional supplements with a little caffeine, a new strawberry flavor contains 120mg of caffeine pulled from green tea.

The company makes an effort to assist veterans. They donate 10 percent of their profits to non-profit organizations such as the MARSOC Foundation, the Navy Seal Foundation and the Green Beret Foundation. Also, they’re recruiting veterans into a distribution network that pays a 10-percent commission for sales to independent retailers. And they have a program for people to donate RuckPacks to those deployed overseas.

RuckPack’s website has some impressive testimonials from athletes as well as more information about their product and business model.

RuckPack was featured on Shark Tank where Dyer spoke about the business and pitched the company. Check out this video:

MORE: ‘The Bunker’ is helping veteran entrepreneurs launch the next big tech company 

AND: The Mighty 25: Veterans Poised To Make A Difference In 2015 

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That time two countries went to war over soccer

Honduras won the first game (in Honduras). Then El Salvador won the second game (in El Salvador). When El Salvador won the third game in Mexico, all hell broke loose. Literally.


El Salvador was and is one of the most densely populated countries in the Americas. Honduras, in comparison, was and is sparsely populated. By the end of the 1960s, over 300,000 Salvadorians were living and working (often illegally) in Honduras.

The dilemma posed by these immigrants, many of whom cultivated previously unproductive land, was addressed through a series of bilateral agreements between the two Central American nations. The last of these agreements, conveniently, expired in 1969.

To make matters worse, the government in Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, initiated land reform that effectively kicked Salvadorians off the land. Thousands fled back to El Salvador.

Then, El Salvador started claiming the land that had previously been held by its citizens in Honduras as El Salvador’s. It was in this climate that the two countries met on the soccer field to determine who would qualify for the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

The first game was played in Tegucigalpa. Hondurans made sure their rival team did not have a good night’s rest by creating as much noise as possible outside their hotel rooms. El Salvador lost. Then the media in San Salvador started reporting that a young woman, so distraught after the loss, had shot herself in the heart. 

El Nacional wrote, “The young girl could not bear to see her fatherland brought to its knees.” She was given a televised funeral and the President himself walked behind her casket. By the time the Honduran team got to San Salvador to play the second game, tensions were at an all-time high.

At the game, which El Salvador won, the Honduran flag was not flown during the opening ceremony. In its place, Salvadorian officials placed a rag.With the threat of all violence at the last game (it was to the best of three) a very real possibility, FIFA officials decided to hold the third game in Mexico City.

5,000 Mexican police officers kept both sides fairly under control. El Salvador went on to win the Mexico City game. Hours later, El Salvador severed all diplomatic ties with its northern neighbor. A mere two weeks later, the Salvadorian air force dropped bombs on Tegucigalpa.

La guerra del fútbol was obviously not fought over simply over soccer. But the games were used as incredible and very effective propaganda tools. The war lasted one hundred hours. Blocked by a U.S. arms embargo from directly purchasing weapons, both sides had to buy outdated military equipment from World War II. This war was the last time the world saw fighters armed with pistols dueling one another.

After the Organization of American States brokered a cease-fire, between 1,000 to 2,000 people were dead. 100,000 more were displaced. A formal peace treaty was not signed until 1980.

Although the war only lasted four days, the consequences for El Salvador were immense. Thousands of Salvadorians could no longer return to Honduras, straining an already fragile economy. Discontent spread, and just ten years later the country plunged into a twelve-year civil war that left 75,000 dead.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Crow GI became the last Indian War Chief during World War II

Few American veterans will ever officially earn both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the title of Crow War Chief. Joe Medicine Crow might be the only one. His other awards include the Bronze Star and the French Légion d’Honneur. How he earned the title of War Chief of the Crow tribe is a feat unheard of for decades before World War II started.

But for all his feats, he was still a Private in the U.S. Army.


This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

“Promote ahead of peers.”

There are four criteria to become a Crow War Chief, all of which Joe Medicine Crow accomplished during two years of service with the U.S. Army in Europe:

  • Touching an Enemy Without Killing Him
  • Taking an Enemy’s Weapon
  • Leading a Successful War Party
  • Stealing an Enemy’s Horse

The Crow did not likely think this would be so difficult in the age of machine guns and tanks, but as Joe Medicine Crow showed, it was clearly not impossible.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

Also, that’s Dr. Joe Medicine Crow. Just sayin.

The Native American GI was working in a shipyard in Washington state for the first part of World War II. In 1943, he decided to join the U.S. Army. He came from an incredible nomadic warrior tradition. He was the last person to hear a first-hand account of the Battle of Little Bighorn and his grandfather served as a scout for Gen. George Armstrong Custer before the general’s last stand. Joe Medicine Crow would carry this tradition forward, as well as many others.

Before he left for the war, a medicine man provided him with a painted eagle feather he would wear under his uniform before fighting. He would also paint traditional war paint under his uniform, placing two red stripes on his arms. And then, he became a War Chief, the last Crow War Chief.

This was the RAF’s insane plan to steal a Nazi plane

Crow lived to the ripe old age of 102.

While fighting at the Siegfried Line, the border fortification that would take the U.S. Army into Germany, the warrior was ordered to take a team – a war party, if you will – and cross a field under a hail of bullets to retrieve some dynamite from a previously destroyed American position. Joe Medicine Crow and seven fellow GIs crossed a field of devastating fire that probably should have killed all of them, grabbed the explosives and blew a huge hole in Hitler’s vaunted line. No one was killed. One down.

After penetrating the line, Joe Medicine Crow and the 103d Infantry advanced on a nearby town that turned out to be heavily defended. As a scout, Joe was ahead of most of his unit. After they were ordered to flank some German defenders, Joe was separated and decided to take a shortcut. That’s when he ran right into a Nazi defender while running at full sprint.

For anyone else, this might have been embarrassing at the least and deadly at the most, but this is Joe Medicine Crow. He sent the Nazi flying and the Nazi’s rifle across the lawn. The American was still standing as he bent over and grabbed his enemy’s weapon. Two down.

Instead of killing the German, Joe decided to drop the weapon and let his warrior skills take over. The two men fought hand-to-hand for what seemed like hours. When Joe finally got the upper hand and started to kill the Nazi soldier with his hands at the man’s throat. But the German began to whimper, and Joe let him go. Three down.

Then, there’s the task of stealing a horse.

Joe Medicine Crow was scouting a farmhouse behind enemy lines one night when he realized it was full of high-ranking SS officers. They all rode there on horses, which were corralled under guard near the house. Joe Medicine Crow snuck through the guards with only his M1911 to protect him. Having grown up learning to ride horses bareback, mounting one of them in Europe was no problem. He let out a Crow war cry and sang a song as he herded all the horses out of the corral and into U.S. Army lore.

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