These war movie characters describe your NFL team's performance during the regular season - We Are The Mighty
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These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

The regular NFL season is over now. Twelve teams are preparing for the postseason while twenty more are going back to the drawing board.


These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
It’s unfair to make a Cleveland Browns joke here. Or anywhere, really.

For most of our teams, the season will not end well.  For some of us, our teams will be merely disappointing. Some will go down in flames. Others may even inexplicably snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

The NFL has a lot in common with the military. Like a battle, football requires discipline, endurance, and teamwork. Each team has its own culture, fan base, trials, and tribulations. To celebrate the crowning glory of what is the most American of sports, we decided to make sense of the 2015-2016 season’s ups and downs by comparing the teams to military film and television characters.

Arizona Cardinals – Lt. Dan Taylor, Forrest Gump

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

The Cardinals are one of the NFL’s longest continual franchises who still don’t have a Super Bowl win. It’s like Lt. Dan’s family tradition of fighting in every major war: none of his ancestors lived long enough to see the big win. Maybe this time will be different?

Atlanta Falcons – Anthony “Swoff” Swofford, Jarhead

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Everything started off so promising. A 5-0 start, the best since 2012.  But it never really went anywhere. Like Swoff going through hell to become an elite Marine: When it came down to it, it was all for naught. Swoff never got to fire his rifle. The Falcons lost 8 of their last 11 games. Just… disappointing. But like the Marines returning to Iraq in 2003, there’s always next year.

Baltimore Ravens – Sgt. Barnes, Platoon

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

This unit lost man after man until everyone watching was filled with dread and a sense of pathos soured their crab cakes. After so many player losses went down, everything else went downhill too. Unit cohesion became a disaster and no one outside of Maryland shed a tear when they died. The Ravens are also notoriously paranoid.

Buffalo Bills –  Chief Casey Ryback, Under Siege

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

If a team were represented by their fans at home games, the Bills would be Jeff Portnoy from Tropic Thunder. Luckily (and surprisingly) the Bills 8-8 season was much better than anyone expected, thanks in no small part to ex-Flacco backup Tyrod Taylor. Taylor’s performance can be likened to the ship’s cook of the USS Missouri, who was actually a Navy SEAL.

Carolina Panthers – Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley, We Were Soldiers

The Panthers had the second oldest average age of any team in the NFL, edged only by the Colts. Unlike the Colts’ geriatric gameplay, the Panthers’ translated into solid veteran status, going 15-1 and earning the #1 seed in the playoffs. No one is looking forward to running into Carolina in the postseason, nor should they be.

Chicago Bears – Pvt. Mellish, Saving Private Ryan

I’m only guessing here, but I bet this scene perfectly illustrates the experience of being a Bears fan and/or player throughout the 2015 season.

Cincinnati Bengals – Sgt. Nicholas Brody, Homeland

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Are you really good? Is everything what it appears to be? It’s been so long. Can we tell for certain? There’s only one thing Cincinnati fans know for certain: No one trusts you. Also: Ginger. Also: Nice reg haircut.

Cleveland Browns – The Cast of Tropic Thunder, Tropic Thunder

Other teams have had worse records, other teams have their messes, but the Browns keep doing the same thing year after year: new coach, new QB, new outlook, same outcome. It’s like the Browns aren’t even an NFL team anymore. They’re more of a parody of football, skewering the entire culture of the NFL and its fandom. Unlike Tropic Thunder, there’s no happy ending.

Dallas Cowboys – PFC William Hudson, Aliens

A once-awesome team whose season started off with solid wins fell apart at the first sign of despair. And “despair” was the word of the season. Quarterback after quarterback would come to Dallas and meet their fate while the team struggled to keep it together long enough to pull in four total wins.

Denver Broncos – John Rambo, First Blood

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

The Broncos were quietly awesome in 2015. Not a lot of flair, the Broncos just went about their business trying to get to a Super Bowl. They weren’t amazing on offense for much of the season but like Rambo taking on some know-nothing cops in the woods, the defense demolished offenses one-by-one, losing only four games with three of those by one score or less.

Detroit Lions – Forrest Gump, Forrest Gump

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

No one really dislikes the Lions. We don’t really understand them either. For many of us, they’re like a family member, in that we see them once in a while and they always show up to Thanksgiving. They definitely aren’t stupid and they show us all the time the amazing things they’re capable of doing. And just like Forrest Gump, they aren’t winning a Super Bowl anytime soon.

Green Bay Packers – Capt. Jimmy Wilder, Independence Day

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Jimmy had confident leadership with an obvious record of success. Unfortunately, he just didn’t have what it takes to survive til the end. The Packers are much the same way. They have a chance to be Capt. Hiller if they can just keep their mask on, but they’re looking at a formidable wall of alien spaceship shaped like a giant Carolina Panther.

Houston Texans – Jean Rasczak, Starship Troopers

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Maybe it’s just J.J. Watt, but the Texans always seem angry to me. Like if a Texan doesn’t play hard enough, Watt will hurt them himself. This might explain all their QB injuries.

Indianapolis Colts – Pvt. James Ryan, the beginning end of Saving Private Ryan

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

As of September’s cut down day, the Indianapolis Colts were the oldest team in the NFL, meaning oldest average age of its players, (and it’s not just because of Adam Vinatieri, age 43). And they played like it at times, going 8-8. Those eight wins were against teams with a losing record and within one score against teams with a winning record. Extra points awarded for never giving up.

Jacksonville Jaguars –  Capt. James T. Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Blame this on ownership. When owners change, the team should change a bit. Owner Shahid Khan has had years to get something going for the people of Jacksonville, who paid $63 million in upgrades for the stadium in 2013 only to receive a Jacksonville team with a record of 3-13. Everyone should be screaming about this.

Kansas City Chiefs – John Rambo, Rambo III 

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

They seemed reluctant at first but around week seven the Chiefs decided they had enough. With the gusto of Rambo going to rescue Col. Trautman, they demolished the perennial favorites Broncos and Steelers and trounced a resurgent Bills. This team who started 1-5 very nearly won the conference championship.

Miami Dolphins – Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Because no one lives in the past like the Miami Dolphins.

Minnesota Vikings – Sgt. 1st Class Sanderson, Black Hawk Down

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Just as skilled and capable as Norm “Hoot” Hooten, but not nearly as interesting. The Vikings were able to beat the Chiefs once this season, but really spent Sundays taking down Chargers, Lions, and Bears most of the time. Still a winner, but not a Hoot.

New England Patriots – Chris Kyle, American Sniper

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Some people love you, some people hate you. None of that matters, because you’re among the best there is whether they like you or not.

New Orleans Saints – The entire cast of The Alamo

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

It turns out defense is pretty important. No one proves that more than the Saints.

New York Giants – Col. Kurtz, Apocalypse Now

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Watching the Giants’ 2015 season was like watching a once-formidable force just begging to be put out of its misery.

New York Jets – Capt. Virgil Hilts, The Great Escape

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Being the only team with a winning record to not make the playoffs is like escaping from a Nazi prison camp on a motorcycle, only to be captured on the Swiss border. They were so close, only to be sent back to the cooler.

Oakland Raiders – Maximus Decimus Meridius, Gladiator

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

An old man dies and now once great team is surrounded by people rejected by the everyone else and all they can think about is moving to the Coliseum.

Philadelphia Eagles – Capt. Dave “Captain America” McGraw, Generation Kill

No team’s on- and off-field behavior draws more head shaking than Philadelphia.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Animal Mother, Full Metal Jacket

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Full of guts, but no ideals: The Steelers snuck into the playoffs after a lucky Jets loss gave them the edge. You have to respect Animal Mother, though. He’s there because he knows how to do what he’s been trained to do and he’s good at it. Just like Pittsburgh.

St. Louis Rams – Nick, The Deer Hunter

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

St. Louis fans have seen seasons like this so often, they must be mentally broken by now. Every year, the talk of the Rams moving to LA has to wear on both the fans and the team. If they don’t move this year, spin the barrel for another 7-9 season and see what happens when you pull the trigger.

San Diego Chargers – Capt. Herbert Sobel, Band of Brothers

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

It’s not that the Chargers lack the will to succeed. It’s just that they lack the skill to succeed. So they’ll be moved somewhere which might be a better fit. Currahee!

San Francisco 49ers – Sgt. Elias, Platoon

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

The days of the 49ers being a “nice” team are over, and probably have been for a long time. Like the death of everything Sgt. Elias represented in Platoon, we can probably count on the 49ers becoming more and more desperate to do whatever it takes to win as time goes on.

Seattle Seahawks – Maverick, Top Gun

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

Seattle is eminently likable despite a few personality flaws, flaws which led the them through the team’s ups and downs this season. Despite those few losses, the Seahawks are still among the best there is.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Pvt. Timothy Upham, Saving Private Ryan

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

The ultimate letdown. Sure, they have a much-talked-about leader but they also have all the skills they don’t need. When the time came to do or die, Upham didn’t even have the nerve to die. There’s always next year, but some of the guys on their roster won’t be around for it. Whose fault is that?

Tennessee Titans- PFC Blackburn, Black Hawk Down

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

You fell out of a helicopter before the fighting even started and you stayed down the whole time. You brought a lot of people down with you. A new QB made everyone feel like the Titans were a new, fresh team. There was hope. Then it all became a mess. Also, all the football references in Black Hawk Down are great reminders of the Titans’ most famous one yard line play.

Washington Redskins – The 54th Massachusetts Infantry, Glory

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season

No one expected much from Washington this year. Despite every bad thing said about them, the Voldemorts of the NFL showed up to play every game of the season, finishing 9-7 and winning the NFC East. In their next battle, they’ll be mercilessly thrown at a formidable opponent and their leader will probably be taken down with them.

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The Air Force is running out of pilots

While the Air Force has gotten the F-35A to its initial operating capability, the service is having a ton of other problems — problems that could place the ability of the United States to control the air in doubt.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the service is short by about 700 pilots and 4,000 mechanics. This is not a small issue. A shortage of well-trained pilots can be costly.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
F-16s fly beside a KC-135 during a refueling mission over Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Preston Cherry)

In World War II, the United States had a strict policy of rotating experienced pilots back to the states. This is why John Thach, the inventor of the Thach Weave, had only seven kills in World War II, according to Air University’s ace pilots list.

He was sent back to train the pilots needed to fly the hundreds of F6F Hellcats and F4U Corsairs. By contrast, Japan kept pilots on the front line until they were shot down or badly wounded. It cost them experience.

Maintenance personnel also matter. A fighter on the flight line does no good if it can’t fly, and the mechanics are the folks who keep it functional. The thing is, no mechanic — no matter how good he or she is — can fix two planes at once.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Senior Airman Clay Thomas, a 355th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron load crew member, loosens paneling screws from an A-10C at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., Oct. 24, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ashley N. Steffen)

So why is the United States Air Force facing this much of a shortage? An Air Force release notes that the decline took place over the last ten years, but was exacerbated by the sequestration cuts of 2011.

“The risk of manpower shortage is masked and placed on the backs of Airmen,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in that release. “Because if you go back and look at the data and the way we measure readiness, did we taxi? Yes. Did we launch? Yes. Did we make the deployed destination and accomplish the mission? Yes.”

But accomplishing the mission came at a price, Goldfein explained. “What’s masked is the fact that the shortage of people has fundamentally changed the way we do business in terms of the operational risk day to day.”

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Airman 1st Class Zachary Bradley (left) and Airman Joseph Glenn, 20th Equipment Maintenance Squadron aircraft structural maintenance apprentices, remove leading edge tape prior to painting an F-16CM at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Dec. 14, 2016. Leading edge tape serves as a repellent against rain and prevents the F-16’s wing edges and tail flaps from rusting and corroding. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Christopher Maldonado)

When asked for a comment by the writer, Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness said,

“I’m not aware of an official survey to confirm what may be going on, but it appears that the mystique of being an [Air Force] pilot has been eroded by a combination of budget cuts and social agendas; e.g., Air Force Secretary Deborah James’ Diversity Initiative Fact Sheet. Mandates such as this clearly indicate that qualifications and high standards are not very important, and certain types of applicants need not apply.”

Donnelly also pointed to aircraft readiness issues in the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the many aging airframes in the U.S. inventory.

Also of note – FoxNews.com noted that in 1991, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons. Today, there are only 55, marking a reduction of 59% in the number of fighter squadrons.

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6 weapons that allow the US to strike anywhere in the world

When America decides to strike back at a threat, it has a lot of response options. Here are 6 of the weapons that allow the U.S. to hit an enemy from across the planet:


1. Nuclear submarines

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: US Navy

The Navy uses three kinds of stealthy nuclear submarines to carry out missions around the world. Attack submarines hunt enemy vessels but can also launch cruise missiles at land targets, guided missile subs carry up to 154 cruise missiles to strike land targets, and fleet ballistic missile submarines carry nuclear missiles that can wipe out entire cities.

2. B-2

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: US Air Force Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III

The B-2 stealth bomber is capable of piercing enemy air defense networks because of its stealthy design. Even if enemies do spot it, missiles have trouble engaging the aircraft due to its reduced infrared, acoustic, electromagnetic, visual, and radar signatures.

3. Aircraft carriers

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: US Navy Lt. j.g. David Babka

Always a favorite, aircraft carriers are floating bases that launch strike aircraft and provide a command center for naval forces. As the Navy likes to brag, they are “So big they carry their own zip code.” The Navy currently has 10 Nimitz-class carriers in active service and is bringing the first of the larger, more capable Ford-class carriers online this year.

4. Minuteman III missiles

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: US Air Force Airman 1st Class Yvonne Morales

The Air Force’s Minuteman III missiles are focused on one mission: nuclear strikes. They have a range of 6,000 miles and each can carry up to three 335-kiloton warheads. Under the START II treaty, the 400 active missiles are currently equipped with one warhead each. There are another 50 unarmed missiles held in reserve.

5. Special operators

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
MARSOC Raiders conduct swim training. Photo: US Marine Corps Sgt. Donovan Lee

While special operators aren’t a weapon per se, their skills give America a useful option when it comes to striking enemy targets. Operators are capable of swimming, jumping, or rucking to target areas and conducting high stakes missions on short notice. Green berets rode horses into Afghanistan when the U.S. began the war there and SEALs flew into Pakistan in helicopters to get Osama Bin Laden.

6. B-1 “BONE” Lancer

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: US Air Force Airman First Class Keven Tanenbaum

The B-1 Lancer began its career as a nuclear bomber but switched to a conventional role during the 1990s. Ground troops know it as the “BONE” and love it for its huge bomb bays, long loiter times, and ability to quickly drop bombs on target when requested.

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SOCOM Chief: Yemen raid wasn’t hastily planned

Reports that the Jan. 19 special operations intelligence-gathering raid in Yemen that left a Navy SEAL and 30 local civilians dead and six more troops injured was a result of hasty planning are “absolutely incorrect,” the head of U.S. Special Operations Command said Tuesday.


Army Gen. Raymond Thomas briefly addressed reporters after speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict conference outside Washington, D.C. He declined to go into operational details but emphasized that such raids are common and infrequently reported.

Related: How SEALs were caught in ‘ferocious’ firefight during Yemen counter-terrorism raid

The White House has maintained that the raid, which resulted in the first military casualty of President Donald Trump’s administration, was well-planned and executed, but multiple news outlets have cited military sources complaining that the raid was hastily assembled and poorly planned.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
General Raymond A. Thomas III | Creative Commons photo

Thomas told Military.com he does not categorize such operations as successes or failures, a hotly debated question surrounding the Yemen operation. He said discussion of the raid lacked the context of the frequency of such U.S. operations around the world.

“I don’t think that there’s awareness in the great American public that we’re a country at war, that ISIL and al-Qaida are in countless countries,” he said, using an acronym for the Islamic State. “That an operation like Yemen is what goes on any given night out there. And unfortunately it wasn’t in that context.”

Instead, he said the operation has only been reported and considered in terms of the death of Chief Special Warfare Operator Ryan Owens and the loss of an MV-22 Osprey that suffered a hard landing while transporting troops.

“But in context, I think America needs to know we’re in a tough fight right now,” Thomas said. “We’re making progress, but unless we get governance on the backside of our military efforts, this is going to be a long struggle.”

Thomas, who replaced Army Gen. Joseph Votel as head of SOCOM last March, repeatedly declined to comment on the workings and decision-making of the Trump administration.

But, speaking just hours after news broke late Monday night that retired Army Gen. Michael Flynn had resigned as national security adviser after 24 days in the position, he gave a nod to the tumult at the highest levels of leadership.

“Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope we sort it out soon, because we’re a country at war,” he said.

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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.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
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.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
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.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
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 is why the US is considering sending weapons to Ukraine

US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said August 24 the Trump administration is considering supplying weapons to Ukraine after a meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev.


Mattis said he would return to the United States and advise leaders on what he learned during his visit to Ukraine.

Mattis’ trip is the first by a US defense secretary to Ukraine in more than a decade.

The meeting comes after US Treasury Department in June announced it would add 38 more individuals and entities to the Office of Foreign Assets Control’s list of those sanctions due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
A Ukrainian soldier with the 1st Battalion, 28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade fires a modified DSHsK heavy machine gun to cover the advance of fellow 1-28 soldiers during a live-fire training exercise. Photo by Sgt. Anthony Jones

The move is an attempt to pressure Russia into following Minsk Protocol cease-fire agreement.

Mattis said the United States will continue to pressure Russia because it is “seeking to redraw international borders by force.” The Pentagon chief said the United States will continue to pressure Russia until Moscow changes its behavior.

“The US and our allies will continue to press Russia to honor its Minsk commitments and our sanctions will remain in place until Moscow reverses the actions that triggered them,” Mattis said.

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Beware of the 19-year-old pissed off Marine

On January 30, 1968, John Ligato and about 150 fellow Marines from Alpha Company experienced hell on Earth.


They were awakened in the middle of the night by their company commander and sent to nearby Hue City in Vietnam to help the troops of an overrun compound.

Related: 8 of the most terrifying Vietnam War booby traps

When they finally arrived, they were greeted with cheers. The troops of the MACV Compound had just repelled an enemy surge within their walls.

“They had been through hell, and they thought we were there to save the day, but little did we know the numerical numbers of NVA there,” Ligato said in the video below.

Ligato and his ill-equipped company were walking into a deathtrap against nine battalions of highly-trained North Vietamese soldiers, outnumbering each man by a few hundred.

“Most of us thought we’d never get out,” Ligato said.

The odds were against them, but miraculously, they pulled through. Ligato sums up the company’s success with this quote:

Americans Adapt. We Improvise. The most ferocious fighting machine the world has ever seen is a 19-year-old pissed off Marine. Because you’ll take that kid from Detroit or Mississippi and you’ll train him in Marine Corps boot camp, and you’ll put him in a situation that’s foreign to him, and he will adapt and improvise and become that situation and deal with it.

Watch John Ligato tell his harrowing experience in this 3-minute American Heroes Channel video:

American Heroes Channel, YouTube
Articles

Duncan Hunter petitions Mattis to approve Medal of Honor for fallen Marine

Congressman Duncan Hunter is urging the new secretary of defense to re-examine the case of Sgt. Rafael Peralta, a Marine who died in house-to-house fighting during the 2004 Battle of Fallujah.


In a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the Republican congressman wrote that it is his hope “that we can finally give Sergeant Peralta the recognition he deserves.”

Also read: Mattis’ first message to the troops shows his leadership style

In 2008, the Marine Corps recommended Peralta for the Medal of Honor after fellow Marines told investigators the 25-year-old sergeant jumped on a grenade and shielded them from the blast after he was mortally wounded by insurgent fire. The recommendation went all the way up to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who initially approved it, before rescinding the decision amid an inspector general’s complaint.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Marine Corps Portrait of Rafael Peralta

An independent review panel later found that the grenade did not detonate beneath Peralta’s body. Peralta’s award was downgraded to the Navy Cross. And years later, in 2014, a number of witnesses came forward to The Washington Post to say they had embellished the original story.

Still, Hunter has been fighting for years to get the Pentagon to upgrade the award to the nation’s highest honor. Two other defense secretaries, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel, declined to overturn Gates’ ruling.

“Multiple eyewitnesses conveyed that from their respective fields of view, Peralta initiated several movements toward the grenade and pulled it into his body,” Hunter wrote. “In the spirit and tradition of the Medal of Honor, these eyewitness accounts are exceedingly sufficient, but they were overridden based on questionable forensic evidence assembled by Pentagon bureaucrats.”

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Secretary of Defense James Mattis greets U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after arriving at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Jan. 21, 2017. (DOD photo by Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley)

Hunter is optimistic that Mattis, the former commander of 1st Marine Division, will look into the case. Hunter told the San Diego Union-Tribune Mattis had originally signed off on the Medal of Honor award recommendation before it went up to Gates.

“I believe you have the right perspective and familiarity with the facts to make an informed judgment on this matter,” he wrote. “Even more so, you have the courage to do what’s right where others have been too sensitive to internal Pentagon politics.”

The public affairs office for the defense secretary did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Articles

Here’s how female grads of Armor Leader Course overcame skeptics

Instructors at the U.S. Army‘s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course said they would serve under the first 13 female lieutenants who graduated the course “in a heartbeat.”


“They blew us away during our field training exercises,” said Staff Sgt. William Hare, an instructor at the course. “Their ability to plan, adapt on the fly and execute that plan in a clear and concise manner and communicate plan changes on the go — it was amazing.”

Also read: First 10 women graduate from Infantry Officer Course

Hare was among a handful of instructors and leaders who spoke to reporters about the first gender-integrated class of ABOLC that graduated 53 male and 13 female officers at Fort Benning, Georgia, on Thursday.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Students from the Armor Basic Leader Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, train during a combined competitive maneuver exercise at Benning’s Good Hope Training Area on Nov. 16, 2016. | U.S. Army photo

Two women and six men did not meet the standards and will recycle, Benning officials said. Two males were medically dropped from the course.

This is the latest step in the Army’s effort to integrate women into combat arms jobs such as armor and infantry.

In late October, 10 female lieutenants graduated from the first gender-integrated class of Infantry Officer Basic Leaders Course at Benning.

And in August 2015, Capt. Kristen Griest and 1st Lt. Shaye Haver became the first women to graduate Army Ranger School. Maj. Lisa A. Jaster became the third woman to graduate from Ranger School two months later.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter in December 2015 ordered all military jobs, including special operations, opened to women. His directive followed a 2013 Pentagon order that the military services open all positions to women by early 2016.

Thursday’s graduation of the 13 female officers from ABOLC is “consistent with what you have seen over the last 18 months,” said Maj. Gen. Eric Wesley, commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Benning.

“We always knew that when we entered this effort that we wanted the process to be standards-based,” Wesley said. “In the case of Ranger School, we wanted to make sure there were clear objective standards to determine qualification to become a Ranger. In terms of IBOLC the same thing — it was all standards-based. And now, in the armor community, we have done the same thing.”

The 13 female graduates performed as well as their male counterparts on the High Physical Demands Test, a series of tasks designed to validate that any soldier serving in an MOS has “the right physical attributes to perform in that particular military occupational specialty,” said Brig. Gen. John Kolasheski, commandant of the Armor School at Benning.

“It’s gender-neutral, and they performed at the same rate as their male peers in all of those tasks.”

The new graduates now will go to the Army Reconnaissance Course at Benning. After that, some will go to Airborne School and Ranger School before being assigned to operational units, Benning officials said.

Once they leave Benning, female combat arms officers are being assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Staff Sgt. George Baker, another instructor at ABOLC, said he had his doubts initially about women in the armor community.

“There was some skepticism at first, just to see can they do it … but as soon as they started performing to those same standards — because we didn’t change anything and they performed to those same standards, and they met and exceeded those same standards — it solidified that they have a place here,” Baker said.

Articles

Here’s a way for military families to get their taxes done for free

With the tax season upon us, service members and their families can access free tax-filing software and consultations to help them navigate the task of submitting their annual taxes.


Military members and their families can visit the Military OneSource website or call 1-800-342-9647 for the no-cost “MilTax” software, explained Erika Slaton, a program analyst with Military OneSource.

The Defense Department recognizes military members and their families have unique filing situations with deployments, relocations and various deductions and credits, she said.

Related: DoD extends online military exchange shopping privileges to veterans

The MilTax software, previously known as “Military OneSource Tax Services,” was created with the military situation in mind, Slaton said.

Expert Tax Consultants Ready to Help

Tax consultants are available via phone through Military OneSource, Slaton said. In-person tax filing assistance can be accessed at military installations at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance location.

The tax consultants can inform eligible users about the unique tax benefits available to service members and their families, Slaton said.

Tax laws change each year, Slaton pointed out, adding MilTax consultants are experts on the nuances of the law and can help users get the tax credits they earned and deserve.

“That’s why it’s such a great program because it is a program that is specifically designed for those unique military tax situations,” she said.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Airman Aubrey White

Confidential, Secure Resources

MilTax is confidential and secure, Slaton said. The online filing program allows users to submit a federal return and up to three state tax returns, she said.

Those eligible for MilTax include members of the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines and National Guard. Coast Guardsmen serving under Title 10 authority are entitled to the services as well. Retired and honorably discharged members are authorized for up to 180 days past their separation. Spouses, dependent children and survivors are able to use the free services as well.

Calculations are backed by a 100-percent accuracy guarantee, Slaton said.

The deadline to file taxes this year is Tuesday, April 18. The traditional tax deadline day is April 15, but it falls on a Saturday this year, and the following Monday, April 17, is Emancipation Day, in the District of Columbia — a legal holiday — according to the IRS.

Call, Click, Connect

Slaton wants the military community to know about the range of services and resources available at no cost through the Defense Department-funded Military OneSource, including related to health, family relationships, education, employment, financial issues, deployments and transitions.

Military members and their families, she said, can “call, click and connect today” to access these services.

“We encourage service members and their families to learn more about Military OneSource, MilTax and all of the services that are available because it is a benefit that they deserve,” she said.

Articles

Here are the best military photos of the week

The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:


AIR FORCE:

When the check engine light comes on… U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Jeremiah Davidson with the 153rd Maintenance Group, Wyoming Air National Guard replaces a turbine overheat detector on a C-130H Hercules aircraft, Sep. 26, 2016 in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. Charles Delano

Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron conduct a post-flight systems check on an E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System Oct. 20, 2016, following a mission supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. JSTARS uses its communications and radar systems to support ground attack units and direct air support throughout the area of responsibility.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Miles Wilson

ARMY:

1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division Soldiers buddy-carry a simulated casualty to a casualty collection point during training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., Nov. 11, 2016.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nikayla Shodeen

4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division paratroopers evacuate a simulated casualty during training conducted by U.S. Army Alaska at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Nov. 8, 2016.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Army photo by Justin Connaher

NAVY:

CORONADO, Calif. (Nov. 14, 2016) The brightest moon in almost 69 years sets behind the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). The ship is moored and homeported in San Diego. It is undergoing a scheduled Planned Maintenance Availability.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Abe McNatt

ARABIAN GULF (Nov. 14, 2016) An F/A-18F Super Hornet assigned to the Fighting Swordsmen of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 32 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). The ship and its Carrier Strike Group are deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan T. Beard

MARINE CORPS:

An AV-8B Harrier assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 223 conducting an aerial refuel near Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Nov. 15, 2016.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Air Force photo by Lance Cpl. Anthony J. Brosilow from MCAS Cherry Point.

Dr. Ernest James Harris, Jr., a Montford Point Marine, received the Congressional Gold Medal on November 12.

“Anyone who knows a Marine, knows they are a Marine regardless of race, religion or creed and nowhere this is truer than in war.”

—U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Marine Corps photo

COAST GUARD:

Here is a portrait of one of our many courageous shipmates from Air Station Miami.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Hoisting operations. Thumbs up.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
U.S. Coast Guard photo

Articles

This submachine gun looked homemade, but it killed lots of Nazis

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
A British paratrooper wields a Sten gun during the D-Day invasion of Normandy. (U.K. Ministry of Defense photo)


It was a weapon that didn’t get any respect – at least as far as its nicknames are concerned.

In fact, some were downright insulting.  The more printable epithets include “The Woolworth Special,” “The Plumbers Delight” and “The Stench Gun.”

But there’s no doubt about it: The Sten gun was one of the most widely used submachine guns of World War II, even if it did look like it was made from leftover pieces of plumbing.

Alan Lee, a member of the Parachute Regiment during the war, said the weapon was best used for close-quarters combat.  In a section of 10 men in the Paras, Lee said, the sergeant and corporal always carried a Sten gun as did most of the officers.

“When you went into a village or went into a house, whatever it was, it was a reliable weapon,” he said in a video interview that is part of an oral history of World War II compiled by the National Army Museum in London. “It wasn’t a reliable instrument for anything over 100 yards, but for anything close-quarters, it was very reliable.”

Hastily contrived in the early, desperate days of WWII, the Sten was part of a last-ditch effort to arm British troops.

Terrified Britons knew they did not have enough weapons to repel a German invasion force.  The British lost thousands of small arms that were destroyed or simply abandoned after the devastating rout at Dunkirk.

But two British weapons designers – Maj. Reginald V. Shepherd and Harold J. Turpin – worked together to create a simple, blowback-operated submachine gun that could be quickly and cheaply made from machined steel.  The Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield produced a prototype – take the “S” from Shepherd, the “T” from Turpin and the “EN” from Enfield and you have the origin of the weapon’s name.

Produced in both Great Britain and Canada starting in 1941, the Sten was often quickly welded together, the slag filed off and the completed gun then thrown in a pile with others of its kind.  However, the Canadian-manufactured weapons often had better production quality, with smoother edges and better tolerances.

The Sten really did look like it was assembled from bits and pieces found in a hardware store – in fact, some of the Sten’s essential parts in early models such as springs were originally obtained from hardware manufacturers rather than from gunsmiths.

But it only took about five man-hours to make one weapon and the Sten cost about $10 to produce – about $130 a weapon today when you account for inflation.

When war broke out, the British purchased every American-made Thompson submachine gun they could get their hands on. But there were never enough.

The Thompson, which was the gold standard of submachine guns at the time, was beautifully made but also exceptionally expensive. In today’s dollars, it cost an eye-popping $2,300 per weapon to produce.

Combine the cost of the Thompson and the fact that early on bolt-action rifles from The Great War and hunting guns were often the only firearms available for some units and the Sten was hailed as a godsend.

The Brits and the Canadians manufactured more than 4 million Sten guns during World War II. In addition, partisan groups with access to machine shops often cranked out their own Sten gun copies because it was so easy to make.

It weighed seven pounds empty, nine pounds with a loaded magazine of 28 to 30 rounds. If kept clean and well-maintained it could be an excellent weapon capable of a devastating rate of fire.

Firing more than 500 rounds per minute (sometimes more, depending on the version), designers chambered the Sten for 9 mm Parabellum ammunition, which was the most commonly used pistol round in European militaries.  When pressed, a stud allowed the gunner to select semi-auto fire as well.

The choice of bullet was inspired. Users of the Sten usually had no trouble obtaining ammo for the gun wherever they used it, particularly if they raided German supply dumps.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Winston Churchill, no mean shot, was a fan of the Sten gun. Here he is seen test-firing a Sten at the range.

Tens of thousands of Stens were parachute dropped to partisans in Europe and Asia for use against the Germans and Japanese. Suppressed versions of the weapon were also available for covert operations.

Early versions of the Sten were far from perfect. Early versions also had two annoying habits: Jamming (common when the magazine lips were damaged or the weapon was dirty) or firing uncontrollably in full-auto when simply bumped or jostled.

However, the Sten improved with age, particularly after the British invasion panic subsided and weapons were made with an eye toward better craftsmanship.

It also gained a deadly reputation.  Lightweight, compact and even concealable, it was often used by British airborne or glider-borne forces.

There even were some units in the British Army that continued to use Sten guns through the 1960s. What’s more, militaries around the world held on to the Sten – including U.S. Army Special Forces that used suppressed models of the submachine gun during the Vietnam War.

 

Articles

Vladimir Putin’s Extraordinary Path From Soviet Slums To The World Stage

Vladimir Putin may be the wild card in world affairs right now, but he didn’t gain that influence overnight.


The Russian President’s ascension to power is filled with spies, armed conflicts, oligarchs, oil and (of course) judo.

So here’s how a onetime “nobody” climbed up the ranks to become the “World’s Most Powerful Person.”

Vladimir Putin was born in Leningrad on Oct. 7, 1952.

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Putin, Age 4. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin is the only child of a decorated war veteran and factory worker in the slums of Leningrad. He grew up in a Soviet Union styled communal apartment with two other families — as was typical at the time.

Source: Encyclopedia, TIME

As a teen Putin worked at his school’s radio station, where he reportedly played music by the Beatles and other Western rock bands.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: Wikimedia

The photographer Platon — who took Putin’s infamous Time Magazine cover in 2007 — said that Paul is Putin’s favorite Beatle, and “Yesterday” is his favorite song.

However, “by [Putin’s] own account, his favorite songs are Soviet standards, not Western rock. He has been deeply conservative his whole life,” Karen Dawisha wrote in her new book, “Putin’s Kleptocracy.”

Source: Encyclopedia

Early on in life, Putin got into judo. He was his university’s judo champion in 1974.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: Jedimentat44/Flickr

Former deputy finance minister and first deputy chairman of the Central Bank Sergey Alaksashenko believes that Putin’s love of judo says something about his foreign policy.

“Unlike chess, a judo fighter should not wait for the opponent’s move. His strategy is to wait until he gets a chance to execute a single quick move — and then take a step back. Successful judo fighters must anticipate their opponents’ actions, make a decisive, preemptive move and try to disable them,” he wrote in the Moscow Times.

Source: Encyclopedia

He also really loved spy novels and TV shows — especially one about a Soviet double agent.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Fictional character Stierlitz, the double-spy, portrayed by Vyacheslav Tikhonov. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Putin reportedly loved the popular 1960s book series turned TV series “17 Moments of Spring” starring the Soviet double-agent Max Otto von Stierlitz (né Vsevolod Vladimirovich Vladimirov) who rose up the ranks into Nazi elite during World War II.

Putin said about the series: “What amazed me most of all was how one man’s effort could achieve what whole armies could not.”

Source: Putin: Russia’s Choice 

And in a moment of life imitating art, in 1985 the KGB sent Putin to Dresden, East Germany where he lived undercover as a “Mr. Adamov.”

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
A former KGB prison in Potsdam. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Reportedly, Putin mastered the German language so well that he could imitate regional dialects. Unlike most KGB agents, Putin liked hanging out with Germans. He was particularly fond of the “German discipline.”

But how exactly Putin spent his time in East Germany is relatively unknown. According to the Kremlin, he was awarded the bronze medal “For Faithful Service to the National People’s Army.”

Source: Newsweek

In 1989 the Berlin wall fell, and within a year Putin was back in Leningrad where he took a job under the first democratic mayor of Leningrad, Anatoly Sobchak (who was Putin’s former law professor.)

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
The Berlin Wall at the Brandenburg Gate. (Photo: Wikimedia)

By 1991, Putin officially resigned from the KGB’s active reserve.

Sobchak took his former student with him into office, and thus Putin began a life in public government work.

Source: Kremlin

There’s a group of St. Petersburg democrats who believe that Putin was assigned to the mayor’s office by the KGB … but there is no definitive proof.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Anatoly Sobchak, standing. (Photo: Wikimedia)

For the most part, people didn’t really care either way because they knew that they “were under surveillance” in general at the time, according to Newsweek.

Publically, Putin has never tried to deny his involvement with the KGB.

Source: Newsweek

While working under the Leningrad mayor, Putin earned the nickname “Gray Cardinal” and was “the man to see if things needed to get done.”

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: Wikimedia

Putin was always behind the scenes and kept a low profile. Reportedly, he was “the man to see if things needed to get done” and “Sobchak’s indispensable man.”

Source: Barbarians of Wealth: Protecting Yourself from Today’s Financial Attilas

Additionally, Putin was once investigated for “allegations of favoritism in granting import and export licenses.”

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: World Economic Forum/Flickr

… but the case was dismissed pretty quickly “due to lack of evidence.”

Back in the early 1990s, Putin was in charge of a deal where $100 million worth of raw materials would be exported in exchange for food for the citizens of St. Petersburg. Although the materials were exported, the St. Petersburg citizens never got the food.

Reportedly, Putin was the one who signed off on the deal — but the Kremlin denies this.

Source: Barbarians of Wealth: Protecting Yourself from Today’s Financial Attilas

When Sobchak lost the re-election for mayor, the victor offered Putin a job. However, Putin turned it down saying: “It’s better to be hanged for loyalty than be rewarded for betrayal.”

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Putin and Yakovlev meeting again in the future, 2000. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Putin was the campaign manager for Sobchak’s re-election. Vladimir Yakovlev, who had the support of the powerful Moscow mayor, ran against Sobchak and won. He offered Putin a gig in his office, but Putin declined it.

Source: Newsweek

Next up: the big leagues. In 1996 Putin and his family relocated to Moscow, where he quickly climbed up the ladder and became the head of the FSB.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Putin as the FSB director, dated January 1, 1998. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Putin held a variety jobs in Moscow from 1996 to 1999, eventually ending up as the head of the FSB (aka the KGB’s successor.)

“In July 1998, Yeltsin named Putin head of the FSB, the successor agency to the KGB. It was a job the president would have given only to the most trusted of aides,” according to Newsweek.

Source: Kremlin

Interestingly, Putin isn’t particularly fond of Moscow. He considers it to be “a European city.”

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: Wikimedia

utin has said about the Russian capital: “I can’t say that I didn’t love Moscow. I just loved St. Petersburg more. But Moscow, it’s completely obvious — it’s a European city.”

Source: Kremlin

 

And on top of his rapid career growth, Putin allegedly still found time to defend his economics thesis.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
St Petersburg Mining Institute. (Photo: Wikimedia)

“Despite the workload, in 1997 he defended his Ph.D thesis in economics in the St. Petersburg State Mining Institute,” according to the Kremlin.

However, Putin’s economics expertise has been called into question.

The man who used to be the “Kremlin’s Banker,” Sergei Pugachev, said: “Vladimir Putin does not understand economics. He does not like it. It is dry. It’s boring to hear these reports, to read them.”

Source: Kremlin

In August 1999, President Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin the prime minister. One month later, Putin’s popularity rating was at 2%.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Boris Yeltsin, then-president and Putin, then-prime minister, in December 1999. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Putin was the fifth Prime Minister in less than two years, and nobody believed Yeltsin when he declared Putin as his successor.

In fact, everyone was expecting Yevgeny Primakov to be the next president because he had a more impressive career and was a “friend of everyone from Madeleine Albright to Saddam Hussein.”

Source: Newsweek

And then — seemingly out of nowhere — Yelstin stepped down as president and named Putin the acting president on New Year’s in 1999.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Boris Yeltsin being awarded the Order of Merit for the Fatherland 1st Class, 2001. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Many people believed that Yeltsin propelled Putin to presidency in order to protect himself: The war in Chechnya was starting to curdle, and his ratings were starting to drop.

Interestingly, one of Putin’s first moves was to pardon Yeltsin “immunity from criminal or administrative investigations, including protection of his papers, residence and other possessions from search and seizure.”

Source: New York Times

In his first speech as acting president, Putin promised freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, freedom of the press, the right to private property …

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Putin’s first public speech as Russia’s Acting President, December 31,1999. (Photo: YouTube)

The exact quote from his speech is:

“I want to warn that by any attempts to go beyond the Russian laws, beyond the Constitution of Russia, will be strongly suppressed. Freedom of speech. Freedom of conscience. Freedom of mass media. Property rights. These basic principles of the civilized society will be safe under the protection of the state.

You can watch the whole speech here on YouTube.

During his first presidential term, Putin focused primarily on domestic affairs. He had two items on the agenda: the war with Chechnya and the Yeltsin-era oligarchs.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Alexei Makhotin, an internal service colonel who fought in Chechnya, being given the title the title of Hero of Russia at a state award ceremony. (Photo: Wikimedia)

Putin inherited Russia during a particularly complicated time. The country was in the midst of a conflict with Chechnya — a region that’s officially considered a Russian subject.

Additionally, Yeltsin-era oligarchs were increasingly interested in expanding their political influence.

Source: The Guardian

Putin recognized that the Yeltsin-era oligarchs had the potential to be more powerful than him … so he struck a deal with them.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Boris Berezovsky. (Photo: AJ Berezovsky/Flickr)

“In July of [2000], Putin told the oligarchs that he would not interfere with their businesses or renationalize state resources as long as they stayed out of politics — that is, as long as they did not challenge or criticize the president,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

Source: The Council on Foreign RelationsThe Guardian.

And then Putin established his reputation as a “man of action” with his handling of the Second Chechen War.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
A farewell ceremony for the 331st Airborne Regiment of the 98th Airborne Division withdrawn from Chechnya. (Photo: Wikimedia)

In 2002, a Moscow theatre was seized by 40 Chechen militants, who were led by the warlord Movsar Barayev, and 129 out of the 912 hostages died during this three-day ordeal.

This was a critical moment for Putin, and many expected his domestic approval to plummet. But his “ruthless handling of the siege and his refusal to negotiate with the hostage-takers further shored up his reputation as a man of action.”

His approval rating was up at 83% after it was all over.

Source: BBC

In 2004, Putin was re-elected for a second term. He continued to focus on domestic affairs, but drew major criticisms for his crackdowns on the media.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: Wikimedia

Journalist Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in her apartment lobby after she wrote about corruption in the Russian army with respect to Chechnya. Many in the Western media criticized Putin for failing to protect the media.

Those accused of the murder “testified that Akhmed Zakayev and Boris Berezovksy (one of the Yeltsin-era oligarchs) could be the clients, who ordered the murder of Anna Politkovskaya,” according to TASS.

Source: Independent

But overall, Putin was well-liked. During his first two terms, the Russian economy grew at an incredible rate.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
The Russian economy since the fall of the Soviet Union. (Photo: Wikimedia)

During Putin’s first two terms, Russia’s GDP went up 70%, and investments went up by 125%.

“Russia’s GDP in 2007 reached the 1990 level, which means that the country has overcome the consequences of the economic crisis that devastated the 1990s,” following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But Putin’s Russia was really lucky in that the country largely relied on oil. (The recent drop in oil prices reflects how much of a difference it makes.)

Source: Sputnik News

In 2008, Dmitry Medvedev was elected president. One day later, he made Putin the new Prime Minister … And then Russia got clobbered by the financial crisis.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Medvedev and Merkel in 2008. (Photo: Wikimedia)

When the global financial crisis hit, things got really got bad. The Russian economy was slammed particularly hard because it relied heavily on Western investment.

Additionally, the financial crisis really showed just how dependent the Russian economy is on oil and gas, and how intertwined the industry was with the country’s political economy, according to the Brookings Institute.

Source: Brookings Institute

In that same year, Russia got involved in a five-day international conflict — the Russo-Georgian War.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Border between Russia and Georgia. (Photo: Wikimedia)

The Russo-Georgia conflict involving Russia, Georgia, and the two regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The two regions have been trying to get formal independence since the 1990s — Russia recognizes the independence, which has been condemned by Western nations.

“After the 2008 conflict, Moscow declared that it would formally recognize the independence of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russia’s allies Nicaragua and Venezuela followed suit, as did a number of small Pacific island states,” according to the BBC.

Internationally, South Ossetia is still considered to be “officially part of Georgia.” And Georgia considers Abkhazia to be a “breakaway region.”

Source: BBC

Fast forward to 2012: Putin wins his third presidential election with 63.6% of the vote. (This one’s a six-year term, rather than four.)

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Putin’s 2012 inauguration. (Photo: Wikimedia)

There was some controversy over this election. The constitutionality of his third term was called into question, and critics believed that there was electoral fraud.

However, officially, Putin registered nearly 64% of the vote.

Source: The Guardian

Two years later, in March 2014, Putin annexed Crimea in one of the most complicated and controversial geopolitical moves of the year.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Ceremony signing the laws on admitting Crimea and Sevastopol to Russia, 21 March 2014. (Photo: Wikimedia)

The ousted Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych “sent a letter to” Putin “requesting that he use Russia’s military to restore law and order in Ukraine.”

The Russian Parliament granted Putin “broad authority to use military force in response to the political upheaval in Ukraine that dislodged a Kremlin ally and installed a new, staunchly pro-Western government, the Ukrainian government in Kiev threatened war if Russia sent troops further into Ukraine,” reported The New York Times.

On March 2, Russia took complete control of Crimea, and on March 16, an “overwhelming majority” of Crimeans voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.

Source: NBC News

Most recently, Putin has started exploring a relationship with China — mostly because Russia needs other trading partners following the Western sanctions.

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: Wikimedia

Russia has a deal to build a $70 billion gas pipeline with China. The two nations are also considering building “a high-speed rail line thousands of kilometers from Moscow to Beijing.”

“Isolated over Ukraine, Russia is relying on China for the investment it needs to avert a recession,” three people involved in policy planning told Bloomberg.

Source: Bloomberg News

No one’s quite sure what Putin’s next move will be, but since he’s considering a fourth term, we may be seeing much more from him until at least 2024 …

These war movie characters describe your NFL team’s performance during the regular season
Photo: Wikimedia

Back when Putin was a deputy mayor in St. Petersburg, his inner circle cronies referred to him as “Boss.” Today, they refer to him as “Tsar,” and Forbes just named him the most powerful person in 2014.

And there’s no telling what people will call him next.

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