Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

In early July, the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center became the first VA facility to participate in an international clinical trial evaluating the therapeutic benefit of an immunomodulator drug, Tocilizumab (TCZ), as a treatment for Veterans with COVID-19 severe pneumonia.

“COVID-19 is known to cause extensive damage in the lungs,” said Dr. Lavannya Pandit, a Houston VA pulmonologist and critical care physician who is a co-investigator in the study. “This often leads to difficulty breathing and, eventually, pneumonia. Pneumonia triggers a hyperimmune response that we are seeing can be more detrimental to some patients than the original infection.”


Medical personnel have used TCZ successfully to treat hyperimmune responses in cancer patients. The trial results will help determine if TCZ has a similar effect in patients who are diagnosed with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

The clinical trial is a randomized, placebo-controlled study. Both the investigator and participant are blinded to who is receiving the TCZ treatment. Eligible participants are patients who are in the hospital and who chest imaging has confirmed has severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

Veterans at Houston VA very willing to step up

Medical personnel will monitor Veterans in a clinical environment for their responses to the treatment. Responses may include disease progression, the duration of hospitalization and the need for critical care and other supportive treatments.

“VA offers cutting-edge treatments and top quality care for Veterans with COVID-19,” said Dr. Barbara Trautner. Trautner is a faculty member at the Behavioral Health Program, Center for Innovations in Quality, Effectiveness and Safety at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.

“Participating in this clinical trial allows our Veterans the opportunity to contribute to scientific progress,” she said. “So far, Veterans at the Houston VA have been very willing to step up and volunteer. We enrolled eight Veterans in the first three days of the study.”

Trial taking place in more than 50 locations

“The treatments we offer for COVID-19 three months from now will be very different than what we offer today because of scientific trials like this,” said Trautner.

In addition to Houston VA, the trial is taking place in more than 50 locations across the United States, Europe and Canada, including at the Baylor College of Medicine.

“I always find it an honor and privilege to care for our Veterans who have served our country,” Trautner said. “The Veterans we are enrolling in this study are eager to join the fight against COVID-19, and we are happy to provide them this opportunity and do our part.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

Articles

5 surprising facts you probably didn’t know about the French Foreign Legion

1. Legionnaires are instilled with a “fight to the death” attitude. Giving up is not really an option.

In April 1863, a battle between the French Foreign Legion and the Mexican army showed how effective and ballsy legionnaires really could be. With a total of just 65 men, the legionnaires fought back against a force of approximately 3,000 at the Battle of Camarón. Despite the overwhelming odds, the small patrol of legionnaires inflicted terrible losses on the Mexican forces and they refused to surrender.


Instead, their French officers actually called on the larger Mexican force to surrender multiple times. Holed up inside of a hacienda, only five men remained able to fight (most were killed or wounded) — and incredibly — mounted a bayonet charge against the opposing force, until they were ultimately surrounded and forced to surrender.

“Is this all of them? Is this all of the men who are left?” a Mexican Major said at the time, according to the book Camerone by James W. Ryan. “These are not men! They are demons!”

The Legion still celebrates and commemorates the battle today — and the wooden hand of their slain commander, Capt. Danjou, is the most prized possession at the Legion’s museum in Aubagne, writes Max Hastings.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

2. Legionnaires who are wounded are granted automatic French citizenship.

Though troops serving the Legion hail from 138 different countries, they can become French citizens eventually. After serving at least three years honorably, they can apply to be citizens. But they also have a much quicker path: If they are wounded on the battlefield, they can become citizens through a provision called “Français par le sang versé” (“French by spilled blood”), according to The Telegraph.

The French government allowed this automatic citizenship provision in 1999.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

3. More than 35,000 foreigners have been killed in action while serving with the Legion.

Throughout its history, the French Foreign Legion — and the fighters who make up its ranks — were seen as expendable. The foreigners who continue to join do so accepting the possibility of their death in a far-off place, in exchange for a new life with some sense of purpose. But meaningless sacrifice has gradually become a virtue in itself, according to a Vanity Fair article about the Legion.

“It’s like this,” an old legionnaire told William Langeweische of Vanity Fair. “There is no point in trying to understand. Time is unimportant. We are dust from the stars. We are nothing at all. Whether you die at age 15 or 79, in a thousand years there is no significance to it. So f–k off with your worries about war.”

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

4. The Legion used to accept anyone — criminals and misfits especially — with no questions, but now there is a thorough screening process.

Since its founding in 1831, the Legion has become the one place of escape for those with haunted pasts. Men with criminal records, shady business dealings, or deserters from their home country’s armies were accepted into the ranks, with no questions asked. Stripped of their old identity and given a new one, the new legionnaires are able to begin their new life with the slate wiped clean.

The legion will still accept deserters and other minor miscreants, but it’s not as easy as it once was. New recruits are given a battery of physical, intelligence, and psychological tests before they even get any kind of training. Later on in the process, recruits are screened for “motivation” in order to weed out those who don’t have the drive to make it in the ranks.

Some of the process was detailed by Simon Bennett at Vice:

Finally, after countless hours spent lingering in uncomfortable conditions, the only thing standing between us and a spot with the Legion was what was referred to as the “Gestapo.” Rumor had it that at this point, the Legion knew everything about you. The word Interpol is thrown around a lot—any financial, criminal, family, and employment background information is supposedly fair game. Call it a hunch, but I think that’s bullshit. Make no mistake, I believe someone, somewhere has access to all of that information. But a sweaty, apathetic French administration in a run-down, quasi-bureaucratic shithole in suburban Marseille isn’t that someone or somewhere. In any case, they called me in for an interrogation.

While they may not necessarily be running from their past when they join the Legion these days, all new legionnaires are still stripped of their old identities and given new ones, which they maintain for at least their first year of service.

“Legionnaires begin a new life when they join,” a legionnaire named Capt. Michel told NBC News. “Each and every one of them is allowed to keep his past a secret.”

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

5. The pay is terrible, and so are the benefits.

Legion recruiters could easily steal the infamous U.S. Marine Corps recruiting poster with the slogan, “We don’t promise you a rose garden.” The pay is terrible, as are the benefits, but that doesn’t seem to matter. Despite the promise of a very rough life and the possibility of being sent to fight anywhere, thousands continue to show up each year.

Legionnaires can expect deployments to austere environments and/or see plenty of combat. The Legion is currently in Afghanistan and Mali, for example.

Their starting pay is roughly $1450 per month for at least the first couple of years in. That’s a pretty small paycheck compared to the lowest-ranking U.S. Army soldier making $1546, which is guaranteed to go up to $1733 after being automatically promoted six months later (if they don’t get in trouble of course).

There is at least one bonus to the Legion if you fancy yourself a drinker: There’s plenty of booze. Even in a combat zone, legionnaires are drinking in their off time, and their culture of heavy drinking would make any frat-boy blush.

Veterans

6 ways to go full civilian after getting out

Attaining the DD-214 is a dream come true for some service members. For the first time in years one has unrestricted freedom. No more can someone deny your vacation days or send you to the brig for smoking a plant. You’ve fought hard to earn your freedom. America is jam-packed with so much freedom that its hard to decide where to begin at 1st Civilian Division. Here’s a hip pocket class on how to go full civilian after getting out.

1. Find yourself

You gave the military the best years of your life and it shows. A recently separated troop will talk endlessly about the service, stories of other troops and will ramble on about their adventures. It’s natural. However, civilians will not be able to relate. The first year of separation you will get to know all kinds of people. In the military you’re surrounded by troops who are guided by a strong moral compass, in the civilian world, that is not the case. Finding a new group to grow with and trust will take time.

Take your time to discover things about yourself by doing things you’ve always wanted. Scratching a few items off your bucket list is a good way to get the ball rolling and you’ll have new things to talk about with civilians. Some troops dye their hair, wake and bake, go to college, get a pet, start a business, etc. There are no limits to what you can and can’t do. You have the freedom to succeed, but buyer beware, you also now have the freedom to fail. Enjoy the world you helped protect but watch your six, too. Joining a veteran organization such as Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America or Veterans of Foreign Wars can help ease the transition by speaking with other veterans.

civilian beard
Nice.

2. Grow a beard

We all did it. Some of us grow a lion’s mane and other grow patches. Let ‘er rip! There is a massive online community for beards and civilians love them too.

3. Now that you’re a civilian, give the gym a break

Exercise is key to living a healthy life but now you can civilian it. In the service, physical fitness is mandatory. The stakes aren’t as high anymore. You can work out a few days a week, go ham and body build, or trash the whole routine. You’re the battalion commander of your life. I do a very light exercise routine a few days a week. When I was in the infantry, we would work out twice a day, five days a week. I’m done.

4. Get an unauthorized tattoo

civilian tattoo
The tattooed forearm of a sailor assigned to the Naval Training Center, Recruit Training Command.

You can get sleeves or your legs done now. Another benefit to becoming a civilian is you do not have to photograph your tattoos and hand them over to Uncle Sam. Don’t do anything crazy like getting a face tattoo for obvious reasons.

5. Take part in civilian fads and challenges

Give life a chance and participate in the fun everyone is having. Yes, fads and challenges are corny but when you do them with friends and family they’re fun. They are a great way to create new memories and you’ll have the videos and photos to look at years down the line. Even if you’re not into those sort of things its also a good way to keep tabs on your children from doing something dangerous – like the Tide Pod fiasco.

6. Register with the VA healthcare system

One very important step to becoming a civilian is to register with the VA Healthcare. It is an invaluable resource and its free. Over the years the VA has been improving the quality of care it renders veterans. In an emergency you can always visit the Emergency Room and enroll after the fact but its best to not put this off. The VA offers services such as disability ratings, a primary care doctor, eye exams, ER and urgent care, pharmacies and so much more. Civilians with pre-existing conditions pay an arm an a leg for what you’re eligible for. Take what is yours, you earned it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Oregon Veterans Home pleads for video messages to bring hope to residents in lockdown

The veterans currently living in the Lebanon Veterans Home in Lebanon, Oregon have walked through tough times. The majority of them are over 70 years old and around one third of them over 90. Many of them saw combat in the Korean War, Vietnam War and even World War II. They made it home from those wars only to have another show up at their doorstep at what should be a quiet time in their lives: COVID-19.

Trying to survive a global pandemic is their new war.


The Lebanon Veterans Home houses more than 145 veterans and some of their spouses. There have been 14 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the home, which has been wreaking havoc on the world. On Sunday March 22, 2020, a veteran of the home died from the disease. He was in his 90s and served this country with honor.

While the residents of the home continue to reel from the death of one of their friends and neighbors, the fight for their well-being is just beginning. The entire facility is now in complete lockdown with no visitors allowed. The residents are also now barred from doing group activities or even eating together anymore. In a sense, they are quarantined to their rooms. This is a traumatic change for these veterans and is causing a negative impact to their mental health.

The intensity of the response to combating COVID-19 for these veterans is due to all of them being considered high risk with their age and medical conditions. Although warranted to prevent the spread of this disease, the veterans are suffering in their isolation.

But the public can help change this.

IMG_2010

vimeo.com

Tyler Francke, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs spoke with We Are The Mighty to ask our readers for their help by submitting messages of hope, encouragement and gratitude via homemade videos. The veterans home has a closed-circuit TV that they can showcase the videos on. These videos would go a long way to let these veterans know they aren’t alone and they can make it through this tough season.

“The Lebanon Veterans’ Home is an amazing place,” Francke said, “and it’s all because of the dedicated and hard-working staff, and the incredible residents who live there. The men and women there are unbelievable. They’re our nation’s heroes, and yet, they ask for nothing. Instead, they do what they can to brighten your day. Around the Home, I know it’s become something of a rallying cry: ‘They fought for us, now we fight for them.’ I know there are a lot of people all around the community, the state and even the country who are pulling for them, and we just thought this would be one really cool way for everyone to show it.

Francke asked that people send 30-45 seconds of positive videos with big smiles and clear voices offering messages of support, encouragement and hope. These can easily be done on a cell phone and do not require any production.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Residents smile for a photo. Picture via Facebook.

These videos would take but a moment out of your day to make a veteran smile and bring hope to their hearts. This is a great project for kids to do while they’re in virtual learning. Many of the veterans have grandchildren and great-grandchildren they’re unable to see, and it’s a great way to teach your kids about history, service and selflessness.

These veterans sacrificed so much for America, help show them they haven’t been forgotten and that they can make it through this.

Videos should be submitted to: odvainformation@odva.state.or.us

MIGHTY TRENDING

The bizarre way Russia responded to the expulsion of its US diplomats

Russia is using Twitter to solicit suggestions for how to respond to President Donald Trump’s decision to expel 60 of its diplomats from the United States.


The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs began a crowdsourcing effort after the White House announced the expulsions along with plans to close the Russian consulate in Seattle.

Also read: 10 times Russian troll-bots fooled the West

In a tweet, the Russian foreign ministry’s Twitter account named three US diplomatic stations in Russia and asked users to choose which one they’d like closed.

The choices are the US consulate general in St. Petersburg, the consulate in Vladivostok, and the consulate in Yekaterinburg.

As of 11 a.m. ET, St. Petersburg was in the lead with about 1,600 of 3,400 votes.

The unorthodox approach to international relations follows a similar template to one used by Russia when it announced a new generation of nuclear and defense technology.

Related: Some guy is using Twitter to show where Russia has SAM sites in Syria

Early March 2018, the Russian Ministry of Defense asked people to choose between names for what it described as a new breed of hypersonic intercontinental ballistic missile:

The results have since been announced, and they decided that the new missile should be called Burevestnik, a type of bird. It narrowly beat Palmyra, a site of clashes in Syria between Russia and the Islamic State terrorist group, and Surprise.

More: Watch Russia’s radar-guided surface-to-air missile at work

It also reflects a broader tendency for Russian diplomatic channels to joke about international relations.

After Russia was accused of being behind the poisoning of a Russian former spy on British soil, the action that prompted the US to expel the Russian diplomats, Russia’s embassy in the UK tweeted that Agatha Christie’s fictional detective Hercule Poirot should be sent to figure out the truth.

Articles

Pentagon lifts ban on transgender troops serving openly in military

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
The Pentagon celebrates Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender Pride Month. | US Navy photo by Chad J. McNeeley


In another historic change for the military, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Thursday lifted the ban on transgender persons serving openly in the ranks, calling the move “the right thing to do” both practically and as a matter of principle.

Starting immediately, “Otherwise qualified service members can no longer be involuntarily separated, discharged, or denied re-enlistment or continuation of service just for being transgender,” he said at a Pentagon news conference. “Our military, and the nation it defends, will be stronger” as a result, he said.

The secretary said he was acting to ensure that the military of the future had access to the widest talent pool. “We don’t want barriers unrelated to a person’s qualification to serve preventing us from recruiting or retaining the soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine who can best accomplish the mission,” he said.

Another reason for lifting the ban was to end discrimination against those who are transgender and currently serving, Carter said.

He cited Rand Corp. statistics estimating that about 2,500 people out of approximately 1.3 million active-duty service members and about 1,500 out of about 825,000 reserve service members are transgender. The upper range estimates put the number of transgender persons on active duty at 7,000 and at 4,000 in the reserves, he said.

Most importantly, allowing transgender persons to serve openly was a matter of fairness and living up to the American principles of equal treatment and opportunity under the law, Carter said.

“Americans who want to serve and can meet our standards should be afforded the opportunity to compete to do so,” he said.

Carter quoted Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who said, “The United States Army is open to all Americans who meet the standard, regardless of who they are. Embedded within our Constitution is that very principle, that all Americans are free and equal.”

The lifting of the transgender ban was the latest in a series of rapid and wide-reaching social and cultural changes in the military going back to the 2011 action to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy against gays serving openly in the military and continuing through Carter’s move last January to lift restrictions on women serving in combat.

Critics have scorned the changes as “social engineering” that would impact readiness and the ability to fight, and the transitions have been adopted reluctantly by many in the upper ranks.

Significantly, Carter was standing alone at the podium when he made the transgender announcement. In matters of major policy statements, the defense secretary is usually joined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but Gen. Joseph Dunford was absent.

Dunford was also absent when Carter announced that he was opening combat military occupational specialties to women. As commandant, Dunford had urged closing some combat positions in the Marine Corps to women.

When asked about Dunford’s absence, Carter did not respond directly.

“This is my decision,” he said.

Carter said the decision was supported by the “senior leadership,” but did not say whether Dunford was included in the senior leadership.

Criticism of Carter’s action from Capitol Hill was immediate. Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the announcement as “the latest example of the Pentagon and the President prioritizing politics over policy.”

“Our military readiness — and hence, our national security — is dependent on our troops being medically ready and deployable,” Thornberry said. “The administration seems unwilling or unable to assure the Congress and the American people that transgender individuals will meet these individual readiness requirements at a time when our armed forces are deployed around the world.”

However, Carter had the authority to change the policy on his own, and it appeared that Congress could do little to block him. Thornberry was vague on whether Congress might seek to act. His statement said that “Congress would examine legislative options to address any readiness issues that might be associated with the new policy.”

OutServe-Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, or SLDN, a group supporting the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender military community, praised the lifting of the ban. “Transgender service members have been awaiting this announcement for months and years. It has been long overdue,” said Matt Thorn, executing director of the group.

Thorn said Carter “has given a breath of relief and overdue respect to transgender service members who have been and are currently serving our country with undeniable professionalism, the utmost respect and illustrious courage, with the caveat to do so silently. Today, we mark history, once again, by ending the need to serve in silence.”

Carter had made his position on the transgender ban clear last July, when he called the ban “outdated” and ordered a study on lifting it.

“I directed the working group to start with the presumption that transgender persons can serve openly without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified,” he said.

The study looked at other militaries that already allow transgender service members to serve openly. Currently, about 18 militaries allow transgender service, including those of Britain, Israel, Australia, Brazil and Chile.

Based on the analysis of other militaries, Rand concluded that there would be “minimal readiness impacts from allowing transgender service members to serve openly,” Carter said. Rand also estimated that health care costs would represent “an exceedingly small proportion” of the department’s overall health care expenditures, he said.

The Pentagon signaled it plans to pay for costs associated with transgender health care.

“Medically necessary” gender reassignment surgery and medications will also be covered beginning in about 90 days, Carter said.

“Our doctors will give them medically necessary procedures as determined by the medical professions,” he said. “In no later than 90 days, the DoD will issue a commanders’ guidebook for leading transgender troops, as well as medical guidance to military doctors for transgender-related care.”

The success of changing the policy on transgender service will be determined by how the changes are put in place, said Carter, who set out a year-long course of gradual implementation.

Within three months, the department will issue a commanders’ guidebook on how to deal with currently-serving transgender service members, along with guidance to doctors for providing transition-related care if required to currently-serving transgender service members, Carter said. Also within that time period, service members will be able to initiate the process for officially changing their gender in personnel management systems, he said.

Following the guidance period, the focus will turn to training the entire force on the new rules — “from commanders, to medical personnel, to the operating force and recruiters,” Carter said.

By the one-year mark, all service branches will begin allowing transgender individuals to join the armed forces, assuming they meet accession standards. Also, an otherwise-qualified individual’s gender identity will not be considered a bar to admission to a military service academy, or participation in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps or any other accession program if the individual meets the new criteria.

Immediately, however, transgender soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen will no longer have to live with the possibility of being booted from the service or denied re-enlistment solely because they are transgender, Carter said. “Service members currently on duty will be able to serve openly,” he said.

On the subject of “gender re-assignment” surgery, Carter said the Pentagon will not pay for recruits to have it. “Our initial accession policy will require an individual to have completed any medical treatment that their doctor has determined is necessary in connection with their gender transition and to have been stable in their identified gender for 18 months, as certified by their doctor, before they can enter the military,” said.

The decision on whether to allow those already in the ranks to have gender re-assignment surgery paid for by DoD would be up to the individual’s military doctor, Carter said. “The medical standards don’t change,” Carter said, and all service members will be entitled to “all the medical care that doctors deem necessary.”

— Amy Bushatz contributed to this report.

— Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

Lists

The 21 most authoritarian regimes in the world

The Economist Intelligence Unit has released its latest Democracy Index, which ranks 167 countries according to political and civic freedom.


Countries are given a score out of 10 based on five criteria. Above eight is a “full democracy,” while below four is an “authoritarian regime.”

Scandinavian countries topped the list and the U.S. remained a “flawed democracy” in this index.

The study has five criteria: Whether elections are free and fair (“electoral process and pluralism”), whether governments have checks and balances (“functioning of government”), whether citizens are included in politics (“political participation”), the level of support for the government (“political culture”), and whether people have freedom of expression (“civil liberties”).

Below are the world’s most authoritarian regimes:

21. United Arab Emirates — 2.69/10

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Skyline of Downtown Dubai with Burj Khalifa from a Helicopter. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 3.57

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 2.65

20. Azerbaijan — 2.65

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Members of the Azerbaijani Special Forces during a military parade in Baku 2011 (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.50

Functioning of government: 2.14

Political participation: 3.33

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 3.53

19. Afghanistan — 2.55

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Marines from 3rd battalion 5th Marines on patrol in Sangin, Afghanistan. (Image JM Foley)

Electoral process and pluralism: 2.50

Functioning of government: 1.14

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 2.50

Civil liberties: 3.82

18. Iran — 2.45

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
The northern Tehran skyline. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 3.21

Political participation: 4.44

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 1.47

17. Eritrea — 2.37

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Saho women in traditional attire (Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.14

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 6.88

Civil liberties: 1.18

16. Laos — 2.37

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Host of dancers for Laos New Years celebration. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.83

Functioning of government: 2.86

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 1.47

15. Burundi — 2.33

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Tutsi soldiers and gendarmes guarding the road to Cibitoke on the border with Zaire. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.43

Political participation: 3.89

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 2.35

14. Libya — 2.32

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Children in Dublin, Ireland, protesting Libya’s then president, Gaddafi, before his overthrow. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 1.00

Functioning of government: 0.36

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 5.63

Civil liberties: 2.94

13. Sudan — 2.15

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Sudanese rebels in Darfur. Both the government and the rebels have been accused of atrocities. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 1.79

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 1.18

12. Yemen — 2.07

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Soldiers in Yemen. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 4.44

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.88

11. Guinea-Bissau — 1.98

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
An abandoned tank from the 1998–1999 civil war in the capital Bissau (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 1.67

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 2.35

10. Uzbekistan — 1.95

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Uzbek children. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.08

Functioning of government: 1.86

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.59

9. Saudi Arabia — 1.93

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
President Donald Trump speaks with Mohammed bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, during their meeting Tuesday, March 14, 2017, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.86

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 3.13

Civil liberties: 1.47

8. Tajikistan — 1.93

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Shanty neighborhoods just outside of Dushanbe, Tajikistan. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.08

Functioning of government: 0.79

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 6.25

Civil liberties: 0.88

7. Equatorial Guinea — 1.81

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
The city of Malabo in Equatorial Guinea. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.43

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 4.38

Civil liberties: 1.47

6. Turkmenistan — 1.72

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Celebrating the 20th year of independence in Turkmenistan (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.79

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 5.00

Civil liberties: 0.59

5. Democratic Republic of Congo — 1.61

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Refugees in the Congo (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.50

Functioning of government: 0.71

Political participation: 2.22

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 0.88

4. Central African Republic — 1.52

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
Refugees of the fighting in the Central African Republic observe Rwandan soldiers being dropped off at Bangui M’Poko International Airport in the Central African Republic. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 2.25

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 1.11

Political culture: 1.88

Civil liberties: 2.35

3. Chad — 1.50

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
A tribal delegation in Chad. (Image Wikipedia)

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 1.11

Political culture: 3.75

Civil liberties: 2.65

2. Syria — 1.43

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
A Syrian soldier aims an assault rifle from his position in a foxhole during a firepower demonstration.

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 0.00

Political participation: 2.78

Political culture: 4.38

Civil liberties: 0.00

1. North Korea —1.08

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
A defector from North Korea dodges bullets as he crosses the DMZ.

Electoral process and pluralism: 0.00

Functioning of government: 2.50

Political participation: 1.67

Political culture: 1.25

Civil liberties: 0.00

MIGHTY TRENDING

25 strongest militaries in Europe, according to BI

NATO member and partner forces are in Norway for a sprawling military exercise called Trident Juncture — the largest since the Cold War, officials have said.

Russia is not happy with NATO’s robust presence next to its territory and has decided to put on its own show of force.

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 3, 2018, Russian ships will carry out rocket drills in the Norwegian Sea, west of activities related to Trident Juncture, which runs from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, 2018.

The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in Europe, home to some of the world’s most capable armed forces, based on the 2018 military strength ranking compiled by Global Firepower.


The ranking aims to level the playing between smaller countries with technical advantages and larger, less-sophisticated countries.

Additional factors — geography, logistical capabilities, natural resources, and industrial capacity — are taken into account, as are things like diversity of weapons and assets, national development, and manpower.

NATO members, 27 of which are European, also get a boost, as the alliance is designed to share resources and military support. The US military has a massive presence in Europe — including its largest base outside the US— but isn’t included here as the US isn’t part of Europe.

Below, you can see the 25 most powerful militaries in Europe.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Belgium air force helicopter Alouette III takes off from BNS Godetia for a tactical flight over the fjords in support of an amphibious exercise during NATO’s Trident Juncture exercise.

(NATO Photo By WO FRAN C.Valverde)

25. Belgium (Overall ranking: 68)

Power Index rating: 1.0885

Total population: 11,491,346

Total military personnel: 38,800

Total aircraft strength: 164

Fighter aircraft: 45

Combat tanks: 0

Total naval assets: 17

Defense budget: .085 billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

A Portuguese sniper team identifies targets during the range-estimation event of the Europe Best Sniper Team Competition at 7th Army Training Command’s Grafenwoehr Training Area, July 29, 2018.

(US Army photo by Spc. Emily Houdershieldt)

24. Portugal (Overall ranking: 63)

Power Index rating: 1.0035

Total population: 10,839,514

Total military personnel: 268,500

Total aircraft strength: 93

Fighter aircraft: 24

Combat tanks: 133

Total naval assets: 41

Defense budget: .8 billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Slovak soldiers report to their commander during the opening ceremony of Slovak Shield 2018 at Lest Military Training Center, Sept. 23, 2018.

(US Army photo by 1st Lt. Caitlin Sweet)

23. Slovakia (Overall ranking: 62)

Power Index rating: 0.9998

Total population: 5,445,829

Total military personnel: 14,675

Total aircraft strength: 49

Fighter aircraft: 18

Combat tanks: 22

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: id=”listicle-2617982766″.025 billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Austrian soldiers load gear onto their packhorses before hiking to a high-angle range during the International Special Training Centre High-Angle/Urban Course at the Hochfilzen Training Area, Austria, Sept. 12, 2018.

(US Army photo)

22. Austria (Overall ranking: 61)

Power Index rating: 0.9953

Total population: 8,754,413

Total military personnel: 170,000

Total aircraft strength: 124

Fighter aircraft: 15

Combat tanks: 56

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .22 billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

A Bulgarian army tank crew maneuvers a T-72 tank during an exercise with US soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team at the Novo Selo Training Area, Sept. 15, 2018.

(US Army National Guard photo Sgt. Jamar Marcel Pugh)

21. Bulgaria (Overall ranking: 60)

Power Index rating: 0.9839

Total population: 7,101,510

Total military personnel: 52,650

Total aircraft strength: 73

Fighter aircraft: 20

Combat tanks: 531

Total naval assets: 29

Defense budget: 0 million

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Standing NATO Maritime Group One trains with Finnish fast-attack missile boat FNS Hanko during a passing exercise in the Baltic Sea, Aug. 28, 2017.

(NATO photo by Christian Valverde)

20. Finland (Overall ranking: 59)

Power Index rating: 0.9687

Total population: 5,518,371

Total military personnel: 262,050

Total aircraft strength: 153

Fighter aircraft: 55

Combat tanks: 160

Total naval assets: 270

Defense budget: .66 billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Cpl. Cedric Jackson, a US soldier from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team of Army’s 1st Infantry Division, assists a Hungarian soldier in applying tape to secure a fluid-administration tube to a simulated casualty during a combat life-saver course led by US troops in Tata, Hungary, Dec. 2017.

(US Army photo by 2nd Lt. Gabor Horvath)

19. Hungary (Overall ranking: 57)

Power Index rating: 0.9153

Total population: 9,850,845

Total military personnel: 77,250

Total aircraft strength: 35

Fighter aircraft: 12

Combat tanks: 32

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: id=”listicle-2617982766″.04 billion

18. Denmark (Overall ranking: 54)

Power Index rating: 0.9084

Total population: 5,605,948

Total military personnel: 75,150

Total aircraft strength: 113

Fighter aircraft: 33

Combat tanks: 57

Total naval assets: 90

Defense budget: .44 billion

17. Belarus (Overall ranking: 41)

Power Index rating: 0.7315

Total population: 9,549,747

Total military personnel: 401,250

Total aircraft strength: 202

Fighter aircraft: 43

Combat tanks: 515

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: 5 million

16. Romania (Overall ranking: 40)

Power Index rating: 0.7205

Total population: 21,529,967

Total military personnel: 177,750

Total aircraft strength: 135

Fighter aircraft: 34

Combat tanks: 827

Total naval assets: 48

Defense budget: .19 billion

15. Netherlands (Overall ranking: 38)

Power Index rating: 0.7113

Total population: 17,084,719

Total military personnel: 53,205

Total aircraft strength: 165

Fighter aircraft: 61

Combat tanks: 0

Total naval assets: 56

Defense budget: .84 billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

A Norwegian soldier takes aim during Trident Juncture 18 near Røros, Norway, Oct. 2018.

(NATO photo)

14. Norway (Overall ranking: 36)

Power Index rating: 0.6784

Total population: 5,320,045

Total military personnel: 72,500

Total aircraft strength: 128

Fighter aircraft: 49

Combat tanks: 52

Total naval assets: 62

Defense budget: billion

13. Switzerland (Overall ranking: 34)

Power Index rating: 0.6634

Total population: 8,236,303

Total military personnel: 171,000

Total aircraft strength: 167

Fighter aircraft: 54

Combat tanks: 134

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .83 billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Swedish air force Pvt. Salem Mimic, left, and Pvt. Andreas Frojd, right, both with Counter Special Forces Platoon, provide security for US Air Force airmen and aircraft on the flight line at Kallax Air Base, Sweden, during Exercise Trident Juncture 18, Oct. 26, 2018.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)

12. Sweden (Overall ranking: 31)

Power Index rating: 0.6071

Total population: 9,960,487

Total military personnel: 43,875

Total aircraft strength: 206

Fighter aircraft: 72

Combat tanks: 120

Total naval assets: 63

Defense budget: .2 billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

erved by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, in Prague, Czech Republic, Oct. 28, 2018.

(Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

11. Czech Republic (Overall ranking: 30)

Power Index rating: 0.5969

Total population: 10,674,723

Total military personnel: 29,050

Total aircraft strength: 103

Fighter aircraft: 12

Combat tanks: 123

Total naval assets: 0

Defense budget: .6 billion

10. Ukraine (Overall ranking: 29)

Power Index rating: 0.5383

Total population: 44,033,874

Total military personnel: 1,182,000

Total aircraft strength: 240

Fighter aircraft: 39

Combat tanks: 2,214

Total naval assets: 25

Defense budget: .88 billion

9. Greece (Overall ranking: 28)

Power Index rating: 0.5255

Total population: 10,768,477

Total military personnel: 413,750

Total aircraft strength: 567

Fighter aircraft: 189

Combat tanks: 1,345

Total naval assets: 115

Defense budget: .54 billion

8. Poland (Overall ranking: 22)

Power Index rating: 0.4276

Total population: 38,476,269

Total military personnel: 184,650

Total aircraft strength: 466

Fighter aircraft: 99

Combat tanks: 1,065

Total naval assets: 83

Defense budget: .36 billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

A sniper and spotter from the Spanish Lepanto Battalion line up their target near Folldal during Exercise Trident Juncture, using the .50 caliber Barrett and the .338 caliber Accuracy sniper rifles, firing at targets over 1,000 meters away.

(Photo by 1st German/Netherlands Corps)

7. Spain (Overall ranking: 19)

Power Index rating: 0.4079

Total population: 48,958,159

Total military personnel: 174,700

Total aircraft strength: 524

Fighter aircraft: 122

Combat tanks: 327

Total naval assets: 46 (one aircraft carrier)

Defense budget: .6 billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

An Italian F-35A fighter jet with special tail markings.

(Italian Air Force photo)

6. Italy (Overall ranking: 11)

Power Index rating: 0.2565

Total population: 62,137,802

Total military personnel: 267,500

Total aircraft strength: 828

Fighter aircraft: 90

Combat tanks: 200

Total naval assets: 143 (two aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: .7 billion

5. Germany (Overall ranking: 10)

Power Index rating: 0.2461

Total population: 80,594,017

Total military personnel: 208,641

Total aircraft strength: 714

Fighter aircraft: 94

Combat tanks: 432

Total naval assets: 81

Defense budget: .2 billion

4. Turkey (Overall ranking: 9)

Power Index rating: 0.2216

Total population: 80,845,215

Total military personnel: 710,565

Total aircraft strength: 1,056

Fighter aircraft: 207

Combat tanks: 2,446

Total naval assets: 194

Defense budget: .2 billion

3. United Kingdom (Overall ranking: 6)

Power Index rating: 0.1917

Total population: 64,769,452

Total military personnel: 279,230

Total aircraft strength: 832

Fighter aircraft: 103

Combat tanks: 227

Total naval assets: 76 (two aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

French sailors watch the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush as it transits alongside the French navy frigate Forbin, Oct. 25, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage)

2. France (Overall ranking: 5)

Power Index rating: 0.1869

Total population: 67,106,161

Total military personnel: 388,635

Total aircraft strength: 1,262

Fighter aircraft: 299

Combat tanks: 406

Total naval assets: 118 (four aircraft carriers)

Defense budget: billion

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Russian troops participating in the Zapad 2017 exercises in Belarus and Russia.

(Russian Ministry of Defense photo)

1. Russia (Overall ranking: 2)

Power Index rating: 0.0841

Total population: 142,257,519

Total military personnel: 3,586,128

Total aircraft strength: 3,914

Fighter aircraft: 818

Combat tanks: 20,300

Total naval assets: 352 (one aircraft carrier)

Defense budget: billion

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

95 year old veteran passes hours after achieving dream to visit WWII Memorial

A 95-year-old World War II veteran died during a so-called Honor Flight carrying him home from a weekend in Washington, DC.

Frank Manchel was returning home to San Diego, California, after an all-expenses-paid trip to DC honoring WWII veterans when he died on May 5, 2019, the non-profit Honor Flight San Diego said in a statement.

The American Airlines flight was about an hour from landing in San Diego when Manchel collapsed, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Dave Smith, founder of Honor Flight San Diego, told the Union-Tribune that Manchel’s death was “almost instantaneous.”

“He was laughing, chatting, having a good time — and then he collapsed,” he said.


Manchel, who served as an Army technical sergeant in WWII, had flown to DC with 82 other veterans, family members, and volunteers, to visit historic landmarks in the country’s capital.

The group visited the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Navy Yard’s museum, and the military electronics museum.

Manchel’s sons, Bruce and Howard, as well as his 93-year-old brother, Jerome, and nephew, David, joined him on the trip.

Bruce Manchel said in a statement on May 6, 2019 seen by INSIDER that his father died after “the most amazing weekend, surrounded by his newest best friends.”

“We thank all of you — Honor Flight San Diego, American Airlines, San Diego International Airport, friends, and supporters for your concern and for allowing the weekend to be so special for all of us to share together.”

Following Manchel’s death, an American Flag was draped over his body, and two chaplains on board the flight said prayers.

When the plane landed in San Diego, veterans saluted as they passed by his body.

Honor Flight San Diego told INSIDER that American Airlines offered to take Manchel’s remains and relatives to Detroit, Michigan, at no charge ahead of May 9, 2019’s funeral. Honor Flight San Diego’s founder will be in attendance.

This is the seventh death to happen during an Honor Flight Network flight, the Associated Press reported. Honor Flight San Diego requires veterans and their guardians to complete medical questionnaires before flying.

In 2018, fewer than 500,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were still alive, according to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics cited by the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers got to fire the Army’s new pistol — and they liked what they saw

McGregor Range, New Mexico – Eager soldiers shared looks of excitement and awe under the watch of the immense New Mexico golden mesas as they awaited their opportunity to finally fire the newly fielded M17 pistol.

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division fired the M17 pistol for the first time during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019. Within 1AD, 3ABCT is the first brigade to field and fire the new weapons system.

“The M17 pistol is an adaptable weapons system. It feels a lot smoother and a lot lighter than the M9,” said 2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR. “I feel like the transition to the M17 will benefit us greatly in combat. Just from being out here today I was able to shoot well and notice that it felt lighter.”


Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The M17 is a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, which offers a lighter weight than the previous M9 pistol, weighing 30.8 ounces. It has an improved ergonomic design and a more modern internal striker firing mechanism, rather than an external hammer firing mechanism, to reduce trigger pull and improve accuracy and lethality.

The striker design of the M17 is less likely to snag on clothing or tactical gear when firing than an external hammer and furthermore, the M17 has a capacity of 17 rounds, two more than the M9.

The M17 pistol is the full-sized variant of the Modular Handgun System which also includes the compact M18 pistol, designed to replace the M9 and M11 pistols.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers using the new M17 pistol will potentially have greater maneuverability and operational flexibility while in combat, due to the reduced weight and improved design compared to the M9 pistol.

“When we climb out of our tanks, less weight is good,” said 1st Lt. Shannon Martin, an armor officer assigned to 1-67 AR and native of Scituate, Massachusetts.

“Every ounce that you shave off the equipment is less weight for soldiers to carry. So for those infantrymen who are rucking miles at a time, it is good for them to have less weight that they’re carrying so that they can focus on staying fit for the fight and being ready to go.”

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol during a qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The Modular Handgun System has an ambidextrous external safety, self-illuminating tritium sights for low-light conditions, an integrated rail for attaching enablers and an Army standard suppressor conversion kit for attaching an acoustic/flash suppressor.

“Coyote brown” in color, it also has interchangeable hand grips allowing shooters to adjust the handgun to the size of their hand.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

2nd Lt. Michael Preston, an armor officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, fires an M17 pistol at a target, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The primary service round is the M1153 9mm special purpose cartridge, which has a jacketed hollow-point projectile. It provides improved terminal performance against unprotected targets as well as reduced risk of over-penetration and collateral damage compared to the M882 9mm ball cartridge and the Mk243 9mm jacketed hollow-point cartridge.

The M1152 9mm ball cartridge has a truncated, or flat, nose full-metal-jacket projectile around a solid lead alloy core. It provides improved terminal performance compared to the M882 ball cartridge.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

A soldier assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, checks his target for accuracy after he engaged it with an M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The fielding of the M17 pistol has generated great excitement and energy among 1AD soldiers, most of whom have never fired a handgun other than the M9 pistol.

“I think having a new weapons system has sprouted interest. We have soldiers who say ‘Cool, I’m so excited to go and shoot these,’ so it creates more interest in qualifying with a handgun,” said Martin. “During our deployment to Korea, we saw the M17 and we were all excited to get our hands on them, train with them and to see what’s different about them.”

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Staff Sgt. Tramel Gordon, an M1 armor crewman assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, walks back to his firing position after collecting his target during a pistol qualification range, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

The adoption and implementation of the M17 pistol reflects the Army’s continued commitment to modernization, ensuring that soldiers are best equipped to deal with any threat and to project lethal force with efficiency.

The division began fielding and distributing the M17 to its units in August and have used classroom training time with these live-fire ranges to familiarize their soldiers with the new handgun, ensuring that they are ready and proficient with the weaponry.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 67th Armor Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, carry their equipment prior to a qualification range with their new M17 pistol, Oct. 10, 2019.

(US Army photo by Pvt. Matthew Marcellus)

Soldiers learn through innovation and iteration. As part of ongoing modernization efforts, research teams rapidly develop new prototypes and arm soldiers with new technologies, including protective gear, weaponry and communications capabilities.

“Adopting the M17 pistol is good for our readiness and lethality,” said Martin. “It forces us all to go out, shoot and be familiar and proficient with our new weaponry.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy’s ‘agile’ new fleet prepares to counter Russia in the Arctic

In the six months since its activation, the Navy’s 2nd Fleet has bulked up and is embracing its mission in the North Atlantic and the Arctic, where the US and its partners are focused on countering a sophisticated and wily Russian navy.

Second Fleet was deactivated in 2011 for budget reasons — 65 years after being set up to deter the Soviet Union in the Atlantic and around Europe. Most of its assets were shifted to Fleet Forces Command.


The fleet returns amid a shift toward a potential great-power conflict, but the new version will differ from its predecessor by being “leaner, agile, and more expeditionary,” Rear Adm. John Mustin, the fleet’s deputy commander, said Jan. 16, 2019, at the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Rear Adm. John Mustin at Naval Base San Diego, Feb. 24, 2017.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Craig Z. Rodarte)

“When I say lean, what does that mean? The staff complement is organized and billeted to be operational. The majority of staff will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training,” Mustin said.

Questions have been raised about how 2nd Fleet will integrate with other numbered fleets — particularly 6th Fleet, which oversees waters around Europe, and 4th Fleet, which is responsible for the Caribbean Sea and waters around Central and South America — but Navy officials have said the goal is not to draw stark lines in the sea.

Second fleet’s primary focus will be working with 6th Fleet and 4th Fleet “to ensure a seamless command and control for force employment — ensuring there is no vulnerability, no seam in the Atlantic,” Lt. Marycate Walsh, a spokesperson for 2nd Fleet, told Business Insider in December 2018.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham hits heavy seas in the Atlantic Ocean, deployed in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 18, 2018.

(Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

Prior to its deactivation, 2nd Fleet was mostly a training command for units getting ready to deploy.

Now, however, the focus is “to develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic,” Mustin said at the symposium.

“Previously, forces reported to 2nd Fleet when they entered the fleet’s geographic area of operations. Under the new model forces will be assigned once in the final stage of the training cycle and through the end of the period in which forces are available for operational tasking, unless the unit transitions to the control of another numbered fleet,” Walsh told Business Insider in December 2018.

“This allows 2nd Fleet to focus its attention on the development and employment of forces at the highest level of warfare,” Walsh added.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter crewman watches simulated fast-attack craft approach the USS Kearsarge during a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training exercise, June 24, 2018.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Ryre Arciaga)

Like the stand-up of 2nd Fleet, the Navy’s first East Coast use of Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training — a Top Gun-like exercise meant to impart advanced knowledge of weapons and tactics to surface crews — is part of the effort to train for warfare against an enemy fleet.

Mustin said during his remarks that he was the 18th staff member to report to 2nd Fleet and that by March the command will have 85 people assigned — a “number that will continue on a glide slope that is increasing rapidly,” he said.

To avoid bloat and redundancy, the 2nd Fleet will work with Fleet Forces whenever possible, Mustin said. Both commands are based in Norfolk, Virginia. Ships will be under Fleet Forces’ operational command, while 2nd Fleet will have tactical control.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

A fire controlman trains sailors on firefighting tactics in an engine room l aboard Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 17, 2018.

(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

But the fleet is growing to be fit for purpose and fit for its time, Walsh told Business Insider.

“It makes sense to describe 2nd Fleet in terms of capability rather than in terms of the number of personnel assigned,” Walsh said. Most of the personnel assigned to it will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training, “with only a few staff members focused on higher headquarters administrative functions.”

Mustin also told attendees at the symposium that they could expect 2nd Fleet personnel to be roaming their area of operations — working from forward posts on command ships or from austere locations ashore — while keeping in touch with home base in Norfolk.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham approaches fleet-replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys, right, for replenishment-at-sea in the 2nd Fleet area of operations, Dec. 19, 2018.

(US Navy photo Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

Those personnel will include staffers from allied countries and other partners who are fully integrated rather than assigned as liaisons, said Mustin, who added that surface warfare officers interested in 2nd Fleet had been approaching him at the symposium.

Moreover, plans are to rotate Navy reservists through the fleet to work alongside active-duty sailors, with the goal of keeping those reservists up-to-date. “This is not your grandfather’s 2nd Fleet, or, as my staff likes to point out, my father’s 2nd Fleet,” Mustin said.

Second Fleet will also work on development in other aspects of naval warfare.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Lt. Gen. Robert Hedelund, commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force, and Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis, commander of 2nd Fleet, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Aug. 27, 2018.

(US Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Nicholas Guevara)

Working with the Naval War College and the Warfare Development Centers, the fleet “will be a hub for the Navy’s concept development and implementation, ensuring that when the Navy operates around the world, it is prepared to compete, fight, and win in great-power competition,” Walsh told Business Insider in December 2018.

In September 2018, the Center for Executive Education at the Naval Postgraduate School led 2nd Fleet staff in a seminar to develop the fleet’s mission set, and in coming months the 2nd Fleet will work with the Naval War College on staff training to “ensure the fleet is equipped to command and control naval forces at the highest level of warfare,” Walsh said, adding that most 2nd Fleet staff will attend the school’s College of Maritime Operational Warfare.

“Going forward, this same kind of integration applies to the employment of the naval forces [that] 2nd Fleet commands,” Walsh added.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A $440 million warship is stuck in ice in Canada

The USS Little Rock looks like it was designed by a committee of 12-year-old Transformers enthusiasts, that is, like a sports car speedboat battleship with guns that go pew pew pew. It cost the United States about $440 million and is part of a new category of ultra-versatile warship known as the littoral class: “a fast, agile, mission-focused- platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation.”


What the Little Rock does not do is fly. This ugly-as-sin future-boat is, ultimately, still just a boat. It was built at a shipyard in Wisconsin and spent the summer of 2017 in trials on Lake Michigan. It was commissioned last month in Buffalo, New York. From there, it’s next stop was to be its home port in Florida. As it turns out, the Little Rock will be a few months late. Because winter.

As reported by the Washington Post, the Little Rock is currently docked in Montreal. It’s stuck. The Saint Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes’ outlet to the Atlantic Ocean, is frozen over.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment
USS Little Rock enters Buffalo prior to being commissioned. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While colder-than-average temperatures in the Northeast haven’t helped, this is actually normal. The freshwater Seaway (and the Great Lakes shipping system, generally) normally closes to shipping between December and March because of ice.

In any case, this winter stopover for the USS Little Rock wasn’t planned. Significant weather conditions prevented the ship from departing Montreal earlier this month and icy conditions continue to intensify, offered a statement from the Navy.

The temperatures in Montreal and throughout the transit area have been colder than normal, and included near-record low temperatures, which created significant and historical conditions in the late December, early January timeframe.

There are some ships actually designed for this. Ice-ready ships usually aren’t even what we’d normally think of icebreakers. These are just normal boats built for cold climates.

Also Read: The US Navy’s newest warship is stuck in Canada because of ice

Ships with this capability are rated according to “ice class,” a loose classification system corresponding to how much extra strengthening a ship’s hull has. Ice class ships range from Scandinavian ferry boats to Russia’s “polar corvette” take on littoral battleships. Indeed there’s anxiety among military types in the US about an “icebreaker gap” between the US and Russia. That is, we don’t really have fast battleships that can fight in the Arctic, while Russia does.

We’re assured that the 70 person crew is making the most of their time in port, working on training and certifications and other assorted boat stuff. And, as far as places to be stuck in the winter, they’re probably better off in Montreal than, say, Buffalo. There’s nothing like a steaming pile of poutine on a cold-ass day.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

The military spends millions to not upgrade computers

The U.S. Military drops big bucks for all sorts of equipment, supplies, and software. But while we spend millions to upgrade computers when better software comes out, we also spend millions to keep older software because, if we don’t, it could actually cost lives in combat.


Why The US Military Can’t Upgrade From Windows XP?

www.youtube.com

The Infographics Show has a good primer on this, available above, but the broad strokes of what’s going on are pretty simple to understand.

The Department of Defense is always developing new weapons and programs, and each piece of mission-essential software was originally written for a specific operating system. This is often Windows, the most commonly used operating system for laptops and desktops on the planet.

But, of course, Windows comes out with a new version every few years. So, every few years, the military waits for the worst of the bugs to get worked out of the system, and then it starts upgrading its systems with the newest operating system.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Navy pilots really want the computer to get the thrust right for the catapults since they can be crushed by G-forces or dropped into the ocean if the math is wrong.

(U.S. Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Ryan Carter)

When computers are being upgraded, though, systems with specialized, mission-essential software are often held back from the software upgrade. If say, the major software controlling the USS Gerald R. Ford’s magnetic launch system is optimized for Windows 7, then it would be extremely risky to upgrade to Windows 10 without extensive testing, which the Ford can’t do while conducting its mission.

(Note: We couldn’t find what software the USS Ford is running for EMALS. This is just a for-instance.)

If the software is changed overnight while the Ford is conducting missions, there’s a decent chance that some of the ship’s systems won’t work properly with the new operating system. That could result in pilots getting pitched off the deck either too fast or too slow for safe flying. Ship defense systems may fail to track an incoming plane or missile, or they could fire defensive countermeasures at a friendly target or when no target is present.

Houston VA begins clinical trial for COVID-19 treatment

Abrams tanks and many other weapon systems run their own special software and operating systems, but even many of these systems are actually built on top of a Windows OS.

(U.S. Army Mark Schauer)

And this problem exists for all systems that use Windows. And while many weapons, like the F-35 Lightning II and M1 Abrams tank, use special operating systems special-built for aircraft and armored vehicles, some weapons use software that run on “Windows boxes,” computers that run specialty software but are built on top of Windows software.

So, you can’t safely upgrade the underlying Windows OS without getting new versions of all that bespoke software in the box.

And there are plenty of systems that run in a standard Windows environment. They run programs that control surveillance systems, or that allow troops to pass mission information, or that facilitate training and briefings. Plenty of important briefings run on PowerPoint.

While having your chat windows hacked during combat may not be as dramatic as having your tank hacked, it actually is a dangerous possibility. After all, chat windows are filled with sensitive information during combat and include, things like troop locations, dispositions, armament, etc. And you don’t want your enemy hacking into that or stealing it.

So it’s probably worth dealing with Windows XP if it makes it easier to prevent intrusion.

But, since the military is using these old software, it needs companies like Microsoft to keep updating security patches for them to prevent intrusions. And the military is often the only customer that needs these fixes, so it single-handedly pays Microsoft to maintain the necessary computer engineers and software coders to do this. And that costs big bucks.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information