Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing

Content warning: the following article features an open and frank discussion about suicide. If you or someone you love is struggling with thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation, don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255.) There’s not a damn thing wrong with asking for a helping hand when you need it most.

Times are rough right now. We’re at the brink of a global pandemic, schools and places of work are closing and people are panic buying things that aren’t usually in short demand. But the factor that is hitting the closest to home for most folks is, well, everyone staying home.


This is what is known at social distancing. It’s an important step in ensuring that the most vulnerable of our population stays away from anyone who may have contracted the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. It’s a drastic measure that’s annoying to most, but it’s going to save lives in the long term. And that’s not something that should ever be understated.

Yet, there’s also an unseen side effect that could potentially harm another group if it’s not handled properly. The disruption of a daily rhythm, potential loss of work and social isolation could impact a vast number of people already fighting through depression and that ever present thought of suicide: veterans.

The Centre for Clinical Interventions lists two determining categories for depression – biological and psychological. Genetics, hormones and neurotransmitters all play their part in making someone more likely to be genetically predisposed to depression but loss, stress and a sense of unfulfillment can hit anyone. At this moment, there’s plenty of that going around.

Even going back a few months before COVID-19 took the world stage, finding a steady paying job wasn’t that easy. Bills can pile up and somehow it feels we’re always just one paycheck above water. But at least some of us had a handful of buddies we could go out to drink with or to see a movie with. Now, it feels like all of that was swept away and we also have to worry if we’ll have enough toilet paper to get through the week.

Right now, many people have lost their jobs or had their hours cut drastically. Even if you haven’t, you’re probably working from home without seeing anyone but the ones you live with. You might be kicking yourself in the butt because you didn’t go to the grocery store before it turned into a scene from The Walking Dead. Thankfully, this isn’t the end times and the internet can still connect us while we’re standing more than six feet from anyone.[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh3.googleusercontent.com&s=298&h=e86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20&size=980x&c=744452975 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FJZP-ebOe0UsmSOlFfx-ZfSK_kjHJYNlYtsKgqF9pcHBDg-KTQd6WrP7GrC6yOOEmkEOZgfG7-23RF-6K-55opWeLwa3lLvpZjENRl93zQRfL6dyNpY4lkV71IyGukrJg2nKxFxeSCDcXW9fmPQ%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh3.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D298%26h%3De86267c4c48c91b3d540173ed586769b65668149f0538cb5eebc136b98f92f20%26size%3D980x%26c%3D744452975%22%7D” expand=1]

Quick sidenote: toilet paper is something that is typically used at a set rate. Unless you’re planning on hiding for months or TPing your neighbor’s place, you don’t need to stockpile TP.

(Photo by Ingrid Cold)

I urge you, please keep in regular touch with anyone you love who’s been hit hard by this social isolation. Chances are they’re not doing so well. Check up on them. Call to see how they’re doing.

Depression is a real disease and the final symptom could be suicide.

This advice goes for everyone but us in the veteran community already had compounding factors before the outbreak. The “22 a day” is still thrown around, albeit those often-cited numbers come from a 2012 study and they’re more accurately at around 17 a day after a much needed cultural shift within our community. That’s still not great; it’s still far above the national average. Often, we’ve been able to find the one ember that kept our flame burning. But for a lot of veterans, that fire could be extinguished with social distancing.

Don’t take this out of its intended context. Social distancing is crucial at this moment. We just need to adjust to the shift in how things are done. Hotlines are still open. The VA Mental Health facilities are still open. And if you’re concerned and feel symptoms of the coronavirus, there are always video conference calls available to connect you with a mental health specialist or doctors.

You are never truly alone.

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For health and safety reasons, the hand sanitizer stations are everywhere. For good reason.

(U.S. Navy photo by Diana Burleson)

I say all of this… because I found myself in that dark place. The part where I wrote about how people are feeling is mostly pulled from what’s going on with myself.

I recently attempted to end my own life. I’ve been fighting through my own depression for some time now and it reached its boiling point. It probably wouldn’t be wise to go into details, but I will share the thought that got my feet back on the ground. It was the thought that no one would ever be able to explain to my cat why I’m never coming home. Make of it what you will, but thoughts like that can help pull you out of an irrational moment.

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FgwEPSSrF4w9G4pRrmNBSg3a7ckuLZWxCqEcgWogP08M7FvwoLNO3p56RKsUHxyG-ndIgrX5NudLMw3l_fX_hwLGgRou71D4AXZKzZ4oJHvc8aH8crbhIazUV_4vrIIAN4fzMCB2FkJOkTa7-4g&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=823&h=e2472f3fc89658bd13bf47b04f1cf74b58c6a71c9946254ae6c2d16a2c1c6e82&size=980x&c=1328651676 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FgwEPSSrF4w9G4pRrmNBSg3a7ckuLZWxCqEcgWogP08M7FvwoLNO3p56RKsUHxyG-ndIgrX5NudLMw3l_fX_hwLGgRou71D4AXZKzZ4oJHvc8aH8crbhIazUV_4vrIIAN4fzMCB2FkJOkTa7-4g%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D823%26h%3De2472f3fc89658bd13bf47b04f1cf74b58c6a71c9946254ae6c2d16a2c1c6e82%26size%3D980x%26c%3D1328651676%22%7D” expand=1]

I mean, I love my family and friends. But I wouldn’t ever want to hurt this good boy.

(Picture by Eric Milzarski)

It was through the help of my buddy from the Army and my loving wife that I was able to come back. I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m still in that damn tunnel. I’m now seeing a mental health specialist at the VA regularly and I can honestly say that it was the right choice. No judgement. No negative consequences. And I feel silly for hesitating this long. Just open arms –metaphorically speaking, of course. I kept my six feet of distance and sanitized my hands, because the VA also houses elderly and immuno-vulnerable veterans. And if need be, they’re still doing video calls for anyone feeling any symptoms.

If you know anyone who’s in that dark place, reach out to them. Go in person if you have to, but there’s always the phone. There are always online video games. There’s always a meme you can tag them in. Anything will help. It may not feel like it while we’re self-isolating until things go back to normal, but we are never truly alone.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Navy SEAL receives Medal of Honor for 2002 Afghanistan actions

Sitting in the White House reading the citation for the Medal of Honor doesn’t give the real flavor of why retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer and special warfare operator Britt K. Slabinski is receiving the award.

The nicely air conditioned room with comfortable chairs, impeccable floors, historic artwork and gilt on many surfaces isn’t right, somehow.

The dispassionate words on the award talk of Slabinski’s heroism in assaulting bunkers, rallying his men, and going back into the center of the firefight.


The White House is literally half a world away from a mountain in Afghanistan in 2002, where Slabinski — and America — lost seven good men.

When the master chief talks of the action, you realize he is reliving his time atop Takur Ghar — a 10,000-foot mountain near Ghazni, on March 4, 2002. He is remembering his decisions. He is remembering what he felt. And he is remembering his brothers who were killed.

He speaks in present tense, because in his mind’s eye. It is still happening.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
An official portrait of retired Navy Master Chief Petty Officer and special warfare operator Britt K. Slabinski.

‘I Was Just Doing My Job’

He believes he did nothing special. “I was just doing my job that day,” Slabinski said during an interview.

Slabinski — then a senior chief petty officer — and his men were just supposed to set up an overwatch position on the mountain to support the conventional forces in the valley below. “Now the enemy gets a vote,” he said. “We plan, we train, we rehearse and we rehearse some more for every possible contingency, but sometimes the fog and friction of war is just out of your control and a leader has to adapt.”

The team was aboard an Army MH-47 helicopter and as it was landing, well dug-in al-Qaida fighters opened up. “When we land, the ramp goes down,” he said. “I’m standing on the very back of the helicopter … and almost immediately take an RPG rocket to the side of the aircraft. It goes off, fills the aircraft full of smoke and we are getting shot up right away. There’s bullets flying through the aircraft the size of your finger [from] 12.7 machine guns that were up there.”

The pilot was able to take off, but the bird was wounded and experienced what Slabinski called “the worst turbulence you could imagine.”

Those gyrations caused Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Neil Roberts to fall off the ramp. The crew chief grabbed Roberts’ pack, and the weight of the SEAL pulled him off the ramp, too. But the crew chief was tethered into the aircraft and was able to get back in. Roberts fell 10 feet into the meter-deep snow.

“It happens that fast,” Slabinski said as he snapped his fingers.

He told the pilot that he had lost a man, but with the chopper’s hydraulics shot out, there was no way the bird could circle and retrieve him. “[The pilot] was flying a brick,” Slabinski said. “It was basically a controlled crash into the enemy-held valley.”

The master chief assessed the situation. “Now my mission originally was to support the overwatch, then my teammate Neil fell out, and now I have a downed helicopter I have to deal with,” he said.

Calling For Support

The first problem he dealt with was the helicopter, and he called in a second aircraft to take the crew and team to a safe place. Once there, Slabinski was able to focus his attention on Neil.

The information he received was Roberts was alive. “I knew there was a superior enemy force up there and they had heavier weapons than I had,” he said.

The enemy, the cold, the altitude — “Everything that could be stacked against us, was stacked against us going back, and I had the feeling that this was a one-way trip,” he said. “I knew though, that if I go now, there’s a chance I could rescue Neil. I knew if I tried to develop a battle plan more on my terms, it would certainly be better, but I knew Neil didn’t have that time.”

The weight was on Slabinski’s shoulders. “I remember sitting in the helicopter,” he said. “The [rotors are] turning, it’s cold, trying to sort through the tactical piece of it … and this thought keeps coming back to me: If I go now what’s the cost going to be versus the cost if I wait. If you are the leader and you have peoples’ lives that you are responsible for, the decisions don’t come easy.”

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Anu00a0MH-47 Chinook helicopter
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Matthew R. Loken)

This was Slabinski’s loneliest moment. He was sitting in the chopper with a headset on and people are talking to him. He was thinking of all the tactical problems and the lives. “And this thought kept coming back to me, and it’s the first line of the Boy Scout Oath … ‘On my honor, I will do my best,'” said Slabinski, who attained the rank of Eagle Scout at his hometown troop in Northampton, Massachusetts “The only thing that is in the back of my mind is, ‘On my honor I will do my best, On my honor I will do my best, On my honor I will do my best.’

“That’s when I said, ‘I’m gonna go do this.'”

The master chief assigned his men jobs, and the pilot of the first aircraft, Army Chief Warrant Officer Al Mack, went up to Slabinski and told him he would be flying them back in the new MH-47, even though he had just survived a harrowing experience with the first helicopter.

There was no other place to land, so the team had to go right back to the place the first bird took the fire. As the chopper took off, it got quiet for Slabinski and he thought of his son, who was 6 years old at the time. “I remember saying, ‘I love you. Sorry for what’s to come. Be great,'” he said. “Then I put it in another room in my brain and went on with my duties.”

Enemy Fire

This Chinook also took fire coming in to the landing area, and as soon as the ramp went down, the team went off the back of the ramp. Two men went to the right, two to the left and the master chief and Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, an Air Force combat controller, went out together.

Slabinski and Chapman were hit by a burst of automatic weapons fire. “The burst hit John and he went down,” Slabinski said. “The bullets from the same burst went through my clothes on each side, and I jumped behind a rock.”

The belt-fed weapon kept firing at them. “I looked for John and he is lying in a very odd position, and I look to my other guys and they are engaged with another dug-in position and the two to my left are engaged there. There are enemy muzzle flashes on three sides.”

There is no cover, and Slabinski tosses two grenades at the bunker, but the position is too well dug in. He looks to his men and sees Chapman still in the same odd position and the others engaging the enemy. His M60 gunner is next to me. “I have a 40mm grenade launcher … and I have six grenades,” he said. “I’m too close to the big bunker because they won’t go off. They have to spin to arm.”

Firefight Continues

He fired at the farther bunkers and silenced those, but the big bunker remains a deadly problem. He has the M60-gunner fire on the bunker and he wants to charge to the bunker to clear it under the cover of that automatic fire. Before he could do that, a grenade flies out of the bunker and explodes right in front of the barrel of the M60, wounding the gunner.

Slabinski again assesses the situation. “The gunner is down. John hasn’t moved and my other two guys are still engaged in contact,” he said. “The plan in my head isn’t working so I have to do something different.”

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Artist rendition of The Battle of Takur Ghar.
(Painting by Keith Rocco)

He decided to get his small band out of direct fire. As he is doing that another SEAL was hit in the leg from the same machine gun Slabinski was trying to take out. “I sent the wounded over first and I crawled over to John, looking for some sign of life from John and didn’t get anything,” he said.

The place he chose to seek shelter from the fire was just about 30 feet away over the side of the mountain.

Mortar Fire

Slabinski called for support from an AC-130 gunship to hit the bunkers. At the same time as the aircraft was hitting the mountain he noticed shell fragments were landing around the team. Slabinski thinks at first it is the AC-130, but it is from an enemy mortar that is ranging his position.

He moves again to a more protected area and now the U.S. Army Ranger quick reaction force is coming in. The first chopper is hit and crashes on the top of the mountain. Slabinski contacted the second bird and it lands on another spit of land and the Rangers work their way to the SEAL position and attack up the mountain to secure the top.

The master chief can’t move his wounded to the top of the mountain, so he moved to a place he could secure and await medevac, which came that night.

Estimates of the number of al-Qaida fighters on the top of that mountain range between 40 and 100. They had heavy weapons galore with automatic machine guns, mortars, RPGs and recoilless rifles. It was the headquarters for al-Qaida operating against U.S. forces engaged in Operation Anaconda. The SEAL team went in to try to rescue Roberts with six men.

Footage taken by a remotely piloted vehicle and examined later showed that Chapman was not dead. The technical sergeant regained consciousness and engaged the enemy killing two of them — one in hand-to-hand combat. “I was 100 percent convinced that John was dead,” Slabinski said. “I never lost track of John.”

He never would have left the airman on that mountain, he said, if he thought for an instant that Chapman was alive.

For his actions that day, Slabinski received the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for valor. As part of then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s directive to the services to re-examine all of the valor awards beginning in 2001, the Navy recommended upgrading that award to the Medal of Honor. The master chief — who retired from the Navy in 2014 — received a call from President Donald J. Trump in March telling him of the decision.

The master chief is conflicted about the award. He believes he was just doing his job and still feels the loss of the seven men — Navy, Army and Air Force — he served with that day. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about them,” he said. “If I could give up this medal to have them back, I would.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

Articles

This quadruple amputee is opening retreat to help other wounded warriors

Army Staff Sgt. Travis Mills awoke in a hospital on his 25th birthday to learn that an explosion in Afghanistan had robbed him of all four limbs. He later told his wife to take their daughter and their belongings, and just go. He didn’t want her saddled with his burden.


“She assured me that’s not how this works,” Mills said, “and she stayed by my side.”

Family support aided his recovery, Mills said, and now a foundation he created is bringing others with war injuries and their families to Maine to continue their healing while surrounded by others who understand what they’ve gone through.

The retreat at the lakeside estate of the late cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden will be dedicated this weekend after an overhaul that included accessibility upgrades.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Staff Sgt. Travis Mills discusses his foundation’s resort on a Maine television program. Screenshot: YouTube/CentralMaineCATV

Mills uses his personal story to offer encouragement: “I don’t look at myself and pity myself. I tell people to never give up, never quit, and to always keep pushing forward.”

The soldier’s life changed abruptly on April 10, 2012, when a bomb that evaded detection detonated when Mills unwittingly dropped his backpack on it.

The blast disintegrated his right arm and leg, shredded his wrist and blew several fingers off. His left leg dangled.

As life drained from him, Mills used what was left of his remaining hand to make a radio call for help for the others.

“My medic came up to me and I tried to fight him off, saying, ‘Doc, you’re not going to save me. There’s really no reason to keep trying. It’s OK. I accept what happened. Just tell my family I love them, and don’t waste your time,'” he told The Associated Press.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
DoD photo by Fred W. Baker III

At the field hospital, his remaining leg came off with his pants as he was undressed for surgery. Two days later, his left arm was removed.

When it came to recovery, Mills said, the support of his family was just as important as top-notch medical care. His wife remained with him. Their 6-month-old daughter lifted his spirits. His father-in-law lived with him at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and oversaw construction of a home adapted for his disabilities.

“Without my wife and daughter, I can’t tell you that I’d be sitting here today doing as well as I’m doing,” he said. “That’s why we do what we do. Because we believe there is more healing with the family and other people in the same situation.”

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(TravisMills.org)

His wife, Kelsey, pregnant with their second child, said her husband has been competitive since his days as high school football captain in Vassar, Michigan. He was always the “life of the party,” she said, which helps to explain his charisma, enthusiasm, and constant jokes.

“He’s always had a strong drive, and getting injured was like a challenge to him to overcome it,” she said.

These days, he travels 165 days a year, delivering motivational speeches, and it seems there’s little he can’t do thanks to grit and advanced prosthetics. He’s gone skydiving, participated in adaptive skiing and mountain biking, and paddled on lakes. He’s written a book, “Tough As They Come.”

The retreat is an extension of Mills’ work at Walter Reed, where he lifted others’ spirits while recovering from his wounds over a 19-month period.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Walter Reed General Hospital. DoD photo by Samantha L. Quigley.

This summer, 56 families will be served free of charge.

They’ll kayak, go tubing, and fish, allowing injured soldiers and Marines to see that they don’t have to sit on the sidelines during family activities, Mills said.

Nearly $3 million in cash and in-kind contributions have gone into the camp, building on a pilot program. Mills hopes to raise enough money to create a permanent endowment.

Craig Buck said his son-in-law knows that not all injured military personnel have received the same family support. “This is his way of paying it forward,” Buck said. “That’s the reason we built the retreat.”

Articles

The destruction of these villages shows the complex calculus of the Afghan War

On the morning of Oct. 6, 2010, three villages in the Arghandab River Valley of Afghanistan were filled with insurgents and dozens of IEDs.


A few hours later the villages were gone as if they’d never existed at all, destroyed by over 25 tons of U.S. Air Force bombs.

Artillerymen with the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment had taken numerous casualties in the months they spent trying to clear the surrounding fields on foot. Special Forces soldiers turned back after they ran out of explosives attempting to blow the IEDs in place. Mine-clearing line charges were fired, opening up lanes into the town but leaving soldiers without “freedom of maneuver” in a heavily-contested area.

The ground commander, Lt. Col. David Flynn, took another look at the problem. He talked to the local elders and told them that his plan to clear the villages could cause extreme damage to the buildings. The elders said that was bad but acceptable as long as the nearby pomegranate trees survived.

Flynn then turned to the U.S. Air Force and requested that Lower Babur, Tarok Kolache, and Khosrow Sofla be destroyed. Surveillance was conducted to be sure that there were no civilians in the area, only insurgents. The mission was approved, and the bombing campaign began.

The Air Force dropped 49,000 pounds of bombs on Tarok Kolache alone, leveling it. The other two villages were completely destroyed as well.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Photo: Youtube.com

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Photo: Youtube.com

No civilian casualties were reported, though the pomegranate fields were severely damaged and had to be replanted. (USAID planted 4,000 trees, but they take five years to bear fruit.)

Many of the bombs in the area were destroyed by the operation, and soldiers with the 1-320th were able to set up 17 small bases and outposts in the valley, gaining security around the 38 remaining villages. Mine clearance operations had to continue though as not all the explosives were destroyed in the bombing.

Two years later, the Army erected new buildings, but they were weak concrete structures that the villagers refused to live in. Even worse in a war designed to win hearts and minds, local Afghan police chiefs reported that the bombings switched the loyalties of the villages who went on to become supporters of the Taliban.

NOW: ‘The Fighting Season’ nails the gritty realities of the Afghan War

OR: Navy turns seawater into fuel and nobody cares

MIGHTY TRENDING

The US says North Korea used VX in an assassination

The United States has determined that North Korea used chemical weapons, an apparent reference to the killing of leader Kim Jong Un’s half-brother in 2017.


The State Department did not provide justification for the finding publicized March 2, 2018. But it comes nearly one year after Kim Jong Nam died at an international airport in Malaysia in an attack, authorities said, that used VX nerve agent.

The determination, made by the department’s international security and nonproliferation bureau, carries restrictions on U.S. foreign aid and financial and military assistance that North Korea’s heavily sanctioned government is already subject to.

Also read: Kim Jong Nam might have been plotting to overthrow his brother

It was posted on the website of the Federal Register and takes effect March 5, 2018.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has previously referred to Pyongyang’s use of chemical weapons. He told reporters in January 2018, “we know they’ve been used by the North Koreans.”

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

According to the Pentagon, North Korea probably has a long-standing chemical weapons program with the capability to produce nerve, blister, blood, and choking agents and likely possesses a chemical weapons stockpile that could be used with artillery and ballistic missiles.

Experts say the Feb. 13, 2017, death of Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur airport is the only confirmed North Korean use of chemical weapon agents. North Korean defectors have charged that such chemicals have been used against prisoners and disabled people inside the authoritarian nation.

Related: Kim Jong Un suspected of ordering assassination of nephew

North Korea is believed to have provided chemical defensive equipment and technology to Syria and Libya in the past, and an upcoming report by a United Nations panel that monitors sanctions against the North says that in August 2016, the North transferred special resistance valves and thermometers known for use in chemical-weapons programs in Syria.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Kim Jong Nam. (Photo from The Asahi Shimbun)

North Korean technicians continue to operate at chemical weapons and missile facilities in the war-ravaged Mid-east nation, according to details of the report obtained by The Associated Press.

The U.S. and other Western nations have accused Syria of using chemical weapons against rebel-controlled areas of the country, which the government denies.

North Korea, on March 1, 2018, denied it was cooperating with Syria on chemical weapons. In a statement circulated by its diplomatic mission at the U.N. in New York, the North’s foreign ministry said it “does not have a single record of developing, producing, and stockpiling a chemical weapon.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

27 amazing photos of the Coast Guard in 2017

From Guam in the Pacific to Puerto Rico in the Atlantic, from north of the Arctic Circle to south of the equator, the U.S. Coast Guard patrols and protects the world’s largest exclusive economic zone, covering nine time zones.


It is one of the five military branches, a member of the intelligence community, a first-responder and humanitarian service, and a law-enforcement and regulatory agency that defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways.

On an average day, the Coast Guard’s more than 56,000 personnel — operating on 243 Cutters, 201 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, and more than 1,600 boats — carry out 45 search-and-rescue cases, save 10 lives, seize 874 pounds of cocaine, perform 24 security boardings, screen 360 merchant vessels, do 105 maritime inspections, and assist the movement of $8.7 billion worth of goods and commodities in and around the U.S.

Below, you can see photos from a year in the life of the Coast Guard — where no day is ordinary:

27. The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice in the Ross Sea near a large group of seals as the ship’s crew creates a navigation channel for supply ships on Jan. 16.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)

26. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Richard Bacone from Maritime Safety and Security Team New York conducts a security sweep with his canine, Ruthie, during a Jan. 19 dinner cruise in Washington, D.C.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew S. Masaschi)

25. A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew forward-deployed in Cold Bay, Alaska, surveys the area around the fishing vessel Predator prior to hoisting three people off near Akutan Harbor on Feb. 13.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

24. U.S. Coast Guard ice-rescue team members training on Lake Champlain at Coast Guard Station Burlington on Feb. 17.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Sarah Mattison)

23. Boomer, the mascot of Coast Guard Station Crisfield, Maryland, sitting on the deck of a 45-foot Response Boat-Medium on Feb. 28. Boomer was rescued from a shelter and reported to Station Crisfield as the mascot in Dec. 2013.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jasmine Mieszala)

22. A small boat crew aboard Coast Guard Cutter Dauntless prepares to get underway to pick up Mexican navy sailors for a partnership meeting in the Gulf of Mexico on March 11.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dustin R. Williams)

21. Coast Guard crew members prepare for a live-fire exercise during a Firearms Training and Evaluation-Pistol course at the Dexter Small Arms Firing Range at Coast Guard Base Honolulu on March 28.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)

20. Coast Guard Cutter Munro passes under the Golden Gate Bridge on its way into the Bay Area on April 6.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Adam Stanton)

19. Sgt. 1st Class Chris Richards of the Connecticut National Guard along with U.S. Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin Jewell and Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Hayden of the Coast Guard Cutter Oak prepare a sling that will be used to hoist a 12,000-pound beached buoy, near Chatham, Massachusetts on May 9. The buoy broke free of its mooring off the coast of Maine during a winter storm and eventually washed ashore near Chatham.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)

18. The crew of Coast Guard Cutter Oak scrapes mussels off a buoy and shovels them back into the ocean off the Massachusetts coast on May 10.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)

17. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton unloads about 18.5 tons of cocaine — worth $498 million — seized in 20 separate incidents in international waters in the eastern Pacific Ocean, at Port Everglades, Florida on May 18.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

16. A family poses with Jane Coastie at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in New York City on May 29.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes)

15. Petty Officer 2nd Class Lyman Dickinson, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Sector San Diego, is lowered into the water from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a joint search-and-rescue exercise with the Mexican navy off the coast of Ensenada, Mexico on June 7.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joel Guzman)

14. Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard members watch a member of the U.S. Coast Guard demonstrate a maneuver during a maritime law-enforcement training session for Exercise Tradewinds 2017 in Bridgetown, Barbados on June 7.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Marine Seaman Michael Turner)

13. Steven Celestine, a member of the Commonwealth of Dominica Coast Guard, practices law-enforcement techniques during Exercise Tradewinds 2017 at the Barbados Coast Guard Base in Bridgetown, Barbados on June 9.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Melissa Leake)

12. Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Rogers, from Coast Guard Maritime Safety and Security Team San Diego 91109, shows Naval Sea Cadets the MSST’s armory during a tour of the MSST facilities on June 22.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Justin Eaton)

11. Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory Stepien, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Station Eastport, navigates the northern coast of Maine in 29-foot rescue boat on July 26.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi)

10. Petty Officer 1st Class Kim Nguyen, a health-service specialist aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy, gives IV training to a joint Coast Guard-Navy dive team and Healy crew members while underway off the coast of Alaska on July 27.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Meredith Manning)

9. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle sailed into some foggy weather in Casco Bay during its arrival in Portland, Maine on Aug. 4. The arrival coincided with Coast Guard’s 227th birthday.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Steve Strohmaier)

8. Overhead view of Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina on Aug. 11. The ALC is staffed by about 1,350 Coast Guard members and civilians who maintain aircraft from 25 different Coast Guard air stations.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist David Lau)

7. Coast Guard members offload MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from an Air Force C-17 aircraft at Coast Guard Air Station Miami in Opa Locka, Florida on Sept. 11.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

6. The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Elm restores aids to navigation buoys in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sept. 27.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Taylor Elliott)

5. Petty Officer 3rd Class Anderson Ernst uses a line-throwing gun to help pass the tow line to 65-foot fishing trawler Black Beauty, off the coast of New Hampshire on Nov. 11.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)

4. Petty Officer 2nd Class Brian Rodriguez, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, and Sung Jun Lee, from the Korean coast guard, hoist Oscar the dummy during a vertical-surface and self-rappelling exercise at Makapu’u Lighthouse, Oahu on Nov. 16.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara Molle)

3. Petty Officer 3rd Class Christopher Hale, an aviation survival technician at Coast Guard Sector Columbia River, demonstrates a rescue procedure to representatives from the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Liberation Army Southern Theater Command during the US/China Disaster Management Exchange held at Camp Rilea in Warrenton, Oregon on Nov. 16.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Levi Read)

2. Crew members from Coast Guard Station Sand Key, Florida, take part in survival swim training on Dec. 8.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)

1. Coast Guard Lt. Jodie Knox, Sector Lake Michigan, and Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Brian Wood, Pacific Strike Team, monitor the lifting of the Sailing Vessel Citadel near Red Hook, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands on Dec. 15.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Buddy Dye)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything we know about the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crash

Ethiopian Airlines’ deadly crash on March 10, 2019, was the second disaster involving a Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft in the last five months.

The apparent similarities to the crash of Lion Air in October 2018 has sparked an outcry from US lawmakers as other countries — including China, Britain, Australia, and more — ground the plane pending further investigation.

Here’s what we know so far about March 10, 2019’s crash and any similarities to the Lion Air disaster so far:


All of the 157 people on board were killed

When the Ethiopian Airlines plane plunged to the ground shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa en route to Nairobi, all 149 passengers and eight crew were killed.


The airline’s CEO told journalists that those involved hailed largely from African countries, as well as 18 Canadians, eight Americans, and others from a handful of European countries.

Here’s the full list of nationalities of people killed on board.

One passenger, who accidentally missed the crashed flight by two minutes, said in a Facebook post that he was “grateful to be alive,” despite being angry previously that no staff could help him find his gate.

Boeing’s response

Boeing, the US-based manufacturer of the 737 Max 8 involved in the crash, said March 12, 2019, it will soon roll out a software update in response to the two crashes.

At the heart of the controversy surrounding the 737 MAX is MCAS or the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation system. To fit the MAX’s larger, more fuel-efficient engines, Boeing had to redesign the way it mounts engines on the 737.

This change disrupted the plane’s center of gravity and caused the MAX to have a tendency to tip its nose upward during flight, increasing the likelihood of a stall. MCAS is designed to automatically counteract that tendency and point the nose of the plane downward.

Initial reports from the Lion Air investigation indicate that a faulty sensor reading may have triggered MCAS shortly after the flight took off.

Here’s the company’s full statement:

For the past several months and in the aftermath of Lion Air Flight 610, Boeing has been developing a flight control software enhancement for the 737 MAX, designed to make an already safe aircraft even safer. This includes updates to the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) flight control law, pilot displays, operation manuals, and crew training. The enhanced flight control law incorporates angle of attack (AOA) inputs, limits stabilizer trim commands in response to an erroneous angle of attack reading, and provides a limit to the stabilizer command in order to retain elevator authority.

Still, Boeing’s statement has done little to calm fears of global air travel regulators around the world.

Major countries have banned the plane

On March 12, 2019, a group of European nations, including Germany, France, the UK, and Italy all banned the 737 Max from their airspace until a thorough investigation can be completed.

The US’ air safety regulator on March 11, 2019, said the plane was still safe to fly. And for now, the Federal Aviation Administration does not appear to be following the rest of the world in grounding the plane.

“External reports are drawing similarities between this accident and the Lion Air Flight 610 accident on Oct. 29, 2018,” the FAA said March 11, 2019. “However, this investigation has just begun and to date we have not been provided data to draw any conclusions or take any actions”

A handful of American lawmakers, including at least three senators and a representative, have called on the FAA to ground the plane. Amid those calls, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and her entourage of staff flew on a 737 Max 8 from Austin, Texas back to Washington D.C. March 12, 2019.

“The department and the FAA will not hesitate to take immediate and appropriate action,” Chao said, according to CNBC.

Pilots in the United States also reported issues with the plane in the months leading up to March 10, 2019’s crash. One pilot said the flight manual was “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient,” according to the Dallas Morning News.

Those complaints were made in the Federal Aviation Administration’s incident database which allows pilots to report issues about aviation incidents anonymously. They highlighted issues with the Max 8’s autopilot system, which had been called into question following the crash of Lion Air Flight 610 in October 2018. That incident also involved a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane.

More countries ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft after Ethiopian Airlines crash

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The crisis is already having a big impact on Boeing’s business

Shares of Chicago-based Boeing have fallen more than 12% since the crash on March 10, 2019, as some airlines have reportedly asked to delay the delivery of the 737 Max 8 aircraft they have on order.

The company’s order book — aircraft that airlines around the world have agreed to purchase — is overwhelmingly comprised of the plane in question.

“We are not surprised by the negative stock reaction, as the 737 represents the strongest backlog, free cash flow (FCF and potential upside from further rate increases,” Ken Hubert, an analyst at Canaccord Genuity, said in a note to clients on March 11, 2019.

“We view the risk as less about near term expenses, but the full year 737 delivery estimates for BA could be impacted. We do not expect BA to slow the 737 pull from suppliers. Moreover, the larger risk is the reputational concern for BA,” he continued.

Boeing’s plunge also dragged down the Dow Jones industrial average, of which it comprises a large percentage.

CEO Dennis Muilenburg spoke to President Trump on the phone March 12, 2019, the company confirmed to Business Insider. A spokesperson offered no details of their conversation, but refuted the New York Times’ claim that the chief executive tried to persuade Trump to not ground the plane like most other countries.

At least one airline, Norwegian, said it will ask Boeing for compensation due to lost revenue from taking the plane out of service.

More countries ground Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft after Ethiopian Airlines crash

www.youtube.com

Airlines could take a hit too

Southwest is the US airline most exposed to the 737 Max 8, according to calculations by Joseph Denardi, an analyst at Stifel.

The 737 MAX comprised 2.2% of Southwest’s scheduled available seat miles (ASM) for March 2019, and is projected to grow to 2.6% by June 2019. The airline reportedly said March 12, 2019 that it’s “working with Customers individually who wish to rebook their flight to another aircraft type.”

United Airlines and American Airlines also operate the plane in the US, where there are 74 of them registered according to the FAA. Around the world, 59 airlines operate 387 of the 737 Max 8 and 9, the agency said.

Airline stocks and other related aerospace companies stock prices were also taking a hit, Markets Insider reported.

What comes next

The “black box” flight data recorder for March 10, 2019’s crash was found March 11, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement. Investigators from the country, assisted by the US’ National Transportation Safety Board, have yet to reach a final conclusion.

Ehtiopian Airlines said March 13, 2019, that it would send the data recorders abroad, possibly to Europe or the US, because the country lacks the capacity to analyze them domestically.

Benjamin Zhang contributed to this report.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Delivering new ID cards is now a struggle for the VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has suspended applications for its new veteran identification card program due to a large number of applicants, according to a notice on its website.


The new, free ID card was ordered by Congress in 2015 as a way to give veterans proof of service at businesses without carrying a copy of their DD-214 forms. The VA, a week ago, rolled out the online application for the card for all honorably discharged veterans, but the system appeared to immediately face technical problems.

Tests by at least two Military.com reporters accessing the site with their own VA logins and military service credentials encountered repeated errors. One was able to successfully complete the process despite multiple rejections and system timeouts.

Currently, however, veterans who look to apply for the card are instead told they need to come back later.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
(Courtesy photo illustration)

Thank you for your interest in the Veteran Identification Card! Currently, we are experiencing a high volume of traffic. We apologize, and want you to know we’re working to fix the problem,” the notice states. “In the meantime, please enter your email address and we’ll send an update when the Veteran Identification Card application is back online.

Officials with the VA did not respond to requests for information on when the application will be reopened, how many users successfully applied for the ID card before applications were suspended, or how many users started but did not complete the application process.

“We are aware some veterans have experienced issues with the application process, but leaders of VA’s Office of Information and Technology are actively engaged in fixing them,” Curtis Cashour, the agency’s press secretary, said in a statement.

Also Read: The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

“Still, many Veterans have successfully registered for the card since the program was announced, and we are excited finally to begin providing this resource to Veterans, fulfilling a promise that was made to them more than two years ago under the previous administration,” he added.

To apply for a card, users had to log in to the VA website using either a DS login or the ID.me system, provide a variety of personal information, and upload a copy of a government-issued ID. They also needed to provide a shoulders-up photo to be displayed on the ID card. VA officials said Nov. 29 that users could expect to receive their new ID cards within 60 days of application.

Some veterans, such as those who receive health benefits from the VA and military retirees, already have IDs that can provide proof of service. The new IDs will not qualify as official government-issued identification for air travel or other uses. The ID card program is voluntary.

Articles

This is what it’s like for families of terrorists

“Sir, my father was an Islamic State militant, but he divorced my mother in 2013,” said Jassem Mohammad, 21, pulling out his identification card and presenting it to the camp manager. “He now has two other wives.”


In a tiny patch of shade on the edge of a blistering desert camp outside of Mosul, the manager listened as Mohammad made his case. He wanted to leave the camp and go back to college. He had good scores, he said, and was never involved with IS.

Militant rule in Mosul has collapsed and IS fighters here are dead, fled, arrested, or in hiding. But as their relatives try to re-integrate into society, Iraqi authorities face impossible questions with only bad answers.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Women and children wait at a processing station for internally displaced people prior to boarding buses to refugee camps near Mosul, Iraq, Mar. 03, 2017. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Alex Manne

If someone loved or even tolerated an IS militant, is that person guilty? How do the relatives of the perpetrators make peace with the relatives of the victims?

Officially in Iraq, the answer to the first question is “no,” especially when speaking of small children. Women and children fleeing areas IS occupied are checked for bombs, and when cleared, they are considered civilians.

Unofficially, families of militants are shunned, feared and often separated from the “regular” people, all traumatized by violence and extreme poverty under IS. Many IS families now live in camps, like Mohammad, where they are not quite sure if they are being detained or protected. And both, in fact, are true.

“We’d need to see the divorce papers,” the camp manager explained to Mohammad. If Mohammad offered evidence that his father was not in his life during IS rule in Mosul, it might be possible for him to go back to school.

“I want to study and do humanitarian work,” Mohammad continued, pleading his case to a nearby journalist.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
USAF photo by Senior Airman Vanessa Valentine

As Mohammad and the reporter chatted, the camp manager looked nonplussed and strolled away. A security officer, in contrast, was visibly annoyed and abruptly ended the conversation.

“You cannot talk to him without official permission,” he said, ushering all journalists out of the camp. Other Iraqi officers said they worry that news about camps set aside for IS families will make them look like monsters, locking up women and children.

“What can we do as the Iraqi government?” said a member of a community police force who didn’t want to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “We are exposed to danger. They are families, but we can’t loose them without rehabilitation.”

Inside the city, at the base of a long-dormant Ferris wheel, a short row of tents served as a collection point for families fleeing Mosul in the final days of battle.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
A young boy pushes a cart outside of a market in Mosul, Iraq, July 4, 2017. Army photo by Cpl. Rachel Diehm.

Women and children filed into the tents, some collapsing where they sat. Medics treated injuries and food and water alleviated some of the most pressing pains. Many of the people had been hiding in basements for weeks, after months of water shortages. The smell of unwashed bodies was pungent and the heat in the stagnant tents was overwhelming.

“We were imprisoned,” said Khalifa, 46, a mother of three. Unlike the rest of the women in the tent, she wore no veil and her curly hair was tousled. “We tried to run away and militants locked us in a basement. For the past three days we’ve had no food or water.”

“Once they brought us food in the basement,” adds Hoda, 25, her daughter. “He came down wearing a suicide vest.”

Their story echoed tales from families all over Mosul and, even if their husbands or fathers were IS fighters, it could still be true. However, local authorities worried they were lying, casting themselves as victims, rather than somehow complicit.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Photo by Mstyslav Chernov

One man peppered Hoda with questions about the neighborhood she said she was from. IS militants in Mosul were often not stationed near their original homes. Hoda failed to identify the most famous church, mosque, and graveyard in the area.

“See, they are an IS family,” the man said. “They are lying.”

Another woman, Fatima, a mother of eight, said for relatives of IS omitting certain truths is a matter of survival. Sitting with an intelligence official, Fatima admitted she had two brothers that fought with IS. Both, she said, are now dead and she never supported their decision to join IS.

But when the officer walked away, she said at least one of her brothers is alive and now in Tal Afar, an Iraqi city still held by IS.

“We are afraid to tell them when we talk to family members who are with IS,” she whispered. “We don’t want to be blamed for what they did.”

Articles

President ponders review of terrorist suspect interrogation and black sites

President Donald Trump is reportedly considering an executive order setting up a review of interrogation practices, including whether to re-open so-called “black sites” run by the CIA under the George W. Bush administration.


According to a report by CBSNews.com on a leaked draft of the order, the initiative would reverse executive orders issued by President Obama regarding Guantanamo Bay and interrogation techniques. Those orders were signed on Jan. 22, 2009.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Photo provided by Crown Publishing

The draft order raises the specter of the return of enhanced interrogation techniques. One of those who developed the techniques, retired Air Force Lt. Col. James Mitchell, fiercely denied they were torture in a forum at the American Enterprise Institute this past December.

The order also would keep the detention facilities at the U.S. Navy’s base at Guantanamo Bay open, saying, “The detention facilities at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, are legal, safe, and humane, and are consistent with international conventions regarding the laws of war.”

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Detainees in orange jumpsuits sit in a holding area under the watchful eyes of Military Police at Camp X-Ray at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during in-processing to the temporary detention facility on Jan. 11, 2002. The detainees will be given a basic physical exam by a doctor, to include a chest x-ray and blood samples drawn to assess their health. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy)

“If it was torture, they wouldn’t have to pass a law in 2015 outlawing it because torture is already illegal, right?” Mitchell asked. “The highest Justice Department in the land wouldn’t have opined five times that it wasn’t torture — one time after I personally waterboarded an assistant attorney general before he made that decision three or four days later, right?”

When contacted for comments on the draft executive order, Mitchell said, “I would hope they just take a look at it.” He admitted he had not been contacted by the Trump administration or the Trump transition team, but pointed to an ACLU lawsuit that made him “damaged goods,” but did wish that they would “talk with someone who has interrogated a terrorist.”

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Senator John McCain campaigns for re-election to the senate in 2016. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

In a statement released after the reports of the draft order emerged, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said, “The Army Field Manual does not include waterboarding or other forms of enhanced interrogation. The law requires the field manual to be updated to ensure it ‘complies with the legal obligations of the United States and reflects current, evidence-based, best practices for interrogation that are designed to elicit reliable and voluntary statements and do not involve the use or threat of force.’ Furthermore, the law requires any revisions to the field manual be made available to the public 30 days prior to the date the revisions take effect.”

Mitchell was very critical of McCain’s statement, noting that it essentially boils down to relying on terrorists to voluntarily give statements about their pending operations. “It’s nuts,” he said, after pointing out that counter-terrorist units don’t reveal their tactics. He also noted that “beer and cigarettes” or social influence tactics, like those Secretary of Defense James Mattis favored, are not included in the manual.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing
Detainees at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay during prayer (DoD photo)

Retired Army Lt. Col. Bob Maginnis backed up Mitchell’s comments.

“I favor giving the interrogation decisions to those with the need to know.  Not all threats are the same and there are situations where tough techniques are justified,” Maginnis told WATM. “I’m not with the camp that says tough interrogation techniques seldom if ever deliver useful outcomes. That’s for the experienced operator to know.”

Maginnis also expressed support for the use of “black sites” to keep suspected terrorists out of the reach of the American judicial system. He also noted, “Some of our allies are pretty effective at getting useful information from deadbeats.”

Senator McCain’s office did not return multiple calls asking follow-up questions regarding the senator’s Jan. 25 statement on the draft executive order.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans learn to see differently through the camera lens

When Army Veteran Corrin Lee Mac heard of the Lebanon VA Medical Center and Lebanon Valley College’s The Seeing Lens group, she thought the idea was “far-fetched.” The 10-week therapeutic photography group is for Veterans in recovery. However, as Mac–pictured above–went through the program, she discovered that it worked for her. “It promotes mindfulness. Looking through the lens, this second in time, you are here in the moment.”

Veterans who participate in The Seeing Lens are issued a camera and textbook for duration of the program. Each week focuses on a different aspect of recovery and ties it to a photographic technique. For example, clarity and attention are linked with the concepts of aperture and depth of field.


Members of the inaugural group had their photos displayed in an exhibit at Lebanon Valley College and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The exhibit will return to Lebanon VAMC later this year.

Graduates gathered at the college to talk about the impact the program and the exhibit had on their lives.

“Every Veteran can experience it in their own way, but something that would be in common between Veterans was the supportive nature of it, the non-judgmental atmosphere, ” said Army Veteran Robin Ann Pottoroff.

You are more thoughtful and creative.

“It makes you slow down and look at the world in a different way,” said Navy Veteran Mike Robertson. “You are more thoughtful and creative. It calms a racing brain.”

Lebanon VAMC recreation therapist Amy Cook, a founder of the program, was struck by “really seeing what the camera can do as a recovery tool. Once the Veteran picked up the camera, it was life-changing.”

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing

Project alumni suggested that other Veterans in recovery give The Seeing Lens a try.

“Give it a shot. It worked for me,” said Navy Veteran Patrick Dougherty. “And I was the most negative person, a naysayer. So if it helped me, it can pretty much help anyone.”

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

popular

Robert Wilkie is confirmed as new VA secretary

The Senate by a vote of 86-9 confirmed Robert Wilkie on July 23, 2018, as the next secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in a move to bring stability to a department Republicans and Democrats suggested has been in turmoil over political infighting and low morale.

The vote for Wilkie, 55, of North Carolina, an Air Force Reserve colonel with long experience at the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, capped a tumultuous four months at the VA marked by ongoing leadership shuffles since President Donald Trump fired former VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin in March 2018.


In a sign of continuing questions about the direction of the VA, the Senate’s action in confirming the new secretary — normally a bipartisan event — featured opposition votes.

The vote to confirm Shulkin in 2017 was 100-0 to head a department serving nine million veterans annually with a budget of more than 0 billion and a workforce of more than 350,000.

The “no” votes came from eight Democrats, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and one independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sanders in early July 2018 cast the first opposition ballot in memory for a VA secretary nominee in the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee vote that sent the nomination to the floor.

Sanders at the time said he was voting more in protest of Trump than he was to Wilkie’s qualifications, saying he feared that Trump and political appointees within the VA would use the recently passed VA Mission Act as a vehicle to press for the “privatization” of VA health care.

In the floor debate leading up to the vote, Sen. John Boozman, R-Arkansas, said he is confident Wilkie can “re-establish the non-partisan approach to serving our veterans” at the VA, a possible reference to political infighting at the department.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, who voted for Wilkie, was more direct. “We’ve got political forces at play inside the VA. That’s very unfortunate,” said the committee’s ranking member. “When Mr. Wilkie becomes secretary, he has to see that this stops.”

In his stormy departure from the VA, Shulkin said he was the victim of “subversion” by Trump political appointees within the VA and at the White House.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the committee, said, “We know Robert Wilkie is the real deal,” and he will now have the opportunity “to fix the problems that we have” at the VA.

“This is the opportunity to do the changes of a lifetime,” Isakson said but repeated a warning he gave Wilkie at his confirmation hearing: “You will have no excuses.”

Shulkin’s firing initially led Trump to nominate Rear. Adm. Ronny Jackson, his personal physician and head of the White House medical unit, to head the VA.

Why we need to check on our veterans during social distancing

Rear. Adm. Ronny Jackson

In an embarrassment to the administration, Jackson withdrew his name over allegations — never proven — that he mishandled prescriptions at the White House medical unit and may have been drunk on duty.

Following Jackson’s withdrawal, Wilkie was moved over from the Pentagon to become acting secretary at the VA. In his time as acting secretary, Wilkie noted the political turmoil and low morale at the department. He said he wanted the staff “talking to each other, not at each other.”

When Trump surprised him by nominating him to the full-time position, Wilkie had to step down as acting secretary to avoid violating a provision of the U.S. Code barring acting secretaries from nomination to cabinet positions.

Peter O’Rourke, a former Trump campaign worker who had been chief of staff at the VA, was moved up to the acting secretary’s position. O’Rourke has since clashed with VA Inspector General Michael Missal over access to whistleblower complaint data.

The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) supported Wilkie’s nomination despite initial reservations that expansion of community health care options for veterans could lead to privatization.

In a statement after the vote, Denise Rohan, national commander of the two-million-member American Legion, said in a statement, “I congratulate Mr. Robert Wilkie on his Senate confirmation to be the 10th secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

“We look forward to working closely with Secretary Wilkie and his staff to ensure America’s veterans receive the health care, education, and other benefits they have earned through their selfless service to our great nation,” she added.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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