While we love the 30mm GAU-8 Avenger on the A-10 for the BRRRRRT it brings, we also know that it’s not exactly the biggest gun to ever take to the skies. In fact, several planes have packed bigger guns, like the XA-38 Grizzly armed with 75mm firepower or some versions of the B-25 Mitchell, which pack .50-caliber machine guns.
One of the biggest guns to ever be attached to a plane is the 105mm howitzer on the AC-130 Spectre gunship. Yeah, Warthog fans, I’ll say it: the AC-130’s biggest gun makes the GAU-8 look like a cute little pop gun. Here’s the scoop on this cannon that can really make life a living hell for bad guys on the ground.
The AC-130U packs two guns bigger than the A-10’s GAU-8 30mm Gatling gun, including a M102 howitzer!
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)
This gun is officially known as the M102 howitzer. It’s been around since 1964, when it was acquired by the Army for airborne and light infantry units, replacing the World War II-era M101 howitzer. The M102 has a top range of roughly nine and a third miles and can fire ten rounds per minute in a rapid-fire mode before settling down to a tamer three rounds per minute.
While the lightweight M119 has replaced the M102 in many of America’s light units since it entered service in 1989, the M102 is still active aboard the AC-130. The howitzer has been on AC-130s since 1971.
The M102 saw action in the Vietnam War, but has hung long enough to server during Operation Iraqi Freedom!
The M102 has seen action on the ground in Vietnam, Grenada, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. While many of these howitzers will never see active service on the ground again, many have a long life ahead on AC-130 gunships, both the AC-130U and the AC-130J. You can see a video of the M102 being tested in its ground-based mode by the Army in the video below!
SAN ANTONIO – May 20, 2020 – Only 55% of Americans know the true meaning of Memorial Day, with many confusing it as a salute to all veterans*. To elevate Americans’ understanding, USAA today announced a Memorial Day national tribute that encourages all Americans to honor the more than 645,000 fallen military heroes even during this time period when the traditional parades and large gatherings have been cancelled or minimized.
PoppyInMemory.com is a virtual destination hosted by USAA that pays tribute to military members who lost their lives in conflict, and showcases the meaning of the poppy flower which became a remembrance symbol inspired by the World War I poem, “In Flanders Fields.” The site offers users a variety of ways to engage, including dedicating a virtual poppy to a hero that gave their life in battle, the ability to learn about each military conflict and the losses suffered, and information on the many ways in which Americans can #HonorThroughAction this Memorial Day.
“During today’s trying times, we are inspired by all the acts of heroism around us,” said Wayne Peacock, USAA CEO. “Those heroic acts serve as a reminder that Americans have always triumphed through adversity because of their willingness to sacrifice for something larger than themselves. We owe a debt of gratitude to those who have put their lives on the line during the COVID-19 pandemic. This Memorial Day, even as we remain physically separated, we ask our country to come together as they do every year and honor the memory of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice to defend the freedoms we hold dear.”
Americans will notice that several military veterans, athletes, entertainers and ardent military supporters will join USAA to #HonorThroughAction by sharing on social media what Memorial Day means to them. On Snapchat, USAA is debuting its first ever augmented reality Snapchat Lens, a unique experience that brings USAA’s Poppy Wall of Honor to life digitally through the Snapchat app. The USAA Lens will allow Snapchatters to dedicate their own poppy to a fallen loved one by interacting with a digitized version of the Poppy Wall of Honor.
This year’s “Poppy in Memory” is a digital-only continuation of an experience that has run the past two years and featured the temporary Poppy Wall of Honor installation on the National Mall near the Korean Way Memorial in Washington, D.C.
*Source: The Harris Poll on behalf of University of Phoenix April 9-11, 2019 among 2,025 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.
When it comes to nuclear weapons, we hear a lot about ICBMs and SSBNs, but what is likely America’s most common nuke isn’t a missile – it’s dropped from a plane. We’re talking, of course, about the B61 gravity bomb, which has been around for a while and is going to be around for a long time.
This is perhaps America’s most versatile nuke. Not only has America built over 3,000 of these bombs, but it was the basis for the W80, W84, and W85 warheads, the key ingredient in nuclear missiles, like the BGM-109A Tomahawk Land Attack Missile – Nuclear, the BGM-109G Gryphon Ground-Launched Cruise Missile, and the MGM-31C Pershing II intermediate-range ballistic missile. Quite impressive, isn’t it?
The B61 came about as the result of a need for weapon that could be delivered by high-performance jets. When it was being developed, the F-4 Phantom and other jets capable of hitting Mach 2 were starting to enter service. The earlier nukes, like the Mk 7 and B28, had been designed for use on slower planes, like the F-86 Sabre, F-100 Super Sabre, and the F-105 Thunderchief.
What emerged was a bomb that came in at roughly 700 pounds — compare that to the 1,700 pounds of the B28 or the 1,600 pounds of the Mark 7. In addition, the bomb had what was known a “dial-a-yield” capability, allowing for the selection of explosive yield, ranging from three-tenths of a kiloton to 340 kilotons.
The B61 is currently being upgraded to the B61 Mod 12 standard, which adds GPS guidance to this versatile weapon. The new system could be in service as soon as 2020, possibly allowing the United States to replace the B83 strategic thermonuclear bomb.
Check out the video below to learn how the B61 was developed and built:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned that his country could seek a “new path” in relations with the United States “if the U.S. does not keep its promise made in front of the whole world…and insists on sanctions and pressures on our republic.”
In a New Year’s statement broadcast on Jan. 1, 2019, Kim praised his June 2018 summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore, where the leaders had “fruitful talks” and “exchanged constructive ideas.”
He also said he was ready to meet again with Trump “at any time in the future.” Kim also called on the United States to extend its halt on military exercises with South Korea.
He added that the United States “continues to break its promises and misjudges our patience by unilaterally demanding certain things and pushing ahead with sanctions and pressure.”
At the June 2018 summit, Kim and Trump agreed to a vague pledge to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, but little progress has been made on the issue in recent months.
Have you got a project due that you should be working on? A paper, a PowerPoint presentation, a briefing to the commander? If so, you are probably on a deadline. But missing a deadline in our modern world is typically just a problem of professional conduct, or maybe they’ll be some sort of financial penalty. But for Civil War prisoners, it was a matter of life and death.
Anderson prisoner of war tents run right up to the deadline demarked by the low fencing. Prisoners who crossed this line could be shot by prison guards.
(Library of Congress)
That’s because the original deadlines existed in Civil War prisons, most famously at Camp Sumter, the prison camp at Andersonville, Georgia. Most Civil War prisons weren’t like Alcatraz Island, where prison cells and buildings were used to keep prisoners confined. Instead, officers would build rough wooden fences 10-20 feet high to contain the prisoners.
But, of course, a healthy man can typically climb a 10-foot fence. And, working as teams, troops could fairly easily clamber over 20-foot fences as well. So prison commanders built positions for sentries to watch the prisoner population, and the sentries typically had orders to kill any man attempting to escape.
Well, to ensure that the sentry would have time to shoot a man or raise the alarm before the prisoner got away, the camps put in something called a “deadline.” This was a line, usually literally made on the ground with fencing or some type of marking, that prisoners would be killed for crossing.
In the case of Andersonville, the line was marked with low fencing and sat up to 19 feet from the tall wooden walls of the prison. If a prisoner even reached over this wall, guards were allowed to shoot him. And the guards were well positioned to do so. The prison incorporated “pigeon roosts” every 90 feet along the wall. These were guard posts that sat above the wall and gave the guards great lines of sight to fire onto the deadline.
If the prisoners ever attempted to rush the line en masse, the guards could drop back to a series of small artillery positions around the fort and blow the Union prisoners apart. These artillery positions also served to protect the prison from outside attack.
The bulk of the nation found out about this deadline in the trial of Confederate officer Henry Wirz, the commander of Fort Sumter. Because of overcrowding and a massive shortage of supplies at Andersonville and Fort Sumter, Union prisoner deaths there numbered approximately 13,000, and an angry Union public wanted justice.
A reconstruction of the wall at Fort Sumter at Andersonville, Georgia. The low fencing near the wall was the dead line.
(Bubba73 CC BY-SA 3.0)
During the prosecution of Wirz, the deadline around the camp was described and reported across the nation, and it helped to seal Wirz fate even though the practice occurred in other places. Wirz was sentenced to death and executed on October 31, 1865.
Calling in air support just got faster, easier, and more precise. DARPA’s new Kinetic Integrated Low-cost Software Integrated Tactical Combat Handheld system, otherwise known as KILSWITCH, enables troops to call in air strikes from an off-the-shelf Android tablet. The system could also be used with small UAVs to provide ground troops with greater situational awareness of friendly forces and enemy locations. KILSWITCH is part of the Persistent Close Air Support program, designed to bring fires on target within six minutes of an observer requesting them.
We have all seen upsets in sports before. We might see a number one team in college football lose to an unranked bottom feeder, a team barely making the NBA playoffs sweeping the defending champs in the first round, a boxer throwing a desperate punch and knocking out a champion. But forty years ago today, on Feb. 22, 1980, the sports world was rocked to its core. The U.S. Men’s hockey team beat the mighty Soviet Union team at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY.
This upset was truly a David versus Goliath upset. The Americans had no reason or chance to win… at least that is what everyone thought.
In the Olympics then, there were strict “amateur” rules on who was eligible. Professional athletes were not allowed to play. Hence Americans couldn’t send NBA or NHL players in the Olympics even if they wanted to. So, the USA (and most of the world) had to rely on college kids and other non-professionals. Once you were done with school, you got a job and trained on your own time. The Communist Bloc, however, found an obvious way around that. They more or less gave athletes bogus jobs and paid them to train all the time. They were essentially professionals.
The Soviets dominated the international hockey scene because of this. Prior to this game, they had won five Gold Medals and 14 World Championships. They had been playing together for years and were a well-oiled machine. In contrast, the Americans had only been together for a few months. They were college kids who usually only had one chance at the Olympic games because of the amateur rules.
In an exhibition at Madison Square Garden before the Olympics, the USA was trashed by the Soviets by a score of 10-3. The Soviets went into the Olympic games as a very confident team.
As the tournament progressed in the round-robin format, both teams played well. The Americans fought to a draw and several victories, while the Soviets steamrolled everyone they played.
People often forget, but it wasn’t the Gold Medal Game. And if you remember watching it live, you remember wrong — the game was on a tape delay by about three hours. Over 18,500 people packed the arena at Lake Placid, and there was a patriotic fervor in the air. People claim the U-S-A chant started that night.
Nowadays, we are used to the super-patriotic feelings at sporting events, but things were different back then.
America was in a bit of a rough spot.
There was still a pall hanging over the country over the lives lost in Vietnam, made worse when Saigon fell in 1975. There was inflation and gas shortages to deal with. The value of the dollar was low. There was stagnation in the economy. Urban decay and high rates of violent crime racked American cities. The Ayatollah in Iran was still holding Americans hostage after the embassy takeover.
The mood could best be described by a term that was applied to a Jimmy Carter speech – “malaise.”
Americans really needed a moment of pride. It came that night.
The USA played hard, scrappy, and didn’t back down. They went down three times and came back to tie three times. They went ahead in the third period on a Mike Eruzione goal to make it 4-3. When you look at the stats of the game, the U.S. was really outplayed in most aspects. They held off the Soviet attack 10 minutes, which probably seemed like an eternity.
As the time clicked off the clock, the crowd grew more insane, and the arena turned into a human pressure cooker ready to blow.
Al Michaels, feverishly counted down the time with one of the most iconic calls of all time.
“11 seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”
The effect was immediate. Pandemonium reigned in the stands. Players exuberantly celebrated. The Soviets looked on in shock and awe. Coach Herb Brooks ran into the locker room and broke down in tears. When the players went in, they broke out into “God Bless America.” They then took a call from President Carter (and they still had a game to go to win Gold!).
Seriously this video will give you chills.
Sports Illustrated didn’t even have to put words on the cover. The picture alone told the story.
The country was gripped with patriotic fervor, and after what seemed like a long national nightmare, Americans felt that miracles do indeed happen, and good times were ahead.
In 2018, the U.S. Army submitted a request to the industry for what they termed a Sub Compact Weapon (SCW), to be issued to close protection teams. Specifically, the Prototype Opportunity Notice called for a “highly concealable [Sub Compact Weapon] system capable of engaging threat personnel with a high volume of lethal force while accurately firing at close range with minimal collateral damage.”
Six companies were selected for prototype testing. Everyone (us included) expected SIG SAUER to flatten the competition, as they have a dedicated team whose job it is to address solicitations like this, as well as a ready-made and debugged solution in the MPX lineup. It came as a surprise then, that when the announcement was made on April 1, 2019, the gun the Army chose was made by the Swiss firm of BT.
The contract award dollar amount to BT USA LLC is ,575,811.76 for the purchase of “350 SCWs, with an option for additional quantities of up to 1,000 SCWs, with slings, manuals, accessories, and spare parts.”
Let’s take a look at the gun.
Based on the existing APC9 K Pro, the tiny subgun has a host of features tailored specifically to the Army requirements. For example, it has a collapsing stock, dual folding non-reciprocating charging handles and M-Lok slots on the handguard to accept aiming and illumination tools. It would seem the users wanted the gun to run suppressed for a substantial portion of its lifespan, as it was requested to be optimized around 147gr ammunition – BT also gave it a threaded barrel with a tri-lug thread protector in order to maximize compatibility with existing suppressors. This model deviates from the existing catalog in its ability to accept AR15 pistol grips, and in its bolt design, which is adapted to strip rounds from not only BT subgun mags, but also to work with Glock and SIG P320 pistol magazines.
We’ll be getting hands on the Army’s new toy in the next couple of weeks – stay tuned…
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
Planespotters found a Russian Mig-31 Foxhound taking off with a never-before-seen mystery weapon that could likely have an anti-satellite role, meaning it’s a nightmare for the US military.
The Foxhound is a 1980s Soviet fighter that remains one of the fastest and highest flying jets ever built. It’s ability to push Mach 3 near the edge of space with large weapons payloads makes it an ideal platform for firing anti-satellite missiles, which Russia appears to have tested in September 2018.
The War Zone noticed Russian aviation photographer ShipSash snapping photos of the Mig-31 armed with a massive missile taking off from the Russian aviation industry’s test center in Zhukovsky near Moscow on Sept. 14, 2018.
Pictures of the Mig-31 at Zhukovsky with the mystery missile can be seen here and here.
The Mig-31 has enjoyed somewhat of a rebirth in recent years as a platform for new Russian super weapons, like the Kinzhal hypersonic anti-surface missile that Russian President Vladimir Putin said could evade any US defenses.
The Mig-31 has a history of use in anti-satellite programs, but the new missile appears to show a renewed effort in that direction.
Two Russian MiG-31 Foxhounds with Kinzhal hypersonic missiles photographed over Moscow, May 5, 2018.
(Russian Defense Ministry)
The US, Russia, and China have all demonstrated anti-satellite capabilities in the past, and as war increasingly relies on information shared via satellite, attacking these critical nodes increasingly makes sense.
It’s unknown if the Mig-31 spotted in September 2018 carried an anti-satellite missile or some kind of satellite launcher, though they both serve a purpose in space-based warfare. Since both sides can destroy satellites, a space-based war would likely involve the downing of old satellites and launching of new satellites at a fast pace.
But that’s where space warfare meets its extreme environmental limit. Space debris orbiting the earth at many times the speed of sound could eventually threaten all existing satellites, plunging the earth back to a pre-Cold War state of relying entirely on terrestrial communications.
While many Russian and Chinese planes still have analog controls and gauges, the US relies most heavily on space assets and GPS, meaning space war would be more of a nightmare for Washington than Moscow.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Palestinian terror groups claimed responsibility for firing more than 100 rockets and mortars from Gaza into Israel from May 29 to May 30, 2018, in the worst bombardment seen since the 2014 Gaza war referred to as Operation Protective Edge.
Israel’s Channel 10 estimated that more than 115 rockets and missiles were launched from Gaza into Israel after the first sirens were heard near the Gaza border at 6 p.m. on May 29, 2018. Other estimates listed the number as high as 130.
Despite the heavy barrage, no civilian casualties have been reported on the Israeli side as its Iron Dome missile defense system shot down many of the projectiles. Israel’s Defense Forces (IDF) said three of its soldiers were wounded by mortar fragments on Tuesday, Haaretz reported.
The IDF said on Twitter that it struck 25 military targets in Gaza in retaliation for the increased fire.
“The IDF is prepared for a variety of scenarios and is determined to act against terror operatives.,” the IDF said.
Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks claiming it was in response to Israel’s killing of over 100 Palestinians participating in sometimes violent protests along its border since March 30, 2018.
“Qassam and Jerusalem Brigades (the groups’ armed wings) announce joint responsibility for bombarding (Israel’s) military installations and settlements near Gaza with dozens of rocket shells throughout the day,” the groups said in a joint statement, according to Reuters.
Israel also imposed a naval blockade on Gaza on May 29, 2018, and stopped a boat with 17 Gazan protesters from reaching Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported.
Israel’s Defense Ministry said on May 30, 2018, it believed the fighting had come to an end. Hamas said it had agreed on a ceasefire with help from Egypt, which shares a border with Gaza Haaretz reported.
Israel said it would be willing to respect the ceasefire, with Egypt acting as a moderating force. However an Israeli official told Haaretz that Israel was prepared to ramp up its retaliatory attacks if rocket launches resume.
The Gaza border has been the site of mass protests aimed at lifting Israel and Egypt’s blockade on the Gaza Strip which has been in place since 2014.
Rocket launches from were common during Israel’s war with Gaza in 2014. The 7-week war saw 73 deaths on the Israeli side and over 2,000 deaths on the Palestinian side, according to various estimates by Israel, the UN and Hamas.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Erin Kirk-Cuomo dreamed of being a combat photographer. She interviewed with multiple companies and publications within the civilian world, but none of them were willing to hire a female photographer for that position.
So, she decided to join the military.
She chose to go into the United States Marine Corps. When she opened the doors to the Armed Forces recruitment office in 2004, she was ready to raise her right hand and do just that. But Kirk-Cuomo was told she couldn’t be a combat photographer, because she was female.
At that point, females were not allowed to serve in combat positions. But Kirk-Cuomo knew that the job she wanted wasn’t considered an active combat position, even though she’d be in the thick of things. She knew the recruiter was wrong and told him so. Kirk-Cuomo then demanded that he call a supervisor, which he begrudgingly did. That recruiter later came back and apologized for telling her she couldn’t be a combat photographer. He then asked if she could pass a physical fitness test.
The Marine Corps has the longest boot camp out of all of the armed forces and arguably the toughest to graduate from. In 2004 when she wanted to join, only 6% of enlisted Marines were female. Kirk-Cuomo did part of the physical fitness test right then and there in front of that recruiter.
She shipped out to boot camp on Parris Island two weeks later.
Kirk-Cuomo made it through the still gender-segregated 13 weeks to become a Marine. She vividly remembers that if the female or male platoons came anywhere near each other, the drill instructors would make the males do an about face, away from the females. She recalls a time that the drill instructor yelled at the male recruits, “Don’t you look at those dirty females!”
This wouldn’t be the last time she’d hear those words.
Despite the hardships, she graduated boot camp as a high shooter. Kirk-Cuomo had the highest rifle score, beating out all of the other platoons that graduated boot camp with her. She left for combat training following boot camp and then went on to school to learn how to be a combat photographer. She left as the number one distinguished honor graduate.
Kirk-Cuomo was now a part of combat camera, or COMCAM. “There really weren’t a whole lot of us [females] at the time. Most of the women that were in COMCAM were lithographers or graphics people,” she said.
Kirk-Cuomo reported to her new duty station shortly thereafter – Camp Pendleton, located in San Diego, Calif. A couple of years later, she began deploying. From 2006-2008 she was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where she was the only female in her unit. She was also the only combat photographer for the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF).
Kirk-Cuomo shared that being in the field was a dream come true. She credited a male warrant officer for going against the norm. In a time where leadership was hesitant to send female combat photographers anywhere dangerous, he sent her everywhere she wanted to go. It’s because of his inclusiveness and belief in her abilities that she was able to go right into the thick of things just like her male counterparts. He never saw her as “just” a woman; he saw her as a competent Marine.
When asked if serving as a combat photographer was everything she’d hoped for, Kirk-Cuomo smiled sadly. “I wasn’t prepared to stand up for myself as much as I should have,” she said. She recalled her experiences of continuous harassment and even a sexual assault. She feels strongly that the Marine Corp created a toxic environment by first segregating the sexes in boot camp and creating an environment that made females feel as though they were “less than.”
The Marine Corps just graduated its first co-ed company in March of 2019. If Congress has anything to say about, it will be mandatory due to the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, which has a provision requiring them to integrate both boot camp locations. The west coast location has never trained female recruits.
“I am horrified that I didn’t stand up for myself just to fit in and get by. We older female Marines really do carry a sense of guilt with that. How much worse did we make it for the generations that came after us because we didn’t stand up and say something?” she asked.
Kirk-Cuomo gives credit for being able to openly share her experiences with the new generation of female Marines that have refused to accept that behavior. “I am just in awe of them – seeing what they’ve done and what they continue to do,” said Kirk-Cuomo. She feels confident in the new wave of female Marines making positive changes.
When she left her last deployment, she became a photographer at Marine Corps Headquarters, assigned to the Commandant. She left the Marines in 2010 and went on to become a photographer for the Secretary of Defense.
After President Obama was elected, she remembers there being a level of high tension among male Marines and heavy discussion about whether Obama would repeal the rule that prohibited females from serving in combat positions. He did.
Kirk-Cuomo was able to photograph the moment the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed the repeal. “I remember standing in the briefing room, photographing this momentous thing,” she shared. “I was taking these pictures and just sobbing behind the camera.”
These days Kirk-Cuomo is an active advocate for female Marines and one of their loudest cheerleaders and supporters. When asked if she regrets joining, she didn’t hesitate to say no. But when asked if she would advise females to pick the Marine Corps over other branches of service to enlist in – she immediately said not yet, they still have a lot of work to do.
Hardeep Grewal was a 29-year-old Air Force computer operations specialist suffering a mild case of pneumonia when he deployed to Saudi Arabia and a series of other Southwest Asian countries in 2003.
The staff sergeant stayed ill and returned to the United States “looking like a scare crow,” he said. He was diagnosed with asthma, which would require two medications daily for the rest of his life. By December 2004, Grewal was medically discharged with a 10 percent disability rating and a small severance payment.
The Air Force physical evaluation board “lowballed me,” he recalled in a phone conversation on April 25, 2018, from his Northern Virginia home. “They were trying to get rid of people” from a specialty that, after offering an attractive reenlistment bonus, quickly became overmanned.
Grewal promptly applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and his initial VA rating was set at 30 percent. Full VA payments were delayed until Grewal’s Air Force severance was recouped.
Twelve years later, in August 2016, he got a letter inviting him to have his military disability rating reviewed by a special board Congress created solely to determine whether veterans like him, discharged for conditions rated 20 percent disabling or less from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2009, were treated fairly.
“I waited like almost two months to apply because I didn’t know if somebody was pulling my leg,” Grewal said. “I talked to a lot of people, including a friend at Langley Air Force Base, to find out if it was legit. He said other service members he knew who had gotten out were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s legit. You can look it up.’ “
Grewal had to wait 18 months but he received his decision letter from the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) in April 2018. It recommends to the Air Force Secretary that Grewal’s discharge with severance pay be recharacterized to permanent disability retirement, effective the date of his prior medical separation.
If, as expected, the Air Force approves a revised disability rating to 30 percent back to December 2004, Grewal will receive retroactive disability retirement, become eligible for TRICARE health insurance and begin to enjoy other privileges of “retiree” status including access to discount shopping on base.
Congress ordered that the PDBR established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of service members medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.
The PDBR began accepting applications in January 2009. So far only 19,000 veterans have applied from pool of 71,000 known to be eligible for at least a disability rating review. All of them were medically-discharged with disability ratings of 20 percent or less sometime during the qualifying period.
A bump in rating to 30 percent or higher bestows retiree status including a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And yet only 27 percent of veterans believed eligible for a rating review have applied. Indeed, applications to the PDBR have slowed to a trickle of 40 to 50 per month.
For this column, Greg Johnson, director of the PDRB, provided written responses to two dozen questions on the board’s operations. Overall, he explained, 42 percent of applicants receive a recommendation that their original rating be upgraded. Their service branch has the final say on whether a recommendation is approved but in almost every instance they have been.
To date, 47 percent of Army veterans who applied got a recommendation for upgrade, and 18 percent saw their rating increased to at least 30 percent to qualify for disability retirement.
For the Navy Department, which includes Sailors and Marines, 34 percent of applicants received upgrade recommendations and 17 percent gained retiree status. For Air Force applicants the approval rate also has been 34 percent, but 21 percent airmen got a revised rating high enough to qualify for disability retirement.
The top three medical conditions triggering favorable recommendations are mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, back ailments and arthritis.
As Grewal learned, decisions are not made quickly. The current wait, on average, is eight to 12 months, Johnson said. But that is faster than the 18-to-24-month wait that was routine in earlier years.
Also, veterans need not fear that a new review will result in a rating downgrade. The law establishing the PDBR doesn’t allow for it.
Once received, applications are scanned into the PDBR data base and the board requests from the service branch a copy of their physical evaluation board case file. Also, PDBR retrieves from VA the veteran’s treatment records and all documents associated with a VA disability rating decision.
After paperwork is gathered, a PDBR panel of one medical officer and two non-medical officers, military or civilian, reviews the original rating decision. All panelists are the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (for Navy, captain or commander) or their civilian equivalents. The board has 34 voting members plus support staff, which is more than PDBR had in its early years, Johnson said.
The wait for a decision is long because of the time it takes to retrieve records, the thoroughness of the review and the complexity of the cases, Johnson said.
About 70 percent of applicants have been Army, 20 percent Navy or Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force and less than one percent Coast Guard.
PDBR notification letters have been sent to eligible veterans at last-known addresses at least twice and include applications and pre-stamped return envelopes. Grewal said he had moved four times since leaving service which might be why he never heard of the board before the notification letter reach him in 2016.
At some point Congress could set a deadline for the board to cease operations but it hasn’t yet. The board advises veterans, however, to apply as soon as they can. The longer they wait, it notes on its website, “the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in-service sources [needed] to assess your claim.”
If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Chad and Romania are situated on separate continents and share few historical or geographical links. They don’t even have an embassy in each other’s country.
The two countries rarely come up in the same sentence. That is, unless you’re discussing their flags.
Aside from slight variations in color shading, the two countries’ flags appear identical — an observation Tesla CEO Elon Musk appears to have just discovered and shared with Twitter.
According to the online Encyclopedia Britannica, Romania initially displayed a flag with horizontal stripes of blue, yellow, and red before settling on its current vertical design in 1861.
Chad decided on its own flag design after it achieved independence from France in 1959.
The country initially considered a green, yellow, and red design but quickly discovered Mali had already taken the same pattern. It then swapped the green for the blue — inadvertently creating a flag that was almost identical to Romania’s.
Chad’s flag is not the only one to resemble other flags — here are some other examples
The flag of Mali, the country Chad tried to avoid copying, is similar to Senegal’s — a single green star in the middle appears to separate the two flags. Guinea’s also replicates Mali’s design but is reversed.
Both Indonesia and Monaco fly two horizontal stripes: red over white. Poland similarly flies white over red.
Ireland and Ivory Coast share the same design, but it is flipped on the flagpole.
All of these similarities may have stemmed from coincidence, but other flags have a specific reason for slight variations to a theme.
Ecuador, Venezuela, and Colombia all sport the same-colored horizontal stripes, but that’s because they used to be part of the same country of Gran Colombia, which dissolved in 1822, according to Britannica.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.