This is what it's like inside the world's largest submarine - We Are The Mighty
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This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

Russia is (by land mass), the largest country in the world. At one point in its history, it was home to the largest army in the world, the largest stockpile of nuclear warheads, and… the largest submarines ever built.


Known to the West as the Typhoon class, and to Russians as “Akula” (shark), these black and red beasts were created as a counter to the American Ohio class, carrying dozens of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles as a deterrent during the Cold War.

At 574 feet long and 75 feet in breadth, these these 25,000 ton monsters were actually larger and wider than the American vessels they were created to compete with.

Essentially tasked with inflicting a nuclear apocalypse upon the West if the Cold War got hot, the Typhoons were given a fairly unique design to keep the boats rugged and survivable — should either an accident or an anti-submarine attack occur — so that they could still carry out their incredibly destructive mission.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine
An unidentified Typhoon transiting through Northern Russia (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Inside the Typhoon’s hulking mass existed a pair of longer pressure hulls from older Delta-class ballistic missile submarines and three more smaller hulls placed around the boat to protect other critical points like engineering spaces and the torpedo rooms. Should a breach occur — whether by collision or attack — the crew inside the other pressure hulls would be safe and the sub would still be operational.

Typhoons carry their missiles in front of their gigantic (and almost comically oversized) sail instead of behind it, as Delta-class and American Ohio-class boats do.

Two nuclear reactors give these warships the power they need to operate, allowing for a maximum speed of around 27 knots underwater (31 mph).

Instead of constantly traversing the world’s oceans, Typhoons were built to sit under the Arctic Circle for months at a time, waiting to punch through the ice in order to launch their deadly payloads of nuclear-tipped missiles.

Because of their designated operating locations, these subs could often escape harassment by American and British hunter/killer submarines constantly prowling around the Atlantic Ocean looking for Soviet warships to mess with.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine
A Typhoon running on the surface in the North Atlantic Ocean (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Because of the length and duration of their missions, Typhoons were designed with crew comfort in mind. In fact, the accommodations aboard a Typhoon were so luxurious that sailors in the Soviet (and later, Russian) navy nicknamed these gargantuan vessels “floating Hiltons.”

Instead of utilitarian steel furniture with minimal padding, a Typhoon’s interior features wooden-paneled walls, comfortable padded chairs, raised ceilings and full-sized doorways, and a fully-stocked gym. Unlike any other submarine ever built, each Typhoon also came with a unique and somewhat enviable feature – a lounge for sailors, including a swimming pool and a sauna.

You didn’t misread that – Typhoons were actually built with small two-foot-deep swimming pools to improve crew morale on long deployments, along with saunas and a lounge area with plush rocking chairs. Televisions (a luxury in the Soviet Navy) were also set up throughout the boat, playing Soviet movies, television shows and propaganda for the crew’s entertainment.

But just as these behemoth war machines entered service with the Soviet Navy, their time rapidly began to wind down. Of the seven planned Typhoons, six were built throughout the 1980s and retired less than 10 years later in the 1990s.

The Russian government simply couldn’t afford to keep fielding the largest missile submarines they (or any other country in the world) had ever built.

In the 1990s, the US and Canadian governments began offering financial incentives to Russia, after the fall of the Soviet Union, to retire a number of their nuclear deterrent warships. Among the many sent to the wreckers were three of the six Typhoons, with the other three staying in service.

Today, only one Typhoon remains active while two others have been placed in reserve. The sole active sub, the Dmitriy Donskoy, serves as a test platform for Russia’s newest submarine-launched cruise missiles, though its days are also numbered with the advent of newer Russian Borei-class ballistic missile subs.

The other two Typhoons currently held in reserve — the Arkhangelsk and the Severstal — will likely be scrapped between 2018 and 2019, with the Donskoy following not too long after, ending the story of the largest nuclear ballistic missile submarines ever built.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is how long it takes to get to the International Space Station

A Russian-American crew of three has arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), marking success in the second attempt to reach the craft after an aborted launch in October 2018.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying U.S. astronauts Nick Hague and Christina Koch along with Russian cosmonaut Aleksei Ovchinin arrived at 0101 GMT/UTC on March 15, 2019, a few minutes ahead of schedule after a six-hour flight.


The craft lifted off without incident from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on March 14, 2019.

The Soyuz MS-12 flight reached a designated orbit some nine minutes after the launch, and the crew reported they were feeling fine and all systems on board were operating normally.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

NASA astronauts Nick Hague (left) and Christina Hammock Koch (right) and Alexey Ovchinin of the Russian space agency Roscosmos (center).

On Oct. 11, 2018, a Soyuz spacecraft that Hague and Ovchinin were riding in failed two minutes into its flight, activating a rescue system that allowed their capsule to land safely.

That accident was the Russian space program’s first aborted crew launch since 1983, when two Soviet cosmonauts safely jettisoned after a launch-pad explosion.

The trio were joining American Anne McClain, Russian Oleg Kononenko, and Canadian David Saint-Jacques, who are currently on board the ISS. They will conduct work on hundreds of experiments in biology, biotechnology, physical science, and Earth science.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

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6 things you didn’t know about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One of the greatest tragedies of war is when a troop falls and is lost amidst the chaos of combat — the troop’s body, for whatever reason, cannot be properly identified. To pay homage to these unknown troops who made the ultimate sacrifice in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. Anonymous troops who have fallen in some of America’s greatest wars are interred within a tomb to honor those unaccounted for.

Every year, approximately four million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to these men and women. Most gather in solemn awe as they watch the proceedings at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which stands atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.


Highly-trained Tomb Sentinels protect every inch of the hallowed ground, 24 hours a day. Although the site is rich with history and tradition, there are many facts about the Tomb that most don’t know.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine
Edward F. Younger recreating his selection at the Arlington National Cemetery, VA.

The first soldier chosen for the special tomb

In March of 1921, Congress approved a plan to return an unknown soldier from the first World War, burying him with full honors in a tomb at the memorial amphitheater in Arlington.

On Memorial Day of that same year, four American troops were exhumed from cemeteries in France. The deceased were placed in four identical caskets and placed in front of Army sergeant and World War I veteran, Edward F. Younger, who was wounded in combat and given the distinct opportunity of choosing the first unknown soldier to be buried.

At the chapel, Younger paced around the caskets, holding roses. The coffin upon which he placed the roses was his choice. He made his selection and the casket sent back home aboard USS Olympia and buried at Arlington. The others remained in France and were transported to the Meuse-Argonne Cemetery and laid to rest.

The second soldier chosen

After the end of World War II, it was time to begin the selection process anew in order to honor those who fell. Unfortunately, the Korean war had also reared its ugly head, postponing the process. It wasn’t until 1958 that proceedings resumed.

On May 15, 1958, four unknown heroes were placed in identical caskets before Master Sgt. Ned Lyle, a Distinguished Service Cross recipient who had proved his valor in Korea. It was up to him to select the soldier to be entombed and represent those lost in the Korean War.

The decorated master sergeant placed a wreath atop his selection, followed by an honorary hand salute.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine
The two Unknown’s casket as they make their trips to Arlington
(LionHeart FilmWorks)

 

The third soldier chosen

The third unknown soldier, who would symbolize those lost in World War II, was selected aboard the USS Canberra just 11 days later. Hospital corpsman and Medal of Honor-recipient William R. Charette made the final selection.

Two unknowns were presented to Charette — one from the Pacific theater, the other from the European. The selected casket was returned to Arlington and the other was given an honorable burial at sea.

The unknown soldiers from World War II and the Korean War were placed into the tomb at the same time.

The final soldier chosen

The Unknown soldier from the Vietnam War was selected by Medal of Honor-recipient Sgt. Maj. Allan Jay Kellogg Jr. during a military ceremony at Pearl Harbor in 1984. The Unknown arrived at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, May 28, 1984.

President Ronald Reagan presided over the funeral and awarded the Unknown with the Medal of Honor.

In 1998, the body was exhumed and the DNA was tested. The body was later be identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie, who was shot down in Vietnam, 1972.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine
The Greek sculptures depicting peace (left), victory (center), and valor (right).
(LionHeart FilmWorks)

The white-marble sarcophagus’ design

The sarcophagus is built using seven rectangular pieces of white marble and weighs 79 tons. The west-facing panel reads, “here rests, in honored glory, an American soldier, known but to God.” The north and south-facing panels display six inverted wreaths, signifying the major campaigns of World War I.

On the east-facing are three Greek figures, representing peace, victory, and valor.

The Tomb Sentinels

In April 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24 hours day. The guard changes every 30 minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.

Those who wish to become a Sentinel are hand-picked and undergo strict training. 60 percent of the hopefuls will not graduate the rigorous program.

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

US ‘mini carrier groups’ could change how Navy, Marines operate

US Marines are not only experimenting with a new aircraft-carrier concept, but they are also taking a fresh look at forming “mini” carrier strike groups to fill in when the carriers are called away.

The capable fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters are changing the way the service’s big amphibious assault ships — the centerpieces of the “gator navy” — go to war.

The Marine Corps is aggressively pushing ahead with the experimental “Lightning-carrier” concept, which involves arming the large flattops with a literal boatload of F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to turn the traditional troop-transport ships into light carriers capable of boosting the overall firepower of the US carrier force.


This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

The USS Essex sails alongside the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jake Greenberg)

At the same time, the service and the US Navy are looking at making changes to amphibious readiness groups (ARGs), transforming them into miniature carrier strike groups (CSGs). An ARG typically consists of an amphibious assault ship, an amphibious transport dock, a landing-dock ship, and a contingent of Marine expeditionary forces.

“We’re definitely changing the way amphibs are employed, especially on the blue side — we’re no longer just the trucks that carry Marines that we used to be,” Lt. Cmdr. David Mahoney, the Amphibious Squadron 1 operations officer, said, according to a USNI News report on April 16, 2019.

The amphibious assault ship USS Essex, the lead capital ship for the Essex ARG, sailed into the Persian Gulf in fall 2018 as the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier and its escort ships, which were initially expected to deploy to the Middle East, sailed into the north Atlantic in support of NATO.

“There was no carrier in 5th Fleet, so a lot of the CSG-like duties we started taking over just because we had to,” Mahoney said. “The ARG is now becoming almost like a mini CSG.”

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

F-35B Lightning II on the USS Essex.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matthew Freeman)

“You can see that layered defense,” he said, pointing to the ARGs cooperation with destroyers and other warships and the increased capability provided by the multi-mission F-35s with advanced stealth and a powerful sensor suite. “This is what has to happen as the carriers are being sometimes sent elsewhere because the needs are rising elsewhere.”

The ARGs, especially in this time of a renewed great-power competition, are “definitely in high demand to fill those [CSG] roles as the Navy is spreading out further and further around the globe.”

Marine Corps F-35Bs, which are short-take-off vertical-landing aircraft built for operations aboard amphibious assault ships, flew into combat for the first time during the Essex ARG’s deployment. Amphibious assault ships lack the catapults and arresting wires used on aircraft carriers, and support only these jump jets and helicopters.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

F-35B Lightning II takes off from the USS Essex.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)

In February 2019, the F-35B achieved another first as fighters aboard the USS Wasp and carried out simulated strikes in “beast mode” — meaning it was operating with an external ordnance loadout — in the Pacific.

Recently, the Wasp sailed into the South China Sea with an unusually heavy configuration of at least 10 stealth fighters, significantly more than normal, for joint drills with the Philippines. During the Balikatan exercises, the ship was spotted running flight operations near the disputed Scarborough Shoal as part of the light-carrier experiment.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

The USS Wasp in the South China Sea.

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker)

At the heart of the new “mini” CSGs is the “Lightning carrier,” an amphibious assault ship loaded up with as many as 20 F-35s for carrierlike operations. This concept, which the Marines began experimenting with in 2016, is a rebranded version of the “Harrier-carrier” concept, an earlier variation with AV-8 Harrier jump jets that served the military well for decades.

“While the amphibious assault ship will never replace the aircraft carrier,” the Marine Corps said in a 2017 report, “it can be complementary if employed in imaginative ways.”

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

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Today in military history: Union issues conduct code defining laws of combat for Civil War

On April 24, 1863, President Lincoln issued “General Orders No. 100: Instructions for the Government of the Armies of the United States in the Field.” Commonly referred to as the “Lieber Code” after its primary author Francis (Franz) Lieber, it dictated how soldiers should conduct themselves in wartime. The main sections concerned martial law, military jurisdiction, and the treatment of spies, deserters and prisoners of war.

The Lieber Code remains the basis of most regulations for the laws of war for the United States and many other countries who used it as a template for the codification of laws of war. Before the Lieber Code, the conduct of countries and combatants was mostly based on customs, which could vary widely from country to country. The Lieber Code is the first modern attempt to codify agreed upon laws of armed conflict and humanitarian law.

The Lieber Code was prepared by international lawyer Franz Lieber, who emigrated from Germany to the United States after being imprisoned as an “enemy of the state” due to his liberal nationalist views. In the United States, he became a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, where he soon began to feel like an outsider due to his opposition to slavery. He moved to New York to teach at Columbia University and Columbia Law School, where he lectured on constitutional questions relating to times of war.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, President Lincoln wanted to provide instructions to Union officers about the treatment of Confederate soldiers. He turned to Lieber for guidance about issues such as whether Confederates should be treated as traitors subject to the death penalty or as prisoners of war as well as the treatment of “fugitives” fleeing enslavement.
Lieber and a committee of four generals came together to draw up a manual to address these concerns; the instructions were endorsed by Lincoln on April 24, 1863, and distributed to all Union commanders in the field. According to historical records, the Confederate government would also adopt some of the rules in the Lieber Code as well.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Marines are testing out a new ‘lethal’ grenade launcher

The Marine Corps plans to introduce a new weapon intended to enhance the lethality of infantry Marines on the battlefield.

The M320A1 is a grenade launcher that can be employed as a stand-alone weapon or mounted onto another, such as the M27 Infantry Automatic Rifle. Scheduled to be fielded in fiscal year 2020, the system will give fleet Marines the ability to engage with enemies near and far, day or night.

“The M320A1 will provide good range and accuracy, making the infantry squad more lethal,” said Lt. Col. Tim Hough, program manager for Infantry Weapons in Marine Corps Systems Command’s Ground Combat Element Systems.


The functionality of the M320A1 makes it unique, said Hough. Its ability to be used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with a firearm should help warfighters combat enemy forces. The weapon will replace the M203 grenade launcher, currently employed by Marines.

“The mounted version of the M320A1 is a capability we’re currently working on so that Marines have that option should they want it,” added Hough.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at Marine Corps Systems Command, holds the M320A1 during a weeklong review of the system.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Joseph Neigh)

Before the Marine Air-Ground Task Force receives the M320A1, the Corps must draft technical documents for the weapon. These publications provide Marines with further information about the system.

In early March 2019, Ground Combat Elements Systems collaborated with fleet maintenance Marines and logisticians from Albany, Georgia, conducting various analyses to determine provisioning, sustainment and new equipment training requirements for the system.

The first evaluation was a Level of Repair Analysis, or LORA. A LORA determines when a system component will be replaced, repaired or discarded. This process provides information for helping operational forces quickly fix the weapon should it break.

The LORA establishes the tools required to perform a task, test equipment needed to fix the product and the facilities to house the operation.

“It’s important to do the LORA now in a deliberate fashion so that we don’t do our work in front of the customer,” explained Hough. “And it ensures the system they get is ready to go, helping them understand the maintenance that must be done.”

The second evaluation was a Job Training Analysis, which provides the operational forces with a training package that instructs them on proper use of the system to efficiently engage adversaries on the battlefield.

“This process helps us ensure this weapon is both sustainable and maintainable at the operator and Marine Corps-wide level,” said Capt. Nick Berger, project officer in Infantry Weapons at MCSC. “It sets conditions for us to field the weapon.”

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

M320 40mm Grenade Launcher Module.

Analyses supports sustainability

Sustainability is a key factor in any systems acquisition process. The goal of the LORA and Job Training Analysis is to ensure the operator and maintenance technical publications of a system are accurate, which reduces operational ambivalence and improves the grenade launcher’s sustainability.

The LORA is an ongoing process that continues throughout the lifecycle of the M320A1 to establish sustainability, said Hough. After fielding the M320A1, the Corps will monitor the system to ensure it is functioning properly.

During this time, the program office will make any adjustments and updates necessary.

“We’re looking to have the new equipment training and fielding complete prior to fourth quarter of FY19 to ensure they can be used and maintained properly once they hit the fleet,” said Berger.

The analyses, which occurred over the course of a week, were no easy task.

“This was an extensive and arduous process,” explained Hough. “We scheduled three days for the LORA — all day — so you’re looking at about 24 hours of work for the LORA. And that doesn’t include reviews, briefs and refinements to the package.”

However, at the end of the week, Hough expressed gratitude for all parties involved in the M320A1 analyses, which he called a success. He said the tasks could not have been completed without the help of several key individuals.

“I will tell you what’s noteworthy is working with our contract support, the outside agencies and the deliberate efforts by our team — specifically Capt. Nick Berger and Steve Fetherolf, who is a logistician,” said Hough. “Those two have made a significant effort to get this together and move forward.”

Berger also expressed pride about the accomplishments of the analyses.

“This week has been a success,” he said. “We got the system in Marines’ hands, worked out the kinks and began to understand how we’re going to use this moving forward.”

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The VA might actually be getting its act together

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine
Or her widow, Mr. President. Or her widow. (Photo: Veterans Affairs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine
We just wanna see more vets smiling. (Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MIGHTY SPORTS

WATCH: Of course the 62-year-old who broke the world record for planking is a Marine vet

For most people, holding a plank for a full minute is a challenge. But for 62-year-old George Hood who broke the Guinness World Record (GWR) for holding a plank yesterday, it was mind over matter. The Marine veteran turned DEA Supervisory Special Agent held the position for an insane 8 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds.

In an interview with Chicago’s Fox 32, Hood said he got the idea in 2010 when the category was added as a world record. Since then, GWR reported he underwent several training camps and fitness regiments, including doing 674,000 sit ups, 270,000 push ups and a practice attempt in which he lasted 10 hours and 10 minutes in 2018.

Hood posted on Facebook following his incredible achievement: “So very proud of this particular GWR because I have finally retired the pose as I know it and will pursue other fitness endeavors. I’m proud to share this feat with my 3 sons Andrew, Brandon and Christopher. So very grateful for an outstanding TeamHood crew and a staff at 515 Fitness, led by their owner Niki Perry, that came together just one more time to achieve victory. More to follow, training continues.

After holding the plank, Hood did 75 push ups. Just because he could. Semper Fi!

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9 things you didn’t know about the “I Have a Dream” speech

Just this month on the anniversary of the March on Washington, MLK’s granddaughter gave a moving speech of her very own…and she’s not even a teenager yet! The history books don’t always tell the full story, so keep reading for some of the most interesting facts you never knew about Dr. King’s most famous speech.

 


1. MLK’s speech almost left out his “dream”

His “Dream” speech wasn’t a new concept. He used it frequently in previous speeches, so his advisor, Rv. Wyatt Tee Walker, suggested he leave it out, calling it “hackneyed and trite.” The new speech was supposed to be called “Normalcy Never Again,” but when King got up on stage as the final speaker of the day, the audience had other plans. Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson yelled out of the crowd, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin.” Going against his advisor’s suggestion, King paused and said, “I still have a dream.” It was a bold move, but even his advisor later admitted it was the right one.

MLK before his big speech

2. King didn’t write the speech alone

While some of his speech was improvised, he had help with the first draft. It was originally written by Stanley Levison and Clarence Jones, with plenty more heads coming together to create the final version.

3. The March was originally planned to leave out female speakers

Despite the innumerable women who contributed to the Civil Rights Movement, none were included in the original speaking schedule. Anna Arnold Hedgeman, the only woman who was on the national planning committee at the time, pushed for acknowledgment of their achievements. A “Tribute to Negro Women Fighters for Freedom” was added to the docket, but it was only after additional pressure that a woman was invited to lead it.

Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas NAACP, took the stage, saying, “We will walk until we are free, until we can walk to any school and take our children to any school in the United States. And we will sit-in and we will kneel-in and we will lie-in if necessary until every Negro in America can vote. This we pledge to the women of America.”

Josephine Baker, a famous American entertainer, also spoke, telling the crowd, “You know I have always taken the rocky path. I never took the easy one, but as I get older, and as I knew I had the power and the strength, I took that rocky path, and I tried to smooth it out a little. I wanted to make it easier for you. I want you to have a chance at what I had. But I do not want you to have to run away to get it.”

4. The March was organized by an openly gay man

Ever heard of Bayard Rustin? Most people haven’t, but he was an important figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He strongly encouraged King to avoid violence, fundraised for the Montgomery bus boycott, and organized the March on Washington in only two months. Despite his dedication, he remained behind the scenes for a reason. He was worried that his sexual orientation would be used as an attempt to discredit the civil rights movement, so he worked virtually unseen. President Obama recognized his work posthumously, however, awarding him The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

5. Hollywood stars attended the March to draw attention

Harry Belafonte already planned to attend the March himself when he reached out to other stars to encourage their participation. He asked Hollywood studio managers to give the actors the day off so they could attend, which they did. Many A-listers attended, including Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis Jr, Lena Horne and Burt Lancaster. The celebrity presence had two purposes; to boost media coverage, and to ease concerns about violence. The participation of so many high-profile celebrities toned down the widespread anxiety and increased support from President John F. Kennedy.

6. Wiretapping was a real concern

Speeches and marches don’t plan themselves, and the planning continues right up until the event starts. The day before King gave his most famous speech, he got together with his advisors to discuss the final version. They were worried that King’s hotel suite at the Willard Hotel wasn’t secure enough and could easily be wiretapped, however, so they met in the lobby instead, to discuss the speech.

7. Dr. King’s bodyguard was a college basketball player

George Raveling was in the audience when event organizers asked if he would step on stage to act as King’s bodyguard. As he was standing next to King, he asked if he could keep the paper copy of the speech. Raveling, now a retired basketball coach, still owns the original, typewritten speech.

8. The media didn’t care about the speeches

Today, King’s speech is celebrated and studied as one of the best speeches in all of history. Right after it happened, however, many reporters overlooked the speech almost entirely. Instead of covering the speeches given, newspapers (including Dr. King’s) focused on the size and scope of the March itself. The speech wasn’t given much attention during King’s lifetime, resurfacing in the public eye years later.

9. ‘I Have a Dream’ was rated a better speech than JFK’s ‘Ask not what you can do’ speech

In 1999, a panel of over 130 scholars rated Dr. King’s speech as the best of the 20th century. Even Kennedy himself knew what a pivotal speech it was, commending King by saying, either “He’s damned good” or “That guy is really good,” depending on who you hear it from.

Either way, we can all agree the speech was awe-inspiring and revolutionary. You can read or listen to the full speech here!

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

This ‘exascale’ computer could be the most powerful processor in the world

Intel said on March 18, 2019, that it would build the US’s most powerful supercomputer, so fast that it could process 1 quintillion — 1 billion times 1 billion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 — calculations per second.

To put that in perspective: If every person on Earth did one calculation (say, a math problem involving algebra) per second, it would take everyone over four years to do all the calculations Aurora could do in one second.


Intel and the US Department of Energy said Aurora would be the US’s first exascale supercomputer, with a performance of 1 exaflop, when it’s completed in 2021.

That kind of number-crunching brawn, the computer’s creators hope, will enable great leaps in everything from cancer research to renewable-energy development.

Aurora, set to be developed by Intel and its subcontractor Cray at the Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, would far surpass the abilities of supercomputers today. It’s likely to be the most powerful supercomputer in not just the US but the world, though Rick Stevens, an associate laboratory director at Argonne, said that other countries might also be working on exascale supercomputers.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

Rajeeb Hazra, a corporate vice president and general manager at Intel.

(Intel)

The effort marks a “transformational” moment in the evolution of high-performance computing, Rajeeb Hazra, an Intel corporate vice president and general manager of its enterprise and government group, told Business Insider.

What Aurora could do

A computer that powerful is no small thing. Though Intel didn’t unveil the technical details of the system, supercomputers typically cover thousands of square feet and have thousands of nodes.

When it’s finished, this supercomputer should be able to do space simulations, drug discovery, and more. The government said it planned to use it to develop applications in science, energy, and defense. Aurora could also be used by universities and national labs.

For example, it could be used to safely simulate and test weapons — without actually setting them off or endangering people — or design better batteries, wind-power systems, or nuclear reactors. It could also be used to better understand earthquake hazards and model the risks of climate change.

U.S. Department of Energy and Intel to Deliver First Exascale Supercomputer

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It could even be used for research on cancer, cardiac issues, traumatic brain injuries, and suicide prevention, especially among veterans. The supercomputer is designed to apply large-scale data analytics and machine learning to understand the risk factors for these kinds of physical and mental health problems to help prevent them.

Intel, which says it helps power over 460 of the top 500 supercomputers, has worked with the Department of Energy for about two decades. It said Aurora would be five times as fast as the most powerful supercomputer, IBM’s Summit.

The Department of Energy’s contract with Intel and Cray is worth over 0 million to build Aurora, which Secretary of Energy Rick Perry authorized in 2017. The department also plans to build additional exascale supercomputers to start working between 2021 and 2023.

“The biggest challenge is also probably the most exciting part: to envision and create technologies that have never been created before,” Hazra said. “Because this machine requires a level of capability we haven’t seen before, the biggest risk is we’re inventing something new — but to us, that’s also the most exciting part.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Not forgotten: ceremonies around the world honor the Battle of Iwo Jima

This past week was a special anniversary for Americans.


We observed the 75th anniversary of the battle of Iwo Jima, and specifically, on Feb. 23, we honored the 75th anniversary of the raising of the flag and the immortal photo taken by Joe Rosenthal.

Around the country, there were special celebrations to honor the men who served in that ferocious and terrible battle. Many politicians, notable figures and average Joe’s took to social media to honor the men who fought and died on Iwo.

With the passage of time, there are fewer and fewer men who fought on the volcanic rock, so events honoring them get more and more special.

Medal of Honor recipient Woody Williams was honored at a Washington Capitals game over the weekend. Williams, who earned Medal of Honor as a flamethrower on Iwo Jima, was showered with applause and adulation by the Capitals fans, players and members of the opposing team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Williams is the last recipient living of the 27 men who were awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery during Iwo Jima.

Watch Williams being honored at the game:

Williams took to Twitter (yes, Medal of Honor Iwo Jima vets have Twitter too) to express his excitement of being at the game.

Williams, aged 96, shows no sign of stopping. He will be giving a TEDx talk this March at Marshall University.

While many other events took place around the country, a very special commemoration took place in California.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

Twenty-eight Iwo Jima veterans and members of the Iwo Jima Commemorative Committee posae for a picture after an event commemoratiing the 75th annivesary of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2020.

ROYCE DORMAN/MARINE CORPS

Camp Pendleton hosted a reunion of over two dozen Iwo Jima veterans last week. Over the course of three days, the Iwo Jima Commemorative Committee held events on Pendleton to honor the men that fought there. Sadly, the Marine Corps put out a statement saying that this would probably be the last formal event as fewer and fewer veterans are alive and in shape to travel.

But as they say, tell that to the Marines.

“It’s very special to be a part of this ceremony,” said William “Bill” Wayne, an Iwo Jima veteran whose fellow Marines of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division, raised the flag on Mount Suribachi. “I get a real kick out of coming and seeing everyone and talking to the young Marines.”
MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Emergency Relief is poised to assist all service members during pandemic

Army Emergency Relief (AER) was formed in 1942 with the mission to alleviate financial stress on the force. Since they opened their doors they’ve given out $2 billion dollars in aid. They remain a part of the Army, and assistance is coordinated by mission and garrison commanders at Army bases throughout the world. With the continual threat of the coronavirus looming, AER is ready and not just to serve soldiers – but all branches of the military.


Lieutenant General Raymond Mason (ret.) has been the Director of AER since 2016 and feels passionate about his role at AER and what the organization can do for military families. He shared that the one thing that keeps him up at night is the soldier or military member that doesn’t know about AER.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

“If a soldier, airman, sailor, marine or coast guardsman is distracted by something in their life…. like finances, they probably aren’t focused on their individual training. They aren’t focused on their unit mission and if we send them into a combat zone with those distractions they are a danger to themselves and their buddies on their left and right,” said Mason. That’s where AER comes in.

AER is a 501c3 non-profit and receives no federal funding; instead they rely on the generous donations of others to make their mission a reality. Mason also shared that AER has close relationships with all of the other services relief organizations, with them often working together to serve those in need. For example, a coastie can walk into an AER office on post and get the same help as a soldier, although the representative they work with has to follow the guidelines of their branch’s relief organization.

Their biggest concern right now is information. “I want to make sure everyone from private to general knows about our program,” said Mason. He touched on the new environment of social media and the exploding availability of aid to military families. While he shared that it can be a good thing that there are so many organizations devoted to supporting the military; there are also some really bad agencies out there. Mason shared that AER is working hard on more strategic communication and marketing of their relief program to prevent that.

“This isn’t a giveaway program, it’s a help up. You get back on your feet and get back in the fight,” said Mason. AER is also open to all ranks, knowing that anyone can need assistance at any time. They can walk into AER and know that they’ll have their back. AER maintains a 4 out of 4 star rating with Charity Navigator, shared Mason, and it’s something they are very proud of.

There are military members who are reluctant to request help through relief agencies out of fear of reprimand or negative impacts to their career. While AER encourages members to go to their chain of command with their needs, even granting approval for first sergeants to sign checks up to 00 – Mason understands it isn’t always easy. As long as they are outside of their initial trainings and have been serving over twelve months, they can go through direct access to get help without involving command.

As the military orders a stand down on travel due to the coronavirus, guard families are concerned. Many of them are unable to hold civilian jobs due to the frequent schools, trainings, TDYs and deployments. With orders being canceled or held, this means financial ruin could be just a paycheck away. AER will be there for those families and stands ready to serve them.

This is what it’s like inside the world’s largest submarine

But all of this costs money, something that AER will always need to continue to support military members and their families. They are stepping up their donation requests by engaging with American citizens and corporations. “We’ve never done that throughout our history and we are doing it for the first time,” said Mason. He continued by sharing although they’ve received support from them in the past, they’ve never asked. Now they are asking.

AER just began its annual fundraising campaign, which kicked off on March 1 and will run through May 15, 2020. For the first time, they are really involving the bases and have turned it into a fun event that each group can make their own, Mason shared. There will be an awards ceremony later on in the year to celebrate those who went the extra mile.

He also shared that AER and most relief societies receive a very low percentage of donations that are actually received from active duty, which is concerning. Mason stated that it isn’t about the amount that they give, but that they do give. “Military members fight for each other. When in combat you fight for your buddy on your left or right. If you aren’t willing to reach in your back pocket to help your buddy on your left and right, we have a problem,” said Mason.

“Leave no comrade behind” is the army’s creed – it is a motto that all should take to heart, especially at home.

To learn more about AER and how you can help their mission, click here.

popular

Former FBI agent explains how to read body language

“My job was to catch spies,” shared former FBI agent Joe Navarro. He was straight up recruited to the FBI when he was a 23-year-old cop and he spent the next 25 years with the Bureau, working in counterintelligence and counterterrorism.

He specialized in the science of nonverbal communication — reading the unspoken clues about a person just by observing their body language and behavior.

“Most of my career I spent within the National Security Division. A lot of it had to do with looking at specific targets and then it was about, ‘How do I get in their heads and neutralize them?'”

There are a lot of myths out there. Take crossing your arms; Navarro says many people think of this as a “blocking behavior,” but crossed arms are actually known as “self-soothing” — the action of calming or comforting oneself when unhappy or distressed. “It’s a self hug,” he asserts.

“We are never in a state where we’re not transmitting information,” Navarro says with confidence. Check out the video to see precisely what that means:


Former FBI Agent Explains How to Read Body Language | Tradecraft | WIRED

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“We humans are lousy at detecting deception,” he claims — and if you’ve ever wondered if you’re getting away with that lie, read on…

As in his book, Navarro breaks down different features on the face: the forehead can reveal stress; the nose might crinkle when someone is upset and similarly people compress the lips when upset.

Even the cheeks and the jaw can alert an expert that someone is attempting “perception management,” and then Navarro is on the hunt.

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(YouTube screenshot | Wired)

Even body posturing in the stance Navarro calls “arms akimbo” can communicate different behavior based on the placement of the fingers. On the left, the fingers forward might indicate territorial behavior. It changes to a more inquisitive stance when the thumbs are forward.

Navarro can discern meaning from hand placement to foot activity.

“It really is looking at an individual and saying, ‘What are they transmitting?'” From walking pace to blink-rate, agents like Navarro will determine whether they should marshall resources to monitor or question an individual.

In the video, Navarro goes on to describe the effect a handshake can have on people, down to the very bonding chemicals that may or may not be produced by the body. He also unsettles a pair of strangers and describes the ramifications that action has on their interaction.

Then the video gets interesting, that is, if you’re a poker fan.

Navarro breaks down the body language of a poker table. “This is a great opportunity to be looking for behaviors indicative of discomfort,” he explains. “Even before the game starts this is an opportunity to collect ‘poker intelligence.'” If you think you’ve got a killer poker face, you may want to check out the video above! You’ll never look at your thumbs the same way again…

[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2FWfHek3HobfqkPyjPNkksSCENL3vDetFoe0g-aRyLNnQ2OEAE3Wq-j6OeaDo4SShKeGhAD9avXhX4DS00K-PpLqBZYccukN3rW7U_29jH708DVLVLVnY-iyhTQClLqc5T3NweySbR&ho=https%3A%2F%2Flh4.googleusercontent.com&s=510&h=3ac3d8e9d8e950b9fbe2ae9ee2cf76becb14653157e499cba3d3a8fac30c04ca&size=980x&c=2843847433 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252FWfHek3HobfqkPyjPNkksSCENL3vDetFoe0g-aRyLNnQ2OEAE3Wq-j6OeaDo4SShKeGhAD9avXhX4DS00K-PpLqBZYccukN3rW7U_29jH708DVLVLVnY-iyhTQClLqc5T3NweySbR%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Flh4.googleusercontent.com%26s%3D510%26h%3D3ac3d8e9d8e950b9fbe2ae9ee2cf76becb14653157e499cba3d3a8fac30c04ca%26size%3D980x%26c%3D2843847433%22%7D” expand=1]

As always, the comments are where it’s at.

(YouTube screenshot from Navarro’s comment thread | Wired.)

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