You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired - We Are The Mighty
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You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired

Nazi Germany may have been one of the most evil regimes in history, but that regime also had some very good equipment. The Tiger tank, the Bf 109 and FW 190 fighters, the U-boat, and the MG42 machine gun were all very good.


Perhaps the most notorious weapon they had was called the “88.” Technically, it was called the 8.8 centimeter Flak 18, 36, 37, or 41, but most folks just described it with the number that referred to the gun’s bore diameter in millimeters. That was a measure of how notorious the gun was.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
The seven-man crew of an 88 manhandles their gun somewhere on the Russian front. (Wikimedia Commons)

The first 88s were intended as anti-aircraft guns to kill bombers. They were very good at that – as many allied bomber crews found out to their sorrow. But the gun very quickly proved it was more than just an anti-aircraft gun, starting with its “tryout” in the Spanish Civil War. The gun also proved it could kill tanks.

According to MilitaryFactory.com, it could kill tanks from a mile away. When the Germans discovered that, they began to churn out 88mm guns as quickly as they could. As many as 20,700 were built, and they found themselves used on everything from Tiger tanks to naval vessels. Even after the war, the gun hung around, and during the war, it was something that allied forces quickly tried to neutralize. The 88 was even pressed into service with some Seventh Army units due to an ammo shortage.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
FLAK 36 88mm multipurpose gun on display in the Air Power Gallery at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

The gun had a crew of seven, and weighed nine tons. The gun could be fired at targets as far as nine miles away. Very few of these guns are around now, but in World War II, many Allied troops wondered if the Germans would ever run out.

You can see video of one of the few surviving “88s” being fired below.

Articles

Pentagon concerned that Arab allies have shifted focus away from ISIS threat

When the coalition of Western and Arab allies banded together to fight ISIS, the idea of fighting the good fight was met with a lot of zeal. When Jordanian fighter pilot First Lieutenant Muadh al-Kasasbeh was captured and burned alive by the terror organization, Jordan’s King Abdullah vowed “punishment and revenge” and led to the Jordanian King, an accomplished fighter pilot himself, releasing a photo of himself in his flight suit, geared for battle.


You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired

The Western world was wowed once more when a female pilot from the United Arab Emirates, Maj. Mariam Al Mansouri, led that country’s air war against Daesh. Many in the West aren’t familiar with the customs of each individual Arab country, especially when it comes to their views on the rights of women.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired

“She is a fully qualified, highly trained, combat ready pilot, and she led the mission,” Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE’s ambassador to the U.S., told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.

“We are in a hot area so that we have to prepare every citizen,” Al Mansouri said. “Of course, everybody is responsible of defending their country — male or female. When the time will come, everybody will jump in.”

The allies still allow U.S. planes to use their bases, but now the Gulf states who spearheaded the effort against ISIS are focused elsewhere. Emirati forces joined Saudi Arabia in fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. Jordan also joined in the effort in Yemen. Qatar limited its sorties to reconnaissance missions.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
The before and after of an American F-22 air strike on a target in Syria.

Bahrain last struck targets in Syria in February, the UAE in March, Jordan in August, and Saudi Arabia in September.

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter criticized local allies efforts, saying the Gulf states, known as the GCC or Gulf Cooperation Council, saying “some of the Gulf states are up there at 30,000 feet. If you look at where the Iranians are able to wield influence, they are in the game, on the ground.”

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
(DoD Photo)

“The reason they lack influence, and feel they lack influence in circumstances like Iraq and Syria, with [ISIS],” Carter continued, “is that they have weighted having high-end air-force fighter jets and so forth over the hard business of training and disciplining ground forces and special-operations forces.”

According to the Atlantic, the Obama Administration consistently complains about local allies, notably Turkey and the Gulf, expecting the U.S. to fight their regional enemies more than U.S. national security.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is what would happen if the Zumwalt fought a Russian battlecruiser

The United States Navy commissioned its newest destroyer, USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000), a few years ago. It’s had a hiccup or two, but make no mistake, this is a very modern naval warship. It has tons of firepower, including two 155mm guns, 20 four-cell Mk 57 vertical-launch systems, and two 30mm guns. But how would it fare against the best surface combatant in the Russian Navy, the Pyotr Velikiy, the last of four Kirov-class battlecruisers?


You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. (Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons)

This sort of ship-versus-ship combat looks one-sided in favor of the Russian ship. The Zumwalt is designed to hit and kill targets on land using BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles and has some self-defense capability with the RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile. The Pyotr Velikiy, on the other hand, was primarily designed for naval anti-air combat, armed with SS-N-19 Shipwreck anti-ship missiles, SA-N-6 Grumble surface-to-air missiles, and a twin 130mm turret.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
A solitary voyage of the Pyotr Velikiy. (Photo from RIA Novosti archive)

Looks can be deceiving. While firepower matters in any sort of combat, you need a target for that firepower. The Zumwalt, with its stealth technology, is a very elusive target. Yeah, one or two SS-N-19s could leave it a burning wreck, but they’d need to find it and hit it first. On the other hand, the Kirov’s not that stealthy. Its radars might as well be a big signpost saying, “I’m over here!”

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) during first at-sea tests and trials in the Atlantic. (Photo from U.S. Navy)

Furthermore, the Zumwalt has a few more anti-ship weapons options. One of which is Vulcano technology, which transforms its 155mm guns into anti-ship missile launchers. This places the Kirov in a world of hurt. Seeing as the Zumwalt can carry 300 rounds for each of its two 155mm guns, that’s a lot of threatening firepower. Furthermore, some advanced versions of the Tomahawk missile can be used as anti-ship munitions. To make matters worse for the Pyotr Velikiy, the Zumwalt is likely able to be upgraded with systems like a ship-launched version of the LRASM.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
LRASM anti-ship missile. (Image courtesy of Lockheed Martin)

In short, the real winner of this fight will come down to who can see the enemy ship first and in that department, the Zumwalt has the edge.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

What do Air Force fighter pilots do?

Welcome to our newest Sandboxx series: Air Force Fighter Pilots with U.S. Air Force F-35 pilot instructor and Sandboxx News contributor, Major Justin “Hasard” Lee.

In this series, Justin will be taking us through every facet of the fighter pilot lifestyle, breaking it down for you in a way that you’ve never seen before.


In this first edition, Justin explains what Air Force fighter pilots do, and it entails a whole lot more than just flying an aircraft. Fighter pilots are responsible for the planning, the execution, and then the debriefing for each sortie.

Air Force Fighter Pilots | Ep. 1: What do Air Force fighter pilots do?

www.youtube.com

Here’s Major Justin “Hasard” Lee to explain… What do Air Force fighter pilots do?

Do you want to learn more about life as an F-35 pilot? Click here and you can check out Justin Lee’s advice now how to conserve your mental energy like jet fuel, whether you’re in the sky or not.

Then you can click here to see what pulling 9Gs in a fighter jet can do to Justin’s face.

Want to know more about dogfighting? Justin’s covered that here.

You can also click here to learn more about developing mental discipline in the same ways that pilots do.

And of course, click here to read the story of Justin’s top-speed flight in a stripped-down dragster of an F-16 Fighting Falcon.

If you still haven’t had enough fighter pilot in your day, then make sure you check out Justin Lee’s podcast, The Professionals Playbook! Each week, he brings on experts and gurus from the Fortune 500 to Navy SEAL BUDS training and helps you get to know what makes people successful in any venture.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.


Articles

FOX News all in to honor Independence Day with weekend-long ‘Proud American’ special

The signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 isn’t the main reason our country should dive into this weekend’s 4th of July festivities. Abby Hornacek, FOX Nation’s travel and lifestyle host, reminds us it’s really for all of the courageous Americans who willingly raise their right hand to serve and for the fallen lost to the never ending pursuit of securing our freedoms. 

This weekend Hornacek will be broadcasting live from the Airshow in New Century, Kansas, and the World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City, Missouri. 

Her journey to the poppy fields at the memorial honoring the heroes of World War I would be a somber reminder of the importance of recognizing the meaning behind the 4th of July. “It’s incredible because it really gives context to what our men and women in the military throughout history have done to set up our freedoms to live in today’s world,” she explained. 

Hornacek touched on the recent tragedies with COVID-19 and the strife seen and heard throughout the country due to ideological differences. “It’s really special to me to come to a place like this [Kansas City] and witness firsthand how they honor our flag and the United States. They honor the fact that all of this wasn’t given to us,” she said. “It was earned on the hard work and sacrifices of human beings.”

She is also planning a lot of fun and interesting stops to celebrate the day.

“There’s a really big jazz tradition here in Kansas City so we went to a jazz club in a historic building and went to get barbecue at Joe’s Kansas City. I found that to be the biggest conversation starter with anyone,” she said with a laugh. 

Another part of the weekend that she said she is really excited about is the truck giveaway for a wounded warrior. You’ll also get to see her jumping out of a plane and it won’t just simply be the average skydiving experience because she’ll be doing it with the Navy Leap Frogs. 

“To be able to celebrate not only them [service members] but the families involved is such an incredible honor. I am really happy that on 4th of July we [FOX] highlight patriotism because it takes a lot of sacrifice,” she said. 

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
Photo provided by FOX News

Beginning on Friday, July 2, 2021, Fox and Friends will kick off the 4th of July Proud American programming with a morning interview and performance with country singer Toby Keith. Viewers will get to see some of Hornacek’s adventures, too. “I think the whole goal of our proud American coverage is just to again highlight what 4th of July is really all about,” she shared. 

On Saturday, July 3, 2021, Griff Jenkins will co-anchor FOX News Live from the Eisenhower Memorial in Washington, D.C.,12-2pm Eastern. Then for the big day, Hornacek shared how FOX has a full 24 hours of what she called “extraordinary programming dedicated to highlighting the importance of Independence Day and its history.”

Hornacek ended with sharing her hope of this day bringing the country together in a shared sense of appreciation for where we as a nation came from and the lives we are able to live because of the sacrifices of so many following that fateful declaration.

As the country gathers together to celebrate with friends and loved ones with barbecues and fireworks, the Proud American programming produced by FOX News Channel aims to reinforce the deep meaning behind this important American holiday. 

It isn’t about debating the current division of opinion regarding protesting anthems or our flag for social justice, either. The 4th of July should be a reminder that though we are still imperfect as a young nation, part of the greatness in our country is in the ability to continue to fight and strive toward the best version of what we know we are and absolutely can be. And it’s because of the hard work and sacrifice of so many lives in the past, today and in the future, that we can do it at all. 

If nothing else, there is one unarguable reason we should rejoice together as free American citizens on Independence Day. Because we can. 

You can learn more about the history of the 4th of July by clicking here

Articles

French special forces emerge from the shadows in this stunning video

France has been looking for some new recruits for its Commandement des Opérations Spéciales, and it’s turning to YouTube to drum up some interest.


You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
Members of France’s special forces fire their HK416 rifles. (Youtube screenshot)

According to a report by the London Daily Mail, the video is titled, “A very special video” (gee, did they draw their inspiration from promos for the TV show “Blossom” when they were talking titles?), and shows French commandos in the type of scenes you’d see in a Hollywood blockbuster.

This includes insertions by parachute, minisub, and with scuba gear.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
A Eurocopter Tigre escorts a transport helicopter. (Youtube Screenshot)

The French Commandement des Opérations Spéciales was founded in 1992 to control the special operations forces across the entire French military. This includes the 1st Régiment de Parachutistes d’Infanterie de Marine and the 13th Régiment de Dragons Parachutistes from the French army, the Force Maritime des Fusiliers Marins et Commandos from the French navy, and the Division des Opérations Spéciales from the French air force.

The famous Groupe d’intervention de la Gendarmerie Nationale — known for a number of hostage rescues and counter-terrorism missions — can be called on by the COS for reinforcement, along with other units across all the French armed forces.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
A C-160 Transall comes in for a landing. (Youtube Screenshot)

One notable piece of gear that is featured in the video is the Transall C-160, a Franco-German twin-engine cargo plane that can hold up to 88 paratroopers and which has a top speed of 368 miles per hour and a range of 1,151 miles. France had 75 of these planes in service.

Also seen are helicopters like the AC532 Cougar, the AS332 Super Puma, and the AS330 Puma, Tigre gunships, and assault rifles like the HK416 and FAMAS. You can see the entire trailer below.

Articles

Trump’s Marine general picks all served together during the Iraq War

Just before the 1st Marine Division advanced on the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003, Maj. Gen. James Mattis pinned a star onto each collar of his assistant division commander, Col. John F. Kelly. He was now a brigadier general, and the first to be promoted on the battlefield since the Korean War.


Not far from there, another colonel in the unit named Joe Dunford was leading his regimental combat team.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

By the end of the campaign, they had fought together in places like Nasiriyah, Al Kut, and eventually Baghdad. The division they were in — along with the US Army and UK armored elements — carried out one of the most aggressive, high-speed attacks in history, and 1st Marine Division’s ground march was the longest in the history of the Marine Corps, for which it earned the Presidential Unit Citation.

Those three officers went on to become four-star generals. Mattis retired in 2013 as the commander of Central Command, while Kelly retired as commander of US Southern Command in 2016. Dunford became commandant of the Marine Corps, and eventually chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he remains.

All three remain good friends. And if President-elect Donald Trump’s picks for his Cabinet are all confirmed, they’ll once again be serving together — only this time, it’ll be in the White House.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
DoD photo

Mattis has often been praised by senior leaders at the Pentagon as both a strategic thinker with an encyclopedic knowledge of history and an incredible leader. His legendary status among Marines mainly originated from his command of 1st Marine Division, where he popularized its motto, “No better friend, no worse enemy.”

The 66-year-old retired general is the only pick that has a legal roadblock in front of him. A 1947 law, updated in 2008, requires military officers to be out of uniform for at least seven years before leading the Pentagon. Mattis would need a waiver, which Republicans have already signaled support for.

When asked recently if he was concerned by Mattis as Trump’s pick, Gen. Joe Dunford just said, “No.”

If confirmed, Mattis would replace Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who supports Mattis and called him “extremely capable.”

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
DoD photo

John Kelly just accepted Trump’s request for him to serve as the head of the Department of Homeland Security, according to CBS News.

Like Mattis, he is a blunt speaker who opposes the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

“What tends to bother them is the fact that we’re holding them there indefinitely without trial. … It’s not the point that it’s Gitmo,” he told Defense One earlier this year. “If we send them, say, to a facility in the US, we’re still holding them without trial.”

Kelly is also the most senior-ranking military official to lose a child in combat since 9/11. His son, Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010.

If confirmed, Kelly would replace Jeh Johnson.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joe Dunford

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
US Marine Corps photo

Joe Dunford is the last of the three generals who is still in uniform. He served briefly as commandant of the Marine Corps before President Barack Obama nominated him as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in May 2015. He earned the nickname “Fighting Joe” during his time with 1st Marine Division.

Dunford has been in the Marine Corps for 39 years, less than Mattis’ 44 years and Kelly’s 45. His chairmanship term is scheduled to run through 2017. Though the Joint Chiefs are not part of the president’s Cabinet, they are appointed by — and serve as the top military advisers to — the president.

Trump is likely to replace many of Obama’s appointees, but Dunford may not be one of them.

Typically, Joint Chiefs chairmen serve two terms, and having comrades like Mattis and Kelly in Dunford’s corner would make it much harder for Trump to replace him.

Trump has floated other generals and admirals for his Cabinet, including Gen. David Petraeus for secretary of state and Adm. Michael Rogers for director of national intelligence. Michael Flynn, his controversial choice for national security adviser, is a retired lieutenant general who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency.

These choices don’t come without pushback. Some, like Phillip Carter, a former Army officer with the Center for a New American Security, have argued that Trump’s reliance on retired military brass for traditionally civilian-led organizations could jeopardize civil-military relations.

Articles

The US military took these incredible photos this week

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


AIR FORCE:

A B-1B Lancer assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., takes off on the first day of Red Flag 16-2 Feb. 29, 2016, at Nellis AFB, Nev.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Keven Tanenbaum

Tech. Sgt. Benjamin Jonas, the 374th Operations Support Squadron’s survival, evasion, resistance and escape operations NCO in charge, jumps out of a C-130 Hercules while flying over Yokota Air Base, Japan, March 2, 2016. During the high-altitude, low-opening airdrop, Jonas jumped from 10,000 feet in the air and parachuted to the base.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Air Force photo bySenior Airman David Owsianka

Tech. Sgt. Allan Habel, a tactical aircraft maintainer, performs preflight checks on an F-16 Fighting Falcon during a practice demonstration Feb. 29, 2016, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boitz

ARMY:

A U.S. Army Soldier, assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, returns fire with an M240L machine gun during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla Training Area, Spain, Feb. 29, 2016.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Opal Vaughn

Paratrooper assigned to 173rd Airborne Brigade and a Spanish army soldier from the Spanish Armed Forces Airborne Brigade (BRIPAC), work together to secure the perimeter of a building complex during Exercise Sky Soldier 16, at Chinchilla training area in Spain, Feb. 29, 2016.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Opal Vaughn

NAVY:

WASHINGTON (Feb. 29, 2016) President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Honor to Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator (SEAL) Edward C. Byers Jr. during a ceremony Monday, Feb. 29, 2016 at the White House. Byers received the Medal of Honor for his actions during a hostage rescue operation in December 2012.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Navy photo by Oscar Sosa

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 29, 2016) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Military Sealift Command Fleet Replenishment Oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199). Antietam is on patrol in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class David Flewellyn

MARINE CORPS:

Four EA-6B Prowlers belonging to each Prowler squadron aboard Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point conducted a “Final Four” division flight aboard the air station March 1, 2016. The “Final Four” flight is the last time the Prowler squadrons will be flying together before the official retirement of Marine Tactical Electronic Warfare Training Squadron 1 at the end of Fiscal Year 16 and the eventual transition to “MAGTF EW”. MAGTF EW is a more distributed strategy where every platform contributes to the EW mission, enabling relevant tactical information to move throughout the electromagnetic spectrum and across the battlefield faster than ever before.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. N.W. Huertas

U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 263, Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa fly enroute from Pozo La Higueara drop zone to La Felipe drop zone after insertion of 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team soldiers during exercise Sky Soldier, Spain, Feb. 27, 2016. SPMAGTF-CR-AF participated in exercise Sky Soldier which promotes interoperability between Marine Corps Aviation assets and American and Spanish Airborne and Air Mobile forces.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Kassie L. McDole

Pfc. Bradley Brandes, a mortarmen with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, fires an 81mm mortar system during the supporting arms coordination exercise (SACCEX) portion of Exercise Iron Fist 2016 on San Clemente Island, Feb. 21, 2016.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Devan K. Gowans

COAST GUARD:

Members of Station Burlington, Vermont’s ice rescue team adjust straps on their rescue board during training in Burlington Bay, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016. The ice rescue board uses a system of pulleys to make it easier for rescuers to pull a survivor out of the freezing water. Another method for getting a survivor out of the water is the self-help technique. This technique involves a team member walking the survivors through how to get themselves out of the water. The team member instructs the survivor to kick their legs until they are parallel with the ice ledge and use their arms to crawl forward.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrew Barresi

Coast Guard Station Calumet Harbor and Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City train together, ensuring they’re “Always Ready” when someone needs them.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
USCG photo by Fireman Burcher

Articles

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.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
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.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
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.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
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 HISTORY

This is why Hitler wanted to kill ‘The Three Stooges’

In the days before the United States entered World War II, Hollywood’s first jab against fascism came from an unlikely place. Actually, three unlikely places: Larry, Curly and Moe. AKA the Three Stooges.

The year was 1940 and Europe was already embroiled in conflict after Britain and France declared war on Germany over its 1939 invasion of Poland. Meanwhile, the United States had no appetite to enter the war. 

In Hollywood, the Hays Code, a set of strict moral guidelines that governed motion picture production, was in full effect. Aside from prohibiting onscreen depictions of sexual activity and profanity, the code restricted insults against the leaders, culture, and institutions of any foreign country. 

Despite the Hayes Code, Nazi Germany got a full-force slap in three Jewish comedians. For their 44th film, “You Nazty Spy!” the Three Stooges decided to lampoon the Nazis, Germany, and Adolf Hitler. 

The Three Stooges

Set in the fictional country of “Moronika,” the plot centers around three arms dealers who oust the peaceful king and install three wallpaper hangers as dictatorial leaders. Moe takes the Hitler role, Larry substitutes for Joseph Goebbels, and Curly takes on the portly Hermann Goring role. 

Like the real Hitler, the trio immediately makes a land grab from the neighboring countries and are eventually eaten by lions. Hey, they’re the Three Stooges, they aren’t going for Oscars. The stories are less about plot and more about the two-fingered eye poke. 

Moe Howard’s depiction of Hitler and mockery of the Third Reich on the silver screen enraged the Fuhrer. He added all three stooges to his list of people to kill, along with the entire Hapsburg royal family – but of course he never got the chance to exact his revenge on the stooges. 

The three stooges

The first to go was Hitler himself, killing himself in his Berlin bunker as the Red Army approached. Curly was next, dying in 1952. He was a notorious drinker and suffered multiple blows to the head in more than 190 movies and shorts over 20 years. He suffered a series of strokes, paralysis, and mental decline. 

Despite later attempts to revive the Stooge Franchise, the comedy act was never really the same after that. Larry Fine died in January 1975 of a condition similar to Curly’s, although less pronounced. Five months later, Moe Howard died of lung cancer. 

Articles

Here’s what Mattis has to say about his loyalty to the White House

Secretary of Defense James Mattis dismissed murmurings Aug. 31 of an ideological divide between himself and President Donald Trump.


During a press briefing at the Pentagon, Mattis recalled the now-viral “hold the line” speech he gave in front of US service members in Jordan in August, in which some of his comments about division in the US were construed as an ethical separation from Trump.

During the Aug. 31 briefing, Mattis elaborated on the intended meaning behind his words, which he said were influenced by Trump’s recent speech on Afghanistan.

“If you’ll remember, the first, I don’t know, three, four, five, six paragraphs was about America coming together,” Mattis said. “And so, fresh in my mind a couple hours later, and I used that theme to say that, you know, we’ve got to come back together, get that fundamental friendliness. You guys — military guys, you hold the line as our country comes back together.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired

“I’m using the president’s thoughts, and they thought that I was distancing from the president,” Mattis continued. “So I mean, it shows how ludicrous this really is.”

“I mean, I’m not trying to make fun of the people who write along those lines,” Mattis said of the narrative that he was distancing himself from Trump. “I think this is more someone’s rather rich imagination,” he said.

Theories of a divide between Trump and other White House officials — most notably Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the National Economic Council director Gary Cohn — have spread as Trump continues to baffle critics and supporters following his administration’s response to the deadly Charlottesville, Virginia, rally and continued provocations from North Korea.

During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson fueled rumors of a White House rift when he was asked whether anyone doubted Trump’s values. “The president speaks for himself,” he responded.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis enters Michie Stadium before the 2017 graduation ceremony at West Point. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart.

Cohn took a more direct approach, publicly criticizing Trump’s response to the Charlottesville protests and saying the White House “must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning” white nationalist and white supremacist groups.

Mattis expressed confidence that divisiveness in the US was not a threat to the military’s unity in the field.

“The way our military is organized, the leaders — and by leaders, I mean the sergeants and the gunnery sergeants, the chief petty officers, the lieutenants, the captains — there is such a cohesion to the US military,” Mattis said. “There’s a reason this is a national jewel, this US military. It’s a national jewel. And that almost insulates it in a very proud way from something like we saw in Charlottesville.”

“That’s not to say it’s not a concern, because this lack of a fundamental friendliness among all of us, something I think the president brought up very well in those opening paragraphs of the Afghanistan speech … I agree a hundred percent with the way the president characterized that,” Mattis said.

Articles

These were the US military’s Cold War black ops nuclear hit squads

You’ve probably heard of the term “backpack nuke” before — perhaps in the context of a video game like Call of Duty, or an action-packed television show like “24.”


But what you may or may not have realized is that backpack nukes are the farthest thing from fiction, and from the 1950s to the fall of the Berlin Wall in the 1989, they sat ready to be deployed by America’s black-ops nuclear hit squads — dubbed “Green Light Teams” — should the unthinkable happen and the Cold War turn hot.

Only members of the US military’s elite were selected to join GLTs, where they would be stationed near Soviet-controlled Eastern Europe, inside South Korea, and even near Iran in the late 1970s.

Navy SEALs, Force Reconnaissance Marines, Army Special Forces and more were all among the top recruits for the GLT program. If a candidate’s application to the GLT program was successful, they were sworn to secrecy, unable to tell even their own spouses of their mission. Had the Soviet Union heard of the existence of these teams, it would have likely created a similar program of its own as a counter, removing all value of possessing GLTs.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
A test detonation of a W54 warhead (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

These operatives were trained in local languages and dialects, and told to dress like ordinary citizens, allowing them to blend in without anybody the wiser. The vast majority of their training, however, came in the form of instruction on how to use backpack nukes at the Atomic Demolitions Munitions School at Ft. Belvoir, Virginia.

There, GLT selectees were taught how to detonate nuclear weapons, and how to bury them or disguise them so that these weapons wouldn’t be discovered and defused before they could do their job.

The weapon of choice for each GLT was the B-54 Special Atomic Demolition Munition. The warhead used in each SADM was taken from a US Army program dubbed the “Davy Crockett Weapon System.” The Crockett was actually a recoilless rifle-fired projectile tipped with a W54 nuclear warhead with a yield of 10-20 tons of TNT.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
Officials analyze a W54 warhead used in both the Davy Crockett system and the SADM backpack nuke (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

The W54 was modified to detonate with a yield of anywhere between 10 tons of TNT to 1 kiloton, though in testing, it was proven to be able to achieve over 6 kilotons. Weighing just 51 pounds when nestled inside the SADM, it could be hefted onto an operative’s back and carried for long distances almost inconspicuously.

Should the combat environment or the mission change, GLTs could also parachute or swim their SADMs into enemy territory without fears of the backpack nuke prematurely blowing up. And when the nukes were in their detonation zones, they could be disguised as anything.

Citizens of Eastern Europe or North Korea could potentially walk by beer kegs, trash cans, or even mailboxes without being any the wiser that a primed SADM sat in side, ready to unleash unholy hell upon them. Operatives were also trained to bury their backpack nukes as deep as 9 ft underground to make them undiscoverable.

SADMs could be placed near lakes or rivers to create artificial dams as obstacles for advancing Soviet forces, or in cities,

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired
An SADM on display at the National Atomic Museum (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Though the SADM came with a timing mechanism to allow for a delayed detonation sequence so operatives could escape the region, GLT operatives knew that should they be called into action, they were essentially running a suicide mission. They would still have to protect the device from being detected by enemy forces, and that would necessarily involve the GLT staying nearby, armed with submachine guns, grenades and pistols.

The US military was able to keep the existence of its GLTs a closely-guarded secret until near the end of the Cold War, when their mission was somewhat accidentally disclosed to the public. Upon finding out that a number of GLTs were positioned in West Germany, local officials immediately asked the US government to remove all SADMs from German sovereign territory.

By 1989, the SADMs were retired altogether and permanently deactivated, never having been used in combat. All active GLT operatives were brought in from the cold and returned to the US, and just a few short years later, the fall of the Soviet Union signaled the end of the Cold War – thankfully, with nary a nuke being detonated in anger by either side.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Boeing has a plan to turn the B-1B into a supersonic gunship

In the fast-moving world of defense technology, it pays for contractors like Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and Boeing to stay on top of Uncle Sam’s spending habits. If you can accurately predict how the government will be looking to spend its massive defense budgets, you can position yourself well to secure tomorrow’s contracts with just a little bit of leg work today–and over the past few years, few have managed to do so as effectively as Boeing.


With so much money being funneled toward stealth and hypersonic platforms over at Lockheed Martin, Boeing has adopted a different angle in its pursuit of tax dollars: leaning into America’s recent love affair with revamping aging platforms for continued use. Instead of offering up costly, all-new aircraft to the Pentagon, Boeing has focused on finding cost-effective ways to keep existing platforms relevant. This effort is not only responsible for the new slew of updated F-15EXs expected to begin production in 2020, but also the sweeping upgrades to the Navy’s Super Hornets that are so substantial, some have taken to calling the Block III version of the fighter, “Super Duper Hornets.”

It’s almost certain that same mindset led Boeing to secure a patent last May that would turn America’s only supersonic heavy payload bomber into the world’s fastest gunship.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired

With a top speed of Mach 1.2, the Bone would make for one quick cannon-carrier

(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman James Richardson)

The B-1B Lancer had a tumultuous start, with the program canceled and revived twice over the span of four sitting presidents only to finally make it into production just in time to see its nuclear delivery mission sidelined by the fall of the Soviet Union. The fighter-like bomber would have to undergo yet another technical shift, converting it into a conventional payload bomber following America’s signing of the START treaty in 1995, before the “Bone” (as aircrews took to calling it) would find its way into the fight. Now, however, with the next generation B-21 Raider slated to enter service in the coming decade, the B-1B has been set to enter retirement just as soon as there are enough new bombers to replace it.

That is, unless Boeing has something to do with it. The patent they secured last year included a number of different cannon options to be added to the swing-wing bomber ranging in size from 25mm to 40mm. Some design options involve opening the bomb-bay doors to reveal the cannon, others have cannons unfolding from the belly of the beast, but the intent is the same in either regard: creating a supersonic platform that can deliver firepower like the legendary AC-130U Spooky Gunship and still outrun whatever trouble may be headed its way.

Deadly AC-130 Gunship in Action Firing All Its Cannons

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The Bone’s speed and advanced terrain following flight systems would allow it to fly in contested airspace with minimal detection, something an AC-130 can’t do, and its massive fuel stores and payload capacity mean it could loiter for hours over a target and deliver thousands of pounds of guided bombs between cannon volleys.

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses for the B-1B Gunship concept. Thanks to the swing-wing design, the B-1B may have a lower stall speed than you might find in some other supersonic platforms, but it still seems unlikely that the aircraft can fly slow enough to reliably use a cannon in close air support missions. The B-1B’s biggest proposed cannon, at 40mm, is tiny compared to the 105mm cannon fired from the Spooky Gunship — though that concern could be mitigated by the B-1B’s ability to drop highly accurate ordnance in combination with the hypothetical cannons.

You can see the most notorious German artillery piece be fired

One of the designs includes a cannon that would lower from the Lancer’s belly, while others would rely on opening the bomb bay doors.

(U.S. Patent Office)

The Bone would also be a costly replacement for the much slower AC-130U, to the tune of about ,000 more per flight hour, though one could argue that if they found a way to use the cannon effectively in the B-1B, it would broaden the options for commanders in the field enough to warrant the cost. Because the AC-130U tops out at around 300 miles per hour and is too big to miss with many anti-aircraft weapons, they tend to be used only in nighttime operations in lightly contested or utterly uncontested airspace. The B-1B, on the other hand, could fly close air support missions in far more threatening environments.

Will this concept ever make it off of paper and into American hangars? Well, it’s tough to say. Securing a patent doesn’t mean Uncle Sam is interested in what they’re selling — but having it means it’s always an option on the table, and as the B-1 continues to find new uses in the forms of new anti-ship and stealthy cruise missile armaments, the Air Force may find reason to invest new money in the B-1s future after all. Who knows what the wars of the future might bring.

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