MIGHTY MONEY

18 million veterans now have a new benefit

Some 18.5 million honorably discharged veterans now have a lifetime benefit enabling them to shop online at ShopMyExchange.com, marking the first expansion of military exchange privileges since 1990.


“The Exchange is honored to open its virtual doors to millions of deserving veterans,” said Tom Shull, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service‘s director and CEO, a Vietnam-era Army veteran.

You still need to go get your hair fixed in person, though.

“There are many generations of service members who have not been properly recognized,” he added. “This new benefit acknowledges their service and welcomes them home. This is something veterans can enjoy the rest of their lives.”

Purchases Improve Quality of Military Life

Every purchase veterans make online will help to improve the quality of life for those who wear the uniform today, Shull noted, as exchange earnings support programs such as combat uniforms below cost, fitness centers, child development centers and youth programs on Army garrisons, Air Force outdoor recreation programs, school lunches for warfighters’ children overseas and more.

“This is a virtuous cycle,” he said. “As a veteran myself, it is an honor to pay forward support to active-duty service members and their families.”

Also Read: New online AAFES benefit for veterans is a success

Excitement for the new benefit has been building for months, AAFES officials said, thanks to social media shout-outs from Mark Wahlberg and Marcus Luttrell, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Richard Rawlings and other celebrities. As a result, they said, more than 255,000 veterans verified their eligibility for the benefit before its official Nov. 11 launch.

To verify eligibility and begin shopping, Veterans can visit ShopMyExchange.com.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of July 20th

Female sailors seem to be getting the hair regulations loosened to allow a more natural look. This (obviously) caused a gigantic backlash among male soldiers demanding the permitting of beards. Honestly, it doesn’t really make sense to disallow sailors to grow beards in the first place. After all, naval history tied to glorious beards, in both the U.S. Navy and around the world. As long as they keep their beards groomed, it’d be a boost to morale and it’d cut out the crappy rush to shave each morning.

But we’ll see. 7th Fleet will probably crash another ship into a civilian fishing vessel and blame it on sailors having beards instead of actually taking responsibility for it.

Anyways. Have some memes, you glorious bastards.


(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

(Meme via Buck Sergeant)

(Meme via Military Memes)

(Meme via Navy Memes)

(Meme via Private News Network)

(Meme by The Salty Soldier)

(Meme by WATM)

(Meme via Grunt Style)

(Tweet via Pop Smoke)

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

(Meme by WATM)

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

Articles

US practices D-Day-like landing in Latvia amid Russia tensions

U.S. Marines engaged in a mock beach landing in the Baltics on June 6 in a scene reminiscent of the D-Day landings of World War II.


The drill took place as part of NATO’s Exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), an annual exercise involving approximately 6,000 troops that runs from June 1 to 16. The drill, which took place on a beach in Latvia, is a key component of the exercise which aims to project NATO power from sea at a time when the Russian threat to the Baltics has taken a drastic increase.

“What we want to do is practice and demonstrate the ability to deliver sea control and power projection at and from the sea,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Christopher Grady, Joint Force Maritime Component Commander Europe.

U.S. Marines land in the Baltics for BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Reserve Marines from Texas deployed from the the USS Arlington, an amphibious landing transport, onto the beach with various landing craft. The drill was conducted on the 73rd anniversary of the D-Day landings during World War II, the largest amphibious invasion in modern history.

The Latvian landing was significantly smaller in scope than the multiple landings on D-Day, but both operations involved a combination of air, maritime and land forces. BALTOPS, like D-Day, is also multinational, with 14 nations participating in various drills.

BALTOPS has been recurring since 1972, but this year’s event comes at a time when NATO’s tensions with Russia are at their highest since the end of the Cold War. The ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s aggressive rhetoric has Balkan countries concerned they could be the next target.

They’re scared to death of Russia,” said Gen. Raymond Thomas, head of U.S. Special Operations Command in January. “They are very open about that. They’re desperate for our leadership.”

The U.S. sent a detachment of special operations forces to the Baltics in January in order to help train local forces.

Marines participate in BALTOPS 17. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Ricardo Davila/Released)

Russian forces could reach the capitals of both Latvia and neighboring Estonia in less than 60 hours, according to an assessment by the RAND corporation, even with a week’s notice. Latvia has approximately 4,450 active ground troops, while all three Baltic countries (Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) have only around 15,750 between them. Estonia can also activate the 16,000 paramilitary troops in the Estonian Defense League, while Lithuania has around 10,000 militia members in the Lithuanian Rifleman’s Union.

NATO also has rotating forces throughout the Baltic region, but RAND’s assessment noted that they may not be enough to stave off a Russian attack.

“Such a rapid defeat would leave NATO with a limited number of options, all bad,” noted the report.

Fortunately for the Baltics, President Donald Trump has noted he is “absolutely committed” to the collective defense of NATO, a stark change from his previously doubtful outlook on alliance.

 

 

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Articles

6 employees fired from US embassy in Afghanistan for drug violations

The State Department has fired six employees at the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan for allegedly using or possessing prohibited drugs, a particularly troubling infraction given the years-long U.S. effort to eradicate opium production in the country.


A senior State Department official said those who were embassy employees were fired and others who were contractors were released from their contracts.

The Taliban and other antigovernment groups participate in and profit from the opiate trade, which is a key source of revenue for the Taliban inside Afghanistan. Pictured here, a Marine posts security while members of the Afghan Narcotics Interdiction Unit search a compound during Operation Speargun in Urmuz, Afghanistan, March 26, 2012.

The official declined to say what led to the investigation, but the Wall Street Journal reported it was launched after a person was wandering about in a state of confusion.

A State Department official told Voice of America News on March 30 the fired workers “were found to have been using or in possession of prohibited substances.”

Opium production in Afghanistan is a major source of income for the Taliban and other insurgents.

Afghanistan is the source of more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin. Despite global efforts to stem the flow of narcotics, the United Nations says production reached near record levels in 2016.

The United States has spent more than $8 billion on drug interdiction in Afghanistan since the start of war against the Taliban in 2001.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the world’s most powerful stealth destroyers stack up

China launched its first domestically-built Type 055 guided-missile stealth destroyer in July 2017, and since then, has added three more Type 055s to its fleet, with the last two launched in July 2018.

It’s no secret that China has grand ambitions for a world-class navy. In addition to its Type 055 destroyers, Beijing is also growing its aircraft carrier fleet.

But the US already has a world-class navy, and has even launched and commissioned its own new powerful Zumwalt-class of stealthy destroyers.

While the Type 055’s full specifications are still not completely known, it appears to be the one of the world’s most powerful destroyers alongside the Zumwalt.

Here’s how the Type 055 and Zumwalt-class destroyers match up.


First, let’s compare the sizes. Type 055 is about 590 feet long and 65 feet wide with a maximum displacement of about 13,000—14,000 tons.

Source: Popular Science

The first Zumwalt-class destroyer, USS Zumwalt, DDG-1000, in the North Atlantic on Dec. 7, 2015.

(Flickr photo by Jeff Head)

The Zumwalt, on the other hand, is a much larger ship at 610 feet long and 81 feet wide with a maximum displacement of about 15,656 tons.

Source: US Navy

Chinese Type 055 Destroyer.

(Screenshot / YouTube)

In regards to propulsion, Type 055s have four QC-280 gas turbines, each providing about 23-28 megawatts of energy. This large amount of energy may one day power railguns or other future weapons systems.

Source: globalsecurity.org, The Diplomat

(US Navy photo)

The Zumwalt, on the flip side, has two Rolls-Royce MT30 gas turbines, providing the ship with 78 megawatts of energy, including 58 megawatts in reserve. This reserve power may also power railguns or high-energy lasers in the future.

Source: The War Zone

(CGTN)

In terms of stealth, Type 055 has an enclosed forward deck, main mast and bow, with the latter hiding the anchor and other equipment. But its hull and superstructure are fairly conventional.

Source: The National Interest, The Diplomat

(US Navy photo)

The Zumwalt, however, is stealthy from the bottom up, including enclosed gun turrets and sensors.

The Zumwalt’s “Tumblehome” hull and superstructure “significantly reduces cross section and acoustic output making the ship harder to detect by enemies at sea,” according to the US Navy.

Source: The National Interest

(CGTN)

As for radars, Type 055 uses X and S-band radars, with the former being used to track smaller and stealthier targets, and the latter being used to track targets at greater ranges.

Source: The War Zone

(US Navy photo)

But the Zumwalt only has an X-band Spy-3 radar. It was supposed to have a similar dual-band radar as Type 055, but the S-band radar was cut to save costs.

Source: The War Zone, US Navy

(CCTV)

And for armament, Type 055 has 112 Vertical Launch System cells, each cell having a diameter of about 2.8 feet.

The VLS tubes fire HHQ-9 surface-to-air missiles, YJ-18 anti-ship cruise missiles, CJ-10 land-attack cruise missiles and missile-launched anti-submarine torpedoes.

Type 055 is also equipped with an H/PJ-38 130 mm main gun on the bow, and H/PJ-11 and HHQ-10 close-in weapons systems for last minute defense.

Source: The Diplomat, The War Zone

USS Zumwalt transits the Atlantic Ocean during acceptance trials on April 21, 2016.

(US Navy photo)

But the Zumwalt only has 80 VLS cells, each of which have a diameter of about 2.3 feet.

The Zumwalt VLS cells can fire Tomahawk, Evolved Sea Sparrow, and other guided missiles.

It’s also equipped with two 155 mm Advanced Gun Systems on the bow, and two Mark 46 close-in guns which fire 30 mm rounds. Rounds for the AGS are so expensive, about id=”listicle-2612880833″ million apiece, that the Navy doesn’t have any and has no plans to buy them, rendering the deck guns effectively out of service.

Source: US Navy

The Zumwalt sails alonside a Littoral Combat Ship.

(US Navy photo)

Ultimately though, the two destroyers will have different mission sets.

Type 055 destroyers will focus more on air defense, anti-submarine missions and protecting carriers, which is why they have more VLS cells and a longer range than the Zumwalt. These mission sets, along with its large size, are why the US has even classified the Type 055 as a cruiser.

Although analysts say the Zumwalt is ultimately more powerful than Type 055, the US destroyer is more of a land attack ship, designed to deploy close to enemy shores and fire its large 155 mm guns like old battleships — if they ever get ammunition.

This also explains why the US only has plans to build three Zumwalt-class destroyers, and China plans to build about 12-24 Type 055 destroyers.

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

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

US taxpayers have reportedly paid an average of $8,000 each and over $2 trillion total for the Iraq war alone

The human costs of war are huge and crippling. The financial costs can be, too.


According to a new estimate by the Costs of War co-director Neta Crawford, US taxpayers have paid nearly $2 trillion in war-related costs on the Iraq war alone.

Newsweek estimated that the total for the Iraq War comes out to an average of roughly $8,000 per taxpayer. The figure far exceeds the Pentagon’s estimate that Americans paid an average of $3,907 each for Iraq and Syria to date. And in March 2019, the Department of Defense estimated that the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria combined have cost each US taxpayer around $7,623 on average.

The Costs of War Project through Brown University conducts research on the human, economic, and political costs of the post-9/11 wars waged by the US. Stephanie Savell, a co-director of the Cost of Wars Projects, told Insider it’s important for Americans to understand exactly what their taxes are paying for when it comes to war-related expenses.

“As Americans debate the merits of U.S. military presence in Iraq and elsewhere in the name of the U.S. war on terrorism, it’s essential to understand that war costs go far beyond what the DOD has appropriated in Overseas Contingency Operations and reach across many parts of the federal budget,” Savell said.

Iraqi Freedom

Breaking down the financial costs of the Iraq War

The Pentagon had been allotted approximately 8 billion in “emergency” and “overseas contingency operation” for military operations in Iraq from the fiscal year 2003 to 2019, including operations fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. However, Savell says the actual costs of the war often exceed that of the Congress-approved budgets.

“When you’re accounting for the cost of war, you can’t only account what the DOD has spent on overseas contingency funds,” Savell told Insider. “You have to look at the other sets of costs including interest on borrowed funds, increased war-related spending, higher pay to retain soldiers, medical and disability care on post-9-11 and war veterans, and more.”

According to their estimates, the cost of the Iraq War to date would be id=”listicle-2645054426″,922 billion in current dollars — this figure includes funding appropriated by the Pentagon explicitly for the war, spending on the country by the State Department, the care of Iraq War veterans and interests on debt incurred for the 16 years of the US military’s involvement in the country.

Crawford says that war-related spending in Iraq has blown past its budget in the 16 years military forces have been in the country, estimating a nearly 2 billion surplus in Iraq alone.

The increases to the Congressionally approved budgets were used to heighten security at bases, for enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, to increase pay to retain personnel, and for the healthcare costs of servicemembers.

Aside from the Defense Department costs, the State Department added approximately billion to the total costs of the Iraq War for USAID on Iraq and Syria. Meanwhile, 9 billion has been spent on Iraq war veterans receiving medical care, disability, and other compensation.

The US has gone deep into debt to pay for the war. That means it has interest payments.

As expected, that taxpayer dollars are going towards war-related expenses including operations, equipment, and personnel. But a surprising amount of the costs are to pay off the interest on the debt the US has accrued since going to war.

“People also need to know that these wars have been put on a credit card, so we will be paying trillions on war borrowing in interest alone over the next several decades,” Avell told Insider.

Since the US launched its “Global War on Terror” in Iraq and Afghanistan — and later Yemen, Pakistan, and other areas — the US government has completely financed its war efforts borrowing funds. A Cost of War Projects report estimated the US government debts from all post-9/11 war efforts “resulted in cumulative interest payments of 5 billion” on a trillion debt.

The financing method departs from previous international conflicts, where the federal government either raised taxes or issued war bonds to finance war-related expenses. According to Boston University political scientist Rosella Cappella-Zielinski, tax payments accounted for 30% of the cost of World War I and almost 50% of the cost of World War II.

Borrowing from both domestic and foreign sources, Crawford estimates the US has incurred 4 billion in interest on borrowing to pay for Pentagon and State Department spending in Iraq alone.

While the money spent on the Iraq War may seem staggering, the Costs of War estimates the US has spent over .4 trillion total on all of its “War on Terror” efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the related violence in Pakistan and Syria.

Defense Department spokesperson Christopher Sherwood told Insider that the Defense Department dedicates id=”listicle-2645054426″.575 trillion for war-related costs, with an average of spending .2 billion per month on all operations for the fiscal year 2019.

Sherwood said that the department’s costs go towards war-related operational costs, such as trainings and communications, support for deployed troops, including food and medical services, and transportation of personnel and equipment.

Press conference in Al Fadhel

upload.wikimedia.org

The human costs of the Iraq War are even harder to track

The US invaded Iraq in 2003 on the belief that Saddam Hussein had, or was attempting to make, “weapons of mass destruction” and that Iraq’s government had connections to various terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda. Although the invasion initially had overwhelming support from the American public and the approval of Congress, it is now considered one of the greatest foreign policy blunders in US history.

189,000 soldiers were killed in direct war deaths and 32,223 injured, Cost of War estimated. Meanwhile, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of service members due to war-related hardships remain difficult to track.

The Costs of War Project believes calculating the total costs of war — economic, political, and human — is important to ensure that Americans can make educated choices about war-related policies.

“War is expensive — in terms of lives lost, physical damage to people and property, mental trauma to soldiers and war-zone inhabitants, and in terms of money,” Cost of War researcher Heidi Peltier wrote.

In 2016 and leading up to 2020, President Donald Trump has campaigned on a promise of pulling American troops out and ending “these ridiculous wars” in the Middle East. However, Trump deployed more troops to the country after an attack on the US embassy in Iraq.

The Pentagon originally requested less than billion of that amount for Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria — however, the Crawford believes that budget may be blown after more troops were sent into a war zone that was meant to be winding down.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s why millennial veterans home ownership is on the rise

Many millennials and members of generation Z are putting off buying a home. It’s not hard to blame them for that. Housing prices have gone up, and it is a lot harder to save for that big down payment when purchasing your first home. Home purchasing among millennials has dropped with the exception of one demographic: veterans.


There has been an eight-year increase in veterans using the VA home loan, up 43 percent. In 2019 alone, there were 624,000 loans backed by the VA, and a majority of these loans were held by millennials.

That number will go up even more in 2020 thanks to a change in benefits.

A new law signed by President Trump this past June, the Blue Water Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, makes it even easier for veterans to move into the home of their dreams. The part of the law that affects homebuyers was the limit on how much veterans could borrow without a down payment.

There is no longer a limit on how much a veteran can borrow. If you qualify, you can now take out a bigger loan with no down payment.

The VA home loan is a wonderful resource for qualified veterans. VA loans are mortgage options issued by private lenders with zero down and backed by the VA. The loans can only be used for primary residences, not properties used for investment. However, they can be used to refinance an existing mortgage.

With housing prices soaring in certain parts of the country, there was a major roadblock to the VA home loan. The loan would only cover the value of the house up to a certain amount. As a result, if a veteran wanted to use the VA home loan to purchase a house that was more to their needs and desires and it was over the limit, they had to front a portion of the extra amount as a down payment.

Jeff Jabbora is a Marine veteran who has spent the last seven years as a real estate agent in San Diego County. When asked about the new law, he said the new law “enables qualified veterans, who qualify for a loan amount over the local area maximum to be able to not have to put money down on the loan. For example, if the local/county loan limit for where the veteran is buying the home was 0k, and the veteran was buying a 0k property, with the previous program, the veteran buyer would need to bring money to the table on the overage. Most often, 25 percent. So in that scenario, it would be 25 percent of the overage of, 0k, which would be k.”

Before the law went into effect, the limit dissuaded veterans from moving into houses that were more suitable for them and limited their housing options. This was most noticed in areas like California, the D.C. area, the Northeast and cities with high housing costs. According to data from Realtor.com, a whopping 124 U.S. counties had a higher average list price than the 2019 loan limits. When you compare the cities with the highest median housing cost versus the cities where veterans use their VA home loan, you see that 50 percent of those cities are similar.

Veterans in Los Angeles will see the biggest savings. The average listing price in L.A. is id=”listicle-2645370998″,655,468. Based on that number, VA borrowers would have had to come up with a down payment of 2,236. Now they don’t have to.

Here is an example of how it works.

With the new law in effect, there should be a marked increase in homeownership among veterans.

As with the VA home loan, steady and suitable income as well as credit comes into play.

Owning a home is a point of pride..thanks to this new law, more veterans can have the opportunity.

MIGHTY HISTORY

USS Langley: The United States Navy’s first aircraft carrier

Recently, the United States Navy celebrated the 98th anniversary of the commissioning of its very first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley (CV-1).

CV-1 was named after American aeronautics engineer, Astronomer, aviation pioneer, bolometer, and physicist, Samuel Piermont Langley (the same guy whose name is on a NASA research center, an Air Force base, a mountain, three other ships — two of which are USN ships — and a slew of schools, buildings, labs, and a unit of solar radiation measurement). The USS Langley was converted from the Proteus-class collier USS Jupiter (AC-3), which itself was commissioned in April or 1913.


[rebelmouse-proxy-image https://media.rbl.ms/image?u=%2Fmain-qimg-c5ff6fe1014a47ff4d31f6a06d3eb639&ho=https%3A%2F%2Fqph.fs.quoracdn.net&s=854&h=d84d65af8a608339e3755c05c625511ae1fc2833fe10065da4f33755d70e37d8&size=980x&c=662274594 crop_info=”%7B%22image%22%3A%20%22https%3A//media.rbl.ms/image%3Fu%3D%252Fmain-qimg-c5ff6fe1014a47ff4d31f6a06d3eb639%26ho%3Dhttps%253A%252F%252Fqph.fs.quoracdn.net%26s%3D854%26h%3Dd84d65af8a608339e3755c05c625511ae1fc2833fe10065da4f33755d70e37d8%26size%3D980x%26c%3D662274594%22%7D” expand=1]

(WikiMedia Commons)

As the Langley, she had a full-load displacement of 13,900 long tons, a length of 542ft, beam of 65ft 5in, draft of 24ft, and 3 boilers. This was also the United States Navy’s first tubro-electric-powered ship. She was commanded by Commander Kenneth Whiting, upon commissioning.

The USS Langley saw service as both an aircarft carrier and a seaplane tender. In the seaplane tender role, she was commissioned as AV-3 on 11 April 1937. She served as AV-3 until 27 February 1942, when she was struck by Japanese bombers. She now rests on the seafloor near Cilacap Harbor, Java, Indonesia.

The USS Langley was the first step in what would help the Navy — and the United States — project global reach and force. A unique feature of the Langley (among all USN aircraft carriers) was its carrier pigeon house. USN carriers (and signals) have come a long way since then.

(SDASM Archives Via Flickr)

Since the commissioning of the USS Langley as the first aircraft carrier, the United States Navy has fielded 80 total carriers. There are currently 11 in service. Both of these numbers vastly outcounts every other nation’s number of aircraft carriers. With a current global total of 44 active carriers (some of those are arguable), America owns 25% of those. But the strategic value of those 11 carriers is much more than 25% of that global total.

The first purpose-built aircraft carrier to be commissioned ever, anywhere, was the Japanese Hōshō, which was commissioned two days after Christmas, 1922.

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

Articles

Back in 2000, the CIA made 8 predictions on what life would be like in 2015

George W. Bush’s presidency was influenced by the CIA’s 2000 report Photo: Wiki Commons


Back in 2000, just before George W. Bush became president, the CIA published a 70-page report on what the world would be like in 2015.

We’re now halfway through the year and it turns out that several of these predictions were on the money.

Here’s a rundown of some of the predictions, according to a December 2000 story from The Telegraph.

“International affairs are increasingly determined by large and powerful organizations rather than governments.” Verdict: True, such as the rise of the Islamic State. On the other hand, there is also a new cadre of actors that cross the line between private actors and the state such as the Chinese hackers suspected of stealing information about millions of U.S. government employees, and the possibly-not-North Korean hackers who took down Sony last year.

“Between now and 2015 terrorist tactics will become increasingly sophisticated and designed to achieve mass casualties.” Verdict: Definitely true. Sadly, this prediction became true quickly, on September 11, 2001.

“Iraq and Iran [will] develop long range missiles in the near future. Iran … could be testing such weapons by as early as the coming year, and cruise missiles by 2004.” Verdict: Both true and false. Iran is definitely working on an ICBM and was expected to test it in 2015. But international sanctions on Iran has brought it to the negotiation table and diplomats say they are close to a comprehensive deal.

“The world population will grow by more than one billion, to 7.2 billion.” Verdict: True. The world population is now about 7.3 billion.

“Energy resources will be sufficient to meet demand.” Verdict: Nailed it. U.S. oil production has soared in recent years, and the US is poised to become a major exporter of liquefied natural gas in the coming years, too.

“China’s economy will grow to overtake Europe as the world’s second largest but still behind the United States.” Verdict: True-ish. By some measurements, China’s economy is now larger than the US economy but by other measures, it is not quite as large as the EU.

“Europe will not achieve fully the dreams of parity with the US as a shaper of the global economic system.” Verdict: Not quite true. The CIA report was very bullish on the European economy, which had been sluggish at the start of the year, but has recently picked up steam.

“Aids, famine, and continuing economic and political turmoil means that populations in many [African] countries will actually fall.” Verdict: False. Africa’s population rose from 800 million in 2000 to 1.1 billion in 2014.

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

Articles

This soldier fought for pro-Russian separatists before joining the US Army

A former Russian-backed separatist in Eastern Ukraine recently completed U.S. Army training, Thomas Gibbons-Neff of the Washington Post reported Monday.


The 29 year old French-American citizen, Guillaume Cuvelier, reportedly spent his youth in the French far-right before going to Eastern Ukraine in 2014. During his childhood in France, he was a member of a neo-fascist group that broke from the National Front. The association presumably fostered his anti-European union views.

Cuvelier’s assumed the militant name Lenormand and fought for the Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist region of Eastern Ukraine sponsored by the Russian government. A photo WaPo reviewed shows him standing shoulder to shoulder with a militant accused of orchestrating the shoot-down of Malaysian Flight 17.

After arriving in Ukraine, he also set up a unit that declared France is “a slave of the American Empire” and the NATO alliance is a “terrorist military alliance.” Cuvelier appeared to change his tune after going to fight with U.S. backed Kurdish militias in Iraq in 2015. He was eventually kicked out for beating a fellow American volunteer with a rifle. He then made his way to the U.S. to join the Army.

His status in the U.S. military is currently under review “to ensure the process used to enlist this individual followed all of the required standards and procedure,” according to a U.S. Army spokesman’s statement to WaPo.

When confronted with his lurid past, Cuvelier pleaded with Gibbons-Neff not to publish the story saying, “I realized I like this country, its way of life and its Constitution enough to defend it.” He continued, “By publishing a story on me, you are jeopardizing my career and rendering a great service to anyone trying to embarrass the Army. My former Russian comrades would love it. … so, I please ask you to reconsider using my name and/or photo.”

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Ecstasy to treat post traumatic stress? The FDA says MDMA research is a go

Molly, the powdered form of MDMA, was a popular street drug in the 80s and 90s. Soon, it could be used to treat PTSD. Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed


The Food and Drug Administration has approved a large-scale clinical trial of MDMA to explore the possibility of using it to treat PTSD according to The New York Times.

MDMA is more commonly referred to as Ecstasy, E, X, or Molly, a street drug that gained popularity between its introduction in the 70s and its subsequent ban in 1985 as a party drug. In 1985, the Drug Enforcement Agency classified Ecstasy as a Schedule 1 drug, making it illegal in any capacity.

Chemist Alexander Shulgin, a WWII Navy veteran, was the first to notice the “euphoria-inducing traits” and originally intended MDMA to be a drug which might treat anxiety, among other emotional issues.

His dream was cut short during the height of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, and he died in 2014 before that dream became reality.

Charles R. Marmar, the head of psychiatry at New York University’s Langone School of Medicine, has spent much of his career focused on PTSD. While not directly involved in the small scale studies leading up to the FDA’s approval of the new study, Marmar is “cautious but hopeful,” according to The New York Times.

“If they can keep getting good results, it will be of great use,” Marmar told The New York Times. However, Marmar noted that MDMA is a “feel good drug” and prone to abuse.

The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a non-profit founded in 1986 to explore the medicinal and societal value of psychedelic drugs and marijuana, funded the six small-scale studies that lead to the approval by the FDA.

According to a report in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, subjects in the small-scale studies had previously been unresponsive to traditional therapy. They participated in psychotherapy sessions; during two to three of those sessions, they were given Ecstasy.

The studies treated a total of 130 PTSD patients, most of whom could no longer be classified as meeting the “criteria for having PTSD.”

According to The New York Times, the researchers involved in the study have applied for “breakthrough therapy status” with the FDA.

If the FDA approves that request, and the studies continue to show similar results, Ecstasy could be a viable treatment for veterans with PTSD by 2021.

Intel

A Hollywood director explains what it was like to film soldiers fighting in Afghanistan

The Fighting Season is a six part documentary series that captures what ending a war looks like. The film, which is out now, shows the sacrifices of the men and women who fought for the freedom and security of Afghanistan as America’s longest war drew to an end. Producer Ricky Schroder put himself in harm’s way as an embedded cameramen to deliver the best account possible.


In this edition of “At The Mighty,” Schroder discusses his motivations for filming this series and his experience with the troops in Afghanistan.

Watch:

The Fighting Season is available on DirecTV, iTunes and Amazon.

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MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Veterans #StillServing in the COVID-19 era

Volunteering is gratifying for anyone and is especially so for veterans. The sense of teamwork and purpose that volunteering provides is a natural fit for military veterans. To do so alongside the civilian population to which we have returned (and sometimes are challenged to adjust to) is an opportunity to be seen as we are – a neighbor, friend or colleague. Too often, the veteran is “othered” as a population in need of service rather than able to give it.

We are still in what President Donald Trump said began as a war footing against COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has touched many of our families, communities and economies.


Thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Americans are volunteering sewing masks, filling pantries, doing childcare, errand running for the vulnerable, providing clinical and non-clinical medical support, joining tech SWAT teams, funding emergency resources, making deliveries, donating blood, providing transportation, offering free legal or financial advice, counseling and the list goes on. What can go unnoticed is that veterans are joining, if not leading, the fight against COVID-19, right next you.

According to the Corporation for National Community Service’s 2018 Volunteering in America Report, veterans give 25% more time, are 17% more likely to make a monetary donation and are 30% more likely to participate in local organizations than the civilian population.

For former military, raising our hand to meet these needs is right up our alley. For us, COVID-19 is another mission. You might not recognize us managing and distributing PPE, like National Guard veteran Fred Camacho in Wisconsin, or sewing masks to donate like U.S. Air Force veteran Darin Williams in Colorado, but we are there. Even in small ways, we are finding opportunities to serve others amid this pandemic. As for me, I organized a community service project for my daughters and other members of their YMCA camping program. Along with their friends, they made cards and drew pictures for frontline medical workers and we sent dinner along with well-wishes to local hospitals.

It might seem like a small act, but that’s the point. I am teaching my daughters to help others in whatever ways they can, no matter how small the gesture. A U.S. Navy veteran, I gave for my country, and like so many of my fellow veterans, I continue to give daily. I am #StillServing even in small ways and even when nobody is watching.

Are you a veteran that is #StillServing? Visit vfw.org/StillServing and share how you continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small, and let’s show the world how vibrant and active America’s veterans are.