The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier PCU Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) – PCU stands for Pre-Commissioning Unit – completed its sea trials earlier this month. This was supposed to have happened a while ago – in fact, the Navy retired USS Enterprise (CVN 65) in 2012 based on the assumption the Ford would be ready in 2015.
The Gerald R. Ford, like the Littoral Combat Ship and the Zumwalt, had its design hiccups. But it also has a number of new technologies – major advances over the Nimitz-class that has been a bulwark for America since 1975.
So, what makes this $10.44 billion carrier so special? Why spend $26 billion to make a whole new design? Well, here is some of what we got for it:
1. More Flight Deck Space
The Gerald R. Ford’s flight deck has been re-designed to help generate at least 25 percent more sorties per day than the Nimitz-class carriers can. Among the ways this was done was to reduce the number of aircraft elevators from four to three. The carrier’s island has been moved back by 140 feet, and it is 20 feet shorter. They also moved it three feet more from the center.
The Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System is perhaps the biggest change on these vessels. The traditional method to launch planes for decades has been the steam catapult. While it has done the job, there is a huge price paid by the aircraft. Really, the entire carrier launch and recovery cycle has been a case of officially-sanctioned Tomcat, Hornet, Phantom, Hawkeye, Viking, and Greyhound abuse.
Or, in a shorter version, carrier planes get the sh*t beat out of them.
EMALS is different. According to a 2007 DefenseTech.org article, it allows much more precision in terms of how much force is used to launch a plane. This lessens the stress on the airframe, allowing a combat plane to last longer. That precision also allows it to launch lighter and heavier planes than the current steam catapults.
There are other benefits, too, including fewer steam pipes around the ship, and reduced maintenance requirements.
3. Advanced Arresting Gear
The carrier landings – really controlled crashes – are another item that new technology will change. Like EMALS, this system is intended to reduce the stress on airframes. This system has been plagued by trouble, drawing fire from the DOD’s Inspector General. The San Diego Reader reported that the IG claims the system is still “unproven.”
4. New Reactors
The carrier is also debuting the new A1B reactors from Bechtel. The big change here is that the plant delivers 300 percent of the electrical output that the reactors on board the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and her sisters can. GlobalSecurity.org notes two other benefits: The A1B requires less manning, and it has about half of the pipes, valves, condensers, and pumps. This cuts the maintenance requirements a lot.
All in all, if everything works, the Gerald R. Ford will be able to do more than a Nimitz can do, while having less crew on board.
The Veterans Choice Program for private health care is in such bad shape that the bill backed by President Donald Trump to fix it will be difficult to implement even if done right, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office.
The Choice program was aimed at reducing wait times through increased access to private health care, but the GAO’s performance audit conducted from April 2016 through May 2018 found that, in many cases, veterans would have been better off making appointments at VA facilities.
“Timeliness of appointments is an essential component of quality health care,” the report released June 4, 2018, said, but poor management and bookkeeping under the Choice program can result in veterans waiting up to 70 days to see a private doctor.
In 2016, the average wait for a private appointment was 51 days, the GAO said, although the VA eligibility rules made private care an option when the veteran had to wait 30 days to see a VA doctor.
“Delays in care have been shown to negatively affect patients’ morbidity, mortality, and quality of life,” the report said, and the “VA lacks assurance that veterans are receiving care from community providers in a timely manner.”
At a White House ceremony June 6, 2018, Trump is expected to sign the VA Mission Act, which provides $4.2 billion to overhaul and expand the Choice program for private care while consolidating its seven existing care options into one.
(Photo by Gage Skidmore)
The GAO report warned that staff shortages, bureaucratic roadblocks and poor communication between the VA and private doctors under the existing Choice program make a quick fix unlikely.
“To the extent that these factors persist under the consolidated community care program that VA plans to establish, they will continue to adversely affect veterans’ access to care,” the GAO said.
Citing the problems with Choice detailed in the report, the GAO said, “Ignoring these lessons learned and the challenges that have arisen under the Choice Program as [VA officials] design the future consolidated program would only increase VA’s risk for not being able to ensure that all veterans will receive timely access to care in the community.”
VA pledges action to correct problems
The blizzard of acronyms used by the GAO in its report, and by the VA in its response, illustrates the difficulty the individual veteran has in navigating the system.
The GAO called for better coordination among the VA’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA), the VA medical centers (VACMs), the VHA’s Office of Community Care (OCC), third-party administrators (TPAs), the Computerized Patient Record Systems (CPRS), the Community Care Network (CCN) and private doctors themselves, who often complain of late payments.
In its response to the GAO report, the VA concurred with four of the five recommendations for improving the transition from the Choice program to the VA Mission Act but disagreed with the GAO on urgent care.
The GAO found that “VAMCs and TPAs do not always categorize Choice Program referrals and authorizations in accordance with the contractual definition for urgent care.”
The GAO said that a referral to private care is to be marked “urgent” when a VHA doctor determined that it was essential and “if delayed would likely result in unacceptable morbidity or pain.” However, the GAO found that some referrals originally marked as routine were changed to urgent to speed up the slow appointment process.
Even that conclusion was difficult to reach because of the VA’s lack of reliable records and data, the GAO said. “Without complete, reliable data, VHA cannot determine whether the Choice Program has helped to achieve the goal of alleviating veterans’ wait times for care,” the GAO said.
In its response to the report, the VA said that the GAO’s recommendation on urgent care “is no longer needed because VHA has resolved the issue with the new CCN (Community Care Network) contract.”
Under the new contract, VHA staff will have responsibility for scheduling community care appointments with providers, as opposed to the old system in which administrators routed referrals to the TPAs (third-party administrators), the VA said.
In the transition from Choice to the VA Mission Act, the VA will also set up a new referral and authorizations system that will be called “Health Share Referral Manager (HSRM).”
The VA said that HSRM will “measure the time it takes to review and accept consults, prepare referrals and schedule veterans community appointments.”
The VA in flux
The VA Mission Act has been estimated to cost as much as $55 billion over five years. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, has said that funding sources have yet to be identified, but he was confident they would be found.
When Trump signs the bill June 6, 2018, as one of the major achievements of his administration, he will not have a VA secretary looking over his shoulder.
Trump has said that he intends to nominate Wilkie to the permanent job, but the Senate has yet to set a date for his confirmation hearing. In the meantime, Peter O’Rourke, who had been the VA chief of staff, has become acting secretary temporarily.
Its major proponents have acknowledged that the VA Mission Act and the overhaul of Choice will be difficult to implement.
At a panel discussion last month sponsored by the Concerned Veterans for America, which lobbied hard for the expansion of private care, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that putting the VA Mission Act into effect will sorely test the VA.
“Let me tell you, it is a painful thing to do,” Roe said. “This is a massive undertaking. It could be very disruptive to the VA. It’s humongous.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
In the United States, hospitals are facing shortages of medical grade masks, and have taken to social media to ask seamstresses nationwide if they can sew masks for them.
When Sarah Mainwaring, a military spouse and community advocate at Robins AFB heard about the plight of local hospitals, she devised a plan to fulfill the needs of both the military community and healthcare workers due to the (very) limited availability of medical masks. She enlisted the help of her neighbors and fellow military spouses, and they began gathering materials to begin sewing masks. They decided to take their movement public by involving the military community, and thus, Milspo Mask Makers was born.
Milspo Mask Makers is a growing community movement of active duty, guard, reservists, and military spouses that are dedicated to filling the needs of healthcare workers, the surrounding community, and the immunocompromised by sewing masks to help them protect themselves against COVID-19. These masks can be used by healthcare workers in the event of a shortage, or to prolong the life of their medical mask to be able to use it longer.
Through their efforts, the ladies at Milspo Mask Makers were able to come together and sew over 100 masks in their first 24 hours. They have since been joined by other spouses in their local community, and have distributed over 200 masks to date. Sarah has challenged the military community to sew 10,000 masks worldwide and distribute them to those in need. If you or someone you know is making masks, let Milspo Mask Maker know! Use the hashtag #MilspoMaskMaker when you post photos to social media.
Also, be sure to like their page on Facebook to keep up-to-date with their efforts, view tutorials on making masks, and to find out other ways you can contribute to the cause!
When Ultimate Fighting Championship hall-of-famer Forrest Griffin was in the octagon, he knew who to turn to when a pummeling led to lacerations — Air Force Reserve Citizen Airman Dr. (Col.) Gregory Hsu.
That’s because Hsu, who serves as the Individual Mobilization Augmentee to the U.S. Pacific Air Forces surgeon general, is a highly experienced ophthalmologist and plastic surgeon with over 24 years of experience.
Hsu is a solo-practitioner in Las Vegas and has operated his own eye clinic for the past two decades. As a doctor who specializes in diseases of the eye, he has to be at the top of his game when it comes to patching his patient’s faces after their treatment.
That skill, said Griffin, is what makes Hsu so valuable to the UFC and its fighters. When someone gets cut in a fight, that wound has to be closed up in such a way that it doesn’t open back up or form scar tissue, which leaves the skin susceptible to opening up in the future.
The UFC is a popular mixed martial arts fighting organization started in 1993. According to the UFC website, fighters must be skilled in many forms of hand-to-hand combat, including jiu-jitsu, karate and boxing. It produces more than 40 live events annually and is the largest Pay-Per-View event provider, broadcasting in 129 countries, 28 languages and reaching 800 million households.
Hsu’s and Griffin’s UFC histories are tightly intertwined. Griffin was a contestant on season 1 of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show in 2005; a top contender for season champ and a spot in the UFC. In the penultimate fight, he received a cut severe enough that the safety commission wanted to disqualify him from the final fight. That’s when Hsu got the call.
“I knew the [chief financial officer] of The Ultimate Fighter and he asked if I could do a suture job that would hold up through the fight,” said Hsu.
Hsu closed the wound to the satisfaction of the safety board and Griffin went on to win the final fight and earn a spot in the UFC at a time when the fighting format was exploding in popularity. Today, Griffin is retired from fighting but he continues with the organization, serving as the vice president of athletic development at the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas.
Like Griffin, Hsu continues to work for the organization, supporting both the reality TV series, which is carried on Fox Sports 1, and eight to 10 major UFC events each year.
When Hsu is not stitching fighters or running his eye clinic, he serves his country as the IMA to the U.S. Pacific Air Forces surgeon general. The doctor said he was a late-comer to the military but joined because he wanted to give back to his country. He originally joined the Nevada Air National Guard but later switched to the Air Force Reserve, becoming a traditional reservist at the Nellis Air Force Base clinic. However, after being selected for promotion to colonel, he had to look for a position that would match his new grade. In 2015 he applied for his current position as an IMA. He was hired and promoted to his current rank.
Hsu said moving to the IMA program, where he can directly support the active-duty Air Force, has been a great ride, but working the budget, manpower and policy side of operations was a new experience for him.
“Integrating guidance to best meet the needs of PACAF down to the Airman, and seeing how we promote and deliver care, was an eye opening experience,” he added.
IMAs are Air Force Reserve Airmen assigned to augment active-component military organizations and government agencies. They have participation requirements similar to members in the traditional reserve. However, most IMAs perform all of their required annual duty all at once; 24 to 36 days per year, depending on the assignment.
In 2017, Hsu used his duty time to represent the PACAF surgeon general at exercise Talisman Sabre 2017, a joint training activity with the Australian military.
“It was like lifting the hood of a car to see a new aspect of how it works,” he said of the experience that had him operating alongside Soldiers, Sailors and Marines, as well as Australian forces.
Hsu said it can be a balancing act to serve with the Air Force while also managing his business, UFC gig and family, but ultimately he loves being in uniform and helping to get the mission done.
The balancing act is something Hsu excels at. Griffin said he didn’t even know Hsu was in the Air Force until once when Doc, as the fighters call him, wasn’t at a fight.
“I asked where he was and he was at some sort of crazy exercise,” said the former fighter.
The doctor said he provides two primary services that keep the UFC fighters happy. First, good-quality plastic surgery keeps them healthy and returns them to the fight faster. Second, is the ability to skip a lengthy emergency room visit, allowing injured fighters to participate in press conferences, meet with fans and be a part of the post-fight buzz.
Hsu said it can be intimidating dealing with the fighters, especially following a loss when “you can cut the depression with a knife” or the fighter can’t calm down. But, with fighters sometimes lining up four to five deep, his presence is definitely needed.
The cuts are not typical for what he would see in his clinic. Hsu described them as challenging.
“Sometimes it takes me an hour to work on these guys,” he said. “The cuts are from gloves, knees, hands, they’re not the same as planned cuts in surgery.”
The worst injury Hsu said he handled was after a fight between Tito Ortiz and Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell. Ortiz came out of the fight with a ripped eyelid and eyebrow and had to spend 45 minutes in Hsu’s suture room having it repaired.
“He didn’t care about his face, he was just pissed that he lost,” said Hsu, adding that his efforts ensured there was no permanent disfigurement from the injury.
As the sport has grown more professional, so have the demands on Hsu. Originally, the fighters were grateful for the quality, ring-side medical care. Now, with publicity, sponsorship and announcing jobs, Hsu said it’s also important for the fighters to come off the operating table looking good.
Griffin noted that Hsu has been a huge part of UFC, working the biggest shows of the year and taking care of stitches and any eye-related injuries.
“Post-fight medical care is one thing we really care about,” said Griffin. “It lets our fighters get back to training and fighting as soon as possible.”
Hsu, who knows most of the fighters personally, said they ask him to take good care of their faces.
“My work has to be perfect; everything, every time,” he said, adding “I love it, it’s a great ride.”
Taking care of others, and showing love and appreciation for others, is a core reason why retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton chose to stay in the Army. He continued to serve for 21 years, even after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004.
Skelton told his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during the “Why We Serve” ceremony hosted by the Army’s chief information officer/G-6, Sept. 5. During the event, 30 young men and women from the Baltimore and Richmond areas raised their right hand to take the Oath of Enlistment.
“I was kind of a punk kid growing up in a small farming community in South Dakota,” he said. “I barely graduated high school and had absolutely no discipline whatsoever, which is why I had a hard time holding down a job.”
Shortly after getting expelled from the University of South Dakota, Skelton eventually found his way to an Army recruiting office. A year later he was sent to training at Monterey, California, to learn Chinese at the Defense Language Institute.
Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton shared his story to a large crowd of soldiers, veterans, and Army civilians during a “Why We Serve” ceremony, Sept. 5, 2019.
(Courtesy photo Maj. Dennis DJ Skelton)
At one point, two officers pulled Skelton aside and asked him, “‘Why are you here?'” Skelton looked up and couldn’t answer the question, he said.
Instead of turning Skelton away, the two officers decided to take an opportunity to encourage the young private. They encouraged him to become an Army officer.
“That was the first time in my life that I had been pulled aside by someone that looked at me from a distance and chose to spend some extra time with someone they did not know. They saw something in me that I didn’t see,” Skelton said.
Skelton eventually made it to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. After graduation, he moved to Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. Not long after his arrival, he was told to prepare for a deployment in Iraq.
“I remember sitting on the tarmac waiting for the plane to load up,” he said. “No one in my unit has ever [deployed] before. I remember standing in front of my platoon — naive — and I looked at those family members and said, “‘I promise you this: I will bring all of your sons and daughters home.'”
Two months later, Skelton was wounded and in a coma. One of his soldiers, “went through a volley of fire to drag my body through the kill zone,” during a battle in Fallujah, Skelton said emotionally.
Battling for his life, Skelton was flown back for treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
“This is 2004, and there was no Warrior Transition Unit. West Point professors, [and] enlisted soldiers that I served with found out that I was wounded and showed up at the hospital. They would cook food every night and delivered it to my parents, sister, and loved ones, because I couldn’t do that,” he said with sorrow.
Retired Maj. Dennis “DJ” Skelton discusses why he chose to stay in the Army after suffering grievous wounds during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004, during a “Why We Serve” ceremony at Fort Belvoir, Va., Sept. 5, 2019.
(Army CIO G6 photo)
A year later, Skelton was out of the hospital, and the Army was quick to start his medical evaluation board process. It was one thing to be injured, but the feeling of rejection and being told he no longer provided value to the Army felt worse, he said.
Skelton eventually convinced the Army to let him stay as he spent the next six years bouncing through various assignments.
“For six years, I did what everyone told me to do: ‘Be resilient.’ And for six years … what I learned is that I hate the word resilient more than any other word in the English language.”
To others, resilience is the measurement of time that it takes to get back to normal, Skelton added.
“For six years, I tried to get back to the point where I had two eyes [and] two limbs so I could go hunting, climbing, and fishing. That was a source of happiness. I want to go back to a time when I was not peppered with shrapnel so that I can look handsome again,” said Skelton, with sadness in his voice.
“The reality is we can’t; these negative things that happen to us are now forever part of us,” he said.
It took time, but Skelton eventually saw his injury as a source of his strength. Through it all, he recognized that each person brings value and worth to a team or organization, he said.
So to answer the question, ‘Why do I serve?’ I made a promise on a tarmac that I bring my soldiers home,” he said.
“Even though it took six years, I finally made my way back into the infantry. And even though it wasn’t [my same] platoon, I got to command the same company in which I was a platoon leader,” he said. “Some of my privates were now my NCOs. And I got to bring them back home.”
He told the crowd he planned to negotiate a system for the Veterans Affairs Department that would allow veterans to receive health care in a VA facility or at a private doctor of their choice.
Trump also reiterated his plan to aggressively promote “Americanism,” saying he would make sure American students recited the pledge of allegiance.
Clinton invoked Reagan’s “shining city on a hill” in her Wednesday address, promising to defend American exceptionalism. Trump continued the theme, saying he would enlist the American Legion’s help in promoting American values.
“We will stop apologizing for America and we will start celebrating America,” he said. “We will be united by our common culture, values and principles, becoming one American nation. One country under one constitution, saluting one American flag.”
Trump’s speech, which at 15 minutes was about half as long as Clinton’s, limited discussion of veterans’ policy to his plan to reform the VA.
While VA Secretary Robert McDonald told the American Legion on Wednesday that the department hoped to turn a corner in organizational reform this year, Trump said it was in “very sad shape,” adding that he had spoken with a number of veterans who had received unsatisfactory care.
Trump said he plans to carry out his VA overhaul by appointing a new secretary and firing anyone who failed to meet standards.
“I’m going to use every lawful authority to remove anyone who fails our veterans and breaches the public trust,” he said.
Trump also said he would make sure female veterans got the best possible access to medical care.
“We’re going to get you fantastic service. It’s going to happen, believe me,” he said. “Never again will we allow any veteran to suffer or die waiting for care.”
The Republican candidate, who on the previous day delivered a speech in Mexico promising to crack down on illegal immigration, drew applause when he reiterated promises to defend American borders.
In what appeared to be a pivot from 2015 comments in which he made disparaging many Mexican immigrants as drug smugglers and criminals, Trump praised Mexican Americans for their service in the U.S. military.
“I just came back from a wonderful meeting with the president of Mexico where I expressed my deep respect for the people of his country and for the tremendous contribution of Mexican Americans in our country,” he said. “Many are in our armed services. You know how good they are. I want to thank him for his gracious hospitality and express my belief that we can work together and accomplish great things for both our countries.”
Trump also received applause when he promised to stop Syrian refugees, many of whom he has characterized as terrorists and extremists, from entering the United States, citing plans to build a safe zone overseas to house them.
While the Air Force has gotten the F-35A to its initial operating capability, the service is having a ton of other problems — problems that could place the ability of the United States to control the air in doubt.
According to a report by FoxNews.com, the service is short by about 700 pilots and 4,000 mechanics. This is not a small issue. A shortage of well-trained pilots can be costly.
F-16s fly beside a KC-135 during a refueling mission over Ramstein Air Base, Germany. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Preston Cherry)
In World War II, the United States had a strict policy of rotating experienced pilots back to the states. This is why John Thach, the inventor of the Thach Weave, had only seven kills in World War II, according to Air University’s ace pilots list.
He was sent back to train the pilots needed to fly the hundreds of F6F Hellcats and F4U Corsairs. By contrast, Japan kept pilots on the front line until they were shot down or badly wounded. It cost them experience.
Maintenance personnel also matter. A fighter on the flight line does no good if it can’t fly, and the mechanics are the folks who keep it functional. The thing is, no mechanic — no matter how good he or she is — can fix two planes at once.
So why is the United States Air Force facing this much of a shortage? An Air Force release notes that the decline took place over the last ten years, but was exacerbated by the sequestration cuts of 2011.
“The risk of manpower shortage is masked and placed on the backs of Airmen,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in that release. “Because if you go back and look at the data and the way we measure readiness, did we taxi? Yes. Did we launch? Yes. Did we make the deployed destination and accomplish the mission? Yes.”
But accomplishing the mission came at a price, Goldfein explained. “What’s masked is the fact that the shortage of people has fundamentally changed the way we do business in terms of the operational risk day to day.”
When asked for a comment by the writer, Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness said,
“I’m not aware of an official survey to confirm what may be going on, but it appears that the mystique of being an [Air Force] pilot has been eroded by a combination of budget cuts and social agendas; e.g., Air Force Secretary Deborah James’ Diversity Initiative Fact Sheet. Mandates such as this clearly indicate that qualifications and high standards are not very important, and certain types of applicants need not apply.”
Donnelly also pointed to aircraft readiness issues in the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as the many aging airframes in the U.S. inventory.
Also of note – FoxNews.com noted that in 1991, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons. Today, there are only 55, marking a reduction of 59% in the number of fighter squadrons.
A half century after serving in Vietnam, hundreds of veterans have a new reason to believe they may be dying from a silent bullet — test results show some men may have been infected by a slow-killing parasite while fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
The Department of Veterans Affairs this spring commissioned a small pilot study to look into the link between liver flukes ingested through raw or undercooked fish and a rare bile duct cancer. It can take decades for symptoms to appear. By then, patients are often in tremendous pain, with just a few months to live.
Of the 50 blood samples submitted, more than 20 percent came back positive or bordering positive for liver fluke antibodies, said Sung-Tae Hong, the tropical medicine specialist who carried out the tests at Seoul National University in South Korea.
“It was surprising,” he said, stressing the preliminary results could include false positives and that the research is ongoing.
Northport VA Medical Center spokesman Christopher Goodman confirmed the New York facility collected the samples and sent them to the lab. He would not comment on the findings, but said everyone who tested positive was notified.
Gerry Wiggins, who served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969, has already lost friends to the disease. He was among those who got the call.
“I was in a state of shock,” he said. “I didn’t think it would be me.”
The 69-year-old, who lives in Port Jefferson Station, New York, didn’t have any symptoms when he agreed to take part in the study, but hoped his participation could help save lives. He immediately scheduled further tests, discovering he had two cysts on his bile duct, which had the potential to develop into the cancer, known as cholangiocarcinoma. They have since been removed and — for now — he’s doing well.
Though rarely found in Americans, the parasites infect an estimated 25 million people worldwide, mostly in Asia.
Endemic in the rivers of Vietnam, the worms can easily be wiped out with a handful of pills early on, but left untreated, they can live for decades without making their hosts sick. Over time, swelling and inflammation of the bile duct can lead to cancer. Jaundice, itchy skin, weight loss, and other symptoms appear only when the disease is in its final stages.
The VA study, along with a call by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer of New York for broader research into liver flukes and cancer-stricken veterans, began after The Associated Press raised the issue in a story last year. The reporting found that about 700 veterans with cholangiocarcinoma have been seen by the VA in the past 15 years. Less than half of them submitted claims for service-related benefits, mostly because they were not aware of a possible connection to Vietnam. The VA rejected 80 percent of the requests, but decisions often appeared to be haphazard or contradictory, depending on what desks they landed on, the AP found.
The number of claims submitted reached 60 in 2017, up from 41 last year. Nearly three out of four of those cases were also denied, even though the government posted a warning on its website this year saying veterans who ate raw or under-cooked freshwater fish while in Vietnam might be at risk. It stopped short of urging them to get ultrasounds or other tests, saying there was currently no evidence the vets had higher infection rates than the general population.
“We are taking this seriously,” said Curt Cashour, a spokesman with the Department of Veterans Affairs. “But until further research, a recommendation cannot be made either way.”
Veteran Mike Baughman, 65, who was featured in the previous AP article, said his claim was granted early this year after being denied three times. He said the approval came right after his doctor wrote a letter saying his bile duct cancer was “more likely than not” caused by liver flukes from the uncooked fish he and his unit in Vietnam ate when they ran out of rations in the jungle. He now gets about $3,100 a month and says he’s relieved to know his wife will continue to receive benefits after he dies. But he remains angry that other veterans’ last days are consumed by fighting the same government they went to war for as young men.
“In the best of all worlds, if you came down with cholangiocarcinoma, just like Agent Orange, you automatically were in,” he said, referring to benefits granted to veterans exposed to the toxic defoliant sprayed in Vietnam. “You didn’t have to go fighting.”
Baughman, who is thin and weak, recently plucked out “Country Roads” on a bass during a jam session at his cabin in West Virginia. He wishes the VA would do more to raise awareness about liver flukes and to encourage Vietnam veterans to get an ultrasound that can detect inflammation.
“Personally, I got what I needed, but if you look at the bigger picture with all these other veterans, they don’t know what necessarily to do,” he said. “None of them have even heard of it before. A lot of them give me that blank stare like, ‘You’ve got what?'”
Syria’s Foreign Ministry reacted to Trump’s move by calling it a “blatant attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria.
Syria tried to retake the Golan Heights from Israeli forces during the 1973 Middle East war, but their surprise assault was repelled.
In 1981, Israel extended its laws to the region, effectively annexing it, in a move that has not been recognized by the international community.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Trump’s move was unlawful and could lead to renewed tensions in the Middle East. “This could lead to a new wave of tensions…such things, they are outside the law for they ignore all international efforts…unfortunately, they can only aggravate the situation,” she told Russian radio.
Trump announced on Twitter on March 21, 2019, that the United States intended to “fully” recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the 1,800-square-kilometer territory — a decision that breaks with long-standing U.S. policy and international consensus.
Trump’s proclamation recognizing the Golan Heights comes less than a month before general elections in Israel in which Netanyahu is facing a stiff challenge from former military chief Benny Gantz, the head of a centrist party.
Former military chief Benny Gantz.
Netanyahu arrived in Washington on March 24, 2019, for what was meant to be a three-day visit that included an appearance at the annual convention of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
But he announced on March 25, 2019, that he was cutting short his trip to the United States after a rocket attack from Gaza early on March 25, 2019, destroyed a residential home and injured several Israelis in the farming community of Mishmeret, north of the city of Kfar Saba.
Israel’s military said the rocket attack was conducted by militants from Gaza’s ruling Hamas. It also quickly mobilized troops and called up reserve forces, setting up the possibility of a major military operation ahead of the Israeli elections.
Netanyahu pledged to retaliate and return to Israel immediately after his meeting with Trump to manage the crisis.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told the AIPAC gathering that that rocket attack “proves that Hamas is not a partner for peace.”
“Hamas is a terrorist organization that seeks the destruction of Israel, and the United States will never negotiate with terrorist Hamas,” Pence said.
The PAK-DA will be a subsonic aircraft designed for high payload and long-range flight. It’s expected to replace the aging Soviet-era turbo-prop Tu-95 “Bear” and the Tu-160 strategic bombers. Developed by Russia’s Ministry of Defense and Tupolev, the PAK-DA is scheduled to begin testing in 2019, according to KRET, the Russian company responsible for designing its radar system.
About three months ago an animated video surfaced showing the PAK-DA’s blended wing-body design, which looks a whole lot like a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber knock-off. It’s probably not the aircraft’s final design considering the style of the video, which is strikingly similar to those published by Russia’s propaganda media arm, Russia Today.
Here are two other articles with the same animation style we’ve written about:
The U.S. Army’s Special Forces soldiers are some of the most capable troops in the world. They might even be the most capable people. Putting on the coveted green beret means being able to handle yourself in almost any situation at any time, and coming out on top.
For those working in Special Forces, it comes with varying degrees of difficulty. Today’s Special Forces soldier works in counterterrorism, counter-narcotics, hostage rescue and other potentially classified operations. But the primary mission of those who wear the green beret is to wage unconventional warfare against a hostile, possibly occupied nation.
This often means turning a population or oppressed minority against its occupiers. They often find themselves training an undermanned, underequipped fighting force. In Vietnam, where the Green Berets cut their teeth, this often meant surviving in the jungles for long periods of time.
In Vietnam, the Military Assistance Command – Vietnam – Studies and Observations Group (MACV-SOG) was a joint CIA-Army operation used to collect intelligence and fight the covert war happening in the dense jungles of the country. The oppressed minority in this case were the Vietnamese tribes of Montagnards.
The Montagnards’ name comes from the French for “mountaineers” and though they live in Vietnam, they are ethnically and culturally different from the Vietnamese. The 30 tribes of Montagnards live off of the land, growing food and hunting for survival. They were looked down upon by the Vietnamese and didn’t trust either the north or the south. Eventually, they cast their lots with the south – and the reason for that was the Green Berets.
Army Special Forces soldiers worked with the Montagnards (called “Yards” for short) to form a kind of quick reaction force (QRF) that would defend southern villages from attacking bands of Viet Cong (VC). The highland areas occupied by the Yards were prime real estate for moving men and material to the war zones. Isolated villages were easy pickings for the VC. The Green Berets moved in to advise the Yards.
By the end of 1963, the Yards were organized into a real fighting force of 43,000 men and an 18,000 strong QRF. The Green Berets and the Montagnards gelled instantly. The Yard appreciated the Army’s finest for their help and the green berets appreciated the honest, primal toughness of the Yards – and their resolve to defend what was theirs.
They were a lot alike in that their ways seemed odd to everyone else. The Montagnards would often find food that seemed unwholesome or unsavory to others. The Special Forces knew what that was like. After displaying their survival skills to President Kennedy, skills where they caught and ate snakes, they were stuck with the moniker “snake eaters.”
To the rest of Vietnam, the Montagnards were called savages. The similarities didn’t stop there. The U.S. soldiers loved the Yards prowess in combat. They were natural soldiers, brave and trustworthy. They knew they could count on the Montagnards to watch their flanks.
All good things must come to an end, however. When the United States was forced to leave South Vietnam to its own defense, things didn’t fare so well. The Montagnards fought well, but they couldn’t defend the whole country on their own. When the South Vietnamese government fell, they accepted the result.
But they didn’t fare well. The North Vietnamese did not forget the Montagnards’ work with the U.S. Army Special Forces and the communists made life especially hard for the mountain tribes in the years to come.
The following is an interview with Sgt. 1st Class Robert Ford, one of the soldiers entrusted with maintaining the tank capabilities at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5.
Look through the pictures to see how Ford and a team of contractors reattach a turret on an Abrams M1A2. Ford also recently passed the board for entry into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club, and he talks about what he learned.
With nine years of service, Ford is on his third overseas deployment, having served in both Afghanistan and South Korea. (The interview was edited for clarity and length.)
Abrams M1A2 tanks stored at an Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 warehouse at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 10, 2019. APS-5 is a massive amount of ground force equipment positioned to provide strategic planners options to win in the US Central Command’s area of responsibility.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What is the most important thing to know about maintaining the Abrams M1A2?
Ford: The most important thing to know about the maintenance of tanks is that they are very big and very expensive. Even the smallest components can cost a lot more than the average military vehicle, which means it’s that much more important to get the maintenance on them right.
For example, the operation we recently did to put a turret back on a tank had to be completed with extreme care and precision as not to damage the vehicle. The cost of error is one of those things you can’t help but to think about when planning maintenance on these.
Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, watches as contractors at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 work to lift a 30-ton turret at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
I noticed a huge team effort in putting the turret back on the tank. Is that a special event for people here?
Ford: We rarely pull turrets off or put them on, so every time it does happen it seems like it becomes a bit of a spectacle. That’s because we are lifting a 30-ton piece of equipment and moving it around with no room for error. It’s definitely something to see and experience.
It takes a lot of eyes to ensure that turret is coming out and going in straight. The turret is a machine fit — only just big enough to get into the hole of the tank. If anything is off to the left or right, there is a possibility of damaging equipment and that equipment is very expensive. In this case, the turret was level and fit well into its proper place.
Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, stands in front of an Abrams M1A2 tank at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Oct. 6, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What is your role in a maintenance operation like this?
Ford: I fill the quality inspection role while [the contractors] are doing the majority of the work. As the contracting officer’s representative, I ensure the terms of the contract are fulfilled. I also verify and accept the completed work on behalf of the government.
As you can see there [in the third photo], the guy on the tank is in charge of the crane. I’m just there for safety reasons and then just to ensure it’s put together properly and safely. That’s all I’m looking for. But, if they need my advice as an expert on the vehicle, then I’ll interject when I feel it’s necessary. I try to stay back and let them do the job.
A contractor with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 directs a crane operator to briefly stop lowering a 30-ton turret onto an Abrams M1A2 so others could check its alignment to the mount at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, September 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
I noticed you jumped in a few times to help give directions. Is that typical?
Ford: There were a couple instances where they were unsure on how to move forward on that operation and, you know, time is always of the essence. That’s when I stepped forward to provide another set of eyes. But this was their operation, and I was mostly just watching it come together.
Some of the contractors have more familiarity with older tank models because they used those when they served. Sometimes I have to help fill the knowledge gap they have to help things along. But they have familiarity with each other — using hand signals they worked out that I don’t know, and that’s important for working as a team.
Ernie Boyd, work center supervisor at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5, provides positioning guidance as a crew lowers a turret back on an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
Can you tell me a little about the team doing the work?
Ford: I think the team takes their role very seriously. Take Ernie Boyd for example. He is a retired Marine with 14 years of experience working on tanks. He is one of my go-to guys for tanks and for solving work center issues.
He definitely takes his work seriously — you can tell. He’s a supervisor for the work center, but during this turret operation, he was doing a lot more than supervising. He was extremely hands-on in ensuring that operation went according to plan.
Sgt. 1st Class. Robert Ford, quality assurance for tanks, 401st Army Field Support Battalion-Kuwait, provides another set of eyes for a maintenance operation to place a turret back on an Abrams M1A2 tank at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What is Army Prepositioned Stocks-5?
Ford: APS-5 is a massive set of equipment placed here to make rapidly deploying units faster. We give the warfighter the material capability they need to complete their missions.
Looking at the big picture, our job is to ensure APS-5 continues to provide viable strategic options to win.
All of our tanks are stored inside our warehouses ready for issue. They are configured for combat, meaning a unit can come in, hop in a tank, and drive it off the lot. They’re quick and ready to roll out for any mission.
This mission is important because there will come a day when a deploying unit will need this equipment, and if it’s not ready, then it could slow their mission down. It can be a life or death situation. Being able to provide the warfighter with the most ready equipment is our focus every day.
A maintenance crew at Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 reattaches a 30-ton turret to an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
Tell me about the first time you saw Army Prepositioned Stocks-5.
Ford: I walked into one of our warehouses and saw an entire battalion worth of tanks. They were in lines all facing each other as far as I could see — 72-ton vehicles all the way down from wall to wall.
You don’t often get to see something like that. Usually tanks are scattered out in fragmented lines waiting for operations or maintenance.
When I first saw it, I definitely felt excited about our mission and my part in it because I am the only tank [quality assurance] soldier here. All those tanks sitting there embodied my reason for being in Kuwait.
Contractors with Army Prepositioned Stocks-5 watch closely as a crane lowers a 30-ton turret back onto an Abrams M1A2 tank at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait, Sept. 23, 2019. The turret is machine-fit to the tank, and must be placed carefully to avoid costly damage.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
What do you think of DFAC food?
Ford: Um, keeps me alive. I haven’t died or anything yet (laughter). Dry chicken and rice are great — just be sure you have plenty of water so you can swallow the chicken.
Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles in lots maintained by the 401st Field Support Brigade at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 22, 2016.
(US Army photo by Kevin Fleming)
I know you will soon be inducted into the Sergeant Audie Murphy Club. Why did you decide to go to the board and what did you learn?
Ford: Sergeant Audie Murphy Club provides continuous opportunities to serve throughout a career and beyond. The club’s mission is to develop and build professional noncommissioned officers and to provide community service to every Army community. So every duty station I go to from here forward, I get to go out to do good things for people while representing the Army and the NCO corps.
I learned it’s a big challenge, and with big challenges like that you don’t succeed on your own. I had to seek out a lot of mentorship and leadership scenarios from my leaders and all the way up through brigade. I had to expose my flaws and weaknesses; that way, they could help me correct those weaknesses. It’s just not enough to go in having read a book. You have to have real-life application of regulations and policies.
Trucks bring in APS-5 equipment from Camp Buehring back to Camp Arifjan during the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team turn-in, Feb. 5, 2019.
(US Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Veronica McNabb)
Of the Army values, which stand out most to you?
Ford: I think loyalty is a big one for me. Your loyalty is always being tested. You have to constantly be loyal to your seniors, your peers, your subordinates, your unit, the Army, and the nation. You have to buy into that mission to really give it all that you have – you can’t waver on that.
Respect is another huge value for me. Without respect, you can’t have trust. Without trust, you can’t be a leader and you can’t be led. That’s our primary job, and you can’t be a good leader without first being a good follower.
Soldiers assigned to the 155th Armored Brigade Combat Team prepare to move 22 M1A2 Abrams Tanks from an Army Prepositioned Stock-5 warehouse to a remote staging lot during a large-scale equipment issue at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, June 29, 2019.
(US Army photo by Justin Graff)
What advice would you give to young soldiers?
Ford: Don’t be afraid to fail, just put yourself out there. You never really know how much support you have until you are out there asking for support, so put yourself out there and allow people to help you.
We have a lot of good leaders in the military. They see you taking initiative and they see your desire to better yourself, they’re going to pick you up and provide you with what you need.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Today, the modern battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan has prompted our military to change what our troops take with them. “SAPI” plates (Small Arms Protective Insert) were added to help protect the service members vital organs from small arms fire.
All that gear adds up. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jorge Intriago)
Travel back in time where medieval Knights wore several layers and different types of heavy body armor to protect themselves from sharp swinging swords to the accurately shot arrows. These fearless men would spend countless hours training while cloaked in their protective garments, acclimating their bodies for war.
Fast forward to the rice patties of Vietnam where Marines, Sailors, Airmen, and Soldiers bravely left the wire typically sporting only their thin layered green t-shirts due to the constant humidity of the jungle while still toting pounds of extras.
One 155-pound TV show host wanted to experience just how heavy the gear of an American GI in Vietnam was. So after donning the full Vietnam War style combat load — complete with ammo, an M-16 rifle, an individual medical bag, and 2 quarts of water — the TV show host’s total weight amounted to just under 235 solid pounds of gear. It was an 80-pound difference.
Check out the Smithsonian Channel‘s video below to see this TV show host play grunt for an afternoon.