5 ways to support veterans all year long - We Are The Mighty
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5 ways to support veterans all year long

5 ways to support veterans all year long
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian McNeal


Each year over Veterans Day we witness a wonderful outpouring of love for our veteran community. “Happy Veterans Day,” parades, free meals, “thank yous,” and vet-centric events are par for the course over the holiday and the weekends that proceed and follow it.

But what about the other 51 weeks of the year?

While many of you are veterans yourselves, some of our readers are in a relationship of some kind with a currently serving veteran or a veteran of past conflict. We know how to support the veterans in our own homes.

But I believe we also have a responsibility to support the other veterans around us, and help our civilian neighbors do the same. We can lead by example.

So how do we do that? Here are five ideas.

1. Listen. Over Veterans Day weekend this year I worked with our community and the local Team Red, White Blue chapter to run a Veterans Town Hall. Inspired by an idea in Sebastian Junger’s book “Tribe,” the town hall had a simple goal: give veterans a space to talk about their service, and the community a space to listen. While we did not have a huge turnout — only around 50 people — we were able to light a fire on what I hope will be a long-term movement of saying “happy Veterans Day” by listening. Through the simple act of listening we extended grace and understanding to our veteran neighbors. We can do more of that, and we can do it beyond Veterans Day weekend.

2. “Thank a Vet” in a video. Disabled American Veterans (DAV) has an awesome way to create a keepsake to #ThankaVet. You can upload a customized message and a few photos, and the site will turn them into a tribute video. The videos are something you can create and share year round.

3. Serve all year long. Veterans don’t just exist on Veterans Day. The Veterans Home in my little town’s downtown is there every day of the year. Veterans are homeless in our nearest major city. My veteran neighbor will always need his driveway shoveled after it snows. Not every act of service to our community takes a big effort. But every act matters.

4. Tell your civilian friends. When you get ready to help your community’s veterans, invite your civilian friends to come along. I find that my civilian friends don’t ignore veterans on purpose — they just don’t really know any. We can be the people who can help make that connection.

5. Join a veteran organization. Your local VFW and American Legion both have auxiliary memberships for non-veterans. Team Red, White Blue exists purely to connect veterans with their communities, and getting involved is incredibly easy. Team Rubicon is constantly seeking volunteers for the important work they do with disaster relief. Military spouses often focus their volunteer efforts on the currently serving population — and maybe you just flat out don’t have time to add something else to your plate. But if you do, consider even just showing up for one of these groups’ (or countless others’) events. You won’t be sorry.

There’s nothing wrong with wishing anyone a “happy Veterans Day” or using Veterans Day to shine the spotlight on veterans in our community. But let’s keep the momentum going all year long.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Afghan pilots in U.S. Black Hawks are attacking Taliban fighters

Firing machine guns at Taliban fighters, reinforcing attacking ground troops, and scouting through mountainous terrain to find enemy locations are all things US-trained Afghan Air Force pilots are now doing with US Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters.

The ongoing US effort to provide anti-Taliban Afghan fighters with Black Hawks has recently been accelerated to add more aircraft on a faster timeframe, as part of a broad strategic aim to better enable Afghan forces to attack.


The first refurbished A-model Black Hawks, among the oldest in the US inventory, arrived in Kandahar in September of last year, as an initial step toward the ultimate goal of providing 159 of the helicopters to the Afghans, industry officials say.

While less equipped than the US Army’s most modern M-model Black Hawks, the older, analog A-models are currently being recapitalized and prepared for hand over to the Afghans.

Many of the Afghan pilots, now being trained by a globally-focused, US-based aerospace firm called MAG, have been flying Russian-built Mi-17s. Now, MAG is helping some Afghan pilots transition to Black Hawks as well as training new pilots for the Afghan Air Force.

“We are working on a lot of mission types. We’re helping pilots learn to fly individually, conduct air assaults and fly in conjunction with several other aircraft,” Brian Tachias, Senior Vice President for MAG, Huntsville Business Unit, told Warrior Maven in an interview.
5 ways to support veterans all year long

An Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter transports soldiers from Bagram Airfield over Ghazni, Afghanistan, on July 26, 2004.

(US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Vernell Hall)

The current MAG deal falls under the US Army Security Assistance Training Management Organization. Tachias said, “a team of roughly 20 MAG trainers has already flown over 500 hours with Afghan trainees.” MAG trainers, on-the-ground in Kandahar, graduated a class of Afghan trainees this month. According to current plans, Black Hawks will have replaced all Mi-17s by 2022.

Tachias added that teaching Afghan pilots to fly with night vision goggles has been a key area of emphasis in the training to prepare them for combat scenarios where visibility is more challenging. By next year, MAG intends to use UH-60 simulators to support the training.

While not armed with heavy weapons or equipped with advanced sensors, the refurbished A-model Black Hawks are outfitted with new engines and crew-served weapons. The idea is to give Afghan forces combat maneuverability, air superiority and a crucial ability to reinforce offensive operations in mountainous terrain, at high altitudes.

5 ways to support veterans all year long

An Afghan Air Force pilot receives a certificate during a UH-60 Black Hawk Aircraft Qualification Training graduation ceremony at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2017. The pilot is one of six to be the first AAF Black Hawk pilots. The first AAF Black Hawk pilots are experienced aviators coming from a Mi-17 background.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Veronica Pierce)

The MAG training effort is consistent with a broader Army strategy to arm, train, and equip Afghan forces such that they can continue to take over combat missions. In recent years, the US Army has placed a premium on operating in a supportive role wherein they train, assist and support Afghan fighters who themselves engage in combat, conduct patrols and do the majority of the fighting.

Standing up an Afghan Air Force has been a longstanding, stated Army goal for a variety of key reasons, one of which simply being that the existence of a capable Afghan air threat can not only advance war aims and enable the US to pull back some of its assets from engaging in direct combat.

While acknowledging the complexities and challenges on continued war in Afghanistan, US Centcom Commander Gen. Joseph Votel voiced this sensibility earlier this summer, stating that Afghan forces are increasingly launching offensive attacks against the Taliban.

“They are fighting and they are taking casualties, but they are also very offensive-minded, inflicting losses on the Taliban and [ISIS-Khorasan] daily, while expanding their capabilities and proficiency every day,” Votel said, according to an Army report from earlier this summer.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Watch a Chinese ship try to block US navigation

A Chinese warship threatened a US Navy destroyer during a tense showdown in the South China Sea in late September 2018, according to new details of the encounter.

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy Type 052C Luyang II-class destroyer challenged the US Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur during a routine freedom-of-navigation operation near the disputed Spratly Islands. The Chinese warship sailed within 45 yards of the American vessel, nearly colliding with the US destroyer.

The Chinese vessel “approached USS Decatur in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea,” where it engaged in “a series of increasingly aggressive maneuvers accompanied by warnings for Decatur to depart,” a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet said in a statement. The Decatur was forced to change course to avoid a collision.


A transcript of the radio exchange between the two naval vessels obtained by the South China Morning Post from the British Ministry of Defense shows that the Chinese ship threatened the Decatur, warning that it would “suffer consequences” if it did not move.

“You are on [a] dangerous course,” the Chinese destroyer warned over the radio. “If you don’t change course, [you] will suffer consequences.”

“We are conducting innocent passage,” the Decatur reportedly replied.

In a video of the incident, an unidentified Navy sailor can be heard saying that the Chinese ship is “trying to push us out of the way.”

The video is a little unclear, but there appear to be ship fenders deployed off deck, Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, noted on Twitter. He explained that “fenders are designed to mitigate the kinetic impact of a collision,” adding that the deployment is “clearly an indication of preparedness for such an eventuality.”

Ankit Panda, a foreign-policy expert who is a senior editor at The Diplomat, called the incident “the PLAN’s most direct and dangerous attempt to interfere with lawful US Navy navigation in the South China Sea to date.”

Unsafe or unprofessional encounters between the US Navy and the Chinese military are, however, not particularly uncommon. “We have found records of 19 unsafe and/or unprofessional interactions with China and Russia since 2016 (18 with China and one with Russia),” Cmdr. Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the US Pacific Fleet, recently told CNN.

A number of these incidents involved dangerous Chinese intercepts of US Navy aircraft. In August 2018, the Chinese military sent a total of six warnings to a US Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane, warning it to “leave immediately and keep out.”

It is potentially noteworthy that the details of the showdown between the US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea came from the British Ministry of Defense, as a British naval vessel also found itself in a standoff with the Chinese military in the South China Sea not too long ago.

In early September 2018, China dispatched a frigate to to take on the UK Royal Navy amphibious assault ship HMS Albion when it sailed too close to Chinese outposts in the Paracel Islands. China called the incident a provocation and warned that it would “take all necessary measures to defend its sovereignty and security.”

The US Navy is apparently expecting incidents like this to occur more frequently going foward. The US and China “will meet each other more and more on the high seas,” Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Oct. 30, 2018.

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

Articles

This county has the most vets in the USA. Here’s how two women are serving them all.

Despite most public assumptions, Los Angeles County leads the nation with the highest concentration of military veterans calling it home. The female veteran-led Los Angeles Veterans Collaborative (LAVC), stands ready to serve them.

According to their website, LAVC is a structured network of public, private and government agencies working together to reduce suffering and improve the lives of veterans, service members and military families in LA County. Along with the collaborative efforts of 300 organizations and resources housed under LAVC, the initiative is working towards policy changes that could further positively impact veterans. 

The foundation or backbone for the LAVC is Southern California Grantmakers, which has programming led by two female veterans determined to change the landscape for veterans as they transition or find themselves in need of support. 

Directing LAVC is Air Force Reserves Master Sgt. Aimee Pila-Bravo. But her passion for serving veterans goes beyond her connection as a military service member herself. It started after watching her brother, a Marine, struggle and not receive the help he needed. He eventually attempted to commit suicide while still on active duty.

“There were a lot of incarcerations and hospitalizations and he had a lot of problems that weren’t being addressed,” Bravo explained. Inspired by a social worker that was finally able to help her brother, she decided to become one herself. 

After leaving active service for the reserves to earn her master’s degree in social work, she knew she wanted to impact the lives of those who serve and have served.

“If someone could help my brother through that process then I want to be able to do it for others,” Bravo said. “I just recognize that there is a lot of help that needs to be given. I would prefer that they get that help while they are still in, before they get to us.”

Life after leaving active duty service is a shock to many veterans, with the added confusion of where to go and what’s available, Bravo said. Although each branch offers a class before the member begins terminal leave, she said it leaves many more confused than when they started. LAVC aims to make it as seamless as possible to set them up for success. 

Cristina Garcia is the Director for the Veteran Peer Access Network, which is part of Southern California Grantmakers, as well. The program connects county departments, non-profits, the VA and LA City programs, making navigation simpler for the veteran. It is led by veterans for veterans, giving them a battle buddy as they begin their journey after the military. 

A 24-year veteran of the United States Army, Garcia ended her career in the California Army National Guard working in diversity and immigration, retiring as a 1st Sgt. Her role at the end of her career would create a drive and purpose to continue to find ways to ensure all veterans received the care and resources they needed. 

“It really gave me a sense of worth and satisfaction to help those soldiers, families and the community,” Garcia explained. 

That drive and passion for service led her new role and she hasn’t looked back since. “We, as veterans, we know what’s out there. We get it, but when you hit those bumps and there’s no one to help, you kind of go into a downward spiral from there. That’s why this program is so low barrier,” Garcia said. 

Bravo echoed that sentiment but also knows that what they are doing is only the beginning of what’s needed to truly support veterans. “It’s a great start but it isn’t enough. It won’t be enough until we champion for change within the military itself,” she said. “It’s something that we need to work on and it’s a conversation that just can’t stop.”

Another unique point about LAVC is that the organization works with all veterans regardless of discharge and their families, making them standout as a valuable resource and initiative. “That’s why the program is so important and needed here in Los Angeles County,” Garcia said. 

For an area like LA that has such a large concentration of veterans, Bravo and Garcia hope to set the standard for programming elsewhere in the country. With the Veterans Administration backlogged with needs and the recent uptick in service member and veteran suicides, initiatives like LAVC are an important piece of the solution.

Both women said they are proud of where the program is going and grateful to all of the organizations joining forces to serve and make a difference. 

“We are here to inform, educate and make sure we give them that warm hug like – come here,” Bravo said. “It’s not ‘poor veteran’ either. Instead, it’s we know it’s going to be hard but that’s okay. We’re here.”

To learn more about LAVC, click here.


Feature image courtesy of LAVC’s Facebook page

Articles

Gear used by SEAL who shot bin Laden is going public for the first time

Robert O’Neill ate a last meal with his children and then hugged them goodbye — “most likely forever,” he privately thought.


Even his wife didn’t know where he was going.

On May 2, 2011, two helicopters touched down, one crash-landing, under the cover of darkness within an al Qaeda compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The 23-strong team entered a house and crept up the stairs.

A SEAL in front of O’Neill went along a hallway to provide cover, he recalled. When O’Neill entered the bedroom, he saw a man — bearded, tall, and gaunt — standing there.

“I knew it was him immediately,” he said. “He was taller than I imagined.”

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Osama bin Laden (left). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

O’Neill, a senior chief petty officer in the US Navy SEALs, aimed his rifle and fired twice, he said, hitting the 6-foot-5 figure in the head both times. Osama Bin Laden collapsed. O’Neill shot him again.

Despite his training, which taught him to immediately start gathering intel, O’Neill said he was momentarily dazed by the magnitude of what he had just done.

He snapped out of it when a colleague said, “You just killed Osama bin Laden.”

On July 26, the retired SEAL, in the midst of a lecture series to publicize his memoir, “The Operator,” will come to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda to speak about his life and how his experiences can translate to the lives of others.

And, for the first time ever, the gear he wore the night he hunted down bin Laden — boots, helmet, bullet-proof vest, all in desert-camouflage — is on public display, until the end of July.

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Navy SEALs in desert camouflage. (U.S. Navy photo)

“This will probably be our biggest event of the year,” said Joe Lopez, spokesman for the non-profit Nixon Foundation.

How did the Nixon pull off the coup before any other museum?

“They asked,” O’Neill, 41, said this week. “They asked, and I said, ‘Why not?'”

Hours after the raid, when then-President Barack Obama announced from the White House that Special Forces had killed bin Laden and that “his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity,” Americans erupted in celebration.

The details of the mission were classified. Retaliation, if members of SEAL Team 6 became known, was possible. Secrecy was paramount.

The initial excitement he felt over firing the kill shots, he said, eventually waned as his name spread through the military community and Washington, D.C.

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Robert O’Neill. (Photo from Facebook.)

“The secret was poorly kept,” O’Neill said. “And my name got leaked.”

So in November 2014, O’Neill fully came out and said he indeed was the shooter.

Some fellow SEALs were irked at O’Neill’s position under the spotlight. Several, anonymously, have accused him of breaking the military code by seeking glory or even lying about being the one who killed bin Laden.

Related: 7 amazing and surreal details of the Osama bin Laden raid

The US government won’t confirm the shooter’s identity.

“I don’t really care,” O’Neill said. “I was with the team. The tactics got me to the spot. I just fired the shots. There’s no doubt it was me.”

“The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior” came out in April. The book, O’Neill said, is about success — how “a guy from Butte, Montana, who didn’t know how to swim, became a Navy SEAL.”

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Navy SEALs train. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl)

And how that guy, who had never envisioned a career in the military, spent 16 years in uniform because of a breakup with a girlfriend.

“I wanted to leave town so I signed up for the Navy,” he said. “That’s part of the book. Don’t just sit there and sulk. Do something.”

O’Neill went on 400-plus missions, including the 2009 rescue of Capt. Richard Phillips from Somali pirates, and the 2005 mission to save fellow SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Those rescues were turned into Tom Hanks’ film, “Captain Phillips,” and Peter Berg and Mark Wahlberg’s “Lone Survivor.”

“When I discuss my missions,” the former special operator said about his appearances, “I tell them why we were good at the missions, how we worked as a team, and how and why we developed these traits.”

O’Neill, a Virginia native, has yet to visit the Nixon Library. But when approached, he quickly agreed.

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons.)

“This is huge for us,” Lopez said. “We also thought it would be cool to have something he wore that night on display.”

Officials thought a boot would be good. Or maybe a glove. Perhaps, if lucky, his helmet.

Minus a T-shirt donated to New York City’s 9/11 Memorial Museum, the Nixon got to borrow everything.

“My uniform was at my dad’s house,” he said. “So I had it shipped there.”

O’Neill’s gear is mounted on a mannequin inside a glass case, flanked by American flags with a video nearby explaining his non-profit, Your Grateful Nation, which helps veterans, particularly those from the Special Forces, prepare for second careers.

The case is next to the front entrance in the lobby, opposite a wall-length portrait of the 37th president.

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus Fichtl

“He’s a hero,” said retired Air Force Maj. Terry Scheschy, of Riverside County, who fought in the Vietnam War and, last week, visited the Nixon Library. “To me, this provides a lot of value to the museum.”

Betty Kuo, 42, of Manhattan Beach, came to the Nixon with her family, including her two young children and their cousins. As she was buying tickets, the children saw the SEAL uniform and sprinted toward it.

Kuo joined them.

“It’s good to teach them that we’re safe, but we can’t take that for granted,” she said. “The military keeps us safe.”

Going into the mission, O’Neill certainly didn’t feel safe himself — he had doubts that his team would escape without harm.

“I thought the mission was one-way,” he said. “That’s why everyone was so excited after the mission. We all got out.”

Articles

World War III nearly started when the Soviet premier was banned from Disneyland

When Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev visited America in Sep. 1959, the trip was meticulously planned. One day of the trip was devoted Hollywood and filled with visits to movie studios, a lunch with Hollywood icons, and a tour to Disneyland.


Walt Disney was going to show Khrushchev around the park himself. He even planned to show off his navy for the Soviet premier.

Unfortunately, the Disneyland visit was canceled due to security concerns among city leaders and State Department planners. The Americans seemed to hope that tours of 20th Century Fox Studios and a lunch event filled with movie stars would keep the premier from complaining about Disneyland.

But the 20th Century Fox President Spyros P. Skouras put the Soviet leader in a bad mood. Skouras made jokes about an old quote of Khrushchev’s that said that communism would bury capitalism.

Khrushchev was enraged by the Fox president’s comments and said, “If you want to go on with the arms race, very well. We accept that challenge. As for the output of rockets –well, they are on the assembly line. This is a most serious question. It is one of life or death, ladies and gentlemen. One of war and peace.”

And then the enraged Khrushchev was told he wouldn’t be able to visit the happiest place on earth. Instead of enjoying his time with Hollywood icons like Marilyn Monroe and Shirley MacLaine, he gave an angry speech asking why he couldn’t go to Disneyland.

“What is it?” Khrushchev asked. “Do you have rocket launching pads there? I don’t know. What is it? Is there an epidemic of Cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken hold of the place that can destroy me? And I say, ‘I would very much like to go and see Disneyland.’ For me, such a situation is inconceivable.”

Despite the rocky events in Los Angeles, Khrushchev’s visit was a success. By the end of the trip, Americans’ perception of the leader had improved and journalists were reporting positively on his interactions with U.S. citizens.

Khrushchev and President Dwight Eisenhower had a summit at Camp David where they agreed on the need for peace and planned for Eisenhower to tour the Soviet Union.

This goodwill between the leaders was reversed in May 1960 after an U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union, and the Cold War dragged on for decades.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s what it takes to guard the ‘Tomb of the Unknown Soldier’

Every year, approximately 4 million people travel to Arlington National Cemetery to pay their respects to the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice defending our great country. Most gather in solemn awe at the historic site of “The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” standing atop a hill overlooking Washington, D.C.


If you plan your visit accordingly, you may get to witness the awesomeness that is the changing of the guard, which occurs every 30-minutes during the hot summer and every hour during the cold winter.

Related: This is the story behind the pre-inauguration wreath laying ceremony

In April of 1948, the 3rd US Infantry Regiment proudly took on the responsibility of guarding the tomb 24-hours day. Being a sentinel guard isn’t just about walking back and forth keeping a close eye out, it takes professionalism, honor, and most importantly commitment as one must volunteer for the role.

 

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Tomb Sentinels at the Changing of the Guard, Arlington National Cemetery. (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

 

Prospects are hand-selected after volunteering and undergo either a 2 or 4 week TDY to learn rifle precision, uniform maintenance, and marching, as well as to, memorize seven pages of knowledge. Verbatim.

 

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Sentinel prospect practice drill marching together before heading out for their watch. (Source: 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment/Screenshot)

On average, 60% of the hopefuls will not graduate, but those who do complete the training will move on and become “Newman”.

Newmans assist sentinels prior to guard changes, maintain their uniforms, and must endure three more tests before earning their future position. The entire training takes six to nine months and has a fail rate of 90%.

5 ways to support veterans all year long
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Sentinels stand a 27-hour guard shift, walking their post a dozen times. Contrary to popular belief, they are allowed to verbally discipline tomb visitors.

Check out 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment‘s video for more behind the scenes of what it take to guard the tomb.

Articles

China’s ‘carrier-killer’ missile may be a serious threat to the US Navy

Navy planners have for years been working on ways to make its battle groups less vulnerable to threats from long-range missiles, developing sophisticated radars, close-in defense and using aircraft to keep the bad guys far enough away that a launch would be futile.


But what hasn’t changed is the size and relative lack of maneuverability a Navy ship — especially an aircraft carrier — would have in the open sea.

5 ways to support veterans all year long
The Chinese Dong-Feng 21D missile can reportedly destroy a ship more than 1,000 miles away with a single hit. U.S. Navy analysts doubt the PLA has the capability to target a ship that far away. (Photo from YouTube)

So China has reportedly developed a specialized anti-ship ballistic missile that it could fire from the mainland and target a specific ship over 1,000 miles away. Dubbed the Dong-Feng-21D, the missile is a two-stage, solid rocket booster with a maneuverable warhead that is reported to be able to avoid ballistic countermeasures.

While Navy analysts are nervous about the missile’s ability to destroy a carrier with one hit screaming out of the atmosphere at Mach 10, others argue that China still has a long way to go before it can find and target a ship over 1,000 miles away and continue updating the DF-21D warhead’s guidance in an electronic countermeasure environment.

Articles

Filing for effect: some troops’ tax refunds may not come quickly

Many taxpayers plan their holiday shopping and other purchases around getting their tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service at the earliest possible date.


5 ways to support veterans all year long

In 2017, that may no longer be the case.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act, signed into law in December 2015, requires the IRS to hold tax refunds for people claiming Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit until at least Feb. 15, 2017.

Also, new identity theft and refund fraud safeguards by both the IRS and individual states may mean some tax returns and refunds face additional review.

Beginning in 2017, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. The IRS said the change helps ensure taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

“This is an important change, as some of these taxpayers are used to getting an early refund,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We want people to be aware of the change for their planning purposes during the holidays. We don’t want anyone caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than in previous years.”

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should submit returns as they normally do.

Although the IRS cannot issue refunds for some early filers until at least Feb. 15, it reminds taxpayers that most refunds will be issued within the normal timeframe: less than 21 days after being accepted for processing by the IRS.

The Where’s My Refund? tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app remain the best way to check the status of a refund.

Articles

These pictures of Marines drinking Cobra blood are as grisly as you’d expect

Every year, the United States team with its Pacific allies for a military exercise in Thailand, Cobra Gold. Cobra Gold is the largest multinational military exercise in which the U.S. participates and has been an ongoing exercise for more than 30 years. In 2015, Cobra Gold included 26 nations, and for the first time, included China. The exercise smooths interoperability between nations in the region, especially when coordinating responses to a crisis, like Tsunamis and Typhoons.


The operation consists of a live fire exercise, a command post exercise, and (as with many military exercises) an operation to benefit the local population. There is also a jungle survival Training exercise where Thai Marines train U.S. troops to find water, which foods are safe to eat (scorpions!), and famously, demonstrate how they subdue a Cobra.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrmm1MZW4ak

After the jungle training, those in attendance are given the option to participate in the Thai custom of drinking the Cobra’s blood.

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Royal Thai Marine Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasansai, Recon Battalion, Marine Division demonstrates how to capture a cobra for U.S. Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment during a jungle survival course in Ban Chan Krem, Chanthaburi province, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 17. The class was held to teach U.S. Marines basic jungle survival techniques as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2013 (CG13). CG 13, in its 32nd iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Troyer/Released)

 

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Royal Thai Marine Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasansai, Recon Battalion, Marine Division demonstrates how to capture a cobra for U.S. Marines with Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment during a jungle survival course in Ban Chan Krem, Chanthaburi province, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 17. The class was held to teach U.S. Marines basic jungle survival techniques as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2013 (CG13). CG 13, in its 32nd iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Troyer/Released)

 

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Royal Thai Marine Chief Petty Officer 1st Class Pairoj Prasansai, right, Recon Battalion, Marine Division feeds cobra blood, which can be a useful source of energy, to U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jerry Clark, squad leader, 1st Squad, 1st Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment during a jungle survival course in Ban Chan Krem, Chanthaburi province, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 17. The class was held to teach U.S. Marines basic jungle survival techniques as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2013 (CG13). CG 13, in its 32nd iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Troyer/Released)

 

5 ways to support veterans all year long
A Marine with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit drinks the blood of a king cobra during a jungle survival class taught by Royal Thai Marines as a part of Cobra Gold 2013 here, Feb. 20. Drinking of the cobra blood is a survival technique used to maintain hydration and replenish nutrients while in the hot jungle. Cobra Gold demonstrates the resolve of the U.S. and participating nations to increase interoperability, and promote security and peace throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The 31st MEU is the only continuously forward-deployed MEU and is the Marine Corps’ force in readiness in the Asia-Pacific region.

 

5 ways to support veterans all year long
Cpl. Kyleigh M. Porter, from Montross, Va., eats a scorpion Feb. 8 in Ban Chan Krem, Thailand, during exercise Cobra Gold 2015. The Royal Thai Marines demonstrated several jungle survival tactics and asked for U.S. Marine volunteers to participate. Porter is a radio operator with Marine Air Support Squadron 2, Marine Air Control Group 18, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/Released)

 

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A Royal Thai Marine kisses a cobra’s head Feb. 8 at Ban Chan Krem, Thailand, during exercise Cobra Gold 2015. The Thai Marines demonstrated several survival techniques including how to capture a cobra and drink its blood. Drinking the snake’s blood is used as a last resort in case there is nothing else to drink. Other survival methods such as starting fires and how to eat spiders and scorpions were also taught. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/Released)

 

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Royal Thai Army Soldiers assigned to the 31st Infantry Regiment, Rapid Deployment Force, Kings Guard, demonstrate how to properly handle and neutralize a King Cobra snake to U.S. Army soldiers assigned to the 25th Infantry Division during a jungle training exercise on Camp 31-3, Lopburi, Thailand, Feb. 10, 2015. The training was conducted as a part of the joint training exercise Cobra Gold 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Steven Hitchcock/Released)

 

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Lance Cpl. Dakota Woodward, from Brandon, Florida, drinks cobra blood Feb. 8 during exercise Cobra Gold 2015. The Royal Thai Marines showed U.S. Marines various jungle survival methods. Drinking snake blood is used as a last resort in case there is nothing else to drink. Woodward is a distribution management specialist with Combat Logistics Regiment 35, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Isaac Ibarra/Released)

 

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U.S. Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Kurt Bellmont, platoon sergeant, 3rd Platoon, Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment feeds cobra blood cobra blood to his Marines, which can be a useful source of energy , to his Marines during a jungle survival course in Ban Chan Krem, Chanthaburi province, Kingdom of Thailand, Feb. 17. The class was held to teach U.S. Marines basic jungle survival techniques as part of Exercise Cobra Gold 2013 (CG13). CG 13, in its 32nd iteration, is designed to advance regional security and ensure effective response to regional crises by exercising a robust multinational force from nations sharing common goals and security commitments in the Asia-Pacific region. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Troyer/Released)

 

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The U-2 Dragon Lady is keeping her eye on Pyongyang

With the growing tensions and the many threats that North Korea poses, it’s a safe bet that there is a desire to keep an eye on North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.


Of course, the DPRK strongman isn’t going to be obliging and tell us what he is up to. According to FoxNews.com, the Air Force is keeping an eye on him – and one of the planes that help do this is quite an old design, even if it has a lot of new wrinkles.

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USAF Lockheed U-2 Dragon Lady | U.S. Air Force photo

Osan Air Base is best known as the home base of the 51st Fighter Wing, which has a squadron of F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and a squadron of A-10 Thunderbolts. But Osan also is home to a permanent detachment from the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, the 5th Reconnaissance Squadron, which operates the Lockheed U-2S, known as the Dragon Lady.

Yeah, you heard that right. Even in an era where we have Predators, Reapers, and the RQ-170 Sentinels, among other planes, the 1950s-vintage U-2 is still a crucial asset for the United States Air Force.

In fact, according to GlobalSecurity.org, one variant of the U-2, the TR-1, was in production in the 1980s. The TR-1s and U-2Rs were re-manufactured into the U-2S in the 1990s. The TR-1 was notable in that it swapped out cameras for side-looking radar, and it was eventually called a U-2 in the 1990s.

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Lockheed TR-1 with the 95th Reconnaissance Squadron. (USAF photo)

An Air Force fact sheet notes that the U-2S is capable of reaching altitudes in excess of 70,000 feet and it has a range of over 6,090 nautical miles. In short, this plane is one high-altitude all-seeing eye. The planes are reportedly capable of mid-air refueling, but having a single seat means that pilot endurance is often a bigger factor than a lack of fuel.

The Air Force fast sheet notes that the U-2 can carry infrared cameras, optical cameras, a radar, a signals intelligence package, and even a communications package.

The U-2 has proven that it is a very versatile plane. The Air Force is considering a replacement, but that may prove to be a tricky task. While plans calls for the plane to be retired in 2019, a 2014 Lockheed release makes a compelling case for the U-2 to stick around, noting it has as much as 35 years of life left on its airframes.

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A pilot guides a U-2 Dragon Lady across the air field in front of deployed E-3 Sentry Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, en route to a mission in support of operations in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (DOD photo)

That’s a long time to get any proposed replacement right.

MIGHTY TRENDING

More recruits will see longer training in expanded program

The commander of the U.S. Army’s Maneuver Center of Excellence said Sept. 5, 2018, that basic training programs for combat arms specialties such as armor and engineers will soon start a pilot program similar to the one that is extending Infantry one station unit training to 22 weeks.

About 400 recruits are now in their seventh week of the pilot at Fort Benning, Georgia that is adding eight weeks to the traditional 14-week infantry OSUT.


Once that pilot program is complete, Army officials will begin extending other combat arms OSUT programs, Maj. Gen. Gary Brito, the commander of MCOE at Benning, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s Sept. 5, 2018 Aviation Hot Topic event.

“It started with infantry; now we will begin a pilot with armor one station unit training at the beginning of next calendar year,” Brito said. “We also have some guidance from [Training and Doctrine Command] to do the same thing with the engineers at Fort Leonard Wood [Missouri].

“This could expand, and it most likely will, to some of the other combat MOSs over the next couple of years, to transform out to 22 weeks for all.”

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Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Jonathan Christal, B Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery, marches Basic Combat Training Soldiers in for classroom training.

(U.S. Army Photo by Mr. James Brabenec)

Recruits in infantry OSUT traditionally go through nine weeks of Basic Combat Training and about four-and-a-half weeks of infantry advanced individual training. The pilot adds eight weeks of training time to hone marksmanship, land navigation and other key combat skills.

“The guidance to the team is … you have 22 weeks now to build and do the best land navigation you can do; you have 22 weeks now to have the best marksmanship training that you can do,” Brito said.

The pilot follows an Army-wide redesign of Basic Combat Training in early 2018 that focuses on emphasizing more discipline in young soldiers after leaders from around the Army complained that new soldiers were displaying a lack of obedience and poor work ethic.

“I am very proud of the 200 that started, per company, and no one has dropped out; we have no injuries, and we have no one that has wanted to quit,” Brito said, adding that the pilot is scheduled to end on Dec. 7, 2018.

“That is a long time in training.”

The Army plans to track the two companies once they are out in the force to assess the differences the extended training has made on their performance, Brito said.

But before the 22-week infantry OSUT can become a permanent program, Benning will have to build up its training base with more instructors, Brito said. “This will demand a very big growth in drill sergeants … so that we can continue the 22 weeks.”

The goal is for a private to show up to a unit and “he or she is combat ready, physically fit, mentally fit to deploy right away,” Brito said.

“I really do think this is going to help combat readiness and deployability for the Army.”

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

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This powerful fighter plane could destroy enemy satellites in space

In 1985, the Cold War turned 40 years old. Though the Space Race had been over for more than a decade by then, the competition between the Americans and Soviets for the domination of Earth’s orbit was intense.


Each side used spy satellites to track the military movements of their rival. The Soviet Union became so proficient at the use of satellites, it could launch many rockets into orbit, sometimes in a matter of hours.

The number of satellites the Soviet Union could produce and their ability to place them in orbit so quickly was considered a dangerous threat. Figuring out how to mitigate the threat of an object in low Earth orbit was the order of the day.

Enter the F-15.

The F-15 carried an ASM-135 ASAT anti-satellite missile, a 3,000-pound, 18-foot-long projectile that the pilot would carry to the edge of space before firing at a target 345 miles above the surface of the Earth, moving at 23,000 feet per second.

They tested the tactic on P78-1, an obsolete American research satellite, in orbit since 1979.

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Maj. Wilbert ‘Doug’ Pearson successfully launched an anti-satellite, or ASAT, missile from a highly modified F-15A on Sept. 13, 1985 in the Pacific Missile Test Range. He scored a direct hit on the Solwind P78-1 satellite orbiting 340 miles above. (U.S. Air Force photo by Paul E. Reynolds)

On Sept. 13, 1985, then-Maj. Wilbert “Doug” Pearson took off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., bound for the edge of the the atmosphere. Once he reached 30,000 feet, he would have 10 seconds to fire his weapon.

The Smithsonian has actual video from the fight of then-Maj. Pearson’s F-15.

Flying at just above Mach 1.2, Pearson pulled up into a 3.8 G, 65-degree climb that reduced the speed of his F-15A to just below the speed of sound. He fired the guided missile at 38,100 feet. The 2,700-pound, three-stage missile used an infrared sensor to strike its target, hitting the one-ton satellite at 15,000 miles per hour.

The flight was dubbed the”Celestial Eagle Flight” and made Pearson “the first and only space ace.”

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