Twin brothers who went to war together are receiving medals 70 years after they took off their combat boots.
Richard and Robert Barrett, 91-year-old veterans of World War II, never knew they supposed to be getting medals nor were they looking for these accolades. A family member happened to discover the oversight after requesting replacement copies of their Army records – the originals had been destroyed.
The crowd gave a standing ovation after Richard received the Silver Star and Bronze Star with additional military honors from Congressman Sam Graves, who had expedited the process for them.
The brothers, who were 18 when they shipped off to war, recalled their time in combat:
“We were just kids when we heard our first machine gun fire and [we said] ‘Oh that’s great, that’s fun, machine gun fire,'” said Richard, “But a little later the Germans started shooting those 88 artillery shells, and things changed after that.”
He was also quick to point out that he is 5 minutes older than his brother Robert, and joked, “Of course, I had to take care of him in combat; he was kind of a puny kid.”
The Barretts showed humility as they talked with Fox 4 News about being honored for their service: “It’s nice, but we’re both kind of humble about it,” Richard said. “We don’t let it get to be a prestigious deal for us. Awards or no awards, I’d do it again.”
“We saw some rough times,” Robert added. “We slept on some cold ground, but there are other men that did so much more than we did too.”
Robert will receive his medals in a separate ceremony.
Military families can wait up to 49 weeks for burials of loved ones at Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) because of the high demand for graveside ceremonies and the increasing mortality rates of older veterans, according to a Pentagon Inspector General’s report.
The system in place for scheduling and conducting burials is suited to the task, the IG’s report states, but the sheer volume of family requests routinely exceeds “the resources available on a daily basis for the conduct of burials,” including honor guards and chapel availability.
In addition, the advanced age of veterans from World War II, Korea and Vietnam leads to more requests for burials than can be handled on a daily basis, states the IG’s report, released in May 2019.
Delays in families’ completion of required documents, and decisions regarding the type and timing of burial service, can also add time between the request and burial, according to the report.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Katie Maynard salutes as a casket is lowered during a funeral ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery Oct. 24, 2013.
(DoD photo by Cpl. Mondo Lescaud, U.S. Marine Corps)
As a result, “burial services at the ANC can result in a 6- to 49-week wait from the initial contact to the conduct of the burial ceremony,” the IG’s report states.
As of September 2018, there were 3,471 burial requests in process at Arlington — 3,259 for cremation services and 212 for casketed services, according to the report.
Arlington has the capacity for 30 burials per day, but the military teams available for Full Military Funeral Honors services also have responsibilities for other ceremonies in the National Capital Region and can conduct only about eight per day at ANC, the report states.
The 59-page report examined the operations and management of ANC and the Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Home National Cemetery (SAHNC) in Washington, D.C. — the two national cemeteries in the nationwide system of military cemeteries. There are also 36 other cemeteries run by the service branches.
Arlington National Cemetery.
(DoD photo by SSG Sean K. Harp)
The report found that major reforms at Arlington had corrected the mismanagement that led to scandals over missing markers and missing remains in 2010.
As of late 2018, Arlington was the final resting place for more than 375,000 decedents and had space available for 67,000 more, the report states. The IG’s office took a random sample of 553 burials and 145 available spaces and “found no accountability errors in the records.”
At SAHNC, the burial site for more than 14,000 veterans, the report found five errors in a random sample of 290 burials and 62 available spaces.
In two cases, the names of the decedents were not on the grave marker at the corresponding location in the cemetery. In two other cases, what were coded as empty plots in the database actually contained decedents.
In the fifth case, the location of the decedent in the database did not match the location of the headstone, according to the report.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
Chief Special Warfare Officer Joseph John Schmidt III has been living dual lives.
As a member of the , the 42-year-old boasts a chest of ribbons and medals during his 23 years in the , including a valor citation for combat overseas. To his East County, California, neighbors and Coronado shipmates, he’s been the married father who has given pep talks to special-needs children in Los Angeles and toured the country recruiting for the elite Special Warfare teams, even serving as the face of the program on its website.
Schmidt is also Jay Voom, the actor in at least 29 porn flicks during the past seven years, from “Apple Smashing Lap Dance” to “Strippers Come Home Horny From the Club.”
He has spent most of his time in front of the camera engaging in sex with his wife — porn megastar Jewels Jade — for her website and film-distribution service. But he also has coupled with XXX actresses Mena Li and Ashden Wells, according to marketing materials found by The San Diego Union-Tribune and confirmed by Jade.
Schmidt declined to comment for this story.
The Coronado-based Special Warfare Command has launched an investigation, and a commissioned officer has been assigned to handle the case.
Major qions include whether Schmidt violated rules mandating that obtain advance approval from their commanders for ode work and whether the brass has been quietly condoning his film work. The investigation began only eight months before Schmidt had planned to retire, and disciplinary action could affect his rank and pension benefits.
“We have initiated a formal investigation into these allegations. There are very clear regulations which govern ode employment by ( Special Warfare) personnel as well as prohibitions on behavior that is discrediting to the service,” said Capt. Jason Salata, a spokesman for the .
In an interview this week, Schmidt’s wife of 15 years claimed that many high-ranking have long known about her husband’s movies and seemed to tolerate his moonlighting. She also alleged that the invited her to the commandos’ Coronado campus to sign autographs for after she was named a 2011 Penthouse Pet of the Month.
officials said Schmidt did not fill out mandatory paperwork to seek clearance from his chain of command for work as a porn actor. The command did grant formal permission for Schmidt to sell herbal supplements as a side business.
The ‘ rules for secondary employment have the force of a “punitive instruction,” which means violators can be tried under the Uniform Code of Justice for lack of compliance.
The has a long history of punishing active-duty service members and even veterans who do everything from writing unauthorized memoirs, to taking side jobs without permission, to engaging in work seen as detrimental to the ‘s reputation.
Like other branches, the bans activities that prejudice “good order and discipline or that is service discrediting,” risk potential “press or public relations coverage” or “create an improper appearance.”
For instance: After she posed nude in a 2007 Playboy magazine spread, Staff Sgt. Michelle Manhart received a formal reprimand, was removed from her position as a training instructor and was demoted.
During a 1980 probe of seven servicewomen who appeared naked in Playboy, investigators also discovered that a male Marine major had posed in Playgirl. The punished the women with involuntarily discharges and gave the major a formal reprimand, allowing him to remain in the service.
also are barred from employment that discloses secret tactics and techniq markets the ‘s active-duty status or involves a contractor doing business with the Department of . Many high-profile misconduct cases have fallen into these categories.
In 2012, for example, the formally reprimanded members of Team Six for helping Electronic Arts design the video game “Medal of Honor: Warfighter.”
Similar non-disclosure rules extend into a ‘s retired years. In 2014, former Matt Bissonnette was forced to repay the federal government $4.5 million for writing an unauthorized, first-hand account of the slaying of terrorism mastermind Osama bin Laden.
Paying the bills
Schmidt’s unlikely entry into the skin trade turns on a very different kind of moonlighting gig he took while serving as a in Virginia.
He and his wife founded the Norfolk-based real estate company Schmidt and Wolf Associates in 2005, according to Virginia state documents. Within two years, losses at multiple rental properties created nearly $1.8 million in personal debt, according to the couple’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing.
Three properties had both first and second mortgages, and bankruptcy records show the pair had resorted to using credit cards to finance loan repayments. Schmidt’s pay was less than $60,000 per year at the time, according to the federal filing.
Jade appeared in dozens of porn films after her 2001 debut in “Escape to Sex Island,” but she had left the industry by 2003 to become a wife and mother, attend school for her nng degree and run the real estate firm.
As business losses deepened, she became a stripper to make ends meet, logging long weeks in Las Vegas and sending money home. Then she reluctantly returned to making sex films for the cash, she said.
“It’s helped our family. It got out of a lot of financial isswe were going through,” Jade said. “I could take care of the child. I could try to get out of financial debt.”
When the family rotated to Coronado in early 2009 for her husband’s service, she stayed in the porn business. Jade said it wasn’t by choice. She discovered that once a woman becomes a name in the porn video and Internet trade, with millions of fans worldwide, she’s spotted nearly everywhere she goes.
“Once you’re recognized and you build a brand and you’ve got your fans who know who you are, when you go to try to find a job, you can’t get another job,” she said.
Jade said she tried to get a management job at a luxury hotel in San Diego last year. Before she finished her employment interview, a fan recognized her, the gossip quickly spread through that office and she realized she couldn’t work there.
She’s currently ranked 79th globally for brand recognition by FreeOnes, a website often used by porn directors to book stars based on their popularity. To maintain that level of stardom in the industry, she said actresses need certain side ventures to lend credibility to their personal brand and to give fans a way to follow their careers. So she launched a website and a pair of online film-distribution lines she said are loss-leaders, driving Internet traffic but rarely turning a profit.
To reduce the cost of running these side businesses, she and other porn actors rely on “content trade” — donating time to one another’s self-made films. To further cut expenses, Jade said she recruited her husband to help out as an unpaid performer.
She alleges that many of his fellow watched the videos online.
“They knew about it at work,” Jade said. “He got called in and they said, ‘Look, keep it on the low, don’t mention the name and blah, blah, blah.’
“He was always pretty open about it with the command. I mean, honestly, all of his buddies knew about it. Everybody knew about it,” she said.
Although some past and present have sought to turn their battlefield valor into profit, Jade insisted that she and her husband never asked anyone to alert the media about his porn moonlighting. Other retired have turned to politics or business to earn a buck or make a name tied to the elite service’s reputation, but she said that is impossible for her husband in the porn trade.
“He’s too old,” Jade said. “I’m sorry, but no. You’re never going to be able to contract for a number of different reasons, but mostly because he’s too old. The older gwho are still barely running in the industry got in when they were 20, built a huge name and are still kind of filming grandpa porn.”
While Jade has alluded to an unnamed husband who’s a in several interviews and on social media, the Union-Tribune has found no reason to suspect that she or Schmidt ever used his career to market their films or herbal products.
He has helped to promote her work, however.
In a 2013 appearance with Jade on the “Dr. Susan Block TV” show, he spun on a stripper pole while wearing a Santa hat. The marketing for the Internet event played on current events, including the late 2012 massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and America’s ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“America treats sex, not violence, as the biggest threat to families and the nation,” the ad reads. “As long as we do that, we can expect more massacres, at home and abroad. As long as we sanction invasions, executions and drone strikes that kill children while humiliating a decorated general not for bombing innocents but for having an affair, why should we be surprised when one of our troubled young men picks up a few of his mom’s prized -style gand mass-murders a bunch of kids on his own?”
Jade said she and her husband never saw the ad and were shocked when it was shown to them. She said they would never endorse any statement against the or the nation’s war policies or inject her husband into political causes.
To Jade, the newly announced investigation into her husband’s porn work exposes the hypocrisy of a she believes is addicted to porn.
She said fans once sent her a photo of their armored vehicle in Iraq decorated with her name on it — misspelled — thanking her for helping them stay motivated through their combat deployment.
Jade said that when she was summoned to headquarters to sign autographs as a Penthouse Pet, she allegedly recognized local strippers there giving buzz cto recruits.
And when her husband was a rookie , superiors tasked him with toting the unit’s porn cache on a deployment.
“It’s very ironic,” she said. “Very hypocritical.”
The hasn’t set a deadline for when the investigation is expected to wrap up.
A U.S. Navy Coastal Patrol ship intercepted an illegal arms shipment traveling on a small cargo ship in the Arabian Gulf, confiscating hundreds of AK-47 rifles, Rocket Propelled Grenades and .50-Cal. Machine Guns.
The shipment, originating from Iran, was believed to be bound for Yemen to support Houthi rebels fighting the Yemeni government, Navy officials told Scout Warrior.
The USS Gravely, a guided missile destroyer, was called in to support the Coastal Patrol ship, the USS Sirocco, Cmdr. Kevin Stephens, spokesman for the US Navy’s 5th fleet, told Scout Warrior.
“Intelligence led us to determine we might find something,” Stephens added. “They talked over maritime radio and sent a boarding team over.”
The illicit cargo included 1,500 AK-47s, 200 RPG launchers, and 21 .50 caliber machine guns, a Navy statement said.
“This seizure was the third time in recent weeks international naval forces operating in the waters of the Arabian Sea seized a shipment of illicit arms which the United States assessed originated in Iran and was likely bound for Houthi insurgents in Yemen. The weapons are now in U.S. custody awaiting final disposition,” the statement continued.
Citing the ongoing civil war in Yemen, Stephens added that sending illegal weapons to an insurgent group will only make a difficult problem works.
“The Houthis are an insurgent group which seized control of the country and ousted the legitimate government. It is a disastrous humanitarian situation,” Stephens explained.
A potential factor behind the US support for the legitimate Yemeni government is their collaboration with the US on counterterrorism activities fighting Al Qaeda in the country.
Alongside efforts to support the ongoing air attacks against ISIS from the Arabian Gulf, the Navy is also invested in protecting what they call the “global commons.” This includes a series of strategically significant waterways essential to trade, shipping and other maritime activities. With this in mind, the Navy routinely conducts anti-piracy and counterterrorism operations in the region.
Citizens of Hawaii are advised to look out for emergency sirens, alerts, wireless notifications, or flashes of “brilliant white light” that will indicate that a nuclear detonation is incoming or underway.
From there, the agency instructs citizens to get indoors, stay indoors, and stay tuned via radio as “cell phone, television, radio, and internet services will be severely disrupted or unavailable.” Instead, expect only local radio stations to survive and function.
If indoors, citizens should avoid windows. If driving, citizens should pull off the road to allow emergency vehicles access to population centers. Once inside, Hawaiians should not leave home until instructed to or for two full weeks, as dangerous nuclear fallout could sicken or kill them.
A critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin used a drone to fly his hard drives out of his high-rise apartment shortly before police raided his home.
A video posted to YouTube shows Sergey Boyko operating the drone as police try to enter his apartment in the city of Novosibirsk, Siberia, to confiscate his electronics around 10 a.m. Sept. 12, 2019, local time.
He then answers his front door, where loud banging can be heard.
“Some people are pushing the door to the apartment,” Boyko tweeted on Sept. 12, 2019, around the same time the video was taken.
Boyko’s apartment was one of 200 houses and offices linked to Navalny’s foundation across 41 cities on Sept. 12, 2019, according to Navalny.
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation — Russia’s federal anti-corruption agency — warned last Sept. 8, 2019: “Searches are being carried out at a number of FBK employees’ residences, the organization’s office, and other locations.”
The raids on FBK-linked venues led to “a dozen laptops, hard drives, flash drives, phones, bank cards, and even smart watches” being taken, with some staff members having their bank accounts blocked since, according to a statement posted to Boyko’s website.
Footage broadcast by independent media outlet Romb showing a police raid on an Alexei Navalny supporter on Thursday. It’s not clear whose house this is.
On Sept. 13, 2019, Boyko wrote on Russian social-media site VK that his brother Vadim’s house was raided at 7 a.m. that morning, even though “he is not involved in politics and yesterday’s drone didn’t fly to him.”
Boyko did not say where the drone or his hard drives went.
The raids on Navalny’s allies came on the same day pro-Putin candidates lost ground in nationwide elections Sept. 8, 2019.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he expects Iraqi forces to be successful in their assault to retake Mosul and deliver a sharp blow to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Speaking to reporters after a trip to Europe, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford listed recent gains leading up to the eventual battle to retake the key northern city. Those advances, he explained, include Iraqi forces bridging the Tigris River near Qayyarah and securing the airfield there.
“The noose is gradually tightening around Mosul,” he said.
The liberation of Mosul will “chip away” at the idea of a physical caliphate for ISIL, he said. Taking back Mosul and Raqqa, ISIL’s so-called capital in Syria, will severely limit the terror group’s capability and ability to operate in the region and beyond, he said.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Iraqi leaders and coalition trainers in the Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve at Besmaya Range Complex April 21, 2016. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique A. Pineiro)
“In my view, it’ll be a very significant blow to the Islamic State as they lose Mosul and Raqqa and they can no longer talk about holding a physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq,” Dunford said.
Iraqi leaders have identified Iraqi forces that are required for the operations to take back Mosul, the chairman said. Those forces will be ready in October, he added.
The timing of the assault, Dunford said, is a political decision that rests on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
“Our job is to actually help the Iraqis generate the forces and the support necessary for operations in Mosul and we’ll be ready for that in October,” the top U.S. general said.
President Barack Obama, after meeting with Abadi yesterday in New York, said he expects a tough fight for the city of more than two million people, noting ISIL has “embedded itself deeply” within Mosul.
Dunford told reporters that hearing about ISIL-inspired terrorist attacks worldwide further steels his resolve to defeat ISIL’s ideology and eliminate the terrorists in Mosul and Raqqa.
“What it continues to give me is a sense of urgency for getting after the physical caliphate, undermining the virtual caliphate and eliminating the ability to conduct supported, directed or inspired attacks,” he said.
This will be done through military means in cooperation with the coalition and through partners on the ground, the chairman said.
“The more aggressive we are at taking the fight to the Islamic State, wherever they happen to be, the more successful we will be in eroding their physical capability to direct attacks and support attacks,” Dunford said.
Kate McClure, of Florence Township, New Jersey, ran out of gas on an Interstate 95 exit ramp late one night. Bobbitt walked a few blocks to buy her gas. She didn’t have money to repay the Marine veteran, so she created the online fundraiser page as a thank you. The fundraiser has raised more than $397,000.
Bobbitt says he’s donating some of his money to a grade school student who is helping another homeless veteran.
Watch Johnny find out that Kate raised a little over $700 in two days:
Commander, Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC) in partnership with the University of Hawaii, tested their unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capabilities by delivering supplies onto a submarine off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii, Oct. 10, 2019.
The UAV took a 5-pound payload consisting of circuit cards, medical supplies, and food to the Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) while it was underway.
“What started as an innovative idea has come to fruition as a potentially radical new submarine logistics delivery capability,” said Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Keithley, assigned to COMSUBPAC. “A large percentage of parts that are needed on submarines weigh less than 5 pounds, so this capability could alleviate the need for boats to pull into ports for parts or medical supplies.”
An unmanned aerial vehicle delivers a 5-pound package to the USS Hawaii during an exercise off the coast of Oahu, Oct. 10, 2019.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm Specialist 1st Class Michael B. Zingaro)
The concept itself came from the Commander, Submarine Force Innovation Lab (iLab) one year ago. Since then the iLab, in partnership with the University of Hawaii Applied Research Lab, has worked on developing the means to make it possible.
“Our sailors are visionaries. Their ideas benefit the submarine force, making an incredible difference,” said Rear Adm. Blake Converse, commander, Submarine Force, US Pacific Fleet. “We are already seeing the impact that this one idea can have on the entire fleet. The joint effort between the sailors at COMSUBPAC and the University of Hawaii has resulted in delivering necessary supplies to submarines that can save time and money, allowing us to stay in the fight.”
This idea led to the creation of the Submarine Force’s first UAV squadron at CSP. Submarine sailors stationed at Pearl Harbor volunteered to attend weekly training at Bellows Air Force Station, in Waimanalo, Hawaii, to become proficient drone pilots and to develop the concept of converting a UAV and a submarine sail into a package delivery and receiving platform.
Outrigger Canoe Club members escort the USS Hawaii as it arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, June 6, 2019.
(Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki)
“Members of University of Hawaii Applied Research Lab worked alongside COMSUBPAC sailors to develop a ‘snag’ pole and payload release mechanism from the drone, practicing the concept using the prototypes on the back of trucks and jeeps,” said Keithley. “As the training progressed and the drone innovations became more reliable, the team was able to demonstrate the capability onto a small patrol boat out of Pearl Harbor.”
After final adjustments and last-minute training, the team assembled on the shore of western Oahu and flew a small 5-pound payload over a mile offshore to USS Hawaii.
“The snag pole and drone delivery mechanisms performed perfectly as the payload of parts was safely delivered onboard the submarine, making history as the first ever drone delivery onboard an underway submarine,” said Keithley.
“I am very proud of the joint effort and the capability they have created out of nearly thin air. The success of this project is a true testament to the ingenuity of our team and I am very thankful for them and our submarine sailors, who volunteered their time to make it a success.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Earlier this week, Mexican federal police in Sonora came across a panel van with modifications and additions that allowed it carry a “cannon” possibly used to launch drugs over the border into the US.
According to a release from the federal police, officers came across the van while it was parked in northwest Sonora state’s Agua Prieta municipality, which borders Arizona and Texas. The van was found without license plates and its doors were open.
Inside the vehicle, authoritiesfound “an air compressor, a gasoline motor, a tank for storing air and a metallic tube of approximately 3 meters in length (homemade bazooka).”
The “unit,” as the release referred to it, also had a cut in the end that could have allowed the metal tube to be hooked up to launch projectiles, possibly across the border.
The vehicle in question was linked to a car theft in Hermosillo, Sonora, according to an investigation dated July 1 this year.
Days before, authorities in the same area reportedly found a vehicle with similar additions.
US authorities have said since 2012 that drug traffickers have made use of such cannons. Cans and packets of marijuana, cocaine, and crystal meth have been discovered on the US side of the border, and, according to Mexican newspaper Reforma, those projectiles can be launched from 200 meters inside Mexican territory.
“Tell [the Colombians] to send all the drugs they can,” Guzmán ordered after the tunnel’s completion.
More recently, in 2011, would-be smugglers a few miles west of Agua Prieta made a more humble effort to get drugs over the border: They were observed setting up a catapult just south of the border fence. Mexican authorities moved in and seized the catapult and about 45 pounds of marijuana.
The Senate approved broad legislation June 6 to make firing employees easier for the beleaguered Department of Veterans Affairs, part of an accountability effort urged by President Donald Trump following years of high-profile problems.
The bipartisan measure passed by voice vote. It comes more than three years after a 2014 scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center, where some veterans died while waiting months for appointments. VA employees created secret lists to cover up delays.
The bill would lower the burden of proof needed to fire employees — from a “preponderance” to “substantial evidence,” allowing a dismissal even if most evidence is in a worker’s favor.
The American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, opposed the bill. But the measure was viewed as more in balance with workers’ rights than a version passed by the House in March, mostly along party lines. The Senate bill calls for a longer appeal process than the House’s version — 180 days vs. 45 days — though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives also would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees.
The bill now goes back to the House, where the revisions are expected to be approved.
Trump praised the bill Tuesday night and urged the House to act quickly. ” Senate passed the VA Accountability Act,” he wrote on Twitter. ” The Houseshould get this bill to my desk ASAP! We can’t tolerate substandard care for our vets.”
The VA has been plagued by years of problems, and critics complain that too few employees are punished for malfeasance. The Associated Press reported last week that federal authorities were investigating dozens of new cases of possible opioid and other drug theft by employees at VA hospitals, even after theVA announced “zero tolerance” in February. Since 2009, in only about 3 percent of the reported cases of drug loss or theft have doctors, nurses or pharmacy employees been disciplined.
“The overwhelming majority of the people who work at the VA are good, hard-working employees who serve our veterans well,” said Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. “But it has become clear under the current law the VA is often unwilling or unable to hold individuals appropriately accountable for their actions and misdeeds.”
He was a lead sponsor of the bill along with Democrat Jon Tester of Montana and Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia.
“To shield employees from consequences brings down the entire department, it demoralizes the workforce and undermines the core mission of the VA,” Rubio said.
The Senate bill would codify into law a Trump campaign promise — a permanent VA accountability office, which was established in April by executive order. The legislation would give the head of the accountability office more independent authority and require regular updates to Congress. The office would also maintain a toll-free number and website to receive anonymous whistleblower disclosures.
In a “State of the VA” report released last week, VA Secretary David Shulkin described an employee accountability process that was “clearly broken.” He said the VA had about 1,500 disciplinary actions against employees on hold, citing a required waiting period of at least a month before taking action for misconduct.
Dan Caldwell, policy director of the conservative Concerned Veterans for America, hailed the bill’s passage as “long overdue.”
“The regular horror stories have made it clear that veterans deserve much better,” he said.
Despite problems at the VA, Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on a bill. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional. Last month, a federal appeals court temporarily overturned the VA firing of Phoenix VA hospital director Sharon Helman over the wait-time scandal.
After Jabari Moore raced 54 yards down the field for a fumble return touchdown and Army’s final score of the game against Tulane, it was time for the post-score ritual.
U.S. Military Academy leadership, spirit groups and cadets sprinted into the endzone to do pushups celebrating the touchdown. Camera in hand, Class of 2023 Cadet Hannah Lamb ran after them onto the field.
As Command Sgt. Maj. Jack Love started his pushups, Lamb laid on the ground, left hand propped under the camera, right hand on the shutter firing away.
Lamb’s job as a member of the Cadet Media Group is to capture the scenes of an Army home football game. Not so much the action on the field, but the cadets, the fans and the entire atmosphere of gameday from the pregame parade to Michie Stadium.
Class of 2023 Cadet Hannah Lamb (left) takes photos during the Army vs. Tulane game at Michie Stadium Oct. 5, 2019. Lamb’s job as a member of the Cadet Media Group is to capture the scenes of an Army home football game.
(Photo by Brandon OConnor)
“It’s a lot of responsibility that’s placed in my hands as someone who’s completely new to this place,” Lamb said. “I think the most rewarding thing is when you’re able to send pictures you’ve taken to cadets and they get super excited about it. It’s also just gotten me into really cool places that I may not ever see in my four years or I just may not see in the same way.”
The Cadet Media Group formed four years ago and officially became a Directorate of Cadet Activities club for this academic year. The club includes photographers and videographers who work to capture the life of cadets in ways no one else can.
“I think CMG helps bridge that civil/mil gap and portray the cadet story,” Class of 2020 Cadet Amanda Lin, the cadet in charge of Cadet Media Group, said. “I think cadets really appreciate seeing their side of things through a more polished eye. Nobody gets to see the cadet experience as well as we do.”
The members of the club help to cover events both at and away from West Point including football games, the Tunnel to Towers run in New York City and Ring Weekend.
As cadets, they have access no other photographers or videographers have and are able to show the cadet experience in ways only they can.
Class of 2020 Cadet An Vu takes photos during the Army vs. Tulane game at Michie Stadium Oct. 5, 2019.
(Photo by Brandon OConnor)
“I think it’s important for us to share West Point’s message and what cadets are doing and opportunities you have here,” Class of 2022 Cadet Kaden Carroll said. “I think coming from a cadet or hearing cadet experiences or things like that makes it a whole lot better. Being able to cover events and share things that are happening here at West Point and reaching out to the public as well as people who are here, it’s cool to share that.”
The photographers and videographers in Cadet Media Groups have the benefit of seeing the Corps of Cadets from a perspective provided to few of their classmates. As most members of the Corps sit in the stands during football games, select members of the club are on the field taking pictures. During reviews and parades, instead of marching with their companies they stand at the front with cameras capturing the event.
“It’s something that’s totally different than everyone else’s experience, because we have to be in the position to take the pictures from an outside point of view while every other cadet has to be on the inside,” Lamb said.
For Lamb and Carroll, the Cadet Media Group was on their radar before they even arrived along the banks of the Hudson River. Both had followed members of the group on social media and had seen cadets’ products used on official West Point pages.
Class of 2021 Cadet Cheyenne Quilter takes photos during the Army vs. Tulane game at Michie Stadium Oct. 5, 2019.
(Photo by Brandon OConnor)
They quickly got involved and started producing their own photos and videos covering the Corps. Carroll has become the club’s go-to videographer in his year plus at the academy while Lamb has jumped in with both feet covering multiple events in only a few months as a cadet.
“I think the coolest video I got to do was when the Army Dance team reached out to me,” Carroll said. “I just basically went around to different locations around West Point and filmed them dancing to one of their songs they had choreographed a dance to. It was super cool to meet new people as well as do what I love.”
Since joining as a plebe, Lin has seen the club grow from just a few members to an active group of photographers covering almost every event occurring at West Point. After branding themselves as the Cadet Media Group in the 2018-19 academic year, they officially became a club this year solidifying their place as a key part of the Corps of Cadets.
“It reminds me of how special this school is,” Lin said. “When you’re going through the day, it’s just kind of dull and boring and you kind of forget why you’re here. Then, I got to shoot the Sandhurst Competition last spring and seeing my photos from that and seeing them shared on social media, everyone was like, ‘What you do at school is so cool.’ That’s easy to forget when you’re doing homework, but when you get to see it, it’s cool.”
The 83rd Infantry Division, nicknamed Thunderbolt, first entered combat in Normandy in late June 1944. Generally fighting as part of Patton’s Third Army, they were involved in major combat across Northern France and Europe.
Their first action was as a part of Operation Cobra to breakout of the Normandy hedgerows. They then fought against stiff resistance until they finally entered Germany.
This is where the 83rd would come to notoriety as the “Rag-tag Circus.”
Once American forces crossed the Rhine in March 1945, it became an all-out sprint for Berlin with the fast-moving Armored Divisions of the 12th Army Group leading the way.
But the 83rd was a light division with very little in the way of organic transportation assets.
According to the After Action Report of the 329th Infantry Regiment, the Rag-tag Circus was born of necessity when the regiment’s ten non-organic trucks were detached for other duties. As the battalion commanders protested, word came down from the division commander, “utilize to the fullest extent the captured German transportation they had in their possession.”
The 83rd took the idea and ran with it.
Any German vehicle they could get their hands on got a coat of OD green paint and some white stars and was pressed into service.
They commandeered all manner of vehicles: trucks, staff cars, motorcycles, buses, German tanks, and even a Messerschmitt BF 109 was confiscated and piloted by a member of the division.
These commandeered vehicles complemented the already-taxed vehicles the 83rd had. Pushing the limits of reason, tanks carried more than 30 troops on top while jeeps, with and without trailers, were carrying more than a dozen.
Men were packed on so tight that the assistant division commander quipped, “it looked like the men were sprayed on the tanks.”
But this motley crew of vehicles and men that made up the Rag-tag Circus wasn’t the only amazing thing about the 83rd Infantry Division’s drive across Germany.
The Rag-tag Circus had the Germans on the run and was moving at a blistering pace. Pockets of German resistance were quickly overcome and the division moved on.
Oftentimes, division headquarters would displace forward as much as five times per day. The grunts on the ground almost never stopped.
They moved so fast that the lead elements of regiments were often moving out of the other side of a town before the Germans had even had a chance to retreat.
This led to some rather comical instances.
As the Rag-tag Circus sped east through yet another town, an erratic driver entered their column. The vehicle was just another German staff car like so many others in the convoy and since speed was the order of the day, it might not have otherwise drawn much attention. But the erratic driving and continual horn-honking alerted some of the GIs. PFC David Webster took a closer look as the car sped by his vehicle and noticed there was something different about this German car – it still had Germans in it. In fact, sitting in the rear was a Wehrmacht General who was oblivious to the fact that the column he was speeding through was actually American — not German. The GIs stepped on the gas and blocked the path of the Germans, leading to the capture of a German general by almost sheer luck.
In another instance, the Rag-tag Circus was simply travelling so fast that they overtook a column of German vehicles attempting to retreat to the east. This time, the 83rd bagged themselves a German Colonel to go with their prized General.
But those weren’t the only prisoners the 83rd took. In their fourteen day, 280-mile dash across Germany from the Rhine to the Elbe, they captured some 12,000 German POWs and 72 German towns. They also liberated over 75,000 Allied POWs from German camps and liberated a number of concentration camps as well.
The Rag-tag Circus was also the first unit to cross the Elbe River on April 13, 1945, securing a bridgehead after engineers built a treadway bridge across the river.
Despite Berlin being less than 50 miles away and German resistance virtual nonexistent, the 83rd was told to hold their position.
Although they were known as the Rag-tag Circus during their courageous run up to the Elbe, the division sought a more appropriate name to commemorate the achievement. The men of the division settled on “Thunderbolt,” which became the official division nickname.
The Elbe would end up being the closest the Americans would get to Berlin before the war ended and on April 25, 1945, elements of the 65th Infantry Division linked up with Russians advancing from the east.
Despite its heroic and record-breaking efforts, the 83rd was denied a Presidential Unit Citation. After occupation duty in German, the 83rd returned to the United States in March 1946 and was inactivated the following month.