The Washington Post reports a nurse at the VA Medical Center in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania was allegedly intoxicated during a late-night emergency appendectomy.
A probable cause affidavit filed in the local court says Richard Pieri was drunk on call after a night at the nearby Mohegan Sun Casino. Pieri is charged with reckless endangerment, driving under the influence, and public drunkenness.
“Pieri admitted that he knew he was not supposed to be a part of a surgery while he was intoxicated,” the affidavit says. But he “claimed he had forgotten he was on call and did not want to have someone else come in.” The nurse carried his on-call pager to the casino, and whatdaya know, he got the call around 11:30 PM, after he consumed what he claimed were “four or five beers.”
The hospital’s security camera footage shows the nurse stumbling through the parking lot, almost falling at one point. Once in surgery, he had trouble logging into his computer. A physician’s assistant told investigators Pieri smelled like alcohol. He struggled through his duties and then assisted with the surgery.
Medical staff at the hospital allowed that “taking part in a surgery with impaired cognitive ability can create a substantial risk to the safety of the patient.” The surgery went well, but the unnamed patient in question later returned to the hospital with stomach issues.
Pieri still has a job at the Wilkes-Barre VA but has been relieved of his direct patient care duties.
The mortar round detonated on impact, sending thousands of pieces of shrapnel through the plane and crew. Levitow was hit with 40 pieces of shrapnel, and the other six members of the crew didn’t fare much better.
But the worst piece of news was still coming. Levitow started to drag another injured crew member away from the door before he spotted an armed Mk-24 flare that was smoking and rolling around near stored ammo.
The flares operate on a timer set to anywhere between 5 and 30 seconds. Once armed, a crewmember would throw the flare out the door and it would parachute down. Magnesium in the flare would ignite a 4,000 degree Fahrenheit flame that illuminated the battlefield.
Levitow, despite his serious wound from the shrapnel, crawled his way to the 27-pound flare and attempted to grab it three times, but it kept escaping his hands. So he threw himself on it, clutched it to his body, and dragged it towards the door.
“I had the aircraft in a 30-degree bank, and how Levitow ever managed to get to the flare and throw it out, I’ll never know,” said pilot Maj. Kenneth Carpenter.
Somehow, Levitow got the flare to the door and out of the plane just before it ignited, saving everyone aboard. The pilot was able to limp the plane back to an emergency landing.
For Levitow, that was his 181st mission. He recovered from his wounds and completed another 20 combat missions before heading home and receiving his discharge paperwork in August 1969.
Strengthening ties with allies, increasing defense capabilities in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region, and discussions about the threat of North Korea are among the topics Defense Secretary Jim Mattis will contend with on his trip to the region, he told reporters traveling with him yesterday.
The secretary arrived in the Philippines on Oct. 23. He laid out his agenda for the trip during an in-flight news conference.
Mattis will meet with Philippine officials before taking part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations defense ministerial set for Oct. 23-25. That meeting is at the former Clark Air Base.
“One of the first things I’m going to do when I get there is commend the Philippine military for liberating Marawi from the terrorists,” he told reporters. “It was a very tough fight, as you know, in southern Mindanao. And I think the Philippine military sends a very strong message to the terrorists.”
The Armed Forces of the Philippines battled forces allied under the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Marawi. Coalition forces helped the Philippine troops with intelligence, advice and logistic support. While small pockets of terrorists remain, the government declared the city liberated Oct. 17.
The association has been in existence for almost 50 years and is a force promoting peace and stability in the region. It is a forum for the nations to discuss issues among themselves and hash out ways to cooperate that brings prosperity to the region, Mattis said. The meeting also marks 40 years of friendship and cooperation between ASEAN and the United States.
“ASEAN provides an international venue, giving voice to those who want relations between states to be based on respect, not on predatory economics or on the size of militaries,” he said. “ASEAN nations have demonstrated that they can listen to one another, they identify opportunities to increase defense cooperation for their own security and seek shared solutions to shared concerns. The U.S. remains unambiguously committed to supporting ASEAN.”
The secretary will take advantage of his time at the meeting to visit with his regional counterparts, he said. In addition to meeting Philippine counterparts, Mattis is scheduled to meet with representatives of Japan, South Korea, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
He will also hold trilateral talks with Japanese and South Korean defense officials.
Signalman Seaman Adrian Delaney practices his semaphore aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) during an at-sea training evolution with the Royal Thai Navy tank landing ship Her Thai MajestyÕs Ship (HTMS) Prathong (LST 715) during the Thailand phase of exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT). (U.S. Navy photo by Journalist 3rd Class Alicia T. Boatwright.)
Mattis said the regional disturbances created by North Korea will be on the agenda at ASEAN. He said will also emphasize the shared values the nations of the alliance have, the territorial sovereignty of the nations and the need for “freedom of navigation through historically international waters and fair and reciprocal trade.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, Mattis will lead the official U.S. delegation to the funeral of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died in October 2016. The royal cremation rite ends the period of mourning for the country — one of America’s treaty allies in the region. “He was understandably beloved by his people and a proponent of our strong Thailand-United States relationship,” the defense secretary said.
After the ASEAN meeting ends, Mattis will move on to Seoul, where he and South Korea’s Defense Minister Song Young-moo will co-chair the 49th annual Security Consultative Meeting. “There, we will underscore our ironclad commitment to each other,” Mattis said.
North Korea is a threat to the region and globally, defense officials have said. Two unanimous U.N. Security Council resolutions have isolated the state from the rest of the world. The U.N. acted after North Korea detonated nuclear devices and flew an intercontinental ballistic missile over Japan. During his meetings in South Korea, the secretary said he will discuss reinforcing diplomatic efforts to return to a denuclearized Korean peninsula.
The defense leaders will also discuss “how we are going to maintain peace by keeping our militaries alert while our diplomats — Japanese, South Korean and U.S. — work with all nations to denuclearize the Korean peninsula,” Mattis said.
The White House has been informed of a newly developed cruise missile that proponents say could knock out North Korean missile launches in their tracks without killing anyone, NBC News reported on Monday.
The missile — a Boeing AGM-86B air-launched cruise missile with a payload known as the Counter-electronics High-power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or Champ — launches from planes, just like the nuclear variant commonly found on B-52s.
But instead of a nuclear payload, the Champ payload fires microwave pulses that are designed to disable electronics in their path. It has successfully shut down electronics in multistory buildings in previous tests.
David Deptula, a retired US Air Force general who ran the US’s air war in Iraq, told NBC’s “Nightly News” that the new missile could “quite possibly” shut down a North Korean missile on a launchpad.
“Command and control centers are filled with electronic infrastructure, which is highly vulnerable to high-powered microwaves,” Deptula said.
Politicians say the Pentagon doesn’t like change
Democratic Sen. Martin Heinrich, one of several civil and government officials who support the Champ system, told NBC the missile hadn’t been accepted or widely deployed because of roadblocks within the Pentagon.
“The challenges are less technical and more mental,” said Heinrich, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, adding that “the tendency within the Pentagon is oftentimes to continue to try and perfect something,” like existing missile defenses and weapons, rather than employ a new technique.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, echoed that sentiment.
Hunter said last month that “it’s hard to get things through” to the Defense Department that are “doable, that are easy, that are cheap, that are efficient, and that already exist, because that makes nobody happy.”
Hunter blamed a broken defense industrial complex for the difficulties in adopting new technologies.
“There’s not retired general that works for Company A that says, ‘I would like to do that thing that costs no money and it doesn’t get me a contract,'” Hunter said, according to Inside Defense. “No one says that.”
Champ is an interesting option, not a silver bullet
But while the Champ system may represent advantages over existing missile defenses that fire interceptors after a missile has launched, exited the atmosphere, and separated into possibly several warheads, it’s not without disadvantages.
The system has to get close to its targets before knocking them down, meaning it could have to violate North Korean airspace, which could be perceived as an act of war.
And if North Korea spotted the incoming cruise missile, which looks exactly like a nuclear-capable cruise missile, it may respond automatically, regardless of the missile’s nonlethal nature.
Military equipment has redundant wiring and insulation to harden it against electronic warfare and attacks like the Champ, so the system would most likely need more work before it could be certified as capable of shutting down a missile launch — if it could achieve such a thing.
For now, NBC reports, officials have briefed the White House on the Champ system and its availability. Whether it fits into President Donald Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure”against North Korea remains to be seen.
For Marine Corporal Alex Monaghan, who retired from the Corps in 2009 after four years as a rifleman during which he deployed twice (once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan), the phrase “boots on the ground” has taken on a far different meaning than those words typically suggest.
That’s because Alex is the first graduate of a brand-new Semper Fi Fund program: Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program, which helps service members learn valuable skills that they could one day leverage to start a business.
In Alex’s case, that skill is making high-quality cowboy boots.
It all began when Alex was considering going on “one of these horse stints,” as he describes it, as part of the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program. While filling out the paperwork, there was a question at the bottom asking, “Are you interested in learning any of these skills?” Among the skills listed were knife-making, silver-engraving, roping … and making cowboy boots.
“It was weird that it was on there,” Alex recalls. “I always wanted to design my own boots. It’s a two-week program in St. Jo, Texas. The days are long—12 hours a day, six days a week—and there’s a lot to learn in a short amount of time. You get a pair of customized boots when you’re done.”
The time may have been short, but Alex was learning from the best: The boot-making program is run by Carlton T. Chappell, a third-generation award-winning bootmaker who started in leathercraft in 1964 and has been recognized as one of the very best bootmakers in the world.
“It’s pretty neat,” Alex says. “You can’t learn everything in two weeks—Carl is in his 70s or 80s now, and he’s still learning new techniques every day–but it’s interesting. There’s always something new to learn, a new skill to master.”
While making a quality pair of cowboy boots is intricate and artistic work, Alex felt he had something of a head start over his half-dozen or so classmates.
“I did tattoo work for a couple of years,” he explains. “As far as working with machines and stuff, you have this huge thing on the table—you still have to draw out your sketch pattern and sew it up. I felt as if I had some advantage, because I’d been doing something similar to it.”
After finishing the two-week seminar, Alex went on to serve a month-long apprenticeship in Vernon, Texas, with award-winning bootmaker Dew Westover. Dew spent 20 years as a working cowboy, attended Carl’s seminar in 2002 and opened his own boot shop in 2004.
Alex made two pair of boots during his apprenticeship, and now he’s studying business at Texas AM as part of an entrepreneurship for veterans program.
Looking back over the years since he’s left active duty, Alex has seen a number of ups and downs in his own life, but he credits the Semper Fi Fund with helping him get out and get active—and he encourages his fellow veterans to do the same.
“If there are vets who are thinking about these sorts of programs, and they’re itchy or worried about it, I say just give it a try.”
“A lot of vets create a bubble and don’t go out in public,” Alex continues. “I think it’s a great experience—you have buddies to hang out with, you’re pushing yourself to do things that your anxiety or PTSD is preventing you from doing. I do these things, it pushes me to get out and go on the road and deal with people.”
“I would encourage more vets to get out there and find something they enjoy. Whether it’s bike riding or horseback riding or whatever—I’m sure the Semper Fi Fund has something for them.”
Special thanks to the incredible generosity of one very special family for helping to provide funding for this important program in memory of their brother who wished to remember whose who serve.
We Are The Mighty is teaming up with Semper Fi Fund and comedian Rob Riggle to present the Rob Riggle InVETational Golf Classic. The veteran-celebrity golf tournament will raise money and awareness for Semper Fi Fund, one of our nation’s most respected veteran nonprofit organizations, in support of wounded, critically ill and injured service members and their families. Learn more at InVETational.com.
During the halcyon days of broadcast television – before streaming media and DVRs existed – there were a host of military-themed shows on the airwaves. As much as the quality of the episodes (in some cases even more so) these programs were known for their openings and the associated theme songs. Here are 10 of the most classic:
MCCALE’S NAVY (1962-1966)
Forget JFK’s story from his time in the Pacific. Everything America knew about the history of PT boats came from “McCale’s Navy.” The show also showed that skippers could be cool and that POWs should be treated well; in fact, the Japanese prisoner “Fuji” was one of the gang. They even trusted him enough to make him their cook.
“Combat” lasted five seasons before American attitudes toward the purity of war were tainted by the realities of the Vietnam Conflict that came blasting into living rooms via the nightly news. “Combat” set a serious tone with this opening with epic orchestration and a narrator who’s basically screaming at the viewers.
GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C. (1964-1969)
“Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C.” was actually a spin-off of “The Andy Griffith Show” and introduced the public to two concepts that remain true today: DIs are likeable guys underneath their gruff exteriors and (surprise!) the Marine Corps is populated by a goofball or two.
The drama of the opening theme of “Branded” was by-far the best part of this show. Watching Chuck Connors weather the dishonor of having his rank ripped from his shoulders, his sword broken in two, and the front gate closed behind him after he was shoved through it was heavy stuff.
F TROOP (1965-1967)
Manifest Destiny made into a sitcom. “F Troop” was a comedic take on life in the U.S. Calvary across the western frontier where Indian arrows went through head gear and nothing else.
HOGAN’S HEROES (1965-1971)
Not unlike what “F Troop” did to the reputation of Native Americans, “Hogan’s Heroes” showed the country that the Nazis weren’t inhuman tyrants but rather lovable idiots or clueless buffoons.
THE RAT PATROL (1966-1968)
This opening segment was all about the visual of U.S. Army jeeps going airborne over sand dunes without the guys holding onto the .50 cals in the back flying out or breaking their backs. “The Rat Patrol” was the show that introduced the nation to special ops and the idea that two light vehicles could take on (if not defeat) a column of Panzers.
STAR TREK (1966-1969)
For all of its allegory and social commentary, at its heart “Star Trek” was a show about military life on deployment. The opening remains among TV’s best with Capt. Kirk’s monologue, the Enterprise fly-by, and the soaring (albeit wordless) vocals.
Set during the Korean War, “M*A*S*H” was derived from Robert Altman’s 1970 black comedy of the same name and the theme song was an instrumental version of “Suicide is Painless” from the movie. The show’s finale was the most watched broadcast of any show ever until Super Bowl XLIV.
THE A TEAM (1983-1987)
“Punished for a crime they did not commit.” Oh, the injustice of it all. “The A Team” was known for gunfights, explosions, and car crashes that netted ZERO casualties. It’s also the show that made Mr. T into a household name.
The internet is a powerful tool for veterans. It allows them to keep up with friends, access their hard-earned benefits and shop for the things they need. Unfortunately, former service members are more likely than civilians to be targeted by online scammers while doing these things. Veterans are twice as likely to lose money to fraud because of identity theft, phishing, impostor scams, and investment, loan, or donation deceptions.
Many of these scammers target Veterans to alter or access their government-provided aid, swindling them out of the money or benefits they have earned. This is a widespread issue. Nearly 80% of Veterans say they have been targeted by scams due to their service, according to an AARP survey. These scams are diverse and range from phishing attempts to solicitations for fraudulent Veteran-focused charities.
“Help the Vets” is one example of a fraudulent charity targeting Veterans. It claimed to fund medical care and mental health services for Veterans. An investigation found that “Help the Vets” spent 95% of donations on administrative costs and compensation for its founder. Just 5% of proceeds were actually used to benefit Veterans.
Scammers and identity thieves also target financially stressed Veterans with promising investment opportunities. Recently, a man defrauded about 2,600 people—many of whom are pension-holding Veterans—in a Ponzi scheme. The investor told these pension holders to make monthly payments and disguised them as cash flows.
Identity thieves have developed both low-tech and high-tech ways to steal Veterans’ data, like shoulder surfing and skimming. Shoulder surfing requires that someone physically look over your shoulder to steal your password, PIN, or credit card number. Skimming utilizes a device that fits onto regular credit card machines, allowing scammers to steal your credit card information.
How to protect your information
Veterans can take simple actions to better protect their information:
Use unique passwords for your online accounts. Re-using passwords increases the risk of cyber theft.
Use multi-factor authentication (MFA). This combines more than one authenticator type based on information users know and information users receive. It also adds another level of security when Veterans log in to access and manage VA services and benefits.
VA works hard to prevent Veteran identity theft. VA delivers cybersecurity awareness training for all VA employees. It ended the use of Social Security numbers in its business processes. Lastly, VA gives free credit monitoring to Veterans and beneficiaries whose data was compromised by a VA breach. Veterans or beneficiaries of identity theft not caused by a VA breach can contact the toll-free Identity Theft Help Line at 1-855-578-5492 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday.
Veterans can also find additional information on protecting their identity and what VA is doing to help by visiting the More Than a Number website.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The military has very talented photographers in its ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. This is the best of what they shot this week:
An MV-22 Osprey takes off from the flight deck of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6).
MARINETTE, Wis., (July 18, 2015) The littoral combat ship Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Little Rock (LCS 9) is launched into the Menominee River in Marinette, Wisc. after a christening ceremony at the Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard.
Lance Cpl. David Sellers, a refrigeration mechanic with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, embraces his wife with a kiss during the Command Element’s homecoming at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
I SAW You
A Marine with Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines provides cover for fellow Marines moving between buildings during a military operations in urban terrain training event aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C.
SOUTHWEST, Asia – U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Zachary Claus and Lance Cpl. Luis Alvarez, avionics technicians with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron – 165 (VMM – 165), Special Purpose Marine Air – Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, take multimeter readings from the engine of an MV–22 Osprey.
Marines assigned to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, and an Army instructor assigned to U.S. Army Alaska‘s Northern Warfare Training Center, conduct military alpine operations, at Black Rapids Training Site and Gulkana Glacier.
A soldier, assigned to the Georgia National Guard, fires a Mark 19 40-mm grenade machine gun from a Humvee during mounted weapons qualification, part of the unit’s annual training, at Fort Stewart, Ga., July 21, 2015.
The Thunderbirds Delta Formation flies over Niagara Falls, N.Y., July 20, 2015.
Five members of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation behind a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to McConnell Air Force Base, Kan, July 23, 2015. The Thunderbirds are the Air Force’s premier air demonstration team and perform at different events across the country every year.
Line handlers from the Coast Guard Cutter Spencer moor the Coast Guard Barque Eagle in Boston, Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Eagle was operated by the pre-World War II German navy and taken as a war reparation by the U.S., is now a training ship where cadets and officer candidates learn leadership and practical seamanship skills.
The Coast Guard Barque Eagle is in Boston Harbor, Thursday, July 23, 2015. The Eagle, operated by the pre-World War II German navy and taken as a war reparation by the U.S., is now a training ship where cadets and officer candidates learn leadership and practical seamanship skills.
Early on in 2019, two plaintiffs representing the National Coalition for Men sued the U.S. Government in Texas on the grounds that registering only males for the draft was unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Gray Miller ruled in their favor, saying the males-only Selective Service rules should now extend to American women within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
The Trump Administration just filed an appeal to defend the all-male draft rules.
Trump’s Justice Department called ordering women to register for Selective Service “particularly problematic,” saying it would force women to register for the draft through a judicial ruling before Congress could actually address the issue. The DoJ is essentially saying the court is legislating instead of the Congress.
The Justice Department said it’s not for a court to decide what change in policy should be adopted without any involvement by the political branches and the military.
“If the Court’s declaratory judgment is upheld, it should be left to Congress, in consultation with the Executive Branch and military officials, to determine how to revise the registration system in response,” writes Justice Department lawyer Michael Gerardi.
President Trump’s Selective Service Card.
The two men who filed the initial lawsuit argued that their chances of being sent to war were higher because women were exempt from the draft. The judge’s ruling means that women will either sign on for the draft or Congress may have to get rid of the draft altogether, something the Trump Administration says is not an option as it would compromise the country’s readiness and ability to respond to a military crisis.
When Selective Service was instituted in 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter wanted females to register, but Congress did not include mandatory registration for women. In the past, courts have upheld the all-male draft, arguing that since men were the only ones who were able to fill combat roles, then the draft was acceptably all-male. Since President Obama allowed women to serve in those roles, the door for changing Selective Service registration opened once more.
Military experts and LGBTQ leaders [spoke] Feb. 27, 2019, at a hearing of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel about the service of transgender people in the military.
President Donald Trump announced a ban on transgender military personnel in 2017, and in January 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court allowed that ban to go into effect while the matter is litigated. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, 15,000 transgender people currently serve in the military, and there are 134,000 transgender veterans.
Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann, a transgender woman and Navy supply chain officer, said the military should not reject the talents of many highly decorated people.
“Good leaders take a team and make it work. Great leaders mold their teams to exceed expectations,” she said, “because it doesn’t matter if you’re female or LGBT. What matters is if each member is capable and focused on the mission.”
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Blake Dremann.
(Defense Department video)
The administration has claimed that allowing transgender people to serve decreases military readiness and increases health-care costs. However, studies have shown that readiness is unaffected and that the military spends much more money on Viagra than it does on gender-reassignment surgery.
More than three years ago, the Obama administration declared that transgender people could serve openly in the military. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis made an exception to the ban for those who already were serving openly or were willing to serve under their biological sex at birth.
Capt. Alivia Stehlik, a U.S. Army physical therapist and a transgender woman, said she found the vast majority of men and women in her brigade to be open and accepting.
“During my deployment to Afghanistan, as a trans woman, soldiers opened up to me, and I asked them why,” she said. “And consistently, they answered that they valued my authenticity and my courage in being myself.”
The litigation on the transgender ban is expected to take several years to resolve, and eventually could end up back before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Rebecca Murga is an Army Public Affairs Officer with a passion for storytelling. Since she was commission through ROTC in 2004, documenting the stories of soldiers has become the foundation of her service.
“I became a 25 Alpha [signal officer] but at the time I didn’t realize officers don’t do the things enlisted folks do,” Murga says. “But I happened to be in a unit that didn’t have a lot of video support and they really wanted their story told, so I covered all the communications systems and all the networks in Iraq and Afghanistan.” The experience of meeting soldiers in the field and relaying their lives to viewers changed her career forever.
“I got to meet a lot of soldiers, and I think that’s where I really started to fall in love with telling these stories,” Murga recalls. “I would talk to these people on the ground. They all came from different places and had unique individual stories. I think documenting these stories is important.”
After her time in active duty, she continued serving as a contractor in the CENTCOM theater, deploying in 2011 attached to Combined Forces Special Operations Command in Afghanistan. She supported Navy SEALs and Special Forces and other SOF units doing village stabilization and cultural support. That year was the first time women were embedded with special operators in teams called Cultural Support Teams.
“Ask any Marine that was in Helmand,” Murga says. “When you can’t search a woman because of cultural sensitivities, it becomes a security problem. When you have a woman with you who can pull an Afghan woman from the field to be searched, that’s incredibly important.”
She deployed at a time when the combat exclusion rule for women was still in place. Women were not supposed to be embedded with these combat units, but the operational needs made it necessary.
Murga is now an award-winning filmmaker who has produced work for Fox, ABC, and CBS. Last year, she was one of ten selected for the American Film Institute Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women.
“The military actually gave me the courage to pursue something that I love,” she says. “It’s a struggle. It’s definitely not something that you go in to naively. You can only choose it if you absolutely love it.”
Murga’s latest work is Earning the Tab, a three-part digital series about Maj. Lisa Jaster, the third woman to graduate from the U.S. Army Ranger School.
The need for women in forward-deployed combat zones despite the rules against it, coupled with requests from those units, made Murga wonder why the controversy surrounds women graduating from Ranger school.
“It’s a leadership school,” Murga says. “It trains you how to deal with high stress combat situations. A lot of people that go to Ranger school don’t necessarily go to the 75th Ranger Regiment. They’ll get fielded out. Until this past year no women have been allowed to go to leadership schools like that. It goes to how well trained you want your force.”
Graduating from Ranger School does not automatically earn a spot in the 75th Ranger Regiment. The 75th has its own requirements and initiation processes. Murga’s point is especially important, however, because the Army’s plan to integrate women into combat functions starts with putting female officers in combat leadership positions.
“There’s talk about how they expected less from these folks and they weren’t allowed to go to certain schools,” Murga says. “But you can’t send people out to war and limit the amount of training you give. I’m talking about offering training that was not given to women.”
Maj. Jaster is a 37-year-old Army Reserve officer and engineer. She is a West Point graduate, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and she was not eager to be a part of Murga’s series.
“I had to convince her,” Murga says. “It took a lot of convincing. She knew there would be backlash like ‘Oh, you only did this to be famous and you only did this because you wanted a TV show,’ but it’s historic. I suggested we just video tape her around her house, five days before and then you have it and if nothing ever comes of it, then nothing ever comes of it.”
Murga did not film Jaster in training at Fort Benning. Ranger training is closed to external media. The Ranger training footage in Earning the Tab was shot by the U.S. Army’s own combat camera troops. Murga interviewed Jaster before and after the training, with the idea of documenting it because of its historical importance. Murga was just as interested as any one else in the rumors surround Jaster: Did she really earn it? Did the Army lower the standard? Why did she want to go through something so rigorous?
“I wanted to know why this mother of two, who loves fitness, who loves spending time with her family, why she wanted to do this,” Murga recalls. “She gave me the same answer most men I talk to gave me which is ‘I wanted to just prove to myself and see if I can do it.'”
Though she did her best to strip away the politics, Murga still found the same polarization over women in Ranger training, even among her friends.
“The tricky part for me as a filmmaker was to try to tell this story in a way that was just storytelling,” she says. “It really wasn’t taking up a side or political position. It wasn’t examining the idea of women in combat, it was looking at this one school with this one woman and her experience there.”
The general overseeing fitness for the U.S. Army hopes to see the proposed Army Combat Readiness Test approved next spring and, in time, become the service’s standard physical fitness test of record that all soldiers must pass.
The service is in the middle of the Army Combat Readiness Test, or ACRT, pilot, exposing soldiers to the six-event fitness test designed to better prepare them for the rigors of combat than the current three-event Army Physical Fitness Test, or APFT.
The ACRT was developed, at the request of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, to better prepare soldiers for the physical challenges of the service’s Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — the list of key skills all soldiers are taught to survive in combat.
“As we look at physical fitness, we now know in order to be physically fit in support of the Warrior Tasks and Battle Drills — what we know we need to do for combat readiness — we have to be physically fit across five fitness domains,” said Maj. Gen. Malcolm Frost, who oversees the ARCT as commanding general of the U.S. Army Center of Initial Military Training.
Only two of those domains — cardiovascular endurance and muscular endurance — are supported by the current APFT, which consist of push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run, Frost said.
“There are three domains of physical fitness that are not addressed by that test but are nonetheless necessary … and those are muscular strength, explosive power, and speed and agility,” he said.
‘We Aren’t Where We Want to Be’
“We have world-class equipment … but do we have world-class soldiers that are world-class athletes at world-class level fitness? The answer is probably not one that we would want, meaning if you look at a lot of indicators from an individual physical readiness fitness standpoint, we aren’t where we want to be,” Frost said.
In 2016, the Army had 43,000 soldiers who were non-deployable, he said, adding that in fiscal terms, that equates to a loss of about $3 billion.
“Another staggering figure,” Frost said, is that about 78,000 soldiers were above a body-mass index of 30 percent.
“Musculoskeletal injuries about 500,000 a year; 10 million limited-duty days per year — that’s nearly $1 billion,” Frost said.
“To put it in fiscal terms is fine, but more importantly it is the lack of readiness due to some sort of physical fitness or readiness aspect — whether it’s injury, whether it’s being overweight or whether it is being non-deployable for a medical reason,” he said.
The ACRT is made up of six events:
This muscular strength test mimics movements required to safely and effectively lift heavy loads from the ground, then jump, bound and tolerate landing. The exercise is a strong predictor of a soldier’s ability to lift and carry a casualty on a litter and to lift and move personnel and equipment.
Standing Power Throw:
Soldiers toss a 10-pound ball backward as far as possible to test muscular explosive power that may be needed to lift themselves or a fellow soldier over an obstacle or to move rapidly across uneven terrain.
In this event, soldiers start in the prone position and do a traditional push-up but, when at the down position, they move their arms outward and then back in to do another push-up. It is a test of soldier’s ability to push an opponent away during man-to-man contact, push a vehicle when it is stuck, and push up from cover or off the ground during evade and maneuver.
As they dash 25 meters five times up and down a lane, soldiers will perform sprints, drag a sled weighing 90 pounds, and then hand-carry two 40-pound kettle bell weights. This can simulate pulling a battle buddy out of harm’s way, moving quickly to take cover, or carrying ammunition to a fighting position or vehicle.
Similar to a pull-up, soldiers lift their legs up and down to touch their knees or thighs to their elbows as many times as they can. This exercise strengthens the core muscles since it doubles the amount of force required compared to a traditional sit-up.
This is the same running event as on the current APFT. In the ACRT, run scores are expected to be a bit slower due to all the other strenuous activity.
Part of the ACRT pilot, which is expected to continue into 2018, is working out how leaders will administer the six-event tests.
“Part of the challenge is if we are going to do six events, there is a scope and scale challenge to this — you can’t take a week to test a battalion,” Frost said. “You have got to be able to move a company through at the same pace you move a company through to do the APFT.”
There is also the challenge of figuring out the correct sequence to the events, he said.
“We have been able to test 50 soldiers in 75 minutes using 10 lanes, so this is doable; it’s executable with the right equipment,” Frost said.
The plan, he said, is to present the data collected so far in the pilot to Milley “in the next couple of months” and hopefully get a decision to move forward.
If approved, program officials will finalize the test protocol and other details before going back to Milley sometime next spring for final approval to start rolling the ACRT out in 2019 so soldiers can start training for it, Frost said.
“There has got to be a transition period,” Frost said. “You have to give them time to ramp up to it.”
Soldier Performance Training Centers
As a simultaneous effort, he said, the Army will launch a pilot program next year to develop “soldier performance training centers,” which feature the right equipment and resources to help soldiers prepare for the ACRT.
The plan is to put these centers in gyms at three installations and staff them with experts such as trainers, physical therapists and nutrition counselors. Eventually, centers would be established all over the Army, Frost said.
The centers will also need equipment for soldiers to train for the ACRT — pull-up bars, sleds for dragging weight, deadlift bars, weights and medicine balls.
A battalion set of this equipment to create 10 test lanes retails for about $12,000, but the Army will likely be able to get equipment for less, Frost said.
“If we buy this at scale, it will be much, much, much less, and a lot of this equipment is already out there so we have to kind of inventory what we have and then figure out what the need is,” he said.
“And that doesn’t mean every battalion is going to get it,” Frost said. “You may have a brigade set and every battalion is not going to take the ACRT on the same day, so there are a lot of things we can look at.”
But there has to be a transition period before the ACRT can replace the APFT as the test of record, Frost said.
“Whether it is one year or two years, you train on one test — the other test is a test of record; maybe there is a transition period where both of them can be a test of record,” he said. “And eventually, you fade the APFT out — kind of like you did the gray PT uniform — and then the ACRT is the enduring test of record.”
There also has to be time for the Army to figure out the policy, legal and administrative factors involved with instituting a new test of record since there will be punitive and administrative measures that occur for soldiers who are not able to pass it.
“We are going to need feedback from the field, but my gut tells me before it becomes the test of record, it’s probably two years — so one year to train for it. Another year, maybe it could be a test of record maybe as an option with the APFT,” Frost said. “Then at the end of two years, the APFT is faded away, and the ACRT is the only test of record.”
When the US Navy accused Russia of “unsafe and unprofessional” behavior at sea after a dangerous close encounter between a Russian destroyer and a US cruiser June 7, 2019, Russia quickly released a statement countering the US version of events.
Each side blamed the other for the run-in — which was close enough for US sailors to spot sunbathers topside on the Russian ship. But an expert who viewed the US Navy’s images concluded the Russians were to blame for the near-collision and were “operating in a dangerous and reckless fashion.”
The US Navy says the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Chancellorsville and the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov nearly collided when the Russian ship sailed as close as 50 feet off the US Navy vessel while it was recovering a helicopter in the Philippine Sea. Russia claims that the USS Chancellorsville put itself on a collision course with the Russian ship in the East China Sea, where the two warships came within 50 meters (150 feet) of one another.
“While USS Chancellorsville was recovering its helicopter on a steady course and speed when the Russian ship DD572 maneuvered from behind and to the right of Chancellorsville accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance of approximately 50-100 feet,” 7th Fleet said in a statement, adding that the US warship was forced to execute all engines back full and to avoid a collision.
The US Navy cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), right, is forced to maneuver to avoid collision from the approaching Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov (DD 572), closing to approximately 50-100 feet putting the safety of her crew and ship at risk.
Russia responded with its own statement, pinning the blame for the close call on the US Navy.
“The US cruiser Chancellorsville suddenly changed its course and crossed the Admiral Vinogradov destroyer’s course some 50 meters away from the ship,” the Russian Pacific Fleet said. “In order to prevent a collision, the Admiral Vinogradov’s crew was forced to conduct an emergency maneuver.”
Russian media has invoked the rules of the road, arguing that a vessel approaching another ship on its starboard, or righthand, side has the right of way. Indeed, that is the rule for a routine crossing situation, but there’s more going on here.
The US Navy released photos and videos. Based on these, a retired US captain concluded that the US Navy cruiser had the right of way — and Russia was at fault.
“If the cruiser was actually conducting helicopter operations. That trumps everything,” explained retired Capt. Rick Hoffman, who commanded two US warships. “If she’s operating a helicopter, she’s constrained and permitted by the rules of the road to maintain course and speed. She has the right of way.”
In this situation, the USS Chancellorsvilleis considered a “vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver.” A ship in this category is “a vessel engaged in the launching and recovery of aircraft,” according to the internationally-accepted navigation rules for preventing collisions at sea.
Near collision between Russian destroyer and US cruiser.
(US 7th Fleet)
Furthermore the Russian destroyer appears to have been approaching from behind (astern) at high speed at an angle that would make this an overtaking rather than a crossing. In that scenario, the vessel being overtaken (the US warship) has the right of way.
The Russian ship “was clearly approaching from astern, clearly maneuvering to close the cruiser, and was clearly in violation of the rules of the road and putting the ship at risk,” Hoffman said. “The Russians were clearly operating in a dangerous and reckless fashion.”
He added that the wake indicated the “Russians had altered course several times,” more proof that the destroyer was purposefully closing with the US cruiser.
Another possible sign that this may have been a planned provocation on the part of the Russians is that there were sailors sunbathing on the helicopter pad. Were the Russian naval vessel actually concerned about a possible collision, there would have almost certainly been an all-hands response.
The ships alarm would likely have sounded, and sailors would have been ordered to damage control stations or braced for impact.
(1/2) USS Chancellorsville Avoids Collision with Russian Destroyer Udaloy I DD 572
Close encounters like the one involving the USS Chancellorsville and the Admiral Vinogradov are particularly dangerous because a ship is hard to maneuver at close range and a steel-on-steel collision can damage the ships and kill crewmembers.
“Unlike a car, a ship doesn’t have brakes, so the only way you can slow down is by throwing it into reverse,” Bryan Clark, a naval affairs expert and former US Navy officer, explained to BI recently. “It’s going to take time to slow down because the friction of the water is, of course, a lot less than the friction of the road. Your stopping distance is measured in many ship lengths.”
A US Navy cruiser is 567-feet-long and unable to move its hull right or left in the water very quickly, making a distance of 50 feet dangerous.
“When someone pulls a maneuver like that,” he added, “It’s really hard to slow down or stop or maneuver quickly to avoid the collision.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.