The US Air Force started the second phase of its Light Attack Experiment on May 7, 2018, putting the A-29 Super Tucano and AT-6B Wolverine aircraft through more testing at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.
Air Force officials have touted light-attack aircraft as a cheap option to address low-end threats, like ISIS or other militant groups, and free up advanced platforms, like the F-22 and F-35, to take on more complex operations.
Air Force chief of staff Gen. David Goldfein has described the light-attack aircraft as part of a networked battlefield, connecting and sharing information with partner forces in the air and on the ground.
“We’re looking at light attack through the lens of allies and partners,” Goldfein told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “A big part of the Light Attack Experiment is a common architecture and an intelligence-sharing network, so that those who would join us would be part of the campaign against violent extremism.”
Phase 2 of the experiment
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Ethan D. Wagner)
The latest phase of the Light Attack Experiment will be a three-month, live-fly experiment intended to gather more information about each aircraft’s capabilities, networking ability, and potential interoperability with partner forces, the Air Force said in a release.
The first phase of the experiment took place at Holloman in August 2017, with four aircraft. In February 2018, the Air Force announced that it had narrowed the field to the two current aircraft.
“This second phase of experimentation is about informing the rapid procurement process as we move closer to investing in light attack,” Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the military deputy at the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said in the release.
Fighter, attack, and special-operations pilots will take part in this phase of the experiment, working with test pilots and flight engineers from the Air Force, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve. They will carry out day and night missions doing air interdiction, close air support, armed overwatch, and combat search and rescue.
Addressing the Air Force’s pilot shortage
Adding light-attack aircraft to the fleet would mean more airframes on which pilots could train in order to maintain their qualifications and prepare to transition to more advanced aircraft — helping address a pilot shortage caused in part by bottlenecks in the training pipeline.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“If we can get light attack aircraft operating in permissive combat environments, we can alleviate the demand on our 4th and 5th generation aircraft, so they can be training for the high-end fight they were made for,” Bunch said in the release.
The Air Force has not committed to pursuing a contract for a light-attack aircraft after the experiment, however. Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, deputy chief of staff for requirements, told Flight Global that the Air Force hasn’t made a final decision, though he said service has reserved more than $2 billion over the next six years should it go forward with production.
Critics have said operating such aircraft, even in permissive environments, will expose pilots to more risk.
“The last time the US did this in Vietnam, oh boy, it really wasn’t pleasant,” Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for aerospace-consulting firm Teal Group, told Air Force Times in February 2018. “They took a lot of casualties, for predictable reasons. It’s low, it’s slow and vulnerable, and the air defense environment has become a lot more sophisticated.”
The A-29 Super Tucano is already in service with the Afghan air force, and Wilson said in 2017 that none of those aircraft had been shot down in 18 months of operations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A Washington-based Special Forces soldier has died from wounds caused by an improvised explosive device that detonated near him during a recent combat patrol in Afghanistan.
Sgt. 1st Class Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, died Aug. 12, 2018, as a result of injuries he suffered in Helmand province on Aug. 7, 2018, according to an Army news release. Transfiguracion was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
He was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class and awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart and Meritorious Service Medal, according to the news release. It was Transfiguracion’s second Purple Heart.
No additional information was immediately released about the incident that caused his injuries. It remains under investigation.
Transfiguracion, of Waikoloa, Hawaii, was born in the Philippines. He enlisted as a motor transport operator in the Hawaii National Guard in 2001 and deployed to Iraq from 2005 to 2006.
Purple Heart Medal.
In 2008, Transfiguracion joined the active duty, deploying again to Iraq from 2008 to 2009. From there, he spent six months supporting Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines from 2010 to 2011.
After attending Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, Transfiguracion was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana, as a horizontal construction engineer. There, he was selected for Special Forces.
After completion of his Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Transfiguracion joined his last unit as an engineer sergeant. He’s been deployed to Afghanistan since March.
His other awards and decorations include the Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Achievement Medal (third award), Army Good Conduct Medal (third award), Combat Action Badge, Army Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantry Badge and Air Assault Badge.
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
North Korea on Sept. 15 conducted a new missile launch, less than two weeks after it tested what it called a hydrogen bomb, South Korean defense officials said, according to Yonhap News.
The missile was fired from an airfield near the North Korean capital of Pyongyang at 6:57 a.m. local time, and headed eastward over Japan, South Korean military officials said.
Military officials estimated that the missile reached an altitude of 479 miles and flew for nearly 2,300 miles, far surpassing the distance between Pyongyang and Guam, the closest US territory.
Emergency alerts in Japan were issued at about 7:06 a.m. local time. NHK, Japan’s public-broadcasting outlet, cited government information that said the missile fell into the Pacific Ocean about 1,240 miles east of Hokkaido, the country’s second-largest island.
Japan did not attempt to shoot down the missile, NHK added.
An initial assessment from US Pacific Command indicated that the projectile was an intermediate-range ballistic missile. The North American Aerospace Defense Command added that the missile “did not pose a threat to North America.”
“Our commitment to the defense of our allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remains ironclad,” PACOM’s statement said. “We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack or provocation.”
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said the White House chief of staff, John Kelly, had briefed President Donald Trump on the launch.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the country’s National Security Council were holding an emergency meeting in response to the launch.
It was the second time in two months in which North Korea fired a projectile over Japan. Late last month, North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile that also passed over Hokkaido and traveled about 1,700 miles, reaching a height of nearly 340 miles. If the initial estimates of the launch are accurate, they could be seen as an improvement in North Korea’s missile capabilities.
In response to the latest provocation, South Korea conducted a ballistic-missile drill, firing a Hyunmoo-II missile into the East Sea.
A day before the North Korean launch, a state agency threatened to use nuclear weapons to “sink” Japan and reduce the US to “ashes and darkness,” Reuters reported. The threat was a response to the latest UN Security Council resolution stepping up sanctions on North Korea over its latest nuclear test.
Earlier this month, North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, one the country said was a hydrogen bomb. The underground test, which experts estimated to be four to 16 times more powerful than any of Pyongyang’s previous bombs, sent shockwaves that were felt in South Korea and China, according to The New York Times.
Though the sanctions, which imposed a cap on crude-oil imports and banned exports of textiles, were unanimously approved by member nations, President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson downplayed their efficacy on North Korea. Critics have said the sanctions were watered down to appease China and Russia, Pyongyang’s closest allies, and reports have emerged that North Korea may be undercutting the sanctions by smuggling goods.
“With respect to the UN Security Council resolution and the president’s view that it was a small step, I share that view,” Tillerson said during a press conference. “We had hoped for a much stronger resolution from the Security Council.”
One of the men accused of poisoning a former Russian spy in England has been identified as a high-ranking member of Russia’s intelligence service.
The UK in early September 2018 accused two Russian men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, of attempting to assassinate Sergei Skripal with a military-grade nerve agent in Salisbury in March 2018. UK Prime Minister Theresa May said the names were most likely aliases.
Ruslan Boshirov, one of the men accused of poisoning the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
According to Bellingcat, throughout his career, Chepiga had been given multiple rewards for his services, including the title of Hero of the Russian Federation — the highest award in the state, typically given by the president to a handful of people in a secret ceremony, according to the BBC.
It suggests Putin was aware of Chepiga’s identity, which would seem to disprove the Russian president’s claim that he didn’t know who Boshirov and Petrov were.
Bellingcat’s findings also cast doubt on Russia’s claims that Boshirov and Petrov were civilians and that the government had no knowledge of the Skripal attack.
The findings are also in line with the British government’s claim, citing security and intelligence agencies’ investigations, that Boshirov and Petrov were officers from Russia’s intelligence services.
May has also said that authorization for the attack “almost certainly” came from senior members of the Russian government.
Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman for Russia’s foreign ministry, called Bellingcat’s findings “a new portion of fake news.”
Surveillance footage of Alexander Petrov and Boshirov in Salisbury, England, on the day Skripal collapsed.
Zakharova said on Facebook, according to a translation by Russia’s state-run Sputnik news agency, “There is no evidence, so they” — the UK — “continue the information campaign, the main task of which is to divert attention from the main question: ‘What happened in Salisbury?'”
The UK has issued international arrest warrants for the two men, London’s Metropolitan Police confirmed in a statement to Business Insider. However, Russia does not extradite its nationals.
Gavin Williamson, the UK’s defense secretary, appeared to confirm Bellingcat’s findings in a tweet on Sept. 26, 2018 that he appears to have later deleted.
“The true identity of one of the Salisbury suspects has been revealed to be a Russian Colonel,” he wrote. “I want to thank all the people who are working so tirelessly on this case.”
A spokesman for the UK Ministry of Defense told Business Insider that Williamson’s tweet, which was posted on his constituency’s account, was unrelated to his role as defense secretary. Williamson’s constituency office did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
The British Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Defense, Foreign Office, and Metropolitan Police all declined to comment on Bellingcat’s findings.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
From working at McDonalds, to attending Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), to serving more than 18 years each in the U.S. Army Reserve — identical twin master sergeants are mobilized together for the third time.
Master Sgt. Bryant Howard and his identical twin brother, Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, motor transport operators, 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), are currently deployed together to Kuwait — marking the third time they have deployed together.
Bryant decided to join first.
“I was in high school, (and) I was also working at McDonalds, and my mom called me lazy.” he said. “I figured I wasn’t, so I was going to get her mad and join the Army.”
For Joseph, the decision to join the Army was much easier after he found out that his brother was joining.
“I tried joining the National Guard. The recruiter didn’t take me seriously.” Joseph said. “I was going to back out, then I found out my brother was joining the Reserve, so I went ahead and joined too.”
From left to right — Master Sgt. Joseph Howard, S-3 (operations) noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC), 450th Movement Control Battalion (MCB), and Master Sgt. Bryant Howard, Trans-Arabian Network (TAN) NCOIC, 450th MCB, stand back to back at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Oct. 24, 2019.
(Photo by Spc. Dakota Vanidestine)
Once their decision to join was finalized, Bryant and Joseph needed to pass through Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) before leaving for basic training.
“We were still in high school, just turned 18. We were trying to get on the battle buddy system, but something happened at MEPS and Bryant wasn’t able to join the same time I did.” Joseph said. “He had to go back four months later. Because of that, they couldn’t get us to Basic (Training) together, even though we went at the same time. I went to Fort Jackson; he went to Fort Sill.”
Although the buddy system was not possible for Basic Training, the brothers were reunited at Advanced Individual Training (AIT).
“We did go to AIT together at Fort Leonard Wood though. It took the drill sergeants a month to realize there was twins in the unit. They threw a fit because they thought we were just one super high-speed person” Joseph said.
Confusion on the brothers’ identities, like at AIT, has allowed them to play pranks all of their life.
“Our last day of high school, we switched classes.” Bryant said. “We had a different style uniforms in school — I had a pullover, and he had a button up shirt. Joseph’s teacher could tell us apart, even though she didn’t know me — but my teacher didn’t recognize him.”
After high school, the military was not the only time that Bryant and Joseph’s paths have crossed.
“We both worked at one time at Direct TV” Joseph said. “Also, we both had some sort of experience in law enforcement. I became a police officer, he worked in a jail — he was a corrections officer. The weird part about that was if I dropped somebody off at jail, they might run into him and think he was me. We don’t necessarily try to follow each other – that’s just the way things happen. It really is a small world.”
Even today their civilian careers have brought them not only to the same state, but the same location.
“Now were both mill-techs. Joseph works in the RPAC (Reserve Personnel Action Center) and I work for a unit” Bryant said.
From left to right, Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Howard, Sgt. Michael Howard, motor transport operators, 498th Transportation Company, and Sgt. 1st Class Bryant Howard, motor transport operator, 850th Transportation Company, pose for a photo as Bryant prepares to redeploy back to the U.S. at Kandahar Airfield, April. 28, 2014.
“We actually work in the same building — two different units. I work for the 88th Readiness Division, he works for the 383rd Military Intelligence Battalion” Joseph added.
When Bryant and Joseph heard about an opportunity to deploy together with the 450th MCB, they took full advantage.
“We deployed together in 2003 and 2009 to Iraq” Bryant said.
“He deployed to Afghanistan at the end of 2013, and I deployed there in the beginning of 2014 — so we were actually at the same place” Joseph added. “Our older brother actually deployed with me.”
Currently, Bryant is the Trans Arabian Network Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC).
“I am the NCOIC over all the movement within Kuwait, Jordan, Oman, and the surrounding locations.” Bryant said.
While Joseph serves as the S-3 (operations) NCOIC by taking care of “the personnel, administrative, and operational aspects.”
Once this deployment is complete, the brothers may finally part ways. Joseph is considering retirement from the Reserve.
“I do want to hit my 20 year mark.” Joseph said. “It’s really hard to keep up with the changing Army — the trends and everything. Depending on what happens when I get to the States, I may stick it out longer, or I may get out.”
“I’m just going to stay in until I can’t stand it anymore” Bryant added.
Together, Bryant and Joseph have dedicated over 37 years of service to the U.S. Army Reserve — both wearing the rank of master sergeant and have seven combined deployments to show for it.
It’s just about here – the sequel aviation and military buffs have been patiently waiting for.
“Top Gun: Maverick” was supposed to fly onto the big screen in July but was pushed back to December due to COVID-19. The sequel with Tom Cruise returning in the starring role as hotshot naval aviator LT Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a graduate of the U.S. Navy’s elite TOPGUN school and a career fighter pilot flying the Grumman F-14 Tomcat.
Though not a whole lot of information about the new movie has been released just yet, it’s generally understood that Maverick will be an instructor or something similar, teaching the next generation of fighter pilots how to push themselves and their aircraft to the limit.
While a lot has changed in the three decades since Maverick first set foot on TOPGUN’s campus at NAS Miramar (now a Marine Corps base), one thing remains absolutely certain — Maverick really shouldn’t be anywhere near the school, especially as an instructor.
From his downright reckless flying to his cavalier attitude, this aviator is no example for new TOPGUN candidates, and he definitely shouldn’t be in a position to instruct them.
Here are four reasons why Maverick might actually be the worst possible choice to be a TOPGUN instructor in the sequel:
1. He wasn’t even the best pilot at Top Gun!
Far from it.
In fact, Maverick didn’t even come close to winning the top graduate award at the end of the program, losing his edge and competitiveness after his radar intercept officer, Lt. JG Nick “Goose” Bradshaw, died during a training exercise gone wrong.
In convincing him to return to the program, “Viper” — TOPGUN’s head honcho in the movie — lets the depressed soon-to-be washout know that he has enough points to graduate with the rest of his class… but certainly not enough to achieve the award for best pilot.
Instead, it’s Maverick’s classmate and fierce rival, Lt. Tom “Iceman” Kazanski who took the plaque for first place (and gains the option to return to TOPGUN as an instructor). If anything, being that the program is designed to mature the most capable of all Navy fighter pilots currently serving, shouldn’t they only learn from the best?
2. He’s definitely not a team player
This is alarmingly evident from the very beginning of the movie, when the young pilot and his backseater decide to leave a fellow Tomcat behind and completely exposed to do a little showboating.
Instead of covering his wingman, Maverick pulls his F-14 over an enemy MiG-28 for Goose to take vanity images with a Polaroid camera. Meanwhile, “Cougar” and “Merlin” — the two aircrew of the other F-14 — are mercilessly hounded by another MiG fighter, causing Cougar to lose his edge and turn in his wings after nearly crashing his jet.
Over at Miramar, Maverick once again draws the ire of his fellow classmates by leaving them behind during training exercises, choosing instead to selfishly pursue Viper while allowing his wingmen to take a hit.
3. He’s too reckless and narcissistic
Every time Maverick goes up, he flies dangerously.
It’s a chronic problem and he doesn’t know how to solve it. From buzzing control towers to his inverted encounter with the MiG-28 to his training sorties at TOPGUN, Maverick just doesn’t know how to turn off his recklessness.
At times, he’s even been known to disobey direct orders from commanding officers. His superiors call him out on it repeatedly, from his time in the fleet aboard the USS Enterprise to his antics at TOPGUN, darting below the “hard deck” to get a radar lock on one of his instructors.
Perhaps this is a result of his inherent narcissism… a trait unbecoming of a potential TOPGUN instructor pilot. The young naval aviator is frankly way too self-absorbed to be an instructor given his penchant for doing things that would ultimately give himself the glory.
4. He’s way too old to be an instructor anyways
Let’s do the math here — “Top Gun” was released in 1986, over 3 decades ago. By the time the sequel makes its appearance on the silver screen, 34 years will have elapsed since Maverick’s stint at the former NAS Miramar. Let’s add another four years to that, since Maverick was a lieutenant back when he first entered the TOPGUN program… which brings us to a grand total of 37 years.
The vast majority of military officers don’t even have careers that long! Given Maverick’s penchant for angering people in authority over him, it’s unlikely that he’d still be in the Navy, though it’s also possible that he got relegated to a desk job, ending his flying career, where he might remain today.
With that being said, fighter pilots also have a “shelf life.” There’s only so much wear and tear that their bodies can take from the physical and mental stress of flying high-performance fighter aircraft, and most tend to either leave the cockpit due to advancement, or out of a personal choice to accept a less-strenuous job elsewhere (within or outside the service) within 15-20 years.
OF COURSE we’re going to see the new “Top Gun” when it comes out. But we’ll be looking to make sure that if Maverick is indeed an instructor, he’s matured from his previously reckless ways.
Tricare is warning customers that scammers are preying on coronavirus fears to steal personal information by offering Covid-19 test kits.
As the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States continues to climb, some Americans have growing concerns about the availability of testing. Nefarious actors, it seems, are taking advantage of that uncertainty by contacting people over the phone claiming to be Tricare representatives and offering Covid-19 test kits.
“The scam involves direct calls to beneficiaries with an offer to ship or sell COVID-19 testing kits. The calls include requests for personal information such as Social Security numbers, bank or credit card information,” the release states. “Beneficiaries should avoid any solicitation regarding a COVID-19 test kit by anyone other than their attending physician.”
Tricare will only provide Covid-19 test kits upon order from a physician, and currently physician orders require that a patient meet certain criteria in order to be eligible for a test.
Testing is authorized based on the clinical judgment of a provider, exposure, travel history and symptoms,” Tricare’s webpage reads.
“You must have an in-person or virtual telephone/video visit with a provider who will arrange testing in a military treatment facility (if MTF-enrolled) or in the private sector (if enrolled to the network provider with TRICARE Prime or if you’re using TRICARE Select or TRICARE For Life). If network, the cost of the test is covered in the cost of the visit itself.”
As a result of these scammers, Tricare is asking that any unusual or suspicious calls from people claiming to be Tricare representatives should be reported on their Fraud and Abuse page here.
There have been more than a half million confirmed cases of Covid-19 infection around the world thus far, with more than 23,000 deaths attributed to the disease. America recently crossed over the 75,000 confirmed cases mark, with more than 1,000 deaths.
Tricare beneficiaries can be tested for Covid-19 at no cost provided they meet Tricare’s aforementioned testing criteria.
For more information about how the coronavirus is affecting basic training graduations, click here.
If you want to learn more about how the coronavirus has affected PCS and TDY orders, click here.
During the Civil War, an entire battalion was formed by pulling the students of two colleges out of school, putting them under the command of their professors, and shipping them off to war. And these college kids really did fight, possibly firing some of the first and last shots of the war and earning battle streamers for seven different engagements before the war ended.
Citadel cadets recreate the firing on the Star of the West
The college students were cadets at The Citadel and The Arsenal Academy, both establishments for training future military officers. So, when South Carolina seceded on Dec. 20, 1860, there was obviously a question of roles for these men who had already signaled an interest in military service.
A single warning shot across the bow failed to deter the ship, but a short volley a few minutes later caused multiple strikes against the ship’s hull and forced it to withdraw.
A later attack by Confederate forces on Fort Sumter in April 1861 is generally regarded as the first attack of the war, but the cadets were awarded a streamer for their January attack.
An illustration of The Citadel during the Civil War.
(Alfred Rudolf Waud)
The next streamer for the academy came in November 1861, at Wappoo Cut, but they didn’t actually meet with Union forces. On Nov. 7, Union naval forces had shelled and seized two Confederate forts near the South Carolina capital, and political leaders worried that the Union would press forward. They called on the cadets to man defenses at Wappoo Cut, but the Union soldiers didn’t press the attack, and the cadets eventually returned to school.
At this point, though, The Citadel and The Arsenal were still functioning as military academies despite their students and faculty being called away from time to time to perform training, logistics, or even defensive duties. But by June 1862, there was a body of cadets that was ready to go to war without waiting for their commissions at graduation. At least 37 cadets resigned from the school and formed the “Cadet Rangers,” a cavalry unit.
This sort of pattern would continue for the next few years, with the cadets being called out to defend Charleston for a few days or weeks and then being sent back to the school to train, frustrating some of them. In early 1863, cadets manned guns in a defensive battery on a bridge between Charleston and James Island.
Union forces shelled the city during this period, and some of the cadets were sent to guard stores of weapons and supplies. But they returned to school again until the first half of 1864, when they were once again sent to defend James Island.
At the end of 1864, the cadets were called to a defense that would actually result in combat. Union Marines, soldiers, and sailors were sent to break the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, and their attack surprised the infantrymen defending the position. The cadets, stationed a few miles away at the time, rushed to the fight at the double-time.
Union Marines and other troops attacked cadets at the Battle of Tulifinny near Charleston, South Carolina, and the cadets earned praise for their disciplined fire and poise under attack.
(David Humphreys Miller)
During that first night, on Dec. 6, the cadets did little because they arrived as the Union troops were digging into their defensive positions while the Confederate attacks gave way.
But the next morning, the cadets were one of the key components of an attack on the Union positions. They came under rifle fire and responded with a bayonet charge, but were driven back. They secured their wounded and dropped back to their own defenses. In this role, they earned praise from nearby infantry units for their disciplined fire. They even pursued the Marines attacking them during the final Union retreat. During the fight, they suffered eight casualties.
The following year, in May 1865, cadets would once again engage in direct combat with Union forces. They were sent to guard infrastructure in Williamston, South Carolina, when Union forces attempted to reach a bridge over the Saluda River and burn it. The cadets beat back the attack successfully, saving the bridge.
“I was inspired as I learned about their food traditions and offered them comfort through food,” Lidia said in her PBS video Lidia Celebrates America.
One of her stops included a visit with some of We Are The Mighty’s veterans who shared some of their fondest food memories while serving in the military.
For Edith Casas (U.S. Navy), it was missing her mother’s meals during deployments. For Bryan Anderson (U.S. Army), it was the meals he prepared in the barracks. For Mike Dowling (U.S. Marine Corps), it was sharing his last meal with Rex, his military working dog.
So you’re spending Thanksgiving downrange (again) and it’s looking like instead of being home, surrounded by family, friends, liquor and an impressive spread, you’ll be “camping” and dinner will be an MRE. Kind of samesies, right?
We know you’d rather be watching football with your dad and making fun of your creepy uncle in real time, but if you can’t be home, bring home to you with our MRE Thanksgiving cooking hacks. That’s right: We’re taking boring to the next level of slightly less boring by combining some of your ingredients to give you 5 new MRE dishes in time for Thanksgiving. It kind of feels like cooking, right?
We know you are well aware that everything is better with sriracha. Douse your chicken, noodles and vegetables dish with as much of that godsend that you can handle and then stir in the surprise ingredient: warmed peanut butter. Sprinkle with some peanuts and it’s almost like you’re sitting in Thailand or at least somewhere in Chicago. (We said almost.)
We know the burrito bowl doesn’t really even do the name justice. Take your orange powdered drink, mix it with the hot sauce and stir that concoction into your chicken and rice. We’ll wait while your tastebuds rejoice at something different.
It’s not quite Taco Bell and you might already be south of the border, but if you heat up your cheddar cheese spread and put it on a tortilla, top with crumbled cheddar crackers and then roll it all up into a little taquito situation, we promise you won’t be mad. Let’s be honest: you’d be eating that same thing at your bachelor pad back in the States if your leave wasn’t approved to go home anyhow.
No, we don’t really know what this would look like, so here’s the traditional all-American classic instead.
Chocolate apple pie
We are using the term “pie” pretty loosely here, but if you take mocha cappuccino drink mix and add just a tiny bit of water and stir, it makes the consistency of frosting. Spread that bad boy on your spiced apple cake and you can practically feel the fall air around you. If by fall we mean July 132nd. Still delicious! And isn’t it fun to pretend you’re in a place with seasons?
Yeah, we know. You’re probably hungry now. Sorry.
Key lime goodness
Mix the lime beverage powder with vanilla pudding and spread it on top of crackers. Just like mom used to make. Sort of. Fine, not really, but it is good. And maybe next year instead of pumpkin pie, you can make her this key lime MRE treat.
We know it’s hard to be away from family, especially on a day that’s dedicated to being thankful for them. Whether you’re experimenting with drink powder as frosting or making taquitos, we hope your meal is shared with great friends. Happy Thanksgiving.
Ralph Stepney’s home on a quiet street in north Baltimore has a welcoming front porch and large rooms, with plenty of space for his comfortable recliner and vast collection of action movies. The house is owned by Joann West, a licensed caregiver who shares it with Stepney and his fellow Vietnam War veteran Frank Hundt.
“There is no place that I’d rather be. … I love the quiet of living here, the help we get. I thank the Lord every year that I am here,” Stepney, 73, said.
It’s a far cry from a decade ago, when Stepney was homeless and “didn’t care about anything.” His diabetes went unchecked and he had suffered a stroke — a medical event that landed him at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
After having part of his foot amputated, Stepney moved into long-term nursing home care at a VA medical facility, where he thought he’d remain — until he became a candidate for a small VA effort that puts aging veterans in private homes: the Medical Foster Home program.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
The $20.7 million-per-year program provides housing and care for more than 1,000 veterans in 42 states and Puerto Rico, serving as an alternative to nursing home care for those who cannot live safely on their own. Veterans pay their caregivers $1,500 to $3,000 a month, depending on location, saving the government about $10,000 a month in nursing home care. It has been difficult to scale up, though, because the VA accepts only foster homes that meet strict qualifications.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
For the veterans, it’s a chance to live in a home setting with caregivers who treat them like family. For the Department of Veterans Affairs, the program provides an option for meeting its legal obligation to care for ailing, aging patients at significantly reduced costs, since the veterans pay room and board directly to their caregivers.
Cost-effectiveness is but one of the program’s benefits. Stepney and Hundt, 67, are in good hands with West, who previously ran a home health care services company. And they’re in good company, watching television together in the main living room, going to elder care twice a week and sitting on West’s porch chatting with neighbors.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
West, who considers caring for older adults “her calling,” also savors the companionship and finds satisfaction in giving back to those who spent their young lives in military service to the U.S.
“I took care of my mother when she got cancer and I found that I really had a passion for it. I took classes and ran an in-home nursing care business for years. But my dream was always to get my own place and do what I am doing now,” West said. “God worked it out.”
The Medical Foster Home program has slightly more than 700 licensed caregivers who live full time with no more than three veterans and provide round-the-clock supervision and care, according to the VA. Akin to a community residential care facility, each foster home must be state-licensed as an assisted living facility and submit to frequent inspections by the VA as well as state inspectors, nutritionists, pharmacists and nurses.
Unlike typical community care facilities, foster home caregivers are required to live on-site and tend to the needs of their patients themselves 24/7 — or supply relief staff.
“It’s a lot of work, but I have support,” West says. “I try to make all my personal appointments on days when Mr. Ralph and Mr. Frank are out, but if I can’t, someone comes in to be here when I’m gone.”
VA medical foster home providers also must pass a federal background check, complete 80 hours of training before they can accept patients, plus 20 hours of additional training each year, and allow the VA to make announced and unannounced home visits. They cannot work outside the home and must maintain certification in first aid, CPR and medicine administration.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
But one prerequisite cannot be taught — the ability to make a veteran feel at home. West has grown children serving in the military and takes pride in contributing to the well-being of veterans.
“It’s a lot of joy taking care of them,” she said of Stepney and Hundt. “They deserve it.”
To be considered for the program, veterans must be enrolled in VA health care; have a serious, chronic disabling medical condition that requires a nursing home level of care; and need care coordination and access to VA services. It can take up to a month to place a veteran in a home once they are found eligible, according to the VA.
The veterans also must be able to cover their costs. Because medical foster homes are not considered institutional care, the VA is not allowed to pay for it directly. The average monthly fee, according to the VA, is $2,300, which most veterans cover with their VA compensation, Social Security and savings, said Nicole Trimble, Medical Foster Home coordinator at the Perry Point VA Medical Center in Maryland.
Pilot program takes off
Since 1999, the Department of Veterans Affairs has been required to provide nursing home services to veterans who qualify for VA health care and have a service-connected disability rating of 70 percent or higher, or are considered unemployable and have a disability rating of 60 percent or higher.
The VA provides this care through short- or long-term nursing home facilities, respite care, community living centers on VA hospital grounds, private assisted living facilities and state veterans homes.
Shortly after, the VA Medical Center in Little Rock, Ark., launched an alternative — a pilot program that placed veterans in individual homes, at an average cost to the VA of roughly $60 a day, including administration and health care expenses, compared with upward of $500 a day for nursing home care.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
And because veterans who are enrolled in the Medical Foster Care program must use the VA’s Home-Based Primary Care program, which provides an interdisciplinary team of health professionals for in-home medical treatment, the program saves the VA even more. One study showed that the home-based care has yielded a 59 percent drop in VA hospital inpatient days and a 31 percent reduction in admissions among those who participate.
More than 120 VA medical centers now oversee a Medical Foster Home program in their regions, and the VA has actively promoted the program within its health system.
It also has attracted bipartisan congressional support. In 2013, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced a bill to allow the VA to pay for medical foster homes directly.
In 2015, former House Veterans Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.) introduced similar legislation that would have allowed the VA to pay for up to 900 veterans under the program.
And in May, Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) raised the issue again, sponsoring a bill similar to Miller’s. “Allowing veterans to exercise greater flexibility over their benefits ensures that their individual needs are best met,” Higgins said in support of the program.
A guardian ‘angel’
Foster care has been a blessing for the family of Hundt, who suffered a stroke shortly after his wife died and was unable to care for himself. Hundt’s daughter, Kimberly Malczewski, lives nearby and often stops in to visit her dad, sometimes with her 2-year-old son.
(Photo by Lynne Shallcross)
“I’m not sure where my father would be if he didn’t have this,” she said. “With my life situation — my husband and I both work full time, we have no extra room in our house, and we have a small child — I can’t take care of him the way Miss Joann does.”
Trimble, whose program started in 2012 and has five homes, said she hopes to expand by two to three homes a year. The VA will remain meticulous about selecting homes.
“There is a strict inspection and vetting process to be a medical foster home,” Trimble said. “We only will accept the best.”
It also takes a special person to be an “angel,” as the caregivers are referred to in the program’s motto, “Where Heroes Meet Angels.”
Stepney and Hundt agree West has earned her wings. On a recent cruise to Bermuda, she brought Stepney and Hundt along.
For Hundt, it was the first time he’d been on a boat. And Stepney said it was nothing like the transport ships he and his fellow troops used in the late 1960s: “Well, I’ve gotten to travel, but it was mainly two years in Vietnam, and there weren’t any women around.”
When asked why she brought the pair along, West said caregiving is “a ministry, something you really have to like to do.”
“And you know how the saying goes,” she said. “When you like what you do, you never work a day in your life.”
U.S. officials have sounded the alarm about growing Russian activity in the Arctic for some time, warning that Moscow’s expanding capabilities in the high latitudes threaten to leave the U.S. behind.
The Arctic region, and its natural resources, have become more accessible as the surrounding ice recedes.
In an interview at Coast Guard headquarters at the end of December 2017, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft told Business Insider that while the U.S. should regard Russian activity in Arctic warily, the relationship between the two countries going forward may depend on “who you relate with.”
“Our natural relationship is with the FSB within Russia, and that’s their border security — equivalent to a coast guard when you look at maritime” activity, Zukunft said.
Operational exchanges between the U.S. Coast Guard and its Russian counterpart have gone well, the commandant said, citing fisheries enforcement as an area where cooperation has yielded positive outcomes.
“We have a boundary line between Russia and the United States. In years past we would have Russian vessels sneak over the line because the fishing was much better on the U.S. side of the Bering Sea because of our fishing-management protocols. That doesn’t happen anymore,” Zukunft said. “We have real-time communications with our Russian counterparts. If we detect a Russian vessel coming over the line, they will prosecute it on the other side.”
“At the same time, we’ve had allegations of fish being illegally harvested in Russian waters and then being sold or basically being distributed out of a port in Dutch Harbor, Alaska,” he added. “We interact with Russia in real time when we have those cases, and so [it’s] very transparent.”
“Across all these areas — law enforcement, search and rescue, environmental response, and waterways management — we see the relationship with Russia as positive,” McAllister said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC. McAllister also called China “a good partner” in the Arctic.
Zukunft drew a distinction between Russian internal-security and law-enforcement activity and Russian naval activity, saying the latter presented more of a concern going forward.
“Now when you start looking at the Russia navy, or if you start looking at why is Russia launching icebreaking corvettes — these are really warships that can also break ice at the same time, that can operate in the high latitudes, at a point in time where Russia is claiming a good portion of the Arctic Ocean … to say that, ‘this is ours,'” Zukunft told Business Insider.
“This looks eerily familiar to what China is doing the East and South China Sea, what we could call access denial to all others … that you pay homage to Russia,” Zukunft said.
Russia has “not been transparent in what their intent is, and so we’re playing a strategic game of chess up in the Arctic,” he added. “And Russia’s got … all the pieces on the chessboard. I’ve only got a couple of pawns. I don’t even have a queen, let alone a king. Might have a rook.”
According to a Congressional Research Service report, as of May 2017, Russia — which has the world’s longest Arctic coastline and gets 20% of its GDP from activity in the region — had 46 icebreakers of all types. Four of those were operational heavy polar icebreakers, with another 23 medium or light icebreakers for polar or Baltic use.
The U.S. government had three icebreakers at that time, but just one, the Polar Star, was an operational polar icebreaker. The U.S. also has the Healy, a medium polar icebreaker, and the National Science Foundation operates another, primarily for scientific work.
The Polar Star entered service in 1976 and was refurbished in 2012, but it is beyond its 40-year service life and “literally on life support,” Zukunft said in early 2017. (Some parts for the Polar Star are no longer made and have to be ordered secondhand from eBay or scavenged from other ships.)
The U.S. was behind Finland, Canada, and Sweden — all of which had several operational polar icebreakers, though none were heavy. China also had three operational light icebreakers or ice-capable polar ships, according to the report.
Experts have downplayed the likelihood that the Arctic will become as contested as the South China Sea, but Zukunft and others have warned that the U.S. is well behind Russia in the icebreaker capability necessary to operate in the region — and may soon fall behind China as well.
Vice Adm. Fred Midgette, the Coast Guard’s Pacific Area chief, said in December that even with progress on U.S. plans for new icebreakers, Moscow was still outspending Washington. “If you look at what Russia is doing, there’s almost a mini arms build up going on in the Arctic,” he told CBS News.
“Even the Chinese are building icebreaking tankers,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in November, emphasizing U.S. economic and national-security interests in emerging Arctic waterways. While China isn’t an Arctic country, Tillerson said, “they see the value of these passages. So we’re late to the game.”
Zukunft has said he hopes to begin construction on the first icebreaker early in fiscal year 2019, which starts in October. It could be in the water by 2023.
The commandant has said he eventually wants to add three heavy and three medium icebreakers, though he is open to trading mediums for heavies.
Some have argued that the challenge to U.S. security posed at sea comes less from icebreakers than Russia’s growing navy, which can project power far from the Arctic, but the Coast Guard is holding out the option of equipping its future icebreakers with offensive weaponry.
Zukunft said in early January that the newest icebreaker would have space, weight, and electrical capacity set aside for such armaments. Though he wouldn’t specify what types of weapons systems they would be — he has suggested cruise missiles in the past — Zukunft said they would need to be modular, allowing them to be switched out to meet different operational requirements.
“We do need to make an investment in terms of our surface capability to exert sovereignty in the Arctic,” Zukunft told Business Insider at the end of December.
“I think if you look across our entire military strategy, homage is paid to strength, and not so much if you are a nation of paper lions but you don’t have the teeth to back it up,” he added. “And that’s an area where we’re lacking the teeth.”