“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” star Channing Tatum is among over 4,000 people who may have had personal information exposed on an unsecured backup drive owned by an unidentified lieutenant colonel.
According to a report by the International Business Times, the information exposed on the unsecured drive, which was able to be accessed via an internet connection, included passport numbers, social security numbers, phone numbers, security clearance levels, and completed SF86 applications for security clearances.
The drive was secured with a password when the leak was discovered by a researcher.
The information contained is considered the “holy grail” by some experts in the field of national security, the website noted. Former government officials told ZDNet that the information could be used for blackmail purposes.
SF86 forms contain information that is used to determine what sort of classified material an individual can have access to. That information includes convictions, financial information, personal or business relationships with foreign nationals, mental health history and similar information. The data breach puts the individuals at risk for identity theft and financial fraud.
Romanian hacker “Guccifer”, who is known for many cyber intrusions against the United States. (NBC News screenshot.)
The materials on the drive included the spreadsheet that had information on Tatum gathered prior to a six-day tour the actor took in Afghanistan. Other unidentified celebrities also had their contact information compromised.
Information on various probes of American officials was also compromised in the hack. Some of those probes involved allegations of abuse of power. Bank information was also on the compromised disk, as well as years of e-mails.
Both ZDNet and the International Business Times noted that the device was accessible to anyone and searchable, so it may be impossible to determine who has accessed the drive.
You might think that legendary fighter planes like the F4U Corsair and P-51 Mustang saw their last action in the Korean War.
It seems like a reasonable assumption – but it’d be dead wrong.
Believe it or not, the last combat those planes saw came around the time that F-4 Phantoms and MiG-21s were fighting for air superiority over North Vietnam, and Israeli Mirages and Neshers took on the air forces of Egypt, Syria, and other Arab countries.
In 1969, El Salvador and Honduras went to war. It lasted about 100 hours, and started less than three weeks after the end of a contentious qualifying series for the 1970 World Cup.
Dubbed the “Soccer War,” the fighting left nearly 3,200 people dead, both military and civilian.
Notable was that it was the last combat action that some legendary planes would see. The war started when El Salvador began its attacks — a makeshift affair with passenger planes being modified to carry bombs for the first strikes. El Salvadoran troops followed the strikes and pushed into Honduras.
Honduras at the time had 19 F4U Corsairs in its inventory, along with 6 AT-6 Texan attack planes. El Salvador had 11 P-51D Mustangs in service, plus some that upgraded Cavalier Mustangs. They had 25 F4U/FG-1 Corsairs in service as well.
During the fighting, Honduran Corsairs downed a P-51 and two Corsairs, gained air superiority over the battlefield, and began pushing the invaders back. Anti-aircraft fire claimed two more Salvadoran Mustangs, while two P-51s were lost in a mid-air collision.
Two Salvadoran Corsairs were also shot down by ground fire.
When all was said and done, the Organization of American States intervened to arrange for a cease-fire. The war ended with a status quo ante bellum. Today, both Air Forces operate A-37B Dragonfly attack planes (15 for El Salvador, 10 for Honduras), but Honduras also has nine F-5E Tiger II fighters. Honduras and El Salvador took over a decade to sign a formal peace treaty, but the underlying tensions remain in that region.
While the disputes that lead to the Soccer War have not been resolved, the Soccer War did give some legends one last chance to serve.
Unfortunately, all too often I am asked what members should do if they are discharged with something besides an honorable discharge (like general, other-than-honorable, etc.). First, let us address the different types of discharges:
If a military service member received a good or excellent rating for their service time by exceeding standards for performance and personal conduct, they will be discharged from the military honorably. An honorable military discharge is a form of administrative discharge.
If a service member’s performance is satisfactory but the individual failed to meet all expectations of conduct for military members, the discharge is considered a general discharge. To receive a general discharge from the military, there has to be some form of nonjudicial punishment to correct unacceptable military behavior. A general military discharge is a form of administrative discharge.
Other-Than-Honorable Conditions Discharge
The most severe type of military administrative discharge is the other-than-honorable conditions. Some examples of actions that could lead to an other-than-honorable discharge include security violations, use of violence, conviction by a civilian court with a sentence including prison time, or being found guilty of adultery in a divorce hearing (this list is not a definitive list; these are only examples). In most cases, veterans who receive an other-than-honorable discharge cannot re-enlist in the Armed Forces or reserves, except under very rare circumstances. Veterans benefits are not usually available to those discharged through this type of discharge.
Bad Conduct Discharge (BCD)
The bad conduct discharge is only passed on to enlisted military members and is given by a court-martial due to punishment for bad conduct. A bad conduct discharge is often preceded by time in military prison. Virtually all veteran’s benefits are forfeited if discharged due to bad conduct.
If the military considers a service member’s actions to be reprehensible, the general court-martial can determine if a dishonorable discharge is in order. Murder and sexual assault are examples of situations which would result in a dishonorable discharge. If someone is dishonorably discharged from the military, they are not allowed to own firearms, according to U.S. federal law. Military members who receive a dishonorable discharge forfeit all military and veterans benefits and may have a difficult time finding work in the civilian sector.
Commissioned officers cannot receive bad conduct discharges or a dishonorable discharge, nor can they be reduced in rank by a court-martial. If an officer is discharged by a general court-martial, they receive a dismissal notice, which is the same as a dishonorable discharge.
Now, what does one do when they exit the service and are looking for a position?
Typically the simple answer is to not bring up the type of discharge that was given: employers don’t often know to ask this and the type of discharge should be used as a reference only. Due to legal issues surrounding Equal Employment Opportunities and related laws, one should be cautious in the interview process regardless. It is generally illegal to ask which type of discharge a military veteran received, unless it is to ask whether or not an applicant received an honorable or general discharge (veteran’s preference is a different story). You can compare this to asking if one is a U.S. citizen in the interview process.
Employers should note that even if the veteran did not receive one of these types of discharges, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were discharged for poor conduct (it could have been a medical discharge or other administrative discharge). Typical questions include branch of military service, the period of service, rank at time of separation, type of training, leadership, work experience, qualifications and certifications. Not discharge.
If an employer asks for a DD-214 and they notice the type of discharge:
The member must be prepared to answer the questions. They should have their “elevator pitch” about their career progression, and be prepared to provide references of character if needed. Note that government positions are more likely to ask for your DD-214 and inquire further on this area than a typical civilian employee.
There are various situations where you may be eligible to apply to have your military discharge upgraded. You must apply to have your discharge upgraded by downloading DD Form 293 – Application for the Review of Discharge or Dismissal from the Armed Forces, submit the form to the Discharge Review Board within 15 years of your discharge and WAIT. If your discharge was over 15 years ago, you must request a change to your military records.
The short answer here is to not get yourself in a position where you are receiving a discharge that is unfavorable (despite medical or other conditions). If this does happen to you, then it is best to seek positions where it is not the priority item to be asked, and really think about those roles outside the government where you would benefit. Also note that if drugs or convictions were involved, this does add an extra layer to your career endeavor.
No matter how you exit the military, take the industry leading readiness quiz to see how prepared you are for civilian life. Transition Readiness Quiz.
If you’ve clicked into this article, then you already know what you’re looking for here. A bunch of huge metal tubes launching high-explosives into the air that are destined to rain down on firing ranges and enemy targets, right? You probably want a couple of them to use as computer wallpapers or something.
Yeah, artillery is pretty great, so let’s just skip the wordplay and get into it:
1. An M109A6 Paladin self-propelled howitzer fires a 155mm round through the night skies of Fort Riley, Kansas.
2. U.S. Marines in Japan fire their own 155mm howitzer round from an M777A2.
3. A North Carolina National Guard artillery team fires their Paladin at night in Fort Bragg.
4. Artillerymen from the 101st Airborne Division fire their M777 at night in support of Iraqi Security Forces battling ISIS.
5. More 101st artillerymen send a 155mm round downrange to slaughter ISIS jerkwads under attack by Iraqi security forces.
6. Army paratroopers fire high-angle during a training exercise at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
7. American Marines practice moving and firing their towed howitzers during an exercise in Japan.
8. A mortar crew fires during a training mission. Mortars are historically an artillery weapon but are employed by infantrymen in the modern Army and Marine Corps.
9. For the record, the definition of artillery usually centers on “high-caliber guns,” and American mortars typically range from 60 to 120mm. Also, they look awesome.
10. Air defense artillerymen send a Stinger into the sky and it slams into a drone target.
11. Avengers are vehicle-mounted missile launchers that fire Stingers, short-range air defense weapons that annihilate low-flying targets.
12. A U.S. Army howitzer crew fires at night in Joint Base Lewis-McChord while supporting an artillery observer competition.
The Coast Guard cutter James pulled into Port Everglades on November 15 laden with 38,000 pounds of cocaine hauled in by it and other Coast Guard ships during months of patrols in the eastern Pacific Ocean.
Coast Guard crews and the ships and aircraft they use have a variety of roles, but they are just one component in the fight against drug smuggling on the high seas that is reaching new heights.
The 458,000 pounds of cocaine seized in the most recent fiscal year, which ended September 30, was intercepted through a complex interdiction process that sometimes begins before the drugs even set sail, draws on governments and security forces from throughout the region, and requires crews to be as good at reacting as they are at planning.
“At-sea interdiction … is truly a team sport,” Coast Guard commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said aboard the James.
Colombia is the world’s largest producer of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine. While it’s the only South American country with Atlantic and Pacific coasts, more than 80% of the finished product destined for the US goes through the eastern Pacific — an area the size of the US mainland.
Finding suspicious vessels in an area that size can be a challenge for the Coast Guard, even with the capabilities of the other US agencies and neighboring countries with which it partners.
A crew from US Coast Guard cutter Dependable intercepts a drug-smuggling boat in the eastern Pacific Ocean, April 8,, 2017.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Time, speed, and distance
Intelligence-gathering can point to when and where shipments will depart, but in the absence of that the search for seaborne smugglers often starts in at sea, where what a vessel looks like and how people aboard it behave are sometimes the first signs of nefarious activity.”
If you have like one of these open-construction boats, known as a panga, that usually has multiple outboard engines,” Capt. Jeffrey Randall, commander of the James, told Business Insider in an interview aboard the cutter.
“Most of the legitimate traffic has one engine,” Randall said. “Some of the ones that are actually trying to move the cocaine will have multiple engines so they can go faster and evade detection.”
Fuel barrels can be a tipoff. “Ones that have multiple fuel barrels, you know they are preparing for a longer transit, so that may be an indicator,” Randall said. “You may also in some cases see the bales of contraband on deck.”
In other instances, the crew of vessel not waving or otherwise acknowledging the Coast Guard’s presence — particularly when that presence is a helicopter overhead — may also warrant closer attention.
A boarding team aboard the Coast Guard cutter Stratton removes bales of contraband that later tested positive for cocaine from a go-fast vessel in international waters in the drug-transit zone of the eastern Pacific Ocean, February 23, 2017.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney)
Personnel from the Joint Interagency Task Force South, a US-based multiagency body that liaises with authorities through the region, also run aerial patrols over the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean.
“They’ll fly some overhead surveillance, and one of those aircraft may sight one of these vessels,” Randall said of the JIATF-South. “Then they’ll vector us in to those targets, and then that’s when we launch the boats, launch the helicopter, and coordinate an interdiction.”
But where and when — and even whether — those interdictions take place depends on a number of factors.
“It basically boils down to time, speed, and distance, and where you want to effect that interdiction,” Randall said.
“There’s a time aspect. There’s a boat-capability aspect. There’s a what-is-your-adversary-going-to-do aspect,” Randall said.
No two interdictions are the same, he added. It’s “situation-dependent on all those things.”
“We talk with our pilots. We talk with our boat operators and say, ‘OK, this is what we think is going to be the best process to effect this interdiction,'” he said. “Then we put all those pieces together, make some decisions, launch, and then try and go effect the interdiction.”
Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf during a counterdrug patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, March 10, 2018.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
‘We do a lot of training’
Coast Guard crew members tasked with those interdictions are typically waiting on-call aboard their ship.
“We kind of rotate with three teams, and we rotate when you’re on ready status,” said Lt. j.g. Simon Juul-Hindsgaul, a boarding officer on the James, in an interview aboard the ship. “You’re decked out … you hear the pipe, and you’re ready to go.”
Poor conditions can cause delays, as can logistical factors.
“The boats have a certain range, and you want to maximize how quickly you can get to the asset. That’s based on sea state and some other things,” Randall said. “You want to maximize how much time your helicopter has on scene, so that’s going to play into … that time, speed, and distance.”
Poor conditions can cause delays, as can logistical factors.
“The boats have a certain range, and you want to maximize how quickly you can get to the asset. That’s based on sea state and some other things,” Randall said. “You want to maximize how much time your helicopter has on scene, so that’s going to play into … that time, speed, and distance.”
Crew members from the US Coast Guard cutter Spencer interdict a self-propelled semi-submersible vessel during a counter-narcotics patrol, November 11, 2017.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Timothy Midas)
There are different approach tactics for different kinds of vessels, Juul-Hindsgaul said, declining to elaborate on them. And different kinds of missions come with different kinds of concerns, he added.
“When it’s a pursuit mission — so it’s not a vessel that is potentially flagged or that we would have to just do some alongside questioning — then you’re thinking are they going to be compliant? How am I going to approach the vessel? What’s the safest angle of approach?”
In the small boat, where Juul-Hindsgaul is always stationed, communications are a constant concern.
“Comms with the helicopter, because they’re generally overhead and they can vector us in, that’s key,” he said. “The farther out we operate, the more unreliable the communications become, so then you start working secondary comms and that sort of thing.”
Approaching a suspect vessel can get hairy. In April, Coast Guard and Navy crews came upon a go-fast boat in the eastern Pacific. Spotting the US ship, the go-fast boat’s crew began throwing their cargo overboard.
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Harriet Lane approaches a suspected smuggling vessel while a helicopter crew from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron monitors from the air, February 25, 2018.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Some at-sea interdictions, which can take 12 hours or more, come up with nothing, either because the suspect vessel carried no contraband or because it offloaded it before being intercepted.
Whatever the situation, Coast Guardsman tasked with boarding have to prepare for a variety of potential threats. In one case, a fishing vessel intercepted by the James during its most recent cruise had more than 30 people aboard, Juul-Hindsgual said.”
Just the sheer number of individuals that I don’t know what they have on them before I get on board,” he said, “there’s always that.”
“We’re always checking to make sure that they don’t have any weapons that could potentially harm us,” he added. “Then with the other vessels … they could potentially ram us or something, so we’re always aware of that.”
Boarding a suspected smuggling vessel brings a new set of challenges, with a procedure to match.
Coast Guard cutter Valiant crew members transport seized contraband from one of the eight vessels interdicted during their eight-week patrol in the eastern Pacific in early 2016.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
“So we get on board, one of our initial procedures, which you learn out of school, is just your initial safety sweep. You always do that, make sure that the vessel’s safe to be on board,” Juul-Hindsgaul said.
Training includes a basic boarding course for officers as well as a specialized counter-narcotics course. Crews keep training while at sea. “We do a lot of training,” Juul-Hindsgaul said.
Some smuggling vessels, especially self-propelled semi-submersibles, which carry multiton loads of drugs just below the surface and cost id=”listicle-2621744055″ million to million apiece, are equipped with “kill switches.”
“We find that all the time, that they have scuttling valves or something,” Juul-Hindsgual said.
Sometimes smugglers just throw contraband overboard. Recovering floating bales of drugs is no easy task either.
Crewmembers of the Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) and Tactical Law Enforcement Team South on top of a self-propelled semi-submersible they stopped July 3, 2018.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo)
Boarding a smuggling vessel means eventually getting off of it — a task complicated by drugs and detainees that need to be brought back.
“It matters whether or not the vessel has nationality [and] if it makes a claim of nationality,” Randall said of dealing with a seized vessel. “If it makes a claim of nationality, then we may have to use one of our … bilateral agreements … to do some exchange of information to verify the registry of the vessel or verify the nationality of the people” on it.
That inquiry and the response to it often has to go through layers of bureaucracy. It may take hours to get an answer, but that answer affects what comes next, Randall said.
A boarding team member from Coast Guard cutter Stratton grabs a bale of cocaine that suspected smugglers jettisoned from their vessel in a failed attempt to flee Coast Guard pursuit in the eastern Pacific Ocean, September 8, 2017.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)
“For the safety of the people we usually bring them on board, because some of these semi-submersible or these low profile vessels are not the safest vessels to be on,” he added. “So we’ll remove them and put them on our boats, which [are] a safer platform, until those disposition processes work out.”
“That’s generally an all-hands effort,” Juul-Hindsgaul said of removing people and contraband.
“I’m out there on the boarding team and we … do the full law-enforcement boarding,” he added, “and then we’ll set a different scenario where we set a stage on board, where everyone preps and gets ready and then we’ll just transport all that back to the vessel.”
Coast Guardsmen handling any suspected drugs are outfitted with protective gear.
“You don’t want to get any of it on you or ingest any of it,” Randall said. “It’s really highly potent.”
“People train to go through and … check medical and all that sort of stuff for” detainees, Juul-Hindsgual said. “Then we gear up and then transport the contraband to a secure hold” aboard the Coast Guard ship.
Coast Guard cutter Stratton boarding-team members detain four suspected smugglers after intercepting their vessel with 17 bales of cocaine on board in the eastern Pacific Ocean, September 8, 2017.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jon-Paul Rios)
“We give [detainees] a medical check. We get them showered. We give them a uniform and then start providing three meals a day and all that kind of stuff,” Randall said. “They take good care of them until we get them back to the US judicial system.”
Detainees, some of whom arrive poorly clothed or in ill health, remain at sea with the ship, disembarking to another vessel if the cutter makes a port call in another country, as the Coast Guard must hold them in international waters.
“Once we get, basically, to a position where we’re allowed to enforce US law or a country waives jurisdiction … and we get an positive drug test, we will embark the people as detainees and then embark the contraband and then hold them until we can bring them back for US prosecution,” Randall said.
A Coast Guard cutter Bernard C. Webber crew member carries a bale of cocaine during a drug offload at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach, October 16, 2018.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)
‘Peddlers of poison’
Taking care of the drugs is fairly straight-forward process. Seizures from several ships are collected aboard one ship for an offload, usually in South Florida or Southern California.
From there, the drugs are usually turned over to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which takes samples and discards the rest. Each year, the DEA’s Cocaine Signature Program conducts tests on about 2,500 cocaine samples.
The DEA says its tests can determine the origin of cocaine down to the sub-regional level with 96% confidence, and it consistently finds that Colombian cocaine dominates the US market.
The DEA has “ways to … analyze that [cocaine] and then the bulk of it gets destroyed,” said Schultz, the Coast Guard commandant. “They will use it to enable prosecutions to better inform the intelligence picture on this threat that exists out there.”
Things are more complicated for the human cargo that Coast Guard ships bring back.While the Coast Guard is a law-enforcement agency, the expansion of the drug war and of its authority to detain suspected smugglers in international waters has increased the numbers of detainees.
That increase has raised concern about legal procedure and due process.
In 2017, a former Coast Guard lawyer described the cutters holding detainees at sea as “floating Guantanamos.” Another Coast Guard officer called them “boat prisons.”
Petty Officer 1st Class Radoslaw Florczak, left, a health services technician aboard Coast Guard cutter Active, medically screens a detained suspected narcotics smuggler during a patrol in the eastern Pacific Ocean, May 15, 2018.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael De Nyse)
Schultz’s predecessor, Paul Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, bristled at that description when asked about it during a December 2017 interview, saying he thought it was “an unfair stab at the Coast Guard.”
Taking care of detainees while aboard and offloading them to the proper authorities were “a challenge of logistics,” he said.
The Coast Guard and US officials have said intelligence gleaned from detainees is vital to bring down trafficking networks, though some are skeptical the smugglers being caught — often low-level members of criminal groups or fishermen who sign up for the lucrative pay a successful smuggling run can bring — can offer more than fragments of information.
“Make no mistake, these are peddlers of poison,” Zukunft said in December 2017. “So I think there’s been a mischaracterization of who these people are. They have choices. They’ve elected to engage in criminal activity. That is a direct threat to the livelihood here in the United States.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers unveiled legislation on Oct. 4 that would overhaul aspects of the National Security Agency’s warrantless internet surveillance program in an effort to install additional privacy protections.
The bill, which will be formally introduced as soon as Oct. 5, is likely to revive debate in Washington over the balance between security and privacy, amid concerns among some lawmakers in both parties that the US government may be too eager to spy on its own citizens.
The legislation, written by the House Judiciary Committee, is seen by civil liberties groups as the best chance in Congress to reform the law, known as Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, before its expiration on December 31.
Senior US intelligence officials consider Section 702 to be among the most vital tools they have to thwart threats to national security and American allies.
It allows US intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on and store vast amounts of digital communications from foreign suspects living outside the United States.
But the program, classified details of which were exposed in 2013 by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also incidentally scoops up communications of Americans, including those with targets living overseas. Those communications can then be subject to searches without a warrant by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A discussion draft of the legislation, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, partially restricts the FBI’s ability to access American data collected under Section 702 by requiring the agency to obtain a warrant when seeking evidence of a crime.
That limit would not apply, however, to requests of data that involve counterterrorism or counterespionage.
The narrower restriction on what some have called a “backdoor search loophole” has disappointed some civil liberties groups. Several organizations sent a letter this week saying they would not support legislation that did not require a warrant for all queries of American data collected under Section 702.
Renewal for six years
The legislation would also renew the program for six years and codify the National Security Agency’s decision earlier this year to halt the collection of communications that merely mentioned a foreign intelligence target. But that codification would end in six years as well, meaning NSA could potentially resume the activity in 2023.
The spy agency has said it lost some operational capability by ending so-called “about” collection due to privacy compliance issues and has lobbied against a law that would make its termination permanent.
Republican senators introduced a bill earlier this year to renew Section 702 without changes and make it permanent, a position backed by the White House and intelligence agencies.
But that effort is expected to face major resistance in the House, where an influential conservative bloc of Republicans earlier this year said it opposed renewal unless major changes were made, reflecting disagreement within the majority party.
Separately, Senators John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Republican in the chamber, and Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California are working on Section 702 legislation that may also be introduced this week and include fewer reforms.
Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky are also planning to introduce a bill that would require a warrant for any query of Section 702 involving data belonging to an American.
Years of complex operations and the ongoing demands of units in the field have left the armed forces struggling to maintain both operational capacity and high levels of readiness, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.
“After more than a decade combating violent extremists and conducting contingency operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and most recently Syria, [the Defense Department] has prioritized the rebalancing of its forces in recent budget requests to build and sustain the capabilities necessary to prevail across a full range of potential contingencies,” the report states.
“However, DoD has acknowledged that unrelenting demands from geographic commanders for particular types of forces are disrupting manning, training, and equipping cycles,” it adds.
Each of the service branches has had some success in addressing readiness issues, but problems remain in some areas for each.
For the Marine Corps, as of February, about 80% of aviation units didn’t have the minimum number of aircraft ready for training. The Marines also had a significant shortage of aircraft ready for wartime requirements.
A high pace of operations has also hindered the Navy’s maintenance efforts. The service bases its readiness recovery on deployment and maintenance schedules. “However, GAO reported that from 2011 through 2014, only 28 percent of scheduled maintenance was completed on time and just 11 percent for carriers.”
Like the Navy, the Air Force has seen continued operations with a shrinking pool of resources and little time for repair and recovery, citing Air Force reports that less than 50% of its forces are at acceptable readiness levels.
Photo courtesy of USAF
The service branch also says it is short of 1,500 pilots and 3,400 aircraft maintainers.
Air Force leaders are looking at several options to address these personnel issues, including heftier retention bonuses and stop-loss policies.
While the Army has seen readiness improvements in recent years, as GAO notes, it continues to have important deficiencies that put it at a disadvantage compared to other countries.
“For example, the Army reports that two thirds of its initial critical formations — units needed at the outset of a major conflict — are at acceptable levels of readiness, but it cautions that it risks consuming readiness as fast as the service can build it given current demands,” the report says.
The Army has also gotten withering criticism of its unit readiness from within the service itself.
According to Capt. Scott Metz, who until recently was a observer/controller/trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, “many of our multinational partners are more tactically proficient at company level and below than their American counterparts.”
US troops from the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment call in their location in the back woods of the mock village they are taking over during Saber Junction 17, a field-training exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center on May 15, 2017, at Hohenfels, Germany. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Richard Frost)
“In fact,” Metz wrote in a paper published this spring, “several of them are significantly better trained and more prepared for war than we are.”
Metz recounted how unit commanders arriving at the JMRC would caution him about their unit’s lack of preparation and the minimal training done at their home stations. In his role as the opposition-force commander during exercises, he could see how this manifested itself in potentially fatal mistakes in the field.
US soldiers prepare to engage a multinational force while during an exercise at Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, March 25, 2017. US Army photo by Sgt. William Frye.
The opposition-force commander “knows from past experience that the Americans will probably stay on or near the roads,” Metz writes, adding:
“They will stop for long periods of time in the open with minimal dispersion. They will not effectively use their dismounted infantry and will likely leave them in the back of vehicles for too long, allowing them to be killed with the vehicle. They also will probably make little use of tactical formations and will not use terrain to their advantage.”
All units make mistakes during their time at the JMRC, according to Metz.
The shortcomings evident in units that visit the facility come rather from deficiencies in training they do at home.
“The problem is that they are making mistakes because they have not trained as a platoon or company,” Metz states.
A multitude of factors outside the control of commanders limits the time and resources they can devote to small-unit training.
This has resulted in the longstanding problem of a “deluge of requirements,” Metz writes, citing a 2015 report that “makes the case that the Army overtasks subordinates to such a level that it is impossible for Army units and Army leaders to do everything they are tasked to do.”
US Army paratroopers finish boarding an Air Force C-17 Globemaster III aircraft loaded with a heavy-drop-rigged Humvee for a night jump onto Malemute Drop Zone, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Photo courtesy of the US Army.
The problem is a deep-rooted one and will take some time to correct, requiring a cultural change starting at the highest levels of the Army’s leadership, Metz writes.
Gen. Mark Milley, the Army’s chief of staff, told the Senate this month that the Army, like the Air Force, is also suffering from a lack of personnel.
He told the Senate Appropriations’ defense subcommittee that the service’s portion of US defense strategy, the Army needs an active component of 540,000 to 550,000. That active component is now 476,000.
A US soldier, left, and a US Army Interpreter look over a map with an Iraqi army soldier before starting a cordon and search in the Ninewa Forest in Mosul, Iraq, June 8, 2008. US Army/Pfc. Sarah De Boise
Though the US armed forces maintains definite advantages over peers and other forces in technology, training, and capabilities, years of operations and, according to many officials, reductions in funding have imperiled the US military’s ability overcome opponents and fulfill its missions.
“In just a few years, if we don’t change our trajectory, we will lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage,” Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee earlier this June.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has spent the last two years transforming how it interacts with veterans, taking the best ideas from all over (including the business world) to upgrade your customer experience. Here are nine improvements — big and small — you may not believe.
1. A new call number that’s easy to remember.
Can’t remember which of our more than 1000 phone numbers to call? Me neither. Now, we only have to call one phone number: 1-844-MyVA311. The number will route you to the right place. If you do know the right number to call, you can still call that number.
2. Someone to actually answer your call.
The only number I can ever remember is number for disability claims and other benefits. Believe it or not, people are actually answering the phone now, on average in under five minutes. Employees in some of our contact centers report veterans temporarily forgetting why they called because they are stunned by how quickly someone answered the phone.
3. One call does it all.
Veterans in crisis are no longer asked to hang up and dial the Veterans Crisis Line. This month our medical centers, benefits line and MyVA311 will automatically connect callers to the Veterans Crisis Line if they “press 7.”
4. Total online resource.
Working toward one website and logon – Vets.gov – that now lets you discover, apply for, track, and manage the benefits you have earned, all in one place. One site, one username, one password. Track the status of your disability claim, apply for your GI Bill, and enroll in health care, on a site that’s mobile-first, accessible (508 compliant) and designed based on Veteran feedback. All Veteran-facing features will be migrated to vets.gov by April 2017!
5. Now you can actually find your service center.
Have you ever tried to use the VA.gov facility locator? If you have, you know it was essentially an address that you had to copy and paste into Google maps and hope for the best.
Now, we have one on Vets.gov that uses Google maps — and provides an initial set of VA services at those facilities. Try it here.
Additionally, maps are notoriously bad at being accessible to screen readers, but the Vets.gov facility locator is accessible and has been tested with blind and low vision veterans.
6. There’s an app for that.
Veterans can call or text the VCL with just one click from a mobile device using vets.gov.
7. No more waiting.
When you’re sick or in pain, you really want to see a doctor that day and now you can. Same-day appointments in our clinics are available when a provider determines a veteran has an urgent or emergent need that must be addressed immediately.
8. Claims are processed faster.
In 2012, some received disability claim decisions after more than two years. Now, after a series of people, process and technology changes, claims take an average of 123 days to complete. But VA is taking it a step further, looking at how it can improve veterans experiences around the compensation exam.
9. Taking out the middleman.
Need hearing aids or glasses? No need to see your primary care physician just to get a referral. Go ahead and make an appointment directly with both optometry and audiology.
These are just nine ways the VA is joining the modern world to better serve you. Watch for more.
In the final six months of World War II, the 104th Division — “The Frontier Division” — launched a series of night attacks against German troops while equipped with only empty rifles, bayonets, and grenades, slicing and exploding their way through enemy lines on the drive to Berlin.
The 104th Division was stood up in Oregon on Sep. 15, 1942, around the same time that its future commander, Maj. Gen. Terry “Terrible Terry” Allen, was loading the 1st Inf. Division into ships for the invasion of North Africa.
One of Allen’s big takeaways from commanding the 1st in Tunisia was that night attacks were generally less costly than daytime assaults, especially against fortifications and massed guns. So, when he handed the 1st over to Maj. Gen. Clarence R. Huebner and was sent to take over the 104th, he insisted that the Frontier Division learn to fight at night.
According to a 1946 news article about the Division, Allen required the men to train 30-35 hours a week at night, well above the Army standard of eight to 12 hours.
After training in the U.S. and England, the 104th finally landed in France in September 1944 and was sent to Antwerp a month later to help capture the port there. In two weeks of bloody fighting that included multiple night assaults, the Timberwolves worked with the Canadians and British to eliminate Nazi defenses.
Even when the “Nightfighters” had rifle ammunition and permission to use it, they seemed to prefer their bayonets and explosives, likely in a bid to reduce tell-tale muzzle flashes that would give away their position.
During the Battle of the Dykes near Antwerp, then-1st Lt. Cecil Bolton tried to use mortars to knock out enemy machine gun positions raining fire on his unit. After being knocked unconscious by German artillery, he awoke and led a two-man volunteer bazooka team against the German lines by sneaking through chest-deep, nearly frozen water in the canals to the enemy positions.
The night attacks were usually reserved for positions in relatively open terrain, but were sometimes conducted against cities. The city of Eschweiler was captured in November thanks to a pre-dawn insertion of troops into the city center. Those men raised hell inside German lines at sunrise while the rest of their unit attacked from the outside.
The second phase, involving the crossing of the Inde River and the advance to the Roer, was even more difficult, but with characteristic skill and dash, in a series of brilliant night attacks, the 104th Division forced a crossing of the Inde, and in a few days had cleared its entire sector to the Roer River. I regard the operation which involved the seizure of Lamersdorf-Inden-Luchererg as one of the finest single pieces of work accomplished by any unit of the 7th Corps since D Day.
On April 26, the 104th met up with Russian troops that had been pushing the Germans west from Moscow. The Allied forces continued to hunt German units until May 5 when they ran out of Nazis to fight. Thus ended 195 days and nights of continuous combat, some of it conducted at night against machinegun nests and artillery positions by attackers armed only with blades and grenades.
On May 12, 2018, two U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets were launched from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, to intercept and visually identify two Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers flying off Alaska, north of the Aleutian Islands, in the ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone).
ADIZs may extend beyond a country’s territory to give the country more time to respond to possible hostile aircraft: in fact any aircraft flying inside these zones without authorization may be identified as a threat and treated as an enemy aircraft, leading to an interception and VID (Visual Identification) by fighter aircraft.
According to NORAD, the Russians were “intercepted and monitored by the F-22s until the bombers left the ADIZ along the Aleutian Island chain heading west,” and, as usual, remained in international airspace.
Nothing special then, considered that these close encounters occur every now and then, as reported in 2017.
What’s a bit more interesting this time is the fact that the Russian Air Force has released some details and footage about the training activities conducted by its long range bombers. During the last round of “winter period” training, five long range missions were launched involving strategic missile carriers Tu-160 and Tu-95MS, as well as long-range Tu-22M3 bombers: these flights brought the Russian aircraft over the Pacific, the Arctic Ocean, Japan, East China, Black, Barents, Norwegian, Northern, Bering and Okhotsk Seas.
On May 12, 2018 mission off Alaska, the F-22s (that were filmed while shadowing the Bear, as the clip below shows) remained with the Tu-95s for 40 minutes.
“As for the last such flight, only one pair of US Air Force F-22 fighters have escorted our aircraft. Just one, it says that a certain effect of surprise has worked. Usually, during the execution of such flights, we are escorted to five or seven aircraft, while escorts are carried out by fighters of various states. I want to note that during this flight no one intercepted anyone. US Air Force planes accompanied our aircraft in the airspace over neutral waters. The pilots acted in the air correctly. No violations were recorded,” said commander of long-range aviation Lieutenant-General Sergei Kobylash in an article published by Zvezda.
While it’s somehow hard to believe that the large strategic bombers caught someone by surprise, the video is interesting, especially the short part where you can see a pair of F-22s from the window of a Russian Bear.
This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.
For many service members, especially those stationed overseas, mail can be a lifeline to family, friends, and feeling connected to home. For those stationed within U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa, there is a team of Airmen dedicated to providing timely, cost effective, and efficient mail services.
The USAFE-AFAFRICA Air Postal Squadron represents the major command as the single point of contact for Air Force postal matters. The squadron provides policy, procedures, and guidance for all USAFE-AFAFRICA postal operating locations and exercises command of aerial mail terminals assigned to the USAFE-AFAFRICA AIRPS.
In a nutshell, the squadron ensures all mail travelling to and from the major command is transported by the fastest and most reliable means possible, while also ensuring delivery to the proper destination. These Airmen use their skills to bridge the distance between service members stationed in Europe and their loved ones.
“Our mission is essentially to get your mail to you,” said Staff Sgt. Dereth Worrell, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS noncommissioned officer in charge of command postal transportation. “What my flight does, as we like to put it, if the post offices in the [U.S.] and Army Post Offices here are A and Z, we cover everything from B to Y. We set up things like how your mail moves, what it takes to move, or should a new APO open.”
The AIRPS postal transportation flight validated a total volume of approximately 40 million pounds of inbound and outbound mail moved from Sept. 1, 2016 to Sept. 1, 2017.
The journey a package undergoes to reach its final destination is a long process requiring many moving parts. Once a package is dropped off at a local post office in the states, it is shipped to a U.S. Postal Service sorting facility in Chicago, within the O’Hare International Airport, that is two football fields long. This facility processes Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express Military Service going overseas, whether it’s civilian, military, or Department of State. Joint Military Postal Activity military personnel are assigned as liaisons to the USPS at the Chicago mail sorting facility.
At the sorting plant, mail is sorted and loaded onto commercial aircraft flying to one of three main hubs for military mail in Frankfurt, Germany, London, and Istanbul. However, for military post offices in Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands, mail can also be shipped to a USPS sorting facility in Jersey City, New Jersey, to a facility that processes retail ground and space available mail destined for APOs in those three countries.
“No one really thinks about the transportation aspect,” Worrell said. “They think, ‘Oh, I ordered this or my friends or family sent me this, and two weeks later it shows up in my box.’ It takes a lot of work. You’re dealing with so many entities and factors that can change everything, such as weather or civil disturbances. Waiting two and half weeks to get something isn’t that bad considering everything that box has to go through in order to get to you.”
The squadron has detachments at the hubs, for which the air postal squadron provides the tools, resources, policy, and oversight while adhering to postal policies outlined by USPS, the Air Force, Military Postal Service Agency, and the Air Force and Army major commands in Europe. They also manage mail movement to include the monitoring of Department of Defense official and personal mail in military and commercial transportation channels.While most mail handling is done by contractors, the Airmen in the detachments oversee the offloading, inspecting, sorting, and loading onto trucks the mail undergoes.
“My favorite part was when I was working at the air mail terminal in Turkey and actually seeing everything move, getting to load up the trucks, make sure everything was there and sending it off,” Worrell said. “It was very physical, and yes you were pretty much doing the same thing every day – I pick up box, I move box – but it was eye-opening.”
The Air Force works hand-in-hand with the Army to deliver mail throughout Europe. The Air Force is in charge of air transportation, but once all the packages and letters have been loaded into their respective trucks, the Army takes over the ground transportation.
“Mail is a very significant component of morale and greater morale has proven to be a major contributor to Airmen productivity,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Sartain, USAFE AFAFRICA AIRPS functional area manager. “Happy folks are better working folks. We are directly contributing to the delivery of Grandma’s cookies to the Airman who’s never been overseas.”
USAFE AFRICA AIRPS not only handles the transportation of personal mail, they are also responsible for the transportation of official mail throughout the theater.
“Not only do we have a big piece of the personal mail side for every Airman, civilian, and Department of Defense contractor, but we also directly contribute to the mission by ensuring the units have the parts, equipment and supplies needed to execute their missions,” Sartain said. “We’re talking about aircraft parts, communications pieces, things that are very important.”
The air postal squadron Airmen not only provide mail services to those stationed overseas, but when deployed they provide the same services to the military members downrange.
“Mail is appreciated in garrison, however, when you’re in a deployed environment, it’s different,” Sartain said. “When the Airman, Soldier, Marine, or Sailor gets that letter from home that smells like their girlfriend’s perfume, or they get cookies from mom while in a hostile and austere condition, it means more. There’s nothing more gratifying then handing a package to a service member and see their face light up. I really enjoy the deployments, being able to provide that morale support, which at times is crucial in a wartime situation.”
Comedy greats Johnny Carson, Bill Cosby, Drew Carey, and Rob Riggle all started their working lives in the military, and all of them have credited their service for giving them unique perspectives that shaped their routines or approaches to roles they played. And now a new generation of veterans are finding success in comedy.
Here are 15 veterans currently making names for themselves on stages and elsewhere around the country:
1. Julia Lillis
Julia is a Naval Academy graduate who has had great success as a stand up comedian and writer. She has appeared on E! and MTV and is a recurring guest on the Dennis Miller show. Julia has also done multiple tours entertaining the troops overseas.
2. James Connolly
James is a veteran of Desert Storm and Harvard graduate. He has appeared on VH1, HBO, Comedy Central, and is one of the most played comedians on Sirius XM. In addition, he has done multiple tours entertaining the troops and holds an annual “Cocktails and Camouflage” comedy show that raises money for veterans organizations.
3. Jose Sarduy
Jose is currently an aviator in the Air Force reserves. He’s made a big impact with comedy festivals, has toured overseas with the GI’s of Comedy, and currently co-hosts NUVOtv’s “Stand up and Deliver.”
Jon is a veteran of the Army infantry and founder of Operation Comedy, recruiting some of the biggest comedians in the industry to give free shows to veterans at signature venues like the Improv in Hollywood.
6. Justin Wood
An Army veteran turned stand up comic, Justin has performed at major venues throughout Los Angeles, toured with the GI’s of Comedy, and founded “Comics that Care” recruiting comedians to perform for homeless veterans. He recently made a viral satire video of him committing “stolen valor” (posted above).
7. Benari Poulten
Benari is currently a Master Sergeant in the Army Reserve and a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As a comic he has toured with the GI’s of Comedy and was hired this year as a writer on “The Nightly Show” with Larry Wilmore.
8. Shawn Halpin
After serving in the Marine Corps infantry, Halpin has had success as a comedian opening for Pauley Shore, Tom Green, and as a regular at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood. He has entertained the troops performing with Operation Comedy, GI’s of Comedy, and Comics on Duty.
9. PJ Walsh
After serving in the Navy, Walsh has shared the stage with many comedy greats including Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy. He has performed for troops in several countries including Iraq and Afghanistan and is committed to raising funds for veteran organizations.
10. Jody Fuller
Fuller currently serves as a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve with three tours overseas. His performance highlights include a opening gig in front of comedy great Jeff Foxworthy.
11. Will C
Will C served in the Marine Corps, Army, and the Air Force. He has had great success as a comedian touring across the country and has appeared in numerous television roles. He founded The Veterans of Comedy, a group that tours nationally to entertain active duty military and veterans.
12. Tom Irwin
A U.S. Army veteran, Tom’s success as a comedian includes an invitation to perform at The White House. He has done multiple tours overseas entertaining troops and created a “25 Days in Iraq” show about his tour in Iraq.
13. Erik Knowles
Knowles is a Marine Corps veteran turned stand up who was a finalist at the California Comedy Festival and The World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas. He has worked with Sarah Silverman, Zach Galifianakis and also tours with The Veterans of Comedy.
14. Katie Robinson
Katie is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns where she worked as a chem-bio-radiation officer. Known as “Comedy Katie” she is a regular at The World FamousComedy Store in Hollywood and won critical acclaim at MiniFest: Los Angeles.
Throughout March people across the country will celebrate Women’s History Month, paying tribute to the vital role women have played in United States history. Generations of women have courageously blazed trails, broken barriers and fundamentally changed our society. At VA, we are proud to spend this month honoring and celebrating women service members and veterans for their past, present and ongoing service to our country.
As the daughter of a Navy veteran and someone who has had the privilege of working to advance veterans for more than 23 years, supporting women veterans feels very personal to me. My colleagues, mentors and friends are veterans — many of them women veterans. I am proud that here at VA, women are represented at every level throughout our organization. And while studies show that people typically imagine a man when they think “veteran” — women veterans have been around for much of America’s history.
Well before the women’s rights movement came along in 1848, women in the military were breaking barriers to serve our county. During the Revolutionary War, women served in military camps as laundresses, cooks, nurses and spies. Up until World War I, women served as soldiers disguised as men. During the last two years of World War I, women were finally allowed to join the military in their own right. Thirty-six thousand women served in that war, and more than 400 nurses died in the line of duty.
A 1917 recruitment poster illustrated by Howard Chandler Christy.
Today, about 219,000 women Service members are currently stationed throughout the world filling a diverse range of roles from radio operators, translators, and pilots to rangers. Times have certainly changed.
As the number of women in military service grows, so does the number of women veterans. Today, nearly 2 million veterans are women. As the fastest growing veteran subpopulation, women veterans are making their mark. Before 2012, there had been only three women veterans in Congress in history. Today, a record six female veterans hold office on Capitol Hill.
But while the success of our women veterans is undeniable, the explosive growth in the number of women veterans means VA must continue to adapt to better meet their diverse needs — and we are.
I spent the first eighteen years of my VA career in Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VRE) Service — and I know first-hand how essential it is that veterans receive their benefits and services to put them on the path to a meaningful civilian career. It’s our job at VA to anticipate the services women veterans need and to provide that to them.
U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Jessica Domingo, right, and Cpl. Daisy Romero, assigned to a female engagement team.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Marionne T. Mangrum)
For instance, women veterans are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of businesses owned by women veterans increased by 296 percent, to reach a total of 384,548 businesses, up from about 130,000. And the number continues to grow: over the past five years the number of companies owned by women veterans has almost quadrupled.
I hope you’ll take a look at the Center for Women Veterans’ new Trailblazers Initiative, which celebrates the contributions of women veterans who served our country — especially those who blazed a trail for others to follow.
At VA we are proud of our women veterans, and we will continue to work to ensure that we anticipate and meet their needs as they continue to be a vital part of our military and nation. I extend my thanks to women veterans who continue your service every day in big and small ways.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.