The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Germany, the military’s transgender ban, the diversion of military construction funds to build a wall on the Mexico border — all of these controversial policies and others could be history on Day One of Joe Biden’s presidency.
As soon as he’s sworn in, Biden would have the authority with a stroke of a pen to reverse a string of controversial military and national security policies put in place by President Donald Trump’s executive orders or use of his emergency powers. The Associated Press and major news outlets projected Biden the winner Saturday, although the result still must be certified and is expected to face legal challenges from the Trump campaign.
Various advocacy groups are already lining up to hold Biden to his campaign promises to reverse Trump’s controversial military policies.
In a statement Saturday, the Modern Military Association of America, a non-profit LGBTQ advocacy group, said Biden was expected to reverse Trump’s executive order that effectively banned transgender military service.
“Thankfully, President-elect Biden has pledged to quickly take action and reverse Trump’s unconstitutional transgender military ban,” MMAA said. “Every qualified American patriot — regardless of their gender identity — should be able to serve.”
Trump’s surprise decision in July to remove nearly 12,000 U.S. troops from Germany, shifting some eastward and sending others home, could also be reversed rapidly under Biden’s stated objective to shore up NATO and strengthen partnerships with allies.
The early indicator of how far the new president will go in abandoning Trump’s “America First” policy will be “whether Biden will move to reverse Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Germany,” said Christopher Skaluba, director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council.
“Doing so will be a down payment on ensuring adequate resources are available to deter Russia,” Skaluba wrote in an analysis Saturday shortly after Biden claimed victory.
To the end of shoring up alliances, Biden could also immediately end the impasse with South Korea over how much Seoul pays to support the presence of 28,000 U.S. troops on the peninsula.
South Korea currently pays about $900 million and has offered a 13% increase, which has been rejected by the Trump administration.
Biden has also pledged to move quickly to halt construction of the border wall and possibly move to withdraw the more than 4,000 active-duty and National Guard troops the Trump administration has deployed to the border to support Customs and Border Protection, and Homeland Security.
At a joint convention in August of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Biden vowed to halt construction of the border wall.
By declaring a national emergency at the border in 2019, Trump began diverting $2.5 billion in funding from military construction and counter-drug programs authorized by Congress to the border wall. Biden could begin to reverse that by declaring an end to the national emergency.
Better call Saul… for a ride home, that is. Former “Breaking Bad” co-stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul just debuted a new mezcal called Dos Hombres, an homage to “two guys on a quest.” The actors took to Instagram to announce the spirit, which is made by hand in Mexico.
The story about how Dos Hombres came to be is quite cute, actually. Cranston (who played chemist-turned-drug dealer Walter White) and Paul (who played his partner Jesse Pinkman) were having dinner at a sushi bar three years ago in New York, talking about life and how they could work together again.
“We had the time of our lives while shooting Breaking Bad and truly built a very special bond,” they wrote on Instagram. “Knowing that we couldn’t share the screen for quite a while — our thoughts turned to a new project.”
So the duo brainstormed potential ventures over cocktails. Looking down at his drink, Paul proposed they “do a really special mezcal,” so they began their search. After a “long and crazy journey,” they stumbled upon San Luis del Rio in Oaxaca, Mexico, a small, hillside village known for its rich soil and plentiful rainfall.
“It was on a dirt-road, in a tiny village, hours away from the center of town, we found it and it was perfect,” they wrote. “We looked at each other and just simply nodded. This is it.”
Multi-generational craftsman here make Dos Hombres with a blend of espadin, one of the most common agave varieties used in mezcal production. Cranston and Paul say they’re crazy about the taste and aroma of their product, which includes apple, mango, sapote, wood and smooth smoke notes.
Dos Hombres is currently available for online through Reserve Bar. The delivery service ships exclusively to Arizona, California, Nevada, New Jersey and New York. “Breaking Bad” fans and boozers elsewhere can only hope a bottle ends up on the shelf at one of the 150 best bars in America.
This article originally appeared on Insider. Follow @thisisinsider on Twitter.
Two U.S. military commands involved in buying and fielding new gear for special operators have released a list of what features they would like to see in future military vehicles — and the list shows some serious upgrades for warfighters.
The Joint Special Operations Command and the Program Executive Office Special Operations Forces Warrior released their wish list in a Federal Business Opportunities solicitation. While some of the upgrades they’re searching for are pretty standard — such as more reliable drivetrains and cheaper brakes — these five technologies could be game changing:
1. Invisible armor on civilian vehicles
The document calls for low visibility “Armor materials/panels, etc., that can be transferred and integrated from one commercial vehicle to another with minimal manpower and in a minimal timeframe.” This could allow operators to fortify a civilian vehicle for a mission. Then, if that car is compromised, quickly move the armor to a new ride for the next mission.
2. Transformer vehicles
Spec ops buyers are looking for a chassis that could survive after the car body wears out. In other words, operators would have a truck or SUV that they use for some operations, and after the vehicle gets banged up, worn out, or just stops looking cool, the troops could trade out the body for a new one for cheap.
3. Engine starters and batteries that work at -50 degrees
Batteries and starters that work at 50 degrees below zero would give soldiers confidence that they can always make a quick getaway, even in the Arctic Circle. In addition to delivering power in extremely frigid weather, the batteries should provide electricity for a longer time between charges. This would allow users to run the heat and electronic devices in the field for longer without turning on the engine.
4. Lighter, hidden armor
In addition to the transferability of the armor described in the first entry, JSOC and PEO-SOF are asking for the hidden armor for civilian vehicles to be lighter. This would reduce the low gas mileage and high rollover problems associated with current vehicles using hidden armor.
5. Hybrid military dune buggies
The solicitation calls for electric or hybrid electric vehicle technology for LTATVs. The Light Tactical All Terrain Vehicle is basically a souped-up ATV for light troops like special operators and paratroopers. Now, soldiers want an all-electric or hybrid version of the vehicle that would “increase range, reduce maintenance, and lower the audible signature.”
6. “Low Profile Antennas for Line of Sight, SATCOM, and ECMS”
This is exactly what it sounds like, a variety of antennas that work as well as current models while also being harder to detect. It would allow all vehicles — commercial and military — to be outfitted with more communications devices without drawing undue attention and enemy fire.
7. “Visual, Audible, and Thermal Signature Reduction”
The commandos want vehicles that are harder to detect, track, and target. Quieter vehicles are more difficult to hear, cooler vehicles are harder to see with IR, and better-camouflaged vehicles are challenging to pick out with the naked eye. Operators want all three upgrades.
The U.S. Central Command has announced that two American service members were killed and two more wounded during fighting in the Kunduz District of Kunduz Province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 3.
“On behalf of all U.S. Forces – Afghanistan, today’s loss is heartbreaking and we offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of our service members who lost their lives today. Our wounded soldiers are receiving the best medical care possible and we are keeping them and their families in our thoughts today, as well,” Gen. John W. Nicholson, commander of USFOR-A, said in a press release. “Despite today’s tragic event, we are steadfast in our commitment to help our Afghan partners defend their nation.”
Afghan government and insurgent forces are fighting fiercely for Kunduz District, an area near the border with Tajikistan. Kunduz is a six-hour drive down Afghanistan Highway 76 from Kabul, the country’s capital. The city is one of Afghanistan’s largest.
Dozens of civilians were also killed in the fighting on Nov. 3, according to the New York Times. The incident is under investigation, but it is believed that most of the civilians killed and wounded were victims of an errant airstrike. Both U.S. and Afghan forces were conducting airstrikes during the fighting in Kunduz.
“As part of an Afghan operation, friendly forces received direct fire and air strikes were conducted to defend themselves,” spokesman Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland told Reuters.
“We take all allegations of civilian casualties very seriously.”
The Taliban told Retuers in a statement that Afghan commandos and U.S. troops were on a raid to capture a rebel commander when the fight took place.
Peter Oakley was a British pensioner and widower from Bakewell, Derbyshire, England.
On the Internet, he was known as geriatric1927, or “the Internet Grandad,” a YouTube personality whose long-running show Telling It All consisted of five to ten minute autobiographical videos, including his service as an 18-year old Royal Navy radar mechanic during World War II.
“It’s a fascinating place to go to see all the wonderful videos that you young people have produced so I thought I would have a go at doing one myself,” he told the Guardian in 2006. “What I hope I will be able to do is to just bitch and grumble about life in general from the perspective of an old person … and hopefully you will respond in some way by your comments.”
While that may not seem like a lot by todays standards (Jenna Marbles, one of YouTube’s current top channels, has more than 15 million subscribers), in the early days of social media, Oakley’s stories were beating YouTubers signed by large networks and other brands. People were interested in watching Oakley muse on how the world had changed. His first video, called “First Try” now has almost 3 million views.
Oakley’s discussions on life, war, motorcycles, and more led to a YouTube stardom which allowed the widower to avoid the lonely life of a traditional aging pensioner, traveling all over the world, earning extra income. He was even asked to weigh in on other YouTube phenomena.
Oakley would be diagnosed with untreatable cancer in 2012. By that time, he had made more than 350 videos. His final video, the 434th on the page, was posted on February 12, 2014 and he died on March 23 that year.
His final words to his audience: “In conclusion, I would say my possibly final goodbye. So goodbye.”
The Mustang will appear at the Flying Legends Airshow on July 8 and 9, and then will take part in the International Air Tatoo on July 15 and 16 in Fairford, England. During that show, the “Berlin Express” will fly alongside the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor.
The pilot of the plane, Dan Friedkin, owns one of the largest private military warbird collections in the world. In addition to the P-51, he has also flown the F6F Hellcat, F4U Corsair, Supermarine Spitfire, F-86 Saber, and T-6 Texan, among other aircraft.
“The ‘Berlin Express’ is an iconic war plane that is symbolic of our country’s strong aviation history,” said Friedkin, who’s chairman and CEO of The Friedkin Group. “It’s an honor to pilot this aircraft in the Flying Legends Airshow as we pay homage to the brave men and women who have flown in the U.S. Air Force.”
Friedkin founded the Horsemen Flight Team — an aerobatic demonstration team that flies vintage warbirds — and the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation, which honors the men and women of the U.S. Air Force.
The P-51B being flown to England was originally designated 43-24837 before it was restored and painted to look like the original “Berlin Express.” The 43-24837 plane crashed in the U.K. after its pilot bailed out during a training mission on July 10, 1944.
The “Berlin Express” was famous for a dogfight in which its pilot, William Overstreet, Jr., was engaging a German fighter. During the battle, the Nazi pilot tried to evade Overstreet by flying through the Eiffel Tower.
Overstreet followed the Nazi, flying between the tower’s arches, and proceeded to shoot the enemy plane down. Despite heavy enemy ground fire, Overstreet made good his escape.
In 2009, Overstreet was awarded France’s highest military decoration, the Legion of Honor, for the engagement. He died in 2013. The release did not mention whether or not there would be a repeat performance of the flight through the Eiffel Tower.
Mike Pompeo is the new Secretary of State. President Donald Trump confirmed former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson had been ousted in a tweet, writing that Pompeo “will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!”
CIA deputy director Gina Haspel will succeed Pompeo and helm the CIA.
Before embarking on his career in the executive branch, Pompeo represented Kansas in the House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017. He is a graduate of both West Point and Harvard Law School.
Here’s a look at Pompeo’s career so far:
Pompeo was raised in Orange County, California. He attended Los Amigos High School and played basketball for the varsity squad. “Mike was the type of guy who was just born smart,” childhood friend John Reed told the OC Register.
Source: The Washington Post, Forbes, The OC Register
Growing up, Pompeo said he was influenced by the works of Ayn Rand. He read The Fountainhead at the age of 15, according to The Washington Post. “One of the very first serious books I read when I was growing up was Atlas Shrugged, and it really had an impact on me,” he told Human Events.
Source: The Washington Post, Forbes, The OC Register, Human Events
Pompeo left California to attend the US Military Academy at West Point. He majored in mechanical engineering and graduated first in his class in 1986.
Source: Politico, The Hill, Newsweek
He served in the US Army, ultimately reaching the rank of captain. His service was predominantly spent “patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall,” according to his CIA bio.
Source: Politico, CIA
He left the army and attended Harvard Law School, graduating in 1994. Pompeo was editor of the Harvard Law Review and worked as a research assistant for professor and former Vatican ambassador Mary Ann Glendon.
Source: Harvard Law Today
Upon graduating, he went to work for Washington firm Williams Connolly, before leaving for the business world.
As a law student, Pompeo had initially been “bent on going into politics,” according to Glendon. “When he went into business instead, I felt real regret to see yet another young person of great integrity and ability swerve from his original path,” she said.
Source: Harvard Law Today, The Washington Post
Pompeo left law to found Thayer Aerospace in Wichita with some West Point classmates. The company has been since renamed Nex-Tech Aerospace and acquired by Gridiron Capital.
Source: Gridiron Company, The Washington Post, The Wichita Eagle
Pompeo left Thayer Aerospace in 2006 and became president of oilfield equipment company Sentry International.
Source: Gridiron Company, The Washington Post, The Wichita Eagle
He also served as a trustee of the conservative Flint Hills Public Policy Institute, which has since been renamed the Kansas Policy Institute, according to The Washington Post.
When it came time for the 2010 Kansas Republican primary for the 4th District Congressional seat, Pompeo decided to run. Glendon told the Harvard Law Bulletin her former assistant “… waited until he and his wife, Susan, had raised their son and assured a sound financial footing for the family.”
Source: Vox, The Wichita Eagle, Harvard Law Bulletin
Pompeo told The Washington Post his business experience prompted him to run for public office. “I have run two small businesses in Kansas, and I have seen how government can crush entrepreneurism. That’s why I ran for Congress. It just so happens that there are a lot of people in south-central Kansas who agree with me on that.”
Source: The Washington Post
Pompeo also had some assistance from some allies back from his days at Thayer Aerospace. Koch Venture Capital had invested in his business, and Koch Industries became a major contributor throughout his political career.
Source: The Washington Post, Center for Responsive Politics
In 2016, Pompeo was the top recipient of Koch Industries’ contributions, receiving a total of $71,100 that year. Koch Industries and its employees contributed a total of $375,500 to Pompeo’s candidacies across his tenure in Congress.
Source: The Washington Post, Center for Responsive Politics
During the presidential election, a Pompeo spokesperson said the Kansas representative would “support the nominee of the Republican Party because Hillary Clinton cannot be president of the United States.”
Source: Business Insider, Reuters, McClatchy
Pompeo had an estimated net worth of $266,510 in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. McClatchy reported he earns a $185,100 annual salary as CIA director.
In June, Pompeo told MSNBC that he frequently speaks to Trump about North Korea, saying, “I hardly ever escape a day at the White House without the President asking me about North Korea and how it is that the United States is responding to that threat.”
Source: Business Insider
His tenure hasn’t been without controversy. When Pompeo told the audience at a national security summit that Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election didn’t affect its outcome, the CIA released a statement clarifying his remarks: “The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the director did not intend to suggest that it had.”
Source: Business Insider
When it comes to the State Department, Pompeo is set to inherit an agency in chaos. According to the Guardian, the Trump administration is looking to cut the State Department’s budget by about 31%.
Editors Disclaimer: This is a HUMOR piece…we understand that the subject matter in this piece is a bit taboo and not for everyone. If you are uncomfortable with it, we won’t be offended at all if you choose not to read. We laughed, we may have even blushed just a little…and we imagine many of you will do the same. As with all of the pieces in our ‘Confessions Series‘ the author is anonymous.
I was going to start this by saying ‘let’s talk about the elephant in the room,‘ but frankly I don’t understand that statement. At all. There has never been an elephant in any room I’ve been in and if there was, I’m confident that I would take an epic selfie with it, post it on Facebook, SnapChat it to my friends and do everything BESIDES avoid acknowledging its existence.
So, I’m going to preface with this instead:
Sex. Yup, I said it. Sexual intercourse. We’ve all done it. We are all married so let’s not pretend that any of us are innocent little virgins who don’t get our freak on occasionally. (I say occasionally because I don’t know about you, but no matter how often I do the dirty, my husband insists I never do… So I’m trying to be an equal opportunity writer, oooor something like that.)
As a self-admitted sexually active adult, military life is precisely the opposite foundation for a stable sex life. (Unless you and your spouse are swingers, in which case I’m not judging… I just prefer not to know about it, ok?)
That being said, I’m just going to openly, honestly (half sarcastically because god knows someone is going to get bent out of shape over something I am writing here) make a brief outline of my own, personal sexual deprivation from our last 12 months of deployment. Thank goodness for anonymous confessions, right?
Enjoy. And relax. We are all friends here. Anonymous friends behind a screen. We can laugh. It is humor. See that nice disclaimer at the top?
I think I will send my husband sexy pictures. I will stand in the mirror, strike a cute pose, pout my lips and send them to his email, making his knees weak.
I still send my husband sexy pictures… but I decided to prepare with fake nails, a spray tan, a wax and some sexy lingerie. By this time he has half forgotten what I look like, so I am certain he will be like ‘dang! She really IS naturally hot’.
I caved. I bought my first ‘assistant’. Sometimes a girl just needs more than, well, not having an adult marital aid.
I have started purchasing batteries more frequently.
I am forced to add batteries to the budget to keep myself from spending our car payment on BOB; my Battery Operated Boyfriend.
My friend’s husbands are better looking than I previously remember. Oh come on… looking doesn’t kill anyone. Stop judging me for saying it. You thought it, too. Also… remember that disclaimer?
Ok, forget their husbands, my friends have started looking HOT! Why haven’t I noticed this before? Am I gay? Have I not been naked with a hairy chest in so long that my body is rejecting the idea? Will I be straight again when he gets home? OMG. Who is going to get the couch in our divorce?
Crisis averted. He came home for RNR. I’m definitely still straight…
Maybe I’m bisexual…
BOB is boring me. We might need a break…
I’m going to redecorate the house… not to keep myself busy, but because doesn’t REAR-D send service members to help assemble furniture if your spouse is deployed? (Breathe deep… remember those bold words from my editor: This is a HUMOR piece!)
The swing, leather whip, hot wax, studded paddle, stiletto heels and handcuffs are purchased…why is this welcome home ceremony taking sooo long??? Can we PLEASE just go home?!?
Ok, but seriously, I don’t understand why the subject of being sexually deprived is so taboo between spouses. We should be able to openly admit to each other that we are quivering, shaking and utterly drenched from not getting thrown around by the sexy man/woman in uniform who vowed to rock our worlds forever.
It’s sex… It sucks going a long time without it, especially when you are married, in love and crazy about your spouse. Yes, we also worry every day. Yes, we miss them like crazy. Yes, our kids suffer. Yes, there are a ton of other, more productive, supportive things we could be talking about.
But it’s okay sometimes to laugh, to talk about something taboo… to admit that we are married adults with sexual needs. Sexual needs that sometimes leave us climbing the walls.
This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.
The Islamic State group, responsible for some of the worst atrocities perpetrated against civilians in recent history, appears on the verge of collapse.
After brutalizing residents living under its command for more than three years, the militants have now lost their self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa and are battling to hang on to relatively small pockets of territory in Iraq and Syria, besieged by local forces from all sides. Few, however, expect IS to completely go away, or for the bloodshed in the two countries and the region to end quickly.
Here’s a look at the Islamic State group, the rise and fall of its “caliphate” and what to expect next:
A ‘Caliphate’ No More
IS, which emerged from the remnants of al-Qaeda in Iraq, began its spread across the Mideast in early 2014, overrunning the Iraqi city of Fallujah and parts of the nearby provincial capital of Ramadi. In Syria, it seized sole control of the city of Raqqa after driving out rival Syrian rebel factions.
In June 2014, IS captured Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, from where its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared a self-styled “caliphate,” a declaration tantamount to an earthquake that would temporarily redraw borders and shake up the entire region.
IS promised justice, equality, and an Islamic, religious utopia. But over the next few years, it terrorized people living under its control, systematically slaughtering members of Iraq’s tiny Yazidi community, kidnapping women and girls as sex slaves, beheading Western journalists and aid workers, and destroying some of the Mideast’s spectacular archaeological and cultural sites.
IS also attracted a motley crew of foreign fighters, mostly marginalized European youths and other foreigners who took up its cause. But it alienated mainstream Sunni Muslims, who found IS’ crude interpretation of Islam also spreading in areas far from Syria and Iraq.
Creating a territorial caliphate created a target, and an international anti-IS coalition soon took shape.
The United States launched its campaign of airstrikes against IS in Iraq in August 2014, and a month later in Syria. In Iraq, it partnered with government forces working with state-sanctioned Shiite-led militias as well as Iraqi Kurdish fighters known as peshmerga. In Syria, it partnered with local Syrian Kurdish-led fighters, the Syrian Democratic Forces.
Supported by tens of thousands of US-led airstrikes, these forces drove IS militants from one stronghold after another over the years. The biggest blow came in July when Mosul, long regarded as IS’ administrative capital, was liberated.
In Syria, IS appears to be heading for collapse as the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, or SDF, and Syrian government forces, backed by their Russian allies, are attacking them in separate, simultaneous offensives.
A senior SDF commander on Oct. 17 said his forces liberated Raqqa from IS militants and would formally announce victory soon after clearing operations to remove land mines and search for sleeper cells. Mayadeen, a town in the heart of Syria’s Euphrates River Valley near Iraq’s border where the militants had been expected to make their last stand, fell to Syrian government troops over the weekend.
In northern Iraq, the jihadis no longer hold any cities or towns after their stronghold of Hawija fell earlier this month. Iraq’s army is now gearing up to fight IS in its last territory — the sprawling desert Anbar province stretching all the way to the Syrian border. In Syria, IS still holds the town of Boukamal near the Iraqi border and scattered pockets of territory in the east.
The destruction of IS has come at a devastating cost for both Syria and Iraq, and immense suffering for those who endured the militants’ brutal reign.
The fighting and airstrikes have pulverized once thriving cities, turning them into tragic vistas of crushed apartment blocks, flattened homes and collapsed roads and bridges. In Ramadi, Mosul and Raqqa, the scope of the damage is staggering.
Two weeks ago, the US-led coalition announced it has returned more than 83 percent of IS-held land to local populations since 2014, liberating more than 6 million Syrians and Iraqis in the process. At least 735 civilians have been unintentionally killed by coalition strikes, although activists and war monitors estimate the toll to be much higher.
The nine-month battle to liberate Mosul resulted in the death of up to 1,500 Iraqi forces. At least 1,100 SDF fighters were killed in the battles for Syria’s Raqqa and Deir el-Zour up until late September, according to the coalition.
In the three years since IS began building its “caliphate,” it has killed thousands of people, displaced millions, and worked hard on infusing children with extremist doctrine.
Shifting of Sands
The rise of the Islamic State group and subsequent wars and alliances to bring about its defeat has worsened political and sectarian fault-lines in Syria and Iraq.
It gave unprecedented clout to Kurdish populations in both countries, unsettling their central governments, as well as Iran and Turkey, both battling Kurdish separatists within their own borders.
Under cover of the fight against IS, Iraq’s Kurds seized the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in 2014 — a move Baghdad has now reversed, moving into the city, seizing oil fields and other infrastructure in an attempt to curb Kurdish aspirations for independence.
The shifting and chaotic battlefields in Syria’s civil war, tensions between Kurds and ethnic Arabs, the presence of Shiite militias and government troops in predominantly Sunni towns and cities vacated by IS may lead to more violence.
In many ways, the fight over IS spoils and territories is only just beginning.
All forces battling IS will have to remain vigilant even after they recapture the last militant-held territory. In some ways, they now face an even more daunting challenge.
Hisham al-Hashem, an Iraqi writer and analyst, estimates there remain 8,000 jihadis in Iraq’s Anbar who will melt away “like salt in water” to wait for the right moment to launch their next insurgency or suicide attack.
IS affiliates continue to carry out swift attacks in Egypt and Libya, where the group gained a foothold and which could be its preferred theaters of retaliations. Before it broke away from al-Qaeda and rebranded itself as the Islamic State, al-Qaeda in Iraq waged a years-long insurgency following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, pushing the country to the brink of civil war.
Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made mental health care treatment available to former service members with other-than-honorable (OTH) administrative discharges through two new programs.
One service, initiated in 2017, is specifically focused on expanding access to assist former OTH service members who are in mental health distress and may be at risk for suicide or other adverse behaviors.
The department’s Veterans Health Administration (VHA) medical centers are prepared to offer emergency stabilization care for former service members who arrive at the facility with a mental health need.
Former service members with an OTH administrative discharge may receive care for their mental health emergency for an initial period of up to 90 days, which can include inpatient, residential or outpatient care.
During this time, VHA and the Veterans Benefits Administration will work together to determine if the mental health condition is a result of a service-related injury, making the service member eligible for ongoing coverage for that condition.
A second initiative focuses on the implementation of Public Law 115-141. With this implementation, VA notified former service members of the mental and behavioral health care they may now be eligible for and sent out over 475,000 letters to inform former service members about this care.
The letters (sample follows) explained what they may be eligible for, how long they may be able to receive care and how they can get started.
You are receiving this notification because you may be eligible for services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
Congress recently passed legislation that allows VA to provide ongoing mental and behavioral health care to certain former service members with Other Than Honorable (OTH) discharges, including those who
Were on active duty for more than 100 days and served in a combat role, or
Experienced sexual harassment or sexual assault while serving.
The rate of death by suicide among veterans who do not use VA care is increasing at a greater rate than veterans who use VA care; according to agency mental health officials. This is a national emergency that requires bold action. VA will do all that we can to help former service members who may be at risk. When we say even one veteran suicide is one too many, we mean it.
In 2018, 1,818 individuals with an OTH discharge received mental health treatment, three times more than the 648 treated in 2017.
There was a total of 2,580 former service members with an OTH discharge that received care in 2018 in VHA. Of these, 1,818 received treatment in Mental Health Services. Of the 2,580 service members with OTH discharge, 1,076 had a mental health diagnosis.
Additionally, VA may be able to treat a mental illness presumed to be related to military service. When VA is unable to provide care, VA will work with partner agencies and will assist in making referrals for additional care as needed.
You can call or visit a VA medical center or Vet Center and let them know that you are a former service member with an OTH discharge who is interested in receiving mental health care.
Veterans in crisis should call the Veterans Crisis Line at 800-273-8255 (press 1), or text 838255.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
The Royal Navy’s largest-ever warship is taking another step towards deploying on operations, and is training at sea with military aircraft for the first time.
HMS Queen Elizabeth, the first in a new class of British military vessels, sailed out of Portsmouth Naval Base on Feb. 2, 2018, to learn how to work with helicopters on the open waters.
The huge ship, which weighs 65,000 tonnes, is undergoing tests and training in pursuit of its ultimate aim of launching F35-B Lightning jets from its 280-meter flight deck.
Here are the best images of the departure, and its voyage so far:
This is HMS Queen Elizabeth, making its first voyage as an official member of the Royal Navy. Tugboats steered her past the Round Tower which guards the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour. At 56m tall, the carrier dwarfed it.
The carrier has sailed before, but only joined the Navy for keeps in December, when it was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II in a grand ceremony.
The highlight was an enormous cake shaped exactly like the ship.
Ahead of the departure, two twin-engine Chinook transporter helicopters landed on board, and will take part in the trials.
Here’s how the Royal Navy described the purpose of the exercise:
“The aim of the trials is to work out the conditions that the aircraft can operate in while at sea on the carrier.”
“They will collect data about the landings, take-offs and manoeuvres in different wind and sea conditions, before processing the information and ultimately declaring that the ship can safely operate the aircraft.”
Eventually, 14 Merlins will be stationed on the Queen Elizabeth full-time.
The Queen Elizabeth is the first “twin-island” aircraft carrier in the world. Most carriers have one tower on deck to steer the ship and handle the aircraft, but the Queen Elizabeth split the tasks. They tweeted a view of the assembled helicopters for the read tower, used for flight.
Eventually, HMS Queen Elizabeth ship will carry F-35B Lightning fighter jets, which will launch from its ski jump-style ramp. Here’s an F-35B in action.
In the future, the Queen Elizabeth could also be a platform for drones. Here’s a Northrop Grumman X-47B.
Captain Jerry Kyd, the commanding officer of HMS Queen Elizabeth, told Business Insider in an interview last year that “it’s an absolute inevitability that [drones are] going to be embarked on this ship in the near future.”
The carrier was last seen off the coast of Cornwall, the southwestern tip of the UK. This photo was taken by a local newspaper photographer, showing the ship near the St Michael’s Mount landmark.
Iran says it is holding a U.S. Navy veteran, confirming media reports about a case that risks further escalating tensions with Washington.
The New York Times reported on Jan. 7, 2019, that Michael White, 46, was arrested while visiting Iran and had been held since July 2018 on unspecified charges.
On Jan. 9, 2019, Iranian state news agency IRNA carried a statement by Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi that confirmed the arrest, but did not specify when it had happened or what crime he was accused of.
Qasemi was quoted as saying that Iran had informed the U.S. government about White’s arrest within days of when he was taken into custody in the city of Mashhad “some time ago.”
The spokesman added that White’s case was going through the legal process and officials will make a statement at the appropriate time.
The U.S. State Department said it was “aware of reports” of the detention but did not provide further details, citing privacy considerations.
U.S. Navy veteran Michael White reportedly jailed in Iran
The New York Times has quoted White’s mother, Joanne, as saying she learned three weeks ago that her son was being held at an Iranian prison.
She said her son had visited Iran “five or six times” to see an Iranian woman she described as his girlfriend.
White’s incarceration was also reported on Jan. 7, 2019, by Iran Wire, an online news service run by Iranian expatriates.
White’s imprisonment could further worsen relations between Washington and Tehran, longtime foes.
Tensions have been high since U.S. President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of a landmark nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed crippling economic sanctions against Tehran in 2018.
At least five Americans have been sentenced to prison in Iran on espionage-related charges.
Among them is Xiyue Wang, a Princeton University student, who was given a 10-year sentence for espionage. He was arrested in August 2016 while conducting research for his dissertation on Iran’s Qajar dynasty. Both Wang and the university deny the claims.
Baquer Namazi, a retired UNICEF official, and his son Siamak, an Iranian-American businessman, were sentenced in 2016 to 10 years in prison for spying and cooperating with the U.S. government. The charges were denied by the family and dismissed by U.S. authorities.
Bob Levinson, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent, vanished on Iran’s Kish Island in 2007 while on an intelligence mission. Tehran has said it has no information about his fate.