When someone has diabetes, there’s a constant stream of questions. Did you check your blood sugar? Are you exercising and keeping a good diet? Do you have your insulin handy?
Mary Julius, a program manager for the diabetes self-management education and training at Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center, wants to help educate veterans and their families about how to self-manage diabetes.
Julius broke down the differences between Type I and Type II diabetes.
Persons with Type I diabetes produce little or no insulin.
Persons with Type II diabetes make insulin but there is a resistance to the insulin.
According to Julius, diabetes awareness and education are increasingly important for veterans and their families; “25% of veterans receiving VA care have been diagnosed with diabetes.” Without awareness and education, people diagnosed with diabetes put their health at risk. Thus, veterans who have been diagnosed with diabetes should work closely with their primary provider, but, she emphasizes, veterans and their family also need the tools and education to apply self-management techniques.
Finally, Julius shares how VA has been working on creating a virtual medical learning center for veterans and their families to learn more about diabetes and related topics. Veterans and their families can access this learning site at VAVMC.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Amid growing calls for an end to the seemingly never-ending war in Afghanistan, the President of the embattled country is looking for a political solution to the conflict. Unfortunately, Reuters reports the terror group will refuse to participate in any peace talks until after a full U.S. withdrawal from the country.
American officials call this refusal, “unacceptable.”
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sean Carnes)
“Frankly, it’s Taliban leaders who aren’t residing in Afghanistan who are the obstacle to a negotiated political settlement,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells, a top State Department official in Afghanistan.
In June, 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani successfully negotiated a ceasefire for the Eid al-Fitr holiday, the most important religious holiday for Muslims worldwide. It’s a three-day celebration at the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month during which the devout fast during the day. Ramadan is important to the worldwide Muslim community as one of the five pillars of Islam.
It was the Taliban’s first-ever agreement to any ceasefire since the 2001 start of the war in Afghanistan.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Gregory Williams)
The ceasefire actually lasted longer than three days and was “98 percent successful.” Reports say Afghans across the country, both military and civilian, were “jubilant.” Afghan government forces and Taliban fighters alike hugged each other and took selfies together in scenes reminiscent of the “Christmas Truce” of World War I, during which German and British troops spontaneously left the trenches to celebrate Christmas together in peace.
But, in both cases, the party had to end. In 1914, British and Germans were shooting at each other again the next day. In Afghanistan, the truce lasted 18 days, but fighting soon resumed.
Still, the ceasefire gave many civilians in the country the hope that a negotiated peace may soon be at hand. That includes President Ghani, who says the jubilation and happiness surrounding the ceasefire is proof that the country is ready for peace.
“I am ready to extend the ceasefire anytime when the Taliban are ready,” he said at a press conference.
The Taliban ordered its fighters back to the trenches. The group says a negotiated peace is playing into the hands of the U.S. In response, President Ghani ordered his troops back to the fighting as well.
The Russian defense ministry claims to have killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in a May 28 airstrike in Raqqa, Syria.
Russian forces in Syria launched the airstrike after receiving intelligence that ISIS leaders were planning a meeting in the outskirts of Raqqa.
“According to the information that is being verified through various channels, IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also attended the meeting and was killed in the airstrike,” the ministry said in a statement Friday, according to the Associated Press.
In addition to several senior ISIS leaders, Russia estimates around 30 field commanders and 300 personal guards were killed in the strike.
The ministry claims it informed the U.S. of the airstrike in advance. Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman of the U.S.-led coalition, said he could not confirm the Russian report of Baghdadi’s death.
Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, questions the report as intelligence indicates Baghdadi was in a different part of Syria at the time of the strike.
“The information is that as of the end of last month Baghdadi was in Deir al-Zor, in the area between Deir al-Zor and Iraq, in Syrian territory,” Abdulrahman told Reuters.
Other high-ranking ISIS leaders killed in the airstrike include Abu al-Khadji al-Mysri, Ibrahim al-Naef al-Khadj and Suleiman al-Shauah, according to Russia.
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As the intrigue surrounding the US-North Korea summit gains momentum, theories on where it will be held have prompted an additional question: How will North Korean leader Kim Jong Un travel to it?
While a summit between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in is expected to be held at the truce village of Panmunjom on the border of North Korea and South Korea on April 27, 2018, the location and date for Kim’s meeting with US President Donald Trump has yet to be announced, though reports indicate it could be as soon as May 2018.
It’s possible that Trump and Kim could also meet at Panmunjom, but some analysts have questioned whether Trump may prefer a different setting, like Switzerland, Iceland, or Sweden.
But an international destination may pose a problem for Kim.
As North Korea’s leader, Kim has taken only one international trip, to neighboring China, via train. Some experts told The Washington Post that Kim may not have an aircraft capable of flying nonstop over long distances.
“We used to make fun of what they have — it’s old stuff,” Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst, told The Post. “We would joke about their old Soviet planes.”
Joseph Bermudez, an analyst at the US-based think tank 38 North, added: “They don’t have an aircraft that can fly across the Pacific — most are quite old.”
The analysts suggested that stopping by another country mid-journey to refuel could highlight the limitations of North Korea’s aircraft — and, by extension, its struggle to keep up with technological advances.
Some aviation experts, however, think North Korea’s fleet may include aircraft that can safely make international trips.
Air Koryo, North Korea’s state-owned airline, has two Tupolev jets — similar to the Boeing 757 jetliner — with a 3,000-mile range, the aviation journalist Charles Kennedy told The Post, adding that they have an “excellent safety record.”
Should North Korea’s aircraft pose limitations, Kim would still have other options, said Victor Cha, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“In terms of his traveling anywhere, it would not be a problem — the South Koreans or the Swedes would give him a ride,” Cha, who’s also a Korea analyst for MSNBC, told The Post. “But it would be embarrassing.”
Travis Manion Foundation empowers veterans and families of fallen heroes while striving to strengthen America’s national character. The non-profit was named for 1st Lt. Travis Manion, a Marine who was killed by an enemy sniper while saving his wounded teammates on April 29, 2007.
Today, Travis Manion Foundation exists to carry on the legacy of character, service, and leadership embodied by Travis and all those who have served and continue to serve our nation.
Now, three Gold Star family members are carrying on the legacy of their own fallen loved ones through Travis Manion Foundation. Ryan Manion, Amy Looney, and Heather Kelly sat down with Jan Crawford from CBS This Morning to share how they are working to impact their local communities, strengthen America’s character, and empower veterans.
When asked what they would say to other family members suffering the loss of a service member, Travis’ sister Ryan said, “Your suffering is probably the most horrible thing that will ever happen to you but there is a light ahead.”
Over the past decade, TMF has helped over 60,000 veterans, and it began with a phrase Travis said before he left for his final deployment. “If not me, then who?” He is not the first person to speak those words, but in many ways, he captures the spirit that our military takes to heart when they volunteer to serve.
A testament to Travis’ impact, in fall 2014, at the age of 73, Sam Leonard set out to walk across the country to raise funds for the Travis Manion Foundation. He began in Florida but was forced to stop in Houston when he was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. He sadly passed away four months later. Albie Masland, the TMF west coast veteran service manager reached out to his good friends and TMF ambassadors Nick Biase and Matt Peace, to see if they wanted to help honor Sam by completing the last 1,500 miles of his journey and raise money for the TMF on his behalf. They finished the trek in 30 days at the USS Midway and on the anniversary of Travis’ death.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Anna Albrecht/ Released)
Travis Manion Foundation volunteers help by cleaning up communities here at home, building houses in underdeveloped countries, and inspiring school-aged children growing up in America. The organization is defined by its core values:
Build, Measure, Learn, Repeat
Purpose begins with passion
Out of many, one
We are fueled by gratitude
Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo
Travis Manion Foundation is launching a Legacy Project, with ten projects over ten days beginning April 20, 2018. Volunteers can make a difference in their own communities by joining an Operation Legacy Project.
Firing 155mm howitzers at targets spotted with high-tech drones in order to open a corridor for sappers and infantry to break through enemy defenses is great and fun, but it doesn’t translate easily into corporate skills.
So now, Google is helping make a translator that will match up veterans and corporations.
As companies realize more and more that veterans as a community bring many ideal traits to the business place, such as an accelerated learning curve and attention to detail, there’s a bigger push to hire a vet. So now it’s just a matter of translating “COMBAT ARCHER linchpin; prep’d 4 tms/1st ever JASSM live fire–validated CAF’s #1 F-16 standoff capes” into a resume bullet.
No simple code can define who you are, but now it can help you search #ForWhateversNext → http://google.com/grow/veterans pic.twitter.com/yrrA1SdKqc
First, watch the Super Bowl commercial announcing it:
In one of two 2019 Super Bowl commercials, Google advertised their Job Search for Veterans initiative, where service members can enter their military occupational specialty codes into a google search and find relevant civilian jobs that require similar skills.
“Will a cubicle in the corner work for you?”
By typing “jobs for veterans” in Google followed by the appropriate MOS/NEC/AFSC/etc, they can pull up a more streamlined job search. It still seems to be a hit-or-miss function, but I just assume most computer algorithms get more efficient with time. Remember CleverBot?
I should definitely ask We Are The Mighty for a raise…
Google picked up on my management experience and even though I don’t have a business background, I feel confident that I could go in and land any of these jobs. As an Air Force intelligence officer, however, I have one of the easiest careers to transition into the civilian work place.
According to Nye, “[Public Affairs Print Journalist] doesn’t learn video at all. You know, the 3rd entry in that list. And public relations managers mostly build programs, which is a 46A thing. Editor is arguably within reach for 46Qs. Assistant editor is definitely within reach for good 46Qs. But the rest of these have only a limited connection to what 46Qs actually do and learn.”
Nye argued that it might be the most difficult for junior- to mid-enlisted vets to step straight into these kinds of six-figure jobs, especially given how specific military training is in reference to the equipment used and the culture that surrounds the job. Troops considering getting out will need to make sure they’re developing the skills needed for the target job, because the military “equivalent” won’t be a perfect match.
That might be true, but I would maintain that this gives veterans insight into civilian careers similar to their own. This gives them a place to begin with adjacent training requirements.
I’ll bring it back to the accelerated learning curve. Vets are used to moving around and learning on-the-job training quickly; we’re conditioned to adapt because of our military foundation: discipline, hard work, mission-focused, service before self.
At the end of the day, I appreciate any resource or hiring initiative out there for veterans, many of whom put their careers on hold to serve in the military. Adjusting to the civilian workforce can take some time, but ‘Job Search for Veterans’ seems to make it just a little bit easier — and will hopefully give vets more confidence about the jobs they apply for.
Just keep your quirks to yourself until after you get the job.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has long had a track record of hitting new lows when it comes to atrocities. Well, they also do stuff to their recruits that even Gunny Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” wouldn’t do.
According to a report by the London Daily Mail, ISIS recruits at a training camp in Yemen once lined up to be kicked in the groin as part of their training to join the terrorist group. The image was part of a propaganda video put out by the radical Islamic terrorist group, which has been suffering substantial reverses in its original stomping grounds of Iraq and Syria.
As a result, ISIS is setting up its training camps in a safer venue. Yemen, which has been suffering through a civil war between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed government since 2014, has fit the bill as that relatively safe area for the terrorist group, despite an air campaign carried out by a Saudi-led coalition.
The terrorist group al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, has operated in Yemen as well.
The photograph of the junk-kicks was part of a montage that also showed recruits going through assault courses, doing pull-ups, and taking target practice.
As for why the junk-kicks were included, the Daily Mail claimed that ISIS may have been trying to show how tough their recruits were. But because it was merely a photograph, there was no way to tell if the exercise put any of the prospective terrorists out of commission.
A U.S. Air ForceHH-60 Pave Hawk slammed into a steel cable in western Iraq in March 2018, causing the helicopter to tangle and crash, killing all seven airmen on board, according to a new investigation report.
An Accident Investigation Board report released Oct. 29, 2018, says the Pave Hawk, assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, was part of a two-aircraft formation flying toward Al Qaim, Iraq, on March 15, 2018. The mission objective was to position a helicopter landing zone closer to ground operations, according to the document.
During the flight, the formation refueled from an HC-130 King recovery aircraft. Then, roughly 40 minutes into the night operation, for which “night illumination for the flight was low,” the mishap Pave Hawk, flying in the lead, overshot its targeted landing area, the report states.
It was too dark for night-vision goggles to detect the cables.
The HH-60G “erroneously overflew the intended [helicopter landing zone] and descended to low altitude,” the report states. “As a result, the aircraft descended into an unplanned location, striking a 3/8-inch diameter galvanized steel cable strung horizontally between two 341-foot-high towers.”
Images within the report show the cables to be part of a powerline structure. The towers were roughly 1,000 yards apart.
An HC-130P/N Combat King and an HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter simulate an in-flight refueling during the Aerospace and Arizona Days air show here March 20, 2010.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alesia Goosic)
The co-pilot turned left to avoid one of the towers. But a helicopter blade “struck the second of four” of the 3/8 inch cables, the report said. “The cable quickly entangled in the HH-60G’s main rotor assembly, resulting in catastrophic damage and an unflyable condition.”
The investigation, conducted by Brig. Gen. Bryan P. Radliff, concluded the pilot “misinterpreted aircraft navigation displays,” causing the formation to overfly the intended destination.
Communication on the helicopter’s route and scheduled waypoints was never resolved between the crew and a Joint Terminal Attack Controller on the ground, Radliff said.
“The [mishap pilot] was interrupted multiple times during his navigation duties, including communications with the [mishap wingmen] regarding landing zone plan changes and [mishap crew] requests for prelanding power calculations and JTAC information requests,” the report states.
The conversation continued as the JTAC reiterated that there were towers in the area, but the Pave Hawk was already slightly northeast of the designated landing spot, according to an illustrated diagram in the accident report.
Follow-on waypoints had been incorporated into flight plan as backups should the formation need to divert and land elsewhere. The report says those waypoints could have been the reason the pilot began flying slightly farther north than planned.
The helicopter was traveling at an estimated 125 knots, or about 144 miles per hour, at an altitude between 250 and 270 feet above ground level.
Having witnessed the crash and the illumination from the helicopter’s impact, the second aircraft was able to spot the cables and divert. The second crew called in search-and-rescue forces immediately, the report said.
A U.S. HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopter.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Erin O’Shea)
Radliff said limited visibility also contributed to the crash. Current HH-60G “tactics, techniques and procedures contain a warning stating, ‘electric power lines, unlit towers, poles, antennas, dead trees, and all types of wires are extremely difficult to see while conducting NVG operations,’ ” the report states.
The Pave Hawk has a “wire strike protection system” in an effort to prevent such accidents. Radliff said the post-crash analysis determined “it was not effective because it does not appear that the cable had the opportunity to be pulled through any of the WSPS wire cutters.”
Killed in the crash were: Master Sgt. Christopher J. Raguso, 39, a special missions aviation flight engineer; Capt. Andreas B. O’Keeffe, 37, an HH-60G pilot; Capt. Christopher T. Zanetis, 37, an HH-60G pilot; and Staff Sgt. Dashan J. Briggs, 30, a special missions aviation flight engineer, all of whom belonged to the 106th Rescue Wing at Francis S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base, according to a Saturday news release. The rescue wing is based on Long Island.
Master Sgt. William R. Posch, 36, of Indialantic, Florida, and Staff Sgt. Carl P. Enis, 31, of Tallahassee, Florida, belonged to the 308th Rescue Squadron at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. The squadron, known as an Air Force’s “Guardian Angel” personnel and recovery unit, is part of the Air Force Reserve’s 920th Rescue Wing.
Also killed was Capt. Mark K. Weber, 29, of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Weber was assigned to the 38th Rescue Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia.
The new Karakurt-class corvette — dubbed “Typhoon” — was launched at the Pella shipyard in St. Petersburg Nov. 24, after a short ceremony.
The Typhoon, only the second Karakurt-class corvette made so far, is the latest example of the Russian Navy’s increased reliance on small and heavily armed ships that can carry a massive payload of missiles. Russia plans to make 18 Karakurt-class corvettes in total.
The small vessels, comparable to the US Navy’s littoral combat ships, and known in the naval world as corvettes, were originally designed for use in the littoral zone, the area of water close to the shore. As such, the corvettes are much smaller than the frigates and destroyers that are the traditional focus of navies around the world.
Russia, however, has always had difficulty competing with its rivals in this regard, and now seems to have turned to smaller vessels. Russia used its corvettes for missile strikes on targets deep inside Syria, proving that corvettes are just as capable and threatening as their bigger naval brethren.
What makes the Karakurt-class so potentially dangerous is the fact that it is a much more improved version of Russia’s previous corvettes.
The Karakurt-class corvettes have a displacement of only 800 tons (compared to over 900 for Russia’s Buyan-M class), can operate in the deep sea for fifteen days, has an operational range of 2,500 nautical miles, and has stealth technology that will make it even harder for potential enemies to target, given their small size.
But it’s the Karakurt-class’ armament that makes the threat so apparent. It is equipped with eight vertical launching systems that can carry either supersonic P-800 Oniks anti-ship missiles or Kalibr-NK cruise missiles.
The Kalibr-NK missile has a range of 2,500 kilometers (approximately 1,553 miles), while the p-800 Oniks has a range of 500 kilometers (approximately 310 miles). The Kalibr-NK was the missile used against ISIS targets deep inside Syria.
The ship also has an AK-176MA 76.2mm automatic gun in the front, capable of firing 150 rounds per minute, and can engage targets as far away as 15km.
In terms of anti-air defenses, the Karakurt is equipped with a naval version of Russia’s Pantsir-S1, called the Pantsir-M. It is a combined surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery system that can shoot down targets up to 20km away.
In essence, the Russians seem to have created a small ship that is as fast as a destroyer and just as capable, but smaller.
However, the Karakurt-class may not be the thing that keeps NATO commanders awake at night.
Michael Kofman, a research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses specializing in Russian military affairs, told Business Insider that although the corvette is very capable, its threat level “must be placed in perspective.”
“Russia and NATO are, in some respects, on the same team when it comes to over-blowing Russian military capabilities and engaging in a bit of threat inflationism,” Kofman said in an email.
“It is true the corvettes can hold most of Europe at risk with cruise missiles,” Kofman said. “But conventional cruise missiles don’t do all that much and it would take quite a few corvettes to equal the strike power of even a single US destroyer.”
Kofman also notes that despite its stealth technology and increased seafaring capabilities, it still has lower endurance and survivability in comparison to other vessels, making the Karakurt not cost-effective for any type of ground-attack role.
Rather, the corvette is most likely to excel in an anti-ship role. “It is more than likely intended to venture out and fire salvos at enemy surface action groups or carrier strike groups should they get near Russian maritime approaches,” Kofman said.
However, he said that despite this, the Karakurt-class corvette is a good investment for Russia, saying that “it is an effective platform for fielding long-range, anti-ship weapons, and thus deterring in conflict NATO or US forces.”
Iran says it is continuing to acquire uranium and is close to finishing a plant where it can build more centrifuges to enrich uranium.
The announcement on July 18, 2018, comes a day after Iran filed a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against the United States in response to President Donald Trump’s decision in May 2018 to pull his country out of the 2015 nuclear accord and reimpose sanctions on Tehran.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other hard-liners in Iran have questioned whether Iran should continue honoring its obligations under the landmark deal with world powers after Trump’s decision.
Under the terms of the 2015 agreement — which also was signed by Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union — Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for relief from international sanctions.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
The other signatories have said they will remain a part of the deal. Iran has demanded financial concessions from Europe to compensate for losses caused by Washington’s renewed sanctions.
Khamenei in June 2018 announced his country was preparing to increase uranium-enrichment capacity at its Natanz nuclear facility.
Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, said Iran will continue adhering to the nuclear deal and that the country’s stepped-up nuclear activities will remain within the limits set by the accord.
A spokesman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told Reuters that the organization was aware of Iran’s announcement but had no comment.
Iran says its nuclear program is strictly for civilian purposes, while Washington has accused it of attempting to develop nuclear weapons.
When asked about the current level of savings for commissary shoppers in an era of sweeping reforms, the interim director of Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Bianchi, referred to results of a price comparison survey conducted in 2016 and released in late January 2017.
It showed average savings at commissaries “globally” were 23.7 percent compared to prices at commercial grocery stores. More specifically, patron savings averaged 20.2 percent at stateside commissaries and 44.2 percent overseas.
The same survey also showed average patron savings varied widely across U.S. regions, from a high of 32.6 percent in Alaska and Hawaii to a low near 18 percent for commissary shoppers across the South Central and Mountain states.
Bianchi and staff said it is the regional cost-saving targets that DeCA monitors monthly and, in finer detail, quarterly, to ensure that steps to transform commissaries into more business-like stores are not diluting patron savings.
Price savings by region are being tracked on “a monthly basis via our syndicated data and [on] a quarterly basis via manual shops [of local stores] and using syndicated data,” a DeCA spokesman explained.
The larger price comparison survey released a year ago established a new method for calculating savings that included a proportion of prices for private label or store brands. This irked patron advocacy groups because, at the time, commissaries didn’t sell their own private label goods. The concern was that the timing served to dampen the baseline savings targets set, which DeCA, by law, must sustain forever more.
This occurred long before Bianchi become interim DeCA director in November 2017 to lead commissary transformation while also serving as chief executive of the Navy Exchange Service. Bianchi said he believes the baseline for savings, which use regional price comparisons and private labels, more accurately reflects the real value of the benefit. The previous method, which led to claims that patrons saved more than 30 percent, compared commissary prices against average commercial prices for brand goods only nationwide, ignoring popular private labels.
Steps transforming commissaries include: replacing the traditional cost-plus-a-surcharge pricing with variable pricing based on regional markets; offering DeCA-brand or private label goods as low-priced alternatives to name brands; cutting the assortment of national brands on shelves and negotiating more competitive pricing for surviving brands with brokers and manufacturers.
Patron savings are real and substantial, Bianchi said. “But messaging that, connecting that for the customer, becomes important,” and variable pricing is key.
Commissary savings can get distorted, Bianchi said, when, for example, a shopper walks into a commercial supermarket and the first item seen are bananas selling for 39 cents a pound versus 52 cents seen at the commissary.
“Even though we may be saving them lots of dollars on chicken or other commodities, they get that initial impression and say ‘Hum, am I really saving money or not?’ We know they are. So, part of what I have our team looking at are image items. As we introduce variable pricing, it will give us the capability to compete with those other retailers and manage pricing in the market.”
Patrons need to be made more aware of average savings, Bianchi said.
“So, the part I have to do is message that so they aren’t dissuaded when they see a loss leader item” in a commercial market and think their commissary benefit has lost value. “The value proposition has got to be real and clear to them.”
Readers of last week’s column, which described a sharp decline in commissary sales, reacted with emails. Many blamed falling sales on a perceived narrowing of savings. Other criticized empty shelves and popular items out of stock.
Manufacturers and brokers shared recent scanned sales data from commissaries that, they contend, show variable pricing and private labeling accelerating the sales drop as patrons discover favored brand names are gone.
One industry analysis noted how Duracell batteries were removed from commissaries last year. While sales data show Energizer battery sales climbing, as would be expected, battery sales overall in the commissaries have fallen.
Bianchi said it’s premature to be sounding alarms over variable pricing or the introduction of DeCA brands Home Base, Top Care, and Freedom’s Choice.
Every commissary now has some variably priced items and “initial data suggest customers are responding positively,” Bianchi said. “In fact, we are beginning to get more competitive on the items that are most relevant to our patrons, which we expect will only help our sales performance.
“However, we still have a relatively small portion of the total assortment variably priced.” In mid-January 2018 that total was only 7000 of 38,000 stocked items.
“It is, therefore, too early to draw conclusions about how this will impact commissary-wide sales trends. Initial item-level sales data and customer input make us confident this is the right approach.”
Initial private label results on bottled water, cheese, health care products, paper towels and more also are encouraging, said Bianchi. The goal is to sell 3000 to 4000 items with commissary labels.
“We continue to see sales growth and penetration levels increase, and our customers regularly tell us they are happy to have these low-cost, high-quality alternatives on the shelf. None of the items introduced to date give us any concern for the acceptance of our brands, and we will continue to roll out these products aggressively given the very positive response from patrons.”
In fact, he added, many product categories with private labels “have seen an uptick in sales relative” not seen in product categories without private labels.
Bianchi said he came to DeCA with a lot of retail experience and a fresh set of eyes. He found shortfalls in customer service, expense control and sales planning, all critical for shifting to a profit and loss environment.
“You just have a different perspective” when store expenses are covered by appropriated dollars, he said.
He found commissary shoppers uncomfortable with having baggers handle groceries for tips, Bianchi said, which might explain the popularity of self-checkout.
“How many people carry cash nowadays,” he said. “And if you go to an ATM machine you’re only getting 20s. So, we’re kind of looking at” the bagger issue.
Bianchi said he spent his first months at DeCA focused on patrons, employees and having store partner with commands and local communities. He will turn soon to repairing relationships with brokers and manufacturers who might have felt bulldozed by all the recent changes at commissaries tied to profit and loss.
“Quite honestly, as these initiatives were rolled out, there was probably a lack of transparency, which created some concern and doubt on industry’s part [and] some bad feelings,” said Bianchi. “Some folks are still remaining critical, which I think is a carryover from that.”
Industry reps who also dealt with base exchanges, which have long generated profits, likely were less startled by mindset shift at DeCA, he said.
“The reality is the business model does have to change as we move to a profit and loss environment. We want to create a win-win situation. But I will tell you, from walking floors at commissaries, we [need] an assortment rationalization,” meaning more cuts to the number of brand goods. “So, there may be winners and losers but that’s not any different than the private sector goes through every day.”
The U.S. Army awarded contracts Dec. 17, 2018, to two defense firms to build prototypes of a new lightweight tank to give infantry units the firepower to destroy hardened enemy targets.
The service awarded General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. and BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP with what’s known as Middle Tier Acquisition (Section 804) contracts worth up to $376 million each to produce prototypes of the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) system.
The two companies will build 12 prototypes each and begin delivering them to the Army in about 14 months so testing can begin in spring 2020. The goal is to down-select to a winner by fiscal 2022 and begin fielding the first of 504 of these lightweight tanks sometime in fiscal 2025.
“This capability is much needed in our infantry forces,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, told reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 17, 2018.
MGM-51 Shillelagh Anti-tank missile fired from M551 Sheridan light tank.
“As we close with the enemy, at this time, there is artillery — which is area fires that can be used — but there is no precision munition to remove bunkers from the battlefield and to shoot into buildings in dense urban terrain to allow infantryman to close with the enemy,” he said.
The MPF concept emerged several years ago when maneuver leaders started calling for a lightweight, armored platform armed with a large enough cannon to destroy hardened targets for light infantry forces. The idea was to field it to airborne units for forced-entry operations.
Parachute infantry battalions can be used to seize airfields as an entry point for heavier follow-on forces. Airborne forces, however, lack the staying power of Stryker and mechanized infantry.
The 82nd Airborne Division was equipped with the M551 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle until the mid-1990s. Developed during the Vietnam War, the Sheridan resembled a light tank and featured a 152mm main gun capable of firing standard ammunition or the MGM-51 Shillelagh anti-tank missile.
The MPF, however, will not be air-droppable, Coffman said, explaining that Air ForceC-17 Globemasters will carry two MPFs each and air-land them after an airfield has been secured.
A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III T-1 flies over Owens Valley, California, for a test sortie.
(US Air Force photo)
Army requirements call for the MPF to be armed with a 105mm or possibly a 120mm cannon and rely on tracks to maneuver over terrain so it can keep up with advancing infantry, Coffman said.
GDLS and BAE beat out SAIC and its partner ST Kinetics, but Army officials would not comment on the reason the winners were chosen.
“This is an integration of mature technology. The vehicles don’t exist, but the technologies — the pieces, the systems, the subsystems — they do exist,” said David Dopp, project manager for MPF.
The plan is to conduct developmental testing to assess the prototypes’ mobility, survivability, and lethality.
“So these have a long-range precision weapon system on them, so over … several kilometers, how well do they perform? How lethal are they?” Coffman said. “They are going to take a couple of these vehicles out, and they are going to shoot them with likely enemy caliber munitions. They are going to see which ones can absolutely protect our soldiers.”
The Army then will move into a soldier vehicle assessment followed by a limited user test scheduled for fiscal 2021, Dopp said.
“In the soldier user test, we will execute likely missions that [infantry brigade combat team] will have in full-scale combat,” Coffman said. “So this isn’t driving down the road looking for IEDs; this is American soldiers engaged in full-scale combat.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
A contingent of more than 70 mountain troops from a motorized rifle brigade based in the North Caucasus republic of Karachai-Cherkessia is participating in the Druzhba-2018 exercises, Russia’s Southern Military District said in a statement on Oct. 22, 2018.
The military exercises are set to run through Nov. 4, 2018.
The Dryuzhba (Friendship) drills have been held annually since 2016. In 2017, more than 200 troops took part in the exercises held in mountainous Karachai-Cherkessia.
The purpose of the war games is to strengthen cooperation between the two countries’ militaries and exchange professional experience, particularly in counterterrorism.
The 2017 Dryuzhba (Friendship) drills.
There are Islamist militants in both Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the North Caucasus.
Pakistan and Russia signed a defense cooperation agreement in 2014 that provides for cooperation on promoting international security.
The accord calls for the intensification of counterterrorism efforts and arms control activities as well as strengthening military cooperation and sharing experiences in counterterrorism operations.
Warm ties between Moscow and Pakistan’s regional rival India go back to the Soviet era, but Russia has also sought to improve relations with Pakistan in recent years.