On Sept. 10, 2019, US and Iraqi forces dropped 80,000 pounds of munitions on Qanus Island, in Iraq’s Salah-al-Din province, to destroy what Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) called a “safe haven” for ISIS fighters traveling from Syria into Iraq.
“We’re denying Daesh the ability to hide on Qanus Island,” Maj. Gen. Eric T. Hill, the commander of OIR’s Special Operations Joint Task Force, said in a press release, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Col. Myles Caggins tweeted a video of the operation on Sept. 10, 2019, that shows bombs carpeting the tree-lined island from end to end, saying the island was “Daesh infested.”
Air Force Central Command tweeted an additional statement, saying that the strikes come at the “behest of the Iraqi government” and that Qanus Island is believed to be “a major transit hub and safe haven for Daesh.”
A spokesperson for OIR told Insider that ISIS casualties were still being assessed but that there were no casualties for the coalition or the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services. A small cache of abandoned weapons was found on the island, the spokesperson said. The spokesperson said the number of ISIS militants on the island at the time of the strike was unknown.
After the group’s supposed defeat in March, the Islamic State regrouped in Syria and Iraq, partly as a result of troop withdrawal in Syria and a diplomatic vacuum in Iraq, according to a Pentagon Inspector General’s report. The report also blamed Trump’s focus on Iran for the resurgence, saying that the administration’s insufficient attention to Iraq and Syria also contributed to ISIS’s ability to regroup, even though it has lost its caliphate.
While ISIS is not nearly as powerful as it once was — the Pentagon estimates the group has only 14,000 to 18,000 fighters in Iraq and Syria at present, compared with the CIA estimate of between 20,000 and 31,500 in 2014 — it is still carrying out assassinations, crop burnings, ambushes, and suicide attacks.
OIR said that it targeted the area because ISIS militants were using the tiny island to transit from Syria and the Jazeera desert into the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Makhmour, and the Kirkuk region. The dense vegetation there allowed militants to hide easily, according to OIR.
Airstrikes on Qanus Island, Iraq, on Sept. 10, 2019.
The airstrikes, carried out by US Air Force F-35 Lightning II and F15 Strike Eagles, came in the midst of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s new policy to consider flights in Iraqi airspace hostile unless they are preapproved or a medical emergency. That policy took effect on Aug. 15, 2019. These aircraft typically carry Joint Direct Attack Munitions, which are precision-guided air-to-surface munitions.
According to the release, Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Services are carrying out additional ground operations on the island to “destroy any remaining Fallul Daesh on the island.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Just before the end of January 2018, Russia announced that its Pantsir-S1 mobile surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapons system would be equipped with a new type of missile to help it defend against smaller, low-flying targets.
Called the “gvozd” (the Russian word for “nail”), the missile is a small armament designed to take out small targets like drones. The Pantsir will reportedly be able to carry 4 gvozds in one canister, which means a fully armed system can have up to 48 missiles.
The issue of how to combat small and cheap drones that can carry small payloads or carry out kamikaze-style attacks continues to vex global militaries. The terrorist group ISIS has found them to be particularly useful, and in January 2017 saw a swarm of drones attack a Russian air base in Syria, reportedly damaging seven jets.
The Pantsir, known to NATO as the SA-22 Greyhound, entered service in the Russian Military in 2012. Its primary role is that of point-defense, meaning it can defend from low-flying aerial targets within a certain area.
It is armed with two 2A38M 30 mm autocannons that have a maximum fire rate of 5,000 rounds per minute, and twelve AA missiles in twelve launch canisters. The system’s weapons have an effective range of 10 to 20 kilometers.
Conversely, Russia’s S-400 missile system is intended to deal with long-range targets. The system can be armed with four different missiles, the longest of which has a claimed range of 400 kilometers, while the most common missile has a range of 250 kilometers.
The two systems working in tandem provide a “layered defense,” with the S-400 providing long-ranged protection against bombers, fighter jets, and ballistic missiles, and the Pantsir providing medium-ranged protection against cruise missiles, low-flying strike aircraft, and drones.
This explains why the systems have been deployed together in Syria, which Russian President Vladimir Putin has said “guaranteed the superiority of our Aerospace Forces in Syrian air space.”
The Pantsir has also reportedly been seen in Ukraine’s Donbas region, no doubt helping separatists defend against attacks from the Ukrainian Air Force.
Russian air defense strategy
“It certainly makes the system more robust,” Jeffrey Edmonds, a research scientist and expert on the Russian military and foreign policy at the Center for Naval Analyses told Business Insider. “A layered defense is always better than a single defense layer.”
Compared to Russia, the US does not have a point-defense system. Its air defense strategy relies primarily on the Patriot Missile System, the Avenger Air Defense System, and shoulder launched FIM-92 Stingers.
Edmonds says that the reason the Russians have been able to achieve these gains in aerial defense over the West is because the US has not had to face an adversary with advanced air capabilities, and because Russia’s air defense strategy is made specifically to counter America’s aerial superiority.
“For the Russians, in any conflict with the United States, the primary concern is going to be a massive aerospace attack,” Edmonds said.
Operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yugoslavia, and elsewhere have shown that the Americans prefer to use what the Russians refer to as non-contact or new-model warfare — the use of effective airpower to destroy a large amount of targets and winning wars without invading a country.
“Their layered defenses are designed around that threat,” Edmonds said.
Edmonds pointed out that aircraft take a more active and aggressive role in American and NATO strategy than Russian strategy.
“The way we fight, our aircraft are out front. They prep the battlespace for follow-on units,” he said. “It’s almost the opposite for the Russians. Fighter aircraft will be fighting kind of behind the line, not venturing far out front.”
Edmonds also noted that defense against an aerospace happens “across domains.”
“That’s counter-space, that’s GPS jamming, that’s missiles, dispersion, camouflage — there’s a whole host of things that they practice, and capabilities they developed to counter a massive aerospace attack,” Edmonds said.
Has anxiety over the ACFT test set in because you’re not good at deadlifting? Maybe you’ve never even seen a trap bar in your life up until a year ago…
Don’t feel lonely, it’s definitely one of the more challenging aspects of the test that more than a handful of soldiers are struggling with. Getting that 100 point score isn’t too hard with the right training and concentrated effort..
If your plan is to just max out every training session and hope for the best, there’s a good chance you’re limiting your improvement. With a few modifications and techniques, improving your deadlift is possible for almost anyone.
Having good deadlift form not only helps limit the risk of injury but it also helps you develop maximum force and efficiency, which is what you need for this test.
While proper form requires experience, focusing on improving during your training should be a priority.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BsWjbOCF-6m/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “New Year. New Gym. . An easy set of 5 @ 160kg (352 lbs) . I was just reminded on my trip back home that roughly 82.56432% of people suffer…”
It should come as no surprise, but if you want to improve your deadlift, you should perform it as often as you can while still recovering.
Deadlifts are hard, and really, that’s a good thing. If you have to carry, well, just about anything when you’re in the field, you want to be prepared, and honestly, there are few exercises better than the deadlift.
If you’re close to being able to deadlift 340lbs for three reps (a 100 score), then a good rule of thumb is to deadlift heavy every other week to maintain and improve.
If you have a hard time with the deadlift and have a lot of work to do, then doing the deadlift more often will really help.
For the first week, go heavy in the rep range of two to five reps per set. Then on the following week, go a little lighter and allow yourself to work up to six to ten reps.
Even though it’s not as heavy, you’ll still be practicing the exercise and developing the muscle groups that help you perform the lift.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/B06rhimDs93/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “Of course these are deadlifts. I’m not trying to question your intelligence… • I’m starting to save money so that I can buy some TV time…”
If you have trouble getting the weight off the floor, try using deficit deadlifts by standing on a 45lb plate.
Standing on a plate increases the distance the weight needs to travel, which makes it a bit harder. As a result, you’ll improve your ability to move the weight off the ground when the distance shortens during a standard deadlift.
If you have trouble with the lockout, try using elevated deadlifts (AKA rack pulls) by placing a platform under the weight plates on each side. Doing this allows you to overload the top portion of the lift, making you stronger during that part of the lift.
There’s a good chance that your grip is partially to blame for your weak deadlift and there’s a simple test to find out. Try deadlifting with wrist straps and then deadlift without them. If you can lift more with the straps, your grip is lacking.
If that’s the case, direct grip work is a good idea since, during the ACFT test, you won’t have straps.
When you perform many deadlifts without pausing, your muscles rely on a stretch reflex to develop force. That’s why you might notice that your second and third rep feel a little easier than the first.
Even though you can use the stretch reflex during the test, practicing the lift without this reflex in training can help you learn to develop as much force as possible from a dead stop.
When you deadlift, get set up and perform your first rep. Once the bar touches the ground, let go of the bar and completely reset. Then, continue the set.
For a full deadlift tutorial check out my Mighty Fit Plan Deadlift Tutorial.[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjM4H6snBSe/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “New Deadlift 1 Rep Max! . I learned not to let failure cloud my vision today. I failed, couldn’t move the weight on my first attempt at…”
To do this, get set up by gripping the bar as you normally would. Then, pull hard on the bar, but just before the bar leaves the ground, change your focus towards pressing through your feet while maintaining tension on the bar.
While doing this will take some practice, repeated practice will help you initiate the lift with your legs, which isn’t only a safer practice, but one that will make you stronger in the deadlift as well.
It’s no longer just the higher-ranking, saltier NCOs and senior NCOs training young troops. In the world of military photojournalism, veterans who have been separated or retired for a decade or more are returning to teach the newest generations to capture stories on the battlefields.
Some of the military’s most surprisingly underreported jobs may be in the visual journalism fields. Every branch of the armed forces of the United States features teams of correspondents, photographers, and even combat artists and graphic designers.
They go through the same rigorous news writing and storytelling training as any student in any j-school in America. They learn the potential for every medium in visual journalism at the military’s disposal.
One problem with this is that they also have to focus on the fight. They have to learn small unit combat, urban warfare, close-quarters battle, self-aid and buddy care — the list goes on and on — and drill it into their muscle memory, not to mention learning the particulars of their branch of service.
When these young combat camera troops get into active service, they are thrown into an oft-underfunded world of retirement ceremonies, passport photos, and base change of command ceremonies.
Imagine a potentially world-class photographer working a Sears Photo Studio.
When one of these soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen, or Marines gets to where the action is, they need to be able to adequately show and tell the military’s story. It’s not just for history’s sake, it can literally mean life and death for their subjects.
“I had the honor of photographing the last living pictures of soldiers on the battlefield,” says Stacy Pearsall, an Air Force combat camera veteran, referring to the Army units she covered during the Iraq War. “They are still today, my personal heroes to whom owe my life.”
Military photojournalists have since taken it upon themselves to train their youngest and greenest combat troops in the artistry of visual media. These veterans want to turn every one of the newbies into award-winning multimedia storytellers.
It’s not just higher-ranking active duty. Juan Femath is a veteran Air Force aerial videographer. In 2011, he and some fellow Air Force and Army veterans decided to help the military do a better job of telling its own story.
“The photographers in the military have a great culture of older guys coming back to teach the younger troops,” Femath says. “There are so many photography workshops where skilled military photogs come to speak and mentor.”
One such workshop is the D.C. Shoot Off Workshop, run by Navy Veteran and White House news photographer Johnny Bivera.
Bivera uses his professional connections to bring attention to the military photojournalism world, attracting brands like Nikon and Adobe to his training weekends.
“The best speakers, mentors, editors and judges throughout the country volunteer for this event,” Bivera says. “These workshops are for all levels and provide professional development, helping to fill training gaps for our military and civil service photographers.
The weekend-long workshop starts with a seminar portion, covering the most important storytelling and production fundamentals used by civilian media today. These lectures are given by some of the media’s most important producers — many of them veterans themselves — from companies like HBO, USA Today, NFL Films, NBC, Canon, and the Washington Post.
Participants then break into teams and go out to apply the skills they just learned. Each team produces a two to five minute multimedia piece based on a topic drawn from a hat and are given an expert media producer as a mentor to guide them through the process. There is a hard deadline: work submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for awards.
Final products often reflect the experiences and inherent creativity of military photojournalists from every branch of service. They are thoroughly judged and critiqued by a panel of experts who make themselves available to everyone’s questions.
Though the Shoot Off charges an entry fee, the most telling aspect of the Shoot Off is that no one gets paid for their time — not the sponsors, the creators, mentors, or speakers. The fees cover only the overhead costs of running the workshop.
The D.C. Shoot Off Video Workshop, now in its seventh year, will be held May 4-7, 2017. For more information and to register visit dcvideoshootoff.org. It is open to all military, civil service, government, and veteran media producers.
The still photography Shoot Off has multiple dates and is held in Washington, D.C. in the Spring and San Diego in the fall. For more information visit visualmediaone.com.
Have you ever been sweating the details of an inspection or searching the rack at the PX and wondered how your branch’s uniforms came to be? Here are 9 reasons behind the uniforms in seabags and footlockers worldwide today:
1. Why are there three white stripes on a sailor’s jumper?
The three white stripes go back to the U.S. Navy’s origins and the service’s ties to the British Royal Navy. Each stripe represents one of Lord Nelson’s major victories (the wars of the First, Second, and Third Coalition, which included the Battle of Trafalgar).
2. What’s the flap for on the back of a sailor’s jumper?
Jumper flaps originated as a protective cover for the uniform jacket because sailors greased their hair to hold it in place. (In those days showering wasn’t an every day thing.) (Source: Bluejacket.com)
3. Where did a sailor’s black neckerchief come from?
The black silk neckerchief was originally a sweat rag. Black was chosen as the color because it didn’t show dirt. (Source: Bluejacket.com)
4. Why do sailor’s wear bellbottoms?
Bellbottoms are easier to roll up than regular trousers, and sailors have always had occasion to roll pant legs up whether swabbing decks or wading through the shallows when beaching small boats. (Source: Bluejacket.com)
5. Why does the eagle face to the right on emblems?
The eagle on an officer’s crest actually faced left until 1940 when it was changed to conform with “heraldic tradition” that hold that the right side of a shield represents honor, while the left side represents dishonor.
6. Why is the Army Service Uniform blue?
The origin of the blue Army service uniform goes back to the earliest days of the nation when General George Washington issued a general order October 1779 prescribing blue coats with differing facings for the various state troops, artillery, artillery artificers and light dragoons. The Adjutant & Inspector General’s Office, March 27, 1821 established “Dark blue is the National colour. When a different one is not expressly prescribed, all uniform coats, whether for officers or enlisted men, will be of that colour.” (Source: Army.mil)
7. What is the meaning of the symbol on top of a Marine Corps officer’s cover?
The quatrefoil — the cross-shaped braid worn atop an officer’s cover— represents the rope pre-Civil War era officers wore across their caps to allow sharpshooters high in the rigging of a sailing ship to identify friend from foe in a shipboard battle.
8. What does the Marine Corps’ Eagle, Globe, and Anchor emblem represent?
The eagle represents the United States. The globe represents the Corps’ willingness to engage worldwide. And the (fouled) anchor represents the association with the Navy as an expeditionary fighting force from the sea.
9. Why doesn’t the U.S. Air Force have much in the way of uniform traditions like the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps?
The USAF is a relatively young service, having been formed from the Army Air Corps after World War II. That lack of heritage has made creating meaningful uniform symbology a challenge, and Air Force leader’s attempts to improve uniforms have generally caused confusion or been met by the force with a lack of enthusiasm. In fact, at one point in the 1990s the Air Force actually had three authorized versions of the service dress uniform. The result of all of this has been a fairly straightforward (read “boring”) inventory of uniforms over the years.
Most troops take it easy and try to finish up the last things on their checklists before leaving. For most of us, the final weeks of our military service meant it was time to clean gear, say farewells, and hand off duties to the next guy. Many other short-timers, however, mentally ETS well before crossing the finish line.
The last couple of weeks in the military are often treated as a gentle glide back into the civilian world, but some guys take it to the next level and nosedive into laziness while still wearing their uniform. If you’re looking to make the most of your lazy days, use these tips:
Just say you’re at CIF or you’re cleaning your gear for CIF. It’s enough of a pain in the ass that everyone will just accept it.
(Photo by Spc. Devona Felgar)
Do some next-level skating
This is one of the few moments in your military career where it’s perfectly acceptable to focus on you and what you’ll be doing for yourself after you’re out. In other words, treat yo’ self.
Sham, skate, and be lazy. After a long career in the service, you’ve earned it.
Then again, reminding staff duty that you’ve been gone is fun, too…
(Photo by Chief warrant Officer Daniel McGowan)
Remind everyone of your ETS date
There’s a practical aspect to this. Nobody wants to get calls from staff duty asking why you’re not there when you’ve been out for months.
So, be loud about it. Everyone in the unit should know that you’re almost at the finish line — and that they shouldn’t expect sh*t from you.
No more barracks haircuts for you!
(U.S. Army photo)
Start growing that civilian hairstyle
You can’t start growing that sick, veteran-AF beard just yet, but you can start growing your hair out.
It still needs to be within regulations, but nobody will bother getting in your face if it’s just barely acceptable.
Let some other unfortunate soul handle cleaning connexes.
Hot potato every one of your responsibilities
Before you’re gone, you’ll need to successfully hand off your responsibilities to your replacement. What better way to get them used to your workflow than by giving them all of your work?
Divert all work the expected of you from here on out. If you think about it, you’re really just helping the replacement.
Dental is unsurprisingly expensive in the real world. Get as much done as you can while you’re in.
(Photo by 1st Lt. Rashard Coaxum)
Spend all of your time at health and dental
One of the biggest regrets among veterans is not logging every single service-related pain and injury. If you get a nagging ailment it verified while you’re still in, it’s much easier to get taken care of later.
We know — this is a bit of legitimate advice in an otherwise humorous article. If you’re determined to simply waste time, swing by the aid station all day, every day.
The only hard part of the classes is staying awake.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Rachel Kocin)
Actually go to out-briefing classes
The classes can be helpful and you will need to go for accountability reasons, but it’s entirely on you how much you care.
Put in enough effort and maybe take a few extra classes, just to be safe. Your leadership won’t want to stop you from trying to improve your odds in the civilian world.
During World War II, sitting in aircraft hangars at Birmingham, England, were millions of undelivered pieces of mail and packages. Those U.S. service members in Europe took notice that no mail was being delivered and Army officials reported that a lack of reliable mail was hurting morale. It was predicted that it would take six months to clear the backlog in England, but who was up for the task?
In November 1944, African-American women — 824 enlisted and thirty-one officers — were recruited from the Women’s Army Corps, the Army Service Forces, and the Army Air Forces to form the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, or the “Six Triple Eight.” The first and only all-female African-American battalion to be deployed overseas during World War II was organized into a Headquarters Company, for administrative and service support, and four postal directory companies — A, B, C, and D — commanded by either a captain or a first lieutenant. The battalion would be commanded by Maj. Charity Edna Adams Earley, the first African American woman to achieve the rank of lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army.
Retired Master Sgt. Elizabeth Helm-Frazier touches the bust made in the likeness of battalion commander Lt. Col. Charity Adams on the monument honoring the all-female, all-African-American 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion Nov. 29, 2018 in the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Helm-Frazier, of Md., said she knows how important mail is to service members, and she joined the project team to help get the monument funded so that future generations will know that women in uniform also helped guarantee freedom.
(Prudence Siebert, Fort Leavenworth Lamp)
Upon arriving in Birmingham after their initial training at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, the 6888th’s mission seemed simple: clear the backlog of mail bags that filled hangars from floor to ceiling. However, many of the letters and packages were addressed simply to “Junior,” “Buster,” or to soldiers who shared common names such as “Robert Smith.” Also, the hangars themselves were poorly lit, unheated, and cold and damp, with rats making their homes in packages of stale cookies and cakes. The women wore long underwear and extra layers of clothing underneath their uniforms in order to stay warm. The lighting was poor due to the windows being blacked out to prevent light from escaping and alerting enemy aircraft of their location during nighttime air raids. The late Staff Sgt. Millie L. Dunn Veasey stated that there were buzz bombs that came down. “You could see them, and then you didn’t know where they were going to land,” she said. “You had to go get into a shelter. Just drop everything, and just run.”
Members of the 6888th sorting mail.
(The National Archives)
With World War II raging on, the soldiers of the 6888th were given six months to sort and deliver the mail — they did it in three months. The women divided into three eight-hour shifts and worked seven days a week to sort and redirect an average of sixty-five thousand pieces of mail per day, totaling nearly seven million pieces in Birmingham alone. The mail clerks used special locator cards that contained soldiers’ names, unit numbers, and serial numbers to help ensure proper delivery; they also had the duty of returning mail addressed to those service members who had died. The women developed the motto “No mail, low morale,” as they were providing the support of linking service members with their loved ones back home.
Following their three months in Birmingham, the members of the 6888th were deployed to Rouen, France, to clear two to three years of backed up mail. And again, the women completed the task in just three months. While deployed to Paris, they faced new challenges: the theft of packages and items from packages to supply the populace.
French civilians and soldiers from the 6888th sort mail in the spring of 1945.
(U.S. Army Womens Museum)
The battalion was transferred home and disbanded at Fort Dix, New Jersey, in 1946. There was no ceremony, no parades, no public appreciation, and no official recognition for all their accomplishments.
Though there have been exhibits and educational programs about the 6888th, public events honoring the women of the battalion have been few. One of the most prominent events was a ceremony by the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington National Ceremony. Veterans received certificates, letters of appreciation from the secretary of the Army and the Army chief of staff, lapel pins, and decals. The most recent event to honor the 6888th was the Nov. 30, 2018 dedication of a monument located at the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Five surviving members of the battalion attended: Pvt. Maybelle Rutland Tanner Campbell, Pfc. Elizabeth Barker Johnson, Cpl. Lena Derriecott Bell King, Pvt. Anna Mae Wilson Robertson, and Pfc. Deloris Ruddock.
Veterans who served during World War II with the 6888th, (left to right) Pvt. Anna Mae Wilson Robertson, Pfc. Elizabeth Barker Johnson, Pfc. Deloris Ruddock, Pvt. Maybelle Rutland Tanner Campbell, and Cpl. Lena Derriecott Bell King gather around the monument honoring the battalion Nov. 29, 2018 the day before a ceremony dedicating the monument at the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area, Fort Leavenworth, Kan. The women, all in their nineties, are five of seven known surviving members.
(Prudence Siebert, Fort Leavenworth Lamp)
Carlton Philpot, Buffalo Soldier Monument Committee chair and project director, said that the goal of this monument is to “make it unique enough that no one will have to look for it when they come into the park.” With the names of five hundred battalion members and a 25-inch bronze bust of its leader, Lt. Col. Charity Adams Earley, the monument is truly unique. It joins monuments dedicated to Gen. Colin Powell, 2nd Lt. Henry Flipper, the 555th Parachute Infantry Division, the Buffalo Soldier, and others in the Circle of Firsts and the Walkway of Units at the Buffalo Soldier Commemorative Area. As Earley’s son, Stanley, said, “My mother was always enormously proud of the Six Triple Eight. This monument is a statement of the responsibility, determination, and honor, and it is a gift from the recent past addressed to the future.”
Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran said, “When we unveil this monument, what we are really saying is this: Thank you for your service. We respect you and we love you.”
Claims piled up at the VA Regional Office in Winston-Salem, N.C.
A $16 billion effort to give veterans lifetime electronic health records that meshed with the Pentagon’s has been marked by repeated delays and oversight failures that could have put patients at risk, according to reports from the VA Inspector General.
The IG reports released Monday detailed confusion in the overall implementation of the plan and failures to train staff and put in place adequate equipment for the pilot program, such as new laptops.
The first IG report, titled “Deficiencies in Infrastructure Readiness for Deploying VA’s New Electronic Health Record [EHR] System,” looked at how the Department of Veterans Affairs went about implementing the initial billion, 10-year contract with Cerner Corp. of Kansas.
The VA now estimates that the contract, awarded in May 2018 by then-Acting VA Secretary Robert Wilkie without competitive bidding, will now cost at least another billion for management and equipment.
The second report focused on delays and failures in the pilot program, even after it was scaled back from three test sites to one at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Spokane, Washington.
One of the main findings of the second report was that patient safety at the Spokane facility could have been put at risk due to poor preparation for the planned switchover to the Cerner system in the pilot program.
The IG’s report found that the VA and the Spokane leadership failed to hire and train adequate staff to handle the transition, and overlooked the impact on how the hospital would continue to function while the inevitable kinks in the system were worked out.
“For example, online prescription refills, the most popular form for refilling prescriptions at the facility, was identified as a capability that would be absent when going live,” the IG’s report said of the pilot program at the Mann-Grandstaff VAMC. “The OIG determined that the multiple work-arounds needed to address the removal of an online prescription refill process presents a patient safety risk.”
In addition, the IG found that the VA’s expanded program to allow veterans to choose community care — made policy by the Mission Act of 2018 — had suffered as the Spokane facility focused on the switchover to EHR.
“The OIG identified that facility leaders addressed recent in-house access to care challenges within primary care, but a significant backlog of 21,155 care in the community consults remained as of January 9, 2020,” the report said.
Outrage on the Hill
In May 2019, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie identified the transition to EHR as one of his top priorities, noting its potential “to change the way our veterans are treated, but also change the way we do business, to make the delivery of our services more efficient, make it more timely.”
In that same month, then-acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan took a beating during a hearing of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee when he projected a possible four-year delay in implementing the transition.
“I don’t ever recall being as outraged about an issue than I am about the electronic health record program,” Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, told Shanahan.
“For 10 years we’ve heard the same assurances” that the electronic health records problem will be solved, Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Kentucky, said. “It’s incredible that we can’t get this fixed.”
Veterans were suffering “because of bureaucratic crap,” he added.
Over the years, previous attempts to mesh the EHR systems of the VA and DoD have either failed or been abandoned, most recently in 2013 when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki dropped an integration plan after a four-year effort and about id=”listicle-2645875913″ billion spent.
The goal of the new effort to integrate the records was to overcome the track record of failure by the VA and the DoD to meet a congressional mandate to bring their separate medical records systems in line with one another, ensuring a seamless transition for service members to civilian life.
In its overview of the VA’s latest attempt, the IG report noted that “there are tremendous costs and challenges associated with this effort.”
Under the current plan the VA’s legacy information system — Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) — would be replaced by Cerner’s commercial off-the-shelf solution called “Millennium.”
The plan was to have VA’s Millenium mesh with DoD’s electronic health record system — Military Health System (MHS) GENESIS — which at its core also consists of Cerner’s Millennium, the IG report said.
The ultimate connection of VA and DoD’s electronic health records “will result in a comprehensive, lifetime health record for service members,” the report said, improving health outcomes by giving providers more complete information.
However, the indefinite hold put on the pilot program in Spokane underlines the huge challenges ahead in implementing the transition as the nation seeks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the IG said.
The report found widespread failure in VA’s preparations to start up the new system in Spokane.
“The lack of important upgrades jeopardizes VA’s ability to properly deploy the new electronic health record system and increases risks of delays to the overall schedule,” the report said. “Until modifications are complete, many aspects of the physical infrastructure existing in the telecommunications rooms [such as cabling] and data center do not meet national industry standards or VA’s internal requirements.”
The VA’s response essentially concurred with the findings and recommendations of the IG’s overview and the separate report on the pilot program in Spokane.
In his response, Dr. Richard Stone, executive in charge of the Veterans Health Administration, said that the VA was working to correct the problems with infrastructure and staffing noted by the IG.
“I appreciate the concerns regarding mitigation strategies and capabilities of the new electronic health records [EHR] system,” Stone said.
He said that as the target date was approaching for the launch of the pilot program in Spokane, “Secretary Wilkie received feedback from clinical and technical staff.”
“He decided to postpone the Go-Live so that the system can provide the greatest functionality at Go-Live and VHA staff are confident in providing care with the new system with the least mitigation strategies,” Stone said.
Despite an underperforming economy and budget cutbacks, Russia has still managed to keep their place at the forefront of American discussion when it comes to looming military threats, and that’s certainly no coincidence. Russia is keen to make themselves the weapons supplier of choice for nations America won’t sell to, and snagging media coverage for their advanced weapons programs is an essential part of that endeavor.
Unlike the free (though certainly flawed) media infrastructure we have in the United States, Russia’s media is almost entirely state-owned. That means there are no dissenting views or lively debates regarding Russian domestic or foreign policy to be found in their news media, but more importantly to us on this side of the Red Curtain, they employ the same state-sanctioned approach to foreign reaching outlets as well.
Russia owns lots of news outlets all over the world (some of which recently had to register as foreign agents in the United States), and they use this reach to shape perceptions of their military hardware. Stories produced by these state actors then get picked up in good faith by other outlets that know their audiences will love a video of Russian infantry robots storming muddy battlefields and before you know it, Russia’s in the news again… and this time there’s lasers!
Here are just some of the “advanced” Russian weapons that littered American headlines last year… and the ugly truth behind them.
Russian robot tank in action: Uran-9 performs fire drill
Russia pretended their Uran-9 Unmanned Combat Vehicle fought in Syria
In May of 2018, Russia announced that their new infantry drone, the Uran-9, had officially entered the fight in Syria, where Russian forces have been bolstering Bashar al Assad’s regime against Syrian Democratic Forces for years. The drone’s combat successes stole headlines the world over, and one even participated in Russia’s Victory Day Parade last year.
According to Russian-based media, the semi-autonomous combat vehicle comes equipped with a 30 mm 2A72 autocannon as its primary weapon, along with a 7.62 chambered PKTM machine gun, four anti-tank missiles, and six thermobaric rocket launchers. It all sounded really impressive until June when Russian officials speaking at a security conference called “Actual Problems of Protection and Security” admitted that despite footage of it rolling around Syria… the drone tank plain old doesn’t work. Soon after, mentions of the Uran-9 and Russia’s Terminator-like plans for future wars declined rapidly.
Dude’s practically invisible!
Russia announced developed “Predator-style” active camouflage… then quickly forgot
Russian arms manufacturer Rostec also announced a breakthrough in camouflage technology last year, claiming that their new “electrically-controllable material” could instantly change color based on the environment it was in, providing Russian troops and even vehicles with the most advanced and effective camouflage ever seen on the battlefield. This game-changing technology again drew headlines all over the world as Rostec and Russian officials touted an upcoming demonstration of the tech.
Of course, after thousands of stories were written about this breakthrough technology, Rostech never followed through on any kind of demonstration, releasing stills of what looks like a guy in a motorcycle helmet and hockey pads instead. It didn’t matter — by then, the story had already become much larger than any corrections ever would be.
About as far as it goes.
(Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation)
Putin’s “invincible” nuclear powered missile is a national embarrassment
In a speech Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered last March, he touted a number of new weapons programs, but none with as much vigor as the new nuclear-powered cruise missile called the 9M730 Burevestnik. That’s right — nuclear powered. The concept makes some sense: nuclear power offers the ability to travel a great distance on a tiny amount of fuel, and as Putin himself claimed, this new missile would have a near limitless range as a result.
But once again, this concept may make for some great headlines, but in practice, the missile has been a dud. Russia conducted four different tests with this missile between November of 2017 and February of 2018 with the nuclear drive failing to engage in every test. According to U.S. estimates, the furthest this missile has made it so far is 22 miles (under conventional rocket propulsion), and the last test resulted in losing the missile somewhere in the Barents Sea. When this program last hit the headlines, it was because the Russian Navy was still out there looking for it. According to Russia, they had another “breakthrough” this past January, however, so be prepared for a new slew of headlines.
Louisiana’s famous Cajun Navy, the volunteer civilian group that with its small boats helped rescue victims of Hurricane Harvey, wants to assist Florida after Hurricane Irma.
Rob Gaudet, one of the volunteer network’s organizers, spoke Sept 7. to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio to find out how the grassroots group might be of most help.
“They’re ready to go,” Rubio told the Miami Herald.
Irma is not expected to dump as much rain as Harvey, but forecasters worry about storm surge up to 10 feet in the state’s southern peninsula.
The Cajun Navy drove boats into Houston to pick up people stuck in the massive floods — turning into the so-called Texas Navy — but is now back in Louisiana, tracking Irma as it makes its way to Florida.
“There’s already boaters on their way and there already,” Gaudet told the Herald.
Gaudet, a software engineer, founded the Cajun Relief Foundation after boaters came together last year to rescue victims of a no-name flood in his hometown of Baton Rouge. During Harvey, the organization used social media to handle requests for assistance, alleviating crushed emergency responders.
“There’s a team of dispatchers that dispatch the Cajun Navy, that work from their homes or they work from coffee shops, literally taking request off of social media,” Gaudet said, noting dispatchers can be — and are — anywhere in the country. “We use mobile technology that the boaters carry along with them, and so we dispatch them to perform rescues.”
Rubio’s suggestion: that Gaudet’s volunteers, with their shallow-water boats, consider navigating narrow canals in South and Central Florida to reach victims if Irma’s storm surge leaves wide areas unreachable by car or deeper-water vessels.
“Biscayne Bay is like a basin,” said Rubio, a recreational boater himself. “It’s like a bowl of water that’s going to get potentially pushed inward.”
Conspiracy theories usually reside in some pretty dark corners of the internet, but every now and then one will become part of the mainstream.
And conspiracy theories have been around for thousands of years — look no further than Jesus Christ himself for speculation about his relationship with Mary Magdalene. Also, ask anyone with a passing interest in the assassination of John F. Kennedy about the grassy knoll, and you’ll need to prepare for a torrent of information and conjecture.
Keep scrolling to learn more about these historical figures that have been followed, some for centuries, by wild conspiracy theories.
1. The most prevalent conspiracy theory about Abraham Lincoln is about his assassination — namely, that John Wilkes Booth didn’t act alone.
According to the Ford’s Theatre website, there have been plenty of alleged co-conspirators in the plot to assassinate Lincoln, including Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin, the Pope, and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.
2. Amelia Earhart disappeared and was presumed dead after her plane went missing, but some aren’t so sure that’s how it went down.
Earhart, a prolific pilot, vanished in 1937 during an attempted flight around the world. Earhart and her navigator departed from New Guinea on July 2 and were never heard from again. Two years later, they were officially declared dead.
From then on there have been multiple theories surrounding what happened to her. For example, one theory posits that she was captured by the Japanese, because a photo surfaced in the National Archives of a woman’s back that resembles Earhart. Japan denies this.
Another theory suggests that Earhart crashed, was captured by the Japanese, rescued by the US, and then moved to New Jersey to take up another identity, as per the book “Amelia Earhart Lives.”
Unfortunately, the most likely theory is that navigator Fred Noonan and Earhart’s plane crashed and the two were tragically killed.
3. John F. Kennedy’s assassination is another event that’s rife with conspiracy theories.
In American history, there may have been nothing more contentious than the death of JFK in Dallas, Texas, in 1963. You might have even heard buzzwords like grassy knoll, umbrella man, and the Zapruder film. Here’s what they actually mean.
First, the Zapruder film: A bystander at the fateful motorcade happened to be recording footage of the president driving by. Conspiracy theorists believe that the film shows that multiple shots were fired, and that at least one was shot from a different angle than the other three, leading us to the grassy knoll.
The grassy knoll refers to a nearby grassy hill that another shooter, besides Lee Harvey Oswald, is theorized to have been lurking at, and that’s where another mysterious shot supposedly came from.
Another theory, the umbrella man, refers to a man holding a suspiciously large black umbrella on a notably sunny day. As The Washington Post reports, some believed that this man was working with the perpetrator[s], and had somehow converted his umbrella into a dart gun meant to paralyze the president.
4. Many people believe that William Shakespeare didn’t actually write his own plays and sonnets, and was instead just a figurehead.
Could it be true that Shakespeare, the most influential playwright in history, didn’t actually write anything? Potentially … at least 70 other potential candidates have been put forth over the centuries, but a few have become front-runners.
Sir Francis Bacon was the first alternate Shakespeare to be named by author Delia Bacon (no relation). Bacon, unlike Shakespeare, was well-educated, well-traveled, and an accomplished philosopher. According to Delia, the scholar would’ve sullied his reputation if he had openly written plays like Shakespeare’s.
Two other popular theories are that Edward De Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford, is the actual Bard, or that Shakespeare was really Christopher Marlowe. Proponents of this theory, called Marlovians, believe that Marlowe faked his own death in a bar fight, and then began writing in earnest.
5. At least one book has been written that claims “Alice in Wonderland” author Lewis Carroll might have moonlit as serial killer Jack the Ripper.
This conspiracy theory began with a book called “Jack the Ripper: Light-Hearted Friend,” written by Richard Wallace, a “clinical social worker and part-time Carroll scholar,” according to Mental Floss.
Wallace’s theory rests on the idea that Carroll had a mental breakdown while he was away at boarding school, and that he was never able to recover from the trauma. Most of the “evidence” comes from re-arranging the nonsensical passages of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” into more sinister sentences.
6. A persistent theory about Jesus is that he was actually married to Mary Magdalene. This was popularized by Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code.”
One theory about the crucial Christian figure that has had a resurgence as of late is that Jesus was married to — and had children with — Mary Magdalene.
Magdalene was a companion of Jesus’, according to biblical writings, but there’s nothing to suggest that their bond was romantic in any way — or at least, there wasn’t until the Gnostic Gospels were found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in the 1940s.
These gospels appeared to confirm that Jesus and Magdalene were more than friends, and mention him kissing her frequently. However, many people disregard the Gnostic Gospels and don’t consider them a reliable source, and the theory died out for a few decades.
On Apr. 15, 2018, an asteroid similar in size to one that may have caused the 1908 Tunguska Event in remote Siberia flew by Earth by a mere 119,400 miles, just half the distance between the Earth and the Moon — and we didn’t even know it was coming.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Tunguska Explosion, it was a mysterious explosion in the most remote region of Russian Siberia that flattened 2,000 square kilometers of forest. It was the largest explosion in Earth’s recorded history and was one-third the size of the Tsar Bomba, the Soviet Union’s largest nuclear detonation — enough to flatten a large metropolitan area.
And we only knew about it one day before it flew by.
Not this President.
Like something from a 1990s-era disaster movie, President Trump wants to tackle the problem and make the United States the leader in asteroid impact avoidance. Politico reports that Trump wants to spend 0 million toward that effort, which includes unmanned spacecraft that would nudge a small asteroid off course.
NASA estimates there are 1,000 such asteroids close to Earth, what they refer to as “near-Earth objects.” The bad news is that they also estimate there are upwards of 10,000 near-Earth objects that they don’t know about. A growing number of those are said to be the size (or larger) than the ones that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
But the recent near-miss wasn’t an event that required NASA’s intervention. The asteroid 2018 GE3 flew harmlessly between the Earth and Moon’s orbits, continuing its regular orbit.
“If 2018 GE3 had hit Earth, it would have caused regional, not global, damage, and might have disintegrated in the atmosphere before reaching the ground,” SpaceWeather.com reported. “Nevertheless, it is a significant asteroid, illustrating how even large space rocks can still take us by surprise. 2018 GE3 was found less than a day before its closest approach.”
NASA’s California-based Jet Propulsion Laboratory made a model of the orbits of asteroid 2018 GE3, Earth, and other planets in the Solar System, so we can all track where the asteroid is at any given time. Below is the position of the asteroid in relation to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter at the time of this week.
NASA’s next test will use robot spacecraft to ram an orbiting moon around the asteroid Didymos, currently seven million miles away from Earth, in an effort to change the satellite’s orbit. The only thing delaying this test that everyone agrees is a good idea and that we should definitely get started on is Congress, who are waffling on the latest spending bill that would keep this program along with the U.S. government, running.
It could take as long as another three months to pass the appropriations for the program while NASA estimates a delay of six months or more could affect the program entirely, leaving Earth defenseless.
It’s that time of year again: Memorial Day weekend. A solemn moment for the troops to reflect on those we’ve lost along the way and for our civilian friends and family to join us in honoring our fallen.
Now, I don’t fault the civilians who just take the weekend to relax and barbecue as the summer officially starts. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single fallen troop who’d wish to take away someone’s enjoyment. Sparking up the grill and enjoying friends and family is a big part of the American way of life that we fought for — and some paid the ultimate price for.
My gripe is with the complete oxymoron that is the phrase, “have a happy Memorial Day.” It’s just extremely awkward in context. Like, even if someone was a open-bar-at-my-wake kinda person, ‘happy’ and ‘memorial’ just don’t really mesh.
So, I leave you with this… Have a good Memorial Day weekend, however you choose to spend it. Place flags at your local veterans’ cemetery. Crack open an extra cold one for a fallen comrade. Start up the barbecue and tell the kids about the good times you had with your buddy who didn’t make it back. If we’re being honest with ourselves, they all would have wanted us to have a good day in their honor.
Yeah, that wasn’t your typical opener where I practice my stand-up, but I have a feeling I’m not the only one irked by the expression.
Also, here’s a SPOILER ALERT. We joke about the final episode of Game of Thrones in the final meme.