Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care - We Are The Mighty
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Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

President Donald Trump signed a bill April 19 to temporarily extend a program that lets some veterans seek medical care in the private sector, part of an effort by the president to deliver on a campaign promise.


The extension will give Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin time to develop a more comprehensive plan to allow veterans to more easily go outside the VA health system for care. Under the bill Trump signed into law, the VA will be allowed to continue operating its Choice Program until the funding runs out, which is expected early 2018.

The program was scheduled to expire on Aug. 7 with nearly $1 billion left over.

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care
(Photo: VA)

Trump said veterans have “not been taken care of properly” and that the program will continue to be able to see “the doctor of their choice.”

“You got it? The doctor of their choice,” he repeated for emphasis.

Shulkin, who attended the bill signing, has said the money is needed to pay for stopgap services while he works on the longer-term plan. He said April 19 that the plan is due in the fall. Congress would have to approve any changes to the VA health system.

Shulkin said the extension is important because it gives veterans another avenue for care.

“It’s this approach where veterans can get care wherever they need it that really is the way that we’re going to address all the needs and honor our commitments to our veterans,” he said after Trump signed the bill.

The Choice Program was put in place after a 2014 scandal in which as many as 40 veterans died while waiting months to be scheduled for appointments at the Phoenix VA medical center.

The program is intended to provide more timely care by allowing veterans to go outside the VA network only in cases where they had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility. Yet the program itself often encountered long wait times of its own.

Also read: The VA might actually be getting its act together

The new law also calls for changes to alleviate some problems by speeding up VA payments and promoting greater sharing of medical records.

Major veterans’ organizations and Democrats support a temporary extension of the Choice Program, but are closely watching the coming VA revamp of the program for signs that the Trump administration may seek greater privatization. Those groups generally oppose privatization as a threat to the viability of VA medical centers.

Trump had pledged during the presidential campaign to give veterans freedom to seek care “at a private service provider of their own choice.”

Mark Lucas, executive director of Concerned Veterans for America, commended Trump for upholding a campaign promise to make veterans a priority, but said more needed to be done. Lucas said the Choice Program was a well-intentioned “quick fix” to the Phoenix scandal, but that it remains flawed and has forced too many veterans to seek care at what he termed failing VA facilities.

“Congress now has some time to work with Secretary Shulkin on broader, more permanent choice reforms that will truly put the veteran at the center of their health care and remove VA bureaucrats as the middlemen,” Lucas said. “We look forward to supporting legislation that will let veterans go outside the VA for care when they want or need to.”

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz., said more than 1 million veterans have made 7 million appointments with health care providers in their communities under the Choice Program. He said those appointments would have otherwise “lagged” in the VA scheduling system.

More than 1 million out of 9 million veterans in the VA system use some Choice care, with agency data pointing to even greater use this year.

McCain, a Navy veteran, said the extension “sends an important message that we will not send our veterans back to the status quo of unending wait-times for appointments and substandard care.” He said more work is needed, but called the legislation “an important first step.”

Shulkin has said he would like to expand veterans’ access to private care by eliminating the Choice Program’s current 30-day, 40-mile restrictions. At the same time, he wants the VA to work in partnership by handling all the scheduling and “customer service,” something that congressional auditors say could be unwieldy and expensive.

Associated Press writer Hope Yen contributed to this report.

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This aging Russian plane was the Tomahawk strike’s target

The strike on Shayrat Air Base was intended to take out a number of targets, but one plane in particular was top of the list: The Su-22 Fitter.


According to Scramble.nl, two squadrons of this plane were based at the Shayrat air base that absorbed 59 T-LAMs. But why was this plane the primary target, as opposed to the squadron of MiG-23 Floggers? The answer is that the versions of the MiG-23 that were reportedly based there were primarily in the air-to-air role. The MiG-23MLD is known as the “Flogger K” by NATO. The two squadrons of Su-22 Fitters, though, specialized in the ground attack mission.

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care
A pair of Su-22M4 Fitters, similar to those based at Shayrat Air Base in Syria. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to militaryfactory.com, the Su-22 is one of two export versions of the Su-17, which first entered service in 1969. Since then, it has received progressive improvements, and was widely exported to not only Warsaw Pact countries but to Soviet allies in the Middle East and to Peru. The Russians and French teamed up to modernize many of the Fitters still in service – and over 2,600 of these planes were built.

According to the Encyclopaedia of Modern Aircraft Armament, the Su-17/Su-20/Su-22 Fitter has eight hardpoints capable of carrying up to 11,000 pounds of munitions. It also has a pair of MR-30 30mm cannon. It is capable of a top speed of 624 knots, according to militaryfactory.com.

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care
A Libyan Su-22 Fitter – two of these were shot down by Navy F-14s in 1981. (US Navy photo)

The Fitter has seen a fair bit of combat action, including during the Iran-Iraq War, the Yom Kippur War, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, and the Russian wars in Chechnya.

Recently, it saw action in the Libyan Civil War as well as the Syrian Civil War.

While it has performed well in ground-attack missions, it was famously misused by then-Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi to challenge U.S. Navy F-14 Tomcats over the Gulf of Sidra in 1981. Both Fitters were shot down after an ineffectual attack on the Tomcats.

During Desert Storm, the Iraqi Air Force lost two Su-22s, then two more during Operation Provide Comfort.

The Fitter did get one moment in the cinematic sun, though. In the Vin Diesel action movie “XXX,” two Czech air force Fitters made a cameo during the climactic sequence.

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‘Eye In The Sky’ is a thriller that challenges the ethics of drone warfare

Above: An exclusive clip from “Eye in the Sky.”


A group of terrorists huddle in a house in an al-Shabab controlled area of Kenya. Among them are high-value individuals who perpetuate terror attacks throughout East Africa. They pray and then rig their suicide vests. Drones overhead beam the scene to allied forces, but time is running out and there is potential for collateral damage and civilian casualties.

The new movie “Eye In The Sky” tackles this scenario. The allied mission commander, British Army Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), orders a U.S. military drone strike on al-Shabab terrorist organizers and would-be suicide bombers, but her call is made more complicated by the fact that a little Kenyan girl (Aisha Takow) will likely be killed in the strike.

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

The film, which premiered last year at the Toronto Film Festival, shows a unique vision of how calls are made in the heat of battle. From Col. Powell and the drone pilot, 2nd Lt. Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) to the highest rungs of the British and American governments, those watching the camera feeds decide the fates of the terrorists and the innocent bystander. They each make their own arguments in turn as the situation evolves.

The film shows a number of thought-provoking moral questions in the microcosm of this one drone strike. It weighs morality against the tactics of modern warfare. The characters try to minimize the damage done by drone strikes while suicide bombers prepare to kill as many people as possible. The film also questions the value of targeted killings over real human intelligence in the war on terror. But the moral calculus has to be figured out in a hurry. The clock is ticking on this potential strike. A decision must be reached before the terrorists are allowed to disappear into the sprawling city to carry out their suicide missions.

“Eye in the Sky” depicts the divide between civilian leaders and the men and women who conduct targeted operations. Civilian leaders want to achieve political goals but dislike the means by which they have to achieve them. The warfighters have to educate elected leaders on weighing the risks of collateral damage while the civilians have to remind the them about the propaganda value of targeted killings for the enemy. Neither side comes away clean as they argue over the fate of civilians who are otherwise going about their daily lives while this international debate unfolds.

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

The film’s final scene features the late Alan Rickman in his final onscreen role as British Lt. Gen. Frank Benson. In one of his finest moments as an actor, he delivers a harsh rebuke to a civilian Member of Parliament: “Never tell a soldier he does not know the cost of war.”

“Eye In the Sky” is a thrilling nail-biter that also asks questions about the ethics of fighting a high-tech war.

 

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ISIS may be on the verge of losing its biggest asset

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care
(Screenshot Via YouTube) Islamic State fighters at the Baiji oil refinery.


The Islamic State is one of the most well-funded terrorist organizations in history thanks to the tax base it has managed to establish in its vast swaths of conquered territory in Iraq and Syria.

Running operations to maintain this tax base, however, may prove unsustainable for ISIS in the long run.

The militants are quickly racking up more expenses than they can cover, and their oil revenues have been cut by nearly two-thirds due to US airstrikes on oil refineries and the low price of crude, Indira Lakshmanan of Bloomberg reported.

The US has tried to cut off ISIS’ sources of revenue with little success, however: The group has compensated by levying hefty taxes on salaries and businesses, in some cases demanding residents and companies pay them as much as 20% of their income or revenue — 50% if they are employed by the Iraqi government, the New York Times reported.

And after conquering Mosul in June 2014, ISIS imposed a “protection” tax on every Iraqi Christian who refused to convert to Islam. Christians who refused to pay would not receive the protection of ISIS gunmen and could either leave or be killed.

All in all, ISIS takes in an estimated $1 million every day from extortion and taxation, according to analysts at the nonprofit RAND Corporation.

“ISIS makes most of its money from plunder,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider in May. “We’re seeing that over and over again. They go from one town to the next and knock over a bank or several banks and go house to house and extract whatever is of value.”

“It’s a racket,” Schanzer said. “And that’s how ISIS continues to survive and thrive.

ISIS can continue to tax its captive population for as long as it holds territory, but the militants’ wealth is bound to dwindle as holding this territory is in itself an expensive endeavor. Paying soldiers to rampage across the Middle East is not cheap, either — salaries cost ISIS between $3 million and $10 million every month, and the money the group steals from banks is not being replenished, according to Bloomberg.

“It is important to note that as the sources of ISIL’s wealth — notably the money stolen from banks and revenues from oil sales — are either no longer replenished or will diminish over time,” Jennifer Fowler, deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for terrorist financing and financial crimes, said in a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“There are already signs that ISIL is unable to provide fundamental services to the people under its control, which Baghdad previously provided or subsidized,” she added.

“While it’s true they’re the best-financed terror group we’ve seen, they’re still an insurgent group, and they have a lot of expenses.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 weapons Marines will need to attack North Korea

In the event of a conflict on the Korean Peninsula, U.S. and South Korean forces will root and and destroy the regime of Kim Jong-un. The need to properly secure the country’s weapons of mass destruction will necessitate an invasion of North Korea, much of which will come by sea. Leading the way will be the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC). Here are five USMC weapon systems necessary in Korean War II.


5. Amphibious Assault Vehicle

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care
Photo: US Navy Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Julianne F. Metzger

Any seaborne landing by the Marine infantry will involve Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAVs). First introduced in the early 1970s, AAVs carry up to twenty-one marine infantry and their equipment. Their amphibious nature means they can float out of the well deck of a U.S. Navy ship such as Wasp-class assault ships, swim to shore on their own power and disgorge troops on the beachhead. Alternately, it can use its tracks to transport infantry farther inland.

AAVs are capable of traveling up to eight miles an hour in the water and up to forty-five miles an hour on land. They are lightly armed, typically carrying both a 40mm grenade launcher or .50 caliber machine gun. AAVs are lightly armored, at best capable of repelling 14.5mm machine gun fire or artillery shrapnel. This, combined with their large troop carrying capacity makes them vulnerable on the modern battlefield.

4. MV-22 Osprey

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care
Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys fly over the Arabian Sea. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo)

Modern amphibious assaults move marines as much by air as by sea. Aircraft can move faster and farther than AAVs and landing craft, even landing miles away from the nearest beachhead. This vastly increases the amount of terrain enemy forces must actively defend.

A MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft can take off and land vertically like a helicopter, rotate its engine nacelles ninety degrees forward, and fly like a conventional aircraft. This gives it the best advantages of both types of aircraft, all the while carrying up to twenty-four combat-ready Marines, support weapons, supplies or vehicles. The Osprey has a top speed of 277 miles an hour, making it a third faster than helicopters in its weight class. It has range of up to 500 miles—or much more with midair refueling.

In a North Korea scenario a marine air assault force led by MV-22s would land a force miles from the enemy beachhead, presenting the enemy commander with the dilemma of which landing to respond to. After a securing the beachhead MV-22s could lead the way, leapfrogging from one landing zone to another, the enemy not knowing if it intends to land five or five hundred miles away.

3. CH-53E Super Stallion

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care
Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven Martinez, left, a corpsman, and Staff Sgt. Joseph Quintanilla, a platoon sergeant, both with 3rd Marine Regiment, brace as a CH-53E Super Stallion with Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 366 takes off after inserting the company into a landing zone aboard Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California. | U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt.Owen Kimbrel

Until an amphibious invasion force seizes an airfield or port, reinforcements and supplies will have to come in via helicopter. While the MV-22 Osprey can transport infantry, it’s limited in the size and weight of the cargo it can carry.

The CH-53E Super Stallion, the largest helicopter in U.S. military service, is capable of carrying a sixteen-ton load, fifty-five marines or any combination thereof. The helicopter has a typical range of 500 miles, but heavy loads cut that down considerably. Fortunately it has a midair refueling probe, giving it almost unlimited range.

Also Read: The Marine Corps’ new heavy-lift helicopter is bigger and badder than ever

The USMC uses Super Stallions to haul heavy equipment, particularly artillery and LAV-25 light armored vehicles from U.S. Navy ships at sea to a secure airhead. The helicopter is also used to move casualties off the battlefield to medical facilities on navy ships.

2. LAV-25

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

The Light Armored Vehicle, or LAV-25 is a eight-by-eight armored vehicle that mounts a 25mm M242 Bushmaster cannon. The vehicle can carry up to four scouts to conduct armed reconnaissance missions. The LAV-25 is unique in being capable of landing by sea via LCAC hovercraft, under its own power via waterjet propulsion, or by CH-53 heavy lift helicopter. LAVs are assigned to USMC armored reconnaissance battalions and variants include antitank, command and control, mortar, logistics carrier and recovery versions.

The LAV-25’s combination of firepower and portability makes it dangerous foe for those opposing an amphibious invasion. The LAV-25 can arrive by sea or air, and once on location it can quickly roll out to perform armed reconnaissance missions. LAV-25s were recently upgraded to the standard which included LAV-25A2 included improved armor protection, improved suspension, a new fire suppression system, and a new thermal imaging system for the commander and gunner.

1. High Mobility Armored Rocket System (HIMARS)

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care
Firing a M142 HIMARS. Photo by Sgt. Toby Cook.

The acquisition of the HIMARS rocket system in the mid-2000s gave marine artillery a big boost. HIMARS takes the proven 227mm rocket system from the U.S. Army’s tracked MLRS system and puts it on a five-ton truck, providing a firing platform for up to six rockets (or one jumbo-sized ATACMS rocket) at a time.

HIMARS can be quickly moved ashore via Landing Craft Air Cushion hovercraft, and within minutes can carry out precision fire missions to ranges of up to forty-three miles. The Gimler, or Guided Multiple Launch System – Unitary (GMLS-U) GPS-guided rocket allows HIMARS to engage targets with first round precision. Recently, the marines experimented with chaining HIMARS trucks to the flight deck of amphibious assault ships, providing invasion troops with their own long range, extremely precise naval artillery support.

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That time a guy jumped out of a plane at 18,000 feet with no chute — and survived

On the evening of March 24, 1944, a Royal Air Force airman jumped out of his damaged bomber without a parachute.


Not only did he survive, but he landed with little more than bumps and bruises.

His name was Nicholas Alkemade. Or should we say, the “indestructible” Nicholas Alkemade. Born Dec. 10, 1922, Alkemade was a rear gunner on a four-engine Avro Lancaster its crew had nicknamed “Werewolf.”

In March 1944, the crew was on a bombing mission over Berlin, which went without incident. But on their way back to England, the bomber caught on fire after being razed by machine-gun fire from a German fighter. The order came from the Werewolf’s pilot to abandon the crippled bomber, but Alkemade wasn’t wearing his parachute, since the gunner’s area was too cramped for it to be worn all the time.

When he tried pulling his chute out of storage, it was in flames. The plane was going down and he had few options.

“I had no doubts at all that this was the end of the line,” he told Leicester Mercury years later. “The question was whether to stay in the plane and fry or jump to my death. I decided to jump and make a quick, clean end of things. I backed out of the turret and somersaulted away.”

So out he went, headed from 18,000 feet above the Earth to the ground at 120 miles per hour. He lost consciousness during the descent, which would have been the end of this story. Except, three hours later, Alkemade — now safely lying on the ground — opened his eyes.

The RAF Museum picks up the story:

He was lying on snowy ground in a small pine wood. Above him the stars were still visible, only this time they were framed by the edges of the hole he had smashed through the tree canopy. Assessing himself, Alkemade found that he was remarkably intact. In addition to the burns and cuts to the head and thigh, all received in the aircraft, he was suffering only bruising and a twisted knee. Not a single bone had been broken or even fractured. Both of his flying boots had disappeared, probably torn from his feet as he unconsciously struck the tree branches. Being of no further use, Alkemade discarded his parachute harness in the snow.

Though his incredible survival arguably made him the luckiest man in the world, his luck soon changed. He began to blow on his emergency whistle, which got the attention of German civilians nearby. After he was taken to a local infirmary, he was interrogated by the Gestapo the next day.

He told them what happened, and like anyone else would, they basically called bullsh-t.

“You say you fell from a plane, but you have no parachute,” the Gestapo interrogator asked him, according to the Mercury. His interrogators accused him of burying it and being a spy, until he told them to find his discarded harness, along with the crashed aircraft that was nearby, according to the RAF Museum.

The Germans investigated and found he was legit. They even gave him a certificate stating, “It has been investigated and corroborated by the German authorities that the claim of Sergeant Alkemade, No. 1431537, is true in all respects, namely, that he has made a descent from 18,000 feet without a parachute and made a safe landing without injuries, the parachute having been on fire in the aircraft. He landed in deep snow among fir trees.”

Alkemade spent his next 14 months as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft III in Poland, and returned to England after the war ended. He died in 1991.

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You can buy the home of legendary Marine Gen. ‘Chesty’ Puller

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The home of one of the most legendary U.S. Marines ever is up for sale in Virginia.

The former residence of Lt. Gen. Lewis B. Puller — known affectionately as “Chesty” since he was awarded five Navy Crosses, among other military awards — was listed for sale in June for $395,000. It was last sold in Feb. 2007 for $315,000.

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

Puller’s 2,253 square foot, 3 bedroom, 2 bath home is located at 732 Gloucester Rd., Saluda, Virginia. It sits on a 3.37 acre lot.

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

Born in 1898, Puller joined the Marine Corps in 1918 and went on to serve for 37 years, seeing combat in Haiti, Nicaragua, World War II, and Korea. He died in Virginia in 1971, and still remains the only Marine to ever be awarded five Navy Crosses. (Puller is buried just a few miles away from the home in Christ Church Parish Cemetery).

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

Here’s the realtor’s description, via Zillow:

Own a piece of history- the cherished home of Lieutenant General Lewis B.Chesty Puller who was one of the most decorated Marines to ever serve in the Corps. He was the only Marine to win the Navy Cross five times for heroism and gallantry in combat. State Route 33 which is the major dual lane highway through Middlesex County is named in his honor- Lewis B. Puller Memorial Highway.

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

 

You can see more photos here.

NOW: See what life is like for the US Marine Infantry

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The Navy is testing a drone to hunt the world’s quietest subs

The US Navy is currently testing a robotic ship that would be able to autonomously hunt enemy diesel submarines.


Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care
Photo: Darpa.mil

Originally conceived as a DARPA project, the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) is designed to hunt the next generation of nearly silent enemy diesel submarines.

Diesel submarines are quickly proliferating around the world due to their low cost. Russia recently announced that it has launched the world’s “quietest submarine.”

To accomplish its submarine-hunting mission, the ACTUV project is structured around three primary goals: the ability to outmatch diesel submarines in speed at significantly less cost than existing systems, the system’s ability to safely navigate the oceans in accordance with maritime law, and the ability to accurately track diesel submarines regardless of their location.

Tests of the ACTUV have been promising. Defense One reported in March that during six weeks of testing off the coast of Mississippi the ACTUV was capable of autonomously avoiding randomly moving vessels while navigating around natural obstacles.

The next major test for the ACTUV will be having the drone attempt to trail a submarine while other vessels attempt to block it.

Although diesel submarines are not capable of carrying out open ocean operations for as long or as quickly as nuclear submarines, diesel submarines still present the US with an asymmetric challenge. Significantly cheaper and more quiet-running than their nuclear counterparts, diesel subs can enable navies around the world to harass military and civilian transport along coastal routes.

The threat of diesel submarines could increase, as Franz-Stefan Gady notes at The Diplomat, as the next generation of these vessels will feature propulsion systems and lithium-ion batteries, making them even quieter and harder to detect.

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Russian International News Agency (RIA Novosti)

The technical challenges are steep: “Picking up the quiet hum of a battery-powered, diesel-electric submarine in busy coastal waters is like trying to identify the sound of a single car engine in the din of a major city,” Rear Admiral Frank Drennan said in March 2015.

By creating the ACTUV, the US Navy will be able to more accurately track the proliferation of enemy diesel submarines. The transition to using drones for such missions will also ultimately save the Navy considerable resources and manpower.

“Instead of chasing down these submarines and trying to keep track of them with expensive nuclear powered-submarines, which is the way we do it now, we want to try and build this at significantly reduced cost,” DARPA program manager Ellison Urban said at a National Defense Associate Event in Virginia.

“It will be able to transit by itself across thousands of kilometers of ocean and it can deploy for months at a time. It can go out, find a diesel-electric submarine and just ping on it.”

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

NOW: There’s going to a ‘Top Gun 2’ – with drones

MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD aids victims of violence in South America, Yemen

Progress is being made to assist civilians in several parts of the world, including in Colombia and Yemen, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said.

The USNS Comfort, a hospital ship, is now docked in Colombia as part of an 11-week voyage to ports of call that have so far included Peru and Ecuador, said Mattis, speaking at a Pentagon press briefing on Nov. 21, 2018.

Thus far, 14,500 people have been treated by a team of doctors and other health providers aboard the ship from 10 partner nations, he said, adding that it’s an international mission.


Colombia, in particular, needs the aid because there are over a million refugees fleeing the humanitarian crisis and violence in neighboring Venezuela, Mattis said. Other countries such as Brazil, have also taken in a number of refugees.

Mattis said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is “creating a refugee crisis of enormous proportions for our friends and partners … and destabilizing neighboring nations.”

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro

Fighting in Yemen

Meanwhile in Yemen, progress is being made to end the fighting, Mattis said. In recent days, the level of fighting has decreased considerably.

Peace talks will take place in Sweden in early December 2018, with representatives present from the Houthi rebel side; the government of Yemen, under the leadership of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi; and Martin Griffiths, the United Nations special envoy.

Mattis credited Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for being “fully onboard” with this effort.

Also, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are providing relief supplies to feed about 10 million Yemenis for a 30-day period. The aid will be distributed by local and international nongovernmental organizations. This is just the initial effort, he added.

The Saudis also approved moving wounded Houthi rebels to hospitals for treatment.

In Afghanistan, the Saudis, assisted by the UAE, Qatar and others are also working to get reconciliation talks going with the government and the Taliban, he added.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Three decades later: Was the Gulf War worth it?

Twenty-nine years ago, on Jan. 16, 1991, the United States led the massive offensive coalition Operation Desert Storm, during the Persian Gulf War. The forces of this coalition were made up of 32 different countries, all combining efforts to stop and remove Iraqi forces that had invaded Kuwait the year prior.


There were over 900,000 coalition troops; 540,000 of them were American.

The U.S. began its invasion with air attacks that would decimate Iraq’s air defenses, taking out communications, weapons and oil refineries. Then, a covert and classified bombing mission began, known as Operation Senior Surprise. Its airmen were known as the Secret Squirrels.

Seven B-52G Stratofortresses took off from Barksdale Air Force Base in La., flying around 14,000 round-trip miles to launch 35 missiles at strategic locations in Iraq. They would require air refueling over the Atlantic, but all made it home safely. At the time, it was a world record for the longest bombing mission.

The world watched live on TV with CNN broadcasting around-the-clock coverage. General Norman Schwarzkopf and General Colin Powell would go on to become household names in America as citizens watched the war unfold in real-time.

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The battle would intensify when the massive U.S. led ground offense began. Troops on foot would begin the “100-hour ground battle” on Feb. 24, 1991. This attack would lead to a liberated Kuwait in just under four days.

On Feb. 28, 1991, a cease-fire was officially declared, and Iraq pledged to honor future peace terms. One of the terms was that Saddam Hussein would get rid of all weapons of mass destruction. He would go on to refuse weapons inspectors admittance.

The Gulf War was a test in American diplomacy, with President Bush remembering the lessons of the Cold War. The war was backed by public and congressional support when that diplomacy failed. President Bush appeared to struggle greatly over going to war, even writing a letter to his children on New Year’s Eve of 1990 about the decision. It would go on to become the end of this kind of warfare and the beginning of a new era.

The United States lost 382 troops in the Gulf War, and the Department of Defense estimated that it cost the United States billion dollars. The costs to those who served during the conflict were far greater.

Troops returning from the gulf war began getting sick; 250,000 of them.

The illness was called Gulf War Syndrome. A very wide range of chronic symptoms have been reported, including cognitive problems, respiratory disorders, muscle pain, fatigue, insomnia, rashes and digestive problems. The troops were exposed to dangerous pesticides, and the pills given to them to protect against nerve agents would be proven to be part of the cause.

Choice Program temporarily allows vets to seek private medical care

The intent of the United States getting involved in the middle east conflict was to prevent Saddam Hussein from gaining control of Kuwait’s oil, which would have led him to having 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves. This would have greatly impacted not just the United States, but many other countries who depend on oil for their way of life. However, it led to the U.S. becoming even more entangled in foreign politics, which would lead to more war, not less.

The Gulf War didn’t prevent the uprisings in Iraq, and we would end up right back there a decade later, losing another 6,967 troops as of 2019. This time we would attack without congressional approval and the support of the other surrounding Arab nations. We would not have the U.N. Resolution in our pocket or local support.

Nineteen years later, we are still at war. The lessons in the Persian Gulf War seem to have been forgotten. Twenty-nine years after the cease-fire was declared, it begs the question – was it worth it?

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Japanese prime minister pays his respects at Pearl Harbor in solemn ceremony

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met Dec. 28 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to pay their respects to the victims and honor the survivors of the attack 75 years ago that drew the United States into World War II.


Speaking alongside Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe in Honolulu, President Barack Obama reflects on how war tests people’s most enduring values, Dec. 27, 2016.

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Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, Yeoman 2nd Class Michelle Wrabley, assigned to U.S. Pacific Fleet, President of the United States, Barack Obama, and U.S. Pacific Command Commander, Adm. Harry Harris pause to honor the service members killed during the Dec. 7, 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit the USS Arizona Memorial. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Jay M. Chu/Released)

“It is here that we reflect on how war tests our most enduring values,” Obama said. “How even as Japanese-Americans were deprived of their own liberty during the war, one of the most decorated military units in the history of the United States was the 442nd Infantry Regiment, and its 100th Infantry Battalion, the Japanese-American Nisei.”

“America’s first battle of the Second World War roused a nation,” Obama said. “Here, in so many ways, America came of age. A generation of Americans — including my grandparents, that greatest generation — they did not seek war, but they refused to shrink from it.”

On the front lines and in factories, Americans did their part to win that war, Obama said. To the World War II veterans in his audience, he declared, “A grateful nation thanks you.”

The meeting of the two leaders, the president said, was intended to “send a message to the world that there is more to be won in peace than in war, that reconciliation carries more rewards than retribution.”

“Here in this quiet harbor, we honor those we lost,” Obama said. “And we give thanks for all that our two nations have won, together, as friends.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

17 Russian jets buzzed and threatened a British destroyer

Footage released as part of a documentary about life aboard a British warship shows an incident in which 17 Russian warplanes swarmed the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Duncan as it sailed near Crimea in the Black Sea earlier this year.

Russia intervened in Ukraine and annexed Crimea in early 2014, and tensions between Russia and other countries in the West have been elevated since then, particularly in the Black Sea region and eastern Europe.


Tour of HMS Duncan

www.youtube.com

The Duncan’s transit near Crimea, sailing just 30 miles from the peninsula, is the closest any British navy ship has come to Crimea since Moscow annexed it.

SNMG2 exited the Black Sea after that tour on May 20. (An international treaty limits which warships from countries that do not border the Black Sea can enter it and restricts them to 21 days there.)

Commodore Mike Utley, who was leading the NATO group from the Duncan at the time, said in the clip that the British ship was “probably the only maritime asset that has seen a raid of that magnitude in the last 25 years.”

“To me it felt unprecedented,” said Cmdr. Eleanor Stack, the Duncan’s captain. “There were more aircraft than we have seen in a long time.”

The clip posted by Sky News shows the Duncan’s crew reacting as call signs and bearings are issued for Russian jets as they appear on radar.”

Our long-range radars are picking up air contact. The air team are trying to work out what type of aircraft that contact is and whether or not that contact poses any threat,” a British sailor in the Duncan’s command center explains.

“The assumption is that they are Russian, because they’re coming from Russian airspace and from a Russian point of origin,” another crew member says.

The herd of Russian jets flying out of Crimea — a mix of fighters and fighter-bombers — zoomed over the Duncan, sometimes as low as a few hundred feet, alarming crew members trying to determine whether they were there to attack or just intimidate.

The jets came so close that electronics systems they carried could have been affected by the Duncan’s radar, potentially causing a crash.

Upon departing, one of the Russian pilots sent the Duncan a brief message — “Good luck, guys” — which one of the Duncan’s crew members interpreted as a final rattle of the saber.

Utley scoffed at the show of force. “I think their tactics are naive,” he said. “What they don’t know is how capable the ship is.”

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A Russian Su-27 fighter jet intercepts a US Navy EP-3 Aries reconnaissance plane over the Black Sea in January.

(U.S. Navy Screenshot via YouTube)

“When you see that much activity, I think it reinforces the nature of what people expect at the moment and why there is a challenge from Russia,” Utley added.

“They had 17 aircraft. We’ve got 48 missiles. I think we’re going to win that one,” a lieutenant commander in the Duncan’s command center said in the clip.

The Russian jets departed without incident, but earlier in the deployment the British ship scrambled its Merlin Mk2 helicopter to track down a Russian spy ship detected by the Duncan’s radar.

British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson praised the Duncan’s crew members, saying they “epitomized the nation we are going to be as we exit the EU — a truly global Britain.”

“As NATO flagship, she has faced down brazen Russian hostility in the Black Sea with jets buzzing overhead, been stalked by Russian spy ships and played a vital role protecting NATO allies during the British, American and French strikes against Syrian chemical weapons facilities,” Williamson said of the Duncan.

Tensions between Russia and Western countries have led to close encounters on and above the Black Sea.

In July, British fighter jets in Romania were scrambled to intercept a Russian fighter that flew close to NATO airspace over the sea.

Earlier this month, in the second close encounter publicized this year, a Russian jet flew close to a US Navy reconnaissance plane over the Black Sea and suddenly banked right, forcing the US aircraft to fly through turbulence.

Such encounters have led observers to describe a return to Cold War behavior over Eastern Europe.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

This top-secret operation was the World War II version of ‘Weekend At Bernie’s’

In ‘Weekend At Bernie’s,’ a corpse becomes the life of the party. But, in World War II, a corpse saved the lives of thousands of American and Allied soldiers.


On April 30, 1943, the British submarine HMS Seraph surfaced a mile from the southwest coast of Spain. A canister was brought on deck and the officers of the sub opened it. Inside was the body of an alcoholic, homeless man who had died from ingesting rat poison, now dressed in the clothes of a British Royal Marine major.

The sailors put a life jacket on the corpse, strapped a brief case to its belt, read Psalm 39 over it, and then pushed the body into the ocean.

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Photo: British Royal Navy Lt. L. Pelman

This was the fruition of Operation Mincemeat, one of the most important actions to the success of Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily and the beginning of the end for Hitler’s Fortress Europe.

‘The underbelly of the Axis’

After the success of Operation Torch, the Allied invasion of German North Africa, was assured, Allied planners were fully focused on how to break into fortress Europe. It was widely agreed that the first attack should be into Italy, attempting to knock it out of the war, thus weakening the Axis Powers. The problem was, though Italy was described by Winston Churchill as, “the underbelly of the Axis,” it was heavily fortified.

Allied planners knew Sicily, the island off the “toe” of Italy’s “boot,” was the logical place to attack in order to take the fight to the Axis. Unfortunately, logical places to attack are generally well-defended. Since Hitler was known to be afraid of an attack through Greece and the Balkans, the Allies decided to play up the possibility of an invasion there while claiming they would bypass Sicily entirely.

Operation Barclay, a deception operation, was launched to sell this lie to the Third Reich. One of the key elements of Barclay was Operation Mincemeat, possibly history’s most daring Haversack Ruse.

The Haversack Ruse and the Trout Memo

The Haversack Ruse was invented in World War I when the British Army needed to deceive the Ottoman Military. Though there are conflicting accounts on who planned and who executed the ruse, someone rode a horse into contested territory, waited until they were shot at by the Ottomans, slumped over in their horse like they’d been hit and rode as quickly as possible back to British lines.

During the escape, the rider “accidentally” dropped a haversack with fake battle plans in it. The British faked a search for the documents. The Ottomans recovered them, assumed they were real, and redeployed their forces. This lead to the Ottoman defeat at the Battle of Beersheba.

Early in World War II, Naval Intelligence released a document called the “Trout Memo.” Though it was credited to the British Director of Naval Intelligence, it is thought to have actually been the work of his assistant, Sir Ian Fleming. Fleming would go on to write the Bond novels which were partially based on actual operations in the war.

The memo, released in 1939, listed 51 ways to deceive enemy intelligence. Number 28 was a plan for an updated Haversack Ruse. Intelligence operatives would fake an airplane crash in such a way that the body would wash up on the shore where the enemy would find it. Hidden on its person would be documents that the enemy would find credible. This idea would form the core of Operation Mincemeat.

Planning Operation Mincemeat

Planning for Operation Mincemeat was conducted by British Navy Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu and Flight Lieutenant Charles Cholmondeley.

They knew that Spain, though neutral, regularly allowed Nazi military officials access to Allied documents that fell into their hands.

Ocean currents were studied and a timeline was established. The goal was a set up where a body, recently deceased, could be floated to the coast where it would be appear to have arrived after a plane crash. To make it work, they needed a false identity and a real body.

A coroner and former colleague of Montagu’s, Bentley Purchase, was contacted to quietly look for suitable bodies. On January 28, 1943, a homeless Welsh man, Glyndwr Michael, died of phosphorous poisoning and was sent to Purchase. Purchase contacted Montagu and Cholmondeley who agreed the body was fit for the task. Michael was placed in cold storage, giving the British 3 months to perfect the fake documents and execute the mission before the body would be too decayed to use.

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Photo: UK National Archives

Montagu and Cholmendeley worked together to create a false identity for their corpse. Their final creation was Maj. William Martin, a Royal Marine. Martin was recently engaged to a woman named Pam. A photo of a Military Intelligence Section 5, MI5, staffer, was included in Martin’s effects.

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Photo: Ewen Montagu Team, Wikimedia Commons

The conspirators thought it would be suspicious if a major was shabbily dressed. So, Martin was given a pair of nice underwear, taken from the possessions of a recently deceased official at New College, Oxford. A series of documents were forged and placed on Martin including sale receipts, a collection letter from a bank, and the photo of “Pam,” in order to sell the “Martin” identity.

In addition, military documents were put into an official briefcase that would later be chained to the deceased man’s belt. These documents were specially crafted to make it sound like Operation Husky was the invasion of Greece instead of Sicily. They also referenced a fictional operation, Operation Brimstone, as the invasion of Sardinia while implying that the Allies would feint to Sicily. This would convince the Germans that the real invasion of Sicily, when it began, was just a smokescreen for the fictional invasions in Sardinia and Greece.

Conducting the operation

With the body, the documents, and the story in place, it was time to execute the mission.

The body was placed in a steel canister filled with dry ice and driven to the HMS Seraph by a legally-blind racecar driver. The Seraph‘s crew was told that the capsule contained meteorological equipment. Only the officers knew the real mission.

When they arrived at their destination, the officers secured the documents and a lifejacket to the body, performed their own small ceremony, and pushed the body into the ocean. The HMS Seraph sailed away from Spain into the early morning Atlantic.

The body was quickly recovered by the Spanish who turned it over to the British Vice-Consul in the country. “Maj. Martin” was buried with full military honors on May 2. The British, keeping up the ruse, began a hasty search for the missing documents.

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Photo: Enrique Conde, Creative Commons

Effects

The Spanish recovered the documents and gave the Germans an hour to copy them. Once the Germans had copies, they sent the information to Berlin where it was trusted as genuine. The originals were returned to the British government.

As a result of the German High Command believing the documents, entire divisions of tanks were moved to defend Greece. Minesweepers were moved from Sicily to Greece where they laid mines off the coast. Rommel himself was sent to Greece to lead the defense.

That summer, on July 9, the true Operation Husky was kicked off and Sicily was invaded. The Germans, still believing Sicily was a feint, declined to reinforce the island. It wasn’t until July 12 that German paratroopers arrived to try and slow the Allied advance, but by then it was too late. Fighting on the island continued until August 17 when the last German unit pulled out. Sicily was captured with a fraction of the Allied casualties expected, though 5,837 were killed or missing, 15,683 were wounded, and 3,330 captured. Germany was thought to have taken about 20,000 casualties while Italy lost over 130,000 men, mostly captured during the Allied advance. Operation Husky led to the downfall of Mussolini and the surrender of Italy.

And much of its success was due to the British corpse, Glyndwr Michael, who served as Maj. William Martin.

The bulk of information known about Operation Mincemeat came from Montagu when he published his book, “The Man Who Never Was” in 1954. New information, including intentional errors in Montagu’s book, came from the research of Ben Macintyre. Macintyre was granted access to Montagu’s papers and published his own excellent book, “Operation Mincemeat,” in 2011.

MORE: The 4 biggest myths US Marines keep telling themselves

AND: This was the secret war off the US coast during World War II