The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MONEY

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
National Endowment for the Arts Chairperson Jane Chu announces its expansion of sites within the Creative Forces Military Healing Arts Network at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 21, 2016. (DoD photo by Amaani Lyle)


Walter Reed National Medical Center announced this week a plan to expand a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the Defense Department that focuses on creative art therapy for service members, veterans, and family members.

The “Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network” focuses on art therapy such as writing, painting, and singing to help service members address and deal with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

It’s currently offered at Walter Reed in Maryland and Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury are notoriously complex conditions to treat,” the NEA chairman Jane Chu said, noting that day long workshops don’t dig deep enough into the issues surrounding PTS and TBI.

Understanding that, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence decided to add a therapeutic writing program to its already existing creative art therapy program. That program now incorporates visual arts and music therapy.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Masks, decorated by service members, sit on display as part of the Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence in Bethesda, Md., Oct. 21, 2016. (National Endowment for the Arts courtesy photo)

The program, which received an additional $1.98 million funding in fiscal year 2016, has plans to expand to Marine Corps Bases Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune; Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska; and Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas.

The NEA and DoD have enough funding to open those and five other sites around the country in 2017, the Pentagon says.

Readiness, diversity, location, population density and leadership were all taken into consideration when determining where to open expansion clinics, Chu said. Leadership is “critical to the success of our work together,” Chu explained, adding that the expansion will also work with a network of community based nonprofit organizations.

The goal with the expansion, according to Chu, is to develop a web of resources and tools to help local organizations and communities as they work with the military community among them.

Chu reports that, through the program, veterans are better able to manage stress.

“We’re seeing such transformational results in our service members and our expansion plans have come as a result of them saying that they want this program to be closer to their communities as they make a transition back into civilian life,” Chu explained. “This is a way to help service members and veterans … understand the dignity that they already have and so much deserve.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Iran stopped messing with the US Navy under Trump

Iran’s navy made a point of harassing and humiliating the US Navy in 2016 after then-President Barack Obama had sealed the Iran deal, but since August 2017, the US Navy says things have changed.


“It seems like they’ve absolutely made a conscious decision to give us more space,” Navy Cmdr. William Urban recently said. “That is definitely a change in their behavior.”

Iran would charge US Navy ships with fast attack craft, buzz fighter jets with drones, and even shine lasers at helicopters operating at sea during Obama’s presidency.

But the worst, most embarrassing incident occurred in January 2016, when Iran’s navy seized two US Navy riverine boats and the 10 sailors on board after the ship wandered into Iranian waters due to mechanical issues. They broadcast footage of the sailors, crying, in detention, on television across the country. Iran later announced plans to build a monument commemorating the event.

Also read: The US Navy had 90 seconds to defend itself when Iranian-backed militants fired on them off Yemen

Later that year, Iranian ships conducted “unsafe and unprofessional” and often taunting maneuvers around US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf five times in about a month.

In September of that same year, Trump addressed Iran while on the campaign trail. “When they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water,” Trump said.

Shortly after Trump’s election, the incidents noticeably stopped, despite Trump’s open hostility towards Iran, compared to Obama’s attempts to appease them.

What happened?

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Iran’s fast attack craft, the type repeatedly used to harass US Navy ships. (Photo by Fars News Agency via USNI News)

The US Navy “openly acknowledged there was a shift that happened roughly around the time we had our political transition,” Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider. “There was a status quo and the status quo changed.”

According to Schanzer, the Trump administration gave no official warning to Iran over the naval incidents, but instead, “the unpredictability of Trump has made Iran more reticent to test American red lines.”

Related: Iran threatened the US Navy again

Compared to the US Navy, the best on earth, Iran’s navy just treads water. Iranians, even the hardliners, must know their small attack craft can’t pose a meaningful threat to US ships, and even if they could, US retaliation would devastate the forces.

Instead, rushing US ships and putting them on the defensive, as well as capturing sailors, works mainly for propaganda purposes for Iran, whose authoritarian regime controls the media and pushes a heavily anti-US agenda.

With Trump similarly focused on optics and pledging to revitalize the US military, Iran may have pivoted towards quietly pursuing its foreign policy goals, rather than making a scene that Trump could react to violently.

More: The US Navy unloaded on the Iranians in the most explosive surface fight since WWII

“There’s another side of this,” said Schanzer. “They understood that there was a change in the rules of the risk/reward calculus, but they also seem to understand that there was less of a policy with regard to their regional activity from Yemen to Iraq to Syria.”

So while Iran has dropped the very visible, US-centric naval run-ins, it’s picked up on recruiting militias, deploying its armed forces to Syria, and supplying anti-US and anti-Israel militant groups.

“They realize if they want to actually achieve their objectives across the Middle East, they needed to dial back on the harassment that would needlessly provoke the US,” Schanzer said.

MIGHTY SPORTS

Why 20 percent of Army generals couldn’t deploy in 2016

It’s no secret that that U.S. military has a troubling problem, one that prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to create the Pentagon’s “Deploy or Get Out” Policy. It turns out there are many American troops who just aren’t fit to fight — and that includes the military’s top brass.


Information obtained by USA Today found that one in five generals in the U.S. Army could not deploy in 2016 due to medical reasons. The generals were put off by the overdue medical and dental exams necessary to ensure their deployability.

Army spokesperson Brig. Gen. Omar Jones ensured USA Today that the proportion of generals who are able to deploy has since risen to around 85 percent. That number gets higher if the top brass takes care of their necessary blood work and dental examinations.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

U.S. Army Generals go through an executive health program to improve their deployability.

(U.S. Army photo by Tracy McClung)

“The Army’s top priority is readiness and soldiers are expected to be world-wide deployable to ensure our Army is ready to fight today and in the future,” Jones told the paper. “The data from 2016 does not reflect recent improvements in medical readiness for the Army as a whole and for the general officer corps specifically.”

USA Today picked up the information using a Freedom of Information Act request. A panel created by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was assigned to investigate the ethical misdeeds of high ranking officers in 2014. The panel was incredibly effective, finding more than 500 instances of failures in leadership. Part of that report included deployability information for general officers.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

First Lt. Dowayne Anderson, 1st Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, cranks out fifteen push-ups during a “Battle PT” workout Sept. 4 at Forward Operating Base Ramrod. The unique physical training was designed for team building, cohesion, endurance and to develop Soldier skills.

(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Justin Weaver)

As of 2016, only 83 percent of the Army’s soldiers were deployable, the lowest of the four branches. Marines led deployability at 90.2 percent, followed by the Navy at 90.1 and the Air Force at 88.8 percent. Since the bulk of the officers needed only simple medical and dental exams, the problem was easily addressed. Since then, Army general readiness is much higher.

As of October 2018, over 93 percent of the total Army ― soldiers of all ranks ― are deployable, while over 97 percent of Army general officers are deployable,” Col. Kathleen Turner, an Army spokeswoman, told Army Times.
MIGHTY TRENDING

This soldier found out she was pregnant only after she had a baby in Afghanistan

In the summer of 2012, young Benjamin was born to Pvt. Ashley Shelton in the middle of FOB Shindand, Afghanistan. The story was first broken by Stars and Stripes in October 2012, but details surrounding the birth weren’t released until WTHR 13 Investigates got into contact with the mother recently.


Pvt. Ashley Shelton was assigned to the 12th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Ansbach, Germany and deployed in the spring. Normally, Army regulations bar pregnant soldiers and those who recently gave birth from deploying. However, due to her pregnancy tests being disregarded as “false-positives,” she was still sent with her unit.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Pvt. Shelton’s unit in Afghanistan. (Image via WTHR 13 Investigates)

Related: 5 struggles those who wore BCGs will remember

She continued her regular Army duties, even those that would normally be unfit for an expected mother such as physical training and combat duties. There were no normal signs of pregnancy, such as weight gain or a baby bump. Morning sickness or and cramping was mostly written off with a dismissive, “Well, it’s Afghanistan…”

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Baby Benjamin shortly after birth. (Image via WTHR 13 Investigates)

Then, on Aug. 12, she went to the aid station for cramps. The doctor told her to drink fluids and prescribed her bed rest. On her way back, her water broke and she blacked out. Her child, Benjamin, was born. The U.S. Army has yet to clarify what exactly went wrong, but they conducted internal investigations. Army representatives told WTHR 13 Investigates that they can not talk about personal health issues due to federal health privacy laws.

Years later, Benjamin exhibits some congenital birth defects, which may be a result of mishandled pregnancy. His medical records show a small knot in his lower left leg, described as a club foot, and a lower speech level than normal. Ashley Shelton has been struggling the last years with getting attention for her son’s and her own medical conditions.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Benjamin Shelton (Image via WTHR 13 Investigates)

That hasn’t stopped the fun-loving kid from running around the playground, though. There’s no telling if the kid ends up being a superhero, but that’s a backstory that tops Marvel and DC characters. Even if the kid doesn’t become a superhero, if he serves in the Army like his mother, you can bet that he’ll have a one-up card on everyone. “Where were you born? Some POG civilian hospital not in the middle of combat? That’s cute.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

This amazing Air Force cadet is now a Rhodes Scholar

A U.S. Air Force Academy student from Tennessee has been named a Rhodes Scholar.


The Rhodes Trust said Nov. 18 that Jaspreet “Jesse” Singh, of Oak Ridge, is one of 32 students from the United States who will receive full financial support to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Each year 32 young students from the United States are selected as Rhodes Scholars.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

According to the trust, Singh is a senior at the Air Force Academy, where he is pursuing a bachelors’ degree in mechanical engineering. Singh‘s research addresses questions of policy, ethics, and the management of military assets and nuclear weapons.

Now Read: This Mayor took time off to go to war in Afghanistan

Singh has interned at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and conducts research at the Center for Aircraft Structural Life Extension. He also has completed several ultra-marathons.

At OxfordSingh will read for master’s degree in engineering science.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An American is now a senior ISIS commander in Syria

In April, 2015, the son of a New Jersey pizza shop owner left the United States. His destination was an Islamic State training camp in Syria. Shortly after arriving, he allegedly emerged in a video posted to social media, beheading Kurdish fighters captured by ISIS. Now, Zulfi Hoxha may be in command of ISIS fighters in the country.


How Islamic State fighters survive the onslaught from American, Kurdish, Syrian, Russian, Iranian, and/or Turkish forces is baffling to many, but Zulfi Hoxha has managed to stay alive through it all, even after the fall of the ISIS capital at Raqqa and the subsequent collapse of the terrorist “caliphate.”

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

Hoxha now goes by the name Abu Hamza al-Amriki, the last being a nod to his country of origin. He’s been seen in a number of pro-ISIS jihadist propaganda videos, doing everything from encouraging “lone wolf” attacks in the United States to actually beheading enemy soldiers captured in combat. At just 26, he’s being touted as one of the most dangerous recruiting tools of the declining Islamic State.

We used to joke around like, ‘We know you can’t stand us Americans.’ And he would laugh like, haha, ‘Yeah, we can’t stand you Americans,'” former coworker Joseph Cacia told Philadelphia’s NBC10. “But you didn’t think he was serious. You thought he was playing along.”
The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

Only a few dozen Americans have left the U.S. to join international terrorist organizations. Hoxha is significant in that he is now a major propaganda star and is featured as a senior commander of the Islamic State forces. But since the apogee of ISIS’ rise to power in 2014, the group has lost the kind of success that would attract followers like Hoxha.

Having graduated from an Atlantic City, N.J., high school in 2010, youth like Hoxha saw ISIS in control of some 34,000 square miles of territory cut out of Iraq and Syria – a territory roughly the size of Maine. In the years since, the group has lost most of that territory, along with the prestige, money, and followers that kind of success attracts. In previous years, ISIS members like Hoxha were propaganda stars on social media, but after the worldwide effort to curb ISIS recruiting, jihadists are more likely to be found on dark websites than on Twitter.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

Iraqi Federal Police hold an upside-down ISIS flag after retaking streets in Mosul.

Hoxha has had minimal contact with former friends and family back in New Jersey. He sent a message to one friend shortly after leaving the United States to tell him that he had arrived in “the Safe House.” He also told his mother that he was going to be training for three months. Now he is one of just a few Americans who rose to a leadership position in the Islamic State and other jihadist organizations.

Many of the others are dead, most killed by U.S. airstrikes.

MIGHTY TRENDING

John Kelly says anti-military teacher can ‘go to hell’

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said Jan. 31 that a Los Angeles-area high school teacher “ought to go to hell” for bashing U.S. military service members in classroom remarks.


Kelly, a retired Marine general, blasted Gregory Salcido in an interview with Fox News Radio.

Salcido has been off work from El Rancho High School in Pico Rivera after video surfaced of him scolding a 17-year-old student who was wearing a U.S. Marine Corps sweatshirt.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Then-Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft share a light moment during the 136th U.S. Coast Guard Academy Commencement in New London, Conn., May 17, 2017. Both leaders addressed the graduating class at the ceremony. (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley)

The student captured Salcido urging him not to join the military and referring to military service members with a crude term for stupid.

“They’re not like high-level thinkers, they’re not academic people, they’re not intellectual people; they’re the frickin’ lowest of our low,” Salcido says on the recording.

“I don’t understand why we let the military guys come over here and recruit you at school. We don’t let pimps come in the school,” Salcido adds.

The video was posted online Jan. 26 by a friend of the student’s mother. It went viral and has drawn millions of views, along with outraged comments.

Kelly added his own on Jan. 31.

“Well, I think the guy ought to go to hell,” Kelly told Fox News Radio. “I just hope he enjoys the liberties and the lifestyle that we have fought for.”

Also Read: High school teacher made honorary Army recruiter

The video doesn’t show Salcido’s face but his suburban school district has confirmed he made the remarks during class.

The El Rancho Unified School District is investigating and placed Salcido on leave Jan. 29.

“Our classrooms are not the appropriate place for one-sided discussions that undermine the values our families hold dear,” the district said in a statement.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department increased security at the school.

In an email, Salcido told the Los Angeles Times that he wouldn’t comment on the situation “because of the many vulgar and violent threats against my family.”

Salcido, a Pico Rivera City Council member, also has drawn criticism from his council colleagues. Mayor Gustavo Camacho told CNN that he plans to strip Salcido of his committee assignments.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Iraqi government forces launched an operation against Kurdistan’s Peshmerga military forces over the weekend to capture Kirkuk, a disputed, oil-rich city in the country’s north.


The Kurds defeated Islamic State fighters to take control of Kirkuk in 2014, but Iraq’s central government had refused to recognize their sovereignty over the city since it falls outside of Kurdistan’s internationally recognized autonomous region.

As the details continue to develop, here’s a breakdown of the basics.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
An Iraqi pilot walks to a Iraqi AC-208 Caravan for a training mission at Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq. For the first time since the re-formation of the Iraqi air force, an Iraqi pilot fired a missile from an a AC-208 Nov. 04, 2009, at a target on a bombing range near Al Asad Air Base, Iraq. (Photo: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

What’s happening?

Conflicting stories emerged Oct. 16 as clashes broke out in areas outside the city, causing an unknown number of casualties. Iraqi forces claimed they had seized military bases and oil fields around Kirkuk, and had forced the Kurds to withdraw from the city. The Kurdistan Regional Government has rejected those claims.

The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that the US military said it believed any clashes between the Kurds and Baghdad “was a misunderstanding and not deliberate as two elements attempted to link up under limited visibility conditions.”

Army Major General Robert White, the commander of US-led coalition forces in Iraq, called for both parties to reconcile their differences through peace, and “remain focused on the defeat of our common enemy,” ISIS.

President Donald Trump weighed in on Monday afternoon, as well, saying the US would not back one side over the other. “We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides,” Trump said in a press conference.

Three days before clashes erupted, rumors surfaced of an impending Iraqi government assault on the Kurds. In response, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi took to Twitter to debunk the accusation.

“Our armed forces cannot and will not attack our citizens, whether Arab or Kurd,” he said. “The fake news being spread has a deplorable agenda behind.”

Amid reports of a looming attack, Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani ordered Peshmerga forces on Sunday to not “initiate any war, but if any advancing militia starts shooting, then Peshmerga have been given a green light to use every power to stand against them.”

By Monday afternoon, Reuters reported that thousands of Kurds had fled the city of Kirkuk, which has a population of over 1 million people. About 6% of the world’s oil comes from Kirkuk province, according to CNN.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider Al-Abadi. Photo from Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Why now?

Kurdish nationalism has long been a source of tension between Iraq’s central government and the Kurds, both of which are strong US allies.

This tension was exacerbated after close to 93% of Kurds, which control a large swath of territory in northern Iraq, voted to declare Kurdistan an independent state on September 25. Baghdad has condemned the referendum and urged Kurdish leaders to reject it. Neighboring countries Iran and Turkey also opposed the vote.

The White House also warned against holding a vote on independence and called on the Kurdistan Regional Government to pursue dialogue with Baghdad.

“Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing,” the White House said in a statement before vote.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
ISIS has a history of targeting Kurds and their allies. (Dept. of Defense photo)

Why does it matter?

The independence referendum and latest round of clashes between Kurdish and Iraqi forces puts the Trump administration in a particularly strangling bind. Over the years, the US has trained and supplied weapons and equipment to both sides of the conflict with the intention of defeating ISIS. Now those very same weapons are being used by US allies against other US allies.

Iran’s interference in the conflict also remains a top concern for American officials. The Iraqi-backed Popular Mobilization Forces — Shi’ite Muslim paramilitary units that have been fighting against the Kurds — presents another challenge for US mediation efforts in the region. Iran not only supports these Popular Mobilization Forces, but provides direct training and weaponry to its fighters.

The New York Times reported in July that Iran’s presence in Iraq was a consequence of former President Barack Obama’s decision to withdraw US troops from the country in 2011. This move has divided Republicans and Democrats in the US, and was a key campaign issue in the 2016 elections.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
The Kurdish Peshmerga platoon of the newly-formed Joint Iraqi Security Company marches to class, Mosul, Iraq. The U.S. 2nd Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division are jointly training Kurdish and Iraqi forces, to become the first self-sufficient local military force.

What could happen next?

No one is really sure. The situation is still unfolding, with Iraqi and Kurdish leaders shifting blame on their opponents for the escalation in violence.

Even though the US has downplayed the clashes as simply a “misunderstanding,” it’s difficult to ascertain the true level of tension on the ground.

Conflicting claims from Iraqi government and Kurdish officials further complicate the situation. No matter what happens, these developments will surely add to Trump’s challenges in the Middle East.

MIGHTY TRENDING

J-20 Fighter bomber: China’s plan to field the world’s first 22-seat stealth fighter

China has announced plans to begin production of a new two-seat variant of the Chengdu J-20 fifth-generation fighter that would, according to Chinese officials, dramatically increase the platform’s offensive capabilities. This announcement comes on the heels of China’s other significant J-20 announcement this week, relating to China’s decision to stop sourcing Russian engines for their stealth fighter. China will instead modify an existing domestic power plant for its purposes.

The J-20 “Mighty Dragon” is China’s first operational stealth aircraft, entering active service in March of 2017. The J-20 is indeed stealthy, though there remains some debate about just how effective the jet’s design may be. Some still argue that its front canards could potentially offer a weapons-grade lock on the jet when it’s flying horizontally across an aircraft’s field of view. Like all other fifth-generation fighters, the J-20 isn’t just sneaky, it also boasts a secure data link and the sort of advanced avionics one might expect from a data-fusing flying computer of its ilk. It has, however, suffered from long delays in its purpose-built engine program, forcing the Chinese to utilize Russian-sourced AL-31F engines.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
The Saturn AL-31 family of engines currently power both the Russian Su-27 and the Chinese J-10. (Wikimedia Commons)

Earlier this week, China announced plans to stop using the Russian power plant and to discontinue efforts on their purpose-built WS-15 engine that had been slated for the advanced fighter. Instead, China will now work to modify its existing fourth-generation fighter engine, the WS-10C, for the stealth jet. According to Chinese claims, the WS-10C will be as capable as the Pratt & Whitney F119 engine that powers America’s top air superiority fighter, the F-22 Raptor. This goal is hardly surprising, as the development of the J-20 was based largely on stolen plans for the F-22 in the first place.

The planned engine change is intended to offer the J-20 the same sort of thrust vector control the Raptor uses for acrobatic maneuvers during aerial warfare–a change that was already announced for the J-20B currently in production. In order to match the F-22, these modified engines will also have to offer super-cruising capabilities, or the ability to maintain supersonic speeds without the use of an afterburner, on par with that offered by the Raptor. Supercruising allows a fighter to fly further faster, while still keeping enough gas in its tank for a lengthy fight once it arrives.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
The F-22 Raptor offers both the acrobatic capability of thrust vector control as well as the ability to super cruise, making it a highly capable air superiority fighter. (USAF Photo)

But new engines aren’t the biggest change on the horizon for China’s J-20. A design change of a much broader stroke announced by the Chinese government earlier this week would see the aircraft modified to serve as a fighter bomber, adding a second seat in the cockpit for an onboard weapons officer and potentially increasing the aircraft’s payload capacity as a result of the design changes required to accommodate another crew member.

Every 5th generation fighter in operation on the planet is a single-seat aircraft, from the original F-22 Raptor to the advanced F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and even Russia’s troubled Sukhoi Su-57 Felon. It’s unlikely that China will produce only two-seat J-20 variants in the future, but the addition of a J-20 fighter bomber could offer a new level of capability to China’s People’s Liberation Army.

Single-seat aircraft tend to be smaller and highly capable in the air, and while all fifth-generation fighters are considered multi-role in their range of capabilities, a two-seat J-20 could improve the aircraft’s survivability in contested airspace as well as its ability to effectively engage ground targets.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Chengdu J-20 (Courtesy of the People’s Liberation Army)

While a single-seat fighter has one operator tasked with managing everything from flying the jet to identifying and engaging targets, two-seat fighters have a second crew member to offload some of those responsibilities on. Most two-seat fighters utilize a single pilot and a second weapons officer (think Maverick and Goose, respectively, in Top Gun). While the pilot manages the battlespace, the weapons officer or co-pilot can manage weapons systems, communications, and electronic warfare capabilities.

Two-seat fighters are, however, much heavier than single-seat jets on average, so the added capability comes with a trade-off in performance.

“An upgraded twin-seat J-20 could carry more offensive weapons and have stronger air-to-ground attack capabilities, so … it would become both a fighter and a bomber,” Song Zhongping, a former PLA instructor, said to the South China Morning Post.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
The F-14 Tomcat shown here utilizes a pilot and weapons officer to increase its combat capability. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Chuck Broadway)

Of course, building a two-seat J-20 isn’t as simple as just stretching the fuselage and bolting a new chair in. The aircraft itself will likely have to undergo significant modifications to support both the new crew member and any added capabilities the PLA wants incorporated into a new J-20 fighter bomber.

If China manages to bring its WS-10C engine into full fifth-generation maturity, it will offer a significant capability increase for the fighter itself, and it will almost certainly find a home in the two-seat J-20 as well. However, despite China’s headline-grabbing announcements over the past week, all of these changes should be regarded as notional at best right now. Of course, that doesn’t mean to discount the potential capability of the J-20 in the future, but as far as claims about military superiority go, China’s reputation is almost as compromised as Russia’s.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 heroes who earned a Medal of Honor in Hue City

At the end of January in 1968, the Viet Cong launched an offensive that turned the tide of the Vietnam War.

The Tet Offensive began on January 30 as the North Vietnamese occupied the city of Hue. US Marines spent nearly a month fighting a brutal urban battle to retake the city — which was 80% destroyed by the battle’s end, according to H.D.S. Greenway, a photographer embedded with the Marines during the war.

An estimated 1,800 Americans lost their lives during the battle.


But in the midst of the chaos, five men who faced harrowing circumstances risked their lives to save those of their comrades — and earned the nation’s highest award for courage in combat, the Medal of Honor.

During one of the ceremonies honoring these heroes, President Richard Nixon remarked on the incredible risks they took.

“They are men who faced death, and instead of losing courage they gave courage to the men around them,” he said.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense inducts U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) John L. Canley into the Hall of Heroes during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18, 2018, after being awarded the Medal of Honor by the President.

(DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley received his award over 50 years after carrying wounded Marines to safety.

Gunnery Sgt. John Canley, suffering from shrapnel wounds, led his men in the destruction of enemy-occupied buildings in Hue City.

When his men were injured, he leapt over a wall in plain sight — twice — to carry them to safe positions.

He was awarded the Medal of Honor in October 2018, over 50 years after he risked his life for his men.

Read the award citation here.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

Medal of Honor recipient Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson shakes hands with President Richard Nixon after receiving his award in May 1969.

(Richard Nixon Library/YouTube)

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson flew his helicopter through a barrage of anti-aircraft fire to rescue wounded comrades.

Chief Warrant Officer Frederick Ferguson ignored numerous calls to avoid the airspace surrounding Hue City during the early days of the battle.

He flew his helicopter through enemy fire, guiding the damaged aircraft so he could rescue wounded comrades and fly them back to safety.

His bravery saved the lives of five wounded soldiers.

Read the award citation here.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

A photo shows Sgt. Alfredo Gonzalez with Gunnery Sgt. John Canley during the Vietnam War. Both have earned the Medal of Honor for actions taken during the brutal Battle of Hue City.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Tessa Watts)

Sergeant Alfredo Gonzalez

Sgt. Gonzalez and his unit were among the first to deploy into the Viet Cong-occupied Hue City.

Through five days of fighting, Gonzalez repeatedly exposed himself to direct enemy fire, leading his men despite his personal wounds.

Although he died during the battle, his actions ensured his comrades’ survival.

Read the award citation here.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

Medal of Honor recipient Joe Hooper listens as his citation is read during the award ceremony in March 1969.

(National Archives/YouTube)

Sergeant Joe Hooper is described as the most decorated soldier of the Vietnam War.

Sgt. Hooper earned the Medal of Honor on the same day as company mate Staff Sgt. Sims.

Hooper suffered extraordinary wounds as he fought during the Battle of Hue City, during which he destroyed numerous enemy bunkers and raced across open fields under intense fire to save a wounded comrade.

Read his full award citation here.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

Mary Sims accepts the Medal of Honor on behalf of her husband, Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, who died during the Battle of Hue City.

(National Archives)

Staff Sergeant Clifford Sims, once an orphan, flung himself on top of an explosive device to save his platoon.

During an intense search-and-rescue mission, Staff Sgt. Sims heard the click of a booby trap as his platoon approached a bunker.

Shouting for his team to stay back, Sims jumped on top of the device to absorb the explosion.

Read the full award citation here.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia is sending heavy naval firepower to the Mediterranean

The US and Russia have become engaged in an increasingly hot war of words over the warfare and suffering in Syria, and Russia was seen sending heavy naval firepower to the region around the same time it threatened to retaliate to any US strikes.


Russia has supported Syrian President Bashar Assad for years during his country’s seven-year-long civil war. Russia provides military support and airpower to help Assad cling to power as he fights off Islamist insurgents and a popular uprising in a war where his forces have reportedly killed the wide majority of the half-million now dead.

Also read: Russia needs more mercenaries to go fight in Syria

Russia agreed to remove Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons in 2013, but international inspectors concluded in 2017 that Syria had used sophisticated chemical weapons in a massive attack on civilians.

The US responded with a naval strike that destroyed much of the airbase the Pentagon alleges carried out the attack. The next day, Russia vowed to retaliate if the US struck Syria, by destroying any missiles or launchers used.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Vladimir Putin with the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad. (Photo from Russian government)

After verbally sparring with Russia at the UN, the US, on March 12, 2018, said in no uncertain terms that if Russia could not hold to the UN-backed ceasefire, as multiple reports indicate it had not, the US would strike Syria again.

On both March 13 and 14, 2018, Devrim Yaylali, the man behind TurkishNavy.net and the popular Bosphorus Naval News, spotted Russian Navy frigates transiting the Bosphorus Strait into the Mediterranean.

Related: Turkey vows to defiantly attack US allies in Syria

The frigates specialize in anti-submarine warfare, according to Yaylali, who told Business Insider that the deployments may or may not be routine, as sometimes Russian ships continue on past the Suez Canal.

But tensions between Russia and the West are peaking after Russia’s threats to fight back against the US in Syria and the UK accused the Russian state of carrying out a nerve agent attack on a former spy in the British countryside.

Sub hunting in the Mediterranean or routine deployment?

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Sailors load a Tomahawk cruise missile into the USS Michigan, a US Navy submarine capable of launching missiles while submerged. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Samuel Souvannason)

When the US attacked Syria as punishment for the chemical weapons attack in April 2017, it did so with Navy destroyers firing 59 cruise missiles.

The US also has submarines that can mount a similar attack, and if the US wanted to repeat the assault, it may be wiser to send a submerged vessel. A submarine would likely not create the obvious red flag of US destroyers returning to the shores where they once laid waste to a significant portion of Assad’s air force.

More: Why American submarines feared this Russian destroyer

But the US has plenty of options to strike Russia in Syria if they chose, including air power and ground systems.

Additionally, it’s standard practice for any military to move supporting platforms into an area where it bases troops, so Russia’s introduction of naval power into the Mediterranean may be simple protocol for protecting Russian servicemen in Syria.

Humor

5 best reasons why the Air Force doesn’t need warrant officers

Many an airman have found themselves utterly confused whenever they encounter these wonderful and mythical creatures normally found somewhere downrange (or near one of our sibling service’s chow hall).


Their rank insignia is confusing for the airman seeing it for the first time — but don’t you dare stare! Yes, this rare and godlike commodity is the warrant officer.

What, exactly, is a warrant officer?

A warrant officer is a technical expert. For the branches that have them (i.e. not the U.S. Air Force), they serve as the technical base for their respective service. They, simply put, have become officers based on expertise and, well, warrant.

Sounds great, but does the Air Force need them? Here are five reasons why they might not:

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
They definitely don’t know what to do with their hands. (Image from Columbia Pictures’ Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby)

Related: 7 more professional athletes you didn’t know were veterans

5. Congress had a better plan

The Air Force actually did once have warrant officers.

From the moment the Air Force become a separate branch on Sept. 18, 1947 until 1958, the enlisted ranks topped out at E-7. Congress then created the ranks of E-8 and E-9 for the Air Force, allowing for more growth.

The Air Force didn’t see a need for these technical experts anymore and used this momentum to usher out what had become a somewhat pesky group of individuals.

The Air Force made their last warrant officer appointment in 1959 and the one in active duty retired in 1980.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
This is how the Air Force Warrant Officer went away. (Image from ABC’s Schoolhouse Rock)

4. Wait, aren’t we actually getting them?

This is a rumor that has been going around for decades. I, personally, heard it back in my earliest days in Air Force blue and thought it was a great idea.

I heard it again a few years and bases later, and even right now the idea of re-introducing the warrant officer tier to the Air Force is being kicked around.

It’ll probably, eventually, likely, maybe-not-but-just-might happen… one day.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

3. We must be different

Just like most younger siblings, the Air Force strives to be different from our big brothers in blue, green, and Marine.

We learn from their history, their triumphs, and their missteps to be a better version of awesome whenever and wherever possible.

Most of the time, that makes sense. But sometimes, different is just different — not better.

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Pictured: Air Force fighting for independence.

2. Because… air power

Keeping in line with the snootiness of being the baby sibling, the Air Force went a step further in hardening the line between enlisted and commissioned than our brothers did.

The Air Force zigged when the Army zagged.

Why? Because there will be no misnomer about ranks, positions, and titles in the Air Force, right?

Also read: This is what it was like being in the military on 9/10

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Air Force being Air Force… different isn’t always better. (USAF photo by Airman Jack Sanders)

1. We have our own unicorns

We already have mythical, rarely seen, hard-to-catch creatures in the Air Force.

Unlike other services, where you commonly see some type of operator doing all types of things (from working out to shopping), in the Air Force, you could easily go your entire career without ever seeing a pararescueman or combat controller with your own eyes.

Oh, they exist like a motherf*cker but, unless you’re in that world, you’ll only see them in your dreams.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing
Pictured: absolute badass, Chief Master Sgt. Davide Keaton (Retired).  (USAF photo by Senior Airman Ryan Conroy)

MIGHTY TACTICAL

USS John S. McCain’s return to warfighting readiness

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) completed her necessary repairs and is underway to conduct comprehensive at sea testing.


During the at-sea testing, the ship and her crew will perform a series of demonstrations to evaluate that the ship’s onboard systems meet or exceed Navy performance specifications. Among the systems that will be tested are navigation, damage control, mechanical and electrical systems, combat systems, communications, and propulsion application.

John S. McCain, assigned to Destroyer Squadron FIFTEEN (DESRON 15) and forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, completed her in-port phase of training, and will continue Basic Phase at-sea training in the upcoming months to certify in every mission area the ship is required to perform and prepare for return to operational tasking.

“The USS John S. McCain embodies the absolute fighting spirit of her namesakes, and shows the resiliency of our Sailors. She has completed her maintenance period with the most up-to-date multi-mission offensive and defensive capabilities, preparing her to successfully execute a multitude of high-end operations,” said Capt. Steven DeMoss, commander, Destroyer Squadron 15. “As a guided-missile destroyer assigned to Destroyer Squadron 15, the John S. McCain is poised and ready to contribute to the lethal and combat ready forward-deployed naval force in the free and open Indo-Pacific region.”

John S. McCain completed repairs and extensive, accelerated upgrades over the last two years, following a collision in August 2017.

The Pentagon is expanding a program that helps vets heal with art and writing

“This whole crew is eager to get back to sea, and that’s evident in the efforts they’ve made over the last two years to bring the ship back to fighting shape, and the energy they’ve put into preparing themselves for the rigors of at-sea operations,” said Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, John S. McCain’s commanding officer. “I’m extremely proud of them as we return the ship to sea, and return to the operational fleet more ready than ever to support security and stability throughout the region.”

Multiple upgrades to the ship’s computer network, antenna systems, radar array, combat weapons systems and berthing have ensured John S. McCain will return to operational missions with improved capability and lethality.

John S. McCain, is assigned to Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and the U.S. 7th Fleet’s principal surface force.

This article originally appeared on All Hands Magazine. Follow @AllHandsMag on Twitter.