No matter where you served in the military, one thing is certain: Veterans have a special bond. These shared experiences draw former service members to careers working with fellow veterans. As you might’ve guessed, VA is a great place to do exactly that.
You still may have a lot of questions about what it’s like to work here. Will it be the right cultural fit? How do the benefits stack up? What support is available day to day?
There are plenty of resources to help you answer these and other questions. Here are six ways you can explore what it’s like to work at VA before you make the choice to apply:
1. Visit the VA Careers website.
The VA Careers site is chock full of information about what it’s like to work at VA, including employee video stories about VA’s workplace culture, an informational deep dive into some of the positions we’re hiring for (think: physicians, nurses and mental health counselors), a summary of benefits we offer employees, and details on how we work with veterans to build rewarding careers.
2. Check out the Veteran Employment Services Office (VESO).
VESO is a wealth of information for veterans seeking employment opportunities. Get details on upcoming veteran hiring events, access free virtual training on how to navigate USAJOBS or write an effective resume, and learn more about the federal hiring process.
3. Attend a VA recruitment event.
Visit the VA Careers event webpage for days and times of recruiting events we’ll be attending all around the country. You’re invited to register for an event and ask recruiters questions about a future career with VA.
4. Participate in a virtual career fair.
If you can’t make it to one of our events, go digital! Through virtual career fairs, VA brings recruiters and job seekers together online so they can exchange information without having to worry about distance or travel. Find out about the next virtual career fair by following the VA Careers blog or visiting the events site.
5. Reach out to a recruiter directly.
Do you have specific questions? Reach out to VA recruiters via email for guidance on finding the opportunity that best matches your skillset, preparing your resume and planning for interviews.
6. Get more information about the transitioning military program.
The Transitioning Military Personnel program aims to raise awareness about civilian careers for former service members at VA. If you’ve served in military healthcare — as a physician, nurse, mental health provider, medic, hospital corpsmen, health service technician, para rescue specialist or another occupation — find an array of VA opportunities across the country where you can put your professional training and skills to work.
After you’ve done your research and fully explored VA careers, think about applying for an opening. Be sure to look into special programs such as Veterans Preference that can help you get hired more quickly.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Emergency physician Emily (who asked us to not use her last name) was knee-deep in flu season in Texas when the initial reports of coronavirus began surfacing.
“I was highly skeptical. It sounded very similar to the flu,” the 36-year-old Air Force veteran shared with We Are The Mighty. “Information out of China was obviously pretty filtered and somewhat difficult to interpret. Once I began hearing reports from physicians in Italy, this was probably late February, I started to become a bit alarmed. This was not the flu. It was much, much worse. It was going to be bad.”
Emily at work.
In early March, Texas hospitals began preparations for the anticipated surge of COVID patients.
“PPE [personal protective equipment] shortages were rapidly apparent, and the supply seemed to change daily, making our personnel protection protocols constant moving targets,” Emily explained. “Testing capabilities also fluctuated wildly, again making for daily — sometimes hourly — changes in how we performed testing. Going into work was a completely different experience every day. We had to quickly adapt to being comfortable with extreme flexibility.”
As the days passed, extreme flexibility would be crucial.
“When shelter-in-place orders took effect in our area [and] as people began staying home and elective hospital procedures were cancelled, emergency department volumes plummeted, as did hospital revenues,” she explained. “This led to drastic changes in how emergency departments were staffed. Down-staffing was warranted, because there just weren’t as many patients to see, but it was – and is – still having significant effects on the pay for these frontline workers.”
Emily, who works in three different hospitals across three different healthcare systems on a PRN [as needed] basis, typically works “at least full-time, some months even more so.” With low emergency room volumes, she expressed feeling underutilized.
“The PRN employees have been the first to go,” she shared. “My shifts have been cut back drastically. I have cherished the extra time with my family and my children, even as I am itching to go back to work. To have the skills to be of use and not have the opportunity to use them has been an unusual form of torture.”
Emily with her family.
She adds that COVID-19 has put a spotlight on the state of the U.S. healthcare system.
“Our healthcare system has been teetering on the verge of collapse for a long time,” she said. “The people who profit from our for-profit healthcare system are neither the doctors nor the patients. As I saw our system straining under the weight of COVID, I had hoped that it might finally break and give way to real and lasting reform. Instead, I have seen physicians losing their jobs for speaking out about their lack of PPE. I have seen physicians experiencing pay cuts, even as they work more, work harder, and in a more dangerous environment. When administrators who sit behind a desk feel empowered to dictate to their healthcare workers how often they have to reuse PPE, all the while handing out pay cuts to those exposing themselves to the greatest degree of risk, we have a serious problem.”
Through it all, and despite the gravity of the situation, Emily shares that coronavirus has provided her with professional clarity.
“COVID has been something of a crucible, reinforcing for me that emergency medicine is more of a calling than a job,” she said. “I have been fearful for my own personal safety as I have heard accounts of physicians falling ill, and even dying from complications of coronavirus. As a combat veteran, facing peril while in the line of duty is not foreign to me, but COVID has felt different — I never expected to be in danger while working in a stateside ER as a civilian. Despite the risk, I have felt an undeniable pull toward the Emergency Department, to use the skills I have spent years developing and the expertise I have gained from thousands of patient encounters to try and do some good. It has been good to feel like I can be of some use.”
Airmen from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing delivered more than 100,000 pounds of cargo to the most northern permanently inhabited place in the world, Sept. 26 to Oct. 4, 2019, as part of a joint operation with the Canadian Armed Forces.
Twenty airmen from the 109th, based at Stratton Air National Guard Base in Scotia, New York, flew seven missions to Canadian Forces Station Alert as part of the twice a year effort to supply the station.
The resupply mission is known as Operation Boxtop and takes place in the spring and fall.
“The US Air Force’s New York Air National Guard is uniquely qualified to help us apply practical lessons from decades of successful Antarctic operations to the Arctic environment,” said US Air Force Brig. Gen. Edward Vaughan, the deputy commander for the Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command Region.
New York Air National Guard airmen from the 109th Airlift Wing and Royal Canadian Air Force airmen from 8 Wing, who teamed up to resupply Canadian Forces Station Alert as part of Operation Boxtop, in front of a New York Air National Guard C-130 at Thule Air Base, Greenland, Oct. 3, 2019.
(Canadian armed forces/Leading Seaman Paul Green, 8 Wing Imaging)
The station, located on Ellesmere Island, Nunavut — 490 miles south of the North Pole — is home to around 55 Canadian Forces military and civilian personnel year-round.
Canadian Forces Station Alert, built in 1956, maintains signals intelligence facilities to support Canadian military operations, hosts researchers for Environment and Climate Change Canada, and plays a key role in projecting Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.
A C-130 assigned to the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing with cargo at Thule Air Base, Greenland prior to being flown to Canadian Forces Station Alert on Ellsmere Island, Nunavut, September 30, 2019.
(Canadian armed forces/Leading Seaman Paul Green, 8 Wing Imaging)
The wing, which flies the largest ski-equipped aircraft in the world, teamed up with the Canadian Armed Force’s 8 Wing, based in Trenton, Ontario to conduct the mission. 8 Wing is the higher headquarters for the Alert station.
The Canadian Forces asked specifically for funded the 109th’s participation in accomplishing the resupply mission as part of broader bi-national Arctic Force Package initiatives, according to Vaughan.
“Beyond operating the amazing LC-130 aircraft, the men and women of the 109th Airlift Wing are polar execution experts,” Vaughan added.
David Jacobson, US ambassador to Canada at the time, in front of the CFS Alert welcome sign, April 19, 2010.
The mission profile called for one C-130 from the 109th to fly to Thule Air Base in Greenland, the northernmost installation operation by the US military, and then fly cargo from there to Alert. The 109th personnel included two full crews of six airmen, for a total of twelve, and eight maintenance personnel.
The 109th Airlift Wing carried bulk cargo which allowed the Canadian Armed Forces, which employed a C-130J and C-17 cargo plane, to focus on carrying fuel for generators and heating, explained New York Air National Guard Major Jacob Papp, an aircraft commander.
The three aircraft flew missions around the clock to supply the Alert outpost.
A south-facing view of Canadian Forces Station Alert, May 30, 2016.
(Kevin Rawlings/Wikimedia Commons)
The conditions in the Arctic this time of year can be less than ideal, Papp said. The crews experience freezing fog, low visibility and high winds, making approaches and landing difficult at times. Despite the weather, the 109th Airlift Wing crews were able to complete 37.4 hours of flying for the operation, he added.
“It was great to get out there and use the skills that we train for all the time, to land on a really short strip given the conditions and unimproved surface.” Papp said. “We look forward to working with them (Canadian Forces) again.”
The 109th Airlift Wing has a long history of operating in the Arctic in support of American and Canadian operations. In 2014, 2015 and 2016, the 109th Airlift Wing participated in Operation NUNALIVUT, an annual Arctic operations exercise.
A C-130 flown by airmen from the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing takes off from Canadian Forces Station Alert on Ellsmere Island, Nunavut, after dropping off supplies on Sept. 30, 2019.
(Canadian armed forces/Leading Seaman Paul Green, 8 Wing Imaging)
“Operating in the polar regions has been a 109th Airlift Wing core competency for the better part of 50 years, so assisting in this year’s Operation Boxtop is most definitely in the 109th wheelhouse,” said Major Gen. Timothy LaBarge, the commander of the New York Air National Guard.
“As we continue to demonstrate our collective abilities and competencies in the polar regions, I believe this effort by the 109th tangibly illustrates our ability to operate and project power in the High North,” La Barge said.
A CC-130J Hercules aircraft prepares to depart Canadian Forces Station Alert in Nunavut to bring more fuel to the station while another CC-130J Hercules approaches its parking spot to deliver fuel during Operation Boxtop, April 21, 2015.
(Canadian armed forces/Cpl Raymond Haack)
This historic resupply mission was conducted relatively late in the fall to help prove that science, logistics and other objectives in the Arctic can be met, according to Vaughan.
“This late season resupply of Canadian Forces Station Alert, the most northern military outpost on Earth, further demonstrates US-Canadian resolve in protecting the Arctic environment,” Vaughan said.
The Canadian NORAD Region works with the Continental United States NORAD Region to provide airspace surveillance and control for both countries.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A National Guard soldier who was home for the holidays died while saving people from the massive apartment fire in the Bronx borough in New York City on Dec. 28, according to several newsreports.
Emmanuel Mensah, a 28-year-old who immigrated from Ghana five years ago, returned to his apartment for the first time after joining the Army a year ago, according to The New York Times. He was among the 12 people killed in the blaze that consumed an apartment building near the corner of East 187th Street and Prospect Avenue.
Mensah lived with friends of his father — a married couple and their four children. He got that family out of the burning building safely before pulling four more people from the fire, said Twum Bredu, his uncle who lived next door. Witnesses cited in the Times’ report say Mensah disappeared after going back into the building to look for more victims.
NewYork Army National Guard Pvt 1st Class Emmanuel Mensah who died during a fire in an apartment buiilding in the Bronx, New York City on Dec. 28, 2017. (Photo courtesy New York Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion )
“He brought four people out,” Bredu told The Times. “When he went to bring a fifth person out, the fire caught up with him.”
Mensah is believed to have died of smoke inhalation, authorities said.
Mensah had just begun his military career, based on photos which indicate he held the rank of a private first class.
“I thought maybe he was coming back,” said his father, Kwabena Mensah, according to CBS News. “Unfortunately, it turns out the other way.”
Kwabena, who reportedly searched for his son at nearby hospitals, said he was not surprised by his son’s final act.
“That’s what I think, because it was in his nature,” Kwabena said. “He wanted to help people out.”
Four children were among the 12 people who died in the fire, which is suspected to have occurred a few minutes before 7 p.m., after a 3-year-old boy played with burners on a stove inside an apartment on the first floor, New York Fire Department’s commissioner, Daniel Nigro, said during a news conference.
Austrian authorities have questioned a recently retired military officer under suspicion of spying for Russia for almost 20 years, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has said.
Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl has summoned the Russian charge d’affaires over the matter and canceled an upcoming trip to Russia scheduled for Dec. 2-3, 2018, Kurz added.
“We demand transparent information from Russia,” Kurz said on Nov. 9, 2018, adding that the Russian diplomat currently in charge at the embassy in Vienna was summoned to the Austrian Foreign Ministry.
“If the suspicion is confirmed, such cases, regardless of whether they take place in the Netherlands or in Austria, do not improve relations between Russia and the European Union,” he said.
Kurz was referring to the expulsion of four Russian agents by the Netherlands in April 2018 for allegedly planning a cyberattack on the world’s chemical-weapons watchdog in The Hague.
“Russian spying in Europe is unacceptable and to be condemned,” Kurz added.
Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl.
In response, Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned Austria’s ambassador on Nov. 9, 2018, to demand an explanation about the accusations, Russian news agencies reported.
Austrian Defense Minister Mario Kunasek told the news conference that the case came to light “a few weeks ago” as a result of information from another European intelligence agency.
Kurz said Austria was not going to withdraw its envoy from Moscow yet or expel Russian diplomats.
“We will discuss our further steps with European partners as soon as we receive more accurate information. In such a situation it is necessary to make gradual steps,” Kurz said.
Austria is one of the few European countries that maintains close diplomatic contacts with Moscow despite Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and even after the poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Britain, which London has blamed on Russia.
Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said she canceled her visit to Russia scheduled for Dec. 2-3, 2018, due to the espionage case.
Vienna, home to multiple international organizations such as the IAEA, OSCE and a branch of the United Nations, is known as a European espionage hub.
The city also used to be a gateway to communist countries during the Cold War because of its proximity to Eastern Europe.
It was once the most heroic thing a soldier could do. They’d strap themselves up with the barest of combat essentials and jump out of the back of a perfectly good aircraft into uncertain danger — often ending up miles away from their intended drop zone and, sometimes, completely on their own.
Combat jumps led the Allied Forces to victory in WWII. These same tactics were employed during the Korean War and Vietnam War and, eventually, were used by Rangers and Green Berets in Grenada and Panama. When it came time for the Global War on Terrorism, well, let’s just say there are only a handful of combat jumps that come without asterisks attached.
It should be noted that this list cannot be exhaustive, as there are likely some jumps that that have yet to be declassified. Also, there were many airborne insertions done in-theater, but those don’t qualify you for the coveted “mustard stain,” so they don’t make the list.
The following are the only jumps that have happened since September 11, 2001 that satisfy all the requirements to fully classify as combat jumps.
Now it is known as Kandahar Airfield, home to the ISAF command, several NATO nation’s commands, a TGI Fridays, and a pond full of human excrement.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Maj. Tony Wickman)
Just 38 days after the horrific attacks of September 11th, the 75th Ranger Regiment sent 200 of their most badass Rangers to meet with the 101st Airborne Division 100 miles south of Kandahar, Afghanistan — the last bastion of complete Taliban control in Afghanistan. The Rangers landed on a derelict strip of land and expected heavy resistance. In actuality, they found just one, lone Taliban fighter who presumably sh*t himself as 200 Rangers dropped in on him.
There, they established a sufficient forward operating base, called FOB Rhino, which opened the way to take back Kandahar for the Afghan people.
Fun fact: they technically beat the next entry by a few days, forever solidifying their bragging rights.
The 75th Rangers, who are featured heavily on this list, led the way into Iraq by making combat jumps into Iraq in March, 2003 — the first in Iraq since Desert Storm.
The Rangers landed in the region a few weeks earlier by airborne insertion to capture the lead operational planner of the September 11th attacks. They accomplished this within three days of touching boots to the ground. The next wave of 2nd Battalion 75th Rangers came to secure al-Qa’im and Haditha before making their way into Baghdad.
If you didn’t know about this one… Don’t worry. Literally everyone in the 173rd will remind you of this whenever their personal Airborne-ness is brought into question.
(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Adam Sanders)
Operation Northern Delay
In the early morning of March 26th, 2003, 996 soldiers of the 173rd Airborne Division jumped into the relatively empty Bashur Airfield and stopped six entire divisions of Saddam’s army from continuing on to Baghdad.
This marked the first wave of conventional troops in the region and the beginning of the end of Saddam’s regime. This was also the only jump conducted by conventional USAF airmen as the 786th Security Forces Squadron also jumped with them.
Come on, 75th Rangers! You guys are leaving out all the good, juicy details of your classified missions!
Various Regimental Reconnaissance Detachment jumps in Afghanistan
Very little is known about the last two publicly-disclosed combat jumps, as is the case with most JSOC missions, other than the fact that they were both conducted by the 75th Ranger Regiment’s Regimental Reconnaissance Company Teams 3 and 1.
RRC Team 3 jumped into Tillman Drop Zone in southeast Afghanistan on July 3rd, 2004, to deploy tactical equipment in a combat military free-fall parachute drop.
This was the last RRC time made a jump until Team 1 jumped five years later on July 11th, 2009, into an even more remote location of Afghanistan — but this time, scant reports state that the jumps including a tandem passenger to aid in deploying tactical equipment.
We’ll just have to wait for the history books to be written, I guess.
Even as aftershocks continued to rattle the region, troops and families here spent Saturday picking up the pieces and assessing damage, a day after the largest earthquake in recent history.
The 7.0 magnitude quake struck at 8:29 a.m. Friday, over an hour before sunrise. With an epicenter about seven miles northwest of the base, it was followed six minutes later by a 5.7 magnitude aftershock — the first of hundreds of such smaller quakes over the following 36 hours. A tsunami warning was issued for the region near base, then later canceled.
Airmen assess damage the day after the 7.0 earthquake at Elmendorf-Richardson Air Force Base, Alaska.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
While no fatalities have been reported, the extensive damage caused to roads and property through the Anchorage area and the nearby Matanuska-Susitna Valley is still being assessed.
Several major thoroughfares completely or partially collapsed. Residents reported homes full of shattered personal items, while ceiling tiles fell, windows and glass shattered and water mains broke in some buildings. And at stores across the region, shelves of items tipped over or were simply rattled free of their contents.
With snow in the forecast and some major roads detoured thanks to the damage, including the region’s primary highway which runs past this base, local officials warned residents to stay home if they can.
“This is one of those weekends, boy, stay home and stream Netflix,” Anchorage Fire Chief Jodie Hettrick said during a Dec. 1 news conference.
Volunteers clean up the commissary at Elmendorf-Richardson Air Force Base the day after a 7.0 earthquake shook the region.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
On base, 100 percent of personnel have been accounted for, and officials Saturday said they were making their way through assessing structures for damage. No Army or Air Force assets have been reported as damaged. Water and gas has been completely restored to all buildings, gas stations and shoppettes have reopened and all dining halls are fully operational, according to announcements on the base Facebook page.
Some National Guard drill dates scheduled for the base over the weekend have been canceled. Troops stationed on base are instructed to contact their units for information about reporting for duty Monday, and civilian employees are authorized an excused absence for natural disaster or liberal leave.
Air Force PT testing scheduled for Monday and Tuesday is canceled, as are all appointments scheduled for Monday at the base hospital. Most base fitness centers are also closed for clean-up. A 9th Army Band holiday concert planned for Saturday was rescheduled.
Child Development Centers are set to reopen Monday on a normal schedule, officials said. On-base schools, however, which are operated by the Anchorage School District, will be closed Monday and Tuesday. The commissary reopened Saturday after volunteers and staff spent the morning cleaning up broken items that had dropped from shelves.
Base residents are instructed to direct legal claims involving damage caused by government property to base officials, but were warned that claims must first be settled with their renter insurance for damage to personal property or damage to items in their on-base residence.
Trump’s new Iran policy calls for an economic crackdown following the withdrawal from the Iran deal, a buildup of anti-Iran military alliances with the US’s regional partners, and a media campaign to heat up already simmering civil unrest in the country.
But, while the circumspect approach mirrors Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign that helped force North Korea and China to change their tunes, this time he’s opened with an offer for a summit.
“I’m ready to meet anytime they want to,” Trump said of Iran during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on July 30, 2018. “No preconditions. They want to meet? I’ll meet.”
Iran, theoretically, has a lot to gain from improved relations with the US. Since the US withdrawal from the Iran deal, Iran’s currency has taken a nosedive, soaring up to around 120,000 rials to a dollar. In August and November 2018 Iran faces two new waves of sanctions that will shut off their access to US banking and oil exports.
Though the US sanctions post-deal will be unilateral and not as strong as the pre-deal UN-imposed sanctions, fear angering the US, the world’s largest economy, will likely scare off Europeans who are otherwise committed to the deal.
In short, Trump withdrew from the Iran deal, likely imposed tremendous cost and stress on Tehran’s economy, and Iran has responded by staying in the deal and trying to portray itself as a good actor worthy of the world’s support against US hegemony. For the moment, Trump is having his cake and eating it too.
A ‘kiss the ring’ moment from Trump to Iran would be deeply humiliating
Iran’s parliament, for the first time ever, has called up Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to grill him on the foreboding economic downturn. Iran watchers consider Rouhani a moderate who spent considerable political capital in negotiating with the US and the West to cast the Iran deal.
But now, Iran finds itself having signed away its nuclear ambitions for almost none of the economic rewards promised by the west.
Ali Motahari, the deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament who is seen as part of Iran’s moderate camp, said that to negotiate with Trump now ” would be a humiliation .”
Other figures in Iran’s government dismissed the idea as non starter, saying the nuclear deal represented the talks they supported, and having that ripped up made future conversations untenable.
Instead, Iran hopes to improve relations with Europe, who it hopes will brave US sanctions to continue to buy its oil. But as many of Europe’s businesses are exposed to the US’s massive financial reach, it’s hard to imagine Iran doesn’t take a haircut on its potential future earnings.
Meanwhile, Trump has, in short order, laid down a remarkable track record with summits, especially with US adversaries. “I’ll meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” Trump said on July 30, 2018.
If Trump helped North Korea’s image, imagine what he could do for Iran.
A Trump summit has its appeal
Trump became the first US leader to meet with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, the world’s worst human rights violator. Kim agreed to only vague, symbolic or non-binding moves to help the US while Trump heaped praise on the leader and defended his brutal regime.
Iran, similarly, could hold a summit with Trump, but its political culture forbids such a thing. Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has cast itself as standing up to the US with fierce opposition. Its senior government figures chant “death to America.” Iran’s navy holds the dubious operational goal of destroying the US Navy . Domestically, Rouhani already stuck his neck out for the US with the Iran deal.
For Iranian leaders to smile and shake Trump’s hand would symbolize a deep capitulation and recognition that the US holds tremendous power over Tehran, and that their values of opposing US hegemony stand subordinate to their will to survive economically, for which they’ll need a benevolent Trump.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
These special dogs that serve on the front lines in warfare, search for drugs, explosives, and capture dangerous individuals are primarily Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, Czech Shepherds, and Dutch Shepherds. These breeds are chosen for their speed, strength, and ability to perform incredible nose work for search.
They work for our Military, Private Contractors, Law Enforcement, TSA, Border Patrol, Prisons and other entities, yet wherever they work, the scope of what they do is the same and they give tirelessly of themselves.
Their service can span up to 12 years and some working dogs can have as many as four handlers in their career. When they retire, it’s a given that they are wanted by those they worked beside for so long.
When these dogs retire it can be hard for the handlers to afford the cost of transportation home for their best friend and partners. Flights from places like Afghanistan can exceed $3000 and once home there is no “retirement” fund for veterinary care. It’s all on the handler to provide.
That’s where Mission K9 Rescue comes in. Since 2013 the Houston based organization has rescued almost 1000 working dogs, reunited over 600 with former handlers, and paid out over id=”listicle-2646195386″,000,000 in veterinary care!
You can feel the joy in their work and especially in the recent reunion in San Antonio, Tx of MWD Iskra and her handler, Jake. For those that wonder, “Iskra” is the Russian word for “Spark”.
Jake met Iskra in February 2016. He said it took them a few weeks to bond, but when they did they were inseparable! They were certified in three months and then went to Explosive Detection School as a team. After training the pair traveled and worked in New York, Jerusalem, and Sicily. Soon after, the pair was deployed to Iraq where they spent the balance of their time together in Baghdad. Jake said that Iskra worked tirelessly and gave him all the love in the world.
After coming home, Jake was reassigned and had to say goodbye to his best friend. He hoped one day to be able to adopt Iskra when she retired, to continue the bond they shared. His joy was made complete when he learned that she was ready to retire and that Mission K9 Rescue would be making the reunion possible.
The reunion photos are all you need to see the love and bond that these two partners share. We owe a debt of appreciation and gratitude to working dogs and the humans they serve.
As COVID-19 spreads across the planet, humanity faces a difficult and deadly trial. Here in the U.S., the best science available predicts hundreds of thousands of Americans will contract the disease. Government officials have already reported that thousands of patients with COVID-19 have died and projected that between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans will eventually die from the virus.
Facing this grim diagnosis will bring out the best in the American people. Character is displayed under pressure. We’re under pressure, and America’s character is strong. We have the discipline and determination to do what is right for our families and communities, even when it is difficult. We have the caring and compassion to help those who are suffering. We have ingenious entrepreneurs and innovative tools – including the ability to gather and process large amounts of data.
And we have the wisdom to know that our character must guide how we use tools, including data-gathering tools, to help us overcome this monumental challenge.
Countries around the world are combatting the spread of coronavirus by collecting and using the location of peoples’ smartphones. This government use of location data – i.e., surveillance – appears to be a powerful tool in the fight against the disease, but also raises a host of privacy concerns. The U.S. shouldn’t blindly copy other countries’ practices. Instead, we can and should find ways to harness the power of big data to protect public health while also protecting the rights of all Americans.
Governments use location data to combat COVID-19 in two ways. They use it for “contact tracing,” to identify all the people a sick person has encountered. Most do this by assembling a massive database of the movements of every person, sick or healthy. South Korea has been especially aggressive on this front, collecting data from infected citizens’ credit cards, GPS systems, and cellphones to determine their location and interactions with other citizens. Singapore has created an app that collects information about nearby phones over Bluetooth, focusing on who the user has been near, rather than where. No comprehensive database of locations is required.
The other purpose for which countries are using location data is to enforce social distancing or quarantine requirements. The South Korean government mandates that quarantined individuals download an app that tracks their location, enabling the government to detect when individuals break their quarantine restrictions. Governments in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Russia also use smartphone apps, geofencing, and facial-recognition technology to enforcequarantine restrictions on individuals.
While we don’t have comprehensive data on the effectiveness of these various approaches, it does appear that digital surveillance can help governments “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of COVID-19.
But when governments use these tools, they do so at the cost of their citizens’ privacy. This tradeoff is not surprising. Because information about people is useful for many purposes, tradeoffs between privacy and other values are common. Privacy values often clash with openness, competition, and innovation. But rarely are the tradeoffs so dramatic.
Calibrating these tradeoffs in advance is difficult. There is evidence that existing U.S. privacy laws hindered the use of valuable medical information, slowing the initial response to the virus. Specifically, university researchers in Washington state were delayed by weeks in their efforts to repurpose already-gathered patient data to study the growing COVID-19 pandemic. This is one reason laws that restrict private sector use of data should allow beneficial uses, including using data to improve health and save lives.
But even when fighting real, tangible harms like death and disease, unwarranted government surveillance without due process unacceptably threatens liberty. That’s why our Constitution and our values limit what government can do even when pursuing important goals. These privacy-protecting institutions are our country’s antibodies against government overreach and abuse.
Fortunately, we don’t have to give up our liberties to use big data tools in the fight against COVID-19. Rather than assemble giant databases of personal information like South Korea or China has, U.S. government public health experts should use anonymized location data not linked to individuals. Such data can help researchers assess how well populations are practicing social distancing, identify hotspots of activity that raise the risk of spreading the disease, and study how the disease has spread. (Reports indicate that health officials are already using anonymized mobile advertising data for these purposes and some private companies are offering free-to-use tools to help decisionmakers). We should also explore decentralized approaches to contact tracing, like the Singaporean app. Civic-minded individuals who want to volunteer their data for research purposes should be encouraged to do so, perhaps through public education campaigns.
In any case, U.S. health officials must protect our privacy by ensuring that any data collected for use in this current health crisis isn’t repurposed for other government uses. And both businesses and governments involved in this effort must tell the public how data is being collected, shared, and used.
The U.S. has the world’s best innovators in using data to improve Americans’ lives. We can, and should, empower those innovators to fight the spread of COVID-19 consistent with our strong American values and character.
There are many myths about having a Department of Veterans Affairs‘ disability rating and serving in the military. The most common is that, if you have a VA disability rating, you can never serve in the military again. Or if you do serve in the military, you have to waive your disability rating or all of your VA disability compensation. None of these statements is completely true.
Because you can file a VA disability claim only after leaving active duty, this article is making the assumption that the military member has left active duty and is either transitioning into the Guard or Reserves or trying to return to active duty after a break in service.
Can You Serve in the Military with a Disability Rating?
The answer is maybe. Simply having a VA disability rating does not prevent someone from joining the military. However, the underlying medical condition may prevent someone from medically qualifying to serve again.
For example, you can receive a VA disability rating for knee surgery that you had while on active duty. If your knee has otherwise healed and you can perform your military duties, remain deployable and pass your PT test, then you may be eligible for continued military service.
However, other underlying medical conditions may prevent you from joining the military again. For example, it may be difficult to join again if your VA disability rating stems from a serious medical condition that prevents you from being able to perform your military duties, maintain deployability status or pass your PT test.
Can You Serve on Active Duty with a VA Disability Rating?
Provided you have been medically cleared to serve, simply having a VA disability rating isn’t enough to prohibit you from serving on active duty.
However, federal law prohibits members from receiving military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same day of service.
So, while you won’t have to waive your actual VA disability rating, you would need to suspend your VA disability compensation payments until after your active-duty service ends. After that, you can contact the VA to resume your payments.
What About Serving in the Guard or Reserves with a Disability Rating?
The same rules apply to members of the Reserve Component as they do for active duty. However, there is one big difference: You don’t have to suspend your VA disability compensation payments unless you are serving in a full-time capacity.
When you receive VA disability compensation, you receive it on a monthly basis.
When you serve in the Reserve Component, you receive military pay only on the days you serve (typically one weekend a month, and two weeks a year). You actually perform four drill periods on your weekend drill and receive pay for four days of work. You will receive only one day of pay for the other days you serve in the Reserve Component (Active Training, TDY, PME, etc.).
The typical Guard or Reserve member receives military pay for only a handful of days per month. They are in an inactive status and are not receiving compensation for the remaining days of the month.
Remember the rule above: “Federal law prohibits members from receiving military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same day of service.”
The law requires members of the Reserve Component to waive either their military compensation or VA disability compensation for days in which they received both forms of compensation. Thankfully, it’s easy to decide which pay to waive.
Keep in mind you have to waive your pay only on the days on which you receive both forms of compensation. In other words, the pay you waive is prorated — you don’t have to waive the full month of either of these payments, only the prorated amount for the days on which you received both.
Both the VA and Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) prorate the payments based on a 30-day month. This means each day of VA compensation is worth 1/30 of your monthly VA disability rate. Likewise, each day of military service is worth 1/30 of your base military pay.
So if you serve the traditional one weekend a month, two weeks a year, you would receive military compensation for 63 days of service (48 weekend drills and 15 AT days).
The VA sends members a copy of VA Form 21-8951 at the end of the year documenting the number of days on which they received military compensation and VA disability compensation for the same period of service.
If you waive your VA disability compensation, the VA will simply withhold future payments based on the number of days for which you received compensation in the previous year. If you were paid for 63 days of military service, the VA would withhold a little more than two months’ worth of disability compensation from future payments. You can even request that the VA withhold only a portion of your future payments until the full amount is withheld.
If you choose to waive your military compensation, you would need to repay the military in full. This would mean writing a large check to DFAS.
In most cases, you will have earned more military compensation than you received in VA disability compensation, so it would make much more sense to waive your VA compensation.
Yes, it may be possible to serve in the military with a VA disability rating, provided your underlying medical condition doesn’t prevent you from meeting requirements. If you serve on active duty, in the full-time Guard/Reserves, or you have been activated, you may need to suspend your VA disability compensation payments to comply with federal law. Otherwise, members of the Reserve Component may need to waive either their military compensation or their disability compensation for the number of days on which they received both forms of compensation on the same day.
A Coast Guard member became the second woman in its history to receive the Silver Lifesaving Medal.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden, a boatswain’s mate at Coast Guard Sector Mobile, received the medal for saving two swimmers off the coast of Long Island Sound, New York.
Vanderhaden received the medal in July. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
“It was 2018 and I had just moved to New York and was trying to hit every beach in the area. I hadn’t been to Fire Island yet but heard the sunset there was amazing. I have the surf report app on my phone and it said it was going to be six feet. There were people and beach deer everywhere. … But I saw two guys pretty far out in the water and it was like a washing machine out there [with the waves],” Vanderhaden said.
She says she slowly grew more alarmed as she watched and heard someone on the shore yelling “ayúdenme.” Although she couldn’t understand the Spanish word, Vanderhaden sensed something was wrong. Turning to the couple next to her, she asked if they knew what that word meant. They did: Help me.
Turning to the couple next to her, she asked if they knew what that word meant. They did: Help me.
Vanderhaden immediately headed to the water, instructing people to call the police and the nearby Coast Guard station. She took off her shoes, sweater and started swimming. The rip current was so strong, it pulled her to the first man pretty quickly. Since the other man in the water was in more trouble being further out, she let the first know she’d be back for him and to try to stay afloat.
“When I got to the next guy, he was freaking out and climbing on me a lot. I was propping him up on my knee, holding him and telling him it was going to be okay. I don’t even know if he could understand me. Finally, he calmed down and I started swimming with him, pulling and pushing him. Then, we got to the second guy and that’s when things got hard,” Vanderhaden said.
When she reached the second man in the water, he began grabbing at her in obvious terror. Managing him while also keeping the other man and herself above water was a struggle. It took about 10 minutes just to calm them down.
“I started pushing one and pulling the other. I couldn’t see the beach because it had gotten dark and the waves were so high. We finally made it to shore and then the guys were hugging me and thanking me,” Vanderhaden said.
She found out later they were in the water almost 45 minutes.
Once she finished giving her statement to the police, she called her senior chief who was the OIC of her assigned duty station. Vanderhaden just briefly told them she had to talk to police but didn’t go into detail of what happened.
The police thought she was assigned to Coast Guard Station Fire Island but she was actually part of Coast Guard Station Eatons Neck. For about a week, they couldn’t figure out who she was and the sector jokingly started referring to her as the “Ghost Coastie.” It wasn’t until her mom happened to overhear some of the story that the dots finally got connected back to Vanderhaden.
“It was about a week before anyone knew it was me,” Vanderhaden said with a laugh.
Roughly two years later, she received the Silver Lifesaving Medal, with the presenting officer being a familiar face: her father. Vanderhaden’s father, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Jason M. Vanderhaden, is the top senior enlisted leader for the Coast Guard. Her brother currently serves too.
“For me, the other military branches making fun of us is one thing but I feel people [the public] think we are just police officers on the water. But it’s so much more than that,” she said.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Victoria Vanderhaden with her parents. Courtesy photo.
Vanderhaden’s father has served since 1988, making the culture of the Coast Guard all she’s ever known. She was asked if she thinks she would have jumped in to rescue the men if she hadn’t been a coastie.
“That’s a difficult question, because I don’t know anything but the Coast Guard. In my world and for all of people I live with and work around — all of us would do the same thing,” she said.
Then she added a recent conversation she had with a retired Coast Guard master chief who told her that some people think and some people do. He then said, the people who join the Coast Guard do.
There is no greater historical example of an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object than the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a mountainous, landlocked, harsh country that makes it very difficult for a great power to bring the full might of that power to bear against the locals. Naval forces are out and, in some area, so is air support. The harsh climate and vast nothingness and remotely populated areas makes supply lines difficult to establish and even harder to defend. But the Soviet Union opted to try anyway, invading in force in 1979.
Under Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah, the country was actually developing and modernizing fairly well… until his cousin Mohammed Daoud Khan overthrew him in 1973. He established an Afghan Republic and everything went to hell — for many reasons. Five years later, the Pashtun Nationalist government was overthrown in favor of a Communist regime and Afghanistan became a Cold War battlefront.
Communism did not sit well with the people in rural areas, who weren’t used to the control (and taxes and land reforms) of a Communist central government. So, they started fighting back. Then-President Nur Mohammed Taraki asked the Soviet Union to help quell angry protests against a government that suddenly decided to execute so many of them for failing to comply with Communist reforms. That’s when Hafizullah Amin, the Communist Prime Minister, killed Taraki and seized power.
Then, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev stepped in.
People like this.
Seeing Afghanistan descending into chaos and worried that the Islamic Revolution in Iran might spread to Afghanistan and other traditionally muslim Soviet Socialist Republics, the USSR decided to move in — and pretty much failed from day one, which was Christmas Day, 1979.
At this point, the Soviets needed to do four things: legitimize the Communist central government in Kabul, rebuild the Afghan Army, destroy resistance to the new government, and win the hearts and minds of the common people they couldn’t directly control.
“Ownership” being the operative word.
1. They could not establish the Communist government’s legitimacy
Failure was immediate, beginning with the man at the top. After just months in power, Amin was out. Literally. One of the first governmental changes the Soviets made was to kill Amin and replace him with Babrak Kamal. This turned the image of the Soviet invasion from one of an intervention to stabilize the government to one of ownership over Afghanistan.
These guys, remember?
2. They did not break the back of the resistance
While they were able to take the major cities, as well as transportation and communications centers, the Red Army quickly pushed tribal warlords into the mountainous regions, where they resolved to begin the Islamic Revolution that nobody had thought about until the Soviets invaded in the first place. Instead of conquering the country, they managed to unite Afghanistan’s disparate population against them.
There’s no Russian translation for “off the beaten path.” Apparently.
The one advantage the Red Army had over mujahideen fighters was their fleet of Hind helicopters. These allowed the Soviets to move people and equipment fast over long distances and into the high mountains. This silver lining lasted until the mid-1980s, when Stinger missiles began to appear in jihadi arsenals. With accurate anti-aircraft missiles, the mujahideen now had the ability to protect their mountainous hiding places and forced the Soviet Union to switch to a tactic of conducting nighttime raiding on enemy targets.
Soviet forces were concentrated in a mass along major highways in the country and in a series of fortified positions throughout their controlled areas. Outside of those areas, neither economy of forces nor consistent supply lines were ever established.
A map of areas controlled by insurgent groups in Afghanistan in 1985.
In places like Khost, Soviet dominance was never even established. The Red Army established a helicopter base on the outskirts of the city, but the city itself spent 11 years under siege from the Mujahideen forces, cut off from the rest of Soviet operations. When a relief column came to the base in 1987, they reset the siege as soon as the Russians left.
The Soviet Union’s previous experience with invading other countries was limited to East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Afghanistan and its people have little in common with the methods of fighting that work in Europe. The tactics employed by the Soviets were mostly of overwhelming firepower, including scorched-earth policies, carpet bombing, and the use of chemical weapons, none of which won them many friends among the people of the country they were trying to win over.
Soviet ground forces in action while conducting an offensive operation against the Islamist resistance, the Mujahideen.
3. The Soviets did not win over the hearts and minds of Afghan people
A narrative quickly formed that atheist Communists and traditionally Orthodox Christian Russian invaders were on a mission against Islam. Those Afghan warlords that were pushed out of major urban centers and villages came down from the mountains as a united Islamic front, the mujahideen. With the Cold War in full swing, the United States decided to help fuel the fire by supplying the mujahideen with weapons and equipment to help their jihad against the USSR.
Fighters and money flowed into the mujahideen’s ongoing guerrilla war against the Soviet Union from all corners of the Islamic world. Between 1980 and 1985, the Red Army stomped the mujahideen in a series of battles in the Panjshir Valley against the forces of rebel leaders like Ahmad Shah Massoud. But Massoud would always live to rebuild his forces and come back at the Russian bear.
The Soviets could win as many pitched battles as they wanted, kill as many Afghan fighters as possible, but the endless tide of money and men would mean that the battles would just be fought over and over. Search-and-destroy missions were not going to pacify Afghanistan. In fact, all it did was either kill the population or turned them into refugees — a full one-third of Afghanistan’s population was killed or fled during the Soviet occupation.
“Set it up like this, it goes bang. Good work, comrade.”
4. The Afghan Army was never an effective force
The Red Army brought in allied advisors from friendly countries to train the Afghan Army in warfighting methods more appropriate than the methods they actually used. Cuban troops who were familiar with insurgency operations from places like Angola and Ethiopia trained the burgeoning Afghan government troops, but the consistent lack of actual combat experience in these tactics wasted a lot of the time they could have spent creating a veteran fighting force.
Furthermore, the inefficient communications and logistics involved with large-scale Soviet operations did little to convince the nascent Afghan troops that their training methods and lessons had any real applicability in real-world fighting. When the Russians left and the Soviet Union fell, many of these trained fighters defected to the mujahideen, leading to the fall of the Afghan Communist regime.
The Soviet Union would stay in Afghanistan until February 1989. They still supported the Communist Afghan government against the mujahideen, which continued until the USSR collapsed in on itself in 1991. In April 1992, mujahideen troops under Ahmad Shah Massoud captured Kabul. But the factional violence within the jihadists didn’t stop and another civil war began.
This time, the victors were an upstart group of hardline Islamists, known as the Taliban.