The US has sent the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter into combat for the first time, CNN reported Sept. 27, 2018, citing defense officials.
A Marine Corps F-35B, launched from the amphibious assault ship USS Essex, conducted an airstrike in support of ground clearance operations on a fixed Taliban target in Afghanistan Sept. 27, 2018, according to a statement from US Naval Forces Central Command. The Essex arrived in the Middle East in early September 2018, with the onboard F-35s being deployed for intelligence and surveillance operations in Somalia prior to operations in Afghanistan.
CNN’s Sept. 27, 2018 report follows an earlier post from Sept. 25, 2018, indicating that the F-35 could be deployed for combat within the next few days. In the aftermath of a US F-35’s first combat mission, the Marine Corps released a video on Twitter showing the plane taking off from and landing on the Essex.
“The F-35B is a significant enhancement in theater amphibious and air warfighting capability, operational flexibility, and tactical supremacy,” Vice Adm. Scott Stearney, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, said in a statement, “As part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group, this platform supports operations on the ground from international waters, all while enabling maritime superiority that enhances stability and security.”
The most expensive weapons system in the history of the US military, the F-35 is a fifth-generation stealth fighter that has faced extensive criticism as numerous setbacks have hindered its deployment. The F-35B is designed for short takeoffs and vertical landings, giving it the ability to be deployed from assault ships like the Essex, which is smaller than modern aircraft carriers.
The first reported F-35 combat mission was carried out by Israel in May 2018, when Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35A fighters participated in strikes on unspecified targets.
The Marine Corps variant — the F-35B — was the first to be declared combat ready. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni became the first overseas base to operate the F-35 in 2017.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
“The Fighting Season,” is a six-part documentary from actor and veteran supporter Ricky Schroder and DirecTV. But it’s not just another war documentary.
The series culls out many of the hard-to-explain details of deployment in Afghanistan — the frustrations and setbacks and small victories. And in so doing, it gets it right.
“The Fighting Season” drops the viewer into the war without injecting any pretense or agendas. The film captures the nuance of asymmetric war, how soldiers suss out the difference between friendly locals and insurgents. It shows how the bad guys build an ambush against a backdrop of relative calm.
The infantry platoon talks about how happy they are that the Afghan National Police didn’t accidentally shoot them when the American platoon approaches the Afghan base in the dark. An American security team is in open disagreement with their colonel about how to complete their mission. The American’s sense of progress takes a major step backward as an Afghan National Police sentry allows a vehicle with an armed passenger right through their checkpoint in Kabul.
And the documentary feels like Afghanistan. It’s gritty and unpolished. The soldiers smoke, dip, and cuss. They forget to wear eye protection.
It feels like being back on the FOB and at the outpost.
“The Fighting Season” will debut on Audience Network Tuesday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
In lieu of a traditional advertising campaign, DirecTV is pursuing a social media campaign using the hashtag #TheFightingSeason. For every post with the hashtag, they’ll donate $1 to Operation Gratitude.
Chris Markowski is a Marine who served in Iraq less than ten months after graduating from high school. Markowski’s unit deployed with 48 men, but only 18 returned alive or uninjured.
Sprawling across Markowski’s arms, legs, and back is a tattoo of a quote he found on a piece of scrap paper while walking across a base in Iraq. It is from the famous Czech historian Konstantin Jirecek and reads: We are the unwanted, using the outdated, led by the unqualified, to do the unnecessary, for the ungrateful.
“It spoke deeply to me. Many of the people that actually join the military are unwanted by society,” Markowski explains. “But the military gives you the ability to make a future.”
Markowski’s story is part of War Ink: 11 for 11, a video series presented by We Are The Mighty. The series features 11 combat veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan using tattoos to tell their stories on and off the battlefield. Each week for the next 11 weeks, a different tattooed veteran will share his or her story.
Do you have a tattoo that tells the story of your war experiences? Post a photo of it at We Are The Mighty’s Facebook page with the hashtag #WeAreTheMightyInk. WATM will be teeing up the coolest and most intense ones through Veteran’s Day.
Veterans receiving care at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas, can now connect to mental health services remotely using a computer, smartphone or tablet. The system, called telemental health, has helped nearly a thousand Houston area veterans get the care they need.
telemental health uses the VA Video Connect app, which provides a secure connection between veteran and provider no matter where the veteran is located. Seventy-five Houston VAMC mental health providers are equipped to provide remote services.
“The technology is ideal for veterans who live far away, have medical problems or find it difficult to leave the house,” said Houston VAMC psychologist Dr. Jan Lindsay.
“Often, coming to the clinic is a big burden for our veterans. Barriers include child care, traffic, parking, taking off work or feeling anxiety when leaving their homes for treatment.”
telemental health eliminates those barriers. “When we provide psychotherapy via telehealth, some veterans report that being at home makes it easier to focus on the work being done and acquire the skills they need to engage their lives more fully,” said Lindsay. “They feel safer at home.”
Houston VAMC social worker Veronica Siffert places a consult for a veteran to receive telemental health services.
“It is actually easier than coming into the facility,” said Air Force Veteran Christopher Banks. “I can be in my own home, which helps me with sharing.”
Banks, who has trouble walking, often had to cancel his in-person mental health appointments. When he did make it to the provider’s office, he had to fight traffic to get there. “I’d get so stressed from the drive that I would spend 90 percent of my therapy talking about why I’m so angry,” he said.
telemental health is “a major benefit for those with mobility issues,” agreed Dr. Kaki York, deputy clinical executive with the Houston VAMC Mental Health Care Line.
“We have vets with ALS or Parkinson’s or who have had a stroke, who for whatever reason cannot get here to continue treatment. Also, family therapy services. Have you ever tried to coordinate an entire family? It’s very difficult. Video allows them to get in the same place at the same time instead of getting all of them to the VA.”
Veterans who travel for work also benefit from using telemental health. “Houston has a lot of oil field workers who live here for part of the time but somewhere else the other time,” said York. “They’re here for three months, then travel for six months. If they have an internet connection, we are here for them.”
For Banks, another plus is that reading material his therapist recommends is right at his fingertips. “When I was with the providers, they would recommend different links or health guides and I had to wait to get home to pull it up,” he said. “With telehealth, it’s right there. Memory is not the most reliable, especially with some of us vets. At home, I can open a search bar and go straight to it.”
There are advantages for clinicians as well. For example, during an office visit, if a therapist asks a veteran what medications she is taking, the veteran might not remember them all. Using remote video, the veteran can just show the therapist her medication containers.
“It’s up to each veteran how much he or she uses remote services,” said Lindsay. “If you like coming into the clinic to see your provider, you can continue to do so and only use video telehealth when convenient,” she said. For veterans who lack the means to connect remotely, equipment is available to use for the duration of treatment.
“Our goal would be that any mental health clinician at the main facility will be able to provide telehealth services when the patient wants it and provider thinks it would be helpful,” said York. “We are not quite 100 percent there yet, but we are getting close.”
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Here’s a review of the questions and responses from the candidates during the first-ever NBC/Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Commander-in-Chief Forum that was held on September 7th with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump in attendance. (Full video is available here.)
What is the most important characteristic that the commander in chief can possess?
Clinton: “I’ve had the unique experience of watching and working with several presidents . . . What you want in a commander in chief is someone who listens, who evaluates what is begin told to him or her, who is able to sort out the very difficult options being presented and then makes the decision . . . Temperament and judgment is key.”
Trump: “I built a great company, I’ve been all over the world, I’ve dealt with foreigncountries, I’ve done tremendously dealing with China and I’ve had great experience dealing on a national basis. I have great judgment. I know what’s going on. I’ve called so many of the shots.”
On the Iraq War:
Clinton: “The decision to go to war in Iraq was a mistake. I have said that my voting to give President Bush that authority was, from my perspective, my mistake. I also believe that it is imperative that we learn from the mistakes, like after action reports are supposed to do. We must learn what led us down that path so that it never happens again. I think I’m in the best possible position to be able to understand that and prevent it.”
Trump: “I was totally against the war in Iraq . . . because I said it was going to totally destabilize the Middle East, which it has. It has absolutely been a disastrous war and by the way, perhaps almost as bad was the way Barack Obama got out. That was a disaster.”
Editor’s note: Read a fact-check on his response here.
On the Iran nuclear deal: “If they cheat, how would you respond?”
Clinton: “I have said we are going to enforce [the nuclear deal] to the letter . . . I think we have enough insight into what they are doing [on the nuclear issue] to be able to say we have to distrust, but verify. What I am focused is all the other malicious activities of the Iranians: ballistic missiles, support for terrorists, being involved in Syria, Yemen and other places . . . I would rather as president be dealing with Iran on all of those issues without having to worry about their race to creating a nuclear weapon. We have made the world safer, we just have to make sure it’s enforced.”
Trump was not asked this question
On veterans and suicide:
Clinton: “I rolled out my mental health agenda last week [you can read it here]. I have a whole section devoted to veterans’ mental health. We’ve got to remove the stigma. We’ve got to help people currently serving not to feel that if they report their sense of unease or depression that it’s somehow going to be a mark against them. We’ve have to do more about addiction, not only drugs but also alcohol. I have put forth a really robust agenda working with VSOs and other groups like TAPS who have been thinking about this and trying to figure out what we’re going to do to help our veterans.”
Trump: “It’s actually 22. It’s almost impossible to conceive that this is happening in our country. Twenty to 22 people a day are killing themselves. A lot of it is they’re killing themselves over the fact that they’re in tremendous pain and they can’t see a doctor. We’re going to speed up the process. We’re going to create a great mental health division. They need help . . . We’re doing nothing for them. The VA is really almost, you could say, a corrupt enterprise . . . We are going to make it efficient and good and if it’s not good, you’re going out to private hospitals, public hospitals and doctors.”
On terrorist attacks on American soil:
Clinton: “I’m going to do everything in my power that that’s the result. I’m not going to promise something that I think most Americans know is going to be a huge challenge. We’ve got to have an intelligence surge. We’ve got to get a lot more cooperation out of Europe and out of the Middle East. We have to do a better job of not only collecting and analyzing the intelligence we do have, but distributing it much more quickly down the ladder to state and local law enforcement. We also have to do a better job combating ISIS online — where they recruit, where they radicalize and I don’t think we’re doing as much as we can . . . We have to wage this war against ISIS from the air, on the ground and online in cyberspace.”
Trump was not asked this question.
Clinton: “We have to defeat ISIS. That is my highest counter-terrorism goal. We’ve got to do it with air power. We’ve got to do it with much more support from the Arabs and the Kurds who will fight on the ground against ISIS. We have to squeeze them by continuing to support the Iraqi military. We’re going to work to make sure they have the support. They have special forces as you know, they have enablers, surveillance, intelligence, reconnaissance. They are not going to get ground troops. We are not putting ground troops into Iraq ever again and we are not putting ground troops in Syria. Those are the kinds of decisions we have to make on a case-by-case basis.”
Trump: “The generals under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not been successful . . . The generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point where it’s an embarrassing for our country. You have a force of 30,000 or so people. Nobody really knows . . . I can just see the great General George Patton spinning in his grave as ISIS we can’t beat . . . I didn’t learn anything [from a recent briefing to suggest that he cannot quickly defeat ISIS]. What I did learn was that our leadership, Barack Obama did not follow what our experts . . . said to do.”
On prepping for office:
Clinton was not asked this question.
Trump: “In the front row you have four generals, you have admirals, we have people all throughout the audience that I’m dealing with. Right here is a list that was just printed today of 88 admirals and generals that I meet with and I talk to . . . I’m doing a lot of different things. We’re running a big campaign, we’re doing very well . . . I’m also running a business . . . In the meantime, I am studying . . . I think I’ve learned a lot . . . Also, I really feel like I have a lot of common sense on the issues you’ve asked about.”
Veteran questions to Clinton:
How can you expect those such as myself who were and are entrusted with America’s most sensitive information to have any confidence in your leadership as president when you clearly corrupted our national security?
Clinton: “I communicated about classified material on a wholly separate system. I took it very seriously. When I traveled I went into one of those little tents. . . because we didn’t want there to be any potential for someone to have embedded a camera to try to see whatever it was that I was seeing that was designated, marked and headed as classified. I did exactly what I should have done and I take it very seriously. Always have, always will.”
Editor’s note: For a fact-check on her response to handling classified information, go here.
How do you respond to progressives . . . that your hawkish foreign policy will continue and what is your plan to end wasteful war campaigns?
Clinton: “I view force as a last resort, not a first choice. I will do everything in my power to make sure that our men and women in the military are fully prepared for any challenge that they may have to face on our behalf. I will also be as careful as I can in making the most significant decision any president or commander in chief can make.”
Do you think the problems with the VA have been made to seem worse than they really are?
Clinton has faced criticism for making the comment that “the problems with the VA are not as widespread as they are made out to be.”
Clinton: “I was outraged by the stories that came out about the VA. I have been very clear about the necessity of doing whatever is required to move the VA into the 21st century, to provide the kind of treatment options that our veterans today desperately need and deserve. I will not let the VA be privatized. I think that would be very disastrous for our military veterans. I’m going to have a meeting every week in the Oval Office, we’re going to bring the VA people and the DoD people. We’ve got to have a better fit between getting mustered out and getting into the VA system.”
Veteran questions to Trump:
Assuming we do defeat ISIS, what next? What is your plan for the region to ensure that a group like them doesn’t just come back? (Editor’s note: This question was posed by Marine vet Phil Klay, the award-winning author of “Redeployment.”)
Trump: “Part of the problem that we’ve had is we go in, we defeat somebody and we don’t know what we’re doing after that . . . You look at Iraq. You look at how badly that was handled. And then, when President Obama took over, likewise it was a disaster . . . If I win, I don’t want to broadcast to the enemy exactly what my plan is . . . I may like my plan or I may like the generals’ plan . . . There will probably be different generals then. ”
Do you believe that an undocumented person who serves or wants to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces deserves to stay in this country legally?
Trump: “I think that when you serve in the Armed Forces that’s a very special situation and I could see myself working that out. If they plan on serving, if they get in, I would absolutely hold those people. Now we have to very careful, we have to vet very carefully, everybody would agree with that. But the answer is it would be a very special circumstance.”
In your first 120 days of your presidency, how would you de-escalate the tensions and, more importantly, what steps would you take to bring Mr. Putin and the Russian government back to the negotiating table?
Trump: “I think I would have a very good relationship with many foreign leaders . . . I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Putin and I think I would have a very, very good relationship with Russia . . . Russia wants to defeat ISIS as badly as we do. If we had a relationship with Russia, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could work on it together and knock the hell out of ISIS? . . . I’m a negotiator. We’re going to take back our country.”
How will you translate those words [about helping veterans] to action after you take office?
Trump: “I’ve been very close to the vets. You see the relationship I have with the vets just by looking at the polls . . . I have a very, very powerful plan that’s on my website. One of the big problems is the wait time. Vets are waiting six days, seven days, eight days . . . Under a part of my plan, if they have that long wait, they walk outside, they go to their local doctor, they choose their doctor, they choose their hospital, whether its public or private, they get themselves better. In many cases, it’s a minor procedure, or it’s a pill a prescription. And they end up dying because they can’t see the doctor. We will pay the bill . . .”
Editor’s note: Read Trump’s 10 Point VA Plan here.
What specifically would you do to support all victims of sexual assault in the military?
Trump: “It’s a massive problem. The numbers are staggering and hard to believe. We’re going to have to run it very tight. At the same time, I want to keep the court system within the military. I don’t think it should be outside the military, but we have to come down very, very hard on that . . . The best thing we can do is set up a court system within the military. Right now, the court system practically doesn’t exist.”
Trump: “It is a correct tweet. There are many people that think that is absolutely correct. Since then, it’s gotten worse. Something has to happen. Nobody gets prosecuted. You have the report of rape and nobody gets prosecuted. There is no consequence . . . You have to go after that person. Look at the small number of results.”
Picking up a fallen comrade, a young child, or a case of beer are all instances that you can train for in the gym, to ensure that when the time calls, you’re ready.
The deadlift gets its name because you start every rep from a dead stop off the floor, just like in the above scenarios. In order to deadlift, you need to set up properly. That means that every rep is the first rep. There is no way to build momentum or use stretch reflex to make it easier.
Good luck with a CASEVAC if you can’t properly pick up your fallen team member
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson/Released)
The deadlift is easily the most butchered exercise in the history of modern man. The following setup will ensure you skip all the common pitfalls and get to pulling 2x your body weight in no time.
You are ready to pull. You already have the weight in your hands, and your entire body is in position.
Without compromising your back position, pull straight up and press your feet through the floor.
These two directly opposing actions will cause the weight to move with ease.
Remember, you are fighting gravity here. Any movement that is not directly vertical is stealing energy that you could be using to fight gravity with.
The best way to overcome gravity is to stay balanced over your mid-foot, where the bar starts the movement, and keep the bar in contact with your legs during the entire execution of the movement.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/p/BjM4H6snBSe/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link expand=1]Michael Gregory on Instagram: “New Deadlift 1 Rep Max! . I learned not to let failure cloud my vision today. I failed, couldn’t move the weight on my first attempt at…”
The hamstrings are prone to extreme soreness, and for this reason, many trainees only deadlift once a week. But just one deadlift session a week is plenty to spur an increase in posterior chain size and strength.
President Donald Trump signed a landmark bill on June 6, 2018, to replace the troubled Veterans Choice Program and expand private health care options amid a fight between the White House and Congress over how to pay for it.
The bill, the VA Mission Act, would also expand caregivers assistance to the families of disabled veterans and order an inventory of the Department of Veterans Affairs‘ more than 1,100 facilities with a long-term view to trimming excess.
“This is a very big day,” said Trump, who made veterans care one of the signature issues of his run for the White House. “All during the campaign, I’d say, ‘Why can’t they just go out and see a doctor instead of standing on line?’
“This is truly a historic moment, a historic time for our country,” he continued, before signing the bill at a White House Rose Garden ceremony. “We’re allowing our veterans to get access to the best medical care available, whether it’s at the VA or at a private provider.”
In his remarks, Trump did not mention that funds to pay for the bill have yet to be identified, or that the White House and Congress are at odds on funding mechanisms. The bill’s projected costs over five years are also in dispute.
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Georgia, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and a key sponsor of the bill, and Sen. Jon Tester, the ranking member of the committee, put the total costs at $55 billion, although other estimates have it at $52 billion.
Isakson acknowledged that the bill isn’t paid for but said he is working with Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, to add funding for the bill that would likely balloon the deficit. The White House has argued for funding the bill by cutting other programs.
A White House memo obtained by The Washington Post said that simply adding funding is “anathema to responsible spending” and would lead to “virtually unlimited increases” in spending on private health care for veterans.
Shelby said on June 5, 2018, that going along with the White House would result in cuts of $10 billion a year to existing programs, including some at the VA.
“If we don’t get on it, we’re going to have a hole of $10 billion in our [appropriations],” said Shelby, who predicted “some real trouble” in reaching agreement, according to a Washington Post report.
Critics of the bill have warned that over-reliance on private-care options could lead to the “privatization” of VA health care, but Trump said, “If the VA can’t meet the needs of the veteran in a timely manner, that veteran will have the right to go right outside to a private doctor. It’s so simple and yet so complicated.”
In his remarks at the ceremony of less than 20 minutes, Trump also noted that it was the 74th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy when U.S. troops “stormed into hell.”
“They put everything on the line for us,” he said and, like all veterans, “when they come home, we must do everything that we can possibly do for them, and that’s what we’re doing.”
The issue of funding has plagued the existing Veterans Choice Program since it was enacted in response to the wait-times scandals of 2014 in which VA officials were caught doctoring records to show better performance.
The Choice program allowed veterans who lived more than 40 miles from a VA facility or had to wait more than 30 days for an appointment to have access to private care, but the program was time limited and Congress has struggled to come up with money for extensions.
The program was again due to run out of funding May 31, 2018, but the VA said there was enough money remaining to keep it in operation until Trump signed the VA Mission Act.
The new bill called for $5.2 billion in funding to keep the existing Choice program in operation for a year while the VA worked through reforms to consolidate the seven private-care options into one system while eliminating the 30-day, 40-mile restrictions.
The GAO said veterans could wait up to 70 days for private-care appointments under the Choice program because of poor communication between the VA and its facilities and “an insufficient number, mix, or geographic distribution of community providers.”
Trump touts ridding VA of corruption, poor performers
Ahead of the signing ceremony, the White House put out a statement citing Trump’s accomplishments in his first 500 days in office. Veterans programs topped the list.
Trump “worked with Congress to forge an overwhelming bipartisan vote of support” for the VA Mission Act, the statement said. The vote in the House was 347-70; the Senate vote was 92-5.
The VA Mission Act and other veterans legislation will “bring more accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs and provide our veterans with more choice in the care they receive,” the White House statement said.
In his remarks, Trump hailed passage of the VA Accountability Act, which is aimed at getting rid of poor performers, and lashed out at civil service unions for opposing reform.
“Four years ago, our entire nation was shocked and outraged by stories of the VA system plagued by neglect, abuse, fraud and mistreatment of our veterans,” he said in a reference to the wait-times scandals.
(Photo by Staff Sgt. Felix Fimbres)
“And there was nothing they could do about it. Good people that worked there, they couldn’t take care of the bad people — meaning ‘You’re fired, get the hell out of here,’ ” Trump said.
More accountability “made so much sense but it was hard,” he said. “You have civil service, you have unions. Of course, they’d never do anything to stop anything, but they had a very great deal of power.
“So we passed something that hasn’t been that recognized, and yet I would put it almost in the class with Choice. Almost in the class with Choice. VA Accountability — passed. And now, if people don’t do a great job, they can’t work with our vets anymore. They’re gone,” Trump said.
The VA has more than 360,000 employees serving the health care needs of about nine million veterans annually. Most of them are represented by the American Federation of Government Employees, which opposed the VA Mission Act.
The AFGE said that the act amounts to “opening the door to privatization of the country’s largest health care system.”
The major veterans service organizations (VSOs) also initially feared privatization but came round to backing the VA Mission Act as a catalyst for improving care while preserving the VA’s role as the main provider of health care.
In a statement after the signing ceremony, Keith Harman, national commander of the 1.7 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “The VFW and other veterans service organizations worked closely with Congress and the White House to help create a carefully negotiated bipartisan deal with the fingerprints of veterans who rely on the VA all over it.”
Bill also addresses caregivers, excess VA facilities
In addition to expanding private-care options, the bill would also address long-time concerns of the VSOs on the restrictions in the current program to provide small stipends to family members who care for severely disabled veterans.
The program has been limited to post-9/11 veterans, but the bill was aimed at expanding caregivers assistance over two years to veterans of all eras.
Advocates had argued that caregivers assistance saves the VA money by allowing disabled veterans to remain at home rather than relying on more expensive in-patient treatment.
“The more veterans and their caregivers who are eligible for support, the closer we are to fulfilling our promise to care for those who’ve sacrificed so much on our behalf,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, a chief sponsor, said in a statement.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that more than 41,000 caregivers could be added to the rolls under the new bill over the next five years at a cost of nearly $7 billion.
In reference to the caregivers section of the bill, Trump said, “If you wore that uniform, if at some point you work that uniform, you deserve the absolute best and that’s what we’re doing.”
In a statement, Delphine Metcalf-Foster, national commander of the Disabled American Veterans and herself a former caregiver to her late husband, said in a statement:
“This new law will not only extend support to thousands more deserving family caregivers that severely injured veterans rely on, but also make a number of reforms and improvements to strengthen the VA health care system and improve veterans’ access to care.”
The bill also ordered up a VA asset review in which the president would set up a nine-member Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission, with representatives from VSOs, the health care industry, and federal facility managers.
Opponents have likened the commission to the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) at the Pentagon on the hot-button issue of base closings.
The panel would meet in 2022 and 2023 to issue recommendations on “the modernization or realignment of Veterans Health Administration facilities.”
At a Senate news conference in May 2018, Carlos Fuentes, the VFW’s National Legislative Services director, said comparing AIR to BRAC is misleading.
“Under BRAC, DoD moves its assets, including service members and their families. VA can’t force veterans to move,” Fuentes said.
At a panel discussion last month in the House, Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tennessee, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said that the average age of a building at the VA is more than 50 years.
He said the VA has more than 6,000 buildings in its inventory, and about 1,100 “are not even utilized. So we’re paying millions of dollars to keep up empty buildings — makes no sense.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @military.com on Twitter.
Retirement planning can be stressful, but figuring out how to finance it takes a great deal of the stress away. Enter the government’s Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP. The first step in understanding TSPs is answering five basic questions: who, what, where, when, and why.
Who: The thrift savings plan is available to federal employees and members of the uniformed services. It is managed by BlackRock, a financial planning and investment firm headquartered in New York City.
What: TSP is a retirement savings plan similar to a private sector 401(k). Federal employees and military personnel can contribute up to a certain percentage of their base pay to their TSP. BlackRock assigns a broker to manage TSP accounts. Brokers are not held to the same standards as fiduciaries in that a broker has no vested interest in your funds; rather a broker’s only job is to invest money in suitable securities.
When: If you are a federal employee who joined your agency after 2010, you’re automatically enrolled in TSP with 3 percent of your base pay sent to your TSP; your agency matches this contribution automatically. If you joined your agency before 2010, an automatic 1 percent of your base pay is sent to TSP; your agency matches your additional contributions above the 1 percent. Military members must set up their own contributions and there is no matching contribution from the military.
Where: Military members can set up contributions to TSP through MyPay. Which type of funds you decide to invest in will determine when you can access the funds from that investment. There are L Funds, which are “lifestyle funds” that you can withdraw from at a predetermined time. Then there are G, F, S, C, and I funds, which rely on you to make your own investment decisions with a broker, according to the government’s TSP summary.
Why: A thrift savings plan gives you the ability to participate in a long-term retirement savings and investment plan. Additionally, you can choose between a regular TSP and a Roth TSP. Traditional TSP is tax free as you contribute, but you’ll pay taxes when you withdraw the funds. A Roth TSP allows you to pay taxes upon investment, and withdraw at a later date tax free. The upside to utilizing the government’s TSP is that you won’t pay fees to invest, and you’ll have a broker to manage the funds.
The Sasebo-based amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) rendered assistance to two distressed mariners, Oct. 25, whose sailboat had strayed well off its original course.
The mariners, Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, both from Honolulu, and their two dogs had set sail from Hawaii to Tahiti this spring. They had an engine casualty May 30 during bad weather but continued on, believing they could make it to land by sail.
Two months into their journey and long past when they originally estimated they would reach Tahiti, they began to issue distress calls. The two continued the calls daily, but they were not close enough to other vessels or shore stations to receive them.
On Oct. 24, they were discovered 900 miles southeast of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel. The fishing vessel contacted Coast Guard Sector Guam who then coordinated with Taipei Rescue Coordination Center, the Japan Coordination Center, and the Joint Coordination Center in Honolulu to render assistance.
Operating near the area on a routine deployment, Ashland made best speed to the location of the vessel in the early morning on Oct. 25 and arrived on scene at 10:30 a.m that morning. After assessing the sailboat unseaworthy, Ashland crew members brought the distressed mariners and their two dogs aboard the ship at 1:18 p.m.
“I’m grateful for their service to our country. They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [U.S. Navy] on the horizon was pure relief,” said Appel.
Appel said they survived the situation by bringing water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food on board, primarily in the form of dry goods such as oatmeal, pasta and rice.
Once on Ashland, the mariners were provided with medical assessments, food and berthing arrangements. The mariners will remain on board until Ashland’s next port of call.
“The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation,” said Cmdr. Steven Wasson, Ashland commanding officer.
Part of U.S. 7th Fleet’s forward deployed naval forces out of Sasebo, Japan, Ashland has been on a routine deployment for the past five months as a ready-response asset for any of contingency.
The F-22 Raptor is kind of an underrated badass. Now overshadowed by the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the Raptor never really got its chance to stand out on its own. But with the U.S. Air Force increasingly butting heads with other air forces around the world, the real power of the Raptor is starting to show.
General Mark Welsh, then-Air Force Chief of Staff once told the story of a Raptor pilot who snuck up on an Iranian F-4 Phantom who was moving to intercept and shoot down a U.S. drone. After flying below two Iranian planes to check out their armaments, he pulled up to their left wing, surprising them, and told them to go home. They did.
The F-22 was born out of a desire to replace both the F-16 and F-15 with an air superiority fighter unrivaled in air-to-air kills. Even with the development of the F-35, there are those who still believe the F-22 is the superior airframe and that Raptor production stopped too soon.
They have a valid point.
Nowadays, the F-22 is mostly being wasted on patrols and alert missions or other exercises that don’t require the Raptor’s particular set of skills, according to a Government Accountability Office report. And since such missions don’t require the F-22 specifically, pilots aren’t able to trained to make use of capabilities unique to the aircraft, meaning it rarely has its full range of abilities realized.
In combat zones, the mere presence of an F-22 commands respect. Currently, Russian, Syrian, and Iranian aircraft are operating in the skies above Syria. In 587 encounters there, the Raptors forced the other aircraft to back off without further aggression.
A U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jet (front) taxis past a C17 aircraft after landing at Kadena U.S. Air Force Base on Japan’s southwestern island of Okinawa
The success (though limited) in Syria showcases not only the capability of the Raptors and their pilots, but also what other air forces’ pilots think of the airframe — and the potential for future roles in other battlespaces, specifically China.
The Commander of Pacific Air Forces, Gen. Charles Brown, has an idea of what that role might look like. While the Chinese are certain to try to jam U.S. communications in the event of a conflict, Brown wants the F-22 to frustrate and confuse the Chinese. The idea has been dubbed “Rapid Raptor” and features four escort F-22s and a USAF C-17 transport plane to be deployable within 24 hours to go anywhere in the PACOM area of responsibility.
The “Rapid Raptor” idea calls for the Elmendorf AFB, Alaska-based 3rd Wing of F-22s to quickly disperse in the event of a conflict, being able to refuel from the C-17’s wing tanks wherever they go. The idea quickly spread to the rest of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet, most notably in Eastern Europe where F-22s are a deterrent to Russian aggression. The Air Force even wants to use the Rapid concept on other airframes.
In the event of a conflict, these spread-out fighter formations could more easily communicate through Chinese jamming via the use of satellite communications. They would also receive target orders this way. In the event of the Chinese disabling or destroying satellites, the small formations would have enough information to make informed battlefield decisions and operate independently.
The US military’s special operators are the most elite in the world.
Depending on the unit, special operators are charged with a variety of missions: counterterrorism, direct action (small raids and ambushes), unconventional warfare (supporting resistance against a government), hostage rescue and recovery, special reconnaissance (reconnaissance that avoids contact behind enemy lines), and more.
They’re also very secretive.
As such, it can be difficult to tell certain operators apart, especially since most units wear the standard fatigues within their military branch — and sometimes they don’t wear uniforms at all to disguise themselves.
So, we found out how to tell six of the most elite special operators apart.
Check them out below.
The yellow Ranger tab can be seen above.
(US Army photo)
1. Army Rangers.
The 75th Ranger Regiment “is the Army’s premier direct-action raid force,” according to the Rangers.
Consisting of four battalions, their “capabilities include conducting airborne and air assault operations, seizing key terrain such as airfields, destroying strategic facilities, and capturing or killing enemies of the nation.”
They wear the same fatigues as regular soldiers, but there’s some ways to distinguish them.
The first sign is the yellow Ranger tab on the shoulder (seen above), which they receive after graduating from Ranger school. But this tab alone does not mean they’re a member of the Army’s special operations regiment.
The black Ranger scroll can be seen on the left arm of the Ranger, right.
(75th Ranger Regiment documentation specialist)
Soldiers don’t actually become 75th Ranger Regiment special operators until they finish the eight-week Ranger Assessment and Selection Program.
After finishing the Ranger Assessment and Selection Program, they receive a tan beret and black Ranger scroll (seen on the Rangers left arm above) and are now official members of the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Read more about Ranger school here and Ranger Assessment and Selection Program here.
The Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command emblem.
2. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC).
Founded in February 2006, MARSOC operators are rather new.
Consisting of three battalions, MARSOC operators conduct “foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, and direct action,” according to MARSOC.
Foreign internal defense means training and equipping foreign allied military forces against internal threats, such as terrorism.
MARSOC operators wear the same fatigues as Marine infantrymen, and therefore, the only way to tell them apart is the MARSOC emblem seen above, which is worn on their chest.
Unveiled in 2016, the emblem is an eagle clutching a knife.
A PJ patch can be seen on the operator’s shoulder.
(US Air Force photo)
3. Air Force Pararescue specialists (PJs).
PJs “rescue and recover downed aircrews from hostile or otherwise unreachable areas,” according to the Air Force.
Consisting of about 500 airmen, these “highly trained experts perform rescues in every type of terrain and partake in every part of the mission, from search and rescue, to combat support to providing emergency medical treatment, in order to ensure that every mission is a successful one.”
And there’s three ways to distinguish PJs from other airmen.
The first, is the PJ patch seen on the shoulder of the operator above.
(US Air Force photo)
(US Air Force photo)
The Army’s Special Forces only wear their green berets at military installations in the US.
(US Army photo)
To be clear, the US Army’s Special Forces are the only special forces. Rangers, PJs, MARSOC — these are special operators, not special forces.
The US Army’s Special Forces are known to the public as Green Berets — but they call themselves the quiet professionals.
Like many operator units, they wear the same Army fatigues as regular soldiers (you can read more about the current and past Army uniforms here), but there are three ways in which you can distinguish them.
One, is the green beret seen above, which they only wear at military installations in the US, and never while deployed abroad.
The Navy’s Sea, Air and Land Forces, or SEALs, were established by President John F. Kennedy in 1962.
Working in small, tightly knit units, SEAL missions vary from direct-action warfare, special reconnaissance, counterterrorism, and foreign-internal defense, according to the Navy.
SEALs also go through more than 12 months of initial training at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL school and SEAL Qualification Training, as well as roughly 18 months of pre-deployment training.
And there are two ways to tell SEALs apart from other sailors.
The first is the SEAL trident seen above, which is an eagle clutching an anchor, trident, and pistol. The insignia is worn on the breast of their uniform.
Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.
(US Navy photo)
The other is their uniforms.
Only SEALs and Special Warfare Combatant Craft Crewman wear the Type II Navy Working Uniform.
A Type II uniform is a “desert digital camouflage uniform of four colors … worn by Special Warfare Operators, sailors who support them, and select NECC units,” according to the Navy.
Delta Force operators in Afghanistan, their faces censored to protect their privacy.
(Courtesy of Dalton Fury.)
6. Delta Force.
The Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta, or Delta Force, is perhaps the US military’s most secretive unit.
A United States Special Operations Command public affairs officer told Business Insider that they do not discuss Delta Force operators, despite providing information about other special operator units.
“We are very strict with our quiet professionalism,” a former Delta operator previously told We Are The Mighty. “If someone talks, you will probably be blacklisted.”
Formed in 1977, Delta operators perform a variety of missions, including counterterrorism (specifically to kill or capture high-value targets), direct action, hostage rescues, covert missions with the CIA, and more.
Both units have the most sophisticated equipment and are highly trained in Close Quarters Combat (CQB), hostage rescue, high-value-target extraction, and other specialized operations. The difference is the extensive training SEALs receive in specialized maritime operations, given their naval heritage.
“Each unit has strengths and weaknesses, neither is better or worse,” the former Delta operator said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.