Fall brings changing leaves, shortening days and cooler temperatures. At VA, it also means a slew of conferences and conventions.
Normally, you’d find us all over the country at various professional health care conferences. While in-person events are currently off the table, there are still plenty of chances to catch us at virtual career events.
Check out the list of online events below that we’ll be attending or hosting this fall. You can sign up for one to learn more about VA, what it’s like to work here and how you can find your perfect VA job.
VA Virtual Open House: At noon ET every Wednesday through Oct. 28, you can sign up to talk to a VA recruiter at our virtual open house. Learn more about open positions, how to apply and the many benefits of a VA career. During the 10-minute chat, you’ll also have a chance to ask the recruiter any other questions you might have about working at VA.
Talk About It Tuesday: Looking for more information about what it’s like to work at VA? Hear about it straight from VHA Marketing Specialist Mike Owens. Every Tuesday on LinkedIn, Owens talks about his experiences at VA and gives advice to job seekers. Topics he’s covered include common application mistakes, VA work culture and advice for transitioning military personnel. Once a month, he also sits down with a VA expert for a longer question-and-answer session. Grab some lunch and come join us next Tuesday at noon ET for another episode, or check out our archive of past videos anytime.
VHA Innovation Experience (iEX): Returning virtually this October, our third annual iEX gives you a chance to discover how VA is using innovation, partnership and technology to change and save Veteran lives. From Oct. 27-29, you can attend talks and demos, watch the VHA Shark Tank competition, attend discussion panels and virtual exhibits, and listen to keynote addresses from health care industry leaders. Register for iEX here.
Other virtual events: You can also catch us at a number of virtual events held by external partners this fall. If you live in the St. Louis area or are interested in working there, we’ll be exhibiting at a PracticeMatch virtual career fair from 4-7 p.m. CT on Oct. 29. We’ll also be at:
A memorial honoring Marines and sailors who died during the Vietnam War and were part of the “Fighting Fifth” Marine Regiment is getting closer to being set in stone.
The groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial, a work of passion for Vietnam veterans Steve Colwell and Nick Warr, was held Friday, Oct. 27 in the memorial garden at Camp San Mateo. Participants included members of the 5th Marine Regiment, representatives from the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, and active-duty Marines.
“The construction of this new memorial at the 5th Marine Regiment command post symbolizes the respect, gratitude, and honor today’s generation of Marines hold for Vietnam veterans,” said Lt. Col. John Gianopoulos, Executive Officer, 5th Marine Regiment. “This memorial will remind today’s Marines of the tenacity, courage, and character of the Vietnam Marines at Khe Sanh, Da Nang, An Hoa, and many more battles. It will provide us with a powerful reminder of what we owe to our nation and how we must represent the Marine Corps.”
The $400,000 to fund the memorial is coming from private and public sources. Four South Orange County cities have stepped up so far to help: Dana Point, with $10,000; San Clemente, $5,000; Rancho Santa Margarita, $2,500; and Irvine, $10,000. Colwell said he will ask the Laguna Beach and Laguna Niguel city councils for help in the next few weeks.
“After four years of fundraising, this is finally becoming a reality,” said Colwell, who was severely wounded in a bomb blast Dec. 16, 1967, in Vietnam. “It’s exciting to honor the 2,706 Marines and sailors. It will validate for the families the bravery and service of those lost in Vietnam.”
The garden was created and is funded by the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group. It is home to Marines who have died in action and is a place of reflection for those who remember them. Two monuments there honor Marines and sailors who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. A Purple Heart Monument was installed in the garden in February.
“Our Vietnam veterans suffered untold injures by our nation not acknowledging them,” said Terry Rifkin, executive director of the Dana Point group. “Vietnam veterans are as great a generation as any our country has ever produced. This monument of epic proportions, and unlike anything else at Camp Pendleton, will be a remarkable way to say thank you to those who served by recognizing those who did not make it home.”
The 50-ton black granite memorial is being crafted by Vermont’s Rock of Ages. It will have six panels honoring the 2,706 Marines, Navy corpsmen, and a chaplain who died in Vietnam while serving in the 5th Marine Regiment. Their names will be etched on the panels surrounding a 14-foot-tall black granite spire. It also will include the names of Marines and sailors who died as part of the 2nd Battalion, Fourth Marines.
The image of the iconic battle cross — helmet, rifle, bayonet, and boots — will be etched on all four sides of the granite. The monument also will have a combat chronology of the 5th Marines during the Vietnam War.
The 5th Marines, the most highly decorated regiment in the Marine Corps, deployed March 5, 1966, to Vietnam. They remained there for five years, until April 1971.
Colwell and Warr — who also was wounded in Vietnam — came up with the idea for the monument in 2014 after returning to Camp Pendleton for a 1st Marine Division reunion.
Colwell, 73, who served as an officer with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines, and Warr, 72, who fought as an infantry officer with Charlie Company in the 5th Marines, noted during the visit that there was nothing in the garden recognizing those who lost their lives in Vietnam.
“I feel strongly there should be a representation for the Marines and sailors who were killed in Vietnam,” said Colwell. “These young men raised their hands and enlisted in the Marine Corps for an unpopular war.”
The hardest job, they said, was finding the names of those who served with the 5th Marine Regiment and died in Vietnam. That fell to Brian Coty, a board member of the Dana Point 5th Marine Regiment Support Group, who has worked more than two years with the Coffelt Database of Vietnam casualties to make sure no name is left out.
Among the names are 13 Marines awarded the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor for personal acts of valor.
The monument is set to arrive at Camp Pendleton on March 29, declared National Vietnam Veteran’s Day by President Donald Trump. It will be installed in the garden during a ceremony on Memorial Day, May 28, 2018.
Instagram has fully dominated the zeitgeist. The “can I get your number?” of years’ past has mutated into the “what’s your IG handle?” of the new era. But you don’t have any need for that anymore. You’re married to a member of the United States armed forces. So here’s a handful of accounts to bring your carpal-tunnel thumb scrolling into the new age with a bit of inspiration for the loved ones of military members.
This account is one of the most popular MILSO (military significant other) accounts on Instagram. ArmyWife101 covers everything from veteran’s issues to perfect care packages to promoting fellow MILSO accounts.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/airmantomom/?hl=en expand=1]Amanda (@airmantomom) • Instagram photos and videos
Amanda has a great account for any woman who has transitioned from military to service to motherhood. In addition to having a very current IG profile, she also runs a podcast under the same @—a perfect program to underscore a jog around the block.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/themilitarywifeandmom/ expand=1]Lauren Tamm (@themilitarywifeandmom) • Instagram photos and videos
Lauren is a military wife and mother of two who documents her life closely for her followers. It gives fellow military spouses a gentle look into the life of someone who can empathize with the struggles and triumphs of someone who is facing life as a military mother. Her shots are artfully composed and sure to crack a smile.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/reccewife/ expand=1]Kim (@reccewife) • Instagram photos and videos
Kim is a tough ass, salt of the earth, no-nonsense Canadian military spouse. Her sardonic wit gives her profile a bit of an edge and is perfect for anyone who wants a glimpse into the parallel life of a military spouse across our northern border.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/soldierswifecrazylife/ expand=1]Julie (@soldierswifecrazylife) • Instagram photos and videos
If you want something a bit more personal— Julie has you covered. She’s a military spouse and mother of two who fills her account with personalized messages of support in a non-partisan, playful way. She’s a spoonful of honey on your IG feed.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/humans_on_the_homefront/ expand=1]Humans on the Homefront (@humans_on_the_homefront) • Instagram photos and videos
This handle is, unfortunately, inactive since 2017 (although the hashtag is alive and well). However, it has 61 posts archived to sort through. Each detailed post tells the stories of the brave men and women who serve our country, as well as the incredible people who love them. Any military spouse, parent, relative, or friend could get a twinkle of inspiration from this account.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/movingwiththemilitary/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Moving With The Military (@movingwiththemilitary) • Instagram photos and videos
This account is like “Extreme Home Makeover: Military Spouse Edition.” Maria operates the account, which shows makeovers that they do for USOs, military spouses, and a whole other assortment of charitable military work. It’s a breath of positivity on your feed.
Lizann works this account as a super valuable resource to MILSOs everywhere. She creates workshops and masterclasses to give tips and advice to newly minted military spouses dealing with everything from deployment to surviving the holidays at your parents.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/support_lgbt_military/ expand=1]Support LGBT Military (@support_lgbt_military) • Instagram photos and videos
This is a beautiful account filled with stories, profiles, and (best of all) memes that empower LGBT veterans and service members. The account is highly active and, with over 10K followers, has a massive community with which to interact.
[instagram https://www.instagram.com/thewaitingwarrior/?utm_source=ig_embed expand=1]Michelle Bowler (@thewaitingwarrior) • Instagram photos and videos
Michelle Bowler balances mothering four children with the difficulties of being an “Army wife” at Ft. Campbell. Her IG account’s message is clear—”you are not alone.” Her whole goal is to act as a supportive lens to all MILSO’s and loved ones of first responders. Michelle also has a podcast with 46+ episode of interviews with spouses of all experiences, talking about various parts of military and first responder spouse life.
The new National Defense Strategy, announced Jan. 19, is aimed at restoring America’s competitive military advantage to deter Russia and China from challenging the United States, its allies, or seeking to overturn the international order that has served so well since the end of World War II.
It is the first new National Defense Strategy in a decade. The defense strategy builds on the administration’s National Security Strategy that President Donald J. Trump announced Dec. 18.
Elbridge A. Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development, briefed Pentagon reporters about the unclassified summary of the strategy in advance of Defense Secretary James N. Mattis unveiling the policy, saying “this is not a strategy of confrontation, but it is a strategy that recognizes the reality of competition.”
The National Defense Strategy seeks to implement the pillars of the National Security Strategy: peace through strength, the affirmation of America’s international role, the U.S. alliance and partnership structure, and the necessity to build military advantage to maintain key regional balances of power, he said.
The strategy states that the primary challenge facing the Defense Department and the joint force is “the erosion of U.S. military advantage vis-a-vis China and Russia, which, if unaddressed, could ultimately undermine our ability to deter aggression and coercion and imperil the free and open order that we seek to underwrite with our alliance constellation,” Colby said.
The strategy aims at thwarting Chinese and Russian aggression and use of coercion and intimidation to advance their goals and harm U.S. interests, and specifically focuses on three key theaters: Europe, the Indo-Pacific, and the Middle East, Colby said.
While Russia and China are the main U.S. adversaries in this strategy, DoD must address North Korea, Iran, and the threat posed by terrorism, Colby noted, and he said this strategy does that. “The strategy will have significant implications for how the department shapes the force, develops the force, postures the force, uses the force,” he said.
More lethal, agile force
The strategy looks to build a more lethal and agile force, Colby said. It shifts away from the post-Desert Storm model, and DoD seeks to modernize key capabilities and innovate using new technologies and operational concepts to maintain dominance across all domains, he explained.
The strategy will build on America’s unequalled alliance and partnership constellation and seek new partners for the future, he added.
Finally, the strategy seeks to reform DoD to create a culture that “delivers cost-effective performance at the speed of relevance,” Colby said.
The new strategy is needed because China and Russia have “gone to school” studying the American way of war, he said, and the U.S. dominance in the Middle East during Desert Strom was not lost on Russia or China. The two nations have spent the last 25 years studying ways to deny America its greatest military advantage, he said: the ability to deploy forces anywhere in the world and then sustain them.
The anti-access, area-denial methods that both Russia and China have developed need to be countered, and this new strategy sets in place the framework around which to build those capabilities, Colby said.
Joint force should be ready
“The joint force should be ready to compete, to deter and — if necessary — to win against any adversary,” Colby concluded.
Modernization has been the sacrificial lamb in the recent budget wars, and this strategy reemphasizes the importance of modernization, Pentagon officials said. The strategy specifically states the United States must modernize the nuclear triad. It also emphasizes the importance of space and cyberspace as domains of warfare and calls for resilience in both space and cyberspace capabilities and technology and concepts to operate across the full domains.
The strategy also calls for modernized command-and-control assets and for new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, officials said, adding that missile defense plays a large role in the strategy, as well as the development of advanced autonomous systems.
Officials said the strategy also calls for resilient and agile logistics systems that will continue to operate under multidomain attack.
The Pentagon Library is full of documents that were announced with great fanfare, but ultimately were ignored or discarded. Officials say the National Defense Strategy will not be one of those.
I think if anybody knows Secretary Mattis or looks at his history, he’s not inclined to publish documents or give guidance that he doesn’t actually intend to execute,” Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a recent interview in Brussels. “I can assure you that one of the things that gives me confidence the National Defense Strategy will affect our behavior is Secretary Mattis’ ownership of the National Defense Strategy, and his commitment to actually lead the U.S. military in a direction that is supportive of that National Defense Strategy.
Leadership will be key to implementing the strategy, Dunford said. “I have a high degree of confidence that the secretary’s going to drive implementation of the NDS,” he said. “And I’m equally committed, as are all the combatant commanders and the service chiefs, to supporting the secretary in execution of the NDS.”
Marines don’t take kindly to being told something is impossible. Thomas Fitzpatrick was that kind of Marine. He landed a single-engine plane right outside of a New York City bar after making a bar bet with another patron.
In fact, the Police Aviation Bureau called it next to impossible, estimating the odds of success at “100,000-to-1.” Shortly before 3 a.m. on Sept. 30, 1956, the “twenty-something” Fitzpatrick hopped in a single-engine plane at New Jersey’s Teterboro School of Aeronautics and took off without lights or a radio.
“Supposedly, he planned on landing on the field at George Washington High School but it wasn’t lit up at night, so he had to land on St. Nicholas instead,” said Jim Clarke in an interview with the New York Times’ Corey Kilgannon. Clarke was a local resident at the time and remembers seeing the plane in the middle of the street.
According to the New York Times, locals called the first landing “a feat of aeronautics.” The owner of the plane did not press charges. Fitzpatrick was given a $100 fine (almost $900 when adjusted for inflation) for violating a city law which forbids landing airplanes on New York City streets. He also lost his pilot’s license. And that was that.
Until Fitzpatrick did it again, two years later.
This time, the Marine veteran stole the plane at 1 a.m. from Teterboro School and landed it at Amsterdam and 187th Street. He stole the second plane because someone at the bar didn’t believe that he stole a plane the first time around.
For the second theft, the judge threw the book at Fitzpatrick, sentencing him to six months confinement.
“Landing on a street with lampposts and cars parked on both sides is a miracle,” said Fred Hartling, whose family was close to Fitzpatrick. “It was a wonder – you had to be a great flier to put that thing down so close to everything.”
Aside from his two skillful drunken landings, Tommy Fitz was also a Purple Heart recipient and earned a Silver Star in Korea.
During a strategic withdrawal, Corporal Fitzpatrick noticed a wounded officer, about 100 yards forward of his position. In attempting a rescue, he and a companion were seriously wounded. Cpl. Fitzpatrick despite severe pain and loss of blood made it back to safety, directed a second successful rescue party, organized and provided covering fire to support the rescue. For this action, he was awarded the Silver Star.
Thomas Fitzpatrick died in 2009 at age 79, survived by his wife of 51 years. As of 2013, the Washington Heights neighborhood still had a drink named for ol’ Tommy Fitz: the Late Night Flight.
With the A-10 Thunderbolt II having narrowly escaped the chopping block and the F-15C Eagle currently awaiting a potentially early end to its service, the Air Force’s bomber fleet is next to face a series of retirements. While the older B-52 Stratofortress is currently safe, the Air Force is currently considering putting the B-1B Lancer and the B-2 Spirit out to pasture earlier than expected with the eventual advent of its next-generation B-21 Raider bomber.
The Air Force’s Global Strike Command, the major command under which its bombers serve, plans on procuring between 80 to 100 of the new bomber, if not more. Earlier plans called for Global Strike Command to phase in the B-21, which would serve alongside the B-1B, the B-2, and the B-52 for years before gradually replacing them altogether.
Now, instead of simply adding the planned complement of B-21s to the existing fleet of B-1Bs, B-2s, and B-52s, the service would instead begin retiring its Lancers and Spirits by the 2030s and supersede them en masse with scores of Raiders.
The B-1B Lancer serves as America’s sole supersonic strategic bomber. A marvel of engineering, the Lancer can comfortably dash at supersonic speeds at low altitudes, making it almost untouchable by enemy air defense systems. While originally designed to fulfill a nuclear strike role during the Cold War, the Lancer has since evolved into a conventional munitions “bomb truck,” serving in Afghanistan and Iraq over the past twenty years in close air support roles.
For all its incredible power and strategic value, however, the Lancer does come with a set of limitations. Its high operating and maintenance costs make retaining it as a long-term active bomber a very expensive and undesirable option. Additionally, it is prohibited, by treaty, from carrying cruise missiles.
Existing in a class of its own, the B-2 Spirit is an aircraft unlike any other. Born of a need to revamp America’s aging Cold War bomber fleet of B-52s with a long-range deep strike aircraft that couldn’t be shot down if sighted. The solution to that last requirement was to build an aircraft that couldn’t be spotted at all — an all-stealth bomber that evades and defeats radar detection.
While the B-2 was highly revolutionary with its flying-wing, all-stealth design, and still remains unmatched today, the Air Force has an undeniably strong rationale behind pushing it towards retirement as well.
The B-2’s operating costs are sky-high, coming in at a whopping $130,159 USD per flight hour. With just a 20-strong fleet of Spirits, this plus the fleet’s unique support structure and incredible maintenance costs combine for a strong case against holding onto the B-2 for more than the next two decades.
The B-52, on the other hand, will soldier on for decades to come due to the fact that it can carry a considerably diverse combat payload, including guided “smart” munitions, and the Long Range Standoff cruise missile. Additionally, the B-52, more popularly known as the “BUFF,” will soon be upgraded with newer fuel-efficient turbofan engines, which will make it even easier to maintain, cheaper to fly in the long term, and improve performance metrics.
While the B-21 and the B-2 will share a passing resemblance with their flying wing architecture, the new bomber is projected to be far more cost-effective, easier to maintain, and highly multi-role, with the ability to perform intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions as needed. It will also be able to carry the LRSO upon its completion and entry into service.
It should be noted, however, that nothing is set in stone. The Air Force will have to account for this proposed plan to Congress before putting it into effect, and as with the earlier A-10 retirement issues, it’s all too possible that Congress could stand in the way of America’s B-1B and B-2 fleets being sent to the boneyard early.
Life in the military is a path not many people take, and even fewer take the road of becoming a U.S. Marine. The military in general has many challenges that service members learn to face throughout their career. Those challenges include going to school, taking care of their family and performing their military occupation specialties simultaneously, while also participating in exercises or preparing for deployments.
For Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Kirby, a radio chief with 3rd Platoon, Rocket Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, learning how to balance his family, military career, civilian careerand training exercises while also managing to have time to help out his community is a top priority.
“It’s harder for the Reserve Marines,” Kirby said. “We balance full-time jobs, a family, college and also being a Marine. You’re going high speed on all of it and you want to be the best at what you are doing in your civilian career, the Marine Corps and your family.”
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Anthony Rubio, an inspector-instructor communication chief for 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, vouches for Kirby’s capability to uphold his responsibilities within the United States Marine Corps. Kirby’s civilian career has never interfered with his performance as a Marine, he said.
Marine Corps Sgt. Michael Kirby, a radio chief with 3rd Platoon, Rocket Battery F, 2nd Battalion, 14th Marine Regiment, poses for a photo in front of a Humvee during Weapons and Tactics Instructor course 1-18 at Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Calif., Oct. 12, 2017. Kirby was preparing for an upcoming deployment. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Melany Vasquez
“He is a very intelligent human being,” Rubio said. “He has been at this unit as a radio operator for the longest time and knows how to get the job done. He is very proficient at his [military specialty]. Because he’s such a hard worker, I don’t have to micromanage him. He knows how to get the job done, regardless of what the mission is.”
After completing his monthly drills, Kirby returns to his civilian career as an aircraft pneudraulic systems mechanic at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where is responsible for equipment maintenance and operational and functional checks on aircraft.
The Marine Corps has helped Kirby to stand out above his peers by developing the skills needed to becoming a better leader, he said.
“All the principles and values of the Marine Corps are brought into my civilian life,” Kirby said. “The Marine Corps will set you above everyone else.”
Regardless of the amount of work and responsibility present on his daily routine, he has adapted and became proficient at multitasking. He manages to exceed at his obligations and even find some extra time for himself, but he says he doesn’t spend his free time watching television or relaxing alone.
Instead, Kirby said, he is constantly involved in volunteer work. He has helped on rescue operations in the aftermath of tornados and he’s an active participant in the Toys for Tots program.
Kirby has been participating in exercises to prepare himself for a deployment early next year.
“He has been waiting for this deployment for as long as he has been here, and I’m glad that he is one of the Marines that is going,” Rubio said. “If he wasn’t going, the Marines would have a hard time accomplishing or understanding the communication side.”
Even with his service to the Marine Corps, deployment, work as a mechanic and volunteer hours, Kirby said he wants to go back to school to finish his education.
“I plan on going back to school after my deployment,” he said. “I want to go back and go into mechanical or aerospace engineering. I think that it would help me in my career as a tinker.”
(Editor’s note: We Are The Mighty has no political affiliation. This post is presented solely because of the veteran response in this case.)
Iraq War vet and music journalist Corbin Reiff didn’t take too kindly to Donald Trump’s comments on the campaign trail recently that insinuated that U.S. soldiers stole the money they were supposed to give out for Iraqi reconstruction projects. Reiff took to Twitter with the following burst of tweets, 140 characters per:
Just a small warning, I’m about to go on a bit of a rant.
The Army private responsible for a massive leak of classified documents to Wikileaks has reportedly made the short list for presidential clemency.
According to a report by The Independent, Pfc. Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley Manning), who was sentenced to 35 years in prison, reportedly has attempted suicide twice in the last year.
Manning’s supporters believe it could be the last chance the former intelligence analyst receives for clemency for a long time. Manning had also gone on a hunger strike over the government’s refusal to provide gender-reassignment surgery.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has urged President Obama to pardon Manning, saying that “you alone” could save the 29-year-old’s life. Manning has been in solitary confinement for at least eight months, according to a column in the Guardian.
Manning was convicted of espionage in a July 2013 court-martial for handing the documents to Wikileaks. The documents pertained to the Global War on Terror, and according to a report by the Daily Caller, included diplomatic cables.
In September, the Daily Caller reported Manning was sentenced to two weeks in solitary confinement for a July suicide attempt. That report noted that Manning had provided Wikileaks with video of an attack by an AH-64 Apache against insurgents, during which two employees of the British news agency Reuters were also killed.
The September report by the Daily Caller noted that Manning could be eligible for parole after serving seven years of the 35-year sentence handed down at the court-martial.
The push for clemency, though, has its critics.
Following legal proceedings that protected PFC Manning’s rights of due process, he was ordered to pay the price for betraying his country,” Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness told WATM in a statement. “If President Obama grants clemency, he would set a problematic precedent that would have long-term consequences for national security.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Robert Maginnis, Senior Fellow for National Defense at the Family Research Council, also was critical of the potential clemency.
“Manning is serving time for treason, giving away secrets that endangered fellow soldiers,” he told WATM. “I have no sympathy for those who betray our country by committing treason.”
“Keep in mind when president’s grant clemency to those who were convicted by Courts Martial he is undermining the military justice system,” Maginnis added.
In short, China has turned their coast guard into a sort of paramilitary force, the largest of it’s kind in the world. In some cases, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vessels have simply been painted white and repurposed for maritime “law enforcement.”
Sometimes, the .50 caliber machine guns still hang over the sides of vessels once used for war and now used to intimidate neighboring nations.
But unlike military disputes, where internationally agreed-upon accords regulate standard operating procedures, these coast guard ships fall in a legal gray zone that China has come to exploit.
“What we have is a situation in East Asia where China in particular is not using naval vessels to intimidate, not using [traditional] force, but they’re taking actions that are below that line of triggering any kind of military confrontation, and yet intimidating other actors,” Bonnie Glasser, an expert on security in the Pacific from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Business Insider in a phone interview.
Glasser, who headed up the report on China’s coast guard, compiled 45 incidents in the South China Sea and found China’s coast guard involvement in two thirds of them.
But according to Glasser, “what we have been able to compile is just a fraction of the number of incidents in the South China Sea,” where China’s larger ships have repeatedly rammed, harassed, and used water cannons on fishing vessels from the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and others.
“In my conversations in the Philippines — Chinese ramming of other ships is considered to be part of their acceptable rules of engagement. That’s just what they do,” said Glasser.
According to Glasser, the legal framework marks a step in the right direction, but does nothing to stop the harassing actions of China’s coast guard, which operates as a navy in all but name. What’s more, the majority of signatories to the recent ASEAN CUES agreement had already signed a similar agreement in April 2014, rendering the agreement even more empty.
“China’s ASEAN CUES agreement is not new, and was already agreed upon. [Chinese state media] portrayed it as some breakthrough… Everyone is applauding, and it’s nice to have, but it doesn’t address the problem,” said Glasser. The real problem, of course, is that no meaningful laws regulate their paramilitary coast guard.
A boarding team from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) Haikou makes way toward the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Waesche July, 16, 2014, during a Maritime Interdiction Operations Exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. | U.S Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Manda M. Emery
“China is building very large coast guard vessels,” and lots of them in a “quantity as well as quality” approach, said Glasser. The sheer size of the ships, usually weighing more than 1,000 tons, as well as the way they’re armed, make other nation’s law enforcement craft “pale in comparison.”
Essentially, the Chinese bully civilian craft with hulking boats that intimidate on sight. Only Japan even comes close to having the capability to defend itself, with 105,000 total tonnage of coast guard ships to China’s 190,000. But Glasser says that actual military capability should come second to infrastructure, in the form of internationally agreed-upon law.
“Putting in place acceptable procedures of behavior and other confidence building measures is the way to go, rather than everyone having the ships the size of China’s,” said Glasser, nodding to the potential arms race that could result from China’s unilateral military buildup.
“Many different risks are posed if China goes ahead and develops the Scarborough Shoal… it would undermine US credibility, cause the Chinese to continue to test the US, and push forward a greater agenda of seeking control of the air and sea space,” Glasser said.
Furthermore, China undermining the US would cause “enormous anxiety in the region, with the US seen as weakening in it’s ability and will,” Glasser said.
“Reverberating effects, as well as security threats eventually posed by China having capability near main bases (the Subic Bay) would be a threat to the Philippines and the US.”
So for now, China has found a loophole in international law that allows its paramilitary “second navy” of a coast guard to muscle smaller nations out of their rightful claims. China has shown a persistent will to militarize and enforce its claims in the South China Sea. Unless the US, and its allies in the Pacific, can get China to agree to a legal framework, Beijing appears ready to continue pushing its claims by force.
There is a perceived weakness in the way international law is enforced at sea, and China is exploiting it handily. As Donald Rumsfeld said, “weakness is provocative.”
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is an annual piece of legislation which gives authority and funding to the United States Military. While it is a detailed body of work that doesn’t make for light reading, it should be read. This legislation is filled with items that impact the military family directly.
It addresses military pay
The 2020 NDAA provided a 3.1% pay raise to military service members. This pay raise was the biggest one to be received in the last decade and was reflected in the first paycheck received by service members of 2020. The bill also extended specific bonuses and special pay. One of the big take-aways of this bill is the focus on supporting not just the member, but the military family as a whole.
Military spouse education and employment
Within the bill there are increases in support of professional licensure for spouses. With the new 2020 bill, spouses are currently eligible for up to 00 in reimbursement for licensure costs accumulated when moving. This is twice the amount that was authorized in last year’s bill. It also addresses license portability by giving authorization to the Council on State Governments to research ways to create reciprocity across state lines.
The bill also extended opportunities for spouses for education. The My Career Advancement Account program is an example of this, as it is a valuable resource for military spouses. It offers up to 00 in assistance for licensure, certification, or an associate’s degree in a field that is portable. The eligibility for this is limited to E-1 through E5, W-1 through W-2, and O-1 spouses. The initial pilot program had it available to all spouses but rising costs and enrollment forces restrictions in who can utilize this benefit. In this bill language, Coast Guard spouses were also included even though they fall under the Department of Homeland Security.
Military housing reforms
One of the key elements of this bill is that it addresses the issues within military privatized housing. The bill created new accountability for these companies by enforcing quality assurance measures. It also increased the number of required inspections. This bill provides an additional 1.8 million dollars to make sure that each housing office has the vital personnel it needs to ensure military families are taken care of.
One of the tools that will be utilized going forward is a way to assess and evaluate for risks within military housing. This includes things like mold and lead. It also allows for the BAH to be withheld from the private housing entity until issues or disputes are solved. Another key piece is that it forces transparency by requiring these entities to disclose repairs or issues prior to lease signing. There will also now be a required Tenant Bill of Rights and minimal livable standards established.
Military family needs
The NDAA also authorized million for the STARE BASE program, which is a DOD youth program. It is an American military educational program for grades K-12 that teaches science and math in hands on ways. It was created to tackle the low rates of readiness in these subjects by implementing a program that makes math and science fun and interactive. To learn more about this program and to see if it’s located in your area, click here.
One of the chief concerns outlined in the 2018 Blue Star Families survey was that 72% of military families cannot find reliable childcare. An amendment was included in the NDAA for 2020 that creates more coordinator positions on bases to assist with childcare and extends childcare hours for families.
Another key piece to this legislation is that it created the ability of military service members to sue under administrative claims for medical malpractice by a military provider. Although there was existing legislation for under the Federal Tor Claims Act, the United States itself was immune. After countless hearings within congress over a decade, this amendment passed within the NDAA. If a service member sustains injury or death they can file a claim and receive up to 0,000 as long as they file it within two years.
Surviving spouses receive relief
Finally, one of the biggest parts of the 2020 NDAA is the elimination of what is known as the “widows’ tax” in phases. For multiple decades surviving families have not received their full benefits as they deserve, even though they paid into the benefit programs. This is a piece of legislation that has been debated and fought over for almost twenty years. Finally, change is coming and it will be finalized by 2023.
If you’d like to look through the 2020 NDAA, you can find it here. Fair warning, it is 1119 pages long. However, a pro tip is to utilize the search ability within the document to enter terms that you want to specifically read about. This will bring you exactly where you need to go. Happy reading!
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.
Cannabis advocates are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for wasting time and resources on recently published research that produced inconclusive results on the effects of medical marijuana in treating pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I find the funds spent on regurgitating these studies to be worthless,” said Sean Kiernan, a veteran and advocate for the Weed for Warriors project.
VA researchers last week published two studies that reviewed previous analyses and evaluations of the effects of marijuana on treating chronic pain and PTSD. The meta-analysis was led by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System.
Mr. Kiernan, a combat veteran who served in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, has advocated for access to medical marijuana for veterans since 2013. Today, he works with Arizona-based physician Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who is enrolling veterans in a clinical trial evaluating cannabis in treating PTSD.
He accuses the VA of frustrating Dr. Sisley’s efforts to recruit veterans for her trial.
“Couple that with the active blockade the VA has undertaken with [Dr. Sisley’s] study and one is left scratching one’s head on what is really going on. It doesn’t make sense unless the screams for research are intended to be words only,” he said. “They say, ‘We don’t have research,’ and then they’re blocking the rigorous research.”
Dr. Sisley said the published article was “not helpful.”
Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Photo from High Times.
“[The VA researchers are] just retreading all the same material. There’s been so many meta-analyses. The fact that government money was wasted, again…” she said, her voice trailing off.
“These aren’t controlled trials, they’re all observational studies fraught with tons of human bias,” Dr. Sisley said of the research.
The VA researchers reached the same conclusion, writing that the available studies were insufficient to make recommendations on the medical benefits of marijuana. The researchers were barred from talking with the media to discuss their results.
Media inquiries were directed to a previous statement made by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin during a White House press conference in May. At that time, he tread lightly on endorsing medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance under federal law.
“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”
The National Institutes of Health lists at least 18 completed clinical trials with results that analyze the effects of cannabis on pain. For cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Sisley’s is one of about 10 studies underway, but hers is the only study evaluating military veterans and specifically those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD.
“It’s the most rigorous kind of science you can do — triple blind, everybody’s blinded in the study. Vets don’t know what they’re getting, I don’t know what anybody’s on, the independent raters don’t know what anybody is getting, so that way we eliminate any chance of human bias,” she said.
Completion of the phase two trial and positive results will set researchers on the path of phase three — replicating the findings in a larger test pool. But that’s years down the road and Dr. Sisley first is concerned with what the science will show in this study.
“I don’t know what this data will show. As much as I believe, there are certain studies that suggest cannabis could be helpful, we know we’re on the right track with this,” she said. “Until there’s a controlled trial, you can’t make any definitive conclusions.”
About 10 percent to 11 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, with similar numbers of Vietnam-era veterans, according to the VA. At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day.
Advocates for marijuana say bureaucratic and legal barriers hinder access for a substance that could have immeasurable benefits for this population.