The oddest story to came out of the military this week has got to be that sailor who got drunk at Busch Gardens, stripped off all of his clothes, tried to jump in random peoples’ vehicles, and fought the police officers trying to detain him before being taken down by a taser.
Now, if it weren’t for the fact that everyone in this numbnut’s unit now has to go through one hell of a safety brief, I’d be impressed. Clearly, there was a point where he realized that he’d f*cked up so badly that jail time was inevitable, so he nosedived right into legendary status. BZ. It’s better to burn out brightly than to just fizzle, right?
If you didn’t go streaking at a beloved, family-friendly amusement park and take a taser dart straight to the family jewels, then you’ve earned some fresh memes, just for not being a dumbass.
(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)
(Meme via Shammers United)
(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)
(Meme via Military Memes)
(Meme via Call for Fire)
(Meme by Ranger Up)
(Meme via Army as F*ck)
7. At least the chow hall has more options than “one patty” or “two patties?”
For real. How is there even a debate between In-N-Out and Whataburger?
Edward Snowden won’t see any of the proceeds from his new memoir — instead, the US government is entitled to seize the profits, a federal judge ruled Dec. 17, 2019.
Snowden’s memoir, “Permanent Record,” describes his work as a contractor for the National Security Administration and his 2013 decision to leak government secrets, including the fact that the NSA was secretly collecting citizens’ phone records. Snowden has lived in Moscow since 2013, where he has been granted asylum.
The US sued Snowden on the day his memoir was published in September, alleging that he violated contracts with the NSA by writing about his work there without pre-clearance.
Judge Liam O’Grady made a summary judgement in favor of the US government on Dec. 17, 2019, rejecting requests from Snowden’s lawyers to move the case forward into the discovery stage. O’Grady ruled that Snowden violated his contracts, both with the publication of the memoir and through other public speaking engagements in which he discussed his work for the NSA.
Edward Snowden Speaks Ahead of Memoir Release | NowThis
“Snowden admits that the speeches themselves purport to discuss intelligence-related activities,” O’Grady wrote in his decision, adding that Snowden “breached the CIA and NSA Secrecy agreements.”
In recent years, Snowden has maintained his criticisms of US surveillance while also turning his attention to big tech companies. In November, he decried the practice of aggregating personal data, arguing that Facebook, Google, and Amazon “are engaged in abuse.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Whenever humans are involved ‘The Fog’ is included, whether that be war or the office.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Cpl. Teagan Fredericks)
Why you shouldn’t throw in the towel
The inclination to throw in the towel for the day is most likely strong. You’re probably still in the thick of whatever disaster has rolled into the office. Getting up and walking out seems like the most irresponsible thing you can do. I know two facts that point to the opposite, though.
It’s hard to see a solution from the thick of a fog:
If things have truly gone crazy, or if they are always going crazy for that matter, you’re missing something. A 10-minute workout is just the thing you need to get some perspective and finally solve your issue.
If no one’s going to die, it’s not that important:
This is a lesson I’m grateful I’ve learned second hand. I had a roommate during one of my many military schools who is a Silver Star recipient from the events that took place near a dam in Iraq in the mid-2000s. He watched a lot of friends die. Since that day, he decided that he would only stress out if someone could potentially die. I lived with him for six months and got stressed out by a lot of things, but he was always in my ear, reminding me that we were training, and no one was going to die.
There are very few things in life that cannot wait 10-15 minutes. If you are a professional at your job, you see everything coming a mile away.
If you even have one iota that the above two things don’t apply to your situation I implore you to ask yourself these two questions:
Am I in the fog?
Will someone die?
(If you answer “yes” and “no” to those questions respectively, it’s time to go get this workout in.)
Put 110% into that 10 minutes and it’ll pay off.
(U.S. Marine photo by Lance Cpl. Phuchung Nguyen)
How can you possibly get a quality workout in 10 minutes?
As with everything, it depends on your goal.
If you’re focused on burning fat, a strong argument can be made that you only need to train for 10 minutes a day… if you do it right.
If you’re focused on getting stronger or gaining muscle, more time would be helpful. But, if you’re 80% compliant with your training plan, a day off here or there won’t affect things much, if at all.
The main reason to get this short session in is to maintain consistency.
You know what happens when you miss one session? Eventually, you miss another. Then you’re only training once a week. Before you know it, it’s been six months since you’ve trained, you feel terrible, and your pants are tight (time to buy that poncho).
This 10-minute session guarantees that doesn’t happen to you.
Here are some exercise recommendations based on what your full session was supposed to be
Chest and arms: Push-ups
Shoulders: Weighted lateral circles
Core: Russian twists
Full body: RKC plank
Back: Pull-ups or Horizontal pulls
Squat session: Bodyweight squats
Deadlift session: Elevated glute bridges
I’m going to be 100% transparent here. If you’re going from not working out at all to doing this workout 3-4 times a week, you will see some significant changes in your body and energy. A lot of times, people like to make fitness seem super complicated. In general, it isn’t. Especially if you’re just getting started out.
If your goals are more advanced or nuanced, this quick session will obviously not be enough to continue growth. It will be enough to ensure compliance and prevent any loses you’ve already achieved.
Email me, seriously do it.
Send me any questions, comments, or concerns you have about your specific training program at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you just want a nicely packaged copy of the 10-minute workout, grab it here!
Don’t forget to drop a comment in the comments section of this article’s Facebook post to let others know what to expect. There’s usually 68 dumb comments by people who didn’t actually read the article. Pipe up and let others know there’s high-quality info in here!
I’m also making a push to keep the conversation going over at the Mighty Fit Facebook Group. If you haven’t yet joined the group, do so. It’s where I spend the most time answering questions and helping people get the most out of their training.
In the early 1970s, Harlem-based drug kingpin, Frank Lucas, was slinging his signature brand of heroin all over New York and the east coast. “Blue Magic,” as it was called, was the best-selling, closest-to-pure Asian heroin you could get.
Blue Magic envelopes. (Image from the Netflix documentary, Drug Lords)
New York City’s special narcotics prosecutor called Lucas, “one of the most outrageous international dope-smuggling gangs ever… an innovator who got his own connection outside the U.S. and then sold the stuff himself in the street.” That connection was in Vietnam, where the United States was embroiled in a years-long conflict. It presented Lucas with an easy opportunity to move his product.
No, it was not in the coffins of dead service members as Lucas originally claimed, nor was it in specially-made coffins or false-bottomed coffins. These are all claims made by Lucas, who is now 87 years old, at various times. The heroin was moved by U.S. military members on military planes, however.
Two Army NCOs, Leslie “Ike” Atkinson and William “Jack” Jackson, met at Fort Bragg early in their careers. While in Vietnam, they made money buying Military Payment Certificates on the cheap and trading them in for cash on the border. When they got tired of that, they started smuggling heroin from a bar they purchased in Bangkok.
Staff Sgt. Jasper Myrick, Atkinson, and Jackson would cheat soldiers at cards and forgive their debt if they moved a shipment of heroin in their personal luggage back to the States. Even though he was caught trying to mail heroin through false-bottomed AWOL bags and thrown in prison in 1975, he continued to move product. After all, he was Frank Lucas’ chief supplier.
Army Criminal Investigators were connected through a DEA informant in Bangkok who connected them to Atkinson’s supplier. Posing as street thugs, they set up a fake buy. After they had evidence against Atkinson’s buyer, they convinced him to come to the U.S. for some fun in Las Vegas. Not only did he come, he brought a kilo of heroin with him.
Even though he was eventually busted and sentenced to 30 years, he wouldn’t give up the former Master Sgt. Atkinson. Luckily, there were two other recently retired military members in Bangkok. One of them told the DEA and Army CID that Atkinson was moving a giant shipment to the U.S. soon.
Staff Sgt. Jasper Myrick was having his household items inspected for a coming move to Fort Benning. The Army inspector found 100 pounds of “China White” heroin hidden in Myrick’s furniture. But the DEA still needed to trace it back to Atkinson.
Thai police traced the furniture back to its manufacturer where they identified an associate of Atkinson’s, Jimmy Smedley, a retired Army NCO who also ran Atkinson’s nightclub in Bangkok. They also found orders for Myrick’s move and orders for another soldier who recently moved to Augusta, Georgia.
But that soldier’s furniture was already emptied. One of Atkinson’s known associates, an Air Force NCO named Freddie Thornton, had stayed at a motel in the area recently. Agents picked up him and everyone associated with the heroin move.
It was the largest heroin smuggling operation in American history.
Thornton turned on Atkinson and everyone involved was convicted. The heroin was never recovered and was valued at $5 million on the streets.
Frank Lucas, the drug dealer who took credit for smuggling heroin in the coffins of dead servicemen, was arrested before Atkinson in 1975. Originally sentenced to 70 years, he turned on everyone and got his sentence reduced significantly.
Atkinson calls his claim of using coffins “the biggest hoax ever perpetrated.”
Veterans who have been in the service a while know that the exact dates and times of the biggest operations are typically classified until just before they pop off. But the troops have found ways of knowing what’s coming because the command can’t quite keep everything to “business as usual” while also preparing for a big push.
Here are six signs that sh*t’s about to get real:
Lt. Col. Matthew Danner, battalion commander of Battalion Landing Team 3/1, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, inspects a rifle aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex during a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group and the 13th MEU, July 31, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr.)
The commander shows up to inspections
In theory, the commander cares about all inspections, but he or she typically leaves the actual inspecting to their noncommissioned officers and platoon leaders. After all, company commanders and above have a lot to keep track of.
But sometimes, the first sergeant and commander are involved in more inspections than normal, and are checking for more details than normal. It’s a sign that they’re worried weapons, vehicles, and troops will see combat soon, making an untreated rash or rust damage much more dangerous.
Soldiers training at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California, undergo a CS gas attack simulating an attack with a worse chemical agent.
(U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Hannah Baker)
Low-level, constant exercises or operations suddenly stop
When a force is built up for a potentially big fight, the commanders have to keep everyone razor sharp and focused. If the troops aren’t in regular combat, this is typically accomplished via small exercises and large drills.
But, if the fight is about to start, the higher-ups want to ensure that everyone gets a little rest before going into the big battle. So, leaders get word from their own bosses to cease unnecessary training and operations the days immediately preceding the fight, and troops may even get official confirmation 24 hours out along with orders to rest up.
All the headquarters pukes are suddenly mum, or are talking in whispers in corners
But of course, not every low-level soldier can be kept out of the loop. Someone has to look at where the moon will be on different nights, cloud cover, whether the locals will be outside or in their homes during normal patterns of life. Someone has to move the right equipment to the right spots, and someone runs the messages between all the majors making the plans.
So, those people are all low-ranking, yes, but they’re also in the know. They’ll respond in one of a few ways, usually spilling the beans to close friends or cutting themselves off from everyone — which are dead giveaways in their own right. If the intel guy who typically wants to talk to everyone is suddenly mum or will only talk in whispers to close friends, get ready for a fight.
Marines deliver an M777 howitzer via MV-22 Osprey slingload during training in Australia in 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Daniel Wetzel)
A whole bunch of fresh supplies arrive
Here’s a little secret: For as much as all the troops complain about always having to deal with old, hand-me-down gear, the U.S. is actually one of the best-supplied militaries in the world, if not the best supplied (we’re certainly the most expensive). But all of those supplies are typically sent to top-tier units or units about to go into the fight.
So, if you’re not in a Special Forces unit but the supply guy shows up with a ton of useful, new gear — especially batteries —that your unit has been asking for — and failing to receive — then you might be going into combat. Get to know the equipment quick.
Pizza Hut shows up at the Marines’ base just before the invasion of Iraq begins in ‘Generation Kill,” a mini-series based on a journalist’s account of the invasion.
A sudden, seemingly unprompted, nice meal
As odd as it sounds, an unexpected nice meal is a dead giveaway that troops are about to experience something rough. If you’re a soldier in the middle of a huge force, it’s a good bet that the “something rough” is the planned operation.
This sometimes comes up in movies and TV, like in Generation Kill, when 20 cars showed up at the wire filled with Pizza Hut while the Marines were waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin. Driver and comedian Ray Person immediately calls it,
“Sh*t is on. Has to be.”
Marines communicate with family and friends on new morale internet lines in 2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
(Office of the Secretary of Defense Public Affairs)
Of course, the officers typically want to tell all their troops what’s going on and get them mentally prepared for the fight, but there’s a big step they need to take to make sure word doesn’t leak out: a communications blackout. Internet and phone access to the outside world is cutoff so no one can send an errant text home and let the enemy know the invasion is coming.
So, if the morale lines suddenly cut off, go ahead and report to your platoon, because word is coming down that something has happened or is about to.
Navy Rear Adm. Dave Thomas took part in an “Undercover Boss”-like segment for a local news channel where he dressed up as a junior enlisted seaman.
When the world’s saltiest “E-3” arrives with a camera crew, it’s like a “Hello, my name is Matt” moment, but the sailors play along. The admiral attempts to scrape rust and load an amphibious landing vehicle under the careful watch of petty officers before the big reveal.
The US has a small aircraft carrier hosting F-35B stealth fighter jets in the Middle East as Russia threatens US forces in Syria — and if fighting breaks out the US will have no choice but to send in the advanced fighters.
Russia and its ally, Syria, have launched a massive offensive against Idlib, the last rebel-held area in the country, and appeared to predict chemical weapons use in the process.
But Russia has made these claims before, and it hasn’t stopped the US from striking Syria in the past. This time, as Syria and Russia eye a bloody victory over the last remaining rebels, Russia has telegraphed that it would counter-attack the US if US missiles hit Syrian targets over chemical weapons use.
Russia, a weakened military power that often bolsters its image with propaganda, sat idly by while the US hit Syria twice before, but the US has spelled out that this time its penalty would take a much “stronger” form.
In the face of a massive Russian naval presence in the Mediterranean hugging Syria’s coast, the US doesn’t have a single carrier strike group anywhere near the region.
But the US does have the USS Essex, a US Navy small-deck helicopter carrier modified to carry US Marine Corps F-35B stealth fighters. The Essex and its accompanying ships across the Suez Canal from the Russian ships in the Mediterranean represents one of the greatest concentrations of naval power ever put to sea, and its main mission is simple — crisis response.
The long-awaited F-35Bs have updated software that grants them “full warfighting capability” Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Christopher Harrison told USNI News. That capability takes the F-35 beyond anything that F/A-18s, the US Navy’s standard carrier-based fighter, could do in an environment like Syria.
Syria has advanced Russian missile defenses, creating some of the world’s most challenging air spaces. Only a stealth jet with advanced sensors, like the F-35B, could safely take on the mission of fighting in the skies above Syria.
“The F-35’s ability to operate in contested areas, including anti-access/area-denial environments that legacy fighters cannot penetrate, provides more lethality and flexibility to the combatant commander than any other fighter platform,” said Harrison.
US Marines firing a howitzer in Syria.
(US Marine Corps photo)
Russia flirting with disaster
Russia specifically threatened US forces in southern Syria with retaliation. In the past, these US forces have come under attack from Russian-aligned forces and brutally beat them back with superior air power. But in that case, Russia held back its considerable bank of fighter jets in the region from the fight.
The F-35B has never tasted combat, but the Syrian war produced a rich list of firsts over the last seven years. Missile fires have taken down Israeli, Syrian, and Russian jets over the course of the war. Syria has seen the combat debut of Israel’s F-35I and the first US air-to-air kill between manned aircraft since 1999.
If Russia is serious about backing its ally and countering a possible US attack, it would no doubt need air power to do so. But not only does the US have stealth F-35s nearby ready to hit Russia with something it’s never seen, they have considerable air bases in the region that make Moscow’s threat appear less than serious.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Some aircraft carriers are legends – either from long service like that of USS Enterprise (CVN 65) or with an unmatched war record like that of another USS Enterprise (CV 6).
They have either heroic sacrifices, the way USS Yorktown (CV 5) did at Midway, or they simply take a ton of abuse as USS Franklin (CV 13) did.
But some carriers just stink. You wouldn’t wish them on your worst enemy… or maybe you would, simply to make the war easier. There’s arguments on both sides of that. Here are the carriers that would prompt such an internal debate.
6. USS Ranger (CV 4)
When America was down to one carrier in the South Pacific in 1942, re-deploying America’s first purpose-built carrier, the USS Ranger (CV 4) was not considered as an option.
That tells you something about the ship. Her combat career was relatively brief, and she eventually was relegated to training duties. Still, she had a decent air group (mostly fighters and dive-bombers), so she is the best of this bad lot.
5. Admiral Kuznetsov Class (Kuznetsov, Liaoning, and unnamed Type 001A)
If you’ve read a lot of WATM, then you know about the Kuznetsov Follies. The crappy engines (the Russians send tugs along with her in case of breakdown), the splash landings, and the fact the Russians ended up using her as a glorified ferry all speak to real problems. In her favor, though, is the presence of 12 long-range anti-ship missiles on the lead ship, and she can fly MiG-29K and Su-33 Flankers off her deck. China’s versions carry J-15 fighters, but not the missiles.
4. Kiev class (Kiev, Minsk, Novorossiysk)
The Russian Kiev and her sisters are on here for a crap air wing.
The Yak-38 Forger was one of the worst planes to ever operate from a carrier. The Kiev gets a higher ranking largely because she had a lot of firepower, including eight SS-N-12 Sandbox missiles as well as a lot of SA-N-3 Goblets and point-defense systems, which were arguably more of a threat to the enemy than the planes she carried.
Yeah… that kinda has the whole purpose backwards. Now, a modern version with F-35Bs or even AV-8B+ Harriers and the Aegis system could be interesting.
3. HTMS Chakri Naruebet
The Chakri Naruebet from the Thai navy is on the list not so much for inherent problems, but because of substantial air wing neglect during the reign of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (aka Rana IX). Worse, the Thais officially call her an “offshore patrol helicopter carrier.”
They did buy some second-hand AV-8S Matadors from Spain. But most flunked the maintenance, and soon Thailand had one flyable jet. At least the Kievs had heavy firepower to make up for their crap air wing!
That said, his successor, King Vajiralongkorn, was a former fighter pilot, and hopefully will be able to turn things around.
2. Ise Class battleship/carrier hybrid conversions
Okay, in some ways, this is understandable. After the Battle of Midway, Japan needed carriers in the worst possible way. Ise and Hyuga are perfect examples of getting those “carriers” — in the worst possible way.
Initially built as battleships with a top speed of 23 knots, they got turned not into full carriers, which might have been useful. But a half-battleship/half-carrier holding 22 seaplanes (okay about 50 percent more than Hosho) that they could launch and recover wasn’t totally awful.
Remember that’s seaplanes, not Zeroes for fighter cover or strike planes. Granted Japan had the A6M-2 Rufe, a seaplane Zero, but this was a rush job, and it showed. At least they each had eight 14-inch guns.
1. HIJMS Hosho
This was the world’s first purpose-built aircraft carrier. But let’s be honest, the Japanese boat was a dog. It had a top speed of 25 knots, and it carried all of 15 planes. During the Battle of Midway, it had eight biplanes.
By comparison, USS Langley (CV 1), America’s first aircraft carrier, could carry 36 planes. Even with a top speed of 15 knots, she would have been useful escorting convoys in the Atlantic – if America hadn’t turned her into a seaplane tender to satisfy an arms-control treaty Japan violated anyhow.
HIJMS Hosho. (Wikimedia Commons)
Are there any bad carriers we missed? Let us know in the comments!
That could be the response from more Marines and even other military service members of this Millennial generation, as fewer troops are claiming a religion than those of previous decades.
Earlier this month, Gen. Robert Neller, the commandant of the Marine Corps, issued an all-hands message to encourage his men and women and Navy sailors assigned to their units to take note of their own “spiritual fitness.”
“During this time, I ask each of you to reflect on what you and the Marines and sailors you lead are doing to achieve and maintain an optimal level of strength and resilience. Your leaders and chaplains at all levels stand ready to engage with you in this task,” Neller, a veteran infantry officer entering his second year as the service’s top general officer, wrote in the Oct. 3 message. “By attending to spiritual fitness with the same rigor given to physical, social and mental fitness, Marines and sailors can become and remain the honorable warriors and model citizens our nation expects.”
The general’s mention of honorable warriors and model citizens – most Marines serve four to eight years and then return to civilian life – harkens to a generation ago. In the 1990s — with a military facing force cuts, ethical scandals and retention concerns — then-commandant Gen. Charles Krulak often spoke with Marines about the importance of integrity, having a “moral compass” and courage to do the right thing.
It wasn’t specifically directed at religion or spirituality but took a broad, holistic approach at building better “citizen-soldiers.”
In this generation, will that challenge to look inward at their spirituality, however they define it to be, resonate with Millennial Marines? And, if so, how?
If religious affiliation is any measure of that, military leaders might well be worried.
Last year, the Pew Research Center found that fewer Americans were identifying as religious. In its 2014 Religious Landscape Survey, the Pew Research Center found that 70.6 percent of Americans identified with a Christian-based religion, with “Evangelical Protestant,” “Catholic” and “Mainline Protestant” the top groups. Almost 6 percent claimed non-Christian faiths – Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu, for example.
But almost 23 percent in the survey of 35,000 Americans said they were unaffiliated – known as “nones” – or nonbelievers, and 15.8 percent of them claimed no ties even to agnostics or atheists. That was a significant change from 2007, when 16 percent identified as “nones.”
The biggest group, 35 percent, among “nones” are Millennials, considered those born between 1981 and 1996, and “nones” as a whole “are getting even younger,” Pew found. It’s also an age group — 20 to 35 — that’s well represented within the military services.
So how will today’s Marines receive this latest message?
The Marine Corps hasn’t detailed just what the push for spiritual fitness will entail, but it’s described as part of leadership development and a holistic approach to overall fitness along with physical, mental and social wellness. The service’s deputy chaplain, Navy Capt. William Kennedy, said it wasn’t a program but “an engagement strategy to enable leaders at every level to communicate the importance of faith, values and moral living inside the Marine Corps culture of fitness.”
“Spiritual fitness is for everyone,” Kennedy said in an email response to WATM. “Every Marine has a position on matters of spirituality, belief in a higher being and religion. The individual Marine chooses if and how they will grow in spiritual fitness, enabling them to fulfill their duties successfully while deployed and in garrison.”
Scott said the Navy’s top chaplain Rear Adm. Brent Scott sent a letter to all Marine Corps’ chaplains, challenging them to “engage their commanders and the Marine Corps in conversations on spiritual fitness.”
A non-profit group, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, has criticized the Corps’ plan as an attempt to push religious, if not Christian, values on all Marines.
Mikey Weinstein, the group’s founder and president and a former Air Force lawyer, has threatened to sue the Marine Corps to stop it from mandating spiritual fitness training for every Marine rather than having it be voluntary. Weinstein told Military.com last week that the service’s plan to include spiritual fitness with some training and education courses is “nothing more than a Trojan Horse for fundamentalist Christians to proselytize to a captive audience.”
“If they call this ‘mental fitness,’ that’s great,” Weinstein told WATM. But while Marines are regularly tested in physical fitness and military proficiency, he said, “who gets to decide what Marines are spiritually fit?”
While troops can be required to sit through legal discussions with a judge advocate or medical training with medics, they can’t be required to attend teachings or preaching by unit chaplains, he said, citing separation of church and state. If the Marine Corps sets mandatory lectures, testing or measuring tools or classes that discuss things like faith or “a higher power,” for example, that will push it into religious beliefs and violate the constitutional prohibition against religious tests, Weinstein said.
“If they do it, they’ll be in court,” he said.
In 2010, MRFF threatened to sue the Army when it pushed out a similar assessment program on spiritual fitness for soldiers, and Weinstein said the service eventually revised it.
But “spiritual fitness” remains a popular concept around the military — a phrase that might seem to avoid any specific religion to many but still retains an element of a belief. The Air Force considers it one of its comprehensive fitness pillars, along with mental, physical and social. And spiritual fitness is often mentioned in programs to help build resiliency among troops, including those grappling with combat or post-traumatic stress and even in programs to strengthen relationships among military couples and families.
Navy chaplain Kennedy described spirituality generally as something “that gives meaning and purpose in life.” It also might “refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living,” he said. “For some this is expressed in commitment to family, institution or esprit de corps. For others, it may apply to application of faith.”
Military chaplains have the duty to advise commanders and service members on “spiritual matters.” They “are required to perform faith-specific ministries that do not conflict with the tenets or faith requirements of their religious organizations. Additionally, chaplains are required to provide or facilitate religious support, pastoral care and spiritual wellness to all service members, regardless of religious affiliation,” according to a July 2015 Defense Department Inspector General report on “rights of conscience protections” for troops and chaplains.
Weinstein, who said he’s Jewish but “not that religious,” said his group isn’t anti-religion and counts 48,000 active-duty troops among its members, with 98 percent who affiliate with a religion. Many supporters don’t want the military services telling them what or whether to believe, he said, adding that “thousands of military people [say] that’s my personal business.”
But is spiritual fitness inherently a part of something religious, or is it separate from a religious belief?
It may depend on who is defining it. A spiritual fitness guide briefing slide by the U.S. Navy Chaplains Corps, whose members advise Navy and Marine Corps units, describes spiritual fitness this way: “A term used to capture a person’s overall spiritual health and reflects how spirituality may help one cope with and enjoy life. Spirituality may be used generally to refer to that which gives meaning and purpose in life. The term may be used more specifically to refer to the practice of a philosophy, religion or way of living.”
Would having no religious affiliation or belief render one without spirituality? For some Leathernecks, the Marine Corps itself is like a religion, with its own spirituality that “non-believers” – like POGs or people-other-than-grunts – can’t understand.
The Marines’ own institutional bible, so-to-speak, the warfighting publication “Leading Marines,” stated in its 1995 edition: “This manual is based on the firm belief that, as others have said in countless ways, our Corps embodies the spirit and essence of those who have gone before. It is about the belief, shared by all Marines, that there is no higher calling than that of a United States Marine.”
Editor’s Note: This story has been changed to correct attribution from the Marine Corps Deputy Chaplain.
A photo released by AFRICOM reportedly shows a Russian MiG-29 Fulcrum jet flying over Libya.
The U.S. military has provided more details about an alleged Russian deployment of fighter jets to Libya, as officials in Russia continued to deny the presence of Russian military aircraft or personnel in the North African country.
The United States says Moscow deployed the jets to provide support for Russian mercenaries helping a local warlord battle Libya’s internationally recognized government.
The alleged deployment could have a big impact on the war pitting the eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA) of Khalifa Haftar and forces of the Government of National Accord (GNA), which is recognized by the United Nations.
The conflict has drawn in multiple regional actors, with Russia, France, Egypt, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates backing Haftar’s command.
Turkey, which deployed troops, drones, and Syrian rebel mercenaries to Libya in January, supports the government in Tripoli, alongside Qatar and Italy.
As Libya continues to be subjected to a UN arms embargo, the U.S. military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) on May 26 said it assessed Russia had recently deployed military jets to Libya via Syria to support Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the LNA. It said the jets were repainted in Syria to remove Russian Federation Air Force markings.
In a tweet on May 27, AFRICOM added that MiG-29 and Su-24 fighters bearing Russian Federation Air Force markings departed Russia “over multiple days in May.”
After the aircraft landed at the Russian military base of Hmeimim in western Syria, the MiG-29s “are repainted and emerge with no national markings.”
AFRICOM wrote in a separate tweet that the jets were flown by “Russian military personnel” and were escorted to Libya by “Russian fighters” based in Syria.
The planes first landed near Tobruk in eastern Libya to refuel, it said, adding: “At least 14 newly unmarked Russian aircraft are then delivered to Al Jufra Air Base” in central Libya, an LNA stronghold.
Meanwhile, LNA spokesman Ahmed Mismari denied that new jets had arrived, calling it “media rumors and lies,” according to Reuters.
Viktor Bondarev, the chairman of the Federation Council’s committee on defense and security, dismissed the U.S. claims as “stupidity.”
“If the warplanes are in Libya, they are Soviet, not Russian,” Bondarev said.
Vladimir Dzhabarov, first deputy head of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, said Russia had not sent military personnel to Libya and the Russian upper house of parliament has not received a request to approve such a dispatch.
Vagner Group, a private military contractor believed to be close to the Kremlin, has been helping Haftar’s forces. A UN report earlier this month estimated the number of Russian mercenaries at between 800 and 1,200.
The Bondarev and Dzhabarov comments are the latest denials from Moscow that the Russian state is responsible for any deployments.
But U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, commander of AFRICOM, said on May 26: “For too long, Russia has denied the full extent of its involvement in the ongoing Libyan conflict. Well, there is no denying it now. We watched as Russia flew fourth-generation jet fighters to Libya — every step of the way.”
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed popular uprising ousted and killed the country’s longtime dictator, Muammar Qaddafi, in 2011.
Haftar, who controls the eastern part of the country, is seeking to capture the capital, Tripoli, from GNA forces.
But his LNA lost a string of western towns and a key air base in the past two months after Turkey stepped up military support for his rivals.
The U.S. Air Force, RAF and Italian Air Force are the only ones to have the ability to carry out Bio-containment missions aboard their aircraft.
In the next hours, a Boeing KC-767A tanker and transport aircraft of the 14° Stormo (Wing) of the Aeronautica Militare (Italian Air Force, ItAF) will depart from Pratica di Mare Air Base, near Rome, to carry out the air evacuation of an Italian student stuck in Wuhan, China, who could not be repatriated along with the others on Feb. 2, 2020, because he developed fever. While the same aircraft has already taken part in a previous flight to the Chinese town that is the coronavirus epicentre, the next one will be in “bio-containment” configuration.
This kind of missions are flown with an aeromedical isolation crew that can take care of the patient in isolated area of the aircraft (with bathroom) because he/she has been exposed to, or infected with, highly infectious, potentially lethal pathogens. For this reason, aircraft involved in this tasks require specific disinfection and decontamination procedures after the mission.
Considered the peculiar health conditions of the patients, it is also important to make sure the quality of the flight is not affected by the so-called major and minor stressors of flight:
Major stressors are Hypoxya and Barometric pressure changes that can induce expansion of trapped gas, decompression and sickness
Minor stressors are Dryness, Noise, Vibrations and turbolence, Temperature changes and overall Fatigue of flight
ATIs (Air Transit Isolators) are boarded for these missions. An ATI is a self-contained isolation facility designed to transport safely a patient during air evacuation, protecting healthcare personnel, air crew and the aircraft from exposure to the infectious agents. The ATI provides a microbiologically secure environment using a multi-layer protection: around the rigid or semi-rigid frame, a PVC “envelop” surrounds the patient while allowing observation and treatment of the patient in isolation and an Air Supply Unit puts the ATI unit under negative pressure, with HEPA Inlet and Outlet filters that filter out 99,97% of particles 0.3mm and larger preventing the passage of potentially infected micro-particles. Four 12V batteries with an operating time of 6 hours each provide the ATI 24 hours independent time.
The team is usually composed of a Team Leader, a doctor who is responsible for coordinating the mission, manages relations with the civil entities involved and supervises all the operations. At least two medical officers (an anesthesiologist and an infectious disease specialist) are responsible for the health management of the patient while six non-commissioned officers take care of the patient and carry out transport procedures.
Needless to say, all the team wears protective gear that may vary according to the required Biosafety Level and that can range from simple gown, facial mask and gloves up to the Full body suit (tychem C) with positive pressure gloves.
The Aeronautica Militare has started developing the bio-containment evacuation capability since 2005, with the purchase of the ATI systems. Military doctors and nurses attended the training courses of the U.S. Army Institute of Infectious Diseases in Maryland, while the assets used for this peculiar mission were certified by the Centro Sperimentale Volo (Flight Test Wing). The ATI has been certified in extreme conditions after undergoing Rapid decompression, Vibration, Electromagnetic and Environmental Tests and can be carried by the ItAF C-130J, the C-27J and the KC-767A that have carried out some bio-containement missions in the last few years: on Nov. 25, 2014, a KC-767 repatriated an Italian doctor who developed a fever and was positive at the Ebola virus after working at a clinic located few miles west of Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown. Earlier, on Jan. 24, 2006, a C-130J transported back to Italy a patient suffering from a severe form of pulmonary tuberculosis resistant to any pharmacological treatment.
The bio-containment capability is based on the use of special ATI (Aircraft Transport Isolator) stretchers, used to board the patient, and the smaller TSI (Stretcher Transit Isolator) terrestrial system, required to transfer the patient from the aircraft to the ambulance upon arrival.
Just a few air forces are able to conduct bio-containment flights like those described above: the U.S. Air Force and UK’s Royal Air Force are the other services capable to perform such mission.
In Italy, the bio-containment mission is a military capability available for civilian use (for this reason it is called a “dual use” capability): it was developed in coordination with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interiors and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Protezione Civile (Civil Protection).
China could respond to a law that encourages relations between the US and Taiwan with “military pressure,” the country’s state-run media said on March 18, 2018.
On March 16, 2018, President Donald Trump signed the Taiwan Travel Act, which went into effect the following day, encouraging visits between the United States and Taiwan at all levels. The US ended diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 but continues to have a “robust unofficial relationship” with the self-ruled, democratic island that Beijing considers a province of China.
“China will and should take timely countermeasures against the US and all “Taiwan independence” secessionist forces through diplomatic and military means if US legislation that encourages high-level contact between the US and the island of Taiwan is implemented,” China’s English language Global Times reported.
The paper, an offshoot of the People’s Daily, cited a former major general in the Chinese army and Liu Weidong, an expert in US relations at a government-run research institute. And given the publication’s close links to Beijing, the views likely align with those in power.
The Chinese embassy in Washington initially responded on March 16, 2018, saying the law “severely violates” the “political foundation of the China-U.S. relationship” and its “one-China” approach to Taiwan.
In 2005, China created an anti-secession law that allows the country to use “non-peaceful means” to prevent Taiwan establishing independence.
“If any ‘Taiwan independence’ secessionist forces perceive the US bill as a ‘pro-independence’ signal, the Chinese army will resume its military probes circling the island and send more military vessels and airplanes to patrol the Straits,” Global Times quoted Liu as saying.
China regularly carries out military drills near Taiwan, which has been a cause for concern internationally. In 2017, China conducted 16 drills near Taiwan and a report from the island’s defense department said China’s “military threat towards us grows daily.”
China may also take diplomatic action against the US, Global Times said, including stopping high-ranking official visits to Washington for a set time.
High-level diplomatic relations between the two countries appear to be getting more strained by the day.
The heightened tensions between China and the US come after Trump signed a law in December 2017 allowing US navy ships to visit Taiwan. China previously said any such visits could provoke war.
Trump also appeared to target China with new tariffs on steel and aluminum. In response, China warned the US that trade wars “harm the initiator” and is thought to be considering responding with its own tariffs.
Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.
Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.
The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.
The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.
“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.
“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”
The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.
Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.
The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.
Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.
“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”
One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.
“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.
“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”
The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.
McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.
The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.
Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.
However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.
Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.
They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.
It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.
Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.
The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.
“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.
One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.
“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.
In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.
Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.
The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.
“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.
“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”
The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.
Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.
The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.
That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.
“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.
“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.
The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.
In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.
The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.
First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.
Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.
All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.
Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.
San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.
Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.
Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.
Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”
“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”
They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.
Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.
The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.
The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”
“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”