Can't hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force's PR problem - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem

The head of the U.S. Space Force said it hasn’t been easy to get the American public to understand what the military’s newest branch does, but vowed to keep working on getting its message across.

“Space doesn’t have a mother. You can’t reach out and hug a satellite. You can’t see it; you can’t touch it. It’s hard to have that connection,” Gen. John Raymond, chief of space operations for the service, told reporters Wednesday during a Defense Writers Group virtual event.

Since former President Donald Trump left office, many have speculated on the Space Force’s future. Space Force has a public relations crisis, Defense News reported, and is often seen as the Pentagon’s stepchild branch.

Read Next: The Air Force’s New F-15EX Jet Just Took Its First Flight

When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked Tuesday about President Joe Biden’s plans for the service, critics argued she came off as dismissive. Lawmakers such as Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., condemned her response and asked her to apologize to the men and women of Space Force.Advertisement

“We look forward to the continuing work of Space Force and invite the members of the team to come visit us in the briefing room anytime to share an update on their important work,” Psaki tweeted hours after the briefing.

Raymond said Wednesday that he would “welcome the opportunity.”

In a separate briefing, Psaki said the Space Force “has the full support” of the Biden administration, confirming the president has no intention of undoing the labor already done to form the branch.

“We’re not revisiting the decision,” she said.

The Space Force has tried to explain its role to the public. Leaders have talked about overseeing everyday tasks like providing GPS capabilities on cellphones and enabling connections for ATM transactions, as well as more sophisticated missions such as early detection of incoming ballistic missiles — something the service accomplished during the Iranian attack on American forces in Iraq last year.

“I really believe we are communicating really well in a number of areas,” Raymond said, citing efforts to deter adversaries such as Russia and China in space, and collaborating with partners, allies and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“I think it’s also hard to understand because it’s been severely classified what the threats are out there,” he added. “I think we’ve been doing a lot of work to be able to talk about those threats, and to talk about the value of space to every single American. … But I think there still is a challenge that it’s hard to understand that connection to space. And we’ll keep working at it.”

Lawmakers have taken note, and congressional support for the Space Force is growing, Todd Harrison, director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, said in November.

He pointed out that the Space Force started out as a bipartisan effort. Rogers and Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., proposed in 2017 that the Air Force should create an internal “U.S. Space Corps” in hopes of taking adversarial threats in space more seriously. (The Air Force, which considered itself the leader of space operations, opposed the idea at the time.)

But the Trump administration took hold of the messaging surrounding the Space Force early on — with Trump surprising Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs, in 2018 with his push to form the new branch. It has been seen as “Trump’s Space Force” for that reason, experts including Harrison say.

Trump made the Space Force a reality when he signed the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 20, 2019. The move temporarily reassigned 16,000 airmen and civilians to the new branch and dissolved the Air Force’s leading major command overseeing space, Air Force Space Command.

Some still believe space operations should fall under the Air Force, and the Space Force continues to be criticized and mocked even after a year of existence.

Actor Steve Carell based his new comedy show on the Space Force; it premiered on Netflix last year. And the service continues to get a bad rap on social media, from users posting that it “stole” the Star Trek logo; to ridiculing Guardians, the name for Space Force members; to denouncing its existence because of its association with Trump.

“It doesn’t help that [the service’s] recruitment [ad] shows astronauts and fictional space stations,” another user posted Wednesday on Twitter, referring to how Space Force and NASA’s commercial missions often get misconstrued.

Others fail to see the difference between U.S. Space Command — reactivated in August 2019, before the establishment of the Space Force — and the military’s sixth branch. SPACECOM is responsible for military operations related to space, while the Space Force organizes and trains space personnel.

Inside the Pentagon, messaging to the force has been “spectacular,” Raymond said, adding that there is an excitement for the mission, which supports the joint force.

But there was mockery once again Wednesday as Raymond’s words made it on Twitter, with users asking someone to manufacture a satellite plush toy to hug at night. Others called for an “adopt a satellite” program akin to sponsoring an endangered animal in the wild or blamed Trump for the service’s creation, claiming it wasted taxpayer dollars or complaining about the militarization of space operations.

“Communication is only fantastic if we understand the message,” tweeted Maggie Feldman-Piltch, head of NatSecGirlSquad. “We don’t need a mother, we need an origin story and a value statement.”

Articles

New evidence casts doubt on death of Amelia Earhart

A lost photo may shed new light on the mysterious death of famous aviator Amelia Earhart.


The photo, which will be featured in a new History channel special called “Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence,” was discovered in the National Archives more than 80 years after her death. In it, a woman who appears to be Earhart sits on a dock in the Marshall Islands near to a man who resembles her navigator Fred Noonan.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem
Photo from US National Archives

After becoming the first female pilot to fly a plane across the Atlantic Ocean, Earhart set off to circumnavigate the globe in July 1937. Her plane vanished without a trace during the flight and, by 1939, both Earhart and Noonan were declared dead.

But the new photo, which shows figures that appear like Earhart and Noonan, could challenge the common theory that the plane crashed somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem
Photo from US National Archives

Shawn Henry, former executive assistant director for the FBI, told NBC News that he’s confident the photo is legitimate and pictures Earhart sitting on the dock.

“When you pull out, and when you see the analysis that’s been done, I think it leaves no doubt to the viewers that that’s Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan,” said Henry. Her plane appears to be on a barge in the background being towed by a large ship.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem
Photo from US National Archives

According to NBC News, the team that uncovered the photo believes that the photo demonstrates that Earhart and Noonan were blown off course.  The latest photo could suggest that Earhart was captured by the Japanese military, experts told NBC News.

 

While current Japanese authorities told the news outlet that they had no record of Earhart ever being in their custody, American investigators insisted that the photo strongly suggests that Earhart survived the crash and was taken into captivity.

“We believe that the Koshu took her to Saipan [the Mariana Islands], and that she died there under the custody of the Japanese,” said Gary Tarpinian, the executive producer behind the History project.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Iraq war veteran gives rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment

David Bellavia, who received the nation’s highest military honor June 25, 2019, for his heroic actions in Iraq, offered rare insight into his Medal of Honor moment at the Pentagon on June 24, 2019, revealing the thoughts and emotions that flooded his brain as he charged into a house filled with insurgents in Fallujah on Nov. 10, 2004.

Former Staff Sergeant Bellavia and his team were clearing houses in support of Operation Phantom Fury. In one house, insurgents ambushed his squad, pinning them down. Bellavia rushed inside the house to provide suppressing cover fire so that his fellow soldiers could exit the building safely.

Ret. Sgt. First Class Colin Fitts told reporters that had it not been for Bellavia, he probably wouldn’t be here today.


After Bellavia and his squad got out, a Bradley fighting vehicle hit the war-torn house hard, but not hard enough to eliminate the threat. It was necessary for someone to head inside and clear the building of insurgents, who were armed with rocket-propelled grenades, among other weapons.

“David Bellavia had to go back into a darkened, nightmare of a house where he knew there were at least five or six suicidal jihadis waiting,” Michael Ware, an embedded reporter who was with the staff sergeant and personally witnessed the Medal of Honor moment, told press at the Pentagon.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem

Engagements on the first floor.

(U.S. Army)

Supported by one fellow soldier inside and three outside, Bellavia re-entered the house, fighting room-to-room, killing four insurgents and mortally wounding a fifth in the fierce fight.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem

Engagements on the second floor.

(U.S. Army)

“A lot of things go through your mind. Some are very rational. Some are completely irrational,” Bellavia explained. “The first thing you’re thinking about you’re scared, you’re life is on the line. The second thing you’re thinking is you’re angry. How dare anyone try to hurt us. How dare anyone try to step up against the US military.”

“You’re angry. You’re scared,” he said, telling reporters that it’s a certain kind of peer pressure that keeps you moving forward. “When you’re peer is asking for help … it’s easy. Peer pressure might make you smoke cigarettes at 13. But, peer pressure can also make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. It’s about who your peers are.”

Bellavia talked a little about the house he cleared, and it sounded horrific. He explained that the scenes when he first entered and when he re-entered the house were very different due to the extreme redecorating the Bradley fighting vehicle did prior to his re-entry.

“The water had ruptured. All of the plumbing inside. Fallujah had been abandoned for months. So, that water was very unpleasant. It assaulted your senses,” he revealed, adding that there were propane tanks lying about, broken mirrors, makeshift bunkers, and insurgents hopped up on experimental drugs in the dark.

“It was tough. The mind is playing tricks on you,” he said, “You don’t know if you are firing at the same individual or if this is a new individual. A person gets dropped, then they disappear.”

Bellavia said he “thought it was a real possibility” that he wouldn’t make it out.

Bellavia is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the Medal of Honor, an upgrade of the Silver Star he initially received, for “conspicuous gallantry” during his time in the Army. Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon June 24, 2019, he said that this honor “represents many different people,” including many who never came home.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-22 pilots will get new state-of-the-art flight suit first

U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor pilots in Hawaii are some of the first to try out the service’s new integrated aircrew ensemble (IAE) flight suit and gear.

Active-duty and Air National Guard pilots from the 199th and 19th Fighter Squadrons at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will sport brand-new, custom-fit gear on stealth fighter missions next year, according to a recent Air Force news release.

Representatives from the Human Systems Program Office at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio — home to Air Force Material Command — gave pilots the rundown on how to make the most of the upgraded and consolidated flight suits.

“It’s all strategically placed so items are not on top of each other, [and] it minimizes the occurrence of friction, hot spots or wear-down on the system,” Carl Medeiros, IAE program manager, said in the release.


Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem

Aircrew Flight Equipment Airmen from the 154th and 15th Operations Support Squadrons conduct a trial-fitting of the integrated aircrew ensemble July 8, 2019 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii. Program managers from Write-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, introduced the gear to the Airmen, which offers a spectrum of improvements over the currently used equipment. F-22 Raptor pilots from JBPH-H have been selected to be the first aviators to bring the ensemble into an operational capacity.

(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman John Linzmeier)

“The material is also moisture-wicking, so it pulls moisture away from the body, removing and reducing thermal burden, while increasing mobility and comfort levels,” he added. “When it all comes together, there’s a direct correlation and improvement to the physiological effects on the pilot.”

Typically, aircrew in bombers or fighters — or anything with an ejection seat — have layers of add-ons to their flight suits for a variety of contingencies. The Air Force is still offering options, but with a more streamlined and less bulky approach.

Depending on the mission, pilots can choose a combination of seven configuration items including a coverall, which provides heat and flame protection; survival vest; pressure vest; life preserver unit; a chemical, biological and radiological layer; thermal undergarment; and environmental protection layer, the Human Systems Program Office told Military.com.

IAE was tested and approved for all ejection seat aircraft, and the program is “currently in the production phase with the first scheduled roll-out to the F-22 fleet,” the office said in an email.

“Unlike the currently used legacy equipment, which had been piecemealed with additional support items over several decades, each component of the IAE has been designed to complement all other items,” according to the release. “Its material has been influenced by recent advancements in sports technology to aid aviators who endure harsh flight conditions.”

The upgrades have been long in the making. According to an earlier Air Force news release, B-52 Stratofortress bomber crews began experimenting with a version of IAE in 2013. In 2016, the Defense Department awarded TIAX LLC of Lexington, Massachusetts, a .7 million contract delivery order on a previously awarded contract for initial operational test and evaluation (IOTE) for IAE. The Pentagon at the time said that .6 million from fiscal 2015 research, development, test and evaluation (RDTE) funds had also been allocated toward the effort.

Why this Air Force marking is so rare

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Why this Air Force marking is so rare

In recent years, flight suits and better-fitting uniforms have become a priority for the service.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein has called for improved uniforms — not only for comfort, but also for safety. Teams of airmen began reviewing not only flight suits, but all the gear needed to fly for hours on end.

Maj. Saily Rodriguez, the female fitment program manager for the Human Systems Program Office, recently told Military.com that she and her team had been working a number of initiatives — some tailored toward men, others to women — to get aviators better equipped before takeoff.

“Everything that touches an aircrew member’s body, we manage in the program office,” she said during an interview in April. That includes flight vests; G-suits, which prevent the loss of consciousness during high levels of acceleration or gravity pressure; helmets; boots; and other gear, such as a bladder relief apparatus.

The service in April approved the use of two-piece flight suits while on duty as an option to the one-piece flight duty uniform.

Raptor pilots are scheduled to receive the IAE uniform during the first half of 2020, the release states.

The Human Systems Program Office team has also visited Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and the team is scheduled to visit Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, next month, officials said.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Strangers brave snow and ice to attend the funeral of a 91-year-old veteran

In the military community, there’s nothing more important than honoring our fallen and showing up. Earlier today, at Pikes Peak National Cemetery in Colorado Springs, CO, that’s exactly what happened.


Articles

The 5 biggest stories around the military right now (July 13 edition)

Sorry, it’s Monday. But WATM is here to help. Here’s what you need to know about to start your week right:


Now: The most important military leaders in world history

MIGHTY TRENDING

Green Berets in Yemen destroy missile sites for Saudi Arabia

US Green Berets are helping Saudi Arabia locate and destroy Iranian-backed Houthi ballistic missiles and launch sites in Yemen, according to The New York Times.

About 12 Green Berets were deployed to the Saudi border with Yemen in late 2017, but do not appear to have entered the country, The Times reported. They were deployed shortly after the Houthis fired a Burkan H-2 short-range ballistic missile at Riyadh in November 2017, which the Saudis claimed to have shot down, possibly with a US-made Patriot missile defense system.


The Saudi-led coalition began striking the Shiite Muslim Houthis in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis overthrew the government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi from the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in 2014.

The Saudi-led coalition has since been accused of conducting unlawful and indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen, as well as blocking food, fuel, and medicine into the country. Images of emaciated Yemeni adults and children have abounded, and at least eight million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine and one million children are infected with cholera, according to Human Rights Watch.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem
The Saudi-led coalition’s restrictions on imports to Yemen have worsened the dire humanitarian situation of Yemeni civilians.

In a recent strike, the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding in a village in northwestern Yemen, killing at least 20 civilians and wounding 45 more. The bride in the wedding was among those killed, and the groom was also wounded.

A number of countries are part of the Saudi-led coalition, including the US, but Saudi Arabia and the UAE are the main actors conducting airstrikes in the wartorn country.

A Pentagon spokesperson, Major Rankine-Galloway, previously told Business Insider that the US sells weapons to countries in the Saudi-led coalition, as well as provides “limited intelligence sharing,” aerial refueling for coalition jets, and training to make coalition airstrikes more precise.

In late January 2018, Germany and Norway announced that they would stop selling weapons to countries in the Saudi-led coalition over the war in Yemen.

Rankine-Galloway told Business Insider on May 3, 2018, that he could not confirm the Times report “about the deployment of special operations forces,” but provided the following statement:

“The U.S. military has had a mil-to-mil relationship with Saudi Arabia for decades which includes military personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Special Operation Forces providing training, advising, and assisting in a variety of mission areas.
The DOD’s limited non-combat support, such as intelligence sharing, focuses on assisting our partners in securing their borders from cross-border attacks from the Houthis and improving coalition processes and procedures, especially regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties.
Due to operational security, we cannot comment further on the makeup of forward-deployed forces.”

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

Humor

7 more phrases old school veterans can’t stop saying — and we love it

We love our old-school veterans that don’t have a problem speaking their minds. They fought Nazis without the internet — they’re miraculous heroes, every damn one of them.


With that in mind, their generation has some pretty entertaining sayings that we should all know about:

1. “There is no such thing as an atheist in a foxhole.”

If you’re deployed and occupying a foxhole — or fighting hole — chances are you’re freakin’ close to the enemy and sh*t could “pop-off” at any time.

When that intense firefight does break out, it’s common for troops to believe in a higher power suddenly.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem
U.S. troops positioned in a foxhole in a forest in Germany, 1945. (Source: Pinterest)

2. “Pain is weakness leaving the body.”

This Marine expression is commonly used during a hardcore PT session when it looks like someone is about to fall out — it also happens to be one of the Corps’ many slogans.

Regardless, this epic phrase continues to be a source of motivation far after someone receives their DD-214.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem
OO-Rah! Sincerely, the Marine Corps.

3. “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.”

Orders are orders — regardless of how much we don’t believe in them or want to fulfill them.

4. “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean.”

During regular working hours — or when you’re still in uniform — senior troops don’t like to see their juniors just standing around not doing sh*t.

So, if you’re caught just hanging around, chances are you’re going to be cleaning something very soon.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem
When you get caught leaning so hard, you have to wear a hard hat to clean up. (Source: DoD)

5. “Looking like a soup sandwich.”

A term for when someone in uniform looks freaking unsatisfactory. No real clue of how this saying came about, but we’re glad it did.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem
At least attempt to get it right.

6. “It’s mind over matter; I don’t mind and you don’t matter!”

Many service members who had power didn’t seem to mind letting their junior troops know how they felt about them or their complaints. Completing the mission was most important aspect of any task.

7. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It’s common when the higher-ups want to modify or replace a piece of equipment regardless of how successful the prior model functioned.

Old school vets tend not to like too much change in their lives when they have something that works for them.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem

Can you think of any others? Leave a comment!

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iranian plane full of meat goes down, killing at least 7

A cargo plane coming from Kyrgyzstan has crashed near the Iranian capital, with the country’s military saying only one person of the 16 on board survived.

The Boeing 707 exited the runway and hit a wall while trying to land in bad weather at Fath airport near the city of Karaj, 40 kilometers west of Tehran, reports said on Jan. 14, 2019.


Only one person, a flight engineer, of the 16 people who were onboard was found alive and taken to hospital for treatment, the military said in a statement carried by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

The head of Iran’s emergency department, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV that seven bodies were recovered from the wreckage of the plane and that the search continued for others on board.

State television showed pictures of a plume of smoke rising from the crash site.

One survivor, 15 dead in Boeing 707 cargo plane crash in northern Iran

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“A Boeing cargo 707 place carrying meat from Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan had an emergency landing at Fath airport today…the flight engineer has been dispatched to the hospital,” the military said.

The aircraft “exited the runway during the landing and caught fire after hitting the wall at the end of the runway,” it added.

There was some confusion about who owned the plane.

A spokesman for Iran’s civil aviation said the aircraft belonged to Kyrgyzstan, but a spokeswoman for Manas airport near the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, said the plane belonged to Iran’s Payam Air.

The spokeswoman also said that the Boeing crashed in Iran after departing Manas airport.

General Shahin Taghikhani, a spokesman for Iran’s army, told state TV that the plane and its crew were Iranian.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

5 spots to keep in mind when you’re making Veterans Day plans

Veterans Day isn’t just a day to pause and reflect on the great sacrifices that troops have made in the name of this great country. It’s also a day of celebration and a moment for troops and veterans to take in the gratitude of the American people.

So, businesses across the country offer some sort of deal to anyone with a military ID, uniform, or veteran apparel, like a campaign cap. Sure, a free order of chicken wings might not be a fair trade for all that veterans have done for us, but it’s greatly appreciated nonetheless.

To help you properly celebrate Tactical Thanksgiving, we’ve put together a little guide here to make sure you don’t miss a spot on your tour of appreciation. Put the following places on your list and get ready for deals — all for the low, low price of just the gas in your car.


This list highlights types of businesses you should check out. For a list of specific spots that have officially announced Veterans Day discounts or freebies ahead of time, look here. Keep in mind, this list isn’t comprehensive and discounts may be subject to availability, but it’s definitely worth a read.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem

Make sure to adjust your schedule to account for a free breakfast, lunch, dinner, second breakfast, supper, late-afternoon snack…

Restaurants

Restaurants all over the country offer Veterans Day discounts — and that’s amazing. Most places you’ll go to will have little ways of making their meals more patriotic, too, like Red, White, and Blue Pancakes at IHOP or a burger adorned with a little American flag toothpick.

While the more well-known, chain restaurants are often able to take the financial hit of offering free meals, they might be extremely crowded — like, 2-hour-wait-times crowded. Meanwhile, the smaller, locally-owned spots may offer something smaller, like a free side, but you’ll likely get better service and a more personal “thank you.”

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem

If you’re not the type to enjoy small talk during a haircut, at least it’s better than giving yourself a free haircut.

Barber shops

Getting a really good haircut isn’t cheap. And the places that offer a cheap chop typically aren’t all that good. For one day of the year, at least for veterans, this decision is made much easier, as even the good places offer their services for extremely low prices — some even offer free cuts.

What’s nice about getting a free haircut — in contrast to most other things on this list — is that when you let your barber know that you’re a veteran, it actually initiates a conversation. It’s much more personal than a quick thanks and a line item on the receipt.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem

If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly encourage you to take a visit to the National Veterans Art Museum. Every exhibit in there is made by our brothers- and sister-in-arms.

(National Veterans Art Museum)

Museums

Plenty of museums are free for veterans year round. Those that aren’t, however, typically offer free admission on Veterans Day.

If you look through the pamphlet of most any history museum, you’ll likely find that warfare is a central theme. And when you look deeper into most of the paintings in art museums, you’ll see that many of the beautiful pieces, adored by critics and enthusiasts alike, were created by veterans.

What better way to honor a fellow veteran’s work than by spending the day admiring some of it?

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem

They always put on an amazing show for the troops and veterans at Disneyland on Veterans Day.

(Screengrab via 1st Marine Division Band)

Amusement parks and casinos

Many amusement parks close their gates around Labor Day — but some use Veterans Day as their final celebration of the year. This is perfect for veterans with kids or grandkids as it’s a way for the kiddos to enjoy the benefits of their service.

Or, if you’re not excited by cartoon mascots dancing around, know that most casinos on Veterans Day offer free cash credits for veterans. If you play your cards right (literally), you can take that free money walk away. Or just play one or two games and walk out with the remainder. Whatever floats your boat.

Can’t hug a satellite: General addresses Space Force’s PR problem

Nothing says “thank you for your service” better than a free beer or five.

(National Archives)

Your favorite bar

When the day comes to a close, there’s no better way to end a day of celebration than with a nice, hard drink. Head down to your local bar and you can probably get a free drink — either from the bartender or other patriotic patrons.

This one isn’t ever written down as an official thing, but it’s mostly agreed upon that bars will give veterans a free drink or two on Veterans Day.

MIGHTY TRENDING

SecVA: Veterans to see continued improvements in 2020

Veterans will continue to see improvements in VA services, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said at “State of the VA” speech Feb. 5 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


These improvements for Veterans include increased innovation—including the VA’s first 5G hospital—along with decreased wait times for appointments and better overall care.

Increased innovation

The secretary pointed to several programs designed to provide better Veteran care.

The VA hospital in Palo Alto, California, is about to become one of the first 5G enabled health facilities in the world, with portions becoming operational this week. The secretary said will deliver is richer, more detailed three-dimensional images of patients’ anatomy. He added the resolution is so clear and consistent that it will give VA a reliable means of delivering telesurgery services to Veterans.

“That means we will have the capacity to allow VA’s best physicians to consult during surgery even if they’re not in the same room and are halfway across the country,” he said.

Wilkie also pointed to VA’s work on exoskeletons, which do the work patients can’t do on their own. The VA currently has a pilot program to develop exoskeletons that stimulate the spinal cord.

“Instead of the exoskeleton moving the patient around, the patient can increasingly control the exoskeleton as their own muscles are reactivated,” he said. With further research at VA, we are hoping to turn the exoskeleton from a mobility device into something that trains injured people to walk again under their own power.”

Other innovation

The secretary also pointed to a VA partnership to help Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and pain management.

The partnership is with the University of Southern California, a non-profit called Soldier Strong, and AppliedVR. Veterans with PTSD use virtual reality relive and reimagine traumatic events in a controlled setting, under the care of a clinician. The program gives Veterans a chance to process these emotions, which can be an effective treatment for PTSD. He said virtual reality can also help block pain signals from reaching the brain, and thus is a drug-free supplement to traditional pain therapies.

Veterans also see improved care through innovations such as telehealth, a new technology to identify potential diabetic foot ulcers and the precision oncology program. All these innovations help increase Veteran care, he said.

The secretary said this innovation carries on VA’s previous innovation, which includes inventing the cardiac pacemaker, inventing the nicotine patch, performing the first liver transplant and introducing a powered ankle-foot prosthesis. He said all these innovations have a direct impact on Veterans’ well being.

Better Veteran care

Veteran wait time is shorter at VA than compared to private sector. This decreased wait time is for primary care and two of three specialty areas. Wilkie said that’s coupled with a record-high 59.9 million Veteran visits in fiscal year 2019. That’s 1.7 million more appointments for Veterans than ever before. He added 90 percent of Veterans surveyed trust the care they get at VA.

When Wilkie took over, only 25% women vets were enrolled in VA care. Now, he said 41% receive VA care.

Overall Veteran care is improving, Wilkie said. He said VA will implement a provision of the MISSION Act in 2020. This will extend Caregiver benefits to Veterans who served before 1975.

Veterans also receive better mental health care, Wilkie said. This includes same-day mental health care and a universal screening process to identify Veterans who may be at risk. Since late 2018, VA screened more than 4 million Veterans. He said the Veterans Crisis Line is taking more than 1,700 calls each day, and VA takes emergency action on about 100 of those calls.

“I believe that Veterans can show the country the way on how to deal with this terrible problem,” Wilkie said.

Different approaches

Wilkie said the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End the National Tragedy of Suicide, or PREVENTS, task force is weeks away from releasing recommendations. The task force will include a community integration and collaboration proposal, a national research strategy and an implementation strategy. Wilkie said he will recommend that VA opens up financial support. This includes charities, local governments and non-governmental organizations to help Veterans.

Overall, the MISSION Act gives Veterans choice, Wilkie said. In the first six months, VA approved nearly 2.8 million referrals to private sector care for 1.5 million Veterans. Wilkie said just like the MISSION Act rollout, he expects the upcoming Electronic Health Records Modernization will improve Veteran care.

Veterans also see changes in how VA uses Whole Health, setting a standard for care. Wilkie said programs like yoga, aqua therapy, music therapy and art therapy were unheard of decades ago. Now, he said VA uses a Whole Health approach to develop a personalized health plan.

Wilkie also addressed Veterans stationed at Karshi-Khanabad base in Uzbekistan, better known as K2. U.S. forces occupied the old Soviet base shortly after 9/11. Wilkie had candid advice for any Veteran who served there.

“I want all Veterans who have been there and who feel they need to see us to come forward,” he said. He added all Veterans should seek out VA to use the benefits they’ve earned.

“Come see us. File the claims. Come speak to us. This is not your grandfather’s VA where the paperwork is going to take 10 years.”

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA may now approve civilian urgent care facilities for veterans

Got a sore throat or a sprained ankle and don’t want to go to a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital? Got sick at 8:00 on a Friday night and don’t want to wait until Monday to see a VA doctor? A new VA program may be for you.

As of June 6, 2019, the VA offers medical care to eligible veterans at selected civilian urgent care facilities nationwide.


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Dr. Jake Williams, Veterans Affairs dentist, poses for a photo January 9, 2017, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

This is an expansion of the VA’s Mission Act, which itself was an expansion of the Veterans Choice Act. The Choice Act was passed in 2014 as the result of highly publicized problems with veterans not being able to get appointments at VA hospitals in a timely manner.

Under this new expanded program, veterans are eligible to get limited urgent care from civilian doctors regardless of how close they are to a VA facility.

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The Wichita Veterans Administration Hospital, also called the Robert J. Dole Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Wichita, Kansas, located at 5500 East Kellogg Avenue in Wichita, Kansas.

Eligibility

If you are enrolled in the VA health care system and have received VA medical care within the last 24 months, you should be eligible for this program. However, you should contact your local VA medical facility before visiting a civilian urgent care provider. Only certain services and providers are covered under this new benefit. If you visit a provider that isn’t part of the program, or you get medical treatment that isn’t covered under this program, you may end up paying out-of-pocket.

You don’t have to go to a civilian doctor if you don’t want to. The VA says that most of its locations, including hospitals and community-based outpatient clinics, offer same-day services for most situations.

You should contact your local medical office to check your eligibility. Or you can call (866) 606-8198. You can also find civilian community-care locations near you at https://www.va.gov/find-locations/.

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Audie L. Murphy Veterans Administration Hospital in San Antonio, TX

Payments

One way this program differs from regular VA medical care is that you may have to make a co-payment to see the civilian doctor. The amount depends on your VA Priority Group and how many times you visit civilian doctors each year. Typically, you get three free visits each year.

Co-Payments for Office Visits

  • Priority Groups 1-5. There is no co-payment for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all subsequent visits, the co-payment is .
  • Priority Group 6. If the visit is for medical treatment related to combat and chemical exposures such as Agent Orange; contaminated water at Camp Lejeune, NC; Gulf War Syndrome, etc., as well as some mental illnesses, there is no co-pay for the first three visits during a calendar year. For all subsequent visits, the co-payment is . If the visit is not related to these conditions, the co-payment is per visit, for all visits.
  • Priority Groups 7-8. The co-payment is per visit.

There is no co-payment for any Priority Group for flu shots.

Co-Payments for Prescriptions

If you get a prescription from an urgent care center, you should fill it at a VA network pharmacy. If you go to an out-of-network pharmacy, you will have to pay the full price at the drug store and then file a claim with the VA to get your money back.

If you are given a prescription for what the VA considers routine or maintenance drugs (such as blood pressure or cholesterol drugs), you will have to get those filled by the VA.

Some veterans may be required to make a co-payment for medication. Prices are based on your Priority Group, as well as the type of drugs prescribed. For details, see https://www.va.gov/COMMUNITYCARE/revenue_ops/copays.asp.

When the benefit starts, you will be able to contact the VA Health Resource Center for questions related to urgent care co-payments at 1-877-222-VETS (8387).

Stay on Top of Your Military Benefits

Not sure what your veteran health care benefits are? Keep up with all the changes and details. Sign up for a free Military.com membership and get all the latest updates straight to your inbox.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel retaliates after 150 rockets are fired from Gaza strip

Palestinian militants on the Gaza Strip launched at least 150 rockets at Israel overnight, and Israel retaliated by pounding the region with deadly airstrikes.

The Israel Defense Forces said mounting violence began Aug. 8 after militants shot at an IDF vehicle in the Gaza Strip. In response, Israel responded with tank fire.


In the hours following the exchange, sirens sounded across southern Israel in communities that surround the Gaza Strip, including Sderot. Israel deployed its Iron Dome system and intercepted 25 launches, though several civilians were injured by shrapnel.

Israel’s rescue service Magen David Adom said three Israelis, including two men ages 34 and 20, were taken to a hospital for treatment.

In another round of escalation, Israel responded to rocket fire by striking what it said were Hamas militant targets in Gaza. By early Aug. 9, the IDF said it struck more than 140 targets.

A 30-year-old Hamas affiliate was killed in the strikes, the Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said. A 23-year-old pregnant woman and her 18-month old child were also killed in the strikes, according to the ministry. At least eight other civilians in Gaza were also injured, the ministry said.

The IDF said it fired at a vehicle used to launch rockets at Israeli territory.

Israel and militants in Gaza have exchanged frequent fire in recent months. In May, more than 100 rockets were launched from Gaza in the worst escalation since 2014, when Israeli troops invaded Gaza.

Following May’s rocket attacks, Israel and Gaza reached an uneasy cease-fire mediated by Egypt, though rocket launches and airstrike retaliation has continued.

Both sides have said they are working toward a cease-fire agreement, though continued rocket fire may dampen efforts. As of Aug. 9, sirens continued to sound in Israeli border communities.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a trip to Colombia to meet with security officials for cease-fire negotiations. Israel, however, appears to be learning more toward a quid pro quo agreement with Hamas instead of a comprehensive cease-fire, as past resolutions have often crumbled.

According to Haaretz, an Israeli official source said last week that cease-fire talks would not succeed unless the bodies of slain Israeli soldiers and two Israeli civilians being held captive in Gaza were returned.

A Hamas official told the Turkish news agency Anadolu on Aug. 7 that the two sides were expected to sign an agreement by late August that would reportedly lift restrictions on the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip in exchange for a five-year cease-fire and the return of the Israeli captives.

Israel’s defense chief said last month that Gaza’s only commercial border crossing, Keren Shalom, would reopen if calm persisted. The border had been closed in response to damage caused by incendiary balloons launched into Israeli territory.

The Hamas deputy chief Khalil Al-Hayya told Al Jazeera TV on Aug. 8 that talks mediated by the UN and Egypt to bring calm to the region were in “advanced stages.” according to Reuters.

“We can say that actions led by the United Nations and Egypt are in advanced stages and we hope it could yield some good from them,” he said. “What is required is for calm to be restored along the border between us and the Zionist enemy.”

Neither the UN nor Egypt has publicly discussed its plans for a renewed Gaza cease-fire, but they said it would bring economic relief to Gaza’s 2 million residents experiencing shortages under crippling blockades.

Jason Greenblatt, a US envoy who has been involved in peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, pointed a finger squarely at Hamas for the escalation of violence.

The Islamic militant group Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since Israel disengaged from the region in 2005. Since then, the group has fought three wars with Israel, most recently in 2014, resulting in deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians and leaving much of Gaza is ruin.

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

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