Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right - We Are The Mighty
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Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
(US Army photo by Sgt Kenneth Toole)


Recent events, new suicide data and employer survey results paint a difficult picture of veterans in America. Veterans need to take an active role in changing trends and perceptions.

The disheartening events in Dallas struck a heart-breaking blow to the families affected by the loss of life and the community around them. The veteran community, more broadly, reacted with shock and dismay when details surrounding the likely perpetrator indicated he was an honorably discharged Army veteran.

Two other news items that same week added to the negative narrative that continues to hover unfairly over all veterans. First, the Department of Veterans Affairs published the most comprehensive study on veteran suicide to date, which more accurately estimated the number to be 20 per day. Most concerning in the new findings are the risks to younger veterans and women veterans when compared to non-veteran counterparts. Veterans under age 30 have twice the suicide rate when compared to older veterans (who still account for the largest portion of veteran suicides). Similarly, young women veterans are nearly four times as likely to die by suicide compared to non-veteran women.

Second, Edelman released some of the results of its recent survey which found 84 percent of employers viewed veterans as heroes, but only 26 percent viewed veterans as “strategic assets.” Similar studies in recent years show an increasing division between veterans and other Americans with no military connection. A general lack of understanding between those who have served and those who have not plagues many veterans seeking future opportunities.

In less than 72 hours, Americans read articles depicting veterans as homicidal maniacs, suicidal victims and employees of little value. These stories have the potential of reversing progress made by many government and private sector leaders who have worked tirelessly to create a more responsible narrative reflecting the spectrum of attributes (both positive and negative) relating to service member and veteran experiences. Leaders at the White House’s Joining Forces Initiative, led by Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden, along with former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mullen and General Dempsey, and private sector stakeholders and advocates have helped dispel myths about veterans in recent years.

Yet, despite these public-facing efforts and campaigns, the convergence of several news items has the potential to reverse progress. Coupled with the Joint Chiefs of Staff ending its biggest advocacy effort aimed at helping service members transition, the Chairman’s Office of Reintegration (formerly Office of Warrior and Family Support), our nation’s veterans, service members and military-affiliated families will continue to be plagued by false narratives, misallocated resources and stereotypes.

With these challenges in mind, veterans and military families need to take an active role in setting the record straight and in voicing real needs to ensure resources are directed where needed most. Here are several ways families can start:

1. Tell your story

Sociologists teach us that societies are always changing. These changes are often the result of modification in social relationships. Sharing your experiences with others is a vital step in reducing the civilian-military drift. As Gen. Martin Dempsey articulated, “If you want to stay connected to the American people, you can’t do it episodically.” The most powerful way to reconnect with the rest of America is to openly share your military experiences without exaggeration or diminishing the realities.

2. Participate in surveys

Academic institutions, government agencies and nonprofit organization are often seeking survey responses from veterans or military families. Taking 10 or 15 minutes to provide input could ensure you and other military-affiliated families get the resources they need. One such survey, conducted by Military-Transition.org, is ongoing and actively seeking recently transitioned service member respondents. The Center for a New American Security is also running a Veteran Retention Survey.

3. Give Feedback

We all know the power of customer reviews. Sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor, or Google+ are some of the first places consumers look before choosing a location for dinner, planning a vacation or making a purchase at a retailer. As veterans, we know there is an inherent trust of other veterans. Many of us rely on fellow veterans to help us find credible counselors, get information about a new community we’re moving to or help us find an employer who has values similar to those experienced while in uniform. Now is the time to merge these two realities (the value of aggregated online reviews and inherent veteran trust of fellow veterans). Are you giving feedback and leaving reviews for businesses that offer discounts to service members and veterans? Have you accessed services from a nonprofit organization or public agency and if so, did you leave them feedback so they can improve their services? If you’re not doing so, I’d encourage you to leave feedback. To make it simple, try a new site, WeVets.us, designed exclusively to capture veteran and military family feedback so fellow services members and veterans can find valuable services.

4. Self-identify in the workplace

CEB Global reviewed the records of more than one million employees and found veterans to be 4 percent more productive than non-veteran employees and have a 3 percent lower turnover rate. While the Edleman survey above indicates an employer perception problem, the CEB data indicate a strong business case for hiring veterans. As a veteran in the workforce, are you self-identifying to your employer? Are you serving your company in a way that leverages your prior military experiences? It is through self-identification and exemplary service that employer perceptions will shift over time.

5. Vote

One of the most coveted freedoms service members defend is our right to vote. As defenders and former defenders of that right, exercise your own right to vote. Elect public officials who have veteran and military family interests in mind. Register to vote and then vote in upcoming elections. If you’re overseas or a military voter, register here.

Chris Ford is a champion for veterans and military families; advocating for solutions that eliminate barriers to the successful transition and reintegration of service members and their families. As the CEO of NAVSO, he expresses his passion and commitment to improve the lives of veterans and military families by providing essential resources to those who serve them. Chris is a 20-year Air Force veteran who retired in 2014 from the Joint Chiefs of Staff where he served in the Chairman’s Office of Warrior and Family Support. During his Air Force career, he deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom and earned many decorations and awards including the Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor.

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It’s official — the Army is looking for a new, bigger combat rifle

The stars are aligning and it’s looking more and more like the Army is working to outfit many of its soldiers with a battle rifle in a heavier caliber than the current M4.


Late last month, the service released a request to industry asking which companies could supply the service with a commercially-available rifle chambered in the 7.62x51mm NATO round, a move that many saw coming after rumblings emerged that the Army was concerned about enemy rifles targeting U.S. troops at greater ranges than they could shoot back.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
Spc. Artemio Veneracion (back), an infantryman with Eagle Troop, 2nd Squadron, 2nd Cavalry Regiment, informs his team leader, Sgt. Ryan Steiner, that he has acquired his target with his M110 Semi-automatic Sniper System (SASS) during a Squad Training Exercise (STX) at Tapa Training Area in Estonia, May 26, 2016. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Steven M. Colvin)

It now seems that fear has shifted in favor of fielding a rifle that can fire a newly developed round that is capable of penetrating advanced Russian body armor — armor defense planners feel is more available to enemies like ISIS and terrorist organizations.

In late May, the Army released a so-called “Request for Information” to see if industry could provide the service with up to 10,000 of what it’s calling the “Interim Combat Service Rifle.”

Chambered in 7.62×51, the rifle must have a barrel length of 16 or 20 inches, have an accessory rail and have a minimum magazine capacity of 20 rounds, among other specifications.

The rifle must be a Commercial Off The Shelf system readily available for purchase today,” the Army says, signaling that it’s not interested in a multi-year development effort. “Modified or customized systems are not being considered.”

But what’s particularly interesting is that the ICSR must have full auto capability, harkening back to the days of the 30-06 Browning Automatic Rifle or the full-auto M14. Analysts recognize that few manufacturers have full-auto-capable 7.62 rifles in their portfolio, with HK (which makes the HK-417) and perhaps FN (with its Mk-17 SCAR) being some of the only options out there.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
A Special Forces soldier takes a rest during a patrol in Afghanistan. The Army is considering outfitting its front-line troops with a 7.62 battle rifle like this Mk17 SCAR-H. (Photo from US Army Special Operations Command)

While the Army is already buying the Compact Semi-Auto Sniper System from HK, that’s not manufactured with a full-auto option.

Under Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, the Army is focusing on near-peer threats like China and Russia and starting to develop equipment and strategies to meet a technologically-advanced enemy with better weapons and survival systems. Milley also has openly complained about the service’s hidebound acquisition system that took years and millions of dollars to adopt a new pistol that’s already on the commercial market — and he’s now got a Pentagon leadership that backs him up, analysts say.

“The U.S. military currently finds itself at the nexus of a US small arms renaissance,” Soldier Systems Daily wrote. “Requirements exist. Solutions, although not perfect, exist. And most of all, political will exists to resource the acquisitions.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike

Saudi Arabia’s missile interceptors may have “failed catastrophically” in their attempts to shoot down several missiles headed toward Riyadh over the weekend of March 24, 2018, according to one expert.


Seven ballistic missiles launched from the Yemeni Houthi rebel group were intercepted on March 25, 2018, according to the Saudi Press Agency. The National, an English news outlet based in the United Arab Emirates, reported that one person died and two others were injured by shrapnel over Riyadh.

Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said on Twitter that in video footage released of the missiles, it appeared one defense system “failed catastrophically” while another “pulled a u-turn” and exploded over Riyadh.

Lewis said it was “entirely possible” that the defense-system failure rather than the missiles themselves led to any casualties or injuries.

Also read: The Saudis want their longtime adversary’s missile defenses

“Will have to see where debris fell, impact points, and where people were killed/injured before we can make educated guesses,” Lewis tweeted.

The militant group has been protesting Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen’s bloody civil war and has engaged in an increasingly violent border conflict with the kingdom since 2015. Experts say the March 25 barrage could be the largest number of ballistic missiles fired at once by the rebel group since the war escalated four years ago.

The Houthis have launched dozens of missiles in recent months, including one in November 2017 at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport. Saudi Arabia has said it downed that missile, while the Houthis say it reached its target.

Related: Saudi Arabia is paying $15 billion for this advanced anti-missile system

The latest strikes coincided with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the US, signaling that they may have been a display of disapproval by the Iran-backed rebels.

On March 22, 2018, US Defense Secretary James Mattis urged the crown prince to pursue “urgent efforts” for a peaceful solution to Yemen’s civil war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The first type of molecule that ever formed in the universe is discovered in space

The first type of molecule that ever formed in the universe has been detected in space for the first time, after decades of searching. Scientists discovered its signature in our own galaxy using the world’s largest airborne observatory, NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, as the aircraft flew high above the Earth’s surface and pointed its sensitive instruments out into the cosmos.

When the universe was still very young, only a few kinds of atoms existed. Scientists believe that around 100,000 years after the big bang, helium and hydrogen combined to make a molecule called helium hydride for the first time. Helium hydride should be present in some parts of the modern universe, but it has never been detected in space — until now.


SOFIA found modern helium hydride in a planetary nebula, a remnant of what was once a Sun-like star. Located 3,000 light-years away near the constellation Cygnus, this planetary nebula, called NGC 7027, has conditions that allow this mystery molecule to form. The discovery serves as proof that helium hydride can, in fact, exist in space. This confirms a key part of our basic understanding of the chemistry of the early universe and how it evolved over billions of years into the complex chemistry of today. The results are published in this week’s issue of Nature.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right

Image of planetary nebula NGC 7027 with illustration of helium hydride molecules. In this planetary nebula, SOFIA detected helium hydride, a combination of helium (red) and hydrogen (blue), which was the first type of molecule to ever form in the early universe. This is the first time helium hydride has been found in the modern universe.

(NASA/ESA/Hubble Processing: Judy Schmidt)

“This molecule was lurking out there, but we needed the right instruments making observations in the right position — and SOFIA was able to do that perfectly,” said Harold Yorke, director of the SOFIA Science Center, in California’s Silicon Valley.

Today, the universe is filled with large, complex structures such as planets, stars and galaxies. But more than 13 billion years ago, following the big bang, the early universe was hot, and all that existed were a few types of atoms, mostly helium and hydrogen. As atoms combined to form the first molecules, the universe was finally able to cool and began to take shape. Scientists have inferred that helium hydride was this first, primordial molecule.

Once cooling began, hydrogen atoms could interact with helium hydride, leading to the creation of molecular hydrogen — the molecule primarily responsible for the formation of the first stars. Stars went on to forge all the elements that make up our rich, chemical cosmos of today. The problem, though, is that scientists could not find helium hydride in space. This first step in the birth of chemistry was unproven, until now.

“The lack of evidence of the very existence of helium hydride in interstellar space was a dilemma for astronomy for decades,” said Rolf Guesten of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy, in Bonn, Germany, and lead author of the paper.

Helium hydride is a finicky molecule. Helium itself is a noble gas making it very unlikely to combine with any other kind of atom. But in 1925, scientists were able to create the molecule in a laboratory by coaxing the helium to share one of its electrons with a hydrogen ion.

Then, in the late 1970s, scientists studying the planetary nebula called NGC 7027 thought that this environment might be just right to form helium hydride. Ultraviolet radiation and heat from the aging star create conditions suitable for helium hydride to form. But their observations were inconclusive. Subsequent efforts hinted it could be there, but the mystery molecule continued to elude detection. The space telescopes used did not have the specific technology to pick out the signal of helium hydride from the medley of other molecules in the nebula.

The Universe’s First Type of Molecule Is Found at Last

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In 2016, scientists turned to SOFIA for help. Flying up to 45,000 feet, SOFIA makes observations above the interfering layers of Earth’s atmosphere. But it has a benefit space telescopes don’t — it returns after every flight.

“We’re able to change instruments and install the latest technology,” said Naseem Rangwala SOFIA deputy project scientist. “This flexibility allows us to improve observations and respond to the most pressing questions that scientists want answered.”

A recent upgrade to one of SOFIA’s instruments called the German Receiver at Terahertz Frequencies, or GREAT, added the specific channel for helium hydride that previous telescopes did not have. The instrument works like a radio receiver. Scientists tune to the frequency of the molecule they’re searching for, similar to tuning an FM radio to the right station. When SOFIA took to the night skies, eager scientists were onboard reading the data from the instrument in real time. Helium hydride’s signal finally came through loud and clear.

“It was so exciting to be there, seeing helium hydride for the first time in the data,” said Guesten. “This brings a long search to a happy ending and eliminates doubts about our understanding of the underlying chemistry of the early universe.

SOFIA, the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR. NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley manages the SOFIA program, science and mission operations in cooperation with the Universities Space Research Association headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, and the German SOFIA Institute (DSI) at the University of Stuttgart. The aircraft is maintained and operated from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center Building 703, in Palmdale, California.

This article originally appeared on NASA. Follow @NASA on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This is why Yemen is a constant war zone

Yemen’s civil war has been raging since 2015 and has caused one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, with more than 50,000 children dying so far this year, according to Save the Children.


Most died from hunger and disease, which has ravaged the poor Arab country, but many have been caught in the crossfire between the Saudi-backed government and Iran-backed rebel militant Houthis.

Tensions between the two groups hit a tipping point on Dec. 4 when Houthi rebels shot and killed Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
President George W. Bush welcomes Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh into the Oval office of the White House, Thursday, Nov. 10, 2005. (White House photo by Eric Draper)

Saleh, who held various positions of power in Yemen for 33 years, had been “playing factions off each other” for years, former Yemeni ambassador Mohamed Qubaty told Al Jazeera.

In May 2015, Saleh officially announced his alliance with the Houthis, and even helped them seize control of large land areas, including Yemen’s capital Sanaa.

But on Dec. 2, Saleh flipped his allegiance by offering to turn a “new page” with Houthi rival Saudi Arabia. He called the Houthis a “coup militia,” which they saw as the ultimate betrayal and the reason for his assassination.

Yet Saleh’s death is just the latest incident contributing to turbulent conditions in Yemen.

The Saudi-backed government first faced rebel Houthis in the 1990s

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
Houthi fighters in Yemen (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Yemen’s complex history is one of conflict and political rivalry that has continued for nearly a century.

The Houthi movement, officially known as Ansar Allah (translation: supporters of God), began in the 1990s as a theological movement that preached peace and tolerance in Yemen.

But in 2004, the group picked up arms and declared war on the government. An uprising occurred and government forces killed the Houthi’s leader.

Yemeni officials accused the Houthis and other Islamic opposition parties of trying to overthrow the government, but Houthi leaders dismissed the accusation and claimed they were defending themselves. They have long said they faced social and religious discrimination as well as political marginalization.

For the last decade, Houthi rebels and Yemeni government forces continued to clash periodically. Other factors, including an insurgence by a powerful Al Qaeda branch in Yemen and infighting between local tribes have fostered conflict and strife for years in the region.

Also Read: This is why Iran is smuggling boatloads of weapons into Yemen

A former Houthi spokesperson told local news in 2013 that the group’s ultimate goal is to build a “striving modern democracy” in Yemen.

Yemen’s presidents have struggled

In 2012, President Saleh stepped down and formally handed power over to his deputy, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in an internationally brokered move to foster stability in the region.

Hadi struggled to keep Yemen afloat, which faced an increased presence of, and attacks by, Al Qaeda — some of which targeted government officials. Corruption was widespread and, at the same time, a third of the country lived below the poverty line and more than half were unemployed.

In 2014, the increasingly militant Houthis took advantage of Hadi’s struggling government and seized control of Yemen’s capital Sanaa.

A bloody civil war broke out.

A Saudi-led coalition supporting the government stepped in

Countries felt an international response was necessary.

In 2015, Saudi Arabia led a coalition of nine African and Middle East countries to intervene, backing President Hadi.

The coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US and its allies, and launched air strikes targeting Houthi strongholds. It also implemented a naval blockade, limiting resources and aid into Yemen.

And a humanitarian crisis broke out

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
Yemen still has 350,000 displaced persons, although verifying this number is difficult.  (Image Julien Harneis, Flickr)

Since then, continued air strikes and the country’s tight blockade have affected lives in Yemen where it is nearly impossible for food, water and fuel to pass through.

According to UNICEF one child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes like hunger and disease,

The United Nations has tried to broker peace agreements on several occasions, but with little success. In May, the UN’s envoy for Yemen told the security council that a peace deal was urgently needed, but confessed a deal was “not close” to being accepted by the warring sides who refuse to compromise.

In November, Saudi Arabia partially relaxed its crippling blockade to let aid deliveries through, but it had little effect on the country’s starving residents.

Relations deteriorated even further this week

On Dec. 2, former President Saleh offered to mediate the conflict and “turn a new page” with the Saudi-led coalition in exchange for stopping air strikes and ending the blockade that has crippled the country, according to the BBC.

However, Houthi rebels, who had formed an unlikely alliance with Saleh, saw the move as a “coup” against “an alliance he never believed in,” the BBC added.

Last weekend, a convoy Saleh was traveling in came under deadly fire from Houthi rebels. His death was confirmed on Dec. 4.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
Sana’a in the wake of airstrikes. (Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Mr. Ibrahem)

What happens next?

With Saleh dead and his allied forces facing an intensified battle with Houthi fighters, the future of war-torn Yemen is uncertain, and hopes of putting an end to the bloody civil war look bleak.

According to analysts, the Saudi-led coalition’s fight against the increasingly brazen Houthis will likely intensify, Al Jazeera reported.

Joost Hiltermann, International Crisis Group’s Middle East program director, told Al Jazeera that the breakdown of the Houthi-Saleh alliance will “increase fragmentation and conflict by adding layers of revenge.”

Houthi leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi celebrated Saleh’s death as a victory against the Saudi-led coalition in which “the conspiracy of betrayal and treason failed.”

Saleh’s son, a potentially powerful figure in Yemen’s politically unstable climate, vowed on Dec. 5 to lead a campaign against the Houthi movement.

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Philippines going from old to older with close air support airplane

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
AC-47


The Philippine Air Force may be replacing an old airplane with an even older one.

According to a report by Janes.com, the OV-10 Broncos currently in service with the PAF are in need of replacement, and Basler Turbo Conversions of OshKosh Wisconsin is stepping in to offer an updated version of the C-47 Skytrain cargo plane. The Philippines are currently battling the Islamist terror group known as Abu Sayyaf, and these gunships could be valuable – just as AC-130s have proven valuable for American forces in the same environment.

Over 10,000 C-47s were built before and during World War II along with the civilian DC-3, or licensed production versions made by Japan (the L2D) and the Soviet Union (the Li-2). So, finding the airframes is not hard in spite of the platform’s age.

The AC-47D was the first gunship modification, using three side-mounted GAU-2 Miniguns, entering service in 1964. Each GAU-2 could fire up to 2,000 7.62mm NATO rounds a minute. The AC-47s gained a reputation among Special Operations troops on the ground for providing reliable support. Two AC-47s were later provided to the El Salvadoran Air Force during that country’s civil war.

The AC-47T was first put into service by the Colombian Air Force in 2006, to fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as FARC. The gunships would be rigged with two GAU-19 .50-caliber Gatling guns, bombs, and even some French M621 20mm cannon (mostly used on helicopters and patrol craft).

The baseline for the AC-47T is Basler’s BT-67 transport. This transport uses two Pratt and Whitney PT6A-67R turboprop engines in place of the Pratt and Whitney R-1830 engines, giving it a top speed of 210 knots. With a long range fuel tank, it can travel over 2400 nautical miles – over a thousand nautical miles more than the original versions could! Various upgraded versions of the C-47 are still in service with Greece, South Africa, Colombia, and El Salvador . . . and the U.S. State Department.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Now the Chinese Air Force is provoking Taiwan

Taiwan is facing a new source of pressure from rival China as the communist government increasingly often sends military aircraft to skirt the island, a challenge to the local armed forces.


Planes from China flew near Taiwan in November and December, raising concern last week at the presidential office in Taipei. Over the past two years, Chinese military units have sent planes 10 times just outside the Taiwanese air defense zone, former Taiwan defense minister Andrew Yang estimates.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan as part of its territory that must eventually be unified. Officials in Beijing resent Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen for not accepting their “one-China” principle, which would bind the two sides under one flag, as a condition for any talks.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
A US supplied F-16 fighter takes off from Chiayi Airbase in Southern Taiwan. These jets patrol the boundary in the strait across from China. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

China is conducting the long-range flights in part to warn Taiwan against moving toward formal independence at the risk of a military strike, analysts say.

“They will try to test Taiwan’s government’s will to defend itself,” said Shane Lee, political scientist at Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan. “They believe that continued threats will really bend Taiwan to its claim.”

The two sides have been separately ruled since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists fled to Taiwan after the Chinese civil war, but the government in Taipei has never declared official independence. Surveys in Taipei show most Taiwanese oppose unification.

Also Read: China is freaking out at the White House over a $1.4B arms sale to Taiwan

Show of strength

China runs the world’s third most powerful military after the United States and Russia. Taiwan’s armed forces rank 18th, according to the database GlobalFirePower.com.

The flights send a message to multiple countries, scholars say. Some of China’s aircraft fly near outlying Japanese islets and on over the Pacific Ocean.

China wants to prove it can send ships and planes past the “first island chain,” said Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review in Washington.

The U.S. Navy and its allies, all leery of Chinese expansion, have normally dominated the waters east of that chain, which runs from Russia to the Philippines. The chain includes Taiwan.

China said in its official news media it had “fulfilled its long-held dream of breaking through” the island chain after ships passed in 2013 between Japan and Russia.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
China’s second aircraft carrier is making steady progress. | Chinese state media

Exercises near Taiwan

A year ago December and into January, China sent an aircraft carrier, its only one at the time, around Taiwan.

Six Chinese bombers flew through the Miyako Strait north of Taiwan in July. Bombers and other aircraft flew through the strait in November as well as through the Bashi Strait separating Taiwan from the Philippines. On December 11 the Taiwan defense ministry said Chinese fighter planes had made another round through the two straits.

“This year there are many drills and training missions taking place surrounding the Bashi Strait,” said Yang, also secretary-general of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies think tank.

“We have to watch very closely what kind of tactics or fighting capabilities they have possessed so as to come up with countermeasures,” he said.

China has also shown discontent with the 20-month-old Tsai government by scaling back tourist arrivals to Taiwan, according to travel agencies in Taipei. Analysts and government officials suspect Beijing as well of persuading two countries to switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China over the same period.

Measured response

Taiwan, which sits 160 kilometers from China at its nearest point, has sent its own aircraft to monitor China’s movements and urged people on the island to stay calm.

Yang said the Ministry of National Defense in Taipei is probably now considering how to ensure Chinese aircraft avoid flying into its air defense identification zone. Neither side wants a mishap, he added, while both sides know how to avoid one.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
(Photo: ROC Navy via Flickr)

Taiwan is also developing its own naval ships and a trainer jet to keep its military up to date. Its chief foreign arms supplier, the United States, approves only occasional sales, such as a $1.42 billion package announced in June, to avoid angering Beijing too often.

On December 21, Tsai called China’s flights around Taiwan a conflict with regional stability. She ordered an air force command center to step up vigilance.

Taiwan’s armed forces will “just keep silent and then send their airplanes in the sky and send their ships watching,” predicted Liu Yi-jiun, public affairs professor at Fo Guang University in Taiwan. “Then probably we can make the point clear.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Iran’s government rejects negotiation offer from Trump

Iranian officials have sharply rebuffed U.S. President Donald Trump’s offer to meet with his Iranian counterpart to discuss ways of improving ties between the two countries, saying such talks would have “no value” and be a “humiliation.”

Trump said on July 30, 2018, he would be willing to meet President Hassan Rohani with “no preconditions,” “anytime,” even as U.S. and Iranian officials have been escalating their rhetoric following Washington’s withdrawal in May 2018 from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.


Iran’s Foreign Ministry said on July 31, 2018, that Trump’s offer was at odds with his actions, as Washington has imposed sanctions on Iran and put pressure on other countries to avoid business with the Islamic republic.

“Sanctions and pressures are the exact opposite of dialogue,” ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was quoted as saying by the semiofficial Fars news agency.

“How can Trump prove to the Iranian nation that his comments of last night reflect a true intention for negotiation and have not been expressed for populist gains?” he added.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right

Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations.

The statement echoed earlier comments from Kamal Kharazi, the head of Iran’s Strategic Council of Foreign Relations, as saying there was “no value in Trump’s proposal” given Iran’s “bad experiences in negotiations with America” and “U.S. officials’ violations of their commitments.”

Fars also quoted Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli as saying the United States “is not trustworthy.”

“How can we trust this country when it withdraws unilaterally from the nuclear deal?” he asked.

The United States has also vowed to reimpose sanctions against Iran that were lifted as part of the nuclear agreement until Tehran changes its regional policies.

“I’d meet with anybody. I believe in meetings,” Trump said at the White House during a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Trump added that he believes in “speaking to other people, especially when you’re talking about potentials of war and death and famine and lots of other things.”

Asked whether he would set any preconditions for the meeting, Trump said: “No preconditions, no. If they want to meet, I’ll meet anytime they want,” adding that it would be “good for the country, good for them, good for us, and good for the world.”

Such a meeting would be the first between U.S. and Iranian leaders since before the 1979 revolution that toppled the shah, a U.S. ally.

Hamid Aboutalebi, a senior adviser to Rohani, tweeted on July 31, 2018, that “respecting the Iranian nation’s rights, reducing hostilities, and returning to the nuclear deal” would pave the way for talks.

Iranian state news agency IRNA quoted deputy parliament speaker Ali Motahari as saying that the U.S. pullout from the nuclear accord meant that “negotiation with the Americans would be a humiliation now.”

“If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and had not imposed sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America,” Motahari added.

Iran’s leaders had previously rejected suggestions from Trump that the two countries negotiate a new nuclear deal to replace Iran’s 2015 agreement with six world powers.

“We’re ready to make a real deal, not the deal that was done by the previous administration, which was a disaster,” Trump said in July 2018.

Trump has consistently opposed the 2015 nuclear deal, which saw the lifting of economic sanctions against Iran in exchange for curbs on Tehran’s nuclear program. His administration argues the agreement was too generous to Iran and that it enabled it to pursue a more assertive regional policy.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered his own interpretation of Trump’s latest comments on Iran, setting out three steps Iran must take before talks take place.

“The president wants to meet with folks to solve problems if the Iranians demonstrate a commitment to making fundamental changes in how they treat their own people, reduce their maligned behavior, can agree that it’s worthwhile to enter into a nuclear agreement that actually prevents proliferation,” Pompeo told the CNBC television channel.

Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the White House National Security Council, insisted that the United States would not be lifting any sanctions or reestablishing diplomatic and commercial relations until “there are tangible, demonstrated, and sustained shifts in Tehran’s policies.”

“The sting of sanctions will only grow more painful if the regime does not change course,” Marquis said.

In suggesting talks with Iran, Trump has maintained that it would help Tehran cope with what he describes as the “pain” from deepening economic woes as the United States moves to reimpose economic sanctions against Iran.

The looming sanctions, some of which will go into effect within days, have helped trigger a steep fall in the Iranian rial, with the currency plummeting to a new record low of 122,000 to the dollar in black-market trading on July 30, 2018.

The rapid decline in the value of the currency sparked street protests in Tehran in June 2018.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

11 celebrities you didn’t know were passionate about supporting America’s veterans

Many celebrities use their influence to bring awareness to issues they are passionate about. Something as simple as a social media post or attending an event can bring support and attention for an organization. For the military veteran community, celebrities such as Gary Sinise and Bob Hope have used their influence so much that it becomes part of their lifestyle.


But there are many other superstars who have gone above and beyond in supporting troops, although most people have no idea. Here are 11 superstars you probably didn’t know were passionate about supporting veterans.

1. Kathy Griffin

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
Kathy Griffin, Michael McDonald and Karri Turner perform an improv skit for soldiers and airmen in Tikrit, Iraq, March 17, 2006.

The multi Emmy award winning actress and comedian has been a long time supporter of the troops performing on USO tours, hosting VH1 Divas Salute the Troops,  and offering veterans free backstage tickets to her shows. She has been awarded recognition for her commitment in supporting the troops.

2. Jared Allen

Jared Allen is a five-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and current player for the Chicago Bears. He was so inspired by his interaction with troops on a USO tour that he created the non-profit Homes for Wounded Warriors which builds and remodels homes for wounded warriors.

3. Judd Apatow

The award winning comedy writer/producer has many well known credits including “Anchorman,” “Pineapple Express,” “Bridesmaids,” and HBO’s “Girls.” What many don’t know is his passion in supporting troops by performing stand up comedy to raise money for wounded warriors, sending gifts to troops, and hiring veterans to work on his productions.

4. Adam Sandler

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right

Whether he’s making videos of messages in support of the troops  or hosting wounded warriors at his production company Happy Madison, Adam is known as a long-time supporter of the troops and veterans.

5. Snoop Dogg

One of hip-hop’s most iconic figures, Snoop should also be known for being a huge troop supporter. He visits wounded warriors at the hospital, has played with the Wounded Warrior Amputee football team, and performs for the troops. Watch this video of him expressing his support.

6. Vince McMahon

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
Photo: Wikimedia

 

Owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince partnered his entertainment powerhouse with the Armed Forces Entertainment to organize an annual Tribute to the Troops since 2003. Prior to the show each year, he has WWE wrestlers and employees visit military bases and hospitals.

7. KISS

The legendary rock band has given an incredible amount of support to the troops. In every community where the band opens a Rock Brews restaurant, it donates money to a local veterans organization. Not only have they performed many times for the troops but they have been hiring veterans to work on their tours. Further, the band has roots in World War II that link two of its members together.

8. Katy Perry

The award-winning singer has performed several times for troops, including a show during fleet week, on VH1 Divas Salute the Troops, and on USO tours. She also portrayed herself as a new Marine enlistee in her music video “Part of Me.” The video shot on Camp Pendleton and involved 80 Marines.

9. Fergie

In addition to performing for the troops, the Grammy award-winning singer organized a fundraiser supporting a military charity, and invited many of her celebrity friends.

10. Barry Zito

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
strikeoutsfortroops.org

The Cy Young award-winning pitcher founded the non-profit Strikeouts for Troops in 2005, which provides financial support to wounded warriors. He also flies out a group of veterans to watch spring training every year.

11. J.J. Abrams

Many know the director/producer for his work on blockbuster films like the “Mission Impossible” franchise, “Star Trek,” and the upcoming “Star Wars.” Behind the camera, he has also joined efforts with Hollywood in depicting more stories that portray the sacrifices and service of veterans. He has flown overseas to screen his films for troops and partnered his production company Bad Robot with the non-profit The Mission Continues to support post 9/11 veterans.

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Sailing saved this Marine Corps vet’s life

Sailing saved Ronnie Simpson’s life. He was an 18 year old high school senior in Atlanta, Georgia when the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq began in March 2003. Drawn to service by the events of September 11, Ronnie joined the Marine Corps Infantry the day after the war started.


Less than a year later in March 2004, he deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines.

“I was a .50 cal gunner on top of a Humvee,” he recalls. “Four months into my deployment, we were ambushed during a night-time convoy, and an RPG hit the ground near my Humvee. The rocket bounced up and exploded in the air one meter from me. I had broken ribs, detached retinas, a bleeding brain which created sub-retinal fluid, a traumatic brain injury (TBI), a blown-out left lung and my tongue was blown into my airway. I was temporarily knocked unconscious. Because I wasn’t breathing and was unresponsive, Marines in my truck thought I was dead. It was actually a textbook blast injury. The Corpsman in my Humvee, Doc David Segundo, was injured too but he got up, cleared my airway, and saved my life.”

Simpson, now 30 years old, spent a lot of time recovering both physically and mentally. Most of his TBI symptoms weren’t permanent (he credits the helmet technology for that). Despite having burns over 10 percent of his body, many of those scars aren’t visible.

“It fucked me up pretty good,” he says. “Unless you knew me though, you’d never know I’m hurt. I have no visible scars unless I take my shirt off. Then I have many.”

Simpson is legally blind and can’t obtain a driver’s license. Though his body healed, his mental state took much longer. He reevaluated his life and experiences through a 9,000-mile bike trek across Europe and Asia in 2009 and more than 50,000 miles at sea, both healing counterpoints to his experiences in Iraq.

“My time in theater and my travels have shaped my perspective,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good and beauty in this world, and I want to add to that. Our program is about helping the men and women that are coming back – the veterans – the people we should be looking out for. We in the veteran community have these experiences and while we may interpret them differently, this shared experience can bring us together. We can come together to create profound and impactful programs to help the veterans from these two wars as well as something permanent and sustainable for veterans of future conflicts.”

Sailing is the catalyst for Simpson’s initiative. Not only his love for sailing but how he changed his life and how he aims to change the lives of others.

“I joined the Marines at 18, was injured in combat at 19, my dad died four months after I got hurt, and by 20 I was medically retired,” Simpson says. “By 22 I was a lost soul. I had reached my deepest, darkest point. I’m fearful of what would have happened if I hadn’t flipped the script. I broke off an engagement, sold my house, and moved from Texas to California. That move was my re-birth as a new person.”

On the California coast, he found his calling. After living so recklessly, he became completely focused on becoming a racing sailor and making the most of his life. Seven years later, Simpson now travels the world as a professional sailor and sailing writer.

“It helped me heal,” Simpson says. “These adventures help you positively adrenalize yourself in a sustainable manner. Guys who come back from places like Fallujah have experienced adrenaline like most will never know, and again need to achieve that heightened state of existence. But where will they find it? Drugs, alcohol, or doping the pain away with pills? I can put you on the helm of a racing sailboat in the middle of the night and it will rock your world. This is a healthy way to get that fix.”

It’s not just about giving people the fix of adrenaline they were accustomed to while in combat. For Simpson and his sailing nonprofit – Coastal and Offshore Recalibration Experience, or CORE (www.medicinalmissions.com/CORE), that community of veterans is the most important result.

“Because that’s what it is: a Community,” he says. “On a sailboat you can put anyone into a job they can do, regardless of their injury. It’s a sport that doesn’t care if you have arms or legs. That’s a big part of it. Everyone has an assigned, defined role. There’s a chain of command, a defined mission, teamwork is critical and constant risk management is all part of the game. The parallels between racing sailboats and combat are incredible. When you combine that with the peacefulness and serenity of heading to sea with your brothers and sisters, it’s a powerful experience.”

Simpson and his best friend Army veteran Walter Kotecki, created a sailing program within an existing wounded-veteran nonprofit, raised $50,000 through yacht clubs and private donors, and gave a sailing experience to 30 veterans over the course of four clinics in 2012 and 2013.

“There’s always a steep learning curve when you start your own thing. We flew vets to San Francisco,” he says. “They had the whole range of injuries from PTSD to multiple amputees to blindness. We used sailing, surfing, yoga, nature walks, kayaking, art and more to help these guys look past their injuries and realize that anything is possible, no matter their injury, while re-establishing that sense of camaraderie and community that so many have lost since leaving the service.”

It was so successful and the veterans so responsive Simpson and Kotecki decided to strike out on their own earlier this year, forming CORE.

“I had a Vietnam vet hook me up with a racing sailboat and an opportunity,” says Simpson. “He passed that torch to me and told me to pay it forward. Here’s my chance to hook somebody else up. Let’s re-build that community and keep that torch going.”

CORE is seeking veterans of the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to participate in more sailing clinics throughout California, with the first being in San Francisco in October of this year. They will be accepting applications until August 31. For 2016, CORE is planning six to eight clinics up and down the California coast.

The most ambitious plan for CORE is participating in the 2017 Transpacific Yacht Race – where they will train a full crew of combat-wounded veterans to sail from Los Angeles to Honolulu, the first time ever that such a crew would be assembled.

“Our goal is to help reduce the rate of veteran suicide in this country. Sailing is one of the tools that we use,” he says.

Simpson is now featured in a series of short films produced by Craftsman, We Are The Mighty, and Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), showing how IAVA empowers veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

“It’s admirable for companies like Craftsman to reach out to veterans groups to benefit the guys and girls that are coming back,” Simpson says. “I see a positive shift in awareness about issues that affect veterans, how we can improve the care of veterans, and how we can achieve a more holistic healing approach instead of pumping them full of drugs.”

Craftsman is donating $250,000 to IAVA and from May 25 – July 4, for every new follower of @Craftsman on Instagram, Craftsman will donate an additional $1 to IAVA (with a minimum donation of $5,000).

“I am honored to be part of this and stoked that a big corporation is out to make a difference of stemming the tide of 22 veterans a day,” Simpson says. “I’m excited that they believe in what we’re doing, and to work on this next mission of saving lives by reaching out to the veteran community.”

Now: Artist takes his craft to war and back again

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Today in military history: Italy declares war on Britain and France

On June 10, 1940, Italian Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini brought Italy into World War II aligning with Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini founded and led the National Fascist Party, a one-party dictatorship that ruled his totalitarian state with secret police and foreign conquests. 

Hitler wanted Mussolini to mobilize as early as 1939 but Italy wasn’t entirely ready for a full-on European war – they didn’t have the materials and the Allies were considering conceding recent Italian conquests in Africa in exchange for Italy’s neutrality.

But by 1940, hopes for Italy’s neutrality were shattered. Il Duce decided to carve up Europe with Hitler. Mussolini held off a declaration of war for as long as possible, but after the German’s Wehrmacht’s swift advance into France, Italy had to commit or quit. 

Four days later, Nazi stormtroopers marched through Paris. And after a total of six weeks of fighting, all of the Netherlands, Belgium, and France fell to the German war machine.

Italy’s campaign was cut short after defeats in East and North Africa, and Mussolini was ousted and arrested in 1943 after an Allied invasion of Sicily began in July of that year. The Allied success led to the collapse of the Fascist regime. On Sept. 8, 1943, Italy signed the Armistice of Cassibile, ending its war with the Allies, though the country would remain a battlefield for the rest of the war.

On Sept. 12, 1943, German paratroopers and Waffen-SS commandos rescued Mussolini from captivity during the Gran Sasso raid. Hitler placed the former dictator in charge of a puppet regime in northern Italy, causing a civil war. In April 1945, as the Axis Powers faced defeat, Mussolini attempted to flee to Switzerland but was captured by Italian communist partisans and executed by firing squad on April 28, 1945. 

His body was hung upside down in the town of Milan.

Featured Image: Italian battleships in the Mediterranean Sea during World War II.

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VA begins awarding compensation for C-123 agent orange claims

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
Photo: Wikimedia


In 1997, 10 years after retiring from a 34-year career in the Army Reserve and Air Force Reserve, Edward Kosakoski was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Though his last assignment in the Reserve was as commander of the 74th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts, it was during the mid-1970s and early 1980s that Lt. Col. K was exposed to Agent Orange while flying training missions on several C-123 aircraft previously used for spraying the chemical defoliant in Vietnam.

Last week, VA service connected Col. K’s prostate cancer, awarding him compensation for his C-123 Agent Orange claim.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
Photo: Wikimedia

I’ve never met Col. K, but his story is captured in the claim file that his wife, Ingrid Kosakoski, filed on his behalf. That file shows a man who was drafted into the Army in 1953 and, after serving two years in France, had joined the Army Reserve, and who had received a commission in the Air Force Reserve after graduating from the University of Connecticut Pharmacy School in 1959. That file also shows that VA received Col. K’s claim prior to the recent regulation change.

After spending decades searching for proof of a connection between C-123s and the conditions known to be caused by Agent Orange, the Institute of Medicine issued a review that provided the supporting evidence VA needed to provide care and compensation to the Air Force and Air Force Reserve personnel who were exposed to Agent Orange through regular and repeated contact with contaminated C-123s and who also developed an Agent Orange-related disability.

When the regulation change took effect earlier this summer, it took VA just 16 days to grant Col. K’s claim. Granting this claim represents a welcomed success for hundreds of flight, ground maintenance, and medical crew members who were assigned to certain Air Force and Air Force Reserve units from 1969 to 1986.

“I have only praise for the VA personnel who handled Ed’s claim in Baltimore and St. Paul,” Ingrid said. “They were professional and compassionate, and I would urge others exposed to Agent Orange with known disabilities to file claims as soon as possible.”

In a recent phone conversation, longtime C-123 advocate and close friend of Col. K, Wes Carter, also stressed the importance of not waiting.

“The Secretary and his staff have worked hard, along with C-123 veterans in getting to this point,” said Carter, who also chairs the C-123 Veterans Association. “VA is ready and eager, already reaching out and helping our aircrews and maintenance personnel who are ill.

“This is the time for C-123 Veterans to get their claims to VA if affected by any of the Agent Orange-associated illnesses. Call the C-123 hotline at 1-800-749-8387 for any questions. I also recommend that vets ask their local VA medical center’s environmental health coordinator for an Agent Orange Registry exam.”

If you or someone you know was exposed to Agent Orange (whether in in Vietnam or its inland waterways, an area the Department of Defense has confirmed use of AO, or as in Col. K’s case aboard a C-123) AND you have a condition presumed to be related to AO, please file a claim for compensation.

If you need help filing a claim or want to talk to someone, you have many options:

  • Speak with an accredited Veterans Service Officer who can help you gather records and file a claim online
  • Call VA at 1-800-827-1000 for advice
  • If you want the fastest decision possible, consider filing a Fully Developed Claim through ebenefits.va.gov. An FDC allows you to submit all your evidence up front, identify any federal records for VA to obtain, and certifies that you have no other evidence to submit.

If you (or your loved one) meet certain conditions, such as financial hardship, advanced age, or terminal illness, VA can expedite your claim – just make sure we are aware of your situation. You or your VSO can notify us in writing, or by calling 1-800-827-1000. If your situation is dire, don’t wait!

More from VAntage Point:

This article originally appeared at VAntage Point Copyright 2015. Follow VAntage Point on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel just asked for their spy back

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked President Donald Trump to allow Jonathan Pollard — a convicted spy — to immigrate to Israel, according to Channel 2 news.


Pollard was released in November 2015 after serving 30 years of a life term in a US prison. During his time in prison, Israeli officials repeatedly sought to secure his release.

Here are 5 things vets can do to make sure the American public gets it right
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu.

The former Navy intelligence officer pleaded guilty to spying for Israel from June 1984 until his arrest in November 1985.

Also Read: The most damaging spy in US history just walked free

Israel may be trying to capitalize on goodwill projects that have recently gone into effect to benefit the Palestinians.

Pollard’s parole terms, according to the Times of Israel, “require him to stay in his New York home from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., to submit any computer he uses for inspection, and to wear a GPS monitoring device at all times.”

Netanyahu reportedly told the Trump administration that Pollard would continue to be subject to the same restrictions if he was allowed to immigrate to Israel.

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