How life changed in one moment for this Marine - We Are The Mighty
Articles

How life changed in one moment for this Marine


At age 18, Cpl. Andrew Richardson was serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq. His squad maintained a perimeter around a medical sanctuary where local civilians could get treatment. Doing so gave Richardson an overwhelming sense of satisfaction and value.

Returning to civilian life, Richardson struggled to find that same sense of value. For five years he floated from job to job, doing construction and working as a roadie and security guard, among other gigs.

Today, he enjoys a fulfilling career in the tech industry, working at Microsoft, and has discovered a passion for programming — all thanks to a chance encounter while tending bar and an intensive 18-week technical training and career-development program.

Curious? Check out the video to see Richardson’s story and then go learn more about Microsoft Software & Systems Academy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate passes $740 billion defense policy bill with troop pay raise

U.S. troops are all but guaranteed a 3% pay raise next year under legislation that passed the Senate Thursday.

The Senate passed its version of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act Thursday. The $740 billion bill contains numerous personnel initiatives, including the second consecutive 3% pay raise for service members, and hazardous duty pay for troops responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.


If signed into the law, the legislation would also make changes designed to standardize the military services’ Exceptional Family Member Programs, improve housing for military families and halt a planned reduction of teachers within Department of Defense Education Activity schools.

The measure also includes incentive pay to retain military health officers, increases funding for child care facilities, adds money for research on industrial chemicals used in firefighting foam and packaging and expands the list of diseases linked to Agent Orange exposure.

“The NDAA gives our military the personnel, equipment, training and organization needed to implement the National Defense Strategy and thwart any adversary who would try to do us harm,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the committee’s ranking Democrat, called the bill an “important step” toward wise investment for the future.

“Mindful of new risks, as well as unfolding and unprecedented unemployment and budget challenges, Congress must wisely invest every defense dollar in a cost-effective and forward-looking manner,” he said.

The bill would create a commission to study removing Confederate names from Defense Department assets within three years — a measure that will need to be sorted out when the House and Senate meet to develop the final version of the bill that will go to President Donald Trump for a signature.

The House bill would force the military to take action to change the names of bases and facilities named after Confederates within a year. The Senate version of the bill incorporates similar provisions to remove Confederate names from bases over three years.

Trump has threatened to veto any measure to remove the name of Confederate leaders from Army installations. On Tuesday, the White House released a statement listing the items Trump finds objectionable in the House’s bill, saying it is “part of a sustained effort to erase from the history of the nation those who do not meet an ever-shifting standard of conduct.”

Other items that pertain to personnel policy in the bill include:

  • Mandating that DoD develop and field body armor that properly fits female soldiers
  • Providing additional ways for service members to report sexual assault
  • Requiring DoD to better track and respond to incidents of child abuse on military installations.

The vote was 86-14. The two chambers will next name a committee of members to develop a compromise bill. The House approved its version of the fiscal 2021 authorization bill Tuesday.

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

Articles

Upgrades to the CH-47 Chinook will allow it to serve for 100 years

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
U.S. Army photo by Sgt. William Tanner


The Army plans to fly its Vietnam-era workhorse CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter for 100 years by continuously upgrading the platform through a series of ongoing technological adjustments designed to improve lift, weight, avionics and cargo handling, among other things.

The Army goal is to allow the helicopter, which was first produced in the early 1960s, to serve all the way into the 2060s – allowing the aircraft service life to span an entire century.

“Our primary goal is maintaining the CH-47F’s relevance to the warfighter,” Lt. Col. Ricard Bratt said in a special statement to Scout Warrior.

The latest model, called the Chinook F helicopter, represents the latest iteration of technological advancement in what is a long and distinguished history for the workhorse cargo aircraft, often tasked with delivering food, troops and supplies at high altitudes in mountainous Afghan terrain.

Able to travel at speeds up to 170 knots, the Chinook has a range of 400 nautical miles and can reach altitudes greater than 18,000-feet. Its high-altitude performance capability has been a substantial enabling factor in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan.

The aircraft is 52-feet long, 18-feet high and able to take off with 50,000 pounds. The helicopter can fly with a loaded weight of 26,000 pounds. In addition, the aircraft can mount at least three machine guns; one from each window and another from the back cargo opening.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Christopher Freeman

The Chinook F is in the process of receiving a number of enhancements to its digital cockpit called the Common Avionics Architecture System, or CAAS, such improved avionics, digital displays, Line Replacement Units, navigational technology, multi-mode radios, software and emerging systems referred to as pilot-vehicle interface. Pilot-vehicle interface involves improved computing technology where faster processor and new software are able to better organize and display information to the crew, allowing them to make informed decisions faster.

By 2018, the Army plans to have a pure fleet of 473 F-model Chinooks. By 2021, the Army plans to field a new “Block 2” upgraded Chinook F which will increase the aircraft’s ability to function in what’s called “high-hot” conditions of 6,000 feet/95-degrees Fahrenheit where lower air pressure makes it more difficult to operate and maneuver a helicopter.

The Block 2 Chinook will also be engineered to accommodate a larger take-off maximum weight of 54,000 pounds, allowing it to sling-load the Army’s new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle underneath. This provides the Army with what it calls a “mounted maneuver” capability wherein it can reposition vehicles and other key combat-relevant assets around the battlefield in a tactically-significant manner without need to drive on roads. This will be particularly helpful in places such as Afghanistan where mountainous terrain and lacking infrastructure can make combat necessary movements much more challenged.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
A Chinook lands at Forward Operating Base Kala Gush. Photo: US Army Maj. Christopher Thomas

The Chinook F is also in the process of getting new rotorblades engineered with composites and other materials designed to give the helicopter an additional 1,500 pounds of lift capability, Army officials explained.

Another key upgrade to the helicopter is a technology called Cargo-On/Off-Loading-System, or COOLS, which places rollers on the floor of the airframe designed to quickly on and off-load pallets of equipment and supplies.  This technology also has the added benefit of increasing ballistic protection on the helicopter by better protecting it from small arms fire.

“The COOLS system has been added to the current production configuration and continues to be retrofitted to the existing F fleet. We have completed approximately 50-percent of the retrofit efforts. Since its fielding we made very minor design changes to improve maintainability.

The helicopter will also get improved gun-mounts and crew chief seating, along with a new vibration control system.

“We are finalizing design efforts on an improved vibration control system that, in testing, has produced significant reduction in vibration levels in the cockpit area,” Bratt said.

The F-model includes an automated flight system enabling the aircraft to fly and avoid obstacles in the event that a pilot is injured.

Additional adjustments include the use of a more monolithic airframe engineered to replace many of the rivets build into the aircraft, Army officials said.

“The program is looking at some significant airframe improvements like incorporating the nose and aft sections of the MH-47G (Special Operations Variant) on to the CH-47F. In addition, the program office has conducted an in depth structural analysis with the intent of setting the stage for increased growth capacity of the airframe for future upgrades,” Bratt said.

The CH-47 F program is also planning to add Conditioned-Based Maintenance to the aircraft – small, portable diagnostic devices, which enable aircraft engineers to better predict maintenance needs and potential mechanical failures, service officials said.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
A military policeman pulls security as other soldiers load a CH-47 during non-combatant evacuation training. (Photo: U.S. Army Spc. Thomas Scaggs)

Protecting Helicopters

The CIRCM system is an improved, lighter-weight version of Advanced Threat Infrared Countermeasures, called ATIRCM, — a high-tech laser jammer that is able to thwart guided-missile attacks on helicopters by using an infrared sensor designed to track an approaching missile. The system fires a multiband heat laser to intercept the missile and throw it off course,

ATIRCM has been fielded now on helicopters over Iraq and Afghanistan. CIRCM, its replacement, lowers the weight of the system and therefore brings with it the opportunity to deploy this kind of laser counter-measure across a wider portion of the fleet.

Chinooks are also equipped with a combat-proven protective technology called Common Missile Warning System, or CMWS; this uses an ultraviolet sensor to locate approaching enemy fire before sending out a flare to divert the incoming fire from its course.

Finally, over the years there have been several efforts to engineer a small-arms detection system designed to locate the source of incoming enemy small-arms fire to better protect the aircraft and crew.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This anti-aircraft tank was the worst thing ever built for the US military

The M247 Sergeant York was officially designated as a “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun” but was for all intents and purposes a tank chassis with anti-aircraft guns attached to the top. The vehicle was named for one Alvin York, a famous and highly decorated WWI hero who captured over 100 German soldiers pretty much single-handedly. Unfortunately for the U.S. tax payers who spent just shy of $2 billion on it (about $4.8 billion today or, humourously enough, after appropriately adjusting for inflation to make the dollar values match, about 1/11th what the entire Apollo program cost), the final version of the weapon ended up being so useless its automatic targeting system couldn’t distinguish between a toilet vent fan and a jet plane, the vehicle itself couldn’t keep up with the tanks it was designed to protect, and it was made obsolete by advances in enemy weaponry after only a few dozen faulty units were made. Here now is the story of the forgotten M247.


This particular weapon was developed by the defunct off-shoot of Ford known as Ford Aerospace in response to a contract put out by the U.S. Army in 1977 requesting what they referred to as an, “Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System.” This was later re-dubbed, “Division Air Defense” which was itself shorted to DIVAD in official documentation.

In a nutshell, the Army wanted a drivable anti-aircraft system that was to serve alongside their newly developed M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley tanks in battle. The contract was put out in direct response to a battle tactic known as “pop-up” which essentially involved helicopters harassing tanks from a distance by hiding behind cover and then popping up briefly to let loose a volley of anti-tank missiles (which themselves were a newly developed technology) before hiding once again.

The U.S. Army found that the tactic was almost impossible to counter with the ground-based weapons it had available at the time as their leading anti-aircraft weapons system, the M163 Vulcan, only had a range of 1.2 KM (3/4 of a mile), while newly developed anti-tank missiles, such as the 9K114 Shturm used by the Soviets, could hit from a range almost five times greater than that. To add insult to injury, the Soviets had no problem countering the pop-up attack method thanks to their ZSU-23-4 Shilka, which is essentially what the United States wanted to copy.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
An M247 Sergeant York on display at Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park, Tennessee. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

To minimize production time and cost, the Army specified that the basis of the newly developed system had to be mounted atop an M48 Patton tank chassis (something the Army had in great surplus). Further, the system had to more or less use off-the-shelf parts, rather than anything being developed from scratch.

As to the final specific capabilities it was supposed to have, it had to be able to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed and be able to lock onto any target within 8 seconds, all with a minimum 50% chance to hit a target from 3 KM (1.9 miles) away with a single 30 second volley. It also had to be able to continually track up to 48 moving aerial targets, automatically identifying enemy aircraft, and intelligently prioritizing which should be shot down first. All the gunner had to do then was to select the target from the generated list and fire.

Several companies responded to the request with proposed systems, with the Army ultimately narrowing it down to two entrants- one developed by Ford Aerospace and one by General Dynamics, with both companies given $79 million to develop prototypes.

After extensive testing of two prototypes made by each company, in which General Dynamics’ reportedly shot down 19 drones vs. Ford’s 9, Ford was awarded the contract…

As you might have guessed, this decision was controversial, not just because the General Dynamics prototype outperformed Ford’s by a considerable margin, but because, unlike every other entrant, the M247 used more costly 40MM shells instead of 35MM ones which were extensively used by NATO at the time. Rumour had it that Ford stood to make more money from the use of 40MM rounds due to a business deal they had with the manufacturer. However, it should also be noted that the Army may have had good reason to favour the 40MM given its larger size and a newly developed 40mm round that had a proximity sensing fuse built in.

Whatever the case, Ford Aerospace won the lucrative contract and began immediate production of M247s in 1981.

And this is where hilarity ensued.

Read More: In World War I, Alvin York captured 132 German soldiers pretty much single-handed

Every M247 Ford produced had problems, mainly centered around their automatic targeting system. This ultimately led one soldier to speculate that the only way the M247 would manage to take out an enemy would be by “driving over the top of it.”

As an example of some of the issues here, in 1982 Ford was set to demonstrate the M247 to a gathered crowd of VIPs and military brass. However, the moment the M247’s tracking system was turned on, it immediately targeted the stands the gathered people were sitting in, resulting in complete chaos as those present trampled one another to get out of the way. Of course, the M247 required the operator to tell it to fire, so there was no real danger here, but one can imagine staring down a pair of 40mm cannons in a live demo would be a tad frightening.

After a while, the engineers thought they’d managed to fix the issue and the demo resumed, only to see the M247 shoot into the ground rather than the drone target it was “locked on” to.

In the aftermath, a Ford Aerospace executive claimed the “glitch” had been caused by the M247 being washed before the demonstration, damaging the targeting system. This explanation didn’t sit well with military brass or the many journalists present, one of whom, Gregg Easterbrook, mused that perhaps Ford Aerospace didn’t realize that it rained in Europe where the M247 was to be deployed.

Other problems with the M247’s targeting system included its seeming inability to tell the difference between helicopters and trees and its penchant for locking onto random other ground-based objects as threats. The most infamous example of this was that time an M247 ignored a passing drone it was supposed to be targeting and instead locked onto a nearby latrine exhaust fan, marking it as a low priority, slow-moving target.

The M247’s targeting system was so poor that even when presented with an unrealistically favorable scenario, such as a helicopter hovering completely still in mid-air, it still missed and took an agonizing 12 seconds just to acquire the target.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
M247 Sergeant York DIVAD (Wikimedia Commons photo by Ryan Crierie)

How was this targeting system so bad, given that it was developed using off-the-shelf parts that were shown to be reliable already? Mainly because the radar was one designed for the F-16 fighter jet. (In fact, it worked very well in the open air.) However, despite the efforts of the Ford and Army engineers, the random objects on the ground continually wreaked havoc on the radar’s ability to track low flying aerial targets like pop-up attacking helicopters. It also had significant problems tracking high flying targets because when the turrets were raised up they got in the way of the radar… (*queue Yakety Sax*).

On top of all this, the M247’s turret also couldn’t turn fast enough to track fast-moving targets and the hydraulics leaked in even marginally cold weather. Not a problem, of course, given it’s always balmy in the regions that were once the former Soviet Union… (In truth, even if it was balmy, it turns out the tracking system also struggled in high ambient temperatures and had trouble dealing with vibrations, such as generated continually when the M247 moved over the ground.)

Another major problem, as previously mentioned, was that the M247’s top speed wasn’t sufficient to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed, meaning it literally couldn’t drive fast enough to travel with the things it was specifically designed to protect. You might at this point be thinking that one’s on the Army because they’re the ones that made Ford use the M48 Patton tank as the base, and that’s not an entirely unfair thought. However, it should be noted that the M48 was previously capable of keeping up here, but Ford added about 17 tons to the original 45 in their modifications of the turret, making the tank much slower than it had previously been.

Despite all these problems to units being delivered, the Army continued to pump money into the project, mostly because there wasn’t a backup option and there was a very pressing need for such a weapon. However, rumors of the Army faking positive results for the M247 via putting it in unrealistically favorable conditions (such as hovering the drones and attaching radar reflectors), including Oregon state representative Dennis Smith going so far as to publicly accuse them of this, ultimately led to something of an inquiry on the matter. Specifically, in 1984, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger decided to oversee a set of amazingly expensive tests costing $54 million ($144 million today) to better determine what this weapon could and couldn’t do.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
The man for whom the M247 Sergeant York was named. This battle scene was painted in 1919 by artist Frank Schoonover. The scene depicts the bravery of Alvin C. York in 1918. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

The tests did not go well. When the system utterly failed to hit any realistically flown drones, they resorted to having them fly in a straight line.  After further failures to actually hit a target, the drones were made to hold still and equipped with radar reflectors… (Rather ironic for a weapon named after a famed WWI soldier known for his incredibly sharpshooting ability.)

All was not lost, however. In one of the rounds of tests where a drone was moving the M247 did manage to slightly damage it, knocking it off course, at which point the safety officer remotely self-destructed it as he was supposed to do if a drone did such a thing. Nevertheless, this was interpreted by the press as the military trying to make it look like the M247 had actually managed a kill, leading to even more outcry that the Army was just trying to fake the results to make the massively expensive M247 look good.

(As to that cost, while it’s widely reported today that the project cost close to $7 billion (about $18 billion today), in fact, that number includes about three decades of anti-aircraft weapon development leading up to and including the actual figure of about $1.8 billion (about $4.8 billion today) spent on the development of the M247s.)

In any event, around the same time of the debacle that was the 1984 tests, the Soviet Union were deploying longer-range anti-tank missiles that were capable of being fired outside of the then current range the M247 could effectively counter the attacks, even if the system did aim properly.

Thus, despite the pressing need for such a system with little in the way of a backup, Weinberger, with support from Congress, some members of which had been present at the test, canceled the project rather than trying to sink more money into it to fix it. In the coming years, most of the M247s found their way onto target ranges where they were destroyed in various tests by weaponry that could actually aim properly. Today, only a handful of M247s still exist, one of which can be found at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Canada must prosecute returning ISIS fighters

Human rights champion Nadia Murad was recently co-awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In August 2014, Murad’s village in northern Iraq was attacked by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and she was sold into sexual slavery.

She managed to escape, sought asylum in Germany in 2015 and has fought for the rights of the Yazidi minority ever since. Upon becoming a Nobel laureate, she said:

“We must work together with determination — so that genocidal campaigns will not only fail, but lead to accountability for the perpetrators. Survivors deserve justice. And a safe and secure pathway home.”


Accountability has become a key issue. While the United States-led international coalition has dislodged ISIS from the cities it had occupied and controlled, namely Mosul and Raqqa, the group is weakened but not dead.

ISIS remains a force in the Middle East

Both the U.S. Department of Defense and the United Nations estimate that approximately 30,000 ISIS fighters remain in those countries.

At the same time, a significant number of foreign fighters from places like Canada, the U.K. and Australia have fled Iraq and Syria. Numerous countries are struggling to find policy solutions on how to manage the return of their nationals who had joined the group.

The Canadian government has stated publicly that it favors taking a comprehensive approach of reintegrating returnees back into society. Very few foreign fighters who have returned to Canada have been prosecuted.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine

Poster of Nadia Murad speaking to the UN Security Council at the Yazidi Temple of Lalish, Kurdistan-Iraq.

Things are about to become much more complicated for officials in Ottawa. Stewart Bell of Global News, reporting recently from Northern Syria, interviewed Canadian ISIS member Muhammad Ali who is being held by Kurdish forces in a makeshift prison.

Ali admits to having joined ISIS and acting as a sniper, and playing soccer with severed heads. He also has a digital record of using social media to incite others to commit violent attacks against civilians and recruiting others to join the group.

Another suspected ISIS member, Jack Letts, a dual Canadian-British national, is also locked up in northern Syria. The same Kurdish forces are adamant that the government of Canada repatriate all Canadian citizens they captured on the battlefield.

Soft on terror or Islamophobic

The issue of how to manage the return of foreign fighters has resulted in highly political debates in Ottawa, demonstrating strong partisan differences on policy choices and strategies to keep Canadians safe.

The Liberal government has been accused of being soft on terrorism and national security, while the Conservative opposition has been charged with “fear mongering” and “Islamophobia” for wanting a tougher approach, namely prosecuting returnees.

But the most important point is that Canada has both a moral and legal duty to seek justice and uphold the most basic human rights of vulnerable populations.

ISIS and other jihadi groups have engaged in systematic mass atrocities against minorities in Iraq and Syria, including Christians and Shiites. ISIS has demonstrated a particular disdain for the Yazidi minority in Iraq. The Canadian government recognized the group’s crimes against the Yazidis as genocide.

As a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and a signatory of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Canada has a responsibility to uphold these international legal conventions when formulating carefully crafted policy responses that deal with returning foreign fighters.

Trials can serve as deterrents

Canada has the option to prosecute its nationals in domestic courts using the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act.

Open trials can serve as means by which to lay bare ISIS’s narrative and to help counter violent extremism and future atrocities.

They can also serve as a deterrent and warning to other Canadians who might try to join ISIS as it mutates and moves to other countries in the world like Libya, Afghanistan, Egypt, the Philippines, Pakistan or in Mali, where Canadian peacekeepers have just been deployed.

If Canada truly stands for multiculturalism, pluralism, the rule of law, global justice, human rights and the liberal international order, then we must be firm and take a principled stand to prosecute those have fought with ISIS. That includes our own citizens. No doubt Nadia Murad would agree.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Congress takes action to deter Russian threats

U.S. Republican and Democratic senators have introduced legislation threatening tough sanctions to discourage Russia from meddling in U.S. elections, Reuters reports.

The Deter Act is intended to sanction Russia’s banking, energy, and defense industries, and sovereign debt for election interference.

The legislation was introduced on April 3, 2019, by Senators Chris Van Hollen (Democrat-Maryland) and Marco Rubio (Republican-Florida).


The two legislators offered a similar bipartisan measure in 2018, which was never brought up for a vote by the Senate’s Republican leaders, who have close ties to President Donald Trump.

Such an approach is thought to have better prospects this year, because control of the House of Representatives is in the hands of Democrats.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine

Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Reuters reports that the measure would require the U.S. Director of National Intelligence to determine, within 30 days of any federal election, if Russia or other foreign actors had engaged in election interference.

If such interference is detected, the act would require that mandatory sanctions be imposed within 10 days on Russian banks and energy companies among others.

The act would provide for sanctions to be imposed on two or more of the following Russian banks: Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank, and Rosselkhozbank.

It also would ban all transactions subject to U.S. jurisdiction in Russian sovereign debt, Russian government bonds, and the debt of any entity owned or controlled by Russia’s government.

Moscow has denied trying to influence U.S. elections. But U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies have established that Moscow sought to interfere with the 2016 poll to boost Trump’s chances of winning the White House.

The Deter Act is aimed at Russia but notes that China, Iran, and North Korea are other major foreign government cyberthreats.

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

Articles

VA health care foiled again by sudden money shortage

The Department of Veterans Affairs warned June 14 it was unexpectedly running out of money for a program that offers veterans private-sector health care, forcing it to hold back on some services that lawmakers worry could cause delays in medical treatment.


It is making an urgent request to Congress to allow it to shift money from other programs to fill the sudden budget gap.

VA Secretary David Shulkin made the surprising revelation at a Senate hearing. He cited a shortfall of more than $1 billion in the Choice program due to increased demand from veterans for federally-paid medical care outside the VA. The VA had previously assured Congress that funding for Choice would last until early next year.

“We need your help on the best solution to get more money into the Choice account,” Shulkin told the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “If there is no action at all by Congress, then the Choice program will dry up by mid-August.”

The department began instructing VA medical centers late last week to limit the number of veterans it sent to private doctors so it can slow spending in the Choice account. Some veterans were being sent to Defence Department hospitals, VA facilities located farther away, or other alternative locations “when care is not offered in VA,” according to a June 7 internal VA memorandum.

The VA is also scrambling to tap other parts of its budget, including about $620 million in carry-over money that it had set aside for use in the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It was asking field offices to hold off on spending for certain medical equipment to help cover costs, according to a call the department held with several congressional committees June 13.

It did not rule out taking money from VA hospitals.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
David Shulkin (Photo by Robert Turtil, Department of Veterans Affairs)

Shulkin on June 14 insisted that veterans will not see an impact in their health care. He blamed in part the department’s excessive use of an exception in the Choice program that allowed veterans to go to private doctors if they faced an “excessive burden” in traveling to a VA facility. Typically, Choice restricts use of private doctors only when veterans must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a facility.

Medical centers were now being asked to hew more closely to Choice’s restrictions before sending veterans to private doctors, Shulkin said.

He described the shortfall in the Choice program as mostly logistical, amounting to different checking accounts within the VA that needed to be combined to meet various payments.

Some senators were in disbelief.

They noted that VA had failed to anticipate or fix budget problems many times before. Two years ago, the VA endured sharp criticism from Congress when it was forced to seek emergency help to cover a $2.5 billion budget shortfall due in part to expensive hepatitis C treatments, or face closing some VA hospitals.Congress allowed VA to shift money from its Choice account.

“I am deeply concerned,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D- Wash., explaining that VA should have “seen this coming.” She said veterans in her state were already reporting delays in care and being asked to travel to VA facilities more than 4 hours away.

Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on the panel, expressed impatience.

“For months we’ve been asking about the Choice spend rate and we were never provided those answers to make an informed decision,” he said. “No one wants to delay care for veterans — no one — so we will act appropriately. For that to happen this late in the game is frustrating to me.”

Major veterans’ organizations said they worried the shortfall was the latest sign of poor budget planning.

Carl Blake, an associate executive director at Paralyzed Veterans of America, said the VA has yet to address how it intends to address a growing appeals backlog as well as increased demands for care. “The VA could be staring at a huge hole in its budget for 2018,” he said. “It’s not enough to say we have enough money, that we can move it around. That is simply not true.”

The shortfall surfaced just weeks after lawmakers were still being assured the Choice program was under budget, with $1.1 billion estimated to be left over in the account on Aug. 7, when the program was originally set to expire. That VA estimate prompted Congress to pass legislation last March to extend the program until the Choice money ran out.

Shulkin said he learned about the shortfall June 8.

Currently, more than 30 per cent of VA appointments are made in the private sector, up from fewer than 20 per cent in 2014, as the VA’s 1,700 health facilities struggle to meet growing demands for medical care. During the 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump criticized the VA for long wait times and mismanagement, pledging to give veterans more choice in seeing outside providers.

Articles

Now commandos have a new camera to record their door-kicking exploits

QUANTICO, Va. — It was the great mystery of the Seal Team 6 mission to kill terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.


Did the DEVGRU door kickers have helmet cams to record their daring raid?

The Pentagon and everyone else said “No.” But we all know that’s a bunch of bull.

Cameras had become ubiquitous on the helmets of infantrymen even before the 2011 raid, and even pilots and other military specialties are jumping on the bandwagon. Big time movies and television series have been built on the backs of helmet cam footage, with GoPro and Contour cameras the primary options for troops in the field.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
Developed exclusively for high-speed operations where low profile and bomber durability are a must, the Elite Ops Camera has a curved housing that fits to the contours of a trooper’s helmet. The camera can endure a drop of six feet, is waterproof to 30 feet and has been jump tested. (Photo from MOHOC)

But their use has applications beyond chronicling the heat and grit of combat, with units increasingly using helmet camera footage for battle damage assessment and intelligence gathering.

That’s where the new Elite Ops Camera from MOHOC comes in.

Developed exclusively for high-speed operations where low profile and bomber durability are a must, the Elite Ops Camera has a curved housing that fits to the contours of a trooper’s helmet. The camera can endure a drop of six feet, is waterproof to 30 feet and has been jump tested, company officials say.

“We set out to build a military-ruggedized camera for extreme durability,” said MOHOC sales rep Eric Dobbie during an interview at the 2016 Modern Day Marine exposition here.

“I Like to call it the Panasonic Toughbook of cameras.”

Sure, there are several point-of-view cameras out there, but many are delicate and aren’t optimized for military missions. MOHOC has designed the Elite Ops Camera from the ground up with the warfighter in mind, Dobbie said, with an oversized on-off button and both a tone and vibration to alert the operator that the camera is up and running.

The MOHOC Elite Ops Camera has large buttons for operation with gloved hands. It also vibrates when the camera begins recording so troops can tell when it's on even in loud environments. (Photo from MOHOC) The MOHOC Elite Ops Camera has large buttons for operation with gloved hands. It also vibrates when the camera begins recording so troops can tell when it’s on — even in loud environments. (Photo from MOHOC)

There’s even a rechargeable internal battery and a slot for two CR-123s, so running low on juice won’t be a problem.

The Elite Ops Camera features a short-range wifi capability that connects with a smartphone app to view videos and check framing, and the camera can take stills with a press of a button. There’s even an infrared version of the Elite Ops Camera that records in black and white and automatically switches from light to IR mode.

“This works great as a training tool, for sensitive sight exploitation, combat camera and explosive ordnance disposal missions,” Dobbie said. “One of our biggest markets is with anyone that jumps out of a plane because we’re a snag-free option.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia has a powerful new frigate — and a problematic navy

Just before the end of 2017, the Russian Navy commissioned its newest frigate, the Admiral Makarov. The ship, which will be based in Sevastopol, is an Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate, a multi-purpose ship that is certainly loaded for bear.


Each frigate in the Admiral Grigorovich class is armed with eight Club-N land-attack cruise missiles, a variant of the Kalibr missiles used to strike ISIS targets deep inside Syria. Two Kashtan CIWS air defense missile/gun systems and 24 Shtil-1 anti-aircraft missiles make up each ship’s air-defense component, as well as one A-190E gun at its bow.

The frigate boasts a range of 4850 nautical miles, a top speed of 30 knots, an endurance of 30 days, and a crew of 193.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
(Image from Russian Ministry of Defense)

The bulk of the Russian Navy’s current fleet are corvettes, small craft armed with long-range missiles that cannot stray too far from the coast for long. Frigates have traditionally been the backbone of most of the world’s navies, and Russia still hasn’t given up on having large surface warships like it did during the Cold War.

“Russia has realized that capabilities matter far more than platforms,” Dmitry Gorenburg, a senior research scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses, told Business Insider.

“The Russian Navy is quite able to carry out its key missions, such as coastal protection and (increasingly) conventional deterrence with cruise missiles in addition to the SLBM role in nuclear deterrence,” Gorenburg said in an email.

The Admiral Makarov will be the third Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate in the Russian Navy. Russia originally planned to have of six of the frigates in total, but recent events have put the program’s schedule in an uncertain state.

Shipbuilding problems in the Russian Navy

The Admiral Grigorovich-class frigate is essentially a thorough modernization of the Krivak IV-class frigate, a ship that was built for and exported to the Indian Navy from 1999 to 2012.

There were originally no plans for any more modernization of the Krivak series, but the Russian Navy began to have problems with the building and integration of the Admiral Gorshkov-class frigate — the ship intended to be the center of the Russian Navy’s modern frigate fleet.

Also Read: Denmark’s newest frigates can carry troops like Viking raiders

“It was just taking to long to finish,” Gorenburg said. “There were issues with some of the systems — it was a kind of brand new construction — and so they realized they really needed new ships more quickly than those were going to get approved.”

Russia then turned to and modernized the Krivak IVs, which they knew could be built and fielded faster, creating a new class in the process.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine
A Krivak-class frigate at anchor. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Construction of the ships hit a snag when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and war broke out in Ukraine. The ships needed a specific gas turbine engine that came from a Ukrainian company, which, after the annexation and breakout of war, was prevented from selling them.

As a result, Russia announced that it would sell two of the three Grigorovich-class frigates under construction to India, who will be able to buy the engines separately themselves.

Russia maintains that it will eventually have a total of six frigates for the Black Sea Fleet, after a domestic gas turbine engine is produced.

“There are still some problems in the shipbuilding industry, but they are not as bad as five years ago,” Gorenburg said in an email. “On the whole, the Navy is going to be quite successful at building effective small ships while putting off big ships (destroyers, aircraft carriers) for the indefinite future.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

It’s official: China is building a third aircraft carrier

A third Chinese aircraft carrier is in development at a domestic shipyard, Chinese state media revealed Nov. 25, 2018, confirming for the first time long-held suspicions.

The state-run Xinhua News Agency explained that while the country’s first domestically-produced carrier — the Type 001A — is going through sea trials, an unnamed “new-generation carrier” is being built and is on schedule, the government-controlled China Daily reported Nov. 26, 2018.


China’s first aircraft carrier — the Type 001 Liaoning — is a Soviet “heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser” that China acquired in the late 1990s, upgraded and refitted over roughly a decade, and commissioned into the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) in 2012.

The flagship of the Chinese navy was declared combat ready in 2016. It has since sailed around Taiwan, through the disputed East and South China Seas, and into the Western Pacific.

The Liaoning, primarily a training vessel as China attempts to better understand complex carrier operations, also served as a template for China’s second carrier.

How life changed in one moment for this Marine

Chinese Aircraft Carrier Liaoning.

While the Type 001A is improved in certain places, it is decidedly similar to its Soviet predecessor. The vessel does, however, feature a new radar, a slightly larger flight deck, and a smaller island. The ship also includes a number of technological upgrades.

The carrier has undergone at least two sea trials, possibly a third. Observers expect the carrier to be commissioned into the PLAN in October 2019 for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

There is speculation among expert observers that China’s newest aircraft carrier, which some refer to as the Type 002, will be a marked improvement over the Type 001 and Type 001A.

While the first two use ski jump-assisted short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR) launch systems, which are less effective, the new carrier may be a ship with a flat flight deck and a catapult-assisted take-off but arrested recovery (CATOBAR) launch system, as this is certainly something China aims to eventually achieve.

The development of a carrier with a CATOBAR launch system would be a significant step forward for the Chinese navy, as it would improve the operational effectiveness of the ship. Leaked images from the company tasked with building China’s carriers suggested that this may be where China is heading.

An advanced fleet of aircraft carriers supported by new Type 055 Renhai destroyers and other upgraded escort ships would greatly improve China’s ability to project power in its neighborhood.

Chinese state media has confirmed that a third carrier is in the works, but it has yet to provide any specific details on the new ship.

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Veterans finding connection through social and physical activities

Did you know that there are 3.5 million post-9/11 veterans nationwide, and that 250,000 more service members will leave active duty this year to join them? These veterans often face isolation, lack of physical fitness, and a lack of purpose in a world that doesn’t understand the military.

Team Red, White & Blue‘s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. Utilizing a nationwide network of chapters, Team RWB hosts and participates in events designed to bring veterans together and engage in the communities where they live and work.

Whether it’s workouts, races, social activities or community service projects, Team RWB members, also known as Eagles, support each other through shared values and experiences; there’s probably an RWB chapter near you.


Joining Team RWB is easy

Visit the Team RWB homepage to sign up. New members also receive a free Team RWB Nike t-shirt ( shipping and handling charge). New eagles are also quickly connected to their local chapter to learn about upcoming local activities. More than 160K veterans, their families, and non-military supporters have already joined Team RWB.

This is Us – Team RWB

www.youtube.com

Team Red, White Blue is a nonprofit founded by veterans working to solve the epidemic of loneliness through physical activity. Team RWB is the bridge connecting communities where veterans and civilians work together to gain common understanding.

Team RWB takes the best of military service–the camaraderie and physical challenges–and creates a new family of Eagles connected through physical activity.

“Staying active both physically and socially is key for a lot of veterans, especially those who have been wounded, ill or injured,” said Tampa VAMC Chief of Recreation and U.S. Army veteran Geoff Hopkins. “It’s very important for those veterans with ‘invisible wounds,’ such as PTSD, to engage in activities in the community, to draw them out of their dark places and get them interacting with others.”

Take the 1776 Challenge

Independence Day is for celebrating our nation’s freedom. This summer, Team Red, White Blue will showcase their commitment to the men and women who have fought for our freedom with the 1776 Challenge.

Team RWB invites you to join all Team RWB Eagles across the nation. Whether you do it with someone else or weave it into your workout, you will know that thousands of others will be taking on that day’s unique challenge with you! Dedicate your hard work and sweat to celebrate our nation’s veterans and their commitment to this great nation. Every time you “check in,” you will be entered into a chance to win prizes!

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

Articles

This Disabled Veteran Describes His Scars Of War With Incredible Slam Poetry

Brian’s poem will give you perspective into how wide the civilian-military divide gap really is.


Related: Watch this Iraq War veteran’s tragic story told through the lens of a cartoon

On December 3, Brian’s mother posted a video of him reciting his poem on her Facebook wall. At the time of this writing, the video had been shared over 103,700 times. The video was intended to be shared with friends and family, but it had such a powerful effect that it was published to YouTube in order to mitigate comments to her Facebook account.

Brian delivers a powerful and sincere peek into his scars of war that were inspired by a grocery bagger’s clueless comments.

Clearly upset, he took to poetry to express his experience.

The video is very touching. Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-CE69jv5EY

melanie fay/Youtube

We’ve transcribed Brian’s poem in case you can’t play it out loud:
The other night at the store, check out line with my wife

the bagger asked a question that cut with a knife.

He saw my beanie and tried to make conversation

asked me if I was a member by service or donation.

I looked at him and smiled, I’m used to small talk questions

said that I became a member after serving my nation.

I went to Iraq and to Stan played around did some time in the sand

and he responded with that patented, “oh thanks for your service man.”

Nothing else needed to be said, conversation through

but then he stepped back and looked at me from beanie to shoe.

He asked the question, I swear this is true

he looked at me again and asked, “well what’s wrong with you.”

Taken back by his question I quickly spout an answer, “that’s a little personal man”

then you won’t believe his candor.

“I’m sorry man I didn’t mean to offend,

just looking you over it looks like you have all your limbs”

I walked out the store angry but why?

That was a volatile observation by a dumbass guy

how could he see the blood behind these eyes.

I should have marched back in there and asked if he wanted to see all the scars.

Hey these seem to interest you

take a seat guy you’re about to need a tissue.

See my scars I don’t wear them on the surface of my skin

like most veterans the deepest scars are within.

Sound of screams of brothers dying

tears roll down from mothers crying

bullets hail and fly overhead

watch a bullet leave your best friends head.

Or the hands that I took hold

watched as the grip grew colder

maybe you want to hear about that time I had to shoot a child

or that other time I had to drag my brother’s body a quarter mile

just because I knew he’d be defiled.

See what you fail to understand is that no veteran ever comes back that whole of a man.

Whether it be limbs are gone or internal scars

we all search for answers at the bottom of glasses in the darkest of bars.

Who are you to ask what is wrong with me

are you now the wounded warrior judge and jury?

One thing I want to remind you kids, I’m not mad

as a matter of fact, your dumbass question made me glad.

My invisible injury, I wear with pride

it doesn’t matter that you don’t know my friends who died.

it doesn’t matter that when I go home you don’t see

that I could barely remember what I had to eat.

I also have brain damage you see

been through one too many explosions that shook my head

while you lay quietly at home sleeping in your bed.

And cause of blast of me flying through the air,

oh you want to see where I bounce… everywhere.

But its okay boy stand up let me brush you off

I know it’s impossible for you to understand the cost.

I see that tear, here’s that tissue

maybe next time you’ll just leave it at thank you.

But I didn’t do that, I just let it be

I couldn’t let someone’s ignorance violate me.

Instead I said no problem, don’t worry about it man

It’s something that takes time to understand.

So next time you see a vet don’t think you need to vet him

don’t look for stories of injuries like we all openly display them.

Don’t ask sh–t like, “did you kill anyone”

we share that sh–t when we want, boy don’t be dumb.

Again, I can say blame that those that ain’t been taught

but I will say, “dammit ain’t about time we stop living underneath a rock.”

I’m an American veteran been to Iraq and to Stan

yes I am disabled, no you don’t need to shake my hand.

Yes I’m slightly crazy but who wouldn’t be

just want to let you know exactly why you thank me.