The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs failed to report a number of medical providers, whose privileges were revoked, to national databases, according to a Nov. 27 report by the independent Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The GAO reviewed five of the VA’s 170 Medical Centers “after concerns were raised about their clinical care.” It found that VA officials did not report eight of nine doctors it found should have been reported.
The GAO report examined 148 providers from October 2013 to March 2017 and found that more than half didn’t provide documentation of reviews to the National Practitioner Data Bank or state licensing boards, as required by VHA policy. Also, the medical centers did not start the reviews of 16 providers for months to years “after the concerns were identified.”
“Depending on the findings from the review, VAMC officials may take an adverse privileging action against a provider that either limits the care a provider is allowed to deliver at the VAMC or prevents the provider from delivering care altogether,” the GAO report said.
At the five unidentified hospitals, providers weren’t reported because VA officials “misinterpreted or were not aware of VHA policies and guidance related to the NPDB and SLB reporting processes,” the report said.
“At one facility, we found that officials failed to report six providers to the NPDB because the officials were unaware that they had been delegated responsibility for NPDB reporting.”
The report found that two of four contract providers — whose privileges were revoked and were not reported — continued to provide outside care to veterans.
“One provider whose services were terminated related to patient abuse subsequently held privileges at another VAMC, while the other provider belongs to a network of providers that provides care for veterans in the community,” the report said.
Nearly 40,000 providers hold privileges in the centers.
GAO is making four recommendations for the Veterans Health Administration: To document reviews of providers’ clinical care after concerns are raised, develop timely requirements for reviews, to ensure proper oversight of such reviews, and perform timely reporting of providers.
The GAO said the VA agreed with its recommendations.
In the early morning of July 16, 2019, an Army UH-60 Black Hawk rescue crew was alerted to a severely injured hiker who had fallen 500 feet down one of Colorado’s tallest peaks.
The hiker, a retired astronaut, had broken both of his legs and one arm in the fall and needed emergency care fast. But to get to a hospital for his injuries, the former Navy captain had to rely on the Army to pluck him from the unforgiving terrain.
It was the height of summer, a time when hikers flock to the state’s mountain ranges and when operations at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site ramp up.
The site has a dual-hatted role. Primarily, it teaches helicopter crews how to fly and land in high altitudes. It also is a search and rescue outfit with experienced crews that can reach difficult spots where most civilian aircraft cannot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site drops off a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Each year, full-time Colorado Guardsmen at the site rescue about 20 people — mainly desperate hikers who have fallen or suffered from altitude sickness or a heart attack.
With two pilots and two crew chiefs, the Black Hawk crews will also pick up two rescue technicians, who are civilian volunteers that they train with, on their way out.
After already topping their annual average for saves, 2019 has proven to be a busy year.
“It’s nice that we’re able to take what we teach, the power management techniques, and apply them on the weekend or during the week when we’re making these critical saves,” said Lt. Col. Britt Reed, the HAATS commander.
For many, the July 16 mission is one of the recent missions that stands out. While climbing La Plata Peak, which pierces the sky at over 14,000 feet near Leadville, Jeff Ashby quickly became in need of help from the air.
The day before, Ashby, 65, who had flown to space three times, had just reached the summit of the mountain. During his descent, he lost his footing and slipped, hurtling down the mountainside before large boulders stopped him.
Hours later, a local search and rescue team member managed to navigate to the former astronaut and stayed with him overnight.
At first light, Chief Warrant Officer 5 Pat Gates and his aircrew, along with two rescue technicians, flew out to Ashby’s location.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site lowers a member of Mountain Rescue Aspen down to an injured hiker near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
Once overhead, the crew used a hoist to lower the technicians, who prepped Ashby before he was pulled up into the helicopter. The aircraft then landed at a transfer site, where Ashby was taken to the hospital in a civilian medical transport helicopter.
While a collection of emergency responders helped out, the HAATS crew had the hoist capability to get Ashby out of danger.
“It’s great knowing that you have that kind of impact on somebody,” Gates said.
After being released from the hospital, Ashby wrote an email to Gates and the rest of the aircrew, thanking them for their efforts.
“He was very appreciative of everything, for the fact that the Army came to help out a Navy guy,” Gates said, smiling. “But, all in all, having a result like that is always the best case.”
Gates estimates he has helped with at least five rescues per year since he came to HAATS in 2009. And the total number of missions continues to increase, he said, almost quadrupling compared to when he first started.
Some of them even test the most experienced pilots, like Gates, who serves as the training site’s senior standardization instructor pilot.
A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site prepares to lower a civilian rescue technician near the North Maroon Bells Peak near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
A hairy rescue he still remembers was in 2015 at Crestone Needle, another mountain over 14,000 feet.
In that one, a hiker also slipped and broke his leg on top of other injuries. Since the hiker was stranded in a tight area, the aircrew had to lower a hoist 200 feet as winds kicked up to 25 knots and a thunderstorm loomed nearby.
“That was very interesting,” he said. “It required a lot that day to get the [helicopter rescue team] all the way down there to the injured party.”
The mission was taxing for the crew since they had to keep the helicopter as still as possible. At that height, Gates said, the hoist can sway about 10 feet on the ground to every 1 foot the aircraft moves in the air.
Pilots may also decide to quickly do a one-wheeled landing, one of which was conducted this summer, if there is enough room that the rotors will not chop into the mountain side.
“If they feel the safest way is to land the aircraft [is] by putting one wheel down or two wheels down or using the hoist,” Reed said, “then we’ll figure out what the best way is and we’ll do it.”
And then there are the “what ifs” every difficult mission presents, Gates said, which can be mentally draining when the crew is trying to prevent them all.
Other than a similar National Guard unit at Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado, that handles rescues on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, no state entity can replicate the landings and hoists of the HAATS crews.
“If we didn’t have these two organizations, then the [hikers] that got stuck would be in a lot of trouble,” Reed said, “because there is nobody else that can provide the resources that we can provide.”
Civilian rescue technicians treat an injured hiker before he is hoisted up into a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crew from the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site near Aspen, Colo., July 24, 2018.
(Photo by Tyler McCready)
As a crew chief, Staff Sgt. Greg Yost typically operates the hoist during rescues.
In June 2019, he lowered a hoist about 100 feet to save a skier who suffered cuts and an ankle injury after a small avalanche knocked him down, causing him to hit some rocks.
Hovering above 13,000 feet in that mission, the aircrew had to deal with strong winds in a narrow valley that drastically affected the power margin of the heavy helicopter.
“We were basically at our limit in power,” Yost recalled.
While tough at times, the missions do bring Yost back to a job he never wanted to leave. Before coming to Colorado, he served on a medical evacuation aircrew in Afghanistan, picking up wounded troops in sometimes hot landing zones.
In this video still image, a UH-60 Black Hawk crew from the Colorado National Guard’s High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site perform a one-wheeled landing at or above 13,000 feet to rescue an injured hiker from Maroon Bells, Sept. 21, 2013.
(US Army photo)
“That wasn’t something that I really wanted to give up,” he said. “So the fact that HAATS regularly conducted those kinds of missions was a big driving force in me wanting to come to this unit so I could continue helping people.”
The work HAATS crews have done with hoist operations has led the Army to develop a standardized hoist training program last year, Gates said.
The training site also creates scenario-based evaluations from the rescue flights to teach students during its weeklong course. The lessons even give the students an opportunity to discuss how the flight could have gone smoother.
“That’s one thing we don’t do, is rest on our laurels,” Gates said. “We take information in from everybody that comes through here.”
Congressman John Lewis lost his battle to pancreatic cancer on July 17, 2020. He was an icon for the civil rights movement but more than that, he was a continuous beacon of hope for peace and social justice.
On Lewis’ passing, President Donald Trump ordered flags to be flown half-staff. In a White House proclamation, the president stated, “As a mark of respect for the memory and longstanding public service of Representative John Lewis, of Georgia, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and upon all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions through July 18, 2020. I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half‑staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.”
Born in 1940 to sharecroppers in rural Alabama, Lewis would go on to become a prominent and iconic figure in the fight for equality. He was one of the speakers at the March on Washington during Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Lewis was one of the original Freedom Riders during this time. He was beaten and arrested multiple times during these nonviolent protests.
Lewis marched with King from Selma to Montgomery, on what became known as “Bloody Sunday.” Lewis and others were assaulted with nightsticks by Alabama State Troopers while the protestors were kneeling and praying. Lewis’ skull was fractured from the beating. This incident is what pushed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to come to pass. Lewis was a witness when it was signed into law.
Lewis bore the scars from all of these events for the remainder of his life.
After the civil rights movement, Lewis became a congressman and served Georgia for over 30 years. He fought for the Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., which took 15 years. President Obama awarded Lewis the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011 for his life’s work.
In December of 2019, he announced that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He released a statement, saying, “I have been in some kind of fight – for freedom, equality, basic human rights – for nearly my entire life. I have never faced a fight quite like the one I have now…So I have decided to do what I know to do and do what I have always done: I am going to fight it and keep fighting for the Beloved Community. We still have many bridges to cross.”
Lewis’ passing comes just a year after the U.S. Navy celebrated his legacy by naming one of their newest fleet of ships after him. He was a humble man and in one interview, shared his disbelief that the honor was being bestowed upon him. While attending the ceremony to celebrate one of the new ships Lewis said, “We need great ships, like this one, to carry our men and women in our continued work for peace, because we are one world.”
In those words, hope resonates. Following his passing, the spirit of his legacy will continue to live on and the world will remember this icon by continuing his work for justice – and peace.
On September 20, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. arrived at the Blumstein’s department store in Harlem, New York for a book signing. His new book “Stride Toward Freedom” chronicled the Montgomery bus boycott that began when Rosa Parks refused to surrender her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. The boycott had come to a close in December of 1956, when the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation of public buses was indeed unconstitutional. It was a watershed moment for both the Civil Rights movement and for America itself.
As a crowd formed in the shoe section of Blumstein’s, King took his seat behind a roped-off section of the store. Soon, eager readers were lining up to catch a moment of the influential figure’s time and his signature for their book. He exchanged brief pleasantries with each person as they approached the table, and as a 42-year-old woman in a stylish outfit and sequined cat’s eye-glasses took her turn, King’s demeanor was no different.
“Are you Martin Luther King?” The woman reportedly asked through a notable southern accent.
“Yes,” King replied, but before he could go on any further, the seemingly ordinary woman threw herself at the table and the man behind it, plunging a seven-inch pen knife into King’s chest.
Bystanders responded by pulling the woman away from King and pinning her on the floor as she shouted, “I’ve been after him for six years. I’m glad I done it!”
King, a man who was no stranger to threats, seemed somehow stoically calm, despite the serious bleeding from his chest. As his fans and supporters surrounded him, ushering him toward medical help, he was heard counseling them, soothing their collective anxieties as though he knew everything was going to be okay.
“That’s all right. Everything is going to be all right,” King was heard saying.
Of course, King couldn’t know it would be all right. Maybe it was just in his nature to ease the burden on others. With the knife still in his chest, King was lifted in his chair and carried out to an ambulance that would rush him to Harlem Hospital. Shortly thereafter, the police would march the same dangerous woman back into King’s company. This time there were no books to sign. The police wanted him to confirm that the women they had in custody was indeed his attacker. When they’d placed her under arrest, they also recovered a loaded .25 caliber pistol from her bra.
Despite the terrible attack, King was lucky. The seven-inch knife had punctured his chest just a fraction of an inch away from his aorta, or the main artery that carried blood from his heart to the rest of his body. King, who remained conscious and soothing throughout the ordeal, had only narrowly escaped death, but the risk hadn’t passed. He was rushed into surgery, where he had two ribs removed from his side to allow the knife to be pulled out without causing further damage.
“The X-rays revealed that the tip of the blade was on the edge of my aorta, the main artery,” Dr. King later said in his famed ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop’ speech.
“And once that’s punctured, you’re drowned in your own blood — that’s the end of you.”
He would leave the hospital days later with a new scar in the shape of a cross over his heart. Despite the brutal attack, he was resolute when questioned by the press: He bore no ill will toward the woman who had stabbed him and reaffirmed his position that non-violence is the only way to manifest the type of positive change he sought for his country.
The attacker, whose name was Izola Curry, didn’t look like the sort of person most would expect to attack Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Curry was a fashionable middle-aged Black woman, but beneath her polished exterior laid a turbulent and troubled mind. Curry was a paranoid schizophrenic who had struggled with her mental health for years. In her confused state, she’d grown convinced that King and the NAACP were conspiring with communists against her. To King, however, the attack was a symptom of a greater illness than even Curry’s schizophrenia.
“A climate of hatred and bitterness so permeates areas of our nation that inevitably deeds of extreme violence must erupt,” he said at the time.
“The experience of these last few days has deepened my faith in the relevance of the spirit of nonviolence, if necessary social change is peacefully to take place.”
King would continue to change the world for another decade, before yet another act of violence would rob him of the remainder of his life. It could be argued that, as of that fateful day in 1958, he was acutely aware of the risk his efforts posed to his safety. If he did feel fear somewhere beneath the obvious empathy he felt for the woman who attacked him, however, it never showed. King did not shy away from his work, nor his beliefs, no matter the risk.
Now, as we prepare to honor the memory and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. some 63-years after his death, the story of the near fatal attack offers some uncomfortable parallels with today’s America. As rhetoric about race, mental illness, and the danger of radicalized beliefs permeate our national discourse today just as it did in 1958, we could all learn something from King’s ability to find a catalyst for positive change in even the darkest of places.
In King’s final public speech, he recalled the 1958 attack and how close he came to death… but even amid telling the story, King’s focus was not on his own mortality, but rather on the goodness he found in others as a result of the experience, and the progress he envisioned for America to come.
He told the story of a 9-year-old white girl who wrote to him to say that she’d read that if he had sneezed while the blade was in his chest, he almost certainly would have died.
“And I’m simply writing you to say that I’m so happy that you didn’t sneeze,” King recounted.
King went on to echo the young girl’s sentiment, using it to remind the audience about the important steps the Civil Rights movement had made in the years that followed. King didn’t recount these events like he was listing his own victories, but there was an air of pride about his statements. King, like so many great Americans before him, saw each victory and failure as another part of the struggle that has defined America since its very inception. America, he knew, has always been defined by the aspiration for a better tomorrow, the drive to become a more perfect union.
“If I had sneezed — If I had sneezed I wouldn’t have been here in 1963, when the black people of Birmingham, Alabama, aroused the conscience of this nation, and brought into being the Civil Rights Bill.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have had a chance later that year, in August, to try to tell America about a dream that I had had.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been down in Selma, Alabama, to see the great Movement there.
If I had sneezed, I wouldn’t have been in Memphis to see a community rally around those brothers and sisters who are suffering.
I’m so happy that I didn’t sneeze.”
For all of his philosophical wisdom, King was, at his heart, a pragmatic man. He saw the complexity, the hate, the love, the anger, and the joy all woven into the fabric of his nation. He knew his goals were grander than one man, no matter his eloquence and empathy. He knew that the progress he helped usher in was delicate, and that the fight for our nation’s soul was far from over. King knew America would never be perfect… but importantly, he knew that it was in the effort, in the aspiration, that America’s true greatness had always, and will always, lie.
In a way, it’s deeply tragic that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was able to look out over the crowd of supporters that had gathered on that April day in 1968 and know that he wouldn’t be there to see America embrace the equality he longed for… but King was a great American. Like our Founding Fathers, King knew that a society grows great when men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Progress, like a tree, needs time to take root.
Today, our nation continues to struggle with some of the same issues it faced during King’s days of fighting for equality, as well as daunting new ones that stretch beyond the horizon. America has always been imperfect, but our greatness doesn’t lie in what we are. The real America has always been found in what we, its people, strive to become.
“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”
Comfort is important when doing a hard job. If it’s hot on the work site, it’s important to stay cool. If it’s hazardous, proper protection needs to be worn. And comfort is apparently key when the Japanese sneak attack the Navy. Just ask Lt. Phil Rasmussen, who was one of four pilots who managed to get off the ground to fight the Japanese in the air.
Rasmussen, like many other American GIs in Hawaii that day, was still asleep when the Japanese launched the attack at 0755. The Army Air Forces 2nd Lieutenant was still groggy and in his pajamas when the attacking wave of enemy fighters swarmed Wheeler Field and destroyed many of the Army’s aircraft on the ground.
There were still a number of outdated Curtiss P-36A Hawk fighters that were relatively untouched by the attack. Lieutenant Rasmussen strapped on a .45 pistol and ran out to the flightline, still in his pajamas, determined to meet the sucker-punching Japanese onslaught.
By the time the attack ended, Wheeler and Hickam Fields were both devastated. Bellows Field also took a lot of damage, its living quarters, mess halls, and chapels strafed by Japanese Zeros. American troops threw back everything they could muster – from anti-aircraft guns to their sidearms. But Rasmussen and a handful of other daring American pilots managed to get in the air, ready to take the fight right back to Japan in the Hawks if they had to. They took off under fire, but were still airborne.
They made it as far as Kaneohe Bay.
The four brave pilots were led by radio to Kaneohe, where they engaged 11 enemy fighters in a vicious dogfight. Even in his obsolete old fighter, Rasmussen proved that technology is no match for good ol’ martial skills and courage under fire. He managed to shoot down one of the 11, but was double-teamed by two attacking Zeros.
Gunfire and 20mm shells shattered his canopy, destroyed his radio, and took out his hydraulic lines and rudder cables. He was forced out of the fighting, escaping into nearby clouds and making his way back to Wheeler Field. When he landed, he did it without brakes, a rudder, or a tailwheel.
There were 500 bullet holes in the P-36A’s fuselage.
Lieutenant Rasmussen earned the Silver Star for his boldness and would survive the war, getting his second kill in 1943. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1965, but will live on in the Museum of the United States Air Force, forever immortalized as he hops into an outdated aircraft in his pajamas.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that he will be resigning from his role in February. His letter of resignation was released by the Pentagon just minutes after President Trump said on Twitter that Mattis was retiring.
For the President’s tweet and Secretary Mattis’ full resignation letter, please read below:
(Department of Defense photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
Dear Mr. President:
I have been privileged to serve as our country’s 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.
I am proud of the process that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department’s business practices for greater performance. Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.
One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliance and partnerships. While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world. Instead, we must use all tools of American woes to prove for the common defense, including proving effective leadership to our alliances. NATO’s 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America. The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.
Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours: It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model — gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions — to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies. That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.
My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity, and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.
Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my positions. The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department’s interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February. Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability within the Department.
I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensure the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732.079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock missions to protect the American people.I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform. Signed, James N. Mattis
I wish every veteran could get a makeover from the Queer Eye Fab Five — and before you reach for your beers and bullets, hear me out: the military teaches us to suck it up and prepares us for the worst conditions on earth…and that gruffness becomes the standard of living even after we get out.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Not for us. Not for our families.
Just ask Brandonn Mixon, U.S. Army veteran and co-founder of Veterans Community Project, an organization that provides housing and walk-in services for service members in order to end veteran homelessness. Mixon literally builds houses for homeless vets.
The Queer Eye team decided to return the favor, helping Mixon finish his own home, upgrade his professional look, and learn to process his service-connected Traumatic Brain Injury. In spite of all the good Mixon does for his brothers and sisters in arms, Mixon confided to Karamo Brown that he feels like he’s failing in life.
“Who told you that you’re failing?” Brown pressed.
During a cold, gloomy first week of December, total force airmen teamed up at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, to test the capability of the Air Force’s largest aircraft to perform aeromedical evacuation during a proof of concept event.
The goal was to establish the C-5M Super Galaxy as part of the universal qualification training program for AE forces. If successfully certified, the C-5M will have the capability to move three times the current capacity in one mission compared to other AE platforms.
The PoC event was made possible by recent upgrades to the C-5M that made the cargo compartment more suitable for AE operations.
“The engine upgrade allowed the aircraft to produce a lot more power and to use the jet more efficiently,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Boots, 60th Operations Group Standardization and Evaluation C-5M flight engineer evaluator. “Another factor was the environmental system received upgrades. We now have better control over the systems and we’re able to better control the environment (temperature and cabin pressure) that the AE folks would have downstairs in the cargo compartment.”
Airmen with the 22nd Airlift Squadron and 60th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., along with Air Mobility Command airmen onload aeromedical evacuation equipment onto a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., during an AE proof of concept evaluation, Dec. 2, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)
The C-5M upgrades allowed the proof of concept to work, but the airmen’s innovation is what made it happen.
“The Air Force as a whole is more interested in using the assets that we have more efficiently and maximizing the capability that we can get out of different airplanes,” said Maj. Kevin Simonds, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M pilot. “I think this is an example of that. It’s a priority within the force and in the MAJCOM (Air Mobility Command) as well to try to maximize the way we use the assets that we have.”
With the Department of Defense’s shift to focus on great power competition and maintaining readiness, the C-5M’s greater capability to the AE enterprise could be a game changer.
“It was great to observe, first hand, our airmen working hard to make innovative strides using our existing platforms to get after a critical mission set,” said Brig. Gen. Darren James, AMC’s Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration director. “Last week’s test provided valuable learning as we move forward in evaluating ways to increase our readiness and support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy.”
Staff Sgt. Ethan Heitner, 22nd Airlift Squadron C-5M Super Galaxy loadmaster, completes a post-flight inspection on a C-5M Super Galaxy aircraft after an aeromedical evacuation proof of concept flight at Scott AFB, Ill., Dec. 6, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)
Not only will the C-5M AE mission benefit readiness for any future conflict(s), it will be a benefit during any future natural disasters.
“Using the C-5 for AE is going to be a pivotal point moving forward because it can be another platform for AE to move troops and also to aid in humanitarian missions and perform mass evacuations,” said Maj. Catherine Paterson, 439th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron flight nurse.
The C-5M and crew traveled from Travis AFB. They were joined in the PoCby other active-duty airmen and civilians from AMC, Scott AFB and the 43rd AES,Pope Army Air Field, North Carolina. Reserve AE teams from the 439th AES,Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts, 433rd AES, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. Lastly, the team included the 142nd AES, Delaware Air National Guard, making it a total force effort.
This effort allowed for training standardization and boosted readiness for operational missions.
Aeromedical evacuation team members participate in a training scenerio during a C-5M Super Galaxy AE proof of concept flight from Scott Air Force Base, Ill., Dec. 5, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Joey Swafford)
“It’s always beneficial to have the total force working together as one team,” said Paterson. “You always learn new things from working along with people from different backgrounds. You get different ideas, different concepts and you work together with the sole purpose of bringing troops home safely.”
With the proof of concept successfully testing the cargo department as a viable option for AE missions, the AE community is waiting for the Air Force to certify the use of the platform before the C-5M is officially part of their mission.
“We have made a great amount of progress in the last eight months,” said Maj. John Camacho-Ayala, Headquarters AMC branch chief for aeromedical evacuation operations and training. “I think that sometime in the near future we will definitely have a C-5M as part of our arsenal and a part of our weapons systems for the AE enterprise.”
Once all the certifications are completed, the AE community will gain their biggest ally yet with the Air Force’s largest plane.
Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.
“Until America is prepared to have its grandchildren stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our grandchildren, we won’t be successful,” — Mullah Ghafoordai – tribal elder in Eastern Afghanistan
It was a profound and decisive moment – which seemed to reverberate throughout mountain villages in Eastern Afghanistan…… an anti-Taliban Afghan tribal elder told Green Beret Michael Waltz he could no longer cooperate with US Special Forces in the fight against insurgents in his country.
Waltz had spent months having tea with friendly Afghans and tribal leaders in the area and, he reports, made great progress with efforts to collaborate against the Taliban. They shared information, allowed US allied Afghan fighters to be trained by Green Berets and, in many cases, joined US forces in the fight.
The tribal elder’s comments were quite a disappointment for Waltz, who vigorously argues that the fight against the Taliban, terrorists and many insurgent groups around the world – will take 100 years to win.
Waltz recalled that President Obama’s 2009 announcement that the US would be withdrawing from Afghanistan by 2011, engendered new risk and danger for Afghans cooperating with US forces.
Although, in the same speech, Obama announced US troop numbers would increase by thousands in the near term, a declaration of an ultimate withdrawal created a strong impact upon friendly Afghans, Waltz said.
Obama’s announcement, which has been followed by subsequent efforts to further draw-down the US presence, changed the equation on the ground in Afghanistan, compromising the long-standing cooperation between the friendly Afghan tribal elder and Waltz’s team of Green Berets in fight against the Taliban, Waltz argued.
“It is going to take multiple generations of winning hearts and minds,” Waltz recalled, explaining his frustration and disappointment upon seeing a long-standing collaborative partnership collapse amid fear of Taliban retribution.
Although much has happened regarding permutation of the US-Afghan strategy since that time, and specifics of Obama’s intended withdrawal date subsequently changed, there has been an overall systematic reduction of US troops in recent years.
During July 6, 2016 U.S. President Obama said he would draw down troops to 8,400 by the end of his administration in December 2016; this approach greatly increased pressure on US Special Forces, relying even more intensely upon their role as trainers and advisors.
Green Berets had already been among the most-deployed US military units, often deploying as many as 10-times throughout the course of their career.
“Green Berets don’t easily ask for help and do not easily identify themselves as having an issue, but it is OK to say you have a problem. The Green Beret Foundation understands the mindset of “America’s Quiet Professionals”, and because of this, we are in a good position to help identify needs and render assistance,” Ret. Maj. Gen. David Morris, Chairman of the Board of the Green Beret Foundation, told Scout Warrior.
While there have been many who both supported and opposed Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, sparking years of ongoing debate, Waltz maintains that impact of the 2009 announcement upon the US Special Forces’ effort in Afghanistan brought lasting implications and spoke to a larger issue regarding US-Afghan policy.
“We are in a war of ideas and we are fighting an ideology. It is easy to bomb a tank, but incredibly difficult to bomb an idea. We need a long-term strategy that discredits the ideology of Islamic extremism,” Waltz added. “We are in a multi-decade war and we are only 15-years in.”
Waltz explained that, while US Special Forces were trained and prepared as combat warriors, much of their work involved training, cultural understanding and psychological efforts to explain the messages of US freedom and humanity.
“This was kind of the premise behind George W. Bush’s freedom agenda. These ideologies have narratives that specifically target disaffected young men who see no future for themselves or their families,” Waltz explained.
Some of the many nuances behind this approached were, quite naturally, woven into a broader, long-term vision for the country including the education of girls and economic initiatives aimed at cultivating mechanisms for sustainable Afghan prosperity.
The reality of a multi-faceted, broadly oriented counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is the premise of Waltz’s book – “Warrior Diplomat,” which seeks to delineate key aspects of his time as a Green Beret.
The book chronicles this effort to attack Taliban fighters with so-called “kinetic” or intense combat techniques – alongside an equally intense commensurate effort to launch an entirely different type of attack.
Diplomatic or “non-kinetic” elements of the war effort involved what could be referred to as war-zone diplomacy, making friends with anti-Taliban fighters, learning and respecting Afghan culture, and teaching them how to succeed in combat.
“While Green Berets perform direct combat missions, their core mission as the only Unconventional Warfare unit in the US inventory, is to train, coach, teach and mentor others. A 12-man A-Team can train a force of 1,000 – 2,000 fighters and bring them up to an acceptable measure of combat readiness. If you stop and think about it, that is 1,000 to 2,000 of our sons and daughters who do not have to go to war because of this training,” Morris said.
Addressing the issue of cultural sophistication, Morris explained how Green Berets are required to demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language.
Citing the Taliban, ISIS and historic insurgent groups such as Peru’s Shining Path – and even the decades-long Cold War effort to discredit communism, Waltz emphasizes that the need for a trans-generational, wide-ranging approach of this kind is by no means unprecedented.
Over the last century, with the introduction of compulsory attendance and development of the modern public education system, teachers have largely held the responsibility of educating America’s youth. COVID-19 brought about the shuttering of our nation’s schools and education was very quickly thrust into the spotlight as parents found themselves back at the helm.
The sudden closure of schools brought about a cascade of consequences educators, parents and government officials were forced to triage. The bulk of this responsibility fell to parents, as they worked to fit a titan of a system into a quickly-changing scenario, with contradicting information, within the fluid environment of a home.
Though these efforts were nothing short of heroic and should be celebrated, the result has left many parents with a sense of trepidation as fall approaches.
As we approach the new academic year, homeschooling has taken on a new level of interest. In fact, a national poll completed in May indicated that 40% of parents were more likely to homeschool after the lockdown ends.
Across the nation, parents are seeking out information that will help minimize the negative impact COVID-19 has on their children’s education. Though they will ultimately have to weigh the options and choose the best fit for their family, there are a number of considerations for each.
District-directed learning and virtual academies
As mandates are passed down by governors, school districts are working to determine how to implement safety measures while balancing the educational needs of their students. As of now, district-directed learning hasn’t been fully fleshed out across the country as the plans are contingent on COVID numbers. Interest in virtual academies are at an all-time high, as parents are looking for options that won’t be impacted by rising COVID numbers. Virtual academies provided public education from state-certified teachers, adhering to the same testing, attendance, and accountability standards as their brick-and-mortar counterparts.
Among the benefits of district-directed and virtual learning is adherence to curriculum standards and special education guidelines. Students are expected to attend classes where they will interact with their teachers and receive feedback on their progress. Parents are expected to help facilitate learning and adhere to the structure of the school system.
Though there are a number of homeschool curriculums that effectively “copy and paste” the structure of public education into the home environment, the foundation of homeschool is built with the child and family center. To these ends, it’s highly individualized and fluid. For those who are new to homeschooling, there are a number of considerations to help guide you.
Homeschool is regulated at the state level, meaning that each state has different requirements. Research is key for military families. Home School Legal Defense Association has a number of resources regarding state and special education laws. Additionally, homeschool families will often utilize an umbrella school for guidance to complete their state requirements, making a potential return to public school easier.
Homeschool curriculums cover a wide range of educational philosophy. From classical style to unschooling, there is a curriculum fit for every family. Most families use multiple curriculums depending on the need and number of children. Some curriculums have module-based learning where students access videos, relieving some of the pressure from parents. Many curriculums are designed with multiple grades in mind, allowing for families to teach certain subjects to multiple-level learners at once. There are online curriculum quizzes designed by veteran homeschoolers to help you find your best fit.
One point that tends to take public-school parents by surprise is the amount of time many homeschoolers dedicate to desk-work. Overall, homeschoolers spend a fraction of the time at a desk compared to their public-school peers. Additionally, the rate with which homeschoolers move through the material is highly individualized. For instance, if the curriculum provides 20 lessons on a certain topic, but the student has demonstrated mastery in 7, they move forward to the next concept. Conversely, if a student is struggling, parents are able to recognize it and take additional time to help ensure success.
Though families are also facing tough decisions about how to proceed in the fall, co-ops have historically been sources of a great community and learning among homeschoolers. The size and design of each co-op vary greatly as each community serves a different purpose. Though many co-ops are also awaiting further guidance smaller gatherings may continue to have fewer restrictions. Additionally, you can connect with a few like-minded families and create a co-op, allowing your students to continue to have a social connection with peers during this time.
Though the circumstances that have led us to this point have been, in many ways, catastrophic; parents should be empowered by policy and lawmakers to make the best educational decisions for their children. At a time when uncertainty is the only constant, embracing alternative forms of education may just be the thing that allows this generation of students to excel.
Nichole is a doctoral-level Board Certified Behavior Analyst, professor, and school psychologist with a specialization in education law and policy. A homeschooling mom of four and Marine spouse of 13 years, Nichole and her husband are stationed outside of Washington, D.C.
Israel maintains it will strike Iranian targets in Syria as long as they ally with Hezbollah and Hamas, both anti-Israel US-designated terror organizations that operate near Israel’s borders.
Despite the near constant stream of powerful countries bombing targets in Syria, and Syria’s weak attempts to defend against the attacks, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aide in charge of foreign military assistance said Syria had “everything it needs.”
Israel has long wanted Russia to withhold its more powerful defenses from Syria.
Israel is in charge now
Israel stomped on Russian-made Syrian air defenses on May 9, 2018, in the largest Israeli Air Force attack in Syria since the two countries went to war in 1973. The massive battle saw Syria’s older Russian-made air defenses outmatched — and obliterated.
Israel has carried out strikes with the express purpose of beating down Iranian forces in southern Syria. By all accounts, the attacks succeeded in taking out command posts, infrastructure, and munitions. Israel won’t tolerate a buildup of Iranian forces along its borders in Syria as Iran explicitly seeks to destroy Israel.
Though Israel has engaged in more than 100 airstrikes in Syria since 2012, mostly against Iranian-linked forces, it has treaded softly and attempted to avoid a larger war.
Without new reinforcements like Russia’s S-300, and with the former defenses laying in ruin, Iranian forces in Syria will be greatly exposed to Israeli air power.
Russia may continue to trade with Tehran after the US imposed sanctions following its withdraw from the Iran deal, and continue to be Iran’s ally on paper. But Russia, by denying Syria air defenses, looks to have turned its back on supporting the regional ambitions of Ayatollah Khamenei.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. Army awarded contracts Dec. 17, 2018, to two defense firms to build prototypes of a new lightweight tank to give infantry units the firepower to destroy hardened enemy targets.
The service awarded General Dynamics Land Systems Inc. and BAE Systems Land & Armaments LP with what’s known as Middle Tier Acquisition (Section 804) contracts worth up to $376 million each to produce prototypes of the Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) system.
The two companies will build 12 prototypes each and begin delivering them to the Army in about 14 months so testing can begin in spring 2020. The goal is to down-select to a winner by fiscal 2022 and begin fielding the first of 504 of these lightweight tanks sometime in fiscal 2025.
“This capability is much needed in our infantry forces,” Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team, told reporters at the Pentagon on Dec. 17, 2018.
MGM-51 Shillelagh Anti-tank missile fired from M551 Sheridan light tank.
“As we close with the enemy, at this time, there is artillery — which is area fires that can be used — but there is no precision munition to remove bunkers from the battlefield and to shoot into buildings in dense urban terrain to allow infantryman to close with the enemy,” he said.
The MPF concept emerged several years ago when maneuver leaders started calling for a lightweight, armored platform armed with a large enough cannon to destroy hardened targets for light infantry forces. The idea was to field it to airborne units for forced-entry operations.
Parachute infantry battalions can be used to seize airfields as an entry point for heavier follow-on forces. Airborne forces, however, lack the staying power of Stryker and mechanized infantry.
The 82nd Airborne Division was equipped with the M551 Sheridan Armored Reconnaissance Airborne Assault Vehicle until the mid-1990s. Developed during the Vietnam War, the Sheridan resembled a light tank and featured a 152mm main gun capable of firing standard ammunition or the MGM-51 Shillelagh anti-tank missile.
The MPF, however, will not be air-droppable, Coffman said, explaining that Air ForceC-17 Globemasters will carry two MPFs each and air-land them after an airfield has been secured.
A U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III T-1 flies over Owens Valley, California, for a test sortie.
(US Air Force photo)
Army requirements call for the MPF to be armed with a 105mm or possibly a 120mm cannon and rely on tracks to maneuver over terrain so it can keep up with advancing infantry, Coffman said.
GDLS and BAE beat out SAIC and its partner ST Kinetics, but Army officials would not comment on the reason the winners were chosen.
“This is an integration of mature technology. The vehicles don’t exist, but the technologies — the pieces, the systems, the subsystems — they do exist,” said David Dopp, project manager for MPF.
The plan is to conduct developmental testing to assess the prototypes’ mobility, survivability, and lethality.
“So these have a long-range precision weapon system on them, so over … several kilometers, how well do they perform? How lethal are they?” Coffman said. “They are going to take a couple of these vehicles out, and they are going to shoot them with likely enemy caliber munitions. They are going to see which ones can absolutely protect our soldiers.”
The Army then will move into a soldier vehicle assessment followed by a limited user test scheduled for fiscal 2021, Dopp said.
“In the soldier user test, we will execute likely missions that [infantry brigade combat team] will have in full-scale combat,” Coffman said. “So this isn’t driving down the road looking for IEDs; this is American soldiers engaged in full-scale combat.”
This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.
In the distant future, teams of soldiers equipped with high-powered exoskeletons disembark a series of autonomous personnel carriers outside the enemy’s position. Overhead, a small fleet of drones scans the engagement area, giving each soldier a real-time view of the battlefield through their heads-up display.
As each team moves into position, they hear a series of explosions on the other side of the enemy base. From over 2,000 meters away, the Army’s high-energy precision fires systems have just disabled the enemy’s anti-access and area-denial capabilities.
At the same time, teams of soldiers use their exoskeleton suits to leap over the perimeter wall to engage the enemy and secure the compound.
This is one scenario of a future operating environment. In reality, it is nearly impossible to predict how the Army will operate and fight in a distant future, said Matt Santaspirt, an Army Futures Command intelligence representative.
To guide the Army in the right direction, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Mad Scientist team functions like a scout on the battlefield, always looking ahead and evaluating ideas to help build the force, he said.
Nested within both Army Futures and Training and Doctrine Commands, the MadSci initiative was created to address opportunities and challenges in the Army’s near-, mid-, and far-term future, said Allison Winer, the team’s deputy director of engagement.
(courtesy of Mad Scientist Initiative)
The goal is to maximize the Army’s limited resources and help soldiers fight and win in a futuristic operational environment, she added.
“The Army only knows what it knows; and [the Army] always talks to itself,” Santaspirt said. “We want to break out of that echo chamber.”
“We are harnessing the intellect of the nation to describe the art of the possible,” he added. “We know that you can’t predict the future, but we’re trying to say, ‘Here is a range of possibilities.’ [The goal] is to be less wrong than our adversary.”
To accomplish this goal, the MadSci team compiles information from a wide range of sources, in support of Army senior leaders’ priorities, Santaspirt said.
These sources include traditional mediums: academia, industry, think tanks, labs, reports, and white papers; to the more nontraditional platforms: crowdsourcing, social media, science fiction, and cinema, to name a few.
Beyond the collection of materials, the MadSci team often organizes themed conferences, bringing communities together to address key Army topics. For example, the team recently conducted the Mad Scientist Disruption and the Future Operational Environment Conference in Austin, Texas.
During the conference, presenters addressed robotics, artificial intelligence and autonomy, the future of space, planetary habitability, and the legal and ethical dilemmas surrounding how these disruptive technologies will impact the future of warfare, specifically in the land and space domains, according to MadSci officials.
“We had somebody come in and talk about robotics and how we can use them in an austere environment,” Santaspirt said, adding there were specific examples of robotics used in Fukushima, Japan.
“The approach is to bring together experts … so we can refine those key ideas, and disrupt [the Army’s] assumptions,” he said.
(courtesy of Mad Scientist Initiative)
A week after the event, the team posted some key takeaways from the conference on the Mad Scientist Blog. The MadSci blog and other social media platforms are often used as a crowdsourcing tool to help poll an audience or generate conversation about key Army topics, Winer said.
Some of the conference findings included: a need to set left and right boundaries for artificial intelligence and autonomy, increased crowding of assets in space will cause operational challenges, and fake news coupled with hyper-connectivity is changing the nature of information warfare.
Additionally, the MadSci team organizes science fiction writing competitions to help determine possible futures for crucial Army programs, Winer said. For years, science fiction has depicted worlds that are both logically possible, but functionally different than current society.
“Science fiction is used as a kind of forecasting to see what possible futures might look like,” she said. “Aside from being just plain-on cool, it gives the Army a way to use storytelling, historical analysis, and outsourcing to write about the realm of the possible. And it is an effective tool for a lot of businesses and other leaders in industry to try.”
Through their research and continual online engagements, the MadSci team creates a range of possibilities, then later presents their findings to Army senior leaders and key decision makers, Santaspirt said.
“It is a different way of thinking,” Santaspirt said. “If [the Army] can get that out there and start meeting the right people, make certain decisions or investments, or get people thinking in a different way … you might see what we’ve discovered — as it comes to light down the road.”