Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired 'Argo' dies at 78 - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

Tony Mendez, the former CIA agent who engineered the smuggling of U.S. hostages out of Iran in 1980 and was immortalized in the Hollywood film Argo, has died of complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Mendez’s family said in a statement on Jan. 20, 2019, that he died on Jan. 19, 2019, at the age of 78.

The statement, relayed via Twitter by Mendez’s literary agent Christy Fletcher, said the last thing he and his wife, Jonna Mendez, did was to “get their new book to the publisher.”


“He died feeling he had completed writing the stories that he wanted to be told,” the family statement said, adding that Mendez suffered from Parkinson’s for the past 10 years.

When Iranian revolutionaries seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979, a handful of diplomats managed to escape through a back door and took refuge at the Canadian Embassy in Tehran.

Mendez’s plan to rescue them involved setting up the production in Hollywood of a fake science-fiction film titled Argo, traveling to Iran to scout out locations, then returning to the United States with the six U.S. diplomats masquerading as the film crew.

The diplomats, armed with fake Canadian passports, slipped out of Iran and to safety on Jan. 27, 1980.

The story served as inspiration for the film Argo, which won three Oscars in 2013, including for best motion picture.

Fifty-two other Americans were not as lucky. They were held hostage by the Iranian revolutionaries for 444 days.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The soldiers identifying the Korean War remains

When her duty day is over, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen often wonders if she did enough to help identify fallen service members.

As the noncommissioned officer in charge of the morgue at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is tasked to account for more than 82,000 Americans missing from past conflicts, she analyzes human remains and personal effects in hopes to close a cold case.


“At the end of the day, I have to be able to look in the mirror and say I’ve done my best,” she said. “And when I get up in the morning, I say I’m going to do better, because these families have been waiting years and years.”

Owens is one of about 100 service members and civilians who work at the agency’s laboratories here and at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Each year, the labs identify the remains of around 200 Americans that are then reunited with families.

On Aug. 1, more than 50 cases containing remains believed to be those of American service members were provided to DPAA by North Korea.

The remains are now undergoing further analysis and identification at the labs.

The painstaking work, which can take months to years to complete, is Owen’s passion. Whenever a positive identification comes in, she said, it is as if the service member’s name is given back.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

An honor guard provided by U.S. Indo-Pacific Command conducts an honorable carry ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2018. Carry teams will move 55 flag-draped transfer cases, containing what are believed to be the remains of American service members lost in the Korean War, to the DPAA laboratory at JBPH-H for identification.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Apryl Hall)

‘These Are All Heroes’

“What drives me the most is that these are heroes,” she said, looking across a lab holding hundreds of unknown remains. “These are all heroes [who] have a name and a family.”

Each year, DPAA conducts up to 80 investigation and recovery team missions throughout the world to pinpoint last known locations of missing Americans and to attempt to excavate their remains.

“The work is complex, the work is difficult, and it takes that dedication, that passion … to be able to perform this solemn obligation that we make to the nation and to the families,” said Kelly McKeague, the agency’s director.

The joint agency, which employs many service members and veterans, has agreements with nearly 50 nations that assist in its missions, he added.

Most of the missing fell at World War II battle sites in the Pacific region. There are also almost 7,700 service members unaccounted for from the Korean War, with the majority believed to be in North Korea.

DPAA teams were allowed to conduct missions in North Korea from 1996 to 2005, but operations were halted as diplomatic relations deteriorated in the region. Agency officials hope these missions could soon start up again.

Before he became the agency’s lab director, John Byrd had the opportunity to help recover Americans who fought in North Korea at the Battle of Unsan. The 1950 battle pitted Chinese forces against American and South Korean troops.

When remains are identified by his staff it is always a testament to good field and lab work that solved the decades-old case, Byrd said.

“It’s extremely gratifying,” he said, “and it kind of keeps you grounded where you know why you’re here and why you’re doing this work.”

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

Army Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen, a morgue noncommissioned officer for the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, examines a personal effect that may have belonged to a fallen service member in a laboratory at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, March 12, 2018.

(Army photo by Sean Kimmons)

DNA Testing

A majority of DPAA cases involve some type of DNA testing. Samples are taken from the remains and sent to the Armed Forces DNA Identification Lab in Delaware.

To help this process, family members who have a missing loved one are encouraged to provide a DNA sample that will serve as a comparison.

If no reference samples are on file, a battalion of professional genealogists working for service casualty offices will try to locate family members.

Many times their starting point is the service member’s home address from the 1940s, if they served in World War II. This makes it extremely difficult to track down a living family member as the years pass on.

“It’s one of the greatest challenges of all. How do you find close family members of a missing serviceman from 1944?” Byrd asked. “It’s not easy. Some [cases] we run into dead-ends and we can’t find anybody.”

The Defense Department has kept dental records of troops dating back to World War I that can be used to help in the identification process.

In 2005, the agency also discovered another method that has proved successful. Many troops who served in early conflicts had to get chest X-rays as part of a tuberculosis screening when they first signed up.

Like the dental records, these radiographs were stored in a warehouse by the DoD. DPAA later obtained thousands of copies of them. Lab personnel use them as a comparison tool, since the shape of each person’s chest is different.

“The process of comparing this induction chest x-ray to an x-ray we take from the remains is analogous to doing fingerprint comparison,” Byrd said. “It’s a very similar kind of mindset that you take when you look at the two side-by-side; you’re looking for commonalities and differences.”

When a service member is identified, family members often come to the lab so they can participate in escorting the remains back home, he said. For those who work at the lab, those family member visits make the months or years of work seem worthwhile.

“When you have a family member come in and the staff who actually worked on the case get to meet them, they get to see the tangible results of their hard work,” Byrd said. “It’s definitely a boost to their morale.”

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

Members of the 647th Force Support Squadron search and recovery team tag and mark simulated remains during the search and recovery team’s training event on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, Oct. 27, 2017. The search and recovery team is tasked with recovering human remains from accident sites.

(Photo by Tech. Sgt. Heather Redman)

In the Field

Before that sort of closure can start for families, recovery teams spend weeks at a time doing the grunt work of excavating sites.

Army Capt. Brandon Lucas, who serves as a team leader, recalled his team digging nearly 20 feet into the ground in Laos in search of an F-4 Phantom fighter pilot who vanished during the Vietnam War.

While no remains were found on that mission, they were still able to confidently close the site and shift efforts elsewhere.

Then there was another mission in Slovenia, where the tail gunner of a bomber aircraft from World War II went missing.

When his plane crashed, the gunner was the only one in his aircrew killed. Residents later buried him next to a church.

As Lucas’ team arrived at the site, the townspeople still knew about the crash and the gunner. Residents regularly visited his team, often bringing Lucas and the others food and drinks. An elderly woman even told him that for decades she would clean the grave site once a week.

When his team recovered the remains, a somber tone spread through the community.

“A lot of them actually shed tears when we found the remains,” Lucas said. “It was special to them and it was special to me.”

The poignant moment, along with others he has experienced during missions, galvanized the meaning of the mission for him.

“I’m potentially bringing back a fallen comrade,” Lucas said. “I would want to know that if it was me lost out there somebody is trying to recover me and give my family closure.”

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(US Army)

Maritime Recovery

Recovery missions also extend out into the sea, where many service members have disappeared as a result of aircraft crashes or ships sunk.

While she served as commander of the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, Army Maj. Gen. Susan A. Davidson was an advocate for her unit to support the solemn mission.

The unit regularly supplies DPAA with highly-trained Army divers from the 7th Engineer Dive Detachment, who often work on the sea floor with no visibility and use a suction hose to remove loose sediment from recovery sites.

On a barge, team members then sift through the sediment for the remains or personal effects of those missing.

When divers returned to Hawaii, she encouraged them to share their experiences and what they got out of the mission with others in the unit.

“They come back a different person and they have a different respect for our Army and for what we do,” Davidson said.

Back at the lab, Owen and others strive to identity those heroes who have been found.

“I feel that I am part of something so much bigger that I can contribute to,” she said.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

US Army creating shape-shifting robots out of smaller robots

A U.S. Army project took a new approach to developing robots — researchers built robots entirely from smaller robots known as “smarticles,” unlocking the principles of a potentially new locomotion technique.

Researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology and Northwestern University published their findings in the journal Science Robotics.

The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions, said Sam Stanton, program manager, complex dynamics and systems at the Army Research Office, an element of U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory, the Army’s corporate research laboratory.


“For example, as envisioned by the Army Functional Concept for Maneuver, a robotic swarm may someday be capable of moving to a river and then autonomously forming a structure to span the gap,” he said.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

Five identical “smarticles” — smart active particles — interact with one another in an enclosure. By nudging each other, the group — dubbed a “supersmarticle” — can move in random ways. The research could lead to robotic systems capable of changing their shapes, modalities and functions.

The 3D-printed smarticles — short for smart active particles — can do just one thing: flap their two arms. But when five of these smarticles are confined in a circle, they begin to nudge one another, forming a robophysical system known as a “supersmarticle” that can move by itself. Adding a light or sound sensor allows the supersmarticle to move in response to the stimulus — and even be controlled well enough to navigate a maze.

The notion of making robots from smaller robots — and taking advantage of the group capabilities that arise by combining individuals — could provide mechanically based control over very small robots. Ultimately, the emergent behavior of the group could provide a new locomotion and control approach for small robots that could potentially change shapes.

“These are very rudimentary robots whose behavior is dominated by mechanics and the laws of physics,” said Dan Goldman, a Dunn Family Professor in the School of Physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology and the project’s principal investigator. “We are not looking to put sophisticated control, sensing and computation on them all. As robots become smaller and smaller, we’ll have to use mechanics and physics principles to control them because they won’t have the level of computation and sensing we would need for conventional control.”

The foundation for the research came from an unlikely source: a study of construction staples. By pouring these heavy-duty staples into a container with removable sides, former doctoral student Nick Gravish — now a faculty member at the University of California San Diego — created structures that would stand by themselves after the container’s walls were removed.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

Light hits a smarticle (smart active particle) causing it to stop moving, while the other smarticles continue to flap their arms. The resulting interactions produce movement toward the stopped smarticle, providing control that doesn’t depend on computer algorithms.

Shaking the staple towers eventually caused them to collapse, but the observations led to a realization that simple entangling of mechanical objects could create structures with capabilities well beyond those of the individual components.

“Dan Goldman’s research is identifying physical principles that may prove essential for engineering emergent behavior in future robot collectives as well as new understanding of fundamental tradeoffs in system performance, responsiveness, uncertainty, resiliency and adaptivity,” Stanton said.

The researchers used a 3D printer to create battery-powered smarticles, which have motors, simple sensors and limited computing power. The devices can change their location only when they interact with other devices while enclosed by a ring.

“Even though no individual robot could move on its own, the cloud composed of multiple robots could move as it pushed itself apart and shrink as it pulled itself together,” Goldman said. “If you put a ring around the cloud of little robots, they start kicking each other around and the larger ring — what we call a supersmarticle — moves around randomly.”

The researchers noticed that if one small robot stopped moving, perhaps because its battery died, the group of smarticles would begin moving in the direction of that stalled robot. The researchers learned to control the movement by adding photo sensors to the robots that halt the arm flapping when a strong beam of light hits one of them.

Smarticles: Robots built from smaller robots work together

www.youtube.com

“If you angle the flashlight just right, you can highlight the robot you want to be inactive, and that causes the ring to lurch toward or away from it, even though no robots are programmed to move toward the light,” Goldman said. “That allowed steering of the ensemble in a very rudimentary, stochastic way.”

In future work, Goldman envisions more complex interactions that use the simple sensing and movement capabilities of the smarticles. “People have been interested in making a certain kind of swarm robots that are composed of other robots,” he said. “These structures could be reconfigured on demand to meet specific needs by tweaking their geometry.”

Swarming formations of robotic systems could be used to enhance situational awareness and mission-command capabilities for small Army units in difficult-to-maneuver environments like cities, forests, caves or other rugged terrain.

The research project also received funding from National Science Foundation.

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers to operate armed robotic vehicles from cutting-edge Bradleys

Soldiers are slated to fire at targets in 2020 using a platoon of robotic combat vehicles they will control from the back of modified Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

The monthlong operational test is scheduled to begin in March 2020 at Fort Carson, Colorado, and will provide input to the Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center on where to go next with autonomous vehicles.

The upgraded Bradleys, called Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrators, or MET-Ds, have cutting-edge features such as a remote turret for the 25 mm main gun, 360-degree situational awareness cameras and enhanced crew stations with touchscreens.


Initial testing will include two MET-Ds and four robotic combat vehicles on M113 surrogate platforms. Each MET-D will have a driver and gunner as well as four soldiers in its rear, who will conduct platoon-level maneuvers with two surrogate vehicles that fire 7.62 mm machine guns.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy, center left, and Gen. James C. McConville, the Army’s vice chief of staff, center right, discuss emerging technology while inside a Mission Enabler Technologies-Demonstrator, a modified Bradley Fighting Vehicle equipped with several upgrades, in Warren, Mich., Jan. 18, 2018.

(Photo by Sean Kimmons)

“We’ve never had soldiers operate MET-Ds before,” said David Centeno Jr., chief of the center’s Emerging Capabilities Office. “We’re asking them to utilize the vehicles in a way that’s never been done before.”

After the tests, the center and Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team, both part of Army Futures Command, will then use soldier feedback to improve the vehicles for future test phases.

“You learn a lot,” Centeno said at the International Armored Vehicles USA conference on June 26, 2019. “You learn how they use it. They may end up using it in ways we never even thought of.”

The vehicles are experimental prototypes and are not meant to be fielded, but could influence other programs of record by demonstrating technology derived from ongoing development efforts.

“This technology is not only to remain in the RCV portfolio, but also legacy efforts as well,” said Maj. Cory Wallace, robotic combat vehicle lead for the NGCV CFT.

One goal for the autonomous vehicles is to discover how to penetrate an adversary’s anti-access/aerial denial capabilities without putting soldiers in danger.

The vehicles, Centeno said, will eventually have third-generation forward-looking infrared kits with a target range of at least 14 kilometers.

“You’re exposing forces to enemy fire, whether that be artillery, direct fire,” he said. “So, we have to find ways to penetrate that bubble, attrit their systems and allow for freedom of air and ground maneuver. These platforms buy us some of that, by giving us standoff.”

Phase II, III

In late fiscal year 2021, soldiers will again play a role in Phase II testing as the vehicles conduct company-level maneuvers.

This time, experiments are slated to incorporate six MET-Ds and the same four M113 surrogates, in addition to four light and four medium surrogate robotic combat vehicles, which industry will provide.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Ground Vehicle Systems Center)

Before these tests, a light infantry unit plans to experiment with the RCV light surrogate vehicles in Eastern Europe May 2020.

“The intent of this is to see how an RCV light integrates into a light infantry formation and performs reconnaissance and security tasks as well as supports dismounted infantry operations,” Wallace said at the conference.

Soldier testing for Phase III is slated to take place mid-fiscal 2023 with the same number of MET-Ds and M113 surrogate vehicles, but will instead have four medium and four heavy purpose-built RCVs.

“This is the first demonstration which we will be out of the surrogate realm and fielding purpose builts,” Wallace said, adding the vehicles will conduct a combined arms breach.

The major said he was impressed with how quickly soldiers learned to control the RCVs during the Robotic Combined Arms Breach Demonstration in May 2019 at the Yakima Training Center in Washington.

“Soldiers have demonstrated an intuitive ability to master controlling RCVs much faster than what we thought,” he said. “The feedback from the soldiers was that after two days they felt comfortable operating the system.”

There are still ongoing efforts to offload some tasks in operating RVCs to artificial intelligence in order to reduce the cognitive burden on soldiers.

“This is not how we’re used to fighting,” Centeno said. “We’re asking a lot. We’re putting a lot of sensors, putting a lot of data in the hands of soldiers. We want to see how that impacts them. We want to see how it degrades or increases their performance.”

The family of RCVs include three variants. Army officials envision the light version to be transportable by rotary wing. The medium variant would be able to fit onto a C-130 aircraft, and the heavy variant would fit onto a C-17 aircraft.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

A C-130 aircraft.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Rhett Isbell)

Both future and legacy armored platforms, such as the forthcoming Mobile Protected Firepower “light tank,” could influence the development of the RCV heavy.

With no human operators inside it, the heavy RCV can provide the lethality associated with armored combat vehicles in a much smaller form. Plainly speaking, without a crew, the RCV heavy requires less armor and can dedicate space and power to support modular mission payloads or hybrid electric drive batteries, Wallace said.

Ultimately, the autonomous vehicles will aim to keep soldiers safe.

“An RCV reduces risk,” Wallace said. “It does so by expanding the geometry of the battlefield so that before the threat makes contact with the first human element, it has to make contact with the robots.

“That, in turn, gives commanders additional space and time to make decisions.”

This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The top 10 most popular cars among service members

America has a car culture. Our country is connected by highways and interstates. For a teenager, a driver’s license and a set of wheels is a passport to freedom on the open road. For service members, packing up the car and driving cross country is just a standard PCS move. As such, the cars we buy need to be dependable, practical and a bit of efficiency never hurts either. USAA put together a list of the top 10 vehicles purchased by service members for 2019. The list is based on internal data from active duty and former military members who purchased a car through the USAA car buying service, obtained an auto loan through USAA, or added a vehicle to their USAA insurance policy between January 1 and August 31, 2019. Note that the list does not cover vehicle specifics like model year or trim level.


Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Subaru)

Subaru Outback

Derived from the Subaru Legacy, the Outback is a safe, practical, and reliable mode of transportation which makes it an easy pick for the discerning servicemember. Originally classified as a station wagon, the Outback was reclassified as a crossover in the 2015 model year. It has received the Top Safety Pick Award from the IIHs and a five-star safety rating from the NHTSA. With its large cargo space, the Outback is PCS-friendly and its torquay boxer engine mated to an all-wheel drive drivetrain means that you’ll be able to get around just fine when your assignment manager tricks you into moving to the frozen landscape of Fort Drum.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Toyota)

Toyota Corolla

In 2016, the Toyota Corolla overtook the Volkswagen Beetle as the best-selling automobile in the world when it reached 44 million units sold. The name has been used across a range of vehicles over the years, but we know it best in the US as a reliable and affordable front-wheel drive compact car. While it’s not going to win any awards for styling or performance (although Toyota’s marketing would like you to think otherwise), no one can deny the Corolla’s legendary reliability. Even if you buy a used model with your enlistment bonus, a Corolla can last you through to retirement and onwards.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Toyota)

Toyota RAV4

Originally based on the underpinnings of the Corolla, the RAV4 was one of the first compact crossover SUVs in the US market. While not a serious off-roader by any means, its reliable 4-cylinder engine provides enough power to move you around town while hauling more of your stuff than you could fit in the aforementioned Corolla. Today, the RAV4 offers a hybrid trim and comes equipped with a 7-inch touchscreen, Entune 3.0, Apple Carplay, and Amazon Alexa as standard; plenty of bang for your government salary buck.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Honda)

Honda Accord

Yes, there’s been a million-mile Chevy. Of course there’s a million-mile model of the aforementioned Corolla. There’s even a million-mile Porsche out there. But, the Accord can claim two million-mile examples (one from 1990 and another from 2000). Its status as one of the world’s most reliable vehicles has led to the Accord’s inclusion on the Car and Driver 10Best list a record 30 times. In recent years, the rising popularity of crossover SUVs has led to a decline in 4-door sedan sales. Honda responded by refreshing the Accord for the 2018 model year and boy did it work. Beyond its sleek, almost European styling, the latest Accord offers a surprising amount of cargo space for a mid-size sedan and a suite of safety features which earned it an IIHS Top Safety Pick and 2018’s North American Car of the Year. For the service member that wants an affordable, practical, and sporty car, the Accord can be had with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine derived from the same block as the famous Honda Civic Type-R. The Accord is also one of the few vehicles you can buy today with the option of a manual transmission. Just keep your head on a swivel for MPs.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Toyota)

Toyota Camry

Compared to the Camry, the Accord is a sales disaster. In 2007, the Camry outsold the Accord by a margin of 392,231 units. In fact, the Camry has been the best-selling car (not vehicle; don’t worry truck fans, we’ll get there) in America from 1997 to 2019 with the exception of 2001 when it was edged out by the Accord with a margin of just over 24,000 units. Like the smaller Corolla, the Camry is famed for its reliability. Suffering from a loss of market share to crossover SUVs like the Accord, the Camry received a refresh in 2017, though the styling cues are not as much of a departure as the Accord’s. However, Toyota did introduce a TRD trim and a two-tone paint scheme for drivers who want to stand out a bit more. Yes, it’s a bit vanilla, but a Camry will ferry you between duty stations no problem and get great gas mileage doing it.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Toyota)

Toyota Tacoma

Yes, it’s another Japanese car, but at least this one’s a truck. Originally classified as a compact pickup, the Tacoma has dominated the midsize pickup market in the US…partly because it didn’t have much competition until Chevy and Ford revived their Colorado and Ranger pickups respectively. But that’s not to say that the Tacoma hasn’t earned its reputation. After all, its lineage can be traced back to the unkillable Toyota Hilux pickup. In 2005, the Tacoma was named Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year. Overall, the Tacoma is a versatile pick for a service member’s vehicle. It’s capable enough to get you through a posting at Minot AFB or JBER, yet economical enough that filling the tank won’t break the bank if you get sent to somewhere to somewhere with a higher cost of living like San Diego or Hawaii.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Dodge)

Dodge Ram

The Ram marks the end of the Japanese brands on this list. And yes, the Ram Trucks brand has split off from the Dodge brand under Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Whatever you call it, the Ram pickup is a common sight on military bases, often seen in a matte black trim. Ram trucks have been named Motor Trend‘s Truck of the Year a total of seven times, including 2019 and 2020. Ram trucks also offer plenty of torque if you decide to haul a boat or RV between duty stations.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Chevrolet)

Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevy Silverado is arguably the most popular truck in country music, both in lyrics (as Chevy or Silverado) and in music videos. Even if you’re not a fan of country, the Silverado is an extremely popular and capable truck, consistently ranking as one of the best-selling vehicles in the United States. It’s worth noting that the USAA list does differentiate between the Silverado and its upscale GMC counterpart, the Sierra. The Silverado delivers a very capable package of power and performance for your towing needs. It also serves as an excellent candidate for a lift kit so you can cruise around base in style while blasting Florida Georgia Line from your speakers.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Wrangler)

Jeep Wrangler

These things are everywhere. Seriously, I don’t think there’s a single military base in the United States that doesn’t have a Jeep Wrangler driving around it. I’ve even seen one in Japan. Servicemembers love their Jeeps and the Jeep community (see Jeep wave). Some might argue that the military’s love affair with the Jeep is only natural given the use of the Willys MB Jeep in WWII. However, without going into it, the Wrangler is a descendent of the famed military vehicle in name only. Regardless of this, the Jeep Wrangler has evolved into a cultural icon in its own right. Whether you want two doors, four doors, soft-top, hard-top, doors on, or doors off, Jeep Wranglers offer plenty of versatility and options to their drivers. You can even get a pickup in the form of the Jeep Gladiator. Servicemembers enjoy customizing their Jeeps with militaristic star roundels, reversed American flags, and even the occasional jerry can. Just don’t expect award-winning mpg from one of these.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

(Ford)

Ford F-150

I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone. After all, the Ford F-Series has been the best-selling pickup truck in America since 1977 and the best-selling vehicle since 1981. If you lined up every F-Series truck variant sold bumper to bumper, they would circle the globe almost four times. In 2017, an F-Series truck was sold every 35 seconds. Ford has achieved such incredible sales figures by providing consumers with the best all-round truck. Fuel efficiency is good enough to drive it daily without bleeding yourmeg wallet dry. That said, the F-150 is still capable enough to haul around the family and your favorite weekend toys. Perhaps its greatest advantage is simply its brand image. Ketchup is Heinz. Tissues are Kleenex. Trucks are Fords. I know this will garner some hate from the Silverado and Ram fans out there, so I’d like to remind readers that this is simply an analysis of the numbers. I’m also not a truck owner, so I’ve got no skin in the game.

So there you have it. Those are the top 10 servicemember vehicles in 2019. It’s worth noting that the USAA list can also be filtered by branch. For example the Toyota Highlander didn’t make the overall military list, but it did take the #8 spots for the Air Force and Coast Guard. Similarly, the Chevy Equinox was ranked #10 amongst Army personnel and the F-250 ranked #10 for the Marine Corps. Only the Navy list featured all 10 vehicles from the overall military list, with the only difference being that the Dodge Ram and Chevy Silverado switch spots between #3 and #4. Regardless of what you drive, just make sure it can get you through your next PCS without incident. And if you’re in the market for your first vehicle after joining the military, try to avoid used car lots just off base, loan sharks are not your friends, and a high interest rate is not a good thing.

Articles

21 of the strangest weapons people have tried to sneak past the TSA

Most travelers have a number of things to worry about during the holiday season.


For TSA agents at the country’s airports, there’s also a variety of things to worry about — knives, fake grenades, swords hidden in canes, knives hidden in guns, throwing stars, and all sorts of other contraband.

The TSA has taken to documenting some of the weapons and other prohibited items it encounters at security checkpoints, posting them on the agency’s Instagram account, which has accumulated more than 500,000 followers and rave reviews.

“I knew it would be popular and I knew we’d have a never-ending source of content,” Bob Burns, who runs the Instagram account, told The Washington Post. “But I didn’t know how popular we’d be.”

Below, you can see a selection of strange weaponry or look-alike weaponry that the TSA has come across and put on its Instagram, which Rolling Stone recently ranked as the fourth-best account on the social-media site.

“We’re pretty sure this isn’t a letter opener. A bladed dragon claw perhaps??? Whatever it is, it should be packed in checked baggage. It was discovered in a carry-on bag at Atlanta (ATL).”

“Is this some kind of confangled rotisserie contraption for turkeys? Nope. These are Sai. If you’re a #TeenageMutantTurtle fan, you’ll know the Sai as Raphael’s weapon or choice. If you still have no clue, a Sai is a weapon used for striking, bludgeoning and punctures. Whatever it is you use them for, please know they must be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered in a carry-on bag at Boise (BOI).”

“This ornate flask of black powder was discovered in a carry-on bag at Allentown (ABE). While it is a fancy flask, the black powder contained within is an explosive and is strictly prohibited in both carry-on and checked bags.”

“Packing list: Socks. ✅ Toothbrush. ✅ Curling Iron. ✅ Post-apocalyptic bullet-adorned gas mask. ❌ While gas masks are allowed in carry-on bags, replica bullets are not. This was discovered in a carry-on bag at Miami (MIA). Maybe he was catching a one way flight to #FuryRoad?”

“Don’t pack your homemade replica suicide vest. The traveler who packed this vest in his checked bag at Richmond (RIC) stated it was a prop intended for use in a live-action role-playing game (LARP). TSA explosives experts raced to the checked baggage room and the airport police were called immediately. Fortunately, the explosives experts determined the vest posed no danger. It has yet to be determined if the officer who searched the bag needed a change of clothing.”

“While about to receive a pat-down after opting out of body scanner screening, a Chicago O’Hare (ORD) traveler remembered that he had a throwing knife necklace under his shirt. All knives are prohibited and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest.”

“While some travelers are worried about packing nail clippers (they are allowed), others pack a pair of five-bladed floggers. You guessed it; these are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you’re in a situation where you’re going to need your floggers, they’ll have to be packed in checked baggage. These were discovered last week in a carry-on bag at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas (IAH).”

“You’ve likely heard that you’re not supposed to bring a knife to a gunfight? Well, you’re not supposed to bring either in your carry-on bag. Both replica weapons and knives are not allowed in carry-on bags. If you find yourself needing to travel with your gun knife, please pack it in your checked bag. This gun knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW).”

“This 4-bladed throwing star was discovered in a carry-on bag at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). These must be packed in your checked bags. Sorry Prince Colwyn. #Krull”

“This belt buckle knife was discovered in a traveler’s carry-on property recently at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE). Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.”

“Naruto’s ninja gear was discovered in a carry-on bag at Las Vegas (LAS). Please pack all ninja gear in your checked bags.”

“This knuckle knife was discovered in a carry-on bag at Memphis (MEM). Knives of any size are not allowed in carry-on bags. They must be packed in checked bags.”

“This impaler cane was discovered amongst a traveler’s carry-on property in Baltimore (BWI). These must be packed with checked baggage. Concealed weapons can lead to fines and arrest.”

“Many things can be hidden in shoes, but explosives are what concern us the most. This shoe is a replica of the bomb Richard Reid attempted to use in 2001 on his flight from Paris to Miami.”

“Your trailer hitch hand grenade is prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags. So what’s the big deal if it’s inert? First off, we don’t know it’s inert until explosives professionals take a closer look, and that takes time and slows down the line. It can even lead to a complete shutdown and evacuation. Also, imagine the person sitting next to you on the plane pulling this out of their carry-on. For these reasons, anything resembling a bomb or grenade is prohibited from both carry-on and checked bags. #TSATravelTips This inert grenade was discovered in a checked bag recently at the SBP airport.”

“And yet, another confounded #batarang has been discovered in a carry-on bag. This time it was discovered at the Charlottesville–Albemarle Airport (CHO). Batarangs, along with most other items on your utility belt must be packed in your checked bag. #Bam #Kapow #Zok #Biff #Zowie”

“These swords and throwing knives were discovered recently in a carry-on bag at the William P. Hobby Airport Houston (HOU). You guessed it! Swords and throwing knives are prohibited in carry-on bags. It perfectly acceptable to pack them in your checked bags, though.”

“This knife was discovered concealed in a bottle of pills at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO). Concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. Please pack them in your checked bag.”

“#TBT November, 2007 – These knives were discovered concealed in a PC/DVD-ROM game case at Gulfport (GPT). Knives are prohibited, and concealed knives can lead to fines and arrest. You may pack knives, swords, machetes and other bladed items in your checked bags.”

“It’s a cane. It’s a sword. It’s a cane sword, and it’s prohibited from being packed with your carry-on items. Cane swords may be packed in your checked bag. This cane sword was discovered at LaGuardia (LGA).”

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Tim Kennedy and Tom Clancy’s The Division 2: A collab made in Valhalla

Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 is the follow-up to the uber-successful third-person shooter, Tom Clancy’s The Division. In a recent promo for the game, Tim Kennedy takes us on a stroll through about 5 minutes of absolute carnage that is so downright exciting that, after watching, gun nuts are gonna have to wait for the blood to return to their head before standing.


The Real Endgame Weapons Of The Division 2

www.youtube.com

For those of you who don’t know, Tim Kennedy is a Ranger-qualified Special Forces sniper. Oh, and he has a bronze star with V device. Oh, and he was an accomplished UFC fighter. In short, he’s a certified American badass, the kind that the boogeyman checks his closet for before going to bed.

As badass as the whole video is (a cave literally f**king explodes), the part that really lures you in is seeing how emphatically Tim Kennedy talks about guns. You can tell the dude just loves shooting — it’s infectious to watch. I mean, he talks about a bolt action as passionately as Shakespeare talked about love or, like, a Danish kingdom…. And it’s much easier to watch Tim Kennedy blow s**t up for 5 minutes than it is to watch a prince whine about his daddy problems for 3 hours of a 5-act play. But hey, to each their own.

Thank god there’s no VR component yet for The Division 2 because if it got any closer to real life, I don’t think many would last long in a match with a dude who is so metal that he admittedly shoots guns as a way to quiet his mind.

Tim Kennedy showcases three separate weapons: the Macmillan Tac-50 sniper rifle, the M32A1 grenade launcher, and “the crossbow” (which happens to have a bolt with a little surprise attached).

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

The Macmillan Tac-50

This rifle was, as Tim Kennedy puts it, “originally made to shoot down enemy airplanes.” In real life, the lethality of one round can reach out to over a mile. In The Division 2, it seems like it could easily pin down an entire team behind cover while your teammates close in to finish them off with some CQB. Or, for all the sniper mains out there, it could be a deadly accurate way to eliminate an unsuspecting enemy from across the map.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

The M32A1 grenade launcher

This thing functions as an explosive revolver. It carries 6 high-explosive grenades, and it’s perfect for a demolitionist build. A perfect gun for taking out clumps of enemies who stick in close proximity which, in the first Division, was of great tactical advantage. Maybe not anymore… Oh, and apparently Tim Kennedy makes the same sound we do when fake-firing an explosive weapon, Doogah doogah, doogh dooghhh!”

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

The crossbow

This crossbow isn’t your run-of-the-mill crossbow. Even Tim Kennedy said he wouldn’t ever really bring one of these into a legitimate combat situation. But it’s a video game, and it’s fun, so… Why the hell not? Attached to the end of the bolt (don’t call it an arrow around Sergeant Kennedy) is a high-octane explosive. This weapon seems like the perfect thing to shake things up in a game and lay some destruction from high range — with high accuracy….

Oh, and did we mention Tim Kennedy blows up a van with it?

Get your hands on Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 for PS4, Xbox One, or PC on March 15th.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Top 5 veteran influencers you need to check out this Veterans Day

The title of “influencer” is almost cringe-worthy these days. From entitled social media personalities who complain when they have to pay full price at a restaurant, to the viral hot takes from people who are pandering to their audience, there’s definitely plenty of “cringe” to go around.

But what about the veteran social media personalities who are out making a positive difference, or at least making your day a little brighter? You know, the ones who aren’t thriving on division or ego, but rather on their own talent to entertain and inspire.


This Veterans Day, We Are The Mighty is highlighting the top five veteran influencers that we think you should really be paying attention to. From modest followings to millions of followers, these are the service members who turned their trigger fingers into Twitter fingers … who went from dropping bombs to dropping dope memes … who went from … sorry, I’ll stop. Just make sure you check them out!

Justin Lascek | @justin.lascek

Recently severely wounded. Green Beret Medic.

Justin is a relative newcomer to the social media scene, but with just a single photo, he inspired millions of people and established himself as someone worth following.

On Sept. 6, 2019, he posted a photo to Instagram from his hospital bed. Wearing his green beret, a pair of sunglasses, and an epic beard, he flexed for the camera while almost completely naked, covered in fresh scars, and missing his lower legs. The caption read:

“Six months ago, give or take a day, my life was changed. Chaos. Pain. Survival. Scared. I’m going to die. Tell her I love her. Wish I had been better. Everyone do your job. In 2018 I wanted to die. I figured my luck would run out after the close calls on the first trip. And it did. But brothers and sisters, known and unknown, kept me here.

And I’m alive. And since the blast, I have never wanted to die. I was strapped into the Skedco during a hellish movement for the boys. The sun was in our faces. I gripped their hand and knew I didn’t want to die.

And I’m alive. It can be surreal when the reality hits. But my soul isn’t in turmoil. There was so much uncertainty last year, but now it’s clear without wavering or uncertainty.

Because I’m alive. Cheating death and myself gives an understanding of how special life is. Not just for me, but everyone. Especially you, the one who hurts, the one who thinks death will end the pain. I see you. Stay with us a little longer.

And be alive.”

It’s hard to read that and not be inspired, and we have a hunch that his 39,000 followers on Instagram agree with us. The post ripped through timelines and news feeds like a lightning bolt, and he has continued to publish even more motivational posts since then. He might still be recovering from his wounds, but this Special Forces medic continues to be ‘Doc’ by inspiring the masses.

Astin Muse | @amuse31 & @ArmyAmuse

Former Drill Sergeant. Current Army Recruiter. Entertainer.

If Astin Muse weren’t still in uniform, she’d probably be a star on Saturday Night Live. This U.S. Army drill sergeant turned recruiter has made herself military-famous with hilarious sketch comedy that she films herself and posts on the internet. The sketches range from sarcastic observations about life as an NCO, to hilarious reenactments of basic training buffoonery.

The military hasn’t always made it easy for her to pursue laughs though. Muse has had to go to battle with military leadership trying to shut her down, citing obscure military regulations as a way to clamp down on her social media profiles. Fortunately, she’s been able to continue the comedy with a few compromises that really hasn’t affected the quality of her sketches. With 128,000 followers on Facebook and 29,000 followers on Instagram, there are plenty of people who appreciate her brand of comedy either way.

The best part? She frequently offers actual career advice to her active duty followers who need an objective outside opinion. Afterall, she’s a non-commissioned officer in the greatest Army in the world first, comedian second!

Jack Mandaville | @JackMandaville

Writer. Entertainer. Vietnam veteran. Best friends with Scott Stapp. Single mom. Compulsive liar.

We seriously don’t understand how Jack Mandaville isn’t an A-list comedian celebrity yet. With only 33,000 followers on Instagram, this former Marine and Iraq war veteran is a once-in-a-generation talent that, so far, the veteran community has been able to keep to ourselves.

He started off as one of the founding writers behind the infamous DuffelBlog satire website, before going on to work at RangerUp where he and fellow funnyman Pat Baker cooked up hilarious internet videos on the regular. After stealing the show as one of the supporting cast in the feature film “Range 15”, Jack has gone on to produce near-daily internet marketing videos for companies like StrikeForce Energy, Black Ops Grooming, and Black Rifle Coffee Company by day, and headline Vet TV’s “Checkpoint Charlie” series by night.

If you like to laugh, if you appreciate brutally honest humor that takes no prisoners, or you’re just entertained by a man that clearly has no shame, then Jack Mandaville is a must-follow.

Jennifer Marshall | @Jenn13Jenn13

Private Investigator @deepsourceinvestigations. Host @thecw. Max’s Mom in Stranger Things 2. Actress. Patriot. Veteran. Volunteer for Pinups for Vets.

With acting credits on hits like Stranger Things, Hawaii Five-O, and NCIS, Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall is a serious talent making her way through Hollywood. But there’s more to the sailor-turned-actor than meets the eye: She volunteers for non-profit Pin-Ups for Vets, and before that, she spent time teaching in East Africa. As if that wasn’t enough, she’s also a private investigator for Deep Source Investigations in California.

With 12,000 followers on Instagram, Marshall offers a peek behind the curtains of the many productions she has worked on, while simultaneously advocating for a variety of veterans issues that often go unresolved, or even worse — unnoticed. And if you like what she has to say on Instagram, then you’ll love her as a host on The CW’s “Mysteries Decoded”!

Vincent “Rocco” Vargas | @vincent.rocco.vargas

Army Ranger. Drill Sergeant. Border Patrol Officer. Actor on FX’s The Mayans. Author. Entrepreneur.

You may know him as Ranger Vargas if you served alongside him during his time at 2nd Ranger Battalion, or even Drill Sergeant Vargas if you had the pleasure of going through Basic Training with him at the helm. But most reading this probably know him as “Rocco” from his Article 15 Clothing days making satirical military comedy videos alongside Mat Best and Jarred Taylor.

But these days, he’s known for his role as “Gilly” on FX’s Sons of Anarchy spin-off Mayans M.C. Vargas did the near-impossible when he landed that role, as many Youtube sensations never quite make the jump into a traditional acting career. The show is in its third season, and promises to be just the start in what will likely be a long acting career for the combat veteran-turned-thespian.

If you’re one of his 146,000 followers on Instagram, then you also know that he keeps himself busy on and off the set. He’s published multiple books, hosts the Vinny Roc podcast, and founded Throwbacks Barber Company — now open and cutting hair in Utah. This is one veteran on the go, and is definitely worth keeping up with on social media!

MIGHTY TRENDING

F-15 fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with cluster bombs

US Air Force fighter jets are patrolling the Persian Gulf with apparent guided cluster munitions, weapons that may capable of tearing apart Iranian small boat swarms.

“F-15E Strike Eagles from the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron are flying air operations in support of maritime surface warfare,” the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing revealed this week, explaining that “their role is to conduct combat air patrol missions over the Arabian Gulf and provide aerial escorts of naval vessels as they traverse the Strait of Hormuz.”

The F-15E, which can reportedly carry almost any air-to-surface weapon in the Air Force arsenal, is a dual-role fighter able to carry out both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions.


Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

An F-15E Strike Eagle assigned to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron refuels from a KC-10 Extender June 27, 2019

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Erin Piazza)

Looking at the accompanying photos, Joseph Trevithick, a writer for The War Zone, noticed that the F-15s were carrying cluster munitions. It is unclear what type of munitions the aircraft are flying with, but given their mission is focused on maritime security, it would make sense that the submunitions contained within are one of two suited to a strike on Iran’s swarm boats.

The F-15s in the photos appear to be carrying Wind Corrected Munitions Dispensers, a GPS-guided canister that can be loaded with different submunitions depending on the mission type, The War Zone reports, noting that the aircraft are likely carrying either the CBU-103/B loaded with 202 BLU-97/B Combined Effect Bomblets or the CBU-105/B filled with ten BLU-108/B Sensor Fuzed Munitions.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

An F-15E Strike Eagle sits while waiting for an upcoming mission July 15, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The submunitions contain four separate warheads with their own independent sensors to detect and eliminate targets, and would be well suited to targeting the small Iranian gunboats that have been harassing commercial vessels.

Cluster munitions, while controversial, allow the user to eliminate multiple targets with one bomb. A single CBU-105, for instance, could theoretically achieve 40 individual kills against an incoming small boat force. The US military had initially planned to stop using cluster munitions, but these plans were put on hold until suitable alternatives could be developed.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

An F-15E Strike Eagle weapons load crew team prepares munitions July 15, 2019, at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The F-15E Strike Eagles with the 336th EFS currently assigned to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates carry a “robust assortment of air-to-ground munitions” and fly “with various configurations to ensure an ability to respond effectively to dynamic situations,” the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing explained.

These fighters are “currently conducting Surface Combat Air Patrol (SuCAP) operations to ensure free and open maritime commerce in the region.”

July 2019, Iranian gunboats attempted to seize the British tanker “British Heritage,” but the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose intervened, turning its guns on the Iranian vessels. One week later, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized the UK-flagged tanker Stena Impero, an unguarded vessel which Iran has not yet released.

The US has also accused Iran of attacking commercial vessels in the region with limpet mines, as well as targeting and, in one case, shooting down US unmanned air assets.

Western countries have not yet come to a consensus about how they should deal with the serious threat posed by Iranian forces in the region.

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

popular

That time a mortar attack interrupted Toby Keith’s Kandahar USO concert

In 2008, Toby Keith was in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on one of his many USO tours when a mortar attack interrupted the show.


The singer and the crowd of 2,500 service members, took cover in a nearby shelter for about an hour where Keith posed for photos and autographs. Pretty standard mortar attack pastime.

Once given the “all clear,” Keith went right back up on stage and finished his concert — starting from the verse where he left off.

Here’s video from the concert where he sang the “Taliban Song,” just because he could:

Who had the best USO act? Tell us in the comments!

Articles

Congress wants to make it easier to fire bad VA employees

Congressional Republicans and Democrats have reached agreement on a bill to make it easier for the Department of Veterans Affairs to fire its employees, part of an accountability effort touted by President Donald Trump.


The deal being announced May 11 could smooth the way for final passage on an issue that had been largely stalled since the 2014 wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center. As many as 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees created secret waiting lists and other falsehoods to cover up delays.

The Hill deal followed a fresh warning from the VA inspector general’s office of continuing patient safety problems at another facility, the VA medical center in Washington D.C. After warning of serious problems there last month, the IG’s “rapid response” team visited the facility again on Wednesday and found a patient prepped for vascular surgery in an operating room, under anesthesia, whose surgery was postponed because “the surgeon did not have a particular sterile instrument necessary to perform the surgery.”

The team also found “surgical instruments that had color stains of unknown origin in sterile packs,” according to the IG’s letter sent Wednesday to the VA. The IG again urged the department to take immediate action to ensure patients “are not placed at unnecessary risk.”

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78
Secretary of Veterans Affairs, the Honorable David J. Shulkin, visits the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, April 27. Shulkin, who visited the medical center for the first time, spoke with various providers throughout the facilities to learn about the medical care given at the hospital. (Photo by Megan Garcia, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Command Communications)

The new accountability measure, led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., softens portions of a bill that had passed the House in March, which Democrats criticized as unfairly harsh on workers. Sens. Jon Tester of Montana and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, the top Democrat and the Republican chair on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, agreed to back the new bill after modifications that would give VA employees added time to appeal disciplinary actions.

House Veterans Affairs’ Committee Chairman Phil Roe, sponsor of the House measure, said he would support the revisions.

“To fully reform the VA and provide our nation’s veterans with the quality care they were promised and deserve, we must ensure the department can efficiently dismiss employees who are not able or willing to do their jobs,” Rubio told The Associated Press.

It comes after Trump last month signed an executive order to create a VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection, with an aim of identifying “barriers” that make it difficult for the VA to fire or reassign bad managers or employees. VA Secretary David Shulkin had urged the Senate to act quickly to pass legislation.

The GOP-controlled House previously approved an accountability bill mostly along party lines. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., argued the House should embrace language instead from a bipartisan bill by Isakson from last year with added due process protections for workers.

The Senate bill to be introduced Thursday adopts several portions of that previous Isakson bill, including a longer appeal process than provided in the House bill — 180 days vs. 45 days, though workers would not be paid during that appeal. VA executives would be held to a tougher standard than rank-and-file employees for discipline. The Senate bill also codifies into law the VA accountability office created under Trump’s order, but with changes to give the head of the office more independent authority and require the office to submit regular updates to Congress.

Conservative groups praised the bill.

“These new measures will disincentivize bad behavior within the VA and further protect those who bravely expose wrongdoing,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America, pointing to a “toxic culture” at VA.

The agreement comes in a week in which Senate Democrats are standing apart from Trump on a separate issue affecting veterans, the GOP bill passed by the House to repeal and replace the nation’s health care law. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., warned the House measure would strip away explicit protections to ensure that as many as 8 million veterans who are eligible for VA care but opt to use private insurance would still receive tax credits.

Many veterans use a private insurer if they feel a VA facility is too far away, or if they don’t qualify for fuller VA coverage because they have higher incomes or ailments unrelated to their time in service, said Duckworth, a combat veteran who lost her legs and partial use of her right arm during the Iraq war. A group of GOP senators is working to craft their own health bill.

“Trumpcare threatens to rip health care out of their hands,” Duckworth said at a news briefing this week. “The question left is what will Senate Republicans do?”

Congress has had difficulty coming to agreement on an accountability bill after the Phoenix VA scandal. A 2014 law gave the VA greater power to discipline executives, but the department stopped using that authority after the Obama Justice Department deemed it likely unconstitutional.

Critics have since complained that few employees were fired for various VA malfeasance, including rising cases of opioid drug theft, first reported by the AP.

MIGHTY TRENDING

First B-2 deployment to Hawaii completed amid Pacific tensions

Three B-2 Spirits and approximately 200 airmen completed their first deployment to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in support of the U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment, Aug. 15 through Sept. 27, 2018.

Although bombers regularly rotate throughout the Indo-Pacific, this marked the first deployment of B-2 Spirits to JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

“The B-2 Spirits’ first deployment to (Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam) highlights its strategic flexibility to project power from anywhere in the world,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Williams, director of air and cyberspace operations, Headquarters Pacific Air Forces. “The B-2s conducted routine air operations and integrated capabilities with key regional partners, which helped ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific. The U.S. routinely and visibly demonstrates commitment to our allies and partners through global employment and integration of our military forces.”


Despite the deployment taking place in the middle of hurricane season, the B-2 pilots accomplished hundreds of local and long-duration sorties and regional training. Each mission focused on displaying the bomber’s flexible global-strike capability and the United States’ commitment to supporting global security.

One of the key integrations involved the B-2s and F-22 Raptors assigned to the 199th Fighter Squadron, a unit of the 154th Wing under the Hawaii Air National Guard. Like the B-2, the F-22 is virtually invisible to threats. This makes them the perfect match for escorting the stealth bomber and providing situational awareness. The training helped polish the cohesion between the pilots.

“The Bomber Task Force is a total-force integration deployment,” said Lt. Col. Nicholas Adcock, Air Force Global Strike 393rd Bomber Squadron commander. “Our active-duty and guard members worked seamlessly together with their counterparts here in Hawaii to determine the best way for the B-2 to operate from this location in the future.”

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

A B-2 Spirit deployed from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, in support of the U.S. Strategic Command’s Bomber Task Force deployment is parked on the flightline Sept. 26, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Danielle Quilla)

The 154th Wing also supported the B-2 with the 203rd Air Refueling Squadron’s KC-135 Stratotankers. Although the B-2 is capable of flying approximately 6,000 miles without refueling, the KC-135s provided aerial refueling for long-duration missions.

“The training with the Hawaii Air National Guard was invaluable,” Adcock said. “Together we refined and exercised multiple tactics that are crucial to the Indo-Pacific Command area of responsibility.”

In addition to air operations, the deployment also focused on hot-pit refueling. During this technique, the pilots land and continue to run the B-2’s engines while fuels distribution technicians refuel the aircraft. The pilots are immediately able to take off again with a full tank and maximize the amount of time they are in the air versus on the ground. One B-2 conducted hot-pit refueling at Wake Island, a coral limestone atoll in the mid-Pacific, west of Honolulu, Sept. 14, 2018.

Finally, weapons load crews exercised loading BDU-50s, inert 500 pound non-explosive practice bombs, into B-2 bomb bays on the JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam flightline.

“This weapons load is the first stepping stone to loading live munitions from this location,” said Master Sgt. Nicholas Lewis, 393rd Aircraft Maintenance Unit weapons section chief. “Furthermore, it provides pilots and load crews valuable training necessary to accomplish future BTF missions.”

From air to ground support, the first Bomber Task Force deployment to Hawaii has allowed each member to determine what it would take to operate the B-2 from JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam and execute strategic deterrence, global strike, and combat support at any time.

“I am very proud of every airman that was a member of the 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron,” Adcock said. “We flew to a forward operating location that the B-2 had never operated out of and overcame numerous challenges.”

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Bolton accuses Iran of being ‘central banker’ for terrorism

U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security adviser has called Iran “the central banker of international terrorism” as he laid out a wider strategy for countering Tehran in the Middle East.

John Bolton told reporters on Oct. 4, 2018, that the U.S. strategy toward Iran would use both military and nonmilitary means to push back on Iranian-backed militants, and their financial backers.

Bolton made the announcement as part of the release of a new U.S. counterterrorism strategy, the first since 2011.


“Radical Islamist terrorist groups represent the preeminent transnational terrorist threat to the United States and to the United States’ interests abroad,” Bolton said according to a White House transcript.

Iran, he said, had been “the world’s central banker of international terrorism since 1979.”

Since taking office, Trump has taken an aggressive approach toward Iran, including pulling out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal.

Organizer of Iran rescue mission that inspired ‘Argo’ dies at 78

President Donald Trump.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

In November 2018, the Trump administration plans to impose new sanctions on Iran’s oil sector with the aim of stopping Tehran’s involvement in conflicts in Syria and Iraq and forcing new negotiations of its ballistic missile program.

Earlier on Oct. 4, 2018, the top U.S. general overseeing U.S. operations in the Middle East said Washington was not seeking war with Iran.

“I don’t think we’re seeking to go to war with Iran, and I don’t think that’s what we’re focused on,” General Joseph Votel told Pentagon reporters.

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

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