ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

U.S.-backed Syrian forces liberated the city of  on Oct. 17 from Islamic State militants, a senior commander said, in a major defeat for the collapsing extremist group that had proclaimed it to be the capital of its “caliphate.”


Although clashes in  have ended, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces are in control, combing the city in northern Syria for land mines and searching for any IS sleeper cells, Brig. Gen. Talal Sillo told The Associated Press.

Sillo said a formal declaration that  has fallen would be made soon, once troops finish their clearing operations in the city on the banks of the Euphrates River.

Col. Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, said it has not yet received official reports that the city was cleared, describing mines and booby traps throughout  that have killed returning civilians and senior Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commanders in recent days. One of those killed Oct. 16 was the head of the internal security force affiliated with the SDF.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
SDF fighters at the mouth of a tunnel used by ISIS at Jabar Castle in Raqqa. (Photo from VOA.)

Another challenge for the troops is searching the tunnels that were dug by the militants around the city, Dillon said.

“This will take some time, to say that the city is completely clear,” he told AP. “We still suspect that there are still (IS) fighters that are within the city in small pockets.”

The loss of  will deprive the militants of a major hub for recruitment and planning, Dillon said, because the city attracted hundreds of foreign fighters and was a place where attacks in the Middle East and Europe were planned. He added that the militants remain active in Syria, farther south around the eastern province of Deir el-Zour.

“This has been the wellspring of (IS) as we know it,” he said. But he stressed that the military defeat of the militants “doesn’t mean the end of (IS) and their ideology.”

Dozens of militants who refused to surrender made their last stand earlier Oct. 17 in  sports stadium, which the group had turned into a notorious prison in the more than three years it held the city.

The SDF forces earlier captured  main hospital, the other last remaining IS holdout that had served both as a medical facility and an IS command center. The SDF fighters have not gone through it to clear it, Dillon said.

Also read: This is how the US decides when and where to drop bombs on ISIS

Dillon said the coalition has not carried out any airstrikes in the past three days to allow civilians to leave. The SDF has also called on IS fighters to surrender, and about 350 have turned themselves in, he said, adding that none were high-value targets.

In recent months, the Islamic State has steadily lost territory in Iraq and Syria, including Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul.

After the group seized  from other Syrian rebels in early 2014, it transformed the one vibrant metropolis into the epicenter of its brutal rule where opponents were beheaded and terror plots hatched.

IS militants had been cornered in and around the stadium, and it was not immediately clear after Sillo’s statement whether any were still inside it.

“The stadium is a huge structure with underground rooms and tunnels. There are also buildings around it” still under the control of IS, said SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali.

A senior Kurdish commander said later that the stadium has been checked and cleared of land mines. SDF forces raised their own flag in the stadium, he added.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
ISIS used to patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. (Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.)

Earlier, he said 22 IS militants were killed in the advance on the hospital.

On Oct. 17, the SDF captured “Paradise Square,”  infamous public square that was used by the militants to perform beheadings and other killings in front of residents who were summoned by loudspeakers and forced to watch. Bodies and severed heads would be displayed there for days, mounted on posts and labeled with their crimes, according to residents, who later dubbed it “Hell Square.”

With the capture of the hospital, the last black IS flag was taken down, according to the Kurdish-run Hawar news agency. A video released by the news agency showed the clashes around the hospital, which appeared riddled with bullets and partly blackened from a fire.

A senior Kurdish commander said there was no sign of civilians in the stadium or around it, but he added that his troops were being cautious because of possible land mines. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

The battle for  began in June and has dragged for weeks as the SDF fighters faced stiff resistance from the militants. The city suffered devastating damage, with most of its buildings leveled or in ruins. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 1,000 civilians were killed in the campaign.

MIGHTY TRENDING

These are rules for Tyndall personnel checking out their housing

Phase 2 is to get you back into your homes and dorms to inspect and collect your belongings, and it has begun.

We are opening the gates for limited access for five days from Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, through Sunday Oct. 21, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Military members, military dependents, civilians, civilian dependents, and nonappropriated fund employees may voluntarily go to Tyndall Air Force Base and the surrounding area to evaluate their personal property. No reimbursement is authorized for voluntary travel performed. This evaluation may only be accomplished between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Central Standard Time on the previously mentioned days.


We must emphasize the importance of following the established guidelines set in-place for this limited access. There are restrictions in-place for a multitude of reasons, safety being a top concern. Force Protection measures will be in place to ensure everyone travels directly to their home and exits the gate in an orderly fashion.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Hurricane Michael made landfall as a catastrophic Category 4 close to Tyndall Air Force Base in the afternoon of Oct. 10, 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

All residents entering Tyndall AFB will abide by the following rules:

  • Personnel will proceed through a check point for all housing and dorm areas. Emergency contact information will be provided since the local 911 emergency system is inoperative.
  • Dorm residents will enter through the Louisiana Gate entrance, the eastern most gate on 98.
  • Housing residents south of 98 will enter through the Sabre Gate, the gate across from the Visitor’s Center.
  • Shoal Point and Bayview residents will check in at the Visitors Center across from the Sabre Gate.
  • Access is restricted to housing areas and dorms.
  • You must be self-sufficient. Ensure you have enough water and food. Personal protective equipment is highly recommended and should include at a minimum safety glasses, gloves and a hard hat. Gas is in limited supply in the local area; fill vehicles outside approximately 70 miles from the Tyndall AFB local area. A tire plug kit is recommended due to the potential for debris.
  • No pets will be allowed on base.
  • I strongly recommend you refrain from bringing children, as their safety cannot be guaranteed.
  • This temporary suspension of the evacuation applies to both off-base and on-base housing.
  • You will NOT be able to stay. All must depart the base, and surrounding area to include Shoal Point and Bayview, not later than 3 p.m. Central Standard Time to ensure you comply with mandated curfew requirements.
  • All Tyndall AFB personnel remain under the previously mandated evacuation order.
  • You are welcome to collect your belongings during the aforementioned days.
  • You will be permitted to bring moving vehicles to transport your belongings and store them outside the evacuation area at your own expense.
  • You will be permitted to remove vehicles left on base, as long as moving them is safe and the vehicles are drivable.
  • Staying overnight anywhere in the evacuation area will void your evacuation benefits.
Mental health representatives, chaplains and additional points of contact will be available to provide the best support possible during this difficult time.
ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Hurricane Michael created significant structural damage to the majority of the Tyndall Air Force Base and surrounding areas.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy)

Please understand that our base and local area remain dangerous. We are still cleaning roads, power lines and debris. This has been a major undertaking but we are getting better each day.

We continue working a long term plan of action but we simply aren’t there yet, as we are concentrating on the short term day-to-day recovery actions.

Q: What if I cannot return to Tyndall AFB within the five-day period? Will I have another opportunity to gather my belongings?
A: A long term plan of action is being formed. More information will be available in the coming days.

Q: Am I able to bring a non-military member with me since my spouse is deployed?
A: Yes, you are.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This ‘light tank’ is specially designed to support infantry

General Dynamics Land Systems has unveiled a new heavily armed, yet lighter-weight expeditionary armored vehicle as part of an effort to build a future Army war platform, a new combat vehicle being engineered to support maneuvering infantry — and ultimately change land war.

Called the Griffin III, the General Dynamics Land Systems offering is a 40-ton armored vehicle with both deep-strike technology and counter-drone sensors, Michael Peck, GDLS Director of Enterprise Business Development, told Warrior.

“This is a deployable tracked vehicle with the armor protection required by the Army,” Peck said in an interview.


While referred to by some as a “light tank,” Army officials specify that plans for the new platform seek to engineer a mobile combat platform able to deploy quickly.

The new vehicle represents an Army push toward more expeditionary warfare and rapid deployability; it is no surprise that two Griffin IIIs are being built to fit on an Air Force C-17 aircraft.

“In the future it will be important to get off-road. Mobility can help with lethality and protection because you can hit the adversary before they can disrupt your ability to move,” Rickey Smith, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-9, TRADOC, told Warrior Maven in an interview in early 2018.

Smith’s emphasis upon how lighter-weight armored vehicles can address terrain challenges, and off-road mobility aligns with findings from analytical historical research performed years ago by the Dupuy Institute.

The research study, called “The Historical Combat Effectiveness of Lighter-Weight Armored Forces,” examined combat scenarios from Vietnam, The Korean War, the Persian Gulf War, and even WWII.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

U.S. Soldiers load the .50-caliber machine gun of an M1A2 SEPv2 Abrams main battle tank during a combined arms live-fire exercise in Grafenwoehr, Germany, Nov. 19, 2015.

(U.S. Army photo by Markus Rauchenberger)

Commissioned by the US Army Center for Army Analysis, the study concluded that heavily armed, yet lighter-weight, more maneuverable armored combat platforms could provide a substantial advantage to combat infantry in many scenarios.

“Vehicle weight is sometimes a limiting factor in less developed areas. In all cases where this was a problem, there was not a corresponding armor threat. As such, in almost all cases, the missions and tasks of a tank can be fulfilled with other light armor,” the study writes.

Drawing upon this conceptual premise, it also stands to reason that a medium-armored vehicle, with heavy firepower, might be able to support greater mobility for advancing infantry while simultaneously engaging in major combat, mechanized force-on-force kinds of engagements where there is armored resistance.

Current Abrams tanks, while armed with 120mm cannons and fortified by heavy armor, are challenged to support infantry in some scenarios due to weight and mobility constraints.

As Smith explained, bridges, or other terrain-oriented impediments preclude the ability of heavy tanks to support maneuvering IBCTs.

Smith also explained that Infantry Brigade Combat Teams (IBCTs), expected to operate in a more expansive battlespace, will require deployable, fast-moving close-to-contact direct fire support.

Also, while likely not able to match the speed of a wheeled Stryker vehicle, a “tracked” vehicle can better enable “off-road” combat, as Smith explained.

Also, rapid deployability is of particular significance in areas such as Europe, where Russian forces, for instance, might be in closer proximity to US or NATO forces.

Tactically speaking, given that IBCTs are likely to face drones armed with precision weapons, armored vehicle columns advancing with long-range targeting technology and artillery, infantry on-the-move needs to have firepower and sensors sufficient to outmatch an advanced enemy. General Dynamics plans to model construction of eight new prototypes, is one of several industry offerings for the Army to consider.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Soldiers inspect an M1A2 Abrams tank.

(Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles)

While many details of the GDLS Griffin III have yet to be revealed, Peck did say the vehicle is engineered to accommodate built-in Active Protection Systems — sensors, fire control radar and interceptors used to detect, track and destroy incoming enemy fire, Peck said.

GDLS is pursuing a two-fold strategy with its Griffin III; the firm plans to work with the Army to adjust as needed and refine aspects of the platform, while also jumping in front of the Army’s current plan to build prototypes in the next few years.

The Army’s new lightweight armored vehicles are expected to change land war by outmatching Russian equivalents and bringing a new dimension to advancing infantry as it maneuvers toward enemy attack.

Long-range precision fire, coordinated air-ground assault, mechanized force-on-force armored vehicle attacks, and drone threats are all changing so quickly that maneuvering US Army infantry now needs improved firepower to advance on major adversaries in war, Army leaders explain.

All of these factors are indicative of how concepts of Combined Arms Maneuver are evolving to account for how different land war is expected to be moving forward. This reality underscores the reason infantry needs tank-like firepower to cross bridges, travel off-road and keep pace with advancing forces.

For the Army, the effort involves what could be described as a dual-pronged acquisition strategy in that it seeks to leverage currently-available or fast-emerging technology while engineering the vehicle with an architecture such that it can integrate new weapons and systems as they emerge over time.

An estimation of technologies likely to figure prominently in the Army’s future vehicle developmental process leads towards the use of lightweight armor composites, Active Protection Systems and a new generation of higher-resolution targeting sensors. Smith explained how this initiative is already gaining considerable traction.

This includes the rapid incorporation of greater computer automation and AI, designed to enable one sensor to perform the functions of many sensors in real-time. For instance, it’s by no means beyond the imagination to envision high-resolution forward-looking infrared (FLIR) sensors, electromagnetic weapons, and EO-IR cameras operating through a single sensor.

“The science is how do I fuse them together? How do I take multiple optical, infrared, and electromagnetic sensors and use them all at once in real-time ” Smith said. “If you are out in the desert in an operational setting, infrared alone may be constrained by heat, so you need all types of sensors together, and machines can help us sift through information.”

In fact, the Army’s Communications Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center (CERDEC) is already building prototype sensors with this in mind. In particular, this early work is part of a longer-range effort to inform the Army’s emerging Next-Generation Combat Vehicle (NGCV). The NGCV, expected to become an entire fleet of armored vehicles, is now being explored as something to emerge in the late 2020s or early 2030s.

One of the key technical challenges when it comes to engineering a mobile, yet lethal, weapon is to build a cannon both powerful and lightweight enough to meet speed, lethality and deployability requirements.

U.S. Army’s Combat Vehicle Modernization Strategy specifically cites the need to bring large-caliber cannon technology to lightweight vehicles. Among other things, the strategy cites a lightweight 120mm gun called the XM360 — built for the now-cancelled Future Combat Systems Mounted Combat System. While the weapon is now being thought of as something for NGCV or a future tank variant — which seeks to maximize lightweight, mobile firepower.

Special new technology was needed for the XM360 in order to allow a lighter-weight cannon and muzzle to accommodate the blast from a powerful 120mm tank round.

Elements of the XM360 include a combined thermal and environmental shroud, blast deflector, a composite-built overwrapped gun, tube-modular gun-mount, independent recoil brakes, gas-charged recuperators, and a multi-slug slide block breech with an electric actuator, Army MCS developmental documents describe.

This article originally appeared on Warrior Maven. Follow @warriormaven1 on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy named its newest destroyer after a heroic Marine

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer named the next Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer in honor of Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and Navy Cross recipient, Lance Cpl. Patrick Gallagher.


Also read: That time an admiral used his own Navy Cross to decorate a hero

In 1966, Gallagher, who immigrated from Ballyhaunis, Ireland in 1962, joined the Marine Corps where he served in H-Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division during Operation Hastings in the Republic of Vietnam.

“Lance Corporal Gallagher is an American hero. His exemplary service in defense of our nation and his strength and sacrifice leaves an example for all servicemen and women to emulate,” said Spencer. “His legacy will live on in the future USS Gallagher and his heroic actions will continue to inspire future Sailors and Marines.”

Gallagher was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions on July 18, 1966, when he selflessly threw his body on an incoming grenade, shielding his fellow Marines. He quickly pitched the grenade to a nearby river where it safely exploded out of harm’s way, without injury to himself or others. Gallagher was killed in action one year later in DaLoc near De Nang on March 30, 1967. He is one of only 30 known Irish citizens to have died in the Vietnam conflict.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
Graphic illustration of the future Arleigh-Burke class guided missile destroyer USS Gallagher (LCS 127). (U.S. Navy illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Raymond Diaz)

Arleigh-Burke class destroyers conduct a variety of operations from peacetime presence and crisis response to sea control and power projection. The future USS Gallagher (DDG 127) will be capable of fighting air, surface, and subsurface battles simultaneously, and will contain a combination of offensive and defensive weapon systems designed to support maritime warfare, including integrated air and missile defense and vertical launch capabilities.

Related: Why the American military created the Silver Star, Navy Cross, and other medals for valor

The ship will be constructed at Bath Iron Works, a division of General Dynamics in Maine. The ship will be 509 feet long, have a beam length of 59 feet, and be capable of operating at speeds in excess of 30 knots.

MIGHTY CULTURE

The 13 funniest military memes for the week of May 17th

I’ve already made up my mind that if the Space Force starts opening up its doors to include combat arms within my lifetime, I’d be at the recruiting office in a heartbeat. It doesn’t matter that knowing how I’d react, I’d probably be a random Red Shirt who’d have his back turned at the worst possible moment and say something ironic like “the coast is clear!” before getting eaten by something.

Then Senator Ted Cruz in a Senate hearing advocating the Space Force planted the ultimate idea in my head… Space Pirates. Sure, the memes were taken slightly out of context because he was referring to rogue nations attacking satellites and not the swashbuckling buccaneers we’re thinking of. But is it a bad thing that kinda makes me want to join the Space Force even more?

It’ll take far too long for us to make first contact with aliens yet it’ll only take a few decades for space travel to be affordable enough for us to get down on some Firefly or Babylon 5-type action. We’re counting on you, Elon Musk. Make this dream come true!


While we wait for the cold dark reality that the Space Force will probably be far less exciting in our lifetimes than pop culture expects, here are some memes.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Not CID)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Air Force Nation Humor)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Team Non-Rec)

“I don’t know, Hanz, he said something about my mother being a hamster and my father smelling like elderberries.” 

Fun fact: The insult from Monty Python was actually implying that King Arthur’s mom reproduced fast like a small rodent and his father was a drunk who could only afford the lowest quality wine. The more you know!

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Infantry Follow Me)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Army as F*ck)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Coast Guard Memes)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Hooah My Ass Off)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Disgruntled Vets)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Valhalla Wear)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Pop Smoke)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Decelerate Your Life)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via U.S. Veterans Network)

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

(Meme via Weapons of Meme Destruction)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taking on veteran suicide, one pair of ‘Ranger panties’ at a time

Active-duty servicemembers and veterans share many common experiences which often sets us apart from civilians. We can come together over a tour-of-duty station, a shared commander or unit, or the unforgettable aspects of our training. But it’s often our dark sense of humor — stories about Jody, tales of ass-grabbing antics on and off post, and the ribbing of comrades and competing branches alike — which underpins military culture and unites the community. That’s why I was excited when I recently discovered a growing non-profit organization, Irreverent Warriors, whose mission is to bring service members and veterans together using humor and camaraderie. Their target is to improve mental health and end veteran suicide through humor.

I was intrigued.


Fortunately for me, Irreverent Warriors was organizing a very popular event that I could attend right in New York City: a Silkies Hike. The hike was designed to get veterans, active-duty soldiers, reservists, and retired servicemembers together (in Silkies shorts — also known as “ranger panties” or “Catch-Me-F**K-Me’s”) to be among friends and build new bonds. The New York City Silkies Hike was just one of five going on that day. The hikes were held throughout the country and drew hundreds of hikers.

“As of now, we have 65 hikes scheduled for 2021,” Irreverent Warriors CEO Cindy McNally said. “We doubled the number of hikes in two years!”

But the group does more than Silkies Hikes. According to McNally, the organization has put together “camping trips, Silkies Olympics, boat trips, community clean-ups, events to serve disabled and senior vets, and much more.”

And the events are strictly for the military. The purpose is to ensure that members know that everyone who participates either wears the uniform or has worn it before.

That was reassuring for me. I knew my dirty jokes and endless f-bombs would be welcomed — even encouraged. That toilet humor doesn’t always fit well with civilians, but a soldier, airman, marine, or seaman (quick chuckle) will always get it.

So I went for it, Silkies and everything.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Warriors SP at 0830 hours led by event organizer, Marc Herzog, taking point and donning the black Irreverent Warriors flag.

As if sensing my newness, Irreverent Warriors New York Area Leader Marc Herzog told me that his first social event in 2017 “was the most amazing experience ever.”

“I found my people for the first time,” he added.

Another Irreverent Warriors member, a Marine named Kevin Bunn, assured me: “Many of us shared your experience… we’re not gonna push you. I know where you were and I know what you’re going through.”

In fact, I was quite comfortable around every hiker. I knew what type of people was around me: gritty, hard-working, selfless Americans who would jump at any opportunity to help a brother or sister in uniform.

Kevin confirmed what my gut knew: “[The vets] need these events to keep them from feeling isolated,” he said. “Just one or two events gets them through the year.”

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

The Warriors report to formation for a photo in Times Square, NYC. (Photo courtesy of Arturo Martinez, Marine.)

I also knew they can party, as I have done many times before (probably too much). And some partying was the first thing I saw that morning.

As we mustered at the start point in Central Park, many Irreverent Warriors members cracked open beers. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous that this affair would get out of control. As a former officer, I knew the math: soldiers + booze = debauchery.

But it turned out to be everything but that.

No matter how many drinks some Warriors had, (and a few had a lot!) they knew what line not to cross. No one urinated on the street, left garbage behind, or damaged any property. With the exception of some slurring and a little stumbling, it was pure professionalism at its finest. I was impressed, a little relieved, and totally at home.

On many occasions, curious onlookers asked the Warriors about the purpose of the group. No matter who answered, the response was always the same: “We bring veterans together using humor and camaraderie to improve mental health and prevent veteran suicide.”

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

A small platoon-sized element poses for a picture at one of the checkpoints, Washington Square Park, NYC.

Another Warrior, “A.A. Ron,” was asked what the group meant to him: “I met a lot of vets through IW,” he replied. “Regardless of when you served, we’re the same. We’re here for each other to lift our spirits and to enjoy our lives and the lives of others lost.”

The New York City hike hit its climax at Ground Zero. As we rounded a city corner in the Financial District, we were confronted by the Freedom Tower. The direct view of the building and how it dominated the landscape captured everyone’s attention. The party atmosphere quickly dipped into a somber state. The group, whose mood had been one of partying and incessant chanting, became silent. We all felt the same way, we all knew what this meant.

As we mustered outside the Freedom tower, several Warriors took the stage to tell their stories of those lost and remembered. The message was clear: you are not alone!

After a moment of silence, a prayer, and warm hugs we gathered our belongings and carried on with the mission, as all Warriors do.

If you want to get involved or donate to support the Irreverent Warriors mission, go to their website, www.irreverentwarriors.com.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

Articles

9 Military Categories The Oscars Forgot

Sure, the Academy Awards have categories like “Best Actor” and “Best Adapted Screenplay,’ and, yes, military movies like “American Sniper” and “The Imitation Game” are in the mix this year. But all of that falls somewhat short of capturing the true military cinematic essence that this year’s crop of films produced. Here are nine categories that the Oscars forgot and the winners in each:


1. Best Misuse Of Government Property By A Leading Man: Bradley Cooper, “American Sniper”

Because Bradley Cooper’s Chris Kyle was a super badass sniper, he had a phone so that generals and even the president could call him to tell him who he should put the crosshairs on next. What did Cooper’s Kyle use the phone for?  To call his wife, usually right before a firefight was about to break out.  And once it did he wouldn’t hang up (in order not to alarm her or anything).

2. Best Use of Kristen Stewart’s Bitch Face By An Actress In A Leading Role: Kristen Stewart, “Camp X-Ray”

Kristen Stewart plays a U.S. Army guard at Gitmo who develops a sympathetic relationship – through a prison door – with one of the detainees.  But her sympathy is buried under the same expression she’s used in every movie she’s ever been in, that signature bitchy pouty girl face, so it’s hard to tell when she’s sympathetic and when she’s bored or pissed off. But, hey, like B.B. King said, “You can play just one note if it’s the right one.” We say bravo, Ms. Stewart.

3. Best Supporting Actor In A Role About The Fact All Vets Are Doomed: Brad Hawkins, “Boyhood”

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Brilliantly filmed over a 12-year period, director Richard Linklater’s gem focuses on the life of a sometimes single mom and her two kids.  The mom’s third love interest is a returning vet who’s just back from Iraq. He seems like a nice, well-adjusted guy, but after a while he’s holding down a job as a prison guard and sitting on the front porch guzzling beer and yelling at the son about being a good-for-nothing, which is to say they got it exactly right because that’s what always happens to returning vets.

4. Best Portrayal Of The Perils Of Having Sex In Combat: “Fury”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0uAKbSLsXxg

Brad Pitt’s Sherman tank crew stumble across the home of a war-weary German family with a hot daughter, and they enjoy a bit of normalcy. One of the crew hooks up with the daughter, and once they’re done the crew leaves and minutes later the family’s house gets blown to smithereens by an air strike.

5. Best WTFO? Moment: “300 – Rise of Empires”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mb6w6Qz55jc

In the middle of a kick ass war-at-sea between ancient sailing ships, General Themistocles suddenly produces a horse that he rides all over the deck while slashing and stabbing his foe.  But it really gets good when the horse – without any hesitation – gallops through flaming wreckage, leaps into the water, and then jumps onto an enemy ship where Themistocles continues his savaging of the enemy – truly the year’s best WTFO? military movie moment.

6. Most Dramatic Flame-out Of A Military Movie Franchise: “Jarhead 2”

Three words: Straight. To. DVD.

7. Best Actress In A Role About The Joys Of Being A Military Mom: Michelle Monaghan “Ft. Bliss”

Michelle Monaghan plays a single mom soldier who returns home after 15 months in Iraq only to find that her 6-year-old son has forgotten who she is.  (What, did the rest of family hide all the pictures of her? And no Skype?) About the point her son starts to warm to her she’s sent back to Iraq because that’s how the Army rolls.  If the military wanted you to have a kid they would have issued you one.

8. Most Groundbreaking Guerrilla Warfare Sequence: “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

One of the conniving chimps uses cute chimp moves to mollify two humans just long enough to get one of their automatic weapons and blow them away with it.

9. Best Actor In A Role About The Tortured Souls Of Those In The Intelligence Community: Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Imitation Game”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5CjKEFb-sM

Cumberbatch plays Alan Turing, the intel genius who knows a thing or two about code breaking.  Cumberbatch’s Turing is at odds with his sexual orientation and anti-social and basically pained by everything in his life – in other words, he’s a lot like most of those in the intel community.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How ‘battlefield acupuncture’ helps Air Force Ravens stay in the fight

Dressed in a gi with a purple belt, the flight crew chief with the 89th Maintenance Group then takes turns with the ABU-clad Ravens executing a fireman’s carry followed in rapid succession by throwing the opponent to the mat and a ground-grappling technique to wrench hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, and forearms in a direction they were never designed to move.


ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
Tech Sgt. Jessie Sosa demonstrates a jiu-jitsu throw for Senior Airman Anthony Vallejos. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

They repeat the succession of moves, fine-tuning technique, until the desired effect on the opponent is achieved – pain and complete submission.

When Sosa, an instructor and competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, asks his students if they had any questions, a Raven poses a query not directly related to close-quarters hand-to-hand combat.

“What are those things in you ears?”

It gives Sosa a chance to explain another technique that allows him to absorb the strain and pain of competitive combat without the use of a pain medication that may change his operational status to “Duties Not Including Flying” (DNIF)– Battlefield acupuncture.

The five small gold needles in each of Sosa’s ears ensure his pain is under control prior to performing aircraft maintenance, pre-flight checks, and loading of C-40 and C-32 aircraft used to transport the Vice President, Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Defense, and the First Lady and other government agency heads, dignitaries, and diplomats from Joint Base Andrews to overseas destinations.

Read Also: These Army docs are revolutionizing pain management – especially for burns

“We plan to support the Air Force’s initiative to complement western medicine with acupuncture care for service men and women in accordance with the May 2010 Pain Management Task Force objective and recommendation 4.2.1. Through this objective/recommendation, the Pain Management Task Force sought to enhance care to our DoD and VA beneficiaries by fostering this specific goal: “Incorporate integrative and alternative therapeutic modalities into a patient centered plan of care,” said Dr. Stephen Burns, Air Force Acupuncture Program.

Performing his mission can often inflict as much pain as a jiu jitsu match.

“The wear and tear of being a crew chief on the C-40 comes from the long hours crossing over the pond, which is roughly around eight or nine hours sitting in the seat,” said Sosa. “You don’t have a lot of mobility in those seats, so a lot of strain in your lower back.”

“The cargo space is limited. When we carry high-profile passengers, such as the Vice President, they bring a lot of communications gear with them. You’re crouched over in a cargo compartment loading all these heavy Pelican cases. It’s like Tetris, maximizing that space you have a lot of (physical) strain and you tend to pull your back muscles or your quads from doing all that labor working in the cramped cargo compartment.”

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
Tech Sgt. Jessie Sosa performs a preflight check on the C-40 used to transport government officials and dignitaries at Joint Base Andrews, Md., Oct. 10, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

Western medicine would often dictate the prescribing of drugs, such as muscle relaxers or opioids, to control such severe back pain. However, those medications, which can alter mental capacity and judgment, would immediately disqualify Sosa from operational flight status, especially considering the importance of his passengers and cargo.

When Sosa’s work aches were combined with the pain of participating in combat sports, like wrestling and jiu jitsu, over-the-counter remedies offer little relief.

“I did yoga, Epsom salt baths, tried Bengay, any type of lotion that would help loosen up the muscle aches that I had. There’s nothing that worked,” said Sosa. “I can’t be drugged up while I’m working on Air Force Two, or teaching, because it blurs my vision. Being a mechanic you don’t want to have blurry vision on a mission. So basically, I just stay away from medications.”

Then Sosa discovered Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA) through a co-worker who often used it for relief from strained joints and back pain while doing Cross-fit workouts.

Sosa sought out Dr. Thomas Piazza, a 22-year Air Force physician, who is now the director of the Air Force Acupuncture Program at the JBA Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Center, for a consultation.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
A patient’s ear after five needles were inserted by former Air Force Colonel, Dr. Stephen Burns, during a Battlefield Acupuncture training session. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“The first time I met Piazza, he really analyzed my body and really understood how much stress my body went through,” said Sosa. “He recommended Battlefield Acupuncture and said that it would definitely help me maintain my body and I’d still be able to do what I love to do … The first time I did Battlefield Acupuncture, it worked immediately on my lower back. So instead of being DNIF, I was able to take a mission the next day and fly overseas for eight hours and accomplish my mission without pain.”

Battlefield Acupuncture, which was developed by Dr. Richard Niemtzow, is a specific subset of the traditional acupuncture found in Eastern medicine. Small, semi-permanent, gold needles are applied to five points in each ear to provide effective and rapid pain management.

See Also: 17 photos that show the pain of MPs getting Tazed and maced

According to Piazza, Battlefield Acupuncture works because the majority of the sensory nerve connections from the body culminate in specific areas in the brain, which are in close proximity to the sensory fibers coming from the ears. The entire body, and its organs, has corresponding points mapped on our ears. Inserting a needle in a particular point on the ear will activate the nerves in its corresponding part of the body and alleviate pain.

The procedure has been greeted enthusiastically by the military not only because of its results, but also the ease of application, portability and training in its use.

“BFA, in its elegant simplicity, has been designed so that many people can use it,” said Piazza, who coordinates and performs BFA training across the military.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
Tech. Sgt. Jessie Sosa receives a Battlefield Acupuncture treatment from Dr. Thomas Piazza. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“The technique is standardized, and everybody’s learning the same thing. It’s made a huge difference in the spread of Battlefield Acupuncture across the services. It only takes about four hours to train an individual. Approximately half is slideshow instruction, and about half is hands-on practicing with artificial ears, and, when circumstances allow, we have live volunteer patients come in so they can get the hands-on skills,” he added.

According to Dr. Stephen Burns, a 27-year Air Force veteran also working at the Air Force Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Center, the needles can be administered quickly and remain in for days while the patient returns to work with minimal discomfort.

“Generally speaking, we put a needle in and have the first-time patient walk around to make sure there are no side effects,” said Burns. “Even then, we can do a complete treatment in less than 10 minutes. If the personnel are really practiced, and the patient’s gotten many treatments, you are able to treat a person in two or three minutes. They (acupuncture treatments) have very profound effects for about 80, 85 percent of patients. They will usually reduce their pain by at least 50 percent. And it may last for a few days or sometimes weeks, sometimes longer.”

Now Read: This treatment for wounded warriors is ‘tubular’

In the approximately 10,000 BFA treatments the doctors of the Air Force Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine Center have performed, Piazza estimates that side effects occur in a very small percentage of patients.

“Euphoria is our most common side effect and it occurs around 5 percent of the time. Emotional response, ear irritation, and wooziness/dizziness occur a little less than 5 percent of the time and nausea, passing out (needle reaction), and worsening symptoms occur less than 2 percent of the time,” said Piazza. “Longer-term problems, such as infection, are extremely rare, much less than 1 percent.”

According to Burns, the effectiveness of BFA is not only the pain relief for patients, but also how it positively impacts manning and readiness.

“Say I have somebody that has migraine headaches and they have to pull guard duty, if I give this guy narcotics, he can’t work, he can’t use his weapon. But if I can put ear needles in him, and he feels like, “I feel great. I can go to work. I’m not drowsy,” then that’s a huge force multiplier,” said Burns.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
Dr. Thomas Piazza holds a single gold needle used in the application of Battlefield Acupuncture for the relief of pain. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

 The needles, which are about one millimeter long with a flat disc on the end, come in a strip of eight in preloaded plastic applicators. The small size enables trained personnel to not only administer BFA treatments in a clinical setting but also in the field, hence the name – Battlefield Acupuncture.

“You can carry enough treatments for five, 10, 15 people in your BDUs,” said Burns. This has sparked interest in BFA within the community of Battlefield Airmen and other special forces, who see the treatment as way to maintain combat effectiveness.

If a team member is injured in combat and drugs to control pain must be administered, it may not only take the casualty out of the fight, but also one or more team members who must monitor and help remove the casualty.

During a training session with special-forces personnel, Burns was asked about just such a scenario.

“Right before the break somebody said, ‘Hey, Doc. Sometimes somebody gets shot and we have to put a tourniquet on him. When you put the tourniquet on him, after about a minute or two, they hurt so badly that somebody has to give that guy narcotics and then you got to watch him and make sure he’s breathing. Would this work?'”

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
Students practice the application of Battlefield Acupuncture on each other and their instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

 “So I had them come back after the break with tourniquets,” said Burns. “I said, ‘Let’s try it and see.’

“We put the tourniquets on and after about 30 seconds he says, ‘Yeah. That’s starting to hurt pretty good.’ After about a minute he’s like, ‘I can barely move my hands. This is killing me. I don’t think I could even grab a weapon’.

“We put in a needle and then the next needle in. I said ‘How do you feel?’ He said, ‘I don’t … That’s different. Wow.’ He’s starting to move his hands. I said, ‘Okay. Next needle, next needle.’ About 10 seconds apart, ‘Holy cow.’ He starts laughing and says, ‘Give me a weapon I think I could fire it.’ They showed themselves that, yeah, this could work.”

Despite the treatment’s name, the Air Force Surgeon General considers Battlefield Acupuncture a force readiness asset across all career fields. As such, BFA is a key component in the implementation of an Integrated Medicine approach throughout the force.

Now Read: The best martial arts for self defense, according to a SEAL

“The concept of integrative medicine is a philosophy based in traditional western medicine, but bringing in some techniques that we would consider alternative,” said Maj. Luanne Danes, a biomedical services corps fellow in the Air Force Surgeon General’s office. Her primary mission during her yearlong fellowship is to advance Integrative Medicine and Battlefield Acupuncture in the Air Force.

“The purpose of Battlefield Acupuncture is to provide another avenue for effective pain management. Something other than pills, like opioids. The benefit is that it’s non-addictive. There are no withdrawal symptoms. It’s very quick, painless, safe and effective. So, very much a better option instead of opioids. The surgeon general, congress, all of the DOD is trying to reduce our dependence and reliance on opioids,” said Danes.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
Maj. Luanne Danes is a biomedical services fellow at the U.S. Air Force Surgeon General’s office at Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Va. (U.S. Air Force photo by J.M. Eddins Jr.)

“Reducing the dependence on narcotics, like Percocet, different opioids, those type of medicines, will absolutely benefit the aircrew fields, because that’s all downtime. If you are injured, and we need to put you on an opioid for pain management, that takes you out of rotation. You’re not going to fly until we get you fixed again, and we get you off of those opioids. With Battlefield Acupuncture, we can utilize the technique instead of the opioids and get you up flying again much more quickly.”

Sosa is living proof of the advantages of BFA to force readiness as he not only stays on the job aboard Air Force Two, but also continues to train the Ravens who provide security for his aircraft in jiu jitsu to complement their already formidable skill set.

“Ravens usually train for outside environments. Guarding the jet outside, but on Air Force Two, the Ravens are required to be inside and outside, so the jiu jitsu training is focused mostly on indoor, confined environments that will help them subdue a person that’s trying to damage the aircraft or hurt the personnel around them,” said Sosa.

While the close-combat training adds to the capabilities of the young Ravens, Sosa’s use of Battlefield Acupuncture is also teaching them that there is a way to manage pain while remaining mission ready.

“I’ve put my body through a lot; a lot of tournaments and a lot of flight hours sitting in one seat for eight hours,” said Sosa. “I am a huge believer in battlefield acupuncture because it definitely helps me stay in the fight.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

NASA just launched a mission to explore how Mars was made

NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet. InSight launched at 7:05 a.m. EDT (4:05 am PDT) May 5, 2018, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

“The United States continues to lead the way to Mars with this next exciting mission to study the Red Planet’s core and geological processes,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “I want to congratulate all the teams from NASA and our international partners who made this accomplishment possible. As we continue to gain momentum in our work to send astronauts back to the Moon and on to Mars, missions like InSight are going to prove invaluable.”


First reports indicate the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that carried InSight into space was seen as far south as Carlsbad, California, and as far east as Oracle, Arizona. One person recorded video of the launch from a private aircraft flying along the California coast.

Riding the Centaur second stage of the rocket, the spacecraft reached orbit 13 minutes and 16 seconds after launch. Seventy-nine minutes later, the Centaur ignited a second time, sending InSight on a trajectory towards the Red Planet. InSight separated from the Centaur about 9 minutes later – 93 minutes after launch – and contacted the spacecraft via NASA’s Deep Space Network at 8:41 a.m. EDT (5:41 PDT).

“The Kennedy Space Center and ULA teams gave us a great ride today and started InSight on our six-and-a-half-month journey to Mars,” said Tom Hoffman, InSight project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. “We’ve received positive indication the InSight spacecraft is in good health and we are all excited to be going to Mars once again to do groundbreaking science.”

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
InSight is on a 300-million-mile trip to Mars to study for the first time what lies deep beneath the surface of the Red Planet.

With its successful launch, NASA’s InSight team now is focusing on the six-month voyage. During the cruise phase of the mission, engineers will check out the spacecraft’s subsystems and science instruments, making sure its solar arrays and antenna are oriented properly, tracking its trajectory and performing maneuvers to keep it on course.

InSight is scheduled to land on the Red Planet around 3 p.m. EST Nov. 26, 2018, where it will conduct science operations until Nov. 24, 2020, which equates to one year and 40 days on Mars, or nearly two Earth years.

“Scientists have been dreaming about doing seismology on Mars for years. In my case, I had that dream 40 years ago as a graduate student, and now that shared dream has been lofted through the clouds and into reality,” said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at JPL.

The InSight lander will probe and collect data on marsquakes, heat flow from the planet’s interior and the way the planet wobbles, to help scientists understand what makes Mars tick and the processes that shaped the four rocky planets of our inner solar system.

“InSight will not only teach us about Mars, it will enhance our understanding of formation of other rocky worlds like Earth and the Moon, and thousands of planets around other stars,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency headquarters in Washington. “InSight connects science and technology with a diverse team of JPL-led international and commercial partners.”

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
NASA’s Mars Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) mission is the first interplanetary launch from the West Coast of the U.S. After its six-month journey, InSight will descend to Mars to study the heart of the Red Planet.

Previous missions to Mars investigated the surface history of the Red Planet by examining features like canyons, volcanoes, rocks and soil, but no one has attempted to investigate the planet’s earliest evolution, which can only be found by looking far below the surface.

“InSight will help us unlock the mysteries of Mars in a new way, by not just studying the surface of the planet, but by looking deep inside to help us learn about the earliest building blocks of the planet,” said JPL Director Michael Watkins.

JPL manages InSight for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. InSight is part of NASA’s Discovery Program, managed by the agency’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The InSight spacecraft, including cruise stage and lander, was built and tested by Lockheed Martin Space in Denver. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is responsible for launch service acquisition, integration, analysis, and launch management. United Launch Alliance of Centennial, Colorado, is NASA’s launch service provider.

A number of European partners, including France’s Centre National d’Études Spatiales (CNES) and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), are supporting the InSight mission. CNES provided the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument, with significant contributions from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) in Göttingen, Germany. DLR provided the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instrument.


For more information about InSight, and to follow along on its flight to Mars, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/insight

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s how you can watch an astronaut perform an enlistment ceremony from outer space tomorrow

Everyone remembers their oath of enlistment ceremony, but how many people can say theirs was truly out of this world? Tomorrow, over 800 soldiers participating in a ceremony spanning more than 100 locations around the country will be able to say theirs was. What makes this ceremony so special? It’s being administered by Army astronaut Col. Andrew Morgan from the International Space Station.


“This is an incredible opportunity for us to partner with Space Center Houston to recognize future Soldiers across the nation with a truly unique experience,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, USAREC deputy commanding general in a press release. Michaelis will facilitate the ceremony and question-and-answer session with Morgan. “This is the first event of its kind and will allow us to show the nation the breadth and depth of opportunities the Army offers today’s youth.”

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

According to USAREC, Morgan is part of the U.S. Army Astronaut Detachment, which supports NASA with flight crew and provides engineering expertise for human interface with space systems. He is an emergency physician in the U.S. Army with sub-specialty certification in primary care sports medicine and was selected to become an astronaut in 2013.

Morgan is also a combat veteran with airborne and ranger tabs and also has served as a combat diver. He’s clearly conquered land and sea, and now space. He’s completed seven spacewalks and one flight to the International Space Station. In addition to the enlistment ceremony, he’ll be sharing his stories and experiences with program attendees on a 20 minute live call from outer space.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa

Michaelis said, “We need qualified and innovative people to help us continuously adapt to the changing world. The young men and women who will begin their Army story with the incredible experience with Col. Morgan are part of our future. They will perform the traditional jobs most people associate with the Army, like infantry and armor, but they will also take on roles many people don’t realize we do – highly technical and specialized careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”

The oath of enlistment ceremony and question-and-answer session with Morgan will stream live on NASA TV, DVIDS, and U.S. Army Facebook and YouTube pages beginning at 12:50 pm eastern time. We’re over the moon about this event.

Articles

WWII ‘Ghost Army’ may be up for Congressional Gold Medal

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
National Archives


In the crucial months following the D-Day invasion, the clever foxes of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops repeatedly fooled the Nazis by deploying a Ghost Army; a phantom division of mocked-up tanks, vehicles, and artillery. The artists, actors, designers, and audio-technicians who made up the unit managed to deceive the Nazis on more than 20 occasions.

Now, more than seventy years later, a bipartisan congressional movement seeks to reward the tricksters for their efforts. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) and Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) have introduced a bill called “The Ghost Army Gold Medal Act,” according to the Washington Times. “It is finally time that the American people recognize their ingenuity and selflessness which saved countless American and Allied lives,” Mr. King says. “The Ghost Army deserve their due.”

The bill has picked up over 30 co-sponsors in the House, with a companion bill being introduced in the Senate. There are currently surviving “Ghost vets” in 11 states and the District of Columbia. If the Ghost Army is awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, they will be joining other specialized WWII units such as the Monuments Men, the Doolittle Raiders, and the Native American Code-talkers.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
Plate of Peas Production | YouTube

Though the 23rd was made up of only 1,000 men, they were often able to dupe the Nazi army into believing they numbered closer to 30,000. They did this by strategically placing dummy tanks, trucks, and artillery within enemy line of site, while blasting sound effects of heavily armed infantry on giant boom boxes, while could be heard from more than 20km away. This was often enough to distract the enemy long enough for the non-inflatable Allied Army to get into position on the crucial front lines of Normandy to the Rhine River. It’s estimated that these tactics saved tens of thousands of soldiers’ lives.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
National Archives

The ingenuity of the 23rd wasn’t limited to battlefield theatrics. Actors within the Ghost Army impersonated U.S. general and hi-ranking officers in European towns, brazenly discussing fake military plans over casks of wine and fooling German spies. Architects and set designers even constructed dummy camps and airfields, complete with tents and laundry drying on clotheslines, and fake convoys of empty trucks ferrying back and forth.

Hollywood has taken notice, as well, and a “Ghost Army” film is currently being developed by “American Sniper” actor Bradley Cooper and producer Todd Philips.

Articles

LA vets concerned history repeating itself as the VA negotiates stadium deal with UCLA

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
VA Secretary Bob McDonald in Los Angeles. (Photo: VA blog)


On January 28 Secretary Bob McDonald put his name to the draft master plan for the future of the West Los Angeles VA campus, a year after the agency won a settlement in a class action lawsuit brought before the courts to reverse years of encroachment on the campus. In his remarks at a ceremony marking the signing, McDonald spoke about the accomplishments of those involved in crafting the plan, crediting the veterans who’d assisted along the way.

“We know this is a team sport,” McDonald said of the process.  “It has to be done collaboratively.”

The effort that gave McDonald confidence that the master plan he was signing incorporated enough input from local vets involved collaboration on a massive scale. Marine vet Mike Dowling, We Are The Mighty‘s director of outreach, and Anthony Allman of Vets Advocacy helped organize a number of veteran service organizations to get membership mobilized to create the focus of the draft master plan.

Under the guidance of Dowling and others, dozens of VSO reps met weekly after work for six months hammering out formal comments while carrying the message back to their membership to make sure the direction behind the plan was as comprehensive as possible.

Vets Advocacy, the organization formed to settle the litigation and implement the settlement agreement, created a website, www.vatherightway.org, as the primary tool to inform veterans and get their input. The site allowed veterans to learn the history of the campus and the associated encroachment issues, see the schedule of the 12 town hall events, and — most importantly — conduct a survey that asked veterans for their opinions about how the campus could better serve the veteran community. More than 1,000 vets commented and those recommendations were filed to the Federal Register, the official government record of the plan.

That result was no small feat. Veterans answered the call to see to their own well-being in the same way they might have tackled an objective during their time on active duty. It was hard work, and the vets were proud of the fact that they might actually make a difference and be part of the solution.

But during his speech McDonald also credited the leadership of UCLA for their part in making the campus better for veterans, which struck many of the veterans in attendance as odd.  The university was arguably the worst offender in terms of encroachment by virtue of the fact that Jackie Robinson Stadium — home to the Bruins’ baseball team — was illegally built on VA property. What those vets didn’t know at the time was that McDonald was about to sign a document that outlined the terms of an “enhanced use” land agreement that would allow UCLA to continue to use the stadium for another 10 years, at least.

Curiously, the VA remained mum while UCLA issued a press release that outlined several million dollars worth of veteran initiatives that the university intends to carry out in the years to come in return for keeping the stadium.

Some veterans who were active in the draft master planning process expressed concerns that history is in danger of repeating itself by allowing the VA to sign deals with third parties without oversight or veteran buy-in for reasons that have no bearing on the VA’s mission.

“It feels like the VA put the cart before the horse by agreeing to terms before the enabling legislation passes and before any vets saw the deal,” said Seth Smith, a UCLA alumnus and Navy vet. “That timing leaves a bad taste in vets’ mouths. It’s a step in the wrong direction in terms of regaining the Los Angeles community’s trust.”

Richard Valdez, a Marine veteran and chairman of the VSO coalition in Los Angeles, said concerns from vets like Smith are premature because the agreement between the VA and UCLA is not legally effective and requires passage of the Los Angeles Homeless Veterans Leasing Act, which is expected this spring.

“Veterans need to understand that what was just signed isn’t a contract,” Valdez said. “It’s merely an agreement in principle.”

That fact notwithstanding, vet advocates who put a lot of work into the draft master plan question the VA’s timing and wonder why they weren’t given a heads up that the signing of terms with UCLA was going to happen. But VA officials were unflinching when asked about the circumstances surrounding the arrangement.

“We do everything with veterans in mind,” said Vince Kane, the director of the VA’s National Homeless Center. “And we got a good deal for them.”

Veteran expectations about the magnitude of change on the campus may have also been shaped by the language in the federal court’s findings in the original lawsuit (Valentini v. McDonald), which stated that all of the enhanced use land agreements on the VA campus were illegal. That may have led veterans to believe that the agreements would be terminated indefinitely (and even that the stadium might be demolished) in favor of more pressing priorities. After all, where does a Division I baseball stadium fit among the needs of homeless veterans and patients?

Valdez thinks that those who thought that would happen were naive. “Enhanced use leases are a fact of life, and that’s not going to change,” Valdez said. “If we have an issue within that reality, that’s where the vet community needs to focus.”

Dr. Jon Sherin, a physician who ran mental health services for the West Los Angeles VA hospital and serves as a senior member of the Vets Advocacy team, recommended that veterans remain vigilant and not grow cynical. “The work isn’t over,” he said.

“The master plan itself is a monumental achievement on behalf of the vet community,” Dowling said.  “No matter what happens, vets in LA set an example for communities across the nation in coming together to take our future in our own hands.”

Articles

Arlington National Cemetery is running out of room to bury America’s vets

Veterans of the Persian Gulf War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan can’t expect to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery unless policies are changed — even if they were bestowed the Medal of Honor, a new report says.


There are 21 million living veterans in the U.S., but the cemetery has room for only 73,000 burials.

ISIS has finally been defeated in Raqqa
Soldiers of the 3rd U.S Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) prepare to move the casket of Medal of Honor recipient Leonard Keller to his final resting place in Arlington National Cemetery’s section 60. (Photo: U.S. Army)

Currently, any veteran with an honorable discharge and at least one day of active duty is eligible for interment there at Arlington. That’s a lower bar than the cemeteries managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which require two years of active duty service. (RELATED: VA Insists On Paper Records, Slowing Payments To Private Docs But Creating Union Jobs)

Largely thanks to the one-day-minimum policy, the cemetery will be closed even to those killed in action — known as “first interments” — by 2042.

“If Arlington National Cemetery is to continue to operate under current policies, it must be expanded geographically and/or alter the iconic look and feel of the cemetery,” an Army report presented to Congress August 23 said. “If Arlington National Cemetery is to continue to operate without expansion, eligibility must change or it will close for first interments by mid-century.”

That’s only 26 years into the future, meaning veterans of recent wars, including in Iraq and Afghanistan, have little hope of burial there when they die later in life. “With current policies, Veterans of the Gulf War, Somalia, [Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Enduring Freedom] era cannot expect to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, even if awarded the Medal of Honor,” the report says.

Between 1967 and 1980, burial at Arlington was limited to those killed in action (KIA), retired career, and medal of honor recipients. If the policy is changed to limit the cemetery to KIAs only, the cemetery will have enough space for hundreds of years.

But doing so would disenfranchise Vietnam veterans, the youngest of whom will be octogenarians around 2040 and many of whom already felt mistreated by their country.

Besides changing policy, the cemetery can consider more compact and above-ground burials, which would risk losing the “serene and ordered look … with its rows of white headstones, trees, and tasteful historical and ceremonial spaces.”

It could also expand, either by acquiring neighboring land — which is hard to come by in Arlington — or at a new site. One such expansion is already taken into account in the projections.

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