For first time, Japan's leader visits Australia's Pearl Harbor - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will pay his respects at a war memorial in Darwin, the Australian city devastated by Japanese bombing in 1942, in the first formal visit from a Japanese leader to Darwin since during World War II.

Abe is expected to visit the Darwin Cenotaph, a monument to the country’s servicemen, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a historic and symbolic meeting.

It will be the leaders’ first meeting since the Australian PM unexpectedly took office in August 2018.


Abe also plans to take a look at Japan’s biggest ever foreign investment, the gigantic $U40 billion Ichthys gas project, which began shipping LNG in October 2018.

Abe is expected to cement ties with Australia by promoting Tokyo’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” policy, touted to “promote stability and prosperity in areas between Asia and Africa rooted in rule-based order and freedom of navigation,” as well as reconfirm cooperation in maritime security, Japanese government sources told The Japan Times.

During his visit Abe will visit a memorial erected in 2017 to commemorate 80 seamen killed about a month before the infamous bombing of Darwin in February 1942.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

The explosion of a ship, filled with TNT and ammunition, hit during the first Japanese air raid on Australia’s mainland, at Darwin on Feb. 19, 1942.

Allied forces sank one of four Japanese submarines that tried to attack the northern town, according to The Australian newspaper

The I-124 submarine now lies on the seabed off Darwin. It is ­thought to be intact and undisturbed.

Abe goes to Canberra

Abe’s visit to Australia, and his hectic Asian Pacific schedule is widely viewed by analysts as a counter to Beijing’s growing influence across the Indo-Pacific.

The show of postwar reconciliation and the tightening of strategic bonds will strengthen Canberra and Tokyo’s economic and defense ties at a time when China is asserting its role in the region and US engagement in Asia under the Trump administration is less certain, the Times noted.

Japan and Australia normalized ties in 1957, with the signing of the “Agreement on Commerce”, just 12 years after the end of World War II.

The deal was controversial at the time as many Australians said Canberra had moved too quickly to sign a formal agreement with its regional adversary and the only nation to attempt to invade modern Australia, Japan.

Today that agreement is widely seen as a critical turning point in Australia’s engagement with its own backyard and Asia as a whole.

Abe’s visit comes almost two years after the Japanese prime minister made a similar significant visit to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii in December 2016.

Pearl Harbour was the site of the 1941 attack by Japan that brought the US roaring into the second world war, and prompted then President Franklin Roosevelt to name Dec. 7, 1941, as “a date which will live in infamy.”

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivers his “Day of Infamy” speech to Congress on December 8, 1941.

On that day, Japanese planes attacked the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2,300.

Yet the bombing attack on Darwin was even more brutal than Pearl Harbor.

More bombs were dropped on Darwin, more civilians killed, and more ships sunk.

Japan’s sudden and ferocious campaign finally brought a distant war home for Australians and Darwin became the frontline.

It was the largest and most destructive single attack mounted by a foreign power on Australia and led to the worst death toll from any event in the nation’s history.

More than 240 people were killed by the air raid in the former stronghold of Allied forces. Darwin later endured dozens more Japanese air attacks.

The visits reflect Abe’s intention for a postwar Japan to shore up regional ties with allies like the US and Australia.

Japan faces both military and economic challenges as a growing China flexes its regional muscle and poses more of a strategic question for Japan’s key ally, the US.

While Japan expressed biter disappointment that France beat it to lucrative contracts for Australia’s multi-billion dollar revamp of its ailing submarine fleets the two nations have moved closer to signing off on the Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) — which would effectively allow Australian and Japanese forces to move freely in and out of either territory.

Japan is also likely to be pleased with prime minister Morrison’s “Pacific pivot” speech on Nov. 9, 2018, committing some billion to support infrastructure projects around the region — largely in line with Japanese intentions to diversify sources of investment in the region away from China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Abe’s visit will be bookended by Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related meetings in Singapore and a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Papua New Guinea.

All after meeting with the US vice president Mike Pence who arrived in Japan Monday evening Tokyo time, as the two held brief talks Tuesday before traveling onto Singapore and then to Australia.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

World War II ‘Dazzle Ships’ were painted to attract enemy subs

Conventional wisdom would tell you that any ship going unnoticed by the enemy, especially an enemy submarine in World Wars I and II, would be the best-case scenario. But the Navy’s “Dazzle” camouflage was clearly anything but conventional. The ships feature a paint job that looks more Picasso than Portsmouth, but anything that could save a ship’s crew and cargo was worth a try.


Try not to have a seizure.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

The “camouflage” used on each of the Navy’s “Dazzle Ships” was unique to the ship, and its purposes were many. First, it prevented the enemy from identifying the ship, its class, its cargo, or even what kind of ship it was. It also made determining the ship’s course and speed difficult. If an enemy u-boat can’t determine the ship’s course, then it will also have difficulty moving to the best firing position, course and speed being necessary factors in targeting a ship with a torpedo.

Dazzle camouflage also made rangefinding for artillery and other ship-borne weapons very difficult, as it disguised many features used by captains and gunners for determining the range of the enemy target. One enemy captain called it the best camouflage he’d ever seen:

“Since it was impossible to paint a ship so she could not be seen by a submarine, the extreme opposite was the answer – in other words, to paint her not for low visibility, but in such a way as to break up her form and thus confuse a submarine officer as to the course on which she is heading.”
For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

A U-boat commander’s periscope view of a merchant ship in dazzle camouflage and the same ship uncamouflaged.

By the end of World War I, the United States and the United Kingdom had thousands of ships in service wearing dazzle paint. While there is little statistical data available that the dazzle patterns actually worked, the U.S. and Royal Navy both tested it extensively on small boat operation before implementing it, and anecdotal evidence suggests it was effective, as does a 1918 song by Gordon Frederic Norton, called “A Convoy Safely By.”

Captain Schmidt at the periscope
You need not fall and faint
For it’s not the vision of drug or dope,
But only the dazzle-paint.
And you’re done, you’re done, my pretty Hun.
You’re done in the big blue eye,
By painter-men with a sense of fun,
And their work has just gone by.
Cheero!

Articles

Trump’s Marine general picks all served together during the Iraq War

Just before the 1st Marine Division advanced on the Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on March 23, 2003, Maj. Gen. James Mattis pinned a star onto each collar of his assistant division commander, Col. John F. Kelly. He was now a brigadier general, and the first to be promoted on the battlefield since the Korean War.


Not far from there, another colonel in the unit named Joe Dunford was leading his regimental combat team.

Also read: 6 new changes to expect at the Pentagon with Mattis as SECDEF

By the end of the campaign, they had fought together in places like Nasiriyah, Al Kut, and eventually Baghdad. The division they were in — along with the US Army and UK armored elements — carried out one of the most aggressive, high-speed attacks in history, and 1st Marine Division’s ground march was the longest in the history of the Marine Corps, for which it earned the Presidential Unit Citation.

Those three officers went on to become four-star generals. Mattis retired in 2013 as the commander of Central Command, while Kelly retired as commander of US Southern Command in 2016. Dunford became commandant of the Marine Corps, and eventually chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, where he remains.

All three remain good friends. And if President-elect Donald Trump’s picks for his Cabinet are all confirmed, they’ll once again be serving together — only this time, it’ll be in the White House.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
DoD photo

Mattis has often been praised by senior leaders at the Pentagon as both a strategic thinker with an encyclopedic knowledge of history and an incredible leader. His legendary status among Marines mainly originated from his command of 1st Marine Division, where he popularized its motto, “No better friend, no worse enemy.”

The 66-year-old retired general is the only pick that has a legal roadblock in front of him. A 1947 law, updated in 2008, requires military officers to be out of uniform for at least seven years before leading the Pentagon. Mattis would need a waiver, which Republicans have already signaled support for.

When asked recently if he was concerned by Mattis as Trump’s pick, Gen. Joe Dunford just said, “No.”

If confirmed, Mattis would replace Defense Secretary Ash Carter, who supports Mattis and called him “extremely capable.”

Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
DoD photo

John Kelly just accepted Trump’s request for him to serve as the head of the Department of Homeland Security, according to CBS News.

Like Mattis, he is a blunt speaker who opposes the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.

“What tends to bother them is the fact that we’re holding them there indefinitely without trial. … It’s not the point that it’s Gitmo,” he told Defense One earlier this year. “If we send them, say, to a facility in the US, we’re still holding them without trial.”

Kelly is also the most senior-ranking military official to lose a child in combat since 9/11. His son, Lt. Robert Kelly, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010.

If confirmed, Kelly would replace Jeh Johnson.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joe Dunford

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
US Marine Corps photo

Joe Dunford is the last of the three generals who is still in uniform. He served briefly as commandant of the Marine Corps before President Barack Obama nominated him as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs in May 2015. He earned the nickname “Fighting Joe” during his time with 1st Marine Division.

Dunford has been in the Marine Corps for 39 years, less than Mattis’ 44 years and Kelly’s 45. His chairmanship term is scheduled to run through 2017. Though the Joint Chiefs are not part of the president’s Cabinet, they are appointed by — and serve as the top military advisers to — the president.

Trump is likely to replace many of Obama’s appointees, but Dunford may not be one of them.

Typically, Joint Chiefs chairmen serve two terms, and having comrades like Mattis and Kelly in Dunford’s corner would make it much harder for Trump to replace him.

Trump has floated other generals and admirals for his Cabinet, including Gen. David Petraeus for secretary of state and Adm. Michael Rogers for director of national intelligence. Michael Flynn, his controversial choice for national security adviser, is a retired lieutenant general who headed the Defense Intelligence Agency.

These choices don’t come without pushback. Some, like Phillip Carter, a former Army officer with the Center for a New American Security, have argued that Trump’s reliance on retired military brass for traditionally civilian-led organizations could jeopardize civil-military relations.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

It’s December and many are doing their holiday shopping or making a wishlist of gifts they’d like to receive.


During the Future Ground Combat Vehicle Summit in Levonia, Michigan early in December, Army acquisition professionals and program managers had their own wishlists that included an assortment of robots and ground combat vehicles meant to protect Soldiers and give pause to potential adversaries.

Robots

Brian McVeigh, project manager for Force Protection, was big on robots.

Over 7,000 were fielded in just the last decade, he noted. The challenge now is to move the most effective ones into programs of record.

Among these, he said, is the M-160 Robotic Mine Flail, which efficiently clears land mines using rotating chains that flail the ground. It is also rugged enough to be protected against mine explosion fragments.

The M-160 made it into a program of record this year before the holidays, and a number are already involved in route-clearance missions in Afghanistan.

By 2025, dismounted Soldiers will conduct foot patrols alongside robots called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport, or SMET, vehicles that carry rucksacks and other equipment that will lighten the Soldier load, McVeigh said.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
By 2025, the Army sees ground troops conducting foot patrols in urban terrain with robots, called Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport vehicles. Overhead, unmanned aircraft will also serve as spotters to warn troops so they can engage the enemy on their own terms, according to the the Army’s new strategy on robotic and autonomous systems. (U.S. Army graphic)

In order to get these to the warfighter sooner rather than later, the Army is procuring them through an Other Transactional Agreement, or OTA, he said.

The OTA got the program rolling fast, with requirements out in April and a down-select six months later in November, he said. Four contracts were awarded for 20 vehicles each, which will be tested by Soldiers in two brigades until the end of next year. Low-rate initial production is expected to follow with a production contract in place.

The requirements were limited to give manufacturers more flexibility in the trade-space, he said. The only firm requirements were that SMET be able to haul 1,000 pounds off-road, cover 60 miles in 72 hours and cost $100,000 or less each.

The OTA was used because Army leaders prioritized getting the weight off the backs of dismounted Soldiers, he noted.

Common Robotic System (Heavy) is designed to disarm or disable unexploded ordnance using a highly dexterous arm remotely controlled by a Soldier. The Army just published requests for information from industry for the wireless-range manipulator arm, McVeigh said.

Feedback from industry on CRS-H has been good, he said. It is expected that by next summer, draft performance specifications will be issued, and it is hoped that fielding can begin as early as 2020. This system is also going the OTA route.

The Enhanced Robotics Payload is another explosives ordnance disposal robot. A request for proposal has been released, McVeigh. And in October, a contract was awarded to Endeavor Robotics for another EOD robot, the Man-Transportable Robotics System Increment II.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
Army Reserve Sgt. Santiago Zapata, 2nd Platoon, 323rd Engineering Clearance Company, operates the Talon tracked military robot by using a ground remote on a route clearance mission while at the Combat Support Training Exercise at Fort McCoy, Wis., June 19, 2015. (DoD photo by Sgt. 1st Class Brian Hamilton)

Ground combat vehicles

David Dopp, program manager for Mobile Protected Firepower Vehicle, Ground Combat Systems, said a request for proposal was released in late November for MPF.

The MPF he envisions can be described as a light tank. It will be light in the sense that it will weigh less than half as much as an Abrams tank, which will allow two to fit inside a C-17 aircraft. That means its armor will be less than an Abrams.

The MPF will also sport a gun in the 105mm to 120mm range, similar to the ones on early versions of the Abrams, Dopp said.

It is expected that the MPF will provide infantry brigade combat teams with a long-range, direct-fire capability for forcible entry and breaching operations, he noted, so it is not by any stretch a tank replacement.

There will not be a lot of requirements other than MPF being light and powerful, he said. Army leaders are eager to quickly get it into the hands of Soldiers for testing.

A contract could be awarded by early FY19 with low-rate initial production to follow, he said.

Also Read: Marines get a tank-killer upgrade just in time for Christmas

Maj. Gen. John Charlton, commander, Army Test and Evaluation Command, said that although the Next Generation Combat Vehicle fielding isn’t expected until 2035, a lot of the components that may find their way onto the NGCV in one shape or another are being currently tested around the Army.

Two such systems that will likely inform development of NGCV, he said, are the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station-Javelin and the Stryker Remote Weapons Station.

CROWS-J allows the warfighter to remotely engage targets with precision fire from the Javelin while on the move, he said. Stryker RWS is a 30mm cannon on an unmanned turret. Both systems keep the gunner inside the vehicle, in a less exposed area than the turret.

Electro-magnetic interference testing is now underway on the sensors and software, he said.

There are some challenges to overcome in putting this technology on the NGCV, he said, describing a few.

Although the gunner is tucked inside the vehicle, rounds must still be loaded and reloaded in the gun, which means being exposed to enemy fire and working in cramped conditions, he said.

Getting everything working correctly will require a lot of software development, he said. This is probably the most difficult challenge.

And finally, situational awareness could be lost with the crew fully buttoned up inside the vehicle, he said. This could be particularly bad in urban terrain where Soldiers cannot get good visuals of what’s around and above them.

The situational awareness issue could be addressed through adding sensors and cameras so the crew doesn’t feel so completely closed in, he noted.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
A prototype illustration for The Next Generation Combat vehicle. (U.S. Army graphic)

Other future weapons

Charlton said several promising weapons are in the science and technology and testing stages.

Engineers are now designing extended-range cannons that can be mounted on the Paladin and will fire much greater distances than current artillery, he said, noting that the distances are impressive but classified.

The cannons could find their way on the NGCV, he said.

The challenges are now designing a breech in the gun system that can handle the enormous pressures and getting the APS software and sensors developed. Also, the crew might be adversely affected by the enormous pressures, so some sort of dampening mechanism would be needed.

Another weapon that will eventually make its way to the battlefield is the high-energy laser, Charlton said.

The Army and Air Force are now out at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico using them to knock out air-to-ground and surface-to-air missiles, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, he said.

A 300-kilowatt laser will be built and tested in the near future, he added.

“We want to ensure the lanes are clear when firing the laser,” he said. “We don’t want to take out one of our own satellites, so it will need to be equipped with an avoidance detection system.”

Lastly, Charlton said that an electromagnetic rail gun will be developed soon, but he’s not sure if it will find its way onto the NGCV. “But it will be on the battlefield in some shape or form,” he said.

The rail gun will shoot small, dense projectiles to distances of 30 kilometers at several times the speed of sound using electromagnetic pulses, he said. That will require some serious power, so initially it might have to be loaded on a large cargo truck.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
An M109A6 Paladin with Bravo Battery, 3rd Battalion, 29th Field Artillery Regiment (Pacesetters), 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division waits for darkness before the night live-fire portion of the table six gunnery certification. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. John W. Strickland)

Joint development

Dr. Dale Ormond, principal deputy, Research Directorate, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, said his office is working to ensure all of the laboratories across the Department of Defense are talking to each other, helping each other and avoiding duplication of effort.

The areas he’s particularly excited about are artificial intelligence paired with autonomy. Machines programmed for artificial learning will be able to collaborate much better with Soldiers and give commanders more options on the battlefield, he said.

Other promising areas are hypersonic weapons, he said, like the rail guns and lasers that the Army is working on.

He said he also expects to see a lot of developments in the space and cyberspace domains, as well as being able to operate in GPS-denied environments.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 reasons you should know about the hard core Selous Scouts

Green Berets, SEALs, MARSOC — these are all well-known operator groups in the United States military. But not many know much about the Rhodesian Selous Scouts.


Named after the famous hunter Fredrick Selous, they possess the teamwork mindset of the Rhodesian Light Infantry and the skills of the Rhodeisan Special Air Service; but with harder training requirements than both, the Selous Scouts became monumental in anti-terrorist operations.

Related: 5 reasons why Luke Skywalker was operator AF

5. Rigorous selection process

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
A recruit carrying a 30 kg (66 lbs) pack of stones. (Public Domain image)

The selection process was so difficult that the recruits wouldn’t believe the instructors when they were informed they had passed.

Their boot camp was named “Wafa Wafa Wasara Wasara” which is Shona for, “Who dies — dies, who survives — remains.”

4. Extensive Training

The Selous Scouts were raised as a special forces regiment when Rhodesia was facing a terrorist threat that was armed by the Soviet Union to eliminate many European colonies in Africa. The Scouts’ mission was the clandestine elimination of these threats both in and out of Rhodesia.

For this purpose, they were not only taught tracking and survival, but they were also trained by former terrorists in the language, songs, and mannerisms of their enemies on top of learning to parachute.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
The first Selous Scout parachuting class. (Image via National Archive)

3. Expert survival skills

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
A Selous Scout waits to be inserted by helicopter. (Image source unknown)

Selous Scouts were trained to hunt and forage for their own food and water supplies.

Their survival skills allowed them to operate without external support.

2. Could shoot targets in rapid succession — without looking

Trained to shoot well-known enemy hiding spots, they eventually became so skilled that they no longer needed to look at their targets in order to hit them.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
The marksmanship training they received would prove extremely useful in their operations. (Image via Imgur)

Also read: 6 ways for a POG to be accepted by grunts

1. Always outnumbered

Selous Scouts went out in 5-10 man teams, which meant they were always outnumbered against their enemies, but their training proved to be more efficient, allowing them to inflict a high number of enemy casualties.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
Selous Scouts valued quality over quantity. (Image via Reddit user dudewatchthis)

*Bonus* Infiltrated enemy units just to eliminate them

After being trained by former terrorists, Selous Scouts were capable of infiltrating enemy terrorist units by joining their factions. These scouts would eventually turn on the terrorists, capitalizing the elements of surprise and shock to mitigate the cells.

Other times, Selous Scouts would infiltrate enemy encampments and “expose” themselves by leaving clues behind of scout hiding places and encampments, ultimately leading terrorist troops into deathtraps.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
The ability to blend in with the enemy made Selous Scouts a formidable opponent. (Image via Reddit user 4noteprogression)

While Rhodesia ultimately fell to the Zimbabwe African National Union, the Selous Scouts remain a monumental example in the world of anti-terrorist operations and helped write the book on being operator AF.

popular

6 things you didn’t know about the M1 Abrams

During Operation Desert Storm, the world watched as approximately 2,000 M1 Abrams tank demonstrated the warfighting capabilities of American armor. By the end of the conflict, the M1 Abrams proved to be a monumental success, as the massive fleet destroyed roughly 2,600 enemy vehicles.


Only nine of our tanks were damaged in the conflict, and not a single one was hit by the enemy. All damaged tanks were the result of friendly fire.

The success of the M1 Abrams was the result of years of intelligent engineering. Here are a few things you didn’t know about this modern marvel and its components.

Related: What happens to an Abrams tank if hit by a battleship shell

1. The tank’s origin

In 1970, a joint effort began between the U.S. and West Germany to create a tank more maneuverable and cheaper than the M60. However, as development became more expensive, West Germany pulled out of the project. The U.S. kept at it and developed the XM-803, but the money problems continued and, eventually, America pulled the plug.

In 1973, Chrysler and General Motors were awarded a contract to design a prototype for the XM1. Chrysler ended up winning and named their vehicle the M1 Abrams after Gen. Creighton Abrams.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
Gen. Creighton Abrams.

2. The tank’s crew

The vehicle’s crew is comprised of a commander, a gunner, a loader, and a driver. These highly trained troops endure some cramped conditions to complete their missions.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
(Photo by U.S. Army Spc. Luke Thornberry)

3. Its unique turret

The main weapon of the M1 Abrams uses a laser rangefinder, ballistic computer, thermal imaging day-and-night sight, a muzzle reference sensor, and a wind sensor. The gunner’s workstation locks them on the target and won’t budge off-sight even when the tank is in motion.

4. The tank’s armor

The tank’s outer shell is covered with Chobham armor, a British intervention which uses conventional steel armor and ceramic tiles. Many of the armor’s details remain classified.

5. Housing the crew inside

An air filter system inside protects the crew from chemical and biological attacks. Additionally, all the munitions inside of the tank are kept within a special, protected storage compartment to ensure they’re not damaged by outside threats.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
Inside of an M1 Abrams tank.

Also Read: 5 things you didn’t know about deadly flamethrowers

6. Nicknames

The M1 Abrams is known for kicking ass and taking names. It’s been dubbed “The Beast,” “Dracula,” and “The Whispering Death.”

Check out Simple History’s video below to learn more about this colossal armored vehicle.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The VA is running out of money for Veterans Choice health care program — again

Weeks after a veterans’ health initiative received $2.1 billion in emergency funding, the Trump administration says the private-sector Veterans Choice health care program may need additional money as early as December to avoid a disruption of care for hundreds of thousands of veterans.


The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a statement Sept. 26 that it hoped to move quickly on a proposed long-term legislative fix that would give veterans even wider access to private doctors. The proposal, under review by the White House Office of Management and Budget, would seek money to keep Choice running for much of next year as VA implements wider changes.

On Capitol Hill, the House Veterans Affairs Committee was already anticipating that the emergency funding approved in August may not last the full six months, according to spokespeople for both Republican and Democratic members on the panel. They cited the VA’s past problems in estimating Choice program cost. That committee and the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said they were closely monitoring the situation.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
Photo courtesy of VA.

“It’s disheartening,” said Carlos Fuentes, legislative director of Veterans of Foreign Wars, citing his group’s continuing conversations with VA about Choice funding. “Imagine if a veteran has to cease chemotherapy treatment during Christmas.”

Garry Augustine, executive director of Disabled American Veterans’ Washington headquarters, said recent discussions with VA also gave him little confidence.

Related: Now the VA will let you schedule an appointment with your smartphone

“It’s always a concern,” Augustine said. “Legislative action needs to be done sooner rather than later.”

In its statement to The Associated Press, VA said it could not say for certain when Choice funds would be depleted, but acknowledged that it could be as early as December or as late as March. Earlier this year, the VA began limiting referrals to outside doctors as money began to run low and veterans reported delays in care.

The VA proposal for a long-term fix is expected to be released in the coming weeks.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
VA Secretary David Shulkin. Photo by Robert Turtil, Department of Veterans Affairs.

“We have a long agenda, a lot more to do,” VA Secretary David Shulkin told veterans last week at an event near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “This fall, our major legislative focus is getting the Choice program working right.”

The latest funding woes come amid political disagreement over the future direction of VA and its troubled Choice program, which was passed by Congress in 2014 in response to a wait-time scandal at the Phoenix VA medical center that spread nationwide. Some veterans died while waiting months for appointments as VA employees manipulated records to hide delays. The controversy spurred Congress to establish Choice as a pilot program designed to relieve pressure at VA hospitals.

Choice currently allows veterans to receive outside care if they must wait 30 days or more for an appointment or drive more than 40 miles to a VA facility. But the program has encountered long delays of its own.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
Marines, veterans, and care providers watch as the American flag is walked to the flagpole at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix, AZ. Photo by Sgt. Justin Boling

In a sign of a political divide, the left-leaning VoteVets ran a $400,000 ad campaign earlier this month in 13 states that warned viewers, “Don’t let Trump privatize my VA.” The American Federation of Government Employees has been staging rallies to bring attention to VA job vacancies left unfilled.

The VA said it remains committed to filling agency positions even as it finalizes plans to revamp Choice. VA said it had about 34,000 vacancies, which officials attributed in part to a shortage of health professionals.

Also read: New legislation could provide mental health care to combat veterans

Legislative proposals to fix VA have run the gamut, including one backed by the conservative Concerned Veterans for America that would give veterans almost complete freedom to see an outside doctor. Another plan could create a presidential commission to review closing some VA medical centers.

“Congress can either double-down on the failed VA policies of the past or they can go in a different direction and empower veterans with more choice over their health care,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director of Concerned Veterans for America.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nolan Kahn

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged to fix the VA by bringing accountability and expanding access to private doctors, criticizing the department as “the most corrupt.” At an Ohio event in July, Trump promised to triple the number of veterans “seeing the doctor of their choice.”

More than 30 percent of VA appointments are made in the private sector.

Carrie Farmer, senior policy researcher for the RAND Corp., said the Choice debate raises broader questions about the role of government-run health care in treating veterans. To many former troops, the VA health system is a “medical home” where patients feel more understood by doctors specially trained to treat battlefield injury, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Significantly expanding Choice could upend that government role as caretaker, she said.

“The big question is ultimately who will be responsible for our veterans’ care?” Farmer said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

An all-out Saudi attack on a Yemen port city is a real disaster

The Saudi-led coalition launched a major assault on Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah on June 13, 2018, killing 250 Iranian-backed Houthi fighters, according to UPI.

The coalition’s initial assault on Hodeidah, which the UN has warned could end up killing 250,000 civilians and exacerbate the already terrible humanitarian condition, included several airstrikes and also led to the capture of 140 Houthi fighters, UPI reported.

The Houthis at the same time reportedly hit a coalition warship with two missiles, according to Jane’s 360. The Saudis and the United Arab Emirates — the two major actors in the coalition — have not commented on the claim.


Almasirah Live, a Houthi media outlet, has broadcasted purported footage of the coalition ship on fire:

MIGHTY TRENDING

Here’s a 360-degree view of North Korea’s ‘Bizarro World’ capital city

A photographer took a 360-degree aerial video of Pyongyang for the first time.


The video reveals another side of North Korea, as well as many striking scenes and landmarks.

Many outsiders know North Korea only as the scary, totalitarian state where Kim Jong Un rules with an iron fist, but the Singaporean photographer Aram Pam just completed a world first: filming Pyongyang from a microlight plane with a 360-degree camera.

Pam, who provided photos and video to NK News, negotiated strict regulations and bans on photography and media to capture Pyongyang as it had never been seen before.

The aerial view of Pyongyang reveals a strange juxtaposition — brilliant high-rises line major streets like facades, but low, dull buildings hide behind them. North Korea’s tall, modern-looking buildings tower over broad streets with virtually nobody on them. Highways intersect without a traffic light. Gleaming space-age stadiums contrast sharply with other nearby massive structures that seem to rot.

In the video below, see all of North Korea’s great and mysterious structures — like the “Hotel of Doom” and the May Day stadium, one of the largest in the world — and countless waterfront skyscrapers.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Blooming together: Our salute to moms

May is a month to celebrate military spouses and mothers, so let’s give a salute to all the military spouse moms holding the family together and keeping things going on the homefront!

Military life is always challenging, but it’s especially difficult when your service member is away and you’re the solo parent. This month, we shine a spotlight on military spouse moms navigating through deployments. Thank you, mothers, for your generous love and sacrifices.


To the mothers missing their service member:

We know it’s difficult when your service member is gone. It doesn’t matter how long they are away, whether it is a deployment, a TDY, or just a few days of training. We salute you, moms who are on your own. We know there are times when you cry in the shower or in your car, just so the kids won’t see your tears. And we know that you have what it takes to keep going.

“I’ve temporarily had to say see you later to my best friend, my teammate, and my partner in crime. My husband deploying was extremely difficult on myself and our four children. However, going through all of this without my husband allowed me to experience first-hand that I can, I will, I do, and I did handle deployment like a boss.”
– Megan, Navy spouse

To the pregnant mothers:

We see you, moms who are juggling the difficulties of pregnancy with the obstacles of military life. To all those trying to plan a baby in between PCS moves and deployments, and experiencing sickness and fatigue on your own—we salute you! Even when you feel exhausted, you are everything your baby needs.

“I’m about to be a mom of two Irish twins. My son is 9 months old right now. I’m due again in three months. I’m very nervous not having my husband by my side for this one but I have to be strong for the both of us.”
– Meagan, Army spouse

To the mothers of little ones:

We salute you, mothers surrounded by diapers and bottles, unfolded laundry, and art projects. When you feel like you’re going crazy, remember that you are not alone! You’re part of an incredible club of mothers who are making things work one day at a time.

“I am a mom of four under 7. I took a leave of absence from my job a few months into this deployment. I mentally couldn’t handle my career and solo parenting. It was the best decision I made, and has given me an opportunity to experience being a stay-at-home mom. Because I have so many young children, routine is really important.”
– Emily, National Guard spouse

To the mothers of teens:

We know you’ve been feeling invisible ever since the middle school years. Even when your kids treat you like a taxi and meal delivery service, know that you are still their rock. We salute you for all the times you stay up late, taking care of the emotional needs of these bigger kids.

“Working mom of three teenage daughters here. That means this momma goes 100 mph six days a week. As tired as I am sometimes, I enjoy taking them to practices and games.”
– Terri, Army spouse

To the mothers struggling with infertility:

Our hearts go out to the mothers who have struggled with the pain, loss, and disappointment of infertility. Whether you are already a mother hoping for more children, or you are longing to someday hold your own child, we see you and we salute you.

“We were going through IVF treatment during a year-long deployment. It was the most difficult deployment by far because I was going through a medical treatment that was draining emotionally and physically. It was a hard year, but it was a year of growth.”
– Linda, Air Force spouse

To the mothers who are caregivers:

As a mother, you already give your energy, your love, and your care to your children. To those who also care for their service member or take on the responsibility of aging parents, we salute your generosity and we wish you all the patience in the world.

“I’ve lost a lot of my own independence and free time which is probably the hardest. I’m exhausted at the end of the day. Moving my mother-in-law in actually ended up being way harder and less help than we had hoped.”
– Caitlin, National Guard spouse

To the stepmothers and blended families:

They should call you the bonus mom when you take on bonus kids and open your heart to his, yours, and ours. We salute your love, your patience, and your perseverance.

“We are a quintessential blended family. We each have children from previous marriages. I am pregnant with our second “ours” baby. Sea duty life has rocked our world for the last three years. He’s been gone as much as he’s been home.”
– Julie, Navy spouse

To the mothers in dual military marriages:

You are juggling all the responsibilities, and so much falls on your shoulders. You are supporting your spouse’s military career, while pursuing your own, and trying to do what’s best for your children too. We salute you and thank you for your service!

“It’s hard being the service member and the spouse. Sometimes it’s easier to go to work and focus on a mission than it is to stay at home with the kids and not hear from him.”
– Lauren, Navy married to a Marine

Whatever stage you are in, military spouse, we support you and wish you a happy Mother’s Day!

This article originally appeared on Military Spouse. Follow @MilSpouseMag on Twitter.

Life Flip

Veteran-owned Combat Flip Flops spreads peace in conflict zones

What started as a pilot project in Kabul making sandals has now become a major lifestyle brand that employs thousands of local craftsmen and women in conflict zones all over the world. After serving, Matthew Griffin and fellow airborne Ranger Donald Lee recognized that the factories producing military gear in Afghanistan were going to become obsolete. During the seven tours between the two of them in the region, the founders of the company were constantly astonished by the creativity, respect, and determination of the Afghani people.


Griffin and Lee agreed that extremism finds easy prey in areas that are starving for resources. Rather than heading home upon completion of their duty, they went back unarmed. Combat Flip Flops was born from the idea of transitioning from war to peace.

Griffin and Lee enlisted Griffin’s brother, designer and co-founder Andy Sewrey, to come to Afghanistan develop their flagship product: a comfy, durable sandal, referred to the AK-47. Sewrey looked around him and realized he had no shortage of inspiration: poppies, tuck-tucks, bullet casings, and combat boots. They took the raw materials from the boots and redesigned them into flip-flops. Having almost no budget, the small team had to get scrappy about material and funding.

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Every product sold by Combat Flip Flops does one or more of these things: employs American Gold Star Families, supports a veteran-owned business, gainfully employs Afghan war widows, funds one day of school for an Afghan girl, and clears land mines.

“We sold a car and a few other things and we came up with samples and we literally threw all our samples in a duffel bag and went to a Vegas to a trade show,” Griffin recalled. “People thought they were cool and bought them and we sold thousands right out of the gate.”

It became apparent that their model and philosophy were working, and when one factory became two, they added new products and pumped the money back into the communities, providing local citizens with jobs and opportunities.

Combat Flip Flops’ main production hub is in Bogata Columbia, where women-owned and operated factories make shoes and scarves. They have also partnered with makers all over the world and worked with displaced Syrian refugees in Beirut. In these factories, creative repurposing of bomb casings into bracelets and necklace charms made from recovered mines helps reduce the environmental impact from the after-effects of war.

Also read: Ranger takes flip flop company from Kabul to the Shark Tank

Every pair of AK-47s sold — and in fact every single item on the website — funds an Afghani girl’s education for up to seven days. Since the literacy rate for girls in Kabul hovers around 15%, that is a significant infusion of education investment. Early education provides kids with upward mobility and makes them less vulnerable to fundamentalist recruiters.

Combat Flip Flops is a great example of soldiers taking their know-how and big hearts and using their powers to enact good after they have left the battlefield. These guys are committed to reducing the threat of war by trying to stabilize local communities one by one. “Employ the parents, educate the children” is the company’s informal motto.

You can check out the many fine products under the Combat Flip Flops brand here and because it’s a veteran-owned and operated nonprofit organization, all the proceeds go directly to educating young people in conflict zones.

Support soldiers — and the communities that they work so hard to protect.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Study claims VA wait times are now shorter than private clinics

Wait times at Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and clinics have gone down significantly from recent years and are now shorter on average than those in private-sector health care, at least in big cities, according to a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Critics of the study pointed out that main contributors to the JAMA report were current and former VA executives, including Dr. David Shulkin, who was fired as VA secretary in 2018 by President Donald Trump.


In a statement, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the JAMA report published Jan. 18, 2019, showed that the VA “has made a concerted, transparent effort to improve access to care” since 2014, when wait-times scandals and doctored records led to the resignation of former VA Secretary and retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki.

“This study affirms that VA has made notable progress in improving access in primary care, and other key specialty care areas,” Wilkie said.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The cross-sectional JAMA study of wait-time data from VA facilities and private-sector hospitals focused on primary care, dermatology, cardiology and orthopedics in 15 major metropolitan areas.

The findings were that “there was no statistically significant difference between private sector and VA mean wait times in 2014” and, in 2017, “mean wait times were statistically significantly shorter for the VA,” the JAMA report said.

“In 2014 the average wait time in VA hospitals was 22.5 days, compared with 18.7 in the private sector,” the study said, but in 2017, “mean wait time at VA hospitals had gone down to 17.7 days, while rising to 29.8 for private practitioners.”

The study, titled “Comparison of Wait Times for New Patients Between the Private Sector and Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers,” relied on wait-time data provided by the VA and calculated private-sector data from a survey conducted by a physicians’ search firm, Merritt Hawkins, using the so-called “secret shopper” method in nearly 2,000 medical offices in metropolitan areas.

“For the secret shoppers method, the research associates at MH [Merritt Hawkins] called physicians’ offices asking to be told the first available time for a new-patient appointment,” the JAMA study said.

“This earliest availability was recorded as the wait time. However, the VA data record scheduled wait times, which may not reflect the earliest available appointment,” the study said.

The JAMA report also noted that rural areas and follow-on care were excluded from the analysis and said that “follow-up studies are critical to analyze access to the entirety of VA health care,” since nearly one-quarter of veterans live in rural areas.

The overall conclusion of the report was that “access to care within VA facilities appears to have improved between 2014 and 2017 and appears to have surpassed access in the private sector for 3 of the 4 specialties evaluated,” with the exception of orthopedics.

In 2014, the VA was rocked by wait-time scandals and allegations of manipulated data at the VA medical center in Phoenix, Arizona. “This incident damaged the VA’s credibility and created a public perception regarding the VA health care system’s inability to see patients in a timely manner,” the JAMA report said.

The VA has since worked to improve access and reduce wait times.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

“There is evidence suggesting that these efforts have improved access to care, including reports that 22% of VA patients are now seen on the same day as the requested appointment,” the report said. However, “Despite, these efforts, the adequacy of access to VA care remains unclear.”

As a result of the 2014 scandals, the VA initiated the Choice program to expand private-care options for veterans. Last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the VA Mission Act to consolidate and streamline the Choice program, which has been riddled with inefficiencies.

In June 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a report stating that many veterans who opted for the Choice program to avoid wait times still faced delays that could stretch for months before seeing a doctor.

In response to the JAMA report, a posting on the Disabled American Veterans website came under the heading: “Veterans Affairs Spins ‘JAMA Study’ It Authored On VA Wait Times.”

In addition to Shulkin, the posting noted that another contributor to the JAMA study was Dr. Carolyn Clancy, the former acting head of the Veterans Health Administration. She was replaced in July by Dr. Richard Stone as acting head of the VHA and has now taken the position at the VA of deputy under secretary for discovery, education and affiliate networks.

Stone, the former deputy surgeon general of the Army, has yet to receive Senate confirmation. The VHA has not had a permanent head since Shulkin left the position in January 2017 to become VA secretary.

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

popular

How the white Toyota HiLux became the favorite vehicle of terrorists

Troops working at base entrances or traffic control points inspect vehicles with great care. Troops search every inch of a vehicle to ensure that there aren’t any explosives or terrorists onboard. But there is one specific make, model, and color that will always trigger a more thorough search: a white Toyota HiLux. The truck is beloved by the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, Somali pirates, and, recently, ISIS.


In the manufacturer’s defense, Toyota strongly condemns the use of their vehicles in this manner. They have made strong efforts to stop terrorists from getting their hands on these vehicles, including limiting the number of vehicles and dealers in the Middle East region. Unfortunately, most terrorists aren’t waltzing into dealerships to get the vehicles.

 

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor
Even SNL got ISIS’s love of Toyota right in one of their skits.

Nearly all Toyota vehicles that end up in terrorist hands are stolen or are sold through third-party buyers until they end up in Syria. In Australia, where the truck is the best-selling model of any vehicle, theft is extremely common. Of the 834 HiLuxes that were stolen in New South Wales, Australia alone, nearly half of them were rediscovered in war zones.

The high praise for the vehicle is often attributed to the utility of a truck that was specifically made for off-roading in the desert. The HiLux is also very sturdy, as demonstrated by an experiment done by BBC’s Top Gear where they crashed it into a tree, submerged it in the ocean for five hours, dropped it 10 feet, crushed it under an RV, drove it into a building, hit it with a wrecking ball, set it on fire, and then placed it on top of a 23-story building that was demolished. After all that, all it took to get it running again was a hammer, some wrenches, WD-40 — no spare parts.

For first time, Japan’s leader visits Australia’s Pearl Harbor

 

They are also easily adapted into “technicals” by mounting heavy weapons on the bed of the truck. These played a key role in the 1987 Chadian-Libyan conflict, now known appropriately as the Toyota War. Libya had Russia’s backing, giving them tanks, fighter jets, and helicopters. The Chadians had about 400 HiLuxes and Toyota Land Cruisers at their disposal along with some anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles. Surprisingly enough, the Chadians won because they were more agile and able to easily maneuver the Saharan deserts.

Terrorists all over took notes, and the Toyota HiLux is still very common in war-torn regions.

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