Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march

The day before Thanksgiving is a time many people spend with family and friends. This year, Marines and Sailors of 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division decided to spend their time giving back to the local community.

Approximately 200 Marines and Sailors with 2nd Recon and their families participated in a charity ruck march Nov. 27, 2019. The Battalion loaded up their packs with non-perishable food donations and hiked approximately six miles from the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune Main Gate to the United Way CHEW! House in Jacksonville, North Carolina.


“Without the support of the community we wouldn’t be able to support this program. In Jacksonville, Marines are the biggest part of our community and for them to be able to give back to the community is huge.” Shelly Kiewge, the community impact director for United Way

“We have a lot to be thankful for,” said Sgt. Maj. Joseph Mendez, the 2nd Recon Sergeant Major. “As Marines, we are guaranteed the basic things like housing and food. It’s important that we realize that not everyone in our local community has that opportunity.”

The event was organized by 2nd Recon to build unit camaraderie through physical training, and donate much needed food items to the Onslow County United Way’s Children Healthy Eating on Weekends program.

“It’s always important to help out the local community,” said Staff Sgt. Joseph DeBlaay the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of 2nd Recon training command. “For us, it lets the community know we’re here and easy to approach when needed.”

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march

U.S. Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. David Ford the assistant training chief with 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion, 2nd Marine Division reads off the total donations after a charity ruck march.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler Solak)

The CHEW! Program was created to provide bags packed with healthy food for children in need over the weekend who wouldn’t be fed otherwise. The program helps over 700 school-aged children.

The Marines donated over 3,800 pounds of food to the CHEW! program.

“I want my Marines to understand the importance of this. Not that it’s just a battalion mandated event,” said Staff Sgt. DeBlaay. “I want them to see the importance of why we’re doing this to help out the community and help out those in need.”

This is the second year the battalion has organized this event and plans to continue the tradition in years to come.

“When you join the Marine Corps you do it as a means to help people who traditionally can’t help themselves,” said Lt. Col. Geoff Hoey, battalion commander of 2nd Recon. “Whether it’s people in a different country or helping people here at home who don’t have enough money to put food on the table. It’s inherent to what Marines do — we help people in need.”

This article originally appeared on Marines.mil. Follow @USMC on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Army Strykers are getting hunter-killer attack drones

The US Army is massively revving up the offensive attack technology on its Stryker vehicles with vehicle-launched attack drones, laser weapons, bomb-deflecting structures, and a more powerful 30mm cannon, service and industry developers said.

“We have now opened up the aperture for more potential applications on the Stryker,” Col. Glen Dean, Stryker Program Manager, told reporters at the Association of the United States Army Annual Symposium.

Stryker maker General Dynamics Land Systems has been testing an integrated sensor-shooter drone system mounted on the vehicle itself. A small, vertical take off surveillance drone, called the Shrike 2, launches from the turret of the vehicle to sense, find and track enemy targets. Then, using a standard video data link, it can work in tandem with an attack missile to destroy the targets it finds. The technology is intended to expedite the sensor-to-shooter loop and function as its own “hunter-killer” system.


“A missile warhead can be launched before you show up in town. It has a sensor and killer all in one platform. Let’s reach out and kill the enemy before we even show up,” Michael Peck, Enterprise Business Development, General Dynamics Land Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Peck added that the Stryker-launched drone system could make a difference in a wide range of tactical circumstances to include attacking major power mechanized formations and finding terrorist enemies blended into civilian areas.

“It will go out in an urban environment and it will sense and find your shooter or incoming rpg,” Peck added.

Dean also referenced the Army’s evolving Mobile High-Energy Laser weapons system, which has been testing on Strykers in recent years. Firing a 5kw laser, a Stryker vehicle destroyed an enemy drone target in prior testing, raising confidence that combat vehicle-fired laser weapons could become operational in coming years.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march

The laser weapon system uses its own Ku-band tracking radar to autonomously acquire targets in the event that other sensors on the vehicle are disabled in combat. It also has an electronic warfare jamming system intended to take out the signal of enemy drones.

Lasers can also enable silent defense and attack, something which provides a substantial tactical advantage as it can afford Stryker vehicles the opportunity to conduct combat missions without giving away their position.

A Congressional Research Service report from 2018, called “U.S. Army Weapons-Related Directed Energy Programs,” details some of the key advantages and limitations of fast-evolving laser weapons.

“DE (directed energy) could be used as both a sensor and a weapon, thereby shortening the sensor-to-shooter timeline to seconds. This means that U.S. weapon systems could conduct multiple engagements against a target before an adversary could respond,” the Congressional report states.

Lasers also bring the substantial advantage of staying ahead of the “cost curve,” making them easier to use repeatedly. In many instances, low-cost lasers could destroy targets instead of expensive interceptor missiles. Furthermore, mobile-power technology, targeting algorithms, beam control, and thermal management technologies are all progressing quickly, a scenario which increases prospects for successful laser applications.

At the same time, the Congressional report also points out some basic constraints or challenges associated with laser weapons. Laser weapons can suffer from “beam attenuation, limited range and an ability to be employed against non-line-of-sight targets,” the report says.

Dean said the Army was “pure-fleeting” its inventory of Strykers to an A1 variant, enabling the vehicles to integrate a blast-deflecting double-V hull,450hp engine, 60,000 pound suspension and upgraded digital backbone.

“This provides a baseline for the fleet to allow us to grow for the future. We just completed an operational test. That vehicle has growth margin to include weight carrying capability and electrical power,” Dean said.

Peck said GDLS will be upgrading the existing arsenal of “flat-bottomed” Strykers to the A1 configuration at a pace of at least “one half of a brigade per year.”

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march

General Dynamics Land Systems is also preparing a new, heavy strength 30mm cannon for the Stryker.

Compared to an existing M2 .50-cal machine gun mounted from Strykers, the new 30mm weapon is designed to improve both range and lethality for the vehicle. The new gun can fire at least twice as far as a .50-Cal, GDLS developers told Warrior.

The 30mm cannon can use a proximity fuse and fire high-explosive rounds, armor piercing rounds and air burst rounds. Also, while the .50-Cal is often used as a suppressive fire “area” weapon designed to restrict enemy freedom of movement and allow troops to maneuver, the 30mm gun brings a level of precision fire to the Stryker Infantry Carrier that does not currently exist.

Dismounted infantry units are often among the first-entering “tip-of-the-spear” combat forces which at times travel to areas less-reachable by heavy armored platforms such as an Abrams tank or Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Certain terrain, bridges or enemy force postures can also make it difficult for heavier armored vehicles to maneuver on attack.

In previous interviews with Warrior, GDLS weapons developers explained that the 30mm uses a “link-less” feed system, making less prone to jamming.

The new, more-powerful Orbital ATK XM 81330mm 30mm cannon, which can be fired from within the Stryker vehicle using a Remote Weapons Station, will first deploy with the European-based 2nd Cavalry Unit.

The Army is also fast-tracking newly configured Stryker vehicles armed with drone and aircraft killing Stinger and Hellfire missiles to counter Russia in Europe and provide more support to maneuvering Brigade Combat Teams in combat.

The program, which plans to deploy its first vehicles to Europe by 2020, is part of an Army effort called short-range-air-defense – Initial Maneuver (SHORAD).

Senior leaders say the service plans to build its first Stryker SHORAD prototype by 2019 as an step toward producing 144 initial systems

“We atrophied air defense if you think about it. With more near-peer major combat operations threats on the horizon, the need for SHORAD and high-tier weapons like THAAD and PATRIOT comes back to the forefront. This is a key notion of maneuverable SHORAD — if you are going to maneuver you need an air defense capability able to stay up with a formation,” the senior Army official told Warrior Maven in an interview.

As a result, ground infantry supported by armored vehicles, will need mobile air defenses to address closer-in air threats. This is where the Stryker SHORAD comes in; infantry does not have the same fires or ground mobility as an armored Stryker, and hand held anti-aircraft weapons such as a hand-fired Stinger would not have the same defensive impact as a Hellfire or Stinger armed Stryker. In a large mechanized engagement, advancing infantry needs fortified armored support able to cross bridges and maneuver alongside foot soldiers.

Chinese or Russian helicopters and drones, for instance, are armed with rockets, missiles and small arms fire. A concept with SHORAD would be to engage and hit these kinds of threats prior to or alongside any enemy attack. SHORAD brings an armored, mobile air defense in real-time, in a way that most larger, less-mobile ground missiles can.

The PATRIOT missile, for instance, is better suited to hit incoming mid-range ballistic missiles and other attacking threats. While mobile, a PATRIOT might have less of an ability to support infantry by attacking fast-moving enemy helicopters and drones.

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Check out this video of Russian gunships in action

Aviadarts is an yearly Russian all-Army competition attended by units of the Aerospace Forces, four military districts and the Northern Fleet (and invited foreign air arms, such as China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force – PLAAF, that took part in the previous editions). During the games, the best aircrews compete on different military specialties and conduct live firing exercises “to reinforce international military and technical military cooperation of the Contest participants; to raise the prestige of military service; to raise the level of training of the Contest participants; to demonstrate combat capabilities (military performance) of modern models of equipment, of weapons and military equipment.”


Once the qualifying rounds (or “preliminaries”) are completed, Aviadarts contest is carried out in three stages:

  1. Physical training: with main and backup crews involved in physical exercises, pull-ups, freestyle swimming etc.
  2. Visual aerial reconnaissance, that also includes formation flying
  3. Combat employment against ground targets: during which combat planes and helicopter engage ground targets while military transport aircraft conduct cargo airdrops.

The All-Army Stage of the Aviadarts 2019 Competition is currently underway in Crimea. From May 24 to June 9, 2019, Aviation crews of the Aerospace Forces, 60 crews flying MiG-29SMT, Su-27SM3, Su-30SM, Su-35, Su-34, Su-24M, Su-25, Tu-22M3, Il-76MD and Mi-24, Mi-35 as well as Ka-52 and Mi-8 helicopters will take part in the drills.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march

A Russian Air Force MiG-29SMT.

Dealing with the helicopters, crews of Ka-52 Alligator, Mi-8 AMTSH Terminator, Mi-35 and Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopters perform ground attacks using 80-mm unguided missiles and firing 30-mm cannons at more than 70 targets (divided into 12 types for various types of weapons) at the Chaud range in Crimea.

The following video, released by the Russian MoD, shows some of the Russian gunships in action during Aviadarts 2019. The gunner seat view is particularly interesting.

Боевое применение авиации на всеармейском этапе конкурса «Авиадартс-2019»

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on The Aviationist. Follow @theaviationist on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Combat in Afghanistan hits five-year high for American forces

The situation in Afghanistan is getting worse with the Taliban controlling more territory and American forces reaching a five-year high in terms of dropped ordnance last month. That is what Congress was told in testimony Oct. 31 by the man tasked with overseeing the effort in that country.


According to a report by the Washington Times, John F. Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, told Congress that the Afghan National Army has lost 4,000 troops, and 5,000 Afghan policemen have also dropped from the ranks. The decline in Afghan forces comes as armed clashes are on the rise.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
An F-15E Strike eagle conducts a mission over Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2008. The F-15E Strike Eagle is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” Sopko said. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”

Sopko also complained that the military was classifying some important information that had exposed wasteful spending. One of the more egregious cases included the expenditure of $500 million for Italian planes that were unable to operate in Afghanistan. The presence of “ghost” soldiers, whose paychecks are pocketed by senior officers, is also a problem.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
Ktah Khas Afghan Female Tactical Platoon members perform a close quarters battle drill drill outside Kabul, Afghanistan May 29, 2016. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Douglas Ellis.

From January 1 to August 23 of this year, 10 Americans have been killed and 48 wounded during operations in Afghanistan. That figure does not include the death of Chief Warrant Officer Jacob M. Sims of the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, who was killed in a crash on Friday.

According to iCasualties.org, 2404 Americans have died during Operations Enduring Freedom and Resolute Support. Since President Trump took office, U.S. forces have taken a more aggressive posture, including the first combat use of the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb.

Featured Image: Afghan agents with the National Interdiction Unit participate in the grand opening ceremony for the new Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan Headquarters Compound June 17, 2010, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of CNP-A, U.S. Embassy, Kabul, Afghanistan)

Articles

The critics are lining up against the VA’s PTSD pot study

Cannabis advocates are criticizing the Department of Veterans Affairs for wasting time and resources on recently published research that produced inconclusive results on the effects of medical marijuana in treating pain and post-traumatic stress disorder.


“I find the funds spent on regurgitating these studies to be worthless,” said Sean Kiernan, a veteran and advocate for the Weed for Warriors project.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
Logo courtesy of Weed for Warriors Project.

VA researchers last week published two studies that reviewed previous analyses and evaluations of the effects of marijuana on treating chronic pain and PTSD. The meta-analysis was led by researchers at the VA Portland Health Care System.

Mr. Kiernan, a combat veteran who served in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, has advocated for access to medical marijuana for veterans since 2013. Today, he works with Arizona-based physician Dr. Suzanne Sisley, who is enrolling veterans in a clinical trial evaluating cannabis in treating PTSD.

He accuses the VA of frustrating Dr. Sisley’s efforts to recruit veterans for her trial.

“Couple that with the active blockade the VA has undertaken with [Dr. Sisley’s] study and one is left scratching one’s head on what is really going on. It doesn’t make sense unless the screams for research are intended to be words only,” he said. “They say, ‘We don’t have research,’ and then they’re blocking the rigorous research.”

Dr. Sisley said the published article was “not helpful.”

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
Dr. Suzanne Sisley. Photo from High Times.

“[The VA researchers are] just retreading all the same material. There’s been so many meta-analyses. The fact that government money was wasted, again…” she said, her voice trailing off.

“These aren’t controlled trials, they’re all observational studies fraught with tons of human bias,” Dr. Sisley said of the research.

The VA researchers reached the same conclusion, writing that the available studies were insufficient to make recommendations on the medical benefits of marijuana. The researchers were barred from talking with the media to discuss their results.

Media inquiries were directed to a previous statement made by Veteran Affairs Secretary David Shulkin during a White House press conference in May. At that time, he tread lightly on endorsing medical marijuana because of its status as an illegal substance under federal law.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
Dr. David J. Shulkin. VA Photo by Robert Turtil.

“My opinion is, is that some of the states that have put in appropriate controls, there may be some evidence that this is beginning to be helpful,” Mr. Shulkin said. “And we’re interested in looking at that and learning from that. But until the time that federal law changes, we are not able to be able to prescribe medical marijuana for conditions that may be helpful.”

The National Institutes of Health lists at least 18 completed clinical trials with results that analyze the effects of cannabis on pain. For cannabis and PTSD, Dr. Sisley’s is one of about 10 studies underway, but hers is the only study evaluating military veterans and specifically those with chronic and treatment-resistant PTSD.

“It’s the most rigorous kind of science you can do — triple blind, everybody’s blinded in the study. Vets don’t know what they’re getting, I don’t know what anybody’s on, the independent raters don’t know what anybody is getting, so that way we eliminate any chance of human bias,” she said.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
Photo from public domain.

Completion of the phase two trial and positive results will set researchers on the path of phase three — replicating the findings in a larger test pool. But that’s years down the road and Dr. Sisley first is concerned with what the science will show in this study.

“I don’t know what this data will show. As much as I believe, there are certain studies that suggest cannabis could be helpful, we know we’re on the right track with this,” she said. “Until there’s a controlled trial, you can’t make any definitive conclusions.”

About 10 percent to 11 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have PTSD, with similar numbers of Vietnam-era veterans, according to the VA. At least 20 veterans kill themselves every day.

Advocates for marijuana say bureaucratic and legal barriers hinder access for a substance that could have immeasurable benefits for this population.

Articles

This is the new super fighter from Russia

While the F-35 got a lot of attention for its debut at the Paris Air Show, the Russians were quietly promoting one of their upcoming attractions.


According to a report from DefenseTech,org, the  MiG-35 “Fulcrum F” is slated to make its big debut at the MAKS international air show in Russia in July 2017.

The plane has been in development since 2007, when an initial prototype flew at an air show in Bangalore, India. MiG claims that this fighter has also been developed for very austere operation conditions.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
The MiG-35 is an upgraded version of the MiG-29. (Photo from migavia.ru)

“It can take off from a very short lane, take off and land on unprepared airfields, and can be stored without a hangar for a period of a few months,” MiG publicist Anastasia Kravchenko said through an interpreter. “And it’s important and we consider this to be somewhat of a record, if needed, the engines of the MiG-35 could be swapped in the conditions of active operations within the framework of 58 minutes.”

The MiG-35 is an evolution of the MiG-29, a lightweight multi-role fighter that has been in service since 1983 with the Russians. Photos released by MiG show that the MiG-35 has eight under-wing hardpoints for air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, bombs, rockets, and other ordnance.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
Hardpoints for days. (Photo from migavia.ru)

By comparison, MilitaryFactory.com notes that the MiG-29 has six under-wing hardpoints. The MiG-29 was widely exported, and notably saw combat with Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, and Yugoslavia. Other countries that acquire the MiG-29 include Peru, India, North Korea, Algeria, Cuba, and Myanmar.

MilitaryFactory.com reports that the MiG-35 has a top speed of 1,491 miles per hour, can fly up to 1,243 miles, and can climb 65,000 feet in a minute. The MiG-35 has been ordered by Egypt in addition to the Russian Air Force, with China, Peru, and Vietnam all rumored to be potential export customers.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
The MiG-35 at the MAKS air show in 2007. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

You can see what the hype is about in the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Marines will soon need swimming skills to be promoted

Marines can fight from the air, the land, and the sea. But can they swim?


The commandant isn’t so sure.

During a brief visit to Marines assigned to the Corps’ crisis response force for Africa in Morón, Spain, in December, Gen. Robert Neller said he wants to make proven swimming skills a requirement or contributing factor for promotion.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jered T. Stone)

The revelation came just days after the Marine Corps announced, at Neller’s direction, the return of the Battle Skills Test, another promotion requirement that will ensure Marines can accomplish essential tasks such as applying a tourniquet or employing a map and compass.

“I know nobody wants to have another requirement,” Neller said of the prospective swimming obligation. “[But] it’s either that or accept the fact that somebody might go into the water off a ship or off an airplane and they drown.”

In an interview, he told Military.com that the idea to implement a more rigorous swimming requirement had come to him after Marines were lost in late July 2017 when the MV-22 Osprey carrying them went down off the coast of Australia.

“We lost three Marines in that crash,” Neller said. “I don’t think it was because they couldn’t swim. But … we teach everybody basic life-saving or basic swimming at recruit training, but we never test again. So why don’t we test?”

The Marine Corps and Navy take similar approaches to swimming requirements. Both services require a basic swimming competency for all recruits at entry-level training.

Also Read: How to survive the first 4 weeks of Marine boot camp

For Marine recruits, the minimum requirement is call water survival basic. It requires Marines, clad in cammies and boots, to strip off protective gear, including body armor and a rifle, while in the water under 10 seconds; jump into the pool from a 15-foot tower and swim 25 meters in deep water; employ a floatation device made from a pack; tread water for four minutes, and complete another 25-meter pack swim. This qualification is good for two years and must be renewed when it expires.

For the Navy, the minimum third-class swim test requires that a recruit can swim 50 yards, complete a deep-water jump, do a five-minute prone float, and inflate clothing to float with. A sailor can also choose to incorporate a 500-meter swim as part of the annual physical readiness test.

For both services, there are more advanced qualifications that can be obtained. But unless Marines enter a more specialized role, such as reconnaissance, swimming qualification ends there.

For the Marine Corps, making swim skills a more regular requirement would mean ensuring that every service installation has a usable pool, and that every Marine has access to one.

“Part of the problem is, what do you do with people who are on recruiting duty or independent duty or the reserves?” Neller said in the interview. “How do you do that? So I don’t have a detailed plan yet.”

But, he added, he isn’t planning to give up on the goal just because it might require effort and money to execute.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
A Marine candidate with the Scout Sniper Screening Platoon, 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, conducts a 500-meter swim as part of the Scout Sniper Physical Assessment Test at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Oct. 19, 2015. The 500-meter swim was the first of several physically demanding events that tested endurance, strength and speed. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Paul S. Martinez)

If the plan does move forward, it’s not clear yet what skills Marines will have to demonstrate or how it will be incorporated into requirements. Neller expressed interest in making swim skills part of a Marine’s cutting score, the number that signals a Marine’s eligibility for promotion to corporal or sergeant.

“If you add it to cutting score, it incentivizes it,” he said. “If you’re not qualified for promotion unless you can swim, or you’re more qualified if you’re a better swimmer … There’s a whole lot of things going on, there’s a whole list of things we’re trying to do, and we’ll have to poke on this one again to see where we are.”

One thing is clear, however: Neller wants Marines to be ready.

“If there’s a pool here and you’re not a good swimmer,” he told the Marines, “you’ve got to get your butt in the pool.”

Articles

How Ukraine punked North Korea’s nuclear missile scientists

Ukraine has released footage of two North Korean spies exuberantly photographing fake missile designs in 2011, as part of a sting operation that eventually landed the pair in jail, as CNN reports.


Ukraine, once home to thousands of Soviet nuclear ICBMs, continues to produce missiles today as it faces a Russian-backed insurgency in the country’s east. Another Cold War remnant in Ukraine appears to be spycraft, which allowed the country to trick and capture two North Korean spies.

Authorities in Ukraine told CNN that the North Koreans sought “ballistic missiles, missile systems, missile construction, spacecraft engines, solar batteries, fast-emptying fuel tanks, mobile launch containers, powder accumulators, and military government standards,” to bring home to Pyongyang, according to CNN.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
North Korean spies photograph fake missile schematics. Screengrab from CNN video.

The specific plans the spies thought they were capturing showed schematics for the SS-24 Scalpel intercontinental ballistic missile, a Soviet-designed missile that can carry 10 independently targetable warheads across vast distances. Such a weapon would be a massive improvement over North Korea’s current fledgling ICBM fleet.

But the designs photographed by the North Koreans were fake, and moments after the cameras flashed, authorities broke into the room and detained them. The spies are now serving eight years in prison.

Ukraine may have released the footage to CNN after a report from the International Institute of Strategic Studies alleged that North Koreans had somehow obtained rocket engine designs from Ukraine. Ukraine has strongly pushed back on that accusation, and other missile experts have since disputed it.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Senate under pressure to vote on blue water veterans

Members of the House Veterans Affairs Committee called on the Senate on Dec. 20, 2018, to vote on the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans bill before the legislative body heads home for the holidays.

During a press conference, committee chairman Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., and Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., the ranking member and committee’s next chairman, pressed for a floor vote after an effort failed Dec. 19, 2018, in the Senate.


“There’s a joke that sometimes the enemy is not the other party, it is the Senate. They are not really the enemy, but they are being very difficult,” Takano said.

On Dec. 19, 2018, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, blocked a move to pass the bill, the Blue Water Navy, Vietnam Veterans Act of 2018, by unanimous consent. Lee wants to wait for a Department of Veterans Affairs report, due out in 2017, on whether health issues diagnosed in Blue Water veterans actually are related to Agent Orange exposure.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march

U.S. Army Huey helicopter spraying Agent Orange over agricultural land during the Vietnam War.

“The brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our country should undoubtedly get the medical care they need in connection with their service. But … it’s also our duty to ensure that this is done in a prudent and proper way with all the relevant information available to us,” Lee said, speaking on the Senate floor on Dec. 19, 2018.

Lee’s objection, as well as concerns by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyoming, over the bill’s estimated .2 billion cost over 10 years, was enough to block the bill in the Senate, where lawmakers hoped to pass it by unanimous consent, which would not require a floor vote of all senators.

But House members, who passed the bill 382-0 in June 2018, proposed that the Senate hold a floor vote.

Roe admitted that the existing studies that link health conditions in Navy veterans to Agent Orange aren’t definitive, but he added that it’s time to “move past that.”

“We’re this close to solving a decades-old problem for 90,000 of our colleagues. If we wait long enough, it won’t matter because they’ll all be gone,” Roe said.

The bill would provide compensation for veterans who served on Navy ships off Vietnam and have diseases that have been linked to Agent Orange in ground-based Vietnam veterans. These “Blue Water” veterans have pushed for years to get health care and compensation for their service-connected illnesses and disabilities.

In 2002, the VA ruled that veterans must have served on the ground in Vietnam to receive Agent Orange-related benefits; personnel who served on certain vessels that patrolled inland waterways also are eligible.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march

U.S. Army armored personnel carrier spraying Agent Orange over Vietnamese rice fields during the Vietnam War.

Veterans and their advocates say the exclusion of personnel who served on ships offshore is unfair, as studies indicate that troops may have been exposed when they showered or drank water on their vessels that was distilled from contaminated sea water.

Under the House proposal, the cost of the bill would be offset by raising interest rates for VA home loans for active-duty service members. “I feel very comfortable that this bill is fully funded,” Roe said.

VA officials, however, have objected to the measure, saying it puts a burden on young active-duty troops as well as disabled veterans.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, pledged Dec. 19, 2018, that the Senate would take up the measure next year. “[These veterans] have been denied year after year. … Asking them to wait denies them justice. … These veterans very simply are passing away; they will be denied of these benefits owed them.”

The bill also would broaden coverage for veterans who served in the Korean demilitarized zone, where defoliants were tested, and also expand benefits to children with spina bifida caused a parent’s exposure in Thailand.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The new nuclear posture actually deters the use of nuclear weapons

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review emphasizes the capabilities needed to correct adversary miscalculations and, in doing, deters the use of nuclear weapons, the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy said Feb. 23, 2018, at National Defense University.


David J. Trachtenberg spoke at an NDU Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction seminar on Feb. 16, 2018.

The 2018 Nuclear Policy Review is the Defense Department’s fourth review of U.S. nuclear policy, posture, and programs since the end of the Cold War. The newest review, Trachtenberg said, “reaffirms long-standing bipartisan principles of U.S. nuclear policy, while at the same time recognizing the reality that a much more challenging nuclear threat environment has emerged since the previous 2010 Nuclear Posture Review.”

Also read: Why America built 3,000 of these simple nuclear weapons

Three outcomes

The review’s three corresponding outcomes comprise the “reprioritization of nuclear roles, the clarification of our nuclear policy, and the recommendations for deterrence capabilities, each of which has been subject to considerable mischaracterization in much of the public commentary today.”

The first outcome is that the 2018 review returns deterrence of nuclear attack against the United States, its allies, and its partners to the top priority of U.S. nuclear policy, he said.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
Weapons Storage and Security System vault in raised position holding a B61 nuclear bomb. (USAF photo)

Second, he said, to strengthen deterrence, the review notes that the United States will consider the use of nuclear weapons only in response to extreme circumstances that threaten its vital interests.

Third, the review recommends two nuclear programs to strengthen U.S. capabilities to deter attack and assure allies: the modification of a small number of existing submarine-launched ballistic missiles to include a low-yield option, and the pursuit of a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile, Trachtenberg said.

Effective deterrence

“These specific capabilities are recommended to strengthen the deterrence of war and the assurance of allies, thereby helping to ensure that nuclear weapons are not employed or proliferated,” he emphasized.

“Effective deterrence is about tailoring our capabilities to a potential adversary’s calculations regarding the use of nuclear force to ensure that it never can appear to be a useful option,” Trachtenberg explained. “We must assess our capabilities relative to the doctrine, exercises, statements, threats, and behavior of potential adversaries.”

The goal of DOD’s recommendations is to deter war, not to fight one, he pointed out.

“If nuclear weapons are employed in conflict, it is because deterrence failed,” he said. “And the goal of the 2018 NPR is to make sure that deterrence will not fail.”

Related: The 9 most devastating nuclear weapons in the world

Modernization of the U.S. nuclear deterrent, adoption of tailored deterrence strategies with flexible capabilities, and clarification of the roles of nuclear weapons all send a strong deterrence message to potential adversaries, while also reassuring U.S. allies, Trachtenberg noted.

In addition, he said, the review helps to ensure that U.S. diplomats speak from a position of strength.

Nuclear triad modernization

“Russia has little incentive to negotiate seriously about nuclear reductions without a robust and ongoing U.S. modernization program,” Trachtenberg said. “In fact, the 2018 NPR calls for the modernization of all three legs of our strategic nuclear triad.”

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis recently told Congress that Russia is unlikely to give up something to gain nothing, he noted.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. (DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

“Critics who favor eliminating U.S. nuclear systems in the face of what is clearly an expansive Russian nuclear modernization effort, I believe, are undermining America’s greatest bargaining leverage and the prospects for future arms agreements,” Trachtenberg said.

The 2018 Nuclear Posture Review is one of several important reinforcing U.S. national security documents meant to guide U.S. policy in an increasingly complex and challenging world, he noted.

Read more: Why Mattis did an about-face on nuclear weapons

“Much as we might prefer otherwise, nuclear weapons are a regrettable necessity in the real world,” Trachtenberg said. “After the slaughter of two world wars, [nuclear weapons] have prevented large-scale great power conflict for more than seven decades. This is not a trivial outcome. In an era of renewed great power competition, adversaries, allies and the American people should know that the United States has the will and the flexible resilient nuclear forces needed to protect the peace.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Taliban killed 15 Afghan police in separate attacks

The Taliban have killed 15 police in two separate attacks on checkpoints in the east and south of the country, officials said Oct. 30.


Arif Noori, spokesman for the governor of the eastern Ghazni province, said an attack on a checkpoint there killed nine police and wounded four others. He said seven insurgents were killed and five others were wounded in the battle, which lasted more than an hour.

Late Oct. 29, the Taliban attacked another checkpoint in the southern Zabul province, igniting clashes in which six police and eight insurgents were killed. Amir Jan Alokozai, a district administrative chief, said another eight police and 12 insurgents were wounded.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
An Italian trainer observes Zeravani soldiers search a vehicle during a checkpoint training exercise Bnaslawa, Iraq, Aug. 8, 2016. US Army photo by Sgt. Kalie Jones.

The Taliban claimed both attacks. The insurgents have launched a wave of attacks across the country against security forces this month that has killed more than 200 people.

In a third attack, in the northern Baghlan province, a sticky bomb attached to a military vehicle went off in a market, wounding 13 civilians, according to Zabihullah Shuja, spokesman for the provincial police chief. No one claimed the attack, which took place in the provincial capital, Puli Khomri.

Articles

This Navy veteran found confidence and community in the world of Cosplay

Bring your A-game if you want to play World of Warcraft with Karen Sakai, but check your negativity at the door.


“I’m a gamer,” she says. “A gamer likes to play their favorite games with people. So I give out my real information so I can do that. That’s who I am.” Being true to herself is how Sakai stays successful. She was born in Norfolk, Va. but her mother took her to Japan when she was young. She later ended up in the Navy town of Bremerton, Washington, where she experienced a lot of bullying as a kid, growing up biracial in an Asian community.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
LEFT: Sakai at five years old, photo by her father. RIGHT: Sakai at 24, photo ©2014 Renegade Photo

“There were many Japanese around,” she says. “I’m half-white and half-Japanese and the Japanese, they picked on me because I was half-white: I brought a disgrace to Japan, I’m ugly, blah blah blah. The older folks, they also saw me as kinda weird. They didn’t understand that people could be biracial. I didn’t know many mixed kids either. The friends that I did have didn’t care though, and that was the best.”

The racism she struggled with when she was younger was only compounded by her hobbies and love for all things considered nerdy and geeky. She experienced so much flak for the nerdy things she loved, she took a very long hiatus.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
Sakai as Ms. Marvel (©2014 Renegade Photo)

“It was in 2003. I stopped doing it because I got bullied,” Sakai recalls. “But after a while, I thought to myself, ‘I’m an adult now. I can do whatever I want.'”

When Sakai joined the Navy as a Master-at-Arms in 2009, many of the issues surrounding her childhood faded away, despite being stationed in her Washington hometown (which, incidentally is what Sir Mix-A-Lot wrote about in his 1988 song, Bremelo).

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march

“I loved being in the Navy,” Sakai says. “I met a lot of gamer, nerdy folks in the Navy and they thought it was really cool that I am a female who loves this stuff. Everyone was so accepting of me. They didn’t care where you came from as long as you came in and did your job and had a good personality.”

Sakai’s family has a long Navy tradition. Her father was a long time Surface Warfare Officer who practically spent his entire life on an aircraft carrier.

“He was a career officer, always an XO or CO,” she says. “He was in for 22 years and he talked about it his whole life. I think everyone should have an experience in the military, if its something they’re thinking about. I chose the Navy because it runs in my family.”

Sakai was in the Navy for four years and left to finish her dual degrees in Anthropology and Primate Behavior and Ecology. While in school, she began modeling and cosplaying. She found the cosplay community to be the most accepting of which she’s ever been a part.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march
Sakai as Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2 (©2014 Studio Henshin Photography)

“I’m a cosplayer who will openly admit I’ve been bullied and it hurt my feelings. I’m open about it because it’s all part of being human,” she says. “This community is a very happy place. It feels like family. People who enjoy the same things as you, they’re not going to criticize you. Comic-Con and events like that feel like a long distance family gathering. It’s a safe place where you can really be yourself.” She compares it to football fandom.

“I’m from Washington,” she says. “So I like the Seahawks. If you like anime and you’re among friends, it’s like a group of Seahawks fans meeting up at Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the game. But people respect each other’s preferences. No one is going to make fun of you for liking Black Butler over Dragonball Z. You can be who you are.”

For Sakai, modeling is a bit different.

“I’ve done car shows, lingerie, cosplay modeling, all that stuff. It’s an industry. Sex sells,” she says. “So they want that generic, skinny, ‘whatever’ because it sells. I’ve done tests on my Facebook page and whatnot, posting different kinds of pictures, seeing the interactions, likes, and views it gets. The ones that get the most attention are the ones where I’m slutty and generic. I’m completely fake in those pictures but they’re the ones that get the most attention.”

So which photos are the real Karen Sakai?

“The ones where I’m not wearing makeup and I’m in a sweats, not showing cleavage,” she says with a laugh. “I’m me. I do my own thing, if they want to see cleavage 24/7 then I’m probably not the person to follow.

Marines & sailors go the extra mile in charity ruck march

Karen, now 25, lives with her boyfriend who is himself an Air Force veteran, in Washington state. They got together because he outdid her own nerdiness.

“If you one-up me and start a conversation about how wrong I am about something, then I know you are a true nerd,” she says. “He knows much more lore, more information, about games, anime, and comics in general.”

Sakai’s game is World of Warcraft. To her, it’s like cosplay.

“I made a character to live in a second world. I’m the hero in the game, not a little kid getting picked on. I create and customize a character who is strong, powerful, and pretty. When I dress up, I like to try and role play as a character I always looked up to or enjoyed. It’s fun to be someone else for a change.”

 

To hire Karen, email her: karensakaicosplay@gmail.com

To help Karen purchase material to build her own costumes (she loves to make armor) see her Patreon page.

NOW: These ‘Pin-Up’ girls entertain veterans with burlesque shows and sexy calendars

OR: Photos of amputee vets defy ‘wounded warrior’ stereotype

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