A sign hanging above the doors to the gas chamber reads, “Even the brave cry here.” A dozen at a time, Marines are ushered into a small, dark, brick room. A thick haze of o-Chlorobenzylidene Malononitrile, more commonly known as CS gas, fills the air.
Marines with Deployment Processing Command, Reserve Support Unit-East (DPC/RSU) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, conducted gas chamber training Nov. 8, 2019, on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“During qualification, which can take about four to five hours, Marines are taught nuclear biological and chemical (NBC) threats, reactions to NBC attacks, how to take care of and use a gas mask, how to don Mission-Oriented Protective Posture gear, the process for decontamination, and other facts relating to NBC warfare,” said Cpl. Skyanne Gilmore, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) specialist with the 26th MEU.
Cpl. Samual Parsons and Cpl. Isais Martinez Garza, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) specialists, suit to Marines for gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.
(US Marine Corps/Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)
“The gas chamber training teaches Marines how to employ gas masks in toxic environments, and to instill confidence with their gear during CBRN training. Training in the gas chamber is essential because a service member can never know when they could be attacked,” Gilmore said.
According to Gunnery Sgt. James Kibler, Alpha Company operations chief with DPC/RSU, the unit conducts gas chamber training once a month due to the rotation of service members preparing for deployment.
The 26th MEU was training to complete Marine Corps Bulletin 1500, a biennial requirement for active-duty Marines.
A US Marine clears his gas mask during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)
A US Marine performs a canister swap on another Marine during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)
During the training, CBRN Marines monitor individuals who may be struggling in the gas chamber.
“We calmly talk to them, and we take them step by step of what to do,” Gilmore said. “If they’re freaking out, we have them look at us and breathe. If we have to, we pull them out of the gas chamber and let them take their mask off and get a few more breathes before we send them back in there so they can calm down and realize they’re breathing normally.”
A US Marine breaks the gas mask seal as instructed during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)
Having confidence in one’s gear and checking it over twice before going inside helps individuals from losing their composure in the gas chamber.
“Check the seal on your mask and the filters before going inside,” said Gilmore. “When you feel like freaking out, take a breath and realize that you’re not breathing in any CS gas. You should have confidence in yourself and your gear.”
US Marines perform a canister swap during gas chamber training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Nov. 8, 2019.
(US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Dominique Osthoff)
Due to the rise in chemical attacks, proper training in the gas chamber could save a service member’s life.
“Throughout Iraq, there have been pockets of mustard gas and a couple other CBRN-type gases that have been found, especially within underground systems,” Kibler said.
“I know that when I was there in 2008, a platoon got hit with mustard gas when they opened up a Conex box. The entire platoon was able to don their masks. Gas attacks are out there; it might not be bombs, but it’s out there somewhere.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment is widely considered to be the best unit of its kind in the world. Known to recruit only the best pilots the US Army has to offer to fly its MH-60 Black Hawks, MH-6 Little Birds and MH-47 Chinooks, the 160th routinely flies in support of America’s most elite troops — Green Berets, Delta Force operators, Army Rangers, and the like.
Not much is actually known about the 160th, and for good reason — it’s still a special operations unit, as its name suggests. But even this outfit is still too “public” for some of the most clandestine missions the Army and Joint Special Operations Command wishes to send its elite operators on.
So the Army stood up an aviation unit that hides deep in the shadows
This outfit is most commonly referred to as “Flight Concepts Division,” though its name has changed many times in the past in order to preserve its cover. Though very little is known about the unit today, we can still infer its role and capability based on what little the Army has released on the Division’s past.
Originally founded as a special ops unit unto itself,first known as SEASPRAY — a highly classified aviation outfit with a number of fronts and covers to protect its identity from public view. Thousands of pilots, cherry-picked from around the Army, were invited to try out for SEASPRAY, but only a handful were selected to continue with the recruitment and training process. Once training was complete, these pilots would go on to fly top secret missions across the world, especially in Central and South America, in support of American special operations objectives.
However, in the mid-1980s, SEASPRAY was disestablished by the Army in the wake of a scandal, its components dispersed and moved to other units to fulfill a similar role.
By the 1990s, the Army had moved chunks of SEASPRAY over to Delta Force, standing up Echo (E) Squadron to support Delta operators with aerial surveillance, insertions and extractions on missions. Pilots and aircraft were transferred over and brought into the fold quickly, receiving further training in assisting Delta assault troops in taking down hijacked cruise ships, inserting operators behind enemy lines and other risky missions.
According to Sean Naylor in his book, “Relentless Strike,” E Squadron pilots were trained and rated to fly a variety of foreign aircraft, including Russian military helicopters popular in the Balkans at the time of the crises there in the mid-to-late ’90s, allowing them to blend in and fly virtually unnoticed. As time passed, whoever, E Squadron’s effectiveness grew so much that brass within Joint Special Operations Command wanted to excise it from Delta Force and stand it up as its own separate unit once more.
Fast forward to the late 1990s, and Flight Concepts Division came into play. Earlier known by a number of other covers and fronts, such as Aviation Technical Services, Quasar Talent and Latent Arrow, this unit provided immeasurable support for “black operations” troops in the Balkans, ferrying them into and out of combat zones surreptitiously without anybody the wiser.
Flight Concepts Division still remains an active unit today with a vague name and an equally obscure mission description. What it actually does in support of American special operations is anybody’s guess, especially while it operates in the shadows cast by its big brother unit, the 160th SOAR. Its aircraft are masked, painted with civilian markings and otherwise kept out of sight, its pilots and aircrew indistinguishable from the average pedestrian on any of America’s streets.
But those who serve with the division are more than likely the best of the very best, the cream of the crop – the elite black ops aviators called upon by Joint Special Operations Command and the president for top secret missions we’ll not hear of for decades to come.
For seven decades, the NATO alliance has practiced collective defense and deterrence against evolving international threats, and over the years, its capabilities have changed accordingly.
NATO’s most “powerful weapon,” according to Jim Townsend with the Center for a New American Security, is the “unity of the alliance,” but the individual allies also possess hard-hitting capabilities that could be called upon were it to face high-level aggression.
Heather Conley with the Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that Russia is likely to continue to press the alliance through low-end influence and cyberwarfare operations. Still, she explained to Business Insider, NATO needs to be seriously contemplating a high-end fight as Russia modernizes, pursuing hypersonic cruise missiles and other new systems.
So, what does that fight look like?
“I’ve always likened it to a potluck dinner,” Townsend told Business Insider. “If NATO has this potluck dinner, what are the kinds of meals, kind of dishes that allies could bring that would be most appreciated?”
“If a host is looking to invite someone who is going to bring the good stuff, they are for sure going to invite the United States,” he explained, adding that “in all categories, the US leads.”
Nonetheless, the different dinner guests bring a variety of capabilities to the table. Here’s some highlights of the many powerful weapons NATO could bring to bear against Russia.
Capt. Andrew “Dojo” Olson, F-35 Demonstration Team pilot and commander performs a dedication pass in an F-35A Lightning II during the annual Heritage Flight Training Course March 1, 2019, at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Alexander Cook)
1. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter
“The air side of the NATO equation is led by the United States with the F-35 and other various aircraft,” Townsend told BI.
The fifth-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is an aircraft that rival powers have been unable to match its stealth and advanced suite of powerful sensors.
While some NATO countries are looking at the F-35 as a leap in combat capability, others continue to rely on the F-16, an older supersonic fighter that can dogfight and also bomb ground targets. And then some countries, like Germany, are considering European alternatives.
Royal Air Force Eurofighter EF-2000 Typhoon F2.
2. Eurofighter Typhoons
The Eurofighter Typhoon is a capable mutli-role aircraft designed by a handful of NATO countries, namely the UK, Germany, Italy, and Spain, determined to field an elite air-superiority fighter. France, which walked away from the Eurofighter project, independently built a similar fighter known as the Dassault Rafale.
Observers argue that the Typhoon is comparable to late-generation Russian Flanker variants, such as the Su-35.
While each aircraft has its advantages, be it the agility of the Typhoon or the low-speed handling of the Flanker, the two aircraft are quite similar, suggesting, as The National Interest explained, that the Eurofighter could hold its own in a dogfight with the deadly Russian fighter.
A B-52 Stratofortress deployed from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., sits on the flight line at RAF Fairford, England, March 14, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Tessa B. Corrick)
The US provides conventional and nuclear deterrence capabilities through the regular rotation of bomber aircraft into the European area of operations.
American bombers have been routinely rotating into the area since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, according to Military.com. That year, the Pentagon sent two B-2 Spirit bombers and three B-52s to Europe for training. The B-1B Lancers are also among the US bombers that regularly operate alongside NATO allies.
US Navy P-8 Poseidon taking off at Perth Airport.
4. US P-8A Poseidon
“There’s also the maritime posture, particularly as Russia continues to rely on a submarine nuclear deterrent. We need a stronger presence. That’s why we’re seeing Norway, the US, UK do more with the P-8As,” Conley, the CSIS expert, told BI.
Facing emerging threats in the undersea domain, where the margins to victory are said to be razor thin, NATO allies are increasingly boosting their ability to hunt and track enemy submarines from above and below the water.
While there are a number of options available for this task, the US Navy P-8A Poseidon patrol plane, which was brought into replace the US military’s older P-3 Orions, are among the best submarine hunters out there.
Norwegian frigate HNoMS Helge Ingstad (front) leads Turkish frigate TCG Oruçreis, Belgian frigate BNS Louise Marie and a Swedish Visby-class corvette during Trident Juncture.
(NATO/LCDR Pedro Miguel Ribeiro Pinhei)
Another effective anti-submarine capability is that provided by the various frigates operated by a number of NATO countries.
“The NATO allies, in particular Italy, France, Spain, all have frigates that have very capable anti-submarine warfare systems,” Bryan Clark with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments told BI.
“They have active low-frequency sonars that are variable-depth sonars. They can find submarines easily, and they are very good against diesel submarines.” These forces could be used to target Russian submarines in the Eastern Mediterranean and into the Black Sea.
“Norway and Denmark also have really good frigates,” he explained. “They could go out and do anti-submarine warfare” in the North Sea/Baltic Sea area, “and they are very good at that.”
An AH-64D Apache helicopter from 1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, based at Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq.
6. AH-64 Apache gunship
The Apache gunship helicopter, capable of close air support, has the ability to rain down devastation on an approaching armor column.
The attack helicopters can carry up to sixteen Hellfire missiles at a time, with each missile possessing the ability to cripple an enemy armor unit. The Hellfire is expected to eventually be replaced with the more capable Joint Air-to-Ground Missile.
The Cold War-era Apache attack helicopters have been playing a role in the counterinsurgency fight in the Middle East, but the gunships could still hit hard in a high-end conflict.
7. German Leopard 2
The Leopard 2 main battle tank, which gained a reputation for being “indestructible,” is a formidable weapon first built to blunt the spearhead of a Soviet armor thrust and one that would probably be on the front lines were the NATO alliance and Russia to come to blows.
While this tank, a key component of NATO’s armored forces, took an unexpected beating in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, it is still considered one of the alliance’s top tanks, on par with the US M1 Abrams and the British Challenger 2.
Observers suspect that the Leopard 2, like its US and British counterparts, would be easily able to destroy most Russian tanks, as these tanks are likely to get the jump on a Russian tank in a shoot out.
The aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and ships assigned to the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) transit the Atlantic Ocean while conducting composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) on Feb. 16, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)
8. US Nimitz-class aircraft carriers
A last-minute addition to last year’s Trident Juncture exercise — massive NATO war games designed to simulate a large-scale conflict with Russia — was the USS Harry S. Truman, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and its accompanying strike group.
The carrier brought 6,000 servicemembers and a large carrier air wing of F/A-18 Super Hornets to Norway for the largest drill in years.
“One thing the NATO naval partners have been looking at is using carriers as part of the initial response,” Clark told BI. The US sails carriers into the North Atlantic to demonstrate to Russia that the US can send carriers into this area, from which it could carry out “operations into the Baltics without too much trouble,” he added.
America’s ability to project power through the deployment of aircraft carriers is unmatched, due mainly to the massive size, sophistication and training regimen of its carrier fleet. The UK and France also have aircraft carriers.
(DoD Photo By Glenn Fawcett)
9. PATRIOT surface-to-air missile system
PATRIOT, which stands for “Phased Array Tracking Radar to Intercept on Target,” is an effective surface-to-air guided air and missile defense system that is currently used around the world, including in a number NATO countries.
There is a “need for an integrated air and missile defense picture,” Conley told BI. “That is certainly a high-valued protection for the alliance.”
NATO is also in the process of fielding Aegis Ashore sites, land-based variants of the sea-based Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, that can track and fire missiles that intercept ballistic targets over Europe.
The U.S. Navy submarine USS North Dakota (SSN-784) underway during bravo sea trials in the Atlantic Ocean.
(U.S. Navy Photo)
10. US Virginia-class submarines
Virginia-class submarines, nuclear-powered fast attack boats, are among the deadliest submarines in the world. They are armed with torpedoes to sink enemy submarines and surface combatants, and they can also target enemy bases and missile batteries ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
These submarines “could be really useful to do cruise missile attacks against some of the Russian air defense systems in the western military district that reach over the Baltic countries,” Clark told BI.
“You can really conduct air operations above these countries without being threatened by these air defense systems. So, you would want to use cruise missiles to attack them from submarines at sea.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Sparta Science is movement diagnostic software which is used to reduce injury risk and increase readiness. Although originally created with athletes in mind, the military is now on their list of clients.
Dr. Phil Wagner is the founder and CEO of Sparta Science. His personal experiences with injury and inadequate support led him to creating the company. “This whole thing really started because I played high school and college football and I kept getting injured, finally being told I couldn’t play anymore. I moved to New Zealand to play rugby and the same thing happened. I finally said this is ridiculous…so I went to medical school,” Wagner said.
After graduating with his medical degree with a focus in biomechanics, Wagner dove into how science could target injury reduction and assess risk for possible future injuries. “I said let’s build this tech company that could gather data on how people move to better address rehab, performance and pain in general,” he said. Wagner continued, “Our mission is people’s movement as a vital sign. That’s where the company and the product came out of and it’s where we see ourselves fitting into, particularly in the military with the injuries we are seeing.”
This country relies on all of its soldiers, airmen, sailors, marines and coast guardsmen to be mission ready at all times.
But they aren’t.
Non-combat related musculoskeletal injuries account for a high percentage of why service members are undeployable, according to a study published in the Oxford Academic. In 2018, it was revealed that around 13-14% of the total force wasn’t deployable.
Although these injuries are negatively impacting mission readiness, they are also leading to lifelong complications. Musculoskeletal injuries are leading the cause of long-term disability for service members.
The impacts of no longer being able to serve due to injuries or suffering after retirement from the service are far reaching. “Mental health, movement and pain is so connected,” Wagner shared. He started working with the military after getting a call from Navy special forces asking if they could use it for their team.
“They had massive improvements the first year they did it, then they rolled it out to the other teams. I think for us, sports were our roots but our biggest growth and revenue comes from the government. It’s really satisfying because there’s so much more of a service and sacrifice approach that exists,” Wagner explained.
Statistics on nondeployable military personal with Major General Malcolm Frost
Major General Malcom Frost (Ret) served in the United States Army for 31 years. From 2017-2019 he led the Army’s Holistic and Fitness Revolution while he was the Commanding General of Initial Training for the Army. He was also responsible for developing the Army’s new fitness test, which launched in late 2020.
“Physical fitness and readiness drive everything…We are ground soldiers who must be on terrain in combat, therefore physical fitness is a huge part of what we do,” Frost said. He continued, “I would argue that we have neglected, in many ways, the most important weapon system in the United States Army and that is the soldier.”
Frost explained that by ignoring science, having outdated fitness training facilities, lack of professional support and long waits for medical care following injury – service members are suffering. “We have really injured and hurt a lot of our soldiers,” he said. He continued, “We were spending 500 million dollars a year just in musculoskeletal injuries alone for United States Army soldiers.”
Sparta Science approached Frost not long after he retired. “They said, ‘Hey, we would like to talk to you and understand the holistic fitness system better and show you what we [Sparta Science] can do,'” he said. So, Frost took a trip to California to visit their facility.
He was amazed at what he saw.
“Knowing how that could fit in, especially in the objective measurements side of the military, I thought it was the perfect match. So, I have been in the background helping them facilitate and move into the military channels to get Sparta on the map with leaders… I look at myself as the bridge,” Frost explained. He continued, “For me it’s exciting. I only get involved with organizations that I want to get involved with. They have to have a mission that I can get behind and where I can provide value. Sparta meets all of those in spades.”
Currently, you can find Sparta Science being used within the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
So how does Sparta Science work exactly? According to their website, the person has to go through The Sparta Scan™ on their “force palate” machine. It will assess stability, balance and movement. Data is compiled and an individualized Movement Signature™ created. Sparta software then compares the results to the database to identify risk and pinpoint strengths. Then the system creates an individualized training plan to reduce injury risk and improve physical performance.
On July 21, 2020, the United States House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021. It includes provisions to create a commission to study the “force plate” technology and how it can increase the health and readiness of America’s military. That report will be due back to congress in September of 2021 to evaluate possibly implementing Sparta Science technology throughout all of the Department of Defense.
“Looking five years from now, I want to see the line graph [of injuries] going down on a global level,” Wagner shared. Frost agreed, “Sparta Science is a readiness multiplier”.
Sparta Science appears to have a deep commitment to bringing this technology to every branch of service to reduce injury and increase mission readiness. With the recent passage of the NDAA and their continuing education efforts, they are well on their way.
Whoa! Wounded warriors have been cast as extras for the new “Bill and Ted 3” movie. The excellent news was first tweeted by CNN news anchor Jake Tapper on Aug. 13, 2019.
Tapper, a longtime Homes for our Troops’ supporter and mission ambassador, enlisted the help of friends, namely movie stars and entertainment icons, to arrange an extensive assortment of auction items to benefit the organization back in November 2018. One of the auction items was a tour of the “Bill and Ted 3” movie set.
But screen writer Ed Solomon wanted to do more for veterans than just a tour. He also cast several wounded veterans in the film, and Tapper thanked him on social media for the righteous move.
It’s still unknown what part these veterans will play in the upcoming film starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, but judging by the smiles on their faces the Hollywood experience has been epic.
This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.
Contractor mechanics failed to follow proper maintenance procedures leading to the contamination of the oxygen system on an Air Force VC-25A aircraft undergoing regular heavy maintenance, according to an Accident Investigation Board report compiled by Air Force Materiel Command.
The contamination occurred in April 2016 while the plane was at Boeing’s Port San Antonio facility in Texas. The mishap resulted in approximately $4 million in damage, which Boeing repaired at its own expense.
The VC-25A, one of two specially configured Boeing 747-200B aircraft, is flown by the 89th Airlift Wing at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and is used to transport the President. When the President is on board, the plane is referred to as Air Force One.
According to the report, three Boeing mechanics contaminated the aircraft’s oxygen system by using tools, parts, and components that did not comply with cleanliness standards while checking oxygen lines for leaks. The contamination was discovered after an unapproved regulator was found connected to the passenger oxygen system.
The report also identified other contributing factors to the mishap, including the failure of a Boeing maintenance technician to observe explicit cautions and warnings when working on oxygen systems, Boeing’s failure to exercise adequate oversight of the quality of maintenance being performed on the VC-25, and the failure of mechanics to “absorb and retain” training received on oxygen systems.
Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, Air Force Materiel Command commander, convened the AIB. Brig. Gen. Carl Buhler was the AIB president. The primary purpose of the board was to investigate the cause and substantially contributing factors of the mishap and provide a publicly releasable report of the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident.
Ninety-four-year-old Melvin Rector had one last item on his bucket list: He wanted to return to England where he’d served as a B-17 crewman. So earlier this month he hopped on an airliner and flew across the Atlantic to a place where he’d come of age 71 years earlier.
As reported by Florida Today, Rector was scheduled to visit his former base RAF Snetterton Heath in Norfolk but started the tour at the Battle of Britain Bunker in the Uxbridge area of London that first day.
“He walked out of that bunker like his tour was done,” said Susan Jowers, 60, who first met Rector when she served as his guardian during a 2011 Honor Flight trip to Washington, D.C.
As he walked out, Rector told Jowers that he felt dizzy, according to Florida Today. Jowers took hold of one of Rector’s arms while a stranger grasped the other.
Rector died quietly there just outside the bunker. When the locals found out about it, they made sure his memory was honored appropriately.
“They just wanted something simple, and when I found out a little background about Melvin, there is just no way that we were just going to give him a simple service,” funeral director Neil Sherry told British ITV Network. “We wanted it to be as special as possible.”
Though no one knew him, the Royal Air Force, U.S. Air Force and historians in London attended and participated in the funeral with military honors.
“He certainly got a beautiful send-off,” Jowers said. “People everywhere, from Cambridge to London heard his story.”
U.S. Army Maj. Leif Purcell told ITV he thought he and a few other U.S. military personnel would be the only ones to attend the funeral, but was surprised.
“The representation from the Royal Air Force and the British Army that I saw here was phenomenal,” he said.
A funeral service for Rector, a father of six, is set for 11 a.m. June 9 at First Baptist Church of Barefoot Bay, Florida. Jowers told Florida Today that his remains were being repatriated on May 31.
Jowers, who said Rector became like a father to her after their first meeting in 2011, summed up his passing with this thought: “He completed his final mission.”
Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin said Wednesday the civil service appeals process prevents the agency from firing “terrible managers,” and that the Senate must act to reduce the impact of the Merit Systems Protection Board and excessive government employee union-backed due process requirements.
“Just last week we were forced to take back an employee after they were convicted no more than three times for DWI and had served a 60 day jail sentence. … Our accountability processes are clearly broken,” Shulkin said at the White House.
Shulkin was promoted to VA’s top job by President Donald Trump after being appointed by former President Barack Obama as undersecretary. Those positions have given Shulkin direct experience with the extent to which union-backed rules block the firings of poor performing employees.
“We had to wait more than a month to fire a psychiatrist who was caught on camera watching pornography on his iPad while seeing a patient,” he said. “Because of the way judges review these cases they can force us to take terrible managers back who were fired for poor performance, we recently saw that with one of our executives in San Juan.”
Shulkin was referring to DeWayne Hamlin, a corrupt hospital director and whistleblower retaliator, who was fired Jan. 20 but was then quietly returned to work, as the The Daily Caller News Foundation reported exclusively Monday.
“We need new accountability legislation and we need that now,” Shulkin said. “The House has passed this and we’re looking forward to the Senate considering this.”
The Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs reported the “VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 earlier this week for a vote by the full chamber. The measure is co-sponsored by senators Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, and Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat.
“We currently have 1,500 disciplinary actions pending, people that either need to be fired, demoted, suspended without pay for violating our core values,” Shulkin said.
“The expedited senior executive removal authority given to us in the Choice Act isn’t working, we weren’t able to use that because of constitutionality issues.”
“The accountability bill we are seeking that we hope the Senate authorizes still maintains due process for employees but shortens to the time and gives more authority to the secretary’s decision on why these accountability actions are being taken so the courts will be more deferential to the secretary’s opinion.”
In addition to the Hamlin controversy, a federal appeals court ruled that the VA may not even be able to fire Sharon Helman, who is a convicted felon for her misconduct as the head of the Phoenix VA, where dozens died waiting for care as managers reported false data on wait-times in order to get bonuses.
Helman is represented by the law firm of Shaw, Bransford Roth (Roth), which makes its living trying to block employees of all levels from being fired. Employees are encouraged to appeal any discipline, however well-deserved, because a former Roth lawyer created an insurance company that pays for fired employees to hire Roth.
The premiums on that insurance plan are billed to taxpayers, thanks to a law pushed by the firm’s lobbyists.
Concerned Veterans of America Policy Director Dan Caldwell also encouraged the Senate to approve the accountability measure, saying Shulkin “is working to move the VA in a better direction, but the problems will not be solved until Congress takes action. They should also remember that the VA’s problems are not due to a lack of resources.”
The House has unanimously approved legislation that makes it a crime for U.S. service members to distribute intimate photos or videos of people without first getting their consent.
The measure is a direct response to a nude-photo sharing scandal that has rocked the Marine Corps. Lawmakers voted 418-0 to pass the bill Wednesday.
The scandal came to light after it was discovered that sexually explicit photos of female and male Marines were being shared on a secret Facebook page.
Rep. Martha McSally of Arizona, the bill’s sponsor, says the “Neanderthals” who posted the photos aren’t emblematic of the vast majority of U.S. troops. But she says the idea that any one in uniform thinks it’s acceptable to upload and comment on nude photos is a problem that must be fixed.
In June 1919, the bulk of the German High Seas Fleet was sitting at anchor at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands. The cruiser Emden sent out the message, “Paragraph 11; confirm.” Then, all 74 of the warships in the natural harbor attempted to scuttle themselves en masse, and 52 successfully destroyed themselves before British sailors were able to beach them or stop their sinking.
21st June 1919: The German fleet is scuttled at Scapa Flow
It’s important to remember for this story that wars have two ending points. There’s the armistice that stops the actual fighting, and then a lengthy peace process will usually result in a full treaty ending the war. After the armistice ended World War I fighting on Nov. 11, 1918, a large portion of the German navy was interned for the treaty process.
The navy had been largely sidelined during the war thanks to a British blockade, so it was largely intact that November. And the Allied powers, in order to ensure that Germany went through with the peace process, demanded that the nation’s most powerful and modern fleet be sequestered at a neutral port.
But, no nearby neutral port agreed to accept the ships, and so 70 of Germany’s best vessels were sent to the British harbor at Scapa Flow, a natural harbor that housed one of the British fleets. Four other German ships would later meet them there.
Three German ships, the Emden, Frankfurt, and Bremse, enter Scapa Flow on November 24, 1918.
When the German ships were officially handed over on November 21, literally hundreds of ships and thousands of people were present to watch the event. Over 190 Allied ships escorted the first batch of 70 German ships to surrender, making that day the largest concentration of naval power in the history of mankind, even if 70 of the ships had breech blocks in their guns to prevent a sudden return to hostilities.
But the fleet languished there for months. Morale on the German ships was bad during the war and worse while they were confined to ships on short rations in British territory. And the German commander had an order from his superiors to prevent the seizure of the ships by any means necessary.
The German navy seems to have believed that the ships would eventually be returned, Britain wanted to see them scrapped, and the rest of the Allies wanted to divvy them up. But as the negotiations in France made it clear that Germany would not get the ships back, German Adm. Ludwig von Reuter planned for how to destroy his own fleet.
A German destroyer largely flooded at Scapa Flow in 1919.
He didn’t know that the deadline had been extended to June 23, but this actually worked out well for him. The British commander had plans to seize the German ships on June 23 if the German diplomats still hadn’t signed the treaty by then.
And so the ships suddenly began to sink. The German sailors raised their German navy flags from their masts for the first time since they had arrived in the harbor. British sailors in the harbor quickly alerted their own fleet as to what was happening, and the fleet rushed back to save what it could.
A good half of the German fleet had already disappeared, the water was one mass of wreckage of every description, boats, carley floats, chairs, tables and human beings, and the ‘Bayern’ the largest German battleship, her bow reared vertically out of the water was in the act of crashing finally bottomwards, which she did a few seconds later, in a cloud of smoke bursting her boilers as she went.
The German admiral proceeded to the British flagship and declared that he had “come to surrender my men and myself. I have nudding else.”
British sailors were quickly dispatched to the sinking ships to re-close the valves and pump water out. Some British sailors nearly drowned in this endeavor, but they saved 22 of the ships as 52 settled into the mud at the bottom.
A salvage crew works on the largely underwater German battleship Baden after the Scuttling at Scapa Flow. The partially submerged ship at the left is the cruiser Frankfurt.
The British sailors were under orders to only kill those Germans who refused to close valves when ordered or who resisted British actions to save the vessels. Nine German sailors were killed, but there is some controversy over whether all these sailors had resisted or not.
Still, it was the single largest loss of naval power in one day in human history, even though it was a calm day and no battle had actually taken place.
Republican Sen. John McCain, an internationally renowned Vietnam War hero who served for 30 years in the Senate representing Arizona, died Aug. 25, 2018, due to complications stemming from brain cancer.
His office said in a statement that his wife Cindy McCain and their family were alongside him when he died.
“At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years,” his office said.
McCain, 81, was a part of many of the past three decades’ most significant political moments. He was the 2008 Republican presidential nominee in a contest he lost to President Barack Obama. He also sought the presidency in 2000, mounting a primary campaign against President George W. Bush.
A graduate of the Naval Academy, the Arizona Republican followed both his father and grandfather, who were four-star admirals, into the US Navy, where he carried out airstrike missions.
During a 1967 bombing run over Hanoi, McCain’s plane was shot down, nearly killing him. He was captured by North Vietnamese forces and spent six years as a prisoner of war, suffering brutal beatings at the hands of his captors, which left him with lifelong physical ailments.
He quickly lost 50 pounds and saw his hair turn white. His captors did not treat his injuries from the plane crash.
Because his father was named commander of US forces in Vietnam that same year, the North Vietnamese offered to release McCain early. He refused unless every prisoner of war taken before him was also released. He was soon placed in solitary confinement, where he would remain for the next two years. He was not released until March of 1973.
Photograph of John McCain after his release from captivity.
(National Archives photo)
Upon returning to the US, McCain was awarded a number of military medals, including two Purple Hearts. He soon set his sights on politics and ran for an Arizona congressional seat in 1982, winning a tough primary and subsequently the general election.
In 1986, he ran for the Senate seat vacated by longtime Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater, who was the Republican presidential nominee in 1964. He won that election as well, and he has been reelected to the Senate for five additional terms — most recently in 2016.
Early in his Senate career, McCain became embroiled in the “Keating Five” scandal. McCain was one of five senators who received campaign contributions from Charles Keating Jr. and was later asked by Keating to prevent the government from seizing his Lincoln Savings and Loan Association.
McCain met twice with regulators to discuss the government investigation. He later returned the donations and admitted the appearance of it was wrong. The episode led McCain to become a leader on campaign finance reform, which included the passage of the McCain-Feingold Act.
During his 2000 campaign for president, the press became enthralled with the candidate who won over a reputation as a “maverick,” rebuffing his party’s conservative orthodoxy at the time. He famously traveled on a bus called the “Straight Talk Express” during his 2000 bid.
U.S. Sen. John McCain speaks to a group of Soldiers before re-enlisting them during an Independence Day celebration in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 4, 2013.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Dustin Payne)
In 2008, McCain fared far better. He won the Republican presidential nomination but ultimately was defeated by Obama in a year in which he faced defending an unpopular war in Iraq and a faltering economy under the Bush administration. McCain selected then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, a move criticized by some as having opened the floodgates for the Republican Party to be infiltrated by a number of far-right candidates who went on to be elected.
After the 2008 campaign, McCain returned to the Senate, his stature even more prominent, leading on national security and military issues.
He was diagnosed with brain cancer early in his sixth term. He battled through it, returning to Congress this past summer. In perhaps his last signature political moment, McCain cast a dramatic vote against his party to stop the repeal of Obamacare, coming to the floor in the middle of the vote before pausing and pointing his right thumb down. The moment highlighted a contentious relationship between the senator and President Donald Trump.
The type of brain tumor with which he was afflicted, glioblastoma, is particularly aggressive and difficult to treat. He had been receiving chemotherapy, but his family announced in August that he would no longer seek medical treatment.
McCain is survived by his seven children and his second wife, Cindy, whom he married in 1980 following a 15-year marriage to Carol Shepp.
Most famous among his children is Meghan, who is a prominent conservative pundit and cohost of ABC’s “The View.” During a December episode, former Vice President Joe Biden consoled her and said that if “anybody” could overcome that cancer, it was her father.
“Your dad is one of my best friends,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
President Donald Trump’s flurry of tweets to kick off the new year lasted into the late evening Jan. 2, as he launched another fiery message to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the ‘Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times,'” Trump tweeted. “Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I, too, have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
Kim, in a televised speech on Jan. 1, had spoken of a “nuclear button” that was “always on my desk.”
“This is reality, not a threat,” Kim said. “This year we should focus on mass producing nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles for operational deployment. These weapons will be used only if our security is threatened.”
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger more powerful one than his, and my Button works!
Though Trump touted a “nuclear button,” a physical button that a US president can push to initiate a nuclear strike does not appear to exist. Instead, a briefcase — referred to as the “football” — carries authentication codes and is carried by a military aide wherever the president goes.
Trump’s threat comes amid another warning from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, who on Jan. 2 seemed dismissive of proposed high-level talks between South Korea and North Korea.
“We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea,” Haley said during a press conference. “We consider this to be a very reckless regime, we don’t think we need a Band-Aid, and we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture.”
Though current U.S. officials have panned negotiations between North Korea and South Korea, former U.S. officials — including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper — and many analysts appear to have accepted North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and have approved the call for negotiations.
“I can well envision a scenario where they would juxtapose a missile test and as well agree to talk with the South Koreans, which I think would be a good thing,” Clapper said. “It would do a lot, I think, to relax some of the tensions. I think negotiation is the only way ahead here — to me, there is no other realistic option.”
Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook has confirmed that a U.S. Navy SEAL assisting Kurdish Peshmerga fighters was killed near Irbil, Iraq, on Tuesday. The SEAL was 2-3 miles behind the frontline when ISIS car bombs and fighters forced an opening, allowing for the attack on the coalition’s position.
Cook pledged in a statement that the coalition will honor the unidentified SEAL’s sacrifice by continuing to dismantle ISIS until it suffers a lasting defeat.
ISIS uses car bombs the way many modern militaries use artillery — to soften up enemy defenses during an assault by other fighters. The U.S. responded with 20 airstrikes.
The SEAL’s name has not yet been released. It’s typical for the Department of Defense to withhold the identity of a service member killed in the line of duty until at least 24 hours after the notification of the next of kin.
Army Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler was a Delta Force operator who was working with Kurdish commandos when a tip came in that a large number of ISIS-held hostages were about to be executed. Wheeler and other U.S. and Kurdish special operators stormed the prison where the hostages were being kept and rescued them, but Wheeler was killed in the gunfight on Oct. 22, 2015.