Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump announced that as part of his Afghanistan strategy, warfighters would see restrictions lifted and authorities expanded. Now, there is a sense of just what he meant in his Aug. 21 speech.


According to multiple reports, Taliban forces no longer have to be engaged with American units or with Afghan units being advised by Americans to be hit with air strikes.

Looser rules of engagement have long been advocated by a number of officials.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
A member of an Afghan and coalition security force patrols during an operation in Khugyani district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, March 30, 2013. The security force detained a Taliban leader who had command and control of a cell of Afghan enemy fighters active in Khugyani district. He and his fighters illegally procured various types of weapons and used them in multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. The security force also seized one AK-47 and a pistol as a result of the operation. (U.S Army photo by Pfc. Elliott N. Banks)

“You see some of the results of releasing our military from, for example, a proximity requirement — how close was the enemy to the Afghan or the U.S.-advised special forces,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Prior to the change, Taliban forces in training camps and assembly areas were not targeted, in essence creating safe havens. Now, Taliban bases are being hit. In April, prior to Trump’s speech, the United States used the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst bomb to hit a Taliban tunnel complex.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
The GBU-43 moments before detonation in a March 11, 2003 test. (USAF photo)

Furthermore, American advisors will now be pushed to battalion and brigade headquarters to get them closer to Afghan units engaged in combat. American aircraft can often only provide close-air support when the units have American advisors.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
photo Pvt. Zakery Jenkins, front, with Charlie Troop, 3rd Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, provides security in Mush Kahel village, Ghazni province, Afghanistan, July 23, 2012. (Photo by Spc. Andrew Baker)

“Those units with NATO and American advisers win, and those without them often do not win,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. “So we are going to spread the number of units with advisers to bring that air support to win.”

The Secretary of Defense also noted that the tendency that the Taliban and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan have shown to hide among civilian populations means that American forces will still need to ensure that they do everything they can to avoid civilian casualties.

Articles

Miss Maryland competitor juggles Coast Guard service with pageantry

While serving as Miss Rocky Gap, Emma Lutton, of New Windsor, Maryland, had to combine her philanthropic efforts and pageant-winner responsibilities with another entirely separate set of duties as a lieutenant junior grade in the United States Coast Guard.


Lutton won the Miss Rocky Gap title in March, and the last several months of her title reign have overlapped with her final deployment with the Coast Guard in the Caribbean. Now that she’s back in the States, Lutton is looking to expand her role in the Miss America Pageant system as she competes against other local title holders for the role of Miss Maryland this week.

Unlike many others who began their pageantry careers earlier, Lutton said the Miss Rocky Gap competition was only her second ever attempt at winning a crown. She said she was inspired after seeing the work her younger sister was doing as a title holder.

“I had this misconception that pageants were just about looking pretty and being dumb,” Lutton said. “Then I realized how big of a difference I could make with charities and community service.”

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
Photo courtesy of the US Coast Guard Academy.

Under the recommendation of current Miss Maryland Hannah Brewer, a Hampstead resident, Lutton decided to compete in the Miss Rocky Gap contest — the very same contest that started Brewer on her path to the Miss Maryland title.

Lutton said she was attracted to the Miss America pageants due to their emphasis on scholarships, which she is currently eyeing to help pay for graduate school. Lutton graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 2015 and is currently interested in studying to become a patent lawyer.

Though her father and older brother both served in the Navy, Lutton said she wasn’t initially interested in the military.

“I thought, ‘You guys are cool, but I’m going to do my own cool thing,'” Lutton said. “My senior year, I realized I really wanted to be an engineer, but I love people and I love making a difference while not just sitting in a cubical.”

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
Photo courtesy of the US Coast Guard Academy Facebook.

After visiting the Coast Guard Academy, Lutton said she knew it was the place for her. She said one of the main draws of the Coast Guard over the other military branches is the high percentage of women in the service and the lack of barriers for females.

“I didn’t want to work really hard and find out that a certain path is closed off to me just because I’m a girl,” she said.

For her platform, Lutton chose to support the Forgotten Soldiers Outreach, providing care packages to service members overseas. She said she’s also passionate about supporting military family members, who don’t always have the support they need.”

“There’s not enough out there for families who are picking up and moving when we go,” Lutton said. “The most popular jobs for military spouses are nursing and teaching, and it’s extraordinarily difficult to get re-certified every time they move.”

Emma’s mother, Patty, said she is appreciative of her daughter’s service in and out of the military.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter Shinn

“When she decided to go into the Coast Guard, we were a little apprehensive to have two out of our three kids in the military,” she said, “but we’re incredibly proud of her.”

Lutton has been competing in the Miss Maryland pageant throughout the week, with preliminary interviews, swimsuit, talent, and evening gown competitions taking place. On June 24th, the field will be narrowed down to the top 10, one of whom will be crowned Miss Maryland by the end of the night.

Lutton said she’s excited just to make it this far, and is thrilled that both the pageantry and her service can complement each other.

“I think the two things really help support each other,” Lutton said. “Being in the Coast Guard helps make me a stronger woman that little girls can look up to, and being in the pageant can help the visibility of the Coast Guard which is a smaller service.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

Thunderbird hits bird during Air Force Academy graduation

A U.S. Air Force Thunderbird opted to depart early and land after apparently hitting a bird following May 30, 2019’s Air Force Academy graduation flyover, according to the team spokesman.

“The Thunderbirds Delta [formation] safely executed the flyover, when [Thunderbird No. 3] experienced a possible birdstrike,” Maj. Ray Geoffroy, spokesman for the demonstration team, based at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, said in a statement. “Out of an abundance of caution, he returned to the base and landed without incident prior to the aerial demonstration portion of today’s performance.”

The team typically returns after the flyover to perform an aerobatic demonstration for the event, Geoffroy said. The Thunderbirds fly the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


“The rest of the team safely completed the demonstration [and] all aircraft are now back at Peterson Air Force Base, [Colorado], safe and sound,” he said.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly the Delta formation May 28, 2014, over Falcon Stadium during the U.S. Air Force Academy graduation ceremony.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.)

The Air Force is investigating May 30, 2019’s episode. It’s not the first time the Thunderbirds have experienced a mishap while performing at the Air Force Academy’s graduation ceremony.

After the academy’s 2016 graduation event, attended by then-President Barack Obama, Maj. Alex Turner, pilot for the No. 6 jet, crashed in a nearby field in Colorado Springs. Turner was headed back to Peterson but felt that something wasn’t right.

“What was that that I just felt there, with my hand?” Turner said he asked at the time of the mishap. Turner sat down with Military.com in 2017 to recall the event.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan

The Thunderbirds perform May 25, 2011, after a graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Mike Kaplan)

The official investigation later found that an accidental throttle rotation led to a malfunction and subsequent engine stall, causing Turner’s jet to crash.

Since 1995, the Air Force has recorded 105,586 wildlife strikes that damaged aircraft, according to data recently reported by Air Force Times.

Excluding injuries, the strikes have cost the service 7,546,884, Air Force Times reported.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

9 countries take the first step to an all-European Army

Europe will soon have a rapidly-deployable military force of its own. The powers that used to be have finally teamed up to coordinate military responses to developing crises and defense issues. France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Denmark, The Netherlands, Estonia, Portugal, and even the UK all signed off on the upcoming continental QRF.

It’s an initiative spearheaded by French President Emmanuel Macron, according to The Guardian. France’s chief executive has long advocated for Europe’s military autonomy as part of a greater European integration – with major European powers calling the shots.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
French President Emmanuel Macron wants closer ties to the UK and German militaries.

An all-European military force also answers questions about the defense culture of the European Union, where France’s Defence Minister says decisions and deadlines take much too long, getting gummed up in the bureaucracy of the 28-member organization.


The effort of raising this military force is called the “European Intervention Initiative” and is outside the structure of the European Union and its defense cooperation agreement, known as the Permanent Structure Cooperation on security and defence, or PESCO for short. There are 25 PESCO members

This new initiative comes as an effort to build the force while sidestepping the bureaucracy of the EU and allowing for the entry of the armed forces of the United Kingdom to take part, something London is “very keen” on entering with Europe, despite the Brexit vote.

Europe’s new initiative is also outside of NATO and excludes the United States, with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis worrying that it would pull resources and capabilities away from NATO. But the Secretary-General of the Brussels-based military alliance welcomed the news.

“I welcome this initiative as I believe it can strengthen the readiness of forces,” said NATO head Jens Stoltenberg. “We need high readiness and that is exactly what NATO is now focusing on.”

Though later Stoltenberg stressed the importance of cooperation between the EU and NATO for any military initiative.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
Stoltenberg briefing the media in Brussels.

“We need to be able to move forces quickly throughout Europe, when needed,” he said.

The European Union’s armed forces, the European Defence Union, is currently organized into four multinational battle groups consisting of 546 ships, more than 2,400 aircraft, and almost 7,500 main battle tanks. None of the battle groups have ever deployed, but EU ships do participate in anti-piracy operations in the Horn of Africa.

This new force will be designed to rapidly deploy all over the world and will accept troops from countries who are not members of the European Union.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A nurse murdered 7 veterans, police are still looking for the motive

A former nursing assistant at a VA hospital in West Virginia admitted to murdering seven elderly veterans and attempted to kill an eighth according to court documents.

Reta Mays, 46, who formerly worked at the Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center, pleaded guilty to seven counts of second-degree murder related to the deaths of seven veterans and one count of assault with intent to commit murder in West Virginia federal court.


The judge acknowledged her guilty plea and ordered U.S. Marshals to hold Mays without bail until a sentencing hearing is scheduled.

Mays worked as the overnight shift assistant in the medical-surgical unit at Louis A. Johnson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the city of Clarksburg. An investigation found that between July 2017 and June 2018 she administered doses of insulin to patients; most of them were not diabetic. Because of the insulin injections, the patients’ blood sugar dropped, causing severe hypoglycemia. The patients were all in the VA hospital for various symptoms related to old age.

Court documents state that in June of 2018, a doctor at the hospital in Clarksburg, West Virginia, became alarmed about the deaths of multiple non-diabetic patients, who had suffered unexplained hypoglycemic episodes in Ward 3A of the hospital.

Mays, as a nursing assistant was responsible for, among other things, acting as a one-on-one sitter for patients, checking vital signs, and testing blood sugar levels. Yet, she was not allowed to administer medicine, including insulin.

Back in August, the Department of Veterans Affairs had announced that it had begun an investigation of 11 suspicious deaths at the facility and was looking into “potential wrongdoing.” Within a matter of days of learning of the deaths, VA investigating agents identified Mays as a person of interest. Working with medical facility leaders, the defendant was immediately removed from patient care while the investigation continued.

“Immediately upon discovering these serious allegations, Louis A. Johnson VA Medical Center leadership brought them to the attention of the VA’s inspector general while putting safeguards in place to ensure the safety of each and every one of our patients,” a VA spokesperson said at the time.

Following Tuesday’s hearing, the VA Office of the Inspector General after Tuesday’s released the following statement: “This case is particularly shocking because these deaths were at the hands of a nursing assistant who was entrusted with providing compassionate and supportive care to veterans. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims.”

The U.S. attorney prosecuting the case characterized Mays’s actions as “evil” and an FBI special agent involved in the case said the veterans were betrayed.

“Nothing we have done will bring your loved ones back,” Bill Powell, U.S. attorney in West Virginia, said at a press conference. “But we do hope that the work of these agents and prosecutors honored the memory of your loved ones in a way that they so justly deserved and, in some small fashion, assuage the anguish you have suffered.”

“These eight veterans deserved respect and honor. They served our country and we all owe them a debt of gratitude,” FBI Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael Christman said. “They didn’t deserve to die at the hands of a nursing assistant who intentionally inflicted pain on them and their families.”

The court documents identified the deceased patients as Robert Edge, 82; Robert Kozul, 89; Archie Edgell, 84; George Shaw, 81; W.A.H., 96; Felix McDermott, 82; and Raymond Golden, 88.

An eighth patient identified as R.R.P., 88, recovered after being given Dextrose 50.

The VA Inspector General’s Office is also investigating the hospital’s policies and procedures, including medication management and communications among the hospital’s staff as to how this situation could have occurred.

While Mays has pleaded guilty in court in connection with the deaths of the patients, her motive for killing the patients is still a mystery. Mays may also be investigated in connection with other deaths at the facility.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

Real declassified CIA docs provide guidance for ‘UFO Photographers’

The past few years have seen a massive resurgence in UFO research and discussion, both throughout the media and, publicly speaking, from elements of the nation’s own defense apparatus. From 2017’s revelation that the Pentagon had been directly funding investigations into unusual sightings (along with a litany of other unusual phenomena) to last month’s announcement that the U.S. Navy was formalizing UFO reporting procedures, it seems clearer now than ever that something unusual is going on in the skies above our pale blue dot, and that Uncle Sam wants to know what it is.


Of course, for those that have served in high ranking positions throughout America’s defense and intelligence apparatus over the decades, that comes as no revelation at all, as the U.S. Government actually has a long and illustrious history of covert and semi-covert investigations into the unknown.

Some of these efforts, like Project Blue Book, aimed to explain away sightings of strange lights in the skies, while others, like these declassified documents from the CIA’s archive, had a different aim. These documents were meant to serve as a how-to manual to capture the best possible images of flying saucers (or whatever they may be) for further examination. These documents may not prove the existence of alien visitors, but they certainly prove that even America’s foreign intelligence service has long had their eye on the skies.

The CIA readily acknowledges its involvement in UFO investigations dating all the way back to its very inception in 1947, which UFO buffs will be quick to note was the same year as the now-legendary Roswell incident. According to the CIA, they closely monitored Defense Department UFO initiatives throughout this era, even going so far as to draft up the document shown below offering ten tips to UFO investigators who had been struggling to capture clear images of the strange phenomena. This included an attached “UFO Photographic Information Sheet” to be filled out by the photographer whenever a sighting occurred.

The CIA’s guidance for UFO Photographers was, according to the CIA, first published in 1967 and remained classified until December of 2013, though it wasn’t until three years later that the document was uploaded to the CIA’s digital archive, making it readily available to readers from all over the world.

According to the CIA, these are the tips you need to follow in order to get the best possible evidence of your UFO encounter:

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan

“Guidance to UFO Photographers” was first published in 1967 and declassified in 2013.

(Courtesy of the CIA Archive)

1. Have camera set at infinity.

2. Fast film such as Tri-X, is very good.

3. For moving objects shutter speeds not slower than one hundredth of a second should be used. Shutter and f-stop combination will depend upon lighting conditions; dusk, cloudy day, bright sunlight, etc. If your camera does not require such settings, just take pictures.

4. Do not move camera during exposure.

5. Take several pictures of the object; as many as you can. If you can, include some ground in the picture of the UFO.

6. If the object appears to be close to you, a few hundred feet or closer, try to change your location on the ground so that each picture, or few pictures are taken from a different place. A change in position of 40 or 60 feet is good. (This establishes what is known as a base line and is helpful in technical analysis of your photography.) If the object appears to be far away, a mile or so, remain about where you are and continue taking pictures. A small movement here will not help. However, if you can get in a car and drive l/2 to a mile or so and-take another series of pictures this will help.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan

Single images of UFOs don’t offer much in the way of context (the photographer of this UFO believes it may be a bird)

(Image captured by James Havard on Flickr)

7. After pictures of UFO have been taken, remain where you are: now, slowly, turning 360 degrees take overlapping, eye level, photography as you turn around. By this technique the surrounding countryside will be photographed. This photography is very valuable for the analysis of the UFO you have just photographed.

8. Your original negative is of value. Be sure it Is processed with care.

9. If you can, have another negative made from the original.

10. Any reproductions you have made for technical study and analysis should be made from the original negative and should be printed to show all the picture including the border and even the sprocket holes, if your film has them.

Articles

The 5 biggest takeaways from General Mattis’ confirmation hearing

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing Thursday on whether to confirm Gen. James Mattis as the next defense secretary, and plenty of interesting bits came out of the roughly three-hour session.


The retired four-star general gave frank and concise answers on everything from cybersecurity policy to what he expects will be the biggest threats to the United States.

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

Shortly afterward, he was approved for a waiver for the requirement of having a seven-year gap between being active-duty in the military and serving in the civilian role at the Pentagon.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command visits with Marines stationed at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait on Feb. 26, 2011. | DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeleyMattis thinks the US needs to be more aggressive going after ISIS

When asked whether the US can confront the terror group in its capital of Raqqa, Mattis said he believed the US could, but he added that the anti-ISIS strategy needed to be reviewed and “energized on a more aggressive timeline.”

He told members that “we have to deliver a very hard blow against ISIS in the Middle East so there is no sense of invulnerability or invincibility there.” For the US, according to Mattis, that means attacking ISIS’ main areas of strength so they cannot pop up elsewhere.

He mentioned Russia as the biggest threat

Despite President-elect Trump’s restraint on calling out Russian aggression and cyberwarfare, Mattis didn’t pull punches in his assessment of Moscow.

“Since Yalta, we have a long list of times that we’ve tried to engage positively with Russia,” Mattis said. “We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.” He praised NATO and its effectiveness, and added that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “trying to break” that alliance.

In some areas Russia and the US can work together, but in many others, Mattis said, Putin remained a strategic competitor or an outright adversary.

“I have very modest expectations about areas of cooperation with Mr. Putin,” he said.

Mattis says he wouldn’t roll back the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or the change on women in combat roles

In the past, Mattis has not really been a fan of women being integrated into combat roles, such as infantry. He was asked about this repeatedly — at times having his speeches quoted to him — and asked whether he would reverse the 2013 policy change.

“I’ve never come into any job with an agenda, a pre-formed agenda of changing anything,” he said. “I assume the people before me deserve respect for the decisions they’ve made.”

That answer did not satisfy Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), however, and she continued to press him. In the end, Mattis told her: “I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military. In 2003, I had hundreds of Marines who happened to be women serving in my 23,000 person division … I put them right on the front lines with everyone else.”

He was also asked about protections for LGBTQ service members, and he had a very blunt answer to that. “Frankly, senator, I’ve never cared about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with.”

He says the Iran deal isn’t perfect, but it should remain intact

Mattis called the Iran deal an “imperfect” one, but still supported the US keeping its end of the bargain. The answer was a break from the President-elect, who has promised to “rip up” the deal with Tehran.

“I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty,” Mattis said. “But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.”

Later, he said, “It’s not a deal I would have signed.”

Mattis says cyberwar is a big problem that still has no clear doctrine in place

Mattis was asked interesting questions on cyberwarfare, which were especially pertinent in the wake of Russian hacks of Democratic party officials and their affect on the presidential election. Unfortunately, he said he did not believe the US has anything resembling a sophisticated cyber doctrine.

In other words, there is no strategy in place for the US to respond to cyber attacks, like there is for other physical examples, such as a nuclear strike or an attack on a NATO ally.

Mattis said there needs to be a comprehensive plan developed to address this shortfall, because “cyber cuts across everything we do today.”

He added: “Because of the cyber domain, it’s not something the military can do in isolation.”

Articles

Don’t pack a lip with that shrapnel-flavored snuff

Bring it in, take a knee, drink some water. You need to read this before you start popping that little can and getting a pinch — there’s a recall on Copenhagen, Skoal and Husky, which sucks, we know, but might save you some additional mouth pain.


It’s one thing to mix MRE instant coffee or Rip It powder in with your dip. But potentially mixing shrapnel in is quite another.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
Is there some JDAM in there? (DoD photo)

Since four to five times as many military members use smokeless tobacco as their civilian counterparts (and given an average DoD expenditure of more than $1.6 billion per year on tobacco-related medical care), we reckon this is a warning that oughta get out there.

The recall comes from the U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co., a subsidiary of Altria Group Inc. It’s a voluntary recall, applying to all products coming out of its Franklin Park facility in Illinois. Among them are a number of the company’s most popular products, including Cope Long Cut Straight (overseas military only), Skoal Long Cut Wintergreen (overseas military only) and about three dozen other flavors.

According to Altria…

“USSTC initiated the recall after receiving eight consumer complaints of foreign metal objects, including sharp metal objects, found in select cans. In each case, the object was visible to the consumer and there have been no reports of consumer injury. Complaints have been received from consumers in Indiana, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin and Ohio.”

The FDA is apparently aware of the complaints and the voluntary recall and is investigating.

Chances are if you’ve ever served, you’ve either used “smokeless tobacco” — i.e. snuff — or worked alongside or deployed with someone who has. Its use is ubiquitous, in both line and support units. The Millenium Cohort Study of 2012 made the relationship between combat and smokeless tobacco use very clear.

Overall, troops who were deployed but did not see combat were almost one-third more likely to take up a smokeless tobacco habit than their non-deployed counterparts. Those odds were two-thirds to three-quarters higher for troops who were in combat or who deployed multiple times.

DoD wide tobacco use in the military has declined since an Iraq War high, but it’s still far higher than the general civilian population and continues despite numerous measures taken discourage or even forbid it. Such regs as AFI 40–102, SECNAV 5100.13E, Army Regulation 600-63, and numerous local regulations like the one below for gyrenes are in place, but their impact is fairly anemic.

(5) Use of smokeless tobacco is prohibited during briefings, meetings, classes, formations, inspections, and while on watch. (6) The expectoration of smokeless tobacco waste is confined to heads within government buildings aboard this installation. The expectoration of smokeless tobacco waste within or from government vehicles is not permitted.

The reasons for that are many, and doubtless require little articulation here…stress relief, boredom, a boost to stay awake during long hours and night operations are the most often cited.

As long as assorted chumps are shooting at us in faraway places, that’s not likely to change either.

You can find further details in this press release from Altria.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Here are the 2 veteran-supporting bills President Trump just signed into law

President Donald Trump signed legislation Saturday that will broaden options for troubled veterans in the legal system and expand a home renovations grant program for disabled and blind veterans.

The new Veteran Treatment Court Coordination Act directs the Justice Department to support the development and establishment of veterans treatment courts at the state, local and tribal levels.


At more than 400 veterans treatment courts across the U.S., vets with substance abuse issues or mental health conditions who commit nonviolent crimes may enter court-supervised medical treatment and get access to veteran-centric services and benefits in lieu of going to jail.

The law will encourage the development of a grant program to expand these courts across all 50 states.

“We’ve wanted this for a long time. They’ve been trying to get it for a long time, and now we have it,” Trump said after signing the bill, proposed in the House by Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., and in the Senate by Martha McSally, R-Ariz.

“With this new law, thousands more veterans across the country facing the criminal justice system will have an alternative to jail time, ensuring they get the treatment they need,” Crist said in a statement following the signing ceremony.

“These courts have turned veterans’ lives around in Arizona, and now they will be able to do the same for veterans across our nation,” McSally said, also in a prepared statement.

The first veterans treatment court was established in early 2008 in Buffalo, New York. After noticing an increase in the number of veterans appearing in the city’s drug and mental health treatment legal programs, Judge Robert Russell brought in veterans and Department of Veterans Affairs advisers to help create the specialty court.

Since 2011, the Justice Department has supported the development of veterans treatment courts, providing more than million to states and localities.

Trump on Saturday also signed a law that will give more veterans access to VA grants to renovate their homes to accommodate their disabilities.

The Ryan Kules and Paul Benne Specially Adaptive Housing Act of 2019 expands the program to include blind veterans and raise the maximum funding veterans can receive from ,000 to ,000. The bill also will let eligible veterans access the funds six times, instead of three, and gives them access to the full amount every 10 years — a provision that will let them change residences as their needs change.

At the start of the president’s press conference Saturday, Trump sowed some confusion about which bills he had just signed, referencing two he often mentions in stump speeches: the VA Mission Act, which he consistently refers to as “VA Choice,” and the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which became law in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

“Before we begin, I’ve just signed two bills that are great for our vets. Our vets are special. We passed Choice, as you know — Veterans Choice — and Veterans Accountability,” Trump said before extolling the benefits of those laws.

“We passed Choice … they’ve been trying to get that passed for decades and decades and decades, and no president has ever been able to do it. And we got it done so veterans have Choice,” he said. “And now you have accountability — that if you don’t love your vets, if you’re in the VA and you don’t love the vets or take care of the vets, you can actually get fired if you don’t do your job.”

The president then went on to talk about the treatment courts and adaptive housing laws before moving on to other subjects.

Trump consistently refers to the VA Mission Act as VA Choice — the program established in 2014 by President Barack Obama to widen veterans’ access to health care treatment from non-VA providers.

The legislation, the Veterans’ Access to Care through Choice, Accountability, and Transparency Act, was created in response to a nationwide scandal over delays veterans encountered when making medical appointments — for months and sometimes years — and secret waiting lists kept by some VA facilities to hide the scope of the problem.

The VA Mission Act, signed by Trump in 2018, replaced the Veterans Choice Program and gave more veterans access to private health care paid for by the VA.

The legislation also broadened the VA’s caregiver program to include disabled veterans who served before Sept. 11, 2001 — an expansion that will begin in October — and ordered the department to inventory its 1,100 facilities with an eye to closing or selling outdated or excess buildings.

At the end of Saturday’s press conference, a reporter asked why Trump “keeps saying [he] passed ‘Veterans Choice,'” when it was “passed in 2014.”

Trump told the reporter she was “finished,” and he abruptly ended the press conference.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the longest-serving Bond was the ultimate vet

Roger Moore, famous for his roles on the small screen and his seven films over 12 years as James Bond, died at the age of 89 in Switzerland on May 23, 2017. His family said that he died “… after a short but brave battle with cancer.”


He had previously defeated prostate cancer.

 

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
Sir Roger Moore in London in 1973. (Photo: Allan Warren, Public Domain)

 

But while Moore is most famous for his acting career, a lot of soldiers could relate with the man’s little-known military service. Moore was drafted from a blue collar family in England in 1946, married his first of four wives while he was in the military, and then returned home to so little available work that he had to move to America.

In 1946 at the age of 18, Moore was an up and coming young actor and child of a police officer when his career was interrupted by conscription. He answered the call and married his friend, Lucy Woodard, who performed as an actress and ice skater under the name Doorn Van Steyn.

Moore was deployed to West Germany under the service ID number 372394 and rose to the rank of captain. After a short period, he was able to transfer into the Combined Services Entertainment Unit, a morale-boosting initiative that allowed some Cold War-era servicemen to complete their service obligation entertaining the rest of the military.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
United Artists

According to a June 2015 question and answer session on his website, it was in the CSEU that he really enjoyed his national service.

When he left the military after about three years, Moore returned to England to pursue acting once again. Despite his training before the service as well as his experience in the British Army, jobs were few and he wasn’t able to make much headway.

 

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
Wikimedia Commons

 

The jobs were so lean that Moore decided to move to Hollywood and pursue work there. Before he left, he divorced his first wife who he later accused of domestic violence.

In Los Angeles, he did some modeling and bit parts before MGM signed him and put him into a series of movies, none of which were hugely successful.

Moore transferred over to Warner Brothers where he saw more success and got a role on the TV show “The Saint,” a spy series that helped lead to his being cast as the lead in “Live and Let Die,” his first James bond role.

 

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
Moore when he was cast on Maverick (1961). (Wikimedia Commons).

 

For the next twelve years, Moore would film another six Bond movies including The Man with the Golden Gun and Octopussy.

He continued acting after leaving the Bond role but also expanded his work in charitable causes. It was his extensive work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF that led to his being knighted and becoming Sir Roger Moore.

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Air Force advances massive B-52 overhaul

The Air Force is surging forward with a massive, fleet-wide modernization overhaul of the battle-tested, Vietnam-era B-52 bomber, an iconic airborne workhorse for the U.S. military dating back to the 1960s.


Engineers are now equipping all 76 of the Air Force B-52s with digital data-links, moving-map displays, next-generation avionics, new radios and an ability to both carry more weapons internally and integrate new, high-tech weapons as they emerge, service officials said.

The technical structure and durability of the B-52 airframes in the Air Force fleet are described as extremely robust and able to keep flying well into the 2040s and beyond – so the service is taking steps to ensure the platform stays viable by receiving the most current and effective avionics, weapons and technologies, Eric Single, Chief of the Global Strike Division, Acquisition, told Scout Warrior in an interview.

The B-52 has a massive, 185-foot wingspan, a weight of about 185,000 pounds and an ability to reach high sub-sonic speeds and altitudes of 50,000 feet, Air Force officials said.

“Their structure, service life and air frames are good until around 2040. They are built very strong structurally. This is not a structural modification, but upgrades to the capabilities and the avionics,” Single explained. “You are taking this old structurally sound airframe and putting modern avionics, modern communications technology and modern weaponry into it.”

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
Photo: US Air Force

Known for massive bombing missions during the Vietnam War, the 159-foot long B-52s have in recent years been operating over  Iraq and Afghanistan.

The B-52 also served in Operation Desert Storm, Air Force statements said.  “B-52s struck wide-area troop concentrations, fixed installations and bunkers, and decimated the morale of Iraq’s Republican Guard,” an Air Force statement said.

In 2001, the B-52 provided close-air support to forces in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, service officials said. The B-52 also played a role in Operation Iraqi Freedom. On March 21, 2003, B-52Hs launched approximately 100 CALCMs (Conventional Air Launched Cruise Missiles) during a night mission.

Given the B-52s historic role in precision-bombing and close air support, next-generation avionics and technologies are expected to greatly increase potential missions for the platform in coming years, service officials said.

Communications, Avionics Upgrades

Two distinct, yet interwoven B-52 modernization efforts will increase the electronics, communications technology, computing and avionics available in the cockpit while simultaneously configuring the aircraft with the ability to carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” precision-guided weapons internally – in addition to carrying six weapons on each wing, Single said.

Eight B-52s have already received a communications (coms systems) upgrade called Combat Network Communication Technology, or CONECT – a radio, electronics and data-link upgrade which, among other things, allows aircraft crews to transfer mission and targeting data directly to aircraft systems while in flight (machine to machine), Single explained.

“It installs a digital architecture in the airplane,” Single explained. “Instead of using data that was captured during the mission planning phase prior to your take off 15 to 20 hours ago – you are getting near real-time intelligence updates in flight.”

Single described it key attribute in terms of “machine-to-machine” data-transfer technology which allows for more efficient, seamless and rapid communication of combat-relevant information.

Using what’s called an ARC 210 Warrior software-programmable voice and data radio, pilots can now send and receive targeting data, mapping information or intelligence with ground stations, command centers and other aircraft.

“The crew gets the ability to communicate digitally outside the airplane which enables you to import not just voice but data for mission changes, threat notifications, targeting….all those different types of things you would need to get,” Single said.

An ability to receive real-time targeting updates is of great relevance to the B-52s close-air-support mission because fluid, fast-moving or dynamic combat situations often mean ground targets appear, change or disappear quickly.

Alongside moving much of the avionics from analogue to digital technology, CONECT also integrates new servers, modems, colored display screens in place of old green monochrome and provides pilots with digital moving-map displays which can be populated with real-time threat and mission data, Single said.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21, 2006. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

The new digital screens also show colored graphics highlighting the aircraft’s flight path, he added.

Single explained that being able to update key combat-relevant information while in transit will substantially help the aircraft more effectively travel longer distances for missions, as needed.

“The key to this is that this is part of the long-range strike family of systems — so if you take off out of Barksdale Air Force Base and you go to your target area, it could take 15 or 16 hours to get there. By the time you get there, all the threat information has changed,” said Single. “Things move, pop up or go away and the targeting data may be different.”

The upgrades will also improve the ability of the airplane to receive key intelligence information through a data link called the Intelligence Broadcast Receiver. In addition, the B-52s will be able to receive information through a LINK-16-like high-speed digital data link able to transmit targeting and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR information.

The CONECT effort, slated to cost $1.1 billion overall, will continue to unfold over the next several years, Single explained.

Twelve B-52 will be operational with CONECT by the end of this year and the entire fleet will be ready by 2021, Single said.

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan
The B-52 and the 70,000 pounds of munitions it can carry. Photo: U.S. Air Force

Weapons Upgrade

The Air Force is also making progress with a technology-inspired effort to increase the weapons payload for the workhorse bomber, Single added.

The 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade, or IWBU, will allow the B-52 to internally carry up to eight of the newest “J-Series” bombs in addition to carrying six on pylons under each wing, he explained.

The B-52 have previously been able to carry JDAM weapons externally, but with the IWBU the aircraft will be able to internally house some of the most cutting edge precision-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles, among others.

“It is about a 66 percent increase in carriage capability for the B-52, which is huge. You can imagine the increased number of targets you can reach, and you can strike the same number of targets with significantly less sorties,” said Single.

Single also added that having an increased internal weapons bay capability affords an opportunity to increase fuel-efficiency by removing bombs from beneath the wings and reducing drag.

The first increment of IWBU, slated to be finished by 2017, will integrate an internal weapons bay ability to fire a laser-guided JDAM. A second increment, to finish by 2022, will integrate more modern or cutting-edge weapons such as the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, JASSM Extended Range (ER) and a technology called Miniature Air Launched Decoy, or MALD. A MALD-J “jammer” variant, which will also be integrated into the B-52, can be used to jam enemy radar technologies as well, Single said.

IWBU, which uses a digital interface and a rotary launcher to increase the weapons payload, is expected to cost roughly $313 million, service officials said.

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MIGHTY TACTICAL

Air Force tested its personnel with real cyberattacks

In November 2018, the Air Force targeted its personnel at bases in Europe with spear-phishing attacks to test their awareness of online threats.

The tests were coordinated with Air Force leaders in Europe and employed tactics known to be used by adversaries targeting the US and its partners, the Air Force said in a release.

Spear-phishing differs from normal phishing attempts in that it targets specific accounts and attempts to mimic trusted sources.


Spear-phishing is a “persistent threat” to network integrity, Col. Anthony Thomas, head of Air Force Cyber Operations, said in the release.

“Even one user falling for a spear-phishing attempt creates an opening for our adversaries,” Thomas said. “Part of mission resiliency is ensuring our airmen have the proficiency to recognize and thwart adversary actions.”

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan

Sailors on watch in the Fleet Operations Center at the headquarters of US Fleet Cyber Command/US 10th Fleet, Dec. 14, 2017.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Samuel Souvannason)

The technique has already been put into real-world use.

Just before Christmas in 2015, Russian hackers allegedly used spear-phishing emails and Microsoft Word documents embedded with malicious code to hit Ukraine with a cyberattack that caused power outages — the first publicly known attack to have such an effect.

In December 2018, the US Department of Justice charged two Chinese nationals with involvement in a decade-long, government-backed effort to hack and steal information from US tech firms and government agencies.

Their group relied on spear-phishing, using an email address that looked legitimate to send messages with documents laden with malicious code.

For their test in November 2018, Air Force cyber-operations officials sent emails from non-Department of Defense addresses to users on the Air Force network, including content in them that looked legitimate.

The emails told recipients to do several different things, according to the release.

One appeared to be sent by an Airman and Family Readiness Center, asking the addressee to update a spreadsheet by clicking a hyperlink. Another email said it was from a legal office and asked the recipient to add information to a hyperlinked document for a jury panel in a court-martial.

“If users followed the hyperlink, then downloaded and enabled macros in the documents, embedded code would be activated,” the release said. “This allowed the threat emulation team access to their computer.”

Mattis loosens rules of engagement for US troops fighting in Afghanistan

US Cyber Command.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

Results from the test — which was meant to improve the defenses of the network as a whole and did not gather information on individuals — showed most recipients were not fooled.

“We chose to conduct this threat emulation (test) to gain a deeper understanding of our collective cyber discipline and readiness,” said Maj. Ken Malloy, Air Force Cyber Operations’ primary planning coordinator for the test.

The lessons “will inform data-driven decisions for improving policy, streamlining processes and enhancing threat-based user training to achieve mission assurance and promote the delivery of decisive air power,” Malloy said.

While fending off spear-phishing attacks requires users to be cognizant of untrustworthy links and other suspicious content, other assessments have found US military networks themselves do not have adequate defenses.

A Defense Department Inspector General report released December 2018 found that the Army, the Navy, and the Missile Defense Agency “did not protect networks and systems that process, store, and transmit (missile defense) technical information from unauthorized access and use.”

That could allow attackers to go around US missile-defense capabilities, the report said.

In one case, officials had failed to patch flaws in their system after getting alerts about vulnerabilities — one of which was first found in 1990 and remained unresolved in April 2018.

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

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