How medically-discharged vets can get a disability rating boost - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

How medically-discharged vets can get a disability rating boost

Hardeep Grewal was a 29-year-old Air Force computer operations specialist suffering a mild case of pneumonia when he deployed to Saudi Arabia and a series of other Southwest Asian countries in 2003.

The staff sergeant stayed ill and returned to the United States “looking like a scare crow,” he said. He was diagnosed with asthma, which would require two medications daily for the rest of his life. By December 2004, Grewal was medically discharged with a 10 percent disability rating and a small severance payment.


The Air Force physical evaluation board “lowballed me,” he recalled in a phone conversation on April 25, 2018, from his Northern Virginia home. “They were trying to get rid of people” from a specialty that, after offering an attractive reenlistment bonus, quickly became overmanned.

Grewal promptly applied to the Department of Veterans Affairs for disability compensation and his initial VA rating was set at 30 percent. Full VA payments were delayed until Grewal’s Air Force severance was recouped.

Twelve years later, in August 2016, he got a letter inviting him to have his military disability rating reviewed by a special board Congress created solely to determine whether veterans like him, discharged for conditions rated 20 percent disabling or less from Sept. 11, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2009, were treated fairly.

“I waited like almost two months to apply because I didn’t know if somebody was pulling my leg,” Grewal said. “I talked to a lot of people, including a friend at Langley Air Force Base, to find out if it was legit. He said other service members he knew who had gotten out were saying, ‘Yeah, it’s legit. You can look it up.’ “

Grewal had to wait 18 months but he received his decision letter from the Physical Disability Board of Review (PDBR) in April 2018. It recommends to the Air Force Secretary that Grewal’s discharge with severance pay be recharacterized to permanent disability retirement, effective the date of his prior medical separation.

If, as expected, the Air Force approves a revised disability rating to 30 percent back to December 2004, Grewal will receive retroactive disability retirement, become eligible for TRICARE health insurance and begin to enjoy other privileges of “retiree” status including access to discount shopping on base.

Congress ordered that the PDBR established as part of the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act after a mountain of evidence surfaced that service branches had been low-balling disability ratings given to thousands of service members medically separated over a nine-year period through recent wars.

The PDBR began accepting applications in January 2009. So far only 19,000 veterans have applied from pool of 71,000 known to be eligible for at least a disability rating review. All of them were medically-discharged with disability ratings of 20 percent or less sometime during the qualifying period.

A bump in rating to 30 percent or higher bestows retiree status including a tax-free disability retirement and TRICARE eligibility. And yet only 27 percent of veterans believed eligible for a rating review have applied. Indeed, applications to the PDBR have slowed to a trickle of 40 to 50 per month.

For this column, Greg Johnson, director of the PDRB, provided written responses to two dozen questions on the board’s operations. Overall, he explained, 42 percent of applicants receive a recommendation that their original rating be upgraded. Their service branch has the final say on whether a recommendation is approved but in almost every instance they have been.

To date, 47 percent of Army veterans who applied got a recommendation for upgrade, and 18 percent saw their rating increased to at least 30 percent to qualify for disability retirement.

For the Navy Department, which includes Sailors and Marines, 34 percent of applicants received upgrade recommendations and 17 percent gained retiree status. For Air Force applicants the approval rate also has been 34 percent, but 21 percent airmen got a revised rating high enough to qualify for disability retirement.

The top three medical conditions triggering favorable recommendations are mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress, back ailments and arthritis.

As Grewal learned, decisions are not made quickly. The current wait, on average, is eight to 12 months, Johnson said. But that is faster than the 18-to-24-month wait that was routine in earlier years.

Also, veterans need not fear that a new review will result in a rating downgrade. The law establishing the PDBR doesn’t allow for it.

Once received, applications are scanned into the PDBR data base and the board requests from the service branch a copy of their physical evaluation board case file. Also, PDBR retrieves from VA the veteran’s treatment records and all documents associated with a VA disability rating decision.

After paperwork is gathered, a PDBR panel of one medical officer and two non-medical officers, military or civilian, reviews the original rating decision. All panelists are the rank of colonel or lieutenant colonel (for Navy, captain or commander) or their civilian equivalents. The board has 34 voting members plus support staff, which is more than PDBR had in its early years, Johnson said.

The wait for a decision is long because of the time it takes to retrieve records, the thoroughness of the review and the complexity of the cases, Johnson said.

About 70 percent of applicants have been Army, 20 percent Navy or Marine Corps veterans, 10 percent Air Force and less than one percent Coast Guard.

PDBR notification letters have been sent to eligible veterans at last-known addresses at least twice and include applications and pre-stamped return envelopes. Grewal said he had moved four times since leaving service which might be why he never heard of the board before the notification letter reach him in 2016.

At some point Congress could set a deadline for the board to cease operations but it hasn’t yet. The board advises veterans, however, to apply as soon as they can. The longer they wait, it notes on its website, “the more difficult it may be to gather required medical evidence from your VA rating process, your service treatment record or other in-service sources [needed] to assess your claim.”

If an eligible veteran is incapacitated or deceased, a surviving spouse, next of kin or legal representative also can request the PDBR review.

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

Articles

Trump sets price reduction target for F-35

President-elect Donald Trump wants to lower the price tag for the F-35 Lightning II by about ten percent. That push comes as he also is trying to lower the cost of a new Air Force One.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the President-elect has been very critical of the high costs of the fifth-generation multi-role fighter intended to replace F-16 and F/A-18 fighters and AV-8B V/STOL aircraft in the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. The fighter’s cost has ballooned to about $100 million per airframe. The President-elect reportedly asked Boeing to price out new Super Hornets.

An F-35 from Eglin AFB flies with an F-16 from Luke AFB at the Luke Airshow. (Lockheed Martin photo.)

Some progress is being made in bits and pieces. An Air Force release noted that an improved funnel system developed by the team testing the F-35 will save nearly $90,000 – and more importantly, time (about three days).

Foxnews.com also reported that President-elect Trump met again with the Dennis Muilenburg, the CEO of Boeing, over the Air Force One replacement. Last month, the President-elect tweeted his intention to cancel the program, which was slated to cost over $4 billion – an amount equivalent to buying over three dozen F-35s – for two airframes.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Muilenburg told Reuters, “We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification by using commercial practices.” Those efforts, he went on to add, could save money on the replacement for Air Force One. The VC-25A, the current version of Air Force One, entered service in 1990, according to an Air Force fact sheet.

One way costs per airframe could be cut is to increase a production run. A 2015 Daily Caller article noted that when the productions for the Zumwalt-class destroyer and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle were slashed, the price per unit went up as each ship or vehicle bore more of the research an development costs. In the case of the Zumwalt, the reduction of the program to three hulls meant each was bearing over $3 billion in RD costs in addition to a $3.8 billion cost to build the vessel.

Articles

The 4 best surrender decisions in military history

There’s nothing great about having to surrender. At best, the loser gets to keep most of his men alive. At worst, well… he doesn’t and the outcome is a room full slaughtered defenders. Brave defenders, sure. But they’re still outnumbered and slaughtered.


So sometimes, surrender is the best option – but no one brags about it, and it sure as hell won’t win any drinks at the bar. But at least your unit will still be at the bar later. Here’s a few people who also chose wisely.

1. The French Foreign Legion in Mexico.

In the 1860s, the United States was too busy beating the hell out of the Confederacy to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, which basically was meant to keep European powers from messing around with the Americas. Naturally, as soon as the U.S. turned its sights on the Civil War, France invaded Mexico.

During the fighting, the Foreign Legion was tasked with resupplying the French at the Battle of Puebla. Since only 65 of them weren’t struggling with dysentery and the Foreign Legion isn’t exactly known for not getting the job done, that’s the number of troops who rolled out to Puebla with the supplies. Along the way, they stopped at a place called Palo Verde – where they were immediately met by Mexican cavalry.

The Legion fought their way back to an inn in the city of Camarón, where they decided to make a stand. They didn’t know that the cavalry was just the beginning – the Mexicans had three battalions of infantry too, totaling 1,200 men and 800 cavalry. Even when the Mexican commander informed the French about how they were outnumbered 33-to-1, the French accepted the challenge.

Over the next 11 hours, the legion killed or wounded 600 of the Mexican attackers. The Mexican commander returned under a flag of truce to find only two Legionnaires remaining. After the Mexican demanded their surrender, the half-dead Frenchmen still demanded terms: immediate safe passage home, their wounded, their fallen captain, their weapons and their regimental flag.

The Mexican accepted.

2. Hezbollah gives in to the KGB.

In 1985, four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped in West Beirut – right in front of the Soviet embassy. They were held by one of the many extremist organizations in the decade-long Lebanese Civil War. The abductors called themselves “The Khaled Al-Walid Force” and were demanding the Soviet Union pressure its Syrian client to squeeze its factions to stop attacking Muslim-held positions in Tripoli. And they wanted the Soviets to evacuate their embassy in the city.

That was the plan, anyway.

(Laughs in Communist)

When one of the abducted men was found dead in a field in Beirut, riddled with bullets, the KGB we have all come to know through ’80s movies and real goddamn life showed up. KGB station chief Col. Yuri Perfilev met with the Grand Ayatollah of Lebanon’s Shia muslims Muhammad Fadlallah and told him that “A great power cannot wait forever” and that waiting could lead to “serious action” and “unpredictable consequences.” The Russian then told him:

I’m talking about Tehran and Qom [Shiite holy city and the residence of Ayatollah Khomeini], which is not that far from Russia’s borders. Yes, Qom is very close to us and a mistake in the launch of a missile could always happen. A technical error, some kind of breakdown. They write about it all the time. And God or Allah forbid if this happens with a live, armed missile.

If that wasn’t enough, the KGB kidnapped a relative of a top Hezbollah leader, castrated the relative and sent his organs to Hezbollah – along with photos of his other relatives – and demanded the release of Soviet prisoners. The three hostages were released back at the embassy and no Soviet citizen was ever kidnapped in Lebanon again.

Good call.

3. Japan surrenders to the Atomic Bomb.

The end of WWII was pretty harsh to Japan. Its surrender to the Allies had to be unconditional, which must have been a huge bitter pill to swallow for a warrior culture like Japan’s.

Still, after the Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union was forced to declare war on Imperial Japan in the weeks following the fall of the Third Reich. The Russians quickly moved into Manchuria as the Americans warned of “prompt and utter destruction” if they didn’t give up soon.

After mistranslating the Japanese for “no comment,” the Americans infamously rained nuclear death on Japan, first at Hiroshima and then at Nagasaki. The destruction itself wasn’t the biggest aspect of the choice to surrender – U.S. Army Air Forces General Curtis LeMay had been firebombing Japanese cities for much 0f 1945.

And firebombed fitness regs for the rest of time.

Still, wonton destruction isn’t a good look for any culture and the horrifying reports and photos – not to mention radiation and fallout – in the days that followed sealed the deal. the Emperor took to the radio (through a recording) and announced Japan would submit to the Allied demands.

4. Anyone surrendering to the Mongols.

The great Khans had one rule: give in and be spared. Cause a Mongol casualty and your city will be laid to waste and everyone inside will be killed or worse.

We’ll let you imagine all the things that could mean.

Even after many, many examples of the Mongols winning against great odds and destroying cities much greater than anything they’d build on their own, people still refused to submit to the Mongols. At Nishapur, an arrow killed Genghis Khan’s favorite son-in-law. In response, Khan killed every living thing in the city as he sacked it – an estimated 1.7 million people.

The fun didn’t stop there. Legendary cities like Kiev, Samarkand, and Herat were all put to the Mongol sword. Whereas those who surrendered were let off comparatively easy – the Mongols may kill off the royal family and do some light looting, raping, and pillaging for a few days. A light sentence compared to the mass murder and destruction of Baghdad, where the center of learning was destroyed, its contents thrown into the Euphrates.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How this Vietnam vet overcame PTSD and survivor’s guilt

My fellow vets,

I’m a Vietnam veteran. Like in any war, we had moments of extreme, close encounters and moments of boredom. We came home to a political nightmare where we were hated, spit upon, and called names. I, like many that came home, suffered from survivor’s guilt and something that we’d never heard of at the time: PTSD.

We went to Vietnam as soldiers and came home as individuals, so I lost contact from my unit. I never contacted the VA; I had enough of the military. I was young, strong, and independent. I could deal with anything at the time. I went back to school, got a job, got married, began a family with two wonderful kids. I was living the dream but I had a secret that I kept from everyone.


As I aged, my PTSD turned into “flashbacks,” nightmares, and three suicide attempts. The last was the worst. I sat on our kitchen floor at midnight, mad and scared. That’s when I contacted the VA Suicide Hotline and was convinced to go to the VA Hospital. I snuck some clothes from our bedroom. I was going to sneak out, but my wife woke up and demanded to drive me.

My secret was out.

Out of the woods

www.youtube.com

I got the help I needed from VA through the Prolonged Exposure Therapy Program (PE). My family now knows everything. It’s been six years and counting with no flashbacks, nightmares, or suicide attempts. My life and my family’s lives have changed. I believe I came through all this hell for a reason, and that is to help other veterans who suffer. The suicide rate among all veterans absolutely scares me, but most troubling is those who were like me: the 70% who don’t have any contact with the VA.

Get the help you need. Do it.

  • Watch Dave, his family and his therapist explain how Prolonged Exposure Therapy brought him back to a full and happy life.
  • See how treatment helped Dave enjoy walking in the woods behind his house, something he’d been avoiding for decades.
  • Go to AboutFace to hear more about PTSD and PTSD Treatment from veterans who have been there.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

The first US-North Korea talks in years could happen by May

President Donald Trump gave a timeline for the upcoming summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and appeared to be optimistic for a positive outcome.

“We’ll be meeting with them sometime in May or early June 2018, and I think there’ll be great respect paid by both parties and hopefully we’ll be able to make a deal on the de-nuking of North Korea,” Trump said on April 9, 2018, according to Reuters.


“They’ve said so. We’ve said so,” Trump continued. “Hopefully, it’ll be a relationship that’s much different than it’s been for many, many years.”

On April 8, 2018, a US official confirmed that North Korea was willing to discuss the subject of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

North Korean leaderu00a0Kim Jong Un.
(KCNA)

The CIA has reportedly been in communication with representatives from North Korea, setting up backchannels, according to multiple news reports. Officials from the two countries were reportedly communicating with the intent to establish an appropriate venue for the talks and other details ahead of the summit.

Trump’s statement comes amid North Korean state-sponsored media’s acknowledgement of the bilateral talks.

The two Korean leaders are set to hold their own historic summit on April 27, 2018, the first in 11 years, between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Israel claims that Russia is flirting with danger in Syria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned Russian President Vladimir Putin against delivering an advanced air-defense system to Syria, saying it will further destabilize the war-torn region.

After a call between the two leaders on Sept. 24, 2018, Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister told Putin that “transferring advanced weapons systems into irresponsible hands will increase the dangers in the region.

He also said that Israel “will continue to defend its security and its interests” by staging bombing raids on Iranian military targets in Syria.”


Israel’s statement came on the same day that U.S. national security adviser John Bolton warned that Russia’s decision to supply Syria with an S-300 surface-to-air missile system was a “major mistake” and a “significant escalation” in Syria’s seven-year civil war.

Israeli planes have carried out a number of deadly air strikes on Iranian military targets in Syria in 2018, largely undeterred by the Russian military presence there, apparently owing to close consultations between the Israeli and Russian militaries that Netanyahu’s office said were reaffirmed during the phone call.

But in September 2018, Russia for the first time challenged an Israeli incursion into Syria, blaming it in part for the downing of a Russian military plane that killed all 15 people on board.

A Russian Air Force Ilyushin Il-20.

Syrian air defenses mistakenly shot down the Russian Il-20 surveillance plane on Sept. 17, 2018, following an Israeli bombing raid. Moscow claims the Russian plane was hit because Israeli pilots were using it as “cover.”

Putin has described the incident as a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”

The incident led Russia this week to announce new security measures to protect its military in Syria, including supplying the Syrian Army with an S-300 system and jamming radars of nearby warplanes.

Russia at an earlier stage in the war had suspended sending an S-300 system to Syria amid Israeli concerns that the missiles could be used against it.

But Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that “the situation has changed, and it’s not our fault.”

Netanyahu in the phone call with Putin continued to blame what his office called the “unfortunate incident” on “the Syrian military, which brought down the plane, and Iran, whose aggression is undermining stability.”

Despite differing views of what happened, Netanyahu’s office said the Russian and Israeli leaders “agreed to continue dialogue between professional teams and intermilitary coordination via military channels.”

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Hawaii freaked out because the governor forgot his Twitter password

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said the panic that ensued during a false alarm warning of an imminent missile attack wasn’t addressed sooner because he forgot his Twitter password and couldn’t notify the public.


During a press conference on Jan. 22, Ige took some of the blame the mix-up that caused panic throughout Hawaii and made headlines worldwide, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

The missile defense notification system was accidentally triggered on January 13 after an employee mistakenly pushed the wrong button and sent mobile notifications to all in the vicinity, warning them of an imminent ballistic missile attack.

Residents and visitors in Hawaii receive alerts from the state Emergency Management Agency on Saturday morning. (Courtesy photo)

The blunder caused mass panic around Hawaii, as people quickly took cover and prepared for impact.

A second alert clarifying that there was no missile threat to Hawaii was not sent out until 38 minutes after the initial notice.

Soon after, officials confirmed that the alert was a mistake.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted, “NO missile threat to Hawaii.”

Also Read: Hawaii emergency agency password photo shows why OPSEC is actually important

Ige responded to the incident at the time, saying the triggering of the alert system was an “error” and was being investigated to avoid the incident from “ever happening again.”

Hawaii began testing its nuclear warning system in December, CNN reported. It is the first time since the Cold War that Hawaii brought back the system and comes amid North Korea’s increased missile testing.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Why the Navy backed off railguns (and China should too)

The prototype Chinese railgun is the first technical demonstrator of the tech on a ship at sea, but there are real reasons why the Navy is slow-rolling the railgun, and it’s unlikely that China has broken the code on how to make railguns viable.


First, for anyone who isn’t up on what railguns are, they’re a type of naval artillery that uses massive amounts of electricity to propel the round instead of a chemical reaction (read: gunpowder). This would be a major improvement in logistics and safety as the Navy would no longer need to ship bags of gunpowder around the world, but the best advantages come in range and lethality.

Railguns can hurl rounds very far. Navy engineers have said they think they can reach 230 miles with current technologies. And when the rounds hit the target, they’re going so fast that the total amount of damage on a target is like it was hit by a missile or a massive, high-explosive warhead but the fast-flying rounds can also pierce most armor and even underground targets and bunkers.

Oh, and the rounds are super cheap, costing about ,000 dollars per shot while the missiles they could sometimes replace are usually 0,000 a shot or more. Also, this hasn’t been proven yet, but railguns might be able to fire as fast as every 6 seconds.

Rain. Of. Fire.

So, railguns can fire up to 10 times as far as conventional artillery with a safer round that does more damage when it hits the target. And this isn’t theoretical — railguns have actually achieved these things in Navy tests. Time to put them on ships before China can, right?

High-speed photograph of Navy prototype railgun firing.

(U.S. Navy)

Not exactly. Because while railguns are a huge step up from conventional artillery and have a lot of advantages, there are also some serious drawbacks. First, they need a decent amount of deck space as well as a ton of space below decks. That’s because the guns require a ton of electricity, up to 9 kilowatt hours per shot. That’s how much energy an average U.S. house uses over 7 hours. The only surface ships with that kind of power on tap are the three Zumwalt-class destroyers and aircraft carriers.

Meanwhile, the weapons have improved in maintenance requirements in recent years, but still need new launcher cores every 400 shots and barrels every thousand.

But the biggest problem is the range. While a 230-mile range is phenomenal for artillery, it’s still a paltry reach compared to missiles. Tomahawk cruise missiles can reach between 810 miles and 1,550 miles depending on the type, and China’s “Carrier Killer” DF-26 is thought to strike at 1,200 miles or more. Meanwhile, a carrier-launched F-35 has a 1,380-mile range that can be extended with aerial refueling.

A railgun fires during testing at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in 2016.

(Monica Wood, Fort Sill Public Affairs)

So, were railguns obsolete before they were launched? No. There are still plenty of niche uses for the railgun, and the Navy has slowed development but is still pursuing the weapon. Accurate railgun fire could intercept enemy missiles and fighter jets for cheap, possibly while plugged into the super capable Aegis combat system.

And while railgun-equipped ships would likely be too vulnerable to missile strikes to be “door-kicking” ships that take out enemy defenses on day one of a conflict, they would still be very valuable for shore bombardment, strike missions, and other tasks after the first week or so of a war, after the worst of the enemy’s missiles are taken out.

So why is China pursuing the weapon so hard? It’s unlikely that it has solved the power-generation problems of the railgun. And the U.S. is working hard to get the barrels right so they could fire 1,000 rounds instead of the 10 or less that were standard pretty recently. There’s a chance that China is still struggling with that and similar problems.

An artist’s illustration of a Navy Joint High-Speed Vessel with the prototype railgun installed for testing.

(U.S. Navy)

But being the first navy to put a railgun to sea has already granted China a pretty great and relatively easy propaganda victory. The country has worked hard on their technology in recent years in order to be seen as a great naval power, potentially positioning themselves as an arms exporter while deterring conflict.

And the U.S. will have to prepare for the possibility that the railgun is for real. The first pilots to fly within the ship’s range if a war breaks out have to reckon with the possibility that a 20-pound shell might be flying at Mach 7 towards their aircraft at any moment. Missile attacks against a fleet with the ship will have to decide whether to concentrate on the railgun or an aircraft carrier or another combatant.

But, again, this could all be China exploring the tech or bluffing, but with none of the breakthroughs needed to make the weapons viable in combat. If so, they would be wise to concentrate on the many other breakthroughs their military could use for an actual fight.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everyone is preparing for a devastating all-out war in Korea

As tensions rise to historic heights on the Korean Peninsula, both the U.S. and China have begun taking unprecedented steps to prepare for the worst-case scenario.


Across North Korea’s border in China’s Jilin province, state-run media ran a full-page instructional package on how to survive a nuclear blast. The page doesn’t mention North Korea, but it doesn’t need to.

Also new in Jilin are five new refugee camps built “because the situation on the China-North Korea border has intensified lately,” a leaked document seen by The New York Times said. The camps could accommodate thousands of North Koreans who might pour across the border in a time of war.

China not just worried about refugees

The Yalu River is a natural and political border between North Korea and China. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

But China’s preparations don’t just indicate a defensive, wait-and-see approach. China’s air force engaged in exercises along “routes and areas it has never flown before” earlier this month, with surveillance aircraft over the Yellow and East seas near the Korean Peninsula, according to the South China Morning Post.

“The timing of this high-profile announcement by the PLA is also a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further,” Li Jie, a military expert based in Beijing, told the Post, using the abbreviation for the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

In addition to flexing its military muscle against the U.S., China has been increasingly assertive in the South China Sea. It has also dispatched military spy planes to encircle Taiwan and provide up-to-date info, which the Macau-based military observer Antony Wong Dong told the Post was “very unusual.”

U.S. preparing to denuclearize North Korea, possibly by force

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo visit the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea during a visit to the Joint Security Area in South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. (DoD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.)

The U.S. appears resolutely determined to put the pressure on North Korea.

South Korean officials have been talking up a pause in military drills in hopes that it will lead to a peaceful Winter Olympics in February, but the U.S. has yet to agree to that pause.

Though December is normally rather quiet for military drills, the U.S. this month brought in a record number of stealth aircraft to train up on an air war against North Korea.

Immediately after the drill, which featured a marked increase in simulated bomb runs on North Korean targets, the U.S. and South Korea reportedly engaged in drills to infiltrate North Korea and neutralize its weapons of mass destruction.

Also Read: Mattis shows his ‘no worse enemy’ side in warning to North Korea

At a speech at the Atlantic Council last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was preparing plans to seize loose nuclear weapons, should North Korea somehow collapse or become unstable.

President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, also flatly rejected the clearest path to peace by saying the U.S. would never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. He recommitted the U.S. to using force if necessary.

“We’re not committed to a peaceful resolution — we’re committed to a resolution,” McMaster told the BBC. “We have to be prepared, if necessary, to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime.”

Maximum pressure

Soldiers from Bravo Company, 8th Brigade Engineer Battalion conduct a tactical road march during demolition training on July 9. The Army released an revised version of the Army Field Manual 3-0 Oct. 6, providing doctrine focused on large scale ground combat. The manual will help prepare the Army to transition from facing insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan to potential adversaries and nation-states like North Korea, Russia and China. (Army photo by Sgt. Patrick Eakin.)

The Trump administration’s approach to North Korea explicitly calls for every means of pressure to bear down on the country. Threats of war, military deployments, increased drills, stealthier and more lethal weapons systems, sanctions, and even a possible shipping blockade could become a daily fact of life for Pyongyang under Trump.

But North Korea is not the only one to have noticed the U.S.’s new approach. China has closely watched the U.S. ratchet up tensions along its border, and its recent military movements reflect a country that is considering all-out war a possibility.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time the CIA did a favor for a single Afghan family

It’s good to have friends in high places, especially when you can do almost nothing in return. One Afghan family found that out when they asked the CIA for help in rescuing their daughter from the Taliban, just as the U.S. was preparing to invade the country.


So it has nothing to do with the Soviet Union.

The first Americans inside of Afghanistan were teams of what has come to be known as “the Horse Soldiers,” advanced units from the CIA’s special activities division. They were US special operators and CIA officers that were helping coordinate multiple units of anti-Taliban Afghan resistance fighters. The Northern Alliance fighters combined with the direction of the CIA and the support of the U.S. military were able to overthrow the regime without the use of traditional ground forces in many areas.

They were so effective at fomenting resistance to the Taliban and persuading the locals to their cause, they were not only able to capture entire cities and provinces but were also able to transform the lives of individual families. One such family approached a CIA hideout one day, asking for a favor.

Where the first CIA officers in Afghanistan slept.

The smoke had barely cleared at Ground Zero in New York City before the United States sent CIA teams into Afghanistan to coordinate the resistance to the Taliban. But first, they needed the most up-to-date intelligence. The first Northern Alliance Liaison Team landed in Afghanistan on Sept. 26, 2001. They brought everything they needed to sustain them for however long their mission would take – including 40 pounds of potatoes. Sleeping in a traditional Afghan mud hut, they braved the winter as they gathered info for the coming revenge against al-Qaeda.

One day a young boy approached their shack and told them of the plight of his teenage sister. A local Taliban warlord forcefully took her as a bride, and she was no longer able to spend time with the family. Since this was long before politics would enter the relationship between US personnel and Afghan locals, the CIA officers gave the boy a tracking device and told him to give it to his sister, who should activate it when the warlord returns home.

Northern Alliance fighters in the Panjshir Valley, September 2001.

When she did, the team swooped in on the Taliban leader. They raided his compound, rescued this sister and returned her to her brother and her family. The senior Taliban leader was one of the first enemy targets of the coming Global War on Terror.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Check out this spooky ‘No Time to Die’ trailer teaser

The first full trailer for the next James Bond film, No Time To Die, will be released on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. But for now, the official 007 Twitter account has teased the very first footage from Daniel Craig’s final outing as Bond. And, honestly, the movie looks a little spooky. But, it also confirms a huge reference to the Sean Connery years.

Featuring Bond walking in the shadows, and a mysterious monster-ish face behind glass, No Time To Die is keeping its thriller secrets close to its finely-tailored vest right now. The style and ominous tone of the trailer will also probably remind everyone a little bit that the new Bond film is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, the same guy who directed the thrilling first season of True Detective. Here’s the brief tease:


Obviously, there’s a lot to love about this trailer. Perhaps the best thing is the fact that Bond’s Aston Martin DB5 is, once again, sporting some guns. And, this appears to be, for the most part, exactly the same spot where Sean Connery’s secret guns were hidden in his Aston Martin; right behind the headlights.

It should be noted, however, that so far, there are at least two separate classic cars confirmed for No Time To Die: the Aston Martin DB-5, but also, the Aston Martin V8, last driven by Timothy Dalton in The Living Daylights

Expect a ton more Bond references in the new trailer in a few days. We’ll update this space with all the new info as our spies report back.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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The 13 funniest military memes of the week of Aug. 26

We search through page after page of funny military memes so that you can just check in every week and see the 13 funniest.


You’re welcome.

1. Everyone knows the “choke yourself” scene is coming up next, right?

(via Dysfunctional Veterans)

It may go a little differently this time.

2. Coast Guardsmen are masters of puddles from the surface to the greatest depths (via Military Memes).

Even if those depths are too shallow for the buoy to actually be over the diver.

3. The candy isn’t worth it and the cake is a lie (via Military Memes).

Don’t do it!

SEE ALSO: Pentagon considers lifetime access to Exchange for vets

4. Worst way to start an NCOER:

(via Humor During Deployment)

5. “Your wedding photos had a fake T-Rex? Ours had actual operators.”

Sort of makes the groom look underwhelming, though.

6. Notice that the Jetsons wore Flintstone-style clothing? That Marine-uniform envy is real (via Pop Smoke).

Marine Corps: Worst gear, best clothes.

7. A-10 musicals are my favorite soundtracks (via Pop Smoke).

8. “Then you’ll see! Then you’ll all see!”

(via Sh*t my LPO says)

Except they won’t see, because you’ll be in the chief’s mess and they’ll still be out without you.

9. “But if you can run 5 kilometers so fast, why did you use an Uber to get to the hotel?”

(via The Salty Soldier)

How many incentive days off do you think an Olympian gets for a silver medal? Bet he had duty the very next weekend.

10. The only Pokemon I was ever interested in:

(via Sh*t my LPO says)

That’s a lie. I loved dragons as a kid and played the game solely to raise a Charmander to Charizard.

11. The green stop sign is a pretty useful tool of chaos:

(via The Salty Soldier)

It’s usually employed by Blue Falcons.

12. It’s more alarming but also funnier when you realize that this kid is a firefighter on base:

(via Team Non-Rec)

13. “This street looks familiar.”

(via Sh*t my LPO says)

Would’ve thought a Navy career would have more water. And booze.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This is the iconic European fighter that can operate anywhere

The Saab Gripen is a beautiful fighter with a nifty little mane on its nose, and it’s popular with small militaries around the world because it’s cheap to operate, has high-mission readiness, and can take off from nearly anywhere. Seriously, if you’ve got a half mile of level pavement, you can probably get a Gripen in the air from it.


Gripen – Always combat ready

www.youtube.com

You might need to cut down some light poles or whatever, but that’s on you.

The Gripen fighter, which recently saw its E-variant enter serial production, is squarely aimed at fighting whatever it needs to, including fifth-generation fighters like Russia’s Su-57. That might be surprising since it’s not as fast. Or have as many weapons. Or have much stealth coating or many materials.

But the Gripen’s manufacturer, Saab, isn’t trying to win at air shows, and it isn’t accepting the price point required to develop stealth aircraft. (Even Russia can’t actually afford its stealthy Su-57, which might not even be that stealthy.)

That’s because Saab makes weapons for Sweden and for export to countries like Thailand, Hungary, and South Africa. These countries don’t have the money to drop 0 million per F-35, a plane that costs ,000-,000 per hour of flight. And they don’t have the billion to develop a Su-57 and fail like Russia did.

A Saab Gripen takes off from a public road.

(San Diego Air and Space Museum)

So Saab built the Gripen around a few complementary ideas. The first was that they could develop a capable jet fighter with a low cost per flight hour. Right now, new Gripens cost up to million per copy and come out to ,000 per flight hour.

Part of this low-cost per flight hour is making it easy to refuel, rearm, and maintain the plane on the ground. And, the way they did this allows operators to work the plane from nearly anywhere a 20-foot cargo container can be delivered on a truck, provided there are at least 875 yards of runway-ish concrete for the plane to take off from. So, Gripens can easily disperse during combat. Sure that’s not scary for an aggressor who has to face them.

But operators, obviously, still need them to be lethal. Paper planes are cheap and hard to spot, too, but there’s a reason they aren’t popular with militaries. But the Gripen is lethal, partially because it can fire most NATO-produced missiles and partially because the entire plane was designed around electronic warfare.

A Saab JAS-39 Gripen in flight.

(Oleg V. Belyakov, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Electronic warfare, using radar and other signals to mask your own forces while also jamming the enemy’s machines, is one of the tools that’s supposed to keep the F-35 safe. But where the F-35 was laboriously and expensively built with its antennas and sensors in the stealth skin of the aircraft, Gripen took a more traditional route and just built fighters with electronic and conventional weapons, akin to the EA-18G Super Hornet.

But the Gripen’s electronic warfare is robust, so much so that Saab believes the plane can blind nearly all of the Russian fighters the Gripen is designed to deter, especially the large number of Flankers in Russia’s inventory but also the Su-57. Even better, Saab thinks the E-variant can fight the Su-57 on equal terms.

There is one serious caveat, though. Sweden doesn’t want the fighter jet’s electronic warfare tools recorded by adversaries who could create exploits against them. (Electronic warfare in combat turns into a game of tit-for-tat as each side tries to reconfigure their signals to defeat the other.) So, Sweden has rarely allowed pilots to turn on the full electronics suite in exercises with England.

And so, no one can be really certain how the Gripen E will perform against advanced air defenses and fighters. They can hide in the brush, they can take off from anywhere, but they can only probably cut their way through Russia’s air force.