Mexico's cartel wars are getting worse before they get better - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

2017 ended as Mexico’s most violent year in recent memory, with 25,339 homicide cases — more than during the peak year of inter-cartel fighting in 2011.


Crime and violence have steadily increased in Mexico over the past three years, and the bloodshed over the past decade has come despite, and often because of, the Mexican military’s and federal police’s presence in the streets.

Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Feb. 13, Army Gen. Robert Ashley, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, described a key trend that has contributed to the violence.

Asked what threats US officials saw in Mexico and how the situation there had changed over the past decade, Ashley told the committee what has “transpired over the last couple of years is you had five principal cartels; we alluded to the number of captures [of cartel leaders] that had taken place, over 100. Those five cartels have kind of devolved into 20, and [as] part of that outgrowth, you’ve seen an increase in the level of violence.”

Also read: Mexican cartels may have used a ‘homemade cannon’ to fire drugs over the border

The dynamic Ashley described — the removal of criminal leaders leading to fragmentation of their groups and further violence — has been recognized as a failing of the “kingpin strategy” pursued, with strong US backing, by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and his predecessor, Felipe Calderon, who deployed troops to confront domestic insecurity in 2007.

‘What’s happening, it’s like ants’

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

The kingpin strategy targets high-profile criminal leaders, with the idea that their capture or death will weaken their organization.

Ashley noted that under Peña Nieto, Mexico has brought down more than 100 high-profile cartel figures — among them Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (twice), Knights Templar founder Servando “La Tuta” Gomez (captured because his girlfriend brought him a cake), and Hector Beltran Leyva and Alfredo Beltran Guzman, both of whom lead of the Beltran Leyva Organization, an erstwhile Sinaloa cartel ally.

But the hoped-for security gains haven’t materialized.

“What actually happens is that if you take out the head of organization and it creates power vacuums and leads to … both internal schisms and encroachment … and creation of new spaces for other actors that can come, until we see a multiplication effect, or a proliferation, of smaller, regional groups,” David Shirk, a professor at the University of San Diego and director of the school’s Justice in Mexico program, told Business Insider in late 2016.

After a decade of Mexico’s drug war, several large cartels are thought to still be operating in Mexico, though two — the Sinaloa cartel and the Jalisco New Generation cartel— are believed to be the most powerful. But smaller groups, often splinters of larger cartels, have proliferated. (Sinaloa cartel infighting caused violence to spike in northwest Mexico in 2016 and early 2017.)

Information obtained from the Mexican attorney general in 2017 by journalist Nancy Flores indicated there were nine large cartels with 36 smaller related groups present in Mexico — fewer than the 88 total groups the attorney general’s office identified in 2014, and even fewer than the 200 drug-trafficking cells identified by Mexican political scientist and crime analyst Eduardo Guerrero-Gutierrez. Such groups are fluid and hard to define, making an exact number hard to determine.

Read more: A US citizen was arrested as a ranking member of a drug cartel

Smaller groups are also less capable of transnational drug trafficking and rely on local-level crimes, like kidnapping and extortion, which drives up crime levels and increases insecurity.

This dynamic can be seen throughout Mexico, especially in places like Tamaulipas, where factions of the Gulf cartel are competing for control of drug trafficking and other criminal rackets, and in Guerrero, a hotbed for heroin production that is home to a plethora of local and regional criminal groups and larger groups like the Sinaloa cartel that are involved in the cultivation and transportation of drugs as well as local criminal enterprises.

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Official photograph of the President of México, Mr. Enrique Peña Nieto.

“What’s happening, it’s like ants,” a Tamaulipas state police officer told Vice of the kingpin strategy’s effects in late 2016. Taking out the “queen ant” without following up, he said, means they can regroup and return — or others take the queen’s place.

‘To recover peace and calm’

But the fragmentation and proliferation of criminal groups aren’t the only trends contributing to insecurity in Mexico.

A lack of economic opportunity for marginalized communities creates amenable operating conditions for criminal groups, which also thrive on high profit margins created by drug prohibition. Corruption, particularly of local government officials and police forces, is rampant, inhibiting efforts to crack down on criminal groups and undermining the rule of law.

Related: A US citizen was arrested as a ranking member of a drug cartel

Deep-seated impunity allows many crimes to go unpunished. According to the 2016 Global Impunity Index, only seven of every 100 crimes in Mexico are reported, and just 4.46% of reported crimes actually result in convictions. All told, “less than 1% of crimes in Mexico are punished,” the Center for Impunity and Justice Studies, which calculated the index, estimated.

Despite its failings, the Mexican government has not scrapped the militarized approach to fighting crime. A controversial law formalizing the military’s role in domestic law enforcement was signed late last year, though it is being evaluated by the supreme court.

And at the end of January 2018, days after final crime data showed just how violent 2017 had been, Mexico’s national security commissioner said more soldiers would be deployed to crime hotspots — “to recover peace and calm for all Mexicans.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

Here’s why this veteran decided to walk across the US

Veteran Tom Zurhellen was hoping to write a novel this summer. Instead, he’s walking 22 miles a day across the U.S. to raise awareness about veteran homelessness and suicide.

Zurhellen is a Navy veteran who teaches English at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He’s breaking his journey of about 2,860 miles into segments of 22 miles a day. The daily goal matches an [outdated] number of veterans who commit suicide each day.

“I had a year off [for] sabbatical and I was just going to write another novel,” he said. “But then I got this commander job at the Poughkeepsie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 170. I’m a veteran, but I had no idea how much support was needed by our local veterans with mental health and homelessness.


“I figured if that was happening in my hometown, it had to be happening all across the country. So instead of writing just another silly novel, I decided to use my sabbatical to embark on this crazy adventure.”

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

Air Force Veteran Erin Ganzenmuller and Zurhellen.

Maintaining the pace

Since leaving Oregon in mid-April 2019, Zurhellen has doggedly maintained his 3-mph pace through all kinds of weather.

“It was 100 degrees in Sioux City, 98 degrees in Beloit, I hit a snowstorm three or four times, sub-freezing temperatures, so yeah, I’ve seen it all,” said Zurhellen.

His journey brought him along the Hank Aaron Trail, which winds through the campus of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

He kicked off his walk through the Milwaukee metro area in a local coffee shop.

On hand to offer support was Navy veteran Mike Waddell, who said he had learned of Zurhellen’s walk that morning on Facebook.

“I just figured I’d come down and show him a little love and encourage him, keep him going,” Waddell said. “I think what he’s doing is great.”

Erin Maney, a social worker at the Milwaukee VA, said raising awareness with a goal of prevention is extremely important.

“I think there’s a lot of media coverage when, unfortunately, there’s a veteran death by suicide,” Maney said. “But there’s not always coverage when every day, Veterans are coming in asking for help, getting the help that they need, and going on to live meaningful lives. What he’s doing is extraordinary.”

Erin Ganzenmuller, an Air Force veteran and environmental consultant, thanked Zurhellen.

“I think it’s an incredible journey to raise awareness for struggles that our veterans face,” said Ganzenmuller, who also volunteers at Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. “It’s awesome that he came to Wisconsin.”

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

Zurhellen at the Milwaukee VA greeted by employees and well-wishers.

Never giving up


“There was a time up until about a month ago, I was hitting the wall at about mile 15. And I thought, ‘What am I doing, experiencing pain? It would be so easy to go home.’

“But then I remembered the pain of the veterans I’m walking for. The people who are dealing with mental health issues. The people who are dealing with homelessness.

“Their pain’s a lot worse than mine. I can go home anytime. It’s like I’m just playing at being a homeless veteran, but they’re doing it for real. So, when I put in that perspective, it gets a lot easier.”

And with that, it was time for Zurhellen to hit the road and walk another 22 miles — a distance that to him means something far greater than just a number.

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

Articles

The VA might actually be getting its act together

Trying to emerge from scandals that shook the agency to its core, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is attempting to overhaul what officials admit was sometimes pretty bad customer service.


Quietly, since 2015, the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs has built a national Veterans Experience Office.

The office’s first steps have been rolling out over 100 community veterans committees nationwide and retraining employees to be less rigid and more customer-focused.

The VA even hired professional writers to redraft the language of 1,200 official letter templates to make them more reader friendly.

“(We) had somehow gotten away from the primary mission of organizing the enterprise through the eyes of the customer,” said Joy White, who leads the office’s Pacific district, which includes California and the West Coast.

“(We did) things that made sense to us, made it easy for us as the VA,” White said. “But, in all of that, we lost the voice of the customer.”

The task at hand: How to change the culture of a massive federal agency that provides everything from medical care to monthly disability checks to funerals.

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Or her widow, Mr. President. Or her widow. (Photo: Veterans Affairs)

Some might wonder if — with what’s a famously dense bureaucracy — it can be done. Even new VA Secretary David Shulkin has said it’s a struggle to fire bad apples, including employees who watch porn on the job.

The new Veterans Experience Office’s budget this fiscal year is $55.4 million, up from $49 million last year, “to lead the My VA transformation,” according to a budget document. About 150 jobs now fall under this office’s umbrella.

Two years in, the nation’s veterans organizations are still taking a wait-and-see position.

“We’re not sure how much the VEO has improved the VA to date, but we are encouraged by this initiative and hope to see it succeed,” said Joe Plenzler, American Legion spokesman. “Any effort to improve dialogue between veterans and VA employees and administrators is time and money well spent.”

One vocal critic of the VA said the office has potential but not if it tries to just “paper over” structural issues facing the veterans agency.

“Doing things that are more feel-good measures, but actually don’t address some of the core problems of the VA, could distract from what’s needed to be done,” said Dan Caldwell, policy director at Concerned Veterans for America.

“That’s the danger I see, potentially, with this office. But I want to say there’s a lot of opportunity here. If this office is managed well and insists that they are here to improve the outcomes for veterans — and not just ‘the experience’ — they could be successful.”

Also read: The VA is set to lower copays for prescriptions

The “veterans experience” campaign started under former VA Secretary Bob McDonald, the retired Proctor Gamble chief executive brought in by President Barack Obama in mid-2014 following a national scandal over wait times for VA medical care.

McDonald installed a “chief veterans experience officer” in early 2015.

The office reports directly to the VA secretary — now Shulkin, a doctor and health-care executive who is the first non-veteran to lead the agency.

Whether he will continue the “experience” campaign is an open question.

However, in April he named Lynda Davis, a former Army officer and Pentagon civilian executive with experience in personnel and suicide prevention, to head the office. She replaces a former McDonald’s executive, Tom Allin, who held the job for about two years.

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Talihina Veterans Center (Oklahona Department of Veterans Affairs)

Some of the hiring was for “human-centered design” teams. These teams, which include people from Stanford’s prestigious D School, are supposed to re-engineer VA routines that aren’t working.

They produced a “journey map” showing what VA patients experience.

It identifies “pain points” along the way, such as cancelled appointments. It also calls out “moments that matter,” such as the check-in process and whether it’s hard or easy to park.

Two early goals were to establish one consumer-oriented website and one toll-free telephone number for all VA divisions. The result was vets.gov and 1 (844) My-VA311.

The VA is now looking for inspiration from national brands famous for good service. Starbucks, Marriott, and Walgreens are on the list.

“We get the experience that we design. Historically, we haven’t put an emphasis as an organization on customer service. There was no program of record that said ‘this how we do customer service,'” White told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“You walk into a Starbucks anywhere in the country, there is something that looks and feels very familiar wherever you go.”

Also read: Starbucks donated free coffee to every US service member in Afghanistan

One change the Veterans Experience Office has led: hiring for customer-service skills, instead of just looking for people qualified for a position.

“We weren’t hiring for attitude,” said White, who said her office identified questions to insert in the VA’s interview process to draw out whether an applicant had customer service aptitude.

In a changing health-care industry, this is a bandwagon that the VA is belatedly jumping on.

Other hospital organizations have rebooted their customer experience in the past decade in response to a shift in Medicare reimbursement policy that now rewards for patient satisfaction, experts said. The power of social media is also a factor.

The Cleveland Clinic was the first major academic medical center to appoint a chief experience officer in 2007. Across the country, hospitals have built grand entrances, opened restaurants intended to draw non-patients and put flowers by bedsides.

“My sense of it is that we live in the age of the empowered consumer,” said John Romley, an economist at the University of Southern California’s Schaeffer center for health policy.

“VA customers maybe have less choice in the matter, but at the same time, there’s a great deal of sensitivity in the broader population about how we treat these people in the VA system.”

The VA’s new customer service motto — Own the Moment — sounds a bit like a commercial TV jingle.

Training is rolling out across the country, including at the La Jolla VA hospital.

The premise: Each VA employee should “own” their time with a customer, the veteran, and do their best to ensure the person gets the help he or she needs.

That contrasts to the like-it-or-lump-it experience that veterans have sometimes complained about in the past.

“We’re moving away from a rules-based organization to a more of what we call a values, principle-based organization,” said Allan Castellanos, the VA employee teaching the La Jolla seminar.

“I call it more like integrated ethics, like doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said.

The employees were shown a video of VA workers going the extra mile to welcome an uncertain new veteran into a clinic.

In another, VA workers allowed the family of a dying veteran to bring his horse onto hospital grounds.

The VA is trying to emerge from bunker mentality after back-to-back national embarrassments.

First, in 2013, the backlog of disability claims rose to mountainous proportions, bringing down the wrath of Congress and the public.

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
We just wanna see more vets smiling. (Photo: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Then, in 2014, news reports revealed that VA medical workers were keeping secret lists of patients waiting for appointments to make wait-time data appear satisfactory.

All of this occurred as the VA struggled to handle a flood of new veterans coming home from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

A few of the ideas being pursued by the Veterans Experience Office have origins in San Diego.

Officials acknowledge that what they are calling Community Veterans Experience Boards — the 152 community boards they eventually want to create nationally — came from San Diego’s longstanding example.

San Diego veterans leaders meet monthly with VA officials here in both closed-door and public sessions.

Additionally, the tragic suicide of 35-year-old Marine Corps veteran Jeremy Sears appears to have helped spur a campaign to redraft VA correspondence to make it more user friendly.

Sears shot himself at an Oceanside gun range in 2014 after being rejected for VA disability benefits despite the cumulative effects of several combat tours.

Veterans advocates suggested that the VA rejection letter could have offered advice on where to go for counseling and other assistance, instead of just a “no.”

“That was one of the ‘pain points’ that was identified,” White said, referring to the veteran’s “journey mapping” that her office did. “There was a lot of legalese, when in fact we just want it to be simple and clean.”

They started with the Veterans Benefit Administration’s correspondence and are working their way toward the Veterans Health Administration’s appointment cards.

Veterans Experience Office officials first told the Union-Tribune that they could provide examples of the rewritten letter formats, but later said they weren’t ready yet.

The Veterans Experience Office, headquartered in Washington, now has split the country into five districts and dispatched “relationship managers” to each.

The Veterans Experience Office is now trying to finesse those moments that matter to veterans. In 2017, officials expect to roll out a veterans real-time feedback tool in 10 locations. They also plan to release a patient experience “program of record.”

“Our goal is to build trust with veterans, their family members, and survivors,” White said. “How do we do that? By bringing their voices to everything we do.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

What it’s like to be honored as ‘Hero of the Game’ for the LA Kings

“The Hero Of The Game program is a season long commitment made by the LA Kings to pay tribute to local military personnel and their families. The LA Kings host one military family at each home game to show our gratitude for their continued commitment and sacrifice. As the Hero Of The Game, honorees are treated to dinner in the Lexus Club prior to the game and are recognized on ice during the National Anthem and again during the second period.” — The Official Site of the LA Kings

On March 18, 2019, I was honored by the LA Kings — and it was one of the most patriotic moments of my life.

Here’s why:


What it’s like to be Hero of the Game!

www.youtube.com

Related video:

Being the ‘Hero of the Game’ really wasn’t about me — it was about the service of our nation’s military. The truth is, most of the veterans I’ve spoken with have an uncomfortable relationship with the word “hero.” Few of us personally feel like we live up to the title.

What I tell every veteran who carries survivor’s guilt or who feels like they didn’t do enough is this: you answered your nation’s call. You volunteered, you took an oath, and you were ready to give your life to protect and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies. That’s pretty heroic.

Still, deep down, I don’t personally feel heroic.

I think most of us struggle with this, so when I was informed by a representative of the L.A. Kings that they would like to honor me, I wasn’t really sure what to expect — and honestly, I wasn’t really sure if I deserved it.

Here’s what the night entails:

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

From left to right: Pin-Ups for Vets founder Gina Elise, U.S. Air Force veteran Shannon Corbeil, Forest Corbeil, Monica Kay

The L.A. Kings have this process down. I was given a very clean itinerary for the evening, including details about complimentary parking, when to pick up my tickets (for myself and three guests), and where to meet a rep from the L.A. Kings who would escort my group to dinner.

In fact, the process is so streamlined that Kings fans know about it and wait to greet that night’s Hero. One woman with season tickets likes to meet the service members and take photos before the game with a touching art print of what it means to be a hero.

Before we even made it inside the Staples Center, patriotic fans were eager to meet me and thank me for my service.

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

We had no idea what was in store.

The Kings treated us to a delicious (and customized) dinner at the Lexus Club with a great view of L.A. Live and Downtown Los Angeles. We had an hour to eat (and grab some candy) before our rep came back for us and brought me to the ice.

I was informed ahead of time that I would stand on the ice during the National Anthem — and as the Kings were playing the Winnipeg Jets, both the Canadian National Anthem and the U.S. National Anthem would be performed.

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

The National Anthem during the opening ceremony of the Kings vs Jets.

(Photo by Simone Lara, California Army National Guard)

I don’t know if I should admit this, but I probably cared more about proper protocol and uniform standards during this event than I ever did while on active duty. It was very important to me to reflect well upon my branch and the military as a whole. Strangely, Air Force Instruction 34-1201 doesn’t expressly state uniform guidance for the Hero of the Game — an indoor event with a formation of…me…so I was left to interpret the manual for myself (with the help of previous honorees).

I decided to wear my cover so I could salute the flags during both anthems — and I found myself proud that it is tradition in the United States to infuse a moment of patriotism into our sporting events.

I had been nominated for my work in the veteran community — and specifically for my volunteer efforts with Pin-Ups for Vets, a non-profit organization that helps hospitalized and deployed service members and their families. To make the night even more special, the Kings offered Pin-Ups for Vets ambassadors and their guests free tickets, so after this high-visibility moment, I started receiving messages from fellow vets in the crowd.

Then we were escorted to our holy sh** seats.

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

One of our neighbors said we were in Eric Stonestreet’s seats — and if this is true, someone please thank him for me.

Seats for the Hero of the Game are graciously donated by a patriotic donor for the season. We got lucky that night because our seats were upgraded further — right up against the glass. That’s how we discovered that hockey is exhilarating and completely vicious.

If it wasn’t the puck flying at my face and ricocheting off the glass, it was the players slamming each other into the wall twelve inches from where we were sitting. Most of the other fans seated next to us held season tickets, so this was normal for them — but for us, it was thrilling.

Oh — and you’re allowed to bang on the glass. I highly recommend it.

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better

As I walked around, people approached to greet me and thank me for my service or, my favorite, tell me about their own time in the military or their family’s service. It was great to connect with people who were excited about the military. It made me realize how far our country has come.

Hero of the Game – Los Angeles Kings

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Hero of the Game – Los Angeles Kings

Then, during the first period I really learned what it meant to be the Hero of the Game.

My name came up on the Jumbotron and I looked up, a bit embarrassed, as pictures of me in uniform flashed across the screen. I turned to give my sister a disparaging look and realized she was standing.

The entire arena was standing.

At that moment, I didn’t feel like me, Shannon — I felt like a veteran of the United States Air Force.

As someone who shares military stories on We Are The Mighty, I’m well-versed in how poorly our country treated our Vietnam War Veterans. I have stood witness to the devastation that has been inflicted upon the men and women who have worn the uniform throughout history. I’ve watched my fellow veterans struggle with seen and unseen wounds. I’ve experienced them myself.

Yet that night, as thousands of people stood to honor the Hero of the Game, I felt a deep sense of gratitude and hope. I’m thankful that our countrymen and women support the troops and that Americans recognize and appreciate the sacrifices of our military and want to give back.

I felt so grateful that there are advocates for veterans and that there are non-profits serving them. It was as if I was in a room of people who want the best for each other, which is why we have a military in the first place.

The military stands for the best in the American people, and that night, the American people were standing for the military.

Thank you to the LA Kings, not just for the incredible experience you gave me, but for supporting the military all season long. It means more than you know.

You can nominate a deserving service member as Hero of the Game right here.

Lists

15 Modern Photos Of Pin-Up Girls Taken In Support Of US Troops

Pin-Ups For Vets is an organization that supports hospitalized veterans and deployed troops through nostalgic pin-up calendars.


The organization was founded by Gina Elise in 2006 after learning about under-funded veteran healthcare programs and lonely service members. Inspired by her grandfather who served during World War II and the pin-up girls of that era, Pin-Up For Vets was born. The calendars are:

  • used to raise funds for hospitalized veterans.
  • delivered as gifts to ill and injured veterans with messages of appreciation from the donors.
  • sent to deployed troops to help boost moral and to let them know that Americans back home are thinking of them.

Since starting the organization she’s crisscrossed the country to deliver gifts to hospitalized veterans at their bedsides and mailed hundreds more. Pin-Ups For Vets also ships care packages to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Proceeds from the organization are used to carry out its various veteran and troop initiatives.

Her latest project, the 2nd annual Salute and Shimmy World War II style fundraiser takes place Saturday, January 17th in Hollywood, CA. The event will feature burlesque acts, music, and more. RSVP here to attend.

In the meantime, here are 15 awesome photos from the Pin-Ups For Vets collection:

Gina Elise as a pin-up on a motorcycle…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Marine veteran Jovane Henrey as a runway pin-up…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pinups For Vets

Gina Elise prepping her bath tub…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Julia Reed Nichols in a two-piece…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Gina Elise as a pin-up at the bowling alley…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Navy veteran Jennifer Hope in a purple dress…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Gina Elise in a one-piece at the beach…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Navy veteran Jennifer Marshall in a green and black polka dot dress…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Gina Elise at the train stop…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Navy veteran Shannon Stacy in a polka dot dress…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Librarian Gina in a stunning green dress…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Gina Elise as a bomber pin-up in a one-piece…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Playful Gina in a flowered outfit…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Blond bombshell Gina in a red one-piece…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

Gina Elise next to a red prop airplane…

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Photo: Pin-Ups For Vets

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MIGHTY TRENDING

This is a first look at soldiers firing their new M17 handgun

Soldiers from conventional and special operations units recently got the chance to test the Army’s new M17 Modular Handgun System.


Most soldiers who tested the MHS at Fort Bragg’s Range 29 on Aug. 27 were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, said OTC’s Col. Brian McHugh in a recent Army press release.

Testers were pulled from across the military, including soldiers of the Special Operations Aviation Regiment, based in Kentucky, and of the 3rd Infantry Division, based in Georgia. Some of the military occupational specialties involved include police, pilots, infantry and crew chiefs.

“We wanted to make sure that we have a huge sample to make sure that we’ve got this right — that the Army has it right,” said McHugh.

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
A service member fires the Sig Sauer P320 during Modular Handgun System tests for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Modular Handgun System test for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, Aug. 27.

The Army awarded Sig Sauer a contract worth up to $580 million Jan. 19 to make the service’s new sidearm. Sig Sauer beat out Glock Inc., FN America and Beretta USA, maker of the current M9 9mm service pistol, in the MHS competition.

Army weapons officials have selected the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Kentucky as the first unit to receive the 9mm M17 MHS this fall.

Various service members will be at Fort Bragg over the next few weeks for testing of the MHS, which is based on the Sig Sauer P320, for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, or OTC, based at Fort Hood, Texas, according to the press release. Testing will also be conducted by Sailors, Airmen and Marines.

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
A service member fires the Sig Sauer P320 during Modular Handgun System tests for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command, conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Capt. Christina Smith with the Army’s Product Manager Individual Weapons, has traveled to different testing sites to ensure the system’s quality.

“It’s worth it to make sure you get the right product to the right soldiers,” she said.

Maj. Mindy Brown, test officer for OTC, said it is important to bring the test to Fort Bragg because the installation has the ranges to support realistic conditions.

“You are using real soldiers in a realistic environment,” Brown said. “These are the soldiers who would be using the weapon every day, so getting their feedback on the pistol is really what is important for operational testing.”

Mexico’s cartel wars are getting worse before they get better
Magazine for the Modular Handgun System test for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command conducted at Fort Bragg, N.C. Aug. 27. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Lewis Perkins)

Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Custer, of 160th SOAR, appreciated being able to participate in MHS testing.

“It’s good. We don’t really get the opportunity to test the equipment in the unit we’re in,” he said.

What’s interesting about the release is it makes it sound like the Army is still not certain about the M17 MHS.

“If fielded, according to officials, the new modular handgun system, also known as MHS, will offer improved durability and adjustability over the current M9, as well as performance improvements.”

Program Executive Office Soldier officials, however, told Military.com that MHS is being fielded beginning in October.

MIGHTY TRENDING

VA adds 3D printing and virtual reality as treatment options

Senior Veterans Health Administration (VHA) employees recently demonstrated to the public how innovations are advancing clinical care and outcomes for veterans. Innovations included a virtual reality application used as a revolutionary PTSD treatment and 3D printing used for everything from orthotics to pre-surgery procedures.

The innovations were presented at the 2nd Annual Tech Day on May 16, 2019, in Washington, DC, by Dr. Beth Ripley, Senior Innovator Fellow, and Joshua Patterson, Acting Director of Strategic Initiatives with VHA Innovation Ecosystem (IE). Tech Day is a way for federal agencies to share their cutting-edge, mission-enabling technologies with leaders, fellow federal workers, and the public.


VHA IE made a big impression with its virtual reality and 3D printing demonstrations as attendees experienced how these ever-expanding technologies are helping veterans every day.

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Beth Ripley demonstrates 3D printing.

Patterson demonstrated StrongMind, VHA’s innovative PTSD treatment that offers patients therapeutic experiences that wouldn’t be possible without the use of virtual reality. By donning a virtual reality headset, attendees experienced how StrongMind works and why it’s appealing to a younger generation of veterans. They also experienced the personalized, forward-thinking care VA is delivering to veterans using innovative technology.

Ripley described how VHA’s 3D Printing Network is an integrated national effort that allows VA health care staff to share ideas and best practices, solve problems, and pool resources to improve veteran care.

These programs aren’t just on the showroom floor, however.

Veterans in the Puget Sound area have been the beneficiaries of 3D printing as VHA medical staff make model kidneys for veteran patients with renal cancer to aid in pre-surgical planning. At many other VHA facilities, veterans suffering from diabetes who lose feeling in their feet now have access to custom orthotics at the time of their visit, instead of waiting weeks to have them manufactured.

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

Intel

William Shatner is traveling the US on a crazy-looking motorcycle to promote vets

Set phasers to stun — Capt. Kirk’s new ride looks even cooler than the USS Enterprise.


Famed Star Trek actor William Shatner is about to embark on an eight-day road tour on a crazy-looking motorcycle in order to raise awareness of The American Legion veterans organization. According to the Legion, Shatner will have select members of The American Legion Riders and the makers of the bike alongside him on the trip from Chicago to Los Angeles.

Shatner will be riding the Rivet Motors “Landjet” 3-wheeled motorcycle. Created by Wrench Works, the sleek, V-8 powered trike looks like it’s been pulled straight out of the Klingon Empire, but Shatner seems too excited by the motorcycle’s futuristic design to worry about what the Federation might think.

The 8-day road tour will begin on June 23 outside of the Windy City, and will pass through several major cities including Oklahoma City, Flagstaff and Las Vegas.

To see hear more about Shatner’s tour, check out the video below:

DON’T MISS: The Pentagon is developing a dirt bike that barely makes a sound

(h/t New York Daily News)

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia’s old flying boat fleet is getting new upgrades

When you can’t afford to buy a lot of new planes, refurbishing the ones you have is a viable alternative. We’re seeing this play out, to an extent, in the ongoing saga of re-winging A-10 Thunderbolts in the Air Force inventory. But the United States is not the only country polishing up old birds.


According to a report by NavyRecognition.com, Russia is taking a bunch of Soviet-era flying boats in for some serious upgrades. The anti-submarine sensors in these airframes, including the radar and magnetic anomaly detectors, are being updated. They’ll also be outfitted with the latest Russian anti-submarine torpedoes and depth charges.

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A right-side view of a Soviet Be-12 Mail patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft in flight. (U.S. Navy photo)

Flying boats have been on the decline since the end of World War II. Despite the fact that having them means any bay, inlet, or atoll can be a base, they have a somewhat shorter range than land-based planes and typically hold less of a payload. Russia, however, has found itself short on ASW planes, especially since the end of the Cold War.

The Soviets built all of 62 Il-38 May maritime patrol planes, 100 Tu-142 Bear F anti-submarine planes, and 143 Be-12 flying boats. That’s a total of 305 anti-submarine planes – and this total includes planes that were exported. By comparison, the United States and Japan have combined to produce 757 P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft. The United States has also produced 280 Lockheed S-3 Vikings for carrier-borne ASW operations.

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A front view of a Soviet Be-12 Mail patrol/anti-submarine warfare aircraft in flight. (DOD photo)

Today, the numbers for Russia look even worse. Russia has a grand total of 20 Il-38s and 24 Tu-142s in service, plus a half-dozen Be-12s for search-and-rescue missions. By comparison, the United States Navy has 67 P-3s in service, plus 69 P-8 Poseidon multi-mission planes. That figure does not include 30 P-8s on order.

Russia, it seems, is on the short end of the anti-submarine warfare stick. With this glaring shortage, you can see why Russia is looking to modernize some old planes.

Check out the video below to learn more about Russia’s refurbishing.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wfosca_XLOE
(New Update Defence | YouTube)
Articles

Russia is bringing back the world’s largest surface combatant

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Russia is in the middle of a massive overhaul of it’s aged, but still dangerous navy. | Photo by Mitsuo Shibata via Wikimedia Commons


Developed in the late 1970s, Russia’s Kirov-class battle cruisers are the largest and heaviest surface-combat ships in the world — and they’re coming back with advanced weaponry, according to Russia’s Tass news agency.

At more than 800 feet long, with a displacement of around 25,000 tons, the Kirov dwarfs any navy ship short of an amphibious assault ship or aircraft carriers. But only one, the Pyotr Veliky, is still in service.

Russian media says that another aging Kirov-class hull, the Admiral Nakhimov, is being fitted with Russia’s newest antiship, antiair, and surface-to-surface missiles.

Russia intends to return the Admiral Nakhimov to its fleet in 2019, at which time the Pyotr Veliky will be docked to undergo the same upgrades.

These include missiles of the Kalibr variety that recently hit targets in Syria from the Caspian Sea, Zircon hypersonic missiles, which are slated to be ready by 2020, and a “navalized” version of Russia’s S-400 missile-defense system, according to Foxtrot Alpha.

To accommodate these missiles, Russia plans to overhaul the ship’s vertical-launch systems. That contract alone is worth 2.56 billion rubles, or $33.5 million, NavyRecognition.com notes.

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Aerial starboard view of the foredeck of a Kirov-class ship shows four single 30 mm Gatling guns (in purple), two pop-up (lowered) SA-N-4 SAM launchers (in red), 20 SS-N-19 cruise-missile launchers (in green), 12 SA-N-6 SAM launchers (in blue), and one twin SS-N-14 antisubmarine warfare/surface-to-surface missile launcher (in yellow). These weapons systems will be updated by 2020, Russia claims. | US Navy photo

As with all Russian military expenditures, outsiders have trouble imagining how the struggling petro-state will pay for them.

Though the Russian navy has hit several setbacks before, the Kremlin seems hell-bent on revitalizing its navy.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Navy ships back up Taiwan before important summit

The US Navy sent two warships through the Taiwan Strait Nov. 28, 2018, just days ahead of a planned meeting between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale, accompanied by the Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Pecos, transited the strait, US Pacific Fleet explained to Business Insider in an emailed statement.


“The ships’ transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Dave Werner, a Pacific Fleet spokesman, told BI. “The U.S. Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate anywhere international law allows.”

The move could be seen as a message to China, which the US has accused of intimidation and coercion in the region, behavior that runs contrary to the US vision of a “free and open Indo-Pacific.” The US military has used similar rhetoric for freedom-of-navigation operations, bomber overflights, and other activities in that area that have at times run afoul of Chinese interests.

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The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale.

The US Navy sent two warships — the destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur and the cruiser USS Antietam — through the strait in October 2018. A similar operation was carried out in July 2018, when the destroyers USS Mustin and USS Benfold sailed between mainland China and Taiwan.

Beijing is extremely sensitive to US military maneuvers near Taiwan, which it considers a breakaway province.

The US Navy’s moves through the Taiwan Strait come just before Trump is expected to sit down to dinner with Xi at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The two leaders are expected to discuss a number of different issues, ranging from trade to tensions at sea, during their meeting.

In recent months, the US Air Force has repeatedly flown B-52 bombers over the South China Sea. In September 2018, a US Navy destroyer conducted a freedom-of-navigation operation near the contested Spratly Islands, where it was challenged by a Chinese warship that forced the American vessel off course.

Despite some goodwill gestures, such as the recent port call by the USS Ronald Reagan in Hong Kong, tensions between Washington and Beijing persist.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

‘Everything is on the table but Crimea’ at the Trump-Putin summit

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to searching for compromises with his U.S. counterpart on “all” issues except the status of Ukraine’s Crimea region, which Moscow claims is part of Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comments on July 2, 2018, ahead of a planned summit between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.

Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.


Peskov said on a conference call with reporters that Putin “stated multiple times and explained to his interlocutors that such an item as Crimea can never appear on the agenda, considering that Crimea is an integral part of Russia.”

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President Donald Trump

“All the rest are matters [subject to] consensus, discussion, and a search for possible points of contact,” he added.

Trump, asked on June 29, 2018, whether reports about him dropping Washington’s opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea were true, said, “We’re going to have to see.”

White House national security adviser John Bolton, who met with Putin in Moscow on June 27, 2018, later ruled out the possibility of abandoning Washington’s opposition to the takeover.

“That’s not the position of the United States,” he told CBS on July 1, 2018.

The European Union, the United States, and other countries have imposed sanctions against Russia over actions including its seizure of Crimea and its role in a war that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine.

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

Articles

Air Force kills the lights at Hawaii station to save endangered birds

The U.S. Air Force will reduce exterior lighting at a Hawaii facility to help protect endangered and threatened seabirds there.


The Air Force agreed to reduce lighting at a mountaintop radar facility on the island of Kauai, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. After the announcement, the Center for Biological Diversity said it no longer intends to sue the Air Force.

The nonprofit conservation group says the threatened Newell’s shearwater and Hawaiian petrel are attracted to bright lights at night, which can cause crashes onto the ground and sometimes death.

The center believes lights at the Kokee Air Force Station caused more than 130 birds to fall out of the air in 2015, including Hawaiian petrels, endangered band-rumped storm petrels and Newell’s shearwaters. Most of them died, the center said.

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Exterior lighting at Kokee AFB. (Photo by USFWS)

The Kokee Air Force Station was founded in 1961 to detect and track all aircraft operating near Hawaii.

The Air Force has taken steps to try to reduce the bird losses over the years, including switching from white and yellow exterior bulbs to green ones in 2013, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Air Force also said in June 2016 that it had agreed to turn off outside lights from April through December, when birds are going to and from colonies.

But the Center for Biological Diversity threatened legal action at the end of June 2016, saying the Air Force was violating the Endangered Species Act by not updating its formal consultation about seabirds with the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The center said the Air Force reinitiated the consultation and agreed to ongoing protective measures in response.

The Air Force is “committed to protecting the threatened and endangered bird species that frequent the area around Mt. Kokee Air Force Station,” Col. Frank Flores wrote in an email to The Star-Advertiser.

Flores is the commander of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, which provides oversight for Kokee Station.

“We have collaborated closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services over the years on this issue. We take environmental stewardship very seriously and will continue to partner with USFWS to protect these species,” Flores wrote.

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